Author: Athea (
Fandom: Magnificent Seven, ATF universe
Pairing: Ezra Standish and Vin Tanner
Summary: Ezra wakes up to a whole new world.
Date: 18 March 2001
Ezra, part seven

Something was lying on my arm and when I opened my eyes to see what it was, my memories caught up to my waking mind in a rush. Vin's long hair was spread out like a silky fan across the hospital blanket that covered me. Quick images from the night before flew across my eyes but nothing could distract me from the sight of an unaware and sleep relaxed Vin.

He looked so very young and innocent.

But unless my memory played me false, he'd taken to oral sex with a man like a duck takes to water. Even though I knew that the drugs had played a big part in the nightmare I'd just experienced; I couldn't help but think that his presence had lightened the dark. I never felt so out of control in my life but once he touched me, I had never felt so safe. Parts of the evening were hazy and painful but not the Vin-parts.

Never the Vin-moments.

He'd said he loved me and I was afraid that I might have slipped and told him of my feelings. Maybe I could blame it on the drugs?

"Morning, Ezra. You're thinking again." The husky voice told me that he'd caught me out and his blue eyes twinkled over at me. "Here's a reminder of what we decided last night."

And those warm lips were on mine again but even better than what I remembered. The tip of his tongue outlining my lips brought him the entrance he wanted and I shivered with the need to be closer to him. His early morning taste was even better than the night before.

I was definitely blaming this on the drugs.

His lips finally left mine and he leaned over me with mischief in his eyes. "I can tell that you're feeling a mite concerned about my forward ways. But I got to tell you that I mean every word and I'm going to be telling you that I love you over and over, until you believe me."

That was the most astounding declaration I'd ever heard and it left me speechless. He laughed delightedly and kissed me again. I told myself that it would be impolite to interrupt him and raised a hand to touch his hair. The long strands felt like silk to my fingers and he hummed a little, which reminded me of his inspired performance of the night before. No one had ever put my pleasure first and I was unsure of what to do about that.

He pulled just far enough away to press little kisses over my chin and down my throat. I had to say something but I didn't know what.

"Vin," well, it was a start. And it brought his face up to look into mine. The eyes were serious and I hoped I wouldn't stutter as I had last night. "It has been a stressful time for both of us and with my getting hurt, that only exacerbates the situation."

"That's true, Ezra but I still love you and unless you can look me right in the eye and deny that you love me, too," he paused and gulped, "then I'm not stopping."

And I couldn't say it.

I couldn't lie to him about my feelings. I did love him and had for such a long time that I no longer wanted to deny it. "I ... I love you too, Vin. Are you sure?"

His whole face lit up and he kissed me hard for a brief moment before pulling back. "I'm so sure that it doesn't bother me that the rest of the team knows."

I froze and my memory replayed the team's brief visits. They did indeed know and seemed to be all right with it. And that was the second most amazing thing I'd ever known. "Yes ... well, I seem to have missed a great deal while I was undercover."

"Don't worry about it, Ezra. I promise to tell you all about it." His fingers stroked the side of my face and that felt so good that I was hard put to keep from purring. "But I need you to forgive us for letting it go so long last night. The DEA agents were so sure that more was coming that we were almost too late."

"I never doubted that you would be there before it got too bad. I'm just sorry that you needed to ... help me so often afterwards." I could feel myself blushing and I never blushed.

"Well now there I've got to disagree with you, Ez'. I liked helping you and I'm looking forward to helping you again. 'Course if you'd like to give me a ... hand, now and then. I wouldn't say no." He was laughing at me but I felt too good to care.

"I shall endeavor to be as helpful as I know how." I promised him solemnly.

He gripped my hand tightly. "We're going to be all right, Ezra. You'll see. I know it ain't going to be real easy but so long as we both remember that we love each other, we'll get through okay."

"I have no experience with things going ... okay." I confessed and wondered why he grinned.

"Know that, Ez', but I think that together we can make each other real happy. And I promise that I'll work just as hard as I can."

"I promise too, Vin." I could hardly believe I was saying this but this could be my only chance to love him. "I will try very hard not to let you down."

"You couldn't if you tried." He looked at me with those gentle eyes of his and I could feel my heart melting completely. A knock on the door broke us apart and he called for them to enter.

A gray-haired nurse bustled through with a thermometer in one hand and a bedpan in the other. When I protested that I could get up to relieve myself, she glared at me and stuck the thermometer under my tongue. While taking my pulse, she eyed Vin with an unsure gaze until he smiled sweetly at her. That young man could charm the birds right off the trees, as my Grandmother Eugenia was wont to say.

