Finding Trust

Monica M.

Main Character(s): Ezra, Buck

Universe : Nasty Boys (other story in this AU is Desert Run)

Thanks: To Debbie who didn't let me just forget about this half written story and gave me all the encouragement in the world to finally finish it.

The warehouse headquarters of the Las Vegas special police unit unofficially called the Nasty Boys was, of course, empty. It was Thanksgiving Day after all and even these hard-working, dedicated cops had the day off. "What did you think you were going to find here, Standish?" Ezra asked himself as he plopped down on the couch that more often than not was a second bed for him. For some reason today it did not seem as comfortable as it normally did so he stood back up immediately, shaking his head as he wandered around the warehouse. The truth was that he had known no one would be here. He had known that fact and yet he had still hoped. And that hope concerned him greatly. It should have been just another Thanksgiving without family and friends. But this year Ezra had allowed himself to hope that it would be different. Actually he had wanted it to be different.

He scrubbed a hand through his hair as he sat down at Buck Wilmington's desk. He adjusted the office chair to his own height and smiled at the thought of the much taller man's reaction when he tried to sit down. As far as pranks went it was fairly benign and not up to his usual standards which was actually all the better because Buck would never think that Ezra did it.

The desktop, like all the others, held only a computer, telephone and an inbox. This unit flourished only because of their anonymousness and so there were no personal items on any of their desks, or at least no personal items that would identify them to anyone unfamiliar with their personalities. Ezra pulled open one of Buck's desk drawers and flashed a dimpled grin at the sight of various colognes and grooming paraphernalia. More often than not the self-proclaimed ladies' man hurried out of the warehouse rushing to his latest affair. Vin Tanner's desk drawer was more pantry than anything else, filled with candy bars and chips. John Dunne's desk held a bit more computer hardware than the others and locked in one of his drawers, which he naively thought would keep Ezra out, was the latest portable gaming system. An unsolved Rubik's Cube sat on Josiah Sanchez' desk. Ezra had once solved it for the older man only to receive a thorough berating for it. He had been instructed that the Cube was a metaphor for the complexity and puzzling nature of life and no one could solve that for another. The southerner had pointed out that in the year that he had known him Josiah had only managed to solve one side at a time. With a wide and enigmatic grin, the armchair philosopher had proclaimed that if he solved each colored side at least once, had he not 'solved' the puzzle. Ezra had walked away at that point, not wanting to get into one of those discussions with the older man. Nathan Jackson's desk drawer also doubled as the team's first aid kit and medicine cabinet since the ex-FBI agent had been a medic when he served in the military and still carried those skills with him. Ezra thought Nathan seemed more suited to a life as a doctor, but something had driven him into a life of law enforcement instead.

Looking back over at the couch that he had come to consider as his own "desk", Ezra wondered if any of the officers had any clue about the large amount of cash he had stashed there. He certainly hoped that they did not since he also had several important documents hidden within it as well. Just a few things that he thought he might need if he ever had to leave this city in a hurry as he had left so many before. The only problem was that he had hidden these items away in the one place that seemed to convince him to stay. He had learned that lesson the last couple of times that he had thought about running. Something about coming here made him think that he had a place to belong, something that he just could not leave behind. As he looked around at the empty warehouse, though, he could only wonder why he had not left either then or now.

And it bothered him to no end that he did not have an answer to that question. Or rather that he had no answer that he could accept. He should never feel like he belonged anywhere. He had not been raised that way, had never lived his life that way. He was the loner, the outsider, the shadowy figure on the peripherally. Becoming part of a team meant giving up some control of his own life, of losing the autonomy that he had cultivated for so long. All of that had been slipping away as he was drawn into the brotherhood of this team. He was not officially part of the team. He was a confidential informer, neither cop nor criminal, or at lest not criminal enough to be arrested by these cops. They found him invaluable. In the beginning he knew they were just using him as a means to an end, but as time passed and he got to know them he truly began to believe that in some small way they thought of him as one of them.

