azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: A Game Replayed
Rating: PG
Warnings: Strong Language.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
AU: ATF
Main Characters: Ezra, Chris, Josiah, the rest of the guys and an OMC.
Summary: Ezra disappears and resurfaces in the hospital. Ezra, Chris and Vin then have to replay what had happened to the undercover agent.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 19,988



Chris Larabee groaned and rolled over in his large bed, his arm fell over the area that his wife use to lay on. It had been empty for five years and each night this happened he felt the sorrow pour through him. He still missed his wife and son, he missed them more and more every day. He angrily threw the pillow over his head to drown out the sound of the insistent ringing of the telephone. He'd only managed to get to sleep, the lack of slumber over the last eight days had finally exhausted him.

"SHIT!" he cried out when the sudden memory of why he hadn't been sleeping hit him like a sledgehammer. He grabbed the receiver and yelled into it. "Larabee!!"

"They found him." Tanner's voice didn't hold any relief at the announcement of the find.

"Where?"

"Denver Memorial. Room 401"

Chris hung up the phone without saying another word. He didn't want to ask if he was dead or alive, he wanted and needed to go another twenty minutes without knowing, he didn't want the little hope that was left to be shattered. His agent had been missing for eight days and now he was finally returned to them but in
what condition. Chris was about to find out.

________________________________________

Chris parked his dodge close to the hospital entrance and turned the engine off. He could see Vin Tanner's beat up jeep a few spaces away in the darkness that was broken by false lighting. The others would be on their way but he needed time alone with his friend before they crowded into the small hospital room. He had to deal with his own feelings first before he took care of the others. After taking a deep breath he left his car and headed to what he hoped wasn't going to be a repeated nightmare of pain and mourning.

He stepped through the doors that automatically opened and moved quietly but quickly through the throng of people that filled the administration area. There were women, men and children and most of their expressions were full of happiness and relief but it was the few that looked as though their world had fallen apart that got his attention. Chris didn't want to go through that again so his haunted blue eyes began to ignore the people around him.

Chris ran to the elevators and forced his way into it. He reached over the person in front of him and pushed the button numbered four and fidgeted until the doors closed. He urged the numbers to change quickly but he felt as though he was stuck in a traffic jam. It was going to take hours for him to reach the fourth floor, maybe he should have just taken the stairs. The four finally lit up and he paced close to the doors, which seemed to be taking forever to open. He finally kicked them in frustration. They opened. 401 was at the other end of the hall, he didn't hesitate, and he ran to the room.

The dark dressed man stopped outside of the door. Vin was in there with him, he already knew what condition he was in. Gawd he didn't want to know. Chris turned his back to the door, it was a difficult feat for fear to grip his heart but this time it was winning. He actually felt a physical pain in his chest as the fear forced him to acknowledge its presence. He thought about moving away and waiting for someone to come and tell him that his agent was dying or healing.

"Don't be such a bloody coward and get in there!" he growled to himself.

He opened the door and stepped into the darkened room. The sight before him shocked him. Vin sat in a large chair next to the figure in the bed, his light blue eyes staring at the man before him. Chris stepped forward closer to the bed. He didn't return Vin's greeting, he couldn't take his eyes off the bandaged face in front of him. The white material covered the eyes and the area above the left temple, another one sat comfortably on the exposed left cheek. The too pale left arm lay in front of him, it was being held gently by Vin. IV tubes were attached to the back of each hand. A heart monitor beeped in the background making the silence more deafening. He forced his legs to take the few steps that would bring him within reach of his injured agent. He grimaced at the nasal canella that had been placed in the right nostril.

"How is he?" Chris asked Vin without looking at him. His fingers touched the blanket softly as they made their way to some sort of physical contact with his friend.

"Don't know." Vin shrugged then moved out of the chair so Chris could sit down. "Doctor won't be here until the morning, the nurses on night shift don't know, they're only following instructions. Hopefully Nathan will be able to read his chart when he gets here."

Chris nodded and sat down. "Where'd they find him?"

"He's been here for two days." Vin growled through clenched teeth.

"And before that?" he kept his anger under control.

"Don't know. Thought we'd find that out later." Vin hung his head in despair. He should be searching for the people who did this, not sitting in a chair wondering what happened.

"You did the right thing Vin, I don't want him left alone, not until we find out what happened to him." Chris lifted his head. "Could you give me a minute with him?"

"Sure, I'll go and get us some coffee." Vin walked away with a posture that made him look like he had given up on life. It wasn't life, it was the type of people that did the things he'd been staring at for the last forty-five minutes.

Chris waited and stared at the half-covered face in front of him. He leaned forward and brushed away a lock of hair that stopped the bandage from being completely white. The features that were visible were too pale except for the large bruises and small contusions. Cuts lined his hands and Chris somehow knew his feet would be the same. Something happened to him and Chris had all intentions of finding out what.

"Ezra?" his face was close to his undercover agent but there was nothing to indicate that he had heard his leader's voice. "Ezra, you’re going to be okay, you have to be, you hear me."

He didn't get an answer, he didn't expect one. There was no movement except for the slight rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. At least he was doing that. A thousand questions went through his mind. The first was the obvious; was Ezra going to be okay. The rest ranged between what was wrong with his eyes to how this had happened. The only person who could answer his questions was lying unconscious in the bed and

Chris had no idea if he was going to wake up or not. The doctor would be able to answer some but not all of them. Chris wanted answers to everything. He had to know what happened.

Chris listened as Vin returned, he leaned back away from Ezra, and he didn't want his friend to think he was falling apart; he was but he couldn't show it, not yet. Neither man spoke as they watched their friend. The sound of the monitor was now joined by the sound of two men drinking coffee and an occasional sigh.

