Hawthorn '04: Insights And Answers

Vin focused on completing the form with a painful slowness. He was well into his third hour of Tai Chi and his muscles twitched from exhaustion, but he didn't stop. With Ezra gone, wearing himself out was the only way he could relax, the only way he could get any sleep.

He struggled to keep his breathing even, thoughts of his absent lover making it far harder than it would be otherwise. In the past three weeks the only contact he'd received from Ezra had been two brief e-mails. Neither internet address was one he recognized but since both were addressed to 'Eagle-eye', Vin's radio call sign when they were on a Seven for Hire job, there was little doubt about who'd sent them. Both were little more than one line stating he was okay. While grateful for even getting that much, Vin would have preferred to know more. 'Okay' with Ezra was something of a flexible term. The linguist tended to view anything that left him still breathing as okay, regardless of the amount of damage.

Vin sucked in a harsh breath, eyes closing in a moment of desperate prayer. The former sniper wasn't even sure who he was praying to. He just wanted Ezra to come home…in one piece. He never wanted his lover to leave again once he got back to Camp AWOL. Christ. He'd thought it was bad before when he and Ezra were just friends, but this was ten times worse.

He dreaded every time that fucking cell phone rang. Although, Levon Lundy, Ezra's cousin, had told him Ezra's right of refusal had gone up, it still didn't mean he could say 'no' all the time. Obviously, or he wouldn't have agreed this time.

Vin shook his head. Thinking about this was futile. It got him nothing but a headache. He raised leaden arms to start again determined to flawlessly complete what he'd started.


The tone was sharp, clearly a command. It was one he couldn't ignore, unconsciously snapping to attention, sky blue eyes seeking who'd called. He trembled slightly with mild shock at standing completely immobile for the first time in hours.

"Vin, you need to stop now." Buck's tone was softer, sounding less like he was issuing orders, and more like a concerned friend.

Vin panted, eyes blearily trying to focus. "Can't…Not done."

"Think you are." Buck smiled slightly, hand resting on Vin's shoulder. "Pretty sure you been done for awhile now."

Vin shook his head. "You don't understand."

"Yeah, I do." Buck squeezed his shoulder, sympathy clear in those dark blue eyes. "I get it."

Vin bit his lip, forcibly biting back the harsh words he wanted to snap at Buck. There was no way he could get it. JD was right here with him. Never left without telling him where he went or what he was doing. Never came back thinner, with new scars and shadowed eyes. JD didn't wake up from nightmares he couldn't talk about. Buck never had to dread something as inanely ordinary as a cell phone ringing. Never had to worry that his heart and soul might not make it back to him.

"C'mon, buddy, I think you need to get some sleep." Buck started to pull him toward the barracks he shared with Ezra.

"Can't sleep." Vin admitted with a heavy sigh, unable to resist Buck's constant pressure to move.

"Well, then how about you just lay down for a bit? Rest your eyes for a spell?"

Vin snorted. He knew exactly what Buck was trying to do and if he had the energy he'd resent the hell out of being treated like a cranky toddler. Resigned to losing this battle he let Buck lead him inside.

The common room seemed cold to him in spite of the constant heat that defined South Texas. The whole place just felt off without Ezra around. The first two days Ezra was gone, Vin found himself roaming aimlessly from room to room unconsciously searching for what was missing.

He'd spent a night or two on the couch, unable to get comfortable in their bed alone. But that hadn't worked any better, not really. Vin had given up and taken to simply working himself until he nearly dropped, crawling into their bed, curling around Ezra's pillow trying not to notice what a poor substitute it made for the real thing.

Buck flicked on the bedside light, its soft glow suddenly making Vin aware of just how dark it had gotten. He'd lost track of the time as he'd focused on perfecting every aspect of the Tai Chi form he had been working on. While that had been his intent he was somewhat dismayed to realize it had worked so well.

Vin stumbled over to the laptop that sat in the center of Ezra's oak desk. The desk was really little more than a table, reminiscent of mission style furniture. The bare bones nature of it suited Ezra and Vin had come to appreciate it as well. The stark simplicity in no way detracting from the innate beauty of it, rather serving to enhance it.

He logged in, checking his e-mail. Vin held his breath. He cursed silently when there was no message from his lover. He knew finding anything was a long shot. The other messages were a fluke. He knew that, but it didn't keep him from hoping he'd get lucky one more time.

"C'mon, Vin, bed time." Buck cajoled softly, hand patting where he'd turned down the sage green comforter.

Vin sighed heavily. He left the computer up and running. It would chirp if a message came through sometime during the night. The faint sound was more than enough to wake him.

He shuffled to the bed, sitting down heavily. He ought to take a shower, but knew that would take more coordination than he had at the moment. Vin flopped on to his back unable to make his body work to do any more, snagging Ezra's pillow and hugging it to his chest consuming the last of his energy.

Buck bent smoothly, catching his legs behind the knees and swinging them easily up to the bed. He deftly pulled off Vin's shoes, dropping them soundlessly to the floor. He patted Vin's thigh, a gesture of compassion.

"Thanks, Buck." He made a meaningless, encompassing gesture with his hand. "For everythin'."

"Any time, Pard." Buck smiled at him, pulling up the comforter. "Just try and get some sleep…you don't want to be looking rough 'round the edges when Ez gets home."

Vin clutched Ezra's pillow tighter, chest hurting at Buck's words. When he gets home, not if, the former sniper reminded himself forcefully, when. He rolled on to his side, turning his back to Buck, not wanting the older man to see just how close he was to losing control.

He heard Buck turn off the light, felt the large hand lightly brush his hair before a whispered 'goodnight'. Vin buried his nose in Ezra's pillow, desperate to catch even the faintest trace of his lover. A whiff of musk and lavender unconsciously made him smile, relaxing infinitesimally.

Vin sighed and started a mental relaxation exercise Ezra had taught him. It would allow him to relax mind and body into a meditative state that at least mimicked sleep, allowing him to get some rest. If this night followed the established pattern, he'd get a few hours of real sleep before once more restlessly seeking out what was missing from what defined all was right with his world.

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Buck shut the bedroom door silently behind him. He glanced toward the couch not at all surprised to see Chris Larabee sitting there, half hidden in shadow. The former Marine reached out to turn on the nearby lamp keeping the bulb on its lowest setting, signaling he wanted to talk. Buck made his way to the other couch, and sat so he could face his long time friend.

"You get him settled okay?" The question was just barely above a whisper.

"Yeah." Buck shrugged, pitching his voice in a low tone that matched Chris'. "Much as can be until Ez gets home."

Chris grimaced and shook his head. "Knew this was a bad idea."

"Like you could have stopped 'em from falling in love?" Buck snorted, dark amusement coloring his question. "You'd have better luck trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon."

Buck ignored Chris' glare with an ease that only comes from years of practice. "Face it…Vin would have worried about Ez whether they ever had sex or not. Boy worried before they became lovers…maybe not quite as extreme, but he still worried."

Buck had seen Vin prowling around the base at night every other time Ezra had answered one of those mysterious calls. The former sniper, who normally ate like every meal might be his last, took to picking at his food. Eyes that usually sparkled with mischief and good humor were shadowed and seemed to constantly scan the horizon. And that was when they were still just friends and teammates. Buck knew Vin and Ezra's increased involvement would only make a bad situation worse, but he didn't begrudge them the happiness they found with each other.

He raised a hand to run through his hair. "Team is really the only family most of us got. And when one of us is in harm's way, we are supposed to be there to back him up…keep him safe. Only with Ez, we can't do what comes naturally, leastwise not in this case. So we all fret, fuss and worry like hell instead."

Chris raised an eyebrow, blue-gray eyes challenging. "All?"

"Nathan has cleaned the infirmary like eight hundred times in the last three weeks. Josiah has rebuilt half that dilapidated church in Purgatorio. Pretty sure he destroyed the other half while he was at it just so he could stay busy. JD has his computer set up for a continuous scan looking for anything that might hint at where Ezra went and what he's doing." Buck rolled his eyes. "Can't tell me any of that is exactly normal, even by our standards. And we both know Vin's the only one sleeping with Ez so you can't be blaming it on that."

"Point." Chris sighed. A ghost of a smile danced about his lips for a moment. "You know I hate it when you are right?"

"Yeah, I know. Also know it's why you hired me on in the first place." Buck chuckled softly. "Well, that and my good looks and winning personality."

Chris opened his mouth to deliver what would probably have been a good biting retort but the ringing of the phone interrupted him. Buck snatched it up hoping the one ring hadn't woken Vin. "Buck speaking."

"Buck?" A slight pause. "This is Joe LaFiamma."

"Hey, Joe." Buck smiled widely. He remembered Joe with a lot of fondness since it was Joe and Levon who'd been instrumental in getting him together with JD. "How the hell are you?"


Buck frowned, recognizing something was off with Joe's tone. The man sounded tired, worn down. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, Buck, I'm okay." A soft sigh, and the faint sound of what had to be Joe stretching. "Is Vin around?"

"Just went to bed." Buck wondered if he'd be waking his friend to deliver bad news. "You need me to get him?"

"No, no." Buck could easily picture Joe waving a hand in dismissal. He remembered the Italian talked a lot with his hands. "Just wanted him to know we're headed home. Should be at your place little before dawn."

Buck sucked in a cautious breath. "Ez is with you?"

"Yeah." He could hear a faint trace of confusion in Joe's answer. "Didn't Ezra tell you he'd be with us on this mission when he left?"

"Don't think he had the chance to. Not with how quick he had to leave." Buck grinned, feeling as though a huge weight had risen off his shoulders. Ezra hadn't been alone, someone was there to watch his back and keep him safe. He planned to give Ezra hell for not telling them before he left that he had backup. Buck would just have to lay down the law and tell his friend, his little brother, that short notice or not, from here on out Ezra had to take a minute or two and let them know if he was with someone he trusted on one of these mysterious cloak and dagger gigs. Stuff like that was too important to not be shared.

"He okay?" Buck managed to ask so he simply sounded curious, not unduly anxious. Chris leaned forward, clearly just as interested in the answer as Buck was.

"Little tired, but otherwise fine."

Buck could hear the smile in Joe's voice. He unconsciously passed it on to Chris as a signal of an affirmative answer to his question. Chris sat back, relief etched clearly in his expression and posture, hand running through his hair.

Joe continued speaking. "Ezra just fell asleep about five minutes ago, but I know he'd want Vin to know he was headed home."

"That he would." Buck agreed easily. He glanced over his shoulder, not overly surprised to see Vin leaning against the bedroom door jamb, light blue eyes appraising him narrowly. The utter silence with which Vin moved never failed to amaze him, but he was getting better about no longer about being so blatantly surprised by the former sniper's sudden soundless appearances.

"You want to talk to Vin?" Buck asked Joe. "Seems he wasn't quite down for the count when the phone rang."

Joe's chuckle rumbled over the line. "Sure, put him on."

Buck handed the phone to Vin, noting the small hesitation and slight tremor in his hand. "S'okay, Vin. Joe says everyone is in one piece and they're on their way home."

Vin snatched the phone eagerly. The light in his eyes fading only slightly when he realized it wasn't his lover on the other end. "Hi Joe….Ez okay?"

Buck couldn't hear what Joe was saying, but the easing of tension in Vin's lanky frame was sufficiently telling. Buck took a deep breath of his own. Family would all be back together soon. That's all that mattered.

The hard part would be trying to convince Vin to go back to bed and sleep until Ezra arrived. Buck had a feeling that would be like putting a child in bed Christmas Eve. He shared a look with Chris.

"You wanna stay and put the kid to bed, or you wanna go tell the others?" He was careful to keep his voice low enough not to interrupt Vin's conversation and still carry to Chris.

"I'll go tell the others."

Buck shook his head. "Coward."

Chris chuckled and winked at him. "You're always telling me how you can handle anything…'spect you'll be up o this challenge a second time."

Buck grimaced and flipped him off good naturedly. "Off with you." He waved a hand in an imperious gesture he'd copied from Ezra. He didn't quite pull it off as well as the linguist but he figured he'd just have to watch Ezra a little more closely the next time. Buck sent a swift, silent 'thank you' heavenward that he'd have a next time.

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Joe shifted in his seat again, careful not to disturb his lover. Levon's head rested heavily against his shoulder, breathing deep and even. Joe tilted his head enough to place a soft kiss on Levon's forehead. The gesture wasn't just one of affection; the Italian was checking his lover's temperature the same way his mother used to.

Just over a month ago half their security team had come down with the flu. Joe was one of the first to get it, suffering through three days of throwing up, fever, body aches and a headache that rivaled any migraine. He'd thought Levon might have managed to avoid getting it since he hadn't exhibited any of the symptoms before they left, at least not that Joe saw. Joe sighed softly. More than eight years together as a couple and his lover was still good at hiding the fact that he didn't feel well or was in pain.

