Aim High
(Little Ezra - Old West)

by MAC

Disclaimer: I don't own them, or the show they rode in on. I wrote this for fun, and no profit is made from it.
Archive: Twyla's Very Simple Magnificent Seven Page, Starwinder's, You Want Fries With That?, and The All-Ezra FanFic Archive --- all others, please ask. Some of these stories were posted originally on the Ezra's Littleverse list, and hence also on its archive.
Summary: A scene involving targets and goals.
Warnings: Ezra is a little boy, all the rest of the Seven are their adult selves.
Author's Note: Dear Reader, there stories are listed as they were written rather than in a timeline of the series itself. I am writing as the mood strikes and fitting in my small pieces helter-skelter. If the series is ever completed, I shall attempt a timeline for the stories. For now, as I publish, I shall try to note if the story doesn't follow sequentially with the preceding ones.
Completed: 19 January 2003
Feedback: welcomes comments

Back to: Coming Home Again

"That's right, aim high." JD's nimble fingers adjusted Ezra's small hands on the slingshot's stem and hammock. He crouched behind the little boy, arms nestling him close as he guided the boy's arms as well as hands into position. "Good. Now, pull back hard and then release."

The bit of stone flew high and wide of the targets, three old and empty bean cans that JD had arranged on the corral fence. An indignant snort from the corral's lone occupant, a sorrel mare, was ignored by the intrepid hunters.

"I missed." Ezra hung his head, ashamed. It had seemed so easy when JD, he did insist on being called that, when JD had demonstrated and then handed him the small weapon. Ezra had liked the idea that he could hunt with it, even protect himself with it. But clearly he was too clumsy, what was it that Mamon always said? Awkward, clumsy boy. That was him.

"Hey, that was just your first try!" The sheriff patted two slumped shoulders and then reached for another stone. "Come on, this time you do it without my hands in the way. I'll bet that's what spoiled the aim!"

Ezra looked up and twisted his head around to stare at JD. Didn't JD understand that Ezra just couldn't do this? He started to speak, but the look in the northerner's eyes was so kind and bright that he didn't have the heart.

Bracing himself, he swung around to face his adversaries again. Three rusted cans. Audacious they were, sitting there so arrogantly in a row. He pursed his lips, squinted his eyes and tensed his muscles. Holding the split stick firmly, he took the offered stone and nested it in the stretchy cloth, then pulled back and focused his attention.

The sight of the center can filled his vision, he lost connection with the man behind him, with the cawing blackbirds up near the livery's roofline, failed to feel the warm sun on his back now. Only that single center can and he, they two were a universe apart. His breath sawed in and out, loud. He stopped breathing. His pulse pounded with a thumpa thump inside his head. He waited to feel and meet the rhythm.

He tugged back harder and cocked his head slightly to the side, then bent his front wrist whose hand held the base of the thick hard wood. Between one beat of his heart and the next, breath held tightly, he acted. The stem flicked, releasing the stone and cloth smoothly. And the can burst with a loud ping. The rusted remnants flew widely and he could hear the birds again, sensed the man behind him, heard the cheer and the clomping of the mare's hooves as she shifted further away from the commotion.

After that, it seemed easy. Like practicing his card shuffles, something he now did in great secrecy so as not to upset Chris. This, though, this would please Chris. It pleased JD and JD wanted to be like Chris, he'd told Ezra that. So it would please Chris. Ezra's eyes gleamed and his almost-smile made the shape of his face change, become apple-round, dimples flickering in and out of life as his jaws shifted and he worked to contain and conceal his great need to shout out in joyous triumph. Let JD do that for him. He wouldn't be staying in this wonderful town and when he left, he needed not to have lost his skills, his talents as Mamon called them.

JD was whooping and jumping about, slapping his funny hat on his leg and grinning. Ezra carefully anchored the wooden handle of the slingshot in his waistband and straightened his collar, smoothing down the narrow lapels on his plain jacket. He had knocked over all three cans in quick succession, then, for good measure 'chased' one of them all over the corral with snaps of stone chips.

"Man alive, Ezra! You sure do have a gift!" JD was shaking his head now, still smiling as he patted the youngster on his head. Wait 'til Buck sees this, he ain't ever gonna believe it! Better yet, maybe Ezra and he could pull a joke on old Buck, get a small bet going. JD rubbed his hands together and squatted back down in front of Ezra to explain his inspiration.

