Reassurances And Revelations graphic by Sammy Girl

Reassurances And Revelations
(ATF)

by Sammy Girl

Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money.
Author's Note: Huge kudos and thanks to Firefox, who had the original idea and generously gave it to me, and proofread it.


Back to: What Have I Done?

Buck walked into the file room as though his very own black cloud was hovering over him. If there was one thing in all the world Buck Wilmington was not cut out to be it was a file clerk. But since the rest of his team were on surveillance duties and he had still not been certified fit for fieldwork, he was stuck with filing. Updating past cases, cases so past they weren't even on computer, was driving him crazy with boredom. Mostly he was adding the deaths of suspects and witnesses to case files more than thirty years old. He ran his hand absentmindedly up and down his thigh, trying to rub out the ache. It had been there for four weeks now, before the doctor had withdrawn him from the last of the prescription painkillers, he had almost forgotten about it. Now it was back. The doctor had said he could take ibuprofen for the pain or even ibuprofen and paracetamol if he needed it, but he wouldn't. Taking the painkillers was giving in, admitting he wasn't healing as fast as he tried to pretend he was, as fast as he used to.

You're getting old Buck, he told himself when the pain was at its most annoying. But old or not he wouldn't give in. Four weeks ago he had been on the receiving end of four automatic rounds. His bullet-proof vest had saved his life, but one had grazed his skull and the last had torn into the fleshy part of his thigh. Initially it was the head wound that was the worry. He had lapsed into a coma and was slipping away from them. A comforting blackness had surrounded him. A blackness that offered an end to his pain, a pain so deep and so unremitting, not even a great fighter like Buck could face it. A pain that had nothing to do with bullets and everything to do with one, green eyed, gold toothed, undercover agent. But that pain had been lifted. Words came to him in the darkness, words of such power, of such unquestioning love that they drew him home, back to the one he loved. True, he had had the mother of all headaches for a week, his balance was shot to hell for a few days and he was a little weak down the right side, but all that had long since passed. It was the seemingly routine leg wound that was slowing his expected return to full work.

"Don't worry Mr Wilmington," the doctor had said, "the bone and major arteries are undamaged, you'll be up and about in no time." Well, the bone might have been fine, but the muscles and tendons weren't, not by a long way. Now, four weeks on and two weeks into physical therapy, he was finally improving.

Buck made a conscious effort to not rub his leg, as he set about his task. The administrative assistant - what was wrong with 'secretary', Buck wanted to know? - had placed all the files to be updated in one pile on the big, empty, steel desk in the basement file archive. All he had to do was sit there and add the relevant pages and addendums from the stack he had brought with him. As he worked he kept catching the edge of the table with his new ID bracelet. Why was the table and, come to think of it the chair, steel, he wondered? The answer that came to him was fire, the records room was a fire safe room, theoretically. Eventually he took the bracelet off and placed it in his pocket. He didn't like to remove it but he was worried that the precious object was getting scratched. Lovingly he ran his fingers over it, brushing against the finally tooled gothic lettering on the underside. He closed his eyes and gently kissed it before placing it safely in his pocket. Then he steeled himself to the task ahead.

Time dragged and slowed and finally stopped altogether. He stopped working and just sat there with memories wafting around him, all of them pleasant. In the end he was dozing only half-awake as he sat in the stuffy, windowless room.

"Brother Buck!" Josiah Sanchez called from the door.

The big profiler smiled as the tall, dark haired man jolted fully awake. Pulling a hand over his face Buck turned to face the door.

"Oh hi Josiah, everything okay?" He wanted to ask 'is Ezra okay' since he had expected him to come and tell him they were back. But that might be too obvious. So far only JD knew about the relationship between the two men, and much as both men wanted to tell the world how they felt about each other, their jobs and their relationships with the rest of the team wasn't worth the risk.

"Fine, our brothers are finishing their reports, Ezra is helping Vin," he explained.

Ezra was a fast and accurate typist so he usually finished first, that left him time to help Vin with his. The notoriously shy sharpshooter was dyslexic, and it had taken a long time to make him believe that no one minded him asking for help with his written work. Buck's written work wasn't much better, though this was more due to a disrupted education than a specific difficulty. JD generally helped him out, but these days Ezra was filling that role more and more.

"We off then?" Buck asked Sanchez.

"Indeed, Ezra tells me he is going to join you for your afternoon swim," Josiah explained. Buck's physical therapist had encouraged him to swim as his principal exercise and to help rebuild the lost muscle in his leg.

Buck pushed back the unforgiving chair and pushed himself up. His leg twinged at the sudden weight it had to bear but he ignored it. That was his first mistake. Then he decided not to put his bracelet back on in front of Josiah. Mistake number two. He had only got three paces toward the door when his leg crumpled under him and he suddenly staggered to stay upright.

"Hell!"

Josiah lurched forward and grabbed him under the armpits. "Buck?"

"Cramp," Buck ground out between gasps, his hand grasping the back of the injured thigh.

While Josiah was exceptionally strong, Buck was a few inches taller than him and powerfully built, so it took some effort to move him back and get him resting against the edge of the table. As the cramped muscled pulled at the healing tendons, Buck gripped the table edge, white-knuckled. Sanchez had dropped to one knee, taken hold of his friend's leg and begun massaging.

"Tell me if I hit something tender," he instructed.

"'S all tender," Buck hissed bitterly.

Josiah didn't respond to that, he just worked away at the muscles, trying to get them to relax, he knew how painful a bad leg cramp was, cramp in an already injured leg was hell. It took a good ten minutes before Buck laid a hand on Sanchez' massive shoulder.

Sanchez looked up. "Alright now?"

"Yeah, thanks pal, 'ppreciate yer help."

Sanchez stood and smiled at him, one of his amazing tooth-filled grins. "No thanks needed brother, happy to help. Shall we go now?"

"Mmm, reckon a swim'll be the best thing fer it 'bout now."

Buck walked, albeit stiffly, toward the door, Josiah following. At the door Sanchez turned to check the room before flicking off the harsh neon lights, just before he hit the switch his eye caught something. A small glint of something shiny, lying on the ground just where Buck had been leaning on the table.

"Hold up brother, looks like you dropped something."

It took Buck too long to turn for him to see what Josiah was retrieving from the floor and by the time he did it was too late. If he showed he was concerned it would just arouse the man's suspicions.

Sanchez picked up the bracelet and glanced at it. His profiler's analytical brain noted how heavy it was, too heavy to be silver, which meant it was white gold or platinum. He had seen it on Buck's right wrist on the odd occasion in the last few days. The front he knew was simply engraved 'BUCK' and then a four-leaf clover. He, like the others, assumed it was a good luck charm, probable given by Standish in recognition of Buck's actions that day, four weeks ago, in saving Ezra's life. He turned it over, not looking for any more engraving, but to see if there was a mark to indicate what metal it was. The back was engraved. This was not simple engraving; this was beautifully crafted gothic copper plate.

"Thanks Josiah." Buck held out his hand for the bracelet before Sanchez could look too closely, quickly putting it on. He had the chain set short, so the smooth plate, with its engraving, was constantly touching his wrist. An ever-present reminder.

