Dinner: The Appetizer

by Annie

Follows The Apéritif

Buck stared into the mirror, mouth agape, toothpaste dripping freely, and spoke to the reflection of the man who stood behind him.

"The hell you say," he frowned, brushing his frothy face with the monogrammed hand towel.

"I really don't want to continue to discuss this, Buck," Ezra said as he picked up the discarded towel and draped it over the brass bar, "so just let's assume I am correct, which in this instance I most assuredly am, and...and-"

"And what?" Buck spit into the sink, watching the bright green mouthwash swirl down the drain as it mixed with the water from the faucet, he wiped his fingers over the hand towel.

"And agree that it would be inviting disaster were you to actually be in attendance at this dinner tomorrow night." Ezra straightened the handtowel's corner, evening the sides and frowning at the toothpaste smear on the corner.

"I'm goin' Ezra. Your mother invited me an' I sure as hell ain't gonna not show up all because you're afraid o' her."

Ezra shook his head, his voice rising somewhat as he continued to try and dissuade the tall man now glaring at him. "Listen to some semblance of reason, will you? It isn't that I find her frightening, well, no more so than her usual anyway, I am just voicing what are perfectly valid concerns about your presence there tomorrow night. If you'd open up that hard-head of yours and hear-"

"Hard-head? I am not being hardheaded at all, Ezra, I just don't see what the big deal is about me having dinner with you and your mother," Buck responded, lathering up his chin and neck with shaving cream.

Ezra huffed in frustration as he reached into the shower stall and turned on the hot water. "You apparently are choosing not to listen to anything I've said, Buck."

"Oh, I'm hearin' ya, I can't help but hear ya Ezra, you haven't stopped talking about this since your mother called." His hand stroked the razor over his face plowing a wide path through the white foam.

Ezra watched the steady hand repeating its sure slide over the tender skin. He shook his head, "You may be hearing me, but are not listening. If you would grant me the honor of truly listening to my reasoning, then you'd see I have analyzed this quite thoroughly; as it is, I find it frustrating that you remain so incredibly unyielding...so utterly...utterly...pig-headed."

"Pigheaded? I'm pigheaded? Oh that's rich, as if that ain't the hog callin' the kettle black," Buck growled, eyeing the reflection of his lover in the mirror before him. His eyes widened as the man's matching image disrobed, his nude backside now showing its full splendor and he swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly seemed overly dry.

Ezra stepped into the steamy shower, closing the glass door behind him. "I do believe you mean pot callling the kettle black, not hog...you see, hog makes no sense, really. If you're going to bother to use that sort of-"

"You know what, Ezra? It is a mystery t' me how you made it all th' way into your thirties without someone just shootin' you dead. Y' just go on an' on an' on," Buck yelled toward the shower stall as he ran a hand over his freshly-smoothed face. Picking up the clippers, he made short work of trimming his dark mustache.

Ezra lathered up the clean scented shampoo, his head quickly filling with bubbles. "Is it truly your intention to inflict upon me a migraine? Because you are rapidly succeeding in that endeavor, if that is so...Honestly, talk about a gift for gab, you're certainly not lacking by any means, I'd say you hold a full house in that area...Now, if we may return to the current crisis at hand, you must believe, I have only your and my best interest at heart here, and-"

"Lordy Ezra, you play all your marks this way? Just wear 'em down by talking so much they say and do anything just to get you to shut up? Listen, it don't matter what you're sayin' or how many godawful words ya use to say it, I ain't backin' off on this. There ain't no way I'm missing havin' dinner with your mother. She invited me, and I ain't gonna let you uninvite me, so get used to it; I'm going. Besides, I kinda like Maude and I know she likes me, I mean really, what's not to like? Anyway, I find her...fascinating," Buck grinned as he lay his undershirt over the toilet's lid.

"Great heavens, now you sound like Josiah." Ezra said, adding a huff of exasperation to his exhale. He leaned back into the wet spray to rinse shampoo from his hair and winced as it ran freely into his eyes, stinging them. What was it about his mother that drew men to her like moths to a flame?

