Magnificent Seven Alternate Universe
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A Brotherhood is Formed

by Wendymypooh

Alternate Universe For the Larabees

Follows the events of the series Beginnings


Chapter One: 1865

Chris Larabee stood watch at the narrow mouth of the alley that he and his five friends had staked out as their territory. The others were sound asleep inside their makeshift home they had pieced together with wood scraps taken from abandoned buildings, and nails stolen from local stores. Chris fought his own exhaustion, as he watched a dark figure in a hooded cloak, carrying a large basket held in one hand, dart across the street in Chris’s direction.

Chris faded back behind a pile of packing crates, alerting the rest of the gang members of possible trouble with a soft, low pitched whistle, then fell silent once again as he watched the unknown person approach his location.

The hooded figure paused in the mouth of the alleyway, glanced around again, before swinging an arm back to gain momentum and threw the basket onto the pile of garbage across from Chris’s hiding place, then the figure dashed out of the alleyway and Chris emerged from his hiding place and went to investigate the basket. Chris gave another whistle, loud and clear.

The oldest member of the gang, Josiah Sanchez, was the first to emerge from within their home and moved to join Chris as he dragged the basket and its contents off the pile of trash and crouched down to look into it. One by one the other four boys, Nathan Jackson, Ezra Standish, Vin Tanner, and Buck Wilmington joined Chris.

"What did you find Chris?’ Josiah asked as he crouched down beside Chris.

"I donít know," Chris said, and briefly explained to them what he had witnessed. "Whoever it was took off out of here as if the devil himself was after him."

"Sounds peculiar to me," a southern voice said from beside Josiah.

"What did ya find ‘Siah?" asked six-year-old Vin, his Texas drawl prominent despite his young age.

Josiah pulled the youngest member of the gang onto his lap. "I didnít find it Vin, Chris did."

"Oh," Vin said. "Open it Chris."

Chris reached over to lift the blanket covering the contents of the basket, when something struck the side of it. He snatched his hand back as if it had been bitten, sending the rest of the gang members into peals of laughter. Chris turned to glare at each of them in turn, embarrassed at having been caught showing any kind of fear. Josiah, sensing Chris’s embarrassment, gave a wave of his hand, and instantly the other boys stopped laughing.

"Go ahead, Chris. Lift the blanket off so we can see what’s inside," Josiah prodded the blonde boy.

"You do it, Josiah," Chris replied.

The five younger members of the gang had appointed the tall, brawny youth to the position of leader two years earlier; because he was the oldest of the boys at seventeen, and logic suggested that he, therefore, lead the others. He had also risked his own life to save each one of them from certain death.

Josiah reached to lift the blanket off the top of the basket; only to have whatever had struck the basket before, strike it again, making him jerk his own hand back. A soft mewling sound followed the strike, but was practically drowned out by the other boys’ laughter.

"One of you all open the dad-blame thing so we can see what’s inside or I’m going back to sleep," Buck stated exasperatedly, stifling a yawn with one hand.

Josiah scowled at him for a moment, took a deep breath, and then reached out and grabbed hold of one end of the blanket and tugged it off the top of the basket. A collective gasp exited six sets of lips as six pairs of eyes gazed down at the contents of the basket. None of them could believe what they were seeing. A baby, not more than a few months old, with dark curls, lay asleep in the basket. As they watched the infant let out a low whimper, before lifting one tiny fist to its mouth, and suckled.

Josiah was the first to recover from his surprise over their discovery. "Dear God, itís a baby."

"What devilish miscreant would deliberately throw anything as precious and innocent as a baby away?" Ezra stated once his own surprise had worn off.

Chrisí voice held a steel edge to it as he said, "How could they throw any of us away? Except for Josiah and Nathan, all of us in one way or another have been cast out or discarded like garbage. Vin was left wandering the streets alone until he was brought to the orphanage; after our Masí died, Buck and I were left alone to fend for ourselves, and you were shuffled from one terrible relativeís house to another, so why would you think it couldnít happen to a baby, too?"

"I don’t know," Ezra shrugged his shoulders, unable to deny the truth in Chris’ words.

"Doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, old or young. They just get tired of having a baby and toss it out like trash," Buck said, "Ainít that right, Chris?"

"That’s right," Chris agreed. "Ezra, werenít you paying attention when Buck and I told you boys all those stories about what went on at the orphanage we were at?"

"I thought perhaps that you were intentionally telling falsehoods or exaggerating incidents to make them appear more frightening than they actually were," Ezra admitted sheepishly.

