Title: A Matter of Trust (Missing Scene)
Author: Lacey McBain
Word Count: ~6500
Summary: Inspired by auburnnothenna’s
wonderful fic The
Tale of a Deed, she wrote: "Vin
figured that maybe, if he got drunk enough, Ezra might sit the tub and
finally let out some of the grief that he'd been carrying around since
Virginia City – since the war really – either that or he'd just drink
himself into passing out. Either way, Vin would be around to watch his
back. Sometime during the night, he would get a promise out of Ezra; a
promise to stay in Four Corners until Vin returned."
And I felt
compelled to fill-in what might’ve happened in those hours between the
entry into the bathhouse and Vin leaving to find Ezra’s horse. The
original is not slash, although there are definitely overtones, and
this piece should fall after the lines I’ve quoted above (from Part 3).
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven
are not mine. I’ve tried to be loyal to the characterizations set out
by Auburn in her original story, and I'm happy to say she seems to
agree with my take on things. *g*
A Matter of Trust
stairs to the bathhouse creaked with every step Vin and Ezra took. The
owner’s face told them he’d already heard about Ezra’s horse and most
likely the attack on J.D., and Vin could guess the man also knew about
Ezra’s cousins and the mess in Virginia City. Nothing kept quiet very
long in a small town.
Ezra just stared blankly ahead, even as he
pushed aside the curtain to the back room where he could wash up with
some privacy. Vin flipped the man a coin for extra hot water, another
for a bottle of whiskey from Inez’s place. He hoped either the steam or
the liquor would help ease some of the pain that was obviously eating
away at Ezra slowly.
“You also wanting a bath, Mr. Tanner?”
Mulligan asked, eyeing the pile of clothing that Vin was carrying.
Ezra’s blue-gray jacket and his gold and ivory soap dish rested on top
of the small stack.
“I see,” he said with a look that Vin didn’t entirely like.
“What you see is me watching out for my friend.”
Mulligan lowered his eyes and nodded. “I’ll send the boy to fetch the
whiskey and more water.”
that,” Vin said with a slight tip of his hat. He turned and pushed
through the curtain that screened the backroom off from the rest of the
baths. Ezra was facing away from him, folding the last piece of
clothing onto the wooden chair beside the tub. Vin looked away from the
expanse of pale skin, reminded himself Ezra needed a friend, not more
complications. He heard the sharp intake of breath as Ezra stepped into
the steaming water, the small splashes as Vin imagined Ezra lowering
himself into the tub, letting the hot water do its work.
boy’ll be up with more water in a few minutes,” Vin offered, turning to
see Ezra’s pale shoulders settling against the edge of the tub.
“I heard. A curtain provides little protection from eavesdroppers.”
knew this wouldn’t be the place for Ezra to let out all the hurt that’d
been building up inside him. Truthfully, Vin wasn’t sure such a place
existed, but he hoped like hell they could find one. He’d known Ezra
long enough to know the controlled exterior was mostly an act. The
gambler didn’t like to show his cards to anyone, didn’t trust people to
understand his intentions, and so even in his grief, he was careful not
to reveal too much. Vin knew something of that kind of survival, never
giving someone the means to hurt you. But even though he understood it,
it was hard to watch Ezra working so hard to remain above it all given
the horrors that had happened during the past few weeks.
creaking of the stairs and the sound of splashing water signalled the
boy was on his way, and Vin went out to help with the heavy buckets.
The boy poured one directly into the tub, steam and water rising as
Ezra sank a little deeper into the depths.
“Thank you,” Ezra
said softly, the boy nodding as he left. Vin poured another half bucket
into the tub, then set the half-full pail on the floor.
“I figured you’d be happier with the hot water in the tub than
on the floor.”
eyes were closed, but Ezra gave a small two-fingered salute. He looked
weary. Like he’d travelled a thousand miles without a rest. Vin pulled
a rickety chair closer, and seated himself between Ezra and the
curtain. He heard the boy saying goodnight in lightning quick Spanish,
and then Mulligan fumbling around with the coins, likely heading out in
search of Inez and the whiskey Vin had paid for.
and took a breath. “Although I appreciate your continued diligence, I
suspect with the death of Mr. Harrison there is no one left who will
attempt to drown me in my bath, with the possible exception of Mr.
