azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: To Protect a Witness
Thirteenth story in 'The Continuing Ezra Standish Saga'
Rating: PG
Warnings: Bad writing ahead!
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: After Ezra witnesses a murder, he is asked to give evidence at the trial but the accuser’s family has other ideas.
Main Characters: Ezra, and the rest of the seven + OC's.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Beta: Not betaed – written in the early days when I didn’t know what the words grammar and edit meant. *is ashamed but no longer care*
Notes: Thirteenth story in the ‘Continuing Ezra Standish Saga’.
Spoilers: None.
Total Word Count: 23,531

Part One

Ezra favoured his left leg as he made his way down the stairs to the busy saloon. It had been two weeks since Nathan had finally removed the splints from his arm and leg but both limbs were still tender. The ache in his leg became bad enough at times to cause him to limp and he was doing this now. Even his ribs gave him trouble and he winced at the pain when he breathed in to hard or laughed too much at Buck's antics. Nathan was not sure, why Ezra's healed bones continued to give him trouble; he had even suggested that they might have been what he called phantom pains. That it was all in Ezra's mind although Nathan was not sure but by saying this he had put negative thoughts into Ezra's mind without realising it.

Ezra though had thought that Nathan and the others used this as an excuse to stop worrying about him, to stop showing him what they called concern. This had helped convince him that it was pity that they were showing him and that they had now tired of it and were trying to find an excuse to stop showing any sort of emotion at all towards him. He knew that this would eventually happen, he expected it but he thought that it would just stop. But they made an excuse thinking that he would accept the fact that it was all his doing. That he was getting use to the attention and wanted more so he continued to feel the pain.

All of this brought home what his mother had told him. That he did all this to seek attention but got pity in return. His mind told him that this is what his friends were thinking as well. Ezra had convinced himself of all this but it was not true, they were still concerned about him, even more now that he still continued to feel pain in his healed injuries. But every time they showed this concern, Ezra thought they were teasing him because he did not think they believed the pain that he was feeling was real.

Ezra looked around the crowded room and saw his associates watching him as he made his way down the stairs. He moved towards the table and carefully sat down in the empty chair. He waited for them to start their usual comments and he didn't have to wait long.

"The leg giving you trouble Ezra?" Nathan asked with concern.

"No." Ezra replied while pouring himself a shot of whiskey.

"Then why are you limping?" Chris asked him.

"Because I am seeking attention remember." Ezra growled at him without glancing up from his glass.

"And who told you that? Your mother?" Chris retorted. He thought that Ezra had made his wall even thicker after

Nathan suggested that the pain he was feeling might not have been real and he now thought that any sort of concern that they showed towards him was pity. Chris had argued with him about it but had not been able to convince him otherwise. And now they all seemed to go through this argument each time they showed him concern. They wanted to give up but that would only confirm what Ezra was thinking so they kept at him and put up with the arguments.

Ezra did not answer him but instead drank the glass full of whiskey and winced at the taste. He did not return the stare that Chris was giving him but turned to look around the saloon. He watched as two men argued at the end of the bar. One was younger and stood over the man that he was arguing with. Ezra could see the anger on the young face and the fear in the older person's face. The older man looked unkept and dirty while the other looked cleaned and well dressed. The argument seemed to end abruptly and the younger man left leaving the other to finish the drink that had been sitting on the bar. Ezra could see his hand shaking; the young man must have scared him.

Ezra quickly forgot about it and returned to his own argument. "It is something that I have come to learn over the years." The sarcasm was evident in Ezra's tone.

"Only after Maude put it in your head." Josiah joined the argument.

"You gentlemen must really stop ganging up on me like this." Ezra shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"Only when you start telling us the truth. Is your leg giving you trouble?" Chris asked again.

Ezra finally looked up at Chris and saw the determination there. He wasn't going to stop arguing with him until he told him what Chris wanted to hear. "Yes it is. Happy now?"

"No I'm not happy about it." Chris sat back and left the discussion at that for the moment.

"You want me to get you something for the pain Ezra?" Nathan asked as he watched the smile come over Ezra's face.

"Don't you mean the phantom pain Mr Jackson?" Nathan winced at the question. He regretted putting the idea in Ezra's mind as it was this thought that was causing most of the trouble.

"Quit it Ezra. Do you want something or not?" Chris growled at him across the table.

