Rebels & Rogues Magnificent Seven Alternate Universe
Rating: PG-13 Language, Violence
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish and MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes
AU: Rebels & Rogues Alternate Universe
Author's Notes: Sequel to The Collar. This is the third story in the Rebels & Rogues Alternate Universe. The order of the stories: Genesis, The Collar, Consequences, What You Have To Do. This story will not make any sense at all without reading the others. The story is complete.
Feedback is always greatly appreciated. Please let me know what you think. Thank you, Ruby :)
"Hey, Nate." Josiah smiled up at the doctor.
Nathan returned the smile as he sat down across from the tall missionary's son. "Josiah, how ya doin'?" Nate asked as he sat his late supper down on the table in front of him.
Josiah sighed. "I'm all right."
"Hmmm," Nathan responded. "Why don't I believe you?"
Josiah shrugged, smiling sadly.
Nate looked around him. "Where's the rest of the guys?"
"Chris and Vin's out on a scout. Ezra's still in his room, I think. And-"
"And Buck's with the kid," Nathan answered. "Yeah, I know. I can't get 'im away. You'd think Buck knows 'im or something."
"Brother Buck does act like he knows the young boy. I wondered about that." Josiah pursed his lips, deep in thought.
Eating his sandwich, Nathan watched his best friend closely. After a few moments of silence he asked, "What's wrong, Josiah?"
"Oh." Josiah startled back to himself. " I was just thinkin' 'bout that kid in there, 'bout what he's been through."
"Yeah," Nathan agreed thoughtfully.
"Damn!" Josiah slammed his open palm down on the table, almost toppling Nathan's drink. "Sorry," he apologized as he reached out and caught the falling glass.
"No harm done," Nathan told him, watching him with concern.
Josiah shook his head, looking down, squeezing his eyes shut. "I just...I been wonderin' what kind of God would let this kind of stuff happen." He looked up at Nathan, a pained look on his face. "I mean, look at that boy, that's all he is - a boy. And look what's happened to him. Look what those monsters have done to him. He's in there strapped down to that bed 'cause the first chance he gets he's gonna try to kill hisself." He shook his head harder this time. "Lord Jesus, what's happenin' here?"
Nathan swallowed hard. Nodding his head, he spoke very softly. "The boy's doin' okay. He woke up for a few minutes this evening and I don't think he's gonna have any lasting damage from the collar. He's gonna live, I think, Josiah. But..." he looked into his best friend's eyes, "I'm not a hundred percent sure. Hell, I don't know anything about these Rogue Collars. Ezra's told me horror stories about what happens to a person after it's taken off, and, frankly, I'm scared." He looked down, playing with his glass. "I'd hate to have to do something to that kid. I'd hate it. And I don't know what would happen to Buck."
"Do something? What exactly do you mean, Nathan?" Josiah asked, his brow furrowed in concern.
Nathan shook his head furiously as he looked at Josiah. "I'm not sure what's gonna happen to him. He might come around, come back to normal...or he might stay the way he is, every second wanting to kill himself, or one of us. And, if that happens, there ain't any choice but to put him down."
Josiah gasped harshly. "Put him down!? Nate, you're talking like he's an animal or something. He's just a boy!"
"A boy who's been brainwashed into thinking that he's not human. That he *is* a Rogue. That he hates us and the first chance he gets, wants to do us harm, or hisself." He shook his head. "Lord, you know me, Josiah, I don't want to hurt anybody, but there ain't enough food and supplies to go around to feed a body that only wants to do harm. You know Chris won't go for it. Hell, we can't hardly feed all of us that's here all ready. And if it comes down to keepin' that boy alive or one of the other children, as much as he would hate to, Chris would put the boy down." He frowned deeply. "And as much as it goes against everything that I am, I wonder if it wouldn't be for the best. Put the kid out of his misery. Let him go back to his family."
"We don't even know that his family's dead."
Nathan gave him a skeptical look. "You really think they're alive?"
Josiah thought for a moment and then sighed, shaking his head. "No. Don't reckon they are at that."
Nathan shook his head sadly, pushing his food away from him. "Where'd the world go, Josiah?"
