Disclaimer: I don't own the characters portrayed in this story, MUCH to my chagrin. Nor am I associated with MGM, Trilogy, or CBS. Again, MUCH to my chagrin. Anyway, I am not making any money on this.

Rating: NC-17 Pairing: m/m (E/JD)

Author's Notes/Warnings: Slightly graphic, but I promise no one dies. This story was written in response to a challenge issued to me. Muchos Gracious to Katie who beta read this for me. Any errors you find were mine...and likely because I overlooked something she pointed out. This is my virst venture into this particular genre. Feedback is welcome.

Into the Darkness
by Ezra's Cat

Ezra leaned back in the chair, his feet propped on the post. He surveyed the streets of Four Corners while idly shuffling his cards. The day was passing slowly, and the heat was intense. He'd long since given up wearing his jacket, and it hung off of the back of the chair. His hat rested on one boot.

Ezra sighed. What he wanted was to be in the saloon, earning a downpayment on his future. But duty forced him to sit in this chair and watch nothing happen. Eventually, he knew that JD would show up to relieve him. No doubt the boy would show up well before the time he should.

Ezra laughed sardonically, thinking about JD. "Ah, the enthusiasm of youth." He knew that Buck was likely working off some of this heat wrapped in the arms of one of the charming young women of the town. Last he saw, Vin was heading out of town. Chris had been with him. He shook his head. They'd probably be back before nightfall.

Nathan was up in his room, avoiding Ezra. Actually, Ezra was rather glad for that. Otherwise he would have been avoiding Nathan. Ever since that argument they had had last week over a card game, Ezra had been averse to spending time alone with the healer.

Ezra cut the cards and folded one over his thumb. He looked at it..it was the Jack of Hearts. Then he flipped it back and put it in the middle of the deck.

It was going to be a long shift.

Eventually JD showed up. Ezra smiled, stood up, donned his jacket then his hat, and said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Dunne."

JD flushed. "Hey Ezra. You seen Casey today?"

"The lady in question has not graced the streets as of yet."

JD looked at Ezra a moment. "Thanks." Then he walked off. Ezra took his pocketwatch out and checked the time. He still had two hours before JD was supposed to relieve him. Ezra went inside the office and sat at the desk. He opened a drawer and pulled out one of the dime novels that JD was always reading. Had it come to this? he thought.

He was actually embroiled in the novel when the door slammed open. Mrs. Jenkins came running into the office, nearly in tears.

Ezra stood up and put on his best conciliatory smile. He went to her. "Mrs. Jenkins. Something wrong?" He knew it was a stupid question, yet it was the quickest way for him to get her to tell him what had happened.

"It's Chrissy...she's missing," Mrs. Jenkins sobbed.

Ezra put a hand on each of her shoulders. "Calm down, ma'am. She'll be just fine. Now. Tell me where exactly you saw her last."

He listened intently as she described the nearby limestone caverns. He was familiar with them. They were unstable, and there were a lot of them. If the little girl meandered too far into one, she could easily become hurt. Some were so small that there was no way any of the men, himself and JD included, would be able to get into them. However, Ezra did not let any of this show on his face. It would only frighten her, and accomplish nothing at the same time.

"You go on home now, Mrs Jenkins. In case Chrissy comes back. I'll round up the others, and we'll find her. Don't you worry, I am quite certain she is perfectly fine." He smiled at her to emphasize his words.

She nodded at him and left. Ezra left the office and saw JD coming up the street with Casey at his side. "Mr. Dunne, we need to effect a rescue of a small child who has become lost in the maze of caverns. Be so kind as to notify Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sanchez of the situation while I disturb Mr. Wilmington."

JD looked at him blankly. Ezra elaborated. "Get Nathan and Josiah. We have a girl to rescue."

"Oh, right, Ezra!" JD said, then he took off. Ezra headed to the boarding house. He knew Buck was there; it was just a matter of locating him. Ezra walked down the hallway, listening at various doors.

"Oh Darlin', oh ... oh .... oh...Darlin!" "Buckie!"

Ezra smiled as he pounded on the door.

"Go away!" a voice sounded.

"I'm afraid I cannot do that, Mr. Wilmington; your services are required elsewhere." Ezra was the cold voice of reason.

"Dammit, can't a man have just a little fun?" Buck whined from the other side of the door.

"Apparently not." Ezra stifled a smile at Buck's obvious discomfiture. He heard the man stumbling around and recognized the sound of him gathering clothes.

The door opened a few moments later. Buck had his gunbelt slung over his shoulder and was buttoning up his pants. Ezra rolled his eyes. The man had no shame.