It was a habit of a lifetime, a survival mechanism developed while living with an abusive alcoholic father. Joe knew that and didn't take it personality. Not really. It just frustrated the hell out of him that he'd missed signs of Levon getting sick until a week after they were into their mission.

It was all moot. Those in control of setting up this mission had let it slip they'd be calling Ezra, something Joe suspected they'd done deliberately knowing nothing short of being on his deathbed would have kept Levon from going along. Even if Joe had noticed the Texan was not quite at his best, there would have been no stopping him.

Joe was fairly certain Levon didn't really get sick until a week or more into the assignment. Too much of what they were doing at the time was simply too physically demanding for Levon to have been able to keep up if he was as sick as Joe had been. He couldn't decide if he was grateful for that or pissed Levon was still there, sicker than a dog, to finish the assignment.

Joe smiled fondly at Levon. He knew the man was tough, but he'd have to re-evaluate his estimation of just how tough. If he felt even half as bad as Joe had, just being able to stay upright and mobile was impressive as hell.

Pulling it off had cost Levon, wearing him down far more than a job usually did. Joe knew he'd opted not to eat rather than puke, not wanting to have to deal with being bent over heaving when his attention might be needed elsewhere. Not eating has just further sapped his strength, exhaustion putting a damper on his appetite even after the nausea had past. And not getting the rest he needed had prolonged his illness longer than Joe's three days. Levon had a persistent low grade fever that he seemed unable to shake. Joe was hoping that with some rest and a few good meals was all it would take to put Levon back on the road to good health.

Finally being warm and dry sure wouldn't hurt either. Joe grimaced. Normally he liked rain, enjoyed it even, but being out in it, getting soaked to the bone, unable to change clothes left a lot to be desired., particularly when the temperature was just barely above freezing. He had a new appreciation for Texas heat. He was definitely enjoying not needing additional layers of clothing, having shed his jacket as soon as they were in the chopper.

Levon shifted in his sleep, eyelids fluttering. Joe ran a hand up and down Levon's arm, whispering soothing words of nonsense. Levon coughed and shivered, making Joe pull him in closer and readjust his jacket over his lover. The blond settled again with a sigh.

Joe looked to where Ezra had been dozing on the other bench in the chopper. He wasn't surprised to find open green eyes assessing Levon. The normally lively green orbs were blood shot, dark shadows underneath were proof of how little sleep Ezra had gotten recently. Ezra, like his cousin, never slept or ate well on a job. Joe decided long time ago the ability to run on adrenaline and nervous energy must be a family trait.

"Go back to sleep, Ezra." Joe whispered in French. "He's okay."

Ezra arched an eyebrow, responding in the same language. "Rather liberal definition."

"Matches your own, I believe." Joe returned dryly.

"Touché." Ezra winced as he sat up using his left arm to push himself upright, reminding Joe that he'd taken a few solid blows to the abdomen not too long ago. Bruised but nothing broken, no lasting damage, so he hadn't lied to Vin or Buck when he said Ezra was okay. All he really needed was some quality sleep instead of the catnaps he'd been getting and a few decent meals to replace the weight he'd loss and Ezra would be good as new.

"Go back to sleep."

Ezra shook his head. "I need to—"

"Already done." Joe smiled. "Called and told Vin we were headed home an hour ago."

Ezra blinked. "You already called?"

Joe waved a hand in a meaningless gesture. "Figured you'd want him to know. Didn't know how long you'd be sleeping." He pointed a finger at Ezra. "You should still be sleeping. Vin's not going to be happy seeing you looking like road kill after I told him you were okay."

Ezra snorted. "I do not look like road kill."

"How would you know?" Joe raised both eyebrows. "You haven't looked in a mirror lately."

Ezra rolled his eyes. He fluffed and repositioned his jacket that had been serving as a pillow. The bench wasn't really long enough for him to stretch out, but when on his side, knees bent, it was an adequate bed. Ezra curled up facing Joe and Levon, brows pulling together in an expression of concern as he studied his cousin.

"He should have stayed home."

"True." Joe agreed. "But we both know that wasn't going to happen." He made a wry face. "Once he knew they were calling you all bets were off."

Ezra frowned, clearly making jumping to the same conclusion Joe had earlier; the relay of that bit of information had been deliberate. "Bastards."

"Quite." Joe tilted his head to rest it lightly against Levon's silken curls finding comfort in the familiar feel of them against his skin. Some day he was going to have a 'come to Jesus' meeting with the powers that be. They would not be making a regular habit of this. Not by a long shot, Joe promised himself. He wasn't sure quite how to enforce that mandate, but he'd find a way.

"I do not need a babysitter." Ezra stated quietly, a guilty expression warring with the neutral one he was attempting to force into place.

"A babysitter, no." Joe smiled slightly. Ezra Standish was one of the most capable people he knew. "But we all need backup, Ezra, all of us." Capable or not, no one should be completely on their own. Superman was a comic book hero, not a real life man. The rest of them had to contend with being decidedly breakable, and mortal. "There is no way in hell Levon would leave you on your own, without back up. Not if he could help it."

Levon loved his cousin and would do almost anything he could to keep him safe, to see him happy. It was a feeling Joe shared, understanding the value of family better than most. When exiled from his own and been more or less 'adopted' into Levon's, Joe quickly came to regard Ezra as a little brother.

When Ezra opened his mouth to argue with Joe's earlier statement, the Italian held up a hand forestalling him. "You wouldn't leave him without, would you?"

"Hell no." Ezra's answer was quick and vehement.

"Well, there you go." Joe made a gesture clearly indicating Ezra had just made his point for him.

Ezra sighed heavily, a defeated look striping all the animation from his face. "I don't want him to di—to get hurt because of me."

"Not because of you, kid, for you maybe, but never because of you." Joe's aqua eyes held Ezra's jade green counterparts. "There is a difference."

Ezra frowned. "Dead is still dead."

"Will you two shut the hell up, or start arguin' in English?" Levon lifted his head from Joe's shoulder, bleary brown eyes giving him an annoyed glare. His normally smooth tenor sounded rough and painful.

"We aren't arguing." Joe and Ezra exclaimed in unison.

"Right." Levon rolled his eyes. "I might not know the lingo, but I sure as hell know the tone." He shivered pulling Joe's jacket tighter about him. "You can call it whatever ya want, but it still sounds like fighting. So knock it off."


The blond cut of his cousin easily. "Quit beatin' yerself up over my being sick. Ain't your fault. Either o' you." Brown eyes moved to assess both of them. "So shut up 'bout it already."

Joe chuckled. "Yes, sir." Ezra gave his cousin a sloppy, sarcastic salute.

"Good 'nough." Levon closed his eyes, and shifted slightly to rest more heavily against Joe. He coughed roughly, bending forward with the force of it. Joe moved to support his lover, one hand patting his back lightly, mentally cursing at how much worse Levon's cough sounded than it had before.

He reached for a bottle of water to offer it to Levon when he managed to catch his breath, holding it steady when the Texan's hand trembled. Levon pushed the bottle way after taking several careful sips, eyes closing again. "Thanks, Joe."

"You're welcome, Cowboy." He pulled Levon back so he could once more rest his head on Joe's shoulder. "Try and get some rest, all right?"

Levon nodded tiredly. "Kay."

Joe shared a look with Ezra. Ezra made rapid movements with his hands, silently speaking fluently in sign language, clearly not wanting to disturb his cousin again by speaking aloud. [Nathan is a very good medic. Trust him. He'll examine Levon when we get to AWOL.]

Joe nodded, smiling grimly, determined his lover would submit to getting checked out. Levon and Ezra shared a similar hostility toward the medical profession, often going to great lengths to avoid them, dreading the invasion of their privacy and lack of control. Ezra's suggestion revealed his level of worry better than anything else could have. It also spoke well of Nathan Jackson. If Ezra trusted him, then Joe was confident the man would do right by Levon.

He pointed at Ezra and made the sign for 'sleep'. He got a dirty look in response. Joe arched an eyebrow and signed 'Nathan' pointing to Ezra. Ezra sighed and held up both hands in a gesture of surrender, eyes closing at least in a semblance of sleep.

Joe would settle for that. In another few hours they'd be at Camp AWOL, and Ezra would be safely back with Vin. Joe was pretty sure his little brother would rest easy then. They all would.

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Nathan eyed the chopper landing smoothly on the rec ground. It didn't look familiar, but in the faint light of a false dawn, he couldn't make out any identifying numbers on the tail. Nathan hadn't been at Camp AWOL when JD, Buck, Vin and Ezra had gone to met up with Ezra's cousin so he had no idea what or who he should be looking for. He looked toward the others wandering if he should be worried.

Buck stroked his mustache. "Not the same chopper." Nathan wasn't too surprised Buck could tell the difference. To him all choppers pretty much looked the same outside of the obvious size differences, but to Buck every bird was different. He claimed he could hear a difference in the engines and feel a unique response from each one he flew.

JD shrugged, looking unconcerned. "Said the one you flew was a loaner, remember?"

Buck nodded, blue eyes never leaving the chopper. His gaze narrowed, stance shifting into one of relaxed readiness. "Looks like Estaban is flying."

Nathan assumed that was a good thing since no one appeared to be alarmed by that bit of information. Chris looked wary, but calm. At least the vein in his forehead wasn't throbbing, so Nathan took that to be a positive sign.

Nathan watched as Vin somehow managed to fidget without actually moving. The former sniper reminded him of a bird dog, almost vibrating with an eagerness to move, nothing but good training hold him in place. He half expected to see Chris holding a leash to keep Vin from rushing headlong toward the chopper before it had a chance to safely land.

"Don't recognize the copilot." Buck commented quietly as the chopper touched down, resting on the skids, kicking up surprisingly little dust.

Nathan breathed a bit easier as the cargo door opened and Ezra stepped out, crouched slightly in response to the still slowly moving rotors overhead. The man was moving with his usual fluid grace so he likely wasn't sporting any injuries that were too severe. He waved to the rest of them, but Ezra's eyes were clearly focused on his lover. Vin was off like a shot, long legs easily cover the distance between them. He pulled the linguist into hug fierce enough to make Nathan wince in sympathy knowing Ezra wasn't going to be able to breathe in that tight hold.

Josiah threw an arm over Nathan's shoulder. "Looks like he's really okay."

Nathan snorted, dark eyes amused. "Not for too much longer if Vin doesn't ease up and let the man breathe."

"Good thing the boy is made of stern stuff." Josiah agreed with a chuckle.

"What the hell?" Chris frowned as several duffle bags were lightly tossed out and two more people exited the chopper. Nathan didn't know either but guessed from the descriptions he'd heard that one was Ezra's cousin and the other was his partner. He couldn't hear what they were saying to one another but it was obvious from their body language some sort of disagreement was taking place. The blond was shaking his head, and would have reboarded the chopper, but the taller dark haired one had a grip on his arm and appeared to be strong enough to hold him.

Chris' jaw tightened. He strode forward, clearly wanting to know why more than just Ezra had gotten off the chopper and why it hadn't left already. As far as Nathan knew, Chris liked Levon Lundy and Joe LaFiamma. Or at the very least Nathan hadn't heard him say anything negative about them the way Chris did about anyone who'd crossed him. But the former marine wasn't the sort to respond well toward surprises. Every other time Ezra had come home from one of these mysterious missions he'd gotten out of the chopper and it flew off without so much as a backward glance.

Ezra had wiggled free of Vin's grasp to apparently add his piece to the argument. Whatever was being said between them came to a sudden halt as the blond doubled up coughing. Medic training coming to the fore, Nathan was moving forward to pass Chris. He approached the stranger wanting to help, barely noticing Ezra lightly slapping the side of the chopper in a universal signal for the pilot to take off.

Nathan was close enough to see bloodshot golden brown eyes give Ezra a hard glare as the chopper lifted. "Dirty pool, Cuz."

"Necessary." Ezra countered calmly, apparently not fazed by the look. Vin stood close behind his lover, hand on his hip, a question clear in his eyes, although he made no comment.

"Not to me it wasn't." The blond pulled his arm free from his companion's hold, his breathing still a bit ragged but evening out.


The blond held up a hand, a warning expression more than enough to stop the brunette. "Hole is deep 'nough, Joe. Be best you didn't dig anymore."

Joe sighed but didn't say anything, evidently smart enough to heed the warning he was given. Figuring now was as good an opportunity as any to interrupt, particularly since it looked like Chris would if he didn't, Nathan cleared his throat.

"Don't mean to intrude, but I just wanted to check to make sure you are okay." He directed that statement toward the blond.

