"You don't have to stay anymore," Inez murmured quietly, her fingers brushing over a skirt she was folding. Ezra slowly glanced over at his wife. They were the first real words she had spoken since their unborn child had been delivered stillborn almost a week ago.
While Inez had recovered in Nathan's clinic, then in the room she shared with Ezra, Judge Travis had come to town and held a trial for the surviving men that had attacked Inez. It hadn't taken the jury long to decide a verdict on her attackers. They had been hanged, buried on the outskirts of town away from everyone else and the gallows taken down already. It was a far swifter justice then Ezra felt the men had deserved. He was, however, grateful for it to be over so Inez could start to move on.
"Stay where?" Ezra asked, though he had a feeling he knew what she meant.
"Here," she said quietly. "With me." She set the skirt down, letting her dark hair obscure her features. "The reason we married is no longer..." She bit her lip.
Ezra was quiet, silently regaining his composure her words were tearing down. He walked over to her, trying not to cringe at the flinch she produced when he moved closer.
"Why do you say that?" he whispered.
"The baby's gone," Inez said. "No reputation needs to be..." She covered her mouth. She whirled on Ezra, anger coming out. "You don't need to pity me anymore!"
Ezra blinked, astonishment washing over him. His forehead puckered into a frown and he shook his head. "I have never pitied you!" he said. "I love you!"
"How can you love me?" Inez asked, her hands shaking. "I'm... I'm used! I'm just some... some thing that doesn't deserve to be loved!"
"No," Ezra said firmly, moving towards her. "Don't ever say that, Inez. What those men did to you... that was them not you!"
"No!" Inez screamed. "I'm horrid! A monster! They stole everything from me, how can you ever love nothing?!"
"But I do," Ezra said. "I love you, Inez! I love everything about you, before what happened and now after it happened!"
"No!" she screamed again, rushing forward to practically attack him. She began to beat her fists against his chest, screaming at him, her words mostly incoherrent but they were never directed at him. It broke Ezra's heart because most of the words he could understand, even in broken Spanish, were directed at her.
"I love you, Inez," Ezra said, wrapping his arms around her, stilling her violent motions. With a tortured sob, Inez slumped against him, her legs giving out. Instead of trying to hold her up, Ezra lowered them to the floor, leaning against the foot of the bed. He rocked her as she turned her head against his chest, her eyes squeezed shut as she sobbed.
Vin had heard the first screams from downstairs. Glancing at Chris, the two took the steps two at a time. Chris could hear the other men rushing behind them, but only Vin shoved the door open. Ezra glanced over, seeing Vin and Chris standing there, staring at them. He shook his head, tears slipping onto his cheeks as he listened to his wife sob. No words verbally passed, but the three men spoke silently. As one, Vin and Chris turned and pushed the other men back. Buck started to protest, but Ezra never heard what he would have said as Chris shoved him back and Vin quietly closed the door on the Standishs' privacy.
Ezra slid his fingers into the dark length of Inez's hair, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm here," he murmured. "I'm here." He shifted and stretched his legs out, letting Inez curl against him more as she let her emotions release. He simply held her, stroking her hair, murmuring words against her hair. His own tears slipped down his cheeks.
"I'm sorry," Inez murmured once she had calmed down.
"For what? Grief? Anger? There's nothing to be sorry for," Ezra said.
"No," Inez said, sitting up so she could look at him. Her cheeks were pale and Ezra worried for her. "Don't tie yourself down to me..."
"Inez, stop," Ezra started.
"No, Ezra, please listen," she said, brushing his hand with hers. "I... I do love you. But I can't... I can't tie you down."
"I love you and you love me, that's not tying me down," Ezra said, confused.
"Ezra... I don't know if I can ever let you touch me that way," Inez admitted, horror in her eyes. "How could I possibly..."
"I am not in love with you because of that," Ezra said, frowning. "Inez, if I can never touch you beyond a hug or holding you when you cry... that's fine with me."
"It's not fair to you," Inez whispered. "You deserve more. You deserve someone you can have children with, who doesn't flinch when you touch her."
Ezra shook his head and reached up slowly, cupping her face. "I deserve you and it's you I have," he whispered. "I'll be here for you. These five words I swear, always."
"I don't deserve you," she said, tears slipping down her cheeks.
"But you have me," Ezra said. He moved forward and wrapped his arms around her, feeling her arms come around him. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I love you."
"I love you," Inez said, snuggling against his chest, finding strength in him.
"Ezra?" she asked after a moment's silence.