Standing up, Ezra walked over to the couch and threw himself back down into it, throwing his feet up along its length. His eyes were drawn back to the row of desks, empty and silent. To his mind's eye they were like a seated jury staring at him as he sat on the witness stand, acting as his own counsel. He straightened up but kept his arms insolently thrown up over the back of the couch. "You want to know why I'm not thankful on Thanksgiving?" he asked voicing the question that plagued his subconscious. He paused for affect, enjoying the opportunity to indulge a childhood dream of being a high powered attorney. He had a stepfather who as a lawyer himself had seemed to think that Ezra would excel as one as well. Unfortunately his offer to pay for such an education was rescinded after a bitter divorce from Ezra's mother. "Well," chuckling he dropped his head shaking it lightly, "I've got to be honest...I see no reason to be." His gaze paused meaningfully at each of the empty chairs behind the desks. "I came here just to have that point made clear to me." His arms dropped down to his sides, dejection settling over his features. "And I was not disappointed."

He sat there for a moment hearing in his head the objections of the cops. He could hear them point out that he had told them that he had plans for Thanksgiving before any of them could invite him to join them on their own various get-togethers. They just could not understand that it was always easier to pretend to have something to do rather than risk not being invited into their plans.

Ezra's eyes drifted from the row of desks to the lone desk behind the chain-link fence, the judge's seat in this courtroom of his mind. "Sounds like you're admitting your guilt," Chris Larabee's voice pointed out.

The southerner scoffed as he rose to his feet. "To what?"

"To not trustin' us. We trust you. You should return the favor."

All of Ezra's protests about how it just was not in his nature to trust anyone fell away as he heard someone approaching the entrance to the warehouse. Despite the fact that the disabled alarm would be a dead giveaway he still scrambled to hide, instincts too well-honed in survival would not be denied. Knowing that the desks would be the most likely destination of the unexpected visitor, Ezra dove over the couch, slipping backward toward a recess in the divider that passed as a wall in the warehouse.

Someone entered and turned on the lights forcing Ezra to press further into his hiding place. "Hey, Ez! You here?" Buck's voice rang out as soon as he took in the deactivated alarm.

Controlling his breathing so as to not make a sound, the southerner remained hidden. There would be no crime in being caught here. They knew and approved of his unauthorized entries into their headquarters. It was a show of trust on their part and one he appreciated and yet still found himself unable to reciprocate. Any other day he would not have had a problem revealing himself to Buck. But today that would be admitting that he had no where better to go. And that was a revelation he could not make. It seemed far too telling about him. So instead he listened as the tall detective strode across the warehouse toward the desks. Ezra dared to peek out in case Buck went to his own desk. He had not expected to be able to witness the results of his prank, but would not miss the opportunity. Buck, however, stopped at Vin's desk, leafing through the papers in the Texan's inbox.

The cop's cell phone rang sending Ezra into a frenzied, yet silent rush to turn his own off lest it betray him. "No, Chris, he ain't here. Alarm was off so he might've been here." The southerner wondered if he or Vin was the subject of the conversation. From what he knew, Vin was having Thanksgiving dinner at Nettie Wells' house. The old woman had all but adopted the Texan after he was instrumental in arresting a drug dealer that had set up residence on her block.

Ezra ducked back into his hiding place as Buck took a few steps away from the desks toward the couch. "No, doesn't look like he's touched his stash."

That made clear that they were talking about him and that they knew about his money and documents. Ezra could not believe that they had discovered it and wondered if they had left it in intact. He would be sure to count the money and check over the documents very carefully at his very next opportunity.

"How's Vin?"

Ezra again peeked out at that question, wondering what it meant exactly. He did not risk being spotted because he could tell that Buck had turned his back to him. The cop had returned to the desk of his teammate.

The southerner's mind raced as he wondered what had happened to Vin and what the Texan had been working on. There had been a drug dealer that Vin had wanted information on, but Ezra had no connection to the man and had pointed Vin to another potential snitch named Pedro. In their last conversation Vin had told him that he was having a hard time getting in contact with Pedro but that he hoped to hear from him soon. Ezra sighed then cut it off quickly not wanting to risk that the soft sound would carry to Buck. Only Vin would meet a snitch on Thanksgiving if it was going to be the only opportunity he would get. The man was single-minded in his pursuit of justice.

"Alright, I'll try calling Ez. You have any idea what he was supposed to be doing today?" Buck asked.

A knowing smile graced Ezra's lips as he watched Buck pull the cell phone away from his ear. The smile faded as he knew that Chris' loud, long tirade was probably about him. He wished there was some way that he could hear exactly what was being said. Whatever it was it hardened the voice of the normally gregarious Buck as he practically growled out, "Oh we'll find him."

