Brothers in Arms

Book Five

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Notes: This is the fifth story in the series, The South Wind, The Mouths of Crocodiles, High and Dry, China Roses and now Brothers in Arms. I am a huge Dire Straits fan, and yes this title comes from the song, as will a couple other stories that are on the way. This is my AU version of the M7 episode, Achilles, only Ezra isn't going anywhere in a tablecloth. Sorry! I also broach the tension between Nathan and Ezra, I've always felt their relationship was tense and I'm a firm believer there has to be more to it than Nathan's high morals keeping the two on a somewhat unfriendly terms. So this is my answer to the question.

Special thanks to Julie, Jen who really went out of their way to help with the first chapter of this story and KellyA, once again you guys help make these stories better than I thought possible.

Chapter 1
Chris Larabee studied the layout of the area on the computer monitor as he listened to the chatter on the radio from the confines of the surveillance van. The robbery-bomb scare they had been called to had quickly changed into a hostage situation. The situation was decidedly tense. Four gunmen were holed up in the delivery entrance of one of the local fast food restaurants. They were threatening to kill the co-driver of an armored car and the hostages in the restaurant if the money they were asking for wasn't released immediately. A nearby gas station was a growing concern as the threat of a second, yet unlocated bomb, and potential gunfire grew. The armored vehicle had been disabled by a small pipe bomb so the threat was serious.

Special Agent Larabee emerged from the van a few minutes later. A quick nod sent Vin Tanner to find a place from which he could use his well-honed sharp-shooting abilities. Chris then made his way to where the situation command car was located, followed by the remaining members of his team. He could see the Explosives Disposal Unit stationed nearby, just in case more bombs were discovered. With a quick hand signal, Chris sent his long-time friend and fellow agent Buck Wilmington to the EDU vehicle to get the bomb squad's take on the situation.

Larabee stopped beside FBI Agent Carson and Denver Police Lieutenant Dave Mathews. "They just won't budge," Lt. Mathews said as he acknowledged Larabee's arrival with a nod. "Every time we send someone in close enough to negotiate they start taking pot shots. I don't know what we're going to do to bring this situation to a blood free end." Mathews took a long hard look around the area and sighed. There were to many civilians in the area for his liking, and that bothered him more than anything.

"Where is your negotiator?" Chris asked as he ran a hand through his sand-colored hair.

Mathews pointed to a man crouched behind a police cruiser that had several new bullet holes in its windows. "That's Williams," he responded glancing back to Larabee.

Turning to his 'in-house negotiator and calming influence', Josiah Sanchez, Chris said, "Josiah, I want you to give Williams a hand at devising a plan to keep control of this situation. Keep me informed," the team leader stressed.

"My pleasure, Brother. I've worked with Williams before. He's a good hand and I'm sure we'll come to a plausible solution." God Willing, the big man thought as he turned toward the police negotiator.

"JD, Ezra, Nathan...take cover positions," Chris said turning back to Mathews.

+ + + + + + +

Nathaniel Jackson squatted patiently between two squad cars, his weapon out and ready for use. His medical kit was in easy reach and his attitude was a sign to everyone that he was ready for whatever his job required of him. He continued to look to Chris and Josiah for clues to what was happening behind the disabled armored car. The thought of possible shots being fired into the crowd that continued to gather despite police barricades bothered the medic. The local police had tried to secure the area but civilians were still insisting that they had a right to know what was happening. As such, some people crossed the barriers anyway. This combined with an impromptu trucker's strike downtown meant there weren't enough policemen for crowd control. Even the threat of more explosives didn't detour them. Nathan was concerned that someone could get hurt, or worse, killed, and what bothered him more than anything was the fact that it could be an innocent civilian.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra Standish positioned himself beside JD Dunne as they sheltered behind a lone police cruiser slightly off to the left of the main action. JD rolled his eyes at the undercover agent looking at the block ski mask he wore. "The Lone Ranger didn't wear that kind of mask," he said peering over the cruiser's trunk to get a fix on their opponent's position.

Ezra's emerald eyes twinkled as he opened the driver's side door of the cruiser for protection and then joined JD at the trunk. "That is eminently true, however, the Lone Ranger didn't happen to be an undercover agent and terribly camera shy," he replied indicating to the roaming reporters armed with their still and video cameras with an off-handed wave. He checked his Sig Sauer's ammunition and aimed at the space between the armored vehicle and the building.

The Southerner knew JD was nervous with Buck being on the other side of the action and four gunmen ready, willing and able to cause a small war in the middle. Although he wouldn't admit it to anyone, he was finding it a challenge to remain calm as well and the growing number of civilians encroaching on their position wasn't helping.

