Many thanks to Mog, for creating this universe and allowing the rest of us to play in it.
Nothing New Under the Sun, Part Two
In the Light of the Day by Lumina~
For once in his life, Ezra Standish welcomed the morning sun. The lightening of the room on the other side of his eyelids filtered through and met a mind in a body eager to forget the night he had just passed.
It had been a night spent tossing fitfully, sleep failing him, as the events of the New Year's Eve party kept replaying over and over again in his mind's eye. Even the neutral surroundings of his own bedroom plotted against him as the smooth glide of his sheets across his naked flesh became the remembered feel of a large hand ghosting down his back. The firm pressure of his hip against the mattress as he lay on his side tickled nerve endings that had lain under the paths of long fingers that had possessed that same surface. His own sighing breath as he shifted restlessly became the hot rush from another man's mouth as it pressed against his own.
The distant, intermittent hum of traffic from the street below his window was but a backdrop to the whispered words echoing through his head in an endless loop.
"What'd it hurt?"
"It's your sweet mouth I want to taste."
"It's a New Year, Ezra."
"You like kissing men, Ezra?"
The sound of his own name haunted him, uttered in two different voices, yet both flavored with the same want, the same need and desire that turned a simple word into a caress of sound.
But morning came, and with it, Ezra's endless gratitude as he flung back the bedcovers, anxious to clear his mind of the images and words, and the confusion they conjured, that stormed through his mind.
Shivering slightly at the morning chill as he left the warm cocoon of his blankets, Ezra quickly moved to the bathroom and turned on the shower adjusting the temperature to as hot as his skin would allow. Waiting for the water to warm, Ezra turned to the mirror over the sink and surveyed his face. Running a hand along his jaw line, he took note of the paleness of his skin that accentuated the slight shadows underneath his eyes, both evidence of his sleepless night.
Sighing, Ezra turned away from his reflection and stepped into the shower. Letting the soothing cascade from the shower jets slowly bring his sleep deprived mind to alertness, he turned his thoughts to the morning at hand.
Morning. Of New Year's Day. A day of endless football games and dinner. At Chris Larabee's house. With Chris. And Buck. And the others.
"Oh, Lord," he groaned.
The idea of calling and begging off immediately occurred to Ezra and was just as quickly rejected. Calling Chris would mean having to talk with Chris, and Ezra was not prepared to do that now. Not until he knew for certain if he wanted to hear what Chris had to say. Of course, he could always send his regrets through a third party, possibly Vin, but that would only lead to questions and coaxing, and would, in fact, be the coward's way out. Ezra wasn't willing to admit to Chris or to Buck that their actions had rattled him. He didn't even want to admit it to himself.
No, the best thing for it would be to go to their New Year's celebration, to see and to be seen, but one of seven. Safety in numbers.
Gone was his urgent need of the night before to have answers to the myriad of questions chasing each other around his mind. That need had been tempered instead with the desire to understand first his own body's, his own heart's, reactions to the touches of two men he had previously only called friend. Until he understood that, Ezra wasn't ready to deal with what was behind the sultry words and the smoldering touches, the pair of hands that took possession of him or the mouth that laid claim to him. Nor was he ready to name all the emotions he'd seen shining in those two sets of eyes that had stroked over his skin with a touch as tangible as that of any hands. Touches that even the scalding hot water of the shower failed to wash away from his skin's memory.
Just twenty-four hours ago, Ezra Standish had been your average, everyday ATF undercover agent, going about his own business, allowing himself to be occasionally drawn in from the fringes to the core of their makeshift family of a team. Now, not content with that, two of their members had left that center to come to him. For him. Seemingly intent on having him in a way he'd never expected.
Ezra lightly thumped his head against the tiled wall of his shower and moaned, "Lord, I hate mornings."
Buck Wilmington, his skin still moist and warm from his shower, tendrils of hair curling damply around his face, slid into a pair of freshly laundered jeans. Zipping up the fly, he moved to his dresser and rummaged amongst the contents of one drawer. His fingers quickly found the object they were looking for and pulled it out. Shaking out the soft folds of the blue wool sweater, Buck slipped it over his head and down his naked torso appreciating the smooth glide of the knit against his skin.
