When They Were Seven

by Tess

Disclaimer: The characters used herein are the property of Trilogy Entertainment, The Mirisch Group, MGM Worldwide, CBS, and TNN. No profit sought or accepted.

Notes: Although not my first fan fiction in progress, it's the first that's found its way to completion, and as such, I'm more than a little nervous, both about the snippet itself and my skills as a writer. Please be gentle when giving feedback; this is a learning experience. The ranch mentioned in the body of the story is actually in reference to Kit's Broken Halo Ranch for Girls, the virtual boarding house that we members of the Magnificent Seventh Heaven List call our home sweet home! Rhannon and Luke...they are the names that I have chosen for my future children in real life, but I lay no claim to the names themselves. Just be forewarned that this is an inevitability, so if you borrow, know that there will be real live counterparts out there somewhere! Thank you!

He leaned on the railing, chin set, his fingers gripping the aged wood loosely as his eyes searched the town spread out below him. To the casual observer, he was simply one of the original seven, intent on protecting them throughout the throes of their ever increasing growing pains, keeping them safe from the world at large and continuing to be ever vigilant. He looked the part, too, standing tall and proud, outlined against the sky from the second story of the modest townhouse he'd acquired in recent years.

He showed his age, finally. Wiry, with not an ounce of fat anywhere on his lean body. He edged forward, shifted his weight from foot to foot and lay his elbows across the railing, weather-worn hands becoming one, the calluses of his gun hand hidden beneath the fingers of the other, his eyes more guarded, his cheekbones more prominent, the stubble on his face reflections of a two days growth he hadn't the desire to correct.

But those who knew him, ah yes, they could still see traces of the boy he'd once been. There were subtle lines set about his lips indicative of a readiness to laugh, and a twinkle in his eye that let one know he wasn't hardened to the years he'd spent on the job. And never, ever was he to be seen without that bowler cap.

The sheriff had grown older; he had yet to grow old.

At this, the crossroads of dawn and daytime, the town held his fascinated attention. He remembered when they had been all that stood between good and evil. To say that they had been embraced by the townfolk at the time would be a fallacy, although they had had some backing here and there. The seven had worked hard to earn their place.

There had been times of great trial and tribulation, and on many occasions one or the other of them would seek to leave, to run, to hide, and it says much that they still remained, all seven, despite this inherent desire to flee when times got tough. And the townfolk came around.

The town began to prosper at an astounding rate. When the seven had finally gotten comfortable, become accepted, news of the safety they provided spread. More and more shops opened up; more settlers arrived daily. Over the course of the years, little by little, they realized that this town was theirs. The people had opened up their homes, their hearts,and the seven were eagerly ushered in and accepted as they had never been before, not anywhere.

Once they were seven against the world, with only each other as support against everything that was thrown in their paths.

Now Buck seemed to spend most of his time out at the ranch that had arisen outside of town and seemed to house mainly women nine times out of ten, intent on wreaking havoc with the townfolk, however unknowingly. He was certainly at home there if nowhere else. He'd managed to find a nice young lady to spend ninety-nine percent of his time with, but he still enjoyed having all of that woman flesh around him. And they certainly enjoyed having him around.

Nathan had an actual hospital just removed from main street. He'd established himself first as a healer, and as more people moved in, he'd gained assistants, then worked hard to become certified. He was a doctor the town boasted of, and for some, the only doctor they'd see. He'd managed all this and more while raising three up and coming physicians of his very own, mirror images of their father...and raising triplets seemed to give Nathan what had been missing in his previous existence: utter unconditional love and acceptance. The seven had given him hope; his children gave him life.

Josiah had finally finished the church, and it was a source of tremendous pride to him that it was filled to capacity each Sunday, so much so that he'd had to start scheduling additional services in order to appease the growing needs of the community around him. He was adored and cherished by the townfolk, and he gained a place in society that he'd never thought he'd reach, that of confidante, of protector, of faith's preserver and guidance counselor...forever friend.

Ezra had proven his business skills were far above the rest as the Standish Tavern flourished. He's managed to turn quite the tidy profit and as the town grew, so did his holdings. He now had the hotel across the street, as well as two bed and breakfasts, one general store and three more taverns scattered here and there throughout the city. He'd managed to find a woman to keep him warm at night as well, much to the amazement of the rest of them. Although he had a heart, they'd thought he'd buried it far too deeply to take it out and give it away. And they thanked the gods on many a day that he'd been able to do so, because he'd become a warm and giving man that they'd trust with all of their worldly possessions...except when he took an occasional game in the saloon, just for old time's sake.

