Be Still

by JIN

Disclaimer: I don’t own or profit from M7 either.

Notes: This is an Easter ficlet – the religious kind (as opposed to the Easter bunny kind)

"Be still!" Josiah’s loud voice boomed from the pulpit and echoed throughout the dimly lit church.

Vin blushed and shifted uncomfortably in the back pew. How could Sanchez have noticed him fidgeting from all the way up there?

Hell, he’d done his best; put on his newest shirt and combed his hair – even left his gun and his hat at the door. Felt damn near naked. He cringed, knowing he probably shouldn’t be thinking words like ‘naked’ in church. Probably shouldn’t be cursing, either. But damn, it was no wonder he was squirming. A man could hardly be himself in a place like this, with all these fine men in their Sunday suits and the fancy ladies in their bonnets and dresses.

Damn suffocating, is what it was.

It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in Easter. He knew the story of the resurrection – set store by it, too. But he got a whole lot more contemplation and revelation from a mountain sunrise than sitting in a hard pew in a crowded, dark room.

And it wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Josiah’s efforts. He knew the big man hadn’t exactly jumped up and volunteered to go preaching again. But it was Easter Sunday, after all, and the townsfolk had asked real nice. Josiah could hardly say, "No" – wasn’t his way to turn his back on those seeking his counsel.

So the preacher was here, and the other six were with him. Vin had tried to keep hidden in the back – had purposely sat behind Mrs. Potter with her huge hat. Lord, where did she get that thing? Lace and flowers and beads dripping all over it – about had to shade his eyes from the glare.

It was no wonder he couldn’t keep still.

". . . and know that I am God," Josiah continued.

Oh. So that ‘be still’ part wasn’t the preacher getting on him after all. Sanchez was saying something about God being all powerful and all knowing – about being still meaning not to worry; God’s taking care of things.

Vin reckoned he could ponder that thought. It sounded good. He never did waste a lot of time worrying, being more a man of action. Still, might be nice to let go of some of his fears and problems. He wished he could let go of that bounty on his head. He’d be real happy to hand that over to God. He was getting tired of running and looking behind his back.

Being still had a real nice ring to it, now that he thought on it.

+ + + + + + +

"Be still, Vin!" Buck bellowed.

But the tracker jerked his head out of reach, cursing a blue streak all the while. How he’d ended up in the middle of one of Wilmington’s practical jokes on JD was beyond him. One minute he was minding his own business, checking up on their latest prisoner at the jail – and the next he was wearing some god-awful combination of honey and molasses and only Buck knew what else. The concoction entwined itself firmly between the strands of Vin’s long hair, leaving him with a tangled, sticky mess that no amount of soap and water dissolved.

"Let me do it," JD insisted.

Vin pulled away once more, his angry gaze darting between the two men.

"It is apparent, Gentlemen, that Mr. Tanner is not comfortable with either of you attempting to rectify this situation – a perfectly understandable reaction considering you are the cause of this most interesting dilemma."

"Oh no, it ain’t my fault, Ezra. Buck’s the one that threw that bucket of slop at Vin. I didn’t have anything to do with it." JD defended himself, shooting a hopeful look at Tanner, who continued to mutter under his breath.

"Now look, I’ve told you I’m sorry, Vin. Didn’t mean to get you, but what’s done is done, and the only way we’re gonna get it out is to cut it out." Buck raised the scissors towards Tanner’s unruly brown curls once more.

And Vin jerked again.

"I said, be still!" Buck shouted this time.

Ezra couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped him as he added, "You know, Buck, it is quite possible that numerous ladies in our humble village will choose to deny you their hospitality – should our tracker lose his illustrious trademark."

Vin spoke up for the first time, "What the devil are you talkin’ about, Ezra?"

"Your hair, my good man. The ladies love your long locks, although the reason for such devotion is certainly a mystery to me."

Vin only huffed as he finally turned his head in Buck’s direction. He hated anyone fooling with his hair.

