Ash '04: The Key To Happiness

The house was not much more than a cottage - what he could see of it, for there was dense vegetation surrounding the property. To Ezra's eye it looked to be at least fifty years old, the weathers painted white; there was even a picket fence. Flower baskets, swinging softly in the gently breeze, hung either side of the steps leading up to the wide covered veranda that, at least from what Ezra could see, ran all around the building. Wind chimes tinkled in the breeze, to Ezra they looked home made. Humming birds fluttered at the sugar feeders hanging from the porch roof at irregular initials, and at the far end, just where it turned the corner, all but hidden in the shadow, a black cat sat and watched them, but showed no inclination to actually hunt.

It wasn't Ezra's taste but he just knew Buck would like it. It was unplanned and unstructured, yet it worked, it was homely without being sickly, the space was full but not cluttered. Yes, he concluded, this was somewhere Buck would feel at home. Having reached the front door he looked for the doorbell, what he located was an old fashioned brass bell pull, which to his surprise actually rang a real bell - at least it sounded like a real bell. He waited, and waited and waited, then he rang again - but no one came.

Ezra was not a man who gave up easily, what was more, to his left the cat was now staring at him. He walked quietly down the porch, passing windows shuttered against the sun, and turned the corner. He walked down past the side of the house and turned the corner that afforded him a view of the back of the house. Before him was a paved courtyard garden, where, like the porch, there were containers of shrubs and flowers everywhere. Most of the space however, was taken up by a swimming pool and a large hot tub. Vegetation all but surrounded the pool on three sides, like an encroaching jungle. Decking covered the area between the pool and the building. From his vantage point Ezra could now see that the house was L-shaped and a lot bigger than he had at first realised. Much of the space that completed the rectangle was covered by a pergola covered in a thick vine. Fine, thin shafts of sunlight filtered down through the small gaps in the vegetation. There, just on the on the edge of the shade, was a lawn chair, one of the expensive hard wood kind called a steamer. And resting on it lay the lanky frame of Buck Wilmington. Ezra let go a sigh of relief.

Buck seemed to be asleep, dressed in nothing but a very short pair of cut off jeans. The faded denim sat low on his lean hips and the hollow made by his pelvis and his all too visible ribs indicated just how much weight he'd lost in the hospital. Yet even in the few days he'd been in Florida, his colour had improved.

As he watched a woman exited the house and approached Buck. She was tall, even statuesque, with thick, dark auburn hair pulled up in a bun. The loose, pale blue shirt and jeans did little to hide the hourglass figure and impressive bosom. She looked to be close to Buck's age, possibly a little older. As he watched she walked up to Buck, carrying what looked like a pitcher of juice. Only now did Ezra notice the small table beside the sleeping man. As he watched she gently placed the pitcher down and picked up the one that had been there, it was about a third full. Ezra almost instinctively shook his head, getting Buck to drink enough had always been a battle. He suddenly noticed the women mirrored his gesture of mild reproach, for she too gave a little head-shake of disappointment. Then as he watched, she bent and - oh so very gently - kissed Buck's thick dark hair, so softly he didn't even stir. And Ezra's heart broke.

The love she displayed was so clear, it showed in her every gesture. And Buck, he concluded, must love her, he had after all gone from the hospital to the airport and flown hundreds miles to be with her. As if to reinforce his point, the cat stalked past him. It strolled over to the teak chair and rubbed itself against the leg, after circling the chair once, it prepared to jump on to the occupant. Just in time, the woman bent and snatched it up, silently admonishing the feline for attempting to wake the patient. It was clear Ezra's fears were groundless, contrary to what he feared Buck seemed to be getting the very best of care.

He watched the woman take the cat inside, watched the breeze moving the foliage, making soft patterns of light and shade play across Buck's long legs, watched him shift contentedly in his sleep, watched the man he loved looking so peaceful and relaxed in the home and the care of another.

"Don't move." The female voice was soft, even seductive and unmistakably southern, but the threat was all too real and the cold press of a gun barrel against his neck equally real. "We are going to walk back toward the house, you will not make one sound, understand?"

Even as his stomach did a flip of pure fear, Ezra nodded. A whole panoply of explanations ran through his head, most of them unpleasant

"Start walking backwards, now - and keep your hands away from your sides."

It took a painfully long time to retreat into the house. He barely had time for his eyes to become accustomed to the dark interior, let alone take in his surroundings, when the interrogation began. "Yes, ma'am." He moved an arm to reach for his badge.

The gun suddenly pressed harder. "Don't even think about it." He froze again. "Where is it?"

"Inside left."

A slender arm clad in blue cotton, snaked around him and fished in his jacket pocket for the black leather wallet holding his ATF badge. There was a moment's silence while she scrutinised it.

"Ezra P Standish, ATF agent from Denver."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well darlin', you sure don't sound like you're from Denver."

"I didn't say I was; I work in Denver."

"What are you doing on my property?" she asked, the gun still pressed into his neck.

He decided on honesty, just for once. "I'm looking for Buck Wilmington."


"Buck Wilmington, the man asleep in your garden. He's a friend of mine."

"Why are you looking for him?"

Ezra was getting increasingly frustrated. "Because he is my friend and he's not been well. I wish to assure myself his recovery is progressing as expected."

"Do you?"


"I see." She took a deep breath and seemed to come to a decision. "Well, you best turn around then." With that, the gun was pulled away from his neck.

Still very aware that she had a gun in her hand, he lowered his arms slowly and turned around. Her exquisitely beautiful face was unadorned by makeup, and her complexion smooth and unblemished, a few laugh lines the only indication of age. This vision of beauty only made the .45 Magnum in her hand all the more incongruous.

"Yes, you could only be Ezra, only Ezra would wear a suit in Key West," she commented with a wry smile.

Ezra was still staring at the gun.

"Oh, sorry," she apologised. Turning to her left, she pulled out the drawer of a small cabinet and placed the huge weapon in it. "Can't be too careful - can you?"

"Err, no ma'am. Do I know you?" he asked, remembering the comment about his suit.

"No, but I know you. You came all this way, from Denver, to see if he was still getting better?"

"I did, he's …he's my friend."

"Then he's a very lucky man."

"How is he?"

"Improving, still gets tired easily, but his appetite has returned."

"He seems to be in good hands," he admitted.

"I should hope so, I'm Bel by the way." She held out her hand and they shook. "Come on, he'll be…" She was going to say 'he'd be happy to see a familiar face', but that wasn't quite right.

"Surprised?" Ezra offered.

"Pleasantly surprised I'm sure," she assured.

She turned and led him through a large room and out through some old- fashioned French doors leading to the garden, but he called her back. "Please don't wake him on my account."

"Oh, don't fret sugar, he's been asleep for most of the afternoon, he needs to come in or put some cream on his legs before he charbroils!"

Ezra followed her out, but hung back as she squatted down beside Buck, giving his shoulder a gently shake. He watched the way she woke him, saw the tenderness in her touch, the love in her eyes. There was a brief exchange, then Buck's head snapped around, and he noticed that she instantly pressed her hand firmly on his shoulder to stop him getting up.

