Gambling on the Future, Chapter One
Word Count: 2,346
Disclaimer: I can't own anything. The pygmies and debt collectors own me.
Summary: Fish can't survive out of water. So can a gambler/conartist survive outside of the western town he almost called home? Stargate SG-1/Magnificent Seven crossover. Post season 2 of Mag 7 and probably mid season 9 of SG-1.
Author's Note:I have obsessions. Occasionally, I combine them. This is one of those times. I started this a while back, left it alone, and then I found it again. I'm in the process of cleaning up old fics. After all this time, I finally have this where I will finish it and I've actually posted it to livejournal communities, so I will go ahead and start posting it here, too. I will post one chapter per day until I hit the point where I have no more pre-written, and then it will be once a week (Thursday) until complete.
Dead Man's Hand
They were screaming in pain, in fear, in a primal desperation that somehow pleased him. He took delight in their torment, laughed as they pleaded for mercy. They had belittled him him, demeaned him, and now they were all suffering, as they should, these unfaithful heathens.
The last body fell, and he stopped over it. Now it was time to find those who would dare challenge his authority, his divine right to this body, and their worship, beginning with the man in black.
Ezra jerked awake, listening to the quiet hum of the subterranean building. It was far from comforting, this place. He knew that he was not the only one displaced by the recent upheaval in their lives, an upheaval they all blamed him for at best, wished to torture and maim him for at worst. Some of them tried to deny their belief in his culpability, but the taint remained. He remained, having no choice, but this place was not theirs. It certainly was not his.
He rose and went to the desk, taking out the flask that he kept hidden, taking a long drought. Alcohol was a rare commodity here, with their contemptible rules and regulations, yet Ezra's skills at games of chance had not deserted him. He had bartered for his precious contraband, and he would continue to do so as long as they kept him incarcerated.
This was not at all as they had promised.
His mother would roll over in her grave. Never trust anyone but yourself, Ezra. People are only out for themselves. Beware their smiles and their lies. They'll do both as they take everything from you.
And she was right. They had promised her sanctuary. They had given him a prison. He picked up his cards and began to shuffle.
"I cannot return," he whispered, pained by this realization. "Who would believe such a tale? Certainly not the men willing to thrust my head into a noose. I did not do it...and yet I did."
"It wasn't you," the woman said softly. "You couldn't have stopped it."
"I killed them," he heard his own strangled voice say, "I killed them."
"That wasn't you," she insisted.
"He's right, though," the man with the spectacles agreed softly. "No one will believe any of this. And they will kill him for what Kor'an did."
"Why not remain here?" the large coloured man asked.
"Here?" Ezra was displeased to hear himself squeak. He fought to recover. "While your assistance has been fortuitous, as I would have passed my life in a damnable hell, but this world... it holds no place for me."
"That's not exactly true," the other southerner spoke up at last. "You've got skills we can use."
"Gambling?" Ezra asked sarcastically. "And the subtle art of con? Even I am not such a fool, Colonel."
"Not those, Standish. You know what I mean. Not everyone can use that," he pointed to the golden bracelet in the woman's hands. "And that's not all. You have—"
"I have nothing," Ezra cut him off coldly. "Nothing."
A knock caused Ezra to look up. He supposed it was one of them, coming to offer him training. Or solace. Neither option held any appeal for him. He did not feel any desire to ingratiate himself to these people. Despite Mitchell's suggestion that he "make new friends" and try and join one of the SG teams, Ezra had no intention of staying here. He knew that he was unprepared for the world beyond Cheyenne Mountain, but he would not remain so forever.
"What do you want?" he asked, wishing he were able to disarm the lacking mechanism to his room, escape the confines, find a new... A new home? Ezra scoffed. He hadn't realized that such a naïve side of him still existed.
"Ezra, it's me," Daniel Jackson said, "I just got back from PX4-937. I found something I'd like to show you."
"Dr. Jackson," it was always Doctor Jackson as opposed to Mister Jackson, the title that belonged to his former compatriot. "I am not in a mood inclined towards scholarly discussions."
"I also heard you weren't eating. That you haven't left your room in days. I can have Teal'c carry you to the mess hall if you want," Jackson offered.
Ezra snatched open the door. "I will not be subjected to such an indignity. Not again."
