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:  Just a reflective piece from Nathan's point of view, as he continues one of his endless vigils
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This story is based on the poem, "Musée des Beaux Arts" by W.H. Auden (1907-1973).  It will be included at the end of the story. 
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
DATE: March 26, 2003, a bit of housekeeping done July 23, 2010

About Suffering
By NotTasha... about another of my favorite poems.

Nathan pressed his hands against his face as he leaned against the small table.  He watched Buck, as he had watched him for nearly two days now.  In his fevered sleep, the ladies’ man jerked and murmured.  His hands would twitch, and he’d twist about in the bed.  Sometimes he’d rant and try to get to his feet.  But with a little persuasion and force, and he’d settle again.

“Quiet now,” Nathan would say. “Calm down.” And he would blot Buck’s too-hot brow, would force water or medicines down his throat until he gagged. “It’s okay,” he’s say needlessly, for Wilmington was beyond hearing him.

Two days -- for two days now Buck suffered. Because two days ago, shots were fired. Six lawmen had come running from all corners of the town to find Buck curled on the boardwalk, lying in blood, shot in the gut. Three strangers on horseback had been seen racing from the town.

Chris changed at that moment. A blackness seemed to settle on him. The crowd parted, like birds before a storm as he circled the horrible scene. Vin took on calculating, narrow expression as his gaze followed the path the gunmen had taken, deciding already where they were going. The two had moved as one toward the livery, not even knowing for sure if Buck would make it. This crime would not go unpunished – the men who’d done this would suffer for it.

There’d be time for worrying later – for grief even.  But then, it was time for vengeance.

And JD, who’d looked like a lost lamb when he’d seen his fallen friend, went with them. He’d been torn. It might have been comical, watching the young man twist and turn, choosing to stay and then deciding to go. But something dark had risen in him when he thought that the men might get away. There was no time for indecision. When he’d ridden out after the other two, no one stopped him.

Chris and Vin didn’t slow – but JD would catch them. The three lawmen followed the three that had hurt one of their own – to run them to ground and make them pay.

Ezra and Josiah had helped Nathan tend to the tall gunslinger, carrying him to the clinic, administering ether as Nathan sewed through gut, handing him tools, offering whatever help was needed. Ezra always got that distant, hunted look in situations like that. He left to watch over the town once Buck was settled and had been walking ever since. Josiah came to the clinic to help minister to the ailing man, to spell the healer to let him sleep, or to sleep in the clinic so that he’d be nearby if he was needed.

Ezra just walked and walked and walked, keeping the town safe.  They’d been expecting trouble ever since that gold shipment was secured in the bank. Since the thieves had disappeared empty-handed, there was still the fear that others might try where the early attempt failed. Someone had to be vigilant -- to protect them all. After all, it had been Ezra’s shift when Buck had been shot. The gambler simply continued it – on and on.

There’d be little sleep for any of them. Buck, with his fever, was rarely still in that bed. Chris, Vin and JD were hunting down the men who’d try to kill one of their own – they wouldn’t stop until they got them. Ezra wouldn’t stop pacing the town until everyone was safe and whole and home. Josiah, trying to be a comfort to Nathan and then to Ezra, helping with Buck, assisting with watching the town, and still finding time to send his petitions to heaven, was being torn into pieces. And Nathan, well, Nathan was the town’s healer. He wasn’t allowed real rest.

There’d been no word of Chris, Vin and JD. Jackson’s mind strayed toward them, not wanting to consider what could have happened. Three lawmen against three gunmen – anything could happen. He squeezed his eyes shut, ridding himself of such thoughts. God, let them be safe.

With a shake of his head, he opened his eyes again to the familiar, worn room – the sick room – the clinic. How many vigils had he kept here? How many more? The room was dim and quiet – filled with an ominous heaviness that was making the healer nervous.

Jackson, seeing that Buck was reasonably calm, moved toward the window. He pulled back the curtains and opened the pane, letting fresh air flow into the closed place. After breathing deeply, he looked out at the town. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, making everything bright, but a quiet breeze kept the air cool and comfortable.

A wagon jostled down the road, filled with young men, all of them laughing. One picked at a banjo and another pounded on the sideboards, trying to draw the attention of a young woman on the boardwalk. She giggled, blushed and hid her face, but she lifted the hem of her skirt as she stepped. The boys hooted in appreciation.

Two grinning children stepped from the Potter’s store, holding handfuls of candy as if it were gold. Their father followed, whistling and placing a loving hand on their shoulders.

A scrawny little rooster strutted about beside the hotel. It cocked its head and pecked at something in the dirt until a cat leaped from the shadows. The chicken scolded the feline, but ran when it advanced on him. The cat was unimpressed and took a dirt-bath instead of following.

Within Digger Dave’s, the piano played “Yellow Rose of Texas” and the coarse, raucous voices of the patrons tried to sing along. Someone laughed long and hard – a guffaw that only made the rest of the saloon laugh along with him.

A pair of old men played checkers outside of Bucklin’s Grocery. The one with the cane was joshing the one with the long duster, and they shared a secret smile as they talked about some old memory.

Josiah emerged from the church, looking tired and old. He paused at the top step, searching for something – probably Ezra -- but couldn’t find him in the usual afternoon crowds. But from his vantage-point, Jackson could spot the gambler, standing just outside the jail – watching as he had been watching since all this started. Standish recognized that he was being observed and turned his head to meet Nathan’s gaze. Ezra looked a question at him, cocking his head. Nathan returned his inquiry with a gentle shake of his own head – No change. He’s still hanging on. I’m fine. I don’t need anything. You should get some rest; you look like hell. You should come in and see him even though he’s not really awake; I’m sure it’ll make you feel better. It wasn’t your fault. Everyone knows it but you.

Ezra just nodded, and walked away, in the opposite direction of the church. His step was slow and his movements were without his usual flair and grace.

Grown men were playing marbles by the bathhouse.  A card game was starting at the little table outside the saloon. A matronly woman paraded down the boardwalk, proud in her new dress.

Nathan sighed and marveled that life could continue.  Everything should have just stopped. Everyone should be holding his or her breath. The earth shouldn’t be spinning on so constantly, as if nothing were wrong.

A trio of children played tag. A baby cooed and laughed as his mother carefully helped him walk. Somewhere nearby, someone started singing in a voice that was clear and perfect and true, while further down the road a horse whinnied and a dog barked and Yosemite struck a piece of iron. The sun shone as it had to.

Nathan Jackson listened to the sounds of life, as he witnessed the sight of people still capable of enjoying it. Hopeful, he turned toward the bed to continue his vigil.


Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
-- W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

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