azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Are you a Believer?
Rating: PG
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Category: ATF
Main Characters: Ezra and Buck and Josiah
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Notes: My second story for the [livejournal.com profile] 10_hurt_comfort challenge. The original table can be found here.
Table: Injuries
Prompt: No. 6 – insect bite
Summary: While Josiah, Buck and Ezra escort an unstable witness into Denver, Ezra is stung by a wasp
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete





Prologue


A long time ago, aliens disguised as brightly colored wasps, attempted to invade a small planet called Earth.

They failed.



Part one


A small but comfortable flower patterned couch, facing the front door, rested in the center of the living room. A long coffee table, almost the same length of the couch stood in front of it and a large rectangular wicker basket full of brown knitting wool sat on the table. A neat pile of craft magazines sat next to it. Bookcases lined the left and right walls. Books, stacked from largest to smallest, overflowed onto the clean but threadbare-carpeted floor. Family pictures filled every other space, leaving little room for anything else except for the windows on either side of the front door. An archway in the wall behind the couch led to the rest of the house. The room was neat, obsessively neat. No a speck of dust anywhere. Even the two front windows sparkled.

And in the middle of it all, stood Mrs. Jocelyn Watermaker.

Mrs. Watermaker wore a pale yellow long sleeved shirt that must have been at least twenty years old; the cuffs and collar frayed, and the elbows worn. A brown skirt started below her small breasts and ended just above black pumps. At the age of forty-four, Jocelyn Watermaker had a figure that a younger woman would envy. Her hair, tied back into a tight bun, had turned grey many years earlier and she wore steel-rimmed eyeglasses on the tip of her nose.

She reminded Josiah of a dedicated, but overly strict, schoolteacher he had had when he was eight.

“I’m sure Ralph won’t be long.” Mrs. Watermaker tucked a lose strand of hair behind her left ear. “He doesn’t get to go out much and when he does, he likes to look his best. He’s a lot like his father that way.”

Josiah smiled at her and said, “I understand.” He nodded to the man who stood behind the couch and to the left of the archway. “Agent Standish is the same, always likes to dress for the occasion.”

Ezra, dressed in an expensive black pinstriped suit and white shirt, gave Josiah the finger.

She smiled but then her expression changed to one of embarrassment. “Oh dear, where are my manners? Mr. Sanchez, would you like a cup of tea while you wait for Ralph? Or a banana muffin? I made some fresh this morning.”

“No, thank you,” answered Josiah.

“Mr. Wilmington?” She smiled at the man standing near the front door.

Buck turned away from the window, smiled and said, “No thank you, ma’am.”

She turned around so she could look at Ezra. “Mr. Standish, how about you? Would you like a muffin and a cup of tea?”

Ezra smiled, “We’re on a mission from God.”

While Mrs. Watermaker had her back turned, Josiah mouthed the words, shut up at Ezra.

“Oh, Ralph will be pleased. He’ll be happy to know you’re a believer.”

Ezra stopped smiling and said, “Excuse me?”

Mrs. Watermaker was about to answer when she saw Ralph. She smiled proudly, showing perfect white teeth. “Here’s Ralph now, and doesn’t he look handsome.” She moved gracefully around the couch, toward the archway and held out her right arm. “Come on, Ralph, you mustn’t keep these gentlemen waiting.” She took her son’s hand and led him into the living room.

Ralph Watermaker, twenty-three years old and looking surprisingly like a young George Clooney, stood just over six foot. A cheap but clean brown suit hung loosely on his thin frame. His eyes, a very clear ocean blue, surveyed the room. He also wore a tin foil hat.

“Don’t you look handsome.” Mrs. Watermaker adjusted her son’s tie. “Just like your father.” She glanced toward Ezra before continuing, “Poor man was abducted and never returned to us.”

Ralph pulled his hand from his mother’s grip and stepped back into the hall.

“He can be very shy,” explained Mrs. Watermaker. “It’s alright Ralph, these men won’t hurt you. Mr. Standish here is a believer, so there is no need to be afraid. I’m sure he’ll be willing to die to protect you.”

Ezra frowned.

Buck smothered a snort.

Josiah shook his head, smiling at the confused expression on Ezra’s face. They were here to escort Ralph Watermaker into Denver so the young man could make a witness statement. Chris had wanted someone to take the young man’s statement here in his home, but for some reason Judge Travis had insisted that Ralph came to Denver to make his statement in front of official witnesses who wanted to ask the questions. Bureaucracy at its best. There was no threat of danger. No one would need to give their lives to protect Ralph, not today or any other day.

