Disclaimer: There’s no money been made off of this. Don’t own these boys wish I did. So don’t sue.
This ain’t beta-ed. All the mistakes are mine.
This here is a continuation of sorts to Wyvern’s story Child’s Play. Whom I thank for allowing me to play in this sand box. Completed 5/31/01 Tweaked 1/6/02
A few weeks had passed since eleven year-old Ezra Standish had stepped off the stage in to the main street of Four Corners. It seemed that maybe just maybe his life had changed for the better. He had spent his early days in town as a patient in Nathan Jackson’s clinic after disastrous escapade with Buck Wilmington’s horse. His Mother had run off to Paris leaving him in the care of strangers. Though that is not the explanation that his new caretakers would have given, all his scars had been bared for them all to see, a constant reminder to the boy of his failure, his inability to do as he was told. His mother often reminded him the shame that he brought to the family name, that he should keep his mouth shut. After all that was the way proper young gentleman should act.
The young southern lad was reading Ivanhoe on a cot in the backroom of The Clarion. He was supposed to spend the afternoon under the watchful eye of Mr. Sanchez but there had been trouble on one of the outlaying ranches, Josiah and Buck went to check out the problem leaving J.D. and Nathan in town. Chris and Vin had left five days before to escort a prisoner to Cedar Ridge. Mr. Dunne had a town to watch over and the healer was tending a miner’s broken arm, leaving Ezra with Mrs. Travis. Not that the boy minded Chris had given him a good book for him to read, she had checked on him several times to make sure he was comfortable, had enough to eat and to read. He fell asleep with images involving heroic tales of honorable knights running through his mind.
Chris and Vin returned at dusk, after speaking with Inez they went to the newspaper office to retrieve their youngest. Mary smiled when they walked through the door.
“Hello Mary thanks for keeping an eye on the boy today.”
Chris followed Mary to the back room where Ezra was still sleeping with a contented smile on his face.
“He spent the day reading, he is far to quiet and still for a lad of his age.”
“I know I should let him sleep but I want to take him back to the Boarding house with me.”
He turned he attention to the sleeping boy. “Hey Ezra…Come on time to go… Come on Pard.”
Larabee was rewarded with fluttering green eyes. “You ready to go?”
A pair of hands rubbing squinted eyes followed a slight nod. The man in black gently lifted the boy from the cot and carried him out of the Clarion saying his goodbyes to Mary. They were half way to the boarding house when Mary shouted after them.
Mary waved the book Ezra was so taken with in the air. The tracker quickly jogged back, retrieved the treasure and jogged back, then shadowed his friend opening doors when needed until Ezra was once again tucked safely into Chris’ bed. Vin smirked as he watched the pair before setting the book on the nightstand before heading off to bed down himself. Once Chris was sure that Ezra was comfortable sat down on the recently added cot. He sighed he was worried about the boy. The child had been too damn quiet since he was released into Chris’ care two weeks ago. Larabee rubbed a hand over his face wondering if he made the right choice.
In the morning Nathan was examining Ezra’s leg, checking on how well the bones were healing and the healer also wanted to remove the stitches, the small southern lad was not amused because after the stitches had removed the healer shifted the aching limb around massaging the tightened unused muscles. Larabee sat on cot next to the boy, as he watched the child wince under the well intentioned ministrations, he reached over and grabbed Ezra’s hand who responded by squeezing it tightly riding out the pain in virtual silence until a hitched breath caused Nathan to look up.
“I’m sorry Ezra I know it hurts but we have to get the muscles loosened up before ya can even try walking on this leg.”
The briefest of nods made Nathan return to his task. By the time the back man had finished Ezra had a slight sheen of perspiration on his pale face.
“I don’t think we can leave the splints off just yet. I’ll wrap his leg up again and you take him on home but I want him using the crutches and no weight on that leg ‘til I say it’s okay.”
Nathan’s patient didn’t hear a word, the worn out boy slipped off into an exhausted slumber curled up in Chris’ arms. The healer set about wrapping the boy’s leg while he slept.
Ezra slowly woke an hour later still on the cot in the clinic.
“Hey ‘bout time you woke up.”
The boy’s eyes snapped open in confusion. Larabee was smiling at him from a chair next to the cot then he remembered and relaxed attempting to stifle a yawn. The boy’s stomach rumbled, embarrassed he blushed.
