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by Lara Bee and Macx
Author's Voice of Warning (aka Author's Note): English is not my first language; it's German. This is the best I can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize. The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are.....
Background: Chris and Ezra are shape shifters, and a bond forms between them. Ezra becomes the last member of Chris' team in law enforcement.
Link to the official Boarderlines site: http://home.arcor.de/larabee/mag7/m7slfic.html
The planet's official designation was P14-69. It was small, an M-Class by normal standards, with a moon and a sun. The system it belonged to consisted of five other planets, most of them inhospitable, and all of them unclaimed. Except P14-69.
Vin brought the shuttle craft in low over a mountain range that fell sharply toward wide open plains where a broad river a cut a blue band into the fresh green. Grass bowed to the onslaught of the thrusters and somewhere in the distance a herd of deer-like animals took flight. On their approach, the passengers had looked curiously out of the front and side windows, taking in the sprawling, lush land, the mountains, canyons, the assorted lakes cluttered just outside an endless stretch of forest.
"It's beautiful," Vin murmured, earning a smile from Ezra. "And far outside the trade routes," he added as he brought the shuttle into position for touch down. "The next jump gate is five hours away."
"Just what the doctor ordered," Chris said calmly.
Buck grinned. "So no one's claimed any land on this beautiful piece of wilderness yet?" he wanted to know.
Ezra shook his head. "As our pilot stated: too far outside trade routes. Without the jump point, you'd have to fly for a day to get to a larger outpost. I talked to the Ministry before investing my money and they hadn't had any inquiries before. This is as backwater a planet as you can find."
<Fine with me> Chris sent.
<I hoped as much> Ezra answered honestly.
The shuttle shook gently as Vin expertly set it down on the hard ground.
They were now at the foot of one of the mountains. In front of them, the prairie stretched toward the forests and the lakes. He checked the outside temperature and found it pleasantly warm. The four men piled out of their transport. Vin inhaled deeply, an expression of utter content on his features. "Nice."
Buck touched the small of his back, grinning. Ezra just smiled, piling their camping gear next to the shuttle. Chris had taken a few steps away from the shuttle, gazing up the impressive rock formation.
<This is... beautiful>
Ezra smiled more. He had hoped his lover would like it here.
"So, where are we going?" Buck called.
"That's up to you gentlemen," Ezra answered. "We can either hike up the mountains to the lake and the hot springs, or we can take the path to the canyons, or we go to the lake country."
The two men turned to stare at him. Chris just smiled knowingly. He had long since come to terms with his lover's 'investment'. This wasn't just a little piece of land Ezra had bought. It was a lot more.
"Come again?" Buck asked, the first to regain his voice.
Chris tossed his friend the displayer and Wilmington switched it on.
The small screen lit up and showed the topographical map, including their current position.
"Shit, Ezra, how much land did you buy?" Buck blurted. "The whole damn planet?"
"No, they wouldn't let me," was the bright reply.
Chris sent disbelief and Ezra chuckled softly.
"I'm for the hot springs," Vin announced.
Buck gave him a smoldering look. "Sounds very relaxing."
As they sorted through their belongings and geared up, Chris drew Ezra aside, kissing him gently in the shadow of the shuttle's stubbly wings.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"Everything," was the murmured reply.
Ezra's eyes displayed a myriad of emotions, then they separated and got their backpacks.
"Are we there yet?"
Buck consulted the map, checking the landmarks, then shrugged. "Just around that bend," he told Vin.
"You said so one hour ago."
Vin had been needling his lover for a while now, teasing him, egging him on, and Ezra and Chris watched their two 'scouts' bicker over which way to take. Chris chuckled to himself as he took in the breath-taking sight, not at all in a hurry to go anywhere fast. They had been walking and climbing up that little path for most of the morning now. The sun warmed them and a fresh breeze lightened the air. According to the map, the hot springs wouldn't be much further and they'd make it just in time for lunch. If Vin and Buck could get their collective butts into gear and decide where to go.
"Have you ever been to Montana?"
Ezra turned to look at Chris, who had walked up to him. "The asteroid?"