"Good afternoon," Ezra greeted as he came to stand beside Buck. "Buck Wilmington, where are your manners?" Bel asked. She frowned down at her patient, then turned a dazzling smile on Ezra. "Ezra you must be parched, what can I get you to drink? Champagne, a spritzer, lemonade, bourbon, a nice ice cold beer?"

"Oh, well, that is very kind ma'am, while a beer would be most refreshing, I still have to drive, so I…"

"Where are you going?"

"I have yet to secure lodgings, indeed I should do that now."

"Nonsense, you can stay here, the sofa bed is actually very comfortable. Buck would love to have you stay for the weekend." She looked down at Buck. "Wouldn't you, dear?" She didn't give him time to answer before she headed into the house. "You'll have dinner with us of course, I do hope you like Italian stuffed chicken breasts?"

"That is most generous, if you are sure it would not be an imposition."

"Ezra, if that accent is genuine then you know what Southern hospitality really means," she admonished.

"I'm sorry, I did not wish to question your generosity, I would be delighted to take up your invitation."

"Excellent, Buck you look after our guest." With that the turned and walked back into the house. Despite the casual clothes and simple canvas deck shoes, her walk was seductive and her figure alluring, even in Ezra's eyes. He looked back at his friend. "Do I like Italian stuffed chicken?"

"Chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella and ham and cooked in a salsa sauce," Buck supplied.

"Sounds delicious."

"One of my favourites. Now Ezra, tell me what's really going on. Is someone hurt?"

Ezra took a deep breath, and tried to explain.

"Everyone is fine, nothing is going on."

"So why are you here? I call you guys all the time, you didn't need to come all the way out here, I'm fine."

"So I can see, you seem to be in very good hands." **So you don't need me.** Ezra silently lamented. "Indeed, but you have to admit you have a past record of saying 'I'm fine' when the very opposite is true."

Buck grinned at him. "Said the pot to the kettle," he commented.

"Yes, well - I found myself with nothing to do and your departure was shrouded in mystery, no one knew where you were or with whom you were staying - and I do hate a mystery."

Buck regarded Ezra. He had half expected JD to turn up, it had taken him sometime to convince his young roommate he would be well looked after. There was a good chance Nathan might show his face. He even thought Chris might turn up, but not Ezra.

"I suppose you tracked my cell phone?" he asked.

"Just so, JD talked about doing it, but did not. Mr Sanchez counselled against it. It really wasn't as difficult as young Mister Dunne likes to make out."

Buck just couldn't make out why Ezra was there, making a quick mental calculation, he concluded that, to have made it to Key West by five, Ezra must have taken the whole day off.

"So why did you, if Josiah told JD not to?"

"I told you I was curious. Just as I am about your very beautiful hostess. Who is she?"

Before Buck could answer the lady in question had returned, carrying his beer. "Here you go Ezra. Buck, you drink some more of that lemonade," she chided.

Buck rolled his eyes dramatically at Ezra, but he sat up and poured himself a glass of lemonade.

"She never lets up," he explained.

"Of course not darlin', it's my job to take care of you." With that she bent and kissed the top of his head. "Come in from the sun dear," she reminded, before returning to the house.

**Who said it was your job? I want to take care of him.** Ezra silently fumed, by now he had concluded that Bel was either some older sister Buck had never mentioned or an old lover, possibly he had once been her 'toy boy', but then there really wasn't enough of an age gap between them for that. Whoever she was, he was jealous.

Buck was pushing the chair back into the shade, taking the opportunity to stretch his back. "Want to see around the place?"

"Pardon?" Ezra had been lost in thought.

"Come on, I'll give you the ten cent tour."

Buck showed him the interior of the house. The furniture was mostly modern but tasteful, the ornaments an interesting mix of eccentric and ethnic. There was a large, open main room, Ezra noted a dining table but it seemed to be covered in paperwork and he suspected they normally ate outside. There was a small room behind the garage set up as a studio and indeed much of the art on the walls - and there was a lot of art on the walls - seemed to be by the same artist, clearly this was Bel. As they turned to head back to the garden, Ezra took the time to examine one of the pictures. At first glance it was a pure abstract, but when he looked closer it could see it was actually quite erotic. In fact looking again at the art and the ornaments he saw a strong erotic theme running through them.

"Ya coming?" Buck called from outside.

"Oh, yes," he strolled out to join his friend. "Interesting art work."

Buck just shrugged. "I liked the earlier stuff best, but it's okay." They walked gently around the garden, Ezra noting some of the more interesting plants growing in some of the containers. By now the sun had set and it was rapidly getting dark. Ezra helped Buck light some lanterns and candles under the vine and set the table. It was only as Bel was pouring the wine and reminding Buck he should only have a little, that Ezra realised he still didn't know who she was. So he tried an old and well used standby ploy.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your last name."

Bel smiled at him sweetly as she served up the fresh shrimp pate appetiser. "Well it's hard to catch something that hasn't been dropped, or even thrown at you - isn't it?" Despite his many years of training he blushed. "Well that's okay, its Lockheart - Arabella Lockheart. I know it sounds like a Harlequin Romance writer, so please call me Bel. Mind you, that doesn't tell you what you really want to know - does it?"

"I'm not sure I understand the question," Ezra protested politely.

"Sure you do, you want to know who I am, not what my name is - right?" She looked across at Buck. "Reckon you should tell him."

"I don't think that's such a good idea," Buck growled almost too low for Ezra to hear.

"Wel,l I do. That's my name here, I've gotten used to it, so has Buck, but it wasn't the name I started out with. I used to be plain Cindy Wilmington."


"Yup, but he," she nodded at the frowning Buck. "…just calls me Ma."

Ezra couldn't stop himself, he his jaw dropped. "But you're …you're…" he spluttered.

"Too young I know, but it's all an illusion," Bel patted her own cheek.

"No … I mean yes, that is I wasn't going to say that. Aren't you meant to be dead?"

"Well there by hangs a tale."

"This is a bad idea," Buck commented.

"Darlin' if you can't trust your team, who can you trust, besides the man's been dead for three years. In any case it will make dinner more interesting."


Over the meal she told Ezra how she had accidentally witnessed a murder. She was placed in protective custody until the trial and then given a new identity. "Of course the normal thing would be to give my family - Buck - a new identity as well, but he was just about to graduate from the police academy in Denver, so I had to 'die'. A nice fake car crash on a very remote road, where the closest medical facility just happened to be on a military base, and I was 'dead'."

"And Arabella Lockheart was born?"

"Indeed, Mr Standish. I had some savings and was in the happy position of being able to retire, more or less."

Ezra didn't miss the mischievous smile Buck gave at this comment.

"So now I live here and paint, and fish, and take care of the cats. I even work behind the bar on occasion."

"The bar?" Ezra asked.

"I own a bar, I'm meant to be a sleeping owner, but sometimes I have to 'wake up'."

"So the man you helped convict is dead?"

