Hymn of Thanksgiving

by Becky

Disclaimer: I don't own M7 and I don't own the shaker hymn (at least my friend said it was a shaker hymn, I probably should have researched that for sure, but she's so into music and why would she lie to me?) "Come Thou Fount." Also I don't own Thanksgiving, the English language, snow, a house, any money, or pretty much anything else except two rabbits, and about a thousand comic books.

Warnings: I believe this may qualify as fluff. I'm not exactly sure that the definition for fluff is, but there's hardly a plot holding this story together. I shouldn't say that, I should let you all decide for yourselves and then write and tell me about your opinions. Also there is a little song in this. To hear it go to http://www.cet.com/~voice/songbook/ghf017.htm and you can sing along. :)

Feedback: PLEASE!!!! I write back individually to each person who sends feedback. (Tempt, tempt)

Author's Notes: On Saturday my friend showed me part of a video which I believe was called The BYU Show Choir Sings Hymns of Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure, I just know it was something about Thanksgiving and that it was a choir from BYU (Brigham Young University). There was this one song called "Come Thou Fount" and it was pretty and nice and all that music-y stuff, and at the end instead of just being over they sang the last two lines a bunch of times (or so it seemed to me. Afterwards I called and asked her if I could borrow it so I could watch it again but then the next time I saw her she said she didn't know where her parents had put it so I didn't get to watch to it again. I found the music and words (though there are different versions apparently) on the web, but it's not nearly as good as the choir did it, but I gave you guys the website if you want to hear what the melody sounds like. Okay, enough of this, back to my original sentence.) and as I was listening to it, it made me think of Ezra, not a hard thing to do because I'd wager that you could give me anything and I could find a way to connect it to Ezra. :) Anyway, it seemed like a good song for him, not because I see him as being religious but because I do see him as being somewhat lost. Well I had to come up with a reason to use it and Thanksgiving is coming up and there haven't been any Thanksgiving stories this year (although I haven't really checked my email since last Friday when school shut down) and we've had some snow, so this story is what I came up with to use the song, holiday (although personally the song makes me think of Easter more) and snow. Honestly all the guys are present and do say at least something. I kind of feel like the story needs a little something more but I don't know what. I wrote it yesterday while I avoided my four projects to do over this vacation week. That's more than enough out of me so on with the story...

The rain turned to snow and fell gently on the sodden main street of Four Corners. Soon the mud would be frozen through and slick ice would be hidden beneath a soft white blanket. Two observers outside the saloon didn't seem to mind the bitter wind that whipped down the boardwalk occasionally. One chewed the end of a smoking cheroot and the other leaned back in his chair so far he seemed to defy gravity.

"Looks to be a bad one," the one commented around his cheroot. The other merely nodded his agreement. After another blast of fierce cold they rose as one and headed into the saloon.

"Chris, Vin," Buck called with a wave from a back table. "Wondered when you'd get tired of freezing half to death."

They joined their five comrades at the table and gratefully excepted the tin cups of coffee pushed their way.

"Takin' a turn for the worst out there," Vin said quietly as he sipped the coffee.

"Imagine that," Ezra replied dryly. "It's November and the weather is taking a turn for the worst." No one bothered to acknowledge the Southerner knowing his sarcasm was rooted in a deep dislike of the cold and not directed at any of them.

"How much snow do you think we'll get?" JD wondered enthusiastically. He preferred the snow to the terribly hot and dry summer, but that would likely change after a few weeks of below freezing temperatures.

Vin shrugged and Chris offered little more. "Hard to say, clouds still look pretty heavy, but the wind is starting to pick up."

"A snowy Thanksgiving, just like we used to have back home," JD said thoughtfully. If the others noticed the mention of the upcoming holiday they didn't comment. Thanksgiving was the next day and it seemed that people had studiously avoided talking about it. None of them really had anyone other than their six friends sitting at the table with which to spend a holiday. Buck, Vin, and JD each didn't have a living relative to speak of and the Wells had gone to visit a cousin farther north. Nathan could go visit Rain, but her people didn't do anything for Thanksgiving and with the snow it would be a hard ride. The snow would also keep Josiah close to town, though the thought of visiting his sister tugged at his heart. Maude could blow in with the wind, but with the holiday season approaching she'd likely stay in a big city where there were more generous souls to deceive. The only person Chris might have spent the day with was the widow Travis but she was visiting her son with the Judge and his wife.

"So what're we going to do?" JD asked after the silence had stretched on long enough for his tastes. Ezra was the only one who successfully carried off a perplexed look though the others tried to varying degrees. JD sighed and elaborated. "For Thanksgiving!"

"Reckon I'll eat at the boardinghouse," Vin finally said.

"Great idea!" JD agreed which actually did earn bewildered looks. "We can all eat over there together. I heard Betty talking about a turkey this morning, I bet she'll put on a nice little affair."

"'A nice little affair?' You've been spending too much time with Ezra, kid," Buck said with a laugh.

