The Christmas Solo

by Kari

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's first Christmas after his mom died.

Comments: This is a repost of a story written two years ago. Hope you enjoy it. Feedback is appreciated.

JD cursed as the wind cut through him on his way to Casey's. It had taken all of Miss Nettie's powers of persuasion to get the young sheriff to go fetch her niece.

Normally JD would jump at the chance to spend time with Casey. Normally he would be thrilled to have been asked to help out. But today was NOT a normal day. Today was Christmas Eve. His least favorite day of the year.

The whole town had to have guessed by now that the young man was not in the Christmas spirit. His friends were all puzzled, expecting him to be exuberant over the holidays, expecting him to lead them into all the towns activities, make them act like kids as this holiday tended to turn everyone into a child.

But the kid of the group had closed himself off, leaving town for long rides almost every day. Not an ounce of Christmas spirit was shown. He didn't mention gifts or getting a tree or gift giving. He never went near the church where the ladies were decorating. The whole town would turn out there tonight. The tree was up and decorated there, or so JD had heard. Josiah was to give a sermon and Casey was to sing the solo.

That was hardest on the young man. And the entire reason he had to go to the Wells' ranch. Nettie's horse had thrown a shoe and she could not get back to get her niece. The elder woman had come to town early to help decorate and she had baked pies and cookies for the reception afterwards.

Not one of his six friends could be found to ride out there. Perhaps they all hated Christmas as much as he did and just beat him out of town. That was where he had been headed when Mrs. Wells had stopped him. JD could not in good conscious turn her down. He knew Casey was dying to sing tonight. It wasn't her fault that the memories of last Christmas were still with him, would ALWAYS be with him. To face a church, to hear that song....

JD quickly closed his eyes against the images that came unbidden, of the voice that sang "Silent Night" in his head. He just spurred his horse on, trying to do the impossible, out run memories.

+ + + + + + +

"Oh thank goodness!" Casey exclaimed as JD rode up to her front porch. She stood outside, all bundled and ready to go. He suddenly felt incredibly guilty for not wanting to come here and get her.

"Your aunt's horse threw a shoe," he said by way of greeting.

"I appreciate you coming out here then!" Casey replied as she climbed up behind him. You gonna hear my solo?" the girl asked.

"Nah, I'm sorry Casey, but I ain't much for church," he told her.

"But JD, it's Christmas!" Casey scolded.

"So?" he answered defensively. "No law says ya gotta go to church on Christmas."

"But the whole town, all your friends, they'll all be there! What will you do?"

"I was going ridin' when your aunt stopped me."

"That's it? That's all you're gonna do on Christmas Eve is ride around, all alone?"

"I don't mind bein' alone. It's like any other day," JD tried to shrug off his decision.

"JD!" Casey started to scold, then stopped and thought a minute. "Why do you hate Christmas so much? What turned you against it?"

"I never said I hated it," he defended.

"You didn't have to," she said softly. "What happened on the last Christmas you enjoyed, JD? What changed this holiday for you?"

JD was silent for a long time, and Casey thought he refused to answer. But then, softly, he told her, "my Christmas last year was wonderful Casey. I'll never have another one to replace it, and I don't want one. It was the last Christmas I will 've ever enjoyed."

And Casey listened, the tears on her cheeks drying in the wind as JD described it, the mass, the solo, and the time spent afterwards. And she understood.

+ + + + + + +

When they reached the church Miss Nettie, Buck and Vin were all waiting for them. JD dismounted and helped Casey down, intending to water his horse and then head back out. Instead the reins were taken by Vin and the young sheriff found himself being led into the church by Buck and Nettie. Casey had run on ahead to be in place for her solo and missed the entire scene.

"Let me go Buck!" JD attempted to get out of the older man's grip.

"Now son, the church is no place for you to cause a fight," Nettie admonished the young man.

"It's no place for me either! You don't understand, I can't go in there!"

"Kid, maybe we understand more than you think," Buck said as they entered a pew.

