azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: A Life Threatened
Rating: PG
Warnings: Strong Language.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Main Characters: Ezra, the guys and an OMC.
Summary: After Chris receives a warning that one of his close friends on Team 7 will be killed in an act of revenge against him, he protects those that he thinks are in danger but has he made the wrong decision.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 24,521

Chris stood in the open doorway and observed Vin's countenance and body movements as he moved around his office. The laceration and bruise that marked the left side of his forehead had just about faded out of existence, it had changed from an ugly purplish colour to a pale yellow that was now blending in with his flesh tone. The ex-bounty hunter's movements were still stiff, the badly bruised hip still seemed to be giving him trouble even though he constantly denied it. One small turn of the head exposed Chris's scrutiny of the younger man.

"I'm fine Chris. I keep telling you that but you won't listen to me." Vin smiled and kept his tone neutral, he knew Chris was concerned about his health.

"You sure?" For some reason Chris kept needing confirmation of what Vin just told him, he wasn't going to stop asking the same question until he was sure and as long as Vin moved with difficulty, he wasn't sure.

"I'm sure so why don't you go and bother someone else for a change and leave me alone to finish my report." Vin suggested.

"No one else to bother." Chris shrugged at him.

"What about Ezra?" Vin questioned him.

"Ezra said he was fine." Chris told him.

He had seen Ezra last week, the large laceration that adorned his right forehead was now clear of the fifteen stitches that were required to keep the skin together and help it heal. The bruising itself was still purple but like Vin's it was beginning to fade. The bruising that had covered most of his right ribcage was also healing, so were the three cracked ribs, Nathan had informed him of this. After Ezra was released from the hospital, Nathan had volunteered to stay with him for a few days to make sure he was okay and at the end of that time period, which he referred to as a punishment, he stated that someone else could stay with the southerner the next time something happened. Nathan had been in a foul mood for a week afterwards but had never told anyone what had occurred during those three days.

Chris hadn't seen any pain on Ezra's face when he spoke to him so he was satisfied that he was okay. What he didn't know was that Ezra hid the pain from him in the same way he was hiding it from everyone else, behind his calm facade.

"I told you that I was fine so why are you still bothering me?" Vin sat down in his chair so he could continue with the report that was due on Chris's desk before the end of the day. He grimaced at the pain that flared in his hip, it was only slight but still enough to cause the pain to show on his features.

"Because you don't look okay, and your still in pain." He knew he was right but it was more difficult getting Vin to admit it.

"Ezra's injuries were more serious than mine, go and nag him about his health." Vin began to type on his keyboard. "I won't have this report finished if you don't leave me alone."

"I'll check on you later."

Chris pushed himself away from the door and made his way down the hallway to the junction that would lead him to his own office. On an afterthought, he kept going until he reached the end of the corridor and the door that led to Ezra's office. He poked his head around the corner hoping not to be seen.

"Something I can do for you Mr Larabee?" Ezra asked in his soft southern drawl.

"You okay Ezra?" He watched as the handsome face appeared from behind the computer monitor, a small bandage still covered his head wound but the bruise peaked out from underneath.

"I am perfectly fine as I have already told you once before." Ezra lied to him.

Chris nodded. "Just checking Ezra." He turned away and walked to his own office.

Ezra waited for him to leave then opened the upper left hand draw of his desk. His trembling hand took out the packet of Tylenol, he removed four and swallowed them with his coffee. His slender fingers found their way to the small gauge, he kept it on because he thought his associates would question his health if they saw the ugly wound, his mind kept thinking that if they didn't see it, they wouldn't ask. His strained eyes moved back to the monitor, he also needed to complete a report that Chris wanted last week.

After two hours, Ezra pushed himself away from his desk in frustration, not only was his headache still bad but his side was beginning to cause him more pain, he had to keep twisting to check his neatly scribbled notes and his side was now paying the price for its continuous movement. He needed a break, he decided to try to partake in the dreaded coffee that these men drank. Ezra stood up and took a deep breath, he regretted the expansion of his ribcage, the pain causing him to grit his teeth against the moan that wanted to express itself through sound.

