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The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. This story is strictly for entertainment.

With thanks to MAC for your support and Antoinette my hard working, patient  beta reader, for all your help and support during the development of this  story.

 

And I know I’ve done wrong

 

Ezra rode in silence as his horse matched Chris Larabee’s black stallion. Chris Larabee was a man that kept his own council, and he could imagine the thoughts that must have been going through his head, it wasn’t every day that you decided that you have feeling for another man. Deciding and acting on them where two different things, going out to the ranch, Ezra hoped Chris would finally get to acting on them. But he knew that he couldn’t push him, or else Chris would shy away from him. So for the moment he was content to allow him to take his time. Suddenly Chris pulled his horse up, and turned on him.

“What’s going on with you and the brothers?” The question came out of the blue, and for a moment Ezra was caught off guard.

“Mr. Larabee, you finally speak.” He drawled, “I thought you said that you had seen us. I would have thought that was self evident.”

“Smart mouth all you like Ez,” Chris said his green eyes raking over him. “You’re fucking those boys.”

“So it starts.” Ezra said.

“And what do you mean by that?”

Ezra shook his head, “Mr. Larabee, you want me, and it’s pissing you off that they had me first. I don’t know how to tell you this, but if you wanted a virgin, you’rer ten years late. The clan was only the last in a list of men that I’ve had, the only difference was those bastards were.” He paused and tried to suppress a shudder that ran through him as his skin crawled and he could feel their hands on him again, hear the voices of their women.  Ezra pushed the feelings to one side, he didn’t have time for self pity now, and he was in danger of losing the one thing he wanted with his heart and soul, Chris Larabee.

Weakness was not an option, he had to meet Chris head on “If youy can’t get by that, and I thought we had done in the hotel, then this journey is a waste of your time and mine.”  He started to pull his horse round only for Chris to reach over and grab his rein.

“Why did you let them?” The aggression was fading from Chris’s voice.

“Everyone needs to be loved Mr. Larabee, to be held with regard, and the brothers are gentlemen in the purest sense of the word. They treated me with respect, and never humiliation even when I am on my knees to them.” Ezra took a steadying breath, “you have no idea how rare that is.”

Chris nodded released the hold on the reins, and turned his own horse back in direction towards the ranch, without looking back he said “you coming Ezra.”

There was a pause, and Ezra nodded to him, “Lead on Mr. Larabee.” Ezra allowed himself a smile; it seemed they had past the first test.” But he was under no illusion that Chris would have more questions.

How had it all started with Tiny and Yosemite Hughes?

Three months ago

1.00 in the morning

Ezra came out of the saloon, his winnings safely tucked into his pocket, he had won $100, not bad he mused for a Friday night, tomorrow the stakes would be a lot bigger as the high rollers came into town on the Saturday noon stage.

What happened next Ezra wouldn’t really ever know, one minute he was walking and the next he was jumped, a blow to the back of the head, and as his knees crumbled he was dragged into the alley.  Several heavy blows round the face and he could was conscious enough to know they were the bad losers from his table earlier in the evening. His jacket was stripped off him, along with his guns, faces in the dark crowed as they found his money, then hands were clawing at this boots, his waistcoat, at his shirt  pulling it off him, tearing it from where it was trapped by his derringer rig on his forearm. Other hands pulled his pants, and long johns down and off him, before throwing him into the mud, naked and falling on him.

“Get the hell off him.” The deep voice rumbled matched with action as his attackers were thrown off him, he rolled onto his back and in the light  from the  bonfire burning in the street he saw  two large shapes.

He  blinked and then focused on Tiny Hughes, the big blacksmith reached a hand out; when he tried to bat it away and get up himself, the hand wrapped round his arm and he was drawn to his feet and pushed gentle against the wall while he got his bearings.  Tiny didn’t release his arm, and it was then that Yosemite had loomed over him as well, his hand latched onto his shoulder, Ezra looked up, and into their faces, even in the light that filtered from the fire burning in the street he had seen through the  mask that the brother’s wore. He had felt fear stir in the pit of his stomach, he knew that look and what it mean, and he was in no shape to fight them off.

It was then that the brothers must have sensed his fear, “You ain’t got anything to worry about Mr. Standish, we ain’t going to hurt you”  

He had seen the brothers around the town, done business with them, and played cards with them, there had been looks they had exchanged, glances that he had caught when they had looked at him. It had been the look of a child looking at the candy in a shop. A child that knew what it wanted, but wasn’t sure how to get it.

Tiny gave a soft sigh, “I think we should get you cleaned up Mr. Standish, the Saloon.”

“Hell no.” Ezra put in quickly, he was aware of how he would look, his clothes and body covered in mud, couldn’t face seeing the gloating looking on the smug faces of the towns men when he walked back in there, a cheating gambler getting his just deserts.

The brothers exchanged a look, “The livery stables got a room on the back of it, it ain’t much, but we’ve got an old tin bath...” he trailed off, as Ezra straightened up from where he had leant against the wall and reached down to pick up his soddened clothes.

Tiny beat him too it, and shook his head,  “give the man your coat Yosemite.”