“I suppose you’ll be wanting to eat.”
The boy made a face indicating he had had enough of Nathan’s broth and scowled at the gunslinger.
“No broth…How about some chicken and dumpling’s?”
He didn’t know how the man knew what he was thinking, he didn’t want to show the gunslinger that it unnerved him and quietly replied.
“That would fine Mr. Larabee.” Chris lifted him up and Ezra stared at his leg noticing for the first time it was still wrapped in the splints.
“Ezra they had to stay on but if your careful you can to use the crutches, but you have to stay off the leg.”
“Oh…” Ezra sighed his mother would say he was losing his touch. He clung to the older man as Chris opened the clinic’s door.
Vin Tanner was sitting outside when his friends stepped through the door.
The tracker walked past the pair and grabbed the boy’s crutches Chris had set by the door, quickly following the pair down to the saloon.
The meal was quiet, Ezra barely looking up from his plate with the two men watching him intently. He had for the most part been successful in masking his insecurity despite the reassurances of Mr. Larabee he wondered when they would tire of him like all the others before had and send him away. The further reinforce his feeling since leaving the clinic he hadn’t spent more than two nights under the same roof, being passed off from person to person because of busy schedules. The boy knew he was vulnerable, the broken leg left him unable to defend himself and unable to escape. Mother would be disappointed. Ezra fell back against his mother’s training gazed up from his plate as if he hadn’t a worry smiling, as he looked Chris in the eye.
“Thank you Mr. Larabee that was a fine meal.”
A frown crossed Chris’ face what had just happened, glancing at his friend in time to see a smirk on the tracker’s face. The man had the gall to snort and chuckle. The gunslinger glared ‘Thanks a lot’, in response to that he received a shrug and a lop sided grin from Vin.
“Ez, you want some pie?” The tracker asked the boy. The boy’s smile slipped a little, how did he know?
“Molly want ta bring the boy some of that fine peach pie.”
Chris grinned when Vin flustered the boy. It slipped a little when the boy quickly composed himself again, leaving him wondering how would they ever get the lad to trust them.
Two men came rushing through the bat wing doors with guns drawn, Chris and Vin drew their own, firing rapid shots as Chris threw the table over and thrust Ezra behind it. The boy panicked and painful scurried backwards behind the bar while the lawmen were engaged in a gun battle in the middle of the saloon. A third man came in from the rear of the saloon with guns blazing his fury ending abruptly when a well placed shot from behind Chris and Vin caused the chandelier to come crashing down on the third man, the remaining gunmen to abruptly surrender. The man in black turned to see their rescuer as J.D. and Nathan came running in. There standing propped up against the bar with a two shot derringer in his hand was Ezra Standish, the boy’s wide green eyes staring blankly at them as he slid down the bar to the floor, unable to stay upright any longer.
In three long strides Chris was at Ezra’s side deftly removing the little gun from the boy’s hand pocketing it. Nathan was right beside him running his hands over the lad.
“Chris let’s get him out of here and up to your room.”
The gunslinger gently picked up the boy off the floor, Ezra buried his face in the older man’s shoulder as they walked away from the carnage. A curt nod from Vin assured him that everything was under control as he and J.D. hauled the remaining outlaws to their feet.
Chris sat down on the bed with Ezra he didn’t think he would be able to pry the boy off. Tremors ran through the southern lad. Nathan went to fetch he bag while he sat there trying to soothe Ezra, who was unresponsive with a death grip on the gunslinger. The healer rushed in, setting his bag on the bed before digging out smelling salts removing the glass stopper. Chris manipulated the small brown haired head off his chest where the healer firmly gripped the boy’s chin and put the noxious smelling vial under the child’s nose. Ezra blinked twice kicked Nathan in the chest and jammed an elbow into Larabee’s face connecting with his nose with amazing force, throwing himself off the bed crashing smacking his forehead into the night stand on the way down to the floor landing hard then blindly trying to escape until hit the wall. Panting in abject terror he curled into a ball with his arms across his face. Chris and Nathan were too stunned to move, what hell caused him to react like that. Vin ran into the room, ignoring the men’s plight he cautiously approached the boy. Squatting in front of Ezra he spoke quietly to him without touching him.
