azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Loyalties
Rating: PG
Warnings: Strong Language.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Main Characters: Ezra, Chris, Buck and the rest of the guys.
Summary: When JD and Ezra are placed in a life-threatening situation, Ezra finds out where Buck's loyalties lie.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 25,256

Chris Larabee, leader of the ATF's Group Seven Team leaned back against the ATF vehicle, shrugged his shoulders and stretched his neck to the left then the blond agent looked up and grimaced at the bright early morning sun that glared down at him then turned to look at the abandoned warehouse they were preparing to enter.

A three-storey building had been empty for five years. The Colorado weather had peeled away the paintwork on the outside of the building revealing the dark brickwork underneath, the true colour of the brickwork was no longer visible. The windows were broken. Chris knew it was the neighbourhood kids practicing their baseball skills, he wondered if they had hit the mark on their first attempt or if it had taken four or five stones. He also knew they would have plenty of time to be patient, the streets that surrounded the warehouse were also empty, the police would not have shown up at the sound of breaking glass, there was no one to report the vandalism.

His eyes turned to the group of men that stood before him. A group of misfits if he had ever seen one, none of the group were alike, each man was different, and they argued, they drank together, they were friends. Family. All but one of them that was, one that kept himself from getting close to the group of men, a man that kept himself at a distance from the six men, never allowing them to get close enough to understand him. But Chris felt that an understanding had begun in his own mind about his undercover agent, he thought he knew the reasons behind the Southerner's aloofness.

The intelligent bright blue eyes of the leader watched as Buck and JD helped each other with their bulletproof jackets, he then glanced towards Josiah, he was helping Nathan who then returned the favour, he himself had just done the same with Vin. His eyes looked for his undercover agent, he found Ezra to the left of the group, and he was helping himself with his own jacket. The group of men, as always, paired off just as they had done five months ago when the team was originally recruited. Ezra had joined the group last, a month after the rest of the team, he had never attempted to become part of the group socially and Chris had realised later that they had never really tried to bring him into it. That was going to change.

At first when the Southerner stood on the outskirts of the tight knit group, Chris had once thought it was because the agent had easily manipulated them into thinking that being left alone was what he wanted. But he saw the lonely expressions that his undercover agent's handsome face held when he thought no one was watching him, he wanted to belong but something held him back. The understanding that had come to him was due to studying the agent for four months, watching him carefully. Chris realised his solitude was related to his lack of trust in mankind; he had to learn to trust people again. The reason was yet beyond Chris but he knew that the rumors that ran riot regarding the agent being on the take had destroyed any trust that he had with his fellow FBI agents. But the younger agent trusted no one, it wasn't just his fellow agents, it was everyone, the man didn't even trust his own mother. Chris Larabee had all intentions of finding out why and bringing the trust that Ezra needed back into his life.

Chris shifted the weight from his left leg to the right as the nagging feeling once more chewed at the stomach that was empty, he didn't eat breakfast before he went to the office for the meeting, and he hadn't slept well. Something was going to go wrong, he knew it. He hoped that the nagging feeling wasn't because of Ezra, the man had a way of making you worry about him, he took risks that he didn't need to. Sometimes Chris thought the man had a death wish, a wish that he shared with the Southerner. At times after the death of his own family Chris thought that he would welcome death and took his own risks, but his men didn't question it because they knew better. When Chris questioned Ezra about it, he was always confident that it wasn't a reckless risk, he always stated that the cards were decked in his favour that he didn't play against the cards when they weren't.

His undercover agent wasn't only the best in his field but he was also resourceful in all other areas of the job, he was what Chris called an all rounder. He was perfect for this sort of assignment as were the rest of the team, that's why they were backing up Team Eight while they were making a bust on a drug smuggling ring. Ezra had a way of seeing things that other people missed; he shared this talent with Vin Tanner. But he always worried about Ezra because of the risks he took and he knew the Southerner would do the same thing inside this building.

