Rating:  PG-13 PG Language

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:   I would like to thank my beta Penny for giving me such wonderful ideas and helping me out so much! I also want to thank my best friend Janet who listened to my ideas for this story and always encouraged me.

Feb 15, 02 - Updated this page. Made a few story changes.

Feedback is always greatly appreciated. Please let me know what you think. Thank you, Ruby :)

 

Can't Go Back

By: Ruby

Part One

The late morning sun shone bright in the sky as JD Dunne walked down the boardwalk towards the saloon, hoping he could get Buck to join him for breakfast. He'd had trouble last night with a couple of the hands from the Flying W, once again, and JD was getting sick of defending his youth and his size with those two. Suddenly he was pulled into an alley and slammed against the wall.

"Hey, lookie here Frank! It's the baby sheriff!" The tall red headed man laughed mockingly as he grabbed for the badge pinned behind JD's lapel.

JD knew the two men standing menacingly in front of him. Frank Drury and Tom Blackstone - both were wranglers from the Flying W Ranch and they were obviously looking for a fight. Well, JD wasn't going to give them one. For once he was going to try to be mature and talk his way out of this reasonably without getting himself a fat lip.

"All right, gentlemen, I think you need to head on back out to the W before ya get in any trouble." JD tried to use his best imitation of Chris Larabee's menacing tone, hoping it sounded harsher to the wranglers than it did in his own ears.

It didn't.

Tom grabbed JD's sheriff's badge and yanked it off, ripping his coat in the process. "What is he twelve, thirteen maybe? Hell, he don't look old enough to be away from his mama's tit. How 'bout that kid, you a mama's boy?"

JD didn't say anything, but his usually pale face had turned beet red and he was shaking with pent up rage.

Frank suddenly stepped forward and hit JD hard in the face, splitting his lip open. "My friend asked you a question boy! You still suckin' on yer mama's titty?"

That was it. He thrust out with his knee and caught Frank in the groin and tried to follow with a punch, but Tom pushed him up against the wall and held him against it with his forearm. JD watched as Frank slowly made his way to his feet and he shivered when he saw the cold, cruel look in the man's eyes.

Drury made a fist and brought it back; JD could see it coming, he knew it was gonna hurt and he struggled in vain to get away from the hold that Tom had on him.

JD squeezed his eyes shut and tried to prepare his body for the assault when a soft southern drawl split the silence. JD jerked his eyes open and brought his head around to see Ezra Standish standing in the opening of the alley.

"Gentlemen, I would refrain from inducing any further harm upon this young man." Ezra walked towards the three men in the alley with a casual, carefree gait, but JD could see the rage in the southerner's eyes.

Ezra took two more long strides and came nose to nose with the man about to cave JD's face in. Standish stared the man down and when the coward turned his eyes and headed away from the southerner's maniacal stare, Ezra turned his eyes on the man who was holding him. "Sir, I assure you if you do not unhand that boy in a matter of seconds you will not live to see another sunrise."

JD stared openmouthed. He had never seen Ezra look so mad, or so mean. Hell, he thought, the expression on the gambler's face even rivaled Chris's 'cold, hard look.'

Tom instantly let go of JD and moved over to join Frank.

JD swayed a little bit when Blackstone suddenly let him go. He felt Ezra's steadying hand on his shoulder. "Are you quite all right young man?" The gambler asked as he pulled his handkerchief out and handed it to him.

JD managed a weak nod and went to work cleaning his face.

Ezra nodded once and turned back to the two wranglers. "Now gentlemen, let us be on our way to the jail." Ezra stepped forward and was about to grab Frank when JD mumbled a soft "no."

JD averted his eyes as Ezra turned to face him, but he didn't miss the astonishment etched in the man's features.

"Excuse me?"

"I said...no...just...just let 'em go," JD said in a tired voice.

"Mr. Dunne, these men were going to beat you. Do you realize that?" Ezra sounded dumbfounded.

