No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment
Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is
intended. This is purely fiction and based on the television series The
- For a rundown on the guys check out this page
CHARACTERS: Ezra & Chris
SUMMARY: Chris and Ezra have a bit of a chat on the way home.
SPOILERS: None, but it does follow directly on from my story Extort thy Childhood.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi for her support and advice and to Heather.
COMMENTS: Yes, please!
DATE: 12 Feb 03
Color me Black
Blood Brothers, AU
shifted restlessly on the stage’s padded seat. With every
bone-jarring bounce, he was squashed against the cabin’s wall.
And nestling into his side, was a sleeping Chris Larabee; the
seven-year-old orphan now his responsibility. Ezra sighed.
He was not much more than a child himself, and certainly wasn’t
prepared to be accountable for the youngster.
At fifteen, Ezra
Standish had seen a large portion of this country and already lived a
more full and chaotic life than most boys of a similar age, but he was
also emotionally insecure. He had spent a great deal of time in
his own company, that seeking out and making friends now, was a chore he
was uncomfortable with. But he had the gift of gab, and he could
talk to anyone, and integrate himself quickly into a circle. The
trouble was, he’d never wanted to return their friendship before now.
Why he’d changed his mind was confusing, and he absently stroked the
blond-headed boy’s shoulder. Chris Larabee was lucky being able
to sleep on the stagecoach. It was something Ezra could never do.
lived in a permanent home; Maude believed traveling expanded one’s
soul, and when he settled with relatives it was generally for short
periods of time when Maude sickened of his presence. Those people
only took Ezra in, expecting to have an extra hand around their farms,
but when Ezra found out that he was paying off his mother’s debts, the
young gambler rebelled against the deals. He ran away and joined
up with Maude in another town. He yawned, covering his mouth with
his hand and stared back at the obese woman on the opposite seat who
was, conversely, watching him.
“You two all
alone?” she inquired.
ma’am,” Ezra replied courteously. “Our pa is meeting us at
the next stop,” he lied easily, and he felt Chris stiffen by his side;
obviously the boy had not been asleep after all. He pleaded
inwardly for the boy not to say anything to refute the comment.
Well-meaning folks had a way of pushing kids around; he’d learnt that
early on in life. Most adults seemed to think children couldn’t
fend for themselves, but Ezra had been taking care of himself since he
was six, and relegating that control to anyone else now seemed
The woman set
her hands back in her lap and turned to talk to the gentleman beside
her. He was leaning snugly against her shoulder, and Ezra presumed
from this that they were a couple. They’d tried to initiate
conversation earlier in the voyage, but during the long cramped hours
they gave up, and she read, while he slept.
The other man in
the stage was only a few years older than Ezra. He had been wired
and excited when he’d joined the stage, but he was sleeping quietly
now, with his dark bangs hanging over his face. The young
Southerner grinned at the strange bowler hat worn by the traveler, and
he wondered how the small brim would protect him from the hot western
sun. Foolish and naive Easterner. He was traveling from
Boston, or so he’d informed the other passengers, and wasn’t
stopping until he reached, ‘The West’. He was bound for glory,
that one, Ezra surmised, that, or an early grave.
passenger sat on the other side of Chris. She was a pretty woman,
if only her hair wasn’t pulled back so tightly and her face not so
drawn and severe. Ezra knew she could be very pretty, because when
she napped, her features relaxed and they were pleasing to the eye.
Not that the young gambler had any intentions towards her; she was,
after all in her late twenties.
This trip was
tedious, and even feigning sleep hadn’t rewarded Chris Larabee with
any insights into Maude’s son and his motives for escorting him home.
Except for the fabrication of a father awaiting them both in the next
town, the young Southerner had spoken very little during their stage
ride. Chris had considered refuting Ezra’s claim, but figured
the young conman must have some reason for the untruth. He
wriggled and sat upright rubbing at his eyes. His belly growled
and to his embarrassment, the older woman opposite him thrust a sandwich
into his hand. He lifted a corner of the soggy bread and grimaced.
Ezra whispered low into his ear.
nodded, chewing the dough slowly and swallowing with difficulty.
the driver bellowed through the windows.
Chris in the ribs. “We’re disembarking here.”
Chris wanted to
ask why; he knew this wasn’t Eagle Bend. It was still days away
yet. But the bread rolled in his mouth; he wanted to spit it out.
