azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: A Healing Process
Fifteenth story in 'The Continuing Ezra Standish Saga'
Rating: PG
Warnings: Bad writing ahead!
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: Ezra's emotions continue to heal but he becomes seriously ill and the other members suspect that it's due to the emotional trauma he’s suffered.
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: Fifteenth story in the ‘Continuing Ezra Standish Saga’.
Spoilers: None.
Total Word Count: 22,868



Part One


Ezra was sitting on the porch of the saloon, enjoying the weather of another warm day, as the sun shone brightly on the main street, causing him to squint on occasions as the light penetrated his dark thoughts causing his head to ache even more than it was. He was sitting with a cold cup of coffee in his hand, as he was too involved with his thoughts to remember it was there. He glanced up as the townsfolk walked past and answered their questions of concern. Their questions were about the bullet wound that he had received four days ago and not the emotional trauma that he had gone through, they didn't know about it and Ezra didn't want them to know.

He had spent most of the last two days out in the open because he didn't feel comfortable staying indoors and that was why Nathan allowed him to leave his clinic only after two days. Nathan wanted Ezra to heal emotionally as well as physically and he knew that he would not be able to do that when he was kept in a situation that made it difficult for him. Ezra had agreed to Nathan constantly checking with him to make sure that his shoulder was healing.

The six lawmen took turns sitting with him, being there in case he needed them or wanted to talk. Ezra had accepted their concern and did not argue with them, which was something they were happy about. Ezra kept quite most of the time though, sometimes he would talk about things that had nothing to do with what happened, he still kept that to himself, he didn't really know why but he didn't want to talk to them about it anymore. Ezra thought about what Josiah said, about it taking time, he wondered how long it was going to take, he wanted the need that was in the back of his mind to go away, the need to shut his friends and the emotions out.

Ezra looked up when he heard the sound of footsteps on the boardwalk, he saw Chris Larabee walking towards him. His dark clothing made even darker by the bright sunlight that surrounded him. He looked up into his face as Chris stood over him and then removed Chris's hand from his forehead.

"There is no need for that Chris." Ezra told him as he struggled with the need to push him away, his head hurting even more as he fought it.

"Still got that fever Ezra." Chris ignored him as he sat down in the chair next to him. "Does Nathan know?"

"Of course he knows. Nathan has been like a mother hen. Not a half hour goes by that he doesn't check up on me."

Ezra grimaced at the thought. He wanted to tell Nathan about the headache but he knew that he would only make him go back to the clinic and Ezra did not want that.

"Well you did tell him that he could." Chris reminded him.

"Yes I did, I just didn't think that he would do it so often. Nathan can be very irritating you know." Ezra was serious in this statement but Chris failed to notice, as he was not looking at Ezra when he said it.

Chris smiled, even though Ezra had gotten a lot out of his system and they now knew why he behaved the way he did, he was still stubborn as a mule. He had accepted their concern but still didn't liked to be touched and still wouldn't allow them to check his temperature or show any other physical touch such as a hand on a shoulder. Josiah had explained to them that even though he had talked about it, it would still take longer for him to heal and change his habits as he had been living that way for twenty years, they couldn't expect him to change overnight and when he did change it might only be in small ways.


"You could always go back Ezra, I'm sure Nathan won't mind." Chris told him.

"Only if I receive another serious injury Chris and the way I am going lately that probably won't be far away." Ezra laughed as he tried to put some humour in his voice before Chris realised that there was something wrong, Ezra knew that there was but he couldn't work out what it was exactly.

Chris didn't know whether to laugh with him or not. Ezra was right about his injuries and Chris was worried that the next time he might be killed. For some reason Ezra was injured more often than the rest of them. Ezra had also used his first name as he had been doing since he woke up in Nathan's clinic, he had been using everybody's first name and it had not gone unnoticed by any of them. This was one of the small changes that Josiah was talking about.

"Ezra." Chris became serious. He waited for Ezra to look at him.

"Yes?" Ezra turned his eyes towards Chris and after seeing the serious expression, he became worried. "You are going to put me back in there."