"Just let 'em go Ez, it don't matter, it's all over and done with now." JD looked up at Ezra, but those words still haunted his mind. 'Mama's boy.' The last thing he wanted was these guys in the jail and the rest of the seven knowing that they had got the drop on him. "Please Ezra, just let 'em go on back to the W and sleep it off."

Ezra's gaze did not waver from JD's eyes, finally the gambler turned back to the two men. "You heard the Sheriff, get the hell outta here."

Blackstone and Drury turned to leave but Standish suddenly blocked their way. JD watched as the Southerner leaned towards the two men, he couldn't hear what he was saying to the two wranglers, but from the fear on their faces he knew it had to be bad. Finally Standish stepped back from the two men and JD heard him say, "Do we have an understanding, gentlemen?"

Both men nodded their heads vigorously at the gambler. "Yes...yes sir."

Turning as one the wranglers were on their horses and making a dust trail out of town before Ezra could even turn his gaze back to the kid.

Dunne watched as the Southerner walked towards him. JD could feel the anger and embarrassment welling up inside him. He wasn't mad at Ezra, just at the fact that someone had to come save him...again. When would *he* be the one saving someone? When would one look from *him* turn a man into a coward and send him scurrying off into the hills? When would he have his time?

"I said are you all right, son?" Ezra placed his hand on JD's arm.

JD looked up and realized that Ezra had been speaking to him, the gambler had a concerned look on his face, the same look he had seen on Buck's face a hundred times. 'Oh no. Not another one!' He thought bitterly to himself.

Dunne shook Ezra's hand off and turned on the gambler. "I...I didn't need yer help...I...I would've been just fine!"

Ezra took a step back from JD. "Absolutely, Mr. Dunne. I truly believe you would have been successful in gaining your own freedom from those two barbarians. I just thought that it would be prudent for me to lend a ha-"

"No! No Ezra, you thought they were gonna beat the crap outta me, so you came in riding that white horse a yours...just like all the rest of the guys, who have to save my hide on a regular basis." JD's eyes filled with tears, betraying how much emotion he was really feeling over the ordeal.

"Just leave me alone Ezra! I don't need you babying me...and...and...I'm not your SON!!" JD turned and ran from the alley.

JD ran until he found himself in the saloon, up against the bar. He ordered a beer and tried to ignore the funny look he got from the bartender who he knew was not used to seeing him indulge in anything stronger than milk.

The words and the names that the wranglers had called him rang through his mind again.

'Mama's boy!'

JD picked up the beer and took a long swallow. He turned and saw Ezra come through the bat wing doors. He was sure that the gambler was gonna come and try to talk to him again so JD gave the Southerner a hateful glare and turned around and faced the bar again. He watched the gambler in the mirror behind the bar to see if his tactic worked.

It did.

JD watched Ezra's reflection in the mirror as the gambler turned, and instead of walking up to the bar went over and sat down at his usual table. JD didn't miss the hurt look that flickered across the Southerner's features when JD glared at him. 'Damn it, JD.' He thought to himself as he took another swig from his beer. "Damn."

 

Part Two

JD stood at the bar nursing his beer. He kept his eyes riveted on the cracked mirror in front of him, watching as Ezra absently shuffled his cards. He felt awful about how he'd treated his friend and wanted to tell him so, but he just couldn't. Not yet. JD let his gaze drop and took another drink. He knew that Ezra had helped him and saved him from a beating. He just wished he hadn't needed the saving.

The room felt like it was closing in on him and he decided he needed to get away, just go, somewhere, anywhere, it didn't matter as long as it wasn't here.

Dunne walked down the boardwalk paying careful attention to the alleyways. He walked into the livery as Vin Tanner walked out.

"Hey kid, where ya goin'?" The tracker asked.

"Nowhere," JD answered, never slowing his pace.

JD saddled his horse and rode south. He had been riding for close to an hour when he saw something in the distance. As he came closer, he noticed a horse, lying on its side. He pulled his own horse to a stop next to the obviously dead animal. He looked around at his surroundings hoping to find a glimpse of a rider; it was then he saw a person lying a few feet away. JD nudged his horse closer and with a sickening feeling realized it was Tom Blackstone. The wrangler was on his back with his head resting on a saddle and a makeshift splint on his leg.

