Summary: The guys fall into another adventure. I mean really fall.
Author's Note: I know, I know. I have too many story plots going now. This one I have been working on for a while and decide to see how it would be received. As always, what would I do without Twyla Jane. Feedback is really welcomed.
Kojay with his son and several of his men watched the gunfight start below. He had brought them here to this place because it was time. The men below known as the Magnificent Seven had a destiny. A destiny they didn't even know about. His son Chanu turned to him saying, "Father, shouldn't we help? The one in the red coat is now hurt."
"No. We are only here to help with the horses." Turning to see the concern on everyone's face, he continued. "It has to be this way. It is time. The Great Spirit has need of them somewhere else."
With that said, they all turned to watch the battle below.
Ezra P. Standish felt a burning sensation radiate from his left shoulder as he was knocked off his mount. The shot spun him enough that he landed painfully on his right side. Ouch, he thought as he laid in a dazed on the ground. As the pain mounted, he again wonder why he did this peacekeeper's job for a dollar a day. From far away he heard someone yelling his name in the midst of popping sounds. Then someone grabbed him under his arms and dragged him away. He moaned as his shoulder was jostled causing him to almost black out. He heard his named called again as pressure was applied to his wound. Oww, he thought. That hurts! The pain snapped his green eyes opened to see Nathan leaning over him.
"Ezra! You with me now!" called the black healer as he released the injured shoulder to assist the gambler to sit up. Nathan quickly let go of the injured man as his gun came up snapping of a shot taking out one of the bandits. That explained the popping sounds and the pain in his arm. He had been shot again. Why me, he thought. There are six other targets and somehow the outlaws always seem to aim for him. Everything came back to him in a flash. The attempted bank robbery, the gunfight in town, riding after the remaining criminals and now this gunfight in this small canyon alley.
Nathan had pulled open Ezra's jacket then moved aside the vest so he could jerk open the shirt to see the bloody wound. Buttons popped and scattered across the ground. He grabbed his handkerchief to place over the hole in order to staunch the flow.
"Aw, drat! I can't believe it. Another hole in my red jacket," Ezra gasped as the healer put pressure on the injury. He continued through gritted teeth, "Please Mr. Jackson that hurts. Would you not destroy anymore of my shirts? I just bought this one. Do you know how hard it is to sew those buttons back on?"
"I wouldn't have to ruin your shirt if you would quit getting shot. How one man can attract bullets is beyond me. Now hold still while I check this out," ordered Nathan as he pulled the bandanna away. He put it back and then carefully pulled the gambler forward to check for an exit wound. Gently leaning Ezra back against the boulder, he asked, "Where's your hankie? I need it to plug up the hole in your back."
Ezra grunted as he moved to reach inside his pocket. Sweat had popped out as the pain continued down his arm. He grumbled, "And another kerchief ruined." After the black man had once again lifted him so he could fix the second handkerchief over the back exit wound, he asked, "I hope that it is a serious wound after all the damage to my clothes you have wrought."
Nathan couldn't help but grin at the complaining gamester. It was always this way. The man hid his pain behind complaints. It had taken the others a long time to realize that the gambler acted the way he did to hide the true nature of things, at least the true nature of things that concerned him. The healer noticed that Ezra was already pale with pain lines on his face that now was graced with a sheen of sweat.
"It's not so bad, Ez," replied Nathan as he once again helped the man to lean back against the boulder they were hiding behind. He looked up as a hail of bullets preceded the appearance of Chris Larabee. "Dang fool. It's not bad enough that I have one patient, now you are trying to give me another."
Ezra watched as Chris gave the healer a quick smirk before turning his attention to the gambler. "Nathan? How is he?"
"I'm fine, " answered Ezra as Nathan reached for his gun firing at an outlaw that tried to get closer. The man quickly ducked behind his rock.
"Unhuh," said a disbelieving Chris. "You're so fine you decided to bleed all over the place. Nate?"
"Went straight through the top of his shoulder. Missed the bones altogether. He'll be fine after a few days rest. That's if I can tend to the wound and no infection sets in. Best if we can get him back home as fast as we can."
"I'm sure the robbers might have something to say about that," murmured Ezra. "How are we faring in the fight Mr. Larabee? Any of our associates in need of Mr. Jackson's skills?"
"So far the others have learn to duck," remarked Chris as he took another shot at a bold bandit causing him to scuttle back in his hiding place.
"I wished you would learn Ez," added Nathan as he took another look at the injury. "Chris I'm going to need my saddle bags and canteen. I need to bind this wound now before he loses any more blood."
"Yeah, we probably should all have our extra ammo and water. Looks like we'll be here for awhile." Chris looked around until he saw Vin. The tracker was picking off those who had gotten up top on the canyon rim. He shouted, "Vin!"
Vin Tanner's squeezed off a shot hitting his man before he turned his head toward his leader. Seeing that Chris wanted him and he was concerned about his friend, Vin raced a zigzag course toward them. Buck, JD and Josiah gave him cover fire.
After seeing the tracker safe, Buck yelled out, "How many are there of these bad guys anyway? Didn't seem to be this many we were tracking."
