For those readers who have read Time and Tides you might recognise a section of this story as how Vin and Chris first met in this AU. This part has been added to for this fiction, and the rest of the story is completely new, as it tells the story of how Chris, Buck, Vin and Ezra first met up, prior to them becoming the Magnificent Seven.

 

This is for Sarah my hard working beta reader, and Texas Aries for all the wonderful titlemaps.

 

The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. This story is strictly for entertainment.  Sentinelcopyright of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. 

 

Warning for adult language and situations, very intense sexual Sentinel bonding  (C/V) (E/OMC). Main characters Chris, Vin, Buck and Ezra. 

 

 

Gathering of the Pack

Time and Tides Pre-sequel.

 

 

Part One

 

Sheriff Lom Travis was sitting outside of the Jail, sipping his first cup of coffee of the day and watching the coming and goings of the town. Now, Lom in his time had seen some fast gunmen; Kid Curry[1] was fast, but the newcomer Chris Larabee was even faster. There was something almost inhuman about the way Larabee could draw and fire. What wasn’t widely known was that Kid Curry had only called out and killed one man, and that was only after the man had left him and his partner out in the desert to die. Usually Curry could wing his opponent or just outdraw him, stopping the other man in his tracks, intimidating them with his speed. But Larabee was a professional gunslinger, and every time he was called out he left a corpse cooling in the street. The man, it was said, had the charm of a pissed off rattlesnake, and that was when he wasn’t angry. His temper was a thing of legend, and he was known to be a mean drunk. Now that man was in his town, and from where he sat Lom could see Larabee striding down the opposite side of the road, his black duster flapping round his ankles. In his all black clothing he looked like an angel of death.

 

People crossed the road to avoid walking past him; it was as if Larabee’s presence sucked all the light and warmth out of the space he occupied. As he walked past, Larabee’s eyes had fixed on him, making Lom shiver. Sheriff Lom Travis had faced down many killers but Larabee was the first one to actually scare him and he was man enough to admit it. Already at least two of the local cattlemen had come into his office to demand that he find out why Larabee was in their town. Anytime a gunman like Larabee arrived, it got people worried.

 

His attention then settled on the next new arrival. The man was riding a big black horse with a white blaze on its face; his gut instinct was to say buffalo hunter, as he took in the filthy hide coat and the fringed rifle holster. The man wore a slouched old confederate cavalry hat, the brim was pulled down, throwing his face into shadow, and at his hip was a cut down Winchester; a mare’s leg. It was no surprise when he dismounted in front of the saloon, hitching the horse so it could drink its fill from the water trough as he slacked the saddle girth, making the animal comfortable. Something about the man made Lom sit up; going back into the jail he dropped the cup into a bucket of water and began to leaf through the wanted posters. Finally, he halted his search.

 

 

 

Tucking the poster into his pocket he checked his gun, and headed towards the Saloon.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Buck Wilmington was a big man.  Jovial by nature, with a ready smile, he was considered very easy going and he liked nothing more than to spend time with the ladies, as more than one husband had found out to his cost.  Buck was happy, a beer on the table and Sally - one of the working girls - on his knee. He was deeply engrossed in her many charms, when he suddenly looked up, all thoughts of enjoyment forgotten. He whispered something into Sally’s ear, and she got off his lap.  He patted her bottom affectionately as she walked back towards the bar, only to be caught and pulled onto the lap of one of the cattle drovers as she gave a squeal of fake delight.

 

Buck’s gaze fixed on the newcomer;  Vin Tanner, he recognised the man from the wanted poster.  He had been Deputy at Clarksville when they had brought the butchered men in. Shit, there had been nothing left of them after Tanner had taken a bowie knife to the men, he had been sickened by what he had seen. Tanner was nothing more than a white renegade and he had vowed then and there that one day he would see Tanner at the end of a rope. Now, close to him, Buck realised what he was looking at was a Wild Sentinel, a Feral; something that most right minded people thought of as nothing more than a rabid dog in human form. The man was only one step above a wild animal himself. There was no way he was going to let Tanner get away. Plastering one of his most welcoming smile on his face he went over to the bar, propped himself against the counter and nodded to Tanner when he was pinned by a pair of ice-cold, cobalt blue eyes.

 

Buck indicated his glass and pushed the money across to the bartender. “Another one, Fred.”  Then to Tanner he added; “Sure is a hot one.”

 

Tanner just nodded and went back to his own drink.

 

Buck sipped his drink.  He would bide his time and then take the wanted man down hard and fast.  The man carried a mare’s leg, but Buck was sure that if things got down and dirty, Tanner would go for the wicked-looking bowie knife first.

 

It was just then that the batwing doors of the saloon opened and Lom Travis entered.  He didn’t pull his gun until he was nearly up to the wanted man; he had been relieved to see that Buck was there and in place and ready to back his play.  

 

Buck saw the wanted man tense slightly and realised that the Texan had been watching Lom in the mirror. So, it was no surprise when he heard Lom tell him he was under arrest.

 

When Tanner spoke there was a rasp to the soft Texan accent. “Not going to happen, Sheriff.”

 

Vin Tanner turned to look at the lawman; there was a certainty in those vivid blue eyes that made the Sheriff almost take a step back. Instantly, he knew that the man was as wild and as dangerous as a Comanche warrior.

 

“I don’t want to shoot you Tanner, but unless you put your gun hand on top of the bar now, that’s the way it’s going to go down.”

 

There was a long minute and then Tanner did as he was told; Lom took a step forward, reaching for the Mare’s leg that the younger man wore instead of a Colt.

 

Tanner moved fast and Buck was nearly caught out, in one quick movement, Tanner had twisted round, his hand knocking Lom’s gun to one side, his left hand fisting a Bowie knife aimed straight for the Sheriff’s stomach.

 

Buck brought his gun round, cold-cocking the younger man; Tanner’s body slumped to the floor of the Saloon, the Bowie knife falling from his hand.

Buck picked the knife up.  “Nearly got you with this pig-sticker, Lom.  That boy is a mean one alright. You okay?”

 

“Fine.” But even as he said it, Lom Travis knew that it had been a close one.

 

Suddenly, Buck felt it.  A dark, oppressive force - a Predator Sentinel.  Even as he heard the scraping sound of a chair being pushed back, Buck turned to face it.  Tanner was a loner, a drifter, but he might have back up. It was then, out of the dark shadow at the back of the saloon that he saw the black clad Chris Larabee appear. Buck’s face split into a wide grin; this was one Predator he would welcome with open arms. “Chris, you old dog, what the hell are you doing here?”

