by: Maven Alysse
Magnificent Seven / Highlander Crossover
Disclaimer: Neither the concept of "The Highlander," nor the character of Vin Tanner from "The Magnificent Seven" belong to me. They have owners (who in my opinion should be arrested on grounds of character abuse).
Warnings: Other than Vin Tanner, no other characters from "The Magnificent Seven" appear – in fact, they don't exist at this point in time. The story is set about 50 years before the pilot episode. There is an OFC – who may be borrowed if you ask real nice.
This story may be the first of a series, though currently, I have no plans on writing any more on this topic. If anyone else wants to continue the story – feel free.
Summary: When your world is turned upside down, the only way to set things right is to turn the tables on the perpetrators.
The raid had been swift and deadly.
Michael Thatcher and his twelve-year-old son, Todd, were cut down almost immediately; arrows sprouting from their throats before a warning could be shouted. Emilia Thatcher scrambled to her feet, screeching in horror. Eight men rode through camp, scattering the small campfire in a flurry of sparks, shouting and yelling to cause further confusion. Emilia's younger sister, Tabitha Ferrier, managed to grab the rifle and fire a shot, felling a rider.
One man leapt off his horse and grabbed Emilia by the hair, his war-painted face alight with lust. Focused on her sister's plight, Tabitha didn't notice her own peril. She raised the rifle once more, aiming for the man's chest, when a sharp blow to the back of her skull dropped her to the ground. Her sister's screams followed her into oblivion.
*Pain … Mocking voices … Screams … Silence*
Tabitha Ferrier drew in a deep breath, a sharp tingling sensation running through her entire body. The first thing she noticed was the absence of pain and she reveled in it. Her arms and legs were no longer tethered; lines of fire no longer traveled the length of her abdomen, chest and limbs. Her face no longer felt like so much raw meat. The excruciating pain of being used again and again had disappeared. Had it been a terrible nightmare?
She shifted positions, curling upon her side, luxuriating in the ability to do so and discovered something else. Instead of hard ground, she lay between layers of soft furs.
A nearby noise had sea-green eyes flying open. She sat up, one hand clutching a fur robe to her, the other searching for anything she could use as a weapon.
"Relax. If I was gonna ta hurt ya, I'd a done it already."
She turned her eyes towards the slow drawl, absently noticing that she was in a small cave instead of the clearing by the creek where she and her family had set camp. She lay along the right side of the cave. A small fire separated her from the man who addressed her, the flames giving her enough light to see him clearly. Sky-blue eyes studied her. Honey blonde hair brushed the shoulders of a buffalo-hide jacket. Buckskin pants, dusty boots, and a well-oiled gun belt completed the outfit.
"Think ya could handle some soup?"
She nodded cautiously. He placed a tin cup alongside the fire, then moved back as if aware of her mistrust. Scooting forward, she reached out, grabbing the cup. The savory scent of meat and vegetables made her mouth water and she dug in eagerly.
The two were silent as each took the edge off their hunger.
The man rose and began rummaging through his rucksack. "Can't vouch for the fit. But I couldn't find none of yer things and figure somethin's better than nothin'." He pulled out a worn, but clean, set of breeches and a shirt from his pack. He laid it on a nearby blanket, then walked toward the entrance, keeping the fire between the two of them the whole time. "I'll wait outside till yer dressed." He brushed two fingers against the brim of his hat, them moved out of the cave and out of sight. A few moments later, notes from a harmonica floated through the air.
Tabitha blinked, then shook herself. The music let her know where the man was, and as long as he played, she figured she was safe enough. She quickly donned the offered clothing, marveling at how much better she felt clothed, even if they were a bit roomy on her. She stepped outside, dismayed to find that none of the landscape looked familiar. One hand went to her head as a buzzing sensation threatened her balance.
"You'll get used to it."
Tabitha looked up sharply, confusion on her face. She'd been so distracted that she hadn't heard him approach. The man gave a wry grin as he slipped his harmonica in a pocket. "The buzzin'. You'll get used to it."
"What the hell is going on?" She knew that cursing wasn't lady-like, but as she always told her sister, she wasn't a lady. Besides, present circumstances called for something a bit more than 'Oh, dear, whatever is going on?'
A few drops of rain fell and he ushered her back into the cave, settling her back on the furs. He returned to the other side of the fire and pulled out a kettle before responding. "What do you remember?" he asked softly.
