Yesterday's Child
(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: The past colors Ezra's reactions to the present in this little scene.
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: 17 January 2003
Feedback: welcomes comments

Back to: Two Very Private People

"And a penny's worth of lemon drops." Gloria Potter smiled down upon the little boy at Larabee's side. The child blinked and nodded once, looking uncomfortable, his sweet green eyes slanting up to check for the gunslinger's approval. She tried to hand the small paper twist directly to young Ezra but the boy put his hands tidily behind his back and stepped back a pace.

Chris Larabee observed Ezra's actions and didn't comment. The kid had to know that the candy was for him. He plucked the stuff from Mrs. Potter's hand and gave her a double eagle. That would pay for the supplies he'd picked up and the small treat. He hadn't been able to convince the boy to look at any clothing and for some reason the kid hung back when Chris suggested he might like a piece of candy or two. Larabee had ended up picking out the drops himself. Hope he likes lemon. "Here." He held out the now purchased packet of sweets.

Big eyes looked up uncertainly. Hands remained behind back.

"Ezra, I bought these for you. Take them."

"Yes, sir." The boy reluctantly took the small paper twist of candy. He swallowed, holding the packet as if it was fragile glass instead of a bit of brown paper twisted around a few hard candies. Green flicked up to meet hazel. "Thank you, sir."

"Sir?" Larabee shifted, leaning one hip against the counter, eyebrow raised.

"Thank you - Chris?"

The tentative question and the tense look made Larabee relent. He nodded once and smiled faintly. Then, he turned back to Gloria Potter. "Thanks, ma'am." Shouldering the old flour sack full of his supplies he turned toward the door, her warm response pleasant in his ear. "Come on, Ezra."

His shadow, as he'd come to think of the child, followed him out into the sunlight. Vin was leaning against a post outside. He nodded once to the man in black, then looked down at the boy who'd been staying with Larabee these last two weeks. "Hey, Ez. How's it going?"

"Mr. Tanner." The polite voice gave away nothing as the little boy nodded. "It is going very well, thank you."

"What ya got there?"

Instantly, the child blushed scarlet and froze, dropping the paper twist to the boardwalk. Chris, who'd started down off the steps to the street, turned at the gasp from Ezra. "Ezra?" The boy looked like a little ghost. He was staring down at his feet, at the torn paper wrapping and the scattering of tiny yellow balls of hard candy. "Ezra, what happened?"

Two small hands slowly crept up toward a mouth open in the shape of a small 'o' and covered it. Ezra took a step back, then another, his shoulders hitting the pickle barrel, forcing an end to his retreat.

Chris was becoming worried. The kid was like this strange powder keg, you just never knew what was going to set him off. Dropping his supply sack to the boardwalk, Larabee went down on one knee in front of his boy. His boy? Ah, Ezra, you seem to have captured me, he thought as he carefully and slowly reached out and took two thin wrists in his hands. He pulled down a bit, and held on. "Are you all right?"

A nod. Mouth closing. The open fear in Ezra's eyes sickened Chris. It had been faint when he turned around but now, since he'd taken hold, however lightly, of the boy's wrists, the look had turned to damn close to terror. "Ezra. I'm not angry and I won't hurt you. I promise." With a gentleness that might surprise most of his friends, Chris tugged the boy close and put one arm around him. Holding Ezra against his chest, he leaned in and spoke into the closest small ear. "Ezra? It's only candy, we can get some more."

By now the child was trembling, almost shaking. Vin squatted down beside his friend and the little boy. "Ez? Was an honest accident. No need to worry."

"I didn't mean it." The whisper was so quiet that Chris and Vin had to strain to hear it.

Chris gave the thin small body another hug. "Know that." He let go and rose to his feet, giving the boy some room. He'd quickly noticed that Ezra didn't seem to like being touched so he'd been very reserved with his approaches to the child. But just then it had felt right to comfort Ezra. Now he wasn't so sure. The look of terror had not gone away, just become more subdued, half-hidden by the child's cleverly blank look. A look the others had quickly labeled his 'poker' face even though Chris forbid Ezra from playing what was clearly a well-mastered game.