 

“You know him?” Lom put in, shocked by his Deputy’s reaction to the black clad killer.

 

“Sure, we go back some, Chris and me. Chris, just let me get this murdering scum out of here and-”

 

“He belongs to me.” Four words.  Said softly, but the tone of voice had the ice-cold bite of winter and for the second time in just a few minutes, Lom felt fear as he tried to meet the glare from the green eyes that bore into him.

 

But for Buck - a Gamma Sentinel - those four words had more meaning.  It was a Predator staking his claim on a Feral.

 

“You claiming the reward, Larabee?” Lom asked.

 

Buck just wished it was something as simple as that, but the way Chris looked at the young Feral, the way the flame in his eyes ignited and flared, there was more to it, and things had just got a hell of a lot more complicated.

 

The smile Chris gave Lom was like a wolf that had just entered a chicken coop. “No, Sheriff, just want what belongs to me.”

 

Tanner was starting to come round; he managed to get onto his hands and knees, one hand pressed to his head.  It came way away smeared with blood.

 

“Can you get up, Tanner?”

 

“Sure, Cowboy.” But the younger man was struggling, clawing at the bar to pull himself up.

 

Buck’s expression went from surprise to total disbelief; the quickest way to get shot was to call Larabee a Cowboy, and here was Tanner calling him it to his face.

 

“Help him up, Buck.” It wasn’t a suggestion, it was an order.

 

Buck Wilmington caught Tanner’s arm and dragged him up, pushing him none too gently against the bar. “Chris, there is no way you’re with this murdering bastard.  He’s a renegade, do you know what he did to those men he killed? I was there; I saw the fucking bodies when he was finished with them. I-”

 

“Get on your horse and get out of town, Tanner.” Chris ignored Buck; what he said was unimportant, Tanner was a Feral and, at the moment, running true to his nature.

 

For a heartbeat, blue eyes met green, and whatever passed between them was enough for the younger man to trust the man in black to watch his back as he staggered out of the saloon.

 

A few minutes later there was the sound of horse hooves leaving town quickly. Only then did the gun pinwheel on Larabee’s finger and return to his holster, but his hand still rested there.

 

“You allowed a killer to escape,” Lom snarled at Larabee.

 

“Going to arrest me for that, Sheriff?” The mockery was clear in that cold voice. Lom hesitated. “Just get out of town, Larabee.” The Sheriff turned on his heel and walked out of Saloon. He was no fool; Larabee had been spoiling for a fight, wanting him to push it.

 

Buck looked at his old friend, not sure what was going on but determined to find out. Nodding towards the bar, he said, “Beer.”

 

“Beer,” Larabee confirmed and headed towards the bar.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Lom was fuming, and the moment that Buck came through the door, he let him have it. “What the hell is Larabee up to, letting that killer go?  He tell you why?”

 

“No, but then Chris never has been a blabbermouth.  He’s due to leave tomorrow.”

 

“Well, thank God for small mercies,” Lom breathed, “I have already had Parker and Edwards breathing down my back about what he’s doing here.” Before he could finish, there was the sound of gunfire.  Buck was out of the door with Lom on his heels.  As Buck opened fire on the bank robbers, he threw himself behind one of the horse troughs. The exchange of shots was short and sharp, until a voice yelled out:

 

“Cease fire.”

 

The cry came from the bank, one of the robbers - a tall, willowy man - came out, his gun to the head of an elderly woman customer.

 

“You’re going to let us ride out of here, otherwise we kill her and the others.” He moved towards the horses, then over his shoulder he yelled, “Bring them out.” Two young girls were dragged out of the bank.  Lom could hear their mother screaming for them, but he knew there was nothing he could do, not with guns at their heads.

 

The man waited for his men to mount up, dragging their hostages with them, then he gave the old woman a staggering push, watching her sprawl face first into the street.  He mounted his horse.  “We’ll drop them off at one of the farmsteads, but if you follow, they’re dead, and it won’t be pretty.”

 

Lom exchanged a look with Buck.  Both men knew that the girls would be raped and killed, their only hope was to get to the bank robbers first, and for that they needed a first class tracker.  And only one man was good enough to do it - Vin Tanner.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Vin Tanner was perched in one of the rocky outcrops.  He had double-crossed over his tracks and yet the three men were still there.  Carefully, he sighted along the Winchester and then his lips twisted into a smile as he recognised the black clad man on the right, Chris Larabee.

 

Vin had lived with the People and they understood about Guardians.  Larabee was a powerful Guardian, and that was why they had found him.  Larabee had caught his scent on the wind and followed it. Vin had met other Guardians during the war.  The white men had called them Sentinels.  He had been a Confederate sharpshooter and when he  had tried to return back to Texas, he had been tracked down and the Union soldiers had come for him.  They had killed the other wild ones and he had been left for dead, because his kind could not be allowed to live.

 

 He had only survived because Wind Walker and the others had taken him in. In the sweat lodge he had seen the spirits; they had told him that one day he would meet a powerful Guardian and that his future would be woven tightly with this man. He had heard the man in black claim him.  Others had tried and he had fought them.  He would do it again. Vin touched the medicine bag he wore around his neck for good luck. The way they rode, they wanted him to see them.  It was then that he heard the voice from the Saloon, a voice slightly rough from cigars and whiskey.

 

Larabee knew he was there, he told him about the girls, and how they needed his help. And he had promised his gun, to make sure that the Sheriff kept to his promise.  Vin turned his attention to the man in the middle as he thought over Larabee’s words.  The big man was the one that had hit him; he was talking softly to Larabee, it sounded like they were old friends.  Vin ignored the Sheriff, he had no interest in him.  If he agreed, it was because of Larabee and no one else. 

 

With a mischievous grin, Vin sighted along the Winchester, and then fired.  The Sheriff’s hat went spinning off his head and onto the ground.  The next two bullets ploughed in front of the horses, making them skip sideways.

 

“Tanner, we need to talk to you,” Buck yelled. He glanced at Chris and saw his mouth moving, but heard no sound.  All Buck could hear was a low rumbling.  Hell, he was talking to Tanner again.

 

Buck’s eyes tracked the rocky outcrops and then Tanner suddenly appeared, a Winchester held in his hands, ready for use.

 

“You wanted to talk to me?  Then get on with it.” The Texan accent was more pronounced than it had been in the bar.

 

“My name’s Sheriff……” Lom didn’t get a chance to finish.

 

“You wanted me, I’m here, Larabee,” Tanner drawled, the Sheriff ignored.

 

“Heard you’re a good tracker, Tanner,” Chris said.

 

“You heard right.  Man or beast, I get what I go after, cowboy.”

