by Silver

Disclaimer: Not mine... but at least I let them have all the fun they want to, so technically they should be mine <g>. Done for the pure pleasure of Ezra and Vin. Thanks to Mog for letting us play in her ATF sandbox.
Pairing: I'm sure this comes as big surprise considering we are talking about me.... it's Ezra/Vin... as if they would let me write anyone else ;-)
Summary: The road to love runs not always smooth as Ezra's past gets in the way of his future with Vin.
Feedback: Would greatly appreciate it since it keeps the creative juices flowing :-)
Notes: A big thank you to my betas Terri and Bobbie - you ladies are wonderful and very patient. I really sincerely value the hard work both of you put into this. Thanks to LadyBard for the help with the summary. It's greatly appreciated.

He took one last look at his one night stand before turning to walk away. He couldn't do it again. Refused to do it again. He no longer allowed the pain of certain emotions to infiltrate his wall. He no longer felt, anything.

"You're wrong, Ezra."

The huskiness of his new lover's soft drawl washed over him, for a moment he wished things could be different between them. Maybe he wished that things could be different *for* him? Maybe that *he* could be different? But that was no longer an option for him. His heart froze another degree as he shored up his defenses. Turning he faced his tracker with his poker face firmly intact.

"No, Mr. Tanner. I've never been more right in my entire life, as I am about this." He turned away from the sad sapphire gaze. He'd put that sadness in those soulful blue eyes.

He had only wanted one night of heaven with the Texan who filled his dreams with such erotic pleasures each night. One night was all he asked. Not to have Vin fall in love with him. He could handle anything but that.

Or, maybe it was the other way around?

That this one night of heaven had caused him to fall in love with Vin. It was something he could no longer allow for himself. He put his hand on the doorknob of the front door, his passport to freedom, to leave but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

"You're wrong, Ez. You do have a heart. Isn't that why you're running from me? Because you're not as heartless as you thought and it's scaring you?"

He felt the tracker's breath against his neck making him shiver at the sensations it was causing. He turned the knob but Vin prevented him from opening it by pinning him against the door with his body. Ezra rested his head on the door, valiantly trying to ignore the hard body that was holding him in place.

"At least be honest about why you're leaving, Ez." He shivered at the hot breath against his ear.

"I am being honest, Mr. Tanner. You cannot love someone that does not have a soul, much less a heart. It's a simple fact. I have neither."

"Yes, you do, Ez. You just won't let yourself feel either of them." The whispered reply ghosted along his earlobe before it was sucked into the Texan's moist mouth. He couldn't prevent the breathy moan that escaped his parted lips. He felt the tracker's hands roaming his body. He was trembling as the hands pulled out his shirt tails, panting as calloused hands blazed a path to the front of his trousers, moaning as the same hands stroked his hardened flesh.

"I've been slowly tearing down that wall of ice around your heart, brick by frozen brick, and it terrifies you that you can't replace them fast enough. I'm breaking through and you can't stop me." The warm mouth moved down the side of his neck. "You want this, Ezra. I can see the yearning, the desire..."

The voice stopped as he shook his head but the hands were relentless in driving him to the brink of insanity. His mind was reminding him of all the people who had used him and the deserted him the moment he was no longer of use to them. He knew he couldn't survive another heart wrenching loss. But his heart was trying to tell him that Vin wouldn't cast him aside, that this was whom he was destined to be with for life. No more pain or loneliness. Vin was the real deal. Ezra was afraid to trust and not entirely sure if his soul could survive if Vin did cast him aside as all the others had. Then his body, betraying him, started to tremble more with the onset of his orgasm. His energy left him sagging against the tracker.

Vin pulled his lover tighter to him as he gently lowered them to the floor. Resting his chin on the chestnut locks, he ran a comforting, but always caressing, hand down the trembling body.

"I know that you don't believe me but I won't hurt you, Ezra. Couldn't hurt you. You have my heart in your hands and I trust you not to hurt me. All I'm asking for is a chance to love you the way you were meant to be loved." He crooked his finger under the conman's chin tipping upwards to see the stormy tormented sea green eyes.

"Do something for me, Ez? Don't think about how you feel, just feel with your heart."

Ezra pulled his chin away from the Texan only to have it more firmly gripped. "No, Ezra, I want you to look at me as I make love to you. If you let me show you..." Vin cupped Ezra's face firmly with both hands when he started to shake it. "Yes, Ez, you want this as much as you need this."

Vin began his gentle assault by kissing the resistant mouth, when the southerner opened up to him, moaning as Vin's tongue swept in to dueled with his. As Ezra responded to his kiss Vin's hands trailed down the graceful neck stopping at the top button of Ezra's silk shirt. He made short work of the buttons, quickly divesting the gambler of his coat and shirt. Vin ran his hands down the smooth chest, his fingers quickly finding the hardened nipples, rubbing both between his thumbs and forefingers. He never let up on the blatant assault on his lover's senses, knowing to give Ezra time to think would defeat his purposes. His hands skimmed his lover's sides down to still open slacks, slipping his hands under the slacks pushing them down past his lover's hips until they were around his ankles. The proof of how much Ezra was attracted to him was laid out for him. He treated Ezra's hard cock much like a starving man would a banquet of food. He nibbled at the tip, sticking his tongue into the slit, tasting his lover's essence, then he took the head in his mouth suckling it before taking the entire length into his mouth. He began to suck harder as Ezra's pants turn into breathless moans. Vin pulled out of his pocket a tube of KY and slicked his fingers. First he slowly entered one finger and then another, until Ezra had accepted three fingers easily then he slicked his own rock hard cock up against the opening. As the tip of his erection touched Ezra's tight hole, he increased his suction bringing the gambler to the brink before he lifted Ezra up enough to enter him in one thrust. At Ezra's sharp in drawn breath Vin stilled giving his lover time to adjust to him. When he started to move the Texan made sure he went slow and gentle, then demanded, "Ezra, open your eyes and see the truth for what it is."

When the stubborn southerner refused to look at him, he stopped his movements causing his lover to whimper at the loss.

"Look at me."

Ezra opened his eyes and met the loving sapphire gaze he had always wanted to see aimed at him. 'One night of pure heaven then he could leave and never look back' he silently promised himself. He met the tracker's gaze with no emotion in his own. As the tracker started to move again Ezra became entranced in the blue flames that burned so hot as the pleasure rocked him to his core. Vin gazing down with so much love in his eyes was the last thing Ezra saw as he lost consciousness.

Vin knew Ezra was exhausted from the amount of lovemaking they had shared, and the alcohol. He picked up his unconscious lover carrying him into his bedroom, laying him gently on the bed. He quickly finished removing the rest of Ezra's clothes, folding them and laying them on the chair in the corner of the room. Then he quickly finished removing his own, leaving them where they fell, as he climbed into the bed pulling the covers over them. He pulled his gambler into his arms, held him tight to his chest and threw his leg over Ezra's legs to anchor him to his side. He didn't want Ezra to leave without him knowing it. He would just get Ezra to crave his touch, slowly get him to depend on him for physical touch, then work his way up to getting his reluctant lover to admit how much he truly did love him.


Ezra woke to a warm body, a warm *naked* body, that had him in a vise grip. His mind couldn't take it in. He tried to look around to see what had awoken him but everything was a pitch black inside the room. There was no noise except his lover's soft breath on the back of his neck and he would rather forget the sensations that it was causing. He had to think.

What happened last night?

He could remember going to the Saloon with the Team, then he had gone to a bar to get rip roaring drunk were his team mates wouldn't see him in such a state, which he must have failed to do because he didn't have a hang over.

Then what happened?

He remembered someone sitting down next to him, He had beautiful sapphire eyes and shoulder length hair...

Last Night at the Saloon

Ezra could not stand another night watching the man he had made the mistake of falling in love with laughing and joking like they were just friends. God, he needed a drink. Not the good stuff. He needed the rotgut whisky burning its reality down his throat and heating his veins to the point of not caring whether he lived or died at that moment. One little problem.. he couldn't do it with his teammates, his friends, watching him. It would raise questions they would demand answers to if he did go on a suicidal binge in front of them, answers he could not nor would not give. He made up his mind to leave, not really caring where he ended up tonight.

"Gentlemen, I bid you good night. I have a cover to prepare and will see you in the morning."

He stood, grabbing his coat, striding away from them, before anyone could say anything. He kept his pace as normal as possible. If he ran out the door it would only cause the men he now called friends, for the moment at least, to follow him and that was not an option for what he had planned. Safely alone in his car he pulled out into the street, pointing towards the east side of town where he could get lost in a crowded bar and nobody would care how he was dressed, since they all would be drowning their own problems. He was so far gone into his depression he never noticed the battered jeep following him.


They had all noticed the southerner's unusual quietness of the past few weeks. Ezra seemed to be withdrawing from them. At first it was his self-deprecating humor that seemed to be worse than before and then he became quieter with each passing day.

"What was that about?" JD asked.

"I think our brother is in some kind of trouble."

Buck scoffed at that, "Ez is always in trouble. Nothing new there."

"That's not the kind I meant. His soul is troubled," Josiah explained. "I think someone needs to have a talk with the boy."

Chris stood, intent on getting answers from his undercover agent even if he had to beat it out of him. A hand on his arm stopped him. Following the strong tanned hand to its owners face; he looked at his best friend.

Vin shook his head. "I think I better handle this one Cowboy. He isn't the most open person on a good day and it's been a rough couple of weeks. I think he'll open up to me a little better than having you trying to beat it out of him."

Vin knew Ezra could get their leader's temper going in a heartbeat and by then Ezra would have distracted Chris from his original purpose; finding out what was going on with the southerner.

"All right, if you think you can get somewhere with him, go for it." Chris sat back down wondering what had caused Ezra to pull away from them and why. He also understood that if Ezra talked to anyone he would be more likely to open up to Vin.

Vin stood up and hurried out into the night so the southerner wouldn't get too far ahead of him. He had been concerned when he could feel Ezra pulling back from him. He knew the others thought it was the team that Ezra was pulling away from but it was him. He had caught Ezra watching him with an unguarded expression on his face of yearning and desire but when their eyes met, Ezra's wall would slam down around him, his expression blank and bored. He had thought to let Ezra know he was interested in a relationship with him but anytime he approached the cagey southerner Ezra would quickly excuse himself and then he wouldn't be able to get close to him for days after that. He had finally backed off and let Ezra have his space but it looks like he might have handled it wrong.

Vin followed Ezra to, what appeared to be a run down bar, until you entered it. It was packed with people from all walks of life. Then the stench of stale beer and unwashed bodies hit him making him want to gag. The bar had once been a grand ballroom from the looks of it but now it was littered with people trying to forget their own problems.

He started for the bar only to pause as something told him Ezra wouldn't be found there. It wasn't his style; Ezra would be at a corner table where he could keep an eye on the room, even if that eye was slightly unfocused. With that in mind Vin worked his way around the perimeter of the room, quickly spotting his gambler, sitting with his back to the wall, a bottle of whiskey his only company.

He approached the undercover agent carefully, much like he would a wounded animal. He stood there for a moment taking in Ezra's appearance. His suit was showing creases, and , the normally well-groomed chestnut locks were sticking up, as though he had been running his hands through his hair as his distress grew. Vin's heart constricted at seeing Ezra like this. He took a seat next to the hurting man waiting for Ezra to acknowledge him but he waited in vain.

Ezra slammed another shot down and was about to pour himself another when Vin grabbed the bottle putting it out of his reach.

Ezra was startled when his bottle was pulled out of his hands. His alcohol dazed eyes blearily tried to focus on the several form in front of him. His vision slowly came into focus dwindling the numbers to the one form in front of him till he realized he was better off not knowing that the form in front of him had beautiful sienna locks, that when the sun kissed them it was like a flaming light in his dark world. The form's eyes were a startling vivid sapphire gaze that was so sharp that it could kill a man over 300 yards away and read a man's soul to determine his worth and intent.

It was his nightmare come true, to have Vin this close to him and not be able to taste those sweet lips or run his fingers through the beautiful hair.

"Well, Mr. Tanner to what do I owe this visit? You lose the draw?" His southern voice thick with the alcohol that burned through his veins

"No, Ez, I didn't lose no draw. You're a friend and I just want to help you, if you'll let me."

Ezra snorted. "Well, then, Mr. Tanner, Hell must truly be freezing over if you are here on this hellish night offering your friendship. Care to have a drink with me? We can toast to trading one Hell for another."

"Ez, what are you talking about? Never mind. I'm taking you home." Vin just didn't tell the southerner whose home he was going to.

"Thanks, but no, thanks. I don't need nor want a babysitter. So just go back to your little family and tell them you did your best and failed." Ezra reached for the bottle but Vin was quicker, grabbing the bottle and handing it off to the table behind him.

"Here ya go. We won't be needing this any more and don't want it to go to waste."

"Thanks, Mister." The older man raised his glass to Vin but he had already turned around only to find Ezra had gotten up and left. He stood up on the chair looking around and spotted Ezra heading towards the bar. Vin shook his head at the man's stubbornness and stepped down to follow him.

He caught Ezra's arm turning him around to face him but Ezra had had a little too much to drink and lost his balance. Vin caught him by pulling him to his chest. He looked down into startled emerald eyes that seemed to struggle to take in what they were seeing. Vin could feel heat coming off the smaller man, could feel the strength in the muscles and his heart broke at the vulnerable lost look in the southerner's eyes. He no longer heard the music or the conversation or felt the pounding base within the structure, everything melted away as he finally held the man he loved.

Ezra's hands fisted themselves in the Texan's shirt, his breathing harsh as he looked up into Vin's vivid blue eyes that suddenly flared with passion. He shook his head no because he couldn't possibly be seeing what he thought he saw. When Vin started to nod his head yes, he tried to back up but Vin held Ezra tightly to him. The Texan slowly lowered his head to Ezra's then took the undercover agent's lips in a hard kiss, his hand holding onto Ezra's neck when he went to pull away.

Ezra moaned deep in his throat, as he opened up to him and felt weak in the knees when Vin's tongue swept in laying claim as it went. He felt absolutely possessed by this incredible man who held him tight to his hard body. Ezra didn't believe this was real for a moment. It had to be the mass amount of alcohol he had drunk but he was loath to call it quits from this dream. It felt so incredibly real to him.

Vin could taste the alcohol but he deepened the kiss searching for the taste that was uniquely Ezra. He found the sweetness and became addicted to the flavor. Vin came to his senses when Ezra moaned deep in his throat, tearing his mouth from the southerner's, both panting heavily as he held Ezra to him. He didn't want to move. He had Ezra relaxed against him, the con man's head on his shoulder and he loved the feeling but what he would love even more was to have the con man hot, naked and straining beneath him. He hardened at the mental image that provoked him into action.

"Ez, let's go home and finish this in private." He whispered into Ezra's ear, his hot breath causing the southerner to shiver against him. Vin smiled at the telling action.

Vin turned Ezra around, holding his elbow in a firm grip, and started to move him towards the door. They had made it outside and Vin was leading him towards his Jeep when Ezra balked. The southerner tried to pull out of his grip, without success, as Vin held firm.

"Mr. Tanner, I'm not leaving my precious vehicle here to be abused. Look I will follow you..." Ezra's words trailed off when the Texan shook his head no.

"Nope, if you're worried about your car we will just have to take it instead. So hand over the keys."

Vin held out his hand for the keys but Ezra shook his head and turned towards his car. Vin just yanked him off balance so that he could catch Ezra pulling him once again to his chest, with Ezra's back to his chest. Putting his lips to Ezra's ear he pulled the earlobe into his mouth gently sucking on it until he heard a breathy moan from his con man. "Doesn't matter which car we take I'm driving." Having said that he slipped his free hand into Ezra's front pocket, searching for the keys to the Jag.

