Out Of The Light
(Old West)

by Lissa Grinstead


Sweet kisses ignited his body, leaving a trail of fire. Ezra moaned and the kisses stopped for a second as his assailant looked up at him and smiled briefly, then continued his assault. It was a delicious sensation. Uncertainty blended with confidence. Innocence with experience. The duality of the feelings was intoxicating.

Ezra drew his companion's face up to meet his own and passionately kissed him. He felt comfortable, excited, loved, wanted.These feelings combined within him and he smiled through the kiss, deepening it.

Gunshots fired off into the street, waking Ezra from his dream. The transition from dream to awareness was not a pleasant one. He noted immediately that he was alone. But the feeling which resided within him would not disperse. The passion he still felt was almost so intense as to be palpable. It hurt. It honestly pained him to be alone.

Ezra schooled his expression quickly, and donned his apparel and guns before going to his window to see what was going on. Then he ran out of the room to join in the action.

+ + + + + + +

The assault was quickly contained, and the perpetrators were locked up without much incident. Sure, a few windows were broken, and a couple of boards were shot. But overall, the property damage was minimal, and there were no personal injuries.

Six of the seven regulators headed to the saloon. Ezra walked in last. The seat next to JD was the only one still open by the time he got to the table. Ezra had been avoiding JD ever since "the incident." Neither of them had spoken about it. Actually, they had not spoken since.

Ezra had watched JD go off with Casey several times. And strangely enough, he felt a pang every time he saw it. Still, he knew that what he had said, "this never happened," was truly the best for both of them. He'd been run out of enough towns to know that he didn't want to be run out of Four Corners.

And this time, the citizens wouldn't be nice when they evicted him. Before, he'd merely conned people out of money. This would be something which they'd find far more offensive. Ezra was sure he didn't want to find out how they would react. And he was even more certain that JD would be devastated if he were chased from a town.

Still, those moments he'd shared with JD had made him realize something which he'd never thought of before. He cared about the sheriff in more ways than he'd known.

These thoughts all ran through Ezra's head quickly, and of course didn't show on his face. But he was weighing whether or not to sit next to JD. No one knew...yet. That was the operative word. No one knew yet.

Ezra decided to sit next to JD. He would not have avoided sitting next to JD before. And to do so now would be suspicious.

JD glanced at Ezra, then quickly turned away. But the action was noted by Larabee.

Chris raised an eyebrow and looked directly at the two men. "You boys got a problem?"

Ezra raised an eyebrow and looked directly at Chris. "Whatever do you mean, Mr. Larabee?" He brushed the sleeve of his jacket then casually drank his whiskey.

"No problem here," JD replied.

Ezra could tell that Chris was not convinced. The leader looked at them. "Work it out."

Neither man responded to Chris's comment. After a few tense moments, Ezra took out his cards. "Anyone for a game?" He looked around the table and smiled.

JD quickly downed his milk and stood. "Actually, I was gonna go meet Casey." He stood up and left.

Ezra flinched inwardly, but didn't show it. He looked at the others.

"Had a dream last night, Brother Ezra. Let's just say luck isn't my lady today," Josiah said regretfully. He took a long pull at his beer, finishing it off. He stood up, and smiled hugely. "Sides. I got some work to do."

Nathan looked up. "Could you use a hand?"

Josiah smiled. "I ain't one to turn down an offer like that."

The two men left.

Vin and Chris simply shook their heads. Ezra shrugged. "Well, gentlemen, I believe I shall be taking my leave as well."

+ + + + + + +

JD rode with Casey. He'd been spending more time with her lately, to try to get over the feelings of uncertainty that had recently surfaced within him. He looked over at Casey. She was beautiful.

Casey smiled at him, and JD returned the smile. But for reasons he didn't understand, it didn't warm him as it used to. But still, he was unsure.

JD looked over to Casey. "Are you up to fishin?"

