Down The Rabbit Hole
Back to: Lost Rainbows And Other Fables
Chris stalked across the floor of the brightly lit, abandoned church, shaking the early evening rain from his coat. "You ready?" he asked the three men preparing to go out, his voice echoing up to the high roof.
While Vin nodded, Josiah replied, "Buck and JD are just coming."
Chris scowled at Nathan. "He still in bed?"
"He'll be needing it, Chris." The empath shrugged. "I wasn't going to wake him. Telepaths need their sleep and Lord knows how long illusionary telepaths take to recuperate. I can take his stats just as well tomorrow when he's rested."
"But I need him tonight," Chris replied low.
"Then don't wake him until you have to," Nathan stressed in return. "It's early yet. You can give him another few hours."
"Damn," JD cursed as he opened the adjoining door from their living quarters to catch the tail end of the conversation. "How'd you do that?" He frowned back at Buck while reluctantly handing over a few crushed dollar bills. "If I wasn't the one with the speed I'd swear you'd run ahead and cheated."
"Don't need to cheat when you know our fearless leader like I do." Buck grinned, folding the money away. "He does love to get a bee in his bonnet and Ezra's the biggest bee in town."
"You two ready?" Chris snapped.
JD nodded. "Yessir!"
"All right, get going. I'll see you back here at dawn." Chris brushed past them on his way to the back room corridor, ignoring Buck's sarcastic call of, "Yeah, we had a good day, Chris, thanks for asking. How was yours?"
Chris was halfway down the corridor towards Ezra's room when the lights flickered and the familiar hum of the huge generator that powered the church hall lights slowed to tick-over -- letting him know that the others had left the building and that the main alarm was armed.
Reaching the door of the room Ezra had been given, Chris paused to bend down and pick up the pile of neatly folded clothes that rested on the floor before briefly knocking and entering. The first thing he saw was the empty bed and tangled sheets. Raising a surprised eyebrow, he placed the clothes on the bedside table before turning his attention to the adjoining bathroom. The door was closed and he couldn't hear any movement within. He was just about to call out when the bathroom door opened and Ezra emerged from a mist of steam, drying his hair with a small hand towel and wearing nothing but a gold tooth flashing grin.
"Ah, good afternoon, Mr Larabee, or is it evening by now?" He frowned. "It's hard to tell with all that cloud. I myself was awakened by some miscreant setting off the alarm in one of the back lot warehouses. Excuse me." Ezra passed close to pick up the clothes from the bedside table, invading Chris' senses with the sight and scent of freshly scrubbed skin. "I take it these are the replacements for the apparel which was spirited away while I slept?"
Chris nodded. "Laundry ain't been done yet. We all got clothes so we all take turns."
"I see. How very domestic," Ezra commented lightly and Chris refused to look away when he turned to put the clothes on the bed then sit next to them to continue drying his hair as if he hadn't a care in the world. And why should he care at that? It wasn't as if Chris wasn't used to seeing naked men moving around, minding their own business -- he just didn't tag Ezra as being one of those who let it all hang out in company. He also hadn't counted on the slightly shorter man being so broad across the chest and shoulders or having such a well-defined physique in general. Those fine hands and that quick wit gave absolutely no indication of the...
"The jeans are JD's, I think," Chris said just so he couldn't be accused of silently ogling the play of those surprisingly hard muscles beneath that soft looking skin. "They might be a little tight but they should fit."
Ezra nodded, not even glancing at the faded black jeans. "Thank you, Mr Larabee." He smiled up at Chris, putting the towel aside to comb his fingers through his short but rebellious hair. "I'm sure Mr Dunne's sacrifice won't be in vain."
"The t-shirt is mine." Chris settled his gaze on the familiar triangle of dark green peeking out from the clothes pile. "It's hardly fancy enough to go with that coat o' yours but you can keep it if it fits."
