azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Nightmares
Sixteenth story in 'The Continuing Ezra Standish Saga'
Rating: PG
Warnings: Bad writing ahead!
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: When Ezra mistakenly drinks something meant for JD his normal world is turned into a violent nightmare for both him and the other hired gunmen.
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: Sixteenth story in the ‘Continuing Ezra Standish Saga’.
Spoilers: None.
Total Word Count: 40,665





WARNING! Please note that this story contains disturbing images.


Part One


Ezra sat quietly on the bed that he had spent so much time in over the last ten months of his life and waited for Nathan, Buck sat next to him, also sitting in silence, as he didn't want to involve Ezra in a conversation that he knew he wouldn't want to take part in. Ezra had improved over the last two weeks but there were still times when he was quiet and would not speak to any of them, there were moments where he flinched back from their touch due to the fear that was still in his mind. They all knew that it was going to take time. They were patient with him; they showed no anger towards him, as they knew that it would cause him to begin to withdraw into himself again. During all the time that they showed him the comfort and attention that was required to help him heal, he didn't push them away or show them any of the anger that he had always used to stop people from getting close to him.

"What's taking him so long?" Ezra demanded to know, he had been sitting here for twenty minutes already and was beginning to become impatient, and he tried to keep calm as the feeling of being closed in began to weigh heavily on his mind. Dealing with and coming to terms with his feelings was taking a lot longer than Josiah had said, they were getting better but they were healing slowly.

"He'll be here in a minute Ezra." Buck assured him as he patted him on the back; Ezra flinched but didn't push his hand away. When Nathan had told Ezra to wait for him in the clinic he knew that he wouldn't be able to do it on his own so he had asked Buck to wait with him. Nathan wanted to check him over as the fever had still not completely left his body, there were times when Ezra's temperature had been normal but other times it had gone up again, not enough to make him sick but enough to worry Nathan.

"Can't we at least wait outside?" Ezra looked sideways at Buck.

"Sure, but outside doesn't mean the saloon." Buck smiled as Ezra's face relaxed.

"I can't get anything by you can I?" Ezra returned the smile as he stood up to leave the room. "How about I sit outside and you go and get the bottle?"

"Well if I leave you alone . . . ," Buck groaned inwardly making sure that Ezra didn't see the regret that he felt at mentioning him being alone, "you'll just make your own way there, won't you."

Ezra feigned a look of hurt. "Buck how could you not trust me."

"It has nothing to do with trust Ezra but everything to do with the fact that I know you would!" Buck was just about to open the door when Nathan did it for them.

"And where do you think you’re going?" Nathan asked Ezra as he forced him back towards the bed in the middle of the room.

"We were going to wait outside." Buck explained and saw the understanding come over the healer's face.

"Sorry I took so long Ezra." Nathan saw the fear that had grown in Ezra's eyes.

"Is he still out there?" Buck asked Nathan. He had decided to use this opportunity to get back at JD for when he had tricked him with that love potion.

"Yeah he is but he's getting ready to leave. Why you need something? Are you sick?" Nathan asked him.

"Love sick probably." Ezra laughed as the tension and fear began to leave him once again, being around his friends helped him cope when the emotions got too strong for him to handle on his own.

Buck slapped him on the back and smiled when he didn't react. "Something like that Ezra, I'll be back in a minute and then we'll go and have that drink."

"No!" They both looked up at Nathan. "I told you Ezra, I want you to lay off that stuff while you’re taking these herbs for your fever." He watched as Ezra hung his head. "Chow Chee said that this should help get rid of your fever and the effects that those other herbs have done to your system, then you can drink as much as you want."

"And how long is that going to take?" Ezra asked him.

"He said a few days."

"Fine, I guess I can manage to go a couple of days without a drink." Ezra though decided that a small drink here or there wasn't going to hurt him. He was still stubborn when it came to following Nathan's orders.

"A few Ezra, not a couple." Nathan repeated as Buck slowly snuck out of the room.

"Coward!" Ezra called out after Buck. "That man never stands up for me anymore."

"You okay Ezra?" Nathan wasn't sure what he was feeling at that moment, there had been no humor in his voice when he threw the accusation at Buck.

"I'm fine thanks Nathan." Ezra smiled up at him. "Did he tell you what was wrong with the last batch he gave you?"

"He was teaching his Nephew some of the mixtures but he apparently put something in it that he shouldn't have." He sat down on the bed next to Ezra and placed his hand on his forehead, Ezra didn't move his head, and he then picked up his wrist and felt his pulse. "Your temperature's up slightly." He moved to the table and began to mix some of the herbs in some water. "I couldn't get away from him because he kept apologising for what happened."

"That makes two of you then." Ezra told him.

Nathan turned around and saw the genuine concern on Ezra's face. "We have reason to apologise Ezra." He came back to the bed and handed the cup to Ezra, he didn't take it though. Nathan took a small sip of the mixture and then gave it to Ezra. "It's fine, Hong Lee put it together."

Ezra drank the mixture in one go, he grimaced and nearly spat the mixture back out. "It sure as hell doesn't taste any better."

"Three times a day Ezra." He smiled at Ezra's confusion. "I want you back here at lunch time for another dose of this foul tasting drink, if you don't come back I'll come looking for you and you know I will." He placed a hand against Ezra's face. "Go on get out of here before I decide to make you stay." Ezra didn't hesitate; he was out of there before Nathan was able to say anything else.