"I was traveling west with my sister's family." She stopped, a shudder running through her frame. "Where are they?" the horrified whisper seemed to float in the air between them, carrying with it a desperate plea. Outside, the rain poured down, accompanied by flashes of light and the crashing roar of thunder.
"What do you remember happening?" he rasped out, his blue eyes filled with compassion.
She shook her head in denial, her dark auburn hair falling into her eyes. "No, no, that's not possible. I'm fine. Nothing's wrong with me. I … it was a dream. It had to have been." Her voice took on an edged quality; daring him to tell her she was wrong.
He shook his own head, eyes never leaving her face. "I saw the aftermath. None of them survived the attack. I'm sorry."
"But … but I'm fine. If this really happened then why aren't I dead, too? Or even injured in the slightest? I was there, but I don't have a scratch on me. They can't be dead. There has to be another explanation."
He sighed at her bewildered and grief-stricken face. "It did happen. As ta why you aren't injured…" he trailed off. "It's because, like me, yer special. The Indians would say you were blessed by the gods." He handed her a cup of coffee laced with a shot of whiskey.
She shook her head, confused. "What do you mean, special? Special how?" She took a large gulp of to steady her nerves, never even noticing the way the liquor burned its way down her throat.
"Watch." He pulled a hunting knife from his belt and quickly sliced the palm of his hand. Blood welled and dripped to the ground. Tabitha dropped her coffee, eyes and mouth wide in shock. She tried to scramble to her feet, whether to flee or help him, she wasn't sure, but was arrested by his command. "Watch!"
At first, nothing happened other than blood falling and being absorbed by the sandy floor. Then, tiny blue sparks appeared along the length of the wound, sealing it. He picked up a canteen with his other hand and poured water over his palm, rinsing the blood away, revealing smooth, unblemished skin. Forgetting her fear in her astonishment, she scooted around the fire, taking his hand in hers. She ran her fingers along his palm. Finally, she looked up at him, confusion, wonder, and fear in her eyes. "How?"
"Ain't completely sure myself. All's I know is I got hit a few times during a battle and when I woke up there was nothin' wrong with me. Knew I shoulda been dead – I was out in the open and the scavengers had already been through. Spent a few years not knowin' what I was. Weren't agin' no more, an' the couple times I got caught in crossfire, I healed up right quick. Met another fella like me a couple years back and he said weren't no way we could be killed 'less someone cut off our head."
She blinked, still a bit skeptical. "And, I'm like you?"
"You were dead when I brought ya here."
"How'd you know I was … gonna come back to life?" She gave him a speculating look as if not sure of his intentions. A man who'd collect and clean a dead body was someone to keep an eye on.
He grinned at her, as if aware of her thoughts. "Ya know that buzzin' earlier?" At her nod, he continued. "You kin tell if anyone yer near is one of us by the buzzin'. Folks that are healin' from a mortal wound have a fainter buzz than those who are all healed up, but they all have one." The grin disappeared. "It's how I knew I needed ta get ya outta there before the good townsfolk decided ya needed a decent Christian burial." Eyes, ice cold, drilled into her. "I need ya ta tell me what happened. Who did this to you and yers?"
Instead of feeling intimidated, she felt comforted – someone would know what she went through. "Group of eight men rode through camp. My brother-in-law and nephew never had a chance. I took one down with Michael's rifle before someone hit me from behind."
"Saw the arrows and feathers left behind. But the way you and yer sister were … dealt with … weren't like none of the tribes I'm familiar with."
A chill caused the flesh on her arms to pimple at the implied question. She didn't want to remember what had happened, but she knew that the telling was important. "At first I thought they were Indians. They wore loincloths and feathers in their hair. They also had war paint all over their bodies and rode their ponies barebacked. If they had stayed near the edge of the firelight, I probably wouldn't have known the difference. But," here, she faltered, "but, when I woke, they had tied my sister and myself up and were … were…" She halted, eyes wide in shock as she found herself locked in the memory. He put a hand over hers, jolting her back to reality. She took a deep breath, clearing her mind. "They were white."
"You think you'd recognize 'em if ya saw 'em again?"
"Yes." Firm and definite.
"You willin' ta do some huntin'? We won't be getting' no support from the townsfolk."
She tilted her head in confusion. "Why?"