"Why, thank you again, Mr Larabee." Ezra was standing, smiling again. "I'm sure it will fit perfectly but please refrain from revealing the origins of the underwear I'm about to put on. Some mysteries are best left unsolved." He winked, flashing that grin again before bending over and starting to dress.
This time Chris did look away; it was either that or do himself an injury. He just couldn't figure this man out. Yesterday on the roof, Ezra was withdrawn, almost vulnerable -- until he lashed out with that razor tongue. Now he was all honey and light, moving with a sure, fluid grace, trying to seduce to him, to... charm him?
His gaze narrowing warily, Chris stepped back a little as Ezra pulled the jeans snugly over his hips then turned to face him while fastening them.
"I take it you have something planned for the evening that requires my talents."
"You could say that," Chris allowed. "You've got time to eat first, though."
"Why, thank you for saying so." Ezra grinned with an almost mocking tilt of his head. It was the kind of look that got a man knocked on his ass if it wasn't for the obvious humour dancing in those green eyes. And, damn, they were green...
Chris turned for the door. "Kitchen's fourth down on the left. There's probably some coffee made but the food'll be whatever Buck and JD left behind."
"Ah, I'll have to make a note of that," Ezra began and Chris turned to see him pull the t-shirt over his head. "Always secure your chosen repast before the physically enhanced members of the group's high metabolism kicks into play. Sound advice." He nodded and tucked the t-shirt in. "Anything else I should know?"
"Can't think of anythin'." Chris shrugged slightly and the awkward pull of his coat reminded him of the flask in his pocket. "'Cept that Josiah can have a temper on him first thing when he wakes up too early with a premonition of his alarm clock going off." He stepped forward to hand Ezra his re-filled flask. "Single malt do you?"
"Yes. Fine." Ezra blinked down at the offered flask. "Thank you." He took it with a frown, fingering it lightly as Chris left the room.
"So, are we going to reach our destination eventually or do your companions and your good self have a grudge against my shoe leather?" Ezra asked, as he and Chris turned down yet another dark side street in their eternal meanderings. When no response was forthcoming, Ezra tried a different tack to break down the other man's apparent vow of silence. "You do realise that you will have to tell me where we are going and what you want me to do eventually, don't you?" he said with a hint of the irritated uneasiness he felt.
However, irritation and uneasiness seemed to be his normal state whenever this man was around, that and a kind of unhealthy fascination that made him think about leaving town this very night -- money or no. It could only end badly. This initial assessment was confirmed with his reaction to the little kindness of the flask. It didn't seem like much, but Ezra's fervent hope that it was Chris' idea and not one of the others', only added fuel to an already disconcertingly hopeful fire.
"Mr Larabee," he tried again.
Chris responded by tugging him into the mouth of the next alley and nodding into its pink neon lit depths. "We're here."
"'Camp Douglas'?" Ezra read the flashing sign above the double doors of what was a glaringly gay bar and almost stuttered. "You want me to go into a place called 'Camp Douglas'?"
"It's where the information is," Chris responded easily. "The Meta Cops have got something big going down soon and we need to find out what. A couple of them hang out here and the barmen are real friendly." He winked suggestively.
"'Camp Douglas'?" was Ezra's only response.
"The place has all the usual scanners to keep out unwanted enhanced guests but if we go in with a crowd we should be all right. Neither of us being registered, the scanners won't know what to look for."
"But...'Camp Douglas'?" Ezra repeated in disbelief as the realisation that Chris really wasn't joking finally dawned. Joke? The man hardly cracked a smile -- until now.
"If you don't think you can do it..." Chris trailed off smugly.
"Ha!" Ezra snapped back before finding his flask and taking a long swallow of smooth whisky burn. "So, I take it you'll be joining me on this little foray, Mr Larabee?"
"You'd look suspicious tagging along behind a group by yourself and you'll need someone to watch your back," Chris said, looking Ezra up and down in a way that made him feel distinctly like a lot on an auction plate. "You been to a gay bar before?"
Ezra scowled. "Have you?"
