No More Wishes
Disclaimer: Not mine. Used without permission. Making no money from this.
Chris wasn't sure why he made the wish that night. There hadn't been anything special about the day. The night sky wasn't any clearer than usual, the stars no more bright than on any other night. Maybe it was because, for once, he saw Adam's face. Not as it was that last day but whole, alive. His tousled hair and little boy smile as he patiently explained to his daddy just how to make a wish on a star. It might have been that fragile ghost of memory that prompted Chris to pick a star, shut his eyes, and wish.
Wish to see past the masks and uncover what lay beneath the charming, roguish smile of Ezra Standish. To see what emotions the man concealed behind the unrevealing facade he showed the world. To catch a glimpse, if only for a moment, of the truth hidden within his shuttered eyes. Chris knew if he could get that one look, he would be able to see into Ezra's soul. Discover if the man felt the same ache, the same need that had settled into Chris's bones and ran like lightning under his skin anytime a green-eyed gaze was cast his way.
Afterwards, Chris laughed at his own folly, his skin flushing slightly. Faintly humiliated that he had allowed himself to be caught in the empty fallacy of the gesture, even if only for a moment. His illusions of hope had dried up and blown away like the burnt scrub that once surrounded his family's home. He had wished back then. Wished desperately. Somehow believing that some benevolent power would take pity on him.
But wishing hadn't brought Sarah back, or Adam. It hadn't rebuilt his house, saved his horses. It hadn't turned back time so he could refuse to stay in Mexico that one extra night with Buck. Wishing hadn't made the burning pain in his gut disappear, or prevent the nightmares that haunted his sleep. It hadn't made anyone else faster on the trigger, no matter how many drunken gun battles he fought. No, Chris had long ago stopped believing in the power of wishes.
He should have known better.
The masks were gone now. Stripped away by pain, or fear, or maybe something else. Something Chris couldn't put a name to, didn't want to put a name to. Instinctively knowing it was one truth he wouldn't survive the telling of. Not anymore. What he wanted now was for the masks to return. For Ezra's feelings to once again be hidden by a skillful, practiced facade. Chris no longer wanted to see what had been concealed, didn't want to know what Ezra had been hiding.
He didn't want to see love and forgiveness staring out at him from the eyes of a dying man. He wanted an emotionless, shuttered gaze and a thick, southern drawl. Not a rasping, hitching voice that caught and gasped as its owner tried to speak. No. What Chris wanted now was a gold tooth glinting in the dimness of a saloon, not the reality of blood-flecked lips glistening in the half-light of dusk.
Chris knelt in the cold dampness. The slush soaking into the knees of his pants, freezing his skin. Just as the coldness of the truth in front of him was freezing his soul. There would be no miraculous last minute save this time. No rescue. Even as he watched, the late winter snow that coated the ground was inexorably shading from pale white to pink to a brilliant, horrifying red.
The spreading stain foretold the only possible conclusion. Chris pressed on the wound, desperate for the blood to stop, to just stop, but it welled between his fingers, coating his hands with its sticky truth. His efforts were futile. There was nothing he could do. There had been nothing he could do from the moment the goddamn, stupid, southern, son-of-a-bitch had stepped forward and taken a bullet with Chris's name on it.
He wanted out. Out of this fucked up, ironic life which offered his hopes and dreams in one hand while crushing them with the other. He wanted his soul to be as cold as the snow that surrounded him. To never have to watch as another person he loved died while he sat by helpless to save them. Helpless to do anything. There was no comfort he could give to Ezra beyond a coat rolled up to pillow his head.
For a moment, Chris almost wished. Wished for a different ending to the story being painted with blood in the melting snow. But as the labored breathing of the man in front of him stuttered and stopped, Chris let the quiet stillness soak into him, saturating him as a vow spread through the once more barren wasteland of his soul.
No more wishes.