CATEGORY: Challenge - OW
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: The conclusion to About Suffering I've written a story about Vin and JD, then Ezra and Josiah, followed by Nathan. I figured I'd better give the other two a story. 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This story is based on the poem, "Advice to my Son" by J. Peter Meinke (b. 1932). It will be included at the end of the story.
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
DATE: March 31, 2003

APPEARS IN: The Bad Element #3

Advice to my Son
By NotTasha...who really doesn't take advice very well.

“Hey, stud,” Buck whispered as he blinked across the familiar room. Things fuzzed in his vision, but the man who sat beside him was unmistakable. Buck Wilmington would recognize him anywhere.

“Buck,” Chris responded. He stretched from his position, having sat for too long after a hard ride.

“Gawd,” Wilmington exclaimed. “I feel like crap.”

“You should,” Larabee told him. He helped the ladies’ man sit up enough to drink some water and then rested him on the pillows. “Gave us a hell of a scare.”

“Yeah,” Buck admitted. “Scared myself a bit, too.”

“A bit of advice,” Chris continued. “Don’t get shot in the gut. Ain’t good for a man.”

Buck chuckled lightly. “I aim to take that under consideration.” Damn! He winced and shut his eyes tightly for a moment. “When’d you get back?” he asked, to deflect any concern.

“This afternoon. It’s nearly night now.” After Buck winced again, Chris added, “Need Nathan?”

After a quick shake of the head, Buck commented, “Naw.  Ain’t nuthin’ I can’t handle.”  Lord, he thought, let me handle this.  The belly’s a god-awful place to get shot!

“Ever’one okay?” Buck asked anxiously, opening his eyes again to search his friend’s face. “Vin? JD?”

The man-in-black nodded. “Vin never lost the trail.  JD – you would’ve been so proud of him. Goddamn, that kid has grown up.”

“No one hurt?”

“We all come back sound and whole.”

“You got those fellas?”

“All of ‘em. One earned himself a shallow grave. The other two had more smarts and surrendered.”

“The one with the black hair and the oily mustache's the one that got me.”

“Well,” Chris paused with this new information. “He’s served his sentence. We got his friends locked up at Cedar Ridge since we didn’t feel like hauling them all the way home. Had to make sure that Wilmington was still alive.”

“Well, I ain’t given up yet,” was Buck’s reply.  “Aim to hang out for a while. Keep you on your toes.” He grinned at Chris before continuing, “How’re the others?  Don’t know if Nathan got any rest.”  He looked contemplative as he declared.  “Think I saw Josiah here a time or two.  Ain’t seen Ezra at all.”

Chris explained, “Checked in with you and Nate when we got here. Then had to go supervise the fellas that finally came to get the damn gold. Went lookin’ for the others afterward.” He chuckled as he ran a hand through his blond hair. “Found Josiah in the church, standin’ over Nathan and Ezra. The two of ‘em were fast asleep in a pew, leaned up against each other. Nate was snoring to raise the dead. Seems Josiah meant to read ‘em both a sermon about taking better care of themselves and they both just passed out on him. Last time I looked in, Josiah had joined them. They look like a pile of pups.”

Buck laughed lightly at Larabee’s unusually long discourse, careful of his healing stomach. He sighed.

Chris regarded his friend. Buck still looked like hell, but his fever had broken and Nathan had assured that he was on the road to recovery if he followed the rules set forth by the healer and kept to bed for a week. But advice wasn’t always easy to take.

Buck jerked as a pain caught him, and laid a hand over his bandaged torso. “I’m too old for this, Chris,” he muttered.

“Yeah, you and me both,” Larabee replied, remembering the taut fear that had gripped him when he’d seen his friend laid out in the street, the red rage that had consumed him as he hunted down the shooters, the cold emptiness as he considered the worst outcome, the weary wait as Buck continued to sleep.

“Seems to me I should be settled down by now,” Buck commented.

“You?” Chris asked with a chuckle. “Not Buck Wilmington.”

“Hmm,” Buck returned. “Not such a wild idea.” After an adjustment, he settled further into his pillows. “My mama gave me lots of advice when I was a kid. I was a wild one, and she knew enough to let me run. Let me ramble all I wanted. She used to say, 'you’re only young once and you shouldn’t be wastin’ it with seriousness'.”

Chris settled in his chair, spreading his knees wide and leaning forward. “You were a terror.”

“Lord,” Buck murmured. “I think I aged that woman by years.   Gave her a fright every other day, but as she told me…” He gestured to the dressing across his middle. “…Never know when somethin’ like this is gonna happen, so you gotta live each day as if it’s your last. Figure that’s exactly what I’ve been doin’ all my life.”

“Keeps it interesting,” Chris commented.

“Yeah, but…” Buck trailed off, the contemplative look on his hollow, pale face reminding Chris how sick the man had been… still was. “When I was a kid, we lived day to day most of the time, but Ma always put a bit away. A little here… a little there… savin’ it for the future.” His eyes narrowed, becoming moist with an old thought. “She dreamed of havin’ a house. A little home just for the two of us. She dreamed of bein’ a woman, a mother… just a normal…” His voice caught, as the tears formed and he had to squeeze his eyes shut.

“She was a truly amazing person,” Chris said softly, looking at a spot on the floor – wondering if it was blood – figuring that since this was Nathan’s place it probably was. It was amazing to think he’d never met Buck's mother – he’d been hearing about her for so many years. “An incredible woman.”

