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Tip's Redemption - Two Ounces of Tin
Alternate Ending written by TooYoungForRifleman
1 of 3 Chapters

“A long time ago, on this very spot, I said words very much like that,” Tip Corey said, sadness and pain lacing his words. He stared at Mark McCain, who had just echoed words he'd spoken as a child. If Corey went through with his plan to gun down Mark's father for his refusal to throw down the Marshal's badge, Mark would one day come after Corey, having picked up that badge. He stared at the boy as he went through the inner turmoil, reliving the day he vowed to get revenge on those who killed his father. Reliving the hate and anger he lived with. Reliving the vengeance he did visit upon all those responsible for his Pa's death. And reliving all the times he killed others, things just having snowballed out of control, until everywhere he went someone forced him to prove his reputation as a killer correct.

That was not a good way to live. And not a life he wished upon the boy who stood before him. It wasn't even particularly the fact that Mark would one day seek him out. It was the whole big miserable lonely mess. That long list of names that rides with a man when things snowball out of control.

Like he told acting Marshal Lucas McCain, though, he couldn't back down if he wanted to keep on living. He now realized he could not kill Lucas and live with himself, either. It occurred to him what he had to do. He would call Lucas, and make sure to draw his gun slowly, making sure Lucas had plenty of time to be the first to shoot. Lucas could fire quickly, but Tip Corey knew he would likely be on the winning end if he were to draw his normal fast draw. He'd just be that split second faster than Lucas McCain. No, he would purposefully do a slow draw so it would be him lying in the dirt. That's just what was best for all concerned.

Finally, he turned to face the acting Marshal.

“I'm calling you McCain!” he said, then began drawing his gun, making sure to be slow about it.

“Wait!” Mark called out, once again stepping towards Corey. Corey was startled and let go of his gun before spinning around. It was out just enough that when he let go, it fell to the ground. He didn't seem to notice. “You know, I just got to thinking about what I just said,” Mark said. “Mr. Corey I don't think what I said I'd do would be something my Pa'd be real proud of. You kill him now and I grow up and come after you, maybe others along the way will die at my hands, my Pa would roll in his grave. I'm sure of it. Now I never knew your Pa but I wonder, what would he think of what you're doing?”

There was silence as Tip Corey stared at Mark, contemplating this new idea. His sad expression just got sadder. While only seconds, the silence for all concerned seemed to drag on for minutes before Corey spoke.

“I'm sure he's rolled many times, boy,” he said. A small sigh escaped him before continuing. “My Pa always taught me that God doesn't want us to seek revenge. I doubt my Pa would have approved of me even going after the guys who killed him. Even if he did approve, though, he certainly wouldn't have approved of the other men I gunned down. You see boy, I intended my killing spree to end with those I was after. But it didn't. Nobody knew or asked why I killed those men. They just labeled me a fast gun, a killer, and everywhere I go they keep making me prove it. By this time killing's next to the only thing I know how to do. I try not to boy, but I keep getting in situations where I don't see an alternative. So all I do is keep on proving my reputation.”

“Gee, Mr. Corey,” Mark said. “That sure isn't my idea of a good way to live. Let me ask you something Mr. Corey. Did killing those men, any of them, including the men who killed your Pa, did that ever make you happy? Do you think seeing that badge in the dirt, whether or not you have to kill the man wearing it to get it there, will make you happy? Are you happy? 'Cause I gotta tell you Mr. Corey, you don't look it, that's for darn sure.”

“No, boy,” Corey said after a moment's thought. “I'm not happy. Haven't been truly happy since my Pa was alive. Seeing the badge in the dirt, pinned or not pinned to your Pa or your Marshal, won't make me happy I'm sure.”

“I sure don't understand something Mr. Corey,” Mark said. “You talk so nice sometimes, like you maybe like everybody, like maybe you want to make friends. Why do you only do things that don't make you happy?”

“You're wise beyond your years, boy,” Corey said. “And you understand more than you realize. Far more than you realize. But I don't know if I can make you understand what you're asking. I'm not even sure I fully understand it. All I know is that badge, it represents the law that failed my Pa. I just can't go on knowing everyone here's pretending the law helps people.”