Ralph moved silently back into the living room. “Which one is Mr. Standish?”

“This gentleman here,” Mrs. Watermaker pointed to Ezra. “Not quite as handsome as you Ralph, but most men aren’t. They don’t have your bone structure, or your eyes and he is kind of short.”

Ezra’s frown grew.

Ralph smiled at his mother and turned to Ezra first, he put out his hand and said, “Pleased to meet you. My name is Ralph Watermaker.”

Ezra, who couldn’t stop frowning at the tin foil hat Ralph was wearing, shook Ralph’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Ralph quickly moved to stand in front of Josiah and put his hand out, “Pleased to meet you. My name is Ralph Watermaker. Are you a believer too?”

“Josiah Sanchez,” said Josiah as he shook hands. “And I’m only a believer in God.

Ralph walked up to Buck and again stuck out his hand, “Pleased to meet you. My name is Ralph Watermaker. Are you a believer too?”

“Ah, no, I’m not.” Buck couldn’t take his eyes off the tin foil hat shaped like a woollen cap. It even had flaps that covered Ralph’s ears. “Buck Wilmington.”

While Ralph was introducing himself to the three men who were to escort him to Denver, Mrs. Watermaker had disappeared through the archway, returning once the introductions were complete. She carried a large picnic basket and after handing it over to Ezra she said, “I’ve packed a lunch for all of you. Sandwiches with homemade meatloaf. I put in the banana muffins,” she patted Ezra’s arm. “You’ll like them and there's plenty of coffee. Ralph likes his coffee. Make sure you stop every hour on the hour so he can eat. Low blood sugar and I’m sure you don’t want him throwing up in your car.”

“Thank you,” was all Ezra could say.

Her eyes filled and she leaned closer to Ezra, “Please take care of him. Whenever he leaves the house, I’m terrified that he won’t come back, and I can’t lose him like I lost his father. Not knowing where they took him or what they’re doing to him. My husband is too old to fight in the war, you see and it’s the not knowing that eats away at me. And if they took Ralph again...”

“He’ll be fine,” said Ezra as he quickly moved away from her and toward the front door. The sooner this was over with the better. “Josiah, I think it’s time we were leaving.”

Mrs. Watermaker, after wiping her eyes and adjusting her glasses, followed him, and stopped in front of her son. “Now, Ralph, you take care of yourself and do what these gentlemen tell you.”

Ralph smiled and leaned forward, kissing his mother on the cheek. “This is going to be an adventure of a life time.”

“You’re telling me,” said Buck as he opened the front door. A soft cool breeze touched his face as it drifted past him into the house. “An adventure of a life time.”

Josiah elbowed Buck into silence.

Ezra pushed past Buck and walked through the open doorway, stopping on the veranda. He leaned forward and looked up at the sky; it was still clear, not a cloud in sight. The weather people had no idea. Buck, followed by Josiah and Ralph, quickly joined him.

Ralph was hesitant, not sure, if he really wanted to do this.

“Don’t worry, Ralph,” said Buck. “Ezra here’s a believer. He’ll take care of you.”

Ralph smiled and moved to stand beside Ezra.

The door closed behind them.

That’s when Buck grabbed Josiah’s right arm and dragged him away from Ralph and Ezra, not stopping until they reached the other end of the veranda. He pushed his brown jacket out of the way and placed his hands on his hips, his right hand resting on the Glock clipped to his belt. “Josiah, we can’t take him to Denver! They’ll put him in a Looney bin as soon as they see that hat.”

Josiah looked over at Ralph. The young man was smiling down at Ezra, and Ezra was doing his best to ignore him.

“We’ll take his hat off when we get there.”

“Look at him, Josiah! They’ll know he’s crazy the moment he opens his mouth and says something.”

“He hasn’t actually said much. Not enough to make anyone think he’s a nut job. And our job is to take him to Denver, Buck, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

“They’ll put him away.”

“No they won’t,” Josiah assured him.

Buck looked at Ralph then back at Josiah. “He seems like a good kid, crazy, but a good kid.”

“Bit like JD, except for the crazy part,” smiled Josiah.

“Yeah,” said Buck. “You know, I get the strangest feeling that Chris knew exactly what we were going to find when we got here. It would explain that look he was wearing when we left.”

