An Angel to Watch Over Me

by TexasAries

Crossover with Touched by an Angel

Disclaimer: I do not claim any rights over the Magnificent 7 characters used in this story, which has been written for the joy of writing only (whether it be good writing or no) and for no other purpose (such as monetary gain). Trilogy Entertainment Group, the Mirisch Group and MGM own the Mag 7 characters/aspects of the story.

I do not claim any rights over the Touched by an Angel characters used in this story, which has been written for the joy of writing only (whether it be good writing or no) and for no other purpose (such as monetary gain).

Warning: This fic will contain some religious overtones, if you are uncomfortable with that amscray! Also a Hanky warning should me noted as well.

Notes: This is the first fic that I ever posted so please be gentle.

I want to thank MotherRati for reading this story and for the kind comments and encouragement in helping me write this story.

The young man stood in a dark room looking out at the quiet moonlit town. Drinking in the sight of the small, dusty town as a man dying of thirst would water. A shaft of moonlight caressed the man, making his skin glow golden while his hair sparkled with copper lights, a single sliver tear slowly working its way down the golden cheek. The face of the man was the work of a great artist for he was truly beautiful, not like a woman is beautiful but the way only a man could be. The bones of his face and body were smaller, finer than most men, almost like a boy's, but there was a solidness of muscle that spoke of a man and not a boy. The breadth of his forehead and the sparkle in the eyes spoke of great intelligence and the high cheekbones, slender nose, and strong jaw spoke of breeding. The mouth of the man was sensual and mischievous all in one and more than one woman had sighed in longing for those lips and that body.

Ezra Standish turned from the moonlit window to look at the other occupant of the room. This person would have raised many eyebrows if caught in the southerner's room, for she was a black woman of middle years with a streak of white in her ebony hair and with a personality that Chris Larabee would think twice about crossing. The woman moved to embrace the crying man, holding him as he sobbed quietly into her shoulder with her murmuring words of comfort and rocking him as a mother would a small child.

When the man's tears had died down she cupped his chin and with eyes and voice just as filled with pain as Ezra's said, "It will be all right, Angel boy, everything will be all right. It's time. " Gently the woman wiped away the evidence of the tears and continued, "You have done everything that you were supposed to, now is the time for you to go back to your old duties. They have each other and you will still be here to guide them as you have guided them all their lives."

Ezra looked at the woman and, clasping her hand that was on his cheek, he begged, "Please, Tess, let me stay! I can't touch or talk to them as I do now. I LOVE them, don't do this!"

Tess gently gathered the distressed angel to her chest, wishing she could stop the pain of one of her own but knowing she couldn't. Tess had never understood why they took Ezra from being a guarding angel to be a caseworker. All the angels knew that the guarding angels made ties to their human charges that were extremely hard to break and those ties would strengthen through the years. Now with Ezra in human form those ties went beyond the norm, for Ezra had somehow merged his being with the souls of his six human charges. Fearing the worst, it was decided to pull Ezra out now before anything more could happen. Placing his forehead against her cheek she told him, "Sorry, Angel child, but you know why. Tomorrow HE will try to turn them from God and once they choose it will be over. One way or the other."

Lifting his head away from her Ezra asked, "Could I say goodbye to them tonight?"

Looking down at the shattered angel, she gave her consent.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee was woken by a gentle touch on his arm, but for some reason he didn't feel threatened but safe. Opening his eyes, he looked into the green eyes of Ezra Standish; but instead of them sparkling in mischief they were darkened by sorrow and pain so deep that they made his pain and sorrow look small in comparison. With growing concern and dread he gathered his friend into his arms to hold him in hopes that he could stop whatever was to happen.

At the start Ezra was always held at arms length by the six men, fearing that he would some how betray them or leave them as he did at the Village, but that all changed when he stepped in and took the bullet meant for Mary. True, he did take the some of the money...but only his share, and if anyone should be blamed it should have been them for they drove him to do it. From that point onwards the six men embraced their seventh without any reservations or fears and not one of them ever regretted it. In the two years after the incident Ezra opened up to them and helped each man to deal with their inner demons. With Chris he helped him to come to terms with the death of his wife and child by listening and being there for him when Chris needed someone. Chris had stopped drinking to drown his pain and seemed to have grown into being a man that people still feared but now also looked to for protection. He had started to smile and laugh more, and the greatest surprise to the town was the practical jokes he had played on the other six peacekeepers.

Chris felt the tear on his bared chest that only could have come from Ezra and he tightened his hold on the man in his arms. Some instinct told Chris that someone was going to try and take his friend and brother away. HE WASN'T GOING TO LET THEM. Rocking Ezra gently in his arms and murmuring comforting words, he waited till Ezra was ready to tell him what was wrong.

Ezra pulled back from Chris and started to glow as with an inner flame that made him seem more real than anything Chris had ever seen. The love that shone from Ezra eyes for him was so great and so beautiful that Chris was shaking in wonderment. Some part of Chris was wondering why he wasn't afraid but was answered by the other part of him that whispered Ezra would never, ever hurt him.

Ezra watched as wonderment crossed Chris' face as he revealed his true being to him. Then he felt Chris' hands tighten around him and was once again embraced in Chris' arms. His friend was holding him, and that was the most powerful gift Ezra had ever received.

Chris breathed in Ezra's scent that was not like anything he had ever smelled before for it was like smelling home and love. It was like embracing heaven, for everything was a washed in beauty and light that was hard for him to bear but was too wonderful to let go. "Are you an Angel, Ezra?" asked Chris, for that was the only explanation that would fit.

Moving back so that he could look at Chris' face, Ezra told him, "Yes."

A puzzled expression appeared on Chris' face and memories long suppressed were remembered. His shocked eyes looked into the familiar green and made the connection. Chris asked in a voice full of wonder, "Ezra, you were the one who found me when I fell down into that hole as a child. You helped my papa to find me, didn't you?" Receiving a nod in confirmation, Chris continued, "During the war you were the one to show me where to hide from the Rebs and lead them away from me." Another nod was his only answer. "You're the one who told me to go and talk to Sarah, weren't you?" Another nod and a smile. Chris captured the face of the friend who had always been there for him through the good and the bad and asked his final question. "You were also the one to hold me that night I found out about Sarah and Adam?"

"Yes... and I was there for them. They had no pain ... I was the one to bring them home. Sarah and Adam ... both asked me to look after you and to keep you safe for them... I ... I told them I would," was the broken replied.

Searching the green eyes, Chris had to ask. "Why, Ezra? Why did they have to die?"

Ezra knew he should not tell Chris, but he wanted to give his friend the last gift he could. "Chris, the Devil wanted you to join his ranks ... to turn to evil. You and the others have the capacity of doing great good...or great evil. God gave all humanity the choice and would not force you, but the Devil would... He figured with Sarah and Adam dead you would come to him." Ezra paused and then, cupping Chris' cheek with his hand, he continued, "You were so close that day that you came into Four Corners...I was afraid of losing you. I arranged for you to meet ... Vin and Nathan ... hoping they would help you to reject him temporarily."

Ezra had to stop to gather his strength to continue. "God...God wanted someone to help you all to realize your destiny. He...he chose help." Blinking back tears and in a voice choking with sadness, Ezra told him, "He is...he is coming here make his final bid for your soul. He CAN'T hurt you anymore. just have to look him the eye and reject him. I will be with you, but after that I will have to...have to go."

Before Ezra knew it he was crushed to Chris' chest with a fierceness that frightened him but also was comforting. Then in a gentle voice so different from the way he was being held, " promised that you wouldn't ever leave us again...don't go..."

Ezra returned the embrace and told Chris, "I won't ever leave you...but I can't stay here as I am. I will be here, you just won't be able to see me."

"NO! No ... Ezra it won't be the same ... don't leave." At this Chris started to cry as a child would at the leaving of a parent. It was Ezra's turn to comfort his friend. Ezra decided to give Chris his final farewell gift. Leaning close to the face that was resting on his chest, Ezra told Chris, "Chris, I have something very important to tell you. Remember your little brother?" Feeling the nod against his chest in conformation he continued with a slight smile, "Well, you have found him."

Startled Chris sat up, eyes filled with hope in a face streaked with tears, "Who...who is it?"

Smiling at the hope in Chris' eyes he gave Chris the name "Vin. It's Vin. The woman ... the woman who took him had just lost her own child and in her madness thought David was hers, so she took him." Ezra started to rise and tried to encourage Chris to go to Vin. Why don't you go to him? Let him know."

Chris shook his head as Ezra tried to leave. He grabbed hold of Ezra in his arms and whispered against Ezra's neck, "No...tomorrow will be soon enough. Tonight you need me. Stay." Receiving a small nod in reply, the gunslinger moved back on the bed, making room for the smaller man and lifting the sheets so Ezra could join him after removing his boots. Chris then spooned up behind Ezra and cuddled his friend and brother close to his own body, trying to protect him against tomorrow.

+ + + + + + +

Across town at the same moment that Chris was waking. A gentle hand caressing his face with surprisingly gentleness awaked Vin Tanner. Normally Vin would have gone for the gun at his side, but instead knew who it was that touched him. Blinking his eyes to drive sleep from them he smiled up at Ezra. "Ez what's up? Trouble in town?" Not receiving an answer Vin looked at his friend and, seeing the terrible pain and sorrow in his eyes, he quickly sat up so that the gambler could sit down. Vin then gently asked, "What's wrong Ezra? Somethin' got you real upset?"

Ezra just looked up at Vin and let his true self show through, watching as a child-like wonder crossed the man's beautiful face. Vin reached out to the spirit that was Ezra knowing that his friend was far more that what anyone had ever guessed. There was no fear in him as he touched Ezra and felt the greatest love that he had ever known. Vin whispered, his voice filled with wonder, "Ez, are you the Great Spirit?"

Smiling gently at this sweet soul, Ez shook his head and answered, "No Vin. I'm an angel sent by the Great Spirit to help and guide you."

Memories surfaced of gentle hands comforting him when others hurt, of being cold and suddenly feeling a feather softness that kept him warm - of a pair of green eyes leading him to those who would help heal and love him, of a voice whispering to him to go to Four Corners. Vin knew that all those memories and more were due to this Angel sitting beside him.

Suddenly Vin knew why Ezra was telling him now after four years together, and his soul cried out denial. "Ez don't leave! Please don't leave us!" Tears started to fall on both faces, one mortal the other the glowing face of an angel. Vin wrapped his arms around the one who knew all the good and all the bad of his soul and loved him anyway, refusing to let go. "Why do you have to go?"

Ezra gathered this wild and gentle soul to him and told him the truth, "Vin. I was sent to guide you down the path of good, away from the evil that wanted you. You see ... the six of you are very important for each of you are capable of doing great good ... or great evil depending upon the path you choose." Looking down as the face that was clasped to his bosom he continue. "That's why you were taken from the family who loved you, why you were hurt as a child - to try and turned you to evil. The Great Spirit would never force, but the Evil One would that's why he had Eli Joe frame you. This way you would be forced to join him ... you were so close that day you met Chris and Nathan. I thought I would lose you." At that Ezra couldn't continue as his throat was too choked with emotion to let him. The two beings simply sat and comforted each other. When Ezra had calmed enough he continued, "Vin, the Evil one is coming tomorrow. He will try one more time. You must look into his eyes and reject him then he can't touch you again. I won't let him. Then afterwards I have to go back to the spirit world."

"NO! Don't want you to go!" was the only muffled response from the tracker as he hugged his friend closer to him.

"I won't go far ... you just won't be able to see or touch me, that's all. I won't leave you... I swear." Ezra cupped Vin's chin so he would look up at him and continued, "Vin, I have a gift for you. The family you were stolen from is still looking for you and ... you have found your brother."

Hope flared in Vin's beautiful blue eyes, "Who, Ez? it Chris?" Receiving a grin in reply Vin laughed and embraced Ezra. "Thank you Ez... thank you." Then Vin remembered why Ezra was here; to say goodbye. Even though he wanted to rush to Chris, he knew that Ezra needed him more at this moment.

Ezra started to leave but was prevented by Vin tightening his arms around him. Gently brushing Vin's hair from his face Ezra told him, "Vin go to Chris. That's what you want to do...."

Vin interrupted Ezra, " need me more now. Chris and I can wait a little while longer. Stay with me tonight, we'll come up with a plan tomorrow. We won't give you up, Ez. We'll go to hell or heaven to get you back." Scooting back on his bunk Vin gathered Ezra into his arms and placed his blanket over both of them; he cuddled his angel close to him and both of them drifted off to sleep.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra gently calling his name awakened Josiah Sanchez. Turning towards Ezra he saw the man he considered his son kneeling on the floor by his bed. "Ezra, what's the matter son?"

A tired little sigh was Ezra's response, which made Josiah smile. But Josiah didn't realize that Ezra had always considered Josiah his son for he was there when Josiah was conceived, when he took his first steps and said his first word. Josiah was the oldest of his charges and he would always hold a very special place in his heart. Looking at Josiah, Ezra took a deep breath and said, "Josiah, I have something very important to tell you."

Josiah threw back the covering of his bed and sat up so that he could bring Ezra onto the bed with him. He wrapped one arm comfortingly around the gambler and told him, "Ezra, son, you can tell me anything. I'm here for you."

Ezra gave a small smile and let the final mask drop so that Josiah could see what he truly was. As Ezra started to glow with a holy light, Josiah eyes widened and a reverence overtook the preacher. He slid off the bed, refusing to look at Ezra and knelt in front of this holy being. Josiah felt he was unworthy to be in the presence of an Angel of God. He was startled by gentle hands that cupped his face and lifted it so that he would face the Angel that he had dared to call son. "Josiah, my Josiah, you are worthy, more than worthy. There is nothing you need to fear from me. You and the others are my children and I have always loved you. Please don't fear me."

Tears started to fall down the angelic face and as the sorrow and pain was revealed to Josiah fear hit the core of his being. Josiah could never stand to see Ezra in pain; he gathered the being into his lap, holding him close as the tears fell. "Why are you telling me this now, Ezra?"

"Tomorrow ... tomorrow my assignment will be over ... I have to return to my post as your guarding angel." Ezra paused and looked in Josiah's face; he then continued, "The Devil is coming for you and the others. He wants you to reject the path of light and join him on the path of the damned. You have to reject him to his face. I will stand with you and protect you, but you must do this."

Josiah looked into Ezra's eyes and saw the truth there, and with the truth the knowledge of why the Devil was coming for him and his brothers. For all the pain and suffering that he and his sister had gone through was caused by the Devil with the hope to turn him from the light. OH GOD! How close he had come on a number of occasions only to be pulled back by the love of the being he now held in his arms. Remembered touches, feelings of love, and whispers that had led him all his life and to brought him to his brothers were all due to Ezra. Josiah tightened his hold on the being that was to him his son and brother, making a silent vow that he wouldn't let anyone take him from them.

Ezra saw in Josiah eyes the same look as was in Chris and Vin's eyes, the promise that they wouldn't let him go without a fight; but Ezra knew that there was nothing they could truly do to prevent it. "Josiah you need to sleep, for tomorrow you will need all your faith and strength to face what you need to do."

Ezra then pulled out of Josiah's grasp and helped him into bed, but before he could leave Josiah grabbed him and wouldn't let him go. Looking in Josiah's eyes he saw the wordless request and sighed as he removed his boots and then crawled into bed, where the bigger man cuddled him close as they fell to sleep.

+ + + + + + +

A light beaming into his face woke JD Dunne from deep sleep. Thinking that Buck was playing a trick on him he pulled his pillow over his eyes, but the light didn't dim but grew brighter. Knowing it wasn't possible JD opened his eyes and removed the pillow from his face. As his eyes adjusted from the darkness of sleep to the soft glow of light he beheld a vision unlike anything that he had every seen but had only read about in the bible. The angel sat on his bed looking at him with all the love in the universe but also with sorrow and pain in his green eyes. JD blinked, for this angel looked just like Ezra...but it couldn't be possible, could it? "Ezra ...what?"

Ezra simply smiled and let the young man come to terms with what he was seeing. "Yes, JD, it's me."

At first JD didn't want to believe what his eyes and mind were telling him. He wanted to think this was a joke being played on him by Buck and Ezra, but truly seeing Ezra as he was that thought was destroyed. For Ezra glowed from within with a light that could not be faked and the eyes ... the eyes were so rich with love it was not possible for any mortal have shining through their eyes. "You're an Angel?"

"Yes, JD." Ezra waited, projecting all the love that he had for this young man from his being into the other.

JD looked at Ezra trying to figure out why he was telling him now after four years together and could not figure out any answer so he asked, "Why?"

Tears started to fall as Ezra told him, "I have to leave ... tomorrow. You won't need me at your side." Ezra paused to try to control his emotions before continuing, "At least not ... in physical form anymore, so I have to go back."

Ezra was unprepared as JD launched himself at him; Ezra found himself on his back with JD wrapped around him. JD was holding on to his friend as if his very life depended on it. In a muffled voice JD replied, "NO! You ain't going and leaving me like Momma did. You can't! You promised to teach me how to read those law books you bought me."

Ezra smiled though his tears at his youngest charge, for JD was as close to being pure and innocent as a mortal being could. He wished that he would be allow to stay and help his youngest child, but this was not least not the way it was now. Knowing that he had to prepare his young friend for the battle tomorrow, Ezra gently pushed JD away so that he could sit up. Catching the young man's eye he told him, "JD, tomorrow you will have to face your greatest enemy, for he wants to take you away from God to serve him and to spread death and destruction everywhere you go. You have to reject him, JD, just look into his eyes and tell him no. Would you do this for me, JD?"

JD looked into his friend's eyes and the knowledge of who he was to face tomorrow made his eyes widen in fear, for it was the Devil that was coming. Ezra, seeing the fear, quickly embraced the frightened boy and told him, "I will be right there with you, JD, and so will the others for he has come for them as well. I won't let anything happen to you, I promise."

Looking at the green eyes so filled with emotion, JD took strength from them and silently vowed that he would do as Ezra asked. Half-remembered dreams and visions appeared like magic to the young man; an invisible friend that made life fun, comforting words and arms after the death of his mother, and the whispered idea of going West.

Ezra gently released JD and reaching down he removed his boots. Pulling JD off the bed, Ezra drew back the sheets and blanket so that he could get under them. Then Ezra pulled JD in next to him so that he was spooned behind his young friend. Holding him as he had held JD from the time he was born, he gently commanded JD to sleep.

+ + + + + + +

A hand gently shook Nathan Jackson awake. Sitting up quickly, thinking that someone must need his help but wondering how they could get into his rooms without waking him, he took in the fact that it was Ezra that had woken him. Nathan automatically checked to see if Ezra was running a fever or was hurt. Finding Ezra cool to the touch and nothing physically wrong he was puzzled as to why he would wake him. "Ezra, what's wrong? Why did you wake me?"

Nathan and Vin were the two charges that most brought out his protectiveness, for they were the ones to suffer the most as children. Gently Ezra lay his hand on Nathan's and allowed him to see his true being. Nathan watched as Ezra started to glow from the inside, lit by a holy light that dimmed everything in its brightness. A clinical part of Nathan wondered how it was possible for someone to glow as Ezra was, but the other part of him gasped in wonderment with the knowledge that Ezra was an angel.

Ezra waited for Nathan to make the first move, for Nathan's demon was what happened to him as a child; how white men had used and abused him and his growing hatred of anyone from the South had been eating him up. Ezra had had to work hard to turn Nathan away from the darkness that ate at his soul and it had taken four years to break though the wall of hatred Nathan had erected around his heart. Now was the test to see if that work had paid off.

At first Nathan was angry with Ezra for tricking him, for making him open up to Ezra and allowing the hatred that had lived in his soul to be leached out of him. Then the hatred of God rose up in him, for God had left him and his family as slaves; but looking into Ezra's green eyes both of those hatreds faded in the love that flowed from them. Then half-remembered dreams and daydreams surfaced of how gentle hands took away the pain of the beatings, of how the chains fell from his wrists and ankles allowing him to flee to safety. Then of warm arms holding him, keeping him safe as he fled to the North, of a voice telling when to hide or to be still...and always the green eyes, those same green eyes that were looking at him now.

Nathan smiled at Ezra and asked, "Why didn't you tell me before? Do the others know?"

Ezra let out a sigh of relief as he realized he had won Nathan from the grip of evil. He smiled at his charge and told him, "Because I couldn't, I wasn't allowed and yes, the others know or will know before morning. Tomorrow I will have to leave all of you, for my work is done."

Nathan turned his hand so that he could grasp Ezra's hand. "Ezra what's going to happen tomorrow and what do you mean you will be leaving? You can't leave, you are one of us." Nathan watched in astonishment as tears flowed down the glowing cheeks and a feeling of dread replaced the wonderment in Nathan's soul. Something was going to happen tomorrow that would rip Ezra from their midst to take him from them.

Ezra looked into Nathan and told him what he had told the other five. "The Devil is coming to call and he wants all six of you. He ... was the one behind every evil thing that happen to you, for he ... wanted you to take your knowledge of healing and ... turning it to darker ends." Ezra paused and grasped the dear face in his hands, imploring Nathan to do what he was about to ask. "Nathan, you have to look him right in the eye and reject him, that is the only way you will be free from him. I won't let him hurt you any more, but you have to do this."

"I promise you, Ezra, I will tell him what he can do with his offer, don't you worry." Nathan looked in the face that should only know love and saw the deep sadness and pain in those eyes that gave him only love. Not believing his daring Nathan gathered the form of his friend in his arms to give him comfort and hope. "Where will you go after this, Ezra? Why do you have to leave?"

Tears coated Nathan's chest as the whispered words were spoken. "I have to leave because my purpose for being here will end. Then I will go back being a guarding angel watching over the six of you but never...never to be able to you with any of you again."

NO! That couldn't happen. Even if Ezra was still with them in spirit there would still be an open hole, a wound that could never be healed. He had to stay! They would just have to find a way to keep their angel with them. Nathan feared that if Ezra left he might simply disappear from their lives, so Nathan decided that he wasn't going to go anywhere and proceeded to wrap his arms around his friend. "Ezra, you're going to stay with me tonight. I don't want you to back to your room so just take off those boots and get into this bed with me. Don't argue, just do it!"

Ezra gave a small hiccup before doing as Nathan said and lay down next to him. Nathan then covered both of them up and cuddled Ezra close as both men fell asleep.

+ + + + + + +

The last to know was Buck Wilmington, who was on patrol through the town when Ezra suddenly appeared before him. Grinning, Buck wrapped an arm around his friend, figuring that with it being the night before Christmas Eve the gambler had decided to keep him company. "So, Ez, what are you doing up?"

Ezra grinned at this scoundrel and shook his head for this man kept him on his toes, but at least he'd broke Buck of taking up with married women. Hopefully the changes Buck was going though would be enough so that he would become a fitting husband for Inez, for Buck had a large heart meant for loving. Buck was the one he worried the least about but the one Ezra most enjoyed being with, for he made him laugh with the practical jokes he pulled. Tugging Buck toward the livery where they could talk without being discovered was easy, but what he had to say would be hard. Stopping in front of the livery he turned to Buck. "Buck, I have to tell you something and I don't want anyone else to hear. Will you come into the livery with me?"

Buck would enjoy getting out of the cold night, but he didn't want to be slack in his duties so he hesitated. "I don't know, Ez ..."

Looking Buck in the eye, Ezra told him, "I promise nothing will happen tonight, but I really must talk to you."

Buck looked in the green eyes of his friend and believed him and smiled as he followed Ezra into the livery. He figure that the gambler must have found a woman to capture his interest and wanted advice from the resident ladies' man, but as soon as Buck closed the door a soft, warm glow illuminated the inside of the livery. Buck turned quickly, thinking that a fire had started, but froze as he took in the fact that his friend was producing the light and that light was coming from within.

Ezra watched wonderment cross his friend's face as he revealed his angelic form and waited for Buck to absorb what he was seeing.

Buck was a man who enjoyed beauty and the vision before him was beyond perfection, to be here and to witness this transformation humbled him. He'd always believed in God and had figured that women were the closest thing that proved the existence of God, now he was being graced with the chance to actually touched a being who had seen the face of God. Buck advanced toward Ezra and gently cupped the face that was as familiar as his own with eyes that spoke of love so great he was honored to know it was for him. But in those eyes he saw the pain and sorrow that Ezra was trying to bury deep with his being. "What is it, Ezra? What is causing you this pain?"

Ezra looked up into Buck's eyes and told him, "I will have to leave ... tomorrow and I want to say ... goodbye."

Panic shot through Buck, for he knew that with Ezra's going they would be missing a piece of their soul; Buck believed that each of the Seven possessed a small piece of same soul that with them united made one complete soul. This made the Seven strong and invincible, able to do anything that was required of them. "Why do you have to leave?"

Tears once again flowed from eyes of love down the glowing cheeks as Ezra with pain in his voice told Buck, "Tomorrow ... you will face the Devil that wants all six of you to join him in his evil. You ... have to reject him and only then will you be free. Once you do that, I will have to ... leave you and go back to be your ... invisible guardian. I promise that I will protect you from him, but you must reject him for me. PROMISE me that you will do this for me."

Buck look deep into his guarding angel's eyes and promised him, "I will do it for you, Ezra. Don't you worry, we'll find a way to keep you with us in the here and now." Taking his glowing friend's hand he led Ezra to an empty stall filled with hay. Making a little nest for them, he settled down and pulled Ezra down to sit between his legs. Buck then wrapped his arms around the crying form of his little angel and murmured quiet words of comfort. A smile grace the ladies' man's face, for his mother had always told him that his guardian angel would always watch out for him and now he had proof in the glowing form of his friend. With that acknowledgement memories surfaced of when Ezra had reached out and touched his life, turning him from the path of evil and leading him here to Four Corners. This 'chance' meeting of the five other men and one angel in Four Corners had resulted in this strange but happy family.

+ + + + + + +

The next morning the six awoke missing Ezra from their arms. Each feared and yet hoped that it had all been a dream, but as each opened their right hand a chain with a medallion of an angel etched on its surface was the proof that it hadn't been. Quickly the five still in bed got dressed and made their way to the saloon, while Buck got up and brushed the hay from his clothing and followed suit. Each man slipped the chain over his head and felt the medallion settle over his heart; it seemed that warmth spread through their bodies from the medallions, making them feel invincible. The six men rushed to the saloon, fearing that last night was Ezra's final night with them; but as each man burst into the saloon they saw Ezra waiting for them at their table. The few patrons in the saloon looked up, puzzled at the men's behavior, but chalked it up to some mischief typical of the Seven and went back to eating.

As each man took a seat they watched their seventh as he sat quietly shuffling his cards. Inez brought over the coffee pot and seven mugs before going to the kitchen for their breakfasts; Inez puzzled over the men's behavior as well, for it wasn't normal. A strange feeling seem to come over her and she knew today would change the lives of all seven men for good or for evil. Quickly Inez said a little prayer, asking God to protect the Seven on this day. She then returned with four breakfasts and went back for the others. None of the men started eating until all seven had been served.

Ezra smiled at his friends and charges and allowed just a drop of his true nature to show. "Relax, my friends, I won't disappear while you eat." Just that little flash made the men slip sly glances around the table to see if the others saw and knew about Ezra's nature. And as they looked at each of the other men's faces, they saw that they all did.

Chris suddenly remembered what Ezra had told him about Vin and searched the face that he had considered his friend and brother and now knew was his brother in blood as well. Seeing the same shared knowledge on each other's face they embraced one another. The other four men looked on in puzzlement while the fifth simply looked on with happiness.

Buck, never one to let anything lie, said, "Pard, people are going to talk if you and Vin keep that up."

The others watched as a grin of true happiness broke over the faces of the two men seated next to one another. Chris, leaving an arm around Vin, told them in a voice rich with happiness, "Buck, everyone, I want you to meet my little brother David Larabee." More than one jaw dropped at that announcement, as well as a coffee pot carried by Inez as she overheard the news. Questions were asked and answered and the story unfolded as to what had happened. Suddenly the similarities between the two men were pointed out and everyone wondered why they hadn't noticed before.

The townsfolk that were in the Saloon and overheard the announcement quickly spread the wondrous news to the other people in town so that everyone stopped by to congratulate the two brothers on their reunion.

No one noticed just when the man appeared among them, but suddenly the townsfolk drew away. Fear flashed through the crowd, for the man was handsome enough but where normal eyes should have been were instead flames of pure hate and evil.

The seven peacekeepers fanned out, placing themselves between this being and the innocent bystanders, protecting them from this danger unlike anything anyone had faced before. The Seven stood tall and no fear showed in their faces, only resolve and the desire to keep this creature away from those they were there to protect.

Chris stepped forward, checking to see that all the townsfolk were behind him. Some of those present would afterwards swear that Chris' eyes turned into flames of pure white light filled with all that is good and just in the world. He faced the stranger and, never dropping his eyes, told him, "I know who you are and what you have done. I reject you and all your works. Leave. Now."

It was Vin's turned to step forward and flank Chris. Gone was the quiet, raspy voice of the tracker, in its place a voice filled with the fierceness and power of nature. "Leave, evil one, for I reject you."

Josiah came up and flanked Chris on the other side as he finally faced the foe that he had battled all his life. His voice was strong and thunderous with faith, "Get thee gone, Devil, for I reject you and will battle to my dying day you and all your works."

The being before them snarled, and in that sound everyone heard the crying of the damned and the lost. The townsfolk drew together as they sought comfort and support from one another against the being the Bible had told them about but had hoped wasn't true that now was confronting them.

Nathan then stepped forward and with a voice filled with the power of love told the creature, "You've lost for I, too, reject you. Get. Now."

Both JD and Buck stepped forward to face this being that wanted to take and destroy this family they had found. Buck radiated an aura of protection that calmed the people behind him and stated, "Your not going to win today, Devil. I reject you."

JD the innocent and naive sheriff then spoke, and in his voice they heard angels singing, "Go away! We don't want you and don't need you. I reject you!"

A snarl of rage and fury broke from the creature before them. It had raised a hand that was engulfed by flame to destroy these impudent mortals who dared to defy it when suddenly the last of the Seven stepped forward; but gone was the gambler and con man that the town had known, instead an angel of God stood there.

Ezra had dropped all barriers to his true form and stood with wings outstretched, protecting those he guarded. "Get thee gone, for they have rejected you."

The Devil looked at the little angel that dared to destroy his plans for the six men behind him and in a fury released a bolt of evil at Ezra, striking him in the chest. Ezra cried out in pain as he was thrown back into Chris' arms. The six looked down into the face of their friend and guardian and no one could say what it was that happened to them, not even the Devil. A black woman suddenly appeared and said, "Leave him with me, I will look after him."

Chris laid Ezra gently down on the ground and then turned back to the creature that dared to hurt one of his family, and his hands started to glow with the same flame that burned in his eyes. Chris let fly with a bolt of pure good, striking the creature in the chest driving him back - but his wasn't the only bolt that struck the creature, for the other five men flanking him struck with their own power. Not being able to stand against them and fearing for its existence, the creature summoned a doorway back to hell and escaped.

Tess looked up from where she was cradling the dying light of a fellow angel to look at the six men who had driven the Devil from this time and place in fear of its life. These mortal men with the power and strength of an archangel glowing from their forms came to kneel by their dying friend. "Ezra, Ezra what have you done?"

The people of Four Corners watched in awe as these men who had driven a great evil from their mist knelt by the side of a dying angel. Chris looked up at the woman that cradled Ezra's head and asked in a voice filled with pain, "Is there anything you can do?"

"No, child, there isn't." The sadness in her voice ripped though the hearts of the six men.

A hand reached out to touch Chris' face, to turn him to look down at its owner. Ezra smiled with pride even through his pain as he looked up at Chris. In a voice filled with pain Ezra whispered, "I'm so proud of you." Ezra then turned his face to look at each of the other five, his eyes resting on each beloved face as he continued, "All of you." Ezra then arched his back in pain as his light started to dim.

"No! Ezra, you can't die. You just can't! You promised that you'd always be here for us. Nate, do something. Please!" cried JD as he cradled Ezra's hand next to his cheek.

Nathan looked, trying to see what he could do to save Ezra, but the pulsating black hole in the middle of Ezra's chest was unlike any wound that he had ever seen. Nathan placed his glowing hands over the wound, seeking to drive the evil away and seal the hole. He felt the evil pulling back from his hands trying to evade his will to heal Ezra, but Nate also recognized that he couldn't do it alone. Looking up at his brothers, he told them, "I need your help. We need to drive this evil out and then seal the wound with our power, but we need to hurry."

The others did as Nate instructed, and they watched as the blackness was destroyed and the hole slowly closed. Tess could only watch as a miracle took place before her eyes, as the impossible became possible. Ezra's light became stronger and stronger as he was healed. Once the wound was completely healed Nate and Chris helped Ezra to sit up and then to stand, each of the six touching and steadying their seventh.

Ezra looked at the six faces of his charges and saw power and strength that it wasn't possible for a mortal to have, but they all did. He tried to find a reason for this impossibility and, not coming up with one, just enjoyed the fact that they were seven again.

Then a voice unlike any that they had every heard said, "So, brothers, you decided to make yourselves known."

The Seven turned toward the voice that spoke and found an angel sitting with feet propped up on a table, only then noticing their surroundings were lit by a soft, white glow. Fearfully they turned to look at the townsfolk, who seemed to be frozen in place. Chris turned blazing eyes back to the Angel, guessing that he was the cause; the Angel hurried to explain. "They're all right, there is no cause to worry. I have taken you out of time so that I can explain what happened. We also need to figure out how to change the perspective of the events that had just occurred; we can't have townsfolk speaking about Angels and the other things that happened. You will never be able to continue your work with them falling all over themselves to be near you."

Ezra leaned in to Chris and whispered, "Chris, he's the Archangel Michael!"

Chris' eyes widened at the implications of such a special angel talking to them and for the first time was nervous. Wetting his bottom lip with this tongue he asked, "What did just happened and why did you call us brothers?"

Michael got up and made his way towards Chris, gently cupping Chris' face. He then commanded in a thunderous voice, "Remember."

They all fell to the floor clutching their heads and groaning in pain. Ezra reacted by grabbing Chris away from Michael and using his power to knock Michael halfway across the room. Clutching Chris to his chest and trying to easy his pain Ezra hissed at Michael in anger, not knowing that his eyes burned like those of the other six, "What did you do to them?"

But before Michael could answer Chris' hand had covered Ezra's mouth, silencing him. Ezra looked down into the face of the man he had guarded and beheld an Archangel with power unlike any he had seen. Gentle hands touched Ezra, making him looked into the faces of the other five, and he saw the same transformation in them as he did in Chris. Ezra looked back down at Chris and asked, "Who?"

Chris pulled a away a little so that he could sit up and look into Ezra face. "Angel child, we fought alongside Michael in the great war to drive Lucifer from heaven..."

Michael interrupted, "No, Chris, tell the truth; for you and the other five led us in battle and you were the one who personally threw Lucifer down into the pits of hell."

Ezra's eyes widened, for if what Michael was saying was the truth - and there was no doubt that he was telling the truth - his six charges were the greatest of the entire heavenly host, the ones who legend told had vanished from heaven only to appear when the Lord had need for them. Ezra felt unworthy to be in the company of such great beings and ashamed he had had the gall to even presume to guard them so he tried to leave, not wanting to anger them any more than he had already with his pitiful attempts at protecting them. The six sensed that Ezra was going to flee from them and Chris grabbed him, manhandling him so that he sat on his lap facing the other five.

Vin gently lifted Ezra's face to look at him and said, "Listen, little pard, we have been searching for you for a very long time. We left heaven to be born of man to help them fight evil wherever and whenever we could, but we were always searching for our heart."

Josiah then spoke. "After we chased Lucifer from heaven we each noticed something was missing from us, making us less than whole. We were missing our seventh and our heart. Chris is our leader and our courage, Vin our gentleness, Nathan our compassion, JD our innocence, Buck our mischief and I our faith. But without you, without our heart, we were lost."

"We had searched for a very long time for you, Ezra." whispered JD, who had reached over to take Ezra's hand. "We had lost ourselves in despair, but then you came and brought us back from the edge of darkness."

Buck spoke then. "Each of us must have subconsciously known that you were the one we searched for, but we had waited for so long we feared that we were wrong and therefore we rejected you. Please forgive us, little one."

Nathan captured Ezra's other hand and raised it to his cheek. "Ezra ... Ezra your name means help and you have more than lived up to your name. You have helped each of us to remember our purpose and helped us find our way back to the light. Christmas has come early for all six of us, for the Lord gave us the greatest gift of all, our heart."

+ + + + + + +

All that the townspeople could remember of that day was the good fortune of Chris finding his brother and seven who drove off a man aiming to destroy them. But in each of the townsfolk's hearts they somehow knew that more had taken place that day and that a Christmas miracle had been performed.

As they gathered in Josiah's church to celebrate Christmas Mass, the Seven seemed to glow with a light that touched everyone present, and a touch of wonder was gifted to them on that holiest night, the night of Jesus' birth.

The End

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