“With all due respect Mr. Corey, you're wrong about something,” Mark said. He glanced past Tip Corey to establish eye contact with his father, to convey that what he was saying was just as much for his benefit, his understanding, as it was Corey's. “It's not the law that failed. The law does help people, if the person enforcing that law does what they're supposed to do. That's why when Micah has to go out of town, he leaves Pa in charge. He knows Pa will make sure the law is upheld. It's the Marshal that was in office when your Pa was killed that failed him, and didn't help anyone.” He again stole a glance at his father. His Pa needed to understand the reasoning behind Corey's actions. Looking back at Corey he continued. “Like I said earlier, Micah wasn't around North Fork back then and neither was my Pa. And you know what? That's a darn shame because I can tell you without a doubt Mr. Corey that if it has been my Pa or Micah you fetched from the office to help your Pa, neither one of them would have taken a look at what was happening and gone back into the office. Either one of them would have put a stop to it, and they'd have put a stop to it real quick. The Marshal that was around back then, he's the one who failed your Pa. It wasn't the law. It was the one who didn't bother to uphold it.”

Lucas stood watching and listening. From what Mark was saying, it was obvious he'd gone and spoken with Corey. Normally, Lucas would be a bit irked that Mark had not followed directions and gone to help Mrs. Wingate at the town hall. But somehow, he found himself being almost glad that Mark had gone to talk with Corey. The exchange they were having was allowing Lucas to get a much clearer picture. Obviously, much of Corey's actions couldn't be justified, and it seemed as if Corey knew that. But Lucas was seeing that there was far more to Tip Corey than a cold blooded killer. It was clear that there was an inner child in there who had deep wounds that would not seem to heal.

Lucas was, of course, paying full attention, but knew when Mark made eye contact with him twice, at key parts in his speech, that there were some things that Mark knew Lucas needed to understand. As he did come to understand, Lucas blinked a couple of times, having an inkling that tears were finding it tempting to want to come out, as an overwhelming sense of sympathy and compassion filled the acting Marshal. Also overwhelming was the very strong desire to help Tip Corey, the man he realized that he and just about everybody else had severely misjudged. How he did not know, but Lucas had to figure out a way.

After the second time Mark gave him a glance, once Mark's gaze went back to Corey, Lucas looked at Corey's gun, still lying on the ground. He took advantage of Corey's intense focus on Mark to sneak over to the gun. Lucas would empty it, and remove the threat that would be posed when Corey retrieved it. He knew now Corey did not want to kill him, but that if Corey posessed a loaded gun the likely outcome would be that one of them would die. Lucas began to stoop down and reach for the gun lying just behind its owner, but suddenly he stopped. His hand was stayed when Mark finished speaking. Lucas stood back up, not wanting to risk Corey would hear what he was doing. He would wait for someone to start speaking again. And it would be Corey to break the moment of silence. But as he spoke, Lucas could only listen, the issue at hand of the gun fleeing his mind. Tip's words came in a voice barely above a whisper, hoping only Mark would hear them, not knowing that Lucas was standing not even a foot behind and to his left.

“I drew slow boy,” he said. “I knew I couldn't back down and live with myself, but I knew I couldn't take your Pa away from you, make you go through what I did, and live with myself either. I intended for your Pa to shoot me boy. You kind of startled the situation. I know why you did, you didn't wanna see your Pa die. But just know you wouldn't have, and won't, if I have my way. It'll be me lying in the street.” He paused. “Better that way anyway boy. I'm tired. Tired of leaving a body wherever I go. That's my reputation. That and being a fast draw. My reputation isn't a good one to have, but it's the only thing I have, the only thing I can cling to. And I'm just tired of clinging to it. But if I stop cling, but keep living...I have nothing left.”

“I'm sorry,” Mark said, unsure of what else to say. He could see out of the corner of his eye that his father was close, but made no acknowledgement of the fact, not sure how Corey would respond to Lucas being so close. After a moment of silence, Mark continued. “Well, Mr. Corey, I...I don't wanna see you die any more than I wanna see my Pa die. I...well I kinda like you Mr. Corey. You can cling to that.”

