A Present from the Past
Everything on this page is fiction. Any resemblance or reference to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Fandom: Houston Knights/Magnificent 7
Series: Crossovers
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Joe/Levon Ezra/Vin
Archive: Starwinder's
Title: A Present From The Past
Author: Starwinder
e-mail: starwinder2of7@gmail.com
Standard Disclaimer: Houston Knights belongs to Jay Bernstein and Michael Butler and Columbia Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. This is fan fiction, written out of love for the shows. I am making no money off this. I have no money so please don't sue me. Any original characters that may appear in these stories are the property of the author.

I don't know who the Magnificent 7 belong to but the ATF AU was created by Mog. Thanks to her for letting us play in it.

A Present from the Past
By Starwinder

Texas - September 1999

Levon Lundy guided the black GMC Jimmy along the narrow blacktop road and glanced over at his sleeping partner, Joe LaFiamma. A tiny smile played on his lips.

Joe'd got up at four in the morning as agreed upon to leave today... and gone straight back to sleep as soon as he had sat down in the soft, cloth-covered bucket seat, let it back two notches and fastened his seatbelt.

Levon always drove in the morning. It was one of the many compromises that they had come to in just over a decade as partners and lovers, like the vehicle he drove was a compromise. He'd wanted... insisted on, really... a GMC Jimmy.

Joe had practically screamed when Levon'd gone straight for the red one... a second hand vehicle, at that. He'd pitched himself a veritable temper tantrum, right there in the dealership. He absolutely was not riding around in another red vehicle. He'd had it with Lundy's lousy color choices... if Lundy wanted *red* he wasn't riding in it. He'd already spent nearly six years riding around in a *red* vehicle and he wasn't doing it anymore. He'd buy his *own* car. They really needed two cars anyhow. (He totally ignored the fact that he hadn't owned a car since he'd sold the Cobra nearly four years before.)

Levon chuckled softly at the memory. They'd compromised, of course. They'd ended up with a brand spanking new, black GMC Jimmy with soft black cloth interior. Lundy had wanted the imitation leather. It'd be easier to clean. Joe'd glared at him and countered with, it'd be hot and sticky. They'd got the cloth interior... and Levon had gone straight from the dealership to an auto supply store and picked out seat covers. Joe'd only sighed at the colorful Aztec design mostly done in reds and yellows and had helped Levon put them on. They were on their third set of seat covers now. The ones in the Jimmy today were Southwestern, mostly tans and browns with some turquoise and just a touch of red on a black background... a blending of Joe's and Levon's favorite colors.

The black Jimmy had been the first thing that they had bought in both their names. Not long after they had bought the Jimmy, Levon had given Joe a copy of the deed for his ranch made out to both of them as tenants in common. Joe'd cried. At that time they'd been lovers for four of the six years that they had been partners, had lived together for half that time but seeing his name on the deed to the ranch had somehow made it more real... more permanent and Joe needed permanent.

Now... now they compromised without even thinking about it. They both had wanted this trip. Levon had always loved going to estate sales and had finally dragged Joe to one. Joe didn't have Levon's interest in antiques... didn't care if the furniture was a year old or a hundred years old as long as it was top quality. Joe loved puzzles and mysteries and learning about people. Show him a locked box, especially one without a key and he had to have it. He loved delving into old diaries and journals. Ancient love letters and hand written poems fascinated him.

Levon had already found his treasure for this trip, an antique campaign desk that was in excellent condition but which did not have a maker's mark. Because it lacked a visible maker's mark he'd gotten it cheap. He'd strip off all the layers of old varnish and re-finish it.

Joe hadn't bought anything so far. The only thing that had taken his fancy was a Chinese puzzle box at the first sale they'd hit and it had been bid up so high that Joe'd dropped out deciding it wasn't worth the money.

As Lundy turned off the highway and onto a dirt road, Joe felt the change in the road and stirred. Seconds later deep blue eyes blinked open. "'Bout there?" Joe's sleep heavy voice asked.

"Uh-huh. Couple of miles down this road according to the directions. Oughtta be a big ole farm house... your side of the road."

Joe rubbed his eyes and nodded. The sun was just up. They'd probably be among the first to arrive. The sale didn't start until ten o'clock but the flyer had said that the house would be open at six. Breakfast would be served at five bucks a head and after breakfast the buyers could roam the house until time for the action, looking over the sale items and checking out the opening bids posted on each piece.

It was only a few minutes later that they saw the big 'estate sale' sign and Levon turned into the long driveway up to the huge, old house. He parked under a shade tree with the vehicles of the other four or five early arrivals. He recognized one of them as belonging to a dealer that he had met many times in the fifteen years he'd been attending estate sales.

The man would get most of the good stuff. That was all right. Levon seldom bought more than one piece on a trip and the dealer wouldn't be interested in the kind of stuff that Joe liked. Hiram Clancy bought to resell. He had no use for anything that he didn't think he could turn a profit on. Joe liked things with sentimental value, most of which had little or no resell value.

Joe trailed him into the house. They joined the others at the breakfast table, Levon paying for both of them.

After breakfast they began the walk through. Levon saw a grandfather clock almost identical to the one he owned and nodded at the price, it was about what he'd expected his to be worth now, not that he'd ever sell it. It was a family heirloom.

Joe looked several things over pretty closely. There was a small writing desk with several letters still in it but after glancing over them he shook his head and moved on. A box filled with postcards held his attention for a moment, more for the wide variety of postmarks than any other reason, until he noticed that the cards were addressed to a multitude of people from a multitude of different people. He might have wanted them, if they'd all been to or from the same person, but he quickly lost interest when he saw the varied addresses and names.

Levon had just about decided that this was gonna be a bust when Joe stopped in front of a small iron bound trunk and read the tag attached to it aloud.

"Item number 004569. Personal property of a Ms. Tanner, a former boarder at this farm from 1969 to 1972. Locked. No Key. Opening bid two dollars." Joe glanced at Levon.

The cowboy was grinning. "Right up your alley. You gonna pick the lock now or wait till after ya buy it?"

Joe gave him a small glare, "Where's the fun in picking it before I buy it? Besides if I do that, then everybody will know what is in it..."

"...and somebody else might decide they want it." Levon finished for him with a shake of his head. He'd *never* understand Joe's insistence on buying 'a pig in a poke' so to speak. He liked to know what he was getting but Joe... Joe loved a mystery.

He smiled at his lover. The blue eyes he loved so well were shining with anticipation as Joe added, "It'll go cheap. It's not old enough to interest Hiram... and it didn't belong to anybody famous." A sly smile crossed his face. "Ten dollars?" He said quietly.

Levon nodded and reached out a hand to lightly tap his closed fist against Joe's. They had a bet. Joe bet that the box would go for ten bucks or less. Levon would win if it sold for more.

Lundy casually draped an arm around Joe's waist and Joe dropped his across the slightly shorter man's shoulders as they turned and went down to find seats. It was almost time for the auction to start.

It took a long time for the auctioneer to get to the small trunk and by the time he did Levon was dosing in his chair. There weren't as many people there as he'd expected so it was relatively quiet. He guessed that most folks had decided that the big stuff, the old things, would sell to the dealers and had simple bypassed this sale.

Joe elbowed him as the auctioneer called out the item number of the small trunk.

Levon sat up and yawned, looking around as the auctioneer began his calling.

Joe opened the bidding at three dollars.

Hiram Clancy bid four.

Joe scowled at the man and bid five.

Clancy bid ten, apparently planning on shutting Joe out quickly.

Joe scowled at Hiram and got a stubborn look on his face. He bid fifteen.

Hiram went twenty.

Joe looked at Levon who shrugged and whispered, "Ya want it. Get it."

With what amounted to approval from Levon to spend as much as he wanted Joe returned to the bidding with a vengeance.

Lundy grimaced when the bidding hit two hundred dollars. He glared at Hiram when the man went up to two-fifty and was considering shooting him when he said three hundred. Fortunately he dropped out at three-fifty. [Damned good thing, too.] Levon thought angrily. [What'd he want Joe's box for anyhow?]

It took him a second to realize that he'd thought of the box as Joe's, as if it already belonged to his partner *before* the auction and Hiram was trying to steal it. He shook his head at himself.

Joe didn't have enough cash on him to pay for the box, of course. Lundy usually carried the bulk of their cash. Even after all their years together, Joe still had a tendency to spend too much so Levon took care of most all the finances. He pulled out his wallet and handed Joe the money he needed and Joe bounded off to pay for his purchase.

As Joe carried his prize back to where Levon was waiting, Hiram came over to them.

"Ya ever decide you wanna sell that trunk, Joe, I'll take it off yer hands. Know ya ain't really interested in the trunk... jist what's in it...." Hiram let it trail off.

Levon raised a brow, "What makes that trunk worth better'n three hundred bucks to ya, Hiram? Dates on it says 1969-1972..."

"That there's when the lady what owned it was living here... but that trunk itself... that's at least a hundred years old... maybe older." Hiram answered Levon then turned back to Joe. "I'll give ya three hundred for it... and ya can keep the contents."

Joe looked over at him and smiled that little Mona Lisa smile of his at Hiram as he shook his head.

Hiram tried again, "You ain't gotta key. I got plenty of keys fer that sorta trunk. One of'm's sure ta fit it..."

Joe looked up and grinned, "I can pick the lock." He turned to Levon. "Let's go, cowboy. Seems to me you won a bet..." His grin said that he didn't mind losing that particular bet.

Lundy gave him a blinding grin and with a nod to Hiram they headed for the Jimmy, leaving the frustrated antique dealer to finish his buying.

An hour later they were in the small Texas town of Lone Pine and checked into the town's only motel.

The first thing that Joe did was turn the air conditioner on full blast.

Levon waited till they had gotten what they needed out of the Jimmy and locked it up and were back in the room before he pounced. He hung out the 'do not disturb' sign, locked the door and put the chain on while Joe sat the small trunk he'd bought down on the battered dresser by the bed.

Then he pounced. Grabbing Joe around the waist from behind he threw them on the bed, using his momentum and a bit of leverage to manhandle the larger, heavier man.

Joe laughed out loud when the bed groaned as they crashed onto it. The bed shook and dipped, threatening to collapse under the assault.

Levon had landed on the bottom with Joe sprawled over him. He quickly flipped Joe over and under him, bringing another squawking protest from the bed.

Joe was laughing helplessly. "Good thing this place is empty, partner. This is going to be a noisy encounter!"

"Ain't they always?" Levon grinned down at him. He loved the fact that his Italian lover was very vocal. Of course he knew that Joe was referring to the loudly protesting bedsprings and the added noise they would make.

Joe grinned back at him, "Well, noisier than usual." His smile softened, "Ready to collect on your bet. Huh, Cowboy?"

Levon ground his groin into Joe's, his cock obviously erect. "What'd'ya think, Street Kid?" He asked, his voice husky.

"I think that I'm glad I lost the bet. Having you all hard and demanding turns me on... big time."

"I can tell." Lundy grinned down at him, feeling the answering hardness of Joe's cock pushing back at him.

He knew what Joe wanted. After almost a decade as lovers they had settled into a calm, comfortable relationship. Normal for them was safe at home in their own bed making slow, gentle love but sometimes Joe needed to feel the passion again. He needed to know that Levon still lusted after him as well as loved him.

For a moment Levon stared down into Joe's shining eyes then he dove down, capturing Joe's sweet pouty lips in a bruising kiss. A kiss filled with hunger and desire.

Joe groaned into it.

Levon broke it off and trailed his kisses down Joe's neck to the base where he bit hard, marking his mate.

Joe jerked under him, his hips rising in need.

Levon lifted up off him just long enough to rip open his shirt, sending buttons flying.

At that Joe cried out, "Leeeevon!" his eyes dark with passion, he reached for his lover.

Lundy slid down Joe's body, evading the grasping hands as he nipped at Joe's nipples then darted his tongue into Joe's belly button.

Joe clenched his hands into the bedcovers. The bedsprings screamed as Joe arched up off the bed.

Levon took advantage of the movement to rip open Joe's pants shoving them down over Joe's hips.

"Yeah! Yeah! Please!" Joe panted as Levon's hand closed on his cock pumping it a couple of times.

Levon released Joe's cock and raised up off him to open his jeans, freeing his own cock.

Joe groaned at the sight of Levon's cock as it sprang free then he flipped over onto his stomach and raised up on his knees. Looking back at his lover over his shoulder he begged, "Please. Oh God! Levon... hurry! I need you so bad!"

Lundy moved in closer and pressed the head of his cock to Joe's opening. He didn't use a condom. After ten years in an exclusive relationship and regular testing neither of them did anymore. Nor did he bother with lube. Instead he spit into the palm of his hand and rubbed that round the head of his cock smearing the pre-cum there around it as well. Joe preferred the bottom, to be taken rather than to take and though they normally used lube, after all their years together, Joe could take Levon without it. In fact sometimes demanded to be taken without it. This was one of those times. He needed to feel the burning pain of being taken, needed to feel as tight as he had the first time they were together.

As Levon pressed in he heard his lover let out a slow hiss at the burning sensation. He knew he wasn't really hurting Joe, knew this was what Joe wanted still he paused and let his lover get accustomed to his cock.

"Ya all right?"

"Yeah. Oh god! Yes! Give it to me! Come on! Ride, Cowboy! Ride me!" Joe's voice shook with need.

Levon obeyed, leaning forward he slowly pushed the full length of his cock into Joe. He wouldn't just ram it in, no matter what Joe said, not till he had Joe opened up a bit. Then... then he'd ride. A few slow strokes later he could feel Joe's passage loosening.

Then Joe's hips rammed back to meet him and Joe cried out in pleasure as the cock inside him slammed into his prostrate. "Yes! Yes! Now! Pleeeeease! Ride me! Ridemerideme!" Joe's head dropped to bury itself in the mattress, his hands clutched at the bedcovers and his hips snapped back to meet each of Lundy's thrusts doubling the impact.

Levon knew he couldn't last long now. Bending low over Joe's back he wrapped one arm around Joe's waist reaching for the rock hard cock that bounced against Joe's washboard abs every time that Levon drove into him.

As Levon's hand fished for Joe's cock, Joe began wiggle his hips trying to keep the cock out of Levon's hand, "No! No!" he chanted, "No! Pleeease! Don't!"

Levon stopped fishing for the cock and pulled Joe tightly to him, shortening his trusts until he was barely rocking in the other man, the head of his cock scraping across Joe's prostate. Back and forth. Back and forth.

The bedsprings kept time with them, squawking with every thrust.

Joe's head snapped up and he screamed as he came.

Levon cried out, "Joooeyyyy!" As he felt Joe's hot seed splatter on the arm he had around Joe's waist.

Joe's body trembled, shook, almost convulsing as he climaxed.

Levon felt the tight passage he was buried in spasm around his cock and it pushed him over the edge. He stiffened and came, filling Joe with his cream. Collapsing across Joe's back he moaned, "Oh, God! Joey! You're so good... so good.... Baby."

Joe slowly sank to the bed under Levon. He loved the feel of Levon's body lying on top of him. Loved the weight of him and the lean hardness. He drifted off to sleep as Levon slowly moved to the side, slipping off him, planting soft kisses across Joe's shoulders as he did so.

Levon lay beside his lover for a long moment then with a sigh got up and went to get a rag to clean them up with.

Joe never stirred as Levon gently cleaned him up with the warm washcloth. Levon bent and placed a gentle kiss on the dark hair, noting as he did that there were a few stray gray hairs at the temple and the side burns.

He gently stroked the hair back, tracing the fine silvery line with a finger. When had those appeared? He honestly couldn't remember. When he looked at Joe he still saw the gorgeous young man he'd met at the airport almost twelve years ago. But Joe would be forty this year... and he was already forty-six. Where had the time gone?

He looked at his lover's relaxed face. He still looked remarkably like a little boy when he was asleep. Oh, to be sure there might be a few more laugh-lines around his mouth and eyes but he didn't look forty... would never look forty to Levon. He'd always be Levon's precious baby.

