Incidental Memory 2 - The Forty Dollar Question
Disclaimer: The characters of "The Magnificent Seven" belong to MGM, Trilogy, Etc. and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Characters: Chris, Vin
Notes: I was looking over Incidental Memory again and it struck me that Chris would want more information from Vin about that night so many years before, what Vin's life had been like, etc. This is what developed. Click here if you would like to read Incidental Memory Feedback: To MMW
Incidental Memory 2 - The Forty Dollar Question
Stepping out of the kitchen and into the chaos that only his good friends could create, Chris laughed. Many times Sarah had accused he and Buck of being worse than Adam when it came to making a mess, and many times Chris had answered her with a kiss a loving smile. Now looking at the mess his friends had made, he found he had to agree with her.
Seeing the blond enter the room five guilty faces turned to look at Larabee who stood in the doorway with an eyebrow raised. Nathan hastily let go of the headlock in which he held JD. Ezra quickly settled the bowl of chips with which he had been about to shower Buck back on the table. For his part, Buck tucked the now empty bowl he was holding behind his back while Josiah stood still, not noticing as a stray cheese doodle fell from his hair.
Laughing again, Chris shook his head and moved toward the sliding door and the deck where he knew he would find the missing seventh. Reaching the door, he called back over his shoulder, "I know everything will be clean and pristine by the time I come back inside." His statement was met with silence, but he knew the others would have the room spotless in no time.
"How bad?" a soft voice asked as the owner of the house closed the door behind himself.
"About the usual," Larabee admitted, the smile on his face evident in his voice, as was the affection he felt for the others. Crossing the deck, he settled into the chair next to Vin.
"That bad?" the Texan replied, shaking his head.
"That bad," the blond agreed. Then, with a teasing light in his eye, he added, "Nothing you would have any trouble topping." His comment gained him a soft laugh as the two settled in to enjoy the quiet of the night.
After the previous night's adventure that had ended with Vin receiving a concussion and Chris remembering a long forgotten confrontation in which a teenaged Tanner had helped him, both men had felt the need to be around the rest of their makeshift family. As the night progressed, however, the headache that had lingered reasserted itself and the Texan had sought out a cool, quiet spot, settling on the deck where he was still close enough to hear the gentle rumble of his friends' voices, but not wince at their volume.
Ever since he remembered the first time Vin had helped him, questions had been filling Larabee's mind. What had happened to Tanner after that night? How dearly had that intervention cost the young Texan? What happened in the years between that night and the day they met as adults? Not knowing how else to broach the subject, Chris cleared his throat and reiterated his statement from the night before. "So about that forty dollars you owe me..." he began letting his voice trail off as his eyes met those of his friend.
Vin sighed in resignation. He had hoped Larabee would just let the whole matter drop. It had happened so long ago in such different circumstances, it was almost like it had happened to different people. Still, he should have known better than to think Chris would just drop it. "Been paid back in full plus interest for years now," he replied quietly, sinking back a little further into his chair and allowing his eyes to stray upward to the heavens as his mind drifted to another time, another world.
"How'd you manage that?" Chris asked, curious about the response. He hadn't really been serious in expecting Vin to pay him back the money, he just wanted an opening for discussion. Now he was curious about what had happened.
The younger man's face turned toward his friend's and a wide smile broke out on it. "Mama Luigi's," he said in response.
A warm smile spread across Larabee's face at the mention of the restaurant. It was a restaurant he would never forget. He still felt a pang of regret that it had closed down five years before. It was a place that held special meaning for him. "I took Sarah there on our first date," he admitted softly, his heart filling with warmth and love. "It took me six months to convince her to let me take her to dinner and then she insisted we go to a 'real' restaurant. Buck was the one who suggested Mama Luigi's." His attention returning to the present, Chris' head tilted to the side. "I don't recall seeing you there," he accused.
Vin grinned broadly. "Considering you never took your eyes off her, I doubt you saw much of anything else that night," he accused, seeing his friend's fair face darken and knowing it would be a bright pink if there were more light. "She was beautiful," he allowed.
A lump lodged in Larabee's throat at the memory of his first date with Sarah. That Vin had seen her, seen them together, somehow made him feel closer to the younger man, made it easier to talk about that time. "That she was," Chris agreed, his voice little more than a whisper. "Her father disapproved of her dating anyone on the force and I..."
"Was far from the perfect gentleman," Vin inserted, chuckling slightly as he remembered some of the tales Buck had told.
Chris laughed softly. "That's one way of putting it," he allowed. His eyes focused somewhere in the past once more and his face softened as the light of love returned to his eyes. "She was everything I wanted, everything I was looking for. And her father was right, I was no where good enough for her."
"Maybe not that night," Vin interjected softly. "But that obviously changed."
Nodding in agreement, Larabee could still feel the doubt that always nagged him, as if he never had been quite what Sarah deserved, despite her repeated assurance that he was everything to her. "Still doesn't explain your role there," Chris accused, trying to move away from the memories and emotions that threatened.
Squirming in his seat slightly as his friend's attention came back to focus on him, Vin sighed in resignation. "Since you remember that fight, you obviously know I was living on the streets back then, though I know my records say different." Seeing Chris nod for him to continue, Tanner stared up at the stars for several minutes before continuing. "I had a few odd jobs I did to earn money so I could rent a room. Didn't always have enough left for food after the rent was paid, but at least I had a roof over my head. Anyway, one of my jobs was bussing tables at Mama Luigi's. It was a good job and she always made sure I had something to eat."
