Empirical Research
(Old West)

by Helen Adams

Author's Note: Even though Ezra and Buck are my favorite Mag7 characters, I somehow never expected to find myself writing a Buck/Ezra. Guess you just never know where those sneaky muses will lead you! I hope nobody will mind that I decided to cast Buck in the somewhat unusual role of student. Story contains brief episode references to: Working Girls, Chinatown, Penance and Achilles.
Feedback: will be much appreciated.

Empirical: 1569, from L. empiricus, "experience, trial, experiment." Originally a school of ancient physicians who based their practice on experience rather than theory.

"What do you suppose'd make a man want to get dressed up in women's clothes?" Buck mused, taking a deep swallow of his beer.

Ezra paused in shuffling his cards, one eyebrow lifting. "Is that a rhetorical question?"

Reminded by the sarcasm in his tone that Ezra had once donned a dress to help save the life of a kidnapped Mary Travis, Buck lifted his drink in salute. "No offense there, partner. You only did it the one time, as far as I know, and it was for a good cause. I was thinkin' about that fella who came through here with the traveling show. He was getting dolled up in skirts and frills every single day and I just don't see why a man would be willing to do that. If they needed a woman to promote their show, couldn't they have just hired a real one?"

Mollified by the explanation, Ezra resumed his game of solitaire. "I really couldn't say. Donning feminine attire is certainly not an experience that I found pleasant. Far too many layers and uncomfortable trappings involved for my taste, but perhaps that man was simply trying to adapt an outward appearance to match his more intimate preferences."

Buck grimaced. "You suppose some men really do like that? I mean, sure there's those who share a blanket when they're out in open country with no women-folk for hundreds of miles. That's kind of understandable. I guess any man could get a little crazy-desperate after enough months of providing for himself, but it just ain't natural."

Eyes shining with amusement, Ezra said, "I'm sure that such a circumstance would tend to soften one's prejudices." Frowning as he realized he had lost his hand of cards, Ezra swept them off the table and began shuffling again. "You shouldn't use the term 'unnatural' to describe the act, however. Even animals of the wild occasionally pair up with those of their own gender. Such behavior has been catalogued in wolves, hawks, and many other creatures. Animals have no stringent moral and societal judgments to live up to and they engage in carnal relations with whatever sex happens to attract them. So, I would say that such behavior is more unusual than unnatural."

"Yeah, but men and women are supposed to attract each other," Buck pressed. "If a man's got a choice, it should be a woman who tickles his fancy. Right?"

Ezra chuckled. "I don't believe that 'supposed to' has much to do with physical attraction. Besides which, if I understand human anatomy correctly, there are certain fancies that women are not physically equipped to tickle." He began laying out a new game. "And in some cases, I believe that women can be more sensitive to the needs of other women, simply because they know from personal experience what result they are trying to achieve in their partner."

"More sensitive," Buck repeated. His eyebrows rose and a wide grin crossed his face as the meaning of Ezra's words sank in. "Now that's something I never thought of before. I've known women who could double up on a man and get him so well satisfied that he forgets his own name, but I never really figured they could do much for each other."

"Mister Wilmington, you surprise me," Ezra said wryly. "Here I thought you claimed to know everything there was to know about intimate relations. I don't mean to be indelicate, but are you insinuating that you've never employed tactile and oral skills for the purposes of giving a woman satisfaction?"

Buck drew himself up straight, offended at the suggestion. "Of course, I have! Damn good at it too."

"Well then, you've seen the kind of reaction a practiced touch can bring. Why is it then difficult to imagine that a woman can provide the same skill to another woman? Or that some women, in fact, prefer that sort of contact to intercourse?"

A thoughtful nod answered the question. "Known some working girls who'd been hurt by men. They did what they did 'cause it put a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, but I could see on their faces that they hated every damn minute of it. Hated all men just for having the same kind of equipment that hurt 'em in the first place. Guess I always figured that they must hate sex in any form, from any person."

"Perhaps the understanding touch of another women acted as a balm to the hurt in their souls as much as the hurt in their bodies," Ezra suggested. "But not all who engage in sexual relations with their own kind do so out of pain. For some, it simply excites them and brings them pleasure."

"There's no way another man could get a reaction out of me," Buck stated flatly. "Even if things got started, they wouldn't finish off right. There can't be anything pleasurable in the touch of one man on another."

A shake of the head was Ezra's only response.

"What?" Buck demanded.

"Is your declaration based upon personal experience?"

A slightly panicked expression filled Buck's eyes. "Of course not! I'm just saying that a man can't get the same enjoyment out of a man that he can a woman. Hell, look at that time JD was pullin' my leg by pretending to fall under the spell of that love potion! When he started flirting with me, I about wet myself."

