Staring out at the vast expanse of wilderness in front of him, the man in black sat motionless astride his patient horse. As always, the animal seemed to be able to read his mind and to match its mood to its owner's melancholy thoughts. Chris Larabee sighed softly. A man should not outlive his own child... that was not the way the world was supposed to work.
The staccato sound of approaching hoofbeats didn't startle him. They were the reason that he'd rejoined the world. He had to. True, fate had taken one family from him. They were with God now. He'd seen enough of hell to know that heaven had to exist, and; if so, Sarah and Adam were there.
Now he had a new family to take care of...
He nodded silently to Buck. Wilmington was his oldest friend and had willingly followed him through hell and out the other side again. The man had a heart as big as Texas - bigger, and exuberant though the man was at times, Buck was a steadying influence in his life.
Another horse was manoeuvred into position on his left, the rider flanking him. Vin. The former bounty hunter and tracker was his touchstone. Not even with Sarah had he ever experienced such an immediate connection. They had looked at each other across a dusty street and their souls had recognised each other... it was the only way he could describe it. In that instant, Vin had become his brother.
Moving his horse to sit at Vin's side came the gambler. It was a toss up as to who had struggled more with the thought of finding himself part of Chris' new family - Chris or Ezra himself. The man was tricky, cocky, irritating; with the habit of finding danger in the most unlikely places - though, to be fair, Vin could do that too. He also had - on occasion - more courage than sense; which was a sure fire recipe to ensure that Chris was going to end up grey before his time.
J.D. was - as expected - next to Buck. The youngster had more oomph than an entire brass band and a wild and carefree spirit. Buck had seen it and he had quickly adopted the young man. They all recognised the potential for greatness within the kid; Buck had assumed responsibility for making sure that JD didn't kill himself in some fool escapade before he had the chance to reach his full potential, and he had the full and unwavering support of the rest of them in doing so too. They all loved the kid, he was like a kid brother to them all.
Josiah and Nathan took up their positions on the outside edges of the wedge. Two men of wildly differing pasts and upbringings, both dedicated to the welfare of others. Full of courage, and - on occasion - piss and vinegar, they looked after Chris and the rest of his new family with ferocious dedication - it took a brave man to cross them.
Chris sent his gaze left and then sent it right. He looked at his friends, his brothers; the men that made up 'the Magnificent Seven', as they had been dubbed. Misfits to a man, they somehow meshed.
Oh, there were differences of opinion and there were arguments, what family didn't have those? Just let anyone try to come between them and then see who could divide them. Seven into one. Each of them together could accomplish much. Put them together and Chris Larabee was convinced that miracles were possible. After all, they had found each other when they had needed to. That was a miracle in its own right. Chris settled his hat firmly on his head and said, "Let's ride, boys."
Seven pairs of heels dug into seven horses' sides and then the earlier staccato sound of hoofbeats was replaced with thunder. There was work to be done. Work that required their special touch. Chris Larabee rode with a grin on his face. His family was with him. The bad guys didn't have a prayer... not when the Seven rode.
As one, they spurred their horses to a gallop, racing toward the horizon.