Seven For Hire AU
Vin and Ezra
It rarely rained in South Texas in July. Almost never in fact, but for the past week the weather went against form and inundated the area with a steady, consistent down pour. The novelty of it wore off after the first day and Vin Tanner was bored out his mind. He hated being cooped up, but getting soaked to the bone didn't hold any more appeal, so he sat inside and tried to wait it out patiently. He sighed quietly, sipping on his beer, gaze moving from the rain streaked window to watch his roommate, Ezra Standish, with a bored curiosity.
Ezra's laptop was set up on the coffee table, phone line stretching from a nearby jack providing a link to the internet. The linguist's attention shifted regularly from the papers lying on the table beside his computer to the screen. Vin didn't really know what his friend was working on but he was fascinated with how Ezra's intermittent typing invariably kept time with the music coming from his obscenely expensive, top of the line stereo.
The CD playing was collection of assorted classical pieces. Vin realized living with Ezra had an added benefit of educating him more thoroughly on `high-brow' music as Buck referred to it. He'd always appreciated the beauty of the melodies, instrumental voices, and the relaxing rhythms, but now he could tell immediately when it was Mozart, Bach, Beethoven or Hayden.
Vin didn't know if his roommate had selected the CD with the weather in mind, but his choice was definitely a good one. It made Vin feel less penned in and more at ease than he would have otherwise. He made a mental note to remember that in the future the next time he was trapped indoors.
Ezra shuffled the papers, green eyes studying something intently for a moment before his attention drifted back to the computer, hands poised over the keyboard. A small frown marred his features and Ezra sat back with a small shake of his head. He sighed and moved to stand.
"Can I get you another beer while I'm up?"
Vin looked at his nearly empty bottle and decided one more wouldn't hurt. It wasn't like he had anywhere he had to be today. "Sure, Ez."
It never ceased to amaze Vin just how unfailing polite Ezra was most of the time. It was a character trait that made him easier to live with than the others on the team might have expected. But then the others didn't have the benefit of Vin's present position to gain greater insight into Ezra Standish.
The linguist was far from what Vin had expected when he first showed up. He'd half expected someone driving a flashy car, wearing clothes that cost more than he made in a year to be something of a prima donna, way too prissy to be able to withstand the rigors of the sort of jobs they went out on. Time and again, Ezra had shown he was made of better stuff than first glance would indicate.
A light breeze from a window Vin had felt compelled to crack open earlier just to make the place seem less enclosed ruffled the paperwork Ezra had left lying on the coffee table. Vin glanced toward the window. If the wind was picking up it would probably be a good idea to close it no matter how much he loathed the idea.
Before he could get up, a stiff gust made its way through the inch wide opening. Ruffled papers were now airborne, fluttering like leaves in an autumn breeze. With a silent curse, Vin quickly set down his now empty beer bottle and gathered them up, hoping Ezra wouldn't be too pissed at him for messing up whatever system he had going.
Vin had no idea what the papers entailed. All he knew as that they'd come in yesterday's mail. Vin glanced at the documents he now held trying to make sense of them so he could fix the mess he'd made.
Vin's mouth dropped open as he realized what he held was financial portfolio. There were financial statements, bank statements, account information and details on investment performance. The bottom line was what had so surprised him. While he could never claim to comprehend finance, if he understood what he was holding, Ezra was a multi-millionaire. He double-checked, shuffling the papers he held to see if his first impression had been the right one.
To his utter horror and embarrassment, Ezra chose that moment to reappear holding a beer bottle for him and a bottle of water for himself. Ezra arched an eyebrow. "See something interesting?"
"Oh shit, Ez, I'm sorry." Vin stuttered. The former sniper had deeply ingrained personal boundaries, and readily understood he had just invaded his friend's privacy by reading something he really had no business seeing. "I didn't mean to. The wind picked up…and see with the window open…the papers, well they were blowing all over…and I was just gathering
Ezra cut off his haphazard explanation with a small shake of his head. "I know you did not mean to deliberately trespass. Please, do not bother yourself unduly. If I wanted what you hold to be an absolute secret I would have worked in my bedroom, not out here."
"Holy shit, Ez." Vin gaped at him equally surprised by what he'd just learned as to have his apology so readily accepted. He thrust the papers out to his friend. "You're rich."
"You thought I didn't already know that?" Ezra's eyes sparkled with amusement as he offered the beer he held in exchange for the documents.
