The Changes That Come
(The Changing AU)

by Lokemele

Pairings: J/E; JD/B; C/V; N/R; E/Other
Disclaimer: Magnificent Seven characters are copyright MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment. The ATF AU, and the ATF versions of the seven, were created by Maria Mogavero (ATF Casefiles). Other original ATF AU characters were created by Winter and Derry. X-Files characters are copyright Chris Carter, 20th Century Fox, and Ten Thirteen Productions. The Changing AU and its original characters were created by Nicole. (Want to read it? Go to: The Changing AU) I personally recommend it: I may leave out details of that universe [I'll try not to], but you can figure out what's going on from her.) Characters original to this story are mine. Please don't use them without giving me credit. Thanks to Mog and Nicole for letting me play in their universes.
Warnings: Violence, Sexual situations, Nudity, Rape, Graphic violence
Note: Slash with a dash of het.
As you already know, this is a Mag7 ATF/X-Files/AU crossover. Most of it will run concurrently with Nicole's "The Changing", though later parts will branch away from it. I've simply moved the guys into this AU, and retold the story from their POV, mainly Josiah's and Ezra's. I think I've covered all the warnings, disclaimers, thank yous, and explanations, and can get on with the story, all ready!!

Part 1: Dreams

Josiah Sanchez tossed in his sleep, the bedcovers wrapping themselves around his large frame. This was the third time in the last month he'd had the same dream: the family friend he'd known only as "Uncle Manny" was showing him the ring he was wearing, and whispering softly into his ear. He had vague memories of the man doing this during several visits when he was a child and a young man, but could never recall what they spoke about, until now, in his dreams. The adult mind recognized what the child of the past hadn't known; Uncle Manny had hypnotized him, and told him not to remember until the time was right.

He was told the couple who had raised him weren't his real parents; he'd been stolen away to fulfill a different destiny, to restore a cosmic balance. Change was coming; the generations would be complete during his lifetime, and he would gain great powers when the Change came. He would need the powers he would receive to protect his followers from the things the Change would bring: creatures from legend and nightmare.

Uncle Manny described each of the creatures, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to fight them non-magically, since even with his powers he couldn't be expected to be everywhere. There was also instruction in how to utilize the power of the Change, what he'd be required to do during and after the Change, and how to conserve his energies and protect the people he would eventually be required to guard. How to choose his allies, and why he needed them. The history of the Mediggo, how they'd been working for a thousand generations to effect the Change, and what the signs of the Change were. Everything he would to need to survive, and to lead the ones who would come to depend on him for protection, locked away by post-hypnotic suggestion until the time it would be needed.

Josiah sat up in bed, looking around for the source of the voice he thought he'd heard. "Now is the time. Be ready." He could have sworn it was Uncle Manny, even though a part of his mind told him that was highly unlikely. The man would have to be very, very old, if he hadn't died in the years since the ATF agent had last seen him. He looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table: nearly an hour until dawn. What, then, was that faint pink glow in the sky, near the horizon? Something was nagging at the back of his mind, but he couldn't quite catch it. Deciding he would get no more sleep this night, he got out of bed, padding to the kitchen to turn on the coffeemaker before entering the bathroom to make himself ready for the day.


In a townhouse across the city, another man tossed in the grip of disturbing dreams. Ezra Standish was reliving a nightmare that had been reality for months when he was 15. Shortly after her third marriage, his mother had pulled him out of school in mid-term (again), with no warning whatsoever. He was barely given time to pack, and no time at all to say good-bye to the few friends he'd made, or let them know what had happened and where he was going. Maude had decided to put him into her new husband's alma mater simply to please the man, and it didn't matter to her what part of the school year it was or how Ezra felt about it.

At his mother's request, he was placed into a room by himself, but a week later he gained a roommate: an 18-yr.-old senior named Aaron Clay. Clay had managed to coerce the administrator in charge of room assignments to put them together after he'd seen the small, slender teen around campus, alone, friendless, and vulnerable. Ezra wasn't to learn until it was far too late that such arrangements were forbidden by school policy, to prevent the very situation that occurred: an older, larger student dominating and abusing a smaller, younger one.

Clay had wasted no time showing Ezra who was boss and what was expected. He warned his roommate if he said anything he'd be labeled queer, and wouldn't be safe alone anywhere on campus, especially the lockerroom showers. Ezra had suffered in silence, even when Clay had introduced him to his "uncle", an older man who came by on weekends when the students could leave the campus with adult supervision. The man had not only abused Ezra himself, he'd sold him to others who'd taken their turns, splitting the money with Clay. One weekend he'd been abused too badly, and had collapsed in the hallway on his way to class Monday morning.

He awoke two days later in a private clinic, where the doctors were quick to assure him his injuries would be attributed to causes other than the real ones. Private tutors and therapists in the clinic were continued when he was released, and he didn't set foot in a classroom until he started college some two years later. He was told by his tutors it was fortunate his mother had been on a photo safari in Africa at the time, so she'd never been told what had really happened. She was given the same story that appeared in his medical records, and had been convinced by a friend of his father's (a man he never met, due to a promise that man had made to Maude never to speak to the boy) to allow Ezra to be privately tutored.

They were very unusual teachers, his tutors, highly disciplined yet able to think on their feet, a quality the lad quickly picked up. Classes were unstructured, ranging from math and science to hand-to-hand street fighting with every dirty trick known to man thrown in. They were like older brothers, these teachers of his, and Ezra filled out physically as well as gaining new confidence from them. He'd only learned later, when he was recruited in college, that his tutors were CIA.

Communism collapsed before he graduated, so he opted for the FBI instead, and was readily accepted. It only took an expensive gift from his mother, a little bad luck, and a few rumors to bring it all crashing down around his ears. He was lucky to have gotten an assignment with the ATF, and was slowly regaining the confidence and ability to trust his tutors had given him, thanks to the men he was glad to call friends.

He had no idea those friends, with a single exception, were also suffering bad dreams; dreams of forbidden passion. The sole exception was Nathan Jackson, who slept in the arms of his lady Rain, having said a very fond farewell in anticipation of her leaving for Washington, DC in the morning.


JD arose from his bed first, and started coffee in the small kitchen/dining area before going into the bathroom to relieve himself, shower, and shave. As he expected, Buck knocked on the door while he shaved, demanding entrance. He knew better than to yell in the midst of shaving, so ignored his roomie the same as every morning. Wiping the last of the foam from his face, JD opened the door to Buck, who passed through the door with barely a nod in his direction. The younger man returned to his room and dressed for the day, somewhat uneasy due to the dreams he'd had the night before.

Entering the kitchen, JD poured coffee for both of them, putting the rest in thermal cups for the trip to the office. He microwaved some things for breakfast after noting they would have time to eat before leaving. Buck came into the kitchen as the oven beeped the second time.

"There's breakfast if you want it." JD said, nodding at the microwave. His eyes never rose to meet the other man's. The tension was proverbially thick, of the cut-with-a-knife kind.

Buck looked at his roommate and sometime partner as if he was seeing him for the first time, or seeing for the first time something he'd never noticed previously. "JD," he asked, "did you have any... odd dreams last night?"

Wide, frightened hazel eyes looked up into Welsh blue ones. "You mean... like something you might have thought about, but wouldn't ever say?"

Buck took a gulp of coffee and pulled breakfast from the oven. "Yeah, something like that." He sat down across the table from the younger man.

"You feel it, too, don't you?" The question hung in the air between them. Buck looked at JD, and saw the desire he felt mirrored in the other man's eyes. Leaving their meal and coffee to get cold, they met at the end of the table in a passionate kiss, strewing clothing in their wake as they made their way to Buck's room.

Buck pushed JD down on the bed, covering his face, neck, and chest with kisses and soft bites as he worked his way down to the younger man's groin, stopping along the way to kiss, nibble, and suckle on his nipples. JD moaned at Buck's attentions, arching his back and spreading his legs to give the man access to him. Buck responded by kissing and nibbling his way down JD's belly and across his thighs, his hands fondling the waiting cock and balls. JD was well-proportioned for his size, 7 inches but thick and uncut, and Buck took a moment to appreciate it as he drew back the foreskin prior to covering it with his mouth. The younger man gasped with pleasure as Buck's tongue caressed the sensitive area on the underside of the glans, and quickly picked up the rhythm of Buck's bobbing head.

Buck's hands were stroking penis, balls, and ass, running fingers between JD's butt cheeks and caressing the small, puckered opening. One finger teased its way in, becoming two and then three as JD ground his hips, alternately thrusting into Buck's mouth and pushing himself onto the fingers stroking his prostate. He panted and moaned as need drove him to move faster and faster until he spasmed, shooting his sperm into Buck's mouth with a loud, triumphant cry. The older man swallowed, choked, and swallowed again as his mouth was filled to overflowing with hot semen.

Buck pulled his fingers out of JD and turned him over, quickly snatching up a bottle of lotion and using it to lubricate JD and himself. He carefully pushed the head of his throbbing, engorged cock into JD's tight asshole, slowly pushing his full length of 8 inches into the tight, hot passage. His thrusts were slow and gentle at first, until he knew his partner wasn't being hurt, then quickly became harder and faster as his passion could no longer be denied.

JD cried out as he was filled with cock, rocking back and forth with Buck, and felt himself hardening once again as the other man's penis ran over his prostate. He reached down to fondle himself, but Buck's hand was already there, matching his thrusts stroke for stroke. The strokes became faster and faster as both men neared their orgasms, JD coming first, his clenching muscles driving Buck over the edge to shoot hot semen into JD's bowels.

They lay together for a short while, panting and exhausted, until Buck noticed the time. "Damn, JD, we're gonna be late. Shower together?"

"Why not?" the younger man replied. "But no funny stuff; just a shower."

They managed to quickly shower and redress without exchanging more than a few kisses and strokes, and made their way to work, each wondering how this was going to change their working relationship.


Josiah arrived at work half an hour early. He noticed as he pulled into the parking area he was the first one in. He locked his Suburban after exiting it and went up to the office.

He was checking the blotter for new cases when Chris Larabee came in, growled a "Good Morning" in his direction, and went straight to his office. Vin Tanner came in a little later, looking pensive and a little guilty.

"Chris come in yet?" the sharpshooter asked.

"In his office. *Not* in a good mood," the profiler replied.

"Thanks," Vin told him. He got coffee and sat at his desk, starting his computer to check his e-mail.

"Good morning, Josiah." Nathan's cheery voice rang out. Josiah asked about Rain, knowing that was what caused the ex-medic was smile. The smile faded slightly as he told the profiler Rain had left that morning for Washington.

"Morning, Mr. Sanchez." Ezra's Southern drawl dripped like honey into Josiah's ear.

He ignored the fluttering of his heart and the tingling sensation in his groin the voice always gave him. Chris was in a bad enough mood without Josiah giving him an excuse. He returned the greeting, noticing the pale complexion and slightly frightened expression in the undercover agent's jade green eyes.

Buck and JD came in last and late. "Chris isn't in a good mood," Josiah warned them.

"Nice of you gentlemen to show up," the black-clad leader snarled as he caught sight of them. He would have said more, but just then the phone in his office rang, and he went to answer it. The errant pair grabbed coffee and ducked into their cubicles, hoping to escape Chris' wrath.

A few minutes later, their leader came out of the office and announced AD Travis wanted to see all of them in the conference room in 15 minutes. He shook his head when they asked what was up, saying he didn't know. The seven men dutifully proceeded to the conference room, speculating about the new case on the way.

When they arrived, the seven learned it wasn't a new case Travis wanted to discuss.

"I'm sending all of you to Washington, DC, for some refresher training. It's a good time right now since there's a lull in active cases. You all need to be updated in the newest methods and latest procedures, and this is the best way to do it." He held out seven plane tickets.

"You'll be doubling up in your hotel rooms, since the bureau is sending a number of people from various agencies and districts, and we could only get four rooms. Work out who's rooming with who among yourselves. Your flight leaves at 2:15 PM and arrives in DC at 9:47PM. Good luck, gentlemen."

It was decided Chris would take the room alone, Vin would room with Ezra, Buck with JD, and Josiah with Nathan. They separated, agreeing to meet at the airport at 1PM.

Each man went home to pack, keeping their individual thoughts to themselves, except for Buck and JD, who discussed what they would say if or when they were caught together. Chris was thankful he'd gotten a room alone, while Vin was wondering if Ezra would say anything if he didn't always sleep in the room with him. Nathan was wondering where Rain was staying, and hoping it was the same hotel they were in, knowing Josiah wouldn't mind if he stayed the night with her. Everyone was on time for once, and they checked their luggage and boarded the plane together. The flight was a normal one, and the seven napped or read as they desired.

After arrival, they flagged down a pair of cabs and went straight to their hotel. As the seven checked in, Nathan asked if Rain was staying at the hotel, and was delighted to hear she was. In fact, she walked into the lobby as they were headed to the elevator, and gave the ex-medic her room number as they rode up to their rooms.

"Looks like you've got a room to yourself, Josiah." Vin teased.

"So it would appear, brother." he responded with a soft smile and a wink. He wondered to himself if he could take advantage of it, and had to immediately squash a vision of having Ezra naked in his arms. He'd promised Chris he wouldn't touch any of his teammates, but had sorely regretted it the first time he'd seen the southerner, and nearly every night since. The black-clad leader was the only one on the team who knew he was gay, and Josiah was determined not to disappoint him.

They paired off and entered their respective rooms to settle in for the night. After performing whatever nightly rituals each man normally did, they curled up under their blankets (Buck and JD in each others arms) and slept, or at least tried.

But the dreams of the night before returned, even stronger than before. Vin and Ezra woke at the same moment from different dreams, and the sharpshooter told his roommate he needed some fresh air. He never made it to the elevator, however, stopping just down the hall to knock hopefully on a door. It opened, and he was drawn into a passionate embrace.

Josiah's dreams were clearer and more detailed, and he awoke knowing what the pink glow, which had been attributed to an unusual atmospheric phenomenon, really meant.