Corey seemed quite surprised by this little tidbit of information.

“You like me, huh?” he said. “Haven't heard that in a long time. Can't remember when I last heard that.” But he liked hearing it, and a small flicker of a smile graced his face, and an ever so slight flicker of light graced his eyes. But then his face became sad again. “What a foreign concept. Somebody liking Tip Corey.”

“That's too bad,” Mark said softly. “Perhaps if it weren't so foreign, perhaps if you'd heard it more, you'd be happier now. Wouldn't be living such a lonely life.”

“Perhaps,” Corey said. “But I have a reputation as a fast gun and a killer. That kinda reputation doesn't make a man likeable.”

“I know,” Mark said. “But your reputation isn't you. I don't think you realize that. It's what's in your heart that makes you who you are. People just have to see past your reputation, and-”

“Nobody will, boy,” Tip said somewhat harshly. That came out with more firmness than he'd intended. His voice softened. “You see past it. I don't know how but you do. And I appreciate that. But you're young yet. You're just not as jaded and cynical as you'll be when you're grown. I'm sure your Pa's not too happy to see you've befriended me. No grown man would be. No grown man would like or want to be friends with Tip Corey.”

At this point, Tip felt a hand being gently placed on his left shoulder. Reflexively, he went for his gun, but of course only found an empty holster. He turned his head to see who owned the hand that rested upon his shoulder. He found himself face to face with Lucas McCain, everything on his face registering compassion and concern that Tip was not used to being on the receiving end of.

“You dropped it,” Lucas said gently, having seen Corey go for his gun.

Tip Corey stood there for a moment, not sure of what to make of Lucas' gesture.

“Right,” he said. “I...well, it was automatic.” He turned to look at Mark. “See? That's part of who I am. Had that gun been in my holster, your Pa'd likely be on the ground before I even knew who it was.”

“Or my intent,” Lucas stated. “It's a sad state of affairs when a man reaches for his gun when someone puts a hand on him in kindness, Corey.” Keeping his hand on Tip's shoulder, Lucas stepped so that he was a bit more in front of him. Mark came to stand next to his father, also facing Corey. Lucas continued. “I'm sorry I misjudged you earlier, Corey. I wish I knew the whole story. You know, what Mark knew. About your father, and the Marshal in charge back then.”

“What good would it do?” Corey asked. “You still wouldn't have thrown the badge in the dirt.”

“Well, but I'd have had more insight into the situation.”

“Which would do what?” Corey asked. “More insight won't make you compromise your principles, and like your boy here told me, you've got too much pride to throw it down.”

“You're assuming throwing the badge down would be the only option,” Lucas replied. “Had I known your reasoning, had I known anything beyond your reputation, I'd have understood the root cause of everything, and been able to maybe help you deal with that.”

“Root cause. You can't bring my Pa back.”

“Corey the root cause of everything that's happened since he died is the pain resulting from your loss,” Lucas said. “And how you knew to deal with it. Lots of people lose loved ones and don't go hurting other people much less killing them. But if you don't know how to deal with the grief properly, well things like this happen, and I think your pain and grief has only grown. I just wish I knew a lot sooner, Corey, about what I now know about you.” That last sentence held much sadness. Sure, Lucas had only known Tip Corey for a few hours, and maybe about half an hour since that talk in the Marshal's office. But if Lucas could have started dealing with the real issue, even that half hour earlier...

“Why would you have cared then?”

“Well what do you mean why would I have cared then?” Lucas asked, a bit taken aback by the question. “Same reason I care now.”

“Nobody's cared about me since my Pa died,” Tip said. “My Ma had been gone a couple years by that point. Died giving birth to my sister. The baby also died. When my Pa was killed here, well some distant relative took me in, but I think only out of a sense of obligation. Not that they cared about me. I was pretty much left to my own devices. Life got real lonesome real quick.”

