by Rhicy

Alternate Universe

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fan fiction and is not intended to infringe upon the copyrights of MGM, The Mirsch Group, Trilogy, CBS or any others with claims. I do not expect to profit from this story.

Authors Comment: Well, this is one New Year's resolution done. This is my first M7 fanfiction. I got the idea from reading an old Star Wars fanfic and decided that the Seven fit the scenario as well. I'm not too sure how to categorise this fanfic as it's sort of a 'behind the scenes' story. I'd like to thank all the various M7fanfic writers who influenced this story. [Guys I love your work <g>]. I would love feedback and I hope you enjoy the story. Special thanks goes to Brigitta for her wonderful encouragement and beta-reading. [You rock, girl!]

It was easy to get lost in the quiet silence that pervaded the 'void'. The presence currently visiting the 'void' considered that perhaps 'void' was the wrong word to use. "Void" conjured up images of emptiness and lack of anything substantial - whereas this 'place' he visited was anything but empty. He likened it to an observation deck, a description garnered from a previous life. He was in a place between, above, below - everything. His view consisted of a panorama of galaxies, universes and spiralling cosmos. All of creation spun on a lazy arc beneath, above and around him. With a mere thought he could 'zoom in' (another word gathered from another life) on any planet, galaxy or black hole he desired. If he chose to, he could remain in this place for all eternity, simply watching the life of ... everything pass him by. He was often tempted to do so. However, he knew from experience that such passivity quickly lead to boredom. It was much more fun to be 're-born' on a new world and experience the different kinds of life available. He had been waiting in the 'void' for some time now, and was eager to be 're-born' again somewhere new. But his 'companions' hadn't joined him yet - they were still gallivanting around on the world of his last life.

The visiting soul, tinged with a deep blue aura that flickered with different hues as dictated by his mood, sighed and continued his contemplation of the vast universe below him. He knew he was old, and had visited many, many worlds, lived thousands of lives and gathered a plethora of experience, yet he had barely dipped into the variety offered below. So far he had limited himself to human worlds and dimensions, perhaps he should consider taking on a different life-form. Some of his companions had taken different humanoid forms but perhaps a complete change was in order. The life of an andorian tree slug was so fraught with change and metamorphosis, it might be interesting to live it. Or perhaps a capellan snowmoose or a yellowunderbelly psybat or even .....

The soul's musings were interrupted by a loud boom and a circle of light that flashed three times, before depositing two visitors. One was slightly larger than the other, and glowed a fire-orange hue which reflected the warm soul within the aura. The other slightly smaller soul was tinged a deep green and constantly emanated a love of life and adventure. The old soul smiled to see the pair, glad these two had returned together. When one came before the other, they inevitably drove whoever was with them in the void round the bend until the other half of the pair arrived. They were arguing already, which in itself told the old soul they had probably died doing something foolish together. As the newly arrived pair's voices rose in argument, another boom sounded, followed by a flashing circle of light, which deposited another soul.

This soul seemed to pick himself up and dust imaginary flecks of .... whatever he seemed to think was covering him, muttering under his breath all the while. The old soul contained a laugh and was immensely pleased to see the red-tinged soul arrive. The pair arguing also noted the red's arrival and moved towards him, calling out a greeting. However, before they even got close to the newest arrival, he shouted, "Just stay the hell away of me, you pair of diabolical mischiefmakers. That is positively the 'last' time I risk my neck for either of you ... imagine actually thinking you could....."

"Hey, hey, HEY!" the orange soul declared, mock clutching his heart (or at least where his heart would be) as if the words had wounded him, "I had nothing to do with any of it. It was all his fault." He pointed an accusatory finger at his green companion who exclaimed in outrage and launched into a vehement denial. Before long all three were arguing loudly, each accusing someone else or trying to defend themselves.

The blue soul cleared his throat loudly in order to get the warring parties' attention, (at least he made the noise of clearing his throat considering he had no throat to clear). Silence fell in the void and the small green soul, exclaimed, "Hey Josiah - long time no see!" He quickly moved over to the blue soul, who went by the nondeplume Josiah and embraced him.

"Good to see you too, JD." JD smiled, which amounted to emanating feelings of pleasure, which rippled along his aura, causing bright green flecks to appear within his deep green. "Buck. Ezra. Good to see you too." Josiah said to the other souls who also moved closer to the pair.

"Sure is pard," Buck laughed, his orange aura brightening to almost a yellow at the edge as he clasped Josiah's hand. "Missed ya on this last one, buddy."

