azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Four Corners
Rating: PG
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
AU: Seven Brothers AU
Main Characters: Ezra and Buck and the rest of the seven
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Notes: Michelle Naylor created the Seven Brothers AU years ago and as far as I can remember, there has only been three stories written in this AU. "The Reading of the Will" was written by Rebecca and tells of how the seven brothers came together. You will need to read Rebecca's story first to understand the references in this story.
Summary: Buck makes a bet he can't win and Ezra owes a debt he can't pay.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 12,186



Ezra Standish, a man who enjoyed the better things in life had been delegated to the back of the pickup with a four-legged animal. Not that the animal was bad company, not at all, in fact it turned out to be better company than the six individuals who kept claiming to be his kin. More often than not, you would find Ezra sitting on one of the many chairs on the porch that surrounded the large house with the dog lying at his feet. He found his conversations with Jack to be more interesting and entertaining. Jack didn't question him, didn't doubt him or mistrust him like the others. He could talk to him the way he couldn't and wouldn't talk to the others.

Standish removed the hat he was wearing and tried to shake the dust from it. It was useless because the dust stuck to the sweat stained areas of the hat. His sweat. His hard working sweat. They had thrown him into the deep end and worked him harder than he had ever worked in his life, (as much as his still healing ribs would allow that was). They had no respect for the injured and dying. He was dying. The pain he was feeling told him so. He even had the blisters to prove it. Not only did he have to wear a ridiculous hat, but he also had to forgo his suits and wear jeans. He found jeans to be uncomfortable and for some reason they garnered too much attention from the female sex. He wanted women to be attracted to his intelligence and not the way his backside looked in a pair of jeans. He wasn't Buck Wilmington.

He was now left with only one suit, which stood out among the K-mart clothing line of jeans, shirts and t-shirts. The rest of his suits were in storage, along with his car and expensive watch. It seems that there was no use for a Porsche on a ranch. The one time he did wear his suit into town he stood out like a sore thumb and that was something he didn't want, not while Moore could still be looking for him.

Another fly entered his mouth. It was the third one that had flown into his mouth during the one-hour trip to town. He had to remember to keep his mouth shut or there would be more. A smile filled his face when he turned to look at Jack, (Linc Larabee's dog). He was facing towards the front of the pick-up with his head hanging over the side, his jaw was open, and his tongue was flapping in the wind that was rushing past them. He wasn't having any problems with flies and if he did, all he had to do was swallow. Dogs. They had the life, as long as they had a good owner.

Ezra recognised a landmark; they would reach town in another ten minutes. They had been sent to buy the monthly supplies but Ezra was sure he would be able to talk Buck and JD into stopping at Duncan's bar in Four Corners for a very cold beer, just what was required after riding in the back of a pickup for an hour. It wouldn't be too hard to convince Buck because his latest girlfriend was working as a waitress at the bar. How long this girlfriend would last, Ezra didn't know she was already the third one in the three weeks since he'd been here; the man was just like his father. Correction. Their father.

The pickup began to slow as they drove through the edge of town. Four Corners was a town like any other: (that's if you didn't include the Larabee clan and their family troubles) it had a school, a town hall, a sheriff’s department and everything else that a small town held. The only thing it didn't have was a way for a man to escape and Ezra wanted to escape but he had made a promise not to leave and he was a man who kept his promises. He only had eleven months left then he could leave with a cool one-million dollars.

Ezra began to fall forward and was then slammed back against the pickup's back window when the vehicle came to an abrupt halt. He swore and pressed the palm of his hand against the back of his head. Damn! These men were going to be the death of him and/or his inheritance. Ezra grimaced when he pictured himself handing over a one million-dollar check to the local hospital to cover a year's worth of medical bills.

After deciding not to complain about Wilmington's driving, he jumped from the pick-up and told Jack to stay where he was. The dog whimpered and licked his face but it wasn't going to help. He repeated the order and the dog went and sat in a corner where he would wait for them to return.

Without a word to anyone, Ezra followed his two half brothers into the store. It wasn't the usual supermarket; this was a store where you could buy in bulk. Instead of grabbing a trolley each, Buck simply handed over a long list to a young woman and spoke a few words into her ear. She blushed severely in return then left to fill the order. Ezra grimaced in disgust. Buck didn't seem to care much about women, only that he could have them when he wanted them. But Ezra would one day learn that Buck treated all women with respect. He wasn't entirely like their father. He would love them and leave them but he never abandoned them.