While searching for the keys he felt Ezra's semi-hard cock and he made sure he brushed against it till it was completely hard and had Ezra's head leaning back on his shoulder moaning from his touch. With Ezra being so compliant he released him, putting his other hand in the southerner's other pocket, moving his hands in tandem to each other on the hard cock as his lips nipped and sucked the con man's exposed neck.

Ezra was in heaven. The sensations consumed him in heat that burned through his veins like a wild brush fire. He didn't care where he was as long as he could fulfill his heart's greatest desire in the most realistic dream he had ever experienced. He never wanted it to end.

Vin grabbed the keys before he pulled his hands out of Ezra's pockets. Groaning at the loss, he pushed Ezra away from his body but not letting him go. He had to get Ezra to his apartment and quickly since his self control seemed to have flown right out the window. Good thing nobody seemed to notice that. He led the way to Ezra's Jag, unlocking the passenger's side door and opening it for Ezra.

He loved how responsive Ezra was to him. It was possible that it was the alcohol that made the undercover agent responsive to his touch but he would like to believe it was him that caused it.

Present Time

It hit like a ton of bricks; it was Vin who was holding him captive in his embrace.

What the *hell* had happened to his control last night?

He blushed as his memory took great delight in reminding him of every detail. Vin told him to open his heart to see the truth and he had seen the tracker's love but as with every relationship he had ever had it was a lie. Because in the end, no matter what, Vin would leave him. His body betrayed him as he started to tremble. He was vulnerable and his wall of self defense, held no resistance against Vin. That scared him worse than the time his cousin had left him locked in the garden shed with the snakes his other cousin had gathered up. He had to leave, not just here but he had leave the ATF, Denver and his friends who had somehow become his family.

Suddenly he felt Vin's hand caressing him in long comforting strokes down his chest, stopping at his navel and then back up again but he seemed to still be asleep. Vin was responding to his distress even in his sleep. Ezra couldn't take it anymore. He had to get out of here and quickly. He slowly started to shift away from the tracker's body only to find himself pulled even tighter to the hard body. He looked back to see if he had woken Vin but his eyes were still closed and his breathing still even. He tried to move away two more times before he finally realized he would have to wake the sharpshooter in order to gain his release.

But he wasn't ready to face the reality of last night. He had seen what Vin was offering him but he knew better than to trust that offer. Once bitten, twice shy. That saying held more truth for him since he had learned the hard way never to believe in anyone or anything. His mind was churning with memories that cut deeper than flesh to bone. Memories that left a heart broken and bleeding. Leaving a soul barren and lonely as a desert surrounded by vast emptiness of space. He could feel the crumbling wall slowly repairing the cracks and crevices, the iciness that allowed him to feel nothing was winding its way around the spark of hope he would never admit to, smothering it before it could cause him pain.

With his defenses once again in place it was time for him to leave here.

Just one complication.

How was he going to get out Vin's embrace without waking him up?

Moving slowly he took Vin's hand and was slowly lifting up when he suddenly found himself trapped under the tracker's body. Startled at how quickly Vin had moved and distracted by the hard body now laying flush on top of his, Ezra looked up into vivid blue eyes.

"Going somewhere, Ez? You wouldn't be trying to leave without saying goodbye, would you?" Vin's voice was husky with sleep sending molten fire through the southerner's veins. Vin's hands cupped Ezra face, thumbs slowly stroking his lips before bending down to take his mouth in a kiss that was both loving and possessive. His tongue swept in when the southerner opened up to him. When Ezra started to respond to him he broke the kiss.

Vin sat up in bed, his breathing ragged. When he stood up he looked down at the confused passion dazed gambler. He took Ezra's hand in his, gently pulling him up also. When Ezra tried to speak Vin put a finger to his lips and shook his head. He led the way to the bathroom; and went to the shower adjusting the temperature of the water before he turned the spray on. Not giving Ezra the chance to say anything he stepped into the shower pulling Ezra with him. When Vin had Ezra under the water, he turned the southerner around to face the spray and pulled Ezra back against him. He moaned as his hardness slipped between Ezra's silky butt cheeks. It took a supreme effort on his part not to take advantage of the position, instead he forced himself to remember the special prize he would gain in the end, Ezra's love. He set his mind to his planned seduction.

Vin ran his hand through the chestnut locks making sure all the hair was wet before reaching for the shampoo, accidentally dropping it. He crouched down, partially around Ezra reaching for the bottle, turning his face towards Ezra's body, his tongue slowly reached out to trace the length of Ezra's hard member. At the southerner's sharp intake of breath he stopped, hiding his smile as he stood up with shampoo bottle in hand.

Pouring some of the shampoo in his hand he reached up, slowly massaging the shampoo into the wet locks of hair, being careful not to get it into his eyes. Ezra had his hands on the wall bracing himself as he leaned his head back into the Texas's hands, allowing the water to spray directly into his face.

"Okay, Ez, lean your head forward," he said huskily, feeling Ezra tremble as he ran his hands up his neck and into the silky strands to help rinse the shampoo out.

Pulling the compliant undercover agent into his arms he started kissing the sweet spot between his lover's neck and shoulder. He wrapped one hand around Ezra's hard cock and started to stroke it slowly, while the other hand caressed the beautiful body.

Ezra's body was perfect.. like the chiseled Greek statues of marble he'd seen in some of the conman's books. Smooth well sculpted chest, down the toned abs, his hand mapped out all the contours of the sexy body in front of him. The sharpshooter increased his ministrations on his lover pushing the southerner over the edge of an orgasm. He held the trembling body close to him whispering lover's nonsense words and caressing with only the intent to soothe the man he loved.

After his con man had regained a little of his balance, Vin leaned around him to shut the water off. When he stood up he pulled his lover closer and kissed him senseless. He hoped to keep him from thinking since Vin knew that when Ezra started to think about things he would start to distance himself again and he just couldn't let that happen right now. His lover's spirit was too fragile. If he could just get him to crave his touch, his voice, his presence, then maybe they could go to the next step, to trust in him and his love.


Ezra had been so startled by the tenderness that Vin had shown him, and that shower? Dear Lord, it had taken his breath away. But he was still puzzled by the whole thing. Vin hadn't taken his pleasure this morning. The sharpshooter had simply helped him out of the shower, dried him off and then helped dress him in the most sensual way he had ever experienced. As each expanse of his body was covered, the area had been caressed and kissed. His body tingled and burned for more. But he was at a loss as how to feel or how to interpret this encounter with this man he had fallen in love with. His walls were almost nonexistent, the flame of hope was burning brightly melting the wall of ice away. He watched as Vin dressed slow and strangely sexy as the ex-bounty hunter made and held eye contact with him. When finished, the long haired sharpshooter walked sensually towards him and the Texan took him into his arms and kiss the very breath out of him.

This was all very strange, too strange. Maybe he had had more to drink than he thought? Maybe he was still sleeping off the alcohol safely tucked in his bed and this was all a dream?

But he knew that wasn't even close to the truth. He had one rule he never broke; if he couldn't be honest with anyone else he could at least always be honest with himself. Right now he hated that rule of his because he really could use the lie about now.

Those talented mouth and hands were once again distracting him and not allowing him to think, to once again fortify his protective wall. He needed to get away and soon.

He moaned as Vin was sucking on his earlobe and gently nipping at it while his hands were slowing divesting him of the clothes the sharpshooter had just helped to put on him. His body was flushed with anticipation, excitement and worse, longing. How was he suppose to fight this constant assault on his senses and worse yet, his heart?

But it looked like he was back in Lady Luck's good graces. There was a pounding at the door and he knew only one person who could make the door rattle and windows shake. Chris Larabee. His salvation.


As he was removing the clothing he had just help put on Vin was slowly kissing his way down and then back up Ezra's incredible body. He eased the sweet body back on the bed. He had the undercover agent moaning and thrashing below him as he was suckling on the sweet earlobe when the pounding on the door broke through his passion soaked brain.

He sighed as he levered himself off the dazed southerner. He knew he better go let Larabee in before he broke the door down. Damn man couldn't use the phone. Oh hell no, that'd be too easy.

He untucked his shirt to cover up the bulge in his pants. "Hey, Ez, let me go get that before he breaks in the door."

The agent had sat up but had yet to look at him. Vin sighed as he slid back up to where Ezra was sitting, so they were chest to chest, against his headboard.

"Ez?" But the silent man still wouldn't look at him. He ran his hand up his lover's neck and around to his chin, lifting it up trying to catch the elusive man's eyes.

"Look at me, Ez." The soft command had the undercover agent's eyes meeting his. "I'll be right back. Everything will be just fine. If you'll just give me a chance to prove it." With that he placed a soft chaste kiss on the sweet lips.

Ezra heard the loud banging stop. He couldn't hear the whispered conversation but could tell it was getting heated. Not really wanting to stick around to see himself kicked off the team, as he knew that once again, someone he loved would tell him that he wasn't good enough.

As he took stock of his surroundings, his walls slowly started to rebuild themselves with bricks of remembered pain and the ice of past loves turned bitter. He walked over to the bedroom window. Opening the curtains, he grimaced. He was not fond of heights but one must do what one must do. He sighed as he rebuttoned his shirt. He could still smell Vin's spicy woodsy scent and still feels his hands on him. He groaned as he grabbed the ledge and pulled himself out onto it. He would erase the memory later, now, he needed to disappear. He looked down, gauging the distance. Three floors down. Glancing up, one floor up and the drain pipe not too far out reach. He carefully gauged the distance. He would climb up and then worry about it from there.

Taking a deep breath, praying to God, he leapt for the drain pipe, his fingers not being able to stop his momentum but slowing him enough so that when his fingers finally gave way, he was closer to the first floor apartments. When he finally landed, it only knocked the wind out of him. Getting up, he didn't bother to look up just took off running but stopped at the corner to peer around it. Not seeing anyone he headed deeper into Purgatory.

Most would think he knew nothing about this place or its people but they would be wrong. He was going to a place he had avoided since his first year in Denver. He was going to the devil himself but at least this devil owed him a huge favor.


"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming." Opening the door for his friend, he stepped back and let him in.

"Where the hell is Ezra?" The team leader wanted answers and he wanted them now.

"Well, morning to you too, Cowboy," he said as he shut the door.

"He's not answering his phone and his car is here. Where is he and what did you find out?"

"First of all, he's here and fine. Second, keep your voice down. He doesn't need your hostility just your friendship."

Chris let out a pent up breath of relief at just hearing his friend was safe, "Okay, he's alright, physically, but what did he say?"

"It ain't that simple and you know it. I'm still trying to get by that damn barrier of his," giving his best friend a dirty look, "I was doing pretty good till you started bangin' on my door. Now he's had time to hide behind that barricade again," the sharpshooter sat down heavily on the couch, "and I'm not sure I can get back to even where I started from last night."

He felt a hand on his shoulder and when he looked up at his friend and saw a small smile. Vin quirked an eyebrow at his friend, in question.

"Just glad we have to stop watching you two dance around each other. It was getting quite tiring." At Vin's blush, he nodded his head, "Yep, it's about time you two got together."

"Well, I'm still trying to convince him of that but there was a bit of a loud interruption. What's with all the banging anyway? Forget how to use a phone?"

"Nope, just worried and then there is that case we start in two days. Needed to make sure my undercover agent has his head on straight. Go get him so we can see if I need to switch off with Team Two."

"Look, let me talk to him first, make sure he's okay with you bargin' in and knowin' about us."

Larabee just nodded.

Vin walked back into his room but found it empty. He checked the bathroom already knowing that Ezra was gone. He gazed around the room looking for clues as to where the wily agent got off to. His eyes settled on the open window.

"Larabee, get your sorry ass in here." Tanner's anger was clear in his voice as he gazed out the window, watching the agent glance back, then walk around the corner and disappear.

"What?" Larabee got a sinking feeling as the sharpshooter turned from the window. "He didn't?"

"He did. Do me a favor? Next time use the phone." He sighed. Vin knew Chris was worried about Ezra, so he took a deep breath, letting go of his anger. "C'mon let's go find him before he runs into trouble."

The two agents ran out of the apartment, flying down the steps and separating once they hit the black asphalt. Vin took the short cut that was the quickest way out of Purgatory. Chris took the long way. Both searched for their seventh in every shadow and every closed door, unlocked or locked and the doors that were left open. They talked to every person they came across but no one had seen the southern agent leaving Purgatory.


Ezra Standish, chameleon extraordinary, sulked in the shadows following the dark and dank alley into a deeper, soulless, part of town, where one went when he had nothing left to give but the sorry existence of his life. He knocked on a steel door that would seem to be the only thing holding up the dilapidated building. The little sliding door opened to reveal eyes so black they sent chills down the southerner's spine, which he quickly squelched and spoke the one word that gained him entrance into the gates of Hell.


The door opened to him, drawing the agent into its welcoming warmth. The black eyes now glimmered with amusement.

"Jumbo to you too, Hellion." The ebony giant grinned as he closed the door behind the man to whom he owed much of his status and continued flow of money.

"I have not gone by that since I left you last, Falcon." The suave agent kept walking towards the back towards the office, taking in everything as he went. It really hadn't changed much. It was still the cool southwestern colors that he had chosen when he had first refurbished the inside of the building.

When he had found this building years ago he had thought it would make an interesting investment, if not a front for undercover operations in the future. A giant calling himself Falcon brought an interesting proposition to him that would help the community and make money for the kids that were cast offs and runaways. With his and Falcon's contacts they found homes for the kids that they could and gave jobs to those that didn't want to be in a foster home or were older and didn't feel they needed a home. Those kids were taught trades from carpentry to driving trucks. Both men tried to keep the kids away from drugs by keeping them busy and giving them a place to sleep. The kids had few rules to follow in order to stay in the make shift shelter. They had a curfew according to their age, they ate together, they had go to school on a regular basis, and studied as a group at a regular time. The most important part was to make things safer for the kids on the street and give them a purpose.

"Hellion!" A teenager with blond, short cropped hair and clear blue eyes, ran up to Ezra hugging him. "It's good to see you back. Are you here to stay?"

"Marcus, how have you been? Staying out of trouble?" Ezra asked as he returned the hug.

"Yes sir. I'm even making good grades in school and working on the docks at a trucking company."

"That's great, Marcus. Look, I need to talk to Falcon, okay? We'll catch up afterwards."

"Sure thing, Hellion, I'll see you tonight at dinner, okay?"

"I'll see you at dinner, Marcus." He led the way towards the office with Falcon following him. After shutting the door behind them, he took a seat in front of the desk. "How are things going?"

"Hellion, this is me remember? What happened?"

Ezra sighed. He could never put anything past this man. "I'm - in rather a delicate bind." He got up, started pacing back and forth, running his hand through his hair. "I allowed someone to become too close." Ezra leaned up against the wall allowing his head to fall forward.

Falcon took in the slumped shoulders, mussed hair and rumpled clothing. "You finally did it, didn't you?"

Ezra never turned around, "Finally did what, Falcon?"

"You finally allowed someone to get behind that wall you built around your heart. Was it one of those agents on your team?"

Standish turned around sharply and glared at the man seated behind the desk.

"What would you know of them?"

"I kept tabs on you. Made sure you were doing alright. Kids kept an eye on you too but mostly because they missed you. So, answer my question."

Ezra knew when the odds were against him, besides he knew he could trust Falcon. "Yes, it was one of my teammates." He slumped into the chair putting his head into his hands.


"And it was more than I could handle."

"So, you ran and are now hiding? Here of all places?" Falcon heaved a sigh. "Hellion, you can't run every time someone gets too close."

"First of all, the teammate in question lives in this neighborhood and second I could not handle what happened between us."

"Ahh, now I understand. By too close you mean..." Falcon left it open, knowing his friend needed to talk about what had happened.

"Anyone ever tell you, you think too much?"

"Yeah, you."

