Floods, Spiders And Firelight

by Sammy Girl

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This is for Kerry, happy birthday twin! Thanks to Sue N for the beta work.

"I can't wear these!"

"Fine, don't wear anything or keep what you've got on and freeze to death! Whatever - it's fine by me. I'm just the guy trying to keep your smart-ass hide alive, don't mind me!"

"I'm just saying …oh never mind."

Ezra stared pulling off his sodden clothing; he paused when he reached his boxers, glancing down. He wasn't keen to trust the family jewels to the old denim, even if they were clean, but then again his Calvin Klein's were sodden and mud stained. To be honest it felt like there was a good deal of mud were there shouldn't be. Oh for Pete's sake, Standish, just strip off and put on something clean, anything is better than wet shorts and mud were the sun don't shine. Once he was dressed he turned to look at his friend. Buck was now dressed in a pair of jeans so old and faded that in the moonlight they looked practically white, and from the way they sagged on his lean hips, several sizes too big. He watched the tall man move back into the semi-wrecked repair shop, watched him moving into the all encompassing darkness, picking his way over the debris using the flashlight, to illuminate his way. And as he watched he berated himself. Look at him, he knows what to do, how to stay alive, he's not bitching about what he wears - you're pathetic Standish! He edged into the doorway.

"Mr Wilming…Buck," he began. Buck had been searching for something to build a fire in, he spun around to face the smaller man. The beam of light picked out his face in deep shadow, highlighting his strong clean jaw and turning his midnight blue eyes into deep bottomless pools of black.

"What?" he asked tersely.

"I must apologise, my lack of appreciation for all you have done was unforgivable."

Buck continued to stare at him for what seemed like forever. "I'm just trying to do my best - you know?"

"I do, I owe you my life, and my continued safety, I have no excuse."

"It's okay, Ez, I know you were cold an' wet an' hurtin', everyone gets rattled like that." Yet even as he spoke the unnatural stillness of his face remained, there was no smile, no twinkle in his eye.

And that worried Standish more than he liked to admit.

+ + + + + + +

Buck had been the one who had finally made him part of the team. His experiences in Atlanta had made him wary. At the end of the week the team retired to the 'Saloon', each Friday he was invited to join them, and each Friday he refused - he was too busy, he had somewhere else to go, he was too tired, he needed to go shopping, he had any number of reasons. After a few months the others stopped asking, but not Buck. He kept asking, always friendly, always accepting his refusal in the same way. 'Okay, no problem, if you change your mind you'll be welcome, see ya Monday'. There was never any pressure or hint of sarcasm, or even the sense that he was asking out of a sense of duty. Then there were the e-mails. One Friday morning Ezra logged on to find he had an e-mail from the District Attorney. Since he and Buck were preparing a case for trial he wasn't surprised. But the message wasn't meant for him. Clearly the DA had hit the wrong name in his address book because it was clearly meant for Buck. The message read - 'Very well be it on your own head'. Intrigued, Ezra scrolled down to find this was the end of a long e-mail 'conversation' one e-mail on top of another. He went to the bottom of the page and began to read.

DA to Buck

Are you sure we can trust Standish, I have been made aware of the problems he had in Atlanta.

Buck to DA

I trust Ezra

DA to Buck

That's all well and good, but if the defence gets hold of this they'll tear his credibility to shreds. I want you to be the lead witness.

Buck to DA

That don't make an ounce of sense. Ezra was lead agent, he's lead witness, I trust him and I ain't gonna go undermining his credibility or authority on 2nd hand hearsay.

DA to Buck

Very well be it on your own head.

Ezra had read and re- read the message. That someone - someone who at that time hardly knew him - would trust him so completely was an alien concept to Ezra. That evening Buck once more asked him to join them in the Saloon.

"That sounds most agreeable, perhaps you would wait while I get my coat," he answered.

Buck hadn't seemed at all surprised, he just smiled and sat down on the edge of his desk to wait.

+ + + + + + +

"What can I do to help?" Ezra asked as Buck was once more searching, Ezra could see the light from the flashlight bobbing about.

"With no shoes - not much. Just stay there and don't fall over anything."

With Ezra obediently standing still, Buck searched for anything that would burn. Eventually he had an old drip tray, some oily rags, some timber and a good deal of charcoal.

"Um - forgive me, I'm not an expert, but don't we need a chimney, some place for the smoke to go?" Ezra asked.

