azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: The Betrayal
Rating: PG
Warnings: Strong Language, violence and drug use.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
AU: ATF
Main Characters: Ezra, and the rest.
Summary: Team Seven believe that Ezra Standish has betrayed them.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Notes: Lenny Hoskins is my creation. I don't have any medical knowledge- forgive any mistakes.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 96,713



They assumed it to be just like any other summer day but the men that sat in the large conference room on the 7th floor of the ATF building were about to find out that it was a day they had been expecting but secretly hoped wouldn't come. Chris Larabee raised his cold blue eyes to the blinking fluorescent light that was failing to brighten the front area of the room, he would have to remind the maintenance crew to fix it, if they didn't then he would just put a bullet in it and put the damn thing out of its misery.

The dark clad leader looked down at his watch, the meeting was supposed to start at eleven. He looked at the still empty leather chair that was placed between Buck and Josiah; Ezra still had another five minutes to join the rest of the team in the conference room. His eyes went to the large wooden clock that had been placed on the wall above the door, it agreed with his watch. The southerner was going to be late again. He silently cursed him. This meeting had been called by Harrington, the man that Chris answered to and he knew that it wasn't going to look good for the team if Ezra showed up late.

Chris could feel someone's eyes watching him, he turned his head so he could look into the pale blue eyes of the ex-bounty hunter, he could never hide anything from Vin. The normally quiet man's gaze moved to the empty chair and back again, he shrugged, indicating that he had no idea why Standish was late.

"Where the hell is he?" He growled not realising that the others had heard him.

"He'll be here Chris. You know how Ezra likes to make an entrance, especially when the meetings are called by the big boys from upstairs." Buck assured him, the large smile that crossed his moustached face did nothing to reassure Chris.

"One day Ezra is going to push them too far." Josiah commented from the end of the table, he had been quiet all morning, not voicing the concern that he felt for the younger man that he hadn't seen since the day before. He knew that something was troubling him; he had watched him when he knew he wasn't looking and sometimes the facade that he used to keep them away would fall, revealing troubled emotions. Josiah had wanted to speak to him but had so far been unable to get him on his own; he knew he wouldn't talk in front of the others.

"So what did Ezra do to piss them off anyway?" JD asked the group, he yelped when Buck slapped his arm. "What?"

"That's Ezra's business JD, if he wants to let us know what happened when he was with the FBI then he'll tell us."

Buck still had a few things to teach the kid, especially when it came to respecting a man's privacy.

All eyes and chairs turned to the door when they heard a cough that announced someone's arrival, they expected it to be Ezra but it wasn't, it was Harrington. Chris groaned this wasn't going to be good; Ezra was going to pay for this. Chris watched the man walk towards him, he could see the hesitation in the man's brown eyes, and he looked like he had some bad news.

'Something's wrong.' thought Chris. His eyes quickly darted to the empty chair.

Harrington sat his tall thin frame into the chair that was always reserved for him. He didn't look directly at Chris, his eyes moved around the table looking at the elite group. He sat for a moment watching the men that sat before him, a group of men who seemed to have nothing in common and yet were like family, they were willing to die for each other and now they were about to find out that they had been betrayed by one of their own.


"Gentlemen are we ready to start this meeting?" Harrington asked them, his steady but firm voice gaining their full attention.

"Ezra's not here yet Sir." Buck informed him.

"Mr Standish will not be joining us." Harrington finally looked at Chris. "There is something that I have to tell you and I thought it would be best to do it as a group, I don't want you hearing any rumors."

"What's happened?" Chris demanded as he leant towards his superior. "Has something happened to Ezra? Is he . . . ?" He left the last question unspoken.

"No Ezra is fine." The use of Ezra's first name worried everyone. "At five o'clock yesterday afternoon Mr Standish entered my office and handed me his resignation." He waited for a response before continuing.

"He what?" Chris asked, the words were barely heard because his jaw was clenched tightly.

"Mr Standish resigned." Harrington repeated.

"Ezra quit, just like that?" Buck ran his hands through his hair as he let out an exasperated breath, he couldn't believe it.

"Yes he did." Harrington answered calmly.

"What was his reason?" Josiah asked as he inwardly kicked himself for not speaking to Ezra sooner, he had known something was wrong, he should have made more of an effort to talk to him, instead of waiting for an opportunity.

"He didn't give me one." Harrington took in Chris's quiet form, he could see the anger building, and his hands were clenched so hard his knuckles were turning white.

"He didn't say anything at all, nothing that told you why he wanted to go back to the FBI?" Nathan asked him, he always knew that Ezra would do it, he just wished that he had pegged the man wrong.

"He resigned from everything, this team, the ATF and the FBI. Mr Standish is now a civilian as far as we’re concerned."

"What the hell is going on with him?" Vin finally spoke up, he was stunned, he thought he knew Ezra better than he knew any of them, he thought they were friends and that he would talk to him if things go bad, he was obviously wrong.

"Why did you accept his resignation?" Chris spoke in a calm but cold tone, he kept his eyes glued to his hands so they wouldn't see the disgust that he now felt for the southerner. He knew that he would run out on them, he had always known, he just thought the man would have the guts to tell them to their faces instead of taking the coward’s way out.

