Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Character/Pairing: Ezra, Maude
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Being honest may not get you many friends, but it'll always get you the right ones." -- John Lennon
Word Count: 1,500
Date Written: 17 February 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
“For th’ life o’ me, Ezra,” Maude drawled yet again as though she was scolding a disobedient child, “Ah do not know why you insist on being so foolish!”
“Foolish, Mothah?” Ezra replied dryly. “Is that really th’ word you would choose?”
“Ah don’t know what else you’d call allowing an opportunity like that to slip through yoah clumsy fingers!”
Ezra straightened. He was hardly clumsy. He also was no fool, not hers or anyone else’s. “Ah did th’ right thing, Mothah.”
“You say that like it’s somethin’ to be proud of! Ah’ll tell you what you should be proud of, Ezra, if you evah manage to do it, an’ it’s certainly not doin’ th’ right thing an’ remaining poor yoah whole life!”
“Ah’ll have you know Ah am quite comfortable.”
“Hidin’ here among these simpletons, Ah’m sure. But, mah boy, you could reach for the stars an’ have them if you would only take them!”
“Perhaps Ah would rather not take anythin’ from anyone any longer, Mothah. Perhaps Ah would rather -- “
“What? Wait until it was given you? Or until it was rewarded to you? Good God, Ezra, you are not that much o’ a fool! We Standishes have nevah simply been given anythin’! We have to take what we want or we do not an’ will nevah have it!”
Ezra finally leveled Maude with a cool, knowing glare. “Mothah, you have told me that mah entire life. For years, Ah sought to be someone of whom you would be proud, but there is nothing Ah could evah do in this life to earn yoah pride, much less yoah love. You will nevah love me. You do not even know what th’ feeling is.”
“But Ah am loved,” he continued, “even if you do not an’ nevah do see it. Ah am loved. Ah am trusted. Ah have built a reputation here in this town, an’ it is not one Ah will evah seek to tarnish. Ah have friends here -- “
“For how long?” Maude demanded, cutting him off. “Until th’ next person rides who knows th’ truth about us rides through here? Those so-called friends o’ yoahs, Ezra, have already almost turned their backs on you before!”
“That was a misunderstanding, one, I suspect, was initiated by you. Do not think for one second, Mothah, that Ah was unaware that the two of you travelled via the same coach until th’ last stop before th’ one here. Do not think Ah do not know that you hired that scoundrel to come lookin’ for me, claimin’ that Ah had done all those things wrong an’ that Ah had left his entire family penniless when that was you, Mothah, not me.”
“And did your precious friends not fall for it?”
“For a time, yes, but then they came back to me, Mothah, every one o’ ‘em. They’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes.” He thought of Vin being a wanted man, JD fleeing the stables in the North when his mother died, and Buck leaving a trail of broken hearts across the West. He thought of Chris and all those who would like to gun him down and of Josiah and the fact that he had almost killed his own father for everything he had done to his sister. Finally, he thought of Nathan, of the people who judged him for his skin color, and all the lives he could have saved if only the victims would have put aside their blind hatred and allowed the healer a chance.
He thought of his friends and knew that he would always be welcome in this town, always be welcomed among them. They had all made mistakes, but they neither allowed their own mistakes to control their current lives or held others’ mistakes against them. He had been tempted to keep the money, yes, but in the end, he’d done the right thing. He had explained to them everything that had happened before with that family, everything that had happened since Maude had come to town, and why experience had taught him to be loathe to be honest, and he had given them the stolen money to do with as should be done.
"Being honest may not get you many friends, Mothah, but it'll always get you the right ones. It certainly has attained th’ right ones for me.”
“But for how long, Ezra?” Maude pressed, anger narrowing her green eyes. “For how long until one of those cowpokes decides he’s had enough of acceptin’ what he thinks is yoah lies an’ lettin’ you be in their precious little number? For how long until this all blows up in yoah face? You’re sitting on dynamite here, Ezra, an’ when it explodes, Ah’m goin’ to be th’ only one to whom you can run.”
“That again is where you are wrong, Mothah. Mah companions and Ah take care of each othah. Th’ truth is: You may still need me for yoah little cons, but Ah no longer need you. Ah have everythin’ for which Ah’ve yearned all th’ years o’ mah life right here. Ah may not be livin’ a grand life. Ah may not be famous or rich. But Ah everythin’ a heart truly needs at last.”
“Oh, don’t give me that poor, little boy speech, Ezra! Ah loved you -- “
“No, Mothah, you did not,” Ezra replied softly, raising his head and meeting her eyes. “You only loved what Ah could do for you. You speak o’ alignin’ yoahself with people who feel sorry for you? You know more about that, Mothah, than anyone else Ah know. How many times did you use me as a way to worm your own way into a home or even into a marriage? You’re always so quick to speak o’ what we Standishes know or how we have been, but are you a Standish, Mothah? Were you evah really a Standish, or did you just marry mah Father, as you have so many other men, to simply see what marriage to him could attain for you? Was yoah heart evah really involved in any of your entanglements? It certainly never was in me.”
“After all Ah’ve done for you -- “
“What did you do for me, Mothah, really? You nevah cared for me, not really. Some o’ th’ earliest memories Ah have are o’ beggin’ for yoah attention like a dog beggin’ for a bone. Ah begged an’ pleaded for you to love me. Ah stole an’ gambled for you to love me. You nevah did, an’ you nevah will. But Ah am loved here. For th’ first time in mah life, Ah have much more than just real friends; Ah have a real family! You will not take that from me nor will you do anythin’ else to tarnish mah reputation among the good folk here in Four Corners. Everyone now knows exactly who an’ what you are, Mothah. Even Josiah has seen through yoah deception. You are no longer wanted here. You are no longer needed here, an’ you are no longer needed in mah life.”
Rising from his chair, Ezra strode across his room. “An’ Ah will thank you,” he concluded without looking back, “to be gone when Ah return.” He walked quickly away from her, not daring to look back or give her a chance to say anything as she gasped and gawked behind him. He all but ran down the steps into the saloon.
Yet once he was in the saloon, Ezra knew he was safe. His six brothers, as they were, were gathered at the bar, waiting for him. The sweetest brandy the saloon owned was already poured and waiting for him. Inez winked at him as he took his seat. Vin patted his back on one side; Josiah clasped his other shoulder. “Welcome home, brother,” he said in his deep, rumbling voice.
Mutely, Ezra lifted his glass in a silent toast and threw the brandy down his throat. As he lowered his glass, he caught sight of his mother’s reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “Sometimes, pard,” Buck drawled, “it’s best just to let them go, no matter how much it hurts us.”
Ezra smiled, his gold tooth flashing in the dim light. “Who’s up for a game, gentleman?”
Chris smiled around his cheroot. “Reckon I could stand to lose a few more bucks to you,” he said as the others nodded and they made their way to their usual table. Ezra thought that it was much better to lose a few dollars than it was to lose one’s life or soul, but he didn’t comment on it. After all, the woman who had just left did not possess anything of his life or soul; they were both right here in this very room with the men who surrounded him, talking, laughing, and letting him know, in their subtle ways, that he was and would always remain one of their own. Ezra was home at last to stay.