Just An Ordinary Day

By: Angela B

Little Ezra AU

Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be.

Note: This follows my Small Steps story, but can completely stand alone

Thanks to Wyvern for developing this AU and for letting me write in it.

Note: Thanks ever so much to Vi for beta reading this and cleaning up my mistakes.

The lean blond sat in the rocker, holding the precious boy in his arms. He found the slow back and forth motion soothing to his own nerves. Chris moved his hand from the back of the small body he was cradling and began brushing, with his fingers, the thick brown hair of the little boy. Moving his hand from the hair he traced the outline of Ezra’s cheek. Imprinting in his mind the features of the porcelain-like face, the eyebrows that looked like they had been sculptured, and the eyelids that hid those piercing green eyes that could penetrate one’s soul and search out their deepest secrets. Even in sleep those eyes never stilled, but continued to constantly move, searching for something unknown. Chris’ gaze traveled down the small form. Taking in the thinness the boy still displayed. The manicured fingers that had moments ago held onto his shirt with a steel grip and now lay flat against his chest.

The rocking ritual had quickly become both the hardened leader and tough little boy’s favorite part of the day, though neither would openly admit it. Ezra would get ready for bed, and then Chris would enter the tiny room and sit down in the rocker he had moved in from the small living room. Ezra would begin talking about some inconsequential topic as he made his way over to the rocker with the same tentative steps he used every night. Then with slow movements Ezra would slide onto the black-clad lap. Once on his lap Chris would wrap his arms around the boy who was slowly stealing his heart and gather Ezra closer to him. They would rock in silence until the small boy fell asleep. Ezra never knew the length of time the man he looked up to sat there and held him.

Chris let out a contented sigh. It made him feel good to be needed again. The feeling to have a small boy dependent on him, to feel like a father again, was something he missed. The blond continued to sit and the rock the child for a long time. Like he did every night.

The next morning Chris could hear the squealing of laughter as he cooked breakfast. No longer able to contain his curiosity, he set the pan of frying bacon to the back burner and stepped to the doorway to watch the commotion. The blond watched as his oldest friend chased the young boy around the yard. Buck had stopped by at the end of his patrol, like he always did when he had early dawn patrol, and now had Ezra involved in a lively game of tag. Chris took a deep breath as the memory of Buck doing that same thing with Adam pierced his memory. Ezra, small for his age, was quick and agile. He was able to turn a one-eighty without missing a step and successfully dodge Buck’s outreaching hand. Chris laughed as the overgrown kid finally grabbed Ezra up, threw him over his shoulder and spun around a couple of turns. When he stopped, both fell to the ground in a laughing heap. A smile spread across the blond’s face, it was a welcomed sound to hear the all-to-grown-up little boy laugh like a kid.

Buck looked into those sparkling green eyes and couldn’t help the goofy grin that enveloped his face. When Ezra had appeared months before things had definitely started off on a rocky step. Then there was that incident a couple of weeks ago. The poor kid had been overwhelmed one too many times in his short life and had honestly thought the world and Chris would be better off without him. After Chris had gotten the boy off the ledge, both figuratively and literally, the regulator had taken the boy off to get away from everybody and just have time together. Whatever had happened between the two it had helped both take a big step towards becoming a family. Chris had not yet, for any length of time, gone back to town for any reason. Today would be the first. That was why he stopped by, both as a support for Chris and a possible babysitter for Ezra, in case he wasn’t ready to go back to town.

Shaking out of his reverie, Buck bounded upright with his own amazing agility and pulled the boy up. “C’mon pard, the old man ought to have breakfast cooked by now,” the jovial man said with a laugh.

Chris yelled out at the two, “Who you calling old? I’m younger than you, remember?” A grin graced his face, which caused him to look younger.

“Oops,” Buck replied, in a staged whisper. Ezra’s smile grew bigger as he shyly took hold of the man’s hand as they climbed the steps onto the porch.

Giving the delicate hand a squeeze before letting go, Buck watched as a shared smile passed between his friend and the newly acquired son. Buck couldn’t have been happier right then. He knew the boy and the man were exactly what each other needed. That boy needed someone he could depend on and trust, something they were finally figuring out the boy had never really had and Chris had someone to love fully and take care.

