Lost And Found
by The Chronicler
Challenge: Started out as an answer to W.O.W. 2-2-04-- RAVAGE, but turned out too long. So...
Alter. Universe: OLD WEST
Rating: R (strong language; pre-slash)
Comments: Pretty please.
"Jeesh." J.D. shook his head as he dropped heavily in the chair across from Josiah in the saloon. "I never thought I'd see the day."
Josiah nodded slightly. "Everything comes to an end, may it be the worse and the ugliest, or the most wondrous and beautiful." he said softly, his own chest aching from his remorse.
"But she was always bouncing around, happy and... I don't know... full of life?" The young sheriff glanced about at the others for confirmation, but none of them would look at him. With a sigh, he leaned back in the chair and hung his head. "When my mother died I thought the world would just crash down around me." he mumbled.
Vin smiled slightly. "Yea. Me too. Everything good and pure had been..." He stopped, shaking his head, unable to come up with a good enough word.
"Ravaged." Nathan supplied from where he leaned against the bar. "My mother... well, damn." He couldn't finish, his own memories too painful.
Josiah smiled a sad smile. "There's something about mothers that words were never meant to describe. No word was ever spoken that could do justice to the most honorable and precious of humanity. There is simply nothing that can compare to a mother's touch, much less fathom her embrace."
Buck held up his drink. "To mothers, then. To those who can still hug their sons, to those long gone..."
"To Maude Standish." Josiah added, holding up his own mug. "Who will never hold her son again."
The remaining three held up their own drinks as they joined the salute.
Chris sat in the rocker in the main room of his cabin, watching as Ezra Standish stirred.
It had only been a few hours since he had finally gotten the gambler to the safety of his ranch. Ever since the telegraph had come, telling of his mother's death, Ezra had stubbornly refused to give into grief. Fact was, he had hidden it away so well, no one even knew anything was wrong until, worn thin by his own Southern sense of proper, he snapped, drunk himself into a stupor, and nearly got himself shot by accused an entire roundup crew of cheating... before he had even a the chance to set down a game for them.
Getting him out of that one brought Chris' team very near to one hell of a shoot out. One that, considering the numbers, would not have turned out in their favor.
It was picking up Ezra's unconscious form that they found the telegram and things started making sense.
And Chris knew what he had to do.
With a groan, Ezra reached up and dropped a hand over his eyes. "oooh.... my... that was not a... well thought out... plan." he grumbled, barely able to form words.
"No." Chris smiled over the rim of his coffee cup. "It wasn't." he agreed.
One emerald eye snapped open. The other was more hesitant, but it, too, eventually pealed open. After glancing around, he slowly, carefully sat up. "Mr. Larabee." he observed.
"Ezra." Chris returned. He rose out of his chair and stepped over to the fireplace and poured a second cup of hot coffee, topping it off with a healthy dose of whiskey.
"Pray tell, how did I get here?" Ezra wanted to know, wearily watching as his leader brought him the spiked coffee. "Not to forget... Why?" With a nod he except the cup.
Chris crouched down beside him. "I brought you out here because I didn't want you dragging anyone else into another suicide attempt."
Ezra choked on the first swallow. But, once he had it down, he eyed the man. "Suicide? My dear Mr Larabee, if you have ever been more mistaken..."
"I'm sorry 'bout your mother."
Ezra froze for half a breath, and, in that slightest of moments, everything was revealed: his pain, his loss, his sadness, his loneliness... before the conman kicked in and he tried to hide it all again. Glancing down at his cup, he shrugged. "I'm afraid I don't fully understand, Mr...."
Chris snapped out the telegraph, holding it over Ezra's cup, just below his eyes.
Again, Ezra froze. after what seemed an eternity, he began to tremble. "Honestly, Mr, Larabee, I expected no other end for the woman." he tried to pass off. "It is, indeed, a sad thing, but she was no more to me that an acquaintance. Nothing..."
"Cut the crap, Ez!" Chris snapped, snatching the cup back so he wouldn't have anything else to look at. "Your mother is dead!"
