(Search & Rescue)
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, this story is strictly for fun, not profit.
Summary: Chris and Vin are on the way home in Governor Travis' plane when it crashes.
Author's notes: Thanks to Kris for letting me play in her sandbox. <g> Thanks to DarkCherry, Kris and Sherri for beta'ing this story.
Feedback: Always welcome. <bg>
Ezra sighed contentedly as he soaked in the freedom and the silence only nature could provide. He allowed the horse to set the pace as they strolled leisurely through the woods, enjoying the warmth of the first Spring days. After a long and hard winter in which the Search and Rescue team had been kept thoroughly busy, it felt good to finally be able to rest and relax for a while.
It was the team's first week off in a long time, even though they were still on standby, if need be. Chris and Vin had traveled the day before to Cheyenne to meet with Governor Travis in hopes of getting more funding -- or at least new equipment. Chris had wanted them to stay in Cheyenne for a few days, but Vin was adamant -- he would stay over-night only. The others were around, in the office or in the living quarters doing their best to cool off and enjoy their downtime.
He couldn't help but smile at the thought that Vin would be back at any moment. The Texan had been the first member of the team Ezra had allowed to break through his walls, maybe because they were so much alike in many ways. Their relationship had changed over the two years since they'd known each other. Somehow with working together had come respect, acceptance, then friendship.
And without him realizing it, he'd fallen in love.
He hadn't even noticed it at first; how he kept watching Vin, feeling strangely content whenever they were together. Hadn't realized that he didn't want to be anywhere else, didn't want to be with anyone else. That he always felt good when Vin was with him, and that there was something missing when he was away. Like now.
He'd never said anything to the other man. Those feelings were new to him and he wasn't sure how to deal with them. Plus, a relationship between them was sure to change the whole team's dynamic, and he wasn't certain Vin returned his feelings. And if he was honest with himself, he was frightened to take the chance. He might not survive the damage to his heart.
A loud boom suddenly echoed around him, causing the horse to rear up in surprise. Ezra soothed the frightened animal, green eyes scanning the horizon and the direction the noise seemed to have come from. Smoke could be seen rising not far from where he was standing.
"What was that?" He whispered to himself. "I better check it out. Come on, boy."
Ezra spurred the buckskin forward at a fast gallop, taking him only a few minutes to reach the edge of a cliff. He dismounted quickly and looked over the edge. His breath caught in his chest as he recognized the Piper Chieftain, a small twin-engine plane belonging to the Governor, and which was supposed to bring Chris and Vin home. The plane was half buried in the side of the mountain, swaying precariously on a small ledge.
Thanking Lady Luck for his foresight in bringing a rope with him, Ezra snatched the long rope from the saddle and tied one of the ends to a tree near the edge of the cliff. Taking a deep breath, he tied the other end of the rope around his waist and donned his gloves. Knowing he had to hurry, Ezra jumped over the edge. He climbed down carefully; knowing that to panic would only mean his and any of the survivors' deaths.
He finally managed to reach the ledge and looked inside the plane. The pilot was slumped inside the crushed cockpit, his eyes open and unseeing. Vin was seated in the back, eyes closed and bleeding from the head. Chris was lying on the floor, moaning softly.
Ezra tugged on the rope for additional slack, and stepped inside the aircraft through the torn door. He pulled off his gloves and, mindful of any possible injuries, turned the blond man carefully on his back, checking him over swiftly but thoroughly.
Hearing his name called, he looked up into Chris' pain-filled eyes. "Yes. You're all right, Chris. Merely a broken arm. And you gentlemen say *I* have the luck of the devil!" He joked weakly, taking his belt off and tying it around Chris' torso to hold the injured limb to his chest. "This is the best I can manage for the moment."
"Vin... Get Vin..."
Trying to control his fear at the mention of the Texan, Ezra nevertheless prevented the blond from moving towards the seats, "Mr. Larabee, you're familiar with procedure. You're closer, you go first. I'm going to help you stand and we are going to leave the plane. Ready?"
He watched Chris grit his teeth in an effort to control the pain, then nod his acquiescence. Ezra helped him to his feet and half-carried, half-dragged him towards the opening.