Tip Corey stared at the ground. He wasn't sure why he had said that. It seemed as if something was allowing his guard to come down a little bit. He wasn't sure what, or why.

Lucas sensed that Tip was beginning to let his guard down, beginning to let him in. And he knew the reason that Tip Corey did not. It was just the natural response to receiving what had been lacking in his life for so long. It might be a slow process, but Lucas knew there was hope now to reach Corey.

It suddenly occurred to Lucas, standing there with his hand still on Tip Corey's shoulder, that his strong sense of caring for this man was developing in an unusually fast manner. Yes, Lucas cared about people. And he was one to look beyond a man's reputation, which did allow him to forgive rather easily. But the fact of the matter was that Tip Corey was a killer, a gunfighter. He wasn't known to be wanted by the law, so it was entirely possible that Tip had killed those he killed legally. But, with vengeance as the motive, and depending on whether or not Tip forced his opponants into a gunfight, there were some definite moral lines that Tip had crossed. Lucas, being the sort to value moral integrity, could not ignore that. He thought for a moment of whether or not to back off on how much kindness he was portraying. But he decided not to back off. Not yet. Right now Tip needed to be brought to the place where he could accept the fact people could care about him and show him kindness. But Lucas knew that at some point, Tip Corey would have to learn that sometimes caring and kindness comes in the form of tough love.

Tip stood there, not quite sure what to make of this. He looked to Mark, then to Lucas, then at neither in particular. It did feel good to be shown kindness for the first time in his adult life. It had been something Tip had craved for so long. He leaned, ever so slightly, into Lucas' hand, wanting to be closer to this kind presence.

Lucas and Mark looked at each other, giving slight smiles, understanding that Tip's hard exterior was gradually being allowed to soften. But their smiles faded and they looked back at Tip as the latter man jerked back, not enough to break contact with Lucas' hand, but just enough to correct the lean he had allowed himself to take.

“It's comforting, isn't it?” Lucas said, knowingly. “You've needed kindness for so long, but now that you've got it from someone you don't know what to do with it. You lean in because you need it, but then you pull away.”

“I don't deserve it,” Tip said. “Especially from you, who I was just about to force into a gunfight. And yeah, you're right, I don't know what to do with it.”

“Well as for not deserving it,” Lucas said. “Maybe that's true. But I try to live my life and treat people the way God would treat people. None of us deserve God's love or forgiveness, but we can receive it, if we allow ourselves to. I've let myself receive it and feel it is my job to pass it along.”

“My Pa taught me that vengeance wasn't God's way,” Tip said. “And look what I did. Killed for it. And it didn't stop there. All for revenge. I don't see how God could forgive that.”

“Well what Bible did your father teach you from?” Lucas asked. “Because the one I read says we've all gone against God and none deserve to be forgiven. My Bible also says God loved us anyway, and came down to earth as a man, God's Son, to live a sinless life but die a sinner's death. So we could be forgiven.”

“My Pa read that same Bible,” Tip said. “It's just...well only now, today, in this spot, do I realize just how wrong I've been. To me...well...I don't understand how God could love me, I've strayed so far.”

“You can always turn back,” Lucas said softly.

Tip thought for a moment. Then a sigh escaped him before he spoke.

“It's not the Marshal's badge that belongs in the dirt,” he said glumly. “I realize that. It's something else.” He looked at his gun. “Part of it is already there.” Then slowly, he reached for the buckle of his gun holster. His hands began shaking as they reached their target. He held the buckle for a moment, clearly struggling with what he was about to do. He looked up to Lucas, who gave a slight nod, knowing what was meant by what Tip Corey was doing. This seemed to give Tip the strength he needed, and he took a deep breath and unfastened the buckle to his holster. He let go with one hand, and with the other brought the holster up and looked at it. A rather disgusted look crossed his face, and then he threw it down. It landed in the dirt with a thud, next to his gun.”

“Good step,” Lucas said gently, sensing the great difficulty this man was enduring. “That wasn't easy.”

“It's over now,” Tip said, tears starting to come forth. His next words came out in a sob. “What little I had is now gone. That was my reputation I just threw away. I have nothing now.”

