The Commitment
(Old West)

by Kimber

Tonight was like all the nights he had endured since joining this group of men. He tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable no matter what he did. The room was too warm, even with the window open. He had removed his nightshirt hours ago to relieve the heat, but it did not help make him any more comfortable. His thoughts kept wandering to the object that he knew would never be his. Those very same thoughts had given him restless nights since he became a resident of this town, and a member of this group of men he now associated with.

In all of his life Ezra had never wanted something so badly that it interfered in his way of life. He had always lived by a code that was imbedded in him from birth, and that code was one of self-preservation. He was raised to believe that only he mattered to himself and never to trust anyone. Ezra had learned this lesson of life the hard way.

His mother had proved it over and over again throughout his life. He had learned that no one cared, not even his mother as she left him with uncaring relatives during his childhood. With his mother's abandonment, and the abuse or outright indifference that his various caretakers had shown him, he grew up not knowing what it was to love or be loved. Ezra was left with the belief that he did not matter to anyone, and he was not worthy of anyone's concern, let alone their love. He grew up believing he was an inconvenience.

The gambler found he could no longer stay in bed. He got up and walked over toward the window. He smiled as a brief cool breeze brushed across his skin but did not feel the need to put his nightshirt back on. The breeze felt good on his heated skin.

As Standish looked out the window he noticed a lone figure walking along the boardwalk and recognized the graceful cat-like movements that could belong to only one person. He did not need to look at this person's face to know who was patrolling the street below. He continued to watch as the figure stopped and looked around as if he knew he was being watched.

Ezra could feel his breath quicken and his groin tighten just from watching this man move. He tried to still his thoughts of how it would feel to kiss this man, to feel his lips open for him to explore, and to feel his tongue meet his. 'I have to stop this madness before it consumes me.' Ezra thought as he tried to stop further fantasies about the man on the street below, but the fantasies kept coming and were becoming more intense. He imagined what it would be like to remove the jacket and shirt slowly, hearing the moans pass the lovely lips he wished to kiss.

He knew he should walk away from the window and try to break the connection that was causing him such lustful thoughts. Erotic images caused his cock to harden in response, making the need to touch himself hard to resist. His hand moved slowly down the front of his body, softly touching his skin as it traveled downward. He could not help but think of how the man of his fantasy would be touching him now, and where. He felt the soft skin of his penis tighten more as his fingers traveled closer to their goal.

This was not first time he had touched himself to bring him pleasure and relief. But, it was the first time the object of his fantasy was in clear view and causing the sensations of his touch to be more intensified than ever before. He knew he could find his release with someone else, but it would not be the same. He could not help but feel he would be betraying the one person he had come to care about more that anything or anyone else in his life. Ezra thought to himself, 'How can I continue to live like this? Is this a life?' His fingers reached their goal, wrapping themselves around the hardened shaft. The warmth of the fingers and palm as they moved back and forth over the shaft of the hardened cock quickened the gambler's breath, making him moan softly. Ezra watched the figure on the boardwalk, as he thought about how it would feel to plunge his cock deep into the man standing there, the man of his dreams, so deep it would touch his soul. The gambler bit his bottom lip to keep from moaning too loudly, as he pictured it in his mind. His hips moved in rhythm with his hand as it continued stroke over his engorged member. He then closed his eyes, imagining that the hand pumping his hard-sensitized cock belonged to someone else. Just the thought that it could be the man of his dreams caused the hand to pump faster, and brought on the beginning of his orgasm, the burn making him aware he was about to cum. He placed his unoccupied hand on the windowsill for support, as the other hand moved faster. The pre-cum helped with the lubricating of his cock making it easier for the hand to slipover the silky skin of the rigid shaft. "Oh God, AHHHHHH, VINNNN," The gambler whispered loudly as he found his release. Ezra dropped to his knees, as he continued to gently pump his softening member, 'til it was flaccid and back to its original state. The gambler looked up and out the window into the dark of night. He noticed the object of his fantasy had moved on and was no longer visible. Tears formed and fell down his cheeks, as he gave into his feelings of shame and embarrassment. 'I am too weak in my feelings for this man. I cannot let myself loose control like this in the future.'


As Vin patrolled the town all he could think of was how he could not offer anyone a decent way of life. He wondered how he had lived his life so far, always looking over his shoulder for the next man trying to collect the bounty on his head. It amazed him still today how the six men he now rode with trusted him and believed in his innocence.

Because of the bounty on his head, Vin had refused to allow himself to think about developing any close relationships with other people. But the group of men he was now a part of made it difficult for him not to care for them, especially a certain member of their band of peacekeepers. It was getting harder and harder to be around the man and keep his feelings buried deep.