 

“Did he just call me a cowboy?” Chris asked Buck.  The big man said, “Yeah he did,” but rather than being pissed off about it, Chris’s lips quirked up into the nearest he got to a smile as he continued; “The deal is, you track them, get the girls back, and you get to keep the bounty on anyone of the gang you kill.”

 

“How I know that Johnny Law there isn’t going to try to stretch my neck afterwards,” Vin drawled.

 

“Got my word on it, Tanner,” Chris said.

 

For a long moment, blue and green eyes held each other, then with a nod, Tanner turned on his heel and went back to get his horse.  He had work to do.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Two days later, Lom returned to Town.  He was on a wagon, the two girls were sitting in the back, huddled together, wrapped in blankets. Buck was riding on the other side, behind them Chris and Vin leading four horses, with blanket-covered bodies draped over them. Every now and again, Buck would look back; finally he pulled his horse to a halt and waited for them to catch up.

 

“Do you think I can trust him?”  Vin watched Buck’s reaction.  He had seen the way the Sheriff had been looking at him.  So far, he hadn’t said anything to indicate that he would turn on him, but with $500 on his head, Vin couldn’t afford to take chances.

 

 

Buck looked from Vin to Chris and back again.

 

“Lom’s a man of his word.  He says you’re free to go then that’s what’s going to happen.”  But even so, Vin pulled back before they got into town.  Too many people had seen his rapid exit for him to feel totally safe.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Buck had decided to go with Chris when he left town.  Lom Travis had been reluctant to let him go, but had understood his need to spend time with his old friend, and had also understood the other reason.  That he didn’t trust Vin Tanner.

 

Their third day on the trail and Buck was beginning to realise that he was looking at the foundation of a pack. As a Gamma Sentinel, his job was to bring balance to the pack, be the voice of reason. But as the days had gone by, he had seen the interaction between Vin and Chris, and knew that it could only end one way. In the Predator claiming and dominating the Feral.  That was the only way a Feral could be controlled. 

 

Buck grinned as he heard Vin back-talking to a man that scared most people shitless.  Chris’s growled threat to shoot him just washed straight over the younger man. Yeah, Vin was good for Chris. Oh, Vin was pushing all right, Chris was going to lose it soon and Buck could see the Predator in the man rising.  And that would spur him to bond and mate with Tanner.  Vin would always be wild and untamed, but Chris would be there, tempering him.  In the meantime, Buck knew that he had to keep the two of them away from other people.  Once Chris entered into bonding, he would see anyone outside of his pack as a threat to his young feral soulmate, and people would begin to die.

 

The next morning, Buck woke to a swearing Chris Larabee.  The notoriously volatile gunman was angrier than Buck could ever remember seeing him. “Get your carcass up Buck, we’re riding.”

 

“Chris?” Buck broke off as he suddenly realised that Vin Tanner was missing.

 

“When I get my hands on that scrawny assed Texan...”  Chris’s voice dropped to a low mutter that didn’t bode well for Vin Tanner when he was caught.

 

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Red Ridge – New Mexico

 

 

At 29, Ezra Standish had been a conman the whole of his life.  His mother had left him with different relatives when he was younger, until he was needed as window dressing for a particular con. As he got older, he had taken more of a lead and soon struck out on his own.  A talented card player, he had developed into a self-assured professional gambler and card sharp. He didn’t hide what he was; the red jacket and black, river-boat hat spoke volumes.

 

His luck has been running good for the last couple of nights, but since he had broken his fast at noon, he had been getting a feeling, like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Trying to dismiss it from his thoughts, he concentrated on his cards. So far, it had been a busy night as, with a grin, he raked in the last pot of the evening.

 

Only to freeze as he heard the click of a colt being cocked.  “Now, gentlemen, there is no need to do this.”

 

Joe Ford had his gun pointed straight at Ezra’s head. “Now, you’ve got a lot of our money there, Mr Fancy Pants, and it seems only right you let us win some of it back.” 

 

Ezra looked at the empty space in front of the man.  “You seem to be lacking funds, Mr Ford.”


Ford’s smile got even wider.  “Got me something better than money.  $500 dollars on the hoof.”

 

“On the hoof, Mr Ford?” Ezra scoffed.  “I don’t take livestock.” He looked pointedly at the gun, waiting for Ford to lower it.  “So unless you’ve got something better than the odd cow or two, I am calling it a night.”

 

“This is more than a cow.  Go get it, Marty,” Ford drawled.  He grinned even wider as he lowered his gun to the table.

 

 

A few minutes later Marty came back.  The young man with him had been badly beaten; blood ran down his face, black bruising coloured his jaw, his hands were tied behind his back and a noose hung around his neck.  He was pulled up to the table, a kick to the back of the legs bringing him crashing down by the side of Ford’s chair. Marty grabbed a fist full of the man’s long hair and pulled his head back sharply so that Ezra could see his face clearly as Ford pulled a wanted poster from his jacket and threw it into the centre of the table.

 

“Vin Tanner, $500 dollars.”

 

“Mr Ford, I am not going to gamble for this man,” Ezra protested.

 

“Then the money stays here.  Your choice.  One more hand.  You win, you get Tanner, you lose, I get him and the money, but you’re not walking out without playing.”

 

Ezra settled back in the chair.  Noticing how Ford’s men had spread out behind their boss, he didn’t have a lot of choice. “What guarantee do I have that if I win you’ll let me walk with him and the money?”

 

Big Tom Hardy, the owner of the Saloon, brought the scattergun down hard on the counter.  “You win, Standish, you walk.  My word.” Big Tom gave the scattergun an affectionate pat.

 

“All right Mr Ford.  I will put up the money I have won, you will put up Mr Tanner, his horse and goods.  That agreed?”

 

Ford nodded.  “Shit, that horse of his is like a snapping turtle, you’re welcome to it.  Now, deal.”

 

The only sound that could be heard now was the slap of pasteboard on wood as the cards were dealt. Tanner said something that the gambler didn’t hear and Ford backhanded him across the face.  “Smart mouth.  You win him, Fancy Pants, I would gag him.  He’s better when his mouth’s full.”  Ford’s men laughed.  Ezra looked for the first time at the ‘pot’.  The bounty was possibly a few years younger than him.  His skin and clothes were filthy but he was good looking.  Ezra could see some of the working girls eyeing him up, muttering behind their hands. For a heartbeat he locked eyes with him, and looked away quickly as he saw the flame burn in the vivid blue eyes with a hatred that sent him cold.  He was looking at a wild animal.

 

Ford swore as he threw his hand in, then got to his feet and thrust the end of the noose into Ezra’s hand. Then, surprised the gambler by laughing.

