Birch '05: Home Or Something Like It

Chris sighed softly, settling in a bit more into the Adirondack chair nearly everyone had come to refer to as HIS chair. He chuckled, shaking his head a bit ruefully, wondering if it had been planned that way. It was certainly possible. Ezra was without a doubt one of the most detail oriented people he'd ever met. Hell, the entire pavilion, what Vin Tanner still jokingly referred to as 'the gazebo', was certainly proof of that.

Chris didn't know for sure if Ezra had designed it or not, but whoever had certainly took pains to ensure it blended well with the existing structures. It was just as sturdy and utilitarian as the other buildings, but the brick B-B-Q and furniture also bespoke of comfort and leisure. It offered shade from the heat of the day, which in Southern Texas was usually considerable, and provided warmth that was needed after the sun set. Unlike the buildings erected by the army, the pavilion was definitely more organic. The wooden support posts versus steel, the earthen floor rather than concrete, being open to the elements to warm and cool naturally unlike their living quarters that usually hummed with a quite background noise of air conditioners or generators depending on time of year or time of day all made the pavilion unique.

From 'his' chair, elevated slightly above the others and the only one sporting a cushion for added comfort, Chris could easily see the rec ground, indulging himself in his favorite morning past time watching three of his team, Josiah, Nathan and Vin work on their Tai Chi. Chris never intended to join in. He preferred to watch.

He smiled to himself thinking their deliberate, flowing movements were a bit like watching fish. Calming and relaxing simply because it seemed so far removed from his world even though they were really only a few yards away. He figured their 'moving meditation' served him well enough as his own form of meditation.

He sipped his coffee, enjoying the faintly bitter taste. It wasn't nearly as strong as the road-tar crap Vin preferred, but it wasn't as sickeningly sweet as JD favored. Chris had yet to figure out why the youngest member didn't just give up coffee all together and simply mainline sugar. It seemed far more expedient to Chris.

He gaze wandered around Camp AWOL, unconsciously seeking the team members he hadn't seen yet today. The corners of his mouth lifted as he spotted Buck watering the garden. The tall mid-westerner had surprised him by being nearly as eager to have fresh vegetables as Nathan and Josiah.

Buck had even helped with the construction of the raised beds, insisting they needed to be at least two feet deep. They'd included a thin layer of gravel underneath for good drainage, as well as weed matting to at least reduce the presence of 'undesirables' as Ezra had referred to them. It certainly made keeping the garden relatively weed free an easier task.

The placement of the raised beds between the communal barracks and their private quarters was as much a matter of convenience as good tactics, of that Chris was certain. Josiah suggested the placement and the former spook was just as likely as Ezra to have dual purpose for nearly everything he did. The raised beds were closer to the kitchen by default, but they also managed to provide sufficient cover to hide behind if someone got caught between the buildings. They were neatly arranged to fill what had been open space and still leave a good line of sight and easy access.

Chris sometimes wondered if he shouldn't worry that his team had a tendency to look for defensive opportunities. He wasn't sure they actually expected to be attacked at Camp AWOL or if it was just deeply ingrained habit from their previous lives. Knowing his team, it was likely a bit of both. Either way Chris knew he'd never have to worry about them being prepared.

Buck, Nathan and Josiah took turns tending the garden, but everyone except for Chris took a turn watering the flowers. The former Marine shook his head, secretly pleased with the bright spots of color even as he publicly ignored their presence. When Nathan had suggested they use some of the excess dirt from the garden to plant a few flowers, maybe add a window box or two for the barracks, Chris had privately thought it would basically be akin to putting lipstick on a pig.

Camp AWOL was a former army base and it showed. The buildings were sturdy and squat, hastily constructed and lacking anything in the way of character or charm. They were not what anyone in his right mind would call pretty, but then when Chris had first looked the place over, beauty hadn't been a requirement. He wanted serviceable, and they were definitely that. Expending money on the interiors to transform them into comfortable living quarters was the only concession Chris had made, the outsides still bore the indelible mark of their original purpose.

If pressured, Chris would admit he thought the flowers were a nice touch. Marigolds were hardy little buggers, he decided. They'd have to be to survive being planted in the sandy, salty soul around the two story building that served as the main office. Their bright orange and yellow petals made for a cheerful contrast to the backdrop of olive drab and were readily visible even from across the rec ground where Chris sat.

The bulk of the excess dirt had been used to fill the handful of window boxes Vin and Ezra had constructed from leftover wood and metal. They mounted them under the front windows of each barracks. Chris had been honestly surprised to find the boxes looked like they'd always been there, like they were part of the original construction. He didn't recognize most of the flowers they'd planted in them, although, they looked familiar. Sarah had planted whatever the red ones were and the purple and white ones once or twice.

He shook his head, wondering what in the hell had possessed his team. Still, it did make the place look a bit more homey than it had. And after living there for four years, it was about time it started to look like someone actually lived there. He smiled thinking Sarah would have approved.

