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The Essence Of Time

Chapter 8

Buck never felt more tired and defeated as he did at this moment. It was still hard for him to believe all that had occurred in the last few hours. He shook his head sadly at his best friend’s prone body lying dead to the world. Chris had a devastating blow and Buck couldn’t blame the man for getting as drunk as possible. He wished he was able to lose himself in an alcoholic daze as well, but he knew it was up to him to keep his friend safe from himself during his grief. Even worse was when he finally came to realize how big a mistake he had made with his son. Sighing he leaned back in his seat as he remembered those awful moments that would forever change a father and son’s relationship.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“Damn it Chris it’s not that boy’s fault.”

“The hell it ain’t! He’s alive and they’re dead!”

“It was an accident Chris; you can’t blame him for something he had no control over.”

“My wife, my son and my unborn child are dead because of him! It’s all his fault he should be the one dead not them!”

Buck sighed as he watched his friend tear down the hallway. He knew Chris was only lashing out in pain and would think clearer when the wounds weren’t so raw. It wasn’t the boy’s fault; he was as much a victim as everyone else in this tragedy. The feeling of being watched had him looking down the hall and a pair of familiar green eyes caught his gaze before slipping back into his room. In that one moment he had never seen so much devastation and self-loathing in one so young.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Buck ran his hand through his hair as he remembered the last emotion he had seen in those green eyes. How could everything go so wrong so quickly? Not only had Chris lost Sarah, Adam and the unknown child she had been carrying, but now Ezra was gone as well.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Buck hurried into Ezra’s room after he pulled himself out of his stupor. He was too late though, by the time he got to the room Ezra was fast asleep, tear tracks still moist ran down his face.

“Aw Ez, your Dad wasn’t talking about you son. Damn” Buck sighed at the mess that had been created by careless words. He needed to find Chris and quickly before the damage got any worse.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Buck leaned forward in the chair his hands gripping a chunk of hair in each. But I was too late. Too late to save the only good thing left in Chris’ life. All that was left was a letter, a letter that was currently gripped tightly in Chris’ hand. As he looked back at his friend’s figure he could no longer contain his grief and allowed the tears to flow.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

It had taken awhile for Buck to find Chris and fill him in on Ezra overhearing their conversation in the hallway. Chris had looked stricken at the thought that Ezra had thought he was the boy they were talking about. Nothing however prepared him for the moment they entered Ezra’s room to find the bed striped clear, the bedside tables cleared and the fresh scent of antiseptic that permeated the room.

Terrified eyes turned to him. “Buck?”

“I don’t know pard, let’s go find the nurse and find out.”

The two men quickly made their way to the nurse’s station raging emotions barely kept in check.

“My son, where’s my son?”

“I’m sorry Mister Larabee but he’s gone.”

“Oh God no.”

Buck felt his stomach drop with the nurse’s words, but he watched her eyes widen in alarm and felt his heart thrum when she next spoke.

“Oh dear, not that gone. I’m sorry his mother checked him out. The boy left a letter for you though. I’m so sorry I never intended for…”

“That’s alright, thank you ma’am.” Buck headed off anymore apologies, he could see Chris was at the end of his rope and needed to get him home so they could figure out what to do about Ezra and Maude.

Chris had gripped the letter tightly until they were in his truck on the way back to the ranch. Buck glanced over from the driver’s seat as Chris finally ripped the envelope open and read its contents.

When they finally reached the house Chris left the truck without a word and headed directly for the liquor cabinet. Chris could be a surly son of a bitch sometimes, but nothing compared to the torment he was going through at this moment. Buck sat silently, waiting patiently for Chris to finish his current self-destruction. The pain was too fresh and the wounds too raw for any pathetic words of wisdom to counter. So he kept silent vigil over his friend until he finally passed out. Chris had uttered only six words before he slipped into oblivion. Six words that carried all the pain and emptiness he felt inside.

“Happy Birthday Son, I love you.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Buck quickly stood up to shake off the emotions. He couldn’t let himself be buried under their weight. He had to be strong for Chris. He looked again at his friend and felt his eyes drawn again to the tightly clutched letter. Chris hadn’t revealed what was in the letter nor had he released it from his possession. Buck was disquieted by his need to know what Ezra had been thinking. He needed to know how to help his friend through this. With this in mind Buck carefully pulled the letter free of Chris’ hand and began to read.

            Dear Father,

Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for being the reason that Mom, Adam, and the baby died. I’m not sure what I did that caused their deaths but if I could do everything all over again I would gladly take their place in heaven. Do you think I would go there, probably not since I caused the accident in the first place? I’m sorry father that I have caused you so much pain. I called Maude to take me away with her so I would no longer cause you any pain. Maude said she would leave our address with you so that maybe incase, you might ever possibly find your way to forgive me for all the pain I have caused. Maude says we have to go. I’m so sorry. Please tell Uncle Buck I’m sorry as well.

I Love you always, Ezra

Buck sniffed as more tears fell from his eyes. He quickly replaced the letter in the envelope before placing it back into Chris’ grasp.

“A hell of a mess”


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Family Ties

Part 26:

“What the hell happened to your back?” Chris asked when he noticed his first outburst caused Ezra to cringe and pull back in fear. He was taken by surprise when he walked into their room to find Ezra already awake, but his surprise was quickly changed to anger when he got the first glimpse of the bruising covering Ezra’s back.

He watched the changing emotions cross quickly through Ezra’s eyes before resignation finally took hold of the child’s features.

Ezra sighed to himself, he no longer was able to keep up the front that there was nothing wrong in the wake of his brother’s anger and concern. “I, um, I could no longer avoid the inevitable confrontation with my uncle.”

“What happened? Did your uncle cause this?” Chris was seething inside but he worked hard to contain the anger so he could get everything out of Ezra.

Ezra quickly nodded his head, “Uncle informed me that it would be in everyone’s best interest if I were to expound upon the virtues of living with my ever loving aunt and uncle.”

“When did this happen?” Chris unconsciously opened and closed his fists to try and contain the mounting rage.

“Yesterday, after you left to take care of the robbers, Uncle found me in the livery. I was unable to avoid the meeting though as I never heard him arrive, otherwise I would have been out of there post haste.”

“How did you end up with the bruising all over your back?”

“The livery wall was not very forgiving.”

“He threw you into the wall?”

“Well no, he never actually let go, more like tested it’s soundness a couple of times.” Ezra was amazed how easy it was to tell his brother about what happened. He was listening to him and he had yet to see any expressions of disgust or anger towards himself.

“What about your side, how did that happen?” Chris had quickly noticed the deep bruising to the boy’s side and was curious how that had occurred.

“Oh that wasn’t by Uncle Matt. That happened later with Aunt Olivia.”

Chris narrowed his eyes as he realized that Olivia Standish wasn’t innocent at all in this abuse. What had Maude been thinking to consider leaving her child with these vial people? “What did she do?”

“Oh when I got back with Vin, Aunt Olivia caught me unawares on the street and pinched me. I don’t know why they were able to catch me so unawares twice in one day.” Ezra continued on thinking aloud, “usually I’m pretty good at avoiding them I’ve had plenty of practice, though the last time mother left me with them Uncle was able to practice his whip skills but I blame that darn shoulder my inability to find higher ground.”

Chris listened in growing fury and disgust. When he realized the injuries that Ezra had come to town with were caused by the same people vying for his permanent custody he was just unable to keep the vehemence from bursting out. “Finish getting dressed Ezra, than I’m going to take you over for Nathan to check out before I go have a nice little conversation with your Aunt and Uncle.” A nice little conversation that starts with my fists and ends with a well placed bullet in the son of a bitch.

~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~

Nathan was surprised to find Chris and Ezra knocking on his door. “Hey Chris, Ezra, what’s going on?”

“Need you to take a look at Ezra for me.”

“Sure thing Chris, what’s the problem?”

“Ezra’s got some bruising over his back.”

“Come on over here Ezra and take off that shirt so I can get a look at it.” Nathan whistled in surprise at the massive bruising on the boy’s back. “How’d this happen?”

“Matthew Standish.”

That had Nathan’s head up in a flash. “He cause that pinch mark on the side too?”

“No that was courtesy of Olivia Standish,” Chris snarled, “and they were the home that Ezra stayed at prior to coming to Four Corners.”

Nathan instantly put the meaning together and his countenance darkened on the thoughts of what those people had done to the child sitting on the bed watching their byplay with deep interest.

Ezra finally caught the anger seeping from his brother and had a feeling that talking was not on his brother’s priority list for his aunt and uncle. Of course he would have no problems with the couple getting their just rewards but he didn’t want any legal consequences to befall his brother.

“I’ll be back, watch Ezra for me.”

“Sure thing Chris, you going to find those people?” The quick nod and sardonic smile was enough to convince Nathan that the couple better pray that he never found them.

Ezra watched with growing concern the lust for vengeance grow in his brother’s expression before he strode out of the room. “Nathan, you don’t think Chris will kill them do you?”

“Now don’t you worry none about those people Ezra, they’s gonna get what they deserve coming to ‘em.”

Ezra thought about that before his eyes widened and he quickly took off out the door to stop his brother from murdering his aunt and uncle. His voice called loudly in the street to catch his brother’s attention, oblivious to his shirtless appearance. “CHRIS…CHRIS WAIT. DON’T KILL THEM. CHRIS.”

His loud calls quickly caught the attention of the other peacekeepers and they all converged on the gunfighter and his little brother.

Buck easily identified the murderous expression on his oldest friend and wondered what had put that on his face. “Easy there big dog, now what’s all the fuss about?”

“Outta my way Buck, I’m gonna rid the world of some vermin.”

“Well now that sounds right nice, but what’d this vermin do?”

“Seems the loving Matthew and Olivia Standish like to hurt little children,” Nathan added to enlighten the other men.

Ezra squawked in outrage, “I’m not a little child!” However the others ignored his exclamation and listened in rapt attention as Chris quickly filled them in about the events from yesterday and the connection to their first meeting with him. His eyes widened in alarm as Vin pulled his mares leg and met the predatory gleam in Chris, Buck and Josiah’s eyes. He looked quickly to Nathan but was dismayed to see him wiping his long knife against his pants leg. He flinched a bit when he felt JD’s hand lay across his shoulder but caught his eyes with growing concern. He looked back to the other five but they had already started to spread out across the street in search of his aunt and uncle. Uh Oh I think I just made things a whole lot worse, now I have five of them ready to commit murder.


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In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.1

Vin sighed in contentment as he continued along the eastern border of the Four Corners territory. He was still a bit amazed that he had stayed in the town for as long as he had. It had been a long time since he had stayed in one place longer than a few weeks. With the price on his head it was never a good idea to stay in one place too long and he believed that whole heartedly at least until the day he meet Chris and helped him save the life of Nathan. He never realized that one act would change his life so drastically. Now here he was one of the peacekeepers for the small dusty town and still content to remain so after nearly six months.

Looking out into the vast desert he quickly spotted a large number of buzzards circling. Even though it was beyond their territory he quickly turned his horse in the bird’s direction to investigate what sad fate had taken a life just a few miles from their town.

It was a sad sight that greeted him a half hour later when he spotted the two coyotes lying dead together with a few buzzards hanging on the outskirts like they were just waiting for the dinner bell to ring before feasting on the meal laid out before them.

Vin quickly tethered his horse before he walked over to the depressing scene. There were no ranches out this far for the canines to have been shot for attacking livestock; as well they both still had their skin so fur traders were discounted. He knelt down to take a closer look at the larger of the two and froze when he heard the deep growl coming from the smaller one he thought was dead. Oh crap he thought slowly turning his head to turn his attention to the danger he now found himself in. He would never be able to pull his mares leg before he was torn apart by the critter.

“Easy there fella I don’t mean ya no harm.” He kept his voice soft and his movements slow as he moved ever so slowly away from the downed creature. “I’s just wanted to see what happened is all.” Finally getting a chance to look at the smaller canine he was a bit surprised that it wasn’t really a coyote he was seeing. “Well I’ll be you’re a red wolf, I haven’t seen the likes of you this far west before.”

The wolf seemed to quiet down when he noticed the man didn’t seem intent on harming him. He lowered his lips and quieted his growl while his ears pricked to attention as he listened to the man speak.

“Can I check your pack mate?” Vin slowly reached down to check the other wolf again and was surprised when he was allowed to without any impediment from the once protective creature. “Sorry pal she’s dead, looks like she starved to death.”

Sad green eyes stared back at him and he couldn’t help but think the wolf expected something from him. He noticed the wolf staring at him was also on the thin side, though not nearly as emancipated as the older female was. He figured she gave everything she was able to hunt up to the younger wolf. “Well pal looks like you’re on your own now.”

The wolf snorted at him. Like that’s something new.

Blue eyes widened in surprise when he heard the voice. He quickly turned around but was unable to find the source of the voice. “Did you just speak?”

Do I look like a dog doing parlor tricks?

Vin quickly fell on his rear and stared in wonder at the wolf that had somehow spoke into his head. “Oh my God you do speak.”

The wolf quickly turned his attention to the man. You can understand me? He watched the man nod slack jawed. Good lord close your mouth before you start catching flies.

Vin quickly snapped his jaws together. “Amazing”

Not exactly what I would call it. Would you mind helping me bury my mother so these disgusting creatures do not desecrate her body?

“Yeah I think I can manage that.” Vin shook his head, he had to be dreaming. There was just no way possible that he could be hearing a wolf talk. He could just imagine that Nathan would lock him up in his room forever if he told them he could hear a wolf talk.

The wolf watched as the man seemed to dig the hole for his mother dazedly. I suppose I would be a bit shocked as well if I came across a talking beast.

“No joking, I must be hallucinating. That’s it the sun is affecting me. I can’t believe I’m burying a wolf and its offspring is talking to me. Maybe I should have Nathan check me out when I get back to town.”

Mother was an amazing woman, course it’s all her fault we are in the predicament we were in. Although there seems to be no changing that now that mother is gone. I still can’t believe she would rather have starved to death than eat the wild creatures around us. The young wolf seemed to shake his head in a mixture of sorrow and exasperation.

Vin smiled as he heard the wolf prattle on about the virtues and difficulties of his mother. He had dug a hole deep enough to keep any critters from digging her up and consuming her. “You ah wanna say any words before I cover her up?”

The wolf quickly padded over to the deep hole and laid down looking over the edge. I’m going to miss you mother. He felt his eyes water and looked up forlornly at the only person that had been able to understand him in so long. Thank you for your kindness. He watched only for a moment as the rough looking man filled in the hole before he had to move away. A deep feeling of loss and regret filled him. He felt terribly alone in the world now.

Vin quickly filled the hole in and turned his attention to the mourning wolf. “All finished pal. Nothin’ will get to her that deep.”

Thank you.

“I gotta get back to town before they send out a search party. You going to be alright?”

Wide green eyes quickly looked up towards the man. Alone. Oh God he was going to leave him on his own.

“Easy there pal.”

Dear lord you can even hear my private thoughts. How disconcerting.

“Yea I suppose that would be a might disturbing not having anything private.”

You have no idea, although it is quite pleasant to finally hold a conversation again. I couldn’t even talk with mother.

“Well I suppose you can come back with me. You’re gonna have to be careful though, most people will be more likely to shoot ya til they know ya ain’t gonna hurt um.”

Thank you kind sir.

“Ain’t no sir, name’s Vin, Vin Tanner.”

A pleasure to make your acquaintance. Ezra P. Standish at your service.


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Family Ties

Part 25:

The next morning the stage arrived early for once. The lone passenger, Judge Travis, had barely stepped onto the dusty street before small tornado ran into him.

“Grandpa!” Shouted Billy Travis as he happily hugged his older relative.

“Orin”

“Good morning Mary, how have things been going?”

“Oh the Standish’s arrived on the stage yesterday, a lovely couple. I think they will be a wonderful influence on young Ezra. It’s such a shame they couldn’t have children of their own.”

“I look forward to meeting the couple. I better go meet up with Chris and see about any town business.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“Morning Judge” Several voices announced upon seeing the judge enter the town jail.

“Morning Boys. I see I have another trial coming up, what’s the charge on these boys?”

“Fools thought they’d try and rob the bank.”

“Wasn’t very smart now was it boys.” The judge shook his head at the pure stupidity of trying to rob the town’s bank. Turning back to Chris and the reason he was here he continued, “I’d like to meet at three o’clock for Ezra’s custody hearing. I’ll inform Mr. Smithers and the Standish’s of the time and location.”

“Sounds good judge, I better go wake up Ezra and get him started for the day.”

The judge tipped his hat before leaving to inform the other parties of the upcoming hearing.

Chris watched the judge leave before addressing the rest of the peacekeepers. “Three o’clock boys, I expect all of you there.”