It had nothing over the feel of Ezra Standish in his arms last night though. His hands had finally traced the sleek muscles of that lithe back, his finger the silky curve of cheek. He'd inhaled greedily of the unique scent that was Ezra's, an essence he'd only caught hints of before, a combination of a subtle aftershave and Ezra himself. And his own breath had caught as he'd shared Ezra's, as he'd tasted of that mouth that he'd craved for so long and found even more sweet than he'd imagined.
Buck had wanted that and more for so long, had dreamt of it, fantasized about it, and had not found the reality wanting.
It had not satisfied his craving, however. It had merely increased it tenfold.
Buck ran his fingers through his hair as he looked at his reflection in the mirror over the dresser. Ezra had commented once on the quality of the garment he wore, the richness of the color, and had left a heated path that spread along the length of Buck's arm from the small spot where his fingers had felt its softness.
This sweater had been a gift from Chris. His friend.
Buck met his own eyes in the mirror and felt a twinge of guilt as he remembered the flare of anger in Chris's eyes the night before, the hardness that had set his mouth in grim lines. But he also remembered the soft touch of Ezra's lips, their supple grace over his own, and the fit of that body, warm and pliant, against his.
Buck turned his eyes away. Why should he feel guilty? He had a right.
Chris Larabee gently replaced the phone receiver in its cradle and slowly released his indrawn breath through his teeth as he exhaled in relief. The shrill ring had sliced through the peacefulness of the morning shooting a spike of anxiety into him as he rushed to answer, expecting to hear Ezra's voice, but finding Nathan on the other end instead, letting Chris know he'd be late for their gathering.
He had awakened that morning, surprisingly, with a sense of warm calm suffusing him and a smile on his lips as he showered and dressed. Now carrying his morning coffee out to the front porch, he settled against the porch railing and let the brisk coldness of the air try to prickle his skin to a greater sense of life than it had encountered last night. Nothing could rival that feeling though, that combination of sensations brewed by the reality of Ezra Standish in his arms. It was equal parts desire at the feel of that skin and the taste of that mouth, his heartbeat thudding wildly against its counterpart, and a sense of fulfillment that all was just as it should be. And the greater measure was the fierce tenderness and possessiveness surging through him at, once again, having and holding someone he loved.
Nothing could rival that. The sun needn't even try, with its dance of blue, pink and white-hot jewels across the newly fallen snow, to out-dazzle the flare of passion and desire sparkling in a pair of beautiful green eyes and directed at him.
An expression he'd also seen given to Buck. The unease that had been born with the ringing of his telephone grew as he recalled that sight, one he had never expected to see. Buck, with his body curled around Ezra's, gazing into those same passion clouded eyes as if the light found there belonged to him. And with that unease, his anger kindled anew at the subtle defiance he'd seen on Buck's face as it swiveled to face him in the library and heard in the seemingly innocuous words, "We can finish our talk later."
That anger flared into a conflagration as he looked up at the sound of an approaching vehicle and saw Buck's pickup pulling off the road and bouncing over the ruts of his snow covered drive. The outline of his friend was clearly visible in the driver's seat, JD's dark head on the passenger side.
His friend. His betrayer.
Ezra unobtrusively let himself out onto the front porch of Chris's house, surprised at the success of his escape in light of the silent scrutiny he'd been the object of all day. Always a late arrival, he had made doubly sure today that it would be so, not wanting to spend any time alone in Chris's company. He had been relieved when he'd pulled into the drive to see the vehicles of all the others, save Nathan's, there ahead of him, but it was shortlived as the atmosphere inside the house had been rife with a palpable tension as soon as he crossed the threshold.
Chris and Buck were studiously avoiding talking to each other, JD's eyes, full of concern, darting back and forth between them. If the others noticed Chris's and Buck's uncharacteristic behavior, they were ignoring it in favor of making a concerted effort at normalcy, enjoying the football games with their usual boisterous enthusiasm and attacking the food laid out with typical gusto.
