by Katherine
Katherine's Magnificent Seven Fic

Ezra Standish took out his anger and frustration on the hotel's heavy bag. It wasn't as good as the one back at Camp AWOL, but it would suffice. He grinned savagely, hitting the bag again and again, knowing full well the hotel would have to replace it before he was through. He didn't care. It was pummel the bag or kill his boss. Might just take out the client too while he was at it.

Chris Larabee rarely split up the team. But the nature of their business and Chris' own ambiguous moral code sometimes made finding work a bit difficult from time to time, so when two jobs came up at the same time, he split up the team and took both. Vin, Buck and JD had been assigned a simple transport ensuring some rather valuable items made it to their destination intact and on time. While Chris, Ezra, Josiah and Nathan handled the protection of a teenage rock star who claimed to be receiving death threats.

So far they had seen absolutely no evidence of any threat and the job felt like a huge waste of time. Ezra snarled as he punched the bag again, dancing to alternate from uppercuts to back fisting to jab. He bobbed and weaved as though the bag might actually fight back, balancing lightly on the balls of his feet.

There were better things he could do with his time than baby sit some teenager who needed an ego stroke. It had been apparent from the first day that she simply got off on having armed men escort her. He was beginning to suspect she might have a fetish of some sort.

Ezra regulated his breathing and attacked the bag again, this time using a series of kicks, taking an inordinate amount of satisfaction in the echoing slaps that gave audible proof of the force of his blows. It had been six months since he and Vin had first gotten together. Not long really in the grand scheme of things, but it was a landmark for Ezra. No other relationship had ever lasted that long.

Not that he'd really had very many of what one could call 'romantic liaisons' or even true relationships. He'd had a few fuck buddies, and dalliances, but knew going into them that they were nothing more, weren't meant to go the distance. Vin was definitely more. A lot more. And that made al the difference.

Ezra had wanted to celebrate the six month anniversary with Vin. Not that he'd said anything to his lover. He didn't want to appear overly sentimental or foolish, didn't want to scare Vin by being so serious so early in their relationship, so he'd kept his arrangements a secret.

Ezra had made plans for dinner at one of the better restaurants near the base. Something Vin would appreciate without feeling stifled. He'd located a dance club nearby where they could be seen together without raising eyebrows. Just a simple night out, a chance to be a 'normal' couple for a few hours without having to worry about who saw them together.

It would have been something unique for them. Of the team, only Nathan knew about their new status. The medic had been true to his word and not said anything to the others. Something Ezra reminded himself he should remember to thank the other man for.

Of course, had the others known, Ezra might have been able to persuade Chris to give them the time off from their current jobs. Then again, Chris might not have approved of them and fired them on the spot. Or one of the others might have expressed some degree of revulsion or condemnation. It was not a possibility Ezra felt up to facing just yet. Not when six months might be a personal best for him, but he had no idea if it was of any significance to Vin.

Ezra made a policy of not talking about his past much or asking about anyone else's. It was safer that way, for all parties involved. But there were times when he wished he could just ask. When he desperately wanted to know if Vin had ever felt as deeply for anyone else as he said he did for him. He wondered if Vin would choose him over the team, if it came down to that.

Ezra hit the bag with extra force, funneling his anger and doubts into the blow. The force of it was far less than when he started working out an hour ago. Sweat dripped off his bare torso and the light gray sweats he was wearing were now several shades darker.

With a sigh, Ezra took a deep breath and then another. He decided he'd simply have to come to terms with the situation. The team needed both jobs and that was that.

While Ezra had sufficient financial reserves so as to never have to work again, the others were not so fortunate. Only Vin, who'd accidentally seen the bottom line of his financial statement, knew just how well off Ezra was. The linguist suspected the rest of the team believed him to be living on credit, in hock up to his eyeballs trying to attain a lifestyle he couldn't afford. It was an illusion he'd done nothing to discourage.

So while he could cover all of their expenses and then some, he knew it would be a grave insult to Chris for him to do. All of them were used to paying their own way and took pride in being able to provide for themselves. He would just have to accept that was just a case of bad timing. Vin was on the other end of the country and there was nothing to be done about it.

