Undercover Dance
by Chris J. Ueberall


Series: Sequel to Looking for an Undercover Agent
Rating: R, Het (with the tiniest bit of Pre-Slash)
Category: ATF AU – Larabee's Stable, where one of the Seven is a woman.

Disclaimer: They are not mine (sigh), except maybe Chris. M7-ATF is Mog's playground, thanks a lot for giving it to us.

Summary: Ezra is undercover and his contact confuses him a lot.

Notes: Thanks to AJ Carter and Tehomet for betaing.

Song: *Lady in Red* by Chris de Burgh

Warning: My Chris-muse got her way - that's what this snippet is all about. (And why it's het ;-)

Feedback: Please. Please. (Glare) Please.


Eric Southern seemed to be content with silently nursing his drink while his companions talked idly to each other, boasting about their latest conquests or their very 'manly' ways of handling a problem. None of the other three men took much notice of their fourth's silence for he had been like that from the first day he had joined the Montoya 'household', a quiet man who seemed to be at his happiest when he had his nose in his books.

That was just the way Gregory Montoya liked his accountants - calm, discreet and prepared to follow the house-rules, no matter that those meant a thorough interference in everybody's life. There had never been any indication that Eric loathed or even just felt uncomfortable with the restrictions placed upon him, which said that for the weeks around a major transaction, no one in the 'Inner Circle' was allowed to leave the Montoya estate alone.

In fact it seemed that the accountant would have prefered to stay at the estate all the time, but his boss wouldn't have that, and so Eric was dragged along whenever Montoya's men drove to 'The Eagle Bend' bar to unwind. And so he sat here, staring into his glass, paying no attention to his surroundings.

At least that was what his companions saw. A trained observer would have noticed that every so often he glanced at the door, taking stock of the comings and goings of people.

For Eric this was just a normal evening, but for the man beneath the accountant veneer, it was much more. Today was the day of contact, and after two months of being deeply undercover, Ezra felt the almost desperate need to see at least one of his co-workers again. He would never have admitted it to anyone else, but he had a case of nerves. This was his first deep undercover job since leaving the FBI and joining Team 7, and although he trusted his new boss to back him up, with every day that passed the memories were harder to suppress.

He saw himself running again, to safety, he'd thought. He felt the pain of the bullets again, as they tore through his body. Felt once more the shock and fear as he realized that the back-up wasn't only late, it wouldn't show up at all. The bitter taste of loss was back, the smell of blood and dirt.

Ezra took another swallow from his drink, automatically checking if his hands were stable - they were. His inner turmoil wasn't showing.

He had almost given up that day, not fighting the pain or the darkness beckoning to him. But then suddenly anger had flooded his being, had pushed the darkness aside.

He wouldn't die in a dirty backstreet like some poor forgotten soul. Not he! Not Ezra P. Standish! His mother would be appalled. That wouldn't do at all. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction of ending up dead.

And he had escaped his pursuers, had almost literally crawled out of that mess. Had shoved his irritating self right back into the faces of his FBI colleagues.

A small satisfied smile appeared around Eric's lips for a second, then Ezra had himself under control again.

He tried to concentrate entirely on nursing his drink, but his thoughts wouldn't cooperate. He had been sure he could do it, could get back on the horse so to speak. Go undercover again. He trusted Larabee and her men. He could risk it. They wouldn't let him down.

In only two months Team 7 had installed in him a feeling of belonging that he had never felt before. Of course he'd never met a group that was as close-knit as Larabee's team before, either. They were all good friends, and spent a lot of time together after hours. It was a strange concept, but it seemed to work and Ezra had found it harder and harder to decline their invitations.

In the beginning he had thought they invited him only for politeness' sake, but by now he knew their wish to integrate him was genuine. Except for Jackson, no one had ever shown any sign of believing the rumors about him, or had asked how he could afford a Jaguar. They seemed to accept him just at face value.

