It's times like these that I miss my old office. Not the people who bullied me quite savagely, oh no, or the grossly uneducated people (usually one and the same), but rather the rest, the outcasts. It was one big file dump and the dumping ground for all the quota people the Dept was required to have, so aside from the underqualified there were the special needs folks, who were sweet with one alarming exception (an epileptic who grew really, really mean, vicious and violent when he was on the turn) and there were all the Brit, Irish and Canadian backpackers, there was me, and there were the immigrants and refugees. Most of these folks had degrees and doctorates by the sackful but from the wrong universities so they filed, like me, arts student, but oh, what a wasted resource. These guys had such diverse and exotic backgrounds, and we used to have real coffee house discussions about politics, economics, religion, all that deep stuff. I really miss that. Everyone here is so whitebread and right-wing. Give me Irish, Spaniards, Vietnamese, Koreans, Balkans, Arabs and Africans any day. I didn't agree with all of them but that little boiling pot was never boring.
Entirely failed to find a copy of the Courier Mail, which I wanted because I thought a broadsheet sized picture of Orlando might be nice. Asking for a Queensland newspaper not only startled all the local newsagenbts, but downright offended them. "Queensland?! We'll have none of that sinful wickedness here!". So, no major interstate newspapers for me. Sigh. Pout. I might point out that I can usually pick up the SMH no matter where I am in the world. I just don't understand. It wasn't like I was asking for something really obscure and foreign. No, that they could let me have.
Got home pretty late again, again ignored all the housework, oh dear, and after tea I just curled up to watch telly, still feeling all fluey. Highlight of the evening had to be Adrian Paul guesting in Charmed, being pretty much Evil Dunkie. Oh, this was fun, tragically bad high camp fun. I giggled and gurgled all through it, especially as all the boys seem to be trying to out camp each other. For what ever reason, it looked like a fun week on the set for once and it was perfect meringue tv, which is just what I needed. After that I sat through SVU, just for my Munch and Meloni fixes, and then indulged in a spot of Rebus, one I don't remember seeing before and then bed to tossy turny dreams, and can you blame me? There was a news crew outside my office yesterday. Talk about blood in the water.
You are now entering the slash zone. Rated [MA] For sex scenes, nudity, language, violence and drug use. Part six of my Magnificent Seven soap, chapter one:
The bedrail was thumping into the wall as Ezra held onto it, braced against it, his back arched, panting as Buck, leaning over him, thrust into him, hard.
Ezra was pressed up against him, groaning with pleasure. Buck curled over him, his back rising and falling as he covered Ezra's shoulders and ears with hot and heavy kisses.
Ezra rose up under every touch, twisting and turning like he couldn't get enough. It was like making love to an expensive whore. At first Buck had thought Ezra was putting it on, and he'd been annoyed. Then he'd learnt that Ezra really meant it. Ezra just couldn't get enough of Buck and he needed to feel Buck's touch on his skin, all over his skin, he needed Buck inside him and surrounding him.
The more Ezra twisted, the harder Buck hammered into him and they were pistoning faster and faster, the bed slamming loudly against the wall.
"Oh yeah, oh yeah," Buck was grinning, knowing how close Ezra was. "Oh yeah, my little darlin',"
They sprang apart, Buck snatching up the sheet around himself and scuttling back up on the bed.
Chris Larabee, that long, lean streak of mean, was leaning languidly in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear.
"Ever heard of knocking?" Buck rebuked haughtily, fetching the sheet up higher around his waist, protecting his modesty while Ezra just lay there tangled in the sheets like a fallen angel, dazed and frustrated.
Chris knocked lazily on the side of the wall.
"You don't just walk in on a man -" Buck complained.
"You wouldn't have heard me knocking, with all the noise you were making. Sounded like a stampede from where I was standing."
Buck gave him a shrewish look.
Chris pushed himself off the door, indicating the need to see them downstairs with a roll of his shoulder. As he walked down the stairs he heard the bed start up again and he shook his head, grinning.