Looking up and across at Vin, Larabee dug into one pocket and withdrew a small coin. He tossed it to the tracker. "How about you take Ezra back in for some more candies? Maybe you can get him to choose what he'd really like."

"Can do that." Tanner cocked his head to the side and waited until Ezra looked up at him. "How 'bout that, Ez? Will ya come back inside with me?"

A slow nod was his answer. The boy edged back toward the open shop door, a hunted look on his face. Larabee and Tanner exchanged puzzled looks. Seeing that the child had disappeared inside, Tanner scratched his chin. "Not sure what's going on here."

Chris sighed. "No. But, got a feeling that life hasn't been too good for the kid."

Tanner turned sharp blue eyes on his friend and then swung to look back at the doorway, now empty. "You think-?"

"Don't know what to think, Vin, only - no child should be scared to get candy, and no child should be plumb petrified to drop some on the ground."

When Chris finished tying the supply sack on Trip, he wandered over to the saloon and took a seat next to Buck out front. Inez magically appeared with a beer and a lemonade and a questioning look. "He's still at Potter's with Vin. Getting some candy." Larabee sent a quelling look at Buck who chuckled. Not exactly 'gunslinger' talk. Shit. Well, that's just too bad. He sent another dark look over at his friend who simply smirked back and took a long swallow of beer.

Seemed like a good idea, so Chris did the same. Just as he was lowering his arm, he spotted Vin with Ezra trailing behind. Vin was saying something over his shoulder to the youngster who skipped once to catch back up in step with the Texan. He looks all right now. Chris felt like screaming and swallowed the anxiety and anger and frustration along with another gulp of beer. Won't help any.

As the two approached, he could see that Ezra was actually sucking on a long peppermint stick. Why couldn't he have said something the first time? Chris kept silent. The look of fear was mostly gone, though Ezra hesitated for a minute before climbing the steps after Vin. He arrived on the top step and faced the seated men. He pulled the long candy stick from his mouth and held it out, as if to show it to Chris for his approval. Deciding it wouldn't hurt, Chris nodded.

Evidently this had been the correct thing to do because Ezra then came over to the dark clad gunslinger and stood close beside him.

"Vin explained it."

The soft voice made Chris want to spin in his seat and grab hold of the child but he held himself still and continued to stare out at the passing traffic on the street.

"He said." A pause, then, "He said that you wouldn't expect me to do anything for the candy."

"No, Ezra." Chris agreed slowly, the shock that ran through him not visible, "No, you don't have to do anything for it - it's a gift."

"He said a simple thank you was enough."

"Yeah, that'll do just fine."

"Thank you." Another pause. "Chris."

"You're welcome, Ezra."

A warm feeling crept over Chris Larabee as a small warm body pressed close against his own, shoulder rubbing shoulder as the boy leaned sideways against him. And put the peppermint stick back in his mouth. And made a loud sucking noise. Chris' eyebrow went up but he sipped his beer, using his far side arm so as not to disturb his company.

"Vin said kids make truly disgusting noises when they are enjoying a candy."

I can see that I'll have to have a little talk with Tanner. 'Vin said,' huh? Chris squinted at the jail, watching JD out front of it, tack up a wanted poster over there across the street. "You do that real well."

Another slurping noise followed. Then a snorted chuckle from Buck and a little huffle of air from Tanner let Chris know that they both were finding this very amusing. He'd skin them both alive though if they made Ezra think he was being silly. The boy was finally at least trying to act like a kid. Let him be, he urged silently taking another long sip.

Buck stood up and thumped down his empty mug. "Guess I'll go see who's on the sheet that JD thinks needs putting up so bad." He tipped on his hat and with a wave was off, a cheerful greeting already on his lips for his younger sidekick.

Behind him, Larabee sensed Vin's movement then heard the slight shift of the man's booted feet on the sandy boardwalk planks. "Heading in for some shade and a beer, see you two later," a soft Texas twang murmured.

And then they were alone.

Chris took another sip of his beer. Almost gone. Then we should head out.

"Do you think Trip might like some of this?"

The softly musing voice was so natural sounding that Larabee wanted to shout for joy. Instead he just said, "Might."

Ezra, In Between Index On to: Coming Home Again

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


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