Michael Biehn Archive

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Mary Travis stood to the side of the group in the drizzling rain, tears running down her face. She wanted desperately to be by Chris' side but she knew he wouldn't welcome her presence. At a time like this, there was only a handful of people Chris would allow close... and she wasn't one of them. She had already begun to wonder if she ever would be. Now, she was afraid that she would lose what she did have with the handsome gunslinger.

Her eyes traveled the other five men all dressed in dark clothes as they stood with their heads bowed. She couldn't see their faces but she knew there were tears in their eyes as well. Losing Vin had been like losing a part of their family. She turned to the young woman dressed in black and felt her heart clench for the poor child. Vin and Casey had only been married a year and now she was a widow. A widow with a child on the way.

Mary remembered the day last month when Vin had happily informed everyone that he was going to be a father. He had started making a cradle for the baby the day he found out Casey was pregnant. The young couple had been so happy then. Until an enemy from Vin's past had shown up determined to destroy Vin and his family. Vin had died protecting his wife and unborn child. But even after losing her husband, Casey still wasn't safe. The man wasn't content with having killed Vin, he made it clear he'd be back to finish the job.

How could anyone be so evil? He had destroyed that young woman's life but it wasn't enough for him. But one thing he hadn't counted on was the friendship of the men Vin had joined up with. The six of them felt guilty for not being there when Vin needed them. They wouldn't make that mistake again. Casey had become a part of their family when she married Vin, and they would die to protect her.

Mary's eyes shifted to Chris who was standing with his arms wrapped supportively around Casey. She knew that Vin's death had been hardest on Chris. The two men had felt an instant connection and had been best friends for years. And Mary knew Chris Larabee well enough to know that he wouldn't let Vin's murder go unavenged. He would bring Vin's killer to justice one way or another. And he would protect his friend's widow and child. Chris' sense of honor and friendship would be what drove them apart.

Mary walked over to where Casey was sitting off to the side. She sat down next to her and squeezed the young woman's cold hand. Casey looked up at her and smiled sadly. "Thank you for coming, Mrs. Travis."

"I am so sorry, Casey. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Casey shook her head. "This is just so hard. I... I don't know what I'm going to do now. God, I miss him so much."

Mary pulled the young woman into a hug. She remembered only too well the pain of losing the man you loved. "Casey, I think you should lay down for a while."

Mary looked up to find Ezra standing in front of them. "I think that is an excellent idea. Casey, if there's anything I can do, all you have to do is ask."

"Thank you, Mrs. Travis."

Ezra helped Casey to the back of the house and Mary looked around for Chris. She spotted him standing outside alone. Making her way out to his side, Mary took in his haggard expression.

"Chris, how are you doing?"

"I failed him, Mary. I wasn't there when he needed me. Some friend I am."

Mary laid a comforting hand on his arm. "You are not to blame for this, Chris. Vin wouldn't blame you for any of this."

But Chris didn't seem to be listening to her. "I won't make the same mistake again. I failed Vin once, I won't let it happen again."

"Chris, Vin is gone. There's nothing you can do for him now."

"Yes there is. I can protect his family. And I can make his killer pay."

Mary heard the words and feared that she knew what they meant. "Chris, you can't--"

Chris turned to her and she gasped at the look in his eyes. "I'll do what I have to do."

Mary shook her head sadly as Chris walked off towards the corral. And she had never felt farther away from him.

Mary hurried to the saloon as soon as she heard the news that the men had returned. It had been three weeks since the six of them had left town in search of Vin's killer. Casey had been staying with her during that time since none of them wanted her staying out at her and Vin's place alone. Not when they had no idea where the killer was hiding.

Looking around the saloon, Mary spotted Buck and J.D at a table. "Gentlemen, you are all alright?"

Buck nodded. "We're fine, ma'am. Angry as hell but we're all fine."

"No luck tracking down that man?"

J.D. shook his head. "It's like he disappeared. But we know he'll be heading back this way."

"How can you be sure? Maybe he realized that he was outnumbered and moved on."

"Killing Vin wasn't enough for him, ma'am. We found warnings along the way. He's coming after Casey."

Mary sat down in a chair. "What kind of monster is he? He killed her husband, why torment her like this?"

"He's sadistic, ma'am. He said that Vin died too quickly. Figures he still owes Vin and since Vin's out of his reach, he'll settle for taking it out on Casey."

