Hazel '05: Moving Water

Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.

And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth

Cry woe, destruction, ruin, and decay-
The worst is death, and death will have his day.

Chris picked this bar because it reminded him of others he'd seen countless times before. It was the sort of place he used to frequent when he was in the Marines. Back when he was young, foolish and convinced of his own immortality. Back when all he wanted was a drink and a good time and didn't care about consequences. When bars like this were considered a challenge rather than a refuge.

It was a dark, seedy place that probably hadn't been clean even when it was new. It was the sort of place Josiah would euphemistically refer to as 'a gateway to hell' and Chris really couldn't disagree. People got lost in places like this… souls of the damned who just hadn't laid down to die yet.

Chris could almost feel the despair, anger and apathy hanging in the smoky air as he ordered a bottle of Tequila. He breathed it in, finding it painfully familiar. He remembered places like this all too well. He'd practically lived in them after his family was murdered.

He picked this place because it wasn't one the team frequented. Because it wasn't one he'd ever come back to either. It served his need for now, and that was all that mattered.

Chris had nursed enough bruises and busted knuckles while recovering from savage hangovers to know he was a mean drunk. And his daddy had drilled into him since he was small that a man didn't shit where he ate. If he was going to get fucked up and busted up, he wasn't going to do it in a place he actually liked and might want to see again.

He was hoping to be able to find some peace here. Find some way to forget for a little while that even though the mission was technically a success, it was still a dismal failure. Maybe he could forget the bad taste it left in his mouth that was far worse than the tequila would when he puked it up tomorrow. He righted a chair at the table in the back, and ignored the grime that coated every flat surface. Chris popped the cork on the bottle, taking a healthy swig before he sat down. He felt worn down and empty. It was like he was one of those weathered seashells JD collected. All evidence of the living long gone, leaving just a brittle remnant of what had been. Bits and pieces that would one day cease to exist too. Chris shook his head and grimaced. God. He wasn't just a mean drunk, he was maudlin.

Chris took another long swallow of tequila. He welcomed the burn. He deserved that pain for being able to walk away, for leaving those people in that impossible situation, for not doing more.

He wasn't really surprised when someone sat down at his table. He'd half expected Buck. The man was more loyal than a good dog and better than one when it came to tracking him down. Chris had hoped his old friend would just leave him be this time, not feel obligated to try and save him from himself. Chris blinked, belatedly realizing it wasn't Buck, but rather Ezra who'd taken a seat. It had to be him or Vin. No one else could have moved that quietly or caught him so unaware.

Chris stared at the younger man. Before this moment, he'd have bet good money this ugly dive was the sort of place Ezra would only enter under pain of death. Yet, Ezra seemed as comfortable in sitting next to him as if they were in their usual hang out or at Camp AWOL. He was more than comfortable…Chris could easily see the sense of familiarity. Ezra knew places like this, the same way Chris did. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Ezra was far more than he appeared on the surface.

"You draw the short straw, Standish?" Chris asked, giving Ezra a dirty look. He should have known someone would come looking for him.

Ezra smiled enigmatically, shrugging one shoulder. "Something like that."

"I don't need a babysitter." He growled.

"Of course not." Ezra agreed easily.

"Go home." Chris directed with a snarl, anger and irritation rising in equal measure.

"No." Ezra countered calmly, clear green eyes meeting his own blue-gray counterparts with enviable ease.

"I don't want you here."

"I don't want be here either." Ezra arched an eyebrow, looking around the filth encrusted room with subtle distaste. "No one in their right mind would want to be here, Larabee."

Chris sneered. "Then go."


"Why the hell not?" Chris snarled, glaring at the other man.

"Because you need me to be here." Ezra shrugged again.

Chris snorted, taking another healthy swallow of tequila before setting the bottle down on the table with a solid thunk. He didn't need Ezra to be here. He just wanted to be left alone. If he happened to get lucky and start a fight and beat that shit out of some deserving miserable prick he wouldn't feel guilty about dragging a friend into a mess of his own making.