Both 'teams' checked in with each other regularly. While Ezra never actually had the chance to speak to Vin during those check in's, it was reassuring to know the transport operation was going off with out a hitch and was proving to be one of those 'cake walk' assignments Chris kept insisting were out there. Ezra had hoped for more than those 'official' moments, but hadn't genuinely expected it. It seemed, well, premature to have such high expectations. He smiled thinking about how Vin surprised him by calling his personal cell phone every night to offer a 'good night' kiss. Hearing his lover's voice, just being able to communicate without fear of eavesdroppers, had done a lot to help Ezra accept his current assignment with as much good grace as he could muster. Ezra had reciprocated by arranging to have breakfast delivered to Vin's room each morning.

Taking a few deep breaths Ezra briefly considered moving on to the speed bag, but dismissed the idea. He used his teeth to open his boxing gloves, flexing his fingers once free of them relieved to see he hadn't damaged his hands the same way he had the bag. Sometimes even with gloves he came away with bruised, scuffed knuckles.

He resigned himself to celebrating when they got back to Camp AWOL. It might not be the exact anniversary date, but it would have to do. It wasn't as if Vin knew of his plans, so his lover could hardly be disappointed. Six months was a personal milestone for Ezra, celebrating six months and ten days would not alter that fact. Hell, just seeing Vin again, being close enough to touch would be reason enough to celebrate.

He glanced toward the clock checking to see if he'd have time to run through a kata or two. As satisfying as whaling on the bag had been it hadn't done much to restore his mental or emotional balance. Practicing different katas sometimes helped him do that. He found working through a set pattern to assist in organizing his thoughts, but had known he wouldn't be able to focus properly until he'd worked of some energy before hand.

Ezra sighed regretfully when he confirmed the time. He had just enough time to take a shower and relieve Nathan. Ezra shook his head wondering how the medic had made out with their client. He doubted Nathan had said much of anything but his blatant disapproval of her was very evident in his body language.

She smoked, she drank, she wore clothes that were barely there and hit on any man with a pulse. It was not their job to police the habits of a nineteen year old. All they were there to do was make sure she made it from one concert to another without getting killed. Assuming of course a threat to her life ever materialized, which Ezra highly doubted would occur.

Ezra wiped his face with a towel. He sensed he wasn't alone, but took pains to continue moving and acting as though he were oblivious to the presence of someone else. He waited for the right moment before striking out, moving to ensnare his attacker's hands with his towel, forcing him against the wall.

Ezra stepped back immediately when he realized it was their client, Roxy Melroy, he'd pinned against the wall. He raised an eyebrow but didn't apologize. Green eyes scanned the room.

"Where's Nathan?"

Roxy giggled. "Oh, I gave him the slip. He thinks I'm in the little girl's room."

She eyed him, giving him a look meant to entice. "If you want to pin me again, I won't resist. I like it rough."

Ezra's expression slipped into one of careful neutrality. She had been hitting on him from the moment they'd taken the job. He had done nothing to encourage her, had tolerated the less than subtle innuendos, ignored her deliberate body contact and kept an air of professionalism with a fierce determination. He thought after a full week of consistent rejection she'd take the hint, but unfortunately, Roxy saw his refusal as a challenge.

"You really should not be wondering around unescorted, Miss Melroy."

"Nathan is no fun." She pouted. "I want someone to play with."

"We are not employed as your playmates, Miss Melroy." Ezra emphasized her surname, trying one more time to establish a firm boundary between them. "We are here to ensure your safety."

"When I was a little girl I had a thing for military types. Just loved those uniforms." She ignored his statement completely, one hand rising to twirl a lock of hair around a finger. Roxy gave him a measuring look, eyes resting suggestively on his groin. "You look like you were in the military."

"I'm not any more." Ezra stated clearly, once more trying to establish some distance.

"And I'm not a little girl any more." She grinned at him, batting her eyes. "C'mon, Ezra, I know you can satisfy my fantasies."

"I am flattered," Ezra thanked his mother for the ability to say that with a straight face when he felt nothing of the kind. He had never appreciated being regarded like an object. It was insulting and degrading.

"It simply is not an option, Miss Melroy." For what felt like the hundredth time he repeated, "You are a client. Rule number one... no fraternization with the client."

