So yeah, I’ve started another cross-over. That’s not saying I’m not working on my other ones… but for the time being, this one took precedence. It’s NOT my fault! If anyone’s fault it’s HiltonK’s Childhood Lost fic (more specifically, the end of chapter 3). I started reading it, having no prior info on The Magnificent Seven. After reading it (and the continuing adventures of Xander and Ezra) I went on a mad rush to find the televised version of the ATF Magnificent Seven… to my ever loving disappointment, after acting like an idiot and NOT using the internet search functions for a few weeks, I find that the ATF universe was never a television show but rather a fanfic dream that gathered some pretty awesome writers to its banner. So after watching the cowboy version of M7 and reading all the rules for the ATF universe, I’ve added my contribution. Hope you like!
edit 9/28- forgot to add- I do not own Buffy The Vampire Slayer or The Magnificent Seven!
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be. - Shel Silverstein
Xander sat on the front porch of his house waiting, like he did every year around this time, for the mail to arrive. Early June was a tumulus series of events for the young man. The end of the school year, good. The event of the regularly scheduled apocalypse, bad. Less demon activity after thwarting said apocalypse was an all around good, but also meant Buffy felt the need to be away for most of the summer, so, much badness was to be had. But the most bouncy-around feelings actually centered around June fourteenth, his birthday. If his mother was in a good mood, she’d bake him a cake, maybe absently hand him a poorly wrapped present. If she was not-so-happy he was lucky if he escaped with an unbalanced slap on the cheek. He winced, shifting slightly, as he remembered the year she threw the half full bottle of Jim Beam at him from across the room. He stayed the rest of the week on Willows floor in her closet, just waiting for his father to forget that he’d wasted quality booze. He hadn’t escaped a beating eventually, but it hadn’t been as bad as all that.
He perked up as he spied the mail carrier, whistling as he parked at the end of the street and started up the sidewalk toward Xander’s house.
Xander spied the light blue envelope before the man was even half way up the walk.
“Morning sir,” he grinned his goofy grin and tilted an imaginary hat down in greeting.
“Looks like you’ve got mail Alex,” the man replied, “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you,” Xander bounced as the mail was handed over, anxious to open the blue envelope, identical to the other envelopes that always appeared around his birthday.
He’d discovered the first eight envelopes when he turned eleven, having nothing better to do than investigate under his mother’s bed for anything that she might have forgotten about that looked interesting. Xander had discovered a bit of magpie-like tendencies in himself from an early age, he picked up bits of anything that was shiny and horded them away in his “treasure box” that he kept in the attic. Far away from the sneaky fingers his father employed on anything that wasn’t bolted down and able to fence the price of his next whisky bottle. (To Xander’s eventual surprise he'd discovered a lot of the stuff he’d horded away over the years fetched some pretty good prices at pawn shops outside of Sunnydale. He had a nice nest egg saved up for his summer road trip.)
But instead of something shiny Xander had found a shoe box full of papers and light blue envelopes. The papers were nothing interesting, he barley skimmed them before realizing that the envelopes had his name on them… Well, not really his name, Alexander Tanner was not his name. But his first name was there, and he was curious.
The first envelope in the stack was also the newest. It had been, according to the postage stamp, delivered around his birthday the previous year. The subsequent envelopes had all been delivered in June, each a year apart, going back to when he was three. He opened the first envelope with trembling hands. This wasn’t his mail, but he was curious and his parents were both passed out downstairs. He was going to read it!
It wasn’t much, to his everlasting disappointment. In his head he’d built an impossible dream of buried treasure and hidden maps. It was just a birthday card.
“Happy Birthday Alexander, Love Kevin.” No return address on the envelope, no last name to follow other than this Alexander Tanner fellow. Not much to follow up on at all.
A subsequent search revealed pretty much the same message on each card, the only difference was how shaky the handwriting on the oldest ones were. It looked like a childish scrawl then slowly improved as Xander guessed the child, Kevin, grew.
He tucked the cards away in his box and promptly forgot about them… until the next week, when another light blue envelope arrived.
Xander sighed as he sat on the front porch, once again nervous from anticipation. Last years card had held something that the previous years hadn’t. Personal information. Last year Kevin had written about maybe arranging a visit, if this new job he started turned out to be a long term thing. Xander had gotten the impression that Kevin had bounced around a lot of different jobs, maybe the military from the way he described fitting well into his new “unit”.
Xander had never before had the opportunity to correct the man in his mistaken impression that his cards were getting to the right kid, he’d never had a return address before, but as he looked down at the newest light blue card he gently traced the name in the upper left corner.