Chris gave Vin a questioning look as the tracker knelt down beside him. "Well? How many are there?"
"More than what we followed. About twenty I'd say. Think they led us into a trap, Cowboy," answered Vin.
"Should have known," mumbled Ezra as he leaned his head against the rock closing his eyes. He really was not feeling too good. "It was bound to happen. Perfection leads to jealously."
Nathan looked worriedly at Chris as he put his hand on Ezra's head checking his temperature. He frowned as he felt the clammy skin. "Ez, how you feeling?"
"I'll be fine once we leave this place," assured the gambler though he did not protest Nathan's hand on his forehead.
"Shock," replied the black healer at Chris' questioning gaze. "I really need those supplies, Chris."
"Right. Vin, we need extra ammo and water plus Nathan's supplies. Since Josiah the closest, take him and get all our saddlebags, extra blankets and water. Looks like we're going to be here for awhile."
"Might be best if we pull back a little more into the canyon's entrance. Give us better protection from those fellows trying to get us from above. They won't be able to get us from up top anymore" suggested Vin. A bullet ricocheted off the boulder to prove his point. Buck's rifle report answered. A man fell off the rim to land in the brush below. "Besides, the horses are in there which will make it easier to get our stuff."
The ambush had came after they crossed below the first rocky ridge. The mouth of an alley was about fifty feet in length with over a hundred feet high walls on either side, which lead to an entrance that opened out into a small dead end canyon. The canyon was a large circled area of about three hundred feet. The entrance was a small opening in the side that had enough room for the men and their horses before it opened into the canyon. The entrance ran twenty feet all the way threw the canyon wall. It would provide them some protection. All they would have to worry about was guarding the entrances.
Chris nodded his head. It was a good plan. He turned to Nathan. "Think he can make it that far?"
"Yeah, he should be able to," said Nathan.
"Of course I can," confirmed Ezra as he opened his eyes. He had been following the whole conversation. "Anything would be better then waiting out here. Besides it looks like it going to start raining."
Nathan, Vin and Chris looked up to see gathering clouds. Vin frowned as he said, "Wonder where that came from? Didn't feel like rain today. Something don't feel right."
"Let's worry about it after we get inside the entrance. Come on Ezra, let's get you moving," said Nathan as he helped the gambler upon to his feet. Ezra groaned at the change of position as he draped his arm over Nathan's neck.
"Can I have a drink after we get there?" asked Ezra as they practically flew across the ground to the entrance. Shots followed them as the bandits saw a weak prey.
"Don't see why not," grunted Nathan as he helped the gambler. The others gave cover fire.
Chris watched his friends as they safely made it to the entrance. He whistled to get the others attention. He motioned toward the canyon entrance. The others acknowledged the order and started to pull back. "Vin, let's give some more cover fire."
They provided cover as the other three raced to the entrance and inside taking out more of the bandits. Buck's shrill whistle let Vin and Chris know they were ready. Chris gave Vin a nod. Both men ran for their lives amidst hot lead for the entrance.
Nathan had to carry Ezra the last few feet further into the entrance as the man's legs gave way. Ezra was now semi-conscious as his body tried to deal with the injury. Josiah ran to help Nathan after he entered the opening while JD and Buck gave cover fire to the others, but the healer pointed to the horses saying, "Josiah, get me my saddlebags and the water. Might as well get Ezra his too, since he'll want his extra blanket."
"You know me so well Mr. Jackson," shivered the con man as he struggled to stay awake. He would have tried to sit up if he knew Nathan wouldn't push him back down.
"Naw, it's not that. Just know how a body will react to being shot," grinned the black man as he pulled Ezra's red jacket off the gambler. "And knowing how you don't like the cold."
The healer sighed in relief as he saw that the bleeding had slowed. He had been afraid at first that a major blood vessel had been nicked. He didn't want to have to cauterize it but he would have to save any further harm to his friend. He pulled back the make shift dressing. Yep, he would only have to have stitches. Ezra would have to wear a sling for a few days so he wouldn't tear it open again. Lord he was going to have a time with the stubborn southern as Ezra hated the sling. Served him right for always getting shot thought Nathan as he grinned in relief.
"By your smile, I can assume that my prognosis is good Mr. Jackson?" inquired Ezra, as he became more awake. He reached over to grab his flask out of his coat. Opening it, he took a drink before handing it to the black man.
Nathan took a sip of the bourbon before saying, "You'll be fine, Ez." He capped the bottle again then handed it back to the gambler. Ezra frowned at the closed flask but put it away anyway. This was Nathan's way of saying that he didn't want him to have any more at the moment.
Josiah ran over dropping the bags and water down. "Sorry it took so long Nate. The horses are acting a little spooked."
The snorting, stomping of feet and shifting around had not gone unnoticed by the others after Chris and Vin had entered the cave like entrance. JD and Vin immediately went to gather their satchels, water canteens and blankets from the restless horses. Dropping Josiah's stuff to him as they made their way back to Buck and Chris who were guarding the entrance, everyone jumped as lighting struck outside then thunder crashed. A howling wind started behind them outside in the canyon itself. It had grown almost like midnight with dark boiling clouds. Their mounts now seemed frantic as they detected something were wrong.