The sharp tone snapped Ezra's eyes up. Those clear emeralds were shiny with tears. He opened his mouth to protest, but a whimper escaped instead and he quickly bit down on his lip, dropping his eyes.
Chris set the cups aside and leaned forward, wrapping his arms around the gambler.
At first Ezra stuttered out protests, trying to pull back, push away, fight off the offered comfort. But he didn't have the will to fight.
And Chris had no intentions of letting go. He held tight, on hand on the back of Ezra's head, holding it to his chest, his fingers twining in the soft hair. The other rubbed up and down Ezra's spin, trying to relax the other man in some small way. "Shhh. It's gonna be alright. I'll take care of it." Chris whispered soft assurance. "I'll take care of you." he promised before even realizing what he was saying.
Damn, where had that come from?
Damn, where the hell did he think that came from? He'd been wanting to take care of this beautiful man since the very first moment he had stepped into trouble... which was pretty much the second moment he had known him. The problem had been that Chris had pretty much decided in that first moment, that he didn't like this lying, scheming, little snake.
Ezra's crying had eased, and he laid against Chris' chest, breathing hard. "She... she... " he tried between gasps. "Last time I saw her... we... we were actually getting along... and no con was involved. I mean... she loved me... and... and..." He looked up, meeting Chris' stone blue eyes. "she loved me." he repeated in a disbelieving whisper.
Again Chris reacted without thought, his hand coming up to caress that silky smooth cheek. "'Course she did. Who couldn't?"
Damn, he was really going to have to stop talking before thinking!
Ezra blinked those mesmerizing emeralds. A strange expression flashed across his face. Suddenly he leaned up, his lips capturing Chris'.
This time, Chris Larabee froze... but only for half a breath. Then he was leaning into the kiss, his arms circling around his gambler once again. He kept his eyes wide open so he could watch Ezra's flutter close, sinking into the warmth and tenderness that Chris poured into him.
Damn, his heart was pounding like war drums. But he wasn't about to lose his scalp. His heart, maybe...
It was a chaste kiss, that, despite its relatively shortness, seemed to last an eternity for the two men. At it's end, Ezra's eyes were still closed, his face held close to Chris'.
Smiling down at him, Larabee whispered "Open your eyes, Ezra. Look at me."
Ezra obeyed, looking up at him through those long lashes. For a moment they looked almost as if he was going to be alright. That all the pain in the world had just found an unbreakable wall in Chris Larabee and his fear melting kiss.
But then the gambler's eyes went big and he bolted back. "Oh, shit!" Scrambling to his feet, he backed away, holding his hands out before him, warding of any possible attack.
Startled, Chris came to his feet. "What the hell..." he started, more than a little hurt at this reaction.
Ezra shook his head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean... it was an accident... it won't happen again... please..." he rambled, terrified.
Chris took a step after him. "Ezra... it's alright." he tried, but the other man was in a panic.
So blinded by fear, Ezra stumbled back, tripping on a stool, and falling back to the floor with a hard thud.
Chris leaped after, landing on top of him. His actions did little to calm Ezra. "Stop! I'm sorry. Don't do this. Don't..." He swung up at Chris trying to dislodge him.
But Larabee grabbed his wrists and slammed his hands down, pinning them to the floor.
Ezra opened his mouth to continue his plea.
Chris leaned down over him, his mouth capturing Ezra's. And, this time, there was nothing chaste about their kiss.
Ezra continued to struggle a moment more, before, slowly, he fell still, his eyes, once more, closing. As Chris' tongue gently pressed its invasion, exploring and mapping every, tiny little detail of his mouth, Ezra moaned softly.
Feeling him relax beneath him, Chris' fingers worked their way down his arms, across his shoulders, and up to cup his face.
His own hands free, the nimble finger's of the gambler crept their way up and around Chris' neck, pulling his down, even deeper, even closer.
Finally, the need to breath forced an end to the kiss.
Gasping for breath, Chris rested his forehead against Ezra's. After a very long time, when he could speak without struggling for air, Chris asked softly "Are you alright?"
