Needing the Words
Still available in My Seducer
Ezra sighed as he stared down at the bowl of Pasta-Roni Fettuccini Alfredo he'd just made for himself. Not the finest of cuisine, but it was quick, easy and required very little thought. To go with this exquisite meal, he had a glass of brandy. Originally he'd considered simply drinking his dinner then decided it would be better if he ate something. Watching the fettuccini congeal on his plate, he began to rethink that decision.
Looking around his silent condo, he cursed the powers that be who had decided Vin needed to attend a weeklong conference in Virginia. If it weren't for that, he would most likely be out at Chris's ranch eating with his two lovers. Instead, he was here alone and completely unsurprised that Chris had not suggested he come out to the ranch where he, and now Vin, lived.
When Vin had moved out there three months ago, Vin had suggested Ezra move too. After a time, Chris had suggested it as well, but too much time had passed for Ezra not to realize Vin had put him up to it. Not being one for going where he wasn't fully wanted, he'd declined. He knew and accepted that Chris only allowed him in their relationship because it was what Vin wanted. It was another reason why, when they'd decided to tell the others about their relationship, he'd asked that they not include him. He knew it had hurt Vin, and he himself ached to announce his love for both Vin and Chris to the world, but he would not open himself to that rejection. Chris loved Vin and allowed him to be part of their relationship because Vin loved them both.
Ezra once again contemplated applying for a transfer or simply resigning. Resigning would probably be easier. Judge Travis would never grant the transfer, and no other department wanted him anyway. Too many of them still saw his checkered record. He had no idea what he would do, but it had to be better than continuing to torture himself this way. More and more he was feeling like the proverbial fifth wheel. Rubbing a tired hand over his face, he gave up on the fettuccini. It looked more like plaster of Paris at this point. He dumped the congealed mess down the garbage disposal as he took a hearty swallow of brandy. Liquid dinner it was.
The ringing of the phone startled him, his hand jerking and sloshing some of the brandy on the counter. He grabbed it on the second ring. "Standish."
"How much longer are you gonna be?"
Ezra almost dropped his glass at the sound of Chris's voice. "Pardon?"
"How much longer are you gonna be before you get to the ranch?" Chris repeated his question. "Steaks'll be done in about half an hour. I didn't want to put the noodles and asparagus on too soon though. So, how much longer?"
"Just the time it takes to drive over. I was on my way out the door," Ezra finally managed to answer, still not believing this was happening.
"Good. See you soon, Ez."
He stared at the receiver for almost a full minute before he bolted into action. The phone and glass of brandy were left forgotten on the counter as he rushed into his bedroom. Grabbing his overnight bag - he didn't want to presume too much - he dumped casual clothes for the next day into it then headed into the bathroom for his toiletry bag. Once he was certain he had all the necessities for spending the night at the ranch, Ezra headed to the door.
The whole drive out he tried to keep the butterflies in his stomach calm. He was reading way too much into this. Chris was probably just lonely without Vin there so had called him out of desperation. What if Vin had called Chris and, when he found out Ezra wasn't there, talked Chris into inviting him over? What if Chris was just doing this because he felt bad for Ezra? What if Chris was just expecting dinner and sex, and then Ezra was supposed to go home? What if he looked like an ass in front of the man he respected so much? The man he loved? He couldn't do this.
The Jag came to a screeching halt on the road a mile from the entrance to the ranch. He couldn't do this. He couldn't handle it if, for Chris, this was just something to pass the time until Vin came home. He wanted so desperately to turn the car around and go home. Ezra snorted at that thought. The condo wasn't a home. He hadn't even unpacked from the move from Atlanta, and he'd been there close to two years now. God, what the hell was he thinking? Did he really think Larabee was going to let him hang around them forever? No. It was only a matter of time before he was asked to leave. He was always asked to leave. Well, this time he would leave before they could ask, on his own terms. He would hand in his resignation to the Judge tomorrow before he left and then just disappear. He wished he could wait to say goodbye to Vin, but he knew Vin would be able to talk him into staying. Vin would get over it. Chris would see to that.