"The FBI told me he died in prison. Of course it took them three days to tell me. While my son had given me the news within twelve hours."

Ezra looked over at Buck. "How did you manage that?"

"You're not the only one who has sources you know," the tall agent explained, before turning back to his mother. "Ma, he has contacts you know, family, you're still not safe."

"I know, but I do think we can trust Ezra, and the rest of your friends. I've heard so much about them it's about time I met them."

Ezra raised an eyebrow toward his friend. "You told her all about us?"

"Oh, he sure did. E-mail is a wonderful thing isn't it?"

"Of course, don't you tell Maude about the guys?"

Ezra did, on occasion, but his mother never showed any interest in the information. "Not in any detail."


They ate and chatted into the night, Bel favoured Ezra with tales of Buck's childhood. Some were straightforward naughty/funny/cute little Buck stories and some told tales of a boy who loved his mother and was mature and considerate beyond his years. All of which embarrassed Buck no end. Despite his long afternoon sleep and having eaten almost all his food, including a good portion of a dessert Bel called Eton Mess and seemed to be mostly whipped cream, broken meringue and raspberries, with some kind of alcohol, by ten Buck could hardly keep his eyes open.

"I'm gonna turn in, see you guys in the morning," he called as he headed for his room.

"Good night, darlin'," he mother called after him. Then she turned back to Ezra. "I'll get out of your way in a few moments, the bed things are in the old trunk." She pointed to the battered travelling trunk under the paisley shawl in the corner of the room. "But first…" the silence that followed was filled with ominous over tones. "…why are you really here?"

"I told you, we were worried about Buck."

"No, you said 'you' were worried. But Buck's been calling Denver regularly, why did you feel you needed to see him in person?" Her gaze, so reminiscent of Buck, was quite penetrating.

"Very well, I was worried, is it a crime to be worried about the health of a friend, who has so recently been close to death? I might ask why you were not there?"

She suddenly looked less sure of herself, even upset. "I would have been, had I known. But I didn't know, he never tells me. By my calculation he was still in intensive care when he called me from the hospital - I didn't even know he was in the hospital, he told me he was undercover. It's the only time he lies to me, when he's hurt, and I can never tell, he's been doing it since he was six, you'd think I'd have worked it out by now," she admitted with some regret. "He's trying to protect me, so I find it hard to be angry."

"Protecting others is one of his most admirable qualities."

"Yeah, my son - the momma grizzly," she said, with a smile of pure love. "Mr Standish, are you in love with my son?"

The question came so out of left field - or so it seemed to Ezra - that he wasn't sure he'd actually heard it. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Do you love my son?"

"What? No, I …no! I just care about him," he said emphatically. **Too fast Ezra, your talking to fast, sure sign you're lying.**

"Are you sure?"

"Madam I think I know my own mind, yes I am sure!" **Too fast and too loud, get a grip.**

"Because you see, I think you are. I'm not an educated woman, I never even graduated high school, and on many subjects I am quite ignorant, but not this one. When it comes to love and sex and desire, I'm a world expert, and I know what I saw tonight. I saw you watching him, did you know you stood on my veranda watching my son sleep for almost a full hour?"

Ezra didn't, he had no concept that that much time had passed.

"I doubt it was so long," he countered, more in control of his reactions now.

"If you say so." She turned away and began to pull sheets, a comforter and pillows from the trunk.

"Say I was - hypothetically - attracted to a man, why - of all people - would I pick on Buck to direct my desire. You are aware, I presume, of his 'reputation'."

Bel stood up and turned to face him again, a pillow held against her ample chest. "I am aware that he loves company, and beauty, and is a man…" She searched for the right euphemism. "… with a healthy appetite."

"Just so. So you can see that no **man** would set his cap at your son, for it would be hopeless."

"Really, you think so?"

"I know so."

She smiled and continued to bring the bedding out of the trunk. "Well, it looks like you're all set here. I'll leave you in peace. Good night, sir." She began to leave the confused Ezra and headed for her own room. Then she turned back. "Buck has told me all about his precious Team Seven, I know about his various adventures, about other members of the team's mishaps - not his, of course, he never tells me about his own. I know all about Chris and his loss, his glare, his wardrobe choices. I know about Nathan and his well-intentioned fussin', his scolding about fast food, his lovely girl friend. I know about Josiah and his temper, his work with the needy and philosophising. I know all about Vin, the 'scrawny assed Texan' with eagle eyes and a poet's heart. And of course I know about JD, his 'kid' all eager non-stop energy. And I know about you, about your emerald green eyes, your delicate skilled fingers, your accent, I know about that fine body you keep hidden under those designer suits. About your kind heart - that you also keep hidden, about your generosity - which you keep even more hidden from the world, I even know about Maude."

Ezra couldn't help it, he let just a little of his surprise show. Bel was heading for her room now. At the door she looked back at the bewildered man. "I have no idea what colour JD's eyes are." With that she was gone.


Buck lay on his bed unable to sleep, visions of Ezra filled his head, memory and fantasy mixed together. Those long boring days in the hospital, once the fever began to recede, he had enjoyed Ezra's quiet company in a way that was quite different to the others. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate Nathan and JD's morning visits, JD brought the post and the paper, Nathan checked on him and explained the doctor's notes. In the afternoon Chris would come in on his way back to the ranch, keep him updated on developments at work, let him know his beloved horse was alright. In the evening JD came back with Josiah, they would watch TV, and chat. But at lunchtime Ezra came, he brought food from Buck's favourite diner in an attempt to re-kindle his appetite. They played checkers and backgammon, sometimes Ezra read to him, when he was too tired to play or talk. He'd always had fantasies about Ezra, but he never thought anything about them, after all he had fantasies about Vin and Chris and even Nathan, once or twice he even wondered what it would be like to bed Josiah. He worried he'd have fantasies about JD, since he saw JD as a little brother he didn't want to think of JD 'that' way. But he always came back to Ezra. In those days in the hospital it became clear to him, that what he felt for the mercurial southerner was a lot more than idle lustful fantasy.

He'd been very careful to keep his occasional liaisons with men far away from Denver. Only indulging the flip side of his sexuality when visiting with his mother in Florida or on weekend trips to his old hometown - Las Vegas. Buck never pretended to have 'gaydar', not when it came to so called square gays - which he guessed he was - and he hadn't picked up that Ezra had feelings for him, yet here he was. His hand moved, without his command, to stroke his aching cock. Since his mother refused to have air conditioning, the windows were open, and the louvered shutters closed, but it did little to alleviate the stifling heat. Long fingers of moonlight striped the room, as he lay naked on the bed. His slow, gentle, self-stimulation, mixed with the very erotic visions he was having about Ezra brought him to his first climax since he'd fallen ill.


Ezra wasn't sleeping either. The sofa bed was, as promised, very comfortable. Sleeping might have been easier had the cat not been sitting on his chest. It had arrived suddenly, landing on his chest. Ezra reckoned that he'd lost ten years of his life, he'd even begun to reach for his gun before he realised what it was that was staring at him. The cat's name - he had learned - was Bandit and he was something of a geriatric, much given to staring at people, drooling, eating, getting under people's feet and sleeping and not much else. Man and cat started at each other for some time before the elderly feline turned away, circled some three times and then curled up on Ezra's stomach.