Yosemite stripped off his long coat and handed it to Ezra, adding quickly “a bit of mud ain’t going to hurt it Mr. Standish.”

Ezra eased it on his sore body, “Lead on Mr. Hughes, a more secluded place would be greatly appreciated.” When he saw them frown puzzled he added “somewhere we won’t be disturbed.” The brother’s nodded he went to walk past them; Yosemite’s arm came up to block him.

“There ain’t a price Mr. Standish.” There was real concern on his face.

There was a pause, Ezra reached up and pushed Yosemite’s arm down, “I know that gentlemen.”  

 The men that had attacked Ezra, the ones left unconscious would either be found by one of the seven on their night patrol, or would vanish, forgotten now by the three men as they walked to the livery stable.

The brothers opened the door to the back room at the livery stable; there was a small pot belly stove already lit and pushing out heat, to take away the chill of the night.

Tiny dug out a jug and handed it to Ezra, “best get some of that inside of you, Mr. Standish, not as good as that fine whiskey you have, but it hits the spot.”

Ezra accepted it and took a quick drink, and nearly choked on it, and then took another, as he felt it warm him right down to his stomach, taking the chill of the cold mud from him.

Yosemite went and got some water, and put it on the stove to warm, as his brother got some clean cloths and a battered old tin bath, so that they could get Ezra cleaned up. 

It didn’t take too long for the brothers to have a shallow warm bath for him, Ezra eased down, using the warm water to souse down his body, as it help ease the soreness. From the corner of his eye he could see the brothers watching him, and the unmistakable reaction it was having on both of them as he wiped the soft cloth over his body.

Tiny got up and loomed over him in the bath he knew he wouldn’t hurt him, and when Yosemite did the same the stirring in   Ezra’s belly had nothing to do with fear, it was an excitement. He leaned back in the bath, one hand resting on the side of it, the other holding the cloth as he dabbed at this neck with it, his eyes fixed on the brothers as he could see them drinking in his body.  It had been a long time since he had been a willing partner in his sexual encounters; the last time had been the clans using his body as payment. What he needed was good memories to replace the old one, kind, and gentle hands to replace brutal and harsh ones.

He saw Tiny open his mouth to say something, then exchange a look with his brother, but then with shake of the head he looked down at this hands, the brothers he knew were shy men not given to expressing their emotion, their needs. 

 “We best are getting you back to the Saloon now, hope you don’t take it wrong that we walk with you, Mr. Standish.”

“Of course not thank you.” Ezra reached his hand out and Tiny took it effortlessly pulling him to his feet. His heart began to hammer faster again when Yosemite moved in close as well, their clothed big bodies making him all too aware he was naked. He could feel the air around them being charged, he reached a hand out, but before he could touch Tiny, the big man had pushed a threadbare drying sheet into his hand, and stepped back sharply.

Yosemite dropped some clothes onto the bed, “these belong to our nephew, left them last time he came from Eagle Bend, not as fine as your duds, but they’re clean…...” the big man was embarrassed.

Ezra cut him off, “they will do fine, thanks you.” He paused “Thank you for all that you have done for me, many wouldn’t have helped me.”

 The brothers turned away, and Ezra quickly dried himself and then dressed, as Tiny bundled his soiled clothes into a canvas bag.  Ezra pulled his jacket on that it seemed has escaped reasonable unscathed, his guns he would have to clean, before he even though of using them.  But with his escorts it seemed using them would be unlikely, when he got to the door, with a boyish shy grin Tiny polished Ezra’s hat with his sleeve and handed it to his owner.  

Over the next few days, Ezra’s body healed but his mood became darker. When the others had heard about his attack, he had been pleasantly surprised in how they had supported him, but his dark mood was down to the fact that the first words out of Larabee’s mouth had been “Who did you cheat this time,” it wasn’t just the words it was the way Chris Larabee had looked at him with such contempt when he said it. Larabee wanted him, but couldn’t stomach it unless he had a belly full of whiskey, and Ezra weren’t going to be anyone’s whisky sodden dirty secret. So it was just a matter of when he left the town.

Wednesday Evening.

Ezra threw his cards in, and got up from the table, and walked out onto the boardwalk to get a breath of fresh air, his gaze went to the livery stable at the end of town. He gave his cuff a tug and straightened his jacket and headed down the street.

He found Yosemite and Tiny working, in the livery stable, they broke off when they saw him come in, and they left off what they were doing and went over to him.

“I think gentlemen there is something that you want to impart to me,” seeing the look he added “you want to say to me.”

Yosemite nodded “Mr. Standish, if I am wrong here, don’t be going off and shoot me. But I figure that you’re here because you want what we want.” He ran his hand nervously through his hair, and looked towards his brother, who had moved up to his shoulder. Yosemite continued “if you’re not looking, I kinda guess we can all forget about this.

 “It’s what I want gentlemen.” 

“Then Mr. Standish, we aim to give you the ride of your life,” he patted Ezra on the shoulder and nearly sent him flying. Immediately he was apologetic, as he saw the small grimace of pain that crossed the gambler’s face. He exchanged a look with his brother, and saw him nod in agreement, they liked to share their partners, but pain was never something they liked, they would take care with Ezra tonight.

