On Leaving

The prompt for the Hint Fic was:

Departure

The terminal is unkind. You watch me go through security. In six months, you’ll say “Tell me about the nightmare,” and I promise I will.

By: Donora Hillard

**

Josiah adjusted the cuffs of his shirt for what was probably the hundredth time. He looked at the guards and then beyond them, to the door. A part of him was frightened. He’d been inside long enough that he was comfortable there. He’d served his time and now he was free. He would be able to do as he wished, rather than being told where to be when. However, that freedom was frightening for someone who’d had their decisions made for them for so long.

There was also Ezra to consider. His friend wasn’t really suited to life on the inside. He’d done well the last few years partly because Josiah had been there to keep an eye on him. Now, he would be alone. Josiah shook the thought away. Ezra wasn’t alone. Vin and Chris would keep an eye on him. It was only six months. They could keep him safe for six months, sure.

Taking his bag from the guard, Josiah headed out the other door. It was time to begin his new life. He would see Ezra again in six months and they could each tell the other how horrible the separation was. For now, they would have to be apart.

 

It was only six months. That was all Ezra had left of his own sentence. Then, he’d be out and he had already arranged to meet up with Josiah when that happened. Ezra kept his hands folded together and his head down as he walked through the exercise yard. It was a simple matter to stay out of trouble. At least, it should have been.

However, Ezra was the sort that seemed to attract trouble the way a magnet would iron filings. He stopped short when a large form blocked his path. Swallowing thickly, he lifted his gaze. “Hello,” he said, giving the larger inmate a weak smile.

“Something funny?”

Ezra heaved a sigh and then shook his head. He took a step back and found himself in the arms of another inmate. “I don’t want trouble,” Ezra breathed. He looked from one to the other and closed his eyes. “Just… leave me be, please.”

“Aw, I think he’s scared,” the one holding him said, his tone teasing.

“I ain’t,” a new voice said. Ezra’s eyes flew opened and he saw Chris and Vin standing just a short distance away.

Chris smiled and arched an eyebrow at the men. “We’re not gonna have a problem here. Are we, boys?” he said, his tone mild.

Ezra was not surprised when the two inmates backed off. Very few people were willing to anger Chris Larabee. “Thank you,” Ezra said, ducking his head.

Vin touched his chin and Ezra lifted his gaze. “They take one look at you and see that stance and figure you’ll be a push-over,” he said, his voice soft. “Josiah must have told you that.”

“He did,” Ezra said, rolling his eyes. He shrugged and then shook his head. “I figure it’s better they think that I’m weak than that they realize how afraid of them I am.”

“Except, it amounts to the same thing, Ezra,” Chris said, shaking his head. He heaved a sigh. “Good thing you’ll be out before us. They’d eat ya alive if you were on your own for more than ten minutes.”

“How long’s Josiah been out?”

Ezra rolled his eyes. “Half an hour,” he said, his voice strained. He shook his head and squeezed his eyes closed. “Six months,” he said. “I can do six months without Mr. Sanchez hovering behind me like some vengeful guardian angel.”

“Keep telling yourself that, Ez,” Vin said, his tone light and teasing.

 

Six months later, Josiah met Ezra at the front gates of the prison. He looked over the smaller man and then sighed. “I don’t see any bruises,” he said.

“I’m fine,” Ezra said, rolling his eyes. “I am long past the age where I need to looked after like a – a schoolboy, Mr. Sanchez.” However, the flush of his cheeks told another story. He flinched when someone laughed.

Josiah patted his shoulder and waved at his companion. “Nathan Jackson,” he said. “He’s a friend. I’m staying with him until I get back on my feet.”

Ezra nodded once and then looked over at Nathan. “Can I ask what it was that you found so very amusing, Mr. Jackson?” he asked, his tone a bit tart.

Nathan smiled. “How long did it take before you got into trouble?” he asked.

“About half an hour,” a new voice said.

Ezra’s cheeks darkened and he looked back towards the gates. “Chris,” he said. It would be his luck that the other man would get out the same day as him. That just left Vin, from their happy little crew, still on the inside. Vin had four more months before he’d be out as well.

“Hello, Ezra,” Chris said. He smiled at Josiah. “Half an hour – thirty minutes – after you were gone, he had trouble from two toughs in there.”

Heaving a sigh, Ezra brushed invisible dust off his jacket. “Can we discuss this somewhere else?” he asked. Looking up at Josiah, he smiled. “We’ve got a lot to talk about. You need to tell me what you’ve been up to for the last six months.”

Josiah chuckled softly and then slapped his back. “Let’s go,” he said. “We’ve got some catching up to do and I have quite a tale to tell you.” He looked at Chris and nodded. “Both of you,” he added.

Chris frowned and then nodded. As he fell into step behind Ezra and Josiah, he looked over at Nathan. “Just what has Josiah been up to for the last six months?” he asked. “It’s nothing that’ll get us into trouble. I hope.”

“Certainly not,” Nathan said, shaking his head. He looked thoughtful as he moved to the driver’s side of his car. “He’s been helping to renovate a local church, for one thing. However, that’s just what he does to pass the time. We can’t talk about his real job here.”

“His real job?” Ezra said, his tone wary. He looked at Josiah, who frowned slightly. “What is it?”

“It’s to do with your father’s family, Ezra,” Josiah said. He looked intently at Ezra and said, “Is saying that enough to let you know what I mean?”

Ezra’s eyes widened and he nodded. “I thought I’d left that all behind me when my mother took me to Georgia,” he said, his voice soft.

“I thought you grew up in Georgia,” Chris said, scowling. He certainly had the right accent to have been born and raised in the southern United States.

“Oh, I most certainly grew up there,” Ezra said, shaking his head. “I was born, however, in Maine.”

“Haven, Maine,” Josiah said, nodding. If that was meant to explain what they were talking about, it was lost on Chris.

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