Carte Blanche
(Old West)

by Ranger

Disclaimer: None of them are mine. If only they were...
Summary: Routines can leave you stale, but are the choices required to change necessarily any better?
Characters: Ezra, and a teeny bit of Chris
Author's Note: I have a habit of complaining that I can't write short fics. I over plot and over analyze to the point whereby a simple idea is not simple anymore by the time I've finished with it - as evidenced by a WIP which through over complicating things is well in excess of 100 pages. So when I was challenged, dared, and threatened to write a drabble that fit within two pages and no less than 10 point font I knew I was in for some trouble. Well, I tried, and this is the result.

Ezra Standish descended the stairs of the saloon that had been his home for the last thirty days. Boot heels clicked sharply on the sanded wooden floor as he made his way across the bar through the batwing doors and settled on the bench on the boardwalk outside. It had become his morning ritual to rise in time to see the opening of the saloon, sipping his first coffee and watching the townspeople hustle through their own rituals. His watchful eyes would pick out the newcomers amongst the residents and regular passers-through, keen ears collecting information and gossip to catalogue until the facts could be used later.

This had been his morning routine for the last thirty days. For the thirty days that he had been bound to the dusty metropolis and his civil duties by the irascible Judge Travis. Today he was a free man again, and this time there was no bail jumping against his name to keep him wary... or to keep him moving on. He sighed as he took another sip of the coffee. Nothing to keep him here, and nothing to prevent him from leaving. For the first time in a good number of years, Ezra Standish had to make a decision - should he stay or should he go?

He hadn't stayed in one place for this long, being far more accustomed to forceful ejection out of towns due to games of chance or to cover ones back after a con and because of that, he was in a quandary. The town was growing by the day with new settlers now that the 'bad element' had been chased out of the territory. Word was spreading fast that Four Corners had a lot to offer, and with seven peacekeepers it was able to look after itself despite its distance from major cities and its territorial council. A growing town would always hold good prospects for a gambler... and also a peacekeeper.

It wasn't that he abhorred the legal side of his enforced stay in Four Corners, it certainly gave him a social standing of a different nature to that which he was used to. Even after the initial uncertainty from the townsfolk as to their new protectors, they had to now agree that the law had done their jobs to the town's benefit. The ranchers had backed off considerably, the stagecoach was bringing more business and had increased its frequency of stopping. Those businesses that had closed were now re-opened and trading well. No, Ezra thought, the town couldn't complain, certainly not for the return it was getting on its measly dollar a day.

The job did have its downsides. Getting shot at and tearing around the countryside for such meager recompense was not ideal. But then there was hardly a better way to fight the boredom that would descend; the exhilaration from the chase, the rush once a gunfight had ended favorably. He hated to admit it, but a little bit of danger kept him sharp. It was better when there were six other men watching your back. Six men of the caliber that he had the great fortune to find himself riding with.

He wondered what the others were thinking. Judge Travis had originally intended for this to be a temporary measure, thirty days of which Ezra was bound to by contract. The others weren't bound in anyway beyond their honor and conscience.

Ezra finished the coffee and leant forward in his seat, hands dangling over his knees swinging his cup rhythmically. His eyes scanned the main street following people ducking in and out of the stores completely oblivious to the southerner's dilemma. His ears caught the chinking of spurs to his right, the seat beside him creaking and shifting as the owner of them sat down.


"Mr Larabee," Ezra replied simply to the gunslinger's greeting, allowing Chris to take the lead in the conversation.

"Any plans for the day?"

On any other occasion it would have been an innocent question, but not today. He was surprised that Chris had known the significance, he'd kept his intentions and his countdown of the thirty days to himself. Or maybe he wasn't the only one who was counting.

"I hadn't quite decided," Ezra admitted quietly.

Chris sniffed loudly bringing the gambler's attention to him. Ezra watched as years of caution had the gunslinger checking the streets.

"Hanson offered me a patch of grazing land a few miles from town for next to nothing, said I'd give him a decision later today."

Ezra tried to imagine Chris as a rancher, and failed. He had heard through rumors that Larabee had once run a horse ranch, but that was before he became the man he was now. It was difficult reconciling what he knew of Chris Larabee through first-hand knowledge, and through hearsay. He based his own high opinion of Chris on his actions since their meeting.

"Vin's talking about setting out to clear his name again, kid's started jawing Buck's ear off about the Texas Rangers."

To anyone passing it would seem like idle chatter, but Ezra suddenly wondered if he was making a decision for all of them. If he left and broke the bond they seemed to have, they would all leave too. Through sheer strength of character Chris Larabee had managed to bring together seven independent and differing personalities to work as one harmonious unit. Ezra shockingly realized he might just be the glue. They all knew, himself included, that he was likely to be the first to take flight and leave their merry band. In all probability the tracker would soon follow, taking it as a sign to clear his name. Ezra had wondered more than once what kept Vin in Four Corners, but then he realized himself that he hadn't before felt this level of security that being part of the seven gave him.

Was he thinking of leaving because he could? Was it because that was what he'd intended at the start, what he always did? He stopped swinging the mug. Josiah had muttered something about destiny once, was this his? Could it be possible that seven men were bound by more than conscience, honor and parole? Maybe he should look into it more and see if the ex-preacher was talking sense for once; he could always leave after another thirty days.

He sat back up in the chair and breathed deeply. "I was thinking of exercising Chaucer before he lets himself out of the stall again and helps himself to Mrs Potter's vegetable garden. We can then see what miscreant or foul deeds will require us to perform our peacekeeping duties and ruin my usual streak of good fortune at the table later." It was his routine, had been for the last thirty days, would in all probability be the same for the next also, provided the glue stuck. He held his breath waiting for Chris' reply.

Chris smiled and nodded once. Rising to his full height he clapped the southerner briefly on the shoulder.

"Fancy getting the boys together for some chow?"

Ezra smiled, another part of the daily routine falling into place. "A mighty fine idea, Mr Larabee, perhaps you can tell me more about this ranching business you're looking into."

The blond snorted and shook his head, the gambler followed him to the restaurant with a grin on his face. A feeling of contentment settled over him as he spied the rest of their band heading towards them.

One day at a time, Ezra thought to himself. But then it wouldn't be such a bad place to open that saloon he'd always dreamt of. At least being a peacekeeper in the town he could assert some authority in order to protect his investment...


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