The rage JD had felt that morning consumed him once again. He could still feel Blackstone's cruel hands and hear his harsh words. He stared at the man lying on the ground. The wrangler's eyes were closed, his pale face was beaded in sweat and his head tossed from side to side. JD knew he was in pain.

He took a quick look at his surroundings. His eyes drew back to the man who probably would have beaten him to a pulp if Ezra hadn't come along earlier this morning. 'He deserves it.' For a fleeting second JD thought of turning his horse around and riding away.

But that thought vanished as he watched the injured man writhing in pain. He knew what it felt like to lay on the ground with a broken leg, hoping that a friend would come along and find him and take him home. JD hopped down from his horse and rushed to the injured man's side.

"Mr. Blackstone?" JD placed his hand on the wrangler's shoulder. "Mr. Blackstone, can you hear me?"

The wrangler's eyes snapped open and JD saw the surprise in them as he looked up at him. JD touched the makeshift splint on the man's leg and flinched as Tom gave out a wounded howl. "Sorry. I'm gonna get Nathan. I'll bring him out here as fast as I can." JD was up and running to his horse when a voice stopped him.

"Wait?"

JD turned around and faced the hurt man.

"Frank...went to the W...should be...back soon." The wrangler pulled in a deep breath and continued in a breathless voice. "Could you...just...wait here...with me?"

JD couldn't hide the surprise on his face. Blackstone sounded scared and hurt, and JD felt a pang of sorrow for the man. He slowly made his way over to him. The wrangler's red hair was soaked with sweat and gave his already pale face a ghastly appearance. The man seemed so much younger than JD had ever realized. He looked like he was just a few years older than he was. "Sure, sure I'll wait with ya."

JD grabbed the canteen from his horse and walked back to the injured man. He crouched down and waited while Blackstone took a couple long drinks. The man's hands shook and JD gently pulled the canteen away before the man could drop it, then sat down close to the wounded man's side.

The awkward silence was deafening; finally JD looked over at the dead horse and back to the wrangler. "Sorry about yer horse."

The wrangler waited for a few seconds before he also spoke. "Me too." Blackstone moved his leg and gasped. He took a couple deep breaths and kept going. "Stepped in a hole...busted her leg. Had to...put her...down."

JD nodded in understanding. "I had to put my favorite horse down once, 'bout killed me." He leaned forward, letting Blackstone have a couple more long drinks of water. He looked towards town and back to the injured man. "Hey, why didn't Frank just head back to Four Corners and get Nathan instead of riding out to the W?"

Blackstone's eyes widened in fear. "Are you...crazy? That Southerner...said he'd...rip...our hearts...out."

"Ezra said that?" The right corner of JD's mouth turned up in a lopsided grin. He knew Ezra had said something threatening to the two men, and now he finally knew what it was.

Both men fell silent. JD stared at his hands as his mind went over the irony of the situation he was in. He was talking casually with the man who, if not for Ezra's interference, would probably have brutally beaten him that morning. 'It's a strange world.' JD shook his head at the thought. He wondered what Ezra would think of the situation he was in.

A wave of regret washed over him and he wanted nothing more at the moment than to ride back to town as fast as he could and apologize to the gambler. He glanced back up and noticed that Blackstone was eyeing him with a curious look on his face. JD raised his eyebrows in question. He was just about to ask the wrangler what was wrong when the man spoke.

"Why'd ya stop?"

JD rocked back in his seat and furrowed his brow. "What?"

"After what we did to ya...why'd ya stop and help me when you could have just as easily kept going?"

JD let out a small snort. He looked at the man like he had just grown another eye in the middle of his forehead. "I stopped 'cause you needed help...and 'cause it's my job...and 'cause I'm not the kind of man who would leave someone who was hurt just 'cause I didn't *like* them." He said the words as if it were the simplest thing in the world, and to JD it was.