"Probably, but we don't have one, so lets hope it just finds its own way out - hell judging by the damp in here I reckon there's more than one hole in the roof. Don't suppose you've got a lighter?" the tall man asked hopefully.

"Sorry, I have never smoked."

"Yeah, well it was an idea."

Ezra understood now, they had a fire, just no way to light it. Yet even as he watched, Buck was crossing back to his mud and water soaked clothes. He returned with his penknife, which he handed with a semi charred oil soaked rag to Ezra. Who took the filthy thing reluctantly, though he tried to hide his feelings from Buck.

"Use the knife to shred it up, I need good handful of individual threads." With that Wilmington took the flashlight and started to root around the floor again.

"Um how I am to achieve this in the dark?"

"Ezra," Buck all but growled. "just do yer best, it's not like this is exactly ideal conditions here." With that he continued to root around in the back.

Ezra stood obediently still in the doorway and watched with growing admiration as Wilmington took the lint he had made and, using a hammer and a rock, created sparks which in turn produced a flame. He set the flame to the kindling he had found, and - with the help of the residual of oil in the both the container and the fuel - the flames quickly took hold. Even standing in the doorway Ezra could feel the heat from the new fire, and it only served to remind him how cold he was getting.

"Might I come in now, I can now see my way."

"I guess, just don't hurt yerself, I ain't got no first aid supplies, ya know."

Buck found an old car seat, a long bench from the front of some long dead truck, but at least it made a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the heat of the fire.

"See, the smoke's going out through the roof," Buck commented.

"Perfect, let's hope it doesn't rain."

+ + + + + + +

The fire was crackling into life now, more light filled the workshop. Ezra stretched out his feet, he could see and feel the many small cuts and he knew he had bruises all over his body, but at least he was alive. Buck still seemed to be angry with him. He'd apologised, three times now, even through Buck told him his apologies were accepted, or even not necessary, there was little sincerity in his words and none in his body language.

The two of them had been heading back toward Las Vegas when it happened. The whole team had been on a case that led them down into Nevada and sin city itself - Buck was right at home - but then the case took on a whole new dimension, drugs, organised crime and high level corruption overwhelmed their simple illegal explosives case. In the end Buck and Ezra ended up babysitting a witness in a remote ranch house, while the others tried to get the mess sorted out. Their baby-sitting continued for a whole week, before the US Marshals came to relieve them. While the desert was hot and dry by day and hot and cold by night there was rain in the surrounding mountains. Ezra was driving their rental car, a rather boring Chrysler Sebring sedan.

Buck, who'd been awake for most of the previous night, was sleeping in the passenger seat. He was shaken awake when the car suddenly shuddered to a halt.

"Wha…?" he questioned as he sat up straighter in his seat.

"We seem to have a problem." Ezra pointed in front of him. Buck following his gaze took in the fact that the headlights now illuminated a small but fast flowing river were the road should be.

Buck looked behind them. "Back up!" he commanded.


"Back up - now! Move it Ezra!" When Ezra still didn't respond he grabbed the gearshift and pulled it back into reverse, the car lurched back.

"Alright, alright," Ezra started to drive, backing up carefully.

"Faster man, floor it!"

"It's pitch black out there, I can't see." Ezra protested.

"I don't give a rats ass if it's dark, just move it!" Buck yelled at him, the urgency in his voice was clear and Ezra floored the gas pedal, shooting them back at an alarming pace.

For a few wonderful seconds Buck thought they were going to make it, then the car suddenly slowed when it hit more water. Almost instantly the engine began to splutter.

"Forward!" Buck commanded. This time Ezra didn't hesitate to respond. "Exhaust must have been flooded, let's just hope we can get through this way."

The car moved into the fast flowing, but still relatively shallow water, but luck wasn't with them, the water was raising and the road below them falling. The wheels started to spin.

"Put it down," Buck instructed, even as Ezra's hand was moving to drop the car into a lower gear ratio. But it was no good, the car slowed and then stopped, no matter what Ezra did, only seconds later the engine died.

"Out!" Buck bellowed.

Ezra was already pushing the door against the water's flow, but it was no good the water pressure was too strong.

"This side!" Buck shouted. His side was down stream and he could still get the door open.

Buck grabbed the flashlight he had seen in the glove compartment, as Ezra scrambled across and followed him out. Even as he was standing up, Buck's strong arm was reaching behind him and grabbing on to the waistband of his pants.

"Hey!" he protested.

