Magnificent Seven ATF/The Sentinel Crossover
By Miz Nettie
I do not own the rights to the Magnificent Sever or The Sentinel. No profit was made. Over the last 15 years I have read many, many great fanfiction stories. I have included some terms and phrases that I have read in other stories. Hopefully no one will be offended. Warnings: Language, some violence
October nights in Cascade Washington could be anywhere from pleasantly cool to downright cold. The lowest temperatures usually arrived just before dawn, at which time anyone with a choice and half a lick of common sense would be tucked away somewhere nice and warm. And if they did find themselves out in the cold they would certainly wear a warm coat or heavy clothes to ward off the chill. They wouldn't be found crouching on the filthy ground behind a stack of old shipping crates in a deserted alley wearing nothing more than an old t-shirt, ripped jeans, worn sneakers and a thin denim jacket. Not if they had any sense. Or a choice.
The coughing fit finally came to an end, allowing young Vin Tanner to push himself upright and rest his back against the brick wall of the old warehouse that was his only shelter from the cold. 'Gawd. I feel like shit. Probably look as bad as I feel. Like it matters what I look like. Like it matters to anyone but me what I feel like.'
Underweight, exhausted and running a temperature of 102, the homeless teenager could have been a poster child for any number of charity organizations. His unkempt, dirty-blond hair fell past his shoulders while greasy locks of it constantly covered bloodshot eyes. Two years of surviving on the streets of Cascade Washington had taken a heavy toll on the youth and his malnourished body was fast approaching the point of no return.
Huddled in his threadbare clothes with constant shivers wracking his too thin body, Vin knew he wasn't going to survive the winter. It was still early in November but he was already sick with something a lot worse than the flu. The fever, the cough, and the sore throat he could mostly ignore; just like he ignored all the other aches and pains of his beleaguered body. It was the crazy things going on with his mind that had him convinced he would soon be dead at the tender age of fourteen.
'But I don't want to die. Not alone in some stinking alley filled with trash. Hell! I don't want to die in a clean alley neither.' Vin's thoughts of death were scattered by the onslaught of another coughing fit that scoured the inside of his raw throat. Eventually it ended and the ailing teen tilted his head back to rest against the dirty wall, moaning in both pain and relief at the brief respite. With his blue eyes tightly closed, he found himself almost praying for one of those strange, empty periods of time that seemed to plague him with greater frequency as his odd sickness progressed.
He couldn't remember for sure when the first incident had occurred; it was lost amid the day-to-day struggle just to survive. But in the last week he'd found it almost impossible to sleep or eat; the two things his body needed most.
Sleeping in a box in an alley was challenging enough in cold weather with normal hearing; uncomfortable but not impossible. But when the sound of a car door slamming from two blocks away sounded like a gun firing right beside his head, shell-shocked nerves would not allow him to shut his eyes for more than five or ten minutes at a time. As for food; having his nose physically assaulted by even his own body odor, let alone overflowing rubbish bins, made scrounging difficult and eating nearly impossible.
'At least sometimes I can't taste what I'm eating. Wouldn't mind having that happen more often. Could do without the prickly skin though. And having my vision go all crazy. Maybe that's it; maybe I've gone crazy and just don't know it. Damn it, why me? What'd I do that was so awful that I wound up like this?' Deprived of sleep and food, his body succumbing to some strange illness, Vin bowed his head and fought back tears of self-pity as he contemplated the bleakness of his future and the few options available to him.
'Can't go to the free clinic. Well, reckon I could but I ain't sure it'd be worth it.' To be honest with himself, the idea of going to the free clinic was more frightening than the thought of dying. The doctor in charge had a nasty reputation for taking advantage of the homeless that sought his help. Rumor had it that he especially liked teenage boys. In fact, the doctor's rep was so bad that even street hardened gang members would risk going to a regular hospital for help after a fight rather than fall under his care. Of course most gang members actually had families to take them back after the officials were done with them. 'And I've gone this long without selling my ass for money, don't reckon on trading it now for a shot of medicine. Course, I could be so bad off even that perv wouldn't want me.' The barest ghost of a smile caused Vin's lips to twitch but a cool gust of wind and a hard shiver quickly snuffed the spark of dark humor.