Maybe Ezra was going to dump him here, leave him in the middle of
nowhere. Young Larabee would stick like glue to the Southerner.
He wouldn’t let Ezra leave his sight. He didn’t want to be on
his own, but even as he thought this, he knew instinctively, that if it
came to the crunch, he could do it. Chris was strong, and he knew
how to fight.
Ezra and Chris
were the only passengers to light from the stage, and after waiting for
another passenger to stow his bags, it moved off, leaving the two boys
alone. Neither boy held any baggage. Ezra had taken Chris,
before they’d left, to the hotel room he’d been sharing with Maude
in New Orleans to pick up his things, but after breaking into the room
and sending Chris off to pack, the seven-year-old emerged wearing an old
pair of black jeans, his newly acquired black boots, courtesy of Maude,
a pearl buttoned shirt, also black and a dark jacket draped over his
arm, but nothing else. “What about a hat?” the young gambler
Ezra had stared
down at the young child, curious at the statement he was making by his
choice in clothing. He was well aware of the pull the blond-headed child
held by wearing such garments, but Ezra hadn’t commented, figuring it
was part of the boy’s grieving process and he would quickly grow bored
of wearing the dark colors.
Chris tossed the
sandwich as soon as they jumped from the stage; he anxiously stood
beside his taller friend. He wanted to hold Ezra’s hand, but he
didn’t think the teenager would want to. Fearing to ask the
dreaded question, he forced the words out. “Why did we stop
The teen glanced
down; it was strange having a miniature shadow, and he was still
adjusting. “I stabled my horse here, before going on to New
Orleans.” That had been a week ago. Ezra pointed out the
livery and started off down the street. Chris trailed behind.
Lord, Ezra had
been worried about leaving his prized steed in the hands of unknowns,
but he’d had little choice in the matter. He’d needed to
arrive in New Orleans quickly, and by the time he’d reached this small
outpost town, he’d been on the verge of collapse. He’d not
been able to ride any further, so he’d used the last of his money and
hopped the stage until he reached New Orleans. That way, it also
kept Maude from his possessions. She couldn’t take his horse
from him, if he didn’t have it with him.
asked, not concentrating wholly on the boy.
horse…he does have a name, don’t he?”
“Yes, he does. His name is Chaucer. Do you own a horse?”
saving to get us one…Adam and me…but then…” he sniffed, and
rubbed furiously at his eyes.
Ezra knelt in
the dirt…Lord, what would mother say? “How did your mother
die?” He’d wanted to ask that question since Chris had first
told him she had been killed.
his chin on his chest and the tears threatened to fall. Even Maude
hadn’t asked him about that. Still, she hadn’t wanted to know
anything about Chris, not even prodding to discover his name, after
he’d first refused to give it to her. He felt Ezra lift his chin
and he met the young gambler’s green eyes squarely. He put on a
brave front and even tried to smile, but the tears that had threatened,
now began to spill.
Ezra pulled a
handkerchief out and offered it. They needed a quiet place to
talk, and although the town was small and sluggish, there were still
plenty of nosey folks who would pry into their business. And Chris
dressed as he was, didn’t help matters either. “I’ll show
you, Chaucer,” he stated. “We can talk in his stall.”
nodded and dutifully followed his rescuer. He had to run to keep
pace, and he caught at the colorful green sleeve for the Southerner to
slow down. His hand slid down the coat sleeve and firmly captured
down at the precocious boy. How on earth had Maude discovered
Chris? What had she been doing visiting the small town of Eagle
Bend in the first place? Surely she hadn’t been following him?
Where exactly had Ezra been three months ago? It couldn’t have
been too far removed from there, he reasoned. Why then, if Maude
had been so close to finding her son, had she settled with Chris
Larabee? She’d had to work from scratch; and Standish had played
a few rounds with the younger boy since leaving New Orleans and he was
nowhere near as talented as Ezra. Adequate, but nothing special.
Maude would have had her hands full, training and shaping Larabee to her
means. He grimaced suddenly, perhaps that had all been part of the
master plan. Using Chris as an enticement to bring Ezra back under
“It has been
an exhausting trip. Why didn’t you sleep?”
shrugged. “Just thinking, I guess.”
are.” Ezra relaxed against the stall. He stepped under the
rail and greeted his mount with an abundance of affection. “Hi,
Chaucer. You miss me?” He slipped his hand inside his coat
to find a peppermint. “He loves these,” Standish grinned at Chris.