Josiah sighed harshly as he replied, "To Hell in a handbag, Nate. To Hell in a handbag."
"Come on, kid," Buck sat next to the bed, watching the sleeping boy. "You just wake up now, son. You're gonna be just fine. That collars gone and you're gonna be just fine. I know you woke up earlier, but that didn't last too long. If you would just wake up again, you'd see that you're gonna be okay." Buck's voice carried across the room, even though he wasn't speaking very loud.
"How is the boy fairing, Mr. Wilmington?"
Wilmington turned quickly in his chair to find a disheveled looking Ezra Standish in the doorway. Buck studied the other man's face for a few moments before he spoke. "He woke up for a few minutes earlier. Doc says he thinks he's gonna be okay." He looked back down at the kid, then gave the Southerner a sideways glance. "Ain't you supposed to be in bed?"
"Well," Ezra laughed sharply, reaching up and wrapping an arm around his side and ribs. "It's my scout tonight."
"Vin and Chris took it," Buck clarified. "Chris told me that he let you know that you were to stay in bed and not worry about goin' scouting tonight."
"Oh," Ezra rubbed a hand over his face, wincing when he hit one of the many bruises there. "I do remember something of the sort."
Buck narrowed his eyes at the smaller man. They'd had it out earlier with Buck beating the man almost to a pulp, knocking him out in the process. Yet, here he was, checking on the kid, taking the chance that Buck might beat him again. He'd never figure the gambler out. But, he'd gotten the collar off the kid, and even though he'd hurt him in the process, in the long run, the kid was much better for it. He turned back to the Southerner. "So, you gonna tell me how you did it?" He cocked his head towards the sleeping boy.
Ezra swallowed hard shaking his head and frowning. "I can't do that, Mr. Wilmington."
"Didn't think so." He nodded thoughtfully. "Bet it wasn't all fun and roses." Buck watched a look come over Ezra's face. Swallowing hard, Buck stood, walking over to the other man. Reaching out his hand, he said, "As much as I don't want to, I have to thank you for getting that damn thing off a him. It was a death sentence, I know that. It's just hard for me to see the kid hurtin'." He looked down then glanced up at Standish sheepishly.
Ezra took the hand in his own, warmly shaking it, then quickly letting it go. "There's no need for thanks, Sir. I did what needed to be done." He turned but not before Buck heard his next words. "And now I must deal with the consequences."
Buck reached out and grabbed Standish by the shoulder, wincing when the other man gasped. "Sorry, pard." He turned him around. "But just what in the hell do you mean about consequences?"
"Nothing for you to concern yourself about, Mr. Wilmington. It was well worth it, I assure you." Clearing his throat, he said, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention what I just said to any of the others. And," he looked over at the sleeping boy, "take good care of him. He's a fighter."
Buck watched as Ezra turned to leave, his last words sounding too much like a goodbye. "Ezra?" he called after the retreating form, but a moan from behind him had him turning back to the boy. With one last concerned look in the Southerner's direction, he walked over to the bed and watched as the kid slowly woke up.
"Damn. Son of a bitch!"
"Got a problem there, Cowboy?" Chris grinned down at his best friend.
"Yeah, this is real funny, ain't it?" Vin shook his head. "Laugh at the guy who's just fell in a hole. Real funny. You're a true friend, Larabee."
"Sorry." Chris was still laughing. "That was quite a tumble." He jumped down into the hole with Vin who was still lying on the ground awkwardly. "You okay?"
"Perfect. Oh yeah, I like to lay in muck. My favorite pastime. It's right behind gettin' eaten by Dog-faces."
"Would you like some help up?"
"No. Could you just leave me, please? Yeah, thanks. I'll just stay here tonight. I sleep real good soaked to the bone."
Chris reached down and grabbed Vin by the arm, pulling him up. The bounty hunter gasped.
"Shit," Tanner hissed.
"Damn, pard," Chris steadied him when he swayed.
"Wrenched my knee. I'm okay," Vin spoke through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, you look it," Chris told him. "I've seen ghosts with more color."
