My Brother, My Friend
                        by Jourdana


Maude Standish sighed heavily as her coach headed for Four Corners. It would
be so good to see her son again. She leaned back and watched the scenery go by.

Deacon Larabee, sat astride his horse, tall in the saddle, a lot like
his son did. His son looked a lot like him, but mainly favored his mother.
He had received a letter form both his son and a woman he had not seen
in a great while. He found out then that he had a son that he never knew of.
One only a few years younger than his son, Chris. He re-read the letter
he had received from her and thought over in his mind how for a brief
period he had known complete love and bliss with her. But his duties at
home had called him back. Mainly because his wife and son needed him.
His son most of all. For when he returned he found out that his wife was
dying. He loved her till the end, but once she was gone he couldn't help
but think of the woman he had left behind in the south on his travels. He
wanted to retrieve her and make her a mother for Chris, and love her as
his wife. But he soon found out, she was no longer in Virginia. She had fled
from a man who had made her life hell. Her own husband. She had taken
back her maiden name he noticed in her letter. And she said she had given
her son that name. Not wanting to give him his father's name, due to the fact
his father didn't know bout him.

Deacon wondered why she had waited so long to contact him. It had been
28 years since they were together, His own son having a lost his wife and
son at that age, he wondered what his other son had accomplished, or lost
by now. His son, Chris was now a 32 year old man, with such a great
weight on his shoulders that he seemed to carry the world upon them.
It was because of both the letter he had received from his lost love and
his son, urged him to visit his son in Four Corners. Maybe he could explain
about her and that somewhere Chris had a brother he could search for.
Little did Deacon know, that Chris's brother was right under his nose.

"I fold," Chris Larabee said, throwing his cards down. He had received
a telegram saying his father was headed for Four Corners. He noticed that
their resident gambler, Ezra Standish was also preoccupied. He knew he
had received a letter from his mother and that she was headed back to Four
Corners. He smiled slightly. He liked Maude, but she had a tendency to be
trouble. More than her son. But lately Ezra had been doing much better.
The calming influence everyone else had on him was good.

He perked up when he heard a coach arrived, and he looked at Ezra who winced.

"I think your Ma just arrived Ezra," he said smiling. Ezra sighed and nodded.
The two men, who had been keeping each other company, a rare thing. Got
up together and headed outside. They watched as Maude stepped out of her
coach and looked around. She spotted her son and Chris and walked forward.
She smiled at them both.

"Ezra, Mr. Larabee," she said, smiling. She thought a little sadly at Chris's last name. That always bothers me, she thought. Every time she heard Chris's last name she was sent back to the past, and Ezra's father.

"Mother," Ezra said leaning against a nearby post. Ezra barely trusted his mother, but he did love her. To him she was the only parent he had. He never knew his father, and never thought he would. In his twenty-eight years, he never once thought about how much he really would like to meet his father. A disturbing comment was made to him one day, by young Billy Travis, the son of the woman who owned the Clarion, the town's newspaper, Mary Travis. She was occupying his thoughts a lot lately and he didn't know why. Billy had said that Chris and Ezra looked a lot alike, as if they were brothers. He sighed, and he retrieved his mother's bags. Chris helped him which surprised them both. Together they managed to settle Maude in at the hotel.

Chris was just walking out of the hotel when he got a slightly uneasy feeling. Not necessarily a bad one, but one that made his spine tingle. A rider rode in, and Chris recognized the horse. The rider hopped off and walked into the Clarion.

"Can I help you?" Mary Travis said not looking up. When she did she gasped. An older version of a combination of Chris Larabee and Ezra Standish stood in front of her.

"Hello. I am looking for Chris Larabee, do you know where I can find him?" the man asked taking his hat off.

"That depends. Who are you?" she asked getting up. She couldn't believe the resemblance to the two men who were, to her knowledge, no relation.

"I'm sorry. My name is Deacon Larabee. Chris is my son," he replied smiling Ezra's smile at the woman. She couldn't believe how much this man looked like both Chris, and Ezra. How is that possible? she wondered. She shook her head realizing the man in front of her was waiting for an answer. Before she could answer, however, Chris walked in.