Chris watched as Ezra struggled with his jacket, the long delicate fingers that had mystified the team when he shuffled a deck of cards that he carried in his suitcase, tried to pull the too small jacket together. Due to Ezra's smaller body type, Chris had insisted that he wear a smaller jacket for better protection but it was a bit too small and the agent usually had trouble getting it on but Chris knew the effort was going to be worth it in the end. Ezra had complained at first but when the jacket had protected him from a bullet to the stomach two months ago, the complaints stopped. Chris had won the argument that Ezra wouldn't admit to loosing. He continued to watch the man he knew wasn't going to ask for help, the man never did, he was too stubborn for his own good.

Chris' eyes moved back to the rest of the team looking for someone to help the younger agent. He saw Buck look at Ezra, the ladies man had noticed his struggles but failed to offer his help to the undercover agent, instead he turned away and began to talk to JD. Chris shook his head, no wonder the man had trouble allowing them in, and they didn't exactly make an effort to pull him into the group. Chris stormed over to Ezra, his anger already beginning to show on his rugged features.

"Let me help you with that Ezra!" Chris growled at him and attempted to help the Southerner.

"I'm fine Mr Larabee, I am quite capable of doing . . .” He grunted when Chris grabbed his left arm and pulled him around until he was showing him his profile. Chris felt Ezra tense up under the touch but ignored his silent body language.

"That was an order Ezra!" Chris wasn't in the mood for Ezra's distant personality. They were on an operation, a dangerous one and the thought of his agent taking a risk and causing himself a physical injury angered him. He knew that Standish would never risk one of the others but he had no hesitation when it came to risking his own life, he played his life as if he played a game of poker, he made sure the deck was stacked in his favour but even a gambler can make a mistake. He didn't want to get angry with the Southerner, but there was something about Ezra that caused you to be angry just by looking at him, he had once decided that it was the facade that he always kept in place.

He finished doing the jacket up and then handed Ezra his blue identification jacket, then laid Ezra's ATF cap on the always-neat hairstyle and made sure that it wouldn't be so neat when the cap came off. Ezra took the cap off again and Chris had been correct in his assumption, the light brown hair was no longer neat. He smiled at the scowl that Ezra gave him and watched as he put the cap back on but backwards, Ezra always insisted on wearing his cap that way. When asked about it he had told them that when worn the correct way it obstructed his view. Buck had then commented that he shouldn't be looking at himself when on an operation, Ezra hadn't replied but instead kept his facade calmly in place. Two days later Buck had arrived at his office to find a mirror on his desk with a photo of himself stuck to it, which did not allow him to see his reflection. A black marker pen had been used to disfigure his features.

Ezra nodded his thanks to his leader, a man that he had come to respect but would not admit it to him, he didn't allow the scowl to leave his own features, and he knew Chris was angry but he didn't understand why he was angry with him. Ezra had managed to get up that morning and arrive at the office before seven am, actually two minutes pass but that didn't constitute lateness in his standards. He hadn't opened his mouth all morning so he couldn't have said anything that would have aggravated Chris. Ezra shrugged; maybe it was Chris who had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed on this warm summer morning.

Chris returned to his original position against the ATF van, he then glared at his men, knowing that they would sense his unvoiced demand for their attention. Everyone but Ezra looked at him; he was checking that his leader had done his jacket up correctly. But he wasn't surprised by Ezra's lack of attention; the man went out of his way to antagonise authority. The team's leader really wasn't in the mood for this assignment or Ezra.

"Listen up, and that means you as well Ezra, I don't want any of your smart mouth before I even start." Chris knew that he was aiming his frustrations at the wrong person but he couldn't stop himself, Ezra was also making it easy for him. There was a smug look on the handsome face and it was a look that Chris sometimes found hard to deal with, especially when he was angry. The Southerner had been silent all morning but would no doubt make up for it once this was over. He nearly lost his temper when the smug look grew into a smile that was aimed directly back at him. Chris took a deep breath. It was hard to get under Ezra's skin without resorting to underhanded tactics that he would never allow himself to use, he wasn't that type of person and never would be. But one day he would succeed and he would do it by using legitimate methods, it was now a game between the two men and Chris welcomed it, it was a way of bringing the distant Southerner closer to him and the rest of the team without him knowing it. But sometimes his undercover agent pushed him too far in this game of friendly competition.