Both men laughed at the memory. Ezra and the rest of the peacekeeping band had heard the tale in elaborate detail from both Inez and JD, and the anger of having fallen for the joke had long since faded from Buck's mind, becoming a favorite funny story.

Ezra nodded in satisfaction as he won his game of solitaire. "I suspect that reaction was as much because it was JD doing the advancing. You believed that he was acting against his will, and you were certainly a bit repulsed by the thought of a man you consider a little brother having lustful feelings toward you." The face Buck made quickly had Ezra chuckling again as he continued, "At any rate, you may very well feel no attraction towards the male of the species, and that is perfectly normal too, but you really shouldn't make blanket declarations with no empirical data to base your conclusions on."

Buck fell silent, watching Ezra shuffle, deal and play his one-man card games for several minutes. Finally, he reached into his pocket and fished out a handful of change. "Deal me in, will you? It's gotta be getting kind of boring playing on your own."

"As you said yourself, some things are better with more than one participant," Ezra agreed slyly, quickly shuffling and cutting the cards. "Stud?"

"Huh?" Buck squeaked.

Blinking innocently, Ezra said, "Poker. Do you prefer to play stud or draw?"

Buck laughed. "Oh. You had me worried for a second there. I think we'd better stick with five-card draw."

A sparkle of gold caught the light as Ezra grinned wickedly. "And here I thought you considered yourself an adventurous man."

He rapidly dealt and as the hand progressed, Buck found himself paying more attention to the man holding the cards than to the cards themselves. He remembered the way Ezra had looked all decked out in that frilly purple dress, his face covered in makeup in an attempt to look more feminine. He had teased Ezra mercilessly for days afterward but the fact was that his admiration for the man had gone up several notches that day, knowing that he would never have had the nerve to get rigged up like that and walk around in public, for any reason.

Had Ezra made a good-looking woman? No, not really. Buck couldn't remember feeling anything close to attraction toward him then. But here and now? He was disturbed to realize that dressed in his own neat well-tailored clothing, smiling and joking and in his natural environment, there really was something very attractive about him.

Ezra easily won the hand from his distracted opponent, not looking particularly contrite as he said, "I suppose I should apologize for teasing you. I was taking unfair advantage, knowing how disturbed you were by the content of our discussion."

"What did you mean about that empire stuff?" Buck blurted, unable to stop the words.

"Excuse me?"

Buck cleared his throat nervously. "What you said a while ago; that I shouldn't make conclusions without getting some of it."

Thinking over the conversation, Ezra realized, "Oh, you mean empirical data? I was just trying to point out that if you haven't any conducted any personal research on the subject of alternate forms of loving, then it is unfair to state as a solid fact that such a thing would bring no physical enjoyment."

Buck leaned a bit closer and said quietly, "You seem kind of sure that my conclusions ain't the right ones. You ever done any of that research yourself?"

A grin flitted over his face when the gambler flushed.

"And what would you think if I told you that I had?"

Buck leaned back. "Well now, I don't know. I suppose I'd want to know a little bit more about it, you being an expert and all."

Ezra studied him closely; eyes boring into Buck's as he weighed and measured the potential outcome of answering. Finally, he said, "I want your word, Mr. Wilmington. Your most solemn oath that this conversation will go no further than the two of us. There will be no teasing, no sharing of this conversation and no innuendoes in front of our compatriots. I believe you to be an unusually open-minded person, but the same cannot be said of everyone in this town and I have no desire to bid this locality a tarred and feathered farewell over actions that took place long before I even lived here."

Taken aback by his sudden seriousness, Buck promised, "You got my word, Ezra. On my mother's grave." Attempting to lighten the atmosphere again, he added, "And in my case, that not a figure of speech."

As he had hoped, Ezra smiled. "Fair enough."

"You want to go someplace else, just to be on the safe side?" Buck asked, noting that the saloon, which had been mostly empty all afternoon, seemed suddenly to be filling with customers.

"Well, I certainly have no intention of discussing the matter here," Ezra agreed. Hitching one eyebrow, he teased, "Your place or mine?"

Buck chortled, suddenly more curious than disturbed about whatever Ezra had to say. "I expect I'll be safe enough in your room. I'll just park my ass in that rocking chair of yours and toss you out the window if you make any surprise advances."

Ezra snorted softly. "If any advances are made, which is entirely unlikely, Mr. Wilmington, you may rest assured that they will be fully expected."

"Let's go then."

No one paid even the slightest bit of interest as the two lawmen walked across the floor and up the stairs to the rooms above the saloon. Their destination was the last door at the end of the hall, the one with the best view of - and easiest escape access to - the street below.

