Alder '03: Overlooking The Obvious

I ain't usually one to meddle in other people's business. Figure it ain't mine so it's best to leave well enough alone. But in this case, I made an exception.

Was pretty sure Buck had some feelings for Ez. Caught him starin' at Ez lookin' all wistful like a kid starin' at a candy counter knowin' he can't have any. And I saw Ez sendin' the same look toward Buck.

Didn't think they'd ever do anythin' 'bout it. Ez is a wary sort and not one who'd be willing ta take that kind of risk. Given the way he's been treated in the past, I don't really blame him. And Buck…well, I think he was just plain scared to death. Man has his reputation as being what Ez calls a Lothario. Mighta thought Ez wouldn't take him seriously.

'Course there is more than that to it. Whole organization frowns real heavy on team members getting romantically involved, never mind their genders. Might talk a good political rap, but the truth is gays still ain't well received all the time. Can see how they might not want ta take that kinda risk.

But I got tired of watchin' 'em pussyfoot 'round each other; overly polite, so damn careful about being careful. Like a long tailed cat in a room full o' rockers. Was making Buck jumpy and quick ta snap at people. Ezra was sometimes so damn distant from us he might as well have been in another room.

I wanted them ta jus' get together and be done with it. They are friends, damn near family to me, and I reckoned they deserved a chance ta be happy as anyone else. And if what made 'em happy was each other…well, so be it.

That's when I decided ta step in and sort of help 'em along. All they needed was a little push. So when I saw an opportunity ta bring 'em together I took it.

Buck said something about Ez always being late for our Sunday get-togethers. Said it like he really wished the man would show up sooner and stay longer, not like he was irritated by it. Buck always shows up early ta those and I think he did it jus' so he wouldn't miss a minute with Ez. Ez is always more relaxed at the ranch, more approachable than at the office. Realized that outside o' the office, the ranch is probably the only place the two of them spend any time together.

So I just casually mentioned that Ezra goes ta the hospital ta visit the kids. Pointed out Ez might be needing a ride what with the Jag in the shop and all. Figured sparks would fly if they got a chance ta just get together. Sure didn't expect green hair and red eyebrows, but whatever works.

Nearly beat my head against the desk in frustration when aside from them actin' a bit more friendly and going to the hospital together to play with the kids every Sunday nothin' seemed to change. So I nudged Buck again. Figured I had better luck at being subtle with him than Ez. 'Sides Ez can read me way too easily, and he wouldn't appreciate me buttin' in, even if I am jus' tryin' to help.

After a really rough case, I told Buck about Ezra working out down in the basement. Just mentioned quiet like that after a really bad day Ezra goes down there ta work off steam. Made sure ta tell him that I think Ez overdoes it from time to time. That he really shouldn't push himself so hard. Buck perked up, all ears like a cat that just heard the can opener startup.

Only know about Ez and his marathon workouts 'cause I use the gym myself in the morning. Overheard the maintenance guys talking about how much harder it was ta keep the place in workin' order since Ez started working here. Talked ta Joey, the head o' the maintenance division, wanting to know what they meant by that. Joey said Ez comes down after rest of the staff has gone home and goes at it like he's killing snakes. Snuck in one night ta see for myself. Joey was not exaggerating. Ez has what ya could politely call 'an intense workout routine'.

Both Buck and Ez called in sick the next day, and I figured I'd got it right that time. Had a devil of a time convincing Nate that they didn't need checking on. Told him neither one was really sick. Figured it was just them needing some time off. Last case was a brute and a little 'mental health' day was probably all the needed.

JD, bless that boy, added the final argument to convince Nate not to go butting in. He said Buck hadn't come home last night, but called ta tell him he'd met up with someone. The kid copied Buck's voice and waggled his eyebrows the way he said that. I figured it was in the bag at that point.

I was damn near whistling I was so pleased with myself. Buck showed up the next day lookin' the same as ever. Ezra was out for another day. But when we were all back ta work they acted like nothin' changed. I just about hurt myself looking for some sign, anything that would tell me they'd finally gotten together.

I wasn't really expecting to round the corner and see them in a lip lock, but hell, if they just smiled at each other, maybe a wink, a sly look… I'd have settled for that. Nope. Nothing at all.

Did notice that Buck started going ta the basement after his shift. Figured he was keepin' Ez company, so I thought I was making progress. Slow, but it was still progress. Leastwise they were hanging out. Figured that would lead to bigger and better things.

Then a month later I find out he's been chatting up one of the women agents who uses the gym too. A Becky Something-or-other that works with Team Four. Only know of her cause some of the guys have been saying stuff 'bout her. Usually crap about her being an ice queen cause she don't give them the time o' day. Or saying how she's got to be a lesbian ta be resisting their charms.