“Nowhere else I’d wanna be old dog.” Buck was quick to point out.

“We’ll be there Chris.” Vin’s comment brought instant agreements from Josiah, Nathan and JD.

“Alright I better get Ezra up and moving.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Ezra had woken early that morning, but stayed in bed as long as possible. He knew the judge was arriving in town this morning and that his future was going to be decided soon. He thought about the events from yesterday. He still couldn’t believe that he didn’t activate his gun and shoot the bastard yesterday. He figured it was because he was caught so off guard that he never thought about using the small weapon. His back was still sore from the abuse it took yesterday and he was certain it had a lovely array of colors as well. His hand moved to his side and he remembered the meeting with dear aunt Olivia from yesterday afternoon when he came back to town.

                “Oh my darling Ezra, how I have missed you my sweet child.”

Ezra barely had a chance to react before he was encased in a vice grip and felt a sharp twinge in his side.

“Hug your dear aunt Olivia you little brat and you better make it look good.” Was hissed in his ear along with another sharp twist of the pinched skin in his side.

Ezra was careful to school his features but couldn’t help the tear that dripped from his eye between the pain in his back and the pinch in his side. “I’ve mis..sed you too aunt Olivia.”

He was released shortly after that and was quick to move away from his vile relative. He sighed in resignation as he heard the townspeople comment on what a lovely aunt he had and how sad it was that he had been torn from their loving home. He picked up his pace when he heard more people comment on what a wonderful thing it will be for the Standish’s to gain custody of the boy.

Ezra sighed at the memory. It seemed the whole town was bamboozled by his aunt and uncle; everyone that is except his brother and the peacekeepers. He knew he was going to have to say something soon to Chris about his aunt and uncle, but he was worried about the reaction. Would Chris believe him about what his aunt and uncle did? Would he consider it justified punishment? He was just so confused; sometimes adults were just too strange about their behaviors. Oh he learnt early on in life that adults showed one version of themselves to the world and another to those they considered family. Often times the adults in his life where kind and pleasant in the company of strangers, but when they left it seemed the pleasantries went along with them.

Ezra decided to end his thoughts and the path they were taking him. He’d just have to speak with Chris about it later and hope for the best. He was a lot happier in this dusty little town than he had been anywhere else Maude had dumped him. He’d be sad to have to leave here and his brother, but there was just no way he would ever live with those people again.

Sighing he stretched and cringed at the pain it elicited before rising from the bed. He had a lot of chores to get done before he would meet his fate. He decided he would stash as portion of his things in the livery incase he had to sneak away if the verdict didn’t lean in his favor.

He slowly removed his shirt so as to not aggravate his back too much before he walked over to the dresser and the washing bowl to clean up before putting on clean clothes. The cool water helped to wake him up and in short order he deemed himself clean enough to get ready for the day. He soon became lost in his thoughts again for the day and was therefore surprised at the raised voice that bellowed behind him.

“What the HELL?”

Ezra cringed and turned quickly towards the angry voice his eyes as wide as saucers. Oh hell what do I do now?


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A Weak Christmas

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Damn’t who the hell is calling at, Chris squinted at the clock by his bedside, 4:05 in the morning?

At a week before Christmas, Chris had been looking forward to time away from work and spending the holiday with his friends.

“Larabee” he grunted into the phone.

“Christopher Larabee?” asked the tentative voice on the other end of the phone.

“Yes, who’s this? And why are you calling at four in the morning?”

Chris listened as the person on the other end of the phone filled him in on the reason for the early morning call. A few minutes later he ended the call, assuring the person on the other line that he would be there shortly.

Sighing, Chris ran his hands through his hair, “Shit” he cursed in frustration of the turn of events. He reached back for the phone he had just hung up and jerked it out of its cradle intending to call Buck when the phone rang on its own.

“Larabee….no, I was just about to call…..yeah, just got called about it……Can you call the others?.....No need, Vin’s out here already…..Yeah, uh huh…….Okay, we’ll meet you there.”

Chris hung up the phone for the second time and made his way towards the guest room down the hall that was housing Vin. Vin had ridden back with Chris from work intending to spend the entire week at the ranch. The other’s had made plans to come out periodically during the week, but would spend Christmas Eve and day staying at the ranch.

Stopping at the closed door Chris knocked and waited for the young Texan to wake. He was surprised when Vin came out fully dressed.

Vin seeing the expression on Chris’ face shrugged, “Had a feeling, get dressed, I’ll get the coffee going.”

“Thanks.” Chris shook his head as he went back to his room to get dressed. A few minutes later he joined Vin downstairs as he was pouring two travel mugs with the hot beverage.

“Let’s go, I’ll fill you in on the way.” Without looking to see if he was followed, sure that Vin would be right behind him, Chris headed for his truck.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“So what’s going on?” Vin asked when the silence in the truck seemed to drag on. He had a strange feeling through the evening and found he was unable to sleep as deeply as he usually did when he stayed over at Chris’. When he heard the phone ring so early in the morning he had a feeling they would be leaving the ranch quickly. A few minutes later when the phone rang again he had hurriedly finished dressing. He had just finished when he heard the knock on his door. He kept a cap on his curiosity about the reason for the calls, but the waiting now in the silent truck was killing him.

He watched Chris prepare himself to answer and couldn’t help feel his stomach clench in anticipation. “That bad?”

“Yeah Vin, pretty bad.”

“What’s happened?”

“The first call was Mercy General.”

“Ah hell, who’s hurt?” Knew I should have listened to my instincts last night, damn.

“Ezra’s being brought in to the hospital shortly.”

“Damn, what he do fall outta bed?” He had to use humor to avail his fears. He wondered what had happened; did his latest undercover assignment lead to retribution?

“Something like that. The hospital didn’t have all the information just that he was being brought in and he was unconscious. Him being a ‘frequent’ visitor they knew I had his power of attorney for any health decisions.

“Why didn’t they have him yet? He don’t live that far from the hospital.” Vin watched Chris’ jaw clench and the vessel in his temple throb harder and just knew by the tension he could read off of Chris that he wasn’t going to like what he heard.

“Fire”

Ah hell, Vin thought silently, bad enough that Ez is hurt, but now Chris has to deal with the bad memories of his family’s death. “Damn”

“Yeah, he was trapped under some debris but the rescue units called into the hospital ahead of time to prepare them for the large number of patients arriving.”

“The others meeting us at the hospital?”

“They’re going to stop by the complex first and find out what happened.”

They settled down into silence after that, each with worried thoughts filling their head. When they arrived at Mercy the chaotic scene was easy to see as multiple ambulances were lined up, each replaced as quickly as another pulled away. Chris quickly found a spot in the near empty visitors parking lot.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Striding into the busy emergency department Chris made his way quickly to the haggard looking triage nurse. The room was in chaos, the waiting room had been turned into a treatment center for minor injuries. The more severe injuries were behind closed doors in the emergency room area.

“Chris Larabee, someone called me about my agents, Ezra Standish.”

“Yes Mr. Larabee, I have the paperwork right here. If you’d please fill out these forms and return them to me.”

“Fine, has Ezra been brought into the hospital yet?”

“The ambulance he’s in has him in route; he should be here in a few more minutes. I’m afraid I have nothing else to fill in but once we have him settled in bed we’ll call you back to sit with him.”

“Thank you.”

A few minutes later Chris finished filling out the forms that he knew by heart. He brought them back to the nurse and hoped to get an update on Ezra’s arrival.

“Thank you Mr. Larabeee, Mr. Standish is arriving now. Let me give them a few minutes back there to get him settled and I’ll come back out and get you.”

“Thank you. Is there any more information on Ezra?”

“I’m sorry but I don’t have anything here yet.”

“Okay thank you.”

Chris turned back to where he was sitting with Vin to wait as patiently as he could. He had just sat down when he heard the loud commotion in the room behind the woodened doors.

“Think that’s Ezra causing a ruckus back there?”

“I’d wager it is.”

“Mr. Larabee” the nurse called him back to her desk. “The doctor would like to speak with you, if you’ll follow me please.”

Without a word, Vin followed behind his friend. It was never a good omen when the doctor wanted to speak with you so quickly. Vin found himself and Chris ensconced in a small room as the nurse left and a large doctor replaced her.

“Mr. Larabee, I’m Dr. Nichols, I’m the attending physician for Mr. Standish. I’m told you have his power of attorney.”

“That’s correct doctor, now what’s wrong with my agent?”

“As you know Mr. Standish was being brought in from a fire scene. He has severe smoke inhalation as well as some second degree burns and soft tissue damage. The fire crew had to extract him from a pile of debris and he has a dislocated shoulder and a fractured collarbone. He is also showing signs of concussion, the severity we will not be able to assess until he regains consciousness.”

“Okay what is it you’re not telling me?

“When Mr. Standish was brought in he had stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest.”

“Oh God,” Vin said as he fell back into his seat.

“We got him back but as is common with any CPR a couple of his ribs were broken. One of the ribs managed to puncture his lung and collapsed. We inserted a chest tube that will need to stay in for a few days to help with the healing. This is a concern as the smoke inhalation will cause coughing and shortness of breath. The pain will also be severe and we are worried that he may develop pneumonia as a result. We also found a laceration to his spleen and he is being prepped now for surgery. We will do everything we can to save the spleen, but in all likeliness it will have to be removed. If the spleen is removed we will need to be extra vigilant with preventing pneumonia and infection as he will have a weaker immune system.  Now the nurse has some papers that need to be signed for his surgery and I need to get back to make sure he is ready to go up to surgery. If you have any questions the nurse will be happy to answer them for you.”

“Can I see him before he is taken to surgery?”

“Just for a moment than he should be heading up to surgery.”

“Thank you.”

Chris watched as the doctor left and called the nurse back over to them.

“If you’ll follow me I’ll show you to Mr. Standish’s room. You can sign the forms there before we take him up to surgery. You’ll want to go up the surgery waiting room on the fourth floor. If you need any help finding it let me know and I’ll have someone show you the way.”

“Nah we know the way, but thank you maam.”

Vin was the last to enter the small room that Ezra was lying in. The pale body on the gurney looked so much smaller and younger than he did when awake. The normal adornments were attached as well as a few tubes that caused Vin to cringe in sympathy. The heavy scent of smoke still wafted from the figure in bed. He could hear Chris speaking softly to Ez but was too engrossed in his observations to hear what was being said.

“I’m sorry gentlemen but we need to move Mr. Standish now.”

They were whisked away from the room and could only watch and hope that their southern friend would be alright. With nothing left for them to do in the emergency room they made their way up to the fourth floor waiting room and news on Ezra’s surgery.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

An hour later the other agents located Chris and Vin in the quiet waiting room.

“How’s he doing pard?” Buck’s gentle voice broke the long silence.

“Not good, broken and bruised.” Chris replied.

“They wouldn’t tell us anything downstairs just that Ez was up in surgery. What’s wrong with him?”

“They’re trying to save his spleen, but it didn’t look good. Besides that he’s got severe smoke inhalation, broke collar bone, and dislocated his shoulder, some burns, some broken ribs from CPR and a concussion they don’t have any idea on the severity of yet.”

“Damn. Dang he’s gonna be a prime case for pneumonia between the smoke inhalation, broken ribs and if he loses his spleen” Nathan added dejectedly.

“What did you guys find out? Why’s my agent in the hospital?”

“Hell pard it’s a mess down there. There’s nothing left of the complex but dust and rubble.”

“Foul play?” Vin piped up

“Nah, just a terrible tragedy really. A Christmas tree in one of the condos under Ezra was left plugged in during the night and started a fire.”

“Brother Ezra was lucky to make it out alive. Many of the residents didn’t make it out.” Josiah added sadly.

“Apparently he was helping to evacuate as many people as he could when there was an explosion and was trapped under the debris.” Buck continued.

It was silent in the room after the news was relayed. Each man was deep in their thoughts about their southern friend and the enormity of the situation. The silence was short lived as other family members arrived in the waiting room for planned and unplanned surgeries. The sounds of the entering people and the other medical staff arriving for the day had the six men jumping in anticipation on each new arrival, hoping for some positive news.

“Mister Larabee?” questioned a tried-looking nurse. She jumped a little when instead on one gentleman she had six large men in her personal space.

Chris quickly spoke up and took charge, “I’m Mr. Larabee, how’s Ezra?”

“If you’ll follow me sir the doctor will speak with you in just a few moments. Mr. Standish is in the recovery room now.”

The agents quickly followed the nurse to a smaller room down the hallway. Each took an empty seat as they waited for the doctor’s arrival.

“Mister Larabee, Mister Standish came through the surgery just fine. We were able to save his spleen. We may have to keep him under heavy sedation for the next twenty-four hours if he starts to move around too much. We want to try and avoid that if we can because of the concussion. We have been unable to at this point assess his mental responses. His shoulder has been reduced and the collarbone fracture stabilized. We have the rib fractures taped as well. The burns, while second degree are not a major concern at this time. Do you have any questions?”

Chris had only one question for the doctor, “when can I see him?”

“He’ll be in recovery for a little longer before he is moved to the intensive care unit. The nurse should have the room number for you. If there are no other questions I will be back later this afternoon to check in on Mister Standish.”

“Thank you doctor.”

A short time later the nurse arrived and delivered the room assignment for Ezra. A few minutes later found the six men waiting in the ICU waiting room as Ezra was being settled in his new room. They were informed by the staff that only two member could visit at any time for no longer than fifteen minutes. Chris and Vin were the first to visit Ezra. He looked a lot better than he had a few hours ago, but still looked pale and fragile under all the tubes and wires. Soon their fifteen minutes were up and they had to allow the others their short periods of time with the wily agent.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

He wasn’t sure if it was the painfully rasping cough or the excruciating pain in his chest that woke him, but it was probably both he thought wryly. He tried to take a deeper breath and immediately regretted it when pain stabbed throughout his chest and ending in a coughing fit. He could hear voices but couldn’t make out what was being said through his pain-filled haze. A few minutes later he could feel the pain recede with the warmth that started flowing through his veins. He usually detested medicine of any kind, but was never more thankful for its presence in this instance. As his body calmed he could make out the voices that were just a muddled mess only a few minutes ago.

“Mister Standish can you hear me?”

Ezra nodded in response and once again instantly regretted the movement when pain encircled his skull. He made a quick note to himself not to repeat that movement again anytime soon.

“Good, good. Can you open your eyes for me?”

Slowly he opened his eyes and moaned in pain when the bright lights flooded his vision. He quickly snapped his eyes closed against further torture in the intense illumination.

“Hold on Mister Standish, let me lower the lights for you and we can try that again.” The doctor waited as the nurse lowered the lights before asking Ezra to once again open his eyes.

Ezra found the lights easier to handle this time when he opened his eyes. Everything was a bit blurry but he could easily tell he was within the clutches of the medical community.

“Very good Mister Standish, now I need to exam you and have some questions answered. Now than, do you know where you are?”

“Water” he croaked, but between his scratchy and burning throat, along with the mask covering his nose and mouth it came out sounding as if he was something out of a science fiction movie. However the medical staff seemed to understand his request and a straw was quickly placed in his mouth as the mask was lifted away. He took a couple of sips before he relaxes back exhausted from the effort. He felt the mask resettled on and was thankful for its presence when he started feeling short of breath.

“Now than Mister Standish do you know where you are?”

“…p’tal” was the weak response.

“Good can you tell me your first name?”

Oh great a concussion, they’re never going to leave me alone to get some good sleep. Ezra already knew all the responses like the back of his hand, which he wondered if that was a good or bad thing considering the number of previous concussions he would have had to have had for the responses to be recalled so quickly. “.zra….De’v’r,..” he tried to answer the date but ended up in a coughing fit instead. Red hot flames engulfed his chest as he struggled to breath.

The doctor had chuckled a little when Ezra had started to rattle off answers to question he hadn’t even asked yet, but he quickly worked to settle him when he noticed the increased difficulty in breathing and the wracking coughs. A few minutes later found Ezra lying panting shallowly not daring to take a deep breath. “Alright Mister Standish that’s enough questions for now, we’re going to be moving you into a regular room in a few minutes. You had surgery early this morning so you need to lie as still as possible so you don’t open any of the stitches.” The doctor would have continued but noticed he lost his audience during some part of his speech. “Nurse you can go ahead and prepare Mister Standish to move into a private room downstairs.” The doctor made a few notations on the chart before he headed down the hall to the six waiting friends.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“Ah gentlemen, we’re moving Mister Standish to a private room downstairs. He woke for a few moments and we were able to assess his mental responses. So far everything looks positive. He was able to answer all my questions, some before I even had the chance to ask. We’ve removed the chest tube, and have started to decrease the amount of supplemental oxygen we were giving him. We are hoping to have him off the oxygen altogether sometime tomorrow. I’ll have the nurse stop by and inform you of his new room number.”