Chairs screamed in protest as they moved to get into a more comfortable position. It was only just after three in the morning, they still had a while to wait until the doctor arrived. Nathan would be able to give them some information on Ezra's condition but not enough to satisfy them.

"Looks terrible doesn't he?" Vin couldn't stand the silence anymore, it was though they were waiting for Ezra to die.

"Yeah." Chris agreed with him.

"Hasn't moved since I've been here." Vin continued as he shifted in his chair once again. He stopped when he saw the irritation on Chris' face. "You know Ezra Chris, he's tough, he'll be okay."

"He doesn't look okay Vin."

"I know Chris, I know."

Neither man looked up when they heard the door slam open. Buck stormed into the room with JD following him. The anger was obvious on Buck's face while the younger man with him held a look of concern and worry. Both of them rushed to the side of the bed. There was no room on the right side so they had to settle for looking over Ezra's left shoulder to see him.

"What the hell happened to him?" Buck growled at the only people who were available to take his anger.

"Don't know." Chris replied calmly.

"No one here to answer our questions." Vin told him.

"Then get someone." Buck ordered.

Chris looked at Vin who returned his amused look. They were too scared to think of doing the most obvious thing available to them. Vin took out his mobile and handed it to Buck.

"Go find a nurse and make your demands." Vin smiled at him.

"I'll do more than that." Buck growled back.

Chris shook his head in amazement. Buck was doing what he normally did. He wasn't thinking, nor in control of the situation. This was what he was afraid of, he couldn't be there for Ezra or his men if he couldn't control his own feelings. He looked at JD, the youngster was trying to keep the tears from falling. He envied JD, he wished he was able to show his feelings like that but he felt out of control when he did so he learnt to keep them inside. The only emotion he freely showed was his anger. In a way, he was a bit like Ezra.

"Looks like Buck is in charge of this one." Chris leaned forward and spoke to Ezra. "You better wake up, he's angrier than a . . . a . . . aw hell, I can't remember his sayings but he's angry and if you don't say hello to him you’re going to hear about."

"You're going to hear about it from all of us." Vin emphasised Chris' warning.

Ezra still lay in the bed unaware of the people that surrounded him. Vin looked down at his feet. He hated not knowing what happened to Ezra who did this to him. And he hated it even more that he didn't know if Ezra was going to be alright. All three men looked towards the door when they heard Buck's raised voice on the other side. A quieter voice argued with him. They smiled at Buck's refusal to quieten down.

"I think I'll go give him a hand." Vin pushed himself out of the chair and didn't protest when JD moved forward to take his place next to the bed.

"Is he gonna die Chris?" JD asked as he leaned forward, his finger tips hovered over Ezra's exposed arms then dropped back into his lap.

"I don't know JD. We'll have to wait to find out from the doctor." Chris shrugged. There was no use lying to the kid.

"He looks like he's gonna die Chris and why are his eyes bandaged like that."

"JD. You know as much as I do."

"Sure."

"He's on his way." Buck revealed as he came back into the room. "He knows that if he's not here in half an hour that I'll be coming out to get him."

"I hope you said please Buck." Chris nodded his thanks.

"Nope and I ain't gonna say it when he gets here either." the ladies man growled at him. Buck leaned forward and looked at Ezra's face again. "Shit. He looks like death warmed up."

Chris couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at his long time friend. "That's an understatement Buck."
Buck smiled as he raised his eyes to meet Chris'. "I want the person who did this dead."

Shit. Chris thought to himself. Why was Buck so angry. Then he remembered, Buck was supposed to have meet Ezra the night he disappeared. The ladies man was blaming himself and taking out his anger on anyone that was available.

"That's not going to help Ezra Buck." Chris calmly told him, there was no use showing any anger in return.

"No but it will help me." Buck muttered as he found himself a seat. "Where the hell are Nathan and Josiah anyway, doesn't take this long to get here."

"Here, where the hell do you think we are." Josiah growled at him as he entered the room and made his way to the bed. "What did they do to him?"

"Nathan?" Chris asked while trying to hide his fear.

Nathan was staring at Ezra's still form, he and Josiah both held expressions of shock. He wanted to move forward and check the smaller man's injuries but the Southerner looked somewhat peaceful. Nathan didn't want to wake him and bring him back into a world that would no doubt be full of pain. His dark features frowned at the bandages that covered Ezra's normally intense green eyes. Was he blind? God no. Please don't let him be blind.

"Nathan." Josiah put a hand on the ex-medic's shoulder. "Don't tell us his dying."

"What do you want from me!?" Nathan spat at him. "I'm not a doctor, I can't tell you he's going to live when I don't know myself." Nathan glared at the others. "Fine, I'll tell you, he doesn't look like he's dying but that doesn't mean he isn't. His eyes are bandaged, that indicates to me that he's suffering from some sort of injury to his eyes, he could even be blind for Christ sakes." he slammed the bed in frustration. "I don't know!"

"Can't you read his chart!" Buck retorted.

"Didn't you hear what I just said!?" Nathan's voice was becoming too loud.

"Shut up! Both of you." JD told them. Five men looked at him in surprise. "Ezra's lying there, who knows in what condition and all you can do is yell at each other. Give Ezra some respect why don't you."

"You tell 'em JD." Vin slapped him on the back.
"Someone had too, you guys obviously weren't going to." JD stood up and began to walk to the door. "I'm going to get a coffee, if the doc gets here, let me know."

"He's a bit upset." Buck's normally dancing eyes were staring at the closing door.

"Scared too I bet." Vin added.