I roll my eyes at that sort of cave man thinking. It ain't right but in a field still pretty much dominated by men, well, some of that is just plain hard ta stop. Not makin' excuses, just the way it is. Don't tolerate that shit on our team, but not everyone is as 'enlightened' as Ez would say.

Most of the macho bullshit about Becky quit circulating when they started talking about Buck and her going out. He's been takin' her out regular for the past few weeks. While I'm glad that works out okay for her it don't do a thing for Ez.

Damn near belted Buck one when he started talking about her the way he does damn near every lady he dates. Can't for the life o' me figure how he missed the shuttered look in Ez's eyes, the one that says he's closing the door on emotional stuff, when Buck started saying what a looker she was, how pretty her hair was, how nice and sweet she was, how good she smelled. Was like he didn't care he was hurtin' Ez.

Whole thing made me clench my jaw so tight my teeth hurt. I'd been thinking he really cared about Ez. Really wanted something more than just a quick fuck. But I musta read the whole thing wrong. Was mad at myself for telling Buck anything.

Stupid SOB. Him and me both. I should have known better. You leave other people's business alone. Mind your own, Tanner.

I had to bite my tongue to keep from sayin' anythin'. Decided I'd already said too damn much. Should have known better. I may have read Buck wrong, but I got no doubts I read Ez right. And my trying to help jus' set him up ta get hurt.

Figured I owed it ta Ez to fix this mess. Was my fault, my responsibility to take care of it. Decided to start with the gym. Only reason Buck started going down there was 'cause I opened my big mouth. Know full well that the schmuck would never have thought to go there on his own. And the least I could do is get Buck to leave the man to exorcise his demons in peace. He wants to chat up this Becky he can do it somewhere else.

Feels weird to be going to the gym after work. Normally in here first thing in the morning. Helps me get a jump on my day. But I figure it won't kill me to change my schedule for a bit. Long enough to make damn sure Ez doesn't have ta put up with Buck being an idiot without a little moral support.

Know the place will be pretty much deserted. So it's as quiet this time o' day was when I usually get here. Didn't really expect to encounter more than Ez, Buck and Buck's chippy. Sure hope it's just Ez though. Maybe Buck's got enough sense ta not keep throwin' Becky in his face.

Natural habit makes me keep a light step and move quiet. JD thinks I do it on purpose to scare the crap out o' people. Truth is, I jus' don't even think about it. Been doin' it most o' my life, when walkin' soft as a kid meant I might avoid getting a whuppin' from whatever foster parent I had the misfortune ta be stayin' with. And as a bounty hunter, it was a habit that sort of stuck. Comes in handy with the job I got now too.

I keep telling the guys upstairs that this blind entry into the gym is a bad thing. Entrance is set up so you can't see into the main room right away, or see the doors from the main room. Ain't really safe with this kind o' set up. Jus' 'cause it's a federal building don't mean it's not gonna have some creeps or weirdos lurking in the shadows. And hell, federal buildings are targets for all kinds of shit, not to mention those of us who work here.

I make a mental note to say something again. Maybe get Chris to do it. The brass might not like him, but they respect him. They'll listen ta him the way they wouldn't ta me.

For the first time, I'm glad they got this blind alley thing. Coulda knocked me over with a feather when I see Ez hugging some lady I never seen before and Buck doing the same with Becky. I step back a bit and hang close ta the wall, not wanting them ta see me.

I'm good at reading body language. So I could tell the hug Ez was giving this woman was strictly a friendly sort o' thing, warm but not anythin' more than that. What made my mouth drop open was Buck was given the same sort o' hug to Becky. Weren't nothin' sexual there. Seen Buck with other women 'nough to know if he was interested in her 'that' way, he'd have a different hold on her.

Ez lets go of whoever it is that he's hugging. He's smilin'…for real. Not that one he uses when he's being polite. So I know he thinks o' her as a friend. I frown, trying to figure out how I missed seeing her. Ez really doesn't have that many people he thinks of as friends.

I give the lady the once over again jus' to see if I can place her. She's a petite thing. If she's over five two I'll eat my shoes. From the look of her she works out pretty regular. Trim…verging on lean. Her blonde hair is cut short, real short, and she's got on a pair of those ugly black frame glasses. On her those frames don't look bad. Ez would probably say she has the bone structure ta carry off that sort of severe look.

When she laughs at something Ez says that's when it hits me. I have never met her, but I've heard her voice before. She's Amanda, the new file clerk. Got hired on about two months ago, if I remember it right. Works out o' what we call the tombs…place where the long term records get filed.

I frown, still trying ta figure out what's going on. Becky and Buck have backed away from each other. Becky reaches out toward Amanda and takes her hand. The look that passes between them has enough heat to build a bonfire with. Oh… man. Wouldn't mind have either one o' them look at me like that.

I hear Becky thank Buck and Amanda does too. I frown wondering what exactly it is Buck did. He waves it off with a smile. "Darlin', it was no trouble at all."

