Title: The Hanging
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Main Characters: Ezra and the rest of the seven.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Summary: This is another story based on a dream. Yes I had this as a dream, I wish I had these more often. Ones that I could write up for you that is. I did leave out part of it that involved a couple of snakes fighting each other over Ezra.
Ezra Standish sat at his regular table; the cards that usually performed tricks within the nimble fingers lay before him untouched. The handsome countenance that was normally filled with humour and boyish excitement held an expression that was close to remorse.
The five strangers had arrived in
He knew he was being watched by everyone. His friends, minus Vin who would be returning in two days, were sitting at a nearby table. Ezra knew they were discussing his troubles amongst themselves. They were also trying to decide who was going to confront him and ask him what was troubling him. He would have to refuse to answer, and tell them politely to mind their own business. Why did he have to keep doing it like this? He knew they trusted him, they were his friends, and they would die for him like he would for them. It was that trust and friendship that would force them to step in and prevent Ezra from carrying out his plan. They would worry that he would get hurt. He wasn't the one he was worried about. Vin was the one he was worried about.
The decision was made and for some reason it was Buck. That surprised him, he expected Josiah or Chris. Each man had their own way of trying to get information out of him. Buck wouldn't yell at him or threaten him with physical harm; at least he hoped he wouldn't.
Ezra pushed a chair out for the ladies man when he came close enough to sit down. He would at least give Buck the respect he deserved and answer his questions, even if it meant lying to him to keep him happy.
"Hey Ezra." Buck took the welcome as a good sign and sat down in the offered chair.
"Buck." Ezra nodded without looking at him.
Straight to the point. "I'm fine thank you, and you?"
"Worried about you, we all are."
Very straight to the point.
"Nothing to worry about Buck," Ezra assured him. He thought about adding that it was Vin they should be worrying about, not him.
"You're not acting like your normal self." Buck leaned forward so he could look into Ezra's green eyes. "Even your poker face ain't working."
Ezra lifted his head in surprise and raised his eyebrows at the man who sat next to him.
"No, it isn't."
Aw hell. The poker face was forced into place.
"So what's wrong?"
"Something is and we know because of that look you've been wearing since yesterday." Buck leaned back in his chair and looked over his shoulder at the men who were watching and waiting. "Does it have something to do with that man you were talking to yesterday?" he saw Ezra flinch slightly. "It does, doesn't it?"
"It might," Ezra shrugged, "it might not."
"Shit Ezra, we know it had something to do with him, you were fine before you spoke to him."
"Okay so it was him, it's nothing to worry about. He just brought up some old memories that I'd rather forget that's all."
"Anything we can help with?"
"No, once I stop thinking about them I'll be fine."
"How long is that going to take?"
"I don't know Buck."
"You want to tell me what those memories are?" He watched Ezra shake his head. "It might help you to forget if you talk about it."
"Give me a couple of days Buck, if I still feel the same I'll come and talk to you."
"That a promise Ezra?"
"Yes Buck, that's a promise." It would be over by then, Buck and the others would know the truth. He would have some explaining to do but they would be grateful that Vin was okay. He also hoped that he was going to come out of it okay
"What a drink?"
"No thanks, Buck, I shall retire go to my room now. I have some thinking to do." It wasn't a lie; he needed to come up with a plan, a way to protect both himself and Vin. It was going to be a long night.
Ezra was once again sitting at his table. This time he was waiting for the leader of the five men. The agreed meeting time was eight AM. Ezra wasn't impressed by the need to rise so early in the morning just so he could say yes.
His friends were obviously continuing to worry about him because they were there, still watching him. Ezra had grown use to the idea of friendship and all the emotions that come with it but sometimes he felt like he was being suffocated.
The saloon doors swung open and he knew instantly that it was the man he was waiting for. The tension in the air had grown thicker. It now hung like a shroud around the room. Ezra hoped that Chris would able to keep his anger under control and not confront the man, it would ruin everything.
The man sat down opposite Ezra and waited. The gambler waited and after a few minutes the stranger became impatient.
Ezra lifted his gaze and stared at the man. The blue eyes held a hint of hatred, his face was clean shaven but his side burns were almost an equal match to the Southerner's. He was dressed in a simple suit, nothing expensive but it still held an air of sophistication. The average face was suntanned and wrinkled, his skin made him look older than he actually was.
"You do huh?" the man smiled. "Didn't think you would. But gamblers and con men are all the same . . . aren't you."