In response to whatever Chris said on the other side of the phone conversation, Buck said, "Ezra had to be the one..."

The southerner cursed Larabee for cutting off whatever else Buck was going to say because now he would not know what he was the one to do whatever it was that they were after him for. The residual anger in the cop's voice told Ezra that whatever it was it was not good for him and he did not plan on making himself easy to be found.

Ezra ducked back in to the shadows of his hiding place as he saw Buck begin to spin back around to face his general direction. "I'm gonna look around here, see if he's around somewhere. He's never forgotten to rearm the alarm before so he might still be here. But I'm gonna stick around here unless something comes up. If he's running he's gonna need his stuff."

Panic touched Ezra at those words. What had he done, or what did the cops think he had done, that they thought he would run because of it? He recalled Buck's question of "How's Vin?". With that reverberating in his mind he settled down into plotting mode. First he had to slip out of the warehouse without Buck seeing him. After that he could make an attempt or two in finding out what had happened to Vin.

"We gotta find him first!" Buck's words drew Ezra back to the task at hand.

"Of course I'll let you know the minute I find him," the cop stated as he began to move around the warehouse. He walked over to Chris' fenced in desk testing the lock on the gate. "No, it's still locked up. I can't tell but it doesn't look like he's been in there. I'm gonna go check out the garage." There was a brief pause and then a small chuckle from Buck. "He wouldn't be stupid enough to take one of our cars, Chris. He knows we'd track that in a flash. And we still don't know what he drives."

Ezra nodded in agreement from his hideaway. Once again he found the justification for his instinct to keep these men at arm's length. They actually had no idea how he got back and forth from the warehouse and he took great pains to make sure that they did not.

Knowing that this would be his chance to slip out unseen, Ezra watched as Buck made his way to the garage area. "How long do you think Vin'll be there?" was the last question he heard the cop ask of Chris as he walked away.

The southerner wished he could hear the answer to that. But as soon as he was certain that Buck had gotten far enough into the garage, he started out of his hiding place only to hear someone else making their way into the warehouse. Unfortunately the Spartan interior of the warehouse gave him very limited hiding place options. Quietly he slid along the divider until he was up against the wall and could hide better in the crimp of it where it wasn't fully extended. It was not the best hiding place by far but he had no other real choice. He just had to hope that no one decided to push the divider all the way open or else he would end up squished.

"Buck?! Ezra?!" the southerner immediately recognized Josiah's voice as the older man walked into the warehouse.

For a second Ezra hoped that Josiah would walk immediately to the garage to find Buck. Instead Buck strode quickly back into the main warehouse to join him. The southerner pressed himself so far back into the divider that he feared for a moment that it might give way behind him.

"I didn't think you were coming out here, 'Siah."

"When Chris called me about Vin, I knew I had to. I guess it was too much to ask for Ezra to be here?"

"Alarm had been disabled, so he was here. We don't know what all he knows, so we don't know if he's gonna try to run or not."

"Well we're just gonna have to bring our boy in," Josiah responded.

Ezra cursed his inability to see the older man's face as he spoke. More often than not the key to Josiah's emotions were in his eyes and not in his rich voice. His last words had been spoken casually but with conviction. What Ezra needed to know was if they had been coupled with a vicious, determined look or a concerned, determined look.

"I talked to Nathan and he said he and J.D. were going to start checking out some of the casinos off the strip, see if Ezra's at any of those." As Josiah walked over to his desk, Ezra realized just how truly trapped he was. Since Buck was also moving back toward his desk, the southerner took the opportunity of both of them having their back turned to him to slide down slowly to sit on the floor so at least to be a little more out of their line of sight. But sitting at their desks meant that they were facing his direction and as stealthy as he was he knew there was no way he could move away from the wall divider and make his way to the door without their seeing his movement. And there just wasn't enough distance between where he was and where the others sat at their desk. It might give him the time to make it to the door but there wasn't any cover outside the warehouse either and in a straight footrace with Buck, Ezra did not have enough confidence that he could outrun the taller agent. Not to mention the fact that they were armed and he was not sure that the cops would not use their weapons against him if necessary.

"You think he'd go to a casino?" Buck asked.