"No that's not what I want to say." Chris saw that most of the pain had gone from Ezra's eyes and the usual glint was returning but there was something behind it but it was gone from Ezra's eyes before he could see what it was. "I just wanted to tell you that . . ."

"Tell me what?" Ezra wanted to know as he knew that it must have been something that he did. "I haven't done anything that would make you angry over the last few days."

"Ezra don't. Stop assuming that every time I want to talk to you that it's because of something that you've done. I don't like it when you put yourself down like that." Chris ignored Ezra's shoulder shrug and took a deep breath. "It's just hard for me to say that's all."

"Just say it then." Ezra was becoming impatient.

"I wanted to tell you that I'm proud of you for what you did, for finally dealing with what was bothering you and talking to us about it." Chris let the breath out.

"I am not a child Chris, there is no need to be proud, it's not like it's an achievement." Ezra told him.

"Hey Ezra!" Buck called to him as he ran across the street, interrupting the conversation. The smile dropped off his face as he saw the expressions that the two men held.

"Are you proud too Buck?" Ezra asked him.

"Huh?" Buck was confused.

"Chris here has taken on the roll of a father figure, says he's proud of me." Ezra smiled, he thought that it was quite amusing. "I am going to ask him to take me out to play later. Want to come?" Ezra turned to Chris, the smile still showing on his face, the headache forgotten for the moment. "Can Buck come too, he doesn't usually get out much, and you can tell by the way he acts around people, he can be very embarrassing sometimes."

"What the hell are you talking about Ezra?" Buck wanted to know, he looked at Chris when he heard him laughing.

"He can be can't he?" Chris agreed, he had begun to laugh out of relief as he thought that Ezra had taken what he said the wrong way.

"Well I will just get my friend to deal with you." Buck's smile grew as he saw Ezra raise his eyebrows at him. "Nathan is going to be here in a minute and he has something for you to drink?"

"Do I have time to escape?" Ezra asked as he started to get up.

"No you don't." Nathan warned him as he walked around the corner. "And if I hear that sort of talk again you will be going straight back to the clinic." Nathan reached the group of men and handed Ezra a cup. "It'll help your fever Ezra and when you drink it I want to check your shoulder."

Ezra scowled up at him but drank the mixture as he was told to do, the last thing he wanted was to go back to Nathan's room. He then started to undo the buttons of his vest but his hand was pushed away by Nathan. Ezra tossed his good hand up in the air and then gave Chris a filthy look as he laughed at him. Nathan gently probed the gunshot wound in Ezra's left shoulder and heard his quick intake of breath.

"Still pretty sore Ezra?" Nathan asked him as he looked up into his face.

"Yes and before you ask, no I haven't been using that arm." Ezra said through clenched teeth as he glared back at Nathan.

Nathan did not fail to notice the anger in Ezra's eyes and remembered what his Aunt had done to him. "Sorry Ezra." He then did Ezra's shirt and vest buttons up and then placed his hand on his forehead. He gave Ezra a look when he tried to remove it. "Your fever's not improving either." Nathan had a worried expression that Ezra could help but not notice.

"Nathan, please don't make me go back to your room." They all looked at Ezra and saw the slight fear that was in his eyes.

"No I won't do that Ezra as long as you do what I ask you to do." Nathan told him. The relief flooded Ezra's face and he nodded in agreement while stifling a yawn behind his hand. "Good, I want you to go to your room and get some sleep."

Ezra nodded, grateful that he didn't have to go back to Nathan's clinic. He got up out of his chair and without looking at anyone, made his way into the saloon and up to his room, thinking that he could come back out when he woke up.

Once he had reached his room Ezra only managed to take his guns off before dropping onto his bed and falling into a deep sleep. Fifteen minutes later Chris stepped into Ezra's room, sat down into the chair next to the window, and watched the gambler sleep.

Nathan joined Chris in Ezra's room a couple of hours later so he could give Ezra's shoulder a more thorough examination. He had expected the wound to still be causing Ezra some pain because it was only four days old but he was worried about his fever, which had not come down at all during those four days. Nathan noticed that Ezra was lying on his right side facing Chris and seemed to be in a deep sleep so he hoped that he didn't wake up while he checked his shoulder. Chris watched as Nathan gently turned Ezra onto his back, his head staying in the same position and then as he unbuttoned Ezra's clothing and pulled them away revealing the bandage that covered the wound. Nathan then checked it again for any infection, he kept glancing up at Ezra's slack features looking for any sign of him waking up but there was none.