The three of them went to the small room; he had been in before when they had treated his injuries that night. Gathering round him the brother  removing his clothing slowly, their hands worshiping his body as they stripped him naked, he had never felt such feeling of power, although they loomed over him, he knew no fear at what they were going to do. He had the power here.

 It was clear that the brothers had shared their pleasure  before, because as Tiny fondled him until he was whimpering with pleasure that almost boarded on pain, Yosemite had prepared him with goose grease, until he was pushing forward into one brother’s hand, and back onto the others fingers. Only then did them take him, Tiny first pushing him down onto the bed, turning him onto all fours to mount him, as Yosemite, knelt by the bed his hand pumping Ezra so that he came with a cry as Tiny roared his completion. Strong hands had rolled him onto his back, his legs pulled up, coaxed round Yosemite’s waist as the other brother, pressed into his still shaking body, filling him, waiting until his green eyes focused on him, and he felt Ezra bear down on him, before he began to push into him, as Tiny stood by taking a pull from the whiskey jar. The brothers took turns riding him, until his body was soaked with sweat, his dark hair plastered to his face, as he gave and took pleasure in their coupling. Their powerful bodies that could have inflicted pain and humiliation, but instead the brothers had treated him as if what he was giving them was the most precious of gifts.

That had been the first of many times, with Tiny and Yosemite; their coupling was always done in that small room, in the light of a couple of lamps. Their shadows thrown up against the walls, the only noise the panting and cry of completion, as they experienced the small death. The brothers would take their turns with him, other times he would bury his face in Tiny’s lap sucking him as Yosemite mounted him his body moving gracefully between the two of them as he felt Tiny’s hand buried in his hair, urging him one, as  at the same time a large calloused hand pumped him, while Yosemite rode him. The three of them coming together, then he would lay his body lax and boneless across them, as they petted and soothed him. One thing was certainly for a couple of shy men, the brothers had a very active imagination of what they wanted to do with him. 

He had a great fondness for the brothers, but there was only one man that claimed his heart and that was Chris Larabee, the one man he had thought he could never have.

Ezra was brought back to the present as his horse stumbled and he had to haul it back up before it pecked the ground. He leaned forward patted the horse neck and he calmed it.

Chris watched him, gave a curt nod and then continued on his way.  Tilting his head slightly  Ezra admired the view, Chris Larabee, cold and aloof, dressed in the black of total mourning for his lost family, his blond hair the only relief from the total black.

Back in Four Corners, Mrs. Travis had her cap set for him, seeing him as possible husband and father material, but she was no rival, to begin with he had been frightened that before he could profess his love to Chris that Mary Travis would have scooped him up. But Chris never showed any interest in her beyond being polite to her. He couldn’t believe it when the woman had dangled her son at Chris, telling him without words that what he had lost he could have again.

For a few weeks he had seen Chris wavier the boy brought back memories of his beloved Adam and he had seen the way that Buck had rallied round his old friend, as his drinking had increased, as Chris had fought some inner battle with himself.  Chris had become more abrupt, and there was a violent edge of danger around him. But instead of being scared of him, Ezra had found himself attracted more and more to him. He could see the hurt that was a silent scream of aguish from the gunman. All he wanted to do was take the hurt away from him; unlike Mary Travis he was not there to replace Sarah Larabee. He would given the chance show Chris that he could live again, that there was a place of peace and love beyond the horror that he lived with daily. It would not be easy, but the fact that Chris was taking him out to the ranch was in his eyes a good sigh. That Chris wanted to be alone with him, out of the prying eyes of the town and the other members of the seven. A place that he felt comfortable with, his own territory, where he  could be himself, where the he didn’t have to be the man in black, the deadly gun man, that the west feared, and instead could be the man who had once love. A man that only Buck had been privileged to see.

 Looking at the trail, Ezra knew that the next time he rode this trail, he would either be Chris Larabee’s lover, or he would be leaving town, there was no middle ground for him.

0-0-0-0-0

Chris was aware of Ezra riding at his side, the gambler was just close enough so that he could see him without having to turn his head fully, and he felt a feeling of contentment run through him. For all his smart words, Ezra knew when to be quiet, and had left him to keep his own council on the journey.

But even so Chris, couldn’t stop the words that he had spat at Ezra playing through his mind, when he had accused him of fucking the brothers, he had done it to hurt the younger man, to try and make ride away, because if he did it would have made it easy. He wouldn’t have had to face his feelings, but Ezra had done what he always did, the gambler had stood up to him and stayed at his side. He exhaled sharply; it did nothing to rid him of the picture that he saw in his mind of Ezra being fucked by the brothers when one night he had entered the livery stable to check on his horse only to hear muffled cries of passion coming from the back, peering through a crack in the door he saw Ezra servicing  both brothers.

