Title: Trust, Truth and Other Fictions
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven are owned by lots of other people, not the least of whom are MGM, CBS, TNN, John Watson, Trilogy and their compatriots. This is my first inroad into the fan fiction world, and I guarantee that I will make not one red cent on this little tale. I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes. Though they have no idea who I am, I know I borrowed some things from other fan fiction writers, I just can’t recall now who, though the great writers NotTasha, The Storyteller Kelly, and several others spring to mind. As many have acknowledged, Chaucer is Kristen’s creation, and I hope she doesn’t mind. As to any other names I borrowed, well, you’ll figure out who you are and thank you.
Notes: This is just a short fiction, and a bit of a blur, really. I wrote it more as an interlude between some of my other stories, but it seemed a good one to introduce myself with. No plot, just a bit of character play.
Description: Ezra’s feeling a bit annoyed, and lets off some steam away from the others. Afterwards, he does a little thinking.
Trust, Truth and Other Fictions…
"Ezra, you awake?"
"Are you a monstrosity of indeterminate extraction with the bedside manner of a basilisk?"
"Well, alrighty then. I’ll take that, uh, whatever you just said, as a yes," JD nodded, a smug look on his face. He wandered off to go and talk to Buck. With a groan, Ezra rolled over, feeling the agony of having lain on the hard ground all night in every sore muscle of his body. A particularly sharp stone chose that moment to dig itself into his shoulder, and he let loose a string of curses that got everyone else at the camp looking at him in surprise.
Standing up, he continued to blanketly spew invectives at everyone and everything around him for ruining his life. With angry movements, he struggled to straighten his shirt and trousers, grabbed his wash bag, then strode off into the woods, seeming oblivious to all the amused looks from his comrades. Never once did his mouth stop its onslaught, even when he was barely intelligible through the thick foliage.
"Well, that was colorful," Vin remarked after a moment, unable to resist a grin.
"Think we’re rubbing off on him?" Buck laughed, slapping JD on the shoulder. The kid returned the smile as he unconsciously rubbed the shoulder.
"Oh no, I’m pretty sure I heard some distinctly Southern turn of phrases in there. I think we’re just getting really good at drawing out those parts of Ezra that he likes to keep hidden." Nathan chuckled. He returned to rolling up his bedroll, strapping it tightly with the leather. Laughing, the others started bantering on who was best at rubbing the gambler the wrong way.
Ezra reached the woods, found the creek and fell down heavily onto his knees. The creek was moving slowly, it being high summer, and it allowed him to see his face in a fairly placid pool that had been created between two rocks. He blinked at the strange man looking back at him, wearing a two day old growth and smudges of dirt in various places on his face. The green eyes appeared dark and lifeless, and the nose and lips were red and chapped from the sun. Above it all, his dark hair stuck up off his head oddly, having grown to a length no self-respecting gentleman would have allowed. It was made worse out here in the backwoods, rumpled from long days in the saddle and sticking to various places on his forehead due to sweat.
He punched a fist through the water, disturbing the vision, and earning him a shot of pain as his knuckles roughly scraped the stones. Cursing again, he pulled his fist out and sucked on the knuckles, his eyes shut. When he opened them again, the pool had reformed. Trying to calm his frazzled nerves, he took out his shaving kit and tried to make himself respectable.
After a few moment, he stuck his whole head into the water to scrub it clean with the small soap he had with him. He also washed his hair, allowing the freezing water to clear his head. When he stood up again, he felt infinitely better, but he knew the anger lurked within him still. He drew shaky hands threw his hair and decided to ignore the pointless emotion, hoping it would go away.
When he returned to the camp, the others were talking quietly. They were less than a day from Four Corners now. They had been together now for almost three weeks, having been given the thoroughly aggravating job of transporting prisoners to the territorial prison by Judge Travis. This meant they had spent one week moving from town to town, picking up a prisoner or two in every town. Never stopping to rest, they had done the duty assigned with efficiency.
