45 seconds short of twenty minutes late, his arrival marked by the elevator's merry chime, Ezra Standish sauntered into the Denver ATF's Team 7 office. Sauntered. Showered, neatly dressed, as usual, but his Gucci-shod feet never once dragged against the floor. In fact, he was almost floating. He was even whistling what sounded suspiciously like "Who Could Ask for Anything More."
JD shivered. Ezra looked jaunty. He liked Ezra, admired his quick thinking, and was in absolute awe at his way of dealing with people. However, he'd learned early on not to approach, touch, talk to, or look directly at him before 11:00 a.m. unless necessary, lest he face reactions ranging anywhere from a ten-minute tirade on morning rush hour, to a full-on growl.
"Good morning, Mr. Dunne, Mr. Wilmington. How are you gentleman this fine day?" Ezra drawled as he breezed by on his way to the break room.
"Lucky dog. Somebody got some last night." Buck noted, frowning at the vehicle request form he was attempting to puzzle through. "Or this morning," he added mischievously.
"Buck! Maybe he's just in a good mood for once," JD protested, frowning rather uncomfortably at the thought of the usually fastidious agent 'getting some.'
Buck snorted. "That's not a 'good mood,' JD. That's lo-o-ve."
"So you think he has a girlfriend?" JD asked, a little intrigued, a little scandalized, like he'd caught his teacher out on a date.
"You don't have to look so shocked, kid. Ezra's a guy just like me and y—well, just like me."
"'Sides, he was seeing that pretty little Chinese gal from the Jefferson case for a while before she entered the program. Now there was one shy little flower." He grinned.
JD's jaw dropped. "Li Pong?" he whispered incredulously, reeling at the thought of Ezra and the quiet, beautiful woman who'd left him tongue-tied. "Him and Li Pong?"
Buck was looking at him with that maddening, slightly patronizing look. "JD, what do you think happened while she stayed at his place? Ol' Ez may not have the animal magnetism of yours truly, but some women like the type with fancy manners who knows his way around a wine list."
Perhaps because it had been an excruciatingly slow week, or because half their team was out assisting Team 4, JD was mind-numbingly bored. This subject had piqued his interest, and that was a dangerous thing. However, he knew that unless he enlisted Buck's help, he wouldn't be getting anywhere. He thought fast.
"You don't suppose it's Inez, do you?"
That definitely got Buck's attention. "What?!"
"Well, she's always saying that he's a real gentleman, and she's good friends with his mother."
"Hooey! Ezra's not her type. A senorita like that needs a desperado."
"Desperate like you?" JD asked innocently.
"Desper-ado." He paused. "You don't really think that it's Inez, do you?"
Nonchalant. "You never know. Oh well, back to work."
He hid a grin as Buck got to his feet.
"To hell with work. Chris, Vin, and Josiah'll be gone a while longer...who does that Ezra think he is? Strutting in here like he owns the place, like he owns Inez! Me and Versace-boy are going to have a little chat, right now!"
This last part was loud enough to earn a puzzled glance from Nathan, who was actually working. JD barely noticed, as he happily strode to the break room on Buck's heels.
Ezra was poking hesitantly into his coffee cup with a stirrer as the pair entered. The stirrer appeared to be lodged in the 'liquid.'
"I take it Mr. Tanner made the—I use the term loosely—'coffee'?" Ezra asked wryly.
"How's Inez?" Buck asked brusquely.
Ezra gave him a confused look usually reserved for the mentally deranged. "If she's of the same mind as when we saw her last weekend, then she's still contemplating inflicting harm on your person for your offer to 'teach her to tango and dip her all the way to the floor.'"
"So you're saying you haven't seen her since then?"
"Should I have?"
"Like last night?" Buck leaned menacingly over the seated man, with JD peering around him.
"Just what are you insinuating, Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra asked, his hackles rising.
JD pulled Buck back a step and smiled at Ezra. "He's not 'insinuating' anything, Ezra. It's just, we know you've got a new girlfriend, and he got the crazy idea that it might be Inez."
"Crazy?!" Buck exclaimed.
"Crazy," Ezra agreed firmly. A strange look crossed his face, and then he ducked his head.
JD's stomach gave a little twist. He wanted entertainment, true, but a brawl between Ezra and Buck would land them all in trouble. He tentatively placed a hand on Ezra's shoulder, his throat clenching when he felt the tremors pass beneath his palm.
"Ez?" he said softly, casting a wary glance back at Buck, who was wearing an uncertain sort of look himself.