The hair on his neck prickled, and he felt like he was being watched. He looked around and could not find a living soul that could explain this feeling he was having. His eyes wondered up to a window above the saloon and smiled. The tracker knew that is was even too late for the fancy dressed southerner to be awake.

He could not help but think to himself how it would feel to wake up with that man every day. He could not help but think how he would enjoy waking him with a kiss or a touch, and have the gambler moan his name as he woke up. He knew he had been attracted to the gambler when they first met in the saloon a few months back.

'Damn, Ez, I bet ya taste like heaven and your skin is like silk.' Vin literally shook himself from the feelings and thoughts before he had to find somewhere private. Vin could not escape the feeling of loss as he turned away from the gambler's window; it felt as if he was leaving something very important behind. Vin resumed his duty of patrolling the town as he tried hard to push thoughts of Ezra away. He knew it was a losing battle, and in the morning he would need to relieve himself before getting any sleep.


Josiah had risen early this morning, planning on doing some repairs on the church's roof. He wanted to do as much of the work as possible before the sun became too hot to work in. The giant of a man decided that that time had come, and a nice drink in the saloon would be refreshing.

The preacher entered the saloon expecting to see the gambler sitting in his usual spot, fiddling with his cards and looking bored. When he noticed the young man was not around it concerned him. It was getting late in the afternoon and a glance at his watch showed that it was almost 2 p.m. Although Ezra was never an early riser, he had never slept past one in the afternoon before.

Josiah's thoughts about the gambler continued as he a procured a drink from the bar, before taking his place at the table where the group of men he rode with usually sat. The older man had noticed that Ezra had not been getting much rest the last couple of weeks. He was not sure if any of the others noticed the dark circles under his eyes or the weight he had lost.

He would ask Nathan today and find out if Ezra had come to him about not feeling well. He knew that Ezra would never approach the healer about any illness he might be having, but asking Nathan about it would maybe open the healer's eyes enough to question the gambler about his health.

Josiah grinned to himself just thinking about how Ezra would react to Nathan's approaching him and asking him about how he was feeling. He knew the two men maintained a working relationship, but they did not enjoy a close friendship. He knew, most likely, that Nathan would never get over Ezra being southern and a gambling con artist. He was not alone in this, because none of the others could look past the barrier the young man had placed around himself either.


Ezra rolled over in the bed moaning as he did so. His head screamed in pain, and he could not believe how his whole body ached. He managed to get out of bed and walk over to the washbasin. The cool water felt good on his unusually warm skin, as he began his daily routine of preparing himself to greet the day. Ezra could not shake off this feeling of not being on top of his game. He did not look in the mirror before he left his room; if he had, he would not have left the room. He was happy he had shaved last night prior to retiring to bed. He knew Chris was not going to be happy; he was once again late for his patrol.

The gambler stood at the top of the stairs and grabbed hold of the banister when he suddenly felt dizzy and weak. He shook it off and started down the steps slowly, praying this day would soon come to a close. He cringed as he heard a loud, angry voice calling his name.

"EZRA! Where the hell is Standish? He was supposed to be ready for patrol fifteen minutes ago!" Chris bellowed below as he entered the saloon.

Chris was tired of the gambler not pulling his share of the work by being late for his shifts on patrol. 'Damn man ain't worth his weight in horse shit.' (Gold is precious so you want something no one would want for this comparison)

Four of the remaining members smiled, knowing that lately the gambler had been worse than ever at being on time for his shifts. Chris walked over to the table looking at the men; his facial expression wore stone cold anger all over it. Buck noted that he had never seen Chris this angry before and felt sorry for the gambler when he got a hold of him. Josiah knew that Ezra may have gone too far this time and silently prayed that Chris' anger would not cause the young man much harm.

Ezra stood still for a moment as he collected his thoughts and feelings and hid them behind the mask of indifference. He noted the difference in Chris' voice, and prepared to be asked to leave. 'Yes, Mr. Larabee, even if I am able to locate my steed, I might not be able to ride it. But, I might have to if you ask me to leave town.' Just the thought of being asked to leave made the gambler's heart race. 'Where would I go? I'm not even sure if I know where mother is right now.' The gambler bit his lip and continued on down the stairs to face the dragon.

"Here he comes, Chris, movin' like he had too much celebration last evenin'." Nathan could not keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

Ezra placed the voice as belonging to Nathan as he worked his way down the stairs. Finally, he made it down without losing his balance. The gambler walked toward the table where the others were seated, but he still could not shake the strange feeling he had, like all the energy was leaving his body.

