PG for language
CATEGORY: Challenge - OW
MAJOR CHARACTERS: JD and Vin (I know... surprise)
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended.
NOTE: March 2003 Challenge, offered by Beth: The Poem Challenge. Pick a long one, short one, old one, or a new one…heck, use one of your own, which would be great. Don't include the poem in your story…this isn't about that. Do, however, post the poem. Pick any AU, as long as you have permission, or create a new one!
SUMMARY: JD and Vin are stuck in a cabin while Vin recovers from injuries. JD makes a discovery.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This story is based on the poem, "Hurt Hawks" by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962). It will be included at the end of the story. Vin's horse uses his own name. JD's was provided by Eleanor T. Floss is my own horrible creation.
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments are greatly appreciated.
SPOILERS: Just a reference to one of my own stories, Across the Andes
DATE: March 1, 2003
By NotTasha...hawks are cool
JD Dunne sat on the porch of the old house and watched the hobbled horses graze. Inside, Vin slept – as he had for the past day – recouping and recovering.
All had started well. He and Vin had traveled to Rosemont to deliver a prisoner and await his trial. Dunne and Tanner had been witnesses to the bank robbery, and would be speaking at his trial. The prisoner had managed to keep in line on the journey, behaving himself until he reached the jailhouse. Once he was released from their custody and into the hands of the Rosemont law, he attempted escape. The local sheriff shot the fool – killing him outright, thus making the presence of the two witnesses unnecessary for the trial.
So, instead of spending the week in Rosemont, they’d headed home. JD had suggested sending a wire, describing the changed circumstances, but Vin had shook his head at the idea. He’d planned on meandering and didn’t want to travel by a timetable. So the two had left town and moseyed toward Four Corners.
It was a fine start, and the trip would have been enjoyable if not for that flighty mare – Floss. Oh, Vin had railed against the idea of using the palomino when Yosemite had presented her, having faced problems with her in the past. The blacksmith had promised that, since he’d relegated her solely to pack-work, she’d never balked and performed perfectly. Still, they wouldn’t have taken her if there had been any other animal available for substitution, and they would have traded her off in Rosemont if she hadn’t acted-up in town. No one wanted her – so they were stuck with her.
And now they were stuck in the middle of nowhere. She’d spooked – at her own shadow, Vin claimed – and tried to climb over the top of Peso, with Vin still in the saddle. The horses had ended up somersaulting over each other, in a frightening replay of what JD had witnessed when the two horses tangled while Ezra had been astride Peso.
Vin had been less lucky than Ezra. Bruised and battered, the tracker had survived the incident without breaking bones, but he’d ended up with a nasty raspberry-wound down one leg, a wrenched knee, a sprained ankle, a badly bruised hip, a cut across his palm, a bloody lip and a conk on the head.
They’d made it to this ramshackle house before Vin collapsed. Since then, JD had been keeping an eye on him.
He was fine, Vin insisted, just needed a bit of rest. “Good thing we got a week b’fore we’re expected,” Vin had commented. “Ain’t gonna be movin’ b’fore then.”
It had surprised JD. He figured that the tracker would try to brush off his injuries, saying that nothing was serious and that they’d be on the trail again the next day. Vin had laughed when JD suggested this. “Kid,” he’d said with a wink. “I ain’t stupid and I feel like shit. There’s time when it makes sense t’get in the saddle and ride. ‘Times, it makes a lot more sense to lay still. If I push myself too hard for no reason, it might do me permanent harm. I ain’t aimin’ for that.”
Tanner had slept through the afternoon and night. He woke to accompany JD on a hunting expedition, to bring down some rabbits. By the time they’d caught their breakfast, Tanner was pale and ready for his bed again.
So Vin slept, while JD sat on the front porch and threw rocks at Floss.
Tired, bored and annoyed, Dunne stood, and after checking on Vin, decided to stretch his legs. There wasn’t much to be seen. He and Vin had spent their hunting expedition a short distance from the house, sitting on a rock and waiting for the conies to appear. It had been a lot of patient, quiet waiting – not the sort of thing the energetic youth was used to, but he’d been able to best Vin, shooting two rabbits to Tanner’s one. Of course, Vin wasn’t seeing straight yet.