"Hello Dad," he said smiling. Deacon whipped around and smiled at him. Chris was amazed by what he saw. He was suddenly struck with the fact that, it looked almost like an older Ezra stood before him. That's impossible! Ezra isn't even related to me! he thought. He shrugged and the two men embraced.

"How are you, son?" Deacon asked. Chris shrugged. Deacon knew he still mourned his wife and son, Sarah, and Adam. Deacon's heart also broke when Chris came to Indiana to tell him that his daughter-in-law and grandson had died in a fire, by men looking to kill Chris. It angered him to think that anyone would want to kill his son, but in the end ended up killing his own son's family. Chris hadn't been the same since. Mary cleared her throat and the two men turned to her.

"Dad, this is Mary Travis, her father-in-law hired me and six others to protect the town. Mary this is my father, Deacon Larabee," Chris said his hand on his father's shoulder.

"We've met," Mary said smiling. Deacon smiled and he and Chris left the paper. They were walking down the street to the Saloon, when a boisterous voice spoke up, one Deacon recognized right away.

"Well damn! If it isn't Deacon Larabee!" Buck Wilmington said smiling. Deacon smiled and the two men embraced. Buck was one of the few friends Chris had that he liked. He realized, Buck was the only friend that Chris had at the moment he actually knew.

"How are ya, Buck?" Deacon said smiling at the man. He noticed both his son, and Buck looked at him strangely, but soon masked their looks.

"I am getting by," Buck said grinning. Deacon laughed. The three men disappeared into the Saloon, as Ezra and his mother exited the hotel.

They headed in the opposite direction of the Saloon avoiding at the moment a clash of pasts, but it was inevitable with Deacon, and Maude in town together.

Deacon rolled out of bed the next day his head pounding. He had drank all night with his son and Buck, and was now sporting one hell of a hangover. He dressed and walked outside to find only Buck with a younger man, a black man, and another man who looked slightly younger than Chris, but older than the other man with Buck.

"Morning Deacon," Buck said smiling, no signs of having drank as much as he did the night before.

"Morning," Deacon mumbled and sat next to Buck. "Who are your friends? And where is my son?"

"Chris went with another of our friends, Ezra, and his mother to Eagle Bend. Ezra didn't want to go alone with his mother, and Chris volunteered. And this JD Dunne, Nathan Jackson, and Vin Tanner," Buck answered. "Boys, this is Chris's dad, Deacon Larabee." Each man was surprised, but nodded at him. Deacon saw Mary Travis with a young boy and excused himself to go talk to her. JD leaned over to Buck.

"If he's Chris's father, why does he look a lot like Ezra?" he asked.

"You noticed that too, huh?" Vin said watching Deacon talking to Mary.

"Hell it's hard to miss," Nathan added.

"I never noticed it until Deacon came to town. There was something about Ezra, though that seemed familiar to me. I never understood why, until now," Buck said watching the man he considered more of a father to him then any man had been in his life. Never knowing his own father made it hard for Buck. But Deacon had happily excepted Buck like a son, instantly liking his own son's friend.

Deacon enjoyed talking to Mary Travis, but couldn't help but feel the men's eyes on them, no, on him. They were in particular staring at him. He shrugged and he treated Mary and Billy to lunch, at the hotel. After he walked the two to the paper, he retreated to his room to rest. The days of travel were catching up to him. He laid down and slept.

Chris was laughing, a good laugh, at Ezra's expression. The gambler had a terrible headache from spending the afternoon with his mother, and he had a cross between a grimace, and an expression of relief.

"Chris, I don't see a damn thing funny here," he said in his signature Southern drawl. Ezra got up and left, only making Chris laugh harder.
Ezra was walking along the sidewalk when he bumped into Mary Travis as she exited the Clarion. He grasped her arm to steady her.

"Mr. Standish!" she said startled at the collision. The look of pain on his face concerned her. "Ezra are you all right?"
"Oh, I just have a headache from spending the afternoon with my mother and Chris," Ezra replied releasing Mary, and rubbing his temples.
Mary smiled sympathetically, and led him back into the paper. She coerced him to sit and take off his coat. As he did so she got some water, and some salt tablets and handed them to him.