"Fine." The man returned without breaking eye contact with his partner, chin coming up in a clear sign of defiance.

"Bullshit." Ezra countered.

Nathan blinked, surprised by the profanity. Ezra rarely swore.

"Chris, you've already met them." Ezra nodded toward Larabee in a casual greeting that also seemed to double as a request for patience. "Nathan, allow me to introduce my cousin, Levon Lundy, and my friend and Levon's partner, Joe LaFiamma."

"Hello, Nathan." Joe greeted him. "Nice to meet you." Levon greeted him silently, raising two fingers to his forehead in the same familiar gesture Ezra often used.

The linguist tipped his head toward his cousin, his expression a mixture of affection and determination. "Levon had the flu recently and has been running a low grade fever for several days. The cough has only recently gotten worse. But both Joe and I feel a complete check up would not be remiss."

"I'll remiss you, ya little shit." Levon growled, his tone lacking any real heat, eyes narrowed.

Nathan expected Chris or Vin to put himself between Ezra and Levon since both reacted badly when someone they cared about was threatened. But Chris seemed to be honoring Ezra's unspoken request, blue-gray eyes shifting between them gauging how serious they were. And Vin looked curious, not concerned, simply staying close to Ezra, almost as though afraid if he let his lover get too far away he'd disappear. Using their behavior as a guide the medic decided the threat Levon had issued must not be one of real concern. It sounded more like the sort of byplay that often occurred between the team members, but since Nathan didn't know Levon he hadn't been sure.


"Yeah?" Levon's eyes drifted back to Joe.


Levon's head hung slightly as he sighed heavily. "I hate you."

Joe smiled. "No you don't."

"I will get even."

"About that I have no doubt, Cowboy." Joe chuckled, before sobering, a hand reaching out to cup Levon's face. "And I can live with that so long as you are okay."

"You got yerself some sort of torture chamber, Doc?" Levon looked at Nathan, apparently resigned to allowing himself to being checked out.

Nathan raised both eyebrows. "Yes I have one, although I prefer to call it an infirmary. And I'm not a doctor."

"Might not have the letters after yer name, but I'm guessin' yer close enough." Levon smirked tiredly, before raising a hand to rub at his eyes. "Ezra speaks highly o' you."

Nathan smiled at the compliment. He knew his teammate thought well of him and appreciated his skills even if he didn't always willingly submit to being examined. It was still nice to know that Ezra had spoken well of him to his cousin.

"You don't fight me on it, and it'll be over before you know it." Nathan offered. It was the same argument he regularly made to Ezra. It usually worked, and it was the truth.

Levon laughed lightly. "You gonna give me a sucker too?"

"Only if you behave."

Joe grinned. "I like you."

"Naturally." Levon snorted. "He ain't going to poke you any."

Joe opened his mouth to make some sort of comment but it was lost when Levon began coughing again. Nathan noted it was a dry, hacking cough, not the wet sounding sort that he associated with pneumonia. This sounded more like a chest cold.

Nathan made a motion toward the infirmary. "Why don't you come with me?"

Levon nodded, recovering his breath again. Nathan wasn't too surprised when Joe stepped in close to his partner. Joe nodded casually to Chris as they walked passed him. "Nice to see you again, Larabee."

Nathan had to stifle his laughter at the look on Chris' face. Chris absolutely hated with a passion being ignored or dismissed. Joe and Levon had managed to do both in less than five minutes. He had a feeling he was going to enjoy having both of them at Camp AWOL for however long they were planning to be there.

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Vin watched Nathan lead Joe and Levon toward the infirmary. He shook his head. "What the hell just happened here?"

Ezra chuckled, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Levon and Joe will be staying with us for a few days."

"A few days?" Chris interjected. Vin noticed the muscle flexing along Chris' jaw line.

"Just until Levon's feeling a bit better." Ezra answered calmly. "Vin's room is currently unoccupied so I invited them to utilize it." He arched an eyebrow. "When we signed on, you said our quarters were ours to use as we saw fit. Has that changed in the three weeks I was away?"

"Damn it, Ezra." Chris glared at him. "That isn't what I meant and you know it."

Josiah had sauntered over to join them, slapping Chris on the back. "Don't mind him brothers, he is just suffering from his favorite delusion."

Vin grinned. "You mean the one where he thinks he's in charge?"

"That's the one." Josiah laughed. "I'm sure he doesn't have any objections…he just would have preferred to be the one to extend the invitation himself." Josiah reached out to pull Ezra into a gentle, warm hug. "Good to have you back son."

Vin resisted the urge to growl. Josiah's action had moved Ezra away from him, breaking the hold he had on his lover. Ezra permitted the hug for only a few seconds before pulling away. Vin was pleased that Josiah was smart enough to let him go free.

"I am not your son, Josiah, but it is still good to see you as well." Ezra stepped away, once more close to Vin. Vin wrapped one arm around his waist, intent on keeping him close, trying not to feel smug knowing Ezra would permit him long term contact he didn't allow the others.

Buck and JD had followed Josiah. The normally exuberant lanky Midwesterner correctly read Vin's stance and didn't even bother trying to do more than just nod hello and say 'welcome back'. JD did likewise, grinning broadly.

Buck reached to pluck two of the duffle bags off the ground, letting JD get the other. "So you want these in your quarters?'

"I am perfectly capable of handling—"

"I'm going to just take that as a yes." Buck winked at him as he turned and headed for the barracks Vin and Ezra shared. "Figure we'll have a cookout for dinner since Josiah's got some steaks thawing. You two oughtta be done catching up with each other by then." The mustached man tossed over his shoulder, his last statement heavily laced with innuendo.

"Don't think we would be." JD snickered, bumping Buck with his shoulder.

When Vin and Ezra would have followed them, Chris stepped in front of Ezra. Genuine concern warmed his eyes as he studied Ezra's face. "You don't need to have Nathan check you out?"

Vin held his breath waiting for an answer, knowing Ezra wouldn't lie to Chris. That didn't mean he wouldn't be a bit creative or liberal in his interpretation. Other than the dark circles under his eyes and the usual weight loss there didn't seem to be anything seriously wrong with his lover, but it was possible he'd missed something.

Ezra smiled, green eyes easily meeting Chris', hand lightly patting Vin's ass so the others couldn't see him do it, offering reassurance and a subtle promise. "No, I do not need Nathan to check me out. I'm tired, but otherwise fine."

Chris nodded. "Good." His expression grew stern. "Next time let us know you when you are going on these little jaunts with someone trustworthy."

"I shall endeavor to do so." Ezra offered him a casual salute, clearly recognizing the statement as an order and the worry behind it. Cool eyes warmed slightly, whether he was pleased by the concern or by the assessment of Joe and Levon as trustworthy, Vin couldn't say.

Chris smiled tightly as he stepped aside. "Don't be late for dinner."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Ezra grinned, a flash of gold in his smile glinting in the early morning light.

Chris made a shooing motion with his hand. "Go on then."

Vin successively resisted the urge to jog to their quarters, matching his steps to Ezra's in an easy stroll. He used the time to familiarize himself anew with his lover's beloved profile. Vin realized that somewhere along the way they must have stopped and cleaned up because there were no traces of camouflage paint marring Ezra's features and his clothes were clean. Most of the time, Ezra came back looking like he'd been in the field the entire time he'd been away.

"Levon wanted a hot shower." Ezra answered his unspoken question, reading his mind as easily as ever.

"Chill?" The sound of the blond's cough, Vin figured that to be the most likely reason. Levon hadn't struck him as being all that fastidious about his appearance.

"He couldn't get warm." Ezra nodded with a soft sigh. "Hot shower helped a great deal. Some rest and a few good meals should do the rest."

If that was really all that was needed, it didn't seem worth the confrontation that had taken place. Vin was pretty sure Levon could rest and eat anywhere. "Why push him to let Nate check him out?"

"Because I wanted to be sure…because Joe wanted to be sure. Because when it comes to his health, rather than our own, we both want a professional opinion." Ezra shrugged, expression rueful. "I have a better appreciation for how Chris must feel from time to time."

Vin grinned. "You gonna tell him that?"

Ezra arched an eyebrow. "I'm going to assume that is a rhetorical question."

"Probably." Vin snickered. "Would kind of like to see his face if ya ever do get around to sharin' that little bit o' information."

"As would I." Ezra laughed lightly. Vin loved the sound of Ezra's laughter…that genuinely amused, delighted, unselfconscious sound that he made so rarely. It was a rare treasure. Just having him home was another.

Vin unconsciously hurried their pace, wanting to get inside, behind a firmly locked door. He was pleased to find Ezra's pace continued to match his. They moved in step as though they'd practiced it.

Buck and JD had left the door open…and were not in their barracks, something Vin was decidedly grateful for. Buck definitely knew better than to hang around. And JD was no slouch in his understanding of romantic reunions, not if his comment earlier was anything to go by.

Vin kicked the door closed and had Ezra up against in less time than it took to blink. He bent his head slightly, aiming for a kiss, halting just a hair's breath from Ezra's lips. Blue eyes intense as they met and held green. "I missed you."

"Missed you too." Ezra closed the remaining distance between them.

Vin lost himself in warm, wet, sweet…oh so incredibly wonderful mouth with it's equally wonderful tongue. He'd forgotten how delicious Ezra was, imprinting on his psyche all over again why it was he so enjoyed kissing this man. He reveled in that heady flavor that he'd only ever been able to identify as 'Ezra' tantalized him, making him regret having to pull away to breathe.

He reached to lock the door but Ezra stopped him. "Levon and Joe…staying here." Ezra panted, just as affected by that kiss as Vin was. "We'll lock …the bedroom door."

"Good enough." Vin wasn't going to argue. So long as Joe and Levon knew enough to leave them the hell alone for a few hours, and weren't embarrassed by the sounds being made Vin didn't care. Somehow, given the noises he'd heard at the ranch coming from the older couple's bedroom, he didn't think they'd mind a whole lot.

They were stripping out of their clothes, leaving a trail that lead toward their bedroom. Passionate, desperate kisses were interspersed with gentle caresses that managed to both equally assist and hinder in the removal of clothing. When they reached the bedroom, this time it was Ezra who kicked the door shut and had Vin pinned against it, ravishing his mouth like a starving man offered all he could eat at a banquet.

Vin moaned into Ezra's mouth. God, he'd missed this. He pulled Ezra closer, encouraging his lover to rest all his weight against him. Full body contact, skin to skin…finally. It had been too damn long.

His hands couldn't seem to stop moving. Ezra's skin always reminded him of warm silk. He loved being able to touch, mapping out contours and hard planes. He'd tried to use his imagination to conjure the feel of Ezra's skin, of his weight against him while his lover was away, but Vin hadn't been able to fool himself. There was no substitute for the real thing.

He pushed them away from the door. They'd had sex like that once, with Ezra against the wall, legs wrapped around Vin's waist, Vin's cock buried deep in him, and it had been a mind blowing experience. But Vin's back had hurt for a good two days afterward. He much preferred for them both to be comfortable…and be in good shape to make love for days.

They stumbled to the bed, falling in a tangle of limbs that made Vin sigh in satisfaction. There was nothing better than being wrapped around Ezra, unable to tell where one of them ended and the other began. He could easily spend the rest of his life like this.

"Want you in me." Vin whispered harshly, hands cupping Ezra's face. "Please."

"My pleasure." Ezra smiled, the lovely green of his eyes nearly lost to passion widened pupils. "It will definitely be a pleasure."

Vin pulled Ezra in for another kiss. Without conscious thought his hips began moving, a lazy rhythm that felt so good he couldn't stop. The friction felt good. He tilted his head back, releasing those delectable lips, baring his throat.

Ezra was quick to capitalize on what Vin offered. He nibbled, licked, and sucked at various points on Vin's neck until he homed in on the one spot that always made Vin sigh deeply, just below the hollow of his throat. The brief bit of pain was worth knowing he'd be wearing Ezra's mark for the next few days. It didn't matter that the mark would be too low to be readily visible, all that mattered was he would once more have a brand of Ezra's ownership on his body.

"Need...God…Lube." Ezra's voice was a rough, desperate whisper, arm straining to reach the night stand without letting go of Vin.

"Don't need it." Vin shook his head. "Ready for you."

Ezra's eyes widened as he lifted his head enough to make eye contact, eyes impossibly dark. "Ready?"

Vin nodded, his hands unable to cease their constant exploration, homing in on the places that made Ezra's eyes become heavy lidded again, glazing over. "Knew when you'd be here." Vin whispered. He'd made use of the lube shortly before the chopper was due to arrive, preparing himself in advance. "Knew what I wanted. Made sure I was ready."