“Kevin Tanner,” he whispered to himself. “He lives in Denver.”
Vin had been jumpy for about a week before Chris called him on it.
“Saloon, Now.” Vin had jumped when the shadow that was Chris fell over his shoulder, so out of tune with everything that Chris was almost worried. It was completely unlike Vin to not be aware of his surroundings. Even when the klutzes on team four dropped shit in the other room, making everyone else turn their heads, Vin would just shake his head and laugh.
But this time, Vin just stood, grabbing his tanned hide duster and following his boss from the room. The eyes of the rest of their team followed, but their bodies stayed put.
As Chris lead Vin into the bar he nodded over to the waitress and held up two fingers. They settled in the back corner booth and waited for Tracie to deposit the shot glasses full of whisky and her usual bright, blinding grin.
“Thanks Trace, I’ll call you over if we need anything else.”
“No prob Mr. Larabee,” she snapped her pink bubblegum and sauntered back to the bar. If Vin had been in his right mind he would have been watching those hips as they bangoed away.
“What’s wrong Vin?”
“Nothing’s wrong Chris,” Vin sighed, but took the shot glass in hand as Chris nudged it over.
“Then what’s right?”
It took a moment before it came tumbling out, more words out of Vin Tanner’s mouth in the next half hour than in the entire two years Chris had known him put together.
“It was just so hard, to keep hoping that maybe he remembered, that, you know, maybe he’d want me to reach out… So, you know, I tried. I couldn’t… I couldn’t have him with me, I mean, I was kid, he was a kid, then I was in the military, and he was a teenager in high school. I mean, what teen wants to be dragged away from their friends… right?” Vin asked, a little in desperation, mostly because he’d never had that kind of relationship in school.
“Usually,” Chris assured.
“I tried to go around the CPS, to at least maybe see him every once in a while, but Sunnydale is like a freaking prison! I kept getting pushed around, and I didn’t even know if any of my letters were getting through! I just couldn’t… It wasn’t working, Chris! I kept asking him to write back, I never got anything back from him Chris. Every time I had a posting with an address I’d send an update… But I would always get those back, unopened, I don’t think they ever made it to him.” Vin grabbed the shot in front of Chris and downed it.
“Only the birthday cards never came back. You know, I never sent one with an address on it until this last one, he’s eighteen now, you know?” And with that last question he pulled a white envelope from his duster jacket.
“He wrote back,” Vin pushed the envelope into Chris’s hand. “He wants to meet me.”
Xander laughed as the girls nagged him. Buffy had to be physically pulled away from his duffel before she tried to stuff any more stakes and holy water inside, as it was the bag clinked a bit, he was planning on unloading some of the bottles later. Willow babbled about keeping a wary eye on strangers and not to accept food or candy from them no matter how old and innocent they appeared. They just might be a demon grandma in disguise. She eyed an older lady shuffling onto the bus with suspicion. Joyce just watched with amusement and handed Xander a brown paper bag filled with food, homemade cookies and sandwiches, enough (hopefully) to keep him well supplied until he reached his destination.
The buses horn honked, alerting all passengers that they’d better get their asses in gear or be left behind. Xander allowed for one more round of hugs, one more round of kisses and a manly handshake to Giles who was smirking at the girls just as Xander was.
“Take care, dear boy, and enjoy your walk-about,” He pressed an envelope in Xander’s hand and refused to acknowledge Xander’s objection with the simple expedient of turning around and walking away.
Xander settled back in his seat and let loose a yawn. It was late in the afternoon but he’d been out with Buffy and Willow, touring graveyards one last time before the group split for their summer activities. Buffy was going to spend time with her dad in LA, Willow was going on a touring circuit with her folks, and Giles had been recalled back to the Council for some kind of Summit Meeting that he’d been very closed lipped about.
Without anybodies back needing to be watched Xander had contemplated just what he’d do if they survived graduation. Originally he’d thought to buy a second (probably third or fourth really) hand car off his Uncle Rory and tour the states. But the ever present blue envelope had stuck in his mind.
For his eighteenth birthday Kevin had really pulled out the stops. He wrote a thick letter explaining to Alexander the circumstances that had led to them being split up into different homes, a foster family who decided to keep the amiable toddler and get rid of the stubborn child. Then the subsequent bouncing Kevin had experienced from foster family to foster family, before finally giving it up as a bad idea and giving it a go on the streets of Denver. Joining the Army, being recruited into the Rangers when he was only eighteen, he’d been assimilated into that life before he knew what he’d really done. Four years later he left the Rangers, a bit disillusioned by something he didn’t go into much detail on, and became a bounty hunter before being offered a position on an ATF team. Being in a stable environment for almost an entire year and realizing that his kid brother was now old enough to make a trip across state lines, he’d tentatively suggested that Alexander come for a visit.