"I think Nathan and J.D. need to at least feel like they're doing something. Plus it's possible that he would go there. He might have some money stashed away somewhere else, but if not he's gonna need some quick money if he's gonna run. And you know as well as I do how much that boy loves those casinos for that."

Ezra heard Buck start to chuckle only to have it turn into a startled cry as he sat down. Dimples flashed briefly as the southerner enjoyed the sound of the cop flailing about in his chair in surprise. His smile deepened as he heard the unflappable Josiah ask with just a hint of laughter in his voice, "Having problems there, Buck?"

Ezra could easily picture an indignant Buck shooting a vicious look at Josiah as he angrily adjusted his chair back to the proper height. "Vin and J.D. need to grow up." The tall man fumed. "This is a workplace! We're cops here! It's a serious place!"

The laughter in Josiah's voice was even more evident as he responded, "It is indeed."

They settled down after that and Ezra had no idea what they were doing though he could hear them working at their computers. But Buck was never one to work in silence, something Ezra had been counting on.
"So what do you think our chances are of finding him?"

"Depends on how much of a head start he's had on us and what kind of resources he has. You've seen the stash there in the couch. If he's got anything like that anywhere else that he can access easily, then he's as good as gone."

Buck sighed. "You think we should try contacting his mother?"

Ezra froze at that question. He knew they knew about his mother, but he had never considered that they would ever track her down. She knew nothing about him working with these cops. He knew they would probably try to reveal as little as possible to her, but he knew his mother. She would get down to the truth of things. It was one of the things that she did best.

"I don't think we'd be able to find her," Josiah answered drawing a nod of relief and agreement from Ezra.

"Why not?"

Ezra rolled his eyes and silently shouted for Buck to just leave it alone.

"Well, from what I've gathered from Ezra, his mother tends to marry frequently and profitably."

"Ezra told you that?" the surprise in Buck's voice matched the look on the southerner's face. He could not remember ever telling Josiah any such thing. He had once told the older man that he and his mother were not on speaking terms since her latest marriage but he had never mentioned how many marriages Maude had racked up or that she did indeed tend to marry wealth.

"Not intentionally, no. But I pay attention when he's talking. You ever hear him talk about his stepfathers?"

Ezra realized his mistake had been in underestimating the cop who often worked up psychological profiles on the criminals they were after. He would have to remedy that in the future. A sharp pang made the southerner wince as it also dawned on him that there would be no future with these cops. As soon as he could slip unnoticed from this warehouse he would leave this life behind. Just like that it stung him to think of never coming back here, of never seeing these six men again.

"He's mentioned a few from time to time, I think."

Josiah chuckled. "More than a few. All with pretty varied professions. I haven't met Maude Standish but it does sound like she has an eclectic taste in men. That Ezra knows them by the profession they had means that it was probably an important reason as to why Maude married them."

"Still wouldn't hurt trying to find her. I mean it might be where he'd run to."

"You got any ideas on where to start looking?"

Ezra heard Buck heave a sigh and smiled to himself. If there was one thing he could count on his mother to be it was frustrating.

"J.D. would probably be better at that. I'll give him a call."

As Buck called J.D., Josiah's phone rang. With the two men talking at the same time, Ezra found it difficult to follow either conversation. He turned his attention to finding some way out of his predicament. He needed a diversion and he needed one soon. With the way his luck had been going today both Nathan and J.D. would show up at the warehouse soon and then he would definitely be caught.

Josiah ended his conversation first but Buck seemed to be getting some kind of instructions from J.D. as he worked something on his computer. Ezra wished he knew what he was doing. He was pretty sure his mother was untraceable but he would still like to know what ideas the young cop would come up with trying to find her.

He started to think his luck was changing for the better when from the sounds of things Josiah was preparing to leave. He heard Buck ask J.D. to hold on and then Josiah explain that he was going to join them at the casinos. After the older man left Ezra relaxed a little. Now he only had to work on a distraction for Buck. If his luck was truly turning good then the cop would soon have to make a restroom break and he could leave this place and not look back. Again he felt a pang of regret that it had come to this.

"Alright, J.D., I got it from here. I'll call you if I need anything else." He hung up and it was then quiet as he worked at the computer, though it seemed he had moved over to J.D.'s desk. After several long moments the cop chuckled and Ezra wondered what information he had discovered about his mother that he found funny.