"No. Earth. North America."
Ezra shook his head. "No, can't say I have."
"This reminds me a lot of it."
"You been there?"
"A long time ago. Same endless grasslands, rivers, lakes and mountains."
Ezra mirrored the smile and Chris leaned over to snatch a kiss. <Have I ever told you that you chose well?>
<Hm, I think so> was the lazy reply.
<Well, you did>
"If you girls are done...." Buck interrupted the moment.
Chris shot his best friend a glare and Ezra grinned. They walked on, Vin and Buck in the lead again, laughing and joking.
<That's what you get when you book group tours> Ezra sent with a deep sigh, his smile belying his words.
Chris only laughed softly.
"So, where you gonna live?" Buck asked curiously while Chris and Vin were battling with the camping cooker to get their lunch prepared. Ezra shrugged. "It's up to Chris," he replied. "I got us the land, he agreed to build the ranch."
"Agreed my ass. You conned me into it!" came the growl from behind them, startling Buck.
Chris shot a mock glare at his soul partner who answered it with a bright smile.
"You agreed," Ezra repeated.
"I said I'd give it some thought."
Buck watched his two friends, eyes laughing. "And where did you pick to build the ranch, Chris?" he wanted to know.
"There's a small, geographically secure area near the mouth of the river, just before it enters one of the smaller lakes," the team leader answered. "I checked with the weather satellites in orbit and the surveyor's office from when the planet was catographed. Looks perfect to me." Ezra leaned back against the sun warmed boulder, stretching lean legs out in front of him. "So you gave it some thought already," he chuckled.
"Not because I'm going to build the ranch all by myself!"
The thief just gave his partner an infuriating smile. Buck sauntered back to where Vin was trying to cook something without burning himself.
<You okay?> Chris asked, snaking an arm around Ezra, pulling the smaller man against him.
Ezra sank willingly into the embrace, sighing softly. <It's eerie> he murmured.
<As much as I hate my... defects... the Borderline in me..... right now I have this incredible urge to change and race across the plains below us>
Chris pressed a gentle kiss onto one temple. <You are not defective, Ezra Standish. Borderlines are not less than humans>
It was an old argument, one he had always won in the end.That Chris was Borderline as well didn't help in the matter. He had become this way because of the machinery that had changed him back from Kiowata to human, misinterpreting his altered brain pattern. A change that had come through the blossoming soul bond.
<I know> was the soft reply.
<And if you feel like it....>
Ezra stiffened, then twisted around in the light embrace. "You can't be serious!"
"Buck and Vin know what we are."
Ezra snorted. Chris pulled him closer, slipping warm hands under the loose t-shirt, caressing his skin.
"Later. Together," he whispered.
"I could need a little exercise, too," the blond went on.
Ezra hesitated, concentrating only on the soothing pattern of the strong hands on his back. Finally he nodded, feeling the Kiowata inside him prance expectantly already. In a way, it was a caged animal, never set free. He couldn't change on the station, but he could do it here. Heck, he had purchased so much land because it would give them this freedom.
"Yo, guys! Food's done! Get it before we throw it away!" Vin hollered from the small cooking site.
"I think we should follow the well-meant advice," Ezra sighed as he got to his feet, pulling Chris up as well.
<And later today we'll get a little exercise>
Standish only grinned.
They reached the lake by late afternoon and everyone was immediately going for the hot springs near by.
"You know, this looks really inviting."
Buck's eyes were wandering over the backside of his lover who was standing right in front of the steaming pond, slipping out of his clothes.
"So, what are we waitin' for?" Vin chuckled and threw his pants aside, stepping into the hot water.
"You know what they say about hot water and its relaxing effects?"
"Join me before it sets in."
Buck didn't need a second invitation.
He slid into the water and couldn't help but give a pleased sound when it eased some of the tension in his muscles. Vin laughed quietly and splashed a little water into his direction.
"Come here, you," Buck growled and went after his lover, taking him in a tight embrace and kissing him fervently.
