This is for those who asked.
To say what happened between us last night was entirely at his own instigation would be unfair. The heat in his eyes rivaled that of the fire that lay between us. Raw need, glittering and hard, directed at me, but he made no move towards me till my eyes met his and held. I've no idea what he may have seen in them that compelled him to cross over and stand before me. Just waiting. Certainly there was no invitation there as I'm sure my expression was the coolly appraising and noncommittal mask I was schooling it to be.
To say he expected me to comply with his obvious intention would not be completely correct either. I've no doubt if I had turned away, he would have returned to his side of the fire without a word, and that would have been that. Yet he was not asking. He expects. No, Mr. Larabee does not ask. But perhaps that is unfair as well. No, he was not asking with his voice, with words. The question was very eloquently asked with his body though he may not have been aware of it. It was there in the controlled tension of his muscles and in the slightly flexing fingers at his sides. It was evident in the tilt of his head and in the quickening of his breath. I heard it quite clearly in the way his eyes roamed over my body leaving my skin tingling and hot in their wake. And I heard his asking most in the way his eyes closed, in the way his head dropped back, and in the deep-throated groan that came from his lips when I unbuttoned his pants and dipped my hand in to touch his hard flesh.
To say I knew why I made the choice I did would be entirely erroneous. My hands seemed to move of their own volition. But move they did, and when I heard his moan of pleasure and felt his insistent thrust against my hand, when my cool fingers met his heated skin, I wanted to meet his expectations. Perhaps it was because I really do prefer to meet them when I can even though, more often than not, I fail abysmally. Perhaps it was because he, the man who never asks, did in his own way. Whatever the reason, I chose to let him fuck me.
To say the act was intimate would be a gross overstatement. It was hard and fast, a mere physical release. Two men dropping their pants and bringing each other to completion. To say it was intimate implies a sharing of self, one with the other. There was none such here. There were no whispered words of desire, no embraces nor gentle caresses. Just a firm grip on my hips as he thrust into me, and his weight supported by my back for a brief moment before he pulled away from me. Then the cool night air on my backside as he moved to his side of the fire as he did up his pants. Again without a word passing between us.
Nor were any words shared about the incident the next day when we returned to town. No words, no touches, not even acknowledgement of it in his eyes. I'm sure mine were equally devoid of remembrance. I did not regret my choice. I had no expectations. There was nothing I could ask for. To do so would have been...unfair.
That second time.... I sat watchin' him playin' cards in the saloon all evenin' long. Didn't have my mind set on doin' that when I went in there that night. Just my eyes were drawn to him without my even thinkin' on it. He's somethin' to see like that. The cards dancin' in those hands. His eyes sparkin' mischief and humor. The honey in his voice drawing players like a beehive does bears. Only with him, most times, that smile of his, that charm he can put in his words, takes the sting outta his winnin' your money.
I've watched him play cards before. But that night, I guess I saw it, for the first time, for what it is. It's a seduction. And maybe, without my even knowin' it, he seduced me 'cause, that night, instead of findin' some woman, I went up those stairs. Stood outside his door a minute thinkin'. Maybe bein' together in town wouldn't be like it was that first time. More risk. Maybe not so easy to forget the next day. But while I was still thinkin', my hand was knockin' on his door. And he stood there lookin' at me, quirkin' that eyebrow like he does, but he didn't say anything. Didn't ask anything. Just stood there, his eyes readin' my face before he opened the door a little wider and let me in.
So I go to him now whenever I need. Don't ever even think about not. He always lets me in. But it's different now. Quick and easy don't satisfy anymore. Maybe I shoulda known to stop it then. Didn't want to though. Decided not to.
That first time I reached to take his clothes off, he actually flinched. Pulled back from my hands. That made me wonder. It made me want to gentle him. So I took off all my clothes and took his hand and placed it on my skin. He looked at my hand holdin' his to my chest, then looked at my eyes. I saw the question there, so I held his hand and stroked it down my skin in light touches. Then I took his other hand and pulled him to the bed. Laid us down together. Laid myself open to him. Gave myself up to his touch. And when he took my hardness into his mouth, when I felt that velvet wetness around me, I came harder than I ever have before. And I cried out his name. I never did that before.
