Authors: BA Tortuga
Tags: #Male/Male Erotic Romance, Western, Sci-Fi
“Thanks.” He pulled his blankets over next to Jesse’s, scooting closer, his arm falling over Jesse’s hip.
Jesse hummed, the sound familiar, easy, and it soothed him down to the bones. Ezrah sighed, settling in, letting the last bit of the nightmare go.
One hand landed on his belly, moving steadily, stroking him. Oh, that felt good. Like home had felt once upon a time. Like Jess had never run from him.
Like Jess had never been driven away.
Not even the wind answered him.
That was probably a good thing. If he started hearing voices, the boys really would mutiny on him.
He just had to keep his shit together until Denver. That would be easier said than done, with Jess so close.
That hand moved again, petting him, and he looked over. Jess was asleep.
Maybe it was time for him to get back to sleep, too.
Jesse hid under his hat, sleeping on the back of the giant beast Ez had him riding. He ached, every inch of him, every bit of him, even after being on this damned horse for so many weeks he ought to be used to it, and he hadn’t been in the Flow for three days. He’d jacked in from a few good places so far, including one amazing strong Flow where Ez swore they couldn’t get him back, that they’d shaken him and smacked him and he’d been no more than a ghost.
He never got that lost.
Not even when he had to go days without input. Right?
“Wake up, Grounder.” A rock hit him in the back of his head, and he ignored it. There hadn’t been any let up in the way the drovers rode him, not a bit.
“Hey. I said wake up. Boss wants to see you up at the front of the column.”
“I heard you, fuckwad.” He spurred the horse before another rock flew. He was getting just a little growly. Maybe snarly.
“Hey, man,” Ez said when he got up there. “We’re about to hit a camp, a decent sized one. The herd can go around, but I thought you could come in with me, do some trading.”
“Sure.” If there were any Diné, he’d have luck.
“Cool. If these aren’t cattle folk, they won’t even talk to me.” Ez lit up a cigarette, face mostly hidden under his hat.
“That’s what you have me here for, hmm?” To look for trouble and deal with natives.
“That’s it.” Ez gave him a sideways look. “If we could get something good for the boys, they might ease up on you.”
“I’ll do my best.” Like that was going to happen. Those men wanted him gone. Immediately, if not sooner. They were so not happy about a Grounder being along. Like the old tales of a woman on a pirate ship. He was bad luck.
“They giving you too much trouble? I can put a stop to it.”
Yeah. He and Ez both knew how well that would work. Ez would tell the boys off, and like bullies at the one room schoolhouse, they would wait until Ez left and beat the snot out of Jesse.
“I’m fine, Ez.” A few bruises, a few scrapes. Nothing he couldn’t handle.
“Well, if you’re not, just say so. Cyrus is on your side.”
The trail boss had been good to him. Kind.
“He’s a good man. Friendly. Patient, too.” He was starting to get a headache, the pressure at the back of his skull slowly building.
“He is.” Ez watched him carefully. Too carefully. Those dark eyes didn’t miss much.
“You okay, Ez?”
“Just worried about you, man.”
He smiled, the care feeling good, down in his bones. Ez was the one who had been good to him, inviting him to the private fire every night, sharing space and even bathwater with him.
When he dreamed, he didn’t dream about the Flow. He dreamed about Ez. That scared him as much as it gave him a secret thrill.
It didn’t matter, one way or the other. He wasn’t going to touch Ez, or beg Ez to touch him, the way he wanted to. And no one else in the Flow was telling if they figured it out. Even if he called Ezrah’s name when he came.
“Wake up, Jess. You’re somewhere else.”
Of course he was. It was so much easier to be anywhere but here. He sighed, shaking it off. “Sorry.”
Ez’s eyes wore a worried expression, staring at him, and Jesse found a smile. That made Ezrah relax, so it must have worked some.
The sounds of the gathering hit his ears before the smoke from the fires found his nose. Diné, and he grinned, tickled. This would be his scene. Not Ezrah’s. Every gathering was a little different, every tribe having their peculiarities, but Diné was Diné and he was welcome with them. He wore the marks of the Isleta and the Pojoque, the ink proving him as friend, family.