Ezra raised his head slowly, shrugging off JD's hand. His eyes were wet with unshed tears. His chest heaved once, twice... "snerk" He looked from JD to Buck, then back again, before bursting into helpless laughter.
"Whoo!" he slapped his knee. "Oh, my dear Lord. Ms. Recillos and myself? That is just...priceless"
Buck laughed nervously. "So you and Inez ain't an item?"
"Goodness, no! Whoever gave you that idea?" Ezra asked, still trying to stifle his laughter.
Buck looked at JD, but before the conversation could take an unwanted turn, JD quickly asked, "So who are you seeing if it's not Inez?"
Ezra sobered quickly. "What makes you think I'm seeing anyone?"
"Oh come on, Ez," said Buck, pulling up a chair. "It's obvious. So 'fess up—is it Julia from payroll? I've seen her giving you the eye once or twice."
JD followed suit, leaning forward eagerly.
"No, it's assuredly not Mrs. Fielding, not that it's any of your business."
"Come on Ezra, I tell you everything about my love life, and if JD here had one, he'd tell you about his."
JD let that one pass.
"You assume that I want to hear about your amorous exploits, Mr. Wilmington."
"You aren't ashamed of her, are you Ezra?" JD asked dolefully.
Ezra regarded him most seriously. "We've yet to establish that there is a 'her' to speak of, JD."
JD sighed. "It's all right if you don't want to talk about it. I just thought I was your friend. And friends tell each other these kinds of things—right, Buck?"
"That they do, JD," Buck agreed heartily.
Ezra raised an eyebrow. "I know what you're doing."
JD blinked and thrust out his lower lip just a fraction of an inch more...
Ezra sighed. "Fine. If you must live vicariously through my love life...you're both in luck that I am in a most spectacular mood, or else I might not fuel your tawdry gossip mill."
Buck and JD both nodded expectantly.
"My...'paramour,' if you will, is in one word: wonderful."
"Since when was one word ever enough for you? Is she pretty, what's she do for a living, is she good in bed?" asked Buck with a good-natured smirk.
"Uh-huh, we need details," intoned JD solemnly.
Ezra's smile shifted slightly from indulgent to conspiratorial.
"Very well. This person is a humble civil servant like myself, brilliant, cultured, wise. Beautiful, not classically, but indisputably...gorgeous eyes, a mouth to die for...and more passionate and wild in bed then even you could ever dream of, Mr. Wilmington. Like I previously stated: wonderful. Now, not that I didn't enjoy our little girl-talk, but I do have work that needs my attention. Gentlemen."
With a nod and a smug smile, Ezra excused himself, leaving Buck grinning, and JD frowning thoughtfully.
"Huh, who'd have thought that Ez had it in him," Buck mused.
"Yeah, whoever it is, he's mighty sweet on...them. Hey, Buck. Did you notice he was playing the pronoun game?"
"Haven't you ever seen Chasing Amy?" JD clarified. "Ezra never once said 'she.'"
"...You don't think..."
"No! I mean...Ezra's not...you know."
"It would explain a lot. No straight guy knows that much about fashion, and you know how Inez is with him. Women always fall all over 'em when they're married or—"
"But Ezra isn't...funny," protested JD."
"Of course he ain't funny," said Buck, and JD relaxed noticeably. "Man can't ever take a joke. I do think he's gay though," he chuckled.
JD was dumbstruck. He had no problem with people who were...that way. Casey's friend Derek from her German class was gay, and he was the nicest guy around. Actually, JD was grateful he didn't like girls, with the time that Casey spent around him. And he liked Ezra—he was a great guy, and whoever he wanted to...spend time with was fine...as long as he was...happy.
But this was Ezra.
Ezra...who could rattle off a dozen fashion designers, who tell you what this year's 'blue' was, who had crossed-dressed undercover, and who Buck claimed actually got a manicure once. But...
"What about Li Pong? You said he had a thing with her. So he can't be...you know," he pointed out, crossing his arms triumphantly.
Buck just shrugged, "So maybe he plays for the home and visiting teams. You know what this means, don't you?"
JD definitely did not trust that devious grin.
"What?" he asked nervously.
"Now we're definitely going to have to find out who this boy-toy of his is."
"Buck we can't just accuse him of—we're not just going to go up and ask—hey Buck, wait up!"
Ezra had been riffling through his file cabinet when they'd returned to the office, and Buck had thankfully returned to his desk to finish up his paperwork. Three hours later, as Ezra took a lunchtime trip to the Thai restaurant on the corner and Nathan took sandwich orders from Buck and JD, JD made the mistake of letting out the breath he'd been holding.