"They already decided it was Indians. As far as they're concerned, the guilty parties have already paid." The bitterness in his voice took her aback. "We're about halfway between two towns here. We can hit Sweetwater fer some supplies, clothes an' food an' such. Then in a couple days, take the stage ta Greenville. Since yer suppose ta be dead, you won't be recognized, 'specially if ya tuck yer hair up in a bonnet or somethin'. I ain't never been there, so I reckon we can blend inta town without none of them noticin' us. Once you finger the bastards, we kin decide what to do from there."
"Why are you so willing to help me?" She desperately wanted his help, but wondered what was in it for him.
Looking into his eyes, her breath caught at the rage and sorrow that stormed there. "It was my tribe they decided were guilty. They slaughtered every man, woman and child. I want the ones responsible."
The rain had tapered off. A cool breeze replacing it, refreshing the earth from the earlier heat of the day. The two inhabitants of the cave had lapsed into a comfortable silence, each contemplating the past events that brought them together and what now lay in the future.
"By the way. My name is Tabitha Ferrier. I figure, if we're going to be hunting partners, we should at least become acquainted, don't you think?"
He grinned, eyes sparkling. "I reckon. Vin Tanner." He reached across and shook her hand. "Pleasure ta meet ya."
"Same here." She sat back on the furs, chewing on her bottom lip in thought. "Since 'justice' has already been served, and they think I'm dead, how should we deal with them once we locate them? I mean, we can't just go in guns blazing. It'll be harder to find them all if we have the law on our backs."
"This area is a harsh place. Wild animals, harsh land, and worse towns. Accidents happen all the time. And these guys seem the type to try somethin' like this again. Should be easy ta find somethin' fer them ta get themselves inta."
The two exchanged unholy grins, nodding in complete agreement with each other before bedding down for the night.
The bear cub wandered into the small camp following the scent of fresh fruit. Naturally, the mama bear followed intent on protecting her curious cub.
The man sleeping by the fire woke suddenly when the cub started sniffing around his blankets, intent upon a morsel of fruit that was hidden with one of the folds. With a startled scream, he leapt up, getting tangled in his blankets.
The cub yelped in alarm at the man's antics.
Before he could reach for his gun, mama bear crashed into the camp. Enraged, she dealt a fatal blow, ending the perceived threat.
Tabitha looked up from her embroidery as Vin entered the boarding house eating a peach. He sat across from her and grinned. "One."
Sally Ann knew she was sick and that she should have found another line of work before her customers found out – but the lure of $500 was too much for her to pass up. It would get her out of town and to a decent doctor. Perhaps even get her the medicine she needed.
The note had sent her to a small upstairs room over the stables. Pulling at her blouse, she exposed one lily-white shoulder, then leaned over to hitch up her skirts, showing off shapely legs. She stifled another cough, bound to complete this one job before succumbing to a fit.
She knocked on the door, entering at the growled response. "Hey, big boy. Up for a good time?"
A young couple strolled arm-in-arm down the street. They glanced up in mild curiosity as a light went out in an upstairs window. The two continued walking, exchanging dark grins.
With a roar of anger, the tall gunfighter grabbed the lapels of a small weasely-looking man. "Hear you've been shooting off yer mouth, mister. Think yer faster than me? Well then, let's just see, shall we?" Over the man's protestations, the gunfighter lifted him from his chair and propelled him through the saloon's batwing doors.
Babbling in fear and prodded by the gunfighter, the man unsuccessfully attempted to convince the enraged man of his innocence. He was silenced by a particularly vicious look. "You can either face me like a man, or die like the coward you are. But you will face me, got that?"
A small crowd formed, effectively cutting of the man's retreat. Some were openly enjoying the man's predicament, jeering at his obvious terror. With an attempt to preserve a modicum of dignity, the man straightened his clothing and watched as the gunfighter positioned himself.
The man nervously fumbled at his gun. A shot rang out and the weasel-faced man fell.
Vin looked across the street to where Tabitha stood outside the mercantile store. He tipped his hat.
Tabitha strolled down the street on her way to the livery. A commotion near the bank drew her attention.
One man came crashing through the door at a dead run. There was a shout and another man raced after him, a bandana covering his features. Raising his pistol, he fired, catching the fleeing man high in the back. The bandit ducked back into the bank as the sheriff and one of his deputies made their way towards the building.
A few minutes later, the town's doctor reached the fallen man. Kneeling by his side, he placed a hand on the man's neck. With a slump of his shoulders, he shook his head and shouted for the undertaker.
Tabitha hurried on to the livery, carefully hiding a smile at the way Providence worked.
