Hazel '03: Striking A Chord

It took twice as long to get to Ezra's townhouse as it normally did. The heavy, driving rain was not quite freezing as it hit the ground but it wasn't far from it. Buck knew better than to get careless, no matter how much he wanted to just stand on the accelerator.

The case was finally finished. Three weeks of undercover work for his lover as a homeless alcoholic casing what seemed to be an innocuous shelter but was really serving a dual purpose as a distribution center of illegal cigarettes, drugs, and small arms. The man running the shelter was financing its operation with the proceeds of illegal sales.

Of course not all the money Mr. Brian Calpher was being used at the shelter. Calpher made damn sure he'd squirreled away a large chunk of the proceeds, financing the better than average lifestyle he maintained when not at the shelter. The six classic cars he kept warehoused on the other side of Denver were certainly concrete proof Calpher was not the altruistic Good Samaritan he claimed to be.

More irrefutable proof was the dead body of a sixteen-year old girl that had started this case. She'd been found in a dumpster behind the shelter. It wasn't unusual to find runaways, junkies or streetwalkers dying in that neighborhood. Sometimes, in his darker moments, Buck wondered if they just gravitated there to die.

What was unusual was that the ballistics on the bullet that killed her matched another gun, used to kill a businessman a year ago on the other side of town.

The businessman was a shady character, but not enough evidence had been gathered while he was alive to prove his illegal activities conclusively. The local police force had asked for assistance, knowing federal agencies had also been interested in the dead businessman, and the ATF agreed. Ezra had gone undercover as a bum, hanging around the shelter, scoping the place out, looking for a connection between the murders.

Buck had his suspicions that Chris had picked Ezra for the job as some sort of punishment. He knew how much the Southerner detested being dirty, wearing the same clothes for days on end, being out in the cold and smelling like a distillery. Not that Buck knew any of the team who would be overjoyed at the prospect of living like a bum, but there were definitely others on the team more suited to it. Vin wouldn't have even batted an eye and JD certainly looked young enough to fit in with the runaways that routinely stayed at the shelter.

Ezra and Chris were friends but even on a good day they got on each other's nerves. The vein in Chris' forehead had been throbbing when the request for assistance came in and it didn't take a great jump in logic to assume he'd assigned Ezra to work undercover on it as payback for some wise ass comment he'd made earlier. He'd issued the order almost as a challenge clearly expecting Ezra to refuse.

To his and everyone else's surprise, Ezra had just shrugged and took the job without voicing a single complaint. The man was a consummate professional, never letting his personal preference affect the quality of his work or get in the way of getting the job done. Buck grinned thinking it didn't hurt to remind the team of that every now and then.

No one expected to find such an obvious, direct connection between the murders. Certainly no one expected the homeless shelter to be anything but what it professed to be. Well, with the possible exception of Chris and Ezra.

Ezra was a cynic and he had more than once observed that altruism was nothing but a very well run con. To a lesser degree, Buck knew Chris shared that opinion. It was possible he'd selected Ezra for the job knowing the others might not be willing to see the shelter for what it was; a damn good cover for an illegal operation.

Buck sighed, rubbing one hand over his face as he waited for the light to change. He had been so…disappointed to find yet one more lie in the world. The whole bust, while successful, just sucked.

Even though the shelter's sole purpose was far from humanitarian, it had a lot of good and it hurt like hell to shut the place down. He couldn't help but wonder what would happen to the runaways and homeless that used the place. Putting kids back out on the street was not supposed to be part of this job. It hurt. Hurt like hell. And he knew his lover, with a soft spot for children, hurt worse than he did.

It was small consolation that they'd managed to find places for everyone who'd been staying at the shelter. Shuffling some 60 people around a rainstorm that hadn't let up all day was not Buck's idea of fun, but it had to be done. The shelter was now officially a crime scene, off limits to the former residents for God only knew how long. And there was no telling when or if the place would reopen. The illegal proceeds had covered the cost of the utilities, supplied blankets and cots, and paid for the one meal a day they offered. The city did not have the fund to pick up the tab and so far no one else had volunteered.

Buck turned into Ezra's driveway with a relieved sigh. He resolved to not think about this anymore. He couldn't help Ezra deal with this if he was still trying to deal with it himself.

