Alternate Universe "Immortal 7"
Vin watched Ezra in undisguised fascination. So far as he knew, he was the only one of their group who'd ever seen Ezra practice this particular form of exercise. He would have felt like an unwelcome intruder if Ezra's eyes hadn't flickered toward him in a brief acknowledgement before once again focusing on some distant point only he could see, concentration clearly on his present activity.
The green eyed immortal repeatedly executed the same sword form over and over again. He had began with a languid pace, deliberate and precise as though engaged in a painfully slow dance, movements so minor as to seem non-existent until Ezra had somehow managed to perform the entire pattern as though by magic. He began again, changing nothing but increasing the speed with which he moved, keeping his movements still graceful and fluid, flawless. It looked effortless but the sweat beading on his bare chest and arms were mute testimony to the energy being expended. As Ezra's speed increased, movements snapping out with greater force, those beads broke free to spot the hardwood floor like rain.
Vin remembered learning the same complex pattern Ezra was working on. Hell, it was Ezra who'd shown it to him, long after he'd completed his initial sword training with another immortal. But he had never managed to perform it flawlessly and repeatedly with the same natural, easy grace that the older immortal had. Oh, he could do it, and do it well, but he was not the master of it the way Ezra so clearly was. But then, the smaller man had been doing it for longer than Vin had been alive, so the long haired immortal held on to a faint hope that he might one day equal Ezra.
A faint flash of light sparkled, reflecting the early morning rays as Ezra's actions took him into the light, his shadow echoing his movements. Vin squinted as he recognized the one piece of jewelry his friend habitually wore. He'd seen it many times over the course of their friendship; sometimes hanging from a leather thong, silken cord, or a silver chain, but always around Ezra's neck, usually hidden beneath his clothing.
Although the man was something of a chameleon, comfortable in almost any setting, he had a definite preference for the finer things in life, selecting thousand dollar suits, gold rolex watches, eighteen karat and precious, tastefully set stones. Even when dressed down it was done with a discerning eye and sense of elegance.
But the pendant was just a piece of smoothed green amber, wrapped in an intricate silver wire pattern of repeating threes. As an aberration, it sparked a deep curiosity in Vin, which had him seeking out the pattern's origin and name; it was Celtic and known as a triskele. Knowing that much had only served to whet his appetite to know more about its importance to Ezra, but he'd never really found the courage to ask outright.
After repeating the sword form ten times, Ezra came to a standstill. His breathing was deep and even, giving only a small hint as to the exertion he'd just undertaken. Vin knew that trick was in part do to the healing power of being immortal, the rest was just the fact that Ezra was in very good shape. They all stayed fit knowing the only way to survive was to stay prepared.
"Good morning, Mr. Tanner."
"Mornin' Ez." Vin smiled. "Yer up early."
Ezra arched an eyebrow, a flash of gold appearing as he smiled. "That would imply I'd ever been to bed, my friend."
"You pulled another all nighter." Vin shook his head. Ezra had always been a night owl. "Gotta learn ta sleep like normal people, Ez."
"Normal? I would prefer not to ever be considered so mundane." Ezra snorted as he moved across the floor to return the rack mounted on the wall the heavy wooden sword he'd been working with. Vin knew that particular weapon weighed nearly twice as much as the katana Ezra normally carried. Made for a good a good practice piece.
"Don't think anyone who's ever met ya would call you mundane."
"One can only hope not." Ezra grinned, picking up a towel that lay on the floor, wiping his face.
"So what kept you up at all hours this time?" There was always something, and the fact that it was rarely the same thing twice, made it easy to keep asking the question.
"An auction overseas." Ezra shook his head, looking faintly bemused. "I have yet to ascertain how ancient artifacts of Scotland managed to find their way into a collection in Hong Kong, but in order to acquire the claymore I wanted, it was necessary to stay online well into the wee hours of the morning."
Vin blinked, having trouble picturing Ezra wielding such a weapon. "You bought a claymore?"
