I finished the days work with a sigh of satisfaction. Every time I looked around at yet another project done, I felt some of the pain of my past recede a little further. This was not my father's church and there would be no fire and brimstone spoken here. But there was still some melancholy inside my soul for I had no one to share this with. I shook myself back to the present and went in to wash my hands. I'd worked up an appetite.
Dinner at the saloon was part of my daily routine and Inez brought my plate almost immediately after I sat down at the corner table. Ezra was already playing cards with a couple of cowboys and I watched him without seeming to. His smile seemed a trifle forced to me and I pondered why that might be.
I tried to be there for all my compatriots but I simply could not be impartial to the wounded dark-haired man at the poker table. Something in him called to me like the siren's song in Homer. I'd fought my attraction from the moment I met him, nothing in his demeanor telling me that he might be open to a more personal relationship.
But lately, he'd seemed more troubled than usual and I'd gone out of my way to speak to him or join the game. He almost always relaxed when we were alone and I felt that his smile was completely genuine then. He liked me to tell him stories about my travels and I could see that far away look that told me he was imagining himself there. And how I wish he had been with me.
Sharp voices brought me back to the here and now. I'd finished my pork and beans even mopped up the gravy with my bread so nothing would keep me from helping out where I was needed. Ezra was shaking his head with a self-deprecating smile but one of the cowboys seemed to be too drunk to pay attention to what he was saying.
Smoothly, I got up and crossed to the table, standing behind the belligerent. "Now, brothers, I see that one of you has had a little too much to drink. Perhaps you gentlemen would be willing to help him up to your room, if you have one?"
"I'm juss' fine, mister. Thish guy isn't dealin' right." He slued around in his chair and I watched his eyes get bigger and bigger when they had to climb so far up to meet mine.
"I can see that you're indeed fine, brother but I also think that you've looked on the wine when it was red and perhaps need to go and sleep it off." I patted his shoulder heavily. "Why tomorrow is Sunday and I'd hate for you to miss my sterling sermon on temperance at eight o'clock. I can expect to see you, brother, can't I?"
"Okay," was all he said before his eyes rolled back inside his head and he fell forward into my arms.
His friends just laughed but obeyed my request that they put him to bed. That left Ezra free and he smiled up at me with his real smile, the one I liked to think belonged to me only. "Mr. Sanchez, do you even have a sermon on temperance?"
I sat down across from him. "Indeed I do, Ezra, it belonged to my father and I remember every word of it. He usually delivered it to some poor sinner too drunk to understand him but I heard it so many times that it is permanently etched into my memory."
"Then I shall not ever ask to hear it, not if it brings you pain." He said quietly and blushed a little when I gazed at him in wonder. "Would you like a game, Sir?"
"Yes, I think I would. Nothing finishes off a good day like playing a little poker with a friend." I reassured him and he blushed even harder. My heart was beating faster for some reason and my pants tightened over my slumbering cock.
We played a hand by ourselves before being joined by Vin and Buck just in off patrol. When Chris joined us, we played one more hand before Ezra bid us goodnight. I had been wondering for some time if he might not feel something for the man who led us. Something beyond friendship. That melancholy struck yet again and I pushed back from the table with my own goodnight.
Three more days had passed when I realized that Ezra was in pain. He rarely ate with much appetite but even that seemed to have failed him. It was September and the days were growing shorter, the weather finally giving way to autumn. It rarely rained more than enough to settle the dust on the boardwalk but the skies betokened a real storm brewing and I hurried to the saloon for my dinner.
Ezra was sitting alone at the table where I usually sat and I looked at him while I made my way over to him. He was idly moving his fork through the beans on his plate but the frown between his eyes was a deep one. He looked up when I sat down beside him. I took a chance that no one would notice and rested my hand on his cheek. He was burning up.
"Josiah." His pretty green eyes were dull with fatigue. "I don't feel very well."
It was a measure of his pain that he used my first name instead of insisting on being his formal self. "You're running a fever, Ezra. What hurts the most?"
"My side feels like a mule kicked me." He laid down his fork and went a pale shade of green.
And that scared me right into movement. "Come on, Ezra. I think we'll pay a little visit to Nathan."