"What the hell is going on?" shouted Chris Larabee as he ducked further into the cave when more lighting hit too close outside. Everyone heard several screams and then bodies thud from outside both entrances. Alarmed now, the horses bolted for the outside running toward those at the entrance. JD stepped out grabbing reins as he tried to calm the horses. But the animals were too frightened as Buck tackled the young man to move him out of harms way.
"Dang it JD, you want to get yourself killed! Let the ornery horses go!" shouted Buck above the noise as he helped his young friend up. "We'll catch them later!"
JD just gave a nod of his head as he drew his guns again beside Buck. Both looked frantically about them, as the air seemed to vibrate around them.
Chris and Vin had pulled back as the mounts ran to freedom. Running to check on their friends, they stopped short as an ominous shutter went through the entrance around and above them. Small stones fell about them as the ceiling shook.
"Chris, we need to get out of here," shouted an alarmed Vin above the noise.
"What about the outlaws?" questioned Buck as everyone moved closer to the other three men in the center of the cave. Both Nathan and Josiah had leaned over the injured Ezra to protect him from falling rock.
"By the sounds of the thuds before, I don't think we have to worry too much. Besides, I would rather take my chances out there then get trapped in here."
"I agree," confirmed Ezra as he struggled to sit up gasping. Nathan immediately started to chastise the man but an intense glare stopped him. "No Nathan. We need to vacate the area. I for one do not wish to be buried alive. Like our esteemed tracker, I have a bad feeling."
Vin was vigorously nodding his head as he frantically looked around the cavern. "Something is not right. The horses knew it that's why they ran."
Another menacing rumble sounded. Chris shouted, "Grab everything you can and let's get! Nathan you help Ezra. We'll get your stuff, you just get him out."
Nathan nodded as he bent down to help the gambler up. Fear now ran through everyone as they ran for the canyon. Running outside, they were hit with winds that gather them up tossing them around. Total darkness surrounded the area while an eerie glow seemed to cover them. Then the wind became a black funnel that picked them up from the ground sending them into a yawning mouth of shadows. Nathan held tight to his injured friend as he felt them falling down the mouth of darkness. Above his own screams, he heard the screams of his other friends then nothing.
Chris Larabee became aware that his head was killing him. He had this massive headache and his stomach was churning. Oh, he wished he had not thought of that. With a groan, he turned onto his side and threw up. After he had emptied his stomach, he rolled back over to look at the sky through blurry eyes. God, he felt awful and funny. His body tingled on the hard ground. That's when he realized he was outside. What had happened? Why was he lying on the ground? He groaned again as pain shot through his head. Even his voice sounded funny. Chris searched his memory trying to figure out why he was outdoors. The last thing he remembered was a bank robbery. That's right. Some lowlifes were shooting as they escaped after they robbed the Four Corners Bank. He and the rest of the peacekeepers chased after them. Chris' eyes snapped opened as he tried to look around while still flat on his back. The others! Where were the others? He remembered that Ezra was shot. Oh, God! He heard another groan and realized it wasn't him. Turning his head he saw Josiah's back lying a few feet from him. His older friend looked funny like his clothes didn't fit right.
"Josiah," croaked Chris. He ran his tongue around his mouth to try to find any moisture. God he hadn't realized his throat was so dry. He cleared his throat to try again. "Josiah?"
"Chris?" Josiah asked. Chris watched his friend's back as Josiah pushed himself up only to lean over and throw up. Josiah groaned again and Chris knew how he felt. Chris' vision started to clear as he watched his friend. Again he wondered what had happened.
Chris got the shock of his life when Josiah finally turned all the way around. What faced him was a younger version of his fellow peacekeeper. A very young Josiah looked upon Chris with an equally shocked expression. The blue gray eyes were the same but the rest was different. Chris was looking at a teenage Josiah. The curly hair was no longer peppered but now was a solid brown. Somehow the young person that faced Chris with a stunned look upon his face was still the old priest.
Josiah had the same realization as his leader. He was looking at a young teenager wearing the black clothes of his friend. What in the name of heaven was going on? The young man had the blond hair and sage colored eyes of the gunslinger just a younger version. A very much younger version thought Josiah. He looked down at himself when he realized how loose his clothes fit him. He gasped as he noticed how young his hands looked. He brought them up to touch his face and realized he didn't have that scruff beard anymore. Obliviously he had changed too. Josiah decided he had to get to Chris to touch him and make sure he wasn't dreaming.
Josiah stood up immediately his gun belt slipped and only his quick reflexes grabbed it before it hit the ground. If it weren't for his suspenders, his pants would have been down around the ankles. He grew dizzy causing him to drop down on one knee. He shook his head then stood up again. This time Josiah took stock of the rest of his outfit. His shoes were slightly too big. His coat sleeves cuffs hung about an inch below his finger tips. All in all everything was too big. Josiah shook his head. He needed to get to Chris. If he could just touch Chris, he would know if this were real or just a dream. He began shuffling toward the black clad teenager.