Ezra waited, silently, coolly. The man had plenty of patience, Chris knew. Ezra was like some fucking snake, he decided, just waiting for the right moment. And he wasn't going to go away. Leaving was equally pointless because the man would simply follow. Or worse yet, Chris thought, he might run into one of the others.

If Ezra had demanded answers or offered consolation Chris could blow him off without batting an eye. Hell he'd have probably punched him. But Ezra just waited, the bastard. He just kept looking at him with a level, expectant gaze asking for an explanation, asking for things Chris would rather not talk about. It grated on his nerves and was impossible to ignore, and he knew Ezra knew it.

"We failed." He ground out between clenched teeth.

Ezra cocked his head to one side. "We did the job we were paid to do."

"We should have done more." Chris hissed, leaning forward in his chair. "You saw those people."

Ezra's eyes were now shadowed with the same pain Chris knew lingered in his own. He'd seen it in the mirror every day since they'd gotten back, and he was afraid he'd see it every day for the rest of his life.

Ezra sighed. "We would never be able to do enough."

"That doesn't make it right." Chris bit out.

"I didn't say that it did."

"We just left them there!" Chris' throat hurt from not screaming.

"We did." Ezra agreed quietly, but showed none of the impotent rage Chris felt.

Ezra clearly felt the same pain, guilt and disappointment Chris did, why didn't he share that helpless fury? Chris wanted someone to understand how livid it made him that they'd done little more than put a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. They hadn't changed a god damn thing. "It was the right thing to do." Ezra stated simply.

"They are still going to die."

"Everyone does." Ezra sat back in his chair, green eyes unwavering as they looked at Chris. "And they would have died much sooner if we hadn't taken the job. Our presence ensured the delivery of that shipment to those in need. The food and medicine did not end up in the hands of ruthless warlords. That has to count for something."

Chris snorted. "You believe that?"

"I have to." Ezra smiled sadly. "Otherwise I'd have beaten you here."

Struck suddenly by what felt like an inappropriate flash of humor Chris chuckled. "Didn't even know you knew this place existed."

Ezra arched an eyebrow. "It pays to be familiar with your surroundings."

Chris should have expected that. He doubted there was a place within a hundred miles of Camp AWOL that Ezra didn't know about.

"You been here before?"

"No." Ezra snorted delicately. "I hate tequila."

"Have it for breakfast the wrong way once, didn't you?" Chris smirked.

Ezra dipped his head in an abbreviated bow. "Unlike you, once was all it took for me to learn my lesson."


"My parents were legally married for eighteen months before I was born." Ezra returned with a Cheshire grin.

Chris shook his head. Ezra had a gift. No doubt about it and suddenly he was glad to have his company. With a small jerk of his head he pointed to the bar with his chin. "What poison is your preference, Standish?"

"I doubt they carry it here."

Chris scowled. "So you just going to sit there and watch me drink?"

"Actually," Ezra pursed his lips, "I was hoping we could take this party to more comfortable environs."

"I paid for the bottle." Chris stated, resisting the idea of moving just yet.

"So bring it with you."

Ezra's cell phone rang, a soft vibrating buzz that was audible even when the ringer was turned off. Ezra neatly plucked it from his belt, glancing at the display before smiling. The smile was all it took for Chris to know who was calling. It had to be Vin. No one else made Ezra's eyes glow like that.

"Yes, I found him." Ezra said, clearly not waiting for Vin to ask what Chris knew would be the obvious first question.

"No… No…I don't think that will be necessary."

Chris raised both eyebrows. He wondered what Vin was asking but refused to give voice to his own curiosity. He could probably guess anyway.

"I'll see you soon." Ezra laughed softly, a warm, intimate sound Chris thought decidedly out of place with their current location.

