Reflecting The Rising Sun
(Old West)

by Cyc

Ezra felt uncomfortable in his own skin. Riding quietly behind the other six on their way back to town, he had been trying for hours to shake the unsettled feeling he had woken up with early that morning, but to no avail. As much as he tried to concentrate on Buck's outrageous tale regarding a lady by the name of Anteater Annie, he just seemed to fall further and further behind until any clues as to how the lady came by her quaint moniker were lost on the afternoon breeze.

It had started with that dream. He had been fine the day before but now those half-remembered images wouldn't leave him alone. They plagued his thoughts, driving him to distraction. As dreams went, it had started out normal enough. He was standing in his hotel room looking down Main Street, just watching the citizens come and go as the sun set. However, as the sun bathed the street in a long shadowed, red glow, a barrel of nails fell off the back of a wagon, scattering its contents all over the street. While he stood there watching the men gathering up the nails as best they could, he began to feel strangely warm and content. Then, slowly, that feeling of heat grew into a need that concentrated intensely at his groin.

Freeing his arousal from its confines, he began to pleasure himself with slow, steady strokes as the sun slipped down behind the horizon. His erection grew long and hard at an astonishing rate... until it bloomed into a two-foot orchid.

Startled awake, Ezra had jerked up to urgently check his vitals, only to find Chris watching him curiously from across the campfire.

"You all right?" Chris had squinted down at him in the weak morning light.

"Fine." Ezra had flustered, pretending he was just rearranging his clothing, or bedding or something, while glancing around at their sleeping companions.

"Want some help with that?" Chris had smiled back knowingly.

"No. Thank you, Mr Larabee." Ezra had cleared his throat and settled back down. "I assure you, I'm fine."

Chris had shrugged easily. "Please yourself."

But Ezra wasn't fine -- far from it. After pretending he was asleep for another uncomfortable hour in which he could feel Chris watching him, he had busied himself with the morning necessities, telling himself that he wasn't really going out of his way to avoid Chris' attention. Nope. Not at all. He was just a tad preoccupied with that strange dream. That was all. Nothing more. The fact that he spent most of the morning skulking around out of Chris' line of sight meant absolutely nothing. Truly it didn't.

"Oh, lord," Ezra sighed, averting his gaze as Chris looked back at him. This was verging on the ridiculous.


Chris turned back around in the saddle to face the horizon as soon as Ezra deliberately looked away from him. It was clear that what had started as a little early morning teasing had developed into something Ezra was taking very seriously, and he was at a loss as to understand why. Although tempted to put the whole incident down to an attack of Southern pride, Chris had to admit that Ezra wasn't the kind to carry a grudge over something so trivial as a little ill-timed teasing. The more Ezra avoided his gaze, the more Chris' good humour ebbed away. He shouldn't be feeling good anyway. Not today. Not tonight.

"You sure you don't want to take off to some little bordello over the border and cut loose?" Buck asked quietly as he eased his horse alongside. "Town's quiet enough and frankly, Chris, you're making the rest of us nervous."

Scowling at Buck's smile, Chris lowered his voice to a warning growl, "You think this is funny?"

"No, sir." Buck shook his head then turned his attention to the approaching town. "But we all have our own ways of grieving and maybe it's not time for you to change yours just yet."

"What do you mean by that?" Chris demanded, feeling the last of his good humour evaporate with the afternoon haze.

"Look, we've finished the job we set out to do. There's nothing to stop you heading out for a few days. That's all I'm sayin'."

"Then you've said it," Chris returned, effectively ending the conversation. After a moment, Buck edged away again and was soon having a light-hearted argument with Josiah and Nathan over whose turn it was to stable the horses.

By the time they were entering Main Street, Buck had wheedled his way out of seeing to the horses. He and JD were dismounting to cut across to the jail when Chris rode past, down to the Clarion office just as Mary Travis came out to greet them.

He nodded at her smile and answered her question before she could voice it. "You can wire the Judge it all went fine." He made to ride on but she stopped him by stepping forward to the edge of the boardwalk, into the sunlight.