God this was just too unreal thought Chris as he watched Josiah struggle to get up then kneel back down. He would have chuckled when the gun belt slipped. Instead he sat up which caused his belt to slide below his hips onto the ground. Chris ignored it as he groaned at the discomfort he felt. He brought his hand up to his head only to stop in mid air. His shirtsleeve was it hung over his hands. He blinked then looked up at Josiah who had finally reached him. "Josiah?"
The older teenager's hand reached out and prodded at the younger one in front of him. "Chris? Is that really you?"
Chris glared at Josiah. "Well I think so. At least you felt real just then."
Josiah grinned. Before him sat a slim blond youth whose black clothes were too large.
"What?" asked Chris as Josiah smiled.
"You may be younger but you still have that glare, Chris."
Smirking, Chris replied, "It was either that or shoot you for poking at me like that."
Josiah laughed out loud. "Okay, so this is not a dream. You feel real, the ground feels real, even this rock under my knee feels real," said Josiah as he shifted off the offending object.
"How old do you think I look?"
Josiah looked closely at his leader. After a few minutes' study he replied, "I'd say about fifteen."
"What about me?" asked Josiah after another pause.
"Sixteen or seventeen."
Silence this time lasted a few moments before Josiah said, "I hope I have better luck this time around."
Chris looked at his friend and nodded. He hadn't liked being fifteen much either. It had been a bad time between his father and him. To get his mind off the depressing memories, Chris looked around. "We'd better find the others."
Josiah agreed by standing up and shouting in a booming voice, "NATHAN JD EZRA!" He paused a moment to listen before shouting out, "VIN BUCK!"
Chris cringed at the noise. Yep, Josiah still had his voice.
"WHAT?" a familiar voice answered back not far from them. Turning to the sound, both friends saw another teenager sit up then abruptly roll over to throw up. A groan was heard after the unpleasant action followed by, "Oh Lord. I promise never to drink again."
Chris and Josiah both grinned at each other. Buck sounded miserable. The preacher turned youth started in his direction to help. The young black clad gunslinger had his own problems in trying to get up. He pushed up his sleeves then tried to push himself up off the ground only to have the sleeves fall back over his hands while his gun belt caused him a whole other problem. He finally took his gun off to stand. His boots were so loose that he struggled to stay erect. Standing he frantically grabbed his pants that were falling down. Several cuss words floated through the air as Chris fought with clothes.
"Hey, Cowboy. Could you hold it down? Yer making my headache worse," came a Texas drawl from somewhere.
Chris' head jerked up as he searched around. "Vin! Where are you Vin?"
Up shot a buckskin sleeve several feet from where Chris was standing. He started in that direction when his clothes grabbed his attention again. Damn it!
Then Buck gave a might yell which squeaked, "Aw Hell! Is that you Josiah?"
Chris decided to hell with his clothes. He pulled his pants up, holding them with his hand as he stumbled over to Vin. He looked at his best friend his best friend who looked like a kid. If he thought he was having problems, Vin looked to have bigger problems. Bigger in that Vin looked to be about thirteen. His clothes swallowed him. Chris stood watching as Vin breathed shallowly. He knew what he was doing.
"You'd fell better after you throw up, Vin."
"Don't want to," said a small voice. Chris couldn't help but grin. Without opening his eyes, Vin mumbled, "Stop laughing at me Cowboy."
With a moan at the inevitable, Vin rolled over and emptied his stomach. Oh, God! His head was killing him but Chris had been right. The pain was leaving as he looked at his blurry friend. Vin lay back down and brought a hand up to wipe his face. His coat sleeve smacked him. What the??? Vin opened his eyes in a hurry to look at his arm. His arm that should have been longer and not half way up his coat like that. He looked in shock at the rest of him. All his clothes were way too big. As his eyes focused he heard Chris clearing his throat. He looked up and gasped. "Who are you?"
Before him stood some blond headed youth. Couldn't be more that fifteen or sixteen thought Vin. In the next instant he got the shock of his life as he heard Chris' voice come from the boy. "It's me Vin."
"Chris? What the hell happened to you?"
"I don't know but the same happened to you also."
"Happened to all of us brother," said a much younger Josiah as he helped a teenage Buck over to them.
Buck had gotten one big surprise when he finally could focus on Josiah. The next surprise had been himself. He had looked at the teenager in front of him not wanting to believe what he was seeing. He was still trying to adjust when Josiah had pointed out that he looked better without his moustache. His hand shot up to his upper lip to confirm that it was gone. Aw man, it had taken him a long time to finally get a decent looking moustache that the ladies loved. His mind grounded to a halt. No moustache and if he looked as young a Josiah Aw hell. Josiah patted his shoulder then help him up and over to the others. Buck looked at his long time friend. He stared at him as Chris stared back. "Damn Chris you looked just like when you were fifteen."
"So do you Buck." Silence reigned as they tried to adjust to this new development. Everyone looked at each other. Buck finally said with a grin, "Dang Vin, yer kinda a cute kid."
