RATING: G, it's from Mrs. Potter's POV and she wouldn't swear!
CATEGORY: Challenge - OW
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Mrs. Potter  and Ezra
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is 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.
NOTE: This in in response to a challenge offered by Cat Standish:  Write a story ABOUT Ezra from the perspective of one of the cannon women.  This does not have to center around an episode.  It doesn't have to be long.  Three or four paragraphs will do. I wrote this rather quickly ... and it's in First Person, Present Tense too!
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
DATE: April 28, 2002

The Deceiver
By NotTasha...who can get kinda deceitful, too

He walks into my little store as if he’s walking into a salon in Paris, as if he’s visiting a royal court.  He floats down the narrow aisle, carrying his saddlebags with him.  He’s going somewhere. It always troubles me when our lawmen leave town. We need their protection – all seven of them -- even the protection of a gamester and swindler.  And they, these seven men, are safer when they stay close to home.  “Good morning, Mrs. Potter,” he greets as he floats.  “You’re looking especially lovely this morning.” -- the flatterer.

He moves without any rush whatsoever, as if he had all the time in the world.  He might be rushing off to meet his death -- but for now, he floats.  He glances here and there, as if my humble wares contained untold wonders, as if any of it was of interest, as if he hadn’t been in here a thousand times before.  He behaves as if any of this could interest him – the deceiver.

He smiles again as he reaches me.  “My dear lady,” he starts.  “I’ll need your assistance in gaining a few sundry items.” And he pulls a list from his pocket as he sets the saddlebags on the counter.  “A spool of green thread, a card of brass buttons – I’ll need a set of six please.  Only the very best will do and I must be certain that they’ll be a good match to this decidedly eye-catching garment,” he says as he gestures to his jacket – the peacock.

I bring out the appropriate boxes.  He’s meticulous, holding up each spool to his sleeve and cocking his head to gain perspective.  He moans about the recent damage, showing me where a button has been pulled off.  “I’m afraid I’ll have to replace all of them, after the loss of one, the cuffs included.  There’s no hope of finding an adequate match to the existing ones.” – the stickler.

Once he’s found the ideal buttons and thread, he asks for a deck of cards – “Stutz brand.”  It’s always Stutz and he feels as if he has to ask for that brand in particular – as if I didn’t already know.  I have to special order them, and I keep a few decks beneath the counter for him – the card sharp.

He picks up the list again.  “And now to less pressing matters.  I’ll require a half-pound of biscuit mix, a quarter-pound of bacon, a pound of coffee…” he rattles off the list ending with apples.  “You do have a fresh supply, don’t you?  They must be fresh.  I do abhor bruised fruit.” – the snob.

I point him to the box (which he certainly saw on his way in), and explain that they are fresh from the tree.  Mr. Hallet brought them in this morning.  I start collecting the rest of the items on his list as he saunters to the front of my store.  He notices something on shelves on his way, but pretends he doesn’t – the charlatan.

I ask him if he’s going on a trip. He sighs and responds that he was coerced into accompanying Mr. Jackson to the Seminole village.  He complains at length about the long journey, and about spending the night in the village instead of his feather bed. “It’ll be an exceptionally tiring experience and makes me truly wonder why I allow myself to be pulled into such situations.”   He complains, but there’s no real ire behind his words – the fraud.

His perusal of the apples takes several moments and I watch him as I go about collecting the other items.  He moves with such grace, even as he’s rooting through a fruit crate.  One would think he’s examining diamonds and rubies – the performer.

He makes his choices carefully and returns with the same measured step. Halfway back, he stops again at the shelf, and quickly shuffles through the lead circus animals that I acquired earlier this week. Of course, he would spot the only new item in my entire store. He comes back to me with a handful of inch-high animals – tigers, lions, elephants, zebras. “I’ll be needing these as well,” he says nonchalantly as he sets down his purchases. “They’ll help to keep those children quiet during our visit.”  He rolls his eyes and shakes his head as if disgusted with the thought of the Indian children – the con artist.

I know full well that those little toys will end up hidden in his sleeves, tucked in his pockets. They’ll appear from the ears of those little darlings or materialize out of thin air.  He’ll laugh as loud as the children he’s entertaining.  “I hope they don’t bother me too extensively this time. They seem to take up so much of my time. And my time – of course – is precious.” – the phony.

One of the apples, I note, is not quite ripe. I say nothing. The first time he purchased apples from me, I pointed out his mistake, hoping to steer him away from the sour fruit, but he just shook his head and said with a smile, “The ripe one is for me.  The other is for my horse. Chaucer prefers them in this state. He’s very demanding in his wants. I don’t know how I put up with him.” -- the long-suffering owner.

