azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: A Love Lost
Rating: PG
Warnings: Bad writing and a lack of contractions.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Main Characters: Ezra and everyone else.
Summary: Ezra is in love but an old enemy has other ideas install for Ezra and his new lady friend.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Spoilers: None
Author's Notes: People keep asking about this story . . . it's location. I gave up. Put it up.
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 16,550





It had been two weeks since they brought Ezra back home; he still was not talking. He uttered a single word here and there but did no real talking, held no conversations with anyone. He didn't smile, not a real one anyway. Everybody else was getting quite depressed themselves just being with him. Buck stopped making jokes to try to break his mood. Josiah stopped trying to get him to talk. Chris stopped being angry with him. JD stopped trying to get him to play a game of poker with him. Nathan stopped trying to heal him. Vin stopped trying to get him to get him to do something to occupy him.

They had all stopped because nothing they did helped him. They had tried getting angry with him but that did not even bring out a response from him. They had tried being sympathetic but that had not worked either. They had tried being nice to him but that had not helped. They even tried getting Mary to talk to him. But she had left his room crying, she had not seen him like that before and could not handle what she saw in his eyes. They had tried everything but nothing had worked. They gave up. Nathan thought that he would have come back by now. But Ezra hadn't.

Both Vin and Chris were sitting with Ezra on the porch of the saloon. It was a warm day and they wore only their shirts but Ezra still wore his dark green jacket. Chris and Vin looked up as they heard the coach come into town. Ezra though kept his gaze towards the ground. It was where he always looked, as he did not want to look at anyone else. They watched the stage pull up in front of the hotel and waited to see who would come out. After the driver jumped off, he went and opened the door. They saw a young woman step from the coach.

"Buck will be showing up any moment now." smiled Vin. He looked at Ezra giving no response to the remark.

"Yep Buck always show up when there is a beautiful woman around." agreed Chris.

Ezra had still not looked up. He had heard all of their conversations over the last two weeks, heard all of their questions. But he did not talk back, didn't answer. He did not want to talk to anyone, didn't even want to tell them to leave him alone. He had too many thoughts going through his head that he needed to sort out. To many emotions, that he did not know how to deal with. Nothing that they could have said to him would have helped; they probably would have just made things more confusing for him.

He was completely shocked when he saw his Uncle enter that room. It was bad enough what he went through with Jack but to have to go through it again. His mother had never left him with Eric but that Uncle had visited his brother many times and he often watched as Jack beat him. He did nothing to help Ezra at those times. He just watched and laughed at the twelve-year-old boy as he was beaten. Ezra never understood why he did that. He also still hadn't been able to deal with the guilt that he had over the death of George Lascon. It both saddened and angered him that an innocent man had died. He still hated himself for that.

"There he is." said Chris as he saw Buck running across the street, he was in a hurry to reach the woman who had just got off the stagecoach.

Ezra finally looked up. He saw the woman standing there being confronted by Buck. She had a polite smile on her face as they she was just putting up with him. Ezra could see the slim figure, the shoulder length brown hair, the smile he thought was quite catching. She turned towards Ezra and the others; he could see the long face with the high cheekbones. The flawless complexion, he was not able to tell the colour of her eyes though. He then looked down back at the ground occupied by his own thoughts again.

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Buck had seen the woman exit the stagecoach and immediately ran over to her intending to help her with her luggage and anything else that she wanted. "Well good morning there pretty lady." he smile at her and tipped his hat.

"Good morning." she replied smiling slightly at him.

"The name is Buck Wilmington and I would like to escort yourself and your luggage to the hotel."

"Why Mr Wilmington the hotel is right there in front of us. You do not need to escort me." she continued to smile.

Buck was slightly confused for a moment, but only a moment. "Well then perhaps I can carry them to your room for you?"

"That you may do Mr Wilmington." she proceed up the stairs to the hotel and Buck followed her in carrying her luggage. He followed her up to the front desk. He heard her give her name to the man at the desk.

"Rochelle Hamilton, now that is a beautiful name." said Buck as he followed her up the stairs to her room.

"Why thank you, I was named after my Grandmother." she smiled back at him.

"So what has brought you to Four Corners Miss Hamilton? It is Miss isn't it?"

"Yes it is and I am just stopping for a couple of weeks, then I will be moving on. I am on my way to visit family but I thought I would make a trip of it, stay a while in some of the smaller towns between here and San Francisco." they had reached her room. She opened the door and allowed Buck to go in before her but she waited outside until he came back out.

"I will be glad to show you around town if you like, introduce you to some of the fine people here."