As the two men walked to the elevator both were lost in memories. But while Josiah tried to bring his long-forgotten Latin to mind, Buck was fondly remembering the night just over a week ago, when he had received the gift he now held so dear.

ooOOOoo

Ezra had checked the room three times to make sure it was perfect. Tonight had to be perfect, tonight he was saying a kind of goodbye to the light of his life. It hadn't taken much to persuade Chris and the others how much better it would be for Buck to convalesce at his apartment than in his own. True, JD was at the CDC to take care of him, but his room was only reachable up a spiral staircase. When Buck had first been released he could barely walk and any stairs, let alone spiral stairs, were out of the question. He could have swapped beds with JD, but JD only had a single bed, Buck's feet would have stuck out over the end more often than not. Ezra on the other hand, had a queen-size bed in his guestroom, in his first floor apartment, with its own bathroom including a walk-in shower. So Buck had moved in with his lover to recuperate. And that was all he did, rest and sleep - sleep a lot - and get better. Ezra would join him in bed, but only to hold him and for him to enjoy the comforting presence of his beloved so close.

Tomorrow Buck went home, the next day, Monday, he went back to work, true it was only desk duty, but he was going back - finally. Although he knew being off work was driving Buck crazy, Ezra wanted to keep him at home, keep him close and safe for ever. Buck was hurt because of him; he had placed himself in mortal danger because of him, even though Ezra had been wearing a bullet-proof vest. And why had he done this incredibly brave, reckless thing, because he was a brave man, though he never saw himself as brave, and because - at that moment - he had nothing left to live for. And whose fault was it? Who had drained the apparently unquenchable Wilmington lust for life? He had, Ezra P Standish, rat, cad of the highest order, coward.

In an instinctive, desperate bid to save himself the kind of emotional pain he had suffered all his life, he had wounded his love, a wound so deep it was almost fatal. If JD had not been there to talk and literally knock some sense into him, Buck would had given up on life and slipped away in the hospital, and it would have been all Ezra's fault. Ever since he had come to his senses and pulled Buck back from the brink he had been trying to make it up to him.

The room was lit with candles, the table laid with his best damask linen, silver cutlery, Wedgwood dinner service and cut crystal glasses. The meal was catered, Ezra would have liked to have cooked it himself but he wasn't very good and tonight had to be perfect. Individual dressed lobster, followed by Beef Wellington and finally a toffee and caramel Pavlova. The wine was the best his cellar had, to be followed by a fine old brandy. It was as perfect as he could make it.

Buck had been out that afternoon for his daily swim, at the pool attached to the federal building's gym. Ezra had closed the sliding doors between the dining room and living room, and requested that on his return he didn't peek. Buck got the message and after a shower and the second shave of the day, put on some light chinos with a matching jacket and the navy shirt Ezra liked, because it highlighted the colour of his eyes.

"Damn but you're gorgeous!" Ezra exclaimed when Buck emerged into the living room.

In response Buck ducked his head and blushed. It was odd; he usually basked in compliments. When women told him he was good looking he enjoyed it; even bragged about it, but when Ezra did it he was embarrassed. Maybe because he thought Ezra was so much more beautiful than him. Buck wasn't a fool, he didn't try to pretend he wasn't good looking, he knew he was attractive, but having Ezra notice him and compliment him was somehow different. Ezra's opinion mattered, if a woman said he was attractive it was nothing to him, she would be out of his life as soon as she was in, her opinion of his visage was of no importance to him. Ezra would be, he hoped, in his life forever.

"Ain't exactly Quazimodo yourself. C'm here," Buck commanded.

As soon as Ezra was in range, he curled a hand around Ezra's waist and pulled the smaller man close to him. Running his hand up Ezra's back to his neck, then through the soft, neat chestnut hair, finally coming to rest against Ezra's cheek.

"Beautiful," Buck breathed. "Gorgeous, handsome, elegant, attractive, pretty..." Running out of compliments, he bent and captured Ezra's eager lips. "Mine," he finally breathed as he pulled away.

"Pretty?" Ezra arched an eyebrow.

"Yeah, why not? Where's it written only women and babies can be pretty? When yer all done up in yer fancy suits yer as pretty as a picture." He bent and again kissed his beautiful lover.

The meal was perfect, the wine was perfect and the brandy was perfect. Now they sat side by side on the sofa, Buck's long arm around Ezra, whose head rested in the crook of Wilmington's shoulder. Both men had kicked off their shoes and now two pairs of feet, one clad in black silk socks and one in navy cotton, rested on the 1930's mahogany coffee table, one black silk clad set of toes rubbing lazily up and down one navy cotton ankle.

"Love you," Ezra stated quietly.

"Love you too," Buck responded.

"I wish you weren't leaving tomorrow, don't..." He looked up at Wilmington. "Don't say you have to, don't say we have to be careful, don't say people will talk if you stay. I know all that, I still wish it wasn't so."

Buck didn't respond verbally, he just sighed and kissed the top of Ezra's head, then rested his chin on it. He didn't want to leave. Despite the injuries this had been the best three weeks of his life. He wanted this to be his life, to live with Ezra forever, no more hiding, no more watching every word, every gesture, every glance; but he was a realist and for better or worse this was how it had to be.

"Buck, I want to talk about it."

'It' was that terrible night Buck had come to him and asked him to say the three magic words, to say 'I love you'. Now he said them freely, repeatedly, but not then. Then, when Buck came looking for that small measure of commitment, that little token that what they had, what he felt and believed Ezra felt was real, Ezra had turned on him. He was afraid, no terrified, of being hurt yet again, so he pushed Buck away before he could be abandoned. And he had used the most powerful weapon he had - scorn. He told Buck he wasn't good enough, that he was a Standish, a Standish had sailed with the Pilgrim Fathers, his family was old, rich and distinguished and Buck? Well Buck was poor white trash, and that was all there was to it, the son of a Las Vegas hooker was never going to be the life partner of a Standish.

But just twenty four hours later the devastation his words had caused and what the consequences might be were brought home to him, when he saw what he had done, he knew he was wrong. Buck would never hurt him. And his guilt was almost too much to bear. Buck naturally forgave him, said he understood, and didn't - wouldn't - talk about it. But Ezra, with his finely attuned senses, knew it was still an issue for the tall man he now lay against.

He felt Buck stiffen, the comforting weight of his head was lifted from Ezra's.

"Please Buck, I don't want any unspoken issues between us, please," he implored.

"It's past, over, forgotten, don't rake it over again." There was a hint of anger in Buck's normally calm, velvet tones.

"But it isn't forgotten." Ezra pulled his feet off the table and sat up so he could turn and face Buck. "I know you, I know you're still hurt and angry, but you... well you don't ever want to talk about your needs and feelings. I still don't understand that night, you never ask for anything for yourself."

Buck wouldn't look him in the eye.

"Please let me in, you have wormed your way past my every defence, yet I still can't get past even one of yours."

Still Buck turned his head away.

"I'm begging here my beloved, let me in so I can understand, so I can find a way to show you how much I love you. I will do anything, I will tell the guys, I will tell the judge, I'll hire the Broncos scoreboard and have it written in light at the next big game - Ezra loves Buck- anything! But please don't turn away from me now. Please."

When Buck finally did look back, there were tears in his eyes.

"I... What you said... I know you were just trying to protect yourself, an' believe me if I ever get my hands on any of them people who hurt you - well they won't be walkin' upright fer a week, and..." he held Ezra's anguished emerald eyes, "that includes Maude, mother or not, she hurts you, I've heard her, I've seen the way she treats you. She's your mother but if you ever want to tell her about us, I'm gonna give her a piece of my mind."

"I intend to tell mother about us the next time she is here, whatever her failings, I think I owe it to her to tell her face to face, she has her heart set on grandchildren, to continue the family name, you understand."

"Fair enough." The smallest of smiles escaped Buck's expressive face. "Bet they weren't ever gonna get to call her 'granny'."

"Heaven's no! I have no problem with whatever you have to say to her, it will, in all likeliness be what I have wanted to say for years and never had the courage. I think we have established my yellow belly credentials."