Buck turned the ignition key and sat for a moment just breathing in and out. The job sucked but it had been necessary. The shelter offered the illusion of warmth and safety, but in reality two people were dead because of it, not to mention the number whose lives had been ruined by the drugs and weapons being sold. It might never open its doors again and that was not such a bad thing in Buck's mind. They were not to blame for the residents being on the street in the first place and it wasn't their fault that new accommodations were necessary. It might be a bit cold blooded but it was also true.

Buck nodded to himself as he made his way from his vehicle to Ezra's door, avoiding the worst of the puddles along the way. They had more than enough guilt to deal with even on a good day. There was no reason to add to it. And he sure as hell wasn't going to let Ezra carry any more than he already did.

He opened the door quietly not wanting to disturb his lover. Chris had sent Ezra home early, ordering him to clean up and get some rest. Chris could be a real hard ass and might never see eye to eye with his undercover agent, but the man genuinely cared about those he considered his friends. Even though they could go at each other hammer and tong from time to time there was no denying that Chris regarded Ezra as one of his own


It was obvious to anyone, Ezra hadn't slept well in days. Normally bright green eyes were blood shot and underscored by dark shadows. He had shed more than a few pounds, a fact not completely hidden by the ill fitting layers of clothing he'd worn as part of his disguise. Faint tremors in his hands were ample proof of how much the damp chill of the day was affecting him.

Buck grimaced. He knew living on the streets wasn't easy, more like survival than really living. Not for the first time did Buck wonder how in the hell any one survived on the streets in Denver in the wintertime. Hell, even early spring was no picnic. A few froze to death every year, dying of exposure, but not nearly as many as he expected. He took a shaky breath and thanked god that Ezra being homeless, with no refuge from the icy rain that had been falling all damn day, was just a sham. It was a cover he could slip out of, back to the warmth and comfort of his home and Buck's arms.

Hearing music, Buck hesitated just inside the door after closing it securely behind him. It was not unusual for Ezra to unwind by having a drink and listening to some classical music. Buck slipped out of his coat and shoes, smiling slightly as he made a bet with himself that Ezra had fallen asleep on the couch in front of the fire.

It wouldn't be at all unusual for Ezra to do that. Buck had lost count of the number of times he'd caught is lover napping on the couch. It certainly explained why he bought what had to be an obscenely expensive piece of furniture. Ezra's couch was almost as comfortable to sleep on as his bed.

He tiptoed through the dimly lit house, stopping dead in the doorway to the living room. What he thought had been music from the stereo was actually Ezra sitting at his baby grand piano playing. Buck stared. In all the time he'd know Ezra as both friend and lover he'd never seen or heard him play.

Josiah had asked him to play more than once, as had Vin and JD, but Ezra had politely refused each time. Nathan had told the others the piano was likely just one more valuable thing, one more status symbol the undercover agent had like the Jaguar or the original artwork on the walls. The medic of was the opinion Ezra couldn't play and the Southerner had done nothing to disabuse him of that notion.

Buck hadn't really cared why Ezra had the piano. Just like he didn't care that Chris had horses, or JD had more computer games than he could count. Other peoples' possessions were not something he ever gave much thought to.

He leaned against the doorjamb, blue eyes studying Ezra as the man continued to play. Long, graceful fingers lightly caressed the keyboard, coaxing forth a slow, melodic sound that was a blatant counterpoint to the storm raging outside. Buck cocked his head to one side, finally recognizing the music as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. He knew it to be one of Ezra's favorite pieces.

At some point Ezra must have taken a shower and changed clothes. He was wearing the dark green sweatshirt Buck knew would make his eyes seem so much lighter, almost translucent in comparison. There were a few damp tendrils of hair that attested to having been thoroughly cleaned not long ago. Buck fingers itched to run through them, knowing how soft they would feel. He loved seeing Ezra's hair in disarray.

The sonata ended and Ezra sighed softly, his left hand reaching for the tumbler of scotch that sat safely atop a coaster where it would not mar the glossy finish that made the baby grand such a stunning piece of furniture. His right hand seemed to pick out a melody of its own volition, moving deftly over the keys. Buck didn't recognize the tune but it was light, airy and for some reason made him think of butterflies.

"You do not have to hang about in the doorway like some stray, Buck." Ezra voice was soft, pitched just loud enough to be heard of the music and carry across the room but no further. There was an undercurrent of amusement in it.

