By Thalia

Vin was drying his hands on the towel next to the sink and looking at his face in the mirror, trying to make sure there was no dirt left on his face either. And encountered the unbelieving blue eye of his reflection. Nope, he still couldn't believe what had happened within the last four hours.

He had met new friends, fought for the life of an innocent, weathered the blunt of an irate police Lieutenant and worried father, worried for the life of a friend that had been almost killed… and was now quietly resting… forbidden to talk or overuse his throat in any way but to feed himself for the next five days at least… which by the look in his eyes was worse than a life sentence in a State penitentiary.

Today, he also received an offer that even in his right mind he knew he couldn't refuse. Even if he didn't want to impose on people he hardly knew, he just couldn't refuse their help. He smiled softly, remembering her face as she was talking to him, presenting her project, telling him how they could help him be and stay free. Of course, a lifetime of being rejected, passed from one family to another, had left him pretty wanting in the trust department. But every time he would cross her light green gaze so like her son, he could feel his heart soar and trust fill it, among other so strong feelings that he didn't want to acknowledge just yet. She told him of her being an orphan too, until her path had crossed that of Judge Travis and his wife Evie. And from the look in her eyes, he just knew that she had had to fight about as much as he had. He knew that she could understand how he was feeling. She had known which words to use to reach him. To give him hope. To offer him a safe haven. He knew that with her, he would be accepted and loved, understood and cared for. They would stand by him, no matter what. Nobody had said the words. Not her, not her husband, not her sons. Those words didn't need to be spoken. They just were.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Chris looked around his room, checking things one last time. With Vin, they had put up bunk beds for the both of them, to keep the third bed for Ez. So, his room was now their room, with Vin as a regular tenant, while Ez would be here only from time to time, spending the rest of the time with Josiah… or so it was supposed to be, but Josiah had seen the interaction between the boys and something was telling Chris that he would end up more times than not heading the whole bunch of kids all by himself.

He sighed. His summer vacation had hardly began and he was already in charge of a bunch of guys. Life could be so ironic sometimes. It was going to be difficult to see Sarah if he had to play baby-sitter… Oh, he was certainly not talking about Vin. Vin could take care of himself and even the others… Buck? Well, now, Buck was an entirely different story. Sure, he could take care of JD… when he was not fooling around trying his charms on girls! And Ezra? Well, Ezra certainly had to be watched, mostly since he seemed to have quite a knack to put himself in trouble… once more, he sighed. It was unfair. Ez had been trying to help Nathan. He had been trying to shorten their fight so they could leave the battleground in one piece. He had even made sure JD was secure and able to defend himself before he came to their aid. Gosh, even the Judge had congratulated him on his courage!

He closed his eyes and held his breath for a few brief seconds… then slowly let go. He could do it. He would do it. Those kids, hell, one by one, they were not much, but today, they had fought together, if not side by side… and they had come on top. Sure, he could do it. They were worth it, all of them.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Ezra was looking at his hands, not really knowing if he should laugh or cry. Words were his weapons. His mind was sharper than a blade. Yet, because he had tried to help an innocent, they had been taken from him… for at least five days. He had thought that being closed in in that penitentiary was hell, he now discovered that it had just been the antechamber. A foretaste of the real Hell. Even trying to swallow the lump in his throat was taking its toll.

A glass of warm milk was put in front of him and lifting his eyes, he crossed the kind gaze of Maggie Larabee. She knew exactly how he was feeling. There was no pity in her eyes, just a deep understanding… and a warm light that seemed to seep into his heart and warm him. She smiled sweetly at him and handed him a book. Poetry. Appollinaire. He didn't know that one. He smiled his thanks to her and took the book. She patted his shoulder quietly and walked away.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Buck sat on his bed, holding JD. The kid had been frightened real good, by Ezra's near mishap. He had been on edge ever since. Even when Ez had come back and the doctors had pronounced him fit but just bruised, he had stayed on edge. All had come to head in the bedroom, while they were cleaning for supper. JD had started trembling. He had tried to keep the tremors away, but he had been shaking so much that he had dropped on his bed.

Buck had not spoken a word but walked to him, sat by his side and had taken him in his arms. The events of the afternoon had badly shaken the kid, bringing back some dark memories that he had buried deep inside. And the kid had cried in his arms. He had told him his misery. Until his throat was so sore he could speak no more. Ryan had found them like that, the kid sitting on his lap with his arms around his neck, and Buck rocking him, comforting and hugging him close, saying he was not alone and that all would be well. Ryan had found them, crossed Buck's eyes and quietly closed the door to leave them be. He knew it would be some time before either of them would re-appear downstairs. For now, the kid needed his big brother more than he needed food.

Buck tried to look at the kid. He hadn't moved within the last ten minutes and had stopped sobbing to remain so quiet he was starting to worry. With great difficulty, he managed to catch a glimpse of the kid's face… and smiled. JD was sound asleep, the emotions of the day having taken their toll. His first instinct was to stand up and put the kid to bed, but something in the way he was holding to him made him stop. And draw a shaking breath.