Her heavily made up blue eyes spit fire. Roxy wasn't used to being rejected. Ezra suspected she hadn't heard the word 'no' since she was two years old. And even if she had, no one around her even thought of refusing her anything since her first single went platinum when she was just fifteen years old.

Undaunted by Ezra's latest refusal she plastered herself against him, one manicured hand with excessively long acrylic nails went south to massage his groin, while the other rose to lightly caress the back of his neck. "I know you want me," she whispered trying to pull him in for a kiss, "every man does."

Ezra's jaw tightened and his breath hissed out between his teeth in outrage. How dare she? He allowed no one to take such liberties. No one but Vin, and it was because of this spoiled brat that he wasn't with Vin right now. Despite his intense work out, all the anger and frustration he had been trying to contain boiled over and he grabbed her upper arms, shoving her forcefully away from him, holding her firmly at arms length.

Green eyes hardened as he glared at her, exuding just as much menace as Chris was capable of. She flinched, but Ezra refused to back off. "Listen to me you anorexic dilettante," he got out between clenched teeth. "You can have your delusions of grandeur and your over-blown sense of self importance." Ezra tightened his grip, not enough to hurt her but certainly enough to let her know she couldn't break away easily. "You can have your every inane whim catered to by simpering sycophants. You can have your illegal drugs and alcohol. I don't really give a rat's ass about any of it."

He shook her hard enough to rattle her teeth, making damn sure she was paying attention. "The one thing you can not have is me. I am not some fucking toy for you to play with. I get paid to keep other people from killing you. And believe me, I'm not getting anywhere near enough to put up with all your shit. Continue with your behavior as you have and I may well allow your mystery assailant to complete his appointed task. Hell, I might even help."

He leaned in, eyes holding her's with just the force of his gaze. She reminded him of a mouse watching a snake and couldn't help but smile nastily. "One thing you can be very certain of...if you touch me again like that, touch me again at all and it'll be a two months before you can play guitar again. Do we understand one another?"

She didn't answer so Ezra shook her again. "Do you understand?"

Roxy nodded, wide-eyed and close to tears, looking every bit her young age. Ezra released her, not feeling any remorse or guilt. Children who played with fire eventually got burned. If she didn't realize they were dangerous when she had them hired she sure as hell knew it now.

He stepped away from her, retrieving his towel and heading for the showers. He gave her a narrowed eyed look when she remained frozen against the wall. "Not get your sorry ass back to Nathan. And stay there until I come to relieve him."

She scampered away. He had no delusions that she'd stay this meek forever. Ezra made a mental bet with himself. He gave her an hour to get over her fear and for her bruised ego to rear its head. With a resigned sigh, he stripped and stepped into the shower knowing that they would likely be sent packing before the evening was over.

"Fuck it." Ezra growled to himself. If Chris wanted a piece of him when he found out he was welcome to try. No reason Ezra should be the only one unhappy.

Chris Larabee didn't like puzzles. And Roxy Melroy was a definite puzzle. She'd gone from constantly hitting on Ezra to acting almost deferential to him. It reminded Chris all too much of a little girl seeking her daddy's approval, although for the life of him he couldn't really say why. For the last day or so, all Ezra had to do was raise that damn eyebrow and she went from a bitch in heels to acting like the reasonably nice girl Chris knew she could be.

When she came to him requesting that Ezra be her main bodyguard, Chris bit his tongue hard to keep from asking what the hell was going on. He didn't think he'd get a straight answer anyway and he'd learned a long time ago not to ask if he really didn't want the answer. Something had definitely happened between them, but Chris was at a loss as to just what it could have been.

For anyone who didn't know him it would be hard to tell that Ezra was acting any differently, but Chris could tell. His teammate seemed to be regarding Roxy warily, like she was a ticking time bomb. Chris couldn't really blame him. This sudden turn around had him doing the same thing.

Chris rubbed one hand wearily over his face. Standing around looking dark and imposing was not exactly his idea of a good time. And he often wondered how secret service types could stand it, but it did pay the bills, so he wasn't going to start complaining now.