"Shut up Buck."
Josiah couldn't help but grin at the scowl that was on Vin's face. "We'd better find the others. Ezra was shot. He could be in a world of hurt now."
"Damn it and if he changed like the rest of us spread out boys. We need to find the others fast. Also, keep a look out for our canteens and supplies." Chris watched as Buck followed Josiah searching for their friends. He turned back to Vin to help him only to find that Vin was standing up already.
Vin shucked his coat off as his pants dropped to the ground. He reached down grabbing his knife. He wasn't shy about walking around without his pants. He had friends to find besides his shirt was long enough to hide everything. He smirked at Chris who stood before him clutching at his pants. "Best be finding them. I got some string in my bags to help hold them britches up."
"Shut up Vin."
They began their search finding not far from them the canteens and satchels scattered around. Chris spotted JD's bowler hat. He walked over to retrieve it finding JD not far from it. Oh Lord, he thought as he looked at the kid. The kid was really a kid now.
"Over here," shouted Vin as he saw what Chris was staring at. "JD's over here." As Buck and Josiah made their way over, Vin went to grab two canteens. They were all sorely in need of water.
Chris bent down to check JD out. He was breathing though still unconscious. Buck immediately dropped down beside his friend. "He alright?" Getting a nod from Chris, Buck study the boy. "Aww would you look at that. JD looks so cute."
Before them laid a boy of about eleven. Again JD clothes like the rest of them was too big. Buck reached over to unbuckle the gun belt.
Picking up the canteens, Vin turned back to the others when something caught his attention. He stood still before he said, "Josiah, here catch." He threw one of the canteens. "That for Buck to bring JD around. I need you and Chris over to help me. I just found Nathan and Ezra. Ez don't look so good."
By the tone of Vin's young voice, Chris and Josiah knew they needed to move quickly. Josiah hurried over to Vin while Chris looked at Buck as he settled beside JD with the water. "You'll be okay?"
"Go, I got him," assured Buck as he found his handkerchief. Pouring water on it, Buck then began to pat JD's face with the saturated cloth.
Chris hastened over to Vin and Josiah only to mutter curses at what he saw. There lying before him was Ezra and Nathan. Nathan looked to be about fourteen while Ezra Ezra looked to be younger than JD. Nathan had Ezra wrapped in his arms seemingly to be protecting him. Ezra was still bleeding too! Chris moved into action, "Vin, get Nathan's bags and try to stop Ezra from losing anymore blood. Josiah, you and I will wake Nathan up. Here, let move him a little ways over there so when he wakes up he won't be sick all over Ez."
Nathan felt awful as he returned to consciousness. He heard someone calling his name as he struggled to open his eyes. It sounded like Larabee.
"Nate Nate! We need you to wake up. Come on, open them eyes." That sound like Josiah.
"Chris," heard Nathan as he groaned from the pain in his head. That sounded like Vin. "Ezra's wound looks like is finally stopped bleeding."
Ezra bleeding? Memory rushed back of the gunfight, the gambler getting shot, the thunder, and the whirling wind then nothing until now. Oh no thought Nathan as he shot up to only roll over and puke.
"How's he doing?" inquired Vin's voice again.
From beside him the healer recognized Chris as he replied, "Like the rest of us. Throw up to feel better."
Nathan fell back to the ground. God he felt funny and why was he so tired? Ezra was shot! He had to get up! He blinked his eyes open trying to discern the shape in front of him.
"Take it easy, Nate. It'll take you a minute to adjust," said the Josiah blur in front of him. Nathan said nothing as he waited for his head to stop pounding with closed eyes. They snapped open as he thought he heard a child scream.
"JD awake," voiced a weird sounding Vin. In fact, everyone had sounded weird.
"This can't be!" exclaimed a small voice that sounded like JD "Buck?"
Nathan sat up looking around and saw children. Nothing but children in ill fitting clothes. Where were the others? Where was Ezra?
The healer looked around seeking his friends.
"Nathan, its us," stated the teenager in front of him. Nathan's mouth dropped opened in shock. That had been Josiah's voice howbeit a younger sounding one. When he looked into the gray eyes he knew that it was his old friend. Nathan looked at the other black clad youngster beside him and knew immediately that it was Chris. If they were children, he shook his head in denial, as he looked closer. Blond hair, light green eyes, black clothes no, it couldn't be. Nathan looked around for the others. Another teenager came over holding the hand of a young boy with JDs dark hair and brown eyes. The boy looked confused and scared. The teenager had Buck's blue eyes and dark hair. Not far away sat another youth in a long tailed shirt with long curling blond hair and undeniable Vin's deep blue eyes. Nathan had been so disoriented that he didn't notice his own self. That is until now.
Nathan cautiously looked down at his own hands that were now smaller than before. His clothes hung loosely about his frame. He could only conclude that he was going insane. Wildly looking about, he was ready to bolt when two hands were placed comfortingly on his shoulders while a voice said, "Easy brother. You're not alone."