"I didn't." Harrington spoke bitterly of his confrontation with Ezra. "He started out calm enough. I asked him for an explanation, he said that it was in his letter. I told him that I wouldn't accept it unless he told me personally. I wanted to hear his reason not read it." He paused for a moment. "He walked out and went over my head. Judge Travis accepted it without question."

"Why would he quit without telling us?" JD asked Buck, he needed an explanation.

"It's simple JD. He ran out on us." Chris said bitterly.

"Chris, I know Ezra can push a person's limit and he has trouble with authority but should you judge him so quickly." Harrington didn't expect this, he thought they looked after each other.

"He didn't give a reason. What else are we supposed to think?" Chris growled at him, he realised who he was talking to and raised his hand as if to apologise.

"Perhaps you should use your skills to find out what that reason is and leave your judgement of the man until you know why he left." He pushed his chair back and stood up. "Gentlemen." He turned and left room, closing the thick wooden door behind him.

"Aw hell!" Buck shouted as he got up, he knocked his chair over but ignored it. "Why would he do that?"

"Does anyone know anything about this?" Nathan asked them, he hoped that Ezra had a good reason, God help him if he didn't.

"I noticed that he seemed to be troubled about something." Josiah admitted to the group. "I was going to talk to him, I should have tried harder, and it might not have gone this far if I had."

"And when did you notice this?" Buck asked him, he kept his voice as calm as he could but he didn't really succeed.

"The last couple of weeks." He lowered his head, it was now as heavy as his heart felt. He should have done something sooner.

"Two weeks! Why didn't you say anything to us about what you knew!" Buck didn't even try to stay calm any longer.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why, I should have spoken to him and you as soon as I noticed that something was wrong. I just thought it was best to wait until I got him on his own before I talked to him, just never seemed to happen."

"Ezra is always on his own, he hardly ever seeks out company, even more so in the . . ." Nathan stopped in mid sentence. "Your right Josiah, he has been different lately, he's kept more to himself during the last few weeks. I didn't realise it till you mentioned it."

"Did anyone else notice anything?" Chris asked them. There were no answers, everyone had suddenly found their hands very interesting as the guilt began to plague their minds. "Vin?"

The silent man shook his head, how could Josiah and Nathan notice something that he hadn't. Ezra seemed the same to him. Now that they had pointed out that, something was wrong he still wasn't able to see it.

"I still want to know why he didn't tell us." JD demanded to know as he broke the silence that had settled over the room like a shroud. "Why did he quit like that?"

"Let's find out shall we." Chris smiled but it was a smile that held no humour, only a promised threat, if Standish didn't have a good, enough reason he would kill him. "Nathan, Josiah you go to his office see if you can find anything. Buck, JD see if you can get your hands on that letter." Chris looked at Vin. "Were going to his apartment, if he's there we'll make him talk, if he isn't then we search the place." He looked down at his watch. "We meet back here in an hour."

________________________________________

Nathan and Josiah made their way down to the end of the hall to Ezra's office, their stride stopped anyone from interrupting their short journey, their steps were full of purpose, and they intended to find out why Ezra had resigned without speaking to them first. Josiah tested the door to find it unlocked, he opened it and looked around the small crack that he had created to find it empty of any inhabitants. He nodded to Nathan and they both entered the room, the door was closed quietly.

Nathan looked around the empty white walls, there were no pictures, no plant life, nothing to show that someone usually occupied the small office. They moved as one to the desk that was also lacking anything that made the room look homely. He realised that Ezra's office had always looked like this, the southerner had been with the team for six months and he had never done anything to show that he was settling in. It was as though he had always known that he was going to leave, as if it was inevitable.

"Nathan start on that side." Josiah's baritone voice brought him back from his thoughts and he began to search through the drawers on the right side of the desk. He closed them again, banging them into the desk showing his frustration at the situation.

"Nothing." Nathan looked across at Josiah. "You?"

"This bottom drawer is unlocked." Josiah frowned.

"So." He didn't know what an unlocked drawer had to do with Ezra leaving.

"It's always been locked, always."

And!" Nathan was becoming agitated.

"Ezra sent me in here once to get something for him. This drawer was locked, I went back to him and told him that I couldn't find what he wanted and I asked him for the key to this drawer." Josiah thought back to the day that it had happened, he remembered the glazed look that had appeared in Ezra's eyes.

"Josiah will you just tell me what the hell you’re talking about!"

"He said no, that the drawer was always locked and always will be. He obviously had something important in there that he didn't want us to know about."

"Great, more secrets." Nathan growled. "Come on, let's go and see if Buck and JD had any success."

Josiah looked back into the room, regretting the fact that he had never really noticed it before. Everyone else had little things that made their offices look lived in but Ezra had nothing, he suddenly realised that his apartment was the same, he had only been there once but the image of the cold apartment stayed in his mind. He mentally kicked himself again for not trying to get closer to the man and find out what was wrong.

________________________________________

"Buck you’re supposed to be watching the door." JD told him as the older man tried to look over his shoulder.

"Have you found it yet?" Buck asked him.

"No, it's not here." JD slammed the file cabinet drawer closed. "The Judge must have kept it."

Buck and JD had made their way to the Personnel File room on the second floor of the ATF building. JD had used the knowledge that Ezra had given him in the fine art of picking locks to gain entry to the room and file cabinet. They didn't think that Ezra's file would be there but they had to try the simplest choice first before they went on to the harder one. It would prove to be more difficult to get into the Judge's office than the file room.