He couldn’t really say why that was. He knew the others thought he wore it long because of his time with the Indians, and he supposed that was partly it. But somewhere in the back of his mind were dark images of a shadowy figure looming over a young boy, slicing off strands of hair with a glittering blade – uncaring of whether he nicked head or neck or ears in the process.

Never one to dwell in the past, Vin had put most of his unpleasant childhood memories behind him, but every once in awhile, a seemingly unreasonable fear would creep to the forefront. Like when he was stuck in a small, tight space; or when someone touched him unexpectedly . . . or messed with his hair.

It was JD who noticed that maybe Vin wasn’t just mad – maybe he was a little nervous, too. He put a hand on the tracker’s shoulder and said, "Buck won’t need to take much off, Vin. And he’ll be real careful. Hell, he’s had to do this for me lots of times," Dunne added with a shrug.

Ezra snickered, while Vin sighed – and finally sat still.

+ + + + + + +

"Be still, Vin," Chris warned in a low whisper.

Vin felt strong arms wrap around his waist and pull him close. But the action triggered a violent, searing pain that tore through his chest, and he groaned in response.

"Shh, it’s all right, Vin. Just be still."

Chris sounded almost desperate, and Vin knew there was a reason for it. A reason Chris was holding him tightly to his chest; a reason he was asking him to ignore the agony that wracked his body. Without a sound, the tracker swallowed the cries that threatened and kept still. Chris’s heartbeat pounded softy in his ear, and he tried to concentrate on the steady, reassuring sound, knowing he was safe in his friend’s arms.

Larabee kept an arm firmly around his friend’s waist and placed his other hand over the man’s mouth. They couldn’t afford to be heard or seen. If Vin weren’t injured, they may have had a fighting chance, but as good as he was, the gunslinger knew he couldn’t take down the gang that had attacked them alone.

Holding his breath, Chris tried not to think about the blood he felt soaking through Vin’s shirt onto his hands. A casual ride around the surrounding homesteads – the same ride all of the men had made countless times on patrol – had turned into a nightmare. Without warning, shots were fired, and to the blond’s horror, his friend was blown from the saddle. Chris was grateful that Vin had kept his legs long enough for him to get them both out of the open. It was only a matter of luck that the two men were near a small maze of rocky crevices. With the sun down, it wasn’t hard to hide in the deep shadows, but the slightest sound would lead the men directly to them.

Chris didn’t have time to check Vin’s wound, but he knew it was bad. He also knew that between the pain and the blood loss, Vin no longer understood what was going on – had no clue how important his silence was. The gunman had slid in behind the wounded man, pulling him down low to the ground and tight against his own body. In low tones, he’d tried to soothe his friend, to keep him quiet and still. Every moment stretched into hours as he felt Vin’s life seep between his fingers. He was powerless to help him – to comfort him with anything other than his touch, until their enemies were well out of the area.

When at last it appeared the men had given up and moved on, Chris gently eased Tanner’s chest and head to the ground. Vin’s eyes were wide with pain and confusion, and he struggled to draw in a breath. The bullet had hit him low in the right side of his chest, and the gunman feared it may have nicked a lung. An even more pressing problem was the blood that continued to pour from the wound. Chris grabbed the bandana from around Vin’s neck and plugged the hole as best he could, but it wasn’t enough.

In spite of his best efforts, Vin couldn’t stop the low moan that escaped him. He tried to tell Chris he was sorry for not keeping quiet, but even the thought of moving his lips was just too much.

Vin heard the hitch in his friend’s breath and saw the agony in the green depths as the gunman’s gaze finally met his. Chris thought he was dying. He would have liked to set the man’s mind at ease, but he was thinking it may be true – was pretty sure it was true. He was dying. Just then, Larabee lifted him into the saddle and he felt his chest explode as darkness engulfed him.

Chris felt Vin go limp in his arms, and as grateful as he was that the man wouldn’t feel the pain of the ride back to town, he despaired at the quiet stillness that now prevailed.

+ + + + + + +

"Be still, Vin. It’s all right now," Nathan spoke hoarsely, his voice rough with emotion. He couldn’t believe the tracker had come to now when he was almost finished digging the bullet out of him. He couldn’t believe the man had come to at all. When Chris had come tearing up the clinic stairs with Vin in his arms, he knew it was bad just by the look on the gunslinger’s face. When he actually got a look at the wound, he knew Vin was way past bad.

