Title: Each Must Know His Part Part 3/3
Characters: Ezra Standish, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Buck Wilmington, and eventually Josiah Sanchez, Nathan Jackson and JD Dunne.
Pairing: Chris/OFC - Charlotte Sparrow
Summary: An unexpected visitor to Four Corners, forces the men to come to terms with Ezra and Charlotte's Immortality
A/N: This is a sequel to "Child of My Heart" and "The Truth Is Immortal".
Ezra took a gasping breath and bolted upright. He was completely disoriented and unsure of what had happened, but instinctively his hand flew to his throat.
"It's still there," a familiar voice chuckled.
"Vin?" He rubbed his eyes and tried to focus on where he was. He was sitting on the bed in Chris' cabin and he was very much alive.
"Yep. Gotta tell ya, Ez," Vin smiled a mischievous glint in his eye, "I'd 'preciate it if ya'd stop dying in front of me. It's just danged creepy watching you wake from the dead."
Ezra stared at the tracker. He was not happy that Vin had reminded him of his second death, the indignity of it still annoyed him. "I shall endeavor to make sure you are not around the next time I expire."
"So'kay. I think I'm startin' to get used to it," he laughed. Vin stood, dragged the chair he'd been sitting on next to the bed and settled himself back down.
"I am glad one of us is. While I am grateful for my Immortality, I am still not comfortable with my ability to resurrect." He rubbed his brow trying to rid himself of the headache that always seemed to accompany his return to life and looked around Chris' cabin. "What exactly happened?" he asked.
"Figured if he could cheat," the tracker tilted his head toward the kitchen area, "then so could you."
The gambler looked to where Vin indicated. Karl Jaeger was tied to a chair, head bowed forward and very dead. There was a wide patch of red on the man's tan shirt.
Ezra swung his legs off of the bed and stared at his friend. "You shot him?"
"Vin, I…," Ezra hesitated overwhelmed by what he owed his friend. He wasn't sure what had possessed the tracker to follow him; but, if Vin hadn't been present, he would most definitely be dead. He was a bit pleased by the idea that his friendship meant enough that, even after Charlotte's command to stay away, Vin was here watching his back. His hand reached up to massage his neck again.
"Hell Ezra, you've saved my life a few times. Figured this might be my only chance ta save yours." Vin smiled, his blue eyes twinkling.
Ezra returned the smile. "And for that you have my undying gratitude." The two stared at each other a moment before they broke into raucous laughter at the awful pun.
Ezra stilled as he felt the Immortal presence in his head.
"He wakin' up?"
"Know what you gonna do?"
The mischievous smile returned to Ezra's face. "Yes, I do." He looked around. "My sword?"
The tracker walked over to the small kitchen area and retrieved the sword from the counter. Ezra stood and felt the room tilt a bit. Vin was at his side immediately.
"It just takes a few moments to get my bearings back after a brief trip to the great beyond." He pulled himself from Vin's grip, straightened his sleeves and smoothed down the front of his shirt. His hands hesitated at the bloody spot and he was reminded again how close he'd come to real death.
"Your assistance shouldn't be necessary but," Ezra's eyes drifted to Vin's gun," just in case." He had no qualms about utilizing Vin's solution again if his opponent failed to cooperate.
Vin nodded and after handing Ezra his sword, pulled his mare's leg, keeping it trained on the now conscious Immortal.
Ezra moved to stand in front of Karl. The German didn't say a word just stared at him with hatred in his eyes. "Now what am I to do with you?" Ezra mused.
"Go to hell!" Karl barked, and struggled against his bonds.
"I doubt that I will be the one visiting that locale today." Ezra began to swing his sword in an arc in front of him, not contacting the other Immortal but tracing an invisible line across the man's neck.
"You can't kill me!" Karl insisted. "That's not fair. I'm tied up!"
Ezra snorted. "Fair? You shot me, sir!" He stopped the sword's motion, keeping it pointed at the hollow of Karl's throat.
Gone was the braggart from the saloon, replaced by a sniveling bully who'd had the tables turned on him. Jaeger gulped as he watched the sword inch closer to his neck. "But…but you cheated."
Ezra's green eyes flared with anger. "I did not!"
"You aren't some scared, inexperienced Immortal. You lied to me!"