Still, he was uneasy enough to not accept her offer to extend their contract. They'd signed on for six days and three cities. Just long enough for her manager to locate a permanent crew, and that was all Chris was willing to tolerate. Money or not, he hated living out of a suitcase, and the murderous looks he'd gotten from both Nathan and Ezra made it clear if he'd accepted the offer, he'd be doing it on his own. Josiah was the only one who seemed unruffled by the whole situation.

Tonight a crew from SentinalOne would be taking over. All Chris had to do was brief them and they'd be on a flight for Corpus Christi. From there it was a fairly short drive to Camp AWOL. Just a few hours and they'd be home.

Chris checked his cell-phone. Two messages. Once from Buck letting him know the package had been delivered without out a hitch and the client was very pleased. They might be getting repeat business from that one.

The second message was from Vin. The former sniper wanted confirmation on their flight and arrival time. Chris thought that a bit odd since they had left his ram at the airport and wouldn't need a ride. There really wasn't any reason he could think of for Vin to double check their arrival time. Not knowing the reason didn't keep Chris from calling Vin back to let him know they were still on flight number 7662, arriving at 7:59pm.

Chris breathed a sigh of relief when he recognized their replacements. The uniform jackets were a nice touch he thought with a smirk. He was pretty damn sure that he'd never get his team into anything even remotely resembling a uniform. Certainly not anything that looked like high school letterman jackets with their names emblazoned on them.

Chris briefed Jack Conrad and his crew on the assignment so far, hoping like hell they were more competent than they looked at first glance. The former marine reminded himself that not everyone had seen combat or needed to in order to do this job. He warned them about the client's behavior, more as a courtesy than anything else.

Jack smiled slightly and shook his head. "Celebrities are all the same." He shrugged. "You get used to it."

Chris was reminded of when Ezra pointed out to him that no one ever had to 'get used to' a good thing. Good things a person took to right away. It was the shit in life that one had to learn to adjust to. At the moment, Chris was very glad that safeguarding celebrities was not one of those things he had a need to get used to. He made a note of turning down future job offers.

"Standish, Jackson, Sanchez, let's move out."

He didn't have to call more than once. Nathan looked decidedly relieved to be leaving. Josiah seemed as composed as ever. Chris couldn't read Ezra but he got the impression the linguist was impatient to be gone.

At the airport, Ezra held out his hand to Nathan. "Your ticket, Mr. Jackson."

Nathan frowned. "What about it?"

"Give it to me, please."

Nathan raised both eyebrows. He looked toward Josiah who just shrugged. Chris shook his head. He had no idea why Ezra would want Nathan's ticket. If he wanted an aisle seat they could switch on the plane.

Showing more trust than Chris honestly thought the medic capable of in anything other than a life and death situation, Nathan handed over his ticket to Ezra. To his surprise, the linguist approached the counter and requested an upgrade to first class for himself and Nathan. Nathan stepped forward, the expression on his face a clear indication of his desire to stop Ezra. The black man would never have 'wasted' money on a first class ticket when coach would get him there just fine.


Ezra offered the upgraded ticket to Nathan. He smiled. "Consider this tangible proof of my gratitude."

Nathan cocked his head to one side, hand poised to take what was offered, hesitation clear in dark brown eyes. "You don't have-"

"I want to." Ezra stated calmly. Nathan smiled warmly, gingerly taking the ticket.

"Gratitude?" Chris felt both his eyebrows climb upward. "What are you grateful for?"

Ezra laughed, refusing to answer as he headed for their gate. Chris looked toward Nathan. The medic smiled widely before shaking his head, and following the shorter man.

"I'm in charge, you know?" Chris muttered, glaring darkly at the retreating figures.

"We all have our favorite delusions, brother." Josiah slapped him on the shoulder, causing Chris to nearly stumble from the force of it.

Vin checked the living room for the hundredth time, making sure everything was perfect for when Ezra got home. He'd only been planning this since he got back yesterday and checked the answering machine. The only message had been for Ezra, a restaurant calling to confirm his canceled reservations for last week and to thank him for providing the recipe for the chocolate caramel mousse he'd requested be provided for dessert. The maitre'd wanted Ezra to call back because his pastry chef expressed an interest in having the mousse added to the dessert list permanently, but the maitre'd did not want to do so until speaking to Ezra first.