After what felt like an eternity of silence Buck's phone rang again and when he answered at his own desk Ezra was surprised to hear Chris' voice come over the speaker phone. Finally he would be able to hear both sides of the conversation and just maybe would learn what was really going on. He had to admit curiosity was getting to him a little. But even more than that he needed to know what his chances were of getting away. And he knew his success at that depended on just how angry and tenacious Chris Larabee would be and he hoped to learn that from the tone of the lieutenant's voice.

"They're gonna release Vin here in a bit so we'll head over there."

Instant and overwhelming panic filled Ezra with the news that Chris Larabee would soon be arriving. It took every ounce of restraint and willpower that he possessed to not jump up and run from the warehouse at the news. From an early age he had learned to get all the information he could before reacting to a situation. It had saved him countless times before but now he was not so sure. He had begun to realize that most of the habits he had developed and the lessons his mother had imparted to him did not quite seem to hold up against the scrutiny of Lieutenant Chris Larabee. He would not be able to hide from Chris. And while he continued to fight the urge to flee he realized that he also wouldn't be able to run from Chris either. That man would find him. Ezra believed in himself and in his abilities and knew that he could run and hide from just about anything or anyone. But the thing was that he believed in Chris Larabee's abilities as well. Not just on his own merits but on the lieutenant's ability to unite the five men who worked for him, to drive them to accomplish what they could not do on their own.

"The others are out checking the casinos. You want me to call 'em in so we can coordinate when you get here?"

"Yeah. They're not doing any good out there. We gotta find him, Buck."

"I know. And we will."

Sometimes Ezra forgot about the long standing friendship between Buck and Chris. They would trade a story or two every once in a while that would remind everyone of their history. Other times it was expressed just in the way they spoke to each other. Chris' directive had been firm and determined. Anyone would have thought that he had no doubts that he would be successful. But Buck had heard something else in those words and his response was filled with support and encouragement. Ezra had never thought that Chris would have even the slightest bit of self doubt or a fear of failure. He could not understand why that would be.

Buck, as always, ended the long silence that had greeted his words, "I'll get one of the guys to pick up something from wherever they can find open today. It might not be much but the six of us should have some kind of Thanksgiving dinner today, even if that wasn't the original plan."

"Yeah, that's fine." Chris' tone indicated that he wasn't overly concerned with dinner plans. Then after a significant pause that had Ezra wondering if Chris had disconnected the call, the lieutenant added quietly but with an intensity that left no doubt that it was important to him, "but it should be seven, Buck."

"I know, Chris. We're working on it."

Ezra sat wide eyed and breathless on the floor in his little hiding place against the wall. He did not even hear as Buck disconnected the call and then stood up from his desk. Chris' words kept echoing in his head but he could not get them to make sense.

"You hear that, Ezra?"

Again the southerner stopped breathing and his heart seemed to stop in mid beat. Perhaps Buck was just talking out loud. But the footsteps that stopped just in front of where Ezra hid seemed to state otherwise.

Buck pushed out the crimp in the divider and exposed Ezra where he sat in complete bafflement on the floor. A weak, crooked smile tried to twitch its way to the southerner's lips but the shake of the tall cop's head had it dying away sheepishly.

"Did you hear what Chris said?" Buck repeated as he continued to look down at the younger man.

Ezra didn't trust the dryness of his throat or the rushing of his emotions so he nodded and looked away.

"'Bout time," Buck stated a little enigmatically. When Ezra looked up to ask what exactly he meant he was greeted with a proffered hand. "Let's get you on your feet." Again their eyes met as they both knew that Buck meant that in more ways than one.

Ezra allowed Buck's strength to do most of the work of pulling him up. He sidled away from the taller man as soon as he was able, needing room to breath. Much to his own dismay he realized that he moved further into the warehouse instead of closer to the door even though Buck did not obstruct him. "How did you know I was here?"

Buck's eyes twinkled as he chuckled warmly. "J.D. He and Chris have been talking about some security surveillance for this place. So he was testing out some stuff. I wanted to see if you had been here. Couldn't believe it when I saw that you had never made it out."

Ezra remembered Buck's laughter before the phone rang. "So you knew I was there before you took that call?"
Buck grinned widely as he nodded. Ezra realized he had underestimated Buck even more than he had Josiah.

"Why didn't you tell Chris?"