Lots of people had already been important to him… sometimes vital… but it was the very first time HE was important to somebody. And that reminded him of a saying his mother had on her bedroom wall: 'To the world, you might be one person; but to one person, you might be the world'. And right now, it struck him how in just a few days, he had become the world to JD. Sure, he loved Chris and his family, but there was something between the two of them, something that was different, something that was more. They weren't born of the same blood, but the same instincts guided their hearts. Buck had never thought about having a little brother, kids were just too nosy and unbearable… he just had to remember his dates' brothers and sisters to know that. But JD… JD was something else. The way his eyes would light up when he would enter the room. The way his smile would beam at him when he would be by his side. The worried glances he had thrown his way until the doctors said he was ok. The way he had held onto his hand on the way back home, as if afraid to let go and see him disappear… The kid wore his heart in his eyes. Such trust in him, such confidence that he would never hurt him, would always take care of him…

Buck sighed. Such a responsibility. Yet, looking at the sweet face of the kid sleeping, his head on his shoulder, all trust and love, he just knew that he couldn't do less. And the decision to not let go, to be there, the promise he made to himself at that very moment to always be there for his little brother, had his heart swell with feelings he had not known since the last time he had embraced his mother. Pride. Confidence. Love.

As he had told the kid while holding him, everything would be alright now.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Josiah was back at the Larabee's a little after 9pm. Everybody was still up, except for JD. Then again, remembering the drawn face of the kid, it was understandable. He had been quite shocked by the afternoon events.

"So," Ryan asked, "How's Nathan doing?"

Josiah sighed. "Not too good, I'm afraid. He's carrying quite a weight of guilt, you know… and yes, Ez," he interrupted as Ez was signaling to him, "Yes, I told him it was not his fault, that it had been an action brought on by pure terror… he still can't forget himself for almost killing you… My guess is, you'll see him quite a lot this summer, even if it's just to try and make it up to you…"

Ez groaned and would have banged his head on the table if he had had room enough. But the long suffering look in his eyes was saying it all… short of using words, which of course he couldn't, he had tried to do all that he could to tell Nathan he understood what had happened and that he was forgiven. But Nathan was so wrought up in his misery and guilt, he just couldn't forgive himself.

"Ryan," Josiah said thoughtfully, "I've had an idea… Right now, in this house, you have five kids… no offense guys," he smiled looking at the eldest ones. "The way things are going right now, Ez spends more time in your house than in mine… and I'm quite sure you're going to have Nathan around for quite some time too… that would make it six kids around here. Now, I'm not saying that Maggie or Chris are not up to the challenge, but I think they might need some help. Besides, we are on vacation next week… so I thought, maybe I could take a few more days and start taking care of the bunch while you wrap things up at the office. Try to get them tired enough so that we can start our vacation in a more relaxed environment…"

"… and so you can start that group you and the Judge were talking about," Ryan smiled.

"Group?" Chris and Buck asked.

"Yep, kind of a vigilante group to patrol the streets of Four Corners," Josiah explained. "After what happened with Nathan, we don't want a repeat. The problem is that since most gangs in the other areas are mostly teenagers, so the Four Corners patrol should be… and I was thinking… since you guys did so well," Josiah smiled at Chris, Buck and Vin, "you might be interested in being part of that group."

"You bet!" Buck exclaimed, smiling broadly.

"You mean, like we would be patrolling and making sure nobody gets hurt or something?" Asked Vin, thoughtfully.

"Yep, that or something." Seeing Chris' doubtful face, "You know, Chris, whether you want it or not, that fight today was only the first. They will try to come back and get you. If you guys make up a vigilante group with the approbation of the Judge, it means you have a say in what happens here… and you have the back-up too… I know, it's quite a responsibility, but you won't be alone in this. I'll be there too."

"Okay, I'm in… if all the guys are in too…" Chris answered slowly.

"Ez?" Josiah asked.

Ez brought up his notepad and Josiah read: 'It is my understanding that this action will reflect upon my dossier, will it not?'

"Of course, it will, Ez, of course it will! Vin?"

"Well, the courses won't take all day long… guess I might as well make myself useful…" Vin drawled.

"Good! That makes five of us… and I think there won't be any trouble in convincing Nathan to help…"

"Hey, how about me?" Asked a sleepy voice at the kitchen door.

"JD! You okay?" Buck asked standing up.

"Yeah, 'm fine," the kid answered, brushing his eyes with the back of his hands. "So, am I in?"

"In for what?" Asked Buck, trying to earn them some time.

"In whatever you're doing!" JD frowned. "I know I'm just a kid, but if you leave me behind, I'll be following anyway, so you might as well take me with you…" He said, crossing his arms on his chest.

The others had a hard time trying not to laugh at the petulant face, but some smiles got through.

"Of course you're in, JD… you were there too and you did good," Josiah said in a quiet voice. "Well, I guess that makes it an even seven…" Josiah smiled at the assembly.

"So," JD smiled, "What are we gonna call our group?"

"Huh?" Buck inquired, eyes wide.

"Well, yeah," JD said, "all the others have a name, so we have to have one. You don't want them to call us The Four Corners' Kids or something the like. We gotta have a name," He stressed, warming up to the subject.

"How about the Regulators?" Ryan proposed, smiling.

"Nah, that's too grownup," JD shook his head.

They were all looking at each other, at a loss about what name would pass the JD Censure… until he exclaimed: "I know, The Magnificent Seven!"

They all groaned. Since the kid had seen the movie, the name of the leader of the bunch had been his way to tease Chris.

"After all, we DO have our own Chris Larabee," JD joked.

Ryan looked at his son, amusement lighting his eyes. But Chris was just eyeing JD… and he suddenly smiled, as if his mind was now made up.

"Why not?" Chris said softly.

"You'll just have to perfect that deathly glare of yours," Buck teased.

"Gentlemen and Madame," Josiah smiled, filling glasses and passing them around, "Let's have a toast. To The Magnificent Seven! May they survive the summer," he chuckled.

"To The Magnificent Seven!" Everybody chorused.

"And may the town survive them," Ryan muttered under his breath attracting the laugh-filled gaze of his wife upon him.


The end