***

Buck had managed to catch up to Chow Chee before he left town. "Mr Chee." Buck walked up to him making sure that none of his friends saw him.

"Yes?" The small frail man turned to him.

"You might not remember me but . . . "

"Course I do, how could I forget, you are man with limp noodle." Chee smiled at Buck's sudden embarrassment.

"Now look, I told you before that I have no trouble in that area." Buck began to argue with him but remembered what he wanted from him. "Then that means that you would also remember how you helped my friend trick me with that love potion." Chow Chee laughed behind his bony hand. "I thought so." Buck pulled at his trousers. "I want to get him back, have you got anything that I could use. Something that might make him go a bit funny; do some things that might embarrass him." Buck winked at him. "I'll pay of course."

"I not know." He put his hand out asking Buck for whatever cash he had. He didn't listen to Buck's protests as he kept his hand out waiting until Buck's pockets were empty; he then went to his small wagon and brought a small bag back with him. "Give him this." He handed it to Buck but grabbed his hand and gave him a serious look. "But do not mix with alcohol or let him drink after taking this because if he do it won't be pleasant."

"Don't worry; JD doesn't drink a lot so that won't be a problem." Buck thanked him again and headed to the saloon where he knew JD was. Finally, he was going to be able to get him back for what he did.
Buck walked into the crowded saloon and looked around for JD, it took him a couple of minutes but he finally found him sitting at the poker table trying to win money from Vin, he laughed as he knew that JD couldn't win money from either member of the group. He was about to head towards the bar to begin his plan when he heard Ezra's voice.

"Coward!" Ezra growled at him. "You left me alone in there!" Buck spun around as he heard the anger in Ezra's voice.

"Ezra I . . . " He stopped when he saw the smile that was evident on the gambler's face.”Ezra! For cryn' out loud, don't do that!" Buck slapped his arm and watched as he lifted it to protect himself but the smile hadn't left his face.

"I believe you owe me a drink Buck." Ezra placed an arm around Buck's shoulders and led him towards the bar, he was beginning to find it easier to show friendly affection towards the other men, and sometimes it was forced but other times like now he found it easy to do.

Buck shrugged him off. "No way Ezra, Nathan told you three days, I'm not going to be on the receiving end of his anger, and you’re on your own with this one."

"I knew that you were a coward." Ezra smiled at him.

Buck became serious. "Anyone would be afraid of Nathan when he gets angry like that, if you want to spend a week in his room then go ahead and have a drink."

"I can get around him at the moment Buck." Ezra faltered but he managed to keep the smile on his face.

"You Ezra Standish are getting to much attention." Buck walked away from him and headed towards the bar, he hid the smile that was on his face from him, he was glad to see that Ezra was having some fun for a change.
Ezra pulled himself back together, Buck's comment of spending a week in Nathan's clinic had thrown him for a moment but he did what Josiah had told him to do, he accepted the fear that he felt and it soon passed. He then turned and walked to his regular table where Vin and JD were sitting. He watched as JD threw his cards down in disgust.

"You’re worse than Ezra." JD told Vin, he didn't see Ezra coming towards them.

"In what way JD?" Ezra asked him as he sat down at the table; he saw the worry show on the young face of his friend but waited to see how JD was going to answer his question.

"He won all my money just like you do." JD smiled at him knowing that Ezra wasn't going to take any offense at what he had said.

"Would you like me to win it back for you?" Ezra asked him.

"Now wait a minute . . . " Vin began to protest.

"If you are willing to take this young man's money then I am sure that I can return the favour." Ezra winked at JD whose smile grew even wider.

"But . . . "

Ezra allowed the hurt to show on his face at the disappointment of Vin not wanting to allow him to win some of JD's money back.

"Aw hell." Vin threw his hands up in the air as Ezra took the cards from him and began to deal.

"You gentlemen are too gullible for your own good." Ezra didn't look up at the expressions of surprise on their faces but instead reached for the bottle of whiskey that stood next to Vin, he poured himself a drink and after looking over his shoulder to make sure Nathan was nowhere to be seen he quickly swallowed it, enjoying the taste as it flowed down his throat.

Ezra looked up when he heard a cough behind him, he was ready to take Nathan's anger but he instead saw Buck looking down at him, he was also holding a glass of milk in his hand. "I hope that's not for me?" Ezra asked him trying to change the subject before Buck could even start it.

"No it's for JD." Buck placed the glass in front of JD and then sat down at the table, he leaned towards Ezra. "No more of that please Ezra."

"Fine!" The anger in his voice was real but the others thought that he was continuing with the friendly jibes.

"Why did you buy me a drink?" JD suspiciously looked at Buck.

"I didn't, Ezra did." He smiled at Ezra. He had gotten Inez to get a glass of milk for him and when he had made sure that no one was looking he poured the contents of the small bag into the glass, he had to mix it with his finger as it had taken a couple of minutes for the powder to soak into the milk.

"I'm not made of money Buck!" He growled at him, he felt angry and couldn't understand why. "I'm sorry Buck, guess I'm feeling a bit tired." Ezra hoped the explanation worked. Buck nodded at him but was still concerned anyway.

"Buck!" He turned around as he heard Chris's voice yell out to him, he saw the dark clad gunmen standing in the doorway of the saloon. "Back in a minute boys." He didn't worry about the potion that was in the milk as he knew that neither Ezra nor Vin would drink it.

"Well JD, are you in or not?" Ezra asked him after Buck left the table to find out what their leader had wanted.