Ten minutes or later Ezra followed Buck downstairs, having only pulled on trousers and boots. He slowed on the second last step, catching sight of Vin waiting in the front parlour and unable to hide his surprise, thinking only Chris had bothered to come and fetch them. Then he visibly steeled himself and carried on into the drawing room as if it made no difference.
Vin was uncomfortably perched in one of Ezra's fine chairs, as though afraid to make contact with the silk upholstery, as if his shaggy old clothes would stain and ruin it. He saw Ezra start and he glanced away for a moment, knowing he was the cause of Ezra's brief disquiet. Then he forced himself to look back, to meet Ezra's eyes, to gaze upon the skin that had once been his to touch. Such soft pale skin, marked by the scars he remembered too well: the gunshots, the knife wounds, the rope burn, the nest of cuts down Ezra's arm where he had been bled during his illness, and the faint switch marks down his back, where he had been beaten, more than once.
Beneath the scars Ezra's body was sculpted like a classical statue and few people knew, or were meant to know, that underneath those fancy clothes was a man who could be as hard and dangerous as any of them. Ezra liked to complain and fuss and make people believe he was barely getting by in their little frontier town, but Ezra was a survivor, of that there was no doubt, and seeing the fain scars that marked Ezra's skin just reminded Vin of that fact. People thinking Ezra was a sissy, Ezra wanted that to be their first mistake.
Ezra moved with an easy grace, brushing past Buck, nodding to Chris and Vin, very much the master of his house. The front room was all Ezra: elegant, fashionable, expensive and untouchable, the furniture looking to precious to use, at least comfortably. The cool silk covers were the essence of Ezra: you could run your hand along their soft textures, but you could never really touch them, the material would just slip away under your fingers.
Except for Buck - he had a hold on Ezra, his arms draped loosely around Ezra's waist for a moment, like a roped steer, before letting him go with a smile. Buck trusted Ezra to come back to him, to stay with him, to be with him.
All this could have been Vin's, if he'd just been willing to give more of himself to Ezra, more than he had. Ezra liked to play high stakes, higher stakes than Vin was willing to go. He'd folded too soon, and he regretted it. He envied what Buck had, and, as quiet as he was, he was unable to keep his regret a secret.
Chris saw it and his anger sparked again. Damn Ezra and the hold he had on Chris' two best friends. Charismatic little bastard, no wonder Ezra had ended up a player - he was born for charming the birds out of the trees.
Ezra saw it in Vin's eyes and his own eyes widened, first because he couldn't believe it, then because he didn't want to believe it, and finally with a need that surged up from nowhere and shamed him, with Buck's beloved touch still resting lightly on the small of his back.
"Hey," was all Ezra managed, his glib remark choked off in his throat. He glanced up at Buck, suddenly searching for an excuse. "I'll just go -" he fumbled, making a loose gesture towards the kitchen, and scurried off.
"Congratulations, you spooked him," Buck chastised quietly, his wide open face suddenly dark and scowling. "Don't look you so dumbfounded, Vin. You know Ezra still gets jumpy around you on occasion."
Vin started to open his mouth to protest but at that moment Ezra returned fussing with Buck's now well boiled pot of coffee, forgotten until now, and a selection of cups.
"May I offer you gentlemen a libation?" Ezra proffered his tray.
Vin shook his head with a shrug of long, dark curls, keeping his eyes down.
"I thought you'd have help to do that now, in this fine house," Chris taunted, devilment in his eyes.
Ezra gave him a shrewish look, setting down the tray. "With our Mr Jackson looking daggers at me anytime I should accept service from someone in a menial capacity? No, I think I'll pass. I've never fully ascertained the reason for his continuing agitation in this regard..."
"It's because you're from the South," Chris answered brutally and Ezra flinched a little, the remark still having the power to sting. This was his just desserts for mixing freely with so many Yankees and an ex-slave, of all things.
"Well, in that respect it must seem I should pay for the sins of my forefathers," Ezra countered smoothly.
"Hell, Ezra, you don't even know who your daddy was," Chris teased and Ezra looked as though he'd been slapped.
"Don't you dare -" Ezra spat out emotionally, then covered for himself by pouring out a cup.
