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

Notes:  This is my very first Magnificent Seven story.  Forgive me if you don't think the characters are quite
right.

I am a longtime fan of the series.  In fact, it was the very first fandom I ever read any fan fiction for.  However, I
didn't start writing fan fiction myself until years later, and although I was working on something for the series, I
never managed to write a story for it.

Now though, because I introduced my roommate and very best friend, Tenshi-Chan to the series (We watched
both seasons over and over again for a month straight) I have been attacked by persistent muses who demand I
write something.  This is one of the results.  I have a couple others, but I'd prefer to wait until they're done, or at
least close to done before posting them.  This story, for example, is very close to done.  It's just a short little
thing, and written purely for the purpose of tormenting Ezra a little.

And yes, I followed the trend and used the name Chaucer for his horse.  I wasn't going to initially, but apparently
somewhere along the way I changed my mind.

Last Note:  The one thing that annoys me when I read, is when accents are written out when the characters
speak and I have to decipher the words.  Example:  'Mah' instead of 'My' or 'Mistah' instead of 'Mister'.  So,
Ezra's speech will not be written with an accent.  You'll just have to use your imaginations for his lovely
Southern drawl.

On with the story.



Never A Burden



Part One



The storm came out of nowhere.  

Well, that wasn't exactly true.  There had been warning signs all morning.  The sky had been dismal since dawn.  Buck
had even tried to convince him to stay behind in Eagle Bend and wait it out with him, but his offer had been conciliatory
at best, considering his attentions had been diverted by the lovely Miss  Emily and her ample assets.  Ezra just wanted to
get back to Four Corners and his own feather bed.  He honestly thought he could make it before the worst of the storm.

How wrong he had been.

He had left Eagle Bend atrociously early, far earlier than he was used to waking.  Dawn had barely broken when he'd
saddled his horse and departed the dingy hamlet.  Besides, it would be in his best interest to depart quickly; those local
townsfolk hadn't been too happy with his good fortune at the gaming table.  As soon as he'd left the table, he'd gone
straight to the livery and gotten ready.  Maybe he should have hidden out in his hotel room for the day, but Ezra was
well-accustomed to the looks he had gotten from those sore losers and knew that physical violence was likely on their
minds.  A bit of rain was better in comparison.  At least the storm wouldn't be out to get him personally.

He had been a little more than halfway home when the rain had begun.  It had only been a light drizzle then, but had
slowly gained in strength as the day continued.  Rather than stop and seek shelter somewhere, he had decided to press
on, thinking that he could still make it before it got too bad.  He was nearly home; surely a few more hours in the rain
wouldn't hurt.

Then the thunder and lightning began.  The wind picked up, pelting him with a steady thrumming rain.  He was only
grateful that it was at his back.  The storm around him grew and he quickly changed his mind about seeking out shelter.  
Only there was very little around that would protect both himself and his horse from the inclement weather.  Not that he
could see far in this abysmal weather.

Abruptly, a flash of lightning streaked the prematurely dark sky, splitting a tree just off of the trail he was traveling along.  
The suddenness of it startled his horse.  Chaucer reared back, frightened.  Between the wet and the wind, Ezra didn't
stand a chance at holding on.  He was unceremoniously tipped from his seat and found himself tumbling head over feet
down an incline.

The ravine wasn't steep, but unfortunately it was rocky.  A number of stones broke loose and followed his rapid decent,
the heavier ones adding further injury as they connected with his already aching body.  He finally came to a stop on his
back, face up in a shallow stream of rapidly running water.

A myriad of pains quickly made themselves known to the stunned gambler.  He sucked in a breath and regretted it as his
ribs protested the effort.  Everything seemed to hurt.  His vision clouded, threatening to black out completely, but he
managed to stave it off, taking slow careful breaths, forcing his eyes shut against the waves of hurt that encompassed his
being.

He couldn't focus on any one sensation.  There was a throb in his head, a sharp bite to it that told him he had most likely
sustained some form of injury there.  With all the rocks he was surprised that he hadn't split his skull clean open.  He
raised a tentative hand to touch his scalp, only to hiss out a breath as that simple movement delivered a flare of agony
from his left shoulder.  'How wonderful, dislocated again,' he thought to himself.  His left leg, from hip to foot was one
overall discomfiture, a pounding hurt punctuated by spasms of needle-sharp stabs in the knee and ankle.

The majority of his injuries seemed to be on the left side of his body.  That made sense, as that was the side of him that
had first struck the earth.  However, his right side had not gone unscathed.  It was only that the pain on that side waned
quicker, lingering in a dully throbbing ache that felt infinitesimal when compared to the rest of the damage caused by his
fall.

The rain continued to patter down, thunder rumbling and lightning flashing in the dark sky.  He knew he couldn't lie there
all night.  He needed to find some shelter somewhere, get warm, get dry and take care of himself.  Ezra wasn't looking
forward to moving though.  The way his body already hurt, he didn't think it would get any better when he got up.

Carefully and slowly, he rolled to his right, propping his weight onto that arm.  Sparks of white danced across his vision,
his pained body protesting the movement vehemently.  He fought back the urge to close his eyes and give himself over to
the tempting darkness, knowing that to stay there would be risking his life.