He knew he should have turned and walked away, but all he could do was watch as Ezra’s lithe body moved gracefully back and forward, the arch of his back, the way his sweat shinned in the yellow light of the lamp the large hand that clamped on his hip, as one of the brothers lapped the sweat from his skin where it pooled.  Ezra’s face buried in Tiny’s lap as he sucked him as Yosemite pounded into his ass, the three of them moving as one. Then an earth shattering moment they came together, Tiny filling that smart mouth that Chris so often didn’t know if he wanted to shut it with a kiss or a fist, with his cum, as Yosmite with a grunt and two fast brutal thrust filled Ezra’s ass with his seed.  For a split second it seemed as if the three of them where carved in stone, then Yosemite collapsed forward his weight pinning Ezra to the bed, then Yosemite pulling  out of him, giving his ass an affectionate slap, before padding bare assed across the room  to pick up a whiskey jug.

Shaken Chris hurried away, disgusted but at the same time excited by what he had seen, back to the saloon, catching the working girl he saw in the saloon and dragging her upstairs, needing to show himself that he didn’t care what Ez did, but later as he laid spooned with the girl, one arm wrapped round her waist, the other hand kneading her breast as he kissed he throat. All he could see in his mind’s eye was the dark flashing eyes of a certain gambler.

If he thought fucking the girl would get it out of his system it didn’t work. During the days that followed he couldn’t rid that sight from his mind, he kept chewing it over in his head, like some old hound dog with a bone. He had begun to drink more. Buck and the rest thought it was because the anniversary of his family’s death was coming up, it was that, but it was more. All he had known was that he couldn’t be alone again; he needed to start to feel again. But the great Chris Larabee was frightened to feel again, to feel would be to open himself up to new hurt, so he had got rat assed drunk and gone after Ezra, how fucked up could that have got. Now he had a new chance to put it right.  This wasn’t, about wanting a quick fuck; Ezra he knew would never be that to him. Chris had finally been honest with him and knew now that he wanted Ez in his life and in his bed.

He just had to find the courage to reach out to him.

The two men rode in silence each man lost in his own world, both men looking forward to reaching the ranch, but at the same time dreading what they would find when finally they had to face their emotions.

0-0-0-0-0-0

Once at the ranch the two men lost themselves in the small things that needed to be done to bring the ranch back to life again since Chris’s last visit, by doing the chores they avoided the need to talk.

Ezra had visited before, but had always felt an outsider compared to the others, Buck had worked on Chris’s old ranch, Vin had broken horses on ranches in Texas, but he had spent his life on the river boats and the saloons this for him was so very different. A worrying thought ran though his mind. Would Chris once settled back home, look at him and see a popping jay, a man that could never totally be of his world, a man that couldn’t break a horses, couldn’t ….. Ezra forced himself to take a deep breath, and then he jumped as a warm hand touched his back.

He spun round Chris was a stood there, a puzzled look on his face, “you alright Ez.”

“Fine, Mr. Larabee,” Ezra’s defenses came up straight away, the lesion learned, was simple never show weakness, “I am fine.” Then seeing the way that Chris had tensed he smiled, realizing that his reaction must have scared the older man.

“I was lost in thought Mr. Larabee.”

“Regretting coming out here Ez?”

“No, Mr. Larabee, the only thing that I regret would be no coming out here with you.” He took a step forward, reaching a hand out, only to have Chris pull back, so his fingers just brushed the black sleeve. It was then that it hit Ez, Chris had always leaded, but in this he would have to take control, the older man would be carrying guilt, into their bed. Guilt of being in love with another man, guilt at what they were going to do, and perhaps the worst guilt of all the guilt of cheating on his wife. Sarah might be dead, but she would always be a living presence for Chris. He would have to let Chris understand that it was alright to feel again, that he honored her memory, and that he would never try to replace her. But that would offer his own love unconditionally, to a man that was emotionally crippled, but who he prayed would one day let go the past and embrace the future.

It was then he felt Chris’s hand lightly stroke the sleeve of his jacket, the fingers brushing down than across his hand, the older man opened his mouth as if to say something and then pulled back and walked away.

Maybe this was the first step.

Ezra felt no anger, this was going to be slow, and he would take it one step at a time. There was a lot to be said between them.

The meal they sat down to was simple a thick strew and some bread fresh from the baker’s oven that morning at Four Corners. The coffee was rich, not the tar that Vin liked, topped with a little whiskey, the fire warmed the cabin, Ez had stripped his jacket, and waist coat off, his guns hung over one of the chairs, reaching up he undid his tie, and popped the top three buttons of his shirt. Looking up he saw Chris watching him, once their eyes met, Chris looked away.

But before he got up, Ezra reached across the table and caught his wrist, the younger man felt Chris pull, but he increased his hold, “there is nothing wrong here,” only then did he release his wrist.

Finally came the time to sleep, Ezra removed his boots and then sat down on the bed, and looking at Chris quirked an eyebrow, “Mr. Larabee, I am not the big bad wolf, and you sir are not Little Red Riding Hood.” Seeing the look on Chris’s face he grinned “I will have to tell you that story one day.” Ezra patted the bed next to him. “Mr. Larabee, I am not about to jump your bones, and force my evil designs on your body.”