"And how are you, Chris? I realise this anniversary is a difficult time for you but it's good to see you--"

"Mary," he said, cutting her off with a respectful nod before continuing down the street, out of town, to his cabin.

He had no intentions of getting drunk. Not really. Not until he sat down on that feather mattress and it was only him, his memories and the fading light.


Ezra was relieved and, judging by the light mood of his fellow peacekeepers as they lounged around the saloon table, he wasn't the only one. However, while their eased concerns were likewise to do with their missing leader, he severely doubted that their motivations were as murky as his own. Buck, JD and Vin, he was sure, were just relieved that they didn't have to lock up, knock down or otherwise restrain a friend they respected so. While they couldn't do anything to help Chris in his grief, they were well aware that keeping out of his way was their only option, and that was something they couldn't do if he took his drunken anger out on the town.

Much better he take it out on some nameless bordello.

Yes. Much better.

He always paid well for the damages... and the whores he used. A good night's work done by all.

Suddenly feeling very tired, Ezra stood up to excuse himself from the table.

"Leaving so soon?" Buck asked with a grin. "C'mon, let JD buy you another one before you head off to skin them poor suckers." He nodded towards the poker tables.

Ezra eyed the worn-out team of tinhorn gamblers pretending they were having a real game of cards and decided he wasn't feeling that masochistic. Not yet, anyway. "I regret to say that engaging in a game with the gentlemen in question would not seem beneficial to anyone with a modicum of good sense. I do believe that they are the Watts brothers, a notorious bunch of atrocious card cheats who have the habit of turning nasty when their marks complain. Although I am unfamiliar with them personally, I'd guess that gentleman by the door looking so conspicuous by trying to look inconspicuous is the fifth member of their group and also worth keeping an eye on should you gentlemen wish to remain here or alert Messrs Jackson and Sanchez of their presence." Ezra inclined his head politely. "I, myself, found last night's sleeping conditions rather less than conducive to rest so am turning in early. If you gentlemen will excuse me." He smiled, exchanged good wishes, and was out on the boardwalk, blanketed by the night a few seconds later.

It was not until he was jogging up the outside steps to his room, breathing in the cool air, that he realised how constrained he had felt in the heat and smoke of the saloon. That was another first. It seemed that today was the day for firsts. This morning he had went to ridiculous lengths to stop Chris looking at him, something he had hungered after for months, and now he'd rather be in bed trying to get some sleep he didn't really want rather than face off to a bunch of lowly tinhorns.

He was weary, yes, but his tiredness originated from his soul, not his body, and it could not be cured by sleep. Going to bed and closing his eyes would only fend off the feeling, not dispel it. This Ezra knew as he opened his door and stepped into his room. However, despite this knowledge, he still went about getting ready for bed, stripping off then neatly putting away his clothes before washing up in the basin of tepid water atop the chest of drawers.

Avoiding the gaze of the defeated-looking man in the shaving mirror, he finished washing and blew out the lamp before padding naked across to the bed, drying his face and hands on a towel that had definitely seen better days. Smirking in empathy, he draped the towel over the back of the bedside chair that held his guns before slipping into bed. The sheets may have been thinning but the harshest of the blankets were far from his skin and the mattress was of good quality even if the pillows were a tad hard. All in all, the bed was far from uncomfortable enough to distract him from his thoughts. Unfortunately.

Curling up on his side, Ezra tucked an arm under the pillow and closed his eyes, pretending to sleep but really just trying to calm his overworked mind. There was absolutely no reason for him to feel guilty. None at all. He hadn't promised Chris anything in word or deed. There was no proof, no binding agreement that forced him to--

"Damn!" He snapped up to punch the pillow a couple of times. It didn't help. When he settled down again, he still wasn't comfortable with the vision of Chris frowning at him in his mind's eye. Nothing would help that, but the punching must have done something because a few moments later he was drifting off through a landscape of people he half-knew or thought he should know, who would smile and shake his hand before turning their backs on him and walking away. They all just walked away, leaving him alone -- until someone opened a door behind him, letting in a cold breeze. Before he could turn to see who was there, someone was pressing warmly against him; their hands stroking down his...