"Sorry Ezra, no money remember." He smiled at Ezra but it left his face as Ezra didn't seem to be enjoying himself anymore.

Vin nudged JD in the shoulder. "Bet him your glass of milk."

Ezra raised his eyebrows at Vin. "That is not a bet Vin."

"Afraid that you’re going to have to drink it Ezra?" Vin teased him.

"It's not a real bet." Ezra repeated as he scowled at Vin.

"Go on Ezra, ain't never seen you drink a glass of milk before." JD smiled at Vin.

"And what makes you think that I would win it if I did allow it to be taken as a bet instead of money."

"Because Ezra, if you didn't win then we would know that you cheated." Vin explained to him with mockery in his voice, he failed to notice the underlying anger that was building up in Ezra.

Ezra kept in the anger that had threatened to take control of him and then decided to take the bet, afterwards they could play a serious game of poker where he would at least take Vin's money from him. "If that's what you want." Ezra continued to deal out the cards knowing that he was going to have to drink the milk, these men never seem to believe him when he told them that he didn't cheat when he played against them, he didn't need to as his skills always won the game for him.

He grimaced at the glass of milk that he had so easily won, his stare then went from the glass to JD, Vin then back again. He told himself that it would be just like drinking one of Nathan's concoctions, he picked it up and under the amused stares of JD and Vin he began to drink it, he choked on it halfway through though and put it back down. He grabbed the bottle of whisky not caring if Nathan was anywhere within sight of him, he filled the glass back up to the top and then started again, it was easier the second time around as the whiskey eased the taste of the warm milk.

"I have never liked the taste of milk." Ezra growled at them as he remembered that it had all started because he had spilt his milk. This thought hadn't even crossed JD and Vin's minds when Ezra had first questioned the milk as a bet.

"If you tell anyone I drank that I will do my upmost to make you regret it." He growled at both of them.

"Sure Ezra." They smiled at each other not realising the violent chain of events that would now begin to occur because Ezra had drunk the glass of milk that was meant for JD.

***

Ezra looked upon the very small pile of money that was in the middle of table. 'It hasn't really been worth the effort.' He thought to himself. He looked up at Vin to find him returning his stare. "Something wrong Vin?"

"No Ezra, just waiting for you to show me what you've got." Vin glanced at JD who had also been watching Ezra.

Ezra showed his hand and Vin threw his cards down with almost as much disgust as JD had used earlier. "Looks like you got all your money back JD."

Ezra hadn't heard the remark as he was pulling the money towards his side of the table but he did finally hear JD's coughing. "What is it JD?" Ezra sighed, he really was becoming bored.

JD looked from Ezra's eyes down to the money. "You . . . um . . . said that you were going to win it back for me Ezra." JD said hesitantly, he hadn't failed to notice that Ezra didn't seem to be himself.

"If I remember correctly JD, I also said that you were too gullible for your own good." Ezra reminded him, he had intended to do that for him but then changed his mind.

"Ezra you did say you were going to win it for him." Vin's voice was firm, he didn't like the way Ezra had tricked JD or himself for that matter, and if he had known that Ezra wasn't going to give it, back to him he wouldn't have played him.
Ezra looked up at Vin and smiled at him. "Well it seems that I am a cheat so why not a thief as well."

JD and Vin gave each other worried glances as Ezra pocketed the money. "Is there something wrong Ezra?" Vin asked him as he looked back at Ezra.

"No why?" Ezra rubbed his hand across his eyes as he began to feel tired, the noise of the crowded saloon was also giving him a headache.

"You have something to eat today? Maybe not all that whiskey is doing you any . . . “Vin began.

"Oh no. What time is it?" Ezra interrupted him as he remembered he had to go back and see Nathan, he quickly looked over his shoulder to see if he was coming, he knew that if Nathan got angry with him he would make him stay in the clinic.

"It's just going on lunchtime. Are you sure there's nothing wrong Ezra?" Vin asked him again.

Ezra calmed down and stood up from the table. "I have an appointment with Nathan, if I don't show up, he'll shut me away again." He didn't even register the stunned expressions that overcame his friend's faces before he left them to go back to see Nathan, he was to worried that he wasn't going to get there in time.

Ezra rushed passed Chris and Buck who were sitting outside discussing what they were going to do about the group of ranch hands that had just ridden into town, they had been in Four Corners once before and had caused a lot of trouble for the townspeople.

"Where's he going in such a hurry?" Chris looked up as the figure ran passed him.

Ezra threw the door to the clinic open and stepped inside but didn't move any further into the room. "I'm here Nathan so there is no need to come looking for me."

Nathan had jumped at the sound of the door banging open and he turned around to see Ezra standing in the doorway. He noticed that he looked flushed and was out of breath, he went to him and without saying anything to him, and he took him by the arm and led him towards the bed, using his hand to gently sit him down. He felt Ezra's forehead and found him to be warmer than he was that morning.

"Your fever's up again." Nathan said with concern.

"No, I just rushed over here that's all, I didn't want you to have to come looking for me." Ezra looked away from him and felt the room closing in on him. "Nathan could we get this over with please."

Nathan leaned closer towards Ezra but pulled back when he flinched away from him. "Have you been drinking Ezra?" He used a gentle tone as he noticed that Ezra was scared about being in his room and he didn't want to make it any worse for him.