Lucas was about to point out that Tip had someone willing to help him, maybe one day be a friend to him. But he realized that Tip was in a rather vulnerable position, a man of his reputation having a meltdown right in the middle of North Fork. Sure, most folks had stopped gawking at the situation, seeing there would be no gunfight. Plus they were headed to the town hall for the gathering. But still, Lucas thought he should offer some semblance of dignity. He moved his hand to Tip's right shoulder so his arm was around him, and began to turn him toward the Marshal's office.

“Let's go inside,” he said. Then he looked at his son. “Mark, get that gun and holster. Let's not leave that lying in the street.” Lucas would have done so himself, but of course his left hand carried his own rifle.

Mark did as his father asked and the three walked into the office. Mark, being the last in, closed the door, then put the gun and holster on Micah's desk as Lucas showed Tip to a chair. Tip sat down, and Mark sat beside him. Lucas took the chair behind the desk.

“Sorry,” Tip said, regaining his composure. “Just kinda overwhelmed.”

“I am to an extent, Corey,” Lucas said. “All I've ever heard about you was that you were nothing but a ruthless killer. Just out to prove your reputation. I'm thinking that's maybe not the case now that I've heard what you've been through.”

“The only men I ever wanted to kill were those men who killed my Pa,” Tip said. “That's how I got the reputation, and as for proving it, well, nobody asked why I killed. Just forced me into gunfights, kept forcing me to prove it. Prove the reputation. Never even wanted to kill you or the actual Marshal, but by this point my reputation's all I got and I was so set on seein' that badge in the dirt, well, I didn't see another choice if you didn't willingly drop that badge.”

“That's the problem when you start killing for revenge,” Lucas said. “Things snowball, you get a reputation, people make you prove it, and before you know it you see no other alternative.” There was a pause before Lucas continued. “You very nearly forced me into it, and the way you were drawing likely you'd be the one in the dirt.”

“That's how I intended it, after what your boy said,” Tip said. “Couldn't leave him to grow up and live the life I've lived.”

“Yeah, I heard you say that,” Lucas said. “I know you were very quiet, hoping I wouldn't hear, so you could do it again, but I was already right behind you.”

“I could still do it,” Tip said, looking at the gun lying on the desk. “Now that I have nothing left to live for, the reputation gone and all.”

“But you won't,” Lucas said.

“What makes you so sure?” Tip asked, surprised at the conviction with which Lucas made that statement.

“Because you do have something,” Lucas said. “You have someone who showed you a bit of kindness.” Then Lucas picked Tip's gun up off the desk and started unloading it. “And besides, you won't because I'm emptying this gun, just in case you do try something rash.” Once unloaded, Lucas put the bullets in the drawer of Micah's desk.

“Yeah, you showed me kindness,” Tip said. “You and your boy. But what about when I ride out? No one else will. And without my gun, which I'm done with, I'll probably be dead soon anyway. Best to get it over with sooner.”

“If someone shoots you down when you have no gun, that would be murder,” Lucas said. “I'm guessing since you're not wanted by the law, all your killings were legal, even though morally reprehensible. But if someone shoots you while unarmed, that definitely won't be legal.”

“Doesn't stop people,” Tip said.

Lucas knew he had a point. And he knew that if Tip were to leave North Fork, well, it would only be a matter of time before he did find himself dead at someone's hands. Lucas sighed, trying to figure out what to do. He did have sympathy for Tip, knowing what he now knew. And he was beginning to doubt the stories he'd heard of Tip hiring his gun out, though he and Tip may need to have a chat about that at some point to figure that out. One thing Lucas knew, he couldn't stand by and watch Tip Corey ride out of North Fork, with the full knowledge that he likely would not again be met with anyone willing to give an ounce of sympathy. If he didn't take his gun, well, he'd eventually find someone who would take him down and not do it the legal way, not caring that he was unarmed. If he did take it, well he'd just be in the same boat he'd been in all these years. Lucas sat there silently, thinking about what to do. He knew what he needed to do, but given Tip's history, well, it just seemed to go against common sense. But if Tip was unarmed, there couldn't be much danger. It was Mark for whom he was concerned. But with Tip unarmed, Mark would be safe. Plus it was obvious that Tip had taken a liking to him. Finally Lucas made his decision.