Vin figured Ezra had cancelled the reservation when the job came up and he found out he'd be out of town. He didn't understand why his lover had made the reservation in the first place or why he'd requested a special dessert. Ezra wasn't really the sort who ate a lot of sweets, although Vin thought that mousse sounded like it would be mighty tasty. He made a mental note to ask Ezra about it when he got back.

It wasn't until he'd sat down to go through the bills, balancing his checkbook as he went that Vin realized the significance of the date. Six months. He grinned, suddenly understanding why Ezra had made reservations and requested a dessert he had to know would make Vin's mouth water.

He sighed softly, realizing Ezra had probably wanted to surprise him but the job got in the way. Vin raked his fingers through his hair, frustrated with the situation and wishing like hell he had spoken up and gotten assigned to the same job as Ezra. At least then they'd have been together. But he had never stated a preference before when Chris was assigning duties, and he hadn't wanted to risk drawing undo attention to him and Ezra by acting abnormally.

It wasn't that he didn't think the others would accept their relationship. Unlike Ezra, Vin was fairly confident his teammates were trustworthy sorts and sufficiently open minded not to get too bent out of shape over them being a couple. They might not like it, but he doubted there would be any huge dust up over it. His belief had been validated by Nathan's reaction when he found out about them.

It wasn't their fault Ezra didn't completely trust them. Even without knowing all the information, the man's history with previous coworkers was certainly more than enough to make him gun shy. Vin's confidence was in large part do to the fact that he already made up his mind if any of the others proved to be difficult about him and Ezra, he'd pick Ezra and start looking for another job. He hadn't told Ezra that yet, not entirely sure of how to say the words, but he was beginning to think he probably should find a way to express that sentiment to his lover. If Ezra thought six months was a benchmark worth celebrating, then it was a safe bet he was just as serious about them as Vin was.

The one issue Vin was certain of was that Chris would be adamant their relationship not interfere with their ability to do the job. He clearly remembered Chris ripping Buck a new asshole over his being distracted by a pretty woman and not staying at his post the way he was supposed to. Admittedly, Louise was a head turner, the sort of woman that came along once in a lifetime, and Buck's lapse hadn't caused any real harm, but Chris was quick to point out how damn lucky they'd been. Luck wasn't a commodity they could count on. From that point on, when Buck was on duty, the man was on duty. He took his job seriously and curtailed his interest in the fairer sex for when they weren't working.

Vin had called the maitre'd back and asked if the chef could make the dessert Ezra had given him the recipe for. It was chilling in the fridge at the moment, as was one of Ezra's favorite wines. The former sniper had considered setting up a meal, but decided against it. Ezra didn't usually eat much late at night. Knowing how much his lover detested airline food, Vin was pretty sure he'd have gotten something to eat before take off.

He had the candles strategically placed around the room. Ezra's favorite instrumental CD was primed and ready to play. Not for the first time did Vin long for a fireplace. It would have been the perfect touch.

Vin paced the room impatiently. He hadn't been able to relax completely since Ezra and the others left. He blow out a breath forcefully, wondering if he should have just taken Ezra's Bentley and picked him up at the airport. Doing so was sure to raise eyebrows he reminded himself. The fact that he had Ezra's spare key would have been enough to do that. And as far as the others knew, Ezra never let anyone else drive his car.

Vin heard Chris' Ram pull up. He quickly lit the candles, pleased with the effect the flickering light had on room. It wasn't quite the same as a fireplace but it would do. He set the timer on the CD player to begin playing in ten minutes.

Vin slipped outside. The team didn't split up very often, but when they did it was almost tradition for them to all meet at the rec grounds in front of the offices. It was almost as if they needed visual confirmation that everyone was home safe and sound.

The fact that both jobs had gone smoothly and no one had been injured meant their gathering wouldn't last long. Just a few minutes at most. Something Vin was very grateful for. He and Ezra would be alone soon.

Buck and JD were strolling from their quarters as Vin left his. They would likely head for the communal kitchen for a snack after meeting the others. Buck and JD rarely kept food in their barracks. And given their house keeping skills or lack there of, it was probably a good thing they didn't.

Vin got to the Ram just as Chris was pulling his bag from the back. Josiah and Nathan already had their bags in hand. They were arguing good-naturedly. Vin caught something about leg room and cushy seats.