As he walked about, JD realized that there wasn’t much to see. When he reached the pump, he jerked on the handle a few times, letting more water run into the trough. “That’s for you and Peso!” he told his horse, Toby. The little bay nickered at him. He continued his excursion, finding nothing but scrub and low grass.
He walked around in slowly enlarging circles, looking for something of interest – arrow-heads, buffalo nickels, old forgotten shoes – anything. Vin had suggested that he ride back to Rosemont if he was bored of the place, but JD had insisted that he was fine. If they had needed anything, he would have gone, but the hunting was good and they had enough staples to tide them over.
It was just so damn dull. He was a city boy, used the excitement and stimulation that the populated world provided. Yes, even the town of Four Corners fulfilled that need. This open nothingness was… monotonous.
He kicked at a stick and it flew towards an oak-bush, a tangle of branches that would have been a tree if the environment had been less harsh. The bush shuddered as if furious. JD stepped back, and then, drawing one of his Colts, moved toward it.
Slowly, he approached the angry bush – not knowing what to expect: a snake? A badger? A wolverine? A hiding outlaw? Something shook within it; something was annoyed.
He edged closer, spotting a brown huddle. Slowly, JD craned his neck to get a better view and was shocked to see two terrible eyes glaring at him. A hiss, a screech, an enraged cry -- and a red-tail hawk leapt from the cover.
JD jumped back as the bird screamed at him. It stopped short and remained just within the protection of the oak-bush. Over and over, its beak spread to emit the angry, intimidating shriek as JD continued to move away, his eyes fastened on the vicious creature.
JD then noticed the strange way the hawk moved. Its wing trailed along the ground like a banner, getting caught up in his talons as the bird hopped toward him. It stopped, but showed no signs of pain. It did not give up its intimidating motions, its threatening calls and its piercing gaze.
Continuing his backward motion, JD’s gaze remained locked on the wing that wouldn’t move right, that failed to fold up next to the muscled body. The hawk flopped about, trying to keep its feet as the wing kept getting tangled up under him. It did not back off, but rather waited for JD to respond.
Flustered, JD continued backing off until it stopped screaming at him. He hurried back to the shack, hoping to find Vin awake, but the tracker still slept. For a full half-hour, he sat on the porch and watched the oak-bush at a distance, wondering what he should do. The bird was obviously hurt. How long had it been hiding beneath that oak? Surly, it couldn’t catch any food in that condition. Surly, it was hungry.
Finally, not wanting to consider starving the thing, he dug up the rabbit entrails that he’d buried earlier that day and carried them on the shovel to the little hiding place. The hawk came at him again – furious. It didn’t matter that JD was ten times his size.
JD flung the left-over rabbit, expertly landing the mess just outside the branches. The fury of the raptor increased as it screamed at the young man and flapped its wings – one gloriously – the other pathetically. JD jumped backward, but the bird continued to berate him, not even looking at the possible food.
JD slunk away, but the bird didn’t break its awful stare and finally the young sheriff returned to the front porch and set the shovel against the railing.
He sat on a broken-down chair and watched. It seemed that the hawk didn’t move for a long time, but finally Dunne saw the sway of branches that tell-taled that the bird had approached the meat. The kid smiled, wishing he could see better.
“So, what you been up to, JD?” Vin asked as he sat up in the abandoned bed, eating the rabbit stew that JD had prepared.
“Feedin’ a hawk,” JD responded.
Vin smirked. “Hope you ain’t gonna get yer fingers bit off.”
“Aw, I ain’t gettin’ that close,” JD responded indignantly.
Vin gulped, surprised. “What? You mean it, JD? A hawk?”
The young man nodded. “Yup. He’s out there under a bush. Got a hurt wing and I’m just plannin’ on helpin’ him along a bit ‘til it heals.”
Tanner watched Dunne carefully. “It hurt bad?”
“Dunno,” JD responded. “Its wing isn’t foldin’ up proper. I figure he’ll be okay if he had some food. He ate up all I gave ‘im.”
Tanner cocked his head, unsure.
“I've been careful. I ain’t gettin’ close to it,” JD assured. “It just makes him mad.”
“Yeah, they don’t care too much for men.”
“I've been keepin’ an eye out for him,” Dunne continued. “Makin’ sure no coyote comes and gets him.” He patted his guns for emphasis.
