Old Wounds, New Hopes
By Angela B
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be
Note: Here is the challenge: Pick an AU (preferable one you have permission to write in) and a character (or all of them). Have them reflect on the worse thing that went wrong in the previous year. ex: maybe Josiah's suburban was used during a missile test, they busted the wrong person, or someone wound up in the hospital repeatedly...whatever, and then have them reflecting on what they want to accomplish in the coming year. Long or short, comical or sad. Bring it on. All will be read and enjoyed.
The sun was sinking behind the blue tinted mountains as a figure in the cemetery crouched down on the heels of his boots in front of a lone headstone. JD had found himself missing his mother this particular night, New Year's Eve. Since the miles kept him from finding solace at his matriarch's own grave, the young Easterner had taken to visiting another's. The grave laid off to itself with only the name Mabel visible. The young man had felt drawn to the solitary marker and had often stopped by if only to say hello to the abandoned place.
Now, squatting down in front of the marker, he could hear the noise coming from the town close by. The people marking the coming of a new year. JD kept his eyes on the grave in front of him.
"Well, Ma, a new year has arrived," he began solemnly. "It's been a long year it seemed at times. I miss you a lot. I miss our talks and seeing your face every morning." JD stopped to catch his breath and steady the sudden stab of pain in his chest. "It's been a wild year, I tell you. Of course, you know all about Buck and the guys. They're all good. They're down at the saloon visiting and watching the shenanigans of the town folk. Chris' got a bet going with Ezra on when the first person is arrested tonight for stupidity. I think Chris has something up his sleeve, cause he had this funny grin on his face when I left."
JD shifted his feet and rebalanced. "I learned a lot this year, ma. More than any college could have taught me," pausing to clear his throat. "I know you were real keen on me attending and you did your best to save up money so I could go, but there wasn't anyway, mama. Besides, I am doing what I think I was always destined to do. Help people."
"This year has had some good times. We helped those Indians from that crazy Colonel Anderson. Saved Mrs. Nettie's farm and even got back the belongings that Guy Royal had stolen. I met Casey, as you know." A smile lighting on the man's face. "At first I thought she was some little country girl that didn't know anything," JD laughed quietly to himself. "Turned out there was more to her than met the eye."
The young man grew serious for a moment. "Learned that the hard way when I fell in love with that Mattie girl. Or at least I thought I had. Casey forgave me for that transgression and I never have been so grateful for being shot in my life. It made us both realize just what we had."
JD cleared his throat in apprehension. "Been some bad times, too, Ma, but you know about that. The worst and lowest point in my entire life, Ma, was shooting Mrs. Annie." JD had to stop and take a deep breath. "I didn't mean to. I really didn't, but that didn't matter much to her husband, Hiram, or those two kids. I tried apologizing to the man, but he was too angry. He still don't even look at me when I see him in town. I can't rightly blame him. And that little girl and her younger brother, Ma, I can't get their crestfallen faces from the day of the funeral out of my head. I look at that motherless boy and I see myself. I know from experience what he feels, and it's made all the worse knowing I did that to him. No one else but me."
JD grew quiet for a moment to wipe away the tears of sorrow gathering in his eyes. "Buck came up to me and tried to make it sound like it was all okay, but all I remember him saying was, `I told you not to spin those guns, boy'. He didn't mean it badly, but at the time, it was the harshest words I ever heard. I could hear the underlining anger and the disappointment he felt towards me in that simple sentence." That was one lesson I learned but good. Took it to heart when I was facing that fella alone at Mrs. Gaines, when there was that shoot out. But that's for another time." JD took a breath. "Buck tried to defend me to the town, but not even with Chris backing him, could he get the angry townsfolk to back off. Some still look at me as a kid playing with guns. Buck says its going to take time for people to come to their senses. I just gotta keep doing what I am doing. Protecting the town."
"Even Casey was angry at me. Told me she couldn't forgive me at that time. That sure stung, Ma, but I couldn't blame her. Mrs. Annie was her friend." Wiping his forehead and resifting again, JD continued. "But mama, that wasn't the worst of it by far. Taking that man's body out there and after trading coffins, I had to watch Achilles sitting on her coffin drinking. That was bothersome, but mama when Chris and them showed up and started firing I hid behind that coffin. I hid mama. Behind Mrs. Annie's coffin." JD's voice trembled as the memories tried to swallow him up. "I know Buck told me to stay down, but even after those fellas left all I could do was lay on that ground trembling. Looking up to see those six men looking down at me and I quivering like a child; well, Mama, I knew then it was best for me to leave."