Ezra awoke with a start to find he was not alone. The bedcovers had been thrown back and rough hands were moving possessively over his shivering body. Just as his disorientated thoughts were stumbling towards taking defensive action, Chris' whisky-soaked voice breathed across his cheek, "Don't say a word. Not a word."

"Chris?" Ezra immediately blurted out in disbelief, trying to turn around only to be held painfully tight against the clothed body behind.

"Not a word," Chris growled. "Ssshht." He kissed Ezra's cheek firmly. "You're mine. No matter."

His heart hammering in his mouth, Ezra kicked out and twisted free of the imprisoning hold. Moving with his momentum, he rolled off the bed, blindly snatching up the nearest gun from the chair in the dark as he went. "Get out," he spat, backing away from the bed while aiming at the slow moving area of deeper black he assumed was Chris. "Now, Larabee, or I swear I will shoot you where you are."

The bed springs groaned as a weight moved off them. "You'd shoot me in the back?" Chris' voice echoed in the darkness. "Why?"

Confused, Ezra lowered the gun. "Of course I wouldn't shoot you in the back." He squinted into the pitchy room, backing up against the wall as imaginary shadows began playing tricks on his eyes. "But what kind of welcome do you expect when you break into my room in the middle of the night, when I'm asleep, and attempt to gratify yourself--"

"Not now, then!" Chris suddenly bellowed. "What did I do?"

"I don't know what you mean," Ezra returned sharply. "Since you're obviously in no state to explain yourself, I suggest you just leave, now, before you bring someone up here to investigate."

"I didn't break in," Chris said hollowly then there was a long pause followed by a broken sigh. "You gave me a key."

"Well, thank you for reminding me. That situation will soon be remedied. Now if you would just--"

"What do you mean by that?"

Catching a quick movement in the myriad of shifting shadows, Ezra pressed closer to the wall. "Chris? What--"

"You gonna run out on me again?"

Ezra shook his head even though no one couldn't see it. "Get out, Larabee. I mean it."

"Why? I thought you liked all the kissing and fucking. Don't you want to shoot me?" One long shadow seemed to be easing closer out of the darkness. "That couldn't be worse than what you were already planning."

"I wasn't planning anything." Ezra frowned as he lost the shadow again in the gloom. "We can talk in the morning, Chris, when you're sober. Just--"

"That won't work," came the quiet response. "I can see your mind working. You're not like any of them. Not one. I don't want you to... I just... But you're scared. Runnin' scared. You're going to run out on me like some rancid whore in the night."

"That's enough!" Ezra shouted to stop himself from stuttering. "Get out!" He brought up his gun, cocking it loudly.

"I'm going," Chris returned, low and menacing. "Shoot me in the back if you think you can."

Then he was gone, leaving the door creaking open on its hinges in his wake.

Numbly, Ezra walked forwards to shut and lock it before wedging a chair under the handle.


Chris awoke with a shiver to blink groggily around the saloon storeroom. Finding himself lying shirtless on the rough wooden floor, he moved to sit up and paid for it with a pained hiss. By the pale shaft of morning light struggling through the barred window, he examined the swollen knuckles of his right hand then gingerly rotated his left shoulder, watching the aching muscle and bone move beneath its rainbow-coloured bruising. It hurt like hell. So did his head.

Stifling another hiss, he stood up carefully to look fruitlessly around the floor for his absentee shirt before trying the door. It was locked. He pulled at the handle only to hear the bolts thud mockingly against the solid frame.

"Shit," he growled, vaguely remembering his furious assault on the door the night before when Buck and Vin had first locked him in. Realising that he'd gotten off lightly with the few injuries he had, he was just settling down on a stack of boxes to suck his torn knuckles when he heard Buck's cheery whistling and the sound of bolts being pulled away.

"Mornin', sunshine." Buck came in grinning with a bottle of whisky in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. "You sure tied one on last night," he continued lightly while Chris took the bottle, swigging a mouthful down then pouring a little over his bloody knuckles before handing it back. "Yeah, I'd say the door won that fight," Buck concluded, giving Chris the coffee cup. "The decision wasn't even close."

Chris didn't acknowledge the good-natured baiting; he just took a drink of coffee -- and promptly spat it out on the floor. "What the hell?" he coughed and scowled.