That decision made, Ezra started the Jag moving again. He would enjoy this night with Chris, and tomorrow night he would be gone. Maybe he'd go someplace tropical. It was early October and already the temperature was dropping way below his personal comfort level. Pulling into the driveway, he parked the Jag next to Chrisís Ram. Vinís Jeep was on the other side beneath the barn overhang to protect it from the elements. He noticed Chris standing on the porch as he exited his car, overnight bag in hand.
On the steps he was surprised when Chris smiled, leaned over and kissed him before saying hello. That was usually Vinís method of greeting. He usually got a grunted "Hi" and a quick peck if it meant Chris didnít have to move too far from wherever he was. He chalked it up to Chris already missing Vin.
"Perfect timing, Ez. I just put the noodles and asparagus on. They should be ready in about five-ten minutes." Chris noticed the small overnight bag. "Suit bag in the Jag?"
Heíd taken a couple of steps towards the car when Ezra stopped him. "No. I thought Iíd go in casual tomorrow."
"All right, but what about the rest of the week?" Chris asked, following Ezra into the house.
"What about it?" he asked, neatly hanging his jacket in the foyer closet.
"Well, what are you going to wear?" Chris grabbed the overnight bag and tossed it into the master bedroom. He turned to look at Ezra. "You are spending the week out here, arenít you?"
"I did not wish to presumeÖ"
"Presume what? Youíre here all the time already. Is it so odd for you to spend the week out here while Vinís away?"
"You donít think our associatesÖ"
"Friends, Ezra. Theyíre our friends, dammit."
"Fine. You donít think our friends wouldnít find it the least bit strange that I am staying here while Vin, your loverÖ"
"Our lover. He is our lover."
"Our friends donít know that!"
"And who the hellís fault is that?"
"Thatís it. Iím leaving! You donít want me here, all you had to do was say so!"
"What? Who saidÖDammit, Ezra! I donít know what crawled up your butt, but you are not leaving. I did not take the time to make us a nice dinner just to have it ruined because you decided to act like an ass. Now sit down and enjoy your steak. Goddamn, I sound like my wife!"
Chris glared at him until he took a seat at the table that had been set for two. Ezra noticed the candles, the wine chilling off to the side, and the romantic music playing softly in the background. If he didnít know better, he would think Chris was trying to seduce him. The small part of him that hoped he was was quickly squashed by his larger self-doubts. ĎHeís probably just trying to make this easier on himself,í the snide inner voice commented. ĎYou watch. Heíll drink most of that bottle of wine himself to help make it easier to pretend youíre Vin.í Ezra wanted to tell the voice to shut up, but he was afraid the voice was right.
After some loud banging and angry muttering in the kitchen, Chris appeared with two plates. They both contained a decent sized Porterhouse steak and heaping portions of egg noodles and asparagus. He set the plates down, then retrieved the bottle of wine to pour them each a glass. Finally when the candles were lit and everything was set to Chrisí satisfaction, he took his seat across from Ezra.
Ezra raised his glass and toasted Chris with a "Salud," before he had a chance to say anything. Chrisís gaze narrowed but he simply responded with a salud of his own. They both sipped from their wine and dug into the food before them. Ezra was pleasantly surprised that the food was quite good. The asparagus had been cooked just the way he liked them. Steamed then brushed with a light butter and garlic oil. The steak was mildly spiced, just enough to enhance the natural flavor of the meat. "This is quite good, Chris. I donít think Iíve ever had steak flavored like this."
"It was one of Sarahís recipes," Chris said quietly with a shrug. "I thought you might like it."
"I do. Thank you." A small doubt about Chrisís intentions began to grow giving Ezra hope. Several more minutes passed in silence.
"Howís the Johnson case coming?" Chris asked.
"I seem to have reached an impasse with it," Ezra shrugged, sipping some more wine.
"Why? Whatís the problem?"
"Iíve been trying to access his FBI file but keep getting rejected."
"Heís got an FBI file? I donít remember that being in the casefile." Chris sat up a little straighter. He didnít like it when other agencies withheld information on his cases.
