Happy Birthday, Ezra
This is another chapter in the Understanding Ezra series. It is just a bit of fluff, no serious plot. Hope you enjoy it.
Ezra jolted up out of bed as the phone rang shrilly in his ear. He grabbed the receiver and rubbed his eyes as he answered, “Hello?”
“Happy Birthday, darling!”
“Mother?” Ezra replied glancing at the clock by his bed. “It’s just after two in the morning,” he said with a yawn.
“Oh,” Maude said brightly, “well, I’m in
Ezra sat up, ran his hand through his rumpled hair and yawned again before responding. “Well, thank you, Mother. You really didn’t have to get me anything,” he said. Who knew what she would get him for his birthday these days. Especially after the Jaguar two years ago.
“Nonsense, darling. I hope you enjoy it,” Maude continued, almost as if she hadn’t even heard Ezra’s reply. “I’ve got to go, dear. I’m running up Mercado’s phone bill. He’s such a sweetheart. I’ll call you later. Ta.” And the line went silent.
Ezra continued to hold the phone until the dial tone startled him and he slowly placed it back on the base. He fluffed his pillow and lay down wondering if he’d be able to get back to sleep. He’d been up until almost doing research on a case and had to be in the office early, , to meet with the others on another case that would hopefully be busted later this morning.
The undercover agent yawned again. His mother’s timing was
abominable, no matter how well-meaning. At least this year she’d been able to
reach him. Ezra recalled the message she’d left on his answering machine the
year before. He’d been injured and in the hospital, unconscious and alone on
his birthday last year. When he’d finally gotten home, Maude’s message from
Ezra sighed. Hopefully this year would be different. Since
Of course, the rest of Team 7 had no idea today was Ezra’s birthday, but that was all right with the Southerner. Every day he was feeling a bit more a part of the team. He was a little more comfortable sharing his time with these six very different men. Eventually, he’d feel safe enough to confide in them, as long as nothing went wrong.
He closed his eyes, deciding to try and get a little more sleep. Two hours really wouldn’t cut it with the day they had planned. Maybe he’d treat himself to dinner at Luigi’s this evening. Yes, that sounded good. He could order a piece of chocolate cake for dessert.
, Team 7 bullpen
“Hey, Buck,” JD said looking up from his computer.
“Yeah, kid?” Buck answered distractedly. He was getting an early start on some paperwork hoping that he might get off early after the bust went down. He had a hot date with Cindy tonight.
“Do you know what today is?”
“It’s Thursday, JD,” Buck said with a roll of his eyes. “Doesn’t your fancy calendar program tell you that?”
“Funny, Buck,” JD said sarcastically. “No, really, I’m serious, do you know what today is?”
Buck looked up from his monitor and sighed, knowing he’d get no peace until he satisfied JD’s question. “No, JD, what is today?” he asked dryly.
“It’s Ezra’s birthday.”
“What?” the ladies man asked, sitting up straighter and staring at his young friend.
“I said, it’s Ezra’s birthday,” JD repeated. “I had it in my calendar here at work, but I forgot to transfer it to the loft. I didn’t get him anything,” he said down-heartedly.
“Shit. I didn’t even know when his birthday was,” Buck admitted. “Look, don’t worry about it, JD. Ez probably doesn’t expect any of us to know. Just wish him a happy birthday and maybe we can convince him to go out to dinner with us this evening.”
JD brightened. “You think so?”
Buck shrugged. “Can’t hurt to try. We should let the others know to, in case they didn’t know or forgot. We’ve been pretty busy lately. I probably would have forgotten my own birthday,” he teased.
JD smirked. “I doubt that. Not with all the cards and flowers you got this year from all those women you’ve dated.”
Buck leaned back in his chair with a broad, satisfied smile on his face. “Yeah, that’s true.” He sighed happily, and then sat forward again. “Damn. I had a date with Cindy for tonight. I’d better call her and reschedule, just in case Ez does want to go out.”
“What if he doesn’t?” JD asked.
“Cindy’ll understand. Ez is a friend and I ain’t gonna let him down,” Buck said as he dialed Cindy’s number.
Vin and Chris walked in followed closely by Josiah and Nathan.
