Answering the Call

by katherine

You can find this AU at

Vin was beginning to dread it when Ezra's cell phone rang. He sighed. It was hard to understand how something so innocuous and indistinct could make his stomach clench with unease. But Ezra's phone wasn't like the ones the rest of them had. Ezra had come to Camp AWOL with this phone. It rarely rang, yet when it did, Vin held his breath waiting to see how Ezra would react. Would this be one of those mysterious callers he told to go to hell, or one that he couldn't seem to refuse even though it was obvious to anyone looking at him, listening to him that he wanted to.

Ezra always answered his phone with a neutral, "Yes." No names, no inflection. Not like when he answered the phone in their quarters or the cell phone that Chris had supplied. That one he answered with a terse, "Standish."

Vin waited to see what would come from this call. He was honestly surprised when Ezra smiled, really smiled. That hadn't happened before. At least not that he could remember.

"It is good to hear from you, Cousin. It's been too long."

Vin's brow furled. Cousin? Was that a nickname for someone Ezra knew and liked, or something indicative of a family relationship? The only family Vin had heard Ezra mention was his mother.

And her callin' him is damn near as bad as havin' that fuckin' phone ring. Only thing makes her callin' better is that he don't leave when she does. Sometimes he jus' disappears after one o' them other types call. Was gone for nearly a month last time. Didn't know if he was alive or dead. Didn't even know where the hell he went.

Vin shuddered internally. He hated not knowing where Ezra went and what might have happened to him. That last time Ezra had come back he'd looked like death warmed over. He didn't have any discernable injuries, but Vin was willing to bet the man had lost a good ten to fifteen pounds, and he looked like he hadn't slept the entire time he'd been away. His normally bright and lively green eyes had been shadowed and haunted for days after he got back.

Ezra never talked about where he went, or what he did while he was gone. None of the team ever asked either. They knew it wouldn't get them anywhere. For such a verbose individual, Ezra could be amazingly tight lipped. He used lots of words, but managed not to say anything at all.

Vin unconsciously bit his lip as he tried to hear more without looking like he was eavesdropping. He cursed silently in frustration when Ezra greeted someone else he called "Joey" and slipped into a language Vin only vaguely recognized. Sounds sort o' like Japanese but I know it's not.

The former sniper was fairly certain Ezra hadn't changed languages to keep him from listening in. Ezra never had before. But then the other calls had consisted mostly of Ezra either hanging up, or just listening. This one was decidedly different. Not only did Ezra seem happy to talk to whoever was on the line, he was having a genuine conversation. One he seemed to be enjoying.

"Joey, put Lundy back on." Ezra slipped back into English.

Vin raised his eyebrows. Must be this 'cousin' is Lundy. Was the only other person he talked to. The sharpshooter committed the name to memory. He'd learned some time ago that the only details he might get regarding Ezra were second hand. He made a point of paying attention.

Ezra frowned as he listened to whatever was being said. Vin's attention sharpened when Ezra sighed softly and pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. It was rare that Ezra made that gesture, and it was one Vin associated with deep emotions.

"You're sure?" A small pause. "When?" Another pause. "How long?" Ezra nodded, a pointless gesture given that the person on the other end couldn't see him agreeing, but Vin's jaw tightened when he saw it.

"I'll be ready." Vin didn't like the sound of that. Ezra took a deep breath and smiled sadly. "I know, Lundy. Me too."

Ezra snapped the phone closed with a decisive click. He was headed for his room without another word. Vin got up from the couch and followed. He leaned against the door frame, sharp blue eyes watching as Ezra pulled a duffle bag from under his bed. The linguist unzipped it and assessed the contents, green eyes moving rapidly over things Vin couldn't quite see.

Ezra glanced his way. "I need to change."

Vin pursed his lips. Why are you leaving? Where are you going? What the hell will you be doing? You don't have to go, you know that right? You could take on o' us with you. Have someone watch yer back...someone ya trust. All ya gotta do is say the word, an' I'm ready ta go.

"Change inta what?" It was as close as Vin could come to asking what he really wanted to know.

Ezra rolled his eyes. "Into something more appropriate." He made a shooing motion with his hands, and Vin reluctantly went back into the living room giving Ezra some privacy. The former sniper perched on the arm of the couch and waited.

When Ezra emerged from his room he was dressed in a dark, charcoal gray shirt and suit, black tie shot with silver threads, with dress shoes that were polished to a shine Vin's drill sergeant would have easily found acceptable. Vin stared, openly and honestly surprised. He expected Ezra to appear in camouflage and combat boots as he had so many times before after one of those mysterious phone calls.

"Ez?" Vin waved a hand, gesturing helplessly at his friend. Damn, but I never realized he'd clean up so good. Don't usually see him in suits. Casual dress stuff, and fatigues are sort o' the norm. Bet that suit cost a pretty penny.

Ezra looked down at himself, one eyebrow arched. "You don't approve?"

