Part 2

Buck stalked through the castle, looking for JD.  Where had that kid gone?  Vin and Chris were in the Great Hall talking when he stomped in.

"What's the matter with you, Buck?  Inez down at the tavern turn you down again?"

"No.  Have you seen JD?"

"He went by here a few minutes ago.  Didn't look much happier than you do.  What's going on?"

"That...that Standish!"

Chris scowled.  "What's he done now?"

"He said something to JD."

"What did he say?"

"I don't know, but it upset the kid something awful."

Vin pushed away from the wall and gave him a fierce look.  "You don't know?  You're mad enough to burst over something you don't even know about?  Maybe JD started it.  You ever think of that?"

"JD would never..."

"But Ezra would?  He wouldn't hurt JD for the world.  You know that Buck.  Besides, it's between them.  None of your business."  Vin noticed the way Buck rubbed his knuckles.  "What did you do?"

"I...  I hit him."

"Great!  Just great."

Chris's expression was like stone.  "Maybe he deserved it."

"You, too?  You know, I wouldn't be surprised if Ezra up and leaves one day, the way some people around here act towards him.  If you want him to be part of this brotherhood, you've got to start treating him like one."  Vin didn't want to be in the same room as the two of them right now.  He just shook his head at them and left.

Buck looked crestfallen.  Had he jumped to conclusions?  Everybody was always telling him to think with his head instead of his emotions.  Had he let them get the better of him again?  It was just...  Sometimes Ezra made him so mad.  He was always acting so prim and proper.  Buck thought after that mess with Morgan was over, Ezra would loosen up and be more like them.  Didn't he want to be one of the knights?

Chris was staring out the window.  "Vin's right.  One of these days Ezra is going to leave.  He's a good warrior.  There are a good many local princes and royals who'd be happy to have him."

"Do...  Do you want him to go?"

"He's just...  It's like talking to a wall of stone.  He doesn't give anything away.  What is he thinking?  What does he want?  It would be easier if he weren't a full grown man.  If he were the eight-year-old boy he's supposed to be, I'd know how to handle him.  We'd be able to raise him right and maybe get rid of some of Morgan's...Ella's influence.  As it is..."

Buck noticed Chris never did answer his question.  "Yeah.  It would be nice if he were a little kid.  He'd be a lot easier to deal with, that's for sure."

Ezra stood in the shadows around the corner, having coming in near the end of the conversation.  They wished he were a child?  He'd tried so hard to please them, or at the very least, not offend them.  What had he done wrong?

He was trembling.  Hurt and anger coursed through him.  It wasn't his fault!  Lady Morgan had used her spells to transform him into a man and give him the knowledge he would need to act like one as part of her failed scheme to kill King Christofer and take his throne.  It wasn't his fault she'd stolen his childhood from him!  Why wasn't the man he'd become good enough for them?

Part 3