Authors: BA Tortuga
Tags: #Male/Male Erotic Romance, Western, Sci-Fi
“Me? I’m a Grounder. I was.”
Spirit walkers were treasured, kept close, but they were Diné. He’d never heard of a white man being given the honorific. Or having the talent.
“Well, at least they don’t call you white cow man.”
This time the laughter wasn’t quiet or soft; it tore from him, wild and joyful. The sound echoed, seeming to get louder, to bounce around them.
Ezrah laughed with him, the water sloshing with the movement of their bodies.
He felt better, as if he could breathe. His body felt looser, too, as if his too-tight skin was easing up, letting him move.
“Zill was right. The water helped a lot.” Ez beamed at him. “Maybe now we can get food into you, skinny man.”
“I am not skinny.” He looked at his arms and legs, floating in the water. “Maybe svelte.”
“Skinny. Tiny. All bones.”
He pursed his lips. “Before the Big Quake, that was fashionable.”
“Now it just means you starve faster.” Ez poked his ribs, super gentle.
“You are definitely more famine resistant.” He ended up floating in Ezrah’s arms, weightless and cradled. He thought he could stay there forever. Maybe he would. Ez didn’t seem to mind.
“You saying I’m fat?” Ez was chortling.
“Oh, yeah. Huge.” His perfect cowboy. Ezrah was beautiful, broad through the chest and shoulders, narrow at the waist, with a ridged, flat belly. More than one of the Diné had murmured at Ez, offering him succor, telling him he was edible. He’d heard it.
Ezrah’s eyes, though, were only for him, and every time he managed to swim back to consciousness, that warm hand on him, encouraging him to wake up. It was what kept him going, what got him through the days when his head felt as if someone had taken a blacksmith hammer to it.
“Huge.” His hip was pinched, gently. “We should get out soon.”
“I could stay here forever.”
Ezrah hummed, holding him closer. “I’m turning into a prune.”
“Will you help me?” He was still weak as a kitten.
“Of course.” They sort of floated to the edge of the pool, but Ezrah lifted him out when they got to the edge easily, wrapping him in a well-worn blanket.
He ended in Ezrah’s lap, nearly asleep, trusting in the arms around him to keep him warm, protected. That was the one constant thing in his life right now, and he wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not even that amazing water.
Zill was this huge, quiet presence. Ezrah knew dick all about the man, really, except he was a good healer. Seeing Jess was all the proof Ez needed of that. The scars looked better every day, Jesse’s color was returning, and the haunted look on Jess’ face was leaving.
At any rate, Zill usually came and left without more than a grunt or two and an instruction or four, but today, Ezrah had a question for the man. Not about Jess. So he scraped together the last of the tobacco Cookie had given him and rolled a couple of smokes, offering one to Zill before he came to check on Jess.
“Have a smoke with me?”
“I will.” Zill eased himself down to the floor with a grace that seemed near impossible for such a big man, and offered him a smile.
Blinking, Ez plopped down and handed over the tobacco, which Zill lit with an ember from the little fireplaces, which were always going in the corners. Ez lit his, too, inhaling deep before blowing it out.
“I think I might be going crazy, Zill.”
The big man frowned. “Why do you say that? Your man, he heals, yes?”
“He does. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.” Jess wasn’t the problem. His damned dreams, though, they were a mess.
“I keep talking to my brother in my dreams. No memories. He asks me about Jess.”
“That’s because you dream with him, with your
He is a Spirit Walker, they come to him, speak to him. His soul is open to them, calls their names.”
“But Jess isn’t always there.” He could believe Jesse was magical, no problem.
“No, but you are his anchor, what draws him back to this space.”
Ezrah nodded slowly, taking another drag on his cigarette. “So what about Emmett? Is that just because I miss him so much?”
“You have a bond that was forged in the womb. It goes beyond death. It’s in your bones.” Zill said everything matter of factly, whether it was ‘get the bandages’ or ‘you have a bond that goes beyond death’.
“Are-are spirits going to be coming to Jesse when he sleeps all the time.”
Zill shrugged. “Until he listens to them when he’s awake, yes.”
“He can do that?” Whoa. That was some serious shit.
“Together you can.”
Together? Them? Ezrah glanced over, finally looking Zill in the eye. “I don’t understand.”