Thinking of his team calmed the agent a little bit, but still he willed his contact to make an appearance.

'Come on.' He glanced at the door again, as a dark-haired man entered. For a moment Ezra thought it was Wilmington, but then he realized it was a stranger.

'Damn it!' He tried to not let his disappointment reach his expression. 'Calm down, Ezra. He'll come. You know that Chris won't let you down. Somebody will meet you. So calm down,' he told himself.

He didn't know who would be his contact. He hoped it was Vin, but knew it was unlikely. This bar wasn't the sharpshooter's style at all, and although he had no doubt that Vin would be able to blend in here if he wanted too, there was no reason why he should go to all that trouble just for a quick meeting. And it wouldn't be more than that, just a casual exchange of gazes; a short, inconspicuous bumping into each other in front of the washrooms, which he would use to slip a small letter into his contact's jacket. No, it wouldn't be Vin, it was much more likely to be Josiah or Buck. He bet on Josiah.

Unconsciously his hand went into his pocket to make sure the letter was still there. It wouldn't do him any harm if it were to be found, for it seemed to be just a white unused piece of paper. The information it held had been written with invisible ink. The improved version of a child's toy that he found very useful.

The door opened again and Ezra hoped once more for Josiah or Buck to appear, but was disappointed again.

About to grab his glass, Ezra froze, as his brain finally caught up with his eyes. He stared at the newcomer.

He wasn't the only one. At least a dozen heads had turned at the sound of the door being opened, and no one had turned away yet, for the woman who had entered was really a sight to behold.

Wearing a silver and black jacket over a black-turquoise dress that showed just enough cleavage and leg to promise a lot and yet not to be inappropriate, this was clearly a lady dressed for success, to hunt and conquer. The black color highlighted her blond hair and the dark turquoise matched her eyes – Ezra realized, though he couldn’t see her eyes yet. But he had been the recipient of her blue-green gaze more than once and so he knew.

His heart had stopped for a moment but now beat in a staccato rhythm. He couldn’t believe that Chris had taken it upon herself to be his contact, that she would change the rules just for his benefit. For there was no question that that was her reason. Very likely she had realized that he would need more than a short meeting to banish the ghost of his last FBI assignment and decided to give him a chance for a real talk.

‘Mother-hen,’ he thought fondly as gratitude flooded his being with an unfamiliar warmth.

The woman stood in the doorway for a moment, letting her eyes adjust and scanning the bar with a casual look. Once or twice her gaze lingered for a barely noticeable, yet long enough to leave a message, moment on a customer before she looked away again.

“Seems you made a conquest,” Ben Hancock said, slapping Ezra's back. "She wants you."

Ezra looked at him, disbelief clearly written on his face. "Me? Why would she want me?"

"No idea," the bodyguard replied drily, "but she looked interested."

"She did?" Ezra looked back to the woman, who was settling down at a table in a corner.

"Yes, she did." Pete Parker nodded. "Some women just have no taste."

"That one does," Montoya's second-in-command, Marc Becker commented, grinning at the younger bodyguard. "She overlooked you after all."

"Proving my point. Or that she needs glasses," Parker argued.

"No, boy, you need a mirror," the older bodyguard piped in, chuckling. Then he turned back to Eric. "You should go to her, Eric. Get lucky," he said.

"I don't know." Ezra hesitated. A man had just strolled over to the woman's table and was now talking to her.

"Damn. You're too late," Hancock swore. But then the woman shook her head and the stranger walked away, leaving her alone again. "Guess he wasn't her type. Now it's your chance, go!"

Ezra shook his head. "I don't know. She's a little old, isn't she?"

"Old?" Becker echoed, slapping Ezra's head. "A lady's never old. She's experienced."

"She's just the right age, boy." Hancock grinned. "They know everything and can't get enough. Just what you need. Now go or I go and ask her over."

"As if she'd come." Parker pointed at another man who had just left the woman's table. "She's not interested."