"As you wish Mr Larabee." Ezra stood to the side of the group and gave his leader his full attention and his best smile, his eyes sparkled and his dimples appeared, the false facade hid what he was really thinking and feeling.

Chris moved his steady gaze away from the aggravating Southerner so he could take in the serious expressions of the other team members. At least some of them had their minds on the job that floated about them like a shroud; everyone was concerned about it but no one more than he was. His eyes flicked back to Ezra and held his stare for a few seconds then returned to his men again.

"As you already know Team Eight have finished the ground work in gaining incriminating evidence against Jose Gonzalez and are going to bust him today in one hour. It will go down on the second floor of the warehouse. Team eight have already gone through the warehouse for various stakeout positions. Nathan, Josiah, there is an office in the back left corner of the second floor, I want you in there. Buck you’re with Vin and me, we'll follow Gonzalez and his men in and wait at the bottom of the stairs on the first floor . . .”

"What about JD?" Buck interrupted his leader, he subconsciously wiped the moustache that adorned his upper lip. "He usually goes with me."

Chris continued on without answering his weapons expert. "Ezra, JD, I want you on the third floor, apparently there is a hole in the floor that is big enough for you to use to cover the agents." He heard a groan come from his long time friend but that friendship didn't stop him from turning his anger towards his friend.

"You have a problem with that Buck?" Chris glared at him.

"Nope." Buck looked at him and made sure that Ezra couldn't see his expression, it was one full of doubt. The ladies man still didn't fully trust the undercover agent, he knew he also took risks and it would be just like him to put JD's life at risk so he could put another notch on his belt.

Chris knew what Buck was thinking, the Southerner was yet to prove himself worthy of their complete trust, he had run out on them on their first operation together, but he had returned. It was because of the troubled times he had gone through with the FBI that Chris gave him a second chance, the man deserved one. Ezra had silently accepted it with a simple facial expression and a two-finger salute that he still used, Chris knew it was a mark of respect and he in return respected Ezra Standish. The man had been through hell and back with the FBI, he was transferred to the ATF without his knowledge. He had been discarded as though the commendations and undercover work meant nothing to them. As far as Chris was concerned, they were lucky to have him, he was the best undercover agent that he had worked with, and he was second to no one. But the others were still doubtful at times and it was on these types of operations when that mistrust surfaced. But Chris believed the agent had proven himself, if he hadn't he wouldn't be here.

"I believe Mr Wilmington doesn't trust me enough to watch JD's back." Ezra said what they were all thinking, but there was no malice in his voice, it was as though he believed they had a right not to trust him. He was also use to working alone, this was a new thing to him. Other people relying on him to watch their backs and protect them. He grew up watching his own back and this trait continued on into his adult life. Ezra also knew that if something did happen to JD that the rest of Team Seven would blame him, but he would also blame himself and take any reprimands for his mistake.

"Ezra, it's not that, it's . . . " Buck was startled by the anger in Chris' voice when he spoke.

"I don't give a fuck what it is Buck! Ezra will watch JD's back, he always has and he will today! Now, I don't want to hear anymore out of any of you." Chris raised his voice and stared at Ezra daring the man to say something, and he did.

"Perhaps Buck would like me to not cover his back in there instead of JD's." Ezra commented, he didn't flinch at the glare that was thrown at him. He decided that if Larabee didn't have a real reason to be angry with him that he may as well give him one, it would also give Ezra an explanation, he didn't think it was just because the man didn't like him.

"Don't push me Ezra, you'll know what will happen." Chris growled at him, he stepped towards the smaller man when he raised an eyebrow in innocent submission at him.

