DISCLAIMERS: No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. This is purely fiction and based on the television series The Magnificent Seven.


AU: Blood Brothers - For a rundown on the guys check out this page

SUMMARY: Chris and Ezra have a bit of a chat on the way home.
SPOILERS: None, but it does follow directly on from my story Extort thy Childhood.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi for her support and advice and to Heather.
COMMENTS: Yes, please! 
DATE: 12 Feb 03


Color me Black

– Blood Brothers, AU

By Yolande


Ezra Standish shifted restlessly on the stage’s padded seat.  With every bone-jarring bounce, he was squashed against the cabin’s wall.  And nestling into his side, was a sleeping Chris Larabee; the seven-year-old orphan now his responsibility.  Ezra sighed.  He was not much more than a child himself, and certainly wasn’t prepared to be accountable for the youngster.  

At fifteen, Ezra Standish had seen a large portion of this country and already lived a more full and chaotic life than most boys of a similar age, but he was also emotionally insecure.  He had spent a great deal of time in his own company, that seeking out and making friends now, was a chore he was uncomfortable with.  But he had the gift of gab, and he could talk to anyone, and integrate himself quickly into a circle.  The trouble was, he’d never wanted to return their friendship before now.  Why he’d changed his mind was confusing, and he absently stroked the blond-headed boy’s shoulder.  Chris Larabee was lucky being able to sleep on the stagecoach.  It was something Ezra could never do.  

He’d never lived in a permanent home; Maude believed traveling expanded one’s soul, and when he settled with relatives it was generally for short periods of time when Maude sickened of his presence.  Those people only took Ezra in, expecting to have an extra hand around their farms, but when Ezra found out that he was paying off his mother’s debts, the young gambler rebelled against the deals.  He ran away and joined up with Maude in another town.  He yawned, covering his mouth with his hand and stared back at the obese woman on the opposite seat who was, conversely, watching him.  

“You two all alone?” she inquired. 

“No, ma’am,” Ezra replied courteously.  “Our pa is meeting us at the next stop,” he lied easily, and he felt Chris stiffen by his side; obviously the boy had not been asleep after all.  He pleaded inwardly for the boy not to say anything to refute the comment.  Well-meaning folks had a way of pushing kids around; he’d learnt that early on in life.  Most adults seemed to think children couldn’t fend for themselves, but Ezra had been taking care of himself since he was six, and relegating that control to anyone else now seemed superfluous. 

The woman set her hands back in her lap and turned to talk to the gentleman beside her.  He was leaning snugly against her shoulder, and Ezra presumed from this that they were a couple.  They’d tried to initiate conversation earlier in the voyage, but during the long cramped hours they gave up, and she read, while he slept.  

The other man in the stage was only a few years older than Ezra.  He had been wired and excited when he’d joined the stage, but he was sleeping quietly now, with his dark bangs hanging over his face.  The young Southerner grinned at the strange bowler hat worn by the traveler, and he wondered how the small brim would protect him from the hot western sun.  Foolish and naive Easterner.  He was traveling from Boston, or so he’d informed the other passengers, and wasn’t stopping until he reached, ‘The West’.  He was bound for glory, that one, Ezra surmised, that, or an early grave. 

The sixth passenger sat on the other side of Chris.  She was a pretty woman, if only her hair wasn’t pulled back so tightly and her face not so drawn and severe.  Ezra knew she could be very pretty, because when she napped, her features relaxed and they were pleasing to the eye.  Not that the young gambler had any intentions towards her; she was, after all in her late twenties. 

This trip was tedious, and even feigning sleep hadn’t rewarded Chris Larabee with any insights into Maude’s son and his motives for escorting him home.  Except for the fabrication of a father awaiting them both in the next town, the young Southerner had spoken very little during their stage ride.  Chris had considered refuting Ezra’s claim, but figured the young conman must have some reason for the untruth.  He wriggled and sat upright rubbing at his eyes.  His belly growled and to his embarrassment, the older woman opposite him thrust a sandwich into his hand.  He lifted a corner of the soggy bread and grimaced.  

“Eat it,” Ezra whispered low into his ear. 

“Thanks,” he nodded, chewing the dough slowly and swallowing with difficulty. 

“Next Stop!” the driver bellowed through the windows. 

Ezra nudged Chris in the ribs.  “We’re disembarking here.” 

Chris wanted to ask why; he knew this wasn’t Eagle Bend.  It was still days away yet.  But the bread rolled in his mouth; he wanted to spit it out.  Maybe Ezra was going to dump him here, leave him in the middle of nowhere.  Young Larabee would stick like glue to the Southerner.  He wouldn’t let Ezra leave his sight.  He didn’t want to be on his own, but even as he thought this, he knew instinctively, that if it came to the crunch, he could do it.  Chris was strong, and he knew how to fight. 