"Indeed." Ez agrees with a tip of his head. He winks. "It is what family is for after all."

There is something about the way he says family, a certain emphasis on the word just like when he's undercover and uses the code word or phrase ta call us in and bust the bad guys. Then I get it. Heard tell that some gays refer ta their group as family. It's a way of asking about someone's preference or talking about it without really outing him or her. 'He's okay, he's family. She's not family, just looks like it.' That kind o' thing.

From the look that passed between Becky and Amanda and the way they are still holding hands, it's a safe bet they are 'family'. I'm starting to realize I read the situation 'tween Buck and Becky all wrong. Feeling a mite foolish for thinkin' badly o' her. Shouldn't have jumped to conclusions there.

"You gals let us know you have any trouble, ya hear?" Buck's expression turns serious. "A little camouflage ain't hard for us ta provide. Least we can do for you."

I feel a bit better hearing that. I was supposed ta read it wrong. Real glad I never let my anger get the better of me and kept my mouth shut. Could have made the whole situation real ugly.

Buck's lighthearted grin appears. "If taking you pretty ladies to dinner and a movie is punishment, well then you can chain me to the wall."

Both woman laugh lightly. And Becky steps forward to kiss his cheek. She does the same to Ez. Never saw Ez blush before.

I hear Amanda offer to return the favor for them if they need it. Buck's grin gets bigger and Ezra's eyes take on that glow they get whenever he's real pleased by something. Buck drapes one arm over Ez's shoulder, sort of a casual one-arm hug like he gives JD all the time. Can tell it's more than that though. No sure 'xactly how I can tell, but it's there. Makes me wonder if I wasn't right when I thought they'd finally gotten together right after I told Buck about Ez's workouts.

"We appreciate the offer, ladies." Ez tips his head in a way that suggests a bow. Have yet to figure out how he does that, but some day I'm gonna ask him to show me. It's a neat trick.

"However, I do not believe that will be necessary." Ez slants a look toward Buck. "For one thing, Buck's reputation is as a 'ladies man' is well established." There is a warm humor in his tone that I know means he doesn't take that reputation seriously. Damn near wanna jump up and down, but I hold myself still.

Ez waves a hand in a sort of meaningless gesture. "And I seriously doubt very many bestir themselves to wonder about my sexual proclivities."

I raise my eyebrows at that. Know there's quite a few o' the ladies in this building done bestirred themselves on that very topic. Ez is always polite to 'em and I think good manners must be some sort o' woman magnet. That and the sharp clothes he wears. Not ta mention the Jag. And he's a good lookin' man. Seen lot of ladies give him the eye.

Don't think Ez realizes the kind of attention he gets. Weird. Anyone else I'd say they were vain, too wrapped up in themselves to notice, but his case, I think he's just oblivious. I shrug. Whatever. Long as he's happy with Buck and Buck is happy with him.

From the looks of it, they are. Knowing they can't see me I take my time to study them while they talk some more. Get a chance to confirm my belief that they really are together.

Ez is real comfortable with Buck in his space. Don't know that I ever saw him that way before. Usually a bit more skittish about people touching him or getting too close. Always figured he had a good reason for that, but it sure is nice to see him acting the way he is right now.

Buck has a way of makin' whoever he's with sort of the main focus of his attention. Think it's one of the reasons he does so well with his dates. Despite his outrageous stories and constant flirting, he still manages to let who ever he's with know they are important. Can see his fingers lightly stroking Ez's shoulder and he keeps his head tilted toward Ez making sure he don't' miss a word.

I smile. Yep. They are definitely together. Hot damn. Never realized they could control themselves so well. Sure didn't look like anything had changed at the office. Hunh. Never would have figured old Bucklin could keep a secret where romance was concerned. Still, it's probably a good thing he can. Team wouldn't have a problem with them being together, but that don't mean the rest o' the people who work here would be as acceptin'. No point in risking backlash on that front.

I slip back to the doors, making sure I'm not seen. No reason to interrupt 'em. Or embarrass anyone…namely me.

Matchmaking is a fool's bet. Should leave well enough alone. I know this worked out well, but it damn near didn't. I was really pissed at Buck and Becky. For all I know she's a nice lady…seems to be anyway. And I could have put my foot in it big time. Could a made a mess of things for all of them.

I nod, coming to a decision. Just not cut out for this sort of thing. Need to go back to mindin' my own business. Got enough trouble keeping my own life in order as it is. Definitely gonna leave this matchmaking stuff to someone else from now on.

Don't mean I won't be keeping an eye on Buck and Ez. They're family, so I'll be watching out for 'em. Make sure they don't run into any o' that shit that Becky was getting.

I watch out for all my brothers. I'm good at it. Had lots of practice with doing that. No reason ta give that up. Nope. No reason at all.