He just nodded, which told me how much he was hurting. When he stood, he doubled over with an almost silent cry. I hurriedly swung him up in my arms and left out the back of the saloon. He had one arm around my neck and his face was buried in my shoulder. He'd lost weight and I felt how light he was in my arms. That made me hurry faster. Vin caught sight of us in the dusk and he joined us in time to open the door for us at Nathan's.
Our healer was startled but he immediately beckoned me to bring Ezra over to his examining table. And it was exactly what I feared; Ezra's appendix was inflamed and needed to come out. Vin went to tell the others and Nathan put the kettle on to boil while I gently undressed Ezra. I silently wished that I were doing this for a different reason. His skin was burning everywhere and his little whimpers of pain were almost more than I could stand. I was almost glad when Nathan put him out with ether.
I held the light steady while he made the incision above where the organ should be. When he found it, he grimaced, muttering that it was twice its normal size. He hurriedly tied it off from its neighbor and cut the connection before easing it out and into a china bowl he had ready. At that very moment it left his hand, it burst and spewed all over the white porcelain.
"Damn, that was close. If it had burst in there, the infection would have killed him. You'd be burying him within the week." Nathan was sweating but his hands were steady while he sewed up the three-inch wide incision. "He was lucky, Josiah."
"We all were, Nathan. I don't want to lose any of us." I was singing hosannas in my heart.
"But especially not Ezra." Those dark eyes of his met mine and I nodded. "I didn't think much of him when we first met, Josiah. But it's been a year now and I'm beginning to think I might have been a mite mistaken. I hated every thing about the South for so long that it didn't occur to me that Ezra was a man who just happened to be from that part of the country."
"He's a good man, Nathan, who has always held his demons inside of him, like the rest of us." I dared to say a little more. "I guess I hoped that in time he might be willing to share his pain and let it go."
"Well, if anyone can help him with that, I'd say that you were the man. He likes you and he always relaxes when you come into the room." Nathan was rubbing Ezra down with a cloth soaked in alcohol and keeping a sharp eye on the incision. "Why don't you take over here for me while I go tell the guys that Ezra will be just fine?"
I looked at him and saw nothing but acceptance in his gaze. My fingers had been itching to take the cloth from his hand the moment he started touching him. "What do I do if he comes to?"
"He won't be coming out of the ether for at least twelve hours. In fact, why don't you move him over to the bed when you finish wiping him down. He'll be more comfortable there when he finally does wake up. If he feels hot, cool him down. And watch the incision to make sure that it doesn't redden." Nathan handed me the cloth. "You know where the water is, so use it cool instead of the alcohol. I don't want his skin to dry out. Tomorrow we'll put some comfrey salve on the stitches so he doesn't have too bad a scar."
"Why don't you eat dinner while you're there, Nathan? I won't leave him." I vowed.
"I think I will, Josiah. And I'll bet you didn't get to eat either so I'll bring you back something in an hour or so." Nathan smiled and patted my shoulder before he left me alone with the man I was beginning to think I loved more than was good for either of us.
I carefully wiped his entire body with the alcohol, hating the heat I felt but loving each inch of satin smooth skin. His groin was especially beautiful to my eyes, his organ of a pleasing length and thickness. Right then I felt nary a twitch in my own groin because I was too busy worshipping the pale body before me. When I was done, he felt a fraction cooler to my touch.
Turning back the covers on the bed that Nathan kept always ready, I gently lifted him in my arms and tenderly laid him down on the soft sheets. Checking the incision again, I felt the heat radiating from it with the tips of my fingers. My prayers were fervent and sent to every god or goddess I'd met up with on my travels. I bathed his body over and over with the cool water, changing the one over the incision every few moments.
When Nathan returned, we took turns bathing him until he seemed to reach a temperature that felt comfortable to him. I sent Nathan to his own bed while I stayed by Ezra's side, holding his hand in mine and praying silently. Just before dawn, he began to move a little. When I stroked his forehead, he smiled and turned into my hand just like an old cat I'd had once, trapping my hand beneath his cheek.
That innocent gesture did what not even the sight of his naked body had done, hardened me completely. I was going to have to go relieve myself before any of the others saw me but I couldn't go until Nathan woke up. Within the hour, I was on my way back to the church, walking briskly but with my coat closed over my inappropriate erection.
