Close Calls
by VampyrAlex


Pairing: Ezra/Chris
Category: ATF
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: The characters from Mag7 belong to MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy, which is a damn shame. <g> No copyright infringement intended, this story is strictly for fun, not profit.
Author's notes: Thanks to Kris, Sherri, and Tess for beta'ing this.
Summary: Sometimes it takes a close call to put things into the right perspective.

Chris Larabee looked out the window at the pouring skies, clutching the ledge in a white-knuckle grip. After sitting beside Ezra's hospital bed the entire night, he felt drained and exhausted. He knew he should go home and try to get some sleep, but couldn't make himself leave. Not yet. Not until the other man opened his eyes.

He was only vaguely aware of the usual buzz coming from the hospital corridor, his mind lost in the events of the day before. He and Ezra had both been undercover, a first contact with a gun dealer. Things had been going smoothly until the dealer's brother had shown up at the meet. Chris had arrested the man years earlier, while still with the Denver PD, and the brother had recognized him immediately.

He had been helpless to prevent what happened next. The man had reached for his gun and taken aim at him. Chris had looked at the barrel of the gun, knowing he was going to die, that he wouldn't have time to draw before the other man fired. He watched the finger squeeze the trigger and then suddenly something had hit him in the chest, knocking him backwards. By the time he had recovered from the impact and extricated himself from beneath the weight pinning him down, the man had been ready to take another shot. Instinct had taken over, and Chris had brought his own gun up and fired with deadly accuracy.

The others had arrived at that moment, avoiding a bloodbath, but Chris was hardly aware of what was happening around him. All he could see was Nathan trying to prevent Ezra from bleeding to death from the bullet meant for him. Ezra had saved his life, had taken the bullet meant to end his life.

Shuddering, he remembered the trip to the hospital, the five long hours waiting for Ezra to come out of surgery. Finally, the doctor had arrived with the news that Ezra had come through the operation -- and although it had been touch and go -- would make a full recovery. The bullet had hit him in the left side of the chest, close to the heart, but thankfully had missed any vital organs. If all went well, he would go home within a week's time, providing someone would be there to care for him.

The others had remained throughout the night, leaving in the morning to change and get some rest. They should be returning soon. Chris had stayed behind, watching every rise and fall of the other man's chest, every breath, needing the assurance Ezra was alive.

He looked back at the pale man on the bed, anger overriding any trace of relief. Why had Ezra jumped in front of him that way? He must have known he could die. And yet, he hadn't hesitated to give his life for Chris'. Why?

"Somethin' on your mind, Cowboy?" a voice asked softly from behind him.

Chris resisted the urge to sigh; he hadn't heard Vin walk in the room. He should've known the other man would know something was wrong the moment he took a look at him.

"I don't understand him," he confessed, just as softly.

There was a long silence, then Vin asked, "What do ya feel for Ezra?"

Chris frowned. "I don't follow."

"What comes ta mind when ya think of him?" Vin explained. "Do ya think of him as your agent, someone who works for ya? Or is there somethin' more?"

Chris looked thoughtfully at the man on the bed. "All of the above, I guess. But... he's also my friend."

"Just friend?" Vin prompted.

"Still don't get what you driving at."

Vin grinned. "Wouldn't ya have done the same thin' for him yesterday if you were in his shoes?"

"Yeah, but that's because I --" He froze then, finally realizing where the conversation was leading.

Vin smirked at him. "'Cause ya love him? If ya love someone, you'll do what ya have to to keep them safe."

Chris frowned at the cryptic meaning in Vin's words. "So, you're saying Ezra loves me too?"

"I think so. He's been sending ya a message for a long time now, Cowboy. Ezra doesn't trust easily, yet he does trust ya. You've given him a second chance and ya don't beat 'round the bush with him. Ya say what ya have to say, good or bad. I'd say you've given each other enough cause for trust. And for someone like Ezra, that's the basis for love. 'Sides, there are other signs."

"What signs?"

"Well, for one he's still here, still with the team. If he didn't trust us or feel comfortable enough 'round us, he wouldn't make the effort. He would've just taken off. Then there's the way ya two fight. In the beginning it was egos clashing, no doubt about it, but it changed. He picks fights with ya now because he can see that you thrive on it. It's a challenge and you both love it. He lights your fire, no two ways about it."

