Degrees Of Separation
by Sammy Girl
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This fic grew far longer than I had anticipated. In addition an evil plot bunny crept in with its own sub plot, about which I will say no more ;-) Thanks as ever to the wonderful Kerry for all the beta work and Charlotte for the helpful insight.
Ezra saved his files and shut down his computer, he spent a brief few minutes tidying his already immaculate desk. The others were also preparing to leave and were making plans for the weekend.
"Coming to the saloon Ez?" Vin asked.
Standish just shook his head. "Not today, thank you."
Buck came over to him and rested a hip on the edge of Ezra's desk, one impossibly long leg stretching out across the gap between his desk and Nathan's. Ezra swallowed and forced himself to look away.
"What's up Ez?" he asked in a voice that was soft and serious at the same time and belied his casual posture.
Jade eyes darted up to catch Buck's and then looked away.
"I have other plans for this weekend, I do have a life you know, friends and a social life outside this team." With that he picked up his briefcase and stood up straight. Since Buck was still perched on his desk, just for once he was able to look the tall agent in the eye. "Don't we all?" he added enigmatically.
Vin watched the exchanged and Standish's silent exit, before he came over to Wilmington.
"What's up with him?" the Texan asked.
Buck was still looking at the door, waiting for it to finally stop swinging, only when it was finally still did he look at the Texan, and there was no mistaking the sadness in his eyes. He shrugged. "Who knows?"
With that he was up and calling loudly to JD to hurry up, reminding the younger agent that he had ridden into work with Buck, so he better hurry if he didn't want to be left stranded.
The saloon was crowded and noisy, like it always was on a Friday night, the remaining six members of Team Seven made there way to their customary booth - no matter how crowded the bar no one sat in Team Seven's seat - and instantly the drinks arrived. Inez didn't need to ask to know what they wanted, nor worry that the tab she had started wouldn't be paid before they left. Chris had already asked where Ezra was. It had taken them some time when he first joined the team to persuade - actually it took a direct order from Chris - the wary southerner to join them for their traditional Friday night drink and even longer to convince him he was welcome, not just there, but at any other team get together. Now it seemed in the last week Ezra was retreating back into himself.
It couldn't be work, they hadn't had a difficult case in weeks, not even a stressful court case to deal with - not that testifying ever seemed to bother Standish. But he was due in court next week on a routine case involving the smuggling of Cuban cigars. The FBI had requested an ATF officer after investigating the suspicious activities of a tour operator, and finding that he was up to nothing more seditious than smuggling cigars. They all knew how Ezra felt about working with the FBI, but he was the best person to go undercover as a connoisseur looking for real Havanas. The agent wasn't local, he came from the Salt Lake City office, which was the real reason they needed Ezra - local knowledge. Despite his dislike of his former employers, Ezra was pleasantly surprised by his new partner and they worked well together. All that had happened three mouths ago. Three days ago Agent Parker arrived for a pre-court appearance case conference. That was when Ezra changed.
Larabee suddenly became aware that Josiah was speaking to him.
"Have you noticed that Ezra suddenly clammed up about that feeb he's been working with on the cigar case?"
Chris turned to the big profiler, with a sly smile. "You know I was just thinking the same thing, I think we need to know a bit more about Special Agent Sam Parker."
"Leave it with me," Sanchez assured.
Buck wasn't having much fun either. He'd done something to upset Ezra, just when he thought he was making headway. But Buck Wilmington was a past master of looking like he was happy and having fun when he was miserable, a skill he had learnt at his mother's knee.
Ezra tossed his keys into the jade bowl on the hall table, as he closed the door of his apartment behind him. He leant back and took a deep breath. Betrayal seemed to be following Ezra Standish, it appeared to be his lot in life. First his mother, then the FBI and now his friend, the man he loved. He could see no reason for it, he couldn't think of anything he had done wrong. It had all started so well. Ezra had never tried to pretend he was straight, but he hadn't exactly advertised his sexual orientation either. As far as he knew none of the others were aware of his preferences, he was all but celibate after all. He couldn't help but be attracted to his new team-mates, they were all very attractive men, in their own way, but it was Buck - of all people - who really lit his fire. Buck was the one who he found himself gazing at. It was Buck's voice that quickened his heart. For two whole years he had pined in secret and in vain as Buck paraded one woman after another past him. Listened - heart broken - to the lanky agent's colourful tales of his amorous encounters. He was drawn, like a moth to the flame by Buck's innate warmth, his gentle soul and honesty. The first clue he had that his feelings might just have chance of being returned, was a drunken remark that Chris had let slip last Memorial Day, when they were all out at the ranch.
"Hi Ezra!" Chris greeted him merrily, as he strolled out onto the veranda at the back of the house.
Larabee was sitting on the steps behind the kitchen, beer bottle in hand. While it was clear that Chris was drunk, Ezra wasn't, not really. To get truly drunk you need to feel safe, safe enough to not worry about what you say or do, Ezra had never felt that safe, not once in his whole life. Chris had leant back to wave at Ezra and overbalanced, sprawling on the decking, gazing up at Standish.
"Having fun Ez?" Chris asked, without trying to get up.
"Indeed, a most agreeable evening, Mr Larabee."
"A most agreeable ever-sning! Jeez Ez, lighten up man." Chris managed to pull himself up again. "Have a seat." Larabee patted the step beside him.
While Ezra wasn't drunk, he was more than a little merry, enough to drop some inhibitions, so he dropped down on to the step beside his host and boss.
"Why do ya have to talk so fancy all the time Standish, can't ya just relax and be yer self?" Larabee wanted to know.
"I am what I am sir, I can no more change the way I speak, than Mr Wilmington could bed a man."
He hadn't been intentionally fishing for information, and was stunned when Chris leaned into him and whispered, with whisky and beer soaked breath.
"Oh you'd be surprised who and what Buck will bed, he's a man of wide tastes."
That was when he first though he had a chance. It would have to be done gently, very, very gently. A phrase came to mind, on of his mothers favourites, 'Softly, softly, catchy monkey'. So - in what he hoped were subtle ways - he began to come on to Buck. At first nothing happened. Wilmington was so comfortable with people in his personal space, such a naturally tactile person, he didn't even seem to notice Ezra's advances. Then one day when everyone was out of the office for one reason or another except the two of them, he asked Buck out to lunch. And, while they sat in the restaurant - Italian - he slipped off his shoe and ran one silk clad toe up the tall man's shin. For some reason Ezra found Buck's long legs particularly attractive. Then he froze and waited for the reaction, the rejection, the shock, the disgust, or even indifference. What he got was a shy smile. Shy was not a word anyone would normally associate with Buck Wilmington, but there it was. Ezra repeated the toe stroke, and got the same response.
"That was nice," Buck confessed softly, tilting his head and looking at Ezra coquettishly.
"You really liked it?" Just for once Ezra was the one struggling for words.
"What's not to like, a beautiful man, a man who could have his pick of all the available men in the city, is paying me attention."
"And would you be receptive to more of this attention?" Ezra enquired, barely able to breathe as he waited for the answer.
"I'm always receptive to some tender attention Ezra, you know that."
Ezra had made that first move so it was up to Ezra do pursue it. But how? Ostensibly he and the tall agent didn't have that much in common outside work. Buck liked sport, Ezra didn't - other than tennis he rarely watched any sport. When the team gathered on a Sunday to watch the match, he tended to just doze off. Their tastes in music were diverse but didn't seem to overlap, never the less it was a concert that Ezra chose as his next move.
There was an open-air concert in Boulder, popular classical music and film music, ending with the 1812 overture and fireworks, he purchased two tickets and then approached Buck.
"Mr Wilmington," he began, having managed to get Buck alone in the parking garage one evening.
"Ez, you have to call me Buck, Mr Wilmington was my grandfather, and I do not wish to be associated with him."
Ezra was momentarily taken aback, Buck wasn't a man who discussed his past often, when he thought about it he knew very little about the man he lusted after. So this rare admission was a surprise, and he took it as a good sign.
"Very well, Buck, I have two tickets for a concert on Saturday, I was wondering if you were free?"
Buck regarded the smaller man, still immaculate in his silk suit at the end of the day, despite the summer heat.