He sat down on kind of a natural seat and turned Vin around, pulling him on top of him. His hands wandered over the slick body he knew so well by now, caressing it, carefully nipping at Vin's neck and taking in every single sound of pleasure his lover made. Vin had laid back his head on Buck's shoulder, eyes closed, and moaned as Buck's hands were finding their way down south, unable to do anything more than just receive.
Buck knew that most of the time Vin hated being restrained, that he liked to be the more active part, but here and now he wanted Vin to just relax and enjoy. Vin's hips bucked and he growled his desire and frustration, and Buck held him down an little.
"Shhh," he whispered softly, "don't rush it. We have all the time in the world..."
"What about ... the others ... " Vin uttered breathlessly.
"Hey, it's not that they don't know how to make love, right? And don't forget," Buck's tongue wandered over Vin's earlobe, which caused another moan, "Ezra's empathic. Don't think they'll disturb us."
With that he shifted a little and swallowed the soft screams of his lover's desire with a deep kiss.
<Chris, I think we better come back later. Looks real hot down there> Ezra chuckled.
<Aren't hot springs supposed to be hot?> Chris sent back.
<I don't mean the temperature of the water>
Chris smiled at the brief image he received from Ezra. <Oh. Seems they enjoy their stay, hm?>
Ezra turned over to Chris, a definitely sinful sparkle in his green eyes. <You know ... > he chuckled, his eyes raking over the lean frame in front of him, and placed one hand on Chris's chest to stroke the nipple underneath the fabric of the shirt, <I could think of something to spent a little time with until later>
<Care to enlighten me?>
Ezra claimed the sensual lips in a long kiss. <With pleasure, Commander Larabee>
So much for exercising in Kiowata form, Chris thought, then chased it away. Tomorrow was another day.
Vin rested his forehead against Buck's, shivering a bit in the cooling evening air. They had dried themselves off, redressed, and he felt pleasantly exhausted and relaxed. Buck had piled the backpacks against a fallen tree, leaned against it, and had then pulled Vin onto his lap, facing him. They kissed lazily, enjoying the exploration of each other's mouths.
"Y'know," Vin said sleepily, "I think you'd look real good without your mustache."
Buck's eyebrows rose a fraction. "You want me to shave it off?" he asked.
Vin grinned at him. "Why not?" He kissed him. "New experience." Another kiss. "For both of us," he breathed.
"Hmpf," Buck grumbled. Then his eyes lit up with mischief. "Only if you let your hair grow."
Now it was Tanner's turn to be surprised. "What? What d'you have against my hair?"
The taller man chuckled. "As much as you have against my mustache."
He threaded his fingers through the short strands. "I'd like to run my hands through it when it's longer... Nice...."
Vin scowled. "I like my hair as it is, thank you very much."
"Just a bit," Buck told him.
The scowl deepened.
"How about a deal?"
"Deal?" Vin echoed.
"I'll shave off my mustache when you let your hair grow out," Buck explained brightly.
Vin sighed deeply. After a while he gave his lover a nod. "Okay. Deal."
Wilmington claimed his lips in a deep kiss. "You won't regret it."
"Only when Chris starts breathing down my neck because of non-regulation hair," came the reply.
Buck chuckled. "I'll back you up, darlin'. All the way."
Ezra found Chris sitting on a boulder and staring over the wide spread landscape into the sunset. He hadn't raised his shields completely which would have indicated the wish for privacy, but Ezra carefully tugged at the Bond nevertheless. He received a wordless invitation and sat down close to his lover, taking him in an embrace from behind. Chris took the hands that were sneaking around his shoulders and squeezed them gently.
<What's on your mind?> Ezra asked quietly.
Chris took a deep breath. <I did thank you, right?>
Ezra placed a light, reassuring kiss on Chris's temple. <You did. Several times, several ways>
Then he waited, sensing that there was something else bothering Chris, but knowing as well that rushing the matter now wouldn't get him anywhere.
<These hot springs are quite relaxing> Chris murmured.
<In - deed?>
<You know the existence of hot springs indicates volcanic activity.
Not necessarily real active ones, that is. Could be these volcanoes didn't erupt in ages and there's just a hot spot deep underneath the surface, feeding the springs>
Ezra had the odd feeling Chris wasn't really talking about a geological phenomenon.