Nathan had found no sign of an infection the first time and not this time either, he had hoped that he would find something, as he needed an explanation for the fever. He also checked his pulse to find it strong and steady and then his breathing which was regular. He was physically fine except for the bullet wound and the fever. The wound was healing but the fever wasn't improving and this caused Nathan to worry even more about what was causing it.

"The wound's fine but his fever should have come down by now." Nathan said more to himself than to Chris while he watched Ezra continue to sleep.

"Could there be something else causing it?" Chris asked him as he stood up and walked to the bed.

"No. Everything else is healing fine, the knife wounds and his head injury are all okay. There is nothing I could think of." Nathan put his hand on Ezra's forehead feeling the heat that his body was still generating. "I'll give him until tomorrow and if it's still the same I'll have to take him to the clinic and give him a full check up, in the meantime why don't we leave him to rest, we can keep checking in on him."

They made Ezra comfortable by removing his upper clothing and boots, they then managed to get him under the bed covers without waking him up and left him to continue what Nathan thought was a healing sleep. The six lawmen gathered at the saloon again and took turns to go and check Ezra to see if his fever had improved. On a couple of occasions, they found him dreaming, sat with him, and talked to him until he settled. They were all becoming worried again as Ezra hadn't dreamt at all over the last four days but for some reason his dreams were back haunting him again.

After checking on Ezra again, Nathan returned to the group that sat in the crowded saloon, each member was waiting to take his next turn to check in on Ezra. Nathan sat down at the table not hiding the concern that was written all over his face. "He's fever is higher than it was before." He informed the group.

"If everything is fine then why is his fever getting worse?" Buck asked the question that they all wanted to ask.

"I don't know Buck, I can't think of anything that would cause it. His wound is fine, he's not sick." Nathan shrugged his shoulders.

"You don't think that it has anything to do with his emotions and what he went through?" Asked Josiah.

"I didn't know something like that could make a person sick?" Vin voiced this as a question.

"I don't know Josiah but if that is the reason then I couldn't say how long the fever would last or if it will keep getting worse." They sat in silence for a few minutes not knowing what to say.

"I'm going to go and sit with him for a while." Josiah got up and headed up to Ezra's room. Their eyes followed him up the stairs.

"What if his fever doesn't get better Nathan?" Buck asked after Josiah had turned the corner and was no longer in sight.

"Then I am going to have to get him to stay in bed for a couple of days after checking him over." Nathan answered him.

"He won't like that." Vin said.


"He's not going to have a choice Vin." Nathan sighed as he knew what it would mean if he had to force Ezra to stay in his room, it would almost be as bad as making him stay in the clinic.

***

Josiah quietly stepped into Ezra's room and found him to still be sleeping. It was becoming dark in the bedroom so he lit the lamp that was on the dresser as he knew that Ezra still did not like to wake up to a dark room, especially if he woke after a dream. He then went to the bed and sat down. He took a closer look at Ezra and then used the cloth that was in the bowl of water that had been set aside to wipe the sweat that had formed on Ezra's face and neck. Ezra moaned and rolled away from him. Josiah sighed, as he knew the reason for Ezra moving away from the touch, it had a lot to do with how painful his Aunt's touch was, he got up off the bed and went and sat in the chair.

Josiah had decided that it was Ezra's emotional state that was causing his fever as he had seen it in others as they went through an emotional trauma, they had become sick for some reason but he was never able to figure out why. It was as though their body was showing what their mind was going through. He knew that Ezra needed time and even after the fever was gone, his mind would still be healing. It was going to take a long time but he had his friends to help him through it and he was now willing to allow them to help him. He wasn't going to be alone anymore and it was by his own choice.

