Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Character/Pairing: Josiah, Ensemble
Challenge/Prompt: Christian Pens: "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” - Matthew 18:20
Word Count: 1,700
Date Written: 27 November 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Bullets whizzed through the hot, humid air. All around him, he could hear guns being fired repeatedly and relentlessly and men, both his friends and enemies, cursing loudly. Buck dropped down beside him, one hand holding his hat over his head. “Boy, this is funner than a Sunday picnic!”
Josiah glared at him. He wasn’t at all happy that this was how he was spending his Sunday morning! He should be in the pulpit right now, preaching to the masses, trying to bring God’s message to as many who would come into his small church to hear it! Instead here he was having to go Old Testament on killers again, on people who had chosen to align themselves with the wicked instead of the good.
“COME ON, BOYS!” Chris yelled from somewhere not too far away. “WE’VE ALMOST GOT ‘EM!”
He should be preaching and reading his Bible rather than wielding a gun and his knives occasionally and trying to take down yet another impossible number. Why was it, he wondered, that it always seemed that he and his six companions were always going up against hundreds of men? Dozens would have been bad enough, but the numbers they fought seemed truly impossible.
Yet they were winning again! He rolled out from behind the boulder he’d chosen as a hiding spot and fired his shotgun three times more in rapid succession. He dove back behind the rock and reloaded his weapon once again.
Vin released a long, low, and excited whistle. “KEEP IT UP, PARDS! WE’VE GOT ‘EM ON THE RUN NOW!”
Josiah almost wanted to let the killers go. Almost. But then he thought of Mary, Inez, the Widow Wells, young Casey, and his own sister again. He thought of Missus Porter and the other women of his tiny congregation and what the killers would have done to them if he and his companions had not caught wind of them and their ideas with their very first stop inside their town. They’d made the mistake of trying to take Inez behind the bar, and they’d been after them like starving hounds on a fox ever since. Except that these particular foxes, with their liking of killing and raping women, were more Demons than animals or men.
They couldn’t let them go, Josiah knew. If they did, they’d simply move on to another town and start killing and raping all over again. He ran from his cover, and this time he didn’t stop shooting until he had ran out of bullets. Then he threw both his knives, taking down two more men.
“I thought y’all said never to shoot anybody in the back,” JD muttered, popping up just behind Josiah’s elbow.
“Even God doesn’t allow some people to live, JD, when they’ve done wrong.” Clarity suddenly struck Josiah: that was the reason why the seven of them were always winning against seemingly impossible odds! That was the reason why he had been led here to Four Corners and these men! That was the reason even, in a way perhaps, that he was not in church this very morning!
The ends of his graying mustache twitched, and he smiled beneath the broad rim of his hat and the shadow it cast as he watched the death birds already beginning to lower from the sky in search of their freshly killed food. To some, the Preacher’s grin might look down right sinister. In fact, one of the few survivors of the gang yelped and tried to scuttle away only to have Nathan’s knife embedding itself in his heart stop his panicked, crablike movements.
“You’re saying God kills people, Preacher?” JD asked in disbelief.
“Why, o’ course, He does,” Ezra drawled, flecking dust off of his red jacket. “Surely you remember the tale of the flood, Brothah Dunne?”
“It’s much more than that,” Josiah’s deep voice intoned. “When I first met you boys, I told Chris,” he nodded in the direction of the man in black, who was moving slowly among the bodies and checking for any survivors, “that I’m an old testament kinda guy. ‘And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.' - Exodus 21:23-25”
“There are also verses,” he admitted, “in the New Testament that rather contradict the notion. Everyone knows Jesus insisted on turning the other cheek,” he shrugged, “but I’ve always had trouble with that. You let a bastard live, especially one who’s already taken a life, you run the risk of him coming back and killing again. Even God gives human beings only so many chances. What do you think caused the flood?”
“But He said He’d never do that again,” JD pointed out.
“Yeah, and He meant it. He’ll never drown us all again. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t end the lives of the wicked in any other ways. Look at Sodom and Gomorrah. Look at the Israelites and the way He parted the sea for them and then drowned the Roman soldiers chasing them.”
“You’re sayin’,” Vin queried, coming up to them, “that you think God’s helpin’ us kill folks?”
