Disclaimer: Owed to the originality of others
Characters: Ezra and Josiah
Note 1: Answer to the March Challenge offered by Katherine (the "Keepsake Challenge"): One of the Seven has a new keepsake, (such as a keychain or a good luck charm they keep in their pocket.) What is the keepsake, and the story behind it. At least one of the remaining Seven needs to know/hear the story.
Note 2: This is the result of following through on one idea that the episode Obsession spawned in my head. I probably envisioned a good half dozen or more different endings after the gun battle—and I don't think I can promise not to write one of those someday—but, in any event, this is one of the sweeter ones. Perhaps not too surprisingly, I think my favorite moment in that episode was the fact that, even after it was over, Josiah was still keeping Ezra pressed against the back of that wagon, even though the gambler had probably long returned to his senses. Well, you know me, I read way too deeply into little things like that. Anyhoo….
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR OBSESSION.
Description: One possible answer to the question of what happened to that diamond in Obsession.
"You okay now?"
Ezra leaned back again against the wagon, closing his eyes. Now that the adrenalin had worn off, he felt bruised, tired and, most acutely, ashamed. Josiah had been holding him against the wagon like an out-of-control child, preventing him from rejoining the fight when he'd gotten his wits back--hell, preventing him from doing anything. Fact was, once the initial trauma of having almost been shot and then losing his diamond had worn off, he had wanted to help the others, but Josiah never removed his hand. He'd just kept holding him down, keeping him safe, Ezra supposed. Still, he knew, if the big man hadn't pulled him back….
"Yeah," the younger man sighed eventually.
"Listen, if you're all right…there's others need tending."
The color deepened in Ezra's cheeks; he was so ashamed that he simply nodded, not opening his eyes.
"Thank you," he muttered softly, "and, yes, please go. Please."
He listened as the preacher stayed a moment longer, probably staring at him with either puzzlement or, more unbearably, concern. Finally, with a grunt, the older man obviously stood up and, after another pause, shuffled off. Ezra cringed slightly when he heard Josiah stop again not far from the wagon, hoping the preacher wasn't changing his mind. The younger man only relaxed again when he heard the other man's steps start again, heading away from him.
Only when he felt alone again did he finally open his eyes.
"Hell," he breathed. He closed his eyes one more time, swallowed thickly, then finally pushed himself forward onto his knees. A sharp pain bit into his abdomen, then faded as he straightened again. Shaking his head, wondering a little at why he felt dizzy, he used the wagon to balance himself as he got to his feet.
Blowing the air out of his lungs, he turned to survey the area…and immediately forgot all of his own aches and pains. Nathan was working on Chris—Ezra couldn't see why because the healer's rounded back was too him, blocking his view. But Chris' pained expression and the way his legs shifted told the gambler volumes. Then there was Buck, sitting quietly next to the woman who had sung last night…Hilda? Hildy? He couldn't recall. But the blood covering her dress and the silent tribute of the normally gregarious gunslinger made Ezra shiver. Turning around some more, he saw Vin mounting Peso, calling something about marking Ella's trail, and Chris raised an arm to wave him on, clearly approving. JD was walking around, checking bodies. He delivered a particularly vicious kick to Handsome Jack.
Josiah had disappeared. Probably he had gone inside to talk with the servants and comfort Hilda's sister.
At least, Ezra realized stupidly, he thought it was her sister.
Pursing his lips, he sought some detachment from the scene, pulling on his training. In a moment, he was heading over to JD to help the kid deal with clearing the…debris.
Josiah stood just inside the door of the house, having found it empty of everyone except the doctor and Hilda's sister. The servants were long gone. Hilda's sister was crying softly in one corner, looking more lost than ever. The doctor was running around, trying to follow Nathan's yelled instructions from outside, preparing the kitchen table for Chris. Josiah could hear the man pumping the bellows to heat up the cook fire in the stove and the clatter of pots and pans as the doctor obviously tried to do ten things at once.
The preacher bowed his head, lifting up his right hand. Opening it slowly, he let the sunlight slanting in through the window catch the facets of the diamond. He'd seen it a moment after leaving the gambler to recover, and had picked it up with the intention of returning it.
So why hadn't he?
Because it had saved Ezra's life.
"Lucky son of a bitch," he muttered. Then, with a smile, added, "No offense, Maude," as if she could hear him.
He stared at it a little while longer, then, with a crooked smile, pocketed it into his vest pocket, along with the golf tee he'd been carrying around with him ever since he'd hit that first fly.
Standing up, he smiled more broadly, pleased that, at least for the moment, his family was still intact. He patted the pocket. The diamond represented that fact for him, and, for a while, he wanted to hold onto it to remind him how precious life was.
He'd give it back to Ezra later, when things had calmed down some.