"Oh, she is," Becker contradicted. "It's just a matter of offering her the right thing. Those guys obviously didn't."

The younger bodyguard frowned. "Champagne?"

"Maybe." His partner shrugged. "Or maybe that's just the wrong thing, it's not very original."

Ezra watched the woman intensely, looking for a clue. What could she want? She just sat there, nursing her glass of water and watching the dancefloor ...

"I think I've got it," he said suddenly and rose to his feet. "Excuse me," he grinned at his companions, "seems I've got a date."

Breathing deeply he left them and walked over to the woman's table.

"I'd be honored if you danced with me," he said, his accent strong, his voice smooth.

The woman looked up. Her blue-green eyes sparkled with delight. "I thought you'd never ask. Gladly." She stood and took his arm as he led her to the dancefloor.

"I'm Christine Larue by the way," she introduced herself, laying her hand on his shoulder.

"Eric Southern at your service." Ezra smiled. "May I call you Chris?"

She laughed. "You may."

I've never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight,
I've never seen you shine so bright,
I've never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance,
They're looking for a little romance, given half a chance

Ezra knew he would never forget that evening, never forget their dancing. He had expected that Chris would try to lead, but she didn't, she gave over control and followed his every step, his every movement as if they'd been partners forever. For a moment he allowed himself to forget about work, was neither Eric nor Ezra, just a man holding a beautiful woman in his arms, losing himself to the music. He smiled as the words penetrated his mind. 'How appropriate.'

And I've never seen that dress you're wearing,
Or the highlights in your hair that catch the light,
I have been blind

"So how are you?" Chris asked after a while, her eyes holding his gaze.

"I'm fine." It was the truth. Right now he was more than fine. The shadows of the past had fled before her light. "How could I not be when an angel stepped down from heaven to dance with such a humble being as I." Ezra smiled, knowing that she'd believe him to be teasing when he was just slightly exaggerating.

"An angel?" Team 7's leader laughed. That was not a creature usually compared to her. "A true Prince Charming. Knew I missed you for a reason." She pressed his hand lightly, her expression earnest. "So you're really okay?"

He nodded. "Now I am." Daringly he leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." She returned the kiss and smiled.

The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek,
There's nobody here, it's just you and me,
It's where I want to be,
But I hardly know this beauty by my side,
I'll never forget the way you look tonight

"So how does it go with Montoya?"

"Excellent. He likes Eric and trusts him. Up to a point at least," Ezra said, never missing a step.

"Meaning?" Chris's face still showed a smile, but her eyes told him she was all business now.

"Except for his bodyguards, no one's allowed to wear a gun in the house, and they're searching me everytime I come back, even when they stay with me all the time."

"Do they use a metal detector?"

"No. It's just the good old body-search method, but they are thorough, especially Hancock. I could never get a gun in, or my badge for that matter. Which leaves me a little bit naked when the action goes down in three days."

For a while they were both silent as the woman contemplated his words.

I've never seen you looking so gorgeous as you did tonight,
I've never seen you shine so bright, you were amazing,
I've never seen so many people want to be there by your side,
And when you turned to me and smiled, it took my breath away,
And I have never had such a feeling,
Such a feeling of complete and utter love, as I do tonight

"What about me, could you get me in?" Chris finally asked.

"Not today. Tomorrow a meeting is scheduled to go over the details of Tuesday's transaction, and Montoya doesn't like visitors in the house then. But afterwards ... yes. But I don't think that would be a good idea." Ezra shook his head.

"Why not? I'll find a way to hide your badge and gun, trust me."

"That's not the point." Ezra sighed. He'd rather not mention the indignity of his current life. "My rooms are equipped with some very improper technical devices, usually called bugs. My bedroom even has a camera pointed directly at my place of slumber. It would look rather suspicious if I placed something in front of the camera, especially since Eric is supposed to be totally unaware of its existence. So I don't see how ... that we'd be able to stage an ... intimate moment convincingly."

