He arrived near midnight on a cloudless night. His angular features were sharply lit by the full moon. Waking the proprietor of the boarding house, he procured a windowless room where he could await the next evening.
Soundlessly, she slid into the wagon, watching him sleep. Her love for this boy -- no, this man -- had only grown over the years. As had her pride in him as she watched him from afar.
He was everything she had hoped -- and more. Strong. Proud. Loving. Loyal. Kind. Respectful.
Her warm smile faded as she turned and looked up at the full moon. Yes, he had grown into everything she'd hoped for.
And now he was threatened. The son of a rabid dog had returned.
This time -- only one would walk away. Even if....
She turned back and watched him sleep.
Even if she had to reveal herself to do it.
She moved to the pallet and reached into the pouch he wore at his throat. Finding what she was looking for, she withdrew the silver necklace right through the leather. Fastening it around his neck, she kissed his forehead and withdrew.
He rolled over, mumbling something. The moonlight caught the twin charms on the chain -- a crucifix and a bone carving of the Six Directions.
Both sides of his heritage, together.
The next afternoon found Josiah and Ezra alone at the Saloon, involved in a game of cards, in which Josiah promptly folded.
"Too rich for your blood?" Ezra smiled at him.
"You have well and truly cleaned me out," Josiah chuckled.
Ezra shook his head and chuckled as well, as he shuffled the cards. "Care to attempt to win some of it back?"
"Nope." Josiah leaned back, and then put all his chair legs back on the floor. "Ezra," he asked, his face suddenly serious. "If I gave you something, would you wear it?"
Ezra set the cards to dancing through his fingers before he replied carefully, "Now, Josiah... that would depend on what it was."
"I dreamed," Josiah said, pulling the rough cross from his neck and slipping it over Ezra's head. "Wear this."
"Why?" Ezra asked, moving to remove it.
Josiah's eyes bored into his. "I don't rightly know, Ezra. Even if you wear it hid, wear it. Please."
Ezra put the cards down. His hands moved to his shirt and he unfastened some of the pearl buttons. Without a word -- and showing a new level of trust -- he slid the homemade cross underneath to touch his bare skin.
Josiah smiled and squeezed Ezra's shoulder as he refastened his shirt and picked the cards back up.
Rain rode in at five PM, worried. Her village children were ill from bad water -- could Nathan come?
If Ezra hadn't ridden patrol with Vin and been gone when Rain arrived, he would have gladly gone with Nathan to keep the children distracted. As it was, Nathan and Josiah rode out together with Rain.
Buck and JD rode out two hours later to deliver supplies to the Welles homestead.
And so, it was only Chris, Vin and Ezra to protect the town when he awoke.
After slaking his hunger with one of the soiled doves that had just come to town, he began making discreet inquiries.
What he found startled him.
Vin Tanner lived in this town! He wondered if that was Virginia Tanner's son.
His first glimpse of the young man left no doubt. He had her eyes, her mouth. This was Virginia's boy, no mistake about it.
Even better, Tanner was the law here. Him and those two with him.
He licked his lips. One more hour... and he would have him.
Vin shivered, looking around him. The streets were deserted, save for him and his partners.
"What's the matter?" Ezra asked. "You seem very jumpy."
"Not sure." He turned to look at the end of town furthest from the church. "Somethin's wrong."
Without a word, Chris and Ezra fell in step with him, hands on their guns, as they slowly approached that area of town.
Just as they crossed past the last alleyway, something flew from it, striking Chris between the shoulder blades. He went down, gun firing into the air, head striking a rock.
Vin and Ezra whirled to him, finding -- nothing! Ezra looked up at Vin, cocking his gun. "There was nothing in that alleyway," he whispered tightly.
Vin nodded agreement, looking around him, one hand on Chris's neck. "Alive," he reported softly, climbing to his feet.
"And that way he'll stay," a sibilant voice hissed as a fog began to gather. "If you join me."
"Who are you?" Ezra demanded. "Show yourself!"
The fog gathered into one place and faded away, leaving a lean man with short brown hair smiling at them. "Plain words from a fancy man," he laughed. "I'm impressed. But it's not you I want. It's Tanner."
Vin's eyes narrowed and he pointed his gun at the newcomer. "State your business."
"Simple," he smiled at Vin. "I intend to leave this town with you by my side."
"Because you are my son." He smiled larger, revealing his fangs. "I am Dane Connors -- your mother's seducer. She went willingly into my bed."
"I'm a Tanner."
"Yes. Virginia Tanner was your mother. Sweet, beautiful woman of nineteen. I impregnated her with the seeds of glory, and she rejected me."
