azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Retribution
Rating: PG
Warnings: Strong Language.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
AU: ATF
Main Characters: Ezra, Chris and the rest of the guys.
Summary: Chris is seriously injured when he saves Ezra. This results in an extremely pissed off Ezra Standish, an angry and hurting Chris Larabee and a very irritating Buck Wilmington.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Notes: This story was written for Robin from the Chris Larabee Fan Fiction site. She asked for to write a story for a challenge, which is CHALLENGE #1: LARABEE LASHINGS. Robin wanted me to hurt Chris in much the same way that I do Ezra and because she is also a fan of Ezra, I was encouraged to include and hurt Ezra Standish as well. I thank her for the challenge and I enjoyed writing it. It has also caused me to include Chris more in future stories.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 31,360



Trees lined the sidewalk giving the two men some cover from the light rain that had started only minutes before. The day had been warm and the darkness wasn’t able to give them a reprieve. Their t-shirts were soaked with sweat from the physical torture they were putting their bodies through. It was supposed to be called exercise, it was also supposed to good for you. How can anything that makes you hurt be good for you.

Chris Larabee wiped the sweat off his forehead and ran his hands through his wet hair as he jogged beside his undercover agent and friend, Ezra Standish. The peaceful expression on Ezra’s face made him even more angry than he already was. Chris was trying to keep his temper under control because losing it wasn’t going to do him or Ezra any good, it would only make things worse. Hell, how much worse can things get.
His undercover agent had suffered a great deal of emotional torment during his last operation and it was showing. His wall of defence began to crumble a few days ago. The fact that his emotions were showing told them how badly he was doing. His friends were trying to help him but there seemed to be nothing they could do. He had refused to see a shrink and now Chris was attempting the last thing left available to him.
The leader of team seven thought that if he'd manage to get Ezra out on his own that he would be able to convince him to talk. He knew that Ezra tried to jog every evening, so he showed up on his doorstep forty-five minutes ago and now here he was regretting that he'd even tried to help him. He would not do it again, it wasn't worth the effort.

He’d been nice, he talked about the weather and other things. It had been a one sided conversation, Ezra had refused to even acknowledge that someone was with him. So he ordered him to talk. Ezra had politely refused him by using profanity that Chris had never heard him use before. Chris had almost retaliated by using his fists.

Now Larabee was fuming, at himself for even considering doing something so stupid and at the stubborn Southern bastard that ran along side of him. Chris looked sideways at his undercover agent, the handsome features were still impassive. They didn’t reflect what was raging out of control on the inside. But for some reason Ezra didn't care, he didn't care that he was being torn apart because of what had happened or what his stubborn pride was doing to the friends around him.

The temper that Chris had kept under control erupted. He grabbed Ezra by the arm and spun him around and before the Southerner could stop him, Chris pushed him backwards until the brick wall stopped his backward momentum. He ignored the younger man's yelp of pain as his back scraped against the wall. He had become too angry to care, he'd past that emotion two minutes ago.

"Talk and talk now!" Chris growled into the uncaring expression of the Southerner. "You’ve been silent for too long Ezra."

"Mr Larabee, as I have explained to you before, there is nothing and will never be, anything for me to talk about." Ezra answered as calmly as he'd been taught to. "I’m a cold bastard remember, I have no feelings, I don’t care about anybody but myself."

Chris didn't like having the words he’d spoken a few months ago thrown back in his face so he hit him, he couldn't help it, the man had a way that would even make the Pope want to hit him. But he did wince when the side of Ezra's head hit the wall. When the younger man turned back to him, blood ran from the split lip and right temple.

"Is that it?" Ezra wiped the blood from his mouth. He knew his leader was angry, too angry but he didn't expect him to resort to physical violence. "Maybe you want to hit me again, beat me to a pulp. If it’ll help you Mr Larabee, then go ahead."

"Fuck you!" Chris yelled at him. "If you don't talk, your off the team and I mean that Ezra. I’m sick of you shutting us out, you can’t deal with this sort of thing on your own. You’ll be a risk, you won’t be able to do your job, and you might even get someone else hurt." Chris regretted those words instantly but he couldn’t take it back, not now, he had to get the bastard to talk about what happened.

Ezra cast his gaze downward but only for a split second. His green eyes returned to stare at Chris. There was no emotion, no hurt, no anger; nothing. Chris allowed this to enrage him even more.

"If that's the way you want it Ezra, you won't get our help, you can deal with the death of that person on your own." Chris didn’t want to say it but he had to put Ezra’s back against a wall so the only way he could get out of it was to move forward. Ezra’s job was his life, he wouldn’t allow himself to lose it. It may take a few days for him to come back but he will. He knew what he was doing, he hoped he knew what he was doing.

"I don’t want your help," Ezra licked his bloodied lip nervously, "I’ve told you that before, but you won’t listen to me, none of you will.."

Chris grabbed the wet t-shirt that Ezra wore and used his training to throw him away like a piece of garbage. His anger was now controlling him, he knew what he was doing was wrong but he was too angry to stop. He watched as Ezra landed painfully on the road. Chris let out a deep breath, he was grateful that Ezra hadn’t hit one of the large trees. He waited without wanting to help - notch up another one for his anger - as Ezra struggled to lift his still healing body off the road. Fifteen years on the job caused Chris to look towards the sound of a car engine roar then accelerate. Bright headlights highlighted Ezra's form within the darkness. Chris saw the owlishly expression that Ezra's face held as he stared at the oncoming car.

"Shit!" Somehow, Chris knew that Ezra wasn't planning on moving and neither was the car.

He rushed forward to tear Ezra away from the danger that was heading towards him. Chris threw himself forward and wrapped his arms around Ezra’s waist, his momentum threw them both forward. When he thought they had escaped injury, his hands were torn from Ezra's body by the impact of the car. Pain tore through his left hip and leg, his shoulder slammed against the hood of the car then everything went black. Chris didn't feel his skull break under the force of the windscreen or as his body fell to the ground in an unmoving heap.

