Rating: PG

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish and MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes.

Author's Notes: Refers to the episode Penance.  Thanks to Phyllis for betaing this story for me. I made some last minute changes, so any mistakes are mine.

You know, I have this bad feeling that I'm just writing my stories over and over. I'm not very original these days. <sigh> It seems like I've written just way too many stories and most of them are a lot alike. I apologize for that.

I watched Penance again recently and I had forgotten how much I love it. Josiah's tortured soul. I realize that I'm not very good at writing Josiah, and I hope that I don't totally blow it.  Please let me know what you think. Thanks. :)


A Good Man

By: Ruby

JD stepped through the batwing doors, immediately spotting Josiah sitting at a table alone, his shoulders slumped forward, his face dark, brooding. JD took a deep breath, slowly letting it out. He knew what today was. They all did. How could they not?

He'd just come from seeing Vin, and the tracker had had a mad on about something Josiah had done to him earlier. Tanner seemed to be the most even-tempered out of the bunch of them, he didn't get mad often, but when he did - watch out. And he was mad now. Vin and Josiah usually got along real good - most of the time, anyway. Tanner normally just let things slide off his back. But not this time.

JD shook his head, thinking about the red-faced sharpshooter he'd seen earlier in the day. He wasn't sure exactly what had happened, but he knew it had to do with something Vin had said to Josiah when he'd got back into town. And Josiah's answer.

JD shivered. If Josiah'd succeeded in pissing Vin off - and JD shuddered to think what might have happened, if it was something said or done - either way, JD really didn't want to be on the receiving end of anything Josiah might do or say to him.

But... JD sighed, watching the preacher sitting alone, anger and anguish seeming to come off him in waves. He frowned. He knew why the preacher was in here. Knew what day it was. Knew where Josiah had just visited. And he knew to leave him alone when he got back from there.

JD shrugged. He never did claim to be real smart. A good rider? Heck yeah, he could ride. And shoot. And fly. A brief grin lit his face. But he knew he'd probably never win the prize for being the shiniest apple in the barrel. And that's why, after letting out a long sigh, he started across the saloon floor.


"Hey, Josiah." JD pulled the hat from his head, running his hand through his dark hair and then dropping the hat on the table in front of him. Without an invitation, he pulled out the chair across from the tall man and sat down.

Josiah glared over at him briefly before returning his gaze back to the shot glass in front of him.

JD swallowed hard as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He glanced at Josiah and then away. His eyes darted around the saloon and he made eye contact with Inez, nodding at her.

The pretty saloon manager started their way.

JD looked up at her when she stopped next to their table. He smiled. "I'll have what he's having." He cocked his head toward the shot glass half full of whiskey that sat in front of the preacher.

Inez tsked under her breath as she turned to leave.

"Actually," he called to her, waiting for her to stop and turn towards him before continuing, "just bring us the bottle."

She shook her head, her mouth opening.

JD stopped her argument with a quick shake of his head and a look. "Please," he added.

She sighed, glancing over at the imposing preacher and then back. Shaking her head once again, she started towards the bar.

The hair on the back of JD's neck stood on end and he swallowed the lump in his throat before looking over at Josiah.

The preacher stared at him. The look on his face sent shivers down JD's spine.

Back off. The preacher didn't have to say it. It was written on his face, in the way he held his body - coiled, tight - in the way his eyes sparked with fire.

JD met his gaze. 

Neither man looked away. 

For a quick, heart-stopping second, it looked like Josiah had forgotten they were friends. But JD didn't flinch. Didn't cast his eyes away. He stared at the preacher as the larger man stared back.

After a long moment, Josiah sighed. "What'cha want, JD?" he asked, sounding tired, the anger on his face receding, but not going away, just being displaced with grief and loss for a moment.

JD scooted his chair closer to the table, the wooden legs scraping loudly on the rough floor. He was quiet for a moment before he answered with a shrug, "Nothin'." He looked down, running his thumb over a deep scratch in the wood on the tabletop. He shrugged again. "I guess I just wanted to sit here," he glanced up at his friend, "with you."