"As I'm sure we all are." Josiah reached down and placed his hand on the still form's leg, he squeezed the calf gently and it jerked in return. "He just moved."

"What?" Nathan looked up from the floor, the anger though, was still evident on his face.

"I said he moved." Josiah repeated more angrily.

Nathan glared at Josiah, his dark brown eyes were burning with fury. He pushed past him and moved closer to the front of the bed. "Ezra. Ezra can you hear me." he waited a few seconds but received no answer to his question. "Ezra," he nudged his shoulder, the Southerner moved but only because someone had pushed him.

"Ezra!" Nathan growled at him and gently slapped the bandaged cheek. There was still no response. "Josiah you must have been mistaken."

"Are you calling me a liar?" Josiah stood tall during his accusation.

"I said you were mistaken . . . "

"That's it!" Buck snapped at them. "If you’re just going to argue then you can both leave the room."

Nathan and Josiah looked at each other but neither man apologised. They were too angry for that. Buck turned to Chris, his long time friend was staring at Ezra, and he was just as oblivious to what was going on around him than Ezra was. Buck didn't mind, he could handle the team for him, he needed to take his anger out on someone, it may as well be them until they caught the person or persons responsible for Ezra's disappearance and condition. When thirty-one minutes had passed Buck Wilmington stormed out of the room without a word to his friends or Ezra Standish; the man was on a mission. The others stared at his retreating form then back to their injured friend. Each man had his own fears and guilt that they were finding difficult to deal with. Buck had been required to pick Ezra up from the office on that fateful Friday night.

The Southerner had stayed back to finish a report, while the others had secretly delivered food and a large amount of alcohol to Ezra's townhouse. They had just finished a case that was difficult for Ezra and they knew he'd had all intentions of getting drunk but they weren't going to allow him to become drunk on his own. The ladies man had been late and when he reached the office, he found that Standish wasn't there. He assumed that Ezra had found another mode of transport.

Buck had returned to Ezra's home to find that he hadn't been there either, he explained to the others what had happened. When two hours had passed, they again assumed that he had gone somewhere else to drown his troubles. Five men went home while Buck stayed and waited for his friend. Ezra never returned, and now eight days later they found him in a hospital suffering from injuries that scared the shit out of them. Nathan had already commented that he could be blind and they knew that Ezra would hate it but being the stubborn cuss that he was he would live with it and not admit to them that he was dying inside.

Chris reached out and touched the bandaged face, there was no response. Shit, why won't he wake up? Because he's dying. That was his answer. Ezra Standish was dying and he couldn't say good-bye to him. It made him angry that the Southerner had finally accepted his place in the group and this happened. He was sure that Ezra felt as though he had died alone, that his friends weren't with him.

"Ezra, wake up," he tried his voice again, "that's an order!"

Chris slammed his fist against the bed, Ezra's body rolled slightly then went back into its original position. It was useless, it was also obvious that he was either unconscious or in a coma. Chris wanted neither, he wanted his friend awake so he could find out what happened, that way they could seek their revenge. The sound of the door opening caused him to look up. It was Buck with the doctor and JD was right behind the two men. Chris didn't have time to question the elderly man because Buck had shoved him toward the bed and demanded an explanation.

"What the hell is wrong with him?" Buck growled at the man.

"Would you please let go of me." the doctor demanded of his captive.

Instead of following the request, Buck pulled him closer and glared at him. "You have two seconds, then I'm going to start making some noise!"

The man blinked, then looked at the patient. "The John Doe was . . ."

"His name is Ezra Standish! Got it!" Buck yelled at him.

"We didn't have a name for him when he came in, there was no identification and the police are at the moment going through their missing person’s files." the doctor explained.

"He's an undercover agent with the ATF." Vin told him.

"And it took you two days to find him?"

"I would just answer the question if I were you." Chris glared at him. "Now!"

"Your agent is fine, nothing that a week’s rest won't cure." the doctor growled back at him.

"Why won't he wake up then?" Buck grabbed the lapels of the smaller man's jacket more firmly so he could pull him closer.

"He's been here two days, wouldn't sleep and if he did he would wake up from a nightmare. I had the nurse give him a strong sedative last night so he would finally sleep." he looked down at his watch. "It should start wearing off in about three hours."

"His eyes?" Nathan queried.

"He wasn't use to the light," he started, "how long had he been missing?"

"Eight days, including the two he was here." Chris answered solemnly.

"Then I would say he spent the other six in total darkness. The bandage is only to protect his eyes from the light. I've been taking a layer off each day. It will be off by tomorrow."

"And the other injuries?" Nathan continued.

"Deep abrasion on the left cheek, cuts and bruises over sixty per cent of his body, some required stitches, and the head wound wasn't serious, slight concussion. Dehydration, I'd say that he didn't eat anything during that time either, that's about all."

"Has he said anything about where he'd been or what happened?" Buck asked him.

"No, said he couldn't remember, didn't even know who he was." the doctor shrugged.

"Amnesia?"

"It's possible but there were some things he remembered, kept calling out for someone named Chris. Said he was going to kill him, that he would think he'd run out again." the small man looked at each member of team seven in turn. "I assume one of you is Chris."

Chris used his left hand to wipe the hair away from Ezra's forehead. He would have to get it out that Southern head that he would never think such a thing. He trusted Ezra with his life as did the others, they would never believe he ran out on them. Ezra no longer had it in him. He was a part of the family now and should know it, but the old demons obviously still lingered. Ezra still wasn't able to believe that his friends would never betray him.

"I am." Chris admitted.

"Then I don't want you in here." the doctor told him.

"Why the hell not?" Buck practically yelled at him.

