Author's Notes: This story is not a crossover, however future stories will be.
Cross Fire Creek AU(This is the M7 part of the foundation stories for this new M7/The Young Riders Crossover AU of mine.)
Death of canon, non-seven characters.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Josiah Sanchez’s deep voice was solemn as he spoke the final words of the eulogy for Nettie Wells’ funeral.
As the gathered mourners tossed fistfuls of dirt onto the small pine pox, and then paid their respects to Casey Wells, Nettie’s niece. Josiah, Chris Larabee, Ezra Standish, and Vin Tanner hovered close to the distraught young woman, each man wanting to offer her comfort in any way they could.
Josiah’s troubled heart was in need of comfort too. He was having a hard time understanding why God allowed such terrible things to happen to good people, when he was suppose to be a merciful deity.
Funerals were a part of his calling that he hated. Death came for every living creature sooner or later; no one was exempt from it. When natural death claimed someone of an advanced age like Nettie, it was little easier for folks to let them go. But Nettie had not died of natural causes. She, like a dozen other citizens in Four Corners, had died as a direct result from the horrific infernos that had swept through town over a week ago. A freak lightning storm had ignited multiple grass fires surrounding Four Corners, and struck two-thirds of the buildings in the town as well.
Everyone in town had fought valiantly against the raging infernos, but the wooden buildings went up like tinder blocks, ashes flying about and starting up blazes in others, and a two year drought had left the area grass ripe for burning.
By the time the fires were successfully extinguished, Four Corners was a charred and damaged version of its former self. Slowly the shocked and stunned survivors began to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. There was wounded to care for and victims to bury.
Besides Nettie, the seven had lost two more people close to their circle. Inez Recillos was killed in her sleep by smoke inhalation. Mary Travis was trapped in the Clarion newspaper office when a burning rafter fell across the doorway, blocking her only way out.
“Nettie! Nettie!” Casey’s distraught cries broke through Josiah’s reverie.
He blinked in time to see Chris gently lift the sobbing young woman into his arms. Ezra fell into step beside the gunfighter as Larabee headed out of the cemetery with his burden.
Josiah watched them for a moment before turning and picking up a shovel to help Vin fill in Nettie’s grave. The two men worked in silence, each lost in his thoughts, as they remembered the older woman who had so easily crept into their hearts with her wise words, spunky personality, and generosity.
Nathan Jackson wet a cool cloth and placed it onto JD Dunn’s forehead. His dark face was etched with worry. JD had been among the men trying to save Mrs. Potter’s mercantile, when a burning beam had struck him in the head and knocked him unconscious. If not for the quick reflexes of Buck Wilmington, the young Bostonian would have suffered serious injuries to his face and neck as well. Instead, JD had only suffered minor ones. It was the head wound that concerned him the most.
Except for brief moments of wakefulness, the first couple of days after he was injured, JD had not stirred. Nathan knew the younger man had fallen into a deep sleep, and was worried he would never wake up.
A soft knock sounded on the door. A moment later it opened and Buck came in carrying a tray of food. He set the tray on top of the dresser. “I brought you some food.”
He moved to seat himself in the vacant chair opposite the one Nathan was sitting in. “How’s he doing?”
“There’s been no change,” Nathan dunked the cloth back into the basin before replacing it on JD’s head.
“That’s not good, is it?” Buck queried.
“No,” Nathan ran a hand over his face, “Truth is Buck, if he doesn’t wake up soon, I’m afraid he never will.”
“Don’t give up on him yet, Nathan,” Buck implored, “I have a feeling JD’s just biding his time. He’ll wake up as soon as he’s ready to.”
“I hope you are right,” Nathan walked over to the dresser and picked up the plate of food Buck had brought him.
Before he could sit back down, someone else knocked lightly on the door. He opened it to find Josiah and Vin standing in the hallway.
“We thought we would come and see how JD’s doing,” Josiah stepped into the room, and Vin followed after him.
“He still hasn’t woken up.” Nathan informed them.
“You reckon he’s going’ to wake up at all?” Vin wanted to know.
“I don’t know. We’re just going to have to wait and see,” Nathan took a bite of his ham.
“Why don’t you go get some rest after you eat?” Josiah suggested, “You can use my room.”
“I expect I could use some shuteye,” Nathan admitted going back to his meal.
“I’ll look after JD,” Buck spoke up from his place beside JD’s bed.
“Nathan, you got any more of that calmin’ powder you’ve been givin’ to Casey?” Vin asked the healer.
Nathan nodded, swallowing down the bite of food he had just taken, “Nettie’s funeral too much for her?”
“She fell apart,” Josiah stated solemnly, “Nettie was her only living relative…she’s all alone now.”
“No…she’s not,” a hoarse voice said.
All eyes turned toward the injured man on the bed. JD’s dark eyes were open and flickering between each of them before settling on Buck, “She has me.”
“She has all of us,” Vin corrected him.
Nathan set his plate down on the tray and walked over to the bed. Buck stood up and moved out of the healer’s way so that Nathan could examine the Bostonian.
“How are you feeling JD? Does your head hurt? Is your vision clear?”
“My head feels like it’s going to explode,” JD replied, “My vision is blurry and the light…it feels like someone is stabbing me with something sharp every time I open my eyes.”
“That’s to be expected. You took quite a blow to the head,” Nathan used a candle to check the reflexes in JD’s eyes.