"Sure, JD." Then she looked at him quizzically. "Ain't that what we were plannin on anyway?"

JD blushed and nodded.

"Sure are quiet, JD. What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Just not feeling much like talking today." Or fishing either, he thought.

It didn't take too long to get to the fishing hole. JD took the reins of the horses and wrapped them loosely around a branch. Casey took the poles they'd brought off the saddle and headed toward the water.

"You comin', JD?" she asked.

JD took a deep breath and nodded. He walked over to Casey and took the poles from her.

"JD?" she inquired.

JD wrapped his arms around her and, gently at first, began to kiss Casey. She responded to him. He moved his hands along and down her back. She wrapped her arms around him. JD kissed her cheek and then her neck, while bringing one hand forward. He cupped one breast in his hand, and lightly began to apply some pressure. Casey was startled.

JD knew the reason--he'd never pressed this before. But he had to know; one way or the other he had to know. While she was still shocked, he started to unbutton her shirt.

Casey tried to back away from him. "What's wrong with you JD?" she asked indignantly when he wouldn't let her go.

Instead of answering, JD covered her mouth with his and kissed her invasively while his hand continued the exploration of her body. Casey was no longer happy and relaxed he could tell, but it didn't make him stop. She got one arm loose and punched him hard in the stomach.

JD let go of her.

"Why, JD?" she asked him. He could not tell if she was upset, hurt, scared or what. She was crying as she ran towards her horse. And away from him.

JD started running towards her. "Casey, I'm sorry." And he was, but he was running to try to apologize more out of a feeling of "this is the thing I'm supposed to do" than "this is something I want to do."

"Stay away from me!" she shouted at him. She took the reins of her own horse and mounted it. Without another word, she rode off.

JD stopped and watched her go. He was sorry, in more ways than one. He didn't love her, not the way he'd thought he had a few weeks ago.

"What am I gonna do?" he whispered to no one. If Casey told Nettie what had happened, JD knew he was as good as dead. Hell, if she told anyone what he'd just done to her, he was as good as dead.

But that wasn't what was bothering him the most. JD was confused because he had feelings for Ezra. Ezra, who had said "this never happened" after sharing in the most intimate experience JD had ever had...Ezra, who had not spoken to him since...Ezra, who avoided him like the plague.

JD had been spending as much time with Casey as he could these last few weeks. But even though he'd just kissed her--no assaulted her, if he were honest with himself that is what it was--he only did it out of form. Not desire. He wanted to desire Casey. But he didn't.

JD sat down by the water's edge and started throwing stones. He needed to talk to someone about this, but who? Ordinarily, when he had "girl troubles," he'd go talk to Buck. But this wasn't his average "girl trouble." JD had no idea how Buck would react if JD told him that he desired another man. Hell, Buck would probably think he was kidding and pretend to make a pass at him.

Nathan was out of the question; so were Chris and Vin. JD shuddered at the mere thought

"What am I going to do?"

+ + + + + + +

Ezra sat on a chair on the boardwalk in front of the jail. Buck was inside, but Ezra had no interest in listening to the rogue relay the details of his latest romantic endeavors. There were two reasons for this lack of interest: firstly, Ezra suspected that fully three-quarters of what the man said was pure, unadorned embellishment, and secondly, Ezra was depressed enough.

So he sat out front, reading "The Scarlet Letter" and pondering how true it still held. An illicit love affair's discovery would certainly bring about social ostracization, or worse. He flipped the page. As he did so, he noticed JD had returned.

Ezra merely shook his head and continued reading. Hawthorne was not one of his favorite authors, although for an American writer he was tolerable. Ezra much preferred the offerings of the British novelists.

He heard footsteps coming towards the jail and looked up. JD was approaching the jail, no doubt to spend time with Buck. Even that caused a bitter taste to surface in Ezra's mouth. Inwardly he berated himself for such sentiment.

But it didn't make the feeling disappear.

