Only A Hound Dog
(Little Ezra - Old West)

by MAC

Disclaimer: I don't own them, or the show they rode in on. I wrote this for fun, and no profit is made from it.
Archive: Twyla's Very Simple Magnificent Seven Page, Starwinder's, You Want Fries With That?, and The All-Ezra FanFic Archive --- all others, please ask. Some of these stories were posted originally on the Ezra's Littleverse list, and hence also on its archive.
Summary: A boy and his dog, the end of days.
Warnings: Ezra is a little boy, all the rest of the Seven are their adult selves.
Author's Note: Dear Reader, there stories are listed as they were written rather than in a timeline of the series itself. I am writing as the mood strikes and fitting in my small pieces helter-skelter. If the series is ever completed, I shall attempt a timeline for the stories. For now, as I publish, I shall try to note if the story doesn't follow sequentially with the preceding ones.
Completed: 13 January 2003
Feedback: welcomes comments

Chris lifted the youngster up into his arms, careful not to wake him. He wiped the smear of dirt from the boy's pale little face. Ezra purely did not like being treated like a 'child' when he was awake enough to know about it and object to it.

But, right now, the boy was sleeping soundly. He'd run himself ragged running around trying to find Mr. McClintlock, Buck's old hound. The dog had secreted himself in an old rabbit burrow, sick unto death. Both Chris and Buck had been expecting something like that for a while now. They'd buried Mister at sunset with a silent Ezra in attendance. The boy had refused to leave the grave, sitting there watching the stars come out, Chris sitting nearby waiting, smoking. The boy had lasted until well past midnight. Chris settled him more deeply into his arms, up against his shoulder as he started down the hillside.

The animal had been showing his age these last few years, preferring to lie by the fire than go yip at the moon, liking to stay by Ezra as the boy read up on the meadow hillside rather than chase rabbits. The two had developed a deep friendship in the short time Ezra had been part of Larabee's life.

Chris had a strong feeling that Ezra picked animals over people for friendships, only this time it hadn't been a wise choice. No, that wasn't true, he thought as he shifted his hold on the boy, tucking the lad's head up under his chin with a sigh. Mister had been a good friend, loyal and loving, just was at the end of his string here on earth. Too late for one small boy who desperately needed someone to love him. He could feel the dampness on Ezra's face against his neck. The tears had been silent. Like the boy was, most of the time.

Ezra had arrived in Four Corners among the baggage of a whirlwind named Maude Standish. A fashionable lady who had looked over the tiny western settlement with open disdain, declaring loudly that she was only stopping while waiting for her appointed host to arrive. Guy Royale. Low life scum. They had made quite a sight when he arrived later that day, flush with apologies and flowers. Somehow, he'd looked with irritation on the boy among Maude's valises and she'd promptly waved him off as 'hired help.' She'd tossed him a few coins and dismissed him.

Chris had watched from his seat in front of the saloon as Mrs. Standish entered Royale's carriage with grace and dignity, a high chin and a gay laugh, never a look back at the small boy left standing in the dust. The wagon that followed the carriage was quickly loaded with her French leather luggage, but the cowhands had scratched their heads and shrugged over the boy. And left him there.

When the street was quiet again, dust settling, Buck had come out of the saloon scratching his chest and yawning grandly, a beer mug in one hand. Chris was still seated beside the saloon door, but his chair was tipped forward now and he was leaning on his forearms, chin jutted out, cheroot between his teeth as he studied the small boy crouching in the dry street, carefully retrieving a smattering of coins from the dirt.

Buck later swore that he'd nearly choked to death himself when he saw his trail buddy rise up and stomp down into the street and clamp a hand on the little boy's shoulder. The boy had simply looked up at the tall gunslinger, his face perfectly blank. Something, though, had happened because the next thing Buck knew, he was playing 'uncle' to Chris' 'da'.

He'd worried at first that Ezra was simply Chris' way of replacing Adam, but over time he realized the man had simply had the fatherly impulse to rescue the boy abandoned so easily by his own mother. Maude had returned three days later, in the company of Royale, asking after her little boy. Apparently she'd managed to convince the rancher that a child wasn't such a horrid thing to have around. Chris was out at his cabin by then, the boy having accepted the shelter and offered protection with no sign of fear. Buck had simply played dumb. Royale and Maude hadn't hung around long and she'd not looked too put out when the boy didn't surface.

Chris and Buck heard from some of Royale's ranch hands, sometime later at the saloon, that the fine lady, Mrs. Standish, had left for Kansas City with their boss, on a shopping trip. That had been nearly a year and a half ago now. Guy Royale had returned after three weeks, looking embarrassed and close-mouthed. No one heard any more about Maude Standish. Ezra remained quietly in Chris Larabee's household, cooperative and helpful, but never saying very much, and never, never smiling.

Mister was Buck's contribution to the boy's first night out at the cabin. Claimed the boy might be scared, even with Chris there. Too far from the town, no lights for a city boy. So he'd brought out his old dog, saying that a boy should have a dog. The two had hit it right off, love at first sight.

Chris gently laid his sleeping burden down on the small trundle bed in front of the fireplace, pulling up the two quilts he'd gotten from Mrs. Potter's store, just for Ezra. It was a moment's work to undo the small shoes and loosen the waist buttons on the boy's pants. He brushed back the long brown curls. Boy needs a haircut next time we're in town.

Maybe we should go in tomorrow, he decided, give him something to see and do away from here. Unconsciously, he looked back up over his shoulder, though of course he couldn't see the small mound of dirt that was Mr. McClintock's grave on the hill outside beyond the cabin. Yep, tomorrow they'd ride into town on his big black. Check the livery and see if there was a pony to be had. Chris leaned down and pressed a kiss to the warm smooth forehead. At his age, a boy should have a pony.

Ezra, In Between Index On to: Reading Skills

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