He debated even putting his friend through the agony of removing the bullet; sure he would die before he could get it out. If he couldn’t save their tracker, maybe he could at least spare him a few moments of pain. But Chris wouldn’t even consider that option, and when it came down to it, Nathan couldn’t have lived with himself if he hadn’t at least tried. He sure hadn’t expected Vin to wake up, though.

Tanner moved restlessly, groaning with every breath. Nathan’s normally deft hands trembled as he reached for the small, lead ball that had brought down his friend. "Can you keep him still, Chris?" he asked.

Chris did his best, murmuring softly to calm the injured man while restraining him gently with his hands. "Easy now, Vin. Just be still a few more minutes. Nathan’s almost done." The gunman’s heart was in his throat as he watched his partner struggle to understand what was happening to him.

Vin had the odd sensation of being able to see his friend’s words without actually hearing them. He latched onto the movement of Chris’s lips, the desperate pleas in his eyes, and he knew what was being asked of him. It seemed his friends had been asking him to be still for days now.

And with deep longing and desperate regret, he knew they would get their wish – he was going to be still for a long time.

+ + + + + + +

"Be still and know that I am God." How many times had he read that verse? A hundred? No, more like a thousand. It was his favorite. The first he’d memorized as a child, mainly because it was the shortest. But as he’d grown older, it held special meaning for him.

Was it only a week ago he’d spoken the words aloud on Easter Sunday?

Josiah thought back to that day. He hadn’t wanted to do the service, hadn’t believed he could give the most spiritual day of the year the meaning and importance it deserved. The townsfolk were persuasive, however, and as hard as he tried to get away from it, he was his father’s son, after all. He knew how to preach.

His heart had swelled that day when all six of his friends made their way into the church. Whether it be a show of support for him or a true call to worship, didn’t matter. He’d noted that Vin took a seat in the back, which didn’t surprise him. Noted, too, that the tracker couldn’t sit still. He recalled with a smile how Vin fidgeted in the pew; leaning side to side, or sometimes forward with elbows on his knees. He could practically hear the man’s foot tapping all the way up at the front of the church.

Josiah took no offense at Vin’s restlessness, but he couldn’t help teasing him a bit. When he got to the part in his sermon about being still, he looked directly at the tracker and paused. The effect he obtained was even better than he’d hoped. A slow blush had risen up Tanner’s neck and spread across those angled cheekbones. It was all Sanchez could do not to laugh out loud.

What he wouldn’t give to see a spot of color or hint of movement from the man now. Vin had not moved for three days. He’d lain on the porcelain white sheets, his skin nearly the same hue, and save for the slight rise and fall of his chest, had not so much as twitched.

Nathan had confided in him the first night that Vin would not live. Neither of them had said as much to the others – the words stuck tight in their throats. It proved unnecessary though; each of the men knew instinctively that the loss of one of their own loomed imminent and unstoppable.

One by one, they came and sat at Vin’s side in an effort to make peace with the inevitable. They sought solace in each other’s presence; at the same time despairing in their inability to offer the same comfort to the dying man beyond their reach. There were words to be said, sentiments to share. But it was too late for Vin now – he would never know his importance to them. And so they looked at one another through new and different eyes, and found small ways to let each other know just how much they mattered. It heartened Josiah to see it, in spite of the grave circumstances.

Chris had proved to be the exception, of course - rarely leaving Tanner’s side, rarely looking at the others, let alone speaking to them. Normally still and reserved, Larabee seemed to have developed a nervous energy that left his body constantly on edge. Even sitting at Vin’s side, his hands were in constant motion – running through his hair, rimming his hat, cleaning his gun. When he thought no one was watching, he would latch onto Vin’s arm, as if he could physically hold the man in place so no higher power could rip them apart. He would be there now, had Buck and JD not brought in the men allegedly responsible for Tanner’s attack.

