Rating: PG-13 Violence
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 to Judy and NotTasha for betaing for me.
Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please let me know what you think.
You Get It Figured Out
The attempted bank robbery was over abruptly. Four outlaws lay dead, or dying, in the street. JD, blood and adrenaline still pumping through his veins, walked quickly from one body to the next, picking up weapons. He heard a moan; leaning down next to the closest outlaw, he noticed that the man's eyes were open, watching him. JD could see three gaping holes in the man's chest. Blood poured from the openings, pooling around the outlaw's body, soaking quickly into the dry, desert dirt.
JD could see that the man was dying. There was no doubt about it. Scared green eyes met his, and JD could feel the man's anguish. Another moan had JD sitting on his knees next to the outlaw, his tweed slacks quickly soaking up the crimson blood. The outlaw reflexively reached out and JD grabbed his hand, clasping it with his own. The man coughed, a raw, bubbling sound, and bloody spittle flew from his mouth, dripping off his chin. He was trying to talk, but all JD could hear was a wet gurgle in the back of his throat. He was choking and JD immediately turned the outlaw's head to the side, letting the blood and gore run from his mouth.
The man glanced up at him then. JD could see the fear and pain on the man's face. But worse than either of those two emotions, was the look of horrified panic; the look that told JD that this man *knew* he was about to die and there wasn't anything, not anything anyone could do to help him. The man was trying to draw air into his battered lungs and his chest was heaving in gasping, broken sobs. Every breath was weaker than the last.
"It's okay," JD soothed, grasping the hand he held close to his heart. With his other hand, he touched the man gently on his face, trying to assure him that everything would be okay.
'He's dying, JD, and you're telling him it's okay?' JD berated himself. But what else could he say? JD watched the pain and fear leave the man's face.
The panicked look slowly faded away and the outlaw's grip loosened, until it was only JD's grasp that held the limp hand in his own. One last breath left the dying man, and JD felt the soft air touch his face. JD actually watched as the life left the man's eyes. One second the man was alive. The next he was dead. It was that simple and that absolutely horrifying.
"Kid? Kid, you hurt?" Buck asked, squatting next to him, his brow furrowed.
JD quickly wiped the tears from his face. "No," his voice cracked. He didn't look over at Buck, instead, his gaze rested on the green, unseeing eyes. He could feel Buck watching him. He slowly disentangled the outlaw's hand from his grasp and stood, keeping his eyes on the outlaw's face the whole time. "No, Buck, I ain't hurt." He swallowed hard. "I'm fine." He couldn't stop his lower lip from quivering, and he quickly turned away from his friend, hoping he didn't see. Glancing one last time at the body on the ground, JD stepped away from his best friend and quickly walked away, not looking back.
Buck eyed the dead outlaw on the ground, then watched his young friend as he walked away, his eyes crinkling in concern. JD's shoulders were slumped, defeated. 'What just happened?' he couldn't help but wonder.
Three days had passed since the attempted bank robbery. Each day, JD seemed to grow more melancholy, until even Chris was watching him with a concerned eye.
The kid seemed to avoid the regulators, keeping his own company day and night. He showed up for patrol, did his job, but there was no heart in anything he did. No spirit.
Each one of the six peacekeepers had tried to talk to the kid, tried to get him to talk to them, but they didn't have any luck. One thing was certain, their 'old' JD was gone. The shell of a man, who was now walking around in JD Dunne's clothes, worried the six men.
Vin Tanner silently watched the young sheriff from under the brim of his hat. JD slowly walked down the boardwalk across the street. It was Vin's shift at patrol and Standish was due to relieve him in just a few minutes.
Vin glanced to his right and caught a glimpse of light. Nodding his head once, he greeted the gambler as Ezra walked up behind him to lean against the wall. The con man took a long, contemplative drag from his cigar, watching the kid as he slowly moved out of site.
Ezra stepped forward, resting both hands on the boardwalk railing. Glancing up at the starry sky, he sighed. Looking to his right, he caught a glimpse of Tanner staring at the gallows towards the end of town. The wooden structure had been built for the execution of a sentenced murderer two weeks ago and had yet to be disassembled.
Vin stood, stretching, then tipped his hat to the gambler as he walked away. Standish settled into the warm chair and leaned back.
Standing at the bottom step, Vin stared up at the gallows. Shuddering, he swallowed before starting up the steps. When he got to the top, he saw JD Dunne lying on the top of the platform, next to the trapdoor, staring up at the sky. The kid's coat was wadded up under his head for a pillow. JD glanced at him with hollow, sad eyes then quickly looked away.
Vin took in a deep breath as he glanced up at the stars. He took his own coat off, wadding it up as he lay down next to the kid, tucking the coat behind his head and then clasping his hands over his stomach.
Neither man spoke for a long while. Vin knew that if the kid wanted to talk, he would. And if he didn't, well Vin would still be there for him, like any friend would.
Both men let out quiet gasps when they spied a shooting star. Just as suddenly as it was there, it was gone, and Vin heard a long, despondent sigh come from his young friend. He heard the kid swallow a sob, and Vin made sure he was looking the other way when JD wiped his eyes with his shirtsleeve.