JD had ceased his struggles, finding the place packed. But a pew in the back was empty except for Nathan and Chris. Ezra was at the piano, Josiah at the pulpit.

JD found himself placed between Nettie and Buck. He received a wide grin from Nathan and a rare, understanding smile and nod from Chris. That's when he knew there was no hope for it. He was being included in the Christmas festivities whether he wanted to be or not.

As soon as Vin arrived, seated next to Nettie, Josiah started the sermon. And JD looked at the church.

He knew Vin and Chris had gone to the mountains to get the tree; it had been a three day trip. It was huge and beautiful. But JD pictured a much smaller tree, with some home made bows, and a few candles. She had lovingly decorated it while he helped and ate the popcorn.

JD sighed. His friends were well meaning but they just didn't understand. He continued looking at the church, at the red and green bows that decorated the pulpit and the candles that seemed to be everywhere.

The young sheriff's eyes drifted shut for a moment. He no longer saw this church, but instead a much larger one. The church he had been at last year boasted stained glass windows and hand carved stations of the cross. There had been snow on the ground and poinsettias on the altar. It had been an Irish Catholic mass. But the wooden pews were the same, the smell of pine was the same, and the memories, JD closed his eyes more tightly; the memories were starting again.

He felt Nettie take his hand, but it wasn't hers that he pictured. Instead, it was a much younger hand, and the woman had jet black hair and laughing Irish eyes. He could still feel her gentle grip. His mama.

He'd had to help her to the church. She'd insisted they go, despite the cold, despite that she was ill. Mrs. Dunne was the only one who sang Silent Night so well, the Pastor had said. Could she do the solo again this year? And her eyes shined at being asked. She, a lowly house maid, but with the voice of an Angel. So he bundled her up, and held her hand, his other hand supporting her arm, and they had gone to Christmas Mass. One just like this.

Just one year ago, everything had been different. His mother was with him and he could talk to her and tell her things and she told him things, helped him with his problems, and now....

"Now you have others you can turn to, my dearest," a voice said in his head.

"I don't want others, I want you!" JD returned the thought, realizing he was talking to himself. "I just want to hold your hand one more time, be with you, let you know how sorry I am!"

"I hear you say everyday, 'Mama, I miss you, and I'm sorry'. Why do you add that sorry? What do you have to be sorry for? Sweetheart, I know you miss me, but you have nothing to be sorry for! I miss you too, but it is time to let go. Don't shut your new family out because of me!"

"Maybe I don't want a new family! They can't replace you!"

"I'll always be in your heart, but it saddens me, that you would take my favorite holiday and want to forget it ever existed. You have them all worried. They would understand if you told them. They would help you through this. I never meant to ruin Christmas for you JD! I never wanted that!"

"Oh mama, " JD thought, "you didn't ruin it, I did. If I hadn't taken you out in the cold that night.... If I had gotten the fire going sooner... If I hadn't given you my cold..."

"I would have died two weeks later no matter what, JD. It was my time to go. I had been sick for months, you couldn't change that," he felt her whisper in his head. "It was not your cold that caused my suffering to end. It was just my time. And now I am with your grandparents, and your father. I'm not ill anymore, and it is beautiful here. I am at peace and it is time for you to be also."

And then Ezra began to play "Silent Night". Casey looked at JD, missing her cue. She was asking his permission, he knew. And he realized then how much he missed being with his friends who cared so much about him. He nodded at her, and she gave him a tremulous smile, as the voice of an angel joined hers in a heavenly hymn;

"Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright...."

And JD believed it was, and he pictured his mama there with Casey, her eyes shining, her face aglow, as she sang that special song. He felt her love and her peace, and knew she was really there, to give him back Christmas. To give him back his new family. And she had. Her last gift to him.

He looked at Josiah, who seemed to be staring as well, right at the spot next to Casey, and then he turned and smiled at JD. Buck leaned down to whisper to his young friend, his brother, "she's beautiful, JD."

"She's at peace Buck," the young man whispered, tears shining in his eyes. "And so am I."


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