web space | website hosting | Business Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting
Title:  "Reconcilable Differences"   
Author:  Jean Dockery
Characters:  Vin and Ezra a bit of the boys
Universe: OW
Spoiler:  Sins of the past, One Day Out West
Rating: PG 13 for language and content
Disclaimer: The M7 characters are owned by Trilogy, MGM and
Mirisch, No copyright infringement was intended. For entertainment purposes only, I am just having fun with them.
NOTE:  Sins of the Past was an episode that had so many things going on.  I started this as Vin's story to follow up what I felt was not addressed in the show and Ezra stood up and wanted to be heard too.  

Note: Thank you to Barb for your support and helping me hear Ezra <G>
To Mel - Thank you for your BETA work and helping me see what I was missing



oooOOooo

A lone figure made its way from the rooftop of the Grain Exchange, down along the deserted boardwalk, long easy strides carrying him toward the jail. Sharp eyes scanned the street out of long habit seeking changes in the normal pattern of things.

The pre-dawn hours were cool, with a bit of moisture in the air, giving sign that a storm was brewing.  Vin Tanner felt the wind across his face and knew the weather would be coming in from the East by late afternoon.

Coffee was what he was after first thing this morning, and his goal was within sight, figuring that JD would have a pot ready.  The Kid was taking the night watch at the jail where Yates and his cohorts were waiting extradition to Silver Springs. Vin had taken to the rooftops soon after his nemesis was carted away yesterday afternoon. He had answered Chris' look of concern with the excuse that a watch should be set in case there were more of Eli Joe's men unaccounted for, then turned away before his lie was exposed.

The very men that had tried to help kill the tracker now waited in the jail, facing the possibility of having their own necks stretched.  Judge Travis had declined coming into town to oversee things. Vin hadn't understood why until Mary quietly explained to him that her father-in-law was staying away to protect Vin.  He'd quickly looked to Chris for confirmation that the Judge was aware of the bounty on his head.  Reading the answer on Larabee's face, Tanner felt numb at that revelation.

The sharpshooter understood that if the Judge came in to Four Corners and was told directly about the bounty, the older man would have to put Vin in a cell along with Yates and his boys. He was also surprised to find that the Judge thought enough of him to try to protect him. It didn't set well with the tracker that his presence in this town had now compromised a man he respected.  It was bad enough that Chris was feeling guilty for having to kill Eli Joe in order to save him; Vin didn't want anyone else caught up in the mess his life had become.

Travis had quickly made other arrangements: the prisoners would be escorted to Silver Springs and placed in the custody of the local sheriff.  There were wanted posters out on each of them for robbery and a couple with murder charges too. The counties that held the warrants would be notified and the men escorted directly there for prosecution.  Tanner knew that in a couple of years, perhaps sooner he might have to face some of these men again.
 
Vin paused outside the jail looking around at the dusty little town that he'd called home for close to a year, marking each place in his memory.  

He looked over at the News Paper office and spotted the soft glow of the lantern in the front window, knowing that Mary would be up and working on a new addition of The Clarion.  Mrs. Potter's store would be open in a couple of hours, and the streets soon busy with the bustle of people going about their day.  His eyes scanned the top floor of the boarding house, Chris' room faced the street, and the window was open, the cool breeze stirring the burlap coverings.  Vin thought of the other men who rode with him. Each one had stood with Vin against his objections in his recent quest to clear his name.  The bitter tang of regret laced his mouth, and for the first time in years, he was unsure of what his next step should be.

Vin saw no way of clearing his name, and knowing that in time someone with a real badge would come for him, his choices were limited. What weighed on his mind was the concern that his own troubles would bring added danger to the town he was supposed to protect.

Vin shook his head, looking behind him, knowing that death would reach him soon enough without his aide by being so inattentive.  The sun came up on a new day as he rapped his knuckles against the door of the jail, giving warning before he entered.  He sure as hell didn't want to take a stray bullet for startling JD.

Dunne was at the stove pouring a cup of coffee when he'd heard the knock, he was immediately relieved to see the sharpshooter poke his head around the door before coming fully into the room.   
 