"Let's get to work, kid," Buck announced the moment Nathan disappeared around the corner to the stairwell.
"What do you mean? It's lunchtime."
"I mean that we're going to find out who Ezra's mystery man is."
"Buck." JD took a deep breath. "I think we're letting our imaginations run away with us. We've got no proof that Ezra is...seeing a guy."
"Which is why we have to look. We're ATF agents after all."
"What are you suggesting—we loot his desk? Search his car for...gay stuff?"
Buck looked at him for a long moment. "You're a strange boy, JD. I was thinking we check his email. He's always at his computer lately—maybe he's got some love letters stashed there. Now git before Nathan comes back."
"Come on, kid, you want to know as much as I do. You got into Chris's email that time we accidentally forwarded that picture to him."
JD looked at him. Buck smiled winningly. JD bit his lip uncertainly. Buck's grin widened.
Well, he certainly wasn't bored anymore.
Past the computer's Escher-style desktop, into the company's email program, JD's fingers were a blur on the keyboard. He had to grin when he saw the baffled look on Buck's face as the little pop-up said 'Welcome, Mr. Standish. You have new mail.'
"You're a wonder. Now let's see what's in our inbox."
"Hey," JD exclaimed happily. "He still has the joke I sent him. You know, the one with the chicken who goes into the bar and asks the—"
"Well what do we have here?" Buck interrupted smoothly. "'Subject: missing you.' Open it, open it."
The arrow hovered over the linked subject. JD's finger twitched.
"Now what are you two doing?"
Both of them jumped, glancing guiltily between their lunch-laden teammate and the monitor.
"Nathan!" JD exclaimed. "We were just...that is..."
Buck grinned. "We were looking through Ezra's email 'cause he won't spill who his new boyfriend is."
Nathan seemed to consider this. "And?"
He pulled up a chair behind them at the computer. JD relaxed and clicked the mouse.
As the screen loaded, Nathan's eyebrows shot up, Buck let out a long whistle, and JD blushed furiously. Buck cleared his throat, and began to read random parts under his breath.
"'My darling Ezra...watching you, head in your hands at your desk...' So it's someone who's been in the office."
Nathan looked around the office, his eyes narrowing for a moment. "You don't think it's..." he grinned.
"Who?" asked JD, glancing at the clock. Buck was still engrossed in the letter.
"Never mind," said Nathan, still smiling, shaking his head.
"Hey, you don't think it's the new water cooler guy, do you? He's talked with Ezra a couple of times."
"I think Tim's only got eyes for you, JD," Buck muttered, and Nathan snickered at JD's stricken expression.
Buck continuing to read aloud again cut off any reply he could have made. "'I want you so badly, I don't know if I can stop myself from going over to you, hauling you out of that chair, and bending you over your desk'...whew, and it gets even steamier... 'I'll take you so sweet and slow you won't be able to feel anything but me inside you'...'when you're making that little sound, that whimper in the back of your throat'...'your hair plastered to your forehead, your knuckles turning white as you grip the desk'...'driving into you harder and faster the way you need it, kissing every inch of skin I can reach.'"
JD swallowed hard, glancing at the clock, almost wishing he had an excuse to tell Buck to stop. Of course, since Chris wasn't here, Ezra wouldn't be back from lunch for at least another hour. Of course, if Chris were here, they wouldn't be snooping through Ezra's very private email. Buck scrolled down the screen, still reading, his voice pitched low and husky. JD desperately tried to remember that this was Ezra and a guy they were talking about.
"'Wrapping my hand around your'..." Buck swallowed. "...'letting you taste yourself on my hand'...'your mouth on my fingers'...'Feeling you shiver under me, your muscles...'"
Buck's voice was beginning to sound as strained as JD felt.
"'...Hearing you breathe my name that way you do, making me want you so badly that I can't think'...'coming so hard inside of you.'"
Buck swallowed, as absolute silence reigned in the room.
"'Dinner at my place tonight? Love, J'" Buck finished, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.
JD blinked hard to break his gaze from the computer screen. "Shoot," he said, trying to cut through the tension, "We still don't know who Ezra's...boyfriend is."
Out of the corner of his eye, he was certain he saw Nathan smirk, but when he turned his head, he was scribbling something down on a napkin. As Buck navigated the computer back to its desktop, Nathan pressed the napkin into JD's hand. JD peered at it, and recognized the sender's email address. He smacked his forehead at his own stupidity.