Chris and Vin, well they'd never really settled down, not completely.

Chris still hid out in that isolated little cabin of his, but there were signs that he'd soon be surrounded by incoming families. Land was beginning to get scarce, and overcrowding was imminent. However, he stubbornly refused to see it any other way, and he lit out in that direction to "git away from it all" as often as possible. It didn't hurt that he'd aligned himself with a woman that wasn't afraid to risk his ire by following him out there whenever he was being unreasonable.

Vin still couldn't stomach being under a roof all that much, although he'd finally broke down and built a small little place once he'd gotten hitched, more for her sake than his, although she preferred to sleep under the stars whenever he did. He wasn't all that far from Chris, and they shared land between them for wandering aimlessly and letting the horses loose for impromptu races upon occasion.

That left him, JD. Drawn back to the present he squinted in the newly dawned sunlight, took one last glance down the center of the soon-to-be bustling Main Street, then turned back to the house in anticipation of starting his day.

He was still the sheriff of Four Corners, the badge shined bright on a daily basis and hung proudly from his lapel in a place of honor. He'd fought for that role, he'd earned it, and he had a rock solid career to show for it.

They'd expanded the jail to include regular staff; he could now boast of a kitchen with full-time cook, an office for case files and a secretary of his very own manning the front counter. He had three deputies, each good, fine young men well on their way to becoming great under his demanding tutelage.

Although the seven didn't get out together on official law business very often anymore, they were still family, the unbreakable bond between them grown thick with time, and there wasn't a day that they didn't spend at least a little time together.

JD missed the old days at times, back when they were seven against the world, but he had to admit that he had enjoyed the evolution he'd been witness to over the years. In this town they'd become friends, then found more, gained confidence, grown mature, become lovers, husbands, fathers,sons. Four Corners had shaped these men as surely as their families had, and taught them everything there was to know about being themselves.

And, with the excess staff he'd managed to get well on their way at the jail, he was left with plenty of time to spend with his family.

Straight on the heels of that thought, a speeding bundle of energy came roaring out of the door and straight into his arms, a squirming, giggling brunette bundle that started talking a mile a minute while still swinging his pajama clad legs and wiping sleep from his eyes. "Papa! I dreamed that I was a sheriff just like you! I had a gun and a badge and I caught all the bad guys, just like you and Uncle Buck and Uncle Chris and Uncle Vin and all my uncles did! Can I be one of your deputies when I get older? Can I wear a shiny badge just like yours? Can I get a dog for the jailhouse? Can I...."

JD chuckled and pulled his son close. "Of course you can, Luke. You can do all that and more. But first, we need to get you into clothes and ready for school. You need to get an education before you ever put on that badge. Is your sister up yet?"

Luke pulled an exasperated frown at the thought of sharing his morning "dad-time" with his sister and sighed noisily at the audacity his father had to interrupt his line of thought just to ask after a stupid girl. "Not yet.Momma is taking care of her. But anyway, about being your deputy...."

"You can be my deputy, Luke. I'm gonna be Sheriff, just like Daddy is!" A smiling blonde sauntered into their presence, bedecked in frills and ribbons, her silky hair dazzling in the sunshine as it hung in ringlets about her heart-shaped face, hazel green eyes shining with suppressed laughter as she watched her little brother's indignation burst forth and take root.

"Girls can't be Sheriff! Tell her, Dad!" Rhannon burst into laughter at the look of panic that crossed her "fearless" father's handsome features at the dilemma he was faced with: tell one child that girls are to remain in the kitchen and risk the wrath of his daughter and wife, or tell the other that she needed to quit teasing her brother and risk injuring his fledgling boyish pride? He set his son down and took a deep breath in an effort to decide which would be the lesser evil.

Rhannon took pity on him and gave him an out. "Mother says I can be anything I want to be. So there!" She stuck her tongue out at her brother,watched his little face go purple with rage and turned tail as soon as she was assured he'd follow, intent on teaching her a lesson that she'd put a ready stop to as soon as they reached the kitchen and breakfast.

Such was life in the Dunne household.

JD gave in and burst into laughter at the antics of his beloved children. He knew that his wife would have breakfast ready and if he didn't want to be paddled with a spatula, he'd best get in and help her with the morning duties before heading out.

Yup, life may have been simpler when they were seven, but now they were so much more. Not only had the town welcomed them, but they'd opened themselves up to the town. They had expanded along with it, taking on families, growing, changing, becoming everything they'd dreamed of and more.They were no longer simply seven; between them all, they were limitless.

The End

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