"What's so all-fired important that it can't wait?" Buck growled.

"A child has wandered into the limestone caverns, Mr. Wilmington. And our assistance to locate said child has been requested. I am quite certain that the young," Ezra paused knowingly, "lady from whose presence I have taken you will be more than willing to accomodate you in the future."

Buck sobered and nodded. "Let's go."

The two men joined JD, Nathan, and Josiah at the livery and immediately rode out. It didn't take them too long to get to the caverns, but choosing a starting place was a daunting task. It was difficult to determine which cave would be tempting to a child. Ezra and JD went to the right, and Buck went with Nathan and Josiah to the left.

"Meet back here in two hours," Nathan suggested as they separated. The men nodded and split up.

Ezra wrapped a piece of whiskey-soaked cloth around a stick and struck a match, lighting the makeshift torch. He entered the cave right behind JD. It was damp, and dark, and cold. Ezra shuddered.

"Not exactly an ideal climate, is it, Mr. Dunne?"

"Not really. It's kinda chilly in here, Ezra. I hope we find that girl soon."

Ezra nodded took the lead. "Chrissy!" he called out. JD cupped his hands around his mouth and called out for the girl. They walked deep into the cavern. It became more dank as they walked; the air grew thick with moistness as the cave around them shrank. A small, soft sob could be heard.

The men looked at one another and moved more quickly. A little girl sat huddled by a rock. "Chrissy? Your momma's lookin for ya...she sent us to find you." JD spoke softly and the little girl rewarded him with a smile.

JD picked the girl up and nodded to Ezra. They moved to leave. It had been a while since they came in, probably longer than an hour, so they would be late back to the rendezvous. The makeshift torch flickered once then went out, throwing them into complete darkness. Chrissy screamed loudly, startling JD, who tripped on something and fell, trying to shield the child as he pitched forward.

"Ouch!" JD yelped. Chrissy continued to wail. Ezra moved toward the child and took her in his arms.

"Shhhh, child," he said softly, brushing her hair back with his fingers. "Mr. Dunne, how are you doing?"

JD stood up. "Ahhh" he hissed. "I think I twisted my ankle pretty badly, Ezra. But I'll be okay."

The cavern started to rumble, warning them that a cave-in could occur at any time. The histrionics of the child were not helping. They had to get out of there and quickly. The cavern was not stable.

"I shall take Chrissy out of the cave. You hobble behind us, and I'll return to assist you. Is that amenable?" Ezra's voice held an urgency that was not lost on JD.

JD grunted. "You go on. I'll be right behind you."

Ezra took off with Chrissy. He moved as quickly as possible towards the entrance, not taking time to relight the torch he still carried. A few rocks fell sporadically as he passed by, but he wasn't hit by any. However, he knew that he had to get back and get JD out before the imminent cave in occurred. When he could see the light from the entrance he put the little girl down. "You see that there, Chrissy?"

She nodded, so he continued. "You go out there. There will be a couple of horses. Go to the horses and wait. Someone will take you home to your mother shortly." The little girl looked at him uncertainly, and he smiled at her and turned her around, giving her a gentle shove in the direction of the opening. He watched to see that she was well on her way out before turning around and going back to help JD.

"Mr. Dunne!" he called out, hoping that JD had gotten most of the way out. His call was rewarded with a few scattered rocks falling towards him. He stopped a moment and wrapped another cloth around the stick, lighting it. Then he ran forward, looking for JD.

He found the young sheriff not far from where he had left him, by his calculations. JD was leaning heavily on the walls for support, and Ezra quickly moved over to him and positioned himself so that he was supporting JD.

"We have to get out of here now," Ezra insisted.

"You ain't gettin an argument from me," JD commented.

Ezra tried to move more quickly, but JD's injury really was hampering the movement. He was trying to keep up and not complain. Ezra respected that. Neither man said a word as they hustled through the cave. Behind them, a large crash sounded. Ezra stopped and turned around. The way behind them had just been sealed off by an large wall of rocks. But the trouble wasn't over. "Geesh!" JD exclaimed. Ezra nodded in agreement. Without another thought, he dropped the torch and picked the younger man up and tossed him over his shoulder. They didn't have the time to go at the pace they were going.

Ezra followed the path and practically ran into another wall of rocks. He put JD down.

"Something wrong, Ezra?" JD inquired.

"I hope that I've made a miscalculation in our exit. Because if not, Mr. Dunne, we are trapped."

JD had no response for that. Ezra felt around the walls, looking for an escape. "Why don't you just light a fire?"

