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A Laying on of Hands

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Bill Hickok was drunk. Not drunk enough to walk into the watch fires on the streets instead of around them--but his coat was a little singed.

He'd made it as far as halfway down the street from the No. 10 when he heard the first, "Mr. Hickok." Fucking great. All he wanted to do was get back to bed before the sun came up and all the well- and not-so-well-wishers came out.

To his relief it was not some miner clutching a dime novel in his hand or carrying in his head, but Bullock, one of the hardware men.

"Montana," he said with more warmth than he was normally capable of this early in the morning and this far into his bottle. "Little early for you, isn't it?"

"A little late, actually," he said with that small grin, as if he was just on the verge of laughing at himself. But he only ever got to the verge, not over. "Couldn't sleep, so I've been up working on the store. Decided to take a walk."

Hickok noticed the slightly rumpled shirt, but other than that Montana did not have the appearance of a man who had been up all night. Still, he was obviously wide awake, and he took the small fiction in the spirit it was intended.

Besides, he didn't need to sleep on the floor of the hallway again. Charlie and Jane never let him actually rest.

They began to walk again, for all the world like two men taking a Sunday stroll. That Montana walked well enough out of his way to not be intrusive let him ignore that he walked close enough to catch Hickok should he stumble. Fortunately, Hickok never stumbled when he was drunk. And he only occasionally fell straight on his ass.

They got to Farnum's hotel and walked quietly up the stairs. There was no one around this time of the morning; it was still too early for the true prospectors, and those who preferred to entertain themselves into the night had mostly stumbled home about an hour previous. Now was one of the few times the town was almost completely quiet. They could have been the only two people for miles.

It had an almost eerie feel to it. And a pleasant one at the same time.

"Could I interest you in a drink, Montana?" Bill asked softly as they got to the head of the stairs and headed into the room. "Charlie's gone to Yankton on business, so I'm alone at the moment."

Montana hesitated, which struck Bill as odd. Many men hesitated, some over small things, some only over large. Montana, while obviously able to take the time to think, never seemed to hesitate over much of anything, which had both its advantages and its disadvantages. One of the many reasons Bill found himself drawn to the man, like he would to a mirror.

Bill still dressed better, though.

"Sure," Montana said finally, following him into the room and taking off his hat.

Bill tossed his hat and coat onto the nearby dresser, and went straight for the whiskey in his valise. "It's not the best this side of Kentucky, but it's better than anything you're likely to find in this town," he said as he poured some shots into their glasses. When he went to sit down, gravity took him a bit harder than normal, and he found himself nearly tumbling over.

Charlie, at that point, would have made a comment about Bill having enough to drink. Charlie might have earned the right after all these years, but it didn't grate on his nerves any less. Montana, having not known him for very long, and having better sense than most men, simply sat in the room's only chair and sipped at his own drink as if nothing had happened.

Bill took a moment to study the other man. Not a bad looking man, if one tended to notice such things. Tall, straight as a board. An unnerving stare that he could imagine bringing many a man to heel that Bullock had gone after as a sheriff. The man had intensity enough to win a gunfight without ever drawing.

Bill wondered if he did everything with the same intensity.

"Mr. Hickok..." Montana began.

"I thought you were calling me Bill now?"

"Bill." There it was again, that same charming-intense-self-deprecating smile. If they could bottle it, the two men could diversify from hardware and make a fortune. "I best be getting back."

"Yeah," Bill said, barely able to keep his head up. He was so tired, and not just because of the late hour. He'd been tired for a long time.

Bill started to stand up and then fell back down. Which was when Bullock reached over by reflex to try and catch him. Which is how they ended up practically one on top of the other.

Hickok was too lonely without his wife, drawn to Bullock in a real way, and too tired to care much about consequences anymore. And that was enough. He was sure, if he needed more excuses later, he would think of something. For now he reached out and squeezed until the other man gasped.

"Bill, I don't think...." Bullock began in a ragged breath. But Bill noticed he didn't step away.

"Come on, Montana. Are you going to tell me you've never lent another a hand before?"