"You think you're really smart, don't you?" Chris grumbled half-spitefully, because everything the other man was saying had hit home.

Vin smirked again. "Yep."

Chris rubbed tired, bloodshot eyes. "This isn't going to be easy. He's stubborn, headstrong, independent...."

Vin chuckled lightly. "Pot and kettle, Larabee, pot and kettle. Ya just remember nothin' worthwhile is ever easy and ya'll be okay. Now, I think I'll go wait for the others outside, give ya some time ta think."

After Vin left, Chris walked over to the bed, his eyes focusing on Ezra's pale features. He smiled as he realized there was a change in the younger man's breathing; Ezra was waking up. He waited patiently, a hand brushing away a few strands of unruly hair from the waking man's forehead.

"Chris?" A mere breath. "Tired..."

He leaned forward and let his lips rest lightly against Ezra's, the softest of kisses. "Yeah, it's me. Go back to sleep."

Ezra's eyes fluttered open for a moment before an exhausted smile appeared on his face and he drifted off again, this time into a normal sleep pattern.

Chris watched him for a while, wondering about destiny and close calls, knowing once Ezra was back on his feet he would be in for the ride of his life. He chuckled softly; suddenly he couldn't wait for it to begin.

Opening his eyes hours later, Chris realized he had fallen asleep as soon as he sat on the chair by the bed. There was no sign of the others; they were probably close by, allowing him to have a little peace and quiet.

Turning back to the man lying on the bed, he was surprised to see clear green eyes watching him blankly. "Nice to see you awake. Need anything? Water?"

Ezra shook his head. "No. A nurse was here earlier. I'm surprised you didn't notice her; you must have been extremely tired."

"Yeah, well." Chris leaned back on the chair. "How are you feeling?"

The Southerner smiled slightly. "Better."

Chris nodded. "Good. Ezra, we need to talk." He didn't miss the slight wince. "Relax. I have no intention of losing my temper with you today."

A frown creased Ezra's brow. "You haven't?"

Chris chuckled at the perplexed expression on the other man's face. "Nope. *However*, once you get out of this place, you and I are going to have a little talk about taking stupid chances."

Ezra narrowed his eyes dangerously. "Just as long as we understand each other, Mr. Larabee; I'm not sorry -- nor will I ever be -- for what I did."

Chris nodded. "Fair enough." He rose from the chair, approaching the bed slowly. He planted both hands firmly on the bed and leaned forward until his face was inches away from Ezra's. "I finally understood your message," he whispered.

Ezra's frown deepened. "What?"

"Let me give you my reply." He grinned, then covered Ezra's mouth with his own, pouring all his love and want into a deep, urgent kiss, smiling as he felt the other man moan and arch into him in response.

When he drew back, Ezra had his eyes closed. They finally opened and Chris' breath caught at the light shining from the green depths.

"Took you long enough," Ezra told him softly, an open smile grazing his lips.

"You could've said something," Chris chided in the same tone.

To his surprise, Ezra glanced away. "Not my way. I needed to be certain you felt the same first."

"I do. I love you, you stubborn cuss. Now, I'm going to go home and change, get a few more hours sleep. I also need to run by the office and see how things are going. I'll be back as soon as I can. Oh, and Ezra?" he trailed off by the door. "You'll be staying with me once you get out of here."

"Don't I have a say in it?" Ezra glared at him.

Chris chuckled. "Nope. I want you up and about as soon as possible. If we leave you on your own, I know you'll be doing everything you're not supposed to." He gave Ezra a shrewd glance. "Besides, I like the idea of you sleeping in my bed, even if we won't be doing anything for a while. You rest now."

He left the room with a wide grin, savoring the stunned expression on Ezra's face as he closed the door. He walked leisurely through the corridors, his mind already on the future. He did find Ezra stubborn, headstrong, independent, which, if he was honest with himself, was part of what attracted him to the other man. But Vin was right; nothing worthwhile was ever easy. And he had a feeling Ezra would be more than worthwhile. He would just have to wait and see.





Magnificent Seven