Pairing: Ezra/Vin, Ezra/Chris
Rating: NC-17 for explicit m/m sex and
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, this
story is strictly for fun, not profit.
Author's notes: A huge
thank you to Sherri for beta'ing this for me. Any final mistakes are mine.
Also kudos to Lumina for her support and suggestions. This story was first
published in the zine Sinful Seductions #1 available through the
Demon Bunny Press.
Summary: A tragedy changes the lives of the Seven.
March 14th, 2000
Ezra studied the still, pale figure lying on the hospital bed,
deliberately not looking at the white bandages swathing the now shaved
head. He was sitting as close as possible, carefully avoiding the tubes
running out of the younger man's arm as he held his lover's hand gently in
The doctors weren't sure if he would make it. Ezra had been
told all about skull fractures and the possibility of permanent brain
damage -- provided, of course, that Vin ever woke up.
tiredly. It wasn't fair. Life wasn't fair. One minute he had been
deliriously happy by Vin's side, enjoying the night air as they left the
party meant to celebrate their first year as a couple, the next he was
trying to prevent four bigots from bashing their brains in.
been the lucky one, his only injury a broken arm. Vin had been hit with a
baseball bat on the head. Viciously. With the intent to kill.
their friends hadn't been close by, Ezra was certain he would have killed
the bastards who had dared attack them. Even so, three were in that same
hospital, one of them also in the ICU. He had half a mind to search for
them and finish what he had started in that dark, filthy
Still, Vin looked better after three days in the hospital.
According to the doctors, Vin's vital signs had stabilized, although he
was still critical. And soon after being out of surgery his respiration
and heart rate had been doing well, much stronger than expected. Only
problem... he wouldn't regain consciousness.
He had been told that
talking helped. So he had. Talked and talked until he had nothing left to
say nor any voice left to say it with. And still... Nothing.
the eyelids twitched occasionally, and the doctors said one of the
machines hooked up to his lover registered brain activity, but he would
only believe it when he saw it. When he watched those beautiful blue eyes
fall open and smile up at him, his name whispered from the sweet,
addictive lips. Until then he would keep his emotions tightly under
"You should go home and rest, brother," a voice pleaded
from behind him.
"When he wakes up, Mr. Sanchez," he rasped
"It's no use, Mr. Larabee. I won't leave his
side," he interjected, eyes never leaving the frail-looking man on the
And he hadn't. For three days he had remained firm, hovering
around the ICU door, until he was finally allowed inside. And then he had
commandeered a chair, sat by his lover and there he had remained, leaving
only when a quick trip to the bathroom was absolutely necessary. He hadn't
bathed, shaved or changed garments since arriving at the hospital. His
nourishment consisted of gallons of black coffee and whatever food the
others -- especially Nathan -- forced on him.
He gasped as the hand
he held suddenly twitched, a guttural moan reverberating throughout the
crowded room as Vin moved weakly. He heard JD call for a nurse, but was
unable to look away from the bed, unconsciously holding his breath as
Vin's eyes fluttered open.
Their eyes met, locking for a moment,
then Vin looked away, glancing around the room and at each man
"Vin?" Ezra called faintly.
The blue eyes focused
back on him, the hand pulling briskly away from his. "Who are you? Where
am I?" Vin asked suspiciously, and Ezra felt his world crumbling down all
"Mr. Standish, you are listed as Mr. Tanner's domestic partner." The
doctor looked up from her desk, a sympathetic expression on her face. "I'm
sorry, I realize this must be difficult for you."
Ezra nodded, but
was unable to say a word. The simple fact that the doctor had asked to
speak with them in her office didn't bode well for the future. She had
spent nearly an hour examining Vin, asking question after question,
running test after test, until she was finally satisfied.
going to be okay?" he heard Buck ask.
The doctor sighed tiredly.
"Mr. Wilmington, I'm not going to lecture you on the unknown territory
surrounding head injuries. Physically, he is on his way to recovery.
Mentally... Mr. Tanner will probably never regain his memories of the
attack. We call it traumatic amnesia. It's pretty common in such
"And the rest?" Chris pressed. "Will he remember us? What
he does for a living?"
"I spent a long time speaking with him. He
has lost approximately seven years of his life. He remembers his time with
the Army Rangers and becoming a bounty hunter after he was discharged. He
has no memory of joining the US Marshals or being recruited to your team.
There's no guarantee he is ever going to fully regain his memory. And if
he does, it can take days or months, no one really knows for certain how
the mind works."
"How will we be able to tell if he's remembering
something?" Josiah asked softly.
"Well, most people regain their
memory in bits and pieces, recognizing family, friends, past events in
their lives. The longer he goes without remembering anything, the less
likely it is that the amnesia will ever go away."
"How long until
we give up hope?" Ezra finally murmured, holding his broken arm against
his chest protectively.
"I can't give you a safe answer for that
question, Mr. Standish. I've seen people suddenly regain their memory
years after the trauma, but it's extremely rare. I would say, if he
doesn't begin to remember anything within a year at the most, he never
"Do we tell him about us? About the three years we have been
friends?" JD rushed out.
"Wait a day or so until he feels stronger,
then tell him. Don't do it all at once, give him time to adjust to all the
"When will he be discharged?" Chris again.
want to run some more tests, brain scans, and I want to monitor him for a
while to make sure there aren't any unforeseen complications. Depending on
how well he does, maybe in two weeks. I'll let you know for sure when I
get the results from all the tests." She rose from her chair. "Now, if
you'll excuse me, I have other patients to see to. I'm really sorry I
don't have better news for you. I'm certain you don't agree with me at the
moment, but Mr. Tanner was extremely lucky. With that kind of injury, it's
a miracle he is still alive. Gentlemen."
"Ezra, do you want to be
the first to speak with him?" Chris asked once the doctor had left. "Tell
him about your relationship?"
Ezra sighed sadly. "I'm not going to
tell him, Mr. Larabee."
Nathan frowned at him. "Why
"The part of him that loved me is gone. If he remembers or
begins to feel the same again, then we'll see. If not... I'm a stranger,
and so is he, in a way. He's not the same man we met three years ago.
Trying to force him into a relationship with someone he doesn't even
remember would be wrong, and should he be told, he might feel obliged to
remain with me. I wouldn't be able to go through that. It's best this way.