"Mornin' JD, they give ya any trouble?"  Vin nodded toward the back of the office before he went for coffee with a smile in thanks to the Kid.

"Naw, but that Yates fella sure can saw some logs."  He shared a laugh with Vin and then sat back down behind the desk.  

JD studied the tracker, reading plainly the signs of fatigue and stress.  "You ok, Vin?"

The tip of the old gray Calvary hat rocked down, "Tolerable."

Vin walked back to the prisoners, looking at the six men crowded into the two small cells. Tanner fingered the knife at his side and fought down the urge to commit bloody murder. This group of men had tried to kill him and he wasn't going to forget that easy.  Vin knew in the back of his mind that they were not entirely responsible, but that didn't stop the helpless rage he was struggling with.

oooOOooo

Chris walked into the jail. He had seen Vin earlier as he looked out the window from his room. Seeing Tanner motionless in front of the jail had unsettled the blond. He knew that the tracker was a deep thinking man and his stillness meant that Vin was worrying on something.

"Boys."

"Hey, Chris, you're up awful early."  JD tipped his cup toward the little pot belly stove, "There's fresh coffee."

Larabee went for a cup and then joined Vin at the back of the jail.  His gut clenched when he got a good look at his friend's face. The blond didn’t feel guilt at having to shoot Eli Joe, when it came down to it he didn't have a choice and figured that Tanner knew it too. His worry now was not for what went on yesterday, but how it was going to affect all the tomorrows of the man beside him.


The Texan turned away from the prisoners; rage too close to the surface and he knew that Chris could read it on his face.


"Vin let's take a walk."   He moved back to the stove to refresh his coffee, knowing that Tanner would follow.  There were things that needed saying between them and he knew that Vin understood that.

oooOOooo

Buck rolled out of Betsy's bed with a yawn and a stretch.  It was far too early to be out of bed, especially if there was a warm and willing pair of arms to hold him. This morning though he had a feeling that his friends needed him more.  

Buck had helped Josiah burry Eli Joe up on Boot Hill late yesterday.  He didn't know what to say to Vin or to Chris, and was willing to let the two men alone, but something Josiah had said at the killer's graveside stuck with Buck and was the source of his concern now.

"I hope that Vin will stay and let us keep watch over him."

Sanchez had uttered that one sentence and Buck had nodded his agreement before realizing that the preacher fully expected Tanner to leave town.   He hadn't considered that Vin might leave, and he worried that Chris would follow him; he knew how close the blond had grown to the sharpshooter. Buck was not ready to let Larabee fade away again.

Wilmington had just stepped out of the boarding house when he saw the two men uppermost in his thoughts headed toward the livery.  He rushed across the street and into the jail startling JD so bad, the Kid spilled coffee all down his shirt.

"Buck!  Now look what you made me do!"  

"Calm down JD and tell me, do you know where Chris and Vin were headed?" Feeling an awful knot in his belly, thinking they might be riding out of town and hurt that Larabee had not considered the rest of the men, him in particular, in that decision.

Dunne stopped swiping at his shirtfront, paying more attention to his friend's face, Buck's brows furrowed with worry.

"Chris told Vin they needed to talk, so they left."  Now JD was feeling anxious and wasn't even sure why.  "What's wrong?"

Wilmington raked his long fingers through his hair before turning to the Kid with a smile, relieved that'd he had been wrong in his assumptions.  "Ain't nothin', JD, just wonderin' is all."  

Before the younger man could ask any further questions, Buck moved to the stove and started talking to distract the Kid from questioning him too closely.  "Is the coffee fresh?" raising one dark eyebrow, the tall man turned toward Dunne, "'Cause you know, I can't drink coffee that’s been cooked for too long.  Nasty tastin' stuff, I know Vin likes it, but I sure as hell don't." He kept up the endless string of chatter for JD's benefit, not wanting to worry the younger man.


oooOOooo


Chris didn't say anything to Vin as they walked to the livery and Vin didn't offer up any words to fill in the silence.  They reached the corral and the blond mimicked his friends pose as the younger man leaned his arms over the top railing.

"Stop it, Chris.  You ain't got nothin' to feel sorry 'bout, so let it go."  Vin had felt the gunslinger's eyes on him and read the guilt like it was a badge across Larabee's chest.  He didn't want what his friend was feeling to get in the way of thinking through his choices.   