"Chris." Vin spoke softly. "Deal with him later, we have a job to do."

Vin knew Chris was angry about something and he also knew that Ezra wasn't the cause of that anger, the undercover agent was just giving him an excuse to take his anger out on him. He couldn't understand why Ezra had to keep pushing him, Chris would only take so much. The other five members of the team were oblivious to the game their leader and undercover agent were playing against each other. If they had, they no doubt would have taken bets on who would break first. The ex-bounty hunter was still having trouble trying to work the Southerner out, every time he thought he knew what made the man tick he would find out that it was exactly what Ezra wanted him to think, then the process would start all over again.

But he had plenty of time, he knew Ezra wasn't going anywhere, he may not think of himself as part of the group yet but they would make sure that he did. It was just going to take time to convince the stubborn Southerner that he was deserving of their trust and that he was needed but it was going to be hard because Ezra didn't trust himself, and he believed that the rest of the team didn't trust him. Buck had just put another brick in the wall that some of them were trying so hard to break down. Just the small moan that had escaped his lips would give Ezra more proof to prove that his own theory of not being trusted was true. Vin was also determined to make sure that a friendship was built between the undercover agent and himself, he knew Ezra needed a friend, but it was something the man would never admit to.

Chris tapped his headset then positioned it closer to his mouth. "Team eight, this is Team seven, and my men are ready to go in ."

Chris listened to the reply. "Get going." He nodded to his men. "If anyone gets themselves shot they'll have me to answer to."

"And if we are dead?" Ezra asked innocently.

"You're going to be dead anyway Ezra after I finish with you." Chris retorted angrily. 'This just isn't going to be a good day.' he added quietly.

Chris moved towards Ezra and angrily pushed him forward towards the warehouse. For a man that didn't involve himself with the rest of the group he knew them well enough to know which buttons to push, and push them he did. The man obviously had a death wish, he was always treading the line to see just how far he could push them, one day it was going to be too far and one of them would retaliate physically. Chris feared that it was going to be today and that he was going to be the one to teach the undercover agent a lesson.

Ezra ignored the violent forward momentum that Chris inflicted on his person, he was also angry, the fact that Chris was angry at him for no particular reason made him angry so he pushed back using his words, it was his best line of defence. He knew how to hurt people with his vocabulary and he knew how far to push them before they broke but if Chris kept at him like he had been so far then he would push back until Larabee did break. He was also willing to defend himself if it came to a physical altercation.

Ezra didn't fail to notice the look that passed between Buck and his young friend before JD joined him, he expected it from Buck but he had thought that JD was different. He inwardly sighed, these men were never going to trust him, but then why should they, he hadn't earned their trust, he ran out on them once and they expected him to do it again. No, he couldn't blame them. Hell, he didn't even trust himself anymore.

Ezra moved in and followed behind the other men, he could feel three pairs of eyes burning into his back, and a blue pair seemed to be holding a lot of anger towards him. Why? He didn't know. A brown pair held mistrust and fear for the person that Ezra had been paired up with. That he could understand. He wasn't use to looking after someone else, even after working as part of a team for four months. The final pair of light blue eyes held understanding, a need for a developing friendship. Why? He didn't have an answer to that question either.

His own green eyes took in each man before him. He knew that Nathan, the group’s dark ex-medic felt the same way that Buck did. He went as far as informing Ezra on a regular occasion that he didn't like him or approve of his ways. The larger man who walked beside Nathan was a different matter, Josiah seemed to have decided, for some reason beyond Ezra's comprehension, to take him under his wing and look after him as a father would. Why? He didn't know, he didn't want to know and he certainly didn't want that kind of relationship with a man that he had only known for four months. He didn't want that kind of relationship with a man he'd known for thirty years. And then there was JD, the kid looked up to everyone, including the undercover agent who's personnel file claimed that he'd once been under internal investigation for corruption. Why did JD look up to him? He couldn't understand it, no one had looked up to him before, no one had even thought of him as an equal, yet JD did.