Chris and Buck exchanged a quick look. Ezra never talked about his father. They had presumed Ezra either didn't know his father or didn't remember. Maybe that was still true. Something about the subject rattled Ezra, or maybe it was just the rub of Nathan's constant little slights, even in absentia.
"Besides," Ezra regained his composure. "Just having a manager suits me just fine. It's not as though I actually live here."
It wasn't wholly true. Ezra was spinning his own version of the truth again. He did have a housekeeper, only she wasn't required when he and Buck were in the house together, lest she see something that might distress her sensibilities, or give her cause to gossip back in town. Buck acted as Ezra's business partner, secretary and manager, and Ezra liked to maintain that little fiction.
Ezra had won his ranch in the biggest hand of poker the little town had ever seen, and the house and come with the land. It wasn't a grand estate, just a few rooms upstairs and downstairs, but it was his and his alone.
Ezra had fired everyone and left it to Buck to hire and re-hire whom he liked, leaving the running of the ranch in its entirety to Buck and his foreman. Buck had then discovered just how much he'd missed ranching and he'd begun to spend more and more time out on the ranch. Strangely, this suited Ezra just fine. It kept Buck out of trouble and it kept them both from living in each other's pockets. It made the time they did spend together all the more special. Though Ezra's business interests kept him in mostly town, and Buck was more often than not busy out at the ranch, sometimes Buck would come into town and sometimes Ezra would ride out to the ranch. It suited them just fine.
Ezra would usually show up on the pretence of some business matter that needed Buck's attention, and then they would proceed to have wild and crazy sex in most rooms of the house, which was why Ezra didn't want a housekeeper around. Then Ezra would head back into town, and Buck would often follow a few days later.
It was one of those times now. Ezra had rode in hard last night, the sides of his horse sweating, and Ezra and Buck had made it as far as the bedroom, eventually.
In the bedroom they had stayed until Chris had come to fetch them. The stagecoach that serviced the town was well overdue now and the town was worried. There was talk of bandits and Chris wanted his old friend Buck by his side when they rode out to find their missing coach. As just about everyone in town knew Ezra had some fancy things due on that coach as well, Chris figured Ezra might as well come along. If nothing else Ezra was deadly quick with a gun, or, at least, he used to be.
"Dresses, wasn't it, or was it dishes" Chris smirked, green eyes dancing, trying to goad Ezra into a rise but Ezra wasn't biting today, at least, not as much as he usually did.
"A dinner setting," Ezra corrected primly.
"Ah, yes, dishes. For you big shindig."
Ezra rolled his eyes. "For your edification it is not a shindig, Mr Larabee, or a hootenanny,
and pardon a fellow for trying to bring some form of civilisation to these wilds." Ezra emphasised the last word to hold all the belief in the hardships he'd suffered, stranded out here, denied music, light, good food and refined company.
"This part of your electioneering then, Ezra?" Vin asked suddenly, unable to keep his curiosity quiet, tumbling to Ezra's motivations.
"My ambitions for the town council are my own affair. This is merely an opportunity for me to share my good fortune and open my doors to my friends."
Vin shifted, uncomfortable. Ezra had invited him, but Vin knew he'd feel out of place, all gussied up like a doorman.
Chris was imagining Vin dressed to the nines, and as ridiculous as they'd both feel he wasn't disliking the vision. Underneath all that ragged rawhide and stubble, Vin Tanner was a rather handsome young man.
"Whatever the reason, a party's a party," Chris agreed. He, for one, was as curious as anyone to see what magic Ezra could conjure in the desert.
Buck gave his friend a quick look, not sure if his friend was serious or not. Chris enjoyed mocking Ezra yet he seemed to be genuinely looking forward to Ezra's party, which was a side of the moody bastard Buck hadn't really seen in a good long while.
It had been Nathan and Josiah who'd found Ezra's plans a little too rich for their liking, and they'd been rather blunt in their wishes that if Ezra had to spend his ill gotten gains he could spend them on worthier endeavours. JD had sniped merely because the boy had been distressed by Buck's taking up with Ezra, and he had yet to reconcile himself to the fact.
