Reed '03: Another Distraction

A "Working Girls" Missing Scene

Ezra was complaining. Loudly. Fancy words tripped off his tongue in a confusing melody of irate syllables. Nothing new about that – Ezra was almost always complaining about something. This time, however, he paced back and forth in a hideous purple confection of a dress, shaking a thick black wig in his hand in counterpoint to his peevish sermon.

Stomp-stomp-stomp… shake.

Vin watched on in amusement.

A large purple feather fell from the rattled hairpiece and floated to land at the feet of JD Dunne where he stood at the bar. The young man stooped to pick up the exotic fluffy decoration, and leaned back to idly play it through his fingers.

Stomp-stomp-stomp. "Of all the days for Inez to take leave!"

Apparently, Ezra was being denied a bath in his room, and he was none too pleased.

Buck sneezed, the large feather whipped away from under his nose. One long hand batted away the intruding annoyance, the other bopped JD's bowler hat down over the young man's eyes.

Ezra gave the scuffling pair an irritated glance then went back to his stream of grievances, determinedly ignoring the jostling he received when JD staggered blindly into him.

"And how am I supposed to wash this off!" he cried, stabbing a finger at his own face, which bore the remnants of heavy makeup.

Chris smirked and supped on his whisky. Ezra fixed the gunslinger with a livid glare.

Vin could see that Larabee was really enjoying the show. Their leader's mood had improved significantly since he'd turned a shaken, clinging Mary Travis over to Nathan's care, and now he was positively amused by the gambler's obvious discomfort.

"Hell, pard. You could always use the bathhouse like the rest of us." Buck helpfully offered as he ducked to avoid a swipe of JD's flapping hands, grinning broadly when narrowed jade slits turned on him in outraged disgust.

"The-the *bathhouse*?" Ezra stammered. "Surely you cannot be serious."

"Aw, c'mon Ez," Vin said. "Ain't that bad. I'm heading over now, iffen ya want some company."

The gambler wheeled on him, one black-painted eyebrow arched, rouge lips puckered in distaste. Vin ducked his head to hide his smile. He couldn't help it. There was something positively delicious about tormenting an aggravated Ezra.

"You mean you actually bathe?" Came the southern incredulity.

Vin snorted, and figured he had walked into that one. Tipping a finger to his hat, he departed the saloon, leaving the others to tease the man in drag.


Not long into his nice soak a flurry of curses preceded Ezra's stormy entrance into the bathhouse. The gambler marched across the room, satin skirts rustling, and flung the bag he was carrying down on the bench – the far end, farthest from Vin's pile of buckskins.

"You'd think a man could cross the damned street without being subjected to catcalls and degradation."

Vin slowly surfaced from the warm water; little waves swilled gently against the sides of the tin bath.

Ezra snatched at the purple material, clawing at the folds of gathered satin. "Never," he snarled. "Never again!" His hands lifted to struggle with the high neckline, tugging and getting increasingly agitated as the dress fought valiantly against his attempts to be freed of it.

"Need a hand there, Ez?" Vin smiled and gripped the edges of the bath, starting to rise from the water to assist his friend.

Startled green eyes turned on him, wide; all the wider for the smudged black kohl around them.

"What?" Ezra squeaked, taking in Vin's slowly revealed naked torso. "No! You just stay right where you are."

The gambler turned his back on Vin, mumbling below his breath as he managed to get the upper garment loose, and pulled his arms free of the black lace sleeves. He reached behind him and made quick work of releasing the stiff corset, which he wrenched from around his body and threw viciously onto the bench. With a loud sigh, Ezra worked his arms in wide circles, stretching with obvious relief. Muscles fluidly bunched in the broad shoulders and rippled under unmarred skin, exposed to Vin's appreciative gaze.

Vin slid back into the water, humming to himself. Yup, he sure could appreciate Ezra. A slow smile settled on his lips as he tipped his head back, his hair soaking in the warm wet, growing heavy. He pushed himself back up, the water cascading from him in musically tinkling rivulets, and he rested his head over the raised back of the bath, the thin rim biting gently into his neck. Through slitted eyes, he surreptitiously watched the gambler methodically remove the layers of woman's clothing.

He also appreciated the balls it took to do what Ezra had done. There was no way anyone would get Vin in a dress; he didn't care whose life depended on it, even his own.