Vin laughed lightly. "Surprised?"

"More like profoundly grateful." Ezra grinned, diving in once more for a kiss that left Vin unable to think.

Ezra pulled away enough to give Vin room to raise his legs and hips. The southerner knew face to face was Vin's favorite position. Ordinarily they would engage in more foreplay than this, but there would be time for that later. Right not all either of them wanted was to connect on a fundamental level, to re-establish that primal connection.

Vin moaned when Ezra breeched the tight ring of muscle, sliding home into Vin's tight heat without preamble. He'd used less lube than Ezra would have, wanting that little bit of burn to remind him of how good this was, to emphasis that it was real, not a dream. How the hell he could forget how good this felt was a complete mystery, not that he ever really did, but even in his dreams Vin had never been able to create the same feeling. Nothing in his life had ever felt so incredibly right as having Ezra take him…except maybe for when he took Ezra.

He opened eyes he didn't remember closing, looking up at Ezra, spell bound by the beauty of the man, legs curling around him to draw him in even deeper. "Love you…love you." Vin almost chanted. "Missed you…missed this."

Ezra smiled at him. The expression on his face that never failed to remind Vin of the saints painted on church ceilings…rapture, pure and simple, there was no other name for it. He was still awed to realize that he was the one who made Ezra look that way.

Ezra rolled his hips in a smooth undulation, a sensuous move that left Vin begging for more. He wanted harder, faster. He wanted Ezra to fuck him into the mattress. They could do sweet and gentle later.

He moved to drive the pace and was delighted when Ezra matched him. Vin arched his back when Ezra ran a hand down his chest, stopping to tease sensitive, pert nipples before continuing lower to encircle his leaking cock. Vin cried out something, but had no idea what, as Ezra began to stroke his cock in time with their thrusting hips.

Their harsh pants, soft sighs, rich moans seemed to echo about the room. Vin was vaguely aware of the soft thumping of the head board against the wall adding a nice counterpoint to their vocalizations. He felt the angle of Ezra's thrusts change, the sparks of pleasure from repeated hits to his prostate made it hard for Vin to be conscious of anything else. There was only the two of them, racing toward completion…that was all that mattered.

Small tremors rippled up Vin's back. God he loved this moment. It was like hanging from a precipice, caught between the desire to hang on and let go. He was so close and tried to fight it back not wanting to fall before Ezra did.

Ezra's thrust were becoming erratic a sure sign that he was just a close as Vin was. Another hard thrust, sparks behind his eyes and suddenly Vin was coming with a harsh shout of Ezra's name. He felt Ezra thrust again and again, then his whole body going taut and still as he shouted out his own cry of completion.

Vin panted, trying to recover his breath, holding Ezra where his lover had all but collapsed on his chest. Ezra was still inside of him. Vin could almost feel his lover's heart beating in time with his own, ragged puffs of air warm against his sweat slick skin. He lazily stroked up and down Ezra's spine, a gesture that soothed both of them.

"I am so glad to be home." Ezra murmured, placing a soft kiss above Vin's heart.

It had taken more than a year for Ezra to start referring to Camp AWOL as home. Even though he now called it home regularly, it still gave Vin a tiny thrill to hear him do it. Ezra raised his head, a small chuckle escaping making Vin give him a questioning look.

"Home is not there," Ezra waved a hand toward the door clearly signifying the rest of Camp AWOL, somehow managing to know exactly what Vin had been thinking. "Home is here." He patted Vin's chest with a warm smile.

For a moment, Vin couldn't breathe. He hugged Ezra hard, unable to find the right words to express what he was feeling. Somehow he was sure that didn't matter. Ezra always understood him.

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Ezra sighed and stretched, careful not to wake Vin. He had no idea how long they'd been sleeping, the blackout curtains he'd hung in their bedroom blocked the light. Their last bout of lovemaking had been a sharp contrast from their first; a slow and gentle mutual exploration of one another, a slowly tightening spiral of building ecstasy that had finally sated both of their needs to physically express their love. At least sated the need for the moment.

Ezra slid out of bed, stretching again, delighted to feel all the faint twinges and aches that reminded him of what they'd been doing. He couldn't resist smiling when Levon's expression of 'rode hard and put away wet' came to mind. It certainly seemed to fit.

He pulled on his robe, tying it loosely and went in search of something to drink. Ezra blinked as he looked at the clock. The chopper had landed shortly before dawn and it was now mid-afternoon. Spending the day in bed was something he'd have to see if he could convince Vin to do again…preferably without having to be gone three weeks to do it. Somehow he just couldn't see Vin objecting much.

Ezra quietly opened the door and slipped out. He expected to see their clothes still leading a trail to the bedroom. Ezra shook his head when he spotted them laying neatly folded on one of the couches. He should have known better.

Levon was the most likely choice for having picked them up. His cousin preferred to have things neat. The blond also knew Ezra would be slightly embarrassed about having his reunion with Vin overheard. Cleaning up the blatantly visual detritus would have been Levon's way of signaling his acceptance and easing any discomfiture.

Ezra grinned. It was going to be nice to have Levon around for a few days. He glanced toward the Vin's old bedroom, noting the closed door. Hopefully, Levon was sleeping.

Unable to resist checking on his cousin, Ezra tiptoed to the door and silently opened it. Levon was curled up on the bed, snuggled in close to Joe who had a pillow bunched up behind him, lounging as he read. Ezra wasn't at all fazed by the gun that Joe had pointed in his direction.

"Sorry." Ezra whispered, out of habit falling into a language other than English that was as natural as breathing whenever he had a one on one conversation with Joe. Gaelic came unbidden, the soft sounds and lilt seemed appropriate. "Should have knocked."

Joe nodded. He laid the gun back on the nightstand. "Figured you'd be still be sleeping." Joe arched an eyebrow, his knowing expression making Ezra blush.

"He doing okay?" Ezra ignored Joe's comment and look as best he was able, and given the practice he'd had over the years controlling his expression and body language it wasn't hard to look nonchalant.

Joe snorted softly, letting him know it was a wasted effort. The older man knew him too well to be fooled. Joe smiled fondly down at his sleeping lover who was nearly lost under the comforter he had pulled up far enough to hide all but part of his face and blond curls. "Slept the day away."

"Good." Ezra studied what h could see of Levon's sleeping face, pleased to see the lines of strain had faded. Levon didn't look nearly as pale and drawn as he had earlier. "What did Nathan say?"

"Exhaustion and a bit undernourished."

That wasn't a huge surprise. Ezra often got a similar diagnosis whenever he came back. He'd be willing to bet that Nathan had commented on the blond's weight. Even when he was eating well, Levon always seemed to be a few pounds shy of what he ought to weigh, rather like Vin. Neither one seemed capable of really filling out.

"That cough?"

"Thinks it's just a common cold or maybe a holdover from his flu." Joe shrugged one shoulder. "Lungs are clear enough to rule out pneumonia and bronchitis."

Ezra nodded, relieved. "You want something to drink? Eat?"

"I set the timer on the coffee pot." Joe glanced at his watch. "Should start any minute."

"Want me to bring you a cup when it's ready?"

"I'll come get it." Joe smiled, waving off the offer with a careless hand motion. "Those steaks we were promised should be just about ready by then."

Ezra's stomach rumbled reminding him of how long it had been since he'd sat down to really eat. Josiah's grilling was always very good. His mouth watered just thinking about it.

He didn't jump when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Ezra knew it was highly unlikely that Vin would stay abed without him there. His lover was just to in tune with him to be able to completely ignore his absence for long. Vin wrapped his arms around Ezra's waist, nodding cordially to Joe before resting his chin on Ezra's shoulder.

"Levon doin' okay?" Vin whispered, his tone one of genuine concern. Vin liked Levon a lot. And Ezra knew the feeling was mutual.

Joe nodded. He lightly brushed his fingers through Levon's curls when the Texan shifted restlessly in his sleep. "Shhhh…it's okay, Cowboy." Levon coughed, curling deeper into himself and closer to Joe before settling again.

Remembering how his earlier conversation with Joe had disturbed Levon, Ezra leaned back into Vin forcing him to back up, pulling the door closed silently. They could talk later. No reason to disrupt Levon's much needed rest.

Vin unwrapped himself from around Ezra, moving a hand to rub his shoulder. "Should I take it personally that you left me all alone?"

Ezra could easily see the playful twinkle in Vin's eyes. He kept his tone dry when he answered. "Given how we've spent the day and how I fully intend to spend the night, I think you have no reason to worry."

"Night?" Vin looked decidedly eager.

"Unless of course you have other plans." Ezra put on his best innocent expression. "You don't have other plans do you, Mr. Tanner?"

"Hell, no." Vin grinned. "You know I'm not good with plans. I leave that stuff to you. I'm better at executin' what you think up."

"Oh, I don't know about that." Ezra winked at him. "I'd say the plan you had when I arrived was a thing of beauty."

He chuckled when Vin blushed, amused that his incredibly passionate, breathtakingly beautiful lover could be so easily embarrassed by so small a compliment. Ezra placed a soft kiss on Vin's cheek. Still in need of a drink, he stepped away before Vin could turn that small show of affection into something reminiscent of their recent activities.

Ezra pulled a bottle of water from the fridge and offered a second to Vin. He took a long refreshing swallow. The timer on the coffee pot beeped twice before beginning its brewing cycle making Vin glance over at it in surprise.

"Joe set it."

Vin sighed sounding slightly disappointed. "Gonna be that flavored, frothy stuff you like."

"No." Ezra grinned, dimples appearing. "Knowing Joe, he set it up for Levon. My cousin is fully capable of drinking an entire pot. Having slept the day away, he'll be craving the caffeine."

"Good coffee then." Vin's eyes sparkled.

"Suitable for paving highways." Ezra agreed with a chuckle.

Vin rolled his eyes. "Least your cousin has some sense when it comes ta coffee."

"That's one way of looking at it." Ezra took another sip of his water. He needed a shower. Definitely. And with Vin awake…there was no reason he had to shower alone.

Giving Vin a flirtatious look, Ezra smiled. "I think the only thing your coffee and mine have in common, Vin, is the fact that they both involve hot water." He raised a finger to lightly rub at the pulse point of his neck, knowing Vin's eyes couldn't help but follow the gesture. "Perhaps you could convince me there might be more than that while we explore the benefits of hot water for ourselves, say…in the shower?"

Vin pursed his lips, clearly pretending to consider the offer. Ezra was impressed that he managed not to say 'yes' immediately. The slow considering nod was timed wonderfully.

"Sounds like a plan there, Ez."

"Excellent." Ezra left his half empty bottle of water on the counter, sauntering past Vin. He looked over his shoulder. "Coming?"

Vin shuddered, a wicked grin lighting up his face. "Oh…I'm sure I will."

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Levon's eyes opened, immediately assessing his surroundings without moving, trying to figure out what woke him. A gentle shake of his shoulder and he knew it was his lover. Joe was leaning over him, aqua colored eyes warm and gentle.

"Hey, Cowboy…you awake?"

"Yeah." His voice sounded like a rusty hinge. Levon swallowed, wincing at how dry and raw his throat felt. He gave Joe a grateful look when the Chicago native handed him a glass of water. He sipped slowly, mindful of how much it hurt to swallow.

"What time is it?" Levon asked as he handed the glass back to Joe, throat feeling better for the moisture so that it didn't hurt as much to talk.

"Dinner time."

Levon blinked in surprise. "That late already?"

Joe nodded. "You slept all day."

Levon grunted. He hadn't done that since he had the mumps when he was six…well if you didn't count the times he'd been injured that is. Levon stretched a bit, before pulling the comforter back up more than happy to just go back to sleep. It felt good to be warm and comfortable. It was nice not to have his joints sending painful reminders of their presence every time he moved. The headache that had dogged him for the past week finally seemed to have abated.

Joe pulled the blanket away from him with a small shake of his head. "You need to eat something, Cowboy. Then you can go back to sleep, okay?"

"I'll eat later." Levon didn't have the strength to wrestle the blanket away from Joe. He just snuggled into the mattress, pulling a pillow in close to him. Not as warm, but it would do.

"Now, Levon." Joe shook his shoulder again. His tone shifted from ordering to cajoling. "They got steak…on the grill…just the way you like it. I've even got coffee ready for you."

Levon sighed, rubbing a hand over his face trying to shake off the last vestiges of sleep, resigned to the fact Joe wasn't going to let him go back to sleep. Coffee would be good, very good. He sat up, limbs feeling impossibly heavy and slow. He must have really been down for the count.

He stumbled when he got out of bed and would have fallen if Joe hadn't been there to catch him. Levon leaned into Joe, loosely wrapping his arms around Joe's lean waist, resting his head on Joe's shoulder. He felt his lover place a kiss in his hair.