If by the time he is to be released he still doesn't remember us, I will
go to his apartment in Purgatorio, retrieve all of my possessions and
return the ones he has left in my abode." 'And it will be the most
painful thing I will ever do in my life', he added silently to
himself, feeling his heart break at the thought of losing Vin
Thirteen months later
April 17th, 2001
Chris spotted his wayward agent the moment he stepped in to Inez'
place. Ezra was sitting alone in a secluded table at the back of the
saloon, a beer bottle held between his hands.
"I stopped accepting
his orders," Inez said when she saw him. "But he's beyond drunk as it is,
He nodded and walked over to the table, sitting before the
weary man. Ezra looked like hell. The last year hadn't been easy on
anyone, but especially on the undercover agent. Ezra had been right; Vin
was not the same man they had first met, and although he had mellowed out
some, he was still wary and cautious around them, never letting his guard
down. Worse than Ezra when he had joined the team.
Josiah had said
the timing had been right when the seven had first joined forces; destiny
had been ready to prepare their path in life. But the attack had set Vin
back seven years and disrupted that timing. There was nothing left of the
sometimes shy, sometimes prankster young man; in his place stood the
bounty hunter, the predator who wished for nothing more than solitude, and
no one had been able to reach him.
Dynamics within the seven had
changed; he and Vin no longer had the almost unearthly relationship they
had shared before. Instead -- and surprisingly -- Ezra had become one of
the closest people in his life. He hadn't even noticed it at first, but it
made sense in a perverse sort of way; he had lost his best friend, Ezra
had lost his lover. They had come together from a shared grief and found
they were more alike than they had first thought possible.
uneasy truce had grown between them, allowing them to get to know each
other better, to go beyond their limitations. And soon they realized they
had become good friends.
But it hadn't been easy. There had been
times when he had been at a loss as to what to do to help Ezra. A few
months after leaving the hospital, Vin had become sexually active again,
dating men and women alike. Ezra had shut down, sinking deeper and deeper
into a dangerous depression, until the others were certain they were going
to find him gone one day.
Chris had been the sole barrier between
Ezra and destruction, doing everything in his power to prevent him from
drowning into a bottle or giving free rein to the impulsive gambling the
other man seemed to have acquired of late. And in between trying to keep
the team together and being there for Ezra, Chris realized he had fallen
in love with the Southerner. It was a scary thought, and an even scarier
emotion, but he was powerless to control it.
All that was left was
for him to be the best friend he could be to the other man and push his
feelings aside. Ezra wouldn't be able to face the truth and it was unfair
to lay that in his lap. Better to just let it be.
beddie-bye?" Ezra drawled sarcastically, his bloodshot eyes looking
dazedly at him.
"You said it, not me. You did your fair share to
help boost the economy, it's time to go home."
He helped lift Ezra
from his chair and half-dragged, half-supported him out of the
establishment. Getting him in the passenger seat was an exercise in
frustration, but after long minutes of curses and drunken giggles, Ezra
was finally seated and belted up.
Chris drove slowly through the
deserted streets, his mind going around in circles. No matter how hard he
tried, he could see no way out of their current situation. Little by
little they were losing two of their team members. Vin was skittish and
looked about ready to bolt for greener pastures while Ezra was on a
collision course with his misery. Nothing good would come of it. If he
didn't do something soon, the Seven would eventually break up.
parked the Ram in front of Ezra's townhouse apartment and once again was
forced to half carry the man inside. Grunting with the effort, he managed
to open the door, disable the alarm, and take Ezra to his room. Once
there, he set about to undress the other man and lay him down on the
That accomplished, he turned to go, avoiding looking at the
boxer-clad body sprawled wantonly on the bed. A hand on his wrist
prevented him from moving, and he looked down at Ezra.
Ezra pleaded roughly.
"Ezra --" Before he could utter another word,
he was pulled down with surprising force, falling heavily on top of the
other man. He looked down into the pale face under him, noticing the pain
and regret shining from within the expressive eyes. "Ezra?" he whispered,
"I-I need you to stay," Ezra breathed brokenly. "I'm
dying, Chris. Please, help me... Touch me, love me, it's been so long...
so very long..."
He should have said no, he should have left. But
he didn't. Instead he touched the moist lips, feeling Ezra inhale a
shuddering breath before the lips under his opened hungrily. He lost
himself in the beer-soaked heat, kissing Ezra urgently, frantically,
knowing he was crazy to do so, but past caring.
through his hair, massaging his scalp, holding him in place while strong
fingers slowly caressed down his neck. Dragging himself away, Chris panted
sharply, not having believed it would be possible to get so aroused from
one drunken kiss. His body was burning beyond control, his cock painfully
hard as Ezra tore at his clothes, getting him naked in a
He returned the favor by getting rid of Ezra's boxers,
moaning as the final barrier disappeared and he could finally feel all of
the sensual body writhing beneath him. He groaned as Ezra devoured his
mouth a second time with amazing skill. When the need to breathe finally
got to be too much, he released the sweet mouth to bite Ezra on the
sensitive juncture of neck and shoulder, marking the smooth skin
Ezra arched off the bed, sobbing his name and Chris
thrust down between the slick thighs that embraced him, increasing the
friction between their bodies while his lips and tongue charted the
perfect torso laid out for his pleasure. He felt Ezra claw at his back,
straining against him, bucking wildly as he sought release.
buried his face in the elegant neck, nuzzling the scented hair as they
tensed for release, thrusting faster, harder, kissing each other
desperately before finally spiraling down into completion.
could think again, Chris made to roll away, but was prevented from leaving
as Ezra wrapped his arms lightly around him.
"Don't," Ezra begged
him hoarsely. "I want you to stay."
He forced himself to look into
the beseeching green eyes. "Ezra, where do you want to go from
The other man licked his bottom lip nervously. "I'm
attracted to you, I always have been."
"Do you love me?" He had to
Ezra swallowed hard, lifting a hand to caress his cheek
gently. "Yes. Not the way I love Vin, but yes, I do love you. You have
been my touchstone, my strength, for the past year. I wouldn't have made
it this far without you. And I have a feeling I could come to love you
very, very much."
A lonely tear fell from
sorrow-filled eyes. "My Vin died over a year ago. I've been holding on to
the memory of a man who does not exist any longer, holding on to a love
that isn't real anymore. It's time I faced up to that fact. He never
showed any signs that he remembered anything from the past years, not even
the slightest detail. I can't go on like this; I need to let go. Stay?"