JD openly laughed at his half-brother was doing.

'Watch and learn JD, watch and learn,' said Buck.

'Learn what,' Ezra answered before JD could, 'learn how to drag a young girl through the dirt.'

'It's washing the dirt off that's the best part Ezra.' Buck nudged and winked at JD.

'You're unbelievable.' Ezra turned around and stormed outside.

'He doesn't like us very much does he Buck?' JD was frowning at the man who now stood on the porch with his arms crossed in front of him.

Buck put an arm around JD's shoulders and said, 'Other way around JD, he doesn't like himself very much at the moment but that'll change with time.'

Ezra had noted that JD had settled in quickly and soon became part of the instant family. He was glad for JD who had only recently lost his mother. The kid now he had six half-brothers that he hadn't known about until a month ago.

JD had taken to everyone, including one Ezra Standish and Ezra could not for the life of him understand why the kid liked him. Ezra Standish wasn't a man that was easily liked. Just as Buck had just said, he didn't even like himself much of the time.

'We'll be back in an hour Lindsey so there's no rush.' Buck yelled.

'We're we going Buck?' JD ran after Buck who was already walking out the store, (past one surprised Ezra Standish) and onto the main street. He then took off in a direction that would take them to destination they were told not to go. Certain orders were given by one Chris Larabee. Do not go to Duncan's Bar

'Duncan's Bar.'

Ezra almost fell over his own feet in surprise when he heard the bar being mentioned. He thought he was going to have to talk them into it.

'Well that wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.' Ezra used his dirty hands to comb through his short hair to make himself look more presentable but without realising it, he only made it worse.

During the three weeks he'd been here, he had never been in the bar. He had managed to look through the windows but when he was about to step through the door the person he was with would either tell him "no" or grab him by the shirt collar and pull him away. But now he was going to get his chance. He admired the way the door swung open then close behind him just like the saloon doors did in the old west. The bar itself though was simply furnished with round tables and chairs. There were three doors that held the sign "Private! Members Only". It would truly make his day if they turned out to be gambling rooms. Buck would know because he had lived here in town until his mother died and then at the ranch afterwards.

Ezra quickly moved to the table without looking desperate, sat down and waited for someone to bring him his first cold beer. He sure as hell wasn't going to stop at one. He noticed when Buck sat down opposite him. Neither man had the intention of buying the first round. It was left to JD to go to the bar and buy three beers. He stared lovingly at the beer when it was placed in front of him. He didn't wait for JD to sit down; instead, he left his manners at the door and emptied the glass in one attempt then smacked his lips with his tongue in satisfaction.

'Thirsty huh Ezra?' Buck smiled at the satisfied expression on his brother's face then emptied his own glass.

'I'll get the next round.' Ezra was up and moving before Buck could say anything.

'You think he likes his drink?' JD was frowning at Ezra's back.

'He likes a cold beer after sitting in the back of a pickup for an hour.' Buck corrected JD.

'He didn't have to sit in the back. There was room in the front for all of us.'

'I don't think he felt welcome in front with us. He's got this impression that we don't like him.' Buck was watching as Ezra made his way back to the table.

'Where would he get that idea?'

'I can give you a few reasons off the top of my head.'

'Chris,' said JD.

Buck nodded.

'Nathan,' JD continued.

'He thinks the only one that likes him is the dog.' Buck stopped talking when Ezra arrived with three more cold beers.

There was a smile on the Southerner's face that he hadn't seen before. It wasn't artificial or full of sarcasm as it usually was. This was Ezra in a relaxed state. He wasn't on the defensive but instead open to conversation and perhaps a little fun.

When Ezra sat down Buck asked, 'What do you like to do for fun Ezra?'

'Fun? Me?'

'Fun and yeah you.'

Buck was able to stop himself from grimacing in frustration; trying to get information out of this guy was like trying to pull teeth from a conscious man without reducing the painful effects first.

' Do you mean things like Hobbies? Drinking? Gambling maybe? Womanising?'

Buck knew the womanising remark was made for his benefit. Yes, he was like his father in that regard and like his father, he respected women and treated them well. He didn't use them then throw them away as Ezra thought he did. The women in town knew what to expect from him and they didn't ask for anything more.

