The Biggest Gamble Part 5:
The Christmas Present
Author's Note: This was going to be a four page interlude... but it just kept growing... and well, what can I say, those boys just won't lay down... er... excuse the pun!!! This is not the Part 5 that I had in mind, so consider that now delegated to part 6. <G> By the way I really do like Christmas, but I like Ezra and Vin to suffer more, (picture evil grin here please) and they last longer than one day a year!!! By the way, this is entirely Barb's fault and you know who you are.
Back to: The Biggest Gamble Part 4
Christmas Day had been filled with eating, drinking and relaxing. The seven protectors of the town of Four Corners had spent the day ensuring that the fun of Christmas didn't get out of hand, and now with the evening drawing to a close they had finally managed to get together and were sharing a quiet drink in the saloon. While the bar was fairly crowded they had managed to gather a few tables in one corner and could sit undisturbed, enjoying the last glow of the day that celebrated the birth of Christ.
JD was unable to stop smiling and bouncing about and was the first to give in, reaching under his chair for the small assortment of presents that he had gathered for his friends. He handed them out and sat back, eager to see if they liked what he had got them. This was a signal for the others to retrieve their presents and hand them out also.
Ezra sat back, having handed over the largest present he had brought to his lover Vin Tanner. It was a large brown paper wrapped parcel. Tanner and Standish had been lovers for several months now but this was their first Christmas together, and the gambler had been a little bit uncertain about giving Vin his present in such a public place, but as it had only arrived from Boston, via the stage coach the day before, he had been swept up in the festive mood, and was unable to resist giving it to his lover whilst in the presence of their friends.
He sat back, eager to see Tanner's reaction. The trapper glanced over at him and smiled. It was a warm, affectionate look that promised a far better present when they were alone. Ezra slumped back and raised his glass as a silent salute to the man he loved.
Tanner sighed happily. As a child he had never really had a lot of Christmas presents. At the orphanage he'd been lucky to even get one, and even luckier if he had been able to hold onto the precious toy after the larger boys had done their afternoon stealing-and-breaking toy raids.
As if by silent agreement each man opened his presents separately while the other's watched, thanks were passed, opinions offered on the best use of the present and memories of past Christmas flowed between them all. Laughter swelled from the table, as Buck's crude comments were tainted by JD innocence, as he asked for the suggestion to be made clearer. The drinks continued to flow freely as they had for most of the day.
Finally it was Vin's turn to open his presents. Ezra smiled warmly at him. The gambler's presents still rested in front of him unopened, he would wait until last. At the moment he was more than content to watch Tanner open his gifts first.
Vin held up the small one from Chris and gave it an experimental shake. "Sounds mighty interesting there, cowboy," he drawled as he began to tear at the wrapping like a six year old. He gasped when he noted the wooden box and after carefully opening it he saw that it was a newer, stronger spy glass. "Chris..." he spluttered in shock. All of Larabee's presents had been expensive, tasteful and well thought of.
"Hell, you spent so much time looking through the other one," Larabee shot back his tone a drawl, "that I just assumed that you were gonna wear it out." He accepted the laugher this earned him and took another deep swallow, breathing in the warm and joy of the men about the table. Christmas was never easy for him, but this one had been made slightly easier by his friends.
Vin ripped his way through the remaining presents, purposefully saving Ezra's until last. Then sitting back, he paused and gathered himself before pulling the large packet towards him. It was soft and felt like material. Carefully he untied the string and peeled back the layer of paper. He frowned slightly when he encountered a softer tissues type paper. Gently moving that aside he spied what looked like a jacket. A... very handsome, very expensive jacket of a tan material... With a gasp of surprise he held it up, his eyes growing wide, it was a very similar cut to Ezra's red jacket. As Tanner lifted it out of the paper a pair of trousers slipped onto the table, along with a fine silk shirt. The name on the clothing spoke of a very expensive store in Boston, Vin knew this because Ezra had frequently bemoaned the fact that he was not able to purchase their items as regularly as he would like.
"I honestly did not know if I was going to get it back in time..." Ezra was saying, with a broad smile, "Boston is such a long way to send for a suit.... But... Vin?" He stammered to a stop as he drunk in Vin surprised and outraged expression.
"The hell you say," snarled Tanner, his eye flashing. "Do I look like I'm in need of these fancy, expensive clothes, Ezra?" he snapped emphasising the word expensive and glancing about the room as if embarrassed. He carelessly bundled up the suit and shirt and scrunching it in the paper it had come in, he lifted the whole present and tossed it bodily back at the gambler who caught it, his mouth opening and closing in astonishment. Vin continued his tirade.
"Hell, Ezra, if I ain't good enough for you as I am, just say so... don't go sending to Boston to make me into something I ain't...." The tracker continued, his face twisting in fury.
"Vin..." Chris began, his tone low but holding an edge of warning. He was just as surprised by Tanner's reaction as the rest of the table appeared to be.
"Hell, Chris," Vin rounded on his friend, annoyed that he was not getting any support from the man, "am I some kinda stupid doll for him to dress up? Or is it just that I ain't good enough for him and his fancy fine graces... and he's trying to turn me into something he ain't ashamed of?"
"Mr Tanner...." Ezra stuttered his face leaching white at the other's words, for once unable to find the words to describe the hurt he felt. "It was... it was... not my intention to... I mean..."
"I know exactly what you meant, Ezra..." Vin snapped his expression darting back to the other man, " you think just because we... we... " Tanner stopped and glancing about he leant further into the table and hissed, sneering almost, "share... things... don't mean that I want you... especially you... to treat me like a... a... tramp who has to have decent clothes bought, just so you can be seen with me...." With that he stood up, threw his shocked lover another hard snarl and fled the room.
A heavy silence had descended on the whole room, as everyone turned to watch the bounty hunter storm out. The table where the seven had sat was as silent as a tomb.
"I'm sure he didn't..." Josiah began, seeing the crushed, torn look that had filtered across Ezra's handsome face.
"Mr Sanchez, please." Ezra demanded holding up a shaking hand, "I believe that Mr Tanner has conveyed... exactly... what he meant far better then you ever could." He paused swallowed and added, "and this is not the... first time he had made reference to the difference between our social standing and... finances."
"Well," huffed Nathan, his own anger at having the festivity ruined coming to the fore, "it was a damn foolish present to buy someone like Vin anyway. Hell, Ezra, only you would think to remind someone that they are not as well off as you and expect to get thanked for it."
