This story is a bridge between the action of Virgin Territory and its forthcoming sequel, Shadow Cast. Familiarity with Virgin Territory would be helpful, but is not required to understand this story or its sequel.

Storm Set by Lumina~

His whole body thrummed vibrating to the touch of the man he straddled, his knees cushioned by rumpled sheets as they pressed against warm hips. Anticipation curled within him as a wet, silky tongue and velvety lips followed the rivulets of sweat trickling down his chest pausing only to drink of the bead pooling in his navel. Talented hands teased and stroked his shaft to hardness as he rocked his hips, seeking more intense contact with the whisper-like caresses, only to feel a pulse of loss deep in his belly as the tantalizing touch was withdrawn. He moaned his displeasure, a seductively smug laugh his only answer for the space of a heartbeat. Then twin puffs of warm exhalation from mouth and nose wafted against his sensitized skin stilling the groan of protest that came from his lips and transmuting it into a throaty moan of pleasure. A suffusion of liquid heat dissolved the knotted tension of his muscles as he was taken into the hot, moist cavern of his lover's mouth.

His eyelids fluttered closed as his head dropped back, his mouth opening in short labored gasps as his length was laved with a slick tongue and scraped gently with sharp teeth. Strong arms snaked around him the smooth undersides laying coolly against the heated flesh of his legs as the hands splayed across his buttocks. Arching his back, he thrust insistently into the mouth engulfing him, his rhythm answered by the firm pressure of the other man's fingers urging him forward. His body clenched shuddering against the man who held him as his release came. The arms of his lover held him steady just as his mouth sucked and drank hungrily of the liquid offered to him.

Fine tremors coursed through Buck's body as the last waves of his climax swept over him. Ezra held him tightly as his mouth took the last drops licking Buck clean before releasing him. Buck braced his hands against Ezra's shoulders as the quaking of his body stilled and his rapid breathing slowed. He looked down at the head bent before him its chestnut hair gleaming, the beads of sweat on Ezra's back glistening in the lamplight.

Tangling his fingers in Ezra's soft hair and tilting his head upwards, he whispered huskily, "Come here." Bending towards the upturned face, he tenderly kissed each closed eyelid before dipping to take the enticing mouth presented to him. The full lips opened to him eagerly as his tongue sought entrance. Gliding smoothly through the interior, his own essence commingled with Ezra's flavor still fresh in his own mouth.

Drawing back, his gaze lingered on Ezra's lips lightly tracing their outline with a fingertip as they curved in a wicked smirk. Ezra lifted both hands and, cupping Buck's head, flopped back on the bed pulling the larger man on top of him as their mouths met and held. Ezra squirmed beneath him his moist skin sending tantalizing shivers through Buck as it flowed against his own. An arrow of desire and craving shot directly from the surface of his skin to his groin as the smaller man opened his legs to Buck in silent invitation.

It had been over a month since the explosion that had blinded Ezra. It had been a time of waiting as the thickness of bandages covering his eyes was slowly reduced gradually allowing light to diffuse through the layers until finally the last one was peeled away. The eyes underneath were revealed, red-rimmed and puffy and prone to squinting in the light, but they were seeing eyes. As more days passed, the dark smudges underlining them disappeared and the redness was replaced with the natural brightness his friends were used to seeing in the green depths. The sparkle of mischief and humor returned as did the gleam of anticipation and avarice when he sat down at the poker table. The intelligence was there and the quick-fire speculation that raced across their surface as the pros and cons of get-rich-quick schemes were weighed. And the cool detachment and guardedness returned as well though there was a subtle softening at the edges of these shields when the green eyes were turned towards his six friends.

Buck had come to love all of these expressions, but none more than the feelings he saw reflecting from the jade pools when he was alone with the gambler. Then the shields were completely down, the openness and honest emotion on display for him alone a gratifying reminder of the trust the other man had placed in him.

And there was nothing, no look he loved more than the one he saw now. Hooded eyes burning with want, yearning with need, and shimmering with love as he sprawled and writhed beneath Buck with wanton abandon. All for him alone.

Buck placed his hand on Ezra's chest tracing slow, easy circles before trailing his hand downwards watching in fascination as the muscles beneath the other man's flesh twitched and clenched in the wake of his drifting fingertips. Reaching the juncture between Ezra's legs, he tenderly stroked the shaft as it jumped at his touch.

Grinning, Buck looked up at the flushed face of his lover. "Don't you have jail duty you oughta be gettin' to?"

Ezra responded with a deep-throated growl before plucking his watch up from the nightstand. Tilting the face towards the faint lamplight, he groaned, "In ten minutes."

"Best be gettin' dressed then," Buck said as he began exploring Ezra's hard stomach with his mouth kissing and licking a pattern around the navel as his hands continued to stroke the other man's satiny flesh.