'Yeah, what do you like to do for fun?'

'What do you do?' Ezra threw the question back at Wilmington without answering it.

'Go out on the town with my friends, enjoy a drink and a game of cards.' Buck saw the glint in Ezra's green eyes and thought he may have accidentally found something that Ezra liked to do. "You like a game of cards?"

'Occasionally.' Ezra answered without giving out too much information.

'Poker?' Buck asked.

Ezra nodded.

Buck pointed over his shoulder at the private rooms. 'Some big games go on in there.'

'Really.'

'For someone who has a vocabulary the size of the titanic you're not saying much.'

'Not much to say.'

'I've played poker before but not for money.' JD told them.

'You don't play poker for anything else JD,' said Ezra.

The hour-long trip in the back of a pickup had been worth it. Not only was he enjoying a cold beer but also he now knew that gambling not only existed in Four Corners but for some unknown reason it was also allowed. Now if only he had some money to play with. Payday or "monthly allowance" as Travis had put it wasn't for another week; they had to work for a month before they received their first payment.

'Played a few myself.' Buck said to grab Ezra's attention again. 'Won a few too.'

'And the law allows it?'

'This is an easy-going town Ezra, and so are the games. They don't allow cheating though. If you're caught cheating you'll never play again.'

'I don't cheat.'

There was an ugly tone in Ezra's voice that Buck didn't like. 'I wasn't accusing you of being a cheat Ezra.'

'I'm glad to hear that Mr. Wilmington.'

'So when are we going to play?' Buck smiled across the table at his half brother.

'As soon as we land our hands on some cash.' Ezra smiled back.

'And I know just where to get some.' Buck was looking past JD at someone in the background. Both Ezra and JD turned to see whom he was watching. Four men were standing at the bar. They looked as though they'd already had a few beers.

'What're you gonna do Buck,' asked JD.

'I'm gonna get Ezra and me here some money so we can have us a game of poker.' He nodded at the four men. 'Thad Morgan. Owns a small ranch on the North side of town. That man would bet his own mother if he thought he had a chance of winning. You stay here while I go and have a chat, see if I can get him to agree on something.' Buck stood up, took two steps and then turned back to Ezra. 'You a good player, 'cause if you're not then there's no use in-?'

'Yes.'

The one word was said with enough confidence that Buck didn't even question him.

Ezra and JD listened to the few parts of the conversation that they could hear. It had started out friendly enough but soon turned angry. It ended abruptly and Buck returned to the table.

'Well?' JD was curious to know what had been decided.

Ezra couldn't help but think that Buck was going to lead the boy astray.

'It was fugly.'

'What?' Ezra choked on his beer. He'd never heard the phrase before.

'That was fuck ugly!' growled Buck.

'I'm going to have to remember that one.' Ezra couldn't help but laugh at the expression on Buck's face. He thought it was priceless. If he had a friend in the world, he would tell them about it.

'And?' JD asked.

'A horse race tomorrow at our ranch.'

'What's wrong with that?' asked JD.

'They choose the horse and rider.'

'Like I said, what's wrong with that?' JD asked again.

'You're asking too many questions for your own good JD!'

'Well if you gave out more information I wouldn't need to ask so many questions!'

'Just answer his damn question Buck,' Ezra told him, 'tell him how Morgan played you for a fool.'

'What makes you think he played me?'

'Let's just say that I can read a situation better than you think.'

'What the hell are you talking about Ezra... it all went exactly the way I planned it.'

'You Mr. Wilmington are a liar. And you're stupid when it comes to this sort of thing so next time let's make introductions and I'll do the talking.'

'He's not stupid Ezra so don't talk to him like that.'

'Explain it to the boy Mr. Wilmington.'

'Stop calling me that and he didn't... damn it! He did, he always does.' Buck raised his hands above his head then dropped them back onto the table.

Ezra leaned closer to JD. 'Think about it Mr. Dunne. How many of us are good enough to ride in a horse race and after you think about that think about this, all they have to do is pick a bad horse.'

'That's the sort of bet he made?' JD smiled at Ezra. 'You would have to be pretty stupid to make that kind of bet.'

'Apparently he is.' Ezra agreed then asked, 'How much?'

Buck scowled at him and answered, 'Two hundred.'