Vin laughed. “Hell, JD. I figure them varmints are smart enough to find somethin’ without claws for dinner. Enough conies around here to keep ‘em happy.” He regarded the young man and smiled. “The hawk carries powerful magic, ya know? I figure helpin’ one out ain’t gonna be a bad thing.”
JD smiled broadly, glad to have Vin’s agreement. “I’m just feedin’ him what we don’t eat – those rabbit guts and such.”
“Figure he’d like that.” Vin stretched and regretted the movement, as he gasped with pain.
“Ya okay, Vin?” JD asked immediately, ready to jump into action if needed.
The tracker winced and managed a smile. “Ain’t gonna kill me.” He sighed and struck his hand against the straw-filled mattress. “Just damn irritatin’ be laid up like this! Shit!” he growled as his attempt to find a comfortable position failed. “Just a bit bruised and I’m cryin’ like a baby. Son of a bitch!”
“It's more than just a bruise, Vin,” JD excused and then smiled at Vin’s cursing, for it didn’t seem like the type of sound a baby might make.
Vin groaned, annoyed. “Ain’t used to bein’ knocked down like this. I’m used to takin’ care of things. Used to bein’ fit and able.” He sighed miserably. “I feel like some dumb kid, stuck in bed for a skinned knee. Maybe we should be headin’ home tomorrow?”
“Well, like you said,” JD reminded. “It’d be best if we stayed here for a bit. Don’t need to hurt yourself worse.”
With a sneer, Vin said, “Damn sick of bein’ a’bed.”
“Ya know where Nate’s gonna put ya soon as we get in’ta town?”
With a conciliatory smile, Vin nodded.
JD asked, “Anything I can do for ya?”
“Nah.” Vin handed over the empty bowl. “Thanks for makin’ dinner. We’ll get us some more rabbits tomorrow. Fool things don’t have enough sense t’hide. Make sure ya got somethin’ to feed yer bird.” When JD smiled happily, Vin chuckled and then shook his head.
The days passed slowly as Vin recovered. He slept less, and spent more time on the front porch chair, staying off his mending leg and letting his cut palm heal. He and JD hunted every morning. All it took was a little patience and the rabbits would start peeping out of their hidey-holes. The timid creatures would run like crazy if they heard anything and were easy-pickens.
Vin kept with his plan of staying off his leg as much as possible – let it heal and then they’d go home.
JD’s world revolved around taking care of the horses, seeing to Vin, cooking, tending the fire and taking care of the hawk.
From time to time, JD would see one of the desert curs approach -- the coyotes, the buzzards, the scavengers – but they never came close to the hawk. The screeching cry, the gnashing beak, the threatening talons were enough to send them running off again. If that wasn’t enough, JD was happy to add his firepower. The young man truly enjoyed his responsibility, and every day, the hawk became more accustomed to his presence. It no longer screamed at him when he came to it, and every day it came further out of its protection to meet him.
But its eyes never fail to fix him with its horrible stare. It seemed to be telling him that the talons would still cut him -- its hooked beak would tear him if he ever came close enough.
It didn’t cower or make any obsequious motions to him. It didn’t beg for the food – rather it seemed to expect it – like offerings to a god. JD complied, tossing the leftover meat the short distance and stepping back. The hawk always waited until he was gone before he began his feast, not trusting the man in the bowler hat.
JD had borrowed Vin’s spyglass, and delighted in watching the hawk eat. Still, his breath would catch in his throat when the wing failed to move out of the way, when the hawk misstepped and trod upon that hurt member.
He’s getting better, JD told himself. He’ll be well by the time we have to go. He ain’t gonna starve. Not while I’m around.
Anxiously, JD waited for the day when he’d see the hawk fly again.
Vin tried to sleep – for that was all that was available to him. He was a man used to stillness and could easily spend a day in drowsy quiet – but hated when it was forced upon him. To be trapped here on this porch was agony.
Already, his knee and ankle had stopped throbbing – unless he put weight on his leg. The wound on his hand had knitted, so as long as he didn’t handle anything with it – like a horse’s reins – he’d be fine. His hip didn’t really ache anymore, as long as he didn’t do anything like get into a saddle. His head didn’t really hurt, unless he sat up quickly. The irritating raspberry-rash on his leg wasn’t worth worrying about, but it sure hurt every time he moved.
