Disclaimer: I do not own the Magnificent Seven, or any of its characters. I am making no money from this.
Notes: This is just a short little story that popped into my head one afternoon while I was happily minding my own business and demanded that I write it immediately.
A squeal of childish delight from across the road had Ezra looking up from his book. He watched as Chris pulled Billy Travis up onto the saddle of his horse with him. 'Must be time for another fishing trip,' he mused silently to himself, watching the display and denying the spark of jealousy that welled up from somewhere deep inside of him.
Oh, not jealous of the fishing trip. Not that at all. He detested fishing. It was so dreadfully boring to stand around holding a stick in the vain hope that an aquatic creature would nibble at the unfortunate wriggling worm that had been speared onto the end of a hook. No, he did not like fishing and never wanted to try that specific activity again. The one time he'd gone had led to embarrassment for all parties involved, and not a small amount of vomit when Ezra had been unable to stifle his revulsion. No, it was the visible sign of affection that left a longing in Ezra's heart.
He remembered before he had come to Four Corners. The loneliness he'd felt every time Mother had left him with another relation. Some of the people, he wasn't even sure they were relations. Perhaps some poor fool suckered into believing they were of the same bloodline, or perhaps paid to take care of him for a time. Once, and only once, he'd been lost in a poker game. Ezra still wasn't sure whether Mother had done it on purpose or not.
He had been dragged out west by one of his supposed uncles. Over the ensuing week in the dusty little town, he'd spent his nights playing poker to earn his keep. Uncle Jacob had procured a room over the saloon. Ezra had to keep it clean and to stay quiet while Uncle Jacob slept. Aside from making the bed, the closest he got to it was when he slept beneath it, using his own tattered coat to keep warm.
Inevitably, Ezra had gotten sick. Uncle Jacob had ignored it until the illness had gotten in the way of Ezra's playing. Then he reacted with violence, blaming Ezra for his illness, for the fact that he couldn't play poker and in turn rake in the money that Uncle was so greedy for.
Ezra's cries of pain and Uncle Jacob's yelling had drawn the attention of the band of lawmen that were having their evening meal just downstairs. Ezra didn't remember much after that. He remembered the pain and he remembered Uncle Jacob yelling. There had been loud, thunderous footfalls and the sharp crack of the door-frame splintering when someone kicked the door from its hinges. When he'd next been truly aware, his uncle was gone; arrested and carted off to prison on charges of assault and attempted murder. The time between was full of vague memories, hazy recollections of being held and cared for.
On that fateful night one of the lawmen had dropped to his knees beside Ezra's beaten, broken body. He had pulled the child onto his lap and cradled him close, constantly whispering soft reassurances. Over the following days, as he'd battled his way through fever and delirium, this one man had always been by Ezra's bedside. The other lawmen came and went, attending to their own businesses, but this one was there every time Ezra grasped a fleeting hold on consciousness.
He'd sat with Ezra, holding his hand or brushing gentle strokes through his sweaty hair. He'd talked with Ezra, told him stories. It was unusual. Ezra wasn't used to such behavior. At best, adults ignored him. At worst - well, he remembered his uncle's violent temper.
Over time he had come to welcome the lawman's visits, even to look forward to them once the man had been forced to resume his work and leave Ezra to the care of the healer, or even to a few of the town's womenfolk when Mr. Jackson wasn't available. Ezra had slowly allowed his guard to slip, reveling in the attention and kindness. Slowly, so very slowly, Ezra had begun to think of this man as a father figure, truly the closest thing Ezra had ever had to one.
So Ezra felt a flash of jealousy when he watched Chris and Billy laugh as the man wrapped an arm around the boy's waist to hold him steady as they rode lazily out of town. Ezra Patrick Standish had long since learned that wishes and hopes were for fools. His mother had instilled those teachings into him.
All of that was cast aside as easily as the breath left his lungs as Ezra suddenly found himself lifted from his seat and spun around. The man easily hefted Ezra's slight body up onto his shoulders and Ezra squealed with laughter as he wrapped his small arms around the man's head, tipping his hat off in the process. The six year old looked down with shining eyes at his savior. "I love you, Pa," he whispered.
Patting his knee, the man beamed back up at him. He took his hat from a passing stranger that had picked it up for him, thanked the man and headed for the livery. "Love you, too. Ready to go home?"
Ezra nodded. He'd never been happier in his life than he was right now.
Oh, yes, Ezra P. Standish had learned that hopes and dreams were for suckers and fools. Dreams didn't come true.
Sometimes though, sometimes they did. And Ezra Patrick Dunne believed in miracles.