Larabee was not surprised that Vin had read his mood so well; it stopped surprising him long ago, that uncanny ability that Tanner had to read people.  Now he was thinking of the fight on the rooftop of the hotel and then his shot that saved Vin's life but killed his ability to clear his name.

The gunslinger was not one for idle chatter and knew Vin to be of a like mind, but there were things that he needed to say and things that he needed to know.

"Sorry just don't seem to cover it, Vin."  Clearing his throat and taking a sip of his rapidly cooling coffee, he continued.  "It was him or you and there was no other choice I could have made…" he held up his hand when the tracker started to interrupt, "I know I can't make this right for you, no way now to clear your name with Eli Joe dead and buried."

That statement drove right to the heart of Vin's current dilemma, and he didn't even try to hide how bad that felt.  The urge to leave was more out of concern for the men he rode with and the people in town that he'd come to care about.  The question was how do you choose to leave when you just learned how to stay?

Vin turned and met the cool green eyes of the gunslinger straight on, knowing that the other man would read the uncertainty in his own. "I don't know what I'm gonna do, need some time to work it out in my head."   

To Chris that meant only one thing, that Vin wanted a few days to himself, and the gunslinger was hard pressed not to argue.  

"I want your word, Vin that once you have your time, you'll come back.  Let me and the boys know what you're intending to do."  He trusted Tanner to stand by his promise and the blond would have the other man's agreement that he would come back before making any final decisions.

The tracker turned toward his friend; extending his hand, they locked forearms.  Vin felt a wealth of brotherly affection for this man and had no problem giving his promise that he would return.

Chris tossed the last dregs of his coffee out, slapping the younger man on the back with his free hand and forcing a smile that he didn't feel to his lips, they turned toward town.

"You up for some breakfast?"

Vin patted his stomach, "I'm so hungry my belly thinks my throat's been cut."   


oooOOooo

Ezra passed Chris and Vin on his way to the hotel.  He had played cards through the night with a couple of businessmen who had, to his convenience, stopped overnight in Four Corners.  They had arrived on the very stage that took his mother back to parts unknown.    

Now, roughly sixteen hours later and seventy-five dollars richer, the gambler was ready to get a few hours of sleep and put the last couple of days behind him, or at least he was until he saw Vin and Chris.

Seeing his fellow peacekeepers changed the direction of his pleasant thoughts.  It had been a rough few days, battling with Maude and still not entirely sure what her reasoning had been in buying and then selling the hotel other than to humiliate him.

He hadn't even known of Maude's arrival in Four Corners until he was showing some of his potential investors, namely Josiah, JD and Nathan the new saloon he'd just purchased.  Ezra had been dismayed to see his mother, knowing that she would try to interfere in his new investment.  He was further shocked to learn that she'd just won the hotel across the street from his establishment.  

He wondered now if the past few days had been premeditated, another way for his mother to show him how futile his dreams were without her influence.

In the end, she owned the saloon that he had coveted for so long and owned ever so briefly.  Ezra knew that he could have made a good living there and would have been happy with the small investment, had his mother not interfered.

He felt a rush of hurt at some of the other men and their behavior in the last couple of days.  Nathan letting Maude talk him into setting up a clinic. The healer accepting the title of ‘Physician’ from her was shocking since it was a title he had never accepted from anyone else.

Ezra had been at odds with the former slave since the beginning; he had spoken out of turn once and was not allowed to forget. That first day in the saloon when Chris had asked him if he would join them in protecting the Seminoles his first question had been to ask if the black man was riding with them. Those words had come unbidden to him, more from a lifetime of segregation than any true predaciousness. It was something he had since regretted and hoped had been put behind them in the past months.  In future, the southerner would make sure to keep his own counsel when around the healer.

Then there was JD spending his money so foolishly on Maude's advice. If only the young man had come to Ezra first, but alas, he had not and both men had suffered for it.  For Standish it was easier to forgive the folly of youth and thus he didn't harbor any real anger toward the Kid.