Ezra walked slowly so he wouldn't aggravate his side or his head, he was about to enter the small kitchen when JD came rushing out, he ran straight into Ezra. The force of the collision knocked Ezra backwards and off his feet. He landed heavily and his head slammed against the carpeted floor.

"Ezra!" JD knelt down beside him and put his hand on his chest. "Ezra, I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

Ezra didn't move, he didn't want to move, his head felt like it had been split open. "I'm fine." It was only a whisper because he thought anything louder would cause his head to complain even more.

"I'll get Nathan!" JD ran from him leaving him lying in the middle of the corridor.

"NO!" Ezra gasped.

He tried to sit up but the only thing he managed to do was roll onto his right side, he groaned when all his weight fell on his bruised side. He rolled back to his original position. Ezra could hear footsteps and prepared himself for the inevitable.

"Ezra, you okay?" It was Nathan's voice.

"I'm fine!" He pushed the probing hands away.

"Then why are you still on the floor?" Nathan growled at him. He had lost his patience with the southerner and wasn't in the mood for his evasive answers.

"I just got the wind knocked out of me." Ezra lied once again, he wasn't going to tell him his head felt like it had been broken and his side was on fire.

"You sure?" Nathan began to loosen his tie.

"Of course I'm sure, I know how I feel, I don't need anyone to tell me!" Ezra retorted as he pushed Nathan's hands away.

"Fine, then you can take care of yourself." Nathan got up and left him where he was and walked away.

"What was that about Ezra?" JD asked him as he help him to his feet.

"Nothing JD, nothing important anyway." He began to walk back to his office when he remembered why he had left it in the first place. "JD, could you do something for me please." He saw JD's eager nod and his own head subconsciously felt the movement. "I need some coffee and . . . "

"Sure Ezra, I'll bring you some." It was the least he could do after sending Ezra to the floor.

Ezra didn't make it to his office, his designated path was blocked by Chris Larabee.

"Yes Mr Larabee?" Ezra thought he had seen what happened and was going to express his concern.

He smiled at the thought, the man hadn't actually showed him a lot of concern over the past few weeks. A question here, a visit there but that was all. As far as he knew, he had spent all his time fussing over Vin. He didn't mind, he hated being looked after, that was why he had that intense argument with Nathan. The ex-army medic wouldn't leave him alone that first day, he had insisted on doing everything for him and Ezra didn't like it. He tried to tell Nathan he could look after himself but he wouldn't listen to him. By the third day, Ezra had had enough, and made sure that Nathan knew it.

"Something funny?" Chris asked him.

"No." Ezra replaced the smile with his poker face, he also wanted to try to hide the pain he was feeling.

"Get the guys together would you Ezra. I want a meeting. We've got a new case coming up and I want to discuss it with everyone."

Ezra gave him his well-known two-finger salute and walked away. His first stop was going to be his office so he could supply his headache with some more Tylenol.


Six men gathered around the large conference table, one member of the ATF team was missing. Chris looked around at the faces that waited for his angry words. He looked at Vin, and the physical damage on his left forehead. He looked away from him, his blue eyes glanced over at Ezra, and he could only see his left profile so was unable to see his wound. The two men were lucky to be alive. He looked up at the door when he heard footsteps coming towards the room.

"Where the hell have you been?" Chris growled at Buck.

"Sorry Chris, security rang, said they had a package for you and that it was important." Buck explained as he walked through the door. "Thought I'd go down and get it for you." He walked forward and handed him a thick A4 sized envelope.

Chris looked at the yellow package, his name was clearly written in capital letters on the front, and there was no address below his name. Someone had dropped it off. He turned it over and lifted the flap that had been sealed with sticky tape. His fingers gripped what was inside and pulled it out. Chris looked down at the top black and white photo, the members of team seven were grouped together outside of Inez's Bar. At bottom of the photograph was a long piece of white masking tape. A small caption had been written on it in capital letters.


"Buck go and get enough gloves for everyone and evidence bags, as many as you can get." Chris ordered him.

"What's up Chris?" Vin asked him.
"They're photos, the first one is of all of us and it says that one of us is going to be killed. Doesn't say who."

Chris looked at the faces in the photo then at the men around the table. His mind wished for Buck to hurry so he could look at the rest of the photos. It was at that moment that Buck came back, he handed out the gloves then left the evidence bags next to Chris.