"You ain't no coward Ezra, I've been undercover with you. I seen what you do, I couldn't do that on my own for weeks on end, no way."

Ezra was tempted to disagree, no matter what it was, Buck Wilmington seemed to be able to rise to every challenge and face any danger. But now was not the time, besides it would be hopeless, Buck never ever saw what he did as heroic - lucky, stupid, necessary - but never heroic.

"It's what you said," Buck continued, his head came down briefly then he looked up again, pain and something else, shame or maybe disappointment showing in his open features. "I'm just poor white trash, I know that, ain't got no illusions. But I've tried to be more than that, thought I'd done it, thought people didn't see me as trash any more..."

"Stop... please stop," Ezra implored, he couldn't bear to hear any more. He remembered JD's words in the hospital - How do you think he feels every time someone calls him a 'son of a bitch?' - he had asked. He hadn't thought about it, not even then. He had never thought about the prejudices and preconceptions Buck had faced, and fought to overcome in his life. How many times had he been told or made to think he was trash, nothing, a thing of no value? As a child - despite his mother's evident love and support - probably too often. And in those three nightmare years, when he had single-handedly kept Larabee from self-destructing? How many times had Chris rejected him, pushed him away? Just how often could a person be rejected and it not undermine his self worth? Buck was so eternally confident, so easy in any company, so relaxed in almost any situation, it never occurred to him that this Buck, the one everyone saw, was the product of hard work. He hadn't just sprung fully formed, Buck had worked damn hard to become the man he was. And you, Ezra chided himself. You told him all his hard work was for nothing.

"No one sees you as anything other than a friend, a fine law officer, a brave man, an honourable, decent, honest man, a true gentleman! And while you may have been monetarily poor as a child, and there is no denying you are white; you are not trash, not now, not then, not ever. Trash is something of no value to be discarded. Your value is immeasurable, to your friends, to the law enforcement community, to the team. Do you..." He reached forward and took hold of Buck's hand. "...not realise that you are the heart of our team, our family, the lynch pin that holds us together?"

Buck shook his head in denial. "I'm Chris' friend, I took in the kid and trained him, but he doesn't need me for that now. I'm not like the rest of you, I don't have a specialist skill, what knowledge I had about explosives is well out of date now. I got on the team 'cause Chris wanted one person he knew and trusted right from the start and... 'cause he felt he owed me, that's all."

"Don't you understand?" Ezra implored, "Chris is our leader, he is the most dominant, forceful, naturally aggressive personality I have ever met, but that needs to be tempered or it will consume him, tempered by someone who is more even and diplomatic, but strong enough to stand up to him - you. Vin is our eyes and our ears, no one sees more in one facial tic, one inflection, than that scruffy Texan, but he lacks the confidence to express himself, to ask when he needs help, or he did until you got under his skin and showed him it was okay to ask for help; and he needs Chris, he needs Chris' strength, and the control of that strength lies in you. Chris lashes out blindly when he's hurt, if he were to do it to Vin or JD they might not understand, might not recover, so you step in and take it, you do it time and again, deflecting Chris' anger onto yourself, so no-one else gets hurt. And..." Ezra now dropped to his knees in front of Wilmington, holding both Buck's hands between his own much smaller ones. "...you have done it for me, I know it, even when I was new and you weren't sure you could trust me, you still did it."

"I had to, Chris don't understand what hurt he can do, just 'cause he don't hurt like that, he reckons others don't. I've known him so long I can see the signs, it's just easier if'n he lets fly at me, I'm used to it."

"But it still hurts, doesn't it?" Ezra challenged.

Buck looked away.

"Doesn't it?" Ezra pushed some more.

Finally his lover nodded.

"Josiah is our mental and spiritual health, Nathan our physical healer and our calm voice of reason, and JD? He's our enthusiasm, youth, and wide-eyed wonder; and he does still need you. If you had seen him that day at the hospital, if you had seen the rage, the passion, the determinationů there is nothing, and I do mean nothing that young man..." Ezra had almost said 'boy' but that would be wrong. When JD joined the team he was a boy - lost, lonely, grieving for his mother - but under the all-encompassing protective wing of 'mother hen' Wilmington, he had grown up into a man. "...would not have done to save you, to keep you, you're his big brother, his family, we all need family. And as family he loves you."

Buck smiled at this. "He's a good kid," he said very quietly.

"He's your kid and he still needs you - remember that, whatever he may say, he needs you. And so we come to yours truly - well I'm the cynicism, the realist, and the provider of material things and information. But you are the lynch pin, you are what holds us together. If we lost you... if God forbid I lost you, I could not go on, nor could JD, Chris would lash out in anger - as he always does when he's hurt - most likely at Vin, and he wouldn't understand, he would actually leave when Chris told him to. Nathan is too much of a pragmatist to remain with a team that is tearing itself apart from within, and Josiah - actually I don't know what he would do, but given his temper I don't think it would be pretty. That is what you mean to the team, to our family. And so we come to what you mean to me, personally. To me you are beyond value, a thing so precious that nothing, absolutely nothing, could replace you or compensate me if I were to lose you."

Finally Buck pulled one arm free and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "If you lose me Ezra P Standish, it will be none of my doing, I promise you. If you want me for life, you have me, all of me."

"I do and I wouldn't trade one single bit of you, not for anything."

For the first time a real smile split the face of his beloved as Ezra watched him. "Even the snoring?" he asked.

"Yes even that, it lets me know you're here, with me, even when you are in another room in the dead of night, I can hear you."

Buck frowned at him. "What are you doing in another room while I'm asleep?" he wanted to know.

"Beloved, there is nowhere I love to be more, than in bed with you - but - when you first came here you slept up to fifteen hours a day, and much as I love you, I can't stay in bed for fifteen hours a day!" Ezra explained good naturedly. "It let me know you were still breathing, I used to leave the door open so that I could hear you."

"You make me sound like a baby, I'm surprised you didn't get one of them monitor things," Buck joked, finally relaxing.

Ezra looked momentarily embarrassed.

"Ezra?"

"I only used them for the first week," he protested.

"Used what?"

"JD rigged up a surveillance mike so I could hear you on a portable set."

Buck suddenly sat up. "Where? The bedroom?"

"Um, well, yes," Ezra admitted hesitantly.

"And?"

"Well everywhere... look, before you kill me, the doctor said there might be complications, you might black out without warning, I just wanted to be sure... they're all gone now, only me and JD knew and only I could listen in," he added quickly. "I just was so scared something might happen to you and I wouldn't be there to help you... forgive me?"

Ezra had this look, this 'it's not my fault I only did it for the best' look, all open eyes, raised eyebrows and boyish charm. Buck was helpless to resist it.

"In the bathroom?" Buck enquired tilting his head over and smiling.

"Um... well now you mention it yes, there too. You might have fallen coming out of the shower, I mean you weren't very steady on your feet and you insisted on doing things on your own and not calling me when you needed assistance, and..."

"It's alright Ez, I forgive you. You were really that worried about me?" Even now Buck seemed amazed anyone would worry about him the way he worried about them. He shook his head. "And you guys call me a 'mother hen'! Just how often were you listening any way?"

"Not THAT often, just when you were out of my sight."

"Oh."

"It sounded good."

"What?"

"Your Elvis impersonation, I liked 'In The Ghetto' best."

"In the words of someone not a million miles from here. Oh dear Lord!"

"No really, it was good, very entertaining, I just..." Ezra leant forward and reached out to lay his hand along that wonderfully strong jaw line. "...want to be sure you understand how much I love you."

"I do."

"Good because I got you something, you wanted commitment and you have it and I want the world to know... and before you say anything, the world just won't know they know."