"No." Ezra muttered in defeat. He hadn't wanted to start his morning like this but it seemed to be the way they all started now. It was no longer a greeting that he received in the mornings but a question as to how he was feeling, was his leg giving him trouble, was his arm sore, what about his ribs and he was tired of them so he started an argument hoping that they would not ask again the next day but they did and it had been like this for two weeks now. Ezra moaned as Buck and JD sat down at the table.

"Leg hurting Ezra?" asked JD mistaking the moan as pain instead of the arrival of himself and Buck.

"What do you think Mr Dunne?" Ezra said harshly.

"Just asking is all." JD protested.

"You ask too much, all of you do." Ezra growled.

"Take it easy Ezra, JD is only concerned." Buck felt that he needed to defend JD.

"It's not concern, it’s pity and I'm tired of it." Ezra was angry and before anyone could say anything, in return he got up quickly knocking his chair over. They did not see the grimace of pain as he walked away from the table and out of the saloon.

Chris got up to follow him but Josiah's voice stopped him. "Leave him be for now Chris. Let him calm down." Josiah was watching the swinging saloon doors.

"I was actually thinking of going to the telegraph office." He smiled coldly.

"What for?" Asked JD not knowing what Chris was thinking.

"I was going to send Maude a telegram asking her to visit." His smile did not leave his face as he sat back down at the table. He heard the others mutter in agreement.


Ezra did not stop outside of the saloon he kept walking down the main street hoping that it would help the pain in his leg. As he walked past the mouth of the alley, he glanced in and saw the same two men that were arguing in the saloon. He didn't like the scared look on the older man's face so he thought that he would interrupt the argument. He walked into the alley and stopped close to the two men.

"Anything I can help you gentlemen with?" As he did this, he saw the older man fall to the ground the blood quickly soaking his shirt and the younger man turned on him with the bloody knife still in his hand. Ezra's natural instincts took over and he drew his arms up to protect himself. He felt the pain as the knife slashed through his clothing and the flesh of his right forearm. The young man then drew the knife back intending to cause more damage to the person who had witnessed his crime but instead he felt Ezra's fist slam into his jaw knocking him backwards but he managed to keep his balance and come back at him. He lunged forward but Ezra side stepped him and hit the young man on the side of the head this time knocking him to the ground. He then placed his right foot on the man's wrist and pulled the knife from his hand.

Ezra waited a moment but the man did not move so he went to the older man who was still lying in a heap against the wall. He saw the blood that had pooled around the body. He felt for a pulse but did not find one, the man was dead. Ezra looked up towards the alley opening and saw one of the townsfolk walking past.

"Mr Simpson!" Ezra called to him. The man turned when he heard his name and saw the gambler Standish in the alley leaning over a man. "Could you please tell Mr Larabee and the others that I need their help?" Ezra only had to wait a few minutes before he saw Chris and the others run into the alley. They stopped and looked at the two men lying on the ground and then at Ezra.

"What happened?" Asked Chris.

Ezra nodded towards the young man. "He killed the older man." He held up the knife for them to see. "They were having an argument and I intervened but I was too late. He then came at me with the knife but was not successful in his endeavour."

"You saw the whole thing?" Asked Buck.

"Didn't I just say that?" Ezra retorted.

"Take it easy Ezra." Chris walked up to him to take the knife from his hand. "Did you hear what they were arguing about?"

"No. But I did see them in the saloon earlier and they were also arguing then. I guess this one," he nudged the unconscious man with his foot, "wanted to take it a bit further."

Chris leant down, took the knife from Ezra’s left hand, and saw the blood dripping from his right. He saw the cut in Ezra's jacket and the blood that also had begun to soak it. "Buck, JD, take this guy to the jail. Josiah arrange for the other one to be taken to the undertakers and Nathan you can take care of Ezra's arm." He lifted it to show Nathan but Ezra pulled his arm away.

"It's just a scratch; it doesn't need to be taken care of." Ezra growled.

"Yes it does Ezra and if you don't let Nathan take care of it then we will hold you down until he does." He stood face to face with Ezra. "Got it."

"Got it." Ezra replied sarcastically. He walked off to Nathan's clinic with Nathan and Chris following after him.

Ezra's day was just getting worse and his mood was doing the same thing. He felt bad about the man who had been killed; he thought that if he had been there a few minutes sooner he would still be alive. He stormed up the stairs to Nathan's room, pushed the door open, and then paced the room - the pain in his leg forgotten - until Nathan came in. He grimaced as he saw Chris follow Nathan into the room.