He smiled remembering the surprised look on Joe's face the first time he'd whispered, 'Oh, Joey, Baby!' to him. The surprise had quickly given way to delight and Joe had been 'Joey, baby' ever since. Joe'd called Levon 'Cowboy' even before they were lovers but it had taken on a whole different sound when he said it in the heat of passion.

Joe sighed and wiggled closer.

Grinning Levon got up and finished stripping... himself and Joe. He checked the air conditioner. It was putting out real good, pretty soon it'd be cold enough in the room to suit Joe, meaning he'd be freezing. He grabbed the spread off the other double bed in the room and tossing it over Joe, climbed in beside him.

Joe immediately rolled towards him, instinctively snuggling close... and incidentally tossing the spread Levon had just thrown over him off. That was all right, there'd be more covers for Levon... till Joe started rooting around hunting for it when he finally decided the room was cool enough.

When Levon woke up several hours later, he was completely cocooned in the spread and Joe was no longer on the bed. He began to fight his way out of the cocoon only to have Joe suddenly drop down on the bed beside him, leaning over him, impeding his attempts as he bent to kiss his cowboy on the lips.

Levon decided to just lie still and let himself be kissed for a few minutes. When Joe drew back finally, Levon raised an eyebrow at him. His lover was still stark naked.

Joe grinned wickedly at him, "Thought I'd wait for round two before I got dressed." He declared.

Levon chuckled, "And just what makes you think I'm gonna give you a round two?"

Joe's pout appeared instantly... right on schedule.

Levon laughed, then said, "You want round two, you're gonna have'ta get me outta this spread! How'd I get wrapped up like this anyhow?"

Joe grinned, "Don't know. You were like that when I woke up."

"Well, unwind me, will you?"

Joe did so tossing the spread to the floor as he rolled on top of Levon. "Love you, Cowboy."

"Love you, Street Kid." He grinned up at Joe, "You gonna ravish me now?"

While Levon normally preferred to be on top and Joe preferred to be on bottom, they both occasionally liked to swap. Joe's aggressiveness at the moment told Levon that he was interested in topping and Levon was more than willing to oblige him. It'd been a while since Joe'd wanted him that way and he had missed the slow tender way that Joe made love to him.

If he'd thought about it, he would have realized that their preferences probably stemmed from their history. All of Levon's previous male lovers had been demanding tops, insisting that he fulfill their needs but paying little attention to his. Joe had mostly been with women and had grown to resent the pressure of having to perform.

When he had first noticed Joe looking at him 'that way' he'd resisted the desire that swelled in him mostly because he was sure that the larger man would want to top and he just wasn't ready for another relationship like his previous ones. When they had finally given in to the burning desire for each other and ended up necking like a couple of teenagers on Joe's couch, he'd been surprised but thrilled when Joe'd moaned, as they were tearing each other's clothes off, "Oh, God! Levon! Take me! Take me now!"

The first time that Joe *had* taken him, the man had driven him to the brink of madness with his hands, tongue and lips, caressing, kissing, stroking, licking. Then when Levon was practically insane with pleasure, he'd whispered in Levon's ear, "I want inside you. Please. May I?"

He'd asked permission and even as wrapped up in the pleasure that Joe had given him as Levon was, he'd known that Joe wouldn't take him without that permission. Levon had given permission. Still Joe always asked first and on the rare occasion that Levon had said no, Joe had respected his decision.

Now... now he wanted Joe... wanted to feel Joe inside him, filling him completely. He looked up into his lover's smoldering blue eyes, "Take me, baby, take me." He pleaded.

Joe's smile was all the answer he would ever need. God! How had he gotten so lucky?

Joe dipped his head and kissed Levon, long and tender, their tongues dueling gently. Then he kissed his way down the long elegant neck and licked back up it. His hands were busy too, fingers caressed Levon's nipples, tweaked them gently, bringing them up into hard nubs.

Levon groaned.

Joe knew all his hot spots. Chuckling Joe caught an earlobe between his teeth tugging gently.

Lundy whimpered and wiggled under his lover, spreading his legs letting Joe slip between them, moaning with pleasure as the Italian's thick, aroused cock slid against his own.

Joe shifted as Levon began to thrust up at him and chuckled again. "Patience, Cowboy. Patience."

Lundy growled and reached up to pull Joe tighter.

Joe caught his hands and moved them down to his sides holding them there as he laughed out loud at the annoyance in his lover's growl.

Still holding Lundy's hands so that the cowboy couldn't use them, Joe slid farther down his lover's body, kissing and licking. Joe's tongue darted into Levon's navel and the cowboy arched up, crying out inarticulately. Joe chuckled with his mouth pressed to Levon's belly and the cowboy shuttered as the sensation.

Joe moved lower on the bed, bending his head to kiss the inside of one of Levon's thighs.

Lundy bent his knee up and spread the leg even wider, if that were possible. He shook as Joe sucked up a mouthful of the tender skin on the inside of his thigh and marked it, darkly.

Joe released one of Levon's hands and casually groped across his lover's belly, finding the hard cock by feel as he continued to kiss along the inside of Levon's thigh. He palmed it firmly, squeezed it once then let his hand move on to caress the tight balls beneath it.

Lundy gasped and clutched at the bedcovers.

Joe raised his head and looked up into the cowboy's hungry eyes. "Keep your hands at your sides," he ordered firmly.

Levon whimpered but nodded. "Try... I'll try." He moaned.

Joe accepted the promise and released the other hand, moving to rest on his hands and knees, crouched over Lundy. His warm breath blew across Levon's genitals, stirring the dark blonde curls, making Levon moan. He bent and nuzzled Levon's balls, his nose pushing them first one way then the other.

Lundy bent his other knee now, and lifted his hips, trying desperately for more contact.

Joe slowly moved his head upward until his nose was gliding along the underside of Levon's cock. As the cowboy's whimpering increased, Joe finally struck out his tongue and licked the cock from base to head.

Levon shuttered and growled again.

Joe raised his head and grinned at his lover. "I love it when you growl like that! Now I'm gonna make you scream."

He wrapped his hands around Levon's legs just above the knee and lifted, pushing the knees up to Levon's chest. Ducking his head, he drove his tongue into the tightly puckered opening between Levon's ass cheeks.

Levon's eyes went wide, his head tilted back and he shrieked... a wordless, animal like sound of raw pleasure.

Joe chuckled again as the sound bounced off the walls. Then he settled down to opening Levon up, getting him ready for Joe's cock. He worked his tongue in deep and left his saliva there.

Joe lifted his head and said, "Hold your legs up."

He released his hold as Levon grabbed his legs and held then up to his chest. With his hands free he returned to his task and slipped a finger in beside his tongue, working the spit deeper inside Levon.

Lundy whimpered like and animal, wiggling his hips to work himself down on the finger.

Joe continued to push spit into him and work it deeper with his finger. After a minute he added a second finger.

"Yessssss! Yessssssssssssss!" Lundy moaned. "Please... Joey! Pleeeease!"

Joe lifted his head, "Please what, cowboy?" His voice was husky with need, "Tell me what you want."

"You... you... in me... now.... Please! Joey!"

"Not yet. Just a minute more." Joe returned to preparing his lover. He slipped a third finger into Lundy and reached for the small knot inside him, caressing Lundy's prostrate.

As Levon shuddered and moaned, Joe reached over with his free hand and grabbed the tube of lube. Levon was a lot tighter than Joe had been and Joe's cock was thicker than Levon's. Even with the spit, he'd need lube. He quickly slathered the slippery stuff on his cock then moved up to place the head at Levon's entrance.

"Ready?" He asked softly.

"Yes! Oh God! Yes! Please!"

Smiling, his eyes locked on Levon's face to check for any discomfort Joe moved forward and slowly guided his cock into his lover. He paused when the head was in, to let Levon adjust to it, then when Levon moved, trying to get more in himself, Joe slowly pressed on, sheathing his full length in Levon's tight passage.

As he leaned forward over Levon to kiss him, Levon released his legs, wrapping his arms around Joe's neck and his legs around Joe's waist.

For a long moment they just lay there, completely joined. Joe rubbed his cheek against Levon's, "God! You're so tight! Feels so good!"

"So good! So full! Love the way you fill me." Levon moaned back then they both lost the ability to talk as Joe began to thrust into Levon, slowly at first then picking up speed until he was pounding into the cowboy almost as hard and fast as Levon had ridden him.

It wasn't long before they both exploded.

Levon cried out Joe's name as his cum spurted between them and Joe echoed it with Levon's name as he filled his lover with his cream.

Joe let himself collapse onto Levon, being careful not to lay too heavily on his smaller lover. After a moment he started to draw back.

"No. Please. Stay in me... just a bit." Levon pleaded. He looked up into Joe's eyes. "I don't get to have you in me all that often."

Joe smiled at him reaching down to caress the pale blonde hair, "If you want it more often all you gotta do is say so. There isn't much I wouldn't do for you and this is definitely a pleasure."

"Might do that. Not too often though. Love being in you, too."

Joe smiled at him, "Hummm. Love having you in me... it's the only thing better'n being in you."

Levon chuckled, "Ain't ya glad that I think the only thing better'n having you in me is being in you?"

"Yep." Joe kissed him again.

"Roll over." Levon ordered, "But don't pull out."

Joe nodded and rolled them over so that, he was on the bottom and Levon sat astride him with Joe's now limp cock still inside him.

Lundy began to rock slightly and squeezed the muscles of his ass, gently milking Joe's cock. He grinned as he felt the cock start to stiffen inside him.

"God! Cowboy, you're gonna kill me!"

Lundy chuckled and reached out his hands to twine his fingers with Joe's giving him a purchase to help him balance as he began to slowly raise and lower himself on Joe's rapidly hardening cock. "You just lie there, big boy. Let me do the work this time."

Joe lay back, watching Levon as the cowboy rode his cock. "Jeeze, Levon... do you have any idea how beautiful you are? God! So slender... all lean muscle... your skin flushed with arousal. Your hair like spun sunshine, a halo around your face. So strong, so beautiful... your eyes so dark with passion they look black."

Lundy's head tilted back as he rose and fell, his hips, twisting slightly side to side. His eyes closed.

Joe's voice was like a caress.

Levon shuddered with pleasure. Joe'd bet him once that he could make him come just by talking to him. He'd bet Joe couldn't. He'd lost. His cock rock hard against his belly again, he trembled at the memory of that day.

They'd been at a cutting.

He'd been leaning against the fence, watching a horse that he'd been thinking about breeding Fooler with. Joe wasn't there yet, although he'd promised to meet Levon there. He'd jumped just a bit as Joe's voice had whispered in his ear, "Hey, Cowboy."

Joe'd taken advantage of the crowds and the fact that everybody was focused on the arena to grab a quick grope. They'd only been lovers for about a month then and sex had been frequent and hot. "You're hard. Bet I can talk you off."

Levon had looked at him like he was crazy, "You're outta your mind!" he'd snapped as a wave of heat had shot through him. [Crazy, sex obsessed fool...] he swallowed hard at the heat in Joe's eyes, [gorgeous, hot...].

"That mean you bet I can't?" The heat in Joe's eyes was getting hotter.

[I'm outta my mind!] "Yeah!" He'd snapped and Joe had leaned on the fence beside him, both hands gripping the top rail and turning towards Levon, he'd began to talk to him. The Italian's voice had been dripping with desire as he described exactly what he'd like to do to Levon in a whisper just loud enough for Levon to hear. From time to time the voice would get so tight with need that it squeezed off and Levon had found himself leaning closer to hear it. He had come in his jeans before the horse he was supposed to be watching finished it's cutting. It wasn't until later that he learned Joe had come too.

Now that voice washed over him, caressing him like warm velvet, telling him that he was still the most beautiful man alive, still the only one Joe would ever desire.

He moaned and shivered with pleasure. He twisted his hips and drove himself down on Joe's thick shaft. It felt so good... so very good then the head of Joe's shaft rubbed across his prostate and he wailed as his cock jerked. He rose up then drove himself back down again, making sure Joe's cock hit his gland again.

Moaning he increased his speed. He was so close... almost there.

Joe's voice pushed him over, "Oh, god! Levon, you are so beautiful!"

He sat down hard on Joe's cock and his own cock spurted weakly... just a few drops of come. Then as he felt Joe's cock swell then begin to go limp inside him, he knew that Joe had come too. He didn't feel Joe's cum spurt into him. There wasn't enough of it. They had both been almost to the point of dry coming.

He collapsed forward onto Joe's broad, deep chest almost unconscious. This time Joe could clean them up... or they wouldn't get cleaned up.

Joe chuckled as he gently rolled Levon to the side and slipped out of him. He rose and went to find something to clean them up with.

When he was done he covered Levon and decided to take a shower. It was late afternoon now. He was starting to feel energized. He was a night person. He'd let Levon sleep an hour or so while he picked the lock on the trunk and looked through it. Then they'd head home. He could drive till daylight while Levon slept in the back seat. Lundy would rise with the sun ready to take on the world and Joe could climb into the back seat and get some rest.

A half an hour later Joe emerged from the shower, dressed in clean clothes and sat down in a chair in front of dresser where the trunk sat. It took him less than five minutes to pick the lock without breaking it.

Carefully he lifted the lid.

The first thing he saw, slipped under the elastic straps in the top of the trunk was a birth certificate. The parchment kind, with the raised seal pressed into it. Slipping it out he turned it over. On the back were the footprints and handprints of the infant. He smiled as he looked at it. It had been very carefully taken care of. Although yellowed somewhat with age, there were no fold lines. It had been kept lying flat in the top of the trunk.

He turned it back over and read the name. Vincent Michael Tanner born on this 24th day of May in the year of our Lord 1967 to Sue Anne Tanner and Michael James Marsden.

He frowned slightly, his cop's mind shifting into gear. The mother had given her son her maiden name... but she had named the father. Why?

He laid the birth certificate aside and began to remove the other objects from the box.

Soon he had his puzzle laid out.

There were three stacks of letters. Two stacks were addressed to Sue Anne Tanner. One stack with a Dallas return address was from a Sergeant Vincent Tanner of the Texas Rangers, apparently her father. The second stack was from M. J. Marsden addressed to Sue Anne while she also lived in Dallas. Some had a Dallas return address. The later ones came from Vietnam... from Corporal Marsden, US Army Rangers. The last letter was postmarked January 11, 1967.

He'd placed the black edged telegram, dated February 14th with it's formally worded message with those letters. Reading the stilted message, he couldn't help but think that that was a hell of a Valentine's Day card. [We regret to inform you that Corporal Michael J. Marsden was killed in action on the tenth day of February, nineteen hundred and sixty seven in the service of his country.]

Why they couldn't have held it another day, not sent his death notice to his sweetheart on Valentine's Day was beyond Joe. The guy'd been dead four days already. One more day wouldn't have mattered. [Mindless bureaucracy! Poor woman...]

It was the last stack of letters that really broke his heart though. They were addressed simply: To my son Vin Tanner to be given to him upon his eighteenth birthday. Where the return address should have been there were dates, beginning 8/14/72 and ending with 11/18/72, covering approximately a three month period.

The diary that lay beside that stack explained those letters. She'd found out she was dying. Cancer, too far gone to do anything about it. She'd started writing the letters right after she'd found out.

But... the letters were still in the box, sealed just as she'd left them... and the box had been in that boarding house all this time... therefore... the kid, Vin Tanner had never seen them... had never known what his mom wanted to tell him.

Joe blinked back tears. Damn! [Poor kid...] The tears spilled over. Aw, hell. He was supposed to be a tough old cop for crying out loud. Didn't matter. This was tragic.

Levon rolled over and sat up, "Joe?" He asked quietly sensing the tears more than seeing them, "What's th'matter?"

Joe looked over and shook his head, wiping at his eyes. After a moment when he had his emotions under control again he began to talk, telling Levon about what he'd found in the box and what he'd deduced from it.