The officers at the barricade were hard pressed to keep the crowd back. The Press had their cameras rolling and their microphones were stuffed into the face of any officer or agent unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. The microphones were followed by a wave of questions like; who are the gunmen, what was the explosion that was heard earlier, is this an act of domestic terrorism, echoed from one reporter to the next. Helicopters filled the air overhead with crews reporting any activity on the gunmen to the officers and agents on the ground and the world at large.

+ + + + + + +

JD watched as the combined command team, consisting of SWAT, DPD, FBI and ATF agents all wearing their agency jackets, gathered to discuss the situation. JD smirked as the unbidden thought that the group looked like the contents of a bowl of blue-black alphabet soup.

He could hear the police negotiator try again to get the gunmen to surrender peacefully. His grip tightened on his gun as a single shot rang out sending everyone back under cover behind squad cars, garbage containers and buildings, or anything that could offer shelter from flying lead. JD looked over his shoulder and could see that the Press had gathered and were still trying to get around the sparse number of patrolmen and police barriers. He spotted a woman working her way through the crowd. It was Mary Travis, reporter for the Denver Tribune and part-time love interest of Chris Larabee. JD knew that if Chris knew she was here, he would be furious with her, but as she had pointed out to him on many occasions, it was her job and he was not going to keep her from it.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner reached his position high up on an adjacent building as a shot rang out. He quickly located his targets, stretched out comfortably and prepared to wait. Though the weather was cool he could feel the latent heat of the sun radiating up through his protective clothing. A few minutes later his headset chirped quietly.

"Eagle," Chris's voice sounded through the sharpshooter's headset.

"Copy, I'm in position," Vin responded to the unasked question.

"Got a hostage down. We can't afford to wait this one out. When you can get a clean shot...take it."

"Copy." The sharpshooter wiped his brow and took another look through his scope. He would wait patiently for the gunman to make a mistake. He wouldn't shoot to kill unless there was no other choice. In his peripheral vision he could see two other snipers positioning themselves on the roofs of other buildings.

+ + + + + + +

Civilians continued to gather along the police barricade and JD looked nervously between them and Chris. He wanted to make sure he didn't miss any hand signals from the team leader. The kid noticed a woman in her mid twenties franticly trying to keep her three young children under control. JD gripped his weapon tighter and focused his attention toward the armed gunmen. In what seemed like less than a blink of an eye the four gunmen opened fire.

+ + + + + + +

Buck was heading back to the command center as the sound of the first shot went off. He and the two agents next to him dropped to the ground on their bellies and listened as bullets flew overhead, helpless to do anything.

Police officers and Federal agents hid behind barriers and returned fire. Civilians and reporters fled the scene screaming and diving for cover, all fearing for their lives. Vin immediately caught sight of two gunmen and skillfully fired his rifle. Both gunmen went down only to get right back up and continue firing.

"They're wearing full body armor," Vin spoke into his headset as he checked his clip and cocked the hammer back on his weapon. "What do you want me to do?"

"If you can get a clear headshot...take it," Chris replied while looking at Buck, who was crawling towards the Disposal Unit van. The team leaders gut tightened when a bullet struck the ground next to his longtime friends right leg. "Hurry Vin!" he yelled, becoming more concerned.

+ + + + + + +

JD saw the gunman rise up above the hood of the armored truck. When the gunman fired in Buck's direction JD took the shot. Only to realize the woman who had been trying to maintain control over her children had reached out to pull her young son out of harms way. The bullet JD had fired entered her in the chest and as quickly as she had stepped up she went down, with blood staining her blouse. JD stood frozen at the sight unable to move. He didn't hear the guns continue to fire, officers and agents alike screaming at civilians, and he didn't hear Ezra calling his name telling him to get down.

Ezra left his cover from the squad car door and frantically pulled JD out of the way. "You all right?" he asked looking for a sign of an injury. "JD!" the Southerner called again when he didn't get a response.

"I killed her," JD whispered leaning against the rear wheel.

"Stay put." Ezra squeezed the kid's shoulder and went to find Nathan.

+ + + + + + +

Vin got one of the gunmen in his sight and he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger. The gunman flew backwards and landed on the pavement, dead. When the first gunman went down the other three came into full view and Vin, with the help of the other two snipers, put a tragic end to the siege.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan tried frantically to stop the blood flow from a uniformed police officer's chest. The gunmen had been using armor piercing bullets. He sighed in relief when the paramedics arrived on the scene and quickly took assessment of the situation. Ezra came up behind the healer and noticed the damage done by the gunmen. Four officers were down, one FBI Agent, and two civilians.