Green eyes were sharp and quick, as the little boy nodded his agreement. This would be fun. Like one of the cons that Mamon had him do in the saloons. It wasn't poker, so surely it would be all right. Ezra had to walk very fast to keep up with JD as the young man strode along, still glowing with his self-conceited brilliance, his plan for the downfall of his friend Buck.

Chris rode in just as Buck swore loudly and slammed his hat down on the street, whirling in his loud frustration at JD's and Ezra's trick. "Damn, kid, that's twice you got me now!" Buck shouted as he slapped a silver dollar in JD's extended palm. Then the big man turned and looked down at the little boy, JD's accomplice. "Dang it, Ez, you musta known how to use that thing before today. It's not nice to lie to your old buddy Buck, you know."

Even though Buck was teasing, there was an edge of anger to his words, and Ezra stepped back with a pale look to his face. He licked his lips. "I don't lie, Mr. Buck."

Dismounting and slapping Trip's flank with a simple thanks, Larabee walked over to the spot where his boy now was in a face off with Buck Wilmington. "Trouble fellas?"

"Boy done got the best of me, is all." Buck sighed and shrugged. "JD told me that he gave Ez his first lesson with the slingshot today. Then bet me that Ezra could hit anything I named." Buck shook his head and smiled with resignation. "Fell for it, hook, line and sinker."

"That right?" Chris looked over at JD, who was looking a bit nervous now, and then down at the boy in front of him.

"Yes, sir." Ezra spoke without elaboration. No point. He could see he'd read this wrong. And no one was going to believe him. A large pain began to shape in his chest, he wasn't sure why. It reminded him of that time he'd tried to play marbles with Billy and some other town boys. They'd showed him how and then when he did well, when he won, they got angry. Said he'd lied. Like Buck was saying now. He let his hands hang at his sides. He could tell Chris was angry now too.

"How long you known how to use a slingshot, Ezra?" Larabee loomed over the child, speaking slowly. Eyes only on him.

Ezra lifted his face. He didn't lie. He wouldn't lie to Chris. "JD taught me today."

Chris saw the truth in those eyes. And believed. Without asking JD for another confirmation, ignoring Buck who was beginning to have second thoughts and was staring at JD, Chris smiled down at his charge. "Then you did very well. I'm proud of you."

Somehow the little boy seemed to swell up in front of him, chest puffing out a bit and eyes taking on a sparkle. "Really?"

"Yep." Chris stood back, hands on his gun belt and smiled again.

"I had to concentrate very hard," Ezra now confessed in great seriousness. "I missed the first time I tried."

"Did you?" Chris shot a glance over at Buck who was sinking down on to the steps of the boardwalk with a look of chagrin. "Then it wasn't that easy, was it?"

"No," Ezra looked shyly over at Buck. "I'm sorry we fooled you, Mr. Wilmington."

"Hey now, it was just a joke!" JD protested, plopping down beside Buck, seeing how the men had lost the sense of the fun he'd planned. "Never saw anyone such a fast learner! He's real good, Chris."

Buck nodded to Ezra, meeting his eyes and smiling. "You can ride with me anytime, kid." Then he leaned back and managed to poke an elbow into JD's stomach. "Course you still got to learn how to fly." He grinned as JD tumbled backwards with a disgruntled shout.

Ezra tipped his head. He took the compliment deep inside and promised himself he would take it out to examine later, when everyone wasn't looking at him. For now, he just nodded back, and then returned his eyes to Chris who hadn't moved.

"I'm sorry, Chris." He spoke softly.

"Next time, just remember not to hide your truths, Ezra." Chris threw a narrowed look over at JD, who flushed and shrugged, nodding as well. The gunman sighed, life was full of little challenges with Ezra in it. "I'm gonna go clean up at the bath house. I'll meet you boys back here for lunch in a hour." He looked back down at Ezra. "That okay with you, Ezra?"

The boy wiped his hands together, then nodded. "I would enjoy a bath as well, if that is acceptable?"

"Yes, reckon so." The black clad man and the small boy turned away from their friends and headed across the street for the bath house.

Buck watched them, his face smoothed out now and contemplative. "There go two good men, JD."

"Men?" Dunne climbed to his feet and looked around in bewilderment.

"Yeah." Wilmington pulled himself up with the post beside him, settling his hat back on his head. He turned and headed back into the saloon, one arm snaking out to catch and guide his young friend. "You're a good kid, JD, and someday, kid, when you grow up, you'll be like them."

Ezra, In Between Index On to: One True Path

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