Rating: PG-13 Language
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish, MGM, and some others I'm not sure of. The name of this fanfic comes from the comic book, ElfQuest, written by Richard and Wendy Pini and belonging to Warp Graphics. I'm not making any money.
Author's Notes: This is a sequel to my story Strongbow. Thanks to Judy for the beta. Once again I'm using a name from ElfQuest, a comic book belonging to Richard and Wendy Pini. Since I'm using the names of my favorite comic book characters, I guess Gambit will have to be next. <g>
Feedback is always greatly appreciated. Please let me know what you think. Thank you, Ruby :)
Vin Tanner sat alone beside his wagon, quietly watching the night sky. He wasn't sure what had brought him out here from a perfectly good slumber, but here he sat. He moved the wrong way, stretching sore chest muscles and he stifled a moan. He and Ezra had been back from Strongbow for long enough that their wounds had almost entirely healed. Most of the wounds anyway. He couldn't help but think about Standish. He knew the gambler had been having a hard time lately. It seemed like ever since they'd returned from Strongbow Ezra just wasn't the same. He seemed to be more distant. Not wanting to have much to do with any of the other men. Vin thought that the gambler seemed to be avoiding him more than any one else.
It was ironic really. He figured that the two men would have grown closer after what they'd been through, but the opposite seemed to have happened. He remembered what those men had said to Ezra. Was that what was bothering the gambler? What those men had said? Vin scoffed. Hell, he knew what Ezra was like, what he'd most likely been like before joining the seven. He figured that Ezra had to know that they all knew. The gambler didn't hide what he was. But still, it had to be awkward for someone to throw your past in your face, especially in front of someone else. He wondered if Ezra was wishing he could change his past. He sure knew there were a lot of things he'd like to change about his own past. Tascosa being first and foremost.
Vin sighed and looked up at the full moon. Suddenly his mother's voice swept through his mind and he smiled just thinking about the words she had said so long ago. He abruptly stood and started walking towards the jail.
Ezra slowly made his way down the boardwalk, stopping every once in a while to make sure that the local businesses were locked up tight. He enjoyed this late patrol. He could start his shift after his evening poker game and then sleep during the morning. It was much better than the early shift, even if it was a bit lonely. But lately he liked to be alone. Ever since the incident at Strongbow, he didn't feel comfortable in the presence of the other six men.
He finished his rounds and walked back to the jail. Sitting in the chair on the boardwalk, he tipped it back, front legs off the ground and his feet resting on the railing. The town was quiet. He glanced up at the stars and the full moon. He pulled his hat off his head and rested it on his lap. He clasped his hands behind his head and stretched out in his chair.
Lonely. The word sounded funny to him. Like he cared if he was alone or not. Like he didn't want to be alone. Right? He liked to be alone. He grinned. Who was he trying to fool? Ever since he'd come to Four Corners he'd appreciated the easy camaraderie that came from the other men. Well, except for Nathan. Nothing would ever be *easy* about their relationship. But the other men, well, ok, maybe Chris too. He didn't think the two men would ever be comfortable in each other's presence. No matter what Chris said about Strongbow, Ezra wondered if he would still go out of his way, into harm's way, to avoid the older man's wrath.
Strongbow. There it was again. He'd been trying to forget it, but it just kept jumping into the front of his mind. He kept hearing what those men said. It was true. Every word of it. All true, and worse. He'd done things that would make the occurrence at Strongbow seem like nothing. Terrible things. He didn't think they were terrible things when he was doing them. They were just cons. Games. No one got hurt. Not really. So, they lost some money. So what? Ezra sighed and looked down. He pulled his cards out of his pocket and started shuffling them. So what? He shook his head and sighed again. "So what." He whispered softly.
He wondered if he'd ever be able to forget all the things he'd done in the past. Forget. Forgive. Would his marks have forgotten? Forgiven?
No. Most likely, they were like those men in Strongbow, just waiting for him to show his head again so they could cut it off and put it up on a pike. "How barbaric, Mr. Standish." He chuckled softly to himself.
"Talkin' to yerself, Ezra?"
Standish glanced up, startled. Vin Tanner was standing a few feet from him. He'd never even noticed his approach. It was time to get his mind back on business and forget all these maudlin thoughts about the past and forgiveness. "Mr. Tanner, you're early for your shift."
The tracker shook his head. "I ain't here for my shift."