Ezra gripped Buck by the shoulders hauling him up and planting a quick kiss on his lips before drawling, "You'd best me letting me then." Carding the fingers of one hand through Buck's hair, he gave it a vigorous ruffling.

Buck leaned into the touch regretting the loss of those slender fingers as Ezra climbed out of bed. Sighing, he settled back against the pillows as he watched Ezra gather his clothes. The gambler's body was a pale specter floating in the shadows beyond the soft golden circle of light cast by the lamp on the nightstand as he retrieved discarded garments. He flowed with the natural grace and economy of movement with which he did all things and which was a pure pleasure Buck never tired of viewing.

Ezra looked over at Buck as he pulled on his shirt. "Hadn't you better be getting dressed too?"

Buck smiled complacently as he nestled more comfortably into the pillows. "Why? I don't have to be on patrol till noon tomorrow."

Quirking an eyebrow, Ezra tossed Buck's shirt at him. "Perhaps not," he replied archly, "but you should be getting back to the boarding house. It wouldn't do for you to still be here come morning."

Buck merely sighed contentedly and closed his eyes before suddenly being pelted with more articles of his clothing. He leaped out of bed barely missing being struck by his boot as it landed with a plop against the pillows. "Hey!" he exclaimed as he advanced on Ezra menacingly and, grabbing the smaller man around the waist, prepared to claim retribution.

Ezra smiled impishly as he shoved his watch in Buck's face. "Seven minutes. Now you wouldn't want me to incur Mr. Larabee's wrath by being late for duty, would you?"

Ezra danced backwards in an effort to slip beyond Buck's grasp, but he managed to grip the gambler's wrist and pull him back against his chest. "Well now, I'll just have to make you pay for that later then," he growled as he dipped to kiss the grinning mouth of the gambler.

Breaking apart, he gave Ezra a light swat on the hip, garnering an indignant huff for his effort as he started to dress.

Shrugging into his clothes, Buck said, "If I know my ol' pard, Chris is testin' us." At Ezra's questioning glance, he continued, "Seein' how well we stand up to workin' different shifts, still doin' our jobs when it means we don't get to spend as much time together as we'd like."

Passing Buck on his way to the dresser, Ezra said, "Then we'll have to make sure we pass his test. Though assigning me the midnight shift of jail duty seems a rather perfidious way for him to do it."

Chuckling softly, Buck leaned against the door smoothing his rumpled hair with his fingers as he watched Ezra carefully brush his hair into a semblance of order. Apparently satisfied with his appearance, Ezra picked up his watch again and settled it in his vest pocket arranging its chain across his belly. Slipping into his green jacket, he strode towards the door. Meeting Buck's amused gaze, he asked, "What?"

"Nothin'," he answered as he picked up Ezra's hat. Kissing Ezra on the end of his nose, he grinned as he plunked the gambler's hat firmly down on his head and said, "There now. Pretty as a picture."

Ezra gave a rough snort as he lifted his hat and settled it to his own liking.

"Now what kind of a way is that to thank a gentleman for a compliment?"

Ezra pointedly looked around Buck into the rest of the room as he replied, "When I see a gentleman in my quarters, I'll be sure to thank him properly." Then quickly blowing out the lamp, he opened the door.

"Unh uh. Ain't no other gentlemen gonna be entertained in here," Buck said his swift swat on the gambler's rear propelling him into the hallway before turning into a slow caress.

Ezra grabbed that hand and grinned, his teeth glinting in the faint light of the hall lamp. Then gesturing for quiet with a finger to his lips, he led Buck towards the stairs. He guided Buck down the darkened stairwell and through the saloon wending their way unerringly around tables and chairs to the door, his surefootedness an aftereffect of his days without sight.

Stepping in front of Ezra as he unlocked the doors, Buck pulled him into his arms for one last lingering kiss before saying, "I'll walk with you down to the jail."

Ezra arched his brows as he opened the doors. "Oh? And how will you explain your presence to Mr. Dunne?"

"I'll just tell him I was losin' my shirt to ya' in a poker game." Shrugging, he twitched his shirtfront, indicating a missing button or two as he continued, "It's almost the truth anyway." He grinned as he backed out of the batwing doors only to lose his balance as his booted heel bumped into something lying on the boardwalk. Something soft and yielding. Only Ezra's hands gripping his arms firmly kept him from falling as he turned to see what was lying at his feet.

His breath caught and a chill settled in his stomach as he took in the still form of a young woman, her slack mouth and unseeing eyes assuring her lifelessness. Her limbs lay in disjointed angles, like a broken doll, her skin cool to the touch as Buck knelt beside her and pressed his fingers to the pulse point on her neck. He pulled his hand away quickly as the loose tendrils of hair around her face floated in the slight breeze of the night, tickling his skin and giving a false sense of animation to the figure before him.

"She's that new waitress at the hotel, ain't she?" Buck asked as he took in the simple gray gown and white pinafore apron before picking up one hand its fingers stiff and curling.