Ezra also fell for a second time, but this time he refused to get up. His green eyes searched the road in front of him, he stopped looking when he saw Chris lying in a heap in the middle of the road. Ezra tried to move but his body refused to obey his commands. Shock. It had to be. He wouldn't purposely not help a dying friend. Chris needed him and he couldn’t go to him. Maybe his own body was hurt but he couldn’t feel any pain. He was a coward, a coward that didn’t want to see what he had caused by being so stupid. But it didn’t matter, Chris was dead already. No one could survive that, the car was going too fast. Car? Did he even look at it or the licence plate number. A hit and run and he couldn't even identify the car involved in Chris' death.

"Chris?" his voice was nothing but a strangled whisper.

He watched and listened as people began to gather around Chris, they crowded his fallen friend and stared down at the blood that covered half of Chris’ face. None of them offered Chris any help, they were just there to watch, and they needed something they could use to start a conversation


"Get the hell away from him!" Ezra’s voice couldn’t be heard over the mutterings of the crowd. "Get away from him!" this time his words were loud enough to be heard, they looked at him, ignored him, then turned back to Chris.

Ezra stood up, his anger and fear giving him the strength he needed, and moved to his friend. He pushed his way through the crowd, yelling at them to leave his friend alone. When he reached Chris he fell to his knees, the sight of the blood made him gag. He swallowed and forced himself to look at Chris.

"Chris, I’m sorry, it was my fault, I didn’t . . . " he stopped talking, but the words continued in his mind.
This is my fault. Why did Chris have to give his life to save my worthless hide. He didn't have to die, not for me, he shouldn't have.

Someone yelled out for anyone in the crowd to call 911.

Ezra’s mind was focused on Chris' body. He couldn't physically move any closer to him, he wanted to lift an arm and hold the limp hand in his but he was afraid of getting Chris’ blood on his skin. If that happened, he would never be able to wash it off. It would be there for the rest of his life; like Susan Summer’s blood was.
He shouldn't have argued with him, if he'd told him what he was feeling this wouldn't have happened to Chris. It should have been him that was lying dead on the road. He deserved it, not his friend.

Distant sirens sounded in the forefront of his mind. They were too late. Lights flashed on and off causing his eyes to squint against the brightness as they were pulled away from Chris’ face. Hands grabbed him and pulled him away, he fought against them and began to kick out at anything that moved.

Whoever held him finally let go and he dropped to the ground once more. From where he sat, he watched as the medics attended to Chris. Clothing materials were torn open and cut off the body. Gloved covered hands were quickly caked with blood. After the initial examination a breathing tube was forced down Chris’ throat, the medics then lifted him onto a stretcher and wheeled him away.

Ezra didn’t know whether to feel relief or fear. The tube meant that Chris was still alive but he wasn’t breathing well enough on his own. He could still die. A face appeared in front of him. Another medic. The expert hands quickly examined his body but he felt nothing. Guilt was the only thing that he could feel now. Guilt and self-hatred. He had done this. He was lifted to his feet and walked to a waiting ambulance. Ezra thought about refusing to go with them, he wanted to hide, to go home and drink himself into a drunken stupor but he knew he couldn’t. Someone had to phone the others and he preferred that it wasn’t a stranger that informed his friends that Chris was dying.

________________________________________

Five men stormed through the swinging doors of the emergency department. Vin Tanner lead the small group that had every intention of spending every hour of every day with their friend and leader. Ezra had phoned Vin and given him the bad news but hadn’t give him a lot of information on Chris’ condition. Vin walked purposely to the front desk, the expression he held told everyone that no one was going to survive. Get in his way and you die. In his mind, it was as simple as that.

The only nurse at the desk was talking to an unknown person on the phone. Vin listened for three seconds - a miracle - and once he knew that it wasn't an emergency he leant over the desk and disconnected the call.

"Chris Larabee and Ezra Standish! Where are they?" Vin's voice was calm, the tone even but the four men who stood behind him knew what he was really feeling. They were all feeling the same fear.

The elderly nurse adjusted the hair over her ear and smiled kindly to the man that had disconnected the call to her daughter. She recognised the look and decided not to argue. "Mr Standish is in the emergency waiting room. " she pointed towards the door that read 'waiting room'. Vin wanted to hit her. "Mr Larabee is in surgery. I'm sorry but I don't have any news on his condition. I'll make sure that a doctor will come down once the surgery is over."

"And Ezra?" Nathan moved closer to the desk. He grimaced at the confused features. "How is he? Did he get hurt?"

"There are a few slight injuries but he refused to allow us to look at them. He said he didn't get them from the incident, as he put it."

"If you could get a doctor please and have a sedative ready. He'll need it." Nathan began to walk towards the waiting room.

"Why would you need a . . . " she began.

"Just do it!" Josiah growled in his baritone voice.

Nathan stood outside the glass doors and waited. He knew what Ezra had been going through, they all did. He'd been a wreck ever since the death of Susan Summers. He just wouldn't let the rest of them see it, or know it but they could see the small signs that he couldn't hide and those signs had been getting easier to see. She had been an innocent victim and the Southerner had taken on the responsibility of her death. Only Chris knew all the details but they knew enough to know that he was hurting inside. And now this had to happen. Their undercover agent sat in a chair, his elbows rested on his knees, his head was placed between those knees and his hands were connected over the back of his head. Nathan could see the blood on Ezra's fingers, was it his or Chris'. The ex-medic couldn't see Ezra’s face. Nathan knew he was going to have to force the younger man to allow the doctor to check him over. Forcing him would cause him to fight back, the agent would even resort to the use physical violence if he thought it would help him win. That's where the sedative was needed.

The dark agent turned slightly to take in Vin's worried form. "Send the doc in when he gets here." he nodded to Josiah to join him.

"I want to know what happened to Chris first Nathan. I need to know." Vin grabbed his arm before he could open the door.