Jackson managed an apologetic smile as he took off his spectacles to clean them with his shirt. Ezra grimaced. He didn't have a handkerchief or he would give it to him. He no longer possessed any of his wardrobe, reduced to what these strangers called BDUs. He pulled at the uncomfortable garments again.
"I need a tailor," he remarked absently.
Jackson smiled, obviously remembering the impeccable ensemble Ezra had worn when they first met, green coat, blue dress shirt, black brocade vest, perfect tie, three loaded guns, and a black riverboat hat. Ezra missed that suit terribly. Kor'an, the contemptible snake, had none of Ezra's fashion sense, and even that hideous clothing had been irreplicably damaged when SG-1 had taken him forcibly to the Tok'Ra.
"We can get you some clothes," Jackson began.
Ezra laughed. "Dr. Jackson, your idea of haberdashery and mine are quite different."
"Your clothes...belong to another age," Jackson said softly. "However, I believe we can at least improve on the BDUs. We'll work on that, I promise."
"Yo, Jackson," Mitchell called as he came down the corridor, clapping his hands together. "Got Standish out of his room, I see."
"You have an incredible flair for the painfully obvious, Colonel Mitchell," Ezra remarked with distaste. The other Southerner had too much enthusiasm for Ezra's taste. He might even call the man a Cracker, though he did his best to avoid doing so.
"I threatened to have Teal'c carry him again," Jackson explained impishly.
"Ouch," Mitchell agreed. "So... Standish, we have a few days off and we're thinking you need to get off this base, see the world outside."
"Nature has never suited my tastes," Ezra remarked dryly.
"This is hardly nature," Jackson said. "More like a crash course in pop culture."
"Most people accuse me of being a walking dictionary, Dr. Jackson, but I am afraid that my version is several printings out of date," Ezra observed. "What are you talking about?"
"Well, clothing for one, though...uh, Sam'll have to help with today's fashions and... Well, we thought maybe—"
"Maybe if you saw the world out there, you'd have a reason to join an SG team. To do something other than sit your room or beat the marines at poker," Mitchell explained. "We'd even take you on SG-1 if you wanted us to."
Ezra didn't believe Mitchell for a second. He would never be a part of another team. "I have no desire to die in such a foolish crusade. However, I will endure your company long enough to see the sun again."
Sam watched Ezra inspect the clothes in the GAP with distaste. Everything about modern clothes seemed to offend him, from the colors to the cloth, and the styles... Well, she had known this wouldn't be easy. He had too good a poker face to reveal how overwhelming and disorienting this must be for him, but SG-1 was in silent agreement. He hated it here.
It was not that anyone believed this would be easy for him. Ezra Standish was a nineteenth century gambler and con artist who had been taken as a host by a Goa'uld and forced to abandon everything he knew. He might have been happier in his own time, perhaps in another country, but he had not been given the choice. Ezra's talent with his ATA gene was as natural as Colonel Sheppard's, and he'd been a host to a Goa'uld. He could use either technology with ease.
The IOA was unwilling to let Ezra go. They were equally unwilling to trust him. He didn't make it easier, refused to join an SG team officially, to even try. For the past two months, he had only left his room to play poker, winning big and acquiring contraband liquor. He hardly ate, and Sam was convinced that he was being harassed by some of the guards on the base, though he kept denying it.
"He's never going to find something he likes here," Cam muttered.
Sam nodded. "I think we should consider a tailor. And maybe convince him to make alterations to our—how did he put it?"
"'Distastefully modeled, shoddy and disagreeable group ensemble'?" Daniel offered. "You're right, Sam. He might be more willing to join a team if he changes the uniform. He said the green was 'an appalling shade,' the desert fatigues were 'not even worth mentioning,' and the black was 'a bit somber yet the most promising.'"
"I have noticed he always wears the blue off-duty set," Sam agreed. "He does like brighter colors, but maybe the black set—"
"Gentlemen—and Colonel Carter," Ezra's voice carried across the store. "I have finished my perusal of these vestments, and I find them quite lacking. Must we subject ourselves to more futility or will you concede that I am impossible to please and depart the premises?"
Sam and Mitchell looked at Daniel. Teal'c appeared to be smiling. "We're going, Ezra. But we'll get some food before heading back to the base."