He bent down, reached for her hand, raised it to his lips, and kissed it. He had seen Ezra do this plenty of times and it always worked for him. A slight sadness came over his face at the thought of his friend.

"Is there something wrong?"

"Sorry, just thinking about a friend." he smiled. "May I escort you to dinner tonight?"

"Yes you may and perhaps this friend of yours could join us?" she asked.

"Huh." said Buck.

"The expression that you had when you thought about him was sadness, is there something wrong with your friend?"

Buck could see that she was sincere in what she was saying. "I'm afraid that Ezra would not be much of a talker. He hasn't really spoken much lately; we can't get him to talk."

"Why don't you ask him anyway, perhaps you should ask some others to join us as well, I may be able to get him to talk. I mean he would not ignore a stranger would he, especially a woman."
Buck smiled. 'You must be a very special woman.' he thought to himself, he also hoped that she was right. "I shall come and get you around seven then."

"Looking forward to it Mr Wilmington." she smiled back at him.

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When Buck came out of the hotel, he looked towards the saloon thinking that Ezra would be in there. He saw him sitting on the porch with Chris and Vin. He walked up to them with a big smile on his face as he finally had hope that someone could help Ezra.

Vin saw him coming. "Looks like Buck got what he wanted." Vin saw the smile that crossed his face.
Buck tipped his hat. "Boys." He looked at Ezra and noticed that he did not even look up at him to acknowledge his greeting. "The young lady who just arrived in town has invited us to dinner."

"She what?" Vin was stunned that Buck could accomplish so much in just one visit. "How did you manage that?"

Buck smiled. He winked at them and then looked at Ezra. "That invitation includes you Ezra. Are you going to come?"

"No." was all Ezra said. He still did not look at him.

"She is going to be very disappointed that you will not be there. She wanted to meet all of us."

He didn't say anything else, as far as he was concerned the subject was closed with that one word answer, but the others did not seem to think so.

"Why don't you come Ezra, the rest of us will be there it's not like you’re going to have to make any conversation with the lady." smiled Buck knowing that she was going to try and make him talk anyway but Ezra did not need to know that yet.

"I said No!" he scowled at Buck, then stood up, and walked into the saloon.


They watched him go. They were quiet for a moment then Vin spoke up trying to lighten the mood.

"So how did you get her to invite us all to dinner?" he asked Buck.

"I didn't, it was her idea." he saw their puzzled looks and continued. "I asked her to dinner with me not you guys but I sought of let something slip about Ezra and she told me to bring him and anyone else that I could think of. Said that she would try to get Ezra to talk, seems to think that he wouldn't ignore a woman who had just arrived in town.

"Why would she do that, she does not even know him?" Chris was suspicious already.

"She is a remarkable woman." smiled Buck.

"That's not your heart or your head talking there Buck." laughed Vin.

"Well anything is worth a go, anything that would get Ezra talking again." he protested. "I hate watching him like this knowing that there is nothing that I can do to help him." he sighed and sat down in the seat that Ezra had occupied.

"You’re right Buck, come on let's go and talk him into it." said Chris as he got up.

The three of them went into the saloon and walked straight to the table that Ezra was sitting at.

"Ezra we are not going to take no for an answer." said Buck.

"You’re coming with us even if we have to drag you there." Chris watched him, hoping that he would at least get angry with them but he didn't even seem to be listening to them.

"Ezra did you hear what we said?" asked Buck.

"I am not going." Ezra stated. He took a swig of whisky wincing at the taste as he always did.

"Oh yes you are, you can't disappoint the young lady like that, she is expecting all of us." argued Buck.

"And we are not going to leave you alone until you say yes." warned Chris.

"You don't leave me alone now." muttered Ezra.

"Yeah, well this time we will keep talking to you." Chris smiled; he knew that that would be the last thing that Ezra wanted.

"On one condition." he said.

"What?" asked Chris.

"That you leave me alone after the dinner, and I mean completely alone." Ezra looked at each of them.

Chris frowned at that and thought for a moment. "Sure we can do that." he lied. There was no way that they were going to leave him alone. Ezra would not hold it against him for lying. Not for long anyway and if he got mad over it then he may even say something, get some of the emotions out of his system.

"We meet at the restaurant at seven then. Gentlemen I bid you farewell as I am going to take a bath." Buck left them alone. He wanted to look his best for Rochelle.

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They all waited in the restaurant for Buck and his new lady friend to arrive. Vin and explained the situation to JD, Josiah and Nathan and they knew what to expect. Chris had made sure that Ezra was not left alone during the afternoon so they could make sure that he did not change his mind. Ezra sat on the side of the table at the end hoping not to be noticed. The others talked while they waited; Ezra sat quietly hoping that the evening would end quickly.