Possibly the palest tribesman alive.
He headed into the camp, head up, eyes searching for a group of men wanting to trade, willing to greet him. He kept his gaze averted from the women, so as not to cause offense, not staring at anyone directly, even the men. There. A barrel-chested man with long braids walked toward him, hands loose at his sides.
Jesse kept his own hands open, fingers relaxed, and he waited patiently to be greeted.
The man dipped his head. “
.” He mimicked the gesture, offering respect.
A broad smile appeared, splitting the dark face in half. “You were at the red rocks. Where the canyon used to meet the mountains. Do you remember?”
Jesse tilted his head, trying to think. That was early on, back when he was searching for the Flow, for something to make sense of a world that seemed to hate him. Oh. Oh, dancing. Babies. The beating of the drums echoed from the rocks up into the sky.
“Yes. Yes, we danced together, to celebrate the birth of your son.” Oh, most excellent. Someone he’d met. That always made trading easier.
“We did! Have you brought tobacco?”
Shit. Oh. Ez had a tobacco pouch.
“I have. And beads and three head of cattle to trade.”
“Welcome, then, my friend! Who is this?”
“This is Ez. We were boys together. His brother has left us, gone beyond, so I am here for him.”
“Oh. I am sorry for your loss, my friend Ez. I am Niyol.”
Right. Jesse remembered now. Niyol meant wind. The man had joked it was because he passed so much of it, even as a baby.
Ez nodded to Niyol, offered the man his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Come to sit, my friends. We will eat.”
“We are honored, my friend Niyol. We have bacon to share.”
“I love bacon. Come. I know you will want to take things back to your men, but share time with us.”
Ez followed quiet as a mouse. That was adorable, the way confident Ez was suddenly out of his element.
They started chatting in Niyol’s language. His Diné was passable, even if his accent was odd. Ez, though, he obviously didn’t understand a word.
They sat, Jesse careful not to meet Niyol’s wife’s eyes, but smiling and greeting the elders who sat there. He had tiny sugar candies in his pocket for the children, offered the elders beads from his dreads.
Everyone smiled and nodded and chatted. All but Ez, who looked miserable. Deep down, where he knew it was super-petty, he kinda figured now Ez knew what it was like for a Grounder to be with a group of cowboys.
They shared food, and Jesse helped Ez with basic pleasantries, Niyol bringing out his words as well. Ez was raised right, knew how to be polite. And the stew was damned good, filled with venison and posole. Ez shared his tobacco with as many people as he could, and Jesse was proud of his generosity.
By the time the trading was done, the dancing with the tribes had started, the low thrums of the drums calling to him.
“You will stay, Bright One?” Niyol asked.
He glanced at Ez. “We’re not moving out ‘til morning, yeah?”
Ezrah’s eyes widened. “I don’t want to leave you here, man.”
“These people were the only family I had until I found the Flow, man. You want to stay and dance?” That was the only other option. If you stayed, you partied.
“I—would they let me?”
Well, look at that. Ezrah was willing to step way out of his comfort zone for Jesse.
“Of course.” He smiled at Niyol, pleased beyond belief. “Ez and I would love to dance.”
“Then you are both welcome!”
Ez was in for a whole new experience. Niyol was hauling out the pipe.
Ezrah wasn’t sure where to look. Or where not to.
He’d learned real fast not to stare at the women, although he’d only done that so as not to stare at the men, which he’d thought would be more offensive.
More to the point, he was trying hard not to stare at Jesse, who Ez was sure he’d never seen so free.
Jesse was naked, all but for a native loincloth, and his skin was painted in wild colors. The man had started dancing slowly, but as the beats sped, so did he, whirling and pounding his feet in the dust. His arms were raised to the sky, his nipples hard in the night air, and Ez couldn’t look away.
How could anyone look like that?
Jess appeared completely at home for one thing. As if nothing was odd about dancing about in his nothings. Even with the pipe smoke creating English ivy patterns in his brain, Ez couldn’t let go that much.
And he couldn’t believe how stunning his old friend looked, how these people accepted him without question. Ez was starting to think things he ought not. Oh, hell, he’d thought them years ago; he just hadn’t acted on them, and then Jess had run, and he’d never gotten the chance.
