Magnificent Seven Old West
At the Hand of Antiquity

by Leigh Richards

DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters. No profit is made off of this fan fiction. The characters, concept, everything all belong to CBS, The Mirisch Group, MGM and Trilogy Entertainment.

Comment : Okay if you don't like smarm then this story is probably not for you, just my attempt at raising some hurt and comfort between the men. Gotta love the concept of Smarm. Speacial Thanks must go to Peta for all your work in revising this story! Without you it would never had got this far! So just remember to keep on trusting the universe! Remember Magic Happens. Anyway on with the show...

'You didn't think when you got up this morning that this would be the day your life would change did you?'
Robert H Schuller.

The man sighed, his elegant green jacket blowing in the soft breeze that swirled around the soft dusty road of Four Corners. The sun had not yet reached its peak for the day, but the heat was not as intense as previous days.

This suited the gambler fine. While he was used to the heat, he did not by any consequence desire it - having already suffered the effects of it, on more than one occasion. Standish turned and looked in the direction of the saloon and sighed again. Buck and JD had gone to Eaglebend for the fair. While Vin and Chris were helping one of the ranchers fix his fences. Some vandals had cut and destroyed them, the motive had yet to be determined. Nathan and Josiah had decided to go and help them, this meant Ezra had been left all by himself in an empty town. The seven had decided that the men responsible for the destroyed fences did not pose too much of a threat, it appeared to be a random act.

Yet this reasoning did not sit well with the handsome man who leaned against a pole in front of the Sheriff's office. The town was quiet, 'too quiet' thought Ezra as he looked around the town from his vantage point from the Sheriffs porch.

"The calm before the storm," he muttered, as he withdrew his cards and shuffled them expertly.

The jail was empty and most of the citizens had gone to the fair at Eaglebend. 'In fact', thought Ezra he could count the remaining occupants of Four Corners on one hand. Not that he could blame the folk for heading to the fair, in fact if he had a choice he would have gone himself. Entertainment, out here in this dry place was limited at best. Yet, his health had decided against it. Or more accurately the other men not willing to let him leave the boarders of Four Corners, because of his health.

The heat had taken its toll upon the Gambler and whether he wanted to admit it or not, he was still feeling the affects of having collapsed in the Saloon a week earlier. He had scared poor JD to death, who had run for Nathan faster than a jack rabbit, according to Buck. It made Ezra smile at the concept that maybe the seven actually cared about him. Their bond was unique. It was stronger than his connection to Maude. Yet the con man reflected that that probably wasn't saying too much.

Maude was a woman who had not liked the responsibility having children had brought. His green eyes grew pensive and more melancholy, a look that none of the other men had seen on the ever impassive Gambler. His meandering wandered back to the friendships formed with the seven, and it was a startling realisation when Ezra postulated that 'I would die for them no doubt about it'.

His attention was brought back to the present when he noticed four men riding down the main road towards the Saloon. He quickly put his cards away rising to greet these newcomers. It was then he saw their faces and he was surprised to see how young they were. 'They have to be younger than JD,' he thought as he asked them to halt. It was then that the handsome con man realised he may indeed die for the other six men and the town. As the boys as one pulled their guns and opened fire on the lone man in front of them. He could hear their laughter and jokes about blanks but he had seen the leader's eyes. They were the same as Chris's when he had seen Fowler and the pain in his shoulder and side went a long way to convincing him that it was not a joke these boys were playing.

Ezra dragged himself into the jail trying to stay conscious in case the boys came back. He could hear the sound of breaking glass and their whoops of glee as they ran the horses and other stock out of the stables. Standish, couldn't fight the leaden feeling spreading through his arm and legs. His last coherent thought as the darkness beckoned was that he would die here alone and with that the green eyes slid closed.

'Live by Intuition and Inspiration.....'
Eileen Caddy

Vin slammed the last nail into the post and looked up at the sky, he didn't like it, he could feel it, something was wrong. He watched as Buck and JD rode up teasing Josiah about a lady school teacher who had been 'inquiring about him' Sanchez smiled, but the reddened cheeks made the other men laugh.

As Vin's vivid blue eyes took in the rest of men, he could sense something almost tangible in the air. It was as if some force was threatening their bond. It was becoming an almost physical ache in his belly. Looking at the rest of the men he felt it more keenly. His eyes roved the group searching for the source of the threat, before they finally settled on the direction of Four Corners, where the seventh member of the group remained guarding their town. It was also there that the sensation of trouble increased and he unconsciously went for his gun.

With one last cursory glance at the other men, he nodded almost to himself. Blue eyes narrowed, as the decision was made he was on his horse and heading back to Four Corners before the five men had time to react. They stared after the departing back of the tracker in disbelief

"What the sam hell was that about Chris?" Wilmington called to their leader from where he sat astride his old horse. Chris paused reaching for his holster, he had been watching Vin, right before he left and was having a similar nagging feeling. Nodding at the rest of the men, he stated "Reckon we might have trouble back in the town," before heading towards the horses.

"What?" called, the youngest member of the entourage from his elevated position on his frisky horse.

"I think, JD. Chris means that Vin had one of his feelings" Buck answered, maneuvering his horse around, to face the kid.

"Buck you and Nathan start heading back" Chris ordered, "we'll follow once we've checked out the area. You never what's happened."

"Right pard." Buck said, waiting for Nathan to mount up, then following the fleeing tracker.

'... And let your whole life be a Revelation.'
Elieen Caddy

Vin's eyes widened as he saw the destruction done to the town. The stock had all been let loose. Glancing back Vin was aware that the rest of men would be following him to know what was going on, now all he had to do was find Ezra. Sliding down of his horse, he tied it to one of the poles, the horse whined in response.

"Its okay girl." He whispered in its ear, gentling patting its brow. Leaving the horse, he crept through the town investigating the open shop fronts. Reaching the jail he winced at the blood and following the trail he looked in side the dim office. "Jesus." he muttered, rushing over to the fallen gambler. His skin was pasty, not a good sign. He uttered a sigh of relief when he saw the chest rise. Vin eyed him critically, "You don't look too good, my friend. Let's see how bad it is." He whispered as he began to cut away the clothing.

"Gotta warn the others.." Ezra moaned as his green eyes opened.


'Vin?' Ezra queried, not really trusting his eyes at seeing the tracker in this light, "glad your here..." he gasped against the pain as he felt Vin's hands gently investigate his wounds.

"Wish I was here earlier." Vin replied quietly, the self recrimination was heard clearly to Ezra, while Vin attempted to assess the damage to the man.

"No," Ezra hissed trying to make the tracker realise. He had to make the man see that he had done what he could, the small gambler wouldn't want the guilt to consume him, "didn't die alone.." he whispered urgently, as he felt the blackness return. His eyes drifting shut satisfied that this time he had explained himself clearly, and Vin understood that the guilt lay with no man. He had a friend nearby and that was enough , he wasn't alone this time. Vin sat dumbfounded.