Jackson, and I’m inclined to believe he’d prefer to berate me over a
period of years rather than banish me in one fell swoop.”
At the mention of Nathan’s name, Vin felt his anger returning. “Ez—”
I mean to say is that you aren’t required to stay.” Ezra leaned forward
and turned slightly so his eyes met Vin’s. “I will assure Mr. Larabee
“You think Chris sent me? To keep an eye on you?”
Ezra had the good grace to look apologetic. “Well, the thought had—”
all they’d been through, Vin wished Ezra could just accept that Vin was
sticking by him. He wondered if there’d ever come a time when Ezra
would feel worthy of their attentions. “No one told me to be here. But
if you’d rather I go …” Vin started to get up, but Ezra waved a hand at
him from the tub. A spatter of wet drops hit Vin in the chest.
no, I only meant—” Ezra let out a sigh. “I only meant you didn’t have
to stay if there was somewhere else you wanted to be. If perhaps you’d
rather look in on Mr. Dunne, I’m perfectly capable of—”
you’re capable, Ezra. And J.D.’s already got Buck and Nathan fussing
over him like there’s no tomorrow. Last thing that boy needs is someone
else cluttering up the corners.”
“I reckon he’s taking care of things. Mary. The Judge. Shooting people
makes a heap of paperwork in this town.”
at the church, praying for our souls, I imagine.” Vin grinned. “Not
sure it’ll do much good, but it can’t hurt none either.”
to that,” Ezra said, returning the grin. He closed his eyes and settled
back into the water, steam making his damp hair curl at the ends. The
silence washed over them both with a kind of soothing comfort.
studied the pale slope of Ezra’s shoulders against the tub wall, the
way they reminded him of hills he’d seen in the heart of Texas, hills
that held too much history in their gentle curves. He watched a drop
make its way from the back of Ezra’s hairline onto the nape of his
neck—a drop tinged pink, and Vin remembered partly why he’d brought
Ezra here: to wash away the remnants of the fight in the alley. The
blood that had dried in his hair. The flecks of flesh and bone that had
flown when Buck had shot Harrison to save Ezra and J.D.
“Ezra?” Vin said his name softly, not wanting to break the quiet
moment, not wanting to remind Ezra of the afternoon’s horror.
“Yes, Vin?” Ezra’s sleepy whisper came back to him like a tendril of
steam, warm and slow.
“Do you trust me?”
didn’t know if it was the warm water or the silence surrounding them,
but as the question sank into Ezra’s consciousness there was no tension
in his shoulders, no hesitation as he answered with a swift and
Vin pulled the chair closer until he was
sitting directly behind Ezra’s head, the bucket of warm water at his
feet. He reached across and snagged a towel off the low-hanging wall
hook and draped it across his lap. With slow movements, he undid each
of his cuffs and folded the material over itself until it touched his
elbows, leaving his forearms bare. He knew Ezra was hearing these small
readying gestures, and it was clear there was a question on the tip of
his tongue—yet he didn’t ask.
“Trust me,” Vin said softly, and Ezra murmured an equally soft, “I do.”
dipped his hands into the warm water of the bucket, shaking off the
excess. He gently laid his hands on Ezra’s shoulders, giving him a
nudge. “Shift forward a bit.” Ezra did as requested, and Vin marvelled
again at how Ezra didn’t ask the obvious question, didn’t hesitate in
his compliance. At that moment, Vin understood that Ezra had always
been one of them, deep down where it mattered, knew instinctively how
belonging to the Seven had given Ezra a kind of acceptance he’d never
had anywhere else and that he’d craved with a need unlike any of the
rest of them. Some of them had had a harder time trusting Ezra,
trusting the conman, the cheater, and yet it was clear that to gain
their trust, Ezra had taken the harder step, the more frightening one,
and trusted them long before they’d learned to trust him. He’d put his
faith in them from the moment he’d turn back to save them from the
Confederate soldiers, trusting them to find forgiveness, to accept him
back because he needed them far more than Vin had ever realized.
