Rating: G

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

Author's Notes: Thanks, Judy, for beta-ing this story. This story comes after the episode, Manhunt. I wanted to try and 'fix' something that's always bothered me about that episode. I sure hope you like it.

Feedback is always greatly appreciated.

 

A Hanging Offense

By: Ruby

Josiah sat atop the church hammering nails into shingles and watching the town from his unique perspective.

He watched as Buck, Ezra and Vin walked down the boardwalk, heads together, talking about something. 

Nathan was out of sight, inside his clinic. When Josiah had last talked to the healer he'd said that he wanted to have a nice, quiet day to read over some of his new medical books. Nathan was a good man, a good friend, but he had one very serious fault: he never thought he was a good enough healer. He was always trying to absorb more information. Oh, Josiah knew that it wasn't really a 'fault' per say, it was just that he wished he could convince Nathan that he was an exceptional healer right now. But when he'd try, Nathan would shake his head sadly and say, "If I only knew more." His voice would drift off and he'd get a sad distant look on his face. Josiah knew that Nathan beat himself up about any patient that he lost. The 'might have beens if he'd had more schoolin', more learnin', if he was a Doctor instead of just a healer.' So, no matter how much Nate learned, he had to know more. The 'fault' wasn't in the wanting to learn, it was in the not accepting the fact that he was a good man, a good healer, right now.

Josiah saw Chris heading in the direction of the saloon, his black duster billowing around his long legs, his hat pulled low over his face.

That left just one more of the seven unaccounted for: a young, black-haired boy from back East, full of piss and vinegar and dreams of being a hero. A good-hearted kid without a mean bone in his body. One, JD Dunne.

Josiah swept his eyes over the town, looking for the lost lamb. He hadn't seen much of JD in the last few days. Since they'd gotten back from Kojay's village, JD'd seemed distant. And, come to think of it, every time that Josiah had come into a room, JD had left. His brow furrowed as he thought about that. Was JD upset with him? Now he was really thinking about it, and not paying attention to what he was doing.

"Agh!" he yelled as the hammer connected with his thumb. Bringing the he-was-sure-flattened-digit up to his mouth, he sucked on it, trying to alleviate the pain. It was then that he noticed him, standing behind the closest building, a sad look on his young face, black hair almost covering his eyes as he watched him.

Josiah waved at the kid but frowned when JD just ducked back behind the building, quickly turning and walking away. Just what was going on here? Josiah wondered as he climbed across the roof and down the ladder

Cleaning up, he wiped his hands on a towel as he contemplated the situation. There was no question about it, JD was upset with him. It was a disconcerting feeling to put it mildly. The thought of JD Dunne being upset to begin with bothered him, but the thought that he was upset with *him* was almost too much to take. Josiah Sanchez might be a hardened gunslinger, but that didn't mean that he didn't care or worry. And right now, he was definitely worried about his young friend.

*****

"Buck." Josiah greeted the tall ladies' man as he pulled out a chair, sitting across from him at a table in the saloon. "Seen the kid?" he asked.

Buck looked up at him, his face dark. "No," he answered sharply.

Hmmm. Buck's mad too. "Well, you have any idea what's troublin' 'im?" Josiah asked.

Buck's eyes narrowed. "I don't know, Josiah. He ain't been talking much lately." He gave Josiah a pointed stare. "But, he sure seems to be avoidin' you."

Josiah nodded his head somberly. "Yeah," he agreed sadly. "You got any idea why?"

The ladies' man shook his head as he took a long draw from his beer. "No. Kid ain't talked to me. I tried, but he just gets this look, like someone gut-punched him."

Josiah shook his head as he looked down. "You know where he is now?" he asked, looking at Buck sideways.

"Yeah," Buck frowned, "he's with that horse of his, brushing its skin off."

Josiah stood. "Thanks, Buck."

Buck looked at him, his glare rivaling Chris's. "You'd better get this taken care of." 

Josiah nodded. "I plan to." He tipped his hat. "I plan to."

*****

Buck was right. JD was in Bat's stall, brushing the small bay horse like there was no tomorrow. Bat, to his credit, had a long-suffering look on his face, but no hint of malice in his eyes as his boy brushed and brushed. Josiah walked up, petting the pretty horse on the face as he waited for the young Easterner to notice him. JD was in a world all by himself. He hadn't even noticed that there was someone standing right there, or noticed the change in his horse's demeanor. That could get the kid killed quick out here. Josiah patted Bat on the neck, grinning at the choice of his name. The kid sure had a fixation on Bat Masterson. Josiah wondered what Bat would think about that. He smiled as he cleared his throat, finally getting the boy's attention.

"Josiah!" JD yelped, dropping his brush. He bent down to retrieve it at the same time that Bat shifted his weight. Another yelp, pain-filled this time, had Josiah in the stall in a second. He pulled JD away from the horse and out the door to sit on a hay bale. JD was holding his hand up to his mouth. His face pale and lined with pain. "Ouch," he spoke softly, but succinctly.

"Yeah, ouch," Josiah replied as he took the hand in his own, turning it over and checking it out. "Nice hoof print," he remarked, a wry grin on his face. "Tanner could track you now."

JD barked out a laugh. As he pulled the hand away from Josiah and back up to his mouth, his face became serious again, and he looked everywhere but at Josiah.

"Kid?" Josiah sat down next to him, frowning when JD moved as far away as possible. "JD?" he asked again. "What's wrong, son?"