"Yes, quite. I must extend my eternal gratitude for saving my life on our last existence. I was truly humbled that you saw fit to lose your own life in order to preserve mine." Ezra bowed elegantly, his red aura deepening to express his gratitude. However, he soon turned almost pink with embarrassment when Josiah enfolded him in an enormous hug. "It was my pleasure, Ezra."

Despite having eternal souls that met time and time again after a life was over, each time they were re-born they remembered nothing of the void or of previous lives. Thus, Ezra always felt touched when one of his companions died to save another, the sacrifice even more poignant because they would meet afterwards and well ... emotions tended to run high.

The initial reunion over, Josiah felt compelled to ask just what had happened to propel his companions back into the void. "So, brothers. Exactly what did happen to you?" The proverbial dam burst and Josiah was inundated by three voices, each competing to tell their side of the story. All in all, it revolved around Buck convincing the others to help ' rescue' a harem of wives from their abusive husband. To say the least, the rest of the story had Josiah laughing so hard, his deep blue threatened to change to bright pink.

Ezra harrumphed, "It wasn't that funny - it fact I found it rather demeaning that ...."

"Sorry, Ezra. I just hope you all learnt something about ....." Josiah laughed.

"Sure thing, 'Siah , "JD chirped up, "Never listen to Buck about women, especially married women."

"Oh yeah, well I learnt to make sure JD looks before he leaps and lands us in even bigger trouble." Buck said. "Hey, you can't blame me for that Buck. I never would have gone in that room if you hadn't said.... "

"Gentleman. Enough. You are giving me a headache, something miraculous in itself, considering I no longer have a corporeal head. For your information and subsequent enlightenment, I learnt that no matter how prudent it may seem at the time, hiding explosives on your person, is never, ever a good idea. Especially with you two in anything less than a two-mile radius to my person."

Josiah laughed again, pleased his friends had returned and eager to see the rest as soon as possible. "Any idea when the rest of the boys might arrive?"

"Ah, not too sure Josiah, they seemed well out of harm's way when we left." Buck said.

"Yes, the situation had not changed drastically upon the event on my demise, however, anything could happen."

As if to prove Ezra's point, another resounding boom was followed by three flashes, safely depositing Nathan, tinged in a deep purple. Nathan smiled when he saw Josiah, but the frowns he sent towards the other three souls said a lot for his demise. Striding towards the group, Nathan bit out, "I swear that is the last time I listen to a hairbrained scheme from any of you." He punctuated his comment by pointing at Buck, JD and Ezra. "I have been running from that husband and his men for the past 5 years."

Time moved very quickly within the void, a matter of years in the corporeal world passing in a couple of seconds within the void. Buck and Ezra managed to look abit abashed, whilst JD exclaimed, "They didn't catch you, did they?" He kept half an eye on the portal, expecting Chris and Vin to arrive soon after Nathan.

"No, they didn't catch me. I stayed to help fight an epidemic in some town we passed through. Vin and Chris rode on ahead. I, however, did not survive the epidemic." Nathan explained.

"There you see. It wasn't that bad. They didn't catch you and...." Buck started to say when Nathan interrupted with, "I don't care, Buck. It was bad enough having to look over my shoulder for five years, not knowing if they'd catch us in the next town or not. Now I know how Vin feels when he has a bounty on his head. And let me tell you, it is not pleasant."

"Shesh Nate, I was sure you could lose 'em with Vin's help."

"Oh we lost them for a while, but they always found us again, somewhere. And Buck, just a friendly warning, Chris is seriously pissed, and I mean seriously pissed off with you." Nate grinned.

Buck managed a gulp and nervously stammered, "Ah, he can't be blaming this on me, can he? It's just as much their fault as mine."

Nate cut JD and Ezra's protests of innocence short and said, "Yeah, well he's blaming you Buck. And Vin ain't too pleased either. One bounty is bad enough, but two?"

Buck sighed, "Well, hopefully by the time they get here, they will have cooled off some."

"You can only hope, Buck. " Ezra smirked, pleased that at least it wasn't him in Larabee's sights this time.

"Oh, I can spread some of the hurting around if you want, Ez. You know, enlighten Chris as to the whole, sordid situation. Mention your little indiscretion ...."

Ezra leapt into the fray saying, "You do, I'll tell him who it was that got Mary so angry with him about her article last time they met up."

"Hey, that wasn't me, that was JD."

"It was NOT Buck."

The argument soon blossomed into a full scale war of words, with Nathan and Josiah watching in amusement as their old friends once again engaged in the rituals they all loved, blaming each other and annoying Chris Larabee.