"Didn't you hear what I just said, he's afraid of the man, I don't want him in the room when my patient wakes up."

"I'm staying, Ezra's not afraid of me, once he sees me here he'll be fine." Chris told him.

The doctor had no choice but to change his decision, six men stared at him, their expressions told him that neither of them would be moving. "If he wants you out then you leave, do you understand me?"

Buck snorted at him. "That won't happen."

________________________________________

Ezra wanted to scream at the suffocating darkness that still surrounded him. He had thought he'd gotten away, but he was mistaken. His vision impaired eyes tried to find their way through his nightmare and his body tried to force itself out of its prison. The voices he heard told him he wasn't alone, they were here, torturing him again. His body wanted to react by fighting them off but it would only make the punishment worse, he learnt that early. He kept still, but he tensed up when he heard his breathing pattern changed, it became rapid. They would know he was afraid. He was beginning to find it hard to get the air he needed into his lungs.

A hand touched his face and he couldn't help but jerk away from it. The voices began to talk to him then, calling his name and telling him that he was going to be fine, that they were here with him now. His mind finally forced the scream to leave his body. His pain-filled form began to fight, he couldn't stop it, and it was more a reaction than a request. He wanted it to stop but it wouldn't. His fists struck out at the persons holding him down and his feet began to kick but something was keeping them down.

Hands gripped his face and held it tight, a voice began to whisper in his ear but he couldn't calm down, the fear was too great. He struggled even harder and screamed for them to leave him alone. The sound of a door opening painfully assaulted his ears, the punishment was coming. Ezra gathered what strength he could and fought harder but it was useless. The sharp pain erupted in his upper arm as the voices continued to speak into his ear. He realised when his struggles began to weaken that they had drugged him, he was grateful that he didn't have to feel the pain this time. It had been bad enough before. His mind drifted away as the pain began.

________________________________________


Chris and Vin finally relaxed their hold when Ezra began to calm down. His reaction to their touch and voices shocked them to the core. He had fought and screamed at them as though his life depended on it. Something terrible had happened to the Southerner and he was still in the terrifying situation that he had escaped from physically. Emotionally, he was still there. Chris sat back down in his chair and took Ezra's hand in his. Ezra needed to feel the comforting touch of a friend and not the painfully torture of an enemy.

"I want you out of this room now!"

Buck stood up and moved closer to the doctor that had to administer a sedative to calm Ezra down. "No. Ezra's in a nightmare world at the moment and he needs us to get him out of it."

"I didn't get the impression that you could." the doctor smiled sarcastically at him.

"Get the fuck out!" Buck warned him. "Before I put you in a hospital bed."

"Now see here, this is a hospital, that man is a patient here. Unless you are his next of kin I suggest that you . . . "

Buck practically lifted the man off his feet and carried him to the door. He smiled at Josiah when the larger man opened it for him. He then threw the doctor through the opening that had been created for him. "You said that physically he's fine, so we'll take it from here." the door shut to cut off the doctor's protests.

"Nathan?" Buck turned to him.

"What!?" Nathan snapped.

"What do we do to help him?" Buck kept his voice neutral; for now.

"You seem to be the expert here Buck why don't you tell me."

Buck turned to look at Chris, his long time friend raised his eyebrows at him. He wasn't going to help him. The ladies man lowered his head then lifted his gaze to look at Nathan and the others. "I know everyone is angry and scared but it's not going to help Ezra if we fight amongst ourselves."

"Isn't that what I said three hours ago." JD spoke from the corner of the hospital room.

"Next time let him wake up on his own, don't touch him and don't talk to him." Nathan ordered them. "He's confusing our voices and touch with what happened to him."

Buck nodded in agreement, he didn't like it but it was a plan. Nathan knew what he was talking about, that was the only reason why he accepted it. "Then we sit and wait."

________________________________________

This time there was silence within the darkness, no one spoke and the pain was no longer there. He was alone. Ezra allowed himself to take a deep breath but grimaced at the pain it caused. He accepted it though, it was an old pain and not a new injury. His right arm felt numb so he slowly shifted. Nothing happened when he did, his movements continued until he was on his back. Still nothing new happened to him. He was defiantly alone. He lay quietly and listened for movements around him. Light began to filter through to his eyes. Maybe he had been able to escape again. They had caught him the first time and returned him to the prison.

Ezra reached up to his face, something tugged at his arms. He panicked and began to tear at them with his hands. Pain sparked in his hands as the pressure was removed. He cried out in frustration at his weakness and fear. An unknown tear escaped from his left eye and soaked into the bandage. He was alone and he was going to die alone. He frowned as a new odor hit his senses, it was a familiar and hated odor.

"Chris?" the Southern accent was thick with emotion. "Chris."

"I'm here Ezra." Chris leaned forward and touched Ezra's arm so he knew he was back with them. "We're all
here."

Ezra heard the voice and felt the touch. He jerked away from both. It couldn't be real, he'd spent a lifetime in that hell. How could he be sure that he wasn't still in there and this time they had Chris.

"You're gonna be fine now Ezra." Vin spoke into his ear.
Ezra jumped at the sound.

"Take the bandages off his eyes." Nathan told them. "Carefully, he needs to see us. JD, will you close the blinds, lessen the light in the room."

Chris did as Nathan suggested, he removed the bandages carefully. "Keep your eyes closed Ezra."
Once the final bandage was removed, Chris stared at his undercover agent's face. The eyes were red rimmed and slightly swollen. No doubt a result from being in the dark for so long. Chris looked up when Nathan came forward. The ex-medic placed a large dark hand above Ezra's eyes.

"Open your eyes Ezra, slowly." Nathan ordered him. "Close them again if the light is too painful."