"Grab a hold of me Ez, we don't want to get separated." Buck wasn't even looking at him, but at the far side of the flash flood, his flashlight beam picking out the road markings on the far side. "Come on." Shoving the flashlight into Ezra's free hand with a dire warning not to let go of it not matter what, he moved forward, preparing to venture out past the car's protection.

"My bag." Ezra turned as if to head toward the trunk.

"No time." Buck pulled him back. "Grab hold."

Side by side, arms crossing behind each other, they struck out for the safety of dry land. As they neared the edge of their drowned car - through some how the lights were still working, the powerful beams looking eerie under the swirling muddy waters - the full force of the water began to be felt. Suddenly the car was moving, not forwards but sideways, it slammed into Buck's upper thigh and he lost his balance. As he staggered Ezra lost his footing and since Buck had a death grip on him, he was pulled down with Ezra.

The muddy, swirling waters were bitterly cold, having swept down from the mountains, the two of them held on to each other, and Ezra held on to the flashlight.

"Grab!" Ezra shouted between mouthfuls of silt thick water. "Something!"

The flashlight was on, and its wildly waving beam occasionally caught a tree or branch. Buck reached out with his free arm. Hoping for some miracle that would let him grab hold of something - anything - solid. Neither men knew for how long they were carried along nor how far they travelled, suddenly the beam of light picked out a low bush. It wasn't much, but Buck lunged for it. Feeling the small branches and leaves touch his hand he closed on them and was able to twist them around his wrist.

"Let go of me and grab hold," he shouted at Ezra.

But Ezra wasn't so sure, without the larger bulk of Buck holding on to him he knew he couldn't hold on long with just one hand - not with the waters pulling at his legs. Nevertheless, there was no option, so despite his fears, he let go and grabbed the branch. Even as he did, he felt Buck pull harder on his waist band, pulling him in closer and wrapping one long leg around his hips.

"I'm gonna pull us in, you be ready to move your hand up to mine when I give you the go - okay?"

"Got it," Ezra confirmed.

Little by little Wilmington pulled them toward the bank. Each time he moved one hand closer to dry land, Ezra moved his one hand. In those split seconds, the only thing keeping him from being swept away was Buck. Rarely, if ever, had Ezra placed his life to totally and utterly in another's hands. After an exhausting and terrifying trip that seemed to go on for hours, Buck felt his boot hit something solid. It felt like it took almost as long to finally get out of the floodwaters than it had to pull themselves in. They lay filthy, sodden and panting on the dry desert, fine sand and grit clinging to every part of them, but they didn't care.

"So," Ezra started between gasps. "…that was… a flash… flood?"

"Yeah." Buck responded.

"Oh. So what happens now?"

"We walk."

Ezra glanced down at his feet, he was saving battery power, but the weak moonlight shed enough light to confirm what he already knew, he's lost his shoes. Where once there had been $200 loafers, now there was just dirt covered silk socks. He looked across, Buck's Timberlands were still there. Serves you right Standish, he told you to wear 'proper' shoes. He didn't complain, not once, he was actually amazed at his own self-restraint. For some reason he didn't want Buck to think him any more incompetent than he already clearly must. That said it didn't take long for Buck to notice, and insist that he use the flashlight beam to pick his way over the desert as best he could. They walked back, keeping close to the river until they hit the road again.

Ezra resisted the urge to ask what they were going to do now, seeing as they were apparently in the middle of the desert, wet, cold, no transport, no food, no water - well if you didn't count the raging, mud-laden, flood waters beside them - and only one flashlight to guide them. As he happened he didn't have to ask.

"Now if we're where I think we are," Buck was already walking up the road away from the river, there used to be a gas station about a mile from here."

"Are you sure?" Ezra asked hopefully, jogging to catch up.

"Well it's been twenty years, but yeah, fairly sure. It was run by these two guys, lived there all on their own, I guess they're gay, never thought about it at the time. I mean they were - are - bikers, you know, all tattoos, handlebar moustaches and leathers, but they were ok." Ezra could tell by the tone of his voice that this was a good memory for Buck. "Ma and I used to have a week's holiday every year at this dude ranch, up in the hills, we used this road and we always stopped at his place."

"Is there an eatery of some kind perchance?"

"No Ez, there isn't, like I told you it's run by these two, probably gay, bikers, but there is a shop, a rest room and a phone."

Ezra's cell phone, in his jacket pocket, on the back seat of the car was who knew were now. Bucks was water logged and very dead.

"Sounds like heaven, let us hasten there - now!"