He also knew that he was going to have to try to get Ezra to talk about it more, he needed to talk about it, once was not going to be enough. He also wanted him to talk about his mother, he had finally accepted that what she had always told him was a lie. She wasn't any help to him at all, in what he was going through and he hadn't taken it to well, as he now believed that she had never wanted him. Josiah was not impressed with Maude at all, he thought that he had known her to be a better mother than that. When Ezra did make any comment about what his mother was like he thought that he had been making fun of the situation but Josiah now knew that Ezra had been serious.

Josiah went over to the bed to check Ezra's temperature again and found it to be even higher, the sweat was beginning to form in droplets on his forehead before they fell down his face. He used the cloth again to wipe it away, Ezra did not move this time. Josiah continued to wipe Ezra’s face as the time passed, he only stopped when Nathan and Chris entered the room.

"How's he doing Josiah?" Nathan asked him as he came towards the bed.

"His fever has gotten worse again." He simply stated without looking away from Ezra.
Nathan felt Ezra's forehead and agreed with what Josiah had just told him. "Has he woken at all?"

"He moved away from me when I wiped his face when I first came up but he hasn't moved since and he hasn't woken up."

"Is there anything that you can do for him?" Asked Chris.

"Not when I don't know what's wrong with him Chris."

"I think it's because he went through a traumatic experience." They both looked at Josiah. "He's never gone through anything like that before, he doesn't know how to cope with it and I think that his body is doing it the only way it knows how to." They gave him confused looks. "The body gets a fever when it goes through physical trauma so why not the mind."

"You believe that?" Chris asked him.

"Do you have a better explanation as to why Ezra has a bad fever when there is no physical reason for it?" Josiah answered him with his own question.

"Nathan are you sure he isn't just sick?" Chris wanted a different explanation to the one that Josiah had given him.

"Not at the moment Chris, his breathing is fine and his pulse is normal, there are no other symptoms to show that he was coming down something." Nathan pulled the bedcovers back. "I'm going to check him over now instead of waiting and see if I can find anything that would explain it but I am going to tell you that I don't believe that I am going to find anything."

Nathan checked everything, he made sure that there was no infection in any of Ezra's wounds, even the ones that were practically healed, he checked his ribs that were broken by Horrow, and he found his pulse and breathing to still be fine. He examined the shoulder wound for a third time and found nothing. There was nothing wrong with him, there was no other reason for the fever to be getting worse. In addition, to make Nathan even more concerned was the fact that Ezra didn't respond to anything that he had done. He lifted one of Ezra's eyelids to check his pupil.

"He's not asleep, he's unconscious." Nathan told Chris and Josiah.

***

Ezra had no idea what was going on, he didn't know where he was or why he was even here. All he knew was that it was dark and quiet and there were no voices or dreams plaguing his mind, as they had been earlier. He was feeling the emotions that he had been unable to deal with over the last week and when he had finally let out the emotions that he was trying to deny, thanks to his friends, it had made him feel better in some ways. But in other ways nothing had changed, the need to shut out his friends was still there and it was becoming stronger and he couldn't understand this as he had accepted their concern, he wanted their help now.

Josiah had told him that it would take time for the emotional wounds to heal and that not everything was going to change but Ezra had decided that if they hadn't healed or changed in the twenty years after it happened then why would they begin to do so now, just because he cried and told them what happened. This was all new to Ezra and he was yet to understand what Josiah had told him while he was in Nathan's clinic and all this doubt was helping the need to push them away become even stronger, strong enough to fight against his willingness to want to change.

The emotions were still with him trying to take control again, the memory was there and the fear also. His mother's voice had decided to join them and tried to convince him again that it was pity and not concern that his friends showed him. But Ezra knew that she was lying so he was able to send the voice away. The voice left its own mark though and that was the realisation that his mother had never really wanted him, she hadn't done anything to show him otherwise. All of these emotions were putting his mind in turmoil again and he didn't know how to control them. It was this turmoil that convinced him that his soul was not going to heal like he was told, talking about what had happened to him didn't really help him and that was why he was going through all of this again. The emotions that he was feeling and the need to shut everything away in the back of his mind, the need to push his friends away began to fight each other within Ezra's mind, each wanting to take control over the other.