Ezra asked hesitantly.
Chris rested his forehead against Ezra's,
taking in a shuddering breath. "God help me, but yes, I'll stay. I'm too
weak to step back, especially after tonight." 'And God help us all if
Vin ever regains his memory and decides he wants his old life back',
he thought desperately. He wasn't certain if he would be strong enough to
let Ezra go. Not anymore.
July 15th, 2001
Their coupling was frenzied. Vin grasped his lover's hips in a tight
grip as he thrust into the tight channel, long, hard thrusts that had them
both grunting in sync. He reached for his lover's cock, stroking in time
with their frantic pace, setting the body beneath him alight.
whimpered into his mouth, lifting his hips to allow him to move in deeper,
their movements becoming quicker, more desperate, more demanding, pushing
them both closer to the edge.
He felt Ezra's orgasm bathe his hand
and surrendered to his own climax, exploding deep within Ezra's body,
groaning pitifully as his pleasure was dragged out of him. He collapsed
against the other man, sighing contentedly as he felt his lover wrap
strong arms around him.
He remained snuggled in Ezra's embrace,
eyes closed, panting for breath, until he realized there was something
Opening his eyes, Vin realized he was no longer in bed with
Ezra; he was up, fully clothed, although still in the room. But the scene
had changed and so had the feelings he was experiencing. He was no longer
surrounded by their love, he felt scared, knowing there was danger lurking
Focusing on the bed, he saw Ezra lying comfortably under
the covers, sleeping soundly, a soft smile dancing on his lips.
door to the room opened suddenly and a man walked in, leering at Ezra's
helplessness. He licked his lips hungrily, eyes roaming over his prey's
peaceful features and hidden body. He approached the bed slowly, hands
reaching out to touch warm flesh.
Vin wanted to shout at Ezra to
wake up, wanted to throw himself at the man and prevent him from hurting
Ezra, but he couldn't move or speak, he was completely paralyzed. He
watched in horrified fascination as a dagger abruptly appeared in the
man's hand. He stood poised over Ezra, positioning the blade above his
lover's heart, lifting it higher and higher, ready to strike.
again Vin tried to shout, to free himself from his invisible bonds, but it
was useless. The man swung his arm down, plunging the blade straight
through Ezra's heart, who whimpered softly before becoming eerily
Vin woke up from his nightmare with his
lover's name still echoing in the room. He sat on the bed, clutching at
the sheets, stunned by the memories hitting him all at once, aching
physically and emotionally. He finally remembered everything, every single
person, every single event he had lost from the last years.
back on the bed with a heavy sigh. He had been remembering a lot in the
last months, especially about the cases with the ATF. Each time they had a
case and something happened, it brought back memories from older busts,
visits to the hospitals, shootouts, the occasional undercover assignment
He had kept the knowledge to himself. At first because
he still had no idea how to deal with six virtual strangers, and after
because the more he remembered, the more he realized how much of a bastard
he had acted towards the others, especially Chris and Ezra. His mind knew
it was not really his fault; after all, he had been an amnesiac, but his
heart... He felt ashamed of the distance he had created between himself
and the others, of all the times he hadn't been there, of all the things
he could have said and hadn't.
And with the bits and pieces he had
begun to remember, the thing that would unbalance him the most was the
erotic dreams featuring Ezra. He hadn't known which way to turn on that
one. Were they memories? Were they just wishful thinking on his part? The
other man certainly hadn't given him any sign they had been involved in
any way before the attack.
But now he knew, now he remembered. His
nightmare was a scrambled mess, but not enough that he hadn't remembered
their first time together, the first night he had finally made love with
A bust had gone bad and Ezra had been taken hostage, a knife
pressed to his throat to keep the rest of the team from any attempts at
rescue. The standoff hadn't lasted long; using a moment of distraction on
his captor's part, Ezra had escaped, allowing them to charge in and arrest
Vin had taken the undercover agent home afterwards and,
heart still hammering in his chest from fear, had blurted out his feelings
for the other man. He could still picture the smile on Ezra's face as he
listened to his tumbled words, the green eyes mirroring the emotions Vin
was trying to express.
"God, Ezra," he mumbled to the empty room,
remembering the last strained months. "What ya must've gone through
because of me."
Suddenly he just had to see Ezra, speak with him,
apologize. Ignoring the fact that it wasn't even four in the morning, he
jumped out of bed, looking wildly around for his clothes. He was dressed
in minutes and out the door seconds later. He gunned his jeep and was on
his way to Ezra's townhouse before he could give his idea a second
He knocked on the door desperately, his heart going a mile a minute as
he tried hard not to think about what could be wrong. When the door was
finally opened, he rushed in, turning to the blond man blinking owlishly
"Chris, I think somethin' happened to Ezra. I went by his
house, but he wasn't there. It's four in the mornin'! Where the hell can
he be at this hour? What?" he finally snapped, realizing the other man was
looking at him with a strange light in his eyes.
didn't you?" Chris asked him mildly.
"Yes. Well, most of it
anyways. I still can't remember the attack. What did really happen that
night, Chris? All I remember is leavin' the restaurant with Ezra, after
the party you guys had thrown for our first anniversary as a couple. The
rest is a blank."
Chris sighed tiredly. "While we were at the
restaurant these four bastards saw you and Ezra kissing. They left and
waited by the alley, near the parking, for you to show up. They had
baseball bats and tried to beat the crap out of you with them. When we got
there you were on the ground, unconscious, and Ezra was kicking the shit
out of two of the men. We called for an ambulance and you were taken to
the hospital. We were told you suffered cardiac arrest on the way, but
they managed to stabilize you enough for surgery. You remained unconscious
for about three days. You know the rest."
"Why did ya tell me I was
"Ezra thought it best not to mention your relationship, so
we couldn't tell you it had been a gay bashing."