"Yes. Molly Graham. She's only been in town a couple of months."

Something in the other man's tone caused Buck to raise his eyes to Ezra's face. His voice had been distracted, his gaze now seemingly transfixed by the sightless eyes staring up at him. Frowning in puzzlement, Buck returned his attention to the cold hand he still held.

A rust colored stain marred the dove gray fabric at the cuff of the young woman's dress. It was a stain that trickled down over the pale flesh of her palm, dry and crusting, and was matched by its twin at her other wrist. Buck closed his eyes briefly, sorrow at the way she must have died sweeping through him. Opening his eyes again, he replaced her hand by her side giving it a gentle pat before standing up.

"She's already cold. Must've been dead awhile." When the gambler didn't reply, Buck said softly, "Ezra?"

Still not eliciting a response, Buck touched Ezra lightly on the shoulder. The other man turned green eyes to Buck's face, eyes that were clouded and unfocused. Buck felt rather than saw the slight shudder that shook Ezra's body as he watched alertness shift away the bleakness of the other man's gaze like clouds moving before the wind.

A tiny worm of uneasiness coiled in Buck's belly at Ezra's reaction, but he quelled its need for attention as he found the intelligence and shrewd awareness he was used to in the bright, steady eyes now turned upon him.

"We need to get the others."

"I'll stay with her," Ezra said quietly and with finality as he knelt down beside the young woman.

Buck hesitated staring at Ezra's bent head his face averted so that all he could see in the darkness was the pale gleam of his jaw line, strong and sure.

Ezra tilted his face up his eyebrows lifting askance at Buck's continued presence.

Buck gave himself a mental shake then headed towards the jail. "Be right back."

As he strode quickly down the boardwalk, Buck glanced once over his shoulder at the figure of the gambler kneeling beside the dead woman. The gambler's hand hovered over the young woman's head, hesitant and unsure, before being withdrawn and clasped to his own middle as he rocked minutely back and forth. Buck quickened his footsteps as he watched, the uneasiness he felt twisting as it grew and curled more tightly within.

Buck slipped quietly into Ezra's room as dusk descended on Four Corners, the questions of who had killed Molly Graham and why still unanswered. Why she had been placed at the door of the saloon, as much on Ezra's doorstep as if she had been dumped outside the door to his room upstairs, an even more disturbing puzzle to Buck.

Ezra had helped carry the body to the undertaker's and stayed with her as she had been examined by Nathan. He had treated her with more caring, respect and dignity than she had possibly been afforded in life, behavior Buck had witnessed before in the gambler. These qualities had been there when he received Claire Mosely's body and carried it into the same funeral parlor, and had also been in evidence during the series of murders that Josiah had falsely been accused of. What concerned Buck now though was a new aspect added to the mix, something he couldn't quite put a name to, but which looked like understanding, empathy perhaps, or even acceptance.

Ezra was sitting in a small tub bathing when Buck entered the room, not an unusual occurrence for the gambler. Ezra was the cleanest man, probably the cleanest person he'd ever met. But this was different. He didn't look up as Buck advanced into the room. He just continued to scrub at his skin with a brush frothing liberally with soapy lather, over and over again with single-minded intentness, its bristles scraping harshly on his flesh leaving it red and raw.

Buck winced at the damage the gambler was inflicting on himself and, swiftly taking the last few steps to the tub, gently eased the brush out of Ezra's unresisting fingers. "Ezra?" he asked quietly as he crooked a finger under the other man's chin tilting his face upwards.

Ezra stood then, the twilight blue filtering through the lace curtains glittering off the water sheeting down his body like a brittle second skin impenetrable to touch. Just as remote were the haunted green eyes, their expression closed and turned inward, shutters dropping into place as Buck watched, shielding them from penetration like a layer of gauze.

Something wrenched within Buck compelling him to grab Ezra by the shoulders and shatter the barrier of water as he touched his warm flesh to the clammy skin of the gambler. He roughly shook the other man as if, by that action alone, he could break through the defenses he could see being erected against the outside world, against himself.

Ezra lifted the fingers of one hand to gently trace the planes of Buck's face, a sightless reading left over from his days of blindness as much as it was a tender caress. Ezra lifted his eyes locking them with Buck's, sad and hopeless for an instant, before he surged forward. His lips met Buck's, frantic and feverish, as his hands worked on the buttons of his shirt. Buck gripped the other man tightly as his momentum sent them stumbling backwards towards the bed. When his knees hit the edge, Buck let himself fall onto its soft surface pulling Ezra with him. His hands glided silkily down the wet body as he rolled on top of the smaller man. Lowering his head for a kiss, he sought to answer the plea of the other man, whispered desperately against his lips and echoing in his mind.

"Love me."


The End

Continued in Shadow Cast

Return to The Nights Fall