Gambling on the Future, Chapter Two
Word Count: 2,241
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 believe most of the pertinent information is already in chapter one... I will say, though, that generally my updates happen in the morning because I get up early to see kids (not mine) off to school. Occasionally, around midnight because of insomnia. So... while this might seem like the same day for an update, it isn't. It's just that I realized I should be posting this rather late last night. :P
Been Dealt That Hand Before
Three Months (And 130 years) Previous
Ezra crumpled the paper in his hands, his knuckles white with unreleased fury. No matter how many times he told himself that it didn't matter what his mother said or even what she did, her next visit, letter, or telegram would contradict him. He could not seem to break his ties to his mother, no matter how painful remaining attached proved to be.
He wished, sometimes, with a naïve, foolish part of him that should not exist, that he could find a way to sever those ties, a way that did not involve either of their deaths. It was not to be.
I have made the delightful re-acquaintance of Professor Blunt. Would you believe the dear man has forgiven me for everything? He has even renewed his offer of marriage.
Now, as I keep reminding him, I have no intention of marrying again, he keeps on asking. He has even tried to tempt me with the fine antiquities he has found! Now I really cannot make heads or tails of most of it, but the dear man has remembered my kind, incredibly intelligent son— yes, dear, he was quite displeased to hear that you had not finished that degree!
Well, I let him know of the deplorable situation you have gotten yourself into, and he—I cannot believe such an educated man could be so naive—admired your... respectability. Nevertheless, he wishes to see you pursue your degree via correspondence.
I am forwarding some things to you. Don't worry now, Darling. The professor wants you to have all of this to study.
Now you make me proud and finish that degree.
Your loving mother,
"Ezra, what the hell is in these crates?" Buck demanded, cursing as he set another one down on the step in front of the saloon.
"Your ma send you some of her bricks?" JD asked, panting as much as the taller man beside him. He took off his hat and wiped off his forehead.
Ezra looked at the boxes, unable to explain his anger or ignore the sense of danger coming from within them. He knew he needed to trust his instincts. "Mr. Tanner, do you happen to know of a natural formation in a location secluded enough to avoid any unwise persons opening these...gifts?"
"Ezra, you sayin' you wants to bury 'em?" Vin asked, looking at the seemingly innocent crates.
"Indeed, Mr. Tanner. I believe it the best course of action in light of my mother's...words. She seems to believe I wish to learn of history, and I cannot believe she thinks so without a hope of monetary gain."
"Damn, Ezra," Buck grimaced. "You think this stuff was stolen?"
Ezra did not bother to answer such a ridiculous question. "Come, Mr. Tanner. Daylight is short, and I do believe a proper inventory must be taken before these good are secreted away for their own safety."
"Thought I'd join you tonight."
Vin snorted at his friend's words as he continued to saddle Peso, cinching the saddle nice and tight under the horse's belly. He climbed up and guided his mount out of the livery. Chris was not far behind him with his own horse, already saddled and ready. Neither of them spoke until they could hardly see the lights of the town behind them.
"He let you see everything?" Chris asked. Vin didn't need any help figuring our who Chris meant.
"Yeah. Weren't valuable, not as I can see. Seemed to surprise Ez, too," Vin said.
"He seemed bothered by them crates. Was in a big hurry to get rid of them," Chris continued.
"Weren't nothin' worth stealin', Chris. Bunch of books, some jars and pots and stuff... Ezra just kind of stared at it all, then wrote down his list and took some of the books with 'im. We buried the crates in the cave and came back. He ain't said anythin', but he's been frownin' a lot," Vin looked out into the distance. "Trouble comin'."
"Always does," Chris agreed.
Vin looked back at the lights of the town, listening to the sounds of night. He couldn't say just what was bothering him. He was worried about Ezra. The gambler didn't usually reveal so much, but then his mother was always able to turn Ezra's whole world upside down. If Maude wasn't the cause of the trouble comin' –hell, she probably was—she sure wasn't helping by distracting Ezra.
Peso slowed to a trot, and Chris had gotten ahead of him. Vin didn't hurry his horse. The night would be long enough, and that old pressure was back. Tascosa. He needed to clear his name, get the price off his head.
"Tascosa will keep for a few more days," Chris commented. He had stopped his horse and was lighting up his cheroot.
"I know," Vin agreed. "I ain't leaving yet. Not 'til this blows over."
Chris nodded. "Gonna be ugly, whatever it is."
"Yeah, I know."
Ezra was in his customary chair in the saloon, expertly shuffling his deck of cards when the newcomers entered. Immediately, his senses were on guard, though only the cards in his hands moved. His expression gave away none of the unease that the strangers' presence had created. The men in question had done nothing nefarious and were not even armed, unwise for this municipality. Even unarmed, however, these men were dangerous.
Their appearance was benign enough to deny the claim. The bespectacled man had a decent suit, of better quality than the one worn by Mr. Dunne, though not as fine as some. He looked like he worked as a banker or a clerk, yet he was too honed, too dangerous for such a simple occupation. Next to him, with a resemblance enough to pass as brothers, if not twins, was a less ornately attired man with a distinct air of restlessness about him. He did not seem comfortable in the clothes he wore or the establishment he was in.
"Can I be of some assistance, gentlemen?" Ezra asked, not wanting to draw out the awkward situation any longer than absolutely necessary.
"Actually, we think you can," the man with the spectacles said, sitting down at Ezra's table. His companion joined him. Ezra was used to the uninvited joining him without provocation, and he had even given up sighing over it. "You're Ezra Standish, aren't you?"
The unease verged on outright panic when he heard his name. Nevertheless, he remained calm on the outside. "Whatever cause could you have for seeking out Mr. Standish?"