"Buck bought me one." He looked up at Nathan's angry stare. "He said one wouldn't hurt me." Ezra felt a shiver go through his body as he saw the anger in his eyes. "I'm sorry Nathan, I didn't think that he would lie to me about something like that, I won't do it again." His body shivered a second time. "You're not going to make me stay are you?"

There was a pleading tone to Ezra's voice that made the anger immediately leave Nathan. "No Ezra, just promise me that it won't happen again."

"I just told you that it wouldn't." Ezra retorted.

"Is there something wrong Ezra?"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that? Of course there's something wrong, you know that, or haven't you noticed what's been happening lately."

"Take it easy Ezra, just calm down." He put a reassuring hand on Ezra's shoulder and expected him to pull away but he didn't. "This is why I asked you not to drink while taking these herbs."

"Alright, will you just give it to me so I can get out of here. Please." Ezra eyes were darting around the room as though he was looking something.

"Just give me a minute Ezra." He noticed that Ezra had started to fidget with his hands.

It had only taken Nathan a few minutes to make up the mixture but if felt like hours to Ezra, his hands had begun to shake so he rubbed them hoping that they would stop before Nathan noticed, he wasn't going to stay there. Nathan returned with the cup and placed it in Ezra's shaking hand and waited for him to finish, he took the cup back and stepped back as Ezra jumped up from the bed.


"Ezra!" Nathan stopped him in his tracks, he was already halfway through the door. "How about I bring this to you tonight, save you coming back here." Nathan frowned as Ezra didn't reply, he watched as he disappeared through the door. Nathan followed him out and watched him gingerly walk down the stairs and then hurry towards the saloon. Nathan thought that Ezra's behaviour was because he didn't want to be in the clinic.

Ezra felt his whole body start to shake again as he left the clinic and it wouldn't stop, he carefully made his way down the stairs so he wouldn't fall again and then quickly walked towards the saloon, and he needed a drink to stop the shaking. He again walked passed Chris and Buck but didn't look at them or answer them when they asked if he was alright, he also didn't notice as they followed him into the saloon.

Ezra made it to the bar and grabbed the bottle that was placed in front of him but before he could pour himself a drink someone took it from him, he looked up into Buck's determined glare.

"Nathan doesn't want you drinking remember."

"Speaking of which you are in a lot of trouble." Ezra told him as he placed his shaking hands out of sight and hoped that they didn't notice that his body was shaking as well. He enjoyed Buck's confusion and Chris's stare as it was turned in Buck's direction.

"In trouble about what?" Buck wanted to know.

Ezra could feel his teeth starting to rattle, he frowned. 'Maybe I'm coming down with something.' He shook the thought away as his body continued to shake. "Maybe you should go and ask Nathan." Ezra turned away from them and headed for the stairs.

"Do you know what he's talking about Buck?" Asked Chris as he watched Ezra walk up the stairs, not failing to notice that he was holding onto the railing.

"No but I'm going to go and find out." He stormed out of the saloon with Chris right behind him.

Buck walked into Nathan's clinic and was suddenly bombarded with abuse.

"What the hell did you think you were doing Buck!" Nathan shouted at him. "I told you I didn't want Ezra drinking but no, you wouldn't listen to me would you. What makes you think you know what's best for him?" Nathan waited for an answer but didn't get one. "Well?"

"What are you talking about Nathan?" Chris asked him, he was surprised at the healer's outburst towards Buck.

"He bought Ezra a drink after I told him not to." Nathan was glaring at Buck.

"I did not! Who told you I did?"

"Ezra!"

"Nathan, I didn't buy Ezra a drink, honest." Buck assured him but wasn't sure if he believed him or not.

"Why would he lie to me?" Nathan demanded to know.

"Why would I lie to you." Buck retaliated.

"Before you two go any further perhaps we should go and ask Ezra." Buck and Nathan looked at Chris.

"But why would he lie?" Nathan asked again.

"Nathan I . . . " Buck stopped at Nathan's gesture of surrender.

"I'm sorry Buck, I shouldn't have gone off at you like that without asking you first. What I mean is why would Ezra lie." This time he voiced it as a statement as he knew he wouldn't get an answer.

"Let's go and find out shall we." Chris walked out of the clinic with all intentions of finding out what was going on. Ezra had being doing fine over the last couple of weeks, he had been improving everyday but now something was going on and he was wanted to know what it was before it went further.

***

Ezra sat on his bed, his arms wrapped around his body trying to stop the violent tremors that had begun to tear through him. He couldn't stay here, he had to do something but he couldn't go to Nathan though because he would be locked in a room again as he knew that Nathan would make him stay in the clinic. He got up and his knees began to buckle beneath him, he grabbed the bed railing and waited until he was sure his legs would take his weight. When he was able to stand without worrying about falling over, he made his way to the door and out of his room, he only had one person on his mind and that was the man who had helped him so much over the last two weeks.

As he made his way to the church Ezra had to grab hold of stable objects as his legs threatened to give way beneath him. He hid in the shadows as he saw Buck, Chris and Nathan heading towards the saloon. When they were out of sight, he continued the short journey to the church, a journey that seemed to take forever because he had to keep stopping when he felt his legs threatening to give way to the weight that they were so desperately trying to stop from falling to the dirt pavement. When he finally made it to the open doorway of the church, his eyes searched the empty building for the man that he was seeking.

"Josiah!" He called out, he noticed that his voice was also shaky. "Josiah!" He yelled out again, the despair beginning to build within his fragile mind. "Josiah!" He moved forward and sat down on the church pew. "Josiah." he whispered.