Buck looked totally bewildered at this seemingly contradictory statement. But, as he watched, Ezra pulled an expensive looking jewellers' box, long and thin, from behind one of the cushions in the corner of the sofa. Ezra had been kneeling on both knees, now he was on one knee as he offered the box to Buck, who accepted it and, now consumed with curiosity, opened it instantly.

Buck picked up the chain, feeling its weight, he tested it, balancing it on his fingers.

"White gold," Ezra supplied.

Buck looked at the simple inscription on the front, and smiled.

"Turn it over," Ezra prompted.

Ezra then translated and explained the inscription. When he was done he waited for some reaction. Buck was sitting forward running his finger back and fourth across the intricate engraving. Finally, without looking up, he handed the bracelet back to Ezra.

Ezra's face dropped, he felt his world crumble, as he took the jewellery back. He had gone too far, more than anything, he had wanted to give his lover a tangible symbol of his love, some permanent physical proof; now he just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide. But as he looked down at the little heap of gold in his hand, something else came into his line of vision. A wrist, a strong, bare, tanned wrist.

ooOOOoo

Josiah and Buck stood in the elevator car as it rose from the basement to the eighth floor, where Team Seven had their offices. Buck stood against the wall, seemingly holding on to the rail behind him, while all the time he was in fact running his thumb over the name plate on his bracelet. He remembered the feeling as Ezra fastened it on his wrist, the sensation of the cool metal resting on his skin, knowing the words of love were there, next to him, touching him - always.

Sanchez was concentrating on what he had seen. The fancy lettering hadn't been easy to read quickly but he had at least some Latin and that helped. One of the words was 'amor', well you didn't need to be a Latin scholar to work that one out. Maybe, some girl had finally snared him, and now with this bracelet put her mark on him. Josiah might be the oldest in the team, and considered along with Nathan, to be the voice of reason, but he could still get curious and if necessary, devious.

The two agents entered their office to find Chris' office door closed and the blinds down. Buck shot a questioning glance at Josiah, who just shrugged. Nathan was reading, JD was at his computer and, after near two years of experience, Buck knew from the young man's body language he was surfing. A smile played briefly on Buck's lips as he caught sight of Ezra. He was seated at Vin's computer, while the lean Texan sat beside him, straddling the nearest convenient chair - Buck's - watching as Ezra checked his report, Standish would stop occasionally to query something with Tanner, and then go on. Ezra had come a long way in a short time with Team Seven; from the selfish, lazy, distrustful, insular loner he had been when he came to Denver, to the man he saw before him; resourceful, brave, trusting, giving - if not actually generous, well not yet, but Buck was still working on him - and romantic. His heart filled with pride at the sight of Ezra, selflessly giving his time to help someone else. His Ezra, his love, his life from now on.

Josiah walked past Buck and over to Vin and Ezra.

"Brother Vin, how would it be if I took over from our southern brother so he may accompany Buck to the pool?"

Vin pushed the chair back away from the table, and glancing over at Buck and smiled. "Sure 'Siah, if'n yer don't mind that is?"

"I'm happy to be of assistance."

Ezra hit save to secure what he'd done so far and rose from the chair. "Mr Sanchez, thank you."

"Oh hey! Can I come?" JD suddenly asked, bouncing up from his desk.

"It's a free country kid," Buck responded.

The three swimmers had been gone about an hour when Chris finally emerged from his office. Josiah had long ago finished the report for Vin, who was now working on a personal project at his computer, Nathan was still reading and Josiah was using an online Latin lexicon to try to translate the Latin on the bracelet. The three men all - without realising it - held their breath. Chris shut off in his office for nearly two hours was a potentially dangerous scenario. Larabee walked up the line of desks. Three of his team were missing, and the others there were doing no work at all. Of course there was no work to do at the moment. Since they were doing surveillance for another team and none of their cases were unresolved, once the surveillance reports were written they were just killing time until five and they could leave.

"So where are the 'dynamic duo' and the gambler?" he asked.

"Swimming," Nathan supplied without looking up.

"Cowboy?" Vin enquired, looking up from his terminal. "What yer been doin' in there?" With the exception of Wilmington, no one else would have asked the question of Larabee quite that bluntly.

It wasn't a legendary Larabee glare that spread itself across Chris' face, more a look of pure devilment.

"Pencil neck politics," he said, with unmistakable amusement in his voice.

"I take it brother, that you were victorious?" Josiah asked.

"Oh yes." Chris grinned evilly as he stood behind Josiah. "Latin?" he asked.

Josiah sat back. "You notice a change in Buck recently? I don't mean after he was injured, before."

"Changed how?" Chris asked.

"He ain't been braggin'," Vin supplied without looking up.

"That's right, now you mention it, he ain't given us one report of his exploits in months," Nathan observed.

"But he's was datin' regular, 'til he got shot," Vin added.

Chris frowned. "And your point is?" he enquired.

"That bracelet he's sporting, it has an engraving on it," Josiah explained.

"We know, it says 'Buck' and a four leaf clover, I assume Ez gave it to him - so?" Larabee pointed out, still confused.

"Not that engraving, on the back, it has a Latin inscription, something 'amor' something."

"Hell even I know that means love," Vin said

"Right, the site I've been using says it means 'passionate sexual love'. Now I'm sure the last word was 'cervus' which means 'stag'."

"Buck," Nathan said suddenly. Three sets of eyes turned to him. "Buck means young stag."

"Exactly."

"Sooooo someone or something loves Buck," Chris reasoned.

"Loves him enough to give him a bracelet made of platinum or white gold, it's too heavy to be silver," Josiah supplied.

"You mean he finally snared one fool enough to stick around?" Vin asked incredulously.

"Oh God, a married Buck? It don't bear thinkin' about!" Chris exclaimed. "What was the first word?"

"Now that I'm not sure of, the lettering is gothic and I only saw it for a few seconds - but I have come up with three possibilities," Josiah explained. "Adjicio, which means 'to add', adjuitor which apparently means 'helper' and adjungu, 'to join', but I'm fairly sure there was an 'I' in it. That's as far as I've got." He sat back, knowing the others' curiosity was piqued.

"Well..." began Chris, "...if the last word is a Latin version of Buck, I'd assume the first word is a Latin version of her name. In which case 'helper' would seem to be most likely, I can't believe someone's name means 'to add', there must be sites that tell you what names mean."

"There are, but you have to know the name, not the meaning - we'll have to go through all the female names one by one," Josiah explained.

"I ain't got nothin' better t' do," Vin stated, as Josiah brought the site up.

Nathan was feeling uneasy, something about this didn't feel right. "Guys, should we be doing this? I mean, it feels a bit like we're invading his privacy. If he wanted to tell us who she is he'd have done it, I mean it ain't like Buck is shy."

Their enthusiasm suddenly waned. Nathan was right and they all knew it. Despite the extrovert, loud, playful front, Buck was a very private man about some things. If he didn't want you to know something you were not going to know it and if he had a personal secret about any of them he would take it to his grave if necessary, and they all knew it.

"If this is what we think it is, he might be a mite sensitive, at least until he's sure, I mean this is all new to him - right?" Nathan looked at Chris.

"Far as I know he's never been serious about anyone," Chris admitted.

Josiah was suddenly very, very ashamed of his uncharacteristic behaviour, Nathan was right. It was one thing to tease Buck about his one-night stands, but if the big rogue had finally found what - in Josiah's opinion - he had been looking for all his life, namely a stable permanent relationship, he didn't want to risk spoiling it for him in any way. Because despite his constant claims that he was not the marrying kind, Josiah was personally and professionally convinced Buck was very much the marrying kind, and when he found the love of his life he would be the most faithful husband in the history of the world.