“Thank you doctor,” Chris smiled for the first time in relief. He was a bit surprised they were moving Ezra out of ICU and into a regular room already. Normally when one of his agents landed in ICU it was days before they made it to a regular room.

A few minutes later a nurse arrived with Ezra’s new room number and a message that it would be about an hour and a half to two hours before he was settled in his new room and ready for visitors.

Chris thanked the nurse for the information before turning back to the others, “let’s go get some dinner while they’re getting Ezra settled.”

It had been a long day for the six agents. The long waits between the short visitations in ICU was broken up by making many phone calls trying to track down Ezra’s mother, canceling plans and informing their friends of the events.

 Josiah was finally able to locate Maude in Paris but was surprised to find out she was unreachable during the holiday. Even relaying the information about her son being seriously injured produced no results.

Nathan had contacted Raine about canceling their plans for the day and updated her on Ezra’s condition. She decided to take a shift at the hospital to help with the sudden influx of patients with a shorthanded staff.

JD had called Casey to cancel their date for the evening and was quick to ease her concern over Ezra. Buck also canceled his hot date for the night but was quick to reassure the lady that it was a family emergency and not that he had changed his mind about dating her.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

When he awakened for the second time he was surprised by how quiet it was. He could of course hear the regular beeping of the monitor, but was surprised not to hear any voices. Normally his room would be filled with the active sounds of his teammates when he woke up in the hospital. However the silence reminded him it was the holiday season and the others had made previous plans. For all he knew they may not even know of his incarceration. He hadn’t thought of it before but wondered what had brought about his current accommodations. He decided he should take stock of his injuries before planning his escape. His aching head let him know that he had a concussion of some sort. His chest felt tight and his vision came to rest on the bandages wrapped around his chest.  Aw hell ribs! Those were going to slow him down, and were probably the reason he could feel the cool breeze forced up his nasal passages. Feeling his arm strapped tightly to his chest he figured he had another dislocation. Feeling a dull throb in his stomach he guessed some sort of deep bruising. He silently thanked the lord when he noticed there was nothing wrong with his legs. Escape was now easily within his grasp.

Ezra slowly pushed himself upright and struggled to regulate his breathing. Sharp pain traveled throughout his chest reminding him to take his time and avoid further pain. He swung his legs off the bed and paused for a deep breath which he immediately regretted when he started coughing. Pain was lancing his chest and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath starting him to panic. He thought he heard voices but his entire world surrounded him trying to get enough oxygen. He fought against the hands trying to lay him back down but weakness made it a losing battle. He felt panic engulf him when the cool air he had felt before was removed, but settled a bit when a mask took its place delivering a stronger flow of air. He could feel his breathing easing and could make out some of the words the voices were saying.

“Easy now pard, just take slow easy breaths. That’s it Ezra just take smaller breaths.”

He felt the panic recede and could make out the vision of the long haired tracker. “..in?” he gasped out.

“That’s right Ez, just take some slow steady breaths.” Vin sighed in relief as Ezra seemed to be breathing better. He had just walked back into the room when he caught Ezra trying to sneak out of the hospital. He grinned at the southerner’s attempt until he started coughing and struggling for breath. He had quickly made it to Ezra’s side and tried to push him back onto the bed while he hit the nurse’s button on the control. Ezra struggled a little but it was a proof to how weak the southerner was that he was lying back on the bed a moment later. He had kept up a stream of encouraging words while the nurse replaced the nasal cannula with a face mask and inserted some medication into the IV attached to his arm. Between the extra oxygen and medication the blue tinge that Ezra had started turning was now replaced with a healthy pink flush. Although his eyes were now dilated from medication, he could see the clearness in them as Ezra relaxed in the bed. “Doing better pard?”

“…urts”

“Yeah I know you’re gonna be one sore body for awhile.”

“..ap..end?”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

“..le..p”

“Do you remember the fire?”

“f..re?” Ezra tried to remember what Vin was talking about. What fire? He vaguely recalled smoke and screams but couldn’t place where that had happened. Oh God! His eyes widened in alarm as the events started to play through his head. He recalled going in and out of the complex helping people escape the blaze.

“Sorry Ez but there’s nothing left of the complex.”

“..v’ry..’ne…kay?”

“Fraid not Ez, lot of people didn’t make it out. Chris is getting a list of who didn’t make it, figured you would want to know.”

Ezra nodded and slipped into silence thinking about the tragedy and wondering who in the complex had made it out and who hadn’t. A few minutes later he asked the next question that was burning in his mind. “H’w? Ar…s’n?”

“No, not arson, it was just a terrible tragedy. Seems someone’s Christmas tree caught fire during the night, then spread out quick after that.”

Ezra took in the information that Vin supplied and cursed the senseless tragedy. “Wh’t hap’ned to me?”

Vin smiled inwardly as Ezra’s speech seemed to improve by the minute. The nurse had said they would leave him on the mask for awhile and go back to the cannula in about an hour. “Well you tried to hold the building up, but fraid you lost.”

“Fu’ny Mist’r Tan’r”

“Well let’s see. Ya got a crack on that hard head ah yours.”

“Conc’sun?”

“Yeah but ‘side from a splitting headache your head’s still hard.”

“Wh’t ‘lse?”

“Dislocated shoulder, broken collar bone, broken ribs, severe smoke inhalation, bruising, some burns and you had surgery to stop your spleen from bleeding.”

“Gone?” It would be quite disconcerting to wake up and find you are missing parts that were there the last time you checked he thought.

“Nope they saved it, but ya gotta keep still as much as possible so ya don’t rip them stitches.”

“Out?”

“Said they’d probably let ya out tomorrow, they just want ta make sure your breathing is controlled before they release ya.”

“Kay” Ezra settled back and let Vin’s comforting voice lull him back to sleep.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

It was the next morning that the doctor’s prediction of his release came. Ezra hadn’t thought about it too much before but soon realized he no longer had a home to go back to. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do about finding appropriate accommodations once Chris grew tired of his presence at the ranch house. Oh he had had no illusions that he would be staying anywhere else but the ranch house once he was released until he was deemed healed. It was a standard practice for the team that when they were injured or sick they would find themselves bundled off to the Larabee residence. They often teased Nathan about being a mother hen, but damn if Chris wasn’t the worst worrier of all.

“Ready to go?”

Ezra smiled, talk of the devil. “Yes Mister Larabee, it is time to effect my release from this den of torture.”

Chris smiled and laughed a bit, he never would understand why Vin and Ezra always equated a hospital stay as pure torture. “Well you certainly sound better, once the boys get here with the wheelchair you can get out of here.”

Ezra looked at Chris with distaste with the mention of the wheelchair.

“Don’t look at me like that you know it’s hospital policy.”

Anything further said on the subject was cut off with the crazy antics of Buck and JD arriving with the accursed wheelchair.

“Dang if he don’t look a hell of a lot better. Ready to get out of here Ez?”

“Immensely Mister Wilmington.”

“You sure look a lot better Ez.”

“Thank you Mister Dunn. Now gentlemen, shall we depart?” Ezra didn’t wait for a response and as quickly as he could made his way into the wheelchair. He wouldn’t admit it to anyone but he was quite thankful for the wheeled monstrosity as just that small activity had taken his breath away.

Chris had noticed the quickened breaths of his undercover agent from the short trip from the bed to the wheelchair. He thought back to the talk he had with the doctor before entering Ezra’s room. It would be awhile before the shortness of breath would subside. Ezra was in for a long recovery though; it would be a couple of weeks before he would even be allowed to drive. The doctor had said two weeks before he could drive and couldn’t lift anything over ten pounds for at least six weeks. It would be another six weeks after that before the broken ribs and collar bone would be fully healed.

“Mister Larabee will you be joining us on the trip to your abode?”

“Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Ezra didn’t remember much of the trip out to Chris’ ranch. Once he had finally made it into the truck’s seat he had quickly succumbed to exhaustion. He had a vague recollection of getting out of the truck and being brought into the guest room, but it was all hazy. He felt more rested and decided to get out of bed and see about getting some food. He took a slow deep breath and was happy that it didn’t produce another painful coughing fit. He still felt dreadful but couldn’t stand to stay in bed any longer. He slowly got to his feet and took short shuffling steps towards the hallway.

I feel like an old man. He thought to himself as he slowly made his way towards the kitchen. By the time he had made it to the end of the hallway he was seriously reconsidering why he ever got out of the bed.

“Well look whose back amongst the living.” Buck teased the southern man.

 “Fun..ny Mist’r Wil…ming…ton” Ezra panted out. God why was he so out of breath.

Buck hearing how out of breath Ezra was quickly made his way to his side. “Here pard, let’s get you sitting down before you fall down.”

Ezra sank gratefully into the kitchen chair. “Th’k you”

“No problem, just let ol Buck get you some of this chicken soup and you’ll be feeling good as new soon.”

Ezra nodded his head and would have sworn it was going to roll off his body. He felt light-headed and woozy.

“You should be in bed still ya dang fool.”

Thank you for that helpful insight Mister Jackson. Ezra started to nod his head in agreement before he thought better of the movement. “Tired of being in bed” Well at least I can breathe again, now if I could just stop the room from spinning. He moaned softly and closed his eyes hoping to ward off the dizzying affect.

“You’re head hurting ya?”

“Yeah, dizzy. Room won’t stop moving.”

“Well it’s time for your medicine, take these and then get some of that soup in ya and you should start feeling better.”

He felt a few pills placed in his hand and automatically brought them to his lips. He had barely placed them in his mouth before he felt a glass pressed into his hands. Keeping his eyes closed he swallowed the dreaded medicine.

“Good Ezra now how about some soup?” Nathan was a bit surprised how easily it was to get Ezra to take the medicine; he must have been feeling pretty poorly to take them without any type of argument.

Ezra slowly opened his eyes and was equal parts surprised and embarrassed to see all six of his friends staring at him. He never even heard the others arrive. He looked down at the bowl of soup in front of him and slowly began to eat. He was thankful the soup stayed down. He was feeling pretty tired but listened to the familiar voices wash over him.

“I think brother Ezra is ready for bed.” Josiah mentioned after watching Ezra blinking owlishly at them for the last few minutes.

“Well we better get him there now or we’ll be carrying the fool. Shouldn’t have been out of bed yet.”

“Hey okay Nate?” The Texan asked.

“Yeah just gonna be exhausted, dang fool just pushing himself too fast. Come on Josiah help me get this idiot back to bed.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“Well you’re looking much better” JD smiled at his older friend, finally seeing the healthy flush of pink color on his friends face. For too long it seemed Ezra was carrying a color of pale to blue. He also didn’t seem as out of breath as he normally did.

“I feel much improved, thank you Mister Dunne.” Ezra carefully settled into the soft cushioned reclining chair. The last few days had felt like a blur to him. He remembered waking up and making his way to the kitchen for some food but after that he would wake up to find himself back in bed again. He wondered for awhile if he was only dreaming of eating. He had completely lost track of time. “Mister Dunne I’m afraid I have lost track of the days, could you please provide me with the date?”

“Oh sure Ezra, it’s Christmas Eve.”

“Good Lord already?”

“Yup, you’ve just been sleeping a lot.”

“And pray tell where are our other associates?”

“Oh well Chris and Vin are out with the horses, Josiah and Nathan ran out for some last minute shopping, and Buck ain’t back from his date yet.”

Ezra nodded and thought to himself for a few moments. “JD would you mind doing a favor for me?”

“Sure Ez whatcha need?”

“I left everyone’s presents in the jag’s trunk, would you mind running out to get them? I would go myself but have been put on driving restrictions for awhile.”

JD stared wide-eyed at Ezra for a moment before plunging into the news. “Uh sure..” he was about to say more when the front door slammed open with the force of Nathan and Josiah’s boisterous entrance.

“Well looks like Sleeping Beauty has finally awoken.”

“Very funny Josiah.”

“…but..uh Ezra.” JD tried again to finish his sentence.

“Now son I know your happy Ezra is back amongst the living but you need to share him with the rest of us.”

“but” he spurted again.

“Josiah’s right JD, Christmas is all about sharing.” Nathan charmed in as he continued to tease the boy along with Josiah.

JD huffed before he finally spit out his sentence as fast as possible. “butIwasgoingtoletEzraknowIcan’tgethispresentsoutofthejagbecausethecarwasdestroyedinthefire.”

Ezra was quietly laughing at the two older men funning with the young man, until the parts of the sentence started to filter into his head. Presents…car…destroyed…fire..

“I’m sorry JD but did you say my car was destroyed in the fire?”

JD swallowed the lump in his throat and looked down at his hands before nodding his head in affirmation.

“Good Lord. My car? My beautiful jaguar? Destroyed?”

“I’m sorry Ezra.”

“It’s not your fault son, just the way of things.” Oh God what was he going to do? He had assumed his car would have been safe from the fire. Now not only had he lost his domicile but his transportation as well. Oh he had mixed feelings about his beloved car. It was one of the few things his mother ever gave him, even if it had come at the destruction of his FBI career; it was still a gift from Maude. “Is there any chance of it being repaired?”

“I’m afraid not son.” Josiah added his sympathy.

“Just a burnt out shell now.” Nathan added.

Ezra cringed inwardly with the harsh view Nathan’s words brought. “If you gentlemen would excuse me I believe I’m going to go lie down for awhile.”

“but” JD started but the grip on his shoulder and the shake of Josiah’s head stopped him before he could say anymore.

Ezra sighed as he sat back on the bed. Everything was gone. He didn’t even know where to start. At least he had opted for the optional comprehensive coverage on the car insurance. He would get another vehicle but didn’t think he would opt for another jaguar. He was thankful he had clothes left out at the ranch, a few suits as well as some casual clothing at least made it so he would be in familiar clothing until he could get out and shop for some more. What was really bothering him though was the loss of all of his personal items. Granted he never held onto a lot of stuff but those that he did had special meaning to him. To think that everything was destroyed and nothing could ever bring it back was a bitter blow. His renters insurance for the condo would cover the financial loss of furnishings but it would never replace the lost memories. Thankfully his wallet was in his pants while he was helping out at the fire. At least he didn’t have to try and figure out who to contact to replace credit cards and identification. Reaching over to the night table by the bed he sighed with the thought of having nothing to give the others for Christmas. He grimaced when he looked into cash section and noticed the lack of funds, twenty-five dollars to be exact. How was he ever going to get gifts for the others in time for the holiday tomorrow?

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“Hey guys that was Nettie, she needs our help right quick. Seems that ornery stallion of hers knocked down the fencing and her cattle are running loose. Said she’d send Casey over to watch Ezra for us.” JD announced as he came back in from answering the phone a few minutes earlier.

“Damn horse, she ought to geld that monster. That’s the third time this month he’s done that. I swear he is doing it on purpose.” Buck grumbled.

“We best get over there quick as we can. Vin want to give me a hand loading the horses?”

“Sure thing Chris.”

“I better go check on Ezra and let him know what’s happening.”

“No need Mister Jackson I heard JD’s voice in the other room.”

“You doing alright Ezra?”

“Yes I’m feeling much better now, thank you Mister Larabee.”

“We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

“Don’t rush on my account gentlemen. I’ll be here when you get back.”

“Casey’ll be here pard, so you won’t be by yourself.”

“Thank you Buck I’m sure the lovely Miss Wells and myself will get along gloriously.”

Ezra watched as the others continued to prepare for their departure. He felt bad that they had to go chase down cattle on eve before Christmas, but sometimes things like this just couldn’t be helped.

A half hour later the horses were all loaded and Casey Wells had just arrived to help watch over Ezra. There were quick farewells and the guys were on their way to bring home the wayward cattle. Ezra grinned to himself as a plan started to come together in his head. He smiled brightly at the young lady that walked through the door.

“Hey Mister Standish, how are ya doing?”

“Nevah better my dear Miss Wells. As a matter of fact I’ve nevah felt bettah.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

It was late in the evening before the guys made it back to the ranch house. Tired and dirty, they slowly made their way into the house and into one of the bathrooms to clean up.

Casey had been dozing in the recliner when the guys came in and was happy to give up her place and head home.

“Hey Casey, how was Ezra for you?”

“Oh he was um, he was just fine. I’m um, gonna go before it gets too late. Merry Christmas.” She called out to the others before sharing a quick kiss with JD.

“Whoooooo eeeeeeeee boy and their weren’t no mistletoe around either. Guess Missus Casey gave you an early Christmas present.” Buck laughed at the rosy color that spread across JD’s face.

“Quiet down you fools you don’t need to go waking Ezra up.”

“Sorry Nate.” Properly chastised Buck continued down the hall towards one of the bedrooms to change and get some much needed sleep.