Levon sat on the edge of the bed, wrapped in the spread and listened. As Joe handed over each piece of the puzzle he looked at it and handed it back. When Joe was done he nodded. "Makes sense. All the pieces fit. What you wanna do about it?"

Joe looked up, "Do?" He hadn't thought about doing anything.

Levon nodded, "Kid would be what, thirty two now. No reason he couldn't still be alive."

Joe's eyes lit up. "Maybe we could find him. His grandfather was a Texas Ranger. You know a bunch of them..."

Levon nodded, "I could ask around see if anybody remembers his gran'daddy. It's a place to start." He stood up and dropped the spread. "I better get a shower. Reckon you wanna head home now, don't'cha? Get started on this."

Joe grinned and stood up giving his partner and lover a hug as he went by. "Have I told you lately that I love you?" He asked.

"Oh, a couple of times I think." Levon grinned, placing a hand flat on Joe's chest and pushing gently. "You can tell me again when we get home."


Denver, Colorado - October 1999

Ezra Standish, undercover agent for Team 7 of the Denver ATF parked his Jag in front of the rundown warehouse and got out with a sigh. Just once he'd like to close an arms deal in a fancy restaurant or a penthouse apartment... anywhere but another rundown warehouse.

He walked inside and headed towards the gunrunners he and Team 7 were about to bust and glanced around the warehouse. Then again, neither of the above mentioned places would afford a hiding place for the team's sharpshooter, Vin Tanner to conceal himself as he watched over Ezra... and truth be told, Ezra *liked* having Vin watch over him. Of course, in Ezra's dreams Vin watched over him from considerably closer than the high rafters of a warehouse. Considerably closer.

Ezra felt the heat start to rise in him at the thought of just how close he'd like Vin to watch over him from but he quickly squelched it. He was working. Better get his mind back on business.

He strolled casually towards Arnold Fielding, the gunrunner of the week as Ezra had begun to think of them, carrying the briefcase filled with the money for the buy... the marked money.

"My dear Mister Fielding." Ezra began in his honeyed southern accent. "Might I suggest we make this mutually beneficial exchange as quickly as possible so that we may go our separate ways. Where, pray tell, are the samples that you promised me?"

Fielding turned and nodded to two of his men who quickly brought up a wooden crate and sat it on the floor in front of Ezra.

"If you'd be so kind as to open it, I could examine the merchandise." Ezra drawled, waving an imperious hand at the two men.

High above them in the rafters, Vin couldn't hide a grin as he thought. [That's *my* Ezra. He wouldn't dirty those beautiful hands opening a crate!]

If the sharpshooter was aware that he'd thought of Ezra as *his* and described the undercover agent's hands as beautiful, he ignored the implications.

Below the two hirelings pried open the box and lifted off the lid.

Ezra reached in, picked up an automatic rifle, checked the firing mechanism and drawled, "Yes, indeed... a very fine example of the American Military's superior fire power."

Outside the warehouse Chris Larabee grinned and gave the signal to move in.

Seconds later doors crashed open and shouts of, "ATF!" "Freeze!" and "Drop the weapons!" filled the warehouse.

Naturally, no one froze... or dropped their weapons. Instead people dove for cover, shots rang out and there was generally a lot of cursing and swearing.

Ezra, who as usual, was right out front and up close to the gunrunners, reached for his weapon and yelled, "ATF!"

Fielding spun, kicked out and sent Ezra's gun flying then leaped onto the smaller man, grappling with him.

Ezra twisted and threw the larger man off him but Fielding came right back, snatching a knife from his boot and driving it into the undercover agent's side. He twisted it then jerked it out and dove for cover. He never made it.

Vin watched in shock as Ezra fought with the man. He couldn't get a clear shot at Fielding until after Ezra went down, then he was terrified that it was too late. He pumped shots as close as he dared around them, trying to scare Fielding off. When Fielding finally dove for cover the sharpshooter took careful aim, leading his target just enough. He put the bullet squarely into Fielding's back. Shooting the man in the back might cost him his job... or worse. He didn't care. The son of a bitch had tried to kill Ezra... *his* Ezra. He didn't even hear the almost animal growl that slipped past his lips at the thought.

He began to work his way down from the rafters, knowing that by the time he reached the undercover agent, the EMT's would probably have Ezra out and in route to the hospital.

It was Chris Larabee that reached Ezra first. He's seen his undercover agent struggling with the gunrunner and seen him go down. He rushed to Ezra's side as soon as the majority of the fighting was over. He barely spared a glance at Fielding. He'd have to think of some way to cover Vin's shooting the guy in the back but so be it. The bastard had tried to kill one of *his* men.

"Ezra? Ezra, can you hear me?"

Glazed green eyes turned to the sound of Larabee's voice. Ezra moaned. One hand was clamped over the bloody wound in his side.

Nathan Jackson dropped down beside the wounded man, "Lie back, Ezra." He told the man who was struggling to rise, "Let me look at this."

"All right. I'm all right." Standish muttered still trying to get up.

"Yeah, right." Jackson shook his head as he tried to get a pressure bandage on the knife wound while Ezra continued to try and stand up.

Standish hated admitting he was hurt. He hated Medics, EMTs and, most of all, he hated hospitals. He struggled to get to his feet. If he could just get to his feet, then they could see that he was perfectly all right. He didn't need a doctor. He didn't need to go to the hospital...

"Ezra! Lie down!" Larabee used his command voice.

The dark head turned and green eyes wandered over to meet Chris'. "Yessir." The undercover agent mumbled and sort of collapsed back to the floor.

Larabee caught his head to keep it from bouncing off the concrete. Ezra didn't need a concussion on top of the knife wound.

Minutes later the EMTs arrived and took over from Nathan. They got his vitals, and started an IV, much to Ezra's annoyance. Then they quickly loaded him into an ambulance.

By the time they were ready to transport him, Vin had made it to the ground and practically threw himself into the ambulance with Ezra, tossing Larabee his rifle and yelling, "I'm riding with him!"

No one tried to stop him. Every EMT in Denver knew about Team 7. No member of Team 7 ever rode to the hospital alone... and it wouldn't be very long after they got there that the rest of the Team would come boiling into the emergency room, demanding answers... news... anything.

An hour later Larabee's team was in the emergency surgery waiting area. Vin had been there first. He stood staring blankly out the only window, not seeing the parking lot below him.

He turned when Larabee stalked in and with a quick shake of his head told the team leader that there was, as yet, no word on Ezra.

The others followed behind their leader. Buck and JD headed straight for the vending machines. Junk food and sodas would get them through the night.

Nathan headed for the nurse's desk. He'd wring any info to be had from the hospital personnel.

Josiah walked over to Vin and lay one large hand on his shoulder. "It wasn't your fault, son." He said quietly.

Vin looked up at him with despairing eyes, "My job... ta cover him. Didn't get the job done."

"You couldn't risk hitting Ezra. They were too tangled up together for anybody to get a clear shot, Vin." Chris' voice drifted over.

Vin looked at him and just shook his head. How could he tell his best friend and boss what letting Ezra get hurt did to him... how it tore him up? ... and why. It'd been bad before, when Ezra *was* just another member of the team to him. Before he'd begun to dream about the man... dream about holding him in his arms... shielding him... protecting him... not with a gun from the shadows of a warehouse but with his body... holding him close... tight against him... heat rising from their naked bodies.... Oh Sweet Jesus! Ezra would kill him, if he ever found out that he dreamed of *that*.

The lanky Texan leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the window and reached a shaky hand up to rub his neck. [What am I going to do? Lord help me, please.]

Another hour passed before finally a tired looking doctor came into the room.

"Mr. Larabee," he called, it wasn't a question. The doctor knew Ezra Standish was Team 7. He knew all of Team 7 and was very familiar with Chris Larabee. The man was a pit bull where his men were concerned. Larabee was always there when a member of Team 7 came in.

Chris rose and crossed to the doctor, the other's crowding around them, "How is he?"

"Weak. He's a lucky man. The knife blade was quite short. No more than four inches long, it didn't have the reach to do a lot of damage. It went in from the back and skimmed along the bottom of the lowest rib cutting through mostly muscle tissue. He lost a lot of blood but should make a full recovery. He's in recovery now and will be put in a regular room. No need for ICU."

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief then exchanged looks. If Ezra wasn't seriously incapacitated, that meant he'd be trying to escape from the hospital as soon as he woke up.

It was Nathan that asked, "Doc, how long has Ezra been in the recovery room?"

"About ten minutes."

Nathan rolled his eyes and took off down the hall. Ten minutes! Hell knowing Ezra he had already crawled off the gurney and was staggering down the hall hunting an exit. As he neared the recovery room a dismayed looking nurse came running out.

"He's gone! Ain't he?" Nathan demanded.

The nurse gulped and looked around wildly.

"Ain't your fault." Nathan tried to reassure her. "Can't nobody keep Ezra down long. We'll find him." He looked behind him. Yep. The rest of the guys were bringing up the rear. He signaled them to spread out, raising his voice just enough for them to hear, "He can't have got far."

JD and Buck headed towards the nurse's station, checking every room along the way. Josiah and Nathan went the other way doing the same.

Three doors down from the recovery room, in a supply closet, Nathan spotted the wayward patient curled up asleep on the bottom shelf of a rolling table. "Didn't get far did you?" He grinned triumphantly.

Josiah pushed past Nathan and bent to carefully lift the sleeping man out of his hiding place and carry him back to the recovery room, where the nurse reattached his IV and Josiah sat down beside him to make sure he didn't try to run again.

Nathan went to find the others and tell them that Ezra was, at least temporarily, recaptured. They wouldn't leave him alone again until the doctor released him and probably one of them would have to babysit him then.


Half an hour later Ezra opened his eyes in his room, looked groggily around and started trying to sit up.

Chris moved closer to the bed, a scowl on his face, "Forget it Standish." He growled. "You've had your escape attempt for today."

Ezra cocked a brow at him, "Really? I do not recall any such event."

From near the doorway Nathan chuckled, "If he can talk like that, he's gonna be all right."

Ezra could hear the collective sigh of relief that the former medic's pronouncement brought. He sighed, "Well, then if you gentlemen will just hand me my clothes, I'll get dressed and we can effect our exit from this establishment."

A collective chuckle greeted that statement.

Chris stepped closer to the bed, laying a hand on Ezra's shoulder. "No way. The doctor said he *might* let you go tomorrow." His voice softened, "You've lost a lot of blood, Ezra. You need to take it easy."

As Ezra again tried to sit up, Larabee scowled at him. "...and I'm leaving someone here to make sure you stay put."

"I'll stay." Vin's quiet voice came from the far corner of the room as he moved forward.

Chris cocked an eyebrow at the younger man. Everyone knew that Vin hated hospitals as bad, if not worse, than Ezra did. His offer to stay came as a surprise.

"My fault he's here." Vin said shortly as he stepped out of the shadows.

"Mister Tanner," Ezra began softly, "I assure you that my current predicament was entirely of my own making. Had I been better prepared, Mister Fielding would not have been able to relieve me of my weapon. You, sir did the best you could. He and I were too closely involved for you to achieve a proper sighting on the... gentleman."

"Maybe." The single word was almost inaudible. Then the head came up and blue eyes sought green eyes, "Ya still got hurt."

"But it was *not* your fault." Ezra's voice was firm. He could not bear to see Vin blaming himself for this.

"He's right, Vin." JD put in, "And he's gonna be all right..."

"...so there's no need fer you to be blaming yourself." Buck finished for the kid as he draped an arm around Dunne's shoulders and added to his best buddy, "Let's get outta here... let Ezra get some sleep."

He stepped closer to the bed and gave Ezra's arm a quick squeeze, "Ya get some rest. We'll be back in the morning."

The other's followed suit, stepping close to pat Ezra's arm or give it a small squeeze, each speaking a few words of encouragement, until only Chris and Vin remained with Ezra.

"You sure you want to stay, Vin? I can..." Chris let it trail off.

"I'm staying." Vin stated firmly. His eyes were locked on the face of undercover agent.

Ezra's green eyes were closed. His breathing was slow and regular. He appeared to have gone back to asleep.

One of Vin's hands idly caressed the arm that didn't have an IV in it.

Chris stared at him for a long moment. He and Vin had always had the ability to communicate without words. He could read the former bounty hunter better than most anyone else could. What he saw now concerned him.

The sharpshooter's eyes were soft, filled with a tenderness that was seldom seen there... and a longing. The hand that stroked the undercover agent's arm was gentle.


Tanner looked up at Chris, everything he felt clear in his eyes.

"Does he know?" Larabee's voice was gentle.

Vin swallowed hard and shook his head. He knew exactly what Chris was asking about.

"You plan to tell him?"

Vin raised his eyes to meet Chris', all his fears clear in them, "What'd he want with me? Him with his fancy ways."

Chris turned to look at Ezra's sleeping form for a long moment. "I reckon maybe the same thing you want with him.... He might have a mother, Vin, but he's been alone about as much as you have. He needs someone to love him... really love him. If that's what this is... and I think that's what I see when you look at him, then you owe it to yourself and him to tell him. It won't be easy... he'll resist believing. He's scared to death of letting anybody get that close but... you ought to try... for both your sakes."

Vin had stood absolutely still, staring at Chris as he talked. Chris Larabee was a man of few words... and one that didn't generally like to interfere in the private lives of his men. Just the fact that he'd actually strung that many words together at one time concerning what was definitely a personal matter, told Vin how important Chris thought this was.

"Won't be a problem?" Vin asked worried that starting a personal relationship with a fellow ATF agent could cause problems for the team.

"I think you're both professional enough to keep your personal lives at home."

Vin nodded and with a pat to the Texan's shoulder Chris was gone, leaving Vin alone with his thoughts... and the man he loved.

Ezra Standish was good at playing possum. The ability had stood him in good stead many times. He hadn't actually gone back to sleep just closed his eyes and let his breathing even out like he was asleep. At the touch of Vin's hand on his arm he'd almost opened his eyes but was afraid if he did Vin would move away. Then he'd recognized Chris' voice and wondering at the question, had gone into what he thought of as stealth mode... lying still, pretending to be asleep while actually listening closely the conversation.

Now he lay in stunned silence trying to gather his suddenly scattered thoughts as he replayed the conversation in his mind. Vin loved him. Chris had said that Vin loved him... but Vin had said that Ezra wouldn't want him! How could he think that? Vin was the handsomest, bravest and most loyal person Ezra had ever known. How could anyone *not* want Vin. It was Ezra that wasn't worthy of this very special person.

Then another thought struck him. Larabee had known that he wanted Vin's love but would resist the Texan's offer. When had he become so easy to read? When had he let these people get so close?

He groaned softly and instantly felt Vin's hand tighten on his arm and the former bounty hunter shift to bend over him.

"Ezra?" Vin's voice was filled with fear, "Ya okay? Ya want me ta call the nurse?"

Ezra couldn't stand the fear in that voice. He blinked open his eyes and looked up into Vin's eyes.

Everything the man felt was written there. He made no attempt to disguise it. All the worry and all the love he felt for Ezra was plain for the southerner to see.

For a long moment Ezra just stared up into the worried, loving eyes then he smiled softly. [To hell with fighting his feelings. To hell with resisting Vin. He needed this.] "No... no nurse. Just you, Vin... just you." He returned the pressure of Vin's hand and drifted back to sleep.

The Texan stared down at Ezra. Had he imagined the look in Ezra's eyes? Had the man meant what it had sounded like he meant? He couldn't be sure. He'd just have to wait until Ezra woke back up. Then he'd make sure that Ezra knew he loved him and find out what Ezra had meant.

He still sat at Ezra's side several hours later when the undercover agent stirred and slowly opened his eyes. As soon as Ezra stirred, Vin was bending over him.

"Ya okay?" He asked again.

Ezra smiled and nodded slightly, "Water?" He croaked.

Vin quickly moved to get the large plastic up filled with ice water that every patient in every hospital seems to always have. He held the cup up to Ezra guiding the straw to his lips.

Ezra tipped his head up and sipped gratefully. After a moment he dropped his head back to the pillow and used his tongue to push the straw away.

