A/N: Welcome to my Ezra story. This is just a prologue and the next chapter will start up with Ezra's childhood. Went ahead and posted this because I'm having a bit of writer's block on my Maude story. Hope you enjoy and feel free to tell me what you think.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Magnificent Seven and I'm making no profit from this story.
Ezra Standish leaned back in his chair and dismally studied the amber liquid in the glass before him. He really didn't want the drink, he'd asked for it more out of habit than anything, and he feared if he started in on drinking now he'd wouldn't stop till he was good and drunk. And nothing much good happened when Ezra got drunk. Sighing, he pushed the drink away and slumped down in the chair.
He wasn't sure what was bothering him the most at the moment, the betrayal by his mother or by his friends. If he could honestly call it a betrayal at all. He knew by now he shouldn't be surprised by anything his mother did. As for Nathan, JD, even Josiah, well, Maude had a way of getting people to do whatever she wanted them to, and that was something he knew all to well. But it was still hard for him to conceive that his mother would purposely force her own son, her only son, out of business. She didn't know. He hastily reminded himself. He'd been telling himself that all day in an effort to ease the sting of his mother's betrayal, and while it did little to lift his mood it did keep him from becoming to angry with Maude over her actions. She didn't know.
Ezra wanted to believe that Maude would have behaved differently had she known the truth, and honestly he did. Maude wasn't really as hard and unfeeling as she allowed most people to believe. That front was only a part of her defenses, a part of her training Ezra had taken to heart and liberally applied himself over the years. In a way it surprised him that Maude had been ignorant of the fact the saloon had been his investment and his alone. She had always made it a practice to find out as much about a situation as she could before going into it, then again, Ezra's honest business endeavor was so against everything she'd taught him it probably never occurred to her to wonder where the money had come from.
She didn't know. Well, maybe she hadn't known, maybe things would have been different if she had, but none of that changed the fact that he'd lost his saloon and his mother had taken it. Despite his belief that Maude wasn't so heartless as to knowingly rip her own son's dream away from him, Ezra knew it was going to take a little time to completely forgive this grievance. In the meantime he'd just set here in what used to be his saloon and tell himself over and over again. She didn't know.
Inez was the only other person in the saloon besides himself so it was impossible for Ezra to not notice the figure that pushed through the batwing doors a while later. Ezra's eyes followed his fellow peacekeeper as Vin made his way across the room. "Mr. Tanner." Ezra deadpanned when Vin stopped in front of him.
"Ezra." Vin sounded a little nervous.
Ezra pushed a chair out with his foot. "Join me. Perhaps we can drown our sorrows together." Vin sank into the chair and Ezra couldn't help but notice the man didn't look like he really wanted to be here. The others had given him a large berth since his mother had left and Ezra wondered if Vin was here of his own choosing or he had simply "drawn the short straw". Ezra wasn't really in the mood to talk but if he was going to be coerced into discussing this manner he'd rather it be with Vin than anyone else.
In the two years he'd been here Ezra had come to care about every one of his comrades but he couldn't deny that there were some he'd rather have serious discussions with than others. Buck and JD both had a tendency to run their months and not know when was the best time to shut up. And as much as he liked Josiah there were times Ezra couldn't make heads or tails out of what the man was actually trying to say. He got along fine with Nathan now on most days but the healer was still a bit quick to judge and after what had happened with his mother Ezra wasn't feeling particularly gracious toward the black man at the moment. And while he had nothing but the utmost respect for Chris, the gunslinger was about the last person Ezra would choose to have a heart-to-heart with. That left Vin, and Ezra suspected everyone else knew that just as well as he did.
"You can even appropriate my drink." Ezra said pushing the glass in Vin's direction. Then he leaned back folded his hands and waited. He didn't want to talk but it was obvious the others were going to make him so they might as well get it over with.
Vin took a healthy swallow of the whiskey and a deep breath before he spoke. "How do you stand it, Ez?"
"How do I stand what, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked, not even bothering to correct Vin for his use of the nickname.
"Your ma. Every time she comes to town it's like she has it in for you. How do you stand it?"
Ezra gave his friend a long look before answering. Was this what they all thought? That his mother was out to get him. There was a time Ezra would've agreed but that had been years ago. His mother had her reasons, and although they seemed a bit misguided at times he understood them...mostly. "My mother's a businesswoman, Vin. She has her reasons for everything. I learned that long ago."
"But she's your mother. Don't it bother you that she don't..."
Ezra's eyes narrowed as Vin trailed off. Was Vin implying what Ezra thought he was? "Despite her faults I do love my mother and I don't doubt her love for me." Ezra heard the edge that had crept into his voice and judging by the slight flush coloring Vin's cheeks, the tracker had heard it too. Ezra knew his friends didn't understand Maude's ways, he didn't understand a lot of them, but he wouldn't allow them believe that his mother didn't care for him. He knew she did, she just had some unconventional ways of showing it.
Taking a breath Ezra tried to even his voice back out before he spoke again. "Vin, my mother hasn't always been the way she is now. There was a time when we were very happy together." He looked down and twisted the ruby ring on his left ring finger. "I was five when I lost my father. In a way I suppose I lost my mother at that time as well."
Vin nodded. After a moment he spoke again. "I'm sorry you had to do this alone."
"What?" Ezra asked, confused by the sudden shift in the conversation.
"This." Vin replied, nodding his head to indicate the saloon.
Ezra snorted. Only Vin could have spent the last few days fighting for his life then lose his best chance at clearing his name and apologize for not being there to help. "I believe you had rather pressing matters of your own to attend to." Maybe that was why the others had sent Vin. Since Vin had been dealing with his own problems he hadn't been in the middle of Ezra's war with his mother and therefore, Ezra didn't have anything to hold against him.
"I'm still sorry."
Ezra shrugged. "There will be other endeavors. So, Mr. Tanner." Ezra flashed that cocky, self-assured grin of his that told everyone around him, except those who knew him best, that he was on top of the world and all but invincible. "Would you care to join me in a real drink? I think perhaps we can persuade Senorita Rocios to fetch us a bottle of my personal bourbon. We can toast to the loss of dreams." The loss of the saloon stung and it would for a while, but Ezra had hit it big and almost immediately lost it all before. He would eventually shake this off and consider it another hard learned lesson, which is what he was sure had been his mother's goal all along. Although, he still wasn't sure what exactly he was to have learned from this, except never go head-to-head with Maude Standish, and he was certain that wasn't what his mother had had in mind. But until he could forget the sting of betrayal he would remember his mother as she had been in the daguerreotype he kept in his room, young, happy, carefree, and very much in love with her boys. And he would tell himself as often his he needed to hear it, She didn't know.