"Of course, I'll just trace the address back to the account owner," he exclaimed.
He looked over at Buck, expecting a grin from his co-conspirator. Instead, Buck looked rather flushed and brusquely said, "Well, since they're not back now, I'm guessing Chris and the rest'll be gone for the day. What say we take the afternoon off?"
JD agreed heartily, eager to get home to his own computer to continue his investigation, curiosity welling in him even deeper after reading Ezra's...correspondence. Buck immediately grabbed his coat and briefcase and, smiling almost nervously, edged his way into the elevator. JD gave Nathan a puzzled look. Nathan just smiled.
"Go on, JD, I'll hang around here to tell Ezra we took off." He paused. "I think I'll send Rain an email."
They shared a grin, and JD quickly gathered his things to head to the parking lot.
Stepping out of the elevator into the coolness of the underground parking lot, JD paused a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dark. Buck's truck was already gone, and JD made his way in the direction he vaguely remembered parking his motorcycle. Suddenly, the sound of Ezra's distinctive accent echoed against the concrete walls. A low voice rumbled a quiet reply, and JD turned to see Ezra and Josiah coming in from the street.
'Well, if Josiah's back, then Chris probably is too.' JD was torn between heading back up to the office to avoid trouble with the team's leader, or hightailing it home to his computer, his TV, and his roommate. The comforts of home won out, and JD decided to leave those two to fend for themselves. Using every ounce of stealth in his body, JD darted ninja-style between the parked cars, finally spotting his bike a few rows over. He'd barely raised the kickstand when a loud thump made him spin around, desperately trying to keep the bike balanced. A dizzy wave and the feeling that he'd just crossed over into the Twilight Zone passed over him as he registered what he was seeing.
Josiah had backed Ezra up against the front grill of a van and was kissing him. Hard. Josiah was kissing Ezra. Josiah was kissing Ezra, and from the way Ezra shifted his leg to rub the inside of his thigh against the outside of Josiah's, Ezra had no complaints. JD's stomach gave a painful little tickling twist as he watched Josiah bend his head to kiss along the other man's neck. This was two of his male teammates, men he liked, respected, loved like family...loving each other in a very unbrotherly way. Still trying to steady his motorcycle, he bit his lip. He suddenly wished he could rewind five minutes to when Ezra's mystery boyfriend was some faceless, nameless figure, a man only in theory. This was Josiah drawing back from Ezra, their legs still entwined.
The...couple made their way over to the elevator, and JD leaned back into the shadow of the truck beside him. The last thing he needed now was to be found peeping at his teammates. Some rational part of his mind reminded him that this was still Ezra and Josiah, but the rest of his thoughts were frozen on the frame of Josiah's open mouth on Ezra's throat. With its usual bad timing, his mind took this opportunity to remind him that this meant Josiah had written that email to Ezra. His blush rose so fiercely that he feared spontaneous combustion.
The elevator chimed, and Ezra and Josiah boarded. As the doors slid closed, JD saw Ezra brush Josiah's cheek softly with his fingertips and smile a real genuine smile that JD had never seen before. JD straightened his bike and closed his eyes, thinking: 'Ezra is gay, or at least bisexual. Josiah is too. They're a couple. They kiss. They write dirty letters to each other. They have sex. They have sex. With each other. They're gay...fairies...queers.' He sighed and opened his eyes. 'They're Josiah and Ezra.' His mind flashed on that brief sight of Ezra's soft smile, and he grinned ruefully.
Reaching into his pocket, he took out the napkin with 'email@example.com' printed neatly in blue pen. Tearing it as best he could with the hand not bracing the bike, he crumpled and tossed it.
20 seconds short of fifteen minutes late, his arrival marked by the elevator's merry chime, Ezra Standish bounced into the Denver ATF's Team 7 office. Bounced. Not a hair out of place, impeccably groomed as usual, but his Armani-draped shoulders never once sagged in protest of the early morning hour. In fact, he was almost floating. He was even whistling what sounded suspiciously like "On the Street Where You Live."
Chris glared suspiciously. Ezra looked cheerful. Before 11 a.m. His sunny disposition seemed even stranger when coupled with an odd limp. Chris narrowed his eyes. No, it wasn't a limp exactly, just a stiffness of posture that meshed strangely with Ezra's casual gait. He watched him sit down very gingerly at his desk, turn on the computer, and log on to his email. It was much too early after much too short a night to wonder why Ezra would make such a point of turning his monitor away from public view. The man was just plain...funny sometimes.