Bullock clutched at his arms and while the internal struggle went on behind Montana's eyes. Which matched the struggle in Bullock's trousers, though that was of a different variety.

Obviously Montana was not one to give in to temptation too easily. "Bill, you've had a bit to drink...."

Bill sighed at hearing the words, but didn't let go. He wasn't about to at this point. "Montana, do I look like a belle whose virtue you need to guard?"

And that was apparently the winning argument. Between one breath and the next, he felt someone other than himself clutching his dick. Just enough clothing was shifted to gain access; it was a cold night, and whatever reasons Bill would tell himself later, this wasn't romance.

Montana's hands were callused the way an active man's should be, the way Bill's own were, from years of having a gun in your hand, heavy on the heel and inside of the thumb. If Montana's index finger was softer than Bill's, he did not choose to notice.

There were no kisses, no murmurings of affection or anything else. But Montana did this with the same intensity that he seemed to do everything else, Bill had been right about that. And having all that intensity aimed at his cock was not entirely unwelcome.

There was nothing delicate or fragile about either of them or what they did. Their panting breaths blended in Bill's ear, and they kept perfect timing with each other, each keeping the pressure hard and even on the other's phallus.

In all it took about five minutes, then Bill saw the blessed oblivion for just a moment. "The Little Death" he'd once heard the French called it. He was beginning to believe he'd welcome whatever size was offered.

When Montana pulled back, still breathing heavy, he looked embarrassed, as if he wasn't sure what to do with his hand. Bill finally pulled out a handkerchief and handed it over.

"Don't be embarrassed, Montana," Bill said with an amused, tired tone, as he started to clean himself off with his spare kerchief. "That was one of the more pleasant ways I've been shot."

Montana smiled ruefully and started wiping his hand. When he was done, he looked unsure of what to do with the pocket square. "You can keep that for now," Bill said, still amused. You'd think the man had never taken solace from a handjob before. And if Bill's guess about the man and his partner was right, that certainly wasn't the case.

But still, Montana looked uncomfortable. And stood there, slightly more rumpled looking than when they had first met-up on the street, but looking more like someone who'd been up half the night.

It was a gift of the young, Bill decided. To be able to look both so collected and so abashed all at once.

"Thank you for seeing me home, Montana," Bill said quietly, sincerely. It was an out that they both needed.

Montana took the cue and went for his coat and hat. "I was needing to take the evening air," he lied, and left the room.

Bill closed his eyes and sighed. He decided that getting up to take his clothes the rest of the way off was too much trouble. And soon he drifted off into an unusually peaceful sleep that only whiskey and climax could supply.

***

Sol knew that Seth was trying to be quiet as he came back in. Maybe if he hadn't spent so many years sharing quarters with him, Sol wouldn't have noticed. As it was, he woke up as soon as Seth sat on the bed to take his shoes off.

"Trouble?" Sol asked, still groggy.

Seth paused, not turning to look at his partner, then went back to taking off his boots. "Not as such," he said. He stood back up to shuck his pants and shirt, still not turning around to look at Sol. "I couldn't sleep so I took a walk."

"Not a bad way to clear your head," Sol said, knowing something was on his partner's mind. But he also knew you never got anything from Seth by pushing him; that only made him want to push back harder.

Seth crawled into the bedroll and lay on his back staring up. Sol did the same, so that they both looked as if they were reading the same invisible words on the canvas at the top of the tent.

The pause did not last as long as Sol expected. "I ran into Bill Hickok tonight," Seth said quietly.

"I expect this would be about the time he'd be turning in," Sol observed neutrally, waiting for whatever revelations were about to come.

"I..." Seth stopped and swallowed. Sol became concerned. Very little made his partner nervous, but his guilt could be a monumental thing, and he couldn't imagine what Seth could have got up to with Hickok to trigger that guilt. At least not what they could have done this time of the morning that didn't involve a lot more shouting and commotion in the quiet streets.

"I had relations with him."

Sol relaxed. "Oh?"

Seth's head snapped around. "Oh? I tell you I had sex with Bill Hickok and all you can say is fucking 'Oh?'"