After putting on a pair of gloves, Chris handed the first photo to the man on his right, Vin. He looked at it then passed it on, the photo went around the table until it returned to Chris. He handed it back to Josiah, who was sitting on his left, with the evidence bags. Josiah nodded, it would be his job to place each photo into a bag because he was going to be the last to look at them.

He looked down at the second photo. It was a single shot of himself leaving his home. A caption was also taped to the bottom.


The next one was another group photo but his own face was marked by a cross.


Another group photo.


The next photo was of Buck at the bar of Inez's saloon. Chris frowned, whoever took these photos had gotten close to himself and Buck, and he knew the other photos would be the same. It was obvious that the person knew what they were doing.


A black and white photo of Vin in his jeep, he was stopped at the traffic lights just outside of the ATF building.


He handed the photo to Vin and looked at the expression on his face but he didn't see one, his eyes glanced around the group, he could tell that each man was now expecting a photo of themselves. He looked down at the next one. JD coming out of a takeaway restaurant.


The next photo was of two men, Nathan and Josiah.


Chris expected the next photo to be of Ezra but it was another group photo, he frowned and looked up at Ezra, the southerner was looking at the photo Vin had just handed him.

"Chris?" Vin's quiet voice prodded him.

He looked at the photo then the caption.


Chris took a closer look at the group shot, the team was outside in front of the ATF building. He couldn't remember what they were doing on that day. Six members of the group were standing close together but Ezra stood a short distance from them.

He passed the photo on and waited to see if there was going to be a reaction from Ezra, there wasn't. Or did he hide it behind his poker face. Chris thought the latter. The next one was of Ezra. He was sitting on the bonnet of his jag, his features were hidden but he knew it was Ezra. He was looking over his shoulder towards the entrance of the bar they all frequented regularly. All of them except Ezra.


His eyes lifted to look at Ezra's face, he passed the photo on and waited. There was no reaction to that photo either, he didn't hesitate, and he spent the same amount of time looking at it as he did the others then passed it on to Buck. Chris saw Buck look sideways at Ezra but the southerner was ignoring him, he was now watching Chris and waiting for the next photo. Chris caught Buck's eye and the same thought passed between them. Was Ezra going to believe what these photos were saying?

Another photo of Ezra, this one must have been taken a few seconds after the first. His face was clearly in view, so were his emotions. His expression was one of fear and loneliness, Chris had seen it many times on his own face after his family’s death. He looked at the photo carefully, he took in every part of Ezra's face, the green eyes that were now a dark grey but the emotions were still clear to him. There was one thing about Ezra's features, they were very expressionable, if he wanted to he could speak volumes with his expressions but for most of the time he chose not to. Chris knew that everyone was looking at him now but they kept silent, they would ask their questions later. He looked at the brow that was furrowed in thought and it hit him. Ezra was trying to decide if he should go in or not, the loneliness on his face told him that he wanted to but the fear held him back. Chris knew it was a fear of allowing people to get close to him, he kept everyone at arm’s length. The southerner thought that he couldn't get hurt that way but by looking at the expression on his face, Chris knew Ezra was wrong, he just wouldn't admit it to himself.


He was sure Ezra was going to react to this one but the calm facade stayed in place.

Ezra was struggling to keep control, his headache was worse, his side was still protesting against the weight that had been placed on it earlier and now this. The photos were telling him what he already knew. Chris didn't think of him in the same way as the others, the person who had sent the photos wasn't a threat to him but he was to the rest of the team. He took the next photo that Vin handed him, he could feel Chris's eyes on him. He looked down at his own face, he remembered that night clearly, it had been a week before the car accident in which he and Vin had been injured. He drove to the bar with the intention of going in but something stopped him. The other members of the team spent a lot of time there, he had refused their invitations at first but then began to accept them but sometimes it became too much for him, he always felt like the outsider, he was never invited in but he had also never asked to be let in. That night he had been afraid to go in, it had been a bad day and he felt more vulnerable than usual, he wanted to open up and talk to someone about what had happened but instead he sat outside for half an hour before getting back into his car and driving home. He handed the photo to Buck

Chris looked through the next eight photos, they were of five members of the group, either on their own or with others. He himself wasn't in them but that was because he was told that he wasn't going to die. Ezra also wasn't in them but for a different reason, the person who took them thought that he didn't care about Ezra so he wasn't threatening Ezra's life. He passed each photo on.