"God when you're right Nate, you're right, damn!"

"So what do we do now, while we wait fer the mermaids to come back?" Vin wanted to know, now wishing the damn report hadn't taken so long and he could have gone for a swim too.

"Since you got that site up Josiah, click on the boys' names, does it tell you what Christopher means? I know it has something to do with Christ, but what exactly?"

ooOOOoo

Buck supported himself in the corner of the deep end of the pool, one long arm on each edge rail, gently exercising his leg in the warm water. He had done forty lengths, including at least ten at full speed, now he was doing the stretching exercises his therapist had given him. As he did he watched Ezra ploughing through the water. JD had done twenty fastish lengths before he had got bored and headed for the weights room. Ezra was powerfully built, something the rest of the team, including Buck had been amazed about the first time they had seen Ezra without a shirt, because he never appeared to do any exercise. What Buck now knew, but no one else, including JD, was that Ezra's two-bedroom apartment, actually had three bedrooms. The third room was a small dressing room, only accessible through the master bedroom. In this room Ezra had a very expensive home gym and weights. He never exercised in public - except for swimming, since he didn't have the luxury of a private pool.

"Everything a gentleman does should appear to be effortless, no exertion, no sweating, no huffing and puffing if at all possible," he had explained.

The room was fixed up with cable TV, a video and DVD player and Ezra, and now Buck, would work out while watching classic movies.

All that work had paid off handsomely, as the southerner powered evenly thought the water. Buck watched the way the water rolled off his shoulders as he created his own wake. The way the little droplets of water spun off his hair as he turned at the end of each length. The way he breathed every third stroke, never missing, never interrupting his stroke, never slowing. And as he watched, his mind went back to that night, the night Ezra had fastened the symbol of his love around Buck's wrist.

ooOOOoo

Ezra had remained on one knee gazing at Buck's wrist, now adorned with his gift for some time, not moving, Buck for his part just left his arm where it was, but eventually his patience wore thin. He turned his arm over and, extending his middle finger, slowly brought it up until the finger made contact with Ezra's chin, then as it continued its upward path, it brought Ezra's chin up until Buck could once more see his lover's emerald green eyes.

Then, as Ezra gazed, like some love-struck teenager into Buck's midnight-blue eyes, a look of pure devilment came over Buck's face. "C'mere you." With that he grabbed Ezra by the shoulders and pulled the startled man up and onto his lap, enveloping him in a bear hug as he did.

"I plan on living t' be a hundred - at least! So I hope you got stamina fer a long haul Ezra P Standish," he exclaimed.

"Oh you would be surprised at my stamina Mr Wilmington." Ezra was now grinning like the cat that stole the cream.

"Would I now? Well that is somethin' I aim t' test, real soon... tonight in fact... if not now!"

Ezra suddenly realised what Buck was proposing. They hadn't made love since before the shooting, and much as he missed having Buck possess him, and take him to such heights of erotic pleasure he thought he would never come down - JD had been right about Buck being a great lover - he was still concerned for his health.

"I don't know Buck, you're not fully recovered yet."

"The hell I'm not! Damn it Ez, I'm goin' back t' work day after tomorrow! Besides, bullets or no bullets, I got needs!" He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "It's been a whole month! It ain't natural fer a man t' go that long... without."

"It may come as a surprise to you, but it is not unknown for men to go months - plural - or even years 'without'," Ezra pointed out, while still making no effort whatsoever to escape Wilmington's embrace.

"Well they ain't me." With that Buck tightened his grip and before Ezra realised it he had stood up, still holding the much smaller, but solidly built Ezra in his arms. His leg twinged, and trembled for a second until he was fully upright, but he made it, not letting the sudden daggers of pain show. He knew they would pass, and with the help of his pain meds, it would return to a dull permanent ache he had become used to.

"Oh, you are going to pay for that in the morning lover," Ezra warned good-naturedly.

"Details, details." With that Buck strode into the master bedroom, and lay Ezra down in the centre of the huge bed.

Then he stood back admiring the view for a few moments before bending down to remove the navy socks. As he did this Ezra sat up and began tugging off his own silk socks. Buck now barefoot, looked up.

"Oh no you don't," he warned stepping closer. "What's the fun in having a 'get well' present if it takes off its own paper? You just lie still babe," he instructed.

"Get well? I thought you were well?" Ezra propped himself up on his elbows.

"Don't be pedantic," returned Buck.

"Well it is good to see our relationship has improved your vocabulary." Ezra grinned evilly.

Buck just shook his head and slipped off his jacket, and in deference to Ezra, he did not just let it fall to the floor in a heap, but hung it over the back of a chair. Then, as Ezra watched transfixed, Buck crossed his arms, and taking hold of the bottom edge of his shirt, he removed it in one smooth movement. The shirt he rolled into a ball and threw in the general direction of the bathroom. Ezra drank in the site of a bare chested Wilmington, the small silver St Christopher that hung around his neck glinted as he moved. It was so worn that the saint's head and arm were now indistinguishable shiny blobs. On the back, in fine cursive script were the letters BW. Buck's mother had fastened it around his neck on his first day at school and he had never removed it - other than to periodically replace the chain when it broke or became too worn. His eyes were distracted from this symbol of a mother's love when Buck - with a mischievous grin - struck several body builder's poses, displaying his muscles. Ezra couldn't help it, much as he was enjoying the show he began to laugh

Buck grinned at this reaction. "Well? Do I measure up?" he asked.

Ezra just laughed even harder as Buck dropped his latest pose and knelt beside him on the bed, muttering about 'over dressed rich boy southerners'. Buck removed Ezra's tie and undid his denim shirt - Ezra's nod to informality, even if it was ironed and starched - then he moved lower. Ezra watched passively as all this happened. Buck's large but nimble fingers then began to map out little patterns over Ezra's abdomen, running back and forth over his 'six pack', circling the belly button, tracing the lines of the well defined chest muscles. As Ezra began to react, he noted every intake of breath, every shiver, every gasp his lover made in response to this attention. Finally he very slowly undid the fastenings of Ezra's pants, he inched the zipper down with agonising slowness, gratified to see the prominent silk clad swelling it revealed. Apart from Ezra's gasps and murmurs and Buck's mutterings the whole thing had happened in silence. Finally Buck spoke.

"Now you know how I feel about them red silk ones," he looked up at twinkling green eyes, "can't stand the damn things babe, just hate 'em."

"Oh do tell. What do you do with things you find in the bedroom you can't stand Mr Wilmington?"

"Well you know Mr Standish, I remove them forth-with!" With that Buck pulled both silk boxers and pants down in one move, Ezra obligingly raising his hips to facilitate their removal. Ezra's cock stood proud once it had been released from its silk prison.

"Now that is what I call a beautiful sight in the bedroom," Buck purred appreciatively.

He stood up and quickly let his own chinos fall to the floor. "Commando?" Ezra queried seeing no sign of underwear and enjoying the view of Buck's impressive erection. It wasn't that he hadn't seen Buck naked in the last month. But there was no comparison to helping your injured, hurting lover out of the bath and seeing him standing before you proud, healthy, erect, the very picture of a wanton eager lover. He barely noticed the fresh scar on Buck's thigh.

"Seemed to be a waste t' put 'em on just so as I could take 'em off," Buck explained as he returned to the bed.

"You planned all this," Ezra gasped as the realisation hit him.

"Uh-huh, well not this..." He fingered the bracelet lovingly. "But we were always going to end up here. I told yer I got needs, now..."

