The Gift
(Old West)

by MAC

Disclaimer: I don't own them, or the show they rode in on. I wrote this for fun, and no profit is made from it.
Archive: Starwinder's, You Want Fries With That?, and The All-Ezra FanFic Archive --- all others, please ask.
Summary: Just another little word poem of love in action at Christmas time.
Author's Note: Companion to December 21st.
Completed: 16 December 2002
Feedback: welcomes comments

With loving care, Larabee's hands rubbed the file over the surface of the small bit of wood. He was slow and deliberate, smoothing out the least irregularity with persistence. A little pile of wood dust now rose beneath his hands, work worn, calloused hands. The nails were chipped from his struggle with a recalcitrant fence post earlier in the day, knuckles likewise grazed and one still bleeding slightly. He kept that hand tipped so that none of the stains on the piece were blooded.

Concentration so intense that his eyes were squinted with the effort, Chris picked at the swirling fold of garment on the tiny figure in his hands, the sharp awl pricking his thumb when it slipped.


He sucked his thumb inelegantly, eyes still locked on the stubborn wood grain. The little lady in his large, square hands seemed to gaze back up at him, her face serene and beautiful. No paint would mar her features, he'd already decided that only the dark turpentine would deepen the color of her wood, turning pine to a kind of mahogany look. He spared a look at the row of figures drying on the edge of the porch. The wax that he'd buffed them with made them glow with a muted sheen, dark and intense.

The lighter, whiter pine that he'd chosen for the opposition gave those pieces the look of salt, so pure and glowingly white did they appear in contrast. Looked like he'd be done in time for a private gifting. Absently giving his throbbing thumb a final lick, he slowly, stiffly stood. Unfurling his lean length in the soft winter sunlight, he carefully stretched out his arm and placed the small queen beside her king. Complete.

It had taken him near on two months of secretive work to accomplish. The idea of the gift had grown from a comment that his Ezra had made as they lay together one night in early October. How he admired the strategist in Chris. Ezra'd said it made him think of the way a superior player thought moves ahead in a chess game. Chris had smiled and kissed the edge of Ezra's mouth and replied that Ezra was the planner, not he.

"Ah, there you are wrong, Chris. I can plot when necessary. Even come up with a stratagem for the nonce, but you see further down the road than I, see implications that I often ignore."

Chris had shaken his head in disbelief. Ezra always thought of everything. He said as much.

"Well, I do try, but until I came to this place and began to associate with you and the rest of our little troupe, I seldom really gave much credence to the emotional facets of others, just the more prosaic aspects of a con as it might play out."

Ezra had pulled himself up on to his elbows next to Chris and smiled with a soft look in his wide eyes. "I never allowed myself to feel before you. It wasn't safe. In not feeling, I seldom gave thought to how others might feel, beyond the baser motives that drive men, such as greed."

Larabee had let his fingers trace a slow pattern on Ezra's arm as he had listened intently. Ezra speaking so forthrightly was a serious matter. He had waited.

Quirking his lips into a self-depreciating twist, Standish had slumped down on to Chris' chest and spoke the rest against the smooth skin of shoulder beneath his lips. "You, though, you think with both heart and mind. I follow where you lead and learn from it. But, you, my dearest friend, are by far the better man at the fine art of strategy."

They'd left the conversation there because Ezra had lowered his head further, to lick one nipple and distract. Chris, sensing his friend's discomfort, had let the distraction succeed. But the conversation had touched him on many levels and he knew he'd be watching Ezra from then on. Looking for ways to let the southerner see that Ezra wasn't as insensitive as he seemed to believe. Or perhaps hid, even from himself.

Chris decided, though, that on a simpler plane, he could find a way to give them both the chance to enjoy each other's intellect through the practice and the art of strategy. Never poker, that was not a game for Ezra, it was another language, one he spoke so well that Chris would never be able to enjoy it with him on an equal footing. That's when he'd thought of Ezra's comment about the game of chess.