Once in the privacy of my own room at the back of the church, I locked the door behind me and began tearing off my clothes. Lying back onto my bed, I took myself in hand and finally allowed my memory of that pale, beautiful body to come to the fore. The way his cock lay in its nest of dark curls and the pretty pink nipples that peaked when I touched them, all were part of the pictures in my mind while I roughly stroked my cock to completion.
And I felt ashamed at how I'd abused his innocence.
A week later and Ezra was ready to leave the small clinic for good. He was still weak and Nathan told him in front of me that he shouldn't be alone just yet. I took hold of my courage and will power, offering him my room until he was able to be on his own. He looked at me so shyly that I silently vowed to behave myself no matter what.
But he agreed and that was all that was important. He still could barely walk across the room so I let him walk downstairs by himself before picking him up and taking him the back way to the church. The others were there to greet him and he seemed surprised but pleased at their attention. He quickly tired though and they left us after an hour of catching him up on all the latest gossip.
He insisted on walking back to my room on his own but he was pale and trembling when he got there. Sitting down heavily on the bed, he took a deep breath then another. "I dislike this weakness intensely."
I knelt before him. "I know you do, Ezra but it's only for a little while until you build up your strength again. And until then, please let me help you."
He tilted his head the way he did sometimes when he was thinking hard. Whatever he was thinking about, he finally must have reached a decision because those green eyes of his met mine with a very determined look. "Josiah, do you love me?"
I felt my heart almost jump out of my chest. "Yes, Ezra, I do."
"I don't know about men making love to men but I think I would like to learn from the man for whom I find I have feelings." He spoke with a little catch in his voice and I knew I was in big trouble.
"Thank you, Ezra. How about we take it very slow?" I moved my hands to his knees and rested them there gently, not wanting to spook him further.
He blushed then covered my hands with his, those long slender fingers sliding over mine so innocently that I could have cried. "Yes, please, I would like that immensely."
I had to clear my throat before I could speak again. "Then that's what we'll do. How about we start by getting you comfortable?"
"Only if you're going to join me, Josiah. I want to see all of you if you're going to see all of me." He leaned forward and slid open my top button while I frantically told my cock to stop swelling before I scared him half to death. Not even deep breaths were going to help me out here once I felt his hands on my skin.
"Josiah, you're trembling." His concerned tones brought me back to this impossible dream that was unfolding before me.
"I've wanted you for a very long time, Ezra and your touch affects me more it should." I told him truthfully and watched him smile at me.
It was the smile that showed his dimples and I couldn't help myself. With a low moan, I covered that smile with my lips and drank in his gasp like it was food of the gods. I had enough self-control to keep it gentle but the taste of him would never be enough. Slowly, I drew back and watched his eyes open to meet mine.
"Oh my, Josiah. I want more." He unbuttoned another button and I felt his fingers brush against my skin but on purpose this time. "I think I will trade you kisses for buttons."
I had to chuckle at the ingenuous look he sent me while I started a little unbuttoning of my own. I hadn't been there to help him dress and believe me I liked undressing him even more. All too soon, he was down to his pants and so was I. Matter of factly, I tugged off his boots and socks before gently laying him back onto the sheets and unbuttoning his pants. He was wearing some kind of silk drawers that slid right off those slender hips of his.
But unlike the last time I'd seen him this time his cock was hard and arcing above his stomach like a beautiful flag. He was blushing all the way down to his toes but I just kissed him again and let my hand slide around him while he whimpered under my lips. That sound was a positive aphrodisiac to me and I quietly undid my own pants before my cock strangled.
"Ezra, I need you to just lay there and feel good while I take care of you. Please?" I pleaded while my hand kept on slowly moving up and down his cock.
"Oh God, Josiah, that feels so good." He was panting but trying not to move for me. With a long arm, I brought the pillow down to him and got him arranged so there wasn't any pressure on the still healing incision.
And then I finally let myself taste him intimately. He was already leaking and I knew this first time would be fast if only because I didn't want him hurting himself. So, I slid him deep and sucked just a little while his hips tried to come up off of the bed. Again and yet again I coaxed him to come for me and shortly thereafter, he cried out and gave me his seed. When I finally let him go, I discovered he'd passed out.