Buck straddled his lover, his knees were either side of Ezra's hips, pinning his shirt against his thigh. Buck had hooked his ankles over the smaller man's knees. Then he leant forward, pushing the soft denim to one side with first one hand, then the other. He bent forward and brushed a kiss against Ezra's sternum. Slowly he worked his way up the smooth, muscular chest in a straight line until he encountered Ezra's lips, the kiss became less gentle and more passionate, lips found lips, tongue found tongue. Finally the need to breathe forced the lovers to separate.

"You know, you have too many clothes on," Buck commented.

He sat up a little and eased the denim down past Ezra's shoulders and down past his powerful biceps - and there he stopped. With the tails trapped against his hip by Buck's knees, the half removed shirt now effectively trapped Ezra's arms. Settling back, Buck rested his weight down on to Ezra's powerful thighs.

"So... you bugged the apartment so you could listen in without telling me?" Buck raised an eyebrow.

"Yes," Ezra admitted hesitantly.

"Illegal use of government equipment to spy on your male lover, hmmm? What would Orin say? No, I think I will have to punish you!"

Despite the fact that the words were clearly a joke, a momentary flash of fear ran through Ezra; would Buck really punish him? He had had lovers who had lured him to bed with honeyed promises, and then taken their pleasure with no thought for him, a few had even hurt him. Stop it! he told himself. Buck. Will. Not. Hurt. You. He loves you and you love him, he will never ever hurt you, he would in fact die to save you - trust him.

"But you said you understood... you forgave me..." Ezra stammered out.

"I forgave you your concern, not your actions, besides you corrupted the kid."

"Me? Corrupt him? In what universe?"

Buck looked shocked and instantly set about his punishment of Ezra.

"Oh stop!... No... Ahhh!" Ezra cried. "Please... I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I!" he howled. "Oh God, please stop!"

"Will you ever bug the apartment again?" Buck enquired without relenting.

"No... oh dear God, no! Please, I'm begging you, stop!"

Without stopping, Buck asked, "do you admit you corrupted JD, who is totally innocent?"

"He is not! Oh shit... oh fuck... ohhhhhh! Yes... yes anything you say!"

"Say it!"

"JD is totally innocent , I corrupted him... there I said it, please stop," Ezra begged.

"Mmmm... maybe, I'm kinda having fun... let me see... errr..."

"What? What anything... oh God help me!"

"You gotta promise not ta' yell when I leave the seat up," Buck decided.

"I will not, it's disgus...ting. Ahhhhh! Okay, okay, I won't yell... Please?" Ezra begged one more time.

"An' not t' scowl when I drink the orange juice from the carton straight from the fridge?"

"Oh please we have to have some stan... noooo! Oh help! Please... oh... oh... right, yes alright, you can drink from the carton. Please?"

"Well I don't know..." Buck looked down at his writhing, red-faced lover, whose green eyes were now red and puffy with tears. "Oh, alright." Finally he stopped tickling Ezra and let him catch his breath.

"I... never..." Ezra gasped, "knew just how... devious you could be."

Buck just winked at him as he released Ezra's lower legs and eased him out of the shirt. This required Ezra to sit up since he was now hopelessly entangled in it. As a result both men ended up kneeling in the centre of the bed facing each other. Ezra was still panting after his tickling punishment, as Buck began to kiss his shoulder.

"This shoulder is yours, and so it is mine, and I love it," he whispered. "And this neck... and the ear." Ezra gasped as Buck kissed and nibbled at his ear.

As Buck's kissing exploration of his newly acquired property continued, Ezra began a little territory claiming of his own. His hands explored the chest in front of him, running his fingers through the fine, soft, sparse hair on Buck's chest, he encountered and hard, erect nub of Buck's left nipple. With his hand flat and using only his palm, he rubbed over the proud little bud, exciting it and teasing it. Finally his ministrations were too much for Buck, who broke off from kissing and nuzzling Ezra's neck and ear, throwing his head up and arching his back and thrusting his chest forward. Never one to miss an opportunity, Ezra lowered his head and took possession of the other nipple with his mouth, sucking, nipping and biting. Finally, under this dual onslaught, Buck began to writhe and moan. As the two of them moved, their erections were rubbing and knocking into each other, heat rising in both of them. Buck eventually placed his big hands on either side of Ezra's head and pulled him up.

"We carry on like this we ain't even gonna get to the main event," he warned.

ooOOOoo

As the memory washed over him, Buck relaxed even more into the embrace of the warm water, no longer exercising he unconsciously let his body drift up until he was floating on the surface. Still holding gently on to the pool rail his head back, resting on the same rail in the corner of the pool, eyes shut.

"Now Beloved, what are you thinking about I wonder?" Ezra's voice cut into the nice warm haze of memory.

"Mmmm?" Buck responded without opening his eyes.

"Let me guess - this morning?"

Buck did not respond.

"Last night?"

No response.

"No? Well yesterday in the shower?"

Still Buck did not respond.

"Ahh, so it is Saturday night you are replaying?"

A shit-eating grin spread across Buck's face.

"Well, clearly the remembrance was quite... er... well vivid!"

Finally Buck opened his eyes to find his lover beside him, his arms crossed and resting on the side of the pool. The look on his face was that of undisguised mirth. Wilmington arched an eyebrow questioningly. In response Ezra looked over his shoulder toward the taller man's floating midriff. Still puzzled Buck's eyes followed his gaze - to discover a very prominent rise in his swimming shorts as his hips bobbed and floated on the surface of the water.

"Oh shit!" He instantly thrashed in the water trying to get his suddenly uncooperative legs to sink below the surface. "Oh hell, now what am I gonna do?" He implored once the 'evidence' was safely out of sight.

Ezra grinned evilly as he uncurled one arm letting it slip under the water, where it came to rest with the palm flat against Buck's abdomen.

"Well..." he purred. The hand slipped down and under the waistband of the shorts. "This has been known to work." His hand wound its way around the engorged shaft.

"Ezra!" Buck hissed. "This is a public pool, you ca...annnnnn...'t - oh God - do that here!"

"Tish, there is but one door, I can see it clearly from here, no one will surprise us." With that he began to stroke and squeeze and massage Buck's aching cock beneath the water.

"But ain't it a bit..." He paused to catch his breath. "...like piddling in the shallow end?" Buck asked.

"Well apart from the fact that this is the deep end, there is - as my eyes will attest - enough chlorine in here to kill an elephant's worth of... whatever."

Buck's body decided for his rational mind, that that was a good enough exploration and his head dropped back as he enjoyed the ride, letting his mind float back to the place it had been before Ezra interrupted him. If the memory had been good before, it was as nothing to what was to come with Ezra's extra 'stimulation'.

ooOOOoo

Cupping a hand around Ezra's neck he gently lowered him down on his back in the centre of the bed. By now both of their cocks were weeping copious amounts of pre-cum, as a deep inner heat flushed their skin, which now glistened with perspiration. Ezra was now realising what Buck meant about his 'needs' and what going without for a month could do to you.

He had gone for three years once without finding sexual relief with anyone but himself, and thought nothing of it. As a teenager he had had a few unsatisfactory or downright unsuccessful encounters with girls, it had taken him until his senior year at collage to admit to himself that his singular lack of success with women was because he was gay. There had, in that final year, been one or two enjoyable encounters with young men, the thrill of the unknown, the first time, probably adding rose tinted spectacles to the memories. After that a career in the FBI made casual encounters difficult, and proper relationships near impossible. In his relationships Ezra found he needed to be taken care of, to be almost submissive - almost, but not quite. He always bottomed, because he liked to feel possessed, taken care of, pleasured. More times than not his partners had taken advantage of this need. His own psychology told him he was searching for the affection and care Maude had never given him. His ever loving mother had wanted her son to be independent, and to a degree so had he, but sometimes children, however old, however independent and self reliant, need someone to come and just take over and look after them. No-one had ever done that for Ezra, until Buck.