Buck arrived five minutes later and introduced Rochelle to everyone making sure that he introduced Ezra last that way she could sit near him. Ezra stood up when Buck introduced him. He noticed how beautiful Rochelle was. He kissed her hand and looked up into her eyes. He did not say anything to her though. Everyone had noticed this. Ezra would never ignore a beautiful woman.

Rochelle had walked into the room with Buck holding her arm. She greeted each of the men that were at the table. She had noticed the man at the end straight away. He was looking down and had stayed in that position until she had reached him. He then stood up and took her hand. After he kissed her hand, he looked up into her eyes. Two things shocked her at once. The first being that saw looked into the most beautiful pair of green eyes that she had ever seen. The second was that those green eyes were so full of pain. He seemed to be able to hide the pain and emotion from his face but he could not hide it from his eyes. When Ezra looked away and sat down, she looked at Buck who shrugged at her as if to say I know that's what I was talking about. She sat down next to Ezra not being able to take her eyes off him for a few moments.

"So how long are you staying in town for Miss Hamilton?" asked Josiah.

Rochelle took her gaze away from Ezra's face. "A few weeks and please everyone call me Rochelle."

The dinner began with everyone talking but soon quietened to allow Rochelle a chance to talk to Ezra. "So Mr Standish I see from your attire that you perhaps are a gambler?"

"Yes." he did not say anything else, he did not even look at her when he spoke.

"Are you any good?"

JD chuckled at that. Buck nudged him in the side and he stopped.

"Apparently." he answered.

"Maybe we can play a game after dinner as I play a little myself. I may even surprise you by winning a few hands." she saw the smile that played on his lips but knew that it was being forced as she could also see that his eyes were still the same. She wondered what he went through to make him like this.

"Perhaps."

"Do you always answer a question with one word Mr Standish?"

"At the moment yes, I don't feel like long conversations." he looked at her wondering why she had all of a sudden taken an interest in him. He looked around the table to find everyone watching them, they looked away quickly, a little too quick Ezra thought. He was not stupid, he realised what they were doing. They seemed to think that he would talk to this woman. He got up from his chair. "If you will excuse me as I seem to have lost my appetite."

Rochelle began to protest but he was out the door before she could really say anything. She saw the others as they watched him go. She saw the expressions of concern on their faces. She decided that she was going to do what she could to help them and their friend.

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"What happened to him?" asked Rochelle.

"If we told you that he would never talk to us again. He's very touchy about that sort of thing." answered Josiah.

"Then I will have to just to talk him again, this time alone that way he won't think that you have something to do with it." she smiled.

"Rochelle, I don't want to be rude but why are you doing this? You don't even know Ezra or us for that matter." questioned Chris.

"Let's just say that I once knew someone who went through the same sort of thing that your friend seems to be going through. Besides, I don't like to see someone go through life with so much pain in his heart. It's not right."

They all agreed with that. They quietly finished their dinner though no one seemed to have much of an appetite left. They bid each other good night and Buck escorted Rochelle back to her room.

"Buck where would be the best place to talk to Mr Standish on his own?" she asked as they stood outside her room.

"The only place Ezra seems to be at the moment is either in the saloon or sitting outside the saloon on the porch. He spends a lot of time alone in his room but that would not be appropriate for you to talk to him there.

"I will be there in the morning then, perhaps I may even invite him to breakfast." she listened as Buck laughed. "And what is so funny?"

"Even with what Ezra is going through he still doesn't get up until at least ten in the morning."

"Well then it might be better if we had lunch then."

"Rochelle." Buck looked down at the floor. "Do you really think that you could help him?"

"I can only try Buck." she smiled at him.

"Were you able to help that friend of yours that you were talking about at dinner?"

It was Rochelle's turn to look down. "Yes in a way. Maybe I will tell you about it sometime. Goodnight Buck." she closed the door behind her.

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When Rochelle walked into the saloon at eleven thirty the next morning she saw Ezra sitting on his own at a table in the corner. She could see that he was already half way through a bottle of whisky. She walked over to him and smiled at the men that she had dinner with the night before as she passed their table.

"Do you mind if I sit down Mr Standish?"

"If you want a conversation I suggest that you sit somewhere else." he muttered. He was not in the mood to talk to anyone. The others had at least kept their part of the bargain and had left him alone but now he was beginning to think that it was so this woman could try to talk to him again.

"I just wanted to apologise for last night. I did not mean to offend you in any way in front of your friends."

"What made you think that you offended me?" he was slightly confused as to what she was talking about.