Vin stopped his
frantic pacing in the living room. "Okay, I get that. But where the hell
"Here," a familiar voice replied blandly from behind
Vin turned to see Ezra in the doorway, wearing casual jeans
and a sweater, looking disheveled and thoroughly fucked. He wrapped his
mind around that last thought, glancing suspiciously between Ezra and
Chris until he finally put two and two together and came up with
"You bastards!" he growled, incensed. "Here I was beating
myself up for the way I had been actin' these last months and all this
time you have been fuckin' behind my back! How long has this been goin'
on?" he hissed at Ezra, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him
angrily. "How long did it take ya to forget me, ya little
"Vin! Cut it out!" Chris shouted, stepping
"You stay out of this," Vin snarled. "You were supposed to
be my best friend, not go 'round my back and jump into bed with my lover."
He clutched his hands into fists, moving towards the other man
"Stop it!" Ezra snapped, getting in between them. "Your
problem is with me, Vin; leave him alone. Chris, can you do me a favor?
Get dressed and go out for a while. Vin and I need to talk."
could clearly see Chris' hesitation. "Ezra --"
He watched Chris nod curtly and disappear into the bedroom.
It was only after he had heard Chris' car drive into the night that he
turned to Ezra again. "Well?"
Ezra exhaled sharply. "Three months."
Vin frowned at him.
"Chris and I have been together for the last three months,"
he explained gently. "It wasn't something we planned, it... just happened.
I'm sorry. It was my fault, I seduced him."
"Oh, sure! I'm sure he
gave ya a hell of a fight before he surrendered to your charms," Vin
gritted out with a scowl.
"That is hardly fair, Vin," Ezra
retorted. "The two of us grew closer after what happened, he missed his
best friend and I was half out of my mind without you. I'm not going to
provide you with any excuses, I was weak and yes, I betrayed you. But try
to see it from my point of view. I spent most of my life without knowing
what it was like to love someone, to be loved. Then you came into my life
and everything changed. For over a year I was alone, watching you date man
after man, woman after woman, each day hoping you would remember us -- me
-- until finally there was no hope left. Chris was my
"Do ya love him?" Vin asked in such a soft tone Ezra
wasn't even sure he had heard him correctly.
"Yes," he replied
truthfully, his voice also hushed.
Vin turned to him. "And
Ezra regarded him sadly, knowing things between them would
never be the same. "I'm certain you won't believe me, but yes. I have
never stopped loving you. I merely... gave a piece of my heart to someone
He watched Vin walk to the window, looking out into the
night. He doubted the other man could see anything in the total darkness,
but the distance between them provided him with a chance to control his
raging emotions. Waking up in Chris' bed hearing Vin's alarmed voice had
been a shock. He had not been prepared for this situation, not anymore. He
had long ago lost hope Vin would ever regain his memory.
his head ruefully. Lady Luck was playing with him again, doing her best to
throw him off course. And this time he had no idea what to do to make
things right. He had half a mind to return to Atlanta and leave all this
mess behind. It would certainly be best for all of them.
himself to remain still as Vin finally turned to face him. It was clear he
had reached some kind of decision, Ezra just wasn't certain if he was
ready to hear it.
"I'm sorry," Vin told him, throwing him
completely off track.
"W-what?" he stammered, startled.
shouldn't have said the things I said. I know there was no way of knowin'
if I would ever get my memory back, and I do understand why ya never said
anythin' about us. And... I guess I can imagine what it must've been like
for ya seein' me date all those..." He took a deep breath. "It'll take
time for us to be right again, but I want ya back. Damnit, Ezra, I love
ya! Once the memories came back, so did the feelings and stronger than
ever. I *need* you in my life!"
Ezra closed his eyes at the
desperation he heard in Vin's voice. They were at a dead end, all of them.
There was no way out of their predicament. He felt Vin move closer, hands
cupping his face gently.
"Shhh. Open your eyes,"
Vin commanded softly.
He obeyed, and looking into the blue eyes
regarding him with such an intense expression of love, he felt his eyes
filling. "Vin," he breathed, nuzzling one of the hands caressing his
"I love you, Ez," Vin told him. "That'll never change." Lips
brushed over his in a ghost touch. "I'll give ya all the time ya need to
decide what ya want, if ya want to stay with me or Chris. And I want ya to
know that whatever happens, I'll always be there, I'll always be your
"Lord, Vin, I missed you so much!" he gushed out hoarsely,
hugging the younger man tightly to him. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he
whispered over and over again.
Vin's hands caressed his back
tenderly, soothingly. "I know. I'm sorry too. This isn't anybody's fault.
Not mine, not yours, not even Chris'."
At the mention of the other
man, Ezra moved back in the embrace enough to see Vin's face. "Vin, about
Vin nodded grimly. "It's okay, Ez. I won't try to pound
him into little pieces, if that's what you're so afraid of. I don't know
how things will be in the future between the two of us, but I think I can
Ezra smiled sadly, running his fingers through
Vin's long hair, pleased the other man had decided to let it grow back. "I
don't believe I deserve you, Mr. Tanner," he quipped gently.
rubbed their noses together tenderly. "No, ya don't," he deadpanned. "But
ya still got me if ya want me."
Ezra sighed, feeling the serious
mood taking over again. "Give me time, Vin. I don't want to hurt either
you or Chris, you both mean too much to me."
Vin nodded. "Okay. I
better be going, he's bound to come home soon. See ya tomorrow at the
He watched the other man leave
before collapsing, exhausted, on the sofa. He was bone-deep tired, both
physically and emotionally. And now he had a true dilemma on his hands;
two men who loved him and who he loved back and he was forced to choose
between them. No matter who he decided for, someone was going to end up
hurt, which was the last thing he wanted. And what of the team? Would the
seven be able to survive this new twist in their lives? He leaned back
against the back of the sofa, closing his eyes and wishing his mind would
just go blank for a few hours so he could rest.
It was over an hour later when he heard Chris returning to the ranch.
Ezra remained on the sofa, waiting silently until the blond joined
"Everything okay?" Chris asked as he sat beside
Ezra exhaled slowly. "I guess you can say that."
are you going back to him?" Chris murmured in a defeated tone.
the second time that night Ezra wished for a hole in the ground to swallow
him whole and make him disappear. "Who said anything about going back to
him?" he finally asked.
"It's pretty obvious in my book, Ezra. You
never stopped loving him, his memory is back, you can get back together
"It's not that easy, Chris," Ezra told him, hearing the
sorrow in his own voice.
"No?" Chris challenged roughly, eyes
begging him to explain.