JD looked up at him for a second before averting his eyes. His mouth opened and closed and then he sighed, a long, sad sound that broke Josiah's heart. He looked up at him then, his dark eyes shiny with hurt. "You insulted my ma, Josiah," his voice was gravelly, sounding like it should be coming from a 70-year-old man.

Josiah's eyebrows rose in surprise, his mouth opening to form an 'O'. "I did?" he couldn't hide the surprise in his voice. Of all the possibilities he'd thought over, this surely wasn't one of them. But JD's face was serious. Very serious. And Josiah knew that whatever he'd done to insult the kid's mama, it was, in JD's eyes, a hanging offense.

Swallowing hard, he said, "I'm sorry, JD. I sure didn't mean to insult your ma. But," he rubbed his grizzled chin with this thumb, "to tell the truth, I'm not rightly sure how I did it."

JD looked betrayed as his eyes narrowed. "When we were out at Kojay's village, and I thought the teepee was on fire." He paused, looking down sheepishly for a second before shaking his head and looking back up at Josiah with fire in his own eyes. "You came in there and you said to them," his voice cracked, "you said," and he imitated Josiah's voice, " 'Excuse the boy, poor upbringing, embarrassment to us all.' " He looked down, reaching up to viscously wipe a tear from his cheek. "That wasn't very nice, Josiah." He looked up at him. "It wasn't very nice, at all." His face was dark.

Josiah pulled in a deep breath as he rubbed his knees with his palms. Glancing over at the kid, he found that JD was looking down at his hand. "JD?" Josiah cleared his throat. "Kid, I'm sorry." He shook his head and continued. "Yeah, I said it," he slapped his knee with his fist, "but I sure didn't mean it." He looked over at JD to gauge his feelings. "It was just, I wanted to get you out of there. In Kojay's village, or any Indian village, really, to interrupt something sacred like a Sweat Lodge, is very, very serious." He looked hard at JD. "I know that Kojay was a friend to us, but that does not speak for every member of the tribe, who very likely would have taken your indiscretion as an insult. A serious insult." He sighed. "I just wanted to get you out of there quick, without any problems, and no 'hard' feelings."

JD scoffed. "Well, there were hard feelin's, Josiah." He looked up at him. "You insulted my ma. You said that she didn't raise me well. That's not right Josiah. No one worked harder than my ma. Even when she was sick, even when she was dyin', she took care of me as much as I took care of her. You shouldn't talk about someone you don't know like that." He looked down. "It was wrong."

Josiah nodded. "I realize that, now, JD. And I am sorry, I was really just looking out for your best well-being."

JD scoffed again. "I'd a rather they did something bad to me than have you say that about her," he spoke softly, but his voice had a deadly serious quality to it.

Josiah nodded again as he watched JD brush another tear off his cheek. "I realize that now, son." He reached out and grabbed JD around the neck, pulling him towards him. "And when I said that you were an embarrassment to us all, you have to know that weren't true. Don't you, son?"

JD fought his way out of Josiah's grasp as he stared silently at the ground. 

"JD!" Josiah slapped the kid on the shoulder. "It wasn't true. And I don't want you to believe it."

"Sure," JD spoke, his head hanging. 

Josiah wasn't convinced, but what could he do? Beat it into the kid? Nah, he didn't think Buck would take kindly to that. Reaching over, he pulled JD's chin up. "We square here, kid?" he asked.

"Sure," JD said, quickly pulling his head out of Josiah's grasp.

"Kid?" Josiah watched as JD stood.

"I've got stuff to get done, Josiah," JD replied as he started back into Bat's stall, still holding his wounded hand.

"No. You've got a healer to see." Josiah pulled JD back out of the stall, closing it behind them. "Come on, kid. I'll take you to see Nathan. Make sure you didn't do anything more than 'mark' that hand of yours."

"I'm fine, Josiah." JD balked.

"I know," Josiah smiled out, "you're fine. But, let's let Nate decide. He'd probably like to have some company today anyway."

JD shook his head but didn't fight as Josiah led him from the livery. 

"You ever gonna forgive me for what I said," Josiah asked earnestly as they walked up the stairs to the clinic.

JD stopped a couple steps above him. Turning and looking Josiah in the eye, he frowned. "You ever gonna do it again?"

"Hel- I mean, No way," Josiah put his hands up in surrender. "I learned my lesson, son. Believe me. And, you're mama will hear an apology from me, too."

JD's eyes narrowed as he contemplated forgiving his friend. He wasn't one to hold a grudge, but this was his mama they were talking about. Swallowing hard, he smiled slightly and said, "All right, Josiah. But, please, don't do it again."

Josiah put his hand over his heart. "Never."

JD nodded once as he turned again and started up the steps.

"Um...JD?" Josiah hadn't moved and JD stopped and walked back down to him. "Could you do me a favor and call off the dogs?"

"What?"

"Buck, kid. Buck's about a moment away from killin' me. And I'd appreciate it if you'd let him know that we're square now." He grinned, glad to see a smile on JD's face.

JD smirked. "What's it worth to you?"

Josiah laughed. "Well, I'll let you know the next time you're about to eat skunk."

JD tossed his head back, laughing hard. Finally, he looked at Josiah, smiling widely. "You got a deal."

The end

 

      Comments  Please let me know what you think. I'd love to know.

Back to Ruby's Magnificent Seven Page