Jesse danced close to him, close enough that Ez could see the sweat beading on the man’s skin.
Ezrah had the craziest urge to lick the man.
One of Jesse’s hands was held out to him, and Jess stared at him, eyes burning bright blue in the light of the fires.
Ez took a deep breath and went there, grasping Jesse’s hand. Letting the man pull him into the circle of dancers and light.
Jesse didn’t speak to him, the man just stomped with the rhythm of the drums, showing him what to do. A few false moves later, Ez was dancing, his legs moving in time with Jesse’s. Part of him was staring, not sure what on earth he was doing.
These people were savages, thieves, murderous drunkards who had driven out the men here in the desert, reclaiming the land. Hell, some said their gods had shaken the earth to give it back. Ezrah’s daddy said the good Lord had destroyed the world to punish the wicked and return them all to holier days.
A huge part of him, though, needed a release, a minute away from the weight of his momma and the land and the loss of Emmett.
That part of him moved closer to Jess, not quite touching, but enough he could feel Jess’ heat. That part of him had him stripping off his shirt, letting his skin feel the night.
Jess nodded, moaned softly and that flat belly undulated.
Oh, God. A man could get it trouble with a sight like that. And those lean hips.
And the way the sweat slid, pooling in Jesse’s bellybutton. Ezrah licked his lips, watching a drop make its way down to the band of the loincloth. It darkened where it hit, spreading, marking the spot where Ezrah wanted to tug the fabric away.
He needed to do something. Get some water. Leave. Not think what he was thinking.
Jesse moved, danced them a little faster away from the flames, away from the light. Taking him somewhere private.
That made him bolder, allowing him to feel secure, to stay. He reached out, daring to touch Jesse’s chest.
Slick. Hot. The connection made his eyes cross, but it was Jesse’s low moan that set him on fire. Ezrah moved closer still, until their hips bumped, feeling totally out of control and utterly exhilarated.
Jesse’s body was hard, prick nudging his hip, stealing his breath. This was probably the stupidest thing he could do, but here it seemed as if it were an isolated incident. As if it were something that could stay lost in the smoke. Something just theirs.
The beat of the drum sped, the sound of the crowd getting louder, sharper, and Jesse pulled him deeper into the shadows. Ezrah followed, wanting whatever Jess would give him, would let him do.
There was a tent, dark and quiet, on the edge of the encampment, empty but for a pair of bedrolls. “Ez?”
“Are you tired, Jess?” He knew better, but he didn’t want to make a misstep at this point. Ezrah needed everything to be very clear.
“You know I’m not.”
“I know.” He stepped up so close their chests bumped. “I don’t want to fuck up.”
“So don’t.” Jesse’s eyes gleamed in the firelight. “Let’s just fuck.”
“Jesus, Jess.” No one had ever been so blunt. There had been a few guys over the years he’d jacked off with. After a cattle drive was over, blowing off steam. That was it.
A look of pain crossed Jesse’s face. “Sorry. Sorry, I thought. I. You used to want me, or at least you looked at me that way.”
“I still do want you.” Before Jess could move Ezrah grabbed him and yanked him close. “More than my next breath.”
“Oh, good.” Jesse kissed him so hard his knees buckled, as if the man needed him more than food or water.
Ezrah held on, his fingers digging in against Jesse’s shoulders. He had to stay upright. Jess didn’t falter, keeping him there. The kiss went toothy, they were both so needy. Hard. Aching. Desperate.
And Jesse was nearly bare already, all that skin waiting to be explored, tasted, touched. God forgive him, Ez started touching right back, tugging at that stupid loincloth. That was what had gotten him in this trouble to begin with. No good could come from anything that combined the words loin and cloth.
“Come on.” Jesse slipped inside the empty tent, the tiny piece of leather disappearing and offering him a look at a perfectly hard, dripping prick, that curved up like a horn, begging for attention.
Ezrah pushed into the tent right after him, reaching for that pretty cock. He’d dreamed about this a lot over the years, mourning his lost opportunity. He was almost glad for the wait, though. He was old enough and experienced enough to know what to do with all that skin now. He hoped.