Luck of the Draw:
The Journal

by Whiskey

Sub AU to ATF Universe

This is a sub AU within the ATF Universe and is open to anyone that wants to create a story based on it, even if they desire to rewrite this start. I am in the process of finishing this story myself, but it is open to anyone that wants to play with the idea.

There will be more stories set within this series, hopefully even a few written by people other than myself! ;-)

Summary: Ezra and his team mates are used to the undercover agent's eccentric mother breezing into town unannounced and leaving chaos and confusion in her wake, but nothing could have prepared them for the chaos Maude Standish's latest visit would bring to three members of Team Seven.

Disclaimers: This is a work of fanfiction. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. If the legal copyright holders wish to use and abuse this story using the cast of The Magnificent Seven, I gladly forfeit all rights to the concept and story without desire for recompense.... well.... I'd like the option to add a few naked Vin scenes, but that's all I ask, I swear!

Notes: First and ever- Thank you goes to Mog for the creation and opening up of the ATF AU for us all to play in. Secondly- Thank you goes to Von for invaluable help with the story including but not limited to beta work, and thank you to all the ladies that gave me feedback on this story. Lastly- This is an idea that woke me up at 5am one morning and then refused to be quiet until it was fully written some twelve hours later. The AU is open, starting with this story, to anyone that wants to play with the idea, even if you want to redo this start; all I ask is that you have fun, and maybe share what you create with me since I'd love to see how others think this story would unfold.

Feedback: Yes please! I have a thick skin, so hit me with whatever you got. (just no lawsuits please? I only did this for personal satisfaction)

Ezra Standish sipped the shot of whiskey slowly as he watched the activity on the far side of the table. His mother, Maude Standish, was back in town for one of her infrequent, and usually life altering, visits. She was also, as usual, doting on JD Dunne and Vin Tanner with nearly as much interest as she seemed to dote on Ezra. Something was going on there.

"Ms. Standish, may I have the honor of asking you to dance?"

The deep baritone of Josiah Sanchez's voice broke Ezra's thoughts and he watched as Maude smiled up at the large profiler, obviously struggling to recall his name. How the woman could recall the smallest details of any con she wanted too pull and yet forget the names of select men was beyond Ezra.

"Why, I would be delighted," she said at last, letting Josiah help her stand. Easily slipping her hands into the crook of his elbow she moved across the room to the small dance area near the juke box.

Lost in thoughts of his mother's behavior Ezra watched them, several moments passing before his attention returned to the men seated with him. "If you gentlemen will excuse me." Ezra set his drink down and stood, a parting nod offered to the men still at the table. "I believe I shall retire for the evening."

Chris Larabee looked up from the whiskey that he had been nursing, the brow above one green eye raising slightly. "What about your mother?"

"I doubt that she shall even note my departure for a good, oh say, twenty minutes, after her return to the table. I am equally sure that she shall find her own way back to my residence." Tipping an imaginary hat to the five at the table he lifted his coat from the back of his chair and left.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra had forgotten that the massive pile of suitcases that followed his mother everywhere, for appearances, had yet to be moved from the living room to the guest room. Instead his mother had whisked into the house and insisted they go down to the saloon and enjoy themselves, saying that unpacking could wait a few hours. Sighing and setting aside his plans of a hot shower and warm featherbed for the moment he grabbed several bags and headed for the guest room with them. He knew that his mother would be unlikely to unpack the things, but they could at least be out of the way for the few days that she was in town for.

On the third trip he picked up the smallest of the bags to place it under his arm, cursing quietly at the belated realization that it was open. Kneeling he began to gather together his mother's assorted personal items that had fallen to the floor. Makeup case, comb, brush, hand mirror, stationary, pen case, visitors guide to Denver, photo album, journal and a odd collection of jewelry cases, gloves, and kerchiefs. Tucking everything into the case he reached down to tuck the corners of a few photographs back into the journal, curiosity making him instead pull them out far enough to see what they were of.

A small smile reflected the feeling of warmth that shrouded his heart at the sight of a picture of himself having been tucked into his mother's journal. Telling himself that they were just pictures, that it was not like he was invading her privacy and reading the journal, Ezra slipped his finger into the leather-bound book to mark the place where the pictures had been tucked and pulled them the rest of the way out, fanning them easily. The two pictures of JD Dunne and Vin Tanner that had been tucked in with his own picture nearly made him drop all three. Why on Earth did his mother have pictures of JD and Vin in her journal?

Curiosity and distrust quickly won the battle with the issues of invasion of privacy. Setting the pictures on the nearest table Ezra lifted the journal and opened it to where the pictures had been.

