The Right Kind of Mirrors
"Okay, Jesse Royal!" Mikey-Chris yelled. "What is your business in our town?"
"Oh, nothin, Im just here to visit my nephew, Jack Royal." He nodded towards Jack, the ex McCallister baddie who showed no fear, and no pebbles inside his boot this time.
"Thats a big family!" muttered the real Buck.
"These," Mr. Jesse Royal pointed at the other two boys with him, "are my henchmen. Theyre here to make sure I dont get arrested on my visit."
"Yeah, right!" Dale-Buck commented, "You better not give us no trouble, Mister, for were the law here in Four Corners and nobody breaks our law.
"Damn right!" Buck cheered in silence.
Nathan shushed him.
"Yeah, whatever you say, Wilmington." He motioned to his three companions, including Jack. "Come on boys, lets go to the saloon".
The saloon! JD smiled.
"Ezra!" Mikey-Chris called over to his little gambler. "Go investigate them! Oh, and get some coins from behind their ears while youre on it, will you? Were gonna need the money for the rebuildin of the saloon after the fight."
The spying seven were marveled, what these kids could think of! Theyd all had seen Ezra doing that trick for the children, making small coins appear from behind their ears. To think hed do that to the criminals too!
Vin pictured the gambler pulling coins from behind the real Guy Royals ears and chuckled.
Meanwhile, the real Chris Larabee was completely taken with this mini-self he saw before him. He didnt really see how much the kid acted like him, the only thing he saw was a boy whose movements, voice and attitude reminded him so much of something someone
Little Anthony-Ezra adjusted his hat and proceeded, "Ill do that, Mr. Larabee, I will make them resign their combulations".
"Good luck, Ez!" Said Eric-Vin, giving his young friend a two-fingered tip of the hat, very Tanner like. The real Vin felt proud.
Anthony-Ezra did the same and then entered through the imaginary doors of the very busy, imaginary place.
"Gentlemen!" he called the baddies. "Perchance you would like to join me in a game of chance?" he smiled connivingly, his eyes twinkling in an exact replica of the original gambler and bringing a huge smile to Josiah. Boy this kid was good!
"Nah, youll just be cheatin us, gaaambler!" Jack said, mockingly. "I know we caint trust ya."
"I assure you," Anthony-Ezra took absolutely no offense, "I will not use any slight of hank".
"I believe he means slide of hand". Ezra commented from his hiding spot.
"I guess." Josiah smiled, taking a long look at his southern friend. The gambler seemed to be having a lot of fun, but there was something else something inside his eyes, something special. Josiah had never seen that something before in all the time he had known Standish. He couldnt figure out what it was and it intrigued him immensely.
"He never cheats," the tall girl playing Josiah interrupted up in the saloon. "I can vouch for him and I dont lie, Im a priest!"
"Shut up, Josiah, youre a girl!"
A lot of muffled chuckles were hushed again by Nathan.
"Hey!" Anthony-Ezra frowned. "Hes a preacher, not a girl. If you dont want me to fill your ears with coins you take that back!"
"Well, I just see a girl!" Little Jesse Royal stood in defiance.
Young Anthony-Ezra extended his hand, waving it in a magical pass like theyd all seen the real Ezra do so many times to amuse the kids. Little Royal stepped back and raised his hands. "Okay, okay, I take it back. You aint a girl Josiah happy?"
"Very!" Little Ezra said and turned to the imaginary bar.
Rona-Josiah gave the mini-miscreant a once over and joined the mini-gambler a second later. At that moment, little Dale-Buck entered the saloon with Andrew-JD tagging along. They were chatting and playing, Dale-Buck knocking Andrew-JDs hat off and calling it a clown hat.
"It is a real hat, Buck!"
"Nah it aint, hahaha!"
Mikey-Chris came up behind them, his young eyes surveying the place before opening the batwing doors as the real Chris usually did. He stood there for a moment and then leaned on a tree, his hand prepared on his imaginary gun belt. He nodded at the mini-tracker who had taken place beside twin girls sitting on a rock. Eric-Vin nodded back and they both waited, mini Chris crossing one hand over the other in a relaxed manner, looking exactly like Larabee did when he was waiting for inevitable trouble.
Yes, the child was really, very good.
