Previous Stories in this Series
The South Wind
The Mouths of Crocodiles
High and Dry
Brothers in Arms
A Raven in the Snow
Notes: This is an unexpected piece I decided to write after my sister insisted I give Ezra a break from all the bad in his life. Im introducing a female character that is just a friend and shes only staying for this story. I thought that by bringing in someone who is a free spirit, it might give all the boys the breath of fresh air that they really need. As my sister said only so many bad things can happen to one person in the span of a year, so the boys are getting a short break.
Special Thanks to Julie, Jen, and Antoinette for making this story better. You all really are Betas.
Ezra sat in Judge Robert Mitchells chambers listening to the attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense for Dr. Greg Wade and his associates. Because this case was being kept quiet, all the attorneys had agreed to keep Ezra off the witness stand and allowed him to be questioned before the Judge residing over the case. In truth their only questions were regarding the evidence Ezra found while undercover. If he let it slip that the evidence was obtained through illegal means then the case would be classified as a mistrial and everyone would go free. Ezra, however, had different plans. As far as everyone was concerned, the packet of information that had been discovered by the emergency room staff had been slipped to Ezra under his room door at the mental facility. After he reached the emergency room the hospital staff had removed the packet from Ezras leg and had given it directly to Chris Larabee, because thats whose name was written on the envelope. Questions surfaced in regards to why Ezra had written Chriss name on the envelope, as he wasnt officially assigned to the case.
Ezra ran his hand over his face feeling slightly light headed. It had been a long day and he was in desperate need of a break. It had only been five days since he had been released from the hospital and his body was still in need of healing. Hed spent the last two days in bed sleeping. If it hadnt have been for Nathan and Josiah, he probably would have slept all the way through. However, they woke him from time to time, insisting he take his medication and drink plenty of fluids, and that was all he did. Nathan had been concerned about his lack of energy but after a brief visit with Judge Travis neighbor, who was a retired emergency room physician, had relayed that his behavior was normal for such an invasive trauma, so everyone relaxed. Ezra slept. Today however, Josiah had awoken him early and helped get him dressed, thankfully in some of his own clothing, for the appearance before the Judge and the attorneys.
He felt better, much better, but he was still weak and a chill racked his bones. Nathan had informed him that would ease in time. This was the first day he was able to eat more than just a few crackers and his stomach was thanking him for it. His headache had disappeared, sometime ago. But the pain in his side was the constant reminder of what had happened, and what almost did happen. Whether he did it intentionally or unconsciously nobody could tell, but his right arm was always at his side tucked tight up against his ribcage. Nobody made mention of it because they knew if they did hed stop doing it.
"Are we to believe your statement that a mysterious person left these documents under your door?" the defense attorney, Albert Rays, asked.
"Yes," Ezra replied.
"Agent Standishs report will state in full detail how he acquired the evidence. I see no reason to further question him on this matter," Counselor Barbara Davis shot back.
"Credibility must be established," Rays argued, looking at the Judge.
"Judge Orin Travis already established Agent Standishs credibility in the report that, need I remind you, we all received yesterday." Judge Marshall looked at everyone in the room before directing his attention back to Albert Rays. "I think weve all heard enough," the Judge made a decision, knowing that if he didnt the prosecution would continue with their questioning. Judge Marshall wasnt a man that would sit around and listen to six versions of the same question. "Agent Standish." He looked toward Ezra. "You are dismissed but you may be recalled for further questioning should that need arise."
Ezra nodded his head thankful the meeting was coming to a close. He wiped his forehead feeling flushed.
"Are you all right Agent?" the Judge asked out of concern. He knew what kind of condition the man was in.
"Im fine," Ezra answered, leaning back in his chair.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. Josiah sat nearby waiting for Ezra to finish up with the Judge and the attorneys. It was after three oclock in the afternoon and the doors had been closed for more than five hours. Chris and the others were back at the offices finishing up some last minute paperwork before they could escape for some time off. Judge Travis had promised them a week and they all needed it.
Chris and the others had decided, without Ezras permission, to continue working on the Harrison case. The Judge had given them permission to continue using his home as their headquarters. Ezra still needed to be looked after. Until he was up to speed he was going to need some supervision, even if he didnt want it. Nathan knew it would be tough for him today. Ezra had been up since seven a.m. and had yet to slow down. Nathan and Josiah would be lucky if they didnt end up carrying him out of the courthouse.