"Let's go and see if Debbie is willing to help Ezra." Buck suggested as they left the crowded room and headed to the elevator that would take them to the tenth floor and the main office of Judge Travis.
Buck stopped outside of the office and made sure that he looked presentable as if he thought his good looks alone would get the young secretary to help them.

"That's not going to work Buck, she has no interest in you." JD smiled despite the dire situation that they were in.

"It might help." Buck replied but his eyes held none of the mischievous glint that was usually there before he tried to chat up the opposite sex.

They opened the door without knocking and entered the well-furnished outer office. Buck moved towards the pretty blonde that sat behind the large desk that was situated in front of the Judge's main office. JD stood back and fidgeted with his hands while Buck did all the talking.

Buck stood in front of the young woman who didn't look up from her paperwork, he ran a hand quickly through his hair before speaking. "Debbie, JD and the rest of the guys were hoping that you could do us and Ezra a favour. You see Ezra . . ." Buck stopped as the blonde head lifted revealing blue eyes that showed intelligence, this girl wasn't just a pretty face.

"I wondered what took you so long." Her voice was soft and it sent a shiver down Buck's spine, he had tried often enough but she had never accepted his advances.

"Huh?" He looked down at the folded letter that was handed to him.

"This is Mr Standish's resignation letter. I knew that you would be here as soon as you heard the news." Debbie smiled at him.

"But . . . " Buck stammered.

"I know there's something wrong Buck, I was here last night when Ezra spoke to the Judge." She forced the folded piece of paper into his hand. "I like Ezra, I want to help him, and I just wish that he knew he had such good friends." She stood up revealing a frame that was almost as tall as he was, the clothing showing her thin but toned figure. Debbie began to push him towards the door after taking a quick backward glance to the double doors of the main office.

"Now get out of here before the Judge finds out and fires me."

"Thanks Deb." Buck looked down at the letter then back to Debbie. "Thanks."

"JD get him out of here please." She watched as JD came forward and grabbed Buck's arm, he dragged him away from her and out of the office.

Buck waited until they got back into the elevator before looking at the letter that held the reason for Ezra's resignation.

"Aw gawd!" He exclaimed as his fist slammed into the elevator's wall. "I hope Ezra isn't at home because Chris is going to kill him."

JD took the photocopied letter from him and instantly knew what Buck was talking about. "Shit!"

________________________________________

Chris pulled his black Dodge Ram into the curb outside of the townhouse that Ezra Standish had spent the last six months of his life. He had never been to Ezra's home and had to rely on Vin's directions. He got out of the air-conditioned car and felt the heat of the summer's day as it hit his cool skin, he slammed the door and waited for Vin to lead the way to Ezra's front door.

When they reached the overhanging green vines that led the way to Ezra's apartment Vin grabbed Chris's arm and held him back. "Keep your anger in check Chris, don't force him to put up his wall of defence before we even get our foot in the door." He waited for an answer. "Okay?"

Chris ignored him and stepped up to the entrance, he banged on the door causing it to rattle on its hinges. It also caused the sleeping figure that lay in the large bed that was centered in the middle of the main bedroom to jerk awake. Chris used his fist to knock on the door once more, he didn't wait for an answer, and he turned the doorknob and found it to be locked. He stepped back and used his right leg to kick the door in, it only gave slightly so he had to use even more force. It finally opened and he put his hand out to stop it swinging back and hitting him as he walked through into the hall.

Vin followed him without saying a word, he knew there was nothing that he could do to calm him down, and he just hoped that if Ezra was home he wouldn't say or do anything that would cause Chris to completely lose his temper.
Chris stormed through the hallway looking into the rooms as he passed them, he saw the blank walls, the boxes that he thought had been packed, he didn't stop to think that they had never been unpacked, this made him even angrier. He stepped into the large living area, it was empty, and he moved on until he came to the main bedroom and saw the man he was looking for as he raised himself from the bed.

Ezra looked at the clock on the side table and groaned inwardly. 'They're early.' he thought to himself. He turned his sleep-filled eyes to the two figures that stood above him. "Is there something that I can help you with Mr Larabee?"

"You can start by telling me why you quit your job." Chris demanded as he took in Ezra's appearance, there were dark circles under his eyes, his colour was paler than normal and he was wearing a loose t-shirt that revealed a loss of weight. Ezra usually wore long loose fitting shirts with a light jacket, the clothing had obviously hidden his thinning frame from them. Chris thought for a moment that Ezra was sick but he soon changed his mind.

"That is none of your business." Ezra glared back at him, his own stare was unflinching and just as cold as Chris's. The emerald green eyes showing a threat that he was more than willing to carry out.

"You work for me Standish, the least you could do is give me an explanation for why you want to run out on us." Chris spoke calmly and Vin stepped forward, he knew that when Chris spoke that way he was at the end of his patience.

"I don't work for you anymore so you can get the hell out of my home!" Ezra stood up from the bed and pushed his way through the two men.

Chris grabbed Ezra's upper arm and spun him around, he then pushed him backwards until the smaller man's back slammed into the wall behind him. He saw Ezra grimace in pain and ignored the pain-filled expression. "I want to know why you quit and you’re going to tell me!"

"I'm not telling you anything." Ezra said coldly as he tried to push the man that he had thought was once his friend away. "You don't deserve a reason."