"More or less." Ezra agreed.
But he was becoming less like the person he'd been when he'd first come to town, but people still saw him as a the man he wanted them to see.
"All you think about is money."
"I am what I am because I wanted to, and I'm good at what I do."
The man stood up. "Meet us outside of town in an hour. Where the road turns off to Bakers Hill."
Ezra nodded. His eyes didn't follow the man's exit.
Chris glared at the man as he walked passed and became confused when the man stared back at him. A smile of knowledge grew on the man's face. Chris almost jumped out of his chair in a reaction to the wink that was thrown at him. This man knew something that Chris and the others didn't. Something was going to happen and only that stranger and Ezra knew what it was.
It was another ten minutes before Ezra got up out of his chair and walked to the saloon doors. He stopped before stepping out. His head turned slightly to the left towards his friends. He wanted to tell them something, but instead he pushed the doors open and stepped out into the sunlight. The doors swung shut behind him.
Buck decided to follow him. The others had nodded in agreement when he stood up. The ladies man followed the gambler out onto the boardwalk. He saw Ezra walking slowly down the street; his movements told Buck that Ezra was now carrying a heavy burden. There was more to this than a few unwanted memories. Buck ran until he caught up with him and walked beside him in silence.
It was a few minutes before Ezra became aware of Buck's presence. He said nothing to the man. Ezra stopped, his chin dropped to his chest. Buck stopped with him but still said nothing. He would wait for him.
"Buck, would you like to come with me, there's something that I have to do and I might need some help."
"Sure Ezra, what is it that you need to do?"
"I need to keep Vin alive."
Ezra was now riding towards his intended destination. Buck Wilmington was following him, but was making sure he wouldn't be seen by the men who would be waiting for him. The others should be getting the note he left with Inez and would soon be joining them. He wanted Buck there in case he failed.
The group of men became visible in the distance. Ezra had no idea what their plan was but he was sure he would find out shortly. He didn't make his horse hurry, there wasn't any need to.
The leader was leaning on the pommel of the saddle - Jacobs - a smile was plastered on his face. This man enjoyed what he did way too much.
"Standish." Jacobs nodded to Ezra.
Jacobs laughed and Ezra began to think that he was actually crazy.
"Have you got my payment?"
"Half of it." Jacobs told him. "You'll get the other half when the job's done."
One of the other men pulled a small package out of his saddle bag and tossed it to the gambler. Ezra caught it and opened it to check the contents. The money was there, these men were serious.
"You have a plan?" Ezra asked as he counted the money that could buy him a saloon; that's not what he wanted, he wanted to save a friend's life.
"You'll meet Tanner on the trail, he won't suspect you. Take his guns and then we'll show up."
"That's it. Why don't you just shoot him off his horse?"
"Where's the fun in that. I want to see him beg for his life before I hang him." Jacobs explained.
"You have a point there." Ezra nodded. He wanted to add that Jacobs wasn't going to get the chance to hurt Vin and most likely it would be Jacobs begging for his life.
"You up to it."
"We have a deal. I'll carry out my part as long as I get the rest of my money."
"You'll get it."
"Am I going to ride until I meet him or do you have a particular area that you want to do it."
"I have a particular area." Jacobs nodded. "We have plenty of time. You can come with us and think about what you're going to do. I know Tanner isn't stupid, that's why I hired you, but he may even see through you."
"I have been conning that man since I arrived in town, what makes you think I can't do it now."
"Okay, maybe we can play poker while we wait."
"As long as you're not going to use the rest of my money to bet with."
"I have my own money."
"Let's go then."
They arrived at an area that was familiar to Ezra. A small ravine lay to his left. A few large trees lined it's edge. Some were small but there was one large tree that had a strong branch hanging over the ravine. A hangman's noose hung from it. This is where they intended to hang Vin. Ezra wasn't going to let it happen.
Jacobs pulled his horse to a stop and turned in his saddle to face Ezra.
"Standish, there's one thing I forgot to tell you."
"What's that?" Ezra frowned at him.
"It's not Tanner we want to hang, it's you."
Aw hell was Ezra's first thought. The butt of a gun struck the back of his skull and he fell from the saddle onto the solid ground beneath him. He sat dazed and somewhat confused while three men stripped him of his weapons and money. His jacket and vest were removed. One of the men tied his hands in front of him and instead of struggling against them, the only thing he could do was wonder where Buck was. The question kept repeating itself over and over in his mind. Where's Buck? The thought of dying didn't cross his mind, neither did fighting for his life. Where's Buck? It was the only thought in his head.