"What kind of concert?" he asked.
"Would you allow me to surprise you?"
Buck though about it, weighing up the pros and cons. Finally he nodded. "I'm in your hands sir, tell me when and were."
Ezra beamed. "My place, at about six, dress casual."
"Casual?" Buck queried.
"It is an outdoor concert."
Since he was driving, Buck wasn't drinking, he wished he was, maybe drink would take edge of the ache, for a while anyway.
**Don't think like that Buck, look what happened to Chris,** he chided himself, as he forced himself to smile as yet one more of JD's lame jokes.
All he wanted was to go home, have a beer - just the one - veg out in front of the TV until he fell asleep, just get through another day. How long had it been since it had all gone wrong, he tried to think back, but it was hard, what with trying to appear to listen to the conversations taking place all around him and make the occasional comment.
**Oh come on JD, lets go home,** he silently pleaded.
He had been enjoying the last three weeks, letting Ezra romance him, woo him. He had never been on the receiving end of a real romance. They had been going out for all that time and yet physically nothing had happened beyond some kissing - damn good kissing it was true - but still just kissing. Normally, any relationship that didn't lead to a bed by the second date, was a failure in his book. Yet it didn't feel like a failure, just the opposite, he had never been happier, or so he thought until three days ago.
The concert had been great. Ezra informed him they were going in his car, Buck liked riding in the Jag so that was a good start. When he found out the concert was in Boulder he was even happier, far less chance of being found out. When he found out it was a classical concert the happiness waned. But Ezra showed him the program, some of the films mentioned he knew and so he reckoned that wouldn't be too bad, he'd been surprised by the Elgar 'Cello concerto, very pleasantly surprise. Lying back on the rug, gazing at the stars letting the music taking him on an imaginary flight over the mountains. That had been Ezra's idea.
"Just lie back and let the music carry you away," he advised. "Imagine you can fly, imagine soaring like an eagle over the land, rising and falling on the wind."
So there they lay, side by side, hands behind their heads, gazing at the star lit sky.
Then the finale, Ezra told him the story of the epic battle for Moscow and the defeat of the French by the self-sacrifice and bravery of the Russian people and the awesome power of the Russian winter. It wasn't that he was totally ignorant of the history, he took history at college after all, though his major was in twentieth century history. But no one had ever told him the story the way Ezra did, suddenly all those long words were put to good use. The soft southern voice conjured up a world of epic battles, fearsome Cossacks, freezing - dying troops, feats of endurance, unimaginable self-sacrifice and a flaming city. Finally the music was more than just a good tune with some cannons, it made sense, it stirred his soul, he hardly even noticed the fireworks. As a second date it was quite as emotionally charged as any roll in the hay.
Before the concert they had picnicked, supplied by Ezra. To Buck a picnic was sandwiches, potato chips, soda or beer if he wasn't driving, maybe a cold chicken leg or a candy bar. To Ezra, a picnic was champagne, sparkling water with a twist of lemon, Parma ham and melon balls, Pate de Fois Gras and melba toast, Caesar salad, cold honey glazed chicken kebabs, hand made tortilla chips and fresh avocado dip and individual summer puddings and fresh cream. That would have been enough, but come the interval, and much to Buck's amused delight, Ezra produced caramel apples.
"Ezra?" Standish looked up from stowing the rug and picnic box in the trunk of the Jag as they prepared to head back to the city.
"Yes?" he closed the trunk and came around the car to join Buck by the passenger door.
"Thank you, this evening was, well it was wonderful, I really enjoyed it," Buck confessed. He reached out and placed his hand on Ezra's neck, giving it a friendly squeeze, before he released it he let his thumb brush down Ezra's jawbone.
It was hard to tell in the poor light of the parking lot but he though he saw Ezra blush as he brushed off the thanks with a quick 'It was nothing really, you're welcome.'.
The six members of Team Seven in the Saloon decided to eat there as well, that is five of them did, Buck just went along with them. He picked his way through half a bowl of chilli, it was that, rather then anything else, that alerted his friends there was something wrong.
"Buck, you feeling okay?" Nathan asked.
Wilmington didn't look up, he was still trying to work out what he had done to upset Ezra.
"Buck?" Nathan tried again.
"Yeah Nate, what is it?" he muttered with out looking up.
Finally Buck looked up, a frown on his face. "No, why?"
"'Cause you ain't eatin'." Vin supplied.
Buck looked down at the half empty bowl. "Oh, sorry just not hungry." He pushed the bowl away from him.
"So you don't want that?" Vin clarified.
"Nah." Even before he had finished the word two hands shot toward the bowl, Vin's reflexes were a fraction quicker then JD and he claimed the prize.
"It's like living with vultures," Chris commented as Vin tucked into the left over chilli while JD scowled at him.
Buck excused himself and headed to the bathroom.
"You think it's catching?" Josiah asked.
"What?" asked JD, still scowling at Vin.
"What ever Buck and Ezra have that's making them miserable?" Nathan supplied. "JD who's Buck dating right now?"
Dunne shrugged. "Don't know, he hasn't told me anything about her, but it's been going on for about three weeks now. Maybe they broke up."
"You don't know?" Josiah asked.
"Nope, he doesn't talk about the bust-ups."
Inez came over to collect the empty glasses. "Why is Senor Buck so sad?" she asked.
"We don't know," Josiah admitted.
"And where is Senor Standish?"
"We don't know that either," Nathan informed her.
"Hah! Men, useless." With that she stalked off again.
As Chris watched her go he spied Buck coming back. "JD I think you're tired and you want to go home." He looked pointedly at the young man.
"No Chris I'm "
Josiah jabbed him in the ribs and them pointed across the bar to the dejected looking figure walking toward them.
"Oh, oh ok." He grabbed his coat and slid out of the booth as Wilmington approached. "Hey Buck, would you mind if we went home now? I'm kinda tired."
The ride home was all but silent, JD looked over at the man he considered his brother in all but blood. Either he was sick or the new romance was over, either way he wasn't about to tell JD about it. When he was upset he told Buck all about it, Wilmington always seemed to be able to see a way out of his troubles, he could always put them in perspective, and no matter how he tried to hide it big brother Buck always knew when he was sick. Driving along in silence he felt a failure. Why couldn't he seem to help his big brother the way Buck helped him?"
**Say something JD, don't just sit there in silence, do something.** He berated himself.
"I wanted to say, well, what ever it is, if I can help tell me, if it's me say so - I'll fix it, if you're sick tell someone - please."
Buck drove on in silence for a while. His first reaction was to tell JD there was nothing wrong, but that was a dumb idea. Good as he was at hiding his true feelings, hiding it from his friends, the men who knew him the best took more effort than he could summon up right now.
"Don't worry kid, it'll blow over or sort itself out soon enough."
JD hadn't expected even that much from Buck, so he was pleasantly surprised. **At least he admits there is a problem.**
"Well I'm here if you need me."
The third date was where things got serious. Ezra asked Buck out to dinner. He debated long and hard about the choice of restaurant. It had to be someplace where they would both feel comfortable. That cut out most of Ezra's usual favourites, he doubted Buck was a fan of formal French cuisine, much less the formal restaurants Ezra favoured. That said he had no intention of putting on his one pair of jeans and going to some road side steak house, where no doubt the ambient music would be a cacophony of country and western with accompanying yelling and shouting. They both liked Italian, but some how he didn't associate Italian food with formal dining, and besides they'd done Italian, so he chose Chinese instead.
The Chef Peking stood just outside the city to the south, overlooking a lake. Ezra knew his friend liked Chinese food, he had seen him eat it before, but that was always a takeout, which he would consume from the carton with a fork. Standish suddenly had a crisis of confidence that Buck couldn't use chop sticks and would be embarrassed, the Chef Peking was not a place that supplied forks, not unless you asked anyway. This fear was quickly quelled as Buck manipulated the wooden sticks like a pro, far better than Standish who always fancied himself rather good at it.
"You appear to be rather proficient at that," he commented as Buck efficiently picked up some more crispy beef.
A warm smile spread over the tall man's face, his eyes twinkled that little bit more. "Worked Christmas vacations in the kitchen at a Chinese restaurant - washing up, back in Vegas, when I was a kid, free meals were part of the pay," he explained.
