DISCLAIMER: The following is an original work of fan fiction based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. No profit is being made - enjoy!!



I needed to get back to this.

The air here is soft and dark. It slides down the foothills, and when it pushes around the towers and mounds of rock it hums deeply, startling the occasional whistle from tiny fractures and dents. A pair of hikers passed a while back, and I felt them all the way down to their car, the hatchback Kia I parked next to when I got here. Until they crested the hill above me, skirted my outcropping of smooth red boulders, and had been gone a while, I was restless. Impatient to be alone. Finally I am.

To my left, beyond the amphitheater and the hills and spread like a starstruck lake over the valley are the city lights. They glitter at the edge of my sight, but it doesn't take anything at all to ignore them. I press my back against the smooth side of the boulder and tilt my head back: all I see is the sleeping outline of the distant mountains, and then sky. Although, that doesn't exactly describe it.

Josiah could describe it. I've been in his workroom, the attic room with the skylight and the row of floor-to-ceiling arched windows. He throws the casements open, and the mountain air sweetens the heavy odors of linseed oil and paint, and makes the bare patches of stretched canvas brighter. He has described mountains, and cityscapes, spring, summer, autumn and winter. He has described moonrise and sunset. I know he could describe a stormy sky like the one erupting above me right now.

The last time I was here, the hills were washed with summer dusk, and I had a musty copy of Donne's Holy Sonnets and a fat, hardly-worn Collected Works of Blake. The day before, I'd had a pair of ratty Burroughs and Jack Kerouac paperbacks on the floor beside my sofa, and Ezra had seen them. He showed up to work the next day with a bag from the used book store a couple blocks away insisting that I be exposed to some 'uncontrived melancholy.' Ezra doesn't care for Beat writers. Anyway, Donne and Blake would have been more appropriate reading tonight under this magnificent, bruised sky, than it was in the gilded sunset.

It's funny. I've done things in my life that most people would think should weight my conscience like Marley's chains and money boxes. What with killing when necessary. Not that I trouble myself with the moral implications of necessary-or-not. I have an instinct for it. Some of the bounties I took back when that was my living were on the dead side of 'dead or alive,' and it made me no difference, since they could all be explained as self-defense or something. These days, I suppose my killing is righteous, since I do it on behalf of others' lives as opposed to strictly for money, but it doesn't occur to me too often. Generally, I sit up out of the line of fire while my team moves on the front lines. They bet on the odds of the perp's bullets finding their protecting vests rather than their unprotected heads, and rely on me to give them the advantage from wherever I've found to perch. I don't know how many times I've walked away unharmed while one or the other of them nursed creases -- or worse. Some might say that's why I instinctively go for the head shot. To protect my team. My friends. I would be forgiven for that reasoning.

Jesus, how can a sky so crowded with clouds be so vast, so alive with form and color? The thick clouds fracture now and then, revealing the pure, iridescent, true sky which glimmers behind it all with day's lost blue and sunset's fading yellow. But even the darkness shifts and undulates; welts and bubbles of blue-black swell and burst and ooze paler hues of navy and gray. It's just like Josiah's tin tray of paint daubs, as he swirls and smears the various tints, looking for that one subtle shade that his eye knows is right. The clouds chase each other, and gather, and move apart. I don't know why; I have no idea what their goal is, what event they assemble. And I know the sky doesn't care whether or not I understand.

I love this.

I love to be a part of something huge, something that actually has meaning. Even though I only observe, and don't affect. It's a pure feeling, a healthy feeling. It's not a like a disease. How is it that people call me a 'sharpshooter' like it's something to admire? Do they admire adulterers? Because it's the same thing -- it's a dark, hidden thing, and it's desire and need and elation all drowning out the perfect wrongness of it. A guilty pleasure. If they only knew why I really prefer the head shot. They'd know then how meaningless it really is.

That cool, sweet wind coiled around my boulders and hit me square in the chest. It took my breath away; I feel as though I've been confessing. I'm here alone, in the darkness, in the silence and wind. I'm here and so is something greater than I, that I thought I could hide away from and watch from the periphery without participation. If I could move, I'd run. I'm not that far from Nettie's; I could go and tell her right now, though she wouldn't want to hear it. Bounty hunting, sniping, Charlotte, Eli Joe -- they're all the same. But she would absolve me without a thought; she always does. So would the man who lives in that little house on the edge of suburbia, who splits his time between the team, the free clinic downtown, and a beautiful woman who he might marry one day. So would the spiritualist painter in the Brownstone with the windowed attic. And the two who circle and feint at each other like the newfound brothers they are; and the restless, solitary man who decorates his life with friends as uneasily as he allows knickknacks into his personal space.

I figure even the one man that really matters would forgive me. So I don't think I'll ever know if I really deserve it.

The huge bank of darkness right above me has split open, revealing a sliver, then a runnel, then a chasm of glowing evening sky.

I think I forgot why I am here. I forgot why I came back here: to be a part and yet to be not judged. This -- this scrub brush and short grass covered hill with its mongrel deposits of granite and red rock and shale, and the storm brewing above it -- is all bigger than me. I forgot that I don't have to question it. All I have to do is be in awe of it. Which I sure as hell am.

I felt one fat drop of rain hit my notebook. The pen slid over the damp spot and didn't catch the shriveled paper, but I know the ink will have smeared. It doesn't matter. I probably couldn't read this later if I tried, what with writing in the dark while staring up at the sky, with my hand still shaky from the weakness of my healing shoulder. I don't need to read it again, though, because I'll never know this moment just like it is anyway, not through words, not even through being in this particular spot. This storm will pass. Maybe next time I come it will be day, and the bitter cold of winter will freeze me before I have a chance to uncap my pen. I won't even write about that day, probably, other than to write the date on the page. Seeing the dates are what matter. Seeing them, at least I know that I came back once, to a place where peace comes dropping slow. No matter what I do, what happens to me or my friends, I can come back when I need it.

And I shall have some peace here, for peace comes dropping slow....
--from 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree,' Wm. Butler Yeats


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