"You seemed to be offended when I told you that I would beat you at poker." she smiled at him even though he was not looking at her.

"You would only beat me as I would not be able to concentrate on a game."

"And why is that?" she did not think that he would answer that but he surprised her.

"To many other thoughts going through my head at the moment." he finally looked at her. He saw the same large brown eyes that he looked into the night before.

"Can I sit down now?"

"I assumed that you were going to anyway." he looked back down. "Did my colleagues put you up to this?"

"No it was all my idea. They just agreed with me." instead of sitting down across from him she sat next to him.

"Oh really?"

"So do you want to try and play a game of poker? Only if you want to that is, I mean I do want to beat you fairly." because he would not look at her she leaned down underneath him and looked up into his eyes. She had to force herself to keep the smile on her face as she looked into his pain-filled eyes. She wondered how much more handsome he would be if he did not have this pain. She wanted to see him smile.

He looked away from her. "Perhaps another time."

"Sure. Would you like to have lunch then instead?"

"Are they paying you to do this?"

"Of course they aren't!" she showed anger that she did not feel and stood up and pushed her chair away. "Whatever it is that you are going through it does not allow you to offend me in that manner." she went to walk away hoping that he would say something to stop her but he didn't. She knew that she could not walk back to him because that would just prove his point.

Ezra watched her go. He was sorry for what he said but if he told her that then she would have stayed and then would have expected him to have lunch with her and he did not want to. Rochelle walked out of the saloon and sat down on one of the chairs. She would wait a while, then go back in, and try again. She did not have to wait though as a few minutes later Ezra came out with the whiskey bottle in one hand and a glass in the other.

"I'm sorry I didn't realise you were out here. I'll go back inside." said Ezra. He had come outside expecting no one to be here as the others were sitting inside. He wanted to be somewhere where they were not looking at him. He did not expect to see Rochelle sitting out here.

"You don't have to go back inside Ezra, I will leave if that's what you want." she got up out of the chair and stood to the side of it so he could sit down. Instead, he sat in the other chair.

"Perhaps we can compromise?" he poured himself a drink. "We both sit out here but do not engage ourselves in conversation." he smiled slightly.

Rochelle melted into the chair. 'He smiled.' she thought to herself. 'He actually smiled.' and she realised that even though it was only just a small smile it was not a forced one. So she agreed to the compromise and did not talk. The smile at least was a start. She would get him to talk later.

"If I was to say what a beautiful day it was, would that be a conversation?" Rochelle asked as she looked up into the blue cloudless sky. The day was even warmer than it was yesterday.

"Only if you expect an answer." commented Ezra.

Rochelle looked sideways at him. "Why don't you want to talk Ezra?"

"Because it hurts to much." he turned to look at her and she could see the sadness as well as the pain that filled his eyes.

"It always hurts to talk about things Ezra but in the long run it might make you feel better." she said gently.

"If you will excuse me I need another bottle." he got up and walked inside.

Rochelle let him go hoping that he would come back out. She waited five minutes and then followed him in. She looked around for him but could not see him. She saw the others though and Buck nodded towards the stairs. He had gone to his room. She went and joined them at the table.

"I got him to smile." she said to them.

Buck's mouth dropped opened. "You what, you only spoke to him for ten minutes. You got him to smile." he couldn't help but laugh as he slapped his thigh.

"It was only a little one." showed practically squeezed her thumb and forefinger together. "It's a start though. But he left when I tried to get him to talk."

"Did he say anything at all?" Josiah was curious.

"He said that he had to many thoughts going through his head and it hurt too much to talk about them." she sighed.

"Well it's more than he has said to us." nodded Nathan.

"People tend to talk more to strangers." she got up from her chair. "Now gentlemen if you will excuse me I am going to Mr Standish's room." She saw their expressions. "After I get him some food of course. That's a good enough reason to go knocking on his door is it not?"

They smiled as she left the saloon. "She is something special and I actually think that she is going to do Ezra some good." If only Buck knew how wrong he was.

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Twenty minutes later, the guys looked up as Rochelle returned with a tray full of food. She stopped at the table on the way past. "So which room will he be in?" she asked.

"Room 5." answered Josiah.

"Wish me luck gentlemen." she walked away and headed up the stairs to Ezra's room.

"You're going to need it." smiled Chris.

Rochelle made her way to room number 5 and holding the tray in one hand she knocked on the door. She waited a few moments and then knocked louder. She still did not get an answer so she banged on the door and before she stopped, the door flew open.

"What?" Ezra practically yelled at her. Ezra had been sitting on his bed when he heard the knock at the door but he had ignored it. The knock came again. He hoped that they would go away but then they started banging. He got up and opened the door intending to tell whoever it was what they could do with themselves. But when he opened it, he saw Rochelle standing there and did not say anymore than what he already had.