Ezra wasn't sure what he felt about the preacher. The big man's infatuation with Maude was disconcerting but knowing his mother, it would be rendered harmless in the end.  Sanchez seemed to be susceptible and maybe gullible when it came to women. It was a strange vulnerability in such a strong-minded man.


The other three men really didn't factor into the entire episode, as their own concerns kept them busy elsewhere while his mother was in town trying once again to ruin her son's life.


Buck, well the man had his own problems with Lucy announcing that she was expecting both Mr. Wilmington’s child and marriage. Ezra still wasn't sure how that had turned out, only knowing that the ladies man was too involved in his own concerns to be so easily caught up in Ezra's.  

During that time, Vin had been arrested by a false sheriff and almost hanged by the very man who had cause the young peacekeeper to become wanted in the first place.   Chris was busy trying to keep Tanner alive and thus was not privy, thank the merciful saints, to Ezra's business dealings and his issues with Maude.

The Southerner didn't know what came over him, as he suddenly changed direction and caught up with the two other men as they came abreast of the restaurant.

"Do you gentlemen mind if I join you in breaking your fast this morning?"  

Vin gave him a welcoming smile, remembering in spite of his own troubles that Standish had backed him when the tracker needed help.  Something that probably surprised the Gambler much more than it did Vin; he could read people well and knew that Ezra was a good man underneath all the wheeling and dealing.

Chris just nodded his acceptance and kept on walking, his mind too full right now with other things.

oooOOooo

Josiah stepped out of the church with a cup of coffee in his hand.  He'd had little sleep last night, his mind on Vin Tanner and the events of the past few days.  He'd even spared a prayer for Ezra that the gambler would find peace with his mother and in his soul, and find himself worthy of the respect and friendships offered him in this town.  

Chris had tried to get Yates and his men to bear witness to Eli Joe’s confession that he was the one who killed Jessie Kincaid, but they adamantly refused.  The false Sheriff laughed at the gunslinger for even bothering to make the suggestion, risking Larabee's ire.  Yates was happy to say that he wanted Tanner to swing and that his men would be pleased to spread the news of Vin's whereabouts.

That set Larabee off and it took Buck to wrestle the gunslinger out the door before more trouble could start.

Chris' worry for Vin went much deeper; with the death of Eli Joe, would his young friend stay with them?  That thought led to another and he found himself thinking of Ezra again and realizing that the loss of the saloon was much the same to the gambler.  Now he was suddenly concerned that he might lose two friends.

Josiah saw three of the men go into the restaurant, the gambler and sharpshooter among the group, and decided that he would join them.

oooOOooo

Nathan Jackson stood looking down from the balcony of the clinic.  He couldn't believe that he'd allowed Mrs. Standish to talk him into letting her keep that shingle up with him being named as a physician.  He had been overwhelmed with the medical office she had set up for him and that fact that he would be able to do so much more with all the new equipment to help the people in town.    

When he saw Ezra, it was like a slap in the face.  Some of the things that the healer had said to Standish earlier about investing in the saloon had been more from a long born habit of negative thinking toward Southerners rather than any real lingering resentment toward the gambler. The words he'd spoken to his friend echoed in his mind.

Closing his eyes he thought back on the words spoken between them.

Ezra walked ahead of the small group, "Gentlemen, can you not picture this becoming the finest entertainment emporium in the entire territory?"

The young sheriff's heart had not been in the demonstration.  "All I can picture right now is them fixin' to take Vin away and hang him."

"Now, Son, don't fret. Besides, when we rescue him, we'll need a fit place to celebrate. So, what say you, boys? Are you ready for success?"  The gambler was in his element.  

Nathan was distracted by thoughts of Vin and the recent offer from Maude Standish as he responded, "I don't know, Ezra. My daddy used to say, "Best horse you ever saw was only as good as the man riding it."

"Pure wisdom."  Ezra didn't know how to respond to what he normally would have considered an insult, he chose to shrug it off.


Nathan's thoughts went to the next day when he heard Ezra call his name; the healer had been coming down the stairs of the hotel.  One look at Ezra and was immediately stricken by what he'd allowed himself to be caught up in.

Unwilling to face the younger Standish at that moment, he immediately found the mother and withdrew his services.  He found it rather odd that she didn't seem surprised and offered no objection.  Almost as if she had done it on purpose just to drive a wedge between himself and Ezra.

