Many thanks to Mog, for creating this universe and allowing the rest of us to play in it.
Nothing New Under the Sun, Part Three
You Burn by Lumina~
Chris Larabee quietly closed his front door against the rapidly falling darkness of night, the frigid air that had insinuated its way in less biting, less cutting to his skin than the pair of green eyes that had raked over his face as their owner made his retreat.
Controlled panic. That is what he had seen in those eyes. It was belied though by Ezra Standish's usual graceful gait as he crossed the living room and collected his coat. It was absent from his voice, smooth and placid, as he said his good-byes to his teammates and didn't touch his mouth as it lifted in that slow, easy smile that used to set Chris's teeth on edge with its seeming arrogance and smugness.
Now he knew that smile to be the self-directed irony that it was, aimed at a wary heart, that also struck pain into Chris's own now with its self-deprecation and hollow acceptance. Still that smile had not reflected the alarm, the need for flight, that he'd seen in Ezra's eyes as he'd brushed past on his way out the door and that was echoed in the grinding of the Jag's wheels spinning against the snow-covered drive as they sought purchase.
He'd seen something else in those eyes when they'd joined his as the panic there fragmented and produced a shard of anger in those green depths that stabbed into his own for that one instant. It was an anger Chris caught and felt, coiling and growing within, as he had watched the Jag's taillights recede beyond his sight.
Turning from the door, the last of his guests gone save one, Chris zeroed in on his selected target to receive that anger. He leaned back against the door, arms crossed and face lowered, his voice deceptively mild as he asked, "What did you say to him?"
When no answer was forthcoming, Chris raised his gaze and fixed the man sitting on his couch with a narrow-eyed glare. Vin Tanner slouched there, his feet on the coffee table. His relaxed posture, the calmness in Vin's eyes as they met his own sent a spark of his anger snapping through Chris as he bit out, "What the hell did you say to him?"
Vin took a swig from the beer bottle he held, his eyes never leaving Chris's as he tracked that man's slow approach towards him. Then cocking his head, his gaze held briefly by the label on his beer bottle before looking again at Chris, he replied, "What the hell did I say to him? What the hell didn't you say to him?" A rough snort of laughter issued from his mouth as he surveyed Chris's face. "You're outta luck usin' that glare on me, Larabee. Save it for someone it'll work on," he said wry amusement coloring his voice before he again lifted his beer to his lips.
Chris swiped Vin's booted feet off the table with one hand, his impatience mounting. "Vin-"
Vin chuckled as his feet hit the floor. Raising a placating hand, he said, "All right, all right. But sit down first 'fore I wear out my neck cranin' up at ya."
Lips tightening as he suppressed a low snarl, Chris sat down in the armchair across from the couch. Crossing his legs, he smoothed his pants with exaggerated calm before raising an expectant eyebrow and gesturing with his open hands for Vin to continue.
Vin quirked his own eyebrow, a slight smile forming as he settled back against the cushions. He waited a moment then, shrugging one shoulder, said, "I told Ezra you're in love with him."
As the simple statement touched his ears and filtered into his mind, Chris found understanding did not come with it. Of all the dire possibilities that had run scattershot through his head since he'd felt the scorching of Ezra's cold eyes, since his precipitous departure, that had never been one of them. He shook his head briefly in confusion and said, "He already knew that."
"Did he?" Vin questioned as he sat forward resting his elbows on his knees.
Chris nodded as Vin held his gaze with an intense blue stare. "Yes."
"You told him you're in love with him?"
His impatience, briefly tamped down, flashed anew as he ground out, "Yes."
"You said the words?"
Chris's next snappish affirmation died stillborn on his lips as the scene from the previous night, the memory of it that had warmed his day, played before his eyes with a clarity that sharpened the soft edges in a way that he hadn't seen till he'd heard Vin's words. He'd said it with his touch, with his tone. It had been in the way his arms held the other man and in the way his mouth caressed Ezra's own, but it had not been in his words. Dawning realization lit his eyes as his focus returned to Vin, and he saw the answering knowledge there.
"You're an ass, Larabee." Vin nodded as he leaned back stretching his arm across the back of the couch while pointing his beer bottle at Chris with the other. "Not only are you an ass, you're a stupid, sorry ass."
Chris's eyes narrowed at the other man's words, but he chose to ignore them for now as he asked, "How could Ezra-"
"That's it right there, pard. This is Ezra we're talkin' about." Leaning forward again, he continued, "Chris, you know Ezra doesn't trust easy, or believe. You though…. I think he trusted you almost from the get-go. You gave him a second chance. You don't play games with him. You talk to him straight. So when you say somethin' to him, he believes. And when you don't…." Vin trailed off with a shrug as Chris scrubbed at his chin and winced.
"When I don't say something, he believes that too."
Vin nodded and said ruefully, "He's learned he can take you at face value, Chris. Sounds like you showed him real good that you want to have sex with him. Think he believes that all right. Ya just left out one little thing, cowboy."
Chris sighed and ran his hands through his hair before saying, "So now I gotta fix this."