There was no one else with him to tell this to and to ask why this was happening, he was on his own again. Ezra didn't like that, for the first time in a long time he wanted to be with his friends, he didn't want to deal with this on his own, not anymore. He wanted them with him even if he didn't want to talk, he wanted them to sit with him, just to be there for him as they had always done before but they weren't. He was on his own and this was making the fear stronger. The needs and emotions wanted to control him all over again.

But Ezra remembered something else that Josiah had told him that they were only emotions that they won't hurt him like his Uncle or Mother did. He wasn't able to deal with them but he could deal with the emotions. He stopped fighting them and accepted them like Josiah had told him to do, as he now knew that they would not harm him. He allowed the fear to flow through him knowing that it was nothing like the real thing that happened twenty years before. He let the memory repeat itself in his mind and took in every detail, he accepted what happened and stopped trying to push it away, so the memory and fear stayed there in his mind. He had to deal with them and he was going to allow his friends to help him to do it but by doing this, the need to shut them out also became stronger as it saw its opportunity to try to take control over the emotions that his mind had accepted.

Ezra could begin to see the light as it began to break up the darkness that surrounded his mind, he began to hear voices and knew they belonged to his friends. He could feel the damp cloth as someone wiped his face and struggled to stop himself from moving away but he couldn't help himself, the need and old habits were taking control all over again. He turned his head away and groaned more at his failure to accept the touch than he did at the pain the movement caused to his skull.

"Ezra?" Josiah called to him.

Ezra heard his name being called and he tried to answer but he couldn't get his own voice to work. He wanted to let Josiah know he was okay so he tried to open his eyes but they wouldn't work either. The only thing he managed to do was to lift his arm but someone gently took it and placed his arm back on the bed, the hand didn't let go so Ezra weakly pulled his arm away without even realising what he had done.

"Take your time Ezra, don't rush it." Nathan told him as Ezra pulled his arm from his gentle grip. He couldn't stop the relief from showing in his voice, as it had been a long seven hours since he told Josiah and Chris that Ezra was unconscious. He still hadn't been able to find out what had caused his fever to become so bad, he had wanted to believe what Josiah had said but he had never seen anything like it before.

"I'll go and let the others know that he's coming round." Chris told them, as he knew they wanted to know as soon as there was any change in Ezra. They were going to be as relieved as he was. He couldn't understand how Ezra was fine yesterday, he had been sitting outside with him, he'd had a slight fever but it was nothing compared to what his fevers were usually like and then to be so sick and Nathan wasn't able to give him a real explanation for it.

"Josiah . . ." Ezra moaned.

"I'm here Ezra, so is Nathan." Josiah answered him.

"I'm sorry . . ." Ezra grimaced at the dryness in his throat as it made talking difficult.

"I'll get you some water Ezra." Nathan told him.

"I didn't want to move my head . . . I couldn't stop myself, it wants to take . . . control again."

Josiah heard the sadness in his voice. "It's okay Ezra, don't worry about it, I told you it's going to take time." And to show that he did understand he placed his hand back on Ezra's forehead and smiled when Ezra didn't move away but he didn't realise the struggle that Ezra had to go through to keep his head from moving. "Nathan, his fever has come down."

Nathan came back to the bed with a cup full of a herbal mixture. He felt Ezra's forehead, expecting him to move but he didn't. "Drink this Ezra, it will help the fever." He helped Josiah lift Ezra's head and watched as he managed to drink the entire contents of the cup.

"Nathan if I can try and change my ways . . . could you at least try . . . to change the taste . . . of that." Ezra muttered as they laid his head back down.

"Can't promise anything Ezra." Nathan smiled. "How do you feel apart from the fever?"

"My head hurts." Ezra muttered as he fell into a peaceful sleep.

Nathan and Josiah looked up as the rest of the group stepped into the room and come toward the bed. "He's sleeping." Nathan informed them.

"Is he going to be okay?" JD asked him.

"His fever has started to come down but it may be a few more hours yet before it's gone." Nathan looked back down at Ezra's sleeping form. "We'll have to keep taking turns checking on him." They nodded in agreement, they had been taking turns since his fever became high and they weren't going to stop now.