Ezra laughed and shook his head then said, 'Buck you never gamble against a stacked deck and you never bet what you don't have.'

'Tell me about it.' Buck grumbled.

*******

Chris glared at Buck. He had always known the man could be an idiot, but why did he also have to be so bloody stupid. No doubt, it had been Buck's idea to have a horse race but to allow the opposition to choose the horse and rider was absolutely idiotic, and foolish. Buck was an ignoramus. Ah hell, it had only been three weeks and already he was listening to Ezra too much, way too much. The man had a way with words that only a dictionary could understand. Even JD was using words that he couldn't hope to understand unless they were explained to him and it had become well known that Ezra often refused to explain his statements.

What was Buck going to do if Morgan chose JD? He would probably renounce the bet. JD was young and new to the life of a rancher; if you looked hard, enough you would see the green moisture behind his ears. The youngster had only gotten the hang of riding a horse, but he was yet to gain the skills to ride in a race, especially along the terrain that had been chosen.

'What!' Buck yelled and turned around to look at his friends - he refused to see Chris, who was glaring at him, if he looked into those cold green eyes he would no doubt drop dead on the spot. 'No way, he hasn't even been a horse!'
Chris frowned, the only person here who hasn't been on a horse was Ezra, and that man was even greener than JD. Buck Wilmington was a dead man. He dropped his arms and walked to the two arguing men.

'No,' Chris pulled Buck away from Morgan and took the ladies man's place. 'There is no way in hell that Ezra is going to get on a horse. It's one thing to be stupid enough to make a bet like this, and believe me, Buck is that stupid... '

'Hey!' Buck protested.

'But to put Ezra, who only saw a real one for the first time three weeks ago, on a horse is suicidal.'

Ezra who had been standing a short distance away raised an eyebrow in surprise. He'd been chosen to ride the horse. He would have laughed aloud except everyone would look at him as though he were crazy. Ezra knew what they were thinking; Ezra Standish, city boy, ride a horse, the man wouldn't go anywhere near one, he didn't like the smell, says they're uncouth creatures that don't have a brain in their heads - Ezra ride a horse, yeah right. For some reason the six men had thought that, it would be best if he didn't learn to ride straight away because of his ribs.

They wanted him to hang around the horses until they got use to him. That's how they had put it, "for the horses to get use to him" and not the other way around. Did they think he was going to be a bad influence on them? What could he teach a horse? They'd been surprised by the fact that he had known what a horse was.

'Buck made a bet Chris and he can't go back on that.' Morgan told him although he refused to look at him. He was staring at Buck, the man who had made the bet in the first place.

'Ezra can't even get on a horse.' Chris retorted.

'A bet's a bet.'

'He's right Mr. Larabee,' Ezra came forward. 'Buck is just going to have to lose the bet.'

'I ain't losing this bet Ezra!' Buck growled from his position behind Chris.

'You are if I'm riding,' Ezra smiled, 'unless of course I get half of your winnings.'


'Ezra!' Chris grabbed Ezra's left elbow and dragged him away to an area that was more private then leaned in close, too close. 'Ezra, you don't know how to ride a horse, you never saw a horse until you came here.'

'There is a lot that I don't know how to do Mr. Larabee but I'm sure I can learn.'

'God damn it Ezra, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Chris.'

'Mr. Lara... '

'Ezra, I'm your brother, you don't call your brother Mr.' Chris was becoming impatient with the man.

'Half brother Mr. Larabee,' Ezra reminded him, 'and I've only known you for three weeks, and for that first week you were, and still are I might add, a control freak, and a rude impatient man with a very short temper.'

'I'm not controlling Ezra.' Chris put his hands on his hips and glared into Ezra's green eyes.

'I am a grown man, and I can do what I please and that includes leaving this ranch. Now, I am going to get on a horse and race that man. Buck made a bet and now I'm part of that bet. There isn't anything I can do about it.'

'You can say no.'

'That would make me a coward.'

'You're not a coward Ezra, and saying no won't make you one.'

'I'm carrying out the bet.' Ezra began to walk away but Chris grabbed him and pulled him back.

'Don't do this Ezra.'

'You can't stop me!'

'I don't have to. You won't be able to mount the horse.'

Ezra smiled and shook his head. 'Well at least I could say I tried.'

Buck looked worriedly at Ezra when the Southerner rejoined them. 'Everything okay Ezra?'