As the scene before them kept unraveling, the seven men spying from the bushes were lost in their own memories and thoughts, most of them remembering their own games and antics as children. Only Chris had lost his smile as the realization hit him with full force. He closed his eyes and stepped back, breathing hard and trying to focus while the shock of what he had just figured out brought a hard pressure inside his heart.
That kid pretending to be Chris Larabee reminded him of his son.
That was who!
Adam, he thought. Even the way he walks is just like Adam!
A surge of long buried memories resurfaced. Adam playing with his toys, Adam pretending to be a Texas Ranger like his uncle Buck. Running around beside the pond with the neighbours children; running, screaming, laughing.
Adam. God he missed his little boy so much.
A hand touched him on the shoulder and a Texan drawl brought him back to the present. "You okay, pard?"
He didnt open his eyes yet, losing himself in the vivid images of Adam that Mikey had inadvertedly conjured up, trying to keep them fresh inside his mind a little longer. It had been so long since he had seen his kid so clearly he just didnt want to lose that.
"Pard?" Vin asked again, worry deepening his voice.
Chris held on for a few moments more before reluctantly releasing the images. He opened his eyes but kept his gaze locked on the ground. "Im fine," he said, "its nothin".
Vin squeezed his friends shoulder, patiently waiting for the truth. After a few moments Chris spoke again, immense pain flowing along with the words. "That kid talks exactly like Adam".
The tracker closed his own eyes, speechless. That one, he hadnt seen coming.
Oh, God! Buck winced inwardly, Hes right! That kid did seem a lot like Adam!
He tried to think of something something useful he could say, but the sudden lump in his throat just wouldnt let him talk at all.
None of them had missed the gunslingers words but there was nothing any of them could say that wouldnt sound stupid right now so they stayed quiet. The kids beyond were forgotten for a while.
Nothing they could say.
Josiah sighed shaking his head. He should have seen that coming; it had been a sure thing! Why had they stayed there watching? He should have foreseen it. Kids playing, Chris Larabee mourning his own kid, knowing hed never be able to see him play again. It was just a matter of time Lord! Josiah felt so stupid.
Then suddenly Ezra stood up and approached their leader. He stood before his friend, crossed his arms and whispered, "And why do you think that is?"
"What?" Chris asked, confused.
"The child talks exactly like your son, why do you think that is?"
Chris knew he should be annoyed, but somehow sorrow had taken place over everything else.
"Chris?" Ezra asked again, leaving the last name calling for another time.
"I dont know." He said dryly.
The gambler uncrossed his arms and moved to stand beside the man in black. His mind had been racing for a way to bring back the magic the children had been performing on the gunslinger before and had finally found something, however small to try. He reached out to the bushes and moved them slightly to reveal the kids playing.
"I have." Chris dismissed him.
"Hes playing you." Ezra continued. "Its not the child who reminds you of Adam, its the child playing you who does!"
Chris brought his eyes upward for the first time, confused by the gamblers words.
"Dont you see it?" Ezra raised his eyebrows.
Buck smiled, realizing what the southerner meant to do and cheering inside. Good call, Ezra!
"Ezra " Chris began withdrawing again, his heart still heavy, his mind denying everything he was hearing.
"Its you, Chris!" Ezra interrupted. "The child seems so much like your son because your son was so much like you. What we all are seeing is a boy with an incredible talent for impression, Mr. Larabee, but what you see reflected is not yourself but your son. Think about it."
"Hes right, pard." Vin tried to help.
"He was a lot like you." Bucks quiet voice cracked a little with emotion. "But I dont think you ever noticed."
Ezra approached the gunslinger again and faced him to make his words stronger, "Your son lives inside you, Chris, and because of that, you are never going to lose him. Keep that in mind every time you see that wonderful boy out there pretending to be you."
It was strange, but somehow those words had passed through the walls of sorrow like warm butter. Damn southerner was right right?
"You know Im right." Ezra said, like hed been reading Chris mind.
The gunslinger stared at the gambler, his eyes a mixture of annoyance and gratitude. "Yeah," he finally whispered.
JD called everyones attention. "Hey! Theyre fightin!"
Ezra gave Chris a two fingered salute and went back to look at the children before anything else was said, leaving the gunslinger to his own thoughts.