"Hmm. We'll see." Chris raised a brow, then allowed him to lead her from the dancefloor.

"Maybe I can find a way to cover up that very improper technical device in an inconspicuous way," she said, taking her seat. "And if not ..." Her smile turned devious. "It wouldn't be a hardship to have sex with you."

Ezra sat down rather suddenly, knowing that he had a stupified expression on his face. He searched her eyes for a sign that she was kidding, but although she was clearly amused, he couldn't decide if she meant it or not. Would she really go through with it, if the situation required it? And could he?

"I hope you're not saying it would be a hardship to you, Ez. Maybe I'm not your type?"

Though she said it lightly, Ezra knew that the answer mattered to her. "No, it certainly wouldn't be a hardship." He smiled. "But it would complicate matters a lot. Sleeping with your boss usually does."

She smiled back. "So they say. Personally I can't speak from experience."

Wisely Ezra decided to not reply to that.

"So, you're inviting me to Montoya's estate. Tomorrow, or better the day after tomorrow," Chris went on. "We'll have an interesting night and I give you your gun when I leave in the morning. Okay?" She grinned. "Any questions?"

Ezra shook his head. "So what do you want to drink?" he inquired.

"Good question." Chris grinned and grabbed the card. "Something that goes with dinner. And while we're eating, you can tell me everything you know about Montoya's business and I tell you what we'll probably do to bust it."

"I wrote everything down," Ezra reminded her. "I was supposed to just slip the information to my contact."

His boss shrugged. "I like listening to you. You can still give me the paper with the money to pay for my dinner."

He nodded then signalled to the waiter. "Since my narrative won't take that long, you could fill me in on what my colleagues are up to nowadays." Ezra couldn't have said why, but he really wanted to hear about his teammates.

"Now that could take a while." Chris grinned broadly. "First of all, they're missing you. And I'm under orders to tell you to be careful and don't get hurt, because the team has a plan for the next weekend and you're part of it, whether you want to be or not."

"They said that?" Ezra asked.

"Yes, they did. My guess is that Buck sees you as the ideal victim for his latest joke and Vin probably hopes you'll help him in getting even with Buck. Josiah on the other hand misses his new found son, and Nathan gets antsy because he can't lecture you on your eating habits."

Ezra knew she spoke the truth then and he couldn't help the smile that blossomed as he thought of his colleagues. Until now he had managed to not fall for Buck's antics, but of course that meant that the explosives expert was only trying harder to get the drop on him. Vin on the other hand had tried almost from the beginning to involve him in his schemes; and although Ezra hadn't felt secure enough to become his partner in crime, the sharpshooter wouldn't give up asking. And Josiah ... Now why Josiah had decided that Ezra was some kind of prodigal son he didn't know, but he found that he didn't mind the affectionate term 'son' as much as he probably should, considering the long line of 'father-figures' that had walked through his life. Nathan though ... there was no love lost between the medic and him, but no hate either - they just didn't hit it off right. Despite that, Jackson would lecture him on his health as much as anybody else, showing that he accepted Ezra as a part of the team if not as a brother yet.

"What about J.D.?"

"Now, J.D. is only happy when his whole family is together." Her gaze honest, she reached over and put her hand on top of Ezra's. "So hopefully this case is over soon, because I share that sentiment with our youngest."

For once not concealing his feelings, Ezra turned his hand and gently squeezed her fingers. "So do I," he whispered. "So do I."

"And this is my humble abode," Ezra said and stepped back, letting his visitor pass him.

His voice trembled a little, as did his hands, but he knew it wasn't nerves, or fear. It was anger. Not for the first time he wished his alias to be a different kind of person, one that would go for the throat of anyone who so much as looked cross at him or his companion.

But unfortunately Eric Southern wasn't such a person. He was shy, silent and harmless. Still even the most unobtrusive man would seethe with anger when his girlfriend was pawed by a bunch of gorillas in front of his eyes, so Ezra knew he wasn't giving the game away.