'God, Ezra' he thought, wiping his friends hair away from his face, 'I ain't ever goner let that happen'. He heard the footsteps and quickly drew his gun upon the men before uncocking it. He silently took in Nathan's and Buck's haggard appearances.

"How is he?" Nathan asked, quietly kneeling down beside the smaller con-man.

"Took at least two hits I can see, one in the shoulder and one winged his side. He didn't have time to draw his gun" Vin responded, gesturing to the bloody gun still its holster and the derringer still hidden underneath the bloody and now torn shirt.

"So they surprised him." Buck said angrily taking post at the door, while the other two men worked on Ezra.

"The bullets went clean through. That's a plus at least," Nathan stated quietly.

"He goner make it ?" Vin asked, the darker man as he lifted Ezra up and placed him upon one of the cots in the jail cells. Vin stood, his blue eyes watching the door for other visitors before returning his gaze to the cell.

"It 's hard to say, the fact he is still weak from the heat isn't goner help him."

"Right" Vin said hearing the pounding of horses hooves on the dusty road outside on the office. Buck peered out from the doorway, watching as Cris and Josiah checked the store fronts, "Reckon they might be looking for us" Buck drawled, giving them a wave to let them know where they were.

"Or trouble." Vin replied.

"Whoever did this is gone. Thought I saw at least four horses out yonder in the distance when I rode in " Buck said gesturing out to the north side of the small town. Tanner tilted his head slightly as they all heard the agonised gasp from Ezra.

"Buck! Vin!" Nathan yelped, battling against the pain filled struggles of Ezra. "Need you two to hold him down. His waking up. And I got to stich the wounds and it's going to hurt" he declared harshly.

The two men winced, they were familiar with Nathan's methods striding over Buck lent over his legs, grasping them firmly with his hands. Vin, meanwhile held the gamblers shoulders down. Buck, frowned he hated doing this, it felt wrong to see Ezra in so much pain. Especially when just this morning they had been all laughing about Ezra's ability to win even in the worst circumstances.

"Buck." Nathan snapped, bringing him out of his increasingly morbid musings, "Got that whisky?" Nathan asked, eyeing the wounds.

"Yeah, but... "Buck began, pulling the flask from his pocket, which Jackson grasped before the scoundrel could continue. Nathan pulled the lid off it in one smooth gesture.

"Hold him down," taking a breath Nathan poured the contents of the flask over the two wounds. Ezra was aware of the gentle hands holding him. Then all he felt was a fire that started in his shoulder spreading down his side. His only coherent thought 'make it stop.' A scream tore from his throat in response to the molten pain of the whiskey on the open wounds. Vin winced as he heard the scream looking into Ezra eyes he saw only one thought pass behind the green eyes, before all the fight him and he fainted. It was then that he looked up into Buck's pale face a stoic mask, only the gritted teeth betrayed his emotion. Gazing past him he saw the three other members standing there, guns drawn and unanimous looks of horror as they saw Ezra.

"Christ," JD said, swallowing hard, his hands shaking slightly as holstered his colts. "He looks just like my ma did when she.." trailing off, JD sensed that he had spoken aloud. Running hand through his thick hair, he abruptly turned and strode out of the room. He sank down on the steps of the porch. He was torn between being inside with a friend and the images of the past that were resurfacing. The other men exchanged looks.

The preacher sighed, moving over to the cot, he touched Buck's shoulder sensing that he was needed outside with the kid more, than he was needed here. "Why don't I take over Buck? You go talk to our young charge out there, reckon he needs ye" motioning for him to follow the younger man outside. Josiah saw Nathan give him a grateful look, as he continued to minister to Ezra. Buck didn't argue with him, he just moved out of the office. At least outside helping the kid, he could feel useful.

"Vin you okay?" Chris asked, seeing the impassive face and the ticking muscle in he jaw. A sure sign, he was angry and upset. Ignoring Chris, Vin gently brushed his hand across Ezra's forehead, "I ain't leaving him." He disregarded the looks of surprise from Josiah and Nathan, as the healer began to sow the skin back together.

"He going too.." Larabee asked taking a seat across from the men.

"Too soon." Nathan responded, intent on his task. Josiah carefully cleansed the wounds as he worked, with water from a basin.

"Lord's will be done." he murmured. Chris Larabee nodded in agreement with both the preacher and the healer's sentiments. The sun was just beginning to set on what he knew would be a very long night. As some of the townsfolk, began to filter in from the fair he settled in for the long wait till dawn.

'Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding'
Kahil Gibran, The Prophet

Buck walked thankfully out into the street after his young friend from Boston. Sinking down on the steps beside JD, he studied him. JD, sat hands twisting together and his mind preoccupied. Poor kid, was as pale as a newly washed white sheet. It was clear to Buck that the sounds from the jail only served to remind of him a some long ago event. Buck Wilmington wasn't quite sure what to do. Despite having a reservoir full of quotes and wisdom to bestow on his young charge, the honest pain and grief on the youthful face, made the ladies man aware that silent support was the only thing he could offer JD and maybe to Ezra so obviously fighting for his life inside the jail. So it was a surprise when JD actually spoke, the usual boyish enthusiasm that coloured his tenor, was noticeably absent. He sounded old beyond his years.

"I held my ma's hand at the end." JD paused, as he looked at Buck, his brown eyes meeting blue ones. Buck saw an age old pain that reminded him of another friend, Chris. "She was in so much pain, agony." JD's voice wrapped around the last word placing so much pain into it that Wilmington winced in sympathy for the younger man. "I couldn't do anything, and I thought, right there, never again. I won't let anyone close." Shaking his head JD stared down at his hands, his right hand clenching unwittingly. " I guess I failed huh?" He stated not looking at Buck, a harsh laugh erupting from his throat as he with an effort relaxed his hands and l ooked over to the Saloon.

The silence was heavy between the two men, as Wilmington wondered what to say. JD rose to his feet abruptly pacing agitatedly in front of the ladies man who watched him absently. His words had hit Buck like a ton of bricks, taking him back to another time when another friend had paced in anger in front of him. Promising the same thing, to not get too close, his eyes inadvertently travelled to meet Larabee's through the doorway of the sheriff's office, seeing the same recognition in his eyes at the remembered pain of losing his family.

Buck was pulled from his thoughts by the soft hiccup of a laugh coming from JD. He had ceased his pacing to stand in front of Buck. A forlorn figure his brown hair hiding his face from his friend, Buck could see the kid gripping his gun belt, as he stared at the ground, as if it held the answers. "Look at Me! He whispered so quietly that Buck had to strain to hear him. The laugh came again as JD glanced over at Buck, his voice rising as he continued, "Look AT ME!" the kid said. "Not get close, yeah right!" Thumping his chest in emphasis. "I found a home. Like I promised myself I wouldn't!" he said his voice coming out harsh and twisted with emotion. " I just couldn't stand it if Ezra..." he couldn't finish the thought, turning away he sank back down onto the steps. JD's voice was so full of pain it made Buck reach

'Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.'
Kahil Gibran, The prophet.