He looked down at the next photo and his mouth dropped open, how could this person have gotten so close.

The image was of Vin lying in his hospital bed, he was by his side, Buck on the other. JD and Nathan were at the foot of the bed.


The next photo showed Ezra in his hospital bed. Josiah was sitting in a chair next to him reading a book.


Chris didn't want to pass this photo on but he had no choice. He watched Ezra once again and this time there was a reaction, it was slight but Chris saw it.

The next group of photos were various images of Vin recovering in hospital and at home, he was surrounded by friends in some photos, while the others showed his friends coming and going from Chris's home. He knew what the photos after these ones were going to be and he wasn't proven wrong.

"Shit!" He thought he spoke to himself.

"What is it Chris?" Buck asked him.

"Ezra, you can't believe what these photos are saying. Whoever is doing this is only showing us what he wants." He handed the photos to Vin who then carefully looked at them. He turned to Ezra and watched him carefully.

Ezra had just finished looking at the photos of Vin when he heard Chris's voice. He waited to see what the photos were before answering him. He took the group of images from Vin. They were different from the ones he had just looked at. The first one showed him on his own, the chair beside the bed was empty. The next photo showed a man in a white overcoat giving him an examination, there was a nurse with him but no one else. Another photo showed JD and Buck. The taller man was looking out the window, JD was asleep in the chair. Ezra got the impression that they didn't want to be there. In the fourth image, Ezra was awake but alone.

He remembered that moment clearly, he had woken up to find no one in the room with him. It was the only time it had happened, after that, there was someone there but not everyone. But he understood, they needed to be with Vin, they made sure that he was okay but always returned to Vin. The next five photos were in succession with the fourth, each one showing him on his own.

"It's perfectly understandable Mr Larabee." Ezra told him but felt otherwise. He remembered who sat with him when he was awake and Chris wasn't one of them, if he had stayed with him it would have been when he was asleep, that way he didn't have to make conversation with him. "Your concern was in the right place." He passed the photos on. His fingers once again found the wound on his head and he began to rub it without realising what he was doing.

Chris was watching him and knew that he was thinking differently to what he was saying. His mind drifted off to the day of the accident.

Ezra's Jaguar had broken down, and he required a lift home. He had listened as the others argued about who was going to do it, neither of them wanted to. Ezra told them to forget about it, he would get a cab but Vin gave in and volunteered. A punctured tire caused Vin to lose control of the car. The passenger side, where Ezra was sitting, bounced off the side of a pole back onto the road. Ezra's head had hit the dashboard with enough force to put him in a coma for two days. The car following them had braked but not quick enough, it hit the driver's side and was the cause of the bruising on Vin's hip. Chris had been concerned about both of them but he did spend most of his time with Vin, he had looked in on Ezra but didn't stay with him for very long, he left that to the others. His guilt grew as he watched the southerner hide what he was feeling.

"Do you remember that? If you do, do you recall the person who was taking the photo?"

"Yes and no" Was the answer given.

"You okay Ezra?" Chris asked him.

Ezra could feel everyone's eyes on him, they had now seen the photos as well. "I'm fine."

"Leave your head alone Ezra." Nathan ordered him. He grimaced when Ezra defied him and continued to rub against the wound.

"Do as your told Ezra." Chris told him.

Ezra pulled his hand down and placed it on the table. There was a nasty retort in his mind that wanted to be voiced but he wouldn't allow it, if he did, they would know what he was thinking. These photos gave him the impression that Chris didn't care about him like he did the others but it told him something else; that none of them did. They trusted him and considered him a friend but that was all. They didn't care for him as strongly as they did each other. But he'd begun to get the same impression from the moment he woke up in the hospital to find himself alone, these photos were confirmation, an outsider had gotten the same impression. Ezra sighed inwardly, even as part of a group of seven men, he was still alone.

Chris looked down at the next photo, it was another group one and this time it did include Ezra.


