Magnificent Seven Old West

by Enid

It had been a long, busy day in the saloon, it had been crowded there all day. Inez had been keeping track of the money and they had brought in a lot today, she was haggard and tired, but the saloon was a mess, so even though she had just closed up, her day was not over. She looked around, dreading having to clean the place up. "Well senorita Recillos, it would appear you have quite a catastrophe on your pretty little hands," Ezra said.

Inez jumped a little, not realizing he was still there. "Yes senor, I do not look forward to cleaning this mess up," Inez said with a sigh.

"Well my dear, I don't usually engage in menial labor, but I can see how exhausted you are, so I will endeavor to assist you," he said and smiled. Inez loved his smile, it always lit up the entire room.

Ezra removed his Purple jacket and placed it on the bar next to his hat, then removed his derringer and laid it there also, then rolled up his sleeves. Inez watched him, she was amazed, because she hadn't really seen him doing any real work, plus she found his forearms to be very muscular, yet soft. She wondered how someone who didn't do any real work, could be so muscular. Ezra began going around gathering up empty glasses and bottles, while Inez wiped down the bar and began cleaning tables, with Ezra's help, the place was clean pretty quickly.

"Well, my dear, it seems we are making good progress," Ezra said. "

Yes Senor, thank you for your assis......" Her words were cut off by a gun shot.

They both looked up in shock, eight men were standing at the entrance to the saloon.

"Neither of you move," one said.

"Drop your guns on the floor slowly, pretty boy," another said. Ezra slowly unbuckled his gun belt and dropped it to the floor, then removed his shoulder harness, also dropping it to the floor. Unfortunately his derringer was with his jacket, he would have to find an opportunity to get it.

"We want the money from your safe," the first man said, pointing the gun at Inez, they had been watching the saloon all day, so they knew how much money had been made and who was in charge.

Inez began to move toward the bar, where the small safe, that they kept the money in until she could take it to the bank, was installed. Ezra noticed that no one was watching him, they had all eyes on Inez, so he started to make a move, but one of the men was quickly on him and struck him in the side of the head, with the butt of his rifle, Ezra slumped to the floor, Inez looked worried, she was alone with them now and she hoped that Ezra was all right.

Everyone in town heard the gun shot, so the lawmen began to gather at the jail. "I heard it come from the saloon, I don't know who was still in there, but most likely Inez or Ezra, or both," Buck said. "We have to assume that since Ezra isn't here, that he's in there, but we need to find out what is going on," Chris said.

"I'm small, I could sneak over and look through a window," JD said

"Ok JD, but be careful, we don't know what the situation is and it's dark," Chris said. "That should help us, they won't be able to see us, but since there are lamps burning in the saloon, we should be able to see in," Vin said. "All right JD, go have a look, then get back here, don't spend to long there, you could get caught," Chris said.

JD went out of the jail and across the street, once to the saloon, he knelt down and looked through the window. He saw eight men, all with pistols and rifles, Inez was at the bar, she was giving one of the men the money from the safe. He saw Ezra slumped on the floor, he couldn't tell how badly he was hurt, one of the men spotted JD and fired at him. JD ducked away just in time, the bullet whistled by him only inches away. The remaining lawmen came out of the jail, they were going to stop this now, the problem was, Inez could get caught in the cross fire, they didn't worry about Ezra too much, he knew the dangers of becoming a lawman, but Inez was an innocent victim.

JD got back to them. "There are eight of them, they all have pistols and rifles, Inez is ok, but Ezra was unconscious, or at least I hope he was only unconscious," JD said.

"Ok JD, we need to do something before this gets out of hand" Chris said.

"Well, there are eight of them and they are heavily armed, there's only six of us and they have two hostages," Vin said.

"Yeah, not very good odds," Buck said.

"No they're not, but maybe they will surrender, when they realize they are trapped," JD said.

"Well, most animals, when they are trapped lash out, I fear they will do the same, we need to come up with a plan," Chris said.

Back in the saloon, the gunmen knew they were in trouble, the leader started giving orders. "Pete, cover the back door, Tom, John, and Joe go upstairs, make sure no one can get in from up there." The men all moved to their positions, the remaining men covered the front.

"Well, senorita looks like we'll be here a while," the leader, Daniel, said to Inez.

"Can I please go check on him?" she asked, indicating Ezra.

"All right, but no sudden moves," Daniel said.

Inez grabbed a cloth, in case Ezra's head was bleeding, then moved over to him. He was still unconscious, but was starting to come around. His head was bleeding slightly, Inez pressed the cloth against it, causing Ezra to wince.

