DISCLAIMER: The following story is a work of fan fiction. It is not intended to infringe on the copyrights held by John Watson, Trilogy Entertainment, MGM, or any other powers that be. The characters, concept, and setting are not the property of the various authors involved in this story, but the authors do retain any rights to the story itself. Please don't reproduce in any way or sue without permission from the authors.

Love and Honor: Blood Brothers

by the Inkslingers

The night air was warm, the alleyway dark. The tall man paced back and forth in the shadows, his black eyes intent on the bright doorway of the saloon across the narrow main street of Four Corners. People came by, on foot, on horseback, every now and then a wagon. No one noticed him.

He blended into the darkness well, his black flared pants and short jacket obscuring him as he walked the small space, back and forth. Only a single line of white decorative stitching on the jacket, and the white shirt underneath, would have given his presence away. That, and the jaguar glint in his eyes. But those were hidden by his black, round hat.

After a while the man became impatient, reached for his gunbelt. His gun was there, as well as a small whip that was looped around it. The man unhooked the whip, twisted it in his hands, grunting as he did so. The man´s hands were strong, sure; above one wrist was a small, old scar. He cursed to himself in Spanish.

A few minutes later, while the man was still pacing, a short man in shabby clothes came out of the saloon and looked in his direction. The man stopped, waited. The short man looked both ways, then quickly crossed the street and ducked into the darkened alley.

The tall man tilted his head back and said in accented English, “Well, Pedro?”

The shorter man nodded. “Si, Inez is in there, Don Miguel. In the saloon, tending the bar. Just as Rodriguiz said.”

Don Miguel growled, a low inarticulate snarl. His eyes burned as they studied the brightly lit windows. “That slut. Did you see the man called Buck Wilmington?”

A nod, and a gulp.

“He was flirting with her, and playing poker.” Miguel´s eyes narrowed, and his face grew dark. His hands tightened around the whip as he said something dark in Spanish.

Pedro saw his mood and stuttered, “Uh...Don Miguel, the patron would not like you to seek revenge like this. He has his own ways - “

Don Miguel struck forward and snatched the front of Pedro´s shirt, jerked his face to within an inch of his own. He trembled as he spoke. “The patron was only Don Paulo´s father,” He hissed, his voice hot and seething, “He did not make the pledge of blood brotherhood as I did - “ He dropped the smaller man, yanked up his sleeve and shoved the scarred wrist in Pedro´s face. “As Paulo and I both did to each other, when we were boys. I swore if he were ever murdered I would track down the bastard responsible and make him suffer.”

Pedro swallowed again, stared at his master. “D-Don Paulo was a good man, senor, and fortunate to have a friend to avenge him - “

“And I will avenge him.” Miguel said with simple ferocity, glaring at the saloon.

“B-but,” Pedro ventured, putting up his hands in case Don Miguel decided to start pummelling him again, “But the man you seek vengeance on isn´t alone. He has friends, six of them, all gunfighters. A man in the saloon told me.” Miguel frowned, put a hand to his chin and studied the noisy bar across the street.

Pedro blinked. “That is why Don Paulo could not beat them. And you might end up like him.”

“Los Magnificos.” Miguel said thoughtfully. “I have heard of them.”

The other man nodded. “Si, and from what I see in the bar, the rumors are true. There is one man who was here earlier, who dresses all in black and has the eyes of the devil. And another, they say he lived with Indians and knows a hundred ways to kill a man. One of them trucks with spirits - “

“Bah!” Miguel spat, his dark eyes on the saloon. “I care nothing for those men. Wilmington is the one I want.”

“I know,” Pedro whispered, “But to kill him is to invite your own death. It will not avenge Don Paulo.”

Miguel smoldered for a moment, kept his eyes on the brilliant light of the saloon. After a moment the batwing doors flapped open, and a young man wearing a brown suit and a bowler hat stomped out, looking very irritated. As Miguel and Pedro watched, he whipped his bowler off and began pacing the boardwalk, running one hand through his jet-black hair as he did so.

A moment later the doors opened again, and a tall, lanky man wearing a white jacket came out.

Pedro tapped Miguel´s shoulder. “That´s him, in the white jacket. That´s Buck Wilmington.”

Miguel let out a hiss, and his eyes narrowed. Pedro thought he had never seen his master look at a man with so much hate.

The younger man had stopped pacing, and was saying something to Wilmington, waving his arms as he did so. Wilmington put his hands out, apparently attempting to reason with the young man, but it didn´t look like it was working. Finally the youth crossed his arms and leaned against a post, looking distraught.

“Who is that chiquito?” Miguel asked.

Pedro peered at him, and shrugged. “He is one of the Magnificos, I think. At least, he was sitting at their table.”

Miguel cocked his head in disbelief. “Him? He is a baby.”

Pedro shrugged. Wilmington was still talking to the lad, and the other man´s posture suggested that he was beginning to listen; his head was half-turned toward Wilmington, and his face looked less upset. Finally, Wilmington said something with a smile and patted the young man on the back. The young man turned a little more, gave the older man an unsure but more confidant look and, putting his bowler back on his head, finally followed him back into the saloon.

Miguel watched all this, crossed his arms. “They must be brothers?”

Pedro shrugged again. “I suppose so, senor. I heard Wilmington giving the boy courting advice earlier.”

Miguel brought one hand up, began to stroke his chin.

Pedro saw the look in his eyes, bit his lip. “Are you going to try to kill Wilmington, Don Miguel?”

Silence. Don Miguel was staring at the saloon, at where Wilmington and the boy were, and his eyes were alive with a terrible fire.

