Meals Taken Away From Home
(Old West)

by Cyc

Ezra awoke with a shiver. Sparing a scowl for the weak moonlight filtering through the window shutters, he pulled the bedcovers over his shoulders and rolled over to move closer to Chris. Only Chris wasn't anywhere near.

Curled up on his side at the opposite edge of the mattress, Chris had turned his back on Ezra, adopting a position he only took when angry or upset - and usually drunk.

The few feet of cold mattress between them seemed like miles.

"Chris?" Ezra ventured softly into the night chill. "Are you asleep?"

It always seemed like a stupid question to ask a sleeping person, or even a person who was just feigning sleep, but Ezra felt obliged to try.

Predictably, there was no response.

"Chris?" he tried again before shuffling a little closer and reaching out to touch Chris' shoulder.

"Don't," Chris' voice cut hard through the stillness and he shrugged off Ezra's fingers. "Go back to sleep."

"I'm afraid sleep has suddenly lost its appeal," Ezra returned, relieved that Chris didn't sound drunk. He settled down into the cold mattress before asking quietly, "What's wrong? Bad dream?"

After a moment, Chris breathed out resignedly. "No."

"Care to share?" Ezra asked with a smile.

"No," Chris repeated flatly.

"In that case, could you do me the favour of moving back from the edge of the mattress? I have no wish to be rudely awakened by you 'going bump in the night'."

"If it'll keep you quiet," Chris sighed, moving back into Ezra's embrace. "Happy?"

"Very. Thank you."

A few minutes later, Ezra was just drifting off against the warmth of Chris' back when the steady beat of Chris' heart was drowned out by four words that made Ezra's own heart miss a beat.

"I dreamed about Adam," Chris said low.

Ezra didn't know how to respond. He just lay looking at the silhouette of Chris' shoulder, trapped between apologising for something he hadn't done and the urge to try and kiss it better.

"He must have been about two or three," Chris went on. "It was supper time and we were walking home through the long grass. A storm was coming over and it got dark fast. He was scared but he didn't want me to carry him."

Still unsure what to say, Ezra settled for a light kiss on Chris' shoulder.

"Do you know how hard a little boy can hold onto your fingers, Ezra?" Chris asked as if spurred to it by the touch of Ezra's lips.

Ezra closed his eyes before answering quietly. "No, Chris, I don't. I'm sorry."

Three or four heartbeats later, Chris turned to take Ezra into a tight embrace.

"You've nothing to be sorry for," he said softly.


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