He raised his eyes to mine then, and I saw the question there. I didn't know the answer. Not then. Maybe I shoulda stopped it. But I didn't. I couldn't.
And he never did take his clothes off that night.
That day he was hurt.... It told me somethin' like nothin' else had yet. Not the tinglin' burn on my palms at the remembered feel of his skin beneath them, or the way they itch when he's near and I can't touch. Not the flavor of him in my mouth that's sweeter to my tongue, now, than the smoothest whiskey. Not the way his skin glows in the lamplight, the beads of sweat dewin' his body like little suns. Not the shift and slide of his muscles against mine, tensin' and ballin' under my hands as he arches up to me. Not the quiver that runs through him, or the moanin' sighs that breath over his lips when I take him. Not his heat or his clenching around me. Not even the way I stop him, now, from turnin' on his stomach so I can fuck him. Not even the way I want to, need to, see his face now, to see his pleasure there before I can take my own.
He was hurt that day. A grazin' wound to his arm. As he lay there in bed in the clinic sleepin' off one of Nathan's brews, I looked at my hand hoverin' over his head. Wantin' to touch his hair, to soothe, to comfort. I looked at my hand, inches above his head, yet feelin' him against my fingers as if I was touchin' him. Saw the way it shook. Felt the sickness lurchin' in my belly. Remembered the fear explodin' in me when I saw him reel and fall into the dirt on the street.
I saw my answer in that shakin' hand. Knew why I couldn't stay away. I'd never be able to smooth away the tiny scar his wound would leave on his skin, the skin I'd come to love. But maybe I'd be able to heal the scars within the man. The man I'd come to love.
I shoulda stopped it sooner. But I can't pretend I'm sorry I didn't.
He whispers words against my ear now. Words of desire. Words meant to entice. And they do, but more enflaming is his voice alone. The lazy drawl, the husky murmurs, the way he can make how he growls my name seem like an endearment. Each tone, each vocal gradation has the unexpected consequence of sending shivers down my body, of igniting a warmth in my stomach at my being able to elicit such sounds from this man.
I don't want to give up what we have. I've come to expect his knock on my door late at night. I've grown used to the way his long, lean body fits around mine. I know I'd miss that sardonic smile and the wicked glint he gets in his eyes. To give up being able to run my hands over his lightly fleshed ribs, to taste the salty tang of his skin, to watch his nipples harden and redden from my touch, to watch the sex-born flush creep across his skin. I'm quite certain I can no longer do without the warmth he leaves behind, the smell of him on my sheets that I inhale so greedily after he departs my room before dawn. These are not sacrifices I wish to make.
But I'm hurting him. I see it in his eyes. His eyes that consume me with their intensity as they roam over my body before meeting mine, hope there. A beseeching. I hear it in his voice, in that slight catch that is there now when he says my name. I feel it in his exhalation of breath as he kisses my throat, in that searing touch that is as a brand to me.
I'm hurting him. I know it. But I can't give him that final intimacy.
I've let him into my room. Into my bed. I've let him do things to my body that I've not allowed anyone else to do. But to let him kiss my mouth, to give him that would be to give him me. No one has ever wanted that before. I don't know how to give all of myself. I don't know if I can. I can't believe that's what he really wants.
I can't risk what we do have for something he may regret asking for. No one has wanted this from me. No one has wanted me. Why does he?
I'm not by nature a patient man. I'm used to havin' my own way. I'm used to havin' my questions answered before they're even asked. I like it that way. But Ezra.... He's never made it easy to know what's goin' on in that head of his. And in the past, nothin's riled me to anger more than his smug words, his mockin' smile. But that smile.... It's always been mockin' himself more than anybody else. I see that now.