“Ezra? Pard… Yer safe in the boarding house back in yer room.”
Ezra took a cautious peek between his eyes to see the mangy tracker looking at him. The boy slowly pulled his arms from his face not sure how he ended up on the floor.
“Ezra Are ya hurting?”
A brief nod had Nathan who was still clutching his mid section join them on their floor with Chris shadowing them from the bed with a bloody nose that continued to leak down his chin.
“Mind telling where ya hurting?”
A slight shake of his head told them nothing.
Ezra shook his head again. Vin tried another tack.
“How about we get you off the floor so that Nate can look at you?”
Vin was rewarded with a slight nod.
“Okay I’m gonna pick you up now.”
Vin picked up the terrified child, carried him to the bed and into Chris’ open arms. The tracker went and wet towel on the bed stand handing to his partner to ease the pain of his swelling nose. Following Vin lead Nathan sat beside Ezra without laying a hand on the boy he asked.
“Can you tell me where you hurt Ezra?”
The boy shook his head, instantly regretting the action as the pain throbbed in time with his heartbeat.
“You know I’m not mad at ya fer kicking me and I don’t think Chris is mad at ya neither.” The healer eyed the gunslinger as he removed the wet cloth before adding.
“No one’s mad at ya, just real worried that you hurt yourself again and won’t let us help you. Can I look in yer eyes? Ya hit yer head hard when ya came flying off that bed.”
Ezra slowly opened his eyes, the healer noted that the pupils were even but a bruise was starting to form over his left eye.
“Hurt any where else?”
“Can Nate look at it?”
A brief nod and the healer was gently checking the still healing limb all the movement caused more damage.
“Looks like you cracked the bone, I’m gonna have to splint it again anything else hurt?”
Chris winced as he felt a slight nod the boy had enough pain already.
“Lemme see.” Nathan carefully ran his hands over the arm.
“Ya bruised it. Now can I look at yer eyes agin?”
The boy was in shock.
“..don’t want to go…”
“You’re not going anywhere Ezra, don’t worry you’re staying right here.” Soothed Chris, his nose was swelling and most likely would have two black eyes come morning, he thought as he absent mindedly rubbed Ezra’s back.
“It’s alright stop fretting now, I’m going to git my tea and the rest of my kit I’ll need to patch up the boy. Chris there’s no cause to move him if its going make him to fret so.”
Then the healer was gone.
“Goin’ to help out J.D. with them prisoners…See ya in a bit.”
Chris could feel Ezra nervously plucking the buttons on his shirt. How could some one so young be so brave and yet so foolish?
The boy stiffened he was wrong again, nothing he ever did would be good in this man’s eyes. Chris continued loosely holding on to the rigid child.
“Ezra that was a very stupid thing…a very brave and stupid thing that you did…you could have been killed. Scared the life out of me.” The older man continued rubbing the boy’s back trying to get him to relax. “We’ll talk about it later….” Those words followed Ezra he slipped off into an exhausted slumber.
Pain lanced through his head, Ezra hurt and couldn’t remember what had happened or where he was. Afraid he kept his eyes closed feigning sleep. Waking in pain did not reassure him that he was safe as he tried to recall the events that caused his aching body.
“Ezra? Hey pard, are ya awake?”
The young man’s quiet voice was familiar. A face flashed to the forefront of his mind, J.D., Ezra cracked open one eye although his vision was blurry he recognized the young sheriff sitting at his side watching him twist around to nudge Mr. Larabee who was sleeping in the cot.
“Hey Chris… he’s awake.”
Ezra blinked and Chris was at his side in an instant quietly telling J.D. to fetch Nathan.
They were alone and Ezra tried valiantly to keep his eyes open, when he realized that he failed once again. Even though Chris was smiling gently at him the tears quietly fell down his cheeks.
“Ezra what’s wrong? Are you hurting?”
The boy closed his eyes, but the silent tears still fell and he started apologizing.
“I’m so-rry… I’m…. so sorry… didn’t… want…. to be… trouble.”
Each word hitched on a stifled sob. Chris carefully pulled the lad into a warm embrace, gently rubbing Ezra’s back while trying to sooth the distraught young boy. Nathan walked in as Ezra started to relax, the boy had his face nestled into Chris’ chest, the healer sat on the other side of the bed waiting a moment before asking.
