DISCLAIMER: The following is an original work of fan fiction based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. No profit is being made - enjoy!!
Chinatown: A Gentlemanly Interlude
Eleanor Tremayne, Ezquire
"Madam... amongst my many misdeeds, taking advantage of a woman has never been one of them."
'So far,' Ezra amended privately.
"Then you... you don't want to?" Li Pong asked, shyly disappointed.
"I am a man, of course, I al-always want to... but I certainly don't - intend to. So, get up on this bed. I will sleep on the floor." Standing, he took the young woman's arm and lifted her to her feet. "I insist. Up you go. I'll be right down here... on the floor." He fought hard to keep the reluctance from his voice. "Go on. Don't worry. I'll be just fine... right here... on the floor."
'Good Lord --!' Ezra nearly prayed, watching her black eyes light up as she sat upon his bed.
"Oh, it's so soft..." she sighed, sounding like a poet's idea of a cooing dove.
Her comment made him sit up on his knees, the bedroll forgotten.
"This can't be your first feather bed?" It was a stupid question - of course it could have been. The odds were the child had never laid her pretty head on clean sheets, let alone a goose-feather bed.
"In San Francisco, my family very poor. We always sleep on the floor," she explained in her charming pidgin, making it sound like an apology.
"That where your family is now?" he asked her.
She nodded, stroking the pillow. "We were going to start a new life there, but my father became very ill. My mother, she could not take care of all of us, so I was sent to my uncle."
"Well...." There was a pain he shared in common with this waif from the other side of the world. "You must miss them terribly.
It was clear she did, but she smiled at him anyway. "But I'm glad to be here. You are a good man."
"Huh... don't be fooled by a few good manners." 'You must learn to see people as they are, my dear, not as you want - or need - them to be.'
"I know many bad men, but you are different."
"Different?" Perhaps she did see some part of the truth. "That is hard to deny." He was reminded of just how different a dozen times a day, when the men who would give their lives to save his sorry hide looked at him in utter confusion, as if he had been speaking to them in, say...Chinese.
"Do you want kiss me?" she asked shyly, her eyes bold but without the gleam of carnal knowledge.
'Yes,' he thought, shaking his head 'no'. It had been so long since a woman had looked at him like that, had offered him such complete and utter trust.
She sat up on one elbow, leaning forward and reaching for him with her free arm.
"I don't feel... how you say... obliged," she told him, her arm going around his neck and pulling him toward her. Her lips touched his; soft, waiting to be kissed... and only cads kept a lady waiting.
Her mouth was sweet and clean, opening eagerly to his demanding tongue. The skin of her face was silk under his fingertips, her body pliant as he laid her down upon his pillow. He let them both breathe, tasting her neck, his hands sliding up under the hem of her blouse.
When he felt the waistband of her pants, he realized what he was doing and sat up, snatching his hands away from their improper employment. Though he hadn't asked for her trust, he could not - would not - betray it. She blinked up at him; fear that she had failed to please him clear on her face.
"Darlin'," he began, stopping to clear his throat in an effort to keep his voice steady. Had it really been that long since he'd kissed a woman? "Have you ever been kissed before?"
She pulled a face, lowering her gaze away from meeting his. "My uncle tried to kiss me once, when I first came to the work camp... I not like it." Shy pleasure curved her body toward him, silently begging him to resume. "But I like this... I like you."
Ezra resolved that before the work party moved on, he would find Li Pong's uncle and horsewhip the bastard.
She lifted her face, its expression hopeful. "Do you like to kiss me?" she asked.
Caught between being a gentleman and being a gentleman, Ezra's shoulders sagged. "Yes, Darlin', ah do."
Her smile sent sheet lightning down his spine as she reached for him again. Sucking in a deep breath, he rose to his feet before those little fingers could pull him down to the bed and into temptation again. Before she could protest, or even really understand what was happening, he'd scooped her up in his arms, eyes watering as the expert tailoring of his trousers proved to be a double-edged sword.
The rocking chair offered him the salvation of purgatory. She curled around him as he sat down, her mouth finding his before they'd made it all the way into the seat. He broke away from her, burying his face against her neck as he fought to give his poor brain enough blood to actually work.
"I like to kiss you," she offered in a whisper, her fingertip tracing the edge of his ear with the delicacy of a butterfly.
"Have you ever... been... with anyone before?"