“Morning,” Larabee said with a nod to Buck and JD.
“Hey, Chris,” JD said, moving to meet the other four and give Buck some privacy. “Did ya’ll know it’s Ez’s birthday today?”
“Ah, hell,” Vin said looking at the others and seeing similar expressions of regret.
“No,” Chris admitted.
“Buck wants to see if he’ll go to dinner with us tonight,” JD added. “Figures we can treat him for his birthday.”
“Sounds like a plan to me, brother,” Josiah agreed.
“Count me in,” Nathan added.
“Me, too,” Vin said.
“All right,” Chris said. “You guys figure out where.
Hopefully we can wrap things up with
Ezra walked in carrying his usual Starbucks coffee and a briefcase. “Good morning, gentlemen,” he said with a brief nod in their direction.
“Mornin’ Ez,” Vin said. “Happy Birthday.”
Ezra stopped in his tracks and stared at the sharpshooter for a long moment. “Uh… Thank you, Mr. Tanner,” he finally replied. Ezra continued to his desk, shaking his head minutely at the totally unexpected greeting.
“Dang it, Vin,” JD said, practically hopping over to Vin and Ezra’s desks. “I wanted to be the first one to wish him happy birthday.”
“What does it matter who was first?” Vin asked with a grin.
Ezra covered his confusion by sitting in his chair and digging through his briefcase.
“Well,” JD drawled, “I was the one who told ya. I think that gives me the right to be first.”
“A little late now,” Vin teased.
JD stuck his tongue out at the sharpshooter and turned to face Ezra. “So, Ez, how’s your day going?”
Ezra looked up at JD. “Fine, Mr. Dunne. My Mother called me
“See, JD,” Vin grinned. “I weren’t the first to greet him.”
JD rolled his eyes. “That ain’t the same, Vin. That was his mom. They’re supposed to remember your birthday.”
Ezra ducked his head and focused on booting up his computer. Maude had not always remembered his birthday on the day. Sometimes he would receive presents and best wishes from her days or weeks early, or late, depending on where she was at the time. Obviously, JD’s mother had remembered.
Vin shrugged, unable to answer JD’s challenge. He only remembered a few birthdays with his mom before she died. After that birthday celebrations had come randomly for the orphan. Vin looked over at Ezra and caught the undercover agent’s thoughtful gaze. Vin nodded slightly and received a small smile in reply.
Ezra recognized the look in Vin’s eye. Surprisingly enough, it seemed he had something in common with the quiet Texan. Though not technically an orphan, Ezra had spent more time away from Maude than with her while he was growing up.
“Hey, pard,” Buck greeted loudly as he walked up to Ezra’s desk. “JD reminded us that today is your birthday. Happy Birthday!” he said slapping Ez on the back.
Ezra rocked forward with the slap and turned a bemused grin on the ladies man. “Thank you, Mr. Wilmington.”
Josiah and Nathan came out of Chris’ office.
“Happy Birthday, Ezra,” Nathan said at the same time as Josiah.
“In stereo,” Buck teased.
The others laughed.
“Thank you both for the thought,” Ezra replied with a smile. The day is certainly turning out better than I expected.
“Nate? Josiah?” Chris called from the door to his office. “You better get a move on. We need to leave in twenty minutes.”
“Right,” Josiah said turning for the door.
“We’ll be back,” Nathan added with a conspiratorial wink once he was facing away from Ezra.
“Wonder where they’re off too?” JD mumbled, but quickly blew it off and turned his attention back to Ezra. “What are you doing this evening, Ez?”
Ezra regarded JD for a moment. He just knew this was a loaded question and wanted to make sure he answered correctly. “I’m going out to dinner.”
“With who?” Vin asked suspiciously.
“I believe that should be ‘with whom,’ Mr. Tanner,” Ezra stalled.
“With whom,” Vin reiterated. “If your ma’s in
Ezra took a breath and then let it out. “I don’t,” he admitted quietly.
“You were gonna go out by yourself? On your birthday?” JD squawked.
“JD,” Vin admonished.
“Well, that tears it,” Buck said vehemently, “you’re coming to dinner with us. Our treat. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Ezra opened his mouth but Buck just shook his finger at him. “Nope. Consider yourself occupied for the evening.”