Ezra's trained eyes looked up and down the empty street before he entered the building, there was no one in sight. He knew that Team Eight's two undercover men would enter the building in thirty minutes, half an hour before the drug runners were due to arrive. They would make sure that the men wouldn't search the warehouse. The waiting ATF men would remain oblivious to the drug runners. Ezra had to wait a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the darker interior of the warehouse. What he then saw disgusted him, the corner to the right of the front door was full of stained mattresses, he didn't know what the stains were but he wouldn't be surprised to find out that it was a mixture of blood, urine, excrement and vomit. The smell that assaulted his breathing passages began to confirm his suspicions. He eyes quickly glanced around the remainder of the floor, there were similar piles of beds through the building's first floor.

The undercover agent's childhood training caused him to look closely around him, he noticed two other exits where someone could enter the building, both were mentioned in Team Eight's building report. The stairs that led to the second floor were at the back of the building. The group of men walked towards them. Ezra followed his team to the top of the stairs. JD started to continue on to the third floor.

"JD. Wait." Ezra told him.

JD frowned at his fellow agent but did as he was told. He wasn't sure what Ezra was doing but he knew that the man knew his job and he did it well. He reached up and tucked a piece of loose dark hair back under his cap, freeing his left eye of its view blocking obstruction. He then watched and waited, hoping to learn something from the Southerner.

Ezra waited for Nathan and Josiah to reach the office that they were going to use for protection, he hoped that they wouldn't be seen in there, they were in the most dangerous position. Once the two men reached their destination Ezra moved into the middle of the room, he could feel JD's eyes watching him. He lifted his emerald gaze upwards, looking for the hole in the ceiling. It was towards the front of the building. It was going to be an awkward angle to view the bust from. He returned to the stairs and nodded to JD to continue to the third floor. He listened as Josiah reported that they were now in position.

When the two men reached, the third floor they headed towards the area that held the man made opening. Both men leant over, looked into the hole, and saw the floor of the second level beneath them. They moved around the square shaped opening and lay down on their stomachs. Ezra scanned the floor beneath him while JD reported their arrival. He could see most of the floor but the left and right side were obstructed by the lack of a larger hole. If he leaned further into it, he'd risk being seen or falling through it.

"Chris?" Ezra spoke into his headset.

"What is it Ezra?" Chris growled.

Ezra's head hung lower at the tone of anger that was still in his leader's voice, anger that was still aimed at him and there was no real reason for it, Ezra was at a total loss, he had no knowledge of what he'd done to deserve the anger.

"The left and right side of the third floor are not visible to us." He reported in a neutral tone, his eyes began a search around the third floor for any means of entrance that wasn't in the report that they had gone over that morning.

"Shit!" Was the only reply that Chris gave him.

"Have you got anything else to say?" Ezra asked calmly.

"Shut it Ezra!" Chris hissed through the headset.

"Shut it I will." Ezra told his boss, he listened as a deep breath was taken and slowly let out, he smiled to himself.

"Keep a close eye on the area you can see. Understood?" Chris ordered, he then had to wait through the silence for the answer that wasn't coming.

Ezra slapped JD's arm.

"Understood Chris." JD's voice was hesitant, he knew something was going on between the two men but he didn't know what it was.

Ezra heard the muttered threat that came over his headset, he knew that Chris wouldn't actually kill him but he would try to make his life difficult for a while but Ezra was okay with that because he could do the same in return. He was very good at making other people's lives a misery, he learnt from the best. His mother. She had made her only son's childhood a misery, she had left him in boarding schools throughout his young life, he either spent his holidays at the school or at a relative’s house, and some of them did not welcome him with open arms, there were a few closed fists. But his mother did teach him how to gamble, how to con people out of their life savings. She drilled it into him from an early age to hide his emotions from other people and not to let anyone get close. This had been her way of life, she hadn't let her only child get close to her and she had wanted him to live the same way.