"You ain't seen any ghosts." Vin rolled his eyes. "Ain't no such thing." He grinned.
"The way your lookin' there might be," Chris kidded him.
"Shoot. No way. I'm too ornery to die."
"That's for sure." Chris's mouth turned up in a wry grin. "You okay to get out of here or do I need to carry you."
"Hah!" Vin laughed. "Like that would happen." It was nice to see Larabee like this, Tanner thought. The man had too much on his shoulders and usually wore his responsibility like a dark shroud - not letting anyone in. But, times like this, Vin could see the Larabee that might have been there before the Rogue came, before his family was murdered. The other men didn't get to see this side of Larabee often and Tanner was thankful that Chris felt he could let his guard down around him. But when they got back, the hard-ass Larabee would be back, barking orders and trying to keep the people who trusted him with their lives alive for another day.
"Well, we've got enough supplies for tonight, let's get ourselves home." Chris's voice broke Vin out of his reverie. The two started walking back in the direction of the Rebel's barracks.
"Yeah, you need to get home to Emily." Vin bobbed his eyebrows. "She's got a crush on ya, you know."
"Vin," Chris groaned. "She's five."
"She's your shadow. You noticed that you don't go anywhere that she's not there?"
"I know," Chris agreed, smiling sadly. "I asked Mrs. Potter to try to keep her with the other children, but she sneaks out anyway. She misses her daddy." Chris's voice cracked and Vin looked away, trying not to notice how uncomfortable his best friend suddenly was.
"Yeah," Vin agreed, his voice soft, sad.
"I'd push her off onto Buck if he wasn't so busy watching over that Collar. Buck's real good with kids," Chris's voice was wistful. Vin thought he was obviously remembering Buck with Adam.
"Yeah, he's latched onto Dunne pretty good."
"Hope the kid's still alive when we get back. Don't think Buck'd do too good if that kid died." Chris pursed his lips.
"Yeah," Vin nodded his head. "Hope he ain't laid into Ezra again." He barked, "Don't think that damn wily Southerner can take any more beatin's anytime soon."
Chris almost looked sheepish, as close to sheepish as Chris Larabee would ever look, as he glanced over at Vin, a wry grin on his face. "That man does know how to get his self worked over."
"He's a good man, Chris."
Larabee studied his best friend's face. "So you say."
Vin smiled knowingly. "You'll know too, once you get past his porcupine outside."
"Hah!" Chris laughed. "I'll say."
"Ezra, what in the hell are you doing up?" Nate looked up to find the Southerner standing behind Josiah.
Sanchez turned around to find a too pale Standish standing unsteadily. Reaching out, he grabbed the young man, forcing him to sit down beside him at the table.
Ezra reached up and wiped a bit of perspiration off his forehead using his shirtsleeve. The two men knew right then that the gambler was definitely feeling unwell.
"Ezra," Nathan studied the smaller man, "you need to get on back to bed now."
Standish shook his head sadly. "There's something that I need to do and it has to be done as soon as possible. " He looked from Josiah to Nathan. " I was wondering if either of you knew when Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner would be back."
Nate looked over at Josiah and then back at Ezra. "They should be back anytime."
"Good," Ezra sighed and then stood, swaying dangerously.
Josiah jumped to his feet, catching him before he could fall. "Whoa now, son." He lowered him back into his seat. Nathan was already next to them, reaching out and checking the smaller man for fever. Squatting next to him, he pulled out his penlight and shone it in Ezra's eyes. "Ezra!" he admonished. "You need to be in bed."
Ezra shook his head. "I can't. There's something I need to do."
"Well, whatever it is, it doesn't have to be done tonight," Nathan told him.
Ezra looked up at him, his pale face sad. "Yes Sir, it does." He glanced over to Josiah and then down at his hands. "I can't put it off, it has to be done."
"What has to be done?"
The men looked up to find Chris and Vin standing close by, Vin resting most of his weight on one leg.
"Now what'd you do?" Nathan stood, walking over to check Tanner out. "Don't you think I've got enough trouble without you coming back lame?" He jokingly scolded the young ex-marine while sitting him down and examining him. Chris sat down at the table also, noticing the serious looks on Josiah and Nathan's faces.