To pay for his purchases he has to set his foot on the pickle barrel and pull a fold of money from its hiding place in his boot – the pessimist.  He trusts no one, and yet he doesn’t seem to have a problem with allowing me to see where he secrets his money.

He pays out what he owes, and adds an extra five dollars, saying that it was to be put against Mr. Tanner’s bill. “I lost a badly worded wager with the man,” Ezra explains. He shrugs. “Unfortunately the fellow is too honest to take his winnings because of the discrepancies in what we actually bet on.” He laughs.  He’s so lovely when he laughs.  His eyes light up. “Someday Mr. Tanner will learn that honesty doesn’t always pay.” He looks serious and says to me in a devious voice, “You’ll not let him know of this.” And the bill slides across the counter. “He’ll not accept it otherwise and I will not be in debt to anyone.”   He smiles, winningly, deceitfully, drawing me into his plan. “You’ll do this for me, won’t you?”  -- the trickster.

What can I do but accept?  How could I deny the request?  How could I turn down that lovely smile -- the coercer.

“It was an unfortunate loss,” he continues.  “I should have been more precise when we placed the bet, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this situation.” – the liar.

He makes a quick examination of his items, and seems satisfied.  I pull a little twist of paper that I’ve been keeping under the counter and tell him a story about peppermints that had fallen to the floor.  I tell him I couldn’t sell them and so I had set them aside for his horse instead of throwing them out. I know he spoils the horse shamelessly.  He smiles as he thanks me, and shows his dimples as he accepts this small gift.  I guess I’m a liar, too.  They’d only fallen to the counter.

As he packs his purchases, he glances down at his coat and rubs frustratedly at the spot where he’d lost the button.  He probably has no time to fix it now.  Probably, he’s planning to do the sewing as they ride, not wanting to be seen in such a disheveled state, even by savages – the popinjay.

He certainly has another jacket.  He looks so handsome in the red one… and the dark blue … and the tan… and the black one, too.  Lord!  Gloria, you’re too old for him.  Without really thinking things out clearly, I offer to do the repairs.

Before he can ask the cost, I let him know that it won’t be a trouble and that I’ll do it for free.  I don’t know why I’ve become so altruistic.  I always have so much to do, what with the store to run and two children to raise.  He hesitates, as if he’s afraid to accept anything from anyone, as if he doesn’t know what to do with an offered kindness, as if he’s trying to figure a way out of the proposition.  He's stunned -- the frightened soul.

It makes me bolder.  I take the buttons and thread from him and come around the counter. He looks bewildered and before he can form a defense, I have the jacket half-off him.  He’s flustered.  It's funny how the smooth-talker can become so flummoxed.  He can't fight me, or deny my demands – the gentleman.

“It really isn’t necessary, Mrs. Potter.  I’m quite capable of sewing…” He finally managed to get out, but I cut him off as I take the jacket from him, put the saddlebags in his arms, and give him a shove toward the door. I tell him to get on his way... that Nathan is probably waiting. He’s unsure of what to do.  He looks utterly confused.  It saddens me really that he should be so befuddled by this. Didn’t his mother sew his buttons?  Well, I’ve seen his mother and can doubt that she ever did such trifles for him – the dear lamb.

I push him through the door and tell him to behave himself. He stands for a moment outside my store in his shirtsleeves. He opens his mouth once or twice, almost making me laugh at his perplexity.  Finally, not able to form a retort, he hurries back to his room to find a new jacket, no doubt.  He must, of course, always look his best – the lovely man.

I walk back to my counter, with his green jacket over one arm. I’ll have the buttons replaced by the time he returns. I’ll brush it and press it so that it looks like new. I’ll have it waiting for him here at the counter so he won’t have to ask for it when he comes in again.  I could have it sent to his room, but I’d rather he came here for it.  Undoubtedly he’ll have amusing tales to tell and another pack of lies to spread – the misguided.

He’ll be tired and hungry when he returns -- he never eats well on the trail, despite the food he packs. What does he do with it?  I start figuring out exactly when to start baking.  He’d enjoy a slice of pie. I’ll just happen to have it sitting in the pie safe when he comes in. Maybe I’ll sell a piece or two before he gets back, just to make it look as if I’d baked it for the store. He gets so embarrassed when someone does something just for him.  If he thinks I’ve baked it for my own gain, he’ll be more accepting. Sometimes, I’ve found, one must be as deceitful as the deceiver.

THE END - by NotTasha

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