Ezra slowly opened his eyes and blinked at the darkness of the room. He tried to move or speak, but all he heard was a pain filled groan. It took him a moment to realise that it originated from himself. There were hurried steps and then as before he looked into the blue eyes of the tracker.

"Good to se ye awake Ezra, you made it through the night so I think you goner make it." Vin smiled. He was relieved to seem him awake.

Ezra tried to nod, but just didn't have the energy. 'God, I am so tired,' he mused. His throat felt like it was on fire and even trying to speak was sending more flames through his throat.

"Don't speak." Vin urged, "ye might have hurt your throat with all that screaming!" he smiled, amusement colouring his Texas accent, "You had poor Inez in a fret. And Buck was worried about her being worried." Vin grinned, sitting down beside him.

'Ezra!' Nathan exclaimed, hurrying into the room he was followed by their leader Chris L arabee..

"Well, You look better. You haven't got a fever so that's a real good sign. You did lose a lot of blood so you need rest, ye hear me.' Nathan rambled, gently holding his head up and feeding him some liquid that extinguished the fire in his throat.

Standish, watched as Jackson left the room carrying out the cup with the now vile tasting liquid. He assessed the two other men remaining in the room trying to read their faces. Ezra hadn't been alone at the end he knew that, but he had failed the seven, for his inability to protect the town of Four Corners.

"It ain't your fault ," Vin said softly, gently squeezing his hand. He saw the doubt in the green eyes and wondered what was else was behind it. He looked at Chris who sighed and bent down so that he was in the line of sight of the Southerner.

"Its not your fault Ezra. The guilt lies with me" Chris said, shaking his head slightly at his foolishness of leaving the con man alone. Chris saw Ezra try to smile motioning his disagreement to Chris, with a subtle eyebrow raise.

"No.." he whispered, trying to make Chris and Vin understand. He thought they had understood. He wasn't alone now, they were here. "Not your fault.." he frowned trying to clear his head. "Not a alone." He trailed off as sleep came and overtook his will to stay awake.

Chris turned towards Vin Tanner, his thoughtful gaze met his own, raising an eyebrow he silently questioned what Ezra had meant. Vin, however looked back at him his face quickly going unreadable and Chris Larabee wondered what exactly Ezra Standish had been alluding to just moments before. Sighing heavily, he reached for the small elegant hand that lay on the bed grasping it within his, he noticed absently that Tanner had already done so.

The two friends sat there quietly both holding the gambler's hands. As Nathan entered the room he couldn't help but, stare at the two of them in surprise. He saw the joint demeanours of concern and puzzlement upon Chris's face.

Shaking his head he dismissed it saying "Vin you need to rest and Chris so do you. If those men come back to either hurt Ezra then we all need you both working on full capacity. Okay?"' Nathan said firmly. Vin and Chris both raised their eyebrows at the healer who smiled tolerantly at their unspoken question, "I gave something to Ezra that will knock him out till this afternoon. So its okay. Besides I'll be here. And we are going to take shifts monitoring him"

"You kicking us out pard ?" Chris said a smirk flicker across his face. As Nathan began to shoo them out of the room.

"I think he is cowboy." Vin laughed as he rose stiffly to his feet and followed the taller man out.

"Very Strange Ezra," Nathan muttered, looking at the injured man who lay blissful unaware, "If I'd had to pick anyone who I'd have to kick out, it wouldn't have been them" sighing he rose to his feet and left the gambler to sleep.

"The Fates lead him who will -'
Him who won't they drag' Seneca

It was late afternoon when Vin appeared refreshed and searching the saloon for food. Buck and JD sat quietly drinking at one of the tables.

"Where's Chris ?" the tracker asked, as he saw Josiah exit the kitchen with a plate full of food. Josiah walked towards the table where the Vin stood before Buck and JD, waiting for an answer.

Josiah grinned mischievously at the bounty hunter, "Here Tanner, get this into you" handing the plate to the astonished tracker, he enlightened the shocked men "Ain't always been a preacher." Slapping the slight man on the back he headed back into the kitchen.

"Right here, cowboy." Chris said walking through the saloon doors, having heard Vin's question.

Vin smiled sitting down beside Chris at the table with the others and sampling Josiah's culinary skills. "Gee, he can cook," Chris muttered, as he too was given a plate of food from the returning preacher. Josiah grinned good-naturedly to Chris in acknowledgment of his comment seating himself beside JD. The meals were eaten in near silence, each of the men lost in their own pondering of the recent events.

"Vin ?" JD asked, once he saw that other man had finished his meal.

"Yeah kid ?" Vin queried looking at JD and seeing the nervousness that he was obviously trying to hide from the other men seated there.

"How did you know about Ezra ?" JD stuttered, reddening as he realised Buck and Chris had ceased midway in their sporadic conversation about the widow and her son, to listen to Vin's answer.

Vin Tanner nodded, he had been expecting this question. "I had a feeling JD." Noting JD's confusion he continued, leaning forward engaging the younger man even further, so he forgot about the other men, "You know how sometimes you know something is about to happen ? Like when your riding JD ? Or when you're in a gun fight ?" JD nodded slightly, seeing this the older man eased back. Vin Glanced at Chris and Buck and noted a look of pain flitter across their faces before once again becoming impassive. 'Damn' Vin thought he hadn't meant to bring up Larabee's family. Sighing, he looked back at JD who sat waiting for his response, "Well," he drawled, "its kind of like that. A little different but the same. Its just every time I've ignored it," he paused, and the other men could see a shadow fall across his face as he remembered, "something happened. Something that I could've stopped.." Vin stared out the window past the Four Corners into the past, give himself a mental shake, he brought himself back to the present. "Now I listen." And with that the bounty hunter rose from the table and headed out of the Saloon.

"Wow !" JD exclaimed, looking after the departing figure. "Reckon we might have some of that magic after all" he finished, glancing at Josiah and then back at the swinging doors of the saloon.

"What ?" Chris and Buck asked unison, giving their full attention to JD, rather than the banging Saloon doors. J

D visibly paled under the intense scrutiny of his hero and best friend "Ah, Its just like Josiah said. This group has a magic whether we know it or not, each of us balance out the other's, fate ?" JD explained looking at Josiah for confirmation, who smiled in agreement.

"So I did, Mr Dunne." Josiah said approvingly.

"What ?" Buck asked again his face showing his confusion, as he reached forward to grab another drink. Chris looked thoughtfully at JD as he sipped his drink, then out towards Jackson's abode.

Josiah Sanchez observing Chris and seeing the thoughts fly behind the normally impassive face he spoke, "You know it don't you Chris ? There's a power within the seven. A destiny we have that is far greater." Josiah finished mysteriously.