Standing Bear and Little Oak exchanged dark grins. The gods had truly blessed them by sending them a white man already trussed and ready for retribution. Someone had tied the man backward to his saddle, hands behind his back, ankles strapped to the stirrups. Standing Bear used his spear to poke the unmoving man's shoulder, wondering if he was alive or not. A strangled moan escaped from behind the rag stuffed in the man's mouth. With a sharp motion, Standing Bear tore off the bandana that bound the man's eyes. The captive gave a violent start, causing his mount to shift nervously.
The two Apaches snorted in disgust and derision as the pale-face lost control of his bladder. A keening noise was only slightly muffled by the gag. The two Indians shook their heads. This was no warrior and therefore did not deserve the quick death that would have been attributed to a brave man.
A small cold camp nestled in a tiny hollow. The two campers spoke no word but merely showed grim smiles as the faint sounds of agonized screaming floated to them on the breeze.
The sharp retort of a pistol had many reflexively reaching for their own weapon.
"Gawddammit!" The town's doctor threw open the shutters and leaned out of the window. "Hey, one of you kids go fetch the undertaker, will ya?" A young boy took off down the street, hollering.
Owner of the feed store propped a foot up on the railing. "Hey, Keith! What happened? You finally shot a customer 'cause he was complaining too much?"
Keith looked disgusted. "Dammed fool screwed up his pistol somehow and it misfired. Sent pieces of metal into his eyes, blinding him. When I told him it was permanent, he grabbed his other weapon and blew his fool head off!"
"Shit. Anything damaged?"
"Nah. Just gonna be a bitch getting the bloodstains off the wall."
The conversation was cut short by the arrival of the undertaker and his assistant. The merchant wandered back to his store, never noticing or recognizing the significance of some sawdust laying nearby and a rusty file tossed halfway beneath the boardwalk.
Three men sat at a table in the saloon, drinking heavily. A fourth joined them and began pouring the drinks. "Seems ta me you boys are celebratin' somethin' tonight."
"Had us a hangin'."
At the interest that sparkled in blue eyes, and with the whiskey pouring freely, the ranchers shared the news of their good fortune with their new friend. "Franklin, Madison and I own adjacent ranches. Cattle. We've been noticin' a number of cattle wandrin' off – more than could be accounted for by the laws of nature, ya see?"
At the agreeing nod, Martins threw back a shot and continued. "When we tallied up – all told, we was missin' a good forty head a cattle. Now, that can right bankrupt a man."
Madison took up the tale, weaving a bit in his chair. "'Nother man down a ways from us – he been talkin' about makin' it big. Mayhap expandin' his spread. Bragged he'd get our land sooner or later. But we'd a noticed sumpthin' odd." He blinked in obvious intoxication even as he reached for another drink.
With a good-natured curse, Franklin pushed his hand away from the glass. "Damn, Walter, you won't be able ta walk out of here, let alone sit your horse ta get you home." Shaking his head, he snagged the glass himself and downed the drink. "I'd been keeping track of the number of cattle he seemed to have and the number was increasing more often then he went ta buying. Gathered up these two and some of our boys and persuaded him ta let us have a look at his herd. Damned if we didn't find nearly every one of our lost cattle."
"Then what?" came the slow drawl.
Madison chuckled. "We gave the man the opportunity to take the matter up with the Lord Almighty, Himself. Man wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea, but we managed to convince him of the necessity."
"Well, boys, in that case, have a bottle on me. Not everyday you get ta see justice done up so nicely." He tossed a few coins down on the table, tipped his hat to the three men, and left the saloon.
He walked down the street and entered the boarding house. He knocked lightly upon a door at the end of the hallway. As it opened, he swept off his hat and pulled a slender figure close to him. "Seven," he breathed. An impassioned kiss was his answer.
Stepping up into the coach, Tabitha fought the urge to shake the town's dust from her feet. With a devilish grin, she gave into the urge, confident no one watching would understand the significance of the gesture. Finally, the dark cloud that had hung over her head since the deaths of her family had lifted. The Thatchers had been convenient targets to get the town to turn on the small tribe of Indians nearby. All in the name of greed, for the Native Americans lived on land rich in game and minerals. The retribution had been all the sweeter with the knowledge that no one would be able to pin any of the murderers' deaths to her or her companion.
Vin chuckled at her, his posture completely relaxed for the first time in months. He sat across from her after securing their luggage. "Where to, my lady?"
With an impish grin, she kissed his cheek. "Well, my dear. I've heard Paris is quite lovely this time of year."