The Change would occur in less than a week, and he needed to be ready. He rose from his bed, stepped out on room's balcony, and raised his arms to The Opening, bathing in the energies streaming from it. As he gained knowledge as well as power, he realized it no longer mattered what his sexuality was; he'd need to protect all six of his friends, and others as well.

He was also aware four of the six had paired with each other, and Rain as well as Nathan would need to be guarded. That left only Ezra, and a promise that no longer held any power over him. He let his mind touch the smaller man's, and recoiled at what he found. He realized sadly he'd have to be both patient and gentle to win the southerner's heart.

The next morning, the seven men had breakfast together in the hotel's restaurant. They noticed people in both the hotel and restaurant were being especially friendly, particularly to Ezra, but decided to ignore it. In fact, they saw people were being overfriendly with each other, pairing off and sneaking into any dark cubby they could find, and sometimes not even bothering with that.

"What's going on here?" Nathan asked. "You'd think these people just discovered sex."

They'd flagged down cabs and were headed to the Hoover Building, as the FBI was providing the facilities for the seminar.

"I don't know what could have triggered this ersatz 'Summer of Love'," stated Ezra, who had joined Nathan and Josiah. The others were riding in the cab in front of them, having a similar conversation. "Maybe it's that thing in the sky. What do you think, Josiah?"

"I wouldn't know, brothers." God, he's so astute. And so beautiful. Josiah could hardly keep his hands to himself; Ezra was so close, and so desirable. 'Get a hold of yourself!' he told himself sterly.

This must be some side effect of the Change, like the hypersexuality. Voices had been whispering in his mind since last night, and now they whispered of people being Changed, their bodies exuding chemicals that heightened desire in anyone close. These people would be rare, and valuable in the new world that was coming. He'd noticed the change in all his friends, but was it greater in Ezra, or did he just notice Ezra more because he'd always been drawn to him?

They pulled up behind the other cab, and Josiah paid the cabby after turning down his offer to let the fare slide if they left Ezra in the cab. The Southerner was horrified at the man's suggestion, but managed to keep his poker face in place. They joined their companions and entered the building, informing the Security people why they were there.

They were directed to a conference room, where they met AD Skinner, one of the instructors, and ADIC Murdoch, who was coordinating the interdepartmental seminar. Skinner was a tall, stocky man, a fringe of gray hair surrounding his bald pate, and piercing brown eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. Murdoch was dark haired and dark eyed, his powerful build exuding confidence. Skinner did most of the talking while Murdoch watched the men in the room, his eyes returning again and again to the slender, green-eyed man in the tailored suit.

Ezra was uncomfortably aware of the scrutiny, remembering the cabby and not liking the look in the ADIC's eyes. He tried to tell himself he was mistaken, the man couldn't have gotten to the position he held if that look meant what he'd always understood it to mean. He shifted position slightly, putting several of the others between himself and Murdoch. He pushed his uneasiness to the back of his mind, concentrating on what Skinner was saying.

"The first session won't be starting for another hour," the AD said. "If you want, you can grab a cup of coffee downstairs or just hang around the conference room." He gave them directions to the coffee room, as well as other places in the building, and excused himself, pleading pressing business.

Chris, Vin and Nathan decided to get coffee, while Buck, JD and Josiah opted to remain.

Ezra left the room with the former group, but stayed on the elevator when the others got off. He was headed to the basement, hoping to see someone he'd met in Atlanta, one of the few pleasant memories from his days there. He alighted and walked down the hallway to the door with the name "Fox Mulder" on it, rapping lightly on it and waiting for it to be opened. I hope she remembers me, he thought, recalling the studious redhead with the fiery eyes. I'll be really embarrassed if she doesn't. Maybe she'll be free for dinner? It surely can't hurt to ask.

Ezra was so intent on speculating on the possibility of having dinner with Dana Scully he didn't hear the elevator opening or the stealthy tread of footsteps down the hall. He only realized he wasn't alone when he was grabbed from behind and shoved against the wall, his wrists quickly encased in tightly closed handcuffs behind his back.

He didn't start getting alarmed until his groin was pressed into the wall and hands reached over his shoulders to remove his tie and tear open his shirt, pulling it and his jacket down from his shoulders onto his arms. He could feel a hot hard erection pressing against his ass, and gasped when he felt teeth sinking into his shoulder, holding back a cry of pain as a warm, sticky liquid trickled down his back where the skin had been broken.

"Who are you?" he gasped out. He got his answer a moment later as he was turned around.

Murdoch had followed him to the elevator, hoping to find a way to get him alone. It would be easy to order him away from his friends, as he was FBI on permanent loan and nominally subject to the ADIC's authority. He'd reached the ground floor when he realized the agent wasn't with his comrades but in the basement. Alone, since Mulder and Scully were in California. Easy prey. He pressed the button, and the elevator doors closed, opening moments later up the hall from the too-tempting Standish.

His Foxling's scent was here, but it was overridden by the man standing there, oblivious. God, the man was the equal of his Foxling, a different sort of beauty but the pull was just as strong. He needed the smaller man, and there was nothing standing in his way. He struck quickly, shoving him into the wall and handcuffing him tightly, pressing his erection against the cheeks of his soon-to-be victim's ass, tearing away clothing and biting him on the shoulder hard enough to draw blood.

He whipped the smaller man around to face him, quickly claiming his lips for a passionate kiss, forcing his tongue into a mouth gone slack with shock. Murdoch took his time tasting the sweetness of Ezra's mouth, one hand threaded through his hair while the other roamed over his body. The agent's nipples were fondled and pinched hard as the larger man ground his groin against his victim, releasing him only to undo his suspenders and trousers. As the ADIC's mouth left Ezra's, moving down his chest to bite him nearly a dozen times in a frenzy of passion, one of his hands was reaching inside his boxers to fondle his ass and genitals before roughly pulling them down, leaving the smaller man all but naked.

"Don't bother to yell," Murdoch told him, "there's nobody down here to hear you. And no one's going to come down here, because they think there's nobody here."

The shock, pain and terror were taking their toll on the undercover agent. Ezra started to sob and plead, "No, please, don't hurt me, I'll -- I'll -- give you a blow job if you let me go." It had sometimes worked when he was 15. He only prayed it would work now.

Murdoch nearly came in his shorts when he heard the offer. He could smell Ezra's terror, and he wanted to increase and prolong it. Shoving the other man to his knees while unzipping his fly, he growled, "What makes you think I need your permission? You're gonna suck my cock, whether you want to or not! Then I'm gonna ram it up your ass 'til you scream for me to let you come! I'm going to enjoy you, pretty bitch, as often and as much as I wish."


Chris and Vin exchanged a significant look behind Nathan's back after the trio had gotten their coffee. "Nathan, could you see how many vehicles we can pull from the motor pool? We really shouldn't rely on cabs to get us back and forth."

The ex-medic nodded and set off for the motor pool, being met along the way by Josiah, who'd been sent on the same mission by a suggestion from Buck. Nathan wondered about the ear-to-ear grin on the big man's face, not realizing they'd both been shooed off to give a pair of couples a little privacy.

Chris and Vin finished their coffee and stood, politely fending off passes made at them by others in the room. The pair hunted around until they found an empty room which looked as if it wouldn't be checked, and slipped inside, locking the door behind them.

"How long do we have?" murmured Vin as he kissed his way along Chris' jaw to his ear.

"About 45 minutes." came the reply. "As hot as I am for you, it should be more than enough time."

The normally black-clad leader had worn a medium blue shirt, matching the one he was unbuttoning and reaching into to fondle the chest and nipples inside. Vin moaned and nipped the neck he was kissing gently, not stopping with the buttons of Chris' shirt, but unbuckling his belt and opening his trousers as well. Both men stepped back momentarily to finish removing clothing that was suddenly in the way, coming together once more birth naked. They kissed, stroked, and fondled one another, until Vin turned in his lover's embrace and bent over a desk, offering his ass to Chris and begging him to fill it with his cock as he had the night before.

The older man needed no further prompting, pausing only to lube the waiting hole with some lotion he'd found in a drawer. He stretched the sphincter with his fingers before slowly pushing his cockhead into the tight opening. Both men moaned as he started moving inside the tight passage, one from the stimulation of his prostate, the other form the feel of the hot, tight muscles clenching him.

Neither man lasted long as Chris pounded Vin's ass, unable to hold back as passion overwhelmed him, reaching around to pump his lover's meat in time with his strokes. Vin cried out as he came, his sphincter clamping on Chris as he jetted semen across the desk and floor. That was all it took for Chris to empty himself into Vin's ass, shooting burst after burst of hot sperm into that tight passage.

"We still have 20 minutes," Chris whispered a few moments later, "you want to be inside me this time?"

Vin nodded as his member hardened in anticipation.


Meanwhile, a few floors above, Buck and JD were using a table in a conference room down the hall from the one they'd been left in for a purpose it was never intended.

Having waited just long enough for Josiah to enter the elevator, they'd snuck in there and quickly locked the door behind them before stripping and sharing their bodies. JD was lying face up on the table, his feet over Buck's shoulders, while the other man thrust his penis into his ass, using one hand to masturbate his young lover. JD curled his fingers over the table's edge, pushing his hips against Buck, forcing the bigger man further inside him.

"Oh, God, Buck, fuck me harder! Harder!" he cried.

Buck bore down and tried his best to comply, thrusting and pumping for all he was worth. It had never been like this with the many women he'd known. Why had he waited so long to notice the young man he couldn't seem to get enough of? He felt the swelling of JD's cock as he neared orgasm, and redoubled his efforts.

JD came with a shout, spasming against Buck, clenching his muscles and driving the older man to his own orgasm. Sperm shot across belly, chest, and table, and into bowels, ceasing only when the last jolt of orgasm had ended. Buck took a moment to catch his breath before leaning down to kiss his lover.

"That was so good," he whispered, "I can't wait for you to be inside me."


At the same time, Nathan and Josiah were just finishing the paperwork for the three vehicles they'd requisitioned, one nine-passenger van and two sedans, having made the equipment checks recommended before signing them out. Nathan noticed Josiah was somewhat lost in thought, and wondered who he was thinking of. He would have been quite shocked to learn the bemused smile on the large man's face was due to the joy he felt from the two couples making love in separate locations a few floors apart, just as he'd been happy over Nathan and Rain's blissful reunion the previous night. It simply wasn't in Josiah's nature to be jealous of someone else's happiness; he celebrated his friends' joy as he hoped for his own.

Josiah suddenly stiffened, and his head came up, as if he'd heard a cry for help. He had: a bolt of pure terror had shot through him, shaking him so badly he needed a moment to calm himself enough to discover the source. EZRA! But where was he? The basement? Why had he gone down there, and who was threatening him?

He managed to distance himself from the pain and fear tearing at his insides, snatched up a set of keys belonging to one of the sedans, excused himself to Nathan, and left the office.

He didn't start running until he was out of view of the office door, pushing aside people to get to the elevator. He needed to get to the portion of the basement containing the man he'd kill to protect, even if he never got the chance to hold him gently in his arms and offer up his heart to the one he loved.

The elevator doors opened on the basement hallway and Josiah darted out just as Ezra was offering his attacker a blow job. The big man wanted to scream at him to take back his words, but was stopped by the voice who answered. Murdoch! GODDAMNIT! It would have to be one of the only two people in this whole fucking city (literally and figuratively) he didn't dare kill, and wasn't sure he could even hurt.

"I'm going to enjoy you, pretty bitch, as often and as much as I wish."

The edges of Josiah's vision crimsoned at the words, and the sight that met his reddened tunnel gaze nearly drove him insane. Ezra knelt at other man's feet, shirt and jacket bunched around his arms, which were pinned behind his back, and trousers and shorts pushed down near his knees. His entire torso was bared, and his chest and shoulders bore nearly a dozen bitemarks, blood oozing in rivulets down his too-pale skin. Murdoch's huge, engorged member was jutting from his open fly, and he was guiding it toward the smaller man's mouth.

The profiler roared his fury and grabbed the ADIC by the hair and back of his collar, yanking him from his victim and slamming his head into the nearby doorjamb. Murdoch dropped to the floor, unconscious but alive, just as the elevator opened once more, and AD Skinner rushed down the hall.

"What the hell's going on here?" he demanded.

"What the fuck does it look like?" snapped Josiah, who was kneeling down beside Ezra, reaching behind the semi-coherent man to unlock the handcuffs on his wrists. He'd already positioned himself to block Skinner's view of his friend's nudity, and was helping him pull his clothing back into some semblance of order. Ezra was pale, clammy, and cold. "I need to get him out of here, and I'd rather not use the main entrance," he continued in a calmer voice.

"Down the hall, the door all the way at the end. It opens on the motor pool parking area. You need a car?" the AD replied, all business. Josiah shook his head, flashing the sedan keys. "Go then. I'll cover for you." He nodded at Murdoch, indicating he'd placate the ADIC as well as explaining to the rest of the seven.

Josiah picked up his fallen comrade and made his way to the parking area, locating and unlocking the sedan in a matter of moments. He debated placing Ezra in the rear seat, but decided against it, sliding him into the front passenger seat and securing him with the seatbelt. He ducked around the front of the car and dove in, fastening his own belt, starting it up, and pulling away before Murdoch could prevent his leaving. He drove back to the hotel, hoping he wouldn't have to confront the ADIC for some hours at the very least. Ezra was fairly coherent by the time they arrived, and asked if Josiah would stay with him.

He clung to the larger man once they'd gotten inside his room, weeping hysterically and confessing what he'd offered to do. "Two years of therapy, Josiah, and I go all to pieces the next time I'm attacked. It's not in any of my records -- even my medical records -- but this isn't the first time it's happened. When I was 15, I had an older, bigger roommate. The night he moved in, he caught me in the shower, and -- forced me to -- suck him, and later that night, he -- he -- raped me -- in the ass." He paused, shuddering at the memory.

