DISCLAIMER: The following is an original work of fan fiction based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. No profit is being made - enjoy!!
Chris Larabee grunted under the weight of the crate he was carrying into Mary Travis's office.
"Looks heavy," Vin offered by way of moral support, observing Chris's lifting technique with folded arms and a squinting, critical eye.
"A veritable burden of Atlas," Ezra agreed, also allowing Chris to stagger on alone.
'Bastards,' Chris thought fondly at his friends, knowing full well that if he called them on it later, they would both look innocently horrified that he had expected their help, since of course they wouldn't have wanted to embarrass Mister Larabee in front of the lovely Mrs. Travis by insinuatin' that he wasn't equal to the task.
Vin, as usual, would let Ezra do the set-up, saving the punchline for himself: "'Sides, ya coulda asked us. Figured ya had yer reasons for doin' it yerself."
"What's in here?" he demanded of Mary as he sat the crate down with a heavy 'thunk' on her battered wooden copy desk.
"Books," she smiled, looking like a teenager in the spring sunlight. "Orrin sent them for Billy, even though I think he might be jumping the gun a little."
"Books?" Ezra and Vin chorused, their observer's stance forgotten as they crowded Chris out of the way and got busy prying open the box. Muscling his way back in and enjoying Mary's giggle at their greed, Chris got himself a book.
'It's French,' he thought, his mind whirring with the possibilities. He couldn't imagine that Judge Travis would send Billy anything too interesting, but you never knew what could sneak in between all those accent marks and silent 'e's....
"Dumas!" Ezra cried, snatching the book out of his hand like a five-year-old at Christmas.
"What about yer Ma?" Vin asked, peering at the embossed gold letters on the leather spine of the book he held carefully in both hands. Disappointment sank like a sharp stone inside him as he realized that he couldn't read the title - hell, he couldn't even recognize most of the letters.
Mary and Chris smiled and Ezra laughed, shaking his head.
"What have you got there?" Mary asked Vin, tactfully changing the subject as she noticed Vin's discomfort.
Ezra laughed again, plucking the book from Vin's reluctant hands.
"I assure you, it's all Greek to Mistah Tanner," Standish said, handing it to Mary.
This time, Chris and Mary did laugh, and Vin felt the skin of his face grow warm.
"It's Greek," Mary quickly explained to the tracker. "The book's written in Greek."
"Oh," Vin said. "That why there's all them funny letters?"
"While the Alpha and the Omega might look familiar territory, the Delta will throw you every time," Ezra said, taking out a stack of books and handing them to Vin. Helping himself to a similar quantity, Standish began arranging the books on the shelves Chris had helped Mary hang the day before.
"Ah..." Ezra said, smiling with satisfaction as he read the title of the last book in his custody. "You might consider borrowin' this particular volume from Master Travis at some future date, Mister Tanner. It is a translation of the Grecian tome."
Vin traded his stack for the single book Ezra held out to him. A surge of relief and excitement eased the hunch in his shoulders as he recognized the letters: T-H-E- I-L-I-A-D- A-N-D- O-D-Y-S-S-E-Y- O-F- H-O-M-E-R, and underneath them, C-H-A-P-M-A-N.
"I'm certain you will enjoy the story," Ezra continued, making a point of not looking at Tanner as he spoke. "It is all about heroes - and their hearts' desires."
Vin blinked, and Mary and Chris decided to pay attention to the conversation between their two friends and save smiling at one another for later.
"They're poems," Ezra said, frowning in concentration as he grabbed more books out of the crate, nearly emptying it. "The poems, you might say. Every schoolboy learns his letters with Hector and Achilleus, recognizes Helen's beauty in his first, burnin' infatuation, and finds his heart's desire in gray-eyed Athena's faithful Penelope. Without them, there would be no Virgil, no Dante, no Petrarch, no Marlowe, no Donne, no Shakespeare - no great literature of the world would exist in their absence. And yet Homer, the genius who created them, was a man who could neither read nor write."
"If'n he couldn't read nor write, how'd his poems get in a book?" Vin demanded suspiciously, as Ezra went back to the desk and emptied the crate.
The gambler's gold canine flashed as he continued his peripatetic monologue. "Lesser men transcribed his art - men who, no doubt, would have traded all of their education for one hour of his eloquence. Imagine the chagrin they must have felt, these learned men who could only copy down the brilliance that painted the sound of a butterfly's wing as perfectly and as clearly as it did the terrible cacophony of war. They must have tried to write poetry themselves, as educated men are expected to do, but I am sure they were feeble, self-conscious attempts doomed to failure. I expect they took comfort in numbers instead.... But in moments when Dame Fortune rendered those elegantly unchanging parameters of truth capricious... ah, Mistah Tanner, the envy they would have held for Homer's muse, having been abandoned by their own. The irony of it would have seemed laughable to them as they contemplated their world turned upside down from the comfort of their cups."
Tipping his hat to Mary, Ezra left the office, heading out to where the rest of the crates were stacked up in front of the Clarion's boardwalk.
"Did I miss something?" Mary asked.
"What the hell was that about?" Chris demanded of the frowning Vin, who was still working his way through to Ezra's meaning.
After a moment, the tracker managed to translate Ezra's mouthful into, "I had a bad day, I was drunk, and I'm sorry. Oh, and I liked your poem."
"An apology," Tanner told Chris with a smile.
"For what?" Mary blinked.
"Just a misunderstandin' in a conversation we had the other day," Vin answered, also tipping his hat to Mary as he joined Ezra on the boardwalk.
"It must have been some conversation," Mary said, walking to the door in time to see Vin tip the back brim of Ezra's hat up so that its front covered his eyes. Standish adjusted his Stetson with one hand and punched Vin in the shoulder with the other, all without missing a step.
"It always is," Chris grinned, coming to stand just behind her and looking over her shoulder.
"That Homer feller mighta taken the time t'find out why them educated men were drinkin' like fishes," they heard Vin say. "Maybe asked 'em what their trouble was."
"Yes, well...." Ezra cleared his throat, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he turned a narrow-eyed gaze to the distance. "Legend does say he was blind."
Shaking his head, Vin spat into the dust of the road.
"I have always thought it to be a metaphorical truth," Ezra elaborated, fiddling with a cuff link. "When one is lost in the pursuit of their muse, one has a tendency to become somewhat self-absorbed. I myself have occasionally been so distracted by... mine."
"Yer ma's the distractin' type, Ezra," Vin said, after a long moment of tracking Ezra's eloquence back to when Eli Joe had come to town.
"Apologies accepted all around," Chris translated for Mary in a whisper that let him brush her hair against his cheek.
"Your other left, Vin!"
Ezra's yelp tugged their attention back to the street, and to Vin and Ezra wrestling with one of the crates.
"I ain't walkin' backwards!"
Putting his arm around Mary's shoulders, Chris pulled the giggling woman away from the door Vin, Ezra and the crate were all trying to fit through sideways. They both decided not to notice that Chris left his arm there, even after the crate had been deposited on the floor - and Ezra's and Vin's toes.
"They're good boys," Mary sighed, letting herself lean against Chris while Vin and Ezra argued about who had dropped what on whom.
"Yep," Chris agreed, letting himself lean back while he settled in to enjoy the show.
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