found himself at a loss faced with that level of trust, and he did the
only thing he could think to do, placing one hand gently on the back of
Ezra’s head, leaving the other to rest on his bare shoulder. It was the
same gesture he’d done back at the hotel room, the only clear
recollection he had of his mother’s touch, and he wanted to give Ezra
some of that comfort, something to assure him that trust would never,
ever be betrayed. And like he’d done in the hotel, Ezra let his head
drop forward, seemed to know what Vin was trying to convey without
words. Vin could feel the slight rise and fall of Ezra’s shoulders as
he took deeper breaths, and there was a lovely warmth beneath where
Vin’s hands rested—a warmth that Ezra seemed to soak up eagerly.
couldn’t have been more than a minute that they sat like that, Ezra
tipped forward in the water, letting himself indulge in this small
measure of comfort, when Vin heard the tell-tale sound of boots on the
staircase, the belaboured breathing of Mr. Mulligan. Ezra’s shoulders
stiffened at the approach, but Vin did nothing to change his position,
didn’t withdraw his touch even as Mulligan opened the curtain and said,
“I’ve got the whiskey you … wanted.”
“Thank you. Just set it on
the floor,” Vin said, meeting the man’s eyes with a warning, but he
didn’t remove his hands. It would’ve seemed too much like they’d been
caught doing something wrong, and Vin knew there was no wrong in giving
comfort to a friend. And if perhaps he liked the soft feel of Ezra’s
skin against his fingertips, if for a moment he wondered about pressing
his lips against the curve of his nape, he could pass that off as a
momentary weakness brought on by the heat. By the trauma of almost
losing both Ezra and J.D. that very afternoon. He knew it had been far
too long since he’d touched someone he cared about, and it was giving
him ideas, the kind he hadn’t had since he was old enough to know the
The bottle and two glasses were set down,
Mulligan shaking his head with disapproval at Vin. But he left the room
without a word, tugging the curtain shut behind him, and retreated to
the other side of the bathhouse.
Vin grabbed for the small cup
hanging from the side of the pail, as he said to Ezra, “Okay, now lean
your neck back.” He adjusted his hand so it cupped Ezra’s head at the
back, his knuckles brushing the surface of the water. He dipped the cup
into the pail, then evenly poured the water out over Ezra’s hair,
letting the last reminders of the afternoon’s trauma drain away. He
repeated the gesture until the bucket was empty, until Ezra’s hair was
clean and shiny, his face pink from the rising steam.
dropped the cup back into the bucket with a small metallic clunk.
“Okay,” he said, and still keeping a hand on Ezra’s scalp, helped ease
him back to a sitting position.
“Thank you,” Ezra whispered in a
voice filled with something like awe, and Vin was glad Ezra was facing
away because he feared his own face was pink as well. He’d never done
anything like that for anyone in his life. Sure, he’d tended to sick
folks, even to the dying, but this was a level of trust he just didn’t
share with anyone else. He never could’ve imagined it would be Ezra
he’d find this with.
“You’re welcome,” Vin said, knowing that it needed to be acknowledged
how rare moments like this were. For both of them.
can’t possibly repay the kindness you’ve shown,” Ezra began, and Vin
cut him off. “No one’s keeping track, Ezra. There’s nothing to repay.
Besides, I know you’d do the same.”
Ezra took a breath as if to
argue, but then seemed to think better of it. “You’re a far better
friend than I fear I deserve, Vin Tanner,” Ezra said.
was the distant sound of a door opening and the now familiar pounding
of feet on the stairs. Vin shook his head and squeezed Ezra’s shoulder.
“This place is busier than the church on Sundays. I’ll go see what it
is this time.”
Vin had barely pulled the curtain aside when he was greeted with
Nathan’s disapproving glare.
“J.D.’s half-concussed and he’s in here having his bath.
Ain’t that a surprise.”
put a hand to Nathan’s chest and pushed him back far enough so he could
give Ezra the privacy of the curtain. He knew he wasn’t going to be
able to shield him from anything that might come out of Nathan’s mouth,
but short of knocking the man unconscious, Vin didn’t think there was
any help for that.