"This should make you feel better," she said.

"The only thing that will make me feel better is to know the real reason as to why my mother is here," he said after taking the pills. Mary noticed he was rubbing at his neck. She walked behind him and began to massage his neck and shoulders.
"Mrs. Travis?" Ezra asked, unsure of what to do. The unsettling feelings had been having about her lately intensified at her touch.

"Relax. My husband use to get headaches like the one you have, and I would massage his shoulders, to help ease the tension. It also helped his headache go away," she replied.

"Having any beautiful woman massage a man's shoulders would make him feel better," Ezra said aloud. He winced when he heard her gasp, and realized he had voiced his thoughts. He didn't mean for her to hear that. Mary continued to massage his shoulders but the silence was uncomfortable.

Mary felt the tension slip out of Ezra's body as she worked at the muscles in his neck. She still couldn't believe how much this man looked like Chris's father. She soon realized she was feeling Ezra's shoulders and neck, more than she was massaging them.

"Mary?" Ezra said getting up and turning around. His green eyes met hers, and Mary impulsively leaned over to him and kissed him. Ezra at first wanted to push her away, but instead stepped closer and pulled her to him, and deepened the kiss. Mary was surprised. She had kissed him out of impulse, and thought he would step away after she did, not return her kiss. But she was glad he had, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

The two were oblivious to everything, including Chris walking in. Until Billy alerted them to his presence.

"Chris!" Billy called from the other room. Ezra and Mary jerked apart and looked at him. Chris had a shaded look across his face. Mary flushed a deep red and turned away pressing a hand to her lips, unable to rid the sensation Ezra's lips had left. Ezra looked at Chris, and noticed a strange look in the man's eyes as he left.

Chris walked down the sidewalk unaware of anything. What had he just seen? And why didn't it bother him? When he had first come to Four Corners he felt an attraction to Mary Travis, but seeing her with her arms around Ezra, didn't effect him. Maybe his feelings were nothing. Something about Mary reminded him of his late wife, Sarah, and that was all. Nothing more. He decided he would later talk to Ezra and tell him that, but he noticed Maude walking towards him frowning.

"Mr. Larabee," she said.

"Maude," he returned. She looked preoccupied, which was strange. Maude never seemed preoccupied by anything.

"Is something wrong?" he asked finally. Maude had been staring off in the distance and paled at something she saw. She shook her head and hurried away. Chris watched her confused.

Deacon had walked out of the hotel and gasped as he saw the woman who was talking to his son. Maude? It can't be. Why is she here? he thought. He remembered the letter again Maude had sent him and began to feel uneasy. He swiftly walked toward Chris, but Maude had vanished.

"Who was that, son?" Deacon asked.

"Ezra's mother, Maude Standish," Chris said, his eyes never leaving where Maude had once stood. He had never seen that woman scared of anything, but whatever she had seen had caused her to flee.

Deacon was taken aback by the fact that Maude Standish was in Four Corners. He shook his head, and he gestured toward the Saloon to Chris, who nodded. The two headed there. Deacon was determined to get drunk.

Maude entered the Saloon later that night unable to shake the image of Deacon Larabee from her mind. Why is he here? she wondered. She saw him sitting with Chris, Vin and Buck at a table. The others were drinking, but a drink lay in front of Deacon untouched.

Deacon couldn't bring himself to drink, when he felt a pair of eyes on him. He looked up and found the woman of his thoughts. He suddenly saw a younger version of himself walk through the doors, and kiss Maude's hand. She smiled at him, and that is when Deacon realized, he was looking at his other son. He quickly got up and headed towards Maude. Chris got up as well, seeing his father's look. Maude saw the man coming toward her and turned and left. She headed for the hotel.

Ezra looked confused as he watched his mother leave, and a man follow her, with Chris behind him. He reached out and grabbed Chris's arm.

"Who is that man?" he asked Chris.

"My father," he said. Not knowing what to say to one another, Ezra and Chris, followed by Buck and Vin followed Maude and Deacon.

"Maude!" Deacon called. He sprinted to catch her and grasped her arm turning her around. "We need to talk."

"No we don't," she whispered. Ezra and Chris walked up but neither said anything. Deacon ignored the men, his eyes never leaving Maude.