"What are you going to do now? Casey can stay with me for as long as she likes."

Buck smiled sadly but shook his head. "That's right nice of you, ma'am. But we have no idea how long he'll wait to make his move. Casey wants to be at home and that's probably the safest place for her now. Too many places in town for him to hide. Out at their place, we can see someone coming for miles."

"But Buck, she can't stay out there alone. It's dangerous."

Mary saw the look that passed between Buck and J.D. "What?"

"She won't be alone, ma'am. We're going to take turns being out there with her during the day. Figure we can help finish some of the stuff Vin wanted to do."

"And what about at night?"

Buck rubbed at his neck before answering. "Well, Chris will be moving out there. He'll be there to protect her."

Mary's hands shook as she sat silently. She should've seen this coming. Chris felt as though he failed his best friend. And he'd told her he'd do whatever he had to do in order to make sure it didn't happen again.

"Are you sure that's a good idea? There may be some in town who see it as wrong for a young woman to be living with a man."

Buck rolled his eyes. "Even if that young woman just lost her husband a month ago? A woman pregnant with her first child? And even if that man was her husband's best friend? There's a killer lurking around, Mrs. Travis. He's made it clear that he's after Casey and we're making it clear that he has to go through us first."

"I understand that, Buck. But, wouldn't it be wiser for her to stay with me here in town?"

Buck motioned for J.D. to leave then turned to look at the woman. "This isn't about what the town may or may not think of the situation. It's about what you think about it."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

"You're jealous."

Mary opened her mouth to deny it but the words wouldn't come. She was jealous. Ever since Vin's death, she'd been jealous of the time and attention Chris was devoting to his friend's widow. Mary hadn't talked to Chris except in passing since the funeral. And now he was going to be even farther away from her.

"Mrs. Travis, I know you have feelings for Chris. And I know that the two of you were heading towards becoming closer, but things have changed. Vin's death changed a lot for Chris. He has to be there for Casey and her unborn child. Do you understand that?"

Mary nodded. "But once you've caught Vin's killer--"

"Bringing the bastard to justice isn't going to magically solve everything. Vin will still be gone and Chris will still have a need to take care of Vin's family. Chris won't let Casey go through this alone."

"What are you trying to say, Mr. Wilmington?"

Buck stood. "The day Vin and Casey got married, Vin made Chris promise to take care of Casey if anything ever happened to him. Chris takes that promise very seriously."

"You aren't suggesting that he would go so far as to marry her, are you?"

Buck didn't need to answer. She saw the answer on his face. Standing, she hurried out of the saloon in search of Chris. She had to talk him out of making the biggest mistake of his life... of their lives.

Mary found Chris outside the Sheriff's office. He was sitting in a chair staring out into space. She hurried over to him and sat down. He didn't look at her so she reached out to touch his arm. "We need to talk, Chris."

"Now's not a good time, Mary."

"There will never be a good time. I talked to Buck. He told me about the promise you made Vin."


"Vin didn't mean that you had to marry Casey."

Chris turned his head. "He asked me to protect the woman he loved. And if marrying her is what it takes, then it's what I'll do. I won't leave her to handle all of this alone."

"You don't love her, Chris. And she doesn't love you. She's still grieving for Vin."

"I know that, Mary. This isn't about love, it's about doing what's best for Casey and her unborn child."

"What does Casey have to say about this?"

Chris shrugged. "She doesn't know yet. We never told her about the promise I made Vin."

"Chris, there are other ways to handle this. Marrying Casey isn't the answer."

Chris got to his feet. "Look, I don't know what the answer is right now. My most immediate concern is eliminating the threat to Casey's safety. Once I've accomplished that, *then* I will decide how to keep my promise to Vin. Just stay out of this, Mary."

"Stay out of it? How can I stay out of it? This affects me too or have you forgotten how close we were getting before all this happened?"

"I haven't forgotten anything. Our feelings may have been growing but there was no real relationship between us, Mary. Which means, this is none of your business. I'm sorry, but I can't even think about what might or might not have happened between us if Vin hadn't died. Facts are facts. He did die and I have a promise to keep."

"Casey won't want you feeling obligated to stay around. She'd want you to be happy. If she knew what was--"

Chris shook his head. "Don't say anything to Casey, Mary. She's having a hard enough time without you going to her with this. I will talk with her once I decide what I'm going to do. We'll decide then where things stand."

"And what about us, Chris? Where do things stand with us?"

