Magnificent Seven Old West
End of the Rainbow

by Mods

For Linda and Judy. Comments very welcome.

Ezra let the cards glide through his fingers one more time as he studied the nearly empty saloon. His red coat was hanging over the back of his chair and since he was without his hidden Derringer tonight he could be quite comfortable in just his spotless white shirt and waistcoat. The feel of the deck of cards in his hand was so familiar to him that he barely gave a thought to what he was doing as he shuffled and re-shuffled the deck a hundred different ways. It was all reflex action and it always had a calming effect on him.

Lately he had been bothered by a curious feeling of restlessness. It was almost equal in strength to the feeling of boredom that had also beset him of late. In the last ten years of his life he had never stayed for so long in a town that offered so little to him in ways of economic and intellectual stimulation as Four Corners did. Why was he staying on?

He looked up as the doors swung open. Vin Tanner stepped in and went over to the bardisk to order a drink. Well, well, Ezra thought to himself. There was one of at least six reasons he stayed. If he decided to leave he would have to explain why and he had no doubt that they would all think less of him for it, although why that should make a difference to him he really couldn't say.

He knew them well enough now to be able to anticipate their reactions if he suddenly decided to announce his intentions to leave. Buck would probably say something unpleasant to him but Vin Tanner wouldn't say anything at all. He'd probably just give Ezra one of those looks of his, a look that said he had expected Ezra to run out on them again, sooner rather than later. Ezra definitely wouldn't give that longhaired ruffian the satisfaction of being right when it came to this.

Ezra had a talent for reading his opponents and devising ways to surprise them and strike at them unexpectedly, it had always rendered him successful at card games. He'd stay longer than any of them or he'd just leave in the night without saying anything at all, either way would show them that they hadn't quite figured him out yet.

If only life could be as structured as a good game of poker. Where you knew how the deck was stacked and you could always bluff yourself out of tricky situations if you didn't have the right cards. But then - wasn't that the way he usually handled problems, even those not related to cards?

Startled, he looked up as Vin suddenly pulled up a chair across from him and sat down at his table with a glass and a bottle. Ezra looked around. The saloon was practically empty, there were plenty of other tables totally free of occupants so Vin's behavior wasn't due to a shortage of available space. Ezra was in fact quite surprised to see him still on his feet, it had been more than three hours since his return. He knew that Vin had been riding constantly for at least eight hours to get back from his sojourn in the desert where he had occupied himself, with whatever it was he did out there, for the past three days.

"Care for a game of chance, Mr Tanner?" Ezra asked as he let the cards flow in a steady stream from one hand to the other and back again.

"No." Vin shook his head. "Just wanted some company."

"Then by all means, join me," Ezra said politely.

Vin nodded his thanks and soon was on the way towards his second drink. They made no attempt to converse with each other. Vin seemed content to just sit and drink in silence but Ezra soon found his curiosity piqued. He studied Vin when he was sure the other didn't know it and noticed how completely at ease he looked where he was sitting. Ezra had the feeling that Vin didn't trust him very much, although he had never said anything to his face. But then he didn't really know what to make of Vin either. Try as he might, Ezra couldn't really see how they had more than one thing in common. They were both part of the law in this town and that was that.

"Why do you do it, Mr Tanner?" he suddenly asked out loud the question that was most on his mind.

"Do what?" Vin said before emptying his glass and pouring another drink. He still looked relaxed, maybe even to the point of being a bit more talkative than usual. Since he was still bored, Ezra decided to take the chance and ask Vin straight out.

"You seem to like being out there in the wilderness with not a living soul to speak to for miles and savage beasts surrounding you. Why do you do it? What's the attraction?"

"It ain't so hard or so glorious as all that," Vin said, but didn't elaborate further.

"What is it then?" Ezra persisted and he could see Vin give him a guarded look as he tried to figure out the reason behind Ezra's sudden interest. Apparently he decided that Ezra's interest was genuine because he shrugged and just said, "It's simple, the same rules for everyone."