He snorted in annoyance with himself. It was horrible to be incapacitated. He squinted at the evening sun and sighed. Give it a couple more days, he told himself. No need to rush. You’ll be fine as long as you don’t get stupid.
Still, he was ready to get going again. If JD were to just insist that they move on, he’d go. No questions asked. Let’s move out.
He pursed his lips, knowing that there’d be no moving on just yet. Groaning, he accepting his fate, knowing that it would get better soon.
JD squatted near the hawk’s home and tossed bits of meat toward him. JD didn’t smile or speak words of encouragement. The awful implacable expression on the raptor’s face seemed to stop any need to cajole it.
This was not an animal that needed coaxing. This was a creature that would rip him to pieces if it could only get to him, if it could only fly and attack. JD kept his distance, respecting the noble creation.
This creature never looked for pity. His wings had once carried him over this open plain. They had pulled him over canyons, sent him diving from great heights, had aimed him at the cowering rabbits, the fleeing mice, the terrified prairie dogs. Those wings had brought him to places that JD could only imagine.
The hawk was the most incredible creature that the sheriff had ever beheld and he felt blessed to just be this close to it. Dunne didn’t even consider naming it. No, something as wild as a hawk should never be named. It was free.
He felt stronger just standing so near it.
JD threw another piece of meat, and thrilled at the fierce, unbending look he received in return.
Moving to the porch as dusk approached, Vin smiled. Six days of rest had done wonders. They’d decided that tomorrow was the day to head home. There were still aches and pains, but come morning, he and JD would be going. He watched the horses standing about in the grass, wondering if they should find a reason to make a certain mare disappear before they left the area.
His smile fell as he noticed his companion’s expression. “Gonna have t'leave him,” JD said softly. He stood near the trough, looking toward the oak-bush.
“Yeah,” Vin responded.
“Ain’t gonna be able to bring him back, am I?”
“He’s a wild thing. Can’t even think of catchin’ him.”
“Wouldn’t be right.”
“I could build a fence or something around him? I could shoot some extra rabbits for him?” JD turned expectantly toward the tracker, who leaned against the roof support. “Think he’ll get better on his own?”
Vin said nothing, his steady gaze speaking volumes.
"Do you think it hurts him? He doesn't act hurt, but it's gotta. Don't you think?"
Vin remained silent.
JD nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets, kicked at the dust, and nodded again.
The sun fell lower, reaching toward the horizon.
“Gonna go take care of him.” JD said softly. Instead of reaching for the shovel that he always used to carry the leftover rabbit-meat, he picked up his rifle.
He didn’t look at Vin as he trod the familiar distance toward the small oak. The hawk waited for him.
It hopped out of its home, its wing still trailing, never to function correctly again. It waited, looking at him fiercely – a cruel, distrusting look. Its black eyes seemed to hold all the arrogance and wildness of the world.
JD didn’t feed it. Not tonight. As he met the hawk’s unbending gaze, he knew that that hawk didn’t yearn for food – there was something else it sought.
It had never been a beggar. JD had given him sustenance. JD had kept an eye on the coyotes and other scavengers. And never had the hawk given him anything that could have been called a ‘thank you’.
It glared at him, but it did not back away. It did not cry out. It waited.
It was wild. It was free. It would always be free. It would fly again.
John Dunne raised the rifle and sighted the creature. It kept its gaze on him and waited. The world was growing dark around him and the hawk never flinched.
Vin waited on the porch. He didn’t stand and stare at JD expectantly. Rather, he sat on the broken-down chair and waited for Dunne to speak first.
JD strode up to him, and surprised him by smiling and nodding before disappearing into cabin.
Vin smiled too as he relaxed. They would be going home tomorrow. They’d been gone for little more than a week. He’d come home, a week older, a little more battered, but given a few more days, would be back to normal. But JD, the kid-sheriff, had grown older by years.
Stiffly, he stood, and followed JD into the small shack, closing the door behind him and shutting out the coming night.
THE END - By NotTasha
HURT HAWKS by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation: at night he remembers his freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawn ruins it.
He is strong and pain is worse for the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We fed him six week, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers, but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
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