RATING: PG... for some light swearing
STATUS: Complete
CATEGORY: OW - Challenge Story.  with some 'deathfic' tones.  The death of a canon character is discussed, but it’s not one of the Seven..
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 Jean's May 2001 Magnifiction Challenge.  This one is a song fic;  The theme is Time. "Time it is a precious thing, Time brings all things to your mind, Time with all its labours along with all its joys, and Time brings all things to an end." Only rule is strictly no death fic!! No word limit but please, no epics. Any character from the seven that you choose may be the focus. -- that was the challenge.  I cheated a bit.
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments are greatly appreciated
SPOILERS: Mostly “The Trial”, but also, “Ghosts of the Confederacy” (the Pilot), ”One Day out West”, “Achilles” and “Vendetta” 
APPEARS IN: Fanzine I Ain't No Doctor #2
DATE: Finished May 7, 2001

Time is a Healer   
By NotTasha...who isn't....

"Time it is a precious thing, Time brings all things to your mind, Time with all its labours along with all its joys, and Time brings all things to an end."

Nathan Jackson walked, his back to the town. The road was well used, trodden by the people of Four Corners, well-familiar to him. Everyone, it seemed, walked along this path at one time or another.  He had traveled this way many times in the past few months, to visit that one particular marker. It had once been a long walk, but the distance seemed to have shortened as time wore on. Was it just his imagination?  No, not entirely.  The town was getting bigger. The new Emporium shortened the lonely trail by one building's length, and someone had staked out the perimeter where a hotel might someday rise. New houses were cropping up all over the place, widening the town as well as lengthening it.

Yes, the little town of Four Corners was flourishing.  Who would have imagined it? Time certainly changes things. An image of the town returned to the healer… an image that had first greeted him when he arrived, so long ago. It had been a lawless and dangerous place back then -- dusty, broken-down, on the verge of slipping into chaos. He had come because he'd heard that a sawbones could make a decent living here. With all the trouble constantly brewing, there had always been a bone to set, a bullet hole to sew up, a bruise to tend. He could pat his patient on the arm and say, "Get yourself some bed rest and don't move that arm none, now that I got it set. Give it time and you'll be fine. Time is the best healer, you know."

Yes, a healer could make a good living. But, instead of a 'living' -- he'd almost found a 'dying' here.

The healer paused in his steps as he remembered the time when he had been taken down this path by a lynch mob, thrown into the back of a wagon and carried away. Unconsciously, his hand went to his throat as he recalled that cold terror, the bleak, heart-stopping terror. He'd would have met his death at the end of a rope, in a dusty, broken-down, verge-of-chaos town. Just another darkie strung up by white men.

But it hadn't ended that way. It had ended… differently. He had been saved.

A good thing had come out of that horrible event. It was the crisis that started bringing them together, that brought Vin and Chris, and JD too, to his rescue. Nathan rubbed his hand where the noose had tightened. Good can come of anything, he thought. Now he protected the likes of those who had once tried to kill him.

Buck had joined them, and Josiah as well. Jackson smiled, thinking fondly of Sanchez. Their friendship was older than that of any of the others, better grounded, firmer. It wasn't that way with everyone.

Nathan continued walking, remembering his first meeting with another of their group. Standish had managed to immediately confirm every notion he'd had of gamblers... of southern gamblers-- bigoted, lying, stealing, self-serving, money-grubbing, arrogant, cheating, sons-of-bitches.

It took a while, but Nathan had come to realize that Ezra was a far better man than his first impression let on. First impressions can be wrong.  He had learned that. He had learned a little something from all of them.

Reaching his destination, Nathan pushed open the ramshackle gate and entered the little cemetery. He didn't have to look at the names on the markers; he could have found his way blind if he had to. He moved past names that he recognized, townspeople he had known. These were people whose lives had crossed his -- gone now -- gone to dust. Mr. Potter was near the gate, almost as if he guarded the little place. Here was Annie Nechaus, with a wreath of flowers left by her family. JD had aged years in those days that followed her death. There was Hank Connelly, with a simple yet stately wooden cross. Chris had seen to it that he was properly tended. Steven Travis had his own place here, the dirt around the grave hard-packed from years of visits. Had that much time passed already?

The cemetery had grown right along with the town.

He moved past these names and stopped. One particular monument drew him.  "Papa," Nathan sighed, as he laid his hand on the gravestone.

He was silent, staring at the carved letters.  The expensive marker had appeared in town a week after the funeral.  Ben Mack, the town's undertaker/cabinet-maker had said the gravestone had arrived by a special wagon and nobody could say who had sent it.  An agent paid for its transportation and no information was given to the drivers.  Just another strange thing, Nathan thought, in a life filled with many strange things.

"Papa," Jackson said again, stroking the unfeeling stone.  How often had he stood here in this desolate cemetery?  How often had words failed him, even in this lonely spot where no one but the ghosts could hear him?  The words always failed him.

In the weeks that followed the trial, Obediah Jackson sickened and died.  It was as if a momentous block had been moved and the man who walked and talked, became an invalid after he'd had his day in court.  The strong man, who had done his best to keep his broken family together, was soon unable to rise from his bed and hardly able to draw a breath.

The end was quick.  "It's a blessing," some had said.  But, Nathan thought, I was just getting to know him.

"Better that he didn't suffer long."  But, I didn’t have enough time…not enough time to say anything.

"He's with God now, and all his angels."  But, I'd rather he was with me.

"You should be happy that you had this time with him."  But it wasn't enough.  Nowhere near enough.

"You'll feel better, given time."  But how come I still feel this way?

"Time is a healer."  No, I'm a healer and I couldn't do anything for my Papa.

"Papa," he said again, touching the stone, leaning his weight against it.  "Papa."  So many years given up to disgust and disapproval -- So many years of antipathy.  So many years given up to a lie.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"  Nathan stroked the stone, warm from the sun.  "Why'd you let so much time go by?  Why'd you let it go on so long? So much time, Papa.  I wish I could've known sooner.  I wish there was some time still so that we could talk."

The wind kicked up a cloud of dust.  He squinted against it, and waited for the breeze to settle, hearing the ticking of sand against stone and wood, the whisking whirling of particles caught up in the little maelstrom, the creak of the hanging tree.  He opened his eyes slowly and gazed down at the stone. Dust had found its way into the letters of the marker.

Nathan squatted, pulled a bandana from his pocket and worked to clean out the letters.  The stone hadn't been here very long, but already the carefully carved letters had lost their crispness.  The angles were no longer sharp.  The words would fade as the elements worked against the stone.  In time, the name would become less distinct; it would fade away. Time changes everything.

He breathed on the letters, releasing the dust from the words carved there.  The name would always remain in his heart.

Jackson stood slowly, and patted the stone thoughtfully.  "I should go back now, Papa," he said softly.  "The guys are getting together in a bit.  Mrs. Travis and some of the other ladies have put together a supper for all of us.  I don't think they knows what they’re gettin' themselves into."

The wind rattled the old oak tree that occupied one corner of the cemetery.

"The whole town's invited.  It's a sort of a celebration, I guess, and we're the guests of honor."

"Imagine that, Papa.  Me... a guest of honor."

Nathan smiled then.  "I gotta go now, Papa," he said and stood quietly for a moment more.  His eyes focused on the letters, letters that had been carved in stone but were already starting to be worn away.  "I gotta go."

And the healer turned and headed home.

THE END - by NotTasha

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