But Ezra was different, he longed for friendship, a family, people he could get close to and care about. He had allowed some people in during his life but they had betrayed and hurt him. He decided that he wouldn't do it again, it wasn't a game that he was willing to play. His mother had been right, if you let people get close, they hurt you. It was safer, emotionally, to keep people at bay. He had never really encountered anything that could be considered a real and true friendship, there never was a person that he could talk to about his fears, his emotions, and his dreams. They had all been kept to himself, no one, not even his mother knew the real Ezra Standish. He hoped that someday somebody would.

"JD?" Buck's voice came over both JD and Ezra's headsets.

"Yeah Buck, what do you want?" JD looked sideways at Ezra but the curious stare was not returned, he knew that Ezra would be listening even though his eyes and mind were elsewhere, they were on the job like his should have been but they still had forty five minutes before the bust went down.

"You be careful okay, I don't want to have to clean you up afterwards." The tone of the ladies man's voice was serious and caring. JD treated Buck as an older brother and he knew that Buck felt the same way, the two of them even shared an apartment together.

"I can look after myself Buck, I'm not a kid you know!" JD stated confidently.

"You watch your back."

JD looked sideways again and thought he noticed a difference in Ezra's expression, but he turned his clean-shaven face further away from him.

"Buck . . . " JD started, he didn't like the way this conversation was going.

"You hear me?" Buck growled through the headset. JD knew what the features of the older man would be holding, but his own concern had been turned towards the agent that was lying on the filthy floor next to him.

"Yeah I hear you." JD muttered.

"Any advice for me Buck?" Ezra muttered under his breath but loud enough for all to hear.

"Shut up all of you!" Chris yelled at them over their mikes.

"Perfect timing as always Mr Larabee." Ezra continued, his own anger continued to build. He had known the meaning behind the conversation, Buck was telling JD to watch his back because he didn't believe that Ezra would.

"Ezra." Chris' voice held a warning.

"You want me to shut it. I know and I will endeavour to do so." Ezra continued to look around the third floor of the building, something had caught his eye but he couldn't quite make it out from where he was positioned, his eyes moved on to other areas of the building while his mind continued to try and figure out what that something was.

"We're going to have a nice little chat when this is over." Chris told him, his voice had become calm, the anger finally leaving his voice.

"I suppose that means that I will be shouting the drinks." Ezra asked and also made sure that the sigh he gave was loud enough to be heard.

"If you are then I'll be there." Vin jumped into the conversation.

A chorus of 'me too' were also added. This time the sigh was real. He really had to learn to keep his mouth shut.

The silence had become deafening, no one spoke, the sound of his own watch began to echo the minutes that were passing by. He could feel the hesitation that the young man beside him felt, he knew JD wanted to defend what Buck had said, Ezra wasn't interested. Buck could defend himself when Ezra approached him on the subject after this was finished, he intended to have it out with the older man. He knew he wasn't trustworthy but it wasn't a subject that should be made available to ears outside of Team Seven. He didn't need the rest of the ATF to know that his own team didn't trust him that should stay within the group.
JD placed his left hand over his mouthpiece. "Ezra."

"Not now JD." Ezra growled, he hadn't bothered to cover his own, he knew the others had heard, he expected a comment from Buck but his voice didn't sound in his ears, the man kept silent, maybe he was waiting to hear what was going to be said.

"I just want to . . . "

"I said not now!" Ezra turned to him. "This isn't the time or the place."

"What the hell is going on with you two?" Buck's voice finally came over his earpiece, the suspicion was heavy in his tone.

"No need to worry Mr Wilmington, you will be part of this conversation when this is over and yes I know Mr Larabee. I will now shut up." Ezra growled into his mike, he'd finally had enough.