"He was -- huge -- 8 or 9 inches -- and thick. It felt like the small end of a baseball bat was being jammed up inside me. He took me face up; he always did; said he wanted to see the look on my face. It hurt so much, like I was being ripped in two, I screamed the first time he shoved it into me. All of it at once, and he -- just -- kept -- ramming it in me, saying I might as well get used to it, since he was going to have me anytime he pleased. He warned me afterwards if I told anyone he'd say I enjoyed it, and everyone would think I was queer. They'd come after me, and I wouldn't be safe anywhere on campus."

"It wasn't your fault, Ezra." Josiah gently whispered.

But the Southerner wasn't finished. "It got worse. He introduced to his 'uncle' the next time the man came to visit. Students could go off-campus with an adult, if it was a weekend. I didn't want to go; I think I knew what was going to happen. He threatened to tell people I was queer, so I went. The first weekend it was only the two of them taking turns, but later they -- sold me -- to others, splitting the money between them.

"Sometimes the -- clients -- would let me get away with just giving them a blow job, I got really good at it, but most insisted on fucking my ass. I hurt so much of the time I couldn't eat more than one meal a day, and half the time I couldn't keep it down. One weekend a couple months later a client -- fist fucked me, and I collapsed on my way to class the next day. I was in a private clinic for several weeks, and spent the next two years being privately tutored, with weekly therapy. Now it's all shot to Hell, along with my career."

He dropped his hands into his face and started weeping once more. Josiah held him while he cried himself out, and suggested a hot shower and some sleep, pushing on his mind just slightly to get him to agree.

While Ezra was in the bathroom, the big man made a long-distance phone call. He could sense the Change coming quicker now, and he needed to warn Judge Travis back in Denver before things got out of hand there. He warned the Denver AD to expect social disorder and the complete breakdown of civil government, and asked him to gather certain people and get them out of the city now, before the worst hit. The list included Angie Velasquez and the Potter family, Casey and Nettie Wells, Inez Rocios, and Vin's "gang".

He could take them, along with anyone else he wanted to keep safe, out to Chris' ranch, since it had its own water supply and was fairly isolated. He warned Travis in no uncertain terms to keep everyone indoors at night, with no exceptions, until he heard from Team Seven. He also advised him to get into the armory and requisition as many incendiary and HE grenades as he could, along with all the semi-automatic weapons and ammo he could legally or otherwise obtain: it was vitally important he do so. He promised explanations when he returned, and ended the call.

"What was all that about?" Ezra asked. He'd come out of the bathroom while Josiah had been on the phone, and was now standing, fists on towel-clad hips, glaring at the larger man.

Josiah was about to tell him to wait until the others arrived, when a knock on the door interrupted him. Drawing his weapon, lest it was Murdoch, he quietly stepped to the door and looked through the peephole. Seeing the rest of Team Seven instead, he holstered his gun and opened the door.

"Where is he?" Chris demanded as he barreled past. "Skinner said he was ill."

One look at Ezra was enough to determine the nature of the "illness", as the bites were clearly visible. The Southerner shrank back, and would have retreated to the bathroom, but Nathan was on him in an instant, examining the marks and announcing they were human.

"I want to know who did that," Chris growled, and leaning into Josiah's ear, "and I better not find out it was you."

Josiah matched Chris' glare with one of his own as Ezra broke away and darted into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. "I didn't break my promise," he growled back, and Team Seven's leader could have sworn his eyes glowed red as hot coals for an instant.

"Leave him be for right now; he doesn't want everyone looking at him like he's deformed," he told the others. "Besides, there's something I need to tell you all. It involves what's happening, and what's going to in the next few days."

Josiah Sanchez looked at five of the six men he'd come to regard as brothers over the past two years. Taking a deep breath, he invited them to sit down as the explanation was long and complicated. Matching actions to words, he pulled out a chair and straddled it backward, crossing his forearms over the seatback, and began:

"Have you ever considered the nature of Evil? At the dawn of time it was thought of as a force of Nature, part of the balance of the Universe. There were people back then who considered Evil as a good and necessary thing; they worshipped it, and determined to give it its proper place in the Cosmos.

"Prophecy stated if they did certain things, made certain sacrifices, that a great Change would come. For thousands of years these people have worked and sacrificed, so their descendants could gain power when the Change came. Those descendants came to be known as the Pure Blood, the Inner Circle. There was also a being known as the Ascendant: a soul who's body was sacrificed every 40 years, his heart and brain being consumed by the woman chosen to bear his next body, while the Inner Circle ate the rest. Families of Pure Blood willingly gave their first-born children to be ritually killed to perpetuate the Change.

"All things require a balance, however, and to balance the Ascendant, a few first-born were saved from each generation. Not by parents, who knew the withholding of a sacrifice would result in the destruction of their entire family, but by others. Those who saw the larger picture, and knew any first-born living at the time of the Change would ascend along with the Ascendant, and were necessary to close the Opening before it destroyed the planet."

"And this Change is what's happening now? How do we stop it?" asked JD.

Josiah shook his head. "Do you see that pink thing in the sky?" He pointed out the window.

"That's the Opening. The Change has already begun, and once set in motion, can't be stopped. All we can do now is keep ourselves, and as many others as we can, safe. There won't be many; the Change touches everything and everybody, to a greater or lesser degree. Washington will take the brunt of the Change, as it's the epicenter of the effect, but the whole world will be affected within days.

"It's driving some mad, sending others into sexual or homicidal frenzies, and even the ones who remain sane are... Changed. Their body chemistry is altered; they start producing what you might as well call pheromones. They're also more prone to sexual stimulation, and are ready to go almost instantly. It's like walking around with a flashing neon sign that says "FUCK ME". I hate to tell you this, brothers, but all five of you are walking neon signs. Go out on the streets alone and you'll be gang-raped."

"You mentioned five, Josiah, but there are six of us here." Ezra drawled, having emerged from the bathroom. Nathan snatched up a robe and passed it to the Southerner, who gratefully wrapped it around his body.

"I'm not sure how to explain your case. I can only suppose some people produce more pheromones than others, and you're one of them. If the others are neon signs, you're the lights of Times Square, or maybe Las Vegas. That's part of the reason you were attacked: you're damn near irresistible." Josiah saw Ezra's face screw up as he turned away, and heard his thought: It's my fault Murdoch tried to rape me.

He was out of his chair and over to Ezra in an instant, holding him in a comforting embrace, stroking his hair, and whispering it wasn't his fault, he didn't know, and that bastard should have had more self-control. "Nobody here's trying to force you, even though we're all probably getting a full dose of pheromones." He led him over to the far bed, asking the smaller man if he wanted to lie down and sleep, but Ezra shook his head no, he wanted to hear the whole story. Chris cleared his throat, and Josiah continued:

"The Change is also going to open something like an interdimensional portal, letting through all sorts of creatures: werewolves, vampires, demons, witches, trolls, goblins, and any other kind of spook or supernatural nasty you want to think of. All of which have heightened senses of smell, and a taste for sex with humans. Usually just before devouring them, sometimes not bothering to kill them first.

"They're proverbially hard to kill, but they do have weaknesses. Fire's a universal weapon: I recommend carrying a few incendiary grenades wherever you go. I'm also fairly certain turning something's head into Swiss cheese with a semi-automatic weapon will at the very least severely inconvenience it, perhaps even making it think about going elsewhere for its next meal."

"Oh, hell! There's one last thing I almost forgot to mention. There's going to be a slight alteration in the laws of Physics: modern technology won't work anymore. No electricity, telephones, computers or any electrical or electronic devices. Better get used to using the stairs; the elevators won't work. We might try moving to a lower floor.

"We'll need all the food and water we can scrounge, candles or oil lamps as battery powered flashlights won't work, some kind of camp stove to cook on -- unless we can commandeer the kitchen before someone trashes it. That would solve food, water, and cooking, all at the same time. Nathan, do you think you, Buck, and JD can handle taking over a kitchen and keeping out crazies and looters? Chris, Vin, and I are going to raid the ATF's warehouses for weapons, and bring back anybody we can."

Chris frowned. When had Josiah taken over leadership?

"I need to find Rain first," Nathan replied.

"In her room. Call her. And take her with you into the kitchen," Josiah advised.

Nathan reached for the phone and dialed, spoke to Rain and invited her up to the room.

"What about me?" inquired Ezra, hurt at being left out.

"I'd rather you stayed here and rested," the big man softly told him.

"I don't want to be alone," he retorted. He wanted to be with Josiah. It felt safe around him.

Josiah heard the thought, and was touched by it. "Kitchen, then." He dared not risk Ezra out-of-doors. The smaller man nodded and snuggled against him.

"There's just one thing I don't understand," Vin remarked. "How do you know so much about what's going on?"

Josiah grimaced, and sighed; they had to know sometime. "Remember when I told you earlier about those unsacrificed first-born, the ones who'd ascend at the Change? I'm one of them, and I've already started drawing energy from the Opening. Apparently, the closer one of the Others -- that's what we're called -- is to the epicenter during the Change, the stronger he'll be afterward. I'm beginning to think my being here is no coincidence: it was planned, how and why I don't know."

Ezra turned frightened eyes to his protector. "Then why didn't you --"

"Kill your attacker? I didn't dare -- he's the Ascendant, and if I'd been able to kill him before the Opening was closed, it would have destroyed the world."

They sat in silence, stunned by Josiah's last revelations. That he was turning into something that might no longer be the least bit human was bad enough, but to hear he'd held back from punishing Ezra's attacker was an even worse betrayal.

"You just let him get away?" snarled Chris. "He could show up here at any moment, and do God only knows what, and you wouldn't lift a finger to stop him?"

"I never said I didn't let my displeasure be known," Josiah retorted. "The same restrictions apply to him. He can't kill me until the Opening is closed. I suspect it was only Ezra's proximity and an opportunity that presented itself that drew his attention. That reminds me: why aren't you at the morning session?"

"It was cancelled." Buck told him. "AD Skinner said ADIC Murdoch was indisposed." He opened his mouth to add more when it suddenly hit him, and the other four who hadn't known.

Josiah gave them a rueful grin. "If you call a nap-inducing face-first collision with a doorjamb 'indisposed', then I guess you could say he was." He'd felt Ezra stiffen when Mudoch's name was mentioned, and looked down to see how he was reacting to the news of his attacker's identity. He was still pale, and a quick stroke across his forehead revealed he was still cold and clammy as well. "You need to rest, and I've finished my story."

He pulled the smaller man to his feet and drew back the covers of the bed they'd been sitting on, gently pushing him back down and sliding his legs under the covers before pulling them up around his shoulders. Ezra wiggled around under the covers a moment before pulling the towel he'd been wearing under his robe out and handing it to Josiah, then settling himself and dropping off moments later.

A knock on the door produced six drawn guns, but when Vin looked through the peephole, he gave the all-clear. It was Rain, showing up as invited. Nathan drew her aside to explain as best he could, while the others started planning their tasks. Noticing it was nearly noon, Buck picked the phone to order room service. A few minutes later, he hung up the phone in disgust. "Room service isn't answering," he groused.

"We may need to move up our timetable on commandeering the kitchen," Chris warned. "Nathan, you and JD stay here with Ezra and Rain. The rest of you with me. Keep your weapons out of sight until we know what's happening down there." They set off, prepared to fight a pitched battle to secure the kitchen.

It turned out not to be necessary; the kitchen staff had apparently gone berserk and started attacking customers, who had fled, drawing the chefs, waiters, and other staff after them. Some meals left on the stoves were burnt beyond recognition, and others in ovens were in the same condition, but otherwise the kitchen was intact. Whatever dementia had seized the kitchen staff had apparently not involved either food or utensils.

Chris called Nathan and let him know the situation as the others set about barricading the rear door and otherwise preparing the area to hold off an assault. He hung up the phone and turned to find Josiah ladling out soup to the others and fixing a tureen to take upstairs.

"I thought we were going to move the rest down here," Chris said.

"Habit," replied the big man. "I'm used to taking food to people, not the other way around." He asked Chris if he could go upstairs and send down Nathan and Rain. At Chris' nod, he left, and a few minutes later Nathan and Rain appeared, bringing their luggage with them.

"Josiah said if we're gonna hold down the kitchen, we might as well move in," Nathan answered Chris' glare. Rain noticed the tureen and ladled out soup for the two of them.

A little while later JD, Ezra, and Josiah showed up, similarly burdened, though the big man was carrying Ezra's luggage as well as his own. An employee lounge with several sofas became a makeshift bunkroom, and Ezra was settled there after eating some soup, to finish his nap. The number of blankets and pillows scattered about testified to the use the room had been put to recently, not to mention the smell of dried semen and pecker tracks. Chris, Vin, and Buck brought down their things shortly after, and they made plans for their other objective: securing sufficient weapons to defend themselves from the horrors the Change would bring.

They decided to use the van, in case they needed to pick up anyone on the return trip. They planned to "creatively requisition" a truck while they were getting arms: "In for a penny, in for a pound," Josiah had said. The trio piled into the van and drove away.

Once at the warehouse, they noticed two things immediately: the guards were dead or fled, and someone had been there ahead of them. Only the first few storage areas were rifled, however, and the things they'd come for were still present in sufficient quantity to wage a small-to-medium size war, along with a truck to haul them away in.

When a patrol car stopped to see what they were doing, Josiah merely pulled out his ATF badge and told the officers they were moving some things to another facility. They quickly filled the truck and started back to the hotel, Chris and Vin in the truck, and Josiah riding alone in the van.

They were about halfway back when Josiah stopped outside a small tailor's shop and rushed the door. Chris and Vin quickly followed, and they subdued the thugs threatening the Mom-and-Pop owners and their pretty daughter. The family was quickly convinced to pack their most precious possessions and come with them to the hotel.

Three more stops to perform rescues and they arrived at last, bearing arms and allies. They quickly unloaded the truck, securing their cache anywhere they could find a place away from stoves and ovens. Then they set about giving their newest allies some crude training in how to handle a weapon. Josiah called them inside just before dark, and the expanded group sat down to dinner.