Ezra walked over and sat down heavily, with a bowed head "Not only did I allow them in I … I let a special person in."

"Then why are you here with me rather than with that special someone?"

"Because he broke down all of my walls. I have no defense against him."


Ezra raised his head up, glaring at the man across from him, "So - So. What do you mean so?"

"Hellion, does it really matter that you have no defense? You let me and the children in. So why not take a chance on him or the thing you are afraid of?"

"You and the children are different. What happens when he doesn't want me anymore? Look at the disaster with the FBI. No --- no, I can't do it again."

"Okay, Hellion, stay the night with us and think about what you would be giving up. Besides the children would love to see you again." With that Falcon left Ezra to himself. Hopefully thinking but knowing Hellion he would go over the books, just to make sure that the kids were comfortable and taken care of. Falcon knew these kids weren't lacking. He and especially Ezra, had made sure of that.


Dinner had been a special affair for Ezra. He got reacquainted with all the children and the new ones who had found their way here. It was good to laugh freely but there was something missing that he just couldn't put his finger on.

By the time he went to bed he was physically and mentally exhausted but that didn't stop the onslaught of memories of what had happened between Vin and himself. He knew that no matter what, in his heart of hearts, he loved the Texan. He unconsciously shrugged his shoulders as he lay in bed staring at the ceiling.

So what, if he loved the man?

It really didn't matter that he could still feel the mans hands, lips, tongue ... he moaned as he rolled over, that had not helped. Maybe he needed to reach into his vault of pain and pull out the memories that would bring his heart back behind the walls of safety. Of course in doing that he would once again be the cold hearted bastard everyone believed him to be.

He could live with that. Or so he deluded himself into believing.


Falcon watched his friend from the shadows and shook his head at the emotions that crossed the unsuspecting agent's face. He sighed to himself as realized he could possibly be ruining his friendship with the southern cuss but he loved the man he had called brother years before he had even joined the ATF team. He had understood why Hellion couldn't risk anyone knowing about the sanctuary they had created for the children. At least when he had been with the FBI the danger had been in other states but he knew that Hellion was afraid for anyone to know about the children, afraid someone could hurt or use the kids against him.

But he wasn't about to let the agent pass up a chance to be happy. He knew all about Ezra's past from his childhood too his problems with the FBI. He'd give the southerner a chance to come to the conclusion of going back himself or he'd do it for him. With that decision made Falcon sought his own bed.


Vin stood leaning against the window in the bullpen, watching the people below scurrying around trying to get ahead in the daily rat race but his mind was far away. He could still feel Ezra as he moved against him, like a ghost's touch whispering through his memories, torturing him. He knew he should be out there looking for his southern love but instead was here in with the moron who ran the accounting department.

Who just happened to have called an emergency meeting. Only a geek with no life would consider the monthly expenditures an emergency at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night. Now, he and the team were here wasting precious.

"Mr. Tanner, will you please be seated so we can finish this?" the pencil neck stated firmly just wanting to get out of the presence of the most intimidating men he had had the misfortune to deal with. He had better things to do than to deal with men that the agency allowed Judge Travis to baby. So what if they had an impressive closure rate? He shrugged mentally. Time to get the battle over with. No doubt Agent Standish would claim several expensive suits plus anything else the suave southerner could come up with. Speaking of which...

"Where is Agent Standish? This was a..." The surprised squeak would've done a rat proud. "Wait ... wait ... just a mome..."

He never got to finish his sentence as he was unceremoniously thrown into the elevator followed shortly by his paperwork. The paper pusher could only stare, mouth moving with silence, as the men in front of him pushed the button that sent him back to his office floor. His mother never told him that he would have to deal with heathens like this when she sent him to accounting school.

JD and Nathan turned around to the clapping, and whistling, of their friends. Then without looking, they each took a bow.

Buck beamed proudly at his best friend. "Nice job, Kid. Now let's go find us a southern pain in the ass. "

"So where do we start?" Nathan grabbed his coat up as he followed the other men into the stairwell.

"Same place we lost him. Purgatory." Chris said as he lead the way down the stairs.

"So how far did y'all search before the meeting was called?" Josiah asked.

"Managed to search the blocks and buildings leading up to the main street. Asked some of the kids to keep a look out for him," the quiet tracker stated.

"Hey Vin have you heard anything about Hellion recently? I mean what if he thinks Ez is a threat to the neighborhood? You know like a supplier or something." JD asked concerned.

Nobody had ever really seen the elusive vigilante. The locals received tips to drug deals only to arrive to find the gang tied up with a tape of the deal. The team was given a heads up from the locals because it was Vin's territory. They had tried to find information on the mysterious man but constantly ran into a brick wall. They knew that Hellion showed up when things got rough in the neighborhood and then disappeared in the into thin air. They had assumed he had gotten pinched each time and ended up in jail and under his real name so they couldn't track him as Hellion. The Team hoped that one day they could catch the guy to show him what real justice was. No true blue blooded law officer liked a vigilante.

"Not a thing recently but Purgatory has been quite lately. If Hellion knows what's good for him he better stay the Hell away from Ezra." It just felt good to be moving towards his love instead of being still while the torturous thoughts pulled at him. There were just too many variables for him not to be concerned about his lover and too many questions.

Vin climbed into the Ram wishing he could stop his train of thought ... but he couldn't. He felt responsible for pushing his friend and lover to such drastic steps as running out on them, on him. All because he wanted a relationship with the man?

It just wasn't worth it. Ezra putting himself in danger just to get away from him. Oh sure, he knew Ezra could take care of himself, there was no doubt in that ... but why would he go into Purgatory instead of out? Why go into the worst part of the city? The part he made no bones about not liking? Why go towards the danger?

His instincts were screaming at him, telling him that Ezra had gone deeper into Purgatory - not out. There were no traces or evidence that he'd left that part of the city. Not even Ezra was that good. The southerner left in the suit that he had been wearing the night before ... someone would have noticed the well dressed agent.

What if he was out there somewhere hurt or bleeding? What if someone jumped him? What if they didn't get to him in time? It tore at Vin's heart because the worst thing was Ezra was all alone. No one was there to help him when he was in trouble. No one to confide in ... to listen to him explain why he felt he had to run.

They just had to find Ezra before his worst nightmarish thoughts came true.


The others' were waiting in front of Vin's apartment building as the sharpshooter spoke to one of the kids that lived in the neighborhood. Chris had sent JD and Buck up to Vin's apartment when they had first arrived, just on the off chance the undercover agent had come back. It was more of a way to give his two most impatient agents something to occupy them than any real belief that the southerner had returned.

Vin returned frustrated. How could no one have seen the suave agent? "Shawn said that everyone he talked to hasn't seen him. He's going to check with a few of the gangs. He'll track us down afterwards."

"So where do we start, Vin?" JD asked.

"Let's split up in pairs. Buck, you and the Kid go left towards the park. Nate, Josiah, head towards the tower. We'll head down towards the warehouse district. Y'all circle around towards us and we'll meet at the sanctuary in an hour, before we lose all our light."

"Everybody watch your six, got it?" Chris received reassuring nods from all of his men.

He knew that the words weren't necessary but the sentiment behind them was. Watching out for each other was like breathing but he felt compelled to remind them as well as himself that they were a family and to return to the fold unharmed was extremely important.

"We'll meet ya at the sanctuary, pard." Buck slung his arm around JD's shoulders. "C'mon, Kid, let's get this show on the road."

JD just rolled his eyes as he pulled away from his friend and headed to the opposite side of the street from his gregarious friend. He and Buck were just a few blocks from meeting the others and he had one building left to check. He signaled to Buck that he was going into the building. Buck nodded his agreement as he leaned against a nearby street sign.

JD entered the building taking in the empty, dusty, space, his footsteps ringing hollow as he walked across the floor. He brushed the cobwebs away from the only doorway, just wanting to be sure he didn't miss anything. He started to open the door when a loud whack followed by laughter was heard. The noise had made his heart start to race but his hand was steady as a rock as he quietly pulled out his weapon. Pushing the door open slowly just enough to see into the room, he shook his head in disbelief as he watched four local teens alternate packaging white powder in small bags and snorting the powder. Pulling the door shut he quietly backed up slowly JD made his way to the door he had come in. He signaled to Buck to keep quiet as he made his way towards the ladies man.

"What's up, kid?" Buck asked softly

"Four guys, snortin' and packaging narcotics," JD said as he pulled his cell phone out pushing one number. "Hey, Chris, got some guys getting high while they're packaging their stuff. Wasn't close enough to tell what it was just know they're snortin more than they're packin'. Last building on the left on Walnut. Sure, Chris, we'll sit on it till ya get here." He snapped his phone shut. "Chris is calling the locals and Vin is calling Nate and Josiah."

Both men moved to the side of the building towards the back so they could watch the door. Buck peered around the corner while JD crouched down watching the entrance to the alley just in case someone saw them and decided to surprise them.

"Figures we'd run inta somethin'." Buck sighed. "Why ya think Ez took off?"

"Maybe he don't know how to be in a relationship. Could've scared him somethin' fierce."

"True, look at Maude. Always gettin' hitched to a rich man then gettin' a divorce just to get his money. Ez being shuffled back and forth between all those families and mostly complete strangers at that. Hell, with that kind of role model no wonder Ez would have a hard time."

"I don't think it's just that. I mean we were his first real friends, his first real family, and he still has trouble with that concept. Not to mention that the only time Maude shows up is when she wants somethin' from him. Moms are suppose to be lovin', generous, carin', full of unconditional love, but she's just plain mercenary. Can you imagine findin' out someone loves you for you and doesn't want anything from you? If I had grown up like that I'd have trust issues too."

"We'll just have ta help him understand that he can't be runnin' off every time he gets spooked." Buck nudged JD's shoulder and pointed to where he saw Vin on the roof of the building. Chris joined them a few minutes later.

"Josiah and Nate went inside to cover the other door. They still in there?" Chris took his Beretta out, checking the chambered round and then the clip as he spoke.

"Yep," Buck said as he also checked his weapon. JD checked his before he tucked it into his holster and then ran his fingers through his hair, mussing it up, giving him a disheveled appearance.

"Ready?" At their nod Chris signaled to Vin. Crouching low Buck led the way to the door taking up his position on the far side of it. Chris stayed on the other side as he signaled for JD to move. JD took a deep breath as he opened the door and entered.

"Hey where's the party, man?" JD asked as he pretended to ignore the men in the room. The men jumped in surprise, bringing their various weapons to bear on the intruder.

"Ain't no party here, asshole, so get a move on," a man with greasy hair and a long green duster demanded.

JD Just moved deeper into the room drawing attention away from both entrances. "Are ya sure? 'Cause G said ta meet him here."

"I said there ain't no party and if ya don't get ta movin' then I'm gonna start..." Greasy stopped as he felt a cold gun muzzle in his neck. He raised his hands in surrender as he glanced around to see his friends in the same position.

"Ya know it ain't nice ta threaten people,." Buck said as he reached up taking the gun from the perp. Trying not to breathe too much as he did so.

Chris chuckled at Buck's look of disgust as he clicked the handcuffs onto his own perp. He gave the man in front of him a push to get him moving towards his partners that the others had lined up against the wall.

Vin dropped down from the skylight where he had been covering the team. "Locals are a few blocks away."

Josiah went outside to wait for them as Nate and Buck watched the four prisoners. Chris watched as JD checked out the rest of the room. He glanced at the sharpshooter.

"We'll find him tomorrow, Vin."

"I'm not so sure about that," Vin said as they moved to help the officers who'd just arrived, to get the prisoners loaded and to give their statements. It was going to be a long night full of questions, reports, logging in evidence and interviews, giving Ezra more time to cover his tracks and possibly disappear for good. Right now all Vin had was hope and faith that love would win out in the end.

And for now, until he found and reclaimed his southern love, that would have to be enough.


Ezra lay in bed staring at the ceiling lost in memories of soft touches, steamy kisses and hard truths. He had given up trying to sleep long ago. He glanced at bedside clock and groaned. It was only 1:00 am.

Ezra pulled the comforter off as he sat up in bed, dropping his head into his hands, his shoulders slumped in defeat. When he had come here yesterday he had not thought beyond getting the hell out of Dodge. The textbook Neanderthal need to fend off an attack or flee to safety. Fight or flight.

And what did he chose to do anytime someone got within 20 feet of his comfort zone?

He fought. He used words as weapons and indifference as a shield.

But what did he do when someone tried to slip past the words and the walls?

He fought even harder with first hand knowledge of the interloper's personal demons. And he struck without thought to the other person.

And when someone ignored all of the warning signs, all the words, and became one with his heart?

Well, he had to find that one out the hard way, didn't he?

He ran.


Because no one had ever gotten as close as Vin had.

So he had run like the devil was chasing him.

He got up and started pacing back and forth. He could admit to himself that it scared him that the sharpshooter slipped through every defense he had ever had. What was Vin's favorite saying… Like lickin' butter off a knife.

He smiled to himself. Remembering the sexy smirk, running his fingers through the soft, silky, sienna locks and the smoky blue eyes that took his breath away.

How could he have been such a simpleton? He sank back onto the bed in utter defeat.

He had run out on Vin. He had run out on the team. His family.


Larabee had given him a second chance. And what did he do? He blew it. Now he wasn't so sure if he could get back what he had so recklessly thrown away. The worst thing was he had thrown away his only chance with Vin. And he had no idea how to get it back. He had never dealt with these emotions before.

Ezra walked over to the desk and sat down heavily in the chair. Flipping on the desk lamp the southerner pulled the phone towards him, debating whether to pick it up and make the call.

He couldn't do it. He had lost everything and now he had to deal with it. Pushing away from the desk Ezra got up and started pacing again, occasionally, glancing at the phone.

Throwing up his hands in defeat he left the room, going into the gym. This had been one of the main rooms that he had put in, believing that the kids needed to be taught self-defense along with a place to practice it. Falcon had brought new skills and techniques for the children to learn and together they had given the kids a chance. Friday nights, when he was in residence, he and Falcon had a match of skills. Unbeknownst to the children, they were showing them how the techniques could be of use to them, out there, on the streets, where they couldn't protect them. Putting on gloves he started punching the long bulky bag with every ounce of self hate and despair he felt, imagining it was himself that he was hitting.

After several hours, he dropped to his knees drained of all emotions but raw honesty. He understood why he had run. If he allowed Vin into his heart then he would have to deal with the inevitable heartache of the sharpshooter leaving in one form or another, just as everyone else in his life had. But that didn't matter anymore because he knew that Vin had been in his heart since the first day they had met. He just never dreamed that his feelings would be returned. Nothing in his life had prepared him for the shock and terror that had filled him. He had always allowed his demons, his fears, and his experiences to rule his life. That wasn't something that was going to change but it didn't mean he couldn't temper it a little. Falcon was right. He had let him and the children in. He just had to find a way to do that with Vin.

Tomorrow he would call and let the team know he was alright then he would just take it minute by minute until he felt safe enough to move it up to hour by hour and hopefully he could move it up to day by day in a couple of years. He snorted to himself. Who was he kidding? He was a total mental case. It would take decades to get to day by day. Ezra made his way back to his room, hoping he could get a few hours of sleep.

The southerner never noticed the shadows of the two who felt compelled to protect him, even from himself. Falcon watched the southerner leave the room. He had formed a strong bond with the southerner in the bloody trenches of the daily fighting with gangs for the children that nobody wanted, to give them stability in a very unstable and volatile neighborhood. So, he had known the agent wouldn't be able to sleep, which meant he couldn't sleep. Turning towards his shorter companion, he asked. "Well, what do you think?"

The man was a few years younger than him and had been with Hellion from the beginning. He was world wise from his time on the streets and easily passed as a teenager because of his youthful boyish looks. He had long blond hair and clear green eyes that showed a wealth of intelligence when he let his guard down. "I think it's up to Hellion and we shouldn't interfere."