"Because, JD," Ezra said, dropping his formal manner, "if indeed, as I suspect, we are trapped, we have a limited supply of air. Besides, I don't have anything to light."

JD didn't say anything further for a moment.

"I'll return presently. I wish to investigate the possibility of an alternate exit."

"Um...Ezra? Shouldn't we stick together....in case there is another cave-in?"

Ezra considered his statement. "Ordinarily, I'd say yes. However, I cannot find another way out when I am encumbered by your weight...and you certainly cannot walk on that ankle."

Ezra started to leave JD when the cave once again started to shake. Not sure where the rocks would fall, Ezra threw himself against the younger man to shield him from any debris. When the dust settled, they were left with a small space about six feet in width. All they could do was hope that the cavern was done throwing rocks at them....and that the others would find them soon.

Hours passed. They could not see anything. The only sounds were their breathing. JD had taken off his boot. No words were spoken between the men. They were biding their time, waiting for help to come.

But they had heard no sounds from beyond the rocks...and they knew how unstable the cavern was.

Ezra drawled laconically, "At least there is one good thing to come of this."

JD asked, "What's that, Ezra?"

Ezra let out a soft whisper of a laugh. "Just think of the money they shall save on our funerary expenses. We've already been buried."

He could feel that JD was looking at him. "I can't die, Ezra." The young man's voice was tense.

"Let's face it, Mr. Dunne. There is a limited supply of air in this cavern. It is getting colder and colder. Should a rescue not be effected shortly, die you will."

"Ezra, stop talking like that."

The cavern became quiet again. After an unbearably long and painful silence, JD whispered, "Ezra, I don't want to die a virgin."

There was a long uncomfortable silence between the men. Ezra leaned against the wall of the cavern. He felt JD lean against the wall near him. Ezra stared into the darkness in front of him. He could tell when JD's breathing became measured that the younger man had fallen asleep.

He, however, could not sleep. The air was cold. Ezra scooted nearer to JD, figuring they both could use the warmth. JD leaned against his shoulder. Ezra eventually drifted to sleep. When he awakened, he wasn't sure how much time had passed. He was lying on his side; JD was lying against him. His arms were wrapped around the younger man. JD whimpered in his sleep. Ezra brushed his hands over the younger man's hair. At least one of them should get a final night's sleep.

He did not believe for one moment that they would be rescued. Ezra shook his head. 'This is how it ends,' he thought. 'Dying for an act of selflessness: Mother will be appalled.'

JD stirred. "Ezra?" he asked, softly.

"Yes, Mr. Dunne."

"We're going to die, aren't we?"

Ezra nodded. JD couldn't see it, he knew that much. He held the younger man closer to him, unsure suddenly if it was for warmth or for comfort. It didn't much matter which it was. He did feel better by JD's presence.

An unspoken thought seemed to pass between them. Ezra was uncertain in it, nearly as uncertain as JD seemed to be. The men shifted in their positions. JD lay on his back. Ezra leaned over him a moment. He thought back to JD's earlier comment: "I don't want to die a virgin." He stroked JD's cheek, lightly, then bent down and kissed him.

At first, the kiss was hesitant. They were testing each other...testing to see if either would back off or stop what was started. They both knew where it was going. Ezra ran his tongue lightly over JD's lips. After a moment, the younger man opened his mouth to Ezra's probing tongue. The kiss was deep, intense, a prelude. As Ezra kissed him, he began to slowly unbutton JD's shirt. JD tentatively reached up and began to unbutton Ezra's vest. Slowly, they removed each others' jackets and shirts, until their flesh was exposed to one another's touch.

Ezra slowly ran his hands over JD's chest, exploring him. JD lay back and allowed this intimate caress to consume him for the time. Ezra was surprised at the smoothness of the young man's skin. He bent down and slowly licked JD's chest. He heard a sharp intake of breath as he began. His lips first caressed JD's collar, then he worked his way until he was kissing the younger man's nipples. He lightly nipped at one. JD grabbed his hair and held him closer to his chest. Maude's voice sounded in Ezra's head. 'Appearances are everything, son.' And he momentarily paused.

Then JD ran his fingers over Ezra's back, raking them slightly and sending chills down the older man's spine. Suddenly, Ezra was on fire. He ran his hands over JD's waist and nervously began working on the belt of his trousers. He trailed hot kisses over JD's chest, moving downward. JD lifted Ezra's head and bent toward him. Ezra shifted his position again and captured JD's mouth in his own. He felt the man exploring his chest; the sensation was intense.