'Everything's fine Mr. Wilmington.'

'That's Buck to you.'

Ezra ignored him. 'Have you chosen a particular horse for me to ride yet Mr. Morgan?'

'That one, the chestnut with the white face.' Morgan pointed to a horse that stood alone and away from the other horses.

'That one,' Buck also pointed to make sure they were talking about the same horse, 'that one right there, the one standing on its own.'

'Yep, looks like it wouldn't even make it half way around the course, not even that I would say.'

'You're going to pick that one.'

'Yeah, I am.' Morgan argued. 'Is there something wrong with that?'

'No,' Buck started laughing, 'nothing wrong with that at all.'

'What are you laughing at?' Morgan demanded.

'That horse won't even make it past the starting line. It's stupid. It actually sits down when you try to get it moving.'

'That horse sits down?' Morgan joined Buck in his laughter.

'Yeah,'

'Then you're going to lose the bet.'

'Huh?' Buck stopped laughing and began to choke.

'If that horse won't go anywhere, you're going to lose the bet.' Morgan informed him.

'Oh shit.'

'You got that right.' Morgan slapped Buck on the back. 'So how 'bout you pick out a horse and a rider from my group.'

Morgan nodded to the small group of men that had been standing to the side watching and listening to the conversation.

'That one and that one.' Buck grunted.

He'd lost the bet and the race hadn't even started. It wasn't going to start. If it weren't for the money, he'd be grateful. Buck hadn't expected Morgan to pick Ezra. But at least the horse he chose wouldn't hurt Ezra, unless of course the mare sat on him.

'Good choice Buck, you just chose a pole and a water bucket.' Ezra told him. 'I might have a chance of winning after all.'

'I'm gonna have to pay up aren't I.' Buck slapped his forehead with an open palm.

'Buck, just how much did you bet?' Chris asked him.

'Um, well,' Buck grumbled the rest of the words out behind his hand.

'What was that Buck, I didn't hear your attempt at plain English?'

'Two hundred.' Buck looked everywhere except at his half brother.

'WHAT!'

'Take it easy Chris,' he lifted an arm in an attempt to calm the man down.

'It was a stupid idea to make the bet in the first place, it's suicidal to put Ezra on a horse... '

'Don't worry, Chris, that horse isn't going anywhere. Ezra won't get hurt.'

'Don't interrupt me Buck.'

'Sorry.'

'And it's completely idiotic to bet money that you don't have!'

'That's what I told him,' said Ezra.

'You don't have the money?' Morgan asked him.

'I wasn't planning on losing.' Buck groaned.

'The bet stands Buck,' Morgan growled, 'and I expect the money to be here by the time the race finishes.'

'In that case, you might want to re-pick the horse and rider.' Ezra nudged Buck in the side.

'Whose side are you on?' Buck pushed Ezra away.

Ezra returned the favour by pushing him back.

'Guys.' Morgan was tapping his foot on the ground.

Buck gave one more shove then quickly moved away before Ezra could push back.

'Okay, I pick Jarrod and... and... and... that palomino.'

'Nice choice Buck.' Ezra agreed with him.

'What the hell would you know?'

'That's a pretty horse. You think she'll beat mine?'

'That's a gelding Ezra, a male horse.' Buck told him and nodded his head downwards.

Ezra bent over and placed his hands on his knees. 'Whew, is that what you mean when you tell the ladies that you’re hung like a horse.'

Buck glared at his brothers when they began to encourage Ezra's bantering. 'No Ezra, I'm hung like a Stallion.'

'What's the difference?' Ezra knew the difference but he wanted to watch Buck squirm.

'The gelding's been cut.' Buck leaned sideways so only Ezra could hear him.

'Oh,' Ezra nodded. 'From what I've seen you're more like a gelding than a stallion.'

'So help me Ezra I'm going to-'

'Can we cut the crap and start this race.' Morgan yelled before Buck could tell Ezra what he was going to do with the
Southerner's body before he buried him in a pile of horse shit.

'Sure Morgan, we'll just get Saddie saddled up and give Ezra a few pointers. Half an hour be okay with you?'

'Twenty minutes.' Morgan returned.

'Twenty it is then.' Buck nodded.

'Mr. Wilmington,' Ezra nudged him again. 'You think twenty minutes is long enough for you to teach me how to get on a horse?'