"Mr. Jackson." Ezra grabbed the medic by the arm. "Perhaps you should see to Mr. Dunne."

"He been hit?" Nathan asked concerned, he looked at his blood soaked hands and back at the undercover agent surprised that he would have left the kid in that condition. Before the Southerner could respond the medic snapped, "You shouldn't have left him." Nathan pushed past Ezra. "Where is he?"

Ezra pointed to the far squad car where Josiah was now seeing to JD. "He's not shot!" the Southerner called after the retreating form.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah helped the kid to his feet and nodded to Nathan as he approached. "You all right JD?" the healer asked. He started checking the kid for blood.

"I ain't hurt." JD pushed Nathan's prying hands away. "I said I'm fine!" The kid forced himself away from Nathan and Josiah with a slump in his shoulders.

"Give him some time Brother." Josiah squeezed the healer's shoulder.

"What happened?" Chris stepped up to the two men after noticing JD's behavior. He looked back toward his electronics expert then back to his medic and strategist.

Josiah motioned with his head in the direction of medics tending the woman who had been hit by JD's bullet. It was obvious she was dead. The paramedics were placing her inside a body bag. Her children had been taken from the scene by two female police officers and placed in the back of a squad car. The children screaming and clasping on to each other were then driven from the scene.

Chris understood Josiah's gesture and nodded his head. "Find any and all press video." He looked to Nathan. "Let them know they can have it back after we view it...I don't want this on the 5:00 news." Chris headed back to find Vin, Ezra and Buck.

Josiah understood why Chris wanted the videos. Something like this could destroy the kid's career as a law enforcement officer and having it exposed on the evening news would make a difficult situation even harder to deal with. The big man didn't think that would be something JD would handle real well. The kid tried to show a callused front before the others but he was young and hadn't seen the extent of crime the others had. He was just beginning to understand how cruel the world could truly be. Josiah headed to the first cameraman in sight and Nathan joined him, together they could be a very intimidating force.

+ + + + + + +

"Ezra!" Chris yelled catching up to his undercover agent.

The Southerner stopped and turned to face his boss. He scratched his chin reaching under the mask to do so. "Yes, Mr. Larabee?"

"Find JD and both of you get your ass's back to the office." Chris tossed him the keys to the SUV. "Neither one of you need to be here...the rest of us will follow when we're done." Chris turned and left a questioning Ezra in the wake.

+ + + + + + +

Buck slapped Vin on the shoulder as he dropped down from the fire escape ladder. "Nice shootin'." The ladies man smiled knowing full well that the sharpshooter had saved his life. The bullet that came close to hitting his leg was just the first that could have ended his life.

Chris stepped up to Buck and Vin with a concerned look on his face. He knew what had happened to JD was something that could destroy the kid's career. When he and the rest of the team got back to the office he would have to speak with the kid and get all the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Shooting an assailant was one thing, but shooting an innocent bystander was something else. Even if the kid was cleared of all charges it would be a long while before he would be put back on active duty. The emotional turmoil an officer had to deal with after a shooting could end a career just as quickly as a bullet could. The team leader motioned for Vin and Buck to join him away from the others. "Not a word to the press," Chris said looking at Vin and Buck wanting them to understand his meaning.

"What's going on?" Buck asked. He looked around and immediately spotted Josiah and Nathan talking with reporters. "Where's JD?"

"I had Ezra take 'im back to the office." Chris looked hard at Buck before continuing, "He shot a civilian."

Buck took a step back not quite believing what he'd heard, "What?"

"You heard me," Chris kept his voice down. Buck knew as well as anyone what something like this could mean to a kid like JD.

"What happened?" the ladies man asked in a low troubled voice.

"I don't know," Chris admitted truthfully. "Josiah and Nathan are getting any video from the press that could prove useful. When we're done...we'll head back to the office and get to the bottom of this."

Buck nodded his head in understanding. "Is the kid alright?" He furrowed his brow and waited until Chris shrugged his shoulders.

"You and Vin go help Josiah and Nate." Chris nodded toward Vin and headed back toward the squad car to join the other agents and police officers who were responsible for the actions of late.

Chapter 2

Ezra found JD sitting in the grass next to the restaurant trying to avoid the chaos around him. He looked like someone who'd just lost the only thing in life he cared about. In truth, he wasn't that far off. The kid's eyes were red, evidence of tears shed. The Southerner squatted in front of JD. "Lets get you back to the office." He reached out to grab the kid by the arm only to have JD shrug away from him and stand on his own.