The rest returned to their original spying places, Vin placing a hand on Chris shoulder for a moment to let him know he was there. Chris lingered back for a second and pondered what had just happened. At last he smiled a little as the words finally downed on him. Adam lives inside you. He took a deep breath, pushing sorrow away for a while and replacing it with something else: hope.
Over by the bushes, Josiah smiled proudly at the southerner he loved as a son. "Well, Ezra," he whispered for the mans ears only; "I see that indeed, you CAN talk the talk." He grinned.
Ezra just smiled, without looking up, feeling extremely pleased with himself. Now if he could only convince the judge to raise their salaries.
+ + + + + + +
Up on the invisible saloon, a fight had ensued. Jack had begun bothering the twin red-haired girls sitting on a big rock by the make believe piano and little Dale-Buck would have none of that.
Of course not!
They were in a really loud brawl that resulted in a lot of children on the floor, laughing and screaming. Everyone was fighting everyone, all roles forgotten. The four girls cheered on from the sidelines and Rona-Josiah even caught a couple of kids from the back of their necks saying "You are going to hell, son!"
Finally, after a few more rolls on the grass, Mikey-Chris brought everything to a halt and said: "Okay! The fight in the saloon is over!"
Everyone stopped dead.
"Wow!" JD whispered.
"Hey, how come you cant do that, Chris?" the real Buck asked his friend who, he happily noticed, had returned to his spying spot.
Chris just shrugged.
Quickly everyone at the make believe saloon began to stand up and went re-grouping. Mr. Jesse Royal and his henchmen had come out unscathed and apparently blameless, but Eric-Vin had caught little Jack Royal, the one who had started it, and pronounced him under arrest. Jack whined like crazy but everyone agreed the catch was legal and he should go to jail, but not before Anthony-Ezra pulled about a dozen coins from the mini-criminals ears, of course.
"How much?" asked mini Chris.
"Five thousand dollars." Mini Ezra said.
"That should do it."
"Ill say!" Ezra chuckled from behind the bushes.
Jack looked like he was about to try the pebble in the boot again but thought better of it and allowed Andrew-JD and Ricky-Nathan to take him to the imaginary jailhouse, already thinking of how to escape.
Then Dale-Buck tried to get up from the floor and cried out. "Ouch!"
"Whats up?" Mini Vin and Mini Chris asked at the same time.
"I think my leg is broken!"
Eric-Vin was beside him in a second, "Really?"
"Yeah, I think you fell on it before!"
The seven spying men frowned, looking at each other, suddenly worried; these children sure took their fighting seriously. Well, it didnt matter, a kid was hurt and this changed everything. They knew they had to help! Josiah was meditating how to get out of hiding without spooking the kids when young Eric spoke again.
"Yeah, I see it," Eric-Vin said, his hands checking out young Dales leg, "its broken, all right."
Mini Chris stepped out of the imaginary saloon and yelled out, "Nathan!"
At once, Ricky Worthy ran from the invisible jail and ran towards his friend.
"Bucks leg is broken!"
"Oh," Mini Nathan smiled. "No problem, I got some herbs!"
The real Nathan smiled widely; If only things were that easy.
He kneeled over mini Buck and made a big fuzz of treating and curing the leg. "Take these herbs," he ordered.
"Okay!" said Dale-Buck.
"How is it now?" Mini Nathan asked.
Little Dale-Buck stood up and walked on his broken leg. "Oh, its cured. Thanks Nathan!"
"Great!" Little Nathan said.
Josiah snorted, well, what do you know? he thought. They had fooled them! The kid was fine.
Nathan stared at the kid in amazement. Children were so naïve! The healer only wished things were so easy! In reality, everything was always a big drama, especially with this bunch! he muttered, glancing at Vin and Ezra, the worst patients in history!
"Hey Nate," JD whispered, "how come you cant fix them bones so quickly?"
"Well, the kids a better healer than me, JD." Nathan grinned.
"Much better, I would say, the boy didnt even have to taste one of your horrible concoctions!" Ezra pointed out.
"No, now, see, he did giveim the herbs, Ezra," Nathan corrected, "that just proves to ya, the herbs are good!"
"His herbs are good, yours taste like manure!" Vin muttered.
"Ssshh!" Josiah quieted them.
"Okay, lets go on patrol," Mini Chris ordered, "I dont want Royal to find the gold!"