JD's fingers were all over Ezra. Ezra deftly unbuckled the belt on JD's trousers and began to unbutton the pants. He rubbed his hand lightly over JD's member and heard the younger man gasp out. He wasn't sure if it was in shock or in pleasure. He stopped. But then he felt a hand on his own. JD was encouraging him to continue, and took initiative on his own, grasping Ezra's mouth and covering it with his own. He felt the younger man's fingers working on his own clothing. When the last button was undone, and the zippers released, JD eased Ezra's trousers over his hips.

Ezra raised himself to his knees and drew JD up with him, until they were standing in front of one another. Ezra cupped his hands around JD's face and slowly, meticulously explored his mouth. It was a delicious sensation. He no longer cared what anyone would think. He was going to die...JD was going to die. What did it matter if they took a last moment's comfort within one another? The kiss became a frenzy, and Ezra didn't really notice when he had started thinking in terms of actually desiring JD. He lowered JD's trousers to the floor, taking them down as he kissed a trail from JD's mouth to his chest, until Ezra was kneeling in front of JD.

First he lightly kissed the inside of JD's thigh...first the right, then the left. He licked upward, and then lightly blew on the wettened path. Ezra lightly stroked JD right above his member and began to trail his fingers in a featherlight touch over him. JD whimpered lightly at his touch. Ezra could sense the tightening in him. He began to apply more pressure to JD's now expanding manhood...the younger man was moaning and leaning into Ezra's touch.

Ezra rubbed the head teasingly, in a soft, circular fashion. He licked the underside of JD's member in a light manner...blowing on the trail he had left. Finally, he began to suck and nip slightly at him before wrapping his lips around JD's thickening manhood. "Oh, God, Ezra...don't stop," JD whispered. Ezra could feel a quick throb and pulled away as JD climaxed. He kissed the younger man lightly at first and held him for moments while he recovered his strength.

He was stunned when JD reached for him and kissed him. This time, JD took the lead, bringing Ezra's face to his own and drinking deeply of him. He could feel a near frenzy in the younger man as JD explored Ezra's chest with his mouth. JD's hands explored him, stroking him and teasing him to firmness, then torturing him by trailing his fingers over the inside of his thighs. Ezra's breaths were ragged with the sweet torture. He wanted the release...it was torturing him. Either JD was not as innocent as Ezra had been led to believe, or he had no idea how much he was driving Ezra to distraction. Ezra groaned deep in the back of his throat. JD lay beside him, stroking him, and kissing him deeply. JD's hands were incredible...the intense pressure, stroking downward in a strong yet gentle motion, was bringing him to a state of arousal he had not felt in so long. JD continued and began a rhythmic motion which brought Ezra to a peak of pleasure. He moaned deeply as release came.

They lay together for several moments, caressing one another. But the heat of the passion was over. The men quietly dressed, but stil felt the overwhelming need for closeness.

The air was thinning; both of them could feel it. They didn't say anything about it, nor did they talk about the intimate moments they had just shared. Ezra leaned against the wall; JD leaned against him. Ezra felt comforted by JD's presence, even as he resigned himself to death. He wrapped his arms around the younger man and they both fell asleep.

It seemed like hours had passed, but the men were awakened by the sharp and distinct sound of Chris Larabee's voice. "Ezra! JD! You in there?"

"Chris!" JD returned.

"You boys all right?" Chris called.

"Quite fine, Mr. Larabee, I assure you," Ezra stated.

"We'll have you out of there in a few minutes. Just hold on."

Ezra was shocked. He had resigned himself to death. Ezra stood up, and assisted JD to his feet. Supporting the younger man, he whispered, "This never happened."

Light was now coming through a crack in the rock wall. Fresh air was getting to them. He saw a flicker of hurt cross JD's face as he said the words. "Come now, Mr. Dunne. You have Casey, and I know you love the young lady. It's best you forget about this."

JD nodded, his face devoid of emotion. It was a poker face Ezra almost admired.

A path opened up before them and JD and Ezra stumbled out of the darkness into the light. Chris and Buck shuffled them quickly out of the cave, where Nathan pressed cups of water into their hands. Ezra was suprised at how weak he felt. And also the loss that he felt awash him. No, he would never deceive himself by believing that that there was ever to be something between himself and JD. He didn't feel anything for him...but he would miss the closeness that they had felt for those brief hours. Closeness was something he was not used to feeling for anyone. Closeness, intimacy, was dangerous.

Ezra watched as Nathan looked at JD's ankle. He walked over to Buck. "How is Chrissy?"

Buck smiled at him. "Oh, that little gal's been with her ma for near two days. We were right worried about you and JD. Glad to finally have found you."

"I assure you, Mr. Wilmington, the feeling is quite mutual."

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