"You wouldnít. No mention of it was made in the file we were given. The only reason I happen to know about it is I remember a colleague of mine complaining quite vociferously about Johnson being released on all charges on a technicality. A bit of complete incompetence if I recall."
Chris frowned. "That was when you were in Atlanta. Any chance heíll recognize you?"
"Highly unlikely. I was in Pittsburgh undercover on another case for almost the entire duration of the operation, and I was never remotely involved in it."
"Good. Last thing we need is for him to recognize you." Ezra felt that small glimmer of hope grow, only to have it dashed by Chrisís next words. "That would blow the case all to hell. Be a big waste of all our hours of work. Talk to JD tomorrow. Iíve heard this rumor that he might know of a backdoor into the FBI system, but I wouldnít know anything about it."
Ezra answered Chrisí smirk with a slight smile of his own. "Of course not."
No mention was made of any concern for Ezraís well-being if he were indeed recognized, as if it wouldnít matter much. He tried to push the hurtful thought away as inside he died a little more. The meal continued silently for another several minutes until Chris spoke again.
"Talked to Vin just before you got here."
"Oh? How is he enjoying the conference in Virginia?"
"Bored out of his mind. Most of the weapons demos and seminars arenít until tomorrow or the day after. Today was a lot of meet and greet crap. Said you probably would have had a good time. There were a couple of guys you would have loved taking down a notch or two. Heís gonna try and call back later to talk to you. He was sorry he missed you."
"As am I."
Once again they lapsed into silence. Ezra was beginning to think they were incapable of holding a conversation without Vin around. What had ever made him think Chris Larabee could love him? The man couldnít even speak to him for more than five minutes at a time.
Chris looked across the table at the Southerner for probably the thousandth time that night. He wished he were as good as Vin at reading him, this man who had found a place in his heart right beside the sharpshooter. He still couldnít believe it. He, Chris Larabee, a man who for forty years had never even considered an intimate relationship with another man - heíd been married for Christsakes - he was now in love and lovers with not one, but two men. A lean, longhaired sharpshooter and a smaller more compact man who could change personas like most people changed clothes.
The chameleon was eating with him tonight, his expression carefully neutral as if he were trying to fade into the background hoping no one would notice him there and therefore wouldnít think to get rid of him. Suddenly the idea that Vin had been trying to pound into his head for the past four months sank in. Did Ezra really not know how much he loved him? How could he not know? Vin knew. Hell, he suspected Buck knew. Yet Ezra had completely missed it. Now he had to figure out how to convince Ezra he loved him.
Ezra had just finished eating when Chris rose from his chair, plate in hand. "Do you want another helping, Ezra, or are you finished eating?"
"Um, no, thank you. Iím done." Ezra started to rise to help clear the table but Chris pushed him back down.
"Sit. Iíll take care of this."
"But, Mr. Larabee, Chris, I-"
"I said Iíll take care of it, Ezra. Now sit down before I tie you to that chair. Jeez, makes me think you donít like being pampered and I, for one, know thatís not true."
Standing in the doorway of the kitchen, Chris watched the different emotions cross over Ezraís face. His heart ached at just how much heíd taken for granted that the silent bond he shared with Vin would automatically expand to encompass Ezra as well. He knew Vin and Ezra had it. Heíd seen them set up whole schemes with only a few eyebrow gestures. Heíd thought he had it with Ezra, but apparently he was wrong. Chris was going to have to show Ezra, prove to him how much he loved him. Only, like training a young colt to saddle, if he moved too quickly or made the wrong move, he would send Ezra into retreat and have to start all over again. And he would. He would do whatever it took to prove his love to Ezra.
He saw the confusion, the fear and a brief moment of panic rush over the younger manís face. How could he have missed all of this for so long? Not seen all the doubts and fears? Because Ezra didnít want him to see them. Yet one more reason why he would cheerfully strangle Maude if he thought he could get away with it. Thanks to her "teachings" Ezra felt he had to constantly hide what he felt for fear of others thinking him weak, of rejecting him for that weakness. As far as Chris was concerned, it didnít make him weak, it made him human.