Vin frowned. He was surprised that he'd been able to sneak up on the conman. Ezra was normally very alert to what was happening around him. He walked over to the railing and leaned his arms on it, looking up at the night sky. He could almost feel the gambler's eyes boring into his back.
Neither man spoke. Vin could hear the quiet shuffling coming from behind him. He knew that Ezra was playing with those cards of his. He suddenly wished for those cards, or something to keep his hands busy. Reaching into his shirt pocket, he pulled a cigar out and lit it. He took a long drag and let it out. He silently watched the shadow that his arm made in the moonlight, slowly moving it, making shapes with his hand.
"Moonshade." Vin was surprised when he heard the word come out of his mouth, but he'd spoken so softly he wasn't sure that the gambler had even heard him. He glanced over his shoulder to find Ezra watching him intently with a raised eyebrow. He sighed and turned around, facing his friend.
"Moonshade." He spoke a bit louder.
"Excuse me, Mr. Tanner?"
Vin took in another deep breath, letting it out through his nose. He tossed the cigar on the boardwalk, snuffing it out with the toe of his boot, then scraping it off into the street. He looked up at the full moon, then moved his arm so Ezra could see the shadow it made. "Moonshade. It's when the moon gets so full and so bright that the light from it casts shadows like the sun does. My Ma called it Moonshade." He glanced down before the gambler had a chance to see the brightness of his eyes. He spoke from under the brim of his hat. "She said it was magic." He looked up to find Ezra staring at him like he'd gone loco. Vin shook his head. He turned back towards the street and was surprised when he heard chair legs hit the floor. Ezra stood and walked over to the railing, standing next to him.
Vin sighed, his voice soft, hoarse. "When I was little my Ma and I'd sit outside at night, watching the stars and listen'n to the night noises. That's when she told me 'bout it. When the full moon lit everythin' in silver and things seemed to glow, she said that light was magic." He paused for a second, glancing from the corner of his eye to see if Ezra was listening. The gambler was watching him intently. Vin continued. "She said if you stood in that moon light and let it wash all over you, all through you, it would wash the bad things from you. She told me that if I was ever sorry for somethin' that the Moonshade would take it away and make me new."
He looked over to find Ezra looking at him with raised eyebrows and an open mouth.
Vin quickly looked away. "My Ma told me about it Ezra and she wouldn't lie."
Ezra put his hands up, palms out. "Mr. Tanner, I'm not refuting your claim, I'm just surprised." He put his hands down. "I'm just," he shook his head and grinned, "I'm sorry, it's just, it's not often that I hear you talk this much."
Vin rolled his eyes. "I talk, Ezra. Just 'cause I don't ramble on and on like some people don't mean that I don't have things to say sometimes."
Ezra chuckled. "You're quite right Mr. Tanner, those people can be quite annoying."
Vin blinked and slowly looked over at Ezra to find the gambler grinning at him. He shook his head, smiling. He looked away. "Well, I'm a mite tired, better be headin' back to bed." He turned and started walking towards his wagon.
Ezra watched his friend leave and then looked back up at the sky. 'Moonshade,' he scoffed, 'and this coming from a sharpshooting, ex-bounty hunter who wouldn't hesitate to shoot someone in the back. Like there was something magical that could just erase the bad things you've done and make you new.' He chuckled. How could he possibly believe something as ridiculous as that? Magical moonlight. It was just something a mother told her son and he believed because...because she told him and she wouldn't lie. Ezra stepped back, looking down at the ground. 'Vin believed it. The tracker didn't have a doubt in his mind that it was true - his Ma told him.'
He looked back up at the bright sky. 'Magical moonlight, indeed.' Could he believe in something that wasn't tangible? Something he couldn't see, that he just had to trust in? He thought about what Vin had said. He could still hear the tracker's quiet words. 'She said if you stood in that moon light and let it wash all over you, all through you, it would wash the bad things from you. She told me that if I was ever sorry for somethin' that the Moonshade would take it away and make me new.'
Ezra smiled and slowly shook his head. Suddenly he wondered if Vin somehow hadn't known how he'd been feeling lately. How he'd been thinking about Strongbow and other things in his past, and feeling bad about them. 'Damn, but that tracker was observant.'
With a sad smile, he glanced towards Vin's wagon. He wasn't sure how he'd come by friends like these, but he sure hoped to God that he was smart enough to keep them.
Quietly, he stepped off the boardwalk, into the moon's light.
the end (September 2000)
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