When Chris had first told them that Buck would be convalescing at some mysterious friend's home in Florida, he'd been devastated. Weeks before Buck had developed a cold that quickly became flu, or so they thought. He had a few days off work and then seemed to improve, only to fall ill again. Nathan had insisted he go to his doctor, who didn't know what was wrong with him but said it was most likely to be a virus. The doctor did take some blood for tests, but before any results came back Buck had collapsed at home with a fever of nearly a hundred and seven. Despite all the hospital's efforts the fever refused to break, he had convulsions, and his kidneys started to fail, it took two more days for the diagnosis of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to be made. He had probably been bitten by a tic at the Labour Day show and rodeo he, JD, Chris and Vin had attended nearly two weeks before. Despite the very best of care it was a week before his fever dropped enough for him to be aware of anyone or anything around him. As well as problems with his kidneys he also developed pneumonia, adding to his recovery time. In total he spent three week in hospital. In the first week one of the team stayed with him at all times. He was often delirious and combative, and rather than see him restrained one of them held him down and talked until he settled again. After a week his fever began to drop, it was a long, slow process and he was increasingly bored and restless. The team had fallen into a routine keeping him company while also continuing to work. It had been unseasonably warm when Buck had been bitten, but by the time he was ready to leave the hospital, the Colorado fall had arrived with a vengeance.

There had been a lot of discussion about were Buck would convalesce. The CDC was his home, but the spiral stairs were an inconvenience. The ranch had plenty of room but it was a good hour's drive from their office, and that was in good traffic. Ezra had offered his guest room, his apartment had plenty of space, the room was spacious the bed huge and had its own bathroom, better still it was only fifteen minutes drive from the office. Ezra had spent many hours imagining how he would look after Buck. He made a shopping list, having worked out what foods would tempt the big man to eat again. He mentally planned their weekend entertainment. Imagined himself going to Buck's apartment and packing for him. And - in his imagination - once they were together in the same apartment and he was taking care of Buck, somehow the very heterosexual Buck would realise that he loved Ezra the way Ezra secretly loved him. This part he knew was pure fantasy, but it was a good fantasy and having Buck to stay with him would be better than nothing.

What Ezra hadn't been prepared for that Friday morning, was Chris announcing that Buck was leaving, even if it was only for two weeks.

"…seems he mentioned a friend in Florida and the docs told him that would be better than staying here in 'sunny' Denver. Can't blame him, two weeks in Florida, who wouldn't go?"

And he had to admit there was no answer to that. The trouble was, as the days passed he worried more, despite Buck calling JD at home every day, calls the young agent repeated verbatim the next day, despite the occasional call to the office that JD put on speaker phone. No matter how much Buck told them he was fine and being waited on hand and foot, Ezra worried. What if Buck was lying and was on his own? What if whoever he was with didn't understand just how ill he had been, and was dragging him out to bars and parties? What if he was over taxing himself, surfing or swimming? What if he wasn't being reminded to take his medication? If he didn't finish the anti- biotics the pneumonia could come back. By Thursday Ezra couldn't stand not knowing anymore, which was how he came to trace Buck's cell phone call to Key West. There were only four houses within the location he was given by the tracing software and two of them were closed up, one seemed to be a house where there was at least one very young child, going by the toys strewn around the front porch, so Ezra tried the fourth house. Where, silently thanking Chris for insisting they all have newest cell phones with the GPS tracking chip, he found Buck.

The cat seemed to have had enough of sitting on his guts and was making a move south.

"Oh, no you don't, not there," Ezra growled.

Bandit turned around at the sound of his voice and stared at him.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you it's rude to stare cat?" The cat didn't move. "Either find another bed for the night, or I'll lock you in the laundry - your choice."

The cat stared for another full minute, then it stood, stretched, and stalked off him to leap silently to the ground. As he watched, the moonlight streaming in through the screen doors picked out the ink black feline in silver silhouette as it strolled, tail high, toward Buck's room. In order to create some kind of through breeze the door was slightly ajar, but even though there was more than enough room for him, Bandit nosed it open some more. Ezra watched the cat disappear and was filled with jealousy. He lay there, wishing he was a cat for some time, and would probably have dropped off to sleep, had the large quantity of wine he'd drunk not made its presence felt. Padding softly across the polished hard wood floor he used the small bathroom by the back door, before returning to the living room. Buck's door was still tantalisingly open. The wine might no longer have been in his bladder but there was still plenty in his blood and it emboldened him.

Without moving the door, he stole a peek at the object of his desire. Buck was sprawled on the large old-fashioned brass bed, his back to Ezra. Wide powerful shoulders moved imperceptibly as he breathed. Long, long legs had kicked of the sheet and it was now tangled around his ankles. Perfect - in Ezra's eyes at least - ass cheeks, made even more beautiful by the soft ethereal light in the room, lay before him, inviting and almost irresistible. Two glowing coals, seemingly floating in the darkness told him the cat was staring at him from the bottom of the bed. **Oh to be a cat,** he lamented, and he headed back to his lonely empty bed.


Bel lay on her bed - Harley - her other cat, younger, fitter and far more aloof than Bandit, had taken time off from his nightly hunt to spend some time on her bed. His arrival had woken her, thus it was she heard Ezra get up. And while his feet made no discernible sound on the floor, the time lag between the noise made by the plumbing and the creak of the bed springs told her all she needed to know, her long held suspicions confirmed.

"Well, baby," she cooed to the cat. "Looks like mamma has some work to do tomorrow." She gave the cat a long stroke along its back, happy when it arched into the caress.


Morning dawned, bright, warm and sultry. After a breakfast of French toast and poached eggs, Bel sat back and beamed at the two young men at her table.

"So, what are you two boys gonna do today?" she asked.

"Do?" Buck asked, arching his eyebrow at his mother.

"Yes - do. You have a friend to stay, you need to entertain him."

Buck's eyes narrowed at his mother. "I'm not twelve," he growled.

Bel ignored him and turned her attention to Ezra. "Have you ever been here before?"

"No, I have not had the pleasure." He looked up at Buck, sitting opposite him. "I would be most grateful for a guide."

Buck was still glaring at his mother, who was sipping coffee and studiously ignoring him.

"Buck?" Ezra pressed.


"Do you feel up to giving me a tour of the island?"

Finally Buck looked back at Ezra, and registered that he wasn't looking politely bored or even amused, he was looking genuinely hopeful.

"Sure, no problem."

"Excellent, I have to run some errands this morning and then look in on the bar, the two of you be sure and come there for lunch."

"Mother!" Buck hissed in a low voice, full of embarrassment.


"The bar is not exactly Ezra's style - you know?"

Bel smiled sweetly at her son as if he was five years old again. "Now dear, you never know what people will like until they try it, so you bring him for lunch." She looked over at Ezra. "I'll be expecting you boys."