"You okay?"

Levon rubbed his cheek against the soft, worn cotton of Joe's t-shirt. "Yeah…jus' slept too hard."

He pulled away from Joe, once more steady on his feet, knowing if he stayed in the circle of Joe's arms for too much longer he wouldn't ever want to leave. Levon yawned and then shivered. The room wasn't really cold, he knew that. Just the contrast being out from under the cocoon of blankets it felt cool to him. Joe handed him a long sleeved flannel shirt that he put on without hesitation, the added layer feeling good. He glanced around, looking for his shoes, frowning as he tried to remember where they were.

"You left them by the outside door." Joe smiled slightly.

"Right." Levon ran a hand through his hair. He knew the curls were probably running amuck but couldn't bring himself to care. He really needed a haircut, but hadn't had the time before they got called to leave. And Joe liked it longer, loved playing with the curls so Levon usually put off getting it cut for as long as he could stand it.

"Vin and Ezra up and around?"

"Just got out of the shower about five minutes ago." Joe snickered.

Levon laughed soundlessly. "Loud were they?"

"Not too bad." Joe shrugged, an understanding smile teasing the corners of his generous mouth. "But it wasn't too difficult to figure out what they were doing, bathroom acoustics being what they are."

Levon nodded. He stretched, several vertebrae popping when he did. He ignored Joe's wince at the sound. "Maybe we can make some noise of our own later."

Joe rewarded him with a slow, warm smile. "I'd like that."

Levon leaned in for a sweet, chaste kiss, one that promised good things to come. "You said something about coffee?"

"Just finished perking about ten minutes ago."

"Love you, Joe." Levon kissed him again. Maybe they could stay right here. Forget the coffee and just go back to bed.

"Love you too." Joe smiled before giving him a knowing look and then gently shoved him toward the door. "You are going to get something to eat so you can just forget what you are thinking right now."

Levon sighed stepping through the doorway. "Have I told you lately just how pushy you are?"

"Not lately, no." Joe smiled, following him into the common room and kitchen area. "But I'm sure I'll be suffering though you going on at length about it over the next few days."

"Ya can count on that." Levon would consider ragging on Joe as part of getting even with him for his part in forcing him to be examined by Nathan. It wouldn't completely balance the scales, but it would be a start.

Levon had been pleasantly surprised to find Nathan's examination to be relatively quick and painless. The medic was every bit as competent as Ezra said he was. And he seemed to understand Levon's desire to not be touched by someone who was essentially a stranger. He was also careful to never stand behind Levon for long and explained what he was doing and why, reducing the Texan's level of anxiety and feeling of vulnerability.

One of the biggest reasons Levon disliked people in the medical profession was their propensity to invade his personal space without asking permission first. Growing up with an abusive drunk as a father, Levon learned early on it was important to know where people where at all times and keeping people at arms length meant it was harder for them to hit him easily.

His career choice and corresponding experiences cemented that wariness with regard to anyone who had the means and ability to render him incapable of fighting back. He'd never told Joe why being sedated honestly terrified him. And he had no intention of sharing that information. Levon was just grateful Joe was always quick to make sure he was in the same room whenever Levon had to be treated for an injury.

Shaking off his thoughts, Levon realized his lover must have cased the small kitchenette at some point because he knew exactly where to find the coffee mugs. Joe poured a cup for Levon. The blond breathed in the aroma before taking a sip. It was strong and bitter, not at all how Joe liked it, which meant he'd made it especially for Levon.

"Thanks." Levon meant that for more than just the coffee. The head tip Joe executed as he said 'you're welcome' let Levon know his lover understood what he meant.

Vin appeared in the other bedroom doorway, hair still damp, with Ezra only a step behind. Levon casually saluted them with his coffee cup. Joe smiled and nodded to them.

"You guys ready to get something to eat?" Joe asked innocently. "Must have worked up one hell of an appetite by now."

Levon hid his smile behind his mug when both younger men blushed. He still remembered what it was like when he and Joe had first gotten together and the first time a job had forced them to be apart. Levon had walked with a limp for the better part of a week, but he had no regrets about that. Not a one.

"Stop teasing the kids, Joe." Levon sipped his coffee, brown eyes twinkling. "Liable to make 'em mean."

Vin did a fair imitation of a vicious growl, but the sly grin he wore ruined the effect. Ezra simply arched an eyebrow. "And hateful, Levon, don't forget that."

"Right." Levon nodded sagely. The two always went together whenever his grandmother, Mother Minnie, had scolded them, although, Levon had never quite understood why.

"I'm hungry." He put his mug on the counter, eager to be done with this meal. Joe wouldn't let him go back to bed until he ate…so he'd eat and then see if Joe was willing to take him up on that offer about making noise of their own.

"Who's cookin'?" Levon asked, idly curious. Joe had said they'd be grilling steak, but didn't mention who was cooking. Joe would probably be watching him like a hawk to make sure he ate enough, and the last thing he wanted to do was choke down an unappetizing meal to keep his lover happy.

"Josiah." Ezra answered with a wide smile. "He, like you, takes his grilling seriously. You will not be disappointed, cousin."

"They got something leafy and green for Joe?" Levon winked at his partner. "Boy still thinks every meal has to have some sort o' rabbit food included."

Ezra sighed heavily and shared a look with Joe. "No head way has been made toward improving his diet I take it?"

"It is a constant battle." Joe shook his head, an expression of overdone remorse gracing his features. "He still thinks it only qualifies as food if it was moving and breathing at some point in its life. I worry about his cholesterol levels."

Levon rolled his eyes; dying of a heart attack was the least of his worries. Vin snickered, giving Levon a commiserating look. "I always got jerky handy if you need some later."

Levon grinned. "Excellent."

"It must have something to do with being from Texas." Joe sighed. "No other way to explain it."

"Probably." Ezra agreed. "Shall we ponder this over dinner?"

They exited the barracks and headed for a pavilion where Levon could smell food cooking. He eyed the pavilion, noting that it was clearly a relatively recent addition to the old army base. It was certainly a nice touch, making the place seem more homey and less utilitarian. He grinned when he spotted the swings.

Levon held out his hand to Joe. "You owe me a buck."

Joe grimaced, digging a dollar out of his pocket. "I really need to stop betting with you."

"Ya do and I won't have any money for your birthday present."

"Like you really use your winnings for that." Joe snorted, eyes crinkling at the corners betraying his amusement.

"Well, not all of it." Levon laughed lightly. "Usually have some left over for a case or two o' beer."

Joe gave him a dirty look. "I'm not betting with you anymore."

Levon smiled. He knew his lover didn't mean it. Their little game of one-upmanship had been going on too long for either of them to seriously consider quitting. And Joe won almost as often as he lost. If he hadn't neither of them would have enjoyed the game quite so much.

"Let's got make nice with the family. Looks like they're waitin' on us."

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Chris stepped out of his barracks and breathed deeply. He loved the early hours of the morning. It wasn't unbearably hot yet, and there was something about the promise of a new day that always seemed to help lift his spirits.

He stretched, careful not to spill his coffee. Chris had already completed his usual five mile run, the barely risen sun lighting his way. He'd showered afterward, letting the warm water relax tired muscles and wash away all traces of his excursion. The coffee was more a matter of habit than a need for something to help get his day started.

He'd thought about rousting the rest of the team out of bed and making them join him, but decided against it. Ezra had certainly looked more rested last night at dinner than he had when he'd gotten off the chopper and Vin was looking more like his usual self, but Chris didn't really want to contemplate what reaction he'd have garnered by interrupting their well deserved reunion for a little PT. He was curious as to what sort of reaction he might have gotten from Joe and Levon. Drawn weapons seemed the most likely.

Dinner last night had been a relaxed, casual affair that everyone seemed to enjoy. The brotherly banter between them had been missing since Ezra left. None of them had felt up to their usual mode of behavior with a member a missing. It was good to be whole again, to have things back to normal.

Joe and Levon had fit in surprisingly well. Chris shook his head. He really shouldn't have been surprised. They were the ones to see the burgeoning romance between Buck and JD. They had all but adopted Vin as part of their family. Half the team already liked and respected them. Winning over the rest was not particularly difficult.

It didn't hurt that Levon's laidback manner made him easy to get along with. Or that Joe's sense of humor fit seamlessly in with theirs. The two men could have been a part of Chris' team from day one. He almost regretted not knowing they were out there to offer the job too. Chris pursed his lips and shook his head. No, he really couldn't see either Joe or Levon as working for him. With him, oh definitely, but for him, no.

He sipped his coffee and sauntered over to the pavilion. From there he could watch Josiah practicing his Tai Chi. The big man never missed a morning unless Chris ordered him to participate in a group training exercise. Chris figured he'd run into Nathan as well, knowing the medic had recently begun to participate.

Chris was surprised to find Levon comfortably lounging on one of the swings. The blond was watching Nathan and Josiah, head cocked to one side. Brown eyes flickered over to him in acknowledgement.

"Kind o' reminds me o' slow dancin'." Levon's lips curled in a small smile. "Never could get the hang of either one. Less o' course it was with Joe."

Chris chuckled, taking the Adirondack chair nearest the swing. "Can't say I was ever really good at dancing either." He looked into his cup, hesitating for a second. "Although my wife said I was pretty good if I just let her lead."

Levon nodded, accepting Chris comment silently. Chris was not entirely surprised that the blond didn't ask for more information. He, like his cousin, had an innate respect for another person's privacy. Thinking about Ezra had Chris unconsciously looking toward his and Vin's barrack.

"Ezra and Vin are still in bed." Levon offered quietly. "Joe, Buck and JD went running. Left about ten minutes ago. Figure you were in the shower 'bout then."

Chris sipped his coffee, not really surprised that Levon seemed to read his thoughts. It appeared to be one more trait he and Ezra shared. It was something Chris found himself growing more comfortable with.

"Saw you leave this morning." Levon smiled, brown eyes twinkling. "Would o' run with ya, but don't think Joe would have approved."

"Not likely." Chris snorted. He gave Levon an appraising glance. "You look better."

"Feel better."

The small cough that followed the blond's statement didn't really make a liar of him. He sounded a lot better this morning than he had the day before, voice not nearly as rough or painful sounding. The dark circles and lines of exhaustion and strain were gone from his face making him look younger. Brown eyes were no longer bloodshot, but clear and bright.

"You have anything to eat?"

"Not yet." Levon shrugged one shoulder. "Reckon I'll wait until Joe gets back." A wicked little grin appeared. "He likes to cook."

"So I've heard." Buck and JD had been suitably impressed by the meals Joe had made when they'd gone to visit the ranch outside Houston. They'd been equally impressed by the fact that he set the table with fine china and crystal glassware. Chris hadn't believed them when they'd sworn up and down that they'd utilized good table manners and hadn't broken anything until Vin had confirmed it. Having seen the antics Buck and JD could get up to during a meal, Chris really wished someone had taken video proof.

"You always get up early?" Chris sipped his coffee. That would be a habit Levon and Ezra certainly didn't share if that was the case.

"Pretty much, yeah. Don't normally sleep once the sun is up." Levon looked rueful. "Sure as hell not the whole day like I did yesterday."

"Guessing you needed it."

"S'what Joe said too." Levons sighed. "Still seems like a waste o' the day."

"Doing what is needed is never wasteful."

Levon blinked. "Sounds like something my grandmother would say."

"Was something my mother used to say." Chris shrugged. "And she was right. I try to remind myself of that now and again." Usually it was when dealing with recuperating from an injury of his own or when poring over the tedious information that came with setting up a job.

"Help you at all?"

"Sometimes." Chris sipped his coffee. "But not much."

Levon's laugh was broken by a rough coughing spell that lasted only a second. "Nothing like an honest man." He grinned.

Chris snickered. "Honest?"

Levon gave him an appraising glance that easily rivaled the one Chris had given him. "You couldn't lie to save your life."

Chris couldn't decide if he was pleased or offended. He bit back the instinctive desire to argue, to prove himself capable of anything. "What makes you so sure?"

Brown eyes met his and then looked away toward where Josiah and Nathan were still working their way through an elaborate Tai Chi form. "Because yer like me."

"Come again?" Chris didn't see where they had all that much in common.

"You and me…we're simple." Levon smiled, still not looking at him. "Not simple as in stupid…simple as in uncomplicated, straightforward. What you see is what you get." The blond glanced toward him, meeting and holding his eyes. "You don't think around the corners…you think through them. If people were tools, you and me, we'd be hammers."

Chris was more surprised by that characterization than offended. This was only the second time he'd met Levon and the man already seemed to know him far better than Chris knew him. Chris shook his head, reminding himself again just how much Levon had in common with Ezra.