Ezra tightened his eyelids, he was afraid to open them, what if they weren't really here, what if he was just having another nightmare. His friends had been with him before only for him to wake up and find his captives there instead.

"Open them Ezra!" Chris growled at him. He could see Ezra's fear but the younger man needed to see them, he had to know they were here with him.

Ezra's eyes relaxed then fluttered open, he first saw the hand through blurred vision. He quickly moved away from it and into the soft light. He squeezed he eyes shut again and lifted a hand to protect himself. Someone took it and pulled it down to his side.

"Ezra look at me." Chris spoke to him.

Ezra couldn't refuse the voice of his friend, he just hoped that it was Chris there when he opened his eyelids. His vision was still blurred but he could see the blond hair and dark clothing.

"Chris." Ezra smiled weakly.

"Yeah Ezra, were taking you home. You okay with that?"

Ezra closed his eyes and nodded.

________________________________________

Ezra was trying to sleep a peaceful and healing slumber in the company of his friends. Chris sat on his left side reading a magazine, well he was trying to read it. His blue eyes keep looking up towards the bandage that poked out from underneath the blanket that covered Ezra's back. It was one of two wounds that had need stitching, the other was on his chest. The doctor hadn't told them that it had taken a combination of fifty-three stitches to close them. Damn doctors, they wouldn't tell you anything unless you asked them, then forced the information from them. He could see the blood seeping from the material that covered the wound. Nathan wanted to change it but he decided to wait until the Southerner had woken up, even in his sleep, he tried to move away from the touch. That hadn't really bothered Nathan but it was the whimper of fear that escaped from the sleeping form that stopped him.

Vin sat on his right, the slack features of the undercover agent were visible to him. He grimaced each time a flicker of pain crossed the handsome face. Vin had learnt to recognise the fear that also appeared on Ezra's countenance. It was something that he had never seen on the confident features before. This was something new and he didn't like it. Whoever did this had to have done a job on him for Ezra to show the emotion of fear. The ex-bounty hunter looked across the inert form at his friend, he watched as Chris' eyes glanced from the magazine to Ezra's back then to the article that he was trying to read. His own thoughts mirrored Chris'. They wanted to know what happened but they couldn't push Ezra, they would have to wait until he was ready to talk about it.

As if on cue, Ezra stirred. His legs stretched out then jerked back quickly. Too much pain, too much. Chris and Vin waited patiently during the thirty-three minutes and forty-two seconds it took for Ezra to finally open his eyes. During that time, they listened to the groans of pain and muttered curses. The fear had been pushed to the back of the Southerner's mind, hidden behind the wall that he used to protect himself. Vin made sure he was in Ezra's vision when the green orbs appeared.

Ezra woke to what he hoped wasn't another nightmare. His friends had been there earlier, they told him they were taking him home but was it a lie. He'd heard plenty of lies before, people had lied to him all his life. Vin came into his vision as he blinked the tiredness away. Ezra felt the relief fill him, they hadn't lied to him.

"How you feeling Ezra?" Vin asked him.

"Hurts." Ezra muttered in reply.

"I'll get Nathan." Chris stood up and began to move towards the door. The curse spoken in a husky voice caused him to look back at Ezra. He couldn't help but smile. His agent was pushing Vin's arms away as he struggled to get into a sitting position. "Let him help you Ezra," the cold glare told him Ezra was back with them, "that's an order."

"Take it easy Ezra! You’re going to tear your stitches." Vin growled at him as he tried to keep him still enough so he could help him into some sort of seated position.

Ezra of course had to raise an eyebrow in innocence at him. "What stitches? I've got stitches?" he looked down and saw his bandaged chest. "Oh dear."

"Your back too." Vin frowned at him as Ezra tried to twist into an awkward position so he could gain a clear view of his back. "Ezra! Nathan ain't going to be happy if you tear them, he won't want to take you back to that hospital."

"How did this happen?" Ezra asked him.

"You don't know?" the ex-bounty hunter turned as the bedroom door opened. He spoke with his features to the two men that stood watching him.

"Of course I don't know!" Ezra retorted. "I wouldn't be asking you if I knew." he tried one final twist. "Ow, ow, ow."

"Then stop doing it." Nathan chastised him as he moved to the bed.

"Oh great, medical expert in room." Ezra announced. "Going to hurt me some more are you."

"What are you angry at?" Chris questioned him.

Ezra opened his mouth to answer but nothing came out, he was at a loss for words. Why was he angry? He didn't know but he did know he was angry. "Don't know." the Southerner turned away in embarrassment.

"It's okay Ezra, we understand. Your angry at what happened." Nathan told him.

"But I don't know what happened. Last thing I remember was waiting for someone . . . don't know who . . . or where . . . then here . . . "

Vin looked at Chris then back at Ezra, the undercover agent needed answers and they couldn't give them too him. "The only thing that we can tell you is that you were waiting for Buck at the office, Buck was late, and you disappeared. We found you last night at the hospital, they told us you'd been there for two days. Said you didn't know who you were."

"But I know who I am, why would I say that I didn't."

"Maybe you had a good reason." Chris suggested.

"If I did I don't remember it."

"That's okay, we can go over it later, and you need to rest first. Doctor said a week."

"A week. Why do I need a week? I feel fine." Ezra argued with Chris.

"For a start, the doc didn't think you ate at all during the first six days you were missing, also dehydration, loss of blood, shock, your injuries . . . should I go on." Nathan stood over the smaller man with his arms crossed. He must have been a menacing figure because Ezra reluctantly agreed with him. "Good. First I'm going to change those bandages then you’re going to have something to eat."

"I'm not hungry."