Nathan retaliated by taking Vin's shirtfront and dragging his face towards the glass door. "Look at him Vin. Ezra's in no condition to tell you anything. I would say for sure that he's in shock. Doctors should have checked him over, should have done their job." he let Vin go. "You can wait like the rest of us."

Nathan opened the door and stepped through it. He then moved slowly to the unoccupied chair that sat next to Ezra. The emergency room was eerily quiet for a Friday night. Maybe it was the calm before the storm. It happened, he knew it from previous experience. They had better get Ezra taken care of while they had the chance. He sat down in the seat and placed a hand on Ezra's shoulder. He could feel the small tremors that radiated from the body next to him. He waited until Josiah filled the chair on Ezra's right.

"Ezra, we're going to get the doctor to have a look at you." Nathan squeezed the shoulder in support and in an attempt to stop him from running.

"I'm fine." the Southern accent was thick and full of emotion.

"No you’re not." Josiah took an arm and removed it from its position.

Ezra pulled the arm back but Josiah held onto it in a tight grip. He nodded to Nathan, the fight was about to begin. Nathan pulled the other hand free and together they forced the smaller man to stand. The ex-medic in Nathan saw the injuries and even though they weren't serious, he knew they were doing the right thing. The glazed green orbs also told him that he was correct in his assumption that he would be suffering from shock.

Ezra didn't want help, he didn't need it, or deserve it. He was no longer a part of the team, Chris had fired him. Would they allow him to go to Chris' funeral? No, not if they blamed him and they would. His anger at his own self-inflicted situation rose and he used what strength he had left to pull away from the two strong grips that held him. He was only free for a few seconds before their grips returned. He fought them, why, he didn't really know anymore. A hand wrapped around his throat. He listened as more people entered the room. His right arm was pulled straight out in front of him. A man in a white coat appeared before him. A needle gleamed in his hand. He fought even harder as the needle pricked his skin.

Within five seconds, Ezra's eyes rolled into the back of his sockets. Nathan felt the struggles stop as the burden of the smaller man's weight fell into his arms. He eased him into Josiah's hold and followed the larger man to the gurney that waited outside.

"You should have done this earlier." Nathan warned the doctor that had begun to check Ezra's injuries.

"He said he was fine. We can’t force him to receive medical treatment." the doctor glared at Nathan. "I shouldn’t have done what I just did."

"Well now that you’ve done it, you can check him over and take care of his injuries." Josiah growled at him.

"I’ll let you know when we’ve finished so you can take him home."

"No need, I'm coming with you," Nathan helped pushed the gurney towards one of the treatment rooms, "and I doubt he’ll be going home."

Vin had watched as Nathan and Josiah subdued Ezra with the help of a doctor and sedative. Josiah had then carried out the injured agent and carefully laid him down on the gurney. Vin looked into the face that looked younger than the man actually was and berated himself. Nathan was right. How could he put his own needs before Ezra. The Southerner had been there, he’d seen it happen. Ezra needed them just as much as Chris did, if not more.

________________________________________

Ezra woke up with a churning stomach and a bad headache. He could smell the starch sheet that covered him. But there was no sound from a heart monitor or ventilator machine. He was fine. Chris wasn't. His former leader and friend no doubt died while he was asleep. He didn't want to open his eyes to see the angry faces that surrounded him. Not that any of them were there with him. Vin and Buck would be with Chris. They would be informing the doctors of the funeral home that should be contacted for their friend's remains. But his stomach didn't give him a choice. It wanted to empty itself of the turmoil that had gripped his stomach from the moment Chris Larabee had knocked on his door. It had been the same every night for the last five days. Tonight it had finally come to a head. He hadn't appreciated the help his friends were trying to give him. They didn't understand what he was going through so how could they begin to help him, and because of his stubborn pride, Chris was either dead or dying.

He opened his eyes and turned to his side. A silver bowl was being held for him. The hands were delicate and soft, they obviously belonged to a female. The others weren't here, it was for the best. He allowed his stomach to do its work. The muscles clenched and unclenched until they ached. The nurse wiped his mouth when he had finished then gave him some water to drink, she then helped him back onto the gurney. He wasn't in a bed, they hadn't admitted him. He could go home but he didn't want to. He had to find out about Chris, but he was being forced to wait, his stomach was refusing to settle. His eyes closed and he rolled onto his left side.

"Ezra?" Josiah waited, he didn't think Ezra had fallen asleep again. He put his hand on his friend's shoulder and Ezra jerked away from him. "It's okay Ezra, your okay. Doc said you'll be fine."


Ezra nodded, he knew he was fine, the car didn’t hit him like it was supposed to. Chris had gotten in the way because he was feeling too much self-pity to move his own stubborn butt out of the way.

"They just want you to rest here for a while, then I'll take you home." The larger man put his hand back onto Ezra's shoulder but the younger man pushed it away again. Josiah hung his head. Ezra was still fighting them and now was not the time to fight back.

"How’s Chris?" His voice was a whisper.

"Still in surgery." Josiah told him. "We don't know yet."

"Where’s everyone else?" Ezra started to push himself up. He wanted to be there when Chris died.

"Whoa there Ezra, you need to rest." Josiah assured him as he tried to push him back down.

"No I don’t! I want to be there when Chris . . . " Ezra pushed him away and fell back down onto the gurney.

"Chris won’t die Ezra."

“How would you know? Did God tell you that?” Ezra retorted.

"You’re right Ezra, I don’t know.” Josiah hung his head in shame, he shouldn’t lie to Ezra, not under these circumstances. "I shouldn’t have said that."

"No you shouldn’t have, you didn’t see him lying there on the road, covered in blood. I thought he was dead Josiah, I still think he’s dead. I need to see him so that I know he isn’t."

"I can't convince you to stay here for a while then?" Josiah watched as Ezra gave him an angry glare.

"Okay."