Blackstone stared at the young sheriff with astonishment. Finally he lowered his head and looked at his hands and after a long while he spoke. "We been really hard on ya. I...I've had my differences with a lot of lawmen in my life. I guess you could say I have a general dislike for a badge." He looked up and JD saw sincere regret shining in the man's pain filled eyes. "It wasn't personal. Just don't like the law is all, but you're a good kid. Wish me and you could start fresh."

JD smiled. "I don't see why we can't."

Tom shook his head, wincing at the pain the movement caused. "Can't expect you to forgive me for what I done. My daddy said you can't go back, can't undo what's been done."

"Sometimes you can." JD stuck out his hand and Tom shook it weakly.

Blackstone let out a deep breath, a hopeful glint in his eyes. "That would be nice. I don't have many friends...except the other guys out at the ranch. Damn, I wish that hadn't happened this morning, I am really sorry."

"Forget it." JD smiled then looked up as he heard the unmistakable sound of galloping horses. "I think help's here." JD pulled his hand away and turned to go. Suddenly he stopped and turned back. "My name's JD. JD Dunne."

Blackstone grinned at the younger man. "Tom."

"Nice to meet you, Tom."

"You too, JD."

JD looked up as three men on horses and a wagon pulled to a stop. He cringed when he saw Frank Drury fly off his horse and come running towards him.

"What the hell is this little shit doin' here?" Frank yelled out as he closed in on the Sheriff.

JD stood his ground. He was about to put his fists up to protect himself when a soft voice stopped him.

"Frank."

Drury stopped in his tracks and looked over his shoulder at Blackstone. "What?"

"Leave 'im alone!"

JD watched as Frank laughed and turned back towards him. The man was glaring at him. If looks could kill...well, JD would be six feet under by now.

Tom spoke again, his voice raspy from pain. "Frank! I mean it! I swear, you won't have to worry about that fancy gambler, if you get any closer to him...I'll rip you apart myself!"

Frank stared open mouthed at his friend. "Jeezus, Tom! Since when are you sticking up for some piece of shit badge?"

A couple of the wranglers were kneeling next to Tom, watching the two 'best friends' with rapt attention. "Since now."

Frank looked back at JD then started towards Blackstone with his hands held up in front of him, palms out. "Ok, ok, no need to get that way. I'll leave 'im alone." He walked over and put his arm under Tom's shoulder to help him into the wagon.

JD finally moved from where he had been rooted in his spot, staring at the two friends. He smiled, silently thanking the red-haired wrangler. "I'll send Nathan out to the W to check on ya as soon as I get back to town." He walked over to his horse; grabbing the saddle horn, he hauled himself up into the saddle and turned his mount towards home. "Hey, ki...I mean JD!"

JD stopped and looked over his shoulder at Tom. "Yeah?"

"Yer a good man, Sheriff Dunne."

JD tipped his hat. "Next time you're in town, drop by the saloon and I'll buy you a beer." His mouth turned up in a wicked grin. "And don't worry, I'll stop Ezra from killing you."

Tom smiled and nodded.

With a content smile on his face, JD turned his mount and headed for home.

*****

JD stepped through the batwing doors and immediately noticed Ezra at the exact same table, alone. He walked up to the bar and ordered two beers. He didn't look in the mirror, just grabbed his two beers and walked over to the gambler's table.

Ezra looked up, JD was standing in front of him with a beer in each hand. "Care to have a seat young man? Maybe play a couple hands of poker?"

JD sighed, the relief evident as he quietly spoke, "That sounds good Ez." The sheriff of Four Corners took his seat and placed one beer in front of the gambler and took a sip from his own before sitting it down in front of himself. He watched as the Southerner started dealing out cards.

A card flew through Ezra's fingers, landing on JD's growing pile. The gambler grinned and raised an eyebrow as he pierced JD with his green gaze.

"Now...Mr. Dunne...about this 'white horse' I've been riding around on."

 
the end (Nov 1999)

 

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