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 #5 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.
Ezra gingerly stepped amongst the corpses where they'd fallen, not wanting to get blood smeared on his boots, picking his way to the table in the centre, untouched in the eye of the storm of gunplay. Upon the table rested the open satchel, the satchel that should have contained the thick fistfulls of notes that Ezra had already helped himself to, stuffed deep in his carpet bag.
They'd written him off as a lightweight, a grifter in over his head. They had no idea. It was too easy, to steal from one gang, to accuse the other, to steal again and whisper in their ears. All Ezra had to do was stand back and wait for the shooting to start, letting the gang members destroy themselves, sparing himself the ammunition.
He didn't really care which if any of these men had played their parts in the deaths of his family. As far as he was concerned he was a lawman, taking out the trash, and if he claimed their unclaimed monies, well, that was just his good fortune.
Upon the table in the middle of the room stood a bottle of reasonably good brandy, almost untouched, and Ezra helped himself to a glass full, swirling the brandy around the glass and then his mouth, washing away the strong taste of powder and blood in the room.
He plucked a neckerchief from the nearest body and twisted it tightly, threading it down into the remaining brandy. He hefted the bottle in his hand, mourning the waste of good liquor for a moment before taking the cheroot from his lips and pressing the glowing tip to the corner of the cloth.
His makeshift wick ablaze, he hurled the bottle into the far corner, watching it smash and balloon up into a boiling cloud of flames. He heard the swoosh of flame as it spread across the floor, engulfing everything it touched. Without a second glance back at his handiwork he gathered up his heavy carpet bag and walked away, flames roiling behind him, a dark silhouette seemingly cast from the very pits of hell.
"Did it bring 'em back?" Chris asked, watching propped up against a nearby wall.
"Why didn't you try to stop me?" Ezra asked, not realising Chris had been witness to his revenge.
"To be honest, I didn't think you'd go through with it."
They took a measure of each other for a long moment.
"Are you done here?"
"I'm done. It's finished."
Ezra had certainly finished it. He'd called all his business rivals together for a meeting. They'd expected his capitulation, or a formal declaration of war. What they got was a massacre. He'd killed them all.
"What if whoever's left comes after you?"
Ezra turned his cold, dead eyes on Chris. "I've nothing left to lose."
"You sure about that?" Chris nodded at the heavy bag that hung loosely from Ezra’s fingers.
"That's blood money," Chris observed dryly.
"It's my blood. I earned this."
Chris' face was lit by the fire, but his eyes were hidden by shadow.
"I don't mind you taking out a couple of criminal gangs as much as I should, especially as they killed your family, but if you keep on like this, I won't be able to save you."
"I don’t believe I asked you to."
"You won't be able to save yourself."
Ezra met his eyes then, knowing that he spoke the truth.
Chris tossed his cigar butt onto the ground.
"You've had your revenge. Time to let it go."
Ezra tilted his head. "Could you, if you saw her again?"
Chris looked away, not wanting to answer that, knowing precisely whom Ezra meant. He turned back after a moment.
"You were meant to be the better man. Let it be."
"I didn't ask you to play my conscience, Mr Larabee."
"You seem to be in need of one." Chris warned. "You take that money, that's fine, but you keep going deeper, you're going to lose everything: your self respect, your soul, and Buck." So spoke the voice of experience.
Buck's name seemed to spark something in Ezra, bringing him to life where he'd only been dead before. He glanced up into Chris' eyes there and saw hints of terrible things. Chris had fallen so far not even Buck had been able to reach him. Don't go there, Chris was warning him.
"You've had your revenge and nothing's changed. They're still dead," Chris reminded him brutally.
Ezra's eyes took on that mercenary coldness Chris had once been very used
" Something has changed." Ezra hefted his bulging leather satchel. He had his money.
Ezra considered the words of wisdom, but he still wasn't letting go of his money. He had Kansas City in his pocket, but he'd paid for it, hard: he'd lost his family.
Chris wanted to know how much more he was prepared to lose. Ezra had enough power and money for his needs now. He should quit now while he still had something left to lose.