"Josiah?" asked Nathan, as he looked at his much younger friend.
"Yes, it's me." Josiah looked around at everyone. "It's all of us."
Vin's young voice said, "Nate. Nate you really need to check Ezra. He was still bleeding when we finally found ya."
Nathan Jackson shook off his puzzlement and fear as he tried to move over to Vin. After a few moments of struggling with his clothes, helpful comments from the others, they all moved to gather around. Shock ran through everyone. There lying before them was a wounded boy. Chestnut curls and pale complexion adorned what looked to be a nine-year-old child. Vin sat beside the boy with a canteen of water and clean rags. He was gently bathing the face.
Nathan immediately began checking out Ezra. After taking his pulse, he lifted up the bandage that Vin had place over the wound. He prodded then lifted Ezra to see the back exit wound. He looked at Vin asking, "You cleaned it?"
"As good as I could."
"You did a great job. I need my bags so I can stitch this wound up."
"He going to be alright Nathan?" questioned the small boy who resembled JD. Josiah handed the bags over.
While rummaging around, Nate answered, "I hope so, JD. His pulse is weak but strong while he doesn't seem to have a temperature yet. I hoping he won't get an infection but I just can't be certain. I don't know how long we were out or how much more he bled."
Vin looked up at the sky and replied, "Weren't out too long. Sun looks like it's hardly move."
"That's good," said Nathan as he began working on Ezra. As he began threading his needle, Chris and the others brought over all their gear. He continued, "I would like to get him back to town so I can better treat him."
Everyone looked at each other. Chris finally said, "Uh, I don't think that's a good ideal. I don't know how we're going to explain what has happened to us."
Nate paused just for a moment before tying off his stitches to the front wound. Looking at Josiah he said, "Help me here. You hold him while I close the back wound. Buck, bring over one of them blankets. Lay it out right beside us."
Vin had stood up giving place to Josiah. He walked over to his abandon clothes looking towards the canyon entrance. Or at least where the canyon entrance was suppose to be. Vin did a full turn around as he heard Nathan say, "It don't matter what explanation we have to give, Ezra needs come first and the town is the best place for him."
"I don't think that going to be possible Nate," stated Vin as he slowly moved to pick up his things all the while looking around.
Chris head shot up at the tone of Vin statement. He glanced at his friend as he queried, "What do you mean?"
Vin finally looked at the others after taking one more sweeping gaze of their surrounds. "I don't think we're anywhere near the town. In fact, I bet we ain't anywhere in Colorado Territory at all."
Chris stood up scanning his surroundings. He didn't recognize any landmarks around them. This was not good. Not only were their appearance and ages changed but they were lost too. "Buck, JD gather our discard clothes, guns and other things. Let's get ready to move out once we know where we're going. Vin after your dressed scout around and see what you can find. Josiah and Nathan, you take care of Ezra."
An hour later, they were all gathering together again. Their appearance was enough to make them smile. Each one's clothes hung on them. Pants were kept up with either suspenders or rope around the waist. Pant's legs and shirt cuffs were rolled up almost to the elbows and knees. Even their hats and boots were a little too big. If they could have gone barefoot they would have. But you don't do that in the desert and they were in the desert.
Chris looked at Ezra who was still out entrenched in blankets. "How is he Nathan?"
Nathan replied, "He's getting better. I think the lost of blood with whatever happened to us has knocked him for a loop. We need to find some shelter out of this sun and more water. I need to start a fire and have hot water for the medicine."
Nodding Chris asked, "What did you find Vin?"
Vin squatted down as he answered, "Not far from here I spotted a small grove of trees with a stream running down the middle. I think that should take care of what Nate wants. It shouldn't take more than an hour or so for us to get there. We won't have to worry about food either. With water nearby, I should be able to get some sort of critter for us."
"Good. We'll make our way to the stream and trees. How are we carrying Ez?"
Josiah replied, "I'm going to carry him. Being as small as he is, he won't be any trouble to tote."
"I've also got to take back what I said about us not being in Colorado Territory. I think we are but not as I remember it," stated Vin as the others started gathering saddlebags and packs. All action stopped at these words.
"What do you mean not as you remember it?" queried Chris as he gazed at his friend.
Vin stood up and walks to the surrounding bush and cactus. "See this bush and the surrounding area? This is part of the vegetation of the area around Four Corners. There are differences but not enough to say different. I think we're a far piece down south of our town. Don't know how far, but we are."
"So all we got to do is travel north to get home, right?" asked JD.
Vin sighed, "I don't know what will find when we get there, JD or if home is even there."
Buck spoke up this time, "What do you me if it's there? Of course it's there!"
Vin just looked at Chris as a silent message passed between them. Chris said, "I think Vin is trying to tell us that Four Corner's may not be there anymore."
Josiah voice offered, "Or if it's ever been there."
