TITLE: The Streets of Heaven are too Crowded with Angels

AUTHOR: The Chronicler

RATING: PG

UNIVERSE: OW

CHALLENGE: W.O.W. 04-01-04 -- ALOOF (But, once again, too long.)

SUMMARY: What can be said about heroes?

NOTES: I heard this line on West Wing, and the story just popped into

existence.

ARCHIVE: Sure thingy.

FEEDBACK: Yes, please.

EMAIL: chroniclerofknucklesy...

The Streets of Heaven are too Crowded with Angels

By The Chronicler

The explosion rocked the entire town of Four Corners.

"What the hell...?" Chris Larabee growled, grabbing the wall of the

sheriff office to keep from being knocked off his feet. When the

ground had stilled enough, he pushed away from the wall and ran for

the door, pulling his pistol free as he went.

Vin was picking himself up off the ground, his chair tipped over

behind him.

Buck was trying to calm down Casy's horse that was raring in protest,

nearly throwing the girl from his back.

Across the street, Mary, with an unusual amount of printers ink spilt

over her apron, had stumbled out of her newspaper office and leaned

against the door frame. She looked across the way to Chris, wondering

what had happened.

Nathan was just landing on the bottom step of the stairs from his

clinic. He too looked to Chris for some explanation.

But then there was a yell from the other end of town. Someone started

to shout "Fire!" A woman started screaming.

"Nathan!" Josiah could be heard shouting.

Nathan was instantly running down the board walk, yelling to Mary to

grab his bag from his office.

Mary was quick to respond, throwing her damaged apron back into her

office and ordering her son to stay put. Then she raced up stairs to

the clinic.

Chris jumped down into the streets, Vin a step behind. Both stopped

cold at what they saw.

At storage room of the town store was gone. The building itself was

only half there, and that was quickly being consumed by fire. Bits of

wood and store stock were falling from the sky like rain. A few

people laid on the street in front of the burning building, Josiah

running from one to the other. Ezra was laying a jacket over the face

of one.

Horses were panicking all up and down the street. A pair ran pass

Casy's, dragging a hitching post between them, and Buck was, again,

struggling to control her mount.

"Casy, get off that horse!" Chris snapped as he started down the

street.

A woman, burned and ragged, grabbed Nathan, shaking him. "My boy! My

Boy!" she screamed.

"Alright." Nathan tried to soothe her. "Where is he?"

She turned a horrified look at what was left of the store. "The

children were picking out candy."

Another woman was screaming for her daughter, while another was

fighting a man, trying to run into the store herself.

"Oh, god." Nathan breathed. Instantly, he took a leap toward the

store, but was knocked aside by J.D.

"Josiah needs you!" the boy hollered over his shoulder. "I'll get

them!"

"J.D.! Wait!" Nathan yelled. Again he started for the store.

"Nathan!" Josaih yelled.

Nathan hesitated, glancing back.

Josiah was desperately trying to keep a man still, a thrown hammer

head was embedded in his chest.

"Go." Ezra snapped, grabbing the medic and pushing him toward the

wounded.

"J.D..." Nathan began to protest.

"Mr. Dunne's right. You are desperately needed out here. Not in

there." the gambler insisted. "I will chase down our over

exuberant..."

"Wastin' time on big words!" Chris snarled, pushing his way pass the

two men. He jumped the steps up and ran into the burning store.

Instantly he was blinded by smoke and flames. Throwing an arm over

his face, he yelled "J.D.!"

"Over here!" came a distant voice, just barely heard over the roar of

the fire and the little explosions of stock.

Chris' eyes narrowed, trying to peer through the smoke.

"This way." Ezra directed, coming up beside him. Putting a silk

handkerchief over his mouth and nose, he lowered his head and plowed

forward, right into the black smoke.

The two stumbled through the smoke, tripping over debris, dodging

flames and burning timbers that fell from the floor above. Finally

they found them.

He was shielding a small boy and girl with his own body, keeping them

low to the floor, while batting an unprotected hand at flames that

crawled across the floor toward the trio. So busy was he in

protecting the children, he could only kick at the flames lapping at

his legs.

A huge ceiling beam had fallen across the store, blocking the two men

from their comrad and the children. Fire raced up its length, giving

it the bridge it needed to move from one side of the building to the

other. It was braced rather recklessly, one end on the counter, the

other against the wooden wall and floor which was crumbling under the

attack of the flames. When it gives way, the beam would no longer be

held in place, and would slide down, allowing the other wall to

collapse in over J.D. and the children's position.

"We gotta get them out of there." Chris growled, wondering how J.D.

got to the kids in the first place. Ripping off his black coat, Chris

ordered "Stay here. Catch the kids and get them out of here."

"Catch?" Ezra repeated.

But Chris didn't take the time to answer. Tossing his coat over the

beam, momentarily dosing the flames, he braced his hands on the coat

and leaped over to the other side.