Standing was awkward but I got him under the covers then sat down on the edge of the bed to take off my boots and socks. With a sigh of relief, I slid off my pants and stood to kick them off completely.
"Josiah, let me see you." A hesitant hand stroked my leg and I almost came from that single touch. When I turned, his eyes were huge and he sat up with only a little wince. "Oh my, Josiah, you are quite ... large. I want to touch him."
He was going to be the death of me but I could no more deny him then I could forswear the Lord. So I pushed back the covers and slid in next to him while he scooted over to give me room, his eyes never once leaving my cock. "He belongs to you now, Ezra. You do what ever you want with him."
That smile made my heart dance and his first shy, hesitant touch to the crown almost made me come right then. But I could see his curious nature come to the fore and he knelt by my hip and lightly stroked me the way I had him. I tried to prolong the experience by reciting the really boring parts of the Bible but my mind kept wanting to skip to the Song of Solomon. But when he leaned over and licked away a bead of fluid from my slit, I lost all control and spasmed in his hand over and over until I was finished.
He was licking me clean and I hadn't even lost my hardness, my body already readying itself for more. But I could see his hands begin to shake so I stilled them. "Ezra, that was just what I needed. Lie down with me?"
He slid next to me as close as he could get and I reached a long arm over to the side table for the cloth I kept there. Cleaning us both up took only a moment then I pulled the covers up higher so he didn't get a chill.
"I love how warm you are, Josiah. And you taste good too. Why didn't you get soft when you came?" The shy question had me hunting for a good lie but when I looked in his eyes, I knew I couldn't do it.
"I've been wanting you for a long time, Ezra. My body has been saving itself for you and right now it wants more. But it will eventually go down, so don't you worry about it." I kissed him gently and tasted myself on his sweet mouth. His lips parted and a shy tongue licked at me while I trembled with the need to bury myself in him.
He pulled away and looked at me. "I'm not sure what else men can do but I want to do more tonight. Even though I am a little tired."
I thought quickly and chose something that might satisfy both of us without any undo exertion on his part. "All right but I want you to let me move us both. I don't want to hurt you."
He nodded eagerly and I stole another kiss before turning him onto his side so I could spoon behind him. He trembled a little when my cock brushed against his cleft and I told myself to be good or expect a nice cold wash cloth instead. "Part your legs so he can come between them. That's right, now close them around him and he'll think he's in heaven."
"Oh, that feels odd but good." He put down his hand to stroke me and I felt myself harden just a little bit more.
"Now rock with me while I do a little moving to get him excited." I began to thrust in and out between his thighs while his cock tried to decide if he wanted to come back to life or not. "That's it, Ezra. Go ahead and touch him if you want to. He likes everything you do."
He laughed and gripped me tighter than he had before, gaining confidence with every stroke. I started kissing his shoulder then moved up to his ear to bite it gently. He shivered before wiggling around me in a way that almost brought me release right then and there. Twisting just a little, he mutely asked me for another kiss and I gave him a flurry of them, all over his beautiful face.
It wasn't long after that I came again and he took the opportunity to taste more of me. That is a sight that will never pall. I cleaned us both up again and checked his temperature before blowing out the lamp and taking him back into my arms.
"Love you, Josiah." He yawned against my shoulder and I laid a kiss on top of that soft hair of his.
"I love you, too, Ezra. Now go to sleep for me." I cradled him against my chest.
"Want to touch you some more tomorrow. And taste you, too." His voice was getting fainter and fainter.
"Then that's what we'll do, Ezra. Sweet dreams, beloved." I rocked him gently and felt him go to sleep right then.
"And Lord, thank you for saving Ezra and letting me love him." I raised my eyes to the heavens and wondered if angelic hosts were singing or if it was just Ezra's breath against my skin. "And Lord, keep him safe even if it's not for me." And I remembered verse two of the Song of Solomon, murmuring it against his temple. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for thy love is better than wine."
And in the silence, I heard Ezra murmur my name. Holding him tight, I closed my eyes and rejoiced myself to sleep.
End of Settling the Dust