"Lied to you?" Ezra looked back at Vin. "Do you recall me lying to this odious man?"
"Nope, he's the one who cheated." Vin sent the German a cold smile as he hefted his gun a little higher. "That made me mad. So's it alright iffen I shoot him again?"
"I'm afraid not. As much as I'd like to see that, I need him awake so that I can present my proposition."
"You're going let me go?" Karl asked, a small hope flaring in his eyes.
Ezra and Vin laughed. "Of course not," Ezra said, the 'you idiot' implied in his tone. "I can not allow you to roam freely to ambush other unsuspecting Immortals."
Karl drooped. "Then what?"
"I can either take your head where you sit or you can finish the fight in an honorable fashion."
Vin leaned in to whisper, "Ez, you sure?"
Ezra nodded and pushed for Karl's answer, "Well?"
"Not much of a choice," the German groused. "I lose either way."
"True, but I somehow wouldn't feel right if the first head I took was from a man tied to a chair."
"First…head," Karl sputtered.
Ezra was rather pleased at the look of surprise on the man's face. Confirmation that Ezra was as good as he thought he was. He would have to thank Charlotte for all of those wearisome days of practice, because this first challenge had really been no challenge. At least up until the point when his opponent had broken the rules.
Karl nodded as he resigned himself to his fate. "Let's finish this."
Vin leaned against the hitching post as Ezra and Karl faced each other in an exact mirror of their positions earlier. But with one significant difference; this time it was Ezra that had a look of confidence while Karl was the one unsure of his skill.
He held his gun at the ready in case Karl decided to run or cheat, though Vin figured that was unlikely to happen again.
Ezra brought his sword up and took a step toward Karl. When the German didn't respond with like motion, the gambler hesitated. Vin understood his dilemma. When defending themselves or those they cared about, there was no uncertainty in killing a man, but neither he nor Ezra were the kind to take a man's life in cold blood.
"Ready yourself," Ezra demanded.
"What's the point?" Karl countered and raised his arms wide as if waiting for Ezra to take his head.
Ezra straightened his shoulders and raised his sword above his head ready to deliver the decapitating blow.
Something in Jaeger's demeanor triggered a warning in Vin's mind; it was a ruse, Karl was drawing Ezra in. Pushing himself off the railing, Vin wanted to shout to his friend, but immediately bit down on the words. He knew it wasn't his place to interfere, only if Karl broke the rules, again, would he use his gun.
He shouldn't have been worried; at the last instant Ezra changed the arc of his motion to bring the sword plunging toward Karl's stomach. The German's parry swung wide making no contact with Ezra's sword as he'd been expecting his opponent to be aiming higher. Now off balance, Jaeger was wide open to attack. Ezra's sword slid into Karl's stomach, driving him to his knees.
Vin could see the disbelief in Jaeger's face. He'd been conned by Ezra once again.
"This may be my first challenge," Ezra sneered. "But I am no novice when it comes to tactics." He pulled his weapon out of Karl's body and kicked the man's sword away.
Karl glared at Ezra and then at Vin as he knelt in the grass awaiting his fate. Vin thought Ezra was giving him a more honorable death than the cheater deserved.
Ezra swung his sword down severing the German's head from his body. It was over, Ezra was the victor. Vin started to walk toward his friend, but stopped when he waved him off.
He nodded thinking that Ezra needed a moment to himself and then the first lightening strike hit.
"Stay back!" he commanded as the lightening struck again and Ezra was driven to his knees.
At first, Vin had no idea what was happening. The wind had picked up and he had to place a hand on his hat to keep it from blowing off. It felt like one of those electrical storms that Vin had experienced when he'd traveled in West Texas, but something was different. He looked behind him and the sky was clear. The only storm was the one centered right over Ezra.
This had to be the Quickening ritual that Ezra had told them about when he'd first confessed his Immortality; the exchange of power from one Immortal to another. Nothing Ezra had described prepared Vin for the intensity of what he was witnessing. He stood transfixed by the explosion of sound and color as the lightening continued to slam into his friend.
And then it was over. Ezra fell forward onto all fours, panting for breath. Vin raced to his side, kneeling beside him.
"You okay?" It was a stupid question because his friend sure as hell didn't look okay.