"These last months with you have been... I
drunk myself to oblivion, I gambled a small fortune away... I have been
obnoxious, stubborn, I have said things spitefully, because I was hurting
and wanted the whole world to suffer for it as well. I took stupid chances
with my life because I was too numb to care... And throughout all of this,
you remained by my side; you never gave up on me. You have seen the best
and worst of me and you are still here, you didn't leave." He touched the
back of his hand to Chris' cheek. "I love you, Chris. But I also love him.
I don't know what to do. The right thing would be to choose between you,
but I..." His voice broke and he simply shook his head, lost in the
immense confusion he was feeling.
Chris wrapped his arms around him
and pulled him closer. "It's okay, Ezra," he breathed gently. "We'll get
out of this mess somehow, you'll see."
He nodded, resting his head
on Chris' shoulder, wishing he could believe him. One quote from Sir
Walter Scott kept going round and round in his mind relentlessly and he
was unable to stop remembering it. 'Oh what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practise to deceive'. He had never meant to deceive
either of these men, but somehow the three were caught in such a tangled
web, he had no idea what to do to set them free. He only hoped they were
all strong enough to survive whatever decision he made.
July 29th, 2001
Chris felt his heart speed up as he realized this was the moment he had
been dreading; they were finally going to be told of Ezra's
"You've made your choice?" Vin asked from beside him,
both of them standing rigidly in Ezra's living room.
Ezra looked down at his hands, then back at them. "I never meant to hurt
either of you, you must know this before I go any further. I owe you both
so much... You and the others have taught me what it means to have
friends, what it means to have a family. What it's like to love someone."
He exhaled slowly. "While I was trying to decide the best course to take
these past two weeks, one scene kept repeating itself over and over in my
"What?" Chris asked, curious in spite of the tense
"You almost came to blows because of me that night at
your house." He shook his head slowly. "When I first joined the team, I
used to watch the two of you, see the amazing way you seem to connect with
each other. I'm not worth destroying that."
me proceed, Vin. I know what happened changed things, but I also believe
given time we can go back to some semblance of normality." Chris watched
Ezra's tongue sweep over his bottom lip and forced himself to concentrate
on what the man was saying, "So I have decided not to choose either of
you. I will remain alone."
"What?" Chris shouted incredulously.
"Is it that hard to make a choice?" Vin asked in an
Ezra smiled humorlessly. "Yes, it is. Believe me, I gave
this some serious thought. Even if I chose one of you, half of me would
always be thinking of the other. It wouldn't work. It's best this way. I
just hope in time you will be able to forgive me."
to forgive, Ezra," Chris said after a long, awkward silence. "I don't like
your decision, but I understand," he added, watching Vin nod his
"Yeah, I get it too, Ez." Vin seemed to hesitate, then
shook his head. "I guess we better leave ya alone.
Chris followed Vin out of the
townhouse, his heart sorrowful but also strangely relieved. It was finally
over. Ever since that first drunken night he had been waiting for the
other shoe to fall. It had finally fallen and taken his life with it. He
was alone yet again.
He turned to see Vin leaning
against his jeep. "Yeah?"
The other man approached him, holding out
his hand. "Truce?"
He shouldn't have been surprised by the sudden
kindness in Vin's eyes, but he was. He didn't really deserve to be
forgiven for what he had done, but he had never meant for things to get so
out of hand. He shook the offered hand eagerly, glad for the second chance
being given to him.
"Vin --" He stopped himself, lost on the words
There was no way he could apologize, not really. No way to
explain what had happened, why he had acted the way he had. Vin was his
best friend and hurting him had been the last thing he had wanted to do.
He looked at the younger man, seeing the knowing smile on his
"I know," Vin told him. "I never meant to hurt ya either,
He shook his head tiredly. "What a damn mess," he muttered
"What do ya say we go down to Inez' place and drown our
sorrows in a couple of beers?" Vin asked evenly.
Chris took a deep
breath. "Sounds good."
Vin nodded, already walking back to his
rundown jeep. "Meet ya there."
Chris watched him go, shaking his
head ruefully. Within the ashes of the last weeks, he felt glad Vin still
wanted to be his friend, was still reaching out for him. Maybe everything
wasn't lost after all.
August 30th, 2001
There was a knock on his door and then Ezra walked in. They were the
only ones left in the office, both of them staying behind to finish the
reports on the team's latest case. The others had long left, probably to
have a drink at Inez'.
"Here is my report," Ezra stated
unnecessarily, handing him the file.
Chris nodded. "Thank you,
Ezra. You did well. We wouldn't have caught Jenkins with his hand in the
cookie jar if you hadn't insisted on waitin' until the man met with his
suppliers. It was a good call."
He had been hoping to draw Ezra out
from behind his renewed walls, to make him open up even if only for a
moment, but Ezra merely shrugged. " I was simply doing my job. Goodnight,
"Ezra, wait!" he called out, rushing to block the
other man's way. "Why don't we go down to Inez' for a drink? It's been a
while since we went out together."
Ezra looked up at him with
troubled eyes. "I better not, Chris," he said in a subdued
"Ezra, please," Chris pleaded. "I miss you. I miss havin' you
around; I miss our 'lively' conversations as you call them, the way you
contradict every single thing I say just for the hell of it, I miss that
uncanny way you have of showin' me the flip side to every situation. Can't
we go back to being friends?"
Ezra closed his eyes, shuddering
slightly. "I can't, not yet. Vin asked me the same thing... I just can't."
He opened his eyes and Chris could see the brightness in the green depths.
"Give me some time. Please?"
Chris exhaled slowly. "Sure," he
agreed, unable to keep the disappointment from his voice.
his thumb over Era's lips, eyes locking with the Southerner's. He felt
himself moving forward, getting closer, until they were breathing each
other's air. He made to capture Ezra's mouth, but the other man stumbled
"No! Chris, please, I can't!" Ezra whispered, pain-filled
eyes begging him to understand. "I... I have to go."
Ezra practically run out of his office and damned himself for his
stupidity. Now he would never get the other man to trust him again. But
God, Ezra looked so good, and he missed him so much...
his eyes dismally. He would have to play the game by Ezra's rules. It had
been unfair of him to try and kiss the other man, temptation or not.