He spotted JD strolling around the corner carrying a watering can. Chris shrugged taking another sip of his coffee. Must have been the youngest's turn to water the posies. Chris might not undertake the task himself, but he knew it was done every morning.

"Looks like it will be a nice day."

Chris managed not to start as he glanced over to see Ezra leaning against one of the support posts. He glared at the younger man, not entirely convinced he wasn't part cat. No one should move that quietly.

Taking in the slightly dusty and disheveled appearance, he asked "What the hell have you been doing?"

Ezra arched an eyebrow. "Inventory of the weapons locker."

Weapons locker was a bit of a misnomer. One whole building was reserved for their equipment, nearly half of which was taken up by a reinforced steel cage that held their guns and ammunition. Everything in it was regularly cataloged, inventoried and cleaned. The task was part of the standard chore rotation. Chris had forgotten it was Ezra's turn.

He glanced at his watch. "Thought you weren't doing that until later?"

Ezra shrugged one shoulder. "No time like the present…or so I've been told."

Chris studied Ezra with a narrowed gaze. Ezra was never got up early, although Chris had come to suspect it was nothing for him to stay up to greet the dawn. "You got plans or something?"

Green eyes shifted to where Vin was still working out with Josiah and Nathan before moving back to meet Chris' hazel counterparts. A slow smile spread, gold pre-molar glinting dully. "Or something."

Chris grunted his understanding, hiding his smile behind his mug. "Be sure to lock the door."

"Quite." Ezra snickered. "It is not a mistake we are likely to make twice."

Chris finished his cup of coffee. "Everything check out in the locker?"

"We are down a bit on 9mm."

Chris grimaced, not really surprised. The last job had been….messy. The only good thing was that no on his team had been injured. When it come right down to it, that was all that ever mattered to him.

"You order more?"

"Needed to clear it with you before I did." Ezra eyes were once more focused on Vin. His gaze was far more appreciative than Chris' had been.

Chris trusted Ezra to order what was needed, but he liked being kept in the loop. It was his money after all. And after Buck had gone a bit nuts ordering extra parts for every vehicle they owned, Chris mandated new expenditures get cleared with him first.

"How much were you planning to get?"

Ezra pursed his lips, expression thoughtful. "1000 rounds should be more than sufficient."

Chris did the math. At 100 rounds per box that was ten boxes of shells. Not an outrageous sum by their standards but certainly one that might raise eyebrows if ordered all at once at one location. The last thing he wanted was to pop up on some government entity's radar. They had a list of suppliers that they used, some nicely legal and others not quite so on the straight and narrow.

"You splitting the order up?"

Ezra tilted his head. "I'd thought perhaps Farnsworth, Harrington and Ashton. We haven't used those three in some time."

Chris frowned. He didn't like Ashton but his personal preference notwithstanding the little weasel always got them what they needed. He wouldn't have tolerated him otherwise. The other two were reliable but couldn't keep their mouths shut to save their lives. Using them once a year wasn't much of a risk. Two or three boxes could easily be explained away as being consumed by target practice and didn't appear so unusual as to warrant much comment.

Chris sighed. "Go ahead."

Ezra raised two fingers to his forehead. "Will do."

Vin, Josiah and Nathan finished up their routine. Chris wasn't surprised that Vin didn't even look around before he started heading for the pavilion. The resident sharpshooter seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to Ezra.

Vin nodded to him in his usual silent greeting, but sky blue eyes focused almost exclusively on Ezra. He smiled. "Hey, Ez."

"Vin." Ezra's eyes warmed considerably, offering far more welcome than his simple verbal greeting.

Chris took that as his signal to leave. "While you two get to whatever it was you'd planned on spending the rest of the day doing," he shifted in preparation of getting to his feet, "I think I'll see about catching up on the mail that piled up while we were gone."

"No need for you to leave, Chris." Ezra countered quietly, a sly smile making dimples appear. "I'm sure the mail will keep for awhile yet." He tipped his head toward the rec ground. "And it appears that Nathan and Josiah have decided to continue."

Chris looked back to the rec ground. He couldn't figure out how Ezra had seen them starting another Tai Chi form when it didn't look like he'd ever taken his eyes off Vin. It was just another one of those odd quirks he was learning to live with….like flowers, raised gardens, and gazebo's. Chris smiled and shook his head slightly, settling back into his chair.


Vin chuckled, patting his shoulder. "See ya later, Cowboy."

Chris snorted and rolled his eyes. "Much later, I'm sure."

"We won't be late for dinner." Ezra assured him with a small laugh.

Chris snickered. "See that you aren't." He watched them walk away, a little playful bit of grab-ass going on as they ducked around the corner.

Chris' eyes were again drawn to those bright spots of color. Maybe tomorrow he'd water the flowers. Wouldn't hurt to start taking an interest in seeing to it the place continued to become a real home for all of them.