"I ain't no baby that needs coddling!" JD snapped before heading away.

"I never said you were, Mr. Dunne." Ezra jogged up beside the young man. "Mr. Larabee wants us to return to the office. Our compatriots will follow shortly."

JD nodded his head in understanding and quickly headed for their black SUV's. He slid into the passenger side of one and slammed the door. He didn't bother fastening his seatbelt he just leaned back heavily in the seats and starred out the window pushing the rewind button in his mind and playing the 'if only's' out in his head.

Ezra looked momentarily at JD before putting the keys in the ignition and starting the vehicle. He drove away from the scene noticing the chaotic activity all around. Cops and civilians alike wiped their tears. Ambulances sped away giving one last hope of life to their unknowing passengers. Reporters gathered around like well-trained hounds on the scent of a good story. Ezra pulled out of the barrage of activity and onto the main road where at least there was a little familiarity. With a concerned eye he glanced back to a subdued JD and sighed in frustration.

"What's going to happen?" JD asked looking at the undercover agent who quickly removed his ski mask.

Ezra sighed and ran a weary hand through his chestnut hair before answering, "Mr. Larabee will ask for your weapon. It will then be sent down to ballistics for a comparison of the bullet they'll retrieve out of the civilian," he looked to JD before continuing, "then you'll be assigned to desk duty until IA closes the case. During this time you'll be required to visit the bureaus psychologist until he deems you fit for duty."

"Can't I just meet with Josiah?" JD asked, knowing he would feel more comfortable talking with someone he knew.

"As appealing as that sounds JD, my advice would be to contradict your wish's. Not that I feel Mr. Sanchez is incapable of serving your needs but speaking with someone who isn't familiar with your idiosyncrasy's would be beneficial."

"Did you ever have to meet with a shrink?" JD rubbed his hand over his face.

"All officers involved in a shooting are required to do so, regardless of the circumstances behind the shooting." Ezra could hear the tears that the kid wanted to shed but pride kept him from doing so.

"It happened so fast," the kid said in disbelief.

"Would you have it any other way?" the Southerner raised the question and JD looked at him unsure of how to respond. "Less than three percent of officers in the field are going to face what you have today. Every year those statistics go up, the more crime, the more officers have to be hired and therefore more mistakes will be made. As tragic as it is, JD..." Ezra looked back to the kid, "'re going to aid in the training of officers all over this country, saving more lives than what was lost today."

"That's an awful cold way of lookin' at it," JD said in frustration. He took a life and he wasn't in the mood to be rewarded for it.

Ezra nodded his head, it was a cold way of looking at it, but it was also practical. "You should get used to it, Mr. Dunne, because when it comes down to it, she'll only be another statistic." Ezra watched as the kid forced himself closer to the door. The conversation was over and the Southerner couldn't blame him. The range of emotions the kid would be going through would be confusing enough without Ezra's cold input.

Chapter 3

Buck entered the ATF offices with one thing on his mind. Making sure the kid was okay. Between himself, Josiah, Nathan, and Vin the team had managed to confiscate three videos. The cameramen had insisted they hadn't captured anything on video worth viewing but the team had insisted and promised to have the videos back before the news deadline. Buck had warned Chris to take it easy on the kid. Things were going to get hard enough without the team leader making things harder. Larabee knew that protective stance all to well, Buck could be worse than a mother bear protecting her cub when he needed to be. JD was that kid brother Buck had always wanted and never had, not until the kid showed up looking for a job.

Everyone knew the procedures. And the team intended to be there for the kid when he needed them to be. Josiah stood back and watched, sometimes that was the best thing to do, especially in a situation like this. Buck headed right into his office to lend a supporting hand to the kid. He intended to be that shoulder the kid could lean on. Vin and Chris headed into the team leaders office. They needed to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. Chris wanted things back to a normal routine and Vin wanted to make sure JD hadn't done anything that could be damaging to his career. Nathan was angry. He was angry at the situation, not at anyone in particular. Josiah understood how much life meant to the healer and the big man only hoped that Nathan didn't do something he would regret. Ezra sat in his office talking on the phone. Josiah was surprised the undercover agent hadn't even taken the time to change into his regular clothing and the strategist then understood how much this incident had affected all the members of this team.

Chris stepped out of his office and headed to Buck and JD's. The man was a professional to the last and he intended to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. JD meant as much to this team as any of the other members and he intended to see the kid walk away from this.

Chris knocked softly on the doorframe before stepping in. He noticed JD starring blankly at his computer screen and Buck nodded his head knowing what was coming. "JD," Chris started but waited until he got a response out of the electronics expert.