Vin sat the cup back on the table and came straight back to Ezra's side. He reached out and laid his hand on Ezra's arm. "Better?"

Ezra smiled up at him, "Much," he said softly not taking his eyes off Vin's face. The man was so beautiful. He shifted his arm, moving so that Vin's hand, which was slowly caressing his arm, found itself gliding along Ezra's hand. He smiled at Vin as he gently captured the fingers of that hand, twining them with his.

He saw surprise and hope flare in Vin's eyes. He smiled cockily up at the sharpshooter, "So, Mr. Tanner, are you going to tell me?"

"Tell you?" Vin looked confused, "You heard...?"

"I heard Mr. Larabee make what was for him no doubt a lengthy oration concerning you... and myself. I rather think that before I make a fool of myself and declare my undying devotion to you, I should very much like to hear what you have to say on the matter."

Vin grinned suddenly, "Ezra ya could talk a preacher ta death... and I love the sound of ever fancy word that comes outta your mouth." He looked down into the injured man's green eyes. "I ain't got your fancy words. All I can say is I love you... and I want a chance to make a life with you."

Ezra drew the hand he held to his lips and pressed a kiss to it. "Well, you heard Mr. Larabee's opinion of how I would most likely react and I must admit that my first instinct was to flee.... I do not have a good track record with relationships... and the thought, of you and I, scares me... mostly because I fear that I am not good enough for you and that you will someday come to realize that and desert me. I can not promise you that I won't get scared and run... but I also want a chance... to make a life with you."

"Oh, Ezra...." Vin bent down and placed a gentle, chaste kiss on Ezra's lips. Straightening again he looked down into the eyes of the man he loved. "I'll remember that you're scared and try not ta move too fast. Okay?"

"Okay." Ezra looked up at him with hope in his eyes. Maybe, just maybe, he had finally hit the jackpot.


Denver, Colorado - Thanksgiving Day 1999

Vin Tanner stood staring blindly at the smoldering ruins of the apartment house where he had lived until a fire the previous night had completely destroyed it. He couldn't believe that it was gone. Everything was gone.

While he was grateful that everyone had gotten out he was still in shock at the knowledge that everything he owned was gone... everything. He didn't care about the stereo or the CD's or about the motorcycle that had sat in his living room waiting for spring to be ridden again. He didn't care about the clothes or his computer... but he did care about 'the picture'.

He had had so little to remember his mother by... a single small picture in a worn frame... and that was gone now too. What would he have now to remember her by? Would he forget her face now that he no longer had the picture to remind him of what she'd looked like? He didn't know but he feared the worst.

Ezra watched his lover sinking into despair and felt the icy hand of it on his own heart. He wasn't prepared to deal with a devastated lover. He didn't know how.

He and Vin had been a couple since that night in the hospital just over a month before. This was their first crisis and it had to be something like this. Ezra knew that Vin wasn't upset about the loss of his material possessions but Ezra didn't know how to deal with the emotional loss that he understood Vin had suffered.

He wanted to take Vin in his arms, hold him, comfort him but he didn't think that Vin would let him. They were standing in the middle of a public street with dozens of people milling around. Vin was a very private person. He didn't like crowds and hardly ever allowed touching in public. Ezra moved as close as he dared and reached out to place a hand on Vin's back slowly rubbing the tense muscles there.

Vin barely felt the comforting hand that Ezra lay on his back, rubbing small circles, trying to give a comfort that he was uncertain how to give.

Chris stepped up on the other side of Vin and Ezra raised lost eyes to him. The question in them was plain. What do I do? How do I help him?

Chris moved in front of Vin, "Time to go, Tanner." He said it almost casually. Then laying a hand on Ezra's shoulder added, "Take him out to the ranch. I'll be along as soon as I can."

Ezra nodded, thankful for the direction... and fully aware that Chris meant the others would all be along in a bit. He wouldn't have to deal with this alone.

Chris walked to Ezra's Jag with them and opened the passenger side door for Vin while Ezra helped him in. He walked around the back of the car with Ezra as the undercover agent.

He put a hand on Ezra's arm to stop him, let him know that he needed to speak to him a moment. "You know that when that apartment burned he lost everything he had of his mother... but do you know what that means to him?"

Ezra shook his head. He couldn't begin to guess. Vin had loved his mother and she had loved him. The affection between them had been deep and strong. Even though she had died when Vin was only five, he had known that she loved him. While Ezra still had his mother they had never been close. He had never been certain that Maude loved him. He'd never once heard her say that she did. He had no frame of reference for what Vin and his mother shared. He didn't understand... couldn't understand and he was very much afraid that he would lose his new lover because of that.

Chris nodded, "I can't make you understand. I can't tell you what to say... I can only advise you to speak from your heart Ezra... and tell the truth. It's better to tell him that you don't understand than to pretend you do. Do you understand that?"

Ezra nodded. Trust your heart. Speak the truth. The exact opposite of everything that Maude had ever taught him. He was doomed.


Houston, Texas - The Day after Thanksgiving 1999

Joe LaFiamma and his partner Levon Lundy hadn't had any down time in almost two months. They had been working a serial killing and putting in sixteen to twenty-hour days. Still Joe had not forgotten about the trunk he'd bought or the plan to try and find Vin Tanner.

When their serial killer got himself shot by a seriously pissed off intended victim on Thanksgiving Day night, they were absolutely delighted. Joe couldn't help chuckling. The idiot had tried to kidnap and rape the only daughter of a former World Kickboxing Champion. Had the man actually thought that such a girl wouldn't know how to defend herself and be willing to do so? She'd broken the guy's arm, dislocated a knee then when the idiot kept on coming, grabbed a shotgun out of the gun cabinet and shot him.

It boggled the detectives minds that the fool hadn't had the sense to just give it up and run like hell after she busted his arm. Still they were glad to write 'closed' across the case fine and go home for a long night's sleep and the rest of the week off.

They slept most of Friday and Friday night. Over breakfast Saturday morning, Levon asked, "You wanna drive up to Dallas?"

Joe cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Thought we might go see CD Parker. Ex-ranger. Runs a real nice bar and grill. Fine cook. Knows ever Ranger that's worked Dallas-Fort Worth since he joined the unit there in the late fifties. If Tanner worked outta Dallas in the sixties and seventies, CD'll know him or know of him."

"Should I take anything from the trunk with us?"

"The birth certificate... maybe the diary. We can tell him about the rest."

"How about a couple of the pictures? There's one of Sue Anne with an older man and the boy. The note on the back says that the man's her dad."

"Yeah. We'll take that picture. If the name doesn't ring a bell right off, the picture might." Levon checked his watch. "It's a five hour drive... don't take all morning getting ready." The smile on his face took any sting out of the words.

Still it was close to three in the afternoon when they walked into CD's Bar and Grill in Ft. Worth. They didn't head straight for a table, just wandered around looking at the pictures of the Rangers and other memorabilia that graced the walls.

It was a sure way to get CD to come over and start talking. "Howdy, boys. Can I help you with anything?"

Levon turned away from the framed tintype of the first Ranger company and held out his hand, "Levon Lundy. Houston PD. This here's my pardner, Joe LaFiamma."

"Lundy? Any relation to Tyler Lundy?"

"Yes sir. He was my grandaddy." Levon said proudly.

"Well, whadya know. Ya'll come on over and have you a seat. That grandfather of yours was some kinda man, gotta tell you!" CD exclaimed.

"Thank you, Mr. Parker."

"Its CD, boys. What can I get you two ta drink?"

Levon ordered tea and Joe asked for bottled water. CD waved the bartender over and sent him after their drinks.

When they were settled CD handed around menus and Joe and Levon ordered. It was pretty clear that CD was delighted to meet Tyler Lundy's grandson and since the place wasn't real busy, the lunch crowd being gone and the dinner crowd not yet arriving, he remained seated at the table with them.

After their meal came and while they were eating, Joe broached the subject that had brought them to Ft. Worth. "Mister Parker," he began then with a shake of his head at CD's glare changed it to, "CD, Levon tells me that he's heard that you know every Ranger that has worked in Dallas-Ft. Worth in the last forty to forty-five years. Have you ever heard of a Ranger named Vincent Tanner?"

"Vin? Sure I knowed Vin. Been dead a lot of years. What's your interest in him?"

Joe looked over at Levon. "You explain it."

"We have something that we believe might belong to his grandson, who's also named Vincent Tanner." Lundy laid his fork aside and sat back, "Me and Joe, we go to estate sales. I like antiques... Joe; he likes locked boxes."

CD raised a brow at that.

Lundy chuckled, "Only way I know to explain it. If it's locked and ain't got no key, the boy wants it. He bought him a locked trunk a while back. When he got it opened he found out that it belonged to a Sue Anne Tanner, daughter of Vincent Tanner and mother of Vincent Tanner. From what we was able to make out from the contents, she died when the boy was about five. There was some things in the box that we think the boy might like to have... but we have no idea where to start looking for him. So we thought we'd see, if we could find someone that remembered the grandfather... start there and see if we could locate the boy. He'd be about thirty-two now. Reckon he ain't exactly a boy no more... still, we thought he might like to have the contents of the box."

CD sat back and studied Lundy for a long moment, "What aren't ya telling me?"

Joe took a deep breath then said, "Sue Anne knew she was dying. Starting about a month before she passed away, she started writing letters to her son, to be given to him when he was eighteen. Those letters were still in the box so we're assuming that he's never seen them." Joe paused trying to get his emotions under control. "I was sixteen when my mom died. I got to be with her... I knew her, talked to her... I've got sixteen years of memories of her. I can hear her voice in my head, remember things she's said. I know how she'd react to things, what she'd think about things and... it's still not enough. Sometimes I ache clear though with wishing I had known her better. This kid was five years old when he lost his mom. I feel very deeply that he would want those letters... want a chance to know the mother he probably barely remembers."

"You read them?" CD demanded.

Joe raised shocked eyes to him, "No! I couldn't.... they're... his... private... no... I could never."

It was the shocked look as well as Lundy's angry glare that made CD nod. "Good." He said shortly.

Then after a minute he said, "I heard that Vin died in Denver. He left Dallas, took his grandson and moved up there after Sue Anne died. His wife had passed just before her and he couldn't stand being this close to all the memories." He tapped his fingers on the table, "Maybe I can get you Vin's social security number. That'd help you. You could run it through the Social Security death records and find out where he was living when he died."

Levon nodded, "We've got to head back to Houston. I'll give you my number. You get the info, give me a call."

CD nodded, taking the paper Levon had written his phone number down on.

They stood up and Levon asked, "What do I owe you?" indicating the meal they'd eaten.

CD shook his head, "Nothing. It's on the house. Vin Tanner was a friend of mine. Ya'll are going to a good bit of trouble to find a stranger... give him something that could be mighty important to him. My pleasure to have ya'll as my guests."

Levon smiled and shook the older man's hand, "It's been an honor to meet you, CD. Maybe we'll get back this way."

"If ya'll find that boy, you tell him CD Parker, a friend of his granddaddy, helped ya'll out... and if ya can... let me know that he got that box."

"We will, CD. We will." Levon promised as they took their leave.


Denver, Colorado - Mid-December

Ezra Standish stood staring out the window of his condo apartment, swirling the liquor in his glass. He wasn't really drinking... yet. He could hear Vin in the spare room moving around... packing. He'd wait until Vin was gone to get plastered.

Two months. In Two months he'd managed to destroy the most wonderful thing in his life. Vin was leaving him.

Of course, that wasn't what Vin called it. Vin said he just needed some space. So, he was moving out from Ezra's apartment ... and in with Chris Larabee at his ranch.

Ezra had always envied the easy friendship between Vin and Chris. Until he came to Denver he had never had any real friends. He had resisted becoming friends with the men of Team 7 but they had drawn him in.

He'd never had a deep emotional relationship before Vin. He didn't know what to do, how to make it work and he had always felt that somehow he just wasn't good enough, not good enough for his mother... not good enough for Vin... not good enough for Team 7.

Perhaps it was better this way... better to let it end now, than to try to cling to Vin and maybe do something so unforgivable that Vin would hate him, rather than just not love him anymore.

He felt more than heard Vin come to stand behind him.

"It ain't what ya think, Ez." The Texan's soft drawl interrupted his thoughts. "I do still love you. I don't want us to end... but I just need some room..."

Ezra took a slow deep breath and schooled his features into a pleasant mask before turning to face his departing lover, "Of course, Mister Tanner," he unconsciously used the formal mode of address to distance himself from the pain of having to watch Vin leave him, "I quite understand. I will see you at work tomorrow." He lifted the glass in a small salute.

Vin stood there a long moment. He knew Ezra so well now. Had always been able to read him better than most. He knew perfectly well that the man didn't understand at all. Ezra thought that they were finished, that Vin didn't love him anymore, that this was the end of their relationship and Vin didn't know how to make him understand.

Perhaps it had never been meant to be. They were so different and yet in some ways so alike that the relationship had been filled with misunderstandings from the start.

Vin wasn't good with words, didn't know how to express his feelings clearly. Like Ezra, he had not had a lot of experience with relationships. When he had joined Team 7 three years before it had been the first time since his grandfather died that he had had anything resembling a family. The first time he'd been close to anyone. Ezra was his first attempt at a one on one emotional relationship. He was struggling with his need for independence and his need to be with Ezra. Right now he needed to have some autonomy. Staying with Chris would give him that.

Ezra, on the other hand, was very good with words. He used them as a shield to keep people at bay. He hid behind them, doing so very effectively. Like now. His face and voice gave away none of the anguish he felt.

Not knowing what else to do Vin nodded and said, "Yeah, See ya tomorrow," and picking up his small bag of clothes, he turned and left.

As soon as the door closed behind Vin, Ezra sank to the floor and let the tears he'd been holding in break free.


Houston, Texas - December 21, 1999

Levon Lundy trotted across the porch, hurriedly unlocked the door of the ranch house and dashed to answer the phone that had been ringing since he'd gotten out of the Jimmy.

Joe followed at a more leisurely pace, bringing in the groceries that they had stopped for on the way home.
By the time Joe came through the front door Levon was saying, "Thanks, CD. We'll get right on it. We'll call ya when we have something."

Joe raised an eyebrow at Levon in a silent question.

Lundy tore off the top page of the notepad beside the phone and held it up for Joe to see. "CD came through. We got Ranger Vin Tanner's social security number."

Joe's eyes lit up and he said, "Lemme drop these in the kitchen and I'll hit the computer."

"Huh-uh! *After* supper. I ain't letting the many-eyed monster get a hold on ya till we've had something ta eat."

Joe shook his head at Levon's pet name for his computer as he went on into the kitchen to put up the groceries and start supper.

Lundy trailed behind him and helped stow the groceries. When everything was in its place he dropped down at the table to watch Joe prepare their meal and chat with his partner. He dearly loved to watch Joe cook. He made it look so easy. The boy could put a meal on the table in half an hour that tasted better than what most folks spent all day cooking. Joe generally kept it simple. Vegetables and rice were steamed not boiled. Meats were generally broiled or grilled. Flavor came from marinades and sauces.

They'd had steaks, baked potatoes and a garden salad the night before and Joe had cooked two extra potatoes so they'd have them for tonight. He plugged in the steamer and got out the potatoes. Reheating them in the steamer would keep them from drying out and they'd be ready when the rest of the supper was.

He turned the oven on broil to preheat, then took out the two boneless, skinless, chicken breasts that he had put in to marinade the night before. Sitting them aside he took out a large bunch of broccoli and cut the stems off leaving the heads and washed them.

He checked the clock and leaving the broccoli heads in the colander to drain, placed the chicken breasts on his non-stick, broiling pan and popped them into the oven. Going back to the broccoli he took the top off the steamer and dropped the broccoli heads around the potatoes to steam.

He gave the chicken breasts five minutes under the broiler then took them out, turned them over and put them back. As soon as they were back in the stove he stepped over to the steamer. Once more taking the lid off, he used a long fork to lift out the two now steaming potatoes. He stirred the broccoli around and put the lid back on.

