Written for: MAC
It had been a long, warm, boring week in Four Corners. After three days of sitting in the saloon, trying to escape from the stifling heat, Chris had decided to head out of town and spend some time at his cabin. He figured that if he was going to drip with sweat, he may as well get some useful work done in the process. Vin, similarly desperate for something to occupy him, offered to go along and help. Neither knew what they were going to do, but there was always something that needed doing at the cabin.
JD was spending most of his time at the creek with Casey, both of them continuing to deny that they were anything more than friends.
The others spent their days sitting outside the jail, hats pulled low to try and block some of the heat. Josiah wanted to do some work on the church, but had to finally agree with Nathan that working on the roof of a building in this heat was just asking for trouble. Ezra found that the weather caused many people to avoid the saloon, hence he had no one to play poker against, other than his four companions. And there was only so many times you could take imaginary IOU's from your friends before it all got a little pointless.
Once a day, Nathan headed over to Mrs. Potters to check on Laura, her youngest daughter. The young girl had come down with some kind of illness that had Nathan concerned. It didn't appear to be contagious, but she was covered from head to toe with a rash. Nathan had suggested she stay in bed until the rash had cleared, prescribing plenty of water to drink and telling Mrs. Potter to try and keep her cool. He had tried to sound confident, but in truth, he had no idea what was wrong.
After a couple of days of this routine, Nathan returned from his visit a little later than usual. He had an exuberant smile on his face and waved a sheet of paper around.
"I knew he'd be able to help!" he announced, oblivious to the fact that the others had no idea what he meant. As Buck, Ezra and Josiah looked at each other, Nathan finally realized that no one was congratulating him on his brainwave.
"Smith. A doctor. He can help," he said, by way of explanation. Josiah stood and took the sheet of paper from Nathan's hand and read it aloud.
CAN HELP WITH ILLNESS STOP HAVE SEEN BEFORE STOP COME TO DODDS FOR PAPERWORK STOP REGARDS SMITH
"A telegram?" Buck asked.
Nathan nodded. "I telegraphed a doc I know down in Dodds Cross about Laura's illness. I was at a loss," he explained, feeling guilty for not being able to solve all problems in Four Corners by himself. "I asked if he'd ever seen anything like this before."
"From this response are we to assume that the good doctor has some familiarity with this foul disease?" Ezra asked, using at least ten words more than were necessary.
"It looks like it," Nathan replied, the smile still fixed to his face. "Is there any chance one of you would be willing to ride up to Dodds and pick up Smiths papers for me? I'm loath to leave the child alone."
"I'll go." Buck jumped up, accidentally kicking his chair over in the process.
"It would be my pleasure," said Ezra at the same time. Both men were going stir-crazy in the town - the heat seemed to have driven away not only the criminal element, but also the women and the gamblers.
"I believe you have two volunteers, Brother Nathan."
"Yep," Nathan agreed, his smile slipping slightly and a look of worry starting to form. "But is it safe to send these two out alone? Who's going to get them out of whatever trouble they find this time?"
* * * * * * *
Less than an hour later, Lady and Chaucer were loaded up with food, water and bedrolls. Ezra, finally having succumbed to the heat, removed his jacket and expertly swung himself up into the saddle, giving Chaucer an affectionate pat in the process. Buck followed, with slightly less grace, and settled himself down.
"You ready?" he asked his traveling companion for the next few days.
"Whenever you are, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra replied. He gently urged the temperamental horse forward without a word.
"You're not gonna let him show you up like that, are you Sweetheart?" Buck's attraction to the female species obviously included his horse as the gray mare gave a soft whinny and trotted forward, showing the world that she could be just as well behaved.
"That's my girl," Buck laughed. Ezra simply rolled his eyes and rode on.
* * * * * * *
They rode in companionable silence for a couple of hours until Buck slowed Lady to a halt.
"Problems, Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra asked.
"No problems, Ez," he replied. "Just wanted to give the horses a break. This heat is worse for them than it is for us."
"Good idea. I too could do with a short recess. I fear that I may soon melt."
"It is a little on the warm side, aint it?"
"Indeed, Mr. Wilmington."
They stopped the horses and dismounted, guiding the animals towards a stream that ran past them. Lady and Chaucer both eagerly took their fill of the water, allowing their owners to similarly take a drink from their waterskins.
