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

MAJOR CHARACTERS: Ezra, Maude & Chris
SUMMARY: Ezra has a confrontation with Maude, and ends up responsible for a young Chris. 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi and NotTasha for beta reading this fic, and Heather's encouragement to post it. 
COMMENTS: Yes, please! 
DATE: 10 Feb 03


Extort thy Childhood

– Blood Brothers, AU

By Yolande


Ezra Standish rushed along the crowded street.  He paid no mind to the hectic bustle or the fancy hotels he passed, nor the rude stares he garnered as he pushed through the throng, parting them down the centre. 

What the young gambler did notice was his growing ire, his confusion and, yes, the painful hurt.  He muttered to himself as he jogged along the overflowing boardwalks.  This only acquired more curious looks. 

How could she do this to me? he screamed inwardly.  He wanted desperately to holler and shout out loud, but ‘appearances were everything’, and he was not about to break that golden rule…not yet, at least. 

The fine gambling house loomed in front of him.  This was the third such place young Standish had visited that afternoon.  He had no trouble entering the establishment; he had visited this place before, and he was wearing the appropriate attire of a gambler.  They wouldn’t curtail his entry.  Money was, after all, what the gaming house was built for, and any money was worth their taking.   But Ezra Standish had no intention of gaming at this particular time. 

His heart beat a little faster, as he scanned the opulent room, searching for HER.  He passed the craps tables and then the numerous roulette wheels and jostled through from one room to the next.  The rooms were crowded with eager young men vying for their fortunes and many older, more experienced players, hustling the inept and naive.  There was a descent smattering of female gamblers and a large assortment of staff and onlookers.  There was cheering and cursing, groaning and nervous stammering, not to mention the flick of cards, the roll of dice and spinning of wheels.  

Ezra tramped quickly up the spiral staircase and systematically scoured the second floor.  His face contorted when he finally discovered the woman.  She stood, centre stage to a group of five attentive admirers.  She was playing them for all her worth.  She threw back her head and laughed heartily, lightly patting one of her so-called gentleman friends on the shoulder and smiling inanely at him.  Ezra wondered briefly, which of them would become his next stepfather.  “MOTHER!” Ezra growled, glaring at the blond-headed woman.  He ignored the group of older men.  

“Ezra, darling,” she cooed, but the ire in her eyes nearly matched that of her son’s.  

“Where is he?” Ezra snarled. 

“Ezra, dear…” Maude Standish attempted to draw her son away from her group of attendants.  “We don’t need to discuss this here.” 

Ezra pulled his arm from Maude’s firm grip and rounded on the con-woman.  They stood in the middle of the second floor of the gaming room, having drawn quite an audience.  Standish didn’t care.  “What right do you have…stealing children,” he sneered in disgust, “for your own untoward means?” 

“Be wary of what you are accusing me of, young man,” Maude warned.  “I don’t need to resort to kidnapping.” 

Ezra laughed.  “Your act of sincerity is pitiful, and you and I both know it is only for the benefit of your audience.” 

“You sound jealous, Ezra.  Don’t you like it when I pay attention to someone other than you?”  Maude simpered at the listening crowd.  She’d have them under her spell soon. 

Standish made a choking sound in his throat.  “I’m not jealous of any waif you managed to pick up and con with your promises of wealth.  I doubt you treat him any better than you did me.  And when have you ever paid me any proper motherly affection?” 

“Oh, we’re not going to get into that again, are we?” 

Ezra was stunned by his mother’s response.  Yes, he wanted to cry.  He desperately needed to discuss this with her, or someone.  But he’d tried before, and usually found himself abandoned on the doorstep of some unknown relative for his indiscretion.  This was no place to bare their dirty laundry, but there never was an appropriate place when it came to Maude.  “No, we are not,” Ezra agreed miserably.  His mother, as usual had distracted him from his purpose.  “Why are you doing this?” 

“Well, you abandoned me,” she hissed in return.  “Leaving your own mother to defend for herself.  I was left with no other recourse.” 