Years ago at Mama Luigi's Restaurant
Vin carried the heavy tub into the back and scraped the plates before setting them in the washing rack to be sent through the dishwasher. Bussing tables here might not be the easiest of his jobs, but he sure did enjoy Mama's food.
"You eat tonight, Skinny?" Mama asked, stepping over to talk to her young employee. She worried about Vin. He was a good boy and needed help, but was too proud to ask. Someday he might get over his pride, but for now, she knew he needed it to survive so she would help in any way she could.
"Not yet, ma'am," the teen replied, blushing slightly at the nickname she always used. "I'll eat something at break, I promise," he added, knowing it would please her.
Reaching out she patted him on the cheek. "You do that," she encouraged.
Just then one of the waitresses entered the kitchen, giggling. "Oh, Mama," she said, seeing the owner standing near the doorway scowling at her. "There's a man and a woman that just came in and he is too funny. He's trying so hard to impress her..."
"Let us look at these young lovebirds," Mama said. One of the best parts of owning a restaurant, in her opinion, was being able to see the young couples in love who came to eat. Mama, the waitress and Vin moved toward the door to take a look. As the door opened a crack, Vin gasped at the sight of the man and pulled back into the kitchen. "What is it?" she asked, concerned at her young employee's response. "Do you know this man?"
Cheeks coloring, Vin's eyes sought the floor. Yes, he knew the blond man. It was the same man who had tended him after a fight, the one he had thanked by taking all his money. That one act haunted the young Texan. It had been one of the worst things he had ever done, but at the time he had seen no other alternative. He needed a little more cash to pay his rent and when the man's wallet had been left with him, he had seized the opportunity. True, he had taken the time to write down the man's address so he could eventually return the man's money, but when he had stopped by the address, the man had been there with a friend and Tanner realized they were both police officers. Spooked by this information, he had made his way back to his place and forgotten about it.
Knowing his employer was waiting for an answer, he replied, "Yes, ma'am." With a deep breath he explained, "Do you remember the night I was all beat up about six months ago?"
A concerned and worried look crossed over Mama Luigi's face. Too many times had this boy come to work covered in bruises and beaten. "I remember," she said, fighting the urge to reach out to Vin.
"Well, I got banged up helping out that guy out there," he informed. "There were six guys who jumped him and it just didnt' seem right."
"So you did what you always do and put yourself in danger to help someone else," Mama supplied, her tone both approving and disapproving at the same time. When the blue eyes flew up to meet hers, she sighed aloud and admitted, "It is just what I would expect from you, Vin."
Smiling slightly at her words, Vin nodded and continued, still unable to hold her eyes. "Well, we got the best of them and then he took me to the all night pharmacy and patched me up some," Vin continued, his voice getting softer. "And then, when he was gone to get me a soda..."
After several moments of silence, Mama decided she had to prompt the boy, though she was pretty sure she already knew what he was going to say. "Go on," she encouraged.
"I stole forty dollars from his wallet," Tanner admitted, his voice so soft and the words so hurried that even he wasn't sure of what he had said, though Mama seemed to understand perfectly.
"Look at me," she commanded. When she was not obeyed, she reached out and cupped the Vin's cheek. "Look at me," she reiterated, lifting his head. Staring into the shame filled blue eyes, she said, "If you ever need money, you ask me and I will give you an advance on your salary." Waiting for Vin to indicate his understanding and acceptance, she continued, "I know you, Vin Tanner. You are no thief. If you took this man's money, I know you tried to give it back. What happened?"
Vin, still trying to process what this woman had offered, took a moment to realize she had asked him a question. "He's a cop," he replied simply.
"Oh!" the waitress gasped. The other two were once more aware of her presence and Vin blushed all the more for having someone else now know his shameful secret. "That's no good, Vin," she said, concerned for her coworker and friend. "You stay back here and I'll take care of the tables. There's no telling what he'll do if he sees you."
Mama laughed at that. "No, dear," she said to the young waitress. "Tonight Vin could dance naked on their table and he wouldn't see our boy."
"Mama!" Vin cried, horrified and embarrassed at her words.
"Oh, Vin," she soothed. "I don't expect you to do that, but that man out there is very much in love with that girl and sees nothing but her tonight."
Pushing the door open so he could take another look at the man, an idea struck the young Texan. As the door closed, he turned to his employer and stated his plan. "Mama, tonight I pay for their dinners and tip."
"Now, Vin," the waitress began, only to be cut off when Mama lifted her hand for silence.
Seeing that her bus boy needed to do this, Mama simply nodded. "And since he is a friend of yours, we shall make this night extra special for them," she agreed.
"Sarah always told me it was that night more than any other that made her realize she had been right to go out with me," Chris admitted softly as Tanner's story wound down. A sheepish grin appeared on his face as he admitted, "I don't think it even registered with either of us that we never got a bill."
Vin just grinned back, happy things had worked out so well for his friend.
Reaching out, Chris squeezed Vin's forearm and left his hand there. "Guess you had my back even then," he observed, releasing his friend and leaning back in his own chair, his mind filled with pleasant memories of Sarah and their time together.
"Just wish I could have had it later on too," Vin admitted quietly, knowing he was taking a chance at disturbing the pleasant expression he saw on Larabee's face, but needing to say the words.
Chris' smile didn't fade as he turned to look at Vin once more. "You have it now," he said quietly, holding the blue eyes with his own and waiting for the shadow to leave them. Satisfied that Vin understood how much that meant to him, Larabee stood and turned toward the sliding door. "Reckon we should go check on their progress?" he asked.
Rising from his own chair, Tanner stretched, clapped a hand on his friend's back and replied, "Reckon we should."
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