Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Main Characters: Josiah & Ezra
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Notes: You asked for it, so here it is – part 2.
Summary: Josiah thought about how he was going to convince Ezra to talk, knowing that if he didn’t, his young friend would continue to suffer his emotional pain alone and in silence, refusing any offer of friendship from his fellow peacekeepers, instead, substituting it with cheap whiskey.
Word Count: 2,588
Slammed - Two
The darkness receded into the shadows as the sun began to rise high into a clear blue sky. A breeze, almost a whisper, moved through the streets of Four Corners, lifting tiny piles of loose dirt, moving it through the air, twisting it, changing its shape, then letting it fall to the ground. Ashes from the night’s street fires glowed then darkened once again when the soft breeze attempted to resuscitate them.
Voices broke the morning’s silence, the town folk greeting each other, commenting on the beautiful weather, gossiping, spreading the news about how Mr. Sanchez had ridden out of town days earlier, five of the regulators riding out after him, leaving that poor young Mr. Standish on his own. But it was old news, and then someone mentioned that Mr. Standish had gotten so drunk during the night that he couldn’t stand up on his own two feet. The gossip changed and moved into a new direction.
Josiah moved slowly along the sidewalk, he was beyond exhausted, his body protesting every movement he made. The cuts on his cheek and forehead felt warm, swollen and painful and they itched; the blood had dried and he was yet to wash it off. His bruised ribs screamed, telling him that he should be resting, reminding him that he still needed that drink, that long hot bath and that week’s worth of sleep he’d promised himself and he intended to have all three by the end of the day.
He had spent the last three and a half hours staring up at a ceiling, trying to sort out his own emotions so he would be able to deal with Ezra’s in a calm manner. If he lost his temper while talking to Ezra, the Gambler would shut him out just as he’d done earlier in the saloon.
Josiah heard and understood the conversations going on around him. He growled at a group of women, their voices stopping in mid-sentence, as he passed them. They stepped back from him – one almost falling off the wooden sidewalk – fear filling their faces. They were aware of his anger, they had seen it before, and they knew what he was capable of, especially when drunk.
But Josiah didn’t care about their reaction. He had only one thought on his mind – Ezra Standish. He had left the gambler alone in the early hours of the morning, Ezra breaking into tears the moment he thought Josiah no longer watched him and Josiah wanted to know why. He had asked, but as usual, Ezra had manipulated the conversation, turned it around, making it all about Josiah, and had then convinced Josiah to leave.
The thought of Ezra, alone and upset angered him, and that anger was aimed at himself and his fellow regulators. They were supposed to be Ezra’s friends, men who were supposed to help when their friend was in need. Josiah couldn’t help but laugh at his own hypocrisy. He himself had been in need but instead of going to his friends, he had run out, attempting to deal with his problems on his own. If he had spoken to someone first, he wouldn’t have ended up in Bitter Creek, angry and looking for a fight.
However, he knew he couldn’t continue to blame the others, himself or even Ezra. They all knew what the Gambler was like when he was drunk. They were all different. Josiah became angry, lashing out at others, sometimes even becoming a physical force when he had drunk too much alcohol. Chris became withdrawn, keeping to himself, using his own anger and guilt to punish himself for what had happened to his wife and son. Ezra became insensitive, using words to hurt those around him, causing his friends to keep their distance, leaving him alone to drown in emotions that he found difficult to deal with.
Josiah thought about how he was going to convince Ezra to talk, knowing that if he didn’t, his young friend would continue to suffer his emotional pain alone and in silence, refusing any offer of friendship from his fellow peacekeepers, instead, substituting it with cheap whiskey.
As Josiah passed the alley next to the Saloon, a sound he knew all too well, reached his ears, causing his own stomach to turn violently. Josiah hesitated, and then decided to move on and leave the man to his own misery. Then he heard the man curse in a familiar Southern accent. Ezra.
Josiah silently moved into the alley, not wanting to disturb Ezra until he was ready. Dark shadows filled the alley, the sun not high enough in the sky to chase them away. It took his eyes a moment to adjust and when they did, he found Ezra.
The Gambler was next to a small pile of wooden crates stacked against the wall of the Saloon. He faced the wall, hunched over with one hand gripping the edge of one of the crates, the other hand on his right knee, and his back convulsing as he continued to heave. Ezra wore only his white shirt, which was soaked with sweat and clinging to his back and pinstriped trousers with the suspenders hanging down around his knees. Ezra’s hat and coat lay scattered on the ground behind him, as though Ezra had simply thrown them away.