"Huh?" Buck asked, gazing at the southern boy with a perplexed look upon his face.

"He thought you were making them up," Josiah supplied helpfully.

Chrisís face darkened as he gazed at Ezra. "We didnít make them up. Did you make up what youíve told us about the different relatives you lived with?"

"Certainly not!" Ezra declared indignantly.

"Neither did we," Buck told him. "At least us older kids had a chance to defend ourselves if need beÖnone of the little ones ever did, especially the babies. They disappeared onto the fourth floor and were never seen again. If it hadnít been for Chris and I sneaking out the night Vin was brought in, weíd never have known he was there. I think we were meant to find him."

"Divine intervention," Josiah interjected, running his hand through Vin’s chestnut locks.

Vin snuggled back against Josiah’s broad chest, yawning, content to let the older boy run his hand through his hair.

Chris smiled at the younger boy, his green eyes locking with Vin’s deep blue ones. A moment passed between the two boys, and even though seven years existed between their ages, Chris knew that he was understood completely by Vin. From the moment Chris walked up to Vin as he sat outside old man Schwartz’s office and opened his arms, and the younger boy had walked trustingly into them, the two had been especially close.

Vin smiled back at Chris, and then his eyes moved to settle onto the sleeping baby. Chris shifted his eyes onto the baby as well, and knew that Vin expected him to come up with something that would protect this baby as he had protected him over the past three years.

"We ainít taking him to no orphanage."

Chapter Two

As Chris made the announcement the other boys all turned to look at him with surprise.

"What do you propose we do with the cherub?’ Ezra asked.

"We keep him," Chris said.

"We don’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby!" Buck protested.

"What do you think Vin was when we took him?" Chris countered.

"Vin was already walking and talking, eating food, and using the toilet proper-like…not drinking a bottle and wearing nappies. I’m not changing any dirty drawers," Buck told him.

"Yes, you will," Josiah said. "We all will. If weíre going to keep him itís going to be all of our responsibility to look after him, even Vin."

"Josiah’s right," Nathan added. "We canít keep him here, though. Itís just too dangerous a place for a baby."

"What’s wrong with our alley?" Buck asked indignantly. "We done raised up Vin here in this alley and you had no problem with that."

"Vin came into the gang with you and Chris, Buck. He caught on real quick and learned to stay with one of us at all times, even when we were working. He also figured out that he could use that face and drawl of his to our advantage. This baby is far too little to do any of that," Nathan said.

Vin beamed at Nathan’s words. It meant a lot to the six-year-old to know that he could help the others get the money, food, and other items they all needed for day-to-day survival.

"True," Buck had to concede.

"We need to do more than agree to take on the responsibility for caring for him," Josiah said. "We need to become a family."

"Ain’t anyone going to believe that I’m part of your family," Nathan objected.

"They’ll believe it or they’ll have to answer to me," Chris stated the hard edge back into his voice.

"And me," Josiah vowed.

"I’ll whip them right along with Chris," Buck declared.

"I’ll make them understand the error of their ways," Ezra stated.

"Me too," Vin added. "Iíll make Ďem Ďstand Nathan."

Chapter Three

"Ain’t anyone going to believe that I’m part of your family," Nathan objected.

"They’ll believe it or they’ll have to answer to me," Chris stated the hard edge back into his voice.

"And me," Josiah vowed.

"I’ll whip them right along with Chris," Buck declared.

"I’ll make them understand the error of their ways," Ezra stated.

"Me too," Vin added. "Iíll make Ďem Ďstand Nathan."

Nathan gazed around at each boy in turn, his heart swelling with emotion at their words. He was lucky to have found such fine, loyal friends…no brothers.

"Iffen we are going to be a family, we need to decide on a last name for us all, as well as a name for our new brother," he said.

After some decision, the brothers decided on Larabee as their family name. Chris beamed at the honor his brothers had given him by choosing his last name as theirs.

"Before we all start suggesting names for our baby brother, let’s all agree not to choose one that belongs to any of us," Josiah suggested.

One by one, his brothers agreed with his suggestion. Twenty minutes later and they had named the newest member of their family as John Daniel Larabee, JD for short.

Chapter Four

"Now that our littlest brother has been named," Josiah smiled at JD, who had fallen back asleep after his initial excitement over being tossed into the trash, "we have some planning to do. Weíre going to need milk, bottles, and nappies for JD, plus supplies for us."

