Ivy '04: Untitled

I'm an excellent observer, though I'm rarely given credit for the trait--I think that Chris resents me my skill in this particular area, as he hates being analyzed. Josiah is renowned for his people-watching, but no one ever accuses him of baser motives--that judgment is reserved almost solely for me, on our team, and I can't help smiling a bit at how right my friends are, on that score. Oh, I can have higher motives with the best of them, but I quite enjoy my baser motives just like Buck enjoys his once-perpetual trawling for flesh. With Josiah, though, it's a part of his job, and he does it with such expertise that I've given up guarding against him.

Nathan is mythologized for his ability to spot a cold in any of us before we do, which is crap, of course, but we let him think it, because it does him good to help people. Vin is an excellent observer, though he rarely analyzes people (no doubt the reason it never bothers Chris). JD doesn't watch, but he does listen--invaluable, in a man so young.

Chris never watches; he looks. Don't ask me to describe the difference, because I can't begin to explain it.

Buck… well, there's no kind way to say it; unless he's working, Buck can be as thick as a post. The man wouldn't notice a truck driving through his living room unless the driver was armed. But he does have an eye for asses. I'd bet a thousand dollars that he could pick any one of us, and most of the people he's known, out of a line-up that showed us only from behind and from the waist down. His unadulterated joy when the first thong swimsuits began appearing at Denver-area lakes and resorts made me think we'd have to shoot him to put him out of our misery. Honestly. But it couldn't be helped, because those skimpy things too effectively emphasize his favorite part of a woman… or a man.

If you know him well, it makes all the sense in the world that he switch-hits. His mother was hardly a model of morals where sex was concerned, and growing up he had friends who were hookers or hustlers. There was no cultural obstacle whatsoever to keep him from trying whatever the hell he wanted, and Buck being Buck, must have tried everything at least twice for good measure. He claims he's more settled now than he was in his teens, which is saying a hell of a lot about the child he was.

He has never publicly claimed his bisexuality, has in fact deferred accusations on the subject with good humor or feigned ignorance, but I know a show when I see one. Besides, I've seen him flirt with men when he thought no one was looking. I can't say why he doesn't just come out, as they say, unless he thinks it would accomplish nothing; the man has never been a fan of labels, after all, past "curvy," and "pretty," "sexy" perhaps, and "kind." I imagine he thinks that all it would accomplish is to make his friends uncomfortable.

And if you know him well, then you know he never goes out of his way to do that. His tales of debauchery are a misguided attempt to entertain, not to enflame or offend. So it's quite natural that tales of bending men over don't appear in his repertoire, at least in our circles. But I know he's done it. I know he's doing it now, and with whom.

I can't say I know how I feel about it, yet.

I can't even say with certainty who else among us knows, which irritates me almost more than the fact itself. So here I sit with my teammates--my friends, though that's not a word I'd use aloud--sipping my whiskey and rolling a quarter back and forth across my knuckles, feigning boredom while I observe, and contemplate what the other know, and whether what I'm seeing is a marriage of convenience that might explain a hell of a lot about the longevity of Chris and Buck's friendship, or if it's something more.

Vin's sigh catches my attention, and I raise my eyebrows in question. Vin just shakes his head; we're all a bit somber this evening, still reeling or pissed off or just disappointed with the events of the day.

Buck screwed up. Royally. I should be more concerned about that, but a quick look around the table shows me that the others are already amply preoccupied. It's not like he needs anyone to tell him; it's written in every tense line of his body.

* * *

Buck walked back across the crowded bar carrying four beer bottles, and used his foot to shove JD's chair a good foot. "Move it, kid."

"Buck!" JD protested, digging his heels in. Buck just parked his weight on JD's chair-arm and nodded to Vin, his face unusually somber. Vin grinned, a gentle tug of lips, and pulled the extra chair in between himself and JD. Buck dropped into it before JD could kick it away.

Beers were dispensed. Chris accepted his with barely a glance; their fingers did not touch as the bottle changed hands.

"This was a good day to see the end of," Vin said, the casual words book-ending their almost-disaster. Half of them had been in court all day, testifying or waiting to testify on a bust that Chris had coordinated for them and two other teams months ago.

"Yeah," Chris said, barely audible. He leaned forward onto his elbows and clinked his beer bottle against Vin's. Buck nodded, far more somber, and spun his bottle clockwise against the ring of condensation on the table.

"Aww, come on, Buck, you did fine," JD said bracingly, opening a conversation that none of the others would. Buck had done far from fine, getting caught up in cross-examination that tripped him into statements that directly contradicted his teammates' testimonies. Buck really had messed up, and there was no telling how much the defense would be able to get out of it.

"Can't fool a fool, kid," Buck said. He wasn't one to berate himself for honest mistakes, but he was good on the witness stand, able to engage with the jury and more often than not, make defense attorneys look like petulant children. He wasn't taking this failure well, not in this case. The jury was conservative. The issue was conservative. The defendant was very conservative, and unfortunately well-known, and what would have been an open-and-shut drugs-and-guns case hung on the thin thread of public opinion.

"Josiah?" Buck's voice, plaintive, strung the one word out. "What do you think?"

Josiah had been observing, readying for his own testimony tomorrow or next week. "I think it's a challenge, but that they'll find a way to work around it."

"I was s'posed to be the star witness," Buck said, low. "Not the guy to make the defense's case."

There was nothing anyone could say to help him. He'd done damage, and he knew it.