"Since you did not want to go to lunch I thought that I would bring it to you." she smiled at him.

"I'm sorry but I am not really hungry." he went back into his room and tried to close the door. He couldn't though because Rochelle had forced her way in. She moved to the bed and placed the tray on it.

"Miss Hamilton, what are you doing?" Ezra stayed beside the open door thinking that if she didn't leave he would.

"It's Rochelle and I brought you some lunch." she smiled from her position on the bed. She had to be careful what she said as he looked like he wanted to walk out the door and leave her sitting there. "I am not going to push you to talk so why don't you just come and have something to eat."

"That's what you said out the front of the saloon. But you still asked me." he growled at her. But he couldn't stay angry with such a beautiful women. He looked into her eyes and only saw sincerity there. He sighed. "One word and I am leaving." He walked to the bed and sat down.

Ezra only ate a small amount of food as he had told her the truth when he said that he was not very hungry. When they had finished she got up, moved to the door, and stood with her back to it. "Ezra, you know when I said that I wouldn't push you to talk. I lied and if you want to leave then you are going to have to go through me." she smiled at him.

Ezra was astonished. He watched her smile though and could not help but smile back at her. "Why are you doing this?"

"I don't like seeing you like this."

"But you don't even know me, you would have to have a better reason than that." he stated.

"I do but that is another story and I want to hear yours first. Then I will tell you mine. Deal!"

"I don't know if I can tell you everything." he said as he looked at the floor.

Rochelle saw the sadness come over him again. "Of course you can." she moved over to him and sat on the bed next to him. She placed her hand on his. "You just start talking and I will listen."

"My mother taught me not to show my feelings or talk about them, she drilled that into me. It has become part of my personality. I don't seem to be able to change that."

"Well why don't we try something else then." he looked up at her. "Instead of telling me how you feel why don't you tell me what happened to you? And then we could go from there."

Ezra got up, moved to the wall, and stood with his back to her. If he was going to say anything, he did not want to look at her. He stood like that for five minutes trying to decide if he wanted to tell her at all.

Rochelle sat on the bed and watched Ezra. She looked at his back, which to her looked as though it would be strong; the back of his head and the short style of which his chestnut coloured hair was cut. She did not want to force him to talk. In the end, it was up to Ezra if he wanted to say anything at all. She sat there quietly waiting to hear his voice hoping that he would be saying what she wanted to hear and not something that told her that he had refused again to accept any sort of help from another person.

He spoke so quiet to start with, that she did not hear him at first. He spoke of someone called Hanley and how he how killed a woman that he had once loved - still loved. And how he had nearly died from his encounter with him. He spoke of how his friends had not trusted him and how they believed Hanley when he told them that Ezra had killed her. It seems that only JD had wanted to help him.

She continued to watch him and listen with tears in her eyes. His head was leaning against his chest and his arms were wrapped around himself. She could see how hard this was for him. She wanted to go over and hold him but she knew if she did that he might not say anymore.

He then spoke of an Uncle whom he met again a few months ago. This Uncle had beaten him as a child when his mother had left him with him. He told her of the fear that he had felt for him. A fear that he could not control as an adult. How the man wanted to beat him again and how he could not tell his friends who he was and what he did. That he had to actually show them by having him hit him. He just could not use the words to tell them, it was too hard.

Rochelle had to control herself, she had never known anyone who had gone through so much but what shocked her was that there was still more that he had not told her. She wiped the tears that fell from her eyes and continued to watch him as he talked. Sometimes she saw his body shudder at the memory.

Ezra then told her about his second Uncle what he had done, how he had watched as he was beaten as a child and how he had someone else beat him. He told her how he had lost control, shot the man twice, and then for some reason had shut himself down. He had not spoken to Nathan yet so he did not really know why this happened. It was something that scared him. But he knew that it had passed. He then started to tell her about George Lascon. He had to stop though as he was losing control of himself. He turned around and Rochelle saw the tears that had fallen from his eyes. She went over to him as he slid to the floor hugging himself. She sat down beside him and looked into his eyes. She brought one hand up to wipe away the tears that were falling down his cheeks.

"Go on Ezra. Please."

"It's my fault that he is dead." he muttered. He kept his gaze on the floor. He couldn't look at her. He felt her hand on his face and he reached up and wipe away what was left of his own tears.
She moved and sat in front of him. "How was it your fault Ezra, you said that you had lost your memory. You did not know what you were doing."

"I helped them pull the bank robbery by distracting the others." he would not bring his gaze up to hers.

"Did you shoot him?"

"No. But I stopped the others from stopping them."

"Ezra look at me please." she waited a moment. "Ezra please." he finally looked at her. She bit her lip at the pain that was in his eyes. "When did they find out that the bank was being robbed?"

He thought for a moment a look of confusion on his face. "When they heard gun shots." he finally answered.

"There you go then. Even if you hadn't distracted them, they would still not have known that the bank was being robbed and George Lascon would have still died. Did you tell them to rob the bank, did you drag them to Four Corners. No, they brought you here, they robbed the bank, and they shot the teller. If you were not with them, the same thing would have happened Ezra. He still would have died. There was nothing that no one could do." She watched him as what she said went through his mind. "Ezra it was not your fault. You need to believe that."

"I want to but I feel too guilty about what happened. An innocent man is dead because of all this. Someone has to be blamed for it."

"Yes Ezra but that someone is not you, it's the man who pulled the trigger. Does anyone else in town blame you for what happened?"

"No they don't."

"Well then Ezra it seems that you are the only person who thinks that it was your fault. Now answer me truthfully. Was it your fault? And I warn you if you say yes then I am going to hit you."
Ezra looked up at her seeing that beautiful smile on her face again and tears in her eyes. For some reason he knew that, she would. He continued to stare at her. He actually felt better after telling her nearly everything. He had not told her about Jane only because that was something that did not bother him and he didn't tell her about his mother, which was a longer story for another time.

"Okay it was not my fault that he died." he looked down again.

"I know you don't believe that Ezra but it is a start. Would you stand up for me please." she took hold of his hands and stood up trying to pull him up with her. He pushed himself up and looked down into her eyes. She put her arms around him and held him. She could feel his heart beating against her own chest but she did not pull away. The stood that way for a while even though Ezra did not fully return the hug. She pulled away. "I am going to leave you alone now so you can think about what you told me and then I will come back at seven. You are going to take me to dinner and we are going to talk some more." she smiled and then went to the bed and picked up the food tray and left Ezra standing against the wall.

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The others had been sitting at the table waiting for Rochelle to come back. She had been up there for nearly two hours. There were times that Buck and Josiah had gotten up to go and make sure that Rochelle was all right but they sat down again not really wanting to disturb them just in case she had gotten him to talk. Buck was starting to get up again when he saw Rochelle coming down the stairs.
Rochelle went straight to the table and slammed the tray down in front of all of them. "Why didn't you trust him!" she nearly yelled at them. She looked at Chris. "He almost died because you would not trust him, do you know how much that hurt him?" she could not say anymore. She fell into a chair and began to cry.

They all looked at her. They were both shocked and glad that he had spoken to her. They did not say anything, could not say anything. Buck moved his chair towards her and took her in his arms as she continued to cry for Ezra.

After she had gotten control of herself, she looked each man in the eye waiting for an answer to her question. "Well?"

Josiah explained. "Ezra was a different person when we first met him. He did something that caused us not to completely trust him. We were protecting an Indian village and he ran out on us. He came back though but since then we kept expecting him to do it again and when Hanley arrived, we had only known him for about a month. He was, is a difficult person to get to know therefore we found it
hard to trust him. Because of this we just assumed that he had done it." he saw Rochelle look at him. "He also admitted that he did it Rochelle."

"I know that and Ezra knows that but he was hurt by the way you so easily believed him. Apparently, you did not even doubt him or question him in regards to the whole thing. And by the time JD got you to help him you were nearly too late and you men wonder why he won't talk to you."

"We learnt our lesson Rochelle." said Buck. "So what did he tell you?"

Rochelle told them about what Ezra had said. They already knew most of what she said but they were again shocked when they learnt that the man who had arranged to have Ezra taken with Vin was Jack Standish's brother and that he was a part of what happened to Ezra as a child.

"Jesus." muttered Vin. "I was there. I knew that his face seemed familiar but I couldn't place him."

"So how is he now?" asked Buck.

"I don't know. I left him so he could think about things and I am going to talk to him later, I will see how he is then." she got up to leave but turned around to face them. She seemed to look mostly at Chris though. "You should trust him more, he is a good man. Seems that he just does not want people to know it." She then left them alone also to think about what she just said.

.
.
.

Ezra had slept most of the afternoon away and when he woke up, he found that he felt better than he had in a while. He remembered that he was having dinner with Rochelle and he prepared himself so he would be ready when she came for him. He actually looked forward to seeing her and talking to her again which surprised him. He hadn't wanted to talk to anyone for quite a while. After he shaved and dressed, he went downstairs to wait for her. He saw the others sitting at a table and went to join them.