Chris stared at him hard obviously pondering the larger man's words, yet before Sanchez or any other could speak any more he rose and walked out.

JD exchanged baffled, but amused looks with Buck. "Reckon you might have scared him there Josiah" he commented. Ignoring JD for the moment, Josiah moved over to the window and watched the leader pause on the porch of the Saloon. Following his gaze he saw that he was watching Vin's progress to the Nathan's clinic before heading in the same direction. Josiah turned and glancing back at JD, he murmured thoughtfully.

"The truth can do that to some people JD."

'Truth does not change although your perception of it may vary or alter drastically'
John & Lyn St Claire Thomas : Eyes of the Beholder

Vin and Chris entered the sick room, apprehensively. Ezra had made it through the night, but he still had a lot of healing to do before he was out of the woods.

"He awake ? " Vin asked, softly looking at the big healer who stared at the two men wearily.

"Nope" he sighed resting his head in his hands, he looked at expressions of surprise mirrored on Tanner's and Larabee's faces, he finished defensively "He was in pain so I gave him something more to sleep."

"You did all you could Nate." Chris comforted, watching as Vin moved to the side of the bed and look at the pale man.

"I know, I just hope its enough." he replied, rising to his feet. "I'll just go make him some more tea, so's he can rest easier." Nathan ignored Vin's disapproving shake of his head at those words. Chris couldn't wonder what Vin was objecting too, as long as Jackson was helping Ezra then what was the problem. He watched as the bounty hunter sat down on the bed, carefully checking Ezra's condition. Chris turned hearing Jackson re-enter the room and studied him as he prepared the tea for the ill man. It was the soft spoken words of the bounty hunter that made the healer and the leader of the seven turn.

"Hey there." They had heard Vin utter softly to the southern man. Ezra's eyes opened blinking sleepily at Vin. "You rest now. The town's fine, ye ain't alone you just rest." He whispered soothingly to the injured man, both Nathan and Chris watched taken aback as Ezra relaxed back into sleep.

Nathan studied Vin amused, "Reckon I could use you with all my patients!"

Vin smiled tightly never letting his eyes leave the gambler, brushing back the light brown hair with his hand. Chris discerning the tension in the younger man, moved closer to the sleeping Ezra and the tracker, "Vin, you okay?"

Vin did look up then at Chris words detecting the subtle tone of worry in his voice. "Yep, just might stay here a while, before I clean up the town" he replied meeting Chris eyes.

"No you stay here with Nate. The rest of us will see what needs to be done. Besides most of the town folk are back." Chris said startling himself. Normally he would have like to keep the tracker close, especially when there could be trouble brewing. But, there was something happening here, and Vin needed to stay. Chris Larabee felt it, a gut feeling. He turned to the door, stopping as all the missing pieces slided together at once. They had left Ezra behind and because of that he had suffered for it. Ezra had been alone and thought he would die abandoned by everyone. Standish's words came back, 'not alone.' Vin had commented that he wasn't alone anymore. Chris abruptly turned and looked hard at Vin, who met his gaze unflinchingly, then towards the sleeping gambler. Chris bent down and whispered softly to Vin. "Not alone?" Vin raised an eyebrow at the question as Chris continued, "That's it isn't it?" he stated quietly. Vin sighed, running a hand through his light brown hair as he nodded. Nathan, busy rolling linen for clean bandages stared at the two perplexed as to what had just passed between the two men. "Damn." Chris muttered, rising to his feet and storming out of the room.

"All things are in the act of change; thou thyself in ceaseless transformation and partial decay, and the whole universe with thee. "
Marcus Aurelius Antonius

"What the hell was that about!" Nathan exclaimed, following Vin to the window and observing their troubled leader storming down the main street of Four Corners. Chris passed Buck Wilmington and Mary Travis without acknowledging either one. Vin saw the ladies man frown, and ceasing his conversation with Mary Travis he quickly followed his old friend's path towards the Saloon.

"Reckon this town going to look pretty tidy by this evening. What, with the mood Chris is in." Vin said laughter coloured his voice, but it didn't reach the concern in his eyes, as he watched the swinging doors of the Saloon.

"Vin. Care to explain?" Nathan asked again, his patience wearing thin. Vin turned glancing at the healer who stood beside him frustration mounting from him in waves. Tanner, watched him for a second, letting the moment drag before answering.

"Nathan, why did you decide that Ezra was okay to look after the town by himself?" Vin asked his tone carefully neutral, and easing down to sit by their fallen comrade.

"Why? Well, because he seemed fine. I mean it was a week ago!" Nathan replied clearly annoyed by the nature of the question. Under Vin's steady scrutiny Jackson paused to reconsider, as he studied Ezra. "I let him con me." He whispered. "I should have been paying more attention.." he trailed avoiding Tanner's observation of him. "Ezra ain't blaming you Nathan. In fact, I am pretty sure that he conned himself into believing that he was fine too." Vin alleged trying to assuage the other man's guilt. "Yeah. He does hide it well. I didn't even notice until he collapsed last week that something was wrong."

"Ezra reads people real well. That's why his a con man." Vin said standing and leaning against the wall. "So he can pretty much read us seven. He wasn't going to force anyone to stay with him." He continued, not letting the healer speak. "Ezra reads our motivations real well," pride in his friend could be heard in the tracker's voice. "I think the only reason why he stayed in town, was because we were all so concerned when he collapsed..."Vin paused weighing his words as he looked out the window. "Which I think was a relatively new concept to him. Don't suppose it has happened much before."

"You think?" Nathan questioned softly. "He seems so carefree- nothing seems to touch him." he stopped and examined Vin. "You knew?" Vin smiled. "About this?" Vin shook his head. "Nah, but I learned a long time ago, sometimes looks can be deceiving. Besides, I can read Ezra pretty well, we're a lot a like" he finished looking up at Nathan and shifting away from the wall he seated himself next to Ezra on a old wooden chair. "Go get some rest Nathan. You need it." the tone in his voice emphasising Nathan's dismissal from Vin's point of view.

"Regrets can hold you back and can prevent the most wonderful things taking place in your lives."
Elieen Caddy, Footprints on the path

Nathan headed out of the room, but not before he realised that Vin had neatly avoided answering the original question. Vin Tanner had made him re-consider his attitude towards Ezra while he was ill. 'Why hadn't he noticed the man was ill?' Jackson sighed entering his room slowly as he worked through what had just happened. Vin had neatly averted Nathan's attempt to give Ezra another dose of laudanum to send him back to sleep. Vin had stopped him, by sending him back to sleep by himself, with only a few simple words. In fact, Vin had been the one who had kept the ill man calm. 'Did he treat Ezra differently.' He wondered as he lay down on his cot and closed he eyes.