“What do you want, Nathan? I know you ain’t here to check on Ezra.”
a matter of fact, I am. Mr. Larabee ordered me to come over and check
on that no-good Southerner, and now I’m going straight back to my real
Nathan turned to go, but Vin caught him at the
shoulder. “Ezra’s the one that came and got you when J.D. was hurt. He
was covered in blood, and you didn’t care one lick whether any of that
was his or not, did you? You didn’t even ask if he was hurt.”
“He tell you that?” Nathan asked, gesturing at the curtain behind Vin.
didn’t have to. I know you, Nathan, and I’ve seen the kind of man you
are. Chris Larabee will give any man a second chance, but you—you’ve
spent yours at least twice over, and there won’t be any more chances.”
was Judge Travis gave me this job. Nothing you or Chris can do to take
it away. And Judge Travis knows what Ezra’s like. Skipped out on bail
up Fort Laramie way. Oh, the judge won’t be so quick to cut me out.”
“Maybe not.” Vin leaned in close and dropped his voice to a deadly
whisper. “But you just remember Ezra’s one of ours.”
you mean,” Nathan said with a disgusted shake of his head. “I doubt the
others feel quite the same way that you do about him, Vin.”
felt Ezra’s hand on his shoulder even as his fist started to rise
towards Nathan’s face. The touch stopped him, but just barely. Nathan
took a step back, raising his fists in response.
“Mr. Tanner, I
swear, I can’t leave you alone for a moment,” Ezra said, his hand still
firm on Vin’s shoulder. Vin could see he’d dressed in a hurry—hastily
drawn on pants, bare feet, and a half-buttoned white shirt undone at
the cuffs. His damp hair was barely finger-combed, and stuck out at the
back in a curling cow’s lick. Vin was pretty sure Ezra’s half-dressed
appearance wasn’t about to dispel whatever notions about them Nathan
had, but then it was pretty clear that Nathan wasn’t willing or able to
see anyone else’s perspective.
“Thank you for your concern, Mr. Jackson, but as you can see, I’m quite
can see that.” Nathan gave him a quick once over, and Vin knew Nathan
had already assumed he understood whatever the two of them shared. He
wondered if Ezra knew it too; if Ezra realized Nathan and the owner’s
assessments had a kernel of truth in them, at least on Vin’s side of
“A hot bath does wonders to restore the constitution.
And how is our young Mr. Dunne?” Ezra inquired, as if Nathan had said
nothing at all.
“He’ll live.” It was only Vin’s glare that cut off the “no thanks to
you” that nevertheless hung in the air unspoken.
we should all be glad of that.” Ezra buttoned his cuffs and glanced
back towards the private bath. “Mr. Tanner, it will only take me a
moment to secure the rest of my belongings.”
“Sure thing, Ez.”
Vin’s eyes never left Nathan. “You probably want to get back to Chris
and let him know Ezra’s doing alright, Nathan.”
“Oh, I’ll be
sure to tell him.” There was such a sense of vitriol behind the words
that Vin wondered if he should go straight to Chris when they got back
to the hotel. God only knew what Nathan would tell him.
emerged from the back looking as neat and put-together as he always
did, his small soap carrier in his hand. Vin had a moment to regret
that whatever window he’d had into Ezra’s world had clearly closed for
now. “Tell J.D. we’ll look in on him in the morning.”
Nathan just bobbed his head inconclusively, and set off down the
should’ve let me hit him,” Vin mumbled under his breath as he reached
back to grab the whiskey and glasses from beside the tub. He’d paid for
it, and there was no way he was leaving it for Mulligan.
