Disclaimer: Not mine. Used without permission. Making no money from this.
Note 1: This story is another quick one-off. It was written to help cheer up Lumina who has been having a rough, horrendously busy couple of weeks. Since the "horrible day(s)" syndrome seems to be catching and routing its way through all of my list sibs' lives, I'm dedicating this humble offering to all of you. I hope it manages to bring a smile to your face. Again, this is another of those quick, unplotted, spontaneously written short fics. It has not been betaed, however, unlike Spit and Shoelaces (the first one of these "pick me up" fics I wrote), there is an actual plot. <g>
Note 2: As for the title, it has nothing to do with any controversial issues, in fact it's from a really cool techno dance remix of the "Choose Life" spiel from the movie Trainspotting...yes, I know, totally different fandom but what can I say...second only to Ezra, I'm a Ewan girl all the way! Besides, I was blasting the tune when I realized it would work as a title for this <g>. Hope y'all enjoy.
An E/B story written for Lumina and dedicated to all my list sibs experiencing horrible days. Hope things smooth out soon for y'all:-)
"For God's sake, Buck. Could you please get real for a minute?" Frustration laced Ezra's voice as he stood tensely, staring at the seemingly unrepentant man before him.
"Awww, come on, Ez. Relax, why don't ya? She didn't mean any harm." The last part of Buck's response was accompanied by a knowing wink and a smugly mischievous smile.
"This isn't about her, Buck!" No longer able to contain his frustration, Ezra started pacing. "It's about you." Waving a hand in Buck's direction, Ezra continued, "And that is a perfect example of exactly what I'm talking about. Must you reduce everything to the level of some sort of sly sexual innuendo?" Ezra was disgusted with himself, with Buck, with the whole damn situation. "Oh, hell. I don't know why I bother."
Ezra stopped pacing and wearily ran a hand through his hair. He looked at Buck in resignation. "Can't you let the mask slip for even a minute?" The sudden stillness and stiff posture underscored the seriousness of Ezra's question. "Just once. Talk to me, please. I'm not some two bit floozy you picked up in a bar, I'm..."
"Hey, I'll have you know that I've never picked up a woman worth less than 4 bits." Buck interrupted Ezra, the forced jocularity in his voice making it ring strangely off the surrounding walls even as the words fell heavily between them.
Ezra shook his head sadly in response. "I give up, Buck. I just give up." When no reply was forthcoming, Ezra turned away from the man he loved, quietly uttered, "I'll see you Monday," and slipped out the door.
Buck watched silently, mentally cursing himself, as Ezra turned away from him and left. He'd blown it again, and this time he didn't think Ezra would give him another chance.
On Monday everything was business as usual on the 7th floor of the Denver ATF building. Buck spent the morning in front of his computer fending off inquiries from JD about his "hot date" over the weekend and teasing his younger partner about his own amorous adventures in return. However, there was a new tightness that resided around Buck's eyes and his patented high wattage smiles held an echo of grimness not usually present. The slumped shoulders and dejected posture that overcame him when he thought no one was watching only added to the impression of great weariness.
Ezra watched him carefully, his sharp eyes missing none of the details Buck was trying so hard to camouflage with his usual flash and good cheer. He didn't know how to reach Buck, how to keep him from disappearing behind the outgoing, life of the party mask he wore almost all the time. The irony of the situation was not lost on Ezra. He, the man who slipped in and out of personas for a living, was helpless to convince the man he loved that all he wanted was for Buck to be himself. To stop hiding who he was.
It was only Ezra's long experience as an undercover agent that had allowed him to see beyond the devil-may-care attitude that Buck projected. The first glimpses of the man behind the mask had intrigued him, while subsequent sightings had fostered a sense of kinship. Over time, as he'd gathered the bits and pieces that Buck unknowingly let slip, that feeling of kinship had gradually shifted and grown into love. But bits and pieces weren't enough anymore. He wanted more from his lover. Simply stated, he wanted Buck. The person behind the obnoxious stories and loud proclamations of virility. Even now, watching him sit at his desk joking with JD, hiding himself with flash and bluster, he wanted Buck.
Ezra heaved a quiet sigh, firmed his determination and approached Buck. Despite what he'd said on Saturday night, he wasn't willing to give up. Not yet. Not on Buck.
"Buck, if you are not otherwise engaged, perhaps you would allow me to take you to lunch? I believe that the terms of our bet called for me to treat you to a meal."
Buck glanced up in surprise at the smooth sound of Ezra's voice, his brown eyes quickly absorbing the message that flickered momentarily across Ezra's face.
"Sure Ez. Today's as good a day as any." Buck's reply was nonchalant, revealing none of his sudden nervousness as he stood and grabbed his jacket. "Lead on, Ez. I'll follow."
