No infringement of the following characters and situations is intended.
Warning: Rated [MA] Mature Adults only. Contains m/m themes and violence
Title: Tennessee Waltz
Series: Magnificent Seven
Status: WIP #3 Part 7/9 Sequel to Fall From Grace
Archive: Yes to EBoS
Pairing: Ezra/Buck (some other pairings, suggested pairings, unresolved longings and jealousies)
Date: May 2002 - November 2003
Disclaimers: Don't own these characters, MGM and the rest do. No copyright infringement is intended or inferred.
Warnings: slash, H/C, extreme violence, m/m hanky panky, drug use, nudity, coarse language, adult themes
Spoilers: Season 1 & 2
Summary: Chris tries to spare Ezra the blood on his hands.
Nathan paused on the threshold of a particularly rowdy hotel, coming to a dead stop, forcing Chris to loop back and face him.
Nathan found it hard to say what needed to be said, but forced himself to meet Chris in the eyes.
“Maybe Buck’s right, maybe Ezra don’t want to be found.”
Chris ducked the brim of his hat, hiding his eyes.
“I know he don’t, but what Ezra wants don’t matter. We don’t abandon our own, you should know that.”
Nathan nodded, then unloaded his second charge.
“I can’t go with you. Where you go, I can’t follow.” He nodded inside the bar.
Chris nodded curtly. “I wasn’t expecting you to. I need you to talk to your own people, the maids and the livery boys, folks nobody notices, the ones who see more than they should. We might get lucky, Ezra might have gotten careless –“
“Around the hired help,” Nathan finished for him bitterly, but Chris had a point, right or wrong. Nathan would be better suited to making inquiries amongst his own folks, and they were the most likely to have seen Ezra.
Nathan peeled off and Chris was relieved to have that awkward duty taken care of. In truth, he forgot Nathan was a black man more often than not these days, but in cities like these, Chris was brutally reminded of their differences. He felt he had to remind Nathan of it too, in case Nathan ever forgot that not everyone was so accepting as the folks in their dusty little town.
Vin was already standing at the bar, drink in hand, silently observing and cataloguing each and every patron within the stinking, beer swilling establishment.
Chris came and leant up against the bar beside him and Vin slide a look at Larabee, as though seeing him through clear eyes for the first time in a long while.
“You know, don’t you. You know exactly why Ezra came here,” he accused quietly.
Chris’s expression remained tight. “I reckon I’ve got an idea.”
Vin studied him harder. “You should have taken Buck with you, I reckon he’s got a good idea, too.”
This brought a spark of temper to those eyes and a tighter set of the jaw.
“Leave Buck out of this, he’s been through enough. I owe him that much.” The last was an admission of guilt.
“You think hunting Ezra will absolve you?” Vin’s eyes were ice hard, seeing the weak and embittered parts of Chris in sharp relief and roiling with mixed up jealousies as allegiances and friendships shifted back and forth like desert sands.
“If I find him in time,” Chris agreed softly, haunted by ghosts, still too newly dead.
They glanced at each other, long and hard, then parted, going their separate ways.
Buck nodded to Vin as they crossed paths on the seething main street outside their hotel.
“Figures he’d ditch you, too.” Buck greeted, then he tilted his head, taking in Vin’s despondent appearance, the over familiar attitude of having lost something important, and the loss of it itching at him like a burr under a saddle.
“Don’t take it personal,” Buck advised. “This has brought back bad memories for Chris and when those demons are riding his back he always loses his best friends first. I guess he’s ashamed, he doesn’t want us to see that side of him, that dark, crazy side that finds weakness in a bottle and heat in a gun. He knows he gets as mad as a rabid dog and it’s better to just let him go than end up chained to him.”
Buck’s voice betrayed years of hard and bitter experience.
Vin, however, was still feeling betrayed. “A man ought to be able to control himself.”
“After his child has been brutally murdered? You can’t ask a man to ever get over that. I know you’re his friend but you don’t know him like I do,” Buck reminded harshly.
"Chris was crazy before he met Sarah, and he was crazy after. She didn't change him, she just held him in check." Buck met Vin’s eyes. “The way you do,” he added, his voice softening with affection.
