Author’s Note: Magnificent Seven (TV Series). Pairing Ezra Standish/OFC.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, and I’m not making any money from this story.
Warning: Angst, whipping, & sex - but not really graphic.

Confession Is Good For The Soul

Ezra sat alone at the farthest table, bottle of whiskey half-empty in front of him. He was staring into his glass as if he expected it to turn into a rattlesnake right before his very eyes. He had been there for hours.

Josiah, Buck, and Chris stood at the bar, nursing their own drinks and trying to figure out whether or not to interfere. Buck was all for charging on over and taking the bull by the horns, just asking the man what the hell was wrong with him. Chris was of two minds; he was sure Ezra needed to talk, but had not a clue how to get him to do it.

Ezra had returned from Johnstown two days ago looking like a ghost. A routine trip to escort a prisoner, a night spent at the local hotel, and then back home to Four Corners. Nothing out of the ordinary. Yet Ezra had barely said a word to anyone since his return. He had spent most of his time sitting at that table, staring into his glass of whiskey.

Finally Josiah tossed back his drink, picked up the bottle, and headed determinedly over to the table where Ezra sat. It was time somebody did something. He sat down next to the gambler, poured him a drink, and poured one himself. Then he waited.

The two glasses had been refilled twice before Ezra finally said something.

“Mr. Sanchez. Have you ever done something you truly regretted…and had no idea why you did it?”

Josiah snorted. “More times than you can count.”

There was another period of silence. Then Ezra’s green eyes lifted to meet the deep blue ones looking at him with kindness and understanding. The preacher saw nothing but pain in return. Ezra started to talk, in a soft, weary voice. Josiah carefully kept his face schooled to an expression of sympathy and acceptance as the story unfolded.

# # #

Ezra had done something almost unheard of for him. He had gotten drunk. Totally, completely, falling-down drunk. The prisoner had been safely delivered, there was not a card game to be had in the one tiny saloon that this hole-in-the-wall town boasted, and he was bored. So he drank. And thought. For Ezra, that was not a good combination.

After a couple of hours, and a couple of empty bottles, Ezra found himself with a table companion. A rather pretty young girl, as a matter of fact, with long brown curls and big, wide eyes. Ever the gentleman, he responded to the best of his temporarily limited ability.

“Good evening, Miss. Would chou care to shjoin me in a drink?” He slurred.

She giggled at him, appearing even younger. “Why, thank you sir.” She inched her chair a bit closer to him. “And what is a handsome gentleman like yourself doing in this town?”

Ezra didn’t notice the frown on the barkeeper’s face. He found himself engaged in some sort of conversation, the gist of which he never did remember, until he went up to the bar to get another bottle. As the proprietor served him, he said very quietly, “Be careful of that one, mister. She ain’t exactly right.”

Ezra looked a bit blearily back and forth between the girl at the table and the barkeeper, and then shook his head. The girl seemed perfectly normal to him. He returned to his companion, and they shared a few more drinks. When he stood up to retire to his rented room for the night, she wrapped an arm around his waist and went with him.

# # #

Ezra paused in his story, and poured himself another drink. As an afterthought, he poured one for Josiah as well. He lifted his glass in a bitter toast.

“To the ladies.”

Josiah returned the salute, completely at a loss as to why the gambler was so upset. Nothing wrong with sharing a bed with a willing lady now and then. Although Ezra was usually more restrained in that area than the rest of them, he was certainly no prude. There had to be more to it than this. So Josiah waited.

# # #

They arrived at the room, and Ezra gallantly bowed the girl in before him. She giggled again, then skipped over and bounced on the bed. Laughing, she held out her arms to him, then ducked and rolled to one side as he stumbled towards her, arms held out. He landed face first on the bed.

She was laughing again, and he frowned at her. “Now, young lady, that was not funny…” She continued to giggle. And tease. She unbuttoned his shirt, traced her fingers over his chest, leaned in for a kiss…and bit him. Ezra yelped in pain and surprise.

“That was NOT nice!”

“Nope.” She unbuckled his belt, pulled it from the loops, and draped it over his head and around the back of his neck, using it to pull him close for a kiss. He complied quite willingly. Her body pressed close against him, she could feel his readiness beneath her as she rubbed provocatively against him.

Ezra’s arms closed around her, and his mouth searched hers in pursuit of another kiss. She started to kiss him back, and then pulled away, laughing, and flung herself sideways onto the bed. Ezra looked down at her, confused. She opened her arms to him, and then as he leaned towards her she again rolled away, giggling.

Ezra was losing his temper.

“Just what kind of game do you think you are playing?” He demanded. She pouted up at him.

“Why, don’t you like it?” Once again she giggled softly. “I’m just bein’ naughty…”

This time, he moved towards her with considerably more speed and force. As his arms went around her once more, she opened her mouth, kissed him long and passionately, and then bit down, hard, on his lower lip.

Ezra’s eyes watered with pain, and he jerked his head away, but this time he kept a tight hold on her. She was wiggling and squirming violently in his grip.

“What is the matter with you?” He asked angrily.

