by katherine

This fic was written based on a new AU created by mmrrph. Details for this AU can be found at

I know that the others think Ezra is just lazy. They think he's not a morning person, or that he's wallowing in that nice bed he had delivered here special when he moved in. They think this 'cause when we're in between jobs, staying at Camp AWOL, he doesn't normally put in an appearance until noon. Sometimes even later.

Course it's not like we have a regular nine to five type job. So there's no reason to keep what other people think of as 'normal hours'. Pretty sure the others do it out of habit. And Ezra...well, he can be as particular about his habits as the rest of us. The others just don't seem to realize it. Probably because his habits differ so much from theirs.

Me and Ez have been sharing living quarters almost since the day we signed on. Can't help but learn a bit about a man while sharing space with him. No matter how tight-lipped he might be about himself, some things just sort of become apparent being around someone day in and day out.

I pride myself on being observant. Figure words are too easy to manipulate. Better to see for yourself and make a judgement call based on that than on what someone says or what you were told. Just watching Ezra, I've learned more than he's ever had to say.

Found out Ezra likes to keep his quarters neat, likes stuff in its place. But he's not nuts about it, just orderly, clean. That don't bother me. I like that our place never looks like Buck and JD's. Theirs always looks like a tornado just blew through a trailer park and dumped everything in their quarters along the way. Couldn't stand living like that, but it doesn't seem to bother either of them.

Another thing I found out is that Ezra is eclectic in his music. He's got jazz, big band, blues, classical, new age, techno dance club stuff, soft rock, screaming guitars. You name it, and Ezra has a copy of it. The stereo system he brought is top notch, and he leaves it out in the living room so I can use if it I want to. Not that I really use it much. His collection of CD's fills the bookshelf right next to it. Must be hundreds of them there. The boys all think the country and western stuff is mine. Hah. Never bothered to tell them different, but all those are Ezra's. Wonder what the guys would think if they knew I like listening to classical music. Even tried out some of Ezra's opera stuff. Wouldn't listen to it all the time, but it's not bad.

Rest of the guys think Ezra's hung up on having expensive things. The man buys quality stuff when he spends his money. He doesn't shop at Wal-mart, that's for sure. Took me awhile but I realized it wasn't about status, a name brand, or him being a snob. Him spending money is about buying something that's gonna last. Something that will hold up and look good doing it. Truth is, outside of that massive CD collection, he has less 'stuff' than anyone else here. But what he's got probably cost more than all our shit combined. Figure it's worth a damn site more too.

Observing a man can tell you quite a bit. Unfortunately, while I know what he does, I don't always know the reason for why he does it. Case in point: living with Ezra I know he never goes to bed until the sun is beginning to rise. I only know that because I'm usually getting up as he is heading to bed. First time it happened I thought he was an early riser like me. Didn't take long realize he wasn't getting up, but lying down. His not putting in appearance until noon or later made sense when I realized that. What I still don't know is why. But I aim to find out.

It's just after 2 am when I slip outside. I shiver when cool air touches the bare skin on my arms. It's never really cold here. South Texas, on the Gulf Coast....cold just isn't part of the picture. But early morning hours are the coolest part of the day. Probably the most comfortable too, truth be told. One of the reasons I like getting up early. Gives me a chance to experience that before the day gets hot enough to fry eggs on the pavement.

There's a full moon tonight. Never fails to amaze me just how much light it really casts. Not bright as day, but close enough. Kind of like the way it gives everything a silver hue, adding depth to shadows that the light of day strips bare. I shake my head. Poetry. Got to stop with that stuff. Bottom line is a full moon will make it easier to track down Ezra.

Scoped out where he goes a few nights ago when my curiosity got the better of me. He'll be outside the perimeter fence, not too far, but if I didn't know where on the beach to look for him, I'd never find him. Funny thing about an open beach, it looks so uniform and constant, you'd think stuff would stick out. But it's far from constant. More like that old expression, needle in a haystack. Especially in the dark. But I know where to look, so it's not hard to find him.

The sound of the ocean is one I've gotten used to. White noise I guess. Sort of like a heartbeat, steady and constant. For most people it would deaden their sense of hearing to other noises. For me, it makes me more aware of things, more sensitive to what doesn't belong, doesn't fit with that established rhythm. Pretty sure it does the same for Ezra. I know I must have done something, either made some sound, or maybe he just sensed movement, cause he looks up and sees me.

