Disclaimers:  I do not own the Magnificent Seven or any of its characters.  I am making no money from this.

Notes:  An AU Modern-day universe, not ATF though.  Fourteen year old Ezra contemplates a life on the street.

Warnings:  Mentions of Child Abuse, physical and sexual!  And sorry, but there is an OC.



Lost in the Dark



Part Two



A cop!  How could Cinnamon betray him like this?  He should have known better than to trust anyone.  Mother always told him
never to trust anyone but yourself.  People looked out for themselves.  They'd only let you down in the end.

Ezra tried to pull away, but the stranger still had a good grip on him with his one hand.  "Let me go!" Ezra yelled, jerking back.  
He stopped, crying out in pain as his ribs protested vehemently.

"Woah, now," the man said, dropping his badge to grab Ezra's shoulder.  "I'm not going to hurt you none.  Just calm down and
let's have us a little talk."

Ezra nodded, although that was the last thing he wanted to do.  He didn't see that he had much choice though.  With the way
his ribs ached, he wouldn't be running very far.

Slowly, as if expecting him to run, the man released his hold on Ezra.  He sat back, watching the boy.  "Now then, my name is
Buck Wilmington.  Your name is Ezra?"

"Yes, sir," Ezra replied, heart in his throat.  What was going to happen to him now?  "Ezra Standish.  Are you going to arrest
me, Detective Wilmington?"  He knew that prostitution was illegal.  But then, why hadn't Cinnamon been arrested?  Maybe
Cinnamon had handed him over to keep herself out of trouble.

"You can call me Buck.  And no, I'm not going to arrest you, Ezra.  Cinnamon called me, told me you needed some help.  I
used to work the Vice squad a couple years back and helped her out of a dangerous situation.  She knows she can always come
to me when she needs me."

Ezra kept quiet, trying to think of a way out of this.  But nothing would come to mind.  He was just too scared to think
straight.  His mother wouldn't be pleased that he'd forgotten all her teachings in the face of fear.

Buck took a breath and let it out slowly.  "So, you want to tell me who hurt you and why you think selling yourself is any sort
of answer to your problems?"

Ezra shrugged, ducking his head low.  "It's not something I've never done before," he muttered as bitter tears fell hotly down
his face.  "Only now I'll get paid for it."  He could still feel Uncle Randall's hands around his neck, in his hair, holding his head
still as he used his mouth for his own purposes.  The taste of him, the smell, the sound of his grunts, every one of his senses
had been assailed.

Buck scrubbed a hand through his hair.  "You want to tell me who did it?"

Ezra shook his head.  He pulled his knees up, burying his face against them.  He didn't want to talk.  He wanted it all to go away.

"What about your age?  How old are you?"

Again, Ezra said nothing.

Buck hummed thoughtfully.  "Well, you look young to me.  Twelve, I'd say."

"I'm fourteen!" Ezra snapped angrily.

There was a small, sad smile on Buck's face.  "Well, Ezra, that's still too young to be out on the streets by yourself."  He
reached out, then thought better of it and let his hand drop on the seat beside Ezra.  "I know a place I can take you, a safe
place.  We can get those hurts looked at, get you a warm meal and a comfortable bed.  What do you think?"

Whimpering, Ezra only nodded.  He didn't want to go anywhere with the detective.  He just wanted this all to be over.  And he
told himself, he could always run away as soon as he got the chance.  Maybe he could find someplace new, someplace where
he was wanted, where he belonged.  He doubted it though.  No one wanted him.



*****



Buck pulled his truck into the familiar parking lot and cut off the engine.  He cast a look over to the boy and frowned at the
resignation on that young face.  You'd think he was being thrown to the wolves with the way he was acting.  

The kid didn't put up any objection when Buck urged him out of the truck.  He flinched when Buck clasped a hand on his
shoulder and led him into the building.  If Buck trusted him not to run at the first chance, he wouldn't have touched him.  Ezra
had been through enough already, more than enough.

Normally, the clinic would be closed at this late hour.  However, Buck was friends with the man who ran the place.  He'd called
ahead to make sure Nathan would be here.  At any rate, he'd figured this small medical clinic would be better than a hospital,
less stressful to the boy.  And he would still get the care he needed.

Nathan met them at the front desk.  Josiah's large frame was folded into one of the visitor's chairs.  The social worker stood up
as soon as Buck led the boy in.  Buck made introductions.

"Ezra, this is Nathan Jackson.  He's a doctor here at the clinic and he'll be giving you a look-over if you don't mind.  And this
here is Josiah Sanchez.  He's a social worker.  He's here to make sure you get taken care of."