After dinner, a watch list was set up, and those not standing watches went to find unoccupied rooms, some to sleep, and some for other purposes. Josiah had volunteered for the first watch, and after he was relieved, slipped out a side door to bathe in the Opening's power, welcoming it like a lover. It fed him as if he were a hungry child, filling him with power. When he was replete, he returned inside, with none the wiser about his excursion. He found an empty room, showered and slipped into bed, not bothering with clothes due to the heat.

He woke perhaps an hour later, with the vague sense somebody was looking for him. He rose and threw on a pair of shorts, then stepped out into the hall to see what had disturbed him. It took less than a minute to find Ezra wandering the corridors, softly calling his name. "You left me alone," he accused. "Please don't leave me to sleep alone."

He pulled the smaller man to him and returned to his room. Ezra was snuggling close to him the whole way, and insisted on sleeping in his bed. "I don't mind if you -- take me," he told Josiah, "even if it hurts. I -- just can't stand the thought of being alone." He raised his lips as high as he could, and placed a gentle kiss on the big man's neck.

That was more than Josiah could tolerate. He pulled Ezra into a feverent embrace, raining kisses across his face and neck, always remembering to be gentle. He moved carefully across his beloved's chest, gently kissing each bitemark, his hands trailing down to stroke the flat, muscled abdomen, across the hip bones and around to cup the globes of Ezra's ass. Lips wandered down to caress and nibble what the hands had already explored, tongue snaked out to French kiss the navel, on its slow way to the treasure nestled between the thighs.

Josiah took his time, savoring every inch of flesh, and treasuring every little sound Ezra made as he kissed, licked, and nibbled around the man's erection. He sucked a testicle into his mouth, playing with it using his tongue, and releasing it only to suck in the other one and do the same thing. Finally, as Ezra was pleading he could stand no more teasing, he started to kiss, lick, and nibble his way up the hot, throbbing shaft. He reached the top as his lover started to sob he needed him now, and with a final lick to his glans, bobbed down and took the entire length of it into his mouth.

Ezra gasped at being so suddenly and completely enveloped, and started moving his hips in time to the sucking and tightness of Josiah's throat. His moans quickly turned to shouts as Josiah sucked harder and moved faster, and his whole body began to thrash with the need to come. He cried out and spasmed, not once but several times, each spasm shooting hot liquid sperm into Josiah's mouth and down his throat. Ezra lay still after a last weak spasm, barely more than a tremble, too tired even to lift his head as Josiah stretched out beside him and gave him a soft, passionate kiss. "Did you enjoy that?" Josiah asked, his voice husky with passion.

"Oh, yes, but you did it too well," Ezra answered. "I couldn't move now if my life depended on it."

"You don't have to; I can manage." He rolled Ezra's unresisting body over on its stomach, and a moment later pushed apart his thighs. Josiah knelt between them, and pulled the smaller man into his lap, spreading Ezra's thighs wider by pushing his own legs apart. He parted the ass cheeks and ran a single finger down the crack to caress the tightly puckered hole. Then he bent forward to kiss Ezra's ear and ask a final time: "Are you certain you want this?" rubbing that one finger against that tight little hole.

"Oh, God, please, yes, do it! Please, Josiah, fuck me, fuck me up the ass!" the man who couldn't move a moment ago pleaded, pushing his ass against the finger driving him to distraction.

Josiah pulled the finger away, causing Ezra to whimper, only to return it moments later coated with something warm and slippery. He teased a bit more before slowly pushing the finger inside and hearing the smaller man's shuddering moan. He moved the finger back and forth a few times before adding a second and then a third, stretching his soon-to-be lover's sphincter and getting it well lubricated. Ezra was starting to plead again, so Josiah removed the fingers and positioned himself against the relaxed pucker and gently pushed his head inside.

His lover tried to impale himself on the hard shaft invading him, but the big man wouldn't let it happen. With slow, gentle strokes he filled the tight channel, adjusting slightly to rub across the prostate and listen to Ezra croon in pleasure. He sped up and slowed down as his lover neared release, bringing him to the edge of orgasm several times before finally giving in to his pleas and sending him over the edge to come in a screaming, spasming, shuddering orgasm.

It was of such intensity he not only passed out, but his heart fluttered, spasmed, and nearly stopped before settling down to a steady, if overfast, beat. Josiah rolled them both sideways, so they lay side by side, spoon-fashion, Ezra curled up inside the larger man. He gently kissed his lover's neck and ear, whispering endearments as he drifted off to sleep.

Josiah awoke an hour later, and pulled the man in his arms closer, to assure himself he really was there. When he'd heard Ezra's confession -- had it really been only that morning? -- it had broken his heart. He'd lost all hope of ever winning the Southerner's affection, of lying here like this. He thought he'd never see that sweet face contorted in passion, or joy. Or hear him making all those soft, crooning mewls and whimpers of desire, or screaming as he shot hot sperm into a willing mouth or across passion-rumpled sheets.

Ezra had rolled over in his sleep, and now faced Josiah, his head on the larger man's shoulder, nestled under his jaw. One arm was thrown around his waist, and their legs were tangled together.

He recalled how much his love had always complained about the snow and cold of Denver, and decided to find out if there was somewhere else he'd rather live. He whispered the question into one ear, and touched the sleeping mind for the answer. A vista of sparkling water and sun-drenched beaches was conjured up, along with the phrase "Virgin Islands". An image of the two of them frolicking naked in gentle surf immediately sprung to Josiah's mind, and he was determined to make it a reality. But other matters required his attention now.

He slipped from the bed, deepening his lover's sleep so he wouldn't waken until he returned. Pulling on a pair of denim cutoffs, he started on a necessary but onerous task: bonding his brothers to him. This once, and never again, he thought as he approached his first pair of targets.

He knocked on the door, and when Chris opened it he smiled and asked, "Mind if I join you?" He'd barely had to nudge the minds of the pair before they were taking turns being sandwiched, bottom and top. Pleasant enough, but not Ezra, even if they did invite him back anytime he felt in the mood.

Buck and JD were on watch, so he visited Nathan and Rain next. He wasn't happy about having to use major amounts of coercion, as the couple didn't wish to be disturbed, and left feeling dirty and traitorous.

He decided to stop by the kitchen for a snack and just to talk with the pair on watch. They chatted for a while, Josiah answering JD's endless questions, until Chris and Vin relieved them. It was easy enough to get invited into their room, but he had to press down pretty hard on Buck, who was willing enough to be with Josiah, but hadn't wanted to share JD.

Mission accomplished, he returned to his room and entered the bath to take another shower.

Josiah didn't want to go to his love covered with others people's bodily fluids, no matter how necessary it had been to be with them. This once, and never again. He soaped and rinsed three times, as if he were performing a ritual cleansing. He was so engrossed in getting clean he didn't notice Ezra joining him until the smaller man touched him. He jumped and spun around, ready to defend himself. Ezra drew back in fear as he saw Josiah's defensive position, until the larger man relaxed on seeing who it was. He drew Ezra to him, saying he hadn't meant to frighten him. Ezra asked if he could wash his back, and Josiah turned and let him, reveling in the touch of his love.

The Southerner didn't stop at his back, however, rubbing across his buttocks and down his thighs. Josiah encouraged him with a hum of pleasure, and he reached around to wash his belly and, finally, his penis and scrotum, continuing to fondle them as the spray sluiced away the water. He pushed against one hip, trying to turn him back around, and the larger man complied. When Ezra started to sink to his knees, Josiah stopped him, saying he didn't have to do that.

"I want to, Josiah. To get rid of that other memory," he replied. The big man let him go, and he slid down and took the thick, 9" organ in his mouth. Josiah was careful not to choke him with it, even when he tried to get the whole thing into his mouth, in imitation of what he'd received earlier. He merely used his power to relax Ezra's throat muscles so he could swallow it as he wished, and suck down the sperm his efforts produced.

Josiah shut off the water as his lover finished, and pulled him up gently into a warm, grateful embrace. He pushed aside the shower curtain and grabbed a towel, drying and caressing his love. Ezra responded in kind, snatching his own towel and applying it with equal vigor. They spent a considerable amount of time making sure they were dry, giggling and kissing, touching and caressing, and exploring each others' bodies. They dried each others' hair, Josiah bending down so Ezra could do a thorough job. He raised his head after the smaller man finished, and met his eyes.

He thought he would drown in those jade green pools, and captured the lips below them for a long, passionate, kiss, flicking his tongue across them for admittance. The lips parted, as did the teeth behind them, and he tasted again the sweetness of his love, pulling him into an embrace that lifted him from his feet. Carrying him to the bed, he laid down with Ezra atop him, spreading his legs so the smaller man's were between them. "Have you ever been a top?" he asked, and immediately cursed himself for the question as his lover stiffened.

"A-a few times. Some of them -- wanted that." The Southerner caressed his lover's chest.

"I -- never liked it. But I can, I will, if you want me to."

He looked, and sounded, so fragile, so vulnerable, it unmanned Josiah. "Not today," he said, "some other time perhaps."

Their mood broken, they settled for a few kisses and caresses before Ezra slipped into a gentle slumber, with a nudge from Josiah. Dawn was beginning to lighten the sky, and he never had liked to sleep in. He padded barefoot to the window, and noticed the room, though only on the third floor, sported a balcony. Josiah opened the window and stepped out on the balcony, bathing once more in the glow of the Opening, and chuckling to himself.

Here I am, standing stark naked on a third story balcony in the middle of Washington, DC and I don't give a DAMN who sees me!

Josiah stepped inside, still grinning about his indecent exposure. I'm going to repeal all the statutes for indecent exposure through whatever lands I take over, as well as a few other laws. Homosexuality, for starters. Polygamy, gambling, prostitution -- though I will still keep the laws about pimping, and I'll have to encourage them to keep themselves disease-free -- he'd padded to the bathroom and filled the sink, deciding he wanted a shave. Marijuana -- but keep cocaine and heroin illegal. Won't have to worry about crack, methamphetamines, or 'designer drugs'; the technology to make them won't be there, at least for most of the world.

He interrupted his train of thought to concentrate on shaving, wanting to do a thorough job but being careful not to cut himself. He wiped excess shaving cream from his face and studied himself in the mirror. The face that looked back would never be considered handsome in the classical sense, the cornflower blue eyes too deep-set, the lower jaw too wide and long. Still, it was a face with a lot of character, and wisdom and gentleness looked out of those blue eyes.

His train of thought resumed as he dressed for the day in a powder blue pullover shirt and dark gray slacks: loose, comfortable clothing he could roll around in if he needed to, and he had a feeling he'd need to today. While I'm at it, I might as well throw in a few laws I'd like to see on the books, along with some revised penalties. Child abuse would be a felony, and sexually abusing a prepubescent child would be a capital crime, as would most forms of rape. Taking more spouses or having more children than you can support should be a crime, too. How to punish the deadbeats, though: maybe I could institute some form of indentures. Have to think about that some more. Maybe Judge Travis can come with something.

If he's still alive when we get back to Denver.

Having finished dressing, he crossed to the bed and gave his love a few soft caresses and a kiss before leaving him to awaken in his own good time, checking the window to make certain it was locked, and locking the door behind him. He stopped in the kitchen for some breakfast, running into Nathan, who gave him an angry look. He'd have to explain to him and Rain why he'd done what he'd done the night before, and hope they understood.

He listened to the news as he ate: the President and his Cabinet had left the city, along with most Congressmen, and the Mayor had declared a state of emergency, requesting people to remain in their homes and telling them he'd asked for military assistance. Murder, rape and vandalism had reached unheard of proportions, the newscaster said, and the full death toll might never be known.

"Is this going to get any worse?" Chris asked. "Something's screwing up the phones; I can't get through to Denver. And what the HELL did you do to Nathan and Rain last night? He's talking about leaving and taking her with him."

"He won't leave." Josiah assured him. "What I did last night was necessary, to establish a bond with all of you. That once, and never again. I need the bonds to keep all of you safe. All of you are vulnerable now, in ways you've never had to consider before. You need my protection from the rest of the Others, and from the Ascendant. For Ezra's sake, though he'd rather die than admit it, and for JD's, I'm determined to keep us together and safe. Like the family we are."

"Family don't do what you did, Josiah!" Nathan asserted from behind him. He turned and saw the ex-medic and his lady, bags packed and ready to go.

"I'm sorry. I know that's not nearly enough, but the only other thing I can offer is my word, as God is my witness, never to touch you or Rain again." He got up and slowly approached the couple, stopping when he sensed another step would cause them to bolt.

"You saw what Murdoch did to Ezra. Do you want him, or someone like him, doing that to Rain? Or forbidding you to be together, or sending her away where you'll never see her again?"

"This is crazy!" Rain shouted. "You're talking like we're some sort of slaves, or possessions!"

"That's how you'll be seen, to most of the Others. Rare and valuable commodities, to be hoarded and parceled out to secure alliances. Carefully bred and cared for like Thoroughbred horses, crossed to develop the most desirable traits. I'd give you as much freedom as I could, without risking your safety." He smiled, and decided to tell them something he'd discovered the night before. "Forgive my asking, Rain, but are you on the Pill?"

The question confused both of them. "No, not that it's any of your business!" she shot back.

"Why would you need to know a thing like that?" Nathan added. Josiah hadn't had vaginal intercourse with Rain; he'd taken her anally, just as he'd taken everyone else.

"I told you yesterday: the Change alters body chemistry. Birth control pills might as well be sugar, for all the good they'll do. But a pregnant woman risks her child by taking them." He gave them both a significant look. They were confused a moment longer, before what he was implying sank in.

"You mean - she's -" Nathan started.

Rain finished, "pregnant?"

Josiah nodded. "I can't let you leave; not now. I don't know what would happen to you, or the baby. Please, stay." His eyes added their own plea, and they couldn't deny the sincerity there. They both nodded, picked up their bags, and returned to their room.

He looked at the others who'd entered the room while he spoke to Nathan and Rain. "Please don't start; I'm not sure I can handle it right now, and I have something very important to do." Picking up the keys to the van, he strode out the door.

