The carpet was giving him a headache. It was some kind of multi-coloured, Mexican weave debacle that made Ezra suspect that the creator was either completely blind or, at the very least, partially sighted and disastrously colour-blind. Trouble was, as much as it hurt his eyes to look upon, he couldn't tear his gaze away from it. He knew that reaching for that glass was a bad idea. Shaky fingers and a dizzy head did not make for the surest of grips and the glass of water had landed on the floor. Luckily, or so Ezra had thought at the time, the glass had just rolled under the bed. He would only have to lean down and fish it out then pour himself a new glassful from the jug on the bedside table. That's when the carpet ensnared him with its unholy colour scheme. He couldn't look away. He was hypnotised, robbed of his reason by the horrors of the floor covering. And the water seemed so cool too...
"Ezra?" a voice broke through the nightmare. "Ezra, what you doin'?" Dusty black boots mercifully broke into his field of vision. He blinked up into Chris Larabee's frown.
"Water?" Ezra croaked. Was that his voice? It was utterly pathetic. Expiring toads sounded livelier. But while he was scowling in disgust, Chris was demanding to know the whereabouts of the water glass.
"Damn it!" Chris had given up on the inquisition and was down on his hands and knees, scuffling about under the bed and cursing prodigiously at the confined space in which he found himself.
Ezra was just about to rebuke him for using such language in a sickroom when he remembered that he was the sick person and realised that the sight of Chris' bobbing behind was taking his mind off his pains. It was almost as hypnotic as the carpet.
"There," Chris announced and Ezra blinked at the sudden presentation of a cool glass of water.
"What's gotten into you?" Chris' grumbled question was a sharp contrast to the firm but gentle hand that cupped the back of Ezra's neck. "Your fever broke and you should be able to ride tomorrow," Chris continued as he put the rim of the glass to Ezra's lips. Problem was, as soon as Ezra felt the coolness on his lips, it made him think about Chris' lips which, in turn, made him stare at them. They were slightly damp and sort of glistened, almost hypnotically...
"Hell!" Chris cursed as Ezra coughed and spluttered a mouthful of water over them both.
"What are you trying to do, drown me?" Ezra tried to shout through another cough while shaking out his wet bedclothes.
Chris just rubbed the dark stains that splattered the front of his clothes and glared. "If you're up to eating they've got something for you in the kitchen downstairs," he grumped before striding out the room.
"Charming," Ezra muttered, avoiding the carpet's oppressive stare.
His limp wasn't too pronounced, Ezra decided as he made his way to the top of the stairs that led down to the hotel kitchen. He could probably carry off the injury with a good deal of flare but, as his senses pitched and yawed on the first step, he was forced to admit that it wasn't the flesh wound in his calf-muscle that was the immediate problem. Leaning heavily against the wall, he considered heading back to bed for a few more days; only a fool would ride through the desert in this condition. But then most fools didn't have Chris Larabee to drive them on. Smirking as the wave of dizziness cleared, Ezra steadied himself to make careful progress down the stairs then follow Chris' voice into the kitchen.
The wind was howling in his ears and Ezra had long since stopped trying to distinguish Chris' dark outline from that of the deep desert night stretching out before him. Trusting his horse's natural instinct to follow the leader, he closed his eyes and envied Buck Wilmington's talent for sleeping in the saddle -- even if the most accomplished of saddle-slumberers would find it impossible to ignore the burning pain from his ever cramping leg.
"Adobe!" Chris yelled through the whipping wind and Ezra squinted through the darkness, first at Chris, then at the barely visible block of dark grey a little ways to the south. "It's going to storm," Chris continued as the sand began to rise around them. "We'd best rest up and make it back early morning."
At Ezra's nod, they both turned their horses for the shelter.
With only three walls still standing, the remnants of the small adobe left much to be desired in the way of homely comforts. However, there was room enough to bed down under the part of the roof that remained intact and the wind mercifully stuck to hurling sand at the three remaining walls, ignoring the absence of the fourth.
"You'd best get that leg seen to before you sleep," Chris' voiced suddenly sounded close in the darkness as Ezra settled down on his bedroll. "It'll freeze up tomorrow if you don't."