Ezra struggled to sit up, it was a task but he managed it. Every part of his body ached, pain from the old bruising had been reignited. He looked upwards towards Josiah and found him looking at him. He didn't like the expression that he held. It was full of pity and guilt. He quickly looked away from him and ignored the arms that were reaching out to help him. He could do this on his own, he was going to have to start doing things on his own again. Once the others found out what had happened they weren't going to want anything to do with him. It was something he couldn't blame them for. Ezra ignored the pain and pushed himself off the gurney and onto the floor. His legs shook and he almost fell, but they soon steadied themselves. He indicated to Josiah that he was okay. Josiah led the way and Ezra followed him.

The silence filled the elevator as it made its way to the eighth floor and the ICU. Ezra felt Josiah's eyes as the man continued to look at him, but he refused to acknowledge that Josiah was even there. The short trip was agonisingly slow for Ezra. He wasn't enjoying being in a confined space with a man that was capable of killing him with his bare hands. He rested with his back leaning on the wall of the elevator and his eyes stared at his feet. Ezra listened as Josiah began to try to make conversation with him, there were questions that he refused to answer and others that he couldn't answer.

The elevator stopped and he walked slowly behind Josiah. He didn't know what the reception was going to be like; they didn’t know what really happened but they soon will. He heard Buck and JD's voices then saw their feet stop in front of him. Nathan's larger feet came next and he felt his hands on him. He pushed and stepped away at the same time. Vin's quieter voice asked him how he was doing. He didn't answer.

"Have you heard anything about Chris?"


"Not yet Ezra, it’ll probably be a few hours before we see the doctor." Nathan informed him. "Why don’t you come and sit down before you fall down."

Ezra began to make his way to a corner that housed a single chair, he wanted to sit alone. Hands grabbed both of his arms and pulled him towards the centre chair against the wall. Nathan sat on his left and Josiah on his right. The others sat on the floor around him. It wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to be alone. He lifted his feet up onto the seat and pressed his knees against his chest. He wrapped his arms around them and placed his head against his knees. This helped him to hide from the others.

"How you feeling Ezra?" Nathan looked sideways at him. "Ezra?"

"I’m fine, the car didn’t hit me, and it hit Chris."

"I didn’t ask if you were okay, I asked how you were feeling." Nathan repeated his question.

Ezra lifted his head and stared at the ex-medic. "Oh, I’m just dandy Nathan, I feel great, which is quite surprising actually. I mean I just watched a friend get run down by a car, thought he was dead but he wasn’t, although he still might die. Yeah, I feel fucking great."

"You’ve got a right to be angry Ezra, but do you think you should be taking that anger out on us." Nathan put his hand on the back of Ezra's neck and felt him tense up underneath his touch. "And you’ve gotten yourself a fever."

"I’m sorry.” Ezra said it but he didn’t really feel sorry, he knew he should but he was thinking about the way he knew these men would react when they found out the truth.

"You want me to take him home?" Josiah asked Nathan.

"I don't want to go home." Ezra growled at them.

"That’s understandable." Buck muttered from his position on the floor. He patted Ezra's leg in understanding.

The silence settled over the waiting room. Each man fighting the fear of losing one of their own. A leader they respected and admired, a man that was more like family than a friend. Vin still wanted to know what happened but didn't want to question Ezra in the state that he was in. It could wait. Everyone but Ezra looked up when the elevator doors opened. Two police officers stepped out.

"Ezra." Josiah nudged him. "Ezra, the police are here."

"Tell them to go away." Was Ezra's only response.

"Can't do that Sir." The larger officer stated the fact with an expression of impatience and anger. "We’d like to question you about the accident."

"He's not up to it." Nathan stood up and moved closer to Ezra's side in an attempt to protect him, which is more than he had been doing for him lately.

"This will only take a few minutes. We can get a more detailed statement tomorrow." the second officer spoke with more sympathy than his partner did. "It's best we get an APB out on the car and driver tonight, rather than tomorrow."

Nathan nodded in understanding and sat back down. The first officer stepped back to allow his partner to question the second victim. They had been informed that the first victim was still in surgery and they wouldn't be able to question him for a while; if he lived.

"Why don't we start with your name." he took out a pen and notebook.

"Ezra Standish." Josiah spoke for a silent Standish. "He's ATF, we all are."

"You want to tell me what happened out there Agent Standish."

It took a few moments for Ezra to answer. When he did, his head stayed hidden and his body began to shake. He was going to have to tell the truth. They were about to find out how it happened. "I was in the middle of the road, the car was coming but I couldn’t move. Chris tried to get me out of the way, which he did, but the car hit him instead." he could see everyone’s eyes staring at him, he was the centre of attention.

"Did you get a look at the driver?" the second officer continued.

"No." Ezra's voice was low.

"What about the car?"

"No." It was barely a whisper now.

"I thought you said he was ATF." The first officer scowled down at him. "You're supposed to be able to . . . "

Buck had enough, the man had no right to talk to Ezra like that, not after what he'd been through. He jumped to his feet and used his right fist to stop the demeaning words and wipe the expression off the officer's face. Buck grimaced at the pain in his hand, he rubbed it as he continued to give the officer a threatening look. He was grateful for the support when the others stood up and moved next to him. A wall of human bodies appeared in front of Ezra and they were willing to do anything to protect him, even after what they just heard.

"You just assaulted a police officer." the man spoke from his position on the floor.

"Forget it Bill. You deserved it." the officer that was still standing smiled at Buck to ease the tension then waited patiently for the man's protector's to move away from him. "You didn't see anything that might help us?"

"No."

"You saw nothing?"

"I didn’t see anything."

"What were you doing in the middle of the road?"

“I was crossing it." Ezra lied, they didn’t need to know that part yet.

The five ATF agents could hear the anger in Ezra's voice. He was only just holding it together.

"That's enough." Nathan stood back up. "You can talk to him tomorrow."

"Any particular reason why you didn’t move yourself out of the way?"

"No . . . I don’t know why I didn’t move . . . "

"Your friend ran from the street onto the road to save you, and you can’t explain why you didn’t save yourself." the officer that Buck had hit got his confidence back, if anyone tried to hit him, he’ll be ready for them.