"That's enough," Chris suddenly snapped, his eyes flashing towards the darker man. There were times when Nathan just seemed to wait in the wings like an small angry dog ready to snap at Ezra's heels whenever the other man made a mistake, even a misinterpreted one like this.
"Damn right it is." Nathan finished, pushing back his chair and storming from the room, but not before making a parting shot. "Thanks for making this Christmas so memorable as only you can, Ezra." The sarcasm was not lost on any who sat at the table.
Without a word, Ezra slowly, carefully, pushed back his chair, straightened his own finely tailored red jacket, tilted his unsmiling face at the others who remained and, turning swiftly, made his way up the stairs to his own rooms. Chris made as if to follow but Josiah held out a hand stopping him. "Let him go... I think he's been embarrassed enough."
Chris slowly sat down again and then winced inwardly as he spied Ezra's own small pile of forlornly unopened present.
"I though it was a nice present." JD finally said in a quite tone, as if to speak too loudly would cause another explosion of anger about the table.
"So did I, JD," Buck agreed sadly, knowing exactly just how much damage had been done. "So did I."
Ezra quietly but firmly closed the door behind him, locking it. He carefully moved over to the bed, as if walking somehow hurt him, and removed his jacket, brushing it lovingly before hanging it in the closet and, moving back, then sat down on the edge of the bed. He leant forward slightly and wrapped his arms about his middle. 'What had he done that was so wrong?' He had honestly thought that Vin would appreciate the clothes that had he brought him. The gambler loved his jacket, and could still remember his joy at finally having enough money to purchase it.
Standish had been foolishly planing the present for several months, taking great pains to ensure that he secretly got Tanner's correct body measurements. Spending hours deliberating over the material, cut and colour, wanting to guarantee that he got just the right colour that would best highlight Vin natural complexion.
He lifted a hand and began to hit a fist against his forehead. Once again he had ruined Christmas for those he held dear. Ever since he had been a child it had always been the same. Maude always managed to farm him out with some distant relative this time of year - after all, who wanted a child under foot when there were so many great balls, parties and functions to attend. The relatives had always been pleased to see Ezra, because Maude paid them well to have him, but once she was out the door, he was relegated to the back of the family queue, sometime even after the servants, and his only present was from Maude, and that only if she remembered, which she had frequently not.
He swallowed hard against the feeling that was desperately trying to claw up from his chest. He was not going to cry. He would not going to give into the pain and misery that had followed him for so many of his childhood years. He was not going to spend another Christmas evening weeping because he had once again been accused of ruining it for everyone else. He had thought that this year, this one year when he had actually felt the spirit of good will, he would be spending it with his friends.
He had honestly thought that this Christmas would be better, would be perfect now that he had Vin, his first and true love to share it with him. He forced back the sob that still fought for release, that was why he had wanted to buy him the best gift he could. To Ezra Standish buying Tanner the expensive clothing was meant to be a statement of love, he wanted to show his lover the finer things in life, wanted him to share in his love of good clothing, fine food, expensive wine, and the whole gem of what a cultured life had to offer.
How could Vin had taken it so wrong? How could the man who had professed only that morning whilst in this very bed to love him so much, so totally misunderstand the reason behind the present that Ezra had brought for him? And to treat it and him in such a diabolical manner, to just toss it back in Ezra's face, the insult was nearly as painful as the harsh words that Tanner had tossed along with it.
Standish knew, and had thought that Tanner knew, that he worshipped the ground that Vin walked on. How could he so easily think that Ezra was ashamed of him? Standish frowned, he had brought small expensive gifts for Vin in the past, but the tracker had just smiled lovingly and told him that he was silly to do so. Ezra had just replied that it gave him pleasure to treat his lover to those simple tokens of his affection. Had Tanner also thought those gifts a sign of Standish's shame?
Standish suddenly felt sick. To the core of his very being he felt the food and whisky that he had consumed return to haunt him, and it was only by tremendous will alone that he prevented himself from being violently ill. It was then, at that very moment, that the ice began to form. Slowly it crept across the landscape of Ezra Standish's body until it reached his living, beating heart, where inch by inch it slowly began to devour his soul, until finally, there were no tears for the gambler to cry, there was no pain for him to wince from. Ezra Standish was not some foppish Southern gent who needed clothes to define himself or those he loved, he was not ashamed of who he was, nor had he been ashamed of Tanner. No, to Standish's way of thinking, this was just Vin's way of getting out of a relationship that he had obviously grown tired of. After all the tracker's words of love, this was what it really came down to. Well Ezra was man who had learned how to hide his pain, cover his bleeding wounds, until all a person saw was the face that Standish wanted them to see. If this was what Vin Tanner wanted, then he, Ezra Standish, would give it to him and not hold Tanner in a relationship that he did not want.
The last tear that slid down his pale features seemed to crystallise on his cheek, before it slipped from his face to disappear on the darkness of his pants, lost forever, as was the love he had thought would never die.
Vin Tanner slowly walked into the saloon early the next morning. He had awoken in his wagon and knew, with a gut wrenching fear of knowledge that he was in serious, serious shit. He spied Chris sitting at the table where they had been the night before and cautiously headed over towards his friend.
"Morning," he ventured, easing himself down in the chair next to the other man, wincing as the movement thundered across his brain.
"Vin," was all that Chris said, not looking up from his breakfast plate.
"Hell of a party," Tanner commented, trying for lightness but it ended up flat as he slowly began easing back, waving for the barman to bring the same as Larabee.
"Ended pretty soon after you left." Came the short comment in return to Vin's words.
"What the hell did he buy me a damn suit for?" Tanner suddenly demanded, his anger returning. He could feel Chris thought he was in the wrong and it was not a feeling he usually got from this man and it annoyed him. Annoyed the hell out of him actually as he complained bitterly, "I ain't no woman to be buying pretty clothes for."
"I guess he thought you'd like it," Chris replied coldly, taking a sip of coffee and barely keeping his voice neutral.
"Well he guessed wrong," snapped Tanner, his face growing red. He fell silent as his food and coffee arrived and he stayed silent as Buck and JD ambled into the room, pushing and shoving each other like young kids.
"Maybe in Ezra's social circle, it's considered acceptable to give the person you are supposed to be in love with something that means a lot to you."
Tanner jumped and stared hard at Josiah who had sneaked up behind him.