He didn't bother trying to follow the conversation. Not when there were better things to focus on. Things like his lover leaning casually against the Ram, arms folded across his chest as he waited for Chris to either offer him his bag or move to let him retrieve it himself.

Vin's breath caught. He'd forgotten just how beautiful his lover was. Dressed in khaki pants and a dark green polo shirt, Ezra looked like he'd stepped out of an ad for GQ. Chris must have had the windows open rather than use the air conditioning because Ezra's normally well groomed hair had a wind ruffled look that made Vin's fingers itch to play in those soft, wavy locks.

Green eyes met blue. Ezra smiled, somehow managing to convey enough warmth in that simple gesture for Vin to feel it from even several feet away. It was all he could do to not reach out and drag Ezra into a bone-crushing hug.

Vin took a deep breath. He told himself to just relax. A few minutes and they'd be alone. He could hack it that long.

"Hey, Cowboy." Chris greeted him, casually tossing his bag over his shoulder as he did.

"Hey, yerself." Vin tipped an imaginary hat. "Everythin' go okay?"

"More or less."

Vin looked askance at that, blue eyes darting from Chris to Ezra and then on to Nathan and Josiah. No one appeared injured. No one looked upset or out of sorts.

"What'd you mean by more or less?" JD asked the question before Vin could.

"We got paid." Chris said, stepping away from the Ram. "Even got a bonus out of the deal."

"That explains the 'more'." Buck smiled widely, one arm draped over JD's shoulder. "So what was the 'less'?"

"Our client proved to be a hell cat in training." Ezra supplied quietly, moving to collect his bag.

Buck laughed. "Oh she couldn't have been that bad."

"I beg to differ, Mr. Wilmington." Ezra fixed a hard glare on Buck. "She was all that an more."

JD frowned. "She's just a kid."

"So are you." Buck ruffled JD's hair. "Don't mean you aren't a hell of a lot of trouble from time to time." JD elbowed him in the side in retaliation.

"She was just a bit wild, brothers." Josiah stated calmly.

Nathan snorted. "Gave me the slip four times. Four." He held up one hand with the fingers splayed to emphasize the point.

"She never went to bed before three a.m. Trashed every hotel room she stayed in. And I'm betting she went through at least two packs of cigarettes a day. And god only knows what other drugs she played around with." The medic shook his head. His disapproval of tobacco products was well known to his teammates. None of them looked favorably on the use of illegal drugs, but Vin knew being able to effectively do their occasional stints as bodyguards often required looking the other way.

"Worst part was she had the morals of an alley cat, and you know it." Nathan pointed his finger as Josiah. " Swear she couldn't keep her hands to herself." The medic gave his long time friend and roommate a dark look. "Only reason you think she wasn't so bad is 'cause it was Ezra's ass she was pinching all the time."

Vin's jaw tightened. He didn't doubt Ezra would be faithful to him. Ezra wasn't like Buck. He didn't play the field even when a blatant offer was being made. But Vin didn't appreciate the thought of anyone else laying hands on HIS lover. He managed to catch himself before he outright growled. It was probably a good idea he wasn't on the same job with Ezra. He'd have done some damage.

"Don't know what you did, Ez, to make her quit that, but you should probably have passed that secret on to the SentinelOne guys." Nathan grinned. "Got a feeling that a few of them might need it."

Ezra arched an eyebrow. "Mr. Jackson, I've made my living collecting the secrets of others, not revealing my own. If they can't deduce how to control the actions of one small trollop, far be it from me to alleviate their suffering. Certainly not without due compensation."

Buck laughed lightly. "Long as you all got home safe and sound." He pointed toward the kitchen with his chin. "Why don't we go grab us a beer and something to eat, and you can fill us in on the rest?"

Buck waggled his eyebrows. "Lord knows our assignment wasn't anything to write home about. Cake walk in every sense of the word. Wouldn't mind hearing about how exciting hobnobbing with the rich and famous went. What'd ya say, boys?"

Vin had to bit his tongue to keep from immediately refusing. Ezra settled his bag on his shoulder and shut the door, green eyes met his with just a flickering glance and he smiled again. "You'll forgive me for not accepting, but I think I hear my humble abode calling. I am sure Mr. Sanchez, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Larabee can fill you in on all the sordid details."