He dropped the two potatoes on a plate and sliced them lengthwise into halves then quarters. Moving to the refrigerator he took out a bottle of his homemade Italian salad dressing. He took down a small bowl and poured some out in it. Taking a basting brush out of a drawer he spread the dressing over the potato wedges.

He got down two plates and sat them on top of the stove.

Levon grinned and, without being asked, got up to finish setting the table, laying out the knifes, forks and spoons and getting their drinks, a beer for Levon and a bottle of water for Joe.

Meanwhile Joe took the chicken breasts out of the oven. He transferred the potato wedges to a second, clean, broiling pan and popped them under the broiler. While he let the potato wedges broil he moved the chicken breasts to the plates, one on each. Dropping the broiler pan in the sink, he used the sprayer to quickly rinse it while it was still hot.

He moved down the counter a step and opened the breadbox. He got out two slices of thick cut bread and popped them in the toaster on his way back to the steamer.

He then turned off the steamer and divided the broccoli heads between the two plates. He stepped back to the stove, checked the potato wedges, decided they were browned enough and divided them between the plates.

He dropped that broiler pan in the sink and sprayed it. He grabbed the bread as it popped up out of the toaster and dropped one slice on each plate. Then he picked up the plates and carried them to the table, placing one in front of Levon and one at the other place Levon had set for him.

Lundy glanced at the clock and grinned. Twenty-five minutes. Joe had done it again, put a delicious and nutritious meal on the table in under half an hour. Not only that but it would take almost no time to clean up the kitchen. They would almost certainly spend longer sitting at the table, talking and eating than it had taken Joe to prepare the meal. Of course, Levon hadn't counted the time that the meat had been marinating but then again it hadn't taken Joe but a few minutes the night before to prepare the marinade.

As was their custom they talked quietly as they ate the simple meal. Over the years they had come to value this quiet time together to wind down after the workday. It was a comfortable and comforting routine that helped to keep them grounded. No matter how stressful the day, no matter how much they might argue at work and they did still argue at work, they could look forward to this quiet time together in the kitchen to reestablish their connection. No matter how late they got in, they always spent at least a few minutes in the kitchen, even if they had long since eaten supper. They would sit at the table, sipping coffee or beer and talking quietly for at least a few minutes before they headed to bed.

After supper Joe made quick work of washing the few dishes, leaving them to air dry in the drainer.

Levon watched with a slightly amused look on his face. They had a dishwasher but the only times it was used was when they were being run ragged by a case or Joe went to out of town for some reason and Levon stayed behind.

Levon was not the cook that Joe was. In fact when they had first gotten together, Joe had been stunned at how many dishes Levon could dirty up just cooking breakfast. He swore that Lundy had once used two fry pans to cook one egg.

As Joe wiped down the last counter top and stood looking around the kitchen making sure everything had been put to rights, Levon stood up from the table where he had been sipping his second beer and drained it. "I'm gonna go check on the horses, make sure the kid did ever thing he was supposed to."

Joe nodded. "I'll probably still be on the computer when you get back in."

Lundy just grinned at that. Joe'd probably still be on the computer when Lundy was ready for bed.

They had a neighbor's teenager coming by to tend the horses after school everyday but Levon still checked them every night, mostly just because he enjoyed it. They had four mares now besides Fooler and two geldings. Fooler was nineteen this year and Levon had stopped breeding her at sixteen but he'd keep her as long as she lived. He figured she'd more than earned the right to a carefree old age. He'd gotten eight good foals out of her. He could have gotten more but hadn't wanted to keep her bred all the time. The foals she had given him had paid for his place and for the other three mares. The fourth mare was one of Fooler's foals. He'd had to keep one. He just couldn't let all of Fooler's get be sold. He wanted something of her left, when she was finally gone.

The four younger mares were all bred now and should produce four nice foals come spring. Lundy had done well with his breeding although the ranch wasn't as large as he'd have liked it to be. He and Joe were financially secure. Whenever they decided that they'd had enough of police work, they wouldn't have to worry about how they'd get by.

As Levon headed out the back door to the barn and the horses, Joe went down the hall past what had once been the back bedroom and through the door to the new section of the house.

They'd added onto the house the same year that they had bought the first of the four young mares. Doing so had almost doubled the living space in the house.

Technically there were only two rooms and a bath, but the single large room on the right was divided in two by the bathroom although there was no doorway on either room.

You entered through the door at the end of the hall and to your right was an open area divided by the enclosed bathroom which extended eight feet from the back wall. The first area held Joe's weight lifting equipment; a weight bench, a rack for his free weights and a Bowflex machine. Next was the bathroom with a shower, commode and sink, neat and compact. Beyond that in the other area, was Joe's boxing and kickboxing equipment. The entire area was surrounded by high windows, which provided excellent light while permitting Joe his privacy. A door on the far wall opposite to, but not quite in line with, the door from the hall was a door leading out to the deck with its hot tub. There was a diving board on one side of the deck so that Joe could dive from the deck to the pool just beyond and below it. The deck and pool had been added the year after the new section of the house.

To the left, opposite the weight room and exercise room, a long wall closed off Joe's combination office, library and computer room. Skylights provided light in this area. There were no windows in the walls because every single one of the walls was covered from floor to ceiling with bookcases. The bookcases were filled with books of all shapes and sizes pertaining to a wide variety of matters. One corner held a built-in computer desk and Joe's computer and its peripherals had spread well past what was officially the computer desk area.

Joe knew why Lundy referred to his computer as the many-eyed monster. There were three lights on the front of the computer case itself, green, yellow and red. There was a little light on the monitor, which would normally be green. It was yellow at the moment indicating that although the monitor was on, it had gone into power saving mode and the screen appeared blank because even the screen saver had shut down to conserve energy.

Levon had laughed out loud the first time that Joe had pointed out the energy saving feature.

The battery back up had a green light on it, indicating that it was working and the CPU and monitor were safe from brown outs and for a limited time from a black out. The surge protector that the printer and scanner were plugged into had a two little lights on it. The red one indicated that the power was on to it. The green one indicated that the items plugged into it were protected from electrical surges.

The scanner had a little green light on it that indicated it was ready. The printer had several little green lights on it that indicated the same. The powered speakers (with subwoofer) had a red light on them to indicate that they were on. The digital camera on top of the monitor also had a little light on it to indicate that it was ready to go.

The VCR that sat on a shelf over the computer and was attached to the computer was plugged into a second battery backup, more little lights. The second VCR and the TV it was connected to sat on shelf to the left of the computer desk proper and contributed its array of little lights. Add in the stereo, CD player, DVD player and the powered speakers attached to each and when you first stepped into the room in the dark it definitely looked as if there was a small army of little green, yellow and red eyes distributed through the room. That accounted for the many-eyed part of the nickname.

As for the monster part, well the thing just kept growing. In the beginning there had only been the CPU and the monitor. Then came the speakers... then the printer... then the scanner. Next came the VCR attached to the computer... and a digital drawing pad... then the infrared mouse... and a wireless keyboard... then the camera had made its appearance perched on top of the monitor.

Levon didn't even raise an eyebrow any more. He accepted the third phone line without a word. They had had a second line put in when Joe had first moved in as part of the effort to make it appear that they were just roommates at the time. When Joe decided DSL was more his style, Levon just shrugged and suggested that they keep the extra phone line since it was already in. They'd just make it a business line for the horse breeding they were doing.

Joe dropped down into his computer desk chair and sighed at the comfortable fit. It damned well ought to be comfortable. Levon had had it custom made for Joe. It had cost twenty-five hundred dollars. Joe had been shocked when Levon gave it to him for his birthday a couple of years before.

Lundy had just shrugged. Then he'd said that since he couldn't force Joe not to spend so much time with the many-eyed monster at least he could make sure that when Joe did decide to leave it and come back to him, he wouldn't be so stiff and achy that they couldn't enjoy themselves.

The wink that Levon had given Joe had reassured him that Levon wasn't really jealous of the time Joe spent with the computer any more than Joe was jealous of the time that Levon spent with his horses.

Joe had reciprocated by buying Levon a silver mounted show saddle for his next birthday. The saddle was as welcome and appreciated as the chair had been. By buying each other gifts that related to the things that they didn't share an interest in, they had each said to the other; I don't mind that you have a hobby/interest that doesn't include me. I understand that you need your time with your interests and I don't expect you to give it up because you are with me. Then they had both made certain that they always had time *with* each other and *for* each other.

Joe dialed into Reisner and logged onto the station computer system. He entered the social security database using his police ID and soon had the last address to which the social security had sent Vincent A. Tanner a check. It was in Denver.

He logged onto the IRS database and pulled up the tax returns for Vincent A. Tanner.

A few minutes later he was looking at the information on the tax form.


The old man had claimed his grandson as a dependent for the last four years of his life. There on the return was the social security number of Vincent M. Tanner.

It wouldn't take him long now. He asked the IRS database for the current income tax file for the social security number that he had found. It took a few minutes then he was looking at it. Vincent M. Tanner, a Denver address... employed by The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

He now knew where Vin Tanner was. It had taken him less than an hour to find the man's current address once he'd entered Vin's grandfather's social security number into the computer.

He sat back and thought a few minutes. Maybe he shouldn't do it but... he'd like to know more about the man before the headed up to Denver to hand over the box. He felt... protective of the box somehow. Legally the box belonged to him and while it was true that he felt that Tanner would want it and had no intention of reading the letters that the younger man's mother had written to her son still...

Lundy would say he was invading the boy's privacy... none the less....

He leaned forward and began to type. Two hours later he leaned back in the chair and stretched. He had a fairly clear picture of the young man. He grinned at the unintentional pun. In fact he had several pictures of the man... printed out on his printer. But the best one was the word picture that told him the man's life history.

Joe had already known where and when he was born and how old he was when his mother died as well as how old he had been when his grandfather passed. He now knew that Vin Tanner had spent just four years in the foster home system, running away at thirteen. He'd spent some time living on a reservation with some Comanches who had taken him in. He'd finished high school although he hadn't done really well in the subjects that required a lot of writing. He'd joined the Army and become a Ranger. His specially was sharpshooting. He had mustered out and become a bounty hunter making quite a name for himself. Three years before Chris Larabee of Team 7 of the Denver ATF had recruited him.

Curious as to why Larabee would recruit Tanner, Joe had began to dig into Larabee's back ground. One thing led to another. By the time he was through he had a fairly accurate picture of Team 7.

Chris Larabee the team leader was in his early forties, between Joe and Levon's ages. Ex-Navy SEAL. Blonde hair, green eyes. Tall and slim. A widower who had lost his wife and child to a fire. According to his record with the ATF a real hard ass. Tough smart and demanding but loyal to his men.

Josiah Sanchez... team profiler. He had a degree in anthropology as well as psychology. Son of a missionary, he'd lived all over the world and spoke a dozen languages. In his early fifties. Blonde hair going gray. Blue eyes. A huge man, much bigger than Joe. Probably six foot six. Close to three hundred pounds. A gentle giant unless seriously provoked. He tended to get provoked when any other member of Team 7 was threatened.

Nathan Jackson. Another older man. Late forties. A Negro. Had been a medic in Vietnam. Tall, well built. A runner. Did endurance marathons. Quiet but again very loyal to Team 7.

William "Buck" Wilmington. A long time friend of Larabee's they'd been in the SEALs together. A good shot. A good cop. Appeared to fancy himself with the ladies. Not quite as old as Larabee. Probably Joe's age or a bit younger. Dark hair. Blue eyes. He was smiling even in his driver's license photo.

Jonathan Daniel "JD" Dunne. The youngest of the group. Black hair. Hazel eyes. Mid-twenties. Recruited straight out of college. A computer wizard. Joe grinned at the thought that JD would probably love his many-eyed monster.

Then there was Ezra Standish. Older than Tanner. Younger than Wilmington. Mid thirties. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His mother made marriage a serial occupation. Each husband richer than the last. He'd gone to school in Europe. A cop in New Orleans. Then in Atlanta. Then the FBI in Atlanta. Then ATF in Denver. He'd left the first three jobs under a cloud. He was damned good at undercover work... maybe too good. It appeared that he might have been dirty... but Larabee had deliberately recruited him and Larabee wasn't a man that made mistakes. He'd been with Team 7 almost three years... longer than he'd been anywhere else. Maybe the man had found a home. A reason to stay... to give his all.

And finally there was Tanner. Thirty-two, medium brown hair. Worn longer than the regs allowed and wavy. A sharpshooter and a former bounty hunter. Ex-Army Ranger.

Seven tough smart men... the Magnificent Seven... as the Denver papers had dubbed them.

He was still sitting lost in thought when Levon strolled over and leaned against the bookcase nearest him.

"Ya find the boy?" The Texan drawled.

Joe looked up at him and smiled. "Yeah... and a lot more." The smile turned lustful as he regarded Levon's attire. Levon had on his flannel nightshirt. Joe knew from long experience that there was nothing under it.

"You wear that in here to tempt me away from your rival?" He teased as he rolled the smooth moving chair close enough that he could reach out and run a hand up Levon's leg. His hand slipped through the slit that went up to just above the knee and glided up the outside of Levon's thigh. He swiveled the chair so that Levon was between his legs and slid the other hand up under the other side of the nightshirt.

He grinned wickedly at his lover as his hand slid past the narrow hips and reached around to close on the cowboy's taut ass cheeks. He moaned softly and pulled his lover towards him as he pushed the nightshirt up to Levon's waist and turned his lover sideways to sit him on Joe's left knee. His left hand circled Levon's narrow waist holding the cowboy on his lap as his right hand sought for and found the already erect cock between Levon's legs.

"Oh, God! Joey!" Levon moaned as he turned into Joe's embrace, wrapping his arms around Joe's neck and burying his head against Joe's.

Joe leaned back in the chair making it slid into a reclining position as it balanced their weight. He chuckled as Levon stiffened. "This chair won't turn over, Cowboy. It's counterbalanced... remember?"

He paused to caress his lover a moment then said, "Never took you in this chair. Been thinking about it though. Ever since that time you pulled me up in front of you on that silver-mounted show saddle I bought you and rode me while you took me for a ride on Fooler."

Levon chuckled at the memory. "Was damned glad you went commando that day. Figured you was gonna kill me for ruining a pair of your pants cutting the back seam open to get to you without me having ta ruin a pair of your silk boxers, too."

"It was worth it." Joe answered as he nuzzled Levon's neck and shifted again so that he could open his pants and pull his rampant cock out. He shifted Levon back on to his lap and reached around to slide a hand between the firm ass cheeks. He pressed a finger against Levon's anus and was pleasantly surprised when it slid in easily. "Damn! You are hot for me, baby! You lubed yourself before you came in here."

"Yeah! Oh, yeah! I want ya, Joe. Want ya in me! Now!"

Joe twisted his head enough to capture his cowboy's lips in a hard kiss then breaking it ordered, "Straddle me!"

Levon eagerly complied, wallowing around on Joe's chest and stomach completely confident in Joe's ability to keep him from falling off and the chair from falling over. He got one knee between Joe's thigh and the chair arm then quickly got the other one between the other chair arm and Joe's other thigh.

Joe reached between them and aligned his cock with Levon's hole.

Levon sat down on it with a long, loud groan of pleasure.

Joe groaned aloud too. "God! You are so tight, Levon!"

He arched up as Levon pressed down.

The chair wobbled.

"Easy," Joe said huskily. "Be still a minute." He reached down and unfolded one of Levon's legs so that it hung over the arm of the chair and Levon slid farther down on his cock. "Shift the other way, Let me get that leg out."

Levon nodded and shifted, moaning at the pleasure of Joe's cock moving in him as he changed positions. He panted as Joe's cock slid all the way up into him as his other leg dropped over the chair arm on that side.

Joe sat up slightly and the chair slid smoothly forward changing the angle of Joe's cock inside Levon. Joe grinned wickedly at the wide-eyed look on his lover's face.

"Give me your hands."