The next one was an image of two men. Himself and Ezra. He recalled the day with perfect clarity. Ezra had done something risky in an undercover operation and he didn't like what he did, he'd confronted the southerner but lost his temper. He had slammed him up against a wall, his right forearm pressed against Ezra's neck. He told him that if he done it again he would lose his job. Chris was fuming that day but he hadn't told Ezra the real reason behind his anger. Ezra had risked his own life to take down the mark. Chris had been angry that the southerner was willing to do such a thing, sometimes he got the impression that getting the mark was more important to him than his life was.

But Chris also knew that Ezra wouldn't do it unless the odds were stacked in his favour but he had been too angry over almost losing one of his men to deal with the situation with any rational thought. He had lost control and accused Ezra of being a loose cannon instead of telling him that he scared him by doing what he did. It was easier for Chris that way but now he was going to have to show Ezra his true emotions and tell what he had been to angry to tell him.


He passed the photo on, he kept his eyes on Ezra's face. Chris thought he saw Ezra's hand shaking but the movement was quickly gone, he frowned as the undercover agent passed the photo on. His silence was worrying him, he wished the man wouldn't keep such a tight control over his emotions.

Ezra took the next photo. His hand shook, more in pain than remembrance of that day, it was taken on the same day as the two photos of him sitting on his jaguar outside of the bar, and this was why it had been a bad day. Larabee had threatened him, not with his life but with his job and as far as Ezra was concerned, his job was his life. Ezra passed the photo on, he didn't know if the others were aware of the confrontation that had taken place between the two, if they didn't they were about to find out.

The last photo was of Larabee himself.


Once the last photo had been passed around then placed into an evidence bag Chris looked at each of his men, only one didn't return his concerned stare. Ezra was looking at his hands, his face was an empty void, and no emotions were showing on his handsome countenance.


"Yes Mr Larabee." Ezra lifted his head and his green eyes turned to look at his boss.

"I want to talk to you about this later." He nodded towards the stack of photos that had been made thicker by the bags they had been placed in.

"There is no need to explain." Ezra informed him but his attempt at distracting an explanation failed.

"Yes there is." Chris held his stare until Ezra looked away from him.

"So what do we do?" Asked Josiah.

He was also looking at Ezra, he thought back to the days that he had spent in the hospital, Chris had asked for them both to be in the same room but the doctor had refused. Ezra had to be closely monitored for the first five days and he claimed the constant activity would disturb the other patient. Chris then had to make a decision, he chose to stay with Vin, he was closer to him and he knew that the others would keep him informed of Ezra's condition. But Josiah had been surprised by the lack of concern that he did seem to show the southerner. He rarely visited him and when he did, he didn't stay with him for very long.

When Ezra was released from hospital three days after Vin, Chris kept in contact with Nathan to monitor Ezra's recovery. Josiah knew that those last three days in hospital had been rough for Ezra, he saw the hurt that flickered through his eyes each time he entered his room only to find that no one accompanied Josiah. The others stopped in on their way to Chris's after work but never stayed long. Ezra seemed to be an afterthought. The quiet man knew that they didn't do it on purpose, they didn't realise what their activities were doing to the southerner and Ezra didn't tell them. It had been even worse for him at home, because he lived further away from Chris the visits had become less frequent until they finally settled for phone conversations to find out how he was doing. Two weeks passed before Vin returned to work, Ezra came back a week later. Josiah listened as Chris constantly asked the ex-bounty hunter if he was okay, so did Ezra but Chris didn't continually ask his undercover agent the same question. He had asked him once then accepted his answer but he wouldn't accept Vin's.

Ezra hadn't told Josiah what he was feeling or thinking, he had only known because he secretly kept an eye on him, at first it was because no one else did but then he started to see the emotions on his face when he thought no one was watching him and Josiah had become concerned. He watched for his reactions when the others did visit or didn't and he soon put it all together. Ezra was feeling lonely and the lack of attention was making him feel as though he was alone, that they didn't care for him like they did Vin and now everyone would be realising what they had done because the person who took these photos was mirroring Ezra's own thoughts and emotions.

"Firstly, Ezra is going to take these down to the lab, I know there won't be any fingerprints but maybe they could get something. I'm going to go down to security to find out who delivered it." He stood up and pushed the photos towards Ezra. "The rest of you are going to decide who's place your staying at. I want the five of you together, no one is to be left alone. You can protect each other while Ezra and I find out who's doing this." Chris couldn't help but see Ezra flinching at the thought of being left out of the threatened group of men.

