Alternate Universe "Immortal 7"
JD Dunne sighed softly, and squared his shoulders. Hed spent the last two hours looking for Ezra, and now that he found him, he wasnt going to just walk away. The man is sitting on the edge of the roof. And were up five stories for crying out loud! Cant tell me thats normal.
JD shook his head as he made his way across the roof. But then, the man could be on fire and still not let on that anythin was wrong. Would be a whole hell of a lot easier if he would just talk to someone when somethin is botherin him. Damn fool.
The younger Immortal wasnt sure the others had noticed or not, but Ezra had been acting a little off over the past few days. He couldnt quite pin down what it was exactly. Ezra had been quiet, withdrawn, and seemed to be avoiding the others, but from time to time they all got that way. Chris and Vin more so than the others. But, JD couldnt shake the feeling that whatever it was had to be more than just passing mood. So with his usual persistence, JD undertook tracking down his friend and offering to help with whatever was bothering him.
JD cautiously sat down on the ledge next to Ezra, doing his best not to look down as he did so. Unlike JD, Ezra seemed totally at ease, unconcerned with his precarious perch, his feet dangling over the edge, gaze focused on the slowly setting sun, occasionally sipping from the glass of scotch that he held loosely in his right hand. The half-full bottle of aged single malt sat silently between them. Wonder how long hes been up here drinking.
JD had expected Ezra to at least acknowledge his presence, but the older man had continued to ignore him. He pursed his lips in annoyance. Ezra had to have sensed him long before he sat down. Probably before hed even stepped out on to the roof. Every immortal could feel another whenever they got close enough. One of the first lessons Buck had drilled into JD after he revived from dying the first time was that it was best to be cautious. And paying attention to that early warning had saved kept his head on his shoulders for well over a century.
JD felt a flash of anger. I coulda been anyone. Ez should be more careful. Aint got so many friends I can afford ta lose one.
JD sent a dark look toward Ezra. "You plannin on jumping?"
Ezra turned to look at him for the first time, one eyebrow raised. "Why? Do you think I should?" Ezra sipped his drink, green eyes steadily regarding JD. "Its not as if a fall, even from this height, would terminate my existence permanently. I know you are aware of this fact. Were I truly suicidal, I would find a more effective means."
His tone was dry as dust, and the sarcasm was heavy. It was a not so subtle reprimand. And served to let JD know Ezra thought hed just asked as stupid question without actually saying so. JD resisted the urge to stick out his tongue.
He opted to ask the question he should have asked the first time. "Okay .so what are you doing here?" JD waved a hand, gesturing toward the vacant space in front and below them.
Ezra sighed quietly. He studied JD, making the younger man a bit wary under the intense scrutiny. Hate it when he looks at me like that. Looks like that when he spars. Gives me the willies some times cant tell if he intends ta take my head, or if hes gonna just play nice.
Just as JD was sure he couldnt stand being stared at any longer, Ezra nodded once, as though hed come to some decision. He took another sip from his drink before turning to look at the sunset again. "You are aware that the previous week was a difficult one for our reluctant leader?"
JD frowned. Last week? Hmmm oh yeah. Chris got himself blind, stinking drunk and stayed that way for three days. JD hesitated a moment, and then cautiously answered. "Yeah, I know it was a rough couple o days."
Ezra nodded slightly. "Do you know why?"
JD hesitated a moment, thinking. April is always a tough month for Chris. The first week in particular. Seems like it has been ever since I met him. He aint fit to be around then. So I just keep my distance til he works it out. Course, Buck told me why years ago, and it makes sense ta just let him or Vin handle Chris. Specially since they are the only ones who seem to be able to anyway.
"Adams birthday." JD swallowed hard. "An was the anniversary o his death too. Always hits Chris a little hard sort o always has I guess." JD added the last bit after he thought over the years hed known the others.
Ezra tipped his head toward JD and offered a tired smile. "Indeed."
JD gave Ezra quizzical look. "Dont see what that has to do with you bein up here though."
Ezra chuckled softly, and shook his head. He refilled his glass and took a sip. "Do you think, young one, that Mr. Larabee is the only one of our number to have ever experienced loss?"
JD opened his mouth, wanting to offer some kind of retort at being called young one, but closed it before he did. Beats being called kid. He decided to focus on Ezras question instead. Hed already jumped in once, and with Ezra it was always best to look before you leaped. The gambler rarely asked him questions that should be taken lightly. So, JD took a breath, and thought over what Ezra said.
Sort o makes sense given how long the rest o them have been alive, that Chris wouldnt be the only one ta ever lose somebody. Know Nate lost Rain. He still gets a bit down about her sometimes. Pretty sure Vin lost someone, but he dont ever talk about it. Dont know if Buck ever has, but I figure he must have. Josiah hard to say with him, but its a safe bet he probably has too.
"Dont imagine that he is, no." JD finally answered Ezras question.