"Ezra, they have us as hostages now, Chris and the others have them trapped in here, what are we going to do?" Inez asked in a whisper, Ezra did not answer immediately, as he was trying to regain his senses.

Once fully conscious, he pretended to lay there, still looking unconscious, so he could whisper to her.

"Are you all right?" he asked her.

"I am fine Ezra," she said, but he could see the fear in her eyes.

"Try and get my derringer, wrap it in my jacket, tell them you want to put the jacket under my head," he whispered, Inez nodded, understanding showing in her brown eyes.

She set the cloth down, then stood up and walked to the bar where Ezra's jacket and derringer were, the leader was eyeing her suspiciously.

She looked at him. "I want to tuck this under his head, your man hit him too hard," she said as she scooped up his jacket, tucking the derringer under it.

"All right, but again, no funny business or I'll shoot him and put him out of his misery," Daniel said. Inez nodded and moved to Ezra.

The lawmen were back in the jail, with the exception of Vin, who was keeping an eye on things. "We know there are eight of them, so they probably have the back and upstairs covered, we won't be able to sneak in," Chris said.

"The only solution seems to be to rush them, but that could get Ezra and Inez killed," Buck said.

"If Ezra isn't already dead," JD said.

"Did you see any movement at all from Ezra?" Nathan asked.

"No, but I couldn't see him all that well," JD replied.

"Maybe we could draw them out somehow, get them on the street, where we would have the advantage," Josiah said. "Yeah, but how?" JD asked.

That was the question, they all became quiet as they tried to think, there had to be a way. They were all worried about Ezra, was he alive? if so, how badly was he hurt? And would he die without immediate attention? These were the questions running through their minds, making it hard to think of a solution to the problem.

Inez put the jacket under Ezra's head, for appearances, then slipped the derringer into his hand. He smiled at her, trying to reassure her, then took her hand. "I can't take them all with this, but I can eliminate a few, they may shoot me for this, but I am hoping they want their hostages alive, so stay clear," he told her, she had fear in her eyes.

"Ezra, it's too dangerous, you won't be any help if they shoot you," she replied.

He just looked into her eyes, she saw determination in his green eyes, so she nodded. Ezra slowly stood, acting unsteady, some of the men looked at him briefly, then turned back to windows, not seeing him as a threat. Ezra decided to go for the leader first, figuring the others might surrender if he was dead. Ezra raised his hand, aimed, and fired, killing the leader instantly, then swung around, taking out the next man that came into his sights, killing him instantly. One of the other men swung around to shoot Ezra, but Inez pushed Ezra, knocking him to the floor, the bullet struck Inez in the right shoulder, she dropped to the floor, her blouse turning red instantly, from the blood.

The others heard the gun shots and ran out of the jail, they met Vin in the street. "What's happening Vin?" Chris asked.

"Not sure, I heard 3 gun shots, but it's not easy to see inside, I know I saw at least one of their men go down, so there is at least one less, other than that, I don't know what's going on," Vin replied.

Chris looked toward the saloon, he really wanted to know what the hell was going on in there. He strode over to the front of the saloon. "You in there, why don't you surrender, before this gets out of hand," he yelled.

A man came to the swinging doors. "No, you clear your men away and let us go free, or we will start sending bodies, we may have one for you already, so do what we want," he said.

"We can't let you do that," Chris said.

"Then we will wait until you do, if this hostage dies, it will be on your hands," he replied, then moved away from the doors Chris went back to the others.

"Well, we know one of them is hurt then, probably Ezra, since JD saw him on the floor," Buck said.

"Yeah, I just hope he isn't in as bad of shape as they lead us to believe," Chris said. They stayed out on the street, talking for a few minutes, then JD and Buck headed for the back of the saloon, to cover it, in case they tried to get out that way and Vin and Nathan headed for the rooftops across from the saloon, so they could see what was going on, hoping some of them would make the mistake of stepping in front of a window. Chris and Josiah stayed down on the street, waiting for something to happen, that was all they could do was wait for an opening.

Ezra sat up, confused for a moment at what had happened. One of the men had his gun on him "Don't you move Mister," he said.

Ezra looked at him, giving him a very icy stare, then looked around. He saw Inez laying on the floor unconscious and bleeding, Ezra moved to go to her, but the man standing over him said, "I said don't move."

"Shoot me if you want, but I am going to help her, I can't believe you shot her you bastard," he said with venom, then moved to her side. He saw the bullet wound to her shoulder, it was bleeding heavily and there was no exit wound, he picked up the cloth that she had used earlier and placed it on her shoulder, then pressed hard to get the bleeding stopped, Inez moaned at the pain. She was alive, thank God, Ezra thought.