<Was just wondering ... could be us ... >
Now Ezra was worried. Deeply. It wasn't like Chris to talk in riddles under normal circumstances.
<Us. You compare us to a hot spring?>
<Would you mind becoming a little more explicit, Oh Great Oracle of Four Corners?> he asked, sending both puzzlement and amusement, receiving a chuckle in return.
<I was wondering about us, our Bond, our love. About time... maybe five, ten years from now. Where we will be, what will have happened to us? What ... you know I love you, do you?>
Ezra just nodded. <And I love you> he answered, frowning, getting a slight idea of what Chris was up to. And he didn't like it.
<Yes. Now. Now we're like active volcanoes, emotions and errr ... well, erupting once in a while. But what will be in ten years? In fifteen? This is new for both of us, but ... >
<Wait a minute> Ezra interrupted <Let me get this straight. You are asking yourself what will happen if everyday life sets in? When we are accustomed to each other and there won't be butterflies in the stomach anymore? Or are you wondering about the strength of our feelings towards each other? Is it that?>
Chris blinked at him, surprised about the intensity in his lover's voice. <All of the above, I think> he murmured. <This is a wonderful thing, Ezra. This planet ... you chose right. It feels like home, you know. And I want to build a home... >
<That's what this is all about? > Ezra breathed.
He had given their possible future more than one thought. Hell, if he hadn't, he wouldn't have bought more than half the planet. He hadn't really known back then what this would mean to Chris; thinking of a home and the future always made his lover a little blue. Obviously finally being here, seeing the beautiful landscape with his own eyes, was one of these times.
Time for another vow, Ezra thought.
<Listen, nothing in life comes with a guarantee certificate. The fact that we found each other, became Bonded and then fell in love is a pure miracle to me. Don't know what I would have become otherwise. It's the here and now that counts. And I am where I want to be the most, together with who I want the most. This feels like home for me, too.
What you just said about the hot spot deep beneath the surface - yes, it could be us one day. I don't need volcanoes every day of my life, don't you know that by now, Chris Larabee? Sometimes I'm just as content with a real hot spring fed by a hot spot beneath the surface. As long as there is a hot spot. If this is what will happen to us I couldn't be happier. Did you finally get that? Really, I mean?>
<Guess you made yourself quite clear>
<Good. Because if I have to talk you out of the blues and into the right mood every time I want to bed you, it will become real exhausting real fast>
Chris blinked, stunned by the open words of his lover. Ezra wasn't a person to wear his heart on his sleeves and he didn't speak of their sex life too often but preferred the communication over the Bond. He caressed Ezra's hands and arms and placed light kisses on the palms, receiving a soft moan over the Bond.
<You don't have to> he murmured.
<What?> Ezra replied puzzled.
<Talk me into the right mood. You just being there is stimulating enough>
<Even if I get old and gray and fat?>
<You'll never get fat, Ezra>
<What makes you believe that?>
<There are ways to prevent it ... and I really like to try one later> Chris said slyly.
<What about right now?> Ezra asked huskily.
<Right now, I just want to sit here and enjoy your company> Ezra nibbled at his lover's neck, tightening his hold. He enjoyed to just sit here, watch the sunset, with Chris in his arms. Later... was another thing altogether.
The four men were pleasantly exhausted by the time night fell, glad that the tents were already up. Ezra collapsed on the sleeping bag, yawning.
Chris joined him, snuggling up to his lover, and they shared a long, dreamy kiss before falling asleep.
"So, you gonna show us that ranch place of yours?" Buck asked the next morning while they were taking down the tents and packing.
Chris shrugged. "Sure."
"How far is it?"
Another shrug. "Maybe a day or two."
"What?" Buck exclaimed, nearly dropping his refilled water flask.
"Takes another day to get down this mountain and halfway across the plains."
Wilmington shook his head. "Two days walking! Hell, don't know 'bout you, but I'd prefer to ride."
Three pairs of eyes turned to look at the tall man, who simply smiled.