"We’re also going to need horses, a wagon, or some other way to leave here," Buck added.

"How much money do we have Ezra?" Josiah’s gaze settled on the slender boy sitting to his right.

"After tonight’s successes, we now have eighteen dollars and fifty-two cents," Ezra supplied with a grin.

"Golly, that’s a lot!" Vin exclaimed.

"It’s a nice start on a nest egg if we were staying here," Nathan informed Vin, "But weíre going to need a lot more before we can leave."

"Oh," Vin’s smile fell.

The talk of money suddenly reminded Chris of the bulging envelope he had seen fall out of the pocket of whoever had thrown JD away. He pulled the envelope out of his pocket and handed it to Josiah, "The person who dumped JD dropped this."

Josiah opened the envelope and peered inside. His eyes widened as he stared at the large row of bills inside. He quickly counted it. "Thereís five thousand dollars in here."

"Now that’s a lot of money," Buck declared.

"It’s going to get us the supplies we need, plus train tickets out of here," Nathan said.

"We can’t let anyone know we have it," Josiah said looking at each brother in turn, "Weíll use our nest egg money to buy the things we need for JD. In the morning, Iíll go and purchase our tickets. When we get further west, weíll buy the rest of the supplies we need."

After a few more moments of discussion, the brothers settled down for the night. Chris resumed his earlier position as sentry at the mouth of the alleyway, while the rest returned to their pallets within their small enclosure. Josiah and Nathan set JD’s basket between their, so that if one failed to be awakened by his cries, the other wouldn’t. It was with some relief that Josiah discovered a bottle of milk, another nightgown, and a couple of nappies inside JD’s basket, along with their new brother. Reassured they had something to feed JD until morning arrived, the eldest brother fell fast asleep.

Chapter Five

When morning came, it was decided that Vin would be left in charge of JD, while Chris slept, and the other brothers carried out their assigned tasks. It was a big responsibility for a seven-year-old to take on, but his brothers knew Vin could handle it. Vin might be young, but his time fending for himself on the streets of Boston before he met Chris and Buck at the orphanage, had made him pretty resilient. Still, knowing Chris would be close by in case trouble arose, made the others feel a bit easier about leaving Vin and JD.

"I’m going to get us tickets on the earliest train heading west out of Boston," Josiah informed his brothers as he extracted a number of bills from the envelope of money Chris had found the evening before. "It might be as soon as tonight, so we all need to get our jobs done and get back here."

He handed Ezra, Buck, and Nathan a couple of bills before tucking the rest in his pocket, and returning the envelope to its hiding place.

"It shouldn’t take me too long at the apothecary’s," Nathan said as he took the money Josiah held out to him, "Iíll head straight here as soon as Iím done."

"Iíll hit the gunsmithís shop and obtain guns for you, Nathan, Ezra, and I before I go by Miss Monaís."

"Give Madame Ramona our sincere goodbyes, but curb your amorous tendencies and donít let any of Monaís courtesans distract you with their feminine wiles and keep you from completing your task of obtaining vital child rearing information from Mona."

"I promise I’ll keep it in my pants and make my goodbyes short and sweet," Buck grinned at him.

Ezra rolled his eyes while the others laughed.

"No stopping for a friendly game of cards or dice Ezra," Josiah admonished his Southern brother. "We need your nest egg money, along with what I just gave you, to cover whatever Mrs. Brown thinks weíll need for JD, as well as the supplies we need to start our journey west."

"Rest assured brothers, I have no intention of doing anything other than procuring the necessary items needed for us to properly care for JD, and see us off on our grand adventure," Ezra assured them.

"You have the list we made out?" Nathan asked him.

"Iíve got it right here." Ezra patted his pants pocket.

"Can we have some candy for the trip?" Vin piped up from where he sat next to JD’s basket.

All the brothers looked at Nathan. While Josiah was the oldest, and usually had the last word on important decisions, it was Nathan who cared for their health. Vin had a notorious sweet tooth and their healer brother was hard pressed to keep from overindulging in sweets.

He smiled at Vinís hopeful face, "I reckon Ezra can but a few sweets and penny candy for us to take on our trip."

Vin beamed at him. "Thanks Nathan."

"Nobody’s going anywhere if the lot of you don’t move off already and let me get some sleep," Chris growled from his pallet in the corner of their enclosure.

Grins broke out on the faces of his brothers. Chris was as mean as a grizzly when he was tired. Josiah and Nathan spoke a few words of advice to Vin on his caring of JD in their absence, before all four brothers departed to carry out their individual tasks.