Chris gave a slight, non-committal tip of his head. "Your job is to get in tight with the barmen, whichever one can give you the most information. Think you can handle that?"
"Please." Ezra rolled his eyes. "Purloining candy from an infant would prove more of a challenge."
"All right," Chris said, his attention moving to a group of rowdy young men who had just entered the alley. "Time to get out that candy, baby," he growled seductively low then, without warning, slung his arm and most of his bodyweight around Ezra's shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. "You want another drink, we'll get another drink!" he called out in a drunken slur, so loud it echoed down the alley.
Struggling with the warm body in his arms and trying not to dwell on the heat it induced within him, Ezra plastered a grin over his face and staggered off after the crowd who had just passed, making sure he was on their heels as they crossed the threshold of the bar.
His eyes hadn't quite adjusted to the patchy lighting within when a thin, middle-aged man in a pink sequin vest pirouetted up to Chris and handed him a bottle of beer. "First drink on the house to any stud who looks that good in sexy-bad black," the man explained in falsetto before whirling off to the bar with a wink over his shoulder.
"That, I assume, was Camp Douglas," Ezra drawled as he followed Chris through the bustle to an empty booth on a raised platform in the far corner. "Fortunately, his demeanour seems to be the exception and not the rule," he went on ruefully at the appreciative looks that followed their progress.
Chris didn't offer any comment on their apparent desirability as patrons; he just settled comfortably into the booth and popped the top off his complimentary beer.
"I have to say, Mr Larabee, you don't seem particularly perturbed by all the attention we're garnering."
"Get it while you can." Chris shrugged. "But just in case you're thinking of running out of the limelight, the fire exit is always blocked and there ain't no windows in the bathroom." He grinned tightly.
"I see." Ezra frowned, slipping out of his coat and folding it onto the seat. "May I ask how you came by this timely information?"
Chris just took a drink of beer and inclined his head towards the bar pointedly.
"Oh, of course." Ezra nodded. "But aren't we forgetting something?"
Chris just waited for him to go on.
"Money?" Ezra prompted. "I will have to buy a least one drink and since I'm rather embarrassed for funds at the moment and this venture is solely business..." he trailed off with a meaningful look.
"Fine." Chris reached into the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out a few bills. "Just don't spend all of it."
"Oh, I don't think I could manage that in less than, oh, a minute," Ezra drawled sarcastically before setting off through the crowd.
He had barely reached the bar when a large, portly individual leaned his unattractive bulk in too close to whisper in his ear, "My name's Wicks and I'm the new booty tester around here. Know what I mean?"
Ezra met the behemoth's bleary gaze with a weary sigh. "Is that question multiple choice by any chance?"
Chris didn't see what Ezra did to the big man at the bar, but one moment his hand was on Ezra's ass and the next he was on the floor, curled up in a pained ball while the bustling patrons tripped and cursed over him. No one seemed particularly disturbed or surprised by the incident, so Chris settled back to watch Ezra's progress.
He had been watching Ezra talking to a tall, blond barman in a very tight black t-shirt for about an hour, off and on, before the two moved down to the quiet end of the bar. There, the blond got himself a drink and the conversation moved onto a level that was far too intimate for Chris' liking. Caught up in the intent cataloguing of those lingering touches and warm smiles, Chris almost startled when some idiot sat down at his table, directly in front of him.
"Brought you a drink, man." The good-looking, young Latino smiled and placed two beers on the table. "You looked thirsty sitting here all alone."
"Thanks." Chris took the beer, shifting so he could watch Ezra over the other man's shoulder.
"For what it's worth, I don't think he's coming back," the young man continued quietly.
Chris frowned. "Who?"
"Your boyfriend." He nodded over his shoulder in Ezra's direction.
"He ain't my boyfriend," Chris growled.
The other shrugged. "Either way, he's been flirting with Jake for over an hour and if you wanted him with you, you would have been over there by now."