"I see," Ezra murmured.  He looked up at Buck, a sense of hopelessness in his eyes.

Buck wondered what was going on in the boy's mind.  He stood back and watched as Nathan led Ezra away to the examination
rooms, the tall Doctor talking gently to him the whole time.  The look he'd seen in those green eyes haunted him.  He couldn't
help but feel as if they were begging him for something, maybe for an end to this whole mess.  And God help him if he didn't
want to help that boy.

"Josiah," Buck said as soon as the two were out of sight, "I've got this crazy idea."



*****



Ezra lay on his side, staring at the IV that the doctor had stuck into his arm.  He didn't want to be here.  He wanted to go
home.  The only problem was, he didn't have a home to go to.  As soon as Doctor Jackson released him, Mr. Sanchez would
deliver him to a children's home, or maybe even a temporary foster home if he could manage one.  But that was only if he was
lucky.  If he wasn't, then he'd wind up back in Uncle Randall's care.  He shivered, and tugged the flimsy blanket higher up on
his shoulder.  He had run away from the man for a reason.

Detective Wilmington dropped down into the seat beside his bed and smiled at him.  "How are you doing there, Ezra?"

"I'm sure Doctor Jackson has told you," Ezra grumbled, turning his attention to the tubing taped down along his arm.

Bruised ribs, his right wrist sprained; the worst of his injuries was a pair of broken fingers on his left hand and the fracture to
his cheekbone.  All of which had been caused by the men objecting to his talents at poker.  But there were other injuries, other
bruises that had been left behind by Uncle Randall's unwelcome touches.  He shivered, feeling dirty, and drew his knees up
closer to himself.

"Yeah, I do know," the detective admitted.  "But that ain't what I asked ya."

"I'm doing as well as can be expected, Detective Wilmington.  When is Mr. Sanchez going to take custody of me?"

"Now, I told you, you can call me Buck," the man said, scooting his chair closer.  "And you won't be going with Josiah."

"I won't?" Ezra squeaked.  Was Uncle Randall here?  He hadn't told anyone about him, but they could have tracked him down.  
Did he have to go back with him?  "I don't want to go with my uncle, Mr. Buck!"  He sat up quickly and looked around,
terrified that his Uncle was coming up behind him.

Buck was out of his seat in an instant, his hands resting on Ezra's shoulders.  "Is he the one that hurt you?" Buck asked,
stroking soothing hands down his arms.

Ezra nodded quickly, his heart racing.  "He ... He ... He held me down and I didn't want him to.  But he said there was only one
good use for my smart little mouth.  And he's so much bigger than me.  When he was gone I ran away and I tried to get some
money, but the men at the poker game said I'd cheated.  But I never cheat, I don't have to.  But they wouldn't believe me, so
they hit me.  Please, don't make me go back with Uncle Randall!"

"It's okay.  It's okay," Buck soothed.  "He ain't here.  And he'll never set his hands on you again."  His lips curled in a faint
forced smile.  "But what I meant when I said Josiah isn't going to take you, is that you're coming home with me.  If you want
to.  It took a lot of phone calls and a few favors, but me and Josiah managed to get you placed in my care, at least for now.  If
there's anyone else you'd rather go with, you tell me and I'll see to it."

Ezra shook his head.  He didn't understand why the detective would be saying this, but there was a faint hope blossoming
somewhere deep inside.  "You?  I get to go home with you?  You want me to?"

Buck nodded.  He reached up and ran a hand lightly through Ezra's hair.  "I know you don't have no reason to trust me yet, but
I won't let anyone hurt you, Ezra, you have my word on that."

"Okay," Ezra replied, his voice soft.  "I could try living with you, I suppose."  He didn't understand.  Why would the detective
want him?  He wasn't of any use to anyone?  Uncle Randall had said so often enough.

"Great!  As soon as Nathan releases you, I'll take you home.  For now, why don't you get some rest?  It's late and you should
be sleeping."  He urged Ezra to lie down again.

Ezra closed his eyes and was silent for a while.  Buck probably thought he was asleep, but then Ezra spoke.  "Do you think we
could visit Cinnamon?" he asked timidly, certain that his request would be refused.  "I think I'd like to thank her."

Buck grinned.  "We can do that, Ezra.  I think she'd like it."  He placed his hand on Ezra's forearm, near his elbow and slowly
ran his thumb back and forth.  The gentle contact helped to lure Ezra into sleep.

For the first time in a good long while, Ezra had no fear of the darkness that enveloped him in its embrace.  He only hoped that
he wouldn't wake to find that everything had been a cruel dream.



The End