Josiah swallowed as he took Vin’s cold, lifeless hand in his own. He liked the sharpshooter; had liked him from the day Tanner shook his hand and welcomed into the fold. Since then, he’d developed a deep respect and growing affection for the man. And letting Vin go was calling to question again every doubt Josiah had ever carried, every uncertainty he’d ever known about the thing called ‘faith’.

"Be still and know that I am God." Barely a whisper – the words floating in the air like bits of ash from a dying fire.

But through the deep fog that entombed him, Vin heard. He heard the sorrow and the turmoil and the desolation in that kind voice. He wished he could tell Josiah that it was all right. That somehow, somewhere, sometime in the darkness, he had done just what the preacher had told him to do – he’d been still and let God take care of things.

And it was working.

+ + + + + + +

Chris moved restlessly in the hard wooden chair. No matter how he positioned his long body, he couldn’t seem to get comfortable. He was so tired of this damn chair; of the dark shadows in the small, dingy room; of the suffocating lack of oxygen in the still air.

Of watching his best friend die.

With a sudden burst of pent-up energy, he rose fluidly and stalked about the room – frustration tangible in his every movement. Anger suddenly surged through him, and he barely resisted the urge to put his fist through a wall.

He couldn’t believe this was happening. He’d finally allowed himself to care again, and now . . .

Unable to finish the thought, he turned his mind to Easter Sunday. Sarah loved Easter. She’d dress up in her prettiest dress, and shine him and Adam up like new pennies. He’d put up the customary fuss – act all hot and bothered about having to wear a starched white shirt and tie. In reality, he enjoyed it, too. It did a man good to think on the resurrection story – although he was pretty sure it wasn’t God’s intention that it only be thought on one day out of the year.

Of course, his perspective had changed. Easter became just another reminder of what he’d lost – another reminder that God was not the loving, merciful father He claimed to be.

But this year, when Josiah mentioned that he would be doing the service and the others agreed to come, Chris found himself looking forward to it – if for no other reason than to subtly watch the reactions of his partners. Vin alone would surely provide some entertainment.

He wasn’t disappointed, either. He’d chuckled out loud when he caught Vin’s reaction to Mrs. Potter’s hat. The tracker squirming throughout the service just provided more amusement. And when the preacher called out in his loud voice, "Be still!" – Chris nearly shook with silent laughter.

The blond stopped pacing a moment and looked down at his pale friend in the bed. He couldn’t last much longer like this – neither he nor Vin. As had happened often over the past three days, he felt a sudden need to hold onto the tracker. Vin normally shied away from physical contact, though he never seemed to mind when Chris touched him – but the gunman felt an overwhelming urge to go to the man’s side now. As if Vin were calling him near.

Sitting back on the hard chair, he latched onto Vin’s arm. Still he could not get comfortable, and he sighed resignedly as he shifted his body once more.

"Be still, Chris."

The soft, raspy voice startled the gunman. Lifting his head, he met the clear blue eyes of his best friend.

"I’m sorry, Vin. I didn’t mean to disturb you," Chris apologized, the softness in his tone belying the racing of his heart.

"No . . . be still," Vin said once more.

"What?" Chris asked, puzzled by what the man was trying to tell him.

"Means . . . don’t worry . . . I’m fine . . . He’s takin’ care of things." At that, Vin’s eyes slid closed once more.

A small smile graced the gunman’s lips as he caught on to the meaning behind Tanner’s words. Vin should be dead. He should have died the day he was shot. But he’d lived. And now, after three long days, Chris knew his friend would recover.

Vin had a resurrection of his own.

There was no denying how skilled Nathan had become, but the gunman had to admit that the healer wasn’t the one who’d saved his friend.

Maybe he didn’t have God figured out after all. Maybe the resurrection story really did mean more than dressing up in fancy clothes and silly hats.

Chris rolled his aching back into wooden seat once again and propped his feet up on the end of Vin’s bed. Hour after hour, he had been in constant motion – the struggle within refusing to allow his body a moment’s respite. But now that he knew Vin would make it, he nodded off in minutes.

And for the first time in a long time, he was still.

The End
Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."

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