"I can't stay here." He almost thought she wasn't going to say anything after his response till those words slipped out of her mouth.
"Love?" he asked.
She sat up again. "Here, in Four Corners," she said. "There's too much pain here."
"Then we'll leave," Ezra said. "There is just too much history here for either of us."
"Are you sure?" Inez asked. "I feel as if I am abandoning Mary and Kate. I was getting to know them... and what of your job with Judge Travis?"
"Kate and Mary will understand," Ezra said. "As will Judge Travis. And if not, to hell with them all. We have to do what is best for us."
"When do we leave?"
Ezra made his way to the sheriff's office after tucking Inez in for a nap. She had insisted on packing, but he wanted her to rest first after the emotional roller coaster in their room. They talked for a few more moments about what they would do before exhaustion caught up to her and she needed to lay down.
The door to the sheriff's office opened and the Judge stepped out, Chris and Vin directly behind him. He paused when he saw Ezra.
"Ezra," he said. "How's Inez?"
"She's resting right now," Ezra said. "We had a bit of a rough time earlier and it wiped her out."
"Understandable you have her resting then," the Judge said.
"Judge Travis, might I have a word with you?" Ezra inquired.
"Of course," he said.
"We were just leavin'," Chris said. He glanced at Vin, who simply nodded and the two men prepared to leave.
"No," Ezra said, stopping their attempt. "You two should stay. You both need to hear this." The gunslinger and tracker exchanged looks, curious.
The four men stepped into the sheriff's office, neither speaking till the door closed behind them. Judge Travis spoke first. "What can I do for you, Ezra?"
"I am tendering my resignation as one of the town's peacekeepers," Ezra said. Vin and Chris both straightened. "Effective immediately."
Travis stared at the man. He wish he could say he was surprised at this news, but Mary had kept him up to speed on what had transpired with Nathan and Buck after Inez's attack. Coupled with the second attack that cost the two the life of their unborn child, Travis was not at all surprised at Ezra's words.
"You're sure?" he had to ask.
"Why?" Chris asked.
"Inez and I are leaving," Ezra said to him.
"Leaving?" Chris asked, blinking in astonishment. "But..."
"There is too much pain here for us," Ezra explained. "She doesn't want to stay and she is my life, I go where she goes."
"But we need you here," Vin said quietly. "Mary and Kate... they were growin' closer to Inez."
"I know. So does she," Ezra said. "When you two gentlemen decide to make honest women of your paramours we will return for your nuptials. But it's far too painful for us to remain here. For both of us."
Travis let out a breath, shaking his head. "I wish..." he started. He frowned a bit before looking at Ezra. "I wish things could be different."
"So do I," Ezra said quietly. He extended his hand to Travis. "It's been a pleasure.""
Travis shook his hand. "Thank you, for everything you did for this town."
"When are you leaving?" Chris asked.
Ezra looked over at him. "Tomorrow," he said.
"Tomorrow?" Vin asked, disbelief in his tone. "That soon?"
"We don't have much," Ezra explained. "Inez and I agreed it's just better if we left as soon as possible."
"Anything we can do to help?" Chris asked. Vin looked at him.
"No," Ezra said. "But thank you. I need to arrange a wagon for us before we head out."
"I can do that," Vin said. "Least I can do. You can get back to Inez."
"I appreciate that, Vin," Ezra said.
Chris extended his arm to Ezra, who made to take his hand but Chris shifted, grasping his forearm as he always did with Vin. It made Ezra's throat tighten, realizing what the gesture meant.
"We're gonna miss you," Chris said. "Both of you."
"Thank you, Chris," Ezra said. Vin offered his arm and the two men grasped forearms as Ezra and Chris had. No words passed, but Ezra offered a small, sad smile to the tracker. He stepped back and settled his hat on his head. Brushing the brim with his index finger, he turned on his heel to leave the sheriff's office and return to his wife.
"Inez?" Mary said the next day. Inez turned, smiling sadly at the two blondes standing there. Kate and Mary held a basket each. "Kate and I spent most of yesterday making these things for you and Ezra for the trip."
"Got it, Inez," Vin said, taking the baskets from the two women.
"Thank you, Vin," Inez said before turning back to Mary and Kate. She moved forward and embraced Mary.
"Be safe," Mary whispered, her voice catching.
"We will," Inez said. She pulled back and moved to give Kate a slightly awkward hug, the other woman still adjusting to having genuine friends and showing affection so openly.
"What's going on?" Josiah asked, walking up to the group.
Ezra and Chris finished loading the wagon with Vin's help, moving around to stand beside the women. Ezra put his arm around his wife. "Inez and I are leaving," he told the preacher.