But, they sprung open again with the startling realisation that, 'I treat him how I was treated.' He winced at that. Thinking back, he recognised that, while he worried the others when he thought they were ill, he treated the Southerner differently. He had listened and agreed with Ezra "That he was fine." He didn't like to be in to close a vicinity with the other man, despite everything the men had been through together. Nathan could not accept the morals of the gambler. Ezra reminded Mr Jackson too much of his own past as a slave. He had always thought that Ezra had lived a life of luxury. Yet the statements expressed by the tracker suggested different. 'Was he wrong?' The soft monotone's of the two baritone voices next to him pulled him out of his meandering.

"One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night"
Kahil Gibran: Sand and Foam

"Mr Tanner." Ezra whispered. "Why did you question Mr Jackson like that?" he enquired, needing to hear the answer despite the pain speaking caused his throat.

Vin stood and hurriedly retrieved some water for the shot man, replying "I reckon that things need some changing. And Nate's a good man, but he needs a little push every now and then." Smiling, as he allowed Ezra to sip the water slowly.

"But I was in good health." Ezra insisted stubbornly, green eyes looking blearily at the tracker.

"You weren't. Now, I know a bit about hiding sickness and so does Nathan but he needs to get over his past, just the same a you." Vin declared, his tone changing slightly causing Ezra to blink at him bewilderment.

Ezra heard the unspoken question behind Vin's word and he fought for a way to conceal his emotions and the truth. The tracker's words to Nathan came back to him then. 'I can read him pretty well.' As he looked intently at the man sitting to his right on the bed beside him, he detected a subtle hint to be honest. That compiled with the pain in his side and shoulder, and the fact that Ezra didn't have the mental strength to enter to a game of deceit about the past. Ezra came to the rueful conclusion, that lying to this man had never been a possibility ever since their first meeting. Plus, he did agree with the assessment of the bounty hunters that they were a lot alike.

Meeting Vin's eyes Ezra Standish breathed out heavily then turned his gaze towards the ceiling. I don't.." he whispered stiltedly. "I don't remember his ... his name." His normally elegant voice coming out harsh and rough. "He was big like Josiah and similar too.." he gestured with his good hand to Nathan's room next door.

"What happened?" Vin asked, gently wiping his friends face with a cool cloth. "He beat me, said I was too blame for.." Ezra made a vague gesture with his hand. There was a pregnant pause, then the southern voice came out heavily. "I remember, my mother saying 'I was a fool' stupid" he smiling wirily at that memory. And Vin was left with the impression that it was not the first time that Ezra Standish had heard those words from his mother. Vin felt for his friend. Ezra shut his eyes as if it made speaking about the past easier. Ezra did not see Nathan appear in the door way listening. "She was gone when he appeared. Left on the late stage to New Orleans... I was on my way home.." Ezra fell silent. '

"Why did he beat you?" Vin prodded gently.

"I don't know. I never found out." he rasped, shaking his head as he tried to escape the fear that was rising like a tide in him. "He just kept hitting me and I ... I couldn't fight him alone ... I was laid up for a few months." He whispered, opening his eyes to meet Vin's. Vin could see the fear that lay in the normally confident green eyes.

"It ain't going to happen again. We're here now. You ain't alone" Vin assured, gently pressing a kiss on the smooth forehead, like a father would to his child. Ezra nodded and shut his eyes allowing sleep to claim him once more. 'My mother never did that' his last coherent thought.

Vin sighed heavily and looked at Nathan in the doorway. "I'll explain in a bit." He said, quietly his blue eyes troubled.

'See every difficulty as a challenge, a stepping stone, and never be defeated by anything or anyone'.
EILEEN CADDY The Dawn of Change

Buck, Chris and Josiah had just about finished fixing up the majority of the broken windows along the street front.

"They didn't take much, looks like they just decided to break a few windows" JD said looking around as he approached from the Sheriff's office. .

"Well, the main problem is the animals that were let loose." Josiah said wiping his brow and sitting down on the steps outside Nathan's clinic, watching the Four Corner's townsfolk tend to cleaning up the main street.

Chris placed his hammer on the window sill , turning to also observe the handiwork of the vandals. "It's the sort of thing kids would do. Break a few windows let the animals out." He mused thoughtfully, nodding to Mary as she walked over to them wiping her hands on her apron.

"Yeah, but why Four Corners?" Buck asked, letting his lanky frame lean against a porch post, whilst pulling out his flask of whisky.

"Cause' they would know about the fair at Eaglebend." Vin replied, as he joined the group out in front of Nathan's place.

"Yes of course, that would explain it" Mary exclaimed, brushing her hair off her face. "The towns' alone. Relatively little protection.." she trailed off lost in thought. Chris smiled at her, loving the way she was always pursing the cause of justice in this town. Turning to face Vin he asked the question that the other men all desired an answer too. "How is he?"

"Fine." Vin said firmly, his blue eyes flashing. "Reckon he will be moving around far sooner than expected, give it at least another two days".

"Vin!" they all turned at Nathan's angry voice. "What on earth did you give Ezra? He ain't respondin' and I know you gave him something." Jackson said coming out of his clinic but stopping his tirade once he saw Mary standing there, blushing slightly at him.

"If you gentlemen will excuse me, I have to help Inez in the saloon.." she said awkwardly trying to make a dignified exit in the face of the mounting tension between the men. "Give Ezra my regards." she finished tightly, nodding to the six men as she walked away. The men watched her departing figure waiting for her to be out of ear shot.

Once she was out of hearing range Tanner turned to face the outraged man. "Its something the Indians use. A herb that helps the body heal and releases the spirit to make the journey of healing an easier one." Vin replied seemingly unsurprised by the healer's angry outburst. The others stared at Jackson in surprise, this anger seemed to come out of nowhere. JD frowned in utter bemusement he knew that Ezra could get a bit shirty when he was ill, 'Hell, he gets on Nathan's nerves most of the time anyway. But this, this was different.' He thought. Vin exchanged quick looks with Chris, shaking his head slightly before, glancing at the other men ignoring Nathan, who knew better to take on the lithe bounty hunters fighting skills. Vin walked back to the clinic where Nathan had left Ezra by himself.

"Nathan? What's the sam hell the matter with you? Isn't that what you do anyway, try make the healing easier on the patient?" Buck querying as he followed the tracker back into the Clinic.

"Nothing's wrong with me." Nathan uttered harshly, hurrying after the hunter. The other men stared at each other uneasily before hastily following after Nathan and Vin.

They all arrived in the small kitchen area of Nathan's house at the same time. Vin was walking back down the stairs a smile on his face. "His sleeping more easily, now."

"So when did you become a healer Vin? Didn't you read the sign outside?" Nathan mocked him angrily, stepping towards him.

Thoughtfully, Vin stared at him, remarking, "Why you angry Nathan? Ezra just let go a piece of his past up there." His blue eyes never leaving the dark brown ones. "Is it because Ezra was beat up? or because it was a black man?"