Ezra raised his glass in a silent salute. "Now then youre earlier question was, if I remember correctly, What are you doing here?. Can you not hazard a guess based on what we have already discussed?"
JD bit his lower lip, and dipped his head, ashamed of himself for not thinking that Ezra too might have lost a loved one. He cleared his throat. "Im sorry."
Ezra nodded, and looked at JD. His expression was not angry or offended, but rather contemplative. "There is no need to apologize. You have committed no trespass, and have done nothing wrong."
Not sure I agree with ya there Ez. JD hesitantly asked, "If ya dont mind my askin who was it?"
Ezra smiled sadly. His green eyes shifted to again focus on the distance. "It was several people, young one."
"Several?" JD raised both eyebrows.
"I was married six times." Ezra stated calmly.
JDs eyes widened. "Six?"
Ezra nodded. He grinned, dimples visible briefly. "Do not look so surprised."
"Well, hell, Ez, you never said anything about bein married once let alone six times."
Ezra shrugged one shoulder. "You never asked."
Point. "Never thought to." JD admitted.
Ezra chuckled. "And there was never any reason for you to do so."
JD scowled. "Wouldnt hurt ya ta offer up some information once in awhile."
Ezra raised one eyebrow. "If you do not think to ask, why would I think to say?" Ezra shook his head, speaking before JD had the chance to answer. "Not all of us feel the same self-destructive tendencies as Mr. Larabee when it comes to dealing with our grief. I prefer to keep my remembrances private. Such behavior as Mr. Larabees only serves to involve those around you."
Ezra sipped his drink. "I also prefer not to wallow in my grief, dwelling on what was lost rather than what one has gained. I would rather remember that they were alive, than focus on their deaths."
JD felt a flash of anger at what seemed like criticism of Chris. "Who the hell are you ta judge? Seems ta me youre wallowing pretty good right here." JD nodded toward the bottle of scotch, and waved a hand indicating their remote location.
Ezra cocked his head, and stared calmly at JD. "You misunderstand me. I am not passing judgement. I was merely pointing out individual preferences, and corresponding behavior. Everyone grieves in his own way, and in his own time."
Ezra held up his glass, the amber liquid catching the dying rays of the sun. "And I am not wallowing, young one. I have spent the past few days reflecting quietly on my good fortune. And I am toasting the memory of each remarkable woman that deigned to agree to share part of her life with me."
JD flushed. Jumped too soon again. Got my foot in up to my knee. "Im sorry, Ez."
"And this time you have reason to be." Ezra stated calmly, some how making JD feel worse than if hed just snapped at him. He wasnt sure if he should stay or go. Already intruded where I shouldnt have.
The gambler downed the remainder of his drink in one swallow, and took a deep breath. JD was getting ready to apologize again, and simply leave, when Ezra laid a hand on his arm. He was surprised when Ezra began to speak again, his voice reflective and gentle.
"My first wifes name was Melissa. She was all light and energy. And when I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of her laughter. A memory I hold close to my heart to remind me that no matter how bad things become, there is always hope for better."
Ezra glanced at JD, before continuing. "My second wifes name was Angeline. She loved to dance. She was so very graceful, a beauty to behold. The first night I saw her dancing by the light of a full moon, I was smitten. And came to believe that there are still creatures of myth and magic that walk the world of men, for surely she must have been one."
Ezra sighed softly. "My third wife was given a name I could not pronounce, so I simply took to calling her Maya. She was far and away the most intelligent person Ive ever had the pleasure of meeting. It was Maya who introduced me to the wonders of chocolate, and every time I eat a piece, I think of her."
"My fourth wife, Alison, loved to work in the garden. Her favorite flowers were lilacs." Ezra took a deep breath as though searching for the scent of those flowers. "Every time I catch their fragrance, I think of her. She died far too young, and I still regret not having more time with her."
JD shifted, suddenly uncomfortable with Ezras recitation. "I didnt"
Ezra held up a hand, halting JDs words. "My fifth wife was a genuine challenge, and a constant surprise. As unpredictable as a tornado, and sometimes nearly as frightening. What I remember best about Catilin was her hair. It was most incredible red color that when it caught the light, it reminded me of flames. I still cant sit in front of a fire without thinking of her."
"My last wife was Isabelle." Ezra took a breath and smiled warmly. "She was well, to say she was amazing is to do her a disservice. Ive never yet met another who compares to her. She was the only one to ever learn of my true nature. It was with her that I had the most time. We were married for nearly 25 years, and it was nowhere near long enough."
The regret and sorrow were readily apparent in Ezras voice. "Im God, Im sorry, Ez. I shouldnt have"
Ezra stopped him again by simply laying a hand on his arm. The gambler sighed quietly. "It is nice to talk about them, JD. It does not cause me pain to do so. Had I not wanted to share this information, I would have remained silent. To speak of them gives me a chance to remember them to someone else. To bring them to life again if only for a moment. You understand?"
JD nodded. And with a start he realized that he had just been given something very special, a piece of Ezras past. Wow. He smiled. "Thank you."
