Lonesome Dove
By: Maggie
eagleimaggs_7@yahoo.com

**********************

Rating: PG13
Disclaimer: Ain’t mine
Author’s Notes: Okay, pards. I would like to stick my $1.00’s worth opinion in here. As you can
see, I value myself above the average. ;-D All joking aside though, I would like to address the
issue of deathfic that has been discussed lately. I am not a huge fan of deathfic but do read it. I
have no idea what has brought on the latest fics I have written about the subject, but have been
amazed at the creativity that it has spurned in me. I have taken no offense from anyone
concerning my stories. As I stated in one of them, I love comments, good or bad, I treat you all
the same. And that is the truth. Although some of the creative critisicms (flames) do dent my ego
slightly, its still a response letting me know people are reading what I wrote and have an opinion
about it. Whether for or against, its still an emotion, meaning the reader got something from my
written words. I for one, and this may sound warped, but this is me we’re talking about, have
enjoyed the discussion. It has shown me that there is a diverse group on this list and has even
brought out ones that I have never known were there. In my ‘opinion’, that has made me happier
than anything. I am a writer. I write to relieve emotions that I cannot express out loud. And if I
just wrote for myself, there would be no need to put it on paper because it is already housed in
my mind. So, to know that someone reads my ‘ramblings’ and is getting a strong reaction to
them, is actually helping me deal with intense feelings I couldn’t otherwise handle. So, to wrap
this up, I knew Kim’s response was one of teasing because we have been doing it for the past few
months, but to any of you ‘I’ may have offended somehow in my stories, I apologize. One last
note: I do label my stories concerning content and it gives me security that no one is going to be
surprised. In other words, Read at your Own Risk kinda thing.
CU,
Maggs
Warnings: Yes, it is a deathfic.

************************

“Tell me Mr. Jackson,” Ezra Standish cast a sidelong glance to the healer who was riding beside
him in the afternoon. “What do you deem this young lady’s chances of survival to be?” The
gambler gazed at the cliff dwellings to his left and then to the drops to his right.

“Well, Ezra. Her daddy said she disappeared last night around supper. He also said she loved to
hang around the canyon, so I’d say she’s probably either hiding in one of these here caves or,”
Nathan didn’t have the heart to finish as he looked over the side at the 50 foot drop to the running
river below.

“I too am hoping that your first suggestion is a correct one.” Standish hid a shiver as he pictured
the five year old battered body laying at the bottom of the ravine, but just as quickly as the
thought surfaced he pushed it back down.

He and the others had been informed of Dove Woods disappearance this morning when her
distraught father rode in to town. They had split up immediately after gathering supplies and
headed for the five mile stretch of canyon deemed the little girl’s favorite ‘hang out’.

Vin Tanner, being the best tracker, went straight to the ranch and began hunting for footprints to
give him a more specific direction to head toward. Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne were giving
instructions to case the cliffs from the bottom, starting east to west while Chris Larabee and
Josiah Sanchez also searched the bottom from north to south.

So, this left Ezra and Nathan to hunt the top for any sign of Dove.

“Ezra, can I ask you something?” Jackson hadn’t meant to breech a certain subject, but the longer
they rode, the more it plagued his mind.

The gambler guaged the healer’s sincerity and was surprised at the tension he noticed in the
other. “By all means, Nathan.”

Jackson took a deep breath and then plunged ahead. “Why did you fight in the war?” The healer
looked Standish dead in the eye and was slightly amazed as the gambler began chuckling.

“Not for the reasons you think, Mr. Jackson. I assure you.” Ezra calmed himself as he formulated
the words he knew sooner or later he would have to voice. “I joined the Confederate Army to
escape jail. I was in Charleston visiting business associates when Fort Sumter was attacked. I
thought nothing of it at the time. I was too busy counting the money I was about to get from a
luscious deal I was about to close. Little did I know the local authorities had taken interest in the
affairs and were staked out, awaiting our departure from the dwelling where we were conducting
the transaction. As the money exchanged ownership and we were bidding each other a
prosperous life, the officers advanced.” Standish paused to glance at Nathan to see if he was
understanding his tale. The gambler was happy to see a mixture of acceptance and humor in the
other’s eyes, so continued. “I ran through the alleyway heading toward the railroad depot,
knowing our ‘deal’ would be known with in minutes to the population. As I rounded the corner
to the ticket booth, I saw two policemen waiting for me. So, being the resourceful soul I am, did
the only thing I could. I walked into the recruiting station and announced my intent to fight for
my southern heritage.”