The day was anything but normal for Ezra though. Eyes followed him everywhere, watched his every move, sometimes one pair, sometimes the other, but more often than not both sets, warmed with emotions he didn't want to face. It was hard to ignore, however, hooded blue eyes boring into his as one long finger, the same one that had caressed his cheek the night before, languidly traced the water droplets, up and down, that dewed the neck of the beer bottle nestled between Buck's legs. Then there were Chris's eyes staring at him over the rim of the glass he had taken from Ezra's hand, forming his lips to rest over the same spot where Ezra's had been before slowly running his tongue over them as if savoring Ezra's flavor.
Staring out at the crimson shadows creeping over the snowy fields as the sun set, Ezra decided this was definitely not a normal day. Normal could not describe how he felt this day. Confused, yes…and twitchy.
Turning to face the house, he forced himself to refrain from jumping as he heard the door behind him opening then quietly closing. He was glad to see Vin Tanner approaching rather than either of the two strangers masquerading as Buck Wilmington and Chris Larabee.
Vin leaned against the porch railing beside him and said, humor tracing his voice, "'Ey, Ez. Ya' hidin' out?"
Ezra scanned Vin's face, seeing mirth dancing in his blue eyes. Raising a quizzical eyebrow, he asked, "What makes you think that, Mr. Tanner?"
Vin gave a short huff of laughter before tilting his head towards the window to the living room, its interior visible through the open curtains. "Ain't hard to figure, Ez. Ya' can cut the tension in that room with a knife. Wouldn't know anything about that, would ya'?"
Ezra turned towards the window watching his teammates as they moved about turning on lights against the encroaching darkness. Facing Vin again, he asked innocently, "What makes you think I'd know anything?"
Vin smiled, his eyes following the movements of their friends through the window. "Answerin' a question with a question, huh? Good defensive position there, pard."
"Mr. Tanner-" Ezra broke off as Vin raised a placating hand.
"Just mean, Ez, that it'd take a blind man to miss the looks Chris and Buck been throwin' ya' all day. That's not even mentionin' the looks they've been givin' each other. They been havin' whole conversations with each other, just with their eyes, and it don't look friendly."
Ezra granted the truth of that statement. He had seen the loaded looks passed between the two, the expressions from each warning the other to back off when he got too close to Ezra. But there was something else there, an anger, a mistrust that seemed to go beyond what two friends vying for the same lover might feel. Ezra didn't like it. He didn't understand it, and he found it disquieting.
"Something happened last night, didn't it? At the party? They finally tell ya'?"
Ezra looked at Vin in surprise, not sure what he might see on his friend's face, but all he saw was calm concern. And knowledge.
"You knew?" he asked, disbelief coloring his voice.
Vin smiled and nodded. "Chris told me."
Vin's smile widened. "Chris told me."
He really shouldn't have been surprised that their sharpshooter would know. Even if no one had told him, Vin's observational skills were such that he'd have no trouble sniffing it out on his own. But Ezra had thought his own skills in that regard were just as sharp, just as keen. And he hadn't seen it coming till it hit him in the face.
Shaking his head, Ezra asked, irritated at hearing the confused dismay in his own voice, "Vin, how did I miss this?"
Vin clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry about it, Ez. Ya' ain't the only one can play it close to the vest." Then, as Ezra continued to shake his head, Vin cocked his to the side and asked, "Whatcha more worried about, Ez? That you didn't see it happenin'? 'Cause it don't really matter why or how, does it? It just did." Vin shrugged and continued, "Or are ya' thinkin' on what you're gonna do about it? 'Cause I gotta say, I don't envy ya'. Can't be easy decidin' between two friends who're in love with ya'. 'Course maybe ya' might not want either. That'd be the hardest maybe."
Ezra froze, his further questions dying on his lips as Vin's words sank in. Specifically, two words.
Chris was in love with him?
Buck was in love with him?
Ezra raised his eyes to Vin's, horror filling them, denial in his voice as he exclaimed, "Nobody said anything about love!"
To Be Continued in Nothing New Under the Sun, Part Three~You Burn
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