JD picked idly at the dried grass in front of him. "Buck said the kindest words. He said he needed me. But, I knew I couldn't stay here. You can't stay in this kind of town and not wear a gun. It would be the fastest way to be killed. Especially after making a reputation like the one the seven of us have and I being part of that. So, I left. They all came to see me off." A smile lit slightly on the man's face. "Even Chris Larabee told me I could change my mind. Chris. It made me feel like the man really wanted me to hang around. But I knew I couldn't. So, I got on that stagecoach and left. Buck was there to see me off. He didn't like me leaving, but he stood by my decision and didn't try to make it any harder than it already was. Made me feel like a man in charge of my own life and not some little kid that needed to be told I was doing wrong and needed to be corrected."
JD nodded absently. Of course you know how it turned out," he said chuckling softly. "Never so glad to see the six of them in my life as when I was driving that stagecoach back to town with that army of deranged men coming after me. And you know the best part?" JD asked with a wide smile on his face. "Chris told me I wouldn't be a part of them if I was perfect."
The tolls of the church began to ring loudly in the background. JD continued to stay where he was.
"It'll be a new year in a couple of hours," JD announced softly. "I got me some goals to achieve this coming year. I want to be the man these men think I'm worthy of being. I want to learn from them, become a little like each one."
"Chris, now he can shoot all right, but he can also hold that temper when he needs to. People think he always just shoots first and cares later, but that ain't always true. He's good at sizing up a situation and determining what is best to do. I want to learn to do that."
"And from Buck," JD paused to laugh, "No mama, that's not what I want to learn from Buck. I want to learn to be a friend like he is. Chris and Buck get into it sometimes and Buck just lets it roll off him. The next thing you know Buck and Chris is thick as bees in a hive and before anyone knows it, one of us is the victim of their prank. Did I mention Chris Larabee, the notorious gunslinger, has a prankster side to him a mile wide. But even more, when Buck gets himself in it, like when he was defending Miss Inez, Chris is there to back him up. That's a strong friendship and I think its cause of Buck and the kind of friend he is." JD laughed out loud. "Because Buck is the kind of friend that will stand with you to the end and it inspires others to respond in kind. I think that there is a quality worth having."
"Then there is Vin. Vin is more than just a sharpshooter. He can write the most beautiful poetry you ever heard. He speaks from deep inside. He lets his feelings out on paper. I would like to try that. It would especially come in handy with Casey. I find I can get her mad quicker than a wet hen when I open my mouth, but if I were to be able to talk to her through words, like Vin does, I think she would like that." JD smiled at the thought of his girl.
"Even Ezra has qualities worth having. He showed lots of times you can get information from people without always having to draw a gun on them or threaten them. He puts on this air of… I don't know what you call it, but you think you are in the midst of some mighty important person. I have watched people when they are around him and they respond to that. Of course, there have been times when people haven't responded well to it, but nonetheless he does get what he wants, usually."
JD looked back at the town and noticed it was getting darker. There would be firecrackers going off soon and he wanted to be back in time for them. "Then there is Nathan and Josiah. Both of them are much smarter I bet than any old professor at some college. Josiah has been all over the place. When I was leaving, he gave me this talk to made me feel better. It didn`t help much, but he tried. He exudes this peaceful nature, except when he is drunk or mad, and then it's not so peaceful. But what I want to learn most from him is forgiveness. Mostly of self. He is rebuilding this church in town. He says its because of penance. Not sure what he is talking about, but he said he did a lot of wrong things in his past and this is how is making up for them. Josiah says he is learning to deal with the past and move forward. After this year, I think that is what I need to do, too. Move forward and forgive myself of my mistakes."
"Now for Nathan, I want to learn strength. Not physical, but inwardly. He has had one of the most horrific lives you can imagine, Mama, but he still helps people. He could have become like Achilles, all full of wrath and hate and turned into a killer, but instead, Mama, he became a healer. He has his moments, but then again so do all the others. He had the strength to put all that hate into something good and I think he is one of the strongest men I have ever met."
JD was silent for a long time. "Yep, Mama, this year I want to be a man that is worthy to stand beside those other six men and be counted an equal.
The sound coming from behind him let, JD knew that the festivities for the evening were about to begin. "I gotta go, Mama, but I'll come back and talk to you soon." Standing up, he looked down on the grave and added, "Thanks Miz Mabel for letting me come talk to my mama. I'll stop by and say hello soon."
JD tipped his hat and walked back into town. Joining the other six men on the boardwalk, JD stood next to Buck leaning on the railing. A plethora of, "About time, kid. Glad you made it back. Your time is impeccable, Mr. Dunne," made JD's heart swell. Buck leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Thought you got lost. I was thinking I was going to have to come fetch you, JD," Then turning and looking straight in JD's eyes, Buck said, "It wouldn`t have been the same without you."
JD smiled and shook his head, determined that he would achieve those goals.