He maneuvered himself upright and gingerly began to feel along his ribs, wary of the pain breathing caused.  Nothing felt
broken.  That was good.  If he could have, he would have released a sigh of relief, but that would have hurt too much.  
Instead, he moved his probing fingers to his left leg.  Once again, he felt no breaks, but the pain in his knee and ankle
were undeniable.  He was hurt badly, perhaps not life-threatening, but bad enough that he'd be lucky if he could get up,
let alone walk anywhere.  That fact that his clothing was torn and dirty only added insult to injury.

Ezra fashioned a primitive sling from his shoulder holster.  He'd abide Nathan's almost motherly intent to oversee the
treatment of his injuries when he returned to Four Corners.  For now, the best he could do was immobilize the arm.  
When he'd left Eagle Bend, all he'd wanted was to get back to town and to his own feather bed and that's still where he
wanted to be.  Knowing Nathan, it would be a struggle to get the man to see sense and let him rest in his own room
instead of the healer's cozy little den above the livery stable.  Ezra honestly didn't see the difference between doing his
recuperating in one bed or the other, beside the unequivocal fact that his own was infinitely more comfortable.

Chaucer came down into the ravine after his fallen rider.  The gelding flared his nostrils, snorted and focused his eyes and
ears on Ezra.  The gambler couldn't blame his generally dependable steed for his current predicament.  He hadn't been
dislodged due to errant behavior, but because of an involuntary reaction.  He'd been startled by the lightning strike
himself, if only for an instant before trying to keep from breaking his neck became his most pressing concern.  He should
have sought out shelter as soon as the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  It had been foolhardy and dangerous, but
he had been impatient to get home and now he was paying the price for it.

He curled his hand across his forehead, wincing as he touched a sore spot.  He could feel swelling, and a break in the
skin that oozed a flow of warm wetness.  He knew blood when he felt it, despite the chill rain lashing down on him.  
However, he couldn't tell how bad it was by touch alone.  All he knew was that it hurt something awful, it was bleeding
steadily and he couldn't shake the persistent dizziness even though he was sitting relatively still.

Knowing he had to get up, he curled his right leg underneath his body.  He found his hat not too far away and placed it
atop his head, angling the brim away from the seeping wound.  Using his right hand to grip onto a steady-looking rock,
he slowly began to maneuver himself up, keeping his weight balanced only on his right side.

Moving was agony.  Despite his attempts not to, he jostled his damaged leg, sending sharp spikes of pain lancing up the
length of his body.  He swallowed a mouthful of saliva, the world around him tilting alarmingly.  He didn't want to vomit,
but it was difficult to tamp down on the relfex.  He managed, if only barely.

He moved despite his discomfort, steadfast in his intent to return home.  His vision blurred, a dark fringe surrounding
everything he saw.  He hobbled forward, biting his lip against the cry bursting to escape him and caught up the reigns to
his horse with an expansive wave because he couldn't be sure which of the two horses that he could see were real.

Now came the problem of mounting.  With the injuries to his leg, he knew that he couldn't pull himself up in a normal
fashion.  So that meant he would have to improvise.  He cast a look around, irritated by the lack of clarity in his vision,
and the growing dizziness and nausea that such an activity produced.

Seeing his solution, he led Chaucer up along the sloping edge of the ravine to where the rocks were larger.  He was
already panting heavily by the time he reached them, struggling for breath when he climbed upon them, and fighting back
cries of pain as he sat astride his horse.  He leaned forward in the saddle, choking on air, black spots darkening his
sight.  His leg was on fire - his knee especially - his head throbbing violently.

He didn't have much further to go.  And if he wasn't mistaken, then there were a few ranchers living out around the area.  
If he could make it to one of them, he'd be fine.  He'd likely be able to coerce one of them into lending him a dry place to
sleep for the night.  If not a bed, then a floor and a blanket would do well enough.  With that single goal in mind, he urged
Chaucer into a slow walk.  He couldn't bear to go any faster, even that slight jostling sent a cascade of pain through him.  
It was all he could do to remain upright in the saddle, to keep his damaged knee bent and boot properly in the stirrup
despite the protestations of his ankle.

The rain continued to lash down on him, pelting at him ruthlessly.  He didn't know how long he rode for, or even if he
was going in the right direction anymore.  His senses were askew, playing tricks on him, or failing him altogether, the
pounding in his head disrupting his thoughts.

He thought he saw a light in the distance, so he went in that direction.  After a time, it became clear that it was a house.  
Ezra only knew that he had to get to it.  He couldn't seem to recall what had happened or why he was out in this
miserable weather, but he knew that he was hurting.  His memories were disjointed, the long ride from Eagle Bend
interspersed with blank gaps that disconcerted him.  Why couldn't he remember?

He rode straight up to the house.  Looking down at the ground, he watched it swirl and twist in a dizzying manner, his
focus wavering alarmingly.  He contemplated how he could get down without doing himself further injury and couldn't
think of a way.  In desperation, he called out to the owner of the home, hoping to be heard above the din of the raging
storm.  His voice came out weak to his own ears.  He tried again and this time reached out to bang his fist against one of
the post supports of the porch.  Unfortunately, his disorientation caused his last strike to miss.  Unable to recover his
balance quickly enough, he toppled over, falling in a heap to the muddy ground below.

Ezra couldn't hold back the cry of pain as every injury was inflamed anew.  He dug his nails into the slick ground, curling
in on himself as best as he could, never noticing as Chaucer took enough steps away from him so as not to accidentally
trod on him.  He barely even felt it when hands landed on him, didn't understand as he was guided to roll onto his back.  
He stared up at the faces looming over him, but couldn't make out features.  He hoped they were going to help him.



To Be Continued ...