A large crash followed by a string of curses, “Ow! Shit! Damn it!” had them turning to face Ezra.

Ezra had dropped the picnic basket and was now shaking his right hand. Both Buck and Josiah moved quickly toward Ezra, Buck bending down to pick up the picnic basket, and Josiah taking Ezra’s arm to inspect it.

Ezra pulled his arm away from prying fingers.

“What happened?” Josiah asked as he continued to try to catch Ezra’s elusive arm.

“Something bit me.”

“That would be Mr. Yohonas,” said Ralph.

All three agents stopped what they were doing to look at Ralph and when he saw them watching him, he added, “He’s the wasp living in the nest up there.” He pointed to a wasps nest growing out of the one of the veranda’s support posts. “He’s visiting. He crash landed in the back yard, oh when was it,” he tapped his chin with his finger, “about two weeks ago I think. He took on the disguise of a wasp just like his ancestors before him when they invaded three hundred years ago. The invasion failed of course and every fifty years they send a small advancement of scouts to collect information to take back to their leader. But Mr. Yohonas can’t contact his home, what with his space craft being so severely damaged.”

Ezra held his right arm close to his chest, away from Josiah, and said, “Are you trying to tell me that I’ve just been stung by an alien disguised as a wasp?”

“Yes,” smiled Ralph.

Buck gave Josiah a look that said I told you so. He then turned his gaze to Ralph and not knowing whether to laugh or cry, he asked, “And you know this how?”

“Mr. Yohonas told me. But it’s supposed to be a secret,” Ralph frowned before breaking out into a huge smile. “But Mr. Standish is a believer so I’m sure Mr. Yohonas won’t mind.” He frowned again. “But why would Mr. Yohonas sting Mr. Standish?”

Buck smiled at Ralph. “Don’t worry about it, Ralph. Ezra’s not a likeable person, he gets himself bitten by a lot of things, and not just bugs.”

Ezra sneered at Buck.

“Oh, that’s not nice,” said Ralph.

Josiah took Ralph’s arm and led him toward the black SUV parked in the driveway. “Let’s go, and Ralph, no more talk about aliens.”

“Ezra?”

“What?”

Buck stood with the picnic basket in his hands, watching Ezra. “You’re not allergic are you?”

“What?” Ezra was holding his right hand in his left, squeezing and twisting the skin in an attempt to alleviate the pain.

“You know, throat closing up, stop breathing, and drop dead, anaphylactic shock type of allergic.”

“Do I look like I’ve stopped breathing?”

“No, you look like you’ve been stung by an alien.” Buck smiled at Ezra’s reaction. It wasn’t often that Ezra swore like a street hoodlum. He followed the Southerner off the veranda and to the SUV and after throwing the picnic basket onto the front seat, he joined Ezra and Ralph in the back seat.

Ralph Watermaker sat between the two men, a smile on his face, and wearing a tin foil hat that shined.

=====================================================


Thirty-five minutes into the five-hour drive back to Denver, Ezra’s hand began to swell where the wasp had stung him. The skin turning red, the flesh becoming tender, and a rash of hives had begun to spread out from the back of his hand up along his forearm. His head ached and his stomach was upset, angry. He needed the car to stop. He needed to get out and get some fresh air before he threw up. He swallowed the bile and closed his eyes but when the movement of the car made him feel worse, he opened his eyes again.

And beside him, Ralph Watermaker and Buck Wilmington wouldn’t stop talking. Their voices caused his headache to grow. If he had the energy, he would consider shooting them both, go through the motions in his head. The thought made him smile.

“Ralph? Can I ask you a question?” Buck sat with his back to do the door, his right leg on the seat. It didn’t leave much room for Ralph who had his knees pressed firmly together and his hands in his lap.

“Sure.” Ralph was still smiling, his eyes trying to look everywhere at once. His eyes only managed to stay on one object for a few seconds before moving on to the next. He looked at the sky, at Ezra, the scenery, at Ezra, Josiah who was concentrating on the road, at Ezra, and at Buck.

“Why do you wear the tin foil hat? Are you afraid that someone is going to try to send negative signals to your brain?”

“Buck.” Josiah’s voice was calm but the warning was there.

“Don’t be silly, Mr. Wilmington.” Ralph waved a hand at Buck, looked at Josiah, then Ezra, and then finally rested his gaze back on Buck.

“Yes, Buck,” Ezra spoke for the first time since they had left Mrs. Watermaker’s home. “Don’t be silly.”