 

“Mr Ford, I fail to see the humour in this situation, since you are down $500 dollars.”

 

“Oh, you will Gambler, because where Tanner is the devil is following.  Come on boys.”

 

The noise in the Saloon slowly began to rise back to normal.  Big Tom came up to the table and said; “You’re finished for the night, Standish, and tomorrow I want you gone.”

 

“Mr Hardy, we had an agreement-”

 

“Yeah, well, that was before you turned bounty hunter.”

 

“Bounty hunter?  Mr Hardy, that is the furthest thing from my mind.  Now, if you would like to perhaps pay me, I can-”

 

Hardy threw his hands up.  “No way Standish.  His ass is yours, and you want the $500, you have to take him to Tascosa, Texas. Just watch the bastard, he’s wanted for taking a knife to some scalp hunters.  Word is, there wasn’t enough of them to bury once he was finished with them. First chance he gets, he’ll kill you.”

 

“You seem to know a lot about him, Mr Hardy.”

 

“He came through here a while back, him and that Chris fucking Larabee.”

 

“What?” Ezra was now sat upright in his chair, and from the corner of his eye he could see the grin that was on Vin Tanner’s bruised face.

 

“No one mentioned Chris Larabee.” Ezra’s mind was spinning.  He knew about Larabee.  The man was a notorious killer and a heavy drinker.  He was a mean drunk and had the temperament of a pissed off rattlesnake on a good day.  And he backed it up with being one of the fastest gunmen ever; he was feared for a good reason. Now he knew what Ford had meant. 

 

The Devil was coming, in the form of the black clad Larabee.

 

“Yeah, he came through with him a couple of weeks ago, why do you think no one tried for that reward?  You have to go through Larabee to get to Tanner and hell, life is too short for that.” Hardy then seemed take pity on the stunned Gambler.  “I would suggest you give him to Sheriff Bunter overnight, because this’s the last good night sleep you’re going to get between here and Tascosa.”

 

“Damn,” Ezra muttered under his breath.  He folded his winnings up and tucked them in his pocket, then pushed his chair back and got up. He gave the rope a tug.  “On your feet, Mr Tanner.”

 

Vin Tanner struggled and Big Tom reached down and pulled him to his feet, holding him there, gripping the back of the filthy buckskin jacket  and giving him a shake when the man tried to pull free. “All yours, Standish.”

 

Ezra pulled the Remington.  “This way, Mr Tanner.”  He gestured towards the door, and gave the rope a tug.  When Tanner seemed to hesitate, a hard shove from Big Tom sent him staggering forward.  He lost his footing and crashed into the table, overturning it and landing heavily on the floor, to the laughter of the other men in the bar.  Big Tom grabbed him again, hauling him up.  “Just get hell out of here Standish and take this scum with you.”

 

“This way, Mr Tanner.”  Ezra caught his arm and manhandled him over to the jail.

 

The Sheriff wasn’t happy - and was vocal about it - when Ezra suggested untying his prisoner once he was in the cell. Bunter just laughed in his face. “No way am I getting near him with a knife.”

 

“He will need to eat, and...” Ezra nodded to a stinking bucket in the far corner of the cell.

 

“No need to waste food on him.  Makes him easier to transport.  And he can piss himself for all I care, Standish, he can’t stink any worse.” Bunter paused. “Look, I’ll tell you the same thing

 I told those other bounty hunters.  One night and you’re on your own,” the Sheriff said.  He looked as happy as if the gambler had just put a rattlesnake in his lap.

 

Ezra tried one of his best smiles, oozing charm, as he said; “Surely, Sheriff, you can pay me the bounty then transport Mr Tanner to Texas.  I am willing to split the price with you.”

 

“He’s yours.  You take him,” Bunter put in firmly.

 

“I am a gambler, not a bounty hunter nor a lawman, sir.”

 

“I am employed to protect this town.”  He leaned forward on his desk.  “You’re going to bring Larabee here, so you get the hell out of here tomorrow, because I don’t want any reason for Larabee to stop here.” He paused thoughtfully. “No reason you have to take him in alive, Standish.  He’s worth the same dead or alive.  You might bear that in mind.  He can’t stink any worse dead than he does now.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Back at his hotel room, Ezra sat on the bed, smoking a cigar, and took a deep drink from his flask.  Suddenly, mind made up, he got up and packed his saddlebags.  What was to say he had to take Tanner?  Hell, he hated walking away from $500 but he would like being dead a lot less. And if, for once, he was honest, there was something about Tanner that was making his skin crawl.

 

He was half way to the livery cutting across the back of the jail when he felt it.  A weight at the base of his skull that pushed up over his head and across his eyes. Spinning round, he saw Tanner looking out at him. Only two yards separated them.  The moonlight caught Tanner’s face and he saw the blue eyes light up, flames burning in them.  Ezra stumbled back a step. 

 

A Sentinel, a Wild one. Tanner tilted his head and inhaled his scent, a knowing look on his face.  Ezra knew he was scenting him.  The southerner shook his head.  “No way, not again.”  He stumbled into the Livery and began to saddle up his horse, his hands shaking violently. It was then that he heard the scream, and it sent him cold.  It had been dragged out of someone, that scream, and it cut off just as quickly.  “It’s got nothing to do with you, just get out of here,” Ezra told himself, but the second scream stopped him in his tracks. “Shit.”

 

When Ezra stormed in, Bunter was in the jail cell with two other men and Tanner was stood on a stool.  The noose around his neck had been thrown over one of the roof beams and it was held tight. He was swaying badly and the noose was pulling his head up.  He was struggling to draw breath, a knife was sticking out of his left leg and there was a slash across his stomach.  His face was covered in fresh blood.

 

“Let him down, now,” the gambler ordered, adding; “easy with him.”

 

Bunter shook his head.  “Don’t know what you’re bothered about Standish, it’s dead or alive.  We’re just having a little fun, payback for what he did to those hunters.”

 

“Scalp hunters.”

 

“White men, Standish, I would have through a Reb like you would understand the difference between them and a renegade like him.”

 

“Yes, I can see the difference, now let him go.”

 

“What?”

 

“You heard me, let him go.”

 

“Standish-”

 

“Do it,” Ezra snapped at him as he cocked the Remington.

 

Tanner was dragged down off the stool and out of the cell.  Bunter threw him up against the wall.  With his hands tied he couldn’t stop himself from hitting it face first.  Tanner’s legs buckled when he was caught by the scruff of the neck and pushed back against the wall. Ezra had to use his body to pin the other man in place.