Levon obeyed.

"Now lean back."

The chair tilted even farther forward, and Joe's cock changed angles inside Levon again.

"Oh, my God!" Levon cried out at the sensations that the movement caused.

Joe tugged on Levon's hands pulling him towards him, causing their weight to shift again and the chair to slide back into a reclining position. He pushed Levon's hands away and the cowboy instinctively leaned back again.

As their weight shifted again the chair slid forward into an upright position.

Levon clamped his knees around the chair arms and wailed his pleasure as the chair moved with them and Joe's cock slid inside him as a result.

"Ride it, Levon! Come on baby! Make it good for both of us!"

With Joe's voice encouraging him Levon began to ride in earnest. He leaned forward and let the moving chair glide back into the reclining position then threw himself backwards and brought it upright again. His eyes were almost rolling back in his head with pleasure as he rocked back and forth his motion amplified by the movement of the chair beneath them.

It didn't take long before he was shrieking as he climaxed and Joe was right behind him.

As he collapsed on Joe's chest the chair slid to the full reclining position. He pulled his legs back inside the chair arms and they lay still in the chair for a long moment.

Then Joe chuckled softly. "You reckon the guy that designed this thing had this in mind?"

Levon gave an answering chuckle. "Don't know. I sure never thought of it, till ya sat me on your lap and got us started." He paused a long moment then added, "But now that we know how to work it... maybe I could give you a thrill in it sometime."

Joe grinned and bent his head to place a kiss on the top of Levon's head, "One condition. I get to take you for a ride on Fooler with that fancy saddle and ruin a pair of your good jeans!"

Levon smiled as he snuggled down on Joe's chest, "Deal," he mumbled sleepily. A moment later he let out a soft snore.

Joe chuckled and whispered, "Guess I'll tell you what I found out in morning." He wrapped his arms around his lover and slowly shifted forward until the chair was upright then he shifted Levon so that he could lift him in his arms, one arms circling his shoulders and the other under his knees. Then he shifted their weight so that the chair gently deposited him on his feet. As he carried Levon back through the house to their bedroom he decided that the chair was actually worth the money Levon had paid for it... and he was definitely gonna find out how it felt to be in the other position in it.


Denver, Colorado - December 22, 1999

Chris Larabee stalked across the warehouse, ignoring the other cops, the EMTs, the prisoners, both unharmed and wounded and stormed up to his undercover agent. "What the hell did you think you were doing Standish? Trying to get yourself killed?" He bellowed.

Ezra looked at him with dead eyes and said quietly, simply. "I did my job." Then he turned and walked away.

Larabee stared after him. Technically Ezra *had* been doing his job when he stepped out from behind cover and took down the leader of the gunrunners. However he had just stood there with bullets flying around him for far longer than was necessary to take the man down.

Ezra didn't care if he got killed. He'd been going steadily down hill ever since Vin had moved out to the ranch. [Vin.] Thank God, *he* hadn't seen what Ezra had done. He was upset enough that Ezra was taking his need for some space as the death knell for their relationship. If he knew that Ezra was so despondent that he no longer wanted to live, it would drive Vin over the edge.

Josiah came to a stop beside Larabee. "Someone is going to have to get through to that man... or he is going to destroy himself and Vin."

Larabee sighed. "I don't think it's going to be me. He seems to think that I am somehow responsible for Vin moving out."

"Perhaps because he moved in with you." Nathan pointed out gently.

"Vin asked if he could stay in the apartment in the barn for a while. What was I supposed to do? Say no? He's my best friend."

"Maybe that's what Ezra don't understand. I bet he ain't ever had a best friend." Buck's voice came from behind Chris. It was soft and maybe a bit sad. He had been Chris' best friend for a long time before Vin had come along.

When Vin and Chris had met it had been like they had known each other forever. Vin had become Chris' new best friend and Buck had had to adjust to that.

"Maybe you should talk to him." Chris suggested, turning to face Buck.

Buck shook his head, "Already tried." He turned away and spotted JD standing nearby watching them. "Come on, Kid. We got reports to write."

JD sighed, "At least nobody was hurt this time." Meaning none of them. Several of the gunrunners were on their way to the hospital and the leader was on his way to the morgue.

"Buck! JD!" Chris' voice stopped them. "You can do the reports tomorrow. Call it a night."

The two agents exchanged looks. Larabee usually wanted reports ASAP after the event.

"I want everybody in the office tomorrow. We've got to do something about Ezra."

JD and Buck nodded, as did Nathan and Josiah. Ezra would go back to headquarters now, finish his reports tonight and be noon or after coming in the next day. They could talk and plan how to help him and Vin at the office tomorrow without either of them knowing, since Vin had taken two days, today and tomorrow, off to volunteer at one of the local orphanages.


Denver, Colorado - December 23, 1999

Ezra Standish had finally dragged himself out of his bed and into the office just after lunch. He stopped in the hallway and looked around. The door to Larabee's office was closed. The other agent's desks were empty. No one was there... and no one had told him not to bother coming in.

He trudged slowly down the aisle to his desk. There was a paper lying in the middle of it. Colorful ribbons and Christmas decorations made a border around the message.


We're calling it a day at lunch.
Everyone is going to the ranch
for the weekend. See you there.


The ranch. The annual Christmas Eve bash followed by the annual Christmas Day bash. Drinking... merriment... gifts....

[Gifts.] He hadn't bought anybody anything... not even Vin. He couldn't go. He didn't even stop to think that he still had a day and a half to get presents before Christmas morning. It didn't seem to matter. Nothing mattered since Vin had left.

He took off his coat and sat down at his computer. He spent the rest of the day checking and re-checking the report he had written the day before. His mind, running in circles like a hamster in a cage, couldn't seem to fix on anything.

At five o'clock he turned off his computer, put on his coat and drove home... on autopilot. When he arrived at the apartment he had absolutely no memory of how he got there.

He made his way up to the apartment in a haze of indifference and depression. Dropping his coat on the floor of the entrance hall he walked on into the living room. He didn't bother with the lights, after almost three years in the apartment he knew his way. It wasn't like there was a lot of furniture, anyhow.

He moved to the liquor cabinet and took out a bottle. He didn't make any effort to look at the label. The only thing that mattered was the alcohol content in any event. He wasn't concerned with taste now. He just wanted something to numb the pain of being alone... again.

He sat down on the couch and opened the bottle. Lifting it to his lips, he drank. No glass tonight. That was much too slow. He wanted to be numb... now... right now. The liquor burned its way down his throat and he almost sobbed as he realized what it was.

Tequila. Vin's bottle. He'd never had Tequila in his liquor cabinet until Vin had moved in. [Moved in... moved out...] Tears welled in his eyes. He swiped at them... took another long swig from the bottle. [Vin. Oh, God Vin!] A sob escaped him.

He leaned back against the back of the couch and took another long pull at the bottle. He sprawled there, the bottle now sitting beside him on the couch one hand wrapped desperately around its neck. Silent tears ran down his face. He made no effort to wipe them away.

As the bottle quickly emptied he began to list to one side. By the time it fell from nerveless fingers and rolled across the floor he was lying sideways on the couch, his feet still on the floor.

Sometime during the night he rolled off the couch, landing bonelessly in a sprawl on the rug in front of it.


Christmas Eve Morning

Ezra blinked awake. Then squeezed his eyes shut, the light streaming in through the window was dull and gray but it was blinding to him. He could hear the alarm clock buzzing... irritatingly loud. He swiped at it and his hand hit the front of the couch.

That wasn't right.

He fumbled out with the hand and felt of the couch... then the floor. Shit. He'd passed out on the fucking floor. Which meant that as loud as it seemed the irritating clock was down the hall in his bedroom.

For a long moment he wondered if he could just ignore it... [No, definitely not.]

Larabee had bought it for him, It was one of those annoying things that got louder and louder the longer it remained on and it wouldn't stop until you switched it off. Ezra generally switched it off by throwing it at the wall.

Slowly, prying one eye open, he rolled onto his stomach and pushed up on to his knees. He swayed dangerously and almost fell over on his side. When he had regained his balance he decided that standing up at this juncture was too much to manage. He started crawling towards the bedroom... and the extremely annoying clock.

When he finally reached the bedroom he crawled to the clock, wincing. It was worse up close. A swat of his hand brought blessed silence.

He sank to his stomach on the floor and lay there trying to think. Why had the alarm clock been on? The only reason that he could think of was that he had to be at work. It never occurred to him that it was Christmas Eve and that he did not have to go in.

After resting on the floor for a bit he crawled to the bathroom.

He raised his head and surveyed the large, tiled room. Maybe here he could stand up. He reached up with one hand to the edge of the sink cabinet. Slowly the other hand joined it. Then he pulled one foot up to rest flat on the floor.

He tried to rise... and couldn't pull himself up. With a groan he sank back and thought. After a minute he reached over and dropped the seat and lid down on the commode, wincing at the noise. He shifted one hand to rest flat on the commode lid and tried again to rise. That was better. He made it to a shaky stand, leaning heavily on the sink cabinet while the room spun around him.

He raised bloodshot eyes to the mirror. He looked like hell.... Make that; hell warmed over. His stomach heaved then settled. There really wasn't anything in it to come up. He couldn't even remember when he'd had anything solid to eat.

[Liquid diet....] He thought with a silent laugh. [No... liquor diet.] He corrected irreverently.

When things settled down a bit he pawed open the medicine cabinet and finally got hold of a bottle of aspirin... only dropping it three times before he managed to pry the lid off and dump out a handful. He stared at them. How many should he take? Two? Not a chance in hell that'd help him any. Four? Maybe. Six? That was more like it.

He blinked at the handful of aspirin. How many were there? His vision blurred. Hell! He couldn't tell. Fuck it! He just take them all.

He raised the hand to his mouth and shoved them in. Several missed and scattered across the floor. He wasn't chasing them. He grabbed for the glass on the sink rim and filling it with water, washed the pills down.

He pirouetted and sank down to sit on the commode, the room spinning crazily. [Note to self. Don't turn around.]

As the room slowed he began to fumble with the buttons on his shirt. It took him a while but finally he had the shirt off and his pants undone. Carefully he stood up and let them fall. Holding to the towel bar with one hand and the sink cabinet with the other he shuffled towards the shower.

Groaning at the noise as he slid the shower door open he slowly climbed in and turned on the water adjusting it to hot.

Half an hour later, he dragged himself out of the shower, beginning to feel a bit better. He dressed slowly but carefully then looked for his coat.

He found it in the entrance hall where he had dropped it the night before. He picked it up and shook it out, the movement making sharp pains shoot through his aching head. He pulled it on and shuffled out the door.

The clock on the living room wall had ten o'clock.


Denver Airport - Christmas Eve morning - eight-fifty A M

Joe LaFiamma pushed his way through the crowd with Lundy following in his wake. He rolled a carry-on sized, wheeled flight case in front of him. Concealed inside was the small trunk he'd bought three months before. Lundy wore a backpack, also sized for carry on, with a couple of day's worth of clothes for both of them and both their toiletries cases.

They were traveling light since they didn't plan on being in Denver long at most and had wanted to avoid the crowds at the baggage claims area.

Joe plowed through the crowd and laid claim to a cab waiting in line out in front of the terminal. They weren't going to waste time with getting a rental car and hunting the address they needed either.

Levon piled in behind him, dropping the backpack to the floorboards.

Joe gave the taxi driver the address they had for Tanner.

The man glanced back over his shoulder, "That's in Purgatorio... Mighty rough section of town, gentlemen."

"Just take us there." Joe said quietly.

The taxi driver turned back and studied them in the mirror as he worked his way into traffic. Neither man seemed in the least bit worried by his comment. Maybe they were tougher than they looked.

Forty-five minutes later the taxi stopped in front of the burned out ruins of what had been the apartment house where Tanner had lived.

Joe looked around, "Where?" he demanded of the driver.

The driver turned in his seat to get their reaction as he pointed to the ruin.

"Shit!" Joe snarled.

Levon cocked an eyebrow at him. This was an unexpected turn of events. "What now?" He asked quietly.

Joe stared at the burned out building a moment longer then turned back to the driver, "Federal building," he said firmly and sat back in the seat.

"Christmas Eve." Levon said mildly, "Ya think anybody's gonna be there?"

"They're cops... even if they *are* Feds. Somebody has to work Christmas Eve *and* Christmas Day."

Levon nodded. True... he reckoned.

Another hour later the cab stopped in front of the Federal Building. Joe turned back to Levon, "Stay here. I'll find out if anybody on Team 7 is in."

Levon nodded as Joe climbed out and trotted up the steps. Through the glass front of the building he could see Joe talking to a security guard in the lobby. A moment later Joe stepped back to the door and signaled Levon to come on.

Lundy paid the driver and got out, slinging the backpack onto his back and picking up Joe's flight case.

Once inside, Joe grabbed the flight case and dropping the handle out wheeled it to the elevator. "Guard says that Standish came in a bit ago."

As the elevator doors slide shout behind them he added, "Said the man looked like shit. Musta had a rough night."

He punched the button for the seventh floor and they rode up in silence. Butterflies fluttered in Joe's stomach. They were so close now. He could smell it.

The elevator dinged as they reached the seventh floor and the doors opened. Straight across the hall in front of them were the ATF offices. Most looked empty.

A light behind one door drew their attention. They moved towards it. The lettering on the door said ATF Team 7. Joe gave a nod and pushed the door open. Stepping inside they could see a single light on over a desk in the far corner and a lone man sitting at it.

As they neared it they could see that he was holding a gun, turning it over in his hands nervously. If this was Standish, he looked a lot worse than shit. He looked like a man at the end of his endurance... like a man giving serious thought to ending it all.

"That ain't no great idea." Levon drawled softly from behind him.

Ezra jerked around at the sound of a voice so much like Vin's... words so much like ones that Vin would say. The gun slipped from clumsy fingers and clattered to the desktop.

While the man was distracted by Lundy, Joe swept the gun up, broke it open and removed the bullets.

"What would you know about it?" The man's voice was bitter.

"Been there... almost done that." Lundy looked over at his partner.

"You Standish?" Joe asked. When Standish looked back at him he dropped the gun back on the desk, opened his hand to let the man see the bullets and then dropped them in his pocket.

"Yes." The man's eyes were locked on Joe's pocket as if he see through the material to the bullets there.

Joe brought his hand back out of the pocket and flipped open his badge. "I'm Joe LaFiamma. This is my partner, Levon Lundy. We're looking for a Vincent Tanner."

Fear clutched at Ezra's heart. What could these men want with Vin? The badges said Houston Police. Was Vin in some kind of trouble in Texas?

Lundy saw the fear flash in the haunted eyes. His voice was gentle, "We have something we think belongs to him... it was his mother's."

Ezra stared at them, unable to think. These men had something of Vin's mother's? "How...? What...?"

The one called Lundy gave the tall dark-haired man a look and a slight nod. Some part of Ezra's mind noted that these two talked to each other without words even better than Chris and Vin did.

The dark-haired one picked up his flight case and laid it on the desk in front of Ezra, pushing the gun out of the way. He unzipped it, and folded the top back. He unsnapped the straps that held a small trunk inside the case and lifted the trunk's lid.

Ezra found himself staring at a birth certificate, held in the top of the trunk under an elastic strap. He blinked.

[Vincent Michael Tanner.] The name leaped out at him. He squished up his eyes and then reopened them to look again. It was still there. Vincent Michael Tanner. [Vin's birth certificate.]

He looked up at the two men owlishly for a long moment then turned back to the box. Shaky hands picked up a small bundle of pictures. He sorted through them in surreal silence. Pictures of Vin's mother... with Vin... with Vin's grandfather... with a young man that looked a lot like Vin. [Oh, God! Could that be a picture of Vin's father?]

He dropped the pictures back in the box and leaned his head on it, his shoulders beginning to shake. He began to sob uncontrollably.

Levon threw a questioning look at Joe and dropped down to squat beside the weeping man. He reached out to lay a hand on the man's back rubbing slow circles as he said softly, "Easy boy, easy." In the same quiet voice that he used to soothe a frightened horse.