Chris suddenly laughed, the green eyes lighting up, the smile taking years off his grim visage that he usually presented to the world. Taking his boots off Chris lay on the bed, and then reached a hand out, drawing Ezra to him, and into his arms. Ezra settled on his side, and lightly draped one arm over Chris, for the moment that was enough. Just as he dropped asleep he heard Chris’s voice soft against his ear, “give me time Ez, and just need time.”

0-0-0-0-0

The dawn light came through the window, as Chris opened his eyes, for a moment his whole body started as he felt the warmth of another body pressed against him, then it all came back, he was sharing his bed with Ezra. His bed, Chris took a breath and then allowed the tension to ooze out of him, as he settled back against the mattress, Ezra; he breathed the name softly, and tightened his loose grip, round the gamblers waist and pulled him closer.

Since Sarah had died he had slept with whores, but no one had shared his bed, as Ezra was doing now, they had done nothing more than sleep, but he had felt more at peace than he had done in the years since his  Sarah had been murdered. He closed his eyes, what he was doing was wrong in the eyes of the law and the church, there would be no blessing for his union with Ezra, but in his own eyes, he would be just as much Ezra’s partner as he had been Sarah’s. What would the boys think?

Buck would just shake his head, throw an arm round his shoulder and ask what Ez was like in bed. Vin would just be happy for him, only Nathan might judge, and JD was too young to understand, but his friends wouldn’t turn from them both he was sure of that.

“Smiling Mr. Larabee, I am not a mind reader, but I can guess? Chris’s eyes opened to find himself nose to nose with the younger gambler.

“You think so Standish,” Chris drawled.

Chris tried to keep his face straight but his lips twitched, as he had the sudden impulse to kiss that smart mouth.  But for the moment he decided to play Ezra’s game, as he said “and that is?”

“Mrs. Travis’s face would be a picture.”

Chris for a heartbeat just looked at him and then burst out laughing, as the image of Mary’s indignant face flashed in front of him.

Impulse hell, Chris pulled Ezra down their noses banged and it was a fumbled mess and then Chris had Ezra rolled under him and where he wanted him, and then kissed him, the kiss was anything but tender, then Ezra took control, understanding the frantic nature for what it was. Chris was scared; the man in black, the infamous gunslinger was scared of him, of what he would do, of this. So he wrapped his hand round the back of Chris’s head, his fingers sliding through the dirty blond hair, cradling his skull as he began to kiss Chris back.

Softening the kiss, making Chris know that he wouldn’t reject him, that he wanted this as much as he did. Pulling back slightly so that Chris had to follow him, finally breathlessly they broke the kiss, only Chris didn’t want to break this intimate contact with Ezra, and rested his forehead against Ezra’s as slowly their breathing became quieter and matched breath for breath.

“Mr. Larabee.”

“After that, you call me Mr. Larabee,” Chris said, “Hell I can’t wait to hear what you call me the first time we f….” he trailed off. Chris eased back, and his voice became harder, and Ezra saw the resolve, this was important to Chris that he understand it.

“I never fucked my wife,” Chris’s voice faulted slightly, “what we had, was special, so and what we do in bed, will never be fucking, I….” he trailed off. But Ezra could see that Chris was struggling for words but he understood, and deep inside of him Ezra felt a warmth flow through him.  No one had ever thought him that special; that Chris talked of him in the same breath of his beloved wife was humbling.

“I know that Chris,” he said the name softly, the first time he had ever said it out aloud.

Feeling the older man trembling him pulled him down against him, so that his blond head was resting on him, over his heart, and wrapped his arms loosely around him. It was still early they had time yet, and if all they did was lay like this, Ezra felt content. As he felt the trembling slowly ease and Chris’s arms hold him close.

It wasn’t going to be easy, but Ez was in for the long haul.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

If last night had been a step forward, then in the morning it was a giant step back.

Chris was gone the next time that Ezra woke up, he hadn’t even bothered to wake him, the breath came from Ezra in a soft sigh, and  for a moment he lay there looking up a at the ceiling wondering if Chris had just left his bed or left the Ranch. He looked round and saw that Chris’s duster was still there, surely he wouldn’t leave without that, it was then he heard the steady thudding from outside of the cabin. Getting up, he pushed the curtain aside and saw Chris, stripped to his waist steadily chopping wood for the stove. Ezra allowed himself a few minutes to admire the view, Chris was a fine looking man, and Ezra could help a possessive surge when he saw him.

Chris had made a choice he hadn’t panicked when he woke up in bed with him, and kicked him out; that Ezra thought ruefully had happened to him before, when his lover had panicked. But Chris had left the bed, and him sleeping so even if the blond was unsure he was still wanted he, and so Ez knew he had to move slowly with him, and not trap him into a corner, by wanting too much too soon, if he did that, then Chris might bolt, where as if he allowed him space and took it slowly, and then he might just get the result he wanted.

One thing that couldn’t be ignored was that Chris was very much a leader in all things, and in their relationship, he had to allow Chris to take the lead, or an amused smile tugged Ezra’s lips, or think that he did. This was going to be the con of his life, and he had so much to lose if it went wrong.

