I was almost paralyzed with fear but trying not to show it. Chaucer knew something was wrong but I truly thought I was hiding it from Chris until he put a quiet hand on mine and stopped us both.
"Ezra, we're going to be all right. I love you too much to want to cause you anymore pain than I already have." Those hazel eyes looked straight into mine and I felt myself tremble when he brought my hand to his lips to lay a gentle kiss into my palm.
"What if they don't understand?" My voice was just a whisper. "Vin and Buck are your best friends and I'm just ... a ..." I wasn't sure what I was any more.
"You're the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with, Ezra. You're the man that gave me love when I thought I'd never love again." He pulled me close and kissed me thoroughly until I relaxed.
Chaucer and Pony had gotten used to us stopping close together over the last day's riding. I was glad that they seemed to like each other or one of us would have been bucked off before now. Resting my head against Chris' shoulder, I sighed.
"I love you, Chris. I just don't want to ruin your friendships with the others."
"If they can't accept us then that's their problem, not ours. Vin probably already has and once Buck stops to think about it, he'll probably be the first one to ask us who's on top." Chris chuckled and I had to smile.
"Don't stop laughing, Chris. It's the most beautiful music I ever heard." I licked the side of his throat and felt him shiver in the noonday sun. "And it's none of his business who is on top of who when he can't even bring himself to seduce JD."
Chris chuckled again and let me go. "Well, maybe you could give him some pointers. Just remember that I have to be there if you're going to start tutoring Buck in love."
"Indeed, I wouldn't be able to teach unless I had a handy student nearby to demonstrate with." I let go of him reluctantly and urged Chaucer onward.
"Yeah, I'm the only one who gets to help you out." His glare was a tenth of its former fury and I smiled back at him, disarmed at his show of jealousy.
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
We rode on and I realized that he had calmed my nerves quite effectively. He hadn't however, calmed them completely for we had no way of knowing how Josiah and Nathan would react. The healer and I had an uneasy truce while the preacher was someone that I could have loved if Chris hadn't taken me as his. I didn't know if my lover realized that or not and I certainly wasn't going to tell him.
JD would accept it if Buck did. Those two had been dancing around each other for over a year now and I idly wondered if maybe I should help them out. A smile crossed my lips and I thought about all the different ways they might be led to each other.
"Damn it, Ezra. Don't get that look on your face when we're in sight of town and I can't do anything about it." Chris' exasperated tones made me grin even wider.
"Ah have no idea what you're talking about, Sir. Why Ah'm just riding along thinking about what we'll have for dinner, which Ah might add, Ah might be persuaded to eat in my room in case a gentleman comes to call." I shot him a flirty look from under my eyelashes and watched his smile break out.
"I believe you might be right, Ezra. Gentlemen callers are probably always knocking at your door."
"Indeed, yes. However, there is a secret knock that only the man who holds my heart knows how to tap. I'll only be opening the door if I hear two shorts, a pause and one more knock. Why look the town limits are just ahead." And I clucked Chaucer to a canter while Chris swore behind me, trying to catch up. We ended in a dead heat at the back of the stable where Vin was waiting for us.
He looked at us each for a long moment then smiled that sweet smile of his. "Good to have you back. I see that everything is fine on the trail."
Chris nodded and smiled the beaming smile that I'd only seen in the last two days. "Everything is perfect, Vin. How did it go here?"
"Two drunks, one suspected cow thief and one case of food poisoning over at the hotel. Other than that, it was real quiet. Looks like it was noisier out where you were."
I blushed to the tips of my ears while Chris just laughed out loud and slapped Vin on the shoulder. "You just might be right, Vin."
Gathering my saddlebags, I nodded to them before leading Chaucer into the stables for his rubdown. Young Brewster took him from me and promised he'd take good care of him. I ruffled his hair and told him thank you. Whenever I was flush, I made sure that I tipped him for his good care of Chaucer. The chestnut had been a friend to me for several years and deserved any extra treats I could give him.
Walking to the saloon, I waved to Inez before heading up the stairs to my room. Unloading my saddlebags, I put all the clothes into the dirty pile and made a note to myself to send them over to the Chang laundry. They'd set up shop after the railroad had gone through south of here and I favored their skill in returning my shirts to me the same color as I sent to them.
I wondered if Chris used them too and stopped brushing my hair. Gazing in the mirror over the dresser, I asked myself if I looked any different. I hadn't seemed to change but my eyes seemed bigger or maybe they were sparkling just a touch more. Suddenly a knock came at my door.
Two taps, a pause and one more.