"Then I'll force feed you." Nathan smiled.

"Like to see you try." Ezra smiled back.

"I have help, what do you have."

Ezra's smiled faltered then fell. He was beaten, he'd have no choice but to follow their orders.


________________________________________

Six men sat around the large wooden kitchen table that sat in Chris' home. When Chris had asked Sarah why she had purchased such a large table, she had simply begun to remove his trousers. It was answer enough for him, she had intended to have a large family. A family did sit at the table on occasions but it wasn't the one she had planned but Chris knew she would like and adore the men that sat with him. She would have no doubt taken JD under her wing and make it her mission to reveal the true Ezra Standish to those around him, Vin Tanner would have become a victim to her match making. Sarah would have loved each member of his team as if they were family. The thought made Chris smile. The dark clad leader smiled more often these days when he thought about his dead wife and son. It was only in the dark hours of the night that the pain returned.

"What are you smiling at?" Vin nudged his side.

"Just thinking about this table." Chris winked at him.


"Oh, okay, I don't want to hear about it Chris!" Buck growled at him. Being Chris' long time friend, he knew what Chris and his wife got up to.

"Don't want to hear what?" JD piped up, he didn't like being in the dark.

Buck smiled at Chris, his friend had that 'I dare you' look on his face. "Chris and Sarah use to have sex on this table." he smiled when Chris laughed, the man was healing nicely, slowly but nicely.

"Uh, can we get on with it now." JD regretted asking, he still got slightly embarrassed when talking about sex with the older generation.

Chris started to read from the police report that Buck had managed to get a copy of. It didn't tell them a lot.
"They found him sitting on the corner of Jamison and Potters road. Apparently, they had to subdue him, he fought them like a mad man. Wouldn't tell them who he was or what happened. No ID on him. Medics came and took him to the hospital. Put him on the missing person's list and left it at that. Not a lot they could do unless he talked."

"So all we have is where he was found." Vin nodded.

"It's a start." Chris agreed. "When Ezra's up to it, we'll take him there and see if it jogs his memory."

________________________________________

One Week Later

Ezra didn't want to go, there was obviously a reason why he wasn't remembering what happened to him and he had no intention of reliving it. Chris and Vin though were insisting that he went with them, that the area where he was found might cause him to remember something. Ezra had replied that he didn't want to remember. Chris retaliated with the guilt trip. What if they were still out there? What if they did it to someone else? What if the next victim died? So here he was sitting in the back of the dodge with an expression of anger and resentment clearly written on his face for all to see.

The corner of Jamison and Potters road was within site and it gave Ezra a nasty feeling. Even with the successful guilt trip he'd been sent on, he still didn't want to do it. A street light flashed in his eye but he didn't see it, all he could see was darkness. There was no sight or sound to be heard. Fear began to fill him once more. This wasn't right, how could he be back here, but where was here, he still couldn't recall the events of the missing eight days. Something nudged his shoulder and he screamed out in fear.

"It's okay Ezra, nothing here that's going to hurt you." Vin assured him.

"I was there for a minute." Ezra's body shook with tremors.

"Where?" Chris demanded.

"Where do you think!" Ezra retorted.

"I mean where were you, did you see anything?"

"No, can I go home now?"

"No." Chris leaned forward and pulled Ezra out of the car. "You're going to do this Ezra and you’re going to do it now!"

"Where did the sympathy and understanding go." Ezra grimaced at the twinges of pain in his body.

"You'll get it back when we go home." Chris smiled at him and pushed him towards the street corner.

"Tell me again why we're doing this at night time. It looks the same during the day."

"You were found at 2am Ezra, we want the surroundings to be the same. Better chance of you remembering something." Vin explained.

"But I don't want to remember." Ezra mumbled low enough for them not to hear him.

Chris stopped under the street sign that read Potter's road. He leaned against it and waited. He knew Ezra was staring at him but he refused to return the stare. Ezra was on his own until he remembered something, then they would be there for him. He could feel Ezra's resistance but he could be just as stubborn, he would wait. Ezra stubbornly stood with his hands in the jeans pockets. He silently wished for his own clothing. The t-shirt belonged to Buck, it was only his mood that allowed him to wear the white material that had the famous saying 'Bite Me' on it. The faded blues jeans belonged to Vin. He had refused the black jeans that Chris had offered him. Chris may not have been concerned about testicle cancer but Ezra sure as hell was.

Ezra's frustration finally got the better of him. Fine! If that's what they wanted, that's what he'd do, he would take his time, look around the darkened streets, and complain until they took him home. But he wasn't going to remember anything, he knew that for certain. His green eyes searched his surroundings while his leader and friend scrutinized him. The sight of a broken window caused something flashed through his mind but it didn't stay long enough to make an impact so he shrugged it off. If it was important, it would make a return visit. It did! Ezra could feel the memory rushing towards him. God why did it have to happen like this. Why couldn't it just sneak up on you and knock on the door, if you wanted to remember, you let it in. If you didn't want to remember you would turn the lights off, hide and pretend no one was home. He wasn't a coward but he wanted to do the latter.

The memory hit him with such a force that he was knocked off his feet. His instincts put his arms out to take the burden of the fall. He didn't need to, he didn't feel the pain because he was now somewhere else. He began to relive part of his forgotten nightmare.

________________________________________

Run! He had to keep going, if he stopped now he was a dead man. Toward the filtered, head for the light. The running footsteps echoed behind him. He had angered them by finding a way out and now they were after his blood. A gunshot reverberated in the confined space. His greed for survival caused him to duck his head and lift his arms to protect himself. He almost cried out when the hot breath of the bullet brushed his face but the fact that his hunters would have laughed at him stopped him. They seemed to enjoy torturing a person more than a five-year-old child enjoys Christmas. They were sick men.