The Magnificent Seven. Seven souls tied together by bounds of friendship, brotherhood and love. They had ridden together in a thousand different lifetimes, taken on so many roles and lives that it boggled the mind. But they always rode together, whether it was on horses, ships, teams or Sarufian Moganers, the Magnificent Seven stood together and did what they did best.

"I NEVER shot Chris in the butt, that was ...."

It had happened so long ago, that it may be been a couple of millennia in lives lived, that the Seven had first ridden together. Four Corners and the cowboys who had united to fight the Ghosts of the Confederacy was an old, treasured memory for all the Seven. It had been their first ride. And after the Magnificent Seven had died in a blaze of glory defending the small New Mexico town, they had found themselves not in any kind of afterlife, but floating in the 'void'.

"And who, praytell, was the one who painted Chris and Vin's abode fluorescent pink?"

The appearance of a shining white light had informed the Seven of the gift they had been given. The opportunity to live a multitude of lives together. To use their unique skills and bond to, not just help the Old West, but just about any dimension, history period, or parallel universe they desired. They would never remember past lives or the void whilst living in corporeal form, but would return to the void once they died.

"Don't try to wiggle out of the fact that you were the one who said, 'Let us be civil gentlemen and go down and parley with those towering Neanderthals...' when all the rest of us wanted to do was ...."

And the Magnificent Seven had. They had embarked on their adventures within the contexts of a variety of worlds and people. They returned each time to the void where they revelled in the shared experience and life, growing closer and stronger each time.

"You tell Chris about that naked slave girl and I will ...."

Until they often found themselves participating in events of momentous proportions. No longer simply protecting one small town, but shaping a nation's future, defending thousands and fulfilling pivotal roles in history. Together they held back the forces of destruction, protected the innocent and generally arrived at the right place in the nick of time.

"That wasn't me, that was Vin!"

"Ah yes, I still owe him for that ...."

...The collective souls of the Magnificent Seven had walked through the pages of history and destiny, their unique bond serving the forces of good and righteousness, despite the fact that they tended to be the kind of people society avoided. Their original lives followed them throughout the next, with certain aspects re-occurring to ensure they turned out just right.

"Casey never forgave me for that, BUCK! I had to do some serious grovelling because of you ?"

Other souls often found their way to the Seven time and again - Mary, the Judge, Casey, Nettie and others. Nathan was often a slave in his lives; Josiah some sort of religious man; Buck an irrepressible ladiesman; JD the green kid; Ezra conning something or someone; Vin a hunter with a tragic childhood and Chris the scarred leader of the bunch. They had had different names and faces, but whilst in the void they always referred to each other by their original names.

"I hardly think that that will dissuade our fearless leader from gutting you. My faux par hardly compares to your transgression?."

They had, however, lived completely different lives at times. Vin and JD born first and being the eldest of the group; Josiah and Ezra joining the group as females; Chris and Vin shacking up; Nathan coming from an immensely wealthy family and Buck living the life of a celibate monk.

"That was NOT funny. Ezra, you take that back."

All in all, the Magnificent Seven had experienced a great deal together whether it was in space, fighting demons, the armies of darkness, ATF regulations, or StarFleet protocols, they stood together and proved to be a force with which to be reckoned.

"I certainly missed this, Nate." Josiah smiled at Nathan, who merely laughed as their friends continued arguing. "Yip, there is nothing quite like a Buck-JD-Ezra argument."

"Unless Vin is involved as well," Nathan laughed.

"Heaven forbid - Chris usually explodes soon after."

"I DID NOT blow myself up JD!"

"Boys, boys. Calm down." Josiah interrupted. "Any ideas on where we should go next?"

"Yes, we should all be born as Rodiran Pleasure Slaves!"

"Buck, please, give it up. Chris ?. No, I will never agree to that." Nathan sighed. Buck tried that line everytime, ever since a Horison women had said that a Rodiran Pleasure Slave was better that Buck - and Buck was determined to be the best any women had.

"I know I will definitely vote for some place modern. I am tired of dust, dirt and animal transportation." As Ezra said this, he tried to remove imaginary dust particles from his aura. "I do declare that the various dust bowls Mr Tanner takes us to, are beginning to permeate my very essence."

"Shut up, Ez. I say we join the army again."

"JD, the last time we did that, we all ended up in a POW camp."

Ezra shuddered, his red paling at the memory, "Yes, please Mr Dunne, that is one experience I do not wish to re-live. Ever!"

"So we go some place without POW camps!!" JD seemed determined to fight a war, somewhere!

"Heck, with Ez's luck, they'll invent one just for him, " Buck smirked.

"That is not amusing, Buck."