Ezra took a quick look out the window, reassuring himself that everything was calm in town and that they were in no immediate danger of interruption, then twitched the curtains closed. Plenty of sunlight streamed through the light drapes, making the room bright enough to see clearly, but the illusion of privacy helped quell the nervousness he felt about discussing this topic.

Waving Buck toward the rocking chair, he pulled a bottle of whiskey and a glass from the bottom drawer of his dresser. "I apologize for having only one glass," he said, filling it and passing the container to Buck. "Unlike yourself, I don't do a great deal of entertaining on the premises."

"Just drinkin' huh?"

"When the mood calls for it," he agreed amiably. Setting the bottle atop the dresser, Ezra pulled his silver flask from his jacket pocket before removing the garment and draping it neatly over the bedpost. Likewise removing his assorted weaponry, Ezra propped his pillows up against the wall and made himself comfortable against the headboard. "Where would you like me to begin?"

Buck rocked for a moment, somehow not quite able to wrap his mind around what he was about to hear. "I don't exactly know. How did you figure out it was possible that uh…that you could…um?"

"Receive physical pleasure from one my own sex?" Ezra clarified, lips twitching at the fumbling question.

Startled by the bluntness, but at the same time grateful for it, Buck nodded. "Yeah. I mean, it don't exactly seem like the kind of idea that would just strike you out of the blue."

Ezra confirmed, "It didn't. In fact, I had never even thought of such a thing. I was quite young at the time and had only known the attentions of one woman; an experience I was naturally eager to repeat. Unfortunately my advances toward the fairer sex, which I felt at the time were very smooth but realize in retrospect were extremely clumsy, received little response."

"Takes some practice to get it down just perfect."

Rolling his eyes at the smug declaration, Ezra said, "Yes, well at any rate, I was feeling rather depressed and lonely when a man approached me, offering some much needed commiseration over a deck of cards and a bottle of scotch. We spent the entire evening drinking together, and I, without quite realizing how it happened, eventually found myself in his private quarters. We were talking, about what I have no idea, when suddenly I was being kissed. It felt gentle and warm and extremely pleasant, and while I told myself that I should be pulling away and calling him out over the offense, I could not bring myself to do so."

"Well, you were drunk," Buck defended. "He shouldn't have been doing something you were too far gone to put a stop to."

"If he had been less of a gentleman, that would be true," Ezra replied, " but in fact, I distinctly remember being asked several times if I was all right with what was happening. And in fact, very little did happen."

Buck blinked, not having expected that. "It didn't?"

"No. He kissed me again, very slowly, and I was caught up in the sheer difference of the feeling compared to what I had known before. After a time, his hands began to roam a bit, undressing me to the waist and peppering a series of caresses and kisses across my skin. I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I responded with all the typical ardor of an adolescent. My would-be lover did not even have a chance to extricate me from my lower garments before I lost all control. The orgasmic sensation proved to be too much for my inebriated brain to handle and I passed out."

With a chuckle and a sympathetic wince, Buck said, "Kind of ruined that fella's party, did you?"

Ezra smiled ruefully. "I'm afraid so, but the fact is that I would probably have been resentful and angry if anything more had happened and I had awakened the next morning with the memory of it. As it was, he simply put me to bed and spent an unsatisfied night on his own sofa. When I did wake, I was hung over and feeling more than a little confused by what had happened. I left him with some vague apology and skulked away to spend the day wondering if I was some sort of deviant to have enjoyed being kissed and touched by a man. I even wondered if perhaps I had only thought I liked it because I was drunk."

Buck nodded, his interest somehow piqued further by the knowledge that Ezra had been so unsure of his own experience. "Did you see him again?"

"I did. After mulling the matter over with no satisfactory conclusion, I finally decided that the only way I was going to learn anything was to go back to the source. I found him gambling in the same saloon where we had met previously. I remember that he looked nervous when I approached, probably assuming that I was going to cause a scene, but I had no intention of doing so. I merely leaned toward him and whispered, "Teach me" and that night, with no alcohol to cloud the issue, he did."

"So, what was it like?" Buck asked, frowning a bit.

Ezra took a swig from his flask and shrugged. "It was pleasurable in a nerve-wracking sort of way. We were alone but somehow every time my lover introduced me to some new facet of the experience, I felt as though a thousand eyes were watching me and condemning my actions. I was afraid that such behavior was branding me as some sort of pervert."

"But it felt good," Buck pressed, "what he told you to do?

"It felt incredibly good, though my nervousness made it difficult to achieve the desired level of arousal at first." He laughed suddenly. "At least it kept me sufficiently in check that there was no danger of repeating the prior evening's premature conclusion."