After a short pause he added, "It's calm. And it's clean."

"Clean?" Ezra repeated incredulously, thinking of how dusty he used to get after riding just a short mile. "Obviously our opinions of what constitutes cleanliness differs somewhat. In fact, I doubt that I could ever learn to see what you obviously see out there. I don't think I have it me."

"We ain't so different," Vin stated. "Ever see a rainbow, Ezra?"

"What?" Ezra asked, confused by this sudden change of subject.

"A rainbow," Vin repeated patiently. "Ever seen one?"

"Of course I've seen a rainbow. Who hasn't?"

"Well ... then you know."

Ezra decided right then and there that he had never in his life met any person more frustratingly difficult to understand than Vin Tanner.

"Know what?" he said, ready to just give up and retire for the night.

"Them colours.... " Vin said softly. "I figure it's like with us seven."

"I don't understand," Ezra admitted with great reluctance.

"When you look at a rainbow you see them colors all nice and divided and yet there are places where they touch and run together. You and me, we're like two different colors. We're separate, one at each end of that range. That don't change the fact that we're both part of the same rainbow and that we touch all them other colors in between."

Ezra blinked and tried to fathom what Vin had said in his uncommonly long sentence. Did Vin really see them all that way? Ezra's first impulse was to laugh right in Vin's face but luckily he curbed that impulse because Vin might otherwise have shot him on the spot. His second reaction was a brief flash of awe and then he felt almost humbled by the fact that Vin had actually included him in the tale. He realized, with a pang of envy, that for all his knowledge of words he had never in his life come up with anything even half as beautiful as the likeness Vin had just shared with him. He might have expected something philosophical like that from Josiah but Vin had blindsided him. The man must have the heart of a poet.

"Mr Tanner...." Ezra said quietly. "Sometimes you astound me."

Vin grinned at him and took a sip from his drink. The drinks must have relaxed him a little too much because he looked downright pleased with himself and Ezra found himself grinning back. Darn, it was contagious.

"Well, Ezra," Vin answered slowly. "I think you astound me sometimes too, only I'm not sure if I got it right what that really means."

"It means that you surprise me."

"Then I got it right," Vin said and grinned even wider.

Ezra collected the cards in a single smooth move and put the deck squarely on the table. The secret to good timing was to read the signs correctly and make a choice without hesitation. If Ezra knew one thing it was when to withdraw gracefully. It was time.

"It was an enlightening conversation, Mr Tanner. Now the hour is late and I must bid you Good night."

He stood up to put on his red coat and tipped his hat to Vin.

Vin nodded in reply and studied his drink for a second. Over the rim of the glass he watched Ezra stop just clear of the doors to let his eyes get adjusted to the dark outside and take a couple of deep breaths of the fresh air after breathing the stale saloon air for so long.

"Hey Ezra," Vin called and Ezra turned and took a step back into the room.

"Yes?" he asked with an inquiring look.

"You want to follow me out some time?" Vin asked. "Jus' ridin' out into the wild?"

Ezra hesitated, torn between accepting or rejecting the unexpected offer. He wasn't quite feeling up to making any decisions at all right now.

"I need to think about that, Vin," he settled for.

Vin nodded slowly, almost as if he had expected that answer. Getting a 'Vin' instead of the customary 'Mr Tanner' told him Ezra must have been quite taken with what he'd said, which wasn't so bad. For a second there he had almost expected Ezra to laugh straight in his face and he wasn't sure what he would have done if that had happened.

"You do that then," Vin said and Ezra waited a brief second to see if anything more was forthcoming. When he was sure that the conversation was indeed concluded he stepped back out on the boardwalk and continued on his way.

As Ezra disappeared towards the boarding house Vin went back to studying his drink. He had surprised himself as much as Ezra with his offer but thinking about it he found that he didn't regret making it. Rainbows were fragile, after all. You had to enjoy them while you could 'cause they never lasted long. But while they lasted they were sure pretty to watch.

The End