Xander had been all for writing back (now that he had an address) and politely suggesting that the man had the wrong boy, very sorry to disappoint you, until he’d read the last sentence.
"I’m sorry that the Harris’s kept us apart, but I hope to reconnect with you, if you want to as well.
With love, Kevin"
What had followed was a very shocked and trembling Xander. Then a Xander who’d torn the house apart looking for any kind of evidence that what had taken seed in his mind was reality.
Then he’d found it.
A metal fireproof box, stuck haphazardly in the front closet, his name written in permanent marker across the top. He opened the lock with a small ax that he kept under his pillow (he "jokingly" referred to it as his security blanket). Inside were all of his official papers, birth certificate, social security card, adoption papers.
He’d shown up on Giles doorstep, shaking in the mid-June heat, not entirely sure how he’d gotten there.
“They adopted me… if they weren’t even going to pretend to like me… why’d they adopt me?”
Giles just stared at him, then led him into the cozy townhouse.
Talking it over with Giles had helped, hugging his girls close had helped even more. He decided that he would take Kevin up on his offer of a visit. They’d all offered to go with him, but he’d shaken it off. He insisted that some things a guy was meant to do alone. It was a macho thing, they probably wouldn’t understand.
Besides, they all had plans for the summer, and if he needed them, they were only a phone call away.
Chris watched with no little amusement as his sharp shooter fidgeted at his desk. Every few minutes the mans eyes would wander to the round clock above the doorway, only to be wretched back away and focused on his work. If one didn’t know Vin Tanner, one would think he had some form of psychological disorder. But Chris knew Vin had nothing of the sort. In normal circumstances Vin was one of his steadiest friends and employees. Quiet when he had nothing to say, steady to a fault, and a perfect example of what talent and hard work can produce in a young man. But today…
“Jeezus Chris,” Buck sighed as he leaned against the door to Chris’s office and looked over at Vin. “What burr’s under that saddle?”
“It’s a personal issue Buck, Vin’ll let you know soon enough.”
“But you know?” Buck looked over at his oldest friend and boss. “What am I talking about? Of course you know,” he winked and strode over to Vin’s desk, most likely to tease him about a new love interest, therefore keeping the younger man’s mind off of whatever was bothering him.
Chris just let him, knowing that it was the only way Vin would be able to survive the next hour, waiting for that Greyhound bus to arrive.
He groaned and rubbed his fingers against closed lids for a second before running his fingers through his short blond hair and following that movement with a jerk of his head, cracking his stiff neck loudly.
“It appears our normally even tempered friend is about to get into an altercation with Mr. Wilmington. We may wish to make an appearance Mr. Larabee.” Ezra Standish, nothing if not verbose, adjusted the cuffs of his red silk shirt and watched over the softly starting argument between his coworkers with a slight smile on his face. Chris just smirked as Vin finally had enough and shot to his cowboy boot clad feet, screaming up at Buck to mind his own damned business.
It was almost funny how the two were such great contrasts, Chris let his attention wander to how different the five men in the bull pen were, then let his gaze shift to himself and Ezra standing in his doorway.
Ezra was almost obsessively fastidious when it came to his appearance. Almost always clad in bright red of some kind whether it be a shirt, vest or jacket, he was neat, clean and kept his things in precise order and shape. His hair was never too long or too short, a nice light brown to contrast his bright blue eyes. His smile was pleasing and his mode of expression included all the twenty dollar words in the dictionary you could find.
Chris, in contrast, had a habit of dressing in black, his true smile a hard thing to get too, and was often referred to as a shadow. The only thing that kept him from being completely “creepy” as JD told it, was his bright shock of blond hair that he kept shorn pretty close to his scalp.
Buck was a large man, imposing at a height of 6’4”, Vin reached a little over his shoulder at just 6 feet in his cowboy boots. Buck had dark hair cut close enough to just barely curl around his ears and a smile that charmed more women than a basket full of kittens while Vin’s lighter hair had to be pulled back into a ponytail to keep any semblance of order and his grin, when he used it, was quick and sharp, like the man himself.