Vin gratefully released what he'd been holding, more than willing to take the beer Ezra offered. "How did you," he waved his empty hand toward the paper he'd all but thrust at Ezra unsure of how to finish is question.
"The usual way, Mr. Tanner." Ezra smiled and shrugged. "Some of it I earned, some was garnered through well-timed lucrative investments,and some was simply inherited."
"Inherited?" Vin blinked. "But your mother—"
Ezra laughed lightly. "Oh, my mother is most assuredly still among the living."
The entire team had a chance to meet Maude. She had seemed so refined, cultured, every inch the grand lady she claimed to be. Vin had decided he didn't really care for her all the much, but refrained from saying so directly to Ezra. It just didn't seem right to bad mouth a man's mother.
Ezra gave him a wry glance. "If only the good die young, I fully expect my mother will out live us all."
The linguist looked away, expression shifting to one that held a touch of sadness. "The inheritance was from my father."
Vin couldn't help but raise both eyebrows. For some reason he'd just assumed that Ezra was like him, that his father hadn't played much of a role in his life. "Your father? Didn't know you had a father." Vin muttered in astonishment, feeling his face warm when he realized he'd made that comment aloud.
Ezra slanted green eyes up at him. Vin was relieved that his friend looked amused again. "I wasn't hatched from an egg, Mr. Tanner."
"I know that, ya wiseass." Vin scowled at him. "You jus' never mentioned him."
Ezra made a graceful gesture toward the loveseat, clearly inviting Vin to sit down, as he resumed his former seat on the larger couch, facing Vin. He twisted the top off his beer before sitting. Vin had the feeling he might need a drink when it was all said and done.
Ezra's eyes shifted toward the far wall. The trace of sadness Vin had seen earlier was back. "I never really had the opportunity to get to know him well. Certainly not as well as I would have preferred, so there wasn't much I could say."
"He never around?" Vin asked quietly. He could understand if that was the case. He knew first hand what it was like to have no interaction with your father. Vin had never even met his.
"He and my mother were divorced by the time I was two, and he died when I was ten, so it would be safe to say you are correct." Ezra took a drink from the bottle of water he held. "Although, one can hardly blame him."
Vin winced. "I'm sorry, Ez."
"Not your fault, Mr. Tanner." Ezra smiled. Green eyes met blue easily. "I did have the opportunity to spend time with him during school holidays and a few weeks each summer. I am very grateful for the time I had with him. It was perhaps far more than I should have had given just how hostile Mother was toward him."
"Why was she mad at him?" Vin asked before he could stop himself. It was just so rare that Ezra was this open, he didn't want to waste the opportunity.
Ezra grinned. "She had intended to be the one who spent his fortune, living in the lap of luxury, whiling away the hours doing nothing more strenuous than eating bon-bon's and worrying about her tan. When it became apparent the only way she could succeed in that endeavor was to provide him with an heir, she reluctantly did so."
Ezra chortled looking oddly happy for a man who had just revealed his mother had given birth to him as a means to an end. "Unfortunately for her, Malcolm Standish was a shrewd man who had no difficulty in seeing her scam for what it was. He was a traditionalist at heart, I believe. He expected my mother to participate in raising me…not relying exclusively on nannies and boarding schools."
Ezra shook his head slightly as though in disbelief. "It is obvious to anyone who has meet Maude that she is not the sort to do three a.m. feedings. So they parted company rather quickly, but definitely not amicably."
"Malcolm employed some of the finest legal minds in the county." The linguist smirked. "While they couldn't prevent her bid for child custody, something she has never admitted to doing out of spite although I suspect that was the case, they made damn sure she was his ex-wife without getting a penny of his money."
Ezra patted the pile of paper lying next to his laptop. "Adding insult to injury, since I was his only heir, he made it clear that no matter what parental rights Maude might claim, I would get everything without her being able to touch it."
Vin was once more heartily glad his mother hadn't been like Maude. There was never any doubt in his mind that his mother had loved him. He simply couldn't fathom a mother implying she hadn't really wanted her son, she just didn't want his father to have him.
The linguist raised his bottle as though toasting his deceased father. "Malcolm Standish was an extraordinary gentleman. He's the only man I ever met who got the better of my mother. To me, that one fact alone keeps him from ever being mediocre."
Vin had to agree that Ezra's father must have been one hell of a guy to get the better of Maude. Even only meeting her once, he was pretty sure she could `go bear hunting with a switch' if she felt the need. He rather doubted she was the sort who lost gracefully.