Chris took a mouthful of beer. It was warm. The kid had probably been standing with it, watching him as long as he had been watching Ezra. If he had to have company to stave off suspicion, his current table guest seemed harmless enough. "Maybe I like to watch." Chris grinned back dangerously.
The kid smiled a little nervously. "What do you like to watch?"
"Bit of this." He looked past the kid's shoulder and saw that the dark-haired, goatee sporting barman had joined Ezra and the blond. "Bit of that." He frowned as Ezra leaned in to whisper something in the second barman's ear.
"You're not into this, are you?" the kid sighed, pushing his beer away resignedly. "Are you just trying to get his attention? You haven't even told me your name or asked mine."
"Well, Chris--" He paused to look over his shoulder. "You'd better get over there and stop the guy who isn't your boyfriend from making a big mistake." He made to stand up but Chris stopped him with a scowl.
"What do you mean?"
"Let's just say that Paulie, the barman with the dead rat on his face, isn't shy about using a little chemical help to make his marks feel indebted and get them into bed."
"Shit." Chris stood up and looked over to where he'd last seen Ezra -- but he wasn't there. "Shit." He pushed the kid out of his way as he moved to the edge of the platform. Searching down the bar, he was relieved to spot both the blond and the dark-haired barman still serving drinks. He was about to make his way across the floor when he caught a flash of familiar dark green rushing past him for the door. Turning quickly to make sure it was Ezra, he bumped into another patron, sending the man stumbling and cursing down the few steps onto the main floor and into a table behind. Just as the men from the table rose to complain, Chris identified Ezra and was already barrelling out after him before they could warm to their subject.
"Ezra!" Chris bellowed, throwing open the doors to the alley. "Get back here."
However, by the time the words had left his mouth, Ezra had already turned the corner at the end of the alley and looked like he had no intentions of stopping. Cursing, Chris gave chase and managed to keep on Ezra's track until they reached the warren of abandoned railway carriages at the old train yards.
"Ezra!" he called again between gasping breaths, knowing the other man wasn't going to respond but still wanting him to know there was no easy way out. "I ain't leavin' without you. You hear me?"
Of course, there was no answer. After taking a few more moments to catch his breath, Chris climbed up on the nearest upright railway carriage for a better lookout point over the moonlit yards. It didn't help. Half an hour later, he was still moving between the carriages, searching around, under and inside them while listening for any movements that couldn't be attributed to the local rats.
"Hell," he finally growled a sigh, knowing he really couldn't afford to spend any more time stumbling around in the dark. Then, just when he was about ready to admit that the sneaky little bastard had got away from him after all, there was an ominous thump from the next carriage over.
Narrowing his gaze, he jumped down from the carriage he had just searched and stalked cautiously over the dark ground, focussing on the deep anger that always sparked his pyrokinetic abilities. He had no sooner reached the rusted side of the freight carriage than the thud came again. This time it sounded like someone kicking the carriage side.
"Ezra? You in there?" Chris asked low, pulling back the sliding metal door and flicking a flame up in the palm of his hand by use of the small block of tar he carried for that purpose.
What the weak, flickering light illuminated in the in filthy insides of the carriage took Chris by surprise. He was expecting to find Ezra irritated or penitent, or maybe even in the mood to try charming him again; but finding him curled up on his side with his eyes screwed tight and his hands clamped over his ears, was something he had never envisioned seeing. Finding the prideful man lying grime smeared in the dirt was one thing, but see him cowering on the floor like a child having a nightmare was something else entirely.
With one last look around the deserted train yard, Chris climbed up into the carriage and carefully approached Ezra's huddled form.
"What's wrong?" he asked softly before realising the other man couldn't know he was there. "Ezra?" He reached out and touched a tense, cold shoulder. It was a mistake.
One moment he was crouching in the railway carriage, the next he was standing in the alley of the gay bar with a huge, snarling mountain lion rampaging towards him. As fast as he could think it, he set the lion's coat ablaze but the thing just howled and kept on coming, madder than hell and twice as hungry. Just as he was summoning up the power to combust the entire beast -- the vision stopped and he was back in the railway carriage, plastered against the back wall, chest heaving from the adrenaline rush.
