Authors: BA Tortuga
Tags: #Male/Male Erotic Romance, Western, Sci-Fi
“I did. There was light everywhere.” Jesse appeared in front of him, eyes huge, the blue bright against the bloodshot white. “Oh. Oh, there you are! I’d lost you.”
Ezrah smiled, actually physically smiled for the first time in days. “Jess. You look pretty good for someone who got all burned.”
“Oh, it’s good to see a familiar face.” Jess grinned at him. “I was getting a little wigged out. I mean, I’m used to being underground, but there’s always light and people. You know, the Flow. In here, it’s so quiet.”
“Are you hiding?” He wouldn’t blame Jesse for going somewhere else, for fleeing the pain, which waited to gnaw at him.
“I didn’t think so. I thought I was lost.” Jesse took his hand. “It’s all very odd these days.”
“I know.” He held on, Jesse feeling solid and real. “I don’t usually do this like you do.”
“No. No, but I’m glad you’re here. I think my connection is—fuzzy—I only get people I used to know. My sister, Emmett, my friend Hatchet.”
“Jess.” Ezrah squeezed Jesse’s hand. “You know what we did. At the tribe gathering?”
“You loved me, took me. You touched me with your real body.”
“I did.” He took a deep breath. “I want to do it again. For real. So I need you to heal up.”
“Okay.” Jesse looked at him, eyes wide. “How?”
“Well, you have to come back with me.” That was what Zill said, right? Go find him and bring him back.
“Oh. I can do that.” Jesse laughed for him, squeezed his hand. “Let’s go.”
Right. Which way was go? Which way was a
“In the Flow, you just think about it, and it comes. I think, Emmett, and—”
Ezrah’s knees went weak as his twin walked up, rolling his eyes. “Jesse, you found him.”
“I did. Or he found me.”
“Em. You. Are you real?” Ez didn’t dare let go of Jess to reach out for Em. What if it was a trick?
“Don’t be stupid, brother.” Emmett came to him, hugged him tight, slapping his back. “You’re doing so good.”
“Am I?” God, it was good to see Emmett right there smiling at him. “I miss you so much.”
“I know. I’m here to help, though, because you two need help.” Emmett rolled his eyes again, the look so familiar and right, it hurt. “I go away, and you get Jess barbequed? Seriously, brother. You can’t eat him. He’s stringy.”
“Dude.” Jesse’s eyes lit up with that old evil blue fire, signaling the beginning of a one-upmanship party. “If he was going to eat anyone, it would have been you. Twins consumed their dead other half back in the days of the old Diné, you know.”
“Oh. Oh, now. I’m not eating his nasty ass. I slept beside Em for years. He has questionable meat.” Ez knew this game like he knew his own name.
“Eh, I probably got eaten by a coyote.”
“Or a goat.” Jesse countered.
“A goat?” Emmett looked at Jesse. “Did the fire scramble your innards? Goats eat grass.”
“And cans. And wire. And fences.” Jesse pursed his lips, looking oh so superior. “They will eat damn near anything tough and gnarly.”
Was gnarly even a word?
Ez sighed, putting his long-suffering note in there. “We all know wild pigs are way more likely.” He could see why Jess wanted to stay here, but Zill had said to get back. “Em? Help?”
Emmett nodded, then looked at Jesse, so seriously. “You remember the first time you were in the Flow, how you had to find your way back.”
“Yeah.” Jesse got a bittersweet look on his face. “The first time, it’s so big, so pretty, and you’re not just this crazy weird guy no one needs around. You can be anything, and it sucks so hard, to know you have to go back in that body.”
“Right, it’s like that here.”
“No, it’s not. It’s dark here, quiet. Like a cave.”
“But you have to go back to your body, even if it hurts, even if the Flow is gone. You can’t stay here.”
“What do you mean?” Jesse reached up to stroke the port behind his ear, crying out, fingers coming away wet. “It’s gone.”
“It is.” Ez frowned. “The shakes took it, and the shaman got it out. It almost fried your ass.”
“But,” Jesse looked at him, horrified. “I’m no good to you now. Oh, Emmett, you should have traded with me when you could. I’m no good to anyone like this.”
“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say.” Ezrah glanced at Em, who winked at him and urged him on. “And you said a lot of stupid shit when we was kids.”
“Oh, yeah. Remember when he tried to convince us eating green apples would make us fly?” Emmett snorted. “Or when he said you could dip your hand in whiskey and light it up, and it wouldn’t hurt?”