JD, their computer guru, was the youngest of the group. He just sat at his desk in the corner and watched with humor in his eyes as Buck and Vin verbally sparred. When he’d first joined the group he’d tried to keep arguments down to a minimum, often stepping in and trying to bully the others into stopping. He’d since learned, let the fire burn itself out or get scorched yourself. Standing behind JD and agreeing with whatever point the younger man had made about a system he was fixing was Nathan, their “token black guy”. He’d joked about that once, but it had been more light hearted than some of the pointed grumblings of other ATF teams. They didn’t think much about it on a day to day basis. Every once in a while someone from another team or from HR would make it a point to say something about minorities and ratios in which Chris would just reply that his ratios were fine and political bullshit needed to be kept away from serious work, thank you. Nathan, of course, had no problem being the only black man in Team 7, just as Buck had no problem being the only one of Russian decent, Vin had no problem being a fourth Cherokee, and Josiah had no problem being half Mexican. Like Chris said, his ratios were fine.
Josiah, being the peace keeper in the group, and the only one taller than Buck, finally had enough and laid a gentle hand on Vin’s shoulder.
“Brother Vin, you know we are but concerned. You seem distracted lately, and Buck, in his misguided way, is trying to help.”
“Thanks Preacher,” Vin sighed after a second then seemed to come to some conclusion. He looked up at his black clad confidant and nodded his okay. Chris smiled and clapped Ezra on the shoulder.
“Lets get down and let our good friend spill his guts out.”
“I do hope you mean that metaphorically Mr. Larabee,” Ezra adjusted the fall of his pin stripe vest as he stepped away from the wall.
“Just git,” Chris scoffed, once again wondering just how the hell he got put in charge of the strangest group of men to ever exist. Then JD smiled up at him and bounced over as he descended into the bull pen.
“Is Vin ok?”
“He’ll be fine JD, just has to get something off his chest.”
“Is it about his brother?”
That last was said a bit too loud to be termed discreet, everybody heard it.
Buck bellowed out as JD winced, realizing he may have let the cat rip right through the bag.
Xander desperately wished (but not really) that he’d done anything other than get on the bus. Who was he kidding? Kevin would take one look at him and deny any kind of relationship. Xander was not made for family. Maybe Alexander was, but that wasn’t him anymore.
He was just wondering what constituted hyperventilating when the grandmotherly woman sitting across the aisle from him handed over a wrapped candy.
Automatically he unwrapped it and popped it into his mouth. He didn’t notice the twitching of her lips until he looked over to thank her from aborting his mini-apocalypse. It was the same grandmother that Willow had glared at when they dropped him off at the bus stop.
“Don’t worry young man, not all demons are out to get you,” she chuckled, briefly showing off her bluish complexion and the mostly disillusioned horn in the middle of her forehead.
“Oh, yeah, I know that. Play poker with the guys down at Willy’s sometimes,” Xander shrugged and sucked on the peppermint. “Willow’s just a little picky.”
“Being friends with the Slayer can give one that outlook, I would say.”
“Well, the Buffster tends to wait for the violence to come to her, I think her mind set is that, ‘hey, if it‘s not hurting anyone, why should I care?’.”
“Well, that explains it then, thank you young Knight,” she reached over the aisle to pat his hand.
“Explains what?” Xander caught the line and held it, he didn’t want to contemplate what would happen in the next hour.
“Why the population around Sunnydale, of the relatively peaceful tribes, has stayed pretty constant, or even evolved since the girl arrived.” She shrugged and looked back at the knitting needles in her hands… or the hands that were knitting needles. Huh. “If she doesn’t go out and indiscriminately destroy clans then they wouldn’t feel the need to attack her, and she wouldn’t even know of their existence. I must thank you and your friends for being fair to the community.”
“Well, they’ve got rights, same as anyone else. What was it that guy said? Oh, yeah, ‘the freedom to swing your fist ends at my face.’ Always liked that one.” Xander shrugged, “I think everyone should live like that. I know Buffy agrees, in between weird Indy films and Willow babble we’ve talked it over. You know, all serious like.”
“That’s a relief,” she smiled. Xander got the feeling she was humoring him.
“Yeah,” that was okay, at least she was pleasant about it. “So what are you heading to Denver for?”
“Purple People Eater Convention,” she delivered with a straight face. It took Xander a second to notice the smirk that started to curl.
Chris managed to keep the entire team from showing up through sheer force of personality. The ill will of a deadly timed Larabee glare packed a punch. Truly the only reason they backed off though was that Chris promised to get them all together to meet and greet at the Ranch once Alexander had settled in a bit. So Chris was the only one of team 7 standing with Vin when the tall, lanky teenager stepped off the Greyhound bus. He was only on the ground for a second before he turned to assist an elderly lady off the last high step. He leaned over so she could say something in his ear, he grinned and nodded and accepted the paper she pressed into his hand. The bus driver was pulling luggage out from under the carriage, and when the boy turned to pick up his duffel the lady smirked and pinched his bottom.