"Did you learn any Chinese?"
"Nah, they were all third and fourth generation. More American than me, did pick up a few cuss words but I can't remember them now. Sing Dan Fi Lor, that I do remember, not that it's a lot of use."
"And that means what?"
"Happy Christmas, see told you it wasn't much use, not yet anyway."
"Tell me something else, how does one use these," Ezra lifted his chopsticks. " to eat one of these?" He indicated his pancake roll.
Buck smiled, he put down his own chopsticks, and reached across the table. "Ah, well there is a special technique to that, let me show you." With that he picked up the spring roll. "You use yer fingers, do not try to eat pancake roll with chopsticks, life's too short." He held it up to Ezra, who hesitated, and then closed his mouth around the proffered delicacy. As he watched those wonderfully full and sensual lips close around the thick juicy pancake role he imagined something else in Ezra's mouth, something Ezra could suck on.
Maybe Ezra had the same idea, because he held the pancake roll in his mouth a long time before he bit down, which he did with deliberate slowness. Buck reluctantly placed he remaining roll back in Ezra's bowl. He withdrew his hand and, knowing full well Ezra was watching, sucked on each greasy finger. Remembering their first meal Buck slipped off his shoe and ran one toe up Ezra's shin under the table as they ate.
The meal was almost over, Buck was eating the last of the beef in black bean sauce. Suddenly he looked up. "Ezra how did you know, I mean about me? I would have thought that given my reputation "
Now it was Ezra who was grinning evilly. "Well it was Mr Larabee."
"He told you?" Buck asked incredulously, shocked and dismayed that Chris would betray that particular trust.
"No, no not intentionally, it was Memorial Day, he was drunk," Ezra soothed. "He let slip that I might be surprised who you would take to bed, that you were a man of wide tastes."
"Well he's right."
"It was music to my ears. Did you and he ?"
Buck looked at him sideways. "No, I would have liked it, made a move once, but he said no. I was so scared, thought my career was over, but he never mentioned it again, our relationship was the same."
"And since then?"
"A few one night stands, nothing serious, it's not that I prefer women, I enjoy both - equally, but it is safer with women, easier."
Ezra knew that was true enough, the trouble was women weren't an option as far as he was concerned.
"Ezra?" Standish lifted he eyes to lock on to those midnight pools he already loved so much. "I'd like us, this, to have a chance, I never dated a friend, someone I know, it's "
"Yeah, it feels comfortable, it feels right. It never felt this way before, not with anyone. What I'm saying it, if you wanna give it a go, so do I."
Ezra regarded the lanky man before him. For so long his desire had been based on physical attraction. Since he believed Buck was totally straight he hadn't really given much thought to what a relationship would be like. He liked Buck, always had, sure Buck was loud and crude - at times - he didn't have much of an education, just enough to get by, and showed no interest in improving that situation, 'neat and tidy' were not words you associated with Buck. But, for all that, he was loyal to a fault, so honest it was almost painful to watch, he had a heart the size of Texas and he possibly the bravest person Ezra had ever met, or would ever meet. And Buck was a compromiser, he hated conflict, always looked for the middle ground. Ezra wondered what it was like to be loved by the man, certainly there were a lot of woman around seemed to like what ever he had to offer. And while it was true they didn't stick around long, he always seemed to be on good terms with all of them.
"I think I think we should take it slowly," he finally said, still holding Buck's eyes with his own.
"Agreed, and I want you to know, from now on, for so long as we're together, you're the only one, no women," Buck promised.
Ezra knew that was no idle promise, Buck didn't make promises he couldn't or wouldn't keep. He also knew what a sacrifice it was, he had seen Buck when a pretty girl came into sight, he was a man for whom women were almost an addiction.
As Ezra sat on his couch, toying with the omelette he had just made, he remembered that meal and that conversation. Every word of it, and that just made the betrayal worse. To his knowledge Buck had never betrayed anyone - except him, which made it worse.
**Big, loyal, honest Buck. Ah! Who do you choose to lie to and betray? Me, that's who. And why not? Everyone else does, why should you be different? Because you should be, damn it! Because you said you wouldn't do that. Because I love you, I thought you loved me. I could almost hear the words on your lips, you were going to say it - and if you had? A lie, another damn lie, just like everyone else!**
Safe behind his own walls, safe from the prying eyes of world that had betrayed him and hurt him, Ezra dropped his mask of indifference and cried out if despair, tears falling unchecked down his cheeks as sat there in a dark and empty apartment.
Buck's apartment wasn't empty, but it might as wall have been, he could hear JD moving about downstairs, from the sound of it he was washing up. There was about three days worth of breakfast things in the sink, so it would take him a while to rinse them off and load the dishwasher. Given their collective dislike of all domestic chores the purchase of a dishwasher had become a necessity rather than a luxury. That JD was doing it silently, and voluntarily, was a sure sign he was worried about Buck. He hadn't meant to worry the kid, or anyone. If they could all see he was upset about something he was losing his touch, and that just proved how much the relationship had come to mean to him.
The first dates had been so good, he had never had someone lead him in romance, he had never left it to the other person to make the arrangements, choose the venues and pay for everything. Not that he hadn't offered to pay, but Ezra had insisted and Buck let him, knowing he could afford it easily and seeing how much pleasure it gave him. Making Ezra happy made Buck happy. After the Chinese meal they had driven back to Ezra's place so Buck could pick up his truck. That was their first real kiss, there in the parking garage under Ezra's building.
"I had a great time, thank you," Buck had whispered as they stood beside his vehicle.
"It was my pleasure, I too had a wonderful time."
Buck had repeated the gesture he had used after the concert, placing his hand on Ezra's neck, stroking his jaw with his thumb. This time Ezra relaxed into the caress more, tilting his head to gain more contact.
"Mmm, that's nice," he confessed.
With that invitation, Buck lent down and brushed his lips against Ezra's, just very gently, seeing how the younger men would react. Ezra was eager for contact, he opened his mouth that little bit more and Buck's tongue slipped in. It wasn't a deep kiss, it didn't last long, but its significance was enormous and the memory of it and the look on Ezra's face as he pulled back would live on in Buck's heart forever.
Much as he was enjoying being wooed, Buck felt he had to do something, he had to ask Ezra out someplace, introduce Ezra to something he enjoyed. So two days after the kiss in the garage he asked Ezra if he would come fishing with him.
"Fishing?" Ezra enquired, trying not to sound horrified.
"Trust me?" Buck asked, using his version of the JD 'puppy dog look'.
Ezra had agreed - eventually.
Ezra had been fishing once before - once. A stepfather, he wasn't sure which one or whether he was an official stepfather or just an unofficial one, unofficial ones were even more temporary then the official ones, had taken him. Young Ezra, he was about nine, had fallen at the first fence - baiting the hook. His stepfather called him a wimp and refused to do it, so Ezra had spent the rest of the day sitting in the man's car while he fished. Even as Buck pulled up in front of his apartment he was steeling himself to bait a hook.
**For goodness sake, Standish, small children do this all the time, get a grip man!**
He had a long time to worry about it too, they drove for at least an hour then set out to hike to the river. Ezra didn't mind too much, Buck was carrying most of the equipment, it was a nice day. However when the guide turned of the well-defined trail after about half an hour he began to worry.
"Um, Buck where are we going?" he asked as Buck led them through the woods, following no trail that Ezra could see.
"To the river, where else?"
"Oh, what - may one ask - was wrong with the trail?"
"Don't go were we're going."
"The trail post clearly said 'River'." Ezra pointed out.
"Wrong bit of river." Buck stopped and turned around. Ezra had to stop himself gasping at the sight, before him. Buck, figure hugging, faded jeans, ripped at the knee, red tee shirt, huge pack on his back, looking flushed and happy, a fine sheen of perspiration on his face, making it glow in the soft, dappled, woodland sunlight. "Trust me?"
**Oh God yes, what ever you say, just don't move.** "Of course, lead on MacDuff."
Buck's bit of river was worth the hike, Ezra had to admit that. It was shallow, running crystal clear over a pebble river bed, the trees lining it weren't so dense that sunlight didn't penetrate. Long shafts pushed past the lush vegetation to illuminate the river in pools of light. Ezra had been carrying the rods, Buck carried everything else. As Standish watched him unpack, his apprehension began to build, but as yet he hadn't seen a box of jolly little white maggots. Than as the last box was opened, his stomach gave a little jump, not of fear or revulsion, but joy - flies, they were going fly-fishing!