"This could be his only shot at true happiness. And you would do nothing because…"

The younger man turned towards Falcon. "Hellion is one of us. The FBI nearly killed his soul with their hatred and lies. When he came here after that I could see it in his eyes, the pain, the sorrow that it caused. I watched him withdraw from us! Like he was afraid we would cause the same hurt that they did! When he left I thought we would never see him again." The blond sighed. "Then every time he showed up that first year with the ATF I held my breath, afraid I'd see that same look. Then he stopped coming because he didn't want anyone to hurt us because of him., I shadowed him making sure that he was happy, well, at least, what passed for happy for Hellion, anyway. I saw it tonight, Falc, I saw the pain again. I won't let him get hurt anymore than he already is."

Falcon pulled the man into his arms hugging him hard. "Shawn, he is hurting but not because they hurt 'im but because he's afraid of the love he feels for someone. He just doesn't know how to show it or how to let that someone in. He needs us to help him."

Shawn pulled away from the comforting embrace. "Are you sure that bringing the one he wanted to escape from here is such a good idea? This is Hellion we're talking about, Falc. He hates it when you butt in, remember?"

"I remember. He'll get over it just like before. So are you in?"

The blond allowed himself to be pulled back into the welcome embrace. "Yeah, I'll do my part. But you have to protect me when he finds out who brought him here." Shawn snuggled up closer to the dark skinned man.

"No problem, Shawn. Now, it's a few hours before you can bring him here. Go grab some sleep and I'll keep watch over Hellion until then." He gently pushed Shawn towards the barracks.

Falcon watch as Shawn made his way to his bed before he turned back towards the pool room which gave a perfect view of the office he shared with Hellion. Shawn was right about Hellion not being happy with his interference. Hell, that was an understatement. Last time he had butted in was when the southerner was still with the FBI. He had gone to Atlanta to be a silent backup for Hellion when the rumors and lies escalated to vicious pranks and out right threats.

Falcon hadn't intended to make his presence known but when the suave undercover agent was jumped by some of his coworkers one night, he had no choice but to join the fight. He hadn't expected Hellion to be grateful for his interference but he hadn't expected him to be so angry either.

Hellion had tried to get his point across that Falcon's help was not wanted or needed. But Falcon had stood firm and remained with the stubborn southerner until Hellion had agreed to return to the sanctuary with him, to wait for the outcome of his suspension from the FBI. It had taken them a few rounds in the ring before they came to an unspoken agreement that Hellion didn't need any help and Falcon would always be there to interfere when he thought the undercover agent did, much like he was now. Of course, Hellion hadn't known that he had followed him back to Atlanta. Which would be a good thing because he had made his own impressions upon the undercover agent's supervising agents. He hadn't known at the time that the ATF was also making an impression on the same officials.

That had been an interesting turn of events.

He'd had his run-ins with Tanner and his fellow ATF members before Hellion had joined them. Not always pleasant encounters but nothing that he hadn't been able to handle. When Hellion had told him that he would be working with the infamous team he hadn't been happy about it, but, he had hoped that his friend would finally find someone that could get past his defenses. And it seemed he had. Not the person he would have picked but that didn't really matter.

Laying down on the couch Falcon watched a light flicker on in the office. He had nothing against Tanner, just didn't like him. That didn't matter either. He and Shawn had taken great pains to keep Tanner from finding out who Hellion really was when the Texan had started to nose around that first year Hellion had been with the ATF. It wasn't easy, but, at least, Hellion had finally taken a back seat to the every day fight in Purgatory. Didn't matter that Hellion thought he was protecting them from harm but that they could keep the team from finding out who Hellion was.

Maybe that made them selfish, not wanting to share the special person that Hellion really was, especially, with people that clearly didn't appreciate him.

But, maybe, he had been wrong about them? He snorted at that thought.

Falcon got up, walking to the office, becoming tired of the shadow that paced back and forth. Giving a courtesy knock on the door as he opened it. "So?"

Ezra had given up trying to sleep as his thoughts kept tormenting him. He knew that his teammates would be up by now but he couldn't make up himself pick up the phone. He took a deep breath. Setting his shoulders, he walked determinedly towards the phone, jumping when he heard the knock on the door, and yanking his hand back from the phone as if he had been burned. "What?"

Falcon moved into the office going over to sit on the bed. "I said so… are you going to call them. Let them know you're alright? Let *Tanner* know that you're alright?"

"You … you know." Ezra was momentarily stunned but the more he thought about it he could see it was an easy conclusion. "Never mind." Waving away his own question. Running his fingers through his already spiked hair. "No… not yet."


"Just can't."

Going over to the desk, Falcon punched some numbers and held the handset out towards the agent. Ezra took the phone, glaring at his friend. After three rings the phone was picked up on the other end.


Ezra's glare intensified. Falcon stared back passively. "Hello, Mr. Sanchez."

"Ezra! Where are you? How are you? Are you alright? Tell me where you are and I'll come get you."

"I'm fine, Mr. Sanchez. I just needed to be by myself… to get my thoughts in order."

"Ezra, just tell me where you are! I'll be right there."

"Mr. Sanchez, it doesn't matter where I am just that I am fine and safe. I'll contact you later."

"Standish, don't…"

Ezra hung up the phone. "Mind telling me where you got that number?"

Falcon just shrugged meeting Ezra's stare.

Ezra sighed. "Guess it doesn't matter."

"Why didn't you tell him?"

"I'm not ready … to deal with the consequences of my actions." Ezra sat down heavily onto the sofa bed he pulled out when he spent the night at the sanctuary.

"Do you love Tanner?"

Ezra leaned back resting against the wall. "God, yes! And there in lies my problem. Falcon, I … I … aw hell!" The southerner dropped his head into his hands.

The bed dipped as Falcon sat down next to his friend, laying his had on the agent's shoulder. He knew all too well what the undercover agent felt. They shared similar pasts. Though he hadn't been shuffled from one bad situation to another like the southerner had but it had left them both with trust issues.

"Hellion, I know this is hard but you have to let go of the past … let yourself feel what's in your heart and act on it," Falcon brushed the chestnut curls back from the southerner's forehead. "Don't think … don't analyze … just act on what you feel at that moment."

"What if I screw it up?"

The soft drawl sounded so lost it broke Falcon's heart. "You won't, my friend, just as you haven't screwed up with me or the kids. You've never done anything but protect us, given us a home, a purpose, and you have loved us. You've never let us down or disappointed us. Now what if we… There was a knock on the door. "Come in."

Both men stood to greet their visitor.

Shawn entered the room. "Hellion, long time no see." He grinned as he walked over and enveloped the agent in a hard embrace.

"Great to see you again, Shawn." Ezra returned the embrace. "How have you been?"

"Fine, Hellion, just fine." Shawn glanced sideways at Falcon.

Ezra smiled at his two friends. "Good to see I was right about you two."

"Don't gloat, Hellion, it's unnerving. Makes me think you're up to something again." Shawn cringed remembering a prank he'd pulled on the southerner only to have it turned against him by Hellion. "There are a few anxious kids out there who said you would teach them some tricks and seem to think you have spent way too much time in here."

"Well, we can't have that, now can we?" Ezra ran his fingers through his hair, trying to make it look half way decent. He walked over to the desk pulling a drawer out, getting a pack of cards out. "Are they in the game room?"

"Nope, told them you'd be right out."

"Great." Ezra smiled as he left the room. He had really missed spending his time with the children. Watching as their jaded, world weary looks were replaced with looks of joy and wonder. Yes, this was just what he needed to take his mind off his paltry problems.

Falcon stood shoulder to shoulder with Shawn at the door, as they watched their friend disappear into another room.

"Any problems?"

Shawn gave a derisive snort. "Are you kidding? That team is nothing but trouble! But, no, Tanner didn't give me any trouble. He's waiting for us in the loft."

"How much did you tell him?" Falcon asked as they walked up the stairs to the room they shared.

"Just told him that I knew someone that had information and wanted to see him in person. Course, he let the others know. Did you have to force Hellion to make the call?"

"Yep. Told Sanchez that he was alright but wouldn't give up the location." Falcon looked at his partner as he put his hand on the doorknob. Opening it after he received a nod.

Tanner stood looking out the window, turning as the door was opened, his stance tense and alert. Falcon and Shawn stood as a united front, blocking the only way out.

"Where is he?" Tanner's voice was terse.

"I'll get to that in a moment but first I need you to hear me out."

Vin moved threateningly towards the tall black man. At the same moment, Shawn stepped in front of Falcon ready to defend him. Falcon laid a hand on his would be protector's shoulder, but spoke to the Texan, who had stopped at the defensive move.

"Look, Tanner, there are some things that you have to understand about your Ezra before you talk to him."

"Fine, I'll listen but I make no promises. But I have to know if he's alright first."

"He's fine and he's here, with us." Falcon watched as the Texan absorbed the information.

"You called 'im *my Ezra*. Why?"

"We don't know him as Ezra. He always has and always will be Hellion to us."

"No. He can't be."

Shawn had been quiet and watchful up till now. "Why can't he? Because he's not good enough now that you know he's Hellion?"

Vin grabbed the front of Shawn's shirt as he snarled into the man's face. "I don't care who the hell he is, or was, and understand this, no matter what *he* *is* *mine*!"

Shawn grinned, pushing the sharpshooter's hands away from him. "Guess you better start explaining to him, Falcon. I still don't like it, or him, but I'll help. See you downstairs." Without looking back he left the room.

"What will it take for me to see him?" Vin seemed casual as he leaned against the desk, his crossed arms and ticking jaw the only outward sign that the sharpshooter was anything but relaxed.

Falcon sat down behind his desk. "Do you know the history of the sanctuary?"

Vin took a seat across from the desk. "A few years back rumors started floatin' around that the devil was livin' in Purgatory. Locals called 'im Hellion. Rumors say he started ta give the local gangs such a hard time that some relocated and made the rest sorry they hadn't left. Saved a lot of kids by keeping them out of the gangs. Street kids that had been homeless now had a place ta stay. Ya'll found real homes for as many as possible, found jobs for those that wanted ta work, made sure they went ta school or homed schooled them."

"Not bad for an outsider. A lot more goes on here than the world out there thinks. None of it would have been possible if Hellion … your Ezra … had not been undercover in a local mob family that dealt with a local gang here in Purgatory. The deal went bad, Hellion, was shot, left for dead in this very building. If Shawn hadn't found him when he did..." Falcon let the Texan draw his own conclusion.

"When can I see him?"

"When we're done, I'll take you to him. We wanted to make sure you loved Hellion and I believe you proved you did." Falcon rested his crossed arms on the desk top. "He doesn't know that we asked you here."

"Why did you ask me here? What's in it for you?" Vin asked, his distrust very clear in his tone.

"Nothing!" Falcon snarled. "I could have followed his wishes however I choose to make him happy no matter the consequences, or the people I have to work with to pull it off."

"Do I get to see him, now?" Vin was eager to see his southerner.

"Wait here., I'll be back with him as soon as I can pry him away from the kids." Falcon walked towards the door but stopped with his hand on the doorknob. He turned back to face the Texan. "Be prepared, Tanner, his defenses have been fortified with time nevertheless he is very vulnerable. *Do* *not* make me regret this, Tanner. Are we clear?"


Falcon nodded at the Texan's clipped response. Closing the door behind him the ebony giant took his time going down the stairs. He would stall to postpone the meeting between the two lovers. He didn't hate Tanner, just didn't like the man. "Suppose I'll have to get over that," Falcon grumbled under his breath.


Sanchez walked into Team 7's bullpen, noticing their team leader was pacing and glaring at anyone that got too close to his path. Taking a seat at his desk, he continued to watch for a few more minutes before he dropped his bombshell.

"Ezra called this morning." Josiah's words stopped all movement in the room.

"Where is he?" Larabee was the first to break the silence. "Is he alright?"

"He wouldn't say where he was, just that he was fine and perfectly safe. Said he had to sort out his feelings and he would call again in a few days. Where's Vin?"

"Well, we don't know that." At Josiah's raised eyebrow Buck filled him in on the rest of the details, while Chris had resumed his pacing. "Seems that kid, Shawn, came through with some information. Only hitch is the guy wanted ta talk to Vin in person. That'd be why ol' Chris is pacin' a hole in the floor and we ain't heard back yet."

Chris glared at Buck. The Ladies Man just chuckled.

"How'd he sound, Josiah?" the ex-medic asked.

"Like he was stressed, worried, and distant."

Buck snorted. "He's always distant… ow… damn it JD"

"Watch it, Buck, he ain't as distant as he was when he first joined the team. He's just been distracted lately, that's all. Has a lot on his mind, is all," JD defended.

"Ya, know I didn't mean anything by it, Kid." Buck looked contrite.

"Chris, why don't we check out the sanctuary while Vin's checking out his lead?" the profiler asked. "One of the kids was bound to have seen Ezra."

"No way Falcon will let us talk to them. Vin's the only one that could get anywhere with that guy. What makes you think we can get anything out of him?" Nathan asked.

Falcon was an enigma to them. They couldn't find anything on the man. It was like he didn't exist. The kids that lived there were just as protective of Falcon as he was of them.

"Doesn't matter, he won't have a choice. We'll give Vin another thirty minutes, then we'll check out the sanctuary ourselves," Larabee stated forcefully, as he finally sat down at Ezra's desk, picking up the ringing phone. "Larabee."

"Hey, cowboy, ya can call off the search." Vin settled into the leather couch.

Larabee pushed the speaker button letting the others hear what the Texan had to say. "Where's he been?"

"At the sanctuary. Falcon's been hidin' him"

"Have you talked to him yet? Is he okay?" JD wanted to know.

"No, but Falcon said he was fine and went to go get him."

"Why would he go there of all places?" Josiah inquired.

"Seems he has a bit of a past with the sanctuary."

"What kind of past?" Chris wanted to know if there was going to be any trouble. Of course for some reason trouble seemed to follow the other members of his team.

"Not really sure but whatever, it is, it's his story, not mine. Do you remember any FBI cases that involved Ezra here in Denver before the team?"

"Yeah, several. He managed to piss off his boss often enough to be loaned out to the local agency as punishment."

"Nothin' new there." Buck snorted.

Chris glared the others into silence when they snickered.

"I'll call later ta let ya know how it's going."

"Be careful and if we don't hear from you in an hour we'll be coming to get ya both," Chris stated.

"Make sure you bring that stubborn cuss home, Vin," Buck added.

Chris hung up the phone, leaning back in his Ezra's chair, lacing his fingers behind his head. "Guess we're waitin' again."

"Let's wait at the Saloon. Nathan's buyin'!" Buck tossed over his shoulder, heading towards the stairs to give him a head start.

"Sweet! Thanks, Nate!" JD said following Buck.

"Buck!" Nathan yelled.

"C'mon, Nate it'll be your good deed for the day," Josiah said as he slung his arm around the ex-medic's shoulders.


Hellion wasn't with the children as Falcon had thought but going over the books. The man always made sure that the sanctuary was well within the black at all times. "Some things never change."

"Admit it… you wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't so predictable." Ezra continued to add the column of numbers.

"Admit it, you're just anal." Falcon snorted.

Ezra just ignored his friend's statement. This was an old argument between them. "Do you have the investment folder?"

Falcon grinned. Hellion had just walked into his plan. Now he didn't have to make up an excuse. "It's in the loft. I'd go get it but I promised Shawn I'd help him."

Ezra waved away Falcon's explanation as he headed out the door. "I needed a little break anyway."