Time to walk away now, Ezra agreed. He had his money, and as of tonight, a fearsome reputation, and in future he'd not dirty his hands with illegitimate businesses. From now on all his business dealings would have the appearance of propriety.
“We’re done here.”
“Done?” Buck begged to differ. “How can we be done, just because you so say so? Those men –“
"There ain't gonna be anyone coming for us," Chris remarked darkly. "Ezra killed them all."
"All?" Vin's face reflected his disbelief.
"He got them together in a room, then he just struck a match."
Buck went pale. "Ezra did that?"
Buck's anger flamed up. He got right in Chris' face. "If you saw it, why didn't you stop it?"
"I didn't think the man would go through with it. I always knew Ezra was a ruthless son of a bitch, but..."
"Now you've made him a killer."
"Ezra did this to himself. All of this. I told him, I warned him, he wasn't in a mood to listen."
Buck raged, but he hadn't been able to stop Ezra either.
“You promised you’d get him back for me, but you stole him, you stole his damn soul!”
Buck was ready to call Chris out, but Chris wasn’t even showing a hint of moving.
At that precise moment Ezra appeared on the threshold of the bar and they all turned. All except Chris, who studied the liquid amber in his shot glass.
They all knew. They knew what he’d dome, he could see it plainly on their faces. Ezra just stopped, backed up and then walked away without a word.
Buck started after him but Chris grabbed his arm and held him back.
"The man had lost his wife and child. There's nothing you can say to him. Let him be."
"And let him blame me the way you blame me? Like hell - I'm not letting this come between us."
Buck tore himself free and caught up with Ezra on the street, grabbing him and swinging him around to face him.
Ezra tried to shrug him off, then he screamed and hit out at him but Buck would not be moved or pushed away. He stood there and took the abuse, then he held Ezra tight, to stop him struggling. Ezra collapsed against him and Buck became the only thing holding him up. Finally Buck was rocking Ezra softly in his arms, consoling him as Ezra just hung there, unable to cry.
Chris began to wish he hadn't pushed Buck away after he'd buried Adam and Sarah. Maybe he'd had forgiven Buck a whole lot sooner. Maybe he'd even have forgiven himself and given up the bitterness that he'd clung to like a lover all these years.
They made the return journey by rail and it was a sombre journey. Ezra would not be comforted. He'd shut down and not even Buck or Vin could reach him. He just sat, watching the land roll by and Josiah advised them to leave him be. Ezra needed to make his own peace with his grief, and it would not come quickly or easily.
Buck watched Ezra staring out the window, at a loss. He felt Chris come to stand behind him and rest a hand on his shoulder and he was glad of it. Buck was still furious with Chris, but it would pass. It always did, and he needed his old friend more than he needed to be angry, so he accepted Chris' comfort, glad of it.
"I've lost him," Buck lamented quietly.
"Not yet," Chris promised.
Buck wasn’t so sure, watching Ezra, sitting apart from them, like a stranger.
The train had been idling for several long minutes at the station while goods and passengers were loaded on and off. They all grew restless and anxious to be moving again. Without warning Ezra rose quickly from his seat and left the carriage. Chris stood up after him, pressing a hand on Buck's shoulder "Wait here, I'll make sure he doesn't throw himself under the train."
Buck agreed, if only because his presence seemed to upset Ezra more than anything else these days, and it broke his heart.
Ezra stalked into the gentleman's lavatory and doused his face with tepid water from the grubby basin. He glanced up when he saw Chris appear in the cracked mirror, bolting the door behind him.
Ten minutes later found Ezra forced up against the wall, his eyes closed, cold paint flecks pressing into his forehead, Chris wrapped tight against him, jerking their bodies in savage time. He was deep in Ezra and each violent thrust up was as hard as he could make it, because Ezra wanted it that way. He'd known, with just one bitter green-eyed look, this was what Ezra wanted. Chris moved faster, grunting and grabbing all over Ezra, shaking and moving in shuddering bursts until he fell against Ezra's back, drawing a long and shaky breath.