Chris did not look at the gambler. If he had, he would not have let his anger direct his actions or words. The man in black turned toward the gambler then let the words he had for the man be overheard by anyone interested in hearing them. It would have to be a day that the saloon was half full, but this was of no concern to the gunslinger, 'Damn gambler doesn't have any feelings anyway.'

"Ezra, I'm sick and tired of your lack of responsibility toward your duties. If you can't do your job without someone always having to look for you, maybe you had better think of something else to do. I'm tired of wasting my time. You have five minutes to be on your horse and on patrol, or I will make that decision for you." Chris's angry words and ultimatum stunned the men setting at the table.

Chris turned without bothering to look at the gambler. He did not see Ezra's reaction to his words and anger. Ezra knew things would not be nice, but he had not expected such a public display. He felt humiliated by having several of the towns' people in attendance for his public taking down. No one had noticed the hurt and pain the man in black's words caused the gambler. They were still watching the gunslinger, wondering where his temper would lead next. In a blink of an eye the gambler's poker face was back in place, as he tipped his hat to the gentlemen at the table and left for his patrol.

Ezra knew he would have to do some important thinking while he was riding what could be his last patrol of this town. He was still reeling from the shock of Chris's words and the anger behind them. He slowly made his way to the livery, each step harder and harder to take. As he entered the stable a sudden wave of dizziness with a flash of white light appeared before he collapsed on the dirty floor.

Chris returned to the table, pulled out a chair, and faced his friends. He looked first at Nathan, who during all this had nodded his head in agreement with Chris. Nathan was shocked at how publicly Chris had reprimanded the younger man. The gunslinger looked at JD, who had turned so he could watch Ezra as he made his way to the stables to get his horse. JD had a worried look on his face. Chris looked at Buck, who looked right back at him with a look of puzzlement in his dark blue eyes. Finally, Chris looked at Josiah, who stared back with a look of anger in his eyes. "So, Josiah, you have a problem with what I said?" Chris glared at the preacher man. 'The man should take such an interest in JD or Vin, not the no account, gambling bastard.' However, even as he spoke he realized he had let his anger dictate his actions. 'Maybe I should not have been so public about it,' but he would not let the others know his thoughts.

Josiah just shook his head and replied, "No, Chris, it's how you said it, and how you never looked at the boy one time. It upsets me that no one appeared to even bother to look at the boy." Josiah had seen the pain and hurt in the green eyes before the mask came down again. He learned a long time ago that it paid to watch the gambler's eyes for any reactions emotionally.

Nathan became upset; he was tired of how the preacher more often than not came to the gambler's defense. Thinking to himself, 'He don't deserve no defendin'.' "What do ya mean BOY? Ezra ain't no boy; he most likely never was a boy. He most likely went from crawlin' to connin' people," Nathan snorted. Josiah stood and glared at Nathan's reply. "Nathan, have you taken a good look at Ezra lately? Have you noticed the dark circles under his eyes and the weight loss? Did anyone other than myself notice how pale he looked just now and how flushed his cheeks were? Could anyone else see that it was taking everything for that BOY just to stand up? I didn't think so." Josiah turned and left the saloon, headed to the stables to check up on Ezra. 'If anything happens to my boy there will be hell to pay,' Josiah thought to himself.

Nathan could not help himself and said, "Well, maybe if he would stop his drinkin' and stayin' up late gamblin' he'd get enough rest."

Everyone at the table, except JD, nodded their heads in agreement. JD could not shake the feeling that not all was well with the gambler. The young man decided he would bring today's events to Vin's attention, because he knew the tracker would watch over the gambler. He had seen how the tracker would look at Ezra when he did not think anyone was watching him. He knew that Vin cared for the man, but kept it hidden.

Vin walked in the saloon as the preacher was giving his sermon. He had heard some of what Josiah said, and knew something had to have happened that involved the gambler. Vin approached the table; close enough to see everyone staring at the preacher man as if he had just preached a sermon sending them to hell. The next thing Vin knew, Josiah walked past him and nodded on his way out of the saloon with an angry look he had never seen on the gentle man's face before. 'Oh this can't be good. Ole Ez, what have ya done now?'

Vin walked over to the table. He noticed that the men looked at each other as they still tryed to figure out for themselves what had just happened. "Afternoon boys, what has the preacher man lookin' like he is about to fight the devil and his demons?" "Vin smiled. JD decided to speak up and tell the tracker what had happened. He just hoped that Vin would follow Josiah and lend his support as well for the gambler. "Ezra was late. He looked like hell, by the way. Chris told him to clean up his act or leave. Ezra went on patrol, and Josiah told us what he thought about the situation, and then I guess he went to check on Ezra." JD looked at everyone as he explained to Vin what had happened.