Ezra opened his eyes and he gazed up at him. "I thought... I thought you would... kill me... for that." he admitted.
"Aw, baby." Chris breathed. He planted a light kiss on those already kiss swollen lips. "I would never... could never hurt you." he swore. "Hell, I'd bring down the world on the man who ever tries."
Ah, damn, not thinking before talk... Ah, damn again, forget thinking! He much rather be kissing than thinking any damn day!
Those emeralds narrowed. "Why?" he wondered.
"Why?!" Chris straightened up and leaned back, pulling Ezra up with him. Holding him close, he whispered against his lips "Because... I die every time you hurt." Again he kissed those lips. When he looked into those emeralds again, he saw tears. "Aw, baby..." Chris sighed.
Ezra dropped his head to his shoulder. "Please... make it go away. make the hurt go away." he begged between escaping tears.
Chris maneuvered about him, being sure never to brake contact. Then, scooping up the smaller man and cradling him to his chest, he climbed to his feet.
"Where..." Ezra half wondered, but was too busy holding on for all he was worth to really care.
"Bed." Chris answered. "I can't make the pain go away... but I can make it easier... for awhile anyway."
Chris woke with a start as cool, night air whispered through his bedroom, and over his naked flesh.
For a moment he was confused, but then the memories of the evening before and most of the night came back. The purring and petting and caressing. Soft whispers of assurance and love as he explored that most perfect golden body from the very top of his head down to the last toe. Feather soft kisses, breaths of a touch, bring alive that most perfect golden body. Taking agonizing pleasure in those soft cries and whimpers as his strong but gentle fingers worked that most perfect body to the very peak of endurance. Holding him close as he shuddered with mind blowing releasing, before collapsing into an exhausted sleep. That most perfect golden body with those shimmering emerald eyes wrapped securely in... his... embrace...
Chris sat up.
Where was Ezra?
He stood on the porch, gazing out into the night, seeing absolutely nothing. His arms were crossed over his bare chest, holding himself against the chill. He wore only a shirt, clumsily tossed on in the dark bedroom, left to hang open.
Ezra wondered for a moment who shirt it was. It didn't smell like his. 'Course, after last night not much smelled like his. Even himself smelled like Chris Larabee.
And, for some reason, that was a comfort. More than a comfort. Standing there, nearly naked in the cold of the night air, exposed to all the world who just happened to glance his way, Ezra Standish felt warm all over.
A pair of strong arms wrapped around his middle.
Instinctively, Ezra leaned back against Chris' equally naked body. He turned his face back and up and was rewarded with a welcoming kiss from his lover.
"Hey." Chris breathed when he had use of his lips again. "How ya doin'?"
Ezra smiled slightly, turning back to the night and snuggling back into those ever so protective arms. "Better." he admitted. "I'm doing better."
Chris sighed with relief, dropping his chin to his gambler's shoulder. After a long moment, he said "I'll understand if you want to pass last night off as just a momentary need. It wasn't as if we actually had sex. You can forget this if you want..." He stopped when he felt Ezra stiffen in his arms.
After a deafening silence, Ezra dropped his head. He couldn't hide the tears in his voice as he whispered "I... I understand. I'll get dressed and..."
"No!" Chris cried, catching on that he had misunderstood. He spun Ezra around to face him. When his gambler didn't look up at him, Chris ducked his head so he could catch those beautiful emerald eyes. "That isn't it. You don't understand. I don't want you to go! I never want you to go!" he assured. "I just.... I didn't want you to think... if you didn't mean..."
Ezra blinked, then a slow smile crept to his lips. Reaching up, he wrapped his arms around Chris' neck, and pulled him down, silencing him with a kiss. When he pulled away, he whispered "For a moment I was lost, afraid I was all alone. And then you found me. I don't think I'll be going anywhere anytime soon, Mr. Larabee." His eyes fluttered slightly, and he gazed up at this new found comfort through his long eye lashes. "That is... if you'll have me...?"
"Damn, Ez." Chris answered, before hugging him to him as tightly as he could without braking that perfect, golden body.
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