+ + + + + + +

Unfortunately the Pit Stop - Gas Station, Repair Shop and Store, wasn't as Buck remembered it. While the repair shop, built of concrete blocks and corrugated iron, still stood, the shop was all but gone, apparently a victim of fire. The forecourt pumps were also missing and the trailer home that used to stand behind the shop was gone, only an empty rectangle of barren ground marking its passing.

"Damn!" Buck swore as his shone the flashlight bream once more over what was left. "Guess we'll have to make do with that we can find in here."

With that he had headed for the workshop. "You stay here, who knows what there might be on the floor." From the smell of the place the fire hadn't been that long ago, so hopefully inside hadn't been wrecked by vandals or colonised by the local wildlife yet - hopefully. Almost instantly there was a loud yell of - "SHIT!"

"What?" Ezra was already heading in, alarmed by the fear he believed he had detected in his friend's voice.

"It's okay, stay there." Buck might have said it was okay, but his voice made it clear he had been seriously frightened by something.

"What did you find?"

"Spider - fucking huge spider, but it ran away, sorry it just startled me."

"It ran away? Is it dangerous?"

"Yes and no."

Ezra could see the flashlight moving about and occasionally Buck's tall rangy form. There was the sound of a metal door being opened.

"Jackpot!" Buck exclaimed.

After a few moments he returned to Ezra with something in his arms.

"Found a locker - water, dust and soot proof apparently, look." He shone the beam on to the bundle of denim in his arms. Before Ezra could protest he had shoved a pair of overalls at Ezra. "These guys were big, but I reckon with the bib an' straps that should stay on."

"Mr Wilmington, are you suggesting I wear this?"

"Yeah, why not, gotta be better than wet clothes." He had already put the flashlight down and was stripping.

"Why not, who knows were it's been or indeed on whom?"

"Take a look Slick, not one single grease spot, in a place like this that has to mean they're clean, 'sides beggars can't be choosers."

Ezra was still outraged, he blurted out his objections and Buck, finally coming to the end of his monumentally long tether snapped.

+ + + + + + +

It seemed even as they sat down in front of their fire Buck was up again.

"Where are you going?"

"We need food and more importantly drink, and I need to answer nature's call. I'm gonna go see what I can find. Stay here."

Ezra watched Buck leave, noting he was now limping and moving some what stiffly. The firelight played on his broad naked back. The jeans had slipped down to rest on his lean hips. So low had they sunk that Ezra had a fine view of at least two inches of butt cleavage. And as he watched his felt a familiar tightening of his groin. It wasn't the first time it had happened in Wilmington's presence. Things had gotten to the stage where he was actively avoiding being in the locker room with his tall friend. Only two weeks ago it happened when he entered the gym in the Federal Building basement to be confronted with the sight of Buck, dripping in perspiration, bare-chested, sweatpants sticking to his oh-so-long legs, working out with dumbbells. These feelings he was getting worried Ezra, he was straight, he had always been straight, boarding school, collage, he'd had offers, but he was straight. So why was his body - totally independent of his will - responding so openly, so readily and so sexually to the sight of Buck Wilmington's body? After all Buck of all people - Mr Hetero himself, Mr 'I've had more women than you've had hot meals' Wilmington, Buck by name and buck by nature.

Ezra had no objections to homosexuality, it just wasn't him - right? He dated women after all. Buck was long gone so Ezra pulled his eyes back to the fire. He had to admit his dating record wasn't that spectacular. He was a wonderful date, concerts, theatre, fancy restaurants, flowers, chocolates, witty conversation, he could do all that, liked it - a lot. But the rest of it, he wasn't so good at, to him the women always wanted to move things on too fast. He always put it down to this upbringing, his old fashioned southern manners, just when he was enjoying the courtship, enjoying the lady's company, building a relationship, his lady friend would want to move it to the bedroom. Sometime he refused and the relationship ended, sometime she agreed to wait and it just petered out. On occasion they did end up in bed. Ezra found sex a disappointment, he 'performed', took the time to make his partner's experience a good one, he knew all the techniques, he had read books, internet sites, even viewed instructional videos, but though the women seemed to enjoy it he couldn't see what all the fuss was about. He had the same release on his own most nights in the bath, what was the big deal?