'So what does that leave me?' It all boiled down to how badly did he want to live. Bad enough to let a predator of a healer have his way with him? 'Nope. Just can't even think about that.' Bad enough to go to a hospital and give himself up to the system for the time it took them to heal his body? Vin's brow furrowed as he gave that some serious thought.
A hospital wouldn't be such a hard way to go if he was sure that it was just his body that was ailing. But what if the gaps in his memory really were being caused by a defective brain? What if he was having some kind of weird mental seizures and he suffered a spell while under the watchful eyes of a social worker? 'Oh gawd! They'd lock me up for sure.' And as much as he'd hated the foster homes he'd been placed in, he was sure they had to be better than a nut house. And he already knew he was retarded as far as general book learning went. He remembered taking some tests a few years earlier and being labeled with one of those tongue-twisting words that basically came down to a simple case of being too stupid to learn like normal kids. 'Blackouts on top of being retarded and a rep for running away? They definitely wouldn't try to find a home for me. I guess social workers would take the easy route and shut me away 'till I hit eighteen. Then I'd be a homeless, retarded adult and not their problem anymore.'
No help from the government. No help from the other street dwellers. No help from anyone living. What did that leave? What if dying was the only option? Which would be better, slow or fast? Vin drew in a ragged breath and fingered the switchblade he had tucked in his jacket pocket. 'Old Mose said it was just like going to sleep. The cuts hurt at first but then the cold sets in and you don't feel a thing.' No pain. No fear. Nothing. What else had the old bum said? Oh yeah. 'Heart might pound for a bit but then you'd fall asleep before the final beat. That don't sound so bad. And hell, can't get much colder than this.' A deep sleep. A lasting peace. No more hunger. No more cold or pain. No more fear and no more being all-alone. No more anything.
'And it ain't like anybody's gonna miss me. Or care when they find my body. Just one less street rat to deal with. If I did it here, wonder how long it would take for someone to find me? Rats would probably get to me first. Not that it would matter. Guess that's what it all comes down to; live or die, it just don't matter. Nobody cares. Nobody except me.' Vin squeezed his eyes tighter but he could no longer hold back the warm tears that ran silently down his pale cheeks. 'And it ain't like I got much to look forward to. Days, months or years; I'm still gonna be living on the streets. All alone. I guess it really doesn't matter when I die or how. I just… wish...I just wish that there was someone. Just one person… that did care. I wish I mattered to just one person. Someone that would miss me just a little when I'm gone.' But there wasn't anyone. There hadn't been for a long time; not since his mom had died when he was just six. And now it looked like his time left in the world was going to be too short for there to be another someone who cared about Vin Tanner.
Vin drew in a ragged breath and for a moment his fingers tightened on the blade in his pocket. All he had to do was pull it out and flip it open. Just a few seconds and it would all be over. Two quick strokes and the job was done. So simple. So easy.
Slowly Vin pulled his fingers from the hilt of his knife and used that hand to wipe the tears from his face. Raising his head, he slowly blinked his surroundings back into focus. It was tempting. Maybe a little too tempting on this cold, lonely morning. And if it hadn't been for the strange but soothing drum notes sounding in his head, he might have given in. But the soft, steady rhythm had woken him from one of those empty periods of time early in the night and had worked its way deep into his skull. And while it was one more bit of weirdness to add to his growing collection of symptoms, something about the faint sound had pulled him to this alley and kept him here all through the pre-dawn hours.
For what, he didn't know. But it kept him from simply getting up and walking away. And it also kept him from making that final, irreversible decision because while listening to it, he didn't feel so completely alone. Vin tucked his arms behind his drawn up knees and bent his head once more. 'But for how long? How long is it gonna keep going? And what am I gonna do when it stops?'