A Journey’s End:
Epilogue for ‘A Life for a Life’
By: Cass Smith


Disclaimer: I don’t own the Seven or anything related. I am not making any money. This is just
Rating: PG
Author’s Notes:  I hope Maggs doesn’t mind me doing this. It’s just a little piece. But, after she
read me her story today, I couldn’t shake the feeling it created. Or perhaps the feelings it brought
back. So, I sat down to write my ‘assigned’ paper on empathy and couldn't help but to keep
thinking how I could empathize with the poor guys who had lost Vin. ( Notice how summer
school is already taking a back seat to writing.)
Anyway,  I once told Maggie that if she had ever lost a best friend, that it wouldn’t be so easy for
her to write or to read Deathfic concerning the situation. But, I think that was sort of unfair,
because you don’t really have to experience something terrible to understand it’s power. I’m glad
she’s never gone through it, I hope she doesn’t. Especially since I’d be the victim in
question.(BG). I guess I understand the purpose of death well enough, and can accept it’s
unstoppable presence, but sometimes youth can be a disadvantage. You view yourself and your
friends as invincible. And sometimes, you learn the hard way that’s not the way things are. So,
before my intro gets to be longer than my story, I’ll get on with it. Even Cass can get a little
down every now and then; but I hope this sort of cheers someone up, or at least comforts them.;-)

For, Michelle, who left an empty spot in my life; And for, Maggs who created her own space.


‘There’s one thing that keeps surprising you about stormy old friends after they die-their
silence.’-Ben Hecht


The summer morning was perfect. A crispness in the air caused the slightest chill to be felt, but
the rising sun promised a warmth-filled afternoon. Dew glistened on the emerald-leafed trees
surrounding the graveyard, as if specks of gold dust had been scattered about, and birds rejoiced
the coming of the new day, with melodies of sweet abandonment.

The scent of wildflowers and honeysuckles drifted in the soft breeze, and dandelion petals
danced an adagio of delight, as they were tossed and scattered by the wind’s romp over the hills.
It was a perfect picture of life as it should be; as one would like to have it always be; but to one
young man sitting alone near a freshly dug tomb, it was an act of blasphemy.

J.D. Dunne couldn’t help but to realize that it was the kind of day for fishing. Or for a long ride.
Even a good day, for a checker game on the jailhouse porch. But he had no desire to do these
things. No, he couldn’t fancy them at all.

Because each time that he did, his thoughts turned to another that would have enjoyed doing
them. Someone who would have casually taken him up on his offer to join him at the best fishing
spot, when no one else had the time, or let him win a horse race, just by a nose-length, so he
could have something to brag about to Casey, especially if it cost Ezra some money. The same
person would have played checkers all day if he thought it would keep J.D.’s mind off some
worry or spiff he’d had with Buck, even if he’d been up all night on a shift.

But of course, that person couldn’t do those things with J.D. on this glorious day. No,that person
would never do anything with J.D. again. Because Vin was dead. And no amount of tears, or
wishes, or special memories could ever bring him back. For that, John Dunne, resented the
audacity that nature had for offering up a picturesque summer day, as if nothing in the world had
changed. Mother Nature had some nerve to go on in her usual manner, when a someone as
special as Vin Tanner had been taken away from them.

In fact, things continued as they always had, even hours after the tracker had been laid to rest.
That is, for everyone but the remnants of what had once been the Seven.

Children laughed and chased each other through the streets, men drifted in and out of the saloon,
shouting and cursing the whiskey or the company, and people even had the guts to seem happy
and joyful, as if good fortune were upon them.

The more J.D. saw, the angrier he became. How dare they go on! How dare life continue without
Vin! Those thoughts were what drove him from town, what brought him to the spot near his
friends grave, where he now sat, holding the tracker's harmonica that Chris had given him.

The dark-haired youth looked down at the small instrument and remembered the look in the
gunslinger’s eyes when he’d handed it to him. It had been after the service, right after Mary
Travis had read one of Vin’s poems. Larabee had turned to him and with out saying a word,
placed the cold metal into his hand. J.D. shivered as he recalled the pain he saw etched in that
ice-blue gaze, and bowed his head. No matter what he , himself , was feeling, Chris Larabee was
suffering ten-fold. He and the tracker had shared a bond not many could understand. A bond of
brotherhood. But,J.D. didn’t have to experience that kind of loss, to empathize with it. He could
,all too easily, imagine what it would be like if something would happen to Buck.

He lifted his eyes to look at the lonely grave marker and a new anger surged within him. One he
hadn’t expected. “Damn you, Vin Tanner!” he cursed, throwing the harmonica onto the rich,
newly unearthed dirt. “Damn you, for leaving us!.”

With the rage, came the tears, and J.D. buried his face in his hands, letting go of the well spring
of pain he’d been keeping damned up. He didn’t know how long he’d been that way, time held
no meaning, before a hand on his shoulder startled him from his grief.