I hesitate, suddenly not to sure of what kind of greeting I'm gonna get, or if this was such a good idea. We're friends, but that doesn't really mean I'm welcome here. We all got private space despite living on the base together. Got to respect a man's need for privacy. I mentally slap myself for letting my curiosity override my better judgement.

Ezra waves a hand inviting me to pull up a spot on the beach and make myself comfortable. For a guy with such an extensive vocabulary, he can say a hell of a lot without ever opening his mouth. I sit down, cross-legged, about arm's length away. Don't want to crowd him.

"Good morning." He finally says after several minutes of nothing but the waves repeatedly coming in and going out.

I can't help but chuckle. Ezra is usually the last person to put good and morning together in the same sentence. "Didn't think I'd ever hear you say that."

"It is technically morning, is it not?"

I can make out him quirking an eyebrow even in the dim light. Wiseass. He has a point. It is morning. But it's too damn early for me, and a bit late even for a night owl.

"I know you are an early riser, Vin, but I think this is early even for you." He sends a quizzical glance my way, his statement oddly echoing my thoughts. "Trouble sleeping?" The question is soft, almost tentative, as if he's worried he might be prying. Ezra isn't one to ask too many questions.

"Nope." I keep my answer simple, in part because I know he expects me to. Lets him know the question wasn't out of line and I'm not bothered by it.

"Then you are here because..." Ezra waved a hand, clearly waiting for me to finish the sentence.

I hesitate for a second. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. Came down here to find out why Ezra never went to bed before dawn. Only way to find that out was to ask him. So I bounce the question he asked me back to him. "You having trouble sleeping, Ez?"

He smiled, a glint of gold briefly visible. "You are well aware I have not yet been to bed."

Yeah, I know that, so you wanna tell me why. I don't ask though. I cock my head wanting to get a better view of his expression, trying to feel out his mood. Ezra can be a bit touchy when people start asking questions he doesn't want ta answer. Takes some effort but I manage not to bite my lip. It's a tell I've been trying to get rid of. Never even knew I did it until Ezra pointed it out to me.

He chuckles and shakes his head. "Ask me what you wish to know, Vin. It will easier for both of us."

I roll my eyes. Sure it will. I can't help but wonder what tell he saw this time. I take a deep breath. goes. I try to keep my tone like a concerned friend, which I am, and not like I'm interrogating him, which I'm not. "Noticed you don't sleep at night here. Why is that?"

"There." He grins at me, dimples showing. "Was that so hard?"

"Askin' was easy." More or less. "It's gettin' the answer that's the hard part."

He shrugs. "Not always."

"Uh-hunh." I snort. "Notice you still ain't answered me yet."

From the way he tips his head I know he's acknowledging that I have a point. I wait. Him saying I have a point still doesn't get me an answer to my question. But it does mean that he'll think it over. If he thought I was just blowing hot air, or being nosy, he'd ignore me. Unlike Chris, I can be patient. I know if I wait, give him time to weigh the options, pick his words, Ezra will answer me.

He sits there staring out at the water for so long I figure he decided against telling me. I'm so sure he's not gonna that I'm actually surprised when he starts to speak. He never looks at me while he's talking. I understand that. Some stuff just can't be said if you have ta look at someone. Just the way it is.

"My career...if one could deign to call it such, was not one of open conflict. No war was ever declared, no rules of engagement established, no Geneva Convention. Most of the killing I've done has been in service of my country, but it was witnessed only by the moon and stars. They are silent observers of a great many secrets the light of day is not privy to."

Training as a sniper, I know what it means to operate outside the 'normal' rules. Ain't the same as being a spy or covert ops, but I understand what he's saying. Can be tough to handle knowing what you do isn't the sort of thing people will throw you a parade for. Some will understand the need for what you do, and some won't. Most will respect the skill it takes to do the job, but they don't always show the man doing the job the same respect.

Ezra sighs softly, and shifts a bit tilting his head back to gaze at the moon. "I sometimes think the beauty of the night belies its deadly nature, and within its velvet soft darkness, lurks my own demise."

My first thought is that I'm not the only closet poet in the outfit. Then I realize what he just said. The man's afraid he'll die at night. Guess it's no worse than being afraid ta fly or being uncomfortable in elevators. Everyone's got their quirks.

He gives me a sly glance. "I am not afraid to die, Vin." I sometimes wonder if the man isn't a mind reader. It's uncanny the way he does that.