Buck laughed as well. "Must've been a relief to both of you. So, did you stay together very long after that?"

"Not at all. I left town the following day, never to see him again, but he had substantially increased my knowledge and I was grateful to him for that. And as the years went on, I discovered that there were many individuals, both male and female, who defied convention by loving their own kind. I also discovered through occasional experimentation that I could fully respond to the touch of either sex. It is certainly less risky to confine myself to relationships with women, but occasionally I find myself wishing that I dared to re-experience the alternate again."

Ezra fell silent, watching Buck, waiting while he absorbed what he had just been told. Finally Buck asked, "How long has it been? Since your last, um…alternate?"

"About three years," he said honestly, relief coursing through him as he realized that his friend looked neither disgusted nor outraged. Anticipating the next question, he added, "He was a storekeeper. The fourth and last man I ever shared intimate relations with. It lasted for two fine and very energetic weeks, until I noticed a few suspicious looks being aimed our way and took my leave before any true animosity could form. What we had together was good, but hardly worth risking our lives or continuing livelihoods for."

Shifting a bit uncomfortably in his chair, Buck asked the question that had been foremost on his mind as Ezra told his tale. "Have you ever thought about doing that with any of us?"

"Of course I have." Seeing Buck's alarm, he added frankly, "Purely idle speculation, of course. I can control myself during the daylight hours, but now and then, I will wake in the night and find myself imagining how it might be to kiss one of you, or to feel the touch of your hands upon my body, or mine upon yours. Rest assured, however, that I have also featured Mary Travis, Inez Recillos and several other attractive young women in such daydreams. It doesn't mean I have any intention of turning them into reality."

"Huh," Buck grunted. He could understand Ezra having those kinds of thoughts. Hell, it wasn't as though he didn't spend a few hours every day in lustful contemplation of women. The knowledge that Ezra sometimes fantasized about men, perhaps even him, in such a way was somehow not nearly as frightening as it should have been. In fact, the whole idea was oddly enticing.

Ezra let Buck contemplate the matter for several minutes, then, when he did not speak again, asked, "So, do you feel that our friendship will be negatively altered by what you have learned?"

Startled from his reverie by the question, Buck stared at him. In spite of his relaxed position, there was a certain stiffness to Ezra's posture that suggested he was bracing himself for a blow. The look of wariness in his eyes shook Buck out of his self-absorption. "No way. It might change a little, but I ain't gonna hate you, no matter what happens next."

"Next?" Ezra repeated blankly.

Abruptly rising from his chair, Buck crossed the room and sat down on the bed, crooking one knee onto the mattress so that he could face Ezra. Seeing Ezra's eyes widen in surprise, he said, "Now you gone and got me all curious."

Giving the other man no time to react, Buck leaned forward and pressed his lips to Ezra's.

For a moment, Ezra did not move, too stunned to suppose the kiss was anything more than a joke that would end as quickly as it had begun. Then Buck scooted even closer, lips moving in a slow inviting pattern over his own, and Ezra finally allowed himself to react. Lifting his hands to take a gentle grip on Buck's neck, he opened his mouth, his tongue slipping forward just enough to slowly caress Buck's upper lip. Buck reacted instantly, his own tongue darting out to meet the intruder and invite it inside. Ezra sighed blissfully at the contact and closed his eyes, relishing the intimacy and the unique sensation of whiskers rasping against his skin as Buck's mouth pressed against his own.

Buck went slowly, absently cataloguing every detail of the kiss. Ezra's lips were soft, his mouth warm and moist, and his tongue talented. Not pushy or dominating but teasing and welcoming as it gently grappled with his own. He tasted like the expensive whiskey they had both been sipping. Buck probed a bit more, then pulled back as the tip of his tongue encountered a peculiar flavor.

"Something wrong?" Ezra asked, his voice husky and a little breathless.

Buck dropped another much shorter kiss upon his lips. "Not a thing. That gold tooth of yours surprised me a little, that's all. Tastes kind of funny."

Ezra sat up, self-consciously running his tongue over the right upper canine. "I suppose it does. I've had it so long that I never even notice any more." He smiled then, the expression hopeful and a little shy. "What was your opinion otherwise?"

Licking his lips, Buck tipped his head thoughtfully to the right. "Nice. Not exactly what I'm used to, but very nice."

"A proper scientific study requires several test runs," Ezra told him, arms sliding forward to rest lightly atop Buck's shoulders. "For comparative analysis."

Scooting even closer on the bed, Buck grinned. "Think I could get to like bein' a scientist."

Pressing another long kiss on Ezra's mouth, Buck sucked gently on his unexpectedly full lower lip then moaned softly as Ezra ground his mouth down tightly, allowing his tongue to dance and dart in a sensual exploration that sent a shocking surge of heat straight to Buck's groin.