It took Chris, Vin, Buck, JD, Nathan and Josiah (who was carrying Ezra) longer than a couple of hours to reach the stream in a small grove of trees. The tracker could only shrug as he explained that he hadn't taken in account their sizes or walking strides. They had to stop several times along the way to rest because of the effects of whatever it was that happened to them claimed a lot of energy. JD struggled to keep up, trying not to slow them down. Buck and the others kept a watch stopping when the lad seemed to lag and to let Nathan check on Ezra. The gambler did not stir in all that time. Nathan would check him, trying to get some water in him, wiping his face with a cool cloth every time they stopped. By the time they got to the stream, the sun was more than half way down. They dumped their gear in one spot as Chris immediately started giving orders about setting up camp.
"Josiah and Buck gather firewood for the night. JD, go fill the canteens. Vin, find us something to add to our supplies for supper. I'll start a fire with what wood I can find nearby. Nathan, you get your medicine ready and take care of Ezra. Let's get to moving before the sun sets," said Chris scattering everyone in different directions. If anyone had seen the boys (for they were boys now), they would have been surprise at how easily a slim blond teenager commanded the others in such a young soft voice. Or how the others followed his commands without question. It would have been a strange scene to anyone who came upon the Magnificent Seven at the moment.
Vin headed toward the water then moved downstream to see if he could catch some fish while JD found a place to fill the canteens upstream. The sharpshooter found a likely spot at the water's edge where he could fish Indian style. He caught several fish by hand, throwing them on the bank. It took an hour before he headed back to camp. He was worried about Ezra. He knew they were all worried about their friend. Ezra has not stirred once since they found him.
Nathan directed Josiah to place his burden a little ways away from the fire. Josiah sighed placing his hand a moment on his friend's forehead before turning to follow Chris' orders. The boy healer checked Ezra's temperature and breathing. Finding that the man no boy was improving now that they were still, Nathan grabbed his saddlebags to start pulling supplies out.
Buck and Josiah headed in different directions from the campsite to find wood.
Every man boy jack of them was worried, confused and down right tired. If Ezra was awake, he would say that the situation was intolerable.
Chris found enough wood close by to start the fire. He cleared out a spot under the trees before digging a small pit for the flames. He found several small stones that he ringed the pit with before stacking the small twigs and brush inside the area. By this time, Buck and Josiah had come back with their first load of wood stacking it close to the fire pit. Getting his coat, Chris searched the pockets before finding the matches. Striking one, he lit the small bundle in the center of the pit. Gently blowing, he encouraged the flame before adding the dry wood. Soon a nice blaze was going.
Nathan found all his teas and herbs had survived what they had gone through. As JD came back with the filled canteens, Nathan called him over to help.
"JD, could you get the coffee pot and the small pot out and start boiling water?"
"You want me to make coffee?" asked JD as he headed over to the saddlebags to begin searching for the required items.
"Yeah, I figured we are going to need it soon. The small pot is for the herbs and medicine I going to need," replied the black healer as he pulled out the required ingredients and tea.
JD gathered the pots and went to squat beside Chris who helped the boy set up the vessels over by the fire. He empted water from one of the canteens into the pots before standing and handing the coffee pot to Chris. JD said, "I'm going to refill this canteen and be right back. Could you please start the coffee Chris?"
Chris nodded as he took the container and got the bag of coffee then prepared to make the drink. He glanced over at Nathan watching as the healer sat by their hurt friend making a poultice. He checked the water to see that it was warming up before he walked over to see how Ezra was doing. He looked down at the gambler and just shook his head in amazement at how young Ez looked. Chris knelt down beside Nathan asking, "How is he?"
"Better now that we ain't moving. I just wished he would wake up so that I could git some water into him," replied the healer as he continued working.
"Damn but it's hard to see him looking like this. He so small and young," stated Chris.
"Yeah and it doesn't help that he's wounded either," agreed Nathan. He finished putting the poultice together and turned to Ezra as he said to Chris, "Help me put this wrap on him. This should help draw out any infection that may have set in."
Chris reached over and lifted his friend's small upper body up until Ezra was in a sitting position. He watched as Nathan's small hands placed the poultice on the front and back of the wound then wrapped bandages around the shoulder that was injured. As they laid Ezra back down, the gambler made a small groaning noise.
Nathan froze at the sound then went into action quickly. "Chris, I need a water canteen now." As Chris jumped up to get the canteen, Nathan leaned over Ezra.
Ezra was floating. He floated in a black space where there was no pain. He remembered pain. With the return of memories, pictures flashed across of gunfire, running, shouting, thunder, wind and friends. His friends he felt a stir of worry where are his friends? With a tremendous effort, Ezra fought his way back to consciousness. He remembered more horses panicking, fleeing away from them. Now he remembered the sound of loud crashes, someone grabbing him and moving, practically running then Nathan screaming. Nathan was screaming? Now he was more anxious to find out what happened to the others. As he struggled to wake up, the pain returned. His shoulder Dear Lord his should hurt and his head hurt. Ezra thought *Don't move. Just don't move.*
The nauseous ness came next. With each painful stab from his head, his stomach gurgled and rolled. *Lord help me. I will not be sick.* chanted Ezra silently. He groaned. *Just don't move Ezra.*
"Ezra, come on and wake up," said a voice close to him. It sounded like Nathan but kind of funny. The voice said, "Come on Ez, open them eyes."