Vin waited until the others turned to follow Buck and JD before speaking up. "Think I'll keep Ez company for a bit."

Chris just nodded and waved a hand. Nathan glanced over his shoulder to give Vin a sly wink and a smile. None of the others seemed to even notice. Good.

Vin jogged a few steps to catch up with Ezra. He reached out and took Ezra's bag. He bumped his lover with his shoulder. "Real glad to have you back, Ez."

"I'm very glad to be back." Ezra returned the shoulder bump. His voice dropped an octave and got rougher. "I'll show you just how glad when we get inside."

Vin shivered in anticipation. He'd missed hearing that tone. He'd missed a lot of things.

Ezra opened the door and stopped dead just inside the doorway. He stared open mouthed at the room lit by the light of a dozen candles. The soft sound of an alto flute played counterpoint to the rich tone of violin and cello.

Vin stepped in behind Ezra, closing the door softly, making sure it was locked before dropping the bag he held. The former sniper wrapped his arms around Ezra, whispering in his ear, "Wanted a candle for each day, but jus' didn't have enough. So I settled for two for each month. Happy anniversary, Ez."

Ezra turned in his arms, jade eyes sparkling. He leaned in for a kiss, lips soft against Vin's for a moment before demanding more, tongue darting out to tease and entice. Vin groaned low in his throat, sucking Ezra's tongue into his mouth. He pulled Ezra closer, reveling in the feel of his warm, hard body aligned with his own.

Vin's hands dipped south to kneed Ezra's ass as he widened his own stance to ensure they stayed balanced. Ezra's talented tongue was exploring the inside of Vin's mouth with abandon. It was only the need for air that forced Vin to pull back.

Ezra's hands cupped Vin's face, his touch a gentle caress. "I missed you."

Vin smiled. "Missed you too." He turned his head just enough to place a kiss in Ezra's right palm.

Remembering the dessert and bottle of wine he had chilling in the fridge, Vin asked, "You hungry?"

Ezra smiled widely, dimples appearing. "For you, I am always hungry." He leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on Vin's cheek, nuzzling slightly with the tip of his nose. "I could never have enough." He turned his head to kiss the other cheek, working his way back to nibble on Vin's earlobe.

Vin shuddered, hugging him hard. He dropped his head to Ezra's shoulder, breathing deeply taking in the heady fragrance of his lover. Vin had no idea what brand of cologne Ezra favor but he loved the scent.

"I...ah...I got dessert...that mousse thing you were gonna have made...it's in the fridge." Vin struggled to speak, doing his best to ignore Ezra's hands as the roamed freely across his back and down to the personal sweet spot as the base of his spine. "Talked to the...chef at the restaurant...one you made reservations for." He swallowed hard as Ezra kissed his earlobe before blowing across it. "He made...it special for us."

"Dessert should be eaten after the main course." Ezra whispered, tilting his head to suck softly on Vin's neck.

Vin knew he was being careful not to leave a mark where it would be readily visible. Didn't mean he wouldn't mark other parts of his body and that thought made Vin's cock harden even more. He squirmed a bit, finding his jeans uncomfortably tight. The friction from his movements only added to his need.

"First we have nectar." Ezra's breath was so warm against his neck, making him shiver in anticipation. "Then we have ambrosia."

Vin wasn't sure what the hell he meant. As long as Ezra didn't stop touching him, Vin couldn't bring himself to care. He whimpered when Ezra lightly nipped his neck. Vin's hands burrowed under Ezra's shirt desperate to feel skin, almost frantic to get just a bit closer. He sighed, reveling it the feel of satin smooth skin beneath his fingers, tracing muscle contours, mapping out familiar territory.

Ezra pulled back just a bit and Vin immediately moved to follow, not wanting to lose contact. In just a few steps, he realized Ezra was leading him into a slow dance toward the bedroom. On his own, Vin believed he couldn't dance worth a damn, but with Ezra leading he always felt like he could put Fred Astaire to shame.

Getting their clothes off without losing contact should have been impossible but somehow they managed. Finally, blessedly Vin could feel skin to skin. God how he'd missed this. He growled low in his throat, dropping his head to mark Ezra just above his heart.