As he sat there, warmed by the fire Buck built, wearing the clean dry clothes Buck found for him, seated in the seat Buck dragged over for him and staring into the fire, he remembered the nights in the mountain safe house. Buck would habitually sit in the old saggy chair by the fire, from where he had a good view of the front door, Ezra sat opposite. Buck would lie back, legs open and relaxed, and Ezra would catch himself staring at the bulge in his tight, denim clad crotch. He's seen Buck in the shower, and that large bulge was no sock, that was all Buck. So since he knew what the denim hid, why was he so drawn to it? And he had been night after night, he just couldn't seem to help looking. The fire crackled and popped as the odd collection of fuel burned ever more fiercely. Suddenly a movement caught his eye, right in the periphery of his vision, something moved across the floor, right on the edge of the fire's light and the deep shadow beyond.

'Spider, big fucking spider!' Buck's words came back to him and he instantly drew his legs up of the floor and sat cross-legged on the old car seat. Hurry up Buck, he silently pleaded, knowing he sounded like a six year old and not a big tough federal agent and not caring. His watch was still working, he hoped, since it was waterproof to fifty feet it should still work, but in the semi dark and caked in mud it was almost impossible to read. So he just sat and watched the fire and waited.

+ + + + + + +

When Wilmington did return it was with trophies, a whole box of goodies. He explained that he found a storeroom and that the flames hadn't reached the very back. No one it seemed could be bothered to clear it out.

"We have peaches," he squinted in the fire light at the can in his hand, "didn't reckon were desperate enough to eat cold franks and beans. We also have, wait for it…" he pulled a can of Mountain Dew from the box. Ezra made a face. "We need to drink," Buck pointed out. "And there were half a dozen of them. I also found some fire lighters but there phone was gone and I couldn't find any batteries so I'm gonna switch off the flashlight now, save it, in case we need it later."

Buck had pulled his penknife from his discarded pants and by the light of the fire he opened the cans. Then they took turns to skewer the sweet fruit and savour it. All this time Ezra remained cross-legged on the seat. Buck wiped a dribble of syrup from his chin and then turned to pass the can to Ezra.

"What's wrong with your legs?" he suddenly asked.

"Nothing." But it was said a little to quickly.


There it was, that voice, the velvet like quality he found so hard to resist, he just didn't seem to be able to lie to Buck.

"The spider came back, I know I'm…"

He was about to justify his childish fears when Buck suddenly pulled his feet off the floor - boots and all. Ezra couldn't help it, his eyes widened in surprise. Sure Buck had sounded scared when he came across the spider - but who wouldn't. But here was big, brave Buck just as scared of a spider he could crush under his boot in a second, as he was.

"I fucking hate spiders, but if you tell the anyone but Chris, I'll kill you were you stand."

Ezra ginned. "Chris?"

"Oh he knows, but I know what he's scared of so I'm safe."

"Oh yes? You mean the fearless Mr Larabee is actually afraid of something? Do tell."

"Nah, can't, more than my life's worth."

"Oh but you know my fear, if I break this confidence you are free to tell the world at large."

Buck looked over to him. "Well that is true. Birds, he's shit-assed scared of birds. One got into the house once, tiny little thing it was but it flew right at him. He freaked, totally lost it. While he locked himself in the bathroom, me and Sarah got the poor thing out."

"Who would have thought it, I guess we have no control of our irrational fears. Is JD afraid of anything?" Ezra asked. "I have no intention of using this information against anyone, I just think it is best know if someone is going to suddenly act irrationally - after all we all know how Vin feels about small spaces."

"Guess you're right at that. Kid's not totally happy with thunder, he masks it well, but I can tell."

"Good to know. Apart from Mr Jackson's almost pathological aversion to junk food I have no idea if either of the other two have a secret fear."

"No me neither."

It seemed to Ezra that Buck had finally forgiven him, he wasn't totally sure why he had been so short with him. Possibly Buck thought if he had been a better driver they might have got away, possibly he was still mad about his lack of appreciation. Buck didn't hold grudges, it was one of his most admirable qualities. His temper while explosive was short lived and he let water pass under the bridge very fast. It was distracting sitting so close to Buck. If one ignored the circumstances and the surroundings, one could almost call it romantic, what with the fire light, their relative state of undress and close proximity.

Oh stop it Ezra, you're not gay - probably not gay - and Buck sure as hell isn't! This is just idle speculation and dangerous as well, pull yourself together.

And yet… and yet there was that wonderful warm tingling feeling again. Ezra pulled his knees up to cover his embarrassment, though in truth the overalls were so loose he doubted anything was visible.

This is ridiculous Standish, get a grip.

"Ez? …Ezra!"

"Huh? What? Oh, sorry, I was thinking."

Buck grinned at him, the flickering light picking out his teeth. "Mind if I take my boots off?"