Jackson watched the other drop off into a silent reverie and used that time to really study his
friend. If anyone had suggested he would work with a southerner, much less call one friend, he
would have laughed in their face. But as Nathan looked closer, he noticed Ezra had been
influenced by society to certain beliefs, and thanks to a group of six men, that bias had been
brought to another side.

Standish shook his head slowly to bring himself back to the present. “I’m sorry my friend. The
past seemed to want to call me back.” The gambler threw the healer a smile that showed his gold
tooth.

“No problem, Ezra. I been caught there before, myself.” The two men exchanged a silent
transpose, each seeing the other in a different light.

“I suggest we find this young lady and get back to our humble dwellings before Mother Nature
deems it necessary to exact her mood swings on us.” Standish had revealed something personal
and this always made him nervous. Not that he didn’t trust Nathan, just his past experiences and
transgressions had made him cynical.

The two trotted forward, stopping occasionally to check for tracks, but after an hour both were
about to give up hope. That is until they heard the small cry about 25 yards ahead of them.

“I think we have just located our Lonesome Dove, Mr. Jackson.” Ezra sighed, letting a slow
smile crease his lips with relief.

“Yep. Looks that way.” Nathan also allowed some of the tension ease from him.

They finally found the tale-tale signs of disturbed rocks and what looked to be scratch marks on
the ground. Jackson dismounted first noticing the lines disappeared over the side of the ravine.

“Dear Lord. Don’t tell me she went over.” The gambler jumped from his horse and rushed to the
healer’s side.

“Looks that way. Also looks like she landed on a ledge about 15 feet down.” Nathan didn’t dare
to get to close to the edge. The rocks were loose and very sharp. “One of us is gonna have to
repel down and get her. Since she’s been out here all night, she ain’t gonna be in that good of
shape.” Jackson hurried to Doc and grabbed his rope.

Standish mimic the other’s movements, retrieving his cord and supplies. “I’ll go.” The gambler
dropped the binding near the drop off and began removing his jacket.

“I don’t know, Ezra. Thats pretty steep and...” The healer didn’t fancy putting his friend in
danger.

“Come now, Mr. Jackson. You said yourself one of us had to go down there. And since I am the
smallest and lightest, it only seems prudent I be the one to attempt the endeavor.” Ezra flashed
Nathan a quick smile and wink, trying to ease the other’s concern. “Besides, you, my dear friend,
are going to be needed here, to take care of our fair damsel.” Standish finished looping the rope
around him and handed it to the suddenly quiet protector.

“You sure about this?” Nathan’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Maybe we should wait for
Vin. He’s done this kinda thing and he’s lighter than the both of us.”

The southerner stared at Jackson for a few minutes, wondering what he had done to deserves
such loyal, caring friends. “As much as I would love to wait for our illustrious, Mr. Tanner, I’m
afraid our Lonesome Dove cannot be as patient.”

The healer knew Ezra spoke the truth. The little girl’s time was limited and every second
counted. “Alright. Just be careful.”

“I assure you Nathan, that is something I am well accustomed in doing.” Standish eased himself
near the edge and then walked slowly over the side.

************************

The five-year old was dirty, pale, and shaking uncontrollably. Ezra eased himself close to the
ledge but didn’t dare touch it. It looked to be about 2 feet wide and ready to fall off at the slighest
jarring.

“Well, hello there my dear lady. It seems you are in need of some assistance.” The Standish
charm was working its magic once more.

The blue eyes opened slowly with a slight twinkle creeping inside them. “Mrrr. Stanndisshh.”
The stuttering worried the gambler, but the young girl was coherent and alert.

“Thats right my friend. Now, may I help you out of this predicament.” Ezra reached out and
gently took Dove’s small hand in his, pulling her around his neck. The extra weight wasn’t that
much, but enough to add strain to the sharp rocks protruding from the top. “You just hang on to
me, Ms. Woods, and I promise to get you home as soon as possible.”

The little girl’s head nodded softly against Standish’s shirt in affirmative. He gave the rope a
slight tug to indicate for Nathan to began pulling them up, never knowing the danger impending.

*************************

“Slow and easy, boy.” Jackson stoked his mount while whispering in his ear. Any jerk to the
binding could cause it to snap, plunging both the occupants of the cord to the raging waters
below.