The others followed suit and soon the ranch house was engulfed in the quiet sounds of snoring.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Christmas morning came and went silently for Ezra. Amazingly enough he was the first one awake this morning. He had put on the coffee and enjoyed the first of a few cups over the hours he had been awake already.

He smiled to himself thinking about the events that had led to a very successful mission. He knew the next time he was over at the Wells residence he would be treating that ornery horse to some apples and carrots. It hadn’t taken much on his part to have the young Missus Wells help him with his mission; he just hoped the guys wouldn’t be mad at her for his coercion.

Looking at the Christmas tree by the window, a white winter scene behind it from the late night snowfall, he smiled at the large array of gifts waiting to be opened. He surmised that the guys would be a bit bewildered with gifts under the tree from him, wondering how it was even possible with him being stuck at the ranch.

He thought about the tragedy that had brought him here. He felt awful about the people that lost their lives in the fire. He knew there was going to be a lot of work replacing everything that was lost and finding a new home, but he was thankful that he had his life. He’d be sore for a long time coming, but he would take that over the alternative.

He grinned as he thought about how happy he was to be spending the holiday with his friends; six men that had stuck by him through some trying times and dragged him into their world. He couldn’t imagine his life without them in it anymore.

Josiah was his rock, a pillar of a man that easily showed his paternal feelings towards him. Ezra only protested the feelings because it was expected of him. Perhaps one day he would tell Josiah just how much it means to him that he wants to step into that role. He could think of no one he would be happier with as a father.

Nathan was his conscious. Like that silly green character from Pinocchio, Nathan was always there to guide him on the right track. He would never tell the man just how much it meant to him that he cared enough to want him to change. It was far too much fun to push the man’s buttons.

JD was his innocence. He never thought he had an innocent bone in his body left, but somehow the energetic young man had uncovered some. He was able to see life with new eyes since he had meet the young man and he did everything in his power to save that innocence in his friend.

Buck was his passion. He had never met a person so passionate about life. He loved and fought with every ounce he possessed. Buck brought out the inner strength within him to enjoy life to its fullest.

Vin was his strength. They were so much alike and different it was eerie.  Vin taught him to reach out to others. He helped build the inner strength that was beaten down so badly before he joined the team.

As he thought about Chris, he saw the man watching him from the hallway holding a cup of coffee. “Merry Christmas Ezra.”

Yes Ezra thought, it was a good Christmas. Perhaps not the way he envisioned spending his holiday but he wouldn’t trade it for the world. “Merry Christmas Chris.”

And Chris, he was his hero.

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 24:

“Damn idiots, who the hell tries to rob a bank in broad daylight,” Buck complained. He had been enjoying the company of one of his lady friends when the gun shots were fired. It had only taken them a few minutes to subdue the two young men and deliver them into the waiting jail cell.

“Gesh you’d think they would know better by now and avoid this town,” JD whined to his friend.

“Well I’m just glad none of you idjits got a hole in ya. Tired of having to patch you up so much.”

“Amen brother”

“Hey Buck why’s Chris in such a bad mood? He barely said two words ‘fore he strode out of here.” JD had been surprised by the gunslingers behavior.

“Ah you know Chris; he’s just got a bee in his bonnet over this custody business. He don’t like that aunt and uncle of Ezra’s, wants us all to keep an eye on them.”

“Oh okay, so who’s supposed to be watching them now?”

“I am.”

“Uh Buck if you’re supposed to be watching them why’d you come out of saloon when the firing started?”

“Ah well um, ya see Miss Molly sorta…well..ah damn, I better go find that uncle ‘fore Chris takes my head off.”

Silent until now, Vin added to the conversation, “Ya might want ta take off quick cause Chris is coming back and he sure don’t look happy.”

“Ya’ll haven’t seen me.” Buck tried to get away before his old friend could recognize his error but Chris yelling his name stopped him dead in his tracks. “I’m dead” he muttered under his breath as he hung his head, but it was still loud enough for Vin to hear and find amusing.

“Hey Cowboy, what’s going on?” The wily tracker asked.

“Ezra’s missing and I told that boy to stay in the room and wait for me.”

“You check the livery? You know he can’t stay away from that horse for long.”

“Horse is gone. Buck who you got watching that uncle?”

“Um well Chris ya see Miss Molly was”

“Save it Buck just find where he is quick and make sure he ain’t anywhere near Ezra.”

“Right pard, come on JD let’s go find us a snake.”

“Vin you wanna go follow that horse, the rest of us will look around town just in case the horse was rented out.”

“On my way.”

“Thanks, everyone else split up and see if you can find him.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~

Vin easily followed the well known horse tracks to the pond near town. He was pretty certain that it was Ezra on the horse, the light foot falls meant a lightweight rider; but if the tracks hadn’t told him the direction cinched it. The guys knew of Ezra’s favorite thinking spot by the small water hole. Vin just wondered what Ezra had to think about so badly that he didn’t stay in town like he was told.

Coming up on the pond he sighed in relief seeing Ezra sitting by the ponds edge tossing rocks into the still water. He took a few moments to study the young boy. Ezra was sitting stiffly and looking like he had the whole world on his shoulders. Vin figured he would be mighty concerned too if he had family pulling him in two different directions. He wondered what Ezra thought about the whole custody business.

“Hey pard, whatcha doing out here?”

Ezra sighed to himself, he figured Chris would be mad when he found no one waiting in their room for him; but he needed to get away, especially after the run in he had with his uncle. Beg to go back with them, never!

“Hello Mr. Vin, I’m afraid I was a tad preoccupied and forgot to inform someone of my intended departure.”

Uh oh someone’s put his walls up, just gonna have to tear them down right quick. “Well you certainly got Chris’ feathers in a dander. He’s tearing the town apart trying to find you.”

Ezra physically winced with the thought of Chris’ talk with him later when he got back to town. “I did not mean to cause any concern for Chris. Is he mad at me?”

“Reckon he might be a bit upset, but I think that is more worry than anything else. Fraid this custody issue has him a bit concerned.”

“Me too”

Vin settled next to Ezra hoping the boy would open up about what was bothering him. “You wanna talk about it?”

Ezra bit his lower lip in consideration; perhaps talking things out with Vin would help him come to a decision regarding his aunt and uncle. He knew just how vindictive and dangerous a man his uncle was. He had seen enough in the many visits he had with the man to know just how cruel he was and the vial things he was able to get away with from the local law in his town. He had no illusions what his life would be like if he were to go back with his aunt and uncle. Looking into Vin’s deep caring eyes he made the decision to talk with the scruffy tracker.

“I don’t want to live with my aunt and uncle. I want to stay with Chris.”

“Well Chris wants that too.”

Ezra nodded his head, yes he know Chris wanted him to stay as well. “Of that I have no doubts.”

“So what’s got you so worried?”

“You must know that judges prefer to place children with married couples.”

“Yeah, I imagine they do; but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this time.”

“Perhaps, but I prefer to leave nothing to chance; and going to live with my aunt and uncle is a chance I do not want to take. My uncle is a powerful man in his locale.”

“Power can turn even the best person bad.”

“Yes sir it does.”

“So what bothers you so much about living with your aunt and uncle?”

“He has no want for me, just the money that Maude has in trust for me.”

“Yeah that’s what we figure. Any other reason, maybe if we had some good reason for you not staying with your aunt and uncle than the judge will not grant them custody.”

Oh I have a good reason, but if the judge doesn’t go in favor of Chris than my uncle’s wraith is going to be tenfold. “Perhaps we should return to town, I’m sure Chris would appreciate knowing of my return.”

Vin sighed inwardly knowing that Ezra was done talking for now. He wondered what was spooking the boy so much that he was reluctant to talk about it. “Alright pard, let’s get back and settle down that big brother of yours.”

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 7

“No I won’t go! It’s not fair; I don’t want to visit with her.” It was a rarity to hear the normally mild mannered child raise his voice in anger. Soon to be ten, Ezra though had good reason for his anger and could sum it all up into one word, Maude.

The southern lady had called last night about visiting with her son, of course her being missing in his life the last few years didn’t seem to bother her in the least. She gave no excuses about her missing part in Ezra’s life. Maude hadn’t changed; she did what she wanted when she wanted. It seemed now that she wanted to spend time with her son as he turned ten years old.

Chris and Sarah had been wary when Maude had called but had reluctantly agreed to let Maude spend some time with her son. They decided to let Ezra visit her after his baseball game. They would spend the morning together as a family to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately Chris had to go into work so would be unable to make it to the game. Chris and Adam both had games that day and Sarah would drop Ezra off after they were over. Maude was more than pleased that she would have her son delivered and wouldn’t have to watch that boring baseball game.

Now the night before Ezra was fighting them tooth and nail about visiting his mother. While Sarah and Chris would prefer he never see the woman again, they knew that Ezra would grow to resent them if they kept his mother away from him. No matter how much he protested they knew deep down he longed for his mother’s acceptance.

“Ezra it’s only for one evening, you don’t even have to stay the night.” Sarah tried to ease the boy’s mind. “We’ll spend the morning together as a family, then you and Adam will have your baseball games, and you can spend the rest of the day with your mother. I know you’re afraid of being hurt by her again, but do you really want to give up the chance of being able to repair your relationship? You never know you just may enjoy some time with her.”

Ezra listened thoughtfully to Sarah’s reasoning and could only sigh in response. He knew there was nothing he could say to change their mind. He had no doubts as to his mother’s sudden resurgence into his life; she wanted to make sure her baby boy hadn’t forgotten all his lessons. The problem was that he had forgotten a great deal of them and knew she would be deeply disappointed in him. “Okay mom if it will make you happy I’ll go visit with mother.”

Sarah sighed, she had hoped that he would want to visit her because he wanted to, not because she asked him to; but she figured he would be happy once his mother showed some interest in him. “Thank you Ezra. Now why don’t you head up to bed; tomorrow’s going to be a long day for you birthday boy.”

Sarah watched the boy make his way up the stairs and to bed. “Chris do you think we’re doing the right thing by letting him spend time with that woman?”

“I don’t know, but I do know that if we don’t one day Ezra will resent us for not giving his mother the chance to be a part of his life.”

“You’re right honey, how about we head off to bed as well. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a trying day.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Swish…flip flip flip…..swish

“What’re you doing?” A voice bellowed from the doorway.

“Shh Adam, You’ll wake mom and dad.”

“Sorry. So whatcha doing? When are you going to teach me to do that? That looked pretty cool, how come you haven’t done that before? You haven’t even touched cards in a really looooooong time.”

“I’m going to visit mother tomorrow after the game.”

“Huh? You see mom everyday silly.”

“Not mom, mother. You remember when I first moved in with you guys?”

“Oh yeah the old lady that dropped you off, sorry I forgot all about her.”

“I wish I could too.” Ezra said under his breath. “She wants me to spend some time with her tomorrow.”

“But it’s your birthday we had lots of plans. I know dad was going to be at work and mom’s been tired lately, but you and me was going to go riding and have a day of it. Now what are we going to do? Can’t your mother have you visit some other day?”

“I’m afraid not, mom and dad have it all planned out already.”

“Oh bummer, so what are you playing with the cards for?”

“I need to brush up on my lessons, mother will not be pleased though, I’ve gotten very sloppy.” Ezra sighed.

“Oh, well you look pretty good at that to me.”

“Thanks”

“You don’t want to leaves us do you?” Adam asked seriously.

The tone had Ezra looking at his brother sharply, “Adam I have no desire to live anywhere but her with you, mom and dad. Mother would just dump me at some relatives home anyway when she got tired of having a kid around.”

“Oh well we’d never get rid of you, besides who would help me with my homework if you were gone?”

Ezra snorted at his brother’s humor. “All right brother how about I teach you some card tricks. Now be prepared to be amazed!”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

The morning time with the family came and went much faster than Ezra could have believed. Standing on third base he waited to steal home. Home he thought, he hoped his mother’s arrival wouldn’t disturb his now peaceful life. All he could remember from his mother before was the endless lessons and hours of time spent by himself. He figured he would try one more time after the game to get out of seeing his mother.

Adam was in a bad mood, his strike out at bat had been the last chance for his baseball team to advance for the season. Most of his friends were supportive over the loss, but there were a few that seemed to blame him for the loss. Sure, like I was the only one to strike out. Just because I was the last one to strike out it’s all my fault. Adam sighed as he watched Ezra steal home and score the run that would clinch his team a spot in the playoffs. He thought his brother was one of the best baseball players he’d ever seen. He had dreams of Ezra one day playing professional baseball. His happiness over his brother’s win dampened with the thought of their day changed from their previous plans. Dad assured him that tomorrow Uncle Buck was coming over and the four of them would take off for the day.

Sarah was never happier as when the baseball game had finished. She had been feeling sick since breakfast and only wanted to lie down after she dropped Ezra off to Maude. Rubbing her head she got up from the stands when she noticed her boys coming to join her.

“Great job Ezra, your team should do very next weekend.”

“Thanks mom”

“You played very well too Adam, I’m sorry your team didn’t advance.”

“That’s alright mom, we’ll get there next season. Besides without us there Ezra’s team might have a chance.” He laughed at his brother’s sour look.

“Very funny Adam.”

“Alright boys let’s get loaded up I need to drop Ezra off at his mother’s hotel.”

“Ah mom do you have to? Can’t we just forget and go home?”

“No Adam, Maude should get to spend some time with Ezra.”

“I really wouldn’t mind missing the excursion to mother’s.”

“I’m sure Ezra, now let’s get going boys.”

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

Sarah sighed as she listened to the boys grip in the back seat. They had both been relentless since they left the baseball field in trying to get her to go back home and forget dropping Ezra off with Maude.

“Alright boys that’s enough groveling.”

“Ah but mom Ezra said he’s gonna be a disappointment to his mother for not remembering his lessons.”

Ezra was mortified; he had never wanted that shared with mom or dad. “Adam” he hissed, trying to get his brother to stop talking.

“Adam, Ezra’s mother would never be disappointed in him. Besides Ezra is making straight A’s”

“Not those kinda lessons mom, his card game lessons.”

“Adam” Ezra hissed louder, he now knew he shouldn’t have told his brother so much last night. Adam could never stop talking sometimes.

“Enough boys, we’ll talk about this later.”

Adam sighed knowing that his mom wouldn’t budge any. Turning he implored his bright eyes on his brother, trying to convey to him to plead their case.

Oh sure tell all my secrets then give me those puppy dog eyes to get you what you want. Ezra sighed knowing it was a lost cause trying to ignore his little brother.

“Mom I really don’t want to go, I barely know her anymore anyway. She hasn’t even contacted me for years.”

“Ezra I said that was enough, now you and Adam need to…” Whatever else Sarah was about to say was cut off when she suddenly lost consciousness.

“MOM” the two boys yelled when they saw their mother slump in the seat. Adam quickly unbuckled his seatbelt and started to climb in the front of the car.

Ezra tried to pull his brother back into his seat but it was too late. Ezra watched as time seemed to slow down; he watched in horror as Adam was thrown through the windshield before he lost consciousness.


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 23:

Ezra had managed to make it back to his room without running into his Uncle and Aunt. He sighed as he looked around the room and tried to think about where his brother would have hidden his rigging. Taking a deep breath he set himself to the task of searching in every nook and cranny. The monotonous work soon lead his mind to drifting; unfortunately it was drifting towards the last stay with his Aunt and Uncle before moving to Four Corners.

“Damn it boy, haven’t you learned nothing in all the years you’ve been here?” His Uncle punctuated his statement with another viscous strike against his back.

Ezra hissed as quietly as possible, knowing that any noise would only cause further pain. He didn’t even know what he had done to earn his Uncle’s rage this time. Mother had only left him with his Aunt and Uncle the night before. He hadn’t even made it out of his room this morning before his Uncle had stormed in like a rabid dog.

“Dang you boy, are you listening to me?” Another strike fell across his back and he felt the sting as a warm stream of blood slithered down his rib cage.

“No sir. I’m sorry sir. I’m sorry I forgot sir.” Ezra knew that any lax in ending a response to his Uncle without sir would lead to further discipline.

“Boy you’re nothing but a stupid little bastard, gotta knock some sense into that head of yours. No wonder your mother can’t stand to be around you. Get outta here and get them chores done; and don’t you dare think about asking for food till all the work is done, you useless piece of…

“Ezra, whatcha doing?”

“I’m sorry sir, I wasn’t thinking sir, I’ll get to my chores right now sir”

Chris was curious when he first walked into the room seeing Ezra staring into the mirror on the dresser; but curiousness quickly turned to concern when wide green eyes looked at him with deep fear in his eyes. He could literally see Ezra try to suppress the tremors flowing through his small frame. “Easy Ezra, it’s just your brother Chris. What’s got you so jumpy son?”