"Yes we do. Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. Chris and Ezra looked at one another, confused.

"Because you had obligations at home, and I, we, would have been a burden to you," Maude said, her eyes filling with tears.
"A burden? You and my son would never have been a burden?" Deacon said.
"Son?!" Chris and Ezra both said, even more confused. Chris, however, began to understand. To look at Ezra one would know the truth.

But Ezra, was lost.

"Mother? Do I have a brother you never told me about?" Ezra asked.

"In a manner of speaking yes," Maude began. "Chris is. Ezra, Chris is your older brother. Deacon Larabee is your real father." Ezra was flabbergasted. He looked at Deacon and knew it had to be true. The face he looked into was his own, but older. Chris closed his eyes. He heard flesh hitting flesh and saw his father sink to the ground and Ezra's eyes flashing.

"You son of a bitch! You abandoned me and my mother!?" he said. Chris grabbed his arm. More to restrain him from hitting their father, than to reprimand him. Something in Chris wanted to hit him as well.

"I didn't know about you. I had a wife and a son at home, and your mother had her husband. After Chris's mom died I wanted to bring Maude to Indiana, to marry her, but when I returned to Virginia one year, she was gone. I never knew anything about you until a few weeks ago," Deacon said rubbing his jaw. as he got up. Ezra and Chris both looked stricken. Buck and Vin, who had been listening, looked stricken also.
"You cheated on Mom? While she was sick?" Chris asked getting angry.
"I didn't know she was sick son," Deacon said.

"But you still cheated on her."

"Son, you of all people should know that you can't help how you feel. I fell in love with Maude as soon as I saw her, and we were intimate. But I had on obligation, as did she. We never thought in a million years, that we would have a child together," Deacon said.

"You didn't have a child together! My mother had me, and you weren't around! I grew up without a father! The one who I thought was my father was a cruel man I never wanted to know!" Ezra said as he stepped forward. Chris, suddenly feeling a brotherly urge to protect the man he now knew was his brother, stepped forward to stop him.

"Let them talk," he said softly. Ezra looked at him, and saw Chris for the first time as who he really was. His older brother. He
noticed Mary had come out of the Clarion and her face was twisted in a grimace. She had heard most of the conversation, and hated seeing Ezra in pain. Ezra was the most in pain. He had never known his father, or known if he had any siblings, and he now found out his brother was here the whole time. He and Chris didn't trust the other when they met, and Ezra wished it had been different. But now they did trust one another and had learned to call one another, friend. Now they find out they are in fact, brothers.

"Ezra don't blame your father," Maude said emphasizing who Deacon was to him. "He never knew about you. I knew about Chris and his mother, and I had my husband to contend with. I never had any intention of using you to drive a wedge between Deacon and his wife, or to do that even if I hadn't of had you. But you were my only link to the man I was ever truly
in love with. If you blame anyone, blame me." Ezra looked at her his green eyes filled with tears. He rushed away towards the hotel running as if the devil was chasing him. Chris followed.

He got to Ezra's room, a few minutes after Ezra had, and turned the knob slowly. He saw Ezra on the bed without his jacket on, his shoulders slumped.
"Go away," Ezra said. Chris ignored him and walked in front of him. Ezra looked up and smiled sadly.

"Come to give me some brotherly advice?" Ezra said. "How do I accept this Chris? We're brothers, I've met my father, and I feel like an ass, cause of the situation with Mary you walked in on today. I especially feel worse knowing you're my brother." Chris sighed and sat down.

"It didn't bother me to see you with Mary. I thought it would but it didn't. Just as long as you are both happy. As far as our family. I don't know what to do either. Knowing my father was unfaithful to my mother, while she was sick, even though he hadn't known, upsets me. But finding out I have a brother isn't so bad," Chris said smiling. Ezra returned the smile a little sadly.

"Even if it's me?" Chris sighed.

"When we met, there was something about you that made me unnerved. Maybe because you reminded me of my.... our father, so much it was scary. But I never thought anything like this would happen, so I didn't know why it bothered me. Now I know it's because all of the things about our father I liked and disliked I saw in you. Of the two of us you are the most like him," Chris said. Ezra laughed a little.