"Improving his phraseology is hardly a sin," Ezra countered. "No, but spending time with you could be."

"Yes, you are a much better influence on the boy."

The others at the table chuckled except JD who didn't appreciate being talked about as though he wasn't sitting there.

"So are we going to do it?" he asked when the laughter stopped. A few gazes were shot around the table before Chris answered for everyone.

"I don't see why not, most of us eat dinner there anyway, might as well do it at the same time on purpose."

+ + + + + + +

The snow flurries continued through the night so that the next day saw the entire town coated in white. The town seemed almost empty; the snow-covered streets were mostly undisturbed as a lone rider came back to town a couple hours past noon.

"Quiet as a church mouse," Josiah answered to the questioning look Chris gave him as he rode past the jail.

"Suppose everyone's staying close to home," Chris replied. Josiah nodded and continued to the livery.

Just as he finished brushing down his horse Ezra rushed past.

"Running a little late, brother?" Josiah asked with a smile as Ezra quickly began saddling his horse.

"Running is unfortunately the word."

"Get past Chris okay?"

Ezra hmphed loudly. "He was not at his usual post in the saloon. I nearly walked right into him at the jail."

"He'll see you when you ride out of town," Josiah pointed out.

"Yes, but he can hardly fault me for being late if he decides to stop me to talk about it."

"You've got a point, but there's always time when you come back."

"I thought you religious types were supposed to be optimistic," Ezra complained as he swung himself into the saddle.

"Only about the life to come, Ezra, only about the life to come."

+ + + + + + +

Ezra rode back into town as the sun was setting, not that it was visible behind all the clouds. The only indication of its passing was a slight drop in the temperature and a loss of even more visibility than had already been swallowed by the falling snow.

Fighting off another shiver he rode into the livery before dismounting. The stable boy closed the door behind him and Ezra waved him away telling him to go home to his family. The livery was only marginally warmer than outside, but it was dry and the wind was blocked. After he finished caring for his horse, taking extra time to rub most of the dampness away, he turned and headed for the boardinghouse, looking forward to the warm fire and companionship if not the questionable fare.

When he arrived at the dining facilities he'd only managed to get his hat off before Buck came up, slapped him on the back, then used the momentum to turn him back to the door.

"Hey, Ezra, since you're already cold and wet, why don't you just go on back out there and tell Josiah to get over here. Dinner'll be done real soon and if he don't get out of that church of his he's going to miss it."

The look Ezra gave him could have melted rock, but when Buck just continued to smile it wilted and Ezra sighed in defeat.

"It would be my pleasure to go traipsing around in the snow and ice some more if it would save you from putting on a coat and doing it yourself," he said sarcastically.

"You're all heart, Ezra," Buck replied with another slap on the back and a definite push out the door.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra grumbled as he walked back out into the blowing snow. It was five minutes and three near falls before he reached the church. He paused inside the door to shake off his hat before continuing up the aisle to where Josiah worked on a pew.

"Still snowing?" Josiah noticed.

"Yes, what an astute observation," Ezra replied tiredly. "I've been sent to retrieve you lest you miss dinner."

"Hmm, didn't realize it was so late," Josiah said as he stood and went for his coat.

Ezra sat down on the pew Josiah had been working on.

"You coming, brother?" Josiah asked when he reached the door and Ezra hadn't joined him.

"I'd like to regain some feeling in my fingers first. Go ahead without me, I'll be along soon."

Josiah didn't bother to point out that the boardinghouse was much warmer than the church or that Ezra would be in danger of missing the same dinner for which he'd been sent to get Josiah. Instead the preacher held his peace and went out into the snow leaving Ezra to whatever reasons held him in the sanctuary.

Ezra blew on his hands and listened to the wind buffet the old church. He wondered what Josiah saw in this place, a building that seemed to go into greater disrepair the longer he tried to fix it. That thought didn't sit well with Ezra as it turned his mind to thoughts of a more personal nature. He picked up the tool Josiah had been using and contemplated it for a moment before turning it on the old wood.

+ + + + + + +

Six of the town protectors watched as Mrs. Betty Sherman started bringing things out to the table.

"It's such a pleasure to have all of you over tonight. It's been very quiet here lately."

"It's our pleasure, ma'am," JD said.

"You're putting out quite a spread," Buck added with a wink that made Betty blush as she returned to the kitchen.

"If we could just get that fool Southerner in here we could start eating," Nathan grumbled amiably.

JD prodded Buck with his elbow. "You sent him out there, you've got to go get him."

"Kid has a point," Vin agreed from his corner of the room. Buck looked for support but received a smile from Chris and a nod from Nathan condemning him to freeze.

"I'll go," Josiah said. "I guess I shouldn't have left him there."

Buck sighed with relief and JD looked disappointed.

"Ten more minutes for the turkey," Betty said returning to the room.

"I'll be back in five," Josiah promised as he shrugged back into his coat. "Otherwise send out the search party."