Once everything was set up Buck turned to him. "So? You ever done this?"
"No, not once, show me."
It was music to Buck's ears. "Come here, I'll show you how to cast."
Ezra found out he actually liked fly fishing, after all royalty did it, why not him? He enjoyed the mental challenge as much as the physical skills required. But what he liked most was Buck teaching him to cast. Wilmington stood behind him, arms around him, large hands covering his, their bodies pressed close together, Wilmington's warm breath on his cheek as he coached him and taught him to flick the rod back and then forward to cast fly out over the river. He revelled in the close contact, conjuring up one erotic scene after another. Whether it was these or simple incompetence, he didn't know, but his tutor had to coach him through the process many time before he got it right.
By the time they stopped for lunch - having started out very early - they were both happy, tired and hungry, even though they hadn't caught a single fish. Once the cold beef sandwiches, chips and soda - cooled in the river - had been consumed, they lay back on the soft moss covered bank for a siesta. Ezra lay at right angles to Buck, his head resting on the lanky man's stomach. He couldn't think of anywhere else he wanted to be.
"That first time, in the restaurant," Ezra suddenly said.
"Yes," Buck responded lazily.
"You didn't seemed surprised, when I did what I did."
"No, not really, you'd been coming on to me for a long time."
"I wasn't sure you'd noticed."
"I noticed, I didn't want to do anything, I wanted to see if you would make a move, didn't want to scare you off."
"Before I made a move, did you know, about me?"
"Yeah I knew."
"Not sure about the others, not JD, he's have said something. Chris, probably, drunk or not he doesn't let information like that just slip out."
Ezra rolled over to gaze at the man he loved, who reached out a hand and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Do we really have a chance to make this work? I mean with our jobs, the guys, the world at large?" he asked.
Buck sat up, pulled Ezra up and claimed his lips, kissing him long and deep, a passionate, sensual, erotic, claiming kiss, finally he pulled back, gazing down at a rather dazed Standish, eyes glazed, lips swollen, cheeks flushed.
"Do you care?"
"No, I guess not could we could you? Again? Please?"
Buck lowered his mouth to Ezra's, running his large hand over the smaller man's powerful frame.
"God you're beautiful," Buck breathed between kisses.
"Ain't exactly ugly yourself, my love." There, he had said it, the 'L' word, it just slipped out. Evan as Buck was kissing him he was waiting for the rejection, the denial, but it never came.
They didn't fish any more that day, they talked, kissed and snuggled, but mostly they talked.
Buck had given up pretending nothing was wrong, he was monosyllabic at breakfast, and sullen and perfunctory at work. Ezra, no less sullen, came into work, late as usual. Between dates they had e-mailed each other, at work and at home. Questions, sentiments, endearments, jokes, observations. Still desperate to find out what had gone wrong, Buck tried once more to communicate with Ezra.
TO firstname.lastname@example.org FROM email@example.com
PLEASE TELL ME WHAT I HAVE DONE. GIVE ME A CHANCE.
He received no response, so he tried again.
TO firstname.lastname@example.org FROM email@example.com
PLEASE EZRA, I CAN'T BEAR THIS. I DON'T WANT THIS TO BE OVER. WHAT EVER IT IS I'M SORRY, SO SO SORRY. LOOK I CAN'T FIX IT IF YOU DON'T TELL ME I'M SUPPOSED TO HAVE DONE.
Still there was no response, Standish pointedly didn't even look up to take in the pleading dark blue eyes he knew were boring into him. Finally he tried one more time.
TO firstname.lastname@example.org FROM email@example.com
EZRA P STANDISH DO YOU NOT KNOW I LOVE YOU.
This got a response, Ezra raised his head from his desk and looked at Buck. There was a question in his eyes, it said, **Do you mean that?** The response to his unspoken question was a slow nod of the head, then after what seemed like an age, but was only a second or two, Ezra's head dropped back down.
TO firstname.lastname@example.org FROM email@example.com
HOW CAN I BELIEVE YOU AFTER YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME SO?
TO firstname.lastname@example.org FROM email@example.com
ME BETRAY YOU? WHEN? HOW? I'M NOT A FUCKING MIND READER YOU KNOW? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT.
Ezra looked up. He did want to give him a chance, he really did, Wilmington looked genuinely confused and angry. If Buck wanted to continue to deny the truth, well he would just present him with the evidence. Ezra wasn't going to make a scene in the office, this would be resolved - one way or another - in private.
"What is up with those two?" Josiah asked Chris as the two of them stood in Chris' office doorway.
"Not sure, what are they doing anyway?"
"E-mailing each other."
"How the hell should I know?"
"You're the one with the psychology degree. Did you find out anything about Agent Parker?"
Josiah looked sideways at his boss. "That man is possibly the most boring person I ever researched, do you know what is speciality is?"
Chris shook his head.
"Oh the excitement," Chris quipped. "Is there some way we can find out what they're talking to each other about?"
Sanchez looked back at the two men in question. "Technically, morally or legally?"
"Probably, no, yes."
"So we are assuming their black moods are connected?" Chris asked.
"I would say so, yes. Maybe Buck breaking up with his latest girlfriend has something to do with Ezra?"
Chris raised an incredulous eyebrow. "Ezra? A girl?"
"Well maybe not. I suppose it is a girl Buck's been seeing, I mean it couldn't they couldn't be - could they?"
That scenario hadn't occurred to Chris, thought why he wasn't sure, it wasn't like he didn't know about Buck's tastes.
"Well that that is a possibility, well, well, well, looks like the course of true love isn't running so smooth."
"What do you want to do about it - boss?"
Chris wasn't entirely sure. "Give them until after the weekend, if they haven't worked it out by then, you and I will knock some heads together." That said he turned back to look at the older man. "So are you coming out to the ranch tonight?
"You know I am. Have you been a good boy?"
"I think so."
"Well, we will have to see what kind of treat I can come up with as a reward, won't I." With that he gave Chris a playful tap on his tight jean clad butt as he walked passed him and into the office. Suddenly he looked back. "Did you and Buck ever ?" he asked.
Chris smiled at his lover. "Nope, he offered, I said no, then I met Sarah, it never came up again - I have to admit I have often wondered what would have happened, but I was scared and we were partners, so I said no."
Ezra agreed to meet Buck at his apartment that evening. Ezra had a spacious corner apartment in one of the best residential areas of the city. That Ezra had a private income and a large portfolio was common knowledge. Even so Buck always felt a little out of place in the immaculate apartment, with its inches deep pile carpets, and white leather couches and antique dinning table and chairs. That little voice inside Buck that told him he was out of his class nagged at him. But he did love Ezra, he was more sure of it every minute of every hour that passed. By the time he was ringing Ezra's doorbell his stomach was in a knot, it didn't help that he hadn't really eaten for a couple of days and not at all that day.
"Hi," he said in a neutral tone as his host opened the door.
Silently, Ezra stepped aside so he could step into the apartment. Buck stood nervously in the living room gazing out through the huge glass doors over the balcony to the city beyond with its backdrop of mountains. There was no invitation to sit, no offer of a drink as Standish closed the door and came in. What he did do was toss a plain manila envelope onto the glass coffee table.
"What's that?" Buck asked.
"Why don't you take a look?" The invitation was tossed out curtly, the anger barely covered by simple civility.
Reluctantly, Buck stooped to pick up the offered documents, he just knew he wasn't going to like what he found. He didn't. Inside were a dozen eight by ten colour photos of a couple - eating in a restaurant, holding hands over the table, sharing a dessert, embracing in the car lot, kissing in the car, entering an apartment building and, most damming, the man at the apartment window, shirtless, drawing the curtains. He was the man.
"I didn't ask for fidelity, you offered it. But, I did expect you to keep that promise." Ezra stated coldly. "I think you should leave now."
"How the hell did you get these?" Buck demeaned to know, making no attempt to move.