Josiah stood up and stretched his back. "Do you need anything Brother?" he asked Nathan, who shook his head.
The door to the Judges chamber opened and the three defense attorneys left in haste. Barbara Davis stepped out next followed closely by her assistant, Ty Greene, a shy kid who wore thick glasses and looked as if a heavy wind would blow him away. Barbara stepped up to Josiah and Nathan, she knew who they were after the brief meeting they had the day before. The woman lived law. Her appearance proved it. The elegantly cut dark blue pants suit, glasses, and hair pulled away from her face, gave her the visage that she was attractive but devoted to her job. A good portion of her counterparts-- attorneys, counselors, and lawyers often called her a heartless shark or something to that effect. She wasnt a large woman by any means but she carried herself well and demanded attention for her intelligence...not because of her pretty face.
"Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sanchez." She shook both their hands and smiled. She was content with Ezras testimony and felt confident that he wouldnt have to return.
"Howd it go?" Nathan asked, getting to his feet.
"Good," She smiled, "I think the defense has come to realize that Dr. Wade doesnt have any grounds for lessening the charges against him. He will, of course, escape the death penalty since he is cooperating."
"What about Ezra?" Nathan asked out of concern. He watched as the Southerner had stepped out of the office and proceeded to lean against the wall with a tired sigh.
"The questions asked focused around the acquirement of the evidence he found. Thankfully," she paused looking over her shoulder to the undercover agent, "Judge Marshall saw through the repetitive questioning and called an end to the meeting. He did ask that Agent Standish be available for further questioning should the need arise." Barbara gripped the handle to her brief case tighter and motioned for her assistant to hold the elevator for her. "If you and your team could get me your reports dealing with this case as soon as possible, itll help me in preparation for my opening statements."
"Well get them to you before the end of the week." Josiah stuck his hand out for the woman to shake and she did so with gratitude.
Nathan escorted her to the elevator while Josiah headed towards Ezra. The undercover agent was still leaning against the wall with his head tipped back and his eyes closed. "You alright Brother?" Josiah asked, concern lacing his voice.
Ezra straightened up and pushed himself away from the wall. He nodded his head in answer to Josiahs question. "Im fine."
"How you feelin?" Nathan walked up and handed Ezra the bottle of orange juice hed gotten out of the vending machine moments earlier.
"Tired," Ezra admitted. It wasnt like him to admit to anything. He opened the orange juice and took a long drink.
"Lets get you back to the house." Josiah placed a strong hand on the Southerners shoulder and pushed him toward the elevator doors.
+ + + + + + +
JD finished packing up the laptop computers the Bureau was letting them use while they finished up the reports for the Wade case. Buck packed up a printer, all the while wishing that the Judge had his own computer equipment. After all, the man did own a room full of pinball machines. Buck had to wonder if Judge Travis wasnt really a kid at heart simply because Billy wasnt quite tall enough to play on his own and there were too many coffee rings on the tall stools stationed around the room.
Vin finished packing up the files hed retrieved from Agent Carsons office. Carson was on his way back to Quantico for a weeks worth of training. Nobody would miss him. Carsons own men had stopped by and asked about Ezra. Finally, people were starting to take notice that the Southerner wasnt the one to be blamed for the past transgressions. There was more to the undercover agent than the rumors.
Chris finished speaking with the Judge and got the okay to finish up their reports despite Carsons absence. Adjustments would be made regarding Agent Carsons behavior and lack of knowledge regarding Dr. Wade and his associates. Wade and his fellow criminals would go down, no matter what. The medical association didnt want to have anything to do with the man and they refused to help pay for his defense. Wade, in a sense, was facing seven men on his own. Chris and his team wouldnt show any mercy.
Buck looked up when the elevator door opened. He smiled when he saw a raven-haired beauty step out carrying a duffle bag and a violin case. "Im in heaven," he said softly, watching as the woman looked curiously around the offices. She wasnt tall by any means, but she had the figure of a 50s screen siren and she walked like it as well. She was comfortably dressed in a dark flower printed dress that hugged her body and flowed gracefully around her legs. Buck thought it odd that she wore sandals; being that it was the middle of winter, but her long coat told him shed come prepared. And quite possibly she just preferred sandals to winter boots.
"Whos that?" JD whispered. He couldnt take his eyes off the woman who looked like Eva Gardner.
"Hi," the woman said energetically, walking up to Buck and JD then carefully put her luggage down.