JD didn't wait to be asked, he handed his weapon to Chris. "It was an accident," the kid said barely above a whisper.

Chris nodded his head. "I know," he said confidently, leaving no room for doubt. "I need you to come with me JD and make a statement. You need to answer a few questions and tomorrow you'll meet with IA, then you'll meet with the bureau's Psychologist...It's all standard procedure."
He looked to JD.

JD nodded his head and got up. "Who was she?"

"Edie Jamison," Chris responded before following the kid out of the office.

Chapter 4

It had been three days since the shooting and the conclusions were now coming in. The autopsy showed Edie Jamison had been shot twice. Once by JD's weapon and once by the assailant's weapon. Either shot could have caused her death, but the autopsy proved that Edie had been shot first by the assailant, which in turn caused her to move at such an angle that it caused her to be placed in JD's direct line of fire. This cleared the kid of any wrongdoing but he was still having a difficult time dealing with the fact that he'd shot an innocent civilian. JD had met with IA on several different occasions and he'd also met with the bureau's Psychologist. It had surprised the kid that Vin, Nathan, Josiah and Chris had all met with Dr. Pat Meyers within twenty-four hours after the shooting. As Chris had told him, "It's standard procedure." The only ones who didn't have to meet with the psychologist was Buck, who was on the other side of the incident and being shot at, and Ezra, who'd abandoned his post to tend to JD.

The kid was still restricted to desk duty and would be for some time and in a way he was relieved. He didn't know if he would ever be able to pick up a gun again, much less fire one. Buck had been there for him every step of the way, there wasn't a moment in the day that the ladies man wasn't asking the kid how he was doing, could he do anything, did he need to talk. It was a source of comfort but at the same time it was smothering him. There was a white canvas in front of the kid and he didn't know what to paint. He didn't know if he wanted to continue in law enforcement, if he couldn't shoot, how could he do his job? The idea of not being able to do his job like he knew he was suppose to bothered him to the point of depression. The bounce was gone from his step. No more 32oz cokes, or trying to get sharp pencils to stick in the ceiling tiles. He answered questions with a nod or shake of his head and a whispered 'yes' or 'no'. Inside he was dying, and the more he thought about Edie Jamison the more he knew his mother would be disappointed in him.

Josiah had told Chris and Buck both that the kid was grieving and needed time in order to properly deal with the emotions he was confronting. Buck didn't buy it he wanted his friend back. Chris had agreed and let Josiah know, he was, however, concerned about the rest of his men. Nathan seemed to be reaching new anger heights taking his frustration out on the Southerner and on occasion the sharpshooter. Vin remained quiet, as usual, mostly observing and knowing he didn't dare try and do something. JD was fragile at the moment and pushing him would only make things worse. The kid wasn't talking to anyone in the office and Josiah could only hope that Dr. Meyers was making some leeway. Ezra did his job and Josiah had to wonder what the man was thinking because most of the time the undercover agent acted as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Buck was as depressed as JD only instead of being quiet he got angry, much like Nathan. Simple answers were now turning into shouting matches, more times than not they were with Chris.

+ + + + + + +

Buck picked up his phone. "Wilmington," he snapped before realizing who it was. Buck smiled and quickly put the caller on hold. "JD!" Buck yelled slipping out of his seat and heading to the kitchenette. He spotted the kid at the sink rinsing out a glass. "Casey's on the phone." He leaned against the counter and waited for a response.

"I don't want to talk to her." JD put his glass on the counter and started to walk away. Buck grabbed the kid's arm as he walked by, disappointment written all over his face. "Damn it Buck!" JD snapped pulling forcefully away from him. "I said no!" It was the first time in three days that the kid had said more than one word and say it above a whisper.

"It ain't your fault kid," Buck said in a low voice trying to get the kid to see what everyone else had. JD didn't have any control over the situation and it wasn't his fault.

"It was my mistake!" JD snapped again causing Vin, Josiah, and Chris to come out of their offices. "And I ain't a fuckin' kid!" he yelled loud enough to make sure everyone had heard him. He looked the others in the eye before taking the stairs out of the building.

Buck went to go after him but was stopped by the sound of Josiah's voice, "Let him cool off Brother." Josiah grabbed his arm.

"So he can go out and do something stupid!" Buck snapped pulling out of Josiah's grasp. "He needs to talk to somebody."

"It won't be you." Josiah looked hard at the ladies man.

"How do you figure that?" Buck could feel his blood start to boil, the kid meant more to him than his own life.

