Summary: A tale of the Magnificent Seven in the Old West. Written for Ranger as part of a Ficathon with the following prompts: Character Preferences - Ezra, Chris, Buck; Likes - Ezra/Chris slash, first time; Dislikes - Non-con, threesomes.
Ezra rode hard. He had only one thought. Truly. Flee Four Corners and him. He ducked his head and rubbed his cheek against the bunched cloth shoulder of his suit jacket, smearing away tears that escaped nearly closed eyes, as he rode blindly over the old trail. All he could think about was getting away.
In the clinic, Buck sat back on the wooden chair next to Chris Larabee's cot. His head dropped as he stared at his hands, folded on his lap. "I don't think he realized we were listening."
Chris moved restlessly on the bedding, grunting at a sharp pain that bit his upper arm. The wound really wasn't all that bad, but he'd also hit his head and knocked himself out. Nathan wanted him to rest for a while before getting back on his feet. Now this.
Buck stole a look over at his old friend. He tried again. "Ezra's a strange little guy-"
"No." Chris shoved himself up to a seated position, then paused as he waited for the room to stop spinning. Swallowing hard, he fought to open his eyes and pin his old friend to his seat. "He's not strange."
Buck blinked and stared hard at his friend. Uncertainly, now, he started, "Chris?"
Chris risked waving one hand abruptly, to silence Buck again. He sagged slightly before catching himself on the cot's edges. Taking a deep breath, he said, "It's okay. I think that I'd like to-" here he stopped, not sure what he was going to say. Buck was probably the most tolerant man Chris knew, but this went beyond what most men ever acknowledged no less allowed.
Buck sat forward, pressing one hand onto Larabee's knee. "You sure?" He dropped his head to peer up into Chris' eyes.
Chris nodded without speaking. Silence grew in the small, rustic room.
Finally Buck broke it. He patted the knee beneath his hand, then stood up, stretching backwards. "He thinks you're dying." Buck frowned, anger finding its way into his usually laughing eyes. "Nathan's idea of a 'lesson'."
"You talk to Nathan. Set him straight." Chris swung his legs over the side of the cot and gasped, then braced his body with stiff arms. He looked over his shoulder at Buck. "I'm going after Ezra."
Buck rubbed at the back of his neck, then stood and waited in case he needed to catch Larabee as the stubborn fool pushed himself too hard. "Maybe you should have some company."
"No." Chris shrugged off the supporting hand that had latched on to his good arm. "He'll shy off. I do this alone." Mastering his dizziness, Chris stood rock solid as he buttoned up his shirt, ignoring the thick bandage on one arm.
"How about Vin? He could help track down Ez."
Chris shot another look of anger at Buck. "I'll find him. Alone."
Throwing his hands into the air, Wilmington backed off. "All right, old dog, if that's the way you want it."
Ezra dropped off the side of his saddle, not even bothering to catch himself. So distraught that he hadn't bothered to guide Chaucer's mad run, he fell to the earth sobbing silently. The chestnut trotted off, sides heaving and streaked with sweaty foam. Chaucer snorted once, then drifted to a stop under a tree, lowered his head to pluck at some new grass. Ignoring the dirt and weeds, Ezra let himself wallow in his misery for a few more minutes before dragging in choking breaths and pushing up to a seated position on the ground. He closed his eyes and forced his breath to slow and become more even. He had no idea how long he sat there, but eventually he had calmed sufficiently to open his eyes, the wet clumps of his eyelashes sticking before they peeled apart and he saw where he was. The fishing hole. Oh, god. Ezra wiped fiercely at his face, not bothering to clean his hands first and savoring the bite of the grit from them as they scoured his skin. How could I be so foolish? Such a dunce?
He drooped backwards to settle on his elbows and stare out across the small pond. He could see Chaucer, looking a bit damp, nipping at grasses beneath one of the willows that lined the pond. Ezra sighed and arched his back, letting his head fall back. He stared now up into a nearly cloudless sky, the blue such a hard, clear color that he felt the balm of its grandeur soothe his soul. The imperious sky had no use for whimpering clods. He fell back further, flat on his back and closed his eyes, weary beyond comprehension at the enormity of his error. He had actually told the truth.
Buck stuck close as Chris staggered through Nathan's clinic and down the raw lumber stairway. Gradually the gunslinger's steps became firmer and more confident and Buck less concerned. His friend was a tough one, especially when he set himself on a course.
Watching from outside the stall, Buck waited as Chris saddled his tall black horse. When Larabee swung up into the saddle and clung for a moment to the horn, Buck stepped forward and caught Black's rein. Looking up, he asked, "You sure you're up for this?"