The well-muscled torso twisted as Ezra reached to loosen another tie on the skirts, and Vin winced in sympathy. Red marks were revealed on the man's lower back, grooved lines on his otherwise smooth skin, and what looked to be the beginnings of bruises forming on his flanks where his ribs had been pinched by the whalebone corset.

A rough, low cough covered Vin's groan that escaped parted lips as the skirts dropped from Ezra's waist to puddle in a mountain of mauve at his feet. Soft, off-white, fleece underpants fitted snugly to the gambler's thighs and ass, and Vin could make out the defined muscles underneath. Hell, Ezra may as well have been naked for all the modesty they covered. Vin wasn't going to need the extra bucket of hot water; the growing heat in his body would keep the bath steaming.

After retrieving a small parcel of cloth from his bag, Ezra stalked out of Vin's line of vision.

Jesus, Vin thought, the man even stalked gracefully.

Water sloshed loudly as the waiting buckets were poured into the next tub over. A whisper of cloth followed, and the johns flew through the air to land on the bench with the discarded dress. Vin sank quickly under the water, air bubbling as he breathed out through is nose until his breath was almost spent and resurfaced with a gasp. Calling on deep reserves of control, he refrained from turning his head; kept his eyes resolutely forward as he grasped blindly in the water for the unseen bar of soap. Hair prickled on his arms and nape, his skin fairly humming, when he heard Ezra step into the tub and settle into the water. He let out a deep breath, unaware he had been holding it, and his fingers closed around the slippery block.

Clearing his throat, he held the bar aloft and waved it. "Ya want the soap, Ezra?"

He could practically hear the man's appalled horror when, after a pause, Ezra curtly replied, "I have my own, thank you, Vin."

To have the object of his fantasies in such close proximity played havoc with the tracker's libido. Ezra was right next to him, wet and naked. So close, Vin could probably reach out and touch the rim of the bath in which the gambler lay… naked and wet. He may have learned a few things about torture from the Comanche, but this… this was a whole other suffering entirely.

Devilish whispers put extremely bad ideas in his head, ideas that really had no right being there, and drove him completely to distraction. Heat stirred in his groin, and he wondered if just reacting to carnal thoughts could condemn you to the fiery pit. Still, if you were going to sin might as well do it properly, and Ezra was sin incarnate to Vin's mind. Yup, he was facing an eternity of agonizing torment, going straight to Hell in a hand-basket.

Vin huffed to himself. As if he wasn't there already.

The scent of sandalwood was borne on the rising steam, tantalizing and warm and sultry. Vin inhaled a deep lungful of the fragrance so familiar to him, familiar as the man who wore it, and all that he associated with it sent his heart racing, blood pooling to his awakening cock, pulse thrumming through his body, his ass. All in all, it was a sudden heady rush, and Vin closed his eyes to the sensation, dizzy even sitting down.

His groin ached with the want to touch himself. His whole body was ready, on edge, needing the release and Vin knew it would only take a few strokes to reach completion, the raging heat swirling through his nether regions told him when it arrived it would be so good.

But he couldn't do it. Not with Ezra right there.

Splashes and wallowing slurps sounded as Ezra cleaned himself, cupping water to run off his body. In his imagination, Vin saw and felt it all. Senses heightened with his ardor, he made out soap being lathered in a palm, the slap and rub of hands smoothing on the thick, scented foam, more water being gathered and washed over the skin and muscle that he simply couldn't get out of his head.

Ezra's happy sighs as he slaked off the grime and makeup he had been forced to wear, the pain-filled moans that slipped into something more relaxed as the hot water did its job of easing his sore body – all went in through Vin's ears, along his jangled nerves, and straight to his crotch. All to easily, he pictured the ways he could get the same sounds out of Ezra, tasted just how satisfying it would be to have that level of control over the independent gambler.

The soap-clouded waters were cooler now, Vin's flesh pricked in goosebumps where his wet skin met the air. Although an extra bucket was waiting on the woodstove, it was out of his reach; his state of arousal grown to such that getting up was completely out of the question. He was stuck where he was, in the tepid bath water, resolved to wait for Ezra to finish and leave, or for his erection to pass. Since the persistent ache had not diminished and showed no signs of ever doing so, the former was likely to come to pass the soonest.