"What the hell does that mean?" Vin questioned, his face hardening. It was bad enough getting the silent lecture from Chris, now he was getting a verbal one for the preacher.
Sanchez sighed and pulling out a chair he sunk his long frame into it, allowing Buck and JD to settle before he began, "Ezra doesn't come from the same social standing as you or I, Vin... to him pretty clothes mean a lot, and to him... it doesn't mean that the person he is buying for is a... a whore or a bought lover... I guess he just felt that as he places such a high value on his clothing then you would place the same value on something that he brought for you."
"Hell, I know just exactly what kinda social standing Ezra comes from, Josiah, and this is just his way of rubbing our noses in it... he just wants to dress me up like a... a southern dandy like himself... if I ain't good enough for him... why don't he just say so?" Vin bristled again, this time his tone held more then a hint of annoyance in it.
The preacher held up his hand, warning of the tracker's growing temper before he said, "I honestly don't think that Ezra was trying to imply that, Vin. I guess he just wanted you to have something nice to wear... and he guessed wrong... that's all."
"I thought it was a right handsome suit," JD suddenly butted in, not heeding an ounce of the warning looks the other three men tossed his way as he merrily continued, his face earnest as he wanted to get his point across. "When I was a kid I used to watch all those folks in the great house... they looked so handsome and all... I always wanted a suit like that... they looked... so... so... noble.." he finished, in his mind's eye seeing the people from his youth and remembering how he used to dream of being just like them.
"Yeah... well maybe when you're older JD, you'll see that it wasn't just a present... but a way of Ezra saying that he's better than the rest of us... just 'cause he's got money... but I tell you what, kid, you like the suit you can have it... then maybe Ezra won't be ashamed to be seen with you either...." Vin snarled, his temper souring quickly. He knew that he could never effectively explain to these men how conscious he was that Ezra had money, grace and breeding, while all he had was the skills of hunting, tracking and using his gun to keep him alive. How could he ever expect to keep Ezra as his lover when he was nothing but a dirty ex-buffalo turned bounty hunter, who had a price on his head?
JD looked totally shocked and outraged as he shot back, "Oh I couldn't accept that, Vin, it was your Christmas present from... from Ezra... why... it must have cost him a small fortune." He finished in awe, "it was a real soft leather..."
"Leather...." Vin repeated, suddenly realising that he had not even looked at the garment properly before he'd roughly tossed it back in his lover's face.
"Well, I still think it's not right for a man to buy another man clothes," Nathan commented as he joined the group, having heard enough of the conversation to guess what it had been about.
"I think Ezra just gave you that suit because you mean a lot to him." Chris' quiet voice broke across the mumble of voices, "and I think it hurt him, hurt him real bad, when you threw it back in his face, Vin..." Larabee suddenly felt his lips twist as he finished, "hurt him more then you can possibly imagine... I only hope you think it was worth it." He gathered up his napkin and wiping his mouth, he tossed it down on the table like some gauntlet that had been thrown. Silence filtered across the table as each man considered his words.
Suddenly JD looked towards the staircase and his expression grew even more serious. Chris tilted his head and saw Ezra coming slowly down the steps into the main room. Larabee sat up straighter, as he realised that there was something not quite right about the other man. He was dressed as impeccably as always in his dark trousers, white shirt, handsome waistcoat and red jacket, his hat perched jauntily on his brow. He would have looked like he did on any other day except that his back was a little straighter, stiffer, his stance almost military, his expression was so natural that he could have been playing the poker game of his life, but it was his eyes, his eyes that caught and held Chris's attention. They were shuttered, devoid of humour, of life. This man had been seriously hurt and Larabee closed his eyes as it sunk in that Tanner didn't even have a clue as to the damage he had actually done.
Ezra descended the staircase like a king and moved cautiously towards the table full of the men he once supposed to be friends. He had to pass the table to get out of the room. He swallowed hard but didn't falter as he paused by the group to speak. "Good morning gentlemen." The ice that came from his mouth could have frozen a hot July day. It was as desolate as the desert on a cold winter evening, and matched his stance perfectly. He was the Ezra Standish they had first seen conning a room full of cowboys out of their hard earned money. He tipped his hat as any perfectly mannered Southern gentlemen would and made to leave the room.
"Ezra," Vin suddenly called out, jumping up, his face now a picture of troubled concern, "wait up..." he pleaded, wondering for the first time if he might not have been a little rash to take offence at Standish's choice of present for him.
Standish paused and tilting his head back towards the man advancing on him he raised an eyebrow and offered coldly, "I would have thought after last night Mr Tanner, that you and I would have nothing to talk about."
"Oh come on, Ezra..." Vin attempted to place a smile on his lips but it faltered as indignation crept into his stance, annoyed that Ezra was not evening going to listen to his explanation. Did their relationship mean so little to the gambler that he could just toss it aside with their first disagreement? With this thought in mind he demanded, "you ain't even gonna give me a chance to explain?"
"Mr Tanner, I can assure you that you have nothing to er... explain... as you put it... you made your feelings on the matter very clear last night... and I am only sorry that I put you to the trouble of informing me in... what must have been for you a very embarrassing manner and I would not want you to suffer the injustice to believing that I am ashamed of you any longer then is absolutely necessary... I will be departing from this dreary place as soon as possible. I find that I have grown tired of this rather small town and shall seek excitement and entertainment in a more lucrative place."
"Ezra..." JD choked out, unable to remain quiet. "You ain't leaving.... I mean..." he turned pleading eyes towards the other four men still seated at the table, their own faces showing varying degrees of shock.
Standish didn't even bother to answer JD, he just nodded once, as if satisfied with the reaction his words had wrought, and turning he walked from the room. Leaving behind six very shocked men.
"I guess that little speech tells us just how much he wanted our relationship to work..." Vin said, turning to look at his friends, his own face a mask of pain with flashes of anger. After all the promises that Ezra had made, about the love he had for Tanner, he had just tossed it aside without even a backwards glance.
"No Vin..." Josiah said sadly, "I think that little speech informed us of just how much you hurt him last night." Standing he tossed his napkin down, his appetite suddenly gone. "I'm going to work on the church if anyone needs me." With that he slowly walked from the room.