 

“Now, you’re going to lock yourself in the cell and throw the keys out toward me.”

 

“Like hell.”

 

“Sheriff, I am leaving with my property.  We can do it the hard way or the easy way.” Ezra’s face hardened.  Bunter swallowed hard as he realised that he had made a mistake with Standish - the man was as much a killer as Larabee. The keys landed in front of Ezra with a bang.  He kicked them behind the desk and manhandled the barely conscious Tanner out of the jail.

 

0-0-0-0-0

Three days later

 

Buck Wilmington was riding in silence.  The big man was usually jovial and easy going, but he knew that Chris Larabee was in no mood to hear anything. The lean blond was leading the way, his all black clothing making him look like an avenging angel of death as he rode into Red Ridge.  Chris was seriously pissed off, and God help the first person to cross him.

 

Larabee dismounted and Buck caught his arm as he started into the Saloon.  Larabee stilled then looked from his hand, slowly up to Buck’s face, his green eyes flashing with an unholy light. “Easy stud, you kill them all and we won’t get any answers.” 

 

A small nod was the only reply he got. Buck let his hand drop and then followed his oldest friend into the Saloon.

 

Buck topped Larabee by a couple of inches.  Easy going by nature, Buck loved the ladies and was a hard man to rile, but once he did he was every bit as deadly as Larabee, even if he didn’t have the killing speed of the man in black. He was still fast enough to earn his money with his gun, though.

 

Big Tom Hardy swore.  He didn’t have to look up to know that Larabee had come in.  The Saloon had gone quiet. “Get you gentlemen a drink?”

 

“Whiskey.”

 

Big Tom poured the drinks out. “Vin Tanner.  Have you seen him?” Chris asked, his voice level and ice cold, his eyes fixed on Big Tom.

 

The big man looked from Larabee to Wilmington.  “He was here a few days ago.”

 

Buck could see the man sweating.  “And...” he prompted.

 

“He was with a gang of bounty hunters.  When they brought him in here-” He paused, trying to gauge how Larabee was going to take the next part of the story.

 

“And?” Chris asked as he tossed back his whiskey and reached out for the bottle.  In the next minute he had grabbed Tom’s shirt and pulled him down, head first, onto the bar counter with a loud bang, his gun pressed against the side of Tom’s head. His actions had been so fast that Tom hadn’t had a chance to resist.

 

“And.” Larabee spat the word out as he cocked the gun.

 

“Mr Ford, he was playing cards with a southern gambler. Standish, Ezra Standish, and he bet Tanner.  Standish won.  Next day, Standish left town with Tanner. Going to collect his $500 dollars.  Tanner was in a bad way.  Standish had a noose around his neck, leading him like a dog, treating him like one,” Tom put in quickly.  If it meant getting Larabee out of Red Ridge and out of his Saloon, he would have sold anyone down the river, and he certainly had no loyalty to Standish.

 

“Which way did they head out?”

 

“Didn’t see, but most people are heading to Twin Falls.”

 

Larabee lowered the hammer on the colt, holstered the gun and without a backward glance, left the Saloon.  He mounted his horse and rode out of town with Buck falling in behind him.

 

Buck felt guilty.  It had been his idea to give the young Feral Sentinel some breathing space, let him get use to the idea of bonding with Chris and taking his place in the Hunting Pack. But Tanner had taken off as if all the devils in hell were after him, leaving him with a pissed off Predator Alpha Sentinel snapping at his heels. Since Tanner’s capture, Chris had been barely civil and it was only luck that stopped him leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.

 

God help Junior when Larabee caught up with him, because he sure as hell wasn’t going to get in between them.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Ezra looked across at the man riding with him.  Once he was out of town, he had cut Tanner free and given him his weapons back.  He had been planning on leaving him to fend for himself. But with his injuries, this bounty wouldn’t have been able to look out for himself.  Hell, he could barely sit his horse. So, for the last five days Ezra had looked after him; dressed his wounds and fed him water to try and battle the fever that had been brewing in him, and all the time they had been chased by Tanner’s former owners.

The fever had finally broken and although weak, Ezra knew it was time.

 

Finally, Ezra pulled them to a halt.  “Mr Tanner, I fear that we must part company at this point.  Your former associates have been rather more diligent in their pursuit of us than I had anticipated. We need, therefore, to go our separate ways.” He paused, looking at the hand that Vin offered him and then shook it. “Good luck, Mr Tanner.”  Ezra spurred his horse into action.

 

Vin headed the opposite way.  He owed the gambler and hoped that he could pay him back one day.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

From high in the hills, Vin watched the bounty hunters for a moment.  They stopped at the place he had said farewell with Ezra and then they took off after his own tracks. Vin swore and spurred his horse forward, heading deeper into the hills.  Once in the high woods, he would turn back on his hunters and it would be payback time. 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Twin Falls

 

Buck and Chris arrived in town.  It had been a long, hard ride, and they headed straight for the saloon. Buck saw the sign across the entrance:

SALOON CLOSED

UNDER

TEMPERANCE ORDANCE 10

 

He looked to the heavens.  Chris was pissed off and was thirsty; a Temperance Town could just be the final nail in the coffin of his patience. 

 

Buck put in quickly; “Standish is a gambler, I can’t see him staying in a town with no Saloon, Chris.  What say I check the jail and make sure he hasn’t stashed Vin and taken off.”  He paused.  “Er, Chris?”  He gave the man in black a poke in the ribs, because he was still staring at the sign with something akin to horror.  The blond shook his head as if clearing it, then with a shudder, said; “What’d you say, Buck?”

 

“I’ll check the jail and then I suggest we get the hell out of here.”

 

Chris tugged a bottle from his saddlebags and took a deep pull and handed the drink to Buck. There was a scandalised intake of breath and two women rushed past. The sooner they were out of this town, the better.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Vin was exhausted and when he came into the town, he was nearly dead in the saddle.  He needed to rest but couldn’t afford to. 

 

“Vin!”

 

The young man’s hand went for the mare’s leg, but stilled when he saw Chris striding towards him, catching his horse by the bridle and pulling him to a halt. Vin swayed in the saddle.  He felt the hand on his thigh, a reassuring weight.

 

“It’s alright, Vin, I’ve got you.”

 

Eyes at half mast, barely able to keep them open, Vin looked down into the green eyes of Chris Larabee.  The fire he saw in them ignited in him, pulling on a reserve of energy he never knew he had.  He pulled himself up straighter in the saddle. Buck saw the Sheriff starting towards them.  “Chris, we have to get him out of here.” He jerked his head towards the Sheriff.

 

Chris squeezed Vin’s leg.  “We’ll get you out of here, just hang on.” 