Vin shook his head regretfully. "Only you would be so arrogant to believe that all ya gotta do is touch Ezra, and he's yours for the taking." He paused a moment, then gave a short laugh before continuing. "Well, maybe not. Think Buck forgot, too, ta mention that one little thing."
Chris squinted at Vin through hooded eyes his voice a smooth growl as he asked, "You gonna get Buck all straightened out too?"
Vin met his lowering gaze with an impish smirk and said, "Might. If he asks. Buck is my friend too, after all."
Chris glowered at the man sitting opposite him and snarled, "Whose side are you on, anyway?"
Vin touched his forehead with his beer bottle in a mock salute, his eyes sparkling with mirth as he answered.
Buck allowed his pickup to drift slowly along the curb down the road from Ezra's townhouse. He came to a gentle stop just without the bounds of the pool of light spread by the street lamp. Cutting the engine, his eyes sought but didn't find the sleek black form of Ezra's Jag along the lonely street. From his position, he was unable to tell if it was parked in the garage, but just as his hand reached for the pickup's door handle, a light switched on within the house casting a welcome yellow glow across the snow.
Buck breathed a heavy sigh of relief, his exhalation of air billowing in a small puff of frost. Eyes fixed on that warm square of light, Buck settled back in his seat allowing the tension that had knotted in his belly and that had tightened in his muscles to ease a little as he viewed Ezra's house through his windshield.
He had seen the unease in Ezra's eyes and the hard flint of anger, had seen them both grow as the New Year's celebration at Chris's ranch had worn on. He had seen the confusion, too, that flickered there and flared into the need for flight. Only the confusion could make Ezra run, not fear and not the anger, just the bewilderment that told Ezra not what face to put on his feelings, what façade to hide behind.
And run Ezra had. How far he would go Buck didn't know. He had helped to cast those green eyes with that briefly seen veneer of disorder. Now he knew fear, born within himself as he watched Ezra's escape; it was an anxiety that sent restless energy coursing through him causing him to come here, to come to Ezra. To stop him or to follow him, to make him understand; whatever it took to be with him.
Opening the truck's door, Buck paused as his eyes shifted to the darkened window on the second floor. A dark shape moved there, a shadow against the blackness. It held his gaze for a moment falling back from the window as Buck stepped from his truck. His sense of determination increased as he saw that slipping shadow fade, and his stride matched it lengthening as he walked across the street to Ezra.
Ezra's hand stilled as he reached to draw the curtains over his bedroom window, his eye caught by the refraction of light off a metal surface. Glancing down into the street, he saw the outline of a familiar pickup truck, the interior light illuminating its owner's face with an amber glow as he stared up at Ezra's window. Ezra knew Buck couldn't possibly see his face in the darkness, yet it seemed as if Buck's eyes were staring directly into his, boring into his mind and telegraphing his intent.
Ezra turned away from the window as Buck got out of his truck his attention travelling down his dimly lit stairs towards the front door. He moved slowly down them standing at the foot of the staircase as he heard the sound of boots scuffing on his porch followed by a soft knock.
The arrival of Buck at his house, so soon after Vin's revelations, had set his nerve endings jangling and prickling along his skin, conjuring an embarrassing fluttering in his stomach as he contemplated the presence on the other side of his door. The chaos of emotions that had erupted during his talk with Vin were all still there: the confusion and anxiety, the anger all still running rampant. Stronger still was the desire, his need, to understand his unexpected reaction to the touch of two different men, but most of all he needed to know what these two men wanted from him. Until he knew that, Ezra wasn't sure if he'd be able to decipher the meanings within his own unforeseen wantings.
Taking a deep breath, he called upon his game face before opening his front door. He didn't look at Buck, allowing him to pass by silently before closing the door. Ezra could feel the touch of Buck's eyes roaming over his body leaving a trail of fire that was not extinguished even by the cold night air that had gained entrance with him. He suppressed a shiver and quelled the thrill that burst brighter in his belly before turning around. Ezra leaned back against the door, his eyes lifting to Buck's, finally, as he schooled his features to a neutral expression.
Ezra raised a quizzical eyebrow and asked, "To what do I owe the pleasure of this late night visit, Mr. Wilmington?"
Buck's lips curved in a rueful grin as he asked softly, "Ezra, don't you think, under the circumstances, that you could call me Buck?"
Ezra spoke equally as quietly as he replied, "And what 'circumstances' would those be, Mr. Wilmington?"
His slight emphasis on Buck's formal name caused that man's grin to widen briefly before it melted into a gentler smile. The eyes that had just charted his body now roved over his face in a questing search before meeting Ezra's gaze steadily.
With a small shrug, Buck said, "The circumstance of my loving you."
Ezra's breath hitched at those words. In spite of what Vin had told him, he really hadn't believed that it was possible, but now, in his own words, Buck had admitted the truth of it. The simple honesty of it was there in Buck's face. Ezra had seen the desire last night. It was there now too, but also there was a tenderness like none he'd ever seen directed at himself, as well as vulnerability and sweet hesitation.
Buck took a step towards Ezra than seemed to think twice about it as he stayed where he was his eyes resuming their reading of Ezra's own.