If the ebony giant was honest with himself, it was a trap and one that he was sending his friend into unprepared for. Sure, he felt guilty but only a little bit. Granted he had wanted to set the southerner up with his cousin Jared but just couldn't seem to get the timing right. Guess he and Shawn should have a few practice rounds in case Tanner screws up again. Then again, Hellion, might just want his pound of flesh for his interfering once again in Hellion's life. Didn't really matter either way. He and Shawn would handle the fallout. It wouldn't be the first, nor the last.

The southerner didn't help himself at all when it came to relationships with others. The man went out of his way to make people hate him, pushing buttons, driving people away, but the children could see right through him. Seemed Tanner could do the same.

Still Falcon thought that his cousin would have made a better match.


Vin tensed as Ezra walked into the room, over to the desk, looking through stacks of papers. The southerner never turned around. His lover looked good and relaxed. Not in his usual expensive suits, instead, he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with an unfamiliar logo on the back. Guessing Falcon hadn't told the southern agent he was waiting Vin decided to alert Ezra to his presence.

"Hello, Hellion."

He'd know that voice anywhere. Ezra dropped his head to his chest, leaning heavily on the desk but didn't turn around. "What do you want, Mr. Tanner? Did you come here out of some misguided sense of honor?"

Vin walk over to his lover, standing close enough to feel the southerner's body heat, but he didn't touch him. "I want you," Vin whispered next to his lover's ear, grinning as Ezra shivered. "I'm not misguided, Ezra, I'm in love… with you and I ain't going anywhere without you. I also want to hear about how you came ta be the infamous Hellion."

Vin stepped closer molding himself to the southerner's stiff body, his arms going around his waist, resting his chin on the tense undercover agent's shoulder. "Ez, when you left me the other morning and I realized that you went deeper inta Purgatory I… it took ten years of my life. I didn't know if you were hurt or maybe bleeding. I didn't know if I'd even find you alive and that scared me more than anything else that's happened ta me in my life, 'ceptin', when you pull those dumb stunts and end up in the hospital."

"The same could be said for you too," the suave agent stated, stalling for time. Ezra tried to pull out of the sharpshooter's embrace but Vin wasn't budging. This was bringing back too many memories for Ezra. Things that were better forgotten.

"You goin' to tell me, now?" Vin huskily whispered into his conman's ear, enjoying the shiver that ran through the man in his arms.

"Why do you want to know?" Ezra sighed tiredly. "It's in the past." He shrugged his shoulders.

Vin turned the southern agent around too face him. "Because, Ezra, it's not just the past, it's your past and not only that, it's something that's close to your heart." Blue eyes met green as the sharpshooter laid his hand over the southerner's heart. "And, that, my love, is where I want to be and to never leave that special place again unprotected."

The Texan brushed his lips against his soul mate's, nibbling on the lower lip, seeking permission before slipping his tongue into the his green eyed sorcerer's sweet mouth. Ezra groaned, surrendering to the sharpshooter's touch, craving it, like an addiction that he would never be able to escape. Vin broke off the kiss, resting his forehead against his mate's, both men breathing harshly.

"Tell me about this place, the men that care so much about you, that are such a huge part of your life." Vin framed his beloved's face in his hands. "Most of all, Ez, please, let me be the protector of your heart?" Vin stared pleadingly into the emerald eyes that filled with tears that never fell.

"I'm not sure that I know how. I… I've never done this before." Ezra pulled away from Vin, needing some distance. He stared out the window, not seeing anything beyond his pain. "Sure, there have been others but it was never about love, at least not for them. I've never dealt with a relationship where the feelings were reciprocated."

Vin, stepped up behind his lover, wrapping his arms loosely around Ezra's waist. "Then let me show you how good it could be to have forever and how great love can be. Let me show you that I'm not like the others. You and me, Ez, we can do this together… just don't give up on us before we've had a chance to get started."

Standish could hear the truth in the Texan's voice but wasn't sure if he trusted his judgment enough in this situation. How many times had he been burned by his decisions in this area? Too many but there was something in Vin's voice that pulled at his soul making him want to accept what the sharpshooter said.

Ezra pulled out of the embrace, grabbing the sharpshooter's hand, leading him over towards the couch. Ezra sat down sideways facing the Texan as he sat down but avoided the intense gaze he felt being aimed at him. "When I got tired of the bullshit from the Atlanta FBI branch or needed a change I found the best way to do that was to make my superiors so angry that they sent me away as punishment. They were aware that I hated the cold and fortunately the Anchorage office didn't have openings." Ezra looked at Vin, smirking.

The Texan grinned knowing how much his lover despised the wet, chill to the bone, kind of cold. He pulled the southerner into his arms, with Ezra's back to his chest.

Ezra picked up where he left off as he got settled into Vin's arms. "The Denver office was looking for an undercover agent at the time so my supervisor sent me here. My first assignment, I was sent into a gun deal with gang members. There was an equipment malfunction, my cover was blown and the team I was on then, lost me in the shuffle some how. I almost died, would have too, but..." Ezra paused when his Texan, and that was what Vin really was, his, tensed. Ezra glanced behind him seeing the anger in the blue eyes, thinking it was aimed towards himself, the southerner tried to pull out of the stiff embrace.

Vin wasn't angry, he was furious. How could Ezra's former team just lose him in the shuffle of a bust? Ezra's safety, his very life, should have been their main priority. He realized his anger had been misread by his mate as Ezra tried to pull out of his arms and was quick to reassure the smaller man.

"Sorry, Ez," The Texan tightened his grip on the southern man. "Just angry that your team could be so careless with your safety." Vin buried his nose in the suave agent's neck, inhaling the special scent of the man he loved. "I could've lost you before we ever met."

Ezra accepted his Texan's explanation and settled back into Vin's arms. "Then you should thank Shawn. He saved me that day, pulled me from the gunfight and brought me here. Managed to patch me up in more than one way. He and the local children gave me back some of my humanity that I had lost. I purchased the building they were staying in, thinking it would make a good investment. The kids came to mean… a great deal to me. Not realizing Shawn had already laid down the ground work for the sanctuary."

"So, you kept pissing your bosses off to get sent back here and they never figured it out?" Vin asked.

"Hell no.," Ezra snorted. "All I had to do was continually bemoan my fate at being sent to the frozen wasteland of Colorado a few months before I pulled something to get sent back here. My superior had something on the head of the Denver office, therefore, the FBI here couldn't stand me so they would put me on some small time cases, paperwork, anything to bore me, trying to get me to go away. I would tread carefully, using all my time to help out here."

"When did Falcon get involved?" Vin nuzzled the conman's neck. He just couldn't resist the temptation and was pleased when Ezra groaned, rolling his neck to give the sharpshooter better access. Vin pulled away before asking Ezra to continue. "You were saying?"

Ezra was dazed for moment. "Huh?"

"When did Falcon join your operation?" Vin prompted Ezra.

"Falcon was the one who brought the idea to me, having seen the possibilities that had been right under my nose that I hadn't seen. With the help of Shawn and his connections to the kids and the streets. and between Falcon's and my contacts in other areas, we were able to make this into the sanctuary meant to give kids who had no hope, a fighting chance and the hope life had taken away from them."

"What about Hellion? How did you get to become the infamous legend?"

"Our major problem was the gangs. In order to save some of the hard cases, the gangs had to come to understand that they stood no chance of taking me on, much less, winning. They challenged me at every corner so, I turned up the heat on them. I made their lives hell. The drug busts went up 90% by all the tips we gave the locals and DEA. Then they started playing hardball, tried to kill me so many times I lost count. I managed to keep Falcon and Shawn out of the war for the most part. Course during any war there are losses. Our side had a few tragic casualties but not compared to theirs. Most ended up behind bars, others died, the rest I was able to bring to an… understanding. The sanctuary was off limits as were the kids living here and any others I claimed as ours. That's how Hellion came about." Ezra turned in Vin's arms to see how his story had been received.

Vin caressed the cheek of his lover, his eyes softened. "Ezra, there is nothing that would drive me away from you. I don't care about your past. My only concern with hearing you were Hellion was that I'd heard all about your exploits from neighborhood kids. To tell the truth, it terrified me but at the same time I was so proud of you."

"Really?" Ezra couldn't believe what he was hearing. Vin was proud of him. No one had ever been proud of him before, certainly not his mother. She always let him know exactly how disappointed in him she was. No matter what it was he always failed in her eyes and like all children, he had constantly tried to change her opinion of him. He wanted to be more to her than a tool of her trade or schemes, more than a means to an end, to be more than an inconvenience to her. His elusive dream to be loved for himself, accepted for who he was and have someone be proud of him was like a gift from God. But was it real? Or was he imagining it? Were his dreams for acceptance and love coloring what Vin was offering? Would Vin be like the others in his lonely life?

Ezra looked into the open depths of his Texan's blue eyes, seeking the truth to send his doubts that plagued him into the fiery depths of hell.

Vin caressed his southerner's cheek allowing his fingers to follow the jaw line, to then tangle in chestnut locks. He could easily read the doubts in his lover's eyes. Once again he wanted to strangle Maude Standish for causing his southern mate so much pain. "Oh, Ez, of course I'm proud of you because you help these kids, even when it caused you unbelievable personal problems. You never gave up on them. You gave them so much more than hope, you gave them security, stability, and most of all you gave them your love. Ezra, you have to know there is nothing that I wouldn't do for you. I believe in you. Most of all, Ez, you have to know that I love you and there is nothing that you can ever do that would make me stop loving you." Vin scooted down on the couch as he pulled Ezra down on top of him, tangling his fingers again in the soft locks, pulling the southerner down for a kiss, stopping a hair's breadth from his lover's lips. "I love you, Ezra P. Standish, now and forever."

Their lips met, the kiss was hot, each man seeking something from the other. Vin sought to bring their connection full circle, wanting to give the southern agent reassurance of his true feelings. Ezra was seeking the future he saw promised in those blue eyes flaming with desire, for him. This kiss deepened as hands began to roam over warm, hard bodies.

Both men groaned as there was a knock on the door.

"Hellion, you better be decent cause I'm coming in," Shawn stated.

Neither man had enough time to move before the man came in. "Sorry to break up the reunion but we got a problem at the front and Falcon is about to blow."

Ezra gave Vin a quick kiss before standing up, walking out the door, straightening his clothes as he went, never looking back because he knew without a doubt Vin would be following him.

"Okay, Shawn what's happening?"

"Your team showed up demanding to see you,. Falcon told them that he would give you the message, that you were talking to someone and it might be a while. Well, that went over like a lead balloon. Thought I better come get you to run interference before things got out of hand."

Shawn had seen the passionate embrace the two lovers were in and could see the happiness on his friend's face. He'd talk to Hellion later to make sure everything was really alright between the two. Guess that meant he was going to have to learn to tolerate Tanner, but hell was going to freeze over before he even tolerated the rest of the team. They were all arrogant, mouthy and insufferable. Shawn chose to ignore that Hellion shared these same traits. To him Hellion was his best friend, well after Falcon, but that was a given, and he loved them both, just in a different way. Hellion saved his life, and the lives of the children, but most importantly, Hellion had given him Falcon and for that he would love and protect Hellion with his life, as would his Falcon. The three of them were a family that supported and loved the children that were a part of their family. Shawn sighed. It was extremely unpleasant to think he'd have to learn to like the Texan and the rest of the team, but he'd do it for Hellion's sake.


From the beginning he and Falcon had made sure there were several lines of defense before anyone got anywhere near the children. They had found it was easier to protect the children from outsiders if they were prevented from entering the actual sanctuary. And to date, no one had. Ezra had no doubt that Falcon would not allow his teammates to pass that last wall of protection without his consent. Ezra could hear the argument before he even entered the receiving area.

Ezra took a deep breath as he took hold of the doorknob. He turned to look back over his shoulder when he felt a hand on the small of his back. Vin smiled reassuringly back at his lover. The undercover agent pushed the door open, taking in the scene in a glance. Josiah was holding Chris back, Nathan had a hold on Buck and JD was in the middle trying to be the mediator for their group. JD seemed to be losing his grip on his own temper.

Most people underestimated the computer genius but he knew better. JD was a very competent and skilled agent. It was hard to rile the young man but when JD thought a friend was in trouble he became as quick tempered as the rest of them. Which sometimes was a good thing but not when trying to be diplomatic in an already volatile situation. It seemed that he should spend more time with JD to maybe help him with his diplomacy because they all knew that Larabee didn't have a drop of diplomacy in him. He'd shoot first, shoot some more and then ask questions, which made for a very deplorable diplomat. Mr. Sanchez was good, but had a terrible temper once it was provoked, and his size and strength were sometimes a better use of Josiah's talents. Mr. Jackson was a healer first and foremost, as it should it be. Mr. Wilmington was about as subtle as the proverbial bull in the China shop. His Vin was a silent enforcer. JD had the most potential if he could learn to control his temper.

"That's enough!" Ezra's voice rang clear as a bell, bringing all motion to a stand still.

Ezra stepped up beside Falcon with Vin and Shawn flanking them, presenting a united front. The men in front of him winced at the icy glare the southerner was giving them.. It was as cold and unfriendly as the frozen tundra.

"I would appreciate it if you gentlemen, and at the moment, I use that term very loosely, would desist in this attempt to bully your way into the sanctuary." Ezra's voice was glacial. Making sure he had everyone's attention he continued. "The children here are guaranteed complete safety, to the best of our ability, from the outside world. If you are to continue in this manner you *WILL* leave. If you will behave and follow the rules you will be allowed entrance."

"Your sure that's a good idea, Hellion?" Falcon asked, enjoyed seeing the surprised looks on the men's faces.

"Hellion?!" was the only word echoing in the room, surprise and shock vying for domination on each team member's face.

Ezra inwardly groaned at Falcon's slip. Falcon was dead first chance he got, because he wasn't ready to deal with the team knowing just yet. He knew Falcon did that to provoke his team members and being honest with himself, he kind of enjoyed it but it should have been his admission, not Falcon's. "I'm sure if they want answers to their questions they'll behave, won't you?"

"We'll behave, brother. We wouldn't want to upset the children," Josiah answered for the group, all nodding in agreement. Keeping quiet would get them answers and this was a gold mine of knowledge. None of them wanted to pass this chance up. It might be a long time before they had another glimpse into their undercover agent's past. Not to mention they had to find a way to reconcile the friend with the oft times helpful but still unlawful vigilante.

Chris met Vin's reassuring gaze and nodded. He trusted Ezra and if Vin felt everything would be worked out then that was good enough for him, though he did feel uncomfortable with Ezra being Hellion. Then again that did explain a lot. If even a third of the stories floating around about Hellion were true, then the damn stunts Ezra pulled all the time, since joining the team, were minor compared to what could've been happening.

Damn, they were in big trouble if Ezra ever lived up to his reputation as Hellion.

Ezra led the way to the schoolroom where they could talk in private until the team understood the rules and promised not to interfere with the sanctuary. Falcon and Shawn had slipped out to make sure the children were some place else until Ezra felt it was safe for both sets of his family to meet. A day he had been both dreading and looking forward to… but mostly dreading.

Ezra held the door allowing the other men to enter first followed by Falcon. "Have a seat. So were do we start, gentlemen?" Instantly question were fired at the southerner.

"How did you become Hellion?" JD asked.

"Are the stories true?" Buck demanded.

"How'd you become a part of the sanctuary, son?" Josiah inquired.

Ezra sat down behind the desk folding his hands in front of him. Vin and Falcon each sat on a corner of the desk. The undercover agent held up his hand. He was a little disconcerted because Chris and Nathan had both been quiet. "One question at a time please. How about I start then you can ask questions afterwards?"

"Sure, Ez," answered JD impatiently, making a 'go ahead' motion with his hand. He was finally going to learn something about his friend without the usual evasiveness. He loved Ezra like a brother but damn if it wasn't like pulling teeth to get any personal information about him.

"I'm sure by now all of you know some of my history with the local FBI?" Ezra asked.

"You mean that you pissed off your boss to the boiling point and he sent you here as punishment?" Nathan responded with an amused smirk.