"No," he started then stopped. The vibration of his voice increased the pain in his head and his nauseous. *Not a good idea speaking is not a good idea.* He swallowed trying to keep control of his upset stomach.
"Ez," coaxed Nathan. "Aren't you thirsty?"
*Not fair not fair* screamed Ezra in his mind. "Hurts," he mumbled out loud.
Oh no! Ezra rolled on his side and curled into a ball trying to hold everything in. He groaned again at the pain it caused in his shoulder and head. Finally he whispered, "Sick." At these words, hands gently lifted him up to hold him as he emptied his stomach. After he was through, someone wiped his mouth. He heard Nathan say something about moving him away from his sickness. He felt arms gather him up and the sensation of moving. It must have been Josiah who picked him up so easily. He thought at first that moving him would not be a good ideal but it seemed that after he threw up, he was starting to feel better. His shoulder still hurt and he felt kind of funny but at least his headache was receding. Ezra felt himself being gently laid in a new spot as he heard someone murmuring comfort to him. That sounded like Chris.
"Ezra, I need you to drink something for me," Nathan's voice spoke beside him. Lord he wished his head would clear. Everyone sounded so funny like they were tinny and high pitched. He supposed it was Nathan that lifted his head up and held it while he timidly sipped the offered drink. He wouldn't put it past the black healer to add those awful tasting medicine herbs in there. Yes, there they were, disgusting nasty tasting things. Ezra opened his green eyes to glare at the healer but all he could see was dark shaped blurs. He heard a chuckle. Damn, that was not the reaction he was going for. He blinked a couple of time to try to clear his vision and focus. Things were getting lighter but he just couldn't keep his eyes open. He was tired and something was not right.
Nathan said, "I need you to drink some water now, Ez."
A grimace crossed the gambler's face. The taste of the first concoction was still in his mouth.
Nathan grinned as he said, "I promise it's just water." He held the cup to the young looking boy lips as he helped raise his head for him to drink again. After the first sip, Ezra drank the water greedily. He sighed as he was laid back down.
"How's the headache now, Ezra?" queried the healer.
"Not so bad now except that my hearing seems to be off. Y'all sound funny," replied Ezra as he opened his eyes. He frowned as he got his first clear look at the person before him. He was a little shock to see a black teenager sitting beside him. He wondered where the others were. Hadn't he just been talking to them? He looked around and spotted another lad beside him. This one was blond wearing a concerned look on his face. As he looked around for his friends, Ezra said, "Who might you young gentlemen be?"
The black boy in front of Ezra answered, "It's us Ezra. We've been changed."
Ezra mouth dropped opened in astonishment. He couldn't believe it. He looked into the boy's eyes in front of him and saw Nathan Jackson looking back at him. He looked over at the other youth and saw Chris' worried gaze. He shook his head in denial as he whispered, "Dear Lord, it can't be."
Ezra's breathing turned rapid as he looked at his friends. Nathan immediately raised his distressed friend up to help as he said, 'Take it easy. Slow it down a bit Ezra. Come on calm down. It's alright, its just us."
"Calm down, Ez," encouraged Chris as he looked into his friend's eyes. "Focus. Slow your breathing down."
Ezra squeezed his eyes shut and focused. In a few moments he stopped gasping and relaxed. "How?" he whispered.
"We don't know. Something to do with that whirlwind we got caught up in," replied Chris as he helped Nathan support the boy.
Opening his eyes, Ezra looked at his friends, "Am I changed to?"
Nodding his head, Nathan replied, "Now stay calm, Ezra."
"Stay calm! How can I stay calm? This has to be a nightmare!" groaned Ezra as he leaned into his black friend. He looked down at himself and groaned again. "I think I would like to be laying back down now, please."
Nathan and Chris gently laid their hurting friend back down. Ezra looked at them before licking his lips and asking, "How old?"
"We figured you're about nine now," answered Chris as he watched in concern as Ezra paled even further.
"Nine oh Lord! And how old is the rest of our merry band?" questioned Ezra as he tried to get a grip on his emotions.
Nathan reached for the canteen again urging Ezra to drink as Chris answered, "Josiah looks to be about seventeen, Buck and I are fifteen, Nathan fourteen, Vin thirteen, and JD eleven."
Ezra pushed the canteen away after he took another sip of water. He glared saying, "You mean JD is not the youngest? How in the world did I become the youngest? Why would I be the youngest? This is ridiculous!"
Chris smirked, "We don't know why any of this happened." Looking at Nathan, Chris said, "Looks like he got his second wind back."
Nathan grinned back. Just then JD walked back into camp and saw his two friends by Ezra. He dropped the canteen with the others on his way over and noticed that the injured boy's eyes were opened. He whooped as he rushed to his friend's side.
"Your awake! Ez, it's good to see you finally awake. We've been so worried," gushed JD.
Ezra looked at the young boy who bounded over to his side. He just couldn't get his mind around what had happened, yet by the brown eyes he knew the sheriff. "JD? Good Lord, is that you?"