"I'd be delighted ma'am, I'm sure it's a fine establishment," he assured.

Buck just shook his head.


Ezra had somehow assumed he would be driven around the small island, or possibly that they would walk the short distance to the area around the lively fashionable Duval Street and Mallory Square, where the nightly sunset ceremonies took place. What he had not expected when he exited the house, was to find Buck adjusting the saddle on a bicycle. He stood there open mouthed, unsure how to react. Once their itinerary had been decided upon Buck had insisted he change into something less formal than the linen suit he had put on for breakfast. Ezra had protested that he had nothing to wear, but Bel all but dragged him off, promising she could find him something. The 'something' turned out to be a rather nice pair of khaki shorts, they were Buck's but fitted quite well, a pale blue tee shirt, it belonged to Bel but it was a unisex shirt, and a pair of leather walking sandals, also Bel's, half a size too small, but still comfortable. He had tried to explain he didn't need them, his suit would be fine, but there was just no saying no to the woman.

As Ezra approached, trying not to stare, Buck chose that moment to look up. He was wearing another pair of cut offs or possibly the same pair as the day before, they were still very short and still sat alarmingly low on lean hips. The addition of a white muscle shirt didn't help Ezra's concentration any, either.

"Hi," Buck greeted. "Hey, those are my shorts - aren't they?"

"Yes, I believe so, your mother was kind enough to lend them to me, she said something about you never wearing them anymore?"

"Yeah, well they need ironing, I'm not into ironing at the best of times, let alone when I'm not working," Buck explained. He leaned back a little the better to see the man before him. "Damn, Ezra, you actually look like you're on vacation!"

"Thank you." Even as he spoke he was frowning at the bike.

"Now, Ez, don't look like that, Key West is small and flat, bike's make a lot of sense. This is mine, you can use it but I think you'll need the seat a mite lower." He patted the saddle. "Come and try it so I can test it out."

Ezra still frowned. "It would appear to be a most venerable machine."

"Wha'? Oh, yeah, well it's about twenty years old now, but it's a good bike, nothing fancy, only four gears, but around here you don't really need gears. Come on, give it a go."

Ezra still didn't move.

Buck was suddenly struck with a horrid thought. "Ezra you can ride a bike - right?" he asked hurriedly. "'Cause if not we can…"

"I can ride a bike," Ezra cut in, finally taking a step toward the cycle. "What are you going to ride?"

"Ma's." Buck pointed past Ezra, who had failed to notice the equally old ladies bike leaning against the house. He turned back and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

Buck grinned and gave a shrug. "It don't bother me, mind you I might take the basket off the front first."

"A wise move."


It was a pleasant morning; Buck showed Ezra the island's principal attractions including Hemingway's house and - to Ezra's surprise - the cemetery. Ezra liked the epitaph on one tombstone, which read 'I told you I was sick'. He decided his would be; 'Nathan said I was

sick'. At lunchtime, with clear reluctance, Buck led them to the bar his mother owned. It was on a side road, just off Duval Street. The building stood back from the street a little way, and the space in front of it was filled with tables sheltering under shady trees and umbrellas. The sign above the large open doors read, 'OT's Bar and Grill'. Ezra had noticed the Stars and Stripes flying from one corner of the building, what he failed to notice was the flag flying from the other side. Many of the outside tables were already full and waiters in black pants and tight white tee shirts were moving smoothly to and fro. Inside the decor was simple, polished hard wood floors, brass fittings, photos of old movie stars decorated the walls. It was lively and if not heaving, busy.

"Oh, Ez, no one here knows we're related - me and Bel - okay?" Buck hissed.


"BUCK!" Bel's voice cut across the crowded room.

"Hi Bel," he greeted, giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek, once she reached him.

"Come on, I saved you a table outside."

They had only been sitting there a few minutes, still perusing the menu when a dark haired man about Ezra's age came up to them.

"Buck, long time no see, handsome," he greeted.

"Rick," Buck greeted.

Rick stood back a bit and surveyed him. "You're not looking so good pal, you need to get down here more often." Suddenly he noticed Ezra. "Hello." He extended a hand. "I'm Rick, the manager."

"Ezra Standish."

Rick looked from Ezra to Buck and back. "Damn it, Buck," he exclaimed in a voice full of mock hurt. "You always said you'd wait for me."

Buck grinned despite himself. "I did no such thing. Now, since you're here you can take our order."

Once they had ordered Ezra leaned in closer to Buck. "What was that all about?"

"What was what all about?"

"You, this Rick person, what he said."

"Rick is a very good manager, he and I have known each other for a number of years, he's always flirted with me and he seems to think we - you and me - are a couple. Got it all now, Slick?"

It came out easily, lots of amusement in the voice that was smooth with his usual charm, but inside Buck was terrified that he had just said too much, that Ezra would be offended, possibly even leave.

"A couple?" Ezra asked, finally taking in the large number of all male couples at the tables and the rainbow flag flying from one corner of the building. "Your M…"


"Bel," Ezra corrected, "…owns a gay bar?"

"Not exclusively gay, we don't really have the straight/gay division here that much but most of the customers are gay - yes. It's one of the best known and very profitable it is too."

"So everyone here thinks we are a couple?"

"Yup, I reckon they do - does that bother you? We can leave if you want."

"Bel would be mighty offended if we did, and besides, if it doesn't bother you it doesn't bother me."

Ezra put on his best 'neutral' face, desperate not to let Buck know just how at excited he was. Here he was with the object of his desire, in a mostly gay bar - a bar owned by said object of desire's mother - and he wasn't bothered that the patrons all assumed they were together. As fantasy fulfillment went, it wasn't bad.


The long morning of riding, exploring, and a huge meal had left Buck in desperate need of a rest, so - the lunch time rush over - all three headed back to the house. Since she was walking, Bel arrived some twenty minutes after the men. Buck was already asleep, having crashed out on his bed almost as soon as he pulled his shoes off.

Ezra was exploring the garden, watched all the time by Bandit, but returned to the pool area when Bel came out onto the deck. She sat down on the edge of the pool and dangled her feet in the water. Leaning back on outstretched arms, she turned her face to the sun.

"This is the life," she sighed.

"Indeed, it has a distinct appeal."

"But not for you or my son." She looked up at him, eyes squinting into the sun. "You would get bored too fast. But you are always welcome to visit, de-stress."

"Oh, I think could adapt." He slipped off his borrowed footwear and joined her by the pool, relishing the cooling water as it enclosed his feet and lower legs.

"No, I don't think so, for all your love of the good life and apparent laziness, you are not one of the idle rich. If you were, you wouldn't be a federal agent - would you?"

Ezra looked at her sideways at her. Clearly Buck really had told her a lot about his friends. He could try and deny it, but somehow there seemed little point. He was still musing on this when he realised she was still speaking.

"Life is short Mr Standish, you have to live it as it happens, there's no point hanging on for something better."

**Better? There is no one better than Buck. How could you think that of your son?** But even as he silently fumed she was still speaking.