Vin looked at Chris when JD mentioned the part about the blonde telling him to clean up his act or leave town. "Chris, did ya really say that to Ez? Did ya really mean it?" Vin held his breath as he waited for Chris's reply.

Chris looked at Vin, his eyes cold with anger. "Yeah, I said it, and I'm pretty sure I meant it. He is falling back into his old habits of not getting up early enough that he can make it out on his patrols on time. Looks like he's goin' back to stayin' up late gamblin' and drinkin'." Chris looked at the tracker and wondered when Ezra had become a concern of his.

Vin could not help but feel angry with his friends at the moment. He had noticed that Ezra had not drunk more that one drink the previous night, and he had planned on talking to Josiah about how tired Ezra was lookin', and the weight he had lost. He was worried about the gambler and could not believe no one else noticed the gambler's appearance. He looked at the men, unable to voice his anger with them or his concern about Ezra. Tanner turned away from his friends and followed the preacher man in search of the southerner; he would get some answers today.


Josiah walked toward the stables praying to God for guidance in dealing with the anger he felt towards the four men he just left sitting in the saloon. He now knew why Ezra would never go to Nathan if he were sick. It was because Ezra believed Nathan would think he was pulling a con, and Ezra was probably right. However, Josiah would deal with the others later; his major concern right now was the hardheaded southerner that had planted himself deep into the preacher's heart. Josiah could not help but feel a strong sense of love, like a father's love toward his son, for Ezra. He would bet his last dollar Ezra had never known what it felt like to be loved like that.

When Josiah walked through the stable's side door, fear rushed through his body at what he found. Ezra was lying on his side unconscious, and the preacher could not tell if the boy was still breathing. The big man's hands began to shake as he reached down and felt for the pulse. His worries increased when he felt how hot the gambler's skin was. He knelt down beside the gambler and tried to wake him, but all he got was soft moan as the ill man pulled away from the touch. He heard someone enter the stables, and as he turned to send the person for help, he heard the tortured voice of the tracker.

"Oh my God, Josiah, what happened?" Vin rushed forward. He pushed Josiah away and took Ezra into his arms. He looked up at Josiah with tears in his eyes. "Josiah, please tell me ya didn't hurt him." Vin could not stop himself as he pulled the gambler closer to his chest, hugging him close and rocking him back and forth. He could feel the heat coming from the gambler's body, and that caused the tracker to become more concerned.

Josiah stared at the man holding Ezra, with a shocked expression. It took him a few minutes to realize what had just happened. Then the concern for Ezra took over and he looked at Vin and replied.

"Vin, I don't know what happened. I just found him lying here, unconscious, burning up with a fever. Let's get him over to Nathan's, and then I'll go and get him from the saloon.

Josiah approached the tracker slowly and took Ezra into his arms and lifted him as if he weighed no more than a sack of flour. Then he turned and started walking out of the livery and toward Nathan's clinic. It took Vin a few moments before he was able to shake himself out of his shocked state.

"I'll get Nathan and we'll meet ya there." Vin ran past the gentle giant on his way to get the healer. 'Please Ez, be okay. I don't know what I'd do if ya ain't okay.' Vin prayed that everything would be okay, and he prayed that he would not lose Ez like he had his mother. Vin could still remember the lady from the orphanage telling him that his mother had died from the fever, and he had to go and live in the orphanage.

Josiah carried his surrogate son to the clinic. He prayed aloud as he walked, "Lord, I cannot lose another son, please protect this boy and let him stay in my mortal life."

Sanchez heard Ezra whispering something softly that made him smile, "Vin, don't leave me." He put two and two together and realized that the two men would be good for each other.

Vin charged into the saloon like a mad man and scared everyone there. He was calling Nathan's name right before he came through the door. "NATHAN! NATHAN, ya gotta come to the clinic now, I mean right now." Vin looked at Nathan and the healer could see the fear in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

Chris jumped up and said, "Vin, are you okay? Are you hurt?"

Vin walked up to Nathan, grabbed him, and started to drag him toward the door. "No cowboy, it's Ezra. Me and Josiah just found him unconscious in the stables; he's burnin' up with fever, and he won't wake up."

With this said all the remaining men at the table jumped up and started running toward the clinic. The men started looking back at when the gambler had come down from his room. JD could not help feeling guilty for not following his gut and going after the gambler when he wanted to. Buck could not help but wonder why he did not call Chris on his behavior and treatment of the southern cuss. Chris could not bring himself to believe yet that Ezra was that sick, not until he saw him with his own eyes. Nathan could only hear Josiah's voice coming back to haunt him, "Nathan have you taken a good look at Ezra lately?" Could he have let his opinion of Ezra's way of life keep him from being objective where Ezra's health was concerned?