"Hey, we got two healthy shape-changers here who just happen to have a four-legged alternate form..."
Chris shot him a grade four glare, which Buck ignored. Vin just buried his face in his hands, shaking his head.
"Don't give me that look. You know I'm right," Buck simply said. Another glare, this time also from Ezra.
"Have you ever ridden before?" the thief asked as he firmly closed his backpack.
"You mean a horse? Sure. I grew up on a ranch."
"Buck we're talking about Kiowata," Vin clarified, trying to hide his amusement.
"I know that! Kiowata are big horses. So what?"
Vin shook his head again and decided not to comment.
"Confess it, pard, you just want to see us naked," Chris teased. Vin started to laugh, which earned him a dark look from his lover. Buck waggled his eyebrows. "Well, if you put it that way." He gave Chris a lecherous look.
Ezra rolled eyes.
"So?" Wilmington asked brightly.
<So?> Ezra echoed the question. <He is right. We would be there faster>
Chris pondered that, then shrugged mentally. <Don't blame me when he falls off>
"Only if you are mine," Chris answered, giving Buck a meaningful look.
Buck's smile turned even more lecherous. "How can I turn down such a nice offer."
"Seems you are stuck with me," Ezra commented, looking at Vin, who had finished his backpack as well.
Vin chuckled. "No problem, pard."
They bound the gear together so the two Kiowata could easily carry it. Vin draped his and Ezra's backpack, as well as one tightly packed tent over the broad back of the sorrel, making sure the material wouldn't rub. "Okay?" he asked.
Ezra snorted. "Fine," the slightly metallic voice of the translator answered.
Everyone of the team had one of the Handlers' translators by now.
Travis had been the one to make that decision since there wasn't a guarantee that Chris or Ezra didn't have to change shape. Communication was a lot easier that way.
Vin swung onto the broad back, having only slight difficulties with the height.
Unlike Buck. Wilmington had fastened the gear, but now he was faced by the problem of a very large Kiowata, larger than a normal horse, and no stirrups. Vin leaned forward on the brown back, crossing his arms on the muscular neck, watching.
"Hey, Buck?" he called.
It got him a dark look. "No."
Chris turned his head, looking amused. Ezra just snorted.
"Maybe you should try getting on from that boulder over there?"
The dark look turned into a glare. "I've been getting onto horses since I was just a kid, Mr. Tanner!" he informed his lover. "I know how!"
"Buck? That's not a horse. It's a Kiowata., Vin helpfully pointed out.
"Oh, shut up!"
"Well, I got on just fine."
Buck gave an exasperated sigh. "Ezra's a lot smaller!"
"A lot?" Ezra echoed, sounding shocked.
Vin patted his neck. "A bit." He looked at Buck. "I'm smaller than you, too. Evens out."
"Evens out my ass!" Wilmington grumbled.
Ezra flicked his ears in amusement as he watched Buck's continuous struggle to mount the large black.
"Sometime today?" he sighed.
Buck finally managed to climb onto Chris, shooting the other pair a triumphant look. Chris simply flicked an ear.
Finally, they were off.
<I'm going to throw him off!>
<Chris, calm down>
<Ezra, I'm serious!>
Ezra smiled. <Of course you are>
<He isn't a bad rider, but he keeps grabbing my mane and if he continues doing so, I'm going to be bald very soon!> Chris ranted on.
<To hell with calmness! You know what he's doing with his legs?>
<Do I want to know?> Ezra teased.
It earned him a glare through the bond. <I'm going to suffocate!> Chris complained.
Ezra started to chuckle.
<Oh, good. At least one of us finds it amusing!>
Ezra grinned more. Chris had done nothing but complain in the last hour. Buck wasn't a bad rider, but he hadn't been on horseback for a while and Kiowata were truly not horses in every sense. Their gait was different, their play of muscles, the whole experience of sitting on one.
Vin was different from Buck. He had easily adapted to riding Ezra, but he also instinctively treated him like a horse, patting his neck now and then, using his legs to issue commands. Ezra let him be, smiling to himself.