“God, yes. Just like he told us if he got on a calf backwards and held onto the tail it couldn’t buck him off.”
“It’s not my fault you two suck at riding bulls.” Jesse was still staring. “I-I don’t know if I can go back out there, without the Flow, without knowing things. It’s what I do. Otherwise I’m just…” He sighed. “I don’t even know. I think I’m gonna take a walk for a bit.”
Jesse was getting clear about the edges, like one of them old pictures from way back when, the ones you could damn near see through where they’d worn.
Good thing Ezrah still held his hand. “No. You promised.”
“I ain’t got no body to go back to, Jess. You can’t leave him. He ain’t meant to be by himself.” Emmett crossed his arms and took the stubborn stance. Momma had always called it that.
Ez looked at Jesse, at the sparkle around his lover’s edges, and he simply pulled Jesse in to a fierce kiss. He wasn’t leaving, damn it, and he had given Jesse something no one ever had. Reality. Love. Need.
Jesse was his. That was that.
Jesse gasped for him, lips parted, those blue eyes as bright as a summer sky. They kissed hard and long, clinging to each other, the air thrumming with energy around them. Ez forgot about Emmett, about where they were, what they were doing. He had his Jess.
They broke to stare at each other, both of them a little stunned, he thought. He touched Jesse’s cheek. “You belong with me.”
“Uh-huh.” Jesse leaned into his touch, cheek solid, warm.
“Are you ready to go back?” He smiled. “I ain’t worth much without a herd to take to market, but I reckon we’ll figure it.”
“We just follow the silver cord. It’ll take us back.”
“Silver cord?” Had there been one of those? He held Jesse to him and looked around.
There it was, huge and fat and glowing on the ground, pulsing as if it were alive. Odd. It had been all dark when he’d found Jess. “Em?”
No one answered that. Emmett was gone again.
It hurt less this time, and he had to get Jesse out. He waved, believing Em was there, somewhere, seeing him. Ezrah was starting to believe in spirits. In magic.
“Follow the silver, huh?”
“That’s the secret, Ez. Hold my hand?”
Yeah, this trip was scary for his lover. There was pain on the other end. A whole new world, too, which might be even more frightening. He tugged Jesse close, holding on tight. “I got you, baby.”
“Then I’ll come with. After all, you asked for me, and I came.”
That was good enough for him. They followed that crazy thread together, holding hands, and Ezrah sure prayed his hope was going to be rewarded. Hope could be a damned terrible thing sometimes.
Sometimes that was all you had.
He felt the drums, thrumming in his aching head, beating through his muscles, and they ached, so deep.
“I’m going to get you in the water, Jess.”
Water? What water? He frowned, his face feeling too tight.
Ez chuckled softly. “Don’t look so confused. You need to be clean, and we need to soak the bandages off. At some point you have to open your eyes, you know.”
He tried to shake his head, but madness crouched there, all fangs and claws. Moving could be bad as all get out, whatever all get out was. Opening his eyes meant bright, blinding light.
“Can you at least say my name?”
“Ez.” He knew that, like he knew his heartbeat. “Inside me.”
Ezrah was inside him. He didn’t have to open his eyes to know that, but Ezrah wanted him to. Maybe he could try.
He cracked his eyes, peeking, looking for his Ez.
“Oh, there he is.” Ez looked so pleased, all smiles. Maybe it was worth opening his eyes to see that, especially since nothing was burning his eyes. “I miss your face when you won’t look at me.”
Ez nodded. “A pool. Can you believe it, Jess? A pool to wash in. This place is amazing.”
Place? He dared to look around. Inside. They were inside. Somewhere cool. Except the pool was warm, or something. Maybe a spring? Minerally.
Ez eased him in the water, and he gasped, flailing a bit until Ezrah’s hands didn’t leave him, didn’t let him sink too far. Oh. Okay. Yes. That actually felt good. Soothing. The water felt thick, and little bubbles started to form on his bandages.
“Look at that.” Ez chuckled. “You holler if you can’t bear it. Zill says this is healthy for you and, so far, he’s doing pretty good by you.”
Zill? That was a great name. Like a Flow name. He liked it. Jess frowned. Were his tattoos all fucked up?
“They’re right there, where they were before. Your port thing, though, it’s gone.”