"Take your jacket off Ezra and sit down on the bed." Nathan kept his voice calm. He could see the mood that Ezra was now in and it was going to take a lot to stop him from losing his temper completely.

Ezra took his jacket off, threw it on the bed, and then sat down next to it. Nathan came to the bed with a tray of medical supplies and placed them on the bed next to him. Once he had unbuttoned Ezra's shirtsleeve and rolled it up he used a cloth to gently wipe the blood away and heard Ezra's quick intake of breath.

"It's deep Ezra. I'm going to have to stitch it." Nathan told him.

"And the day just keeps getting better." Ezra moaned.

"You're not going to fight me are you Ezra?" Nathan asked him. He knew that if he did it was going to make the job a lot harder for both of them.

Ezra turned and looked at Chris. "I believe that I do not have a choice."

"Good." Nathan went and cleaned his hands and then returned to Ezra. He first cleaned the wound and then stitched it. He did this as quickly as he could knowing that Ezra did not enjoy the pain as he'd had too much of it lately. He could feel Ezra shaking as he continued to stitch the knife wound. Nathan kept looking at him but his face was turned away. When he had finished he put some balm on it to help stop any infection and then bandage the wound. "All done Ezra."

Ezra turned to look at him and Nathan could see the pain in his eyes and the sweat that had formed on his forehead.

"Can I go now?" The pain also sounded in his voice.

"Sure but I am going to need to check your arm on occasions to make sure an infection doesn't set in. The stitches will also have to stay in for at least two weeks." Nathan watched as Ezra stood up and grab his jacket, he then walked out of the clinic without another word. Chris and Nathan followed him.

Chris didn't say anything as they followed Ezra back to the saloon and the table that they had all been sitting at half an hour ago. He sat silently as Ezra drank three straight shots of whiskey. He wanted to say something to him but he thought that it was best to wait for him to calm down. It wasn't long before Buck and JD joined them.

"How's the arm Ezra?" Asked Buck. Ezra didn't answer him.

"A had to put some stitches in his arm but it should be fine." Nathan answered for him. He noticed Ezra's look out of the corner of his eye.

Buck nodded. "That guy we just threw in the cell hasn't come to yet so we just left him in there. We'll go back later and find out who he is."

"He didn't have anything on him to tell you who he was?" Chris asked him.

"No." JD answered. "We checked him but there was nothing in any of his pockets. He didn't even have a gun."

The table became quiet then as they sat in silence trying not to watch Ezra as he continued to drink the bottle of whiskey that had been left on the table.


Josiah came out of the undertaker's to see four strangers riding into town. He did not see any hardware on them so he ignored them as he thought that they would not be any trouble. But he was wrong, they were killers, they just didn't use a gun to kill people. These men preferred to kill their prey up close with a knife and this was something that Ezra and the other men were going to find out the hard way.

Josiah walked into the silence that surrounded the table where the other five hired gunmen were sitting. As he sat down, he looked at Chris and gave him questioning look but Chris shook his head at him at looked at Ezra. Josiah followed his gaze and saw Ezra staring at an empty glass that he was holding in his hand. He nodded at Chris to indicate that he understood what he was trying to say.

"Were going to have to inform the Judge of what happened." Buck couldn't stand the silence anymore.

"He'll be back in town this afternoon, we can tell him then." Chris told him but he hadn't taken his eyes off Ezra.

"So when is Vin due back?" Asked JD.

"Tomorrow." Nathan answered him. He too was watching Ezra.

"Will you please stop staring at me?" Ezra asked them quietly.

"Nothing else to look at." Chris commented. "You're the only pretty face here at the moment."

Ezra groaned and lowered himself further into the chair while the others laughed. Their laughter stopped as four strangers walked into the saloon and headed to the bar. The six hired lawmen took in their appearance; they saw the rough look and the clean well cut clothing. The fact that they carried no guns did not go unnoticed either. The four looked like each other so it was decided that they were family. One was a lot older than the others, which probably meant that he was the father of the three younger men with him.

"Saw them ride into town on my way back here from the undertakers." Josiah told them. They watched as the older man talked to the bartender who nodded towards the six men who were watching them. The older man turned around and walked towards them.

"I understand that you are the lawmen of this town." He waited for an answer but did not receive one so he continued.

