Disclaimer: Don't own, so don't sue. I never did like
Barbie, Ken was always my favorite. Since I'm too old to play with dolls,
I play with these guys instead. <g>
Author's notes: For
Karen. <g> A huge thank you to Tess for the brilliant beta'ing. Any
final mistakes are mine.
Summary: Opposites do attract. Spoilers
for 'The Trial' and 'Chinatown'.
Nathan stood before the recent grave; too numb to feel the biting wind
or the rain pouring down on him. He wouldn't be able to say how long the
funeral had been over, only that he was finally alone; and grateful for
it. He knew he should be thankful for the way his friends seemed to hover
worryingly over him for the past two days, but somehow he felt nothing but
He had been surprised by the large crowd attending the
funeral, but then, in the short time his father had resided in Four
Corners, he had left his mark on a number of
Nevertheless, the raging storm had chased everyone
away as soon as the casket was lowered to the ground. In a way, it was as
if the skies were grieving with him, shedding heavy tears over his
father's final resting place, the wind howling with the pain he himself
was feeling inside.
He tried to read the name on the cross,
knowing it said Obediah Jackson, but his vision kept blurring. A hand
touched his arm gently, a voice speaking to him soothingly.
on, brother. Time to get you out of this weather."
He allowed the other man to take him away from the
gravesite, knowing if he resisted they would only keep on trying until he
finally surrendered. Somehow he knew he was moving forward, away from his
father, but he couldn't make himself feel anything, hear anything. It hurt
Ezra strolled slowly through the deserted streets, grateful his night
patrol was finally over. It was the best solution for him; it allowed him
to play poker until the early hours of the morning, before having to
exchange places with one of the other lawmen. It also meant he got to
sleep late if he so wished it.
He walked into the saloon, expecting
to find it empty, since it was the middle of the night. Instead he spotted
Nathan, sitting alone by a table at the far wall, sorrow and grief
surrounding the man like a shroud.
Ezra shook his head sadly.
Obediah Jackson had finally lost his battle with consumption the day
before. Since his father's death, Nathan had hardly said a word, beyond
making sure the funeral went according to Obediah's
It hurt to see the healer go through so much pain,
especially because Ezra had acknowledged long ago -- even if only to
himself -- how much his feelings towards the black man had changed. From
instant dislike, their relationship had changed to guarded respect,
admiration, until they had settled into a prudent friendship.
exactly those feelings had turned into something deeper Ezra did not know,
nor did he intend to waste any time analyzing it. It wasn't as if Nathan
shared his emotions, after all; the friction between them still managed to
do enough damage for him to be wary of the healer.
he thought Nathan might be aware of what was going on within his heart; it
was the only explanation to why the healer occasionally went for the
jugular when addressing him. Like during the time with Li Pong. That
Nathan would think him capable of using the young woman as a slave... He
had yet to receive Nathan's apology for his cruel words and probably
He turned his attention back to the mourning man.
From the amount of empty whiskey bottles currently loitering on the table,
it was nothing short of a miracle Nathan was still conscious.
sympathizing with his friend, Ezra walked over to the table, a hand
resting gently on a slumped shoulder. "Nathan, you have been here for most
of the day," he said softly. "You need to get some rest."
hurtin', Ez." Nathan mumbled drunkenly, misery clear in his
"I know, my friend." He squeezed the shoulder under his hand.
"The pain will pass... in time. Come on, I will assist you in returning to
He helped Nathan to stand, grunting as the bigger man
swayed, leaning heavily against Ezra. Step by step, they exited the
saloon, their pace maddeningly slow as they made their way to Nathan's
clinic. By the time Ezra closed the door behind them, he was breathing
hard from the effort of having to half-carry, half-drag the other
He sat Nathan on the bed, kneeling to take the healer's boots
off. The hat and gun belt followed, as well as heavy coat. When he was
certain Nathan would be comfortable enough to lie down, Ezra sat beside
"Are you going to be all right?" he whispered.
nodded slightly, slumping sideways until his head was resting on Ezra's
shoulder. The gambler frowned abruptly, feeling soft lips brushing over
"Nathan?" he started, hearing the quiver in his
"S'okay, Ez," the healer slurred. "I know ya want
to, I wan' it too."
Before Ezra could think of a thing to
say, Nathan got hold of his shirt, pulling him close and kissing him full
on the lips. He froze in shock, trying to resist the compelling mouth
covering his, trying to ignore the fierce arousal suddenly taking over his
body. He felt himself tilting his head, accepting the kiss, activity
participating now, exploring the slick, whiskey flavored sweetness offered
His conscience kicked in at that moment. Nathan was
beyond intoxicated, grieving... It would be wrong to take advantage of the
situation. Sighing into the other man's mouth, he pulled back, thumb
ghosting over Nathan's lower lip in a feather-like caress.
think we should be doing this, Nathan."
The healer squinted at him.
"Why tha hell not?" he asked breathlessly.
Ezra shook his head
slowly. "It is not a good idea. You are inebriated, and probably not in
your right frame of mind."
