(or How The Wolves Almost Ate Christmas)
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of the Magnificent Seven, they are owned by Trilogy, MGM, CBS, TNN and Mirisch Corp. I am making no profit off of this, it is for entertainment purposes only.
Summary: JD and Vin and wolves... the rest you may infer (or read, hopefully).
Comments: Thank you to Miz Royale for betaing this whole thing tonight as it was written. I couldn't ask for a better person to help me with my stories. As for the second title, Miz Royale and I thought it might be the more appropriate one but decided it also might be a bit over the top. So Christmas Miracles it is. As always, feedback is appreciated.
"Hey, Chris?" Vin Tanner said as he entered the saloon. Sitting down at the blonde gunslinger's table his friend looked up and then poured a whiskey for him. "I'll be headin' out to Chanu's village for a few days. Should be back around Christmas or after," the tracker informed him.
"Imagine the town can spare you for a few days," Chris told him. "Anything goin' on there that I should know about?"
"Nope, just feel like bein' out of town for a while, that's all."
Chris nodded his understanding. This close to Christmas, people were overly friendly, well meaning and downright cheerful. He'd had four invitations to Christmas dinner already... none of which he planned to accept. For Vin, having people constantly at him it must be ten times worse, the leader of the seven mused.
"You can stop on by the cabin, if you want, on your way back," Chris issued the round about invitation after a long silence.
"Might do that," Vin smiled as he finished another shot of whiskey and then stood up to leave. "See ya all in a few days," he told the rest of the men who were at nearby tables.
The leader raised his shot glass in acknowledgment as the tracker departed. Ezra waved, barely looking up from his cards, concentrating on beating three miners that were at his table.
"Speakin' of leavin'," Nathan called from the next table over, where he sat with Josiah, JD and Buck. "I'll be headin' to the Seminole Village to be with Rain for Christmas."
"Are any of my brothers to be in town on Christmas?" Josiah asked.
"I'm goin' to Casey's," volunteered JD. "I gotta leave a day early though to get a special surprise for her."
"What the heck kind of surprise takes a whole day?" Buck asked. Nettie's is only a couple hours ride!"
"If I tell you, then it won't be a surprise cause you'll go blabbin' it!" JD exclaimed.
"Now, son-" Buck began but was cut off by Chris.
"Leave him alone, Buck. Let him have his surprise."
"I'm just tryin' to help the boy, is all, Chris! Leavin' it up to him, he'll surprise her with a fishin' pole or somethin'."
"And just what's wrong with a fishin' pole?" JD asked defensively. Buck just shook his head at the boy's ineptness with women.
"Let's get back to Mr. Sanchez's question," Ezra forestalled more bickering between Buck and JD. It was ruining his concentration and the miners were starting to get impatient at his slow moves. "Will any of my illustrious compatriots be gracing this town with their presence?"
"I'll be here, Ez," Buck told him.
"As will I... giving a service at the church of course," Josiah said, eyeing each man. The message was clear, they were expected to attend.
"Sorry to miss that one," Nathan said, but maybe I can talk Rain into comin' into town for it."
"I might ride in for it," Chris told him.
"Casey, Nettie and I will be there," JD promised.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world, Josiah," Buck told him.
All eyes then turned to the gambler, who looked up from his cards. "Just how early will this service be?"
"Before noon, so I guess that leaves you out, Ezra," Chris said dryly.
"We shall see, Mr. Larabee, we shall see," the gambler grinned as he raked in the money the miners had put down. A full house... ah, he loved the Christmas season!
+ + + + + + +
JD rode quickly through the snow-covered trees in search of his surprise. He'd made sure he had lost Buck and Ezra a while back. Vin had taught him a few things about hiding one's trail and he was sure Buck would ruin his surprise for Casey. It was going to be a small, but perfect Christmas tree for the girl, one he cut down himself. The boy had brought a small axe and even made a travois for the tree so that it's branches wouldn't get broken too badly on the ride to Casey's. Boy, was she gonna be surprised, JD thought excitedly. This would really make up for the not lookin' right in a dress' comment he'd made around Thanksgiving!
JD finally located the perfect small pine tree. It was only about 5 feet high and he almost felt bad about cutting it down, but then he thought of Casey, and how she said that she'd love to decorate a tree all her own. That did it, and the axe swung.
JD soon got into a steady rhythm with the axe and it seemed to sing in the air as he swung it with all of his might. He never noticed that the music the axe was making seemed to be answered by wolves baying. It was in the back of his mind but did not seep into the part that said wolves in winter could be very hungry predators.