"Buck, Vin why don't you sit with him for a while." Nathan suggested. "Let me know if he wakes up."

The others left as Buck and Vin made themselves comfortable, Vin took the chair while Buck sat on the bed. Buck tried to move the damp hair from Ezra's forehead but he moved away from him.

"Why does he have to keep going through so much?" Buck asked Vin as if he had an answer to his question.

"I don't know Buck but at least he's not going through it alone this time, he's finally letting us help him."

Buck and Vin watched as Ezra began to toss and turn in his sleep, he muttered about the darkness that he was in, the rats that he could hear and the beating that he could feel, his body jerked with each physical blow that his Uncle inflicted on him. Buck put a gentle touch on Ezra's chest and started to speak to him to try to calm him down.

"Ezra, it's only a dream, it's not real." Buck spoke in a calming tone hoping that his words reached Ezra's fevered mind. "Your okay Ezra, he can't hurt you anymore." Ezra continued as though he hadn't heard Buck's voice. "Ezra it's Buck, Vin and I are here with you." These words seemed to calm the gambler down and Buck continued to talk to him until his movements stopped altogether, his head now lying unmoving against his left shoulder.

Vin came over and sat on the other side of the bed and used the damp cloth to wipe Ezra's face, he then felt his forehead and found that he felt warmer than he had before. "Buck, he's fever has gone up again. I'm going to go and get Nathan." Vin got up off the bed and headed out of the door without looking back.

Buck placed his own hand back on Ezra's forehead and felt that he had gotten warmer. "What the hell is wrong with you Ezra?" But Ezra's slack features didn't give him an answer.

Ezra was finding it hard to cope with the fight that was going on in his mind, he had stopped fighting the memories and emotions like Josiah told him to, he had accepted them but by doing so, they seemed to have become stronger. He tried to let them go so he could deal with them but the stronger emotions had brought his old habits to the surface and they wanted to fight them. He didn't want to fight the emotions, so he began to fight his habits and the need to allow those habits to take control, thinking that it would be easier than fighting the emotions - he was wrong. Sometimes it would work and other times his old habits took control and fought back. He was being torn in two, he wanted to change and do what Josiah told him, but his subconscious wanted to deal with the emotions the old way. He needed help, he didn't know what to do.

"Josiah?" Ezra called out.

"Josiah's not here Ezra." Buck told him.

"I can't do it on my own."

"You can't do what Ezra?" Buck leaned forward as Ezra had started to mumble and he couldn't quite hear him.

"I can't fight them, they want to take control again." Ezra fought it as long as he could but the need to shut everything out started to take control. He knew that if he was awake that Josiah or one of the others could help him. "Help me, I can't fight them."

Buck didn't look up when he heard the door to Ezra's room open. "Were here for you Ezra, we'll help you get through it."

"They don't want you to." Ezra had said this so quietly that only Buck had heard him.

Nathan came to the bed and felt Ezra's forehead just as the others had done. "Your right Vin, his fever is back up again." Nathan hung his head. "I don't know what's wrong with him."

"I think Josiah was right." Nathan looked at Buck. "He was talking about not being able to fight them, I think he was talking about his emotions, what he went through, is going through." Buck turned around. "Vin could you go and get Josiah, Ezra was asking for him." Vin nodded and left the room a second time.

"How can I fix his fever then?" Nathan asked Buck.

Both were torn from their thoughts as Ezra jerked awake and tried to sit up but their gentle hands pushed him back down. "Take it easy Ezra." Nathan told him.

Ezra tried to push them away, his fevered mind still wanted to do it the old way. "I can't do it, I can't fight it." Ezra told them. "I can't change. They won't let me."

"Calm down Ezra, just give yourself a few minutes." Nathan watched as Ezra's eyes began to focus on him.

"Nathan?" Ezra had heard the voices enter his mind and he tried to listen to what they were telling him, he had managed to fight his way out of the dream and woke up quickly. His mind was slow to follow and was still full of the fight that was going on in his mind but it finally caught up with his body and he began to focus on Nathan. "Aw hell." Ezra groaned as he placed his hands against his face and then rubbed his eyes. He felt someone take his hands and pull them back down.