Looking out at the ridge above his small cabin, Chris could see Solon cropping at the dry, brown grasses. No snow so far this year. Good thing, or he'd not be able to come out here so often, slipping away for a few hours during the afternoon, when Ezra was out on patrol, or in the saloon playing solitaire as he mentally limbered himself for evening games. Chris picked up the piece of old flannel shirt he was using to wax the wooden figures and lifted the little queen back up. Once he had her polished, he'd check on the game board. Glue should be dry by now. Josiah had helped him cut the wooden squares, make sure they were even. He'd had to stain and polish each square before attaching it to the flat, thin shingle Josiah had given him.

Lead shot in the base of each tiny figure gave the pine enough weight to make hefting a piece satisfying to the senses. The bits of felt that sealed the underside of each piece were one of those refinements that he knew Ezra would note and appreciate. Ezra always appreciated attention to detail. Chris had learned to be careful with the small stuff for Ezra's sake. Like giving Ezra his good morning kisses. You had to make sure to touch skin with a tiny bit of tongue, not just lip, so the moisture would be there to breathe upon, cooling and warming with the breeze. Ezra had taught him that one. Made for a miniature eruption of nerves with each touch. Chris breathed in sharply as his body responded to memories of morning kisses shared with Ezra.

With bent head, he returned to his task, rubbing the wood, stroking so that the oil from his skin would seep in along with the wax and stain. Want Ezra to smell me in this wood. Like I can feel him in my thoughts when I touch it.

Chris laid the queen down and picked up the rook, just so he could slide his palm along the shaft of the turreted tower, adding a bit more of his essence to that smooth-surfaced piece. With a chuckle, he imagined his hand curled again around Ezra's own shaft. Ezra always wriggled then, like he couldn't decide if he wanted more or less. That is, until Chris would crook his thumb over the top of the swelling flesh and gently work at the tiny slit there. Never failed, Ezra would give a small groan and collapse with a look of pure ecstasy on his face. Irresistible! That was his Ezra. That much joy and pleasure seemed to overflow into Chris' own soul and grow there, lighting up all the dark places.

Shit. Now look what I've gone and done to myself. Looking down at himself, Chris realized he now had a painful situation. Good thing I don't sit around thinking about Ezra all the time or I'd never be able to sit a horse again, or walk down Main Street. With a wry sound, part chuckle, part grunt, Chris put down the rook and wiped his hands on his rag, then walked, with wide-legged care, back into the cabin.

By the time he'd packed away his work it was nearly noon. Time to ride back into town and see if Ezra had appeared for lunch yet. Like to sit with him, make sure he eats something. Gets too interested in conversation, tends to ignore whatever's on his plate.

Maybe I can get him to come out here tonight. The set is ready, could give it to him now. It's private, just for us, don't want to have a lot of other hands on it. I'll give him that new shirt for his Christmas gift with the rest of the men. No need to share this one. Least not 'til we've played a few games. With it.

We don't have patrol, either of us. He does like his little rituals, though, like afternoon tea with the ladies group, warm up games of solitaire in the saloon, an evening snack and drink, then start the gaming. But, if I promise him a nice supper from Missus Markum's kitchen, to eat back here, then he'll come. Chris smiled. Her packed meals were always good and easy to feed from with your fingers. He shivered. Like the way Ezra always licks mine clean for me, says he thinks being tidy is very important. Chris grinned. Yeah.

Guess you could call it a plan. Maybe even a strategy.

Chris scrubbed at his hands in the basin on the small porch. He paid attention to the nails, using his small knife and scraping out beneath each one after he'd dried his hands, Ezra likes clean hands. He checked his face in the broken piece of mirror. He'd shaved earlier and it didn't look like he'd need to do any more yet. I'll shave just before we go to bed. Ezra likes to rest his cheek there. He touched his high cheekbone and his eyes involuntarily closed as his finger pad delicately stroked over the skin sending a tingle down his hand.

They'd play tonight. Chess. Well, maybe. Knowing Ezra, he'd want to take the time to study each piece, maybe comment on it. Take it out into the fading light of day, or hold it close to the flickering light of the fire inside. Probably should shake out that sheepskin so I can lay it out by the fireplace. Make a nice place to eat dinner, give him his gift.