Ezra grimaced. "Yes, Mr. Jackson, that would be some of it. Anything else?"

"That ya have a penchant for being a trouble magnet?" Buck suggested, not hiding his grin.

"No, Mr. Wilmington, that wasn't an option," Ezra retorted.

"But it's true." Buck laughed. "And ya know it. Why don't ya just tell how ya became Hellion?"

The southerner snorted. He was no more a trouble magnet than the rest of the team but he knew it was useless to point that out to his misguided friend. "Fine, Mr. Wilmington. Do you remember the 666 gang?"

"I remember them. They almost turned this neighborhood into a complete war zone. Didn't they blow up several hideouts belonging to rival gangs?" Nathan had been a reserve EMT at the time. He'd been with the team for a year when he had been called in to help with the casualties. The Judge had sent the rest of the team to help where they could.

"Yes, but they were more of a cult than a gang. They practiced devil worship and saw the other gangs as sacrifices." Ezra shook his head at the stupidity of human beings. "The sanctuary was in its infancy and the children's trust was tenuous at best. At the time the 666 was the biggest threat to the children. The only option was to take them out and prove to the children that we were worthy of their trust."

Falcon picked up the story. "Hellion had taken some time off and was with us when it started. It had been a rough week already when the building next to us was blown up. We managed to save the sanctuary but we lost several children because they had been close to the building when it went up. We found proof and Hellion sent it to the locals lot of good it did. The locals ignored the information and the bombing continued. Hellion decided to go into the lion's den, so to speak."

"I had help, Falcon. Shawn was the one to find out about the ritual, time and place. You were the one to suggest they meet the devil they worshiped.," Ezra argued.

"Yes, Hellion, but you were the one to pose as that devil."

"Well, I couldn't let you put yourself or Shawn in danger, so I was the logical choice. Even though it didn't go like I had planned."

Vin's heart constricted. His lover had taken so many chances and without the team to back him up. Thank god he had Falcon and Shawn or else he may never have had this chance with his southern love. Guess he owed those two a lot but he still wasn't sure he liked the two men that much. Falcon had been protecting his home and family. He would've done the same. Maybe it was time to let the past go.

"So what happened, Ez?" JD's impatience getting the best of him.

"Well, Mr. Dunne, I had planned to pose as the devil, borrowed the FX effects from an acquaintance, the rest was supposed to be smoke and mirrors. The only problem was that this FX specialist neglected to mention that the explosive mixture shouldn't be used in close quarters. I made a grand entrance with smoke and flames. Told them that if they wanted to enter the gates of Dante then they would go to my true place of worship, Mohave Desert. Needless to say that went over like feeding a tiger tofu instead of meat."

"And you had insisted that no back up would be a good idea." Falcon snorted in disgust. "If Shawn hadn't followed you and thrown that smoke bomb you wouldn't be here now."

Ezra had been watching his quiet black clad team leader to see how he was dealing with the story of Hellion's origins. Seeing Chris's eyes narrowing, having a good idea what his leader was thinking, he quickly jumped in, trying for damage control. "It wasn't that dire. If Shawn hadn't thrown in the smoke bomb then, I did have something up my sleeve."

"Having a flame thrower isn't exactly an ace, Hellion."

"It would have worked, Falcon. But that doesn't really matter now, it's over and done with. Shawn threw what he thought was a smoke bomb. It was actually a bomb with an explosive charge that went off on impact. I used the explosion to my advantage, took out the leader and by the time the locals showed up, the 666 gang was tied up and babbling like a bunch of lunatics. Word got out about someone posing as the devil and had left a calling card. The rest is history," Ezra finished, not planning on revealing all the details.

Larabee had been quiet, wanting to hear all the facts first. He knew the agent was leaving something out. "What aren't you saying, Ezra?"

Ezra flinched at the black clad leader's tone. He was about to direct the conversation somewhere else but Falcon, the traitor, spoke up. "There were a few members from other gangs around when Hellion came out taking off his devil suit that still had flames coming off it. They watched as the 666 was loaded up into a van by the locals so they heard one of them call him the devil's son, Hellion. Then there was that calling card Hellion left." Falcon grinned at Ezra's groan but it was Josiah that answered the unspoken question he saw in his friends' eyes.

"A phoenix rising up out of the flames of hell. Interesting metaphor, son."

"I had an inspired moment that I fear will haunt me forever now." Ezra moaned, dropping his head into his hands.

Vin walked around and laid a comforting hand on his southern love's shoulder. "Ain't that bad, Ez."

"Ezra, what happened when the gangs found out?" Chris inquired almost pleasantly well, what could pass for pleasant for Larabee, anyway.

The southerner looked up and glared at Chris. "At first, they thought that getting rid of me would be a good initiation but when they lost more recruits to the sanctuary, then I became a bigger threat to them and they just wanted me dead. Every time they tried I would retaliate against them and finally I was able to set up a peace negotiation with them. The symbol became a clear warning to any gang that if they caused trouble to me or mine, let's just say, they would forfeit more than they could afford to lose." Ezra's voice was pure cold steel and his eyes were hard ice chips.

"So, Hellion was born, the sanctuary was protected and the children safe. End of story. How about we go introduce all of you to the children?" Ezra started to rise but Vin's hand prevented him from doing so. Ezra looked up at his Texan with a questioning look on his face.

"Ez, what about the rumor that Hellion was a new player in town about 8 months before you joined the team?" Vin asked his southern love.

"I had hoped you had forgotten that little tidbit." Ezra sighed.

"You mean the FAD task force case?" JD remembered it because he had spent more time in the computer labs doing research with his counterparts from the other agencies, than with his team. He'd like to do that again about as much as he would like a root canal.

"Might as tell them everything, Hellion," Falcon supplied helpfully.

Ezra glared at his very helpful friend, the scoundrel a little too helpful, the rat. "Fine, I started the rumor to get the agencies involved. I made sure the gangs were at the meet with drugs for the DEA, guns for the ATF and laundered money for the FBI. I wanted them out of the picture as much as possible and that seemed the best way to do it, not to mention, getting the aforementioned product off the streets."

"How come we never saw you?" Nathan racked his brain and couldn't for the life of him remember seeing the undercover agent anywhere during that investigation.

"I don't remember seeing ya either, Ez." Buck said as he looked at the rest of them in confusion. "Any of you remember seeing him?"

One by one they each shook their heads. None of them saw the southern agent during that case.

"You wouldn't have. I was relegated to paperwork in the file room during that stay and not allowed to participate in the FAD taskforce. When it came to the bust I just dressed like the rest of them to blend in until it was time to make my presence known. I stood before them and announced that all the gangs were going to organize in order to pull in more capital."

Vin interrupted. "What were you wearing?"

"I had a black shirt with an orange flannel shirt and camo pants. Why?"

Vin's face paled and he swayed where he stood next to Ezra. The undercover agent reacted fast pulling the sharpshooter into the chair he'd just vacated. "Vin, what's wrong?"

The southerner looked at Falcon, knowing he would understand the message. "Let's go meet the children while these two talk.

Chris stalled any arguments knowing what Vin was remembering. "Lead the way."

Ezra never noticed the men leaving, he was totally focused on his lover. Taking Vin's face in his hands when the sharpshooter wouldn't look at him. "Vin, look at me! Tell what's wrong, please?"

Vin looked into the beautiful emerald eyes wondering if this would be the last time his southerner looked at him with the concern or most importantly with love and desire for him. He bit the bullet that might soon be aimed at his soul. "That day at the rally I almost shot you."

"Ah, that…" Ezra caressed the cheek of his lover, now understanding what had distressed his lover. "It's alright, Vin…"

Vin exploded out of the chair, going to stand on the far side of the desk, away from his lover. "*THE HELL IT IS!*" Vin tried to take a calming breath. It didn't work. "Did you hear me? *I* *ALMOST* *KILLED* *YOU*!"

"I'm not deaf. I heard you but it's no reason to be upset. You did…" Ezra found himself pinned to the wall he had been leaning against by an enraged Vin.

"Not a reason to be upset?" Vin was deceptively calm. "I was ready to shoot you when the order came. I almost killed you. With a single shot I would have killed my soul mate and never known it. And you say there is no reason to be upset?" Vin's voice had slowly risen as he spoke.

Ezra wasn't sure what to say to that, his words failing him, instead he kissed Vin putting all his love into the kiss. He swept in dominating the sweet mouth. Every time his Texan tried to pull away he followed, never allowing the kiss to break until he felt Vin give himself over to the kiss, leaving him breathless.

Panting Ezra tried to explain his point of view to his lover. "Vin, you are a sharpshooter. It's your job, your life, your very nature and you can not defy the law of nature, no matter who you are. The order was never given, right?"

The sharpshooter nodded.

"Then you did nothing wrong. As I am still here it no longer matters. We are where we are meant to be, by each other's sides. The order was not given because we were destined to belong to each other for all time."

Ezra framed the sharpshooter's face in his hands, wiping away the tears that fell. "Don't you know that I love you and what happened in the past stays there, alright?"

Vin looked into his beloved's expressive green eyes. "I don't know if I can forgive or forget that I almost killed you, Ez."

"Almost doesn't count in the scheme of things, love, just that you are here with me and love me even for all my faults. Do it for me, please? " Ezra looked into his tracker's tearful indigo eyes, trying to reassure his lover.

"I do love you, Ez. It's just that when I think of what could have happened…"

Ezra stilled the words with a finger to the tracker's lips. "Then don't think about it because it didn't happen and it won't happen. Look, Vin, it doesn't matter because it didn't happen. Accept it and let's get on with our lives."

Vin kissed the finger before snaking his tongue out, capturing the digit and pulling it into his mouth, slowly sucking on it. Pushing the slick finger out of his mouth merely to draw it back in. Tracing each contour of the appendage with his tongue.

Ezra groaned, moving closer to his lover before he removed his finger only to replace it with his lips. The southern agent deepened the kiss. His tongue sliding and intertwining with the sharpshooters. Moving his body even closer, the undercover agent wound his arms around the wiry Texan trying to get even closer, trying to become one with the love of his heart.

There was a knock at the door.

The men separated, trying to catch their breath and compose themselves before they even thought about answering the door. Vin looked at the wet, bruised lips, swollen from his kisses. It was a complete turn on, making him even harder than he already was. It also made him realize how much he really loved this man.

Ezra was right almost didn't count and the important thing was they were together and truly and deeply loved each other. "I love you, Ez, more than anything else in this world. Nothing is or will ever be as important to me than you." Vin took his lover's lips in a quick passionate kiss before the southern agent could say anything.

The knocking became persistent. "Give us a minute!" Vin yelled but the knocking continued.

Sighing, Ezra pulled away from his Texas love, when the knocking became loud and consistent, saying as he did so. "We will pick this up at a later time." Ezra pulled Vin down for a quick hard kiss before he let go to answer the door.


Falcon led the group of men to the kitchen, he wanted to see the how the team would interact with the children and he wanted Hellion's team to see what the man had accomplished. He knew Hellion would never say anything about it. Hellion always gave more credit to Shawn and himself, making his part sound insignificant, which always irritated them.

Falcon knew the kids would be making dinner since it was almost supper time. It was their custom for all to help with the evening meal and if it was the weekend they all helped with every meal. It was their time to bond with the children and to catch up with what was happening in each of the kids' lives. It was a time to talk about concerns and to offer group solutions for any problems. Not to mention they enjoyed the time together. It was a time to show the children who had such a hard life a bit fun and normalcy.

It was even better when Hellion was there, though he did have a habit of starting food fights. The southerner seemed to enjoy making up for his lost childhood by helping the kids live theirs to the fullest. It wasn't like the food fights happened every time, not that it would make a difference. Just seeing those kids laugh made it worth while.

Falcon stopped at the door, facing the team. "The rules Hellion spoke of are very important. The most important is that you conduct yourselves as you would with any child but just keep in mind these kids don't have a good opinion of you as officers and probably not as Hellion's teammates. Most will remember his time with the FBI and his rough start with you. We ask that you show no hostility towards Hellion, Shawn or me, in the presences of the children. Save it for in private. If you do it for no other reason than you respect him that's great. He would prefer a smooth transition of all you into the children's lives. Me," Falcon shrugged. "I would prefer you not become involved in their lives."

"Why's that?" Josiah asked.

"Simple. I don't trust you, much less like you, but for Hellion's sake I will go along with his wishes. Do you agree?"

"Of course, we agree. This is Ezra's family and so are we. That means they're ours too. We won't do anything to hurt them or Ezra," JD said like it should have been obvious to everyone.

Falcon received nods from all the agents. Turning around the ebony giant threw over his shoulder, "They only know him as Hellion. They won't know who Ezra is."

Falcon opened the door to a fully operational kitchen that a four star restaurant would be proud of. There were two six burner stoves, four double Dutch ovens, three refrigerators and two deep freezers all well polished stainless steel. The countertops had black and white tile with hunter green accents that matched the floor tile except it had black accents.

Beyond the kitchen they saw a dining room with several long oak tables with white chairs around it.

"Wow!" JD let out an appreciative whistle.

"Knew that boy had taste but, damn, would you look at this place?" Buck said enthusiastically.

"Actually it was the children that chose the décor in each room, except in the front. Hellion wanted them to be the ones to decorate their home. He was strictly an advisor." Shawn walked up to the group of hardened men, reminding himself he had to be real nice for more than one reason, knowing that his and Falcon's attitudes would set the example for the kids' attitudes towards Hellion's team.

Granted most of the older kids had had run-ins with the locals or some of the team in one form or another, with team's penchant for trying to help Tanner with the troubled kids but since the sanctuary most had changed their opinions of the locals and Hellion's team, except some of the older ones who were at the sanctuary when the fiasco with the FBI happened and Hellion's rough start with team 7. They felt the same as he and Falcon did, but they owed it to Hellion to make it a smooth transition of both Hellion's separate worlds becoming one.

"Sounds like we missed out on an interesting part of our brother's life. Is there something we could help with?" Josiah wanted to get to know these children who had been such a driving force in their friend's life.

"Sure. Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Jackson…"

"Please call me Josiah," he interrupted Shawn.

"And I prefer Nathan."

Shawn nodded his agreement as he led the way to a table. "Josiah, Nathan, how about helping Jess and the others with the roast? I believe they're still working on the carrots and potatoes to go in it."

Shawn stopped at one of islands where a group of kids were peeling and chopping vegetables. "Jess, Marcus, Theo, Streak, Teddy, this is Nathan and Josiah." The young blond introduced each of the men. "They'd like to help you with your part of dinner."

"We'd love the help." A girl that looked to be about eight, pulled out two more hand peelers to give the two agents. "Hey, Shawn, I put a list of seeds we need for the garden on the board."

"Thanks, Teddy. I'll remind Falcon to add it to the order." Shawn watched for a few minutes as Sanchez and Jackson talked and helped the children with the food. He watched as Streak started to chop some carrots and winced at how the boy was doing it. He nodded in approval when Jackson showed, instead of taking over, the young man how to properly cut the vegetables without nearly taking his fingers off.

Shawn turned when he heard someone cry out in surprise. Seemed Falcon had put Dunne and Wilmington to helping the twins and John with dessert. Those three had been here when Hellion had started out with Team 7 and didn't like the team, which might explain why Wilmington was wearing pink frosting on his face. Dunne was laughing at his friend when he was hit with purple frosting, causing his big friend to laugh at him. Shawn started over to supervise the three trouble makers but stopped when Falcon shook his head. For now, they would let the team deal with the kids by themselves.

Shawn was hard pressed not laugh out loud at the two frosting covered agents being chastised by a slim ten year old John. Then Shawn smiled as two of the children helped each Dunne and Wilmington frost a cake when they saw the grown men having trouble keeping the cake from falling apart in the process.