knuckles will thank me in the morning,” Ezra returned mildly, and
called a cheerful thank you and goodnight to the owner, who was still
keeping his distance. They creaked down the stairs and over to the
hotel where they’d taken rooms. There was a light on under the door
where they were keeping J.D., and Vin could hear soft low voices on the
other side. He pushed down the burst of anger he was feeling, and
realized there was no point barging in and upsetting J.D.. He’d have to
trust that Chris would see through any lies Nathan might feel inclined
“Come on,” Ezra said, tilting his head towards his
room. Vin had the odd feeling that their roles had reversed, that Ezra
was looking out for him now, and it was strange and touching all at the
They settled inside Ezra’s room on a pair of chintz
chairs, and Vin was grateful to the housekeeper, or maybe it had been
Chris or Inez, but someone had come in, emptied the wash basin, and
cleaned up all traces of blood. Ezra’s bloody jacket had disappeared as
well, and Vin suspected they’d find it hanging back in his closet in a
few days after every drop of blood had been scoured from its fine
surface. Not for the first time, he was grateful to be part of
something like this, a different kind of family who cared, who helped
without being told, without expecting anything in return.
never thought I’d be grateful for Four Corners,” Ezra said, putting
Vin’s thoughts into words, “and yet I find myself at a loss to express
the attachment I’ve come to feel for this town and its people.” He
opened the bottle of whiskey and poured two generous glasses, handing
one to Vin. “Cheers, my friend.”
Vin clinked his glass against
Ezra’s, then let the sweet sting of the liquor flame down his throat.
Knowing it was for Ezra, Inez had sent the good stuff and Vin could
tell the difference from the moment it touched his lips to the way it
eased down his throat with a warm, wet burn of pleasure.
“Ah, sweet Ms. Recillos,” Ezra murmured over his raised glass. “I
believe we owe her a toast as well.”
the bottle disappeared in almost no time at all. Vin and Ezra traded
turns toasting the Seven (all except Nathan), Vin’s pardon, the beloved
South, their horses—Ezra’s voice shaking as he spoke Hazard’s name—and
their lost families.
Ezra’s eyes were blinking more than usual,
and Vin wondered if they should’ve stopped before this point. “To
Saville and Polly.” Ezra raised his glass shakily, the amber liquid
spilling a little as he moved. “The best of my family. Too late found
and too soon lost. I shall miss them dearly.”
Vin raised his
glass and drank in silence, watching as Ezra stood up without his usual
grace and wobbled towards the window. He faced out into the darkness,
putting a hand on the window ledge to steady himself, and wiped at his
“I fear I am no longer good company, Mr. Tanner. I hope
you’ll forgive me if I suggest we cut our evening short lest I become
even more maudlin.”
Vin stood up, feeling the rush of the
whiskey in his veins, and stepped up behind Ezra. Without even
thinking, he laid the palm of his hand gently against the back of
Ezra’s head, settling into the curve at the base of his skull. Ezra
made a kind of strangled sound and leaned forward, both hands clutching
at the window ledge. Vin kept his hand exactly where he’d placed it,
raising the other hand to rub a slow soothing circle across Ezra’s back.
“Mr. Tanner, I—” Ezra began, but there was no conviction in his voice.
many times do I have to tell you it’s Vin, Ezra? It’s been that way for
awhile now. That ain’t gonna change.” Vin could feel Ezra nodding
beneath his hand. “And I reckon you ain’t one to let people see you
hurt, and I guess I understand something about that. You can put
distance between us, step as far away as you have to, and it won’t
change the fact that everyone here is going to stick with you.” Vin let
his fingers reach up and sink into the first inch of Ezra’s hair, let
the touch mean everything he couldn’t say. “You keep walking away if
you need to, but I swear, I’ll just come an’ get you if you go too far.
That’s a promise. And I’ve been told I’m pretty good at trackin’.”
laughed then, a genuine laugh, and when he turned around to face Vin
the sadness had left his eyes. “That you are, Vin. And damned
persistent too. I thank you. For everything.” He touched a hand to
Vin’s arm, tentatively squeezed, and let go.
“I best let you get
some rest,” Vin said. Ezra nodded. They’d both had too much to drink
and emotions were running high on all sides. Vin didn’t want to take
advantage of the situation to push through Ezra’s defenses; nor did he
trust his own instincts anymore, the ones that were telling him that
touching was okay. It was too easy to convince himself he was seeing
the same questions in Ezra’s eyes, the same doubts and desires
reflected back at him. He reluctantly took a step backwards and
gestured to the door.
“I’m just down the hall. If you need me.”