"I hear men and women in the camp sometimes...." He felt her cheek press itself against the crown of his head, her hands stroking his hair, his shoulders - pulling at his suspenders -! "Sometimes I try to see what they are doing...."
"Did you?" he gasped, arms tightening around her as he grabbed his forearms to keep his own hands from roaming.
"A little.... My uncle would not be happy if he find me watching his friends."
"Listen to me," Ezra said. "The first time a lady... lies... with a man, it should be her husband."
"I have no dowry," she said, running a finger under his collar and along his hairline. "No one marry me."
Ezra caught that curious little hand in his own, lifting his head to kiss each finger in turn. "I think they will," he promised her.
"But I want to kiss you," she insisted, nuzzling into the crook of neck and shoulder.
"You can do that, Darlin'," he sighed. "You can do that all you like...."
Li Pong shifted on his lap, nestling the curve of her lovely bottom even more firmly against his...
'Breathe, Ezra...' he told himself through the exquisite pain, his eyes glazing over.
"It's so quiet here," she said.
It took him a moment to process her words. "Just wait," he told her. "The saloon hasn't emptied out yet."
"On the railroad, the workers, they work all day and night. There always noise."
Yes, hell was like that, he remembered.
"That's hard work for half of what they were promised. Browner must be making a mint." He said it with contempt. It didn't take any kind of skill to con the desperate and needy. Men like Browner gave his profession a bad name.
"And my people starve," she said, resigned and angry at the same time.
Despite the distractions, Ezra's sense of professional outrage kicked his brain into gear.
"Presumably, Browner has to account for every penny the railroad gives him.... Must be doctoring the books." Li Pong stiffened in his embrace and he looked at her, troubled. "What's wrong?"
"If you had a chance to help my people, would you do it?" she asked him with a smile and a devastating wiggle.
"Well, I'm, uh... I'm not a Good Samaritan by nature, but... what do you have in mind?" he hedged.
"I used to clean Mr. Browner's office, and often he go about with his business as if I were blind to see what he was doing. I saw more than he know."
'I'll just bet you did,' he told her with silent approval, trying not to think what an asset she could be to his business endeavors if properly trained and educated.
"I think," he said, "that it is time for you to go to bed. We'll discuss it further in the mornin'."
She turned her body back toward him. "The bed is very big," she pointed out. "Maybe we share your... down... pillow?"
"I think perhaps the floor would be best," he declined, swallowing hard. She nodded, too inexperienced to be disappointed. Then she kissed him again, until he had to put her hands between his and pull away from her enthusiastic mouth.
"Darlin'," he managed to grate out through a smile that he hoped was more convincing than it felt, "will you do something for me?"
She nodded, so ready to please him that he wished he were the kind of man Nathan thought him to be.
"I want you to go to the bar, and tell the lady workin' there that Mister Standish wants a beer."
"A beer," she repeated.
"Tell her to put a head on it - do you know what that is, Darlin'?"
"Well, don't concern yourself with it. Just tell her to put a head on it."
"A beer for Mister Standish, please to put a head on it."
"Excellent. Once she gives you the beer, I need you to wait downstairs until all the white foam on top of the beer has gone away. Can you do that for me, Precious?"
"A beer for Mr. Standish, please to put a head on it, and I wait for white foam to disappear before I bring it to you," she repeated, nodding and bowing in the most enchanting way.
"That's right." He knew Chris was downstairs with Inez, waiting for the saloon to close out, so Li Pong would be safe as houses. "Now go - quick, like a rabbit."
She obeyed gracefully, squirming ten years off his life before she reached her feet. Leaning over him, she kissed him softly, then pattered out the door.
He waited a good minute before allowing himself a heart-felt moan of self-pity.
Inez looked up from pouring Seņor Larabee a whiskey with a frown as she watched a pretty little China Doll pad down the stairs of the saloon. Putting the bottle down on the table next to him, she returned to her post behind the counter.
Chris's gaze followed the little China Doll as she walked up to the bar and spoke softly to Inez, too softly for him to hear what she said. Mary had told him that a girl from the work camp had walked into town while he'd been away, stopping people on the street to ask them where 'the man with the red coat' lived.
Evidently, the girl had met Ezra while he was playing dominoes with some of the Coolies. The impression Mary'd had was that she'd been part of her uncle's stake in the game and Ezra had managed to win her without quite realizing what he was doing. He'd evidently tried to return her, but the China Doll and her Uncle felt otherwise. An object lesson for Ezra on sticking to the job at hand if there ever was one, Larabee had decided, smiling cheerfully at the girl.