Ezra held up a hand as if the ability to speak was too much effort. Vin waited patiently as Ezra leaned back to rest on his haunches taking deep breaths.
The two stared at each other. Vin realized that Ezra was just as unprepared for the onslaught of the Quickening as he'd been.
"Quite a light show you put on, pard," Vin teased.
"I can only imagine what it looked like from you perspective," Ezra huffed out, still winded from the experience.
"Did it hurt?"
"Not exactly. It was not painful as a gunshot wound would be, but it was definitely uncomfortable and unexpected in its intensity." Ezra grabbed his sword from where it lay in the grass and used it to climb to his feet. Vin stood with him, watching to see if Ezra would need his assistance.
"What was it like; taking in that power?"
Ezra took a deep breath and stretched, rolling his shoulders as if waking from a long nap. "Charlotte tired to describe the Quickening process too me several times, but failed to truly capture it." Ezra was staring at the decapitated body as his voice grew softer. "I understand now that there are no adequate words to explain the event. Only by experiencing a Quickening can one truly comprehend it."
Vin nodded. He had wanted to ask more, but Ezra had made it clear that he wasn't able to offer anything else. Vin was grateful that he'd been here to watch the Quickening. It had been both the most terrifying and beautiful storm he'd ever seen. He hoped someday to find the words to describe it.
Chapter 6: Epilogue
Vin had helped him bury the German and erase all traces of the battle. Ezra had claimed anything of value from Karl's things before leaving the horse in Chris' corral. He had no intention of bringing the animal back to town to raise questions about what might have happened to its owner.
Vin and Ezra headed back, and for once, Ezra was grateful that Vin was not the type to require conversation to pass the time.
It was almost full dark when they parted company about a mile outside of town. Ezra slowed Chaucer to a walk, wanting to give Vin time to slip into town before he arrived. As he approached home, he found himself lost in his thoughts.
Since becoming Immortal his life had been a bit of a wild ride. He'd been subjected to emotions that he hadn't even been aware he possessed. The feelings of friendship toward his fellow peacekeepers still surprised him while at the same time giving him a sense of belonging he'd never had before in his life.
And now he owed that life to Vin. It was a debt the tracker had been quick to dismiss, citing the variety of times Ezra had risked his life for them, but one Ezra knew he would be hard pressed to truly repay.
He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard someone shouting his name.
"Ezra!" Charlotte called as she ran to meet him. The others followed closely behind and Ezra smiled when he saw that Vin was amongst the group approaching.
Stopping Chaucer in the middle of the street, he had barely dismounted before he found himself with an armful of his cousin as she hugged him tightly.
"I am happy to see you too, Cousin," he teased.
She pulled away and smiled back at him. "I knew you would be successful."
A friendly slap on the back sent him stumbling forward. "Welcome back!" Buck boomed. "Knew ya could do it."
"Good to have you back, brother," Josiah said.
"Don't suppose I need to worry that you were hurt," laughed Nathan.
Ezra found himself manhandled from one man to the next as his hand was shaken and his back was slapped. He had never felt such camaraderie before and was a bit overwhelmed by their level of happiness at seeing him victorious.
"It is very good to be back," Ezra said. Charlotte returned to his side, grasping his hand, placing herself happily between Chris and Ezra.
"You done good, Ezra," Chris said, smiling at him over Charlotte's head. Ezra could see real gratitude in the man's countenance.
"So, what happened?" JD asked when no one else seemed ready to broach the subject. "You were gone a long time; was he any good? Were you hurt at all?"
Ezra had to stop himself from pulling his jacket closer to hide the bloodstain still evident on his clothing as JD continued to pummel him with specific questions about the duel.
"He was all bluster and no substance just as Charlotte predicted." Ezra met Vin's eye as he continued, "He was easily defeated."
"Did you really cut off his head?" Ezra winced at the volume of JD's question.
Buck cuffed the kid on the back of his head. "Keep it down, JD. Want everyone to know what Ez's been up too?"
JD looked appropriately chastised. "Sorry Ezra." He was whispering now. "I'm just curious, ya know."
"Completely understandable and I am happy to tell y'all all that happened." Though truthfully, he'd rather never speak of it again. Still, he owed his friends at least a cursory account. "But first I need to take care of Chaucer and then I think I'd like a drink."