"Well, I certainly didn't spend hours and several thousands to buy a set of bagpipes. Although, one bidder certainly did." Ezra chuckled, eyes alight with amusement, bright and eager in spite of having been awake all night. "Fools and their money get invited places."
"Because fools and money quickly part company." Vin finished for him having heard Ezra say that more than once.
"Just so." Ezra tipped his head, the gesture somehow coming across as regal in spite of his disheveled hair, towel hanging from one shoulder, and sweaty chest. He made an inviting movement with his hand. "And what brings you to my humble abode as such an ungodly hour?"
"Wanted ta workout." Vin answered, holding up the key Ezra had given him when he bought the building. All of them had keys to the dojo/gym portion of the warehouse, but none of them had keys to Ezra's own private living quarters in the upper floor.
"By all means." Ezra made a sweeping inviting gesture, clearly giving the floor to Vin. "I'll be making breakfast after I shower, if you wish, please feel free to join me."
Vin grinned. "Ya know I never turn down one o' your meals."
"I know." Ezra winked, passing by him and heading for the stairs. "But I would so hate to presume."
Vin laughed lightly. He began his own work out, mind returning to the form Ezra had been doing. As he used the cross-trainer machine, in his mind's eye he pictured each movement, trying to memorize it for later study when he attempted it again himself. He could ask Ezra for pointers, but he didn't want to do that until he had a chance to practice it again.
He kept his weight work light, not having a spotter. Usually he and Josiah would do serious weight-lifting together spotting for each other, but the big man was out of town this week. None of the others liked working out at the crack of dawn.
Finishing his lighter routine and knowing breakfast was waiting, Vin took a quick shower in the room Ezra had installed for his friends to use. Using this shower more than the one at his apartment, Vin had quickly taken to simply leaving his preferred soap, shampoo, shaving cream and razors on shelves set up for just that purpose in the 'locker room'. He wondered if any of the others ever noticed that they never had to replace anything, their brands of choice always in ready supply. He smiled knowing Ezra took pains to pay attention to details, and ensure his friends always felt welcome, and routinely restocked the shelves.
Vin slipped into a clean pair of jeans and a sweat shirt. He felt a wave of nostalgia for the old buckskin leathers he used to wear, remembering how comfortable they'd felt. But the jeans were a damn sight more comfortable than the woolen britches he'd sported at one time. And he still had his boots custom made, in spite of the outrageous expense, so at least that was one thing over the years that hadn't changed much.
Before heading upstairs he made sure the shower and locker room were as clean as they'd been when he'd entered. Vin took the steps two at a time, knocking quietly on the door to Ezra's private domain. Something about Ezra's unfailing polite demeanor had rubbed off on him over the years, so he honestly couldn't just barge in even though he new the door was unlocked and Ezra was waiting for him.
"Come in, Mr. Tanner, the door is open."
Vin stepped in, taking a deep breath of frying bacon. He loved bacon. And since the only thing that could kill him was being beheaded he'd never had to deny himself having it whenever he wanted. No immortal ever had to worry about clogging their arteries.
"Smells good, Ez."
Ezra tipped his head in acknowledgement. He offered a plate with several pancakes to Vin, indicating a seat at the bar where silverware and a glass of orange juice were already waiting. Ezra placed the bacon on a small plate in the center of the bar, in easy reach for either of them, before sitting down with his own plate of pancakes.
"Naturally." Vin grinned. His sweet tooth was well known, and it didn't hurt that Ezra always had real maple syrup, not the fake crap that most places stocked.
Vin noticed Ezra was wearing a t-shirt and sweats. Such informal attire meant the older immortal likely intended to get some sleep after they finished eating. Ezra, unlike Vin, never found the sun being up a hindrance to his ability to rest. His pendant was readily visible, the green and silver a sharp contrast to his plain black t-shirt.
Swallowing his recent bite, Vin nervously bit his lip. Ezra had been overly forthcoming about his past, but the man was exactly secretive either. Still, it seemed somehow rude to ask outright the significance of the pendant, like he was invading his friend's privacy.