Getting up Ezra pulled on the travel jacket he carried, leaving his red jacket hanging up, and then pulled his boots on, stamping them down so they fitted comfortably , there was chores to be done, and the sooner they had been completed them sooner he could get  back to  the real reason he was here. He wasn’t a ranch hand, like Buck, but he had worked on his relations farm before the war as a child, and knew what needed doing.

Nathan would be surprised if he knew what he had done, the healer thought of him as a plantation owner’s son, a rich son of the south that had turned to gambling after the war. Well that was a laugh, as a kid he had shoveled horse shit with the best of them, as he mucked out the stables, and bagged it to be taken to the fields to fertilize the them. He had felt the sting of a belt on his backside and back when he hadn’t worked fast enough, there had been no place in the Standish family for the bastard son of their wayward daughter. If he was left with them he had to work. The truth that was beaten into him was that he was an inconvenience for them, and for Maude he was like a parcel that was  dropped off at  whatever relative would take him, and it was understood that  by working he would pay his own way, until finally he was old enough to be able to take part in the cons she was running, where he would either be presented to the mark as her son or more usually as her younger brother, whatever the con needed he became an expert in giving Maude what she wanted.

So he was going to show Chris that he knew his way round a ranch, he might not be able to break horses, but he wasn’t a hot house flower that would wilt at the first sign of hard work. But hard word was, he smiled to himself was always on his terms.

Chris looked up as he came out, and a thrill ran through Ezra as he saw the way that Chris looked at him, there was a hunger in his eyes, that made Ezra’ breath catch. The need was there, it was just a matter of getting Chris to act on it.

They worked together, stopping midday for bread, cheese and cup of coffee, their talk was natural, and the silences didn’t seem forced, as slowly the two of them found the natural rhythm of being together. Ezra finished his coffee on the porch stood leaning against the post, if someone had told him he could find happiness on a broken down ranch, he would have laughed in their faces. In the past happiness had always been measured in the amount of money in his pocket, romance was a tool to be used, on moon eyed rubes, who where to be taken for every dime they had.

Chris came up behind him, and he felt the older man wrap an arm round his waist, and tug him gently back so that he rested again Chris’s chest. Ezra closed his eyes as he felt Chris’s breath warm against the back of his neck, then the cup was taken from his hand, and Chris drained it.

Turning inside Chris’s hold Ezra said with a smile “Sneaky Mr. Larabee, I take it we have run out of coffee?”

The smile and chuckle he got, was the true Chris Larabee, from a time before his world went black, and Ezra felt humbled. Only Buck had ever seen this part of Chris, but at the same time he was saddened, that his lover was so damaged that he could only show this side of him rarely.

Suddenly, Chris tensed, and pulled away from him, turning, Ezra saw the dust cloud that told of riders approaching the ranch. Caution made them both reach for their weapons, only relaxing as the riders were identified as Buck and JD.

Ezra looked to Chris and immediately he saw the difference in him, the shield was back in place, the man he had glimpsed was gone, and the mask was back in place.

Ezra liked Buck the big hearted man had been accepting of him from the beginning, and wasn’t judgmental of him as Nath had been, but the younger man mused would that still apply if he found out that he wanted to bed, Chris.

Buck lived his life to the full, and his love lift was a scandal. So really Buck shouldn’t have a leg to stand on if he objected. But in his heart Ezra knew that human nature being what it was, there were two different standards. Somehow he always was seen by others to have fallen short when he was measured against the yard stick of acceptable morals.

Buck he knew might lie on both sides of the blanket, but Chris was closer to the bigger man than a brother, and Chris’s own part would be forgotten, and he would be seen as the seducer of a widowed man.  Any fault would be laid on his head.

But he would be damned if he lost Chris now.

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Buck was amused by  JD’s attempt to talk him out of going to Chris’s ranch. The kid acted as if he didn’t have a brain in his head, and couldn’t work out himself how the wind blew between Chris and Ezra.  On the plus side the kid wasn’t’ scandalized by what was happening between the two older men, if in fact he was very tolerant. So was Buck, who you got into bed with was your own choice, but not if your name was Chris Larabee. Personally he liked Ez and in the early days he had been one of the few of the seven to see that there was more to southerner than a slick talking cheating tin horn gambler.

But this was Chris, and that made all the difference. Chris had seen too much sorrow in his life, his older brother shot down right in front of him, his family farm burned down and his father brutally attacked because someone wanted their land. That had turned the solider into the gun man, and finally the murder of his wife and son that turned the gunman into the angle of death, a black clad harbinger of death welding a six gun instead of a scythe.

So Chris if he gave his heart to someone that person damn well better be worthy, that person had to know what he or she was holding was a precious gift, the last spark of life that needed to be cherished. He had he mused  sat back and watched Mary Travis, try and hook his friend, dangling in front of him what he had lost, the chance of having a family again.

But that wasn’t what Chris needed a copy of the past.  What he needed was someone that would give their heart to him and with whom he could build his own future, while honoring the past.