“Hey Ezra how’s yer head feelin’? ” The boy said nothing.
“Ezra it’s alright….” Larabee soothed.
“Well ya did thump it pretty hard when ya fell. Can ya open yer eyes fer me Ezra?”
The youth managed to open them slightly to see Nathan concerned face. The healer slightly lifted Ezra’s chin with his hand noting the colorful bruise that marred boy’s face above his left eye but the pupils were normal.
“That’s good… Don’t look like a concussion. An’ Ezra you won’t be happy but you cracked the bone busted leg and jist twisted other one.” Nathan noticed that the boy had fallen asleep.
“Chris…he’ll be okay he’s over done it plumb wore hisself out.”
The healer left the seven’s leader to watch over his charge, Chris still held onto the lad reluctant to relinquish his hold he lay down next to Ezra and closed his eyes.
In the week that followed Ezra regained some of his strength but his pride like the boy that boldly strode into town many weeks before had disappeared, he still had to be carried around town under Nathan’s orders, the fear that he would fall with one broken leg and a sprained ankle kept the boy compliant. Chris distanced himself from the boy, the other men noticed but the doubted it was a conscious decision. Hoping the man would come to his senses Vin and J.D. had taken Ezra with them in a buckboard out to the Wells farm he could visit while they were there to help do repairs knowing that it would do the lad a world of good to be fussed over by Mrs. Wells, besides Buck had a plan.
Ezra on the other hand was hedging his bets. He would behave as expected as the proper little gentleman. He lay in the buckboard cushioned by blankets with the treasured book held tightly to his chest, a generous gift from Mr. Larabee. Frankly he was downright confused by the kindness of these people, he remained quiet and well behaved because he had no means of escape he spent his time thinking, although unhappy that he was being paraded around the territory in his night shirt and long johns he spent his time trying to figure out their angle. Today, they surprised him by taking him along to the farm, Nathan had been there to see him off and he wondered if he would return to Larabee’s care or be left with this woman. The boy had expected it. He began to fret he had no choice but to accept whatever happened as long as he wasn’t returning to his Uncle or being sent off to an orphanage. Sighing inwardly he pushed these thoughts away and watched dust settle on the retreating trail.
The wagon slowed and stopped. Ezra was still wrapped in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice Vin come around the back until he felt someone touch his arm startling him.
“Didn’t mean to spook ya Ez.” J.D. smiled when the boy scowled at the name. “Wanted to know if you’d like to sit up with me?”
When the boy nodded J.D. scooped him up blankets and all to carry him to the front seat of the buckboard as soon as he was settled they set out again. The gentle tracker smiled and nudged his horse forward wondering why it had taken the Kid this long to haul the little southern up front. It wasn’t long before they reached the farm. Nettie Wells was hanging out wash when the boys arrived. The old woman turned smiled at her visitors, set the wash down drying her hands on her skirt and she walked over to greet them.
“Nice to see ya boys, and you must be Ezra.”
Vin dismounted his horse while J.D. eased the boy out of the buckboard being careful not to bump Ezra’s leg delivering him safely into the tracker’s waiting arms. While the pair were fussing with the lad Nettie went fetched a chair and placed it near the clothesline.
“Bring him over here Vin.”
The old woman set a bucket on end, setting a couple blankets on top while the tracker set Ezra down carefully helping Nettie arrange the boy until they were sure he was comfortable and warm.
“Chris!” Buck called to the dark gunslinger just as he was exiting the jail. Chris stopped, waiting for the former preacher to reach his side.
“Buck if this is about the boy, I don’t want to discuss this with you.”
“Dammit Chris you made a promise to that boy and to the judge.”
“I know…It’s just…”
“Can’t protect him from everything Chris… he’s already had a tough haul. No word from his ma? I didn’t think so!”
“No and he doesn’t ask…hell that boy doesn’t talk much at all, it’s almost like he’s afraid.”
“Probably right about that. Hard to trust folks when they don’t want you around.”
“I know that ain’t the case but…”
“…I haven’t exactly said that I do.”
“Words ain’t enough…show him.”
