Ivy '04: Command Decision

Evie - my wife who is no one's fool - she told me Buck has 'it'.

"Honey," she said, "you men are always talking about women who have 'it' well men do too and whatever 'it' is, that boy has it in buckets full."

So I asked her what 'it' was, but she couldn't tell me.

"There is no rhyme or reason too it darling. Now Buck is a handsome man and no mistake, but that’s just a bonus - added extra you might say. There was a boy at my school, he was shortish, rather plain, in a sort of Norman Rockwell kind of way, he was good at sport but he wanted to be a chef, made the best damn cakes you ever tasted. And you know what?"

"What?" I obligingly prompted.

"He was the most popular boy in school. Forget the quarterback or the swim team, all the girls loved Robo - that was his name, short for Robin. Whatever 'it' is, he had it and so does Buck. Hell if I were ten years younger and available I'd be a notch on his bedpost in a flash! Maybe even if I wasn't available!"

She gave me one of those smiles, the ones were I can't tell if she's serious or not. So you see it was kind of hard to imagine Buck and a man, together as in together. It was even harder to believe - still is - that that man was Chris Larabee, of all men; he was married once. Evie just laughed at that and said it proved nothing, after all Oscar Wilde was married, so was Alexander the Great and they had both had children. But somehow I just couldn't see it, not Larabee. But then again I never knew him before, before he lost his family. By all accounts, well by Buck's account and that has to be seen in a new light I guess, Larabee was a devoted family man, loving husband, doting dad. And before that, before Sarah? Well it makes you shudder, if even half the stories Buck tells are true.

When I heard that Buck was moving out to Larabee's ranch house I didn't think anything of it. It made sense for JD to stay in the condo and have young Miss Wells move in with him and Buck to move out to the ranch, it's more than big enough for two men, and it seemed like a perfect solution. Buck is no doubt only charging JD and Casey what it costs to cover his mortgage payments each month, which for that apartment in that part of town, will be a bargain. Chris could use a hand with the horses, great solution all around, it never occurred to me that there was more too it.

I didn’t even twig when Chris began to mellow. He wasn't balling people out like he used to. The other day there was a raid on a gun shop; they found a lot of stuff, illegal stuff. Everything went well, except a uniform cop picked up a whole bunch of machine guns without any gloves on. Now normally Chris would have torn him a new one then and there, but he didn't, he followed procedure, complained to his commander through my office like he's meant to, but - until now - never has. Looking back, he has lightened up, not just his attitude, he's even started to wear lighter coloured clothing, a saw him only the other day in blue jeans and a white tee-shirt. Now, see, that should have been a clue - right? I mean the man has no more imagination than an undertaker when it comes to his clothing, only less colourful, or at least he did.

It happened at the barbecue, last week. Chris, well I guess Chris and Buck, invited everyone over for Labor Day; riding, impromptu game of softball and a great cook-out. They provided the grill, everyone contributed to the meat, as well as fixings, salads and desserts, Evie made some sourdough bread and those little individual apple pies Vin likes so much. Things were mellowing out, the sun was setting and everyone was just sitting around and chatting. I was leaning on the corral rail, drinking a beer and watching Standish spoiling that horse of his with peppermints. Evie came up beside me; she didn't say anything for a while then suddenly she sighs, well, more like cooed I guess.

"What?" I asked.

"Look at that, isn't it sweet?"

I turned toward her, expecting her to be looking at Ezra and Chaucer, but she was looking along the rails toward the barn. I turned my head to see Buck and Chris deep in conversation just inside. Both had a bottle of beer in their hand, there didn't seem to be anything unusual.

"What is so sweet?" I asked.

"Oh for heaven's sake Orin, I swear you need glasses, it's a good thing I'm doing the driving today."

So I looked a little closer. And I saw. Buck's big hand firmly placed on Chris' ass, and Chris looking more than comfortable with that. And when I looked again I also saw how close they were, well inside each other's personal space. It looked as if they were actually about to kiss when JD shouted for Buck to come see to the grill. I watched as they broke apart and headed back to the house, they looked as they always looked, easy, confident relaxed in each other's company. How long, I wondered, how long had this been going on without me noticing?

As the food was served and we all settled down to eat, I watched them, none too subtley apparently, because Evie had to kick me in the shin to stop me staring. If someone had told me two of Team Seven were gay and asked me to name them I wouldn't have said Chris and Buck. Ezra - sure, if you were ticking boxes on the 'is he gay' checklist, then Ezra would probably tick each one. He's well spoken, polite, neat, impeccably dressed, his home - from what I saw the one time I was there - was spotless and very tasteful, he looks after himself, he's vain, a little on the prissy side and likes classical music. Asked me to name the second one, now that's more tricky; Vin has the long hair - actually that’s an anti gay thing isn't it? But he's very laid back, I don’t hear about him and women much, or there's Josiah, open to new experiences and new cultures, has that 'bear' look. I would have said JD before I said Buck. And Chris? Never. Well okay Nathan never, since he is happily married, whatever Evie says about Oscar Wilde and Alexander the Great.