Ezra and Chris were the only passengers to light from the stage, and after waiting for another passenger to stow his bags, it moved off, leaving the two boys alone.  Neither boy held any baggage.  Ezra had taken Chris, before they’d left, to the hotel room he’d been sharing with Maude in New Orleans to pick up his things, but after breaking into the room and sending Chris off to pack, the seven-year-old emerged wearing an old pair of black jeans, his newly acquired black boots, courtesy of Maude, a pearl buttoned shirt, also black and a dark jacket draped over his arm, but nothing else.  “What about a hat?” the young gambler had asked. 

“Don’t like it.” 

Ezra had stared down at the young child, curious at the statement he was making by his choice in clothing. He was well aware of the pull the blond-headed child held by wearing such garments, but Ezra hadn’t commented, figuring it was part of the boy’s grieving process and he would quickly grow bored of wearing the dark colors. 

Chris tossed the sandwich as soon as they jumped from the stage; he anxiously stood beside his taller friend.  He wanted to hold Ezra’s hand, but he didn’t think the teenager would want to.  Fearing to ask the dreaded question, he forced the words out.  “Why did we stop here?” 

The teen glanced down; it was strange having a miniature shadow, and he was still adjusting.  “I stabled my horse here, before going on to New Orleans.”  That had been a week ago.  Ezra pointed out the livery and started off down the street.  Chris trailed behind.  

Lord, Ezra had been worried about leaving his prized steed in the hands of unknowns, but he’d had little choice in the matter.  He’d needed to arrive in New Orleans quickly, and by the time he’d reached this small outpost town, he’d been on the verge of collapse.  He’d not been able to ride any further, so he’d used the last of his money and hopped the stage until he reached New Orleans.  That way, it also kept Maude from his possessions.  She couldn’t take his horse from him, if he didn’t have it with him. 

“What’s he called?” 

“Who?” Ezra asked, not concentrating wholly on the boy. 

“Yer horse…he does have a name, don’t he?” 

Ezra grinned.  “Yes, he does.  His name is Chaucer.  Do you own a horse?” 

“Nah…Ma was saving to get us one…Adam and me…but then…” he sniffed, and rubbed furiously at his eyes. 

Ezra knelt in the dirt…Lord, what would mother say?  “How did your mother die?”  He’d wanted to ask that question since Chris had first told him she had been killed. 

Chris dropped his chin on his chest and the tears threatened to fall.  Even Maude hadn’t asked him about that.  Still, she hadn’t wanted to know anything about Chris, not even prodding to discover his name, after he’d first refused to give it to her.  He felt Ezra lift his chin and he met the young gambler’s green eyes squarely.  He put on a brave front and even tried to smile, but the tears that had threatened, now began to spill. 

Ezra pulled a handkerchief out and offered it.  They needed a quiet place to talk, and although the town was small and sluggish, there were still plenty of nosey folks who would pry into their business.  And Chris dressed as he was, didn’t help matters either.  “I’ll show you, Chaucer,” he stated.  “We can talk in his stall.” 

Chris Larabee nodded and dutifully followed his rescuer.  He had to run to keep pace, and he caught at the colorful green sleeve for the Southerner to slow down.  His hand slid down the coat sleeve and firmly captured Ezra’s hand.  

Standish grinned down at the precocious boy.  How on earth had Maude discovered Chris?  What had she been doing visiting the small town of Eagle Bend in the first place?  Surely she hadn’t been following him?  Where exactly had Ezra been three months ago?  It couldn’t have been too far removed from there, he reasoned.  Why then, if Maude had been so close to finding her son, had she settled with Chris Larabee?  She’d had to work from scratch; and Standish had played a few rounds with the younger boy since leaving New Orleans and he was nowhere near as talented as Ezra.  Adequate, but nothing special.  Maude would have had her hands full, training and shaping Larabee to her means.  He grimaced suddenly, perhaps that had all been part of the master plan.  Using Chris as an enticement to bring Ezra back under her control.  

“Ezra, you look tired?”

“It has been an exhausting trip.   Why didn’t you sleep?” 

Larabee shrugged.  “Just thinking, I guess.” 

“Here we are.”  Ezra relaxed against the stall.  He stepped under the rail and greeted his mount with an abundance of affection.  “Hi, Chaucer.  You miss me?”  He slipped his hand inside his coat to find a peppermint. “He loves these,” Standish grinned at Chris. 