***

All three lawmen walked into the saloon with the determination that they felt showing in their body language and without glancing around the saloon, they headed straight for the stairs. Vin and JD who were still sitting at the poker table frowned as their friends purposely walked passed them with a glance. They got up and followed them, intending to answer the question that the three men had brought to their already worried minds.

They bounded up the stairs two at a time and without knocking, they entered the empty room. "Where the hell is he?" Buck growled as he realised that Ezra was not there. "Did he just walk up here and then straight out the back door?"

"Knowing Ezra, I would say yes." Chris answered, the anger showing in his own voice.

"Something wrong?" Vin asked as he entered the room with JD behind him.

"Yeah, Ezra's what's wrong." Nathan explained as they left the room leaving Vin and JD to look at each other and then follow them back downstairs.

They walked through the saloon, quickly taking in every person that was there making sure that Ezra wasn't one of them, and he wasn't.

"Where is he?" Chris demanded as he tried to think of where Ezra would go.

"Would you like to tell us what's going on?" Vin asked, he could see the worried expressions on his friend’s faces and he was concerned that they were put there by Ezra.

"Something's wrong with Ezra." Nathan told him.

"Such as?" JD added his own question to the conversation.

"He lied to me, told me that Buck had bought him a drink when he didn't." Nathan continued to explain.

Vin frowned and watched as the expressions of concern were aimed at him. "Ezra was with us most of the morning playing poker and he did have a drink but Buck didn't buy it, Ezra actually had more than one drink." He cringed back from Nathan.

"How much did he drink Vin?" Nathan was becoming angry again, the concern had left him.

Vin looked across at JD. "About half a bottle, he didn't seem himself either."

Nathan threw his hands up in the air. "Why do I bother, between all of you and Ezra . . ." He shook his head. "One of these days . . . "

"Do you think that we should check with Josiah, maybe he knows what's going on." JD suggested. "Ezra's been talking to him quite a lot lately." He received another slap on the back, he was getting more of those lately instead the hit on the back of the head for saying the wrong thing.

***

Ezra waited but Josiah didn't come, he drew his knees up to his chest, the heels of his boots sitting on the edge of the seat and he placed his head on his knees. The shaking hadn't stopped yet and he was beginning to think that there was something seriously wrong and this terrified him, the idea of being sick didn't scare him but the thought of having to be locked up in Nathan's clinic did. Nathan wanted to do the same thing that his Uncle had done, he wanted to shut him away in a small room, lock the door and leave him there. He decided that it wasn't going to happen to him again.

Josiah stepped through the back door of the church and into the main room, he didn't see the figure huddled up on the seat at the back of the room until he heard a moan that only just managed to reach his ears, he looked up and instantly recognised the red jacket.

"Ezra?" He walked towards him when he didn't get a response. "Ezra!" He raised his voice hoping to get the gambler to answer him but he didn't. He sat down beside him and placed his hand on his shoulder.

"Where were you?" Ezra asked in a quiet voice. "I needed you and you weren't here. Where were you?"

"I was out the back cutting some wood." Josiah explained to him. "What's wrong Ezra?"

"Nothing, it doesn't matter anymore." The tremors had started to ease until they finally left him. He wanted to leave but didn't trust himself to stand up because he felt weak and he knew that his legs wouldn't carry him out of the building. He felt Josiah's hand move to his head, he welcomed the comforting touch as it helped to ease his fear.

"Tell me what it was Ezra." He gently asked him.

"I . . ." He began.

"Ezra Standish! What the hell do you think you were doing?" Nathan yelled at him as he entered the church, he was full of anger and frustration at the man who continued to ignore his instructions. He stopped though once he saw the position that Ezra was in and the glare that was thrown at him from Josiah.

He felt Ezra cringe at the sound of Nathan's voice. "It's okay Ezra." He turned to Nathan. "Nathan, what's so important that you have to come in here yelling at Ezra like that, can't you see that something's wrong."

"I know something's wrong and it's all Ezra's fault." Nathan tried to calm his voice but he still felt angry. "I asked him not to drink after taking those herbs but he didn't listen, he went straight to the saloon and drank half a bottle of whisky."

"No I didn't." Ezra defended himself against the man who wanted to lock him in a small room.

"Yes you did Ezra, JD and I watched you drink it while we were playing poker." Vin told the figure that still had his head against his knees.

"Ezra, look at me." Josiah used a gentle but firm voice and watched as he lifted his head, his green eyes turning towards him. "Did you go against Nathan's instructions?"

"I just told you I didn't." Ezra's anger was building.

"Vin and JD said they saw you Ezra. Why are you lying?" Chris asked him as he came forward to look down at Ezra.

"I'm not lying!" Ezra yelled at him. He had to get out of there, he quickly stood up, pushing Josiah's hand away from as he did so. He tried to get past Chris but he wouldn't allow him to.

"What's going on Ezra?" He asked in a concerned tone.

"You mean apart from all of you believing that I'm a liar. I was only accused of being a thief and a cheat earlier but now I'm a liar as well." He was looking at Vin when he said this and everyone turned to look at the accused. Vin shook his head at them, his body language telling them that there was more to it.

Ezra grimaced as he felt the pain that hit him, he placed one hand against his stomach and the other gripped the seat next to him, his knuckles turning white. Another pain, worse than the first tore through his stomach again, this time causing him to double over.

"Ezra!" Chris grabbed him before he could fall. "Nathan!"