Ezra nodded, his eyes warm. "No, young one, thank you."
The gambler paused for a moment before speaking again. "When I was about your age I met a fellow immortal whod had already been around for over four thousand years."
JDs mind balked at the idea of living that long. Four thousand years! Man. Hard to imagine living that long.
Ezra laughed. JD knew his expression must have given away his thoughts. He blushed. Ezra just shrugged, and continued with his story.
"This ancient took me on a student briefly, and I learned a great deal from him with regard to swordsmanship and survival. Ironically, what I remember best though, is the one piece of advice that he gave me that was ever worth a damn. I believe it is about time I passed on that particular bit of wisdom, Mr. Dunne."
JD waited silently, not sure of what he should say or do. So far hed had better luck staying quiet than he did speaking. Best to just listen then.
"In your potentially long life, you will encounter both triumphs and tragedies. And by now you are aware that they seldom occur in equal number. It is often the case that your sorrows will out number your joys. However, if you keep kicking at the darkness, young one, it will eventually bleed daylight. And it is the daylight that you must focus on if you want the centuries to be worth enduring. Otherwise it becomes depressing and tedious."
JD nodded, trying to picture surviving a millennium, and realizing Ezra was right. Could get old real fast./ "I can see that."
"Good." Ezra nodded, and patted JDs shoulder. "Wounds of the soul, just like those of the body, will heal, given enough time. But only if you want them to."
JD considered that. "You think Chris doesnt want to?"
Ezra shrugged one shoulder. "I think for Mr. Larabee, the raw pain of an open wound keeps his loved ones close. He is one of those rare few who seems to gather strength from the darkness."
The gambler measured JD with a searching look. "You are not one of those. The darkness will only weigh you down, and sap your spirit."
JD nodded. "Didnt think I was."
"There are other ways to grieve. Ways no less heartfelt or honest than the path Mr. Larabee has chosen. There are other ways to remember the loved ones you will lose along the way. I want you to remember that as you travel through life."
Aint a lesson I intend to forget. Kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight .hunh, kind of a funny way ta put it, but it works.
"I will remember, Ez. I promise."
"Good." Ezra nodded, evidently satisfied. He shifted to stand, balancing dangerously close to the edge. He picked up the bottle in one hand, and held out the other to JD. "Shall we go rejoin our comrades, then?"
JD took the hand Ezra offered, and got to his feet, careful to step back from the edge quickly. It didnt matter that the fall wouldnt kill him permanently, he still didnt want to go over the edge. Would still hurt like hell. Both dying and coming back. No point in going through that if I dont have to.
As they headed across the roof, JD asked Ezra, "Just how old are you, Ez?"
"Older than the scotch I just consumed."
"Hell, Ez, Im older than that scotch." JD snorted. "Cmon, tell me the truth. How old are you?"
Ezra took a breath. "I predate the discovery of this continent."
JD did the math, and stopped walking. "But That means youre a good five hundred years old!"
"Give or take a few years." Ezra agreed, also stopping to face JD.
JD stared at him. "Do the others know how old you are?"
Ezra shrugged. "I suspect Mr. Tanner has some idea. But as for the others, I doubt they are aware of my age."
Why would Vin be the one to know? JDs mouth dropped open. "How old is Vin?"
Ezra shrugged. "He died for the first time shortly after the first colony was established on Roanoke. He lived with the local tribes for more than a century when he and I met for the first time."
JD absorbed that detail. "So were you his first teacher?"
Ezra shook his head. "No. But I was instrumental in seeing he received instruction from a competent swordsman. We met up several times over the years before our encounter in Four Corners."
JD nodded. He vaguely remembered Ezra and Vin discussing different historical details, but until now he hadnt realized they were talking about events theyd actually witnessed or participated in. Holy cow.
"So youre the oldest. Then Vin. Then "
"The next would be Mr. Larabee. Followed by Mr. Wilmington and Mr. Sanchez. Although, to be fair, Mr. Sanchezs mortal life was by far the longest, so by all rights he is slightly older than Mr. Wilmington."
"Which leaves Nathan, and then me."
Ezra tipped his head in acknowledgement. "That would be correct."
JD frowned. "If youre older, why is Chris in charge?"
"Because age does not necessarily confer upon one the desire or the ability to lead." Ezra said calmly. "I am not a leader, Mr. Dunne. It is not a skill I can lay claim to."
JD shook his head. Over the time theyd been together, hed seen Ezra lead on more than one occasion, and despite what the gambler claimed, the man was a damn fine leader. "Shouldnt sell yourself short, Ez."
Ezra smiled slyly. "I assure you, Mr. Dunne, I am fully aware of my worth."
"Oh yeah?" JD found himself responding to Ezras lighter tone.
"Indeed." Ezra nodded sagely, green eyes bright with amusement. "I am priceless."
JD laughed, throwing an arm over Ezras shoulder. "That you are." Definitely a ray of light in my life, my friend.
Sick Sense of Humor
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