I will be arriving in Denver early in the morning. I can hardly wait. It still amazes me to realize that they have found one another, but I am no longer quite so afraid that my secrets will be discovered as I had been when I had first seen who was part of Ezra's small circle of friends. I no longer feel the need to separate him from the others, after three years there is little risk that they are going to find out. Besides, it is such a pleasure to be able to see my boys together. I had completely given up hopes of ever seeing the younger two again, in truth had feared ever seeing my darling Vincent after the way I left him. But he seems to have no memory of me now, or more likely does not compare me to the mother that held him and told him she was dying and he had to go live with his aunt. If only I had known at the time how much that would hurt later in life, what a large empty place would be left in my heart that I would never be able to fill. I suppose that is why when I knew I was pregnant again and began to show I left Ezra with my sister and went far away to have the child. I simply could not take thinking that I had given up Vincent and then felt as though if I kept the new child it would be as though I had replaced him. But poor JD, what an injustice I did to him. Depriving him not only of ever knowing his true birth mother, but in doing so condemning him to be raised by a servant woman. I had again thought I had been doing the right thing, how cruel is hindsight though in its skill at showing us where we failed. I had presumed that by leaving the newborn child, a healthy baby boy, in the care of the refined couple I had been staying with that they should adopt him and raise him as their own. I had carefully selected them for the quality of life they could offer to my son. Instead it was I and my baby boy that was tricked, the couple passing my child off to one of their servants to raise. Still it breaks my heart to think that if I had only known before he had grown to a man I could have reclaimed him, assured that he received the life that I had planned for him. It is all said and done now though. JD never knew about me, Vincent believes me to be dead, all I am left is my dear sweet Ezra. Through Ezra I can see my younger sons, get to know them and in some small way, even though they will never know why, let them know more about me, their mother.

The blurred areas near the end of the entry, obviously places where tears had smudged the ink, were as much of a shock to Ezra as the words of the journal entry. He could only recall a handful of times when his mother had cried without it being some kind of con, and yet she had cried as she had written the prior day's entry in her journal. Thinking of the way that his mother had been acting at the saloon, and recalling her last few visits and the way she had seemed to go out of her way to be near JD or Vin, Ezra began paging backward through the journal. Among the countless entries about cons that she was running or how a day had been were several more entries that mentioned her sons. An entry made on JD's last birthday about her private dinner at a fancy restaurant and how the lady at the next table had thought it was so sweet that Maude had ordered a small birthday cake for the son that could not be there to share his birthday with her. Another entry on Mother's Day, detailing her thoughts about how wonderful a day it would have been if she had John David, Vincent and Ezra there with her and they all knew who she was.

Placing the pictures back at the last entry Ezra closed the journal and placed it into the small suitcase. He had no idea what he was to say to his mother, or even if he should say anything. Could JD and Vin truly be his younger brothers? Good Lord, not even his mother would conceive of and run a con that cruel... would she? Shaking his head Ezra quickly moved the remaining luggage from the front room. He needed to think of some way to handle this without his friends, brothers?, being hurt. Paternity tests were in order, but how to obtain the needed samples without the three involved parties knowing what he was doing or why? His mother would be the most difficult in that regard.

+ + + + + + +

It took less than half a day of phone calls to have the arrangements made for an impromptu blood drive at the ATF offices on the following Monday. It took considerably longer and mention of a sizable payment for donated blood to convince his mother to donate. After that it was comparatively easy to obtain sample vials of specified donor's blood. Lunch was skipped in favor of visiting a laboratory across town that specialized in discreet tests for rape victims wanting to be sure that the child they bore was indeed their husband's before deciding on keeping the baby or placing it up for adoption. The hard part would be waiting for the results.

Sitting in the ATF office Ezra watched Vin across their desks, noting every move the man made, studying the shade of his eyes and silently comparing them to the shade of Ezra's mother's eyes. It was maddening and impossible. Ezra had known Vin and JD for three years, knew as much as most of the others about the two men's pasts. He would have known on some level that they were related to him, wouldn't he? And yet, not even his mother could think to carry out such a cruel and hurtful con. What gain was there in it?

The realization of what his mother stood to gain hit Ezra hard. If she told the two men that they were in reality her sons, or better yet got Ezra to confide what he read in her journal to them, it would cause an uneasy rift between Ezra and his friends. It would crush the trusts the men had when the con was revealed to be no more than a lie. And that would ultimately get Maude Standish what she wanted most in the world. Her son, her real son, to leave the ATF and law enforcement and return to the life of the drifting con man gambler that she had chosen for him. Part of a passage from the journal suddenly stood out in Ezra's mind. '... I could have reclaimed him, assured that he received the life that I had planned for him....' It was not JD that she had been seeking to reclaim and set on the path that she had chosen for him, it was Ezra. The journal entries, the pictures, the unlocked suitcase, it was all just too convenient. All too perfectly laid out. Ezra would not need the paternity tests after all, he had finally thought it out enough to see through his mother's schemes and knew what the test results would show.

