This is my first Magnificent 7 fan fiction and the first installment of The Skunk Chronicles
Um - they don't belong to me - because if they did, the show would still be on TV! Not making any moola, only writing for the joy of it.
Out on the desert hills, Josiah Sanchez was communing with Nature. This was one of his special places and spring had hit the desert. The thunderstorms heralding the new year had given way to a profusion of wild flowers in whites, yellows pinks and violets.
He sat amidst the array of color on a large shaded rock and drank in the beauty of creation. Desert flowers sent up their rare and hard won perfume and the breeze wafted it to him. He breathed deep.
Nearby, his friend Nathan was busily harvesting the same blossoms. Behind him their horses grazed peacefully. The area was beautiful, but deadly as well since the nearly dried creak bed brought deadly floods each spring. That time of danger was over, and Josiah was glad to bring his healer brother to this spot where the flowers grew for but a short season.
Nathan, while busy, would look up from time to time, an expression of contentment on his handsome face.
Josiah stood. He reckoned he should help Brother Nathan gather in this fragrant harvest. Nathan planned on drying the various blossoms and roots to make medicines he would use to heal the citizenry of a small western town. The peace of the day was a welcome respite from the troubles of chasing down horse thieves and robbers as well as putting up with the assorted wits in the band of peacekeepers known to Four Corners as the Magnificent Seven.
In the last month, Brothers Buck, J.D., Vin and Ezra had formed an unholy alliance, deviling the life out of everyone. Even Chris Larabee, the dour gunfighter they knew as leader had been exasperated with them; especially over that unfortunate chicken incident, that he'd announced that all four were in need of divine intervention and had the very day the chicken had met an unfortunate demise proceeded to baptize all four sinners in the local pond.
To make certain that the baptism worked, he practiced complete immersion several times in rapid succession. Even Vin, with whom he had a special silent communication, did not escape the sacrament. Indeed, Brother Vin had been so weak with laughter from watching Chris administer a wet absolution to Buck that he had been unable to flee his fate and they were all hauled unceremoniously into the pond by their leader. Brother Ezra, in fear for his elegant garments, and realizing his doom, managed to remove his red swallowtail jacket, even as he giggled uproariously.
Josiah and Nathan had arrived in time to see J.D. spluttering as Chris practiced three-fold immersion on Vin Tanner. It was one of them time when Josiah wished he could sketch cause the moment was worthy of being preserved for posterity.
Since that day, the four mischief makers had apparently cooled their enthusiasm, laying low to prevent further involuntary ablutions. So Josiah had been both astonished and suspicious when they showed up for Sunday Service like good freshly baptized communicants. Usually only Nathan went to Sunday Service with him, and from the disgusted expression on his face, he didn't think they were there for the preaching.
They had disrupted the entire service with enthusiastic amens, yes, lords and say it preachers, until Josiah suggested that the first baptism hadn't quite taken and perhaps they needed another.
Since they all knew he was big enough to do this by himself, and since an annoyed Brother Jackson suggested that cleanliness was after all next to godliness, the miscreants had departed with a satisfactory swiftness.
Josiah smiled. The boys were high spirited, but damn good men and closer than family. Men who would cover his back and men he could depend on. He was actually pleased on one level with the recent developments. Ezra had always held himself a bit apart, uncertain of both himself and his place. But the test of time had broken down the gambler's walls and he entered into the fellowship with enthusiasm that was liable to get him shot if Chris ever discovered that it was Ezra who had come up with the chicken idea.
As Josiah drew near to where Nathan's skillful hands were industriously gather the fruits of the field, he heard little squeak.
He went still. Ahead of him he watched Nathan's shoulders freeze in the same listening stance. It might be a peaceful day, but both men were alert to the slightest noise as a matter of habit. Sometimes it made the difference between life and death, and sometimes it was just a source of information about the world around them.
Carefully, he searched and then found the source of the noise. A little mama skunk and her baby had been caught in the flooding. The mama hadn't survived but had managed to save her kitten and it was crying and sniffing at its mama.
He saw that the baby was hurt. "Polecat" he announced to Nathan and his friend joined him. The baby's hindquarters had been damaged. Nathan's healer hands gently touched the little creature.
Josiah felt pity for the poor little thing. "It doesn't have a chance without a mama." He observed.
"It's little stink sack is hurt," said Nathan, "its gotta come off or it will get infected."
Nathan's eyes grew speculative, "If I can fix it up and give him a chance, the little one might make it."
"With no stink?" Josiah questioned, "That's his main weaponry."
"A chance is better than one at all," said Nathan. Josiah's heart warmed. The little thing was relaxing in Nathan's big hands. It made a little noise of inquiry.
"Well," Josiah said carefully, "If you can fix him, I'll take care of him. Reckon he won't be any trouble and he can help keep mice and other varmints out of the church."
In unspoken camraderie, both men said nothing about telling the others in the peacekeepers little band. The potential for mayhem was practically biblical in its proportions.