"I think you are a bit…ah, sharper than most hammers."

"Thank you." Levon chuckled. "You wanna tell Joe and Ezra that? Maybe they'll stop treating me like I can't take care o' myself."

Chris snorted, eyes amused. "Doubt my opinion carries much weight there."

Levon sighed. "Most likely not."

They watched in companionable silence as Josiah and Nathan continue working through a complicated form. There weren't many people Chris had met that weren't put off by his silence, reading more into it than his simply not feeling the need to speak. Sarah had been one. Vin was another. Buck didn't read much into his silence per se, but consistently tried to draw him out. Levon appeared to be content to allow him to drink his coffee and enjoy the morning.

Chris wasn't sure how long they'd been sitting there when Levon's head turned toward the gate. He reminded the former marine of a cat that had suddenly caught sight of movement it found worth investigating. If the blond had a tail the tip would definitely be twitching.

Chris found himself scanning the entrance, unconsciously looking for what had put his companion on alert. He relaxed immediately when he realized it was just Joe, Buck and JD returning. He found himself unconsciously measuring Levon's eyesight with the team's resident 'eagle-eye' and was surprised to find the blond was probably equal to Vin in that area. He wondered if Levon's aim was as good.

"With the right weapon," Levon gave him a sly look, "I could take out the eye of a sparrow at fifteen hundred yards."

"Someday you are going to have to tell me how you do that."

"Just as soon as I figure it out, Larabee, I'll let you know." Levon grinned. "Like I told Vin, knowing what yer gonna say 'fore you say it is somethin' the whole family jus' sort of does."

"You're better at it than Ezra." Chris observed dryly. Ezra had been with them for awhile before he started to seem like he was reading their minds which had made that skill easy for them to pass off as Ezra simply knowing them all better than they thought.

"No." Levon shook his head. "Jus' not as good at waitin'."

Chris didn't get a chance to respond to Levon's comment. Joe, Buck and JD had jogged to the pavilion, their presence making him hesitant to broach the subject further. Joe's aqua eyes were quickly giving his lover the once over, and Chris wondered just what the younger man's reaction would be if he found a hair out of place.

Levon just smiled, unperturbed by Joe's scrutiny. "Have a good run?"

"Not bad." Joe was evidently satisfied by what he saw in the blond moving to stand closer to him. "Nice to be able to run along the beach. Kind of reminds me of the lake front around Chicago."

JD snorted, face still flushed from excursion. "I hate running."

Buck patted him on the back, grinning broadly. Chris had a feeling the only reason JD had gone along is because Buck had somehow coerced him. "Keep telling you, kid, it is good for you."

JD made a face. "So are brussel sprouts, but I don't eat them."

Levon snickered. "Glad I ain't the only one who doesn't like them."

Joe rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. He pointed a finger at Levon. "A few more vegetables in your diet will not kill you."

"Don't see any reason why I should risk that." Levon pointed out calmly, more than a trace of humor in his voice.

"Risk?" Joe snorted, a smile lurking about the corners of his mouth. "What risk?"

"Huge risk in those veggies, Joe." Levon stated calmly, eyes twinkling. "Monumental."

Chris got the impression this was an old argument between the two, one that now lacked any real heat, if it ever had any. If he didn't know better he'd have easily mistaken Joe and Levon as nothing more than good friends. Their behavior last night and this morning hadn't really been what he'd call revealing. Even Vin and Ezra, outside of that initial bone crushing hug and holding hands at dinner, were not overly demonstrative. Buck and JD on the other hand still roughhoused much as they always had, often exchanging looks that Chris had dubbed 'bedroom eyes' and occasional kisses.

Joe leaned in closer. "Not something I'd expect you to brave alone, Cowboy. I'll make sure those big, bad vegetables don't hurt you."

Almost as if to prove Chris' earlier thoughts wrong, Joe kissed Levon. It was clearly an act the blond did not object to or feel any embarrassment about. The kiss wasn't an all consuming act of passion, but rather one of regular familiarity, an action of habit and affection. It was the sort of kiss Chris remembered sharing with his wife.

"Thank you." Levon smiled. "And good morning to you too."

"Been morning for awhile." Joe smiled back at him.

"Isn't morning until I get my kiss." Levon shot back with a wink. "Day shouldn't start without one."

"Amen." Buck echoed with a grin. "Always felt that way myself."

Chris raised an eyebrow when JD blushed. Knowing Buck for as long as he had, Chris wouldn't be at all surprised to find his morning routine regularly included more than just a kiss. He'd almost be disappointed if it didn't.

"Give me a few minutes to stretch out and clean up, and I'll make breakfast."

"You're going to cook?" JD perked up.

Joe nodded. "Had planned to…unless anyone has any objections."

"Anyone objects and I'll take him out back and shoot him." Buck stated firmly. "Not going to pass up a chance to eat your cooking."

Levon grinned. "Looks like yer fan base is growin', Joe."

Joe gave him another kiss before stepping away. "Better get cleaned up and get busy then. Wouldn't want to disappoint my legion of fans."

"Damn straight." Buck laughed, lightly slapping JD on the back. "C'mon, Kid. We better get cleaned up too. Don't want to miss out by being late."

"Just getting cleaned up together would be reason enough to go running, don't you think?" Chris kept his eyes pointed upward, voice casually contemplative. Teasing Buck and JD was something he enjoyed, but deliberately played at lightly. Last thing he wanted to do was embarrass them.

"Couldn't agree more." Levon said as he stood up from the swing with an easy grace reminiscent of Ezra. "You boys don't need to rush any." He winked. "Making sure Joe don't miss any spots usually takes a bit of time."

"Can see how it might." Buck leered good naturedly Joe before giving JD truly lascivious look, blue eyes warming to the color of cornflowers. "Not the sort of thing a man should ever rush. Might miss out on something along the way."

Chris bit his lip to keep from laughing out right at the blush that warmed JD's cheeks all the way to his ears. He cleared his throat. "Get the hell out of here, all of you. Too much longer and I'm going to be eating my breakfast for lunch."

Levon and Joe both raised two fingers in a casual salute. Buck hammed it up knocking his heels together and adopting an overly rigid pose as he saluted. JD just gave him a 'yeah, yeah'.

Chris rolled his eyes. "Damn good thing I'm confident of my leadership abilities, or I'd be down right offended, even wounded by this general insubordination." He made a shooing motion with one hand. "Go do whatever the hell you are going to do…and I do not want or need details," he leveled a glare at Buck, "Then get your asses to the kitchen for breakfast in good order."

"Yes, sir." Came from all four, sounding nearly as good as a well drilled squad if one over looked the smirks. Chris was more than willing to over look those.

He shook his head as Levon and Joe headed one way and Buck and JD the other. His life, and those he shared it with, would certainly not fit the usual definition of ordinary. Chris laughed to himself as he tried to decide if that meant they were extraordinary or simply abnormal. Either way he was damn glad to have them.

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JD headed for Vin and Ezra's quarters. He was pretty sure he'd find Joe and Levon there as well. With Buck and Chris off together doing 'God only knows what', JD was eager for some company. Over the past two days, he'd really enjoyed having Joe and Levon around and he wanted the chance to spend some more time with the older couple while he had the chance. And he wasn't the only one.

JD grinned as he spotted Nathan and Josiah heading the same direction he was. The medic had made a point of checking on Levon's health once a day. Nothing terribly intrusive, just enough to make sure the blond was getting better. As far as JD could tell he definitely was on the mend. The cough had faded to almost nothing, his temperature back to normal, and he no longer seemed inclined to spend the entire day sleeping, although a nap in the afternoon wasn't out of the question.

Josiah seemed to delight in having philosophical conversations with Joe, ones so esoteric no one else was able to follow, except perhaps Ezra. Ezra wasn't interested in participating, at least not all the time, but every once in awhile he'd make some comment when their conversation would lull. Those comments were clearly intended to get them going again. Reminded JD of poking a sleeping junk yard dog just to hear it snarl.

He waited at the door for Josiah and Nathan before knocking on the open door. Just because the door was open didn't mean he shouldn't be polite. Besides, JD really didn't want to risk interrupting a private moment.

"C'mon in. Door's open." Vin called out.

JD stepped through, closely followed by Josiah and Nathan. Joe and Vin were in the kitchenette area cutting up apples and cheese that were clearly intended to join the crackers and slices of ham already arranged on a dinner plate. JD glanced around for Ezra and Levon. He blinked in surprise when he spotted them both sitting on the floor, coffee table between them and a game board set up.

He frowned and stepped closer. "Scrabble?"

"Yes." Ezra answered, green eyes never leaving the letters he'd just finished propping up in front of him.

"Haven't played that in years." JD grinned. "Can I play?"

"Next game."

"But you've only just started." JD countered, not seeing any reason he couldn't join in.

"Might want to know the stakes before you really push too hard to join in." Joe lightly patted him on the shoulder as he stepped around him to set a small plate on the coffee table, near enough to be within easy reach of Ezra and Levon but not so close as to interfere with the game. He sat on the couch behind Levon, one hand moving to lightly play with the curls at the base of his lover's neck.

"Stakes?" Josiah raised both eyebrows.

"Me and Ezra always play for money, Josiah." Levon commented casually as he placed his first word 'Quaker' on the board tallying his score with an ease that implied not only a familiarity with the game but a good head for numbers as well. He snagged a cracker from the plate, popping it into his mouth with a quiet crunch.

Nathan cocked his head to one side as sat in the recliner. "You got money riding on this?"

"No reason to play otherwise." Ezra and Levon answered together, sharing a smile.

"What about just for fun?" Nathan pointed out as though it should be obvious.

"This is fun." Levon stated as he collected more tiles.

"How much is riding on this game?" JD interrupted before Nathan could push the issue. The medic had never objected to their little bets, down right gleeful from time to time when he managed to win one or two bucks, but he wasn't the sort who really saw the need to gamble.

"Jus' the taxes." Levon shrugged, eyes narrowed on the board as Ezra placed his first word, 'knife', using the 'k' of Quaker.

"Taxes?" Vin flopped down on the couch behind Ezra munching on an apple that had missed being sliced up. "Well past April 15th, Levon."

"Quarterly taxes, Vin. For this year." Ezra responded as he picked up a few new tiles. "We pre-pay each quarter so that the bill is not so large in April."

Josiah sat next to Joe. The big man gave the board a thoughtful look but JD got the impression he wasn't really looking at it. "Why would your bill be large?"

JD wondered that himself but he wasn't going to ask. Just seemed a bit too forward, maybe even rude…and he didn't want to look like a naïve kid anymore then he already did. He paid close attention for the answer, having known for years there was a lot to be learned simply by watching and waiting.

"Cause we make a lot of money." Levon responded carelessly, frowning as he placed another word on the board.

"You do?" JD asked before he could stop himself. Really, it only stood to reason, he thought wanting to smack his forehead. He already knew Levon made a fair amount on the horses he raised, and the ranch had to be worth a pretty penny, family inheritance or not. And somehow he really couldn't picture Ezra buying the Bentley on credit. Credit cards left an obvious paper trail; something the linguist had shown a distrust of in the past.

"Yes, we do." Levon answered, suddenly looking up to make eye contact with Ezra. "Was I not supposed to say that?"

Ezra shrugged one shoulder and made a hand gesture JD couldn't quite interpret. He guessed it was some sort of absolution based on the Southerner's following comment. "It is not a secret, Cuz, just not a topic I've felt any pressing need to discuss." Ezra reached out to pat Vin's leg. "Vin knows how much I make."

Joe gave a small nod of approval, before making eye contact with Vin. "Leave you a bit breathless did it?" His tone was one that clearly implied having a similar experience.

"More like speechless." Vin's mouth twisted wryly. Blue eyes twinkled with mischief for a moment before Vin leaned in over Ezra's shoulder to lightly stroke the linguist's cheek. "Never expected to have me a sugar daddy."

"Sugar daddy?" Levon laughed lightly. He winked at Ezra. "Sure hope you are getting yer money's worth there, Cuz."

"Oh, and then some." Ezra returned with a wicked grin.

"How much do you make?" Nathan asked carefully, dark eyes moving back and forth between Levon and Ezra.

"About twenty million or so." Levon studied the letter tiles in front of him before evidently resigning to the fact that he had nothing to work with an picked up a few more either oblivious to or uncaring of the stunned looks that passed between JD, Nathan and Josiah.

"Twenty million?" Josiah had sat forward on the couch, eyebrows arching toward his hair line.

"Yep." Levon answered, finally glancing over his shoulder to look at the larger man. "Weren't like we started from scratch." The blond shrugged. "Elijah Standish had a real knack for making money. An' Elmer was pretty damn good at managing it. 'Tween them they left their kids a sizeable nest egg ta work with. An' all their kids were pretty good at turnin' what they inherited inta somethin' more."