Vin watched with a feeling of growing horror as one by one the others made feeble excuses and left, until only Larabee sat nursing a cooling cup of coffee. Moving back Tanner slumped into his chair and said forlornly, confiding in Larabee the fear that had been haunting him for the last few months every time Ezra had purchased him an expensive gift that he had not been able to return in like, every time the gambler had made some comment about wanting to show Tanner this great city or that great place, as if he planned on introducing his scruffy tracker of a lover to his peers as an equal. "Chris... I can't compete with what Ezra has... the money, breeding... hell half the time I can't even understand what he's saying... how the hell did I ever expect to hold onto him...?"
Larabee looked at his nearly empty cup thoughtfully. "You could have just trusted him, Vin... trusted him to love you as much as you say you love him..." He finished up his drink and standing, said quietly. "If Ezra hasn't proven to you by how much he loves you, Vin, then I'm afraid that I've gotta wonder if you love him as much as you say you do, as it seems to me you're doing your damnedest to break that man and any feelings he might have had for you."
Standish continued to walk determinedly towards the general store. Mrs Potter was just placing some items outside the open doors when he approached her. "Ah.. Mr Standish... How did the present go?" She had been surprised when the gambler had approached her to look at one of her most expensive catalogue books of clothing from back East, but she knew Ezra to be a man of impeccable taste and had willingly assisted him in purchasing the suit. Not just for her commission but because she loved the look at the clothes in those books as well and they reminded her of her youth and her first meeting with her husband. And while those memories might still be bitter-sweet for her, she still had those and her children to warm her against the pain her husband's loss caused her.
Standish pulled a face and neatly side-stepped the question by saying, "I have decided to depart from Four Corners for a short spell and will need to purchase some items for my journey."
"Oh..." she said in some surprise. Gone was the friendly, laughing man who had spent hours pouring over the catalogue to get just the right item, and who had finally ended up putting in a special order for the clothing that had cost well over the catalogue price. Mr Standish had willingly paid the extra money and more, saying that it would be worth every penny. Gone was the eager humour from his eyes now, in it's place was a stranger who she suddenly felt uncomfortable with. "Er... I see... items... for travelling," she stammered, unable to think of anything to say.
Ezra seeing the distressed look which crossed her face hastened to say, "I can see that you are busy... here is a list... I will call back later today to pick them up." He handed her the list that he had made during the night and without a backward glance, he headed down the street towards the stable.
"Ezra..." a voice called out from behind him, but the gambler chose to ignore the call as he knew that it was Wilmington. Standish hurried his step but then slowed when he felt the taller man reach his shoulder. "Ezra..." Buck's voice was laced with over friendliness which made Standish wince and mutter a curse towards the heaven.
"What's your hurry there, partner?" The womaniser spoke loudly, reaching out to clap the smaller man on the shoulder. His hand froze in mid-air when the gambler glanced at him. The look was not friendly, and it stopped him cold. Buck, never one to be deterred easily, decided to try a different tack. "What's all this talk about leaving?" he demanded instead.
"Mr Wilmington, as enjoyable as spending my valuable time with you all has been, you did not really expect me to put my life on an indefinite hold, while we attempted to clean up this little ant hill of a town... did you?"
"Oh Ez, this town isn't so bad..." Buck insisted, twisting to skip in front of the man, walking backwards a few steps before he paused and frowned, then taking the bull by the horns he spluttered. "Vin didn't mean what he said last night, Ez... it was the drink talking... the drink and the good food... hell Christmas gets everyone into an over emotional state.. drink too much, talk to much.. say the wrong thing... too much," he added again for good measure, "why I can't remember a Christmas as a child when my mother and her friends didn't end up crying in their drink." He spoke earnestly, and desperately.
Standish stopped dead in the street, eyeing the taller man several long seconds before he spoke coolly and calmly, his words precise and to the point. "Maybe that was because your mother and her friends only felt the hardship of their chosen profession at that time... after all it is my understanding that most er... bordellos closed for Christmas day."
Buck tilted back as if punched by the smaller man, so close had been the hit on target by Ezra's nasty words, but for once Wilmington didn't react with his fist to a slur on his mother's honour, instead he only saw the pain that had flashed in the other's eyes. Lifting a hand, Buck warded off the other man saying, as he fought to keep his jovial tone and expression, "er... I can see that you're still a mite upset about last night, Ezra, so I'm going to just let that last remark lie and speak to you later.. when you're er... feeling a little bit more sociable." With that he backed off.
Ezra watched the taller man walk away and felt a twist in his gut. He had hurt Wilmington, he could plainly see that and in turn it had pained him but he really could not afford to have any of them try to stop him. He desperately wanted to leave Four Corners and he didn't want their sympathy, it would be too painful and insulting. With that thought in mind he turned and once more headed towards the stable.
"Well?" Larabee asked Wilmington as he entered the sheriff's office.
Buck removed his hat and hit his leg hard with it, dust flying up. The womaniser shot Tanner a disgusted look before he said, "Ezra has a nasty mouth when he's pissed... and right now he's as pissed as a rattler who's got his tail caught in a barroom swing door."
"I'll go talk to him... make him listen to me... I'll even tell him I like the damn present.. and I was wrong...." Vin ventured, even his tone informing those listening that he didn't expect to receive anything but a bullet for his trouble, but at the moment even that would be better then the empty gnawing feeling that was biting into his gut, but he stopped as Buck snorted and offered words of rare wisdom.
"I wouldn't if I was you..."
"Buck, what the hell am I suppose to do... huh... I can never be the partner he wants me to be... I ain't got his fancy manners, his way with words... Hell the man carries over three hundred dollars in his boot... I'm damn lucky to even have a pair of boots on my feet... then he goes and buys me a suit that would take more then my life to save up for... even if I wanted to waste my money on it... but hell... why not... if the suit is that damn important to him... then I'll wear the damn thing," Tanner finally snarled, much like a child who had lost an argument. "Where the hell is it anyway?" He looked about as if expecting it to just appear.
Chris sighed and leaning over and opened a drawer in the dirty desk, he pulled out the barely wrapped package saying. "I found it with the rubbish out the back... behind the saloon this morning."
"How'd it get out there?" Buck demanded angry at the thought that someone had just tossed the expensive present away, also seeing that it was slightly stained from the empty bottles and food that had laid with it.
"Pete the barman pointed it out to me... he found it there this morning." Chris said as he handed the smuggled jacket across. "He reckoned Ezra must have tossed it out, so he put it behind the bar with the rest of Ezra's stuff." All three men looked slightly shamefaced by the fact that they had just left the presents lying on the table the night before.