"What about Ezra? Where's he going to stay?" JD asked.

"I won't be staying with you Mr Dunne. Did you not look at the photos. I am not in any physical danger. The person doing this wants to kill someone Mr Larabee cares about. I am not a candidate." Ezra picked up the photos and walked out of the room.

"Aw Hell!" Chris took his gloves off and threw them down onto the table, the quiet slap that was made when they hit the wood did nothing to show the amount of guilt he was feeling.

"These photos are telling the truth Chris." Josiah informed him, he refused to flinch under the glares that were thrown at him. "Since the day Ezra woke up alone in the hospital . . . he's been feeling what those photos are telling you." He looked around at them. "He feels alone. None of you spent time with him, an hour here, an hour there but that's all. He feels like you don't care."

"That's not true Josiah, we do care but it was what Ezra wanted." Buck protested. "He wanted to be alone."

"That's the first time I heard about it." Josiah growled at him. "How do you know that's what he wanted?"

"Because he hates being looked after, he doesn't like people fussing over him and we thought that if we did that he would end up saying something that he'd regret." Buck retorted.

"If you knew why didn't you say something to us sooner?" Nathan asked the man next to him. He knew exactly what Buck was talking about. During the third day, he had spent with Ezra the inevitable had happened. Ezra had done what they had tried so hard to prevent from happening, he had lost his temper at being smothered with concern by the ex-medic and Nathan had payed the price.

"Because it took me a while to work it out, by then it was too late, the thought was already there. I tried talking to him about it once but he refused to listen. Told me that he was fine and not to worry about him." Josiah shrugged. "I didn't believe him but what could I do if he won't talk to me."

"You could have told me." Chris's tone was cold. He himself hadn't spent much time with Ezra for the same reason Buck had mentioned but he didn't realise it had a negative effect on Ezra.

"I shouldn't have to tell you Chris." Josiah returned his stare and his own voice held an underlying anger. "You should have seen the way he was feeling yourself."

Chris nodded in agreement, he was right, he should have seen it himself. He rubbed his face with his hands.

"I'll bring it up when I talk to him later." Chris told him. He got up from his chair and left the men to argue over where they were going to stay.


Ezra returned to the seventh floor. As he walked along the hallway he could hear the raised voices, he couldn't help but smile to himself. Buck and JD were insisting on everyone staying at the cesspit and the others refused. He grimaced as a shot of pain tore through his skull, he stopped where he was and leaned against the wall. He carefully leaned his head against it and closed his eyes. He pressed his hand against his stomach, he was also beginning to feel ill, that was all he needed. While he could hear their voices, he didn't think he would be disturbed. He needed some more Tylenol, the decision brought back the memory that he didn't get the coffee that JD was going to bring him earlier. He first went to his office to retrieve some more pain killers then headed to the small kitchen. There was coffee already brewing and it smelt fresh, he poured himself a cup but it was too hot to help him swallow the pills so he used water to do that. He took the large mug of coffee and headed back to the conference room.

The loud volume of noise assaulted his ears as soon as he entered the room.

"Can't you gentlemen argue in a quieter tone!" Ezra growled at them as he made his way to his chair, what he wanted to do was go back to the solitary confinement of his own office but under the circumstances, it would be best to stay with the others.

"Sorry Ezra." Nathan turned his back on the argument and sat down opposite him and looked him in the eye, he frowned then stood back up and made his way around the table. The ex-medic sat down in a chair next to him. "Ezra look at me."

"I already told Mr Larabee that there is no need to . . . " He was unable to say anymore due to the large hand that now gripped his jaw, his face was turned towards the man that sat next to him.

"You’re in pain. What's wrong?" Nathan let go of him.

'Don't forget that I am now feeling nauseas.' Ezra thought before speaking aloud. "I assure you Mr Jackson that I am not . ."

"Your pupils are larger than they should be, that indicates pain and your looking a bit pale." Nathan stopped him before he could finish his denial. "I'm not going to ask you again Ezra."

"Then don't." Ezra turned back to his coffee.

"Was it that fall you took this morning?"