Chapter Six

Josiah shifted from one foot to the other as he waited for his turn at the ticket booth. He read the chalkboard departure list again and was satisfied with the decision he had made for his brothers. There was a late train leaving at eleven that night with its final destination being Independence, Missouri. That was the train he and his brothers would be on when it left Boston.

He had read all about Independence, being the staging place for all points west. It would be a great place for him and his brothers to purchase a wagon and other items they would need to continue further west to find land they could claim as their own.

When his turn came, Josiah stepped up to the ticket window and smiled a the pretty young woman behind the counter, "Morning,"

"Morning," she greeted him gaily, "How can I help you sir?"

He leaned down, and in a low voice, whispered, "How much does a ticket for a baby cost?"

"Children under the age of five ride for free as long as they are accompanied by an adult."

"I need six tickets for the eleven oíclock train leaving tonight for Independence, Missouri."

"That will be thirty dollars."

Josiah blinked at the sum, but didn’t speak. He withdrew the roll of bills from his pocket, counted out the exact amount, and handed the money to the ticket agent. He watched patiently as she printed out the tickets, including the pass he would need to show the conductor for JD.

He left the train station a short time later with the tickets tucked safely away in his pocket. His pace was light, but hurried, eager as he was to return to the alley and tell his brothers they were leaving Boston for good that night.

Chapter Seven

Buck shifted the packages he carried into the crook of his left arm and knocked on the door of Ramona O’Reilly’s bordello. Around his waist he wore his new gun and holster. It felt strange, but he reckoned he would get used to wearing it soon enough. Chris seemed to wear his as if it was a second skin.

His musings were interrupted by the door opening. An older woman in her late thirties, with riotous red curls, dancing green eyes, her buxom body clothed in a tight fitting scarlet dress that accentuated her curves, stood in the doorway.

"Buck, me love, ye aire a welcome sight!" Ramona greeted him with a dazzling smile, grabbed him by the hand, tugged him into her establishment, and slammed the door closed behind him.

Buck chuckled as he deposited his packages onto a nearby ornate mahogany table, before turning and engulfing her in an affectionate hug, "Itís good to see you, too, Miss Mona."

"Where ‘ave ye been keeping yerself? Me girls and me were beginning to think ye donna love us anymore," Mona said as she led him into her private parlor.

"No chance in hell of that Miss Mona," Buck assured her. "You know how I feel about you and your girls. Things have been rough lately and weíve had to work harder to make ends meet, so thereís been less time and money to spend on fun."

"Me would ‘ave gladly given ye-," Ramona started, but Buck stopped her.

"I know you would have, but weíre hell bent on making our own way on our own terms."

Ramona smiled understandably at him. "If ye Ďave time now, me can fetch Sissy, Etta, or Mairi for ye. Theyíve missed ye so."

Buck shifted in his seat and cleared his throat as remembered Ďfuní with each one of the mentioned girls filled his mind with provocative images, "As much as I would love to lose myself for a spell with any of those fine fillies, Iím going to have to say no. I only stopped by to get some advice from you."

"Advice? About what?"

"Babies."

"Babies?" Ramonaís voiced held amusement in it and her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Certainly ye know how the wee ones aire made."

"I’m more than clear on the making of them," Buck grinned wolfishly at her."Iím more interested in the caring for them."

"Why?"

Buck hesitated. He didn’t know how much about JD he should reveal to Ramona. She seemed to sense his uneasiness at her question and waved aside an explanation.

"Let me see, where should me start?" Ramona fell silent for a couple of minutes as she tried to collect her thoughts, "Never Ďaving wee ones of me own, most of what me knows is second hand."

"Thatís alright. Any help you can give is appreciated."

Over the next hour, Ramona proceeded to give him all the information she could think of on how to care for babies. By the time she was finished, Buck felt that with this new bit of knowledge, he and his brothers would do right by JD.

Buck made his departure a short time later. As he bid Ramona goodbye, he was saddened at the idea he might never see her again. She had always been kind to him and reminded him a little of his own beloved ma.

Chapter Eight

Ezra took a deep breath before opening the door of Brown’s mercantile. Ever since his first altercation with the miserly owner a year earlier, he hated to come into the store. He would not shirk his duty and fail at his assigned task. His brothers were counting on him to procure the supplies they needed to take care of JD.