Arms tightening around Ezra's body, Buck rubbed both hands over his back, thumbs massaging slow circles into the hard muscles there. Peppering a few small teasing kisses across Ezra's face, he quickly returned again to his mouth, tongue eagerly seeking and finding response.

"Let me show you," Ezra breathed, pulling away from Buck's mouth to drop tiny nibbling kisses along his jaw and down his neck. "Let me prove to you that there's nothing to fear."

Buck's breath stuttered, his certainty that a man's touch could not possibly compare favorably to that of a woman crumbling fast as Ezra's talented fingers nimbly untied his bandanna and unfastened a couple of shirt buttons. Those hands then slid inside his collar to stroke delicate teasing fingertips over his shoulders and neck. Buck soon found his own hands unfastening buttons and sliding past silk, eager to press his hands against warm smooth skin and…

Abruptly, he pulled away, hands jerking back as though stung.

The look on Buck's face was like a splash of cold water to Ezra's overheated body. Pulling back, he stood and turned away, folding his arms across his chest to keep his hands, which tingled with the desire to touch further, still. "I…my apologies. I didn't intend to get so carried away."

Buck rose, and came around to lay a hand on one tense shoulder. "It's all right, Ezra. We were moving a little faster than I expected, but I was right there with you."

Ezra turned to look him in the eye. "You were until you touched me," he corrected. Trying not to show how much that hurt, he continued, "The moment your fingers brushed my skin, I could tell that you were repulsed. It's all right, Buck. You can't help being uninterested in men any more than I can help being interested in both sexes."

"Ezra," he said, stopping the flow of words with a finger to his lips. "I don't know if I'm interested in men. I never would have thought so before today, but if kissing you is anything to go by, then I guess maybe I am interested in one. I'm definitely not repulsed by you, that's for sure."

He glanced down and Ezra followed the path of his eyes, his own widening as the tenting of Buck's pants registered in his brain. "But, then, why did you pull away? You looked as though you'd expected to pet a kitten and instead laid hands on some sort of reptile."

Buck grinned at the analogy. "Not exactly. It wasn't what I felt that shocked me, Ezra. It was what I didn't feel."

Reaching into his half-open shirt, Buck stroked a hand slowly over the hard flat ridge of Ezra's left pectoral muscle, fingers drifting lightly over the tiny brown nipple there. Ezra jerked at the touch, unable to stifle a quick gasp as the nub tightened. Realizing what Buck's problem had been, his lips twitched. "You were hoping I had grown a pair of breasts?"

"Sort of," he said with a puff of laughter. "You're a damned talented kisser and I got a little caught up in the moment. When my hands didn't find what my mind was expecting, I didn't know what to think for a minute."

Relief quickly restoring his sense of humor, Ezra said, "It's fortunate that you hadn't gone exploring any lower then. I can just imagine your reaction if you had unexpectedly encountered a certain anatomical feature that I believe your lovers up to now have all lacked."

"Good thinking," Buck said lightly, reached a hand down. He stopped just short of making contact. "Mind if I check around for any surprises?"

Steeling himself not to react too strongly to a touch that would possibly end up leading nowhere, Ezra resolutely forced his hands down to his sides and invited, "Be my guest."

"I'll be careful," he promised. "Just need to get a little more used to the idea before we see where this ride takes us."

Ezra swallowed at the image Buck's words had unknowingly conjured. He knew exactly what he wanted to be riding and that thought sent a surge of blood running hard and hot through his penis. He nearly whimpered when Buck's large warm hand slid across his hip to cup the bulge in his trousers. Long fingers carefully outlined his shape, testing the girth and steadily increasing length of it and Ezra's eyes closed, teeth clenching tightly to keep from shouting at the ache of need that surged through him at that questing touch.

"I think I just might be jealous," Buck teased, observing Ezra's reaction closely. He had always loved watching the pleasure his touch could bring to a woman and now he realized that he would have to broaden that definition to 'lover'. For it was just as fascinating to see and feel Ezra's growing excitement, and he knew with a certainty that surprised him that he did not wish to leave this room, or this man, until he had learned much more.

"J-jealous?" Ezra stammered, eyes popping open again and revealing their passion dilated pupils.

Buck stroked him again, smiling at his involuntary gasp. "You're not as tall as me but it feels like we're about equal where it counts."

"It's not how much you've got, it's how well you use it," Ezra quipped, the words ending in a helpless moan as Buck's hand slid lower, seeking out the smaller bulge of his ball sac and giving it a careful squeeze. "Oh, God. You probably shouldn't do that again unless you want history to repeat itself."