JD sniffed and Vin swallowed the lump in his throat.
"What do you think happens when we die?" JD suddenly asked.
"What?" Vin asked in a gravelly voice.
"I mean," JD swallowed, "when your body stops livin', do you think it still hurts? Even after you die?" The kid sniffed again, and Vin knew, no matter how odd the questions sounded the kid was serious in the asking.
"I was just wonderin'." JD shrugged. "Just thinkin' on it some."
JD was silent for a while, and Vin took a surreptitious look his way. The kid's lower lip was quivering, and Vin quickly looked away before he caused the boy any embarrassment.
"You know, my Mom was real sick. Hurtin'. And I was just thinkin', wondering, if, after she died, all that pain went away."
Vin felt JD look his way then back up at the sky.
"It would sure be unfair if people kept hurtin', even after they died." He paused. "That... that man that robbed the bank, he was sure hurtin' before he died."
So that was it. Buck had told them that JD was with one of those bank robbers as he drew his last breath, and Vin knew how hard it was to watch someone die.
JD kept on talking. "And he was scared too, Vin. I mean, really scared. I tried to make him feel better, but," the kid let out a self-depreciating laugh, "what could I do? He was gonna die. I couldn't save him. All I could do was try and make him feel better 'fore he did."
JD moved his head to look at him. "Think I did, Vin? Think I made him feel any better?"
Vin squeezed his eyes shut. Thinking about how he was going to feel when he was standing on a gallows much like this one, with a noose around his neck, waiting to die. How that must feel. The fear. Not knowing what was coming next. He could feel the kid still looking at him, expecting an answer. "Yeah." He smiled sadly. "Yeah, kid, I'm sure you made him feel better."
JD looked back up at the sky, and Vin somehow knew that the kid didn't believe him, but appreciated the thought.
The two were silent for a while longer before JD spoke again.
"Wonder what it's like to die? Is it terrifying - or a relief? Does everything stop, and there's nothing? Or, does someone come and get you and take you somewhere? My Mom said that I was going to Heaven. Do you think I still will? After the things I've done? The men I've killed?"
Vin didn't speak, and JD kept talking.
"Do you really think there's a Heaven and a Hell? And if so, what do you think they're like?"
Vin got the impression that JD was asking the questions out loud, more than he was asking *him* the questions.
"Do you think, after we die, we know who we were before? I mean, do you think the seven of us will know each other?" JD asked.
Vin sighed, not having the heart to tell him that all seven of them weren't going to the same place. He learned a long time ago that Heaven wasn't taking one Vin Tanner.
"Or, is our mind just blank?" JD continued. "Like we weren't ever anyone, or anything. And why are we even here? Do we have a reason? Something specific that we're supposed to do - to be - before we die? If there is a Heaven, and I get to go, do you think we'll know people there? Will I get to see my Mom? Will Heaven go on forever and ever, or will it stop? Do you think we have another life? Get another chance? Or is this one it?"
Vin let a long breath out as JD kept talking.
"And what about Hell? Do you think it's one big, terrible place? Or do you think that each of us has our own Hell - whatever was the most horrible thing for us?"
'Christ.' Vin shook his head. 'Where in the Hell is he getting these questions?'
"Do you think we're dying from the moment we're born? I mean, you know how cattle are just there for us to eat. Do you think they know that? That they only have one purpose, and that's to die? What if we're like that, I mean humans? What if we're just here for someone else's fun? You know how we watch ants in their hill, going this way and that, and we think that they're so much smaller, inferior, than us. What if we're 'ants' to someone else?"
Vin groaned silently, cursing the fact that he wasn't Josiah. Josiah would be able to talk to the kid. He might not have the answers, but he'd make the kid feel better.
"Why do bad things happen to good people? And why do you think that my Mom died, and other 'bad' people get to keep living? It's not fair. Why do think that God's not fair? He's supposed to love us, isn't he? I mean, that's what my Mom told me. But, sometimes it seems like he's against us. Why do you think that is, Vin?"
Swallowing hard, Vin shook his head as he cleared his throat. JD was looking at him. Vin could feel the kid's plea. He wanted Vin to answer all the questions. Make him feel better. But Vin couldn't do that. He didn't have the answers. He shook his head again, glancing over to see JD's pleading eyes. He took in a quivering breath, letting it out slowly. "I don't know, kid. I just don't know."
JD looked back towards the sky, sighing sadly. "I know, Vin. I know you don't. I was just wondering."
'When had the green kid who could ride and shoot and fly grown up so much?' Vin couldn't help but smile. JD was a good man. A real good man. He'd never be a hardened killer. Never. As long as he wondered and asked himself these questions, there was hope for him.
The two watched the sky begin to lighten, both thinking about life and death and what happens in between.
Vin watched as JD slowly stood up, carefully shaking his coat out and pulling it on. The kid stepped over him, nodding his head once.
JD stopped at the top of the stairs, turning and looking down at Vin.
Vin was looking at him sideways, an enigmatic look on his face. "If you get it figured out, let me know, 'kay?"
JD smiled sadly and nodded. "Will do, Vin." Turning, he stepped down the stairs, quickly disappearing out of sight.
Vin turned back to the gray, pre-dawn sky.
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