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History in a Bottle
When I step down the stairs into the saloon (not really a grand entrance since the pathetic, unwashed heathens here wouldn't recognize style if it came and bit them in the posterior, but since my darlin' mother is not here to criticize my apparent proclivity for siding with the plebs, I don't care that no one pays attention), the sight in not an appealing one. I don't know, and frankly didn't bother to find out, if this 'fine' establishment has, in fact, a name or not. That would be redundant since I've seen its likes for the last four weeks ever since I left New Orleans, and believe me, you've seen one run-down saloon in the middle of nowhere, you've seen 'em all.
Yes, of course, then the question is -- why am I here? Away from the warm climate and cultured airs of my southern home? The truth, for once: I desperately needed the change. Even the best, the most successful con turns stale after the third time you've come away with your mark's money, barely hiding a yawn behind your manicured hand. That was what alleviating myself to someone else's money had become -- stale. Boring. The South, after the War, is a bustle of well-off people turning nights into days. On the shores of the Mississippi, the whole world seems to have turned into an amusement district. As if we hadn't lost enough already. Still, the former 'nobility', at least the lucky ones who'd survived the War, now while away all memories of its dishonor, the homes lost, their whole lives turned upside down, by throwing brightly colored pieces of cardboard on polished tables. Card game after card game. Their loss, my gain.
But then, a certain southern belle set her sights on my person. And her father, contradictin' every expectation I'd harbored from having lived through too many of Maude's operations of a similar kind during which everyone made it abundantly clear how unsuitable a man such as myself was for marrying a woman with any social standing, gave us his blessing. The only problem was the fact that the lady in question could have been more acurately described as being my enthusiastic would-be paramour than my bride to be. Dear Arthemisia was undeniably beautiful, but not very bright and totally off the mark as far as the reciprocity of her feelings was concerned. We hadn't even shared a bed once, and she would have dragged me happily off to church the next Sunday. So I left in a bit of a hurry. Being bored -- I suppose I already mentioned that -- helped.
Uncivilized 'Wild West', here I come! Indians and buffalos, of course, have been seriously decimated, and the odds of stumbling across a bear or any other animal dangerous enough to threaten life and limb have decreased to a sufficient amount that it now is far more likely to get attacked by the most dangerous animal of all -- man. So I guess this country is still 'wild' enough, isn't it? How utterly foolish to set one's life upon one's skill with a gun. Gunfighters -- the most ridiculous profession I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. Thankfully, a glib tongue and my own not inconsiderate skill with my trusted Remington have prevented me from having had to participate in a so-called showdown in a dusty street (somehow I always imagine gloomy guitar music to such a picture in my mind). And, after all, why face sure danger head-on when it also can be avoided at little effort?
Oh dear, I'm rambling. Not a good thing. Ezra, get a grip on your emotions.
That still doesn't explain, though, why I currently find myself in the middle of the above mentioned dingy backwater saloon (the tables are grimy. And the beer tastes like horse piss. Oh Ezra, no need to get crude), my colt in my left hand, the derringer in the right. Facing down a man of the also already mentioned questionable profession, a gunslinger. Dear me. A mightily enraged one, too, but also, thankfully, an inebriated one. If not, I sincerely hope I wouldn't have intervened. Nonetheless, I did. And I unquestionably will ask myself why I ventured to do that for the next ten or fifteen days to come as well. After all, I have no altruistic streak to discover, so why, why, why? I can't believe I stood up and stopped that miserable excuse of a human being from harassing another one of the pathetic patrons here. One who, undoubtedly, brought the whole tragedy down onto his own head. Sitting there in the corner, drunk 'as a skunk', the colorful clientele here would call it, I'm sure, not too steady on his feet, waving his own gun around and telling Mr. Scowling My-gun-is-the-fastest here that he takes offence at whatever (most likely not imagined) slight the other man inflicted. Why, though, couldn't Mr. I'm-searchin'-for-the-bottom-of-my-bottle not simply pass out or overhear his opponent's slur on his parentage?
The world is a crazy place.
The same litany continues to race through my head after the sheriff drags Mr. Show-and-tell out by his feet. The barman glares at me, but I'm certain that the colorful floor of this fine establishment will hardly notice another smear of a more questionable liquid. Yes, I spilled the gunman's blood. In fact, I believe I hit his heart with my first shot. Stupid imbecile. After all, I already had both of my guns out. Admittedly, so did he, but he was compensating for his inebriation; I -- merely faked mine.