'You're only going to need to learn to stay on Saddie when she sits down.' Buck growled. 'Now are you coming or are you just going to stand there grinning like an idiot!'

'Oh I'm coming, I have to see this... she actually sits down?'

'Yes,'

'Really,' Ezra smiled.

'Yes, really.'

'She doesn't actually sit on anything does she?'

'What do you mean?' Buck stopped and gave Ezra a suspicious look.

'Does she sit on a chair, sofa... you?'

'What!' he took a step closer, his body language warning Ezra not to say anything that would piss him off, but he'd learnt in the last three weeks that Ezra used his mouth when he was being threatened or pushed into something he didn't want to do.

'Well, you said you were hung like a gelding.' Ezra's expression was serious.

'Ezra, when this race is over, and that's going to take all but two minutes, I'm gonna to take you around the back of the barn and whip your ass then bury you. Do you understand me?'

'I'll be looking forward to it Buck.' Ezra smiled and continued walking to the corral.

Buck stared after him. That was the first time Ezra had called him by his first name. He turned to let Chris know what had happened but quickly turned away when he saw the expression of anger on his brother's face. The others looked as though they were trying to decide whose side they were on. He could easily tell that Vin and JD were on his side, or was it Ezra's. Josiah looked, as though he were about to hit him. Nathan just had that look of disgust he'd had on his face ever since he learnt that Ezra not only gambled but also conned people out of their money.

'Here Saddie, here girl, come to papa.' Ezra called the horse but when it refused, he began to make kissing noises.

'What are you doin' Ezra? That ain't no way to call a horse.'

'It works on dogs.' Ezra shrugged.

'That is not a dog Ezra.' Buck moved Ezra to one side then positioned him so he could do nothing but watch. 'I'll show you how it's done.'

Buck grabbed a rope that was hanging on one of the posts and climbed the rails. He walked straight to the horse, (if there was one thing you could say about Saddie, it was that she liked people) and looped the rope around her neck. He then led her towards the stables.

'You comin' Ezra.' Buck called to him.

'Running all the way Buck.' Ezra didn't hurry, it wasn't going to take Buck long to saddle Saddie, but it was going to take him a while to explain how to get on a horse. By the time he'd reached his destination, the horse was saddled.
'What took you so long?'

'I told you I was running all the way.' Ezra smiled.

'What is it with you today? You're in a good mood. This is something I haven't seen before.'

'I'm thinking about my half of the winnings... '

'There isn't going to be any.'

'And I'm going to win your half.'

'I told you, there isn't going to be any ... or are you going to cheat?'

'I don't cheat.' Ezra growled. His good mood disappeared as quickly as his smile. 'Now are you going to give me some pointers about the route Saddie and I are going to take.'

Buck could have hit himself. Chris was right. He could be really stupid.

'What's the use, you can't win. Saddie won't go anywhere.'

'I still want to know.'

'Why don't I show you how to get on first.'

'That can wait, tell me about the course.'

It took Buck five minutes to tell Ezra about the path he wasn't going to take. It was pretty straightforward. The path had been worn into the ground through years of horses and motorbikes using the same trail.

'Thank you, now if I could have a moment with the horse please.'

'Ezra...'

'Mr. Wilmington, I am not going to do anything to the animal, I'm not going to give her some sort of wonder drug to make her go... '

'Ezra, I know that, it's just, well, you've never been this close to a horse before. You won't know how to handle her if she tries something.'

'What do you think she's going to do? Sit on me?'

'Ezra!'

'I'm only asking for a private moment with the young lady horse.'

Buck ran his hand through his hair. Why was this man so difficult to talk to? 'I'll come back in a few minutes.'

'Thank you.'

When Buck left them alone, Ezra rested his head against the horse's neck. 'Why am I here Saddie?'
It was a question that neither he nor the horse could answer. Saddie turned her head to look at him.

'Yes, animals are a lot easier to get along with. Animals give us unconditional love.' Ezra rubbed Saddie's nose and playfully pulled at her ears. 'We've got a race to run Saddie, you feel up to it?'

She pushed at Ezra with her head, he came back and she pushed him again.

'I'll take that as a yes.' Ezra smiled and rubbed the horse's upper lip. 'At least after this we can see each other during the day.' Ezra chuckled when Saddie snorted in his face.