Ezra heard his brother’s soothing voice and the past vision shed from his mind. He quickly put his veneer back together and smiled shyly at his brother. “Sorry Chris must have been wool-gathering. I need to get back to my chores.”

Chris figured there was a lot more to Ezra’s fear then just some daydreaming, but he could see from his brother’s glint that he would get nothing from him at this moment. Recalling why he was seeking out the youngster Chris called a halt to Ezra’s progress to head out the door. “Hold up there a minute Ezra, I need to speak with you a few moments.”

Uh oh, I hope he isn’t going to interrogate me about my behavior. He would think of me as weak or a coward for my behavior. Feeling a slight heaviness in his pocket he was startled to feel the familiar weight of his derringer rigging. When did I find that? He figured he must have automatically placed it in a hiding spot when he located the sought after article. Feeling steady again with the two objects that would keep his Uncle from harming him again he turned back towards his brother. “Of course Chris, what would you like to talk about?”

“Seems your Aunt and Uncle have been seeking you out, but haven’t been able to talk with you yet.” Chris smirked a little at that.

“Oh really?” Considering I’m avoiding them at all costs that is no surprise.

“Yup. Can you think of any reason they haven’t been able to meet up with you?” Come on Ezra talk to me damn it.

Oh I can think of many reasons….roof, clearing, hayloft. “No sir, can’t think of any reason they wouldn’t be able to find me.”

Chris sighed inwardly knowing he was getting nowhere with his little brother and decided to just be blunt with him. “Can’t avoid them forever.”

“I sure can try!” Ooops did I yell that aloud. Yep and boy did I get Chris’ attention! Ah hell!

Finally success. “and why would you being trying?”

“I don’t want to live with them, I want to stay with you.”

“I want you to stay with me also, but if there is a reason I should know about why you don’t want to live with your Aunt and Uncle then you need to let me know.”

Ezra bit his bottom lip while he fought internally with himself over coming clean with his brother about the abuse. His mother never cared to know, would his brother be any different? Before he had the chance to consider it any longer shots could be heard outside.

“Stay here, we’ll finish this up later.”

Ezra watched Chris fly out the door to honor his peacekeeping duty. When the coast was clear he quickly attached his arm rigging and set his derringer in place. He was feeling more secure now that he had a measure of protection. Not hearing any shooting outside he decided to venture out and see if he could secure his favorite steed for the afternoon. Nothing like hiding out for the rest of the day to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Seeing the street free of gunplay Ezra made his way over to the livery. He was glad to see the building empty and quickly made his way to his favorite horse. He really needed to work on getting Chris to agree to his purchase when this Aunt and Uncle matter was finished.

“You avoiding me boy?”

Ezra found himself swung around and slammed hard into the stable wall. Fear built up in him as he saw his Uncle’s crazy gleam pierce him.

“You sure ain’t learned nothing have you, you little bastard? If you weren’t worth so much money I’d happily put you down like the unwanted pup you are. You listen and listen good boy, when that judge gets here tomorrow you better be pleading to go back with me and missus. You understand me boy?”

“Yes sir.” Ezra mumbled with just a hint of a stutter before he felt himself lifted and slammed into the wall again.

“Don’t you forget now boy.”

Ezra watched his Uncle walk away before he picked himself up off the floor and quickly saddled his horse and left the town as quickly as possible.

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 6

Ezra was dismayed that no one seemed to believe him about the older boy that had helped him, but no one at the school knew of the boy he was speaking about. He, along with Timmy and Bob, found themselves in the principal’s office awaiting their parents’ arrival. Timmy’s nose had finally stopped bleeding, but his face was all puffy and he had two black eyes. He was supposed to go to the emergency room but his father insisted that he would take him on his own. Bob on the other hand still guarded his stomach, the waste basket beside him held what was left of his lunch from earlier that day. Ezra wrinkled his nose a bit that thought. School lunch was bad enough before it was even served, let alone brought back up after digestion had started to occur.

Looking up he spied his mom and dad making their way down the hall. His dad looked ready to shoot someone, but it was him mom that had the laser coming out of her eyes. Ezra was just glad her aim was on the two ruffians sitting in chairs beside him. Ezra schooled himself, he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He felt his chin lifted and twisted gently.

“You alright son?”

He gave a quick nod, catching the strange jealous looks of the two boys awaiting their fathers. He didn’t know why they would feel jealous, it wasn’t like Chris was their father.

“Come on let’s go speak with the principal.”

Ezra found himself led into the forbearing office, from the giant desk to the giant man sitting behind it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Larabee, I’m sorry to have had to call you in about this today. Ezra and the two boys were fighting in the playground today. As I’m sure you could see Ezra inflected quite a bit of damage to the other boys. The boys said that Ezra attacked them for no reason. Ezra insisted that he was the one attacked and was helped by an older kid that nobody has ever seen before. I’m afraid we are going to have to suspend Ezra for fighting for a week.”

“Excuse me but one of those boys has been bullying my son for the past year and this school has done nothing to prevent this, and now he was attacked by two boys and you want to suspend him for defending himself. I don’t think so. If my son says that he was attacked and another boy helped him out than by all that is holy that is what happened!” Sarah was livid, how dare he try to pin this onto her son.

“Ezra” Chris got his son’s attention. “What did this boy look like?”

“He was older than me, a bit taller with longer curly brown hair and blue eyes. He talked with an accent too, but I can’t remember where I heard it before, just know I have heard it before.”

Ezra couldn’t believe it, his mom and dad believed him. Even though he still ended up on suspension, so did Timmy and Bob.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~

It wasn’t until Ezra tried out for the baseball team the next year that he saw his school yard hero again. Ezra was amazed at how much the boy had changed over the past year. The boy had grown in height and build, and his hair had grown even longer.

He watched as the boy threw fast ball after fast ball and struck out the boy at bat. Ezra had just started to make his way over to the field the other boy was playing on when he heard his name called out to one of the fields for try outs. Throwing one more look at his hero he smiled and ran off to try and make the team.

A couple of hours later he stood nervously with the other boys that were trying out for the team and waited to see if his was one of the names called on this year’s roster.

It felt like hours as he heard other names called until he finally heard his name called. “Ezra Larabee, first base” he heard and then felt a blossom of warmth engulf him as he saw his parents and little brother cheering in the stands. He listened on as some of his other friends also made the team, but soon found his eyes locked on with his blue-eyed hero. The boy had a smug smile on his face as he relaxed on the edge of the crowd by the stands. He felt a smidgen of pride that his making the team pleased his hero.

He heard the coach finish listing the new team and releasing the boys until the weekend when they would have their first practice. Ezra quickly congratulated the other boys and started to make his way over to his hero. He really wanted to know his name and to thank him for his help so long ago.

He had barely made it halfway across the field before he was nearly barreled over by one very enthusiastic little brother. “Ezra you did it, you made the team. Wow that is so awesome. Can you believe it Dad, he even gots first base! Oh man wait till I tell everyone tomorrow. I can’t wait till next year and I can try out. You think we’ll be on the same team? Oh man that is so great…”

Ezra smiled and gave a little laugh as his biggest fan expounded on the virtues of his future baseball career. Looking back towards the stands he noticed his hero had disappeared and sighed inwardly at the missed opportunity.


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 21:

It wasn’t long before everything quieted down in Four Corners following the hanging event. Judge Travis left on the stage a few days ago to proceed over a trial a few towns away. He would be back later in the week to finalize the paperwork on Ezra’s custody.

For the six protectors of the town it was a beautifully quiet morning as they watched the stage make its way towards town. The guys always made sure to watch the arrival in case of any undesirables coming into their town. They wanted to head off any trouble before it had a chance to develop. Today’s stage only held a single passenger. Though he was an unassuming quality the guys kept a watchful eye on him. They knew appearances could be deceiving, especially when they came packaged in expensive suits.

“Whatcha figure he’s here for?” asked the quiet tracker.

“Looks like we’re about to find out” Chris remarked as he watched the man head in their direction.

“Excuse me gentlemen but I am looking for a Mr. Chris Larabee” The man swallowed nervously as he felt the numerous eyes on him.

“I’m Chris Larabee.” Chris smirked inwardly as he watched the jittery man pull the constricting tie loose around his neck.

“Ah yes Mr. Larabee, a pleasure to meet you sir. Judge Travis’ suggested we meet here in regards to the late Maude Standish and her child Ethan…no no no that isn’t right….um it was something different…um Edward? No that still isn’t right…um”

“Ezra” six voices filled in for the man, making him jump from the combined noise.

“Oh right, right. Yes Ezra. I have a letter for the young lad that his mother wanted to give him upon her death. Do you know where the boy is so I may deliver the missive while we wait for Judge Travis and Mr. and Mrs. Standish to arrive?”

“Mister?” Chris drawled a bit harshly

“Oh Smithers. John Smithers. Maude Standish left our offices with the duty to fulfill her final wishes.”

“Mr. Smithers I think we best take a seat inside and start all over from the beginning.”

~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~

It was a few hours later that letter in hand, Chris made his way to the livery to find Ezra. Maude had left final instructions with a law firm in the case of her death. The paperwork was found in some of the possessions recovered from the grisly scene of her death. He was able to find out from Smithers that Ezra was left with a sizable fortune and two families vying for custody of the child. It seems the family that gains custody of Ezra also gains custody of the fortune. Not that Chris cared for the fortune, but he was worried that Maude’s brother and wife may only be after the money with no care for Ezra at all. The couple would arrive on the stage the next day, with Judge Travis arriving the following day.

He stopped at the entrance of the livery watching his little brother brushing down his favorite horse. Chris looked at the letter in his hand and wondered what reactions would come from Ezra reading it. While he still had nightmares, they were coming less frequently. He was worried about how the new events would wear on the child. Ezra had been through a lot lately, he just hoped that everything would work out okay.

“Morning Chris” Ezra’s bright voice broke him out of his thoughts.

“Morning Ezra? Why it’s nearly noon, I think you’re turning into a hibernating bear.” Chris teased before getting a serious look on his face. “Come on over a minute I have to talk with you.”

Ezra schooled himself, it was never a good omen when someone looked all serious and morose at once. Perhaps Chris changed his mind about Ezra staying with him after all.

“A gentleman arrived on the stage this morning. He was put in charge of seeing to your mother’s effects, as well as making sure you are provided for. Your mother left you a sizable fortune and a letter she wished for you to read. Maude’s brother and his wife will arrive tomorrow, and the Judge will follow the next day. Your aunt and uncle are petitioning for custody of you as am I.”

“I see.” Ezra was stunned at first but dread quickly filled him hearing that his aunt and uncle wanted to take custody of him. He willfully repressed the shudder that wanted to take life. He had no want or desire to ever see them again. His Uncle Matt had left him battered and bruised on many occasions, although Ezra had learned over the many visits how to avoid some of the harsher beatings. He could hear Chris talking in the background but his mind could not focus on what was being said. The only thing he knew was that there was no way he would ever live with his aunt and uncle, he’d runaway before that happened, fortune be damned!

He soon found the letter placed in his hand and a supportive hand on his shoulder. “I’ll let you read your letter from Maude now. You know where to find me if you need me.”

Chris watched as Ezra nodded his head before leaving him in the quiet livery.

~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~

Ezra wanted to find a quiet spot to read the letter from his mother. He knew he wasn’t allowed to go off riding yet. It seemed Chris was pretty adamant about his restriction and chores. So it was his town hiding spot on the roof of the saloon where he settled down to read the letter. Taking a deep breath, he opened the letter and began to read.

My Dearest Ezra,

I’m afraid if you are reading this letter I am no longer among this world. Remember your training child and be sure to keep up appearances. Now then child I have a lot I must tell you. I’m sorry that I never told you about your father before but….

Ezra continued to read through the long explanation about his father and the unknown brother he had. He was happy to have his concerns about Chris really being his brother laid to rest. The rest of the letter explained to him about the money she had been putting away and the plans for his custody to either her brother Matt and his wife or Mr. Larabee and his wife.

Ezra was sure of one thing; he would not go back to his Uncle Matt. With that last thought he headed off on a search for his missing derringer, even if he had to engage in menial labor to find it. By the end of the day he would have a small piece of security to make it through the arrival of his uncle.

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 5

With Maude’s absence the custody proceedings were completed quickly with full custody granted to Chris and Sarah. They allowed for visitation with Maude for Ezra’s sake, which was of course if she ever showed up again.

Ezra though had taken the change of custody in stride. He was saddened that his mother never showed up to fight for him but was at the same time happy to be staying somewhere permanent. He had come to care a great deal for his little brother and father; and felt closer to Sarah then he ever had his own mother.

Summer vacation was coming to an end and he was looking forward to starting second grade. After Sarah had talked with the school things had gotten better with Timmy, he just hoped that the new school year would stay that way.

With his thoughts wandering he never noticed the petite figure watching him from the doorway, and was startled when she spoke.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Sarah asked teasingly.

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t be a good return on your investment.” Ezra grinned at her.

“Oh I think I’ll take my chances with the market, after all it has been on a steady rise.”

Ezra enjoyed the banter and sat up on his bed to make room for her.

“Are you worried about school starting next week?”

“A little but mostly just my thoughts are wandering today.”

“Oh anything you want to discuss?”

Ezra thought for a moment before biting his bottom lip and giving a quick nod.

Sarah smiled at the nervous gesture, Ezra always seemed to bite his bottom lip when he had something serious to discuss. Now if he was up to mischief it was a quick wetting of the lips and the devilish smile. “Well out with it,” she encouraged.

Ezra gathered his nerves before asked the question he desperately wanted and affirmative response to. “Mrs. Sarah,….. um, would it be okay,…….. um, what I mean to say is, woulditbeokayifIcalledyoumom?” He finished off very quickly.

Sarah couldn’t contain the smile that lit up her face. “I would be honored Ezra. I love you as a son as much as I love Adam as a son. Nothing would make me prouder than for you to call me mom.”

Ezra released a slow breath of relief, he wasn’t sure how his question would be taken; but he was pleased with the response. “Thank you mom.” He quickly hugged her before taking off towards his brother’s room.

Sarah laughed as she heard Ezra’s voice calling down the hallway. “Adam you were right Mrs. Sarah said I could call her mom.”

~~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~~

Sarah was still glowing when Chris came home from work.

“What has you so happy this evening love?” Chris asked as he wrapped his arms around his wife.

“He asked if he could call me mom” she squealed with delight. Sarah was still feeling giddy from the morning’s event.

“That’s wonderful, I’m very pleased about that,” he said as he reached around her to snag a cookie from the sheet cooling on the counter.

“You’re going to spoil your dinner. You know I had to keep the boys outside to keep them from snatching the cookies and mmm” the rest of her sentence was cut off as she enjoyed a chocolate chip flavored kiss.

“You might want to hide those cookies; the big kid is here too. He’s out chasing the boys around. Got a big case coming up so figured we could get some work done tonight, which of course is if I can drag him away from his two nephews.”

Chris left after snagging another kiss and cookie to go save the boys from their exuberant uncle.

~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~

It wasn’t long before the boys were back in school. Adam was enjoying his first grade year, though he wasn’t taking too well with more structure in the classroom. Thankfully he had high scores on his reading levels and was able to enjoy a rotation of art, music and phys ed.

Ezra on the other hand was enjoying his class work but not some of the new students that had arrived for the school year. Timmy had quickly become friends with the new boy, Bob, and Ezra’s torment had begun. The two boys seemed to have a distinct dislike for Ezra and he couldn’t figure out why. All three had been left with their fathers by their mothers, but other than that he couldn’t figure out why they didn’t like him. He was thankful at least that neither boy was in his class, he just had to deal with them during phys ed and lunch time. He hadn’t said anything to his parents and the teacher’s never seemed to witness the harassment.

“Lookie here Bob’O, it’s little Ezwah”

“Sure is, say Ezwah that’s a nice looking deck o cards. I like em, think you should hand um over” Bob said as he moved over top Ezra to intimidate the smaller boy.

Ezra quickly pocketed his cards and stood to face the school yard bullies. “Yes well you’d like a new face too, guess you’re outta luck there too.”

Ezra wasn’t expecting the quick retort and found himself on his rear with his cheek stinging smartly from the blow. He quickly got up and barreled into the larger boy knocking them both into the dirt and they rolled around and traded blows. It would have been a fair fight but Timmy decided to join in and Ezra found himself on the losing end of the fight until Bob’s weight was torn off of him. Not considering the circumstances he quickly planted his fist into Timmy’s nose and cringed at the sickening crunch he heard. He stared a little wide eyed at Timmy’s bleeding nose. The boy was rolling on the ground screaming in pain. Ezra spotted Bob with an older boy trading barbs and blows.

“Afraid to take on someone your own size” he heard the other boy taunt. He felt an instant kinship to the older boy. The soft words in a familiar tone, though he couldn’t place it at the moment. Bob was quickly felled and held stomach as he moaned in pain.