"Hey Ezra," JD said.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Dunne. Pleasant ride?"

JD seemed startled by the question, but he nodded. "Buck in there?" JD asked.

Ezra nodded once. JD glanced nervously at him and then went inside. Ezra muttered to himself, "That went well." Then he stood and headed to the saloon.

Ezra ordered a bottle of whiskey and left the saloon. He didn't notice the odd glances that Vin gave him as he departed.

+ + + + + + +

JD paced in front of the desk. Buck watched him. The prisoners were all asleep and weren't causing problems.

"Spit it out, JD. Somethin's botherin, ya; you may as well just go on and tell me," Buck said.

JD looked at him and opened his mouth, as if to speak. But he closed it again without uttering a word.

Buck raised his eyebrows. "That bad. That Casey girl's got under your skin, huh?" He grinned broadly.

JD blushed, but looked away. "No Buck, that ain't it," he said softly.

"Then what is it?" Buck leaned forward and put one elbow on the desk. He rubbed his cheek and chin, watching JD.

JD looked at him. Then resumed his pacing. Finally he stopped and looked straight at Buck. "I just ain't sure, Buck."

Buck raised an eyebrow. "Tell me about it, JD." His voice was soft with sincerity. "What is it? Casey?"

"No... yes... Aw hell, I don't know anymore Buck. I thought I did. Couple of weeks ago, I thought I had it all figured out. But now I just don't know."

Buck looked at him appraisingly. "This have anything to do with that cave in, JD?"

JD almost flinched at the words. Buck nodded and said, "Comin' close to death can make a man take another look at his life."

JD nodded. "Yeah. Thing is, Buck, I was happy the way my life was goin before."

"So what's changed, JD?" Buck asked him.

"JD looked towards the window, then he resumed his pacing. "Nothing...everything. Me."

Buck nodded. "So what's changed, JD?" he asked again.

JD sat down and looked at him. Uncertainty was evident in his face. "I have. Or I haven't. I don't know. I guess I learned something I didn't know."

"And what was that?

JD took a deep breath and looked straight at Buck. "There's a reason why I ain't attracted to Casey, Buck. Just never really realized it before. I thought I was because I was supposed to be. Everyone wanted me to be. But, I never really was. Not really."

Buck watched him carefully. "Just what did Ezra say to you, JD?" The tone was accusatory.

"Ezra didn't say nothin!" JD said quickly. But it wasn't true. Ezra had said 'this never happened,' even though it had indeed happened.

"Then what did Ezra do to you, JD?"

"Nothin I didn't want him to," JD stated.

Buck watched him carefully and nodded once, knowingly. "It don't mean nothing, JD. Folks do all sorts of crazy things when they think they're gonna die."

JD shook his head. "That's just it, Buck. It didn't feel crazy then. Felt right. And I don't regret it."

Buck looked at him, a pained expression on his face. JD glared at him. "See, I knew I shouldn't have told you." Then he stormed out before Buck could say anything else.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra sat on the chair in his room, overlooking the street. He saw JD storm out of the sheriff's office and cross the street. 'That does not bode well,' he thought as he took another drink.

They were beginning to get more and more difficult to ignore, these desires he was feeling. Now he could even imagine JD's hands and breath on him when he was awake. It was most disconcerting to be daydreaming about this.

He took another drink and moved over to his secretary, removing some paper. It was time he got out of this town. It would only be a matter of time before someone found out if he stayed. Once again, Ezra was surprised because he realized his first fear regarding that discovery wasn't for himself.

It was for JD.

Mr. Larabee and all:

I must take my leave of you. I've received word that my mother has become ill, and I am uncertain as to her recovery.

It has been a pleasure and an honor riding with you gentlemen.

Ezra Standish

He looked at he note. Brief. It was too brief, surely they'd see something in that. On the other hand, he mused, perhaps the brevity of it would lend more of an air of credibility.

