Magnificent Seven Alternate Universe

by Heather F.

Disclaimers: Not mine, no money made etc.

Repsonse to challenge: Write (or rather, *re*write) a movie or TV show as starring our favorite Seven guys. You MAY NOT use an existing AU, you must create your own. (Yes, that does mean you can't just have ATF Team Seven join forces with Walker, Texas Ranger - a crossover is not what we're aiming for here.) You can do the whole thing or just a teaser so long as all Seven are used. Sounds daunting I know, but sit down and watch a few movies or a couple hours of cable and I'm sure you'll come up with something great!

Acknowelegements: Mitzi, of course...

Warnings: The whole grammar and spelling thing have always been a bugger...But oh well...

The soft sound of rope rocking under tension against an iron hook filled the room.

"Dear Mother of God," Josiah's whispered baritone voice drowned under the incessant creak of rope swinging back and forth.

The dark room smelled of blood and sweat. A bed lay messed but un-slept in, a chair sat against a wall as if the spectator still sat watching the games.

A folded length of twisted wire lay discarded on the bed spread covered and splattered in blood.

Larabee ignored it. Saw it, felt his blood boil and then ignored it. He kept his attention on the man who swung by cut wrists from the rope. High enough to extend the body out fully exposing ribs and stretching muscles and hyperextending shoulder joints to near tearing. Booted toes barely skimmed the wood floor. Bloody streaks stained the grain, darkening the floor further.

"Cut'im down," Larabee supported the pin striped legs. Supported the dead weight. He had better not be dead. Not after just finding him, learning his true identity. Not possible, no God could be so cruel. Or maybe one could.

Nathan materialized from no where. He stretched over head with knife in hand and sliced the ropes in one fluid motion. The bare torso collapsed forward, knees buckled and blanched arms fell to their respective sides. The gambler's head bowed following the slump of unresisting shoulders.

Larabee beared the weight and followed it to the ground. His hands slipped on the chilled, tacky, sweat and blood of the gambler. Chris made to stand up, back away from the clammy body that crumbled within his grasp. He wanted Nathan between him and his younger brother, he wanted the Healer to start his work so Chris and the others could start theirs. A weak hand snarled the front of his shirt, stalling Larabee's movements. The fist held no physical strength. The bloated discolored fingers could hardly curl to make a loose fist. It was the cocky half smile, the glimpse of a dimple and fluttering of swollen red eyes that forced the gunslinger to stay close to the gambler.

"They didn't git it….they're….cheap Bastards…." The slurred words rolled over a tooth torn tongue and lips. A soft moist chuckle rolled into a low moan as pain waved through the shivering southerner. Standish twisted his wrist, burying and knotting it in Larabee's black shirt as pain surged through him. Another gurgling chuckle, "mother would be so disappointed." The haltering words became lost behind chattering teeth. Standish pulled himself into Larabee's chest bowing his head, straining against the searing agony that wanted to force a cry.

Chris grasped his brother. Held him to his chest. He would kill the Bastards.

Standish was his to threaten. No one else held the right, except maybe these other five men. His other five brothers. A strange and not so terribly welcomed realization. Chris did not want the burden of six brothers, he did not want the responsibility of family. Not any more. Never. Death was his next dance partner, not newly found brothers. For the last three days he had ignored, fought and drank himself into oblivion doing his best to shun any ties to the other men. He had no intentions of getting strapped with anyone else. Didn't they understand it? Chris knew Buck understood it and Larabee despised the man for spurring the others into friendships, over the last few days.

No one heard Josiah leave the room. The large Preacher had never truly entered the room. In seeing his younger brother hanging from the rafter by his wrists, the older man had left the room. His anger such that he could not stand to see any more. Death sat ready within his grip. He shook with murder in his heart.

No one noticed or cared when furniture down the hall suddenly cascaded down the hotel steps. Pictures rattled with each strike on the stairs.