'I'll get you for this!' he swore silently again, as he heard something about 'looks could kill' and laughter drifting up from downstairs. Very likely Pete Parker was right now laughing about Eric and his helpless fury.

'I'll put you in chains personally. I don't care who gets Montoya, I'll get you.'

"Eric?" The female voice interrupted his thoughts of vengeance, and being the professional undercover agent he was he pushed his anger from his mind to concentrate on the next 'scene'.

He shut the door and looked at Chris, who stood with her back to the room, she had placed her purse on the nightstand and was now watching him, worried.

"I'm fine." He gave her a shaky smile. After all, Eric would feel uncomfortable in this situation. "I apologize for their behavior, they take their jobs very seriously and ... I guess, Pete got carried away. He's ... not always like that." Actually Parker was the worst kind of macho, but Eric wouldn't tell that to his girl.

"It's all right." Christine Larue nodded, giggling a little bit in reference to her slightly intoxicated state. "I take it as a compliment."

"I guess, it kinda killed the mood, didn't it?" That would explain why they weren't heading straight for bed, and hopefully why nothing would happen in the long run either. It wasn't a good con, but the only one Ezra had come up with so far. If they played it right ...

"Now then ... maybe we should try to get the mood back?" As she was speaking, Chris closed the distance between them and slid her hand over his chest, up to his neck and then pulled him into a kiss.

He all but froze in surprise.

They were of similar height, due to Chris wearing high heels, and so he was looking directly into her mischieviously sparkling eyes when she winked at him.

Obviously she was playing a different game.

He hesitated for a moment, but then he followed her lead. His hands grabbed her waist and drew her against him. The kiss lingered and although it wasn't exactly passionate it wasn't chaste either. Neither was it staged.

There was longing in it and loneliness, from both sides, and Ezra realized that there hadn't been anyone so close to her since her husband had died. Not Buck, not Vin. It made him start to wonder about a lot of things, but right now wasn't the time or the place for it.

She leaned back a little and smiled at him, then teasing fingers began to open his shirt buttons. Slowly she freed him of his shirt, then slid her hand beneath his undershirt, pushing it up.

He let her set the pace, lifting his arms to accommodate her.

His upper body naked he went back to holding her, feeling the corset she was wearing beneath her blouse. The material was a lot harder than usually chosen for a corset, but Ezra doubted that any of Montoya's men had realized it. He on the other hand now had a very good idea where Chris was hiding his gun and badge.

Boldly he let one hand wander around her waist and up towards her bosom. The corset was unyielding here, but as he prodded it, he could feel the shape of a small gun, a Derringer probably.

"Like what you feel?" Chris asked, one brow raised questioningly.

He nodded. "Very much. I'm duly impressed."

Chris laughed and Ezra grinned. Somehow he had the feeling of being caught in a very surreal dream.

Still laughing she pushed away from him and began to dance through the room to a music only she could hear. She was dressed all in red, in an obvious reference to their first dance, and the song that had played in Ezra's head for the last two days was now back with a vengeance.

The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek,
There's nobody here, it's just you and me,
It's where I want to be

Chris took off her stole and held it before her like a veil, finally settling it around Ezra's neck. Stepping back again, she began to open her blouse button by button. Taking it off, she whirled it like a lasso for a while then let go, not caring where it landed. Kicking off her shoes, she moved further into the room, waving to Ezra to follow - mesmerized, he did.

Her skirt was next, slowly the wraparound skirt came off, revealing more and more of her legs. Ezra felt hot all over, desperately trying to remember that this was his boss and the whole scene an undercover operation.

The skirt, too, was whirled around and flew through the room uncontrolled. Once more she waved him nearer, seductively sliding her hands over her corset. Swallowing, Ezra moved in. She grabbed both ends of the stole and drew him even closer, pressing her body against his. Automatically his arms went around her and he burried his face in her neck, surpressing a groan. He was getting hard and knew she could feel it.