Ezra found himself panting from the adrenalin rushing through his system. He looked up into cerulean eyes and smiled his thanks.

“Ya alright?”

“Yes thank you kind sir, you have impeccable timing.” He said as he brushed off the layers of dirt he found himself covered in. Looking up when he received no response he was surprised to find himself alone with the two moaning bullies and a small herd of teachers headed in his direction.


mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 4

Sarah smiled as she watched her two boys quickly make their way to the waiting car. She couldn’t believe it had been nearly six months since Maude had shown back up with Ezra. Of course she was less surprised that Maude hadn’t been in contact with them since that day. Ezra, to her surprise, didn’t seem to be affected by his mother’s absence. She couldn’t imagine ever being able to stay away from her son that long. She decided that tonight she and Chris would have a long discussion regarding Maude and her lack of maternal care.

“Mom, guess what I did at school today! It’s so cool, even Ezra says so. Right Ezra?”

“Certainly Adam.”

“Well darling why don’t you tell me all about it on the way home.” Sarah couldn’t help but notice Ezra’s rather subdued manner. Perhaps he was missing his mother after all. She decided that she would find some private time with him this afternoon so they could have a little talk. Settling the boys in the booster seats she couldn’t help but smile at their near identical looks. It had amazed her how many times she was asked if they were twins. Of course she could pull out the many differences between the boys, but understood at first glance just how much alike they both were. Coming out of her musings she quickly got into the car and headed home, all the while listening to the excited chatter of her little boy.

~~~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~~

Buck relaxed back in the chair as he waited for Chris to come back downstairs. It wasn’t often that they could be relieved early from work and spend an afternoon off. He grinned when he heard the car pull into the drive. The grin quickly turned into a toothy smile as he heard the thumping footfalls racing up the steps. Any second now, he thought.

“UNCLE BUCK!” twin voices yelled out with excitement.

Buck felt his heart swell when he received a double hug. It was so great to feel that connection with Ezra. It had been a long road before Ezra would stop calling him Mister Buck and only in the last month he had been openly demonstrative with affection. Adam though he had no concerns about, the loving and happy child seemed to exemplify the feeling of being alive.

“Hey what about me?” The gruff voice called from the steps.

“DADDY”

“DAD”

Chris quickly found himself with an armload of Adam, while Ezra slipped his arms around him for a hug. Chris didn’t think he could be much happier than he was now.

“Daddy you’re home! How come? Are we going to do something? Is Uncle Buck having dinner with us tonight? Guess what I did at school today.”

“Hold on there son, slow down and take a breath. You’re Uncle Buck and I got to leave work early today and thought we’d take you boys riding.”

“REALLY?”

“Sure thing Pard! Why your daddy and I have it all planned out, but first I need a little partner to help me saddle up some horses. What you say you and Uncle Buck go get them ponies ready?”

Adam quickly squirmed his way out of his father’s arms and raced off for the door. “Come on Uncle Buck we got’s work to do!”

Chris smiled after his best friend and youngest son went flying out of the house. Buck was always a pretty perceptive person and must have picked up on Ezra’s disquiet. Although he had moments of normal behavior, Ezra always seemed so quiet and reserved compared to his brother. He had come out of his shell with Adam’s influence, but Chris figured he may always be that much calmer.

“Well son, you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

Ezra bit his bottom lip before raising tear filled eyes to his father. “Is my mother dead?”

“No Ezra, why would you think that?” Chris watched as the tears fell over reddened rims. He had wondered when Ezra would ask about Maude, but never considered that he might think she was dead. His eyes sought out Sarah’s in worry as he gathered his son in his arms and joined her on the couch.

“She’s never left me this long before and Timmy said I was a bastard and that father’s only wanted their bastard sons when their mommy’s die. I looked up bastard in the dictionary and it said a bastard is someone born to unmarried parents. Mother is unmarried, but you are married so that makes me a bastard, and if Timmy was right about me being a bastard than maybe is right about mother dying.”

Chris and Sarah could hardly believe what they were hearing. They just couldn’t believe that another child in the class had said such nasty things to their son.

“Oh honey, Timmy is so wrong. You’re mother is alive, even though we don’t know where she is at the moment, we have no doubt she will be back when she can.” Sarah was quick to reassure him.

“Son, I have loved you from the moment I knew you were coming into my life. There is nothing that can change how much I love and want you in my life.”

“I love you too Dad.”

“How about you and I see what kind of trouble your little brother and Uncle Buck has gotten into?”

~~~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~~

Sarah took advantage of the peace and quiet with all the boys out of the house. She immediately called the school regarding the incident between Ezra and Timmy. She had a teacher conference planned for tomorrow morning. It would mean leaving early to have enough time to talk with the teacher before the other kids started to arrive, but there was no way she would allow her son to be bullied.

Laying in bed next to her husband she finally decided to have the talk that has been bothering her for some time. “Chris?”

“Hmm”

“We need to talk.”

Uh oh, Chris thought. It was never a good talk when it started out with those four dreaded words. “What’s wrong honey?”

“Maude.”

“I know, but that woman disappears off the map like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s like she doesn’t exist. If it wasn’t for Ezra, I’d swear she was a figment of my imagination.”

“Yes well, regardless of her location, wherever that may be, what she is doing to Ezra is unforgivable. Chris I want us to petition for full custody of him. Maude can then visit him when she feels the need to be motherly. It’s just not fair to our son to not have a feeling of home, and he is my son too Chris. I may not have bore him, but he is every bit my child as Adam is. Those two boys should never be split apart. They are so happy together. God help me Chris, but I wish that woman would never come back. All she causes is chaos and pain.”

“You’re right honey, I’ll start the paperwork tomorrow.”

“Thank you Chris, I love you.”

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 3

“Maude” Chris growled at the woman that had arrived on his doorstep before he noticed the small child by her side. “Ezra,” his eyes locked on the sea green pools staring at him with apprehension and a hint of fear. “My God, I’ve missed you son.” Chris quickly gathered the child into a bone crushing embrace. He couldn’t believe he was finally home, and he would be damned if Maude would be running off with him ever again.

Ezra was too shocked to respond until he started having trouble breathing and then began to struggle for his freedom. Finally the tight grip loosened but never let him go as he felt himself lifted into a pair of strong arms. “Mother?” He knew his voice quivered nervously and he would be later reprimanded, but he had never encountered such an off kilter moment before.

“Ezra darling, this is your father, Chris Larabee.”

Before anyone could respond a small russet headed child flew up the steps. “Daddy, Daddy, I got ice cream at school today. Ms. Mattson said I did all my work right and she gave me ice cream. We made a picture today, it’s in my bag. Can we put it on the refrigerator? Can we?” The little whirlwind barely took a breath before moving on to another question. “Who’s that?” he asked pointing to the child being held in his father’s arms.

“Adam, this is your older brother Ezra. Do you remember me telling you about him?”

“Uh huh, the evil witch took him away right before I was born. He’s back does that mean the witch was squished by a house?”

Chris fought hard to keep from laughing at Adam’s words and seeing Sarah barely containing her mirth he couldn’t help cracking a grin. Lowering himself down he place Ezra on his feet and made introductions. “Ezra, this is your little brother Adam. The lovely lady is my wife Sarah. Adam why don’t you and Ezra go up to your room. Your mother and I need to have an adult talk with Ezra’s mother.”

“Okay Daddy, Come on Ezra I got the coolest game. It’s got cowboys and Indians and horses and..” The voice drowned out as the two boys headed off to Adam’s room.

“Maude I believe we need to have a talk.” Chris turned coldly to the woman in front of him, before heading into the house leaving her to follow.

~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~

A few hours later, Maude took her leave without Ezra. He would be spending the next month with Chris and Sarah while she took care of some business. Her excuse of taking off with Ezra to give Chris and Sarah time with their new baby had felt hollow. Chris was sure there was another reason, but Maude was not forth coming.

Ezra and Adam seemed to settle in well for the first few days, but it wasn’t long before small fights would break out. Adam had never had another child in his life to compete with and it seemed now everything was a competition.

“Daddy Ezra won’t play with me.”

“Why don’t you find another game you could play by yourself?”

“He’s just being mean. All he ever wants to do is read. That’s boring, I want to play. Why doesn’t he ever want to play? He’s weird!”

“Adam that’s not very nice, your brother is not weird. Ezra is a bit older than you and when people get older they find enjoyment in different types of games. Your brother loves to read; maybe you can ask him to read you a story?”

“I did Dad,” he whined “but he said he did not like to read baby books. I’m not a baby and his books are boring, there’s no pictures.”

“I’ll have a talk with Ezra and see if he can find something the two of you can do together.”

“Thank you Daddy”

Chris sighed as he made his way up to the room the boys were sharing. He wondered how Sarah dealt with this every day. He had been watching the boys for the last four hours and had already spoken to them multiple times about getting along together. He hoped things would settle between the boys soon. When Maude returned in a few weeks they would be working out a regular visiting schedule for Ezra. Maude had left them with the responsibility of getting enrolled into school. Ezra had seemed relieved that he and Adam would be in different grade levels, but Adam was not. He had wanted to take his brother in for show and tell. Chris groaned as he considered the call he would receive from the school regarding the tale Adam would tell. It reminded him that he would be having a long talk with Buck about how he explained certain things to his son.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Ezra quickly brushed the dirt off his shirt and sighed in relief that no one noticed he had been dirty. He sighed as he readjusted the glove on his hand again. Baseball is what his father called the game they were trying to play. He wasn’t sure what all the rules were, but when the ball flew towards him he was supposed to try and catch it. He smiled at the ball that was resting in his glove.

“Great catch Ezra!” His father exclaimed.

A brilliant smile with full dimples took over the child’s face. Ezra decided that he loved this game and wanted to know everything he could about the game of baseball. His little brother even seemed to be enjoying himself. It was the first time Ezra could remember ever having such a pleasant day with other people. Normally he was left out and shunned by others when brought to a family activity. That was one reason why he tended to prefer reading. He was out of everyone’s way and could lose himself in the author’s story.

“Hey Ezra come on in son, it’s your turn at bat.”

Smiling even brighter, Ezra watched as the ball he hit went flying over the fence before it disappeared into the woods. He bit his lip nervously as he waited for the explosion that he lost the ball.

“WOW, did you see that Daddy? Ezra hit a home run! Wow can you show me how to do that Ezra? Man wait till I tell the kids at school!”

“Nice hit son, I think you’re a natural.”

An hour later Sarah smiled as she watched her three boys playing a game of ball. She was so happy to see all of them playing together. It seemed her little boy now had a hero worship with his big brother’s baseball playing. She knew the childhood fights would continue but had a feeling the two boys would become very close over the years. She was only saddened that Maude had cheated them out of so many years together.

 

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 2

It felt like hours to the waiting couple as they held onto each other in anticipation for any news. It was, however, only an hour before the doctor walked into the waiting room.

“Mr. and Mrs. Larabee, Ms. Standish came through the surgery just fine, she’s on her way back to her room for recovery.”

“What about the child?” Sarah asked, interrupting the physician.

“As you know we had to do an emergency cesarean because of the presentation and the prolapsed umbilical cord.”

Chris squeezed his wife’s hand tightly; he feared the worst with the direction the conversation was headed. “The baby, is the baby alright?”

“Your son is in the neonatal intensive care unit.”

Chris felt the breath catch in his lungs, he had a son. A son, that was in an intensive care unit. He looked helplessly towards Sarah.

Sarah understood her husband’s fear; even though this child was not hers biologically she felt just as much anxiety as her husband. “Doctor, why is he in the intensive care unit?”

“The prolapsed cord was cutting off the blood circulation to the child. This caused him to become stressed within the womb, increasing his heart rate. After the birth he was hypoxic, meaning that he was not getting enough oxygen. Normally once the child is born and given oxygen they bounce back quickly. Unfortunately your son has not been able to come off the oxygen and his heart rate has not steadied out yet. I scheduled an echocardiogram and should have the results shortly. Once I have that information we can further treat your son.” The doctor paused seeing that the couple was feeling overwhelmed. “Why don’t I show you to the NICU so you can see your son? The NICU has strict guidelines before you can enter the area; I’ll have one of the nurses help you. Once I have the results I’ll be back to speak with you.”

~~~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~~

Chris felt wrung out, the last seventy-four hours had been pure hell. He knew for certain that he never wanted to enter another NICU in his life. It was shocking to see his small son with wires and tubes coming from all directions, but even more was the blue tinge to his skin. The doctor had said the echocardiogram confirmed a diagnosis of persistent pulmonary hypertension. He explained that the vessels to his lungs were constricted and was not able to get the blood flow into his lungs to supply enough oxygen to his body. The oxygen tent soon turned into a ventilator as his oxygen levels dropped. The ventilator didn’t even seem to help as his son fought for every breath. Finally the doctor decided to try a small concentration of nitric oxide gas with the oxygen. He was worried that if the gas didn’t help he would have to start him on a machine that would cycle his blood to add oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide. Thankfully his son had responded to the added gas and was slowly improving. It seemed that finally the crisis was passing and he would be moved out of NICU in the next forty-eight hours if he continued to improve.

Sarah, Chris and Maude had each spent as much time as they could with little Ezra in the NICU. Maude had been adamant on his name and Chris was just too tired to fight her on his name, he was just so happy that his son was alive that he didn’t care what he called him. With only allowing one person in at a time and limiting the amount of time that a visitor could stay left each yearning for each extra moment they could get.

It was three happy parents that finally got to enjoy their son without the tubes and wires. Ezra Patrick Larabee was discharged from the hospital a few days after he was moved out of NICU and continued to breathe well on his own.

~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

It was hard the first few weeks with Sarah and Chris wanting to be involved with Ezra as much as possible. They had invited Maude to stay with them for the first few months, but she had declined. The scheduling conflicts left them both feeling frustrated that they were unable to spend more time with Ezra.

After the first month things began to change. Ezra then seemed to spend the majority of his time with Sarah and Chris, where Maude just didn’t seem to have the time or energy to deal with a child. Sarah believed Maude was suffering from post partum depression, but whenever she tried to bring the subject up with Maude she would be quickly rebuffed. The problems continued to escalate until Maude took off for a few months with no word.

While dealing with Maude was frustrating, Sarah and Chris adored the uninterrupted time they were able to spend with Ezra. He was a happy baby that never seemed to cry. He had the most beautiful jade green eyes with a pair of dimples that made your heart melt. It was not long after that Chris and Sarah found out they would be having a child together. Sarah was thrilled, looking forward to having her child. Chris, though he was excited with the news, couldn’t help the fear that entered his heart when he thought of all the problems they had just gone through with Ezra.

~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~

Sarah’s pregnancy progressed normally and Maude had finally returned claiming she had felt overwhelmed being a single mother. Sarah again tried to encourage her to talk to someone about her depression, but even with the assurances she would do so, Maude never made an appointment. The visits with Ezra started evening out to a regular schedule until Sarah went into labor. As Sarah was bringing Chris’ second son, Adam Christopher Larabee, into the world, Maude Standish has disappeared with Ezra.

Chris, with the help of his long time friend Buck, had spent the following years trying to locate the sly woman. Maude, however, continued to remain elusive and untraceable. Chris despaired that he would never see his son Ezra again.

It was a shock then when the woman showed up on his doorstep, with his now six year old son in tow. “Ezra dear do desist in fidgeting, you must remember child that appearances are everything.”

“Yes Mother,” the soft southern voice quickly agreed to his mother before brushing any dirt that had managed to touch his immaculate clothing. The child wondered who his mother was dropping him off with this time.


mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 1

‘What the hell was I thinking?’ Chris thought to himself as he rolled over in bed. He groaned as he thought about the situation he found himself in. He never thought the party Buck talked him into attending seven months ago would affect the rest of his life.

‘Damn, it’s all Buck’s fault. I should have known better than to go to that party.’  Rolling out of bed he knew he couldn’t put off the talk with Sarah any longer. He only hoped his new bride would take the news well.

‘Shit’

He trudged down the stairs like a man on his way to the gallows. Stopping on the last step he watched as Sarah bustled around the kitchen preparing the mornings meal, wondering if this would be the last morning they spent together.

~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~

Sarah had known something was bothering her new husband last night when he came home to bed. She usually found herself in a half awake state as she waited for the comforting presence to join her late into the night. It wasn’t easy being married to a cop, but she loved Chris with all her heart.

She was forever thankful to her friends for having set her up on a blind date. It was love at first sight for them, hard to believe they had only met six months ago, and had only been married for a little over a month. She knew her parents thought she jumped into the marriage too quickly, but she knew her heart and had no regrets.

Coming out of her thoughts she spied her husband making his way down the stairs. She frowned slightly, taking in her love’s heavy steps and down turned eyes. She wasn’t sure she was ready to hear any bad news and took a few minutes to flutter around the kitchen. Knowing she was only putting off the inevitable she lowered the burners and made her way towards Chris.

~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~~

Chris swallowed hard before stepping into the kitchen, meeting Sarah as she made her way towards him.

“What’s wrong Chris?”

“I got some shocking news last night.” Shocking wasn’t the word for it. Sometimes he wished he wasn’t such an honest man, it would certainly be easier to pay off that woman than cause pain to the lady of his heart.

“Why don’t we sit down and then you can tell me all about it.”

Chris and Sarah made their way to the kitchen table where they both sat nervously. One with the news that had changed his life and the other worrying what had her husband so upset.

“Chris?”

“I got a phone call last night at work from a Maude Standish.”

“Is she a family member? I don’t think I have ever heard of her name before.”

“No she’s not family, but someone I meet before I met you.”

“So she was an old girlfriend? I assume you informed her you were happily married.” She lightly teased, hoping it was just a case of an old girlfriend looking to restart an old romance. Of course that would never happen on her watch.

“No she was a girl I meet at a party one night.” Chris paused as he watched his wife’s brow raise in question.

“I didn’t think you were the type for one night stands.”

“Me either.”

“So why is she contacting you now?”

“That’s the problem, she’s pregnant.”

“Oh my, well I certainly hope she doesn’t think you’re going to marry her. You’re taken.”

“God I love you Sarah.”

“I love you too Chris, but we have much to do now. When is Maude due?”

“About two months.”

“Good, that gives us plenty of time.”

“Time for what?”

“Why setting up a nursery silly, where else would your child sleep when he is visiting.”

“What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Sarah just smiled as she went back to cooking breakfast. She could handle being a step-mother to Chris’ child. It would be silly for her to become angry and upset over something that happened before they ever met.