Josiah's face fell. "Leaving... for good?" he asked, sadness washing over his words.
"Yes," Ezra said. "It's time."
Josiah studied the man, looking deep beneath the surface. Ezra made sure not to shift uncomfortably. Josiah always had a knack for seeing beneath his facade, so he gave him time to see what he needed to.
"We'll miss you, brother," Josiah said, extending his hand to Ezra.
"You know my thoughts on that for myself," Ezra said, grasping his hand. "But I have Inez and that's what matters as we make a life together."
"I wish you all the best," Josiah said. He looked at Inez, smiling softly. "Both of you."
"Thank you, Senor Sanchez," Inez said.
"What's the wagon for?" JD asked, his arm still in a sling from his shoulder injury. He looked at the wagon, curious as always before looking at them. His face saddened and he shook his head. "Ezra... you... you and Inez are leavin'?"
"We are, Mister Dunne," Ezra said.
"But..." JD started.
"JD," Chris said, putting a hand on his good shoulder.
"But we can move past things," JD tried again. "You don't need to leave."
Inez leaned into Ezra's side, his arm tightening around her. "Yes we do," Ezra said. "Inez and I need to move on."
"Son, nothing stays the same forever," Josiah said. "Especially when things change as they did for Brother Ezra and Sister Inez."
"Will you visit?" JD asked, his voice small.
"We'll try, Senor JD," Inez said quietly.
"We should go," Ezra said, letting JD lower his head and attempt to regain his composure. Kate was the first to move, embracing Ezra for a moment then Inez again. Mary moved forward to hug Ezra, taking a big longer than Kate.
"Take care of each other," she whispered to him.
"We will," Ezra promised. Mary pulled back, offering him a teary smile. She turned to Inez, hugging her again.
Vin offered his arm to Ezra, the two men grasping forearms. "You need anything, pard, you or Inez let us know," he said.
"The thought is very much appreciated, Vin," Ezra said. "Let us know when your nuptials will be. We'll return."
"You talk like it's a certainty," Vin said.
"Let's just say it's in the cards," Ezra said, flashing him a grin.
"Yeah, yeah," Vin said, grinning. "Safe journey, brother."
"Thank you." Ezra turned and walked with Inez to the front of the wagon, Chris following. Inez carefully hugged Chris, a movement that took a lot for her to make. Ezra helped her into the wagon before facing the gunslinger.
Like Vin, Chris and Ezra grasped one another's arms. "You really sure this is the right decision?" he asked one more time.
"Yes," Ezra said. "It's the right decision for us. Too much pain remains in this town for us. A fresh start is what we need."
Chris nodded. "Can understand that," he said. He glanced down the street where he saw Buck exiting the saloon and take note of the group. He saw the frown before the other man ducked his head into the saloon and soon Nathan joined him.
"You best get going before Buck and Nathan come over here demandin' answers," Chris said.
"Thank you," Ezra said, turning to the wagon and getting into the seat beside his wife. His horse, Chaucer, was tied to the back of the wagon. Picking up the reigns, Ezra glanced down at Chris.
"Remember what Vin said, you need anything..." Chris said.
"We will," Ezra said. "Good-bye, Chris."
Ezra slapped the reigns and spurred the horses pulling the wagon into motion. Inez reached over and rested her hand on her husband's thigh, scared at the prospect but feeling as if the pain and suffering were starting to lift some as the wagon began to pull out of Four Corners.
Buck and Nathan ran over to Chris, their eyes on the departing wagon. "What's going on, pard?" Buck asked.
"The Standishes are moving on," Chris said.
Buck whipped his head around, staring at him. Nathan frowned. "Ezra's runnin' out on us?" he asked.
Chris turned his head, coldly glaring at Nathan. "No," he said. "Judge Travis knows they are leaving and accepted Ezra's resignation. And sayin's like that are just one of the reasons Ezra's leavin' and I don't blame him one damn bit."
"The hell?" Nathan asked.
"There's too much pain and too many bad memories in this town for them to stay," Chris said. "Would've thought you had that figured out by now after the hurtful words you already inflicted on Ezra."
"Are you sayin' they are leavin' because of us?" Buck asked, his voice quiet and sad.
"I'm sayin' that Inez and Ezra are starting a new life somewhere that ain't here to get away from the town that's caused their worlds to be flipped upside down," Chris said. "And yes, you were a part of that flipping." He glared at both men before turning to walk away. "Nothin' ain't ever going to be the same again."
-To Be Continued…