"No, don't come near me." Chris knew that Ezra was not talking to him as Ezra's right hand was holding onto his arm, his fingers digging into his flesh.

Ezra cried out as another bolt of pain hit him, he was now doubled up in Chris's arms, the agony tearing through his stomach. He felt someone's hands trying to straighten him up but he wouldn't let them, he knew the pain would be worse if he did.

"Chris, take him to the clinic." Nathan had tried to get at Ezra but he wouldn't allow him to move him.

"NO!" The terror was evident in Ezra's voice. "Your . . . not going to lock . . . me up."

"Ezra we have to take you there, Nathan's not going to keep you long, there's something wrong with you and he needs to check you over and he can't do that here." Josiah tried to calm him down but couldn't as the fear only seem to worsen with his words.

"No . . . please . . . don't put me . . . in there again." Ezra spoke through clenched teeth as another cramp hit him. "It hurts!"

Josiah took Ezra from Chris's arms, pulling the painful grip that he had on Chris's forearm away, he started to walk towards the small room at the back of the church with the others following close on his heels, and they knew exactly what he was doing. He carefully placed Ezra on the small cot and took his hand in his as Nathan began his examination. Josiah clenched his teeth against the pain that Ezra's grip was causing him.

Nathan tried to roll Ezra onto his back but couldn't get him to do it, Ezra's whole body seemed to have gone into some sort of spasm, his muscles cramping up. "Ezra?" Nathan looked up at him, he could see the pain written all over the gamblers face.

"What!" Ezra gasped out.

"Tell me what's wrong."

"Nathan . . . are you always . . . this stupid or is it . . . just today." Ezra glared at him. "Can't . . . you see what's . . . in front of your . . . face!" Ezra groaned and pushed himself against Josiah as the pain got worse. "Make it stop."

"Nathan can't unless you tell him what's wrong Ezra." Josiah told him.

"Can't you see . . . that I'm in pain, why . . . won't you make it . . . stop!" He managed to yell at them. "Make it stop!"
Ezra opened his eyes and looked past Chris and the others who were standing back watching what was happening. "Oh God." he groaned, the colour drained from his face as he saw Rochelle standing in the doorway looking at him, the anger visible both on her face and in her eyes.

Ezra shut his eyes, counted to three and opened them again, Rochelle was no longer there. 'Must be from the pain.' He thought to himself. He also realised that the pain was no longer there either. It had left him as quickly as it had come. He remembered the people around him and looked up at Josiah to find him staring at him.

"What?" He asked him.

"Ezra!" Josiah was so stunned at Ezra's simple statement that he couldn't find the words that he wanted to use.

"What?" Ezra demanded again. When he didn't get an answer, he tried to get up only to have Nathan push him back down again. He forced him onto his back with Josiah's help and then tried to undo the buttons of his vest.

"What are you doing?" Ezra tried to push them away but Josiah grabbed his arms and pulled them above his head so Nathan could continue what he was doing. "Josiah, let me go, what are you doing?"

"You were in a lot of pain Ezra, I need to find out why." Nathan explained.

"You don't need to find out anything." Ezra growled at him as he continued to struggle against him.

Chris moved forward and placed his hands against Ezra's legs as he knew that he was capable of using them when he couldn't use his hands to push someone away. He watched as Nathan undid the buttons to Ezra's vest and shirt and then began to use his fingers to examine Ezra's abdomen.

Nathan looked into Ezra's face for any reaction to his fingers probing but there was none. "Has the pain gone Ezra?"

"You really are asking some stupid questions aren't you! Isn't it obvious!" Ezra spat at him as he managed to finally pull his arms from Josiah's grip. "Chris, get off me!" Ezra tried to sit up but Josiah gently pushed him back down again.

"Ezra calm down and tell me what happened." Josiah leant over him and brushed the hair from his forehead.

"I don't know what happened, there was pain and then it was gone." Ezra closed his eyes, the comforting touch making his body relax and his eyes feel heavy.

"In your stomach?" Nathan asked.

"Yes." Ezra had already forgotten the image that had terrified him earlier. "But it's gone now so you can go away Nathan, you don't have to lock me up." Ezra rolled his head to the side. "Josiah."

"Yes Ezra."

"I'm tired, if I fall asleep could you make sure that they don't take me to Nathan's room." He lifted his arm and Josiah took his hand. "Promise me."

"Don't worry Ezra, you'll stay here until you wake up." Ezra nodded his thanks and then his breathing slowed as he fell into a peaceful sleep.

Chris stood up and rubbed his face in frustration. "Is anyone else as confused as I am?"

"The only thing I can think of is the whisky mixing with the herbs I gave him, if that's the case then he should be fine once the alcohol is out of his system." Nathan told him.

"But why is he so angry at you Nathan?" Buck wanted an explanation for that. When Ezra was angry, he took it out on everyone but this time his anger seemed to be aimed at Nathan.

"I don't know why he's angry at me Buck but I know why I'm angry at him and he's going to know it when he wakes up." He looked down at Ezra's peaceful expression and felt the anger leave him. "Josiah, could you do me a favour as well please. Could you remind me how angry I am at him when he does wake up."

Ezra continued to sleep peacefully as Nathan and Josiah watched him, the dreams had left him a week ago and they were glad that the incident with the herbs and alcohol hadn't brought them back. They had managed to remove his upper clothing without waking him and placed a blanket over the sleeping form, they did this because they were unsure how long he was going to sleep.