As Josiah laid the gambler on the bed in the clinic, he heard more moans and whispers come from the unconscious man. "Please mama, don't leave me here. Mama, I don't like it here, he hurts me. Please mama, take me with you." Then he watched Ezra's head jerk sharply, as if he had been slapped. "I'm sorry mama; I won't talk back no more."

Josiah noticed the sad face and the tears now falling from Ezra's eyes and heard soft sobs coming from his chest as he curled up tightly on his side. Josiah's heart was breaking as he watched the gambler relive a traumatic event in his life.

"No, please no. Don't hurt me anymore. I promise to be good, honest. No don't, not there." Ezra's cries became more frantic as his hands moved about his body as if he were blocking something from hitting him. Then he was holding onto his pants as if he were preventing someone from removing them.

Josiah reached out and placed his hand on Ezra's head, as he spoke close to his ear. "Ezra listen to me, son. It's Josiah, I'm here now and no one is going to hurt you. I promise, Ezra, I will watch over you from now on son, you have my word." Josiah kept repeating this over and over, while he continued to stroke the hair off the gambler's forehead. What Josiah did not know was five other men had overheard and watched the gambler's suffering as well. What they had witnessed shocked them all. Maude had them all believing that Ezra had a wonderful happy childhood, now they weren't so sure. Nathan rushed toward the gambler and placed his hand on the southerner's forehead swearing to himself, "Damn! He's too hot. Buck, JD, go and get a cool bath ready. We have ta get this fever down quick like." No sooner had the words left Nathan's mouth when Ezra started to shake and jerk, his eyes rolled to the back of his head as his body arched. It seemed like his breathing had stopped and his lips were turning blue. Nathan yelled at Buck, "Buck! I need it yesterday, move it!" Nathan took a bit block and worked it into the gambler's mouth and between his teeth, hoping to prevent the gambler from biting or swallowing his tongue.

This spurred Buck into motion and he grabbed JD and pulled him out of the clinic. JD allowed Buck to half drag him out the door and down the steps. The kid unable to say anything as the tears fell down his face and his throat constricted as he tried not to sob.

Chris looked on in horror, unable to breathe, as Ezra continued shaking. Vin approached the bed with tears running down his face. He placed his hand on Ezra's face and whispered in his ear, "Ezra, don't leave me. Mama left me this way and I can't lose you both."

Josiah who was on his knees offering a prayer heard Tanner's plea. He took a closer look at his friend and saw the love in Vin's eyes for the man who was possibly lying on his deathbed. The preacher began to include Vin in his prayers, because he could see if they lost Ezra, Vin would leave them.

When Ezra finally stopped shaking, everyone watched to see if he was still breathing. All in all, the shaking lasted only few minutes, but it felt like hours. Nathan whispered, "He's still with us." Everyone relaxed and began to breathe again.

Chris let out a breath he had not even realized he had been holding. He asked himself when this man became so important to him. Larabee realized now that Ezra was like that brother that everyone complains about, but you still care dearly about what happens to him.

Josiah got the tub out and asked Chris to give him a hand. They had just gotten the tub ready when Buck and JD appeared with some men with the much-needed buckets of water. While the tub was being filled, Josiah and Vin lifted Ezra up and gently placed him in the tub, clothes and all.

Nathan was concerned at the gambler's lack of response to being placed in the cool water. Vin took a cloth and started to wipe Ezra's face and neck, wishing there was more he could do. The tracker closed his eyes and wished this were a different time, place, and reason for this bath. He would have preferred a very alert and aroused gambler in the water who was looking like he was enjoying the bath and his touch.

While Vin was bathing Ezra, Nathan took the time and mixed some of his herbs for the fever and made some tea with the healing medicine from the village. Nathan walked to the tub and placed a hand on Ezra's forehead. It felt cooler, and he judged it was time to bring the man out of the tub. He knew they needed to remove the southerner's clothes, before they removed him from the tub. No need getting the bed wet; it would give the unconscious man a chill.

Vin had already started removing the wet clothes, as if he had sensed Nathan's thoughts. Josiah walked over with a dry towel in his arms and waited for Vin to place the nude man in his arms. 'Good thing you are asleep, my boy. I don't think you would like being seen in the suit God gave you right now.' Josiah smiled at his thoughts.