Josiah's eyes narrowed even as one eyebrow quirked up in slight surprise. "Kid," he leaned forward, the bulk of his body blocking out the sunlight that filtered through the windows across the room. "Everyone else is avoiding me like the plague. I almost took Vin's head off this morning." His face colored slightly. His tone hardened as he added, "This isn't the safest place for you to be."

JD pulled his mouth into a tight line, as he seemed to think it over. Finally, he sighed. Thunking his arms tiredly on the table in front of him, he shrugged again, this time with stubborn resolve. "I figured that," he told him, and then said nothing else.

The two men stared at each other.

A light clearing of a throat had JD glancing up to see Inez standing next to the table, a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a shot glass in the other. She looked concerned as her eyes darted to Josiah and back to him.

"Thanks, Inez." JD smiled in comfort as he took the bottle and glass out of her hand.

She met his eyes. "You need anything else, Senor JD, you just holler." She glanced at Josiah as she said the last word and JD couldn't hide his chuckle.

"Sure thing, Inez." He grinned. "Thanks."

She shook her head as she walked away, muttering under her breath.

Josiah swallowed the small amount of whiskey left in his glass and then pushed it over to JD with his index finger.

JD smiled as he uncapped the full bottle, carefully tipping it over to fill the glass. He pushed the glass back to Josiah and then filled his own.

Josiah watched him as JD lifted the glass to his lips, tossing the liquid back and swallowing the entire contents in one gulp. As soon as the fire hit the back of JD's throat, he coughed and sputtered, bringing his hand up to cover his mouth. "It's good," he coughed out, wiping the tears from his eyes as he winked at Josiah.

The big preacher smiled slightly as he swallowed the liquid in his own glass. 

JD cleared his throat, still coughing. He grinned over at his friend as he lifted the bottle in question.

Josiah shook his head in refusal as he watched JD.

JD sat the bottle back down, choosing to leave his own glass empty. He coughed once more and then both men sat quietly.

JD scratched at the tabletop with his fingernail before cocking his head to the side and looking at his friend.

Josiah returned his gaze.

Neither man spoke. They just sat, watching each other.

Finally, Josiah looked down, closing his eyes as he asked, "Why are ya in here, JD?"

"Told ya," JD answered.

Josiah glanced up without moving his head. His eyes looked sunken beneath his furrowed brow. "I mean it, kid," he hissed, his voice harsh, menacing.

"Well..." JD shrugged as he shifted in his seat. "Guess I saw ya in here, sittin' all by yourself and I wanted to..." he shrugged only one shoulder as he turned slightly sideways in his seat, his eyes still on his friend, "see if you were okay."

Josiah blinked twice. He looked mean as he snarled, "There's a reason I'm in here alone."

JD frowned. "I know."

"I'm not a very good man on days like this," Josiah told him, his eyes narrowed with malice.

JD stared at him, his eyes holding a stubborn, determined glint. He was silent for a moment as he chewed on his bottom lip. After another minute of watching Josiah warily, he shook his head, coming to a decision. He turned back towards him, facing him head on. "You're *always* a good man, Josiah," he said, his voice soft, but with an underlying force. "You're just not a very 'nice' man on days like this."

Josiah froze in anger. He made a small noise in the back of his throat and his face darkened as he started to stand, staring JD down.

JD didn't flinch. His eyes followed Josiah up, not apologizing. He braced himself for the blow he expected to come. But nothing happened.

After a few seconds, Josiah dropped back into his chair with a loud thud. He sat there, his shoulders drooping, the fury leaving his eyes. As he stared at JD, the corners of his mouth turned up in a grin and he suddenly let out a sharp laugh, surprising both of them.

Out of the corner of his eye, JD saw Inez jump. 

Josiah laughed again. Reaching up, he wiped a hand down his face, staring at JD with amused affection.

JD cocked his head in wary confusion. He'd expected to be pummeled into the ground. Or at least shot. But instead, he watched as Josiah poured himself a drink and tossed it back, coughing.