Though the weather was getting cooler out but the warmth of the sun was enough to lull Ezra to sleep, he had been watching Mrs. Wells hang out her wash while listening to the hammering in the background as Vin and J.D. fixed the roof. The boy didn’t wake until he felt himself being lifted from the chair, at first he thought it was J.D. or Vin but the person was too quiet too be the young sheriff and he felt rough cloth against his face not buckskin. Ezra opened his eyes to find his guardian carrying him.
“Hey it’s ‘bout time ya woke up.”
J.D. popped into his field of vision, a small smile graced Ezra’s face but it faded quickly when he realized that he was once again being loaded into the buckboard, he was carefully set in the front and Chris climbed up next to him but not before the boy noticed his carpet bag sitting in the back. Numb he watched Vin and Mrs. Wells waved to him as they pulled away.
What had happened? Ezra believed that Mr. Larabee had forgiven him for the incident in the saloon. Then again he hadn’t said another word about since that day. But he had failed to do as asked he couldn’t even attend school as the older man had asked. So the boy did the only thing he could pretend to be asleep and await his fate.
Somewhere along the way he did fall asleep, waking only when the buckboard pulled to a stop. The sun was beginning to set. The air had a decidedly bitter chill and Ezra shivered. Mr. Larabee had until that point remained silent wrapped the blanket tighter around the boy.
“I’ll have you warmed up in a minute just have to get you inside.”
They had stopped outside a small cabin, there were no lights coming from the building. Ezra was afraid and very determined not to let it show, did not resist when Chris carried him inside the dark room and lay him on the bed. The older man walked across the room, lit a lantern and set about starting a fire in the potbelly stove. Once the fire was going Mr. Larabee took the blanket that sat on the end of bed and draped it across the boy.
“Ezra I’ll be back in after I’ve bedded down the horses.” Then he was gone. The boy wondered where he was as he gazed around the cabin. Tenaciously he sat up in the bed and cautiously slipped down to the floor on his strained ankle testing if it would be able to support his weight. Oh yes it hurt, but it held him up right as used the furniture help keep him balanced as he slowly surveyed the room.
Chris walked through the door with carpetbag in hand startling the poor boy, Ezra dropped onto his backside jarring his sore body. The child sat there too stunned to move. Dropping the carpetbag Chris ran to Ezra’s side.
Ezra did nothing but stare at Chris wide eyed, he blinked slowly then nodded slowly.
“Bed or chair?” At first the boy wasn’t sure what the older man was asking until he saw the rocking chair by the stove.
“Thought so.” Chris carefully picked him up and set him the rocker, satisfied only after Ezra was wrapped in a blanket before turned to the task of the warming dinner Mrs. Wells sent along. Then he dragged the table closer to the boy so that they could eat the meal together. In this time Ezra summoned the courage to ask a few questions.
“Where are we?”
“I don’t understand?” The boy had paled a little and hadn’t touched his food. “Why am I here?”
“This is your home too….”
Ezra just stared at him. Chris sighed why couldn’t it be easier, as soon as the thought crossed his mind he knew why. Until now the boy had no reason to believe anyone including his mother had his best interests at heart he tried a different tact.
“Ezra I made a promise to you that I would take care of you. I intend to honor my word whether or not you believe me. Figured that you may need some time to understand that, we will be spending the next few weeks here until you’re back on your feet.”
The young lad nervously pushed the food around on his plate, he was having a tough time keeping his poker face on and with Mr. Larabee’s words weighing on his mind his desire for food vanished quickly. Without intending to his head started dropping down slowly as his exhaustion got the better of the boy until his face was resting on his arms at the table. Chris chuckled at the youngster dogged determination before slipping the boy under the blankets on the bed, satisfied that the boy’s sleep was undisturbed he shook out he bed roll and lay on the floor. Tomorrow he’d do his best to reassure the boy about his place amongst them, the six lawmen. Make him understand that he had done nothing wrong to deserve what life cruelly dealt him. Chris shifted around to get comfortable on the hard floor. Tomorrow he’d have to build another bed.
The aroma of fresh biscuits mingled with bacon woke young Standish, his empty stomach rumbled, he blinked at the ceiling as the memory from the night before came back. Humming intruded his thoughts. He burst out laughing when he saw just who it was. Mr. Wilmington decked out in a woman’s apron no less was cooking breakfast. Buck’s mock look of horror at being caught in unflattering light brought more peals of laughter from the boy, he laughed until tears streamed down his face as the mustached man’s antics continued as he served up the hearty meal with flare. The pair didn’t notice Chris walk in.