Josiah checked his weapon before starting the van and pulling away from the hotel; habit again, as he really didn't need it anymore. He drove around, in no particular pattern, crisscrossing the city, searching for any of the Changed he could find, and persuading them to return to safety with him. As he'd had to rescue most of them from being gang-raped, he had no problems getting them to come along.

He couldn't be everywhere at once, however; sometimes he arrived too late to prevent a tragedy. Those he always avenged, leaving the attackers dead, whether or not they'd killed their victim. The wounded were immediately taken back to the hotel, where Nathan's skills were supplemented by a doctor he'd managed to locate on his first run.

By noon, he'd managed to find and rescue nearly three dozen people, mostly women, as they tended to fight less desperately, and hide more. Men tended to venture out more, and fought harder, which usually resulted in their deaths, though even that didn't stop them from being gang-raped. He checked with Nathan and the doctor, whose name was Miriam Stokes, about the condition of the wounded he'd brought in earlier, and was given a hopeful prognosis on all of them.

"None of them are showing any signs of internal bleeding beyond what we've already dealt with," Dr. Stokes told him, "and if we can keep out infection, they should have a fairly good chance of recovering."

He'd asked, and she'd agreed, to do a D & C on any female who looked like she might get pregnant from being raped: not to insure anything like purity, but simply to remove a possible future reminder of the ordeal.

Ezra was waiting for him as he left the makeshift infirmary. "Why?" he asked, a hurt, betrayed look on his face.

"I had to, love, to keep them safe." He tried to draw the Southerner into an embrace, but he wasn't having any of it.

"Don't touch me, and don't call me that," the smaller man hissed and pulled away. "You don't have the right anymore. How can I trust you, after what you've done? Just stay away from me, and don't speak to me again, ever."

He turned and walked quickly away, leaving a devastated Josiah behind him. The big man turned toward the kitchen, uncertain if he could even eat, now.

Ezra stalked down the corridor, unaware he'd picked up a tail. He'd kept up his proud facade until he'd turned the corner, where his face collapsed into a mask of sorrow. He ducked into the first room he came to, not wishing to run into anyone who might ask uncomfortable questions. His tail followed, unnoticed.

"He loves you, you know."

Ezra's head, which had been buried in his hands, shot up. Vin was standing in the doorway, leaning against the jamb. "LOVES ME!? How can you say that? He went from room to room, fucking all of us! I just happened to be first." And stupid enough to go to him, like a silly, infatuated child!

"Back when I was a bounty hunter, I had to notice everything, just to stay alive. It's carried over; I still notice things most people don't see. Like the way Josiah always looked at you, when he thought nobody was watching. And the look that flashed across his face every time you were hurt or missing. I'm surprised he never said anything before," Vin explained.

Ezra shook his head. "I can't forgive him, or trust him. Not after what he did." He looked up at the ex-bounty hunter. "Why are you following me around, anyway?"

"Just making sure you didn't do something foolish, like running off by yourself." Hearing the news and receiving first-hand reports from the people Josiah'd brought in had both shocked and frightened the sharpshooter. "Give it some time, Ezra. Don't burn the bridge just yet; you might find you want to cross back over it. We'd better be getting back to the others, before Chris decides to send out a search party."

"Too late," came Buck's voice from the hall, "you've already been found. Chris got a call from AD Skinner: he needs some help rescuing one of his agents, but all his people are tied up getting VIPs out of town." He and JD were standing in the corridor, and the two other men joined them, returning quickly to the kitchen.

They arrived to hear Chris and Josiah loudly arguing over who would go to Skinner's aid, with Chris insisting he, Vin, and Buck should join the raiding party, and Josiah protesting they should remain, and he would go by himself. "Skinner and I can handle any problems that arise, but not if we have to defend you while doing it! It's not necessary to risk yourselves!"

"It may not be necessary, Agent Sanchez, but we're going, with or without you." He turned to the others. "Buck, Vin, let's ride." Chris rarely used one of the team's surnames; when he did, it usually meant the man had screwed up badly.

"I'm going too." Ezra said.

"NO!" The word came from both men, for different reasons, but only Chris continued: Josiah remembered his beloved's request and remained silent, his eyes pleading what his lips were forbidden to say. "Intel says Murdoch's holding the guy, in some kind of catacombs. The bastard's already tried to rape you once; I'm not giving him another chance. You're staying here, and that's final."

"What applies to you goes for me as well," the Southerner pointed out. "If you can go, I can follow."

The words, and the possibility, were too much for Josiah. He crossed the room at an almost impossible speed, touching Ezra's forehead and catching him as his knees buckled.

"I'll be right back; please don't leave without me." He picked up the now-sleeping man and carried him to the employee's lounge, now being occupied by the tailor and his family. He asked the daughter to watch over Ezra for him, and quickly returned to the kitchen, joining the others as they checked weapons and loaded themselves into the van, riding off on a mission of mercy.

The van pulled up in front of an apartment building in Alexandria, VA. The men rolled out, scanning the area for danger, and ducked inside. Josiah led the way, not needing Chris' directions; Skinner's presence and the smell of blood pointed the way as clearly as a beacon. As they entered the apartment, several guns were pointed in their direction.

"Whoa! Hold up!" yelled Buck. "We're on your side, honest!" The three weapons were raised toward the ceiling.

"Interesting decor," commented Chris, noting the torn and broken bodies on the floor.

"You should see the kitchen," retorted the sole female in the apartment, a tiny redhead AD Skinner introduced as Special Agent Dana Scully. He added it was Scully's partner, Special Agent Fox Mulder, who was missing. He'd been abducted from this, his apartment, by a well-organized strike force.

The others were introduced: Alex Krycek, a compactly-built man with dangerous green eyes who looked and moved like the assassin he was (Vin recognized his work immediately, especially in the kitchen); three men who were collectively introduced as the Lone Gunmen (confusing: why the singular when there were three of them? They said it was a long story, for another time.), and individually became Byers, a tall, slender, bearded man who was dressed almost as well as Ezra; Frohike, a short, balding, middle-aged, chubby man with glasses; and Langly, who looked like he escaped from "Wayne's World" with his long, blonde hair and horn-rimmed glasses. They barely acknowledged the men's presence, being wrapped up in trying to hack into the city planner's mainframe, to locate an entrance to the catacombs.

Chris did the honors for his people, and they got down to planning the op. Skinner and Josiah recognized each other as Others, and when he got a moment, the AD drew the other man aside. "Why are you letting him take charge, and where's the rest of your harem?"

Josiah glared at him, still in pain from Ezra's rejection. "He's in charge because he's the leader of Team Seven, and the rest of my 'harem', as you so rudely put it, is guarding the kitchen and a few dozen civilians in our hotel. How much do you know about what's happening?"

"Only what I've picked up from the Opening." admitted Skinner.

#Then we need to put our heads together, literally,# a voice spoke into the AD's head, and with a start, he realized it was Josiah's. Hoping it was the right thing to do, he opened his mind to the other no-longer-quite man, and a flood of information raced into his brain. Josiah shared everything he knew with his newest brother, one he now had more in common with than the ones he'd come into town with.

#You're going to have the same sort of problems with your agents, and that assassin, that I'm experiencing with my 'brothers',# he warned.

Skinner sent a burst of sympathy across their mind-bond. He'd picked up Josiah's grief, and the reason for it, and a part of his mind whispered the other man should just take what was his, since he could coerce an unwilling partner. Josiah picked up the thought, and flinched away from it, breaking the link between them. "Not that," he whispered, "not ever that. Not to him. Never." He wasn't about to tell the AD what Ezra had confessed to him.

They heard a flurry of excitement near the computer, and gathered around to see what the Gunmen had come up with. They'd found the entrance they'd been seeking, an access tunnel leading from a warehouse to the catacombs. "They don't suspect a thing, do they?" Josiah whispered.

"Not yet." answered Skinner.

Over the next few hours, plans were proposed, argued over, modified, and discarded as the group worked out the best approach to the problem. They loaded themselves into the van the strike team had brought to abduct Krycek, bringing the van Team Seven had arrived in and leaving it a few blocks away. Josiah, who'd been driving the second van, jumped into the black van's rear and they entered the warehouse. They entered the tunnel without a hitch, Langly recording the electronic signal needed to open the doors on the way out.

When they reached the elevator, the group divided. Scully, Buck, and the Gunmen would remain to cover their retreat, while the rest when in and retrieved Mulder. Skinner took point, followed by Chris, Krycek, and Vin, with Josiah on rearguard. They were attacked by werewolves, but the two Others, and a few incendiary grenades, drove them off.

They found Mulder and were making their making their way out when they were attacked a second time, by something Josiah called by a Chinese name, and Mulder said were some kind of human worm, with a taste for really fresh entrails. They made it back to the others and the van, with what appeared to be a full phalanx of the denizens of Hell behind them. They parted ways once outside the warehouse, the ATF agents quickly diving out of one van and into the other.

They got back to the hotel shortly before midnight, but Josiah told them to go inside while he remained on the street. "The Change is nearly here, and while I don't know exactly what will happen, I know I have to be outside for it. Go inside and be safe. I'll survive; I have to, to help close the Opening." The rest trudged inside, and a little while later, the whole world lit up in a pink glow as the Opening exploded and the Change came. Shortly after that, Josiah entered the hotel, and the power, which had been lost some hours before, returned, at least to the bottom four floors.

"I thought you said we wouldn't have electricity anymore," Nathan said, happy to see the big man alive and well.

"We don't; I'm providing the power. I'm also shielding the building, so nobody needs to stand watch tonight. Tomorrow, we all go to the airport and get on a plane for Denver."

Josiah didn't tell them they would only be staying there a few days, while he returned to close the Opening.


Back to the Day Before

Ezra awoke to sunlight pouring in through the window. He checked the travel alarm on the bedside table; 10:30. Who let me sleep in? Shouldn't I, and the others, be at the Hoover right now? At least I know why Josiah isn't here. He threw off the covers, slipped into the clothes he'd been wearing the night before, and considered last night as he went down to the room where he'd stowed his bags to shower, shave, and dress.

He hadn't thought he could be with another man without experiencing pain, especially after what he'd been through at that boarding school. Josiah had been so gentle, even when he himself had wanted to rush, and so thorough... he felt himself responding to the memory, and since he was in the shower, masturbated, imagining it was Josiah's hands, and lips, on him instead of his own.

He came with a shudder, recalling his lover's warm embrace and hot kisses. He'd never been completely comfortable with women, particularly the ones his mother had set him up with, and had, about half the time, failed miserably and embarrassingly when push came proverbially to shove. Maude had been so callous as to ask him outright if he was gay, which he vehemently denied, and told him to stop embarrassing her with his problems.

He couldn't figure out what was wrong: he certainly didn't want any man touching him like that. He called the therapist who'd helped him after the episode in school, and they had several sessions that never got into his medical records, after which he improved somewhat. It didn't last, however, and eventually he simply gave up on sex altogether.

Until last night. After taking extra care shaving, he went through the clothes he'd brought with him, trying to pick an outfit he thought Josiah would like to see him in. He suddenly realized what he was doing, and it stopped him in his tracks. Why did he care what Josiah thought about his clothes? Why was he trying to get his approval? The answer hit him like a blow to the belly, and he dropped to the bed he hadn't slept in last night, and wasn't planning to use tonight. Oh, no, he thought, not that. I couldn't be, I'm not like that, I'm NOT!! his mind screamed, recalling the times he'd denied it to his mother. He looked at himself in the mirror, and admitted it out loud: "I'm gay. And I think I'm in love."

He suddenly had a horrible thought. Had his roommate known, all those years ago? Had the son of a bitch deliberately chosen him, because of it? Worse still, had he done something to lead him on, and had he done it again in the basement of the Hoover? He dressed quickly, needing to find Josiah -- or someone -- to talk to. He walked quickly down the corridor and to the kitchen, certain someone would be there. He was nearly there when he overheard Buck and JD arguing.

"Goddamnit, JD, he had no business doing that to you!"

"I'm not a baby, Buck, and you didn't turn him down! He didn't hurt me, he only did the same thing you've been doing since before we left Denver."

"Only! Only! Let me tell you something, kid: Josiah 'only' did the same thing to Nathan and Rain, against their will, and probably Chris, Vin, and Ezra too! Oh, he managed to talk Nathan out of leaving by saying Rain was pregnant -- and how he knew that, I'd like to know -- and promising he'd never touch them again, but I ain't buying it. What the hell was all that hooey about us being thought of as commodities, and needing his protection, and being bred like horses, anyway?"

Ezra was frozen in place. What was Buck saying? Josiah had done something to Nathan and Rain against their will? The phrase "touch them" rang out like a bell. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Oh, God. Oh, God, no. Not Josiah. Oh, please, no. Let it be something else. I misheard. Buck misunderstood. Oh, please, God, he didn't -- he couldn't... Ezra refused to finish the thought, as if thinking it might make true.

"Ezra?" Nathan's voice. "Ezra? You OK? What is it?"

"Nathan? Who are you -- Oh, God," JD said. "He must've heard me and Buck arguing, and Buck mentioned you and Rain. And Josiah."

Ezra's eyes popped open before Nathan could get the damning expression off his face. "What did he do?" The jade green eyes were desperate.

"Come eat first. I know for a fact you haven't had breakfast, and I'm not answering any questions while your stomach's empty. The growls will drown out my voice." Nathan joked weakly, pulling the Southerner to the kitchen.

Earlier that morning, using a passkey, he'd gone to the room Ezra had moved into the night before to check on him, and not finding him, had on a hunch checked Josiah's. He'd slipped quickly and quietly out after making sure Ezra was only sleeping. He'd intended to get the man alone and explain fully what had happened, including the fact he and Rain had forgiven Josiah.

"If it's what I thought I heard, breakfast won't stay down," Ezra replied as he was pulled along.

The trio entered the kitchen, and found Chris, Buck and Vin drinking coffee and discussing what to do with the bodies. They'd spent most of the morning, along with JD, doing a floor-to-floor search of the hotel after discovering there were no employees present and no one had shown up in the lobby demanding service.