"I am freezing now and, if you'll forgive me, too damn tired to take my boot off." Ezra lay down and closed his eyes as if Chris had never spoken. "Good night, Mister Larabee," he added with finality, then, not expecting any response except for a few muffled snores later, he tried to relax despite the twitching of his overtired muscles.
A few minutes later, Ezra was almost drifting off. He was pretty sure of that because Chris' incessant rustling had turned into the feathery shuffle of cards in his mind's eye when a blast of pain and biting cold shot up his injured leg.
"What the--" Ezra yelped before shouting, "Put my damn boot back on!" to the figure crouched by his feet.
"Keep still," Chris' voice came back from the night. "It won't take long. I know you need your beauty sleep."
"Beauty has nothing to do with it." Ezra yelped and kicked out when Chris tried to roll his pant leg up over the injured muscle. "Leave me be. It'll be fine," he continued to protest as his leg was grabbed and wrestled still.
"The hell it will," Chris snapped back. "I'm not going to listen to you bitch and whine all the way back to town tomorrow. Now, slide your pants down so I can rub in this liniment."
"Are you jesting with me? I'll freeze to death!"
"You mean you're not wearing any--"
"You know I'm not."
"All right, here." A soft weight dropped on Ezra's stomach. "You can borrow my blankets. Now strip."
Ezra considered his options and soon decided that there was no way to dissuade Chris from this current course of action short of pulling a gun on him and Ezra wasn't sure if he'd loaded blanks for this trip. If anything was a sure indication of how dangerous his current condition was, failing to recall the details of his own armoury certainly brought it home.
"Well, since you asked so graciously," Ezra drawled sarcastically as he complied. "Your blankets are getting the liniment on them."
Chris' hands were heaven sent. They worked around the injury, strong and sure, soothing the screaming muscles until Ezra was drifting away on a bed of pleasure that couldn't even be curtailed by the highly pungent odour of the oil.
"Damn, you've got enough knots in this leg to hogtie an entire herd," Chris growled, rudely jolting Ezra back from his sleepy contentment. "You should have said something earlier. You're no good to me half crippled."
"I'm touched by your concern," Ezra snapped back, partly in anger but mainly because of the rush of embarrassment brought on by the realisation that the warmest spot on his whole body was stirring happily from between his legs. "That's enough, thank you, Mister Larabee." Ezra tried to push Chris' hands out from under the blanket.
"Not finished yet," Chris grunted back, his fingers working steadily up Ezra's thigh. "You'll have to adjust your seat to support this leg tomorrow."
"I know. I tried it already." Ezra tried to ease Chris away again before he-- "Oh lord," Ezra breathed out as a rush of hot blood to his crotch actually made the blankets twitch and the massaging fingers abruptly stopped moving against his skin.
Silence. Even the wind had ceased to howl at some point.
Darkness. Nothing moved except Ezra's ever hardening cock which was completely ignorant of everything except the warm hands resting on his thigh, so close and yet so far.
"Yeah," Chris suddenly spoke in the darkness and his fingers began to move again, digging ruthlessly into Ezra's thigh muscles. "Enough knots for a whole herd."
"I'm sure," Ezra managed with a slight cough. "As I said, thank you for your kind and most capable ministrations, Mister Larabee, but that's--" Ezra froze at the feeling of a strong hand taking a tight grip of his all too eager cock then stroking it in rhythm with the hand massaging his thigh.
"You shouldn't have moved out from behind that table," Chris began quietly. "I told you to stay put. I had them covered."
"No," Ezra somehow found an argument from some part of his mind that wasn't writhing in pleasure under Chris' squeezing, coaxing fingers. "They had us pinned and someone had to break for it."
"It was a bad move."
"Not at all. I just persuaded myself that I was a little faster than I actually am, that's all," Ezra hissed as the pressure built and intensified to that perfect aching point. "Even perfection has its limits," he finished before gasping through an orgasm that made his ears ring.
When the waves of heat and honey ebbed, Ezra became uncomfortably aware of the scratchy blankets against his flushed, over-stimulated skin. But, when he moved to reach down for his pants, a finger bitter with liniment oil pressed against his lips.
"Don't," Chris said, his voice heavy and close. "Just sleep."
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