"Gentlemen." he greeted them. He looked up as Buck nearly choked on the swig of beer that he had just taken. He smiled at that.

They smiled back at him. They could see that he seemed better. Some of the pain had gone from his eyes. They did not say anything in return but waited to see if he said anything more. He didn't though.

"Hey Ezra you dressed up for something special?" asked Buck waiting to see if Ezra was going to give a one word answer or actually take part in the conversation.

"Rochelle insisted on taking me to dinner." he answered.

Buck's smile grew. "Are we invited?"

"No you are not." Ezra smiled at him.

Buck couldn't stop himself. "It's good to see you smiling again Ezra." he saw Ezra's smile, falter at the comment though and he quickly changed the subject. The rest had nodded in agreement at what Buck had said but they too saw the smile slip from Ezra's face. "Um so why is she taking you to dinner and not the other way around?"

"She wanted to talk again."

"She told us what you said." JD leaned towards him. "About that man being your Uncle and all." The rest of the men gave JD a look that said if Ezra were not sitting at the table, they would have all clobbered him.

"If you will excuse me I think that I will wait for her outside." he got up and left without saying another word.

Buck did hit JD then. "Why did you go and do that for JD?"

.
.
.

Rochelle arrived at the saloon to find Ezra on the porch waiting for him. "Ezra what are you doing out here. I thought that you would be waiting for me inside." she smiled at him hoping that he would smile back at her but instead she saw another expression cross his face.

"It seems that you have told my associates of our conversation."

"They needed to know Ezra, they can't help you if they don't know what happened or how you feel." she went towards him but he got up and moved away.

"If I wanted them to know I would have told them myself." he growled.

"I'm sorry Ezra. I thought I was doing what was best for you. You can't get through this on your own."

"I was managing just fine before you came along."

"No you weren't. And by the way has anyone told you how stubborn you are."

Ezra turned and looked at her. She stood there with her hands on her hips. He had not noticed when she first arrived how beautiful she looked. Her hair was tied up with small wisps of hair hanging down the side of her face. Her brown eyes were actually glinting with anger. She had a pale blue dress on that hugged her slim figure. He went and sat back down again.

"I'm sorry. You’re right, I would have told them if I could."

"I know you would have Ezra. Now come on your going to buy me dinner."

She watched as a smile crossed his face, it also reached his eyes and she knew that he would be more handsome when he did finally smile she just did not realise how handsome he would be. He took her breath away.

"I believe young lady that you were going to take me to dinner." he couldn't help but smile at her.
For some reason she had made him feel better about himself, made him realise that it was not his fault that George Lascon was killed.

"Take yes, buy no. You are going to do that Mr Standish. What would the town think if I was to buy you dinner." she laughed enjoying his smile. Ezra even laughed himself and she saw the smile on his face grow even more. She took his arm and they headed to the restaurant for dinner.

.
.
.

During the following week, Ezra and Rochelle had gotten to know each other a lot better. They spent a lot of time together and talked a lot. He told her about his mother and his childhood and she told him about her family and why she was in Four Corners. Ezra kept himself from his friends though and he had asked Rochelle not to let them know that they had become so close. When she had asked him why he told her that he just needed a bit more time. She made him promise though to tell his friends about them. She had also decided that she was going to delay her trip to see her family.
At the end of that week, a man arrived in town. A man who would change both Ezra's and Rochelle's lives forever.

Ezra returned to the saloon after enjoying a long lunch with Rochelle. He enjoyed spending his time with her, loved to see her smile, to listen to her laugh. She was beautiful, intelligent, and funny and he thought that he was in love. He tried to ignore the feeling as he was only just sorting out and dealing with the feelings that had caused him to shut down from everybody. He was in love though and he could not ignore it for much longer. He thought that Rochelle felt the same way. Ezra was sure of it.

He sat down at the table, which also seated Buck, Josiah and JD. "Want a drink Ezra?" asked JD.

"Thank you Mr Dunne." smiled Ezra. "It would be just as easy for you to buy me a drink as it would be for you to lose your money to me in a game of poker. Speaking of which can I interest any of you gentlemen in a game." he pulled his cards out of his pocket. He had started carrying them a couple of days ago but had still not played a game.

Buck and Josiah could not help but smile. It was so good to have the old Ezra back again. His was beginning to be his normal self and now he wanted to play poker and they could not refuse him.

They had little money but to lose it to Ezra would be worthwhile. "Sure Ezra, a good game of poker is just what you need." laughed Buck.