The silence extended between them for endless moments reminiscent of the still hush that had surrounded them in the Judge's library the night before. The quietude did not extend within Ezra, however, as his churning emotions expelled in a one word query.
Buck gave a short huff of laughter as he stepped towards Ezra. Placing one arm against the door, he caressed Ezra's face as he did the night before and smiled tenderly. "Why, I don't know, Ezra. I just do."
Ezra studied Buck's face, saw the love there and felt the desire in the long body pressing his against the door. He felt it, too, in his own body as it moved into Buck's of its own volition and as he rubbed his face along the hand now cupping his cheek. He saw one other thing though, in Buck's face, something that caused a hesitation of his own.
He had the ability to hurt this man.
Long fingers trailed down his cheek and covered his lips as Buck whispered, "Shhh. I know you don't feel the same way, Ezra. Leastways not yet," he quipped with a cocky grin eliciting a slow smile from Ezra. His fingers moving off again in their exploration of Ezra's face, he said, "I'm just asking for a chance." Then, his eyes never leaving Ezra's, he lowered his face to within a hairsbreadth of Ezra's own and waited.
Ezra waited as well, and felt his need grow as he stared into Buck's eyes. It was no longer just the need to understand though he wasn't quite sure he was ready to put another name to it. He wasn't sure what that name would be, but he wanted a chance too. A chance to find out what it could be. When his eyes dropped to Buck's mouth, when their touch kissed those lips, he gave silent permission, and Buck took. Buck gave.
Soft kisses rained across his mouth and face cherishing and tasting at the same time before turning more ardent, more daring. Ezra sucked in his breath as warm hands slid under his sweater lifting his arms and sweeping it over his head all in one smooth motion. He looked at Buck through hooded eyes as that man's gaze caressed his naked chest. He could feel a warm flush stealing over his flesh as he saw Buck's eyes darken with want and as his hands traced his every muscle, his every bone with feather-light reverence.
He tangled his fingers in Buck's hair as his mouth joined his hands in their journey over Ezra's throat and chest, down to his belly. Ribbons of desire streaked through his body at Buck's every touch, but something unfamiliar unfurled in Ezra's chest as he watched Buck's eyes devour in his passion and as his hands stroked with his love. A matching tenderness had Ezra pulling the other man's body closer to his as Buck's refrain from the night before echoed in his mind.
'What'd it hurt?'
Would it hurt Chris Larabee? That man had offered him nothing save a fleeting passion.
Buck? He said he knew how Ezra felt, but was risking his own heart now with his words, with his touch, with his every look, for a chance.
Himself? Ezra cared for Buck. Now he knew he desired him as well. He wanted that chance, something that had never been given to him before.
"What'd it hurt?" he mouthed soundlessly his head dropping back against the door as Buck's hands and tongue reached his waist. Skilled fingers played at his waistband sliding his pants and underwear down over his hips almost before he realized it. Those fingers skimmed around to the curve of his backside pulling him closer to Buck's mouth, to the warm rush of breath streaming over his engorged flesh.
As those hands tightened their hold, Ezra reached for Buck's face and pulled him up level with his own. He took in the short panting exhalations from Buck's mouth, the flush on his cheekbones and the passion-laden eyes and, his voice a throaty whisper, breathed, "What if I say no?"
Buck closed his eyes for an instant and leaned his forehead against Ezra's. Raising a hand, he traced Ezra's face before replying softly, "I'll only take what you're willing to give." Then, with a last swipe of his thumb over Ezra's lower lip and a slow circling stroke over the spot on his hip that Buck had possessed the night before, he released his hold.
"I love you, Ezra."
Ezra closed his eyes on a sigh at those words and reached out blindly for Buck's hands. He saw the questioning, the waiting in Buck's eyes when he opened his again. Ezra drew those long fingers back to his skin, the hard length of Buck's body back against his own, and that hot mouth down to his throat.
Closing his eyes, he arched his neck for Buck to taste.
'What'd it hurt?'
Blue and black and silver shadows played across the snow as Chris watched the starlit night pass. Brittle frost formed around the fringes of the window, but colder still was the remembered edging of crystal chill in a pair of green eyes. Chris turned from that coldness and sought the warmth of the embers still kindling lowly in the fireplace. He felt their burning flames on his skin as he closed his eyes against their red and orange glow and called to mind a different fire from the night before.
In his arms he had held the quicksilver heat of his mercurial undercover agent. With the touch of his hands and of his mouth, he had made love to Ezra. It had felt so right, like coming home. Yet his lack of words had said more to Ezra than anything else had. The man who used words to deflect and to defend, to disguise real motives and emotions, yet counted on the basic truthfulness that was ever there in Chris's own would hear as much in what Chris didn't say as in what he did. The man whose most heartfelt honesty was expressed through his actions would not believe it so of Chris. He had been arrogant in assuming that Ezra would fall at his first touch, that he would feel that pull, that rightness, as he did himself.
Chris opened his eyes and as he watched the flickering firelight dying, he whispered, "I don't know what you're feeling, Ezra, but I'm gonna make damn sure you know I love you." Then, on a sigh, "You will believe me."
To Be Continued in Nothing New Under the Sun, Part Four~…And You Burn
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