"He feels like he let you down," Josiah started to reason. "He needs an equal ground before he's going to talk to anyone. He looks to Chris like a hero, somebody he wants to be like. And he looks to you like a big brother and all he sees when looks to you is your disappointment in him."

"Josiah's right Buck," Nathan said stepping out of the office he shared with the big man.

"Maybe Vin," Buck looked to the sharpshooter, "you could go and talk to 'im, just get him to open up."

Vin shifted nervously at the thought. "I don't know Buck, I ain't real good with words."

"And Mr. Tanner is to 'cool'." Ezra raised his eyebrows at the idea slipping out of his office. He'd heard JD talk about Tanner like he was a comic book hero, according to the kid Vin could shoot a dime from ten miles away. Vin turned a darker shade of red before turning his attention elsewhere.

"So who's goin' to talk to 'im, you?" Nathan looked doubtfully at Ezra obvious skepticism lacing his words.

"Now ain't the time Nate," Vin spoke up knowing the healer was looking for a fight.

"Why the hell not?" Nathan challenged. "An innocent woman was killed leaving three children and her husband without a mother and wife." The healer looked back to Ezra. "The rest of us are walkin' on eggshells and 'good ol' Ez' is business as usual. I want to know how you do it?"

Chris stood back and watched. He knew Nathan had a problem with Standish and it wasn't only because of his high morals or Ezra's lack of. There was something eating at the medic and it appeared that the shooting with JD had pushed him over the edge. Chris as well as the others wanted to know what it was about Ezra that Nathan had a problem with.

"Vin's right," Buck spoke up. "This ain't the time or place."

Ezra looked around the room and shook his head in disbelief. It was now or never. "I disagree," he said looking at Nathan.

"You're a sanctimonious son-of-a-bitch," Nathan snapped anger burning in his eyes.

"And you base this on?" Ezra raised his eyebrows and offered an explanation. "What? The fact that I don't treat the young Mr. Dunne like a snot nosed kid. Or maybe it's the disrespectful relationship I have with my mother that offends you so." The Southerner raised his voice, "I live life by my own standards not yours."

"Standards?" Nathan looked harder at the undercover agent. "What in the hell do you know about standards?" The medic took a threatening step forward. "You're suppose to be a damn good undercover agent but for some reason..."

Josiah leaned back against the wall, here it comes, he thought as he watched the scene play out before him.

"Some reason, what? Mr. Jackson," Ezra snapped unwilling to back down. He was done trying to justify his reason for being every time Nathan entered a room.

"You want to know?" Nathan challenged and waited until Ezra nodded his head. "You went undercover in a small white supremacist group in South Carolina and came up empty. You were undercover for three months and you couldn't pin shit on anyone in that group. How many arrests did you make working undercover before that case?" The medic pointed his finger at the Southerner. "Every fucking case you worked before that one you got a conviction on."

Ezra bowed his head and rubbed his brow, he hadn't been expecting this. "You're telling me this 'display' is the result of my working undercover when I was twenty-five?" the Southerner looked disbelievingly at the medic. "Yes, I worked three months on a case dealing with white separatists not supremacist that were 'suspected' of producing illegal notes. No, I didn't discover any evidence that warranted an arrest." Ezra glanced around the room and didn't find any support. "Kids, Mr. Jackson, kids...eighteen, nineteen maybe twenty years old...that's who I investigated. Kids who weren't allowed to go to public schools, malls, or libraries because their parents feared they would communicate with someone other than a purist. So a kid by the name of Joey Macby, who liked to draw, drew pictures of money. There wasn't any malice behind his actions. Nobody burned any crosses, nobody wore hoods, and nobody wanted to kill anyone. They were kids trying to make good out of a bad situation." the Southerner paused and looked angrily at Nathan, "I don't need to justify my actions to you Mr. Jackson, if my southern heritage troubles you so perhaps that sanctimonious attitude you accused me of encompassing is shared by you as well." Ezra slipped into his jacket and headed for the stairs.

The medic took a step back, he hadn't been expecting a response to his accusations. "I'm sorry," Nathan spoke up turning back towards the Southerner. "I let a part of my past shade my opinions of you."

Ezra nodded his head. "Don't ask me to justify my actions again..." He looked hard at the medic, "...because I won't do it again." The undercover agent waited until Nathan nodded his head in understanding before heading back to the stairs.

"Beware the Furry of a Patient Man," Josiah said watching the retreating form of the undercover agent. The big man knew if Ezra had wanted to the scene could have turned much uglier.