My new friend in the corner has passed out again. Oh my. Seems I have appropriated a ward, and a heavy one after all, too. Good Lord, but that man is solid! Dear me, his personal hygiene is not nearly as abysmal as I expected; in fact, he seems to have bathed today. Wonder what milestone was the occasion.
Let's see -- who do we have here? When a man is sleeping on my bed (or, passed out drunk, more likely, but who squabbles?), I at least deserve to know his name. Hmmm. Not much in his pockets. Two more drinking binges, and my snoring compatriot would be broke. His clothes, while worn, are better quality than I'd have expected. A farmer? No, his weapons are far too good for that; most especially, the shining long-barreled colt in his (low slung? Another gunslinger? Why do I always encounter the mad ones?) girdle. Well. Nice -- bottom. Better leave him dressed; too much of a temptation otherwise. And I don't fancy myself getting shot for taking inappropriate liberties with a man whose gun compensates for his... other equipment.
Dear me. Not having checked out said equipment, I'd better stop making indecent comparisons. Although the man is handsome, I'll grant him that. In a -- drunk sort of way. Longish blond hair falling into his eyes, regular features some simpering maiden might be tempted to call 'chiseled', a lean, strong body with surprising muscles in his arms and shoulders. No, sir, you will not get up and fall down the stairs in the state you are in right now. You'll rest here, nice and easy, until you... Damnation! Of course I should have expected this; the reward for my uncharacteristic display of philantropy is having to wipe up the remains of your dinner. Including, hopefully, most of the cheap rotgut you ingested. I still don't know why I don't simply kick you out. Yes, you might be able to sleep now. Wonder who that 'Sarah' is you kept crying out for... if the 'lucky' woman is your wife, I may hope she's never witnessed a similar display, or you might find yourself abandoned before long. Let me tell you, women hate drunkards. Even more, drunkards who can't keep down their dinner.
Well, finally, my room doesn't smell anymore like a cross between a brewery and an outhouse. If Maude saw me now, she would declare all ties to me severed, and I couldn't even fault her for that. Who am I -- the proverbial Good Samaritan?! I must be delirious.
You know, my friend, it is now almost morning. And let me tell you, I've never encountered one in such a manner -- caring for a stranger prone to nightmares who is too inebriated to recognize his surroundings. Damn it, my reputation here is shot to hell. Thank God I already prepared for my immediate departure yesterday before I even went down to the saloon, certain that Lady Luck wouldn't favor me again after my last successful game of poker here the day before. Fortuna is loath to smile upon me twice in a row; that's a principle every good gambler learns at his mother's breast. So I'm reasonably certain that I'll never turn into one of those deplorable optimists who stay in one place longer than a week. I only made two exceptions from that rule, and as you see, I more than outstayed my welcome in New Orleans. And in Fort Laramie, but that's another story.
I guess I'd better leave. Leaving in the first light of morning -- oh, the depths you've fallen to, Ezra! Still, I wonder who you are, my blond stranger. I wonder what your voice sounds like without the drunken slur, or your eyes without being bloodshot from too much whiskey. You had a reason for your bodily ablutions as well as for your drunken binge, I'm certain of that. An anniversary perhaps? Of what, I wonder?
Enough, Ezra. No more stalling. Oh no, you won't!
Too late. Now I at least know what his lips taste like... I wonder if...
Foolishness! Leave before he awakens! The story of the princess being kissed awake from magical slumber by her true prince is just that -- a fairy tale. While your charge might indeed just open his eyes if you dawdle for a moment longer.
Well, at least he was utterly more handsome than giggly Arthemisia Hempshire. And less difficult to extricate yourself from.
This is who you are, Ezra. Accept it. Nothing will change the way your life is set up to be. After all, you're free, you're reasonably rich and have no obligations that corner you in a direction you don't want to go.
Life is good.
... Goodbye. I--I can't help but wonder if we'll ever meet again.
"The Magnificent Seven" (TV series) ficlet by allaire mikháil, 1.732 words, Chris/Ezra pre-slash, Ezra POV, rated PG-13
This is mabiana's rightfully earned reward for not only following me bravely when I strayed into 'Battlestar Galactica' slash, but also for answering a question I put up in my own lj. mabiana, you're the best! <g> One piece of Chris and Ezra, served on a silver plate. Hope you like your treat!
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