And The Rain Came Down
(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: 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 day spent indoors and out. This story takes place sometime before "Only A Hound Dog."
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: 8 June 2003
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org welcomes comments
Back to: The Dog Days Of Summer
And the rain came down. It wasn't especially hard, just steady. A drizzle of the sort that was celebrated by farmers, if it came at the right time. For Ezra and Mr. Chris, it just kept them indoors. Indoors in a one room shack.
Ezra stared in fascination at the leaping flames as he sprawled in front of the hearth, book propped up in front of him. He'd preferred the cowhide floor covering to his trundle bed for the daytime. It seemed less like being sick, more like just resting. He'd been sick enough in his short life to know how miserable that could be. Whenever possible, it was better to ignore sickness and carry on.
He looked down at his book and turned the page in the small volume that Mr. Chris had traded for. Lying there on his stomach, stockinged feet in the air waving gently as he read, he felt at peace. The story was an old one, Pilgrim's Progress. He'd read it some time past or had it read to him whilst still an infant, he wasn't certain which. He chuckled over the simple adventures and the naivety of the main character, knowing that good seldom triumphed in his own world. The crack of a bursting pinecone and the subsequent splutter of sparks had Ezra raising his eyes again to study the fire.
Mister looked up from where he was equally sprawled at the edge of the hearthstones, dark fur reflecting the fire's light. The big brown eyes held the wisdom of ages, Ezra was certain. He grinned a bit and Mister thumped his tail in response before dropping his jowly, heavy head back down onto large scarred paws. Twin furry eyebrows perked and slid as the old eyes watched his young charge protectively. With a large sigh, Mister rolled onto his side, ears flopping in abandon around the old hound's head. Ezra returned to his reading.
Two more pages slowly advanced with turning fingers, adept and slender fingers, agile and talented. Ezra paused to study his hands, letting the book fall silently to the animal skin rug, a matter of inches. With the mysticism of the young, he raised his spread hands to hold them against the firelight. He could see the red veins and translucency of the pale stretched skin webbing between his digits as he studied them with care. He marveled at the way his body contained so many mysteries, revealed at unexpected moments like this. Of course, he'd seen his hands back lit before, but had never had the luxury of time to contemplate his observations. With a casual and confident disregard for the dog at his side, Ezra too rolled over, and over, on to his back, his head ending up propped on Mister's ribs. He kept his hands in the air, now towards the rough raftered ceiling, examining the delicacy of their shapes, the fine long bones, the way they flexed and curved when he bent his fingers.
He did need to practice. Mamon would expect him to be sharp. Well, today could not be helped. Mr. Chris and he were housebound and Mr. Chris did not approve of Ezra playing cards. His fingers instinctively tightened into fists, just as a low voice broke the silence beyond his toes.
Ezra continued to stare at his raised hands, now fisted, as he let them turn and twist above his head.
He didn't bother to look over at Mr. Chris. He had been subconsciously listening to the man's small movements as his current guardian cleaned harness and tack. The smell of leather, oil, and wax was warm and comfortable; the soft rubbing sounds were comforting. Without peering back over his stomach and toes, he could picture the man sitting solidly at one of the two hemp-bottomed, ladder-back chairs that sat at their small plank table, a pile of leather straps at his booted feet, the tin of wax and long-necked bottle of oil on the table, some old rags in a heap beside them.
When Mr. Chris stoked the fire that morning, his noise had woken Ezra who slept on a trundle bed by the fire. The tall gunman gave him the news that the storm had set in for the day and suggested that they just relax and bide there. No sense riding in the wet when they got a dry spot, he'd said. Ezra had helped clean and tidy the small cabin after they'd shared coffee.
Once the small, low bed was slid back beneath Mr. Chris' bunk, Ezra had helped gather the leather bits from the stable, both of them skinned down to under garments as they dashed through the rain. Ezra had been unsure of this at first, not used to exposing himself with such disregard, but Mr. Chris said it made sense not to have to dry out all their clothing afterwards. Mister had stayed at the cabin porch, tail wagging slowly waiting for them to return. Dog had more sense than most humans, Mr. Buck had said to Ezra one time. This seemed to confirm it, Ezra thought as he dashed, skidded, slopped, and slid through the muddy yard over to the stable's sheltering doorway.
They'd left Trip well tended, with water and feed, the big black gelding's stall tossed with fresh bedding. Trip had nibbled at Ezra's ear until he hunched his shoulders up around them for protection. Mr. Chris had laughed and told him that if he stopped giving Trip treats all the time, the horse wouldn't be sniffing him up now. Ezra had blushed and petted the velvet soft nose that snuffled at his hip, where usually a pocket held some tidbit. No pockets today, Ezra had whispered apologetically as Mr. Chris propped the pitchfork back up on its pegs. The cold rain chilled Ezra. He'd felt like a drowned muskrat, coming in after that, smelling lightly of horse droppings and hay, some caught between his toes even.
Chris laughed fit to be tied when they skittered back into the cabin, dripping, feet muddy, arms full of leather. The look on Ezra's face was so breathless and sour that Chris just couldn't help it. Once they dropped their burdens just inside the cabin door, he grabbed a small hand towel and bucket, filling it with steaming water from the kettle they'd left sitting on the hearth. Offering the towel to Ezra, he'd taken a rag to wipe himself clean of stable droppings and straws. When the boy was done - a meticulous job, done stork-like on one balanced foot at a time - then Chris took a big old blanket and toweled Ezra dry. He was both rough and gentle, rubbing circulation back into the nearly marble white skin of the small, thin child, and then tousling the sopping, dark reddish hair into a wild cap of damp, drying curls. It was those wide green eyes looking up at him that turned amusement into affection.
"You're a mess, kid." He swiped the rain-slicked face with the end of the blanket, smiling.
Indignation flooded the greens, turning them brighter. "Sir, I do believe you contributed to my current appearance." Ezra lightly threw the used small towel into their laundry basket by the door.
"Could be." Chris barked another laugh. Ezra looked so outraged and tiny at the moment, like a miniature wrath-of-god come to life. I haven't laughed nor even smiled this much since Sarah and Adam. The smile slowly receded and his own hazel eyes turned introspective as his gaze shifted to the licking flames on the hardwood log they'd left burning in the fireplace.
Ezra lay by the hearth now, warm and lazy, recalling the change of mood with regret. He liked seeing Mr. Chris look happy and unencumbered. Most unusual look, but it was nice. He felt warmth grow at the thought that he might have been at least part of the reason for it. But then something had happened, and Mr. Chris had become solemn again. Given time, Ezra figured he could bring back that laugh even if all it took was looking wet and bedraggled. For Mr. Chris, he could do that. Ezra flexed his fingers out of the fists he'd been waving in the air. Letting his arms fall, he turned and squirmed up to a cross-legged sitting position, to face the man who now filled his life.
"Mr. Chris?" Hazel eyes came up again. At the resigned look on the man's face, Ezra automatically corrected himself, "Chris?"
"I wouldn't mind if it rained again tomorrow."
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