"That's got nothing to do with it, please leave my home." Ezra stepped back to the door and held it open.
"The hell it doesn't! You been spying on me? Who do you think you are? I trusted you, I promised you I wouldn't look at anyone else while we were together and you didn't believe me!" Buck was now pacing angrily. "You had someone follow me? You accuse me of betrayal? What the hell is this, if not betrayal, all I asked was that you trust me, and you spy on me?"
For a moment Ezra was going to answer, but he didn't - why should he? He had nothing to explain.
"This is pointless, I should have known it couldn't work." With that Wilmington strode out through the open door; which Ezra slammed it behind him.
Buck was mad as hell. His temper, while rarely seen, was intense and even violent once unleashed. He knew he was close to losing it with Ezra and his only option was to leave before something happened that he would always regret. Even as he got into his truck he could feel his anger dissipating. That was the way it always was, it was as sudden and violent as a summer storm and was over as fast, but in its wake was desolation. He sat in the cab of the truck in lonely silence, feeling more alone than he ever had. He, like Ezra, was no stranger to betrayal, but unlike Ezra he had tried not to let it colour the way he viewed the world. Buck, the eternal optimist, always told himself the actions of one or two people shouldn't colour his view of the rest of the world. Now he wasn't so sure.
He looked at his hands and found them shaking. He hadn't had many serious relationships, none with men, and he'd never told anyone he loved them, the intensity of the emotions was all but overwhelming him. He had believed Ezra when he said he loved him, there had only been two other people who told Buck Wilmington they loved him and mean it, his Ma and Adam Larabee and they were both dead, taken from him violently and much too soon. He had lived without that kind of love all these years, until three short, wonderful weeks ago, when a friend, a man he already cared deeply for, became so much more then a friend.
And now? Now it was slipping away from him, like sand running through his fingers.
"Oh Ezra, why didn't you just trust me?" he lamented as tears ran down his cheeks.
"Larabee," Chris answered the phone breathlessly after sprinting in from the barn.
"Um, hi Chris it's JD. Have you seen Buck?"
Instantly a warning bell went of in Chris' head. "No, why?"
"Well he didn't come home last night so I reckoned he's sorted it out with his girl or found someone else, you know Buck, he's always "
"JD, get to the point," Chris cut in.
"Well the cops called, they found his truck abandoned on the side of the highway this morning, it was out of gas, but there's no sign of Buck, I was just hoping?"
"No I haven't seen him, what's happening now?"
"Well, one of the cop's is gonna take me out to the truck with a can of gas and I'll bring it back here. I've checked all the hospitals and the saloon, but there's no sign of him."
"Ok, give me the truck's location, and tell the cops to stay away from it, I'll call Vin and Nathan, get them to meet us there, see what they can find"
As soon as he'd hung up on JD, Chris called Ezra on his cell phone, but it was switched off, then he called his apartment but the answer machine was on. That didn't necessarily mean the man wasn't in, he habitually turned it on at the weekend.
"Standish, if you're there pick up look all I want to know is, is Buck there? JD's worried about him. Ezra? Damn it man, pick up." But there was no repose. Next he called Josiah, feeling slightly guilty, the older man could only just have reached his own home.
"Miss me already?" the deep baritone voice said, clearly having recognised the incoming number.
"Of course, but actually I need you to go round to Standish and see if Buck's there." Chris went on to explain the rest.
"I'll call you when I know something. Be a good boy and play nice," he added playfully.
"Yes dad, I'll call you if we find him."
Sanchez didn't live far from Ezra and was outside his apartment within fifteen minutes. He rang the doorbell, no response, he rang again, still no response. The Jag was in the garage, he'd checked that before he went up to the top floor apartment. Then he banged on the door, huge fists pounding on the door.
"Standish! Open up," he bellowed.
It took three attempts and at least one curious neighbour sticking their head out of the next door apartment before the undercover agent appeared at the door.
"What is so important that you have to disturb my Saturday lie-in Mr Sanchez?" Ezra asked, glaring balefully up at Sanchez. He was dressed only in a silk robe, his hair unbrushed and the faint smell of stale whisky on his breath.
"Is Buck here?" Josiah asked, seeing no point in beating about the bush.
"No, why the hell should he be?" There were no fancy words, and the anger was clear to any one who happened to be listening.
"I'm just checking, JD can't find him. You didn't answer when Chris called, that's all. Look my cell is short on battery power, mind if I use your phone to call him?" Sanchez lied smoothly.
"Oh, well I guess not." Standish stepped aside to let him enter.
That Ezra had been drinking was clear, there was an open, and all but empty, bottle of bourbon on the coffee table, the cap still had the freshly torn paper tab on the side, so it had been full when he started drinking. The state of the couch indicated Standish might have slept there for at least some of the night.
"Why are you looking for him?" Ezra asked as Josiah headed for the phone.
Sanchez explained briefly. "Well he will no doubt turn up. Mr Wilmington is exceptionally good at looking after himself, I'm going to get dressed."
Sanchez sighed, as he sat down and picked up the hands free set. "I'm getting too old for this," he commented to himself as he dialled.
Once he had made the call, he sat back, only then did he spot the corner of the brown envelope under the other couch. He stretched down and pulled it out. For some time he debated what to do. **Oh hell, ethics be damned,** he commented silently, and took a look inside.
He was still looking at the pictures when Ezra returned.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded angrily.
Most people would have panicked, blustered, put the offending pictures down hastily, but not Josiah. He sat there calmly regarding the images of Buck Wilmington doing what he did best - romancing a beautiful woman - and his angry young friend. Josiah had always had somewhat paternal feelings toward Ezra, seeing him as a lost soul adrift in the world.
"Oh Ezra," he said sympathetically, "Is this what it has all been about, the bad feelings between you and Buck, the sudden silences, the black looks and frantic e-mails?"
Ezra walked into the room, and took the pictures from Sanchez's hand.
"I have no idea what you are talking about sir, are you finished?" he asked.
"I am, but I'm not going anywhere, this needs to be resolved Ezra, it's effecting your work, Chris wants it sorted out."
"Chris? What gives him the right?"
"He's the boss, that is what gives him the right, if two members of his team are involved in a 'relationship' and it's affecting their work, he has the right to interfere."
"What the hell are you insinuating, that Mr Wilmington and I ? That I am gay? How dare you!"
"Oh for God sake Ezra stop it! I know you're gay, Chris knows you're gay, for all I know all the others know. Ezra, it doesn't matter, Chris doesn't mind, I don't mind, it just isn't an issue. I don't know about the others, but I'm willing to bet they don't mind either. And I know about Buck. So what am I expected to think? JD says there is someone new in Buck's life, but he's not talking, then it's over. You're both suddenly not speaking and as miserable as sin. You won't come to the saloon, Buck's not eating, you two are e-mailing each other and exchanging meaningful looks. Please, give me some credit here. Sit down man, and tell me what's going on." His voice softened. "Come on, maybe I can help?"
Ezra didn't move, he just stood there staring.
"Did he promise to give up women for you? Then he went back on his word?" Sanchez gestured to the pictures. "He betrayed your trust?"
Finally Ezra nodded.
JD was already at the roadside beside Buck's stranded truck when a convoy of Team Seven vehicles turned up. Chris' Ram, followed by Nathan's SUV and finally Vin's old Jeep.
"So how long do the cops think the truck's been here?" Chris asked JD.
"Well they had the first report at about six this morning, but they didn't investigate 'till nearly nine."
"Typical," Vin commented.
Nathan was already looking over the truck.
"You find anything?" Chris called.
"He had a gas can in the back, but it's gone," Nathan informed them, sniffing the residue he found on his fingers.
"Gone where?" JD asked looking around.
"There." Vin pointed out across the apparently empty scrub-land beside the highway.
Chris came to stand beside the sharpshooter and raised his binoculars.
"Ya see it, old man?" Tanner teased.
"Gas station on another road?"
"You sure you ain't part eagle? How the hell did you see that?"
Vin just smiled. "Trade secret."
"But I can't see it without glasses, could Buck?" Chris asked.
"He could at night, if it was lit up," Nathan speculated.
"So he was here earlier than six and set out to walk to the gas station?" JD asked.