"Of course not, why do you feel you need to ask?"

"Well I don't reckon the smell is gonna be much fun."

"Please, don't concern yourself."

Buck reluctantly put his feet down and stood, wincing visibly as he did. "Are you injured?" Ezra asked.

"Just stiff, picked up a bruise or two I reckon." Ezra remembered the car hitting his hip all too well. He limped over to the far side of the fire and slowly bent down to undo his boots, it took some time as the laces had dried rock hard and caked in mud. But he got it done, pulling off his socks with the boots, before he carefully picked his way back to the seat. Spider or no spider he stretched out his long legs to help dry them out. Ezra noted he'd picked up a few blisters as well, walking over rough ground in wet boots wasn't to be recommended. Come morning neither of them was going to be very mobile.

"What some more peaches?" Buck asked, picking up another can and his penknife.

"Why not?"

Ezra was discovering there just didn't seem to be anyway to eat tinned peaches with a penknife and not get syrup running down your face. He was just wiping the latest dribble from his chin when he caught Buck watching him. He was expecting mirth in those wonderfully deep blue eyes, what saw was desire. Plain and simple, no attempt at disguise, pure lust.

Oh…My…God! No you're imagining things Ezra, wishful thinking.

He looked back, Buck was gazing into the fire again.

In order to test a theory, you must experiment.

He picked up another peach, let a generous amount of syrup run down his chin and then watched Buck as he very, very slowly wiped the mess off again. There was that look again.

Ok, now what? I'm getting all these nice feelings, not to mention a raging hard-on, thinking about Buck, being close to Buck and he looks like a high school boy in the girls locker room just watching me wipe syrup off my chin - problem or opportunity? 'There are no problems dear, just opportunities.' Thank you mother, I knew your teaching would come in handy one day.

The two of them sat in silence, eating peaches and watching the fire for some time, the only sound the crack and hiss of the fire. Eventually the fire began to die down and Buck stood to throw on another few bits of chard timber. He tried to wipe off the soot as best he could, wiping his hands on his ass. That was it, watching Buck's hands moving over this ass like that, Ezra whimpered, he heard himself doing it, but it was too late to stop it. Buck looked around and then started to pick his way back.

"You alright?" he asked.

"I'm fine, honestly, fine," Ezra assured. Buck lowered his long frame down on to the seat. "I, err, wanted to apologise."

"What for?"

"Well if I had been paying attention, when I was driving, we might have escaped."

"I doubt it, flash floods - well chances are that channel behind us was full the moment you saw the water ahead, we were lucky it didn't hit us as we crossed it. You got nothing to apologise for. It was just bad luck. I'm the one who should apologise, I was…"

"Rightfully testy at my lack of appreciation of your efforts," Ezra interjected.

"No! No I was…if you must know, I was scared." He looked away, hanging his head, long fingers raking his dark wavy hair.

God he's got great hair. Get a grip man! Concentrate, you've gone from straight to gay in one night, let's just get that sorted before we move on here, Ezra boy!

Even as Ezra was remonstrating with himself, Ezra heard Buck speaking. "I was so scared you'd be lost, swept away, gone." He turned his head and looked at the bemused Standish. "I couldn't bear that, all the time we were walking back I kept seeing it, you pulled away, disappearing into the waters forever, it …scared me."

Ezra stared deep into those blue eyes, searching for what he wanted to believe was there. "Buck, can I ask you a very, very personal question?"

"Yeah you can, and I'll do my best to answer you honestly."

There was something in the quality of his voice that told Ezra that Buck had just taken a momentous step. He suddenly realised how little he know about Wilmington, how - despite his gregarious, out going ways - Buck rarely spoke about himself, he used his extrovert personality to mask a very private man.

"Have you ever thought about a man, in a way that was more than just platonic friendship?"

For a long time there was quiet and stillness, even the fire seemed to fall silent. Then almost imperceptibly Buck nodded.

"May I ask another question?"

Another nod.

"Have you ever had a relationship with a man?"

"Yeah," he whispered. "Not many, nothing permanent."

"May I ask if you have ever had feelings for someone - a friend maybe - that would make you want to seek a longer relationship?"

Buck's eyes seemed to bore into him, then, slowly, a hand reached out, it was dirty, callused, but so gentle as it lay against his cheek.

"Oh yes."

"And, " Ezra heard his voice begin to crack. "…could that person be me?"

Buck leant forward and pressed his lips to Ezra's. "It's only ever been you."


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