Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. All rights to these characters belongs to others. This is strictly for entertainment and we will make no profit.

Rating: NC-17 (If you are under 18 or don't like m/m relationships turn back now!)

Pairing: (C/V/E)

Authors' Notes: My muse has been yelling at me to write more, so this is just a short OW angst story to keep the peace.

Awakening of Comfort

By Ladysmiths

Ezra leaned heavily against the bar as he drained his glass, immediately refilling it with the fiery amber liquid. Taking another quick sip, Ezra turned to watch the black clad man drinking straight out of the whiskey bottle at the far table. It was just passed midnight and Chris almost faded into the background of the darkened saloon.

When the two men had first entered the saloon earlier that afternoon, the place had been crowded. It had been a welcome distraction for Ezra, he always found it easier to lose himself in the bustle and noise, as well as the whiskey. On the other hand, Ezra noticed that Chris just became more sullen when he’d seen the amount of people and had stalked towards the only empty table in the corner. Knowing the gunslinger needed to be left alone, Ezra had moved to another table hoping that drinking and gambling would keep his mind from wandering back the man lying in Nathan’s clinic. Of course it hadn’t worked, Ezra really hadn’t expected it to, and Ezra had realised that all he really wanted to do was sit quietly with Chris. Figuring it would be better to wait until there were fewer people around, Ezra had given up any pretence of playing poker and headed for the bar to wait.

Now it was just the two of them, even Inez had left without even trying to get Chris or Ezra to leave. And still, Ezra was standing at the bar and Chris was sitting at his table. Ezra tried to move towards the gunslinger, however his body wouldn’t obey his thoughts. He knew that the glare Larabee was emitting wasn’t directed at him, it was just the telling point of the emotions the situation was stirring. Ezra knew exactly how Chris was feeling and would love for them to be consoling one another, but for some reason neither man seemed to be able to take comfort in anything other than the bottle.

As Ezra’s gaze took in the pain filled expression on the other man’s face, the gambler remembered the horror and rage that had distorted the handsome features when Chris had seen Vin jerk back with the force of the bullet and then crumple lifelessly into Ezra’s arms. Chris’ strangled cry as he’d turned and fired at the would be bounty hunters still echoed in Ezra’s head. And he couldn’t stop himself from wondering whether Chris’ reactions would have been the same if it had been him instead of Vin. The one thing Ezra was sure of, if he was the one lying wounded in the clinic, Vin would never have left his side and in his uncanny way would have managed to keep Chris from drinking himself into a stupor at the same time. Ezra turned back to the bar and poured himself another whiskey, he hadn’t managed to do either.

* * * * * * *

Chris had been relieved when the room had finally emptied and become quiet, he wanted concentrate on getting drunk and didn’t want anyone telling him he couldn’t. Not that anyone tried, he knew he was throwing the ‘get the hell away from me’ look at everyone and they were taking heed. To his dismay, Chris even found himself giving Ezra that same glare, but couldn’t seem to find any other expression and was afraid if he tried he’d just fall to pieces anyway.

Chris had observed the gambler discreetly throughout the afternoon and into the night, noting that every so often the poker face would slip. Knowing who was on Ezra’s mind when that happened, and feeling his heart ache even more when a flash of pain would cloud the emerald eyes, Chris’s first instinct had been rush over to the gambler and wrapping his arms tightly around the smaller man. Chris had curbed the instinct, knowing neither he nor Ezra would want to display their feelings to the whole town. However, now that he could give in to the urge, Chris found that his legs didn’t seem work.

As Chris watched Ezra take another sip, he noted that most of the colour had come back into the handsome face. After he’d killed one of the bounty hunters and wounded another, Chris had rushed over to his fallen friend. Ezra had been holding the tracker tightly to him, both arms wrapped around Vin’s chest trying to stop the flow of blood. Ezra had looked up as Chris had knelt down in front of them, his face so pale it looked to the gunslinger as though Ezra’s life were seeping out through Vin. Chris had never seen that expression on the normally controlled gambler, and couldn’t imagine Ezra looking at him that way if he’d been the one lying in his arms instead of Vin. What Chris didn’t even have to imagine was the fact that, if he was the one fighting for his life, Vin would only ever have left his side to make sure Ezra was alright. Chris took another swig from the bottle, he wasn’t at Vin’s side and he wasn’t comforting Ezra. No, he was brooding and that wasn’t helping anybody.

* * * * * * *

Vin ran his hands over Ezra’s smooth, well muscled chest as he leaned into Chris’ strong, hard body behind him. The tracker loved the feel of these two men and never seemed to get enough of their touch. Even more, he loved how close the three of them were becoming since admitting their attraction for one another a few months ago. Vin had known that Chris and Ezra would like the secluded spot he’d found the day before while on patrol. But he hadn’t realised just how much they’d like it, and was glad that they’d decided to show him.