He joined Falcon in the entry way wanting to see what had his lover's attention. In the dining room was Larabee helping the younger children set the table while telling them a story of a prince slaying a dragon to save the princess. "How the hell did you get him to do that?" Shawn asked in awe.

Falcon shrugged. "I didn't. Faith came, tugged on his hand and asked if he would like to come help her and her friends with their task for dinner, so he wouldn't feel left out. Larabee said he would like that very much. She then asked if he told as good a story as Hellion did. When he said he didn't think so Faith asked if he'd tell her and the others a story and let them be the judge of that." Falcon looked baffled as well. "So that's what he's doing; letting them judge his story telling abilities. Never thought I'd see the big bad element being such a teddy bear." Falcon grinned evilly.

"Wipe that thought right out of your head. You are *not* going to antagonize Larabee. We have enough to deal with right now," Shawn reminded his lover. "Now that Hellion's here are we going to tell him about Warner and the threats?"

"Yeah, I'll talk to him tonight, now that things have settled down. Surely he will be able to put a stop to a local beat cop trying to cause problems."

"I think there's more to it than that. There has to be some kind of connection to know Hellion's other persona. Word on the street is that Warner has high political attachments, nothing local."

Falcon knew Shawn's sources on the street were good and he had learned early on to trust them. He also knew that most of the locals considered him one of their snitches just because Shawn looked much younger than he was. In turn the young blond could request information for his help, a fact that had helped them out in more than one way.

Falcon grimaced. "I'll go talk to him now. Hopefully he will have reassured Tanner by now."

Falcon knew all about guilt from his rocky start with Shawn. There had been times that he would rip into the young man just because he was involved with some kind risky of scheme to help Hellion, even though the southern agent didn't know about the help until it was too late and Shawn would be hurt, terrifying him.

After a few times of this Shawn had figured out what his problem was and had become an aggressive suitor for his affection, which he hadn't minded in the least since if Shawn was pursing him then the young man wasn't getting caught in the middle of Hellion's plans. It had been his way of protecting Shawn. Made Hellion happy to know Shawn was occupied and out of his way. Then when he finally realized he felt the same about Shawn he had stopped running from his emotions, enough to be caught by his young lover.

He sighed, deciding to hurry up and tell Hellion of this problem so he could get back to watching the team with the children.


Falcon knocked on the door hoping that his friend had been able to help his Texan make peace with his demons.

Falcon heard the Texan's response to his second knock and grinned. Not many people knew that he had a rather wicked streak and he didn't bother to quash it as his knocking became louder and more insistent. If it irritated the Texan then it would be his complete pleasure to continue irking the man.

Falcon smirked as the door was yanked open by Hellion.

"What part of 'wait a minute' did you not understand?" Ezra growled at his friend especially after noticing the smirk that went with the mischievous gleam in his friend's eye.

"I don't believe it was you that asked me to wait a minute." He looked past Hellion's shoulder, seeing the glare the Texas sharpshooter was aiming at him, his smirk growing to a big grin. Looked like Tanner got his point. His gaze returned to the southerner.

"We need to talk." Falcon knew that Hellion understood he wanted to talk alone. Of course, even he knew how futile that was now that Hellion had accepted the Texan into his life completely. Didn't mean he wouldn't keep trying.

"You may speak freely in front of Vin from this point on," Ezra stated firmly.

Falcon had no trouble reading the message in those green eyes. 'Deal with it or you will deal with me.'

Falcon sighed. "As you wish, Hellion." At Hellion's nod he continued. "We've got a local beat cop hassling us. We ignored it since that was nothing new. About a week ago he sent a note by one of the children. Shawn and I have tried to handle it but he's set on meeting with you."

"What'd the note say?" Vin wanted to know.

"That he wanted money in exchange for silence."

"What does he have to keep silent about? We have all the permits for a group home. State inspectors visit regularly and we have perfect scores from all their visits. We have social workers, psychologist and nutritionists that visit monthly and are available anytime they are needed. The building is inspected and is up to code, if not better. So, what on earth is it that he has to hold over our heads?" Ezra asked in exasperation.

"You." Falcon paused for a second at the confused look on his friend's face. "Your real identity, Hellion, that's what he has over us."

Ezra sucked in his breath as he sat heavily into one of the chairs. "It's not possible!" he hissed out. Even after the denial left his lips he knew that it was very possible. Even with all the precautions, someone had found out. His worst nightmare come true.

"Shawn heard from a source that he may have political ties to Washington higher ups." Falcon felt terrible for having to give his friend such news. This was why the team had never been told he was Hellion. The reason Hellion had kept his distance since returning to Denver for the good of the sanctuary. The fear of people finding out his connection to the sanctuary and then using the children against him.

"Who is he?" Ezra growled out as he stood once again.

"Martin Warner out of E. 5th Precinct," Falcon replied.

Ezra sat back down, putting his head in his hands. The day he had feared to the depths of his soul was here. He was being manipulated into showing his hand and he resented it. Hell, that didn't even begin to cover it. He was angry at himself and the invader that threatened his family. It was time to make some calls and find out who Warner had allegiances with.

Vin had chosen to remain quiet after his initial question. This was Ezra's area of expertise but he would help his soul mate keep this part of his family safe. "Ez, I think we should clue in the others. They'll want to help and we'll find out more if we work together."

Ezra lifted his head up, nodding. Vin was right. The others would want to help. "Falcon, after dinner have Shawn do some more checking with any snitches that might be helpful in case there is any new development. We'll get JD to get on the computer to see if we can find out anything from his connections." Taking a calming breath he stood up and walked to the door, smiling as he opened it. "Let us see how the other's are faring with the children." After that he was gone.

"Well, that's a bad sign. He's redirecting again."

"Which means he's hiding somethin' and probably about ta do somethin' ta get himself hurt."

Falcon turned to look at the Texan beside him, rather surprised Tanner would pick up on Hellion's habit's so easy, but then again the ex-bounty hunter did have practice at it. "Well, guess it's up to us to make sure he doesn't do anything too stupid."

Falcon grinned at the Texan's snort. Putting a hand on the shorter man's shoulder the ebony giant guided him out the door. "Let's see if your team is still in one piece."

Vin groaned. He really had forgotten that his friends were with Ezra's main family and if it didn't go well then they may actually get to know Hellion and he just knew that that wasn't a good thing.


Ezra knew he was going to meet the cop, but he'd do it alone. He wanted his team and the sanctuary to have deniability for his actions, in case things went bad. He'd wait till they were occupied before making a move but first he need to see how the team was doing and so help them if they hurt the children in any way… Pushing the kitchen door open he stopped in his tracks. He had expected many things but this wasn't one of them.

All movement had ceased when the door opened. There were grown men covered with who knew what on one side of the kitchen, very out numbered by the children that were on the opposite side. Well, everyone looked fine if not a little messy and the kitchen was a disaster, but all in all he guessed he could count this as a bonding experience. Not like he hadn't done the same thing but, Lordy, Falcon was not going to be happy. "Looks like dinner is going to be a tad late tonight." He was not prepared for the bombardment of food thrown his way by both parties.

He simply ran a hand over his face clearing some of the debris away before stating, "You do realize that this means war." He ducked just as a barrage of food was thrown in his direction, ducking in time, and not realizing that Falcon and Vin walked in at that precise moment.

Once again all movement stopped. Falcon groaned as soon as he saw the mess. After he wiped it off himself he said, "What? One of you isn't enough, Hellion? You had to add the rest of the team to your antics?" He looked with imagined disgust at his old friend who happened to have a very innocent 'who me' expression on his face. "Don't even, mister." The giant wagged his finger at the southern agent who was slowly standing up. "They had to have picked up that bad habit from you!" he growled.

Vin laughed as he picked up a towel from the nearest counter. Sounds like he needed to meet this side of his gambler more often.

Falcon glared at everyone. "Alright, let's get this mess cleaned up so we can eat." The usually gentle giant was rather irritated, so all the kids started to clean up and the team followed their example.

"Hey, Hellion!" Ezra turned around just as Falcon threw a wad of pie dough, causing everyone to laugh.

Ezra just wiped it off but the look in his eyes said he would pay Falcon back, before he started to chuckle.

An hour later saw Team 7 sitting down to their first meal with Standish's other family. They were all scattered out in their seating with the children, wanting and hoping to get to know the people that were so close to their friend. It was full of chatter and stories of Hellion's time with the sanctuary. The meal was enjoyed as were the stories much to Ezra's embarrassment. The Team even helped with the clean up process, while the younger children were sent to get ready for bed and the older ones to help them out.

Ezra was helping wash the dishes when a truly evil thought hit him. He did after all have control of the sprayer. He was casting subtle glances at his friends and taking in their whereabouts when he felt a hand cover his from the opposite side. Looking up guiltily into the indigo eyes of his lover, who just shook his head and took control of the sprayer, the southerner sighed. Figures Vin would stop his fun.

"Hey, Ez, time to tell the others about the situation, don't ya think?" Tanner asked hoping to distract the undercover agent from starting another war.

"Why don't you and Falcon take them to the game room, fill them in while I finish up here." At both men's protest he switched tactics. "Well, then grab some coffee and settle down the table while I finish." At the agreeable nods, the sneaky agent turned back to the sink without the smile showing on his face but he was smiling on the inside.

Vin and Falcon glanced at each other before following the others into the dining room, both men making sure they could see the southerner from their respective seats as they started explaining the situation to the other men.

As the questions and the ideas started flying Ezra used the distraction to slip out, going to his office, starting his computer on some rather illegal searches about the officer in question. The others didn't realize he could hack with the best of them. He just couldn't compare with JD's level of talent.

Ezra called the 5th Precinct. "Hello, I'd like to speak to an Officer Martin Warner. Yes, I'll hold." His computer beeped at him as he was waiting. Swearing as he saw exactly who Warner's connections were. Looked like he was going to have to pull a few strings of his own to negate the trouble maker's people.

As the dreadful music stopped a high pitched nasal voice answered, "Warner, can I help you?"

"Yes, Mr. Warner, I believe you were looking for me?"

"Ah, Standish. Wondered when the assholes would tell you. Got my money?"

"Not as of yet, I would like to meet in person first to negotiate on your price," the southerner lied smoothly.

"Look, Standish, there are people who want you dead, me I just want out of this hellhole. You help me and I'll help you. 'Sides I'm tired of dealing with that scum in Purgatory. Tell you what I'll meet you at the firehouse on Sinclair street in 30 minutes." Out side of his territory but just the place he would have picked.

"Deal." With that Ezra hung up and dialed a familiar number even if it was one he hadn't used in years.

"Captain, it's Standish, I've got a red situation and need for you to mobilize to the old firehouse on Sinclair in 40 minutes. No, sir, afterwards I'll tell you where to send the package along with a few others. It'll be on my signal. Yes, sir, the usual." The agent looked at his computer screen as he hung up.

Figures they would have found out about him and the children. They never really had let him go. He'd just hoped they would have lost interest in him. Some people would miss them but the Captain would make sure they never surfaced. Not that he liked that idea much but he wouldn't take a chance with either of his families.

He shut down the searches before grabbing his black trench coat out of the closet. He listened carefully to the sounds of the sanctuary before stepping out of the office, making his way out the back door that led to the alley.

He stopped for a moment, not as sure of himself or the plan as he had been a few minutes ago. He wanted to go into the kitchen and ask for Vin's and the others' help. Falcon was a 'no brainer' as JD would say. The man continually interfered in his dealings. Deep down he enjoyed the feeling of knowing that Falcon was there, no matter what. Of course, he would never let the man know that because Falcon would be intolerable to live with afterwards. No, it was better this way. He opened the door without further thought. He had a reasonable plan to work with and that would have to do. He would deal with repercussions afterwards.


The men around the table had continued to argue their points and reasons. Getting caught up in the argument Falcon had missed his friend's departure, as had the Texan, but Shawn had slipped in to see how Falcon was dealing with the team.

"I don't think that would work. There are too many problems that could arise from transferring the man out, especially since we don't know who his connections are. We figure that out then maybe but not until then," Falcon reasoned.

Shawn had seen the southern agent slip out the back, thinking he just needed some air but as he listened to the men around the table he knew Hellion was going out on his own… again. "Have any of you noticed that something is missing… or rather someone?" he interrupted.

The other men looked at him clearly confused before the answer hit them.



Were the respective responses.

Getting up the men started for the door before Shawn once again spoke. "He went out the backdoor." He looked at Falcon, "He had on the trench coat." Giving his lover a meaningful look.

"So what? He had on a coat?" Buck didn't understand.

"He only wears it as Hellion and only when he's proving a point to his opponent. He had it specially made after the gang threats started to become more than threats. It's got a few…" Falcon paused looking for the right words.

"A few nasty surprises," Shawn supplied.

Chris closed his eyes, almost afraid to ask. "What kind of nasty surprises?"

"Well, a small version of a flame thrower…" Falcon stopped at the groans.

"Don't forget the grappling hook or the knives strapped to his back." Shawn looked at Jackson as he said the last. "He said you were so good with yours that if he could do half as good it would be helpful."

Jackson bowed his head. He and the southern agent clashed more often than not but he felt some pride at the southerner's compliment. He was a good friend and the most obstinate man he had ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Vin paced the kitchen area like a sleek panther that was restless and pissed. "So, where would he go?"

"Is there a special place that he prefers to meet his adversaries?" Josiah loved that boy as his own but he was so infuriating.

"Sure, but he won't go there because he doesn't want to be found.," Shawn stated.

Chris took his natural role as leader. "JD, go check his computer, see if you can find a clue. Buck, Josiah, check your contacts see if there is something on this Warner character. Call the minute you have anything." Looking at his agent's friends, he asked, "Where would be the last place to look for him?"

"Probably the abandoned firehouse on Sinclair. That's where I'd go. It's also out of our protected territory and agreement with the gangs. Best place to start at least." Falcon left the kitchen going to a storage room with several locks that were very high up and complicated. Opening that there was a steel door with more locks. At the others' raised eyebrows, Falcon shrugged. "Hellion's cautious with anything that can harm the children."

Opening the vault revealed a good choice of weapons. Vin followed the others, picking up a prime choice long range sniper rifle. At the Texan's appreciative whistle Shawn turned around to see the sharpshooter on the team caress the rifle lovingly. "He bought that for you but never planned on giving it to you." At the man's questioning look, the blond smiled. "He never thought he had a chance with you."

Turning back around he watched as Falcon loaded down with ammo and his guns, knowing that Hellion wasn't going to be any happier than when he, himself interfered with the stubborn man's plans. Thank God neither of them listened to the man and stayed behind. He watched as the remaining teammates loaded themselves down with extra weapons and ammo. Shawn knew he would stay behind to watch out for the place and assist the remaining member of the team.

As they were prepared to head out Buck met them at the door. "Well, our Ez has some very bad skeletons in his closet." Running fingers through his hair, he decided to just to spit it out. "He was part of a covert team that operates at a very high level. So high that I can't get anything else about them."

JD came up behind his roommate to report his findings. "The group belongs to a unit known as 'The Ghosts'. They specialize in intelligence but that's not all they do. Been know to do retrieval and infiltration to any organizations that are a perceived threat. Basically they do anything that others can't or won't. There are no lines drawn for this group or a country. Seems Ez left after two years in the group. That was before and while he was in the FBI. Couldn't find out why. There isn't much on the group that is kept on a computer."

"So you think the group wants Ez?" Nathan asked.

"It'd make sense a covert group like that, maybe afraid he'd find a way to bring them down if he thought they had overstepped his bounds." Chris rubbed his forehead. He didn't like the way things were going. They all had their skeletons that they hid from the others but it seemed his undercover agent had a few more than the rest. Definitely explained a lot about his agent.

"Well, they did overstep their bounds. In fact wiped out a village of innocents while they were on a mission. Afterwards Ezra left the group when his superiors refused to punish the group's actions," Josiah supplied as he came in.