Ez could give him that, now old Chris had never shown any signs of walking the wild side, he had catted his way round the whore houses with the best of them, but his taste had always gone for dark long hair and firm breasts. So why he should be attracted to Ez was another thing, if he was going to bed a man, he would have expected him to share Vin’s bed. The younger Texan had in only a couple of hours become inseparable from Chris, cut one and the other bled. Surely it was logical that he would have found comfort in the Texan’s arms.

But then the heart is a fickle thing, and Buck was becoming more and surer that it wasn’t men but one man, Ez, that Chris was now interested in. Well they where nearly at the ranch now, and he would get a chance to see the two of them together. With a sigh he made an effort to listen to JD again, the fact he hadn’t answered hadn’t slowed the kid down who was still talking a mile a minute as to why this wasn’t a good idea.

Buck kicked his horse into a run, as he closed on the ranch, waving his hat in welcome; a broad grin on his face, the next few hours was going to be real interesting.

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Chris came out of the Cabin, and wrapped an arm round Ez, feeling the warmth of the gambler’s body through his shirt, and pulled him close, for a moment he closed his eye and inhaled the scent of the man he held. The sharp tang of sweat, with the scent of the soap used to scrub his clothes;  his hand stroked across Ez’s stomach, what he wanted was a sin that would damn his soul. Sarah forgive me, he offered up the prayer, but he wanted to take Ez, and make him, no longer holding him at night was enough, he wanted more he wanted. … It was then he saw the dust on the horizon coming closer.

Immediately he pushed away from Ez, the newcomers could be strangers or more likely a couple of the boys coming to check on him, make sure he thought with a certain cynicism that he hadn’t killed Ez, given their less that peaceful past relationship.

It was only when he was stood with his gun at the ready he saw Buck and JD, it was then he moved that step further away from the man he was slowly beginning to love. In that second he saw something in Ezra’s eyes, something he would have missed at one time. But it hit him low in the stomach like a slug of bad whiskey, it was sadness and disappointment.

0-0-0-0-0

Ezra watched Buck reined up outside of the cabin, Ezra pulled himself up straight, and met Buck look for look, and he had nothing to be ashamed about. His lips quirked into a smile, and he tilted his head slightly, hand on heart he could swear that he had Chris hadn’t done anything; Chris had yet to get the courage to lay a hand on him. So he would be damned if he looks guilty about anything they had done or what he planned to do with the blond.

JD called a greeting the smaller young man looking embarrassed, “Sorry Ez, but Buck wanted to check up on Chris,” he gave a shrug leaving the rest of what he was going to say hanging in the air.

“Don’t believe a word of it, the kid wanted out of town just as much as I did.” Buck smirked “Cassie came a calling.” He left the rest of it hanging in the air, and the smirk became a full blown grin.  Then to Chris he added “you get him to do any work, or….”

Chris cut across him “he did his share,” he said levelly, then added “More than some people I know.”

“Hell old dog, didn’t know you were keeping count.” Buck shifted in his saddle, Ezra could feel his gaze moving between him and Chris and then resting back on him again, he saw the smile hardening, it was only for a heartbeat and then it was gone. Then Buck was swinging down from his saddle, clasping Chris on the shoulder and dragging him back into the cabin.

JD collected the reins of both horses, “I didn’t expect to see you JD.” Ezra said levelly.

“Sorry about that, Buck’s a regular immovable object when he’s got a mind to do something.”

Just then he heard Chris’s voice calling to him to get his ass inside, Ezra pulled himself together, his face proof against any emotions, and headed in after them.

Buck was his usual self, telling them of his love life, the husband that had nearly ventilated his hide, but all the time Ezra could feel the bigger man’s eyes on him, oh Buck might look like a good old boy, and sound like one. But the man had a keen brain, and Ezra began to read into the sub text of what he was saying.   Buck was giving his oldest friend an opening to tell him, but Chris said nothing, hell he didn’t expect Chris to be all over him like a drunk with a saloon girl at the Long Branch Saloon in front of Buck and JD. But he expected so token of affection.

Chris ignored him, and inside of Ezra something started to die, when finally Buck decided to leave, Ezra had to stop himself going with him, and something must have shown in his face, because he saw the look on Chris’s face. He suddenly understood. If he stormed off then Chris didn’t have to face the decision he could push his feeling away and lock down his emotions and live a safe life. Safe of having to commit to anyone so instead of running Ezra stopped behind and stood his ground.

With promises of returning on Monday, they watched Buck and JD ride away. Ezra waited until the horses’ hooves melted away into the night, when he turned on Chris, and shook his head slowly. “Mr. Larabee, I somehow expected more.”

Chris was immediately on the defense, the look on his face showed that he knew what he had done, so he lashed out verbally. “You want that I tell them that we’re,” his voice trailed off and Ezra cut across him.

“What are we Mr. Larabee? Ezra shook his head, “If you can’t say it Mr. Larabee. You can’t do it.”

Ezra went to brush past him, only to have his arm caught.

“Unhand me Sir.” There was a bit to the words, and Chris let go was if Ezra red hot. “You have something to say Mr. Larabee?”