He remembered that. Emmett had told him that. Emmett had visited a lot when he was asleep, told him all sorts of stuff Ezrah didn’t. He didn’t hide any of it from Ez, but then, Ezrah didn’t ask a lot about the folks who visited in his dreams. The man just took care of Jess.
Not only that, but Ez was there. Inside.
Jesse knew it.
Ez was inside him, and they had been lost within…something. It had bonded them together as nothing else, not even all those crazy scrapes they’d gotten into during their childhood.
“You’re smiling. What’s funny, Jess? Tell me.”
“Thinking about when we climbed down the well on your folks’ ranch. It was wet.”
It hadn’t been warm, though. Or as snake-free.
“Oh, God. That was scary as hell.” Ez chuckled. “We tried so hard to be brave.”
“We did.” They had been young, silly. Stupid.
This was so much better. The water soothed him, eased the pain enough that he could relax a little, his muscles unclenching one by one. The release almost made him cry.
Ez pulled the bandages away, and Jesse watched those dark eyes, searching for a hint of disgust, of worry. “Is it bad?”
“It’s way better than it was,” Ezrah murmured.
Heck, Ez looked happy, not worried. Pleased. That meant good things, right?
He reached for his face, curious to touch, to feel for himself what the damage was, but Ez grabbed his fingers.
“No touching. It needs to heal. Let the water heal it.”
“You suck.” The accusation held no heat. Ezrah was too damned good to him. Made him feel oddly guilty.
“Not right now. Give it a month or so, and I am right there.” Those sloe-eyes twinkled with some very naughty thoughts.
Jesse could almost hear them.
“Ez!” Oh, how he loved that, that Ezrah felt as if he could tease, play with him. He’d left all those years ago never having talked about what he felt for Ez, or about what they might do together. After their one night with the Diné, he never thought they’d mention it again. This side of Ezrah was a surprise and delight.
“What? In case you need incentive.”
He laughed, and it didn’t hurt as badly as he thought it would. In fact, it felt good. He moved his fingers, wiggled them and his toes too. They both worked.
“See? Not as bad as you feared.” Chipper. That was the only word for Ezrah’s tone. His chipper cowboy.
“They must have fed you beans.”
“Butthead.” Ezrah held him up, but used one hand to start easing off bandages. “At least you can’t smell it like you could with Em.”
“True. True.” He met Ez’s eyes again. “You did see him, didn’t you? You saw him, hugged him.”
Jesse needed to believe, needed to know Ez believed.
Ezrah paused, clearly choosing his words carefully. “I did. He was there when we needed him. I’m not sure how, but I know he was. He always did love you best.” That last came with a silly grin.
“No. No, he loves you more than life.” Because Jesse had offered his, and Em turned him down.
“Well, I love you both. If I get to see him once in a while, even if just when we have a need, then I’m happy.” Ezrah stroked Jesse’s belly, the touch light as feathers or dust.
Jesse smiled, glad the water hid the tears that escaped his eyes. He wasn’t sad, or hurting, but there was so much inside him, it seeped out.
“Zill says tears make the water more potent.”
Jesse chuckled. Yeah, that sounded as if something a shaman would say. He thought Ez said Zill was one of those. Lord, those cowboys of Ezrah’s thought Jess was weird. Obviously they hadn’t spent time with the Diné and their magic men.
“When will we go? Will we go meet Cyrus?” He liked Cyrus, the man was kind to him, good with the livestock. Livestock. “Did you bring your horse?”
He couldn’t imagine Ez without his horse.
“Bonny. The big chestnut mare. Since you started to heal I’ve been out with her a couple of times. Queenie came with us, too. She pulled your travois. They have amazing mustangs in their herd, here.” Ez turned him a little. “They have goats, too. I don’t like goats.”
“You’re unreasonable. Goats give milk. Milk makes cheese. I like cheese.” He stopped, groaned as another sore spot eased up. “I didn’t really think a goat would eat Emmett.”
“I know. I’m telling you, it was a wild pig.”
Ezrah was just in the best mood. Ever. Or at least since they’d come together as adults.
“You know I’ll never be able to eat roast boar again without worrying about eating Em.”
“Good thing these people are way more corn, squash, beans and cabrito kind of folks.” More bandages fell away under Ez’s gentle hands. “Your skin looks pretty good, baby.”
“Yeah? Not scary? I scare everyone enough.”
“Oh, the folks here aren’t scared. They’re tickled to have us. Especially you.” The motion of Ezrah’s hand pushing the water over him became hypnotic. “They call you a spirit walker.”