I frown. I thought I'd understood him. "So then what's the problem?"

"The problem is that here," He gestures over his shoulder indicating the base behind us, "we all relax our guard. We have all come to view it as some sort of sanctuary. And the truth is, Camp AWOL is no safe haven. It never was and never will be."

He shrugs one shoulder. "Given what we do for a is decidedly unlikely that we will ever know the full measure of safety that others so blithely enjoy. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that people like me lurk in the shadows all the time. And shadows are everywhere. Especially at night."

I wish I could say he was wrong. I really do. But I know better. And I'm almost ashamed to realize he's right. We all relax, kick back and act like nothing could happen here. Got used to thinking of Camp AWOL as our place. As home. Stupid for me to think 'home' is the same as 'safe' when I've taken out a guy in his own living room. I know just how vulnerable 'home' can be.

"So you're what? On guard?"

Ezra dips his head slightly. "To some extent that would be an accurate assessment." He holds out his hands, palm up, as though he were balancing something. "Someone must be awake, and aware, to cover our backs. The others are alert during the day."

Which means he's taken it upon himself to watch over the night. I can understand that, can see why he feels the need. Don't quite get why he's doing it alone, or what he's doing out here. "Wouldn't it be better ta do that from inside the fence? Or patrolling the grounds?"

"You think I don't?" Ezra chuckles. If I could see his eyes clearly, I know they'd be twinkling. "You think I spend all night here?"

"Found ya here a few days ago."

"I know." He smirks.

"You sneaky son-of-a-bitch." I growl at him. It never even occurred to me that he might have been so easy to find on purpose. Or that he'd known I was there. Or that he was expecting me to show up tonight.

He laughs lightly. "I have spent far too much time mastering the skills I possess not to use them. And they are perishable, so it is good to practice whenever the opportunity presents itself."

"I'll remember that." My voice is as dry as the sand we are sitting on.

"Please do."

I shake my head. "You know, you don't have to always take night watch. Ya could say somethin' ta Chris. He'd set up a rotation."

"I could, yes."

"But yer not going to. Are you?"

"It may be only an illusion that this place is one of refuge, but I am loath to shatter it for the others. Comfort is hard to come by. It should be freely enjoyed when found. And my paranoia is hardly sufficient reason to disturb the status quo."

"It's not paranoia if people really are out to get you."


Still don't think it's right that Ez is the only one on guard every night. "Since ya already shattered my mind if I start sharing the watch with ya?"

"You never had any illusions." Ezra states calmly, that dimpled grin appearing for a second time.

"Hey!" I bumped his shoulder with mine. "I believed in Santa Clause once."

"And the Easter Bunny?" There is enough light for me to just make out the wink Ezra gives me. "Knowing you, I suspect you set a trap for him."

"Gotta admit I did kind a want a chance to see a six foot tall rabbit." I manage to hold onto my straight face. "And rabbit is good eatin'. One that size would be enough ta feed me for days."

We burst out laughing at the same moment. Takes a minute to get that under control. Feels good to laugh like that. Should do it more often.

Ezra shakes his head, and then rises smoothly to his feet. First time I notice he's got an M-16 with him. Can't say I'm all that surprised to see he's armed. Be willing to bet he's got a spare clip or two on him as well.

I stand up. "Chris know you been in the weapons locker?" Locker is a bit of a misnomer...more like warehouse, but somehow the name stuck.

Ezra raises an eyebrow, and pats the rifle affectionately. "This one is mine. It was never in the weapons locker."

Got a few like that myself. Mostly side arms. Got a break away sniper rifle with a night scope under the bed though. Just couldn't quite bring myself to put it out of reach. God, the two of us are like peas in a pod.

"If you were serious about indulging my paranoia...." He bends down and pulls another weapon up from where it was hidden in the sand and offers it too me. Son-of-a-bitch really was expecting me to show up.

"I am." I take the gun without hesitating.

"You check the barracks. I'll secure the perimeter."

I nod. No problem. Can do that. Before he steps away, I grab his arm and stop him. "We meet back here."

He gives me a puzzled glance. I smile. "I like watchin' the sunrise from here. Figure I indulge one o' yer quirks, ya indulge one o' mine."

He rolled his eyes when I referred to keeping night watch as a quirk, but he doesn't argue. He just gives me a two-finger salute, and heads off down the beach. I head back to camp. 'Tween the two of us, we'll keep the others safe until they're up and ready to do the same for us.

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