God, he was turned on and embarrassed as hell, and not at all sure how she would take it. He felt a kiss and a smile against his bare shoulder and a soothing hand on his back. He looked up and drowned in warm turquoise.

"It's all right," Chris whispered, then kissed him lightly.

The next moment she whirled away from him, the stole in her hand. And when this piece of cloth fell from the air it landed precisely where both agents wanted it. Draped over the statue of a unicorn and a lion fighting.

Ezra smiled, truly impressed. If he hadn't known, he'd never have guessed that Chris had placed the stole over the statue and its hidden camera on purpose.

He was sure Montoya's men wouldn't be suspicious. After all, it wasn't as if the camera was out of commission, they would still be able to see the room and the people moving within, just the details were lost on them. Which suited Ezra just fine.

"Help me with this?" Chris asked, indicating her corset as she turned her back to him.

"With pleasure," he said, opening it. He could hear her letting out a heartfelt breath, undoubtedly that thing had been highly uncomfortable. Throwing him a smile over her shoulder she placed the corset on a chair outside the camera's range.

"I'm taking a shower. Care to join me?" Not waiting for an answer she vanished into the bathroom.

He inhaled deeply, then slowly took off his shoes, socks and pants, laying the latter over her corset. He was pretty certain that the bathroom didn't hold a camera, just a listening device, but it would have looked odd, if he went in there almost fully dressed.

Wearing only his underpants, he entered the bathroom, and found his companion already standing in the bath under the shower head. He could see her shadow moving under the falling water, and since he didn't see her panties anywhere deduced that she was still wearing them. Uncertain he stood in front of the curtain, not at all sure how she wanted it played. After a moment her head popped out of the shower and, dripping water onto him, she told him to come in. Swallowing nervously, he followed her order.

The shower bath was large enough for two people to stand in there without bumping into each other and Ezra sent a silent 'thank you' to Montoya's decorator. Seeing Chris all wet and as good as naked was difficult enough, but bodily contact would have been his undoing.

He tried to do the decent thing and to look directly into her face and nowhere else, but his eyes were unstoppably drawn downwards. Despite the humid air his mouth went dry.

She wasn't the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but she was perfect in every way that counted. The strength and discipline she always showed were mirrored in the well-shaped muscles and smooth skin. He noticed some scars, probably knife and bullet wounds, but didn't find them disturbing, instead they filled out the picture.

"Do I pass muster?" Chris asked, interrupting his scrutiny.

Blushing, he nodded and voiced what he'd been thinking. "You're a most beautiful sight."

Her whole body suddenly flushed light pink and Ezra refused to believe that it was due to the warm water. He smiled. So she wasn't as cool about the situation as she had seemed to be.

"Thanks." Her gaze travelled openly over his body. "You're not so bad yourself."

"If you say so."

"I say so." She grinned then handed him a bar of soap. "Wash my back?"

She turned and he began to slowly spread the soap over her shoulders and back.

"You sure there's no camera in here?" she asked quietly, leaning against him.

"As sure as I can be." His hands were on her waist again, but this time there were no clothes between them and it was all he could do to hold his hands still. "I'd expect they're listening though."

"Then maybe we should give them something to listen to," she suggested and wiggled her butt against his erection, showing that she had noticed it despite his best effort to hide it.

"Turn around," she ordered, and as he did so, took the soap from him and began to lavishly spread it. Her hands glided over his back, to his shoulders, slowly massaging them.

It felt good, too good. He had to do something. Blinking into the warm water, his hand moved towards the regulator to change the water's temperature.

Slender fingers circled his wrist and directed his hand back to his side. "Don't even think it," Chris growled into his ear.

"I'm ..." he began, but the woman interrupted.

"I know, love," she said, flickering her tongue over his neck. "Trust me."

Trust her? He wanted to, but this situation was not something he had ever encountered before. He liked her, and respected her. He wanted her, and he wanted her to respect him, but she was still his boss; how could she ...

