Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: this is an amateur work of fiction. Neither Ezra Standish nor the rest of the Larabee's Riders belong to me (although Rina Henshaw does). Not my characters, just borrowing them, will return (relatively) unharmed or at least suitably bandaged. This story is just ... typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. Not theft of intellectual property. Originally published in the fanzine Let's Ride #10 from Neon RainBow Press. This is the seventh chapter of the Mrs. Standish AU. If you don't like AUs, continuing series, or Mary Sues, you will not like this story and it won't hurt my feelings if you don't read it. Do not read this story unless you've read #6 in the series, "For Better or for Worse," or it won't make sense.


Susan M. M.

Setting: OW, Chapter 7 of the Mrs. Standish AU

Four Corners, Arizona Territory, August 1878

"Good afternoon, Mr. Standish. Your lunch is ready."

"Welsh rarebit? It smells delicious." He directed his attention to his food for several minutes. "We need to speak, Marina."

She looked up at him.

"About us."

She took a deep breath, hoping he wasn't going to bring up the divorce again.

"My mother's business endeavors have long required her to travel extensively. She was not always able to have me accompany her, and I spent a great deal of my youth being shunted from one relative to another. I promised myself a long time ago that no child of mine would go through that." Ezra took a deep breath. "I know I haven't been the world's best husband. For the baby's sake, at least, I'd like to make a fresh start. Will you give me a second chance?"

Marina had done her best to maintain a straight face when Ezra referred to his 'mother's business endeavors.' She had long since heard the truth about Maude from Buck and Josiah. She had to really struggle to keep her composure when she heard his offer. She would've traded her hope of Heaven to hear that offer, if only he'd omitted 'for the baby's sake.'

After a moment, she replied, "You have nothing to apologize for, sir. You've always treated me with courtesy. Never humiliated me in public, never raised a hand to me in anger. You put a roof over my head and food on my table. I have nothing to complain of."

"Nor much to brag about," Ezra admitted wryly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a diamond ring. The diamond was square-cut, in an ornate silver setting. "I acquired this some years ago – won it in a poker game – and saved it with the intention of someday giving it to my wife. I didn't have it on my person when your cousin forced us into matrimony, and afterwards … afterwards I hoped I could convince Judge Travis to release us from the bonds of wedlock. Will you accept this, if not as a token of my affection, at least in recognition of a new accord?"

"Is it so impossible that it could be a token of your affection?"

"I can't give you my heart, Marina."

Pride kept her from declaring that she'd gratefully accept whatever crumbs fell from his table. "I understand, Mr. Standish."

"Are you going to refuse this pretty bauble, Mrs. Standish?" In his experience, women rarely turned down diamonds.

"I'd be proud to wear your ring. Just as I'm proud to bear your name and carry your child." She held out her hand so he could place the ring on her finger.

Her hand was small. It took him two tries before he found a finger it would fit comfortably on. "It's been a difficult half year, hasn't it?" When she nodded, he continued, "I'm sorry if I hurt you."

"If my wishes were more than you could grant, that's the fault of my wishes, not your doing. You've never failed in meeting your obligations."

Ezra said, "That's a matter of opinion. Living with the Henshaws lowered your expectations. And I'd like to manage a little more than simply meeting my obligations."

She smiled wryly, acknowledging the truth of his statement. "Amongst the Henshaws, a good husband was one who didn't leave bruises where they showed. Just what do you consider the requirements of our new accord?"

"Respect. Friendship."

"But not love?"

"I could lie and say I love you," he admitted, "probably even convince you. But perhaps we should try honesty … if only for the novelty." He reached out and took her hand, gently caressing her knuckles.

"Very well, Mr. Stan- "

"Ezra," he corrected her.

"Very well, Ezra. Respect, friendship, and honesty."

He glanced at the clock. "I should return to the saloon."

She nodded. "You have a family to provide for. I'll have your supper waiting when you come home."

Once he left, she collapsed on their bed and wept bitter tears of unrequited love.