Josiah faced the tracker with a twinkle in his eye. “You got another explanation, brother?” he asked. “Back there, when we were shooting just now, there were several times when my bullets shouldn’t have hit their marks, but they did. And how many times have we beaten back impossible odds, literally hundreds more men than we have? It started with the Ghosts of the Confederacy, but it just keeps happening. This gang may not have been a hundred, but they still had more than twice our number.”
“We’re hired killers for God,” Chris repeated, equally disbelieving. He chuckled, not feeling the strangeness that seemed to suddenly sing in the desert air.
“Something like that,” Josiah insisted. “Come on. You boys don’t think it’s just luck or skill, do you?” he asked, looking incredulously at each of his companions in turn. “At least one of us should’ve been killed by now.”
“But we’re doing the Lord’s work,” Nathan mused aloud, slowly catching on. “He’s protecting us.”
“'For where two or three are gathered together in mah name,'" Ezra quoted, his green eyes slowly widening with first disbelief and then understanding, "'there am Ah in the midst o' them.'"
Josiah nodded. “Matthew 18:20.” His mustache twitched again; he smoothed it down with two fingers.
“'Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.' Isaiah 41:10. 'For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.' Deuteronomy 20:4” Looking around them at the bodies of killers who would never again kill, Josiah added with a dangerous gleam in his eyes, “And I would certainly call this day a victory, my brothers.”
“I don’t like killing,” Nathan spoke softly, nudging one corpse with the toe of his left boot just enough to ascertain that the man was truly dead, “but sometimes they don’t leave us much choice.”
“There’s always a choice -- “
“Yeah,” Chris interrupted. “It’s called kill or be killed. Or, in this case, let more innocents be killed. We tell the Feds, when the Judge comes asking, we didn’t have much choice. They’ll never know any different, and we didn’t really. Or did you guys want them to keep killing and rapiing women?”
“Of course not!”
“We did the right thing.”
“‘Course we did, Kid,” Buck drawled, draping a comforting arm around JD’s shoulders.
“What,” Ezra asked, waving the stench away from his nose, “are we going to do about the bodies?”
“We’re gonna have to come back for them,” Chris said matter-of-factly.
“It’s the Lord’s day,” the gambler offered hopefully. “Can’t we send someone else for them, or at least come back tomorrow?”
“We leave ‘em out here, there won’t be nothin’ left by in mornin’,” Vin pointed out.
“Their bones -- “
“Will be devoured and carried away by the coyotes,” the tracker pointed out, looking directly at the healer in their midst. “We don’t have a choice,” he added, “not if we want them to get buried right and proper.”
“Everyone deserves a burial,” Josiah said. Looking up at the sun, he added, “Besides, we move fast, we can finish the job, clean up, and still have time enough to get back to church before this evening.”
“You ever figure out what you were gonna preach about this morning?” Nathan asked, looking up at his best friend.
“I thought I had -- “ Josiah answered thoughtfully.
He smiled and winked. “Now I know exactly what I’m going to preach on. God never forsakes His children, even when the odds look impossible, and no matter if it’s even just one of His, He’ll see us through the darkest times.”
“He did kinda put us together,” Chris whispered, mostly to himself.
The others glanced at one another, but all knew better than to call the man in black on his admission. Instead JD suddenly moaned.
“What?” Nathan questioned, looking sharply over at their youngest. “Are you hurt?”
“Nah. He ain’t hurt.” Buck’s mustache twitched with humor. “He just figured out what the Preacher said.”
Nathan looked, puzzled, at them. He hadn’t thought JD to be on the slow side, but before he could voice the question in his mind, the Kid spoke again. “We gotta kill ‘em, still take ‘em in, and take a bath today?!”
Chuckling, Buck swung his arm around JD’s shoulders and fondled his short, dark hair with his other hand, knocking his bowler from his head. “That’s life with a Preacher for a friend,” he said with a wink. “Can’t miss Sunday service.”
JD huffed and grabbed his bowler off of the desert floor. “Maybe not,” he snapped, placing it back on his head, “but you can at least leave my bowler alone!”
“I will, Kid,” Buck agreed, “when you get a real hat!”, and knocked it again.