"Inez, why did you do that?" he asked, knowing he would not get an answer right now, but he could not believe what had happened, it was all his fault. He was not going to let her die, he would do whatever he had to, to save her. As he continued to press on her shoulder, she moaned again, she was in such pain and he was responsible. "Inez, I am sorry, I know it hurts, but I don't have a choice" He said, he should have known better than to try something like that with her around, she could have been a target, he had never expected her to push him out of the way.

"Look Mister, I didn't mean to shoot her, she got in the way, so don't blame me for this," the man said.

"Don't worry, I blame myself," Ezra mumbled. He brushed hair from Inez's forehead, then bent and kissed her forehead. "I am so sorry Inez, this is all my fault, if you die, I will never forgive myself," Ezra whispered to her.

"Ezra?" Inez said weakly.

"Shh, Inez don't try to talk, save your strength. Why did you do that?" he asked again.

"I couldn't let them shoot you Ezra, I care about you too much and I was afraid you would be killed," she whispered, then fell silent again. Ezra kissed her forehead again.

The gunmen had been somewhat at a loss for what to do, since their leader was dead, but his right hand man took over, moving to the doors when the man outside yelled in, telling that man what they wanted. Then things settled down again, one of the men was told to watch the gambler, not letting him out of his sight, he was obviously a clever one. Right now the gamblers attention was on the woman, who he regretted being shot, but it was too late now. He watched the man tend her, they were obviously close, he seemed very upset and guilty about what happened. If the gambler made even one wrong move, he would be knocked out again, they wouldn't shoot him, they needed the hostages, but they didn't want him to know that.

He walked over to him. "How is she?" he asked.

"How do you think she is, she is dying, I can't get the bleeding stopped," Ezra spat.

"I am sorry this happened, but she stepped in the way, you should not have tried that stunt," he replied.

"Well, I killed two of your men, including your leader, didn't I," Ezra said, his voice becoming more strained with anger and guilt. The man, who's name was Carlos, moved back away, letting Ezra tend to Inez. Ezra was very concerned, Inez was so still, he checked her pulse again, she was alive, but the pulse seemed weaker. It had taken him time, pressing hard, to finally get the bleeding to a minimum. He had gotten some more cloth's and bandaged her shoulder up as best he could. Right then all he could do was keep her comfortable. He was sitting on the floor with her head in his lap and stroking her hair, whispering "I am so sorry Inez," over and over again. The guilt he felt was beginning to consume him and his anger over the situation, also grew. Every time he looked her, his heart felt like it was being squeezed, he hated himself for letting this happen.

His mind began to work on solutions to this hostage situation, all of his ideas were fool hearty and would end up getting him killed, but he didn't care. He was going to find one that he would act upon. He began to wonder what the others were doing, he heard Chris demanding they surrender, but that was all he knew. He decided he was going to have to eliminate as many of the men as he could, then hope the others would just storm the place. He knew that could be death to he and Inez, but he wasn't sure if Inez was going to live anyway and right now he didn't care if he died, because it should be him lying here, instead of Inez. He bent and kissed her forehead again, whispering, "I am sorry Inez," again.

The others were beginning to get frustrated, nothing was happening and they were going stir crazy. They wanted to know what was going on inside, since daylight had arrived a few hours ago, they could see things a little better, Vin was trying to see inside with his spy glass, but so far couldn't tell anything, except that there was at least still six of their men, if not more. Buck and JD were impatiently waiting out in back, they were starting to think they should try to go in from there, they knew the back was probably covered, but probably only by one man, they might be able to take him without the others knowing. Josiah came around the back at that moment.

"Chris sent me to tell you guys not to do anything stupid, he said if we are patient, we will get an opening to make a move," he said.

"Damn, is Chris a mind reader or something?" Buck asked.

"No Buck, Chris just knows you too well," JD said and laughed. Josiah then left again and Buck decided not to do anything right now.

Inez began to stir, Ezra bent down toward her face, watching for her to wake, he hoped she would. After several minutes she slowly opened her eyes. "Ezra?" she whispered. "Shhhh, Inez don't speak, you are very weak and lost a lot of blood," he replied.

"Ezra, I don't.....want to.........die," she said weakly, Ezra's heart broke at her words, this was his fault.

"I will die before I let that happen Inez," he said, she looked into his piercing green eyes, what she saw made her sad, his eyes were filled with pain and guilt, she felt so bad, because it wasn't his fault, she had done what she did on her own, but she knew as stubborn as Ezra was, she would not be able to convince him of that and she was too weak to try.