The teen quickly lifted his head and tried to wipe away any traces of what had taken place. There
was no way he wanted Buck to see him crying like a baby.

“You alright, kid?”

J.D. nodded, not trusting his voice, just yet.

Wilmington forced a small smile, but didn’t look convinced. “Mind if I join you, for a while?”

“Go ‘head.” The youth’s voice cracked, but Buck seemed not to notice.

The gunslinger slowly sat on the grass beside the boy, and removed his hat, which he began
fiddling with. Buck could never keep his hands still, especially when something was troubling

“Beautiful day,” he said softly, letting his dark eyes skim the area around them. “Shame, Vin’s
not here to enjoy it. Boy was a damn fool for nature.”

J.D. swallowed hard and turned his head from the other man, making his choked words barely
audible. “It’s not fair.”

“What’d you say, son?” Wilmington let his hand rest on his best friend’s shoulder again.

The kid quickly turned hurt and very angry eyes on him. “I said it wasn’t fair! None of this is
fair! Not Vin dying! Not Chris walking around like some zombie! And not, not...”

“Not what?” Buck tilted his head, and encouraged J.D. to continue. He seemed unphazed by the

J.D.’s lower lip began to tremble, “Not me feeling this way again, Buck.” The kid took a ragged
breath, and his shoulders slumped, defeat replacing the ire. “I was just beginning to trust being
happy. To get used to caring ‘bout something. I lost that when my ma died, but I found it again
when I began riding with the seven. Now,” the teen waved his hand in the air, “now, I don’t
know what to feel.”

Wilmington squeezed his friend’s shoulder tighter. “That’s natural, J.D. Your emotions are all
mixed up right now. You’ll work them out over time..”

“Time!” J.D. interrupted. “Time’s not going to fix things, Buck. Time isn’t going to bring Vin

The gunslinger let his hand drop from the kid’s arm and sighed heavily. “No, no it won’t bring
him back, kid. And no, it won’t change what happened to us all.”When Buck’s eyes met J.D.’s
they were glistening with unshed tears. “But it will ease the pain it will take the edge off the

“But I don’t want to forget.” A single tear slipped down J.D.’s youthful features. “I want to
remember everything about him.”

Buck shook his head. “You won’t forget ,Vin, kid. It’s just that when you think of him, you
won’t see the bad things, the painful things, you’ll remember him the way he was before .” The
older man let out a soft chuckle. “Like how he could insult old Ezra without him ever being
the wiser, or how he could make even Chris Larabee laugh.” The older man’s voice thickened.
“Or how he would go to any lengths to protect a friend.”

“I want to remember those things.” J.D. looked at the other man. “But right now, all I can see is
Chris holding him in the street, and I can almost hear him take his last breath, and I can feel the
panic racing up inside of me, like I’m reliving the whole thing over and over again.”

Wilmington lowered his head, wishing he could come up with the words to give J.D. some peace,
to take away his anguish, when the quiet question caught him off guard.

“We’re going to lose, Chris, too. Aren’t we?”

Buck brought his dark gaze up to lock with the hazel one. “Not if we can get him to come to his

“How do we do that?” the teen asked, incredulously. “I don’t blame him for how he feels, if
something happened to you, I’d probably..”

A sudden hand over the kid’s mouth cut his words short. “Don’t even say it! Don’t even think
it!” The gunslinger let his palm slip from J.D.’s face, but his eyes danced with anger. “If
something happened to me, I’d want you to go on. I’d expect you to live for the both of us. Not
rush off into some suicidal gunfight, or drift off into a bottle of whiskey.”


“No buts, kid. Life is too precious. Vin believed that. He was a survivor. He ‘died’ so you, so all
of us, could keep enjoying that gift. He understood that life is only a small part of the journey,
kid.  I won’t dishonor his death by giving up. And I sure as hell won’t let Chris do it either, ‘least
not without a fight.”

“It’ll be a tough battle,” J.D. spoke the truth. "Chris won't let this go."

Buck nodded and slipped his hat back on. “That’s why me and Vin need your help.”The
gunslinger stood up, and then offered his help to the boy. “Can we count on you?”

J.D. cast a glance at the grave in front of him before looking up at the oustretched palm. He
couldn’t surpress a small smile as a wind picked up, brushing against his face like a soft nudge.
“Friends stick together no matter what, don’t they.” He took hold of the hand and held on tightly
as he was lifted to his feet.

“You bet they do, kid.” Wilmington pulled the teen into his side, and threw an arm around his

The two started to walk away when J.D. stopped. “Hold up, Buck. I forgot something.” The teen
turned and made his way back to the grave. He bent down and let his fingers close around the
harmonica he’d thrown earlier.

Looking up into the blue sky, he let the breeze rush over him again, imagining he could almost
hear a familiar tune. “I won’t let you down, Vin. I promise.”


The End.

Although, I do hope Maggs finds a way to write this as a bad dream. What can I say, I’m an
eternal optimist.
Beyond Dreams: Sequel to LFL