"I know it's just a damn suit Chris," Tanner snarled again, shaking the offending jacket as if to punish it for all the trouble it had caused. "But why did he have to go and buy it... why rub my nose in the fact that I ain't ever gonna to be able to buy him anything so fancy...."
Larabee looked annoyed and retorted, his patience with the other man nearly at an end, "it's not just a damn suit, Vin, it's Ezra's way of life... the way he dresses is important to him, it's a part of his very being, and he does love you, and he just wanted to show that love by giving you something that is important to him, and you just tossed it back ." Chris closed his eyes, seeing from Tanner's expression that the other man was still missing the important point he was trying to make, so he pushed on finally letting his anger have full rein as he started, "Vin... you say that you're afraid that you won't be able to hold Ezra's love... that HIS money and HIS upbringing is going to come between you.... Hell Tanner, you're pushing him away a damn sight more effectively then he ever could you... you're the one who wanted the commitment, who wanted him to say that he loved you.. Well guess what, Cowboy... he has, every step of the way you've dragged it out of him, made him lay bare his soul... and now just because you're suffering from a bout of insecurity you've just thrown it all back in his face..."
"I didn't... mean that... exactly...." Tanner shot back weakly his own anger flaring before it spluttered out. He was just starting to fully realise that he might have lost the one person he truly loved and over such an insignificant thing. After all their words, their pain, their struggle to declare their feeling for each other, it had taken Tanner nearly dying before Ezra had even been able to admit that he truly loved the tracker and now it looked as if all that was gone in an instant of rash misunderstanding. "I just didn't think..." he spluttered, his expression one of torment as he looked at the other two men.
"Maybe it was the drink?" Buck offered, torn by his friends' pain and unable to do anything about it.
"No..." Vin waved his words aside saying, "sure I know I'd had a lot to drink, and all, but I wasn't that drunk... no... oh God... how could I have said that..." He suddenly sank down onto one of the chairs, placing his hands over his face and hissed, "What am I going to do... what if he leaves... I mean... if he really means it about leaving...?" He looked up at Larabee as if the man could answer his agonising question. "What am I going to do if he leaves, Chris?"
Larabee closed his eyes, the pain in his friend's eyes too much to witness. When had it all gone so wrong? Yesterday had been a perfect day. For the first time since his wife and child had been killed Chris was actually enjoying the day, but it had all been blown to hell the moment Tanner had attacked Standish over his choice of present. "I don't know," he finally answered honestly, "but we have about a day, if we are lucky, to sort it out."
Ezra gathered up the reins of his horse, and without a second thought he spurred the animal out of town, heading for the desolation of the surrounding area and hopefully some peace where he could consider the events of the previous day. After the visit from Wilmington, he had been followed into the restaurant by Sanchez, who had effectively ruined his breakfast by trying to explain Vin's attitude and behaviour to his reluctant table partner. Standish had not been a very sympathetic listener and had only ended up snarling harsh words to the other man that had him raising from the table to his full height, glaring at the gambler and storming from the room. And then to make matters worse Jackson had bumped into Standish leaving the restaurant and his barely eaten meal and proceeded to berate him about how Tanner had felt about receiving such an expensive present, one that he could never hope to return in kind, and shouldn't Ezra put himself in Tanner's position and understand what it mean to always have someone throwing their money in their face. Ezra had not even attempted to answer the healer, just stormed away, biting his tongue firmly between pale lips.
The gambler knew he had to get out of town for a while, as he was sure that Larabee would be his next visitor with helpful advice, and he was not so sure that he could maintain his attitude of cool aloofness when confronted by Chris' obvious concern.
Late in the afternoon, JD wandered into the livery stable just in time to hear Ezra tell old man Jipson, the owner "...Yes, that's right I will want my horse saddled and ready for dawn... I will be leaving at first light tomorrow... so I will pay you the week's money..."
"Ezra... you're leaving..." JD blurted out, blinking owlishly at the other man, as he rushed forwards. Although he had heard what Standish had said in the saloon he had not actually believe that the gambler would really leave.
Standish span to face the gawking lad and snapped, "Mr Dunne, do your bad manners know no bounds... This was a private conversation."
Jipson wisely accepted the money that Ezra was holding out, and with a short nod of agreement regarding the gambler's request for the horse the next day, he slipped into the background. He had been in the saloon the night before, and while not actually knowing what had taken place he knew that something important had occurred at the seven men's table and he didn't want to get caught anywhere near it.
"But Ezra..." JD pushed on, heedless of the danger he might be placing himself in by ignoring the warning signs that the gambler was issuing. "you can't leave... you just can't..."
"And pray tell me why not, Mr Dunne?" Standish sneeringly requested along with a raised eyebrow.
JD shot a look over towards Jipson who was just closing the large barn door that led to the coral out back of the stables, then seeing that they were now alone, the younger man approached closely and offered his tone quite intense, "because you can't leave Vin.."
Ezra stood stock still in amazement, his jaw nearly dropping open, he only managed to keep it closed from years of good breeding. Finally he asked, too stunned to be really upset, "and why do you feel that I can't leave Mr Tanner?"
JD looked slightly annoyed as if he was having to explain something very simple to an adult who should really know better, "because you ... you know... you ... have... feelings... for him... and he... well he's doesn't sleep in his wagon no more...." he finally muttered, casting fugitive glances about to ensure that they were not being overheard. He had been totally shocked the day a few months ago when Buck had finally pulled him aside to explained just exactly what the relationship was between the gambler and the tracker. Luckily Wilmington's ability to explain about love had been adept on that day, so that JD did not look on the emotions that Ezra and Vin had for each other as anything but the purest of feelings.
Ezra looked at JD for several long seconds before he threw back his head and laughed. It a was belly ripping, full throated bellow of a sound, which lasted for several moments, until the gambler wiped his eyes of the tears that threaten to fall, and reaching out a shaking hand he gently laid it on JD's shoulder and confided in a whisper, "JD... I sincerely hope that you never lose the innocence that you have displayed today... it is one of your more endearing qualities... But alas I know that fairly soon the torment of love will thrust you into the harsh world of reality, and you will see that love, like water in a desert is only as good as the container you carry it in."
"Eh?" JD questioned now totally thrown, "Water... desert?" he asked again.