Instantly he dropped down and slapped out the flames now eating up

J.D.'s pant legs. When he had them out, he looked up at the youngest

of his team. "You okay?"

Wincing, J.D. nodded. "There's another kid. I couldn't find him."

Chris grabbed the first child. "We gotta get them out of here."

Standing up, he called to Ezra. "Ready?" Before the child had time to

cling to his savior, Chris tossed him up and over the beam.

Ezra caught the screaming child against his chest, slamming him back

against a barrel. Quickly righting himself, the gambler tried to set

the child down so he could catch the next, but she had immediately

dug her fingers into his collar and buried her face in his neck.

And she was not letting go!

"Please, little lady..." he tried, but she was not releasing her grip.

Chris, knowing more about children than the others, waved him

away. "Get her out of here!" he ordered. He reached down and grabbed

J.D. by the jacket, hauling him to his feet. "Over you go, kid!" he

said, barely warning him before throwing him through the flames, over

the fallen beam, and crashing into the floor at Ezra's feet.

Ezra tried to reach for him, but the little girl's grip tightened to

the point of making him gag.

"Go!" Chris yelled, picking up the other child.

"Go! Go!" J.D. repeated. Coughing, he climbed to his feet.

Wrapping his arms around his precious cargo, Ezra spun about and,

head bowed, ran back through the black smoke.

No sooner was J.D. on his feet, then he was knocked down again by the

second child. "Ouf." he gasped, the air knocked out of him. When he

tried to suck in more air, all he got was a lung full of smoke.

Gagging, he struggled to his feet, glancing around for the boy.

But the child had already ran after Ezra.

"Get out!" Chris was yelling at him.

"Where's... cough... the kid?"

"Get out! I'll find him!"

J.D. jumped aside as bits of the ceiling fell in. "There's no time.

It's comin' down!"

Chris waved him away as he spun about, trying to peer through the

smoke to find the missing child.

"I'm not leaving you!" J.D. protested. He started back toward his

leader, but the wall at the base of the beam finally gave.

Time seemed to hesitate, as if giving the two men one last chance...

but fate would not be held at bay, not even by time itself.

The beam slipped, crashing down to the floor. A shower of sparks shot

up and out, flames devoured the beam. The wall it had braced cracked

and splintered.

"Chris!" J.D. screamed.

The tall, unbeatable man turned toward him, opening his mouth to

shout at him.

"Get back!" Nathan yelled as he helped Mary drag a wounded man away

from the collapsing building.

"Oh, god!" Mary gasped, dropping down to cover and protect the

wounded with her own body as debris was, once again, shot up into the

sky to shower down upon the victims and rescuers.

Josiah caught Ezra as he and his bundle were knocked to the ground.

The little boy ran pass, and right into his mother's arms.

The walls folded in on themselves, crushing one beneath the next.

Sparks flew up into the air. Bellowing black smoke floated up as if

black towers standing aloof over Four Corners.

The town folk stood in shock as they watched their general store

vanish in a wash of flames, confused, baffled about what they had

just witnessed, that a part of their every day life had been so

utterly destroyed in minutes.

"Where's Chris? J.D.?" Buck demanded suddenly, shattering the quiet

as surely as the explosion had shattered the morning.

The five remaining men of the Magnificent Seven glanced at one

another, before their eyes returned to the fire.

With a cry, Mary's hands covered her face.

Vin took a running step towards the destruction, but Josiah grabbed

him. "Let me go! They need help!" the tracker protested, struggling

for all he was worth against the big man.

But Josaih pulled him close, wrapping his arms securely around the

younger man. "There's no one left to help." he answered as calmly as

he could.

"Don't say that!" Buck yelled. He too made a run for the fire.

"Buck!" Nathan yelled, coming to his feet.

"J.D.!" Casy suddenly screamed.

Buck skidded to a halt and spun about just in time to catch the girl

before she threw herself into the fire in search of her first love.

"No! J.D.!" she screamed. "God, no. J.D.! J.D.!" She beat her small

fists against his chest, half trying to force him to release her,

half trying to force herself to wake up.

Buck wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his chest. "It's

okay, girl." he soothed. "It's gonna be okay."

Unable to fight her way free, she collapsed against his chest,

crying. "J.D...." she gasped between sobs.

Buck laid his cheek on the top of her head, closing his eyes against

his own tears.

Ezra set the little girl down and she ran for his mother.

The mother and father looked at him as if he had delivered a king's

ransom at their feet. They looked at him as if he was a hero.

The gambler smiled slightly, shaking his head. But then he spun away

to stare up at the fire. "I shouldn't have left them." he whispered.

"We should go back in!" Vin snapped, still struggling. "We should

save them! We should... we..."

Josiah shook hid head. "No, Vin, not today. It isn't our time." He

looked skyward. "Today the streets of heaven are too crowded with

angels."

The Streets of Heaven are too Crowded with Angels

The End

(Okay, I admit, lousy ending. Hold your horses and let me bang the

head about a bit. See what falls out. -- The Chronicler)