He couldn’t think of a good innocent reason Ezra might need him in the
middle of the night, but the words were out before their intention had
fully registered, and Ezra, a shade closer to drunk than Vin, simply
nodded as if it was a perfectly usual offer.
stumbled a little as he swung Ezra’s door shut and leaned against it
for a moment. He could hear Ezra muttering to himself, reciting the
names of the dead in a quiet litany that made something in Vin’s heart
break a little. He heard the sound of shoes hitting the floor, the
window dropping down to the sill, and a slightly muffled sob mixed with
the shattering of glass. It took everything Vin had not to open the
door and go back inside, pull Ezra into his arms and hold him until the
world stopped hurting.
As quietly as he could, Vin slipped into
his own room three doors down, and hoped Ezra would be alright. He’d
made the offer, and it was all he could do. Anything else was going to
be up to Ezra.
Vin didn’t entirely remember changing
out of his clothes, stripping down to his underwear and crawling into
bed, the whiskey warm and soothing in his veins. He knew he’d fallen
asleep because when he opened his eyes the shadows had moved across his
bed, and the lamp had burned out completely. It took him a minute to
realize the quiet tapping was coming from his door.
to his feet, a gust of cold air sobering him up quite nicely, and he
opened the door to find Ezra, wild-eyed and with his white shirt
half-unbuttoned as it had been at the bathhouse earlier. For a moment,
Vin wondered if he might be dreaming, until Ezra brushed past him into
the room and nodded for Vin to close the door.
“What’s wrong, Ez?”
think it would be considered fair to say that you have a propensity for
avoiding casual contact, and yet I have been the recipient and
beneficiary of a number of touches of a most comforting nature, and
I—well, I—I just don’t know—”
“Ezra.” Vin gripped him by the
arms and held him still; he’d been starting to pace and Vin didn’t
think he could deal with that and all the big words at the same time.
“I don’t know what you’re askin’.”
“You put your hand on the back of my head, and I felt so …. what—what
does that mean exactly?”
could feel his face flush and he was grateful there wasn’t much light
for Ezra to see by. “It’s something my ma did when I was little. I
don’t have much memory of her, but I remember she’d put her hand there,
on the back of my head, and for a moment … well, for a moment, I’d feel
safe, loved, no matter how bad things were. That’s all.”
the darkness, Vin could tell Ezra was staring at him. “I thought it
might make you feel better,” Vin said by way of explanation. “I didn’t
know no other way to make you see you’re not as alone as you think.
You’ve got family here. Maybe not blood, but—”
“You wanted me to
feel the way your mother made you feel.” Ezra said the words slowly as
if he was having trouble making them make sense. Vin nodded. “Safe.”
Vin only hesitated a moment. “Yes.”
Ezra’s eyelids fluttered shut in the moonlight. “No one’s ever done
that for me.”
know.” Somehow Vin had always known that. He might’ve only had his
mother the first five years of his life, but he figured he’d had more
love in those few years than Ezra’s ma had shown him all his life.
They stood in silence for what felt like a long time before Ezra asked,
didn’t know how to answer that, so he just shook his head helplessly.
He’d never been good at words the way Ezra was. He wasn’t even very
good at feelings, and his feelings about Ezra were more complicated
than most. Maybe it came from living and fighting beside someone for so
long, but what he felt for the others of the Seven had always been
simpler. He had and Chris were just alike in so many ways. They had an
understanding. Buck was someone he could always count on for a bit of
fun or trouble, but most of all he could count on him when it mattered.
There weren’t that many people Vin could say that about. J.D. was like
that too—more serious than Buck, and more naïve too, but he had a
heart and a sense of right and wrong that Vin had liked immediately.
Vin wanted to be part of what guided the boy to be a better man. Josiah
wasn’t always the easiest to understand, but he had a kind of wisdom
that Vin respected greatly, even if he didn’t always agree with
Josiah’s take on things. And Nathan—well, he could respect him for his
healing, but there wasn’t much else to like about the man.
there was Ezra, who was always so much more than he appeared to be. He
surprised you, and yet Vin always got the feeling he shouldn’t have
been surprised at all because Ezra was sometimes easier to read than
the rest of them. He cared, probably more than he should, and it showed
on his face, in his actions, in those fancy words he tried to cover
things with. In some ways Ezra was the most honest of them all, and the
most aware of his own shortcomings. Quickest to dismiss his
accomplishments and diminish his role in anything good, but right there
when the fight was hottest. He thought a lot about things, Vin knew.