A small grin crooked one corner of Ezra’s mouth. “Very well,” he replied softly.
Nathan and Josiah met them down at their surveillance van with donuts, croissants and more coffee. They drove to the site and set up, then waited. They were backing up Team 5 in, hopefully, closing down a drug dealer and his local marketer.
Once they’d all settled in, Nathan opened the breakfast boxes, but handed Ezra his first. The croissant had a candle stuck in it. Nathan grinned at the look on Ezra’s face as he lit the candle.
“You’re supposed to make a wish, Ezra,” the medic teased.
“I am aware of that, Mr. Jackson,” Ezra replied saucily.
Ezra paused for a moment, not really sure what to wish for. Maybe just not spending the day at the hospital would be a sufficient aspiration. He blew out the candle then carefully removed the waxy stump from his breakfast.
“Thank you,” Ezra said to Nathan.
“You’re welcome,” Nathan replied. “Don’t suppose you want us to sing to you?” he teased.
Ezra feigned horror at the thought. “Please, don’t.”
The others chuckled and dug in to breakfast.
Team 5’s leader, Jerry Kasinsky, radioed in ten minutes later and they moved to their designated spots.
Ezra sat the box on his desk and eased himself carefully into his chair. His side throbbed mercilessly, but Nathan had assured him that he was only bruised. Was there some unwritten rule that the bad guys had to keep two by fours readily at hand in their hideouts?
He looked up and watched as his co-workers made their way to their desks. Everyone was moving a bit stiffly. Robert Orlando and his gang had not been taken down easily. Fortunately, no one had been badly injured, but they all bore signs of the fight.
“You gonna open that box or stare at it all day?” Vin asked from across their desks.
Ezra glanced up at Vin then back down at the box from his mother. It had been waiting for him downstairs when they returned. He really did not want to open it in front of the others.
“I think I’ll wait until this evening,” Ezra said softly.
“Ah,” Buck complained, “Come on, Ez, it can’t be that bad.”
Ezra met Buck’s imploring blue eyes. “Two years ago she got me the Jaguar,” Ezra admitted ruefully.
Buck’s eyes widened and he smiled broadly. “Like I said, can’t be that bad.”
“After that,” Ezra added, “unfounded rumors about me being on the take started to circulate.”
“Oh,” Buck mouthed, his smile dropping quickly from his face. “Well, we can act as witnesses for you, in case she got you the Hope diamond or something,” the ladies man grinned roguishly.
Ezra suppressed a grin and took the pocketknife Vin proffered. He slit the tape and cautiously opened the box. He found himself holding his breath as he removed the packing paper surrounding another much smaller box.
He pulled the box out and stared at it for a moment. Fortunately, the box was too small to hold a prize such as the Hope diamond, but who knew what Mother might wrap in such a package. Ezra opened the box and was pleasantly surprised to see an ordinary pocket watch.
He lifted the watch from the cotton and examined it. The gold outer casing was finely etched with a rearing horse. Ezra held the watch to his ear and smiled at the ticking he heard. He opened the case and saw the obviously quite old watch face. There was an inscription on the inside that read ‘With all my love, P.”
Ezra frowned and after carefully placing the watch on his desk, dug through the larger box until he found an envelope with his mother’s handwriting on it. He opened it and read the card.
My dearest Ezra,
Happy Birthday, darling. I hope you like the watch. It was given to your great, great grandfather by his bride to be. Your father always wanted you to have it, but you were much too young for such a prize while my dear Daniel was alive. I had packed the watch away for safe keeping, and must admit that I’d forgotten all about it until now.
Keep it close to your heart, Ezra and let it remind you how much your father loved you.
Your loving mother
“It looks old,” Josiah said from behind Ezra.
The undercover agent nodded. “It belonged to my great, great grandfather,” he supplied, lifting the card briefly to indicate the origin of that information. Ezra picked up the watch and lightly ran his thumb over the outer casing.
“All right, boys,” Chris interrupted. “Get those reports done so we can get out of here and get something to eat.”
Team 7 settled back at their desks and went to work.