Buck smiled, watching his colorful boxers float to the floor and he quietly spoke again. "Now look, you and me and Maude are gonna have ourselves a nice, quiet time tonight with a nice, quiet dinner, at a nice, quiet restaurant and that's all there is to it."

"Quiet? You do realize we're dining with my mother, I really don't think that will be all there is to it and furthermore-"

"Listen, she don't haveta know you and I are anything more than friends or coworkers, I really think you're gettin' yourself all worked up into a...a frenzy, for nothing-"

"I am not worked up into a frenzy," Ezra objected, groping blindly for the washcloth, then jumping as his fingers met warm skin.

"Well," Buck grinned, "I can fix that."

+ + + + + + +

The work day passed quickly, each of the seven members of Denver's most highly successful ATF team working to lessen their overburdened in-boxes of the tedious paperwork that had accumulated over the past week. With several recently completed cases under their belts, the men found themselves swamped with government reports to finish, and an uncommon silence stilled the normally boisterous office.

"Going for some coffee, anyone else?" Josiah said, his deep voice resounding around the room.

"Depends," JD spoke, "on just who made it?"

Heads raised, all eyes directed in one direction.

"What?" the focus of the attention asked defensively.

"Nah, Vin didn't make it, I did," Chris said strolling out of his private office into the bullpen area, mug in hand. He trailed Josiah into the small kitchen and smiled hearing the sullen voice following behind him.

"So what if I'd a made it anyway, y'all ain't got no reason t' complain, hell, my coffee's good for ya, put hair on yer chest."

"I don't know, Vin, seems to me it could eat the hair right off your chest, kind of like battery acid," Josiah said turning to grin at the other man.

Chris laughed, reaching over and quickly pulled at the young man's shirt. "Guess that explains what happened to you, huh?"

Vin growled, smacking the hand away from his chest.

JD sat at his desk, trying desperately to find something with which to amuse himself, anything that would enable him to divert his attention for a few minutes anyway; he was so bored with filling out paperwork. Picking up a plastic paperclip, he stretched a rubberband taut and aimed. "He shoots," he started, pausing as he watched the small projectile land dangerously close to Buck's coffee mug, the one that read: Sex, the best two minutes of my day. "And misses," he finished, picking up another clip and aiming again as he reloaded the rubberband.

Buck grabbed his mug, taking a slow sip of the steaming liquid and without looking up from his desk growled, "That thing lands over here and your ass is mine, boy."

Without missing a beat, JD swiveled in his chair to launch his attack in a different direction. The paperclip arced high over the head bent low over it's owner's desk.

"My Lord, I'm associating with juvenile delinquents," Ezra frowned as a second plastic missile whizzed past his ear. "Is there an explanation you'd care to offer as to why I'm being targeted for such a sophomoric display of boredom? Are we finished with our paperwork, perhaps Mr. Dunne? Shall I tell the teacher you are in dire need of recess, or would you rather send him a message via a flying office supply?"

"Sorry Ez, just trying to lighten things up 'round here, just seems too quiet or something."

"Well, if you don't mind, I, for one, would appreciate immensely you directing your youthful energies in an alternate endeavor, one that may have results known to be potentially less-injurious. I'm sure I don't need to speak of the proverbial poking out of one's eye that may occur when items are projected thusly," Ezra deadpanned, letting fly a large wad of paper, striking the young man dead-center in the forehead.

JD looked up stunned, not expecting retaliation, least of all from that quarter, then stared at his hand holding the crumpled paper, "Y' coulda poked my eye out, Ezra."

"Precisely," Ezra smiled, returning to his paperwork. Buck sat silent, staring at the man who constantly surprised him, then turned back to his own work, a slow grin tickling his lips.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra drove to Buck's townhouse, arriving early and anxious. He felt fortunate JD had chosen to take the young Miss Wells out for the evening, sure he would have no patience for the young man's ceaseless conversation, which would have surely wandered its direction around the evening's dinner to come. He tapped his foot restlessly, checked his reflection in the foyer's mirror as he straightened his tie for the umpteenth time and glanced at his watch, once again.