My stomach tightened in anticipation and I hurried to open it. Chris slipped inside the moment it opened and I was in his arms before it had a chance to completely close again. His lips were on mine as if he wanted to suck my heart right out of my breast. I slid my arms around his waist and hung on while he ravished my mouth. When finally the kiss gentled, I'm not sure which of us sighed first.
"I looked around and you weren't there. Scared me so bad that I left Vin still talking and headed right here. Damn, Ezra, don't do that. Least ways, not while we're so new. I need you where I can see you and know you're safe." He stroked his hands down my back in long soothing slides.
"The others will definitely notice us if we're joined at the hip." I licked his throat again and pondered all the other spots on his body that I wanted to get my tongue on.
"Rather be joined somewhere else." He slid his hands over my ass and pressed our groins closer together. "More I have of you the more I want."
"Very, very true, Chris. But we agreed to be circumspect for a while until we can discover the other's views. Vin seems to be all right with us?" I pulled far enough back to see his eyes.
The affection in them made me smile. "He's fine. He was laughing fit to bust when I noticed you were gone and took off after you."
"Good, one down and four to go." I was still a little nervous.
"We'll approach 'em together that way we'll have each other to watch our backs." He said from under my ear while he sucked lightly on that spot that made me shiver. "We need to check in at the jail to see JD and let him know we're back." But he kept on kissing down my throat while I leaned against the door and wondered if I could come with only that to stimulate me.
"Chris." I sighed his name and he finally stopped.
"I know. But we'll see the others and then go take a bath before coming back here, yes?" His eyes sparkled and I couldn't help my own smile.
"Yes, to anything you want." I gave him my trust and he returned it threefold.
"You'll come back inside of me?" His voice was low and hungry.
"Yes, oh yes." Being inside of him was like reaching nirvana and the only thing better was when he took me. However, we had to first get through meeting the rest of our group.
"Ready?" He held me at arm's length and I nodded with a deep breath.
I tidied his collar and took him to my mirror so he could brush his hair. That seemed like such an intimate thing to do, lending him my brush, which was silly when we'd shared our bodies so completely. But it seemed that I needed to worry about something to keep the greater worry away.
He went down the front stairs while I took the back so I could talk to Inez about dinner. Her bright eyes wondered why I was taking such pains with the food but with just one addition, her menu would be fine. Then I went out to find Josiah and Nathan sitting by Chris. Swallowing hard, I put a smile on my face and went to sit by our preacher. He welcomed me with a big grin and a pat on my shoulder that helped settle my nerves.
"Welcome back, s- Ezra." He caught himself and I smiled gratefully at him. My father was not someone I wanted to be reminded of. Josiah was his polar opposite in every way and my affection for him overflowed into my smile.
He blinked at me and I could see him wondering why I was grinning at him. A quick look at Chris showed me his frown and I tried to put my poker face back on but he'd ruined me forever that way. All I felt had to be in my eyes because his gaze gentled at once.
"That must have been a very interesting trip, gentlemen." Nathan's voice sounded rather dry and I know that I went rigid with fear when I heard it. "Ezra."
I dragged my gaze up from the table where it had fallen and met his chocolate eyes.
"I'm happy for you both." He said simply while I almost fainted at the release of tension. "I know how it feels." And I saw his gaze go to Josiah with an affectionate smile that made my eyes widen.
"Josiah?" I asked him. "Are you happy, too?"
"Very happy, Ezra. The good Lord moves in mysterious ways, his miracles of love to perform." He patted my hand and I wanted to kiss him.
"Well, it looks like we have some things to celebrate." Chris' voice brought my attention back to him and I saw him smiling at Inez behind the bar. It was obviously the sign she had been waiting for because she immediately brought over a bottle of whiskey and some clean glasses.
Chris poured us each out a glass and held his up in a toast. "May we always stay the good friends that we are right now."
"Amen, brother." Josiah's deep voice filled our corner of the bar while we all sipped.
"And may we always see truly into the heart of our fellow men." Nathan said quietly.
"Indeed, to friends." I managed to say while swallowing against the tears that choked my throat. To have acceptance where I'd feared condemnation was almost too much for me to assimilate.
"Now, boys, it looks like you started without us." Buck's voice boomed from behind me. "I call that right unfriendly of you." He sat down by Nathan and took one of the glasses that Chris had poured, his eyes busy looking between us to figure out what was going on while JD sat down at my other side.
I handed him a glass and saw JD's wistful look divided between Chris and me. I'd always known that he was not the total innocent that he appeared. But Buck was still protecting his heart from pain and not looking at the love that was just waiting for him. I was so happy that I wanted everyone to feel the same.