"Does that mean when I eventually marry, I'll cheat on my wife with a Southern con woman and get her pregnant?"

"Maybe. You never know," Chris replied smiling, "But I do know, that we both just gained a brother, and you got your father back, and he looks happy to finally have both sons together. Question is can we put what happened in the past before you were born and when I was young behind us and live life as a family?" Ezra watched his brother and thought.

"I don't know how easy it will be to do that. But with my brother around I think I can try," Ezra said smiling. He felt at peace finally. Chris did too. Maybe Ezra was a like the missing puzzle piece in Chris's life that would make him whole, because he felt that way now. He had thought that hole would be filled by Mary, but she was to fill Ezra's life, and Ezra was the missing piece in Chris's. He finally felt whole. He found what had been missing all of his life.

After a good night's sleep for everyone, Chris and Ezra walked out of their respective rooms and went to face, Ezra's mother, and their father.

Maude and Deacon were in the Saloon, before it was actually opened, and looked up as Ezra and Chris entered. Deacon felt a paternal pride to watch his two grown sons walk in together.
Chris and Ezra sighed, gaining strength from one another and walked to their table. As they sat down, the four people began to
re-hash the past, and Ezra and Chris, began to except the family they were now gaining.

"I will miss you son," Deacon said to Chris as he saddled his horse. Deacon was returning to Indiana for awhile to pack up his house and head South to be near his sons. There were many times over the past few days that he had spent alone with Ezra getting to know his youngest son. He felt a relief when Ezra asked him one day a very serious question.

"I was thinking of settling down here, permanently," Ezra said as he and his father watched the running creek.

"Who's made you consider it?" he asked, feeling privileged to get this information.

"Mary Travis." Deacon nodded, understanding. After Chris had told his brother that he wished the couple happiness, they had been inseparable. Deacon knew of Ezra's tendency to wander and feel like an outsider, from both his brother and his mother. Mary seemed to be changing his mind. And Chris as a permanent fixture in his life helped.

"That's fantastic, son. She is a fine woman," Deacon said clapping Ezra's shoulder. He smiled at his father, and relaxed. He
wanted both his father and his mother's approval, but it had been Chris's approval he had wanted most, and he had gotten that before his parent's. He was getting used to the idea of having a complete family. And he liked it, even enough to have one of his own.

Deacon smiled at the memory and saw Maude and Ezra at Maude's coach. The man and woman had said good-bye earlier. Putting the past behind them, they looked to the future. They had a secret for their sons, but knew it would wait till another time. Ezra kissed his mother and helped her into the coach. Watching as she left. He then turned and headed to his father and brother.

"You know were to reach me if you need me son," Deacon said to Ezra, but he looked at Chris as well.

"I know. But my brother's here if I need him," Ezra said. He and Chris had fallen into the role of brothers easily, which he was glad for. They both knew they needed to stick together, no matter what happened with their father. Chris took the role of big brother seriously and Ezra took it in stride. The other s were still flabbergasted to fins out that Chris and Ezra were family, but had accepted it as well. Accepting Ezra became a little easier as the days went by for Chris, and vice versa for Ezra accepting his brother.

"Take care of yourself," Ezra said not exactly sure how to say good-bye to his father. Deacon came forward and hugged his sons, lingering longer with Ezra, taking the opportunity to hold him a little longer, not really wanting to let go, but he did. Chris and Ezra watched as their father mounted his horse and rode away. Chris tugged on Ezra's arm and embraced the man, doing so for the first time. He needed to know what it felt like to hug his little brother at least once. Ezra understood and returned it. As the two parted Mary walked up to them.

She had no idea Chris had given Ezra his blessing, and was unsure of what to say to him. Chris leaned down and kissed her cheek lightly and squeezed her hand.

"Take care of my little brother, Mary," he said. Mary smiled and nodded. Chris turned and headed for the Saloon, leaving Ezra and Mary to wrap their arms around each other. Ezra looked at the setting sun, and looked at it as a sign of hope. He found a woman he truly cared about, and the family he had always wanted. He was, fir the first time in his life, truly happy.

The Beginning...

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