Chris blinked in the moonlight and realised he'd frazzled his block of tar and most of the carriage door in his attempts to deter an imaginary lion from devouring him. Looking through what was left of the door, he saw the scorch marks he'd made still smouldering the sparse grass outside before turning his attention back to Ezra.
"I apologise for that stray illusion, Mr Larabee." Ezra sat up against the wall, the moonlight streaming in through Chris' impromptu hole finding him pale and shivering. "I don't think we need worry about you accidentally flambéing me now, though, for I think that unfortunate side effect is now under control." He gulped miserably. "However, I wish I could say the same for the thumping headache and nausea."
"That bastard slipped something into your drink," Chris concluded with a growl.
Ezra nodded a little. "A Ketamine mix, I think." He then smirked up at Chris. "But don't worry, Mr Larabee, he didn't charge me any extra for the privilege."
Shaking his head, Chris moved up close. "You look like hell. Can you stand?" He shrugged off his coat and wrapped it around Ezra's shoulders before helping him to his feet.
"Looks like I can," Ezra breathed tiredly, leaning heavily against the carriage wall. "But I fear my head and stomach may rebel on a forced march back to your abode."
"Well, catching pneumonia ain't an option for either of us." Chris shivered in the night breeze. "That light show'll bring someone along soon." He eased Ezra across to the carriage door. "It ain't too far. You did run in the right direction."
"How gratifying," came the dry response as Chris leapt down onto the uneven ground then turned to assist Ezra.
Ezra's head was thumping, feeling twice its normal size, but, so far, he had managed to keep his stomach from creeping too far up his throat. It was a small victory but, at this stage in the game, he was willing to take any points he could. Another small point was that he was moving more or less under his own power as they entered the alley that led down to the church. Even though his sense of balance was still languishing somewhere in the Ketamine limbo, Chris didn't have to half-carry him anymore. Ezra still had his pride even if he was as sick as the proverbial canine.
"I can understand why you ran out of the bar if you knew those illusions were coming, but running away from me was just plain stupid," Chris growled as he opened the church door and punched in the alarm code. "Especially seeing how you can't defend yourself."
"Defence is in the eye of the beholder. Literally." Ezra rustled up a smirk from somewhere but he really just wanted to collapse and sleep for a year. Maybe then the world would stop spinning.
"You think you can make it to your room by yourself?" Chris asked just before he blinded Ezra with the much too bright, church hall lights.
"Perhaps." Ezra blinked away, suddenly desperate not to be left alone in a wave of drug-induced uncertainty. "May I ask where you are going, Mr Larabee?"
"Laundry room," Chris answered barely audibly as Ezra handed him back his coat. "It's my turn and I want to see the others as soon as they get back."
"I see." Ezra shivered; it was only partly for effect. "Is it warm in the laundry room?"
"I suppose," Chris allowed. "Buck's put a couch down there for sprawlin' on."
"Then perhaps I'll join you, if you don't mind. Do my share and all that."
"It's up to you, but you should clean up first," Chris replied with a frown, reaching out to briefly touch Ezra's cheek. "You're wearing about an inch of grime."
"Oh." Ezra stared at Chris' dirty fingertip and hated the hopeful tone of his next question. "Might there be a sink in the laundry room perchance?"
Chris didn't respond for what seemed like an eternity. "If you're scared you'll fall on your face, Ezra, why don't you just say so?"
Ezra smirked. "Mr Larabee, would you be so kind as to see me to my room? It may save you picking me up off the floor in the long run."
"All right." Chris nodded slightly and they walked down to the doorway of Ezra's room in a companionable silence until Ezra was opening the door and Chris was turning away.
"Mr Larabee," Ezra said, hating the desperation in his voice, "Could I prevail upon you further?"
Chris paused and turned back.