"Hey Ez. Can you do me a favor?" Buck took a long drink from his skin, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth when he finished.
"And what favor would that be?" Ezra asked.
"If we're going to be stuck together for eight days...."
"Six," interrupted Ezra.
"Whatever. Anyway, if we're stuck together for however long, do you think you could try callin' me Buck for a change?"
Ezra looked at Buck, trying to determine if he was serious. The hopeful expression on Buck's face indicated clearly that he was. Ezra had often thought to himself that Buck would probably be better at poker if he learnt not to wear his heart on his sleeve. There was no way that man could hide any kind of emotion - everything he felt was instantly visible on his open face.
"Of course ... Buck," Ezra replied. He hated to admit it, even to himself, but it felt somewhat pleasant to refer to his companion in a less-formal way. "Does this mean that you will start to call me Mr. Standish.?"
"Yeah, sure," answered Buck, the sarcasm in his voice saying the opposite.
With a chuckle, Ezra mounted Chaucer. "At least you respect me, my dear horse."
* * * * * * *
The sun was beginning to set when they decided to stop for the night. The clearing they found was spacious enough for a decent sized fire. Buck knew that despite the heat of the day, the nights would still be cold so he built the fire as large as he could.
They both settled the horses first and then themselves, choosing opposite sides of the fire. They weren't expecting anyone else to be in this area, but it was always a good idea to spread out a little, providing more chance of noticing any problems.
Buck stretched himself out on his back, his jacket bundled up under his head.
"You ever wonder about the stars?"
Ezra, sitting up with his back against a fallen tree trunk, looked across the fire.
"Wondered about what, precisely?"
"About whether they are always the same," Buck answered. "Or whether they move about and change."
"All things change," Ezra replied, rather surprised at the conversation. While he had always enjoyed Buck's company for it's its sheer entertainment value, he had never expected to have any kind of serious conversation with him, least of all something that bordered on philosophical.
"I'm not sure, Ez," Buck commented, still using the abbreviated form of his name that drove Ezra mad. "I remember looking up at the stars a few weeks back and I'm sure I remember seeing the same patterns."
"You are referring to the constellations," Ezra explained. "Certain stars always remain in the same groups. They do, however, move around the sky. Or more accurately, the Earth moves around, giving us different views of the sky."
Buck sat himself up so he could see Ezra across the flickering flames.
"Con-stell-ations." He tried the word out, rolling the syllables around his mouth.
"Exactly, Mr. Wilm ... Buck." Ezra corrected himself. "You see that cluster of stars over there?" He pointed at a patch of sky almost directly above them. "Those three stars in a straight line are named 'Orion's Belt'. They form part of the Orion Constellation.
"Orion?" Buck asked, not taking his eyes from the stars.
Ezra, always willing to educate someone who wanted to learn, proceeded to tell Buck the story of Orion the Archer. Buck alternated his staring at the sky with watching Ezra as he recited the Greek mythology. Fascinated by what he was hearing, he didn't realize that Ezra was yawning with almost every other sentence.
Finally, unable to keep his eyes open any longer, Ezra finished his tale. "I apologize," he said, "but I feel it may be time for me to turn in for the night."
"What? Oh, right." Buck's disappointment was clear.
"We have several more nights in each others company," Ezra said, secretly pleased that he had such a willing listener. "Perhaps I can show you some more constellations tomorrow?"
Buck's face lit up with a smile. "Really? That would be great."
"Sleep tight, my friend," Ezra mumbled as he laid himself down.
"Night Ez. Mind the bed bugs don't bite."
As his eyes closed and his mind began to drift off, Ezra smiled slightly. There was a lot more to Buck Wilmington than met the eye.
* * * * * * *
Sometime during the night, Buck woke to a slight rustling noise. Like all gunslingers, even asleep he remained alert on some level - always aware of his surroundings. It was a skill that kept him alive on more than one occasion.
Opening his eyes to mere slits, Buck snaked out his hand to reach for his gunbelt. He listened intently, trying to establish if there was someone else out there or if the noises were just part of nature around them. Finally, opening his eyes, he looked across to check on Ezra. He knew that the other man was just as capable as he was when they were in town, but out here he felt a need to protect him.