The temp and heartbeat must have been all right because she gave me permission to get up and use the facilities if Vin would help me. He volunteered promptly and winked at me behind her back. She made a notation on the chart that hung at the end of my bed before bustling off and promising me breakfast in fifteen minutes. I could just imagine how 'delicious' that would be even if Vin hadn't bet me in a quiet voice that Jello would be involved.

But then he was sliding his arms around me to steady me when I came upright. The room did a 360 on me and I held on tight until the world stopped revolving.

"I've got you, Ez'. Just hold on to me." He rested his forehead against mine and I breathed him in like a fine bouquet.

"Be careful or I'll hold on too tight." I wanted him all right but I didn't want to smother him.

"That's just not possible, Ezra." He kissed the end of my nose and slid me the rest of the way off the bed. "Besides, I'm going to be holding onto you, too. I reckon that we'll find the right balance with a little practice."

His words could be read on so many different levels that I found myself in the small bathroom before I realized that we were moving. He stood at my back and held the skimpy little gown up so I could relieve myself. It never even occurred to me to be self-conscious about such an intimate act because his nuzzling of my neck distracted me completely.

"Vin, are you planning on tasting every bit of skin I have?"
"Yep, I surely am, Ezra. You taste good everywhere." He licked behind my right ear and I shuddered all the way down to my toes. Vin laughed delightedly and did it again. "I'm going to learn every single thing that makes you feel good and then I'm going to love you right into passing out again."

I could feel his crotch pressed against my cheeks and the hardened member reminded me that while he'd already fulfilled his promise, I had yet to get to taste him. "I believe that it may be my turn to do some tasting of my own."

Turning into his arms, I initiated a kiss for the first time while my arms slid around his slender waist to pull him closer. He moaned a little when his lips parted and sucked my tongue inside of his tasty mouth. Rubbing our tongues together was pure heaven while I tried to count his teeth slowly.

But a tap at the bathroom door brought us apart quickly. Vin was trying hard not to laugh and his lighthearted-ness must have been catching because I had to bite my tongue hard to keep from joining him. He reached over and flushed the toilet while I washed my hands. Then he reassured the nurse that we'd be right out.

I felt rather shaky and was rather glad to have his support on the way back to the bed. My heart seemed to be beating rather fast and I knew Vin had felt the difference because he eased me back into bed gently. I couldn't stop watching him and it was almost unbelievable that I now had his permission. His hands were so tender when he tucked me under the sheets and blanket.

"Breakfast, Ezra. You eat up and be real good so the doctor lets you out this morning. You got yourself a private nurse who's itching to give you some of that tender, loving care that Josiah was talking about." He raised the head of the bed a little while I investigated the covered tray on the rolling table.

"Well, perhaps I could persuade you to help me out?" I eyed the gelatinous mound of eggs next to the hard-as-nails toast with the little dish of frozen butter-substitute with a skeptical eye. "This looks rather unappetizing to put it bluntly."

"You got that right, Ez'. But I guess I can help out a friend." Those blue eyes twinkled at me and somehow I knew that I'd be eating every bite as long as he was the one wielding the fork.

The tasteless meal was soon consumed and rolled away from the bed while Vin brought the chair a little closer and leaned his arms on the bed covers. For once in my life, I felt no urge to talk. Somehow the miracle of Vin was suppressing my defensive barriers and giving me permission to be silent.

And this silence was more healing than any drugs the doctor could prescribe. His fingers stroked the back of my hand with calming warmth and I felt myself content to just lie there and soak up the peace he brought with him. I'd always know he was a very special man but the joy he brought to his work had now been extended to me and that was so overwhelming that I didn't know what to do or say.

I had nothing with which to gift him back and that worry must have shown in my face because he leaned over and kissed me hard before pulling back just far enough to watch my eyes. "Ezra, I love you. Goin' to keep saying that and showing you until you know it deep inside of your heart, the way that I know it in mine. I know that you're a mite rusty in the loving department but I'm depending on you to show me what I need to know about making," he blushed a little, "about making love with you."

"I seem to remember something being said about Murphy's Adult Bookstore?" I tried for a teasing tone and he grinned.

"Let's just say that Buck's a real good friend and found me a primer so's I could do some studying. But those were just pictures and words, I need you to make them come alive for me."

Vin was serious and I found a lump in my throat that wouldn't let any words out. But somehow, I swallowed hard and gripped his hand a little more tightly. "I won't be a very good instructor, Vin. The only man I thought I loved showed me how he could take pleasure but not how to give it back. All I knew was pain and humiliation after he fucked me, called me frigid and left."

"Son of a bitch!" Vin's hissed words almost made my heart stop until I realized they weren't directed at me. "You just tell me his name, Ezra, and I'll make sure that he never hurts anyone else. How could he take your love and throw it away like that?"

And once again, I found myself speechless. Those stormy blue eyes were flashing lightning bolts and suddenly the past didn't seem so terrible. His healing powers extended even there and I'd never felt so light before, as if some heavy weight had finally dropped away.