Backing off a step, Buck raised his hands to rest on Ezra's waist as he gave him another quick kiss. "Not a chance. I want this to be a whole new experience for both of us."

Ezra's eyelids fluttered slightly as he pulled his scattered thoughts into order. "You mean, you want to continue?" he asked, his tone a mixture of longing and disbelief. "I'll understand if you'd rather not. Perhaps you should take some time to consider."

"Oh, I intend to take my time," Buck assured him, nuzzling his neck. "And I'm probably gonna be a little less talented at this than either of us is used to, but I figure you can give me a little instruction on the finer points. We'll figure it out together."

Exerting all his will power to do so, Ezra placed one hand in the middle of Buck's chest and pushed him far enough away so that he could look him straight in the eye. "You're sure?"

The two men stared at each other for a long moment, and then Buck stepped away toward the door. Ezra felt his heart sink, then it began to pound wildly as Buck turned the key firmly in the lock. "I'm sure."

Shrugging out of his suspenders, Buck quickly finished unbuttoning his shirt and pulled it off. He had not worn his long red underwear today and an expanse of tanned well-toned flesh was revealed to Ezra's eagerly watching eyes. Next, Buck toed off his boots and socks, but stopped short of removing his pants. "Think I'd like to do a little more exploring first," he said. "I came across you playing a hand of poker in the altogether one time, but I was trying kind of hard not to look. You mind if I find out what I missed?"

Pleased by the request, Ezra followed Buck's example, taking off everything except his trousers. Then, with a questioning quirk of his eyebrows, he followed Buck's silent directive and removed those as well, sliding his underwear off with the pants. Stepping away from the pool of clothing, he held his arms up and gave a slow playful turn, offering his new lover a good look. "See anything you'd care to examine more closely, sir?"

Buck licked his lips and stepped forward, eyes sweeping over Ezra's form with new appreciation. "Turn around," he requested softly.

Ezra complied, turning his back to Buck and waiting patiently to find out what he had in mind. He twitched slightly, the nerves beneath his skin alive with anticipation, when he felt hands on his back. Trying to be patient, he reminded himself that his masculine body was unfamiliar territory to Buck and waited patiently while those large callused hands spread wide and stroked his back from shoulders to hips, applying a bit more pressure as they moved back upward. It was really very pleasant and he relaxed a bit as the gesture was repeated. On the third pass, Buck's hands turned, drifting down to cup and gently squeeze his buttocks. Ezra sighed and pressed back, the intimate touch making him long for more.

Buck smiled at the response and allowed his arms to encircle Ezra's body, one hand resting atop the firm muscles of his abdomen while the other stroked his chest, fingers again brushing across one of those flat, gratifyingly responsive nipples.

As Buck's hand drifted and squeezed its way across his chest, Ezra laid his head back against Buck's shoulder, kissing his jaw. "You'll have to accept fact, my friend," he drawled. "Rubbing them is not going to make them any bigger."

Realizing that he must seem to be dwelling on what Ezra did not have, Buck assured him, "Just getting used to the differences, is all. This better?" The hand resting on Ezra's stomach slid down and forward so that his knuckles could brush against the front of his protruding manhood. The southerner made a sound deep in his throat that sounded almost like a purr and Buck laughed. "Guess so."

He stroked the erection again, and then wrapped his fingers around it and pulled, gently at first, but then harder and faster. Ezra gasped and stilled him with a strong hand clenching his wrist. "Easy," he said sharply. "Good lord, Buck, if you bring yourself to completion with that kind of force, I'm amazed that you haven't done yourself an injury by now."

"I'm sorry," he said, chagrined. "Didn't mean to hurt you. Turns out it's not so easy to judge when you can't feel the pull."

"It's all right. Just give me a moment to recover," Ezra said, turning around to face him "Let's try this a bit differently, shall we?"

Motioning Buck to stay where he was, Ezra reached over and adjusted his pillows back to their normal place, then stretched out on his bed and patted the mattress next to his thigh. Buck quickly shed his remaining clothing before taking a seat, eyes alight with interest as Ezra reached up and crossed his arms overhead, resting them on the pillow. "A proper scientific study gains nothing from rushing the results," he teased. "Just touch me, Buck. I promise that I'll let you know what I do and do not enjoy."

"You gonna return the favor?" Buck asked, skimming his fingers along Ezra's ribs. No reaction. Not ticklish then.

Ezra arched up a bit as his left nipple was probed with a practiced tongue. No doubt about it, Buck Wilmington was a breast man. "I certainly hope so. I want to get you so thoroughly aroused that you'll allow me to take all sorts of shocking liberties."