Neither Ralph, nor Buck heard him. They were now in their own little world.

“When I was last abducted--”

“Abducted? You mean alien abducted. Really?”

“Buck!” Josiah twisted his upper body so he could look over his shoulder. “Leave him alone.”

The car swerved to the left, toward an oncoming yellow Ford Falcon Cobra. The driver of the Ford blew the horn, bringing Josiah’s attention back to the road in front of him. Josiah turned the wheel to the right, correcting the direction of the SUV. The Ford sped past, the driver giving Josiah the finger.

When everyone’s nerves had calmed and stomachs had settled – all but one – Ralph said, “It’s okay, Mr. Sanchez.” Ralph smiled at Buck. “Mr. Wilmington wouldn’t make fun of me. Would you, Mr. Wilmington?”

Buck shifted his butt, the movement awkward with embarrassment. “No, of course not. I’m just curious, that’s all.”

Ezra coughed, swallowed something nasty and then went back to looking out of the window, watching the trees as they passed. The movement was disorientating.

“Anyway,” Ralph continued, beaming at the attention aimed solely at him. “When I was last abducted, the aliens put a tracking device in my head. Of course they don’t call it a tracking device--”

“Of course,” said Ezra as he curled his body even closer to the door.

“--they would call it something else, but they didn’t tell me what. But essentially, it’s a tracking device. It’s so the Pugamitesens can find me when they need me to help fight the war against--”

“Pugamitesens?” Buck asked as he looked at Josiah’s reflection in the rear view mirror before looking back at Ralph.

“Yes. You do interrupt a lot don’t you, Mr. Wilmington. Anyway, they’re a small race of beings living on a planet behind Jupiter. It’s a very small planet, that’s why we haven’t been able to find it.”

“Uh huh.” Buck began to fill ill. If Ralph spoke like this in the interview, they would put him away in a padded room for a very long time.

“They’re in a war with the,” Buck raised an eyebrow in anticipation, “Humaons. These guys believe we stole the term ‘human’ from them and they aren’t happy about it.”

“And that’s why there’s a war? And here I was, thinking it’s because one alien slept with the other alien’s wife.”

“Well, there’s that too,” said Ralph.

Buck could hear Ezra chuckling from his corner of the back seat.

“I don’t like to fight because I’m a pacifist. I wear the tin foil because it disrupts the signal of the tracking device. If I take it off, they’ll find me. It was mom’s idea. She’s very clever that way.”

“Uh yeah.”

Ezra, from his little part of the world, said, “The Government sent us to protect you, Ralph. They are very concerned that the Pugamitesens would attempt to abduct you before you were able to give your statement.”

“Oh,” said Ralph. “They think I’m going to be abducted too?”

“They may think it, Ralph,” smiled Buck. “But it’s not going to happen. We won’t let them take you.” Buck’s expression turned serious. “Your statement is very important to us and the secret agency we work for.”

A whispered growl came from the front seat. It was Josiah’s way of warning Buck and Ezra not to take it any further, to leave the kid alone.

Ralph frowned at Buck and said,” You do believe me don’t you? I’m not making this up.”

“I believe you,” Buck lied.

Ralph nodded but didn’t look convinced. He blinked, many times, but couldn’t stop the tears from filling his eyes and overflowing onto his cheeks. He wiped at the tears with the back of his right hand. His elbow hit Ezra in the shoulder at least three times. Ezra could only grunt back at him.

“I don’t want to end up like my father,” said Ralph as he sniffed and wiped his nose on the sleeve of his coat, his elbow hitting Ezra on the side of the head. “My mother says that he was abducted, but I know different. He’s in a mental facility, a home for the insane, all because no one believed him when he told them about the aliens.” He looked out the window, watched a family of six drive past in another SUV. The kids were laughing, one of them sticking their tongue out at the man in the tin foil hat. “If the Pugamitesens don’t take me, the men in white coats will and I don’t want to be taken by either of them.”

Buck swallowed the lump in his throat. “We won’t let them take you, Ralph. You’ve got nothing to be scared of.”

Ralph took a handkerchief from his coat pocket, blew his nose, wiped it and then put the handkerchief back in his pocket. “Mr. Yohonas knows where I am. If he figures out a way of letting them know ... they’ll come for me.”

“When we get back, we’ll shoot Mr. Yohonas, how’s that,” said Buck.

“Oh, that’s not nice.”