Maybe it came from reading all those books he had, but he had a quiet
understanding of people and circumstances, a way with children and
animals that most of them remained in awe of. Vin figured Ezra could
talk a rattler out of biting him if it came to that.
“You aren’t going to answer my question, are you?” Ezra asked.
“I—I don’t rightly know, and that’s the God’s honest truth, Ez.” Vin
shrugged. “I ain’t good with words.”
Ezra said, a note of frustration in his voice, but the sleepiness and
the influence of the liquor were gone, his green eyes clear in the
moonlight. “But there is something here—between us, I mean.
Something—maybe I’ve misunderstood and if I have, forgive me, but I
feel—I mean, there is something between us, isn’t there?
Something more than—more than just friendship?”
saw the questions clear on Ezra’s face, the shake in his voice that
sounded like desire although it had been a long time since Vin had seen
it so plainly on a man’s face, and Vin froze, unable to do more than
stand there, staring and wishing he knew how to be the man who could
speak his mind, his heart.
“Well,” Ezra said, and even in the
dim light, Vin could see colour rising in his cheeks. “I assume your
silence is my answer. I’m sorry I brought it up, and I can assure you,
I will not speak of it again. My apologies if I’ve offended you in any
way. That was not my intention.”
Ezra turned away, hand on the
knob, and suddenly Vin realized he couldn’t let him leave like this,
couldn’t do nothing when Ezra had risked so much to ask the question.
Vin said, but Ezra didn’t turn around, just stayed with his hand on the
door, and Vin did the only thing he could think of and put his hand on
the back of Ezra’s head. Ezra’s head dipped forward, banged gently
against the door, and Vin could hear a groan of frustration. He stepped
forward then, his bare chest barely an inch from the glowing white
material of Ezra’s shirt, and this time he leaned close enough to press
his mouth against the pale skin of Ezra’s nape. He trailed his fingers
down Ezra’s right arm to where his hand rested on the knob, and covered
Ezra’s hand with his own.
“Don’t go,” Vin whispered, and in the
next moment Ezra had turned and seized Vin’s face in his hands, pulling
him forward into a kiss. Vin gave into his impulses, kissing Ezra back
with the kind of force he would never use to kiss a woman, and Ezra
gave back with equal strength, a maddening kind of push and pull that
made Vin aware of how long it had been since he’d let go like this. He
pushed Ezra until his back was to the door and Vin’s hands were seeking
out the buttons holding Ezra’s shirt on.
Ezra’s hands had
tangled themselves in Vin’s long hair, his mouth continuing to deliver
ever-deepening kisses, awakening in Vin a passion he hadn’t felt in
years. Ezra’s tongue swiped at Vin’s bottom lip, and he opened his
mouth willingly, captured Ezra’s groan with a kiss that left them both
breathing hard and fast.
“So, are you trying to tell me there is
something between us then?” Ezra asked impishly, his hands gripping
hard at Vin’s bare shoulders, and Vin nodded helplessly and said, “God,
yes,” even as he leaned in to kiss Ezra again.
They ended up on
the bed, Ezra’s white shirt rolling back over his shoulders under the
direction of Vin’s calloused hands, and he was amazed at how smooth and
pale Ezra’s skin was. He worked his way down from Ezra’s mouth, licking
and sucking at the crevices of his neck, laughing when Ezra squirmed
beneath him, alternately shielding and exposing his sensitive neck and
ears to Vin’s teasing. Vin could feel goose flesh rising along Ezra’s
arms, and it delighted him that he was the reason for it.
licked his way towards a nipple, kissed it to a rosy hardness, and was
making his way over to attend to the second, when there was a sharp rap
at the door, and both Vin and Ezra froze.
“Vin,” came Chris’s quiet voice. “Vin, wake up.”
on, cowboy,” Vin said softly, rolling off Ezra and pulling him to his
feet. Ezra chose the corner least visible from the door, and nodded at
Vin to go ahead.