Removing his cell phone from his pocket Ezra stood, nodding to Vin with a smile before he stepped to the door of Chris' office and held the phone up. "I am going to be out of the office for a moment. I nearly forgot something important that must be attended too immediately."

Chris looked up from the file he had been reading. "Anything I need to be aware of?" The Southerner shook his head and Chris nodded, motioning that Ezra was excused.

+ + + + + + +

The break room was blessedly deserted when Ezra reached it. Pausing to close the door he removed the card from his wallet and dialed the number on it then entered the three digit extension that the woman at the lab had given him. "Yes, I'm calling to-... talk to a machine." The last was muttered as Ezra realized that the voice that was thanking him for calling was a computerized answering machine. Looking at the ceiling he waited for a moment, intending to leave a message stating his case number and that it was no longer needed.

"The extension you entered was... six.... six.... three... if this is the proper extension number press one now, if this is no-" The voice cut off as soon as Ezra hit the button. "According to our records the first few letters of the last name are.... S.... T... A.... N.... if this is correct press one, if-" Again Ezra cut the machine off pressing the number. "Thank you for calling to verify your test results. The results for child one are..... 99.999% positive match.... the test results for child two are.... 99.999% positive match..."

Staggering back against the counter Ezra looked toward the door in shock, the identical results on the third 'child' being read off by the same emotionless computerized voice.

"If you would like to speak to someone that can explain these results to you, press one now. If you would like to speak to a counselor about these results or feel that you might need referral to someone that can help you better, press two now. If you-"

Finger still holding down the end call button Ezra stared at his phone. Him, JD and Vin... three 'children' entered to be checked against the blood sample of a single woman. All three returning with only a .001 chance of not being her son. Ezra had as much of a chance of not being Maude Standish's son as JD and Vin did. "Oh good Lord..." breathed Ezra, moving slowly over to sink into one of the chairs in the break room. "Oh. Lord."

+ + + + + + +

Ezra had every intention of going back to the office long enough to tell Chris that he had something that required he take the remainder of the day off. He even made it as far as the door of the office. Then Vin Tanner had looked up as Ezra entered the bull pen. Pale blue eyes staring at him across the room for a fraction of moment and freezing him where he stood. Good God, Vin did have Maude Standish's eyes.

"You okay, Ez?"

The quiet voice of JD made Ezra jump, his attention going to the younger man. His younger brother. At a loss for words and thoughts alike Ezra backed from the room, blindly feeling for the doorway as his attention flickered between JD and Vin. God why couldn't he breathe?

When he saw Josiah start forward he turned and ran, needing to get away from the others until he could think more clearly. He had to find his mother, talk to her, demand to know how she could have kept a secret like that from him. Scream at her for her treatment of his brothers. What kind of life would the three of them have had if their mother had kept them all? If she had settled down with one of the many men she had married for money over the years. He was not even aware he had been running down the stairs until he slammed through the door into the elevator bay on the level that opened out to the parking garage. Pushing through the outer door he ran to his car and got it started, his more practical mind pushing back the maddening thoughts and insisting that he not think too deeply about what he had discovered until he had a chance to speak to his mother. Until he had a chance to make her tell him what she should have told him over thirty years before.

+ + + + + + +


Three hours, fifty three minutes, and twenty one seconds. That was what it said on the clock just over Maude Standish's left shoulder when the woman finally threw her newspaper down and her hands up, turning to stare back at Ezra.

Not receiving an answer Maude took up a more casual, if still highly unnerved, posture. "Are you going to sit there and stare at me all day, or is there something that you want to say?"

Ezra leaned back a bit more in his chair, still staring at his mother. "What kind of mother would abandon her own children?"

"Oh good Lord, Ezra," sighed Maude, "we are not going to have this old argument again, are we?"

"Just tell me, Mother, what does it take for a woman to abandon her child to be tended to by strangers?"

"Ezra, I know that you will never understand this, but I did the best I could for you. That never seems to be good enough though."

"Oh it is now, Mother, it is now. I know how lucky I was that you gave enough of a damn about me to want me around."

Maude recoiled slightly, blinking once before regaining her composure. Jaw firm once again she shook her head in perfectly feigned confusion. "What?"

"You know 'what', Mother." The stressing of the last word deepened Ezra's accent noticeably, the word rolling off his tongue.