"Ezra, please hold me, I feel so cold," she said.

Ezra pulled her closer to him, then took his jacket and placed it over her. "I am sorry Inez, I should never have let this happen, is there anything you need?" he asked.

"Just you, please stay with me, I am afraid I am dying," she said.

"No, you are not dying, the bleeding is stopped and your wound is bandaged, so it won't get infected, you just have to get your strength back, so go back to sleep, I will be here," he said, kissing her on the forehead again, she closed her eyes and was out again. Ezra lowered her to the floor, he was going to take action. He stood up, pretending to stretch, the man with Ezra's guns was standing only a few feet away and his guns were on the table, he was going to lunge at the man and grab a gun as he did. The new leader had looked at him when he first stood, but saw that he was just stretching, Ezra made a move to look like he was sitting back down, so the leader looked away again, that is when Ezra made his lunge.

Ezra lunged at the man, pulling his shoulder harness off the table as he did, he slid it across the floor toward Inez, it slid under a chair out of view, good, he thought, that had worked, but then his world went black as one of the other men came over and struck him hard on the back of the head with the butt of his rifle. The men picked him up and threw him over toward Inez, he landed hard, on his side, cracking his shoulder blade. It would be some time before he got the opportunity to use his gun, if at all. Inez felt Ezra against her, as she began to wake, she was puzzled, was he sleeping? she opened her eyes and looked around a little, she saw Ezra with his back to her, she saw quite a bit of blood on the back of his head, Oh God, what had happened? she wondered. She tried to move, but it hurt her shoulder, she did it anyway, wanting to help him, the way he had helped her. Using her good arm, she grabbed one of the cloth's laying nearby and tried to press it to the back of his head, but the angle was awkward and she began to feel dizzy, she lowered her head back to the floor and drifted off again.

Carlos, the new leader, decided it was time to show the lawmen he was serious, he ordered two of the men to pick up the unconscious gambler, there was blood all over Ezra's shirt, from the head wound. Carlos thought that was perfect, if the lawmen saw all the blood, they would do as they wanted and let them go. "Bring him to the doors, then when I tell you, open the doors and hold him up for them to see," Carlos told them. The way they were holding Ezra caused great pain in his shoulder.

Carlos then moved to the doors. "You out there, we want you to let us go, we don't think your taking us seriously, so we will show you just how serious we are," Carlos yelled. Chris had moved into the street with Josiah, Vin and Nathan were watching from the roof across the street.

"Why don't you surrender, then this will be all over," Chris said.

"No, let me show you what your delay in letting us go has brought the hostages," Carlos yelled back, then motioned to his men, who pushed the saloon doors open, then held Ezra up in front of them, his head hung down to where his chin was on his chest, the blood on his white shirt showing brightly. All four men looked stricken, Ezra looked dead, but they hoped not. The leader raised his gun to Ezra's head. "Free us or we will kill him," Carlos said, then they all stepped away from the doors, tossing Ezra back over by Inez, causing pain to his shoulder. Carlos would give them time to decide, then they would kill the gambler and throw him into the street, it was a decision he would regret.

Buck sent JD to find out what the shouting was about, he ran to where Chris and Josiah were. "What's going on Chris?" JD asked.

"They are demanding we let them go, I don't think we have a choice," Chris said, this shocked JD,

Chris never gave up, but then he noticed the looks on Chris and Josiah's faces. "What? What happened?" JD asked, worried now himself.

"They showed us Ezra, he looked dead, but they indicated he was not, yet," Chris said. "There was blood all over his shirt," Josiah added.

"Looked like a head wound," Chris said, JD looked stricken. "So we let them go?" JD asked.

"Only if we have to, get back to Buck and let him know what's going on, we'll keep you posted on what we decide to do," Chris said, JD nodded and ran off.

Once back to Buck, JD filled him in, Buck was growing angry, if Chris let them go, after what they had done to Ezra, he would be very angry, plus there had been no sign of Inez, so they didn't know if she was all right. Buck was going to take things in his own hands, if something didn't happen soon. The longer he sat there, the angrier he got, Ezra was obviously seriously injured, there was no sign of Inez, she could be dead for all they knew, and they could not figure out what to do, this was a nightmare, he thought.

Ezra began to come to, his head was pounding and he was very dizzy. He moaned, then felt Inez's hand on his arm, he tried to turn over to face her, which caused tremendous pain in his shoulder, making him moan again, then he took her hand in his. "How are you Inez?" he whispered, closing his eyes as the dizziness swept him again.

"I am okay Ezra, how are you?" she asked with concern in her eyes.

"I will be fine in a moment, darlin'," he replied.