Chris straightened, lifting his hands free of the horn and settling deeply into his seat. He tugged the lead rein from Buck's hand. "Yeah. You take care of the rest of the boys. Talk to Nate. When we come back," Chris squinted out the bright patch of sunlight framed in the livery entrance, "when we come back, I don't want Jackson saying anything else to Ez. Don't want to have to kill the only healer for miles around."
"I'll take care of it." Buck's face had smoothed into a mask of determination. "You take care of Ezra - and yourself."
"I will." Chris tipped his hat up onto his head from where it had been hanging on his back by a cord. He nudged Black past his friend and then with a cry, kicked the big horse into a quick trot out of the livery. Once free of the building, the horse broke into a canter, disappearing down the street in a whirl of dust.
Buck had followed the horse and rider and stood in the entry to the livery with arms folded, watching his old friend head out. He could hear Nathan's cursing as the man ran up, angry at his patient's escape.
Ezra's eyes had closed and he lay like the dead. Exhaustion, emotional and physical, had left him with nothing. No energy, no strength. Sleep would heal him, if he wasn't disturbed out here in the middle of nowhere, but with no one to watch his back, he wasn't safe. And he no longer cared.
Chris pushed his horse to a full gallop once they'd left Four Corners behind. He had seen some of his men from the corners of his eyes as he'd ridden out. Vin had straightened from where he'd been lounging against a post along the boardwalk. JD had started to trot after him on foot, breaking into the street from the jail, but slowing when he saw that Larabee wasn't stopping. He'd heard Nathan's exclamation, his yell to stop and come back. A good thing that he had somewhere else to be right now or Nathan would find out that having Larabee in his face would not be a good thing. Not a good thing at all. Damn self-righteous moron.
Squinting into the bright sun, Chris rode hard. He'd heard Ezra's horse running full tilt from town, in this direction. Only thing close out this way was the watering hole where sometimes they fished. He'd start there.
Chaucer, grown bored with grazing, raised his head alertly at the sound of another horse's hooves striking the trail, the sound growing closer. Flicking his tail, he clomped over toward his master's reclining form and waited, ears twitching back and forth. His master didn't move.
Chris drew rein when he saw Chaucer. Relief flooded through him. Then he realized he couldn't see Ezra. Urging the black horse closer, his breath stole from his body as he finally spotted the gambler, lying out flat on the ground, on the dirt. Shit! Larabee hauled at the reins, stopping his mount and quickly stepping out of the saddle. In two steps, he was beside the southerner and dropping, nearly falling, to his knees.
Ezra flinched. Even his dreams were becoming too real. That voice sounded just like Chris Larabee's. He covered his face with one arm, hiding behind it. Dreams would disappear soon enough if he wished hard.
Chris slumped down beside Ezra and turned to face the small pond. He spoke softly. "It's all right, you know. What you said. I was glad to hear it."
Ezra stiffened and pulled his arm partway back, sliding that hand and his other over to cover his face. "Are you really here?"
Chris barked out a laugh and picked up a pebble, shooting it across the water to jump briefly. "Yeah."
"Nathan will be cross."
"Nathan lied to you. He can damn well f-"
"Mr. Larabee!" Ezra removed his hands and turned his head to finally see the man at his side. "No doubt Mr. Jackson had a good reason for his remarks."
"He told you I was nearly dead, might still die." The anger in Chris voice grew as he continued, "He had no right to do that to you."
"He didn't know that I-" Ezra's voice faded away and the sentence remained unfinished.
"I didn't either." Chris turned to face the man beside him. "Ezra, I'm glad that he did it, but only because you thought I couldn't hear you, you thought Buck was asleep, and you finally said what you did."
The southerner closed his eyes in defeat. "So, now what? Do you kill me here? Send me away? What?"
"Now," Chris dropped down onto one elbow, his injured arm ignored as he reached across to gently touch, then stroke Ezra's far cheek, "now I do this." And he leaned in to place a soft, dry kiss on the smaller man's lips.
Ezra shot up, shoving Larabee back on his ass. "Stop it!" He stared around wildly, sure that Larabee wasn't alone, that this was some sort of cruel joke. "I'm sorry! Please, just go. Leave me alone." Ezra finally faced Chris where he now lay braced on bent elbows, "please." The last came out in a whisper.
Chris studied the desperate man in front of him, his heart melting even more at the sight of this beautiful, distraught man. "Ezra, it's not like that." He tried to reach out to the gambler, but sighed and lowered his hand when Standish cringed back. "Ezra, what you said? It's true for me, too. I just never thought that there was anyway you'd see me like that."
"I don't understand." Green eyes, damp and glistening with pain and confusion, stared helplessly into Chris' blue green ones.
"I love you too."
Those simple words changed everything.
- fin -
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