"Really," Buck said lasciviously. He continued to tease one nipple with his fingertips while lowering his mouth to carefully nip the other with his teeth. The reaction from Ezra was favorable but nowhere near as dramatic as he was accustomed to seeing in a woman. Switching tactics, Buck ran his hands along Ezra's shoulders, bending forward to press a hot slow kiss on his mouth. Ezra's arms moved from their relaxed position to wrap around his back, returning the kiss with interest. Buck shifted around so that he could lie fully on the bed, his body pressing Ezra's into the mattress. The full skin to skin contact was unexpectedly arousing and Buck groaned as Ezra's hands began to trace up and down his spine. "Planning to ravish me, are you?"

"Absolutely," Ezra told him, moaning softly as Buck moved lower, kissing along his breastbone and stopping to probe experimentally at his navel.

Instantly noting how one leg bent involuntarily toward the ceiling when he touched Ezra's belly button, Buck pressed his advantage, flicking his tongue in and out of the appealing little indentation and sliding a hand along Ezra's upraised thigh.

Ezra's breath hitched in response to the tingles of pleasure surging through his cock each time Buck stroked his sensitive inner thighs. Instinctively spreading himself wider, he sighed in contentment as the hint was taken and Buck scooted further down to kneel between his legs, caressing both thighs and occasionally sliding those strong hands around his hips to give his butt a squeeze.

Buck watched Ezra's reaction closely. His eyes had closed and he was clearly excited by the touch, his hard length beginning to twitch as beads of moisture oozed from the tip. Buck knew what he should do next, what he would want done if he were in Ezra's position, but could he?

Noting the sudden halt in Buck's ministrations, Ezra opened his eyes. Down the length of his body he could see his cock jutting out in eager anticipation, but he could also see that Buck's state of arousal was not nearly as advanced. In fact, his erection seemed to be flagging as he stared at Ezra's, an expression of deep uncertainty on his face.

"You don't have to take me in your mouth."

Startled by the quiet statement, Buck looked up. Ezra was staring at him, a surprisingly understanding expression on his face.

"I couldn't do it either, the first time," he said. "Nor the second. It wasn't until I'd experienced the reciprocal sensation a few times myself that I worked up the nerve to try."

Not used to finding himself unable to fill a partner's sexual desire, Buck's shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry, Ezra. I know it feels good and I know that doing it to you shouldn't be any different from having a woman do it to me, but it just…is."

"It's all right," Ezra told him. "Honestly, it is. You may have noticed that you were doing a fine job with just the use of your two hands."

Buck still felt unhappy with his failure. "I guess so, but that just don't seem right. If you wanted a hand job, you could do that yourself."

"That may be true, but it is occasionally very pleasant to have the job done by someone else," he said dryly. Then he winked and added, "Besides which, I may be quite flexible but I assure you that I am not remotely capable of tonguing my own navel!"

The teasing comment had the desired result. Buck laughed and some of the tension drained out of his shoulders.

Pulling himself up onto his elbows, Ezra offered, "Would you be more amenable to finishing this race together?"

"Sure," Buck said with a smile, then looked regretfully from his friend's still sturdy member to his own half-flaccid one. "Looks as if you've got a head-start on me, though."

Ezra chuckled. "I believe I can take care of that. Switch places with me."

The two men scrambled to change positions, Buck watching interestedly as Ezra curled onto one hip between his upraised knees and rested his elbow on the bed, armpit settling atop Buck's thigh

"Now then," he muttered, quickly beginning to stroke. His touch altered, firm one moment and gentle the next as he took note of what Buck seemed to appreciate most. Occasionally drifting a hand down to touch himself and keep his own hardness from waning, Ezra coaxed equal life into Buck. Then, glancing up to make certain that Buck was still watching; he wrapped his lips firmly around the wide rosy red tip and swirled his tongue.

Buck grunted in appreciation at the touch, sighing and carding his fingers through Ezra's thick hair as he sank a little further down on the erection, gently sucking.

Ezra enjoyed the sounds Buck made as he allowed the rapidly hardening length to slide past his lips, wiggling his tongue along the organ's surface as he worked it back out, releasing the end with a little pop, then repeating the whole exercise again. He had never mastered the ability to let a foreign object touch the back of his throat without gagging, but in his limited experience with male lovers Ezra had learned to compensate, sliding and squeezing his fingers along the area he could not reach with his mouth.

Fortunately, Buck did not feel that there was anything lacking in the technique. He was soon lost in the sensation, stroking Ezra's hair and muttering, "Oh, yeah, right there," on every upward stroke.

When Ezra felt the balls he had been gently massaging in his free hand begin to contract, he stopped, pulling away and giving the base of Buck's cock a careful squeeze. A little dazed, Buck frowned darkly as his expected release was denied. He reached for himself, trying to finish the job, only to have his hand captured in Ezra's.

