The Magnificent Seven - ATF - Prefix Series

Ketchup For Life
By MMW

Disclaimer: Without prejudice, the characters of "The Magnificent Seven" belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. MOG created the ATF AU.
Universe: ATF
Characters: JD, Nathan
Notes: Second in the Prefix Series.
Feedback: To MMW


Ketchup For Life
By MMW

JD Dunne sighed silently as the Harley roared past him. For as long as he could remember, all he had wanted to drive was a motorcycle. Of course, the classic pickup hed been following that had turned into the bar where the Harley had been parked was nice, too. Still, there was something about a motorcycle that just drew him.

"You'll get it soon," a weak, feminine voice assured.

Guilt flashed through the young man before he smiled. "Better off without it," he assured, glancing at his mother, now a shadow of herself due to her illness. His eyes were once more firmly fixed on the road when a trembling hand caressed his hair.

"Son," she said, "You are young and life is for living."

"And we'll do a lot of living together," JD assured, hating the fear he heard in his own voice. He knew that this was their last chance that if the new treatment they had driven across the country for didn't work, he would be saying goodbye to his mother forever before the seasons changed.

"Oh, JD," came the whispered reply.

The quiet words tore into the young man's soul, causing him to struggle against sudden tears. He had read the books, spoken to the doctors, clergy and psychiatrists about what he was feeling and how to accept the situation, but no matter how much he struggled, he could not face the thought of life without his mother.

"There's an intersection coming up," the young man said, changing the topic he and his mother had gone over far too many times. "Which way am I supposed to go?"

Knowing full well what her son was doing, she would let it go for now. "It's a right and down three blocks. Then a left and we should see it," she replied, knowing that all her boy really had to do was follow the signs.

<><><><><><><>

JD stood in the entry to the cafeteria feeling more lost than he ever had before. The drive across the country from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains was complete and his mother was checked into the hospital. Now, standing in a strange state, in yet another hospital, he had nothing to do, no place to be and no purpose in his life.

After being jostled for the fourth time, young Dunne shook himself out of his stupor and strode forward. Staring up at the menu, he reached into his pocket and found he only had some small change on him. Pulling the coins out, he realized he had just enough for a cup of coffee. Of course, he hated coffee, but at least drinking the vile liquid would give him something to do.

Making his way through the line and paying for the beverage, he stared aimlessly around the cafeteria, uncertain if he wanted to stay or run screaming from the building.

Movement to his left caught his eyes and he watched as a teen walked away from a table leaving a kind-looking man seated.

Suddenly needing human contact, JD walked to the just-vacated seat and nervously asked, "This seat taken?"

The man looked up, momentary suspicion filling his eyes before fading to understanding and welcome. "No," he replied. "Please sit."

Sliding into the chair, Dunne suddenly felt awkward and unsure.

"Nathan Jackson," the previously seated man said, offering a hand.

Smiling and meeting the warm, concerned eyes, JD grasped the hand. "JD Dunne," he introduced.

"You here visiting someone?" Jackson asked.

Swallowing back the fear that seemed to be his constant companion, JD nodded and replied, "My mom just checked in tonight."

Compassion filled Nathan's eyes and face. That compassion was reflected in his voice. "They're the best here," he assured, knowing that there was little he could say to ease the young man's troubles.

Accepting the words, JD nodded and then asked, "What about you? Are you here for someone?"

A smile appeared on Jackson's face. "Not like you mean," he replied. "I'm a big brother with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. My little brother's sister is here. His mom has to work, so I bring him whenever I can."

"Oh," Dunne replied, finding it hard to feel compassion for the boy and finding it hard not to. Perhaps if he just had a little more energy...

"You new to the area?" Nathan asked, having noticed the slight accent.

JD nodded. "We drove straight here from the East Coast. Five days in the car. I don't even have a place to stay," Dunne finished, realizing just how hopeless everything seemed. It was so late now he wasn't sure where he would stay. Maybe he'd stay the night here in a waiting room or maybe in his car... He blinked when a card landed in front of him.

"It's a youth hostel," Nathan said, tapping the card he'd placed before the young man. "Only costs a few dollars a night. It's not fancy, but it's a place to stay until you can get your feet under you. They also post jobs there..."

A smile graced JD's face as thankfulness filled his heart. In this, the most trying and horrible time in his life, he was constantly being amazed by the kindness and compassion of others. But in the face of such charity, one question burned brightly in his soul, "Why did this happen to Mom?"

Nathan knew that the younger man hadn't meant to ask the question out loud, but that didn't stop him from answering. "I asked that same question when my mom...," Nathan began. Hazel eyes rose from the tabletop and met his. Jackson read the surprise in them. Gathering his thoughts, he found himself pleased to be able to share the wisdom he had gained. "I didn't do well with her passing. None of us did. One day I asked that same question of my daddy, 'Why did this happen to Mom?' He told me that it was the troubles and trials along the way that shaped your character, defined who you were. I'd heard that from counselors and other people. I didn't want character; I wanted my mom." Seeing that JD was hanging on his every word, he continued, "When I told my daddy that, he asked me if I like my food bland and tasteless or if I liked a little spice in it. I had no idea what he was talking about. He then asked, 'Do you like your french fries plain and tasteless or do you like them with a little seasoning like salt and ketchup?'

"I still had no idea what he was talking about," Nathan continued. "Whatever connection he thought there was between what happened to my mom and french fries was one I sure wasn't getting and I told him so. He asked me again if I liked my french fries plain or with seasoning. I told him I liked them with ketchup, of course. Plain french fries were boring and I didn't like them. He looked at me and told me, 'Just like you said, french fries without seasoning are boring and you don't like them. The same is true for life, without a little seasoning, it's boring and no one likes it. These trials and troubles are just God's seasoning for our lives'."

JD thought over the words the other man had just told him. He understood the message and a part of him knew the truth of the statement. It didn't remove all of his fear or all of his pain, it didn't even fully answer his question, but he felt better for having heard it. The corners of Dunne's mouth tugged upward into a small smile. "So this is all just ketchup for life?" he asked.

Jackson laughed, a warm, comforting sound. "I suppose so," he agreed.

The smile faded from Dunne's face as he quietly stated, "I just wish God wouldn't use so much."

Reaching out, Nathan squeezed the younger man's forearm in a gesture of comfort and support. "He doesn't use all that much," Jackson informed. "You're just running into a big glob of it. Trust me, there is a time coming soon where there won't be a drop of ketchup in sight." A movement by the entryway caught his attention. "My little brother is back," he informed JD. "I need to bring him home now. You be sure to go to that hostel. They're good people down there and will help you."

"Thanks," JD replied, his sincerity coming through in both his eyes and his voice.

Standing, Nathan paused beside the young man. "You will get through this and you will be fine. You just keep that in mind," he advised before waking toward the door.

"I will," JD said quietly, turning to pick up the card that still rested on the table. "I will."

End.


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