It was a job normally assigned to federal marshals, but, apparently, the Judge felt it was their turn to be escorts. Something about making them seem more official as lawmen in the eyes of the government and the railroad barons. Whatever. Ezra had hated every minute, and saw fit to let the others know this as often as possible in the beginning. Then one of the prisoners, a young woman by the name of Selena, had escaped on Ezra’s watch. This effectively ended his right to complain.
Especially since the others believed that he’d let her go.
He felt the fury growing within him again. They hadn’t even pretended to consider the fact that she might have gotten away on her own. That it could have happened to anyone of them. But, of course, because they all knew he had a soft spot for damsels in distress, he must have helped her. My god, help one Chinese immigrant find her way back to her family, and the next thing you know….JD had been furious with him, and the others had shaken their heads in disdain. After the first hour, he stopped trying to convince them of their mistake. Why bother.
After all, he had reasoned that first night, he’d probably have reacted exactly the same way if it had been Buck. Or even Vin or JD. The only one of them that he trusted implicitly was Nathan.
For some reason, that didn’t make him feel any better.
At least they were almost home. He looked up briefly and nodded at the others to tell them he’d be ready to go quickly. Grabbing an apple from his pack, he stuck it in his mouth and started rolling up his bedroll. Moments later, like the others, he had everything tied to the back of his horse. He threw the apple core into the woods, and leaned on Chaucer, his mind unconsciously going back again to the night Selena had disappeared. He could still see their unbelieving faces.
Vin tightened the cinch on his saddle, and made sure that the saddlebags and bedroll were firmly in place. Looking around he saw the others doing the same, except for Ezra, who appeared to be lost in thought as he leaned against Chaucer’s side.
Vin looked at Buck, who shrugged in return. He’d seen the odd attitude as well. Silent concerns were shared with JD and Nathan, and finally JD stepped forward.
"Need any help there Ezra?"
When Ezra didn’t respond, JD tapped him lightly on the shoulder. He was completely unprepared as Ezra spun around and belted him across the jaw, sending the boy into the dirt.
"HEY!" Buck yelled, bounding over to shove Ezra backwards into the dirt. Instinctively, Chaucer reared and knocked Buck off balance, his sharp hooves cutting into the gunslinger’s leg. Ezra lithely bounced back to his feet and grabbed Chaucer’s reigns, speaking quickly to calm the horse down. Gripping his leg where it was bleeding, Buck quickly limped over to JD and helped the kid up. Blood ran from the boy’s nose, which JD wiped away with his sleeve.
"What the hell was that for!" Buck yelled at the gambler, his eyes wild.
Ezra glared at both of them, then jumped up onto Chaucer’s back. He was gone in a great puff of dirt before another word was spoken. Dumbfounded, Vin watched him leave, while Nathan distracted himself by checking Buck’s leg.
"Just a scrape, Buck, you’re lucky. Chaucer could easily have broken your leg, or worse." Nathan murmured. "Let me just get some bandages from my bags."
"Vin?" JD asked, looking at the tracker, a handkerchief gripped tightly to his face. "What did I do? What’s wrong with him?"
Vin could only shrug, his face puzzled. "I guess we’ll find out when we get back."
They rolled into town about six hours later, hot, tired and ready for a rest. Chris met them in the street, wearing only a light gray cotton shirt and his black trousers, a testament to the heat that was still beating down this mid-afternoon.
All four men dismounted near him, JD and Nathan taking the horses so that Buck and Vin could talk to Chris. The gunslinger eyed the bandages wrapped around Buck’s leg.
"I thought you telegraphed from White Horse that there were no problems?" The gunslinger accused, moving his cold stare from one man to the other.
"Well hello to you too, Chris. Thank you, and yes, its good to be back," Buck replied, his lips sneering slightly. Chris ignored him and drilled his gaze into Vin.
"What happened, and where’s Ezra?"