Buck didn’t mean to pull rank with Vin, but the truth of it was that Vin hadn’t been there, and Buck had, for all of it, the worst of it. Chris had dragged him through hell and back, and he wasn’t about to let Chris, or Ezra, drag him back down again.
A shout of alarm from behind their hotel struck up and Buck took off with his lanky stride, arriving at the small knot of onlookers moments before Vin, seeing, then wishing he hadn’t, twisting his head away.
He knew. He didn’t to be told. Buck knew he was too late.
Vin crouched beside the body, reading it with a practiced eye.
"Ezra's work alright," he confirmed to a disappointed Buck. The small calibre was unmistakable.
"Damn him, he is going to start a gang war, just like Chris said," Buck cursed, watching as Vin turned over the body, recognising the face from an old wanted poster.
Vin stood, still gazing down at the body thoughtfully. "I think that's the idea. Those last three Josiah and I found, they killed each other. This one Ezra took out himself."
"So he -?" JD asked, unable to finish, breathless at catching up, staring down at the body in horror and backing up a step.
Vin nodded faintly. "I reckon this guy must have been part of it, for Ezra to walk right up behind him and pop him with that little gun of his. Ezra wanted this one up close and personal."
"So it was justice," Josiah agreed, not approving but certainly understanding. At least Ezra wasn't killing randomly. Revenge was something that they could understand, if not entirely condone.
Buck was still standing silently in their midst, lost and alone, unable to come to terms with the fact that the charming boy he knew had turned cold blooded killer on him. Not in cold blood, he reminded himself, but a killer, nevertheless.
Ezra had his man down on the ground. He stood over him, snarling, gun pointing straight down, ready to fire.
"Ezra, no. Let the law take care of him." Chris detached himself from the shadows to stand behind him.
Reacting to the voice on instinct alone, Ezra lowered the gun a little.
"A jury might set him free," he argued his case, gun still cocked and ready to fire.
"You're right," Chris agreed, and he shot the main straight through the head with a mere flick of his wrist.
"He was reaching for his gun," was all Chris would say on the matter, and it was good enough for Ezra.
Ezra acknowledged this quietly, watching the man die at his feet.
Chris holstered his gun. "I owed you," he offered.
That was all that needed to be said between them. Chris felt he owed Ezra and he'd take the killing on his own conscience. Ezra didn't need this vengeance weighing him down on dark, lonely nights. Nothing would bring back his family. Chris alone understood that. He wasn’t sure Ezra did right now, though.
“Thank you for your assistance. Now go away, Mr Larabee. I do not require your company on my venture. It’s something of a personal vendetta, as I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“Can’t do that, Ezra. If you do this, they’ll hang you.”
Ezra gazed at him blankly.
“You seem to be under the misapprehension that I care.”
Chris scowled. “Ezra, this ain’t you, it’s the grief talking. You want to kill them all but it ain’t ever gonna fill up that hole you’ve go burning inside you.” Chris stepped closer to make another appeal, his eyes still on Ezra’s gun, still unholstered.
“Ezra, you’re a lawman now. We can call it self defence, but you’ve got to stop now. We’ll get them, I promise you, but not like this.”
“I wish I could believe you,” Ezra uttered tiredly, tucking his Derringer away. “But I remember hearing once that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing yourself.”
“You calling me a liar?” Chris demanded, unable to keep his temper from his voice.
“If that’s what it takes,” Ezra shrugged, turning his back on Chris, entirely uncaring of whatever might come next, as he was dead inside.
Chris grabbed Ezra and turned him around so he could see his eyes, and he saw such a burning emptiness staring up at him, like an abyss.
He knew that emptiness, he'd made it a part of himself. There wasn't enough
death, vengeance of misery to fill it. Chris had stoked that emptiness, fed
it for a good long while until it nearly consumed him. It still ate away at
him from the inside. He felt it now, echoing Ezra's emptiness, recognising
it. He pulled Ezra close and grabbed onto him tight. He wasn't going to let
it take Ezra, too.