"You'll have to... carry me up, Ezra. I'll climb on your back. I can wrap my legs... around your waist and my good arm around your neck," Chris told him, his voice sounding hoarse but firm.
"Chris, you're weak, you might not be able to hold on," Ezra told him with a worried frown. The dark-clad man looked about ready to keel over.
"There's no other way, Ezra. It would take too long to go down the mountain and we haven't enough rope. Do it."
The heavy scent of fuel and the creaking of metal around them reminded Ezra that they didn't have much time and that Vin was still inside the plane. He nodded, and Chris moved behind him, draping his body around the southerner's.
Grunting at the extra weight, Ezra began to climb, hand over hand, focusing solely on reaching his destiny. The side of the mountain. "How are you doing, Chris?"
"Okay," was the strained reply.
"We're almost there, hold on." They finally reached the top, and Ezra guided Chris to lean against a tree. He handed him his cell phone. "Call Josiah and have him bring the helicopter. There's a clearing five minutes walk from here." Ezra stated, already on his way down.
He rappelled down to the ledge, walking inside the aircraft and rushing to Vin's side while trying not to unbalance the plane. Swallowing around the lump lodged in his throat, he checked Vin for a pulse, releasing a tense breath when he found one. He unfastened the seat belt before carefully pulling the Texan from the seat.
Ezra quickly checked Vin for injuries, relieved when the large, bloodied lump on his temple was the only thing he could find. He stepped out again, dragging Vin with him. It was going to be nearly impossible to take Vin up. He had no equipment whatsoever and the Texan was unconscious, thus unable to lend a hand.
Instinct took over when he heard the plane suddenly lurch backwards. He grabbed Vin by the waist, holding him tightly. The small craft chose that moment to plunge down the mountain, the terrifying sound of crunching metal and falling rock echoing all around them.
Ezra felt a blow to his side as a broken wing slammed against it, throwing him towards the rock. Trying to protect Vin from the impact, he turned his body, colliding full force on the side of the mountain, feeling his shoulder give painfully.
The ledge crumbled beneath his feet and they dropped a few feet, but the rope was still around Ezra's waist so they were left hanging, swinging to the soft breeze.
Ezra took a deep breath. He had a dislocated shoulder and at least a few bruised or cracked ribs. He couldn't ask Chris for help, he wasn't even sure the other man had been able to call the others for help. To make things worse he couldn't even climb back up; he would need his hands and they were the only things holding Vin, who was getting heavier by the minute.
"Ezra! Ezra, are you okay?"
He almost sobbed when he heard Nathan's voice. "Yes! Pull us up, quick! I can't hold him much longer!"
"Hold on, son!" Josiah, this time.
He felt the pull on the rope, and suddenly they were moving closer to the top. Each movement was agony, sending stabs of pain through his ribs and shoulder, but he was running on adrenaline. All he wanted was to make certain Vin would be all right, get him out off that damned cliff and into the nearest hospital. Vin had to be okay. He couldn't lose his guiding light.
They reached the edge. He allowed Nathan to pull Vin from his arms and check him for injuries while Josiah helped him get all the way up and untied him.
Ezra dropped to his knees as soon as the rope was off. "Where's Chris?" He panted tiredly.
"Buck already took him to the chopper," Josiah replied. "Are you okay, Ezra?"
He nodded, incapable of uttering another word through the pain he was feeling. He turned pleading eyes on Nathan, relieved when the other man seemed to understand him. "Other than the head wound, I can't see anything else wrong with him. Can't tell how serious it is, though. Josiah."
Ezra watched the big man nod, picking Vin gently from the ground and leading them back to the helicopter. He stood slowly, leaning against a tree, fighting the urge to pass out. He had to make sure Vin was all right first. He managed to follow the others; walking behind them without showing the effort it required doing so. His injuries could wait.
An hour later all the members from Search and Rescue team 7 were in one the ER's cubicles. Chris with a brand new cast and a sling to support his arm, Vin with a bandage around his head and a scowl on his face. He'd regained consciousness on the way to the chopper and had been awake ever since.
"Well, Doctor Martin?" Nathan asked the woman hovering over Tanner.
"He sustained a concussion and suffered a few scrapes and bruises," the doctor replied. "I'd like to keep him overnight just to make sure. You can never tell with head wounds."
