Title: Die Young, Stay Pretty
Author: Cathy Roberts
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Characters: Nathan Jackson, Vin Tanner, Chris Larabee, Ezra Standish, J.D. Dunne
Rating: PG-13, Character deaths, not the seven
Date: July 2, 2011
Summary: Written for the Mag7 Bingo prompt "Dark!fic", one from the bottom of column 'I'. Could be considered a crossover with "Falling Skies". You didn't think that this was the first trip here for the Skitters, did you?
In the years since the war had ended, Nathan had often felt that his life had been divided into three distinct parts. There was the dark part, when he was enslaved. The days when his family was torn apart and he learned how to hate being helpless. When his skin was torn open just because someone didn't like the way he closed a door. The only bright spot in all of that was that the man who owned him, had also taught him to read. It was a skill that came in handy when either one of them was cut while practicing with the swords. The man had owned a few books on anatomy and the healing arts, and Nathan had often been called upon to use those books when tending to their wounds.
Then there were the days after his escape, which should have been happy days. For the most part, it was happy and good. Right up until the war began and he volunteered to help with the wounded. There were still nights when Nathan awoke in a cold sweat, with memories of screams and blood and severed limbs fresh in his mind.
The third part came after the war. Nathan had tried to find his family, but if they were still alive, then they were beyond his reach. Still, his search had led him west, and he'd kept learning along the way, until he reached a town where his skills as a healer were more important than the color of his skin. He'd been accepted there, treated kindly and most importantly, with respect. Of course, it didn't hurt that Steven and Mary Travis had been the first ones to seek out his friendship. Nathan still smiled whenever he thought back on the dinner that Mary had cooked just for him. And Steven, well, he had been a fine man. Judge Travis and his wife had done a good job raising him, and now Billy was growing up to be just like his father.
The happy time had some sadness to it, too. There'd been Steven's murder, and then later, when he'd been reunited with his Daddy, just in time to be there with the man as he died. Still, it had been good to be with him, and to know the truth, no matter how much it had hurt. The best happiness though, even better than finding his Daddy again, had been getting mixed up with the others, even Ezra. It still amazed Nathan that Chris and Vin had been so easily willing to risk their lives for him. Although, given how often they'd risked their lives since then, it probably shouldn't still resonate that much with him. But, it did. It had been a hard day, having those cowhands bringing in their boss, and the man too far eaten up with gangrene for even amputation to save him. And all because he'd scraped his arm against the side of the chuck-wagon. Life was so fleeting, that a simple scratch could come to kill a man just as much as a noose could. Or bullets and a knife, as those cowhands later found out.
And there was Rain. He'd never met a woman like her, and Nathan didn't think he'd ever find another one like her, either. She was independent, sassy and beautiful. Smart, too. And so fiercely proud of having been born free. Her daddy had made that possible when he'd run off from some plantation, determined that not only would he be free, but so would his children.
It cut Nathan to the quick to know that Eban's dream was now shattered. Much like the way the glass in every window in town had shattered the night those monsters came down from the sky. Nathan still wasn't sure just who all of the townspeople were alive, outside of the ones with them; and who'd been captured. They knew that the six-legged creatures that had spilled out into their streets had taken captives, but they'd also killed people who tried to resist them. His knives had been useless against them, but Vin's mares leg gave them plenty of hurt. Josiah hadn't even bothered with a pistol, he'd grabbed the shotgun from behind the bar in the saloon and charged into the street, filling those bugs with lead.
Hell, they'd all fought as hard as they could, but when dawn came, it was to find them retreating from town, heading to Chris's place. All but Vin and J.D., because they'd headed out to Miss Nettie's, to let them know what had happened, and bring her and Casey out to Chris's place, too. The plan had been to gather as many people as they could, and then head to the reservation. From there, they'd go to the Seminole village. It was easier to defend than the town had been, or the reservation would be. J.D. had come alone to Chris's, blood drying on his coat and pants. Miss Nettie was dead, he reported, and Casey gone, taken by the creatures. They'd gotten there just as those creatures were leaving with her, and some others who'd been taken from the outlaying farms. J.D. had tears in his eyes as he told of how they'd had to watch while one of those things just lashed out with one arm and swept Nettie through the air, and that she hadn't gotten up once she'd hit the side of the house and then the ground. Vin had held him back, slowly shaking his head until J.D. understood that there was nothing they could do to help. Not right then, anyway. Then J.D. had cut Nathan to the quick when he told him that Rain and others from the Seminole village had been with the captives.
Vin had sent J.D. back with the news and he headed off to trail behind the captives, wanting to know just how many they had, and if he could get some idea of just what they wanted. As the hours passed, Chris had grown anxious, his gaze straying toward town every few minutes, as if he could wish Vin back with them. Nathan, Ezra and Josiah had stayed outside with Chris, as it was far too crowded in the cabin. It would figure that Conklin had been able to make it out of town with them all, and the man had brazenly taken charge inside. Nobody challenged him, mostly because they knew that once Chris saw Vin had returned unharmed, then he'd set Conklin right about whose home it was. Conklin would be lucky if he got a spot in the small corral in which to sleep. Chris had already agreed with Nathan that the women and children should be inside, the smaller ones in the house, the rest in the barn that Chris had finished just last week. Buck had taken J.D. to the barn, to help the women set up places for sleeping, but mainly to keep the boy's mind off of Casey being captured.
The sound of an approaching horse drew Nathan out of his thoughts. As Vin came into view, Nathan pushed aside his fear for Rain and the others. Vin looked grim as he dismounted and handed his horse off to Yosemite.
"You got any whiskey here?" Vin asked.
A flask was held out, and Nathan realized that Ezra had come up beside him. The tension seemed to be rolling off of the gambler, and Nathan wondered if he was just as tense.
Vin took the flask with a nod and took a long swallow. In the fading daylight, Nathan could see blood stains under the dust that coated Vin's clothing. He didn't want to think about it being Miss Nettie's blood. He wanted to know that they could get everyone free, that he could get Rain to safety; if anywhere was safe, that was.
Vin handed the flask back to Ezra, and Nathan could feel more people pressing in around them. Everyone needed to know what was going on, so he couldn't blame them for milling around now, even though it was feeling far too closed in for his liking. Vin didn't talk until Chris placed a hand on his shoulder, giving him a nod.
"I followed them for a bit, and saw a band of warriors from the reservation tracking 'em, too. They struck quick, killed a bug or two, and got one of their girls back…" Vin swallowed hard, then took a deep breath. He looked directly at Nathan then, and Nathan felt his heart start to race at the look of despair he saw in Vin's eyes. "The bugs separated some of the captives, and sent the rest on into town. They killed 'em. Rain was one of them, Nathan."
That silver flask was pressed into Nathan's hand as the words washed over him. As the flask was guided to his mouth, he vaguely heard Vin talking, and then hearing screaming and yelling. It wasn't until the next day that he woke up, hung-over, his voice raspy and throat sore, and realized that it had been him, J.D. and Gloria Potter making all that noise.
Vin never would talk about what he saw that day, about how they'd died, and Nathan never asked. He already had too much to dream about, and didn't see the need to add more.
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