"JD, after dinner, Chris and I need to go over to the bathhouse to bathe away our trip. Why don't you join us so we can give you the report of our journey at the same time?" I offered.
"That sounds good, Ezra." His eyes had widened again and I realized that I'd been so informal as to use his first name. "I'll bet the trip was hard on your clothes."
I tried not to blush, I really did but all I could think about was the way that Chris had torn open my shirt in his haste to get it off of me. "Yes, travel doesn't agree with cotton."
And Chris choked while trying not to laugh and swallow at the same time. His eyes promised me retribution while Josiah slapped his back but all I could think was how beautiful his laughter was. Buck was looking back and forth between us with dawning understanding that bode a private conversation before too long.
Dinner was a rather gay affair with more laughter around the table than I'd ever encountered before. I made sure that I asked JD's opinion on several of our topics and I watched Buck without seeming to. He didn't like it when JD's attention was on one of us and not on him. Vin had joined us and sat between Buck and our sheriff. I have to say that the quiet tracker saw what I was doing and played up beautifully.
He got JD to laugh twice and I could see Buck beginning to look worried. Somehow we all decided to go to the bathhouse for baths and after praising Inez for dinner, we left the saloon still talking and laughing. JD and Vin walked on ahead with Buck quick to catch up while Chris kept pace at my side with a quiet chuckle.
I dearly loved hearing him laugh. His smile was so beautiful to me that I'm afraid that I had a rather silly look on my face when he placed a hand on my back to let me go first through the door of the slightly steamy shack that served the town of Four Corners. One of these days, I wanted a bathtub all my own in the privacy of my very own bathroom. I sighed, with hot and cold running water.
Some day. I began to remove my clothes while still pondering the joys of civilized bathing. A hand reached around me and I realized that Chris had steered me into one of the blanketed alcoves for a little privacy. His fingers were unbuttoning my shirt and the look on his face could only be called lascivious. So I began my own undressing of his tempting body and it became a race to see who got naked first.
We both won and with a hasty kiss we wrapped towels around us and went out to the tubs of steamy water. JD was already in one scrubbing industriously away at one foot while Vin was soaking quietly next to him. I feared that our tracker's back was bothering him again and I pondered how to get him to accept a massage from our healer.
Sinking into the hot water, I sighed happily and reached for the soap the same time that Chris did. Our eyes met and promised more later. It was amazing how expressive his eyes were now that the shutters of his pain had been removed. I let him have the soap and looked around in time to see Nathan hand some soap to Josiah. Our preacher smiled and reached over to scrub our healer's back.
That relationship was almost as surprising as Chris' declaration to me. And yet, they were well matched, both being healers in different ways. Nathan healed bodies while Josiah healed hearts. It was good to see them together. I felt Chris' hand on my back and I leaned forward with a wiggle so he could reach that itchy spot on my lower back. JD's eyes got really big and he kept shooting us little glances.
I began to tell him about our trip and what the sheriff had said when we delivered our prisoner. Halfway through my story, I sat back and took the soap from Chris to begin washing his back. He took up our report and finished it about the same moment I dropped the soap accidentally. He shot me a wicked look when I tried fishing for it and I sent him a chastising look that I'm afraid was spoiled by the twinkle in my eyes.
Josiah's chuckle brought our eyes to him. "Boys, I'm glad to see how helpful we are. Vin, Nathan and I would be glad to see you in the clinic later if you'd like a little heat on that back of yours."
"I'm fine, Josiah." Vin shook his head.
"A little heat wouldn't hurt, Vin." Chris told him quietly.
"Nathan's healing hands give a very good massage." I added gently, hoping that Vin wouldn't mind.
Bright blue eyes met mine and he nodded slowly. "Guess it wouldn't hurt. It does kind of ache a little."
An understatement if I'd ever heard one. But Nathan was approving his acceptance and the three of them were reaching for towels and preparing to dress to leave. I watched them duck behind another of the blanket walls and realized that it would just be the four of us left. I shot a look at Chris and he nodded slowly to tell me it was all right to go ahead.
The sound of the others leaving strengthened my resolve to speak up. "JD, I can see that you have some questions to ask of Chris and myself. It's all right."
"Is it true that men can love other men?" His dark brown eyes were so earnest.
"Yes, it's true. It's not condoned by any church other than Josiah's but throughout history there have always been men who love their fellow men." Anticipating his next question, I smiled at him. "And yes, there is a physical component to that loving that is ... wonderful."
