Slow Down Time

Carol Pahl

This is a work of fan fiction based on the TV show, The Magnificent Seven. It is not meant to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, or The Mirisch Corp.

© 1999

(Contains spoilers for "Lady Killers")

"Miss Nettie, it is too fine an evening to have such a pensive look about yourself."

The white-haired woman turned and smiled at the large man standing by her side. "Josiah, how a man your size can sneak up on a soul is beyond me." She turned away and looked down the street before speaking again, "Didn’t realize you could read my mind, either, ‘specially in the waning sunlight."

"What’s troubling you, Nettie?" he asked again, his voice soft and comforting.

Taking a deep breath she sighed deeply. "Wish a person could slow down time for a mite is all. Seeing them," she pointed to the young couple, visiting as they stood next to the livery corral, "Seein’ them getting closer, I just want to stop the clock for a while, wanting them to be children a while longer."

"Getting shot does tend to make one want to experience all facets of life before there ain’t any more chances." The preacher joined the woman’s contemplation.

"What ever happened to innocence, Josiah? Neither one of those youngin’s got a chance to be young and carefree. Now I’m not saying hard work ain’t important. All children need to know how to do a day’s honest work."

"But they need to temper it with a little funning’ and mischief?"

Nettie shook her head, "You do understand my dilemma, preacher man."

"As much as I heard, she challenged him first."

"Reckon’ you're right. Ever since I took the child in she’s been testin’ me. First by refusing to wear girl clothes cause they get in the way of the chores needed doin’. Next thing I know she’s challenged the new sheriff to a horse race or playing mumbly-peg."

"Don’t want to forget their fishing trips!"

Nettie glanced at the larger man as her face darkened. "Don’t you think for one moment I don’t worry what happens when them two take off to go fishin’ or ridin’ or what ever else they dream up. But that’s what I mean, Josiah. I don’t want to worry about what they are doing. Want ta think that it’s two pals going off to have a good time and not a young man alone with a young gal and him with only one thought coursing through his mind and body."

"Mizz Wells, the boy’s too honorable to do something like what you’re implying with your niece. Unless Buck’s actions got him curious."

"Having that for an example has got to be down right terrifying to any soul with a teenage girl underfoot."

"You and I both know he’s not about to step over them boundaries."

"Then maybe it’s not him I gotta worry about. Teenage girls want to know as much as teenage boys, specially when the girl’s as headstrong as mine."

They both laughed softly, not wanting their discussion to reach the ears of the couple in question.

"They’ve both had guiding hands in their upbringing. Sure it’s been a struggle for each of them, not fitting into the normal scheme of things but maybe that’s why they’re both as strong as they each are. The boy didn’t have a father to guide and shape him, but my father’s teachings lead me into more trouble than I care to admit. She could do a lot worse than take up with the likes of him. He’s courageous."

"But foolhardy."

"He’s loyal."

"And nearly got himself in a early grave for it. What’s it been Josiah? Stabbed, beaten up and shot, all in less than a year. For what?" She counted up the injuries on her hand.

"For a chance to prove he’s worth something. When we first rode out together to help them Indians, he weren’t welcome. Chris tried to kick him out; twice, in fact. Didn’t stop him. He’d be like that as a gal's fellow, too. He ain’t the kind to use a pretty face then move on without any regard to what's transpired between them. Is it wrong to let your heart lead you?"

"She’s just as foolish. Dressing like a boy. Course that’s my fault as much as her's. When she came to live with me, I didn’t have much more than a roof over my head, my mother’s chair and my husband’s few belongings. When she outgrew what she came with, I had her wear his old stuff. Did surprise me though a few weeks back when she came home and got all dressed up in her brown skirt and white shirtwaist. Dressing up for some city slicker."

"They both made mistakes but that’s how they’ve gotta learn."

The two grownups stepped back from the edge of the boardwalk and settled onto the bench in front of the store.

"Is he gonna fully recover?" Nettie asked, having seen the boy still wince when lifting his saddle.

"Nathan figures so. The kid’s too stubborn to let a bullet in his gut stop him from living a long life. Her’s was the first face he saw when he came to and he was real sorry he let that bounty hunter gal turn his head, sorry even before she shot him."

"There seems something different about him, well about both of them."

"I think they both grew up a little more because of looking at death, Nettie." Josiah patted the wrinkled hand of his friend, sharing compassion and concern for two dear people.

Neither adult noticed the couple in question disappear into the evening darkness beyond the street luminaries, a little more childhood remnant giving way toward adult life, not knowing they were their elder’s topic of discussion. Hand in hand they walked away from the horses, people and buildings of the small settlement. The darkness of the night sky called and they wanted to hear for themselves the message of the stars. As his arm surrounded her smaller shoulders and she snuggled a little closer to his chest, Nettie’s niece and Josiah’s young friend stepped a little closer to discovering something wonderful.