"No way! I've been through this before. One of my friends can just as well spend the whole damn night wakin' me up, no need for a bunch of nurses to do it. I'm goin' home," Vin snarled from his seat.
"Mr. Tanner --" Doctor Martin began.
"I'm leavin'," Vin interjected, rising from the bed. "Ya can't keep me here against my will."
"Fine!" The woman huffed, marching away angrily.
"Vin, maybe you should stay," Buck suggested with an amused smile.
"No. If I have to spend the night being awakened every damn hour, I'd rather one of you did it. No sense in stayin' here."
"Now I know he's goin' to be okay," Nathan stated. "He's already trying to weasel his way out of here." He turned to Ezra, watching the other man's glazed eyes with a frown. "Ezra, are you okay?"
The southerner blinked, finding himself under intense scrutiny by the other six men. He swayed slightly as he tried to focus on the question asked. "I... Nathan?"
"Yes, Ezra?" Nathan asked softly.
"I don't... I don't feel..."
Josiah reached out to steady the younger man and found himself with an armful of unconscious southerner. "Ezra! Medic! We need a medic here!" He bellowed frantically.
A nurse called for a gurney to be brought to them, but Josiah simply lifted the limp form, cradling the unconscious man to his broad chest, and carried Ezra himself. He placed him carefully on the exam table and stepped back to allow the doctor to work.
He turned to see the other five watching the examination closely, their concern for Ezra clear in their expressions. Chris sighed warily, pinning each man with a glare. "Would someone be so kind as to tell me what the *hell* just happened here?" He growled.
Thirty minutes later he had his answer. Ezra had a dislocated shoulder and a couple of cracked ribs, and apparently hadn't bothered to tell anyone. They'd all been so worried about Vin that they'd completely missed Ezra's injuries.
"Stubborn cuss!" Nathan muttered.
The doctor smiled, her annoyance at Vin obviously over. "Don't be too hard on him, Mr. Jackson. Considering what you gentlemen do for a living, it's more than likely that Mr. Standish was so focused on the rescue that his system produced enough adrenaline and endorphins to keep him going until he was certain both Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner were safe. Once that was a given, the natural suppression wore off and Mr. Standish's body finally acknowledged its own injuries and he crashed. Now, he's being moved to a room. Since I'm sure you'll want to be with him when he wakes, I asked him to be placed in a room with two beds. That way Mr. Tanner can stay under observation and by his friend's side," she finished with a smirk.
"Busted!" JD grinned at the grimace on Vin's face.
Doctor Martin looked at her watch. "He must be in the room by now. Come with me, I'll take you to see him." She guided them to a room on the second floor. "Mr. Tanner," she began as she opened the door. "There's a hospital gown with your name on it on the empty bed, I suggest you wear it. A nurse will come by in a while to check on you. Gentlemen." With a slight nod she left, leaving the six men to watch over their seventh.
They surrounded the bed, noting how young and vulnerable Ezra looked at that moment. His left arm was in a sling supporting his shoulder, his right hand lay palm down on the white sheets. Ignoring his own weakness, Vin moved to the head of the bed, reverent fingers combing gently through the unruly chestnut hair.
"He saved our lives today, Chris. He's gotta be okay, he just gotta."
"You heard Doctor Martin, Vin," Nathan told him softly. "He'll be fine. By this time tomorrow he'll be back in his quarters givin' one of us hell for hoverin' and mother-henning him."
Vin nodded, his blue eyes never leaving Ezra's face, his fingers never leaving the silken hair. He tried not to think about the intimacy of the gesture, focusing on the soothing motion as he watched the handsome face now slack with sleep. Ezra never stirred.
"When are you going to tell him?" Buck asked suddenly.
"What?" Vin started, looking up at the other man.
"We've seen the way you look at the him, the way you connected with him. You're in love with Ezra," JD replied with a broad grin.
Vin flushed. "I... uh..."
Nathan smiled. "It's okay, Vin. We've all noticed it."
"And it's okay with ya?" Vin asked hesitantly, looking at the five men.
"Love is a rare thing, Vin," Josiah stated. "No matter what shape or size it comes in. Just hold on tight and make the most of it. It's all anybody can do."