"What about me Ezra?" Vin looked into the green eyes hoping that he would see something that would show him that Ezra still cared about his job and his friends but his next words cut him like a knife.

"You!" Ezra spat out as his angry gaze turned to Vin. "You're a joke Tanner, you think you know me! You know nothing about me! Your pathetic, both of you are!" He felt Chris's fist as it was driven into his stomach, it forced the air from his lungs and he tried to double over and clutch his stomach but strong arms held him up.

"He knows you’re a coward." Chris smiled down at him.

Ezra's expression didn't falter, he carefully moved his right arm around Chris's waist and removed the gun that he knew his ex-boss kept hidden in his pants waistband.

"Get the fuck away from me!" Ezra yelled at him as he placed the gun against Chris's stomach.

Chris looked down and saw his own gun but he also saw something else. He stepped back from Ezra and then looked sideways at Vin. "Look at his arm Vin."

Vin saw what Chris was pointing out. He saw the needle marks that lined the top of Ezra's forearm, he could tell that some of them were old while others were still fresh.

"What have you been using?" Chris asked him as he hid his own feelings. "Heroin? Is that it?" Chris stepped further away from him. "You're a user?"

"I'm going to ask you to leave nicely and I don't want you or any of the others coming back here. I don't want to see either of you again." Ezra pulled the ammunition clip out of the gun and then handed the unloaded weapon back to him. "Get out."


Ezra leaned back against the wall of his bedroom while he listened to the footsteps of the men who he knew were no longer his friends as they left his apartment. He took a few minutes to get himself back together and then changed into some clean clothes. He pulled on an old pair of faded blue jeans, a short-sleeved white shirt that he didn't bother to tuck into the loose fitting pants and then black boots. He took his gun out of the bottom drawer of his dresser, checked it to make sure that it was fully loaded, he took an extra clip from the open drawer, put it in his back pocket and then left his room. Ezra cringed at the sight of the broken lock, he grabbed his keys and wallet from the small table in the hall and walked out not bothering to close the door, he knew he wouldn't be coming back.
He looked down into the street and saw that Chris's Dodge was still parked in front of the building, the car's two occupants were waiting for him. He walked to the garage that held his black Jaguar, he got into the expensive car and started the engine. He took a deep breath and drove out of the garage, he reversed into the street, drove forward and stopped his car next to the dodge. Ezra put the car in neutral and got out, he walked around the car's bonnet until he stood in front of Chris's car. He pulled the gun out of his waistband and placed a bullet in each of the Dodge's front tires, stopping them from following him, which he knew they wanted to do. He kept the gun aimed at the shocked faces while he backed up to his own driver's door. Ezra got back into the Jaguar and drove away from his life and the men who were no longer his friends.

________________________________________

Buck watched as Chris stormed past him, he didn't even acknowledge any of the four men who were waiting for his and Vin's return. He knew by the cold expression that his friend and leader wore that Ezra had been home, he heard the office door slam shut behind him. Even though he was no longer in the room Buck could still feel the anger that had followed Chris out of the elevator, it hung in the air like a shroud. He thought that if he waved his hand through the air in a cutting motion he would hear the anger fall to the floor.

"I take it Ezra was home?" Josiah asked as he quickly moved a stack of paper work when he realised that Vin was going to sit down on the desk that he was occupying.

"Oh he was at home alright." Vin growled as he landed heavily on the corner of the desk.

"What happened?" Buck asked as he leaned against the doorframe of his office, he already had an idea but Chris's fury told him that the confrontation had gone badly.

"Did anyone notice that Ezra had lost weight?" Vin's question surprised all of them.

"Ezra lost weight?" Nathan pulled his feet from the desk they were resting on and stood up, he moved closer to Vin.

"Is he sick? Is that why he left?" Nathan hoped that this explained why Ezra's resignation letter had assassinated their friendship with such finality. The reason had showed the disgust that he had felt working with the six men for the last six months.

"Yeah he's sick but it's self inflicted. Ezra's sick by his own choice." Vin answered him, the sarcasm was heavy in his voice, and he lifted his pale eyes and looked at Nathan. "He has needle tracks on his arm, he's been using drugs." He looked around at his friends and saw understanding in their eyes. "You guys don't seem to be as shocked as I thought you would be." Vin's eyebrows lifted, the movement asking the question that he didn't want to voice.

"It explains his letter of resignation." Buck mumbled. "It's not pleasant."

"Are you sure Vin?" Josiah was stunned, his mind was suddenly clouded with bewilderment.

"I'm sure, Chris asked him and Ezra didn't deny it." He pulled his eyes from Josiah. "Some of the marks were old, he's been using for a while."

"Why didn't we notice?" JD asked, his voice was hoarse, the emotion that he felt caused his chest and throat to contract.

"Ezra is very good at hiding things from people." Josiah reminded them. He could feel the guilt at his failure to help his friend when he needed him.

"Josiah?" Nathan's face showed the shock at the acknowledgement of what he remembered. "That draw that was always locked . . . you don't think that he kept drugs in there do you?"

"He could have been using it for that reason." Josiah saw the look of confusion that the other men held. "He always kept one of his desk drawers locked." He thought that was a simple enough explanation.

"He wouldn't have used anything here, we would have noticed if he was drugged out." Vin dismissed the thought.

