Peaceful silence around them, as silent as a desert at night could get. Even the crackling of the campfire sounded almost like a soft lullaby. The voices coming from the second camp not far away had died down, leaving nothing but the breathing of nature. It was late, probably close to midnight, and the other members of the gang had already gone to sleep.

Charlie felt as if his limbs were made of lead, and the only reason he was still sitting upright was that he was too tired to get his bedroll and lie down. That, and the fact that his boss was still awake.

Ben Wade was sitting next to him, not very close, but not completely on the other side of the fire either. He was wearing his trademark black gear, only his hat lay beside him, giving Charlie full view on his face. It was dusty and sweaty like his men's - they had been riding through the desert for two days, after all - but somehow it still didn't look exactly dirty, at least not to the same extent as the others'.

His face showed no weariness despite the late hour, only concentration: his eyes were lowered on the book in his hands. Charlie hadn't seen the cover, but he knew that it was no Bible - too thin for that - and it seemed to be quite captivating. Ben hadn't looked up in three hours.

Charlie had taken care of their horses when Ben had started reading, then he had sat down with him and cleaned his guns. Soon enough, however, he had found himself left with nothing to do. Ben's eyes never left his book, and Charlie didn't even consider leaving him to talk and drink with the others. Being around Ben, even if his presence was rather ignored, was still better than any other company.

And Charlie never tired of watching his boss: he would contemplate the curl his hair made at the tips, right where it tickled his tanned neck. He would watch the small lines around his eyes and mouth, how they deepened a bit when Ben smiled over something he read. He could stare, almost as if transfixed, at Ben's hands holding the book, at the almost delicate way in which his fingers turned the pages.

Ben had certainly noticed that Charlie was looking at him - it would have been impossible not to notice it - but as usual he didn't seem to mind. He didn't even acknowledge it, though Charlie liked to tell himself that Ben enjoyed feeling his gaze on him, enjoyed being admired.

Some time after the other men had gone to sleep, Ben's demeanour gradually began to change. Charlie noticed that his fingers were becoming gentler, almost caressing the paper. When two of the pages were sticking together Ben lifted his right hand to his mouth and slowly moistened one finger - his lips sucking on the fingertip just a moment longer than necessary - before he separated the pages.

Charlie swallowed silently, wishing he had simply laid down to sleep instead of sitting here for this mental torture. Of course, he liked getting some attention - and he knew without doubt that Ben was pulling this off for him - but not in such a painfully teasing way. The heat of the fire seemed to become unbearable when he saw Ben's tongue darting out for a second to lick his dry lips.

Ben continued to read as if nothing had happened - and as a matter of fact, nothing had happened - but these little movements had been enough to turn Charlie's thoughts from the serene happiness of contemplation and admiration to tormenting desire. He longed to touch those bearded cheeks, to kiss these somewhat spicy, demanding lips; wishing that Ben were caressing his body the way he was touching his book.

He knew, however, that it was hopeless - Ben was always the one to take the initiative when he wanted Charlie, and he rejected him out of principle whenever his right-hand man forgot his place and dared to claim anything uninvited. Charlie knew that by now, and he knew as well that Ben virtually never touched him - let alone more - when they were in the wilderness with the gang. It wasn't a matter of secrecy: they all knew that there was a reason Charlie never even talked to a girl when the others were whoring, a reason he spent suspiciously many nights in Ben's room, only to have a slight limp in his step on the next day. No, it was simply that Ben valued privacy - and that excluded his men hearing him moan while he was fucking his second-in-command.

Not to mention that he definitely enjoyed teasing Charlie - there was no need to know Ben Wade well to recognise that. Charlie became once again painfully aware of this when Ben suddenly reached for the first buttons of his shirt and opened them slowly, as if the heat was oppressing him just as much. He exposed hardly more than a small spot of his chest, skin that was usually covered and therefore quite fair. The little glimpse he was granted only quickened poor Charlie's breathing even more.

It had been over a week since Ben had done more to him than graze his hand fleetingly once or twice. They had either had no privacy, or Ben had decided to spend the few nights in town with a woman, leaving him alone with some whiskey and his own hand. Charlie would have given anything to touch Ben now, or only to be close enough to take in his scent.

A little flame of hope flared up in him when Ben suddenly looked up from his book, dark-blue, amused eyes boring into him.

"Something on your mind, Charlie?" he asked - friendly, half bored, half surprised, as if he had really no idea what he was doing to him.

"I … uh," Charlie's voice cracked like a boy's, and he had to clear his throat and lick his lips before he managed to answer. "Nothin' special, boss."

"You look flushed," Ben stated calmly, now closing his book. "Didn't know the heat was bothering you so much."

"It ain't," Charlie said meekly - not exactly the most eloquent answer he'd ever given, but his brain wasn't working properly anymore.

"No? What else is makin' you sweat then?" The book was put beside the hat, leaving Ben's hands free, resting in his lap now, motionless, but Charlie knew how quick they could be put to action … how devastating results they could achieve. He swallowed again, unsure how to react. He couldn't lie to Ben, never, but he didn't know how to speak the truth either - especially as Ben usually didn't like it when Charlie mentioned his desires of his own accord.

"C'mon, Charlie, I want to hear it," Ben drawled, finally lifting one hand. A wave of pleasure and anticipation ran through the younger man's whole body when the rough fingers touched his cheek, incredibly light and fleeting, hardly worth being called a caress and yet meaning so much to neglected Charlie.

"It's you, boss … Don't you … want me?" Charlie whispered hoarsely, hardly capable of formulating a coherent sentence anymore. He would do just about anything for one kiss, one minute in Ben's arms, hell, even for the permission to suck him off.

Ben smiled, and in that moment what few hopes Charlie had had for a bit of closeness tonight were shattered. It was that damn trademark Wade smile, honey-sweet, utterly charming, utterly cold, utterly meaningless. It wasn't the little smile he reserved for nights of true intimacy with Charlie. No, this smile was like a slap in the face, and Charlie lowered his gaze, his shoulders slumped, cowering like a dog beaten by its master for no reason it could comprehend.

"Those oafs are sleepin', but they ain't deaf," Ben said kindly, and Charlie almost hated this smooth, flattering voice. It was the voice Ben used with other people, and it broke Charlie each time it was addressed to him. "You want them to hear how I make you scream?"

"I wouldn't mind if the whole world heard, boss," Charlie replied, but his voice didn't sound defying, only weak, almost inaudible.

"But I do," Ben replied sharply, yet his fingers returned to Charlie's cheek, and his index glided softly over his lips. His voice and eyes became as cold as his hands were tender when he continued, "And that's what matters, ain't it? What I want."

Charlie just nodded, not even thinking about answering back. Instead he just opened his lips a bit, letting Ben slide the finger into his mouth. He sucked obediently, almost desperately, lips and tongue working the fingertip as intensely as they would have done with Ben's cock. His tongue was twirling around the finger, and every once in a while he applied his teeth, just the way Ben liked it during a blow job, as if Charlie was hoping that Ben would get aroused enough to demand more.

He couldn't help but stare into Ben's eyes, attracted by them like a moth by the flame. The sight pained him, but he couldn't look away, could only search for a hint of an emotion in them - but all he saw was amusement, the self-satisfaction of having his pet perform a particularly nice trick.

Eventually Ben withdrew his finger and shortly licked over it himself, his smile turning into an almost cruelly lascivious grin. When Charlie leant forward to get closer to him - more instinctively than purposely - Ben simply got up.

"Good night, Charlie," he said, stretching briefly. His facial expression turned into one of pure, teasing seduction when he added, "You'd better get some sleep, we have a long ride waiting for us tomorrow."