Chris took a step back into the kitchen, rattled a plate against the counter, and then stepped back into the dining room. The poker face had been slipped back into place; the emotions so openly displayed in that unguarded moment were gone as if theyíd never been. "Here you go. Rhubarb pie, your favorite."
Sitting down, Chris looked up to find Ezra staring at him, a look of disbelief on his face. Suspecting the real reason by the disbelief, Chris chose to give him a way to gracefully hide the display of emotion. "This is rhubarb pie, isnít it? The box said it was."
"YesÖyes, it is, but how did you know it was my favorite?"
"Vin and I were at the supermarket the other day, and they were putting out fresh pies. You know Vin and his sweet tooth. Anyway, he mentioned that rhubarb was your favorite while he was more of an apple pie person. I prefer peach cobbler myself, but to each his own. Do you like it? I picked it up fresh on the way home."
"Yes, itís quite good," Ezra said with a smile.
Chris surreptitiously watched him eating, once more wondering at what thoughts were running through the Southerner's head right then. It was obvious from the way he ate that Ezra was enjoying the pie, but did that mean he also appreciated the effort Chris had made to get his particular favorite? Times like this, Chris felt like he was back when he was first trying to woo Sarah. Sheíd been a complete mystery to him half the time, never sure what would make her happy and what would make her give him that look that said, "Larabee, you idiot."
He waited until they were almost finished before speaking again. "Why wonít you move out here with Vin and me?"
Ezra paused briefly with a forkful of pie halfway to his lips. He finished the motion, chewed and swallowed before answering. "Weíve been over why."
"Well, Iíd like to go over it again. Why wonít you move in with us? Why wonít you let us tell the others that weíre all together? That we love you?"
Watching Ezra carefully, he saw the shuttered look in his eyes when he asked the first time. When he asked a second time, demanding a real answer, he was surprised when the shuttered look was replaced by bitterness.
Ezra laughed, a short, sharp, brittle laugh that made Chris wince. "I have always considered you to be an honest, if somewhat blunt man, Mr. Larabee. Lying, particularly now, does not become you and will get you nowhere."
This was not quite the reaction Chris expected or wanted, but it gave him some clue as to how much damage heíd done in his stupidity. "Why do you think Iím lying to you?"
"Please, Mr. Larabee, just how stupid do you think I am? You have made it abundantly clear that the only reason I am allowed to participate in this relationship is because it is what Vin wants. Just as I am aware that you only invited me to live here after Vin asked you to. I know I am not the sort of person another could love. Mother has made that quite clear to me over the years, but I do have some pride. I understand and thought I accepted the conditions of our relationship. I was willing to take what I could get until the day you tired of me and asked me to quit the relationship. I will not accept having my feelings toyed with. I think it is best if I return to my dwelling now. Good night."
Chris was on his feet and by Ezraís side before he got more than a couple of steps from the table. "Ezra, wait. Iím not trying to toy with you. Tell me your feelings."
"I thought I just made them clear. Did I say something you didnít understand, Mr. Larabee?"
"No, I understood all too well what you just said. I mean your feelings for me and for Vin. Do you want this relationship with us?"
"It doesnít matter."
"Of course it matters what you want."
"No, it doesnít. What I want, what I feel doesnít matter. It has never mattered. Not then. Not now. Not ever." Ezra was getting angry. "Why are you doing this to me? Why are you pretending you care about me? You donít. I know you donít."
"You are wrong, Ezra," Chris grabbed his upper arms preventing him from turning away or leaving. "You are so very wrong. Jesus, Iíve been an idiot. A blind, stupid idiot who thought he knew everything."
"I donít understand," Ezra said, allowing the mask to slip a little, allowing Chris to see the confusion he felt.
"No, you donít and thatís my fault. All this time Iíve just assumed you knew that I loved you. No, donít say anything. Not yet. Vin and I share a silent bond that I know you share with him as well. And donít try to deny it. Iíve seen you two pull off schemes without a word spoken between you. I thought that we, you and I, shared that bond as well. It just never occurred to me that you needed the words, the outright gestures of affection to know how much I love you. I also began to think that maybe you didnít love me as much as I did you, that you just tolerated me. You always seemed so reluctant to join in, especially if it was something I suggested. I do love you, Ezra. Just the same as I love Vin. No more and certainly no less. As Vin is on my right, I want you on my left, Ezra. Now and always. I want you here in my home, in my bed, in my life and in my heart. Because you do matter, Ezra. You matter so very much."