Ezra took the reins and led the horse out of the stables. Buck was waiting outside.

'I saw this in a movie once. They led the horse by this lead and... '

'They're called reins Ezra.' Buck took the horse from Ezra and led it to the starting point.

'Reins it is then.' Ezra followed them. 'Hey Buck.'

Buck stopped and turned around. 'You change your mind Ezra.'

'No, no I haven't. Thought maybe you would be interested in a little bet between us.'

'A bet on what?'

'On whether or not that horse sits down.'

'You'd lose Ezra.'

'Then you agree to a bet.' Ezra raised an eyebrow at him.

'What is it that you want to bet?'

'The two hundred dollars that you're going to win. One hundred of it is mine... '

'What makes you think that Ezra?' Buck placed his hands on his hips. He didn't realise that Chris was watching him closely and that his brother knew his body language well enough to know that he was up to something that wasn't good.

'Because I'm riding the horse Mr. Wilmington.'

'So you want to bet your half of the winnings against my half that Saddie won't sit down.'

'Yes.' Ezra agreed.

'Why not, it's not like we're going to win anyway.'

'But you will if she sits down.'

'She's going to sit down Ezra, she always does.'

'Then what do you have to lose.'

'Absolutely nothing Ezra.'

'We're agreed on it then.'

'Yep, at least I'll have a hundred to pay Morgan.'

'BUCK!'

'Yes Chris.' Buck pulled at the reins and Saddie walked behind him.

'What the hell are you up to now?'

'Nothing. What makes you think I'm up to something?'

'Because I know you, I know how you think and I know what every movement of your body means, and at the moment, your body language is telling me that you're up to something.'

Ezra grimaced in disgust. Of course you know him Chris, your father didn't send you and your mother away when you were a child. You had the opportunity to grow up with Buck and Nathan.

'He was merely trying to talk me out of my attempt to mount that horse.' Ezra explained to him.
Chris narrowed his eyes at his half-brother. He was beginning to trust Ezra in some areas but he wouldn't put it past the man to lie his way out of trouble.

'Is that true Buck?'

'You don't believe me Mr. Larabee?' Ezra began to rub the thumb and forefinger of his right hand together. It was a habit that he had picked up as a child.

'It's not that I don't believe you Ezra, it's that... '

'You don't trust me. Is that it? You think I would lie to you over something as little as this?'

'Ezra,' Vin liked Ezra, he knew the man had a good heart. He was just brought up the wrong way, 'that's not what Chris is saying.'

'Stay out of this Mr. Tanner, it's none of your business.' Ezra didn't need anybody to stand up and fight his fights for him. He was quite capable of doing it himself. He'd always taken care of himself.

'He's only trying to help Ezra, he's your brother, we all are,' said Chris.

'Half brothers Mr. Larabee and that's only because your father was a womanising, selfish bastard that thought only of himself. He used women, planted his seed then tossed them away as though they were nothing but useless pieces of rubbish. But he didn't do that with every woman did he! No, you and Nathan had a father and Buck was always close by.'

'I'm going to forget you said that Ezra. You didn't know him, he wasn't like that.' Chris held his anger in check.

'You're right Mr. Larabee, I didn't know him, and if he were here today, I would tell him to burn in hell!'

'I didn't know him either Ezra.' JD growled at him. 'But I wouldn't say something like that to him. He had his reasons; he just never had a chance to tell us what they were.'

'I gave him a chance JD, he refused to take it.'

'What are you talking about?' Chris clenched his fists.

'Nothing.' He thought about the green signature card in his wallet but threw the thought away. Lincoln Larabee was dead and could no longer give Ezra the answer to the question he'd been asking all his life. He turned to Buck. 'Mr. Wilmington, I believe we have a race to win.'

Chris shook his head. The man was as stubborn as his father was. He couldn't even ride a horse and yet he was expecting to win the race and the bet.

Buck looked at Chris and sent him an expression that told him he needed to calm down. His expression changed when Chris glared back at him.

'You better go and show him how to get on that horse Buck.' Chris told him. 'And Buck, if he gets hurt, you're going to pay dearly.'

'Are you coming Mr. Wilmington!' Ezra yelled out to him.

'I'm not going to win either way.' Buck grumbled as he moved to follow Ezra.





Part One | Part Two


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