Disclaimer: This story is a work of fan fiction based on CBS's The Magnificent Seven. It is not intended to infringe on the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy, or any other PTB. The characters, setting, and concept are not mine, but the story is. I would prefer not to have it turn up anywhere I didn't put it.

Rated PG

Thanks to Carolyn for the idea. Feedback appreciated.

Line of Fire
by Katie

JD's heart pounded against the sharp point of metal pressed to his throat.  He didn't dare take a deep breath for fear that the blade would slip, and he wondered vaguely if he were going to suffocate before Carson could slit his throat.

"You do this and you're a dead man," he said, keeping his voice calm and firm with an effort.  "You don't rob a bank in Chris Larabee's town and get away with it."

Carson laughed from behind him, a rough, wild sound.  "I know all about Larabee's reputation, boy.  He takes care of his own.  He won't do nothing to me as long as he thinks he can get you back alive."

He pushed JD toward the bank's front door, the arm around JD's chest tightening as the knife remained disturbingly steady against his throat.  From behind them, the soft rustling movements of George, the teller, and old Mrs. Henderson gave JD a sudden, terrifying image of a massacre.

"You're mighty sure of yourself," he said quickly, trying to keep the outlaw's focus on him.  No matter what it took, he wasn't going to let any innocents die today.  "There's five men backing him up and only one of you."

"Two," Carson said, the smirk evident in his voice.  "I got you."

Shoving him hard against the door frame, Carson peered over his shoulder out the window at the street.  "Looks like we got company.  I want you to go out slow and easy, and don't try anything stupid.  You hear me, boy?  You try to be a hero, you'll be the dead man."

"I hear you," JD said, his mind racing.  As soon as they went through that door, something was going to happen.  The boys wouldn't let Carson get away, and they'd do their best to make sure JD didn't get hurt in the process.  He had to be ready for whatever play they made.  He'd just feel better if he knew what the plan was.

"Let's go."  Carson yanked open the door and pushed JD through, following close behind.  The knife never wavered.

Buck and Chris were standing in the middle of the street facing the bank, both wearing the cold, hard expressions that said they were close to spitting nails.  JD wasn't about to turn his head, but he could see dark shapes further back and to the side; most likely Nathan and Josiah, by their size.  He'd bet Vin and Ezra were up high somewhere, Ezra probably at the window across the street and Vin on the roof.  They could fill Carson full of lead in a matter of seconds, if it weren't for JD being in the line of fire.

JD searched Chris and Buck's faces for a clue as to what they wanted him to do.  He could see nothing but frozen rage in Chris's eyes and a deep, slow-burning fire in Buck's.  Neither man was even looking at him; Chris's eyes were locked on Carson and Buck seemed focused on the knife at JD's throat.

"Let him go," Chris said almost pleasantly.  "I might let you live."

"You let me get out of town, maybe I'll let him go once I'm clear."

"No deal."

Chris made a sign, barely noticeable to anyone who hadn't fought beside him.  Tensing, JD got ready to move, even though he still didn't know which way.

And then something hit him from behind, throwing him forward.  There was a sickening noise like a melon being smashed.  He was on his hands and knees, staring at blood and bits of . . . something on his right sleeve.  The back of his neck was warm.


Strong hands yanked him to his feet.  Staring down at him worriedly, Buck said his name again and gave his shoulders a tiny shake.  "Talk to me, son.  Did he hurt you?"

JD shook his head, but the movement was prompted by confusion as much as it was an answer to Buck's question.  He didn't know if he was hurt.  He wasn't sure what had happened, why he was free.  He'd meant to be ready for Chris's plan, but now the plan seemed to be over and he hadn't done anything, and he couldn't quite figure out why he was shivering.

Then he looked back over his shoulder at where Carson had been a minute before.  Where Carson still was, except Carson sprawled on the dirt, the back of what had been his head now a bloody mess.  JD realized in a rush what was coating his arm and back.

"I need a bath," he said quietly, and then louder as Buck just stared at him.  "I need a bath, Buck.  I'm fine, I just need . . . "

"All right."  Buck squeezed his shoulders, not seeming to care what he was touching at the same time.  "Get on over to the bathhouse.  I'll bring you some clean clothes."

JD hurried down the street, waving off Nathan and Josiah's questions.  He'd be fine as soon as he could get clean.

Vin stood over Carson, the rifle he'd used to kill the man resting on his arm as he stared down at the body.  Buck stepped over to him, ignoring the warning look Chris shot his way.  

It was all Buck could do to keep his voice even, but there were townspeople beginning to gather, and this was nobody's business but their own.

"I told you not to take that shot if we hadn't got JD away yet.  You could have killed him instead of Carson."

Vin shrugged.  "Chris gave me the signal.  And I didn't hit JD."

Buck stepped even closer, forcing Vin to look up and meet his eyes.  "It wouldn't have been Chris you'd have answered to if you had hit him."

Vin just looked at him, and there was a darkness in the tracker's eyes that made a chill go down Buck's spine.  "Wouldn't've been you, neither."

Vin turned and walked away, and Buck let him go.  Sometimes he didn't understand Vin at all.  Other times, he understood him all too well.

Shaking his head, Buck looked down at the body at his feet.  It had to be cleared out of the road.  JD would need some clean clothes and probably a stiff drink or three.  He had things to do, and no time to spend daydreaming.

"Hey, Josiah, you want to give me a hand?" he called, and set about his work.