The man with glasses smiled ruefully. "I'm Daniel Jackson. This is Cameron Mitchell. We are looking for a certain item we believe Mr. Standish possesses."
Ezra studied the man across from him. Once, perhaps, this man had been innocent and guileless, but now Ezra would rather trust a snake. "I assume this 'item' is of considerable value?"
"More intellectual than monetary, I'm afraid," Jackson said.
"But we are willing to pay for it," Mitchell quickly added. A look passed between them, causing Ezra to laugh.
"Your companion is quite wise to assure me of compensation, Mr. Jackson," Ezra told him. "I would hardly part with anything—even information—without proper compensation. Now if you gentlemen would be so kind as to elaborate on the item in question?"
Mitchell rolled his eyes. "Told you he was Standish."
Ezra straightened the cuff of his green jacket absently. "Well, gentlemen?"
Jackson pulled a paper out of his pocket. Belatedly, Ezra wondered if he should have inquired as to the man's relation to the previous owner of the town healer and fellow regulator, Nathan Jackson. Mitchell was, quite obviously Southern, but Jackson's accent was eluding him. Ezra took the paper and studied it.
It seemed to be a print from a book, and was indeed similar to one he'd seen in one of the texts he'd studied last night. "The object in the middle."
Ezra looked up at the man. "How fascinating. I fear, gentlemen, you have been misinformed. I possess no such object."
Mr. Dunne came in the door, ever full of energy. "Ezra, it's your turn at patrol. I got mine switched so Casey and I—"
"Mr. Dunne," Ezra tried to interrupt, but the young man was quite like a freight train when he got started.
"—Buck says I gotta learn to—"
"Are you sure?" Jackson raised his voice over Mr. Dunne's, a small miracle. "This is important. You've never seen anything like this?"
Ezra shoved the paper back. "I have not. If you'll excuse me—"
"Hey, Ez, weren't that in that book you had last night?" Dunne asked, peering over Jackson's shoulder.
"It was not, Mr. Dunne. Now vacate the premises before I am forced to cancel your rendez-vous with Miss Welles," Ezra ground out as he rose, heading for the livery. He did not want to be out on patrol. No, it was not early, but now seemed a particularly dangerous time ride alone.
The odds were that the strangers were not finished with him yet. And those odds meant trouble.
"He's lying," Mitchell said as they watched the gambler cross the street.
"I know," Daniel agreed. He hadn't needed the younger man's excited outburst to know that Standish was hiding something. It had been in his eyes when he looked at the paper. Recognition. Just a brief flicker in that poker face, but it had been enough. "He's not a man that trusts easily. He won't give us the ZPM unless he knows what we want it for."
"We can't tell him that," Mitchell cursed under his breath. The dust was getting to him. "Even if we did, he wouldn't believe us."
Daniel nodded in agreement. "Come on. Let's go back to the jumper and talk to Sam and Teal'c. We'll figure out what to do next."
Mitchell nodded and they made their way out of town. Daniel had hoped this would be easy. They could use an easy mission for a change. Not that he was feeling great about convincing the SGC and the IOA to use the time traveling jumper again, but... Atlantis was endangered by the Wraith and the Ori were quickly becoming too much for them to deal with alone. They needed another ZPM. It had been pure chance that Daniel had discovered a reference to a ZPM, Four Corners, the name Standish, and a date.
Only the increasing losses had convinced the powers that be that this mission was necessary. Daniel had hoped it would be a simple matter of offering to buy what anyone would think was a worthless trinket off Standish and head back to the future to put the ZPM to use.
Of course, with SG-1, things were rarely simple.
Mitchell reached the cloaked jumper first. "Sam? Teal'c? We have a bit of a problem."
Sam and Teal'c came out of the jumper. They were wearing BDUS, since Daniel had finally convinced them both not to go into town. Sam hated to be left behind, but the incident with the Shavadi had persuaded her to stay put, especially after Daniel reminded her that the women of this time period wore corsets. Teal'c... The Jaffa had not reacted well when Daniel explained the volatile prejudices of the time, that a man could be so enslaved, so hated, and he had been angry about staying behind. Daniel was just glad that Teal'c had agreed to stay behind, less chance of some fight starting over his presence.
"What kind of a problem?" Sam asked.
"Well..." Mitchell began, shaking his head as he tried to find the right words.
"Mr. Standish was suspicious, to say the least," Daniel explained. "He recognized the ZPM, but he pretended not to. He won't give it to us, and I doubt we can bribe him, despite what the townspeople say. Standish is also one of the town's seven lawmen. He was definitely armed."
"Perhaps we should attempt an alternate form of persuasion," Teal'c suggested.
"Are you saying we should rob him?" Sam demanded. "Is this what we've sunk to?"
Daniel winced. Still, he did not see any alternative. "Standish won't give it to us for money. We can't get him drunk, either. I don't think it's in his room. Following him won't work, he's already alert, and he'll be watching."
"We will have to take the ZPM by force or not at all," Mitchell said. "Now, we can probably do it without injuring him—just zat him one and let the big guy intimidate him a little... We'll leave him something for it, but the alternative is going back empty handed."
"I don't like this," Sam said. "Even if we're doing this for the right reasons—"
A crackle of energy interrupted them, and they turned to see their pilot, a young marine named Mariner, dragging an unconscious man towards them. The green coat was unmistakable. Mariner looked at them. "I think he heard just about everything."
Mitchell swore. Loudly. Teal'c moved to pick up Standish. "It appears we no longer have a choice."
Daniel looked at Sam. He didn't like this. There should have been another way. He didn't look at Mariner, unable to hold back the anger if he did. Why couldn't the man have told them someone was nearby instead of shooting Standish? Inexperience?
Daniel hoped that was the only reason. Otherwise...