~~~~~~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the next two months arrangements were made between Maude, Chris and Sarah regarding visitation and support payments. Maude had an amniocentesis earlier in her pregnancy that had ruled out any genetic disorders, as well as confirming paternity. Sarah had been feeling a bit under the weather the morning the call came from Chris that Maude was in labor. Her water had broken just an hour ago and the contractions were about seven minutes apart. Sarah hurriedly got ready and made her way towards the hospital.

The hospital was only a short drive from their home so she was able to get to her husband’s side quickly. She was never so glad to have been there when the nurse came out looking hurried and haggard.

“Mr. Larabee?”

“That’s me, what’s wrong?”

“I’m afraid Ms. Standish is on her way to surgery. If you’ll follow me to the surgical waiting room, the doctor will be with you shortly to explain what is happening.”

Chris and Sarah stared at each other, troubled by the unexpected complication during birth. They followed the nurse to the waiting room anxious to find out what had gone wrong. It was only a few minutes before the doctor came in.

“Mr. Larabee, I’m Doctor Killian, I don’t mean to sound rude but time is of the essence at this point. Ms. Standish is being prepped for an emergency c-section. We have two major problems right now. First and most serious is a prolapsed umbilical cord which has the baby in distress. Secondly the baby has a limb presentation, making vaginal birth impossible. I’m afraid time is of the essence and I will have to answer any questions you have after Ms. Standish’s surgery. I will have the nurse keep you updated.”

The doctor quickly left the couple standing in shock as they waited for news on the surgery. Both wondered how such a perfect pregnancy and normal labor had turned into an emergency so quickly.


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 20:

Thwack

Thwack

Thwack

Ezra stood outside the livery watching as a group of men hammered the wood structure that would soon be the gallows down the street. Things seemed to have moved quickly once they arrived back in town with the prisoners. The trial was a blur, it seemed only minutes between the start of the proceedings and the final verdict was given, even though the trial lasted a few days.  Judge Travis had planned for the men to be hung at noon the next day. Ezra figured the rate the men were working; they could hold the hanging a lot earlier.

He’d never seen a hanging before and wasn’t sure if he even wanted to now. The town’s people seemed to be excited over the prospect, some going so far to have already claimed viewing spots for the next day. He wanted to see justice for his mother, but didn’t think he could garner the enthusiasm that everyone else seemed to have.

“Pretty neat, huh?”

“It is rather impressive Master Travis.” You’re slipping Ezra; you should have known he was coming before he started speaking. Mother would not be pleased, not pleased at all.

“I’ve never seen three people hung at one time before. Grandpa sure did earn his reputation as a hanging judge.”

“You’ve seen a hanging before?”

“Of course, what boy hasn’t?”

Ezra wasn’t about to admit to this little cretin that he had never seen a hanging before. “I’m surprised your mother would allow it, she doesn’t seem to be the sort to bring her darling little boy to such a crude affair.”

“Um well, ma don’t know I’ve seen them, she’s always too busy getting the story for the paper to worry about where I’m at.”

“Ah my dear Master Travis, you do have a clever bone in your body. I’m dutifully impressed.” Well perhaps the boy has potential yet.

“Well um, some of the guys are getting together to throw rocks and stuff at the prisoners tomorrow on the way to hang um, wanna come?”

“I’m afraid I will have to decline. I want to have a front row view of these men put to death, so must arrive early to garner a suitable viewing position.”

How strange, Ezra thought as he watched the boy walk away. We actually seemed to get along for a short time. Perhaps I should withhold judgment on him for now. Ezra gave one last look to the men working on the gallows before heading back into the barn and finishing his chores. His thoughts focused on the inner struggle of watching the hang the next day.

Chris smiled as he watched the boys talking by the livery. He hoped that they would become friends; it would certainly make things easier if things continued to progress further with Mary.

“Don’t think it’s going to be that easy pard,” grinned the scruffy tracker. He could easily read the expression in his friend’s face.

“Yeah well, one could hope they would get along. Sure would make things easier.”

“Whatcha doing about Ezra tomorrow?”

“Not something I want him to see.”

“Yeah, too young to see something like that. He’s gonna fight you on it I bet.”

“Yeah suppose he will, but I he’s got enough to fill his nightmares already.”

“Still having them?”

“Yup, every night, sometimes they come every time he falls back asleep.”

“Damn”

“Yeah”

­­­­Josiah stood in the doorway of the livery and watched the young boy brush down his favorite horse. He figured the child had a lot on his mind, not having noticed his arrival in his usual uncanny way. He could see Ezra talking softly to the horse, but wasn’t close enough to hear what he was saying. He had a pretty good idea on what was on the child’s mind, likely the same thing as everyone else in town, tomorrow’s hanging. Clearing his throat he made some noise to get Ezra’s attention as he journeyed further into the stable.

“Hello Mr. Sanchez, do you need me to saddle your horse for you?”

“No thank you son just came to see you.”

“Oh was there something I could do for you sir?”

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay and maybe answer any questions you may have on the upcoming hanging.”

“No I’m fine Mr. Josiah but thank you for your concern.”

“Are you sure son? Nothing that you may want to know about?”

Ezra drew his bottom lip between his teeth while he considered asking the questions that had been burning inside. “Not at this time Mr. Josiah.”

“Alright son, but remember you can come to me at anytime.”

“I’ll remember that sir.”

Ezra watched as the large man left before turning back to his favorite horse. He soon lost himself in the repetitive motion of brushing the smooth coat. He wasn’t sure how much time passed, so lost in his thoughts, until he was again brought out of his reverie when he felt the strong hand encircle his.

“Doing some hard thinking there little brother.”

Ezra didn’t feel composed enough to speak aloud but managed to nod his head in agreement. That was three times today he had been caught unawares. It was obvious to him that he would need to get some answers and felt comfortable enough with his brother to ask them freely.

“Whatcha thinking on Ezra?”

“What is a hanging like?”

Chris sighed; he figured that was what was on the boy’s mind. He was glad that Ezra had so far been spared the gruesome sight of seeing a man hung; and if he had anything to say about it, it would be a long time before he ever did. “It’s the ending of a life.”

Ezra looked at him as if he had lost his mind. Of course it’s an ending of a life.

“Ezra it’s not a pleasant experience to watch a man hang. If the man is lucky he dies instantly when his neck breaks. More often though a man suffocates and it can be harrowing to watch him struggle for life. A hanging should be treated with respect.”

“Thank you for explaining that to me. I’m confused though, one part of me has no desire to watch the hanging, but the other side wants to see final justice brought to the miscreants that stole my mother’s life away.”

“I can understand that, but watching the hanging is only going to bring you more nightmares.”

“Chris, would you mind watching in my place the men tomorrow meet their final judgment?”

“I’d be proud to stand in your place tomorrow and see justice done.”

“Chris, do you think it weak of me to not want to see the hanging?”

“No, why would you think that?”

“Well Billy Travis has seen hangings before and he doesn’t seem to be affected by them at all.”

“Well Billy just forgets that he spent a few weeks having nightmares when he snuck off to watch the last hanging.”

It was late the next evening when Ezra heard the scream from the Travis’ that he knew he made the right decision. He had enough with the current nightmares keeping him awake to deal with any new ones. 

Forwarded

Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:35 pm
mystdogs: (Default)

Forwarded

It was a slow Wednesday afternoon in the ATF offices of team seven. They hadn’t had a new case for weeks and were feeling a bit stir crazy. JD had finished updating all the computers with new software and any other hardware updates he could think of. Looking out around the office he noticed the other guys just as bored looking as himself. He wondered why the powers that be could not just give them something to do. Sighing he turned back to his computer system when her heard the small beep on his computer sound that he had a new email. Thank God! He smiled inwardly as he found something new to focus on for a few minutes.

                To: dunne.jd@team7.atf.gov

                From: tomgirllove@farmlandfarms.net

                Subject: Fwd: Read Me

                Thought you could use something to do. Love Casey

JD snickered as he read through the email before filling it out and sending off to the next person he could think of, Buck.

Buck looked up from the magazine he was reading when he heard his email chime. Seeing the email was from his roommate and a forward he knew it would at least alleviate his boredom for a little while.

                To: studpuppy@team7.atf.gov

                From: dunne.jd@team7.atf.gov

                Subject: Fwd: Fwd: Read Me

                Can you tell I’m bored! Casey sent this to me, your turn. Here’s my answers:

            Take this test!!! Do not look ahead, at the answers!!

1. Do you have curly or straight hair? straight
2. Which one would you pick…A rose…or a sunflower? sunflower
3. Which do you like better…. Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Christmas
4. Do you like the color red, blue, or green? blue
5. Are you tall, med. or short? short
6. Do you have glasses or not? not
7. Would you rather go to the movies with your g/f or b/f, or go with your friends? friends
8. Pick one….Mall or Ride Aid? mall
9. What is your Favorite
Day of the week? Saturday
10. When is your Birthday? December

Buck smiled when he read the answers. He cleared off JD’s answers and decided to forward his onto Nathan.

Nathan felt like he was going to burst. He knew he should have brought the study forms for his state exam coming up in two months. So when he heard his email beep he thanked whomever gave him something to do with his time.

                To: WhatsupDoc@team7.atf.gov

                From: studpuppy@team7.atf.gov

                Subject: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Read Me

Hey Doc thought you could use with something to do. My answers are on top, JD’s is below. Your next, pass it on!

1. Do you have curly or straight hair? straight
2. Which one would you pick…A rose…or a sunflower? rose
3. Which do you like better…. Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Valentine’s
4. Do you like the color red, blue, or green? Blue
5. Are you tall, med. or short? Tall
6. Do you have glasses or not? Not
7. Would you rather go to the movies with your g/f or b/f, or go with your friends? g/f
8. Pick one….Mall or Ride Aid? Mall
9. What is your
Favorite Day of the week? Friday
10. When is your Birthday? July                                                                                                                                

Nathan grinned as he read through the results for JD and Buck. Finally having something to do he quickly filled in his list and forwarded it on to Josiah.

Josiah grinned when he heard the email inbox ding with the expected forwarded email. He had watched the progression between JD and Buck. Once Nathan joined in he knew he would be next.

                To: Sonofapreacherman@team7.atf.gov

                From: WhatsupDoc@team7.atf.gov

                Subject: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Read Me

Hey Josiah, I know you were expecting this next so I didn’t want to disappoint you. Have fun! My answers are on top. Buck and JD follow.

1. Do you have curly or straight hair? curly
2. Which one would you pick…A rose…or a sunflower? sunflower
3. Which do you like better…. Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Christmas
4. Do you like the color red, blue, or green? Blue
5. Are you tall, med. or short? Tall
6. Do you have glasses or not? Not
7. Would you rather go to the movies with your g/f or b/f, orgo with your friends? g/f
8. Pick one….Mall or Ride Aid? Rite Aid
9. What is your
Favorite Day of the week? Monday
10. When is your Birthday? April

Josiah smiled when he finished and sent his results onto Vin.

Vin sighed when he got his email. He knew what the other guys were up to and knew he would be on the list soon.

                To: eagleeyes@team7.atf.gov

From: Sonofapreacherman@team7.atf.gov

Subject Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Read Me

1. Do you have curly or straight hair? straight
2. Which one would you pick…A rose…or a sunflower? rose
3. Which do you like better…. Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Christmas
4. Do you like the color red, blue, or green? Blue
5. Are you tall, med. or short? Tall
6. Do you have glasses or not? Not
7. Would you rather go to the movies with your g/f or b/f, orgo with your friends? friends
8. Pick one….Mall or Ride Aid? Rite Aid
9. What is your
Favorite Day of the week? Sunday
10. When is your Birthday? September

Vin spent the next few minutes going through the other guys responses before adding his own.  With an evil grin he forwarded his message on to Chris.

Chris barely looked up from his paperwork when he heard the email arrive in his inbox. It was a few moments later when he finished filling out the forms that forever seemed to be piled up. Looking over to the email Vin sent him he started reading.

                To: Bigdog@team7.atf.gov

                From: eagleeyes@team7.atf.gov

                Subject: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Read Me

                Hey Chris your turn, mine’s on top..Vin

1. Do you have curly or straight hair? curly
2. Which one would you pick…A rose…or a sunflower? sunflower
3. Which do you like better…. Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Christmas
4. Do you like the color red, blue, or green? Blue
5. Are you tall, med. or short? Med
6. Do you have glasses or not? Not
7. Would you rather go to the movies with your g/f or b/f, or go with your friends? friends
8. Pick one….Mall or Ride Aid? Rite Aid
9. What is your
Favorite Day of the week? Friday
10. When is your Birthday? July

 Smiling he added his own comments and forwarded them onto his wayward undercover agent.

Ezra was enjoying the afternoon quiet, though he would have preferred working on a case. When he heard the chime that announced a new email he internally rolled his eyes. He really hated those silly forwarded emails. He grimaced when he read Chris’ note.

                To: secretagentman@team7.atf.gov

                From: Bigdog@team7.atf.gov

                Subject: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Read Me

                Ezra fill this thing out and don’t you dare delete it. Chris (PS Mine’s on top)

1. Do you have curly or straight hair? straight
2. Which one would you pick…A rose…or a sunflower? rose
3. Which do you like better…. Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Valentine’s
4. Do you like the color red, blue, or green? Green
5. Are you tall, med. or short? Tall
6. Do you have glasses or not? Not
7. Would you rather go to the movies with your g/f or b/f, or go with your friends? friends
8. Pick one….Mall or Ride Aid? Rite Aid
9. What is your
Favorite Day of the week? Friday
10. When is your Birthday? March

Ezra finished reading everyone’s responses and added his own comments before sending a group forward. He smiled to himself and quickly fled to the break room before the others started to read the response. He could just hear Chris roar his name as he prepared some coffee. He knew the others would be joining him in a moment so didn’t wander much farther.

“Ezra what kind of response is this?” Chris asked testily

“Why Mr. Larabee those are my responses.” He returned calmly before taking a sip of his fresh coffee.

“How do you figure this for your answers?”

“Simple, shall I read it for you.”

“We’ve read it Ez, don’t get it though.”

Ezra sighed before he began reciting from memory. “She was cute and playful with long curly hair that smelled of fresh picked roses given on a warm lover’s day. I enjoyed her pleasant imagination as we sipped a rich bouquet of red wine from short flumes as we discussed her good future. She was a lot of fun, if not a bit crazy for not liking to read. The movies were passé so we decided to visit the theatre, after all who would give up tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera? Movies are for associates anyhow. The theatre was by the shopping plaza, which was quite busy for a Thursday night in May.”

Ezra stared at the others expectantly without any further input. “I do believe I filled out the form to the specifications asked for.”

Vin smirked as he finally pieced it together. “So what you’re saying Ez is that you have curly hair, you prefer roses to sunflowers, like Valentine’s Day, like the color red, are short, don’t wear glasses, prefer to go the movies with your friends, like the mall, enjoy Thursday’s and your birthday is in May. Right?”

“That is correct Mr. Tanner.” He grinned.

“Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?” JD asked

“Why Mr. Dunne just look at how I alleviated the boredom that had overcome our offices.”

“Well let’s see then I cut off the meaning of the answers before we filled them out.”

JD pulled out seven sheets of paper with the answers and handed them to everyone.

1. Curly……….cute and playful Straight……sweet and kind
2. rose…………good but not a dull imagination sunflower….bright and colorful imagination
3. Christmas………………..loves getting stuff Valentines Day……….loves giving stuff
4. blue…….you have a bright future red………bright but not as bright as blue green……not very bright
5. tall……dull but still fun med…..ordinary but not dull short….fun but crazy6.glasses……..loves to read
none…………hates to read
7.b/f, g/f…….can make out friends…….cant make out
8. Mall………….has a lot
of friends Ride-Aid……Doesn’t have many friends
9. Mon…loves school or work
Tues….Doesn’t have a social life Wed…Doesn’t have a social life Thur…Doesn’t have a social life Fri…Loves to party Sat…Loves to party Sun…A Chruch
10. Feb. & July……..romantic June & July…….loves to goof Jan. & Sep……..crazy and stupid May & Oct………A joker March & Nov…..playful April & Dec……..Talkative and Sexy

Now make a wish about anything

“Hey wait a minute, Ezra how come your story matches up with the answers when JD just gave them to us?” Buck asked

“Simple Mr. Wilmington, this is the same forwarded email I’ve received for the third time this week. It doesn’t work anyway. I keep wishing that these things would stop coming and then another arrives.”

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 19:

The trip back to town was interesting for Ezra, after the terrorizing experience with his mortality it seemed the peacekeepers took great pleasure in making their prisoners as uncomfortable as possible. He was placing bets silently in his head over how long it would take one of the men to foul themselves. In the end he considered the tidy profit he could have had when two of the three prisoners had wet themselves, if only he had someone to have placed those bets with. He was still nervous around the man called Red; he just had something wrong with him. Chris was a great buffer though. Whenever the malicious man looked towards him with that evil glint, his brother would get this deep guttural sound and death glare that would put him back in line. Ezra tried to keep the other men between him and the prisoners, a feat that was easily done with the others making sure they were buffering the men from getting anywhere near him.

As they rode along Ezra threw glances towards his brother’s back. His head lowered as he remembered the long talk they had last night. He knew he was a disappointment to his brother, but he couldn’t help feeling that he had been treated unfairly. Maude was his mother and a son had the right to avenge his mother’s murder. Of course he reluctantly agreed that perhaps he shouldn’t have gone it alone, but since he was banned from going along he had no choice but to set on his course. Chris sure wasn’t pleased with that response. It was surprising though that he still wasn’t beaten. He wasn’t sure though if he didn’t prefer the physical punishment over this new feeling of remorse and guilt. When he was beaten it was over and he was being ignored again. However with Chris he seemed to be reflecting on his behavior for long periods of time. He wondered if Chris was just waiting until they returned to town to inflict a beating on him or worse he was going to be sent away for being so much trouble. With that depressing though he hung his head low and his shoulders drooped with his growing depression.

“Why the long face Pard?”

Ezra sucked in a breath as the voice startled him from his inner thoughts. He hadn’t even noticed Buck ride up beside him, and he had to wonder how long the tall cowboy had ridden beside him. He sure wasn’t going to voice his worries over being sent away. “Just wondering how much longer we will be ridding in this dreadful locale.”

Buck had to smile as the boy tried to side step what was bothering him. “Uh huh Ezra, something’s got your knickers in a twist boy, so out with it.”

“Mr. Buck, you’ve known my brother for a long time right?”

“Known your brother since I was ‘bout your age. We grew up together, watched him get married and was an uncle to that little boy of his. So yeah suppose you could say I known him a long time. Why?”

“What about relatives? Do you know of any aunts or uncles or even cousins?”

“Got himself a few uncles, though I don’t recall where their living.”

“Oh. Did you ever meet any of them?”

“Sure met his Uncle David once, man was built like a bear, acted like one too. Last I remember he was running some farm land. Hard work farming is.”

Farming, okay I can do that. I worked on Uncle Matt’s farm for a summer. The first weeks were rough working on Uncle Matt’s farm when he couldn’t do anything right, but soon he learned by self preservation how to do farm work. Mother of course was livid with him for the damage he had done to his hands and told him he was useless to her in his current state. He found himself shipped off to another distant family member. Ezra glanced down at his hands noting that he again had started to put calluses upon them, Mother would not be pleased. Thinking about Maude had him feeling even more depressed, he would never be able to join her on any more cons. He didn’t really even care about the con; he just wanted to spend time with his mother.

“Ezra? You alright boy?”

“Sorry Mr. Buck, I’m afraid I was wool-gathering. “

“So you going to tell ol Buck what’s really bugging you?”

“Do you think Uncle David will like me?”

“I’m sure he would, but it’s been near on ten years since we last heard from him, so you may be full grown by the time you meet the man.”

“Oh.” So maybe he wouldn’t be going to that uncle, but there was at least one more. “What about the other uncle?”

“That would be Tomas, he was a likeable fella, but sure was strict. I guess being the oldest of three brothers gave him too much responsibility in his youth. Chris was usually pretty quiet when he came back from visiting that man. Saw him a few years ago, if anything the man is even craggier than I remembered him.”

Ezra sighed, he sounded like the many uncles he had stayed with before. He was sure that was where Chris would be sending him once they got back to town. He didn’t even bother to ask if this uncle would like him, just hearing the description left him with the knowledge that he would not be received well.

“Buck?”

Buck had to smile when Ezra dropped the mister from his name. Finally, he thought, now the boy will tell me what’s got him so bothered.

“Yes Ezra.”

“When do you think Chris will be sending me to live with my uncle?”

Chris had been listening to the quiet conversation behind him. He knew Buck would be able to get the boy to open up more about what was bothering him. He found himself reminiscing about the times he spent with his uncles. He shared a knowing smile with the tracker when they heard mister dropped from Buck’s name. Slowly they were getting through that wall Ezra had erected around himself. However his good feelings stopped when he heard the next sentence out of the boy’s mouth. He pulled his horse to a stop and turned towards his little brother.

“Where did you get the notion I was sending you to your uncle?”

Ezra dropped his head; maybe he was going to an orphanage. It wouldn’t be the first time he found himself dropped off at a group home. “Sorry Mr. Chris.”

Oh for the..we’re back to the misters. Damn it! “Don’t start back up with that mistering kid, tell me what you’re thinking.”

“You said I was a disappointment to you.”

“No Ezra, I said I was disappointed in you.”

“That’s what I said.”

“There’s a big difference between the two Ezra. You could never be a disappointment to me; but you did some things that made me very disappointed in you. You’re behavior and actions are what have me so upset. I would never send you to live with someone else.”

With a smile growing on his face his eyes brightened as he addressed his brother. “So I get to stay with you? You’re not sending me to an orphanage?”

“No Ezra I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the long haul.”

Chris was answered by the biggest grin he had ever seen on his little brother. He turned his horse back around as they continued on their way to Four Corners.

“Oh, and Ezra.” Chris started with a smirk.

“Yes Chris.”

“This doesn’t mean you’re getting out of any extra chores.”

Laughter grew from the fellow men upon hearing that and only increased in volume as the little boy stuck his tongue out at his brother’s back.

 


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 18:

Ezra was surprised it was as quiet as it was when he woke the next morning. He decided to let the others sleep as long as possible, after all he was always willing to postpone any punishment he would receive. Opening his eyes, he was surprised that the sun was well over head. However he was dismayed to see he was alone in the camp, not even the horses were about. Perhaps he had dreamed of being rescued? He moaned as he sat up remembering too late the wound on his side. It wasn’t as sharp as it had been, but it was still sore. Standing up he took he started to look around and saw nothing. No seven men and no seven horses. He noticed the campfire was still burning and a couple of saddles where placed nearby. Maybe the horses ran off and the gentlemen went off to retrieve them. It sounded plausible but he thought he would have heard a ruckus if the horses had taken off. Perhaps the others decided he was too much trouble to keep around. It wouldn’t be the first time he found himself dropped off far from where his mother left him to stay. He stared into the fire and worked hard to ward off the growing tears. He had really liked it here with the other men.

“Hey you’re awake”

Ezra felt himself jump from surprise and relief. He hadn’t heard Mr. JD come up behind him. “Hello Mr. JD, where is everyone?” He couldn’t help look behind the young man to catch a glimpse of the others heading into the camp.

“Oh they left early this morning to catch up to those killers. They left me here to watch out for you. Sure wish I could have gone with them but someone had to stay and the others thought it best if I stayed. Sometimes they treat me like a kid. You were sleeping pretty sound so I took the horses down to the creek to cool off. You must be hungry I have some food I can heat up for you.”

Wow can he talk. I thought I talked a lot. Feeling a little shocked from the amount of words he was able to produce in such a short period of time Ezra was only able to nod his head in agreement.

“Great give me a few minutes and it’ll be ready. How’s your side doing today?” Reaching over JD quickly put his hand against Ezra’s forehead as he had often seen Nathan do. “No fever, that’s great. When the others get back we can head back to Four Corners.”

Ezra quickly stepped back from the prodding hand. “My side is much improved this morning, thank you.”

“Morning? Ezra it’s a few hours passed noon. You sure can sleep through anything. Why the others made such a racket when they were leaving I couldn’t believe it when you slept through it completely.”

Ezra relaxed as he listened to JD carry on from one topic to another. He sure was a happy fellow. He wished he was still able to see life with so much optimism and enthusiasm. He was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, as the old saying went. He had to admit though it was difficult to hold onto his cynicism with so much exuberance being displayed. “Mr.JD?”

“JD”

“What?”

“Call me JD, I’m too young to keep calling me mister.”

Relenting, “Okay, JD. Why don’t we join up with the others?”

“Oh no, no way, Chris’ll kill me.”

“But you are the sheriff, isn’t it your responsibility to bring in those murderous cretins?”

“Not going to happen. Your brother would skin me alive if anything happened to you.”

“It was worth a try.”

“Yes well, what would you like to do while we wait for the others to get back?”

“Perhaps you would indulge me with a game of chance?”

“Sure Ez, why don’t you pull out the cards while I clean up this mess.”

Ezra smiled to himself, if he couldn’t help capture the miscreants he could at least keep up with his mother’s lessons. Thinking of her he felt his good mood start to slip. How could he play cards while the men who murdered her were running free? Knowing there wasn’t anything else he could do he headed for his saddlebag to retrieve one of his decks of cards. Lost in his thoughts he never heard the men make their way into camp until he felt himself spun around.

“Well lookie here boys, it’s our little jackrabbit. Boy you sure do ride fast.”

Ezra swallowed in disgust as the very men the others were after found their way into their camp, although their numbers has been greatly decreased to three. Looking around he saw JD lying unconscious by the dishes he was picking up. At least he hoped he was only unconscious. “Unhand me you repulsive hooligan.”

The resounding slap of flesh had him spinning around and falling to the ground. He could feel the blood running down his face from the now split lip and cut on his check from hitting the ground. He groaned in pain as he felt his side complain from the rough treatment of landing on it. He scooted further away from the monstrous man to avoid any further painful afflictions, but the man followed his movements.

“Here little jackrabbit, come on boy let’s see if you can run as fast as you can ride. Think you can out run a bullet?”

Ezra watched in morbid fascination as the man brought the gun up towards him. He squeezed his eyes tightly as he waited for the bullet that would send him on to meet up with his mother. He really wanted to see his mother again, but he really didn’t want to die. His breathing was ragged as he awaited his fate. He didn’t want to look, but couldn’t stop himself from opening his eyes when it seemed like ages and no bullet had arrived. He hadn’t realized that he blocked out any sound until he heard the words being growled by the harbinger of death.

“.. you’ll pray for that hanging.”

When had his brother arrived? When had the others come and saved them? So many questions, but as his eyes locked on his brothers he only wanted one thing. “Chris” he half whispered, half sobbed as he flung himself into his brother’s arms when he came within grabbing distance. He couldn’t stop the shaking and tears as he clung to the safety his older brother.

“Easy Ez, I’ve got you.”

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 17:

It was a somber group that left the clearing a few hours later. With plenty enough light to see, Chris was eager to catch up to Vin and bring retribution onto the men that cut a boy down in his youth. It was a true waste of life; the boy was just a bit older than Ezra, no more than twelve if even that. No child ever deserves to be killed, but what upset Chris the most was the manner in which the child had to suffer. It was well known that a gut shot was a slow painful death, to leave a child in that much suffering was eating away at the rough gunslinger. He knew the others were just as disgusted as he found himself. The tense and dismal mood of the others would foretell what awaited the gang. Seeing JD dismount his horse to check the trail left for them brought him out of his thoughts. “Problem JD?”

“Looks like one of the gang split off here. Vin followed the single rider. Think it’s an ambush?”

“Could be.”

“Well Vin left a clear indentation to head this direction. Should we split up or follow Vin?”

“Follow Vin”

JD nodded before jumping back on his horse and following the easy trial Vin left for him. He was glad the tracker left such an easy trail; he found his thoughts going back the child they had tried to save. If the trail was as difficult as Vin had been teaching him lately, he didn’t think he would be able to concentrate on it. He needed to get back on task; it wouldn’t do him any good loosing an easy trail.

Vin didn’t think he was as happy to see the group of riders as much as he was at that moment. Ezra hadn’t regained consciousness during the ride and he was feeling warmer. Pulling his horse to a stop he waited for the others to meet up with him.

Chris felt his heart lurch and throat dry up as he saw the slumped figure within Vin’s embrace. Oh God no, not Ezra. “Vin?”

Vin heard a thousand questions in that one word. “Been shot and running a fever.” He barely had the words out before Chris was reaching for his brother.

“Easy boy, I’ve got you” Chris heard the small moan as he pulled his brother to him.

Vin smiled as he watched Ezra mold himself into his brother’s arms. Small legs wrapped around his waist as small arms encircled his neck. His head lay on the gunslinger’s shoulder.

Nathan quickly made his way over to Ezra. “Let me take a look at him Chris.”

Chris had no intentions of releasing Ezra to anyone and it seemed Ezra had no intention of giving up his hold on Chris. Nathan had to work around the hold the brother’s had on each other. Taking a look at the gunshot wound, he noticed it was clean without infection. He decided to put a poultice on it to help it heal and keep infection at bay. “He’ll be okay Chris, just lost some blood and exhausted. Fever should come down shortly. He just needs some fluid and rest.” Satisfied that Ezra would be fine he left the two brothers and helped set up around camp.

The other’s watched as Chris paced back and forth with Ezra asleep in his arms until he finally came back towards the others.

Josiah saw his eyes search for the bedroll set up for Ezra and he spoke up. “Over here Chris, we have a spot set up for him.”

Chris grunted his thanks as he laid the now limp boy down. Once he was settled Chris joined the others by the fire and accepted the hot coffee Buck handed him. “Thanks”

It could have been the warmth that finally woke the small figure, or it could have been the lack of motion, but more than likely it was the sounds of voices that pulled him from his deep sleep. The voices were familiar but his muddled mind was having a hard time understanding what was being said. He felt himself start to go into a light doze when he heard the angry words drift towards him.

“I’m going to kill him!” Boy does Chris sound mad, Ezra thought to himself. He couldn’t pick up the quiet tones of whoever was speaking to him, but sure hoped they got him calmed down before he got to him. He wasn’t feeling to great and didn’t think he would be able to handle a beating at this moment. He thought about playing possum but knew from prior beatings that it only made it worse. Pulling himself up he was unprepared for the pain that flowed into his side. He yelped as his grabbed his side and tried to ease his breathing as the pain eased. He then felt the warm hand on his back moving in slow circles and the warm voice telling him to take it easy. Before he could do anything a cup was put to his lips and the voice encouraged him to take a drink. As he finished the noxious brew he felt himself lifted into a warm embrace.

“Feeling better?”

Ezra nodded into the warm chest. As vile as the concoction he drank was its pain numbing qualities were well worth the indigestion. He felt the pull of sleep seeping into him as he curled closer to the body holding him.

Chris felt Ezra curl up closer to him and made himself more comfortable on the ground. The anger he had felt just moments before had seeped away as he helped ease his brother’s pain. He decided to make himself comfortable for the night seeing as Ezra was fast asleep on his chest. “What am I going to do with you little brother? You scared the life out of me today.”

“I’m sorry Chris”

Chris smiled he thought the boy was fast asleep. “It’s alright son, we’ll talk about it later. You need to get some sleep.” Chris’ words were lost on the small boy that had fallen into a healing slumber. It was then that Chris realized it was the first time Ezra didn’t call him mister. Feeling his heart lighten he followed his younger brother into sleep.


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