Things were in enough of a mess, without him making it worse. Maybe Ezra
was right and eventually everything would return to normal. But he doubted
September 2nd, 2001
Chris checked his gun for the thousandth time, feeling a strange kind
of premonition. Vin was by his side in the abandoned warehouse, while the
others were outside, spread throughout the grounds. It was five minutes
past the meeting time and the guys they were after had yet to
One of Buck's snitches had given them a tip about a large
gun buy taking place in the warehouse area and they had rushed to the site
to catch the alleged dealers in the act. But no one had showed up as of
yet; he was beginning to believe it was a bust.
He was about to
order everyone to clear the area when he heard the sound of tires
screeching as a vehicle parked in front of the warehouse.
van just pulled up," Nathan's voice sounded through his headset. "Three
men are walking out. No familiar faces."
"Check. Keep low," he
Minutes later the men walked in, all heavily armed. They
looked around slowly, taking in their surroundings, obvious making sure
they were the first there. He felt Vin move beside him, then held his
breath as the other man cursed and the sound of a metal pipe falling
echoed throughout the building.
One of the men looked up, spotting
them and diving for the floor with a warning shout. The man lifted his
automatic and aimed at them. Chris looked at the gasoline tanks beside him
and felt his blood freeze in his veins. As the first shots went wild, he
pushed Vin out of the way, yelling at him to get out.
make it very far before all hell broke lose. A bullet hit one of the
tanks, which exploded into a burst of intoxicating flames. He kept
running, trying to remain close to Vin as the other containers all
exploded, one by one, the loud explosions rocking the old building
dangerously. The last thing he heard was the frightening sound of torn
metal and splitting wood, and suddenly the weight of the world was on his
shoulders, bringing him down.
He woke up coughing harshly from the dust choking the air. His side
hurt like the devil and he realized he was bleeding profusely. Trying to
control his breathing enough to stop coughing, he focused on his
surroundings. Most of the warehouse seemed to have collapsed, but somehow
he had managed to survive, finding himself in a cave of sorts between the
"Vin?" he rasped out. "Vin, are you okay?"
a moan from his left side and forced himself to crawl on his stomach
towards the sound. He scooted closer to the other man, finding his way
through the darkness by touch alone, stopping only when he had Vin's face
within reach. He patted a dusty cheek gently.
"Vin, wake up," he
gritted out painfully.
The other man groaned again, moving his head
slowly to face him. "Chris?"
"Yeah. You okay?"
Vin coughed a
couple of times, then panted out, "I think so. You?"
He slumped against the other man, the fear that
Vin might have been hurt, deserting him and leaving him drained. Without
really realizing it, he slowly slipped into unconsciousness, the sound of
his name being frantically called sounding in the background.
Realizing Chris had fallen unconscious, Vin ran his hands gently over
the other man's body to determine the cause. He could detect the coppery
scent of blood and soon his fingers identified the precious fluid soaking
Chris' shirt. Stripping his own shirt off, Vin used it to press against
the bleeding wound, tearing a large strip of the cloth to hold everything
He leaned carefully back against the debris behind him,
then very gently manhandled Chris until the other man was lying on top of
him, between his legs, head resting against his shoulder. He pressed one
hand against the wound to help stop the bleeding, then closed his eyes,
trying to control the panic clawing at him.
He hated small spaces
and being locked up and this was much worse. There was no light, he could
hardly sit straight, and the constant whine of metal and wood around him
was upsetting, to say the least. There was no way of knowing if the noise
meant someone was trying to dig them out or if the remnants of the
building were slowly collapsing around them. He seriously hoped it was the
His thoughts turned to the five men outside. He couldn't
even begin to imagine what Ezra would be feeling at that moment, with both
him and Chris buried under all that rubble.
He shook his head
ruefully. Life sure was strange. When Ezra had first joined the team Vin
had been slow to offer his friendship to the other man. Maybe because he
recognized in Ezra the same weariness he himself had felt at some point in
his life, particularly when he had left the Rangers and turned bounty
But that in itself had been an insight into the
Southerner's soul, and little by little Vin had begun to understand and
respect Ezra, seeing the gamut of emotions lurking in the clear green eyes
when he thought no one was looking. And as time went by a tentative
friendship began to grow between them until one day he had looked at Ezra
and realized he had fallen in love with the undercover agent.
Unexpectedly. Totally. Helplessly.
He had fought it like a caged
animal, but in the end had surrendered and found a safe haven in Ezra's
arms and life. And considering their completely opposite outlook on life,
everything had been going amazingly well.
Now he had nothing. Ezra was no longer his lover. He
couldn't even call the other man his friend anymore. After telling them he
wouldn't choose either him or Chris, Ezra had begun to withdraw, to
rebuild the layers around his heart, keeping the others at arms
He hadn't made it easy on Ezra either. A few days after
Ezra's final decision, they had been trapped in one of the elevators
during a malfunction of some kind. To distract his mind from his
claustrophobia Vin had concentrated all his energy on seducing Ezra,
moving closer to him, grinding against his body, trying to kiss him, to
show Ezra how much he loved him. It had been the pain he had seen in the
green eyes that had finally caused him to stop, to realize what he was
doing to the other man.
But it was too late; the damage had been
It hurt. It hurt because he ached for Ezra with everything
that he was; it hurt because he could see what giving both him and Chris
up was doing to Ezra; and it hurt because Chris was also hurting, going
back to the badass persona Vin had met when the team had been
And it hurt because no matter how hard he tried, he
couldn't think of a way out of that tangled mess. It was hopeless,
desperate. The three of them were sinking in quicksand without even a slim
chance of rescue.
"Can feel... the wheels spinning," a weak voice
rasped painfully, the warm breath caressing Vin's throat as the words
"Chris," he sighed in relief. He ran his fingers
through the silken, blond hair. "How ya doin'?"
"Been better," was
the whispered reply. "You?"
"Got another lump on the head. Nothin'
serious this time, I reckon," Vin said, then remembered Chris' comment.
"Yeah... You're thinking too
"Oh." He sighed. "Can't help it. It tears me up seein'
Ezra backin' away from us. I know it's his way of protectin' himself, but
I don't like it."
He could feel Chris' soft exhalation on his neck.
"I know. Don't like it... either. Got used to havin' him around... all the
time. Miss him. Not the lover so much as the friend."
Vin closed his eyes at the pain he could hear in the other man's
Chris shook his head feebly. "Not your fault,
"Yeah, it was," Vin insisted firmly. "Things might not have
been so bad if I hadn't tried to seduce him right after he told us he
wouldn't pick either of us. He got even more quiet after that."
his surprise, Chris chuckled weakly. "Don't worry. I did the same just a
couple days a..."