“Should you be giving him those?”  Larabee stepped more cautiously into the stall, not coming too close.  Chaucer was very large, especially to a skinny, although tall, seven-year-old. 

Ezra winked at Chris.  “He can do tricks, you know.” 

“Really?” Chris enthused, his bright hazel eyes shining through damp tears.  “So let me see something?” 

“He can count…” 

“Aw…that ain’t nothin’ special,” Chris grumbled, unimpressed. 

“He can escape this stall with no assistance from me.” 


“Later…First we should talk.” 

Here it comes.  “You gonna leave me behind?” 

“Chris,” Ezra lightly touched the boy’s shoulder, “I said I’d escort you home, and will stand by and honor that claim.” 

“Maude said she’d help me, too.” 

Ezra sighed.  “I’m sorry for whatever Mother alluded to, but I won’t let you down.” 

“You promise?” 

Standish nodded stiffly.  Damn, he hoped he could fulfill this promise.  “On my Oath…would you like to discuss your mother?” 

Chris bobbed his head, shuffling his feet in the straw.  “Was all my fault,” he mumbled. 

“Why do you say that?” 

“I was s’posed ta be home.  S’posed ta walk Adam home from school, but I sent him home by himself and went fishin’ with Buck.” 

“Buck’s a friend?”  Larabee nodded.  “That doesn’t seem so bad.” 

“It was getting’ dark when we decided ta come home…when we got close I could see though the trees,” he sniffed and wiped his face, smudging the tears into his cheeks. 

“What did you see?” Ezra prompted, curious, but alarmed by what Chris was telling him. 

”There were four men on horses, and they were riding around, shoutin’ and hollerin’ and shootin’ at the sky.  Then I saw Adam…he was hanging belly down over a saddle – he wasn’t moving.  I wanted to stop them…but Buck wouldn’t let me.  Ma was inside…I could hear her screaming and crying, then they burnt the house down.” 

Standish winced.  “Your mother was still inside?” 

Again Larabee nodded, crying.  He’d watched and listened, helpless while his mother had died.  When the screams had stopped the murderers left, taking Adam with them.  They never saw Chris or Buck hiding in the bushes. 

“There was nothing you could have done, Chris.”  Ezra awkwardly hugged the boy and was surprised when Chris tightened his grip around his neck.  They stayed like this for an age – until Chris’ sobbing settled. 

“I shouldna gone fishin’,” was the soft reply. 

“It probably saved your life.  Did you see any of their faces…could you identify any of the men?” 

Chris’ bottom lip quivered.  “It was too dark.” And he’d been scared.   He closes his eyes and thought for a minute, concentrating on the nightmares he’d had since.  He gasped, recalling the vivid memory.  “The fella that had Adam was riding a big grey, and he was wearing gloves.” 

“Good, good.  Do you remember anything else?” 

“I dunno,” Chris frowned.  “I think he was shooting with his left hand…” 

“So, he’s a lefty,” Ezra surmised.  “Riding a large grey and wearing gloves…shouldn’t be too hard to track down,” the gambler considered out loud. 

“Ya reckon?” 

“Anything else?” 

“I think one of ‘em was wearing a silver spur on his boot.” 

Standish smiled at Chris and nodded.  He didn’t want to offer false hope, especially since Ezra’d be leaving just as soon as Chris was settled someplace safe.  “It will be something for the sheriff to investigate…” 

“Sheriff’s no good…he didn’t want to help,” Chris growled.  If Ezra weren’t going to help him, then he’d find someone who would. 

“We’ll see.  We need to acquire a hat for you before we set out, and some supplies.” 

“How we gonna pay for that?”  Larabee was aware how much money they’d had between them, and it had dwindled down to a pittance. 

Standish dug in the corner of the stall and revealed a rolled jacket.  It had been hidden well under the straw, and protected by Chaucer.  Untying the string, when opened out, there was a fresh roll of cash. 

“Wooeee!” Chris’ eyes brightened.  “Where’d that come from?” 

“Don’t ask questions like that, and I won’t lie to you.” 

Chris didn’t care.  “Ya reckon Maude will be lookin’ for us?” 


“Will she take me back with her?” 

“Do you want to go?” 

“No…I want to stay with you.” 

Ezra rocked back on his heels, astounded by the kid’s declaration.  He didn’t know whether he was ready for this…this change of lifestyle…this new responsibility, other than looking after number one.  Where did they go from here?  Ezra hadn’t a clue.  All he knew at the moment was living one day a time.  And for now, he was linked to Chris Larabee.  He needed to see the boy home…then he would work things out from there.

the end

Next story:- Young Warriors - Coming soon

I'd love to hear your comments.  Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you get the urge...feel free to send them to Yolande