Ezra laughed and shook his head at JD’s latest bad joke. Some how, the others had convinced him to let them buy dinner and they’d all insisted on going to a place they called The Saloon. That wasn’t the name on the door, it was actually called ‘J. Watson’s Bar and Grill,’ but that didn’t seem to matter to Team 7.
Ezra had been a bit taken aback at the old west theme, right down to a wooden floor and a huge mirror over the bar. He did have to admit though that the food was excellent. And the company wasn’t too bad either. Ezra grinned to himself and looked at the men who sat around the table with him.
If he thought they acted… less than mature at the office, he could hardly be surprised when further proof of their childish natures emerged away from the restraints of their work place. Even Chris Larabee had let his hair down, so to speak, and was teasing Vin mercilessly about the ladies who’d hit on him earlier.
“Damn it, Chris,” Vin said, his cheeks flushed red, “leave it be. If I wanted to be with those ladies, I’d a gone with ‘em. And if you don’t stop buggin’ me, I might just go join ‘em anyway.”
Buck, Josiah, Nathan and Chris laughed knowingly while JD turned worried brown eyes on the sharpshooter.
“Don’t go, Vin. We still haven’t had Ezra’s birthday cake yet,” JD pleaded. He glared at the four older men, but that only made them laugh harder.
Vin huffed and slumped back in his chair.
“I dare say,” Ezra said, catching Vin’s eye as he leaned nonchalantly back in his chair, “that perhaps our older teammates are a tad jealous of the attention you received.”
Vin grinned back at Ezra. “Hey, I think you’re right, Ez,” he agreed heartily.
“After all,” Ezra continued, “I haven’t seen any young ladies offering to buy you gentlemen a drink.”
Josiah and Nathan grinned while Chris rolled his eyes at the comeback.
Buck’s smile widened and he replied with a confident smile, “Well, now boys, that’s only ‘cause the ladies don’t want to upset Inez.”
The proprietor of the Grill just happened to be walking by at that moment. She slowed as Buck continued.
“After all, they know she’s got her heart set on catchin’ Ol’ Buck here,” he drawled.
The dark haired beauty turned toward their table and moved to stand beside Ezra’s chair. She sent a quick scowl at Buck before turning a lovely smile on Ezra. “Agent Standish?” she asked proffering her hand. “I’m Inez Recillos, the owner of J. Watson’s. I understand today is your birthday.”
Ezra smiled charmingly and kissed the back of Inez’ hand. “Indeed it is, my dear woman.”
Inez leaned over, catching Ezra’s face in both hands. She planted her lips on his and proceeded to kiss the daylights out of him. Ezra was not aware of the cat calls and wolf whistles emitted around the table, or of Buck’s open mouthed stare as Inez’ tongue played around in his mouth and made other parts of him begin to pay attention.
The kiss ended just as abruptly as it began. “Happy Birthday, Senor Standish,” Inez said breathlessly before swishing away from the table.
Ezra raised a hand to his tingling lips, a bemused smile on his face.
“Well, now,” Buck stammered, “she was just trying to make me jealous.” The others chuckled at Buck’s protests.
“I think she succeeded, Buck,” JD laughed.
Buck cuffed his roommate on the back of the head then grinned. He looked at Ezra who still seemed stunned. “So, Ez? Inez a good kisser, or what?” he asked, not quite able to hide his envy.
Ezra blinked and pressed his lips together to try and contain the grin that threatened to take over his face. “Well, Mr. Wilmington,” Ezra teased, “On a scale from one to ten, I’d have to give her…” he paused dramatically.
“Yeah?” Buck beseeched.
“Well,” Ezra stalled, “you do remember that I got the Jaguar as a birthday present a few years back?”
Buck nodded emphatically. “Yeah, yeah, so what?”
“Well,” Ezra continued slyly, “as far as birthday presents go… I’d rate that kiss as better than the Jag.”
“Whoop!” JD hollered before laughing at the look on Buck’s face. The others joined him in teasing Buck and making kissy faces.
Ezra grinned and watched. This was certainly the best birthday he’d had in some time. Surrounded by his teammates, receiving a bit of his past and, yes, he touched his lips briefly, even a kiss from a beautiful woman. What more could a man ask for?
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