The scene shifted slightly, and Vin was laughing at something Ezra had said as they slowly walked back to where they’d left their horses. Suddenly, a searing pain in his chest overwhelmed him, and a low groan escaped Vin’s lips.

* * * * * * *

Nathan stirred at the soft sound, and lifted himself uncomfortably from the chair he’d been sleeping in.

When Ezra and Chris had thundered into town with an unconscious Vin, the remaining four peacekeepers had been spurred into action. Josiah had helped Nathan get Vin up to the clinic, and had automatically began gathering anything he thought the healer might need. After extracting the stilted story from Chris and Ezra, both Buck and JD rode out to take care of the dead bounty hunter and make sure the others hadn’t decided to turn back and try their luck again.

After that Nathan had only seen either Chris or Ezra once. While he was trying to dig the bullet out of Vin’s chest, Nathan had looked up to check on the tracker’s fever and ask Josiah to wet another cloth, when his gaze fell on the two men standing in the doorway looking completely lost and forlorn. Nathan could do nothing more than give them what he hoped was a reassuring smile, before returning to his grisly task. The next time he looked up, both men were gone.

Nathan stretched and made his way to the bed to check on his patient. As Nathan lifted the bandage slightly so he could see the wound, Vin groaned again.

“So it was you I heard before,” Nathan whispered.

Vin’s eyes fluttered open, but couldn’t focus on anything, and fell shut once more.

“How’s he doing?” Josiah asked quietly, he’d woken at the movement in the room.

“The wound looks okay, but he’s fever’s still high,” Nathan answered as he grabbed a wet cloth and began wetting Vin’s chest and arms, hoping to cool the young man down somewhat.

“What’s happening?” Buck whispered as he and JD entered the room.

“Vin’s slowly coming too,” Nathan answered.

“You two didn’t just get back did you?” Josiah wanted to know. “It’s almost 2.00 am.”

“No,” JD shook his head and kept is voice as low as everyone else. “And we’re pretty sure the other bounty hunters have gone.”

“We thought we’d get cleaned up first, before seeing how Vin was,” Buck added.

Vin struggled to keep the pain at bay, but it didn’t seem possible as he moaned and opened his eyes, this time being able to focus on the concerned faces hovering over him.

Before Vin could speak, Josiah held a glass of water to his mouth. As he took a small sip, Vin realised just how parched his throat was. “What happened?” Vin asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“You got shot,” JD answered bluntly.

Realising who was missing, Vin tried to sit up, only to find himself pushed back down by four pairs of arms. “Chris? Ezra? They were with me...they’re not...”

“They’re fine,” Josiah reassured in a calm tone.

“We’ll go find them,” Buck stated. “So you can see for yourself.”

“Don’t wake them,” Vin rasped, wishing that breathing and talking didn’t hurt so much. He also hoped that the others would wake Ezra and Chris despite what he said. He hated that he would be taking away their much needed rest, he just needed to see them.

“They’ll want to know your awake,” Josiah said reassuringly. “We’ll be back with them in a little while.”

Vin watched as Josiah, Buck and JD headed out the door, relieved that he would feel his lovers close by him soon.

* * * * * * *

Walking into the saloon, the three men spotted Chris at a corner table, his head resting on his arms. He was the only person in the room.

“Great,” Buck muttered.

“I’ll go see if Ezra’s upstairs,” Josiah offered.

JD bent and picked the empty whiskey bottle off the floor and then grabbed the one still sitting on the table, taking them behind the bar.

“Wake up pard,” Buck spoke firmly and emphasised his words by gripping a shoulder and shaking the gunslinger.

Chris muttered incoherently and swatted half-heartedly at whatever was disturbing him, before lowering his head back down onto the table.

“Should I make some coffee, while you try to wake him?” JD asked.

“Wouldn’t do any good kid,” Buck answered. “Besides, seeing Chris like this is the last thing Vin needs.”

Josiah came back down the stairs, carrying another empty bottle.

“Don’t tell me,” Buck said.

“Yep,” Josiah answered pointing at Chris. “Ezra’s in the same state as he is.”

* * * * * * *

The three men entered the clinic quietly, and were relieved to find that Vin had his eyes closed. However, as they got closer they could see his eyes were still fluttering open occasionally, and that his body was tensed.

“He’s fighting to stay awake until Ezra and Chris get here,” Nathan answered their unspoken question. “They’ll be here soon, right?”

Buck shook his head and pulled Nathan away from Vin, “They’re both passed out drunk,” he whispered.

Vin’s body seemed to slump into the bed as he let unconsciousness overtake him.