"Right! Ill get JD!" Mini Buck ran to the jail, his leg completely healed by then.
Just then, Mr. Jesse Royal appeared again with the two boys whod been acting as his men and two more that had just arrived.
"Woah!" Eric-Vin said. "Who are you?"
"Were the Nelson brothers."
Ezras heart jumped. How did these kids know about the Nelson brothers?
"Oh, right!" Mini Chris turned around and called toward Anthony. "Hey Ezra, its for you!"
And how did they know that as well? Ezra was in shock.
The small gambler walked over to the newcomers and studied them calmly. "And who might you be, gentlemen?"
"Were the Nelson brothers," the taller of the two kids said, "and were here to take Vin Tanner with us."
Vins eyebrows shot up in surprise. What was this?
Ezra couldnt believe it. The Nelson brothers! Those two nefarious bounty hunters from Texas! They had come to capture Vin one day but fortunately for everyone, Ezra had stepped in the way. That had been a very bad situation, especially after one of them began interrogating a terrified Mary Travis in a deserted alley.
Standish had been incredibly angry that time, he and the two brothers had engaged in a bloody fight, resulting in both bounty hunters shot and Ezra really enraged. He had made sure they believed Tanner was elsewhere, forcing them to limp out and leave town for good or be killed. Later had asked Mary to keep what happened to herself, no need to worry Vin over nothing. Especially when Ezra had no intention of allowing those two imbeciles to get near the tracker, ever.
But, that had happened over five months ago, how had these kids found out? And worse! They were impersonating them! This was bad, really bad.
"You are, of course, aware of our agreement, Mr. Nelson?" Little Ezra said. "I dont believe you would like another incombrugation of your obviously still healthy personements. Would you?"
"Were ready for you gambler!"
"Agreement?" asked the real Vin, a little bit worried.
Ezra didnt turn, he hadnt wanted for Vin to find out about these men, but he worried more about how close this kids had actually been when hed had his last encounter with the two bounty hunters.
"My God!" he whispered, "they could have caught a stray bullet!"
"What are you talking about?" Josiah asked quietly.
Ezra didnt answer; his mind was racing with horrible possibilities.
"We aint gonna let you chase us out of town again, Standish." The Nelson boy yelled again. "This time, were ready for ya!"
"I have told you before, and Ill tell you again: You wont touch Vin Tanner as long as Im still alive!"
The real Vin turned sharply toward the gambler. Had he really said that? Were these kids making this up or had they actually seen it? Ezra wouldnt look at him which meant only one thing these Nelson people were real.
How come he hadnt known about this?
Chris was staring hard at the southerner, asking himself the very same question. Didnt Ezra trust them enough to ask for help? Why had he concealed this from them? Hed thought Ezra had changed with time, but apparently he was mistaken.
Or was he?
"We remember that, gambler." The Nelson boy continued, "We also remember that we promised to come back for revenge!"
"Yes, I remember you threatened me with the most vile retribution, yet here I stand!" Little Ezra didnt sound scared at all, in fact he was smiling.
"Son of a gun, Ez!" Buck exclaimed, "thats you all right!"
The real Ezra wasnt smiling. He had said that, word for word! Lord, these kids had been there when it happened. He remembered the alley, completely empty, except for Mary Travis, that time. Where in the world had these kids been hiding?
He closed his eyes and sighed; as he himself had said: No child has ever known how to properly measure danger. He promised himself to be a lot more careful next time he fought someone in the middle of town. You never knew who could be in the line of fire.
"Good Lord, kids!" he muttered.
"And now, here we are!" the smaller Nelson kid spoke for the first time. "I still remember you shot me, Standish!"
"You deserved it!" Andrew-JD yelled from way in the back.
"Shut up, Andrew! You aint supposed help!"
The Nelson kid continued, "Well now kill you and get Vin Tanner for Frescosa!"
"Frescosa?" Vin asked, confused. "Oh Jeez!" he realized. These were bounty hunters! He really hoped the children really didnt know what they were actually talking about.
"Over my dead body, I told you!" Little Ezra pulled out his weapon. A piece of wood shaped in the form of a gun. "Now hands up!"