They paused a few hours later as they were just crossing into the plains. Vin slid gracefully off the sorrel and again patted the strong neck. Ezra snorted softly, but his friend didn't even realize what he was doing. Buck more or less fell off Chris, muttering about muscle abuse as he pulled off the gear. He turned to look at his lover and there was suddenly an amused expression on his features.
Tanner looked up from where he had checked the Kiowata legs, something he was used to from his riding days. They had crossed a lot of distance, the two Kiowata enduring and even-paced as they changed from a light canter to full out gallops.
"Yes?" he asked.
"You know that's Ezra," Buck pointed out.
"Of course it's ...." Vin broke off, looking suddenly embarrassed.
He looked up and into the green eyes of the head hovering above him.
"Oh," he managed.
If Kiowata could grin, Ezra was closest to one.
"I...ah.... Sorry," Tanner muttered.
"No problem," Ezra answered lightly.
They continued after a light lunch, Ezra and Chris deciding that grazing was enough for them. Vin had set up a camera to take some pictures of all four of them together, Vin and Buck sitting on the Kiowata and doing their best to look like cowboys. Ezra had only snorted with laughter.
They arrived at the spot they had been aiming for late in the afternoon. Buck was moaning about abused backsides, while Vin was already pulling their gear off Chris and Ezra.
Both Borderlines changed back and redressed, just a little bit fatigued.
Tents were erected and a fire was burning in front of them. Buck stretched and winced, shooting a grinning Chris a glare.
"What do you think my back feels like?" Chris quipped.
"Can't be worse than mine," Wilmington muttered.
"With you shifting around all the time? Almost cracking my ribs? Pulling out my hair?"
"You have a Buck burn?" Ezra teased.
Chris flicked a marshmallow at his lover, who snatched it out of the air, stuffing it into his mouth.
"Don't know what you have. I enjoyed the ride," Vin told his partner.
Buck grumbled something under his breath. Vin leaned closer, turned Buck's head with one hand, and kissed him. Buck found himself answering that kiss only too willingly.
Chris's cough made them separate. "Guys, take it to you tent, okay?"
"Now there's an idea," Buck rumbled.
"I thought you had a sore backside."
"Not that sore...." He shot his lover a lecherous look.
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Kids."
Chris chuckled, then he suddenly turned a bit more serious. "Boys, there's something Ezra and I talked about."
Buck frowned. Vin just looked curious.
"We did some thinking lately." Chris shot his lover a look. "And I guess Ezra would be the best to tell you."
Ezra shrugged. "You two know the size of the land I acquired." Buck and Vin nodded.
"Well, I put some thought behind it when I bought half the planet,"
Ezra said slowly. "It wasn't just some wild idea. For people like us, Chris and me, it's hard to find full acceptance wherever we go. We are both Borderlines. We need space to run because of the Kiowata form, and the Kiowata instincts are always there." He played with a stick. "But lately, we thought of something else. You've been together for a year now and it looks like it's pretty serious for the two of you. So.... this should speak for itself." He held out a sealed envelope and Buck took it gingerly, as if he was expecting it to blow.
"Happy anniversary," Ezra added with a soft smile.
"Anni...." Vin stuttered to a halt.
He and Buck had been together for a year now, more or less. Well, it had been a year since they had had that fateful meeting in the bar.
The decision to be a steady couple had come a lot later.
"Uh...." Buck inhaled deeply. "Guys, I don't know what it is, but..."
"Open it," Chris said calmly.
And open it he did. Buck nearly dropped the paper as he read the words.
"You can't be serious!" he blurted.
Vin was still staring at the piece of paper.
"I am. Never was more so."
"Ezra, you can't... Chris! This is... "
"It's yours," Chris confirmed.
"The map is just for general orientation," Ezra supplied just as calmly as his lover.
"You are crazy," Buck breathed.
Vin met the serious green and hazel eyes. "Thank you," he only said as he folded the deed in his and Buck's names, and then slipped it back into the envelope.
Buck shook his head, smiling. "Yeah, thanks. You are crazy, but hey.... runs in the family, hm?"
"Happy anniversary," Chris just said.
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