“Buck I think you missed your calling.” The blond smiled at his long time friend, he relieved to see the boy laughing.
“Yer jest in time fer coffee.” Buck broad smile grew wider. "I have only one true calling jist ask the ladies.” The ladies man turned his attention to their young charge.
“Hungry Little Ez?”
The boy scowled at the name but nodded just the same. Although he was still unsure what these men wanted from him it was easier to respond the way they wanted. Chris helped him into a chair before sitting down himself to eat watching the boy devour the meal set before him. It wasn’t long before the plate was empty and the cup of milk drained..
“Do want more?”
The southern lad nodded and was rewarded with another helping of eggs, bacon and biscuits. Ezra tested the waters.
“May I have some coffee?” Without a word Mr. Larabee fetched another cup and poured a half a cup. The boy frowned a little.
“Want milk and sugar?” The lad shook his head. “Alright but Buck’s coffee is a might strong.” Both men watched as Ezra carefully sipped the hot brew, before polishing off another plateful of food. A soft sigh escaped as Ezra leaned back into the chair his hands wrapped around the warm cup.
“Thanks again for bringing out those supplies Buck.”
“None necessary old friend, the boys will be by later to help with them chores.” Buck grinned then winked his long time friend then turned and winked at the boy who was clueless.
“I’m going start washing up these dishes.” Chris winked at his friend. “Buck why don’t get started on those ‘chores’ while I finish up here.” With a snort and a chuckle The scoundrel was out the door.
“Mr. Larabee what chores is he talking about?” The boy could no longer hold back his interest.
“You’ll see…how do you feel about drying some dishes?”
“Then we’ll see what can be done about getting you washed up.”
Ezra finished drying the last dish when Nathan walked into the cabin.
“Your just in time Nate…Ezra here needs to washed up a bit and I figure since you’re here to check him over you can help.”
The boy turned to see the dark healer’s broad grin, there was something going on he just didn’t know what it was. Chris left the cabin leaving Ezra to the healer.
“Let’s get you over onto the bed Ezra.” The boy didn’t bother putting up a fuss when Nathan moved him over to the bed.
“Going to start off by asking some questions. That okay by you?”
The lad nodded watching both the men with a little apprehension.
“Head hurt?” The healer asked as he looked into his eyes and felt through his hair noting the wince when he touched the tender spot left from the fall..
Nathan took the boy’s wrist into his hands tenderly examining the limb the bruise was fading. Then he moved down to the Ezra’s legs carefully removing the wraps on the strained ankle gently testing its range of motion noting the boy slightly tense, the healer stopped.
“Still a might sore.” It wasn’t as much a question as much a statement of fact. The boy merely nodded. Nathan moved on the splinted leg cradling the limb as he unwound the bandages. Ezra laid back clutching the sides of the bed in a white knuckled grip, pain seared through the boy as the door opened. Chris entered hauling a bucket of water in with him. The shaking child didn’t see Mr. Larabee set the water down and come over. Not until the pale trembling child had his hand pried loose from the bed and held on to did he realize that the older man had returned. Soothing the boy until the healer was finished examining the leg.
“Easy Ezra, breathe through it, that’s a boy.” Was all he heard whispered over and over in his ear as his slow is frantic panting.
“Chris… I’m going to heat up the tea I brought while this water warms some. Make sure he stays still.”
The other man didn’t look up but nodded keeping his eyes fixed on the child’s face scrunched up with pain. A moment later Nathan tossed him the damp cotton cloth that Chris used to wipe away the sheen of sweat on the boy’s face and neck. Ezra began to relax as the pain started to ebb away breathing normally. When he finally opened his eyes Mr. Larabee was leaning over him his face full of concern.
“Dammit Ezra, why didn’t ya say your leg was hurting that bad.” Ezra flinched away mumbling an apology. . “Sorry…”
“No I am the one who’s sorry, you’re taking years off my life here…” Chris tenderly caught the boy’s chin so he could look him in the eyes. “Ezra if you’re hurting you have got to tell me…” Nathan came over with a cup of his tea in hand and sat next to the boy.