"JD's triple strength morning after cure," Buck informed him brightly. "Worked real good tarring Josiah's roof."

Chris didn't even dignify that with a reply. He shoved the cup back into Buck's grasp and took the whisky bottle again instead. "All right, what did I do?"

"You mean before or after we locked you in the storeroom?"

Taking a long gulp of whisky, Chris silently waited for the story that was obviously itching to be told.

"Well, let me see." Buck paused to smooth his moustache in mock contemplation. "You showed up late as drunk as a skunk and started off in the saloon across the street, making the piano player dance on the tables after he kept singing everything off key."

"He never sings." Chris frowned.

"He did when you told him to," Buck returned gleefully. "The man can't carry a note but you had him howling like a coyote at the moon until he fell off that table and broke his ankle."

Chris took another gulp of whisky.

"Then you talked Miss Penny into getting up and doing a little number for us. Whew! I wish that'd happen more often. That girl has talent, if you know what I mean." Buck winked.

"Then what?" Chris prompted when his friend fell into a glazed silence.

"Oh, the usual." Buck waved a negligent hand. "You kicked down a few hitching posts, beat the hell out of the Watts brothers when they looked at you funny and generally made our good citizens grind their teeth down a notch or two."

"Who the hell are the Watts brothers?"

"No one important." Buck shrugged. "You were just warming up to treeing the town when me and Vin shoved you in here," he finished with a proud smile. "Damn fine makeshift jail cell, ain't it?"

"So what did I do when you locked me in?" Chris asked suspiciously.

"Apart from going hell for leather at the door until you damn near broke your shoulder, and calling us every vile name in God's creation and a few more besides, not a lot."

Chris nodded, relieved. "Anything else I should know?" He closed his eyes before taking another long drink of whisky then handing the bottle back just as Buck shook his head.

"No, I think that's about it. 'Cept Ezra left town early this morning, heading for Cedar Ridge. Didn't say when he'd be back."

"Ezra?" Chris frowned then cursed at the returning fragments of a half-remembered conversation in a dark bedroom.


The fanciest saloon in Cedar Ridge was a cut above the usual fare in the Territory with its gold-effect chandelier and velvet draperies. However, it was not above employing a plethora of quasi-prostitutes to get its good patrons to spend as much cash as possible. While Ezra didn't usually associate with such ladies of the night, he had found a pair he could talk to without too many explanations and had proceeded to drink the night away with them. The good ladies, Matilda and Beth-Anne, had never ceased trying to dip into his monetary funds but Ezra wasn't drunk enough to fall for their machinations. He would never be that drunk. Just as the ladies were beginning to figure this out for themselves, someone brought up the topic of circus acts.

"It's purely a matter of balance, my dear," Ezra drawled, patting Beth-Anne's nearest, well-nourished hand. "Anyone capable of a neat step or two on the dance floor can carry off one of these acts, I assure you." He leaned back from the table, pushing his glass away and feeling a little woozy.

"So you say." Matilda blew a tired ginger ringlet out of her right eye with a sigh. "How about proving it?"

"Yeah!" Beth-Anne perked up, throwing an arm around Ezra's shoulder and kissing him on the cheek. "Put your money where your fine mouth is, sweetie."

"Why, there is nothing I would like more than to take you ladies up on your kind offer, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be very gentlemanly of me to do so, now would it?"

"Aw, we ain't no ladies." Matilda laughed, no doubt catching a whiff of the money she hoped to procure. "We bet you ten dollars you can't walk on your hands like you say."

"Ten dollars?" Ezra queried. "Each?" He grinned at them in turn.

After a exchanging a glance, they both nodded.


Finding Ezra was easy. It seemed he had chosen to remain in Cedar Ridge rather than catching either of the trains that had passed through -- and that gave Chris hope that the wayward gambler wanted to be found. However, all bets were off when he saw Ezra walking down an alley with a whore on each arm. If it wasn't for the fact that the build, the cut of the clothes and the cocksure walk gave him away, Chris would have sworn it was someone else. For some reason, he had assumed that Ezra wasn't sexually interested in women, never mind two well-used whores.