"He isn't that stupid. Well I thought he wasn't stupid."

"We have to help him." JD stated with confidence. "He needs our help."

"He doesn't want our help JD." Vin told him, he knew it would be a wasted effort on all their parts to try to help him.

"How do you know that, maybe he quit because he wanted help, maybe he thought it was the only way to ask for our help!" JD growled at him.

"First of all he pulled a gun on Chris and told us to leave, he didn't want to see any of us again." Vin got off the desk, he ignored the expressions that told him to keep talking and moved to an empty chair. "We waited outside for him. He left straight away but we couldn't follow him, he shot out the front tyres of Chris's car. So we have no idea where he is." He turned his gaze to Buck. "And if that letter is as unpleasant as you say . . . "

Buck walked back into his small homely office and picked up the letter, he came back out, his eyes not looking down at the hateful words that filled it. "Here read it for yourself." He handed it to Vin and watched his face carefully as he read it.

"Bastard." It was one word but it voiced the disdain that Vin felt towards Ezra Standish. "Who's going to show it to Chris?"

All eyes turned as one towards Buck. "Whoa! Hold on a minute, I don't want to be on the receiving end of his anger." Buck protested as he put his hands in front of him. "I'm not doing it."

"Your closer to him than any of us Buck, he'll be more lenient with you." Josiah assured him.

Everyone jumped when they heard Chris's voice vibrate off the walls.

"All of you in here now!" Chris yelled out of his now open doorway.

They only hesitated for a moment before hurrying into Chris's office. Each man found a position to stand or sit, watched, and waited for Chris to speak.

"Buck did you get that letter?" Chris's voice was calm but cold, the anger and hatred that he now felt for Ezra was evident in his voice.

Vin moaned as he realised he still held the letter in his hand, he moved forward and passed the letter over Chris's desk to his leader who was now sitting in his chair. He quickly stepped back and hid behind some of his friends. They all watched carefully as all the emotions Chris felt stayed hidden behind his calm facade.

"Incompetent." Chris continued to read. "Lack of trust . . . , fears for his life . . . , difficult to get along with . . . , domineering . . . ,and “the anger began to show,” disgraceful attitude." Chris threw the paper away in disgust. "I've read enough!"

"What are we going to do Chris?" JD asked him, he backed away at the look in his eyes.

"Nothing, the Bastard deserves to rot in hell." Chris growled at him.

"We can't just . . . " JD began.

"That was an order JD, we do nothing." Chris pulled out a folder from under a cup of cold coffee. "We have another case to deal with." He had cut off all any notions of helping Ezra, he had given an order that most of them agreed with and others reluctantly followed. "We received some information regarding a small arms transaction . . . " Chris began to give out the information that had been passed onto him by Judge Travis.

________________________________________

Ezra used his well-trained green eyes to scan the quiet side street, eyes that were trained by his mother and not the FBI Academy that had recruited him. He didn't recognize any of the homeless figures that lined the street, he hadn't looked at their faces but instead watched their body language. His mother had told him that even though people could disguise themselves with makeup and clothing, they weren't able to disguise their body language, which usually stayed the same, and it was this mistake that often gave them away. But the eyes that watched had to know what to look for, they had to be able to recognise certain characteristics. Ezra knew what these would be, he knew the different habits that his former workmates had and he knew he would have no trouble picking them out of a crowd.

His eyes darted up and down the street one last time before he stepped into the small dirty restaurant, he grimaced at the smell that came from the greazy kitchen. Ezra first looked to his left then to his right, he spotted the man he was looking for immediately. A huge smile covered his handsome face as he made his way to his long time friend, he ignored those around him, and he knew that Lenny would have checked them out when he first came in.

"Lenny!" Ezra didn't sit down at the booth his friend occupied, he stood to the side and his eyes took in the form that sat before him. Lenny Hoskins who had been a training instructor at the FBI academy still had the same light blue eyes that hid the child that had never grown up, his face was lightly tanned as it had always been, the rugged handsome features were clean-shaven and the greying hair was closely cropped in a military manner.

"Jesus Ezra, you look like hell!" Lenny gasped as he looked up from his coffee, his gaze taking in every detail, the haunted look in his green eyes, the dark circles that stood out against the pale skin, the figure that was a lot thinner than he remembered. "Hell Ezra." He stood up quickly and took his friend into his arms, hugging him fiercely and slapping his back. "I didn't think you would go this far." He pushed him away and looked into the green eyes that now smiled back at him, the haunted looked had disappeared. "Will you sit down before you fall down."

Ezra did as he was told and when the thin blond waitress showed up at his side he ordered a cup of coffee, he waited until she moved away and then smiled back at his friend. He could see the worried look that was in his eyes. "Don't worry about it Lenny, I'm fine."

"Don't worry about it, look at you, I've never seen you look so sick." Lenny argued with him.

"I'm supposed to be a drug addict remember, I have to look the part, this won't work otherwise." Ezra sat back as the waitress placed a cup of coffee in front of him, he took a sip and screwed his face up in disgust. "They have to believe it or they won't leave me alone until I tell them what's wrong, my cover will be blown before I even get in there."

"I'm sorry Ezra, I couldn't think of another way. We have to catch this guy, two of my men have been killed already." Lenny hated to bring Ezra into this but there had been no other choice, he was the perfect candidate.