The others nodded in agreement. Vin smiled gratefully, then frowned and looked back at the unconscious southerner. "I don't even know if he feels the same," he whispered.
"He does. He looks at you the same way you look at him," Chris told him. "But he'll never make the first move. It's not in his nature. It'll have to be you to take the first step."
"I will," Vin vowed, running his fingers lightly over a pale cheekbone. "I will."
Ezra awoke in a strange bed. From the sounds and smells around him, he was in the hospital. Further examination showed that his injured ribs had been wrapped and his shoulder was in a sling.
"Damn," he whispered softly.
"Finally!" A familiar voice exclaimed to his right. Ezra turned to see Vin lying on the other bed. "Was starting to think ya'd never wake up, pard!" He watched dazedly as Vin rose from the bed and moved to his side. "Thirsty?"
Ezra nodded and Vin picked up the tumbler of water at his bedside, holding it up for him to drink. "Thank you," he whispered when he was done.
"You're welcome," Vin grinned.
"Are you all right?"
Vin frowned. "Me? I wasn't the one to pass out in the middle of the ER, pard. Just about scared us all to death with that stunt o' yours! You should'a told us you were hurt, Ez."
"I'm sorry. I was concerned about you and Mr. Larabee, I didn't believe I was seriously injured."
"That's a load of crap if I ever heard one, Ezra," Vin chided, but he was smiling. "Thanks for saving our hides, by the way."
"You're most welcome, Mr. Tanner," Ezra replied with a smile of his own. "How is Mr. Larabee?"
"His arm is givin' him trouble, but he's okay. He and the others went home to change and have breakfast. Should be back soon." He took a deep breath. "Ez, we need to talk."
"About?" Ezra raised an eyebrow at Vin's suddenly nervous tone.
"This one... it was close. *Too* close. It made me think. I don't want to spend the rest of my life wonderin' 'bout how it might've been between us."
Ezra gave him a startled look. "Excuse me?"
"'M in love with ya, Ez," Vin blurted out. "Can't say exactly when it happened, it just did. I've never allowed anyone this close before, 'cept maybe for Chris. Somewhere along the way, ya stopped being someone I worked with and became a very close friend. And then somethin' more. From the first moment I set eyes on you I was attracted to that fiery spirit you keep so well hidden and to that handsome face o' yours." He chuckled fondly, and Ezra knew he'd been unable to prevent the blush from showing.
"Mr. Tanner --"
"Let me finish, Ez; there's more. Then I got to know the *man*, Ezra Standish, the one that lurks behind that blank expression you use to protect yourself from harm. And I liked what I saw. The loyal friend who puts himself on the line for the others, the daredevil who keeps everyone on their toes. The good, kind, softhearted man you keep hidden from sight. And I was lost. I love ya, Ezra. I want to love ya for the rest of my life. How's that for sap?" He finished with a grin.
Ezra cleared his throat, then opened and closed his mouth several times, too stunned to speak. "Good Lord," he finally whispered.
His first instinct, as he heard Vin's confession, was to run. To run from that hospital, from that town, from Vin's life. But he knew he couldn't, he loved Vin too much for that. If he left, he would destroy the other man. And he wouldn't be able to live with that knowledge. He looked into the pleading blue eyes gazing down at him and knew he would have to try. It wouldn't be easy. Between his life engrained fears and life in general they had a hard ride ahead. But he loved Vin, and Vin loved him, they would be able to work through it somehow.
"Ez, please say something?" Vin begged, obviously worried about his lack of a reply.
"M... Vin... I confess that I share your feelings. But I... Can we progress with this relationship slowly?"
Vin smiled broadly. "You're saying yes?"
Ezra chuckled at the other man's glowing expression. "Yes."
"Then we can go as slow as ya want it, Ez. Just as long as you love me."
"I do," Ezra whispered, his face solemn as green eyes locked with ocean blue. "I do."
Vin leaned down, capturing his lips and bestowing him with the longest, slowest, sweetest kiss he'd ever been given. When they finally parted, he was panting for air.
"That's a good look on ya, Ez," Vin purred, eyes shining with love and amusement. "Cheeks flushed, eyes gone all dark and glazed with desire... Aim to see that look again in the future."
Ezra cleared his throat, uncomfortable with the intensity of his feelings for the other man. "So, when are we to be released from this dreadful place?"