The team held the quiet, so well that the rest of the noise in the bar seemed muted, and the only clear sounds at their table were the clink of bottles and the shifting of chairs. Buck turned his head, casting a listless eye over the bar and the little dance floor in back, before slumping an inch lower in his chair. "I'm not looking forward to tomorrow," he finally said. "Travis is gonna shit a brick when he hears about this."

"Buck?" Chris's voice brought Buck's head up, eyes searching and finding with the precision of a targeting mechanism.


Chris's head tilted. "It's what it is. Let it go." The words were flat, unemotional, but their eyes held, and after a moment Buck's chest lifted on a long sigh.

"Yeah," he said, "okay," and leaned back in his chair. His chin tilted up and his throat worked as he took two long swallows of his beer. When he brought the bottle back down to the table, his body was looser, more naturally relaxed. The tension ordered away, Buck actually smiled. "Damn, Vin, I thought Hudson was gonna make you cut your hair right on the spot," Buck joked.

It wasn't so much a joke; US Attorney Sharon Hudson was furious when she saw that Vin intended to testify in jeans and a sport jacket, hair hanging loose. Conservative juries. Conservative defendant. And Vin, hair flying and clothes unkempt, had sent her into a fit of apoplexy.

She had re-organized the order for their testimony, sending Ezra up first. Buck had gone second, still laughing, until the defense lawyer had chewed him up and spit him out. He'd been so shocked by his performance that he hadn't kidded Vin about it all day.

"Her and what army?" Vin growled.

Ezra joined in then with commentary and a longsuffering offer of his tailor's phone number, which got Chris chuckling and Vin mock-bristling, and the team righted itself, at least for the moment. Buck cast the occasional glance Chris's way, and Chris's gaze was usually there to catch it.

A half an hour and two beers later, Buck slid back his chair. "I reckon I ought to be gettin' along," Buck announced, retrieving his jacket off the back of JD's chair.

"Don't waste your night brooding, Buck," Josiah rumbled, and Buck just nodded once.

"I won't. Feelin' bad about it isn't gonna erase it." He grinned. "Maybe Sharon'll let me get back up there, try and straighten out some of it."

Josiah nodded. "Maybe."

"You gonna be home tonight?" JD asked, craning his head around.

Buck shook his head. "Nah, kid. I think I'm gonna scare up some company to console me."

"I ought to get another roommate, man. You're never home anymore."

"Now JD, you're just jealous. A smart boy would be taking advantage of the fact, and having his girlfriend over, instead of complaining about it."

JD grinned at his teammates. "Anybody hear me complaining?"

"So who is it, Buck? A string of passing fancies? Or--don't tell us you've found a steady paramour," Ezra challenged.

Buck shrugged, then grinned. "I wouldn't go that far," he joked.

"You'd hardly know how to, would you?" Chris tossed out, grumbling, then emptied his own bottle. "I might as well get on, myself," Chris said, shelling a few bills onto the table. "See you boys in the mornin'."

Chris managed to beat Buck to the door, just barely, and if either had looked back, he'd have found Ezra's eyes on them. As the door swung shut behind them, Ezra leaned forward and signaled the waitress. "Who besides me wants to get drunk tonight?"

* * *

It's certainly not my business. And the fact that three words from Chris will calm almost any emotional turmoil Buck exhibits is far from proof. Oddly, I know I can't ask him outright. If you know Buck, you'll know that, easy-going as he is, he doesn’t like it when people pry. Better to find unequivocal proof, so that when I say "When were you going to tell us," and state my case, he has the freedom to laugh, and say '"never," or "when we set the date," or some other inane Buck-ism that we've all grown accustomed to, over the years.

It makes me laugh now, to think that only Chris doesn't find those Buck-isms amusing. Have there simply been too many, over much more than a decade? Or does Chris fantasize that one day they'll stop? Now that is funny.

"What, Ez?"

Vin's crow's feet stand out when he looks like that, not quite ready to laugh or frown. I shake my head, then answer anyway.

"Chris. Have you noticed how much he hates Buck's… well, Buck-isms? Idiot aphorisms, silly turns of phrase? Things it sounds like he pulled from a cheap western novel?"

Vin laughs, and shakes his head. "Chris don't hate 'em. He just don't like to satisfy Buck by laughing at the easy ones." Vin looks toward the closed door, still smiling. "He likes to string ol' Buck along, make him work for the win, Ez. You've gotta know that."

Hmm. Perhaps I do. But I know something more, now; I'm going to get drunk enough to dilute my temptation to drive out to Chris's house, where I'm absolutely certain I would find Buck. Perhaps I'll even get drunk enough to cajole a ride home from Vin, because that canny bastard knows exactly what's what and I can't bear the idea of others having information that I don't--that, I suppose, is what makes me so damned good undercover.

I still don't know how I feel about it, nor why the idea of Chris with a man doesn't make my skin crawl, while the idea of Buck still taps in me a vague disgust. But it's mine, and not something I have any trouble hiding. That feeling is fading with time, as I test my knowledge against the way they behave, like an old married couple… more like, and I pity them both, "the Honeymooners," so certain they are of their place in the other's life that they don't waste time on care.

"What?" Vin again, eyeing me closely now. I smile blandly and lift my glass. "Let me buy you another beer, Vin." <>

As for the two of them, all I can say is that if they make each other happy, then I can be happy for them. And so far, they seem good. I wouldn't lay bets yet as to whether it will stay that way, given how they spark fires off each other, but odds change with time and events, and maybe sometime soon, that bet will be a safe one indeed.

I'll clean up off JD. Of that much, I'm sure.