Chris' even smile both amused and disconcerted Buck. He was being so placating, riding all the way out here, asking Ezra for his help. Something had changed, something had seriously disturbed the order of things and Buck now understood Chris' past violence towards Ezra.
It was all about power. Vin and Buck would never challenge Chris as leader of their gang of regulators, but Ezra, Ezra had challenged, and, in his own way, he'd won. Chris had beaten him bloody, probably only understanding the challenge on a visceral level himself, but Ezra had stood firm, and instead of challenging Chris in a throw down fight, he'd challenged Chris on his own terms.
Ezra's constant gambling had finally paid off: he'd won the deeds to a handful of properties around town, and used the profits from his gambling to buy a few more, like the two hotels he now owned at either end of the town. He might not be well liked or respected, but Ezra was an important man about town these days, important enough to have Chris actually ride out here and ask Ezra if he'd heard anything, ask if Ezra was willing to ride with them.
If that wasn't enough, Ezra wanted in on the newly formed town council. It had started off as a committee, created to see to the administration of that ten thousand dollars worth of hit money they'd found in the expired assassin's hotel room. Ezra had desperately wanted those undreamed of riches as a finder's fee, but Mary and the town and even his fellow riders wouldn't hear of it. A town committee had been formed to dispose of the fortune in a series of public works, earmarking some of the money for repairs on the church, Nathan's clinics, a new school, new boardwalks and so on.
Chris had passed on five hundred dollars to Ezra on the quiet, just because he had some appreciation of Ezra's pain over the matter, and Ezra had caught a bullet meant for Mary, after all, in the scuffle of that statehood rally. Ezra had gambled heavily on that five hundred and fortune had finally smiled on him. Ezra was now a very wealthy man by the town's standards, and not a few people resented his sudden elevation.
It must cut Chris' pride to the bone to know he was effectively working for Ezra now, keeping his property safe. Buck felt for his old friend, but his loyalty now lay with Ezra, and a small humbling wouldn't do Chris a disservice, provided Ezra didn't take advantage of his new found influence. It was up to Buck to keep them both in line, as always.
Ezra was busy reciting the preparations he'd made for his upcoming dance, the wine he'd imported, and the wine glasses to go with it, this dishes he was to have prepared, the fine white table clothes and lights imported at great expense. A small band had been hired from Kansas City to come and play for just this occasion and Ezra was assuring Vin of a night of earthly delights the likes of which he doubted Vin had ever sampled.
Chris was listening to Ezra's accent, as thick as molasses, as he waxed lyrical of past soirees. Ezra's accent always came on strong when he was hiding something or...
"You been drinking, Ezra?" Chris turned to him suddenly.
"No more than usual," Ezra replied smoothly, without skipping a beat. "Is there any reason why a man should stay sober in his own home, or have you joined the Temperance League, Mr Larabee?" Ezra inquired archly.
Chris' whole body tensed but Buck had already slipped in the gap between them. Damn those two, they just couldn't leave each other be. They taunted and they teased and there was no doubt there were enough sparks between them to start a brush fire but that when that fire burnt out it left only blackened ashes and it was up to Buck and Vin to keep them apart, like two volatile chemicals, lest they be caught up in the blast again.
"Ezra's sober enough," Buck insisted. "I've seen him ride out in worse shape," he added, in a backhanded compliment on his lover's ability to handle his drink.
"All right," Chris agreed, flicking Buck a look that said 'your responsibility' very clearly. Buck nodded. It was duty Buck gladly bore.
"We're leaving now. No straggling, no bitching and no moaning."
Buck gave Chris a warning look and stepped between him and Ezra again, just in case, before turning his back on Chris and facing Ezra.
"Why don't you go on and skedaddle back upstairs and get dressed," Buck asked softly, brushing his knuckles down Ezra's silk smooth sternum. "Looks like we've got some riding to do."
A brief meeting of looks and Ezra nodded, walking away quietly, obediently.
Chris shook his head in mild disbelief. Buck had managed to tame the shrew, though Buck would call it nothing of the sort. Ezra respected him and listened to him, that was all.
"Ain't nice to disrespect a man in hid own house," Buck reminded Chris quietly, not about to let him off the hook that easily. Chris and Ezra were like two dogs, snapping and snarling at each other on occasion, just for the sheer hell of it, or so it seemed.