"I thought you weren't going to ask a second time."

Nathan stood up and walked away, he wasn't going to go through the same thing that he did during the three days he stayed at Ezra's apartment after he had been released from hospital. He joined the others and ignored the concerned and confused expressions.

"Nathan?" Josiah raised his eyebrows at him.

"You heard. He's in pain but as usual he's denying it and won't let me help him so he can help himself."

Josiah was about to begin another argument to replace the one that was yet to be finalised when Chris walked into the room.

"Where are you guys staying?" Chris asked before he reached the seat at the end of the table.

"Our place!" Buck and JD spoke together.

"Not the cess pit!" Nathan, Josiah and Vin growled at the same time.

"If you guys can't make a decision then I will." He smiled across at Ezra but the southerner wasn't looking at him, he was watching Nathan. "Ezra, what do you think?"

"At the moment Mr Larabee? I don't think anything." Ezra wasn't going to help him make the decision, either way it would leave some of the men angry with him, and at the moment one was one too many. He was watching Nathan and the larger man looked back at him. Ezra could feel those eyes examining him so he quickly diverted his gaze. "And what did you find out downstairs?"

"Federal Express dropped it off believe it or not." Chris answered him. "We're going to go there to see if we can get some information on who arranged for it to be delivered." He was watching Ezra carefully. "After we make sure these guys get to the cess pit safely."


Ezra stepped into what he called the cesspool of life and stayed just inside the doorway. He wasn't going to go in any further. His eyes quickly glanced around the apartment, he could see the mess that covered the floors, the furniture and the kitchen, and it included clothing, magazines and a couple of pizza boxes. No, he was staying right where he was. He waited patiently for Chris to finish talking to Nathan and Josiah, he knew he was part of the discussion as soon as Nathan turned around and looked at him.

"There's something else wrong Chris." Nathan glanced over his shoulder to look at Ezra, the southerner was watching them.

"What do you mean something else? We've got enough as it is." Chris growled.

"Ezra took a fall this morning, JD knocked him over and now he's in pain but won't admit it." Nathan explained to him. "It might be his ribs. Can you see if you can manage to talk him into letting me have a look when you come back."

"I'll hold him down for you Nathan." Chris smiled at him. He slapped him on the arm and headed back to the front door. "Come on Ezra, we're going to have that little chat in the car on our way to the Federal Express office."

"Just great." Ezra muttered under his breath.

Nathan couldn't help but smile, finally some retribution was coming his way.


Ezra sat in the front passenger side of the dodge, his mind was going over the mornings events. His head was turned to the right and his green eyes watched from behind steel-rimmed sunglasses as the scenery passed by. The bright setting evening sun was causing his headache to become even worse, he didn't think that was possible but his head was proving him wrong. It now felt as though his skull had actually spilt open and someone was now massaging the large vital organ within his skull with their sharp fingernails. He closed his eyes but the disorientation only made his stomach roll even more so he opened them again.

"Mr Larabee would you be so kind as to stop at the next chemist you see." Ezra needed more painkillers.

"Sure Ezra." Chris quickly glanced sideways at his passenger. "You okay?"

"I'm fine. It's nothing that a pain killer won't cure."

"Did you hurt yourself when JD knocked you over this morning?" He chanced another glimpse sideways but Ezra was still looking out the window.

"No." Was the clipped reply.

"Then why do you want pain killers?" Chris retorted.

"My side is sore that's all." Ezra only told half of the truth.

"Nathan is going to check you over when we get back and before you argue with me, it's an order." Chris informed him. He didn't receive an argument, not even an answer, Ezra just continued to look out of the window.

Chris saw a chemist sitting on the corner of the busy street, he slowed down and doubled park, and he ignored the angry protests that were voiced with blaring horns. He put the car in neutral and turned sideways. He saw the grimace of pain that flashed across Ezra's face, he thought it was because he was twisting sideways to get out of the car but it was in fact from the noise of the horns that were still protesting. Ezra managed to get out of the car, he slammed the door shut behind him and walked away from the dodge. Chris winced at the anger Ezra had shown him by using the door to communicate his mood for him.