And Buck needed to be needed, he needed to have someone to take care of and protect, once he had had Sarah and Adam, once. Their deaths had hurt him almost as much as it did Chris, but he had never been able to express the loss because he had to take care of Chris. Then just as Chris no longer needed him, JD came into his life. Now JD was striking out alone, a confident, independent young man, a credit to Buck's care, love and attention. And right on cue there was Ezra, in need of care and attention, but Ezra's need would never diminish. Ezra had wondered if Buck was only interested in him as a substitute for JD, just another lost puppy in need of his care. But he knew now that was wrong, it was just luck - serendipity - that he had come into Buck's life just when he needed someone and that he had fallen hopelessly in love with that someone.

Once Ezra was lying down Buck positioned himself between his legs.

"Love you so much," he cooed. "Gonna make you feel so good Baby, gonna take you to heaven and then carry you home."

Reaching out his hands he ran them up Ezra's torso, and back down.

"Gonna make you all mine, forever, ain't no one ever gonna hurt you again." With that had bent down and treated Ezra's nipples to the kind of attention he had been on the receiving end of not a few seconds ago. At the same time, his hands were trailing through the luxuriant silky curls at the base of Ezra's shaft, finding his balls and rolling them in their soft velvety sack until Ezra cried out in wanton desire.

"Not yet babe, not yet," Buck warned reaching out one hand toward Ezra.

In a now well practised routine Ezra picked up the lube from the bedside table and placed a generous amount in Buck's outstretched palm. Buck sat up briefly to rub his hands together warming the lubricant, then slowly and seductively, knowing full well how much Ezra enjoyed the show, coated his impressively large erection in the now warm, clear gel. Cupping the base of his shaft he pulled his thumb and forefinger along its length, scooping off the dollop of lube that collected at the end and as Ezra pulled his legs apart even further, use one well slicked finger to push it deep inside Ezra.

"Ahhh," Ezra sighed at that first wonderful intrusion.

"I told you babe, ain't natural t' go so long 'without'," Buck explained, as his finger moved in and out, searching for and finding Ezra's prostate.

Ezra shuddered, as the merest featherlight brushing of his sweet spot set off fireworks of pleasure throughout his body. How did I ever go three years without this? he asked himself. Because it was never like this before, came the answer.

"Ready for number two?" Buck asked.

"Oh yes," Ezra replied in a dream like haze.

The second finger stretched him further, at first just moving in and out with the first then scissoring gently. Little by little, opening Ezra out, always gently and with infinite patience. With his free hand, Buck grasped Ezra's cock, feeling the throbbing pulse within it and, skilled and practised lover that he was, matching his hand strokes to Ezra's own inner rhythm. Already high on endorphins, Ezra didn't even register the third finger. Finally Buck withdrew his hand and guided the head of his cock into the well stretched opening. Ezra gazed at him with eyes so full of love and adoration, Buck thought that he would never be so happy again in all his life.

Instinctively rather than because of any rational thought, Ezra locked his legs around Buck's hips and the taller man leant forward to rest his hands on the bed, either side of Ezra's chest. Buck kept up the same rhythm, as he thrust ever deeper into Ezra, first brushing, then hitting and finally pounding Ezra's prostate. The inner fireworks were replaced by ever bigger explosions, Ezra's whole body convulsed, it seemed to him his very skin was on fire. Buck felt the tight hotness of Ezra claim his shaft, pulsing around him, pumping toward the climax his body craved, he felt his arms trembling as he lowered himself close enough to claim Ezra's mouth. It wasn't so much kissing, as devouring each other, all rational thought gone. Ezra's hands clawed at his lover's broad back, pulling him ever closer. Finally Ezra threw his head back, and Buck felt the strong ring of muscle around him convulse and spasm as Ezra's climax erupted from him, coating his and Buck's abdomen and chest. He called out, shouting Buck's name, but no coherent word escaped his lips, just a primeval call of ecstasy.

"Oh God! Ezraaaaa!" Buck shouted, as his own climax overtook him, filling Ezra with his seed, claiming him once more.

Neither man had ever experienced such a powerful orgasm, or ejaculated for so long before.

ooOOOoo

Ezra felt Buck shudder, and a deep heart-felt sigh escaped his lips. Glancing down, he smiled as he watched the little pearls of evidence slip away to disperse and die in the chlorinated water. Buck's head was back on the rail, his eyes shut, the very picture of sated pleasure.

"Well did we get there together?" Ezra asked softly as Buck came back to the here and now.

"Oh yeah, thanks lover." Buck opened his eyes to look upon Ezra's gold toothed grin.

"No thanks necessary, it makes me happy to make you happy, you know that."

Ezra pulled his hand free from Buck's shorts and trailed it, under water up his lean torso until it reached his neck, then he pulled him close for a long sweet kiss. A kiss Buck readily returned.

"A-hum."

The dramatic clearing of the throat above them went unnoticed.

"A-HUM!"

Still the lovers embraced, unheeding of their audience. Finally, the watcher tapped Ezra on the shoulder. Instantly Ezra pulled away, looking up to find JD smiling down at them from the poolside.

"Christ almighty boy!" Buck exclaimed, "you trying to kill us with heart failure?"

"Heart failure will be the least of your worries if it was anyone else but me, you know! God guys, you gotta be more careful!" The smile was gone, replaced by genuine concern.

"You are of course right, it was my fault, I said I would keep watch and I didn't, I allowed myself to be distracted," Ezra apologised.

"Now Ez, it takes two to tango you know, I didn't exactly say no, don't go blaming yourself," Buck countered.

"No Buck, I was the one who started all this, I shall shoulder the responsibility."

"I, err... seem to recall it was my little - actually not very little - problem that started it."

"STOP!" The two heads in the pool swung up to JD. "God, you two are like Vin and Chris, it was no-one's fault, no-one is going to 'take all the blame'. Just learn from it - okay?"

"What ever you say father," Ezra said quietly.

"Yes dad," Buck added.

As he stood and watched the two of them exit the pool, JD shook his head. "You know what guys?"

"No JD tell me," Buck returned.

"It's not fair, it just ain't right that in a free country, you guys have t' sneak around, I mean if it were me an' Casey in there kissing, no one would bat an eye, would they?"

"No it isn't, but it is the way the world is and you were right, we should be more careful." Buck put an arm around JD. "Thanks JD."

"Fer what?"

"For being a good friend, for supporting Buck and me, for knocking some sense into me, for everything - thank you John Dunne," Ezra explained.

"I'm only doing what any friend would do," the young man protested.

"If any friend would do it, we wouldn't be sneaking around. Ez is right kid, thanks, for all of it, we owe you - big time."

"Honest guys you don't owe me I..."

"Now who sounds like Vin?" Buck enquired. "There are precious few people who would go out on a limb for us like you have, and we..." He glanced up at Ezra, who nodded. "...aim to show our appreciation in some way, and that's an end to it, okay?"

JD blushed and looked down, but nodded as they walked toward the showers.

ooOOOoo

As the three of them approached Team Seven's office, JD discovered he had failed to do his sports bag up properly and his trainers were now littering the corridor outside the elevator, as Buck and Ezra entered the office he was sprinting back to reclaim them.

"That boy would forget his own head if'n it weren't screwed on," Buck commented as he pushed the door open.

The remainder of Team Seven were all sitting, with their backs to the door, around Josiah's computer. Either on a chair - Josiah, straddling a chair - Vin, or perched on the desk behind Josiah - Chris and Nathan.