"What's going on here," he asked the two men.
Ezra looked over at Josiah and then glanced at Chris before dropping his eyes back to his hands. "I need to speak with you, Mr. Larabee."
"Well," Chris ran a hand through his hair glancing at the others, "whatever you got to say can be said here." He looked around the room, noticing that there wasn't anyone else about that might hear. The children should already be in bed and Buck was obviously still with the Collar.
Ezra looked around at the others, his eyes wide. "I think it'd be best if-"
"Ezra!" Chris barked. "I'm tired. If you've got something to say, get it over with."
Standish cleared his throat. "Well..." He glanced over to find Vin watching him closely. He looked down before saying. "I have to leave."
"What?" Chris spoke harshly, silencing the other men who were voicing their opinions on the subject. "Why, Standish?" He looked at him hard. "I told you not to run out on us again."
Ezra looked defeated. "I'm not." He frowned. "I mean, not really."
"Then what are you doing, son?" Josiah asked.
"Listen," Ezra's voice was hoarse. He stood and started to pace. "When I..." he stopped, raking his hand through his hair and sighing. "I got that collar off the boy," he put his hand up, "and no, I can't tell you how." He sat back down. "I got the collar off, but not without some... consequences."
"Like what?" Vin asked suspiciously.
Ezra looked down at the table, his hands clasped together. "I have to go back to the Rogue."
Silence met his statement and then the table exploded with raised voices.
"What in the hell are you talking about?"
"I knew we couldn't trust you!"
"What do you mean *back* to the Rogue?"
"Shut up!" Chris yelled as he watched Ezra's face pale even more. "Ezra," he coaxed, "what do you mean?"
Standish looked at him, his eyes pleading that he understand. "The...'person'... who removed the collar did so with a...stipulation. The only way he would do it was if I came back to the Rogue, where they'll torture me some more, hoping to get information out of me." Ezra swallowed hard as he looked around at each man. "He took a huge chance helping me out, and he knew that getting me back to the Rogue would get him...'points.' " He smiled reprovingly. "Let's just say that he didn't help me out of the kindness of his, ahem...heart." He wrung his hands together. "He knew that I would not be able to refuse his request and the Rogue have been looking for me for quite some time now." He looked down. "I have some...information..." he looked back up, meeting Chris's eyes, "that they would like to have."
"So," Vin leaned forward, "what you're saying is, you helped that kid out knowing that all you'd get out of it is tortured by the Rogue and then death?"
Ezra looked over at Vin, smiling enigmatically at him before frowning deeply. "The death part is right."
Nathan slammed his hand down on the table. "You can't go to the Rogue, Standish! They'll torture you until you give us away!"
Standish smiled sadly, as he looked Nathan in the eye. "I know."
"Why, Ezra?" Josiah asked. "Why even do it? You've got what you wanted so there's no reason to go to the Rogue now. You said yourself that they've been looking for you, but to no avail. They'll never find you now, not here. Just stay here and forget about it."
Suddenly, Standish slammed his fist on the table. "You, Sir, may not think that I have any honor, but, in fact, I do." He stood. "I agreed to the consequences. I knew what would happen. I can't go back on my word now."
The men watched him pace.
Ezra blinked slowly. "I can't go back to the Rogue. As much as I'd like to think that I could withstand their torture again, I don't know if I could. And I can't put all of you in danger." Ezra looked each man in the eye as he shook his head, and then said, defeated. "There's only one solution." Ezra stopped moving and stood still, watching the men sitting at the table. "I won't go back on my word, but I can't go back to the Rogue. So, the only solution I can think of is - if I'm dead, I can't do either.
"Wha-?" Chris exploded.
Ezra backed away from them. "It's the only way, gentlemen."
"No," Chris stalked up to him. "It's not even a possibility."
"Would you listen to me?" Ezra croaked.
"What's your plan?" Vin asked Ezra, ignoring the heated glare that he received from Larabee.