Josiah frowned at the sight before him. This was not the sober, cheerful, Ezra Standish he had expected to find this morning. This man looked like a stranger, someone that Josiah felt he couldn’t possibly know or even begin to understand.
Maybe he’d made a mistake; this was not the time to talk to Ezra. Josiah turned away, thinking that it might be best if he waited until Ezra felt better. He then mentally slapped himself. This was the perfect time to talk to Ezra. The Gambler would be vulnerable, unprepared for a conversation, more likely to make a mistake and say something that would lead to an admission of what had upset him so much.
Josiah waited, grimacing in sympathy as Ezra continued to throw up. Josiah stepped back in surprise when Ezra suddenly stopped and watched as Ezra stood up straight, the gambler’s lithe form swaying before falling back, collapsing in the dirt, his head hitting the ground.
Josiah rushed forward, expecting to find an unconscious friend, but instead he found Ezra, eyes open wide, laughing at something that only he found funny.
Josiah crouched down on his ankles, reached forward and placed the palm of his right hand against Ezra’s right cheek, then moved it up to rest on Ezra’s forehead. Ezra was warm, but there was no fever, Josiah was sure of that. He then noticed that Ezra was looking at him, watching him with suspicion in his eyes.
“Josiah? What are you doing here?” Ezra frowned beneath the palm of Josiah’s hand. “You look like hell.”
Josiah removed his hand and using the sleeve of his shirt, wiped the saliva and bile from Ezra’s face, and said, “You look worse.”
Ezra grimaced in embarrassment and pushed Josiah’s hand away. “Not as bad as you I’m sure.”
Josiah sighed. Ezra was already manipulating the conversation. He took Ezra’s hand and pulled Ezra up into a sitting position. “Come on.”
Ezra groaned, and the sound told Josiah that the Gambler hadn’t finished. He pushed Ezra over onto his side and again waited patiently until Ezra was finished. Josiah felt the bile rise into his own throat and forced it back down. The smell was nauseating and when Ezra finished, he pulled the Gambler to his feet and away from the vomit.
“Josiah, my hat ... my coat.” Ezra was looking over his shoulder as they moved away. He could see his hat, now flat – he’d fallen on it – and his coat. He didn’t want to leave them there. He pulled himself out of Josiah’s strong grip and walked back toward his possessions. He only managed a few steps before falling for a second time.
This time Josiah’s reactions were quicker. He caught Ezra before the smaller man hit the ground.
“Let’s go.” Josiah, keeping a tight grip on Ezra’s arm, pulled him up to his feet and then bent over and picked up Ezra’s coat and hat. Josiah couldn’t keep his own groan of pain from escaping when his bruised ribs screamed. He took a breath and when the pain eased, he marched Ezra out of the alley and straight into the Saloon where he sat the Gambler down at a table at the back of the room and told him not to move.
Josiah placed Ezra’s hat and coat in the empty chair next to his friend and when Josiah turned away from Ezra, he noticed for the first time that the Saloon was empty. For a moment, he wondered who had opened its doors then realized that Ezra must have spent the night here, only venturing out into the alley to empty his stomach. He shook his head in frustration; he should not have left Ezra alone. He shouldn’t have walked away from a friend when he knew he was suffering. He had done it before in the church when Ezra had come to him for support and advice, and he had done it again earlier but now they were back where they had been nearly four hours ago and this time, he wouldn’t let Ezra down. It wouldn’t matter how angry Ezra got, or how much Ezra lashed out at him with words that were intended to hurt. If it came to it, Josiah himself would become physical, keeping Ezra in his chair until the younger man talked.
Josiah walked to the bar and then around it, and knowing that there would be no coffee at this time of the day, he searched for a jug of water. He found one, and after taking the jug and two glasses, he returned to their table and sat down.
Ezra had laid his forearms out on the table, and rested his forehead on his right arm, no doubt in an attempt to hide his eyes. Josiah watched him for a moment, taking in the sweat soaked hair, the pale skin, the slight tremors that ran through Ezra’s body and wondered what could have caused the younger man to react the way he did.
“Ezra.” Josiah wasn’t sure where he should begin.