Chris ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "Vin." He looked at the sharpshooter. "Go find JD, take Nathan with you." The team leader looked at the medic and got an understanding nod. "Buck, you and Josiah go find Ezra...I want these problems worked out," he looked hard at his men, "we're a team...start acting like one." Chris turned and headed back into his office.

Chapter 5

Ezra entered the saloon and spotted JD almost immediately. The kid sat alone at the bar nursing a glass of beer. Inez nodded to the Southerner and moved away from the bar to give him and the kid some privacy. There were only a couple other patrons in the saloon quietly enjoying a game of darts. Ezra hung his jacket on the coat rack near the door and slowly made his way to the kid. The undercover agent slipped into the stool next to the team's electronic expert. Ezra didn't say anything, he wanted to wait until the kid made the first move, nobody liked to be pushed into anything, and the Southerner knew that better than anyone.

JD didn't look up from the counter top when the undercover agent slipped onto the bar stool next to him. He grabbed the handle on the beer glass and made the golden fluid swirl, almost making it spill over the edge. He knew it was Vin or Ezra when the door opened; they were too quiet to be anyone else. Buck would have slapped him on the shoulder and ordered a beer before he sat down. Josiah would have greeted him with a quote once again telling him that things would work out in time. Nathan would have checked him for a fever, even though he felt fine. Chris would have been quiet as well but he would have spoken JD's name, only to reaffirm who was sitting next to him. When the kid glanced down he saw the dark blue slacks and knew right away it was Ezra sitting beside him. Even though the Southerner spoke in complete sentences rather than one worded answers he knew the importance of silence. Vin was a lot like Ezra when it came to being silent, sometimes a look could say more than a word, or in Ezra's case, a sentence.

The kid took another drink of his beer and looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar for the first time. "I turned my resignation in to the Judge today," he spoke up, speaking just above a whisper.

"I take it you haven't informed Mr. Wilmington of this?" Ezra rested his elbows on the bar and looked at the kid through the mirror.

"I fucked up bad Ez," JD spoke almost defeated.

"There were two choices you could have made that day JD." Ezra looked seriously at the kid. "You made the best choice."

"How can you say that?"

"What would have happened if Mr. Wilmington had been shot or if the bomb had been struck by a bullet?" The Southerner looked at JD who seemed to be having a hard time thinking about anything except what did happen. "If that bullet had struck the bomb we wouldn't be sitting here talking, instead someone would be sifting out our remains from the debris that bomb would have created." Ezra nodded to Inez after she handed him a beer then quickly headed back to cleaning her shot glasses. "You detoured that gunman from shooting at the bomb to shooting at did the only thing you was the right decision."

JD continued to stare at his beer taking in what Ezra had just told him. "I keep seeing the look on her face." He rubbed his eyes that threatened to spill the tears he needed to shed. "Her kids...they all saw her die." He remembered how painful his own mothers death had been, how she suffered after long months of fighting a cancer nobody could see. JD quickly wiped the stray tear away from his cheek and continued to stare at his beer.

Ezra remained quiet allowing the kid to take his time. He took a drink of his beer and waited. He saw the door open and close and he noticed Vin and Nathan move to the back of the bar and sit in the booth the team usually claimed on Friday nights.

"I put a gun to my head last night," JD admitted regretfully. He was surprised that Ezra didn't flinch at the idea.

"What stopped you?" Ezra asked, knowing how desperate the kid was feeling and thankful he was talking to someone about it.

JD paused a moment before answering, "My ma," he admitted then continued, "before she died she wanted to confess her sins to a priest because she didn't want to go to hell...she was afraid she'd never see me again." JD smiled remembering back. "I didn't even know we were Catholic until she asked to see her priest." The kid sobered again and looked back at his beer. "I'd heard that if you commit suicide you go to hell and..." JD paused before speaking again, "...I really want to see my mom again."

Ezra watched almost envious of the tears JD now shed unashamedly. "Your mother would be proud of you JD."

+ + + + + + +

Vin and Nathan entered the saloon and saw JD and Ezra sitting at the bar talking. It was good Vin thought. The kid needed someone to talk to. The sharpshooter pulled on the medics arm and pointed to the booth in the far corner. It would enable them to keep on eye on both Ezra and JD while at the same time keeping an eye on the door.

"What do you think they're talkin' about?" Nathan slipped into the booth and leaned back against the rust colored leather.

"Don't rightly care," Vin said settling himself. "As long as they're talkin'."

+ + + + + + +

JD nodded his head and looked up in the mirror to watch Ezra's reaction. "Have you ever thought about it...thought about killing yourself?"