 

Buck swung himself into his saddle, moving to block the Sheriff so that he couldn’t get a clear look at Vin.  Chris was the last to mount, moving his horse forward to block the lawman while Buck grabbed Vin’s reins and headed off in the opposite direction.  Chris touched the brim of the black, flat hat that he wore at the Sheriff and then wheeled his horse round and followed the other two. As he rode, his face became hard. 

 

He had a Feral to claim. 

 

0-0-0-0-0

Thunder Point

Evening

 

Ezra Standish looked at his cards and then threw another $10 into the centre of the table; the pot was building, and his opponents were out of their depth. If they had the sense God gave a gopher they would have thrown in their cards $40 dollars ago.  With a grin that showed his gold tooth, the young gambler laid his cards down.  Ignoring the comments of the other players, he raked in the pot. Long, tapered fingers tapped the money into a neat pile, and then gathered the cards for the next deal.

 

Looking up, he saw Andy White standing next to the bar.  The colourful owner of the bar had come to his aid at Twin Ridge and got him out of jail when the Sheriff had thrown him behind bars for being a professional gambler, and morally corrupt. The Judge had fined him and cleared him out; he had had to sell his horse to meet the fine, which had left him stuck in the town.  He was given 24 hours to leave or he would be arrested again and fined even further. With no one to turn to, Andy White had come to his aid, but people like White never did things from the good of his heart. White looked at Ezra and then jerked a head towards the stairs.

 

“I think it’s time that I called it a night, gentlemen.  I hope I have the chance to renew our acquaintance tomorrow night, for another game of chance.”

 

The older of the players grinned.  “If you mean do we want another game, then you’re right Standish.  You’ve got our money and we aim to get it back.”

 

Ezra grinned, pocketing the money as he got to his feet then reached down, picked his drink up off the table and downed it in one gulp. Then, ignoring Andy, he went up the stairs, his feet following a well-trod path. How the hell had he gone from being a conman, gambler, to a part-time whore?  The answer was simple; since White held a $1,000 marker on him and he paid it off with his winnings and with his body. He could have tried to run, but he knew that Andy White would hunt him down.  The man had a reputation to protect. And instead of working the Orient, he would be sent to the tented encampment run by Marcus Quinn and put to work in what passed for a Saloon there.  Barred from gambling, he would be reduced to earning his living on his knees.

 

He paused outside the bedroom door.  He could get through this, he told himself. Already his head was aching as he picked up the emotions of the man waiting for him. The animal lust, and the burning need to inflict pain, to allay his guilt.  There was nothing worse than a virtuous man committing sin because he had to blame someone and tonight, that someone would be Ezra Standish.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

On the trail

 

Buck was building up the camp fire and every now and again he would look towards Vin Tanner, who was seated, leaning back against his saddle.  He looked pale and was in pain from his leg wound. Any attempt to take a look at it was brushed away with a snarl.

 

Buck switched his attention to Chris Larabee; he could almost feel the tension and darkness in the man building up. It was with a shock that Buck realised that the only other person that could get Chris this angry had been his future wife and Guide Sarah.  When Chris had been courting her and her father Hank had tried to interfere in their relationship, and Sarah had done something really stupid.

 

Chris suddenly got up, throwing the dregs of his coffee cup onto the fire.  “For God’s sake Tanner, there’s a stream, use it.  You stink worse than a polecat in heat.”

 

Vin threw his tin cup down and hauled himself to his feet.  “Fuck you, Larabee, I don’t need you.”

 

“Seemed like you needed me back in the Saloon, otherwise your ass would be rotting in jail now, waiting for the rope.”

 

“I could have taken him, don’t owe you squat, Cowboy,” Vin snarled back.

 

“Don’t call me Cowboy.” Larabee’s voice had dropped to a low, lethal tone, his hand dropping to his gun.

 

Vin saw it.  “Huh, that supposed to scare me, Cowboy?”  Turning, he began to limp towards his horse, turning his back on the most dangerous gunman in the territory.

 

“You come back here, Tanner.”  The words were snapped at him.

 

Vin didn’t even hesitate, he just kept walking.

 

Suddenly, a weight hit him hard in the back and his bad leg dragged him down.  Vin’s elbow lashed out and he was rewarded with a curse, then Vin froze as a gun was pressed to his head. The weight moved so that he was pinned down.

 

“Buck, strip him.”

 

Buck shook his head.  As Gamma his job was to keep the balance of the pack.  Although his senses were not as good as Chris’s or Vin’s, he could smell the scent on the younger man; sweat, piss, blood and the scent of other men.  No wonder it was bringing the Predator out in Chris. Vin’s defiance had ignited the Predator into claiming the young man as his; it was going to be one hell of a ride.

 

“Chris, we-” Buck trailed off in the middle of his protest as Larabee looked at him.  There was no white left in his eyes, they were burning green fire.  The man was gone, there was only the Predator left.

 

Buck knelt down.  He laid a hand on Vin and he felt the younger man flinch under his hand.  “Easy, don’t fight Vin, no one is going to hurt you.”

 

“You try and fuck me and I’ll kill you both, cut your dicks off and stuff them up your-” The cuff to the back of the head was short and sharp, an attention-getter rather than an attempt to hurt the younger man.

 

“Don’t want your scrawny ass, Tanner,” Chris growled at him, as he lent down and inhaled at the back of Vin’s neck, savouring his scent. The Feral jerked his head back, trying to butt Chris in the face as he felt the Alpha Sentinel nip at the back of his neck, but the Alpha had pulled back quickly, avoiding the blow.

 

Buck saw the smile on the Predator’s face.  It was of pure contentment; the Predator had started to claim this Feral as his mate.  Vin was fiery and wild, he would expect no less from him than to fight Chris every step of the way. Vin had been running wild too long and now he needed to feel the power of his new Alpha when he was claimed, but it was going to be a rough ride.

 

Trying to strip Vin was like trying to put breeches on a calf - near impossible.  As the younger man struggled and twisted, the gun was long forgotten.  If Larabee was going to use it he would have already. Chris swore a blue streak and cuffed Vin across the back of the head as the younger man snapped at his hand.

 

“Quit that you scrawny bastard.”

 

“Pup’s worse than a snapping turtle,” Buck gloated then gave a yelp as the teeth sank into his leg.