He opened the door and entered the mercantile. His senses were immediately assaulted by an assortment of aromas; coffee brewing on the wood stove in the back of the store, dill pickles in vinegar, pungent onions, new leather, and flowery perfume. The aisles were packed from floor to ceiling with everything from tools to household items to toys and bolts upon bolts of bright fabrics.

Ezra glanced around and saw no signs of Zeke Brown. He gave himself a little shake and boldly walked up to the front counter where he was relieved to find Mrs. Brown. Fanny was as kind and friendly as her husband was miserly and mean.

"Morning, Missus Brown."

"Morning, Ezra, how can I help you?"

Ezra took out the piece of paper the brothers had used to write down a list of items they thought they would need for JD. He would trust Mrs. Brown with knowing what else they might need.

"I have a list here of items a friendís mother has requested I purchase for her," Ezra said, handing her the list, "Mrs. Davis wanted me to ask if you knew of some sort of supplement she could give her baby to go along with her, well, uhÖ"

"Natural milk?" Fanny asked gently.

"Yes ma’am," Ezra made a great show of looking relieved.

"Natural milk or cowís milk is whatís best for babies, but I do have a can or two of this powder called ĎMamaís Milkí. I reckon it wonít do no harm to try and only needs water added to it."

"Then Iíll leave you to pick out the items on the list while I make the rest of my selections."

"I’ll have them gathered shortly," Fanny told him.

Ezra turned from the counter and headed toward the section of the mercantile where men and boys clothing were located. He wrinkled his nose at some of the more coarse materials, and gravitated toward the denims and cotton and flannel shirts. He had become accustomed to wearing cotton, flannel, and denim since meeting his brothers, but still longed for the silk shirts and linen trousers he used to wear when he was with his mother.

He chose two pairs of denims and two shirts, one cotton and one flannel, for each of them, as well as socks, undergarments, boots, and toiletry items. He carried the load up to the front of the store and deposited them on the counter, where Fanny had placed the items she had accumulated for JD. By the time Ezra finished choosing sweet rolls, penny candy, several ham and cheese sandwiches, pickles, apples, and hard boiled eggs for supper for him and his brothers, Fanny had already calculated the other items he was purchasing for him. She quickly added the cost of the food to the previous total and told Ezra what everything cost.

Ezra ended up using all of their nest egg money, plus a couple of dollars out of the money Josiah had given him. Mrs. Brown was wrapping everything up and placing it in a box for him to carry when he heard the thundering step of Mr. Brown coming downstairs from the family’s living quarters above.

Panic filled Ezra and he felt his heart begin to beat overtime the closer Zeke Brown’s footsteps got to his location.

His alarm must have shown on his face, because Fanny set the last item in the box, hefted it off the counter and moved toward the door with it. Ezra was at the door in a flash and gladly took the box from her and left the store at a run.

He had gone several feet before the weight of the box and his running began to wear him down. He slowed to a walk, his heart hammering in his chest as much from his fear as from exertion. He was glad he had a few blocks to go before he reached their alley. It would give him enough time to calm down.

His brothers knew nothing about the time Zeke Brown had caught him sleeping under the back porch of the mercantile and slapped him around before Fanny stepped in and stopped her husband. Fear of the man was present in him every time he went inside the store. He would not allow Zeke Brown to make him a coward.

Chapter Nine

Nathan took precautions on his way to the apothecary’s. It was in a neighborhood some distance from their alley and serviced an eclectic clientele that ranged from upscale Bostonians to ex-slaves like him. He didn’t want to attract the attention of any coppers or members of a rival gang of boys who claimed the apothecary’s neighborhood as their territory.

Elijah Dungan, the apothecarist, was busy with a customer when Nathan entered his shop. This suited Nathan just fine as he liked to make his selections without the shopkeeper looking over his shoulder. He moved through the aisles, making his usual choices of Willow Bark, Belladonna, Iodine, Chamomile, Witch Hazel, Quinine, St. John’s Wart, Yarrow, and a few others, before he moved over to an area designated to new mother’s, babies, and children.

He had never been in this section before, but had listened intently, yet unobtrusively, any time he was in the apothecary and a young mother or a nursemaid came in, in search of some remedy that would soothe their child or charge. He picked out a bottle of creamy lotion that was suppose to be good for a baby’s skin, and a tinned salve good for nappy rash.

He studied the other bottles, jugs, and tins; carefully reading their labels to see what they were supposed to be good for. He was still reading when he felt eyes upon him, and he turned to see Mr. Dungan standing behind him.