And I saw it tonight when he came to me. In his lips quirkin' up in that half-grin. It riled me. Made me want to take him by the shoulders and shake him till his teeth rattled. Till he understood what's goin' on between us. But I saw his eyes too. Saw the lost look there. Saw the sweet confusion. He can't hide things like that from me anymore. He don't know it yet. But he can't.
So I pulled him over the threshold. Into my room. Into my bed. And we lay there together, my skin touchin' his. My warmth meetin' his. I saw the moist pattern my lips and tongue drew on his body, felt his hands copy that pattern on mine. He opened his legs for me, and twined them around me pullin' me closer. I felt his muscles tremble and twitch against mine. Felt our bodies shudder and come as one. And he pulled me closer. With his legs. With his hands. With his eyes. With the want there. And the need. Before they shuttered and closed. My breath kissed his lips before he turned his head away. I took his neck instead.
He needs me. I can wait.
I can be patient. I have to be.
I've always admired his ability to disassociate what we do in bed at night from who we are in the day, who we are with our fellows. I like to believe I've always been able to meet that separation with equanimity and a like dispassion of my own.
But he...doesn't do that anymore. There is a change in him now. I see it in the way he sits beside me at the poker table, lazy and slouching, yet leaning towards me, watchful. And possessive. It's there in the subtle touches that didn't used to exist-on my arm, or my back, or my shoulder. It's in the touch of his eyes on me now, eyes filled with a softening that I've never seen before. It's in the touch of his voice on my ears, husky and intimate, and in the smiles he bestows that are meant for me alone.
It's in the way he follows me up to my room at night when I leave the table rather than waiting until the last saloon patron has left.
The others know, I'm sure of it. He's made certain they do.
If I'm truthful, I know the differences in him are matched by those in myself. He's been gone only three days, yet I sit here restless and impatient, feeling lost. Missing what he gives me. Those looks, the touches, his words. Missing everything I feel in them.
I need them. I need him.
And there he is at my side, looking at me with that sleepy darkening in his eyes, that potent mixture of passion and humor and that indefinable quality I've never been able to name. Something else is there tonight. A question. An asking without words. A need.
So I rise from the table in answer and see him smile, that lazy crooked half-smile that shoots a dart of heat through me every time I see it. And so I follow him. Up to my room. Into my bed.
He stripped his clothes off, but stopped my hands when they moved to do the same. He replaced my hands with his own, peeling each layer of clothing off till he reached the skin beneath. He knelt before me as he removed my boots and trousers. I allowed my hand to brush his shoulder in support as he lifted each leg in turn. And as each article of clothing was removed, there was no time for my skin to cool as his hands passed their warmth over it, as his lips followed with a languorous moistness.
And when I was naked too, he still knelt there before me. One hand found its familiar place on my hip, his other arm snaking around my back and finding a place to rest on the curve of my backside. His face caressed my belly with the whiskered raspiness of his skin on mine, with the glide of his hair and the sweep of his eyelashes, and with the sigh of breath I've come to hold dear.
He held me. For endless minutes while I stroked his hair. While I felt something inside me warm. While I felt something else lighten.
He pulled me into bed with him. Arranged me against him, his body curling around mine. And he held me.
That was the first time we slept together.
I woke him in the mornin' with my kisses on his body, with my whisperin' in his ear. What I saw on his face last night, in his eyes, gave me hope. And his hand on my shoulder takin' my support when I undressed him. His fingers runnin' through my hair. He gave me hope.
I have to try.
The words he's saying to me....
'I missed you.'
'I need you.'
'I'd die for you.'
'I'll live for you.'
I want to believe.
I touch his body with my eyes, with my hands. Feel him shiver against me. I run my hand down his face. Kiss his mouth with my eyes, with my fingers. And close my eyes for a second before lookin' into his. I see the yearnin' there, the need. His. Mine.
And I hold his face steady and ask.
I see the yearning in his eyes. I feel it in his touch and hear it in his voice. So I lift my hand to his head and pull his face towards mine, his mouth to mine. And feel his sigh of breath on my lips as we touch.
And I believe.
So I'll give, and we'll both be free.
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