He saw Josiah headed toward the restaurant and decided to join him.  Maybe the preacher would be able to offer some insight to his actions and reactions of the last few days.  

oooOOooo

Buck rubbed his belly as it growled loudly, eliciting a giggle from JD.

"Mine's empty too."

Wilmington watched the men in the cells for a moment more as they ate their own breakfast and then jumped up out of the chair.

"Come on JD, we're gonna get some grub."

"What about them?" Dunne hooked his thumbs in the top of his gun belt and tipped his head toward Yates and the other men.

Buck rubbed his chin thoughtfully and then snapped his fingers, "You got the key to the front door?" pulling the item out of JD's hand, the tall man ushered him out onto the boardwalk, "We'll just lock the outside too.  'Sides we're only gonna be gone a little while."

oooOOooo

Vin watched Ezra fiddle with the silverware on the table, unusually quiet and avoiding all eye contact with the other six men.  The change had occurred when he spotted Jackson and Sanchez head toward their table.  Tanner figured if the gambler hadn't already ordered his food, he'd have left.

Chris was quiet up until Buck and JD walked in right on the heels of Josiah and Nathan.  

Vin became instantly aware that no one was guarding the prisoners and shoved his chair back.

"Who the hell is watching the prisoners?"  The blond snagged Vin's arm before Tanner could gain his feet.  "You ain't going no where near them, Vin."  

The tracker was a bit perturbed that Chris didn't even bother to look in his direction when he delivered that message.  Irritated that this man knew him well enough to know he would take JD and Buck's place in the jail.  

Buck hooked a nearby chair with his boot and motioned for JD to sit, but the younger man was frozen in place by Larabee's anger.

"I locked the outer door, no one's going to go in there and I'm hungry."  Buck locked eyes with Chris; blue eyes met hazel with a challenging arch of brow.  

Chris turned away from the far end of the table, suddenly realizing that he still had his hand resting on Vin's forearm. He moved it.  

oooOOooo

Smith's restaurant had opened its doors again within two months of the arrival of the seven peacekeepers.  In the past, the citizens of Four Corners had not come out of their homes past sundown and the men who frequented the eatery often left without paying.  The couple who owned the establishment had recently re-opened their doors to a booming business.  

Laura Hagen had been a waitress at Smith's restaurant for the last six months. It was always her pleasure to serve the seven peacekeepers but today she was wary of approaching the table. The group of men were typically was talkative and animated but it was obvious to her that something was wrong.

Their leader, Chris Larabee was sipping his coffee, eyes wandering over each of his men.  She noticed that they studied the tracker and the gambler longer than the rest and wondered what could be the source of all the tension between them.

Vin Tanner, normally a quiet but pleasant young man, was doing much the same, his striking blue eyes moving between the healer and the gambler with a puzzled frown on his face.

Ezra Standish, typically brass and bold as you please with quick wit and humor, had not moved his gaze from the table in front of him.

Nathan Jackson kept sending brief glances toward the southerner with what looked to be a guilty flush across his cheeks.

Josiah Sanchez, a man who was normally bright and cheerful, seemed unusually quiet and withdrawn.  His gaze never left the rim of his coffee cup as he sipped his drink seemingly lost in thought.

Buck Wilmington, now there was a man full of passion and life, never without a friendly smile and a naughty word.  The man never offended in his verbal appreciation of women, Laura herself was always pleased to be the recipient of his interest.  Today he kept a steady gaze on the blond gunslinger, a frown on his handsome face.

Looking toward the town's young sheriff, she smiled. Normally fidgety as a cat on a hot tin roof, the reason for his silence was obvious: young Mr. Dunne had his face propped up in his open palm and was fast asleep, with one finger of his free hand curled around the handle of a pewter coffee mug.

She couldn't help the giggle that slipped out, inadvertently drawing all eyes but for the boy's in her direction. Putting a hand over her mouth, she apologized between cuffs of laughter and was pleased to see that once they noticed where her she was looking, the other six joined in.  The tension was broken, so Laura swooped in to take the men's orders.

TBC in Part Two