"Your head looks very bad, I was afraid you were dead," Inez said.

"No, I promised you I would not leave you and I meant it," he said, kissing her hand. Inez closed her eyes, she had never felt so weak in her like. Ezra moved closer to check her shoulder, it was bleeding again.

"Inez, your bleeding again, this is going to hurt, but I need to put pressure on in, to stop the bleeding," he told her with sympathy. She looked into his eyes as he pressed down, sharing their pain with a look. The action of leaning across her and pressing down, sent waves of dizziness through him, he teetered on consciousness, but fought to say awake until he had her bleeding stopped. Inez moaned in pain, closing her eyes and losing consciousness again. Ezra continued the pressure until the bleeding was stopped, feeling very weak now himself. He kissed Inez on the cheek, feeling his guilt rising again, then he lowered his head and drifted off too, the gun, and what he wanted to do with it, forgotten for now.

Chris had come up with an idea, if they let the gunmen think they were letting them go, then they would come out of the saloon and they would then have the advantage over them. He knew they would use Ezra and Inez as shields, but they couldn't shield all the men with them, so they would be able to take most of them. It was a dangerous idea, they could just kill Ezra and Inez, if they weren't already dead, but he prayed they weren't.

Josiah thought it was the best idea they had, but he didn't like it either, he was worried about Ezra and Inez, they would be in the middle of everything and Ezra did not appear to be able to take care of himself at the moment, they had seen no sign of Inez, they didn't even know if she was alive. Chris sent Josiah to tell the others the plan, they all agreed that it seemed to be the only thing to do, but they were uncomfortable with it too. Buck was just glad they were doing something, he had really begun to get angry at the situation. It would be a little while before they could put the plan in action, they needed to get everyone up on the plan and what everyone would do, they were not going to do this until everything was set up just right, there would be no second chance.

Carlos was going to give it another hour, then he was going to tell the lawmen to let them go, if they didn't, he would put a bullet in the gambler's head, right there in front of them and throw him in the street. He was getting more and more angry with the situation, this was supposed to be a simple robbery, now it had turned into this mess, that was quickly getting out of hand. They had lost two men, including the original leader, that gambler fella was causing nothing but trouble, luckily he was out of commission, at least for now, but he knew he would regain consciousness before long, then he would be causing more trouble, no doubt. He turned and looked at the unconscious gambler, thinking that by appearances, he didn't look very threatening, but apparently appearances were deceiving. Ezra watched through half closed eyes as the leader looked at him, he wondered what he was thinking, probably the best way to kill him, but he was not going to let that happen if he could, when the leader looked away, Ezra reached for his gun under the chair, using the only arm that was any use to him, which was his right, his left shoulder hurt badly, he knew something was seriously wrong with it. He wrapped his fingers around the gun and pulled it to him, he took aim and fired.

Inez jerked awake at the gunshot, which sent a bolt of pain through her shoulder and started it bleeding again. She watched in horror as Ezra shot the leader, then shot the other men there, several more men came down the stairs and began firing, Ezra had somehow gotten to his feet, he was firing off rounds as fast as he could, but the man that had been at the back of the saloon, came out shooting, he hit Ezra in the stomach and Ezra dropped to the floor, moaning in pain. It was all over in a matter of seconds, there were only three gunmen left, the leader was still alive, Ezra had only winged him, but now Ezra had been shot. Inez felt fear coursing through her, she had a feeling of dread wash over her, she knew they were going to die. She reached for Ezra, trying to see how badly he was hurt, she was so afraid for him now, he had enough injuries as it was, now to be shot. She felt her feelings become tangled up, she cared for Ezra a great deal, but now it seemed to feel like more, she knew it was because they were dying, but she wanted to hold him and be held by him. She wanted this all to be over, she hated the pain she was in and the pain Ezra was in, she could see he was conscious, but he was writhing in pain and bleeding.

Chris and the others all came to attention when they heard all the gun fire, they couldn't figure out what the hell was going on in there, Vin watched through his spy glass as Ezra began shooting at the gunmen, taking down several of them, but there were still several more unharmed. He saw Ezra go down and knew he had been shot, he lowered the glass and closed his eyes, he prayed Ezra wasn't dead. He told Nathan what he had seen, Nathan was very concerned, Ezra had already suffered some severe injuries, now to be shot. He was also amazed that Ezra tried to take them on alone, that was more bravery and courage than he thought Ezra possessed. Vin sent Nathan down to tell Chris what he had seen, it made Chris amazed too, not to mention very angry about the situation, Ezra shouldn't have had to take them on alone. He was mad at himself for not doing something sooner. They were going to act soon, they would have to or Ezra would die for sure, if the bullet hadn't already done that.

