All The King's Men
(Little Ezra - Old West)
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: My usual, others please ask.
Summary: Nearly losing Chris brings changes for Ezra and how he relates to his guardian.
Warnings: NOT a death fic.
Author's Note: Number 16 in the series - a bit more than a year has passed since little Ezra arrived in Four Corners.
Completed: 8 May 2004
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org welcomes comments
Back to: Another Year Older
Anxiously, Ezra skirted the main street of town and ran pell-mell for Nathan's clinic. He dashed up the stairs, head down, shoulders thrusting forward, charging upwards. There had been so much blood! And Chris had been so still. Face scrunched up in an agony of fear, Ezra climbed.
He climbed until he hit the top step and Josiah who had apparently been standing there blocking the balcony entrance.
"Easy, son." Josiah caught the thin child up into his arms, holding tight as Ezra fought him.
"Let me go!" Ezra reared his head back and thunked it forward, intent on gaining his release, his arms pinned to his sides by the big man's hold. He hit Josiah's shoulder with no noticeable result. He began to kick wildly but ineffectively against the man's heavy body. "Josiah! I have to go to Chris!" Gone were the proper words, the politeness, the timidity that usually marked Ezra's relationship with the others. Frantically he struggled, finally wailing, "Please, Josiah, please?"
Swallowing hard, Sanchez kept his fierce hold on the youngster, as tears rolled down both their faces. He stepped down two steps, then lowered himself and the child down. Sitting on the top of the stairs, Josiah adjusted his grip on the child, settling the boy on his knee, hugging him close to his chest. With one hand, he mindlessly stroked the child's face and hair. "Sorry, Ezra, I'm so sorry, but right now, Nathan needs to try to help Chris. He needs to concentrate. We'd be a distraction."
Ezra stilled under the big man's hands and words. He listened to the lack of hope, looked up into the grieving face. He spat out, "NO!" and literally climbed Sanchez body, freeing himself by going in an unexpected direction. Up. He went up and over the top of the preacher, one shoe coming off into the man's hands as Sanchez tried to recapture Ezra.
Then he was free! Ezra sped along the balcony, his usually graceful movements marred by the unevenness of his footing as he ran with one shoe on, one off. He slammed bodily against the closed wooden door, hands splayed flat against the rough grain, tears still washing down his cheeks. And the door opened.
Vin stood there looking grim. He looked out, then reflexively downwards and into scared green eyes open so wide that they swallowed the rest of Ezra's face. Vin nodded slowly and stood back. Ezra took a deep shuddering breath, stole a quick glance over his shoulder, to see Josiah striding towards him. With a flick of motion, he faced forwards again and walked quickly inside past the tracker, Mr. Chris' best friend. He could hear shuffling noises behind him, murmurs of stiff conversation, but he ignored it all.
There on the table that Nathan sometimes used, lay Chris Larabee. His guardian, his friend, his almost father. He dared think that last now after more than a year. With a quick indrawn breath that he held as if exhaling might lose both breath and Chris, Ezra slowed until he felt as if he was walking underwater.
Jackson had stripped the man from the waist up, and opened his trousers, pulling long johns and pants down to narrow hips. Buck Wilmington stood at the head of the table, braced there, hands pressing down, holding Larabee's shoulders flat on the table, Chris' head tight against Buck's stomach. Ezra took it all in, seeing JD braced at the foot of the table, holding tightly to Chris' still booted feet and legs. Mr. Nathan had bunches of rags piled around Chris' side and was digging into his body with his probe. Blood seeped through the rags and dripped on to the wooden plank floor.
Ezra slid up next to Buck and reached down to take Chris' nearest hand. The hand and arm lay, limp and unmoving, hanging off the edge of the table. Ezra lifted up the heavy hand and held it between his small ones, pressing it to his bony chest, his fingers automatically massaging the big, strong hand.
With a last horrified look at Nathan Jackson's primitive surgical methods, Ezra turned to stare at Chris' face. Such a blunt, familiar face, so lax now, unconsciousness had robbed it of expression, strength. Tentatively, Ezra released one of his hands and reached out to touch Chris. He wiped back the straight cut blond bangs from Chris' forehead, feeling the heat already rising there. Gently, Ezra's little hand lay against the side of Chris' face.
"Don't leave me, Mr. Chris." He spoke softly, lips close to one ear. He patted the unresponsive face, longing to see those warm hazel eyes glow for him. "Please stay, Chris."
Ezra sighed, blocking out the soft curses from Buck, the grunts from Nathan, the muttered prayers from Josiah who must have entered the clinic behind him. Ezra kissed his guardian's cheek and leaned his forehead against Chris' shoulder, feeling Buck's big hand there but ignoring it. He closed his eyes, held tightly to Chris hand and prayed to all the gods he could think of. He whispered, "Stay here with me, Da."
He didn't hear Buck's hiss of indrawn breath but he did feel the man's hand momentarily release Chris' shoulder and pat Ezra on the back. Nothing was said.
Chris fought back from the darkness that had claimed him in the midst of the gunfight. The outlaws had tried to break into the bank and the Six were there to oppose them. He remembered dueling with two men who'd made it as far as the livery. Then pain. Harsh and biting. He'd spun away from it, colliding with the livery doorframe and then, nothing.
Now, though, he felt pain again, but it was dull, throbbing, no longer the sharp tang of the bullet's bite. He licked dry lips and blinked his eyes open. Nathan's clinic ceiling was his first sight. He recognized it from other awakenings, though none in a while.