This time my smile was at Chris and his hand met mine between our tin tubs. He continued on. "Some men can love both women and men. I experimented some when I was younger but once I met Sarah and married her, I never considered anyone else. Until I met Ezra and realized that my heart hadn't frozen completely."
"You're going to be together, all the time?" JD was trying so hard not to look at Buck that it would have been comical if it wasn't so heartbreaking.
"That's the plan." Chris said laconically. I was going to try and break him of that habit.
"How do you know if someone might be open to that?" JD was still not looking at Buck.
"Well, I just upped and kissed Ezra but I can't quite recommend that since it scared him so bad that I almost lost him to the river." Chris grinned at me and I chuckled.
"I think you could just ask him, JD. If he's a friend and if he's got a lot of experience with love then I can almost guarantee that he won't hit you." I shot a look a Buck and almost chuckled at the expressions that were flying across his face.
Hope. Despair. Yearning. Love. Fear. The entire range of emotions were there to be seen. JD was finally looking at his best friend with such a look of yearning that I almost gasped. "Buck? Do you think someone like ... like yourself could ... could ever love someone like ... me?"
You could have heard a pin drop in the bathhouse and Chris squeezed my hand hard while we all waited for Buck's answer.
"I think that someone like me would be very proud to love someone like you." His blue eyes were so soft and his big hand met JD's between the tubs in a grip almost as tight as ours. "In fact, I think I've been in love with you for a very long time now."
"Really?" JD sniffed just a little and I was reminded how young he was. "It took me a little while to understand what I was feeling 'cause I didn't know that it would be okay. But I've been in love with you for a real long time, too."
"Go slowly, gentlemen. Take the time to get to know each other in another way. I know that you'll be real gentle with JD, Buck." I warned them both. "Don't rush into anything without care."
"We won't, Ez'." Buck reassured me without taking his eyes off of JD. "How about we finish these baths and go get better acquainted, JD?"
JD blushed a little but nodded with a grin. "Want me to wash your back, Buck?"
And the blue gaze turned heated. "That would be a real kindness, JD. Then I'll wash yours."
Chris chuckled again and stood up, the water cascading down his body. "Boys, we'll leave you to your washing. Ezra?"
I stood as well and draped the towel around my hips. "We'll see you in the morning. Not too early, of course."
Laughter followed Chris and I into the little alcove where we helped each other dry off all those hard to reach spots. Redressing was fun as well until the sound of splashing grew louder yet and we made our escape from what appeared to be a water fight. We dashed back to the saloon and went up the back stairs to my room. The key turned easily and we were soon safe behind locked doors.
I spared a thought for the newly coupled pair. I wished them the happiness that I now held in my arms; the pleasure that came from slowly stripping a lover; the love that warmed my heart and soul; the joy in exploring long limbs and tender flesh; the long pause after sliding deep into the body of your other half; the groans and gasps of fulfillment; the chanting of a beloved name when climax was near; and the heat of possession that encompassed both possessor and possessed.
All of that was mine and more, I was the luckiest man in Four Corners.
"Ezra, if you don't move, I swear I'm going to ... to" Chris faltered when I started the long slide out before thrusting back in again. "Oh, there. Yes-s-s-s."
I smiled and settled in to give him the hard pounding that he and I both desired. "Chris, I think that we need to add a bathroom to your house. Just think how nice it would be to have a bathtub big enough for both of us."
"Yes. Whatever you want, Ezra. We can build it on later. Just keep on ... oh yeah." He went incoherent on me and I felt the burn begin to spread all throughout my body. His voice went deeper and my name was all he seemed able to say until with a last thrust that sent my seed deep within him, he came in my hand.
His arms gave out and we slid down onto my bed with me plastered to his back. I felt like never moving again but Chris seemed to be trying to say something so I rolled us to our sides so I wasn't squishing him into the mattress.
"Ezra, if you'll keep making love to me like that, I promise that I'll build you the biggest, best bathroom in the state." He brought my hand to his lips and began to lick his seed from my fingers.
"I promise to keep making love to you and I'll help you build it." I nuzzled the back of his neck and licked the clean sweat from behind his ear. "Of course, I'll also need a proper kitchen."
Chris chuckled and pulled my arms tighter around him. "We'll build one of those too, Ezra. After all, I need to have something to keep you with me."
I bit his ear. "The only thing I need is you, Chris Larabee. Just keep loving me and I'll stay forever."
"Promise?" The yearning note was all too familiar.
"I promise with all my heart."
The end for now