I watched the others, wondering if they knew. When you work with any new team you learn to size up the dynamics of the group, no team works in total harmony, but Team Seven, well they are as close as damn it. None of them are angels, none of them are devils, they have their quirks and peculiarities, but - and here's the thing - they fit together, each one of them fills a place, like a jigsaw, once fitted together they are a perfect whole. They seemed as relaxed together as always, more than I did. Now I am not anti gay, I hope, I think. Evie watches that 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' show, which doesn't freak me out. I quite like 'Will and Grace'. When Buck flopped down beside me though, as he has many times before, I found myself far more aware of his proximity then I ever have before. I wanted to move away, to create a comfort zone between us that I have never sought before. You have to understand that Buck's personal space is a lot smaller than most people's; of course now that I think about it, Chris' is huge, so why didn't I notice that Buck had invaded it? I didn't move away from him, but that was more out of politeness than comfort.

"Hey there, Judge!" Buck greeted, he knows I hate being called that, it’s a stupid nickname.

"Buck," I responded cautiously.

"Grills almost all done, we got steak, burgers, dogs, and Rain's spicy chicken," he announced.

"Sounds good," I responded.

"Well, time to come eat man!" He stood up, giving me a slap-come-shove in the back to encourage me on my way. I didn't flinch or pull away, Buck was still Buck to me, and frankly that surprised me, considering that only minutes ago I didn't want him sitting next to me. Why was that, why did I change so fast and then change back again? Was it that my subconscious had already decided it was of no consequence what two grown men did in private? Was it that I was more hungry than I thought - Evie always says when I'm hungry I can't think of anything but food - or was it that my subconscious has decided that one hand on a butt does not a gay relationship make? Whatever it was, that evening - from then on - everything was as it always had been.

Since that day I find myself watching them more closely, not just Chris and Buck, but all of them. Is it true? Do they all know? If the answer to the first is 'yes' then so is the answer to the second, for in Team Seven a secret like that wouldn't last long, even if they had ever tried to hide it. I am more and more inclined to believe it is true. Buck is a man with a lot of love to give, as JD can attest to, I believe. He is also a lover of physical pleasure, I would surmise that if 'little Buck' is happy so is big Buck, but I also have come to the conclusion that Buck doesn’t put himself into categories, gay, straight, or even bi. I think Buck just enjoys whatever gives him pleasure and right now that is Chris.

Chris is more of an enigma. He and Buck go back a long way, before Chris even met Sarah I believe. They were in the Navy together - indeed I find myself wondering just how long they have had a physical relationship. Buck has been an important part of Chris' life for so long that he may even have forgotten what it was like not to have Buck around. Has he finally seen that Buck is the one person who understands his grief and can offer comfort, and has that comfort turned to love? It would seem so.

So, having come to the conclusion that one hand on an ass does a gay relationship make, what do I do about it? Being gay is not going to get them fired as such. If it came out to the world at large their lives would be made more difficult, even intolerable. Just because the law says you can't discriminate doesn’t mean you can stop people doing it. But - and here's the thing - the ATF, in common with most law enforcement and rescue services, does have a strict policy of not allowing spouses and life partners to work together. The theory being that, one - if you are worrying about your loved one you aren’t concentrating on the job at hand. But what makes a loved one? Is the love I presume Buck and Chris share more dangerous to the job than that which Buck clearly has for JD, which is certainly fraternal, if not paternal. Or indeed the fraternal love Chris demonstrates for Vin. There is not one member of Team Seven who wouldn't put his life on the line for one of the others - do I split up Team Seven? The second reason that spouses are not permitted to work together is what might happen at work if they fall out. Frankly I have never understood the logic of this, you're splitting up a team in case they fall out and you have to split up the team at some point in the future. It may never happen, you might as well wait until it happens, if it happens.

What do I do? Nothing. The military policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' seems to be most appropriate. The team is the Seven. It needs all of them. It needs Chris to lead them. I can't think of anyone else who could keep that disparate band of very powerful personalities in line and focused as a team, and Chris and the team need Buck. Buck defuses the tensions in the team. He's the joker in the pack, he gets them to laugh at themselves instead of turning on each other or, worse still, outsiders. And Buck keeps Chris on an even keel, we all know Chris is volatile, and we all know it's Buck who takes the heat when he boils over. If one of them leaves the team the whole team will be lost, I know that as I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. Josiah could take early retirement now if he wanted. Nathan is so well qualified he could walk into any job as a paramedic, in any city. JD gets at least one headhunter sniffing around him every month. Vin used to make more money bounty hunting than he ever has as a federal agent and then he could always hire himself out as a hit man - I'm joking. And Ezra? Well the man makes money like most of us make shit! As for Buck and Chris themselves? Not counting the several million dollars of real estate Chris is sitting on, they could earn three times their current salary for half the work as private security consultants. That such talented men, with highly marketable skills are prepared to work for the, quite frankly, very modest federal salaries, says more about them then anything.

The more I look, the more I see the benefits of this relationship and not just professionally, but to them both personally, they deserve some happiness and I'm not going to do anything to destroy that or the team. To do so would be a crime.