When the door swung open, Chris leaned into the doorway, keeping his
voice low. “Ezra ain’t in his room.”
“You doing bed checks now, Chris?” Vin asked with a grin that he hoped
would buy him some time.
do when someone’s tried killing my people. Everyone else is tucked in
safe and sound, but Ez isn’t at the saloon and no one’s seen him since
you brought him back from the bathhouse.”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Vin said, not meeting Chris’s eyes, and the man
in black looked at him carefully as he responded.
usually the first one to worry about him. Given everything that’s
happened, I figured you’d be sticking to him like glue.”
“He’s probably just sleeping sound. Didn’t hear you knocking. He had a
good bit of whiskey before he turned in.”
Chris nodded. “He ain’t there. I checked. You wouldn’t know where he
is, I suppose?”
“Why would I know?”
“Well, earlier Nathan had a number of things to say about where Ezra
might go if he needed some comforting.”
Vin felt his face grow hot, and he wished he’d thrown on something
besides his underclothes. “Whatever Nathan told you—”
don’t care about that,” Chris said. “What you do or don’t do is your
business. Always has been That goes for Ezra too. But I do care if
you’re lying to me, so I’m asking you again. Do you know where Ezra’s
“I’m right here, Chris,” Ezra said, and stepped out so
he was visible, standing beside Vin. He’d pulled his shirt back on, but
it was still mostly undone, and combined with the rumpled bed and their
guilty looks, Vin didn’t expect it took much to give Chris a nice clear
picture of what they’d been doing.
just wanted to make sure you hadn’t run out on me.” Chris smiled as he
said it, like it was an old joke, and Ezra grinned so his gold tooth
“I promised you I wouldn’t, and I meant it. If I’m leaving, you’ll
“Good. But maybe there’s one or two things that might keep you round
here a little longer?”
“Perhaps,” Ezra replied non-committally , and Vin knew both of them
were looking at him.
See you in the morning, then. Vin.” Chris nodded once more, and stepped
back into the hallway, closing the door as he left.
“Chris is a
man of surprising depths,” Ezra said, and Vin couldn’t help but agree.
They both sat on the edge of the bed, but the moment had been broken,
and Vin wondered what they were supposed to do now. Surprisingly, Ezra
“It’s been a long day,” Vin said, stifling a yawn himself.
“Perhaps I’d best return to my room before anyone else decides to
assure themselves of my well-being.”
Vin laid a hand on Ezra’s arm. “You don’t have to go.”
know, and rest assured I want to continue where we left off, but given
the events of today, I am uncertain whether I will be able to remain
awake for much longer.”
“You can still stay,” Vin offered.
touched a hand to Vin’s face. “I know, but you’re well aware of how
dreadful a companion I am to spend the night with, and I would hate to
disturb your rest further.”
“Ezra,” Vin said, this time leaning in and placing a kiss on his
friend’s lips. “Just stay.”
“That mean you’re staying?” Vin asked, getting up to straighten the
that’s what it means,” Ezra conceded, and proceeded to remove and hang
his white shirt and his pants. He slipped into the bed beside Vin, both
of them needing to curl on their sides to accommodate the small space.
Vin wrapped his arms around Ezra’s chest the way he had when they’d
been snowbound, and Ezra settled back against Vin with the kind of ease
he rarely demonstrated.
“I have to ride out tomorrow,” Vin said into Ezra’s ear. “Be gone three
or four days at most. Just something I have to do.”
Ezra nodded, kept his questions to himself. “Want company?”
Vin shook his head. “Not this time. You stay here and rest up. Get your
strength back. Keep an eye on J.D..”
“Stay out of trouble, you mean.”
too.” Vin pressed a kiss to the side of Ezra’s head, pleased at the
shiver that echoed through the other man. “And don’t even think of
leaving until I get back. I mean it, Ezra.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I’d track you down anyway.”
that, Vin settled down, letting Ezra’s soft even breathing lull him
into sleep. For the first night in a long time, they both slept
straight through until the sun had crested the eastern horizon, and a
new day dawned in Four Corners.
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