"How do you know that it was a black man, huh? He might of just meant height and build!" Nathan said whirling on the tracker, who had the healer pinned against the wall before he knew it.

"I know. Just as you do!" Vin said angrily into Nathan's ear. Tightening his hold as the other man tried to break free from the vice like grip.

"Vin let him go!" Buck exclaimed heading over to the two men, intent on separating them.

"What, are you two going on about?" JD asked said from his position at the door pushing his bowler hat off as he rubbed his head in confusion.

"Fine! I'll tell you!" Vin said heatedly, stepping away from Nathan making an attempt to bring himself under control. "I'll tell you." Vin repeated this time his voice carefully devoid of emotion. "I'll tell you a story that Ezra has chosen to forget or can't tell. "Sit." he ordered, firmly looking at Chris who motioned for him to go ahead.

The normally shy man had the floor and for once it didn't bother the man. He deliberated for a moment weighing his words carefully, before beginning to speak. "About 4 years ago when I was bounty hunting, we were after this guy, from the South. We ended up getting him. The thing was. This man, he was about the same size as Ezra. Just a little skinnier." Vin said, pulling out his flask of whisky and taking a swig before continuing. "It turned out he killed this little black girl in the North. And this guy, Jamieson, being from the South, 'Claimed there wasn't anything wrong' with his actions.'" Vin paused, as Nathan angrily rose from his chair and heading for the door, but before he could react Chris stepped forward and pushed Nathan into his chair once more forcing him to remain seated by maintaining a hold on his shoulder. "Anyway." he continued, his voice getting rougher as he stared at the wall in front of him, no longer looking at the five men. "The little girl's father decided to get revenge. Yet, this bastard had given another man his jacket to wear. The father, must've been thinkin' it was Jamieson, beat up this fella." Vin paused again, clearing his throat he continued, "Now, Jamieson thought this was very funny when he found out. Damn fool, just kept on laughing about it. The little girl's Daddy had beat up that man so badly he was in hospital for about a year, recoverin'. Father killed himself two weeks later, after finding out what he had done. Couldn't live with it."

"Gee Vin. That's a hell of a story!" Buck interrupted thinking the bounty hunter was finished grabbing the flask from Vin taking a sip. Vin eyed him for a moment his blue eyes slightly unfocused, ignoring him he proceeded with his narration.

"The thing was, the man in the hospital that Jamesion's laughed at turned out to be his cousin. who looked like his brother, his name was Ezra Simpson." Vin finished with finality. JD gasped, standing up quickly in shock. Buck shot him a concerned look not quite grasping yet where this was leading. "One of the name's Ezra went by before, was Simpson." He whispered, his horrified gaze meeting, the Tracker's sorrowful eyes. The other men froze, in stunned silence.

"How long have you known Vin" Chris asked his voice thick.

"Put it together a little over a month ago. I wasn't sure. Wasn't till Ezra said something peculiar when we were out riding one time. 'Something about knowin' what its like to be the wrongful judged. ' But, I still wasn't sure. After that wagon train..." Vin shook himself attempting to get rid of a bad memory, he looked at Chris saying. "It was right after the fiddler died. We were on our way back to town, Nathan had confronted him asking him 'What would he know about suffering?' once Josiah and Nathan had gone... I saw his face. He looked so lost, and the look in his eyes .." Vin paused, the sadness in the room almost tangible. "I Don't think Ezra even realised he had spoken aloud. Said 'more than anyone could ever know', and then the rest of ye showed up and that look was gone. Ye know, I wasn't even sure it was ever there." Vin finished softly, running a hand through his light brown hair.

"Gee and I thought I had it tough." Buck muttered.

"His mother know?" Josiah questioned, not really wanting to hear the response.

"Nope, she thought he was a stupid fool for getting caught with some con, so she had left town. Ezra didn't know where she was and she only found him a month ago."

"Jesus wept." Josiah said, taking the flask and swallowing heavily.

Vin studied them wondering if he should say anymore. "The whole time he was in there, he had no visitors. No family. No nothin', he had to pay by writing reports and doing the accounts for the staff." Vin watched Chris rise from his chair and head up the stairs briefly touching his arm in support. The Tracker nodded at him. "Yesterday, he thought he would die and that he would be alone, again when it happened." Leaving it at that he headed upstairs to check on Ezra condition.

"You knew didn't you Chris?" Vin asked, as Chris straightened the bed covers over the con-man.

"Yeah, heard that story at Purgatory. And sometimes he would move a little stiffly. But ,one time he was walking back from the hotel and he didn't see me." Chris motioned towards Ezra.

"But he looked right at me and I saw fear Vin. Yet once he had seen it was me he relaxed. That made me wonder.

"You did the right thing telling the others." Chris said, sensing the younger man's worry.

"Maybe." Vin answered, hearing the soft murmur of voices from downstairs.

'The Difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment'

"Nathan, why are you so angry?" Josiah asked, intercepting the furious man that paced back and forth in the small room.

"I ain't angry." The healer said turning and facing the large preacher. "I just don't..."

"You just can't believe Ezra went through all that?" Josiah asked, seating himself down again now that he had the other man's attention.

Nathan shook his head. "That man has probably suffered things I hope I never do. And I judged him Josiah. ME! I talk about not judging and selling people. But I had that man tried and convicted without ever knowing his story.! Nathan fumed, slamming his hand against the table.

"Whoa easy there." Buck said slowly. "Now, Ezra ain't said much. But I reckon we weren't listening except maybe Vin and Chris so I think that while we can't change the past, we can change the future. We're here now!" Buck said trying to placate the distraught man.

"I can't believe it." JD murmured, not really listening to the discussion going on around him.

"Its just like ma and him to have that in common. "I wondered how he could communicate so easily with children and now ... I reckon its because that they don't judge him like adults do." Noticing Josiah staring at him thoughtfully.

"Gee Josiah." JD said. "Its no wonder the poor guy finds it hard to trust us. His own mother not even caring, that's rough!" The curly headed preacher, nodded agreeing with his sentiments. "Hell at least my Ma looked after me." Buck said heavily. "And I had Chris family as another family." he continued, shaking his head.

"Nathan?" Josiah gently prodded the man who stood angrily in the corner. "Ezra wouldn't blame you."

"No." Nathan fumed. "You know why he is the way is? Because its how he has always been treated a good for nothing bastard from the South!" His voice rising as he anger at himself and the situation continued to grow. Nathan was pulled from his anger by the thundering down the steps and suddenly he was facing the stone cold fury from their leader, Chris Larabee.

"Hey easy pard." Buck said rising to his feet knocking the chair back, in his haste.

Chris made his way to the healer. "You best keep you voice down. Now I don't know what you boys were arguing about, but the only thing Ezra heard right then was the last part and from upstairs it didn't sound good." He said angrily.

Nathan closed his eyes all the anger leaving him and leaned back heavily against the wall "Damn." he sighed.