Josiah mused, "Perhaps some space-faring time would be ideal. Ezra would be clean, Buck would have all kinds of women, Nate some viable medicine and JD could possibly get to be a starpilot this time."

"Yeah!" JD exclaimed.

"I don't know Josiah..."

"Josiah just wants another crack at being a Jedi!" Buck laughed.

Josiah's reply was drowned out by the arrival of the last two members of the group. After the third flash disappeared, one large white light remained in the void. Streaks of silver and gold whirled within the white light, creating a soft glow all on their own. The light itself was not overly bright unless you looked straight at the centre, which was incandescent.

"They'll be awhile." Buck murmured, watching the display.

JD watched fascinated, because no matter how many times he had seen Vin and Chris in the void, it always amazed him. Vin had started with a soul which projected a gold glow, whilst Chris had been silver. After they had come back from one of the worst lives they each experienced, they had been so scarred, battered and ripped apart, right down to their very souls that they had merged right after appearing in the void. For a long time the other five souls had watched the white light with trepidation. They had all clung to each other after that life, needing the feel of the others close by, but Chris and Vin had completely merged. Prior to that life, they had begun to lighten and at times appear the same shade. But the glowing ball of light was different.

When the ball of light had stopped swirling the first time, the other five had anxiously waited to see who would emerge? Would Vin be too weak to reform? Would they be separate? Or would there only be six souls and no longer seven?

Eventually, two souls emerged from the light, both an incandescent white. Now, Vin and Chris somehow shared souls, but were still themselves. As JD watched the most recent merge, he wondered if one day they would just merge permanently and be VinChris or something like that. Heck, the eerie 'telepathy' thing they shared in corporeal form was weird enough. Everytime they came back to the void, the white light would form and they would eventually separate after their initial merging, as if the merge was how they reassured each other and reaffirmed their bond.

JD noted the minute changes with the ball, as gold and silver streaks seemed to collect in separate halves and in a flash the ball split into Vin and Chris. They both projected pleasure at seeing the others and quickly greeted Josiah who they had not seen for some time.

"Good to see ya, Josiah." Vin smiled whilst Chris gave JD a friendly swat.

Buck and Ezra had moved slightly back, but that didn't stop Chris from seeing them. "You and I need to have words, Buck. You too, Ezra, " Chris said, giving nothing away about how he was feeling.

"Now Chris, we didn't mean for all that to happen...."

"Shut up, Bucklin and just say yer sorry, " Vin drawled, amusement colouring his aura.

Chris merely stared at Buck and as the seconds became minutes, Buck began to sweat in earnest. "Oh what the hell, Chris! I'll just get it over with - I'm sorry, alright. Even thought it wasn't my fault, I'm sorry."

Chris laughed and said, "Next time, Buck .... I'll shoot myself and come after you."

Buck gave a half-hearted laugh and prayed that never happened. Chris mad at you was one thing. Chris mad at you whilst in the void was not an experience Buck wished go through again. Chris had once been so angry that in their next life, he and Chris hadn't even become friends. Just mutual acquaintances. He had gotten off lightly this time. Obviously, Chris did not wish to discuss this most recent life.

"So Chris, care to tell us how you two died this time?'

"Not really Nate, it wasn't that interesting."

"Speak for yourself, Cowboy. I..." The rest of whatever Vin was about to say was cut off by Chris's hand firmly over Vin's mouth.

"Vin, it wasn't that interesting." Chris glared at Vin. Vin just laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said, "If you say so."

Buck was eager to find out exactly what had happened but wasn't ready to push Chris just yet. Ezra however, wouldn't be dissuaded that easily. "Mr Tanner, perhaps we might have a private chat later?"

"Sure, Ez!" Vin grinned.

Chris's glare was all warning and threats of retribution if Tanner spilled the beans. Vin just continued to smile.

"You boys decided yet?"

Josiah shook his head, "Not yet. We were thinking of going to a space-world though."

"Space? " Vin's tone said everything. Vin always preferred staying planet bound than space travel, even though he invariably found a great deal of beauty in space.

"Yeah, and somewhere where we can join the military." JD offered, eager to do something a bit a more exciting than their last life.

"Again, JD?" Chris queried, "You really seem to like dressing in uniform, huh?"

"Nahhhh, it's not that." JD waved his hand vaguely, "It's the cool stuff you get to play with."

"With which to play." Ezra corrected.

"Knock it off, Ez, that is getting real old, real fast." Buck snapped.

"Oh really, I hardly consider my attempts to educate you cretins as 'old', whereas your obsession with the opposite sex is definitely a trying experience to say the least. Not to mention your flatulence..."

Chris forestalled anymore arguments with, "I think we should wait for Him to decide."