"Mine." He licked the small bruise he'd created, easing any residual pain, leaving only pleasure.

"Yours." Ezra agreed, fingers running through Vin's hair in a tingling massage, arching his back to give Vin even greater access.

Hands and lips were everywhere leaving a trail of fire in their wake. Desperate, eager panting was just loud enough to drown out the music still playing quietly in the living room. Through the open bedroom door, the flickering light from a dozen candles provided enough illumination to see by, casting dancing shadows on the wall that echoed the movements on the bed.

Vin knew this wasn't going to be a long, slow bout of love-making. That would have to be done later. After the edge had been taken off for both of them. Right now it was just too intense to take their time. This was about the moment, about connecting after being apart for over a week.

Vin shuddered as Ezra wrapped one long fingered, elegant hand around his weeping cock. He returned the favor, moving in time with Ezra, letting his lover continue to set the pace. He tried to keep his eyes open to watch, wanting to see the building pleasure on Ezra's face, but the sensations rippling through him made it nearly impossible. He could hear someone keening a long note of rising ecstasy and it took Vin a moment to realize it was him.

Ezra was saying something in a language Vin didn't recognize. The man spoke more than a dozen fluently so not knowing what he was saying didn't surprise Vin. He understood the tone, the message coming across despite his lack of comprehension of the language. Ezra was getting very close.

Vin felt their tempo increase, but couldn't honestly say who was leading and who was following any more. He found the spot on Ezra's neck where it joined his shoulder and laved it, knowing how sensitive a spot it was for his lover. Vin almost screamed when Ezra reciprocated by using his free hand pinched one of Vin's erect nipples.

Their movements became jerky, hips snapping wildly as they both reached approached climax. Vin felt it building at the base of his spine. He whimpered as the rush of warmth engulfed him, muscles clenching hard enough to spasm erratically as he came with a muffled shout of Ezra's name. He rode it out, still stroking Ezra's shaft as his lover came just a moment later.

They lay together gasping for breath, content to bask in the afterglow for several minutes. Vin loved these quiet moments, had missed them nearly as much as he'd missed the sex. He wouldn't have imagined a few days apart could be so damn difficult or leave him feeling so lonely.

A quick swipe with the rumpled flat sheet would do to clean them up for the moment. Vin just felt far too relaxed and sated to do any more than that. He kissed Ezra softly on the lips, content to focus on the taste and feel, with no intent on doing any more. Ezra sighed softly into his mouth, one hand ghosting over his side with a light and soothing touch.

Vin pulled back enough to make eye contact. "Love you, Ez."

Ezra smiled, green eyes barely open. "Love you, too."

Vin laid his head on Ezra's shoulder, snuggling in. He felt Ezra place a kiss in his hair. It wasn't quite the celebration he'd had in mind, but Vin couldn't really complain. He was confident Ezra didn't have any complaints either.

"You think the candles will be okay for awhile?" Ezra asked.

"Yeah." Vin nodded his head against Ezra's shoulder, yawning as he did so. "We'll be up in a bit ta take care o' them."

Ezra chuckled. "Just a nap then?"

"Still got that dessert ta eat." Vin reminded him with a smile. He wondered how hard it would be to convince Ezra to forgo decorum and eat naked in the living room.

"Ah...chocolate caramel mousse." Ezra sighed, settling in closer to Vin. "Definitely ambrosia."

"Ambrosia?" Vin vaguely remembered Ezra saying that before.

"Food of the gods." Ezra supplied quietly, voice blurring slightly, clearly not far from falling asleep himself.

"Didn't think gods ate." Vin mused idly, not really focused on the conversation.

"Just the living ones." Ezra breathed out, the heavy feel of his body telling Vin that his lover was almost gone.

He smiled. Living god? That would be his Ezra all right. If he couldn't convince Ezra to eat naked, maybe he could get him to wear a toga.

Vin wrapped himself more completely around Ezra, legs intertwining. He set his internal clock to awaken in an hour. With a silent sigh, Vin relaxed completely for the first time in days.

He was going to have to say something to Chris the next time. This being apart was just too damn hard to do. Come hell or high water, Vin promised himself, he and Ezra wouldn't be working separate cases again.

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