Ezra returned five minutes later with a bottle of diet coke and a large paper bag. After getting in the car he quietly shut the door, when he had exited it the first time and slammed the door it had felt like some had actually struck him, their fist connecting with the side of his skull. He removed six pills from the package he brought back with him and swallowed them with the cold soft drink, four pills were no longer working. He knew Chris was watching him but now he didn't care, he needed to get rid of the headache and so far he was failing miserably in his attempts.

"You sure your okay?" Chris was becoming concerned, the pain had to be worse than he was admitting to if he took six pills.

"I'm fine!" Ezra growled at him, his voice was louder than he intended it to be and the sound reverberated in his skull.

"You just took six Tylenol Ezra. That does not indicate fine!" Chris growled at him, he took a deep breath and calmed his anger, he wasn't going to get anywhere with Ezra if he stayed angry with him. "You don't look okay Ezra. You've gone pale." He observed aloud.

"Why all this concern now Mr Larabee?" Ezra asked quietly.

"I was always concerned Ezra, I just show it in a different way when it comes to you." He pulled back out into the traffic. "You were in the hospital for nearly three weeks, those photos would've been taken over a couple of days."

"Why wasn't anyone there when I woke up?" Ezra couldn't believe he was actually asking this question, he blamed it on his headache but he knew it was a poor excuse, he wanted to know, and he wanted an explanation, a reason for them making him feel alone.

"We didn't know you were waking up, the doctor told us you'd be in that coma for another day and Vin had just woken up. It wasn't intentional Ezra." Chris explained.

"You were never there." Ezra muttered. He placed his hand against his stomach, he felt like he was going to be sick and the movement of the car wasn't helping.

"I was there Ezra." Chris assured him.

"Not when I was awake." Ezra turned to him.

Chris looked at him, he could see Ezra's face now but not his eyes, they were still hidden by his sunglasses, he wasn't able to see any of the emotions his undercover agent was feeling.

"You're a friend Ezra and I do care about you. I wasn't there because I know you don't like being fussed over, in fact you hate it. I settled for Nathan and Josiah telling me how you were and I checked in on you while you were asleep. I didn't realise how that was making you feel. You should have said something to us Ezra. Unless you speak up we don't know what's going on with you and we can't change what we're doing to make you feel better."

Chris was right, he didn't speak up and tell them what he was feeling but he had also been afraid. What if he told, them and they agreed with his diagnosis of what he thought they were doing.

"What about the others?"

"They're the same Ezra. You know how moody you get, they didn't stay around to long because you'd only end up telling them to go away. This way they could continue seeing you without a visit ending in an argument."

Ezra thought about what had happened with Nathan. That situation had ended in an argument, a very heated one. He agreed with Chris up to a point but they had also stopped visiting him at home. He leant his head back against the seat and closed his eyes.

"They stopped visiting me at home, phoned instead . . . " Ezra started. He felt himself being jerked against the seat belt when the car came to a sudden stop. His head banged against the seat and he bit his teeth against the moan that wanted to escape.

"Ezra?" Chris had pulled into a parking spot in front of the Federal Express building. "Can I be blunt?"

"You always are." Ezra left his head leaning on the seat but he turned it sideways.

"You can't blame them for doing what they thought you wanted." Chris twisted himself in his seat. "They gave you what they thought you wanted and that was to be left alone. You gave them that impression. It had nothing to do with them preferring to stay with Vin, they wanted to be with you. Those first three days that you spent at home, you had a hard time with Nathan being there didn't you. He told us but he still hasn't explained what the argument was about. We didn't want to make it any worse for you." He patted Ezra on the shoulder. "They thought you wanted to be left alone Ezra. Next time tell them if they're doing something that hurts you." Chris opened his car door. "You stay here, I'll go in and find out what I can."

Ezra flinched when the words hit home, Chris was right, they were only doing it because they thought they were helping him. He pushed them away and they stayed at a distance but kept sneaking back in. He smiled to himself, at least they didn't leave all together. Next time, but hopefully there won't be, they'll be with him because he'll let them stay. He won't push them away. They would want to be there so he'll let them be there. Now he only had to decide on what words to use when he apologised to Nathan. The normally patient man had put up with a lot of his childish behaviour but didn't leave him alone, he stayed for the three days and Ezra realised that only a true friend would do that.

Part One | Part Two

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