"What is it Ezra?" Buck asked him as he held Ezra's hands. "Tell me what's wrong."

Ezra pulled his hands out of Buck's and then turned away from him, he didn't want to but he couldn't control himself, the habit of shutting people away was to strong, he tried to fight it but his mind was to weak, he felt as though it was hapless so he stopped fighting it. He decided to try again later when he was feeling stronger. He would ask for his friends help then, he just couldn't do it now, he was to tired. He closed his eyes and allowed the sleep that was pulling at him to take him back to the dark world where his mind continued its struggle.

Vin came back into the room with Josiah and the rest of Ezra's friends. Josiah walked around Nathan and sat on the bed, he could see Ezra's inner struggle through the grimaces that crossed his handsome features.

"He's going through it all again Josiah." Buck explained to him.

"What are you talking about Buck?" Chris demanded to know as he came closer.

"He was talking in his sleep before and he wanted help, said he couldn't fight on his own anymore but now, when he woke up he shut us out, he's going back to his old ways, he's pushing us away again Chris."

"How can he ask for help one minute and then shut us out the next?" Vin wanted to know.

"It's a struggle for him Vin." Josiah started to explain. "One part of him wants to accept us and allow us to help him but the other part of him, the part that has been dealing with these feelings for the last twenty years, wants to do it the same way, that part of him doesn't want to accept the change that Ezra is willing to go through." Josiah looked at Nathan. "It's this struggle that's causing his fever."

"Josiah?" JD had stood back out of the way listening to what they were saying but he stepped forward now, as he wanted an answer to a question that had been in his mind since Ezra broke down in Josiah's arms four days ago. "Is
Ezra going to go through the same thing that he did in the saloon that day?"

"He might JD."

JD continued with the question he needed the answer to and he dreaded what that answer was going to be. "He wanted to kill himself then didn't he? You don't think that he will try and does that again do you?"

Chris spoke up before Josiah could. "I asked Ezra about that JD and he told me that he wasn't going to do that, said that he just wanted to keep us away from him." Chris tried to reassure JD but all of a sudden he was no longer sure that Ezra had told him the truth and he also noticed that his lack of confidence in his own answer didn't help JD at all as he saw the sadness overcome the young man's face. Chris knew that JD cared about Ezra, he had done so more or less since meeting him, he had seen the true man behind the mask that Ezra had always worn before the rest of them did and this had saved Ezra's life on one occasion.

"I'll sit with him for a while now." Josiah told the group. "I'll talk to him when he wakes up again."

"Josiah, do you mind if I stay to?" JD asked him, when he saw Josiah nod he went to the chair and sat down and watched as Josiah tried to comfort Ezra as he had begun to dream again.

The others had agreed in silence and quietly left the room and each hoped that Josiah would be able to help Ezra because they didn't want him to go through it all again.

Ezra had rolled back onto his right side, and his features constantly changed with the struggle that he was going through. Josiah had placed one hand over Ezra's warm twitching hand and his other hand against his damp head and used his thumb to wipe the hair that kept falling over Ezra's forehead away. Josiah had done this once before where he had eventually accepted the touch but it took longer this time. Ezra tried to pull his hand away but Josiah would not allow him to, he also tried to roll over to get away from the hand that was on his head but Josiah stopped him from doing that as well. He began to rub Ezra's forehead with his thumb and it was this that got Ezra to calm down. Once Ezra had settled Josiah continued to do this hoping that Ezra knew that he was not alone and that someone would be there for him when he woke up.

Ezra's mind was being ripped apart, he didn't know which way to go. He could feel someone holding his hand and another as it was placed on his head, he didn't want to move away from them, as he knew that it was concern so he fought as hard as he could against the need to push whoever it was away from him. But he failed, he couldn't understand why it was so hard for him. The need won and he tried to move away from the hands but whoever it was wouldn't let him go, he smiled inwardly at the person who was trying to help him. It gave him some of the strength that he needed to fight the old habit that wanted to control him, he stopped struggling against the hands who's owner was showing him the concern that they were feeling.