Joe had moved to Ezra's other side.

Gentle fingers combed through Ezra's hair. He could hear the dark-haired man's voice soft and soothing, "Shhhh, shhhh. It's gonna be all right. Everything is gonna be all right."

The cowboy was still squatted down beside him, his hand rubbing gentle circles on Ezra's aback as his soothing voice continued to murmur wordless comfort.

After a bit Ezra raised his head and wiped at his face, looking up at the tall man. [LaFiamma.] His mind finally began to work enough to supply the name.

The man bent close and smiled, encouragingly, the hand still gently stroking Ezra's hair. "So," he asked, "do you think that Mister Tanner is gonna want to see this."

Ezra almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the question but nodded instead. "Yes," he managed to croak. "Mister Tanner will most definitely want to see this." His voice faltered. "He... his apartment... burned...."

"We saw the place." Lundy said, standing up. Then as Ezra swiveled his head to look up at him he smiled. "Went there first."

"Think you can tell us where we might find Mister Tanner?"

Ezra looked back at LaFiamma nodding, "I'll... I'll take you." He rose shakily to his feet and did not protest as LaFiamma reached a hand to steady him.

Lundy closed the trunk, resecured it, and closed up the flight case. Sitting it on the floor he nodded to his partner.

LaFiamma turned to Standish, moving a hand to indicate the computer on the desk. "You need to log off." It was more a reminder to the distraught man than a question.

Ezra nodded. He had completely forgotten the computer, forgotten everything except getting to Vin with the trunk and its contents. He bent back over the desk and logged off. LaFiamma's hand was still on his back, steadying him.

He straightened and moved towards the door. LaFiamma beside him, the hand resting lightly on his back, guiding him gently, seemingly giving him much needed strength. He didn't protest. Didn't stop to analyze the strange feeling. He felt safe with these two men, protected somehow.

At the door LaFiamma pause, "Lights?" His hand hovered near the switch.

"Off." Ezra muttered and the hand descended turning the overhead lights off. Ezra glanced back at his desk. He didn't recall turning off his lamp but it was off.

Lundy followed them out and turned to make sure the door was locked, giving the knob a shake then nodding to LaFiamma who stood a couple of feet away with Standish.

LaFiamma nodded back and turned to guide Ezra to the elevator. When they were all in he asked quietly, "What floor?"


LaFiamma pushed the button and they began to descend.

In the garage Ezra led the way to the Jag and opened the passenger side door.

Lundy put the bags behind the seat and raised a brow at Joe.

LaFiamma reached for the keys, "Maybe I should drive...."

Lundy commented behind them, "Been a while since you drove on snow."

"I've still got more experience with it than you do... and he's in no shape to drive. It's a miracle he got here alive."

Lundy nodded and turned to Standish. "Let him have the keys. You can give directions. Don't worry about the car," a wicked grin suddenly crossed the cowboy's face, "he only wrecks'em in high pursuit chases."

Ezra let himself be squeezed into the front seat between Lundy and LaFiamma and directed them out into traffic. After a few minutes he began to relax.

LaFiamma had seemed a bit uncertain to begin with, but he'd quickly gotten the feel of the road and it soon became apparent that he really could drive in snow and was a very competent driver.

Still it took them a good hour and a half to reach Larabee's ranch.


Joe parked in Larabee's yard near a row of other vehicles that he assumed belonged to friends or family of Team 7's leader.

As Joe and Levon opened the doors to get out Ezra remained sitting uncertainly in the middle of the front seat. Now that he was out here he was suddenly afraid again. He sat staring up at the front of the log house, at the lighted windows with their bright decorations.

Joe went around to stand beside Levon, bending down to peer in at Ezra, he held out his hand, "Come on," he said gently, "it's gonna be all right."

Ezra looked at him for a long moment then like a trusting child lay his hand in Joe's and let the larger man draw him out of the car.

Joe and Levon exchanged glances as Levon reached behind the seat and pulled out the flight case and then closed the door.

Joe had his arm around Ezra's shoulders in a friendly embrace, guiding him up the walkway to the porch.

Lundy caught up and laid a hand on Ezra's back just above the waist.

The touch felt warm to Ezra. He knew he couldn't actually feel the warmth of the touch through the layers of his coat and sweaters and Levon's gloves but he seemed to. There was something else too. He felt himself standing straighter, feeling stronger, as if somehow he was drawing strength and courage from these virtual strangers... strangers that he somehow felt were friends.

He took a deep breath and stepped forward a bit faster, so that he moved out of contact with them, and trotted up the steps to knock on the door.

Joe and Levon followed him up and listened as voices inside grew nearer. Levon handed Joe the flight case, his eyes saying, 'this is your show'.

The door was flung open and Josiah stood framed in it, almost filling it, "Ezra!" He boomed, surprise and pleasure in his voice.

"Mister Sanchez, would you be so kind as to allow me and my new friends to come inside out of this dreadful weather?" He almost sounded like the old Ezra.

Sanchez stared at him a moment then with a grin stepped back and swept one arm with a small bow. "By all means, Mister Standish. Come in. Come in." He gave the other two men a clearly appraising look.

One looked like a cowboy. Ranch coat, matching gloves, cowboy hat and boots with blue jeans.

The other was harder to place. He could have been a well-dressed ski bum except for the way he carried himself. He had on a black down jacket coat with a black and turquoise muffler and matching knit cap. He was wearing waterproof hiking books. He didn't look nearly as cold as the cowboy did. [More used to cold weather and knows how to dress for it.] Josiah decided as he followed the three men towards the den.

Ezra was in the lead and before he'd taken a dozen steps Vin was there wrapping him in his arms. "Ez! I been worried! Where ya been?"

The little procession stopped and waited while Ezra let himself be pulled into an embrace. He stiffened at the intimacy though.

Vin's heart sank but he didn't try to hold Ezra. Stepping back, he let him go.

Ezra stepped back too, forcing a smile. It had been good to feel Vin's arms around him again and hear his voice filled with concern but he couldn't let himself fall back into the trap of believing that it wasn't really over. He gestured to the den, "Please, let's go in so I can introduce my friends. They have something for you."

A moment later Vin and Ezra led the small group into the den. All the other members of Team 7 were already there. They all turned and Ezra's name was spoken repeatedly with pleasure and a hint of worry. They surged towards the group until Larabee motioned them back and said, "We were starting to think you weren't coming Ezra."

"I... I had not intended to," Ezra confessed, "but these gentlemen showed up at the office looking for Vin, and I thought it was important that they find him." He motioned to Joe and Levon and they stepped slightly forward. "These are Sergeants Lundy and LaFiamma, Houston PD." The introductions made, he pushed past Vin and went to the fireplace, turning his back to the room and, most pointedly, to Vin.

Vin gave him a despairing look that wasn't lost on the two Houston cops then turned worried eyes on them.

Lundy gave him a reassuring smile as Joe looked for a place to put the flight case to open it. As Joe settled on putting the case on the coffee table and began to unzip it, Levon told Vin, "Ain't nothing bad, son. Just something that came into our hands that we kinda figure, by rights, is yours."

As Joe lifted the small trunk out of the case Vin stared at it, his mouth falling open just a bit. "That... it... it looks familiar..." He wrinkled his brow in thought then glanced at Chris, as if the other man could tell him why.

"I'd be surprised, if ya really recognized it. I reckon you was maybe five the last time you seen it." Levon offered.

Joe still hadn't said anything. He had sat down on the couch and was unzipping his coat as he studied Vin. Now he said, "We think it may have belonged to your mother."

Lundy shrugged out of his ranch coat and tossed it over the back of the couch next to Joe and sat down beside him. He placed his hat brim up on the coffee table beside the trunk.

"My ma's...? How... how'd ya'll get it?" Vin asked his voice barely more than a whisper. He sank down into a chair opposite the couch staring at the trunk on the table between him and the strangers.

Joe had pulled off his knit cap and shoved it into a pocket of the coat along with his gloves. He stood and slipped out of his coat, tossing it across the back of the couch and walked over to the fireplace to stand near Ezra as Levon answered Vin's question.

Lundy looked to where Joe had gone, gave a sort of half nod, then began to explain. "Me and Joe, we got us a hobby. We go to estate sales all over Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi. We've even been up to Oklahoma a couple of times. I like antique furniture. Got me some real fine pieces at real fine prices over the years. Now Joe..." he looked over at the other man and they shared a smile. "Joe's got a real thing for locked boxes. Especially ones that ain't got a key."

He inclined his head towards Joe and his partner took up the story, without a pause. "Back in September we took a week's worth of vacation time and hit a dozen sales in middle to North Texas. Levon picked up a Civil war era campaign desk at the first sale we hit but I didn't see a thing that really interested me until we came to this huge old farmhouse just outside of a little, bitty town called Lone Pine, Texas." He paused a moment.

Lundy took it back, "We'd been all over the place doing the pre-sale look-see and I about decided it was gonna be a bust like all the other places. Then I looked over and saw Joe standing in front of this," he gestured at the trunk, "with that 'this is gonna be mine' look on his face. So, I walked over and he read the description out loud. Soon as he hit the part about 'no key', I knew he'd be bidding on it. " He looked back over at LaFiamma with an amused expression on his face.

Joe shrugged, "What can I say? I'm a detective. I love a mystery."

"I'm a detective, too," Lundy threw back at him with a smile, "but I don't pay good money for something I ain't got no idea what is just cause I'm curious." There was no anger or hostility in the words.

In the silence that fell in the wake of the teasing, Joe spoke directly to Vin, "Open it."

As Vin reached for the lid, Joe reached out, caught Ezra's arm and turned him so that he could see Vin's face when he opened the box.

The rest of Team 7 were crowding around Vin now, wanting to see but not wanting to make him uncomfortable. Even JD and Buck had the good sense to be quiet.

Vin lifted the lid and stared in shock at the inside of the lid and the paper there. Reaching out with a shaky hand he pulled the piece of paper from the elastic straps that held it. "Oh, God!" he breathed, "My... birth certificate." He held it up, for the others to see, as tears welled in his eyes. "My birth certificate!" He exclaimed again in disbelief.

Chris reached out and took it.

Vin let it go, let him pass it around to the others while he reached back into the box and picked up small bundle of pictures that lay on top of the remaining items. He sorted through them with trembling hands. "Oh, my God. Oh, my God!" He kept whispering over and over as he looked at them. "My ma... my granddad..." tears began to run down his face.

Ezra couldn't bear to see the tears. He wanted to run to Vin take him in his arms. Ezra surged forward and Joe released his arm. Then he remembered that he and Vin weren't together anymore and slumped back... into Joe's hand.

The hand pressed into his back and pushed him forward, towards Vin. He heard an intense whisper, "Go."

He found himself moving forward, sitting down on the arm of Vin's chair, reaching out to pull Vin into a hug as tears began to run down Vin's face.

Vin turned and wrapped his arms around Ezra's waist hanging on for dear life. He felt Buck reach down and pluck the pictures out of his hand to pass around but he didn't care. He buried his head against Ezra's side and tried to regain his composure.

Ezra bent over him holding him tightly, forgetting everything else as he comforted his lover... [Former lover.]

After a bit Vin raised his head and wiped at his face and Ezra straightened and started to pull away. He was stopped by LaFiamma's voice.

"So, is this you guys first Christmas as a couple?"

Ezra stood up and moved slightly away from Vin, standing stiffly, "We are *not* a couple!"

Joe tilted his head, amusement flashed it deep blue eyes. He turned to look at Lundy, "They look like a couple to me," he said mildly.

"Uh-huh." The cowboy leaned back on the couch and grinned at the two men. "Me, too."

"He left me!" Ezra meant it to be an angry shout it came out a hurt wail.

"Did he? Really? Or did he maybe just move out of your apartment?"

Buck started to move forward, interfere, demand to know what right these strangers had to ask questions like that but Chris Larabee's hand on his arm stopped him and he in turn grabbed JD before he could say anything.

The question drew Ezra up short and confused him. He looked back and forth between LaFiamma, Lundy and Vin. The confusion he felt clear on his face. Vin had *said* that he just needed space but that meant that it was over. Didn't it?

For a moment it seemed as if the whole room was holding it's breath.

LaFiamma nodded, as if Ezra had answered the question, "He moved out and you jumped to the conclusion that the relationship was over." It was a flat statement.

"How?" Ezra asked shaking his head. How could the man know that?

LaFiamma shrugged and, glancing at Lundy, smiled as he said, "Been there. Done that."

In that moment it was suddenly clear to everyone in the room that Lundy and LaFiamma were a couple... and had been for a long time. Vin and Ezra just stared at the two men as the realization hit. The other five members of Team 7 exchanged glances, thoughts passing in the looks, hopes rising. Maybe, maybe these two knew something that would help the other two members of the team. The only two members of Team 7 that had ever had a long-term relationship with anyone were Larabee, who was a widower, and Jackson, who was married. None had ever tried to make a relationship work with another man. But these two men apparently had a long term, comfortable and functioning relationship.

Joe let the men stare a moment as he drifted over behind Lundy and reached down to idly twine his fingers in the curls at the nape of the blonde cowboy's neck, the touch confirming that they were definitely intimate with each other. Then he quietly asked, "How long have you been together?"

"Two months." Vin answered, his shyness giving way before the thought that maybe these two could reach Ezra when he had not been able to.

"Two months?" Lundy shook his head.

LaFiamma just chuckled.

Ezra bristled as the amusement and snapped, "We have worked together for three years!"

LaFiamma shook his head and announced, "Working together and *being* together are *not* the same thing!" The amusement was still evident in his voice.

Lundy added, "Whole 'nother can a worms."

"I know that!" Ezra shouted, throwing up his hands, "And I don't know how to do this... this relationship thing!"

"Hey!" LaFiamma snapped to get Ezra's attention. When the man turned to look at him his voice became serious as he explained. "*Nobody* knows how... not in the beginning. Relationships are learn as you go projects... and you should think of it as a project because if you don't work at it... it won't work."

Ezra took a deep breath and turned to look at Vin. He *did* love the man. Loved him so much that he'd been thinking about ending it all rather than face a life without him. It looked like LaFiamma and Lundy were offering help... help to get them back on track. He'd promised Vin he'd try not to run... try not to give up on them without a fight then... he had given up... hadn't he?

He turned back to LaFiamma. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to enlighten me as to how I go about repairing this... project?"

LaFiamma looked own at Lundy.

The cowboy shrugged, "You're on a roll. Go for it."

LaFiamma looked up at Standish and nodded, "First, nobody can give you a blue print for how to build *your* relationship. Because, just as every person is different, every relationship is different. However, all *long-term*, *functional* and *mutually satisfying* relationships have certain things in common."

He began to pace, his voice taking on a slightly lecturing tone but still filled with enough warmth and amusement to hold their attention and not make them resent that tone. "Good relationships rest on a foundation of three things. *Mutual* love, *mutual* respect and *mutual* trust. Note I did not say just love, respect and trust. It has to be mutual. You both have to feel it and you both have to have all three. You can have a relationship without all three, lots of people do but those relationships are not mutually happy and/or mutually satisfying."

He fixed the two men with a piercing look, "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

They nodded.

"Tell me," he demanded.

"Huh?" the two younger men blinked at him.

"Repeat the gist of it back to him, so that he knows you got it." Lundy said helpfully.

"Oh." Vin said, "Uh... you said that I can't just love Ezra, I gotta respect and trust him too."

Ezra tried to get away with just nodding.

The piercing blue eyes locked on his wouldn't let him.

As he wet his lips and repeated back what LaFiamma had told them he noted that the man's eyes were almost exactly the same color as Vin's and just as hard to escape from.

"Okay." LaFiamma said. He looked up at the other members of the team still gathered behind Vin's chair and told them, "If you guys have something else to do... feel free..." he made a 'go on and do it' gesture.

There was a general chorus of negatives. "Nah." "No." "Nope." "Not a thing." "This is fascinating." (The last was from JD.)