"Maam." Buck took her left hand and kissed it. He tried to ignore the large diamond engagement band.
"Cordelia. Cordelia Whitmore." She smiled taking her hand back. She looked around the offices and then back to Buck and JD. "You are?"
"Buck Im Buck Wilmington and this here is JD Dunne." Buck wasnt sure what to make of the thick Texas accent. She didnt look like someone Vin would know, but then again, Vin did seem to catch quite a few eyes when they were all out together.
"I thought there was seven of you?" She glanced back at JD and smiled. The kid blushed.
"Vin, hes packin up some files and Chris well, who knows with Chris." Buck rolled his eyes. He sounded like the leader of the high school nerd club, meeting for the first time, the head cheerleader.
"Wheres Ezra?" she asked softly, blowing a stray strand of hair from her face.
"You a friend of Ezs?" JD asked.
Cordelia chuckled. "Yeah, Im a friend of Ezs." She gently grabbed JDs chin and examined his teeth. "He lets you call him Ez?" she asked, then softly squeezed his cheek. "Youre adorable," she stated in a matter of fact tone. She didnt let the questioning look coming from the kid distract her.
"Yeah," JD replied.
"Good," she smiled, "means hes got friends. The last guy that tried to call him Ez ended up with a broken nose and a missing tooth." She laughed with Buck and JD then turned her attention toward the tall blonde making his way toward them.
Chris stepped out of his office at the same time Vin did and both men headed to JD, Buck, and the strange woman. The team leader wasnt in the mood for any new surprises.
"Hey, Chris," Buck said a little over excitedly. "Vin, this here is Cordelia Whitmore, shes a friend of Ezras."
Cordelia stepped back so she could get a better look at these men. She stuck her hand out for them to shake and they did so without hesitation. "Im only here because David Montgomery told me what had happened with Maude and Im on my way to California so I thought I would spend a few days with Ezra I lived down the road from David Montgomery when he and Maude were married."
"You and Ez been friends all that time?" Vin couldnt quite believe it.
"We lost touch after David and Maude divorced but we met back up in college a few years later, weve been friends ever since." She smiled and waited for their acknowledgement.
"You both went to Boston College?" Chris asked. He wanted to make sure the woman really was who she claimed to be.
"Yep," she raised both her eyebrows realizing she was under scrutiny. Large blue eyes flashed everyone before landing on Chris. "I received a music scholarship and Ezra attended Boston College because of Maudes current husband at the time." She decided to say more when it didnt look like she was making any leeway. "We had Music Theory together. It was one of his electives." She continued to eye the tall blonde intending to give him whatever information he needed to be convinced she was a friend to Ezras. "He was born November third nineteen something or other. Frankly the nineteen something or other is not worthy of noting because Im a couple years older than Ez and I refuse to grow older than 29. Therefore Ezra will continue to remain 27. " She smiled confidently earning a chuckle from everyone.
"So," Vin grinned mischievously, "how much dirt do you have on im?"
"What would you like to know?" Cordelia matched his grin.
"Everything." Chris smiled.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra fell asleep in the back seat of Josiahs Blazer. He lay on his back resting his feet on the door handle. Josiah and Nathan spoke quietly while finishing the quick meal they grabbed from Subwayä . Josiahs stomach had started growling so loudly that Ezra had asked them to stop and grab something to eat so he could continue to rest. The big man had to chuckle.
Nathan glanced to the back seat relieved to find the Southerner still sleeping. The medic had covered him with Josiahs and his coat wanting to make sure he didnt get overly chilled. In truth, Ezra was healing quickly. Dr. Straus had been right in her assessment that Ezra would heal better in an environment where he felt more comfortable. Hed even opened up to Chris, something none of them had anticipated. If he was upset about all of them looking into his past in regards to Harrison he didnt let it show. Ezra had a tendency to get defensive when it came to certain things and Nathan was sure looking into his past would be one of those things.
Josiah pulled into the Judges driveway relieved to be back. Four oclock had arrived sooner than they thought it would and the sun was disappearing over the distant mountains. Nathan reached around and grabbed his and Josiahs coats then gently slapped Ezras leg, waking him from his short nap.
Ezra rubbed his tired eyes and sat up slowly. Those twelve steps to the house looked like a hundred and he knew that by the time he walked up them they would feel like a thousand. He leaned forward and rested his forehead on the seat.
Josiah opened the rear passenger side door. "You ready Brother?"
