Authors Note: Written in response to the Jezebelles photo of the week #1. The reference to how Josiah met Nathan is fanon based on my own story Days of Friendship.
What do you say, Lord, is this what I've been waiting for? Is this the way you want me to pay for all the times I---well, let's not get started down that road again. We both know all the wrongs I done, and how much I wish I had a way to atone for some of 'em. Not all, though. Think you and me got an understanding on that. Some of those things I won't regret, even if I spend a thousand years in Hell for 'em.
But what about the other sins---all those terrible things I know I got to pay penance for? You been awful silent with me these last couple of years, Lord, so I couldn't be sure, but when I wandered through this dusty piss-ant town a couple months back and found Nathan Jackson living here, well. That just had to be a sign. There he was, the same green kid I'd met over a butcher-block surgical table in the middle of Hell years back, now a man full-grown, living free and peaceful and doing what You probably meant him to do all along. Yessir, I figured if Nathan could find a home and a path to higher purpose here, then maybe this was where my destiny lay as well. I thought when I found that lonely broken-down old Mission outside of town that maybe rebuilding it might be the first step in rebuilding my way to You.
Now I wonder if I understood the signs at all. That crow I saw that night a week ago, sittin' there and starin' at me like the Devil himself come to pick out a piece of my soul. It told me death was coming and I was sure, so damnably sure, that the death was mine. That I'd finally run out of time, or maybe You'd just run out of patience. Nathan had asked me to go on a suicide mission, I knew that, and the crow just seemed to emphasize that staying where I was and trying to ignore my fate was pointless. Death was coming, and I would meet it head on, maybe save a few innocent lives and buy myself a little credit in the hereafter before it came. But it didn't happen that way.
I was prepared to die. I think I even wanted to. I wasn't prepared at all to suddenly want so much to live. Something about those men you threw into my path made me want to go on trying. They needed me, whether they knew it or not, and I needed them.
Nathan needs somebody to believe in him, somebody who knows that knowledge and skill sometimes got nothing to do with formal education. He's come a long way in his life, but everybody needs a helping hand now and then to lead 'em through their own darkness.
Chris is another fine example of that - a darkened soul cravin' the light. He's got Buck to shine a light on his path, and yet there's a part of him that needs the shadows. The very same shadows I've been trying to purge from my own soul for years. I figure Chris needs me, if only as a reminder that everybody's got sins they're paying off and pain they got to live with, not just him.
Vin's got him a soul that craves the quiet places. You can see in his eyes that he loves the wild open spaces, but that he needs folks too. Vin needs the quiet that can only be found in the eyes of someone who's seen the harder side of life and ain't let it beat him down. He found that in Chris, but he also sees it in me. Until he did I don't reckon either me or Chris knew that we hadn't been beat just yet.
JD and Buck, well, I ain't got to know them as well as I mean to just yet, but in some ways they remind me of a couple of wild pups that need an older and wiser dog to keep an eye out and steer 'em away from trouble. They'll look out for one another, and I'll look out for both of them.
Ezra reminds me of myself. He'd probably be insulted as hell if I told him that, but in him I see the reckless spirit and confident heart that defined my younger years. I also see in his eyes a deep longing - for what I'm not sure, but I believe that it may be acceptance, forgiveness, or maybe just a chance to be the person You mean him to be. And that, too, reminds me of myself.
Are they my penance, Lord? Are they my salvation? These six men and all the other folk that fill the rowdy little town I've come to live in? Is it my place to look after them all, to make them see that there are blessings in their lives, and in each other, that can overcome the highest of obstacles thrown in their paths?
The Lord helps him who helps himself, they say. I've taken lives, ruined the life of one most precious to me by my very absence from her, and wasted much of my own life on selfish deeds. Perhaps it's fitting that I make amends by letting go of my own desires, my own surety of what You must expect of me, and letting my path be illuminated by others.
Is this where I have been led all along? To a church, dilapidated and worn but not destroyed. To a town whose spirit is battered but not yet broken. To a brotherhood of lost souls, who will perhaps find what we have lost and yearned for within each other.
I think that it could be. I hope that it is.