Realizing the other man had suddenly gone silent,
Vin shook him gently. "Chris? Hey, Cowboy, can ya hear me?" Chris groaned,
but didn't reply. "Come on, Larabee, ya need to stay awake
"Sorry," Chris breathed. "I'm so tired..."
But I can hear diggin'; the others will be here soon. Ya need to stay
awake a little longer, okay?"
"'Kay." After a long silence, Chris
finally replied. "It's you, you know?"
"He would've chosen you... I... I think he was too afraid
of hurtin'... me. If I don't make it --"
"Don't ya dare die on me,
Larabee!" Vin growled, his heart lurching painfully in his chest at the
thought the other man might die. "You *will* make it. Ya hear?"
faint chuckle stirred the little hairs on his neck. "You can't... fight
destiny, Vin... Promise me..."
"What?" Vin whispered, feeling his
"If I die... Fight for him, don't let... him
A surprisingly strong hand squeezed his
forearm. "Promise... me..." Chris interjected.
Closing his eyes
again, Vin swallowed around the lump in his throat. "I promise," he vowed
Chris' head nodded slightly against him.
They remained silent for a long moment, hearing the
scuffling sound of metal and wood that meant digging to them, until
finally light began to shine through the piles of debris. They were closer
to the surface now.
"Vin! Chris!" a familiar voice called from
"Buck!" Vin shouted back. "In here!"
and suddenly a large hole appeared inches away from where they were
sitting. Vin blinked against the harsh light, but was unable to prevent a
wide grin from breaking through as Buck's head peeked down from the
"Vin! Lord, I am glad to see you!" the mustached man
Vin chuckled slightly. "Not as much as I am, Bucklin.
Get us out of here?"
"We're on it. Chris?"
Chris replied weakly. "Hurry up."
The next half an
hour went by in a blur for Vin. They were removed from the rubble with the
help of a couple of EMT's and rushed to the hospital. There, he was
separated from Chris, taken to an examination room where his vitals were
taken and a CAT scan was done, along with some x-rays. Throughout the
whole ordeal all he could think about was Chris, wondering if the other
man would make it, and what would happen to all of them if he
The next morning
September 3rd, 2001
Ezra looked at the two men currently occupying the twin beds, feeling a
strange sense of deja vu. Nearly a year and a half had gone by since Vin
had been in that same hospital, in one of those same beds, fighting for
Life had come full circle.
He had spoken with Vin
briefly before the younger man had fallen asleep. The doctors had wanted
to keep him overnight for observation due to his history with head trauma,
but he seemed fine and was going to be discharged in the
Chris... Chris had yet to regain consciousness. He had
undergone surgery and been given a blood transfusion to replace that which
he had lost earlier, but that had been nearly twenty-four hours earlier;
the anesthetic should have worn off by now.
He watched both men,
faces slack in repose. Two men, so different, yet so much alike. Chris
wore a mask of his own, anger and intimidating glares hiding a heart that
had been shattered once too often, protecting a man who was too afraid to
care and get hurt anew.
Still, Chris dared to reach out. First with
the team, by being their leader, their friend, watching out for them. And
then with Ezra, loving him even when he was certain his feelings would
never be fully returned.
And Vin... Vin was a contradiction. In
spite of years living on the streets as a teenager, of years working for
the government and seeing the worst humanity had to offer, somehow he had
retained some of the innocence of youth. He was a combination of an
ancient soul in a young heart, making an enthralling human
But for all their differences, both men were fiercely loyal,
trustworthy, passionate in their beliefs and in their love for him. It
made him feel unworthy, humbled, guilty and sorrowful beyond words.
Because he now knew where his heart lay, he now knew which of the two men
he wished to spend the rest of his life with.
It had been the first
name on his lips, the first face on his mind as he watched the warehouse
collapse onto itself.
So he was faced with the same problem as
before; he could either confess to his feelings and make his choice, or
remain alone. But could he really keep denying his own heart? How could he
possibly let go now that he knew what it was like to feel love's warmth?
How could he go back to being the shell of a man he had once
"Ezra..." a weak voice rasped, startling him out of his
Ezra turned his head to see Chris awake, eyes looking at
him intently. "You're awake," he stated unnecessarily.
At Chris' nod, he left the room to search for some water
or ice to soothe the other man's aching throat. He returned with a cup
filled with ice chips and a spoon, only to find Vin had also awakened.
Hiding his turmoil behind a neutral expression, he approached Chris' bed,
scooping a few ice chips and placing them in the other man's
"Vin, how are you feeling?" he asked, sitting back on the
chair between the two beds and watching Chris suck the ice
"I'm okay, Ez. You, on the other hand, look like ya could
use some rest," Vin replied, and Ezra could feel the other man's intense
gaze focused on him.
"I'm fine," he retorted gruffly.
don't look it," Chris added just as softly. "What's wrong,
He thought about obfuscating or using one of his usual
diversionary tactics, but decided against it. He was too tired, too
bruised. Maybe it was time for some honesty.
"I feel..." his voice
broke and he stared down at his hands with a frown. "It was...
unbelievably hard to see the warehouse collapsing and..."
we were dead?" Vin supplied placidly.
He looked up then, nodding
curtly. "Yes. It hurt. I'm not used to these feelings, I didn't know what
to do, how to react. All I knew was I wouldn't be able to go on if --" He
bit his lip to stop the flow of words.
"If one of us had died?"
said Chris, this time.
He shook his head firmly. "Both of you. No
matter what happened or what happens in the future, a part of me will
always love you both," he vowed fervently.
"But you realized which
one of us ya really love, didn't ya?" Vin stated knowingly.
exhaled in a sigh. "Yes. When I heard the explosion and saw the building
crumbling, I --" He swallowed noisily, closing his eyes at the pain and
guilt he was feeling. "I'm so sorry," he whispered brokenly.
Because you can't love us both? We always knew it would eventually come to
this," Chris assured him.
"Yeah. Ya can't make your heart love
someone just because ya want it to, Ez."
"Go on," Chris prompted
gently. "You can tell us, Ezra. It'll be okay. We all know who it is that
you love anyway."