“He can find them, but it’s the trust in you that allows him to go into their world. The dream world.” Zill spoke as if this was the most natural thing in all the world.
The silver cord. Ezrah was always the one to find it, to bring them back. How damned strange was life? “I guess I can talk to him on it.”
“I have never met a white man who was a
but he is special. A soul brother to the Diné, hmm?”
“Y’all put your mark on him years ago. I guess someone knew even then.”
Zill’s laughter echoed against the adobe walls. “There were not many people to be after the earth shook. We had to bring the tribes together, even when our people were born to the
He’d never thought of it that way. Ez knew the tribes used to be more separate, that they had banded together after the Big Quakes, but the whole idea of people like Jess being made for the tribes was something he’d never even considered before.
Maybe that explained why Jesse had always been apart. Different.
“So, how do I start him doing this awake?” Ezrah asked.
“He should breathe, relax. This body has been trained to go into places where men do not go. Does the spot hurt him? Here?” Zill pointed belong his own ear, where Jesse’s port had been.
“Sometimes, yeah. He says it’s like a hammer.”
“Like a hammer?”
Ezrah grinned, taking the last drag off his smoke. “As if someone is hitting him. He complains a lot less about it these days.”
He had no idea how long they’d been there at the pueblo. Time seemed very fluid, and the people never changed.
“You may try stroking it, gently. That is a sign for his mind, I believe. Once he goes inside, you bring him home.” Zill stubbed out the cigarette and tossed it into the fire, big hands easy as always. “I will go see him now. You are no crazier than ever, White Cow Man.”
The moniker made him chuckle, just as it always did. “He’s wandering, Zill. Exploring.”
Zill waved his hand, dismissing him. “I will find him. This place tells all our secrets.”
“Does it?” Ez did hear whispers sometimes. “Thank you, Zill.”
“Thank you, Ez-Rah. You and Jesse have brought much joy with you.”
Joy. Huh. He smiled and let Zill help him up once the man had risen. “If you find him, send him my way.”
“You have my word.” Zill left him as silently as he came.
Ezrah chuckled, shaking his head. Maybe he should go for a ride. Hell, maybe he should take a nap and talk to Emmett.
Instead he wandered, exploring. This place seemed endless, one set of mud stairs leading up to one of what must be a hundred rooms. There were smiling people, people chanting, drums beating. This place was unlike anything he’d imagined.
He found a cooking area, where a beautiful young woman pressed fry bread filled with beans into his hand. Someone was always feeding them.
“Ezrah?” Jesse’s voice seemed to come from everywhere.
“Jess?” He said it out loud, drawing a few puzzled glances.
“Ezrah, I’m hungry, Where are you?”
“I have bread.” He also had a hunk of cheese now, and some stew rich with some kind of meat. The same pretty lady had handed him a tray and pushed him off in what he assumed was Jesse’s direction.
Jesse was laughing, and Ez thought he could hear the man’s feet on the ground, heading toward him. He hoped so; that way they could have lunch. It all smelled so good. “Baby?”
“Ez!” Jesse came down the hallway, grinning. “Zill came to see me.”
“Did he? Did you get a clean bill of health?”
“He says ‘the danger has passed’.” Jesse stole a bite of cheese, smiled at him. “He says you and I have work to do.”
Ezrah’s cheeks heated because he felt oddly guilty for talking to Zill first, not Jess. “Yeah. I guess so. He says if we want to start sleeping better we have to start taking care of business in the day.”
Another piece of cheese disappeared. “Business? This is about the spirits, isn’t it? The ones who come to see us?”
“It is.” Ez motioned to a comfy blanket by the wall, strewn with pillows. They sat and shared the food. Jess ate the bread; Ez had the stew. “I mean, he says they’ll come to us whenever if we work on it, and then we can sleep at night.”
Jesse hummed, leaning over to dip a bit of bread in his stew. “Okay. Okay, I’ll try.”
Sometimes Ez wasn’t sure if Jesse’s easy acceptance was stupidity or bravery. Maybe it didn’t matter none. Maybe it was just what it needed to be.
“Do you ever see Em, Jesse?”
“All the time. He misses you so much.”
“I see him in my dreams.” He sighed. “Am I crazy? Zill says no.”