"He’s not back?" This from Buck again. The ladies man glanced to the saloon, expecting to see the ornery chestnut stallion pawing angrily at the dirt and nipping at its neighbors. Instead, he saw Josiah walking towards them. The large man had a wide grin on his face.
"Welcome back brothers! We’ve sorely missed you!" Josiah boomed across the expanse. He jogged up and patted Buck on his dusty back, then grabbed his arm as Buck lost his balance due to his bad leg. "What happened?" the preacher asked curiously.
Vin looked at Chris, and licked his lips. The gunslinger raised an eyebrow.
"Ezra went a bit nuts this morning. Took off. Probably just letting off some steam. Thought he’d be here when we arrived, but I guess he’s gone somewhere else to cool off." The tracker shrugged, indicating that he hadn’t thought to follow the errant gambler.
"Ezra did that to your leg?" Josiah looked shocked.
"Nah, Chaucer did that. Blasted horse, that monster is more protective of that man than a mother mountain lion." Buck groused. Josiah allowed himself a small smile, which faded completely as he looked at Chris’s face. Their leader was no longer looking at the men before him, but out at the distance.
"That man makes me so tired," he sighed, speaking of Ezra. "He has twenty four hours."
With that, he turned heel and walked back into the jail. Vin blinked and looked down at his feet, and Buck frowned. Josiah simply looked out into the distance, and shook his head. It would be a long day, and even longer night unless Ezra came back soon.
The next day, almost twenty four hours later to the minute, Ezra returned. He had a huge grin on his face as he rode through town, though, considering his green jacket was torn and the fact that he had a black eye, it was hard to discern why. He fairly bounced off Chaucer’s back as he dismounted in front of the livery, ignoring the glare from Larabee that he had received in passing, and happily led the beast inside.
He was vigorously brushing the horse down when Chris, with Josiah providing silent referee, entered the dark stables.
"Where have you been?"
Ezra didn’t answer, simply offered the man a dimpled grin before returning to his task.
"I said, where have you been!" Chris repeated, stepping into the stall. Chaucer whinnied a warning at him, and the gunslinger stepped back, but not before delivering Ezra a look that made the younger man’s smile falter. Chris was furious…almost as if he had been worried.
"I merely took the opportunity to try a night at the tables in Bitter Creek, Mr. Larabee," Ezra said, looking at Chaucer so that Chris wouldn’t see how much the man’s face had unnerved him.
The response had been what Chris expected, but he still didn’t like it, and the disgust he felt was obvious in every line on his face. "Next time you feel the need to run off, Standish, wire me. That way I’ll know where to send your things." The threat was clear, and Ezra stopped brushing Chaucer. The horse raised its head slightly, but otherwise didn’t react.
"I was not running off, Mr. Larabee." The gambler stated firmly, looking at Chaucer’s back and absently petting the saddle print that was still visible in the hide with his hand. "You must realize that I no longer have any wish to forsake this municipality or the good people with whom I work. I was simply in need of some time alone."
"I’m afraid that’s not good enough, Ezra. You go off half-cocked again without wiring us, and that’s it."
Ezra didn’t answer, his pale green eyes never leaving Chaucer. Finally with a slight shrug and a smile, he glanced askance at Chris. "My apologies, Mr. Larabee. It won’t happen again."
Chris pursed his lips, as if he wanted to say more, but instead, he simply nodded and walked out. Josiah, who had been standing back this whole time, stepped into Ezra’s view just as the gambler started brushing Chaucer’s hide again.
"You had reason for what you did?" It was as much a statement as a question.
Ezra shrugged, not stopping his brushing. "At the time." Pausing, he turned to look at Josiah with narrowed eyes, and grimaced. "Honestly, I don’t know what came over me…it was if I was possessed by one of the mythological Fureys…or maybe all three. I simply had to get away. Three weeks is a long time to be in the saddle."
Josiah nodded noncommittally, and leaned against the stall door. "Well, whatever the reason, you have some apologizing to do to the others. I assume you got whatever drove you away from them out of your system?"