Vin had tried to appear unconcerned about removing Ezra's undergarments, and he tried not to show any interest in inspecting the gambler's body. He felt guilty about looking at Ezra's body like this, but the guilt made it easier for the tracker to control his response to the gambler's state of undress. He could not get over how well defined Ezra's chest was and how muscular it appeared for a man that avoided any form of manual labor. 'Damn, Ezra, how do ya keep yourself in such shape?' He noticed how perfect Ezra's cock looked, just right. He noticed how the color of hair that nestled the prize was the same color of his hair and looked to be as soft. It took all of his strength to lift Ezra's nude body, and then place him into the preacher's arms and not grab him back. Vin then looked up and met Josiah's warm gaze and accepting smile.

Josiah watched as the emotions displayed in the tracker's eyes revealed the love that the young man held for his boy. Josiah knew the only reason he noticed was that he looked for Vin's response. The wise preacher realized Vin's love and concern for Ezra was about to make it harder for him to continue to hide his feelings from the others. The gentle giant wondered how he could have missed noticing sooner how the tracker felt about the gambler. 'Hell, Vin, you are as bad at hiding how you feel as Ezra is.'

Between Josiah and Vin, Ezra was dried and placed in the bed with a light sheet to keep off the chill. Everyone knew it was going to be a long night, and it was decided that Josiah and Vin would take the first watch over the ill member of their group. Nathan was told to go and get some sleep, and they would call him if Ezra needed him. His job would be more important in the morning.

"When he wakes up, makes sure he gets some of that tea down." Nathan's concern reflected in his saddened eyes. "I'm sorry Ez." Nathan whispered as he stroked the hair back off the southerner's forehead. Then Nathan looked over at Josiah, "I'm very sorry for letting my prejudices get in the way. I really do like Ezra; it's just to hear his accent brings out the worst in me. But, now I knows it's my problem and I have ta fix it." With that said Nathan left the room, hoping to get some rest before he was needed. The others came forward and had to touch the unconscious man on the bed. They all felt that if they touched him it would send some healing powers his way. Each man thought how the gambler had become a part of his life, and none of them wanted it to end; they wanted more time to make sure the gambler understood he was wanted here.

Josiah looked at Vin and smiled as the door closed behind the others as they left. "So, Vin, is there something you would like to share with me?"

Vin relaxed when he noticed the warmth and understanding in the preacher's eyes. "What do ya want ta know there preacher man?"

"So, how long have you had feelings for Ezra? You can be honest with me, Vin. I will not judge you or forsake your friendship." Josiah made sure Vin would see nothing but the friendship that he was offering him.

Vin looked at Josiah for a long time, wondering how the preacher man would react to the words he wanted to use. The more he stared at the spiritual man of the group the more he relaxed. He could see after some time the special friendship that Josiah was offering him. He would not judge, but he would accept what Vin had to say.

"I love him; it seems like I have loved him forever. I just don't have a decent way of life to offer. If he was with me, it would be a life on the run from the law and lookin' over our shoulders all the time. How could I ask Ez to live like that? It would kill me, Josiah, if anything happened to him 'cause of me." Vin's eyes filled with the tears, and his voice grew raspy from the tears he held in check.

Josiah's heart swelled as he heard the love in Vin's voice. He could see how the man had sacrificed his feelings for the gambler to protect him. The preacher stood and walked over behind the tracker. The young man looked so forlorn and defeated it nearly broke the preacher's heart. He placed his hands firmly on the tracker's shoulders and gave them a reassuring squeeze.

"Don't you think that is a decision he needs to make for himself? Vin, you can't force yourself not to love or to be loved. To do so is to let some of the most important things that life has to offer pass right by you. There is nothing more in life that is more enjoyable than to love and to be loved in return, whether it is for a short time or for the rest of your life. It's a chance we all have to take. Life, and what it has to offer, is not guaranteed to be easy." Josiah walked over by the gambler and smiled, giving his words a chance to take hold. "You would be as good for him as he would be good for you. He hasn't known much, if any, love in his life. Most likely never been anywhere he felt he belonged." Josiah looked toward the tracker, catching his eyes with his. "You could change that for him, if you decide to take the chance to live and love as you should." The preacher turned and walked out the door, giving the tracker the time he needed to think about the words of wisdom he imparted. He did not travel far, just right outside the door where he took a seat and prayed again to his merciful God.