His smile grew as he remembered Mary telling him she'd gotten the master key from Inez and let the China Doll into the gambler's room herself. It was the safest place she could think of for the girl, what with the situation in the town and in the work camp.
Inez gave the girl a funny look, asking, "Are you certain?" The girl nodded her head emphatically. Shrugging, Inez moved to the barrel of beer on tap to draw a mug.
Chris's eyebrows rose in surprise as he saw a thick head rise to take up half the glass and tower above it to run down its sides. The China Doll bowed her thanks as the beer was sat in front of her, then stood and stared at it.
Two minutes later, she was still staring at the slowly melting foam on top of the beer. Shoving himself out of his chair, Chris walked over to stand beside her.
"You like beer?" he asked.
"It is for Mister Standish," she told him shyly, her pride and pleasure in the errand glowing from her face.
Chris shot a glance at Inez, who rolled her eyes fondly. "She said put a head on it," the saloon manager explained.
Larabee knew for a fact that Ezra didn't like a head on his beer - unless it was beer he was selling to someone else, getting money for a whole glass while serving half.
"I can get y'a tray, if you're worried about spilling it," the gunslinger offered.
"I am to wait until all the foam disappears, then bring it."
Her desire to please Ezra was palpable and Chris grinned. This little China Doll was damned lucky. Her uncle had lost her to the one man in town Larabee - and Mary Travis -- knew without a doubt would die before he allowed anyone to take advantage of her situation and innocence. No matter how much she might want Ezra to.
"Let me help you with that," Chris said, picking up the mug and blowing off the head of foam. A few scoops with his fingers and all that remained of the foam was a thin, flat trail of white sinking into amber.
"Thank you!" she bowed, nearly skipping up the stairs. Chris watched her go, grinning. Inez just shook her head, fighting to keep the smile off her face.
The bedroom door was locked when Li Pong reached it, making her have to knock to be let in.
"Just a moment," she heard Ezra call out, his voice sounding strained. She put her ear to the door, but heard nothing but the banging of the wardrobe door as it was slammed shut.
A minute later Ezra opened the door, the fingers of his left hand tucked into his right armpit as he looked down at her with watering eyes. She held the beer up to him proudly.
He took it with a shaky right hand, stepping back to allow her into the room.
"I must speak to Miss Rocillos about the quality of the beer," Ezra muttered. "You did tell her to put a head on it, didn't you, Darlin'?"
"Oh, yes," she assured him, nodding and bowing in the most fetching way. "And I wait for the foam to go away.... It take a long time, but the nice man in black show me how to get rid of it fast."
"Did he?" Ezra drawled, eyes narrowing.
"He very nice man."
Ezra's tongue darted out to flick his upper lip. "I must remember to thank him for his kindness." Shaking himself out of dire thoughts, he looked at her sternly, crossing the room to set the beer down on his night table.
"In to bed with you, young lady," he ordered, still favoring his left hand as he lifted the quilts for her.
Slipping off her shoes, she climbed into the bed, curling up on his pillow with her hands tucked under head.
"Do you not like the beer?" she asked him.
"It's, uh - it's for my horse. Now go to sleep, Darlin'. I'll see you in the mornin'."
He'd almost made it out the door when her voice sounded plaintively in his ears. "May I... kiss you goodnight?"
Ten minutes after he'd sent the China Doll up to Ezra's room, Chris watched the gambler clatter downstairs into the saloon, sucking on the fingers of his left hand and carrying the flat beer in his right.
Ezra put the beer on the bar, glaring at Chris. The gunslinger grinned at him and the glare disappeared behind Ezra's most dangerous poker face.
'Oh, I'm gonna pay for this,' Chris chuckled to himself as Standish stalked out the door into the cold night.
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Author's Note: The Adult Tag to this little fill-in is "Chinatown: Alas, Purgatorio..." If explicit heterosexual whoopee isn't you cup of tea, please stop here. (And for those of you who do stop here, Chris 'paid for it' by nearly having a heart attack when he found out Ezra'd headed out to play Knight Errant all by his lonesome. For those who choose to carry on, well...it's a little more complicated than that.)
Chinatown: Alas, Purgatorio