Ezra thought about the question and he thought about his answer, "Yes, I've thought about it."

"How far did you get?" JD asked hoping for some kind of an answer.

The Southerner reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change and a single bullet. He picked the bullet out and replaced the change in his pants pocket. The bullet had a gold tip and copper bottom, it was obvious to anyone looking that the slug wasn't new but it had never been used. Ezra placed the bullet in front of the electronics expert.

JD looked at the Southerner not understanding his meaning. "Was this the bullet you were going to use?"

"I had that specially made." Ezra pointed to the gold tip. "It has a hollow tip. I wanted to make sure I did it right."

JD swallowed and picked up the bullet and looked it over. "What stopped you?"

"I don't like to lose." Ezra chuckled lightly before taking a drink of his beer.

JD understood what the Southerner was hinting at. He figured it had to do with Ezra being falsely accused of taking payoffs. This was, however, the first time the undercover agent admitted to not giving up on finding who started the rumers and why. JD looked at Ezra and back to the mirror to look at himself. He liked talking to the man sitting next to him. Ezra didn't pull any punches and he didn't sugar coat anything and JD was thankful for it. "What do you think I should do?"

"What I think Mr. Dunne isn't relevant. What matters is what you think you should do."

JD thought a moment. "I love this job."

"Then might I suggest you walk up to Judge Travis's office and ask for your resignation back." Ezra looked at JD. "Do what you have to do...don't let the situation destroy you."

JD put the bullet he'd been holding back down on the bar counter and smiled to Inez who quickly refilled his glass of beer. She smiled to him and frowned when the saloon door opened and Buck stepped through followed closely by Josiah. The big man grabbed Buck's arm and guided him to the back table after seeing Ezra and JD at the bar. He didn't want to disturb them.

JD noticed how the others gathered at the back and he turned to look at them. He did love his job. For the first time in his young life he felt like he belonged and he was as important to these men as they were to him. The kid looked toward the door and noticed Agent Carson and two other men enter the saloon. JD looked to Ezra then back to Carson.

+ + + + + + +

Vin hit Buck in the shoulder almost immediately after the ladies man sat down. The sharpshooter pointed towards the door. "S'pose we might have some trouble." He looked to Carson and the two other men that followed him in the saloon.

"Reckon we might," Buck acknowledged leaning farther back in his seat ready to do whatever was necessary to protect any member of this team.

+ + + + + + +

Carson stepped into the saloon and let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting. He spotted Agents Standish and Dunne at the bar, he didn't waste any time and headed over. "Standish, Dunne," Carson spoke up behind the men.

"Carson," Ezra acknowledged but didn't turn around to face him.

"Nick." JD spun around in his seat to face the FBI agent. He went ahead and used Carson's first name because he was no longer on the clock. The kid was willing to do what was necessary to defend Ezra, it was the least he could do.

Carson stuck his hand out for JD to shake and the kid didn't hesitate to respond. "Just wanted to let you know you have mine and my teams support," he offered before moving away to sit at a table with the two men that followed him in.

JD sat stunned. He wasn't sure why Carson had put all his animosity toward the Southerner aside and taken time to shake his hand and offer support. The kid looked at Ezra who remained facing the mirror. "How about a game of pool?" The kid said hoping to repay the undercover agent for his patience and time. "I've got..." he reached into his wallet and pocket to retrieve his money, "...sixteen dollars and thirty two cents." JD looked at Ezra and noticed the smile that crept onto his face.

"Sixteen dollars and thirty two cents." The Southerner looked inquisitively at the kid. "Mr. Dunne, part of being a good gambler, or con artist, is never allow your opponent to know how much money you have on you at any given point."

"Well hell, Ez," JD smiled for the first time in days. "I ain't a professional gambler."

"I said a good gambler not a professional." Ezra turned and returned the smile JD felt comfortable in sharing.

The door to the saloon opened again and the black clad form of Chris Larabee stepped through. He spotted JD and Ezra at the bar and walked to join them. "Ezra...JD," he nodded to both of them. He threw a white envelope on the counter in front of the kid and waited for a reaction.

"Listen Chris...I," JD started but found it difficult to finish.

"Judge called me up to his office regarding your resignation." Chris looked hard at the kid in his usual intimidating manner. "I won't accept it," he started to turn away, "I'll expect you to be in the office in the morning." Chris turned and headed for the rest of the team in the back.

JD looked at the envelope and sighed, "Thank God."

"Yes, well..." Ezra got to his feet. " about that game of pool?" He smiled and looked at the kid, "Bring the beer."

The End

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Continues in: Wayward Son