AU: Little Ezra - Old West
Thanks to Wyvern for creating the "Little Ezra" universe and letting me play in her sandbox. I really like it. This is just my take on how Ezra might feel deep inside.
This writing is still new so please forgive all mistakes
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine
Note: Not beta read, so all mistakes are mine.
Moved to Blackraptor January 2010
Six men and one little boy sat gathered around their usual table eating lunch. J.D. was telling of his experience that morning. The youngest regulator had been on patrol when he came across a stranded wagon. The occupants, a young couple with a baby had come from the East looking for a new life. The wagon axle had broken, due to not being loaded properly. The inexperienced couple had not distributed the load equally and therefore one side had taken the brunt of the weight. Over 1,000 miles later the axle had finally weakened and snapped. The young husband had no idea how to fix the problem. J.D. had to help unload the wagon then crawl under the frame and cowboy engineer it enough to get the wagon to the livery in town. The woman had been adamant about reloading the wagon even though J.D. had tried to explain that her precious belongings would be fine out there for a little while and the extra weight back on the axle would be a mistake. The woman had not budged from her demand; so J.D. and the husband had put everything back in. The regulator showed the greenhorn how to properly load the wagon and was soon on their way. Halfway to town the axle had come undone. This time the man had left the stuff out in the desert.
The five other men were all having a good laugh. Ezra did not hear much of the story. The lad was to busy concentrating on what he could do to make the man in black keep him. Ezra's stomach hurt a lot thinking about that. He just needed to be sure where he really stood with the man.
Chris was smiling at J.D.'s in-depth and animated description of the argument that had taken place. 'Young married folk'. Sarah and him had been young once and had they're share of disagreements. They had gotten older, and though they still had altercations they had learned to choose their words more careful. The widower changed that statement, he had learned. That floor had gotten awful hard before morning. The leader smiled slightly at the memory. He still missed his family but he was creating a new one. The five men he protected this town with had become like brothers. His thoughts then turned to the newest member of this family. Eleven-year-old Ezra had come all the way from San Francisco by himself. His mother, Maude, had sent the boy to live with Sarah and him, then immediately departed for Paris. She hadn't even bothered to write ahead of time to inform anyone of the child's arrival. Chris shuddered at this recollection as he had several times in the past two months. The same thought came rushing forward, haunting him. 'What would have happened if the young boy had gotten off that stage and he no longer lived here'? That could have been a possibility in another live time. After Sarah and Adam died the black clad leader had wandered around for a couple of years. It was only by chance that he had come back to this area and was hired along with the other five men by the judge to protect this town.
Destiny. That's what some of the town people had called the coming together of the six men. Maybe it was destiny that Ezra had been sent to him. At this thought he looked over at his new charge. The boy was eating with such deliberate carefulness. 'He seems to be a hundred miles away.' The boy with the expressive green eyes was different from any child the guardian had ever known. The youngster used a vocabulary that puzzled them all. He didn't play either; in fact the child hated getting dirty. But what troubled the blond most was that the child seemed to have more demons than most grown men. The intimidating leader gave the small child a grin. Ezra grinned back showing those darn charming dimples. The blond man had quickly learned the women of this town fell over themselves when Ezra smiled at them. Chris was grateful that Ezra didn't seem to notice. In fact, Chris realized, the child seemed to go out of his way not to be noticed. At times you almost forgot he was there. The black clad leader looked around the table and took note of the fact he wasn't the only one watching the precocious boy eat, or more accurately poke at his food. Josiah watched Ezra more like a second father than a brother. Vin, of the other hand, took being a big brother to the boy quite seriously. The tracker had not had a pleasant childhood either and therefore wanted more for the once abandoned but now wanted child. Nathan looked after Ezra's health with earnestness. When the young boy had first appeared the healer had been concerned about his weight. The green eyed boy had gained some weight but he was still to thin for Chris' liking. J.D. had commented once that he thought Ezra looked like a drawing of a pixie he had once seen in a book. The dark man still paid close attention to Ezra's eating, as they all did. Chris glance at Buck, and found the ladies man watching him. The ladies man threw him a smile and a wink. Buck was glad the boy had come along; the boy was good for the solemn man. J.D. was still thinking about this morning, shaking his head, laughing one moment and fuming the next.
Though the men all showed concern about the withdrawn child to some degree Chris worried about the boy constantly. He had never witnessed such an untrusting child. Even though, it seemed to Chris, the child was becoming more comfortable with the idea that he was with Chris to stay. The blond often wondered if the boy still thought he'd be sent away. The child continued to hold back and keep his feelings hid. The leader did know the youngster had some really terrible nightmares that he would never discuss. More than once a week the tall blond would be awaken from his sleep by blood curling screams. Chris would gather the child and blanket into his arms and head for the rocker. The father figure would rock the trembling child for hours, rubbing his back and talking to him. Ezra would never say a word just huddle in the strong man's arms and silently pray sleep wouldn't come, but it always did. For Ezra it didn't matter what he started out dreaming about it always ended the same. He was left standing out in the middle of a vast desert watching the man dressed in black ride away.
The men finished eating and were sitting back talking. Ezra was still finishing up his meal; concentrating hard on not spilling food on the new clothes Mr. Chris had bought him. Ezra wanted to stay with this man in a way he had never felt before. For the first time in his life he had someone that not only watched out for him but the man seem to actually care about him. Ezra would do anything to stay, even if it meant getting dirty. The young boy never let on he lived in fear of upsetting this extraordinary man and being sent away. Chris kept telling him he was home but the boy had never had a real home before. The whole concept scared him, he wasn't sure he could trust the man that much. The leader and friends had even set a bedroom up in the ranch house complete with "new" furniture just for him. That act of kindness had overwhelmed the child to the point he almost let his fašade down. He wanted to jump for joy and hug the men but mother wouldn't have approved, so he didn't.
