Ezra's hands were made to caress and be caressed in return. Even while engaged in such menial tasks as holding a fork or fingering a coffee cup, they demanded Chris' attention. The noisy ebb and flow of townsfolk going about their morning chores faded far into the background as he watched Ezra's hands from across the saloon breakfast table, trying to figure out why they were so beguiling.
"Well, I'd say that's another point to me," Ezra announced and Chris looked up to be met with a gold tooth flashing grin. "Unless I've missed my guess, which I seriously doubt judging by your demeanour, I'd say your thoughts of a moment ago were less than puritanical."
"Ain't nobody lookin'," Chris replied grouchily. Apart from he and Ezra, the only other things moving in the room were the dust motes dancing in the pale shaft of sunlight struggling under the batwing doors.
"That's not the point," Ezra continued cheerfully. "I believe that's four you owe me."
"Four?" Chris scowled. "Four what?"
"Oh, don't tell me you've forgotten our wager of last night?" Ezra dropped his fork onto his plate in mock horror. "For shame, Mr Larabee, I did not think you were a welcher."
"Last night, was last night," Chris said sternly. "No one said anything about this mornin'."
"But, as I recall--" Ezra paused to fold his napkin away. "No one called the bet off either. Or am I wrong on that count?" He blinked at Chris in an excellent approximation of wide-eyed innocence.
Chris met his gaze unfazed.
"Four, Chris," Ezra insisted. "You owe me four in the regions of my choice and I intend to collect."
Just as Chris was about to respond, Buck winged in through the doors, calling a loud, "Mornin', gents," as he crossed to the bar to pour himself some coffee.
"Good morning, Mr Wilmington. I trust this fine day finds you well?" Ezra returned, ignoring Chris' warning look that promised their topic of conversation was not yet laid to rest.
"I'm fine, fine." Buck sat down with a wide smile but was soon fidgeting around in his seat, which meant he wasn't fine at all.
"You all right?" Chris frowned when Buck couldn't seem to settle.
"Of course." Buck grinned. "Why shouldn't I be?"
Ezra moved his chair back so he could view Buck more comfortably. "I think Chris is referring to the fact that your nether garments seem to have been infested by insects of the hymenopterous family."
"Oh." Buck glanced around the deserted saloon then leaned over the table a little. "Do you boys eat a lot of salt, like spices in your food and such?"
Chris didn't respond; he just watched Ezra blink confusedly.
"Well," Ezra began after a few moments. "I suppose it depends on the dish."
"Right." Buck nodded then sipped his coffee. Just when Chris thought that moment of strangeness had passed, Buck spoke up again, "Do you boys think that excess in some aspects of life will necessarily lead to it in others? I mean, do you think that a lot of spices in your food will spice up... other areas?"
Chris frowned at Buck and caught Ezra doing the same out of the corner of his eye.
"Other... personal areas?" Buck nodded as if he was making some kind of sense.
"What are you talkin' about?" Chris finally had to ask.
"I was reading about it in them medical magazines." Buck sat back in his chair, the picture of feigned ease. "There's a doctor in there who thinks that spices in your food will spice up your love life, or at least your love drive." He took a pointed sip of coffee.
"Oh, you mean that article about onanism?" Ezra seemed to have seen the light.
Buck nodded. "Did you read what that woman did to her son? Whew! Talk about drastic measures."
"An extreme deterrent if ever there was one." Ezra shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Do you think there's any truth in it?"
"Well, I did know a gentleman once who was overly fond of his, shall we say, night time pursuits and ended up having a nasty case of testicular torsion."
"Ouwch." Buck winced.
"Ouch, indeed. Luckily it corrected itself before anything had to be removed but that story alone is enough to douse the flames of passion in the heat of the moment."
"You can say that again. What about you, Chris?" Buck looked at him brightly. "Do you think it holds water?"
"I believe Mr Wilmington is referring to the hypothesis that consuming too much heavily seasoned or rich food can lead to an inflammation of the passions which can, in turn, lead many a young man astray, mainly down the path of self-pleasure which can end in impotence, insanity or even death," Ezra clarified. "The article, as I recall, related the tale of a particularly zealous lady from San Francisco who sought to end her son's slip into degradation by having him castrated at the local asylum." He grinned ruefully. "And I thought my mother was bad."
Chris scowled from Ezra to Buck. "What a load of horse shit."
Buck stood up with a victorious nod. "That's what I said," he declared before striding out the door.
"Testicular torsion?" Chris said and Ezra shrugged.
"It's a true story."
Chris just looked at him.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"I don't owe you four. I owe you five."
Ezra smiled wickedly.
"But I say where they go," Chris added and Ezra's gaze narrowed.
"I sense you have a plan afoot, Mr Larabee."
"Is it a deal?"
"It's a deal." Ezra nodded and picked up his coffee cup.
Watching those fine fingers close around that metal cup in a light embrace, Chris knew exactly why Ezra's hands entranced him so. He also knew exactly where those five kisses he owed were going to be bestowed -- and exactly what he'd receive in return.
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