"Let's go, no point in letting him have all the fun," Larabee stated as he checked his gun clip and chambered a round in the barrel. He pulled Vin up short as he walked by. "You had better have a talk with that stubborn SOB. He needs to learn to not go off by himself and the fact he doesn't have to either. He has us."

Vin nodded. Oh, he would be talking to his southern love, first chance he got, about a lot of things. Going off without him in a dangerous situation was going to be at the top of the list.

The agents piled in Falcon's suburban wanting to get to the firehouse to get the search started.

"Hey 'Siah why can't yours run this good? Heck, I don't even see the smoke coming out the back," JD said from the safety of several bodies between him and the profiler.

"JD, haven't you ever heard of not poking a stick at a sleepin' lion?" Buck asked exasperatedly as he knocked the kid's hat off.

Josiah was about to reply when their beepers started going off. Larabee looked at the message screen. 'fire 911'. "Guess it's the firehouse, boys."

Falcon stepped on the gas.


Ezra arrived early at the old station in order to find himself a spot that would give him some protection. As he waited he lit the mini-flame thrower and checked the rest of his arsenal. Everything in order he hunkered down behind an old crate, waiting for the show to begin.

Ten minutes later and Warner walked in. The cop took a look around before seating himself in a chair with his back to Ezra.

'How stupid is this guy' Ezra wondered. He was about to make his presence known when the officer's phone rang. "Warner. Hey Captain. I'm waiting for him to show up. He called you to get rid of me? Figures. What's your ETA? 'Kay I'll keep him busy till your team gets here." After that Warner clicked his phone shut.

The southerner grinned. Time to make himself known to the crooked cop. "Well, Warner, " Ezra's grin was wicked as the man almost fell out of his chair, "shall we get down to business?"

At Warner's nod, he continued, "Now I find a few million dollars an affront to my person."

"Now wait a minute, that's a reasonable sum for me not killing you." At Ezra's raised eyebrow he continued, "I just want out of this place." The look of disgust was evident to the agent. "All I want is money and you'll never hear from me again."

"Really?" The agent's sarcasm was apparent. "Then my payment will protect my future from other killers, such as yourself, then?" The doubt obvious. "I tell you what, Warner, I won't kill you. You transfer out and never darken our corner of the world again." Ezra looked at his fingernails, looking very bored, before flicking a piece of lint off the black coat. "Or I can kill you now. Your choice." The deadly agent look at the man in front of him and found him lacking in anything worth salvaging. Ezra casually walked over to lean against the pole that the firemen slid down.

"I prefer to live, Standish, and if I don't have that money I'll let it slip that you're part of The Ghosts.."

Ezra laughed out right. "Who would believe anyone such as yourself? You think anyone would believe a low life like you? Who would you contact? The governor, a senator, maybe the president? I think not."

"Well, you see, Standish, there is one person that would be very interested. One that wants you out of the way for good."

Ezra just grinned even bigger. "You think that this person, that wants me gone, won't dispose of you? You are quite the fool, aren't you?"

"Of course he is. Why do you think I picked him, Specter?" A man in black tack suite walked in. He held a sharp and dangerous presence. He was followed by four other men dressed similarly and all held guns.

"What are you talking about, Captain? I thought you were recruiting me and he was my way in?" Warner looked surprised when the gun the Captain was holding was suddenly pointed at him and shell shocked as he felt a bullet enter the side of his neck. One hand grabbed his neck trying to stop his life giving blood, the other one reached out for help even as his eyes glazed over with death.

Neither man moved for a few seconds while they sized each other up. The tall blonde haired man watched the agent in front of him. They had made a major mistake when they hadn't killed the irritating man when he had first left the group.

"Well, I see you have not changed any. Might I suggest that the next time you shoot an officer of the law, albeit a crooked one, you find a more secretive place to do the deed. It's just a suggestion." The southerner shrugged his shoulders.

"I see you haven't changed either, Specter, always a bleeding heart even for the unworthy."

Ezra snorted. "My issue is with your ease in killing. Not with the scum lying on the floor." Ezra continued to lean against the pole. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your despicable company?"

"Time for you to pay the piper, Specter. Didn't you think we'd hear about your plan to get rid of the company?"

The undercover agent was quiet for a moment. Sure, he had thought about it, even felt out a few people to bring the outfit down. He just hadn't found a safe way to do so without himself being indebted to the persons. "So who told you?"

"Actually most of them. You forgot that we are sanctioned beyond the President. The only people that can disband us is the International Senate. Which most don't even know exist."

"Ah, you mean those complete idiots that think they run foreign affairs behind the backs of the government?" Shifting to a more comfortable spot he continued. "I hate to disappoint you but those you answer to are being rounded up as we speak."

The Captain laughed. "You take me for a fool?"

"Not at all. You see when I was on my way over here I made a few calls to several interested parties. You have made a few-- well, maybe a lot is a better term-- enemies and they seem to think that it's time for your company to be a thing of the past. No longer does the government want a vigilante type group to run their operations, They want honorable, intelligent men and most of all they don't want murders to be what the United States stands for."

"You forget that the US isn't the only country we work for."

"I didn't forget but it will be the US and its allies you will answer to. Not the ones you have been selling your services to for the highest bid. Unless you wish to make a deal?"

The suggestion hung in the air for a few moments before anything was said.

"What would be the deal, Specter?"

"Hand yourselves over to me."

The Captain laughed till tears were falling from his eyes. "That's a good one. Get rid of your weapons, Specter. Slowly." He finally got himself under control. Looking over the gambler's shoulder, after the agent had put several weapons on the ground, he nodded. "Casper, take him into custody for murder of an officer."

Ezra felt the man move close to him, at the same time he brought his hand up engaging the grappling hook, while dropping a smoke bomb with the other.

The Captain fired blindly into the smoke. The southern agent felt the fiery path of the bullet before it lodged itself into his side, at the same time the grappling line pulled him up to the second level of the firehouse. 'Hell, that hurt.'

The conman of the elite Team 7 made his way to the bathroom. He had to check the wound and stop the bleeding before they found him. On second thought, a small deterrent to climbing the steps.


Falcon slammed on the brake a block down from the firehouse. "I'd suggest that Tanner take the roof of the dry cleaning building. It's got the best view of both floors."

Vin looked at his boss and friend who was passing out little ear pieces to keep in touch with each other. Seeing his nod the sharpshooter took off for the alley, sticking to the shadows on the off chance there were lurkers around. He picked the lock of the building and started to enter when he saw movement. Yep, they had company.

Larabee and the others spread out, taking out the unsuspecting men they found around the building.

Buck looked at his oldest friend with a skeptical look. "They are supposed to be the best?" At Chris's shrug, Buck shook his head in disgust. "Must have really lowered the bar since we were in the corps, pard." Then he and JD headed towards the rear of the building. Nathan and Josiah were on the opposite side of where Vin was stationed and Falcon was with him.

"Chris, there is a bunch of smoke on the first floor." At the sharpshooter's statement he looked at Falcon, who just shrugged and winked at him. Larabee shook his head, 'Great, the man was as bad as that damn southerner.'

"Can you see any sign of Ez?"

"Nope." Tanner was scanning for signs. "Wait, there is movement on the first floor. Make that five men moving towards something but it's out of my line of sight. Seems the entrances are clear."

Larabee was about to give the signal to enter when there was an explosion. "Vin, you got a visual?"

"No, nothing."

"Everyone move in, now!"


Ezra pulled the shirt away from the wound, sucking in a breath at the sharp pain. He took the coat off and then his shirt before putting the coat back on. He might need the accessories that were within the coat. Taking a deep breath he put the shirt tight against the wound. Feeling dizzy he grabbed the edge of the sink. He really didn't have time for this. He knew the other's would be here but when was his concern. And, boy, would they be angry with him. He not only took on a group of dangerous men by himself but he got shot on top of it.

When the dizziness had abated Ezra started searching the bathroom and the closest room to it. He needed to find a place to hole up for a bit, Hell, he'd settle for a way out, right now.


Just great!

Next time he had to do this he would pick the meeting place, complete with a way out. Technically, he would've picked this place but that was beside the point.

The trapped agent knew he couldn't slide down the pole because that way would be guarded. Instead he took cover behind a tile half wall between stalls to wait for his opponents' next move and for his little surprise to go off.

His world was turned on its axis when the explosion hit. The heat hit him hard as his flesh felt like it was on fire. Then the floor collapsed beneath him. One minute he felt like the front of him was on fire while he could feel the cold tile of the floor on his back. Then the feeling of falling. Then being covered with all manner of debris. Then all went black. His last thought was how mad Vin was going to be.


The men hit the entrances at the same time. One sweeping his gun high and the other sweeping low, covering the other's back. As the dust settled it was clear by the bodies that not all had survived.

Chris moved up to where the staircase use to be, Falcon checked for pulses, not really expecting any. His men searched the rest of the first floor. As 'clear' signs were given a soft voice came over the headsets. "Did you find him?"

"Not yet, better stay there in case there is someone that didn't get caught in the blast." Chris didn't have to say they would keep looking for their missing friend. They all knew it.

Six guns trained on a moving mound of plaster and wood, all waiting to see if it was Ezra or an enemy.

A groan and a "Damn, if that didn't hurt," followed by a hand had all six men moving to help.

They pulled layers of plaster, tiles and wood off their friend before they completely uncovered him. Ezra, for his part, blinked owlishly up at the others. Dazed, dizzy and a fair amount of dust in his eyes hadn't helped.

"Just hold still, Ezra." Nathan knelt by his friend. His hands were running over the small body to check for broken bones and finding the bullet wound. Probing it he found the bullet still lodged in the body. "Need to call an ambulance now. He's got a bullet in him. No obvious signs of anything broken but I'd feel better if he had x-rays."

Gaining some of his wits back the southerner tried to sit up to object but the sharp pain in his side made him stop. The few hands holding him down didn't help either. Hell, maybe he'd receive enough sympathy from Vin that this whole fiasco could be forgotten. Nah, he'd still get it from all sides. Never thought he'd see the day where he saw the hospital as refuge, but then again escape was always an option.

Looking up into the worried faces of his friends he changed his mind. Maybe it was time he stopped running and just accepted what ever his punishment might be and the rewards of having such good friends. He didn't know how well he could do that but it couldn't hurt to try. He was brought back to the present as a hand was waved in his face.

"Earth to Hellion. You in there?"

"Knock it off. I'm still here." Ezra once again tried to sit up but the hands still wouldn't allow him to. "Look this is very uncomfortable and I need to make sure The Ghosts get to the right place."

"Stay where you are, Ez. We got it taken care of. The ones inside the building are dead and the others are wrapped up tight for the locals." Larabee looked at his agent and figured he'd already had a head start on some gray hairs and looking forward to even more.

"No, not the locals," He looked at his long time friend." Falcon, that package I gave you a few years back?" At the man's nod he continued. "It'll have a number and enough evidence to make sure they never surface again, even those at the top." With that out of the way the southerner let out a soft breath.

"Nathan?" Vin asked. He had just came into the building.

"He's alright, Vin, just passed out is all."

The wail of a siren could be heard in the background. The others' had gone to gather prisoners now that they knew their friend would eventually be alright.

The Texan gently laid the unconscious man's head in his lap, wanting to offer comfort and needing it himself.


The southern agent sat in a soft blue chair, looking out the window. It had been a week since the firehouse fiasco. He was finally released from the hellish pit. He would survive, just another scar to add to the others he had acquired. He truly had been surprised by the number of lectures he had received. He had expected Falcon to rip into him. He had screwed up the explosion. He had improvised with what he had. He wasn't an explosives expert. How was he supposed to know that he had used too much of the black powder out of the grenade? Both Falcon and Shawn had let him have it, with both barrels, about going off on his own.

That was foreplay because the team was up next. The morose agent sighed. The whole team had had something to say about his going off by himself, reminding him that he had six people who would be there for him anytime, all he had to was ask. Hell, sometimes he didn't even need to do that.

Only Vin was silent and that was never good. He wasn't sure where he stood with the sharpshooter. Maybe he had finally gone too far. Maybe the Texan had decided he was too much trouble? Others in his life had found him too much trouble. Looked like Vin had finally came around. What was he going to do now? His walls and defenses were gone, melted. All that was left was a damaged soul open for more pain.

The only positive was both of his families met and could do more than tolerate each other. Thank God, that was at least one less worry.

Of course the bane of his existence was finally dealt with. He had changed his mind after the firehouse explosion and six of The Ghosts were killed. The Captain was dead. The rest that Team 7 rounded up, the ones who weren't there and finally the one who started and supposedly controlled the organization were dealt with. He sent the others to a far away land, one that owed him a favor from when he was a Ghost and the country got their revenge.

Everyone was happy.

What more could he what?


That's what more he wanted. He let his guard down and at long last accepted he needed the man in his life. Now, the Texan wasn't even talking to him, or at least he wasn't the last time he saw him.

He groaned in defeat. His mother was right. Nobody could love him. He just wasn't worth it and never would be. A sad fact he also was beginning to accept. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He had Falcon, Shawn and the children. But that wasn't the same as someone to hold him at night, to remember the important things his Mother never had and most of all, someone to love him no matter his faults or screw ups. And they are many, unfortunately for him.

He leaned his head back with the intent of only resting his eyes. Next thing he knew he was waking up in the dark with the feeling of being watched. Careful not to move too much he eased his gun out from his side.

"Relax, Ez, it's just me." The soft drawl was a welcomed relief.

"Wasn't sure you'd come," was the despondent reply.

The lanky sharpshooter knelt down next to the chair, not touching the man who sat looking out the window. "Where else would I be?"

"Don't know, but not here."

Vin frowned, not liking the sad tone of voice and slumped shoulders. Moving around, kneeling between Ezra's legs, he placed his hands on Ezra's thighs. "Ez, what's the matter?"

He didn't have any fight left in him. If Vin was going to leave him he might as well get it over with. "You haven't said anything but the bare minimum since I woke up at the hospital. Not even during the Team's idea of a chat. You said nothing. What could be wrong?"

Vin moved in between the southern agent's legs. Cupping his face gently as the ex-bounty hunter lifted it up so the man would look at him. "Let me guess. You thought because I hadn't said anythin' I no longer loved you?" When Ezra shrugged his shoulders and averted his gaze, Vin spoke sharply, "Look at me!"

Ezra's eyes met the sharpshooter's. "Ezra Standish, I love you and I won't deny that I wasn't angry with you *but* I never for one moment gave up on us." Tanner saw the doubt in the beautiful emerald eyes. "Ez, I love you and no matter what you do or say or any mistake you or I might make in the future I. Will. Always. LOVE. YOU. You got that?"

The southerner tilted his head. Taking in the Texan's expressions and body language, as well as his words, before answering, "I love you, Vin. More than anything in my entire life. All I can do is promise to do my best to remember and believe what you say. That's not to say that old habits and ghost will not rear their ugly heads. I swear I will try."

Pulling Ezra's head close to him, only a hair's breadth away from his lips, Vin said. "That's all I ask from you my love. That's all I ask."

Vin's lips descended on the smaller man's lips. The southerner's lips opened to him, swooping in dominating the kiss and possessing. Ezra leaned in further trying to absorb the feel of being loved.

Pulling away the Texan pulled the southerner up out of the chair before taking a seat and pulling the pliant man into his lap, holding on tight. "I know this won't be easy for either of us but, Ez…" Vin ran a hand through the soft curls as the agent lay his head on his shoulder. "Remember that even if we fight I won't stop loving you? You got that?"

The undercover agent nodded his head. "No, Ez, I want to hear the words."

"No matter what happens you'll love me and I'll love you," was the soft accented reply.

Standing Ezra pulled his Texan up and led him to the bedroom.


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