Silence greeted this suggestion. The Seven had discovered that if they stayed in the void long enough, 'He' or 'the Big Guy', as Buck called him, would send them where they were needed most.

"We've taken quite a long break since the last one He sent us on. I don't know. I kinda feel that it's time for another." Chris shrugged.

Vin nodded, obviously agreeing with Chris.

"You sure, Chris? I mean the last time was really bad... you think we're up to it?" Nathan asked

"Perhaps Brother Chris is right. I too feel a need to do something more than just 'experience' a new life. Accomplish something worthwhile." Josiah smiled sadly, "Afterall, we do tend to get stronger after 'those' lives."

"Yes, also spend a hell of a lot of time picking up pieces, sewing shreds, rips and tears together, Josiah! We nearly lost our souls on that last one! Hell, if Vin hadn't sacrificed himself for the rest of us, we would be still enjoying the company of some very ugly demons. And you know how much I hate ugly!" Buck half-joked, half-stammered.

"But Chris got Vin back, and we all kicked some serious demon butt," JD interjected, fading slightly at the looks he got from his friends, "Well we DID!"

"Mr Dunne, our ultimate victory aside, we still barely escaped with our souls, let alone skins intact. And who knows what awaits us this time round?"

"I sure as hell wouldn't mind finding out, " Vin drawled, his aura emanating pleasure at the prospect of a challenge.

"You sir, are a sucker for punishment." Ezra muttered. Vin just shrugged and flashed a quick wink at Chris, who scowled.

Chris studied his companions carefully. While they were not exactly eager to embark on a 'special' mission, they weren't completely vetoing the idea either. "So we wait?"

"Yeah, why not. Maybe JD will finally find a decent hat this time." Buck sighed.

"And maybe you won't smell like maggots this time, " JD retorted.

"Magnets, JD! Magnets! And it's magnetism!" Buck grilled, resurrecting their age-old argument.

Forestalling the rest of the argument, Ezra voiced his agreement as well. "It appears I am doomed to follow y'all on ludicrous quests of idiocy. Be that as it may, you cromagman throwbacks require my refinement and elegance to balance what would otherwise be a descent into a morass of primitive threatenings and posturing ...."

Nathan interrupted Ezra's tirade with, "I guess that 's yes in Ezra's convoluted way, and yes for me as well. You lot can't be trusted with a blunt stick let alone sophisticated weapons."

Buck and JD started laughing at the mention of a blunt stick, "Remember how miserable Ezra was as a caveman. He just about killed himself he was so unhappy."

"Yeah, yeah, the biggest word he could use was .... Uhugoo!!!" Buck chortled.

"Laugh it up boys, at least Ez didn't have that fat mama of a cavewoman chasing him, trying to knock him out and drag him back to her lovecave, hey Bucklin." Vin teased.

"I swear that woman has Hilda re-incarnated. "

Josiah laughed, "Brother Buck, only you could attract a woman like that. And I too vote to wait for a .... 'special' assignment."

"Then we wait." Chris said.

An expectant silence fell over the group, as if He would zap them somewhere now that they had decided to wait. Nothing happened.

"I hate waiting." Buck sighed.

"It's been three seconds Buck!" JD exclaimed.

"But imagine all them pretty little fillies being born and spending half a lifetime without me. I got obligations to fulfil."

Buck and JD moved apart arguing steadily as they passed the time. Josiah and Nathan turned to study the cosmos around them and try guess where they might go. Ezra sighed, wishing once again that he could shuffle cards while in the void. But no hands or cards prevented that. So he decided to have a quick nap.

His plan was cut short when Vin said, "Hey Ez, wanted to ask y'all something."

Drawn into conversation with Chris and Vin, Ezra found himself reminiscing about some of their more interesting lives. Just as Ezra made the tactical error of mentioning the 'noodle' incident, Josiah vanished, leaving a smokey blue afterglow in his place.

"Here we go again, " Nathan said as Chris, Buck and himself followed in quick succession.

Ezra saluted Vin and JD before he too departed, leaving the youngest behind.

"Man, I hope we aren't too much younger this time, " JD sighed.

"Maybe, you'll end up being Buck's son or something, " Vin laughed.

"Heaven forbid. I'd rather shoot myself in the foot."

Vin vanished, leaving only his laughter behind.

JD sighed, "at this rate, I'm gonna be too young to do anything."

And with that thought in mind, he vanished.

The void was filled with an empty silence. The universe swirled around in majestic serenity, as billions were born, lived and died. A quiet sigh seemed to fill the void, as if it were waiting for the return of the Magnificent Seven from where-ever they had gone.

The End

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