Larabee made a 'go on' motion with his hand.

LaFiamma shrugged.

Lundy grinned at Larabee, "Ya'll might wanna get comfortable. This could take a while. Boy ain't generally real talkative but sometimes when ya pull his string ya more'n get your money's worth."

The men quickly moved to get into various comfortable chairs then turned attentive eyes to LaFiamma who continued to pace behind the couch directing his attention mainly to Ezra and Vin.

"Okay." He said again, gathering his thoughts, "The next building block that you need for your relationship is commitment. You have to be willing to make a commitment not only to each other but also to the relationship. Making the relationship work has to be a priority. You need to verbalize the commitment. I know that same sex couple can't legally marry but you have to think of yourselves as married. You need to say the words to each other, even if it's only to each other without anybody else present. The words are not as important as the intent. Make up vows and exchange them or find a preacher and ask him for copy of the traditional wedding vows and adapt them to fit you. But *tell* each other that you are committed to making a life together. *Say* the words."

He took a deep breath. "Next comes communication... open, honest communication. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a relationship is to *assume* that the other person knows what you want and need from him in the relationship. You have to talk... and I don't mean about the weather or the latest ball scores."

He fixed Vin with those inescapable eyes. "Take this moving out bit you did. What did you tell him?" He gestured to Ezra but continued without letting Vin answer, "Did you simply tell him that you needed some space?"

The nods from the two men confirmed his suspicion.

He shook his head and sighed, "That's not good enough. The proof of the fact it's not good enough is the misunderstanding that resulted. You said, 'I need some space'. But he heard, 'I don't want to be with you anymore'. Not the same thing at all."

"I ain't good with words," Vin said sadly looking down at the floor.

"You don't have to be good with words." LaFiamma said, "Communication is a skill. A learned skill. You can learn how to communicate effectively with your partner." He turned and leveled those eyes on Ezra, "You need to learn some communications skills, too. You hide behind your words. If you want this to work, you're gonna have to stop hiding. You need to tell him what you need from him in words that he can understand, just like he needs to make sure that he makes the intent behind his words clear."

He stopped and looked at Lundy. They communicated something silently. Lundy nodded.

He leaned forward on the couch and, looked at Vin, "You strike me as the kinda man that has a need from time to time to be alone. I understand that because I got that same need."

He leaned back and looked up at LaFiamma with a smile, as he said, "Time was when Joe couldn't understand that. He wanted to be with me *all* the time. 'Bout three months after he moved in with me it started getting on my nerves something awful. Seemed like I couldn't turn around without the boy on my heels. I's about ready to shoot him. Instead I up and said, 'I think I'll stay in the apartment in the barn for a while.' All I meant was I needed a little breathing room. Joe took it to mean I didn't want to be with him anymore."

He shook his head. "He let me go... stay out there. We were both miserable, but we didn't know what to do about it. Things just went from bad to worse. Because he didn't understand why I wanted to be apart from him unless I didn't love him any more and I couldn't understand why he thought that we had to spend every blessed minute together because we loved each other."

He paused then went on, "We hadn't talked a lot about how we grew up. If we had we mighta been able to see that our needs and our reactions to each other's needs were rooted in the way we was raised. I grew up with an alcoholic father. My ma died when I was real young. My grand parents did most of the raising me and they didn't have any other kids in the house while I was growing up there."

Joe cut in, "I grew up in one'a those big Italian families you hear about. I got nine kid brothers and sisters. We were raised in a three bedroom, one bathroom house. There was a bedroom for the boys, a bedroom for the girls and bedroom for our parents. Everybody shared the bathroom. Nobody was ever alone in that house. It was just the way things were. It was what I was used to. It was how I thought things were supposed to be. When I finally did describe it to Lundy, he almost went into shock. He just could not conceive of my not having *ever* been alone when I was growing up."

"Was the first time it really hit me how hard being transferred to Houston, better'n a thousand miles from all his family, must have been for him. It just never click for me till then, but when it did, I realized that by staying right with me all the time he was trying to recreate the kinda family life he'd known growing up. He needed the contact. Until we talked about it we couldn't deal with it."

LaFiamma nodded and said, "That brings us to the next building block. Compromise. You have to be willing to compromise in order to keep the relationship balanced between your needs and your partner's needs."

"We had that down before we became a couple." Lundy drawled. "We caught us a serial killer case about four months after Joe transferred in. The whole MCU was working double shifts. We had extra people in from Homicide helping out, but Joe and I were the primary detectives, cause we caught the call on the first victim. So we were putting in sixteen ta twenty-hour days. Most ever day. About three weeks into the case I got home and into bed about two AM. Now I'm an early riser, always have been, so I was up at five as usual and not feeling too bad it being my natural time to wake up. But when I swung by to pick up Joe, he looked like he was asleep in his feet. Despite the fact that he had probably got a half-hour more sleep than I had. It was a half-hour drive from his place to mine and I had to drive home after I dropped him off."

LaFiamma took it up, "When I got in the Jimmy, Lundy just sat there for a minute looking at me then he picked up the mic and called dispatch. He told them to log us on but we were gonna go question this lady that had known the victim. It wasn't the first time we'd been out there so we knew where it was and didn't need to stop at the station to get the address out of the file. As he hangs up the mic, He looks at me and says, 'I'll wake you when we get there'. It's an hour and a half drive out there given the traffic at that time of day."

Lundy grinned, "I let him sleep all the way out there. He woke up long enough to follow me around while I talked to the lady then slept all the way back in. By the time we got to Reisner he was almost feeling human."

"Late that afternoon, well into the second shift, Lundy started to flag out on me. He was getting really tired. Now, I'm a night person so I was starting to feel pretty good. When we came out from eating supper I held out my hand for his keys and he handed them over. I drove the rest of the night and Lundy napped between stops."

"We'd not only struck a compromise, we made our differences work for us instead of against us. After that we started to *look* for ways that we could make our differences work for us. Ya'll can do the same. You might not have the same differences we did. It might not work out the same but the principle remains the same." he leaned back and looked at LaFiamma. "What's the next building block?"

"Acceptance. Acceptance of each other's needs. Lundy needs his time alone. I had to learn to accept that without feeling abandoned. I need physical contact. He had to learn to accept that and give it to me without feeling crowded. You also need to accept each other's idiosyncrasies. For instance, Lundy loves to go on trail rides. I let him talk me into a trail ride up through the Big Thicket one time. Never again. The only way I will ever go on another trail ride with him is for him to drag my rotting corpse behind his horse. He can go anytime he wants to but I ain't going with him."

Lundy laughed. "From time to time Joe likes to spend a weekend in Vegas, gambling. I went with him once. Told him on the way home that the next time he took me to Vegas with him for a weekend of gambling he'd have'ta shoot me first and haul my dead body around in the trunk of his car."

LaFiamma turned to Vin and Ezra, "So guys, you think you've about got it?"

Ezra looked at Vin and smiled then blushed suddenly. "Yes, I think that we might have gotten a clue or two." He held out his hand to Vin, "Can we go somewhere and talk?"

"Sure, Ez." Vin stood up and took the offered hand. "I'm staying in the apartment in the barn." He looked down at the trunk uncertain what to do about it.

"Bring it along. I would love to hear the memories that the contents invoke."

Vin grinned and grabbed up the box. Turning to go he stopped and looked back uncertainly.

Larabee waved them out. "Go!"

As they moved from the den into the kitchen and headed for the back door LaFiamma suddenly looked up and started after them like he'd suddenly remembered something. "Hey I almost forgot! There's one more thing you need for a great relationship!"

Ezra pulled to a stop with on hand on the back door knob and he and Vin turned back just as LaFiamma loudly announced, "Sex! Lots and lots of hot sex!"

Vin and Lundy both turned beet red.

Vin spun and, yanking open the door, fled, a laughing Ezra hanging on to him.

Lundy sprang up off the couch and the two men could hear his outraged voice as they crossed the deck. "Boy! You are incorrigible!"

The rest of Team 7 were collapsing with laughter, when LaFiamma's eyes went wide and he turned and called after the departing men, "Hey! Wait! Standish is our ride!"

"Forget it, Joe." Lundy ordered quietly.

"But we got *reservations*... at the Hilton. I had plans! You ... me... a Jacuzzi and lots and lots of hot--" He broke off at the dangerous look on Lundy's face then finished innocently, "...water."

Buck was laughing so hard he fell off the chair arm he'd been sitting on.

Lundy rolled his eyes and said, "Boy, you are gonna drown me yet. What is it with you and water?"

"Just one of my little idiosyncrasies." Joe smirked at him.

Larabee stood up. "I'll take you two back to Denver."

"I can take them, if ya want." Buck said.

"No. Couldn't condemn them to that rolling trash can of yours, Buck." Chris' said. "I've got the snow plow on the four-wheel drive. If the weather gets worse I can still get back up here."

As he got his coat and Joe and Levon put on their outerwear again, he instructed Buck and JD. "One of you get the spare key to the Jag and put it in the garage. When Ezra starts thinking with his brain again, he'll have a fit if it's still sitting out in the snow."

Josiah and Nathan grabbed their coats.

"We'll ride along, brother Larabee, if that's okay with you."

"Yeah," Nathan said, "Keep you company on the way back."

Chris just figured they wanted to see what else LaFiamma might say now that he seemed to be loosened up.


Vin set the trunk down on the dining table in the small apartment in Larabee's barn and turned to Ezra, "Which one'a LaFiamma's building blocks ya wanna work on, Ez?"

With a smirk, Ezra stepped closer, "I think that I'm gonna become really fond of Mister LaFiamma's last building block..."

"Acceptance?" Vin looked puzzled.

"No." Ezra's voice had gone husky, "the one he *almost* forgot...."

"Sex." Vin grinned at him and pulled him closer.

"Indeed, Mister Tanner. Lots and lots of hot sex!" Ezra almost purred as

Vin leaned down capturing Ezra's mouth in a searing kiss.

After a long moment Vin broke the kiss and stood for just a moment gazing down into Ezra's love lit eyes. "Ya are so beautiful, Ez." He sighed, "and there ain't nothing I want more'n ta make love to ya... but I wanna do this right. I don't want no more misunderstandings... don't want ya to be scared or worried ever time I'm away from ya." He took a deep breath and forced himself to step back a little, "So, how 'bout we start with commitment?"

Ezra looked up at him, a slight frown on his face and a hint of worry in his eyes, "Very well, if that is what you want." He said, his voice carefully neutrally.

"What I want, Ezra, is to spend the rest of my life with you." Vin's voice was serious. "Only you." He took both of Ezra's hands in his and held them as he looked into the green eyes. "I love you, Ezra Standish. I respect you and I trust you... with my life and with my heart. I swear to you that I will never be unfaithful to you. There will never be another lover in my life. I will love only you, now and forever." He drew Ezra's hands up to his lips and kissed each of them.

Tears welled in Ezra's eyes. "Oh, Vin.... I don't know what to say...."

"Say you feel the same."

"I do. I do indeed. I love you so much that I don't think I can live without you." He paused, swallowed hard then said more formally, "Vincent Tanner, I love you, with all my heart and all my soul. You are the other half of me. I am not complete without you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, only you. I respect you deeply and trust you completely, with all that I am or ever hope to be." He blinked back tears, "I can't imagine why you want me, but I am yours. Now and forever."

Vin stepped forward and drew Ezra into his arms, kissing him deeply to seal their pledges. The kiss grew deeper and more intense until they were panting in each other's mouths. Finally Vin broke away, "Now... now I think it's time for some sex."

Ezra's grin was wide and happy, "Oh, yes, Mister Tanner, I, too, think it is time for some sex, lots and lots of very hot sex." He pressed his raging hard-on against Vin to demonstrate that he was definitely ready.

Vin's delighted laugh made him blush as he was swept up in strong arms and swung around then backed into the bedroom by his hungry-eyed lover.

Suddenly it seemed as if Vin had a hundred hands and they were all intent on removing Ezra's clothing. The clothes didn't stand a chance.

Seconds later Ezra was naked, sprawled on the bed watching as Vin eagerly and efficiently divested himself of his clothes.

A few more seconds and Vin gave a war whoop and dove into the bed on top of Ezra.

They rolled and writhed. Ezra's legs slipped apart and Vin slipped between them, their cocks falling into alignment, rubbing against each other as if they had minds of their own. Vin rocked his hips and grinned down at Ezra who was rocking up at him.

"Hummmmm, that feels good!" Ezra murmured.

"Oh, yeah!" Vin replied as he continued to move against Ezra.

It didn't take long for them to climax, shooting between their bodies.

Vin chuckled and wiggled on top of Ezra, rubbing the cum into their skin.

Ezra pulled him down into a kiss, then sighed, "All done?"

"Heck no! That was just a appa-- appa--"

"An appetizer." Ezra supplied.

"Yeah... and I plan on making a nine course dinner offa ya!" Vin told him.

"Oh, my. I'm not sure I can survive that."

"Ya'll survive. Ya might pass out from pleasure but ya'll survive... so's I can do it again... and again...."

"...and again... and again..." Ezra gazed up at him with love lit eyes.

"We seem to have reached an understanding on one of Mister LaFiamma's points at least."


"Yes... one of the key ingredients in a truly great relationship is lots and lots of..."

"...hot sex!" Vin finished for him as he rubbed a renewed hard-on against Ezra's thigh.

Ezra reached between them to grab it. "My, my, Mister Tanner, it does appear that you are ready for some more..."

"...hot sex!" Vin laughed as he rolled to the side so that Ezra was leaning over him holding Vin's cock in his hand. "It's all yours, baby. Do what you wanna with it."

Ezra regarded the stiff organ thoughtfully for a long moment then said with a smirk, "I do believe that what I want to do with it is... this!"

He dove down and took the full length of the cock into his mouth in a single swift move.

"Ezzzzzzzzzzrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaa!" Vin shouted, arching up as the head of his cock hit the back of Ezra's throat. "Oh, god! Oh, god!!!"

Ezra drew back and lifted his head regarding Vin with innocent green eyes, "Yes, beloved?" Amusement danced in his eyes.

Vin sank back to the bed and turned heated blue eyes on him, "Do that again!"

"Anything for you," Ezra said and obeyed. After a moment he slid back up the shaft, giving the head a long wet kiss. Then he wrapped a hand around the swollen shaft as he turned his attention to Vin's stomach and the still moist evidence of their previous climax. He licked and nipped at the tight washboard abs, lapping up their mingled cum.

Vin felt his breath catch as he watched Ezra lapping at his stomach like a cat lapping up cream. Green eyes, filled with love and amusement, glittered up at him. Unable to resist that look, he reached down and pulled the undercover agent up to kiss him.

Ezra practically purred with contentment as he allowed Vin to plunder his mouth. His hand continued to lazily stroke Vin's cock. He snuggled into the embrace and gave a satisfied sigh.

They'd figure this relationship stuff out. LaFiamma had been right. Nobody goes into a relationship knowing how to make it work. They were both smart men. They were both committed to the relationship. They *would* figure it out. They had the rest of their lives... and along the way there'd be... lots and lots of hot sex!

He chuckled softly into Vin's mouth.

His lover pulled back and cocked a questioning brow at him. "Just thinking that probably for the rest of my life I'm going to hear LaFiamma's voice declaring that the key to a truly great relationship is, lots and lots of hot sex!"

Vin laughed with him. "Long as I'm the only one that ya wanna have that hot sex with!" He declared in a possessive tone."

He caressed Ezra's hair gently, lying there content and happy, his lover in his arms, Ezra's hand still wrapped around his cock gently stroking it, "Gotta admit, he made some real good points."

[Love, respect and trust, communication, compromise, acceptance and lots and lots of hot sex. Yep. Some real good points.]

The End.

(for now. I will probably continue this up through Joe's and Levon's departure for Houston. In this story they don't have to be back to work till after New Years and this ends on Christmas Eve. I stopped here because I wanted to get it posted to the list before Christmas.)

Everything on this page is fiction. Any resemblance or reference to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.