Standish sighed and removing his hand he offered words of wisdom for free as he said, "JD, last night.. when Mr Tanner... when he refused my Christmas gift so violently, he..." Ezra paused, desperately searching for the right words to explain to this innocent the agony of love. He decided that it would help greatly to keep the words simple. "he said that I was ashamed of him... that's not the case... you see Mr Tanner has er... grown tied of... of what we had and this is his way of ending it..." Seeing the confused look this earned him he pushed on, suddenly it was important that this lad understand how much he had been hurt "He's actions last night clearly rejected that love that you and I mistakenly thought existed between us..."
"I don't see how?" JD butted in, his face now one mass of frowning muscle.
Ezra sighed again, this time loudly. Maybe it had not been such a good idea to start this conversation with JD but he had started it and Standish felt obliged to continue it. "Alright." Ezra began as he moved slightly away from the young man, gathering his words and thoughts, "let's explain it this way then. Just assume that you er... loved Casey..." he held up his hands forestalling the denial he knew was coming, "let's just say for the moment that you were madly in love with her and she... she bought you a shirt... a very expensive shirt... would you give it back to her and say that you didn't like it, that you were ashamed that she had spent the money on you?"
"But you brought a suit Ezra... with a shirt... that did cost a lot of money" JD began, but stopped wide eyed as Ezra glared him into silence.
"I can afford to buy Mr Tanner a suit and a shirt... Casey... Casey the poor child can only afford to buy you a shirt... an expensive linen shirt that cost her a lot of money..." he added firmly, his eyes flaring unable to stop himself for issuing the barb.
"Alright." JD finally conceded knowing that this was important to Ezra. "Casey has bought me a shirt... a... an expensive linen shirt... and er... do I like the shirt Ezra." He ventured, a frown marring his handsome face.
Standish sucked in another gulp of air before he expelled it and offered seriously, "no... you hate the shirt... it's the wrong colour, and it is from a linen you know will itch... but she has given it to you and remember you love her... now think very carefully... would you give the gift back and say that you didn't like it, that she was only buying you the expensive present because you were poor and she was just rubbing your nose in the fact that she has money? Or would you just accept the present."
JD was watching Ezra like a hawk as if his expression would give some indication of what way he wanted the younger man to chose... Not getting any help from the other man, Dunne began to think about the situation, swallowing he finally said, "I think I would accept it and thank her for the present..." seeing Ezra nod he added hastily, "but I wouldn't wear it... not if it itched..."
"Not even if she nicely asked you to wear it?" Ezra coerced gently.
"You saying that Vin should have just accepted the clothes whether he liked them or not because he has er... feelings for you... right?" JD finally said. "and the fact that he knows he can't afford to buy you er.. expensive things back is beside the point?"
"Yes." Ezra expelled his breath, smiling broadly as the man got the point he was trying to make.
JD frowned, and said slowly, not sure if his logic was correct but feeling that the words needed to be said because they seemed right, "but Ezra, if you love Vin as you say I er.. love Casey... then shouldn't you able to accept that he didn't like the present you got him, and understand that well... it must be hard for him... seeing you looking so... well nice all the time, and all he can buy you is well... not nearly as nice as the stuff you already have... I mean... a man should be able to provide for those he loves... and buy them pretty things... and all... I know that I wouldn't want Casey to think that I loved her less just cause I ain't got any money... but well... them clothes you brought does kinda look like you want Vin to change... to become more fancy like you... and well... I don't think Casey would want me to change... not if it was really me she loved..."
"I beg your pardon?" Ezra squawked, totally thrown by JD's thought erratic progress.
"I mean... if I didn't like Casey shirt... and I told her that... well I would kind of expect her to accept my not liking it, 'cause it's... it's the way I am... I mean, I wouldn't want to really lie to her... letting her think I liked the shirt and all... especially if it itched..." He slowly stumbled to a stop, slightly concerned by the peculiar expression that had filtered across the gambler's face. He added weakly, "my mother used to say that if you loved someone, you love them for what they are... and not for what you can make them into... and you didn't need to lie to them as well... they would accept you for what you are... no matter how bad it was, as long as you were honest about it." The words drifted to a weak conclusion, and silence ruled for several long minutes.
Finally Standish let out a deep breath and nodding he offered mildly, "JD, if anyone ever calls you naive or foolish again, you come and tell me, and I will personally beat them until they apologise... do you understand... as I think you are one of the wisest men I have ever known."
JD nodded, not sure he understood what had just happened, but he was pleased to see some of the old Ezra of the day before sneaking past the exterior that he had witnessed that morning.
The gambler moved over towards the door where Jipson the livery owner had passed and opening the door he called out, "Mr Jipson, I will not be leaving in the morning after all..." he then turned headed towards the exit. JD picked up speed to follow him. Once outside Ezra said, "I would appreciate it if you didn't mention our little conversation to anyone."
The younger man nodded eagerly, he was quite willing to keep it between himself and the gambler as he was not sure exactly what he had said that had changed Ezra's mind. He had only told the other man the truth, and had not honestly thought that it would have such a drastic affect on the gambler. "I think I'll go and pay Casey a visit," JD suddenly said, turning to head back towards the stable.
"Why?" Ezra questioned, in some confusion by the younger man's sudden about turn.
"I just want to let her know that I really, really like my hat and not the one that she pointed out in Mrs Potter's place the other day." With that the young man was gone. Ezra raised an eyebrow, before he headed back towards the general store, and an order he had to cancel and a present he had to buy.
He had spent the whole day trying to figure out just what had gone wrong with his relationship with Tanner, had looked at the events of the night before from every conceivable angle and in each of them he had been the victim, the one wronged as Vin twisted out of their relationship. It was only after he had spoken to JD that the thought occurred to him that he might have been the one trying to change Tanner with his little gifts and suggestions that his lover should do this and wear that. Over the last few months he had been subtly trying to alter Vin's outlook on life. He thought that he had been raising Tanner's awareness of the beautiful things in life and he had not considered that his innocent actions might have been viewed as an attempt to actually alter the man he loved. How could he have been so blind and so much like his mother? Had she not spent his entire childhood bending and shaping him into the man she wanted him to be, with bribes, gifts, sweet promises and finally just brooding and arguing until she got what she wanted?
He shivered and hurried on his way, hoping that he was not too late, and that he could show Vin Tanner, the man he loved, that he did in fact love him just the way he was and that Ezra Standish could never be ashamed of him.