Ezra's shoulders slumped. "Well, I thought I would," he looked up, meeting Vin's eyes for a moment before looking back down, swallowing hard, "take my life, and then," he looked up, meeting each man's eyes. "Then I would ask that one of you deliver my...body...to the appointed meeting place. My friend would have my body, get a few points, at least, with the Rogue. They want me alive, but dead's better than not having me at all. And then, well, I'll have fulfilled my end of the bargain." He smiled timidly.
"Doesn't sound like much of a plan," Vin told him.
"Well, it's not exactly what I want either, Mr. Tanner," Ezra told him. "But I have no choice."
"Yeah you do," Vin said. "You've always got a choice."
"Well, I don't see any other options in this situation," Ezra said, his face hard.
"There's no way this is going to happen," Josiah stood up, walking towards Ezra.
"Stop right there!" Ezra told him. He pulled his shirt away to reveal a small pistol tucked in the waistband of his pants
Chris stepped towards him, Nate joining him, and Ezra suddenly looked like an animal backed into a corner.
"Please, gentlemen, don't make this any harder than it has to be." Ezra looked from one man to another.
Chris glared at the young Southerner. "I can't even believe that you'd consider this an option." He sneered. "You value your life so little?"
"No!" Ezra rebuked, glaring. "I value your lives so much!" He shook his head as he looked away, taking a few moments to gather his composure. "Mr. Larabee," Ezra beseeched, "it doesn't matter what I think. I have no choice. I have to do this."
"We'll think of something else." Chris nodded his head as he put his hands out in front of him.
"What?" Ezra's voice squeaked. "You think I haven't thought about this? It's all I've thought about since we brought that boy in here. I knew that I was the only chance of getting that damn collar off his neck, and I knew what I would have to do - what the consequences of my actions would be."
Nathan shook his head. "We can think of something else, Ezra. You don't need to take your own life." He implored.
"I didn't think you cared," Ezra sneered at him.
Josiah's voice was soothing. "Give us some credit, son. We can think of something else. We need some time to put our heads together, but I'm sure we can do it."
Ezra shook his head. A look crossed over his face, like he wanted to believe them but couldn't. "I wish that were true, Josiah. I really do."
Vin silently crept up on Ezra from the side while the others kept his attention.
"When you supposed to meet up with this friend of yours?" Chris asked him.
Ezra glanced over at him. "Tomorrow."
Josiah rubbed his chin. "Doesn't give us much time."
Ezra shrugged helplessly. He glanced at Chris, and seeing the older man looking at something behind him, started to turn. His head suddenly exploded and he dropped bonelessly to the floor.
"Oops." Vin frowned.
Nathan dropped to his knees beside the prone Southerner, gently turning him over.
"Didn't mean to hit 'im so hard." Vin made a face.
Josiah clapped him on the back as he said, "Better than what Ezra had in mind for himself."
Vin nodded solemnly.
"Okay, help me get him to the Med room. His head's bleedin' pretty good." Nathan ordered.
Josiah effortlessly picked the young man up, carrying him in the direction of the small medical lab.
Chris and Vin followed.
"Good shot," Chris told his best friend.
"Too good." Vin shook his head.
"Nah, he's got a hard head. He'll be okay. We just need to figure out what to do now."
Vin nodded, deep in thought. "You know," he looked over at Chris, "if Ezra were our prisoner, he wouldn't have a chance to leave and go back to the Rogue. Then, he wouldn't be going back on his word, and he wouldn't need to do something drastic like blow 'is brains out." He shrugged.
Chris stopped, looking at Vin hard. "You might have something there," he said. "Standish wouldn't be going back on his word. It might appease that honor of his."
"I doubt it." Vin grinned wryly.
"He won't have a choice." Chris smiled widely.
Vin nodded once. "Sounds like about the best plan we might come up with."
Chris raised his eyebrows. "As good as the great plan Ezra had."
Vin chuckled. "Sometimes I really wonder how that cuss's head works."
Chris shook his head as the two of them walked into the Med room.
Buck had stood when he saw Josiah carry Ezra in. "What?" he asked.
"Long Story," Vin answered.
