Title: Little Nathan
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc.
Author's Note: I'm not entirely sure where the idea for this came from. I just know that I started writing one day and this is where it went. Hopefully I'll be able to finish this first story soon. As soon as it is done, I'll post it to the lists and open the AU.
Universe: Little Nathan (closed)
Rating: FRC - Fan Rated Suitable For Children
Wind whispered along the rim of the valley carrying on it the scent of Spring wildflowers and a faint sound.
As the breeze teased the long, wavy hair of the man sleeping in the warm sun, his ears perked and a blue eye cracked open. He knew that sound. It didn’t bode well.
Forcing himself upright, he gathered his belongings, tightened the cinch on his saddle and mounted up. Someone needed his help.
His head throbbed in time with each step his horse took. If it weren’t for the fact he knew the horse so well, he would have surely fallen off. Maybe getting drunk last night out in the wilderness hadn’t been the best idea; but the demons had been coming hard and fast of late.
As his horse plodded slowly along the trail, heading toward another nameless town, a sound reached his ears that brought his focus back to the present.
A flame of anger flared within the black-clad man as he took control of the reins and headed toward the disturbance.
The longhaired man perched quietly behind the rock, surveying the scene before him. He shifted his eyes enough to catch sight of the lithe black-clad figure he’d heard approaching. The man, a gunfighter by the looks of him, was moving stealthily, but not so much so that the tracker hadn’t heard him.
Tensing a little more, he waited to see the man’s reaction, not only to the scene before them, but to his face. If this stranger recognized him, Vin Tanner could have more than a fight to rescue the boy on his hands.
Chris Larabee crept forward, intent on scanning the ground ahead. It never paid to enter a confrontation without knowing the odds.
As he approached the clearing from where the noise was issuing, he caught sight of a man crouching behind a bush, guarded blue eyes watching his every move.
Taking in the man’s appearance, Chris returned the measured gaze. He read in the blue eyes the same determination that dwelt in him – to help the poor soul who was suffering.
Making his way over toward the other man, Chris nodded. “Chris Larabee,” he greeted.
“Vin Tanner,” the man responded, his eyes already focused back upon the scene in the clearing. If Chris recognized the name, he hid it well.
“What are we looking at?”
Vin nodded, “Ten men with guns. Look to be drunk. Been firing off their guns in the air. That little feller there and the old man need our help.”
Chris nodded. Glancing at the situation and the other man, he instinctively knew what needed to be done. Drawing his weapon and standing, he felt the slender form rise beside him, rifle brought up to rest on his shoulder.
Stepping forward, the two men entered the clearing.
Nathan was too scared to say anything and hurt too much to do anything. His terrified eyes looked at the form of Doc Wheeler and he felt tears well. The man wasn’t moving and Nathan didn’t know what to do.
Toward the end of the war, confusion reigned in the South as battles and troops caused havoc across the countryside. Nathan, his father and his siblings had somehow lost track of their mother. When they came across Doc Wheeler, Nathan’s father had left his son in the old man’s care. The Doctor needed the help and Nathan’s quick mind and nimble hands made him an excellent assistant to the failing man. Everyone just assumed Nathan belonged to the Doctor, not that the doctor was harboring a runaway.
With the end of the war came the end of the fear of discovery for the young runaway. But by this point, there was no way for him to find his family. It didn’t matter, though. Doc Wheeler had become his father and the two lived happily.
When a younger doctor moved into their town, Doc Wheeler decided it was time to move on and fulfill a dream of his to see the West where whispering tongues would, hopefully, fail to follow them.
They had been heading for a small town in one of the territories where Doc had taken a position when they came across a camp of miners heading for the same town. One of the men was injured.
Just looking at the wound, Nathan knew there was nothing they could do other than ease the man’s passing. Looking into his surrogate father’s eyes, he saw the same knowledge there. Still, the boy and the doctor tended to the man through the night while the others drank to excess.
Shortly after dawn, the injured man had passed. When the others came to and found out, they decided the fault lay with Doc Wheeler and Nathan rather than their own delay in getting help for their friend.
With that conclusion made, they decided to take out their frustration on the duo.