Ezra reached for his glass to drink the last of his milk when catastrophe struck. His grasp slipped and the glass fell on its side, letting the last bit of milk run onto the table. Nathan and Buck both grabbed napkins and started dabbing up the small amount of liquid. Ezra jumped to feet with a terror-ridden look on his face. One glance at his guardian and the boy shot out of the bat winged door and flew down the boarded sidewalk. He had to hide. Disappear. He had just blown his chance for the life he had always dreamed of. His life was over. Nobody wanted a stupid and clumsy child.
The leader had seen the glass fall and the milk run out. He turned to tease the boy when Ezra had jumped to his feet with that look on his face. The words died on his lips and his heart fell. 'Dang! Where did that look come from? 'Why?' That look, one of sheer terror, had frozen the man to his spot until the boy raced off. Chris had quickly followed, tailed by the others. By the time they reached the street Ezra had vanished. The six men split up and began searching the town. Chris and Vin went together. "We'll find him, Cowboy," the quiet tracker said. "Did you see that look, Vin?" Chris replied. 'I've seen men about to die with less fear in their eyes' The leader didn't have to say what he thought Vin could read his mind. With one look Vin reassured his friend everything would be alright. They would make it alright.
Ten minutes later the six men gathered back in front of the saloon empty handed. They were discussing alternatives when they heard a female voice shouting. "Mr. Larabee! Chris!" Across the street Mary Travis stood in front of the Clarion News door pointing down the street. The six regulators turned and looked where Mary was pointing. There on the roof of the church stood the brown haired, green eyed, lost little boy. Chris took off at dead run, followed closely by his five friends. As he neared the church he noticed the child was standing dangerously close to the edge. The undeniable leader barked for the others to wait on the ground while he climbed up to the roof. The worried man climbed onto the roof and walked cautiously towards the child. He made sure he stayed to the side so Ezra could see him and not be startled. "Ezra? What are ya doing son?" the father figure asked, using a much calmer voice than he felt. He could see Ezra lips moving but couldn't hear the words. "What Ezra? I didn't hear ya?" the black clad leader moved close enough to lunge for the boy if he fell. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Ezra repeated softly. The frustrated man nearly lost it. 'Sheesh, it was only milk' he thought. Before he could say anything he heard Ezra talking again and what he heard made him want to strangle someone.
Ezra knew the man was disappointed in him. Why shouldn't he be? This man who protected the town and who wasn't afraid of anything deserved a better child than him. "I'm sorry I'm nothing. I'm really sorry. I'm a nothing." Chris wanted to yank the kid off the edge and yell at him, he was not a nothing, he was very much a something, but was afraid the sudden movement might cause the boy to lose his footing. Using his sternest father voice he ordered "Ezra get off that ledge right now!" To his immense relief the despondent child stepped off and sat down. The black clad man watched the once proud little by draw up his knees, bury his head in arms and start crying. Chris knelt down immediately and picked the destroyed little boy up. "Its o.k. son. You are something. And you're mine." assured the black clad father figure.
Ezra felt dead inside, like he was just going to blow away. For such a long time he had lived in a dark empty world, devoid of any feelings. Then this stern looking man had come along. This man had become the light, showing a way out of the void. Ezra had never had this before: caring, compassion, love. Cautiously, unsure if Chris was for real Ezra put his arms hesitantly around his savior's neck. Then with a death like grip he greedily filled both fists with Chris' shirt. The love-craved boy was desperate. He was desperate to be needed, to be wanted and just to be held. This desperation consumed him with such intensity it filled every fiber of his small body. It was all he wanted. Feeling Ezra's need Chris tightened his grip on the thin body. It was as if the child was trying to fill up eleven years of loss in this one moment by sapping Chris' love all at once. It would take an eternity to do that, the black clad man vowed,
Ezra frantically pleaded with the steadfast man inwardly, 'Don't let go. Don't let go'. So determined to hold on to Chris, for as long as possible he didn't realized he was actually vocalizing his mantra. The strong willed man could feel his heart tearing apart for this attention starved and lonely little boy. The youngster had filled a void in his life left by another little boy. Ezra, he realized was a God-given gift. "I won't!" repeated Chris for every vocal demand of the crying child he held. Tightening his grip further, careful not to actually hurt the boy with his hug, the tall man slid down to a sitting position. Moving the lad's legs to the side the man, who many feared, cradled the little boy with the same firm grasp as the child had on him and rocked the youngster side to side.
Neither moved for a long time. The black shirt absorbed the tears Ezra cried, releasing the pain from his heart that had consumed it for eleven long years. The protector pledged the child he held would never feel that kind of sorrow or hopelessness again. Finally Chris shifted the child around and stood up. Ezra stiffened and gave a depressed little sigh; he believed his time was up. "Easy son. You aren't going anywhere. I got ya". Ezra retightened his grip. Walking over to the ladder he shifted the child onto his hip. Chris descended the ladder with Ezra still firmly held in his arm. It would have been easier to make Ezra climb down himself, but the blond man was now feeding his own need. Chris realized he needed this little boy as much as the little boy needed him
The five remaining men circled around their leader and the child who had changed their lives. They would all gladly share the load of their friend in helping their new little brother learn to feel loved.
Nesxt: Small Steps