The Nelson kids shot up their hands, but suddenly opened their fists and blew hard on them. The air filled with dust covering Anthonys eyes and making him stumble backwards. The boys had filled their fists with sand from the edge of the pond since before their arrival and had concealed them. Little Ezra stumbled, his hat flying off his head and finally fell on the ground, blinded. "Aahh!"
"Well, this is not good." Ezra pointed out from his hiding place. "It seems Im going to die today!"
"Theyll save you, Ez." Buck reassured, "I hope " he trailed off.
"We have to help him!" Andrew-JD cried out and stepped forward.
"See?" Buck said.
Mini Chris stopped him with a hand, "We cant, remember? Ezra always fights the Nelson brothers alone!"
"That aint fair!"
"Thats how he likes it! We cant do anything about it! Now stay here!"
"Or maybe not." Buck scratched his ear nervously.
The two kids proceeded to take Anthony-Ezras wooden gun away and pointed at him with it. The kid couldnt see anything but, alas, he wouldnt surrender so easily. He was Ezra!
"Now, dont try nothing, Standish. Were gonna shoot you just like you shot us and were gonna take Tanner."
"No you are not!" Little Ezra answered from the floor.
"What can you do? Youre beaten and unarmed and we have your gun! Now shut up!" he nodded at his companion, "Brother, go get him!"
Eric-Vin immediately climbed up a tree and hid.
"You forget one thing, Nelson!" Anthony-Ezra said, eyes still closed but a big grin on his face.
"You forget who youre dealing with!" Little Ezra shot up his hand and produced a second gun.
"Good boy!" muttered the real Ezra from his spying spot.
"Wait a minute! You hid that! That aint fair!" The Nelson kid yelled, clearly annoyed.
"Ah! Hes right!" Little Vin yelled back, climbing back down from the tree. "Hes Ezra, he can appear guns out of the air all the time!"
"I can?" the real Ezra smiled.
"How?" The Nelson kid asked.
"With magic, of course! You know that!" Little Ezra finished, "Too bad, Nelson. Now, please have the good taste to die when you get shot!"
"Hey! Thats cheatin!" Both Nelson boys were furious. They looked at each other and suddenly threw themselves on top of half blinded Anthony-Ezra. He went back down under a shower of fists as the two brothers began pounding for real. Jane Starke let out an angry yell and immediately, the other six diminutive seven ran over and grabbed the attacking kid and his brother.
Even Rona-Josiah joined the rest, grabbing one of them by the ear and reciting Bible verses to him.
"Ouch, aww, oww," the boy cried out.
"You will rot in the depths of hell, John! That was wrong!" She kept on saying, "Im gonna tell mom!"
The other kid was quickly subdued by the rest of the small seven and thrown on the ground, Dale twisting his arm on his back to keep him in place.
"Anthony?" Mikey-Chris checked on his friend.
"Good Lord!" the southern accented moan told everybody that the kid was, indeed, still alive and still in the game.
Mikey-Chris grinned as he called out, "Nathan! I think Ezras dead."
Little Ezra sat up quickly, trying to clean his sore eyes with his hands. "No, Im not, just a bit befuddled. Are they still here?"
Dale- Buck smiled, "We have both of them, and they wont move, will you?" he twisted the boys arm again.
"Owww, no we wont, we wont move, alright?"
"See?" Little Buck said.
"Not really," Anthony-Ezra muttered, his eyes still full of dust.
No one had noticed, in all the commotion, that little Jesse Royal had used the whole situation to break his man Jack out of jail and get the gold pouch they had hid behind the big rock where the twins had been sitting.
Just when Mikey-Chris began wondering where their prisoner was the two bandits and their two henchmen were escaping through the trees, laughing.
The real Vin had indeed seen them, and it took all his might to fight against the urge to run out of his hiding place and alert the small seven.
But he couldnt do that now, could he?
Chris nodded at the tracker, having seen the escapees himself and shook his head. They were gone.
Vin just shrugged, what can one do?
Mini Chris realized what had happened and cried out. "Oh, no! The gold!"
Little JD ran to the big rock and, finding the pouch missing, let out a very, not-suited-for-young-children, loud curse.
The real JD chuckled. "Oh, my! I dont say that!"
"Yeah, you do, kid!" Buck slapped his back lightly. "When youre real mad and all!"