Nathan returned to his clinic with the skunk nestled in his pocket. Josiah gathered the foliage that Nathan had indicated with great dedication. Nathan was caring for a growing number of people and his simple remedies presented the ounce of prevention that beat a pound of cure. Josiah had a great respect for the ditchwater teas his friend doled out.
After a few hours labor, he returned to town, his horse well laden with flowers. Entering the clinic, Nathan's voice was gentle. "He's come through the surgery just fine, Josiah. Doesn't think much of carbolic acid, I must say. If he still had the stink sack, I think I'd be in trouble."
Josiah walked over. The little skunk was asleep, curled up in a ball in a box of clean rags.
"If he makes it through the night, he'll be alright," pronounced the healer.
For the next week, Josiah worked on the church. Soon, he had a new companion, who often rode on his shoulder or pocked as he worked.
Nathan had informed him that the baby was probably a girl skunk, so he tried to think of a name.
In month's past, Ezra had been pretty ill with a fever. While helping Nathan nurse his friend, Josiah had discovered that Maude hadn't been a very consistent mother. The little skunk was very cleanly and dainty in all her ways, just like a lady. She was right purty and poised too. He named her Maude and she was far more devoted than her namesake.
Some idiots tried to rob the bank and were shot full of holes by Vin and Ezra who had just finished tying a wealth of pink ribbons on Buck's horse. In the excitement of not being shot up for once, they completely forgot the horse, and when Buck decided to go riding with a lady friend that evening, the ladies' man nearly died of shock. He recovered quickly enough that he seated his lady friend on the befrilled animal, who actually looked pretty good, and took her for a ride, like having the horse dressed up pretty had been his intent all along. Ezra did things with style and he couldn't pull a joke without doing it well.
Things got a little quieter then.
Josiah returned to the church work for a few days with Maude in tow. She was a sympathetic listener and damn good company. She was also neat as a cat, graceful and more affectionate than ever the lady mother of Brother Ezra.
It was Saturday night. No matter what he'd done the previous six days, on Saturday night he joined the rest of the Seven for a friendly game, where Ezra usually divested them of their hard earned excess money. It had become a welcome ritual in his life, and he was more likely to miss preaching than the game. Maude was looking up at him. He could just leave her here, but he decided she'd be lonely left in his room in back of the church. He smiled at the critter and put her in his pocket with a large piece of dried fruit. Then he made his way to the saloon.
Chris Larabee was congratulating his friends on the relative peace of the last week. "Ain't raised no hell baptism must have took."
Vin Tanner snorted and a slow pleased smile came over his face. Buck grinned and J.D. hooted.
Ezra was industriously dealing cards, but a slight quiver graced his lips. "I assure you, Mr. Larabee, we are living a life of penitence and prayer. Why right now I am making plans for investing in a chicken farm."
This announcement even made Larabee smile, while the others began to laugh in good earnest.
Josiah took a sip of whiskey and watched Ezra deal. Ezra was a pleasure to watch at his work. He was too much a master of the cards to cheat and Josiah admired his artistry, even if it left him poorer Indeed, Exra was capable of a complete massacre with the cards, without cheating, but he always took pains to play carefully with his friends, leaving them a smattering of money and even more of pride.
Glancing down, he checked on Maude. After devouring her dried fruit, she had fallen asleep in his overcoat pocket, curled up in a black and white ball of furry contentment.
J.D. and Buck began reliving their escapades while Vin and Chris smiled in gentle affability. Of course, Ezra had his poker face on but Josiah could tell he was pleased with the evening's entertainment.
J.D. informed the table at large that he was broke. Buck looked askance at Nathan and Josiah.
"You're both good men," he said complacently, "Men to ride the river with, but you ain't got no sense of humor." J.D. chuckled, Vin smiled and a tiny smile wrinkle made it ways up Ezra's cheek.
Josiah never made it a habit to go at any speed but his own, but his eyes flicked to Nathan, who looked at him with a long suffering expression.
An idea came to Josiah as the bidding on the game continued.
He glanced at his pocked and then sent a meaningful glance to Nathan.
First Nathan looked merely a bit puzzled, but then apparently he realized what Josiah was about. The healer nodded, a slight smile gracing his lips.
Josiah took a swallow of whiskey. It was his turn to bid.
"Ill see your bid," he informed the dapper gambler, "and raise you one polecat."
Quick as a wink, but gently, he sat Maude in the middle of the pile of chips and money.
The reaction was admirable. J.D. Vin and Buck jumped to their feet and fled the building immediately behind Chris Larabee, their illustrious leader.
Ezra, being a bit slower due to his position at the table and his reluctance to give up his hand, said, more quickly than Josiah had ever heard him, "I concede the game to you, Mr. Sanchez. Please excuse me."
Then he too exited the saloon through the still swinging bat-wing doors.
Maude was unconcerned about her debut into human society. She sniffed at the money with interest while Josiah and Nathan, their gentle healer, laughed themselves silly.
"Nope," Josiah commented to the open air, "I reckon I have no sense of humor at all. It's a downright shame."