He jumped about a foot in the air, rubbed his ass and shouted after the rapidly departing senior citizen.
“Oh Yeah? That’s how it’s going to be? You just TRY Sweetheart!”
The lady just acknowledged with a wave, not even bothering to turn around.
It was rather obvious that of all the people departing the bus, this was the only one who could be Alexander. Every one else was too old or too young or traveling in groups.
That and Vin was just staring at him.
“He looks like dad,” Vin whispered, shook his head, cleared his throat, and started walking.
The kid was looking around, but stopped when his eyes rested on Vin, who was approaching. He stopped about a foot away, Alexander dropped his duffel on the ground and awkwardly stuck out a hand.
“Um, hi? Kevin?” there was a slight pause and then the babbling began, “Oh man, please tell me you’re Kevin, because seriously, the dude behind you looks way to scary to be real. Are you a demon? And if you are please tell me you’re not going to the Purple People Eater Convention that Maude was going to, because if that’s a real convention I’m not sure that my tenure in this city is going to be very long, I’ll have to call Mrs. Summers to come pick me up, or maybe take my first trip in an airplane, but Buffy was worried about Gremlins no matter how many times Giles said they were just a myth, then she blew up about myths and what were real and how could he prove it, because really, the snake thing was just insane… and if I don’t shut up I’m going to start hyperventilating again, please just shake my hand.”
“I am.” Vin managed after just staring for a few seconds.
“Oh,” he looked down at their enjoined hands. “That’s nice. So, you’re Kevin then?”
“Call me Vin, if you’re Alexander.”
“Um, call me Xander, just plain Xander.”
“Nice, the car’s this way.” Vin dropped the teens hand and with a very slight hesitation place a guiding hand on his shoulder. “This is Chris Larabee, by the way, my boss.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Chris nodded, tilting the brim of his cowboy hat down a bit in acknowledgement.
“Wow, I didn’t know people actually did that brim thing, that’s so cool!”
“It’s just polite, I would think you’d have a passing acquaintance seeing as how grandma goosed you.” Vin commented.
“Maude was just making fun of me. We had a pleasant conversation in which I might have mentioned that my luck with women is less than stellar. She then offered to introduce me to her granddaughters,” Xander suppressed a shudder. It wasn’t that he against dating demon spawn, per say, it’s just that they seemed to like to chow down on him rather than go out to a movie or something. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, his dirty-dirty mind supplied, but being a demon magnet was bad enough without adding paralyzing saliva and other bodily fluids. Yuck.
Chris suppressed a full out guffaw, well aware that if any of his team caught him laughing like that they would be convinced the world was coming to an end. Just chuckling like he had been for the past fifteen minutes was completely out of character.
Xander hadn’t stopped talking completely since they’d gotten into the car. The boy was just downright entertaining. An innocent question from Vin about the boy’s friends had turned into a babbling explanation of virtues and some downright odd stories. Every once in a while, though, Chris was convinced the kid was editing himself mid-babble.
Vin, of course, had no reason to stifle his amusement. A stray tear appeared in the corner of his eye as he laughed at Xander’s explanation of his seizure-like dancing and just how “his girls” broke him of it.
“Sure, go ahead and laugh, I was in heaven AND hell for a good three weeks!” Xander shrugged, “of course it probably would have taken less time if I hadn’t been so into it. Does that make me a masochist, do you think?”
Chris didn’t bother to hide his chuckle at that one.
“So, we decided to set you up at the ranch, instead of down in the city with me,” Vin explained as Chris turned into his driveway.
“What’s up with that?”
“Vin doesn’t live in the city, he lives in Purgatory,” Chris’s manner was downright chilly as he explained. “It’s not Purgatory,” Vin tried to defend.
“That’s just Spanish for Purgatory,” Xander pointed out, uneasy. He’d really had enough with the hell mouthy Spanish translations. That his brother resided in it’s close spiritual “cousin”, so to speak, was not good.
“Yes, so you’ll be staying with me,” Chris replied. And as soon as he had his way, with a little more bullying and perhaps an assist in the form of one Xander Harris, so would Vin.
“I gotta warn you Xand, before we head in,” Vin turned to look at his brother in the back seat. “I told you I work for the ATF and the crew there is like a family.”
“Yeah,” it was one of the reasons Xander came. He firmly believed in the family you make yourself. He wanted to see if it resembled his in any way.
“They’re all in the Ranch, waiting to meet you.”
“What? Like, death by firing squad?” Xander squeaked.
“Not,” Vin paused, he’d been about to say it wouldn’t be that intense, but knowing the personalities stuffed in that house… “Just hide behind Chris.”