Carlos was angry, that damn gambler had shot him and killed several more of his men, if he didn't need him as a hostage so bad, he would just finish him off now, but he needed him more than ever now, it was the only way he could get out of this and he was beginning to think he wouldn't get out of it at all. He was becoming frustrated, which just made him more dangerous, he was going to get out of this, somehow, he had too. He surveyed the situation, of the eight men that started out, there were three left, including him, God how did this turn into such a mess? He wondered. The remaining men looked confused and ready to give up, he had to do something. "All right men, we will get out of this, it isn't over yet, we still have two hostages and their current physical condition should be motivation for those lawmen to let us go," he said to them, they began to perk up a little, but they were still worried about the whole thing, it was out of hand.

Carlos really wanted to kill the gambler, he had been a thorn in their side from the beginning, but he couldn't. He did enjoy watching writhing around in pain on the floor though, that gave him some pleasure. The gambler was bleeding pretty bad, he knew if he didn't act soon, that the gambler would no longer be a hostage, so he began to think of what to do now.

Inez moved over to Ezra, despite her own pain, it was nothing compared to Ezra's condition. She tried to get him to stop moving around, so she could check his wound, but he was in so much pain. She finally got him settled, then unbuttoned his vest and shirt, pulling the shirt open to look at the wound, it was on the right side of his stomach, it did not go through, so the bullet was still in him, she grabbed the same cloth she had tried to use on his head earlier and pressed it to the wound, Ezra cried out in pain, Inez knew the pain he was in, as she had just experienced it herself, but it was necessary. While she sat there pressing on his wound, she looked at him, his eyes were glassy from the pain, which hurt her to see. She looked at his chest, it was rising and falling slowly, she noticed how muscular it was and again wondered how someone who didn't do any work, could be so muscular. As she continued to press on the wound, Ezra began to fade, the pain and blood loss were taking their toll on him.

"Ezra, try to stay awake, please?" she pleaded. He forced his eyes open.

"I am trying, darlin', I really am," he whispered. Inez could feel the blood flowing from her own wound, but it wasn't important right now, Ezra was all that mattered right now. She leaned up and gently kissed him on the mouth.

"Ezra, please stay awake, I'm afraid if you go to sleep, you will never wake again," she said, but it was no use, he drifted into unconsciousness. Inez kept the pressure on, finally the bleeding slowed, she then wrapped the cloth around him tightly to bandage it as best she could. Then she tended to her own wound, pressing hard on it and stopping the bleeding, it hurt tremendously, but she had no choice, once she was finished, she just sat next to Ezra and held his hand, watching his chest rise and fall, to be sure he had not died.

Carlos watched what Inez was doing, he smiled when he heard the gambler cry out in pain, he was enjoying that man's agony, he deserved it, Carlos thought. He had really grown to hate the man, he had never had so much trouble with anyone before, as he did with this man, he didn't know if the man was the most stupid man he ever met, of the bravest, but he thought it was the latter. He did admire the man's courage, but it was messing up his plans and he hated him for that. He had been discussing what to do with the remaining men, he decided to continue with the same plan, it would just be a little harder now. They would have to carry the gambler, but that might give them even more cover.

Chris had decided, they would storm the saloon, there was only three of them now, so it should be easy. They would just have to time it right, they knew there was no one guarding the upstairs now, but the back and front were still covered, but if they did it right, sending Buck and JD in the back, at the same time the rest got in upstairs and came down, they should be able to get them. Ezra was on the floor, so he should be out of harms way, the only unknown was Inez, they had not seen her since it all started, so they had no idea what to expect from her, or if she might get caught in the cross fire. They would put the plan into motion as soon as everyone was filled in and ready, again there would be no second chance.

Ezra began to come around again, his whole body ached and his gut felt like it was on fire, he could feel Inez holding his hand, so he squeezed her hand gently, making her look at his face, the look in his eyes scared her, he looked like he had resigned himself to dying. "Inez, you have to do whatever they say, you have to get out of this alive, my spirit would be disturbed for all time, if you died too, promise me?" he whispered.

"Ezra, stop talking like that, your not going to die, I won't let you, I care about you too much," she said, beginning to cry. Ezra reached up weakly and wiped her tear away. "Inez, please just promise me," he said, she just nodded and squeezed his hand tighter, not wanting to let go. He gave her a small smile, but it did not reach his eyes, which were becoming more glassy, Inez was becoming terrified that he was slipping away.