Ezra bowed his head and shook it ruefully, the large self-satisfied grin from before returning to his face. "With interest. After an abundantly successful night at the tables, I helped the Sheriff of Bitter Creek throw a couple of potential bank robbers in jail. It was very liberating." With a light laugh, he returned to his brushing, and Chaucer leaned slightly into him to show his gratitude.
Josiah nodded slowly, "So it would seem," he mumbled. He leaned against a convenient post and watched as Ezra smoothed down the quarter horse’s back. If the gambler resented the fact that the preacher stayed to watch, he gave no sign. After some time passed, Ezra put the brush down and went to grab a feed bag from the side. Only once he’d filled it and placed it over Chaucer’s head did he glance again over at Josiah. The serious look he favored him made Josiah’s eyebrows rise.
"Mr. Sanchez, I’ve had some time to think…."
The preacher laughed, "always a bad sign."
"Yes, well, this time my thoughts are not as morose as you might expect. I realize that, when it comes to faith, or trust, or whatever phrase you may want to employ, I know that my fellow lawmen do not trust me. I, in turn, find it difficult to trust them as well."
"I thought you said this was not going to be morose?" Josiah replied.
"I haven’t finished, sir." Ezra paused, and sighed, leaning against Chaucer again. The horse gave no indication of the added weight, completely intent on the food. The gambler’s eyes narrowed with exhaustion, and he brushed a hand through his thick hair. "I’ve come to the conclusion that, while trust is something I may never fully possess, it still seems a worthy goal to try and attain. I want….or rather, I need to feel trusted, and I will endeavor to become the sort of man, like our Mr. Jackson, whom people can not help but believe in."
Josiah’s eyebrow’s lifted, and a smile crept across his face. "You trust Nathan?"
"You are a strange bird, Mr. Standish."
"As are you, Mr. Sanchez."
"See you in the saloon?"
"Do crows play with your mind?"
Josiah grinned widely at that, and wandered out of the dark livery still chuckling. Ezra watched him leave, a smirk on his own face. Chaucer shifted to bump into the gambler, to indicate that he wanted to be pampered some more, and Ezra slapped him on the rump.
"You are getting far too soft, my friend," he whispered, but nonetheless picked up the comb and returned to brushing his best friend down.
JD jumped to his feet as Josiah pushed through the batwing doors. They were all there except Chris, sitting together around the large circular table in the center of the saloon. Josiah couldn’t help but laugh at their expectant faces.
"What’s so funny?" JD wanted to know, clearly not pleased at being laughed at.
"Just that if Ezra knew how much you boys worried about him, it might frighten the hell out of him," the preacher replied.
"Aw hell, are we that obvious?" Buck asked.
"Put it this way, you play poker with the man right now, he’d take the shirts off of all your backs without breaking a sweat."
"Does that anyway," Vin groused, picking at a splinter on the table. Inez walked past at that moment and slapped his hand away. Buck, meanwhile, sent her a leering smile, and she rolled her eyes in response before heading off to take some more orders.
"Well okay then, who’s got cards?" Buck asked, looking around.
"You want him to take our shirts?" JD replied quickly, his expression incredulous.
"Christ, JD," Buck laughed, "the way your mind works! No, no, ‘course not, but we shouldn’t just sit here as if we were waiting for him to…." He stopped when the batwing doors swung open again, and, as one, the whole table turned to look up, except Josiah.
Ezra appeared a bit shell shocked as he realized they were all staring at him, then he grinned slightly to cover himself.
"That a black eye?" Nathan frowned, quickly switching gears. Ezra nodded.
"Anything else wrong with ya?" The healer asked in follow-up.
"No, on the contrary, everything is…well, as well as can be," he smiled, and moved to sit down with them at the table, sweeping up the long green coattails of his jacket so as not to crease them. Moments later, he pulled out a pack of Stutz playing cards and started to shuffle, looking up at them all expectantly, innocently. Too innocently.