Buck shook his head as he sat back down in his chair next to the kid's bed. Dunne's eyes were open, confused as he glanced over at the men. When his eyes fixed on the unconscious Southerner, they widened in recognition. The young man looked over at Buck, and then back to the man who was now being looked over by Nathan. He looked like he was about to try and say something, but his eyes slowly drifted closed instead. He fought the impending sleep, but lost his fight.
"Kid's been awake for a little while," Buck told them. "He didn't do much, but he didn't try and fight either, so I'm hoping." He smiled, most of the worry gone from his face.
Josiah walked over to sit next to the bed on the opposite side of Buck. "That's good news, Buck." He smiled.
"Now, ya gonna tell me what the hell happened to Ezra?" Buck looked sternly at Chris.
Chris raised his hands up in surrender. "Don't look at me. Vin's the one that clobbered 'im."
Vin hung his head.
Chris reached out and hit Vim across the stomach. "He's also the one who came up with a pretty damn good idea of gettin' Ezra out of this 'situation' he's in." He grinned.
Vin looked back up.
"Oh yeah?" Nathan asked from where he was wrapping a bandage around Ezra's now-clean wound.
"Well, Ezra ain't gonna like it, but I think it'll set better with 'im than that bullet in his brain would've," Chris said sardonically.
Vin took ten minutes to explain his idea. Nathan didn't think that it would work. Josiah nodded his head. And Buck just sat in his chair, lost.
Finally, Chris looked at his men around the room. "It's about the best idea we can think of." He looked down at Ezra's unconscious body. "We'll just have to convince Ezra of that." He grinned wryly.
Nathan looked at his friends. "You've all had a long night. Why don't you get some sleep." He looked at Wilmington. "You too, Buck. I'll watch these two, and if I need any help, I'll get'cha."
With a lot of groaning, the men agreed. Leaving one by one.
Vin clapped Chris on the back as he limped out of the room. Chris nodded his head at him.
Soon, it was only Chris, Nathan and the two patients in the room. Nathan looked up sharply when he saw that Chris was still standing there. "You too, Chris!" He ordered. "You know Buck'll be back in less than an hour. I can't get him to sleep so I need you rested," he scolded Chris. "You're about the only one that can talk any sense into that man." He shook his head affectionately as he looked at the chair Buck usually sat in. "Besides," Nathan raised an eyebrow, "tomorrow you're the one who's gonna have to tell Ezra that he's a prisoner of ours now."
Chris's eyes got wide. "Why me?"
" 'Cause you're the only one that Ezra would probably think twice about before killin'." Nathan grinned.
"Oh, great." Chris rolled his eyes. "That's comforting."
Nathan checked Ezra's vitals and then walked over to the kid's bed. "Things seem like they're lookin' up." Nathan smiled.
Chris frowned. "Ever notice when someone says that, things go to Hell in a hand-basket faster than you can say 'knock on wood.' "
Nathan looked up at him. "Well, whatever comes, we'll handle it."
Chris nodded. "Yeah."
"Go on, Chris. I'll take care of 'em." Nathan motioned Chris towards the door.
Chris finally agreed. "I'll be back."
"I know." Nathan smiled warmly.
Chris nodded once and then stepped out of the room. He knew that it wouldn't be easy to convince Ezra that what they were doing for him was for the best. But, there was no way that Ezra was going to go through with his plan. It didn't seem to surprise Chris in the least that Ezra was going to readily give up his life for another. He'd always known, deep down, that the Southerner was a good man. He'd never tell him that though. He didn't want Ezra walking all over him any more than he did.
Chris stepped into his small, sparse room. Tiredness suddenly swept through his body and he sat down hard on his bed. Tomorrow would not be an easy day. He'd have to deal with Ezra. And also hope that Dunne's attitude stayed the way that it was this evening. Somehow, he didn't think they'd be that lucky.
Lying down on the bed, he closed his eyes, wondering if it would take sleep long to claim him. Somewhere off in the distance he could hear a child crying. Someone trying to soothe it. Coughing. Nathan's soft, gentle voice. A dog barking. The child still crying. It sounded like one of the Potter children, he thought. Soon, he was asleep.
the end (February 2002)
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