Vin shook his head, but was apparently happy with letting the subject lie for the moment. "Today. But we'll be under supervision." Ezra groaned. "Don't worry, pard, I'll take care of you."
"And who'll take care of you?" Nathan asked as he and the others walked in.
"I can take care of myself," Vin told him with a scowl.
"I don't think so. You're staying with Josiah tonight and Ezra's stayin' with me. All bases will be covered that way."
Chris approached the bed, smiling down at Ezra. "Good to see you awake, Ez."
"It's good to be awake, Mr. Larabee," Ezra replied with a smile, feeling strangely relaxed and at peace for the first time in years.
"Thanks for saving our lives," Chris told him, then glared down at him. "And if you *ever* pull a stunt like this one again, I will personally kick that southern butt of yours into next week! We understand each other?"
"Perfectly, Mr. Larabee," Ezra answered, trying to prevent his amusement from shining through. They both knew he would do it again in a heartbeat.
"Good," Chris growled, adding another glare for good measure. "Now, get some rest you two."
"Yeah. We'll be back this afternoon to spring you both from this place," JD stated with a grin.
Both men watched their friends and colleagues leave the room before turning and looking into each other's eyes. "It's going to be okay, Ez," Vin promised softly.
Ezra nodded, allowing his exhaustion to lull him back to sleep. He would simply have to wait and see. But contrary to any other times in which love seemed to have been calling him, this time he would stay and take the bet. Hopefully he'd come out the winner along with Vin.
Ezra sighed contentedly as he snuggled deeper into Vin's arms, enjoying the feeling of fingers wandering gently down his back. They were in his quarters, nestled on the couch and watching television. It'd been three months since the plane crash and both men had been kept fairly busy at work. What little free time they had was spent together. Going to the movies or out to dinner; to basketball games; or just strolling hand-in-hand in the secluded wooden area surrounding the Inn housing the Search and Rescue. He loved being with Vin, spending time with him. It made him feel freer, like he could be himself and not have to hide the 'real' Ezra all the time.
After leaving the hospital they'd discussed the future and the way their relationship was to progress. They were giving themselves the time to get used to the changes in their lives, getting to know the other better, going out on 'dates'. Waiting until they were ready and comfortable with each other before adding the physical part to the relationship.
And then there was the difference between having a friend and having a lover. Although he'd treasured Vin's friendship before, he'd always been afraid to reveal too much of himself, to show what lay behind the walls. Once their romance had began, he'd suddenly found himself talking willingly about things he wouldn't normally tell his friend, but was glad to share with his life partner. He'd never done that with anyone, always guarding his innermost thoughts and keeping his emotions to himself. Everything felt new, and he was taking his time, opening up his heart slowly, watching as Vin did the same.
As a commercial break cut through the game they'd been watching, their eyes met. Without a word passing between them they rose from the couch, walking to the bedroom hand-in-hand. It was time to take the final step.
Hands moved swiftly but with tender care, discarding clothes until both men lay naked on the large bed. He smiled up at Vin as the other man crawled on top of him, blanketing his body gently and cupping his face between sure hands. He closed his eyes as Vin's mouth took over his. The kiss was light, almost shy at first. Then passion took over him and Ezra moaned, opening up to Vin, and it became surer, more demanding.
Ezra felt Vin's mouth dropping to his neck, leaving a trail of light kisses behind, nipping at the flesh there with his teeth until he was sure it would leave a mark, then lapping at the love bite gently to sooth the hurt. The Texan's hands were mapping his body expertly, fingers trailing over his flanks, chest and pecs, stopping only when they reached his smooth abdomen. His nipples were suckled on, then nibbled and licked until they were sensitive to the lightest of touches.
Ezra moaned his appreciation as a finger trailed down his hard cock, touching him playfully for a brief moment. Craving more, Ezra pushed up against Vin, hips thrusting, sighing as his lover ground his body against him. He carded his fingers through his lover's long hair as their bodies slid together, arching against the weight holding him down.
He moaned a protest as Vin stopped moving, then whimpered as the Texan began to track his whole body feverishly, stroking, nibbling, and nuzzling every patch of the wild territory set out for him, all the while working his way to the firm cock begging for his touch.
