Just Another Day
(Old West)

by Lilly

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and not intended to infringe upon the copyright of Mirisch Corp., MGM, Trilogy Entertainment, or CBS. This piece was written for the entertainment of the author and readers only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely unintentional.
Author's Note: This story makes brief references to events in Safecracker and Inmate 78.


All he could think about as he approached the saloon was how good a shot of whiskey would taste. Buck was ready for some fun as he and Vin had ridden hard this day in order to deliver some papers on behalf of Judge Travis. A good eight hours of riding for some delivery errand. At first, Buck had not been too thrilled with the job. He recalled the last time he had been sent out to do "a pick up." "That little girl sure did pack a wallop," he thought ruefully as he remembered the punch that Olivia had given him when he had looked into the prison wagon. Buck considered himself more than an errand boy, but then had determined it would be good to get out of town, which had been pretty slow and lacking in scenery of "beautiful ladies." Well, the day had gone easily enough and now he was ready to let down. Vin had some business to attend to and said heíd be down later.

As Buck approached the saloon, he was surprised to see Ezra sitting off to the side out in front. The evening was early yet and normally Ezra would be just setting up court waiting for the games to get into swing, and studying the potential players.

"Hey, Ezra -- why ainít you in there helping yourself to some poor guyís money?" Buck teased him. One look though showed that his remark fell lame.

Ezra who normally was always slick and neat in his dress, sat with a bottle of whiskey and a unkempt look. He peered up evenly at Buck and spoke softly,

"I assure you, I donít help myself to anything -- others oblige me by playing to fortune. As a matter of fact Mr. Wilmington, I was here enjoying the solitude." With that, Ezra pointedly looked away.

Although puzzled, Buck knew that Ezra had been walking around like a dark cloud for the past week. Attempts on all their parts had failed to find what was bugging him, so Buck simply shrugged, "Suit yourself," and strode on into the saloon.

Ezra watched Buck saunter into the saloon, slightly envious of the enthusiasm that Buck always seemed to have and his talent for livening things up when he was around. He knew that he had been less than friendly to the others recently, but he felt the dark mood upon him and he just couldnít work up enough effort to be otherwise. Ezra chided himself, telling himself that he shouldnít let it bother him, that it was just another day, but it felt flat to him. No matter how hard he tried he couldnít stop the feeling when he pondered what day it was -- his birthday.

 

He sat back and closed his eyes and began to drown out the surroundings. This dark feeling in his gut was related a lot to when he was a child. How many times he had watched his aunts and uncles dote on his cousinsí birthdays where his would go with bare recognition. It was his motherís place to do so, but no matter how often he had wished, he didnít receive trinkets or even letters. As he had gotten older, he had been able to put aside the hurt, telling himself, and believing, it was just another day. But now as he made it yet another year, he felt the old hurt returning. He chastised himself, "In this world, a man ought to be glad that heís made it another year," but as he thought, he had to question where he was and what he had accomplished. Still no real place to call home. Even though Four Corners was the closest he had ever been.

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, opened his eyes, and drank another gulp of whiskey. He didnít like where his thoughts were straying -- too close to something he couldnít even really figure out for himself -- like why he was still around with the other men. He usually dealt with these thoughts best by not thinking and just focusing on the action of the day -- whether it be dealing with cards or dealing with men causing trouble. But today, he just couldnít seem to shake the thoughts out of his mind.

Slowly the image of each one of the others came to him and he thought back to their recent days together. As Ezra recalled how he had lent his talents to find out the truth in Jericho he felt a small glow but it was quickly extinguished as he thought, "It didnít matter anyway. Itís not like it made a real difference. And where was everyone now anyway? JD always seeks out Buck; Nathan and Josiah always work together. Damn, even the two loners hang out together. That makes me about as useful as a glass of water to a drowning man; Iím just another gun." Ezra startled from the unpleasant thought and smiled to himself "Hell, I donít think I even want my own company."

Ezra considered just going to his room and letting this miserable day pass. Heíd consider the future later, but he wasnít so sure that he needed to stay around. "After all it really wasnít that much different here. Still just another dusty cow-town. It wasnít different on the last birthday and probably wonít be for the next." With a sigh, he began to get up, but glanced up to see Chris Larabee looking down at him. He hadnít heard Chris walk out of the saloon doors.

"Ezra," Chris spoke simply, as he waited for acknowledgement. He looked at Ezra with a hard glance and a frown as he saw the gamblerís mood.

"Good evening, Mr. Larabee. You are most welcome to utilize this charming bench as I am about to retire for the evening," Ezra replied as he slowly gained his feet.

"Well, before you go retire," Chris emphasized, "Iím needing your help. JD said that thereís a fellow at the hotel. He thinks that he may be the man wanted for fraud that we got the wire on. I need you to go with me to check him out." Chrisís tone brooked no argument.

Ezra knew that his chances for begging off from this duty were nil. Besides, for some reason whenever Chris wanted something from him, he still felt like he had to make up for what had happened in the Indian village. No matter how hard he tried, Ezra felt that he just couldnít make up for it. Not that Chris had ever said anything more about it after he had signed on following the James incident.

He drawled in his most lighthearted manner, "Well, then, I guess duty calls. It takes a fraud to spot a fraud, eh?" but his tone belied the sharp pang he felt as he spoke.

The two walked slowly and silently down the street to the hotel. Chris was not talking like typical, Ezra was mulling over his dark thoughts. As they approached the hotel, Ezra whispered, "Just where is this gentleman supposed to be?"

