Main Character: Ezra
Warnings: Death fic. This is not your usual holiday story but then again...just see what you think. I know I've already done a death fic. but this one just came out. I'm not a depressed person, really, I'm not! I did not intend to offend anyone with my ideas of Heaven or how you get there. Thanks always to Antoinette who is my best beta. Thanks to everyone who is kind enough to review and happy holidays to all.
Six men were dead.
The wounded man knew that he would not see the next sunrise.
Well, so much for the holidays, Ezra Standish thought to himself with bitter irony.
He had felt no compunction about ambushing those men; after all, they had snuck into town and shot down his fellow peacekeepers without warning. He had treated himself to a rather profitable pre holiday visit to Eagle Bend and had arrived back into town just that morning. He had returned to see fleeing bounty hunters and death where he had once had a family of sorts. With an impetuousness that would have made J.D. proud, he gave chase, administered justice and perhaps had justice administered to him as well.
In any case, he was lying on his back with several perforations in his body and his life seeping away into the desert sand.
He tried to move but his strength was leaving him as quickly as his blood apparently. He couldn't even drag himself away from the shelter of the rock behind which he had hidden. He had been fortunate in a way that the bounty hunters were unfamiliar with the terrain. Thanks to Mr. Tanner and his habit of pointing out possible ambush locations, he had been able to get the drop on the fleeing miscreants.
The gunfight had been short, loud and final. He regretted nothing, not even the reality of dying away from town and alone. Tiny and some of the other townsfolk would find him and what was left of those murderous bastards tomorrow. He did regret not being able to do more for his friends and his thoughts turned to the men who had shared his life for the past few years.
The possibility of his friends being together and most likely causing untold chaos in the celestial realms was a certain fact to Ezra. He smiled at the thought. He didn't seem to have much to smile about at the moment so he took solace in his angelic musings. Now that was absurd, just the idea of his associates in white robes and strumming harps was enough to cause him to grin and he wished he had the strength to laugh.
No doubt, Mr. Sanchez would frown at his less than pious fantasies but he really couldn't be held responsible, he would blame it on the blood loss, Ezra decided as he looked at the bleeding bullet hole in his chest. Yes, Josiah would definitely be there. Despite his tendency toward violent actions when inebriated, the man had been their rock of faith at times. Josiah always judged himself too harshly. Surely, his God would have mercy on such a repentant soul, crows not withstanding.
Mr. Jackson would be there as well; someone who had met with such cruelty and hate but still had compassion for the suffering of others would surely be rewarded. Nathan never gave up looking for a cheater's conscience. The ex-slave had always been questioning, trying to bring out the better man in him. Ezra sincerely regretted the healer's lack of success. At least Nathan could now take a much-deserved rest.
No doubt, the healer would have had a few select words to say about his present situation but really what could he have done? Ezra asked himself. It wasn't as if he had a choice in the matter, a gentleman does not let the murder of his friends go unanswered. He certainly hadn't wanted to chase after criminals and ruin yet another of his jackets, (his favorite red one this time). Seasons Greetings indeed! All in all his actions reminded him of one Mr. J.D. Dunne.
J.D. was most likely driving the saints themselves to distraction right at this moment with his exuberance. The young man always seemed to bring out the best in those around him and he sincerely hoped the boy was enjoying himself. J.D. believed the best of everyone, even a southern conman. He had always felt better just being around the boy, as though that innocence could have rubbed off on him somehow.
Mr. Wilmington, of course would be busy making the acquaintance of all the lovely angels in his vicinity, but he would undoubtedly find time to check up on J.D. and the others. The man hadn't spent countless years looking after one Chris Larabee and then their young sheriff to give up just because they had all died. If loyalty had a name, it was Buck Wilmington.
He had no doubt of where Chris would be. Oh, to be sure Mr. Larabee most likely had glared the archangels into opening the gates for him, but he really had no doubt that the man could have ended up anywhere else. It would have taken more than mere divine intervention to keep the gunslinger from his family, whether they were of blood or of the heart. It seemed only fitting that after enduring hell on earth, the man should be allowed into paradise.
Mr. Tanner, now there was an amazing man who also was within the pearly gates by now. Vin would have been proud of him and also surprised to find that a city dwelling gambler had actually paid attention when the tracker tried to enlighten him on living in the wilderness. If ever there was a decent man than Vin Tanner was that man, though he had entirely too much honesty then was good for a person. Vin had accepted him without question, forgiven him when he had been unkind and had not been ashamed to call him friend.
He was dying; Ezra knew that and was surprised to find that it really didn't bother him. H e knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the others were together, happy and in a far better place. A place of peace, comfort and the reunion of loved ones who had passed before. His friends deserved all that and more. They were men who had fought on the side of the law and everything that was good and honorable. He was proud that he had been allowed a small part of such an endeavor.
He only wished that he could have been counted good enough to stand with his friends again. Just as he knew where the others were, he knew in his heart that he was not going to be joining them. He was not made of the glorious stuff that his associates had been. There was nothing noble or redeeming in a self-serving gambler and conman. There had been no self-sacrificing deed or unselfish action in his entire existence. It was a foregone conclusion where his soul was bound. He repented deeply of what his life had been. It seemed the only bright spot had been these last few years in the company of men better then he.
His dying eyes fixed on the billowing white clouds above him as his life faded. He watched as shapes burst out of the rolling clouds, falling down toward him. As they came closer, the white shapes took on the form of horsemen. Riders that were not wearing robes of white but a buffalo hunters coat, a serape and a ridiculous looking hat.
The regret and sorrow that had weighed him down was suddenly gone, replaced with a joy and excitement he had never before experienced. He felt a sense of forgiveness and a gratitude that he knew he could never repay though he had eternity. He didn't deserve it, hadn't earned it certainly but this gift had been freely given.
The horsemen were closer now, there were six of them and one was leading a horse with an empty saddle. He could see their smiling familiar faces; feel their joy at seeing him. They had come. For him.
"How astonishing" he breathed, gold tooth gleaming in a smile and Ezra P. Standish went home for the holidays.