He turned his head to find that he wasn't alone on the bed. A small body pressed close against his side, the side away from his wound. A small brown head tucked in partly under his arm, and as he began to shift slightly, he realized that he had his arm around Ezra, lightly holding the child. He curled his fingers into Ezra's clothes, felt the boy snuggle tighter with a tiny grumble. That brought a smile to Chris Larabee's lips. Boy never likes to wake before he's ready.
He turned his head the other way, to find the amused dark blue eyes of his good friend Buck watching from a bedside chair. "Hey Pard, good to see you awake." Buck spoke quietly, voice soft so he wouldn't waken Ezra. With deft movements, he placed a wet, cold cloth against Chris' lips, then removed it and helped the man lift his head and swallow a few sips of water from a tin cup.
Chris breathed out with a huff as Buck lowered him back on the pillows. He cast a short glance back at Ezra, then looked up at Wilmington. "How long?"
"You been out for near two days, Pard." Buck shook his head slowly. "Had us all worried. Nate didn't give you much of a chance to start with." Buck's face softened with a smile of affection as he looked past Larabee to the small waif curled against his friend's side. "The little guy wouldn't let you go. Mighty determined fighter." Buck shook his head in admiration. "He fought off Josiah to get in here and stuck by you from then on. Said you'd be staying, said you'd promised."
Chris unconsciously hugged the small body closer. "He's a good boy, Buck."
"I ken tell." Buck wiped Larabee's face again with the cool cloth. "Nate figures, since you held on this long, likely you'd make it. So all you need to do is rest and get well, Old Dog."
Chris nodded, but his mind was already off on another tangent. "He eat anything?"
Buck's lips quirked. "Some." He rubbed at his chin, eyes shifting to study Ezra's slumbering form. "Nate told him that if he didn't eat, he couldn't stay here. He ate." Wilmington slouched back in the chair, relaxed now that his friend was awake and clearly getting better.
Chris carefully raised his other arm, hand crossing his chest so that he could slide his fingers through Ezra's soft brown hair. Ezra stirred and lifted his head, bleary green eyes unsticking from deep sleep and trying to study the man at his side. "Da?" came out in a mumble and yawn.
Chris Larabee smiled, heart swelling with love. Ezra had called him that a few times before, usually in the middle of the night, after a bad dream, while held comfortingly close in Chris' lap. "Right here," he said quietly, hands stilling.
Life and light grew in those foggy green eyes, brightening and sharpening them as the mind began to find awareness. With a sudden gasp, Ezra bolted erect. "Chris!" He flung himself up onto Larabee's chest, short arms slipping easily around the man's muscular neck. Larabee could hear the joy and the satisfaction in the second, affirmative, "Chris," that was spoken directly into his ear.
JD strolled across the dusty street, then climbed up onto the boardwalk and stood next to Vin and Buck where they sat on either side of a small table, drinking beers and playing a desultory game of checkers. JD Dunne was content with his world at the moment, he'd had a pleasant ride out into the hills with Casey Wells earlier and just finished a generous lunch with Josiah and Nathan over at the restaurant.
"Howdy, Vin, Buck."
"Howdy?" Buck leaned back expansively in his seat and peered up at JD. "You finally learning the lingo, kid?"
"Ain't no kid, Buck, and yeah, guess I am talkin' more Western-like these days."
Vin grinned at the young man and then watched as Chris Larabee came out of the restaurant down the street holding hands with their little Ezra. His grin became a proud smile. "Chris is looking good."
Buck followed the tracker's glance and nodded, smiling as well. "Yep, our little guy's keeping close watch on him."
JD swiveled to watch the man and boy stroll down the far boardwalk towards them. "I don't remember Ez holding on like that before."
"Nope, kid," Buck spoke softly, smile still hovering on his lips. "But when things fall apart, they don't always get put together again the same way."
"Sometimes, they's better." Vin agreed with a nod.
The young sheriff puzzled on that while he watched Larabee smiling down at the small, bouncing child at his side. Clearly, JD could see the bond between the two. They both seem more relaxed, he decided.
Vin stretched and then pushed the remaining checkers over to Buck. "I'm through," he said, rising and rolling his shoulders, pulling his slouch hat up. Tugging the brim down he stood up and leaned against the nearest support post, still watching their two friends' approach. Yep, they both looked good, happier than he'd ever seen either of them. Vin felt lighter, happier himself, just watching them.
Buck nodded to Vin as the younger man dropped out of their lazy match. He sprawled back and quietly observed the others. Both Vin and JD were half-smiling now as they watched Chris and his boy.
Buck's heart hurt a bit. He missed Sarah and Adam. He knew that Chris did too. Ezra Standish was not a replacement for them, Buck knew, but he had found a place in Chris Larabee's life. There's love there. Buck thought about the heart-felt cry from the boy when they all thought that Chris might not make it through Nathan's surgery, no less the night, "Da!" Oh, lord, Old Dog, you got him now. And he's got you.
Nope, things didn't get put back together like before. He watched Ezra jump down the steps to the street, feet together on each hop, one arm stretched long to keep hold of the gunfighter's hand as the tall man took big steps to keep up. Buck grinned. Not the same, nope, they were better. Wilmington uncurled from his seat and dropped down on to the street to go meet his friends.
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