The young Sheriff's horse first alerted him to the danger. The mount began whinnying and prancing, attempting to break loose of it's tether. JD stopped mid-swing and went to the horse, soothing the creature while listening for what had spooked her.
The first growls took him by surprise. He turned to see around 10 wolves forming a semi-circle around he and his mare. The horse began to prance in earnest while JD slowly untethered her.
"Oh, shit!" JD muttered. Vin had told him that if wolves went after you, the best place to be was a tree. His mount however couldn't climb the tree she was tethered too... and the damn thing would never hold his weight anyway. His only course of action he decided was to shoot as many of them as he could and hope the mare could break free.
Mounting the mare proved very difficult as he unholstered his gun and began shooting. He'd just about made it when a wolf went for the mare's foreleg. She shied violently away as JD shot the wolf, throwing the young man to the ground.
His gun had flown out of his hand when he'd been thrown but he had landed near his axe. Brandishing his only weapon, JD became the center of the wolves' attention as the mare hightailed it out of there!
Vin Tanner rode quietly through the snow-covered forest that lay between him and Four Corners a day earlier than he had planned. Chanu's village did not, of course ,celebrate Christmas and for once, Vin found he was missing that ritual. The fact that he had friends now to celebrate that special holiday with didn't occur to him as the reason he wanted to get back to Four Corners. He just felt this pull, like he should be there, for some reason.
The shots that rang out in the silence had the tracker quickly drawing his gun. The wolves answering howls and the panicked neighings of a horse told him all he needed to know. Who the hell was fool enough to not watch for wolves at this time of year? It had been unseasonably cold and their food had disappeared a month ago. All of them were starving and he had a feeling their victim was definitely going to be a meal if he didn't get to the poor guy in time.
+ + + + + + +
"It's mighty kind of you to give up your time with Rain like this to help the Jefferson children," Josiah commented to Nathan as the two made their way from the Seminole Village.
"I got some more herbs from Rain that might help with their fevers," Nathan stated. "And she knows my first obligation is to patients, Christmas or not."
"Rain is a good woman," Josiah stated.
"You don't have to tell me that," Nathan grinned. The grin quickly faded as he heard shots from far off.
The two friends shared a look and in concert turned their horses towards the sounds.
+ + + + + + +
Chris Larabee, contrary to his nature, had decided to follow Buck and Ezra, who were following JD. He saw exactly where the kid lost the gambler and ladies man. The gunslinger had to laugh, JD really was learning quickly from Vin.
"He ditched you two pretty good," Chris greeted Buck and Ezra. The two men were pretty sheepish.
"And just what brings you out here, Mr. Larabee?"
"JD got wind of your bet, the one you two have as to what his surprise is?" Chris clarified at Ezra's look of confusion. Just how many bets did the con-man have going at once?
"And..." Buck asked.
"He bet me that he could lose you two. I wanted to see if I had to take my losses outta your hides. I can't believe the two of you are such poor trackers!"
"Now Chris, it ain't our fault the kid's learning those damn tricks from Vin," Buck defended. "I swear, that Texan could lose a posse three feet behind him!"
"Don't matter, you two still owe me $2 apiece," the gunslinger informed them.
"You only bet $2 on our tracking skills? Why, Mr. Larabee, you insult us!"
"Acutally, Ezra, I only bet $1 on your skills, the other is for being such poor trackers!"
"Mr. Larabee!" Ezra began to protest when all three men heard the shots. They drew their guns and quickly made their way towards the sound, all realizing that JD was alone out in these woods! Their worst fears were confirmed a few minutes later when JD's horse came at a terrified full gallop towards them, her leg bloody.
"We gotta find that kid," Buck stated unnecessarily. Ezra and Chris just nodded agreement as the three followed the blood trail left by the horse which none of them had been able to catch.
+ + + + + + +
Vin Tanner knew he'd never live to see a scarier sight than what greeted him as he slowed to a stop in a grove of pines. There was JD, surrounded by wolves, a bloody mess as he swung an axe at his attackers.
Vin shot the wolf that had JD by the arm, then another that was about to pounce on the boy's back, all the while controlling his mount.
The bounty hunter's horse was an excellent mount, but no horse was going stand still for long with wolves hounding it. Vin dismounted the stallion before it had a chance to throw him as it surely would, and faced the remaining wolves while on the ground.
The pack, sensing a new target, began to encircle the tracker who was still shooting. The wolves, not being considerate creatures, did not give Vin time to reload. Soon his mare's leg was being used as a club.