Little Chris was furious. "Oh, NO!" he cried, "we shoulda seen that!"
The two Nelson kids chuckled. "It was the plan all along, and you fell for it, Larabee!"
"Rats!" Rona-Josiah kicked the floor. "Im still tellin mom, John!"
"Oh, Rona!" the kid whined.
Then, like a replay from that very afternoon, young Andrew-JD caught everyones attention. "Well," he started, "at least we saved Vin!"
"Ezra saved Vin!" Mikey-Chris said, "We just stood here like idiots!"
"Aw, Chris, come on, think about it!" Eric-Vin quietly drawled, "Ya really think wed let him beat us?" He grinned from ear to ear as he reached inside his pocket and took out two big yellowish rocks.
"Good Lord, Vin! You took the gold out of the pouch?" Rona-Josiah grinned while her brother John-Nelson groaned.
"Well, it was our plan! Dont you remember Ezra told you about it, Chris?"
"Oh, yeah, right, I forgot!" Mikey said.
Anthony-Ezra stood up, his eyes almost clean now and retrieved his fallen hat. "Yes, indeed. Mr. Tannah and I both thought ouch," he rubbed the spot where the Nelson kid had punched him, "that we could misconstruct the miscreants into depricting the wrong loot!"
"Great job, gentlemen!" Mikey-Chris smiled widely feeling already victorious.
"But Chris," Little Jane-Mary stepped in, "the bad guys still got away!"
"Maybe not " He grinned, "Vin!" he nodded at the mini tracker.
Little Vin nodded back at his friend and climbed up to the tree again, he pretended to use a telescope to see. "Theyre five miles away!" he said, smiling.
"Can you takeem?" Little Buck asked.
"Of course he can takeem!" Miss Josiah laughed. "He can shoot anything, anywhere!"
I wish! the real Vin snorted.
"Little Vin pulled out his wooden rifle and after a few seconds produced three shots. "Pow, Pow, Pow!"
"I gotem!" he cried.
"Good job, Vin!" the real Chris slapped his best friend in the back, smiling. The tracker chuckled.
"Wait, you only shot three times!" Jane-Mary exclaimed, "but there was four ofem!"
"Yeah," Mini Vin waved it off, "I got two with one bullet!"
The girl was ecstatic, "Oh, Vin, you are a great shot!"
"Damn right I am!" the real Vin muttered, smiling.
Eric-Vin`s face went incredibly red by the girls impressed attention and he pretended to check his rifle to calm down. The girl sighed.
The real Vin smiled again. You got her now, pal!
Throughout the whole exchange, Janes brother, young Anthony-Ezra noticed absolutely nothing.
"Okay, boys," Mini Chris quieted everyone down, "I think we should go to the saloon and wait for Royal to come back."
"He will?" Andrew-JD asked.
"We have the gold!" Dale-Buck said as he offered his arm to one of the twin girls.
"All right!" The kid smiled and ran over to the imaginary bar.
"I could use some licuations, how about you Mr. Sanchez?"
"Hell, yeah!" the girl giggled, making Josiah laugh in silence.
"Good girl!" the preacher muttered. "Good girl, indeed!"
+ + + + + + +
It was a few minutes later when the kids forgot their game and decided to go search for their missing bandits who, apparently, still hadn't noticed they had no treasure. It was late; without actually feeling it, the seven had spent the whole afternoon watching the kids, and now that they found themselves alone they couldnt help but wonder where the time had gone... in more ways than one.
More than that, they wondered if they really acted like what they'd just seen. If they really were as unbelievable as those kids perceived them.
Did they really sound like that?
"They had you pegged, JD!" Nathan smiled, answering the unasked question. "That kid talked just like you!"
"Oh!" JD remembered the loud cursing and changed the subject, "Well, Nathan, the little doctor wasnt bad either. He even did that thing you do with your mouth, I saw him!"
"What thing?" Nathan frowned.
"Im sorry to say this, JD," Buck interrupted smiling, "but the best ofem was the kid playing me! He was real good! Dontcha think so, Chris?"
"Yeah, he was."
"Wait, wait!" JD stopped them, "What about little Vin there? He shot the bandits from five miles away!"
Vin chuckled. "I dont really think I can do that, JD".
"Ah, well, thats because you aint tried yet, Vin!" he teased.