Ezra was dragged to the edge of the ravine and held in place while someone pulled the rope towards him. Buck should be here by now? He should be doing something to help me. His head turned sideways and he saw the evil smile on Jacobs face.
"You and your mother robbed my father blind at the gambling table." Jacobs implied. "I'll kill you then take something that she would recognise to prove to her that you're no longer living on this Earth."
"I don't cheat." Ezra blinked hoping that it would help to clear his vision.
"You didn't have to. My father couldn't beat a five year old, you saw that, you knew that, but it didn't stop you from taking his money."
Ezra didn't deny it. In those days he would do that sort of thing to please his mother. These days he wouldn't have allowed the man to leave the table with his pockets empty; might have even refused to play him. But he then he'd done many things he was ashamed of when he was younger
"You're not going to say that you didn't do it." Jacobs was surprised.
"No I'm not."
"What about your life," he stepped closer to Ezra. "You going to beg for your life?"
"No." Jacobs sounded disappointed.
"No." Ezra repeated.
"May as well get it over and done with then."
Jacobs nodded to a man standing behind Ezra. The gambler felt the rope being pulled over his head. He hated the feel of it against his skin. Unfortunately this was not the first time he'd found himself on the wrong end of a hangman's noose. The rops was tightened around his throat. He wanted to reach up and tear it off but it would only be forced back on. One against five was not good odds. Where the hell was Buck?
"Do it!" the order was given.
Ezra felt the hand against his back, then the force of forward momentum. He tried to use his feet to slow the inevitable down. Where the hell was Buck? He should be doing something by now. He felt the ground disappear beneath him and the rope tear into his throat at the same time. His hands instinctively grabbed for the weapon of death and tried to pull it away from his throat. Ezra could fell the fear gripping his heart causing his chest to constrict, it made the effort of breathing even more difficult. His lungs screamed for the oxygen it was being starved of. He knew it was only a matter of minutes before he would lose consciousness, once that happened he was a dead man. Where was Buck?
"Do it now!"
"I don't know if I'll hit the rope."
"If you don't do it, he'll die!"
"If I miss they'll shoot him and he'll die anyway!"
Buck fired the shot then closed his eyes, he didn't want to see if he saved Ezra or killed him. He heard gun fire erupt around him, the sound told him that he had succeeded and he opened his eyes to see the bullet had torn through the rop where it crossed the tree branch. Ezra though, would be lying at the bottom of the ravine. Buck knew it wasn't deep but if he fell the wrong way he could be seriously hurt. And there was still the fact that the rope would still be bound tightly around his throat. They needed to get to him quickly.
The others had opened fire on the criminals and soon there was only two men left standing. Their hands were in the air in a gesture of surrender. Buck didn't wait, he jumped to his feet and ran to the ravine. He could hear the others running behind him. The ladies man didn't stop at the edge, he continued over the top. He could see Ezra lying facing down and unmoving. Buck managed to stay on his feet most of the way down, then he fell and rolled to the bottom. He crawled on his hands and knees until he reached Ezra.
"Don't move him Buck!"
Buck's hand froze above Ezra's left shoulder and his eyes turned to the sound of Nathan's voice. The healer was making his way down the cliff with Chris. Josiah and JD stayed at the top to take care of the prisoners. He sat back on his legs and looked down at Ezra's slack features. His stare quickly turned to the partially hidden chest to see if there was any movement. There was. He was still alive.
Nathan reached the Southerner's side and began to examine him.
"The rope Nathan, we have to take the rope off." Buck told him.
"Have to make sure he hasn't injured his back."
"He can't breath properly with that around his neck!"
"Buck," Chris warned him, "Nathan knows what he's doing."
Nathan pulled Ezra's shirt up and used his hands to feel along his back bone. He then checked his neck. The rope around Ezra's throat was still tight. Nathan grabbed a knife and began to cut into the rope very carefully. It was difficult but he did know what he was doing. After a few minutes it was gone.
"Okay Buck, help me turn him over . . . slowly."
They all winced at the large bruise that lined the right side of Ezra's face. Blood had soaked his hair to his scalp. Nathan felt for damaged ribs but found none. The only other damaged Ezra had received was bruising and scratches, most of them around his neck.
"He should be okay," he checked the pupils behind the closed eyelids, "concussion though."