Ezra felt funny as he started to awaken. He had a funny feeling he was somewhere he did not want to be, and he took his time as he tired to figure out where he was. The last thing he truly remembered clearly was standing in front of the window as he pleasured himself, while he watched the man he loved guard the town. The room was quiet at first, and then he heard soft voices whispering. The voices sounded familiar and helped him to relax. He could hear his name mentioned several times, but could not understand the conversation. Ezra became aware that he could feel the thin sheet against his skin and suddenly realized that he was nude under the cover; which caused the gambler to feel embarrassed. He tried to think about what could have happened, and who could have undressed him, but he suddenly felt so tired that the thought became unimportant as he fell back asleep. Vin watched the preacher leave and felt like a great burden had been lifted from him. He sat and thought about what the man had said about life and how he thought he would be good for Ezra. Vin looked over at Ezra's face and smiled to himself. He couldn't help but imagine what life would be like if Ezra returned his feelings. He felt that Ezra was his soul mate, his heart match, and that they belonged together.

He also wondered what would happen if the gambler did not want anything to do with him or his feelings of love. He could lose so much if he came out and told the gambler how he really felt about him. Then it hit him; Ezra must have feelings for him. 'Why would Josiah encourage this unless he knew what Ezra was feelin'?' Vin felt like he could breathe again.

Vin stood and walked over to the gambler's bed. He stood and watched the sleeping man and could not help but think to himself how much younger Ezra looked when he slept. The tracker sat on the bed close enough for their bodies to touch. He reached out and took the con man's soft hand in one of his own callused ones and placed his other hand on the side of Ezra's face. He bent forward brushing his lips first on the gambler's forehead, then on his nose and chin. He took a deep breath as he memorized the smell that was only Ezra's as his lips found an ear to fondle. His tongue flicked out and licked the ear, and then it traced its way back to the chin along the jaw line as he committed the taste of Ezra's skin to memory.

He found himself so close to the lips that had tempted him for forever it seemed. He could not hold himself back from tasting what they had to offer. His lips lightly touched the gambler's, shocked that he was taking such advantage of the situation. He pulled back slightly then kissed Ezra again and applied more pressure. He slipped his tongue between the soft pliable lips, as he gently glided it inside the gambler's lips. He was surprised when Ezra's mouth opened, allowing him to deepen the kiss. Vin had known he should not take advantage of Ezra's condition like this, but the need to taste him was too great. As his tongue explored, he was amazed at how good Ezra tasted, nothing like he ever imagined.

Vin was pulling back when Ezra suddenly sucked his tongue into his mouth. Vin was shocked when Ezra drew his tongue deeper into his mouth, and he felt Ezra's arms enfold him as they pulled him down closer to his body. Suddenly, he realized what this meant, and he gently pulled away from the kiss, just enough to look into the tired, but alert, green eyes of the gambler.

"So, Mr. Tanner, do you always make such house calls to the ill, or is this something special?" Ezra looked up at Vin with a spark of hope in his eyes.

"Yeah Ez, it's special. I hear my house calls break fevers and makes people better." Vin smiled as he bent his head forward for another kiss. Vin positioned himself along side the gambler as they kissed. Ezra pulled Vin closer and deepened the kiss as he sucked Vin's tongue further into his mouth.

Ezra's sucking had become a steady rhythm of seduction, and Vin realized that he was being tongue fucked. He rolled over on top of the gambler; he needed to hold him closer. Ezra spread his legs as he accommodated Vin's lower body on his, and Vin kept most of his upper body supported on his elbow, giving him more freedom to move his lower body against Ezra's.

Ezra could feel the tracker's hardened member rubbing against his, but the tracker's clothes and the sheet were a barrier, preventing direct contact. The friction of the sheet rubbing, along with the grinding against his sensitive groin, only heightened the erotic sensation to his hardening cock. The sheet impeded him from wrapping his legs around the tracker in an effort to bring him closer. Vin moved his hips to the rhythm set by Ezra's sucking of his tongue.

Ezra moved his hands up and down Vin's back. He wanted to rid the tracker of the shirt, so he pulled it free from the buckskins. He slid his hands between their bodies and unbuttoned what he could before he lost control and pulled the shirt apart sending buttons flying all over. The shock of their newly exposed skin touching brought them closer to the brink of losing all control. Ezra's hands traveled under the back of Vin's buckskins, his hands firmly kneaded the taught ass as he used them for leverage to press his hardened cock closer against Vin's.

Ezra knew that the friction of the sheet against his erection was better than any time he had touched himself in the past. Vin broke the kiss and let his lips traveled down Ezra's jaw line to nuzzle the area between the neck and shoulder. Vin loved how Ezra's skin tasted; he wanted to taste him all over. Ezra fought with the sheet for the release of his legs, wanting, no needing to pull his lover closer against his body as Vin's mouth brought him even more pleasure. With the battle won, he wrapped his legs around his lover bringing them closer.