It was suddenly clear to Buck that the noises were coming from Ezra himself. He had propped himself up against the tree stump. There was an occasional soft moan that left Buck in no confusion about what his companion was doing. Choosing not to announce himself, Buck closed his eyes again and tried to drift back to sleep. What Ezra was doing was perfectly natural, but Buck knew that some men got a little uncomfortable doing it in front of others. Not that it ever bothered him; there had been more than one time when he and Chris had sat around a campfire with a bottle of whiskey, each pleasuring himself. Hell, one or twice they'd even ended up helping each other. There was nothing to it - just two friends trying to make a miserable night more bearable.
"Damn it." Ezra's voice was so quiet that had Buck not already been awake, it would have gone unnoticed. Fearing something might be wrong, Buck jumped up and was striding across to the other side of the fire before Ezra even noticed him.
"Everything okay, Ezra?" he asked.
Horrified at being caught in his current position, Ezra hurried to tuck himself back into his pants. However, his failure to relieve himself had left him extremely hard, something which made 'tucking in' rather difficult.
"I am perfectly well, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra answered, retrieving his hat to place prudently in his lap. "You may return to your slumber."
"Having a little trouble with your five-fingered shuffle there?" Buck asked.
Ezra blushed, not something that often happened. The last thing he wanted to do was discuss the situation with Buck, of all people, but it was clear from the look on Buck's face that he wasn't going to leave the conversation alone.
He attempted to fend of any further inquiries by being honest. With any luck, that would persuade Buck that he just wanted to be left alone.
"I woke up and was having some trouble getting back to sleep," he explained. "Sometimes it helps me to relax."
"I know that one," Buck answered, obviously not letting the conversation drop. "Used it for that myself a time or two. Looks like you weren't getting very far though."
Ezra sighed. "Indeed. I appear to be unable to complete my activities," he said, wishing he were anywhere else in the world but there. Buck had a very irritating habit of asking questions that one didn't want to answer. And never taking silence for an answer.
Both men fell silent for a few moments. Then Buck took a few steps forward until he was standing next to Ezra.
"Scoot forward," he ordered.
Shocked by Buck actually issuing an order, Ezra automatically complied, before he realized what he was doing.
More surprising though was when Buck slid himself behind Ezra and sat down, his long legs stretched out on either side of him.
"May I enquire what you think you are doing?" Ezra asked rather nervously. He had never been keen on close physical proximity with anyone, especially when they were wearing only a set of faded red under-garments.
"I'm just gonna give a friend a helping hand," Buck replied.
Ezra spluttered. "YOU'RE WHAT?" He tried to stand up but was prevented from doing so by Buck's arm that was circled around his waist.
"Aw, calm down, Ez. It's nothing." The arm that was circling him moved its position, allowing its hand to reach down and firmly grip Ezra's still-hard erection.
"Mr. Wilmington!" Ezra gasped.
Buck gave a small laugh and started to slowly move his hand up and down Ezra's length. "I thought you were going to call me Buck," he said. "Especially under the circumstances."
"Just sit back and relax," he ordered. "You showed me something new today. Now it's my turn. If it makes you feel any more better, just pretend it's one of those pretty little fillies from Wicks Town doing this."
Ezra did manage to relax slightly, his body softening into the warm circle of Buck's arms. He tried to do as Buck suggested and thought about a couple of the young girls they had helped, but he found he had no attraction to any of them. Besides, the large, rough hand that was currently making him feel so good could never have belonged to one of them.
Although Buck was doing no more or less than Ezra had been doing to himself, the feeling of someone else's hand made more difference than Ezra could ever have thought possible. In only a couple of minutes he found himself about to explode.
Buck must have sensed Ezra's sudden tenseness and tightened his grip, continuing the strokes even as Ezra spilled over onto his hand.
Ezra's body seemed to lose all strength, as he collapsed backwards, his head coming to rest against Buck's shoulder as Buck released his grip. He couldn't speak. His breaths were deep and ragged. And it had felt better than anything he could possibly have managed alone.
As Ezra struggled to regain his composure, strangely missing the feel of Buck's firm hand, he twisted himself around, surprised to see a small smile on Buck's face.
"See," said Buck, "told you I could show you something new."
"Indeed," Ezra agreed, his mind reeling as he recalled how the last few minutes had made him feel. "Perhaps tomorrow evening," he continued before he allowed himself too much time to consider what he was saying, "I could teach you about one of the other constellations."
Buck's smile grew. "Sounds good to me, Mr Standish."
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