"Let's get the stubborn bastard home." Chris pushed against his knees until he was in a standing position. "Why did he go and do something as stupid as this without telling us."
"He didn't tell me why," Buck answered him, "only what he was going to do and that was to keep Vin alive."
"Why don't we just ask him when he wakes up?" Nathan growled at them.
"What I don't understand is why they ended up hanging him?" Buck knew it was a question that wasn't going to be answered until Ezra woke up.
"I'm going to beat the crap out of him for this."
"Wait your turn, pard." Buck told him.
"At least Vin's going to be grateful." Nathan admitted.
"That's if he was the intended victim."
"What do you mean?" Nathan asked him.
"It's like Buck said, Ezra wanted to keep Vin alive but for some reason it was Ezra they tried to kill."
"You think Vin was just a way of getting him out here?" Buck suddenly thanked God that Ezra told him what his intentions were, if he hadn't, he would be a dead man right now.
"Maybe." Chris nodded.
"What's going on down there!"
They looked up towards the voice and saw Josiah and JD watching them.
"He's okay!" Nathan yelled back. "Were going to bring him up."
"Then can we hit him?" Josiah asked.
"Buck first, then me." Chris told him.
"I want to go fourth." JD waved his hand.
"Guess I'll have to wait till last." Nathan muttered.
Ow! This wasn't how you were supposed to feel when you were dead. If pain was part of it then he was in hell. Not that he had any choice, it was where he deserved to be. He probably had taken all that man's money but he would never know for sure. Ezra Standish would have been a better man if he hadn't been Maude Standish's son.
A noise filtered into his addled brain. He wasn't alone in this hell. Someone was with him. Did he think that he was going to be the only person in hell? There were a lot of people who also deserved to be here. Most of them no doubt were worse than he was. Another noise, this time it was a whispered voice. He knew that voice, didn't he? A second voice joined the first. That voice was also familiar. Maybe he wasn't dead.
"Is this hell?" it didn't hurt to ask.
"Not yet Ezra, but it will be once you're back up on your feet."
"Aw hell," he groaned, "why me? Why is it always me? What did I do? What do I ever do? I didn't do anything? I didn't."
"You never do Ezra." Buck told him.
"Then why did they try to hang you?" Chris wanted to know.
"They told me they were after Vinand I couldn't let them kill him. I had to stop them."
"That didn't answer my question." Chris growled.
"When we got to the ravine, they changed their mind. Said it was me they wanted to hang."
"They didn't say and I didn't get a chance to ask them." he lied, he didn't want them to know what he might have done.
"You recognise them?"
"Then I guess you're never going to know why they did it."
"No I'm not."
Everyone was silent for a few minutes. Ezra thought about the attempted hanging and remembered the thought that seemed to still be in his head.
"Where were you?" he voiced the question out loud this time.
Buck was shocked by the question.
Ezra opened his eyes and looked for Buck. His vision was still out of focus. He was able to tell the difference between the two men. One was wearing black; Chris. The other wasn't; Buck.
"They hung me." Ezra whispered. "Where were you?"
"I was there Ezra, I couldn't take a shot while you were on solid ground. They could have easily shot and killed you before we took them all out."
"We were all there Ezra. Buck told us before you left. We went with him." Chris explained.
"Chris thought it was best if we let them go through with it, shoot the rope so you fell to the ground, that way you were safe from them."
"You thought I was safe while I was being hung?" Ezra raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
"Yep," Chris smiled at him, "also thought it would make a good lesson. Next time . . . tell us first."
"You wouldn't have let me do it."
"No but we would have come up with something else. There is no need to risk your life like that for one of us Ezra. We look after each other."
"I know that Chris, I just thought you wouldn't let me do it. I didn't want Vin to get hurt."
"He didn't, you did. We might have been able to avoid that."
"I'm not hurt that badly am I?"
"Concussion, scrapes and bruises."
"But you're going to get a lot worse."
"Because Buck and I are going to beat the shit out of you when you're back on your feet. Then Josiah and JD are going to have a go at you." Chris flexed his hands and made two fists.
"Chris." Ezra moaned.
"I don't feel very well, I think I may be here for a while."
"We can wait."
"You can wait?"
"Yep, we can wait."
"How long can you wait?"
"For as long as it takes."
"It may take a while."
"We can wait a while."
"Not from where were sitting Ezra."
"It is from here." Ezra mumbled.
Master Fan Fiction List