Vin stood back in the shadows of the room. Stayed draped behind the darkness that disguised his revulsion. Just a few days ago, he had learned he came from a family of six. Six half brothers. Emotions tossed and turned mixed with elation and dread. A lonesome life suddenly filled, but a solitary existence unfortunately began to disappear. Six brothers, though none would have suited him, the six wedged tightly amongst the others. Somehow they formed in and around him including him when he felt the desire to run. The kaleidoscope of wedges and shapes somehow made sense. An imperfect fit.

Perhaps not as imperfect as they had originally thought. Tanner did not divert his gaze from the scene on the floor. He had witnessed and seen the brutality of men before. Had survived it, retaliated against it and in times partook in his own means of violence. At dusk, in this small rented room, he felt his heart turn and darken in an ugly familiar manner. Tanner would trudge back down the twisted path of revenge once again. Simply because he was a Tanner, and the man on the floor held Tanner blood. More accurately they were Cartwrights…whoever the Hell that was…..

Buck turned away from the sight. Turned away from Larabee and the bundle crumpled before him.

Wilmington faced out the hotel room. Looked down into the street. He listened as another large piece of furniture flew down an unseen flight of stairs. It sounded almost like a bed.

Buck ignored JD. Ignored the young man he had so easily and eagerly accepted as one of the family. Wilmington stared at the window watching the reflection of two brothers huddled on the floor.

It had been so easy to embrace JD as a brother, hell any of the others. Even Ezra. To find family after being alone for so long. To learn that he had not lost everything when Sarah and Adam had been torn from Chris. Wilmington watched the reflection as Chris cinched Standish tighter to his chest.

Three days ago they had been thrust together as seven brothers. Seven Cartwright's. Their father a mystery to most but Josiah and Chris. But even Josiah and Chris knew nothing of each other.

A single widowed father with seven sons. Seven distinct ill fated sons heading for disaster or seeking out the Devil himself.

In a macabre twist of fate, seven men found relations that should never had existed.

Somehow it had been easy to accept the other six men. Had been easy for Buck to accept that their father had sown his seed across this vast country and its cities and frontier towns. Not too hard for a boy raised in a brothel by a 'working' mother, to believe something like this could happen. No, not hard at all.

JD stood by far the youngest and most openly needy. Josiah the eldest and most stable. Somewhere in between, struggled five others. Only three days ago they found each other, found a father and then lost him. Three days ago the brothers stood awkwardly around the grave of a man they did not know and tried to mourn him. Six brothers stood over a hole in the ground trying to dredge up some kind of feelings for a man who had thrust them into a situation none of them knew how to handle.

What did they know about running a cattle ranch, harvesting logs and running a multifaceted business? What did any of them know about anything other than saving their own skins?

Their seventh had hid in a saloon, had hid in plain daylight finding refuge behind a set of cards, a shot glass and an easy smile. He had an inheritance, like the rest of them. Father be damned. Truth be told, he had a mother and was not impressed. How could a father be much different? The heritance though, now that was something to celebrate. Least the old man had the decency to claim him as a son. Not many, in fact, no one, had ever truly claimed him. His mother would, only if a profit were within her reach and if she had proof of her claim.

Celebrate he did. Three days ago he toasted his brothers in a mocking style, up ended his glass and found comfort in things familiar to him. The green felt of a gaming table, the smell of saloon smoke and the din of drunks and their money.

Three days ago, Guy Royal and Stuart James had made their entrance into the saloon and confronted the sons. Veiled threats and innuendos had whispered between old and new cattle men alike. Royal and James had needed water rights….Chris Larabee didn't care. Truth be told none of them did.

Not even Standish. He had sat on his raised dais and played cards watching and ignoring the tensions around the room. Water rights? Perhaps he could make his inheritance worth even more.

James had threatened Larabee personally and earned a chuckle from the blonde gunslinger. The cattle men had insulted the eldest son, the defrocked preacher, only to have the grizzled man raise a whiskey glass to the truth of their statements. They had gone so far as to speak of the illegitimacy of the youngest in their group.

This had earned a reaction from Wilmington and the pup. In fact, if anyone had been paying any real attention six men dipped hands to their holsters. Stuart James tested the waters and threatened the gambler, who had sat apart from the other six, engrossed in a card game.

Larabee had merely shrugged and had said, "Take him."