"I know Lenny, don't worry about it, I mean it's not like I lost any real friends." Ezra muttered as he looked down into his coffee.

"They bought it then?" Lenny asked him. He felt a tinge of regret for his friend. He knew Ezra was having a hard time with the rumours of him being on the take while he was with the FBI, he had been transferred without any say in the matter to the ATF. He knew that Ezra had finally begun to settle in and found a group of men who cared about him more than he knew and he now had to ruin his friend's life to catch an ATF agent they knew had become dirty, they just didn't know who he was. The crooked agent had sold information that had gotten two good FBI agents killed, he had also put out feelers for a contract on Larabee's life.

"There was no doubt in Larabee's mind." Ezra remembered the look that had been in his leader's eyes when he saw the needle marks in his arm, Chris now believed that he was a drug addict. "Are you sure about this Lenny, there's no mistake?"

"No mistake, Joey never lied to me Ezra, he owed me his life." Lenny repeated, he had already told Ezra everything on more than one occasion. Joey was a snitch who always gave him good information. He had been shocked the day Joey had told him about the ATF agent. He didn't have a description or name and before Joey had been able to get any more information, he had died of a drug overdose. Lenny though didn't believe that it had been an accident. "We know he's part of Travis's ATF team but that's all."

"And you really think that this will flush him out?" Ezra needed to be sure that he wasn't doing this for nothing.

"If you play your part right Ezra." The silence filled the booth for a few minutes before Lenny spoke again. "So how did you convince them?"

Ezra turned his arms up and Lenny took in a quick intake of breath, he hadn't noticed them until Ezra showed them to him, both arms had needle tracks, doubt quickly crossed his own mind. "Vitamin shots. Believe it or not, my mother has a Doctor who would do many things if you paid him enough, nothing seriously illegal though. Told him what I needed and he gave it to me. A few injections a week, anymore would have just made me sick, he used a needle that would leave these types of marks. He said they would fade after a few months."

"And the weight loss?"

"Skipped some meals." Ezra shrugged, he didn't tell him that he had lost his appetite once he had agreed to take on the job.

"You sure you’re ready for this Ezra?" Lenny looked for any doubt, he knew Ezra was putting everything on the line to help him, he could lose his friends, his job but most importantly, his life. He had to be completely sure that he wanted to do it. "You can back out if you want to, I'll understand."

"I'm ready Lenny." Ezra assured him, he knew what had to be done and he knew that he would lose his friends doing it but he owed Lenny. He had been the first real friend that he had in his life and he loved him like a brother but he never admitted it to him, it had taken a long time to admit to himself. Lenny had been one of his instructors at the Academy and he had taken him under his wing, he had also made sure that Ezra was transferred to the FBI section that he worked in so he could continue to take care of him. Lenny had stood by him during the trouble that he had in the FBI, he believed him when he told him that he wasn't on the take. Ezra knew he would do anything for Lenny.

"Here's where I want you to go." Lenny handed him a piece of paper with an address. "You be there at two tomorrow afternoon, Judge Travis will make sure that Larabee and the rest of his team raid the building, they'll arrest you and whoever else will be there and take you back to the ATF building where Travis will make sure they keep you a few days. Hopefully once this guy finds out what you've been up to he'll make himself known to you, maybe even offer you the job of killing Larabee."

Lenny had discussed the whole situation with Judge Travis, he had to make sure that there was someone in the ATF that knew what Ezra was doing, it was more for Ezra's protection than anyone else’s. The Judge had informed him of the already strained relationship between the southerner and his boss and that it wouldn't take a lot to destroy the friendship that had begun to grow slowly. The rumors that Ezra had been on the take would help his cover as well.

"And you?" Ezra asked him.

"I'll be there when they bring you in." Lenny forced a smile onto his face. "I have an appointment to see Larabee in the morning to discuss rumors that Agent Ezra Standish is on the take and will stay for a few days to conduct interviews with your colleagues." He saw the flicker of emotions that passed through Ezra's eyes before his wall was forced back up. "We have to make it look bad Ezra, that way this guy will think you’re just as crooked as he is."

"Yeah I know, it's just that . . ." Ezra shook his head as he tried to push the pain of more rejection away.

"It's just what Ezra?" Lenny asked him carefully, he knew how easy it was for Ezra to push people away, it had taken him years to gain Ezra's trust.

"No, it's nothing really, just a stupid thought." Ezra wished he hadn't said anything.

"I know you don't like keeping them in the dark Ezra but we have to make it believable so this guy will hopefully try to help you." He kept repeating the reason for the operation that Ezra had agreed to undertake.

"I know Lenny." Ezra smiled at him but his eyes showed a different emotion.

"They'll understand Ezra." Lenny saw the doubt cross his young friend's face.

"I highly doubt that Lenny." Ezra knew by the look that Chris had given him that the man would never forgive him, even if he did have a good reason for doing it. The man would think he ran out on them that he didn't trust his friends enough to tell them what was going on. "There not like you. They don't trust me, never did. Hell most of the time I don't think they even like me." Ezra stood up from the booth. "Lenny."

"Yeah Ezra?" Lenny looked up into the green eyes, the haunted look had returned. He wasn't sure if it was part of the cover or from what the young agent had just told him.