"When is it going to stop Nathan?" Josiah asked quietly, he didn't want to wake Ezra up.

"What's that Josiah?" Nathan's voice wasn't as gentle.

"What Ezra's going through, just when everything seems to be getting back to normal for him something like this happens."

"There is no one to blame but Ezra, he did this, I told him not to drink but as usual he ignored what I asked him to do. I can't seem to get it through to him that it's for his own good." Nathan's tone had an edge to it as his anger at Ezra's stubbornness began to build again.

"Why do you think he lied? Would it make him do that?" Josiah didn't want to think that Ezra was returning to his old ways.

"Maybe, why don't we wait until he wakes up and ask him again." Nathan suggested, he looked down at Ezra and watched as he rolled over on to his right side and continued to sleep.

Ezra woke a few hours later to find Nathan leaning over him and his first thought was that he was in the clinic, his eyes filled with fear as he sat up quickly causing Nathan to step back, Ezra took in his surroundings and realised that he was still in the church, he relaxed and fell back onto the cot.

"Ezra?" Nathan had seen the fear in Ezra's eyes but it had left him as he realised where he was.

"Yes." Ezra was waiting for his heartbeat to slow down, he opened his eyes and looked at the man that was speaking to him.

"Feeling better?" Nathan asked him.

"I'm fine. Why?" Ezra sat up. "Where are my clothes?"

"Don't worry there here. Do you remember what happened?" He looked up as Josiah came back into the room, Ezra didn't notice as he seemed to be concentrating.

"I was in my room and I couldn't stop shaking, then I came here, Josiah wasn't here to help me, then there was this pain in my stomach, I don't really remember anything after that." He tossed the blanket off his legs. "Can I have my clothes please."

Nathan ignored him. "You were shaking?"

"Yes, I couldn't stop and I found it hard to walk." Ezra explained again, the frustration sounding in his voice.

"Ezra, why didn't you come to me?" Nathan wanted to know, his own anger was beginning to show.

"Because you want to lock me up just like my Uncle did." Ezra got up and began to look for his own clothes as no one seemed to want to tell him where they were, he looked up as Josiah handed them to him.

"Nathan only wants to help you Ezra." Josiah told him.

"Yeah, well, he has a wonderful way of showing it." He pulled his shirt on and began to do up the buttons but Josiah took his arms and led him back to the bed, he pushed him down as Ezra wasn't willing to do what he was being asked to do. "Now what?"

"Do you remember what happened before that?" Nathan saw Ezra's confusion. "When you were in the saloon, you were with Vin and JD, you were drinking."

"I wasn't drinking, you told me not to, remember." The sarcasm was heavy in Ezra's voice.

"They said you were Ezra." Josiah supported Nathan's statement.

"Why would they lie?" Ezra looked at Josiah and then back at Nathan but their expressions told him something different. "You think that I'm lying, I didn't have a drink." He looked at both of them. "Why won't you believe me."

"I'm sorry Ezra but I can't see any reason why Vin and JD would lie." Josiah saw the anger grow on the gambler's face. "I'm not saying that you’re lying Ezra, maybe you don't remember it."

"I do remember, I was playing poker with them, I won all of Vin's money, he accused me of being a thief and then I left to go to Nathan's clinic for more of that stuff he wanted me to drink." Ezra stood up and grabbed the rest of his clothing. "I'm not lying Josiah, I didn't drink anything."

"I'm sorry Ezra." Josiah knew that if he remembered then he had to be lying.

"I thought you understood, I thought you wanted to help me." Ezra's voice had become quiet, he backed away as Josiah came towards him. "Don't bother Josiah."

"Ezra they were with you, they wouldn't lie about it, and you know they wouldn't." Josiah tried again.

"Yes they would, you changed your mind, you all have, and you don't want to help me anymore." Ezra continued to step away from him. "A let you get close to me and you have decided that you don't like what you see, you don't want to be my friends anymore."

"That's not true Ezra." Josiah said with concern.

"Yes it is!" Ezra quickly wiped the tear away before it fell. "This is why I pushed people away, I finally let you in and you do this to me. I don't like being hurt Josiah, I've already had enough of it in my life, I don't want anymore." Ezra turned and walked away from him.

"Ezra why is it so hard for you?" Josiah asked the retreating figure.

***

Ezra pulled his jacket on and wrapped it around his body as he walked towards the saloon, his head was down, watching each step that he took, and he was fascinated by the sound of his boots hitting the hard wood that was below him. He only looked up when he reached the saloon, he walked in and looked around the crowded room, seeing Vin and JD sitting with the others. He moved towards them, listening to the different sound that his boots were making but the noise stopped when he did, he was disappointed.

"Feeling better Ezra?" Buck asked him but decided that he wasn't because what he saw scared him. They had seen Ezra enter the saloon and walk towards them, his arms wrapped around himself as they held his jacket in place. They didn't see the vacant look in his eyes until he reached the table, they also saw Josiah and Nathan come in after him.

"Why are you lying?" Ezra asked Vin in a calm tone.

"What's wrong Ezra?" Chris stood up and came around the table towards him.

"Tell me! Why did you tell them that I was drinking when I wasn't!" Ezra's anger rose. "You're trying to turn them against me aren't you."

"Ezra calm down." Chris put a hand on his shoulder and was shocked when Ezra turned on him.