Sol turned to look at him serenely. "Sounds like you were the one doing the fucking."

"No, it wasn't...Goddammit!" Seth seethed as he bolted upright again. "This is funny to you?" he demanded, pinning Sol to the bed with a glare.

Seth's glares were legendary. He'd seen grown men, hardened men, nearly piss themselves when caught by that glare. Sane men stayed well away from him when he got that look. Sol merely glanced up at him and waited. He might sometimes fear for Seth, but in fifteen years, he'd never been afraid of Seth. Not of what Seth would do to him.

"It was...We just...touched each other," Seth said, blushing. That was a rare sight from a man who had seen and done all that Seth had, and Sol might have found it very endearing another time. Right now, though, he was having a little too much fun needling his partner.

"Are you in love with him?" Sol asked.

"No!" Seth asked, obviously shocked by the question. The part of Seth that knew he was being needled and the other part of Seth that wasn't thinking of anything but his guilt then made Seth do what Seth did: "Do I fucking seem like I a, in love with him? Have I sent him fucking flowers and brought him goddamn candy since we came to town?" He flopped down on his side, back to Sol, flinging the covers over him, as he continued. "Maybe I should get down on one fucking knee on Main Street and propose. What the fuck is wrong with these fucking blankets?!" he yelled, as he became more and more tangled in the bedclothes.

"You're the one who had sex with him," Sol pointed out reasonably, rolling out of the way of flailing limbs. "And you're not likely to tell me if you were sending him flowers."

Seth looked at Sol through narrowed eyes, seemingly trying to decide whether to hit his partner or not. Fortunately, and as usual, he decided not. "Bastard," he said, and smiled slightly, ruefully. He finally gave up on trying to untangle himself and merely got enough free movement to lie down on his side, facing Sol this time. "You're really not upset?" Seth asked, a touch of worry still in his voice.

Sol knew why...and didn't. They had been together for many years, lovers for most of that time, but hadn't been entirely what most romantics would term faithful to each other. Seth was married, after all, even if it was mostly in name only. But while Seth had a code of honor that was straightforward and generally easy to figure out, he was also incredibly talented at justifying things to himself, even reasons to be blind. So while part of Sol couldn't understand why Seth thought he would be upset over this and not over Seth showing up on his doorstep one day to announce his impending marriage to his brother's widow, part of him just wanted to smack Seth upside the head sometimes and ask what got into it.

Really, though, there were only a couple of things that were important. "Is it going to happen again?" he asked, serious for the first time.

Seth looked him straight in the eye (not that he ever looked at anyone differently, which is part of why he unnerved so many people but was also a good salesman: all that honesty was sometimes hard to take) and said, "No."

"Do you want it to?" Sol asked, not backing down either. If his partner's brand of honesty was unnerving to most people, Sol knew his own way went straight through Seth.

Seth didn't blink. "No," he said quietly.

Sol nodded, then pushed his partner onto his back and laid his head on his shoulder. Seth accepted this gesture, and put his arms around Sol. Sol suspected there might be a little more, though.

"Are you sure...?"

Sol looked up at him, chin resting on his hand on the other man's chest, and thought about asking, "Do you want me to be mad?" but instead said, "He's a good man. And he's worn out by life and lonely in himself. You offered him comfort at the end of his journey. That's not a sin, that's a kindness." He whispered it, serious and soft, and watched Seth relax as the words sank in. Whether he was finally accepting that Sol understood or that he was finally accepting his own reasons for doing it, Sol couldn't say. But it seemed to do the trick, and that's what he cared about.

Sol put his head back down and listened to his partner's heartbeat in the early morning dusk. Quietly, almost quietly enough that Seth could ignore it if he chose, Seth said the one thing that did bother Sol about his partner and Hickok. That bothered him more and more as he had watched the two of them. As he had watched Charlie Utter watching Hickok. "Just remember that his journey isn't yours."

The breathing under his head paused for a moment, then resumed, and Sol fell back to sleep with a callused hand softly petting his hair.