Most of the rooms were empty, looking as if they'd been burgled, but valuables in plain sight remained, though their owners were gone. Several dozen other rooms had lost their tenants through murder, suicide, a combination of both, and in some cases the cause of death wasn't so easily determined.

Other rooms contained people who were no longer sane, most violently so, requiring restraints to be made from bedsheets. A very few, less than 10, contained sane people who'd simply been hiding and waiting for things to return to normal.

They'd decided to consolidate everyone in the lowest 4 floors. They put the violently insane in an empty conference room, with the sane ones, supplemented by others Josiah had brought in from the streets, watching them for now. The non-violent ones, and wounded people Josiah had also brought in, were placed in another conference room set up as an infirmary. Nathan had been returning from there, intending only to grab a quick cup of coffee, when he'd seen Ezra.

"Good Morning, Ezra. Sleep well?" Chris asked. Then he saw the expression on the Southerner's face. "What's wrong?"

"Buck's big mouth," retorted JD before Ezra could respond. Coffee cups and shoes suddenly developed hypnotic fascination. It was all the confirmation Ezra needed. Snarling a curse, he turned and bolted from the room. Vin was following even as Chris was telling him not to let Ezra leave the hotel.

Ezra ran, half-blind with tears, back the way he'd just come, and into his room. Vin nodded to himself and leaned against a convenient stretch of hallway. Just like being on a stakeout, or waiting for a perp to come out of his hidey-hole. A few moments later, Nathan caught up, and nodded his head toward Ezra's door. Vin nodded a yes back, and whispered, "I'll keep watch. Don't bother him right now."

"All right, but he still needs to eat, no matter how upset he is. I'll come back in about an hour with something, unless he comes out sooner." Nathan left after that, as he was needed in the infirmary.

Ezra threw himself on the bed and burst into tears. He sobbed, disconsolate, until he made himself ill, and rushed into the bathroom to dry heave, there being nothing in his stomach to come up. He slumped on the floor of the bathroom, his head on the cool porcelain of the commode, unable to come up with a good reason to move. His heart had been ripped out, stomped on, and shattered into tiny, unreassembable slivers. Josiah had taken what he'd offered and moved on to the next one. And the next, and the next, oh hell, he'd fucked all of them, willing or not. He left me, after I'd told him I didn't want to be alone. That was enough to start the tears anew.

He was still sobbing when Nathan knocked on the door. Not receiving an answer, the ex-medic let himself in, and found Ezra still on the bathroom floor. He wet a washcloth and cleaned Ezra's face and hands after pulling him up from the floor and leading him to a chair.

"You're gonna eat, and I don't want any arguments." Nathan told him. He fed him the first few bites before the Southerner's independent nature asserted itself, whereupon Ezra snatched away the spoon and started feeding himself, giving the criminalist an angry glare.

After the meal, Nathan tried to explain, but the other man cut him off.

"I don't want to hear it: not from you, and not from him." The poker face was firmly in place. "Now, what's everyone doing, and why aren't we at the Hoover?"

"The city's supposedly under martial law, and everyone's been ordered off the streets. From what I hear on the news and from the folks Josiah's brought in," the name caused jade green eyes to narrow, "whatever soldiers were sent in promptly fell victim to the Change, and instead of keeping order started running amuck like the rest of the populace," Nathan said.

"We spent all morning doing a floor-by-floor check of the hotel, restraining the violently insane, and setting up an infirmary for the non-violent ones, and the wounded --" Nathan stopped before saying the name, "that were brought in. I should be getting back there. Can you take the tray back to the kitchen? Chris should be there, or someone who knows where he is should be there. You gonna be OK?"

"I'll survive." Ezra picked up the tray and started for the door. He stopped just before opening it. "Thanks, Nathan," he said softly.

"Anytime, Ezra," came the equally soft reply, even though the ex-medic didn't feel he'd done all that much to help.

They separated at the end of the corridor, Nathan headed for the infirmary and Ezra to the kitchen. When he arrived, the Southerner saw a young woman he at first didn't recognize. Then he remembered: she and her parents had arrived last night, with the cache of weapons. They'd been rescued from their business; hadn't someone said it was a tailors'? She looked up and smiled at him. He thought she had a pretty smile.

"Uh, hello." God, I sound like JD. "Nathan asked me to bring this back," he indicated the tray, "and would you have any idea where I might locate Agent Larabee?"

"You must be Ezra." She smiled again, and he felt something fluttering inside. It was definitely a nice smile. "I'm Momi; it means 'pearl' in Hawaiian."

A pearl indeed, and one of great price, no doubt. Where had that come from? "You're Hawaiian? What are you doing so far from home?"

"I'm part Hawaiian; my mother's Hawaiian-Japanese-Phillipina, and my dad's Chinese-Thai-American. My paternal grandfather was a career diplomat; he met my grandmother in Bangkok. They eventually settled in DC, and my dad was born here. Father was the fifth of six children; he has three older brothers, two in the State Department, so he opted for a career in fashion design. He was on vacation on Kauai when he met my mother. To hear him tell it, he nearly went broke courting her before he convinced her to come back to the Mainland with him." Something over his shoulder caught her attention, and he turned to see what it was.

He wished he hadn't. There was Josiah, with a group of people, asking Rain to help get them settled in. His good mood evaporated, and he excused himself to follow the larger man to the infirmary, waiting until he came out to confront him.

"Why?" he asked, knowing fully well he wouldn't accept whatever answer he was offered.

He told Josiah not to touch him, and never to speak to him again, before stiffly walking away. He managed to hold on to it until he turned the corner, and promptly fell to pieces as soon as he thought nobody was looking. He had a short discussion with Vin before Buck and JD had come to fetch them back to the kitchen, where they found Chris and Josiah shouting at each other.

At first he thought he was the topic of conversation, but soon learned Josiah was trying to forbid Chris and some others from leaving to help AD Skinner on a rescue mission. Chris asserted his authority in no uncertain terms, saying they were going with or without him.

At that point, Ezra volunteered to go as well, and was promptly shouted down by both Chris and Josiah. He mentioned following as well, and the next thing he knew he was blinking up at Momi and they were long gone. He pushed the blanket he'd been under aside and sat up, slipping his feet into his shoes.

Momi introduced her parents, Robert C. M. (Choy Mu) MacLeod and Bernice Kaikamahine MacLeod nee Arakawa. He smiled at them and chatted for a while, but they excused themselves after a few minutes, and he was left alone with Momi. He excused himself, pleading hunger, and made his escape. He needed to think. He stopped in the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee, mentally reviewing what Vin had told him.

Rain was there, and told him to sit down while she fixed him a plate, saying Nathan was always going on about how he never ate properly. She set the food down in front of him and hovered until he started eating. He ate slowly, trying to figure out how to ask the question on his mind without seeming completely insensitive. "Rain, did you -- mind -- Nathan being with -- Josiah?"

"Of course I minded! Nathan hadn't wanted to, and even though he was gentle with both of us, and apologized before he left, what he did upset us greatly. We spent most of the rest of the night trying to figure out why. It was so unlike Josiah; not the gentleness, but the way he forced us. It was the oddest thing I've ever experienced: part of me was saying 'No, stop' and another part was relaxed, even enjoying it. Nathan said the same thing." Rain told him.

"Then why are you still here? Why didn't you leave?" I would have left. Maybe I should go now, while there are fewer people to stop me.

"Because of the look in his eyes when he was explaining why he'd done it. He honestly felt it was necessary to protect us. He thinks we're vulnerable, especially you; it's why he was so upset with Chris earlier. He said he needed to bond with all of us, to keep us together and away from people like Murdoch and the rest of the Others, who wouldn't see us as people, only things to be used in one way or another. He said he did it for you and JD in particular, because you needed a family, even if you'd rather die than admit it." She looked down for a moment. "I don't think he enjoyed being with us; he seemed distracted, as if there was somewhere he'd rather have been."

Somewhere he'd rather have been. With him? Had he badly misjudged Josiah, or was he just hearing something he could use to fool himself? Before he could decide, Chris, Vin and Buck came in, declaring mission accomplished and asking for coffee.

"Coffee, hell!" declared Buck, "I want a beer. Make that a pitcher. You wouldn't believe what we ran into tonight! I'm sorry I ever doubted Josiah!"

"Where is he?" Had something happened to him? Ezra hoped not.

"He said the Change would soon be here, and he had to be outside for it. He also said not to worry, he'd survive, he had to, to help close the Opening," Vin said.

Ezra excused himself, saying he was tired and was going to retire. He walked down the corridor to his room, and entered. He emerged 15 minutes later, wearing a silk robe and carrying his carry-on bag. He went to Josiah's room, stopping along the way to pick up clean sheets. He let himself in with a passkey he'd gotten from Vin, who'd smiled, winked, and not said a word. Ezra proceeded to strip and remake the bed, using the clean sheets, and afterward doffed the robe, slipping naked into the newly-made bed to await Josiah.


Josiah walked slowly down the corridor to his room. I have to keep going, he thought, I have to help close the Opening, and there are people who are depending on me for protection, whether they realize it on not. I can't dwell on what I no longer have. I'll have to be content with a few sweet memories. He reached his door and entered his room still lost in thought. He looked toward the bed and froze. Scent and mind confirmed what his eyes told him: Ezra lay there, waiting for him. He rushed to the bed, but pulled up just short of his goal.

"Josiah? What is it? What's wrong?" the man in the bed asked.

"You told me not to touch you, and never to speak to you again."

"I forgive you. May I take those words back? Please, make love to me!" Ezra begged.

Josiah threw off his clothes and dived into the bed, pulling Ezra into his arms and covering his face and neck with kisses. "Oh, God, Ezra, I love you," he murmured. "I love so much I can't think straight sometimes. I don't ever want to hurt you, or leave you, again."

He kissed, caressed, and fondled his way down Ezra's chest and belly, nibbling, licking and teasing before taking his penis into his mouth. He licked and sucked it expertly, and the Southerner quickly came, shooting hot sperm down Josiah's throat. Ezra expected to be turned over and have his lover inside him, but instead the big man sat up and pulled him into his lap facing him. They shared long, passionate kisses, Josiah's hands moving once more across his lover until the younger man begged to be filled with Josiah's hot, hard cock.

"Not yet," whispered the big man, "I want to pleasure you some more first."

He reached for the lubricant and smeared some on his fingers, which he used to spread it on Ezra's asshole. He teased the puckered anus until his love arched his back, trying to capture the finger driving him to distraction. Josiah let him impale himself on the digit, adding two more, and told him to ride them.

Ezra humped the fingers in his ass, driving his prostate against them, his cries of passion making Josiah even hotter. Their penises rubbed together, trapped between their bodies, and as the smaller man's movements became more frantic as got closer to orgasm, Josiah could feel his own release nearing. He pushed Ezra down his thighs far enough to reach between bodies and wrap his hand around his love's throbbing shaft, stroking it in time to the movement of Ezra's hips. The Southerner cried out and moved even faster, rocking back and forth until he came shouting Josiah's name.

Ezra took a few minutes to catch his breath before deciding to return the favor and kissing his way down to his lovers crotch. He took the massive member in his mouth and sucked it until he was pulled away.

"Not done yet," he gasped as Josiah pulled him to his lips for a passionate kiss.

"I thought you wanted me inside you."

"Yes! Oh, yes, please!" He reached for the penis he'd just been sucking, and tried to position it at his asshole, but Josiah stopped him.

"Not a good angle, love. I'd hurt you if I entered that way." He adjusted them to a safe position and slid home, making Ezra moan. He made love to the Southerner, holding back his own orgasm until the other man came one more time. Afterwards, as they lay cuddling together, Josiah made a decision, and asked, "Ezra, what's your ring size?"

"My ring size? 11. Why do you want to know?"

"I don't want your wedding band to be the wrong size." He smiled at the expression on his love's face. "That is, of course, if you'll do me the honor of marrying me, and I can talk the judge into performing the ceremony."

"There's just one problem with that." Ezra pointed out. "Homosexual marriages aren't legal, even in Hawaii."

"Look around, love. It's a whole new world, and we can make our own laws. As one of the Others, I'll be expected to claim lands after we close the Opening, and rule over them. The rest of the guys don't know yet, but I'm planning to claim the Caribbean and the northern part of South America, down to 10 degrees south latitude. How does a beach wedding and a life on St. Croix sound?"

"I love it." Ezra kissed him. "I love you." Another kiss. "And I'd love to marry you, and live with you, even it's in Alaska."

"Not Alaska, love." Josiah ran gentle fingers up and down Ezra's spine. "This calls for a celebration!" He grinned at his fiancé. "How do you want to celebrate?" he asked, nibbling on an earlobe.

"You're insatiable!" Ezra teased, grinning right back. "Good thing I am too."

The next morning, Josiah found a bus to take everyone to the airport, while people packed what they had. Most had no more than the clothes on their backs, so it was decided to scrounge through belongings of the dead for additional clothing. The Seven packed their cache of weapons back into the truck they'd "requisitioned", and added all the non-perishable and easily transported food, and as many containers of water as they could fill. They had no idea what conditions would be like in and around Denver, and only a vague idea how many additional people they would have to care for.

"Don't worry about the fact the engines aren't running," Josiah told them just before they started out. "I'm powering them both, as I'll be powering the plane."

He was the last one out of the hotel, and those few who understood didn't ask why the violently insane were left behind. He'd pointed out earlier they didn't have the ability to cure them, or the resources to properly care for them. He'd promised to make it quick and as painless as possible.

The small caravan drove out to the airport, passing the passenger terminal and going on to the freight area. Josiah found what he sought at a FedEx terminal; a 747-400 Freighter. He reached out with his mind and opened the front cargo doors, driving the bus straight into the hold. Chris followed in the truck, and the Seven spent some little while securing the vehicles prior to takeoff.