"Nor is there any point longing for something you can't ever have - but…" Suddenly she had his full attention. "You shouldn't ever give up a dream, unless you are one hundred per cent sure it is impossible."

Her dark brown eyes seemed to bore into Ezra. When he had arrived in Key West he had been sure - Buck was an impossible dream. Now? Now he wasn't so sure, yet somehow this new doubt was almost as bad as loving a man he could never have. For if it were true, if Buck were capable of returning his love, what then? What if Buck didn't love him? What if they had a relationship and it failed - what of Team Seven then? And if it did work, if Buck loved him as he loved Buck - what then? Was he capable of living in a permanent relationship, did he really want it? What if the sex was no good? No he dismissed that, this was Buck - all those women must know something - the sex would be great. He felt himself flush at the very thought of Buck's intimate touch.

"Are you sure, Ezra? Are you absolutely sure, that what you desire, what your want more than anything, is really unattainable?" she asked.

Finally he slowly shook his head.

She reached out her hand and cupped his jaw. "Then find out, once and for all, find out if you can make the dream a reality. Buck will sleep for a good few hours yet, for what it's worth, if I was you, I'd take some time to do some serious thinking." She pulled her hand back, and he instantly missed her touch, which was warm, soft and somehow reassuring. "I am going to take a siesta, feel free to use the pool, take a walk, borrow the bike." With that she pulled her legs out of the water and strolled back into the house.


Ezra did what he always did in a dilemma - he went shopping, retail therapy wasn't the exclusive prerogative of the female. Having walked to the main shopping district, he took a cab back to the little white house, laden down with new footwear, two Key West friendly outfits and a new jazz CD. As he walked back into the house he was greeted by Buck, same outfit, hair still sleep tousled.

"You're back! Great, we need to go out."

"What? I only just got back."

"Sun's going down, come on, get changed if you wanna, but we don't have long."

Since going with the flow seemed to be the order of the day, Ezra quickly discarded the borrowed clothes and pulled on his new navy shorts, navy deck shoes and white, torso hugging, tee shirt. He didn't miss the appreciative look his new wardrobe received from Buck. They made good time on the bikes to Mallory Square. They watched the sun go down, strolled among the stalls, and watched some of the street performers before heading back to the house, which was empty. A note on the fridge read, 'I have to go out, won't be back until the morning, your supper is by the pool. Enjoy yourselves boys. Bel'

Ezra wasn't sure what Buck was expecting as they stepped out on to the deck under the vine, but it wasn't the feast spread before them. The table was covered in a fine damask tablecloth; platters of food sat on beds of ice. There were fresh tiger prawns smothered in garlic butter, dip with an array of crudites and bread sticks, asparagus wrapped in pancetta, salmon mousse and smoked salmon parcels and there were oysters, opened with wedges of lemon ready and waiting. There were strawberries dipped in chocolate and Champagne chilling in a bucket. Scented candles burned all around them, emitting a soft citric sent that as well as adding to the ambience, helped to ward off any insects. The pool lights were on; sending dancing patterns of light up on to the foliage that overhung the water. More lights, hidden in the bushes, added to the effect.

"Wow," Buck breathed beside him.

"You weren't expecting this?"

"Not exactly no, supper by the pool is usually a barbecue or a sandwich, this is… something else." Buck walked up to the table and squeezed lemon juice on an oyster, before he swallowed it in one smooth motion. "Damn, that's good."

For some reason Ezra had never thought of Buck as a lover of such gourmet delights as oysters, but then he was finding out a lot of new things about the man.

Buck picked up a prawn and sucked off the butter, Ezra all but whimpered in response to this vision.

"Come on, dig in, Ma really knows how to cook, when she can be bothered that is," Buck encouraged.

They feasted, loading up plates of food and carrying them to the chairs by the pool. Ezra watched as Buck ate more oysters, loving the way the action stretched his neck and throat, emphasising how tall and lean he was. As they ate and drank, they talked. They talked about all kinds of things, Ezra felt confident enough to ask about Buck's childhood, having realised how little he knew. Little by little he learned of a childhood of poverty and constant movement, living on society's margins. What Bel, or Cindy as she was then, did to earn money wasn't mentioned, but reading between the lines Ezra worked it out. Yet despite the obvious privations, the constant thread in all Buck's stories was one of love and Ezra began to feel that he would willingly have given up his childhood of relative luxury, for just a little of the maternal love Buck had been - still was - wrapped in. Buck went back to the table for more food, and as he sat down he pulled his chair closer to Ezra.

"Here, try one." He held out a strawberry.

Ezra leaned forward to take it, feeling Buck's fingertips brush against his lips. He held the small fruit between his lips, pressing down slowly to break the rich, dark chocolate coating with an audible crack, before sucking it down. Emerald eyes were locked on Buck the whole time, watching his reaction, which was all he hoped it would be.

"Damn, is it me or is it getting hotter?" Buck exclaimed, pulling his eyes away from Ezra. "Reckon we'll get a storm soon." Suddenly he stood. "I'm gonna take a swim, you coming?"

Caught off guard, Ezra flustered.

"I, err, well, I guess, but I don't have…" His intended protest that he had no suitable swimming trunks was cut short when Buck, already barefoot and having shed his shirt, undid his cut offs and let them drop - he wasn't wearing underwear.

"Oh, shit," Ezra breathed, soft enough that Buck didn't hear him as he dived into the pool. He watched the long, lean frame cut through the water, surfacing on the far side seconds later.

"Come on in," Buck invited.

"Um." Ezra stood. "What… what about the neighbours?"

In three short strokes Buck was back across the pool, leaning on the edge, looking up at Ezra.

"What about them, they can't see anything."

Ezra looked up; the significance of the dense foliage around the garden suddenly became clear.

"Besides," Buck continued, "Most of the houses around here are empty eighty per cent of the year. So, you coming or not?" With that he pushed off from the wall and floated on his back into the middle of the pool.

Ezra just stared. **Well no wonder the women keep coming back to him - damn!** His mind made up, Ezra began to strip.


Buck was beginning to think he had a chance with Ezra, and that was scary, because if he and Ezra did get it on, it couldn't be just a short fling. The longest relationship he'd spent with one man was three weeks, and that was in college. He worked with Ezra, if they began a relationship they had to be sure it was going to last. He wanted it to last, the more time he spent with Ezra, the more he wanted to be with him. He watched the suave undercover agent peel off the elegant new outfit he had only just acquired, with appreciation. He knew Ezra had a powerful physique but somehow, in the uplighting of the pool, he looked even more sculpted, his muscles even harder and when he finally got a look at the 'package' he wasn't disappointed. Sleek, smooth, perfectly proportioned and nestling in a beautiful wreath of auburn curls.

Ezra dived in, surfacing slightly to the left of him. Water cascaded from him as he shook it from his face, catching the light like so many diamonds. Buck didn't think he had ever seen a more beautiful sight. He swam the short distance to face Ezra. This was the deepest part of the pool; he could just stand on the bottom and keep his head above the water, which meant Ezra had to be on tiptoe.