When there was no reply Ezra was about to go, only for Chris to say “iwantyouas mylover.”

Ezra looked over his shoulder at the older man. “It helps to breathe Christopher.”

“DAMN IT TO HELL.” Chris snapped his voice rising in anger. He spun Ezra round and kissed him, hard and passionately.

Ezra rode the kiss out, and then took control of it, turning it into something softer and loving. Finally breaking the kiss he rested his forehead against Chris as the two of them regained their breath. Taking his hand Ezra drew Chris back into the cabin. But in his heart he knew that Chris wasn’t ready yet, but what he could do was show him a little of the pleasure they could share together.  A promise of things to come.

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As Buck rode away from the cabin he was thoughtful, he prided himself on being able to read people, and Chris was an old enough friend for him to read between the lines. Chris had found someone, and against the odds he thought he knew who. The person was a certain red coated gambler, the fact it was a man had been a bit of a surprise, old Chris had never shown an interest in men before. But Buck believed in one thing that love came in all forms and he certainly wouldn’t be hypocritical enough to turn his back on Chris for wanting Ez when he was bedding Vin himself.

The one piece of the puzzle was Ez, he had known about the younger man’s tastes, for some time, oh Ez hid it well, but he never bedded any of the ladies that he was seen with, and he had seen that Ez made visits to the livery stables, that had more to do with him than this horse.

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Ezra lay next to Chris on the narrow bed, the blond was fast asleep, but Ezra was still wide awake but he was deep in thought.

 Chris had followed him to bed after Buck had left, and they had kissed and touched, and Ezra had felt his heart surge as he had felt Chris’s body responding to his hand, and the overwhelming need it has stoked inside of him had made Chris pin him to the bed, his hands and mouth worshiping his body, making him hard and needing, as Chris had pulled his clothes roughly open desperate to get to his body. Ezra had thrown his head back moaning in softly, as he had allowed Chris free reign over him, wanting only what Chris wanted, finally it seemed that Chris was ready.

He had turned on his side, to make it easy for Chris to enter him, but Chris had just pushed himself  between his thighs, rubbing against him, Ezra had grasped his hands, arching against him, he had twisted his head as he reached back to claim Chris’s face and kiss him. But it was then that he had see Chris’s eyes were closed, and he had realized that although Chris’s body was willing, in his mind Chris was laying with someone else, the name was whispered softly from Chris’s mouth in time with each thrust of his hips.

Chris wasn’t touching him, he was touching her, when he kissed he wasn’t kissing him he was kissing her, and that the moment that Chris climaxed splattering his thighs with his seed, it had been her name that Chris had call out loudly.

The moment that Chris had opened his eyes, Ezra had seen reality collided with illusions, and something inside of the blond gunman died and he had seen the sadness on his face. Chris had desperately tried to continue to make it good for him; he had rubbed up against him again, his hand cupping him, roughly trying to give him pleasure, but that very same desperation had made Ezra blink away the tears. 

So Ezra have given himself to Chris, using everything that he had ever learned to make this good for him. Finally Chris had rolled off him, and gone to sleep, one arm wrapped round his waist, Ezra had laid there watching the light slowly change as dawn had come. There was only one thing he could do.   

0-0-0-0-0

Chris woke and reached for Ezra and the side of the bed was cold, he sat up and looked round puzzled, then he stretched slowly, Ezra must have left the cabin to use the outhouse, but it was then he noticed that Ezra’s things were missing, and laid on the table was a piece of paper.

Quickly Chris was out of bed and reading the paper, the message and clear and to the point, Ezra loved him, but it wasn’t going to work, he understood that Chris wasn’t able to accept him,  in the way that he needed to be wanted, and that it was his fault for not being worthy of him of his love. Chris closed his eyes and his hand gripped the paper tightly, as he swore under his breath, and he threw the paper onto the table and grabbed his clothes. Then he had halted with one hand on the door, was this what he really wanted, if he went after Ezra and dragged him back, he would have to admit to his feelings. Last time had been good, Ezra had responded to him, moaning and writhing on his back like a five dollar whore.

Chris shook his head, angry with himself why was he thinking like that Ezra wasn’t a whore, he was the man he what…….  The man he loved?  For each step forward in their courting, he took four back, last night Ezra had felt so good in his arms, and he had explored every inch of the gambler’s body. For the first time allowing himself to let go, but then in the dark, he could think only of Sarah, of holding her close of making love to her, Ezra had become nothing more than a substitute for her. Something flesh and blood to take the chill from his heart, and as a man, he could lie to himself, that by bedding Ezra he wasn’t tainting her name by taking a woman to his bed, that his emotions  for Ezra were not the same.

If he went after Ezra now he would have to be true to himself, that Ezra was now the dominate force in his life and that Sarah and Adam were lower consigned to his memories, and that he was making a new life.

Chris strode to the barn; If Ezra thought he could run out on him, he had another thing coming. And God help anyone that went after Ez, because they better form a queue because he wanted words with the gambler first, and would plant anyone that got in his way.”

The End