Josiah saw no reason to lift the plane in the normal manner; he simply willed the plane up, and it lifted. He pointed it toward the West and pushed it forward, and it went, far faster than it normally would. At this rate, they'd be in Denver in half the time it normally took. He turned to the 57 people -- 12 men and 45 women -- and gave them the same explanation he'd given his teammates a few days earlier, along with why they needed his protection from the rest of the Others, and what they could expect if they fell into another's hands. These people included, in addition to the doctor, an economist, a cultural anthropologist, and several other highly intelligent professionals.

He told them all government institutions had gone by the wayside, and they'd have to develop different ways of doing things. New threats needed to be countered in the most efficient manner, and new societal values would be needed to ensure the future. He wanted them to talk among themselves and see if they could come up with any ideas. They sorted themselves into little groups and got started. Josiah wondered what they'd come up with, and how much of it he could use.


Judge Travis looked out on the war zone that used to be Chris Larabee's front yard. During the night, he'd had to arm every able body, even the ones that weren't quite adult, to fend off the things that had shown up. If he didn't know better, he'd have wondered how he'd wandered into this remake of every horror movie ever made. At least they hadn't lost anyone, or any of the stock, thanks to Tanner's "gang" purloining some of the weapons and holing up in the barn. He was trying to think of someway to relieve the crushing overcrowding. Tanner's gang moving into the barn along with their people had helped, but space was still at a premium, and food supplies were starting to run low. Not to mention the failures of every piece of electrical and electronic equipment the day before; even the flashlights wouldn't work, or the generator.

He saw a glint in the sky, and looked up. Was that a plane? He didn't hear any engine noise, and it looked dangerously close to crashing. In fact, it looked like it was going to come down right in Larabee's pasture -- and it did! Not in a violent crash, but in a slow, gentle descent, straight down. The front cargo doors opened, and seven very familiar figures emerged, followed by dozens more.

"It's good to see you, Judge," said Chris, holding out his hand to shake the older man's.

"I'm not so sure of that," Travis responded. "We're overcrowded as it is, and running low on food."

"We brought as much food as we could scrounge from our hotel," JD told him. "There wasn't anybody left to eat it."

"We've also got a cache of weapons. How'd you do in that department, and how much do you have left?" asked Vin.

"Surprisingly well, with a little help from your friends," the judge replied. "We didn't need them until last night, and I'm not sure how to describe what we had to fight off."

"Monsters, like the ones you used to read about as a kid?" Buck retorted. "You know: werewolves, vampires, things like that?" Travis nodded.

"We've run into a few ourselves. Did you lose anybody?" Josiah inquired.

"No, and thanks to Vin's 'gang', we didn't lose any of the animals, either," the judge commented. "But we're extremely crowded, and I don't know where we'll put the people you brought."

Josiah turned to Chris. "Didn't you say there was a ski lodge around here somewhere?"

Chris gestured to the west. "About ten miles that way."

"Then let's load everybody up and move there. Bring the horses, too, and feed, water, and anything else you need for them." He moved toward the house, to get the move started. He already felt the pull to return to Washington.

They got everyone, everything, and all their supplies packed in a remarkably short time, and quickly moved to the resort. It was deserted, being closed at that time of year, and everyone sorted themselves out and found rooms. Surprisingly, there was a helicopter landed nearby, and Josiah was about to board it when he felt a touch on his arm. It was Ezra.

"Going so soon?"

"I have to go back, love. You already know why." He took his love's face in his hands and kissed him thoroughly. "Only for a few days, and then we'll be together. I'll bring back our rings. Keep yourself safe for me." With that, he boarded, and after Ezra stepped away, he lifted and flew into the clouds.

Josiah touched down in a shopping plaza near Washington where he remembered seeing a jeweler's. The place had been looted, but the safe in the rear was intact, and contained a good selection of rings. He found a pair he liked in his and Ezra's sizes, plus a box to hold them. He debated taking all the gold and silver left in the store, to melt down for coins or to use as currency, but decided against it. There would be plenty of unclaimed gold and silver in the area he wanted to claim.

He moved on to Murdoch's family estate, Sirius, and landed just as another helicopter did nearby. He recognized one of the men alighting as Walter Skinner, who introduced his companion as Antonio. "Josiah brought his own harem in with him to Washington just before the Change. Are they still in the city?"

"No, and I wish you wouldn't call them that, particularly Ezra. They were my brothers before I knew what I was, and we were only in the city on orders," Josiah stated.

The three men made small talk as they entered the mansion. They greeted Murdoch with the ritual sentence, "I come to close the Opening, master."

Instead of speaking the ritual response, the Ascendant glared at the two men who stood like twin towers. "We have business to attend after this, I see." He'd noticed Mulder's scent on Skinner, and Ezra's on Josiah. He was also aware of the latter's collection of Changed, though not where they were at the moment. An enemy (and Josiah was certainly that) would be doubly dangerous if he had a breeding population of Changed to offer his allies. The pair merely gave him identical dark smiles.

Before things could any further, a werewolf in human form came in, bearing the naked form of Alex Krycek. Murdoch praised the were, and asked to see his prize. The were, whose name was Garren, claimed Krycek for his own, but the claim was almost immediately disputed by Skinner. Josiah was prepared to back the former AD's play, and both he and Murdoch knew it.

But first they had to close the Opening.

They followed the Ascendant to the ballroom and when he asked, "Do you submit to me now?" they answered, "I submit, Master, and serve you in this with all my soul."

Murdoch heard the distinction. This, but nothing else. So be it. The ceiling was opened, the group joined hands, and the ceremony began.


In Colorado, preparations were being made for the coming night. Josiah had told them he'd shielded the building and the surrounding area for 1/2 mile, but they decided it would be better safe than sorry. They loaded weapons and set watches, but were unmolested that night, for which everyone was grateful.

The next day, Chris, Vin, Buck, and JD saddled up and tried riding out to the nearest neighbors, only to have the horses panic when they reached the half-mile point. They reared, shied, and refused to go any farther. They turned back, and the horses settled down, except for a desire to bolt. "What do you suppose got into them?" asked JD.

"Something they smelled just beyond Josiah's border?" Vin pondered.

"We'll have to ask if they reacted like that the night before we arrived," said Chris. He wasn't looking forward to enforced inactivity; he started feeling trapped. He looked over at Vin, and noticed he felt the same way. How were they going to live in this new world if they had to spend every waking moment looking over their shoulders, or hiding from monsters?

They rode on in silence, each man trapped in his own thoughts. As they approached the resort, Vin tapped Chris' leg and pointed at the top of the building. Standing by a window in the uppermost Eastern point of the building was a lone figure, looking toward the East. Ezra.

"Hope somebody figures a way to get him to eat," the sharpshooter said.

"Inez'll recruit Angie; you know Ezra wouldn't disappoint that kid," Buck said.

"Or Momi," JD added. Receiving confused looks, he said, "You know; the lady Josiah brought back with her parents when you went to get weapons? Rain said they were giving each other 'looks' when they were working together yesterday."

"Don't mean a thing. Some of those gals having been giving me 'looks', and offering a lot more," Buck replied. The others nodded, and even JD had to concede the point; he'd been getting his share of looks and offers.

They weren't the only ones watching Ezra, however. Someone else had noticed how isolated the upper room the Southerner had taken was. He'd been careful to avoid letting Ezra see his face, since he'd recognize it immediately. The little slut's even prettier than he was the last time I saw him, he thought. I want him. And tonight I'm going to have him.

He had to plan it carefully. If Ezra was a Federal agent, he'd be good at hand-to-hand combat, and wouldn't be intimidated by size.

Fortunately, he was prepared for that; he had some things in his luggage he'd planned to use on someone else. How fortunate he'd been staying in that hotel! He'd hidden in his room when the craziness started, and by some stroke of good luck, Ezra hadn't noticed him among the others. He'd been hanging around the kitchen, having overheard his quarry would probably have to be physically removed from his vigil and forced to eat. All he needed to do was slip the stuff into his dinner and wait.

Or into his wine; the little fancy-pants would doubtless be enjoying a bottle with dinner. Wait a minute: there was an idea! He headed to the wine cellar, to put his plan in motion.

A little while later, he stopped Inez as she was taking a tray up to Ezra's room, and added the bottle he'd doctored to the tray. He told her he thought the man might enjoy some wine with dinner. He was certain he'd ignore dinner and go straight to the wine; all the better for him. He waited for her to return, and slipped up to the hall outside the room. He waited for the sound of a falling body: that would tell him his plan had worked.

Ezra turned as the door opened, to see who it was. Inez entered, carrying a tray with dinner and a bottle of wine. "You should eat; Josiah would be upset to see you not eating."

She hoped invoking the big man's name would encourage him, or at least make him feel guilty enough to eat. He thanked her and assured her he would.

After she left, he picked at the food, managing to eat about half, and noticed the wine. It never occurred to him to question the open bottle, since he saw it was a type which needed to breathe. Just as his stalker had planned. He poured himself a glass and quickly drank it down. And poured himself another. Halfway through the second glass, the drug hit, and he dropped to the floor, wide awake but unable to move.

The man in the hall heard the thump of a body hitting the floor, and smiled. He quickly entered the room and located Ezra lying on the floor near the window. He turned the agent's face so he could see who had come in, and whispered, "So nice to see you again. Now we can take up where we left off, all those years ago."

Ezra looked up into the face that had haunted his nightmares for years. Oh dear God no! he thought, knowing what the man intended, and how much it would hurt. Where is he going to rape me first? Down my throat, or up my ass? He recognized Aaron Clay, the roommate from Hell, as soon as he'd seen him, and wondered how he'd missed him before.

Clay picked up the unresisting man and carried him down the hall to the room he'd chosen for his "reunion". He smiled; he'd been here before, several times, and knew the layout fairly well. This particular suite had two rooms, and he carried his victim to the inner one, locking both the doors behind him. He'd have plenty of warning before being interrupted. As an added precaution, he jammed a chair under the doorknob of the inner room.

He moved back to the bed where he'd dumped his prey. He quickly stripped Ezra, and stood back to admire the perfection before him. Slightly wavy chestnut hair above sweetly boyish features. Jade green eyes and pouty, kissable lips. Ivory skin mostly unmarred by body hair, well-formed pecs and washboard abs. Wide shoulders tapering to a slender waist and narrow hips with a beautiful uncut penis. Muscular legs and slender, high-arched feet. A man grown, the promise of the 15-year-old he'd had so long ago fulfilled.

Clay turned his prize over, exposing rounded Grecian buttocks. He parted the cheeks and saw the puckered treasure he was about to make his own. He shoved a finger into it, reveling in the warm tightness. This was gonna be so, sooo good.

Ezra tried desperately to move, or at least cry out, but couldn't so much as wiggle a toe or tongue. He was helpless as Clay stripped him, and could feel his eyes taking in his naked flesh. He couldn't make a sound as he was turned over, toyed with, and violated by a finger. A worse violation would come soon, he knew, and his mind quailed at the thought of the ordeal to come. The finger was removed and he was roughly turned over; his feet were pushed up to his shoulders, making an obscenely exposing "V".

Clay quickly positioned himself and thrust his entire length into the helpless man beneath him, pumping for all he was worth. Ezra screamed mentally, unable to give voice to the agony, mental and emotional as well as physical, he was experiencing. It was just as it had been when he was 15: the bastard still felt like the small end of a baseball bat, his thrusts ripping through him, as if to tear him in half. That the monster penis was rubbing across his prostate and exciting him was insult added to injury.

Before it could do more than take the edge off the pain, Clay grunted and emptied himself into Ezra's bowels. He rolled off the other man, leaving him halfway, and Ezra was mortified by the fully erect penis jutting from his body.

"Still like it, little slut? I hope so, since you're going to get a lot before you're missed. Does that big bear of yours fill you up like I do? Bet he doesn't." Clay reached over and toyed with the erect penis, not moving fast enough to bring him to orgasm, just enough to keep him hard. Soon his own penis was hard again, and he decided to see if he remembered how good the inside of Ezra's mouth felt.


Josiah had started feeling uncomfortable the second day he'd been at the estate, but he couldn't put a finger on why. The ceremony had been proceeding as planned, the Opening slowly closing as it fed itself to the Ascended and responded to the spells being used to close it. He and Skinner were getting the most from it, after Murdoch, and as a result weren't dropping into boneless heaps at the end of each session. They'd both seated themselves, Indian-fashion, on the floor and waited for the next session. Josiah had pulled out a steno pad and was writing down ideas for ruling and safeguarding his people, and creating a viable economy.

Skinner didn't mind the scritch-scratch of pen on paper, but he wished Sanchez would stop singing snatches of "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" under his breath. "You don't have to marry him, you know."

"I want to marry him. I want us to be together, and I want him to see how much. I want to give him something he can point to and say, 'This is how much he loves me, and I know he'll never leave me, or send me away.' I want him to feel safe, and cherished, and loved," Josiah explained, showing the other man the rings he'd picked out.

"Very bad," Antonio pointed out, joining them since he'd recovered. "Very bad, indeed. They will start expecting that sort of treatment."

They argued the case until the next session.


He wanted to die.

The drug had worn off, and Ezra could move somewhat, but even the smallest move caused his badly abused body to hurt. Clay had beaten him between rapes, and now the ivory skin was blotched with bruises in various shades. He couldn't talk due to the number of times his former roommate had raped his throat, and it and his ass were both bleeding.

It didn't seem to bother the other man the bed sheets were sticky with blood and semen, and his toy was dying from the abuse he was inflicting. He just kept on raping him, knowing he would soon be missed, and he'd have to kill him when he was. Ezra cried out, or tried to, as a thrust entered at a bad angle, causing new pain. Clay noticed it, and thrust there repeatedly; he enjoyed seeing the smaller man's pain, and being the cause of it.


The Opening was but the size of a small house and shrinking faster with every breath of its offspring. Violent electrical storms brewed from it and streaks of lightening battered the humans and the true Ascendant. It spiraled and fed its offspring, feeding the strongest first and the weakest last, like any good mother in the wild, and then it died, leaving the darkness to be filled with distant points of light, a billion such points creating the semblance of order and normalcy. The pattern of these stars and faraway planets was a familiar face to a world now changed.