After a lively breakfast and the dishes had been washed the three of them headed into town. Ezra had quietly been given the choice of going to stay home with Buck, but he chose to go. Ezra felt having the blond being there would definitely make it easier and besides, he really wanted to see the other men who rode with Chris protecting the town. Arriving at the jail, they were met by the other regulators. Sensing Ezra’s discomfort of being in town, Vin offered to let Ezra run errands with him. Chris turned towards Ezra to see if this was agreeable with the child. After a quick nod and a smile the two set off. Vin liked the kid. When in a large group Ezra could talk a blue streak and use words that astounded the tracker, but when it was just the two of them, Ezra would go as long as he did without saying a word. The long-haired man figured it was with who the boy was with that directed his actions.

Vin guided the two into Mrs. Potters’ store and went to look over the new cartridges the storeowner had received. While Vin studied the ammunition, Ezra found himself staring at the rows of hard stick candy. Maude had never allowed him the sweet confection and most of the relatives he had been forced to stay with complained that he cost them too much to begin with without spending their money frivolously. Ezra was so intent on looking over each kind he didn’t notice Vin had squatted down beside him until he spoke.

“So, pard, which one is your favorite?” The tracker asked, his slow Texan accent washing over Ezra and filling him with warmth. He loved to hear Vin talk, more precisely he liked the way Vin spoke to him; like a real person. All of Chris’ friends did, but somehow when Vin spoke to him it was different.

Ezra shrugged, a bad habit he realized he was picking up from the tracker. Looking at the man beside him he said, “My preference is not one that should be taken into consideration due to the extent in which said product is not purchasable for such a person as myself.”

The tracker studied the serious green eyes, trying to decipher the message he had just been given. The message hit him hard; Ezra didn’t think he deserved to have the sweet sticks.

“Yeah well, if you let me pick it out you may not like it. So, you better get to picking your own,” Vin jibed back with a smile. Inside he ached for this little friend. He knew what it felt like not to be worth anything or valued by anyone.

The two were in the middle of a great debate over which one would taste the best when Miss Weatherly walked into the store. The woman could make St. Peter cringe. She was a nosy know-it-all who had made several insinuations about Ezra’s correct placement in this world. Not seeing the woman enter the store, Ezra jumped a little upon hearing the woman’s voice behind him talking to the storeowner. Without forethought, Ezra slid closer to Vin. In an automatic reaction the tracker wrapped a protective arm around the boy and drew him closer.

Feeling the quivers run through the small boy, the tracker said, “ I’m right here, Ez. It’s ok.” The voice had been so soft it blended with the air.

Standing up, Vin kept his arm around Ezra’s shoulders as he escorted the boy towards the door. Keeping himself between the woman and the child he leaned over and whispered into Ezra’s ear he said, “Why don’t you go outside and wait for me while I pay for these, ok?”

Ezra nodded in agreement and slipped quietly outside while Vin approached the counter with his items. Miss Weatherly turned her attention on the tracker immediately. “I see Mr. Larabee still has that boy.”

“Yes, ma’am he does. Reckon it’s going to be that way for years to come, too,” Vin said, trying his best to be polite.

“I thought you regulators were suppose to eliminate the undesirables out of this town,” Miss Weatherly said, haughtily.

“Well, we try ma’am, but every once in awhile one of them undesirables slips in and there isn’t anything we can do about it short of throwing them out on their backsides,” Vin replied, giving the woman a pointed look before tipping his hat and walking out the door.

Mrs. Potter had to turn around and press her lips together to keep from laughing out loud. She didn’t like the woman either and was quite happy that Vin Tanner had told her off in his polite way.

“Well I never!” Miss Weatherly exclaimed, fanning herself indignantly. ‘And we know why, too’ thought Mrs. Potter as she resumed to wait on the other woman.

Going outside Vin spotted Ezra talking to the Josiah. Walking up to the two of them Vin handed the child his candy stick. “Thank you for kindness, Mr. Tanner. I shall repay the favor someday,” Ezra said politely.

“Don’t mention it, Ez,” Vin returned.

Josiah caught Vin’s eye and gave a minuscule nod towards the store. Vin frowned slightly. The words went unspoken, but the message was understood plainly. Ezra had been upset more than he let on about the woman inside the general store.

Looking down at the small statured boy, Josiah almost laughed out loud. Standing there sucking politely on his candy stick, looking so innocent and childlike, some would have a hard time associating him with the same child that gave Chris Larabee a run for his money, not to mention having once stolen Buck’s horse.

Josiah squatted down so he could look into those bright green eyes. “I was headed down to work on the church. Would like to come with me, Ezra?”

Hesitating a moment the southerner replied, “I told Mr. Tanner that I would accompany him on his journey to complete his errands.” After a short pause he finished, “But thank you anyway for the invitation.”

