A few people were concerned as to whether Buck was going to treat Ezra right in the next arc of my M7 stories. Get this CFB, Buck luuurrrrves Ezra and will do anything for his little pookie. Here's a snippet from part five. Please note that Chris is gratuituously shirtless, in the great tradition of tv westerns (qv Young Riders):
Chris stopped his digging, stood back and rested on his shovel while Buck dropped the fence post in the hole again, checking for depth, giving it a good wiggle. No, it still needed a few more inches. He lifted the heavy post out again.
Chris was still leaning on his shovel, bare chested and sweating under the late afternoon sun, needing a break.
Buck tilted the post towards Chris, signalling he willingness to swap for a while.
Leaning on the post, Chris watched Buck dig out a couple of shovel fulls of dirt before he spoke.
"How's Ezra treating you."
Buck stopped, instantly, straightening, all the friendship gone from his face.
"I'm not going to talk about Ezra with you." Seeing Chris' failure to take his meaning, he slammed the shovel sharply into the ground like a stake and stepped closer. "You drove the boy to try and kill himself, Chris. What you did to him..."
"It's not to me you should be apologising."
Buck went back to digging in short, angry movements that were going to make his back burn.
Chris watched him and nodded. What he'd done, what Buck knew he had done, it didn't deserve forgiving. He'd been mad with rage and jealousy and he'd taken it out, all of it, on Ezra. All the years of pent up misery and frustration had exploded out of him because Ezra had goaded him. He still didn't know why Ezra had pushed him like that. He guessed he never would, though he seen those brief flashes of pain in Ezra's eyes, a pain that sometimes matched his own.
Lately, though, Ezra had slowly been brought back to his former, wickedly cheerful self and Buck's face just lit up so much whenever he was around Ezra that you could almost read a book by him. That's what Chris had wanted to comment about, the happiness he saw in his friends, a happiness he envied. He hated to be reminded of the misery he'd caused. He could never forget what he'd done to Ezra. Never. Ezra bore the scars still, on his body and in his eyes.
"I never mean to hurt him."
"Yes, you did." Buck's shovel stumped into the hard baked soil again. The shovel thumped down three more times before he stopped and looked across at Chris.
"You know Ezra will do anything for attention, even the wrong sort of attention. You played his game, even after I told you to leave him alone. Ezra needs to feel special. Tricking people into hating him or hurting him works just as well as - I actually think it's easier for him. You let him get to you, Chris, but that don't excuse what you did. You're supposed to be better than Ezra."
"You know I'm not. I'm no better than anyone."
"I know it. Ezra knew it." The shovel slammed down again.
"Why'd he do it. Why did he push me like that?"
Buck tossed a spadeful of dirt out of the way. "I told you. He wanted you to notice him. You singled him out and you made him feel important. Ezra likes to be the centre of attention."
He was certainly that. Ezra was very hard to ignore. Even just sitting in the saloon in that bright red coat of his, he always drew your eyes to him. He was always getting himself in trouble. Out of boredom, Chris now realised, rather than spite. Ezra didn't mean to be difficult, he just needed somebody to give a damn.
"I'm really sorry." Chris tried again, and Buck heard it in his voice. He nodded. That was all that was needed to begin to put things right between them, or at least, an agreement to try and put it behind them.
"He seems happy."
"I hope so. He isn't as thick-skinned as he pretends to be. You have to treat him gentle, he bruises real easy."
"Like a girl," Chris grinned. "That's why you like Ezra so much. He's a girl with a dick."
Buck threw a shovel full of dirt at him. Chris ducked away, missing most of it.
Buck leant on his shovel. "I like the way he smells and the way he feels wrapped around me. I love the way he looks and the way he makes me laugh. He has a good heart, though he sees that as a character flaw right now. I don't mind trying to teach him right from wrong."
"Somebody has to," Chris agreed, smiling.
"Ezra doesn't know any better. I think I'm the first person to really give a damn about him. No one's ever loved him the way I do."
"You love him?" Chris couldn't help his exclamation.
Buck couldn't believe his admission. He considered it for several long moments, then smiled and nodded, agreeing with himself.
"Yes, I do," he beamed.
"Have you told Ezra?"
Buck ducked his head. "No. I think I might scare him off."
"You could be right." Chris asked again: "You really love him?"
Buck tilted his head.
"How did you know you were in love with Sarah?"
"I just knew."
Buck smiled. "I just know."