"Well, little Nathan cured Bucks broken leg in five minutes!" The tracker replied, grinning.
"Thats different," Nathan said, "He had better herbs."
Everyone broke out in laughter and, just for a moment, the seven men savored the feeling of fantasy and wonder they all remembered to have had once, as children. Where did that feeling go?
No one knew.
Josiah sighed, still smiling, wondering if it was possible to recover that feeling, as one grew old. He glanced at Ezra, standing by his side in silence. What was that thing he had seen in his friends eyes before?
Maybe hed never know.
"What was all that about them Nelson brothers, Ezra?" Vin asked quietly.
The question took the gambler by surprise. I knew you were not getting out of that one so easily, Ezra. He thought, looking away. After a second he gave the tracker a friendly grin and adjusted his hat. "Just children playing, Mr. Tanner," he replied nonchalantly.
"Of course," he absently swiped a dry leaf from his sleeve. Vins heart sank, echoing everyone elses disappointment at the gamblers lack of trust. Chris clenched his jaw.
"However," Ezra added, a mischievous smile dancing in his lips, "if I ever happen to turn up dead somewhere, for example in a deserted alley, from a bad case of, ehem, vile retribution, please do take your precautions, Vin."
They all stared at him in amazement, and before anyone could respond he continued, "Furthermore, if you ever see me fighting one or more nefarious individuals while lying on the floor with sand clouding my eyes, please do not hesitate to help me. I dont think I can produce weapons by magic. At least, not yet." He gave them his best southern smile, showing his shining gold tooth.
They laughed, their disappointment gone with the gamblers last statements. He has changed! Chris thought, feeling oddly pleased.
"Im still hungry, you know?" Nathan muttered.
"Me too, Ill see you in town." JD began running to his horse followed closely by his surrogate brother. They both began laughing like children.
"You think theyll ever grow up?" Nathan asked Josiah as they walked behind them.
"Whatever for, brother?" Josiah snorted, "They keep us amused all the time!"
"Right!" the healer agreed. "Buck and JD do act like kids all day long."
"Not only them, the gentlemen behind us dont really seem too grown up to me either."
Chris walked past them, lowering his hat. "Shut up, Josiah, youre a girl!" he said, his tone completely serious.
They stood there for a moment in shock before Chris broke off running; Josiah and Nathan following close behind.
"Infants." Ezra commented, still smiling.
Vin Tanner walked beside his friend, thinking about all the things hed seen and done that day. All and all, that afternoon had proven to be very enlightening, and educational. Who would have thought that hed see himself reflected so simply in an eleven-year-old boy? Of course, he didnt have a crush on Mary, well, not a big one anyway. But most of what hed seen made him think that maybe, just maybe, they werent doing things that bad.
Hed figured out why he had never noticed the children spying on them before, as well.
It was because he only noticed things out of place, things that didnt belong to his home. And those children absolutely did.
He was home.
That felt real good.
And about Ezra
"Whyd you never tell me about them bounty hunters, Ezra?"
The gambler kept silent for a long moment before answering. "Well, Mr. Tanner, I wasnt about to let them get to you, was I?" he slowed his pace a bit and continued, "Besides, it would be a shame to have a couple of reprobates taking away your sleep at night, not when so many other things occupy your mind these days."
Vin smiled, staring at the dry leaves by his feet.
"Some things you needn't worry about, Mr. Tanner... as long as I am still alive." Ezra smiled again and continued walking.
Vin followed, his mind in peace with that idea. Yeah, he was home all right.
"Thanks, Ez." He said at last.
"Dont mention it, my friend."
They reached the horses just in time to see Buck and JD starting a race towards town. Chris eyes were locked on his friends, a quiet ghost of a smile dancing on his face.
Ezras spirit lit up once again.
Just as he was watching the racing brothers leaving.
He saw it.
Inside his esteemed leaders eyes he saw it.
It was still there.
He climbed on Chaucer and patted his steed with extreme affection, his chest swelling in contentment.
Thank god some of them refused to grow up!
Thank God indeed!
Okay. This is my FIRST Magnificent Seven story ever. You liked it, you didn't, you hated it... you wanted to kill yourself? Tell me. Should I continue down this path or re-consider my life choices?
Please oh please, send me some feedback.
With a cherry on top?