"I knew I shouldn't have done it, it's my own stupid fault, and I shouldn't have let you in!" The room had become quite at Ezra's sudden outburst. "I let you get close and then you tear me apart, is that it! Do you enjoy doing this to people, are you enjoying doing this to me?" Ezra was yelling into Chris's face now but they were all to stun to stop him. "You force me to tell you what happened to me, let me think that you care, all just so you could destroy me!" Ezra stepped back from the faces that were now staring at him in shock. He looked down at his boots as they made that fascinating noise again.

Everyone was watching Ezra as he began to walk around in a circle, he was looking down at his feet, his outburst forgotten, he started to walk around the room between the tables, his eyes not leaving the floor. He was ignoring those around him as they stared at him wondering what it was that he was doing.

Ezra could hear the noise as it echoed in his mind, he had forgotten why he was here, the sound had taken all other thoughts from his mind. He watched as his heel first hit the floor and then his toes following, he realised that it was the heel that was making the noise that had captivated his mind. He stopped as he heard someone else's footsteps, he turned to find the source of the noise and saw another pair of boots standing before him.

"Ezra?" Josiah called to him even though he was standing in front of him, he knew that Ezra was in another world, he just didn't know why.

Ezra took a few steps away from him, he listened to his own footsteps and then the other's as they stepped closer to him, he thought that he heard a voice but he ignored it as he was too interested in the sound that the boots were making. He stepped back again but bumped into something, he realised that it was a someone as he felt the hands take hold of his arms, he continued to listen as the other boots came towards him, then they stopped. There was only silence then, he tried to move away so he could hear his boots as they hit the floor but someone held him back.

"What's wrong with him Nathan?" Buck asked him, he had forgotten all about the milk and the potion that he had put in it, he hadn't noticed any difference in JD so he thought that it hadn't worked, that the Chinese man had conned him.

Buck looked across at Nathan when he didn't receive an answer. "Nathan?"

"It's as though he has closed himself off to everything and everyone." Nathan finally answered, he then moved towards Ezra.

Ezra turned his head when he heard another pair of footsteps. The sound was different to his own shoes, the noise seemed to be louder in his mind this time and it was no longer fascinating as it sounded familiar to him, it sounded the same as the footsteps that came down the stairs of the cellar, the ones that fed him occasionally and then took him and beat him. He looked up to see his Uncle walking towards him, a smile on his face.

"NO!" Ezra screamed at him. Nathan stopped as Ezra turned to him, his eyes filling with terror. "Keep away from me!" Ezra pushed back against Chris to try to get away from his Uncle. "Don't let him near me!" He asked the person holding him. "Please, don't let him hurt me!" He kept pushing until Chris's back hit the bar but he didn't stop, he continued to push backwards trying to get away from the man that had terrorised him for so long but when he realised that the person with him wasn't going to help he knew that he was on his own. Ezra searched his mind for the anger and hatred that he was going to need defend himself.

When he had finally gathered enough courage he tore himself from the grip that held him and attacked the man that he thought was his Uncle. Nathan didn't know what hit him, one minute Ezra was terrified of him and the next he rushed forward driving his shoulder into his stomach, knocking him backwards onto one of the tables, he felt his fists hitting his face and body but they didn't hurt him as much as the sound of Ezra's voice.


"You're not going to hurt me anymore. I won't let you, do you hear me!" Ezra screamed at him. "You son of a bitch!" He continued to hit out at him even though hands grabbed his body and pulled him away. He began to use his legs and laughed when he heard the cry of pain as he kicked his knee. "Do you like it? Answer me! Did you like the pain I caused you, it was nothing compared to what you did to me you bastard!" He knew he couldn't inflict any more pain as whoever had hold of him had pulled him out of his Uncle's reach.

Chris and Josiah had slowly come to terms with what was happening, they then quickly moved forward and grabbed Ezra before he could do anymore damage. They pulled him away from Nathan but heard the healer's cry of pain as one of Ezra's kicks connected with his knee.

"Come and help us!" Chris yelled to Buck and the others.

Buck and Vin came forward and helped drag Ezra away from Nathan, he continued to struggle against them as he tried to free himself their grip. They pulled him as far away from Nathan as they could and then threw him into a chair. Three of them held him down while Josiah tried to get through to him.

"Ezra!" Josiah and to grab hold of Ezra's face as he wouldn't keep his head still, he was trying to look around him so he could see his Uncle. "Ezra!"

Chris looked to see how Nathan was doing and found JD looking after him, if they had reacted to Ezra's physical attack on Nathan then he would have come out of it unscathed but they didn't, they were shocked at Ezra's reaction to Nathan.

Josiah looked into Ezra's wild eyes, he wasn't able to get him to answer him. "Ezra listen to me!" He decided to try something else. He let go of his jaw and then used his hand to stroke Ezra's forehead, he used his thumb to rub his temple. "Ezra, it's Josiah. Can you hear me?" There was an instant reaction in Ezra, his eyes moved towards the sound of Josiah's voice. "Ezra talk to me, I want to know that you’re here with us." He moved his hand down to Ezra's cheek. "Let him go." He ordered the others.

"Are you sure?" Chris asked him, they let go of Ezra and stepped back when Josiah nodded his assurance that what he was doing was going to work.

"Ezra?"

"Josiah?" Ezra looked into Josiah's eyes. "He was here, he was going to hurt me again."

"Who was here Ezra?" He asked him as wiped the hair from his forehead, he had hoped that the gentle touch that he had accepted would help calm him down and it had.

"Jack." It was a simple statement that scared everyone, including Chris.





Part One | Part Two


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