Feeling like a voyeur, he followed the trio at a distance but instead of going back to someone's room, they headed out toward the empty railway livestock pens. There, Ezra walked along to a length of fencing that seemed to meet his approval before taking off his hat and coat then handing them to the stockier of the two women with a small bow of appreciation. After securing his guns and pocket watch, he then moved to take hold of the top rail, stepping onto the bottom rail before using the next one up as leverage to carefully catapult himself up onto his hands. Once his handstand was steady, he took a few turns, hand over hand, down the rail for a few feet then back again before dismounting a little awkwardly. It was only then Chris realised that Ezra was drunk.

"Thank you, ladies," Ezra was saying as the whores handed over the money they had no doubt foolishly bet before flouncing off up the back lots. Unruffled by this show of bad sportsmanship, Ezra tucked away his money then picked up his hat and coat from the rail upon which they had been unceremoniously dumped, dusting them off before putting them on.

Chris had to grin. He expected nothing--

"Not a step closer, Mr Larabee," Ezra called out just as Chris began to walk towards him. "I don't think either of us would enjoy a repeat performance of the other night now would we?" He turned around with a cold glare.

Chris held his ground. "I said some things I shouldn't. I know that."

Ezra barked a humourless laugh. "If only you'd stuck to spouting bottled wisdom instead of..." he trailed off, seeming too angry to continue for a moment. "Suffice to say, I can put up with a great many indignities but there are some things I will not abide. Good day." He nodded curtly before stalking off. "If that concludes your business here, I'm sure you know your way home."

For a few rapid heartbeats, Chris stood where he was, watching Ezra retreat. Then he was moving. He was almost upon Ezra, just reaching out to take hold of his shoulder, when Ezra whirled around with a growl.

"Leave me be, Mr Larabee, before something occurs we will both regret."

Chris backed off, raising his hands. "I don't want to fight you. You know that."

"Do I?" Ezra studied him for a long moment, his attention lingering on Chris' swollen gun hand. "That must be inconvenient for you. What happened? Did the bottle hit you back?"

"I'm not here to fight," Chris repeated, this time with a little menace.

Ezra raised an unimpressed eyebrow. "Then what, pray tell, is the purpose of your visit for there doesn't seem to be much else between us from where I'm standing." His tone was still cold but at least he wasn't walking away.

"I was wrong-headed that night." Chris frowned, searching for the right words. "I did what I did because I--" He broke off abruptly as Ezra suddenly moved to draw his guns. Dull surprise hardly hindered Chris' automatic response of drawing his own gun but his stiff knuckles made him fumble for the hammer while Ezra cocked his smoothly. But then the world turned on its head again when Ezra barrelled into him, driving them both to the ground behind a water trough just as bullets began ripping through the air around them.

"Hell!" Ezra bellowed between bouts of return fire. "What rock did they crawl out from?"

"Who are they?" Chris shouted over the plink and splash of bullets hitting wood and water. "There's five of them?"

Ezra nodded. "Behind the weighing shack. It's the Watts family. A vengeful quintet by anyone's book."

"They've got us pinned down good," Chris cursed as a splinter of wood flew off the trough and hit Ezra just above the left eye.

Yelping, Ezra ducked down low, trying to staunch the prodigious flow of blood with his handkerchief while shouting back, "I think I got one, maybe two but my aim's a little off and the law in this town won't turn up until it's all over."

"I got one too, but we'll have to outflank them." Chris nodded as he reloaded. "Are you sober enough to cover me?"

"I was sober enough to spot them in the first place," Ezra said peevishly.

Chris scowled. "You sober enough or not?"

"I can do it," Ezra returned grudgingly while hastily reloading his guns.

"All right, on three," Chris warned, preparing to run while Ezra tensed to begin his volley. "One, two, three!" He set off, fast and low through the empty maze of fencing, hearing bullets whiz and ping around him until he reached the relative safety of the counting shack. Then everything went eerily quiet.

Although tempted to call out to Ezra to make sure he hadn't been hit, Chris stayed the impulse in favour of getting to the Watts gang before they could change position themselves. A heartbeat later he was bearing down on them, shooting one man in the head and another through the heart before kicking the gun from the wounded one's hand and checking to make sure the last two were dead.