He was almost there, just a little further and he might be safe. Just keep going. He knew he wouldn't have time to removed the few boards that covered the window. He was going to have to risk an injury to his person by jumping straight through it. He took a breath as he ran and threw himself through the air. His arms protected his head that had been positioned close to his chest. His shoulder and upper back hit the boards and they snapped in half. He continued through the already shattered glass and felt it tear through the flesh on his back and chest.

More gunshots sounded and the wood around the broken window splintered sending shards of wood into the air. Thankfully, he was already falling to the ground beneath second floor window. This was going to hurt he thought to himself and braced his already bruised body for the impact. It did hurt. The flesh was torn from his left cheek as it scrapped along the ground. He grimaced and cried out when his hip slammed against the concrete. His fear caused him to ignore the new pain and look up to search for his pursuers. They were no longer there.


He painfully stood up and limped away from his nightmare. He only managed to walk a few feet before he collapsed to the curb. After what felt like hours, he thought his nightmare began again when someone grabbed him from behind. He fought them, he wasn't going back to that hellhole. He didn't recognise the two men as policemen. He continued to fight when the medics arrived. The next thing he remembered was waking up to find Chris and the others with him. The memory of what happened had been taken from his mind.



________________________________________

Ezra felt the hands grip his shoulders and jerked away in fear, he couldn't help it. He didn't know who was with him. He heard and recognised two voices. Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner, they were the two men trying to hold him still. Ezra allowed them to, their touch began to force the tremors of fear away. He opened his mouth but the words wouldn't come out. He swallowed and tried again.

"The window, I escaped through the window." Ezra nodded towards it.

Chris turned to look at the window Ezra had indicated but instead looked at the four men coming towards them. His eyes then drifted down to the automatic weapons that were aimed at them.

"Well, well, well, look who's come back to play and he brought his little friends with him." Vin and Ezra both looked to the source of the voice that had welcomed them in a very unfriendly way. Both men reacted differently. Vin tensed up and prepared himself to defend his two friends, all he needed was an opportunity, and the men he was glaring at looked stupid enough to make a mistake. But life's lessons had taught him not to go on what people looked like. These men looked like evolved apes but that didn't mean they wouldn't shoot him if he looked at them the wrong way; and Vin was definitely doing that.

Ezra on the other hand acted like an ape that had just evolved into human form. He recognised the voice and reacted in a way that surprised Chris and Vin but not the four men who took a few more steps to bring them closer to their former victim. Ezra did the t-shirts slogan proud.

"BASTARDS!" Even though he still didn't remember what had happened to him, Ezra knew these were the men who were responsible for his missing six days. The one he knew had spoken was the man that had chased him towards the window that had become his means of escape. The Southerner was surprised by his own anger and violent reaction. He jumped to his feet and rushed the four men. His intention was to make them pay for what they had done to him; he would politely ask them what happened after he beat the shit out of them.

"Ezra!" Chris tried to grab him to stop him from committing suicide but the slippery agent easily manoeuvred himself around their reaching hands. "Shit."

The man that lead the other three smiled as the smaller man came rushing towards them. This had happened before, he knew what to expect from the stubborn asshole. He would allow him to get in a few punches them stop him by hitting the chest or back of his so-called attacker. He had watched as the flesh was torn from the man's back and chest as he escaped from their clutches. The man was a worthless coward, his escape had been pure luck. He would make sure that his own attack was quick and painful. The smaller man wasn't going to get the better of him this time. He didn't want the same thing to happen as it had before. He had spent ten minutes in the foetal position and the bruising that had developed around his groin area told him that it had been a bad mistake to allow the idiot to continue his assault. He wasn't going to do it again.

Ezra didn't know why but for some reason he wanted to go straight for the groin. Something told him he would only be able to get one chance, the other three men would stop him as soon as he removed the bastard from his standing position. He reached him in a matter of seconds. Ezra put his weight onto his left foot and began to swing his right arm towards the ugly jaw of the man who stood three inches over him. The cocky Southerner smiled up at him to indicate he'd changed his mind. He gripped the man's shirt with his fists. The man frowned then screamed in agony when Ezra's right knee slammed up against his crotch.

Ezra stepped back but not quickly enough. Two of the men that had been backing their leader up grabbed him by his arms and pulled him away. The other motioned to Chris and Vin with his gun. The two ATF agents were expected to follow them. They had no choice. They contemplated taking the man who lay immobilized on the ground but had second thoughts. They would be lying dead on the ground before they managed to reach the gun that lay next to the agonised enemy.

They passed him without making an attempt for the gun. Chris couldn't help but smile at the look of pain on the man's face. Ezra had a way of cheating when it came to anything, the man didn't like to lose. Chris knew it had come from a childhood of cheating, all the older and much larger children picked on the Southerner because he was a loner. This information had been gained from the younger man during one of his drinking binges. When Ezra had an emotional problem that he couldn't deal with or refused to talk about he took to the bottle. It often replaced the main meal of the day; for Ezra that was dinner, he'd often refused to eat breakfast.

Chris looked for Ezra, he was struggling within the grip of the two men who were dragging him towards the building that housed the broken window. As he passed it, he could see someone boarding it up. No one was going to escape from there again. What the hell was going to happen to them? To Ezra? He had escaped once. What was his punishment going to be?

A door that wasn't easily spotted opened to allow the men to bring in their prisoners. Prisoners? Is that what they were? Chris didn't know these men. He didn't recognise them and he knew Vin didn't either. They were strangers, which made the whole situation even more confusing. Ezra would've had his ID on him the first time they had taken him. They would have found out that he was ATF but they didn't seem to care. They still didn't. But why didn't they?