'Men are disturbed not by things that happen, but by their opinions of the things that happen.'

Buck and Chris made their way over to Vin who stood tethering their horses. "What did you find?" Larabee called. Vin continued brushing his horse as he spoke, " Found some tracks leading along the back way towards Eaglebend." Turning and ceasing to brush the horse as JD walked up.

"Hey Chris. Buck." he acknowledged tipping back is bowler. "Mrs Travis said to say that Ezra is sleeping" Buck stared at his young charge, waiting for the boy to continue, as he expertly settled the frisky horses. It never failed to amaze him how the boy could do some of the things that he could with the horses.

"What?" exclaimed JD, looking at the men ruefully, as he realised that they were waiting.

"Oh...Nathan left to go see Rain at the village, while Josiah still helping some of the folk out" the young sheriff said, giving the horses one final pat. Larabee nodded, looking at Vin.

"What you said to him hit pretty hard." Chris said, as the men headed out towards the Saloon.

Vin nodded, squinting in the afternoon light. Then, looking at the other men he said "Them boys will be looking for some more fun. We should head out tomorrow morning." He stated. Wilmington concurred, as his suave demeanour enthralling one of the pretty women walking by. "Meet early?" he questioned.

Larabee nodded, "I think 4 men will be enough with Nathan at the village, Josiah can guard the town." His black clothing soaking up the afternoon heat, making his way into the saloon where he would remain until the early hours of the night.

'Success depends on where intention is'.

Mid morning the next day found Mrs Travis and Inez hurrying towards the Saloon, only to be halted by Chris and Vin who were strolling along the boardwalk away from the jail.

"Whoa where's the fire Mrs Travis?" Vin called.

Mary rolled her eyes, clearly flustered. "Get the men responsible?" she hissed trying to pass the men and refusing to look at Chris who was watching her intensely.

Buck joining the group said "Yeah, we sure did a bunch of kids!" he drawled. "But their leader, well he ain't a nice one' I have had nicer..." Buck trailed off, looking at Inez and quickly away he clearing his throat, as Vin smirked at the by play between the other four.

"How's Ezra?' Josiah with him?" Vin enquired, not looking at the ladies, distracted when he spied JD talking for a few minutes with Josiah who nodded and resumed his seat in the jail. The young man made his way over to the group. Chris however saw the two women exchange hasty glances, as Billy ran up almost colliding with JD who smiled tolerantly.

"Hey Chris!, Mama! I just saw Mr Standish enter the Saloon!" he said breathlessly tugging on Mary's skirt.

Mary blushed crimson as Inez stuttered "Well, I only left the room for an hour he was asleep." she said defensively. Chris held up his hand.

"Thank you ladies. We'll take it from here" he said quietly, speaking for the first time since the group had gathered. Touching Mary's arm briefly to let know it wasn't her fault. Making their way over to the Saloon, they left Mary and Inez dealing with some interested Four Corners' folk.

"Yes, Mr Standish is fine, Ms Lee." Chris heard Mary say clearly, before he entered the Saloon, with Buck, JD, and Vin on his heals.

'Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.'

Ezra slowly made his way into the Saloon. Ezra an expert at reading people knew that something had happened between the seven, while he had been ill. He knew that Vin and Chris would be furious with the current development, he pondered wryly. Gingerly sitting down at his corner table, he did however need time to think he mused. His green eyes travelling over the empty Saloon.

It was too early in the day for anyone to be drinking. In fact Ezra thought 'I've no idea what time it actually it is.' If only he could understand why Nathan was no where to be found after saying, 'he would be fine,' two days ago.

Chris and Vin had then dogged the gamblers every step, making sure he rested. 'In truth,' the con-man thought. 'It's vast improvement from what I expected.' The fact that the men seemed to care when he was hurt was a vast improvement on his last enforced confinement. 'Well, JD and Buck had seemed their usual affable self in that they sought out his company, but Nathan and Josiah had not been seen since...' he mused.

"Damn." he muttered softly, as he tried to shuffle his cards without hurting his shoulder wincing as some of the cards fell from his shaky fingers. 'No.' Ezra thought. 'I've hadn't seen Josiah or Nathan since the healers diagnosis. Josiah I couldn't remember when I saw him. God was it hot in here?' he wondered, trying to loosen his neck tie. 'Was it Before I was shot?' "Damn." Ezra repeated, it was just too hard to think clearly. Closing his eyes he tried to think of what had happened, but he couldn't remember much, just vague impressions.

He opened his eyes abruptly as he felt a cool hand touch his forehead whispering softly "Ezra?" Vin, Chris and Buck stood in front of him looking down at him worriedly.

"Gentlemen." he smiled, trying to move away from Vin's cool hand as he expertly checked his two wounds. He trying to smother the groan when he felt the searing pain of the soft touch of his abdomen wound.

"Ezra? That hurt?" Vin questioned, gesturing for Chris to feel the wound so he could gain his assessment.

"Stop." Ezra mumbled hoarsely trying to get away from the probing hands. He found resistance with the gentle, but strong hold of Buck. Ezra was faintly aware of the pounding of feet, his concentration however, was centred on the fire the two men were creating in his side.

"Jesus. JD go get the horses ready."

Ezra stared at his leader "What ?" he queried as the men released their hold on him. Chris ignored him, turning to Buck and Vin "We should take Ezra back to Nathan's, but his room closer."

"Gentlemen." Ezra stammered looking at the men trying to see what had made them concerned. Yes his side hurt. Nevertheless, he had had worse and so what if he felt a littler warm? Walking from Nathan's clinic to the Saloon can do that to you and certainly his vision was a little blurry, but he was fine. He just came to here to think that's all. Wondering in bewilderment, why they were already moving hastily, realising only too late that it wasn't them it was him. The last thing he heard was Chris' panicked voice of "Catch Him!"

'Be not the slave of your own past - plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self- respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and over look the old'.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"So what do you think it is Vin?" JD asked, worriedly from the doorway of Ezra's room. The tracker looked at the anxious expression on the boys face.

"I don't know JD. I think he has an infection on his abdominal wound." Vin responded gently wiping the wound. "Chris still here?" he asked motioning for JD to come forward. JD moved nervously into the room.

"Ah... no he and Buck just rode out to get Nathan." he said looking everywhere in the room, but at Ezra.

"JD you okay kid?" Vin's eyes swinging from the gambler and taking in the agitation of the young sheriff.

"I believe are young friend, is worried I may die on him like his mother." Ezra murmured, looking at JD who appeared as though he wanted to run from the room.

"How... How did you know?" JD asked plaintively moving to stand beside the bounty hunter.

"I wasn't always asleep, my good friend." Ezra replied, gasping as he tried to sit up.

"Stay down Ezra." Vin ordered.