He actually had evidence to that fact. Vin clearly remembered overhearing several messages on the answering machine of Maude's tirades about how the work Ezra engaged in was so far beneath his station as to be ludicrous. It sounded like she'd spent years trying to convince her son that his talents and resources were better spent elsewhere. While he had a profound appreciation for Ezra's skills and talents, until now, Vin hadn't realized just how extensive the `resources' she kept referring to were.
"Why you workin' with us?" Vin asked. He couldn't help but wondering if his friend had chosen his present and past career with the intent of spiting his mother.
Ezra arched an eyebrow in response to Vin's question. Vine felt himself flush. "What I meant, is….you got millions Ez…if I read that stuff right, you wouldn't have ta work a day in your life."
"One lesson I learned from my father was that wealth should not automatically confer privilege. I had thought working for the government would allow me to pay something back." Ezra chuckled ruefully. "It turns out I help more people working with the team than I ever did working for Uncle Sam."
He smiled and winked at Vin. "Spiting my mother is just an added benefit."
Vin chuckled. He should have known Ezra would have known what he was thinking. The man had an uncanny knack for doing it.
"Never even met my father." Vin offered after a moment. He figured he owed it to Ezra to share a little bit of his history since his friend had been rather forthcoming about his own.
"Truth is, I don't even know his name." Vin sipped his beer. "Line on my birth certificate where father's supposed ta be is just blank."
Ezra's brow furled. "You mother never mentioned—"
"Ez, my ma died when I was five." Vin sighed. "If she ever said, I don't remember."
Vin couldn't resist parroting back Ezra's earlier response. "Not your fault, Mr. Standish." Vin waved a hand. "Just the way it is."
"There were no other family members who might have enlightened you?" The question was hesitant as though Ezra was worried about being rebuffed.
"Did some checkin' when I was a teenager." Vin shrugged casually,giving his friend a small smile not wanting Ezra to feel like couldn't ask. "Broke in to the records at social services, hit the county courthouse and the local library. Figured I might be able to track down some family that way."
Vin sipped his beer again. "Accordin' ta what I found out her parents died in a car accident less'n a year after I was born. Saw their obituaries. Sounded like they'd have made great grandparents."
Vin settled deeper into the couch trying to ignore the dull ache thinking about how disappointed he'd been to know he'd never had the chance to get to know them. It didn't bother him as much as it once had, so he supposed that was progress of a sorts. Just
knowing Anna and Henry Tanner were the sort of people who would have taken him in, welcoming him with open arms, had helped him a lot as a teenager struggling to find his place in a steady stream of foster homes.
"Only other family I could find reference to was my ma's older brother. He joined up with the army and got killed in Viet Nam `fore my ma even graduated from high school."
Vin smiled slightly remembering how proud he'd been to find out he had an uncle who'd been awarded a purple heart and a silver star. It was one of the reason he'd joined the army after he graduated. "Ma named me after him. So I might not know who my father was,but I know something about my namesake. What I know `bout him makes me damn proud to be Vin Tanner."
Ezra smiled. He raised his bottle of water. "Here's to family…the ones we know, and the ones we've never met."
Vin touched his beer bottle to Ezra's. "To family…the ones we got stuck with, and the ones we choose."
Ezra laughed. "Right you are."
Ezra took a long drink from his bottle. Vin copied him, downing half his beer. He glanced toward the window, suddenly rather pleased to have been trapped inside. Vin felt like the opportunity to gather one more piece of the puzzle that made up Ezra Standish more than compensated for spending days inside. And it was nice to be able to talk to someone about his family, someone who could empathize with him.
He took a deep breath seeing the rain was finally tapering off. The restlessness that had never really left him made itself known again. He wanted out. Maybe go play in the puddles, maybe just get away from the same four walls. At the moment he really didn't care as long as it involved moving.
He hesitated. As much as he wanted to go, he didn't really want this moment of connection with Ezra to end just yet. "You `bout finished with that stuff?" Vin pointed to the pile of paper and laptop.
Ezra considered his question and nodded. "For today."
"Good." Vin stood up. "I'm hungry. What d'ya say we get the hell out o' here for a bit?"
Ezra arched an eyebrow. "And go where?"
"I don't care." Vin smiled widely. "Long as you drive."
Ezra grinned, dimples flashing. "Deal."
Feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated.