An Important Lesson

by MMW

Part of The Friendship Collection

Ezra groaned as the doorbell echoed through his condo for the third time. He'd been in Denver and on Team Seven for about three months. Somehow he just knew it was one of his teammates that was ringing his bell at the unholy hour of eight AM on a Saturday. Hopefully, he would be able to get rid of them quickly. After all, today was moving day and it would take him most of the weekend to get everything into his new condo.

As the bell echoed again, he stumbled on the stack of framed diplomas he'd acquired. He tried to remember why they were unpacked in the first place, but the reason escaped him. Still, they were among the last things to be packed. "Coming!" he finally shouted as his patience finally wore out.

Peering out the peephole in his door, he let out a soft groan at the sight of a smiling Josiah. It took only moments to unlock the door and glare at the older man. "How may I help you, Mr. Sanchez?" he asked. Just because it was too early in the morning for any sane person to be up was no reason to be impolite, after all.

"Actually, I'm just here to help you, Ezra," Josiah returned with a grin, gently pushing past the half-awake man and into the condo.

Ezra blinked a few times trying to figure out what the other man meant. "Pardon me?" he inquired.

"We figured you would need help moving today," Josiah informed with a shrug. "The others will be by in a little while. I figured I'd stop by early to see if there was any more packing that needed to be done and start loading my truck."

Ezra blinked at the man as if he were speaking a strange language. Reviewing the past few days in his head, he was quite certain that he hadn't mentioned his plans to move and wasn't certain how the others came by this knowledge. He was also quite positive he hadn't asked for any of their help. The last thing he wanted was to owe these men anything and he knew from past experience with "helpful friends' that if they helped him today he would be expected to help them in the future. Exchanging favors was far more tiresome than exchanging money. With that thought, he tried to remember again why he hadn't just hired movers.

While Ezra had stood pondering the odd turn his morning had taken, Josiah had been looking at the packed boxes and the few items that were left out. He bent down and picked up the diplomas, letting out a low whistle, recognizing the names of a prestigious prep school and college "These are some mighty fine schools, Ezra," he commented, peering into a still-open box to see if there was room for them.

"Thank you," Ezra replied. "Mother only expected the best." After a few moments of watching Josiah finish packing some boxes, he asked again, "Why are you here?"

Josiah stopped his packing and looked at Ezra. "I told you, we thought you could use some help moving today. It's what friends do," Josiah explained. He watched the emotions flit across the Southerner's face, marveling at how transparent Ezra was being. Obviously catching the man mostly asleep meant he didn't have his usual defenses up. When Ezra continued to stare at him, Josiah chuckled and went back to packing.

Frustrated and feeling the beginning of anger, Ezra ran a hand through his hair. Taking a deep breath, he slowly released it. It wouldn't do to allow his emotions to be so easily read. In an even voice he inquired, "And what, pray tell, will I owe you all for this act of kindness?"

Josiah froze before shaking his head. He should have known that Ezra would take their help the wrong way. The man might be slick as an eel and able to read a felon with no problem, but a simple act of friendship seemed to elude him. Turning to meet the piercing green eyes, Sanchez asked, "It seems you still have some important lessons to learn, Ezra?"

Indignation flared as Ezra's hands fisted for a moment before he purposefully relaxed them and addressed Josiah's question. "I assure you, sir," he began, "while at school I learned all a young man needed to know to succeed in the world."

Josiah smiled sadly at his young friend. "Perhaps not all," he replied quietly. Before Ezra could retort, he continued, "It's been said 'Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.'"

Gritting his teeth and closing his eyes, he decided that such philosophical discussions should wait until after coffee. Opening his eyes when he felt himself once more in control of his emotions, he queried, "And which of your well-known philosophers uttered that nugget of wisdom?"

Josiah chuckled at the question. Rubbing his chin, eyes sparkling with humor, he mused, "Not sure he's well known for being a philosopher, but he is well known. And has a definite point about friendship." Ezra's impatient expression and the sound of several cars pulling up outside encouraged him to respond. "That quote came from Muhammad Ali," he explained.

"The boxer?" Ezra asked in disbelief.

"The boxer," Josiah confirmed, turning back to his packing. "Man knows a thing or two about friendship as well as boxing, I'd say." Glancing at Ezra, he noted the younger man just standing, staring at him. "You might want to go get ready for the day, Ezra," he advised. "The others are here." As he said this the doorbell sounded through the dwelling.

Ezra nodded and headed toward his room while Josiah headed toward the front door.

"And Ezra," Josiah called, waiting until the younger man turned to face him. "We're helping because we're your friends and we can. We don't expect anything in return." Meeting the green eyes, he stated, "Friendship isn't a deal or a con."

"Then what is it, Mr. Sanchez?" Ezra asked, attempting to sound bored with the conversation, though to his ears he could still hear the uncertainty and, perhaps, fear in his voice.

Josiah just smiled and replied, "That is your lesson to learn." That said, he turned back to let the others into the condo.