It didn't take long though for the battle to start again, Ezra continued to fight it but it was too hard a struggle for him, he could no longer go against it, the struggle had weakened his mind and spirit, he allowed it to take control. Once Ezra had given up, the need to push the person away took control and his body violently tore itself away from Josiah, his eye snapping open at the same time to see who it was that was causing the struggle to become even worse than it had been. He cried out at the sudden pain that tore through his left shoulder as he rolled onto it, he stayed where he was though as he knew that if he rolled back the person that was there would only try to show him concern again and he didn't want the emotions that were pulling him apart to start.

Ezra wanted it all to stop, he couldn't go through all this again, not now, not when he thought that he had started to deal with it all and this time it was worse as he was struggling against two different types of emotions. He felt the hands on his arm as they tried to pull him back, he pulled further away from them. He could hear Josiah's voice and remembered what happened the last time he wouldn't let go of him so he pushed himself further away.
Josiah could see what Ezra was doing and he used his voice to try to calm him but it had made him struggle even more and he could see what was going to happen, he tried to pull Ezra back once more before he fell off the bed but he wasn't quick enough. Josiah heard Ezra's grunt of pain as he hit the floor. Josiah jumped off the bed after him and he also heard JD's footsteps as he came running around the bed. They both tried to help Ezra up but he pushed them away.

"Leave me alone." Ezra realised what he had just said. "Josiah!" He cried out as he curled himself up.

"I'm here Ezra. Let us help you, please." He took his arms but Ezra wouldn't allow him to pull them away from his body. Josiah waited a few moments and looked up into JD's face seeing that the younger man was going through his own struggle. "Are you okay JD?"

"What's wrong with JD?" Ezra asked as he looked around. Both Josiah and JD were stunned that Ezra would be able to show his concern when he thought that something had happened to JD when he was going through so much himself.

"Ezra . . ." JD hesitated but Josiah placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, as he knew that JD wouldn't say anything wrong. "The only thing that is wrong with me is what's happening to you." JD looked back down into Ezra's eyes and what he saw nearly tore him apart. "I don't like seeing you fight us like this Ezra, were trying to help you and you won't let us."

"It's not me JD, I want to change, I want to let you help me but they don't." Ezra looked away from him and at the same time allowed them to take his arms and help him back onto the bed. He looked around at the enclosed room and began to feel as though he was being suffocated.

"Who are you talking about Ezra?" Josiah asked him with concern.

"That need in the back of my mind, it wants to push you all away and I can't fight it, it's too strong for me." Ezra muttered, he felt tired but he didn't want to sleep here, he needed some fresh air and open space. "Josiah, please get me out of here, I need to get outdoors."

"That's not going to help your fever Ezra." Josiah warned him but also helped him stand up. "JD grab the bed cover."

When JD had done that, they placed it around Ezra so he could stay warm and then helped him walk out of the room and down the stairs to the saloon that had become empty except for the other four gunmen. They all looked up, shock filling their faces as they watched as Josiah and JD helped Ezra down the stairs.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing?" Chris yelled at all of them as he pushed himself out of his chair, he heard it fall to the floor but he ignored it. He didn't know which one of the three men he should be angry at.

"He needs to get outside Chris." Josiah's expression told Chris everything and he nodded in return.

They followed them out of the saloon onto the porch, Josiah had helped Ezra down into the chair and was then pushed aside as Nathan bent down in front of Ezra. He had leaned back and closed his eyes as soon as he felt his body lowered into the chair and promptly fell asleep again as one thought quickly crossed his mind. He hoped that he wasn't going to wake up back in his room because if he did he would know that his friends weren't concerned about how he felt about being shut in a small room that he couldn't get out of. Nathan felt his forehead and found that his fever had come down slightly but his concern didn't leave him as this had happened before and then his fever had risen again.

"This is worse than waiting to see if he was going to live or die after those times he was injured." JD said from the back of the group, they all turned to him. Josiah moved over to him and placed his hand against his face.

"You said the right thing JD, it helped him, and he told us what was going on in his own way."

"Thanks Josiah." JD smiled and then went and sat in the chair that was next to Ezra.





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