"I said that was enough!" Nathan raised his voice.

"I guess I froze."

"You froze, that’s all you have to say. Your friend almost died, probably will die because you were too scared to move out of the way. Are you a coward . . . “

Ezra took the bait and rushed out of his chair, he pushed Buck out of the way and ran his shoulder into the officer’s midsection. He felt an elbow slam against his back but it wasn’t enough to stop him. Ezra threw his head up in a controlled motion and felt it smack against the asshole’s chin. The cry of pain he heard brought a smile to his face. He used his knee next, slamming it into the man’s groin. The officer fell to the floor and curled himself up against the pain.

"Now that was assaulting a police officer." the second officer informed Ezra. "You Agent Standish are under arrest."

"No he isn’t." Buck stepped in front of Ezra.

"You’ll have to go through us to get him, which means you’re going to need backup." Vin smiled at the police officer.

"Our boss is a Judge, he’ll say it was a false arrest, have it put on your record and you’ll stay in uniform for the rest of your career." Josiah crossed his arms and joined Buck.

"Can we have an address where we can reach him if we need to speak to him again." he wasn’t that stupid that he would ruin his career or pension.

"We'll be here." Josiah stated with confidence. More confidence than he actually felt.

"We'll come back tomorrow then." the officer tipped his hat and picked his partner up off the floor.

Ezra returned to his original position in the chair. His eyes closed, he was still feeling the after effects of the sedative that he was forced to take. He wanted to go back to sleep, to wish that it was all a dream, to wake up to find that he was late for work and to arrive to a demeaning speech about tardiness that was given to him by a very healthy Chris Larabee. What if Chris died while he was sleeping, no, he had to stay awake.
Ezra managed it for just over an hour, then his head fell towards his chest but he jerked it back up again. He blinked quickly trying to drive the threat of sleep away. He felt someone begin to pull him down towards the chairs.

"I don’t want to go to sleep." Ezra protested.

"You need to sleep Ezra, we'll wake you when the doctor comes. Okay." Nathan put the folded jacket that Buck had given him under the smaller man's head. Josiah's larger one was used as a blanket. A few minutes later Ezra was asleep, he wasn’t able to fight it any longer.

"Wonder where he got the split lip, he didn’t have it when he left work." Vin reached a slim finger towards the injury but didn’t touch it.

"I wouldn’t think that it would’ve happened during the accident, looks like someone hit him." Nathan shrugged.

"Think Chris did it?"

"Why would Chris hit him." Buck joined the conversation.

"Why would anyone hit Ezra.” Vin slapped Buck across the back of the head.

"You’ve got a point there Vin.” Buck nodded.

________________________________________

Buck lifted his head and looked around at his silent comrades, they wouldn't return the look. He didn't mind, he didn't want to see the fear that mirrored his own. His light blue eyes fell onto Ezra's sleeping form. He hadn't moved since he fell asleep. The pity that he felt pulled at his stomach. Why did Ezra have to go through this after what he was already going through. Life wasn't right, and most of the time Ezra's life wasn't right. It always seemed to do him wrong. He looked down at his watch to find that three hours had passed. Shit! What was taking them so long. The sound of the waiting room doors opening answered his question. A doctor wearing blue scrubs walked into the room.

"Ezra!" Buck violently pushed him. He didn't want to spend ten minutes trying to wake him up.

"Are you gentlemen here for Chris Larabee?"

"Yeah." Vin answered then turned away and shook Ezra again. "Ezra! The doc's here."

Ezra opened his eyes and looked for the man who had brought them the bad news. He sat up and squinted through his half closed eyelids, sleep still had control of him.

"I'm Doctor Haroldson." He introduced himself and after the impatient looks, he received, he continued. "Mr Larabee is in the post-op recovery room at the moment, we'll be moving him to the ICU shortly."

"He's still alive then?" Nathan asked him.

"Yes." he looked at Ezra. "Is he okay?"

"Not really, he was there when it happened, shock but he won't go home." Nathan informed him. "Back to Chris, what are his injuries?"

"His injuries are mostly to his left side. His hip was dislocated, he's going to be off it for a while. There was internal damage, blood vessel problems and his kidney which we had to remove . . . "

"You removed his kidney?" Buck was shocked.

"Had to, couldn't repair it, too much damage." he replied. "A few cracked ribs. Hell of a lot of bruising. But there may be a problem . . . at the moment he’s in a coma and he’s having trouble breathing on his own. We did a CT and found nothing wrong, there isn’t a skull fracture, no swelling to the brain or excessive fluid, and no bleeding. So at the moment we don’t know why he’s in the condition he’s in, there’s no reason for it. The EEG was also fine, so we know there’s brain activity. Everything looks fine"

"You don’t know why he’s in a coma?" Buck asked him even though the doctor had just told them that.

"No we don’t."

"Is he going to wake up?"


"Yes he should, it’s just a matter of when, and it could be a few hours or a few days." "Will he be okay though, I mean if you’re sure he’s going to wake up soon?" it was Vin who asked the question.

"As long as no complications set in then yes, he should be." the doctor smiled. "And if he doesn’t wake up?" Buck took control of the conversation again.

"He’ll wake up, I’m positive."

"But what if he doesn’t."

"Then he’ll stay like that."

"Shit!"

"Don’t worry, he’ll wake up." the expressions the men held told him that they didn’t believe him, they had already decided that their friend wasn’t going to wake up again. "He was very lucky that the car wasn't going at top speed, he wouldn't have survived."

"What do you mean?" Vin stepped forward.

"From my experience I would say that the car wasn’t going very fast. It was moving fast enough to do some damage but not enough to kill him."

"When can we see him?" Buck asked him.

"He'll be in recovery for a few more hours, then we'll move him to ICU, you can see him then. In the meantime, why don't you get some rest or something to eat. Maybe you can get your friend there something warm to drink, make it sweet. I'll send someone to get you when Mr Larabee's ready for visitors."