Vin yelled at the wolves, hoping to keep their attention on him and away from JD. The boy was crawling towards his guns when suddenly the wolf that Vin had identified as the leader of the pack sprang at the kid.
It was Vin's last sight of the young sheriff before he was hurled to the ground as well by several of the ravenous creatures.
+ + + + + + +
When Vin's horse came at them through the trees, Chris almost shot it. He could hear the wolves growling and snarling as well as the yells of his two youngest peacekeepers.
Buck, Ezra and Chris entered the grove just as Josiah and Nathan did from the opposite side. What they saw made their blood run cold. Both young men were locked in mortal combat with the wolves. Vin was being attacked by three of them and it was almost impossible to get a shot at them, they were moving around so much.
JD had the largest wolf Buck had ever seen on him. The gray fur was covered in blood from the axe that JD was using, but that didn't seem to be fazing the creature at all. Its long fangs were sunk deeply into JD's shoulder and the boy's face was a grimace of pain.
Nathan was deadly accurate with his knife as another wolf went for JD's feet while Josiah took care of 2 more circling Vin and his three attackers.
Ezra surprised them all as he ran towards JD's large friend and tried to pry him off the boy. Buck joined the gambler and between the two men and the injuries the wolf had received from JD's axe, it finally let go of the boy. Nathan shot it between the eyes.
Chris and Josiah had their hands full trying to get to Vin through the wolves that had made him their target. It finally boiled down to the three that were rolling on the ground with the tracker.
"Vin, you gotta hold still so we can get some shots off!" Chris ordered. He knew of course that was not going to be an easy thing for his friend to do.
Vin could feel the teeth ripping into his flesh and felt the burning pain of muscle being penetrated. Warm blood gushed forth from him as he fought off his attackers. He knew however he was growing weaker by the moment.
When Chris' voice penetrated the haze of pain and fear he was in it was pure relief. His friends were here, he would be all right. JD would be all right!
It took all of Chris' skill to shoot and kill the wolves on the first try. The other men were smart enough to leave it to one gun. Too many bullets and Vin would end up with a gunshot wound at best. They refused to believe he or JD would not survive this wolf attack.
"Nathan?" Chris questioned as the healer rose from JD's side. He left Buck and Ezra bandaging the worst of the boy's wounds while he ran to Vin. The three dead wolves lay on the young bounty hunter and he helped Chris and Josiah remove them.
Immediately Vin began gulping in air as the heavy bodies were removed.
"Easy, Tanner," Nathan cautioned the long-haired Texan. "Let me look at what they did to ya."
"Is JD all right?" Vin asked.
"He's in a bit better shape than you," Nathan answered. "Though I sure as hell don't know how."
"You find the wolves going after him?" Chris questioned.
"Yep, there were quite a few of em and he'd lost his guns."
"Vin?!" JD heard Tanner's voice and tried to turn towards him.
"Whoa, kid, you ain't goin' no where!" Buck exclaimed, putting a restraining hand on his best friend's shoulder.
"Mr. Tanner is under the care of Mr. Jackson," Ezra assured JD. "You have no need to worry about him."
"He came and tried to help me. It was my fault, letting the wolves get the drop on me like that."
"You mean this wolf attack wasn't your surprise for Casey?" Buck joked as he tightened a bandaged over a particularly deep wound. JD gasped in pain before glaring at his friend.
"Both of em need a hell of a lot of stitches," Nathan said. Right now, my clinic is the best option if we can get em there."
"I see Mr. Dunne came prepared for this eventuality," Ezra indicated the travoise.
"That's for Casey's tree," JD protested.
"Well, it's big enough for both of you, and that's what it's being used for," Chris ordered.
"I sure hope you made that thing like I taught you, JD, cause if it falls apart on us, I'm gonna have your hide!" Tanner promised, raising the young man's spirits some. If Vin could joke then maybe he wasn't as bad off as JD thought.
Vin's jokes did not erase the worry from Nathan's face however as the men carefully put their charges in the makeshift bed of sticks and rope. It was going to be a long trip back to Four Corners.
The seven lawmen made it back to town on that Christmas Eve, the two severely injured members whisked directly to Nathan's clinic.
It took a lot of whiskey as well as Buck, Chris, Josiah and Ezra to hold each man as Nathan cleaned and stitched their wounds.
Vin had a very colorful vocabulary and Ezra assured them all that he was certain Vin had cursed them in at least three Indian dialects.