Later that evening the saloon was once more in full swing. When Chris and Buck entered the bar, they let out a sigh of relief. They had spent most of the day searching for the gambler, but had only been able to discover that he had visited the general store. Mrs Porter had been very reluctant to even tell them this, and had actually refused to tell them what he had purchased, and then they had followed his path to the livery stable, where Mr Jipson had inform them that the gambler had taken his horse for a ride, but would be back in the saloon that evening. They had returned defeated to the sheriff's office, as the day progress into late afternoon they had also unable to find JD much to Buck's intense annoyance, and had spent the remainder of the afternoon forming a plan that would allow Tanner to win back Standish's affection.
As stated by Mr Jipson, Ezra was indeed in his usual seat dealing out cards with three other men. Every seat at the table was taken, but the two men didn't hesitate as they approached and dragged up another two chairs. "Mind if we join in," Chris said, in a tone that dared anyone to object. The game folded fairly quickly after that.
"Mr Larabee, I was involved in quite an interesting game of chance, and you just ruined my evening's entertainment." There was still an edge of ice in the words, but Chris was pleased to note that the frozen look had departed for Standish's eyes.
"Just wanted to spend some time with a friend," Larabee shot back with a forced smile.
"And I just wanted to play some cards," Ezra retorted.
Chris spread his hands in defeat before he pulled out some money and laying it on the table said, "So deal."
Buck taking his queue from Chris also pulled out some money and a slow game began. As time passed, Josiah and Nathan drifted in and claimed seats at the table on the raised platform. They had been informed of what Larabee, Tanner and Wilmington had planned for the evening and were there to give their support, then JD appeared and he smiled broadly at his friends as he joined them.
"Where the hell you been?" Buck demanded. He had started to grow concerned for the youth.
"Went to visit Casey," JD stated, settling down and indicating that he wanted to be dealt in. Ezra smiled warmly and made sure the boy got a good hand. Larabee noted the smile and raised an eyebrow, he was going to have to have a quiet word with JD once this evening was over.
"Why..." Buck asked, "you only saw her yesterday at Church."
JD frowned and stated mysteriously, "Just wanted to make sure she knew I really liked my hat."
This earned him a look of confusion from four of the five men who sat about the table. Ezra just smiled into his drink.
Suddenly a hush fell over the room, and Ezra glanced up from his cards, seeing everyone looking in the general direction of the door he shot a fleeting look over. His breath caught as his eyes widened, and this time even his breeding was unable to prevent his mouth from slipping open and saying open.
Vin Tanner stood nervously poised on the threshold of the saloon. He was the most incredibly beautiful sight the gambler had ever seen. He was dressed in the tan suede suit that Ezra had brought him, his hair, shining bright, looking silkily smooth and was pulled back from his face, which highlighted his strong, chiselled features, his face was clean shaven. The clothes clung to his body and emphasised the slender build, his muscles actually flowed beneath the suede, little was left to the imagine, this was indeed a find specimen of a man, and many eyes, both men and woman watched him with open lust as he moved. When he walked towards the table where his friends sat, the sway of the jacket only called attention to his slender hips. Ezra felt his breath catch in his throat and knew that he was just drooling. This was closely followed by a hot flash of jealously as he noted the expression of others in the room. Damn it, this man was his! He was also starting to shift uncomfortable in his seat, as his own clothes had suddenly become too restrictive for his body.
"Ezra...." Vin acknowledged huskily as he accepted the chair that had suddenly appeared next to his still dazed lover, courtesy of Wilmington and Larabee.
"Mr... Mr Tanner..." Standish finally managed to stutter, his mouth suddenly too dry.
"Nice fit Ezra." Vin said, as he tilted first one way and then another, the small movement showing off his muscled body in the skin of the suit. When he sat back and stretched the material across his lap, so only Ezra could see, it was all the gambler could do not to fall from his seat.
"Huh-uh." The normally articulately spoken gambler grunted, still caught and held by his handsome lover. The man was a picture of lust on legs.
"Speaks really pretty when he's shocked doesn't he." Vin said to the others, more then pleased with the affect his appearance was having on his estranged lover.
"I thought you found the suit offensive Mr Tanner." Ezra suddenly got his voice and wits back, although the words sounded harsh, the tone was soft and caressing and took the sting out.
Vin shot him a sideways glance, lap stretching once more before he gave him the wink as he smiled back, "it's kinda grew on me... you could say...." He didn't add that both Buck and himself had spent the better part of the morning cleaning the mess from the suit, and then the remainder of the day in the bathhouse making himself up to look as good as the suit.
"Believe me, Ezra, that suit is so er... tight a fit, that we nearly did have to grow that boy into it." Buck sniggered then groaned and reached for his lower leg as Chris glared at him and kicked him at the same time.
Suddenly recalling just where they were, Ezra pulled himself together and reaching down under his chair he drew out a long narrow packet which he held out to Vin. The tracker looked slightly confused for a moment then fearful as he accepted it, not sure he would like this gift from Ezra as he fully expected the man to slap him down like he had this morning and inform him in no uncertain terms that their relationship was well and truly over.
Ezra seeing the sudden uncertainly and fear in eyes of the man he undeniably loved, leant over and gently spoke, just loud enough for the table to hear, but no-one else. "a very wise man once told me, that when you love someone... you don't try to change them... I'm sorry Mr Tanner... Vin... I honestly didn't realise that I was attempting to do that... and...." he looked into Tanner's eyes and spoke from his heart, "I have never nor will I ever be ashamed of you..." seeing the other's expression melt he drew in another breath and hurried on, "this wise man also told me that, to tell the one you love the truth is just another way of showing them exactly how much you truly do love them... last night you only told me the truth, the way you honestly felt... it was my mistake..." the last words were so low that only the actual man the words were intended for heard them "and Vin Tanner I do love you... very much.."
JD looked confused for just a moment then he smiled broadly and nudging Buck in the ribs he sat back looking decidedly pleased with himself. Buck on the other hand just frowned at him but soon turned his attention back to the package that Ezra had given Vin.
Slowly, with slightly shaking hands the tracker began to unwrap the present. As he opened it he saw that it was a long narrow box, lifting the lid he paused and his breath caught in his throat and he turned shining eyes on the man he found he loved even more then he thought possible. Then seeing the others' expectant glances he lifted the lid of the box totally to reveal a shining new knife, it was long, about 18" and the end curved down into a tip, along the blade lay the words, 'Vin, never change, I will always love you E'. The handle was neatly woven and fitted easily into his grasp, it felt like it had been made for him. A bowie knife.