"Didn't want to interrupt." Buck smiled slightly, approaching the piano. "Thought you didn't know how to play?"

Ezra gave him a slanted look and tipped his head toward the bench, clearly inviting Buck to sit next to him. "I never said I couldn't play."

Buck straddled the bench, sitting gingerly, not wanting to interrupt the beautiful melody Ezra's right hand continued create. "But you always refused to play." The sentence came out more like a question.

"I did not lie." Ezra responded quietly. "Nor did I deliberately mislead anyone."

"No, you didn't." Buck agreed. "You just didn't bother to correct faulty assumptions." Buck's lips twitched, suppressing a smile, remember the first time Ezra had used a similar argument with Chris. The look on Chris' face had been priceless.

"I do this for me, so I am very selective about the audience I play for." Ezra returned the tumbler to its coaster, left hand moving to add depth and undertones to the melody his right hand was still picking out. Buck felt a flash of warmth. It was the same flash he felt every time Ezra shared something with him that he withheld from the others.

Buck studied Ezra's profile, enjoying the play of light and shadow cast by the flickering firelight. From this closer vantage point, the affects of the last few weeks were still readily apparent. Ezra looked better than he had right after the bust went down earlier in the day, but he still looked tired, worn out.

"I thought Chris ordered you to get some rest?"

"I am resting." Ezra smiled at him.

Buck raised both eyebrows. "Would have thought resting meant laying down…maybe with your eyes closed."

"Semantics." Ezra laughed lightly, hands stilling as he leaned over and kissed Buck. "I thought lying down could wait until you got here."

Ezra's voice had dropped a full octave, coming out rough, almost needy and very suggestive. Buck shivered. He loved it when Ezra sounded like that.

He raised both hands to cup Ezra's face, blue eyes memorizing anew the beloved features. He leaned in for a deep kiss, sucking Ezra's tongue into his mouth, reveling in the taste he'd missed so much it bordered on physically painful. Buck unconsciously slid closer, needing more contact.

The need for air broke them apart. Buck moved to wrap his arms around Ezra, pulling the smaller man into a tight embrace. He nuzzled Ezra's neck, breathing in his scent.

"God, I missed you, Ez."

"Missed you too." With his face buried against Buck's shoulder, Ezra's voice was muffled.

Buck nibbled on Ezra's neck, working his way to suck lightly on his lover's earlobe. He smiled feeling Ezra shudder. He'd had a lot of fun mapping all the little spots that just got to Ezra.

Ezra pulled away slightly, green eyes dark with desire. "I really think we need to move to a more comfortable venue."

Buck grinned. "You don't want to stay right here and make beautiful music?"

Ezra snorted, his expression betraying his amusement at Buck's question. "The sort of music we make does not need piano accompaniment."

Buck chuckled. His humor faded into something else when those wonderfully talented fingers moved to lightly caress his face before Ezra leaned in again and placed a warm, almost chaste kiss on Buck's lips. Green eyes held blue.

"I'd rather be comfortable while you fuck me hard enough to make me forget my own name." That rough husky tone was back, coloring Ezra's whispered sentence, making it very difficult for Buck to breath easily. The tone of voice, the rarely used profanity made him wish he'd worn a looser pair of pants.

Ezra's hands continued roaming, caressing him through his clothes, making Buck moan softly. He had forgotten how good it felt to have Ezra touch him. He bit back a growl of impatience knowing it would feel even better to have skin-to-skin contact.

Ezra smiled softly at him, eyes glowing almost cat-like. "And my great aunt Sally would be appalled if we did not show all due respect for her piano."

Buck blinked. "Great aunt?" He was having trouble following what Ezra was saying.

"She taught me how to play." Ezra kissed him on the tip of his nose. "I'll tell you all about her…later." A wicked grin flashed, making Buck's blood boil and his mouth go dry. "Much later."

Ezra rose smoothly to his feet, hands leaving a trail of fire in their wake as they ghosted over Buck's arms. He stepped away heading for the bedroom. Buck scrambled to his feet, following Ezra eagerly.

The earlier bust was forgotten. The rain, still falling steadily, now freezing as it made contact with the ground, was forgotten. Those things could be dealt with later. Much later.