"Ezra?" he finally called, keeping an eye on the one who had been shot in the shoulder while craning his neck to try and see around the edge of the shack to the water trough. "You all right?"

The seconds that followed seemed to drag into eternity as Chris waited for Ezra's response. He was just about tempted to shoot the last remaining member of the Watts clan just so the whole sorry mess could be settled, when Ezra eventually called back and he looked up to seem him walking warily towards them.

"What the hell happened to you?" Chris demanded, taken aback by the amount of blood staining the left side of Ezra's face beneath the reddened handkerchief.

"I ran out of bullets," came the huffy response. "Shooting miscreants and reloading your weapons while trying to keep blood out your eyes is hardly the easiest of tasks to accomplish. And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm still bleeding like a stuck pig."


Waking up in a strange bed with a pounding headache was not exactly a novelty to Ezra but it still surprised him. It almost surprised him as much as finding Chris standing beside the open bedroom window, just a few feet away, leaning casually against the wall, sipping coffee and watching the fading evening light with his hat and coat settled neatly on the ledge beside him.

"Sleep well?" Chris asked over the rim of his coffee cup as Ezra moved to sit up, a little self-conscious of his nakedness beneath the bedclothes.

"I suppose, thank you for asking." Ezra frowned around his Cedar Ridge hotel room, his hand moving up to the fresh stitching above his left eye. "Ow!" He scowled at the spot of blood on his finger. "Since there aren't any gentlemen breaking down the door with the intention of incarcerating us, I take it the sheriff of this burg believed our story?"

Chris nodded. "As soon as the Judge verified us, he locked that last Watts away."

"How gratifying," Ezra drawled, rubbing the itching skin around his stitches carefully. "Mr Larabee, could I prevail upon you to locate another cup of that coffee?"

"You can have this one." Chris stepped forwards, offering his own cup. "It's my sixth. I'm done."

"I see." Ezra took it cautiously. "Thank you." He took a sip. It was hot but not too strong. "How's your hand?"

"As swollen as hell." Chris winced at it then rotated his farthest shoulder stiffly.

"If you won the fight, I'd hate to see the loser."

Chris gave a non-committal grunt.

"Perhaps it would be wise to see a doctor before you leave." Ezra took another sip of coffee. It was almost too much and he almost burned his tongue. "Not that I have any doubts about Mr Jackson's proven abilities, but the obvious lack of his customary bandaging adorning your person speaks volumes."

Chris didn't respond. For a long moment, he just seemed to blend into the lengthening shadows of the room. Then, when he did speak, his voice was low and directed out towards the sunset. "Sometimes, when you want something badly enough, your own need drives it away." He turned to meet Ezra's gaze. "Pushing you away was the last thing I wanted."

Ezra blinked down at his coffee before taking another sip. When taken carefully, it seemed to get better, tasting sweeter on his tongue with each sip. "It seems that many things are meant to slip through our fingers in this life, Chris. The more we strive for them, the more they shift to elude us. The more we try to capture them, the more intangible they become."

"It doesn't have to be like that."

Ezra shrugged. "It's the way things are."

"I won't accept that."

"Then good luck to you." Ezra saluted Chris with his cup. "You're a braver man than I."

"No." Chris shook his head. "I've just got less to lose and more to play for."

Ezra sipped his coffee silently, exploring the subtleties of its dark flavour as he waited for Chris to go on.

"When I lost them that night, I lost everything. It was the first time in my life I had anything I couldn't afford to lose. I know what that feels like. I know what it can do to a man."

"Indeed." Ezra nodded. "Then you'll know there are no easy answers, no miracle cures."

"I'm not lookin' for one. But I'm not afraid to try either."

"Oh, here we go again," Ezra growled, plunking the coffee cup down on the bedside table. "Back on the subject of my supposed non-cowardice. Thank you, Mr Larabee, but I believe I have a train to catch. So if you don't mind?" He inclined his head towards the door.

"Fine," Chris ground out. "Run away." He picked up his hat and coat and turned to march for the door.