Nathan's jaw clenched in frustration. "I
know wha' I'm doin', Ez," he insisted stubbornly.
conceded. "How about a compromise? If you still desire this in the
morning, we can discuss the matter."
Nathan sighed, but nodded
"Let's get you in bed."
Ezra brought a
nearly comatose man to his feet, rapidly pulling the bedding back and
helping the healer to lie down. He snuggled the covers around Nathan,
chuckling slightly as he heard the first snore coming from parted
Grabbing a blanket for himself, he sat on the chair closest
to the bed, and soon was joining the other man in sleep.
To say Nathan woke up with the mother of all hangovers was an
understatement. He was nauseous, there was a whole Indian tribe drumming
inside his head, and his tongue felt remarkably like sandpaper. He peeled
his eyes open, squinting at the bright midday sun, frowning as he noticed
Ezra sleeping peacefully on a chair near the bed.
death and the last two days suddenly came flooding back into his mind,
nearly making him double over in pain. He forced himself to relax, to
absorb the fierce emotion, until he was once again able to breathe
quietly. He remembered the funeral, Josiah taking him away from the
gravesite to join the others at the saloon. He remembered ordering bottle
after bottle of whiskey, hoping to buy a few hours of merciful relief from
He also remembered his friends coming and going
throughout the day, worry clear in their gazes, until he had finally been
left alone. Then Ezra had appeared in the middle of the night, his
soothing voice and gentle hands guiding him back to the clinic. He fought
the urge to groan as he recalled his lame attempt at seduction and
No. Not rejection. The gambler had left the choice
up to him, to take up where they had left off if he still felt the same in
the light of day.
But did he want to?
Nathan would never have kissed Ezra had he been sober. He wasn't immune to
the gambler's charms; it was hard not to take notice, not to drown in the
beautiful green eyes, not to smile back at the wide, dimpled grin, not to
enjoy the easy, catlike grace of movements.
And he knew Ezra
was willing, he had caught the interest in the other man's gaze on more
than one occasion, had seen the desire, as well as something deeper,
But they were about as different as the sun and moon. And
if he was honest with himself... Ezra stood for everything he hated in
mankind. True, the gambler had a good heart, there was no denying that.
But he was still a conman, someone who had no qualms about taking money
from those less fortunate and unlucky enough to cross paths with him. He
could only imagine how many a folk had been left with nothing before Ezra
had settled in Four Corners.
Even if Ezra had changed. And in
Nathan's eyes he had. Of all of them, Ezra had been the one to benefit the
most from their association. Somehow, the others seemed to be subtly
influencing him, making him see the wrongness in what he did for a
So why didn't he take a chance? He knew deep down he
returned Ezra's feelings, he might even help the gambler turn into a
He sighed wearily. He knew why, why he hadn't
made a move yet, why he hadn't signaled to Ezra he would be more than
willing to share his life -- and bed -- with him.
As petty as
it seemed -- as it was -- Ezra reminded him of a part of his life he would
rather forget. His days as a slave, being passed on from owner to owner as
if he was nothing more than a farm animal. And sometimes... sometimes that
damn southern accent would take him back, to the post as he was being
whipped because he had dared to protect one of the female slaves from
rape; because he had shared his meal with an ailing friend; because he had
given water to the poor bastard shackled to the post.
then hate would rear its ugly head and he would snap at Ezra, knowing he
was cutting him to the bone, knowing the other man would back away like a
dog beaten once to often, only to come back again and again, boldly
begging to be petted.
Nathan smiled ruefully. He had to give Ezra
credit; no matter how many times he hurt the southerner with his purposely
cruel words, Ezra would always climb back into the saddle no matter how
many times he was thrown.
He sat up on the bed slowly, trying not
to upset his stomach, watching the slumbering man. Even with a day's worth
of stubble, Ezra was something to look at, especially without the usual
emotional barriers to hide behind. In his sleep he looked younger,
strangely vulnerable, although that couldn't be further from the
His mind went back to his father, realizing with
abrupt insight how much it had taken out of the old man to hide the truth
about his mother's death, how painful it must have been, how much he had
lost, suffered throughout his life because of it.
didn't want to go through the same pain, didn't want to have to keep
hiding how he felt, what he felt. He suddenly imagined waking up every
morning with Ezra by his side, imagined the heated arguments, the fierce
It felt right, so damn right.
stood on wobbling knees, walking over to the chair and crouching down
beside it. He cupped Ezra's face gently, "Ez, wake up."
green eyes fluttered open, confusion and drowsiness shining from within.
"Nathan?" he rasped softly. "Something wrong?"
Nathan found himself
smiling then, a wide, happy smile that he was certain would be forever
imprinted in his face. "Nothin' wrong, Ez. Just... It's mornin' and... I
still feel the same."
He saw understanding dawn in the green
depths, a slow, sensual smile growing to match his own. And he as rose to
capture Ezra's lips he knew they would be all right. For no matter how
different they really were, no matter how much they ended up hurting each
other, their love would always draw them together.