Chris gazed down into Ezraís dark emerald green eyes trying to put as much love and adoration into his own eyes as he could. Chris cupped Ezraís cheek in one hand, his thumb brushing back and forth over the bone in a gentle caress.
"You love me?" Ezra asked, his tongue darting out to lick nervously at his lips.
The tone of the honeyed voice was so sad, so uncertain, Chris wanted to weep at the damage heíd inflicted upon this beautiful man before him. Lifting his other hand to brush it through the soft brown hair, he smiled. "Yes, Ezra, I love you. I love you so much I ache from it sometimes. I love you and I want you. Make love to me, Ezra?"
Ezra exhaled sharply when Chris took a step forward, pressing their bodies together. He could feel Chrisís arousal against his leg through the layers of clothes. He could see the desire, passion and love in his eyes. But he was still uncertain. Chris had always been the one to dominate in this part of the relationship. On a few rare occasions that Ezra had been present, Vin had been allowed to take Chris, but whenever heíd made a move to do so, Chris had swiftly turned the tables on him.
"But Iím not allowed." Ezra wanted to groan when he realized how asinine that sounded but held his tongue waiting for Chrisís reaction.
"Yes, you are."
"You never let me before. You let Vin, but never me." Ezra managed to stop himself from pouting and stamping his foot. Good Lord, he was acting like a child.
Chris didnít seem to notice as he closed his eyes briefly and sighed. "Youíre right, Ez. Iíll be honest. Iím not entirely comfortable with being on the bottom. Not that I donít enjoy it when it happens, but Iím still not all that comfortable. I think it comes from being straight for so many years. I guess I just feel like I have to be in control. The few times Vinís taken me Iíve been far too distracted by you to notice what he was doing until it was happening. I want you to take me now, Ezra. Make love to me with no distractions. Just you and me."
Chris held his breath as Ezra slowly lifted a hand and hooked it behind his neck, pulling him down to gently press their lips together. It started as a soft, chaste kiss, then Ezraís tongue glided over Chrisís bottom lip tasting, asking permission for entrance. Chris opened his mouth to the slick muscle, caressing it with his own, thrilled at the small whimpers it produced from the Southerner. Ezraís other hand rested on Chrisís hip, his fingers clutching at the black material of his shirt. Chris wrapped both arms around the smaller man holding him close, holding him tight.
After a moment they pulled away, both gasping for air, but retained their tight hold on each other. Leaning forward so that their foreheads touched, Chris sighed happily. Ezra was finally in his arms where he belonged.
"I think perhaps it is time to adjourn this to the bedroom," Ezra smiled up at his lover, undoing the buttons of the black shirt.
"What? You donít want to take me right here in the dining room?" Chris teased.
Ezra arched an eyebrow at him. "Not tonight, no. Perhaps tomorrow night. Right now I prefer that sinful king-sized bed in the master bedroom."
Chrisís pulse quickened at the promise those emerald eyes held, a flush of desire spreading through him, centering in his groin. Realizing this would be over before it began if he didnít cool off a little, Chris said, "Why donít you head into the bedroom? I want to put the wine in the fridge and blow out the candles."
"No. Iíve got it. Tonight is all about you, Ezra. So go on. Iíll be right there."
"Youíre wrong, Chris." Ezra smiled when Chris frowned. "Tonight is about us. But since youíre being so gallant tonight, Iíll go. Bring the wine with you when you come."
"Anything you want, Ez," Chris grinned, before leaning down to kiss him one more time. He pulled away then pushed him in the direction of the bedroom. Chris paused to watch him go, thankful that heíd finally come to his senses and talked to Ezra. With a grin he went to clear off the table. Several minutes later, wine bottle in hand, he opened the door of the bedroom and stopped in his tracks.