The lost diamond did not cross Ezra's mind again until the next day, when they were heading out from the ranch, probably because it was the first time he was able to think about things other than the mess they were leaving behind. As he trailed the others and the wagon carrying Chris, he realized he had forgotten to go look for the diamond. The rational, greedy part of him actually wanted to go back and look for it again, but the embarrassment was still with him, and, frankly, he wasn't really sure he wanted it. Turning one last time to look down on the ranch from the overlook, his eyes were drawn to the mounds of the freshly dug graves off to one side—and he realized how easily it could have been them under there. No—he really didn't want anything that reminded him of this place….It would only remind him of the near ruin it had caused.
Josiah saw Ezra pause, watching as the younger man took one last look back at the ranch. Was he thinking about the diamond? He'd been expecting the gambler to mention it long before now, had been waiting for it, so that he could produce the gem, but Ezra had not said a word.
The preacher fingered the top of his pocket.
He'd give it back to him when they got home. Yes, that's what he'd do….When they got home.
"And you never gave it back?" Nathan asked, eyebrows raised high as he stared at the preacher. "Josiah! Why not?"
"I honestly don't know," Josiah looked at the diamond in his hand, "I guess…I guess I liked carrying it."
"But it’s been almost six months! I mean…you've had hundreds of opportunities to give it back."
Nathan stared at the preacher a while longer, before sighing and shrugging. "So, why now? What makes today different?"
"The gunfight yesterday," Josiah closed his fist over the diamond and looked at the bandage encasing his other arm, "when Ezra saved my life by forcing me to keep down behind that trough, though I yelled bloody murder at him to let me up—mainly because I was too drunk to notice I'd been shot and no longer had my gun—"
"You mean, when he sat on you," Nathan grinned.
Josiah smiled sheepishly, "Yes, well, it reminded me a little of that time at Ella's ranch. And, I suppose, by returning it now, I can better explain to him why I kept it."
Nathan leaned back in his chair, staring curiously at the man lying on the bed, a peculiar expression on his face. Josiah frowned a little at the stare.
"What?" he asked gruffly, his tone challenging.
"Ezra doesn't want it."
Josiah blinked, and his lips curved downwards into a frown, "What?" This time, his tone was more baffled. "Why not?"
"Well, you know how, other n' you n' me, none of the others saw Ezra get hit that day?"
"No," Josiah frowned, "I didn't know that. But so what?"
"So, no one else knew he'd lost the diamond and, one night not long after, when I was sitting playing cards with Ezra and JD, for some reason, JD brought it up. He asked Ezra what a diamond like his diamond was worth. Ezra had been confused for a moment, asking which diamond was JD talking about. JD said the one from Ella's ranch, and Ezra said he didn't have it anymore. That he'd lost it. Well, JD, of course, wanted to know how, but Ezra shut him down before the kid could even finish the question. Told him he didn't want to talk about it and, fact was, he was glad he didn't have it. Said that diamond was part of that whole horrible affair with Ella Gaines and he'd be happy never to see it again." The healer shrugged as he finished his recitation, scratching at the top of his head before looking back again at the preacher on the bed. "'Course, he said it a lot more fruity than that, but the gist is the same."
Josiah pursed his lips, tilting his head at Nathan, "you think he meant it?"
Nathan shrugged, then gave a nod, "Yeah, I do. His tone, Josiah. He meant it. He doesn't want to get the diamond back, that I know."
Josiah grunted again in surprise, and looked again at the diamond in his hand. How odd. All this time, he'd seen the diamond as a blessing, as representing the fact that, though they'd almost been torn apart by Ella Gaines, to the point of almost losing two of them, they'd returned alive and intact and, more importantly to Josiah's mind, together. And Ezra had down the opposite—equating it with the vile results of Ella's treachery and, probably, death.
"Amazing," the preacher breathed, watching the way the diamond glittered even in the lamplight of the dark room, "how two people can see the same object from completely different perspectives--like the many facets of the diamond itself."
"People do that with other people too," Nathan commented lightly.
Josiah smiled at that. "Yes," he agreed softly, "I guess they do."
"So," Nathan kept his eyes open, "you still want me to fetch Ezra?"
Josiah finally lifted his eyes from the gem in his hand, the smile fading. "Actually, you know what, old friend, I…I think I'll keep it a little while longer. Keep it safe for him, until he needs it again." He frowned at Nathan, his eyes seeking support, "Does that make sense?"
Nathan's own smile grew, "Sure. After all, this way you can make sure you will have plenty more opportunities to return it, right?"
A small smile was returned, "You're a smart man, Nathan."
"And you're a sentimental fool, but we wouldn't want you any other way."
Standing outside Josiah's room, hidden in the shadows of the small hallway, Ezra leaned against the wall and smiled softly to himself. He'd come to check on the preacher, but had not wanted to interrupt the conversation…especially after he'd heard his name mentioned. Very quietly, as he heard the conversation between the two old friends turn to other things, he turned and stepped quietly back into the main church, to head home.
Yes, he agreed silently as his feet measured the flagstones, Nathan is a very smart man.
Hope you liked it! Let me know if you did!