“Josiah.” Ezra replied without raising his head.
“Ezra, look at me.”
Ezra lifted his head a few inches off his arm, and stared at Josiah through blood-shot eyes.
“We need to talk.”
“And just what is it that we need to talk about?”
“You know what I want to talk about, Ezra,” said Josiah.
“I’m sorry, Josiah, but I have no idea what it is you want to discuss with me.”
“Last night ... this morning, when I came back from Bitter Creek.” Josiah paused when Ezra sat up straight in his chair. He needed a moment to gather his thoughts so he picked up the jug and poured water into the two glasses. He placed one of them in front of Ezra and drank from the one he kept for himself. Josiah decided that he should just say what was on his mind. “Ezra, I want to know what’s upset you.” Josiah thought he heard Ezra growl but decided that Ezra must have cleared his throat or something similar.
“I don’t remember much of last night or this morning, and I don’t understand why you would think I was upset about something.”
“Do I look stupid to you, Ezra?”
“You look injured to me.”
“We’re not going to do this again, Ezra,” said Josiah.
“Do what, Josiah?”
“I will not allow you to control the conversation, to try and convince me that there is nothing wrong, because something is wrong. Look at yourself, Ezra. You almost drank yourself into a stupor last night. You drank with the knowledge that the others would stay away from you, leave you alone and ask you no questions.”
“The only thing I remember .... Josiah ... is that you ran out of town with your tail between your legs, all because you couldn’t deal with your sister’s problems.”
“Ezra, don’t you dare bring my sister into this conversation.”
“If you want to talk, Josiah, then you’re going to have to listen to my part of the conversation, it would be rude of you not to. But then again, perhaps it would be better for the both of us if I just left.” Ezra pushed his chair back and stood up, his hand gripping the back of the chair when his body threatened to fall down - again.
“Sit down!” Josiah yelled as he slammed his hand against the table. The water jug wobbled, then became still but its contents continued to move, taking a few moments to settle.
Ezra sat down, only because he didn’t think he would be able to make it to the Saloon’s doors on his own and he did not intend to ask for any help. “I notice that you still haven’t seen Nathan about your injuries. They look like they’ve become infected.”
Josiah ignored Ezra’s attempt to turn the conversation around. “I want you to know that I saw you through the window after I left. You were crying, Ezra, and I want to know why.”
Ezra glared at Josiah, the anger he felt at the intrusion showing clearly on his face. “I was drunk, Josiah. What is it exactly that you want me to say?”
“You were upset.”
“Alcohol has that effect on me.”
“Did someone die?”
Ezra blinked then looked away.
Josiah watched as a cloud of emotions filled Ezra’s eyes and he wasn’t surprised when Ezra rubbed his eyes dry, refusing to allow the tears to fall. Before Ezra could tell him that he was fine, that he didn’t want to talk about it, Josiah asked, “What happened?”
Ezra smiled, licked his bottom lip and shook his head. “I can’t ...”
“All my life, I’ve been taught not to show my emotions, that others would see it as a weakness, that they would take advantage of me. And when I need it most, when I need the skills my mother taught--” A single tear fell from Ezra’s left eye.
“I’m sorry, Ezra.”
“And I’m sorry that I wasn’t here for you when you received the news.”
“You had your own problems to deal with,” said Ezra. “Speaking of your problems, you really should get Nathan to look at those cuts. They look nasty.”
Josiah felt a fist close around his heart; Ezra was already trying to change the subject, to turn the conversation around so it was about someone else.
“She was an amazing woman.” Josiah blinked and leaned back in his chair, and when he felt his own eyes fill, not only because of Ezra’s admission but also for his friend, he got up and returned to the bar.
“You don’t have to stay, Josiah. I understand if you want to leave.”
“I’m not leaving you alone, Ezra.” For the second time that day, Josiah reached over the bar, grabbed a bottle of Malt whiskey and returned to the table. He emptied the water from Ezra’s glass, filled it with whiskey, and then filled his own. After raising his glass, Josiah said, “To Maude, a beautiful and amazing woman.”
Ezra smiled and raised his own glass, “To Mother, an amazing and gifted woman.”
Note: I wasn't going to reveal what was wrong, but then Ezra reacted when Josiah mentioned Maude, and it went from there. There will be a sequel to this sequel ... I'm confused ...
Part One | Part Two
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