"Cause Chris would have been so relieved to know we'd found you that he would have just cussed you out." Buck's smile softened as his voice dropped into a knowing tone. "And that ain't what you needed to hear from him."

"How did you know he'd say that?" Even as the question left his lips Ezra knew the answer. Buck lived life fully and joyously. He was always the first to laugh and the one to laugh loudest and longest. That was what people remembered first and foremost about Buck Wilmington. But amidst all that was a more thoughtful and reflective person, one who would always put his friends first. One who could see right into the heart of their troubles and know exactly what they needed even when they could not. Ezra had just never realized that the cop counted him as a friend as well.

"Cause I know Chris. Sometimes I think better than he knows himself. He's been sitting there at the hospital with Vin blaming himself for getting you into all this and worried that it's gotten you hurt too. He hasn't allowed himself to think of you as part of the team too much before. But that's just 'cause he hasn't had to. But his concern for your safety made it real. Like he said, we're seven, not six."

Ezra's gaze dropped to the floor again as he nodded trying to let the words sink in but knowing it was going to take a lot of private deliberation to make sense out of them. Again Buck proved to know what was needed as he started to step back, to give Ezra a little more space. "Wait!" the southerner exclaimed, reaching out to grab Buck's arm, suddenly needing to feel that this was real. "What happened to Vin? Why is he at the hospital? And what does it have to do with me? How could I have been hurt? Why are you looking for me?"

"Damn, Hoss, you got all kinds of questions now. You were all ready to run before but now you want to know why." His grin made his teasing softer though Ezra still felt unnerved enough to bristle at the words.

His eyes flashed angrily as he stepped back away from Buck again. "I didn't know what was going on."

Buck allowed his own anger to rise up a little. "You could have trusted us. You coulda trusted me at least. Asked me what was going on instead of just running." He paused and the anger slipped away from him. Ezra trusted his instincts and those often told him to run. He shouldn't be surprised by that and shouldn't try to blame Ezra for it. What he needed to do was point out how running wasn't always going to be the answer. But Buck had the feeling that Ezra was learning that all on his own. "Why had you come here today anyway?"

Embarrassment flushed the southerner's face though he tried to hide it behind indignation. He could never admit to Buck that he had come here because it was the closest place that he could think of that felt like home. "What happened to Vin?"

"You know how stubborn he can be. Had to meet up with someone today who might have some information on a drug dealer he's after. I don't know all the details but the guy made Vin as a cop at some point and tried to run. Before he got made though Vin had mentioned you, since I think you had helped him get in contact with him.. So Vin was worried that the guy might suspect that you were helping us out. He chased him and they got into a scuffle and Vin got sliced a little but he's gonna be okay. But the guy got away so Vin was worried that he might come after you. And Chris thought that if you heard about it that you might decide to just run."

Ezra walked away from Buck with all that information and went to sit down on the couch. He felt drained and numb. What scared him the most was not that there might be someone out there with a murderous grudge against him. What scared him was that as he listened to Buck explain the situation, the southerner had realized that had he learned that his life was in danger that he would not have run and not looked back. He would have come here to these cops completely secure in the knowledge that they would protect him.

Buck walked around the couch and sat on the far end away from Ezra, but he kept his eyes locked on the younger man. He knew he needed to call the others, especially Chris, and let them know that Ezra was here. But he waited because he knew the southerner was working something out in his head, was coming to terms with things he'd rather leave buried and undiscovered.

"I didn't know." The pale eyes that could be so cold and remote were wide with an almost childlike wonder and fear. "I came here 'cause I didn't have anywhere else to go today and I just wanted to be here." It was painful for him to admit so Buck made no reaction, just let Ezra say all that he wanted to say. "I've thought of running before, of just leaving, but I come here and then it doesn't seem like the right thing to do." Swallowing hard Ezra finally met Buck's look of understanding. That admission was enough for now.

Buck nodded and pushed himself back to his feet. "It ain't right and you never have to run from us, Ezra. You got that?" The blue eyes were fierce with determination. It was only after the younger man whispered that he did understand, that the mischievous twinkle that was more often than not present in those blue eyes returned. "Good. I've got a few phone calls to make then." He walked over to his desk and then added, because he knew Ezra would need to hear it, "and all this is between me and you, Ez. Trust me."