“I want you to drink this…Don’t make a face I know it don’t taste good but it’ll help with the pain.” The boy did as he was bid, making a disgusted face when he finished the noxious brew, lay there quietly until the numbing effect took hold. The dark healer left his side and the boy blearily stared at his guardian who smiled down at him as he continued to wipe Ezra’s face.
“Water’s ready…” the healer called from across the room.
The two men decided that now the boy was comfortably under the influence of the tea, they could safely give him a quick wash down. They carefully started with Ezra’s legs after they were done with them Nathan deftly rewrapped and splinted the leg. Finishing off the refreshing birdbath by washing the boy’s hair a basin was placed under the boy’s head for the washing and rinsing. Through out Ezra remained sluggish and complaint. The two men toweled the boy off, then helped him into a clean nightshirt and wrapped him a warm blanket while Chris sat in the rocking chair holding him. The pair stayed there rocking while Nathan remade the bed.
“I’m going to go out and help the others.”
“Go on…. Ezra and I will be just fine right here.”
Chris held on to the boy rocking back in the chair whose head was tucked under the older man’s chin, he didn’t say a word he knew Ezra was still awake because the child was rubbing his thumb on the front of Chris’ shirt. The man was trying to find a way to comfort the boy, the discussion with Buck played through his mind he finally understood that showing the boy he cared was more important than words. Ezra Standish a small wisp of a boy baffled him.
The gunslinger knew little about the boy other than his mother abandoned him with little thought and his uncle whipped for reasons that the boy would not reveal. When the child first came it had been a shock there had been little time to adjust when Ezra had his accident and first few weeks following that Nathan’s tea kept him asleep most of the time. When Ezra was released from the clinic he remained submissive and quiet, Chris did his best to draw him out that was until the shoot out in the saloon. What had happened in the saloon had terrified Chris the child was caught in the middle of a gunfight yet managed to save his hide. Lord only knew where the boy got the peashooter or where he learned to handle a gun. Worse than that was Ezra’s terrified reaction in their room at the boarding house. The gunslinger was angry with himself for handing the boy off to the others giving into his fear by all but completely avoiding the skittish boy in the aftermath of the shootout.
The outer injuries would heal with time but the boy’s soul was scarred, as was his ability to trust. Chris Larabee a man of his word sat there rocking the boy giving the child the only comfort he could as he held onto Ezra gently rubbing circles on his back. The two remaining there for over an hour until Buck knocked lightly on the door before poking his head in.
“Come on in…”
Ezra shifted a little in his guardian’s arms watching the other law men one by one bringing in parts of, he wasn’t sure what it was until they brought the head board in. Another bed?
“That’s yours Ezra.”
“This can’t be your home unless you have a place to sleep and put your belongings. The bed’s from me and…” Vin and Nathan carried the feather bed mattress in.
“Little brother Vin and I made the bookshelf.” Josiah said with a broad smile.
“The books are from Nate.” Chris smiled down at the awe struck child.
“Buck and I bought the trunk.” Chimed in J.D. as he and Buck carried it in.
“Thanks boys I appreciate all your help, Buck you and J.D. best head on back to town can’t leave unguarded for long. Don’t make that long face Buck you can come back and visit later.”
Vin and Nathan had finished setting up the bed, while Josiah set the books on the small bookshelf. Chris never once stopped rocking Ezra, the three remaining men quickly made the bed and said their good byes leaving the pair alone in the cabin.
“We’ll be staying here for a few weeks, when you are feeling better we’ll be spending our time either here at home or at our room in the boarding house.”
“Yes Ezra home, I’ll just have to prove to you that you can trust me…”
“Mr. Larabee….” The boy stiffened and sucked in a quick breath.
Gaining Ezra’s trust was more important than knowing where the boy got the derringer, who had beat him and why. Chris changed tactics all the questions he had would have to remain unasked for the time being.
“Ezra it’s okay you don’t have to trust me or believe in me until you’re sure. There are a lot of questions I have and I would like the answers to them but right now I know you don’t want to talk I have a feeling that you’ve been lied to before. I don’t think I could say anything right now that would make you feel safe. I am though going to have to trust you though to give me a chance to prove I am a man of my word.”
The older man felt the boy relax and slowly release the breath he was holding. Chris continued rocking and Ezra lay there snuggled against his guardian’s chest nothing else mattered.
Secrets is next