 

Now naked, Vin’s body showed mottled, yellowing bruises.  The leg wound was healing well, but even so both men were careful not to put any weight on the wound.  They were not out to inflict pain on the Feral. This was about the Feral submitting to his Alpha.  Between them they got Vin’s hands tied behind his back and they manhandled him into the stream. Vin turned the air blue as he was dunked under the cold water by Buck.  The wet, lithe body twisted and turned.  He tried to kick out as he was dunked yet again under the water, but Buck held him so that he was unable to gain his feet on the smooth stones. Buck kept him pinned as Chris scrubbed him with a wet rag and some harsh lye-soap, cleaning off the stench of blood, piss, sweat and the scent of other men. But Chris catalogued each of the scents.  He would know the bounty hunters that had beaten his soul mate and would exact his own revenge on them when the time came.

 

Working hard at the soap to get a pathetic froth, he worked it into the matted, long hair.  His touch became ultra sensitive and he could feel every grain of dirt embedded in amongst the strands.

 

“Chris.” Buck snapped the name as he saw his Alpha begin to drift.  The man was losing himself in the scent and the texture of the Feral.

 

Chris jerked his head back away from Vin’s neck where he had begun to nuzzle at his throat.  The connection between the two men was getting stronger and it arched between them like lightening. There could only be one result; the Predator would claim his soul mate.

“Chris.” Buck said the name again, and this time the green eyes softened. Reaching out, Chris used one of the blankets to dry off the slender body. Suddenly, Vin stopped struggling.  He rubbed his face against Chris’s hand, nipping at his palm at the same time as his body pushed against the lean blond’s, causing the breath to catch in the Alpha’s throat.

 

Buck undid the younger man’s hands.  Vin brought his knee up and caught Chris in the groin. 

 

The blond collapsed to the ground clutching himself as he fought back the pain and the vomit. Buck was sent staggering backwards by a hard push.  Vin went for the guns, only for Buck to bring him down in a bone-crunching tackle.  The big man found his arms full of a struggling, fighting wild cat, using every dirty trick he had ever learned to try and break his hold.

 

“Shit!” Buck ducked another haymaker and then lashed out, and Vin went limp under him as he was knocked out. 

 

Only then did Buck slowly ease himself up to check on Chris.  The Predator looked pale and was breathing hard, one hand pressed to his groin as he fought back the pain. “Tie him to the tree.”

 

“Best get some clothes on him.”

 

“Keep him naked.  He wants clothes, he earns ‘em.” With that, Chris limped over to get some more rope.

 

Four hours later the sun was setting and it was beginning to get cold.  Tanner had come round and Junior certainly had a mouth on him.  For someone that didn’t talk much, he could cuss with the best of them in English, Spanish, and at least a couple of Indian languages.  In the end, Chris had gagged him none too gently, just to get a bit of peace and quiet.

 

Now Buck was starting to get concerned.  This was going to turn into a battle of wills between Predator and Feral and his job was to make sure that they bonded. Looking across at Chris sitting near the fire, he said;

 

“You got a problem Stud.  You can’t leave him tied to the tree all night.  I-” Buck broke off as he saw the look in his old friend’s face. His eyes had gone back to normal, but the flame still flickered in them.  It wouldn’t take much for them to ignite again.

 

Buck looked up to the heavens.  Stubborn...  They deserved each other. “I’ll go and check on him.”

 

Vin flinched as the big man reached out for him.  Cobalt blue eyes glared. Buck tugged the gag free. “You know Junior, you want to watch where you kick a man.  Kicking him in the balls is the quickest way to get Chris to blow your brains out.” Shrugging when he didn’t get a response Buck pulled the stopper from a water canteen.  He coaxed Vin to drink; the younger man was shivering and his skin was icy cold.

 

Signing, Buck said; “You know Vin, he’s not going to hurt you.  Just got carried away.  That happens with Alphas when they find their soul mate.”  He paused.  “I am the Gamma of this pack; I won’t let him hurt you. But, truth be told Junior, you two have been dancing round each other too long.  Has to end tonight.”

 

“Pack.” Vin spat the word back at the bigger man.  “This ain’t no pack.  A cowboy and a law dawg ain’t a pack, even I know that.”

 

Buck tried to keep calm as he tried a different tack. “You lived with the Indians, right?”  He didn’t get an answer but he saw the slight flicker in the eyes.  Vin Tanner was considered by many to be a white renegade and barely one step above a savage. “They tell you about someone like Chris?” 

 

The blue eyes flared.  Buck hid his smile.  He had hit a nerve.

 

“There is a connection between the two of you which is strong.  I know you don’t want it, but it’s there Vin. Now, you can stay here and freeze your ass off, or come to the fire, it’s your choice.” The slight nod was all he got in the way of acknowledgement.

 

Carefully, Buck sliced through the ropes holding Vin and then half-dragged, half-carried him to the fire and pushed him down onto the nest of blankets before tossing one at him.  The younger man pulled it around him and inched a little closer to the fire.

 

Chris knelt by him and pushed a cup of coffee into his hand.  The tension was radiating off the Alpha as he fought back the need to claim his mate. Unable to stop himself, Chris reached out to touch the handsome face.  Vin jerked his head back and growled at him, low and deep throated, the Wild Sentinel Pup facing off against the Predator. Buck marvelled at the balls the Pup had in order to stand up to Chris like this.  Vin baited and challenged him every step of the way, even when he had been tied up. One thing the big man knew - he could feel the tension rising between the two men.  It was like a thunderstorm building, and like a thunderstorm,  it was going to explode in a violent display of pure elemental power.

 

The ultimate Alpha, the Predator was not used to people ignoring it and the way that Tanner had just huddled down in the nest of blankets and turned his back on Chris was getting the Predator’s blood boiling.

 

“Come on Chris, back away from him.” Then, with more bite, “Chris.”

 

This time, the blond Predator’s head snapped round, the green eyes igniting into flame and then dying down.

 

When they settled in for the night Buck made sure that Vin was secured.  The last thing he needed was for them to have to hunt him down again. Chris was rapidly getting past the stage where he could hold back the Predator.  Already it had nearly slipped it’s leash a couple of times and if he had to hunt Vin down, then all bets were off.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The Gamma woke with a start.  It was still dark, but he could see the Feral and Predator, their naked bodies painted in the glow of the fire.  The Feral was on his back, struggling under the Predator’s body fighting to free himself from the older man’s grip. Buck swore.  He had been so sure that Chris wouldn’t hurt the younger Feral that he had allowed himself to fall asleep. Now it seemed that Chris had lost control.

 

 

Get the hell off him!” Buck was furious as he powered to his feet, then he was frozen to the spot as two heads snapped round to glare at him.  Through the dark the blue and green eyes burned into him; both Predator and Feral were ready to attack him if he tried to interfere.