Ezra's glassy eyes began to close, Inez did not want him to go to sleep, she feared that if he did, he would never wake again. "Ezra, you have to stay awake, if you go to sleep you may not wake up again," Inez said, with pleading in her voice.

"I am trying, darlin', but it's hard, all I want to do is sleep," Ezra whispered. He looked at her and saw the worry and fear in her eyes so he squeezed her hand gently and tried to smile, but it didn't work, he was in too much pain and too weak. Inez was becoming more and more worried and afraid, she did not want Ezra to die, but she didn't know what to do to help him.

"Ezra, you have to fight, you can't die, everyone needs you, you are too important to me and everyone," she said, Ezra looked at her again, she was pale and obviously in pain too. "I am sorry Inez, none of this should have happened, it's all my fault, especially you getting shot," he whispered. "No Ezra, I acted on my own, it's not your fault, please stop saying that," she replied. Ezra shook his head, no matter what she said, he knew it was his fault, he had acted foolishly and she had been shot. He began to close his eyes again, Inez needed to do something drastic, so she leaned down and kissed him on the mouth gently, thinking that would shock him awake, but he just began to kiss her harder, then moaned, he was enjoying it, so it was not helping. She pulled away, knowing to continue would put him to sleep, so instead she gritted her teeth and slapped him across the face, which jerked him awake, he was shocked at what she did.

"I am sorry Ezra, but I had to keep you awake," she said as she caressed his cheek where she had slapped him.

"I understand, darlin'," was all he said. Then he looked at her again, her eyes were shiny with fear and worry.

Carlos had been watching the woman trying to keep the gambler awake, he was smiling at the thought that the gambler was slowly dying, he almost laughed out loud when she slapped him, this was too good, it was making up for the grief he had gotten before. They were going to put their plan into action soon, then he could enjoy watching the gambler suffer as they took him outside and used him and the woman, as a shield. He was looking forward to this plan, when they were out of town, he was going to kill the gambler, and dump the woman, he was a criminal, but he would not just kill a woman in cold blood.

Chris and the others had been going over the plans for the last couple of hours and were about ready to put it into action, they just prayed nothing went wrong, this had already been a disaster and had gotten out of hand, the fact that Ezra had tried to take them all on alone, ate at Chris, he must have been desperate to do something like that, he knew he had let Ezra down and it made him angry. Buck had voiced his concerns about there being no sign of Inez all this time, that was something that was bothering him too. They would be bringing this to an end, one way or another in a short while, then they would tend to Ezra and Inez, if need be.

Ezra was beginning to close his eyes again, Inez knew she would not be able to keep him awake much longer. She lifted his bandage to check the wound, it was bleeding again, but not heavily. The action of moving the bandage sent pain searing through Ezra and his eyes shot open. "I am sorry Ezra, but I had to check the wound," Inez said, Ezra was gasping at the pain, he could not take much more.

"Inez, if I don't make it, sell all of my belongings and put the money into fixing up the saloon, please?" he asked.

"Ezra stop it, please? your scaring me," Inez said.

"Just promise me," he said. "Yes, promise him," another voice said, Inez looked up to see Carlos standing there.

"Go away and leave us alone" Inez spat, she hated the man and would love the opportunity to kill him. Carlos backed away. "I promise Ezra, but your not going to die," Inez said, then leaned and gently kissed him on the mouth again. Ezra knew she was afraid and worried about him, but he could not help the fact that he felt himself slipping away.

Chris and the others were finally ready, Buck and JD were at the back of the saloon, ready to bust in and the others were preparing to go in upstairs. Chris prayed for this to work without anyone getting killed, they knew once Buck and JD burst in the back, there would be no turning back. They would all have to be in position, the timing would have to be perfect, but he knew if anyone could do it, they could. Chris had told Buck to go in the back at precisely 3 o'clock, they made sure their watches were set the same. Right now it was 15 minutes till 3, so in 15 minutes it would all be over, for better or worse. Josiah had said a prayer that everything would turn out all right, but none of them knew if Ezra and Inez were even still alive, or if they would come out of this alive, they had to hope that they were not too late.

Inez's attempts to keep Ezra awake had failed about 5 minutes ago, he had finally lost his fight to remain awake, it had been a hard fight and took a lot of strength out of him. He had been complaining of a lot of pain in the back of his head, the head wound he had suffered was bad, Inez had cleaned it, getting the blood out of his hair, it had hurt him tremendously and she discovered the bump on his head was huge. She hated causing him pain, but she knew if she didn't clean it, it would get infected, he did not need that, with all the other injuries he had. She had felt his shoulder as well, trying to figure out what was wrong with it, but all it proved was that it hurt a lot, she knew something must be cracked or broken in there. After Ezra drifted off, she put her hand on his chest, just to be sure he was still breathing, he was, but it seemed shallow. Then she began to look around at her surroundings, trying to see if there was anything she could do to get them out of this situation, she noticed Ezra's gun laying on the floor, she waited until no one was looking, then picked it up, she checked to see if there were any bullets in it, there were 2, that would have to do. She then hid the gun under her skirt, hoping she would get the chance to use it on Carlos.