Nathan began to smile as he heard Ezra’s southern drawl weaving a tale to calm the child.
*Leave it to him to make a dangerous situation into a story.* The healer felt the tug of the rope
going slack so figured they were nearing the top. He let Doc stop, ground tying him just in case,
and went to help the gambler with his parcel. But as Jackson got close to the edge his heart
dropped to his feet and he felt his blood run cold.

The cord had unravelled to one strand and the healer could only see the top of Ezra’s and Dove’s
heads. Nathan quickly ran forward and dropped to his knees.

“Ezra, give me your hand quick.” Jackson reached down not caring if he was to close to the drop
off or not. Right now his only concern was getting them up.

“Nathan, whats wrong?” The gambler tried to keep his voice calm, even though the blatant fear
etched in his friend’s eyes gave his cause for alarm.

“The rope’s fraying. Its only holding on by one strand. Give me your hand, hurry.” The healer
jerked his hand toward them once more and was rewarded with an arm. A small arm.

Jackson could feel his breath catch as he realized what Standish had done. The healer grabbed
Dove and all but threw her over his shoulder, sitting her on the ground out of danger. As he
turned back to reach for the gambler, he heard it. The loud snap of a rope.

As Nathan watched in slow motion, Ezra began falling out of reach and toward the bottom of the
ravine.

“NOOOOOO!!!!!!” The healer lurched forward to try and grab the frayed end of the binding, but
it too fell out of his reach disappearing with Ezra Standish.

*********************

Nathan didn’t know how long he had sat there staring at the emptiness below, trying to pathom
this as all a dream. But the slight touch of a small hand on his arm jerked him swiftly back to
reality.

“Where is Mr. Standish?” Dove watched the black man, wondering why he wasn’t helping the
gambler over the edge.

“I’m..” The healer’s voice caught as he realized what he was about to say. Nathan squeezed his
eyes shut trying to ward off the tears he felt threatening him. He cleared his throat, swallowing
the lump trapped there. “He ain’t coming back up, Dove.”

The little girl looked from the darkman to the side and then back again before she understood
what he was talking about. “Is he...” Dove’s lips began to quiver and the tears began rolling
down her cheeks.

“Yes, he is.” Jackson grabbed the young lady in a hug as she launched herself into his arms. He
then recognized he needed comforting as much as she did right then.

************************

The moods of the seven men were somber as they once again searched the bottom of canyon.
This time they knew they were searching for a dead body. One of their own.

It was at this moment Vin Tanner hated being the best tracker in the territory. Because this time it
was left up to him to track down the battered and deceased form of his friend, his brother. The
tracker shut his eyes quickly to stave off the thoughts he knew would start plaguing his mind.

Chris Larabee followed close behind Tanner, berating himself for the thousandth time for ever
setting foot in a small town called Four Corners. He was tired of losing people he loved and
cared about to sensless tragedy. No, thats wasn’t fair. That little girl’s life isn’t senseless and
neither was saving it.

Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne rode side by side once more, each lost in thoughts of regret and
heartache. The kid had already lost his ma the year before, and now he was facing the loss of a
brother. The gunslinger hadn’t gotten close enough to anyone else since Sarah and Adam’s death
so as to avoid such feelings as was hounding him now. But no matter how hard each man tried,
they couldn’t escape the grief that was overtaking them.

Josiah Sanchez brought up the rear, riding quietly beside Nathan Jackson. The healer hadn’t said
two words since relating the accident. This was what worried the preacher the most. Yes, he was
going to miss Ezra. Hell, his heart was already feeling the emptiness the gambler’s existence had
once occupied, but he also knew that if something wasn’t done, another in their group would be
lost forever.

The only thoughts running through Nathan’s mind was, ‘its all my fault’, but a little voice inside
his head kept contradicting him. Telling him, ‘it was Ezra’s choice’. Jackson rubbed his tired
eyes slowly, but stopped and began staring at his hands. Healing hands is what he called them.
Not anymore. They had failed to save his friend, his brother.

Josiah had watched the other’s actions and somehow knew where his thoughts were headed, but
before the preacher could stop the healer’s self-reproach, Vin halted the group.

They each sat their saddles as they watched the bounty hunter slide off his mount and walk to a
grove of bushes beside the river. It was when he pulled a limb back that the reality of the
situation hit the protectors’. For there lay the prone form of Ezra Standish.

*************************

Inez had shut down the saloon as soon as the funeral had ended, knowing what was left of the
seven would want to spend some time alone. And the tavern was one place they would be able to
feel closest to Ezra’s spirit.

“Think we’ll ever see him again?” Buck stared at his untouched drink as he pondered his own
question.