Standish had played his hand never deviating his eyes from his opponents. Ahh yes family. One can always count on family.

Three days ago the six had offered their seventh up as a paltry price, uncaring of the consequences because they had truly believe nothing would come of it. Royal and James were all talk and bloat nothing more.

Nothing did come of it until a day ago.

As six men built stronger bonds and learned something of one another, the seventh sat sometimes quietly but most times verbose, enjoying his luck at the gaming tables. A whiskey and cheroot always close by and a dimpled smile conveying his casual disregard for all things that existed outside the realm of cards and a good drink. He had money to burn.

A day ago he turned up missing. For one day, the other six lost sight of the flippant smile and quick talk. For a turn of the sun, they did not openly enjoy the quick anger that raged through Larabee with a simple comment from Standish. For one full day, they did not see their brother sip a drink of whiskey, count a card or pilfer money.

As the sun set on the second day a frustrated Guy Royal and Stuart James stalked from the local hotel. With contempt and vile disgust, they told Larabee he could have his brother back. They would find another away to gain water rights one way or another. They would not give up. The two men and their lackeys rode from town.

It was Chris who had led the charge to the hotel. He had skipped up the stairs two at a time while Josiah threatened the hotel clerk for the room number.

In a rumbling, voice from the depths of Hell it self, Sanchez had called out number 9.

Six men had stood in the door way of room number nine and paused. The door hung off its top hinge and the wood splintered near its edge where Larabee had kicked it open.

There hanging in the center of the room wrapped in grey light of the setting sun and blood, their brother twisted by his wrists in a slight breeze.

Buck changed the focus of his eyes and stared into the darkening night. He could not watch Chris any longer on the floor.

JD backed away from the scene before him and bumped into Wilmington.

Dunne said nothing, stuttering silently, he escaped from the room, his hands fumbling for the colts at his waist.

Buck listened as the boy flew passed Josiah, fled down the cluttered stairs and out into the street. Wilmington closed his eyes as he listened as his youngest brother screamed for James and Royale to come back…to fight like men. Buck took a breath and counted the number of times JD fired his gun into the air….an act of deviance and fear.

"Let me look at'im Chris," Nathan gently tried to peel the gunslinger from the gambler.

Larabee tightened his hold bringing the smaller man closer to his chest. Protecting him for the moment. An unconscious act born from having been part of a family once…twice…and now perhaps a third time.

Standish's hand slipped from the shirt. The bruised pudgy fingers lost their strength and the arm collapsed, folding on it self. He slumped in Larabee's grip, feet sliding out from underneath himself. His head rolled against Larabee's upper arm. The fight drained from him.

The true foe had brazenly rode away.

Chris cinched his hold tighter on the sweaty cold torso. He stared at Nathan meeting the man in the eye and gaged his character again.

Jackson returned it with steadfast determination. Ezra and Nathan had proven to be a volatile combination from the very beginning. Neither sought nor granted forgiveness for their respective pasts.

"He's blood kin, Chris, I'll protect'im with my life," the whispered words were unnecessary.

"If we're gonna catch those Bastards we're gonna have to ride now," Tanner pushed himself from the wall. Bounty be damned.

"They committed suicide when they started this," Josiah's dark voice thundered around the room. Wilmington stared at the older preacher….must have ran out of furniture.

"I say we best accommodate them," Buck stepped from the window and faced the others.

Tanner slid across the room and tapped Larabee's shoulder. "Nathan can take care of 'im."

Jackson's head shot up, "Like hell," the ferocity in his voice had Larabee reaching for his gun in an unconscious gesture. Nathan met Chris's glare with one of his own, "I'm comin' with ya…. iffen I have to follow a trail."

"Buck, go down an' tell JD to quit wastin' bullets and git the horses ready." Chris never took his eyes from Jackson. He never would have thought a man could destroy lives as well as save them. Larabee promised not to underestimate his brothers again.

"Vin gather as much ammunition as you can find," Larabee swung his gaze to his closest brother, "this ends tonight, one way or another."

The tracker bowed his head slightly and slipped back into the shadows and melted from the group.