But then they were both out of place here he realized. This wasn't his sort of place any more. Not really. It had been once, after losing his family. But now he had a new family.

"Are you ready to go?" Ezra clipped his phone back on to his belt.

"I'm still pissed." Chris wasn't sure if he was warning Ezra or informing him. He just couldn't help voicing that statement of fact.

"I know." Ezra gave him a sympathetic look. "We all are."

Chris sighed. "I was being a selfish bastard, wasn't I?"

"You're entitled." Ezra grinned, gold pre-molar glinting. "Everyone is once in awhile."

"I'll try not to make a habit of it."

"We'd appreciate that." Ezra rose smoothly to his feet and gestured toward the door.

Chris got up, putting the cork back in his bottle before heading out. He winced when he stepped out into the bright sunshine, reaching for his shades to shield his eyes. He blinked when he saw Bucks' rusty truck parked in front of the bar. He looked askance at Ezra.

"I wasn't bringing my car here." Ezra snickered. "But Bucks' truck fits right in."

Chris laughed. Ezra was right. His Bentley wouldn't have lasted ten seconds in this neighborhood. He climbed in to the passenger seat and leaned his head back, suddenly incredibly weary.

As Ezra pulled out and headed for Camp AWOL, Chris turned his head to look at him. "How do you do it?"

"Concentrate on good things." Ezra glanced at him before once more watching the road. "I try not to dwell on the fact that our efforts were akin to trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, and focus on the fact that we still managed to move some water."

He stopped at the red light, turning to look at Chris fully. "We did good there, Chris. It wasn't enough, but we did good."

"Yeah, we did." Chris agreed, nodding slowly. "If Robinson calls again-"

"We'll take the job." Ezra neatly cut him off, telling him what Chris already knew.

Robinson was the philanthropist who had purchased the supplies and hired them to ensure their delivery. He was a conceited, pompous prick none of them would have ordinarily dealt with. But his desire to buy his way into heaven and win adulation from the right people had him making grand gestures that they simply couldn't refuse to agree to help with.

Chris felt tension draining away as they entered the gates of Camp AWOL. His lips curled into a half smile as he spotted those stupid, bright flowers. Ezra said concentrate on good things. Chris added them to his good thing list. Seeing Vin sitting on one of the swings in the pavilion he had no doubt that Vin and Ezra both had each other at the top of their own lists.

Vin sauntered over to them as they got out of the truck. He lightly slapped Chris' shoulder. "Good to have you home, Cowboy."

Chris nodded. "Good to be here."

Vin smiled. He gave Buck and JD's quarters a pointed look, drawing Chris' attention to where they were lounging the doorway. Buck waved and pulled JD back inside.

Nathan looked up from where he was doing something in the raised garden. Even from this distance Chris knew the medic's keen eyes were giving him the once over. And he was glad he hadn't gotten into a brawl; Nathan wasn't always gentle when it came to dealing with what he considered 'the result of stupidity'.

Josiah stepped out from the garage, wiping his hands on a rag. He'd probably been working on 'Hoss'. Why he didn't just write the damn hummer off as a lost cause, Chris couldn't say, but then the big man seemed to like the challenge. He suspected the need for a new challenge was why the former spook had taken the job with the team in the first place.

There was no doubt his team thought what they did made a difference. None of them would have stayed otherwise. It made him damn glad he'd started this.

"Thanks, Ez."

"My pleasure." Ezra raised two fingers to his forehead. He traded a look with Vin. "If you'll excuse us, we have-"

"Something good to concentrate on?"

Ezra laughed. "Quite."

Vin threw an arm over Ezra's shoulders in a friendly half hug. "See ya later, Chris."

They leaned into each other as they walked away. It was a nice bit of mutual support, and Chris was glad they had each other. He looked down at the bottle he was still holding. He uncorked it and poured out into the thirsty sand. He had all he needed right here, he'd just forgotten for a moment.