"Thanks doc, appreciate the help." Vin shook his hand.

"No problem. I'll see you later." he turned and left them alone.

Vin waited for the doctor to leave before turning to his friends with a large smile on his face. "He's going to be fine."

"You hear that Ezra, Chris is going to be fine." Buck knelt down in front of him and slapped him on the shoulder. "He's going to be just fine."

"Only if he wakes up Buck!"

________________________________________

Vin was the first to step into the ICU with Buck close on his heels. Both men were in a hurry to see their friend, to assure themselves that he was still alive. The two men stopped, causing the others to bump into them. Wide opened eyes stared at the form in the bed. Chris was pale, too pale, he didn't look okay. The heart-monitor beeped as the movements of the green line echoed the sounds. The respirator tube filled his mouth and throat, forcing oxygen-rich air into his lungs. Chris' shallow breathing was both, a welcome sight and sound, although it was the respirator that was breathing for him. Vin looked at the breathing monitor, each breath was assisted, and he knew the tube wouldn’t be removed until the monitor told them that Chris was taking each breath on his own. IV lines were inserted into the back of his palms. One hand was bruised, showing them that it had taken more than one attempt to insert the IV. A large square bandage covered part of his left skull. The sheet that covered him stopped at the waist allowing them to see the bandage that covered the wound to his side. A kidney had been removed. But he was still alive that was the main thing.

There were only two chairs in the ICU cubicle. Vin and Buck took them. They would alternate with the others so each man would get to sit close to Chris. The others circled around the bed. Ezra stayed by the door. He refused to go any closer to the man he had nearly killed. Chris Larabee may still be breathing, but that didn't mean that he was going to live. He had done this to him, no one else. If only he hadn't fought with him, if he had talked like Chris had ordered him then he wouldn't have ended up in the middle of the road. Why had he just stood there like a scared animal, he didn't know. But the lack of movement had forced Chris to risk his life to save his. Why? His life wasn't worth anything.

"Hey Chris, it's Vin. You hear me in there?" Vin leaned forward and picked up Chris' left hand. He had to hold it from underneath so he wouldn't pull at the IV.

Chris didn't react to the sound, there was no movement under the eyelids, no twitching of the mouth to show that he was trying to say something. He just continued to breath in and out. His chest rose slowly then collapsed slowly. The movement repeated itself. It was better than no movement at all.

"It was a good thing you did to keep Ezra from being hit, pity you didn’t move any quicker." Buck smiled down at his friend. "You’re getting to old for that sort of shit."

Five men turned when they heard a loud intake of breath. They saw Ezra quickly look away from them. He was trying to force himself further back into the door.

"How come you didn’t see the car Ezra?" Vin asked.

Ezra only turned further away from them. His mind was in turmoil. The body lying on the bed reminded him of the bloodied corpse of Susan Summers. She died, and her death was caused by him. An innocent victim, he should have done more for her, he should have saved her life.

"Leave him be Vin." Nathan warned him. "This wasn't Ezra's fault."

"I wasn't saying that Nathan," Vin retorted, "I just wanted to know why he didn’t see the car."

Ezra knew what Vin was thinking, it was the same thought that crossed the mind of the police officer that had questioned him earlier. As far as he was concerned, they were right. He was an ATF agent for Christ sake. He'd been trained to see things that normal people couldn't see. His mother had trained him to read people, to spot a con, to see things that he could use. All his life he took notice of everything, he never missed anything. And now . . . now all his training had failed him, he didn't see the driver, or the type of car they were driving, or the licence plate. He was useless. Ezra was now grateful that Chris had fired him, he wasn't any use to the team. Not anymore.

"I think it's about time we got some coffee." Josiah informed the group. "Ezra you want to come with me?"
Ezra shook his head. Josiah would only try to talk to him. Tell him it wasn't his fault - that would be a lie - that he shouldn't blame himself for what had happened. That's what he had tried to tell him before.

"I'll go with you Josiah." JD moved towards him. "I need some air anyway."

Josiah agreed and before he left, he gave Nathan a look that told the ex-medic to take care of Ezra. The Southerner was angry, angry at himself and the world around him. He was going to crack soon and they couldn’t allow him to be alone when he did, he might be angry enough to hurt himself.

"When do you think he'll wake up Nathan?" Vin asked him.

"You heard what the doctor said Vin, I can’t tell you anything different, and we’ll have to wait." Nathan explained to him.

"Exactly, why don't we do the thing that we do best!" Buck growled. "Wait."

"After we're sure Chris will be fine we'll go and find the person who did this." Vin stated with anger.

“And how are we supposed to do that Vin. Ezra didn't see anything, we've got nothing to go on." Buck reminded him.

Ezra slumped and allowed himself to slide down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. They were blaming him, as they should. Hell! They wouldn't blame him for leaving. He knew that was a certainty. He couldn’t win either way with these men.

Vin saw an expression on Ezra's face that equalled guilt. Ezra knew something but he wasn't telling them what it was. He was going to have to ask him later. But how was he going to get him to talk. Ezra had refused to speak to anyone in regards to how he was feeling and coping with the death of the woman during his last case. This time he was angry, maybe he could use that against Ezra, use it to get him to talk.

"Come on Chris, wake up. Don't make us wait." Buck was becoming impatient. He wanted to hear his friend's voice.

Chris Larabee, through no fault of his own, had every intention of making his friends wait.


________________________________________

It wasn't until six-thirty in the evening three days later that Chris Larabee became aware of his surroundings and the pain that filled him. Voices were surrounding him, some familiar, some strange. He fought his confused mind to try to remember what happened. It took a few seconds then he remembered Ezra. The undercover agent had stood in the middle of the road waiting for that car to hit him. He tried to swim upwards out of the darkness he was in. Light soon invaded his mind and he had to squint to ease the brightness. The pain in his skull grew in intensity. God he was in pain. He'd only been hit by a car, not a truck. He could also feel something that was filling his throat, making it hard for him to breath.