Buck figured the small hitch in Ezra's stride meant that the undercover agent had picked up on the double meaning behind his words. He'd done a lot of thinking over the weekend and had decided that he wasn't willing to lose the southerner. Following Ezra out of the building, Buck silently reaffirmed his vow to do whatever it took to keep Ezra in his life.
Once settled into a semi-private booth in the back of Inez's saloon, an uneasy silence fell, punctuated only by the soft clink of ice as they each sipped their drinks. Glad that the bar was mostly deserted at this time of day, Buck cleared his throat and broke the awkward silence. "I'm sorry, Ez."
"I know you are, Buck. But 'I'm sorry' isn't enough anymore. I can't continue to go through this, not anymore. I need to know now, if you are willing to be honest with me."
At Ezra's sharp hand gesture, Buck choked back the protest lodged in his throat and allowed Ezra to finish.
"This is your last shot, Buck. I love you, but if you aren't willing to, or simply can't be honest about who you are than there is nothing left to say."
The earnestness on Ezra's face left no doubt that this truly was Buck's last chance. Buck could feel the fear uncoiling in his belly, it's cold tentacles weaving their way into his soul. Was he willing to sacrifice his future with Ezra because of the demons of his past? Knowing the answer before he'd even asked himself the question, Buck started to talk.
"I was in love once, a long time ago. Hell, it seems like a lifetime ago most days." Buck felt the old pain settle across his face as he began explaining. "We were both cops, so there was never any choice for us but to hide our relationship. After awhile, he decided that what we could have together wasn't enough for him." Buck shrugged off the old, familiar ache that came with words. He glanced up from his drink to see Ezra watching him, his steady gaze laced with compassion. Drawing strength from the understanding reflected there, Buck continued.
"So we ended it, decided to just be friends. It was hell seeing him every day, having to pretend that he'd never meant more to me than life itself. But that was nothing compared to what I went through when he asked me to stand up for him at his wedding." At the sound of Ezra's quickly indrawn breath, Buck ran his hands wearily over his face before nodding.
"Yeah, it was Chris. We'd been over for about a year when he married Sarah. Part of me was happy for him, he'd found someone he could love without hiding. Someone who could give him everything he wanted. The rest of me went back 'n forth between hating him and hating her." Buck attempted to smile wryly, but the resulting expression felt more like a grimace. "The simple fact was that, unlike Chris, I was willing to take any part of him I could get. No matter how small. The only way to keep him in my life was to pretend. Pretend that all we'd ever been was friends. Pretend that seeing him and Sarah together didn't rip my heart to shreds."
Buck sipped his drink, swallowing past the lump in his throat, the liquid easing the dryness caused by the remembered pain. "I guess I got too good at being 'Best Friend Buck', the guy who had a different woman every week. Between having to keep my feelings for Chris hidden lest I lose him and having to keep my preference for guys hidden lest I lose my job...well, pretending to be someone else became second nature."
Buck was surprised when Ezra reached over and gave his hand a quick, comforting squeeze before nodding at him to continue. Closing his eyes, Buck gathered the gesture close, allowing the hope it conveyed to warm him. Ezra loved him. No pain from his past held any power over him in light of that love.
"When Sarah and Adam were killed..." Buck's voice trailed off before gaining strength again. "Maybe it would have been different if Chris hadn't been with me when it happened. But he was. And because of that, he blamed himself for their deaths. Watching him drown in a whiskey bottle was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I couldn't leave him. He was on a self destruct course and I couldn't just abandon him to it. But seeing me, the real me, was just too much of a reminder for him. So I fell back on 'Best Friend Buck'. Only it quit being a mask I wore at times and simply became who I was. There was no other way I could help him and I loved him too much to let him go..."
For the first time Ezra interrupted, his smooth, gentle tones a balm across Buck's soul. "So you let yourself go, instead."
The understanding contained in the simple words healed a part of Buck's heart that he hadn't even known was still wounded. "Yeah, it was the only way to save him." Silence fell after Buck's murmured confirmation, but this time it didn't feel uneasy.
"Buck, Chris has Vin now and the rest of the team. Don't you think it's time you stopped living for him and started living for yourself again?"
The hesitancy in Ezra's voice pulled at Buck's soul. There was so much hiding behind the quietly uttered question. Wanting nothing more than to remove the doubt shading the green eyes before him, Buck answered what had gone unasked. "I don't love him anymore, Ezra. Not the same way, at least. He's still more than a friend but he's not who I want to wake up with in the morning and lay down with at night. He hasn't been for a long time."
Buck watched as the doubt flickered and then faded from Ezra's eyes, replaced by a glimmer of hope and the soft glow of love.
"As for living for myself..." Hiding nothing, Buck kept his gaze locked with Ezra's as he answered.
"I'd rather live for us."