“Mark,” he said with resolve. “Take him back to the ranch. Micah expects to be back here from the county court by ten, and I'll be home after that.”

“Mr. McCain...I can't-” Tip began to argue.

“What you can't do is go out and be a sitting duck for someone willing to take you down unarmed, Corey,” Lucas said. “And if you take your gun, well you'll just be in the same situation you've been in. Go back to our ranch, at least until we figure something out.”

“When I came in here, your Marshal told me to ride right on out,” Tip said. “I don't think he'd be happy to find me still around.”

“You let me handle Micah,” Lucas said. “He's a very good friend of mine. He'll trust me even if he doesn't understand it.”

“Well,” Corey said. “I don't know as I understand it. You're very kind, McCain. I'll accept, if you're sure.”

“I don't say things like this that I'm not sure of Corey,” Lucas said. “You go back with Mark to the ranch. I'll see about getting some food for us from the town hall meeting and bring it back when I get home.”

“The town hall meeting!” Mark said. “I'm sorry Pa, I never made it to help Mrs. Wingate with that. I...well...I went to talk to Mr. Corey and...”

“You let me handle Mrs. Wingate,” Lucas said. “This may be one time I find myself glad you didn't follow directions. One of us could be dead now.”

“Well that's the thing Pa,” Mark said. “I didn't want either one of you dead. Even before Mr. Corey told me about his Pa, well I mean when we first met and I bandaged his horse's leg...there seemed to be something about him that I'd wondered about from the start. And when you told me he was a killer after kicking him off the ranch...well something didn't sit right with me about that. I could believe it in that he's so good with that gun, but the idea that he was some evil killer just didn't sit right. I could just tell there was more. I could just feel it. When I heard him tell you you had an hour to throw the badge in the dirt, or he'd kill you, well I just had to go find out what was going on.”

“Well I don't recommend you make a habit of going after gunslingers like that,” Lucas said. “You got lucky with this one. Sometimes you can get in over your head real quick with people. But you followed your gut instinct, and that is something to make a habit of.” Lucas smiled at his son. “Go on back home. Both of you. I'll talk to Micah and Mrs. Wingate.”

“Yes sir,” Mark said, standing up. He patted Tip's shoulder a couple times. “You ready, Mr. Corey?”

Tip looked to Mark, then to Lucas. Then he looked back to Mark.

“Yeah, let's go boy,” he said. He then looked back at Lucas. “You're very kind McCain. And in many ways you remind me of my Pa. I sure do wish we could have met under different circumstances. I think we could have been friends.”

Lucas wasn't too sure what to make of the comment about reminding Tip of his father. They didn't seem so far apart in age. But then Lucas realized the likelihood that all of the baggage Tip had been carrying had aged him beyond his chronological years. But Lucas smiled, as he knew just how to respond to part of Tip's comment.

“You didn't force my hand, Corey. We both still draw breath,” he said softly. “Circumstances being what they are, there's still a chance, if you give it that chance.”

Tip stood there for a moment. Lucas noticed a new look in his eyes just before Tip turned his head to Mark. Father and son both understood this new look, which had entered Tip's eyes, probably, for the first time since that fateful day so long ago. It was a look of hope.

“Let's go, boy,” Tip said softly, the inkling of hope trying desperately to seep into his voice.

As Mark and Tip exited the Marshal's office, Tip turned and once again looked at his gun and holster lying on the desk. Mark and Lucas stood watching, wondering if he was changing his mind. After all, the gun had been, for so long, all he had to rely on. But after a moment, Tip just shook his head and turned back to the door. He and Mark exited, mounted their horses, and started back for the ranch.

Once they'd left, Lucas looked down at the desk, saying a silent prayer that he had made the right decision in taking Tip in. He knew he'd have a lot to think about, about where to go from here. After a few moments, he got up and left the office, heading for the town hall.

Chapter 2

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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