"Not just yet," the southerner said smoothly. "I thought you wanted to do this together."

Buck grunted, struggling to force some blood back up into his brain. "Oh, yeah. Sorry."

"It's all right. I'm the expert this time, remember? Look down." As Buck complied, he pressed Buck's knees down and rose up onto his hands and knees, carefully coming forward as he gained more room to maneuver. Glancing between their bodies Ezra smiled at this sight of his own cock bobbing a bare half inch above Buck's and lowered himself so that the two would brush against each other. He held his breath at the touch and was further rewarded by a gasp from his partner. "Like that?"

"Jesus," Buck groaned.

Ezra laughed gleefully at the hoarse reply. Stretching his arms out, he reared back like a cat so that his butt was in the air and his chest lowered to rest atop Buck's hips. Then he slid slowly forward, his body brushing along Buck's cock inch by inch until he lay fully on top of him, their hard erections resting side by side.

No longer able to lie still, Buck rolled them to their sides, one leg and both arms locking firmly around his teasing lover, kissing passionately as his hips began to buck and shift against Ezra's.

Ezra held on with equal strength, all thoughts of technique and timing disappearing like a puff of smoke as his total awareness was reduced to the throbbing need between his legs. His mouth ground with abandon against Buck's while their hips thrashed and pumped together.

For long minutes the two bodies strained against each other with desperate ardor and then Buck threw his head back, crying out wordlessly as he reached completion. The sound, coupled with the feeling of hot liquid coating his stomach brought Ezra to his own climax less than a minute later.

Trembling, the two lay still, arms remaining locked around each other as they waited for their pounding hearts and gasping breath to slow. When they finally pulled apart, a strangely loud sucking noise filled the air as the sweat and semen trapped between their bodies separated.

"And they say romance is dead," Ezra quipped, snickering helplessly at the sound.

Buck started laughing as well. "I'll tell you something, Ezra. What I said downstairs about there not being any pleasure in the touch of one man on another? It's bull. I was talking out my ass and didn't even know it."

Ezra grinned, propping his arm up and resting his head in his hand. "You found the result sufficiently worth the experimentation then?"

"Damn right," he said firmly. "You got any more information I might need to start analyzing?"

Pretending to think it over, Ezra began to trace patterns through his companion's light covering of chest hair, deliberately scratching his fingernails lightly over Buck's freshly sensitized nipples and smirking as he let go a small groan. "Oh, I imagine there are a few facets yet to be explored," he said. "For instance, if you happen to have sufficient lubrication, it is possible to-"

He bent down, whispering the details of just what could be done into Buck's ear, then smiling in satisfaction as Buck's face turned white, then bright red, then took on a contemplative look as he replied, "Seriously?"

"Cross my heart," Ezra told him cheerfully. "You mustn't feel obliged to obtain proof of my claim, but believe me when I tell you that what we've just done is nothing more than a warming up exercise in comparison."

Buck's eyes widened, more intrigued by the idea the more he thought about it. "It sounds as if I might have been missing out on quite a bit all this time."

"Mm," Ezra agreed. "Now, much as I would love to continue this afternoon's activities, we should get dressed and go make ourselves publicly conspicuous before anyone starts to wonder where we've gone."

As they rose, washed up in the pitcher on Ezra's dresser and made themselves presentable, Buck found himself studying Ezra's profile. "We're gonna be okay, aren't we? You and me?"

Ezra looked down, frowning slightly at the patterned carpet under his feet. "I will have fond memories and no regrets for what we have done." He glanced up. "As long as I know that you won't regret it either. In fact, I should like to express my appreciation for your willingness to help me prove my argument that male loving does not have to be a shameful or unpleasant thing."

"I enjoyed it," Buck confirmed easily. "And if you're up for it some time, well, let's just say that I don't want you to wait another three years if you get an itch you need a little help scratching."

Stretching up, Ezra kissed him, a wealth of gratitude and promise on his lips. "Thank you, and if you find that this particular itch is contagious, please don't hesitate to ask for help."

Buck grinned. "You got it. Now, what do you say we go find something to eat? All this exercise has given me an appetite."

Ezra clapped him on the shoulder as he reached to unlock the door. "A fine idea, my friend. And I suggest a drink as well. I feel this afternoon's success deserves a toast."

"To what?"

Donning his hat, Ezra gave the wide black brim a tug. "Why, to scientific research, of course."

Laughing at their private joke, the two men descended the stairs and were quickly absorbed once more into the crowd.


And so ends my first venture into the world of slash-fic. ;-D

On to: Trial And Error

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