JD nodded to himself. It made sense as he thought about their family being better off than most. Having met Maude they all should have realized that Ezra's father had money, more than just a few bucks at least. She wouldn't have given the man the time of day otherwise, much less married him. Ezra's car, the fancy suits he occasionally wore, Rolex watch…none of that came cheap. And they should all have known better than to assume Ezra was in hock up to his eyeballs. The man almost always paid in cash.

Levon glanced toward Nathan, including him in the revelation before flickering toward JD. "Stocks, bonds, mutual funds have turned that inheritance into something fairly lucrative. Added some real estate development deals ta the mix a few years ago. The horses I train and sell. The company Joe and I own testing security systems." The blond shrugged. "It all adds up after awhile."

"You didn't mention the pecan and peach orchards." Ezra pointed out, leaning forward to snag an apple slice from the plate Joe had set down earlier.

Levon rolled his eyes. "Cause those don't make any money, not really. They're a write off more than anything else."

"But they are also tradition." Ezra smiled as he placed another four tiles on the board, green eyes rising to meet Levon's. "And it gives the others a place to live and work."

"The others?" JD blinked, finally taking a seat, perching on the arm of one of the couches.

"Our cousins." Levon and Ezra answered together. Levon tipped his head toward Ezra allowing him to be the one to expound. "The farms are for the most part family holdings, owned by a trust more so than any one individual. The trust pays to operate the farms, cost of living and salaries, as well as the first two years of college tuition for any of the member's children."

"Why not the entire four years?" Nathan asked, still looking a bit shell shocked by what Levon had so nonchalantly told them. JD could sympathize, feeling a bit the same way.

"Because our granddaddies set up the trust that way." Levon answered with a graceful lift of one shoulder. "Didn't want their offspring to think things should always be handed to 'em."

Joe snorted, hand curling around Levon's neck to give him an affectionate shake. "Like you have ever in your entire life expected anything to be handed to you."

"Handed to me? No most likely not." Levon agreed easily. "But I expected to be able to hand the whole stupid mess over to Ezra so I wouldn't have to deal with it." The blond sighed heavily. "I hate having to figure out tax stuff. And I really hate fightin' with the rest o' the family about who gets what and why."

"But you are good at it." Ezra returned firmly. "Better than I am."

Levon pointed a finger at him. "A little practice is all you need."

"I don't really care to practice." Ezra grinned back at his older cousin. "And besides they aren't all bad. Sully never says anything."

JD was still wondering who 'Sully' was when Levon snorted. "That's 'cause she used to have do it. And she's afraid I'll hand it all back to her."

Ezra blinked, eyebrows arching up in surprise. "Really?"

"Not something you'd probably remember." Levon selected a cracker and a bit of cheese from the plate, nibbling delicately at both. "Was twelve years ago. I was only twenty then…you'd a been sixteen."

"Ah." Ezra nodded. He looked quizzical. "Why'd she hand it over to you? And for that matter when?"


That was all the Texan said, his tone clipped and hard with an undertone of remembered pain and sorrow. JD was always amazed by how much conversation could happen without anyone saying a word, and the look that passed between Ezra and Levon spoke volumes. There was obviously more and it was equally obvious neither man was going to share. He got the distinct impression whoever 'Edward' was, he wasn't going to find out today…if ever. JD might still be a bit naïve from time to time, but he had quickly caught on to not asking about things better left alone. The looks on Nathan and Josiah's faces told him they were thinking the same thing.

Joe's hand that had been playing with Levon's curls stilled and JD read the light squeeze as a gesture of support. He glanced toward Vin and realized the former sniper was probably just as clueless as the rest of them. Still, even not knowing all the details, Vin was making a similar gesture of comfort, rubbing Ezra's shoulder.

Levon cleared his throat, nodding toward the board in front of him. "Think it's yer turn."

Ezra tipped his head in that way that always seemed so damn regal to JD and quickly placed a few tiles on the board. That he only managed a three letter word was a clear indication to the tech specialist that Ezra hadn't totally recovered his equilibrium. Never really good with emotionally or socially awkward situations, JD waited to see which of them would be the first to toss out a new topic of conversation.

Hanging out with Ezra had rubbed off enough that he made a silent bet with himself as to who it would be. He managed not to smirk when he was right and Josiah initiated yet another philosophical discussion with Joe. Nathan casually asked Levon about his health, moving them back toward the firmer footing they'd entered with. And Vin lightly tossed his apple core, easily hitting the garbage can from across the room, giving JD a smug look that might not have been as natural as it should have been but wasn't too far off.

The game continued to be played out quietly, conversation flowing around it covering topics as mundane as the weather and improvements being considered to the base to the more esoteric; those consisted predominantly of Joe and Josiah's back and forth commentary that reminded JD of a tennis match. He watched Ezra and Levon share a look and he wondered if they'd bet on the outcome of the discussion going on behind them. Given the way they bet on nearly everything it was likely they had.

JD grabbed a cracker, a bit of ham and a slice of cheese, munching as he watched the scrabble game unfold. He was impressed with how quickly both players managed to find words and fill the board. The tech specialist expected Ezra to be a natural at it; the man knew words JD hadn't even known existed. But Levon easily held his own, once again reminding the younger man it was never a good idea to judge a book by its cover. Clearly there was more to the blond than met the eye at first glance. JD never would have expected him to use 'oxidize' or 'expedite'.

Vin watched just as avidly. The faint frown that appeared now and then between his brows reassured JD that he wasn't the only one who didn't know what the word being spelled meant. The tech specialist memorized several to look up later.

"So the loser pays the taxes?" Nathan asked drawing the conversation back to the game, clearly just as impressed by Levon's evident vocabulary as JD was.

"No." Ezra shook his head, grinning at Levon as he spelled out 'zephyr' and counted out his word score. "The winner pays. Loser chooses the game played next quarter."

Both Nathan's eyebrows rose. JD could appreciate his surprise. Why they would both play so hard to win was a mystery to him if winning really meant losing what was likely a sizeable amount of cash. But then, when given what Levon said they made, maybe it didn't seem like that much money to either of them.

"They've ruled out poker and chess." Joe offered as he reached to select another apple slice.

"Why?" Vin cocked his head to one side, watching as Levon spelled out 'horse'.

"Because I usually win at poker." Ezra glanced back at him, hand patting Vin's calf. The whole team was familiar with the linguist's skill at cards.

"And I can kick his ass at chess nine times out o' ten." Levon snickered. Ezra's grimace was proof enough to JD that Levon was telling the truth and not just bragging.

"We've also eliminated blackjack." Ezra added as he once more studied his tiles and the board.

"Why?" Josiah chimed in, beating JD to the punch.

"Over too quick." Levon shrugged. "Too much luck. No real skill involved."

"You are both just too competitive." Joe shook his head. "Most people would simply agree to alternate the payments." His hand once more moved to play with the curls at the base of Levon's neck. JD wondered if they were as soft as they looked, but wisely refrained from foolishly trying to find out by copying Joe's action. He liked having both his hands attached to his body where they belonged.

"Most people don't know how to keep things interesting." Ezra countered with a sly smile. "It is not our fault they seek out mundane, uncreative ways to settle issues."

JD snickered. "Gotta admit that one thing no one could ever accuse you of is being mundane or uncreative."

Ezra tipped his head in a gesture that clearly signaled he was taking JD's statement as a compliment. JD wasn't sure he meant it as one or not. It was more like an observation, but he wasn't going to argue over Ezra's interpretation. Especially not with both Vin and Levon giving him measuring looks.

JD cleared his throat. "So…who ah…who picked scrabble?"

"I did." Ezra answered. JD remembered that the loser of the previous game got to pick the next one and assumed the faintly sour expression that briefly graced Ezra's features was related to the fact that he'd lost the last go around. The youngest still couldn't quite wrap his mind around why anyone would be upset over not having to pay out.

"Thank god it wasn't Monopoly." Levon shook his head. "That game takes way too damn long."

Ezra shuddered dramatically. "I don't care to play with funny money."

Levon arched an eyebrow. "Didn't slow you down any when we was kids."

"That's only because we didn't have real money to play with then."


More tiles were placed and words created as the merits of different board games rapidly became a running debate among all of them. JD was stunned to realize that Josiah loved playing Trivial Pursuit, belatedly realizing that he shouldn't be at all surprised given the odd facts and details the man routinely threw out for consideration. Nathan and Vin argued over whether or not Pictionary could be considered a board game at all. Joe mentioned he liked playing Risk, enjoying the whole play acting of world domination. JD had never really played many board games, finding computer games to be more his speed, but he added 'Go' and checkers to the discussion.

Ten minutes later, Levon sighed heavily and admitted defeat having only an 'U', 'W', 'V', and 'A' to work with. Ezra grinned, his total word score fifteen points higher than his older cousin's. JD was impressed with how little they had left to work with. He'd have run out of words a long time ago.

"You gonna call Andy?" Levon started clearing the board.


"Who's Andy?" Vin asked.

"Our accountant." Ezra answered. "He's been working for us for years. Started out with the firm that used to handle Elijah and Elmer's finances."

"Man really should retire, but hell, he's still as sharp as ever. He quit takin' on new accounts a good fifteen years ago. Younger guys handle most o' the stuff for him now." Levon munched on an apple slice, casually handing one over his shoulder to Joe. "No reason to quit if he don't wanna."

"Especially not when you figure out ninety percent of ours for him." Ezra gave his cousin a pointed look.

"Ain't that I don't trust him." Levon glanced toward Nathan, and then Josiah, evidently answering the questions they were both about to voice before either got the chance to speak. "My grandmother always told me ya gotta know what it is yer askin' another ta do for ya, or you won't know if yer askin' too much of him."

"And it doesn't hurt that figuring it out yourself makes it easier for you to know what is going on and stay on top of things." Joe pointed out. "That old man isn't going to live forever."

Ezra snorted. "I have a feeling that old man is too tough to die."

"Probably." Joe chuckled softly. "But it is best to be prepared."

Ezra raised two fingers in his usual salute. JD noted the gesture was casual but there was no denying a certain amount of respect was there as well. It suddenly dawned on the tech specialist that the only people he'd seen Ezra give the salute to were rest of the team, his cousin and Joe. Even if he hadn't seen them interact, JD would have known Joe was someone Ezra thought highly of just from that salute. He mentally slapped himself for not recognizing what it meant before now.

JD smiled to himself. Meeting Ezra's family always seemed to be an enlightening experience. He couldn't help but wonder just what he'd learn the next time they met up.

Noticing the board was once more empty, JD grinned. "You guys wanna play another game? Just for fun this time?"

"Sure." Levon grinned after trading a look with Ezra. "Only play each other for money anyhow."

"Great." JD joined them on the floor, not at all surprised to find Nathan joining in. The tech specialist had a feeling that before long everyone would be taking a turn. Just seemed to be the way things went.

<:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:>

Levon stretched carefully, letting muscles and tendons realign themselves. He kept his movements deliberate and slow, enjoying the feeling of being able to move freely, holding each pose for the duration of a deep inhale and exhale. It was a genuine pleasure to not feel stiff and sore, a feeling he'd nearly forgotten over the past few weeks.

His own opinion of his ability to master Tai Chi kept him from ever really pursing it as a viable form of exercise. It just seemed to require a grace he never really felt he could lay claim to. But Yoga was another matter entirely. To Levon it seemed more static, less a flowing form of moving meditation than a means of improving balance and coordination. He was aware that the distinction was minor…something more of a personal preference than a genuine difference.

It wasn't really his preferred way to workout, or normally something he focused exclusively on; rather it was something that he added after he ran or lifted weights. Just another way of stretching out and ensuring healthy muscles. However, at the moment, Yoga was something Joe wouldn't get upset over him doing and it would still give him the opportunity to revel in being able to move.

Levon banished a smile before it could form as he thought about how little his lover really knew about just how strenuous an exercise Yoga could be. Maintaining one position for any substantial length of time took not only balance and flexibility but also stamina. Today, Levon was content to focus on simply flowing smoothly from one position to another, keeping his breathing deep and even, holding each pose only long enough to feel the tension release.

Concentrating on his breathing made him aware of how nice it was to be able to do so easily. The cough had finally left him and he felt better for the rest he'd gotten over the past three days. Sleeping a normal eight hours along with a cat nap or two had done wonders. A few good meals hadn't hurt either.

The chopper was coming to pick them up late this afternoon. Much as he regretted leaving, Levon was eager to get back home to the ranch. He missed his home, missed the horses and his usual daily routine. And he definitely missed the quiet time he and Joe shared. Oh…they'd had moments here, to be sure, but it wasn't the same.