"Reckon so, but once you get into that hollow yonder," Tanner pointed toward a slight dip in the ground ahead of them. " you won't be able to see the other road or the gas station."
"There's no way Buck could see that hollow in the dark," JD pointed out, suddenly getting worried.
They set out to track Buck, with Vin in the lead searching for tracks. It took about half an hour for the Texan to pick up the trail, it was faint at first, just the odd boot print in on the sun baked ground, occasional broken twigs. To start with it lead in a straight line, toward the gas station, then it began to stray to the left, then weave about all over the place. The trail became clearer, Buck had begun to walk straight through the bushes not around them and the trail was now leading back to the highway rather than toward the gas station on the other road. It took two hours in total to locate their missing team member. He was lying on his side under a sage bush, and for a moment they all thought the worst, as Nathan rushed forward.
"Buck," he called, giving the huddled figure a little shake. " you hear me? Come on open your eyes for me." He shook him again.
"Mmm?" Buck muttered.
"Come on man, time to wake up," Nathan breathed with relief.
"Asleep! He's just asleep?" JD asked incredulously.
The other two just looked on as the tall man sat up stiffly, he gazed around himself squinting in the bright sunlight. But Nathan was concerned when he didn't speak and continued to look dazed.
"Buck?" Nathan tried to get his attention. "Come on look at me buddy."
Confused and unfocused eyes finally zeroed in on Nathan. "Nate?"
"Yeah, you okay?"
Buck frowned, looked over at the other three and started to get up, but only made it half way up before his knees gave out.
"Whoa there big guy, just sit down here a moment." Nathan pulled his first aid kit from his shoulder. They could all see the cuts and grazes Buck had picked up stumbling around in the dark, but they were all minor, Nathan would have been happy to leave the small wounds alone until he got Buck back to civilisation. Now he pulled out a small hand held blood sugar monitor. "Buck I'm just gonna prick your finger - okay?"
Wilmington didn't respond and seemed more than a little dazed, he didn't react, nor did he resist when Nathan took his hand and using an automatic 'pen' pricked his little finger and used the small balloon of blood that welled up to smear a test strip, which he inserted into the monitor. There were a few bleeps then the reading appeared.
"Oh shit!" Nathan swore. "Vin, JD, either of you two got some candy on you?"
"Candy?" they echoed.
"Yer, come on, his blood sugar's on the floor."
Vin and JD instantly thrust their hands in their pockets, coming up with some M&M's and a rather squashed Twinky.
Buck had begun to sink back down to the ground, and it took JD holding him up and Nathan chivvying and encouraging, to get him to eat the sugar laden candy. Vin ran back to his Jeep, where he had some Coke, and Chris moved the Ram up the highway so that it was closer to Buck. The Coke worked fast and finally Buck began to react to the men around him. Supported by Nathan and Chris they got him back to the Ram.
"Does he need to go to hospital?" Chris asked.
"I'm fine," Buck protested from the cab, were he sat, head supported by the seat, eyes closed.
"Famous last words," Nathan commented. "Can you take him back the ranch? I'll follow you and check him out there, we'll see then."
The Team Seven convoy set out now with Buck's truck in the line and relocated to Chris' place. Once there, Nathan made Buck drink some more soda and eat most of a pack of cookies he'd instructed Vin to purchase on route. He cleaned and where necessary dressed Wilmington's many small wounds and stood over him while he ate a meal of pasta that Chris had made before he let him go back to sleep.
"Well?" Larabee asked as Jackson came out of the guestroom, closing the door quietly behind him.
"If he can stay here today and tonight, rest, plenty of sugary fluids and high carbohydrate food, then I don't think he needs to go to hospital. I'll come over tomorrow and check him out," the medic explained.
"No problem, I'll take care of it."
Once the others had left, Chris picked up his messages, there was one from Josiah.
"I'm at Ezra's, heads need to be knocked together - or rather one head needs to be knocked, call me at Ezra's as soon as you get this."
Chris looked over at the closed door to the guestroom. "Damn Buck, what did you do?"
After a few hours sleep, some sandwiches and juice Buck was feeling - apart from being a bit stiff and sore - fine, well enough for Chris to confront him with the Ezra situation. He didn't deny the relationship but that was as far as it went.
"What ever is going on between us, is just that, between us. You do not have the right to interfere!"
"Yes I do, you're both on my team and it's affecting your work. Look, what happened to you last night, what if that had happened while we were on a bust or stake out? God forbid it happened while you were undercover. This has to be settled and now. Ezra is coming over and it will be settled one way or another."
Wilmington fumed. Who the hell did Chris think he was - his father? Well Buck Wilmington had never had a father and he as hell sure didn't need one now.
"You're out of line Chris, way out of line. We're friends, you're my boss, end of story. My personal life is just that, mine and no one else's - got it! I am going home, if Nate wants to see me send him to my place."
With that he stormed out, only to walk straight into Sanchez, coming in. One large hand landed squarely in his chest and propelled him back into the house.
"Oh no, you don't leave now," he announced.
"The hell I don't." Buck made to move past Sanchez. Only to be blocked again. "Stay out of this preacher," he ground out, yet even as he spoke, he could hear the Jag pull into the driveway. "Ezra?" he all but whispered. Now as he went toward the door Sanchez didn't try to stop him.
Standish stood beside the car making no move to close the gap between himself and the man who had betrayed him. Yet he couldn't help but see the scratches on that handsome face, and despite his anger he had been distressed to hear about Buck's collapse, now he could see the injuries it brought it home to him. Despite everything he couldn't bear the idea of losing Buck, he was haunted by the thought that, theoretically, Buck could have died.
"You okay?" he asked.
Chris and Josiah followed Buck out. Sanchez walked on until he stood between the two men. "You," he looked at Buck, "will listen to him, without interrupting and then he," he looked at Ezra, "will listen to you, - though what you are going to say I don't know."
"And until you get this sorted out, one way or another, you're both suspended," Chris informed them.
"What!" Buck turned to face his boss. "You can't justify that!"
"Yes I can, so listen and talk, both of you."
Once the two older men had retreated inside, Buck and Ezra stood in silence. Finally it was Wilmington who gestured to the barn.
Once inside they greeted their mounts, it was what they normally did, both of them taking solace in the unconditional affection the horse bestowed on them. Max's large grey head almost instantly began to nod, he eyes half closed in bliss as Buck stood before him stroking both sides of his powerful neck. Chaucer was more demanding, snuffling at Ezra's pockets for a treat, a treat he didn't have.
"I'm sorry my fine friend I have no gift for you today," Standish whispered.
Even as he was speaking a hand appeared beside him, it held a few pellets of dry horse feed.
"Thank you," he said softly as he took the food for his horse.
"I'm listening," Buck said equally softly, as Ezra continued to fondle the now placated Chaucer
Ezra didn't look at Buck as he began to speak. "I didn't take the pictures, nor did I employ anyone to take them, I did not, nor would I ever spy on you," he started. "When Special Agent Parker returned of our pre court meeting, he brought them with him. He was most amused that it was you he had captured on film."
Ezra remembered vividly the look of amused glee on Parker's face as he pulled the pictures out. He seemed genuinely thrilled that is sideline as a professional snoop had caught the infamous Buck Wilmington in 'action'. It had taken every ounce of Ezra's professional skill to stop the emotions showing. To not give the obnoxious little weasel the satisfaction of even one reaction.
"What the hell are the FBI taking pictures of me for!" Buck demanded to know.
"Calm down, they're not, Parker was, on his own. A friend of his, a fraternity brother I believe." Ezra all but shuddered, Parker had ask him if he had pledged in college. The mere idea of pledging had been out of the question for young Ezra, there was no way he could have lived in a frat house with all that that entailed, the very idea was quite horrifying. "He asked Parker, who is something of an expert in photography, to find out if his wife, who is also his partner in a law firm, was having an affair. Seems she is - doesn't it?" he accused, finally turning to look at Buck.
"It's not what it looks like " Buck stared angrily.
"Really, to me they look like they are the pictures of you with a married woman not seven days ago in Colorado Springs. What does it look like to you?"
"Complicated? I've never heard it called that. Base, primeval, lewd, common, but not complicated."
"Please, it's not what you think," Buck persisted.