"'s not that." Vin struggled to find the words. The suit was stylish and sharp, and nicely showcased Ezra's trim form. Vin shook his head, not wanting to dwell on just how good Ezra looked dressed in his 'Sunday best'. This wasn't the right time for that. Probably never will be a right time. Enough o' that. You need to answer the man.

"You look fine. Jus' wasn't what I expected." He finally got out.

"It was not quite what I expected either." Ezra smiled ruefully. He's expression shifted to one of resigned sorrow. "But decorum demands I attire myself accordingly. And it would not do for me to seem disrespectful. Especially not when I..." Ezra cleared his throat, "not when I actually held him in high regard."

"Who?" Vin asked before he thought to not do so.

Ezra shook his head. "I can't tell you that."

"Can ya tell me where yer going?" Vin winced hearing a plaintive note in his voice.

"No." Ezra sighed deeply and Vin could read genuine regret in his voice. He held out his hand to Vin and the former sniper clasped his forearm in the same warrior's grip Chris often used.

"You come back safe and sound, ya hear?"

"I will." Ezra smiled, green eyes warmed by something Vin couldn't identify. "I'll be gone only a few days, a week at most."

"I'll come looking for ya if you take longer than that." Vin promised.

Ezra laughed. "You don't even know where to look."

"Don't matter." Vin shook his head stubbornly. "I'll find ya."

Ezra smiled affectionately, dimples putting in an appearance. "I do believe, Mr Tanner, you would at that."

"Damn straight." Vin grinned. He sobered quickly though. "You want me ta tell the others you'll be gone for a bit?"

"I doubt that will be necessary." Ezra shook his head. "They will know soon enough."

A second later Vin instinctively glanced upward when he heard the hum of helicopter rotors. He frowned, not really liking the implication. Only one reason for whoever they were to be here so fast. They were already close before they even made the call.

"They were that sure you'd say yes?"

"More like they were certain I could not refuse."

Not sure I see a difference there. Vin reached out and took the duffle bag Ezra held loosely in one hand. "I'll walk ya to yer ride." It was as good an excuse as any. He wanted to see who Ezra was leaving with, and it gave him a few more minutes with his friend.

He was relieved that Ezra had relinquished his hold on the bag, and nodded his head agreeing to let Vin walk with him. He half expected Ezra to refuse. The chopper had landed in the center of the compound, on the rec ground, settling with surprisingly little dust. It was a sleek black number that lacked the usual numerical identifiers on the tail. Vin recognized as being related to those the army used. He grimaced, unhappy with any suggestions of military involvement. Ezra had never said which branch of the military he'd been in or precisely what it was he did. All any of them really knew was that the experience had been far from positive.

Ezra patted Vin's arm. "I'll be fine."

"You'd better be." Vin muttered to himself. He wasn't really surprised that his uneasy had been so easily read by Ezra. The linguist was very good at reading people.

A man stepped out of the chopper. Vin eyed the stranger, committing details to memory. He was in a suit similar to Ezra's. Even from this distance Vin figured he was a little taller than Ezra, but not much. He had curly blond hair hung just past the collar of his shirt brushing his shoulders, and a lean, wiry build. Something about the way the stranger moved reminded Vin of Ezra. There was the same graceful, economy of motion and a suggestion of speed and skill rather than raw power.

Vin pointed toward the man with his chin. "That yer cousin?"


Vin blinked in surprise. He hadn't expected Ezra to answer him. "Don't look much like you."

Ezra chuckled. "Lundy favors his father."

Vin filed away that detail. He was sharp enough to realize it meant that the family connection was likely through Lundy's mother. Whoever the hell that might be. Still don't explain 'xactly how they are related, but it's more information than I had before.

Ezra took his bag and moved away. Vin knew better than to follow. The rest of the team was beginning to put in an appearance, and he could feel them gathering behind him.

Vin watched as Lundy smiled, and pulled Ezra into a tight hug. Ezra seemed to return the hug with equal enthusiasm. Vin's jaw tightened, feeling unaccountably jealous that this stranger could take a liberty he'd never seen Ezra allow anyone else. Never allowed him.

Ezra stepped up ready to enter the chopper. He turned slightly and raised two fingers to his forehead in a casual salute. Despite the others amassed behind him, Vin knew the salute was to him. He found himself returning the gesture. He wasn't going to delve too deeply into the warm feeling Ezra looking back gave him. It would be enough to savor it, and hang onto until Ezra came back.

He kept watching the chopper long after it was out of sight. Vin sighed and turned to head back to the barracks he shared with Ezra. He could see the question in Chris' eyes. Vin shrugged one shoulder. "Don't know where he went, Cowboy. Don't know why."

Chris nodded, blue-gray eyes troubled. "The usual then."

"Not quite." Vin corrected.

Chris arched an eye brow. "Oh?"

Vin nodded. "This time he didn't mind going."

Chris frowned. "He comin' back?"

"Yep." Vin smiled. Somehow just saying it out loud made it seem more real, concrete. "Be back in a few days. Week at most."

With that Vin walked away. He intended to put Ezra's favorite CD's in the stereo and listen for awhile. He'd make sure the place was clean, everything in order for when Ezra came back. For when he came home.

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