"Vin," was all I could manage but he seemed to understand.

"Ezra, I promise that I'll never hurt you like that. We'll learn together how to make love to each other." He kissed me tenderly then scattered kisses all over my face, interspersing them with little comments. "I love this dimple, Ez'. And your chin is just right. But I really love this spot that makes you shiver."

And right on cue, I shivered all the way down to my toes when he licked behind my ear. He just chuckled and kept on moving down my throat to the hollow where he bathed me with his tongue, making me moan at the sensations. Then he pulled away with a smile.

"I can hear the doctor coming this way and at the moment your heart rate would keep you in here another day. So I want you to think about your Grandmother Eugenia's garden on a hot, sunny afternoon ..." his words were mesmerizing while he sent me back in time to the garden of my youth. By the time the doctor and interns arrived, my relaxation was complete and Vin was calmly sitting by the bed with his arms folded.

Their examination was thorough but everything checked out although the doctor did take the precaution of ordering another blood test to make sure the drugs were completely out of my system. Chris arrived in time to hear the verdict and the small suitcase that he brought was a welcome sight. He teased me gently about being hard on my clothes and I blushed crimson.

Vin just chuckled and told Chris to watch the door while he helped me dress. Our leader left meekly and I pondered the changing dynamics of the relationships of our team. "Vin, are you sure the others are all right with this?"

"Real sure, Ezra. Swing over this way so I can get your socks on." He dropped a kiss on the top of my left foot and I felt it all the way up to my heart. "Your feet are cold, Ez'. They keep this place too damn cool." He sent me a flirtatious look that warmed me all the way through. "I'll do my best to warm you up once I get you home."

"Oh, I'm sure that your best will be more than adequate. But since you spent the night here so uncomfortably in that hospital chair, perhaps I can do something to soothe away your aches?" I ventured into unknown territory and was rewarded with a glowing smile that took my breath away.

"I reckon that I might need you to ... massage away an ache or two. If you wouldn't mind?" The shy look up through his impossibly long eyelashes sent an urgent message to my groin.

"That sounds like something I could do, Vin. Of course, a long hot bath and some massage oil might help too."

He slid my boxers up my legs and urged me to lift up with a gentle caress that hardened me completely. "Why look, Ezra, that swelling is back. We wouldn't want the doctor to see this and maybe keep you any longer so I guess I better take care of it."

And with no further ado, he slid his hot, wet mouth around the crown of my cock while I looked down at him in shock. That tongue of his should be declared a lethal weapon and I shuddered under the raspy washing of my sensitive skin. It was a disgracefully short time before I was pulsing out my climax into his waiting mouth. I hadn't come this often in a year or more and I wondered if I just might have to thank the despicable Mr. Munson for his choice of drugs.

"There now, I think you'll fit inside these boxers," he grinned up at me and again urged me up so he could slide them over my hips. "Now, the jeans, then we can get rid of that fetchin' little nightshirt."

I let him dress me completely and marveled at the tender caresses that he lavished on me with every button and zipper. I felt as if I was in some strange dream that just kept getting better and better. And the secret me, the one I kept hidden deep inside, decided that I liked it and maybe it was time to come out of the dark, cold place that had kept me safe all these years.

Or had it just kept me a solitary prisoner in my very own prison?

"Ezra, come on back to me." Vin's voice came faintly to me and I shook my head to clear away the clinging cobwebs that stuck to me.

"I'm sorry, Vin." I didn't want him to worry. "I promise not to be so inattentive."

"That's okay, Ez'. We kind'a been hurrying things along since last night and if'n we need to slow down, we can." He smiled at me and I marveled at his insight.

"Not too much slower, my friend. I'm looking forward to holding you without any interruptions." I sighed and rested my head on his shoulder. "May we go back to my apartment this time? That hovel I've been living in had inadequate bathing facilities."

"You bet, Ezra. I'm looking forward to helping you wash all those hard to reach spots." He grinned and flung an arm around my shoulders, urging me from the room.

Chris was waiting for us, having already filled out the hospital paperwork. He informed us that we had the rest of the day off but would be expected in the next morning. The DEA was having conniptions but Chris grinned and told us that Josiah was baffling them with ease. There was never any love lost between our two agencies but Vin sounded positively gleeful at the thought of frustrating them.

It warmed my heart to see him so protective of me. As the elder, I was more used to looking out for my teammates than being looked after. I was enjoying the turnabout but also wondering what would happen when we did go into work. Would the others be so accepting when the euphoria of closing a case died away?

Chris packed us onto the bench seat of his big black truck with the little suitcase stuffed behind us. Vin sat in the middle and his warmth warmed me all along that side. It was such a relief to listen to them banter back and forth about some of the things that had gone on while I was undercover. The very normality of their stories began to relax me.