Chris reached out to tenderly stroke her cheek. "You need to forget about me, Mary. I can't be what you want me to be. Vin's death changed everything. Now, all we can be is friends. I can't offer you more then that. I'm sorry, Mary."

Tears ran down Mary's cheeks as Chris turned and walked away.

Chris stood in the doorway watching Casey unpack. This was her first time back in the house she and Vin shared since the funeral. He could see the shaking of her shoulders and knew that she was crying. His first impulse was to try to comfort her, but then decided that she needed this time alone. He backed out of the room quietly then walked out to the porch.

He closed his eyes as he leaned on the railing. His mind was going in a million different directions and his feelings were just as conflicted. Chris hated having to walk away from Mary but it wasn't right to give her false hope. His own feelings had to be pushed to the back of his mind now. Keeping the promise he made to Vin was what he had to concentrate on. And that meant sacrificing whatever he and Mary may have been building towards.

Even if he didn't marry Casey, he knew he would be spending a lot of time with the young woman. And it wouldn't have been fair to Mary. Hell, this situation wasn't fair to any of them.

Mary hurried out of the church with tears in her eyes. She had always hoped that this would just be a temporary setback. She had almost convinced herself that since Vin's murderer had been found and brought to justice that she and Chris would be able to go back to what they had. Or that something would happen that would set things right. But chances of that were gone now. Chris and Casey were married and were raising a baby daughter.

"Are you okay?"

Mary shook her head but didn't turn around. "I am most certainly not alright, Ezra."

Ezra walked over and stood next to her. "I know that you had feelings for our Mr. Larabee but this is the way things had to be, Mrs. Travis. Casey and that little girl need him."

"I need him, Mr. Standish. He belongs with me, not them!"

"You want him, that's not the same."

Mary turned to glare at the gambler. "I love Chris, Mr. Standish. And I believe he loves me. We should be together."

"Chris made a promise to Vin and it's one he must honor. Casey and her daughter need someone like Chris."

"She's not in danger anymore, Ezra. Vin's killer can never hurt her again. As for needing someone, why couldn't one of you have taken on the role of protector?"

Ezra shrugged. "There's a world full of danger out there, especially for a young woman without family. And any one of us would protect that young woman but we weren't the ones Vin trusted his family with. Chris was."

"I hate Vin for doing this!"

They both heard the gasp behind them and turned to see Chris and Casey standing there. Tears were running down Casey's face and she tightened her hold on her baby. "How can you say something like that?"

"Casey, I didn't mean..."

Casey shook her head and hurried away followed closely by Ezra and the others. Chris stayed where he was and stared at Mary like he didn't even know her. She reached out for him but he shrugged off her hand. "I didn't mean that. And I never wanted Casey to hear what I said."

"And that's what you have yet to understand. This isn't about what you want, Mary. We all have to do what we think is best. That's what I'm doing."

"You don't love her, Chris."

"Casey doesn't love me either. This isn't easy on her, Mary. You've been looking at her like this is her fault. She's doing what she has to in order to give her daughter the best life she can. Vin trusted me to take care of his family and that's what I'm doing. You and I can never be anything but friends."

Mary watched Chris turn and walk over to join the others at the wagon. Her heart clenched as she watched Chris take the baby from Casey. She had always hoped that one day they would have a child together but now that was just another dream that would never come true. Tears fell again at how beautiful Chris looked holding that precious little girl.

Her eyes didn't leave the sight of the gunslinger and his new family. A family that she would never be a part of. She wasn't sure if she could put aside her feelings and just be friends with Chris. It hurt too much. She knew it would probably be best to keep her distance from both Chris and Casey.

With a heavy heart, Mary turned and walked away never looking back. She didn't want to see Chris take on the role of husband and father. Not when she wasn't the wife and mother. Wiping at the tears, she walked towards her house. There she would mourn for her shattered dreams and learn to live in the ruins.

Chris helped Casey into the wagon then handed the baby up to her. He said goodbye to his friends then climbed up on the wagon. Before he rode away, he looked at the retreating figure of the woman he knew could never be a part of his life. He had made his decisions and now he had to live with them.


Chris turned to his wife and smiled. "Let's go home."

Casey smiled sadly and nodded. This wasn't the life any of them had dreamed of. But it was the life they'd been given and now they'd have to make the most of it. All of them would have to adjust and move on. It was all they could do.