JD moaned and closed his eyes as Nathan continued to examine him. He answered the healer’s questions haltingly, and let out a sigh of relief when Nathan finally finished his examination.
“Your head is going to be sore for awhile yet until it heals. I’ll get you something to ease it a bit. Do you think you could drink or eat something?”
JD nodded, and then winced, “Drink.”
Nathan reached for the pitcher and glass set on the table next to the bed, but Buck’s hand on his arm, stopped him. “I’ll give him some water. You go get that medicine for him and Casey.”
Nathan left Buck to attend to JD. He walked over to the workspace he had erected in one corner of the room. He, along with the other patrons, had been displaced by the fire that had destroyed the boarding house. Only the quick actions of Vin, Josiah, and himself, had saved his small collection of medical books and tools, assorted salves, pills, powders and herbs, along with his personal items and clothing. Now he, along with the rest of the peacekeepers, had rooms in the Standish Tavern.
Nathan filched a pack of powder out of a locked box, gathered up some fresh bandages and salve, and poured about a teaspoon of another powder into the bottom of a tin cup. He stepped back over to the bed.
“Buck, pour a bit of that water in here,” Nathan directed.
Buck did as the healer instructed. Nathan swished the contents in the tin cup around to mix the powder and water together. He handed the tin cup to Buck, “Give this to JD. Make sure he drinks it all down. It will help with the pain.”
“You got it,” Wilmington replied.
“Josiah, I was supposed to go and change Katie Potter’s bandages. Could you do it for me?”
“Sure, I can,” Josiah took the salve and bandages from him, “Is there anything I need to look for while I’m applying the salve?”
“Pink and puckered skin is to be expected. If you see a bit of grainy brown stuff, that is leftover from the last application of salve. If you notice any darkened skin or slimy green coloration, come get me at once.”
Josiah’s blue eyes bored into Nathan’s, “That would mean gangrene’s setting in?”
“Yes. So far, there’s been no sign of infection,” Nathan said, “And hopefully it stays that way.”
“I’ll pray that it stays so.”
Nathan turned to Vin, “Either you, Chris, or whoever else is staying with Casey right now, needs to mix a pinch of this medicine in a teaspoon of water, and have Casey drink it. Just that little bit should keep her calm for several hours, so use it sparingly. I’ll come see how she’s doing when I wake up.”
“Alright,” Vin tucked the powder into the pocket of his jacket and followed Josiah out of the room.
Nathan started for the door as well, “Buck if JD starts feeling intense pain anywhere else in his body, come get me.”
“I will. Go on now, Nathan, and get some sleep. I’ve got things well in hand here.” Buck shooed the healer out of the room.
When the door closed behind Jackson, Buck turned his attention back to JD. He slipped his arm under JD’s head and lifted it up as he held the tin cup to his injured friend’s lips so he could drink the medicine Nathan had prescribed.
JD obligingly drank down the medicine, grimaced, and exclaimed, “Gawd that’s awful!”
Buck chuckled, “Complaining already, now I know you are finally on the mend.”
“Go to sleep.”
JD tried to glare at Buck but found his eyelids were too heavy to comply with his wishes. He fell asleep with Buck’s reassuring words that he would be there when he woke up.
A week later…
“JD, you shouldn’t be out of bed,” Nathan admonished as he caught sight of the younger man slowly descending the staircase in the Standish Tavern.
“Chris said Judge Travis wanted to see all of us,” JD said as he reached the floor, “That includes me.”
“He’s right,” Chris spoke up from his place at the table where he and the others were seated with Jackson.
“Well come sit down before you fall down,” Nathan directed JD, watching with concern as Dunne took a hesitant step away from the stairs.
With slow steps, JD made it to the table and fell gratefully into the chair Buck held out for him. He ran a hand through his dark hair and grimaced at the sudden pounding in his head that his exertion had caused.
“Want me to get you something for the pain?” Nathan inquired, taking note of the pensive expression on JD’s face.
JD started to shake his head, but thought better of it, “No. I’ll deal with it until Judge Travis is done talking to us.”
“Did I hear someone say my name?” Orrin Travis entered the saloon and walked over to the table where the seven peacekeepers were sitting.
“We were wonderin’ why you called this meetin’,” Vin informed him.
Travis pulled over a chair from another table and sat down, “I have a proposition for all of you.”
Chris leaned back in his chair and studied the older man, “We’re listening.”
“Four Corners is pretty much done in. The firestorm left few building standing and those that are, have damage done to them too. Most folks have made the decision to pull up stakes and move onto somewhere else, instead of rebuilding. Some have already left; others are waiting for their injured loved ones to heal up, before they leave.
There’s a new settlement some distance northwest of here that’s going to need men like you to protect it. The locals are calling it Cross Fire Creek. It’s under my jurisdiction, but also falls under a Territorial Marshal as well. Sam Cain is a good man. You can trust him.”
Silence settled over the group as the seven peacekeepers took in his words. They had already begun discussing amongst themselves what lay ahead for all of them, whether as a group or as individuals. All seven recognized that the bond of friendship they had forged with one another over the past couple of years was unique, and they were reluctant to mess up a good thing.
“We’ll do some pondering on your proposal,” Chris spoke for all of them, “When do you need an answer?”
“By the end of the week,” Travis stood up.
“You’ll have it,” All seven men said together, as Travis left the Standish Tavern.
Two weeks later found the seven men, along with Casey Wells, on the move toward their new destination. No one knew what the future held, but what it did, they would face it together.
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