"Not your usual section is it, boy?"

"No, Sir."

Nathan went back to his reading of the labels, finally choosing a jar of powder and a jellied substance in a tin that one was supposed to rub on a baby’s gums while they were teething. All the while, Mr. Dungan stood behind him and watched his every move. He was relieved to move toward the counter, Mr. Dungan following silently behind him. He slowly put the items of his basket on the counter so the shopkeeper could add up the total of their worth. He had already added the total in his head and would know if the apothecarist tried to charge him more for his items than what the cost.

The total for his purchases was the highest he’d ever spent, but he was stocking up for their trip, and had added items necessary for them to properly care for JD. He paid Mr. Dungan, gathered up his packages, and was soon on his way home.

Chapter Ten

"Phew, JD, you stink!" Vin wrinkled his nose at the pungent smell coming from his baby brother.

Carefully he lifted JD out of his basket and settled him on his pallet. He rummaged in JD’s basket for a clean nappy. He left JD cooing on his blankets to dip a rag in water and grab a piece of toweling, before sitting back down next to JD.

He stripped JD’s soiled nappy off, and gaggling a little, washed his brother’s bottom, before putting the clean nappy on. He tossed the soiled nappy into the rain bucket they used to wash their clothing, along with the rag he used to clean JD’s bottom. He made sure to wash his hands, hearing Nathan’s voice admonishing him to do so to get rid of germs. Vin didn’t know what germs were, but Nathan seemed to think they were bad, and that was all he needed to know. His trust in Nathan’s doctoring was unwavering.

When he was finished washing up, Vin went back to where JD lay on his pallet of blankets. JD was content now he was in a clean nappy, so Vin stretched out beside him. He placed a protective arm around his baby brother and began to hum a lullaby he remembered his ma singing to him. He blinked drowsily, yawned, and slowly lulled himself and JD into slumber.

Chapter Eleven

Chris awoke to silence. It took him a moment to realize that he should be hearing the sounds of two youngest brothers. Vin and JD! Alarm shot through him at the thought that something had happened to them. He scrambled into and upright position and glanced around, looking for Vin and JD. Relief, followed by tenderness, swept over him as he caught sight of them cuddled together and sound asleep.

He went outside to relieve himself in the corner of the alley the brothers had designated as their privy. Upon re-entering their enclosure, he washed his hands, dried them, dipped a cup into their bucket of drinking water, and drank thirstily. Yawning, he crawled back onto his pallet and was just drifting back to sleep when heard footsteps enter their alley.

He was up in a flash, gun cocked, and listening intently. The footsteps kept coming, but instead of making him more on edge, he relaxed his guard, and holstered his Colt. He wondered if Josiah was successful in obtaining train tickets for all of them.

Josiah entered their home a few moments later. He stopped in his tracks as he took in the sight of Vin and JD sleeping cuddled together. He was glad to see his two youngest brothers bonding so well with one another.

"Well?" Chris asked softly.

"We have tickets on an eleven o’clock train leaving tonight," Josiah informed him.

"Good."

Josiah smiled. In just that one word, Chris said so much. His blond brother was always ready for an adventure.

‘Get some more sleep while you can, Chris. I’ll keep watch," Josiah retrieved his old valise from a corner and began packing his few belongings into it.

Chris settled back onto his pallet and was soon fast asleep. He didn’t wake again until all the brothers were back from their assigned tasks. After the brothers enjoyed the feast of ham and cheese sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, pickles, apples, and a sweet roll apiece that Ezra had brought back from the mercantile, they all got to work packing up what they were taking with them.

Chapter Twelve

A short time after ten that night, the seven brothers left their enclosure for the last time. All had bathed; their hair was slicked back, and were wearing the new clothing and boots Ezra had picked out for them. Even little JD was decked out in a new outfit. Josiah, Nathan, Ezra, and Buck were wearing their new guns and holsters. Each of the five older brothers had practiced often with Chris’s Colt, and while none of them were as fast their blond brother, they were all accurate and efficient in their shooting.

"Goodbye alley," Josiah said softly, "Youíve been a good home to all of us."

Their eldest brother’s words summed up what they were all feeling. The alley and the enclosure might not have been much, but it was theirs, and it had provided protection and comfort to them while they lived in it.

"Come on brothers," Nathan lifted JDís basket off the ground, "Weíve got a train to catch."

Together they turned and walked away, all eager to get to the station and catch the train that would start them on their journey to a new life in the west.

End

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