"Oh don't tell me, it meant nothing, it was just sex, you don't love her, she means nothing to you, you love me."
"I do love you, I do. But she doesn't mean nothing to me, if she did I wouldn't have done what I did." Ezra hadn't expected that, he was expecting the denial. "Her name is Fiona, Fiona Wayland, well it is now, when I first knew her it was Fiona Kelly, my Irish rose." He looked at Ezra, begging not so much for forgiveness, as for a chance to tell his side of the story. Those eyes could melt the stoniest heart, and Ezra was no exception.
"Well you had better explain it to me," he offered.
"Fiona and I met while I was a cop, she was a public defender, we went out a few times, then she got a better job and moved to Colorado Springs. If I was there or she was here we used to get together, just for fun - that was all."
"You mean sex," Ezra clarified.
"Yeah, sex. Look, Ezra, it isn't like you don't know me, before us, I dated - a lot. I know dozens of women who I have - used to have - occasional fun sex with, that all it was, two adults having fun. Fiona was one of them, up until about five years ago."
"She met a guy, another lawyer, it was serious - David Wayland. They got married two years ago, gave up their jobs and opened their own law practice. That's when it all went wrong. Once they were married he changed, he became fanatically possessive, an obsessive freak. He tried to stop her going out without him, he wouldn't pass on messages from her friends, he even hid her personal mail. Would you believe he told her mother, her own mother, she wasn't welcome in their home?" Ezra had heard of similar cases and he knew well with what regard Buck held all mothers, even - God help him - Maude. "So six months ago she left him, packed her bags and left, even though half the house is hers. But he won't accept it. He calls her all the time, he's been stalking her, hanging around her new apartment, talking to her friends as if nothing has happened. He won't give her a divorce, won't buy out her half of the practice or let her sell it, same with the house, doesn't even reply to letters, if she calls him or speaks to him in person, he just ignores what she's saying and carries on talking about the something else. She doesn't want to take out a restraining order if she can help it, it doesn't look good if you're a lawyer and you can't sort out your own disputes. So she asked me to help her. She was sure he was following her or having someone follow her, so we put on a show for them. Prove to David that she really had broken up with him, shatter his delusion that she would come back. All her savings are in the law practice, she's liable for half a mortgage on a house she doesn't live in. What could I do, say no?"
He looked at Ezra, pleading silently with him to understand and believe him.
"So you're saying the pictures are all a lie?" Standish asked.
"All of it, I spotted the guy with the camera, he was good, but not that good." Buck was a surveillance expert. It dawned on Ezra he should have considered that. The pictures were of such a quality that the photographer must have been relatively close. That an expert like Buck hadn't noticed someone taking pictures of him so openly, was unlikely at best, in all honesty impossible. "I slept on the couch I swear," Buck assured.
"Why didn't you tell me about all this when it happened?" Ezra asked.
"I didn't even think about it, I had to go to Colorado Springs anyway - you remember the consult on the weapons the cops found?"
Ezra had forgotten that, the local police had found a cache of arms in a house they had broken into when the owner died. Some they couldn't identify, some had been modified, they had asked for an ATF agent to come down and look at them, Buck was assigned the job.
"It was just lucky that it all worked out so conveniently, that's all. I came back in the morning, went to work - in all honesty, I think you're the reason I didn't mention it, too busy thinking about you love."
"Did she?" Ezra seemed to be floundering. "Did you tell her, about us?"
Buck smiled, the old twinkle back in his eyes. "Yeah I did, think I bored her, you were all I talked about."
"What did she say?"
"She was happy for us, told me to get a move on and not let you slip away." Buck took a step closer. "We both jumped to conclusions, and we didn't trust each other, forgive me?"
Now it was Ezra who closed the distance between them. "Only if you forgive me, I was the one who jumped to conclusions, if I had just asked you, this could all have been avoided. We have lost so much time." He reached up one soft, sensitive finger to trace the worse of the scratches on Buck's cheek.
"I guess what they say about degrees of separation," Buck commented, revelling in the Ezra's caress. " is right."
"In what way?"
"You know Parker, he knows Wayland, Wayland is married to Fiona, I know Fiona, you love me."
"That's only five degrees of separation, there are meant to be six."
"Do you really love me?"
"Oh yes, more and more each day."
By now they were so close they could feel each other breathing, Buck's hand was caressing Ezra's cheek, his fingers mirroring Ezra's, then he lowered his head joining his lips with Ezra's, which rose to meet him. Hands roamed freely as they kissed, exploring backs, hips, asses, chests. Buck's large fingers moved with surprising sensitivity and skill, slipping inside Ezra's shirt, revelling in the contact, feeling Ezra's heart beat through his palm as it rested over his chest. He felt the nipple under his hand harden as his other hand also moved under the shirt to trace Standish's spine. In response to this stimulation Ezra arched his back, pressing his body closer to Buck's. His hands ran up to Wilmington's head, carding through his luxuriant hair, keeping Buck's lips on his.
Buck was now hard, his erection pressing painfully against his jeans. Letting the hand on Ezra's back drift down and around he shamelessly cupped Ezra through his linen pants. Standish was hard, his lose pants and boxers doing little to hide it. In response Ezra moaned, gasping in a breath before he sought out the lips of the man he loved once more. Hands were becoming increasingly fanatic and bold; shirts were unbuttoned, even ripped to gain more mutual contact. Buck was just slipping his hand into the top of Ezra's pants when Chaucer, tired of being ignored, made his presence felt by head butting Buck in the side, to force him away from his master and claim some attention for himself.
Both men burst out laughing. "You sir," Ezra addressed his mount. " are a green eyed monster."
"Maybe he's telling us something? Maybe we need to move this someplace else," Buck suggested.
Ezra moved into Buck, letting his own hand roaming over Wilmington's bulging crotch. "Can you hang on 'till we get to my place?" he asked.
"Oh yes, I have a lot of self-control, believe me," Buck boasted.
"I do. We best tell the others we have resolved our differences before we leave, otherwise Mr Sanchez will be likely to do you a physical injury."
"Me? What did I do to Josiah?"
Ezra looked a little sheepish. "I told him my troubles, he can be most persuasive and understanding."
"Guess I better tell him he doesn't need to knock my block off just yet."
"I'll go ahead and get things ready," Ezra all but purred, trailing a hand across Buck's lips and down his arm as he headed for his car.
With a spring in his step and eager to head out after Ezra, Buck mounted the steps to the house two at a time, and not bothering to knock opened the door, only to stop dead in his tracks, mouth hanging open in stunned shock. There stood Josiah, his huge hands either side of Chris' jaw, tilting the blonde's head up. Chris' hands hung limp at his sides, as Sanchez guided his mouth to meet his.
"Well you sly old devils you," Wilmington commented loudly, causing the lovers to pull away suddenly.
"Buck," Chris growled dangerously.
"Oh don't worry, I ain't gonna tell anyone, well 'cept Ez. We're okay now, by the way, so we're off to his place for some hot sex. You two you carry on, don't let me stop you," he added with a wink.
With that he was gone, leaving the two of them alone.
"Oh shit," Chris finally commented.
"You think he knows, I mean really knows?" Josiah finally asked.
"Are you kidding, this is Buck we're talking about. If you could take sex as a major in college, he'd be a professor by now!"
By the time Buck made it to Ezra's the bedroom drapes were closed, candles were lit around the room and Ezra was there in the bed, apparently naked. Buck stood in the doorway breathing heavily, drinking in the luscious sight before him.
"Are you going to just stand there or join me?" Standish asked.
"I, um, yeah, that is, I need a shower, I'll I'll just be few minuets," Buck stammered out, moving slowly toward the bathroom door, reluctant to lose the vision that was Ezra.
Once in the gleaming white and chrome bathroom he made good use of the shower, noting with amusement the additional 'attachment' that had appeared. By the time he returned to the bedroom he was clean and freshly shaved, and naked, he didn't see any need for false modesty.
"Oh my," Ezra gasped.
Naked and fully erect, Buck did tend to have that effect on people and he knew it. As Buck neared the bed, Ezra sat up, the fine, crisp cotton sheets falling away to show off his own, finely chiselled body, his weeping erection jutting out at ninety degrees, from a nest of thick chestnut curls. He wasn't as long or thick as his lover, but his cock was a good length, beautifully formed and proportioned, the skin smooth and unblemished by prominent veins.