"Hello," he said softly, desire all to evident in his velvet smooth voice.

Ezra visibly gulped. "Hello," he responded.

Hesitantly Buck reached out his hand; one finger extended and stroked it down the fine boned cheek before him. He all but held his breath, waiting for Ezra to pull back, to recoil, waiting for the look of horror, shock, disgust or even pity, but it didn't come.

"You mean you…?" Ezra asked.

Buck nodded.


"Are we sure about this?" he asked hesitantly.

"I've known you for three years now Ezra Patrick Standish. I now about Atlanta, know it was a lot of crap, most of it thrown at you. I know about Maude. I know about your humour, your determination, your fear of being seen to be weak - like when you're sick." He turned his head to hold Ezra's gaze when he tried to look away. "I know about your courage and loyalty and I know you're a peacock. I know that for all you say about manual labour you put in some serious time to get a bod like this." With that he moved his hand down and traced Ezra's powerful shoulders. "I'm sure about how I feel and I'm sure about wanting you and only you from now on."

"I, I …had no idea, about you, that you could feel like this, about me, about a man."

Buck took a deep breath and lifted his head toward the heavens before he looked down again. "I spent a lot of time, more than half my life, keeping a secret - about Ma - I guess I'm used to hiding stuff, private - dangerous stuff. I never meant to deceive you. If I had known - about you - I'd have made a move, I swear I would."

"You really didn't know?"

"No, not a clue. Which is weird, 'cause I can usually tell about people, especially if they are interested in me, were you interested, I mean before now?"

"Oh, God, yes, always." Ezra finally reached out a hand and copied Buck's finger stroke.

Buck tilted his head to make the caress last longer. "I never knew, guess we were too close to each other to see what was under our noses."

"Your mother knew."

"Well, she …she's got a special gift for this kind of thing." Deciding there had been enough talk Buck leaned in and kissed Ezra, it was really no more than a brush of the lips and he pulled back quickly, searching the handsome face before him for a reaction. The reaction he got was a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. Ezra then leaned in to bestow a kiss of his own, but this was no gentle brush, this was a full-on, deep, claiming kiss that seemed to go on forever. Buck responded intently and Ezra felt himself drawn closer, relishing the close body contact. He could feel the silky hair on Buck's chest against his own smooth skin, feel strong arms encircling him. Hands, wide and strong, playing over his back. He was only barely aware that his own hands were exploring Buck's back in a similar way. Then he felt it, that hard rod of flesh pressing into his upper thigh, close to his groin. He was only vaguely aware that his own cock was filling out and beginning to brush against Buck.

Buck was holding Ezra to him now, backing slowly toward the poolside and shallower water.

"Want you." That velvet soft voice breathed in his ear. Then he began to nibble at the same ear.

"Want you too, please, for so long…" Ezra's voice failed him as Buck began to kiss his shoulder.

Hands and lips explored and excited, each relishing the sighs and gasps of pleasure their ministrations produced. They were still moving backward through the water and now Buck's back hit the poolside where the water was at its shallowest, not even reaching his waist. With more of Buck out of the water Ezra began to explore further.

"Yes, oh yes, Ezra," Buck gasped, as the kisses covering his chest found their way to one aching, hard nub.

Ezra managed to smile while still continuing to bestow erotic torment on Buck. A hand now wrapped around Buck's impressive shaft, while Buck's own hands were roaming freely over any part of Ezra he could reach. Finally Ezra broke away, staring up into Buck's dilated eyes.

He licked his lips as he prepared to speak, not missing the little shudder the action produced in his partner.

"Um, we need to talk," he began.

"No talking, more kissing," Buck muttered, pressing his lips to the nape of Ezra's neck.

Arching into the caresses, Ezra nevertheless continued to try and speak. "What do you? Oh God! That is are you a …oh my!"

The flat of Buck's hand slid down his washboard stomach and enclosed his classically beautiful shaft. His other hand snaked around Ezra's trim waist and began to explore his ass. Long fingers began to slip between his powerful muscled cheeks and all the time his neck; ear and collarbone were all kissed.

"Please …Buck …what do you like to do?" he finally managed to get the question out.

Buck pulled back to look in to those jade green eyes. "Do?" he asked.

"Um, yes, do - top or bottom?"

"Oh." A lecherous grin spread over his handsome, sex flushed features. "Switch. You?"

"The same."

"Outstanding!" With that he went back to kissing and exploring. "But don't we need…oh, sweet Jesus!"

"Jesus has nothing to do with it." With that Buck's skilled fingers began to play with Ezra's balls below the water, loving the way it moved his luxuriant hair around his fingers as they worked their magic.

"Supplies!" Ezra finally managed to get the word out.

"Supplies …yes …good," Buck murmured.

"Please …ahhhhhh … Buck, I can't hang on much longer."

Finally what Ezra was trying to say penetrated Buck's sex fogged brain. "Right, don't…" He pulled back reluctantly. "…don't move."

With that he pulled himself out of the pool and heedless of the trails of water he was leaving behind he ran into the house. Ezra, standing in the warm waters at the edge of the pool, waited impatiently. Buck came back at a run, almost slipping on the wet floor as he exited the house. He lay a towel down on the pool edge, and as he sat on it, placed a small wash bag and a wooden box beside him.

"Miss me?" he asked, bending down to kiss Ezra.

"What… took… you?" Ezra punctuated every word with a kiss.

The kisses continued but they didn't linger, this time they were moving south with an unswerving determination. In an action that mirrored his mother just hours earlier, Buck planted his hands on the deck behind him and tilted his head to the inky black night sky. He waited, his whole body trembling with anticipation for that moment that Ezra's lips encountered his aching shaft. He didn't have to wait long. The first touch was so light it was no more than a feather touch, but its effect was electric. He gasped, pulling his eyes from the sky to watch Ezra.

Ezra was no amateur; he knew exactly what to do and Buck's gasps and cries proved it. "Oh yes, more, harder, please Ezra!" he cried out. "Oh, fuck!"

With that he came, faster, harder and more powerfully then he could ever remember coming before. His trembling arms gave out and he sank down onto the deck, legs still dangling in the water, his cock still in Ezra's hungry mouth.

Only when Ezra was sure he had licked, lapped and sucked Buck dry did he pull away to stand back and admire the view before him. As Buck lay there in the ever-moving light, sweat drenched, naked, sated and panting, Ezra didn't think he had ever seen a more beautiful sight.

"You okay?" he asked hesitantly.

"Oh, yeah," Buck replied dreamily. "In fact I'm better than okay; passed okay long ago." He waved an arm to emphasise the point, before he pushed himself up on his elbows to look at his lover. "Thank you."

In response Ezra's head ducked a little. Buck sat up further, he reached down and gently pulled Ezra back to face him. "I mean it, thank you." He kissed him then he whispered in his ear. "Want you to take me." His slipped into the water and stood before his new lover. One large skilled hand found Ezra's own shaft. "Reckon you do to?" Struck dumb, Ezra just nodded. "Trust me?"