The men had tied Nathan’s hands around the trunk of a tree and ripped the shirt from his back. Taking a whip from one of the saddles, they had lashed the boy several times until Nathan had passed out from the pain.
Doc Wheeler had tried to intervene, going so far as to throw himself between the men and Nathan, but found himself rewarded with several lashes of his own. Once Nathan had passed out, the men sought relief for their whiskey-fueled violence by beating the old man until he failed to respond.
Cutting the boy lose, they had left the two lying side by side while they re-built their courage and anger in the warming embrace of the fiery alcohol.
Nathan looked at the face of the man who had taken care of him, who had treated him as a son, as an equal, not as a slave and felt tears well in his eyes. He knew the old man wouldn’t make it and looking into the sage eyes that had provided so much comfort, he saw Doc Wheeler knew it too.
As he struggled for breath, Doctor Herbert Wheeler sought words to share with the young boy who had stolen his heart so many years before. There was much he wished to say, much his heart longed to share, he wanted so much to see young Nathan grow into the doctor he knew the boy could be, but there wasn’t time. “I’m proud of you Nathan,” he whispered, a smile curving his bloodstained lips. “And I love you.”
Nathan felt tears well up and stream down his face. “I love you too,” he whispered back as he watched his mentor take his final breath. Closing his eyes, he no longer cared what happened to him.
“Looks like the old man’s gone, boys,” one of the drunks shouted. “Guess we best get us a rope and finish the job.”
Whoops of delight and shots rang out around the clearing as the others agreed to this plan. A rope was gotten and a noose prepared.
Vin and Chris stood as the boy was sat on a horse and the rope thrown over a tree branch.
“You boys shot a lot of holes in the clouds just now. Any of you bother to reload?” Chris asked, his voice low and deadly.
All sound in the clearing ceased as ten men turned to face the intruders. In their impaired state, the men misjudged the two intruders as non-threats and turned back to the business of hanging the boy.
“Reckon y’all ‘d be happier if you just rode away,” Vin supplied.
The men turned once more toward the intruders and aimed their guns at the men.
Seeing the move, Vin brought down his rifle as Chris let loose a shot. The fight that ensued was hot and fast. Lead flew around the clearing, some finding a resting place in the flesh of the drunk miners, others imbedding themselves in the ground and trees.
One bullet found its mark in the shoulder of the man holding the horse upon which Nathan sat. The man’s sudden collapse startled the horse and caused it to bolt.
Fear pierced the boy as he felt the horse below him disappear and the rough rope grab at his throat, seeking to steal his air and his life.
Shock shot through Tanner as he saw the boy’s horse run away. Ignoring the bullets aimed in his direction, he brought the rope on the tree limb into his sights. Just as he began to squeeze the trigger of the rifle, a shot landed on the stone behind which he had sought shelter. Vin cursed softly as his bullet missed the rope by mere inches. Turning toward the gunman, Vin pressed the trigger and felt the bark of his rifle before turning his attention back to the rope slowly strangling the boy, confident his bullet had hit its mark.
Larabee was busy chasing the last of the gunmen away with a fury of lead, ensuring the fight was out of them and covering Vin as the man tried to shoot the rope. It would be one hell of a shot if he made it – one not three men in the territory could make by Chris’ estimation. Yet a moment later, he watched as the bullet hit the rope and the boy dropped to the ground.
Standing straight side-by-side, the two men scanned the area to make sure everything was safe. While they were scanning the scene, Nathan had reached out to the wounded man before him and took the knife from the man’s boot. He may only be ten about to be eleven, but Doc Wheeler had taught him many things about knives and their uses. With a confidence born of experience, he turned the blade to cut his bonds. Just as he was about to slice the ropes, he saw one of the injured men begin to rise and take aim at his rescuers. With a cry of “Look out,” Nathan drew his arms back and let the knife fly. It imbedded itself in the man’s shoulder deep enough to disable him.
The two rescuers looked at the man who had been aiming at them and then at the boy who had protected them. Walking up to the boy, Vin pulled his own knife from his boot, ignored the spark of fear in the child’s eyes and cut the boy loose. Nathan reached up and removed the noose as the two men helped him up.
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