"So beautiful," Buck commented as he dropped to his knees.
"Come my love." Ezra reached out to Buck, coaxing him onto the bed. Buck allowed himself to be pushed down to lie across the bed, gazing up at Ezra as the smaller man ran a tantalising finger over his naked form, finger toying with his sparse chest hair.
Ezra reached out to the light of his life, dipping down for a long slow kiss, breaking away only to breathe, then his lips were moving, mapping, claiming, sucking, nibbling. His eager mouth found a nipple and began to suck it; his tongue circled the erect little nub. Buck was writhing, his body bathed in perspiration. Ezra moved with his lover, not once losing contact with the shuddering body he craved. As Buck lay there Ezra let his kisses trail down his body, until he encountered the principal object of his desire. With only one or two gentle caresses, just to let his partner know he was there, he took the tip into his hot, skilled mouth.
It had been a long time since he had given head, but it was like riding a bike, you never forgot how. What he had forgotten was how much he liked doing it. He liked the feel of the pulsating member in his mouth, he loved the taste of a clean cock - Buck's was scrupulously clean - and he even liked the taste of the bitter salty cum. He loved to give pleasure, to feel he had control over his partner. He was never going to be able to take all of Buck in his mouth; he was just too big, so he cupped his hands around the bottom half of the engorged penis, moving his hands in time with his mouth. Buck had been close before Ezra even touched him, and it took very stimulation before he was coming. Feet braced on the bed, hips bucking up to meet Ezra's wonderful long pulls, shooting long, powerful geysers of cum into Ezra's eager mouth, were every drop was swallowed.
Buck wasn't a vocal lover, at least when he was the one being loved, he moaned, sighed, gasped, but he rarely spoke. Ezra looked up, licking his lips with deliberate slowness.
"Buck?" he enquired worriedly, concerned the virtual silence was a reflection of his performance.
"Mmm?" Buck responded dreamily, as Ezra moved up the bed to lie beside him.
"Was that okay? I mean I haven't done it in a while "
"Oh man, okay? That was way better than okay, that was amazing. God, I love you." Yet Buck could still see doubt in Ezra's eyes. "Believe me lover, that was mind blowing. I know I know I don't say much, no shouting and pleading, it's just the way I am." He shrugged.
Ezra suddenly saw a whole new side to Buck. Here was Buck 'Stud' Wilmington, a man to whom sex as practically an Olympic sport, confessing to failure. Believing there was something wrong with him sexually.
"No my love, do not apologise, we all have our little quirks, I have learned one of yours, you will learn mine, that is what a relationship is all about - is it not?"
"Yes." Buck sighed happily and raised his head to kiss Ezra, tasting his own seed on Ezra's lips. "Let me learn how to make you happy, tell me what you want."
Ezra blushed, smiling coyly.
"I don't mind, what ever you do will be wonderful."
"I I want to be in you," he finally admitted.
"God, I thought you'd never ask."
"You mean you want to? You bottom? I some how imagined, being bi, you'd only want to top"
Buck couldn't believe Ezra could be so naive. He sat up, pulling Ezra with him. Sitting face to face he held his younger lover by the shoulders. "Ezra I switch, but I love to bottom, why wouldn't I? It's the one thing I can't do with a woman, and right now I want you in me in the worst way. Reckon you could help a guy out here?"
A smile as wide as the Grand Canyon split Standish's face, he pulled away from Buck and all but tore open the draw beside the bed, pulling out a condom and a tube of lube. Before he could react Buck had grabbed the condom in one hand, and his dick in the other. With a few deft strokes his erection, which had been flagging, was back to its ramrod straight best. Showing a degree of skill that spoke of an inordinate amount of practice, Buck opened the foil pack and rolled on the condom so fast Ezra was barely aware what had happened. Then he was kneeling in front of Ezra ginning like a loon.
Ezra didn't move or speak; he just sat there stunned.
"Ez? Love, you do know how to do this? Don't you?" Buck asked, suddenly afraid he'd been too eager. The truth was he hadn't been fucked in years and was really looking forward it.
"Oh, um yes, God yes, I mean it's been a while, but yes." He uncapped the lube. "How do you like to, you know?"
Considering this clearly wasn't going to be a long slow fuck, and they were both a little out of practice, Buck decided simple was best, so he rolled over on to his hands an knees. "Come on Ez," he encouraged, "take me!"
Swallowing with equal measures of trepidation and excitement, Ezra moved behind Buck. He ran a warm hand over the small of Buck's long back, while Buck looked over his shoulder at him smiling. With hands that were trembling he managed to squeeze out some lube on to his hand and coat his sheathed member in it before he coated his fingers. Then praying he wouldn't come too soon or hurt Buck he let one finger trail down between Buck's invitingly spread ass cheeks and over the puckered opening. There he hesitated.
"Please Ezra, do it," Buck pleaded.
Standish took courage from his lover's confidence and obvious need and pushed his finger in smoothly. In response Wilmington's back arched and he gasped. Ezra moved his finger back and then pressed forward again, seeking out that special spot within Buck. It took a few strokes, but when Buck gasped and his whole body shuddered he knew he'd found it. He still found Buck's near silence unnerving, but he reminded himself it was just the way Buck was. He eased the finger out then pushed back, adding a second finger, moving them around, though in truth Buck was already fairly relaxed.
Buck looked over his shoulder again, grinning. "Go for it Ez," he encouraged.
Thus encouraged, Standish pulled his fingers back and replaced them with the tip of his cock, which was now so swollen and aching it was becoming painful. Hesitantly he pushed forward, forcing himself not to stop when he felt Buck hiss as the muscle ring was passed. **That's normal, nearly always happens,** he reassured himself, as he pressed on.
"Oh God Buck, so tight, so hot," he gasped out.
Buck was flying, this was what he wanted, this feeling of being filled, the internal fireworks every time his prostate was hit, being loved, really loved, some how sex with love was so much more intense then sex for fun.
"Move, please," he managed to cry out.
Ezra had been happy to just revel in the feeling of being inside his lover, of the intimate contact with the man he loved. Now he began to move, thrusting back and forth, gently as first then faster and faster. On instinct Ezra reached around and took hold of Buck's cock. He had expected it to be soft and flaccid, after all he'd only just come about ten minutes before, so he was surprised to find it semi hard. Buck moaned as he pushed back against Ezra's thrusts, craving deeper penetration.
"Oh God yes, do it Buck, move for me," Ezra pleaded, as each push sent shock waves of pleasure to his cock. "Oh God Buck, oh God, oh my Lord, I'm gonna .!" And with that he came. His release was stronger and more powerful then he had ever experienced before. He collapsed forward, supported on Wilmington's broad back, barely awake.
Ezra's hand, wrapped around Wilmington's rapidly swelling member had been moving on automatic, he was barley aware of it. But that friction and the pounding of his prostate had brought Buck to full harness, and in the dying seconds of Ezra's climax he came for the second time. His orgasm coincided with Ezra's weight suddenly coming down on his back, warm, and heavy, and comforting. The release coursed through his very soul, his whole body trembled, his heaving chest making Ezra's limp body rise and fall as he lay draped over Wilmington.
"Ezra? Ezra?" he finally gasped out softly.
"You can let go now."
It took Ezra a few seconds to realise that he was still holding his lover's penis as he lay draped over his back.
"Just let go and lay beside me," Buck coached in a calm but firm voice.
In his dazed state Standish willingly followed instructions. Releasing the cock and letting himself slide out and off his lover to lay on his side. Buck lowered himself down to lay on his side facing him.
"That was wonderful, thank you," he said softly, reaching out to brush a lock of sweat drenched hair out of glazed jade eyes. Standish blinked owlishly at him. "Was it good for you?"
"Good? Oh yes my darling, my one and only, it was so good, far, far better than anything I have ever had before and even better then I imagined it would be."
"I love you Ezra P Standish, be mine forever?"
"I will, I swear it."
Ezra managed to stave of sleep long enough to get them both cleaned up and refreshed, then they slept, together in the same bed for the first time, arms and legs entwined.
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