Ezra looked at him and Buck had thought that he had said the wrong thing and he expected Ezra to walk away but instead Ezra put on a serious look. "I assure you Mr Wilmington that you gentlemen are not capable of playing a good game of poker but I do not have a choice as there is no one else here who would be able to give me a challenge."

Buck pretended to be hurt by the remark but smiled at Josiah when Ezra was not looking. JD returned with the drinks. "Mr Dunne do you have any money left to lose?" asked Ezra.

"Huh?" said JD not thinking that Ezra was talking about poker, as he had not seen Ezra play a game in a long time.
"Come on JD, Ezra wants to play a game." said Josiah hoping that JD was not going to say anything stupid. He didn't, he just smiled also and put his money on the table.

They did not notice the stranger that had walked into the saloon. He walked straight up to the bar, ordered a bottle of whisky, and began to drink straight from the bottle.

Chris and Vin came in shortly after to see Ezra and the others playing poker. They smiled at each other and then pulled up a couple of chairs and watched as the others lost their money to Ezra. "I think that it is your turn to buy the drinks Ezra." Buck threw down his cards.

"Why certainly, it's the least I can do after you men have so kindly lost all of your money." he smiled his wicked grin at them. Buck would have accused him of cheating as he always did when Ezra won all their money but he was not sure how he would react. Ezra got up and went to the bar.

"Rochelle has certainly done a lot for him hasn't she." commented Josiah.

"She certainly has." agreed JD.

They watched Ezra as he was getting their drinks. He no longer walked with a slump as though he carried the weight of guilt on his shoulders and with his eyes down cast. He looked people in the eye now and they could see that the pain had gone from his eyes. They had a lot to thank Rochelle for.

When Ezra returned Josiah made a suggestion and the stranger at the bar had heard the name Rochelle mentioned so he continued to listen to what these men were saying.

"I think that we should all take Rochelle to dinner tonight to thank her for what she has done." he watched Ezra carefully in case he reacted but if he did he kept it to himself. Ezra knew that Josiah was talking about what she had done for him. He thought that she would enjoy that so he did not say anything.

"Well seeing how I don't have any money left to play, why don't I go and invite her." said Buck as he got up and left before anyone, especially Ezra could protest. The stranger followed Buck out of the saloon intending to find out if the Rochelle they spoke of was the same one that he was looking for.
Ezra had become quiet then. He wanted to tell them how he felt about Rochelle but thought that he would do it later. He did not feel like listening to them congratulating him when he was not even positive that Rochelle loved him as well. He thought that she did but he would rather wait until he knew for sure, he did not want to be hurt again. And he knew how the others would react if he told them how he felt about her and she did not return his feelings.

.
.
.

Rochelle heard the knock at the door, she thought that it would be Ezra but when she opened it, she found Buck standing there with that smile on his face. "Good afternoon Buck." she tried to hide the disappointment on her face but Buck saw it.

"Afternoon Rochelle, something wrong?" he asked her.

"No I just thought that you were someone else." she smiled at him.

"Ezra perhaps." he guessed. He saw her blush and knew that he was right but he did not want to embarrass her any more so he continued before she could answer him. "I have come to deliver an invitation on behalf of myself and my colleagues. We would like you to join us for dinner tonight."

"Dinner?" she raised her eyebrows at him.

"Yes, we would like to thank you for what you have done for Ezra."

"I would be honoured Buck, would Ezra be there?" she blushed again. She couldn't help herself. She had fallen in love with him.

"Yes he will be. I see that you feel more for him than friendship." he said to her noticing the look that came over her face each time Ezra was mentioned. He had not seen this before as during the week that she had been here, she spent a lot of time with Ezra and they had not seen a lot of her.

"I am in love with him Buck." she announced.

Buck smiled. "I am happy for both of you, Rochelle you are exactly what Ezra needs. But does he feel the same way about you?" he asked her.

"I am sure that he does but I am not going to push him on the matter. He is only getting over what happened so I will give him a bit more time before I say anything so would you please make sure that you don't tell him or anyone else yet. Please." she looked in Buck's eyes pleading with him.

"Of course I won't. So I will pick you up at seven again young lady." he kissed her hand and left her standing in the doorway.

Rochelle smiled and went back to her room to get ready for dinner. She knew she loved Ezra and knew that he had feelings for her but she just was not sure what those feelings were. Buck went down the stairs passing a man who had been standing in the corridor. He thought that the man was a guest so did not think any more of him.

The man had followed Buck to Rochelle's room and he saw that she was the woman that he had spent the last month looking for. He had finally found her. He listened to their conversation and when Rochelle had told the man that she was in love with someone called Ezra he muttered to himself. "We will see about that!"





Part One | Part Two


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