All rational thought fled as she pressed herself against his back. He could feel her breasts, her panties. He groaned. His left hand grabbed his manhood, his right sought the wall. And then her hands slid over his waist, over his chest, her lips touched his cheek, then his ear.

"I've got you, Ez," she promised. "Let go."

It didn't need anything more. Sensation took over, waves of pleasure swept through him and his sight darkened as he came in heavy spurts.

Through it all Chris held him fast, and as he came back to earth he heard her murmuring soothingly into his ear.

"Easy, Ez. It's all right. I promise, it's all right."

Lassitude and an unfamiliar emotion brought a smile to his face as he gave in to his wobbly legs and sank to the ground, taking her with him.

"You okay?" Her face hovered over his.

He nodded, still too far gone to feel embarrassed. "You?"

She grinned. "I feel very complimented, thank you."

Then she was gone from his sight. Before he could look for her, she was back and began to wash his hair. For a second he tensed, reality crushing in on him suddenly. But then he relaxed, if Chris could pretend that nothing had happened, then so could he.

After a while, when he was almost purring under her skillful hands, she motioned him up to rinse the shampoo out of his hair. Then she handed him the bottle and sat down in front of him.

He took the hint and shielding her from the water he began massaging her scalp, letting the golden strands glide through his fingers. He couldn't remember ever having done this before and was surprised by how good it felt. He could easily imagine it to be much more fun with long hair, and unbidden the picture of a blue-eyed, long-haired sharpshooter appeared in his mind. He wondered, if Vin's hair would feel as silky and if he was as good a kisser as ...

Shaking his head Ezra harshly brought his wandering thoughts back to the present. This was hardly the time or the place to fantasize about Vin, and in view of what had just happened here between him and Chris, it was also highly ungrateful.

Still, once Vin had entered his thoughts there was no way of getting rid of him easily, and so another question raised its head. Vin and Chris were so obviously close, how come they weren't lovers? How come she had let Ezra see her loneliness, but didn't seek companionship from Vin?

"You finished yet?" Her question interrupted his musings.

"Yes." Embarrassed he stepped back. 'Get yourself under control, Standish!' he told himself. 'This is a job, not a rendezvous.'

Chris got up and closed her eyes while washing the shampoo out of her hair. Ezra watched for a moment, then decided that this was a good time to leave the shower. He stepped through the curtain and grabbed for a towel. While drying himself, he realized that he'd have to lose his underpants somehow before entering the bedroom. He tried to tie the towel around his waist, but it refused to stay up. He cursed silently.

Suddenly hands were there, holding the towel.

"Let me help." Chris smiled at him.

With a sigh – would his shame never end – he let go of the towel and bent over to slip out of his pants. When he straightened again, Chris placed the towel around his waist, her fingers barely brushing his sides. He twitched.

Her eyes widened. "You're ticklish," she accused him.

"I'm not."

She repeated the touch. He twitched again, then stepped away from her.

"You are!" She laughed delightedly and attacked him.

Helplessly, he squirmed under her relentless fingers. He giggled and squeaked. Still, although she was as good as naked and he only protected by a towel, there was nothing sexual about it. The earlier tension dissolved away, and they were only friends playing a kid's game.

Finally she stopped and grinned down at him. "I won," she stated, kissing him on the cheek. She stood, dried herself with another towel and retrieved a bathrobe from the cabinet. She slipped into the robe, then stepped out of her panties, letting them lie on the floor.

She winked at Ezra and moved to the door. "I'll be waiting," she said and left.

Taking care of the necessaries he wondered about Team 7's leader. How could the carefree girl from a minute ago be the same woman, who could frighten coldhearted killers with just a look? Would wonders never cease? Certainly life would never get dull with a boss like her. Shaking his head, Ezra went into the bedroom.

The bathrobe lay in front of the bed and only the small bedside lamp illuminated the room. Chris was already in bed, looking expectantly at him. When he hesitated she lifted the blanket invitingly.