“Who cares?” When he stared, Jess shrugged. “Seriously? If you are, then I am and we’re together. You get to talk to Em. If you’re mad, what does it matter?”
“I guess you’re right.” It wasn’t as if he had to tell his momma about all this if they ever made it home.
“Of course I’m right.”
Good lord, he hadn’t heard that teasing tone in what felt like eons. Jess must be feeling so much better. “How’s the head?” he asked, because he wanted to kiss Jess very much, but he didn’t want to hurt the man.
“Better. Still tight over here.” Jesse turned his head, exposing the odd, flat circular scar where the metal had been, and Ez reached out, stroking it with his fingers. Jesse gasped, eyes rolling, showing white for a moment.
Zill had told him to touch it. As if it were physical therapy or something. “Is that bad?”
“I-It was almost like the Flow. Almost, for a second.”
“Yeah? I mean, that’s good, huh?” He stroked some more, finding a gentle rhythm.
Jesse moaned, reached for him, their fingers twining together, and he could hear a great rushing noise, a low murmuring from all around.
“Ez? Ez, stay with me. Don’t leave me here.”
“No way, baby. I didn’t leave you before when it was so bad. Why would I now?”
Jesse nodded and started talking, hard and fast, in a language Ez didn’t understand. Out of nowhere a young man appeared and started writing, copying Jesse’s words.
“Ez?” That was Jess, inside his head. “You’re here, right?”
Jesse’s mouth was still working, still spouting words.
“I’m here.” He thought the words for a change, not wanting to interrupt. Wanting to see if it would work. “It’s as if you’re speaking in tongues.”
“Yeah. A little odd. I’m like a boogety-translator.”
Having a conversation with Jess in his head while watching Jess speak in a language Ezrah didn’t know was so bizarre. He closed his eyes, stroking the port scar on Jesse’s head.
That was better. Easier. Jess was right there, with him. If he looked beyond Jesse, there were dozens of people, waiting in line, watching with their dark, dark eyes. It seemed as if Emmett was somewhere back there, acting as if he were herding cattle.
“All of them? That’s a lot for one day, brother.” Jesse was just healing. There was no way he was going to let them take Jess over.
“They’ll wait. Ain’t no time in here, Ez. I just keep the peace.” Emmett looked happy as a pig in shit.
“You always did have ambition to be a lawman.” He laughed, feeling as if they all had a purpose again. Like Jess said. Did it matter if he was a nutter?
“I did. Your job is to care for him. Don’t let no one use him. Don’t let him wear down.”
He knew that. Deep inside, he knew he was meant to be Jesse’s guard, his lifeline. He nodded at Em. “Thanks.”
Jesse leaned against him, hot, breathing hard. “My throat hurts, Ez.”
“Then we quit for the day.” He opened his eyes, easing his hand away from the port, waiting for Jess to look at him.
The words trickled off before his eyes opened, Jesse’s lips looking parched.
The girl who’d been handing out food appeared, giving him water in a hollowed out gourd. He gave Jess a nice long drink.
Jesse’s throat worked and he saw Zill, watching from a hallway. The big man nodded for him, smiled, then lumbered off.
They must have done it right. Maybe they could sleep sound tonight.
Jesse woke up from a dreamless sleep, curled in Ezrah’s arms. For weeks, they’d been working during the day, then sleeping hard. Yesterday as he’d crashed into the blankets, he’d heard Ez snarl, “No more. Not for a few days. He needs rest.”
He had, and he’d gotten it.
Now he needed to be awake and alone with Ez.
Maybe awake, alone and naked.
Ezrah had promised, hadn’t he? That there would be more touching, more real touching with bodies? Jesse knew he had.
He grinned, thinking how good it was to be in their room. Their bed. No Zill, no kid with a sheet of vellum and a pen. Just Ez. He loved the way the man’s eyelashes lay so dark against Ez’s stubbly cheek.
He reached out, touched the rough hair. So lovely. Ez’s chest had the same black hair, but softer. Then there were the heavy, black, shiny curls between Ezrah’s legs. He scooted down to explore those.
Ez made this little noise, legs falling open for him. The heavy cock lay quiet on one thigh, the balls dangling low in their sac. Oh, he’d never believed he’d get to see or touch all this again.