Vin's eyes narrowed. "Why would I ride with you, vampyre?"
Dane laughed. "Because if you don't..." he made a motion and Ezra was lifted from his feet and flipped over Dane's head to the ground, where he landed and bounced.
Vin fired at him, and Dane laughed as the bullet did no damage at all. "Foolish boy!" he gestured at Chris, who began to choke even as he rose to his hands and knees.
"STOP IT!" Vin roared.
"Come with me!"
"Vin..." Ezra gasped from behind Dane, who whirled to do him more damage -- and froze. For the first time, the confident masque slipped as huge eyes fastened onto Ezra.
Vin crouched beside Chris -- who could breathe again, Dane's control forgotten -- and followed Dane's gaze. A small smile of realisation touched his lips.
Ezra was on his hands and knees, shaking his ringing head. Hanging from his neck on a leather cord was the rough cross that normally adorned Josiah's neck.
How he got it, Vin would have to ask another day. But for that moment, the religious symbol was protecting Ezra!
Without a word, Vin slid off the silver necklace he'd found himself wearing that morning. Sliding the Six Directions symbol off of it and securing it into the knot of his bandanna -- which he moved to the front of his neck -- he slid the chain and crucifix over Chris's head.
Now all of them wore religious symbols. All of them were protected from this lunatic who claimed to be Vin's father.
When Dane turned back to Vin and saw this, he howled -- literally howled -- with rage! "You will be mine, boy! It is your LEGACY!"
Your LEGACY, a half-remembered voice whispered in Vin's mind, is to be as you are -- fighting for GOOD. Not living for evil!
Ezra struggled to his feet and lunged, tackling the vampyre from behind and knocking him to the ground. Dane screamed as the wooden cross was pinned to his lower back by the weight of Ezra's chest.
Watch for a clear shot, the voice whispered. The vampyre legends are truth.
Vin looked around while Ezra kept the vampyre occupied. He moved to the half-completed building at the edge of town and broke off a jutting piece of wood. Breaking it into two sharp spikes, he loaded them into the chambres of his mare's leg.
Dane finally threw Ezra off of him and clambered to his feet. "Now, boy!" he roared, lurching toward Vin. "It ends!"
”...ends...." Chris moaned, still only half-aware from the attacks he'd taken and the blow to his head when he'd hit the ground initially. "...yes..." He took aim and fired.
The bullet spun Dane around, and he advanced on Chris, growling. "You are dead."
Yes... they all heard as a glow appeared between Dane and Chris. I am. And you should be.
Dane froze, squinting. "....Virginia?"
And the distinctive roar of Vin's mare's leg split the night. Twice.
All action froze. Dane just had enough time to look down at himself -- at the bloody daggers of wood driven into his chest -- and stagger around, mouth forming a 'V' -- then he burst into dust and literally dissolved on the wind.
The twin darts clattered to the ground a second later.
Ezra looked around, then frowned at the glow in front of Chris. "More deviltry?"
"No," Vin said, moving forward and helping Ezra to his feet. "This isn't a demon."
"Who is she?" Chris asked, his rattled brain letting him see the woman inside the glow before it faded to reveal her to the others.
"My mother," Vin muttered in pure awe. Then he stepped forward, English deserting him completely. "Nya ish," he whispered in Cheyenne. "Ne-mehotatse...."
She smiled at him and touched his cheek with gentle fingers. You are very welcome, she whispered back. And I love you too.
Vin nodded and found one English word. "Stay?"
I wish I could, Vin. I truly do. But I no longer belong here. She smiled. I'm never far away, though. I'm on the breeze and in your heart. That is your gift. Cupping his chin, she whispered, Your gift. You're a Tanner, boy. That means you are very, very special. NEVER forget.
As she faded away, Vin stood there with tears beading in his eyes. "Never, Mama.... I'll never forget."
"You threw away immortality."
Ezra's awed whisper filled the early morning quiet as the three friends sat and watched the sunrise from the boardwalk.
"I didn't throw away anything," Vin said calmly as he finished bandaging Chris's head.
Ezra stared at him. "But he was your father... he said it was your legacy."
"He lied." Vin smiled slightly. "You six -- you’re my legacy. My family." He gestured toward the slowly-waking town. "This is my destiny."
Ezra smiled as he fingered the rough cross around his neck. "...family..." He sat back, and grew lost in thought.
Vin watched him, then watched Chris as the black-clad gunfighter drifted into a healing sleep. He smiled and tipped his hat toward the sunrise, toward his mother's spirit.
"Family." The best legacy of all.
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