“I am fifteen years old, mother!  I am not a child any more, to be shuffled like old money under the table and for services rendered.  I was sick of the cons; because we both know that was the only reason you kept me around.  You never wanted me, and I’ll bet none of your friends,” he sneered the word, glancing at the group of gullible idiots, “are even aware of your maternal responsibilities.” 

Maude Standish’s lips thinned.  How dare this young upstart challenge her in her own stomping grounds in front of prospective clients.  She’d taught him everything he knew.  Made him into something worthwhile and gave him a career abundant with many opportunities.  And he despised her for it.  “You left me in an awkward situation, Ezra.  I had to find a replacement…” 

That brought the young Southerner to the crux of the matter.  He’d heard along the grapevine that Maude Standish had been hustling with a child.  Ezra couldn’t allow his mother to take and destroy the child, the way she’d done to him.  He felt responsible for the boy, knowing he couldn’t leave the child under the con-woman’s control.  He would foil her plans and abscond with her protégée; that might teach Maude a lesson.  “How long have you had him?”  

Maude smiled at the fledgling gambler; he was extremely talented and held a promising future, if only he’d heed her wishes.  She’d led them to the corner and didn’t feel quite so exposed now that they had some privacy to discuss the matter; maybe Ezra would be willing to join up with her and her new protégée and complete her scam…she glanced at her only child, and decided that was probably not an option.  “He’s been with me for three months.  He’s nowhere as talented as you are, darling, but when one is forced to use substandard…” 

“Stop!” Ezra whirled, ashamed at his mother’s words.  “What of his family?  You just kidnapped him and brought him to New Orleans?” 

“Don’t be so melodramatic.  The boy has no parents.  I found him on the streets, and have offered him a better life.” 

Ezra snorted.  “In your opinion.” 

“I’ll let him go, if you promise to join me in his place,” Maude bargained.  She smiled sweetly, and flicked back an errant curl off Ezra’s forehead. 

Ezra flinched, stepping out of her reach.  “You would do that?” 

“Of course, dear,” she grinned, reaching out to cup his face gently. 

“Ezra’s eyes widened in alarm; his lips curled into a sneer.  “You would abandon the child in this city, just like that?”

Maude shrugged dismissively.  What did she care about the boy; he wasn’t her concern.  “He is not my child.  But if you came back with me…” 

Ezra growled, horrified by what his mother was suggesting.  “I can’t do that anymore, mother.  And I can’t allow you to keep the boy.” 

The con-woman sighed.  It didn’t matter really, she’d not been impressed by her new protégée in any case and had been going to dump him in the next few days…what did it matter if it happened now?  “Fine,” she easily complied.  “You take him.”  With her final words Maude Standish turned her back on Ezra and, masking her emotions completely, returned to her admiring crowd.  They had waited patiently for her to finish.  “Fool, child,” she gushed in way of explanation.  “Thinks for some reason I am his mother…follows me from city to city…” 

Ezra’s heart sank, not wishing to hear Maude dismiss him so coldly.  But his determination to set out on his own was made stronger.  Now he needed to find the child and set him free of Maude’s clutches.  It shouldn’t be too difficult…How many children would be playing poker in the gaming house?  Of Ezra’s time here, he remembered himself being the only child to pass through those doors; and he had done so, in so many different towns and cities, conning for Maude and making a killing on his natural ability with the cards.  Gambling, and finetuning his skills, were something he wouldn’t be able to give up.  But the conning Maude had him participating in, was finished with. 

His mouth narrowed and his brow furrowed.  It didn’t take long to find the child, as he’d expected.  The boy was seated at a felt-topped table shared with three other players.  Ezra took an empty seat and watched the blond-headed boy shuffle the deck.  He did it well, but the movements were jerky and unnatural.  In the three months of Maude’s tuition the boy had learnt the rudiments, but it was obvious to Ezra that he wouldn’t have the skill to keep in Maude’s good graces.  He might be able to con better than he could play, but Ezra doubted this. 