The answer was obvious; they were sick bastards who thought they would never be caught. But they had made a mistake taking the three of them. Chris was sure that once Ezra was back in the original nightmare that he would remember who they were and what the best means of escape would be. Together the three of them would be able to get away. That's what Chris thought anyway.

Vin turned when he heard someone stumble after them. He grimaced, Ezra was going to pay for what he did to the ape that was nearly twice the Southerner's size. How did he do it? Even when the odds were stacked against him, Ezra had a way of cheating until he won. There was no shame or guilt or even apologies for the things he did. It was the way he lived and he was never going to change. Vin was grateful, he liked Ezra just the way he was. Will Ezra be the same after the goon was finished with him? He didn't know. Too many questions and not enough answers. But he knew the answers were coming.

Ezra didn't know what was going on. His memory was still full of potholes. Holes that were large enough to fit a man through. And he had fallen into one, this time he had taken his two friends with him. There was complete darkness with no sight of the light ahead. He had no idea what was going to happen. If only he could remember. Damn it he could be so useless some times. He twisted his body so he could look over his shoulder, before he could get a glance at his friends, he was roughly turned around and shoved through the open doorway.

The man that greeted him seemed familiar but Ezra couldn't place him. He did though, realise that it had to be the man in charge of it all. Ezra was about to say something when he was grabbed from behind and thrown against the wall. He grunted in pain when he hit it and the floor. Both were hard. He looked up just in time to see the still pain filled expression of the man he had downed in two seconds. His dimples appeared at the thought. The fist that slammed against his jaw broke the smile into pieces.

"Leave him." The leader ordered. He stepped up closer to Ezra and nudged him in his side. He smiled down at the green eyes that looked back at him. "You were able to get away from me before but not this time. This time your friends are going to play with you." He knelt down. "But we require a handicap, you'll remember the maze, be able to find your way out again. Not this time." He stood. Adjusted the double-breasted black suit he was wearing and moved closer to his sergeant; but only until this was finished. To allow a smaller man to beat him was punishable by death. "Drug him. You know what to use. Then throw them into the room. We'll start the game in an hour."

They began to struggle, all three of them. Ezra because he hated needles and the thought of being drugged didn't go down to well either. He didn't expect help from his friends, didn't want them to help, they would only get hurt. But Chris and Vin wanted to help Ezra, the two guns that were aimed at their skulls stopped them from interfering. They could do nothing but watch as they dragged Ezra away. Each man refused to move when they were motioned towards a second door, the one that Ezra didn't go through. The fist to the right kidney forced Chris Larabee to his knees. It was the only reason that Vin helped him to his feet and followed the man that led them away, a quick surveillance of his surroundings told him that at the moment it was useless to fight. Well at least there was an answer to one of their questions. They now knew what they were going to do to Ezra. Ezra knew their intentions but he had other ideas. Whatever it had been, he wasn't going to go through it again. He fought them as though his life depended on it; and it probably did. He kicked with his legs and struck out with his head. Hands gripped his arms even tighter and a heavy boot connected with his right thigh. He gritted his teeth against the pain and the thought that the fading bruise had just been replaced by a new one. He pulled with his arms and he knew that his captors had had enough when the fist connected with the side of his head. He became disorientated as they began to drag him towards an open doorway.

His chin fell against his chest when the throbbing in his skull became too much. The guy must have one hell of a punch. He pulled his arms again in an attempt to free them but his movements were weak. Ezra felt himself being lifted off his feet and before he could protect himself, his body slammed against the floor. He heard the door close and opened his eyes. He wasn't alone. A man stood at the side of the door. He could take him, he knew he could. He may be at least four inches shorter than the guy and weigh fifty pounds less but he could take him. He would be quicker. A knee to the groin, then the exposed face. Break the guy's nose then pound his head against the wall. When the ape collapsed to the cold cement, he would carefully remove himself from his prison and rescue his friends.

Ezra allowed his head to fall to the floor. A minute, just need a minute to get myself together and then I'll beat the crap out of the guy. When five minutes had passed without his knowledge, the door opened again. Hell, now he had two guys that he had to beat until their own mothers couldn't recognise them. Wasn't that from a movie. He waited. When someone gripped his right forearm, he kicked out with his left foot. He was rewarded with a cry of pain. It was his own. Damn. Couldn't he do anything right.

He was spun onto his stomach. He could get his left arm under his body and push himself up. That didn't work, someone pushed a knee into the small of his back stopping him from getting off the floor. He swore. At them and at his own lack of ability to fight them. Was this how it was the first time? Were they able to beat him so easily? Usually he won the game but sometimes he played against a stacked deck and this was one of those times; it was on these occasions that he cheated.

He felt the small prick of the needle as it punctured his flesh. Why were they doing this to him? The liquid that had invaded his blood stream began to do its work. He felt groggy, as though he had indulged in the bottle a little too much. Ezra blinked rapidly in an effort to clear his blurred vision. It only made it worse so he closed his eyes instead. He suddenly felt tired but the blackness wouldn't come for him.

The knee was removed from his back and he had the feeling that he was now alone. The light stabbed through his brain like a knife through his flesh as he opened his eyes once more. That was a bad idea, he quickly closed them again. He rolled onto his back and his limbs flopped to the floor beside him. This wasn't good. Ezra placed his elbows underneath his body and pushed upwards. Nothing happened. He made an attempt to roll back onto his stomach but he couldn't manage it. He would have to wait until someone came for him. But who would that someone be? An enemy or a friend?





Part One | Part Two


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