She checked Ezra again, he was breathing, but his pulse was weaker, she brushed his hair back off his forehead, then kissed his forehead gently, whispering "Hang on Ezra, please?" She prayed he could hold on a little longer.

It was 3 o'clock, Chris, Vin, Josiah, and Nathan were at the top of the stairs and around the corner, leading to the saloon. Buck and JD burst into the back, taking the gunman that was there by surprise, Buck killed him instantly. The others ran down the stairs, guns drawn. Carlos started toward Inez, planning to use her as a shield, but he was shocked to see her pull a gun, he began to raise his up, to shoot her, but Inez pulled the trigger and shot him in the head, killing him instantly, Inez smiled, then collapsed. Chris took out the last man, now they were all dead and the situation was over, except for the seriousness of Ezra and Inez's injuries, their ordeal was not over yet. Nathan moved quickly to Inez, she was weak and had lost a lot of blood, but he thought she would be all right, then he moved to Ezra, he was a different story.

While Nathan examined Ezra, Buck picked up Inez and carried her to Nathan's, then when Nathan finished examining Ezra, Josiah gently picked him up and to carried him to Nathan's, the look on Josiah's face, was one of sorrow and concern. He got Ezra to Nathan's and gently laid him on the bed, making sure there were plenty of pillows to protect the head wound. Ezra didn't make a sound the entire time Josiah had carried him to Nathan's and placed him on the bed, that had he and Nathan, both worried. Ezra had lost a lot of blood, both from the head wound and the bullet wound, which he was still going to have to remove the bullet from, so he was very weak.

Nathan cleaned, stitched, and bandaged Inez's shoulder, she moaned in pain a few times, but did not wake. She was sleeping deeply, the events of the last day had left her tired and emotionally drained, she wanted to wake up, so she could see if Ezra was all right, but just couldn't open her eyes. She dreamed of the events of the last few days, she seemed surprised by some of the visions that went through her head, where had she gotten the guts to do some of the things she did, and where did these feelings for Ezra come from, she knew she liked him, he was very handsome, but over the last day or so, the feelings had changed to something else. She decided to keep them to herself, she was certain he did not feel the same.

A few hours later, Inez woke up, she felt tired and sore. She tried to sit up, but Nathan was there and made her lay back down. "How is Ezra, Nathan?" she asked.

"Not good, he has not regained conscious, he doesn't even move or make a sound, I am worried," he replied.

"He can't die Nathan, promise me he won't die," Inez pleaded.

"Calm down now Inez, I will do everythin I can for him," Nathan said "Now you go back to sleep, you need all the rest you can get," he added, Inez nodded and was back to sleep in a short while. While Inez had been asleep the first time, Nathan had gotten the bullet out of Ezra, but it hadn't been easy, it was lodged in some muscle, so when Ezra did wake, he was going to have pain in that abdominal muscle for some time.

It was almost a week before Ezra began to come around, even then he was groggy and sore, the head wound had been severe, Nathan was amazed that Ezra had been able to do the things he did, after getting it. Inez had told all the men everything that had happened, saying that Ezra was a hero. They were all proud of the courage that Ezra had displayed during the whole situation.

When Ezra finally began to come to, the first thing he said was "How is Inez? Is she all right?"

"Yes, Ezra she's fine, now just take it easy, you've been through a lot," Nathan said. "I am fine Nathan, now that I know she's all right, it was my fault she was shot, so I could not forgive myself if she did not make it," Ezra whispered.

"Well, no one thinks it was your fault Ezra, but she is fine, so get some rest," Nathan said, Ezra drifted back to sleep.

It took several more weeks before Ezra was up and around, he had his arm in a sling, to protect the shoulder and he would have some pain in his stomach for the rest of his life, from the damage done to his muscle from the bullet. It was pain he could live with, it only bothered him on occasion and it was not severe. He and Inez had a new, special bond, but the feelings she had for him were left unresolved. They had shared a small, tender kiss, when she knew Ezra would be all right, but that was all that happened, she would keep her feelings to herself and be happy with the special friendship they had, which was one of love in a way, not the way she wanted, but it still made her happy.

The End