Achilles watches as the Seven take the two coffins back to town.
ACHILLES: Look at them. So proud. So sure of their courage. They should have left my brother's body. They've never crossed the River Styx; they've never gone into the underworld and come back. We'll finish our business here. Then we will turn their town into a graveyard.
They ride away.
From Zeke Black's Magnificent 7 Handbook, the transcript of "Achilles"
It'd been a long day, long and hot and tiring. Chris had managed to get back to his 'shack', finally, after a week of playing guard to the remaining members of Achilles' band, the ones who they'd rounded up in the aftermath of the attempted stage coach robbery, and to the damned gold that the government refused to let them put back on a stage unguarded. It had been good enough as a cheap transportation method until Achilles and his band knew about it. Once it had been discovered, though, the Treasury Department, wise men that they were, had decided it was safer to keep it in the town's bank until an Army unit could come and properly escort it.
Leaving Chris and the others unable to leave town or do anything but divide their time between the jail and the bank. He'd never been so happy to see the Army arrive, and he was pretty sure that applied to all his men, even Vin and Ezra.
Today he had finally been free to go back to work on his own place, replacing the walls the Nichols brothers had destroyed in their attempt to kill Hank Connelly. He'd come back to town tonight, though, worried that anyone thinking to rob the bank, having heard the rumor of the gold stored there, might not have heard about the Army's arrival and departure. The town had been calm, even the saloon closing down early, but he hadn't been able to stay asleep, too hot and too restless with leftover worry.
Which was part of why he found himself walking past the cemetery just after four in the morning. Because he thought he saw someone in it, which usually meant trouble.
The person was hiding behind a gravestone, one of the new ones, and Chris' first thought was that it was grave-robber. He had his gun out and was edging up on the area where he'd seen the person, when he heard someone talking. The voice was low and soft, and as he drew closer, he recognized it.
He sighed as he put his gun away, the sound of it sliding into its holster soft but apparently clear. The voice stopped talking and Chris saw the familiar bowler hat turn in the soft light of the moon, and JD's pale face became visible. As was the metal of the barrel of his revolver, glinting in the white light.
"Who the - "
"It's me, JD," Chris said quietly. But he stood still, knowing better than the test the limits of a frightened man's instincts. "Chris Larabee."
"Chris – oh, Chris," JD said. He drew a deep breath, straightening from his crouch. His hand shook a little as he put his gun back in its holster – just one, Chris noticed, and he wondered why JD hadn't pulled them both. "Sorry, I just – I wasn't expecting – after Achilles - "
"Ain't it a bit late to be visiting?" Chris asked, glancing around. It didn't take a lot of effort to figure out that this was the grave of the woman JD had accidentally killed during the bank robbery. Which then didn't take a lot of effort to figure out why JD was here.
JD swallowed, the sound audible in the stillness of the night. "I – I couldn't sleep," JD said. "I had this dream about her – about Annie, and I – I couldn't go back to sleep." He turned away, back toward the grave.
Chris watched JD take his hat off and crouch back down next to the grave. He didn't talk, but Chris suspected that that was because he was still here.
He turned, thinking to leave, but as he did, JD said, "What I did on that stagecoach don't make up for killing her," he said softly. "Nothing can ever make up for that, can it. Her kids are gonna grow up without their ma, just like Buck, and Vin, and Nathan did. I might be better than Mr. Jackson, the man that – well, did what he did to Nathan's ma, and I might be better than the man that killed Buck's ma, but I'm still a killer, I still took someone's ma away from them." He reached out with one hand, smoothing the dirt on the grave. "You ever kill a woman, Chris?"
Chris stared at JD, then he looked past him at the tombstones around them. He thought about the question, thought about tombstones and crosses and smell of smoke and ashes.
"Yeah," he said, the word catching in his throat and again on his tongue, as if the burning air was back in his lungs, eating away his heart all over again.
"Achilles said that it doesn't make any difference, that killing a woman ain't no different from killing a man. I've tried to think about it that way, but – but I can't. It is different." He smoothed the ground again, then said more softly, "It is different."
He wanted to turn and go, to leave this place, to get away from the memories that came fast now, as if the door had been opened on a box filled too full, the contents exploding into his consciousness. It wasn't just the fire that had destroyed his world, but other things from before that: the Pinder kid, still wet behind the ears, thinking he was as good as his outlaw cousins, thinking he could prove himself by taking on Chris Larabee – thinking that right up until Chris' bullet caught him in the heart and he'd stared with wide disbelieving eyes as he dropped dead at Chris' feet; the first man Chris had killed, an enemy soldier who'd stumbled into the bush where Chris was holding the line, a man who fumbled to get his gun up at the same time Chris had been fumbling for his, but Chris had been faster, fast enough to see the surprise give way to resignation as the man crumpled at his feet; the Indian warrior who had come at Chris with a knife one afternoon on the trail, a man who had died saying something in a language Chris couldn't understand, something that Chris guessed later had to do with the woman and new-born baby he had found further along the trail, trying to get away from him; the visions of men who had died because of him, most of them deserving, but a few – well, a few had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He blinked and the images faded, leaving him to stare at the graveyard around him. "Yeah," he said with a sigh. He reached up and took off his hat before crouching down beside JD. "But we all make mistakes, JD. It ain't never going to go away. You'll be dreaming of her when you're old and grey – if you make it that long." He reached out, the soil cool and soft under his hand. "The best thing you can do – pretty much the only thing you can do, is try to never make the same mistake again."
"That's what Buck said," JD said softly. "I just – I don't see how that can be enough."
Chris shook his head, still smoothing the top of the grave. The smell of smoke was back, his mouth tasting of ash. "It ain't." He patted the ground one final time and rose, putting his hat back on his head and brushing his dirty palm against his pants. "And you don't want to be the kind of man who would let it be."
He turned and made his way out of the cemetery, the images still drifting through the back of his mind, haunting him as surely as if they were ghosts. Behind him, he heard the low murmur of JD talking once more to the woman in the ground.