Ezra leaned further into the hole knowing that JD's eyes were boring into him, the younger man knew what his words had meant just like Ezra had known the meaning of Buck's words. JD no longer wanted to defend Buck's word but was now willing to help defend him physically. Ezra didn't care, if JD was going to stand by his friend then it meant that he too felt the same way in regards to thinking that he wouldn't watch their backs. They were wrong, he would give his life for any of them but he feared that they wouldn't return the favour, not out of dislike but they didn't care about him like they did each other, they just wouldn't think of throwing themselves in front of a bullet for him.

He saw the two men that he had heard entering the building, they were the two ATF undercover agents. The men walked from the top of the stairs to the middle of the room. They looked towards the office at the back of the building then up towards the ceiling. One of them waved to Ezra but the Southerner didn't return the gesture, he suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Something was wrong. Something was going to go wrong. He was unaware that Chris had had the same feeling all morning.

Ezra kept his thoughts to himself, he didn't want to worry JD or the others and he knew that Buck would never shut up if he voiced his concerns. The first thing that he would want would be to join JD so he could protect him in a way that he didn't think that the undercover agent would. Ezra was tired, he was tired of all of it, all he wanted was to belong, to belong to a family, a group of people that would care about him, and he started to think that he wouldn't find that with this group of men. He knew that before anyone would trust him he would have to trust himself but he didn't think that he was worthy of that trust, not yet anyway but one day . . . he left the silent thought unfinished.

He moved back into his original position and began to scan the room again, his green eyes found the area of the brick wall that he was facing, there was something wrong but he couldn't pinpoint it. There were at least four stained mattresses leaning against the wall, he found this strange but didn't question it. He turned his eyes to JD, the man was still watching him, and he felt like reprimanding him, telling him to concentrate on his job instead of the conversations that had taken place earlier. He continued to keep his mouth shut.

The next thirty minutes passed by slowly, then the next forty. The drug smugglers were late or they weren't coming.

Ezra heard Chris' deep breath, he knew the leader was about to say something. It was a wasted effort, but the nagging feeling continued, this wasn't over yet.

"Team Seven, this is Team Eight. I think we’re wasting our time, they're not going to show." A voice came over the headsets of the men that were in position within the warehouse.

"Any idea why?" Chris asked.

"No. I'll bring my men out then yours can follow."

"Agreed." Chris stated simply but the frustration was clearly evident in his voice.

For a second time, Ezra leaned further into the hole, he watched as the two men glanced up to him then towards the office, they then left quietly, he knew they would be positioned outside, ready to cover them if need be. Just because the bad guys didn't show up didn't mean they could stop being careful. He had a feeling that something was still going to go wrong. He quietly waited for the order for him to follow them out. Chris would get them to leave the floor and then cover Josiah and Nathan as they left their cover.

Ezra and JD only had to wait a few minutes for the order to leave the building. They both stood up and walked around the hole. Ezra's eyes glanced once more to the position that held the mattresses, the movement saved both his and JD's lives. He saw the mattresses move. This was what was going to go wrong, he heard gunshots from the floor below and outside the building.


Ezra yelled a warning when he saw the mattresses fall to the floor, two men entered through the hole that lead to the roof of the warehouse. Ezra heard the gunshot as JD fired his gun but he missed, it gave the man time to bring his gun up. Ezra's first bullet struck the first man in the forehead, he fell to the ground. The second man retaliated against JD. Ezra felt the breath of the bullet as it passed close to his face. His heart froze when he saw the automatic weapon being aimed at JD, his instinct took over, and he wasn't prepared to let the young man die. He used his body to push JD into the hole and fired on the second suspect, the owner of the automatic weapon returned fire, five bullets struck Ezra's chest, the force of the bullets striking the life-protecting vest held him in place for a moment then he fell backwards into the hole to follow JD.