Standing, her posture as dignified and regal as the Queen of England herself, Maude moved back across the room away from Ezra. "Whatever game you are playing can-"

"No, Mother!" Standing quickly Ezra moved after her. "I'm not the one that is playing games. The one that has been playing games for over thirty years. Were you ever planning to tell us the truth? To tell at least me the truth?" He stopped when he saw the tremor in her shoulders. "Mother?"

"H-how did you-...?"

"One of your bags fell open. The pictures fell free of your journal. I-... I could not understand why you should have pictures of two of my friends in your journal with a picture of myself, so-..."

"So you read it?" She did not turn, the increase in the tremble proof that she could not have faced him just then.

Eyes downcast Ezra nodded, his voice low. "Yes. I-I meant only to read a little of the part where you had tucked the pictures... to see why they were there, why you seemed to pay the attention you did to Mister Tanner and Mister Dunne. Then as I read, I-... Is it true Mother?"

Turning at last Maude stared at Ezra with tear-filled blue eyes. Eyes that suddenly seemed so much like Vin Tanner's too-world-wise eyes. "Would you believe me if I said otherwise?"

"No." A single back and forth motion of his head was the only movement Ezra made. "I am the one that arranged for the blood drive at the office. It was a ruse to obtain blood samples for paternity tests. I am sure that you already know the results."

Her chin lifting just a bit Maude started to move toward the guest room.

"What about my brothers, Mother?"

She did not stop or turn. "I closed those doors many years ago, Ezra. It will take me time to find the right way to reopen them."

"But you do intend to tell them the truth?"

"Yes, but right now I need to lay down." Stepping through the door of the guest room she closed it behind herself.

+ + + + + + +

"Mother? I am going to work now.... Mother?" Tapping again on the door of the guest room Ezra reached down and tried twisting the knob. Locked. Frowning he considered the door for a moment. "She wouldn't've...." Moving at a brisk walk he moved into the kitchen and out onto the back porch. The window to the guest bedroom at the back of the house was open, the lace curtains blowing in and out with the wind.

It took only a moment to confirm the room was empty, a moment more to climb in the window. A neatly folded piece of paper lay on the pillow. Lifting it Ezra read the short message saying that his mother had called a cab to pick her up at the end of the block, and that she hoped her leaving some of her luggage in his care was not too much of an imposition.

Closing his eyes he sighed. She had slipped out almost immediately the night before rather than face telling the truth.

The drive to the federal building was a hollow existence. How did he face Vin and JD knowing what he did? How could he ever tell them the truth. Why had his mother left it up to him to make this decision. He was later than usual by the time he convinced himself to get out of his car in the parking garage. Reaching the office he found Buck and Nathan laughing about something in the corner near the printer. Josiah could be seen in Chris' office discussing something with the Team leader. JD and Vin were thankfully engrossed in files at their desks. Settling into his chair he avoided looking at JD when he sensed the kid turn to stare at him for a moment. JD quickly returned to what he was reading so Ezra grabbed the mail from his IN box and began leafing through it.

He froze when he found the letter from his mother. The thing had apparently been delivered by a local courier service that morning. Hand trembling just a little Ezra opened the letter, looking up to find JD shooting him almost shielded glances still. Maude Standish's fine handwriting was unmistakable -

Ezra, darling, by the time you read this letter your brothers will already have received envelopes containing letters of explanation and copies of their birth certificates as well as other pertinent medical records.

I am sorry. I know that you would have wanted me to confess the truth face to face, and perhaps they would have preferred that as well, but I want you all to understand that at this time I simply cannot do that. I'm not ready. It is a heavy burden that has been lifted from my heart to know that the three of you have at last found one another, that you know the truth, and I wish that I could be there with you.

I love you all, Ezra, and no matter what anyone says or thinks I have never for a moment stopped loving any of you. What I did I did for love and because it was the best I knew at the time. Maybe someday you and your brothers can forgive me. I hope that is true. Until then, watch over them for me Ezra, take care of your brothers.

Love, Mother

Looking up Ezra saw Vin sitting across from him, the man's finger following a line of text on a document as he studied it, working the words out past his severe dyslexia. Beyond Vin, at the desk fronting Buck's, JD sat staring at Ezra with wide, almost lost, eyes. The large envelope and papers laid across his desk painfully similar to the papers that Vin was working his way through. She had done it, their mother had found her own way of telling his brothers the truth. Now she was leaving it up to Ezra to answer questions and pick up the pieces of his friends lives. Settling back in his chair he watched JD, both of them silently waiting for Vin to finish reading.

++ fini ++

Comments to:

I am working on the rest of this story, but I decided to leave it open at this point for others to play with if they desire. What would Maude have said to Vin and JD? How will they react to the information? What effect will it have on the three men working together? If you want to write some version of this please feel free and have fun. I am currently working on finishing this fic, but it will take me a while to complete it.