Ezra! He had to take care of Ezra, make sure the stubborn bastard didn't do anything else that was as stupid as the stunt that he had pulled earlier. Why did he do such a thing? He knew he was suffering, that he wasn't dealing with his problems but to just stand there and wait to be killed. That wasn't any way for a man to go.

The voices became louder. He recognised Vin and Buck's voices. They would take care of Ezra for him until he was capable of doing it himself. If only he could open his eyes, get their attention and then give them their orders. He blinked finally and stared up into an unfamiliar face. He frowned in confusion. He hadn't wanted this man, he wanted Vin or Buck. Chris blinked again and groaned as his eyelids grew heavy. Not now! Have to talk to Vin and Buck. Got help Ezra. Ezra needs me. Not now. His eyes closed as he drifted off. He fought it as long as he could but it was a losing struggle.


________________________________________

"That's a very good sign." the doctor informed them. "Even though he was only awake for a few seconds. A very good sign. We should know for sure when he wakes up again. We’ll also take the breathing tube out, he’s breathing more on his own now."

"That's a relief." Vin replied as he smiled down at Chris' slack face. His friend was fine. Now that they knew that, they could take care of Ezra. He looked over at Ezra. The man sat in a chair in the far corner of the room. He had refused to sit anywhere near Chris. The man was obviously blaming himself for what happened to their leader. A full cup of coffee sat in his right hand. He wasn't drinking it. No doubt, it would be cold by now. He had also refused to eat a decent meal. They had tried to force him but the expression that he had given them told them that he would fight anyone who came close to him.

The Southerner was close to breaking. Vin knew it, they all knew it but they couldn't get close to the man. JD had been the one to give him the coffee. He turned his eyes to Nathan. The larger man was also watching Ezra. The concern he was feeling was evident on his expression. He watched as Josiah joined Nathan in his scrutiny of Ezra Standish. They spoke to each other for a few seconds then moved towards Ezra. Vin stood up, they were going to need help.

"Ezra." Nathan knelt down in front of him but not too close. Ezra had a habit of kicking out with his legs. As a child, he had learnt to cheat when it came to fighting boys who were both larger and taller than him. "I think it's time we took you home. You need some rest."

"No."

"Ezra, it’s been three days, you’ve hardly eaten or slept since this happened." Josiah also tried to convince him that he should go home.

"No."

"Ezra . . . "

"I said NO!" Ezra shouted at them.

"You need to rest Ezra, you won't do Chris any good by getting sick yourself." Nathan tried.

"We're taking you home Ezra." Josiah leant over the smaller man and attempted to grab his arms.

Ezra pushed him away and the coffee spilt everywhere. He wanted to fight them, just like he had the other four times they had tried to force him to go home but he was too tired to protest physically so he had to try it verbally.

"Please Josiah, after he wakes up again. I'll go home then. Please."

Josiah stood back and hung his head. He didn't know what to say. He'd never seen Ezra beg before.

"Promise Ezra." Nathan answered for him.

"Promise." Ezra nodded.

Ezra wanted to see Chris awake, to hear the doctor say he was going to be fine. After that, he would go home. Not to rest but to pack his things and leave.


________________________________________

He was going to get a second chance, he could feel it. Life was coming back to him and it felt stronger this time. He floated upwards into the light and opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the white ceiling of the hospital ward. He opened his mouth to give the warning that he so desperately wanted to give. Nothing came out. Now what!? He tried again and all he heard was a soft moan. A face quickly appeared in front of him blocking his view of the tiles above him.

"Hey Chris, good to see you." Vin smiled down at him.

Chris turned his head and almost cried out at the pain and nausea that filled him. He swallowed the bile and looked into Vin's eyes.

"Ez . . ." Chris managed to say.

"He's fine Chris." Buck assured him.

Chris wanted to turn and look at Buck but he didn't dare. "Ezra . . . "

"He's here. You want to talk to him?" Vin asked him.

"Ezra . . . " Chris started but couldn't finish.

"I know Chris, don't worry we'll look after him." Vin patted his shoulder. "You get some rest. We'll be here when you wake up."

Chris tried again. Why was it so hard. Ezra needed help and he couldn't do it. He wasn't capable of asking his friends to take care of him.

"Ezra . . . " A single tear ran down his cheek. He remembered and forced his eyes wide, he had to stay awake, and he had to tell them. It wasn't an accident, he had known that the car was deliberately aiming for Ezra. It had been the driver's intention to hit Ezra. He'd realised it at the time. He was able to help Ezra then by pushing him out of the way but he couldn't help him now. What if the person tried again and there was no one there to help Ezra.

"Vin . . . have to . . . " No he couldn't form the words. They were becoming slurred and more difficult to say. Chris raised an arm trying to hang onto the outside world. Someone gently took it and laid it back down on the bed next to his side. He was going back to the darkness. "Have to . . . " his eyes closed and he couldn't force them open again. He couldn't fight it anymore. He went back into the world of darkness knowing that Ezra's life was in danger.

Vin felt someone shift behind him, he turned to find Ezra staring at Chris.

"I'll go home now."

"I'll take you." Buck went to grab his coat from the back of the chair.

"No. You stay. I'll just have a shower, sleep, then come back." Ezra slowly moved to the door and opened it. He turned and looked at Chris one last time. The door closed behind him.

"We should go with him Vin." Buck was looking at the closed door.

"We will as soon as the others get back. I don't want to leave Chris alone." Vin sat back down. "They won't be long, then we'll go look after Ezra."

"I think I'll go after him." Buck told him.

"Leave him be for a little while Buck, he needs some time alone. We'll check on him later." Vin nodded to chair.

Buck nodded and sat back down. He hoped Vin was right. Ezra didn't look like he should be left alone. He needed help even if he didn't want it. He hadn't wanted it since that girl had died. Maybe Vin was right. Ezra hadn't had a lot of time alone since the girl's death. Perhaps that's just what the Southerner needed and wanted.