"Would you be so kind as to watch over me, as it were, while I clean up?" Ezra smiled. "I'm afraid what's left of my dignity may very well crawl off into this Ketamine haze if I were to come a cropper in the bathroom, to use a vernacular term."
Chris' frown was deep this time and he studied Ezra narrowly before answering. "Fine."
"Thank you." Ezra nodded, relieved he didn't have to get down on his hands and knees and beg the man to stay. The headache and nausea may have been fading away but this neediness was intolerable. He fervently hoped that it was just the Ketamine talking and not anything else he could ill-afford.
After groaning in dismay at his dirt-stained appearance in the bathroom mirror, Ezra pulled off his borrowed t-shirt and was just beginning to make headway against the greasy marks on his face and arms when Chris appeared in the bathroom doorway.
"You look steady enough. I'd best start on that laundry."
"No wait!" Ezra snapped out before he could think of anything else to say.
His words were met by Chris' all too familiar scowl. "What?"
"You should... take this." Ezra picked up the green t-shirt from where he'd draped it over the towel rack and handed it over.
Chris took the t-shirt without a word.
"And you'd better take these too." Ezra kicked off his boots and shimmied out of his borrowed jeans. "After all, it would be impolite of me to return them sullied to Mr Dunne after he was so kind as to lend them to me."
"I suppose." Chris took the offered jeans then waited as if expecting Ezra to say something else.
Ezra's mind was blank. He couldn't think of a thing to say. He only knew that he didn't want Chris to walk out of his room -- but Chris was already beginning to turn away, to leave. Ezra did the only thing he could think of, the only thing he could do: he kissed Chris on the mouth, long, hard and sweet.
Knowing he had to break the kiss eventually but unwilling to look Chris in the eye, Ezra took the coward's route out and released Chris' mouth to kiss along the tense jaw and down the side of his neck to the collar of his shirt. There he waited for a few moments, just breathing in Chris' scent, wondering if the man would push him away quickly or ease him off gently.
When Chris did neither, Ezra began unbuttoning the shirt, hesitantly at first but with greater confidence as more of Chris' skin was revealed to his lips and Chris still didn't push him away.
"I think you can drop the clothes now," Ezra risked murmuring against Chris' neck as he pulled the shirt out and slipped his hands around Chris' bare back.
The next thing he knew, those clothes had definitely hit the floor because Chris' arms were wrapped around him in a tight embrace and he was being thoroughly kissed against the bathroom wall. Then everything was happening at once: while Chris slipped a hand inside Ezra's underwear to tend to his growing arousal, Ezra unbuckled Chris' belt as he pushed them both down onto the bathroom floor where they rubbed, kissed and stroked each other to the brink of orgasm.
"Wait." Ezra moved to break away but had to use more strength than he'd intended when Chris tightened his embrace, determined to keep their frottage rhythm going. Before Chris could verbalise his complaint and break the mood, Ezra returned his hand to their arousals with a liberal coating of liquid soap that would give them the lubrication their own efforts couldn't produce.
Then they were kissing, again, desperate and hungry as they worked each other's lengths -- and it was all too good to last. Just as Chris tensed beside him, Ezra felt the wave of sweet burning build up from deep within him and he was coming hard, biting into the salty skin of Chris' shoulder as the warm rush of orgasm washed over him.
Afterwards, he was lying on the floor with his eyes shut, feeling the corner of the shower stall biting into his back while he waited for Chris leave. However, the next thing he felt was not the cold breeze of a sated body moving away, but a soft kiss on his shoulder followed by a light touch moving along his collarbone.
"You'd best get up and washed if you still want to help with the laundry," Chris said low and Ezra opened his eyes to find a softness in Chris' gaze he'd never seen before, just before Chris grinned wickedly and added, "You look like you've just been thoroughly fucked."
"Well, in that case," Ezra returned brightly, "It must be like looking in the mirror for you."
|Illusions Index||On to: House Of Cards (Part One): Setting Them Up|
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