Notes: A birthday story for Anthony Starke, just a day late.
Yawning, Ezra Standish arose from his easy chair. He had been enjoying a quiet day at home. His duties as an undercover ATF agent had kept him away for the last three weeks. He was finally able to relax and indulge his taste for the finer things in life. A little Bach on the stereo, a truly fine white wine and Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, life just didn't get better than this.
However, the door bell was ringing, and he had best answer it.
Looking through the peep hole he was surprised to see the view blocked. Grinning, he silently opened the door with no warning and stepped quickly aside as Buck Wilmington fell through the open door. Laughing, JD Dunne, followed his best friend and roommate into the condo in a more socially acceptable manner.
"Hey Ezra," JD greeted him, handing him a wrapped box; and taking another one from Buck and handing it to Ezra as well.
"How ya doing?" Buck asked, getting to his feet.
"Quite well, thank you. To what do I owe this pleasure?" He asked looking from one to the other.
"You have to ask?" JD looked at him in shock.
"As I have not invited you and not been apprized of what you might require of me; yes, I have to ask," Ezra replied.
Buck point outside before JD could answer. "Hey! Vin and Chris are here!"
"Might I take it that Misters Sanchez and Jackson will be joining us as well?" Ezra asked.
"About five minutes behind us," Chris said handing him a fancy envelope.
Vin nodded and followed the blond in, also handing a wrapped package to the undercover agent.
As he was evidently having company, Ezra ushered the men into the living room. JD, Vin, and the newly arrived Josiah, popped into the kitchen with the grocery bags they had all been carrying, while Ezra greeted the last of his guests and packages.
Glancing at the pile of seven boxes on the table, Ezra turned to the others.
"Might I guess that this gathering has a connection to my Natal Day?" Ezra inquired.
"If you mean your birthday, yeah, that would have something to do with us dropping by," Nathan responded.
"You didn't think we would let you turn thirty without a party?" Buck asked in mock surprise.
Ezra thought back to the total blow out when Chris turned forty. It was a good bet that if Chris had lived so isolated the cops would have been there at least three times. Buck's thirty-fifth had been more than memorable. Josiah's fiftieth had required two days to recover from. This group had obviously not heard of quiet birthday celebrations.
"Yes indeed, I should have expected," Ezra smiled.
"Yep," Chris grinned.
Ezra's stared as for the first time in its life his dining room table was being set with paper plates and plastic silverware courtsey of JD. He shuddered to think what kind of celebratory menu he would be facing.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra's jaw hit the ground as ribs and fried shrimps were carried to the table followed by buttermilk biscuits, okra, and collards. Vin brought up the rear with sweet potatoes and a pitcher of sweet tea.
Josiah said a blessing over the meal, and seven hungry men dove in.
"Good choices," Chris commented gnawing on a bone.
"I was not party to the menu choices," Ezra commented, savoring his buttered biscuit.
"Actually, you were," Nathan informed him. "When we were on that all night stakeout we started comparing favorite foods. You mentioned these as favorites."
Ezra had a mouthful of food, so merely nodded and gave the medic a two fingered salute. That night had been months ago, and his friend had remembered every dish he had mentioned.
"So, what was your favorite birthday?" JD asked, taking a second helping of the potatoes.
Ezra smiled, "I have to confess, that this has by far been the most enjoyable."
Josiah looked at him, tilting his head. He would bet anything Ezra cared to offer that the southerner had not celebrated his birthday before.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan and Buck began clearing the dishes while the rest of the group took their tea and headed to the living room.
"Ya want gifts or Pecan pie first?" The large man asked, as he and Nathan entered the room.
Seeing JD almost vibrating with excitement, Ezra leaned back in his chair.
"I suspect that I had best open gifts, lest Mister Dunne expire."
"YES!" JD grinned impishly while fist pumping the air.
"I think JD's a bit eager, brother," Josiah commented.
Buck playfully swatted the team's youngest on the back of the head. JD ducked with long practiced skill and ability.
Picking up the nearest box, Ezra ripped the wrapping off with no thought of dignity or appearances.
"Robert Talbott Italian silk tie; fine haberdashery," Ezra beamed at Buck.
"You were talking about how good they were when you loaned me that one when I was undercover," The mustachioed man explained.
Vin's box was opened next.
"A first edition of Robert Service poems," Ezra announced, carefully holding up the book.
"I knew ya liked poetry, ya recited them from memory when we were in that car accident and you had to keep me awake until help arrived. Figured I'd share one of my favorites," Vin blushed slightly.
"I too enjoy his works, I thank you for this excellent collection of his works,"
The envelope from Chris was taken up next.
"Tickets to La Boheme; it's been sold out for months," Ezra stared at them.
"I remembered you telling Josiah about how it was the first opera you ever attended and that you never miss it if you can help it." Chris explained, knowing that had he not been undercover Ezra would have gotten tickets this time as well.
Ezra nodded to him, as well as Josiah, the giver of his next gift.
"Two meals at The Sushi Bar; a truly fine dining experience."
"Thought you might like dinner before the theater, and you mentioned liking sushi when we were comparing experiences in Japan," Josiah responded.
"And a truly enjoyable evening it shall be, my thanks," Ezra smiled at them.
A long and narrow box from Nathan was next.
"A rapier; I haven't fenced in years," Ezra swallowed.
Nathan smiled softly. "When we were talking about college sports, you had mentioned being on the fencing team in college and that you missed it."
"Didn't know you fenced! Nathan I do as well, we'll have to spar sometime," Vin said, sipping his coffee.
"That is so cool! Could you guys teach me?" JD nearly begged.
"Neither of us are teachers, but we could show you some basics, and help set you up with a teacher," Nathan offered.
Buck and Chris shuddered at the thought of their youngest fencing.
JD bit his lip and swallowed. He had been really excited about his gift, but it sure wasn't anything as nice as all those were.
Ezra opened the last of the packages. Only JD would wrap a gift in the Sunday comics.
Ezra was speechless. It was a photo album. On the cover was a team picture taken at one of Chris' barbeques. The first page was one of him and Maude in a rare moment of peace and enjoyment. Next was one of Maverick nuzzling him while he patted the gelding. There was one of Josiah and Ezra in one of their philosophical debates. Another was of Nathan and Ezra playing hop-scotch with a group of girls on a day they all volunteered at the Courage Center where Vin helped out. The next page had one of Vin and Ezra riding and Ezra snatching Vin's harmonica. There was one of Ezra teaching JD how to play poker. There was a picture of Chris and Buck with Ezra around the fire on a camping trip. The many pictures covering the 32 pages covered times and people that he found himself wanting to remember forever.
"I lack the requisite vocabulary to express my enjoyment, thank you, JD."
"I put them on a CD as well, so you can put them on your computer," JD handed him the disk."
Ezra looked at all the men. "Thank you all."
As the men sat eating Pecan pie, Ezra's favorite, and watching the Inferno Ezra discovered that for the first time in his life he had not only enjoyed his birthday, but was looking forward to his next.
Happy Birthday Tony Starke!