"Run away?" Ezra exploded from the bedclothes to stalk across the room and whirl Chris around before he could reach the door. "You broke into my room, you abused me, and I'm running out? What exactly did I do to deserve such violations? Can you explain that to me?"

"You didn't do anything. I was drunk and hurtin'. That's all."

"Oh, and that gives you the right to do whatever you wish?"

"No," Chris replied sharply. "I thought we had something but when I needed it, it wasn't there."

Ezra blinked away. "Then maybe you needed it too much."

"What I did was wrong," Chris admitted low. "I'm sorry. Go if you want to."

Ezra glared back. "I don't need your permission to go or to remain."

"I know." Chris nodded. "It was always your choice."

"All this hasn't exactly easy for me either." Ezra scowled at the floor then realised he was naked. "Hell!" He turned away for his clothes only to turn back a split second later. "I didn't start this, Chris."

"I know."

"You did."

"I know that too."

"And... I've missed my train."

"You can always catch the next one." Chris shrugged. "If you want to."

"Of course I don't want to." Ezra sighed, exasperated. "I never wanted to."

"Then don't." Chris smiled.

Ezra closed his eyes and rubbed at that damn headache. "Chris, I don't ever want to be responsible for that."


"For that, that thing you do," Ezra returned forcefully if confusedly. "That whole mean drunk, wreck the town thing. I don't want that."

Chris shook his head slightly. "There ain't no guarantees."

"With what?" Ezra frowned.

Chris just turned for the door. "Come back to town when you're ready."

"Hold on a damn minute!" Ezra grabbed Chris as he reached for the door again. "You don't just say something like that and walk away," he went on, ignoring Chris' annoyed glower.

"I've said my piece."

"Well, I'm not finished," Ezra snapped. "If this, this... whatever we have is going to continue, we have to get a few things straight."

"All right." Chris waited for him to go on.

"First off, if you ever pull anything like that again, I'll leave without another word, understand? Secondly, outside our peace enforcement activities, you don't tell me what to do. I go where I like, when I like for however long I choose to."

Chris nodded. "All right. But if you're having doubts about us, you tell me."

"Agreed." Ezra nodded.

"You finished?" Chris asked, a smile tugging at his lips.

"No." Ezra shook his head in an opinionated fashion but couldn't think of anything to say. He ended up doing the only thing he could do: he kissed Chris on the mouth, long and sweet.

A moment later, Chris returned the kiss in a teasing exploration, easing them both over to the bed while his hands stroked down Ezra's back, firm and even. "I won't want you to leave but I won't try to stop you again," Chris broke the kiss to say softly while Ezra began unbuttoning his shirt.

"Not even a little?" Ezra grinned, pulling the shirt loose while Chris unbuckled his gun belt. "I'm sure a man of your undoubted talent and abilities can be extremely persuasive when he puts his mind to something."

"Is that a fact?" Chris asked playfully, only to grimace when he tried to slip out of his shirt too quickly.

"Easy there, my fearless one." Ezra helped him off with the shirt then hung it over the rail before Chris followed suit with the gun belt. "We don't want any casualties before the main event, do we?" He closed in for another bout of kissing while Chris kicked off his boots and eased out of the remainder of his clothes before they moved onto the bed.

To Ezra's surprise, Chris seemed content to let him take the lead in their lovemaking. While he initiated a deliciously slow pace, Chris' touches were encouraging, his movements strictly responsive.

"I feel it's my duty to warn you that I could get used to this," Ezra spoke softly between strokes and kisses, enjoying this unhindered exploration of Chris' body.

"You do that," Chris replied with conviction, causing Ezra to capture his mouth in a demanding kiss.

"Oh, I see what you're up to," Ezra reluctantly parted from Chris' lips to say. "This is all a cunning plan to get me addicted to the abundant charms of a certain Mr Larabee."

"You're not just a pretty face, are you?" Chris grinned as Ezra nipped his chin. "Is it working?"

Ezra fingered Chris' lips in consideration. "I'd say it's got more than a fair chance of succeeding."

"Good." Chris nodded before Ezra kissed him deeply, heightening that chance with every touch thereafter.


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