Mary Travis and Nettie Wells stopped at the entrance of the room, "You boys move'im a few doors down and we'll tend'im til you git back." Nettie hefted her Spencer with the ease of experience. Her niece and farm had been threatened many times in the past by Royale and James. Perhaps these seven men would end it tonight.

With a nod, Larabee and Sanchez gathered Standish between them and headed down the hall to the one room that still had furniture in it. They laid their younger brother on the bed with exaggerated ease. Chris ran a finger over a bloody welt that crossed Standish's midsection. Heavy bruising discolored the skin over a section of ribs. The distinct pattern of twisted wire easily discernible.

Royale and James would pay. Larabee and Sanchez headed for the livery.

Nathan squatted under the dim glow of a table lamp and scribbled down ingredients for poultices and teas. Nettie took the notes without gazing at it.

"You best git goin' son if yer gonna go with'em."

The healer and arguably best fitting piece to the puzzle that encompassed the Cartwright's expanded household, ran to catch up with his brothers.

Nettie gazed at the lone brother left behind. He'd live, just might not wish it for a day or so.

The old frontiers lady sighed and started educating her younger counterpart in the ways of poultices and healing salves.

The sheriff barred Chris's way as the gunslinger pushed through to the board walk.

"You can't do this Larabee," Sheriff Coffee sent a pleading look to the preacher in the family, "your father wouldn't want this."

"My father didn't want a lot of things…," Larabee let the bitter resentment of the last few days boil into his voice. He would not grant any emotions to his sire. His parents had died long ago in Indiana. Peaceful hardworking folks that did the best they could for their children. Chris wondered briefly if his mother ever told his father the truth behind his true identity. Larabee decided it didn't matter. He was and always would be a Larabee. Just as Tanner would carry the pride of his family name to the grave.

"Roy git out of the way," Buck's voice sounded from behind the sheriff. Wilmington sat astride his big Grey and ponied Chris's fiery black. "Ain't no way we'll let them git away with this."

"Dang it Buck," Sheriff Roy Coffee had known Buck and Chris for close to nine years running. Of the two, Wilmington was the level headed one, kept Larabee out of jail for years. Though the two did not come to his territory often, he kept tabs on the men since the war. Almost like sons to him…almost. What had Ben been thinking when he let these two boys go? "Three days ago he was nothin' but a gambler and a stranger to you all," the sheriff pleaded with the men that made up this impromptu family hoping to save lives and prevent mistakes, "Hell, Ben lost hope for him long, long ago, tried to git him back with'im when there might've been a chance but his ma had her clutches in'im too deep….boy has to be a bad seed." Coffee realized his mistake the second the words slipped from his lips.

"Well then he'll fit right in with the rest of us," Larabee brushed past the sheriff and swung up onto his gelding. The horse settled down.

Judge Travis stepped from the shadows, "Larabee, killing men 's only going to get you and your brothers hung…." Travis paused, he had slipped from the hotel's saloon up the stairs to see for himself the handiwork of Guy Royal and Stuart James, "you bring them back alive and let justice handle this."

Chris thought about fighting the Judge and ignoring him completely, until JD's gelding bumped into the back of the black. Larabee's swung his attention to his youngest brother. In the fading light of day, he saw the blind devotion. JD would follow them to Hell and back would become everything his momma taught him not to be, just to keep with family. The gunslinger sat quiet for a moment staring at the lost soul trying so hard to be a man. Damn kid should just slow down. Chris narrowed his eyes and faced the old man on the board walk. Travis had a reputation of being fair but harsh.

"Alright Judge," Larabee reined his horse away from the board walk but paused, "if they put up a fight…"

"Bring'em back alive Chris…if you can."

Larabee nodded.

Six horses galloped out of town kicking up little dust.

Sheriff Coffee stared at the Judge incredulously.

"Better to rein them in now and make them allies than it is to fight them Roy," the Judge paused, "they're gonna be around for a while you just might think about hiring one or two of them as deputies….because I think in gaining a few you might coral the whole damn lot."

Judge Travis patted the sheriff on the back and disappeared into the saloon.

The End