The quiet made Pedro uneasy, so he asked again, “Don Miguel? Are you going to try to kill Buck Wilmington?”

Slowly, almost as if in a dream, Don Miguel shook his head, and said in a savage whisper: “No. I have...a better idea.”

<b>On the outskirts of Four Corners, that same evening</b>

The night wind was light in Vin Tanner´s hair, easy on his shoulders as he rode the moonlit range with his friend Chris Larabee. It was a beautiful night, clear and starlit.

Vin reined his horse in, grinned as Chris brought his black horse alongside.

“Quietest night in years.” He said with a sigh as he reached into his jacket for some jerky.

Chris nodded, leaned forward in his saddle and studied the distant horizon, barely visible against the brilliant moonlight. “Yep. Feels good.”

Vin found the jerky, bit off a piece and chewed thoughtfully. Then he said, “Sometimes we get too involved with the town, I miss just bein´ able to get out here and ride. You ever miss it, Chris?” T

he other man looked around, shrugged. “Sometimes.”

It was a short answer, but Vin was used to that. Most of the time to understand Chris, you had to listen to what wasn´t said.

Vin took a deep breath, let it out. Took another one.

And noticed something.

“Hm.” He said in curiosity, putting the jerky away and pulling out his spyglass.

Chris saw him do this, frowned. “What is it?” Vin put the glass to his eye, squinted into it. “There´s a fire out there, a small one. In that abandoned house, by the boulders.”

Chris peered into the distance, made a face. “Probably just some travellers. Anyway, they ain´t shootin´ at us.”

Vin took the spyglass away and was about to reply when a voice nearby said, “Excuse me - “

Both men jumped and pulled out their guns, aimed them at the sound. And blinked.

It was a young man, a kid really, dressed in a dark jacket and faded bandanna. In the dark he looked Mexican. As soon as he saw the guns he yelped and stuck both hands up in the air.

“Don´t shoot me!” He shouted, almost in panic.

Chris and Vin looked at each other and sighed in relief and slight irritation. As Vin holstered his mare´s leg Chris glared at the Mexican youth and said, “You shouldn´t sneak up on people like that, kid. It´ll get you killed.”

The youth put his hands down, but frowned at Chris almost in a challenging way. “Or you, maybe. I got the drop on both of you.”

Chris leaned back in his saddle, tried to hold his temper. “Well - what do you want?”

The youth glanced at Vin, then Chris; then he said, “I´m looking for Chris Larabee.”

Vin slid a look at Chris, who looked the youth up and down and answered, “Well, you found him. Who are you?”

The youth started a bit, then recovered enough to say, “My name is Jimmy. Are you really Chris Larabee?”

Vin smiled. “He´s tellin´ you the truth, kid. You need some help?”

Jimmy shook his head, his black hair gleaming in the moonlight, and pointed to a half-destroyed stone building in the near distance, where the glow of a small fire could be seen. “I don´t, but my friend does. He told me to come find you, after some of his enemies ambushed us. He said he has to talk to you right away, to warn you.”

“Is that right?” Chris leaned back in his saddle. “And who is your friend?”

Jimmy opened his mouth, then shut it again. “Nothing doing. He´s a wanted man, and how do I know who you really are?”

Chris sighed, gave up. “All right, lead the way. Just remember, you´ve got two ticked-off gunfighters if you´re leading us into some kind of trouble.”

The youth´s chin came up. “I have friends of my own, cowboy. I´m not afraid of you.”

With that, he turned and started back toward the building, where the fire was.

Vin sidled his horse up to Chris as the two men followed, and with a smile the tracker said, “Remind you of anyone we know?”

Chris sighed and shook his head. “One JD is enough. Just keep that gun handy.”

They rode on through the brush in silence, and finally they were close enough to the building that Vin and Chris could make out the crumbled side, the glow of a small fire, the jagged corner that was all that remained of someone´s house. They could also see the stretched-out legs of someone lying in the corner, and another man, older and concerned-looking, also of Spanish descent, leaning over him with a bloodied cloth in his hand. At Jimmy´s approach, the older man looked up and said something in Spanish.

Jimmy answered, also in Spanish, an edge to his voice. Chris heard a third voice too, lower and more indistinct over the crackle of the flames. Then he noticed a small pile of bloody clothes and rags near the fire.

“Probably we´re gonna need Nathan,” Chris said to Vin as he dismounted and made to follow Jimmy into the building. He pulled his gun out, slow and quietly, and nodded to Vin to do the same. They had no idea who they were facing.

Jimmy walked quickly into the weed-strewn corner, smiled proudly at the owner of the outstretched legs, who was still hidden from Chris´ view by the low, broken wall. The youth waved toward Chris and looking at his hidden friend said, “See, I found him. Told you I could.” The legs stirred, drew up a bit as if trying to get into a sitting position. The older man with the bloody rag leaned over to help, and Chris cocked his gun. This could still be a trap...

Then, as Chris stepped around the broken corner, he heard a familiar accented voice, struggling between pain and humor.

“You see, senor Larabee, I do not have six compadres yet - “ Chris blinked as the man talked, squinted over the bright firelight. Saw a ragged chest wound, a pale but handsome face, smiling dark eyes.

“ - but you have to admit, they are magnifico. Si?” Chris stood in amazement. Vin dropped his gun arm and stared.

The wounded man that lay before them was not an enemy.

He was Don Paulo´s former right-hand man, who had turned against his arrogant master to help the Seven. And was now a wanted man, bleeding in the middle of a field in the dead of night.

Chris shook his head and said in simple wonder, “God damn. Raphael Martinez.”