"Can you also make sure that there is a Doctor there tomorrow, I'm sure that Larabee is going to try and beat the shit out of me at some point." Ezra didn't wait for an answer, he turned away from his friend and left the dirty restaurant.

"I'm sorry Ezra." Lenny whispered under his breath, he was going to do everything that he could to make sure that Larabee and the rest of the team understood why it had to be done this way.


________________________________________

Lenny Hoskins stepped out of the elevator onto the seventh floor of Denver's ATF building. He began to walk down the wide corridor that had been decorated with large potted plants towards the offices that housed Ezra's six friends, he silently prayed that these men would still be his friends once the operation was over. He stopped at the first open doorway he came to and looked into the small office, he saw a man who was not much younger than Ezra. He coughed into his hand and the man looked up, he saw eyes that mirrored his own, the young man had the same light blue eyes that his mother had given him, he also had a head of hair that desperately needed a haircut. 'The youth of today.' he thought to himself.

"Is there something that I can help you with?" Vin asked the man who stood in the doorway to his office.

"I'm looking for Chris Larabee, I have an appointment to see him."

"About?" Vin eyed him suspiciously, he didn't like the look of the man.

"That's between Agent Larabee and me." Lenny took a step forward. "Are you going to show me to his office or am I going to have to ask someone else?"

Vin hesitated as he looked the man up and down, he looked like a military officer, and he could never understand why some men wore their hair in such a short way. He pushed his chair out and stood up, he walked past Lenny without giving him another glance. "Follow me."

Lenny walked behind the man he believed to be Vin Tanner, Ezra had described them all to him during one of their long phone conversations. They stopped outside a larger office and Tanner knocked on the door.

"What!" An angry voice called out from behind the closed door.

Vin opened the door and stepped inside, he indicated to Lenny to wait but he didn't, he walked right into the large office and up to the desk. "Someone here to see you Chris, said he has an appointment." Vin quickly removed himself from the office before Chris could take his anger out on him.

Vin could understand the reasoning behind his anger, they all felt angry and betrayed by what Ezra had done, by what he had become, it was against everything they fought for. He knew that Chris also felt a lot more, he was the one who had selected Ezra for the team, he was blaming himself for misjudging the man, he felt that what Ezra had done reflected on himself and the team. Ezra had made them all look bad.

Lenny waited for him to acknowledge him but he didn't, he coughed again but it didn't cause the man to react as it had Tanner. "I don't have all day Agent Larabee." He still waited and while he waited, he wondered why Ezra respected this man so much.

"What do you want?" Chris asked him in a cold tone as he kept working on the paperwork that had been sitting on his desk for the last week.

"When you’re ready Larabee, I'd rather talk to you than the top of your head." Lenny told him as he sat down in one the comfortable chairs. He looked down at the chair knowing that Larabee had finally looked up at him. He felt the soft leather with his finger tips while he kept his eyes down. "They don't have chairs like this with the FBI."

"I asked you what you wanted!" Chris growled at the man that sat before him.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realise you finally decided to join me." Lenny smiled at him. He could see the threat in the blue eyes that glared back at him, he didn't flinch, he was use to it, and Ezra had given him the same look quite often when he first met him. "Agent Lenny Hoskins, I'm with the FBI." He pulled out his ID and showed it to the man who sat across the table from him, he didn't bother to try to shake his hand, and he knew that Larabee would refuse it. "I won't beat about the bush Mr Larabee." He turned his eyes to the photo that sat on the table, he could see six of the agents.

"Fishing trip?"

"Something like that." Chris tried to calm down. "Are you going to tell me what you’re doing here or am I going to throw you out of my office."

'You couldn't handle me Larabee.' Lenny silently told him. "When was it taken?"

"Two months ago." Chris stood up, he had all intentions of throwing the man out and he was going to cause him an injury in the process, he didn't care if he was with the FBI.

"Agent Standish didn't go?" Lenny wondered if it had been Ezra's choice or if it was because he wasn't invited.

"I believe it's time you left." Chris walked around his desk but the agent's words stopped him from carrying out his silent threat.

"I'm here to investigate allegations that Agent Standish has been selling information in return for money or drugs." It took all of his control to hide the shock that he felt at the amount of hatred that had filled Larabee's eyes at the mention of Ezra's name. He couldn't understand it, he knew Ezra was a good judge of character so he didn't even want to begin to comprehend why he respected this man.

"Your here to what?" Chris asked him.

"Come now Larabee, I didn't know that it was a requirement of the ATF to be deaf as well as stupid." Lenny was beginning to enjoy himself. He didn't like this man and he wanted him to know it, he obviously succeeded, the expression on Larabee's face and the look in his eyes would have scared the hell out of any normal man but Lenny Hoskins wasn't a normal man.

"And where did these allegations come from?" Chris was fuming, if the man had been here for any other reason he would have literally thrown him out of the window, even if it were the seventh floor.

"I knew you heard me the first time." Lenny couldn't take the smile off his face, he was going to enjoy telling Ezra about this when it was over. He looked around the office and ignored the threatening look. Lenny saw another holiday photo on the file cabinet, again Ezra was missing from the picture. "I take it Standish doesn't like fishing."
Chris didn't answer him, he leant back in his chair and waited, he wasn't going to play any more of his games. He lifted his feet and placed them on the corner of his desk, the left crossed over the right.