Chris looked over, "JD said that he was eating in the dining room. Letís go."

Ezra mentally double-checked to make sure that his guns were all ready. Although he had drank quite a bit already this evening, his mind felt sharp as it always did in anticipation of a confrontation. He felt especially on edge for this one for some reason. Chris wasnít acting like his usual self. Ezra thought that Chris seemed to be anticipating something from the way he was moving. By now they had entered the hotel and had started towards the dining room.

As they entered the room, Ezra perceived that something was odd already. He couldnít see that well -- it was barely lit and there werenít many people at the front tables, but he kept walking towards the back of the dining room, and then stopped in total shock.

They were all there -- Buck, Vin, Josiah, Nathan, JD, and Chris. Even Mrs. Travis was standing near the door to the kitchen. There was no mystery man, but there was a large cake and a small package on the table.

"Hey, Happy Birthday, Ezra"; they all cheered and clapped. The group then became quiet as they waited for his response.

"But... but... how" Ezra gasped -- not able to finish.

Vin smiled and said, "Iíd never thought to have seen Ezra at a loss for his words."

Buck laughed. "You mean howíd we know? It was JD -- it was his plan."

Chris stood to the side with a slight smile knowing how discomforted Ezra was. Normally Ezra was a master of hiding his emotion, but it was plain to all that he was flabbergasted by the party.

Ezra finally turned to JD and asked "But how did you know? I never said a word."

JD looked at him and around at the others and grinned. "You forget, Ezra. Iím the sheriff. I had to sign those papers that Judge Travis gave for your pardon. Your birthdate was plain on those papers. I thought it might be fun to help you celebrate."

Ezra slowly gathered his thoughts together and broke into a wide smile, flashing his gold tooth. "Well, then, gentlemen and lady," with a nod to Mary Travis, "We had best commence to celebrating." With that he pulled out his special flask of whiskey and went to the table to share it with the others.

He then turned to Nathan and asked, "Mr. Jackson with your special surgical acumen, would you assist me in dividing up this beautiful concoction of confection?"

Nathan shook his head, "I guess Ezra done found his words again" and then moved to help cut the cake. Ezra and JD passed around the pieces, and soon everyone was enjoying the taste of the light sponge cake.

Ezra grinned broadly as he declared, "Mrs. Travis, you have outdone yourself. This is a delectably divine dessert."

Josiah nodded solemnly, "Maíam I do believe this cake was made in heaven"

Mary Travis laughed. "Perhaps I should call it "angel food" then. Its an old family recipe."

"Well it has my approval. You can call it what you want. I call it good," Buck chimed in.

After they had ate and drank some, Chris directed the attention back to Ezra. "Hey, donít you think that you should open your package?"

Ezra had been silently watching the other men while enjoying the moment. He felt profoundly touched by this than any other moment in his life. He knew now that he had acquaintances, whom he could now barely allow himself to realize, were friends.

Ezra felt the dark mood lift, and he again smiled as he picked up the package.

"What, pray tell, is this?" he looked questioningly around the group.

JD broke in impatiently, "Itís a present. Thatís what it is. Hurry up an open it Ezra"

Without further prompting, Ezra slowly unwrapped the small brown package to reveal a fine linen shirt like the one he had seen at the store in Jericho.

"Is this what I think it is?" he asked incredulously, "The same one from Jericho?"

Vin wryly added "You wouldnít believe what a good deal that storekeeper offered us on that shirt when me and Buck went to talk to him."

Buck winked, "Thatís right, Ezra. Vin and me may not use fancy words, but weíve got our own way of persuasion."

The men laughed at the image of the crooked shopkeeper trying to make amends under the guidance of Vin and Buckís "persuasion."

Ezra unfolded the shirt for all to see, "Well, I must commend you all on your impeccable taste. Thank you for the gift and for the recognition of my birthdate." He took a deep breath as if to say more, but he struggled to replace his unassuming mask to hide how strong his emotions were.

Vin took that moment to point out, "It ainít a party until thereís some entertainment. How about we put on a game?"

Ezra glanced gratefully at him, "Splendid idea, Mr. Tanner. I do believe that I may still have a few tricks to amuse and entertain." With that, he began to pull out his cards.

Chris watched from the side as Mary and the men began to clean up the plates and make room for the cards. Mary gave a nod to the group amidst a chorus of thanks and appreciation as she went back into the hotel kitchen. There was joking and jostling as Ezra deftly shuffled the deck and displayed his card games. He was talking animatedly and all signs of his dark mood had left.

Chris sighed, Wish, I could let my mood up so easily, but he understood how Ezra had felt. It was JD that had made the connection when the normally affable Ezra had been more and more withdrawn over the past days. Chris understood how dates and anniversaries could sear the soul. He still didnít fully trust the gambler, but he knew Ezra was trying, which was the most anybody could expect, he guessed. Nonetheless, Chris was still glad that they had helped to cheer Ezra up.

Spotting him on the edge of the group, Ezra called out, "Mr. Larabee, would you like to be dealt in on this next one?"

Chris sat down with group, "I reckon so."

Ezra had dealt out the cards, and they each looked at their hands. After the betting and swapping out of cards, Nathan folded his hand and complained, "Looks like just another day, no winning here."

Ezra looked up and said softly, "Ah, Mr. Jackson, I beg to differ, Itís not just another day, Itís my birthdate," as he claimed the pot with a 4 of a Kind -- all sevens.

THE END

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