"Yes," Ezra managed to breathe out.

"Lay back in the water, float," Buck instructed.

Ezra arched an eyebrow.

"You said you trusted me."

"So I did."

Ezra sank down and let his feet rise to the surface. Buck admitted the new view. "Damn! Makes me want to run a flag up it and salute!" he joked.

Ezra would have made some pithy response had Buck chosen that moment to salute it in quite a different way.

"Careful," he warned as Buck lifted his head again. "Don't spoil it."

Buck licked his lips suggestively, waggled his eyebrows and grinned. "Have no fear." He continued to kiss and caress Ezra as he floated in the warm water. Only when Ezra's shaft was weeping copious amounts of pre cum did he reach inside the small bag he had brought to the poolside, pulling out a condom and a tube of lube. He made short work of getting the sheath on, then he handed the lube to Ezra, before he stood back and turned to lean over the poolside. He looked back at the still floating Ezra and gave his ass a provocative little wiggle.

"Over to you, Slick!"

"Oh, my." Ezra forced himself to stand.

The water was just shallow enough that his cock was above the surface. Even as he was wading toward Buck, he squeezed out some lube and coated a finger. Buck spread his legs even wider, all the time grinning at Ezra over his shoulder. He ran one warm, wet hand over Buck's broad back as the slick finger slid down the invitingly spread crease before him. He relished the quiver of excitement his mere presence produced from the already relaxed opening. His finger slipped in easily, there was no resistance, no hiss of pain, no gasp of breath. Buck continued to grin at him over his shoulder. He added another finger. Finally he judged Buck to be ready. His own hand was trembling. It had been sometime since his last liaison and pleasant as it had been, it wasn't Buck. This was what he had dreamed of for so long, and now, in just seconds, all his fantasies and dreams were going to come true.


"Always," Buck responded.

Ezra smiled and pressed the head of his shaft to the well-stretched, slick opening and pushed forward. Buck's head dropped, his back arched over, which had the effect of pushing his ass back, impaling himself in one strong swift move. Bracing his arms, he arched again, pushing up until his shoulders came in contact with Ezra's. He knew Ezra had to be close so this wasn't going to be a long fuck. He reached back and with one hand, found Ezra's wet hair and held on to it. Ezra's own hands were clamped on to Buck lean hips as he began to move. On instinct Buck matched his thrusts, moving back as he moved forward increasing the depth of each penetration.

"Yes!" he cried out as Ezra hit the spot for the first time.

"Oh, God, Buck…so hot, so tight," Ezra gasped, his fingers digging in even deeper.

It took just a few strong, deep thrusts for Ezra to come, Buck felt the warm seed fill him and gave a sigh of pure contentment. They collapsed down into the warm water together, sinking to their knees, heads just above the water. Buck waited until he heard and felt Ezra's breathing settle down before he gently turned around to face him.

"Hello? Ezra, you with me here?"

Jade green eyes that were unfocused and dreamy looked up at him.

"Maybe - am I really here?"

Buck pulled him into a gentle embrace.

"Yeah, you're here, we're both here, together."


After a long time in the water, just holding each other, kissing, touching and exchanging soft murmured words of affection they finally stood up. Buck told Ezra to sit on the side of the pool with his legs in the water.

"There is a tradition to observe here," he announced.

While Ezra watched he opened the small wooden box he had brought and removed two home rolled cigarettes and a lighter.

"I don't smoke, you don't smoke," Ezra pointed out.

Ignoring this observation and lit both, then he handed one to Ezra, took a long pull on his and then lay back down to smoke and gaze at the stars. It was then that the distinctive aroma of the 'tobacco' reached Ezra, he took a small tentative pull on the roll up.

"This is…!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, yes." Buck confirmed. "And you won't find finer stuff anywhere." He looked over at Ezra. "Don't tell me you didn't find the plants?"

Ezra blushed. "Well I wasn't going to say anything, but I did indeed come upon your mother's little 'plantation'." He looked down at the smoking stick in his hand.

"There is nothing better than a home grown, home rolled joint - trust me."

Ezra remained skeptical. "We're federal agents, what if we get caught? What if your mother gets caught?"

Buck laughed. "In this town? Besides my mother has the chief of police wrapped around her little finger, trust me we're safe."

Deciding that resistance was futile, Ezra lay down beside the man he loved and took a long satisfying pull on the joint.

"Damn, that is good stuff," he admitted.

"Told you, nothing like home-made. So we smoke, we get just a little high and then we go and explore the bedroom - right?"

"Oh yes, I'm all for more exploration."


Bel let herself in to the house as quietly as she could. There was that 'Christmas Morning' feeling in the pit of her stomach, excited anticipation. As quickly as she could she crossed to the French doors and looked out. The remains of the meal still littered the table and of more significance piles of clothing still lay on the poolside. Smiling to herself she tip-toed back to the door to Buck's room. It wasn't latched so she gave it a gentle push. There on the bed, wrapped in a sheet and each other lay her son and Ezra Standish, and she smiled. Her smile grew as she backed away. She even did a little 'happy dance' watched by the ever curious Bandit who was sitting on the sofa.

Some sixth sense woke Buck; he could hear soft footfalls on the hard floor outside. With infinite care he untangled himself from Ezra and the bedding and slipped off the bed. Stopping to pull on a pair of boxers he padded out of the room.


"Oh, darling!" she exclaimed softly as she turned in response to his call. As he walked toward her she took in her son's condition. He was still too thin, but he looked stronger somehow. There were bruises on his hips, just visible above the waistband of his underwear; bruises that looked suspiciously like finger marks.

"Looks like things went well?" she asked. Her son beamed and gave a little affirming shrug come nod. "He was 'passionate'?"

Buck gave a quizzical look until she pointed at the bruises. "He was amazing."

By now he was standing right in front of her and she reached up to cupped his cheeks in her hands and kissed him. "I'm so pleased, I think he's wonderful. Do you think he's the one?"

"Yeah Ma I do, I hope so anyway 'cause I love him so much."

"Oh." One hand covered her mouth, while the other began to card through his hair, tears formed in her kind eyes. Eyes so full of love. "I hope so too dear, it's been too long."

"You know this means there will be no grand children."

"Oh, honey, it's a very small price to pay for your happiness. You deserve to have that kind of love with someone special of your very own, I never did and I want you to have it so much."

"You have me, and you always will." He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him in a close embrace, resting his cheek on the top of her head.

"I know darlin', I know - and now I have Ezra as well."

"Are you sure?"

Mother and son both looked around at the sound of the southern drawl. Ezra was standing in the doorway of the room, the sheet wound around him.

"If you'll let me, I would like it very much."

"My own mother is still in the land of the living."

"So I understand and she is of course welcome here, but were does it say you can't have two mothers?" Ezra shrugged, then with a slight smile admitted it wasn't. "Right, so come here and give your 'mother' a kiss."

He dutifully crossed the room and kissed her cheek.

"Ok, so now that is all decided, when do I meet the rest of the team and what do you boys want for breakfast?"