Ezra breathed deeply, then loosened his towel. Finally he let go of it and all but dived under the blanket, giving the impression of a very eager lover. His momentum brought him closer to Chris though than he had planned and his hand glided over her side. She squeaked and recoiled.

For a second Ezra wondered what he had done, then it dawned on him and an evil smile appeared on his face. He leaned over her to switch off the lamp and on his movement back, tickled her.

She squirmed.

He laughed.

Then she found his spot again and it was his part to twitch and recoil.

War was on.

The need for air brought an end to the game, as they lay gasping next to each other.

"Truce?" Ezra asked quietly.

"Truce," she whispered back.

After a while she slid closer and put her head on his chest. "Love you," she murmured sleepily.

Ezra tensed. She couldn't mean that, could she? He waited anxiously for more, but soon realized that Chris had entered Morpheus' realm. Gradually he relaxed. He thought about now, about today, about the last four months, and found to his surprise that love was a good name for the emotion Chris Larabee had installed in him.

Yes, he loved her. But what kind of love he harbored for her, about that he wasn't sure. Still pondering the question he fell asleep.

He woke up the moment his companion left the bed. It was a necessary skill for an undercover agent to always register what was going on. Eric Southern on the other hand was an average accountant, that his boss was a drug- and weapons-dealer wasn't changing that fact. So he held his eyes closed for a while, and only listened to Chris moving back and forth between the bath- and the bedroom. It took her quite a while to get dressed and ready and when he opened his eyes a bit to watch her, the differences between Christine Larue and Chris Larabee left him in awe.

Only partly dressed, Christine was already in full make-up, the lipstick color fitting her clothes, her eye shadow bringing out her eye-color. If there were any creases, they were carefully painted over. In contrast to that, Ezra realized that if Larabee used make-up at all she did it so discreetly that he hadn't noticed.

He had missed her putting on the corset, but knew anyway that his badge and the Derringer would now lie in his pants. He smiled as she left his sight to retrieve her blouse and had to stiffle a laugh as he heard her quietly curse from under the bed, reaching for one of her shoes. Dressed she went into the bathroom once more and came back with her hair neatly done and the last traces of sleep gone.

"Morning," she said and perched on the bed.

"Morning," he repeated and sat up.

"I have to go," she explained and caressed his cheek. "I have a busy day ahead of me."

He nodded. "So have I." Taking her hand, he kissed her palm. "Will I see you again?" he asked, because Eric would.

"Of course. It was a wonderful night. And I like you a lot." She leaned forward and kissed him. Once again it was a true kiss, a kiss full of longing, but Ezra could feel that it was a farewell-kiss more than anything else.

"But it will stay our little secret, won't it?" she asked as they separated, a slightly worried look on her face. Any listener would probably assume that she was referring to a husband, who mustn't know or that she didn't want him to boast about his conquest to his colleagues. But he knew what she was truly implying, that what had happened between them would not be repeated, that the woman who had kissed him and brought him off would vanish the moment she left this room, to never appear again.

He nodded and this time kissed the back of her hand. "I never talk about dreams," he whispered and was rewarded with a warm smile that reached her eyes.

"Take care," she breathed against his lips, then stood and took the stole from the statue.

She placed it around her shoulders, grabbed her purse and walked to the door. There she halted for a moment, smiled and sent him a kiss. A last wave and she was gone.

Ezra stared after her, still seeing her before his inner eye. He closed his eyes and knew he would always remember this night. Would always remember this woman, who was his alone, who gave and did not take. His lady in red, whom he could never share with anybody.

Lying down again he listened once more to Chris de Burgh singing in his head, and as the lyrics took him back to their dance, he realized that they said it all.

But I hardly know this beauty by my side,
I'll never forget the way you look tonight;
I never will forget the way you look tonight ...
The lady in red, the lady in red,
The lady in red, my lady in red.


© 19 August 2002 by C.J. Ueberall



Magnificent Seven