"Okay," Chris was saying. "If Vincent Michael meant Victorious and God Like?" Vin took a bow at this, the most God-awful grin on his face. "What does Ezra mean?"

Buck and Ezra froze just inside the office.

"Ezra, Ezra... oh here we go, Ezra means... helper."

There was silence for a second or two, then Nathan began to say. "But wasn't that what..."

"Yeah it was," Josiah confirmed hesitantly.

"But that would mean..." Vin suddenly caught on.

"No way!" Chris gasped.

"That Buck's bracelet reads, 'Ezra loves Buck'?" Vin clarified.

"Can't be, just can't," Chris insisted. "Just not possible, I mean Buck? Ezra - maybe - but not Buck."

"Maybe Ez has a crush on ol' Bucklin," Vin speculated. "Buck ain't t' know what all that fancy letterin' says."

"No, no Ezra would never be that deceitful, besides Buck is not as dumb as he likes us to believe, he could work it out, same as us, Ezra wouldn't do that," Nathan attested.

"I guess so," Vin admitted. "Well what do you know? Ezra and Buck. Just goes to show you never can tell about folk. You reckon all them women were fake? Reckon Buck was out with men all along?"

"No!" Chris insisted. "Josiah, you said you weren't sure you read it right, maybe it was one of them other words, not 'helper'.

"Adiutor amor Cervus means just what you think it means," Buck announced.

Four faces swung around to see the two men in question standing in the doorway.

"Oh," was all Nathan said.

"Errrr... that is... um... fer real?" Vin stammered out.

"Yes Mr Tanner, for real." Ezra confirmed.

Josiah composed himself before he pushed back his chair and stood. "Well I for one would like to congratulate you two, I hope you make each other happy."

Buck grinned at the worldly older man. "Thanks Josiah, we do, very happy."

"Indeed Mr Sanchez, I can safely say I have never, nor will I ever be happier," Ezra added.

Nathan stood quietly beside Josiah. "I ain't gonna say it ain't a shock, 'cause it is, an' I don't rightly know how to react right now, but - you are my friends, so my reactions are my problem, you got a right to love whoever you choose. Just... well take care - okay?"

Trust Nathan to be thinking practically, Buck thought, knowing full well what Jackson was referring to. "Thanks Nate you can't say fairer than that, and we have - taken care that is - have no worry on that score."

"This is fer real - right? This ain't no wind up - Buck?" Vin looked at Buck for confirmation.

"It's real Vin." To emphasise this he put his arm around Ezra and pulled him close. "Fer real and ferever, right Babe?"

Ezra gazed up at Buck. "Absolutely Beloved, forever."

"Holy shit!" Vin exclaimed. "I mean, fuck me!"

"Nah you're not my type, way too scruffy and scrawny, I like my men neat and solid." Buck grinned at Vin, pulling Ezra even closer.

Vin just gazed open-mouthed for a second or two, then he broke into a broad smile. "Hell this is great, couldn't have happened to two nicer guys, congratulations!"

Just then JD barrelled into the office talking nineteen to the dozen as usual.

"Oh guy's you know I dropped m' socks too, in the elevator, had t' wait for it to go all the way down and back up before..." his voice trailed off when he took in the scene before him. "Oh."

"It's alright JD, they know," Ezra explained.

"Holy shit!" the youth exclaimed.

"Indeed," Ezra agreed. "Holy shit indeed."

"You knew!" Chris suddenly exploded into life. "How long JD, how long have you known?"

JD bristled with righteous indignation. "Ain't none of your business," he retorted.

"The hell it isn't, boy!" Larabee raged.

"Chris don't you call him 'boy', he ain't the one yer mad at and we both know it," Buck started. "He's known from the start, three months, and he's been a good friend all that time, so don't go raggin' on him just 'cause yer mad at me!"

Ezra cringed inwardly as Buck did it again, brought down the Larabee storm onto himself to save others, he was never going to be able to change Buck. But at least now the big hearted man had someone who understood how much it hurt when he did it, and would always be there to soothe the hurt away.

"I know you Buck Wilmington, and this is not you, I don't know why you're doing this but it is wrong, because it won't last. You're just not like that."

"You don't know me Chris, you never have, you know what I let you know, that's all. I've always swung both ways, I just didn't do anything about that side of me for a lot of years, but it was always there, always a part of me. It took someone very special, unique in fact, to awaken it, but it was always there. And it will last. Ezra?"

Buck turned to face Standish.

"I wanted to give you this, that night, and then again on Saturday, but I wanted it to be special, like this."

He held up the wrist with the bracelet on it. With that he fished in his pocket and retrieved a small leather drawstring bag.

"I was going to give you this tonight, but with your permission I'd like to do it now, here, a public affirmation of my love and commitment. Well?"

Ezra looked around the room once then back to Buck. "I would be honoured my love."

Buck handed over the pouch to Ezra, who received it reverently. He pulled the tiny gold string to open the bag and let the contents fall into his palm. What came out was a small gold St Christopher. Similar, but not identical to, Buck's silver one, though not quite so worn.

"You know my Ma gave me mine on my first day of school?" Buck said. Ezra nodded, not looking up. "Well her Ma gave her that one. Ma left it to me, she always told me, 'honey, when I'm gone you give this to the person you most want to keep safe in the whole world.' I was gonna give it to Adam, his first day at school, but well... I never got the chance." He glanced at Chris' still thunderstruck features, "an' one or two times in that damn hospital, I though of puttin' it around the kid's neck, but something, don't know what, always stopped me." He glanced at JD, "Sorry kid."

"Don't be; it's right it should be Ezra's," JD confirmed.

"I would have given it to you Saturday, when you gave me mine, but well, I wanted it to have something special on it too."

Ezra turned the small talisman over. There on the back was an intricate fancy capital B and below it an equally fancy E, in between them a love knot.

"There weren't room fer no fancy sentiments, I figured if'n anyone asked you can say it belonged to your grandma or something?" Buck offered hopefully.

Unable to speak because he couldn't trust himself not to break down, Ezra handed the jewellery back, and then looking up at the love of his life through tear filled eyes he turned his back. Buck broke out in a huge grin and quickly fastened the fine but strong chain around Ezra's neck. Then Ezra turned back, fingering the worn gold. Eventually he brought it to his lips and kissed it lovingly, before slipping it under his shirt to lie next to his skin. Emerald green eyes gazed up at midnight blue. Ezra reached out with both hands and heedless of their audience, pulled Buck down for a long, slow, deep kiss.

"My!" exclaimed Nathan.

"Well that is a beautiful sight," Josiah cooed.

"Hot damn!" exclaimed Vin.

"Don't worry guys, they do this a lot," JD explained, as the kiss went on and on. "You get used to it."

"No I won't, no fucking way!" And with that Chris was out of the door.

The lovers broke away as Vin started to follow Larabee. "Chris?" he called.

"No Vin," Buck commanded as the young Texan passed him. Placing a restraining hand on his chest, he bent low so the others, except Ezra still held tight in his embrace, couldn't hear. "He's just confused, this is all too close for comfort for him, he'll come around, you'll see. It will all come around, for all of us." Vin turned stunned azure blue eyes on Buck. How did he know how he felt about Chris, and was he really saying there was hope for his dreams? "All of us." Buck reiterated as if reading Vin's mind. "He may not know me but I do know him - trust me Vin."

Vin turned his questioning blue eyes on Ezra and then back to Buck. "Takes one to know one son," Buck confirmed.

Ezra leant his head against Buck's shoulder. "And believe me Mr Tanner, it is worth the wait."

THE END
Adiutor Amor Cervus Index On to: Entertaining At Home

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