Josiah glanced at him as he scooted the bottle and glass away from himself. He sighed, shaking his head. When he finally spoke, his voice was rough, whether it was from the whiskey or not, JD couldn't tell. "You're something else, son," Josiah told him, smiling.

Relief colored JD's face. His eyes widened sardonically. "Buck's tellin' me that all the time." He winked, laughing.

"Yeah," Josiah added, "but I don't think Buck means it in exactly the same way I do." He grinned.

JD's smile turned into a self-depreciating smirk. "Yeah, most likely not, since it usually follows a long lecture, or comes right after he's stomped my hat into the ground." He laughed.

Josiah shook his head, his eyes on JD, a contemplative look on his face. 

JD stopped laughing as he watched his friend watch him. 

"I meant what I said, Josiah," JD told him, suddenly pensive. 

"About not always bein' nice?" Josiah asked, his eyebrows rising as he chortled.

JD grinned, shrugging innocently. "Well, um... that too."

Josiah laughed.

JD smiled. Shaking his head, he said, his tone serious, "Actually, I meant what I said about you being a good man."

Josiah looked down as he sniffed slightly, trying to cover it with a cough. He swallowed hard, glancing at JD and then away before he said, his voice emotion-filled, "It's days like this that I find that hard to believe, son." He looked back at JD, their gazes locking.

"I know." JD nodded once, his voice clear and deep, self-assured, "That's why I figure you need to hear it on a day like this more'n any other."

Josiah's mouth dropped open in wonder. He bit down on his lower lip as he ducked his head, his eyes deceivingly bright.

JD cleared his throat, looking away, wanting to give his friend time to compose himself. He deliberately stretched, popping his back and kicking the chair next to his in the process. After a moment, he glanced back at the preacher.

Josiah was running a hand across his face, rubbing his nose. He dropped the hand in his lap, tiredly, as he watched JD with seemingly new respect.

Uncomfortable with the assessing look, JD blew a long breath out as he shifted in his seat, glancing away and then back at his friend. "Well," he widened his eyes for a second as he continued, "I'd better get going." He looked at the door, gauging the afternoon sunlight filtering through the windows. "It's my patrol." He smiled at his friend. He stood, adjusting the guns on his hips and straightening his coat.

He grinned down at Josiah as he winked. "Was *supposed* to be Vin's," he paused, his eyes widening dramatically, "but he's not in the best of moods. Something about almost getting his head took off this morning."

Josiah barked out a laugh even as his face flushed with embarrassed shame.

"Alas," JD spoke sadly as he leaned down toward Josiah, his voice conspiratorial as he winked and said, "that's a word I learned from Ezra." He grinned before straightening, his tone returning to normal. "I'd better get on over to the jail, relieve Chris."

Josiah smiled at him. Pushing the still mostly full bottle of whiskey towards him, he said, "Here kid, you bought this."

JD shook his head. "Nah, that's okay. You can keep it."

Josiah smiled fondly up at him. "That's okay, son. I won't be needing it." He caught JD's eyes with a thankful look.

JD nodded. "Well, we'll just save it. Maybe the guys'll be up for a game tonight." He grinned as he added, "Maybe if you offer some to Vin, he won't follow through on that threat I heard him mutterin' under his breath earlier."

"Oh yeah?" Josiah's eyebrows rose in concerned question. "What was that?"

JD shook his head as he scoffed the question away. "Oh, something about usin' his sawed-off to take a thorn out of some bear's paw." He winked at him.

Josiah guffawed. "Yeah, I guess I do owe Vin an apology." He grinned without remorse. "Though I do know what to say to him now to get him madder'n a stepped on rattler."

"I don't want to know." JD's eyes widened. "Really." He plopped his hat on his head as he turned and walked away. Before he stepped through the saloon's batwing doors, he glanced over his shoulder nodding once at his now-smiling friend. "See ya later, Preacher."

Josiah nodded in reply. "See ya, kid." His eyes were bright as he watched his young friend walk out the door.

February 2004

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