"You do?" Ezra queried softly.
him a sad smile. "Yes. You and Vin were together for a whole year before
the attack, Ezra. The only reason the two of us got together in the first
place was because you were hurting and needed someone. I understand that,
Ezra shook his head fondly. "You know, for someone who
leads an ATF team and throws himself headfirst into every dangerous
situation that comes along, you certainly have a confidence problem. I
won't deny your words, Chris. That night I needed someone desperately, I
was drowning and I guess it's safe to say you were my lifebuoy. But as I
told you then, I loved you too. What we both went through that year
brought us together and showed me who Chris Larabee really was, is. And I
loved what I saw."
He rose from the chair and moved to Vin's bed,
sitting carefully and taking the other man's hand in his. He smiled
gently, feeling an overwhelming sense of tenderness towards the younger
man. He leaned down, brushing his lips softly against Vin's in a parting
When he moved back, he saw understanding in Vin's
sorrow-filled blue eyes. "Forgive me?" he begged, voice low and
Vin smiled up at him, a sad, but genuine light shining
from his eyes. "Nothin' ta forgive, Ez. Just remember my promise, okay?
I'll always be here; I'll always be your friend. To both of you," he
added, turning to Chris.
"I don't understand," Chris said with a
"When the warehouse collapsed it was your name I shouted,
Chris," Ezra explained, glancing guiltily at Vin and feeling the hand
within his tighten in understanding. "This year and a half changed me,
changed all of us. And...as difficult as it was to come to terms with my
feelings, it's you I want, it's you I love. I need you in my
And as he said the words he knew them to be the irrefutable
truth. A part of him would always be attracted to Vin, would always love
him, would always care. But his heart was Chris'. He needed and desired
and loved the other man with everything in him, with everything that he
was. And that would never change.
Chris knew he was gaping like a fish on dry land, but he couldn't help
it. He had heard the words, but they didn't make any sense. Ezra couldn't
have chosen him over Vin. It just wasn't possible.
called out, his tone sounding cautious to Chris.
He watched the
Southerner rise from Vin's bed and walk over to him. Noticing the
amusement in the green eyes, he didn't quite know what to make of it, of
the whole situation. It wasn't a feeling he was comfortable with,
helplessness. He hated not being the one in control.
time for me to go to the bathroom," Vin stated suddenly, already up and on
his way out of the room. "I might take a while," he added with a wry grin,
and Chris realized the other man was giving them a chance to
Once they were alone, he focused on Ezra, finally finding his
voice. "Ezra, are you sure about this?"
"Yes. We have all changed
so much these past months, I..." Ezra sat on the bed, a thoughtful
expression crossing his face. "What I want out of life has changed. And
what Vin has to offer me no longer fills that wanting. Life with him was
always an adventure, a wild ride, certainly never boring. It's not his
fault, it's not anyone's fault, but because of the amnesia Vin is at the
place where we left off over a year ago. But I moved on, changed, and I
have different needs now. And you... you are what I need."
gave him a crooked grin. "So you're basically saying I'm boring and that's
why you chose me?"
Ezra chuckled softly, giving him a mock glare.
"That's not what I meant and you know it. The age difference between Vin
and I, although not all that great, is enough to make an impact. He wants
to live life to the fullest, to enjoy all there is out there. I do too,
but I'm older, I have done most of those things. I want security, someone
to stand by my side through thick and thin. And I always doubted Vin was
that someone. Not because he didn't love me or because he couldn't be
trusted, but because he still had a lot to experience and live on his
"And you think I can give you what you need?" Chris asked,
"In all of my life there have been very few people -- if
any -- that I respected and trusted the way I do you. I *know* you will
stay with me, that you will give me what I need. You already proved that
when you stood by my side after Vin lost his memory. Stay?" he breathed,
echoing the plea from their first night together.
Chris looked into
warmth-filled eyes, realizing for the first time that Ezra's protective
mask, the one he wore to hide from the world, had vanished. And it
suddenly came to him that it had been gone for some time now, that Ezra
felt comfortable and trusted him enough to be himself, to let his layers
go when they were alone. And that was the biggest proof of love the other
man could have given him.
"Yes," he whispered. "I'll
"In that case, Mr. Larabee, I suggest you apply your mouth
to something other than talking," Ezra quipped, leaning forward and
capturing his lips in a passionate kiss.
Chris opened up to him,
allowing the other man to take the lead for the moment, finally able to
believe in Ezra's love. His heart ached for Vin, for the loss his friend
would undoubtedly be suffering, but most of all he was filled with a
wondrous feeling of contentment. He had moved forward from the devastation
of the past, daring to love again, to try one final time, a phoenix rising
up from the ashes. He was finally ready to soar the skies with Ezra by his
March 17th, 2002
Chris smiled into the darkness at his lover's slumbering form. Ezra was
silent in sleep, the sarcasm and smugness replaced with an innocence that
was not to be seen while he was alert. Lips parted in relaxation, a hand
under the pillow, his face a hairbreadth away from Chris', Ezra was a
sight to behold. One he knew he would never get tired of.
up at the ceiling, feeling sated and worn out from their earlier coupling,
but not enough to sleep. The last months had been surprising, to say the
least. Things between him and Ezra were going great. They still had their
fights, both too headstrong and stubborn to back down, but the make-up sex
more than made up for it.
He grinned ruefully at that
But the fights were getting fewer as they adjusted to
their new relationship. He had even managed to convince Ezra to come live
with him. It hadn't been easy, but the green-eyed man had finally relented
and agreed to sell the townhouse apartment and join him at the
The others had been told and were supportive, and best of
all, Vin was keeping to his promise, being the best friend he could be to
both of them, always being there when they needed him, always lending a
Chris had been worried about him. The first few
months after Chris and Ezra had gotten together, Vin had withdrawn from
the team, keeping much to himself. Not even Ezra had been able to reach
him. But things were finally changing. Two weeks earlier Vin had met a
woman during an investigation and seemed to have fallen head over heels
Chris wasn't exactly sure what to make of Charlotte, he
had only met her once and didn't know much about her, but all that
mattered was that Vin loved her and looked happier than he had been in a
very long time.
Everything was as it should be; the three of them
were getting back to basics. They had broken free from fate's tangled web.
The road ahead would probably be rough and dangerous, especially in their
line of work, but they had taken hold of their lives and would make their
own future. Because above everything else, they were survivors... And they