PG... for some swearing
CATEGORY: Challenge and Sequel - OW
MAJOR CHARACTERS: JD and Nathan, and then Everyone
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: This is in response to the October 2001 Magnificent 7 Challenge, offered by Julia Neal: Five of the Magnificent Seven are headed to Tascosa to clear Vin's name for good. How will they prove he's innocent now that Eli Joe is dead? Two of the Seven are left to protect the town. AND this is the sequel to my earlier answers to the challenge: A Good Name I and A Good Name II
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments are greatly appreciated.
DATE: December 24, 2001
A Good Name III and IV
By NotTasha...who still has a dandy name
A Good Name III
"I don't have to tell you nothin'," the idiot in the cell replied, leaning back on the cot and crossing his feet. It was a scrawny-looking outlaw -- dirty and missing a few teeth
"Well," JD said, gesturing over his work. "I gotta write somethin'."
"Not gonna say," the two-bit thief declared. "You cain't make me." He lifted his pointy little chin in defiance.
"Alright then," Dunne said as he dipped his pen into the ink and then brought it to paper. "I'll just have to fill it in with -- Dumb Ass."
"What?" the fool replied sharply, watching the sheriff lift the pen to the paper. "No, no! That ain't right. You're supposed to write John Doe if you don't got a name."
"Dumb Ass," JD reiterated. "Seems more fitting to me."
"You cain't do that!" the man shouted and then added, "You're supposed to fill those out right, like a good officer of the law."
JD shrugged. "Don't feel so accommodatin' right now and you ain't givin' me anything to go by. Dumb Ass seems good to me."
"My name is Head. Richard Head!"
"Dick Head," JD figured.
"NO!" Dick jumped to his feet and ran to the cell door. His hands grasped the bars tightly. "It ain't Dick! My name ain't never been Dick. It's Richard! Or Rich…sometimes Rick. And when I was a kid they called me Ricky, but never Dick."
"Dick Head," JD said again, writing. "Too bad you weren't in the army. You might have come out of that as Major Dick Head."
Head's face grew red. "Don't you start with that!" He waggled his finger at Dunne. "I could'a been an officer 'cept that they were poisoned against me."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Dunne muttered as he continued to fill in the document. He yawned as the outlaw fumed.
"Might 'ave stood a chance in the army," Dick Head said, pacing, "'cept they couldn't stop mocking me for my name. I had to show 'em not to make fun of me. They threw me in the stockade."
"Doesn't surprise me," JD said with a shake of his head.
'They didn't know who they were dealing with!" Head said, striking his chest.
Yeah, JD thought, another dick-head. Dunne was just glad that there hadn't been too many of his ilk hanging around the town lately. The atmosphere had been remarkably quiet. He'd been anxious since Vin and the others left, worried about what sort of trouble would hit the town with it so poorly protected, but it was as if Strife had taken a holiday and a calm had descended. The worst he had to deal with was petty thieves such as this one with the ridiculous name.
He wished Chris, Buck, Josiah and everyone would come back soon, but their journey was only halfway over -- three weeks into their absence and they had just made it to Tascosa to clear Vin's name. Well, some of them had made it that far. Buck and Ezra had been left along the way.
He rubbed his neck as he filled out the form -- describing the things that Dick Head tried to steal from the general store and how he'd shoved it all down his pants in the getaway. He'd be tried for theft and probably would end up paying a fine or spend a day or two behind bars. All in a day's work.
As he wrote, JD recalled the day, three weeks ago, when five of his friends left town. It was sad to watch them ride away. Part of him wanted to go with them, but he had an important job to do here; he was Sheriff and had to protect the town. He didn't regret his choice. He could only wish them a safe journey and hope they returned soon.
Well, things didn't work out so well for those travelers. He and Nathan had been in contact with the others via telegram and had heard of Vin's progress toward Tascosa with Chris and Josiah, and Ezra's lack of progress in Digby with Buck.
Dunne wished he'd had some inkling about what was going to happen back when all this started. He wished somehow that he'd known Ezra was going to get hurt. He might have been able to stop that from happening by keeping the cardsharp in town. It could have been easily accomplished by simply asking Ezra to stay.
JD could replay the conversation they'd had, when Ezra came to him with a serious face, asking him if he could go with the others -- as if JD Dunne had any control over the actions of one Ezra P. Standish. Still, the sheriff had heard the sincerity in the gambler's voice as he asked, as they had talked together and came to the decision that Ezra could go. They'd come up with a list of possible candidates for short-term assistants, lining them up to fill in the gap. JD remembered Ezra smiling sincerely when they realized he could accompany Vin and the others without leaving JD or the town in the lurch.
Ezra would have stayed, JD knew. All he'd had to do was voice the slightest doubt, the smallest concern and the gambler would have remained in Four Corners. He would have nodded and complied and said nothing to anyone about it. He probably would have sat back on the boardwalk as the others prepared to go and given them a few words of encouragement. He could just as easily have taunted them for their rough road ahead -- reminded them that he'd be comfortable in feather bed while they lounged on hard rocks, he'd be eating hot meals adequately prepared at a decent restaurant while they subsisted on jerky and tack. You could never tell for sure how Ezra would have acted.
Of course, it was all conjecture now. Right now, Standish wasn’t saying anything that made sense, lying in a bed with his brains bashed in.
JD shook his head, not wanting to linger on that image.
And what about Vin's trial? What would happen if the verdict was returned as 'guilty'? Vin had been assured that the witness could clear him -- but what if something went wrong. Then Vin Tanner would hang. JD felt his neck at the thought. How could they hang an innocent man? Someone like Vin certainly didn't deserve that!
Why had Vin risked his life anyway? He was safe here in Four Corners. If he'd just stayed put, there'd be no cause for alarm -- no reason for Dunne to be so concerned. Everything could 'ave just been fine if he'd stayed. ‘Gotta find him innocent,’ JD thought. ‘Vin's gotta be able to clear his name’ -- it was the only acceptable outcome.
JD remembered the telegrams that Buck had sent, sadly stating that Ezra couldn't even remember his own name. It was a horrible thing for the quick-witted and fun-loving gambler. JD remembered how easily Ezra had rattled off the names of possible candidates for temporary lawmen -- how could he have lost track of his own?
JD looked at where he'd written DICK HEAD on the form. He carefully crossed out DICK and wrote RICHARD over the mistake. A man shouldn't mess with another's name, he thought.
He looked to the window when he noted someone looking in -- Nathan. The healer nodded when their eyes met, then signaled to him that he was going to go down the street before he came back to take up his shift. JD knew where Jackson was going -- to the telegraph office.
Nathan went there four or five times a day, looking for incoming wires or sending new ones. When news concerning Ezra first reached the town, Nathan had been beside himself with worry. They'd been assured that Digby had a doctor who'd look after Standish, but Jackson couldn't leave it at that. He had to supply the Dr. Templeton with a continuous steam of advice and ideas. Templeton seemed to take the help in stride, answering his questions with more honesty than Buck would. The truth of those answers sometimes distressed the healer. He'd wring his hands after receiving the newest message and mutter, "I should 'ave gone along, too."
Today, the news would include Vin's fate. It made JD's gut clench just to think of it. Today, they'd learn if Vin were to swing or walk away a free man. He sighed, realizing that if the verdict was 'guilty,' Chris wouldn't allow Vin to die for it. He and Vin would disappear if at all possible, and probably Josiah with them. They’d go to Mexico… or maybe Bolivia … or Argentina, or maybe right off the end of Cape Horn.
And what if Ezra were to die? The last message said that he’d fallen into a deep sleep. What if he never woke up from that? JD knew that Buck would be torn apart. ‘He’s a sensitive guy,’ JD thought. Buck might not come back if he’d failed to bring Ezra with him. Even if Ezra were to end up in some sort of a Crazy Hospital, JD doubted he’d see Wilmington again. No, he’d just go away… maybe catch up to Vin and Chris in Bolivia if it came to that.
Everything might change today, JD realized. God, he wanted it to go back to how it was before they all left. He needed all of them to return. It was so lonely in town without them.
After watching the healer head toward the telegraph office, JD returned his attention to the prisoner. Head was babbling on about something, but JD wasn't really paying attention. "I'll give you a nickel if you shut up," JD offered.
Richard looked stunned. "What?"
"A nickel. All you got to do is shut your yap for a while." Head looked disgusted, so JD upped the ante. "How about 10 cents?"
"Make it two-bits and you got yourself a deal," the prisoner said.
JD pulled the necessary coin out of his pocket and slammed them down on the desk. "It's yours if you keep it shut for the next hour!"
Mr. Head squeezed his mouth shut and glared back at the sheriff.
Mr. Juje at the telegraph office was annoyed. Nathan started swooping into that office far too often for the cranky telegraph operator's liking. Usually, he'd send one of his boys out the second an important message hit his shop, but he'd stopped the practice recently for Nathan. He knew the healer would be back in the office soon enough and then, if he'd kept the message in the shop, he'd at least have something to hand to the impatient healer.
JD picked up the coin and tapped it on the desk, ignoring the man who looked hungrily at the money. JD sighed realizing that this one probably didn't have the money to pay a fine and would take jail time instead. Richard Head would end up being his companion for the week. He hoped the time passed quickly.
The sheriff jumped to his feet when he heard the sound of someone running down the boardwalk, quick footsteps reverberating on the wood. He sucked in his breath, expecting trouble, then caught sight of Nathan grinning as he reached the door and flung it back.
"JD!" Jackson shouted, grasping the notes in his hand. "That pain-in-the-ass Juje had two of 'em waiting. Two!" He shook the notes for emphasis.
"The trial's over?" JD asked, seeing Nathan's jubilation. The healer had been so morose since first hearing word about Ezra's state. This was the first time he'd seen Jackson smile. He walked across the room to get a look at what Nathan held. "Did Vin do it?" he asked.
"Darn right, JD," Nathan crowed. "He's been cleared of charges."
JD slapped Nathan on the back. "That's wonderful! Gosh, Nathan. Gosh! We gotta celebrate or somethin'."
"Not yet, JD. Gotta read this one!" He separated one note from the other. "This one is …well, from someone who…" he paused as if he was trying to think of some dramatic way to say it. "Heck, it's from Ezra."
"From?" JD queried. "Not 'about'…"
"Who else would write like this?" and he cleared his throat.
GENTLEMEN," Nathan read aloud, "I JOIN YOU IN YOUR CELEBRATION FOR OUR COMPATRIOT, MR TANNER. HE HAS LONG DESERVED THIS PRONOUNCEMENT AND I KNOW THAT YOU BOTH ARE PLEASED TO HEAR IT. MR WILLINGTON AND I ARE CELEBRATING AS WE SPEAK. I ASSURE YOU THAT MY AFFLICTION HAS PASSED AND I SHALL SEE YOU AGAIN SHORTLY. I HOPE THE TOWN IS STILL STANDING. SINCERELY, EZRA."
"Affliction…" Nathan grumbled, but grinned as he looked at the two telegrams in his hands.
JD couldn’t stand still. He wanted to run out onto the street or dance around, or jump and shout. To have Vin's name cleared and to have Ezra sending them telegrams AT THE SAME TIME! Well, it was a wonderful end to the day.
"This is great, Nathan," he finally said, not knowing what else could fit. "Damn good news."
"Why'zat so good?" Head said from his cell.
JD grimaced and grabbed the coin from the desk and jammed it into his pocket without looking at the criminal. Head whined and moaned, but JD was more interested in the telegrams.
Jackson lay an arm over JD's back and read with him -- going over the words again.
A Good Name – IV
Three weeks had passed and the town continued to stand in spite of its missing peacekeepers. The local ranchers and shopkeepers pitched in where they could, but all in all, the remaining two – the sheriff and the healer – carried the majority of the load. They were tired from the long duties, but still, on the appointed day, they woke early and waited excitedly.
“There,” Nathan said, pointing at distant shapes as the afternoon lengthened.
JD jumped to his feet. It was everything he could do to not saddle up and ride out to meet them. No, they had decided to be here, in the town they protected, when the missing five returned.
The two paced. Crossed the street, strode up the boardwalk, climbed to an upper story for a better view, and then clamored down as the five riders came closer.
“Vin!” JD shouted finally. “Ezra!” He ran the last few lengths, unable to wait any longer, with Nathan jogging up behind them.
The five pulled to a stop, just short of the first building that marked the start of town. Chris was in the lead, with Vin beside him. Vin seemed to sit somewhat taller in his saddle as he grinned at the sheriff. Buck and Josiah rode behind, flanking Ezra, with the packhorses strung after them. They all looked thoroughly pleased to be home.
“Hey, kid!” Buck reached out one arm to make sure that Ezra stayed upright. “Good to see you kept the place in one piece.”
“Damn right!” JD shouted back, smiling wide as his mouth would allow.
“Ya damn fool!” Nathan berated as soon as he was close enough to note the pale and exhausted gambler. “What do you think you’re doin’? Didn’t Dr. Templeton tell you to stay put? Do you listen to him as much as you listen to me? Do you want to kill yourself?”
Ezra threw Buck a long-suffering glance and said, “Lord, I thought I’d escaped this when I left Digby.” He was thinner than JD remembered -- they all were thinner -- and Ezra's hair looked curiously short under his hat.
“He didn’t want to stay put any longer,” Buck replied. “Stayed about a week after he woke, but figured if we started out early, we could go it slow and let these fella’s catch up to us along the way.”
Nathan just shook his head as he helped Ezra down from the saddle. “Damn stubborn fool! You couldn’t just wait for Vin and the others to get back to Digby, could you? You could have used that extra week and got enough rest… but no. Had to start out early.”
Ezra sighed. “If we’d waited for them, we’d have been even later and we’ve been away too long as it is. I’m afraid that I’ve been a bit of an anchor on this expedition. The journey from Digby to Four Corners should've taken a week, but it needed to be doubled due to my low constitution.”
“Low constitution, my ass!” Nathan mumbled.
“Vin!” JD grasped the tracker’s hand as he dismounted. “God, it’s good to see you.”
Tanner slapped JD on the arm. “Damn good to be home.”
“You’re free!” JD stated. “You got your named cleared and everything.”
“Yup,” Vin said and nodded.
“Don’t got to worry about havin’ a price on your head. Gosh, that’s gotta feel good!” JD expounded, shaking Vin’s arm.
“Yup,” Vin said again, patting the pocket that held his important papers.
The others dismounted, greeting Nathan and JD with handshakes and backslaps. Buck thumped JD heartily, glad to see the young man again, and Josiah gave both Nathan and JD a bear hug. Even Chris stepped forward and gave them a vigorous handshake.
“I’ll be glad to see the inside of that church again,” Josiah added with a wistful smile. He rubbed his hands together saying, “Can’t wait to get back to God’s work.”
“How’d it go?” Chris asked the sheriff. “You two run into any trouble?”
JD waved the question away. “Been pretty darn quiet here. Not much goin’ on aside from Dick Heads and such.”
Josiah and Chris both raised eyebrows, and Vin and Buck chuckled as they shook their heads. Nathan had pulled off Ezra’s hat and was running a hand through his too-short hair while Ezra threw Buck pleading glances.
“How’s he been?” JD asked anxiously. He watched as Nathan examined the gambler, knowing that Nathan had been aching to do this since the horrible telegram arrived. Jackson was a healer, and the ability to touch and feel and see his patient was more important than anything. Jackson’s movements were almost greedy as he felt along the healing scar on Ezra’s head.
Josiah sighed. “He’s been pushing himself too hard.”
“Can’t ride for too long at a time,” Vin added.
“Sleeps like the dead,” Chris added.
“And gets cranky when you tell ‘im it’s time to quit,” Buck completed.
“When his eyes get squinty like that, it means his head’s hurtin ‘im,” Vin said with a gesture. Ezra squeezed his eyes shut in response and opened them all the wider.
“Won’t admit it though,” Chris stated.
“Doc Templeton sent along some medicines.” Josiah tapped the bag that had been assigned to him once the group met up. “He’s been behaving himself and taking them.”