"Ez..." he stuttered totally at a loss for words. Chris, seeing the gift, smiled at the gambler, whose total attention was firmly fixed on his lover's expression. Standing Larabee moved over to the bar and picking up another bottle of unopened whiskey he retrieved the presents that had been left there the night before. Moving back he placed them firmly in front of the gambler.
"Things broke up so quickly last night, Ezra." He explained to the gambler, "that you never got to open your presents."
The man in question looked surprised once more and then slowly he began to unwrap the gifts before him. He opened every one carefully, examined it for the precious gift it was before he thanked the sender. He smiled at the cologne that JD had got him. He would never wear it, but he still smiled and decided that he was glad that he was not in love with the younger man as he could tell just one white lie to put such a smile on the lad's face as JD punched Buck saying.
"See I told you he'd wear it."
With a sinking feeling the gambler realised that he would indeed wear it - just once. Then he reached the present that Vin had got him. He stopped and threw his lover a look, suddenly afraid to open it. Having just got back the most important thing in his life, he was not sure if he was strong enough to lose it again.
"Go on, Ez... if you don't like it..." Vin smiled, "I'll understand." Then turning serious he leant in again and stated quietly, "I'm sorry about my remark... about you being ashamed of me... it wasn't me... not how I really felt... it was just the surprise of the suit... it threw me... brought up some old ghosts that I thought I had a handle on..."
Taking a steadying breath, Standish quickly unwrapped the small box, opening it he paused, totally shocked to see the small cufflinks that winked back at him his initials E on one and S on the other.
"I er... saw them in a book... sent to San Francisco for them... they are er... inlaid with pearl or some such." It was obvious that Tanner was only citing what he had been told about the present.
"They are...." Ezra swallowed and looked up, love brimming his eyes as he answered honestly, "they are the best present I've ever been given." Then his eyes twinkled as he confessed in totally honestly, "well the second best present." His look informed Tanner of just what the best was and the man was unable to stop the blush that crept up his handsome face.
Vin leant in and smiling broadly he confided, "hell no Ezra they're gonna end up third... the second best is gonna be unwrapped later..."
The knowing smile caused the rush of emotion from earlier to suddenly reach the lower part of the gambler's body again, and licking at suddenly dry lips he stuttered. "Er... thank you gentlemen, but I think that Mr Tanner and I are going to er... leave for a private game of ... er cards... er..." he quickly stood and gathering his present in front of him to hide his growing embarrassment he nodded once and moved away.
"Hell Ezra let me help you with those." Vin offered innocently, standing and reaching out to take some of the gifts of the gambler.
"No." squeaked the other man, clutching them tighter to his person. Then nodding towards the table he snapped, "you bring the whiskey... good evening gentleman, and..." he paused and said with a true Standish smile, "Merry Christmas."
Vin laughed and snatched up the unopened bottle of whiskey that Chris had purchased and winking at his friends he followed his lover up the stairs, totally unaware of the lustful glances he got from the other people in the bar as he swayed up the stairs after Ezra in his stunningly skin tight suit.
Several hours and a long hot loving session later, Ezra lay sprawled, totally relaxed over Vin's chest, their legs intertwined. Totally at ease with each other, their bodies sedated, the gambler was gently kissing the hard muscles of his lover's chest as he swiped his hand over the other nipple, enjoying the feel of it hardening once more under his ministration.
"Ezra... yer gonna have to just use my body to fulfil your lustful needs, 'cause I just ain't got the strength to join you..." Vin spoke, his head tossed back on the pillow, neck sweat slicked and arched, as he enjoyed his lover's touch, his own hand gently running from the gambler's neck to the crease of his backside, smoothly slipping along the handsome man's spine.
"I fear that you are giving me a strength that is beyond my ability at the moment, Mr Tanner," Ezra whispered as he continued to gently pet the body under his hand. Silence ruled while Vin digested the other man's words.
Then Standish broke the silence again, just edging Tanner back from sleep as he said sadly, "I fear I made a major mistake in purchasing that suit for you."
"Ahh Ezra..." Tanner began, suddenly distraught that Standish was still upset about his reaction to the suit. "I think it's a fine suit... really petty... like I said downstairs... it was just some old ghost from my past talking... or blame it on the drink Ez... I love the suit just fine..." He began, but then fell silent as Ezra moved up to lean over him, silencing his fumbled words with a kiss that curled his toes.
As Ezra gently pulled away from the soul searching kiss he confided, a scant breath away from the lips his was just abusing, "I only meant that I did not anticipate just how tasty a morsel you would actually look in the damn thing. I fear that if you wear it out in public too often I am going to have to hurt an awful lot of people. And not all of them women," he finished with indignation.
Vin smiled and, reaching up he fixed his hands either side of Ezra's face, drawing him back for another kiss. Their tongues met and duelled silently before the gambler moaned and pushed his body into his lover's, showing just what kind of affect the kiss was having on him. His thrust was met in equal by a thrust from Tanner who broke the kiss to gasp out. "Can we keep it if I promise to only wear it in private...." He let his eyes linger on those of his lover, before he licked his kiss swollen lips and pushing up, earning him a groan of pleasure.
"Only if you..." gasped Ezra nearly lost to the feeling spreading throughout his body, "promise to lend me your knife if we have trouble getting you out if it quick enough..."
Tanner stopped dead still, freezing in place. Standish opened lust filled eyes and gasped, "What?" He was amazed that Vin had the strength to just stop like that, as he could read an equal level of lust in his eyes.
"That's my suit Ezra," Tanner spoke each word slowly and clearly, with defined edge of steel, "and if you so much a bust a button on it, I'll take it out of your hide."
Standish wiggled against Tanner causing the man to bite his lip as he fought to see what the gambler's reaction would be to his fighting talk. Ezra bowed his head, struggling for control before he tilted his green eyes upwards and breathed, "now there is an interesting direction to take our relationship in..." he thrust again with every other word and demanded, with each tilt of his hips. "exactly what... part of... my hide... were you... considering... taking it... out off... Mr Tanner?"
Ezra let out a yelp of surprise as the tracker used a sudden bout of strength and twisted them about with great agility and the gambler suddenly found himself on his back with Tanner on top of him and his leg gently being lifting over the other's shoulders. As Vin moved into position he hissed lovingly, "You get to guess... but I'm giving you a clue right now..." he pushed home, before adding, "and... it's... Vin... VIN... not... Mr... Tanner..." He said with each thrust, but he was not surprised when Ezra's only reply was a cry of passion, that he soon managed to stifle as Tanner's lips descended on his lover's.
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