Ezra lay back on the couch letting his body go limp with relief. Very quietly he whispered, "I believe I am beginning to trust you." He said it aloud because he needed to make it real, but he wasn't quite ready to let any one else here the admission. Then remembering his manners and the day they should be celebrating he added a loud, clear and heartfelt, "Thank you, Buck."

Buck may not have heard the admission of trust but he knew it was brewing in Ezra. He still had a ways to go but he was getting there. Picking up his phone he quickly made a call. "Hey, Chris, I finally got hold of Ezra. He didn't know a thing about what's going on. I'm gonna go and pick him up and bring him here." Buck tossed a wink at Ezra who had sat up on the couch in confusion. The cop figured it would be better this way. Let the young man get some air and clear his head before having to deal with Chris and the others. "Yeah the others are on their way. Me and Ez will pick something up on our way back. You just left the hospital?" Buck motioned for Ezra to get up and start moving because they needed to get out of the warehouse before Chris could catch them there. "What? No, I don't know what happened with the alarm. Ez says he hadn't come out here today. Maybe I had disarmed it and didn't think that I had. You know how that happens sometimes." He flashed a grin at Ezra who was actually laughing silently at him. "Yeah I know it never happens to you. But I ain't you, am I? But hey did you know that J.D. had set up some surveillance cameras? Well he did. And I got him to hook me up so I can view 'em and there ain't hide or hair of Ezra on them. So he wasn't here. I gotta go now and get him. We'll work everything out when we get back." He hung up then and quickly followed Ezra out the door. The southerner had his own cheeky grin waiting when Buck turned back to rearm the alarm. Buck hooked his arm around his neck and dragged him toward the car. "You see what I do for you?"

"I really do," Ezra answered as he managed to pull himself free and then shove Buck in return.

"Well don't you forget it." They got in the car and then Buck told him, "Now shut up and be quiet so I can call the others and tell them that I found your scrawny ass."

Ezra appreciated the fact that after Buck made those calls and they began their quest to find any place that was open on Thanksgiving that served somewhat decent food that he chatted about nothing in particular and did not try to get him to talk any more about what had happened that day. Ezra did have to field a few phone calls from the others. Buck flashed him a smile as each call came in from Josiah, Nathan, J.D. and Vin. They called Buck's cell phone and tried to make it about the search for food but in the end always asked to talk to the southerner. Vin in particular wanted to talk to Ezra when they got back. He could hear the guilt in the Texan's voice but Ezra kept the subject on how Vin was doing. He had every confidence that this situation would be handled quickly and efficiently. They would protect him of that he had no doubt.

Finally it was an impatient Chris who called to tell them there'd been a change of plans. They had decided that between Nathan, Josiah and himself they could pull together enough groceries from their home stocks to have some kind of dinner. Buck had hung up the phone and told Ezra that they were having Thanksgiving at Chris'.

The southerner had laughed and said, "When this day started that is probably the last place that I thought I would end up for Thanksgiving dinner."

"It was always my plan," Buck stated. "We weren't planning on turkey but steaks and football. I still better get my steak."

"Steak sounds very good for dinner," Ezra teased.

"Well you can see if Chris will give his up, 'cause I sure ain't."

"We'll see," Ezra responded, his eyes glinting at the prospect of a challenge.

They arrived at Chris' to find J.D. and Vin watching the football game and Nathan and Josiah chatting as they prepared the various meals for their repast. Chris split his time with watching the game and the two men in his kitchen. He was just walking out of the kitchen when Buck and Ezra entered. He greeted Buck with a nod and a shared look that again reminded Ezra of the depth of their friendship. Then the southerner found himself at the center of the lieutenant's piercing gaze. As always he felt lacking under that look, as if he could never measure up to what Chris thought he should be. But then he remembered how Chris had been determined that it should be seven of them for dinner and no less. He met Chris' gaze and held it, willing the other man to speak first.

"Oh I see that you made it." The tone was the same irritated one that Ezra heard every time he dealt with Chris Larabee. But this time there was no malice behind it and there seemed the slightest softening of the man's hard green eyes.

"You have Buck to thank for that."

Chris nodded as he turned to head back into the kitchen he stated low enough so just Ezra could hear, "I can always count on good ol' Buck."

"Truly something to be thankful for," Ezra said to himself as his eyes fell on each of the other six men that filled the house with their camaraderie and loyalty.

The End