“Should you be
giving him those?” Larabee stepped more cautiously into the
stall, not coming too close. Chaucer was very large, especially to
a skinny, although tall, seven-year-old.
Ezra winked at
Chris. “He can do tricks, you know.”
Chris enthused, his bright hazel eyes shining through damp tears.
“So let me see something?”
ain’t nothin’ special,” Chris grumbled, unimpressed.
“He can escape
this stall with no assistance from me.”
we should talk.”
Here it comes.
“You gonna leave me behind?”
Ezra lightly touched the boy’s shoulder, “I said I’d escort you
home, and will stand by and honor that claim.”
she’d help me, too.”
“I’m sorry for whatever Mother alluded to, but I won’t let you
stiffly. Damn, he hoped he could fulfill this promise. “On
my Oath…would you like to discuss your mother?”
Chris bobbed his
head, shuffling his feet in the straw. “Was all my fault,” he
“Why do you
s’posed ta be home. S’posed ta walk Adam home from school, but
I sent him home by himself and went fishin’ with Buck.”
friend?” Larabee nodded. “That doesn’t seem so bad.”
getting’ dark when we decided ta come home…when we got close I could
see though the trees,” he sniffed and wiped his face, smudging the
tears into his cheeks.
“What did you
see?” Ezra prompted, curious, but alarmed by what Chris was telling
four men on horses, and they were riding around, shoutin’ and
hollerin’ and shootin’ at the sky. Then I saw Adam…he was
hanging belly down over a saddle – he wasn’t moving. I wanted
to stop them…but Buck wouldn’t let me. Ma was inside…I could
hear her screaming and crying, then they burnt the house down.”
“Your mother was still inside?”
nodded, crying. He’d watched and listened, helpless while his
mother had died. When the screams had stopped the murderers left,
taking Adam with them. They never saw Chris or Buck hiding in the
nothing you could have done, Chris.” Ezra awkwardly hugged the
boy and was surprised when Chris tightened his grip around his neck.
They stayed like this for an age – until Chris’ sobbing settled.
gone fishin’,” was the soft reply.
saved your life. Did you see any of their faces…could you
identify any of the men?”
lip quivered. “It was too dark.” And he’d been scared.
He closes his eyes and thought for a minute, concentrating on the
nightmares he’d had since. He gasped, recalling the vivid
memory. “The fella that had Adam was riding a big grey, and he
was wearing gloves.”
Do you remember anything else?”
Chris frowned. “I think he was shooting with his left hand…”
“So, he’s a
lefty,” Ezra surmised. “Riding a large grey and wearing
gloves…shouldn’t be too hard to track down,” the gambler
considered out loud.
“I think one
of ‘em was wearing a silver spur on his boot.”
at Chris and nodded. He didn’t want to offer false hope,
especially since Ezra’d be leaving just as soon as Chris was settled
someplace safe. “It will be something for the sheriff to
no good…he didn’t want to help,” Chris growled. If Ezra
weren’t going to help him, then he’d find someone who would.
We need to acquire a hat for you before we set out, and some
“How we gonna
pay for that?” Larabee was aware how much money they’d had
between them, and it had dwindled down to a pittance.
Standish dug in
the corner of the stall and revealed a rolled jacket. It had been
hidden well under the straw, and protected by Chaucer. Untying the
string, when opened out, there was a fresh roll of cash.
Chris’ eyes brightened. “Where’d that come from?”
questions like that, and I won’t lie to you.”
care. “Ya reckon Maude will be lookin’ for us?”
“Will she take
me back with her?”
“Do you want
to stay with you.”
Ezra rocked back on his heels, astounded by the kid’s declaration. He didn’t know whether he was ready for this…this change of lifestyle…this new responsibility, other than looking after number one. Where did they go from here? Ezra hadn’t a clue. All he knew at the moment was living one day a time. And for now, he was linked to Chris Larabee. He needed to see the boy home…then he would work things out from there.
Next story:- Young Warriors - Coming soon
I'd love to hear your comments. Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you get the urge...feel free to send them to Yolande