"Yes, oh yes, you just don't know, Vin, how much I have wanted this, wanted you. How much I have wanted you inside of ME. Please Vin take me, cum inside me," Ezra begged.

Vin felt like a bucket of cold water had just been dumped on him. He stopped moving and placed his forehead on Ezra's shoulder. He felt Ezra stiffen, but he had to catch his breath before he could talk to the gambler and explain.

"Vin? Did I do something wrong? Vin? Please look at me. What did I do wrong?" Ezra's voice was strained and had a quality to it that he had never heard before, scared. Ezra's body began to shake as he tried to push the tracker off him.

Vin tightened his hold and whispered in his ear. "Ez, it's not what you're thinkin', stop and listen. I just needed to catch my breath." Vin brought his hands around and placed them on Ezra's cheeks and used his thumbs to lift his face where they could look each other in the eyes. He noted the fear and uncertainty lodged in the most beautiful pair of green eyes he had ever seen. He placed several kisses on his love's face before he kissed both eyes shut.

"We need ta talk Ez. We need ta get some things straight before we decide to continue with this adventure." Vin took the time to kiss the lips below lightly to offer reassurance to his worried love. "This is not a one night stand for me. If we continue this, it means you will be mine, and I will be yours, forever. It means you might have ta live a life on the run with me. I will promise ta love ya forever, 'til the day I die."

Ezra opened his eyes as he looked into the tracker's face. He searched Vin's eyes for any signs the he was not telling the truth. The gambler found it very hard to believe someone would love him enough to promise forever. No one had ever promised him anything and then lived up to it. In the past, everyone just told Ezra they' loved him to get something from him, including his mother. 'Well she never did tell me that she loved me.'

"Vin, I know you mean what you say, that you love me. Right now, I would love nothing more than to believe you, but I find it difficult to process as no one has ever told me before that they loved me. I want very much to say I would follow you anywhere. First, I need you to promise me you will give me time to accept all of this. I need to learn to believe in what we have and that I can be loved," Ezra explained.

Vin smiled down at the man below, letting his love shine in his eyes. The tracker hid the anger he felt toward those who had mistreated his lover; how could anyone treat this special man as if he was not deserving of love. 'I'm goin' ta have a few words for Miss Maude when she comes back ta town, and it won't be pretty.'

Vin bent down and brushed his lips lightly against the gambler's and then looked into his green eyes and smiled. "Ez, ya have all the time we have left in our lives ta learn and accept I love ya. I have the rest of the time to prove ta ya how much I love ya. No one will ever hurt ya again as long as I live, that's includin' your Ma and Chris. Ya have my word as a Tanner." Ezra closed his eyes as the tears fell. Vin bent down and kissed the tears off his cheeks. Their passion had long faded, being replaced with a feeling of contentment neither man had ever felt before. Ezra opened his eyes and smiled at Vin. "Then, Vin, I will follow you anywhere you wish to take us and give you a promise of my own. I will love you until the day I die and protect you from all evil out there that would try to keep us apart. I give you my word as the man who loves you more than life itself." To seal his promise, Ezra pulled Vin down for a deep kiss. He wanted to show Vin how deeply he loved him.

Vin had notice how tired his love had become, so he took care to not let the kiss go for very long. He broke the kiss and rubbed his nose against the gambler's, as he placed light kisses around his face. "Well, Ez, since we have the rest of our lives together, I think we need to concentrate on you gettin' better. Don't worry, keeper of my heart, we will have our time together." Vin rolled off the gambler and off the bed. He stood up and started to remove his clothes, as Ezra moved over in the bed and adjusted the sheet to cover them both. Vin returned to the bed, pulled Ezra into his arms, and placed his lover's head on his chest right over his heart.

"It's time we get some rest. We have plenty of time to show how much we love each other." Vin snuggled Ezra closer to his body.

Ezra was about to say something, when Vin placed his finger against his lips, "Sssh, it's time for both of us to rest, Ez; we will have plenty of tomorrows, I promise ya." With that said both men settled into a deep sleep.

Neither man had noticed when Josiah had entered the room. He had arrived in time to hear Ezra's promise to Vin. Neither of them had heard the soft click of the door as it closed behind the big man on his way back out.


Josiah had exited the room a happy man with a large warm smile on his face. The preacher man sent a prayer of thanks to his Almighty, "Now my boy won't be alone." The big man placed a chair in front of the clinic door knowing he was now the protector of something special. "No one will hurt either of my sons as long as I'm alive. That's my promise to both of you." He knew that wherever the two young men went he would be close behind.


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