 

This was reaffirmed by the growl from the throat of the Predator, a warning to stay away.  The Feral took the opportunity to flip the older man off him and then he was on top of the Predator, straddling him, pinning him down. The look on the younger man’s face was mischievous and guaranteed to provoke the Predator. 

 

When Buck moved, the Feral snarled at him, sending the Gamma cold.  It was a sound older than time itself and it said only one thing - Chris was his, and as much as the Predator was claiming the Feral, the Feral was claiming the Predator. Then he leaned down, nuzzling at the Predator’s throat, a nip to his ear and lower lip, the blue flame and the green flame of the Predator and Feral eyes arching between them, inflaming their need to bond.

 

Suddenly, the Predator seemed to explode upward, catching the Feral and pulling him down, rolling the lithe body under him.  The Predator growled as the younger man caught a handful of dirty blond hair and pulled the Predator’s head down, at the same time as he lifted his own head, showing the Predator his throat, an act of submission by the Feral to his Alpha. But even as the blond Predator leaned in he was thrown off balance and found himself rolling across the dirt of the camp site, coming up into a kneeling position.  He saw the Feral facing him on all fours, a growl rolling from him, low and guttural.  Slowly, the Feral eased up so he was kneeling on one knee, ready to explode into action if the Predator attacked.

 

It was then that Vin Tanner pushed through the Feral control.  His eyes never left that of Chris Larabee.  “What’s the matter Cowboy, old age?”  The Texas accent had thickened and rolled over Chris’s senses as smooth as honey as he was taunted by the Feral.

 

Chris licked his lips.  “Make you pay for that, Tanner.”

 

The only reply he got was a derisory snort from the younger man.

 

“Try it if you’ve got the balls, old man.”

 

Chris lunged forward.  Vin twisted out of the way and made a dive for the horses. Only to be tackled and brought down just short of them.  The two men rolled over and over, neither getting the upper hand until Chris managed to duck under a blow from Vin, and get the younger man pinned as he lay sprawled on his belly.

 

Kneeling between Vin’s splayed legs, he caught hold of the Feral’s hair.  Pulling his head back, he got an arm round his throat and he pulled Vin backward and up so that he was sitting on his thighs. Vin’s body arched as he couldn’t get any purchase to be able to free himself from the grip of the older man. The harder he struggled, the tighter the arm round his throat pressed, until he stilled, his chest heaving and he leaned back into the hard, lean body of his Alpha. 

 

Suddenly, Vin exploded into one last attempt to free himself, but Chris rode it out, keeping a firm grip on the writhing, lithe body, then as suddenly as it had started, Vin’s body went limp and his head dropped forward to rest on his chest.

 

The Predator threw back his head and roared his challenge and possession of his young Feral soul mate, and then bit down on Vin’s throat, marking him.

 

Vin’s body arched up as he screamed, the energy of their connection burning through him.  His whole body shuddered as he felt the connection with his Alpha, joining them, mind and soul.  Leaning in, the Predator began to nuzzle at the mark he had made, as he held his mate round the waist, and with his free hand, stroking and soothing the younger, wild Sentinel across his chest, flanks, stomach, and thighs.

 

The Feral leaned his head back to rest on his Alpha’s shoulder.  As the younger man’s breathing began to calm, the Predator caressed him slowly, riding the emotions that looped between them, turning them back on the Feral so that along with his touch, he was increasing the connection between them. 

 

As he nipped at Vin’s jaw he revelled in each whimper and moan of pleasure that he heard coming from his soul mate’s mouth. Now they would strengthen the bond as they took it to the final level, a bonding of mind, soul and body. 

 

Quietly, Buck picked his blanket up and moved away into the dark, leaving them to complete the joining in peace. Anyone fool enough to try and interrupt the bond would face the combined wrath of the Predator and the Feral and together, the two Sentinels would tear that person apart with their bare hands.  Two was now one.

 

Settling down, Buck tugged his hat down over his eyes and with a contented smile, allowed sleep to claim him. He had a pack again.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Dawn was breaking when Buck woke, and he quietly collected his blanket and made his way back to Chris and Vin. A broad smile was plastered across his face as he approached them. Vin was held in Chris’s arms, his head resting on his mate’s chest. 

 

It was then that Buck realised that Vin was awake. Slowly, Vin eased up from Chris’s arms.  His body was sore and as the blanket fell away, Buck could see the bite marks on the younger man’s throat and on his body.  The bonding had been fierce, but that was to be expected with the claiming between Predator and Feral.

 

Buck kept his hands out in a non-threatening manner, as he saw the way that Vin was ready to attack.  Taking a deep breath, he could pick out the thick, musky scent of their bonding.  He was now facing a soul mated, bonded pairing. “Easy, Junior.”

 

Chris opened his eyes and stretched.  The look on his face was one that Buck hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was the face of a man who had found some measure of peace. Reaching out, he stroked Vin’s thigh.  He was speaking so softly that all Buck could hear was a low rumbling, but whatever it was, Vin seemed to settle.  It was then that Chris reached out a hand to his oldest and truest friend.

 

Buck approached slowly.  He understood the pack.  No other person would touch Vin as Chris did, and in turn Vin would submit only to his soul mate. But as Gamma, he might have to balance the volatile Feral, so that was what Chris was doing, drawing him in, getting Vin used to the touch of his Gamma.

 

Firmly, Chris tugged his soul mate down, pulling him close, using his hands and voice to soothe the younger man as, carefully, Buck eased down to spoon up behind Vin. As soon as Vin felt Buck’s muscular body press up against him, he flinched and tried to pull free, only to be held by his Alpha.

 

Buck spoke softly.  “It’s alright Vin, I am not going to hurt you, it’s just old Buck, remember that.” Carefully, he laid his arm around Vin’s waist, his hand resting on Chris’s as he bent his head, and for the first time, inhaled Vin’s scent, bookmarking it. No matter where Vin went, he would always be able to find him by his unique scent, which was now blended with Chris’s.  Any other Sentinel would know the two men were soul mated just by their scent.

 

Buck smiled happily as he felt Vin finally begin to relax as he was held between his Alpha and Gamma. The big man now had a pack, a family. Together, they watched the dawn break, the bond a living force binding the three men together, the bond of a pack.

 

It was late morning before Chris mounted his horse, his gaze taking in his soul mate and his Gamma.  In the bond he had seen Ezra Standish and had recognised the gambler for what he was.

 

Standish was a guide.  Vin had been tracking him down, not knowing why he was drawn to the other young man.  As a Feral, he had no experiences of Guides. But that was about to change. “Okay, let’s get us a Guide.”

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Kid Curry as depicted in the series Alias Smith and Jones, played by Ben Murphy