Skinner felt it now, the truth of his purpose. His eyes locked with his brothers, and he counted thirteen who were his allies, including Sanchez. There were some weak, some strong. They screamed then as it happened, the final, the ending, the becoming. For a brief span of time, none were aware of their surroundings.

Skinner and Sanchez awoke to find Murdoch standing over them. "The Foxling and the Southerner are mine. I want them returned at once. Skinner, you may have your choice of the Changed I have in my possession."

"Mulder is mine; I've already bonded with him. Give me Krycek." Skinner retorted.

"You have nothing which would induce me to give you Ezra. Of all the bonds I've made, ours is the strongest. I plan to marry him, as proof of my commitment to him," Josiah added.

Murdoch snorted. Marriage, indeed! "You forget who is Master here."

Both told him he was master no more, but enemy, causing the rest to declare themselves either for or against. They would separate now, and divide the world between them. Josiah felt Skinner stretch out his mind, seeking Krycek and not finding him.

The doors suddenly burst from their hinges, and the wolf Garren was growling that his mate had been taken, and he was blaming Murdoch. Murdoch protested his innocence and insisted he find Krycek for him immediately, ignoring the wolf's claim. Josiah knew that was a very bad idea, since werewolves, like true wolves, mated for life. When the Ascendant made the mistake of saying the assassin was his to gift as he pleased, the wolf had stated he served him no more, and left to find his mate.

While Murdoch raged about Garron's loss, Skinner, Josiah, and Antonio slipped out.

"I'm taking my people West," Skinner said. "Who you claim, you claim from there." Antonio nodded.

"How far West?" Josiah asked. "My people are near Denver. Care to stop for a visit?"

The other two said they'd think about it, and they parted ways.

Josiah closed his eyes, and concentrated on his bond with Ezra. What he learned caused him to howl in fury before he disappeared.


Ezra's brow furrowed. He could have sworn Josiah had been there, just for a moment. It hardly mattered now, as he was unlikely to survive, and even if he did, Josiah would never touch him again.


Josiah grabbed Clay by the hair and threw him across the room, roaring in an incoherent rage. The rapist hit the wall hard, and slid bonelessly to the floor. Ignoring him for the moment, he pulled Ezra into a gentle embrace. His love was cold to the touch, and for a moment he feared he was too late.

Then Ezra started to choke, and Josiah leaned him forward to allow the blood to pour from his mouth instead down his throat. He checked Clay, and finding him still alive, made sure he'd sleep until he could be taken into custody. Using his mind, he removed the chair and unlocked the doors. His mind reached out once more and located Nathan. He wrapped Ezra in a sheet and willed himself to the healer.

Nathan was with Dr. Stokes in the infirmary they'd set up when Josiah and a sheet-wrapped Ezra appeared out of thin air. "His throat's bleeding. Help him," pleaded the big man.

Stokes immediately grabbed an entubation kit and put a breathing tube down the Southerner's throat, almost before Josiah got him laid on an exam table. She checked his breathing, and started to examine him while directing Nathan to get his vitals.

"You'll have to leave," she told Josiah, slipping automatically into ER mode. She asked Nathan what he had and frowned at the blood pressure reading. "Damn! I wish I had a CT scanner, or at least a sonogram. As it is, I'll have to open him up to see where and how badly he's bleeding. I just hope he survives major surgery under these conditions." She helped prep him, and hoped he'd tolerate what they had to use for anesthesia.

When he was asked to leave, Josiah located Chris and Vin in the dining room. He popped in, startling everyone, and told them where, with whom, and in what condition he'd found Ezra.

He asked Chris and Vin to get the guy and lock him up some where secure. "Don't kill him, or rough him up too badly. I want him to stand trial; Judge Travis can preside, and we'll pick a jury and have him defended. I want it done properly, so the ones here who don't know me will see that Justice will be done under my rule." The two men nodded, and went to secure the prisoner. Travis said he'd find a good spot for the trial, and a way to select jurors. Buck and JD went to Ezra's room to see what evidence they could find, and promised to interview any possible witnesses.

Some hours later, a helicopter landed in the parking lot. Weapons were trained on it until Josiah told them it was all right, they were friends, and he'd invited them to visit.

Chris, Vin and Buck recognized most of the folks who came out of the chopper as AD Skinner and the people from the apartment in Alexandria; only the exotically handsome young man and the older woman were strangers. Introductions were performed, and the visitors were invited in for lunch. Josiah excused himself to return to the infirmary, and Scully asked if she could help. Glancing at Skinner for permission, and getting a nod in return, he took the pathologist by the waist and disappeared.

"I wish he'd stop doing that," said Buck.

"You know he's not going to spend a second away from Ezra he doesn't have to," remarked Vin.

"Something's happened to Standish?" Skinner recalled Sanchez saying he was going to marry the man.

"He was attacked by one of the people we brought from Washington," Chris told him. "He's in pretty bad shape."

The former AD and Antonio exchanged a glance. Josiah had brought people from the nexus of the Change? Anyone that close would have been Changed. They did a quick count, and discovered he had over 50 Changed! "Do you think he would share?" whispered the Italian.

"We can ask," Skinner replied. He wasn't really interested, having his hands full with the ones he had, particularly Fox and Alex.

After they had lunch, they found Josiah in the infirmary, standing by Ezra's bed, holding one limp hand and stroking his hair. "Don't leave me, my love," they heard him whisper as he bent down and kissed the too-pale forehead. Skinner cleared his throat, knowing the big man knew he was there. Josiah turned to his guests. "Forgive me; I haven't been a very good host. Was there something you wanted?"

Antonio jumped in before Skinner could. "You seem to have a number of Changed. Would you care to gift us with a few?"

Josiah frowned. "Those people aren't possessions. You can ask if they wish to go with you, save for the ones I've bonded to, but you may not coerce them, or touch their minds. The one who did this," he gestured to Ezra, "is off-limits. He's to be tried and punished for his crime."

"Fair enough," agreed Skinner, and the other man nodded. They spent the night there, and in the end, five women and two men decided to go with them.

The evening was festive, as with three Ascended present there was no need to worry about anything attacking, and everyone felt the need for a little release. Judge Travis filled in for their missing host, and the evening was pleasant, if a little subdued by worry about Ezra's recovery. Even Scully and Dr. Stokes put in an appearance, each at separate times, and were quickly bombarded with questions about the Southerner's condition, and his chances of surviving. They were both carefully non-committal, and quickly changed the subject.

The night went fairly quickly, and it wasn't long until people started excusing themselves and retiring for the night, though the younger folks lasted longer than the older ones. Soon the resort was quiet, and the only person awake was the man who sat in the infirmary, holding the hand of the one he loved.

Just as dawn was breaking, Ezra stirred and opened his eyes. Josiah had been with him all night, keeping a vigil in his mind and suppressing the nightmares so his love could rest.

#"I'm here, love,"# he whispered both aloud and into Ezra's mind. #"Just think, and I'll hear you."#

#Hurts# came the confused thought, and then, as he remembered, #OhGod, OhGodnonononono#

"Shh, love, shh. You're safe now, you're safe and I'm here, and I won't ever leave you. I brought our rings back with me." He held up the ring box so the injured man could see them. "When you're well enough, we'll go to St. Croix, and when you're all better, we'll have our wedding on the beach, just as I promised."

#No. I can't. Not now. Not after what he did to me. I'm polluted, corrupted, filthy. I don't deserve to be loved!#

"What he did doesn't change how I feel. I love you, Ezra; I have for almost two years now. The only reason you didn't know before was a promise I made to Chris. You do deserve to be loved, you need to be loved as much as I want to give you my love. Work on getting well now, and we'll discuss whether on not you should be loved when you're stronger." He sent love and comfort into the other man's mind, and felt it as he relaxed into sleep.

An hour later, the doctors showed up, and Stokes told Scully to get breakfast. "You're a guest, and only consulting."

"All right, but I'm bringing you back a tray," Scully replied.

"No need; your breakfast has come to you," Nathan said, as he and Mulder entered, carrying trays. "I figured neither one of you would care to leave your patient for something as unimportant as eating."

"And I thought Josiah might like something as well," Momi MacLeod added, following them into the room with an additional tray. "How is he?" she asked as Josiah took the tray and set it on a nearby table.

"He woke up for a few minutes an hour ago," he told her. "He remembers most of what happened, I think, and he's badly traumatized by it."

"He seems to be making a very swift recovery. When I checked his wounds just now, they looked days old instead of hours," revealed Stokes. "There's something else, too. I had everyone give me their medical histories, as well as they could remember them. The Washington people had ages ranging from late teens to mid-fifties -- but none of them look older than 25. Have you noticed that with your people, Scully?"

"I don't really have a large enough sample to tell, but yes, I had noticed something like that was happening," the other woman replied.

"It's an effect of the Change," Josiah said. "The Changed are just that: their bodies, in addition to being chemically altered, are also physically altered to be as close to perfection as possible." He made a face. "And highly fertile, though I don't know the reason why."

"Oh, great! Remind me to set up a maternity ward sometime in the near future," groused Stokes. "What about you, and the rest of the Ascended? What did the Change do to you?"

Josiah shook his head. "Don't worry yourself; one of the things it did was to make you redundant, as far as we're concerned." Stokes raised an eyebrow, but remained silent.

"What do you mean by 'chemically altered?' " inquired Mulder.

The larger man stared at him. "You mean you hadn't noticed? To begin with, you're highly attractive, due to the chemicals your body is releasing. I'm surprised Skinner lets you out of his sight. You also should have noticed you're more... sexually active."

He grimaced at that last; it was why Ezra had been so badly injured. He finished his meal and returned to his love, but Dr. Stokes chased him out and told him to get some sleep.

He remained awake long enough to say goodbye to Skinner, Antonio, and their party before they left, and to drop in on the prisoner and wake him up. He also checked with Travis on how soon he wanted to start the trial, and with Chris to see how the investigation was going. They both agreed they had enough to start the trial after lunch, and Josiah nodded. He told them to let one of the group's three lawyers speak to Clay, so he could prepare a defense. Then he went upstairs, took a shower, and lay down to sleep until lunch.

Josiah awoke and mentally checked on Ezra, who was still asleep. He opened his eyes, threw off the covers, rose, shaved, dressed and headed down to lunch. He saw Judge Travis and Chris sitting together and joined them. "Everything ready for the trial?" he inquired.

"The prosecution is ready, but the defense has been trying to delay. I rejected all his motions, and told him the trial would proceed as scheduled," Travis told him.

The trial started an hour later, with jury selection. The Seven, by virtue of being investigators and witnesses, were excluded, as were several other people. All other adults were required to reach into a bag and pull out one marble. If the marble was black, they were on the jury. As soon as they reached the twelfth black marble, the jury was sworn in and seated. The judge read out the charges and turned to the defendant. "How do you plead?"

The defense lawyer rose and said, "Not guilty, Your Honor." A buzz arose, and Travis called the court to order.

Prosecution and defense made their opening statements. The prosecution claimed the defendant had maliciously drugged, raped, sodomized, and beaten his victim nearly to death. Defense contended the sex and beating were consensual; his client had merely given Standish what he had requested.

The prosecution (another of the three lawyers) called her first witness, and Inez Rosios took the stand. She related that the defendant had added a bottle of wine to the tray she had taken to Ezra. Yes, the bottle was open when he put it on the tray. Defense asked if that was unusual, and she admitted it was common to open that type of wine to let it breathe.

Prosecution's next witness was Josiah Sanchez, who described what Clay had been doing to Ezra when he found them, and said both the outer and inner doors of the suite had been locked, and a chair had been jammed under the doorknob in the inner room. Defense asked if Standish had been fighting his partner, saying no, or otherwise resisting, and Sanchez replied an unconscious man can't fight back or say no.

Other witnesses were called. Buck Wilmington testified he found several bottles of drugs in the defendant's luggage. Dr. Stokes described the location and extent of Ezra's injuries, and also identified the drugs found as sedatives and paralytics, primarily used in veterinary medicine and not approved for human use. Chris Larabee described the condition of the room, and the bed, where he'd found Clay.

The prosecution rested, and the defense began it's case by calling Aaron Clay. Clay testified Standish had sought him out to thank him for the wine, and had followed him back to his room and agreed to have sex with him. He claimed Standish had wanted it rough; he had asked to be beaten. He admitted it may have gotten a little out of hand by the time Sanchez arrived. Defense rested, both sides made their closing statements, the judge gave the jury their final instructions, and they retired to deliberate.

It took them 15 minutes to return a verdict of Guilty as Charged, and Judge Travis sentenced him to banishment from the resort, and remanded him to Josiah's custody.

Josiah took him out to the edge of his protection, and silently called. An enticingly handsome young man stepped out of the woods, and Josiah told him he had a gift for the pack.

He turned to Clay and said, "This young man is a werewolf. I'm going to give you to him and his pack. Don't worry; they aren't going to kill you, or turn you into one of them, just pass you around. I'm told you'll enjoy it; werewolves have a substance in their saliva that acts like an aphrodisiac/hallucinogen." He shoved Clay to the werewolf, who caught him easily, and turned to go, heedless of the man's screams, which soon turned into moans of passion.

He touched Ezra's mind, and was instantly at his side. He'd recovered sufficiently to have the breathing tube removed, and to swallow a little warm broth. "I was worried about how we were going to feed him." Stokes admitted.

"How long until he's ready for an extended trip?" Josiah asked.

"How extended?" she retorted.

"St. Croix."

"The one in the Caribbean?"

"That's the one."

"At the rate he's recovering, and barring complications, I'd say 3 to 5 days."

He nodded, and went to tell his people they were leaving in a few days.

The 747 Freighter was modified to carry the nearly 100 people, along with weapons, supplies, and livestock. They made a trip into the ruins of Denver to pick up whatever supplies they could find, and were shocked at what they saw. They also rounded up all the horses, cattle, and sheep they could fit into the lower cargo hold. Five days later, with Ezra cradled in his lap, Josiah lifted the plane and turned it toward the Caribbean.


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