It seemed an impossible task for Vin, to remain still while his cock begged to be touched. Just a little touch, but it would be more than enough to break his control. He bit down on the inside of his cheek, the sharp pain cutting through the haze of his thoughts, and bunched his hands into tight fists under the water, jamming them between his thighs and the walls of the tub, determined to wait it out. A distraction – that's what he needed, a distraction to take his mind off of the temptation of his thrumming arousal, the temptation of Ezra.

So, he tried to list all the tribes he had spent time with.

Comanche, Shoshone, Apache, Navajo… C'mon, focus Tanner.

Ezra hummed; the contented sound carried easily on the humid air. The rhythmic rasp of fingers working through thick curls and massaging over scalp was a dead give-away. He was washing his hair.

Vin wondered what it would feel like to have those locks curled around and between his fingers, to card trails through the chestnut hair, to grip and use to steady while he devoured Ezra's lips… to hold immobile as he fucked that wicked mouth?

Shit. Guns. Guns are good. Winchester, Colt, Henry, Springfield, Spencer…

There came a creaking, a sliding and another disturbed sloshing of water. Vin opened his eyes and glanced over. All he could see was Ezra's knees above the rim. The man had slid down in the tub to submerge his head, and his legs were bent to create room for his body.

Legs bent, knees in the air, feet planted wide.

Oh God. Parts of guns… hammer, barrel, stock, chamber, flint, sights…

More movement sounded, and a loud raining of falling waters. Ezra was getting out of the bath.


Against his express instructions, Vin's eyes sprang open and swivelled towards the gambler again.

Sweet Jesus. Did the man have no shame?

This was Ezra – of course he had no shame. After allowing himself the indulgence of watching a beat more, he lost his nerve and pried his eyes away from the view, staring ahead once more and forcing his eyelids to lower. With Herculean effort, he schooled his features into bland passivity.

Just lyin' here, enjoying my cold bath. Just lyin' here, probably asleep, definitely not hiding a raging boner under this cloudy water…

"Mr. Tanner?"

Just lyin' here, no thoughts of how good it would be to…


"Mmmph?" He cracked one eyelid. Ezra was at the foot of the tub, towelling off his hair, looking at him with mild concern. At least he had his pants on now – the nicely tailored, black pinstripe ones that fitted so snugly over narrow hips. To Vin's dismay and delight, the boiled shirt had yet to be buttoned and gaped open from hem to collar. He let his gaze travel slowly up from Ezra's navel, enjoying how the white cotton framed the flat stomach and defined chest.

The rubbing hands stilled and the towel fell to hang loosely around Ezra's neck.

Ezra's expression of concern turned to one of apology. "Uh, you fell asleep. Considering the time of year, I think it would be most unwise to spend the evening slumbering in a cold tank of bathwater."

"Oh… yeah. Thanks, Ez."

Vin made a show of waking up without actually getting up, while Ezra returned to the bench and continued to dry off and dress, this time in his familiar get-up. The man took his time, his shirt carefully buttoned down and tucked into the narrow waist of his pants. His stylish y-backed braces were deliberately smoothed into place. Cufflinks and cravat followed, then a black waistcoat and finally the claret-red jacket. When he stooped over to pull on his fancy boots, Vin marvelled at the interior of the bathhouse, which had never been so fascinating yet now held his attention rapt – the dirt on the windowsill, the dust and watermark stains on the dull beige privacy drapes, the thick cobwebs in the top corners of the room.

"Good day, Mr. Tanner." Ezra was in the doorway, looking once again like himself. He gave a brief salute.

Vin summoned up a tight smile, and lifted one hand to wave a half- hearted salute of his own. Just go already, he pleaded.

The mauve monstrosity had been bundled into the man's bag, which wasn't large enough to hold boots, corset and dress, and swathes of purple silk escaped despite Ezra's repeated attempts to force it back down. He eventually gave in to the fact that he couldn't hide the whole thing from view, and with a frustrated sigh exited the bathhouse.

Vin watched the doorway. He was finally, blissfully, alone. A genuine smile grew on his tense features; he let his body relax and slid down in the tub a little further. One hand moved to slip under his hips, palm down against the tin bottom of the tub to cushion his lower spine against the hard, unforgiving metal. The other found its own way swiftly to his bobbing erection, wrapping around the firm flesh and pumping immediately.

His nerves were so on edge, his balls so tight and desperate for release, that it only took a couple of tugs before he was arching in the confines of the tub and shooting his load across his stomach and chest.