“You playing?” the young boy asked Ezra.  There was no animation to the child’s tone. He sounded defeated. 

“No.  And you can go home, now.” 

The boy stopped dealing cards around the table, and his small chest heaved up and down.  “I’m here with Maude.”  His eyes darted nervously around the room, expecting her to appear the very minute he said her name. 

“She doesn’t need you anymore,” Ezra brusquely informed the boy. 

Grumbles rose around the table.  “Are we playing here or not?”  “Get on with it.”  And; “Keep out of this, kid and mind yer own business.”  One of the heavier players roughly pushed back his chair, and lunged in the direction of the young Southerner. 

Ezra flicked his right arm upward, the derringer springing quickly into his palm.  He shook slightly; this was the first time he’d used it since strapping it on his arm.  It felt strange and unnatural, and he couldn’t believe he had the nerve to employ the gun.  The gambler, who’d been moving toward Ezra pulled up, stunned.  Standish watched him slowly raise both hands and the tremors that started and shook him down to his boots.  “I suggest you consider you options very carefully,” Standish warned, holding the three players at bay.  “Come on, kid.”  Ezra pushed back from the table, guiding the boy out of the gaming house and onto the street.  Standish returned the derringer and sighed deeply.  “That went well,” he muttered. 

“Who are you?” the boy asked. 

Standish looked down at his young companion; the child was probably seven or eight.  His hair was too long and hung over his eyes; he kept pushing it off his face.  His clothes fitted well; a small concession on Maude’s part, no doubt to have the boy fill his role adequately, and his boots were shined to a sheen.  But his eyes held a sorrowful expression; something that wasn’t expected in someone so young.  “Ezra P Standish, at your service.”  Ezra held out his hand to shake the boy’s, but he withheld his small hand.  “And you are?” 

“Don’t matter,” he answered sullenly.  “You and Maude related, or something?” 

Ezra squatted to the level of the shorter boy.  He grinned wryly.   “She is my mother,” he admitted ruefully.  “Where are your folks?”  He knew Maude had said the boy didn’t have any, but she wasn’t against stretching the truth to benefit her own means. 

The boy lifted his head and stared up at Ezra.  He refused to cry.  “My ma’s dead.” 

“I’m sorry…what about your father?” 

He shrugged. 

“You got any family?” 

After a long pause the blond-headed boy nodded.  “My brother.” 

Finally, Ezra sighed.  He could dump the kid off on this brother and leave.  “Where’s he?  Is he in town?” 

“I dunno…someone took him away…” 

Ezra raised both his eyebrows.  “How old is your brother?” 

“Six…they took him…then my ma was killed…then Maude came,” the little child sniffed. 

Standish rolled his eyes to the sky.  Everything was crashing down on him.  This couldn’t be happening.  The kid’s brother had been kidnapped and his mother killed, and a child left abandoned to Maude’s authority.  “There any other family?”  He knew the answer before the boy replied.  Of course there wasn’t. 

“You gonna tell me your name?”  Ezra persisted; he needed to call the boy something. 

The boy hadn’t told Maude his name, but then he hadn’t trusted the con-woman since she’d taken him from his home and ferried him across the country and started his, ‘schoolin’, her word, not his.  He wanted to return home, but there was nothing left, except charred remains.  His mother was dead, burned in the home they’d shared, and his brother was missing.  Adam had been his best friend, not only his younger brother.  “Chris…It’s Chris Larabee.” 

Ezra grinned.  “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Chris Larabee.”  This time Chris eagerly shook the gambler’s hand. 

“You hungry?”  The boy smiled for the first time and Ezra breathed a little easier.   “You got any money?” 

Chris turned out his pockets.  There were half a dozen coins in his palm.  And Ezra had not much more.  “We’ll work something out.”  Ezra knew how to quickly double their cash.  “Where are we headed?” 

“East of Eagle Bend…” Chris grew sombre.  “Are you gonna take me?” 

“I can’t very well leave you here, now can I?”

the end

Next story:- Color me Black  

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

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