He couldn't help groaning as Vin's tongue darted out and licked the head of his shaft, swallowing the throbbing erection into his warm, moist mouth. Helpless to stop himself, Ezra began to thrust in and out, fucking Vin's mouth, moving deeper and faster as his control vanished. He buried his fingers roughly into his partner's hair, hands following the slow up-and-down motion of Vin's head, while the younger man's hands traveled up Ezra's muscled calves and thighs, kneading his buttocks possessively.
Feeling he was about to come, Ezra pushed against Vin's shoulders. "Stop!"
Vin pulled back with a frown. "What's wrong, Ez?"
"Nothing. I... I want you in me," Ezra managed to answer, feelings his face warming at the words. "There's lubricant in the nightstand." He suddenly felt uncertain about what to do. He'd never been close enough to another man to entrust him with his body. He was too old and scarred to play the blushing virgin, but was unable to stop himself from feeling awkward. "Vin... I've never..."
Vin kissed him softly, hand brushing over his face in a tender caress. "I know. It's okay, Ezra, it's okay."
Ezra let the whispered drawl soothe him, relaxing back into the bedding. Looking into the deep blue eyes staring down at him so lovingly, Ezra felt a sense of peace settle over him and knew it was safe. He could trust Vin, could give him all of himself and trust the other man to watch over him.
He saw Vin reach for the lube and turned on his side, drawing his knees up sensually, shifting a little at Vin's prompting. He looked back at the younger man, nodding his consent. He felt Vin kiss his back, his shoulders, each vertebrae, paying homage to his body.
A coated finger brushed against his opening, sliding slowly into him and making him moan at the strange, but pleasurable feeling. A second digit joined in with the first, then a third, stretching him tenderly, arousing him to the point of madness. The fingers left him for an unbearable moment, then he felt Vin move into position behind him, the head of his cock ghosting over his puckered opening.
Wanting desperately to feel Vin inside him, Ezra pushed back, trying to impale himself on his lover's cock. But the Texan restrained him and slid forward gently. It felt like forever before he'd taken all of his lover completely inside. He couldn't smother a pain-filled moan and Vin froze, allowing him time to adjust to the hard shaft filling him.
"Move," he whispered, feeling Vin nuzzle his neck in aknowledgement.
A hand gripped his hip as Vin finally began to thrust. Deep, long thrusts, into his warmth. He was moaning with every stroke, pushing back with all his strength, nearly coming when he felt Vin grip his cock with his lube-coated hand.
"Harder! Faster!" Ezra cried out hoarsely, hands clutching weakly at the sheets. He whimpered as Vin obeyed, increasing the speed of his thrusts, pumping into Ezra until they were both close. "Oh, Vin... Yes... Yes..."
He'd never felt anything like that all-consuming fire before, no one had ever made him feel that way. His orgasm took him by surprise and with a wordless shout, he spilled his seed into Vin's hand. His inner muscles contracting around Vin's cock brought his lover over the edge as well. He felt Vin thrust one last time into him, coming deep inside his body, biting his neck hard, making him feel thoroughly possessed.
Vin collapsed against him, panting hard as he nuzzled his neck. Eventually, Vin's cock slipped out of his body, and Ezra turned on his back. He gathered the younger man into his arms and Vin rested his head on his chest, humming contentedly. They remained silent for a long moment, enjoying the usual laziness that came after mind-blowing sex.
"What are ya thinkin' about?" Vin finally asked him, nibbling an earlobe gently.
"Destiny," Ezra replied, smiling slightly.
"Destiny?" Vin frowned.
"Just remembering what Mr. Sanchez said once. About how we were destined to come together."
Vin chuckled. "If he meant the two of us, I agree. Two men, one destiny. Sounds about right, doesn't it?"
Ezra shook his head at his lover's whimsical mood. "I love you," he simply replied.
Vin kissed him tenderly. "Love ya too, Ez. Destiny or no destiny."
They cuddled together and settled down to sleep. Ezra felt like spending the rest of his life with Vin in his arms, in their safe haven, away from the ugliness of the world. He knew the absurdity of that wish, but wishful thinking was a powerful thing. It would have to be enough to love Vin and be loved by him. They had five friends who would shelter them from harm and together they would make it through. As was their destiny.
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