The Texan tipped his head back, eyes closed as he enjoyed the warmth of the early morning sun caressing his face. It wouldn't take long for the day to go from pleasantly cool to uncomfortably hot, best to enjoy it while he could. After not seeing the sun at all on their resent mission, Levon was glad to bask in its glow again.

He heard someone approach, but didn't move or open his eyes. "Mornin' Sanchez."

"Morning." Josiah replied, a deep rumbling chuckle following. "How'd you know it was me?"

Levon opened his eyes, smiling up at the larger man. "Trade secret."

In truth it was hardly that difficult to guess who had approached him. Ezra and Vin wouldn't be up for another hour or better, not if the sounds coming from their room after midnight were anything to go by. Joe had joined Chris on his jog earlier and they hadn't gotten back yet. According to what Ezra had told him and what he'd seen for himself, neither Buck or JD were up particularly early if they didn't have to be. That left Nathan or Josiah. Josiah's tread was heavier, his stride a bit longer, and his aftershave sufficiently distinctive, Levon really didn't have much trouble figuring out who had walked up to him, even with his eyes closed.

"You're up early today."

Levon shook his head. "Not really. More like my usual time."

"Ah." Josiah nodded. "Back up to 100% then?"

"Pretty close." The blond shrugged. "You got my thank you note for the anniversary gift?"

"I did." Josiah tipped his head. "I wasn't sure if you'd both like the sculpture…but when I saw it, it seemed to fit."

"Joe's not that much into western art but he's got a great eye for quality and a real appreciation for the skill it takes to create a realistic representation of life out o' something as static as metal. He likes it for what it took to make." Levon shrugged one shoulder. "Me…I just love it for what it is and what it represents."

"It sits on the mantel in the living room." He chuckled, eyes twinkling. "Ezra calls that my place o' honor 'cause only the good stuff goes there." Josiah's pleased expression made the blond glad he'd added that.

Levon cocked his head to one side, curiosity getting the better of him. "If you don't mind my askin'…we'd only jus' met ya a few weeks 'fore, so why'd ya even get us anything? Weren't like you had to."

"Call me old fashioned, but in today's world of meaningless marriages and express divorces, eight years together seemed like an accomplishment that should be acknowledged." Josiah's expression turned wry. "And you are Ezra's family…didn't seem right not to send some sort of gift once I knew who you were."

"You are old fashioned." Levon grinned, delighted with the former spook's answer. "And that's not a bad thing. Not at all."

Josiah smiled warmly. "Get the feeling you are a bit old fashioned yourself."

"I prefer to think of it as being a traditionalist." Levon laughed lightly. His adherence to some outmoded way of doing things was a trait his lover found both frustrating and endearing. The Texan had a feeling Josiah's friends often felt the same way.

"You are leaving today?" Josiah's question was more of a statement although neither Levon nor Joe had mentioned their impending departure to anyone but Vin and Ezra just last night.

Levon nodded. "Need to get back home."

"You sure you can't stay longer?" Blue eyes searched his. "It has been a real pleasure having you here."

"Been a real pleasure being here." Levon responded with honest warmth. "But me and Joe have already been away nearly a month. Got things that need takin' care of."

Josiah nodded. He seemed to hesitate for a second, and Levon raised an eyebrow. "You wanna ask me something, feel free. Won't get upset or bite yer head off."

The big man blinked in surprise and then sighed. "It's not really any of my business—"

"But you want to know, so ask."

"What do you do with all the money you make?" Josiah waved both hands as though physically seeking a better way to explain himself. "I mean twenty million dollars is a lot of money…a hell of a lot of money. What do you do with it all?"

"Keep the farms running. Keep all our equipment for the security business up to date. Stud fees. Vacation or two. Vehicles…and when one several o' them are aircraft…well that adds up in a hurry. Salaries to pay. Got a couple of charities that get donations every year. And a couple o' university scholarships and research grants." Levon shrugged one shoulder. "Most o' it goes back into makin' more with the stocks and bonds an' the like." He grinned. "And there is always the little stuff like groceries, light bill, fancy clothes for Joe and home improvements."

Josiah chuckled and shook his head. "Amazing."

"Most people don't realize how much money it takes to actually make money." Levon ran a hand through his curls. He definitely needed a haircut, and soon. "Could run things cheaper if we were willing to scrimp on the equipment…but since I ain't all that keen on flying to begin with, I feel a whole hell of a lot better with a well-maintained machine."

The big man nodded. "Understandable." He cocked his head to one side. "I am surprised that Ezra hasn't offered to buy equipment for Seven for Hire."

"Wouldn't do that unless Larabee asked him to." Levon shook his head. "Would be wrong to run roughshod over another man's business. 'Sides…he starts buying the stuff you want and 'fore long this enterprise ain't Larabee's any more, it's Ezra's. We aren't the sort ta take somethin' away from another jus' cause we can."

The older man dipped his head in acknowledgement, a contrite expression flitting across his features. When he opened his mouth to say what Levon knew would be an apology, Levon cut him off before he could say anything. "Don't worry about it, Josiah. Know what you meant when you asked. Was an honest question. Ya didn't mean any insult. No harm done."

Josiah smiled. "Thanks."

"No worries."

"Would you like to join me this morning?" Josiah asked. "I'm sure Nathan wouldn't mind one more."

Levon shook his head. "Too much a klutz to really do Tai Chi, thanks jus' the same."

"Didn't look that way from what I saw you doing earlier."

"Must not a been lookin' too close." Levon laughed and winked.

Josiah snorted. "Don't sell yourself short, Levon." Sharp blue eyes appraised him, issuing a faint but definitive challenge. "We both know you can do it if you want to."

Levon smiled, willing to accept the challenge this time. It wasn't about proving himself, he'd gotten over the need to do stuff like that a long time ago. This was about redefining his own limits just a bit, and it wasn't like he didn't have some time to kill until Joe got back and made breakfast. "Long as you don't expect too much, I'm willin' ta give it a go."

Josiah bowed slightly, reminding Levon of his first sensei. "I never expect more than people are willing to give."

Levon pursed his lips but refrained from saying anything. He wasn't quite sure how to interpret Josiah's statement and the first thing that came to mind wasn't something that needed to be said. Vin had told him that the big man often made ambiguous statements that were best ignored. Discretion being the better part of valor, Levon figured silence was likely his best option.

"Where ya want me…next to ya or behind?"

Josiah hesitated for a moment. "Next to me I think." He nodded. "Nathan can stand in front of us so you can watch him and follow his moments, and I'll be able to see what you are doing and help out if you need it."

Levon nodded. "Works for me." He grinned as he spotted Nathan making his way toward them. "Looks like his timing is pretty damn good."

"That it is." Josiah chuckled. "That it is."

"Mornin' Jackson." Levon greeted the medic.

The black man smiled. "How are you feeling today?"

Levon rolled his eyes. "You always gonna be askin' me that?"

"Not always." Nathan winked. "Just when you show up looking like death warmed over. Wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't."

"Levon would like to join us this morning, Nate, if it's all right with you." Josiah easily cut off any response Levon might have made to Nathan's comment.

"Don't see why not." The medic shrugged one shoulder. "Usually three of us… with Vin otherwise occupied," a knowing grin added innuendo, "be nice to be back up to our usual compliment."

"We'll do this the same way with Levon that Vin and I did with you, okay?"

"Sure." Nathan moved to stand in front of them.

"Let's begin with 'grasping sparrow's tail'."

<:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:> ~ <:>

Vin sighed softly, cradling Ezra close to him as they lay together on the couch, enjoying just being able to hold his lover, listening to him breathe, being able to feel his warmth and smell that enticing fragrance that could be found nowhere else. Before he and Ezra had gotten together, Vin never really appreciated the value of just being able to touch, of the comfort to be found in being close to another human being. Now, that he was aware of it, the former sniper wondered how the hell he'd managed to live so long without it. Ezra being gone had shed light on a great many things about being with him that Vin found hard to live without.

It had taken three days, but the lanky sharpshooter was finally reaching a point where he didn't mind if his lover got more than an arm's length away from him. Vin would have felt a bit self conscious about his need to be close if it weren't for the fact that Ezra didn't seem to mind. The linguist actively encouraged him and frequently reached for Vin as though to reassure himself that his lover was really there.

Vin nuzzled Ezra's neck, breathing in his scent and savoring the moment. He pulled back only when Ezra shifted in his sleep. The linguist had dozed off only a few minutes ago and Vin didn't want to disturb him. Watching Ezra sleep was a secret pleasure for him; it was a time when he could imprint everything about the man on his senses without worrying about having to explain himself or being interrupted.

Not that Vin really objected to the ways in which Ezra interrupted his careful memorization. No, those interruptions were the sort that usually left Vin breathless and wanting more. But today he wanted to have this quiet moment to hold on to the next time Ezra left, because there was no doubt that there would be a next time.

Vin grimaced at the thought of Ezra leaving again. The only thing that had kept him from totally losing his mind was knowing that Ezra was with Levon and Joe. He liked and trusted both men, knowing without a doubt the older couple would do whatever it took to keep Ezra safe.

Levon and Joe had left only a few hours ago, and Vin found he already missed them. He knew Ezra probably felt their absence even more keenly than he did. The older couple had managed to integrate themselves so easily into Camp AWOL's usual routine that it was hard to imagine that this visit was their first one. Vin hoped it wouldn't be their last.

Vin smiled to himself, rather pleased that he'd been able to surprise Levon as they gathered to say goodbye. He hadn't thought anything would have caught the blond off guard, but giving him a hard hug before he left certainly had. It had just felt like the right thing to do, a handshake seemed way too impersonal this time around. Although startled, Levon returned the hug warmly, slapping him on the back with a wink and a quick grin. Despite the differences in their respective builds, hugging Levon felt a lot like hugging Ezra. Vin chalked it up to being somehow similar to all the other character traits they had in common.

He'd been surprised in turn when Joe had pulled him into a hug, promising to look after Levon if Vin would do likewise with Ezra. Vin readily understood. Both their lovers would be devastated if anything were happen to their cousin. Looking out for one was the same as looking out for the other.

Everyone on the team had looked genuinely sorry to see Joe and Levon leave. Chris had given both men the same warrior's grip at the forearm handshake that he usually gave Vin. The former marine had even extended an invitation for them to return again any time, something both men had accepted with a smile.

Josiah had said something to Levon about continuing to practice, making the blond laugh and shake his head. The big man had also asked Joe to send him the recipe for the marinara sauce he'd made for the spaghetti he'd served for dinner one night. The Chicago native had promised to pass it along via e-mail.

Buck had given both men warm handshakes. The transport specialist had tried to talk them into staying longer right up until the chopper appeared. He refused to say goodbye, insisting that they'd all see each other soon.

JD was quick to second that sentiment. His dark eyes, never able to conceal much of what he was thinking easily relayed his regret that Joe and Levon couldn't stay longer. Vin wasn't surprised when Levon echoed Chris' earlier 'come see us any time' invitation. Since only Buck and JD had been to their ranch, the former sniper, wouldn't be surprised if Chris, Josiah and Nathan didn't take the blond up on his offer at some point if for no other reason than to see for themselves if Joe really did set the table with fine china and crystal.

Nathan had shaken their hands as well. Joe thanked him again for looking after Levon, earning a wry look from his lover. Vin knew Nathan had earned the respect of both men; the head tip and smile he'd given to both showed that Nathan knew that.

Levon had hugged Ezra long and hard. When Levon finally let go, Ezra put his forehead against his cousin's, hand cupping the back of his neck, green eyes holding brown for several seconds. No words passed between them, but Vin knew a lot had been said in the look they shared. The former sniper knew both men were well versed in goodbye's and suspected neither enjoyed them overly much.

Joe hugged Ezra and said something in a language Vin couldn't identify. Over the past few days he'd gotten used to the fact that his lover and Joe regularly spoke in a foreign tongue. He didn't need to know the exact words to understand the sentiment being expressed.

Vin sighed again. Sharing their quarters should have made the place feel smaller, yet the barracks seemed oddly more diminished by Joe and Levon's absence than it ever had when they were there. It was another one of those things about the older couple that Vin chose to just accept and try not to think too much about.

Ezra shifted in his hold, eyes blinking heavily, opening only half way. Vin kissed his temple, whispering softly when he spoke not sure if his lover was really awake or not. "You wanna move to our room? Be more comfortable there."

"Sure…whatever." Closing his eyes and curling in closer to Vin, Ezra made no attempt to get up, his breathing still deep and even.

Vin grinned. He turned enough to more easily accommodate Ezra's new position, knowing his lover really wasn't going anywhere for awhile. That suited him. Suited him just fine.