"Something wrong, Vin?" Ezra arched an eyebrow, his expression one of polite concern. "I thought blueberries were one of your favorites."
"Pancakes are fine, Ez." Vin cleared his throat, and sucked up his courage. "Kinda want to ask you somethin'."
"You may ask me anything." Ezra smiled, dimples appearing briefly. "I do, as always, reserve the right not to answer."
Vin smiled in response knowing Chris and Nathan were of the opinion Ezra never gave anyone a direct answer. Vin knew better. It was asking the right question that was the challenge, not getting an answer. Still he hesitated.
Ezra cocked his head to one side. "Is your question such a weighty matter that I should find a stiffer libation to fortify us than just orange juice?"
Vin shrugged, unable to stifle a chuckle. "I don't know jus' feel a bit forward about wantin' to know."
"Ah." Ezra sipped his juice. "Would it help if I told you that what ever it is, I promise not to be offended?"
Vin half smiled, feeling a bit foolish. "Might."
"Then I promise." Ezra responded soberly, green eyes easily meeting and holding sky blue. "Ask away my friend."
Vin took a deep breath. "Your pendant." He pointed to the item.
Ezra raised both eyebrows in surprise. "What about it?"
"You're always wearing it." Vin made a meaningless gesture with one hand. "Have had it for as long as I've known you and I was jus' wondering well, it is obviously important to you an' I sort of wondered why."
Ezra pursed his lips, eyes shifting to focus out the window, fingers of his right hand lightly rising to caress the pendant. Vin waited, knowing his friend was considering his request. He held his breath, hoping his curiosity hadn't made him commit some sort of monumental error.
"I've had this little bauble for almost as long as I've been alive." A faint smile flittered across the older immortal's faced before disappearing to leave his expression one of reflection. "Actually, I could honestly say I began my immortal existence with it, so in many ways, I have had it as long as I've been alive."
Ezra sipped his orange juice, eyes once more holding Vin's. "A woman in my father's household, not long a Christian, gave it to me as a good luck charm. Even then I did not truly believe in luck, but as a man about to face his first real battle on foreign soil, one we had no hope of winning, a little emotional fortification was something I was unwilling to forgo."
Ezra made a movement with his shoulder, a gesture that wasn't quite a shrug. "I died for the first time clutching it. I revived still clutching it, on a battlefield littered with corpses. Thieves and cut-purses were busy relieving the mortal coils of their valuables before burying them, so I suppose it was indeed lucky for it to even still be in my possession."
Ezra smiled, a bit of self-deprecation in his expression. "Before meeting others of our ilk, which took nearly fifty years, I was somewhat convinced that this little trinket might actually be responsible for my continued existence, and never removed it for fear I might find myself no longer breathing. The triskele has long been a symbol of life, death and rebirth, and the woman who bequeathed it to me had been rumored to have been a priestess of one kind or another."
Green eyes sparkled with an odd bit of humor. "Superstitious lot we were back then, so it was not a huge leap in logic for me to assume that perhaps she had bespelled the jewel before giving it to me. I've simply been hanging on to it ever since, a keepsake from that time. An old and well established habit, nothing more."
"Hell, Ez, you know I still got that two pence piece I had when I met ya the first time." Vin grinned. "And if anyone had given me anything that was going to survive even half so long, you can damn sure bet I'd still own it."
Ezra tipped his head. "Indeed."
Vin raised his glass in a toast motion. "To good luck charms and mementos."
Ezra touched his glass to his. "To charms and mementos."
As Ezra turned to get the bread that had just popped from the toaster, Vin breathed easier, suddenly very pleased he'd managed to ask the question. He felt foolish for being worried in the first place. Each of the bits and pieces he garnered about Ezra's past, information freely given, were mementos of sort, adding to his knowledge about his friend, making it easier to understand the complex man.
Vin had a feeling he'd be collecting mementos for a long time to come. He was looking forward to it. With any luck at all, maybe it would become a sort of well established habit, just like Ezra's retention and constant wear of his pendant. Vin certainly hoped so.
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