“Yeah, and when he says, ‘I’m perfectly fine and more than capable of continuing for another hour’,” Buck said with an affected accent, “That means he’s about to drop.”
“He’s gonna put himself back in a bed if he keeps this up,” Nathan muttered, feeling the gambler’s forehead for a fever.
“I’m right here!” Ezra said in frustration, glaring at Nathan’s hand but not doing anything to shove it away. Apparently he was too used to such ministrations. “I would insist that you please stop talking about me as if I’m still in a semi-conscious state.”
Buck smiled sadly and patted his friend on the back. “Just glad to finally get back home.” He looked to Nathan. “The trip has been a bit rough on him, but we took it slow. Met up with Chris and the others at Mudbank. He’s been doin’ pretty good most the time.”
“Thank you!” Ezra said, exasperatedly pulling at his lapels as Nathan let go of him.
“God, it’s great to have you back,” JD said, stepping toward Ezra. The gambler extended a hand, but JD embraced him instead. Ezra looked startled, but returned the hug. “We were so worried about you,” JD said softly as he clenched the thin con man tightly.
“I’m quite alright, Mr. Dunne,” Ezra replied. He looked up when Nathan laid his hand on his shoulder. “Truly, I am.”
“All we had was some telegrams to go by and I was just scared that…” JD continued breathlessly, pulling tighter.
“Nothing to worry about, JD,” Ezra reassured. “See, I’m perfectly fine.”
JD stepped back, nodding and wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to not look embarrassed. “Yeah,” he said and nodded. “You’re all put together still,” he said, patting Ezra on the chest.
Josiah watched the young sheriff with a smile, remembering the meeting that took place a week ago when they caught up with Buck and Ezra in Mudbank. Buck had to scold Josiah, telling him that he was afraid that Ezra would end up with a broken ribcage if Josiah didn’t release him. The preacher laughed softly, seeing that same bewildered look on Ezra’s face as JD stepped back.
The preacher recalled that Vin had been mostly silent during that reunion, almost embarrassed or guilty in his demeanor. Chris had tried to lecture Ezra about not waiting in Digby, but had ended up sounding more concerned than anything. They’d been glad to be together again, but what they really needed was to return home, to find all their members again and be whole.
JD smiled and then turned to another of the group to distract the others from what they’d just witnessed. “Glad you got your name cleared, Vin. Glad to have all you back again.”
Vin nodded. “Good to be home.”
“Yeah,” Buck nodded. “Nothin’ like comin’ home after a long time away. Nothin’ like bein’ back among friends.
“Amen to that, brother,” Josiah agreed.
“Perhaps we might adjourn to the saloon and toast our return?” Ezra stated. “We could also celebrate Mr. Tanner’s good name.”
“Sounds okay to me,” Vin responded.
Nathan looked skeptical as he eyed his patient. “He up to it?”
Josiah tossed a paper packet to Nathan and said, “Put about a spoon of this in water. He’ll last a bit longer.”
Ezra could only sigh and shake his head. “They’re doing it again,” he said to Chaucer. The horse nuzzled him happily.
Josiah laughed deeply and patted Ezra on the shoulder. “It’s good to be home," the preacher uttered.
Nathan and Ezra set the pace as they headed toward the saloon. The horses would be handed over to the livery boys to be cared for and settled in the stalls. The men would spend the rest of the afternoon in the saloon, celebrating the return of the Seven, and toasting Vin’s good name.
The tracker smiled as he sat at the table, wondering if he should feel somehow different now that the bounty had been lifted. He looked across the table and laughed softly, seeing Nathan fussing over Ezra, and the gambler looking frustrated about the whole situation. ‘Gonna want his feather bed in a minute or two,’ he thought, noting the increased squint.
Buck was hassling JD. Chris was scanning the crowd in the saloon, finding his footing again. Josiah threw longing glances toward the church. Yeah, Vin thought. It was good to be home again. Finally, he could stay here without fear – his friends would no longer be imperiled by that bounty. In the end, he realized, that it wasn’t the name that mattered so much, as the home.
God, it was good to be home.
THE END - by NotTasha
Hope you enjoyed the story...comments.