________________________________________

Ezra stopped in front of his townhouse and looked around at the surrounding area. He’d always liked this place, mainly because it was the first place he thought he would, one day, be able to call home. But he had known better and he was correct in his assumptions. He was both grateful and regretful that he had never unpacked his belongings and made it the home he wanted it to be. The thought brought back a memory. The last time he had thought that he had been transferred without his knowledge to the ATF. To a group of people that he hoped was going to allow him to stay. It didn't happen, he'd been fired. It was time to move on, find another career and a place to live. He would have to go to a hotel and pay by the day. He wasn't going to remain in one place for very long, not under the new conditions of his life. Things were never going to be the same again.

He pulled out his keys and unlocked the door. He didn't bother turning on a light, the darkness satisfied his mood. Ezra moved through the darkened hallway into the living area. His bedroom was to his left but movement from his right caught his attention. He turned quickly but not quick enough. A blurred vision of a heavyset man was the only thing he saw before a fist sent him to the floor. He grimaced at the pain as he looked for his attacker. Was it one of his friends? Josiah perhaps? No, they wouldn't have been able to reach his home before him.

"Still alive I see Standish." the husky voiced growled down at him.

This was definitely not one of his former co-workers. "Who cares?" Ezra struggled to get up but the lack of food and sleep had caused his body to weaken. Jesus, why was everything going so wrong lately.

"I certainly don't. I was aiming for you but your friend caused me to miss." the voice continued.

Ezra felt a hand tighten around his throat and begin to cut off his air supply. He struggled and kicked out at the form in front of him as he was lifted off the beige carpeted floor. He felt himself moving through the air but his movement stopped when he hit the wall. His ribs felt the blow and caused a bolt of pain to rise up into his chest.

"Lucky son of a bitch aren't you."

"Depends on who you’re asking." Ezra felt the hot breath on his face and he tried to move away from it.

"So why'd he do it?" the man that Ezra was yet to recognise asked him.

"Why did who do what?" he continued to grabbed at the hand that was wrapped around his throat. It was tight enough to cause him to struggle for air but lose enough to allow him to talk. This man knew what he was doing.

"The man who pushed you away. I mean your life isn't worth saving and no one should waste their own to save yours, that's for sure. But maybe the poor bastard didn't know any better."

"Who the hell are you anyway?"

"I'm the man that's going to finish off your friend, then you." he growled.

Chris!? He was going to finish off Chris. Why? Ezra began to fight even harder. He managed to pull his knee up and slam it hard into the man's groin. The grip around his throat loosened but didn't disappear. He used his knee a second time then he felt himself fall to the floor. Ezra didn't stay down for very long. He quickly got up and used his knee for a third time, this time it slammed into the unprotected face of the man that was bent towards him. The man cried out in pain as the cartilage in his nose broke easily under the blow.

Ezra then threw a right hook but it was blocked by a raised arm. A fist connected with his stomach and forced the wind from his lungs. The healing cracked ribs screamed in protest. Now if Chris had been concerned about his ribs he wouldn't have been running last night and Chris wouldn't have nearly been killed. Ezra was almost angry enough to blame Chris for what had happened. But it was his own fault that Chris had been forcing him to go jogging.

A fist to his face forced him to the ground again. A heavy weight landed on his chest, the man was now sitting on him. His damaged ribs began to give way under the heavy weight. The unknown assailant leaned over until the blood from his nose dripped onto Ezra's face. The Southerner moved his head away but a meaty fist grabbed his chin and forced his head back to its original position. The man leered at him.

"Your friend is going to die first Standish, then you. He may have seen my face before his head hit my windscreen. You should have seen the blood that was splattered all over the window, pity it wasn't his stupid brains. Maybe he didn't have any, I mean he did try to save your worthless hide."

Ezra stared into the cold blue eyes as the words hit home. There was something familiar about them and as long as there was familiarity, he would eventually remember the face and name that went with those eyes. Everything went black as the fist began to hit him again and again.


________________________________________

He stood in the middle of the abandoned warehouse. Dust covered the floors and his shoes. He silently hoped he was going to able to save them, the shoes hadn't been cheap for the ATF to buy. Everything he wore was supplied by the ATF, he wasn't willing to use his own clothes. Blood was a very hard stain to get rid of.

Four men surrounded him, but he wasn't too concerned because his associates were listening to his every word. As soon as he gave the signal, or they knew something was wrong, they would storm the building arresting anyone that was involved in the criminal activity of selling guns, including himself.
He'd been working this case for nearly a month and everything was going to plan. It was now down to the last minutes, everything that he had done had come to this. Ten minutes from now the case will be over, the arrests made and once he was released, he would be on his way to the local bar with his friends with the intention of getting drunk.

That was until the woman showed up. Then everything went to hell and stayed there. He saw her first out of the corner of his eye. How the hell did she get in here? The young figure was dressed in rags and carrying a bag that held her only possessions. She was obviously homeless and looking for somewhere to stay. He hoped that she was able to disappear before anyone else saw her but the hope was shattered when the man standing next to him saw her.

"Shit." were the only words that the man spoke before the gun appeared in his hand.

He wasn't going to allow him to kill an innocent woman, even if it cost him his own life. "Get out of here now!" he screamed at the top of his lungs.

The woman froze and her large brown eyes stared back at him. She didn't seem to see the gun that was being aimed at her. The girl that still had her whole life in front her wasn't moving.

He grabbed the raised gun arm and turned it towards the bodyguard. He was only able to manage this because he had the element of surprise. The gun went off and the man fell to the ground in a bloody heap. A fist hit the side of his head and he fell to the ground. Feet began to kick him and he felt his ribs crack under the blows. He forced his eyes open when he heard a gunshot. He hoped that it was Chris and the others. It wasn't. The girl lay against the wall, the blood slowly flowing from the chest wound. Her lifeless eyes stared back at him. He should have been able to save her. Another boot to the head sent him into oblivion.






Part One | Part Two


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