Ezra cried out in pain when the left side of his body hit the floor, he heard bones break and felt his left shoulder dislocate itself on impact. He fought against the darkness that wanted to take him, he hadn't taken the second suspect down, he couldn't give in to his body's physical shock, and he still needed to protect JD. He lifted his gun arm and aimed it at the opening above him, his arm shook, and he tried to lift his left arm to grip his right so he could use it as a steadying force but it refused to obey his commands. The seconds passed by agonisingly slow but they weren't silent, he could hear the gunfire on the other side of the room, he didn't dare look towards the sound. He gritted his teeth against the pain and blinked the sweat out of his eyes, he needed to see the gunman before he saw him.

The suspect leaned over the edge of the opening in the floor and before he could distinguish the shapes in the darkness below him a bullet entered his forehead, he crumpled to the floor.

He allowed his head to fall until it hit a solid object, his gun arm followed it, he closed his eyes and hoped the darkness would take him, the pain that filled his upper body was unbearable. He waited patiently but he could still hear the short ragged breaths that escaped his own body, the pain also continued to worsen. He could also hear the slow steady rhythm of JD's breathing, he turned his head and saw the unmoving form that lay next to him.

Ezra felt the floor shift beneath him.

"Aw hell." He muttered through clenched teeth.

The floor shifted again, he listened as the floor boards cracked, and he tried to get up but couldn't manage it.

"JD, get up." He didn't receive a reply.

Ezra felt the floor give way beneath him, he tried to prepare himself for the impact, it wasn't as bad as the first one, it didn't do any more damage to his already established injuries but the pain was worse. He tried to roll over onto his back so he could protect JD from the falling debris but the pain caused him to curl back up onto his side. He lifted his right hand to cover his face, it was over in a matter of seconds. He gingerly lifted his head and turned to look at JD. He was lying on his right side, his back was to Ezra.

"Oh great . . . I'm a dead man . . . they're not going to forgive me for this." He gasped out. "JD?" Ezra didn't even bother to try to sit up, the agonising pain in his side, shoulder and chest stopped him from attempting the obviously stupid body movement. "JD?" The continued lack of response worried him.

"Chris?" Ezra spoke into the headset, he didn't get a response but he could hear their voices, he could hear Buck calling for JD. "Chris!" Still no answer.

There was also silence around him, the gunfire had ceased, he lifted his head again but the pain was too much, he let it fall back to the floor. He would just have to wait until they found them, which should be as soon as Buck runs into the building looking for JD. He was still receiving but he couldn't send any messages out. Ezra closed his eyes and listened.

"JD! Answer me!" Buck's voice echoed in Ezra's right ear, the level of his voice caused the Southerner to grimace.

"Better do as your told JD." Ezra smiled, he watched the lights dance in front of his eyes, he cursed the darkness that wouldn't take him away from his pain.

"If JD's hurt I'm going to kill that Southern Bastard!" Buck yelled into Ezra's ear.

"I'm right here Buck, why don't you come and get me." Ezra told him but he knew he couldn't hear him, his headset must be broken.

Ezra tried to roll onto his back, he needed to check on JD, he screamed out in pain and immediately moved back into his previous position, he berated himself for making the obviously stupid move that he had refrained from doing earlier.

"JD!" Ezra yelled out to him. There was still no answer.

"Ezra?!" It was Chris' voice. At least someone remembered that he was here. "Ezra!"

"I knew it, I told you Chris, Standish wouldn't risk his own selfish hide to protect one of us." Buck's words echoed through Ezra's soul but that didn't stop him from laughing at his situation, he was lying here feeling like his entire body had been broken because he protected one of them but that wasn't going to stop Buck from killing him for pushing JD through the hole and onto the next floor.

"Ezra, JD we're coming for you!" Ezra felt some sort of comfort that Chris was thinking of him, or was he feeling guilty because of the anger that he had shown towards him earlier.

"Yeah and when I get my hands on you . . . !" Buck left the threat open.

"And when I no longer feel any pain you'll have your chance." Ezra accepted the threat.

Ezra heard the running footsteps as they ran into the building. Chris saw him immediately and ran to his side, Buck and Vin were right behind him.

"We've got two agents down on the ground floor!" Chris yelled into his mouthpiece.

Part One | Part Two

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