* * * * * * *

Chris woke to the uncomfortable feeling of rough wood against his cheek. Grimacing, he lifted his head from the table and took stock of his surroundings. The saloon was completely empty, Ezra must have given up on him and left. It was also a little lighter, and Chris figured it must be close to dawn.

As he stood up, Chris vaguely thought that his head should be pounding about now, but was glad that he only had a slight headache. Hoping that Ezra had decided to go to his room above the saloon, Chris stumbled towards the stairs.

* * * * * * *

Taking in the sleeping form of the gambler, Chris shook his head noticing that Ezra hadn’t even had time to take off his boots before collapsing onto the bed.

Chris quickly removed his jacket, belt and boots, before gently removing those items from Ezra as well. Chris turned Ezra onto his side, before sliding onto the bed behind the gambler. Wrapping his arms around the body he’d come to know so well, Chris pulled the gambler to him, pressing their bodies together. Chris breathed deeply letting Ezra’s scent wash over him, taking comfort in the feel of Ezra’s warm body against his.

“I’m scared of losing Vin,” Chris whispered in Ezra’s ear as he nuzzled his face in the gambler’s neck. “And of losing you.”

Ezra turned his head and tilted his face up to Chris’, lightly brushing his lips over the gunslinger’s. “The thought of never seeing Vin again scares the hell out of me too,” Ezra admitted as he turned his whole body to face Chris. Ezra wrapped his arms around Chris’ neck and drew him into a deep, lingering kiss. “But you haven’t lost me.”

* * * * * * *

Ezra woke with his arms still around the gunslinger and his head resting on Chris’ chest, wondering where Vin was. Suddenly remembering the events of the previous day, Ezra sprung into an upright position, waking Chris in the process.

“What’s the matter?” Chris asked drowsily noting that Ezra was now off the bed and trying to get his boots on in a hurry.

“Vin,” Ezra answered.

Chris looked around the room, “He should be around here some....” Realising what he was saying, and that Vin was actually in Nathan’s clinic where he had been most of yesterday and all last night, Chris quickly took in the brightness of the room, “Damn, we must have slept the whole morning away.”

“Not surprising with the amount of alcohol we consumed last night,” Ezra stated dully, kicking himself mentally for allowing Chris and himself to wallow in self pity. “What if...”

“Don’t even finish that sentence,” Chris warned, not wanting to hear the worst until they saw it for themselves.

* * * * * * *

All eyes turned to the two men who had just burst into the room, and to Chris and Ezra’s immense relief the blue eyes staring at them from the bed unmistakably belonged to the tracker.

“Vin,” both Ezra and Chris said in unison, elation sweeping over them both when the saw that Vin was going to be alright.

Vin just turned away and took another sip of the herbal concoction Nathan was forcing him to drink.

Buck, JD and Josiah all left the room, silently making their way passed their two friends without comment.

“Don’t tire yourself out,” Nathan told Vin. “This is the first time you’ve been conscious for more than a few minutes, so I don’t want you fighting your much needed sleep.” With that Nathan placed the cup on the table next to the bed, and followed the others out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Chris and Ezra approached the bed, each taking an opposite side and assessing their lover. Vin looked tired and drawn, and his eyes shone with the still lingering fever. But he was awake, and from what Nathan had said, getting stronger.

“How are you feeling?” Chris asked.

Vin took a ragged breath, but didn’t answer the question.

“Vin, we wanted to be here when you woke,” Ezra tried. “But we...”

“Were busy getting drunk,” Vin finished for the gambler, wincing at the pain the effort of speaking caused in his chest and realising his voice was much huskier than normal.

Both Ezra and Chris flinched at the obvious pain the tracker was in, and at the words he’d uttered.

Chris ran a hand through the tangle of brown curls, “We’re so sorry Vin. But you look worn out, I promise we’ll talk about this later.”

Ezra took one of Vin’s hands and lightly caressed the fingers, “And next time you open you’re eyes, we’ll be the first two people you see.”

“Just tell me you two have come to your senses and realised that you have each other, as well as me,” Vin sighed from the exertion, but needed to hear that neither of these two stubborn sons of bitches were going to crawl back into the bottle whenever something bad happened.

As if reading Vin’s mind, as well as hearing his words, Chris bent over and lightly kissed the side of the tracker’s forehead before whispering, “Ezra’s all the comfort I need.”

Ezra smiled as he brushed his lips over the fingers we was still caressing, “And Chris is all the comfort I need.”

Both men raised their eyes, and their gazes locked for a moment, before both Chris and Ezra added, “Besides you that is.”

But they both realised that their lover had missed the last statement, as the tracker had already fallen into a peaceful sleep. So Ezra and Chris made a mental note to repeat the sentiment when Vin was actually awake.


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