Ezra heard a knock on his door and opened it. Before he could fully react to who it was, a fist connected with his jaw, sending him careening back into the room.

Buck stepped into his room and slammed the door behind him.

"Mr. Wilmington, what has gotten in to you?" Ezra asked, irritably.

"Oh, I think you know Ezra. I'm sure you know," Buck growled. "How could you do that?"

And so it begins, Ezra thought. Before Ezra had a chance to answer, Buck punched him again, this time in the stomach.

Ezra doubled over, but managed to assert, "Mr. Wilmington, should you continue in your assault, I will have no choice but ..."

Buck punched him across the jaw again. "Continue? Hell yes I'm gonna continue."

Ezra charged at Buck and punched him hard in the side. Buck retaliated by punching Ezra hard enough to send him flying against the wall. While Ezra was down, Buck started to kick him.

Another person came into the room, just as Buck placed a kick to Ezra's temple. But Ezra couldn't tell who it was.

+ + + + + + +

Larabee pulled Buck back off of Ezra. "There a reason for this, or are you just using Ezra as target practice?"

Buck glared at him then made a move to continue his assault on Ezra, who lay motionless by the wall. Chris nodded slightly to the hallway, and Vin who had been standing there went to get Nathan.

"Mind tellin me why you're trying to kill one of my men, Buck?" Chris's tone brooked no discussion.

"Hell yes I mind. Ezra's gonna pay for what he did," Buck shouted.

"And what exactly was that, Buck? He cheat you out of money, steal one of your ladies?" Chris asked.

That last was so close yet so far that Buck laughed mirthlessly. "Ezra, steal one of my ladies? Hell, no that ain't what he did." Buck cast a dark glare at Ezra, who was beginning to rouse.

Ezra slowly got on his hand and knees, then braced himself against the wall as he stood up. But strangely enough, Ezra was not looking at Buck like he wanted to kill him. Buck was staring daggers at Ezra. Ezra merely nodded in acquiescence.

"Someone better tell me something. Now," Chris stated.

"I believe Mr. Wilmington is ired by something which transpired between Mr. Dunne and myself whilst we were confined."

Chris looked at Buck. "This true?"

Buck nodded.

"Mind enlightening me what that might be, Ezra?"

"Actually, yes." Ezra dusted off his jacket and passed Buck. Buck swung at him, just as JD came into the room.

"Buck, stop it!" JD shouted. "This ain't your concern."

"Like hell it ain't."

"If someone doesn't tell me what the hell is going on here, I swear I'm gonna start shooting."

Both Ezra and JD looked away from Chris. Buck glared at Ezra. "It's nothin, Chris."

Ezra said softly, "I took advantage of a situation. It was none of Mr. Dunne's doing. I'll leave at dawn." He looked straight at Chris. "Don't hold it against him."

Chris looked at the three of them and nodded, apparently understanding. "You don't have to leave Ezra."

Buck stated, "Yes, he does."

At the same time, JD looked at Ezra and said, "Please, don't go."

Ezra looked at Chris. "You see, Mr. Larabee. I must leave."

"At least go visit Nathan. Buck did a number on you," Chris said.

Ezra nodded and headed out of the room, still standing rather unsteadily. JD moved to help him. By the time he got to the staircase, Ezra was finding it difficult to maintain his balance. JD took his arm and tried to help him steady himself. Buck came up behind JD and pulled him away from Ezra.

Ezra fell down the stairs and lay crumpled and unmoving. JD ran to him, glaring up at Buck. "What did you do that for?" he asked.

"I didn't think he needed your help," Buck said, beginning to feel a little guilty when he saw the devastated look in JD's eyes. A look that was there not only because Ezra was leaving, but because the man was hurt...with injuries that had all been inflicted upon him by Buck, JD's best friend.

+ + + + + + +

Vin returned with Nathan shortly after Ezra fell down the stairs. Nathan moved over to the downed man's side. Vin raised an eyebrow at JD's presence and Buck's expression.

"What happened?" Nathan asked JD.

"Buck," JD said harshly. "Buck happened."

Nathan looked up at Buck, who shrugged. "Ezra steal your watch?"

"Somethin' like that," Buck said.

Chris came down the stairs and looked at Buck. "I want to speak with you now." The two men left the hotel.

Nathan finished giving Ezra a cursory examination. He propped the man up. Before he could ask, JD already was there helping him with Ezra. Each man had one of Ezra's arms draped over his shoulder and supported him around his waist. Ezra's head still lolled forward.

"He gonna be okay, Nathan?" JD asked, worry lacing his voice.

"Probably. Let's get him back upstairs." The two men negotiated the stairs and put Ezra on the bed. JD immediately sat down beside Ezra and took his hand.

Nathan looked at him, "There a reason Buck did this?"

JD nodded. "Yeah."

"You wanna tell me what it was?" Nathan continued looking at the bruises which were forming on Ezra.

"Something I told him."

Nathan looked up at JD. "And what might that be."

"If I tell you, you'll just hit him too," JD whined.

Nathan raised an eyebrow. "That bad, eh?"

"I didn't think so. But Buck apparently did." JD looked back at Ezra.

Nathan nodded. "What about Casey?"

"Huh?" JD looked up at Nathan.

"How do you feel about Casey? You gonna tell that little gal that you don't love her?" Nathan asked.

"Shoot, I don't think she'll talk to me anymore anyway. We had a little fight."

Nathan nodded. "And how do you feel about Ezra?"

JD was so shocked he actually answered. "I don't know. I want to find out."

Neither man had noticed that Ezra had awakened. "No you do not, Mr. Dunne," Ezra said softly.

"Why not?" JD asked.

"Why don't you give me a moment with Ezra, JD?" Nathan asked JD before shooing him out of the room. Then he turned back to Ezra. "Now, I ain't sayin I condone this. But, it's obvious JD has feelins for you."

Ezra looked at Nathan. "Feelings are not the issue, Mr. Jackson. You know as well as I do how this town would react should I allow Mr. Dunne to explore those feelings. You saw how Mr. Wilmington reacted. Do you honestly think it would be any different? Any better?"

Ezra looked away from him.

"Maybe not, Ezra. But you can't base your whole life on what others would think."

"Oh can't I?" Ezra quipped.

"Well, maybe you can. But what about JD?"

"It is best for him."

"You need to let him decide that," Nathan returned. Then he looked away and muttered, "I can not believe I am supporting this."

"Nor can I, Mr. Jackson."

Nathan smiled. "Ezra, you know, sometimes it is all right to be selfish. Now, I want you to get some rest. You have a couple cracked ribs and a concussion."

"Remind me to thank Mr. Wilmington later," Ezra stated, settling back into the pillows. Almost immediately, the southerner was asleep.

Nathan went and opened the door. JD was still out in the hall, looking dejected. Nathan looked at him. "He cares about you. That's why he said that."

JD smiled. "How is he?"

"Well, he's got a concussion. Gonna need to be woke up every couple hours."

"I'll sit with him," JD volunteered and went into Ezra's room.

+ + + + + + +

JD watched Ezra. He moved and sat on the bed beside Ezra and took the older man's hand. Ezra didn't seem to notice. JD began to unbutton Ezra's shirt, lightly massaging his chest as he revealed the flesh usually kept hidden.

Though he'd felt the musculature Ezra possessed, JD had never seen his body. JD bent down and kissed Ezra's neck and then began to cover his chest with kisses, carefully avoiding the bruises. Ezra groaned, but didn't wake up.

JD lay down beside Ezra and continued his exploration of his body. He covered Ezra's mouth with his own and kissed him. After a moment, Ezra began to respond to him.

"Mr. Dunne?" Ezra stated, confused.

"It's JD. When are you gonna start calling me JD?"

"JD, what are you doing?"

JD smiled as he continued his ministrations and began to unbutton Ezra's trousers. "Can't you tell?"

Ezra shook his head. "No, I mean yes. I mean why?'

JD looked at him. "Ezra, I'm really attracted to you. If you ain't interested in me, just tell me."

"JD, do you have any notion of how people will react."

"Dang it, Ezra! It ain't people I'm concerned about. It's you." To emphasize his point, JD kissed Ezra again, putting all of his feeling into it.

Ezra responded to JD by pulling him closer. After a second, Ezra pushed him away. "No, we can't do this, JD."

JD looked at him, an expression of extreme hurt reflecting in his eyes.

Ezra took a deep breath. "Look, JD. I care about you. Deeply. I don't want you to get hurt."

"And this ain't?"

Ezra rubbed a hand over his face, and then winced. He looked into JD's eyes. "Do you have any notion what could happen? What the people of this town might do?"

"Yeah, Ezra, I think I do. But I don't care," JD responded. Then he kissed the gambler once again. "Take a chance with me, won't ya?" JD fixed Ezra with a sincere stare. After a few moments, Ezra smiled slightly and nodded.

JD kissed Ezra once again. "Get some rest. Buck did a number on you."

"Rest assured, I'll exact a certain retribution for his actions."

JD backed off a little. "You wouldn't!"

Ezra grinned. "Trust me," he whispered and pulled JD closer. "I won't engage the man in fisticuffs."

JD smiled. "What will you do?"

"Oh, I don't know. I'd rather concentrate on other matters right now." With that, Ezra kissed JD once more.

+ + + + + + +

Buck glared at Chris, still digesting what the other man had said. Kid's got a right to make his own decisions. And I don't see Ezra forcing himself on anyone. Like it or not, you were out of line.

And no matter what Buck had said in his own defense, Chris was not changing his opinion. Buck couldn't understand why Chris wasn't outraged, why Chris wasn't ready to string the slippery conman up.

Finally, Buck said, "Can't you see Ezra's just using him?"

"No, Buck. I can't see that," Chris replied.

"He's gonna hurt the kid," Buck protested.

"Seems to me, the only one hurtin the kid is you. And you don't even see how you're doin it."

"Then why don't you enlighten me?" Buck replied, exasperated.

Chris smiled a whimsical smile. "I remember when me and Sarah first got married, we were so happy. You know nothing upset me more than seeiní her cry. The day she died, it near tore my soul right out of my body. Hell, I wished it had, because liviní without her seemed a hell of a lot harder than dying. I would rather have been shot ten times over than to have lost Sarah. Ain't no worse a torture to a man than to have the person he loves hurt."

Buck stared at Chris. "You ain't seriously suggesting that the kid loves Ezra, are you?"

"Ain't one to say. But, you saw his face when Ezra was hurt...by you. Buck, you're his best friend."

Buck couldn't respond.

+ + + + + + +

Sweet kisses ignited his body, leaving a trail of fire. Ezra moaned and the kisses stopped for a second as his assailant looked up at him and smiled briefly, then continued his assault. It was a delicious sensation. Uncertainty blended with confidence. Innocence with experience. The duality of the feelings was intoxicating.

Ezra drew his companion's face up to meet his own and passionately kissed him. He felt comfortable, excited, loved, wanted. These feelings combined within him and he smiled through the kiss, deepening it.

Ezra awoke suddenly, as he realized that the feeling was not entirely based in his mind. JD was lying beside him, his hand working magic upon Ezra's body. Ezra smiled widely and whispered, "Thank you."

JD stopped and looked up at him. "What for?"

Ezra kissed him and then began his own exploration. "For being here, JD. For being here."

Ezra suddenly realized that he wasn't alone. Whatever would come, he wouldn't be facing it alone.

THE END

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