Life was good and if I tried not to think too far ahead, well that was probably just a protective impulse. I knew that Vin would never consciously hurt me. But I had no idea how to act as a partner and I feared hurting him because of my ignorance. I was back to praying again to a God in whom Josiah had such faith.

He was an unknown God to me but perhaps the man I called friend would be willing to intercede for my sinful self.
We arrived at my apartment building and I looked up at the familiar façade with a sigh of relief. The one room apartment near the campus had been small, squalid and furnished with the rejects of a junk store. I got out with Vin right on my heels. Chris called to Vin to take the other suitcase that he'd packed for him. Then he told us to take care of each other and said good-bye.

I could hardly believe my ears. He really did accept us.

Vin urged me inside and we made our way into the lobby and up the elevator to the sixth floor. He had my keys and for a moment, I wondered how he'd gotten them. But once the door was shut behind us and his arms slid around me, I forgot all about such inconsequentials.

"Ezra, how about I make some of that tea you like while you start drawin' our bath?" He asked me in a low whisper from that spot behind my ear.

Shivering, I nodded shakily. "Yes, I would enjoy that ... Vin." It still felt odd to be speaking his name so familiarly. "I'll just turn up the heat a little, I turned it down since I wouldn't be here."

"Good idea, Ezra, I don't want you to catch a cold." He kissed me again and set me free. "Tea comin' right up."

I turned the thermostat up to 80 degrees so the hot air would start immediately. Wandering back through the rooms that still looked so empty of anything but the few pieces of furniture I'd collected, I couldn't blank my thoughts. As much as I wanted to believe that Vin and I could be together, I looked around at my cold, sterile apartment and knew that it matched my heart.

Nothing in my life had prepared me for the warmth he brought with him and I was afraid that I was thawing. And what was left of me wouldn't be good enough or satisfy him.

The bathroom was so cold that my teeth were chattering when I pulled out two white towels and laid them on the counter. The rational part of my mind was telling me that it was just a reaction to the odd drug cocktail that Munson had given me. But a part of me laughed with a jeer and told me 'what else can you expect from a cold fish like you?'

I tried to fight it back, that cold depression that tried to overcome me after every mission. But it always felt as if I'd lost another piece of myself and I wondered if today would be the day that I lost the last little bit of humanity that was left to me. I shivered continuously and I could see my hand shaking when I reached in to turn on the hot water.

It ran cold for a long moment and I thought how appropriate that was but then Vin's warmth was there and his arms slid around me. "Ezra, you're freezing. Isn't that water warming at all?"

"Takes a while," was all I could manage through my chattering teeth. He held me close, searing me heat everywhere he touched me.

"It will be all right, Ezra. I've got you." His husky voice was so beautiful to me and finally the water turned hot and I pushed in the drain plug so the tub would start to fill. "Now, that's more like it, Ez'. That'll soon warm you up."

I looked at him and opened my mouth to tell him that he shouldn't risk catching the frost bite that my last lover had accused me of giving him, but he kissed me instead and I forgot all the warnings I should be giving him. He radiated the warmth of a hundred suns and I gave into the temptation to soak up just a little more of the love and caring he shone on me.

"Oh, Ezra, I do love you." He smiled at me with such a wondering look that I wanted to cry out that I didn't deserve it. "Now, let me get you undressed so's we can warm you up some." A whistle pierced the air and he jumped up, "Oops! Let me get the teakettle and I'll bring the tea in here. If'n we surround you with hot water and put some inside of you, that should do the trick."

I managed a laugh and he darted from the room with the grace of quicksilver. I started unbuttoning my shirt, remembering how he'd buttoned each one with a kiss. Turning my mind off, I concentrated on removing my clothes. The water was half way up the side of my oversized tub and I poured a little of the scented oil I kept nearby into the steaming water.

Magnolias were among the flowering shrubs that Grandmother Eugenia had grown in her garden and I'd always been fond of their scent. I hoped that Vin would be too. I had just finished removing my boxers when Vin toed the door open and came in with one of my trays filled with teapot and cups. He was biting his lip and concentrating on not spilling anything.

If it was possible, I fell even deeper in love at that moment. When he looked up and saw me standing by the tub, he froze and I wondered what was wrong.

"You're so beautiful, Ezra, like one of those famous statues in a museum." He shook his head and set the tray down on the far end of the tub where two plants set. "I'm going to taste every square inch of skin and then I'm going to hold you so close that we won't know where one starts and the other ends."

He caressed my face and I ducked my head with a blush before beginning to unbutton his shirt. I would return his kindness with as much care as I was capable of. "I believe I will enjoy that, Vin. And now it is my turn to touch and taste you."

End part seven