They were all in for a surprise when JD began swearing at them as well, and while in plain English it was clear that the boy was no stranger to some of the more interesting words and their meanings. Buck made a mental note to ask him if he'd ever done any of the things he was accusing the men of being.
Finally both Vin and JD slept in laudanum induced rests while Nathan addressed the worried group.
"They both lost a lot of blood," the healer began but was stopped by Chris.
"You think they can make it or not?"
"I think we need to say a hell of a lot of prayers," Nathan stated. The others nodded their understanding.
"They be asleep awhile?" Buck asked.
"Yeah, at least a few hours," the healer assured him.
"Chris, you wanna help me with something then? Finish what JD started?"
"Why don't you bring it here, Buck, and I will fetch Miss Wells for you?" Ezra questioned. "I'm sure she would want to be here with JD."
"I'll just start on those prayers then," Josiah said as he settled between the two beds, bowing his head.
+ + + + + + +
An hour later Vin woke to Josiah still praying for both of them.
"That sposed to keep me from goin' to hell, Josiah?"
"Do you believe you'll be going to hell when you die, Vin?" the preacher questioned.
"Figures, I can't get a straight answer outta ya even when I'm dyin'."
"You ain't dying if I can help it, Vin," Nathan informed him.
"I can't move my arm much, that's bad, right?"
"There's a lot of thread in that arm, you ain't gonna want to move it for a while, and it won't never heal if you keep trying to move it before it's ready."
"JD okay?" the sharpshooter ignored Nathan's advice.
"He's sleepin', which is what you should be doin'," the healer said as he put his hand on Vin's forehead. The healer was relieved to find it cool still. He was afraid that wouldn't last long with the amount of deep wounds Vin had.
"Where'd the other's hightail it to?" Vin asked.
"They decided to complete something for JD," Josiah answered.
"Ah, the tree. That's good, that's real good..." Vin said as his eyes closed. He was back asleep in seconds.
Nathan and Josiah shared a worried glance, neither speaking about the tracker's arm, JD's shoulder or the night they would have to endure.
"Keep prayin', Josiah, keep prayin."
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Buck returned with the tree before Ezra did with Casey. The two wrestled it into place a few minutes before the young woman and gambler came in along with Casey's Aunt, Nettie Wells.
Casey fairly flew to JD's side, relieved to find the young man pale, but alive. He didn't awake when she took his hand or when she began whispering to him. The others politely turned away as Nettie went to sit on the opposite side of Vin's bed.
Nathan motioned everyone out, but Nettie's voice stopped them. "I brought some decorations for that tree, and they ain't gonna get hung by themselves." She pointed to a satchel just inside the door. "I'd be mighty obliged," she told them.
Chris nodded at the older woman and inclined his head at the men. Soon the five were decorating JD and Casey's Christmas tree.
+ + + + + + +
It was a long night. Each man took turns spelling Casey and Nettie, until finally in the wee hours of the morning the two were ordered by Nathan to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Vin and JD both succumbed to fevers during the night. Nathan, with the help of the others, forced a fever reducing remedy down their throats along with lots of water. The fever brew was bitter and the plain water was gratefully accepted after they were forced to drink the concoction.
Each man took turns praying in their own ways over the men. Buck, swearing anything if only God would let his comrades live. A lot of the promises he would probably break within a week, but he promised them anyway.
Ezra promised to be nicer to his mother, though he wondered what kind of God actually gave a person a mother such as Maude. However that was not the point, so he promised to be nicer to said person if only God would see fit to make certain these two gentlemen made it through the night and several years more of their lives as well.
Chris asked that he not do this to him again. "You already took the two most important people in my life, you don't need them too!" the gunslinger had angrily told God.
Nathan prayed for more knowledge so that he could heal his friends and Josiah, he prayed in many different ways, using many different religious beliefs. However, he also spoke plainly to God, telling him it just wasn't the time for these two to be taken, so with the morning light he expected them to be better.
No matter what was said, the sentiment was the same. JD and Vin were needed and all of them prayed to God that they wouldn't die.
+ + + + + + +
Christmas dawned bright and sunny with a hint of snow in the air. The little tree in the clinic shown brightly with the homemade decorations.
A very tired Josiah gave a private Christmas service in Nathan's clinic. Ezra, Chris, Buck, Nathan, Casey, Nettie and Mary were in attendance, as well as one very awake young sheriff and an alert sharpshooter. Both seemed sore but perfectly fine.
The gist of the sermon? Christmas miracles.
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