Author: Athea (
Fandom: Magnificent 7, Old West
Title: Settling the Dust, part ten
Pairing: Josiah/Ezra
Challenge: Hawthorne 2005 - Write of the small rituals that govern one's days or the secret vices that rule one's nights.
Date: 11 June 2005
********* Ezra *********

I'd never been an early riser although needs must when the devil rides. And while I was gambling, the devil rarely rode my shoulder but now I was a book store proprietor, early morning rising had become de rigueur. Well, early for me. Josiah liked rising at dawn and I'd come to appreciate his habit since it bode so very well for my comfort.

He'd get up first, slowly easing out from under me with gentle touches that made me want to tell him I was already awake. Losing a heat source like Josiah would wake up anyone. But I'd pretend to still be asleep so he could move out to begin his ritual awakening chores. Since the weather continued warm, he stayed naked while starting his tasks and I always slit my eyes to watch him pad out of our bedroom, looking like Atlas searching for his world.

First he would head to the kitchen and pump out enough water for our morning requirements which include putting on the kettle and heating water for our shaves. Then he rekindled the stove fire while humming rather tunelessly. I don't think he even knows he's doing that for when I asked him a few weeks back what tune it was, he looked blankly at me and shook his head.

Sad to say, his beautiful speaking voice does not translate into a singing one. Still, it showed me he was happy for that's the only time he hums. And that made me smile in thanksgiving that I'm the one who makes him happy. Wiggling a little deeper into the warm hollow he left behind, I fluffed the pillow under my head and waited for him to return to me.

He'd be putting on his robe that hangs on the back of the bathroom door now so he could go downstairs to get the fresh loaf of bread delivered by Rain to our back stoop. She delivers to 11 families and the restaurant now which is such a blessing. The extra money she makes went into their savings so they can get some of those necessities that we can not provide for ourselves - candles and oil in bulk for their lamps to name a few.

Nathan's business as apothecary was booming and even our back room had stems of sweet smelling herbs hanging from the heavy oak beams. We also now had a large planter box the width of our front window sitting on the plank sidewalk. I planted red geraniums first then filled in with tall spikes of English lavender, creeping thyme to spill over the sides of the box and pungent oregano to provide some purple foliage.

I paused my musings on my gardening venture to listen to Josiah coming back up the stairs to the kitchen. He was humming again and I smiled while snuggling deeper into our quilt. He was cutting the loaf into slices and pulling out the pot of raspberry jam from our terra cotta cooling box. I'd learned something new the day he showed it to me. I'd never realized that wetting the sides of the big bowl before upending it over what you wanted to keep cool would draw the heat from inside and keep your butter or jam from getting moldy.

He learned that in India, he told me and I marveled at the wisdom he had in that great mind of his. He blushed when I told him that and I knew he didn't quite believe me but he wanted to. I'd convince him one of these days or my name wasn't Ezra P. Standish. Little mewlings told me that Nero had ascended the stairs with my lover and he was demanding Josiah feed him.

There should have been a pint of cream from the Grangers dairy delivery alongside the loaf of bread so our kitten was dining like royalty while Josiah whispered to him 'not to wake Ezra up'. Smiling fondly, I heard the tea kettle beginning to whistle and Josiah quickly removing it from the stove. He would have the blue-white china teapot out with four teaspoons of the Assam tea, we were drinking this month, ready for the boiling water.

The teapot and six handless cups had come from Chinatown in San Francisco and had a beautiful dragon painted on each delicate cup. The spout of the teapot was a dragon's head and the handle was his sinuous tail. I'd fallen in love with it at once and Josiah had bought it when he saw how my eyes kept straying back to it. We had a perfectly good white teapot but something in the craftsmanship called to me.

I was such a lucky man to have such a wonderful lover.

A rattle told me to close my eyes again. Josiah always tiptoed into our bedroom while Nero scampered ahead of him. Another slight 'kerplunk' and the tray was deposited on the bed side table. Then gentle fingers stroked my cheek while tiny kitten claws scrabbled their way up the quilt to my chest.

"Good morning, beloved." Soft lips brushed mine and I had to smile.

Opening my eyes, I looked up into a brilliant blue gaze. "Good morning, Josiah. I love you."

His eyes lit up and this kiss was much warmer than the first. We tasted most nearly of ourselves before brushing our teeth and I loved that. A plaintive meow broke us apart while Nero chastised us for neglecting him. I sat up with Josiah's aid and pushed my pillow up to cushion my back while my lover poured the first cup of tea of the new day.

"The weather looks perfect, Ezra. I believe we'll be able to open the front door and leave it propped open for the day." Josiah sat by my hip and watched me sip my tea, his own cup almost forgotten.

I smiled at him. "Every day is perfect when we're together, my love. But I do like the idea of welcoming the townspeople and the fresh air into our shop."

He took his own sip and rubbed my leg through the quilt. He liked to touch me whenever possible and since I liked that too, we did it a lot. Clothed or unclothed, all that mattered was our connection through touch. Next would come feeding each other our bread and jam. That was even more of a ritual since we licked away any smears on each other. That sometimes led to making love before we dressed for the day.

I grinned at my lover - I thought perhaps that ritual should become an everyday one. Leaning forward, I lapped a drop of tea of his lips. "Hm-m-m, Josiah-flavored tea is surely a delicacy for only the most discerning of patrons."

His chuckle shook the bed and his tongue darted out to tickle my chin. "Nothing but the best for the king of my heart, Ezra."

Such an avowal still made me blush. Once we were finished with breakfast, I would watch Josiah shave as I did each morning then, once his whiskers would leave no burn behind, I would entice him back to bed and make slow - careful love to him. Perhaps we would even open the shop a little later than usual. Smiling slowly, I rubbed Nero's tummy while he purred for me and Josiah poured us both more tea.

I thought I'd see just how long it took me to make Josiah purr this morning. Perhaps he'd eventually convert me into an early riser, too. Perhaps.

*********************** The end for now