“Then we’ll convince him that they don’t need you to fight, that you’re needed here on Earth. And we won’t let the men in white coats take you either.”

Ralph smiled. “You’d do that for me? You would do that for me?”

“Of course,” Buck nodded toward Josiah then Ezra. “We all would. Wouldn’t we, Ezra?”

Ralph looked at Ezra.

Ezra’s answer was, “Josiah, stop the car.”

Josiah glanced into the rear view mirror before returning his gaze to the road in front of him. “Something wrong?”

“Yes. Stop the car.”

“There’s a rest stop a few miles up ahead. Can you wait?”

Ezra nodded then rested his cheek against the window. After a few seconds, he lifted his head and began to wind down the window, sticking his head out into the fresh air. “No. Stop the car.”

“Ezra?” Buck leaned forward to get a better look at Ezra. Ezra’s face was pale, almost gray. Buck reached for and grabbed Ezra’s right arm, pulling it and Ezra toward him. His eyes widened at the sight of Ezra’s hand. “I thought you said you weren’t allergic?”

Ralph now squashed between the two Agents, looked down at Ezra’s hand and said, “That’s a normal reaction to a wasp sting. It’s not life threatening, unless of course, you’re allergic. Otherwise, it’s just nasty and painful. I still don’t understand why Mr. Yohonas stung a believer. It’s not like them to do something like that.”

“Josiah, pull over. Ezra’s going to be sick.”

Josiah, who had been looking for a place to stop, hit his foot against the brake. The three men in the back grabbed onto something. Ezra grabbed the door handle with his left hand, Buck held onto the front seat, and Ralph held onto Buck.

The back end of the SUV swayed left, and then right on the loose gravel before Josiah regained control, bringing the car to a stop at the side of the road. He left the engine running, got out of the car, ran to the other side and opened Ezra’s door.

“Buck, stay here with Ralph,” said Josiah.

Josiah grabbed Ezra’s right elbow and pulled. Ezra went nowhere; he still wore his seat belt. Josiah didn’t like the color of Ezra’s skin. Ezra was too pale, and the sweat had gathered on his upper lip and along his hairline. Josiah undid the seat belt and practically dragged Ezra from his seat. They didn’t get far. Ezra – in his expensive suit – even with Josiah’s support, collapsed onto his hands and knees.

Josiah, seeing Ezra’s hand, said, “Ezra, that looks bad.”

The limb was swollen, the shirt and jacket sleeve now tight around the wrist.

Ezra didn’t answer. He was too busy throwing up. His stomach convulsed, his back arched, and his stomach muscles ached. This was not the way he had planned to spend his day. It was supposed to be his day off. The weather report had said rain. He had planned to sit in his favourite chair and spend the day reading the new James McGee. But he was here because Vin had been clumsy enough to break his arm while changing a light bulb.

When he had finished, Ezra fell onto his left side, and then rolled onto his back. Ezra Standish was lying in the dirt next to a pool of vomit and he didn’t care. An alien – according to Ralph – had stung him, he was in pain, and he still felt ill. His chest heaved, and his eyes blurred. He felt Josiah’s hand on his forehead before it moved further down on to his chest. Ezra closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh air. He could taste the bitter taste of vomit in his mouth.

“You need a hospital, Ezra.” Josiah began to pull Ezra up onto his feet so he could get him back into the car.

“It’s a normal reaction, Mr. Sanchez.” Ralph’s upper body was leaning out of the car, the sunlight reflecting off his hat. “Mr. Standish just needs some antihistamines, and then he’ll feel a lot better.”

Josiah led Ezra to the car; three steps. When Ezra moved to get into the back, Josiah told him no and closed the door. He then opened the front passenger door and noticed that Buck had already removed the picnic basket. Before helping Ezra into the car, Josiah removed Ezra’s expensive jacket, the back now covered in dirt and threw it into the back. Buck caught the jacket, folded it, and placed it carefully on the seat next to Ralph. Once Ezra was in the car, his head back against the seat, his eyes closed, Josiah took his right arm, undid the cuff and began to roll the sleeve up to the elbow. He winced in sympathy at the sight of the inflamed skin.

Josiah lay Ezra’s arm down along the seat and closed the door. He made his way to the other side of the car and saw the yellow Ford Falcon Cobra that had passed them earlier heading toward him. As the Ford sped past the SUV, the driver took his right hand off the steering wheel, glared at Josiah and gave him the finger.

“Oh that’s not nice,” said Ralph.





Part One | Part Two


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