"Perhaps you would like the rest of your team to hear this, I'm going to need to talk to them anyway." Lenny leaned back in the chair and crossed his legs. "I don't really want to have to repeat myself."

Chris pulled his feet from the desk and stood up, it took everything he had not to kick the crap out of the man in the chair on his way past. He practically tore the door from its hinges. "All of you, get in here now!" He left the door open and returned to his chair.

Lenny only had to wait a few minutes until the rest of the team filed into the room, he looked at each man and was able to match each of them with a name from the descriptions Ezra had given him. He looked away from them, his eyes turning to the photo on the file cabinet again. He made a mental note to ask Ezra if he had been invited.

"Well?" Chris demanded. "Are you going to tell them or not."

"Why don't you tell them." Lenny allowed his gaze to fall back on the five men.

"Agent Hoskins is from the FBI, he's here to investigate Standish. Seems he's been selling information for money and drugs." Chris informed them.

Lenny watched their reactions carefully, each man showed the anger that they felt, only three showed hatred but not as much as he had seen in Larabee's eyes. The two that didn't show any hatred towards Ezra were Dunne and Sanchez. Ezra had told him that JD Dunne wasn't experienced enough to mistrust people as yet and Sanchez liked to give people the benefit of doubt before he judge them.

"I said allegations Larabee, it hasn't been proven yet." Lenny reminded him. He decided it was more than dislike that he felt for this man. "Where is Agent Standish anyway?"

"He quit the day before yesterday." Vin told him.

"And his reason for quitting?" Lenny asked again.

"Apparently he didn't like working with us." Chris spat out, his voice was full of disgust.

"Where is he now?"

"We don't know but we do know that the allegations must be true." Chris continued to answer his questions.
Lenny raised his eyebrows. " And what proof do you have that he has been selling information?"

"We went to see him at his home yesterday to find out why he quit." Vin spoke up again. "He had needle tracks, he'd lost weight and he looked sick. Were pretty sure that he's become a drug addict."

'You certainly know how to do your job Ezra.' Lenny thought to himself. "You only noticed all this yesterday, doesn't make any of you look good now does it." He saw the look of guilt cross the face of Agent Sanchez.

"How come the FBI is investigating him and not the ATF?" Josiah asked him. Any hope that he had that there was a reason for what was happening was shattered.

"I investigated Standish two years ago when the same type of allegations were brought to my attention, I couldn't prove anything then but I hope to now, especially after what you have just told me Agent . . . " He looked at Vin but the younger man didn't answer him. Lenny looked at Chris. "Did you recruit him, he seems to be just as deaf as you are."

"The name's Vin Tanner." The ex-bounty hunter growled at him, he knew he didn't like this man.

"And like you he heard me the first time." Lenny chuckled aloud. "Your raids must be fun to watch, you probably have to repeat all your instructions twice."

"Get on with it." Chris warned him.

"I'm going to be hanging around for a few days, question each of you individually in regards to Standish." He looked around at the men. "I was hoping to talk to Standish himself but it seems you drove him away."

"What makes you think that were going to talk to you?" Vin asked him coldly.

"Judge Travis thinks it actually, I have his permission. You can check with him if you want." Lenny got up from his chair and walked towards the door. "I'll be checking through his arrest records this afternoon so I won't need you but please make yourselves available tomorrow." He smiled at them then left the room, as soon as he had his back to them he allowed his own look of disgust to surface, he now knew that these men weren't going to understand, even if one of the reasons for Ezra going undercover was to save Larabee's life.

________________________________________

Ezra walked into the run down building on Laymen street, he still wore the same clothes that he had been wearing the day before, and he hadn't bothered to change. He made his way to the middle of the room, passing the people that were laid out on the floor, he could see the empty needles that lay next to them. The building must have been a regular hangout for drug dealers and users. He bent down, picked up an empty needle, pulled a rubber strap off the arm of an unconscious drug addict, and took both items with him. Ezra turned around to see a black man approaching him, he wore a double-breasted suit and dark glasses to hide his eyes.

"Agent Standish?" The man spoke loud enough for the people who lay around them to hear what he was saying, when they were questioned by the ATF, they would be able to repeat the conversation that was being spoken for their benefit. "I believe you have some information for me."

"Have you got what I asked for?" Ezra knew that Lenny had arranged for this man to be here, he was going to be arrested with him, more proof that he was a bent agent.

"If I remember correctly we agreed on two thousand." The man pulled out an envelope that was filled with hundred dollar bills.

Ezra took another envelope that was filled with false information from his jeans pocket and handed it to him, he took the money and tucked it into the loose waistband of his jeans. "They're going to be here any moment, don't do anything rash, their likely to shoot you."

The man laughed at him but stopped when he saw that Ezra was serious, he watched as the smaller man took some pills out of his shirt front pocket and swallowed them. He frowned at him when he saw the needle in his hand.

"For the show." Ezra told him. "There here." He could see a flash of metal from the corner of his eye. Ezra took in a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly. He shut away all of the emotions that he was feeling behind a solid wall and became the person that he knew Larabee and the others were going to despise. He heard the unmistakable voice of Larabee as he made their presence known. The pills that he had gotten from his mother's Doctor were already taking effect on his system, the voices began to echo in his mind and he became unsteady on his feet. He lifted his arms above his head and then let the needle and strap fall to the ground, he knew they would see it.





Part One | Part Two


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