"Buck? Are you near to being ready? I really must insist we get a move on, if you don't mind," Ezra called out, not even attempting to mask his impatience. He looked up hearing footsteps approaching and his chin dropped.

"Well, I'm hoping that open mouth of yours is an invitation to things to come," Buck grinned enormously as he watched his normally tactful lover close his mouth.

"Buck, you look...well...oh my..."

"Ya don't say? You ain't lookin' half-bad your own self there, Ez," Buck smiled, twirling once around on the ceramic tile and effecting a model's pose. "Look, I'm vogue."

Ezra stood transfixed, and although not entirely amazed that the man would suit up so well since he always felt Buck cut a wonderful figure in his daily casual attire, he was now finding himself at a sudden loss of words as he stared at the well dressed man before him. "I'm...you're...well I'm..." he started.

Buck grinned, "Well hell, Ez, couldn'ta said it any clearer m'self. So, we ready to go, shall we?" He shifted his shoulders inside his charcoal grey suitcoat and opened the door. "After you," he said, placing a hand on the slighter man's back and following him out.

Ezra stopped, turning to speak. "Let me just say, no matter how ugly this evening is destined to become, for the record, you have never looked more handsome."

"Why Mr. Standish, how you do indeed go on," Buck smiled, then cocked his head as he heard himself speak. "I believe you're rubbing off on me, Ezra."

"Maybe tonight I can rub a little more," he grinned, then frowned, "My Lord Buck, I think I know what you mean."

+ + + + + + +

They arrived at the French restaurant a half-hour earlier than the reserved time. Ezra slipped from the driver's seat and handed the valet his keys and a ten dollar bill. Buck whistled low, "Didn't know I was dining with Diamond Jim tonight. Y'now y' just gave that boy ten bucks, don't ya?"

"Of course, I intend it as an extra incentive to keep safe my beloved vehicle, I prefer her to be handled with the utmost of care and respect, as I would any of my belongings. That was just a little added insurance, something extra for very little, it sometimes pays to pay. Besides, I truly only like to place my things into sure hands."

"Yeah Ezra? How 'bout me," Buck whispered invitingly, "Y' gonna place your things into my hands?"

"Everything I own, Mr. Wilmington, is yours to fondle."

They entered, Buck heading toward the bar area as Ezra spoke with the Maître-d'. He joined Buck at a small table and ordered a glass of wine.

"Wine?" Buck asked, "I thought for sure you'd be ordering something with a bit more kick to it, martini maybe." He sipped at his imported beer.

"I debated about it, but then assured myself if I limited my consumption to just a few glasses of a good pinot-blanc, then perhaps, I'd be better able to match wits with my mother upon her arrival. A glass or two before she shows will do wonders to ease the fraying of my nerves."

Buck shook his head. "Hell Ezra, y' ought not presume so much about this dinner, we're all just here to have a nice time, your mother included. She ain't gonna know nothin' 'bout you an' me so she ain't gonna say a word on the subject. Stop worrying yourself." He perused the limited bar menu, then looked up at Ezra, with a wicked grin.

"What?" Ezra asked, suddenly feeling like the appetizer of the day.

"They got oysters."

"And so?"

Buck's grin widened even more as he leaned forward within inches of Ezra's face. "And so, I'm ordering 'em, for the both of us."

"Oh God," Ezra frowned, turning to the bartender, "I'll have a martini, make it a double."

Buck's grin faded as he heard the order. "Shit Ezra, I was just trying t' be funny, just because y' know what they say 'bout oysters an' all. That whole aphrodisiac stuff pro'bly ain't even for real, course I can't say it wouldn't be fun to try an' find out. Still, I don't see what's got you all hot and bothered now, you ain't even ate one of them yet."

He watched as the waitress brought Ezra's martini over and frowned as shaky fingers held the glass. Ezra downed a huge gulp, then carefully set the glass on the table and stood looking down, the color draining in slow measure from his face.

Buck was about to question the move, not understanding the changed demeanor of the usually composed man, and as he opened his mouth to speak found himself cut short by Ezra's tightening voice as he looked up over Buck's shoulder.

"Hello Mother."

Continued in: Les Huitres, Oysters