"My name is Fred Morrow and I am looking for my other son, he ran away from home and we found out at the last town that he was headed here." This was the story that they always used when a job was being carried out.

"What does he look like?" Asked Chris.

"Like my other boys there. Short brown hair, blue eyes, dressed like us and he also doesn't carry a gun." He saw the lawmen look at each other. "You've seen him?"

"We have someone who looks like that in our jail." Chris told him. "You might want to go and see if it's him."

"What's he doing in jail?" He frowned at Chris. He kept the anger that he felt inside. Joseph must have been sloppy to be caught. This would mean more work for the rest of them, they would have to get him out of jail but that would be difficult with seven lawmen in the town.

"Murder." Chris growled.

"Are you saying my son killed someone?" Very sloppy and he was going to be punished when they did get him out.

"If he is your son then yes, he killed someone." Chris looked at Buck. "Buck, JD why don't you take Mr Morrow here to see his son."

"Sure." Buck and JD got up and were followed out of the saloon by a man who was willing to kill anyone to protect his
sons and that included lawmen.


When they arrived at the jail, they found that the young man had regained consciousness. Buck and JD stood back while Morrow talked with his son. They could hear what the conversation was about and the man sounded quite upset that his son was in this situation. The man asked them if he could be alone with his son for a few minutes and after agreeing to one of them checking him for any weapons they left and stood outside. They had thought the man was genuine.

"You want to tell me what went wrong?" He asked Joseph.

"I got caught, someone was walking pass the alley and he saw me. I tried to take care of him but he got the better of me." He hung his head in shame and would not look into his father’s eyes.

"It was supposed to be a simple job and you messed up." He growled at him. "You know that this is going to mean extra work for us don't you." He didn't want an answer. "This man who stopped you, he was the only witness. No one else saw you kill Hanks?"

"No one else saw me." He kept his head down, as he knew his father was disappointed in him.

"All we have to do then is take care of this one witness so he won't testify in court. Do you remember what he looked like?" He expected the description to be vague and that they would have to wait for the actual trial to find him.

"He looks like a gambler, fancy dressed with a red coat, white shirt and black string tie. I managed to cut his arm though."

Morrow remembered one of the lawmen sitting at the table in the saloon that fitted that description. "Which arm?"

"His right." He finally looked into his father's eyes. "I am sorry father."

"Don't worry Joseph we will get you out of this. When they come to question you don't tell them anything." He left his son in the jail cell and left. He found Buck and JD waiting for him. He tipped his hat in acknowledgement and walked back to the saloon. Buck and JD went back into the jail intending to question the prisoner.

Morrow returned to the saloon and the table that the remaining lawmen were sitting at. He didn't look directly at Ezra but he did see the blood that was on the jacket of his right sleeve. He was right, this was the man who had caught his son and this was the man that they were going to deal with. He looked a Chris as he put an expression of concern on his face.

"The man in the jail is my son Joseph but he tells me that he didn't kill anyone. He said that the man was dead when he found him and that he pulled the knife out of him."

"Is that so?" Chris asked him knowing that Ezra had told him the truth about what he had seen.

"Is there going to be any sort of investigation into this crime?" He asked Chris.

"No there isn't. There is a witness that saw your son murder a man." Chris could tell the man was upset by what he was telling him but he wasn't going to give him any false hope.

"So in other words I will have to wait for the trial and hope that this witness was perhaps lying." Morrow did not receive an answer but he notice Ezra tense up at the words. "I am going to inform my other sons of the situation so if you will excuse me." He tipped his hat to them and joined his sons at the bar.

"Joseph got caught." He simply stated to them. They acted shocked for the watching lawmen. "Did you see the lawman in the red jacket? He's the only witness to the crime so we are going to have to take care of him." They nodded, finished their drinks and walked out of the saloon behind their father, neither looking at the man who was responsible for putting their brother behind bars.

Ezra watched as they left the saloon, he was glad to see the back of them. Something about that man did not sit right with him. He turned back to the bottle of whiskey that was still not empty and poured himself another shot.

"You're not going to drink all of that are you Ezra?" Chris asked him.

Ezra answered him by drinking the glass of whiskey and then reaching for the bottle again. Chris grabbed the bottle before he did. "You have had enough already Ezra."

"If you will excuse me gentlemen this concern thing that you are showing is getting a bit suffocating so I am going to get some fresh air." Ezra stood up and left them sitting at the table to watch his back as he left the saloon.

"You think he's feeling guilty about not stopping that guy from killing that man?" Nathan asked Chris.

"Yeah and that's the last thing that he needs now and it is going to make his mood even worse."


Ezra walked out of the saloon and into the street. He needed to get away from the others before they started asking him more questions about how he was feeling. Once he got enough fresh air he would go back to the saloon, get another bottle and go to his room. As he walked, he held his arm across his stomach as it seemed to ease the pain that he was feeling. He was walking pass another alley when he felt the hands grab him and drag him deep into the alley. He was about to cry out at the pain that erupted in his arm as someone grabbed it but another was quickly placed over his mouth. He tried to fight them off him but there were too many hands. He felt the pain in his back as he was slammed up against the wall and then he saw the knife that was placed in front of his face and he looked up into the eyes of Fred Morrow.

Ezra's own eyes switched from the eyes of the man who stood before him back to the knife. It was a large hunting knife and he knew that if they used it on him, it would cause a lot of damage and if placed in the right area it would kill him. He struggled to get away but three sets of hands held him hard against the wall. His arms were held by his sides while another covered his mouth to stop the cry of help that they expected from him. Ezra finally stood still and watched as the knife moved closer to his face. He felt the cold hard touch of steel against his cheek but did not feel it piercing his flesh.

"I understand that you are the man who arrested my son." It was a statement that was spoken in a cold and threatening tone.

Ezra did not say anything; he couldn't as the hand was still covering his mouth. He felt the knife as it slid down his cheek towards his exposed neck. The hand that was stopping any sound from being made forced his head to the side. Ezra winced as the knife finally pierced his skin allowing a small trickle of blood to flow into his shirt collar changing the whiteness of it to red. Ezra was able to see the entrance to the alley and wondered why no one seemed to be passing it, he realised though that even if someone did they would not see him this far into the alley as the full sun did not reach this far and he was mostly hidden in the shadows. His head was turned back towards Morrow.

"I am going to take my hand away and if you make a sound then this knife will slit your throat in a second." He gave Ezra a moment to think. "Do we have an understanding?"

Ezra nodded but it was only slight as he his head was pressed against the wall. He had looked into the man's eyes and knew that he would do it. He had the eyes of a killer. He took in a deep breath when the hand was removed and kept silent. The knife was still against his throat.

"I also understand that you are the only witness." His tone was still threatening. "I am here to make a deal with you."

He watched as a confused expression overcame Ezra's face. But what he did not see was fear, he had thought that this gambler would be begging for his life by now but he had surprised him. He had killed a few gamblers and deep down they were all-weak, they were cheaters and liars and would do anything to save their own necks. But this one was different. It was going to take more than a threat on his life to scare him.

"Here's the deal, you testify against my son and someone will die." He smiled coldly at Ezra.

"Someone?" Ezra couldn't stop himself from asking. He felt the fist slam into his still tender ribs and before he could voice his pain, the hand covered his mouth forcing his head back against the wall. He tried to replace the air that had been forced out of his lungs but the hand only allowed a small amount to enter his airways. It wasn't enough, he was gasping for air and the hand was removed for a moment so he could get the air that he required to stop him from blacking out. Once his breathing steadied, the hand was put back into position.

"Alexander, show him what we mean." He forced Ezra's head to the side again so he could watch what his son was going to do.

Ezra felt two hands let go of him and he began to struggle again as he had an idea of what was going to happen. The hands that were still holding him strengthened their grip and pressed him harder into the wall. Ezra was held that way for a few minutes and then he began to struggle harder as he watched Casey walk past the alley. He tried to use his voice to warn her but the cry was not heard due to the hand that still covered his mouth. He watched as the son called Alexander stopped Casey at the mouth of the alley and drew his knife from his belt. Ezra saw the knife go close to Casey's back and move around in the air as though he was about to plunge it into her back at any moment.

He felt the fear for Casey's life squeeze his heart and just when he thought the knife was going to strike it was placed back into the belt's sheath. The man then tipped his hat to Casey and watched her walk away. He then made his way back into the alley. Ezra's face was brought back to face Morrow who finally saw the fear in his eyes but it was a fear for someone else's life and not his own.

"Do you see how easy it is to kill someone?" He waited for Ezra to acknowledge him but he didn't. "Lift his right arm." He told one of his other sons.

Ezra groaned as he felt the deep cut in his flesh cry out as it was pushed against the wall. Another knife was brought up to his face and the first one removed. Alexander's hand also replaced the one that covered his mouth. Ezra's eyes followed Morrow as he moved towards his injured arm. Hollow place his hand over the cut in Ezra's jacket and then squeezed. Ezra's scream was held in by the hand that was over his mouth. His legs buckled but the strong hands held him up. He felt the pain as it tore up his arm into his mind, he could feel the stitches that Nathan had only put in that morning tear allowing the cut to reopen and he could feel the warm blood as it began to flow and soak into the bandage. The pain finally eased as Hollow removed his hand from Ezra's arm.

"I said do you understand how easy it is to kill someone." Morrow growled into Ezra's face and he watched him nod his head in a gesture that told him yes. "If you testify against my son then we will kill one of the townsfolk, maybe that young woman that Alexander just spoke to. Could you imagine the pain that she would feel as the knife entered her stomach, we would leave her somewhere so she wouldn't be found straight away, that way she would die a slow agonising death." He watched as the fear strengthened in Ezra's eyes. He knew he hit the right mark, this man would feel a lot of guilt if someone died because of him. "Good we have an understanding then. You testify and she dies."
He brought his knife back to Ezra's face and ran it along his jaw line. The hand was removed from his mouth. "Are you going to testify?" Morrow asked him.

Ezra hesitated for a moment. "No." He lied. Ezra allowed the fear that he had felt for Casey to continue to show so this man would accept his lie. He needed to buy himself some time so he could work out what he was going to do. He would have to tell the others but he had plenty of time for that.

"Lift his other arm up." Morrow ordered his sons. Ezra's left arm was also lifted up and placed against the wall, which caused his red jacket to fall open. Morrow used his left arm to undo the buttons of Ezra's waistcoat and then used his knife to pull his shirt up exposing the flat toned stomach.

Ezra was becoming worried, he thought that he was going to get out of this encounter without another injury to his person but he was obviously wrong. Maybe they were going to kill him anyway. Well at least he didn't have to worry about Casey. He felt the chill of the air as his shirt was lifted from his side and he then watched as the knife was lowered. He felt the agonising pain as the knife sliced through his left side. His legs began to buckle again and this time he was allowed to fall to the alley floor. Ezra curled up and clutched his side hoping to stop the blood that was pouring from the wound. His eyes were squeezed shut and his teeth clenched against the pain so he did not see Morrow crouch down next to him.

"We did that for the enjoyment. Remember if you put my son in the hangman's noose people will die, and then you. Got it?" He didn't wait for an answer but got up and walked out of the alley with his sons walking behind him. Neither of them looked back at Ezra who was still lying in a foetal position with the blood flowing from the deep wound in his side.

Ezra lay where he was curled up in a ball, his hand clutching his bleeding side; there was too much pain for him to want to move. The pain was excruciating and he could also feel the nausea already building within his stomach but he knew that he had to get up, if he stayed where he was he would only end up bleeding to death and then he would become the second man to die in an alley on the same day. He gritted his teeth and raised himself to his knees, waiting a moment for the spinning ground to a stop. Ezra then used the wall of the building to help himself stand up, then leaning against it as he had been forced to do before, he waited again hoping that he was not going to blackout.
He glanced down at his blood soaked shirt and grimaced as he lifted it up away from the wound. All he could see was the blood that continued to flow from the deep cut in his side. He pulled his jacket closed and pushed himself off the wall, he swayed for a moment feeling the dizziness as it swept through him but he managed to keep his balance so he started to walk towards the opening of the alley. He made it to the alleyway's exit and looked around for some sort of help but there was no one close enough to help him. As usual, he would have to help himself but this was something that he'd had to do all his life.

He walked slowly and carefully towards the saloon and was grateful when he reached the swinging doors. Ezra was about to enter when he saw Nathan and the other lawmen sitting at the table in the corner and his mother's voice reached his ears. 'If you tell them all you will get is pity.' He quickly stepped back and leaned against the wall as the darkness threatened to take control of his body again. Ezra remembered all the pity that he had been receiving over the last eight weeks, pity that he had never wanted and did not want and he'd had enough of it. He knew that if he walked in there and allowed them to see the wound they would fuss over him; they would show him pity and then babysit him until he was well again. Not to mention all the pain that Nathan would cause him by stitching the wound. He didn't want that, he didn't want to be smothered any more or receive the pity that they claimed to be concern. He would tell them that he had been threatened but not now, they would see the wound. Ezra's insecurities had done what the darkness could not do; it took control of his mind.

He took a deep breath, clutched his jacket across his stomach and walked into the saloon making sure that the limp was obvious. As he limped through the saloon he saw the lawmen looking at him out of the corner of his eye, he could see the pity that lined their faces. Ezra made sure that he did not look at them, as they would see the pain that he was not able to hide from his own expression. He heard Nathan's voice and stopped in his tracks.

"You okay Ezra?" He heard the pity in Nathan's voice.

"My leg is causing me some pain so I am going to my room to rest." Ezra growled at him.

"Do you want me to look at it?" Nathan asked again.

"If I want you to look at it Mr Jackson I will ask you." Ezra walked to the bar hoping that he would not end up finding Chris Larabee in his face as it seemed to happen when he refused Nathan's care lately.

After making it to the bar, Ezra leaned against it and closed his eyes against the dizziness that again threatened him. When it left him, he lifted his head and asked the bartender for a bottle of whiskey. His hands were covered in blood so he did not pick the bottle up while the bartender was watching him; he waited for him to move away. He grabbed the whiskey and headed towards the stairs, which he had to climb carefully because of his leg and the new wound in his side. He couldn't use his hands to grab the rail, as the others would see the blood. He began to sweat, as he knew the longer he took, the more likely it was that one of the others would come and offer their help, which was the last thing he wanted. He finally reached the top and then moved towards his room grateful that he was able to make it without the others realising that something was wrong.

Ezra closed the door behind him, waited a moment and then carefully made his way to the dresser where he removed one of his older shirts. He then slowly walked to the bed and sat down heavily, groaning against the pain that he felt in his side. He put both the bottle and shirt on the bed beside him and carefully removed his upper clothing clenching his teeth against the pain and the nausea. He tore up the white ruffled shirt that had once been his favourite and then pulled the cork out of the bottle using his teeth. He soaked one of the strips of shirt with the whiskey. He took a long drink of the alcohol and then pressed the cloth against the still bleeding wound.

He felt the pain as it exploded in his side and his left hand grabbed the bedpost, his knuckles turning white, his teeth were clenched so tight against the scream that his jaw began to ache. He held on as long as he could before he pulled the cloth away. He wiped away the sweat that was falling into his eyes and waited for the white spots to clear from his vision. Once he was able to focus, again he placed the blood soaked cloth against his side again feeling the pain once more as it tore through him. Ezra quickly removed it as he felt the darkness coming for him. The last thing he wanted was to black out and then have one of his associates walk in and find him lying here with a wound in his side. If that was to happen, the pity would begin.

Ezra decided to bandage the wound tightly, which he thought, would eventually stop the bleeding. He again soaked one of the clean strips of material and put it gently on the wound. The pain was bad but not bad enough to cause him to black out. He wrapped another few of the strips around his waist to hold the material in place but the cloth was quickly soaked with the blood that was still leaking from the wound. Ezra then took another drink from the bottle and as he tilted his head back, he felt a wave of dizziness overtake him. He dropped the bottle and it hit the floor the whiskey pouring out and soaking the carpet as the blood soaked his makeshift bandage. He left the bottle where it was and managed to pull back the bed covers, he lifted his still booted feet onto the bed and then covered both himself and the two bleeding wounds so that if anyone came in they would think that he was sleeping. He blacked out as soon as his head hit the pillow, the blood loss finally taking its toll on his body.


"You think he's okay?" Chris asked Nathan as he watched Ezra slowly walk up the stairs. He wanted to go and help him but knew that Ezra's stubborn pride would only push him away.

"Yeah, rest is the best thing for him now. I'll go up later and check him. Hopefully he'll be in a better mood as well." Like Chris, Nathan wanted to follow Ezra up the stairs but he kept himself from doing so.

Buck and JD entered the saloon and headed straight for the table and sat down in two of the empty chairs. "That guy in the jail won't say anything." Buck told Chris.

"He doesn't have to. Ezra saw the whole thing and that is going to be enough for the Judge." Chris informed him.

"Where is Ezra anyway?" Asked JD as he looked around the saloon.

"Up in his room resting." JD and Buck heard the concern in Nathan's voice. "He was limping pretty badly so he went up to get some rest. More likely though that he wanted to just get away from us." They all nodded knowing that what Nathan said was probably true.

Part One | Part Two

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