A strained whisper crossed his tingling lips. "Christ, Ezra…"

Drifting boneless in absolute lassitude, his hand continued to stroke his half-hard cock and a breath escaped in a shuddering sigh. When Vin eventually came back to earth, he cracked his eyes open to scan the quiet bathhouse. From the corner of the room – solid body stood in the doorframe, arms crossed, one shoulder braced against the jamb – narrow green eyes watched him.

How long had Ezra been standing there? Had he heard him whisper his name? Was he oblivious? Was he embarrassed? Was he pissed?

A finger rose to the slightly quirked lips and tapped thoughtfully. The smart black hat bobbed with Ezra's nod, the rim pinched in a brief salute as he stepped casually into the room.

"I'm afraid I forgot my soap," he said, breezing over to the far tub and retrieving the bar from the side.

Vin watched every move with unblinking eyes, following the gambler's form, every muscle in his body tense but frozen with shock. He felt extremely vulnerable, a condition he was not at all comfortable with.

There was a distinct disadvantage here: him naked in the bath with one hand around his flaccid cock, his guns and knife all the way over on the bench; Ezra fully clothed, standing at the foot of the tub, with his small but impressive arsenal neatly strapped to his body.

Vin figured he might get a couple of paces away before he was brought down with a .45 slug between his shoulder blades.

"I believe, Mr. Tanner, that some recompense should be arranged." The small bar of soap was folded in a soft cloth then carefully tucked into one of the gambler's many pockets. "It was your idea, was it not, to put me in that… that dress?"

What the holy fuck was going on? The man was chatting away like nothing had happened. Perhaps – Vin grasped – perhaps Ezra hadn't seen him.

But the conman had been right there, watching, when he'd opened his eyes. How could he not have seen? Vin was so far beyond embarrassed that answering Ezra's original question was utterly impossible. He had no voice. He couldn't even nod. Not that it made any difference to the gambler, who smiled down at him with sound knowledge of his complicity.

"I was thinking perhaps a private game, an opportunity for some kind of balance to be struck… the settling of a debt?"

Sunlight chose that moment to lance through the high windows, swathing golden ribbons through the lingering wisps of steam, and when Ezra tilted his head it caught in laughing green eyes. Vin's breath cut off in his throat, his skin heating all over again with the suggestions fairly screamed from that look. Slow, staggered comprehension caused his eyes to widen, and he knew he'd been caught when smug satisfaction flitted through Ezra's. With a positively carnal smile, the handsome gambler nodded his head and departed once more, leaving Vin to gape in his wake.

Numbing shock gave way to returning sensations and yet Vin remained a statue, waiting for his hammering heart to stop trying to escape his ribcage, to slow down to a more bearable pace. A few deep breaths helped to steady him, and he ran the whole of Ezra's offer through his mind again.

Laughing eyes. Hungry smile.

A moment longer, and he snapped into action.

Vin scrabbled out of the tepid water, stubbing a toe on the high edge of the tub in his haste to get to his clothing. Hobbled by pain and hopping on his good foot, he roughly pulled on his buckskin pants, the nap of the material catching and dragging and sticking to his wet skin. When insistent tugging didn't work, he resorted to using brute force, jumping a bit in place to help his legs force into the leather tubes, finally getting the damn things up. His satisfied sigh was choked off to a confused grunt when he realized that the fly wasn't where it should be – he'd only gone and got the fucking things on backwards.

Hands tugged down in frustration on the waistband, but the leather pants hugged the skin of his thighs tightly and refused to shift. Christ. He didn't have the patience for this shit. Every second wasted here was a second he could have been spending exploring the ins and outs of Ezra's suggestive leer…

Vin looked down on himself, to the bench and his shirt, capote and hat, and finally to the door. It really wasn't far across the street to the gambler's room; just a short dash to the steps that led to the second floor landing of the saloon.

Mouth pressed into a thin grim line, he threw his shirt on, buttoning it down as fast as his fumbling digits would allow, and roughly bunched the excess hem into his back-to-front buckskins. His braces were drawn up and over his shoulders to keep his pants aloft. The heavy capote followed, its length easily hiding the fact that he wasn't properly dressed, the belt tied off around his waist. Slouch hat pulled firmly onto his sopping wet crown, he grabbed his gun and holster, his knife and its scabbard and ties, and strode to the door.