“I believe, Brother Wilmington, that our souls were meant to ride together forever, so yes, I know
we’ll see him again.” Josiah threw back his shot of whisky, hoping it would dull the pain of the
words he had uttered earlier over a friend’s grave.

The table fell quiet once more as each man slipped into his own grief filled thoughts.

Maude Standish stood outside the batwing doors and studied the men her son had called friends’,
even brothers’.

She hadn’t truly understood the bond Ezra had with these men until today at the gravesite. She
had watched each of their faces intently, as if she was playing a high stakes game of poker with
them. Then she realized she had, and lost. She had lost her son to these men, not only physically,
but spiritually. He had truly loved them like a family and for this she was thankful. And this was
the reasoning behind her interruption now.

“Excuse me, gentlemen. I don’t mean to disturb you, but I have something that I would like you
to have.” Maude laid the piece of parchment on the table as if it were a bar of gold and then left
the saloon.

“What is it?” JD’s usually exuberant voice, sounded old and tired.

“It looks like a letter of somekind.” Nathan reached for his shot glass as he ignored the parcel.

Chris glanced once at the healer before picking up the note. He too was beginning to worry about
his friend. “Its a letter from Ezra to his mother. And from the looks of it, its all about us.”
Larabee paused, not sure how to proceed.

“Read it.” Vin’s gaze never wavered from his vigil of the whisky bottle, as his hoarse voice
spoke what everyone was thinking.

The gunslinger cleared his throat and then began reciting the letter.

‘Dear Mother,

I’m writing you this letter to inform you that I am quite well. In fact, I’ve never felt more alive in
my life. I have truly found someone to accept me for who I am, and love me anyway. Actually,
six someones’.

When I first laid eyes on them in the saloon that day, I was appalled at the prospect of being
associated with such uncivilized miscreants. But as the days’ drew by, I realized that it was I who
was uncivilized. For I had no morals, no real ideas of what living was truly about. But thanks to
six great men I now proudly call friends, I have become someone I can love and respect.

Josiah opened his church today to a family who had lost their wagon to some bandits. He gave
them what little shelter he had, not once caring where he was going to stay or sleep that night. I
had never saw such unselfish behavior and was surprised when I witnessed it once more that day.

This time it was Nathan who shocked me. One of James Stewarts’ men had fallen from his horse
and broken his arm. The cowhands had brought him to town, straight to Mr. Jackson’t clinic. I
had overheard many of these men, including the one injured, say derogatory statements
concerning our healer, but even though Nathan knew about the slurs, it did not hinder his
assistance toward a fellow man in need. I do believe it was then that I found myself truly blessed
to be among these men. Nathan had fought everything he hated most about the South and
southerners’ in order to see me for myself, just as he had fought his pride in order to heal
someone who most probably didn’t deserve it. I just wish at times I could bring myself to inform
Mr. Jackson of my true feelings toward, but then I feel somehow he knows.

Mr. Dunne was entertainment as usual today. He and Mr. Wilmington thought it would be most
hilarious to play a trick on our illustrious leader. They stole his favorite shirt, took it to the
laundry and dyed it bright pink. I do believe I will never forget Chris’s face when JD returned his
missing article in such condition. Even now, I don’t think Mr. Larabee knows what truly
happened.’

Chris stopped his narrative briefly to shoot a deadly glare to the two culprits’ just mentioned.
Buck and JD couldn’t help but smile as they remembered that day. Larabee dropped his gaze
back to the letter and resumed reading.

‘Even Mr. Tanner amazed me this afternoon. I was having trouble with Chance’s front hoof. He
had been favoring it recently, but all my examinations had come up empty. I found myself once
more in the livery with him, when Vin came back from a ride. He asked me if he could help. At
first, I thought of refusing, but then I realized it never hurt to recieve help from a friend.

It took Vin no more than a few minutes to figure out the problem. A stone had lodged itself under
Chance’s shoe. It was no bigger than a pea, which explained why I had missed it, but once again,
Mr. Tanner’s eyesight surprised me.

Well, mother, I do believe I have bored you with mine and my friends’ exploits. I do hope you
are well and happy, because I know I am.

Love always,
Ezra Standish’

The six stared mutely at one another truly at a loss for words.

“Goodbye, Ezra.” Nathan raised his glass in a somber salute which was joined by five other
glasses.

“Till we meet again, pard.” Vin smiled slowly as he felt a small breeze waft through the saloon
and settle around them.

***********************

The End
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