"We'll give you ten minutes," Buck called, knowing he'd be the one sent as the search party.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah had to fight against the wind and blowing snow as he traveled toward the church. The whipping wind brought an unexpected sound to his ears that made him pause. It was singing, a clear tenor muffled somewhat by the wind. He listened closely and made out the tune. The words were lost in the wind but he supplied them in his mind.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy Grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above; Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Josiah realized the singing was coming from the church and continued toward it. The next verse was heard more clearly as he approached.

This my glad commemoration Hither by Thy help I'm come, And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God: He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

After tripping over an unseen rut in the road Josiah walked with a little more care, finally reaching the church steps. He stood at the doorway as the third verse was sung without knowledge of an appreciative audience listening in.

O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I'm constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love: Here's my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

Ezra roughly banged the tool down on the pew after he sang the last two lines again. The sudden rush of cold air alerted him to another's presence in the church.

"Josiah," he said with some surprise, quickly standing up.

"That was some right nice singing."

Ezra looked embarrassed for a moment but it was quickly hidden. "My father used to sing it, especially around this time of year." Ezra seemed confused to realize he'd spoken but then continued. "It's an old shaker hymn, I believe."

"I'm familiar with it."

"Of course, you would be more knowledgeable about religious songs."

Josiah could tell Ezra was uncomfortable but he wasn't quite sure why. "I was sent to retrieve you," he said, using Ezra's words from before.

"I used to just like to hear his voice, it wasn't until much later that I appreciated the irony," Ezra said as though he hadn't heard Josiah.

"Irony?" Josiah questioned.

"Yes, it was the last verse he liked best, he'd sing those last two lines more often than anything else. It was as though he was telling God of his intentions to do wrong and he had the gall to ask to be excused as he did it. He didn't get the last laugh on that one."

The bitterness with which Ezra spoke told Josiah that the loss didn't sit well with him even after all these years. "That's one way to look at it," Josiah said equitably. "But I think there are other ways to think of it."

"How?" Ezra asked with more vehemence than he meant to express. "How do you interpret it, preacher?"

"Well I see those last two lines being about a man who knows he can't ever live up to God's expectations for him so he's asking the Father to look into his heart and see his good intentions. The whole song is one of thanksgiving, thankful for the second chances we're all given."

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," Ezra said sourly before changing the subject. "Why do you keep working on this place."

"Penance--" Josiah started, unperturbed by the sudden redirection.

"Yes, yes, your penance, but why do you really keep at it?" Ezra questioned waving his hands emphatically. "For each thing you fix five more problems become visible, why bother?"

Josiah waited until the anger drained out of Ezra and only a desperate wondering was left on his face. "It's true that every time I repair something other problems can be seen, but that's just part of fixing something up. When the big problems are removed the little ones are just that much more obvious, there's no reason to feel hopeless about it. If I never get this place perfect, and it's a fair bet that I won't, that doesn't mean it wasn't worth the effort I put into it. I'm just thankful for each repair I make."

Ezra wasn't sure what Josiah was talking about, the church or himself, or worse yet, Ezra. A minute passed in silence as Josiah watched Ezra and Ezra watched the floor, unable to lift his eyes to the holy man.

"They're waiting for us at the boardinghouse." Josiah finally broke the silence.

"Yes, I suppose it has been awhile," Ezra added as he started down the aisle toward the door. Josiah came up beside him and threw an arm over the younger man's shoulder, happy that it wasn't rejected.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra and Josiah reached the boardinghouse in time to see JD pulling and Vin pushing Buck out into the street.

"Come on guys," Buck complained. "I'm sure they'll be along any minute!"

"We're right here, brothers, no need to send out the search party," Josiah called.

Nathan and Chris chuckled from the boardwalk as Buck twisted suddenly causing Vin and JD to run into each other and fall into the snowy street.

"See, what I tell you? They're right on time," Buck laughed as the two men tried to untangle themselves. JD and Vin exchanged looks once they were free of each other then tackled Buck together. The other men laughed as the three protectors wrestled in the street. They rolled dangerously close to Josiah and Ezra and Ezra quickly sidestepped out of the way.

"Unless I'm mistaken, I caught a definite whiff of turkey and pumpkin pie. I believe it's time we went inside," Ezra commented, any trace of his earlier melancholy mood hidden.

Josiah agreed wholeheartedly as they made their way around the wrestlers to the boardinghouse.

"You boys done out there, yet?" Chris asked as Buck rubbed snow in JD's face and Vin forced snow down Buck's coat. Buck yelped as the snow melted down his back, releasing JD from his hold. JD kicked some snow at him for good measure then followed Vin to the boardwalk. Buck was the last to get inside, still doing a little dance to get the snow out of his shirt.

After everyone was seated Betty asked Josiah to say grace. He obliged making sure to pray for those that couldn't be with them and were missed and to thank God for the many blessings they had all received this year, not the least of which were their new friendships.

The End

November 20, 2000

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