"Just funnin'," Chris shrugged it off, though they both knew there strong undercurrents at play here.
Chris was a handsome man. Tall, lean, all sharp angles and attitudes. Tanned skin and sun bleached hair and green eyes that seethed with a boiling pain and anger on occasion, this all spoke to a life lived hard, and a life that had hardened him. Chris could be so sweet when he wanted to be, but he could also be cruel, and a wild and reckless past had given him the well earned reputation of a man to stay on the right side of.
Buck, his friend for longer than either of them cared to remember, was nearly his complete opposite in temperament, with always a smile for a pretty girl, and usually a bit more, and Buck, tall and handsome with a thick shock of dark hair was no slouch in that department. Buck loved his wine, women and song and how he'd ended up so smitten with a green eyed cardsharp was anyone's guess.
Vin, the witness to this small stand off, had fallen easily into a friendship with Chris, the two having met taking the same side in a street fight. Vin had been curious about Chris and Buck had been only to happy to share confidences about his friend, but of Vin they knew very little. Seemingly half wild, they suspected Vin must have Indian blood in there somewhere. Certainly he appeared more in sympathy with the red man than the white, or maybe he'd just spent a lot of time with them, probably working as an Indian Agent somewhere. The only thing they did know was that Vin had a bounty on his head, a bounty he'd nearly been hung for on several occasions.
Chris didn't care about Vin's past. Chris could take a measure of a man and he liked what he saw in Vin well enough, and Chris knew he certainly wasn't the one amongst them who could cast the first stone.
They were saddling up, the wind kicking up the humid smells of horse, straw and cattle as it danced around Ezra’s property.
Buck pulled Ezra close, and Chris thought Buck was going to kiss the little weasel for a moment, but Buck merely slapped Ezra’s black hat down on his head, with a nod that told him to take care of himself and not to go getting himself shot. Ezra had a tendency to break cover if he saw one of his closest friends under fire and Buck knew there was a good chance they were riding into trouble. He didn’t want to see Ezra plugged full of holes for a moment of showboating and his brief nod reminded Ezra of that fact.
Ezra for his part smile, tipped his head slightly, and turned to fuss tying cinch knots. A dark shaped appeared beside him and he glanced up to find Chris Larabee watching him with a degree of scrutiny that made him uncomfortable.
Chris leant close to Ezra, looking him in the eye, needing an answer.
"Are you alright to ride?"
"Buck knows how to be gentle," Ezra rebuffed him, pulling on his latigo harder than he meant to, causing his horse to hook back a filthy look at him.
"But you like it rough." Chris half smiled at the memory.
"Not always," Ezra replied coldly. His eyes challenged Chris, accusing him of never bothering to ask Ezra's likes and dislikes. It had all been about Chris' needs, Chris' pain. Ezra had been left wanting and Chris had no choice but to accept the rebuke. No one knew just how badly he'd treated Ezra and he respected that, Ezra keeping his silence.
He backed off a little and let Ezra pass. He'd always treated Ezra badly, they all had, blaming Ezra for a war he'd had little part in - Ezra had only been a boy at the time. If they weren’t riding Ezra for his origins it was for his lifestyle, no wonder Ezra was so easily riled at times. Sure, they were only teasing but he saw how deeply their little barbs could cut on occasion, and it wasn’t really fair on Ezra.
Buck tested his saddle and turned, seeing Chris and Ezra talking together, or rather glaring at each other, which passed as conversation between those two more often than not.
Buck pulled on his saddle again, angry with himself. He wished he'd taken Ezra under his wing sooner. He could have spared Ezra a lot of heartache, especially where Chris was concerned, and he could have spared himself the pang of jealousy he felt whenever he saw Ezra with Vin or Chris. He trusted Ezra, but the residual current he felt crackling between the three men still pricked at him.
The wind kicked up a little more, throwing dust and debris in their faces, making their mounts stamp and flicker. Pulling his hat down low, Chris mounted up, the others following suit, and they rode out without a word, Chris leading, the others flanking him.