See him looking at each piece, very carefully studying it. An image came now, of Ezra's bent head as he would read by the firelight or beside a lamp, hair warm and shining with the dips and curves of his wayward curls, the dark browns and reds, the lighter browns and the occasional shimmer of a silver hair. Even young, Ezra had a few. Chris really liked to look for them, like finding gold. He'd finger a lock of hair, letting the silver strand roll across the rest, shining back at him secretively - while moss green eyes would steal looks up from beneath fringes of dark lashes. Chris swallowed, hard.

Gotta get going if I'm to be in town in time to go to lunch with Ezra. Maybe we can take a walk after. Never hurts for a couple of us to walk the streets, be seen. Keeps folks peaceful. Like to walk beside Ezra. Chris swung up into the saddle. Getting Solon ready was the work of a few minutes, done so often that it was habit not thought that had them on the road. Yep, like to walk beside Ezra. There really ought to be a law against the way he moves his hips. Good thing he leaves his jackets swinging open, so's most folks don't really see how neatly he sways, that gun belt just hanging there wrapped right where I put my hands.

Damn, he's not that big that I can't nearly put my hands over all of him down there, hip bone to bone and wrap a bit of ass in as well. Just like that damn gun belt. Chris cocked his pelvis forward in the deep saddle, brushing his swell against the rise of the seat, just below the horn. A soft groan and he let himself slide back in the seat as Solon's pace picked up. Knows he's headed for the stable and probably a treat from Ezra. Spoiling my boy nearly as much as his own gelding.

The dust and town rose up together to meet Chris at the road and he jogged his mount down the street to the saloon. Vin sat in front. Nodding, Larabee dismounted and dropped his reins over the hitching rail. "Vin."


He stepped up on to the boardwalk and swung about to stand beside Vin Tanner. "Everything quiet." Not really a question, can see everything's fine.

"Yeah. You back for some lunch?"

Chris nodded. Vin led the way inside the building, both men loosening their jackets in the warmth of the saloon. Buck and Nathan were already eating. There's Ezra. Chris' eyes rose to watch the man descend the stairs. Good time to get here. Eyes met and warmed.

Everyone was moving and then the table began to fill with men and food. Drinks arrived. Talk was talk, friendly, slow. "Ezra." Funny how the name always made his tongue feel full and heavy.

"Yes, sir." Cheerful green eyes teased him across the table. A lull in general conversation seemed like a jewel setting for their exchange, giving it a special place, like the others knew.

"Got a plan."

"Ah." Ezra paused to sip from his cup of coffee, one eyebrow raised. Like the way he asks.

"Thought we'd take town patrol this afternoon, free up Josiah to work on getting the church ready."

"I'd like that," Sanchez nodded. "Want it looking special for the midnight service next week."

Ezra nodded. "An excellent stratagem then, sir. Gives me a chance to stretch my legs and gives our good friend the opportunity to further embellish God's dwelling."

Talk continued but Ezra just sipped his coffee and smiled at Chris. Can do more with a little curve of his lips than any three women calling out bawdy remarks from the cathouse's second story. Chris broke his eyes away only to see Buck smiling at him too. Damn, Pard, you read me so well.

Pushing out through the saloon's winter doors, Chris held them for Ezra. The southerner liked such courtesies. He likes them and I like doin' them. For him.

Walking side by side, Chris enjoyed the feel of body heat coming off of Ezra. Like a little Dutch oven. I'm planning on warming myself at you again tonight. "Ezra, come out to the cabin with me after we walk. I have something I want to give you."

"A gift? For me." Love the tiny bit of satisfaction he puts in his voice. Didn't used to ever do that. Knows how much I love him now. Makes him a little cocky. I like that too.

"Spoke to Missus Markum, she's putting up a box supper for us."

"Hm. You did say you had a stratagem." Ezra tipped his hat to Mrs. Duluth and Mrs. Harcourt. I touched mine. Think they might have said something but I'm trying to catch Ezra's words.

"Yep." My eyes are on the mercantile, but I can't help it, a grin is leaking out. "I got a plan."


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