"I'll see to your horse," JD offered, obviously feeling the need to make up for his blunder.
"It would be much appreciated," Ezra said. He gave Chaucer a pat as JD led the horse away. He looked at his cousin. "Will you be joining us?"
Charlotte shook her head. "It has been a long day, dearest and though I want to hear all about it, I find the stress of waiting has worn me out."
"I will see you back to the hotel before joining the others then," Ezra insisted.
"I am more than capable of seeing myself across the street." She kissed his cheek. "Enjoy your friends," she added, squeezing his hand before walking away.
"Cousin," he called after her. She turned expectantly. He hesitated; there was so much he wanted to say to her. Typically, he was a man who preferred to use ten words when two would do, but he found that wasn't necessary when they were the right two words. "Thank you."
She smiled and tilted her head in an acknowledgement at the depth of feeling he was expressing for all she had done for him over the years. Without a word, she resumed her trek to the hotel.
"The rest of y'all go ahead to the saloon, Ezra and I need to talk," Chris said.
As Nathan and Josiah left, Buck hesitated. "Shouldn't we all - "
"Go, Buck, I need to talk to my future cousin and his keeper." Chris smirked as he looked toward Vin.
Buck nodded his understanding. "'Spect I'll get the whole story someday." His tone suggested he knew that whatever Ezra shared would be sanitized for the others and Charlotte.
Once Buck was gone, Chris turned to face them. "So?"
"I can't imagine what you are asking, Chris," Ezra said solemnly. He had no intention of sharing the truth. Chris was already worried about the possibility of Charlotte facing a challenge. There was no way he was going to tell him about how the German had attempted to cheat.
"What really happened?" He glared at them.
"Veni, vidi, vici," Ezra quoted.*
Chris's brow shot up in confusion and Ezra shrugged. "Vin, what happened?" Ezra smiled knowing Chris wasn't going to get a straight answer from that source either.
"Don't know what yer asking me fer," Vin protested, "I weren't even there." His smirk was barely concealed as he dipped his head to avoid the glare.
"Not one of ya gonna tell me what really happened?"
"What makes you think something unusual happened?" Ezra asked trying not to meet Vin's eyes. The whole thing was too ridiculous. Chris was glaring at them; yet, he and Vin were on the verge of very unmanly giggles as they attempted to obfuscate quite unsuccessfully.
Chris huffed his frustration. "You two are hiding something."
And isn't that an understatement, Ezra thought as he to struggled to hold back the sarcastic reply. It wasn't helping that Vin would not stop grinning at him. The tracker was enjoying this entirely too much. Adopting a guise of complete innocence, Ezra replied, "Only the body we buried on your property."
"Figured ya wouldn't appreciate us leaving a mess," Vin added.
"You were at my place?" Ezra could see Chris found that idea a bit unsettling.
"It seemed the logical location at the time."
"Stop glaring, Larabee. Ezra won and even cleaned up after himself. What else do ya need to know? Now, I need a drink." And with that pronouncement, Vin left the future cousins to themselves.
"Guess I don't need to know the details," Chris finally admitted as he stared past Ezra to fixate on the hotel.
"No, you don't." Ezra followed Chris' gaze to the lighted window on the second floor. He assumed that was where Charlotte was ensconced.
"You'll take good care of her after I'm gone." It wasn't a question and Ezra was brought up short by the sudden turn in the conversation.
This afternoon Ezra had wondered, given Chris' history, if Immortality was the overriding reason the man had fallen for his cousin. As Ezra studied the gunslinger's face while he stared up at Charlotte's window, he knew that Chris truly loved her.
"Of course, Chris. You know I will."
Chris seemed to be struggling to hold back more emotion than Ezra had ever seen the man reveal. Unwilling to intrude on the man's thoughts, Ezra remained quiet. In the silence Ezra found a new connection to the man he followed and reveled in that bond. The two stood side by side staring at the window until the light went out.
"I love her too, you know," Ezra said softly, confirming what he knew to be true of Chris' feelings.
Chris smiled, understanding the acceptance that Ezra was offering. "Yeah, I know."
*Veni, vidi, vici = I came, I saw, I conquered