Ezra made a face as he joined them. "Your efforts at cuisine so far have been less than palatable."
"Standish," Cam explained patiently. "Cafeteria food's supposed to taste bad. Now that we're out in the real world, we'll take you to—"
"La Petite Étoile?" Ezra interrupted. Sam saw Cam wince. The French restaurant was five star, with prices to match. She nodded. Ezra needed to eat. The BDUs looked even looser on him today than they had before SG-1 left on their mission.
"Sounds good," Daniel agreed. Between the four of them, they would find away to pay for the meal. Though, from the rumors she'd heard, Ezra could probably afford to do it himself.
"Jackson, I think we need a translation," Cam hissed as he studied his menu. "The only thing I understand is the damn price."
Sam and Jackson exchanged a smile, and Teal'c frowned at the words on the fancy paper. Everything in this place looked expensive. Standish was finally in his element. He had been the one to convince the maitre d' to let them in despite their clothes, and he had even ordered a wine that cost over a hundred dollars a bottle. Worse, he'd done it all in French, leaving Jackson the only one capable of understanding, though Sam was using what she remembered as well.
Standish set down his menu and looked at Jackson. "Je ne crois pas qu'il est ignorant de la significance de veel, est-il?"
"Hell, no," Mitchell exclaimed. "You're not ordering me sheep brains."
Ezra shrugged. "Ça serait amusant, mais..."
Jackson laughed. "Oui, mais avez la pitié pour lui. Un filet mignon?"
"Bêtes," Standish said. "Tout le monde est un bête sans sophistication."
Sam choked on her wine. "Mais...J'aurais un filet mignon."
"Non, non, pas ça," Standish went on, "Regardez le nombre douze. Je pense qu'est plus meilleur d'un filet mignon."
"Come on, people," Cam interrupted. "Can we please speak English? Not all of us speak thirty languages, after all."
Jackson smiled and shook his head with slight embarrassment. Sam looked at Teal'c and grinned. "But most of us speak at least two. And pig Latin doesn't count, Cam."
Cam made a face. Standish raised his glass. "Thirty, my good sir. Quite a sum. I confess I can only claim six myself."
"Six?" Cam gulped. He looked at Sam and Jackson, also at Teal'c. If the IOA knew that Standish spoke six languages in addition to having the ATA gene and naquatah in his blood, they'd force him into service.
"Appearances are everything, as my dear mother would say," Ezra explained. "Playing an ignorant immigrant or an educated man looking for financial backing has served me well in the past. In fact, I once convinced the fine educational system to fund a nonexistent trip to Egypt by pretending to interpret those charming drawings of theirs."
Jackson frowned, then dug a paper out of his pocket and started writing on it. Well, it looked more like he was drawing. He passed the slip to Standish, who looked at it and back at Jackson. "I am not paying for this meal, whatever you might believe."
Jackson smiled, taking the paper back and scribbling on it again. He pushed it back to Standish. Standish nudged Sam, and she handed him a ballpoint pen. He frowned at it fro a second, then quickly scrawled a message.
"Passing notes?" Cam asked as Jackson studied the paper. He turned it over and wrote on the back, taking long enough for the waiter to bring them the French bread Standish had requested. Jackson gave the paper and pen to Teal'c. "What, now everyone's doing it?"
Teal'c wrote a few words and handed the paper to Standish. The other man looked at it, his brow furrowing. "Are you testing me, Doctor Jackson?"
"I believe Daniel Jackson wishes to know how many dialects you understand, Ezra P. Standish," Teal'c said quietly.
Standish crumpled the paper. "I don't see why that matters."
"It does," Jackson said quickly. "The first part was Ancient Egyptian, the second Babylonian. The Goa'uld you were a host to was a minor Babylonian god, and you seem to have access to his knowledge of the language and several other Goa'uld dialects."
Standish gripped the paper until his knuckles turned white. "May I assume, then, that my value to your organization has increased?"
Jackson nodded unhappily. Cam studied his team. Both Sam and Jackson looked guilty, and Teal'c... Well, there was a hint of pity in that stoic Jaffa face. "Yes, Ezra. You're valuable."
Too valuable for your own good, Cam added silently.