A Few Cards Short Of A Full Deck
(Old West)

by Twig

Disclaimer: Nada. Not mine.
Author's Note: I feel I owe it to the BrigaDears to declare that this story is NOT a deathfic, even though they're probably not gonna be that happy anyway.
Second Note: This story is the product of insomnia and studying the Hemingway short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," about five zillion times because of English class. There's a small reference to the Bible (Lot's wife), also because of English class.
Warning: One word: bitter. Everything I've written so far, even the deathfics, are happy to some degree, but this one.... urrr....
Not beta-ed.

The nights are always the worst. No matter which town he is in, the instant the door closes behind him, the instant he is alone, there is a sadness that descends upon him like a heavy shroud. He can't escape it. It's something he has come to expect, and sometimes dread. But there are occasions when wallowing in self-pity is the thing to do. It passes the time. Granted, it's not very productive, but one full day of stripping fools from their money more than makes up for the self-pitying sessions at night.

He doesn't like to call it self-pity though. No. There are bigger and better words for it that don't sound so... negative. Self-reflection. Ponder. A gathering of thoughts. And so on. He prefers 'self-reflection', though that is quite ironic since he can't stand to look at himself in the mirror when he's 'self-reflecting'.

Self-reflection always occurs during that interval when he's almost naked, from just after undressing for the night and before putting on his pajamas. He would lie on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling, and thoughts would overwhelm him. Sometimes he would go too off track in his thoughts and fall asleep before putting on his pajamas, and definitely before covering himself with the quilts. Of course, he would wake up in the middle of the night, shivering because of the cold, grumbling about the cold, and then covering himself from the cold. Usually, however, the thoughts would subside, letting him put on his pajamas and cover himself before going to sleep. There are times the thoughts return when he's safe under covers, but not often.

Tonight is no different. He stares at the ceiling, but not really seeing it at all. The cold air nips at his bare skin, but he hardly notices. The thoughts are fleeting, but the feelings always linger. Sometimes he wishes that he can just turn the emotions off, but he knows that if he can't turn them off by now, he would never be able to. He can never master the control that his mother always exhibits.


The dreaded word returns.

Mother is supposed to conjure up feelings of warmth, love, and other fuzzy words, but he can't manage. It's always just a tad out of reach. He can almost touch love with his fingertips, but his mother always pulls away just as he thinks he's got the intangible within grasp. It's a habit by now. A cycle neverending. He almost enjoys the pain. Almost. There's a certain exquisite delight in the calm, anger, pain, guilt, almost love, then dead mask cycle. It's a play, over and over again. A most delightful play worth seeing and acting over and over and over and over and over.... The script is fantastic, every line realistic and believable. No dime novel melodrama, only the best acting, almost mimicking real life.

He blinks and tears fall.

He can't feel his heart anymore. He thinks it died some years ago. If he looked for the grave, it would probably in New Orleans somewhere, before a grand ol' weeping willow tree. He loves the weeping willow. He has only seen one in his lifetime, but the one time is enough. Something about it touches him.

Willow. Willow. Mother.

He doesn't want to think about Mother anymore. It's a tiring subject, and it is rather late at night. But Mother is an all encompassing subject. Everything in his life, it's tied to his Mother.

Not the Others though. They are thankfully free from Mother. But not really.

He doesn't want to think about them. Or Mother. Or anything else. He just wants to sleep.

He's stuck. He's always stuck. He has heart. He has no heart. He's kind. He's ruthless. He's cruel. He's nice.

Everything is his own doing. Everything ends up being his fault. He can look away only for so long, but look away and someone dies. Don't look back, and yet he always does. And he wonders which day would he turn into a pillar of salt. At least salt doesn't have the trouble he does.

Salt doesn't have to worry about money. Or Mother. Or the Others. Or anything damn else either. He considers the merit of spontaneously turning into salt. He starts to laugh hysterically, and he knows that his thoughts have once again gone too far.

They've been doing that a lot lately. He wonders if he's going insane. Quite possibly. It's quite probable, considering the things that have been happening to him lately. The ruthless, slick, gambling rogue is now a pathetic, half-washed good guy. He's not ruthless enough anymore to rip the last penny from a destitute young man's hands, but he's not white-washed enough to be trusted by anyone half-way decent. Hunter-boy doesn't trust him, nor respect him in the slightest. And don't even bother to mention Mr. Dark and Moody. The rest... the gentleman 'doctor' is as biased as he is. Preacher man sprouts nonsense. The womanizer... is a womanizer. The boy... is a boy. Yet, the boy commands more respect from the Others than he does. It wounds his pride, but pride's not really his main concern anyway.

Salt, he thinks, turn into salt and maybe things will begin to look up. Salt, at least, is useful. He, on the otherhand, is a vagabond of no importance.

Isn't there something he's supposed to look forward to? Something? Anything?

Redemption? Bah!

He closes his eyes as the last tear trails down his face.

It's cold. Maybe he'll die of the cold, but that's just as unlikely as turning into salt. He laughs again, the sound bordering on insanity. He knocks upon the door of madness, but as always, They refuse to answer. Hell, as well, refuses him just as Heaven does. So stay he in this Purgatory: the fleeting daylight of distractions and mindless cardplay, and the nightly torments of relentless haunting thoughts of past and future.

The trail of hero lost, the happily ever after as out of reach as his Mother's love and the Other's acceptance. And the poor, handsome gambler with the dashing wardrobe and disarming smile falls asleep once again, losing the importance of his thoughts as countless times before. He would wake next morning with his melocholy forgotten and a new day of trivialities.

The nights are the worse.

But the days maybe even more so.

Goodnight sweet prince....


If you enjoyed this story, we're sure that Twig would love to hear from you.

End Note: What does this story mean? Well... it's a bitter thing stemming from personal life and from observations of Ezra's (yes, it's Ezra. If you're surprised, you should feel very guilty) behaviour in the early episodes, and even from the later (read: second season) episodes. It bothers me a lot how in "Witness" and "Sins of the Past" (okay, "Sins" is second season and this story is early first season), Ezra would burst spontaneously into hurt, pain, anger, everything seemingly pent up for ages, and hurl them all at Maude. Ezra, to me, is just a timebomb. Of course, there're other stuff that seems to indicate that he's perfectly normal, and he just lost his temper those times, but really, those 'temper tandrums' speak a lot more of Ezra. Anger is very real, very uncontrollable. Other times of calm can be a facade. From my (cynical, pessimistic, and thoroughly grumpy because of Calculus) interpretation, Ezra's bordering on insanity. He's just so far from going off the deep end completely. He takes a dive every now and then, but he pulls himself back together then acts like it never happened. Ezra's relationship with Maude is completely screwed, if you pardon my french. It's just absolutely insane, and on better days, I can rationalize and explain it away, but some days when I'm watching it, I wonder at Ezra's sanity.
Personally, I would love an in-depth episode on Ezra's psyche and Anthony Starke's take on it (oh he would have a field day with that!). Since Mag7's not on, I would have to make up for it.
Second Note: The last line is from a poem (or something else?) by someone that I do not know. The line is supposed to go like this: "Goodnight sweet prince/ And may flights of angels bring thee to thy rest." Or something like that. If someone knows who it's by, or the correct line, please tell me.
(Sept. 11, 99) After many helpful comments by the wonderful people of the m7fic list, the line I quoted is from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. It is the last line of the play, spoken by Horatio. The proper quote is: "Goodnight sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
What do you think of the Ezra/Maude relationship? Do you agree with my analysis? Think I suck? Go ahead and let it off your chest. Me and my inbox are waiting....


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