“You mad at me?” She looked almost happy. “Have I been a bad girl? Maybe you should punish me for being bad…”

Ezra shook his head. The fuzzy afterglow from the liquor was fast fading into an uncharacteristic rage. What was this woman after? And why was she tormenting him? He suddenly got a bit dizzy, and sat down on the bed. Instantly she was on his lap.

She was kissing him again, running her hands up and down his body in a way that was calculated to have him hard and ready in a very short time. Somewhere in the midst of her games, she had removed her dress and was clad only in chemise and drawers. His hands slipped under her chemise and up her back, holding her firmly against him as his mouth sought hers hungrily. She responded wildly to his kiss, fiercely pulling him even tighter against her…then suddenly, violently, shoving him away.

Bewildered, aroused, and more than half-drunk, he reached for her again. This time she slapped his face.

Ezra’s hand flew to his cheek in an instinctive gesture, green eyes wide. She dropped back on the bed, laughing up at him.

“You, my dear lady, should be horsewhipped!” His voice was rough with frustration and liquor.

“Really?” her voice sounded excited. “Have I been that naughty? Do you want to whip me?”

Pushed to the limit, he grabbed her shoulders and shook her roughly. “Someone certainly ought to teach you a lesson!” He ground out between clenched teeth. She reached behind her on the bed and found his discarded belt. Holding it up to him in both hands, her eyes wide and pupils dilated, she whispered, “Teach me a lesson, Ezra. Please…”

As though lost in a fog, Ezra took the belt from her hands, doubled it expertly and swished it through the air to snap against the mattress a hair’s breadth away from her. She jumped, uttered a startled little cry, and licked her lips, staring fixedly into his eyes and silently begging.

Part of him was aware of what was happening, and wanted to stop it then and there, tell her to get out, and let him spend the rest of the night alone. The other part of him felt the leather flex in his palm, heard her breath and his mingle, panting with arousal and need, and wanted desperately to continue. That part won.

He pushed her roughly down on the bed, rolled her over onto her stomach, and raised the belt high in the air.

“You want a lesson, young lady? I’d be more than happy to oblige.”

The strap whistled through the air and cracked loudly against her pliant body. She gave a small cry, and wiggled against his restraining hand, not really trying to escape. The belt cracked again. And again. Her thin cotton chemise and drawers provided almost no protection at all, but after a very short time he had yanked off her undergarments anyway, leaving her naked and vulnerable in the center of the large bed.

She writhed and moaned as he continued the strapping, working his way up and down her back, bottom, and thighs. Soon her pants and moans turned to sobs and gasps as he wielded the leather with deadly accuracy. Her pale flesh turned a deep red as stroke after stroke raised crimson welts, crossing and recrossing each other in fiery trails.

She was choking with sobs as Ezra finally came to some awareness of what he was doing, and stopped, panting with exertion, to survey the bruised and blistered body in front of him.

“My God!” he gasped in shock, the belt slipping from his suddenly nerveless fingers to land with a clatter on the plank floor. Aghast, he dropped to the bed, lifting and turning the girl as gently as possible to face him. To his complete disbelief, she wrapped her arms around him tightly, twining her body closely against his, and kissing him with a passion he would not have believed possible.

Her arousal drew him in, excited him beyond belief as he ran his hands over her flaming raw skin and felt her respond with whimpers and moans that were half pain and half passionate pleasure. She kissed and caressed him, working herself against him until he could control himself no longer and tore his clothes off to bring them both to a violent, ecstatic climax.

They collapsed together on the bed, and Ezra vaguely remembered feeling her draw the comforter over them before they both sank into an exhausted sleep. When he awoke in the morning, she was gone.

# # #

After a long silence, Ezra raised his eyes from his whiskey glass; steeling himself for the condemnation he expected to find in Josiah’s eyes. What he found instead was sympathy.

“Seems to me,” the preacher drawled quietly, “that the lady got exactly what she wanted.”

“But, Josiah, you don’t understand! What I did was…was reprehensible. To…to BEAT her like that…and then…” Ezra’s face was anguished.

“Well, son, I’ve seen a lot in my day. Met a lot of different people. There’s some that need that…the force, the pain, the surrender. Maybe there’s somethin’ lacking in their lives, I don’t know. But it’s what they want, what they search for…and damn seldom find. You met a need in that girl…maybe in yourself, too.”

He eyed the gambler closely for a moment.

“Nobody ever died from a strappin’, Ezra. Worst she got is a few welts and bruises. And if you could ask her, I bet she’d say she got a lot more than that. Maybe somethin’ nobody else could give her. She knows what you gave her…and what she gave to you. No shame in that, son. A gift freely given, and freely received. The only sin is in thinkin’ you were wrong to give it.”

Josiah got up to leave, briefly placing a hand on the gambler’s shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze. Ezra’s eyes followed him for a moment, and then returned to the whiskey glass in front of him. He raised it in a silent salute, drained it in a single gulp, and pushed determinedly away from the table.

“Gentlemen! Is anyone in this fair establishment interested in participating in a stimulating game of poker?”

Chris and Buck exchanged pleased glances. Their gambler was back.

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