They pulled apart without a word and Chris re-buttoned his trousers. He hadn't even bothered to take off his gun belt, so quick and desperate had been their encounter. Ezra dressed himself and washed his hands again. Chris left and Ezra followed, without a word being spoken between them. The train was still waiting and Ezra paused to light a cigar before stepping back on board. He caught Buck's eyes for a moment, and glanced away, coldly.
Chris watched Ezra like a hawk until the train lurched forward again, continuing on their journey. Then he dozed in his seat and Buck sat on the other side, fretting so obviously that the others couldn't bear to look at him. They all knew what was going on, but nobody dared to say anything.
Ezra slipped a tiny blue bottle of laudanum from his coat pocket, unscrewed the lid and took a sip.
"Don't," was all Buck said, tiredly.
Ezra glared at him and took another defiant sip.
That was the final straw. Buck stood up and walked away, down the long rocking corridor, alone, and still nobody said anything.
After a while Vin glared at Chris, who still seemed to be dozing, and then Vin pointedly got up and went to follow Buck, finding him out at the rear of the carriage, smoking, one hand on the rail.
Vin turned his face to the sun and the wind, glad to be out of the carriage.
Buck had noticed how Vin hated to be cooped up, and this journey home was more claustrophobic than most.
Vin caught Buck's appraisal and nodded.
"How ya doin'?"
A harsh laugh caught in Buck's throat.
"You know, I think you're the first person that's asked me that."
Vin nodded to inside the carriage. "Don't mind Ezra. He's hurting like hell and taking it out on his nearest and dearest."
"I know. The first time that little girl smiled up at him he was a changed man. He swore he was going to be a good father to her, and this happened. It's killing him."
"It's easier for him to blame you."
"I know, for now. But if he keeps on - I don't want to lose him the way I lost Chris."
"You never lost Chris."
"He can't forget he was with me instead of his kin, when they needed him most. Same with Ezra."
"It ain't your fault."
"Sure feels like it." Buck leant on the wrought iron railing. "I never thought I'd have to go through this again."
"They were your family, too."
Buck flicked him a look.
"You doted on hat little girl as much as Ezra did, and Charity, well," Vin flashed him a smile. "I heard all the rumours."
Buck smiled in spite of himself at the memory. "That girl had no shame, and I so love that in a woman. The things she knew -" he stopped suddenly. "She didn't deserve to die like that."
"No," Vin agreed. "But you ain't cursed. We've all lost people, but you've still got us and you've still got Ezra."
Buck searched his eyes, wanting to believe.
"He's here, with us," Vin reasoned. "And he's had his revenge, so it won't eat at him like it does Chris. He'll come good."
Buck gazed out into the distance. He wasn't so sure.
Vin followed Buck’s gaze. He suddenly pushed forward, squinting at the horizon.
"What?" asked Buck, leaning forward to try and see what Vin saw.
"Trouble," Vin nodded towards the dust plumes that meant riders coming in, riders coming in hard and fast, riders that had been waiting up in the pass for the train to come this way.
"Tell Chris." Vin nodded back towards the car. He and Buck exchanged a look as he unslung his mare's leg. More trouble, heading right their way.
Buck made his way back through the carriage, his grim expression making Chris sit up and take notice, and Chris' sudden tensing alerting the rest of the seven.
Buck leant real close on Chris' seat, hand already resting lightly on his piece.
"Riders coming in."
"About half a dozen," Buck started, then heard Vin crack off a shot. "Four or five," he corrected.
Chris nodded, the old fire shining in his eyes. "I like those odds." He rose out of his seat, ready for action, that old shit eating grin starting to curl his lips. A good fight was just what he needed.
His compadres rose up behind him and Chris sent them back through the other carriages with a nod.
"Ezra, you stay here with me and Buck. Vin'll try and pick 'em off but odds on they'll still try to jump on the back here. The others can dissuade them if they get by us."
"Get by us?" JD wasn't liking the sound of that.
"It'd be mighty careless of us," Buck agreed.