“A saint,” Buck added. “We lived each day to the fullest, but we always planned… always planned. She wanted me to have a normal life, to be just a kid. I grew up too fast and there was never enough money. She died b’fore she could get that life for me, that quiet, little dream-house.”

“It’s what ever mother wants for her son,” Chris stated before wryly adding, “Except maybe Ezra’s.”

Buck answered with a smile before continuing with, “She used to tell me all the time, life is what you make it. If you live in darkness, ain’t gonna get nothin’ but black.” He flashed a look in his friend’s direction, hoping the comment didn’t get taken the wrong way.

“I like black,” Larabee replied, seeing Buck’s look. He pulled at his dark shirt. “I wear other colors, too, you know? Don’t see why everybody always says…”

Continuing quickly to get past the comment, Buck interrupted, “She taught me to enjoy the good life, but to plan ahead. Told me to go sow my wild oats, but come back to tend ‘em come fall. Plant some other vittles while I’m at it b’cause oats are only good for horses.”

“Parents are always givin’ advice like that. When I met Sarah, my Pa had all sorts of fine things to tell me, but mostly he wanted to know what Sarah’s mother looked like.”

Buck raised an eyebrow and painfully sat himself up on one elbow. “He had some designs of his own, the old dog? Always knew he was a rascal.”

With a snort, Chris responded, “He told me that if I could get a look at her mother, I’d see what Sarah would look like in 20 years, see what I was in for.”

Buck scratched his chin. “If I remember rightly, Mrs. Connolly was a big woman, arm like hams, with a mustache and a bald spot on the back of her head. Smelled of garlic.”

Chris’ face brightened at a different memory. “Gawd, I must have loved Sarah something fierce.”

“Yeah, yeah you did,” Buck said with a nod, sitting back again with a slow exhale. “She was somethin’ special.”

“Yeah,” Chris replied, brushing at his knee, the smile not fading. When had things changed? he thought. When did it stop hurting to remember these little things? When did it start feeling good to think about those times? When did the dark hole start to fill in?

Buck had said nothing, respecting the silence of his friend. Chris gazed back at the ailing gunslinger, wondering what he’d done to deserve such a good friend -- who had let him take his time to heal, to get on with life – yet never let him sink so low that he couldn’t come back out of that hole?

After a pause, Chris continued, “Pa gave me all sorts of advice. I didn’t follow very much of it. Told me that if I wanted to keep my friends, I shouldn’t work with ‘em.”

Buck laughed as loud as he could without literally splitting his gut. Chris responded by curling his lip in a sneer at his oldest friend and co-worker, but the expression changed to a toothy grin at his friend’s merriment… to an anxious look as Buck cut off his guffaw abruptly and held his stomach.

“You okay?” Chris asked seriously, half standing, ready to go fetch the healer.

Buck waved his free hand, the other hand still clutching. “Ain’t so bad. Only hurts when I laugh.” After a grimace he turned to Chris again. “It’s goin’. Gonna be fine. Whew!” he let out a breath. “Feels damn good to laugh though. Ain’t had a reason to for a while.”

“Yeah,” Chris agreed. “Kinda know what you mean.”

Buck shuffled against his pillows and they were both quiet again. Chris noted that Buck was drifting, his eyes didn’t seem to be focusing on him any longer. “Time to listen to your elders and get some sleep,” Chris said sternly.

“Elder?” Buck responded. “All of two weeks!”

“Yeah, just stop fightin’ and get some rest. Otherwise I’ll call in Josiah. I’m sure he can put ya to bed like he did the others.”

Too tired to do anything else, Buck just blinked lethargically and sighed.

Larabee continued after a moment, “Ya know, Pa wasn’t always full of crap. Gave me one or two good bits to remember.”

“What’d that be?”

“Sorta like what your Ma told you. Told me to make him proud. Do the right thing.” With a shrug, he added, “But that I shouldn’t forget to have a good time doin’ it.”

“Yeah,” Buck replied, his voice thick with sleep. “Figure that’s what we’ve been doin’ here, huh?”

“I figure you’re right,” Chris responded. “Never would have thought it, but this…” he nodded about him, to the room and the town beyond it. “What we do is damn fine work.”

“Could do without the bullet holes,” Buck stated with a small smirk. “But you’re right. Don’t think I could find a finer group of fellas to work with, a better place to be. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” His eyes fully closed and his face smoothed out. "It’s been a mighty fine ride.”

Chris leaned closer to the bed, pulling the blanket up and settling it over his friend. “And it ain’t over yet,” he said softly. “Not by a long shot.”


Advice to my Son
by J. Peter Meinke

The trick is, to live your days
as if each one may be your last

(for they go fast, and young men lose their lives
in strange and unimaginable ways)
but at the same time, plan long range
(for they go slow; if you survive
the shattered windshield and the bursting shell
you will arrive
at our approximation here below
of heaven or hell)

To be specific, between the peony and the rose
plant squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes;
beauty is nectar
and nectar, in the desert, saves –
but the stomach craves stronger sustenance
than the honied vine.
Therefore, marry a pretty girl
after seeing her mother;
show your soul to one man,
work with another;
and always serve bread with your wine.
But, son,
Always serve wine.

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