Vin could read people almost as well as he could read tracks and he knew the little boy wanted to go with the big man. Josiah had become attached to the little boy almost immediately upon his arrival. It was well known that if Chris had not done right by the southerner Josiah would have stepped forward and taken the boy.

“You sure?” Josiah pushed, he could also tell the boy wanted to go with him.

“Welll…” Ezra drew the small word out as he contemplated the correct answer. In his life he had learned that every action he took held consequences of some kind. Sometimes figuring out all the angles and their reactions were overwhelming. As he stood there trying to figure out the correct answer to the dilemma of how not to hurt either man’s feelings, the tracker squeezed his grip ever-so-slightly and spoke softly, “Why don’t you go on with Josiah and I’ll meet up with ya’ll at lunch. Ok?”

Ezra turned to Vin, not quite containing the glowing smile that graced his face. “That plan would be most acceptable, Mr. Tanner,” he said. Then, as an afterthought, he questioned the preacher, “If you’re absolutely sure it wouldn’t put you out, Mr. Sanchez?”

Josiah had been watching the biplay of the other two and grinned widely. “Not one bit, Ez.”

Standing back up, Josiah looked into Vin’s smiling eyes and took Ezra’s hand. “Well, then it’s settled.” Stepping off the boardwalk he said, “See ya later, Vin.”

Ezra looked back over his shoulder and called out, “Goodbye, Mr. Tanner.”

“Bye. Have fun,” Vin replied, grinning.

Ezra slipped inside the rundown church. He would never admit it, but he loved the old building. He liked the smell of the wood that Josiah scraped carefully. Removing the old scratched up wood and getting down to the life of it, as Josiah called it. He loved watching the muscles in the large man’s arms ripple as he handled the wood so carefully. He wondered what it would be like to be the wood in Josiah’s hands. To be looked upon with the same caring look as the preacher gave the wood.

Josiah felt the eyes boring a hole in him and glanced out the corner of his eye. The look on the boy’s face cost him his breath. Ezra had such a forlorn, wistful look in his eyes. The boy appeared to be lost in some other world, a small sad smile lighting his face. Josiah watched more intently. Ezra never moved, just stood there watching him with a very intense look.

Beckoning with his arm Josiah said, “Come here, Ezra.”

Ezra moved slowly into the circle of Josiah’s arms. The large man guided the smaller hands onto the planer he was holding. Without talking the two began smoothing away the rough edges of the doorway he was working on. Ezra began relaxing into the body behind him and let out the softest of sighs.

Josiah kept the planer moving as he pulled his arms inward, tightening the space around the small boy. They held that way for a long time before Ezra turned to look into the pale bluish-grey eyes and smiled the barest of smiles. Josiah knew in his heart that no matter how small it was, it was a real smile and not one of the fake smiles that Ezra usually used to convince people he was all right. Josiah smiled back and the two of them went back to work on the doorway.

Both startled at the sudden whirlwind that blew through the door. JD had come rushing in with his usual exuberance and realized too late that he had startled both occupants. Seeing the boy shrug tighter into Josiah’s embrace, the young sheriff stilled for a minute, letting Ezra adjust to his presence. It didn’t take but a second for JD to see that Ezra had readjusted his position. With his presence acknowledged, JD stepped further into the church at a much slower pace.

“Hey guys,” JD said cheerfully.

“Greetings, Mr. Dunne,” and a deep “Hello,” spoke in unison.

“What brings you this way, JD?” Josiah asked, as he reluctantly stood up.

Ezra mirrored his actions and felt strange, like he had just lost something important. JD moved closer and with his ever-present smile said, “I was on my way over to the livery and stopped by to see if Ezra wanted to go with me.”

Leaning down to be on the same eye level as the child, the young sheriff gave a soft shoulder nudge and said, “What do you say, Ez, you want to come along?”

Josiah knew Ezra was dying to go with the young sheriff to see the horses. Most specifically his horse, Chaucer. If there was one thing they had figured out about the precocious child, it was that he loved animals. Putting his hand softly on the bony shoulders he felt the child tremor at the touch. Not removing his hand the big man said softly, “Ez, if you want to go check on the horses with JD that is fine with me. No hard feelings.” Josiah also knew how hard Ezra tried to keep everyone happy. Other people may not see it, but the six men knew without a doubt the child was a people-pleaser. Though, they figured it was born more out of necessity than naturally.

Ezra looked up into those eyes he liked so much. All Josiah received was a nod and a smile before JD started out the door with Ezra and quickly involved the young boy in a conversation.

Walking through the livery doors Ezra headed straight for the last stall. He would never tell anyone, but the horse that was kept there meant more to him than he would ever be able to express. The only thing that mattered more to him was the dark dressed gunslinger, who had taken him in. JD watched him make his way to the horse’s stall and recalled the first time he had seen Ezra interact with the horse.

JD had been in the livery like now and had brought Ezra with him, like this time. That time, though, Ezra walked past all of the stalls and headed for the back one. After reaching the intended stall Ezra had stuck his hand through the slats to pet the soft nose. He was suddenly startled as JD let out a shout.

The young sheriff had stopped at the front of his horse’s stall. Seeing the boy going towards the back of the barn, JD assumed he was going to see Chris’ horse. When he looked down the row and saw Ezra standing in front of the gray’s stall, he couldn’t help the sudden reprimand that shot out of him.

“No!” JD called out, as he ran towards the boy.

Startled and suddenly scared of being punished, Ezra jerked backwards. JD cursed himself for causing the fear to flash into those small green eyes, even if it was for a second. The sheriff stopped his hurrying and mentally calmed himself. Approaching the boy slowly, he plastered a smile onto his face. Bending down on one knee in front of Ezra, JD knew better than to make a move to touch the child. Speaking softly, the man pushed his bangs out of his eyes and said, “I’m sorry I scared you, Ezra. I just didn’t want you getting hurt.”

“By what?” Ezra asked, looking around the floor for some object that could hurt him.

JD eased forward and gently put his hands on the thin arms. “See that gray there?” JD asked, motioning with his head at the same horse Ezra had just been petting.

“Yes, sir,” Ezra nodded, still wondering what had happened.

“Well, you see, that gray there is widely known for being obstinate and mean. Yosemite is even thinking about having the horse put down because no one can get near him.” JD explained carefully.

“He takes umbrage to that vilifying slanderous remark. He’s not mean, he acts quite the gentleman and lets me pet him every time I come in here,” Ezra said. Seeing he had yet to convince the young sheriff, he said, “Watch.”

Saying that, Ezra moved around the kneeling sheriff and walked up to the stall again. The gray put his nose against the gate and Ezra began to softly pet him. JD watched in trepidation at first, then with a mixture of relief and awe. The horse was actually seeking out the human contact.

As Ezra continued his ministrations to the horse, he spoke softly, “Perhaps he sees no reason to behave in a proper manner when he has already been judged unworthy and sentenced to a life ending ordeal just because the right person has yet to see him for what he truly could be.”

JD held his tongue of the automatic response that wanted to be spoken. Instead he rose from his kneeling spot and started back to his own horse’s stall. “Just be careful, ok Ez,” he said, as he began grooming his steed, while watching the boy interact with the horse. This might be something worth mentioning to his leader.

JD had later mentioned the incident to Chris, who simply took the information and nodded. Now, the young sheriff watched Ezra administer to his horse. Everyone still thought the horse was a menace and some thought he was possessed, but no one could deny the connection between gelding and child.

Some time had passed when the stable doors opened and Nathan led his horse inside. He had been out to the Henson’s place and was just returning. Upon seeing the two occupants he greeted both. After a second glance, it dawned on Nathan just which horse the child was tending to. By now Ezra was inside the stall, brushing the coarse mane. Stopping beside JD, the healer nodded towards the last stall. “Ezra and the thing called a horse really do carry on well together, don’t they?"

Ezra heard the healer, but pretended otherwise. JD turned and looked at the healer in the eyes. “Yeah. First time I saw Ezra petting Chaucer I was afraid he was going to get hurt. I even made him get away at first. But just look at those two, Nathan. When do you ever see that gray stand so still? Much less, let someone touch him.” JD continued, somehow it was just right letting Ezra have the horse. “Look at Ezra. When is the last time you saw him looking so relaxed? Half the time I keep expecting that kid to explode he’s wound up so tight. Only when he with Chris is he that calm looking.”

Nathan had to grin, when the young sheriff was correct in his observations. The healer stood and watched the brown-haired child stroke the steed continuously and the horse never flinched. Nathan ambled on to the back of the stable. When he stopped in front of the gate, Nathan could have sworn the horse snarled at him in silence. In anyway, the lips had definitely curled up and teeth were shown, although it was for just a moment. The healer heard the southerner softly say, “Now. Now. We are gentlemen and gentlemen never engage a person’s animosity in such a manner.”

Nathan just silently laughed and led his horse back to its own stall and stripped the gear off. After brushing down the horse’s coat, removing all the sweat to prevent sores, Nathan reappeared at the end stall. “Looks like JD is getting ready to take over patrol. Would you like to come with me back to the clinic or go find one of the others?”

Nathan was hesitant in asking if the child wanted to come with him. After all, Ezra was a southern child, raised by southern adults. He was pretty sure Ezra saw him as nothing more than a one-time slave. If not, then the child surely saw him as the mean, black man who had caused him a great deal of pain. It was after all, him who had set the child’s broken leg, and made Ezra wear a splint for several weeks. He was also the one who insisted the child stay in bed for days on end and then had limited his physical actions. Even though he had done all of it for the welfare of the child, he was pretty sure Ezra didn’t see it that way. So he was really shocked when Ezra nodded his head in agreement and walked beside him out of the barn and up to the clinic.

Ezra had known several slaves when he lived with his countless relatives in the southern states. He liked most of them and more often than not sought them out for safety and their children out as friends. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel about the healer. He was never sure if Nathan had taken care of him because he had wanted to, or because he was under Chris’ supervision. He knew how Nathan personally felt about him. He was positive Nathan didn’t see anything more than a fancy pants, white, rich southern boy. Well, he would admit Nathan had the southern part right, but that was it.

As he sat on the cot in the clinic, he watched as the big man moved around the small confined place with ease. Ezra noticed that everything was quite organized and the place, small as it was, was quite orderly. The boy watched the healer as he folded up several strips of torn sheets that would later be used as bandages. Seeing the pile was still quite big and knowing Nathan probably had other things to do so Ezra hesitantly offered his services. “I can fold those for you, if you like, Mr. Jackson.”

It had been quiet for so long in the clinic Nathan jumped at the sound of Ezra’s voice. Turning to the boy he smiled and nodded. “Would appreciate it.”

Ezra moved over to the pile and began folding the bandages. Nathan watched the fastidious boy working; he figured his bandages would never look so good again. Pondering on a question that had been bothering him for a while Nathan finally drew up a deep breath and asked, “Ezra, why do you call all the other by their first name and me by my formal name?”

Nathan knew from experience that slave owners and their children never called the slaves so formerly, only by their first name. Nathan always figured it was just another way of showing their disregard for them as people to be respected.

Ezra waited a few seconds gathering his thoughts before speaking. “As for calling the others by their first names it is simply because they requested it. For you,” Ezra paused, “I was taught to respect my elders, sir. I do believe you are my elder and I also, believe a person in your field deserves an exceptional amount of respect.”

Nathan was stunned. He didn’t know what to say. His whole perception of this little boy had been ripped to shreds. Before he could come back with a reply he heard Ezra asking him a question of his own.

Ezra wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know the truth, but as his mother had taught him, it was best to know exactly whom one must keep their eyes on. “Mr. Jackson. Why did you treat me?”

Nathan turned around with a puzzled look on his face. “Excuse me,”

“I asked why you treated me. Was it because Chris made you?” Ezra asked, becoming uncomfortable with himself for asking.

Walking over to small child he had worried so much about, he held out his hand and led the boy back to the cot. Sitting side-by-side, Nathan studied the wary green eyes for a few moments. “Ezra, Chris doesn’t make me treat anyone. Yes, he brought you in. Yes, he expected me to help you. But, I would have treated you and been concerned about you no matter who were staying with or who you are.”

Seeing the uncertainty in Ezra’s eyes Nathan moved closer to the child. “As long as you live here, and I think that’s going to be for a very long time,” Nathan said, to reassure Ezra he wasn’t about to be dumped somewhere. “I will tend to your hurts, protect you from harm and gripe at you if you don’t eat good.” As he finished speaking, a devilish smile lit in his chocolate brown eyes as he moved in to tickle Ezra’s ribs. Ezra fell back on the bed and tried to curl up against the onslaught of tickling fingers, and for the second time that day Ezra laughed out of pure delight.

A few more squeals of laughter escaped from both before Nathan quit. Sitting up he slapped Ezra’s knee and said, “I think by the time you get those bandages folded and I get my doings done, it will be time for lunch.” Ezra sprang up into a sitting position and nodded before getting off the bed and going back to work. The words Nathan had spoken running through his mind in an endless loop.

Ezra had not quite finished doing all his folding when Nathan announced it was time to go. Noticing the worried look flit across Ezra’s face as he stood before the few strips still not folded, Nathan laid his hand on the bony shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about them. You did well and I thank you for your help.” The smile he got in return lit up Nathan’s day.

The six men and little boy met up at the restaurant. Chris had already told his men earlier that he would only be in town for half the day, Though, he didn’t say it, they all knew he figured that was probably all Ezra could handle right now. Lunch was loud and the conversations were many. The leader watched his ward sitting between Vin and Buck, the green eyes sparkling with merriment as Buck antagonized JD over his hat. It looked to Chris as if the boy had enjoyed his morning in town. That didn’t change his decision, though, and after lunch the two of them headed towards the livery stable.

Going inside Chris watched from the corner of his eye as Ezra slowly walked to the end stall. He recalled when JD had told him the first time about the boy and the horse’s interaction and how he had wanted to see it for himself. JD had hit it right on the head when he claimed the two belonged together. The gray had never flinched or made an aggressive move as Ezra had slipped inside the stall and fished out of his pocket half of the apple he had gotten somewhere. Chris remembered how he had watched as the horse delicately nipped at the morsel lying in Ezra’s stretched-out palm. The tall blond walked to the end of the stall, where he stood for a moment before saying, “Horses are good judges of character. I think this one thinks you must be a dandy.”

Ezra had let out a short laugh. “I think its because he’s partial to apples, myself.” Falling silent for a moment he spoke softly, “JD says that Yosemite is going to put him down”

Chris thought about how he could hear the sadness the boy refused to show. He had looked closely at the boy and made his decision, “Only if he’s not sold to somebody nuts enough to take him.”

Ezra only nodded. Chris stepped closer to the child and bent down to look him in the eyes. “Feel like being a nut?” Chris had asked with a wide smile and a wiggle of his brows.

Ezra had barely refrained from leaping into the other’s arms before pulling himself back and regaining his composure. “You mean you would actually purchase this mount? Why?” Ezra asked, suddenly wary.

“Because I can’t keep having you ride double with me, now can I? Besides, it’s time you had your own horse,” Chris had explained, hiding his disappointment that Ezra held back his hug.

“I would be most appreciative of that kind gesture.” Ezra said, barely containing himself.

Chris remembered how empty and sad he had felt at thought of being denied a hug from this child, simply because Ezra had been taught at an early age that emotions were a weakness and display of emotions were forbidden. Maude’s lessons had made quite an impact on the young child.

“Well, I think if you were truly appreciative, the gesture would be worth a hug at least,” Chris had stated, matter-of-factly.

He figured if he gave Ezra a reason for the hug, the boy wouldn’t feel so inhibited. He had not been disappointed. For the first time since his arrival, Chris had seen Ezra truly happy and exhibit those feelings. Ezra had literally jumped at the chance. Chris could still feel the joy he had felt in the child in his arms.

Neither one wanted the hug to be over too soon, but eventually Chris pulled back a hair and felt Ezra do the same. The leader didn’t immediately let go of his hold on the small waist and waited until Ezra was looking him in the eye. With only a smile and a nod he stood up and took hold of Ezra’s hand. Together they went to find Yosemite and purchase a horse for Ezra. Chris smiled as he watched Ezra struggle his way up into the saddle as Chaucer stood stock still and let the boy clamber aboard and couldn’t wait until they hit the trail to hear all about Ezra’s morning.

Riding back to the cabin Chris let his thoughts drift back again to the first time they had ridden on their own horses towards the small home. Chris had asked Ezra what he would name the horse and was only slightly surprised when Ezra told him Chaucer. Chris, of course, had questioned the reason for the name. Ezra had explained that Chaucer wrote a story about a small group of strangers who banded together to travel together towards a great adventure. Chris didn’t miss the comparison from Chaucer’s story to the six men who had come together to protect the town of Four Corners.

That night after supper, Chris washed the dishes as Ezra got ready for bed. Putting the cup towel over the back of the chair, Chris walked past the sheet used as a partition to Ezra’s room. Moving aside, he stepped over to the rocker and sat down. Ezra soon began telling of his day, leaving out the parts with Miss Weatherly, wanting Josiah to look at him like he does the church, and the discussion with Nathan. Chris noted the omissions. He knew about some of those things anyway since his men were loyal and honest. Ezra slowly made his way over to the rocker and slid onto the black-clad lap. Feeling the strong arms wrap around him, he leaned into the man’s embrace. The other regulators would take care of him, Ezra was beginning to realize, but it was this man he wanted most.

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Next: Bearing the Pain