"I'm fine Vin. Just a fever. It's actually relatively common. Just need to disinfect the war wound." He pronounced in between breaths. "JD, I don't plan on departing this earth yet. so don't fret." His voice weakening with the fever.

"I know." JD said helping Vin to remove the gambler's shirt.


"Since you want to talk Ezra." Vin said smiling tightly. "Wanna' tell me why you were at the Saloon?" his concern barely held in check.

Ezra closed his eyes. "I needed to think. I know something happened. But I can't figure out what." he trailed off.

"Oh." JD said innocently. "Its because Nathan knows about Jamieson." Ezra froze his eyes flying open and then shutting just as quickly. The only sound in the room was the heavy gasping breaths of the panicking gambler. JD glanced at Vin who met his worried gaze with a frown.

"Ezra. Breath its okay." Vin said. Bending down Vin continued to whisper a soothing monologue into Ezra's ear. 'Comforting him like he would a cornered animal.' JD thought as he saw Ezra's breathing relax. Taking a deep breath Ezra green eyes blinked open.

"He think I deserve it?" he asked quietly.

"Hell, No." Vin said, as he pulled the sheets over his friend. "His just suffering from an attack of guilt..' he continued gently. Ezra nodded as his body relaxed into sleep.

"Its over." Ezra stated firmly, sounding for all the world like a little kid trying to convince himself that it was. His eyes met Vin and JD's and a small smile crept across his face. "I'm not alone, now. I have brothers" he thought, as he drifted off not realising he had spoken aloud. JD and Vin stared down at the gambler smiles on their faces. The deep resonating voice of the preacher startling them from their thoughts.

"Not a truer word has been spoken." Both men turned to find Josiah standing in the doorway. "I saw Chris and Buck thunder past." he said answering the unspoken question, his tall frame almost filling the doorway.

Vin nodded, "Went to find Nathan." Josiah looked at the small man on the bed.

"He should be doing okay. What with all the food Mrs Travis has been cooking." JD said his voice worried.

Josiah nodded, "Did you clean the wounds?" he asked unwilling to waken the gambler. The bounty hunter glanced at the Sheriff a sheepish grin on their faces.

"Uhh yeah." JD responded. Josiah grinned lighting up his features, "Good." Vin laughed, easing himself onto the bed beside the small man as the waiting began anew.

Forgiveness recognises what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred.
A Course in Miracles.

Ezra awoke to find a dark large man grinning down at him, while another held his legs and all Ezra could feel was fear he wanted to scream but he couldn't he couldn't move.

"Tanner!" he heard one shout, Ezra was to distraught to comprehend the familiar name. All he knew was that this dark man would hurt him. He wanted to fight, but he couldn't move his legs. He couldn't stand and get away!

Nathan had just finished cleaning the wounds and cursing himself that he had made Vin leave, whilst Josiah had remained to hold the struggling man's legs. When he had noticed Ezra start awake he had smiled yet all he had seen was fear. Nightmares still real in the night. Nathan had seen it as a slave and so he had called Vin. Hearing the pounding feet of the bounty hunter and Chris as they ran into the room, from the Saloon. Vin looked at Nathan and Josiah then at the distressed hyperventilating Gambler.

"What happened?" Chris demanded. Sanchez noticed that Vin had already dismissed them with an ease far beyond his years. Kneeling down beside the frightened man, Vin began to talk quietly. The others couldn't hear the words but Josiah's words haunted the rest of the men. "there's a magic within us seven." He had said. Josiah quickly pulled Nathan out of the room sensing that it might be him causing Ezra's distress, Chris shut the door behind them. JD and Buck raced up the stairs just as Chris exited the room.

"What happened." Buck questioned. Nathan sat a distraught man on the ground with Josiah seated beside him, offering silent support.

"What triggered it?" Chris asked.

Josiah stared contemplatively at the other men. "I was holding him down to stop him from struggling." Halting abruptly when he saw Vin open the door to Ezra's room and motion for them to be quiet and enter. It was crowed, but Larabee and Wilmington glanced at each other concurring silently. Standish's business should be kept private along with his nightmares.

"He asleep?" JD asked, looking at the man on the bed.

Vin nodded. "When you held his legs, it triggered a flashback. Remember, the attack, Ezra couldn't fight him." Tanner admonished the Healer gently who winced.

"Gentlemen?" the soft melodic voice came softly into the silence that followed. "The event is in the past. I have endeavoured to move on and no one including a illustrious healer here is not to blame for my." Ezra paused, feeling the tightness of fear building in his chest as Nathan stood up. His mind recollecting the alley and the man that had loomed over him. 'He was so big. He had seemed to melt into the night. He could never..' Chris reached out and gently turned Standish's head's away from Nathan.

"Go on." He encouraged, having heard the slight quickening of his breathing.

Ezra swallowed fighting the fear. "Not to blame for my injuries. No one is. It is how the cards fell." Standish finished, attempting to even out his breathing. His eyes sought the familiar an comforting ones of Vin's who moved forward and sat down on the other side of Ezra. Both the tracker and the leader took his hands in support. Closing his eyes he knew that he had to continue, he it didn't want to see the faces as he told the rest of the story. But the matter had to be dealt, with if he wanted to function in the town again. "I don't remember much of that time except it took a long time to be able to walk again. I didn't have any strength with the fever that followed the beating. That was one of the reasons I came west to improve my health." He explained wetting his lips and sighing heavily before he continued. "The man responsible I don't remember, just how everyone said it was a tragic story... and how he hadn't deserved what happened." Ezra paused, opening his eyes and looked at the Nathan. Whose brown eyes were awash with shame the healer moved slightly behind the preacher as he saw a flicker of fear cross the handsome gambler's face. Ezra unconsciously tightened his grip on the men who held is hands.

Nathan spoke, "Neither did you Ezra" The Southerner's eyes met that of the black man and an understanding passed between them

"Your not responsible Mr Jackson either" Ezra returned. Jackson smiled relieved as the load that he had been carrying was lifted from his shoulders. Looking and Ezra he saw him smile as his eyes drifted shut, not letting go of Vin's and Chris's hands who looked affectionately at the gambler. Buck grinned as he saw JD wipe his eyes and gently put an arm around the kid's shoulders.

Josiah nodded as a father over his children. Passing a benediction and looking over at Chris he smiled "Magic." he whispered mysteriously.

Larabee grinned as he felt Standish's hand tighten on his for a fraction of second, signalling that he was still awake. Vin saw Chris's smile and responded in kind having felt the injured man's grip. Chris looked at his men saying knowingly. "Not just magic, family." Laughing with Buck who looked at his old friend and wondered where the dark usually brooding man had disappeared too.

In the hallway Mary Travis paused with the tray of food at hearing the laughter coming from the room and leaving the tray beside the door, she walked away with a smile on her face. Mary smiling at Inez. 'Everything is going to be just fine.' The blond woman thought as she exited the saloon and into the street as the laughter continued in the room.

The End