Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. No money being made.
Josiah looked up as the door to the jail opened and wearily dropped his head as he saw Ezra walk in. He'd been dreading this moment, but knew of no way to avoid it. "Go away," he told the younger man without lifting his head.
Ezra hesitated a moment at the words then continued on into the room. "Josiah is there anything I can get for you? Is there something you need?" he asked.
"No. Go away," he repeated not lifting his head. He didn't dare. Josiah didn't want Ezra seeing him like this.
Ezra ignored his comment and stepped closer to the outer jail cell, "Are you hungry? Would you care for a libation? You need only ask Josiah."
Getting to his feet Josiah deliberately turned his back on the younger man and ran a weary hand across his face, "I only want to be left alone."
"You mustn't give up hope," the southerner said leaning against the cell bars and waited for a response, but none came. "I know you're innocent of these charges and we'll prove it," Ezra told him with conviction.
At that Josiah spun around and snapped, "You know? You don't know anything about me. None of you do."
Taking that as an invitation Ezra took a couple of steps back and sat on the corner of the desk and crossed his arms and said with a grin, "So tell me about yourself."
Shaking his head in disbelief Josiah almost laughed at the man's determination. "No Ezra. Now go away," he said equally determined.
Stalling for time he reached up and removed his hat and twirled it around his hand a few times and cocked his head to the side and tried another approach. "Josiah I could have you out of here in the blink of an eye. Just say the word," Ezra urged. "I could pick this lock and you and I could be out of here before anyone was the wiser."
"No! I'm not running," he said, but was shocked at how much he wanted to.
Releasing a frustrated sigh Ezra chose to ignore that rather pointed reminder of his past mistake. Running a hand through his hair he gave into his frustration and snapped, "Why not!" Then with apparent confusion said, "We're friends Josiah. I....I thought that this was what friends did for each other. At least that's you keep telling me."
"Not this time," Josiah said careful not to look him in the eye.
"Dammit Josiah I want to help you!"
"I don't want your help!" were the words Josiah forced himself to say. He then watched as Ezra jerked back as if he'd just slapped him. Silently cursing Josiah fought the urge to apologize.
Ezra very slowly got to his feet and carefully placed his hat back on his head. "I see," he began, but had to stop and swallow the lump in his throat.
"No Ezra you don't," Josiah said stepping closer to the bars.
"I know a double standard when I see one. Hell, Mr. Sanchez, my mother wrote most of them," he said and almost grinned as the older man flinched. "I'm suppose to be able to come to you and the others for help, but I'm not good enough for you to come to me," Ezra went on to say. Shaking his head he whispered, "I should have known. This is the same double standard I've dealt with my whole life. I foolishly allowed myself to believe that you.....and by you, I mean the six of you," he felt the need to clarified, "you were different." Squaring his shoulders Ezra looked Josiah in the eye and said, "My apologies Mr. Sanchez it won't happen again." Then tipping his hat he quickly made his way to the door and let it swing shut behind him.
"Ezra wait!" Josiah hollered, but it was to late Ezra was gone and would not back. Gripping the cell's bars tightly in his hands he gave them a good tung as if by the sheer force of his will he'd be able to rip them out of the wall. "Not like this Lord," he pleaded. "Please don't let this be how he remembers me. Please Lord," Josiah whispered as he sank to his knees. Pressing his head into the bars he brokenly whispered, "I'm sorry Ezra."
That's how Chris found an hour later when he walked into the jailhouse. Quickly opening the outer cell he knelt down in front of Josiah and saw that he was asleep. Reaching through the bars he touched his arm and asked, "Josiah are you all right? Are you hurt? Do ya need me to get Nathan?"
Josiah had jerked awake at the touch on his arm and tried to focus on the face in front of him. Seeing that it was Chris he ran a shaky hand across his face and said, "Not even Nathan can help me now."
"Josiah what's wrong?" Chris pushed as he got to his feet.
"Have you seen Ezra?" he asked instead.
"No. Why? What'd Ezra do?" the black clad gunslinger didn't need anymore problems. First that traveling side show pulls into town, then a lady gets murdered and one of his men is accused. Not one of his usual trouble finders, but his most dependable.....Josiah. And he just knew something was going on between Nathan and Rain. The healer was much to distracted. All he needed was to have Ezra thrown into the mix for all hell to break loose.
Josiah felt his shoulders stiffen at the other man's question. "Ezra didn't do anything," he snapped getting to his feet. Some of his anger faded only to be replaced with worry as the first word Chris said registered. "Why haven't you seen him? Is............is he.........gone?" he finally managed to get past the lump in his throat.
Chris frowned and said, "He better not be." Never one to beat around the bush he snapped, "What the hell's going on Josiah?"
Vigorously shaking his head Josiah told him, "Go check on him first."
"I said some things. He wanted to help me and I.........I pushed him away," he told him. Then reaching through the bars he grabbed Chris' arm and pleaded, "Dammit Chris just do it! Go check on him for me."
Chris placed a calming hand on Josiah's and was about to say something when the door opened. JD and Buck both paused as they took in the two men before. Having found his voice first Buck asked, "Everything ok?"
"Where's Ezra?" the older man wanted to know releasing Chris' arm.
JD exchanged a look with Buck before answering, "In the saloon."
"What's he doing?"
"Nothing? What the hell does that mean?" Josiah asked.
"Just that. Nothing. He's just sitting there. He ain't drinking or even playing cards," JD answered with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Oh God," the ex-preacher said and turned his back to the others and slid down the bars and rested his head in his hands.
Chris, Buck, and JD exchanged a worried glance and wondered what was going on. Stepping closer to the bars Chris once again knelt down, "Josiah........."
Josiah suddenly got to his feet and turning to face the others said, "I need a favor," but didn't wait for them to answer he just continued. "If things don't work out and I'm found guilty," he held up his hand to stop them from interrupting. "Please let me finish. If I'm found guilty please,........don't let Ezra see me hang. Please you have to promise me," he said as one lone tear rolled down his cheek.
JD quickly spoke up, "You don't have to worry about that Josiah. Ezra said he wouldn't allow you to hang. No matter who got in his way." The young sheriff could still the look in Ezra's eyes when he'd been told that Josiah had been arrested and was being charged with murder of that lady. Ezra had wanted to break the older man out then and there, but the others had managed to convince him to not do anything rash - that it would only make things worse. Then after Chris, Nathan, and Vin had left he turned and with icy green eyes, that would have sent a chill down even Chris' back, he looked him and Buck in the eye and vowed that Josiah Sanchez would not meet his end at a hang man's noose and that he'd kill anyone that got in his way.
"Ezra said that," he said in disbelief. Maybe just maybe he hadn't burned all of his bridges, he thought.
"Hell, Josiah he ain't the only one that feels that way," Buck threw in.
A couple of days later Vin and Chris sat in the church and waited for Josiah to finish changing his clothes. The inspector had shown his true self and thanks to JD and Nathan both Mary and Rain were safe. After making sure everyone was alright Nathan decided to escort Rain home and spend a few days with her at the village. JD, Buck, and Ezra were more than likely in the saloon still arguing over the horse race and the fact that Ezra had bet against the ladies man. The three had been spending a lot of time together and Chris had yet to make up his mind if that was a good thing or not. One thing he did know and that was that Ezra had been too quite at times and that definitely was not a good thing. A quite Ezra was almost as dangerous as a smart-ass Ezra. Chris got the feeling it all had something to do with whatever had happened between the southerner and Josiah.
Josiah walked out of his room in the back of the church and saw Chris with a frown on his face. "Something on your mind, Brother," he asked.
"You gonna tell us what happened with Ezra?" Chris wanted to know.
Josiah hung his dead and stared at his boots and shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't want to talk about it yet. I'm to ashamed."
Vin looked from Chris to the ex-preacher not sure what to say. Whatever had happened must have hurt the gambler because he hadn't even been to check on their friend. And when ever Vin complained about it Josiah sent him a look that shut him up quick. He was just glad Chris hadn't been around cause he sure as hell didn't want Chris picking it up.
Chris nodded in mock understanding and stepped real closer to the larger man clearly invading his personal space. "I hope you realize that by pushing him away you nearly destroyed everything we've worked so hard to achieve in the past year. Ezra's reinforced his wall and I just hope you get the chance to set things right," he told him.
"Do ya think I stand a chance?" he couldn't help, but ask.
Vin's eyes widened as he figured out what must have happened. Ezra must have gone to Josiah wanting to help and Josiah feeling that he deserved what ever happened, must have said whatever it took to get rid of him. With a shake of his head he stepped up the Josiah and slapped him on the back and said, "Guess you have to ask yourself what's more important ........Ezra or your pride." Then giving his shoulder a little squeeze Vin walked toward the door then turned back and drawled, "Of course, it was your pride that got you into trouble to begin with."
"Come on. All this talkin' making me thirsty," the black clad gunslinger said with a smirk.
The three men grinned as they stepped onto the boardwalk just outside the saloon because they could hear someone's loud laughter and knew immediately that it was Buck's. Stepping into the saloon they quickly made their way to the table were their friends sat.
"What's so funny?" Vin asked as he flopped down in the chair between JD and Ezra.
"Hey Josiah!" JD said in greeting with a wide grin.
"We're just talking about the yesterdee's race," Buck said with a laugh. "Inez darlin' would ya bring us some more drinks and be sure to put in on Ezra's tab," he told her with a wink.
"Hey!" Ezra said in mock outrage. "Why is it that I'm always the one paying for the drinks?"
'Because you have more money than us Ez," Vin commented with a grin then took a sip of his beer.
"This is true," he could only agree.
"Just put it on my tab Inez," Josiah said. "To my friends. Thank you," he said holing up his beer and tried to make eye contact with Ezra. Four of his friends were quick to raise their drinks, but the fifth hesitated a moment then he to raised his drink in salute. Ezra had yet to look at him and Josiah felt a tight band of guilt wrap around his heart. Not really sure what to do Josiah decided for once to follow his heart and reached across the table and placed his hand on Ezra's and gave it a gentle squeeze trying to convey in his touch just how sorry he was.
Ezra allowed the touch for all of five seconds then snatched his hand away and got to his feet, "Well gentlemen I have a patrol. Mr. Sanchez, thank you for the drink."
Josiah flinched at the Mr. Sanchez and also got to his feet and quickly said, "Ezra I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you."
The southerner twirled his hat in his hand and silently told himself, Be strong Ezra. It's all a line and you more than anyone know what lines are worth......nothing. Oh no, Mr. Sanchez you're not fooling me again. So with those thoughts Ezra placed his hat on his head and with cold distant eyes looked up into apprehensive blue eyes and very calmly said, "Apology accepted. Now if you'll excuse me." Then with a tip of his hat he made his way toward the door.
Josiah quickly blocked Ezra's way and when the younger man made to step around him he grabbed his arm. "Ezra let me explain!" he pleaded.
"No," Ezra simply said without flare, without anger, and even more frightening without emotion.
Sanchez tightened his grip and tried again, "You have to let me explain."
Standish tensed and narrowed his eyes and repeated, "Have to?" Then with a painful jerk he pulled his arm away and snarled, "I don't have to do anything!"
Still not letting him pass Josiah said, "I didn't mean ........"
Ezra didn't let the older man finish as he threw in, "You didn't mean. You never meant. What exactly do you mean?" With a sad shake of his head he watched as Josiah lowered his head. Then with a small brake in his voice said, "That's what I thought. Now kindly step aside."
Without a word Josiah watched Ezra walk out of the saloon and with a growl of frustration he picked up a near by chair and flung it against the wall where it fell broken to the floor.
Chris and the others flinched as the chair smashed into the wall and with a sigh the black clad gunslinger got to his feet and walked over to the ex-preacher and said the first thing on his mind, "What the hell did you think you were doing! You better than anyone should know that you'll never get anywhere with Ezra if you start ordering him around. Dammit Josiah you can't give Ezra the upper hand or he'll win every time."
"What do I do now?" he asked.
"You fight," Vin told him. "It's not gonna be easy ......."
"Or pretty," Buck threw in.
"But in the end it will be worth it," JD encouraged him.
"Give him a little time to calm down. Just a little. If you give him to much then you might as well hang it up because you'll never reach him," Chris stated. "Now come on let's finish that drink."
Josiah glanced at the saloon's swinging doors one last time and then went and sat back down. He knew the others were right and he silently vowed not to let Ezra down again.