Ezra shook his head but got out of the Blazer anyway. He followed Nathan up the steps and headed straight for the room hed been sleeping in for the past few days. He intended on taking a long nap.
+ + + + + + +
Cordelia pushed the grocery cart down the aisles stopping on occasion to pull something from the shelf and toss it into the cart. Chris and Vin walked beside her. Vin was taken with her. Never in a million years did he think Ezra would have a friend that was so different in temperament than himself. If this had been the 1960s Cordelia, he was sure, would have been a flower child. Ezra? No way in hell. Vin had always pictured Ezra as dating someone who wore a suit everyday, someone with more brains than looks. Not that Ezra wasnt appreciative of a pretty face, but he wasnt like Buck, if he was going to be in a relationship he would need someone who could hold a stimulating conversation. Cordelia had said that she and Ezra had only dated for a couple weeks in college. They both decided it would be better for them to remain friends, nobody got hurt, and it was a mutual mature agreement. Vin could see the appeal. She was different, and Maude would hate her.
Chris was more amazed that the woman pushing the cart seemed to know exactly where everything in this maze of boxes, cans, and aisles were. He was convinced it was a womans thing, like men knew where to get car parts, women could find veggie links in the meat section or baby clothes at Kmartä . Or the Big Fn K as JD liked to put it.
Chris had sent JD and Buck on ahead with the computers and Cordelias luggage. Everything but the violin case, shed insisted on taking that one on her own. Chris had explained what had happened with Ezra and Cordelias facial reaction was all he needed to know, she was concerned for her friend. And in the four days she had to spend with him he would get the full TLC treatment. Starting with his favorite meals. Chris was thankful. He hoped she could help bring Ezra into their fold, because once he was in, he was in for good.
"So this Neanderthal Carson," Cordelia asked, "is he just an ass hole or really that stupid?"
Vin smiled and waited for Chriss response. Chris eyed Vin giving him a silent warning before he answered. "Hes got some issues with Ezra."
Cordelia stopped the cart and looked at Chris with her head tipped slightly to the right. "Issues?" She shook her head. "Issues Chris, are, my parents divorced when I was a kid and now I cant have a serious relationship or my parents are overly hairy and I cant go a day without shaving. Those are issues. This " she motioned between both Vin and Chris, " is something different." She turned around and headed back down the isle. "Oh, Pringlesä ," she gasped happily, grabbing a can from the shelf.
Vin cocked an eyebrow and tried to hide his smile, Chris threw him a warning. "Not one word," he threatened.
"I didnt say anythin." Vin threw his hands up in mock surrender before following the short, spunky, raven-haired beauty into the next aisle.
Chris pulled his Dodge Ram to a stop and shook his head. Cordelia hadnt stopped talking since leaving the grocery store. Shed told stories about growing up in Texas and some of the childish things she and Ezra had done as children. She told the stories like she was reliving them. Changing the tone of her voice and using her facial reactions to better explain reactions of not only herself but Ezra as well. Vin had laughed so hard he was squeezing his cheeks trying to get the circulation going again. Cordelia acted as though this was an everyday event.
Chris and Vin jumped out of the truck and grabbed the groceries, enough to feed three or four armies, while Cordelia grabbed her violin case and the small bag of potatoes. She followed them to the house. Her stomach tightened in anticipation of seeing Ezra again after so long. They had remained in contact through letters and emails only seeing each other on occasion. The last time was three and a half years ago.
When they entered the house Buck brushed past everyone grabbing the bag of potatoes out of Cordelias hand. Smiling all the while. Chris shook his head, when it came to women Buck was as predictable as the sunset. Josiah and Nathan introduced themselves and found they liked, very much, the woman standing before them.
"Wheres Ezra?" Cordelia asked right off.
"He slept for a while but hes been out back sitting on the steps for the past fifteen minutes," Josiah answered.
"He alright?" Chris asked out of concern. He thought the Southerner would be sleeping.
"Hes got a lot on his mind, is all." Josiah watched as Cordelia grabbed a blanket off the overstuffed chair, kick off her sandals, and headed outside.
"He know shes here?" Chris looked to Nathan and back to Josiah.
"Nobody said anything to im," Nathan replied.
Josiah stepped up to the back door and watched, from a therapists perspective, the interaction between Ezra and Cordelia. If it were true, that shed been his friend for a long time, then possibly he and the others would get to know him better through her. They could break down those protective barriers and get to know the man that Ezra really was. Not what he wanted everyone to think he was.
+ + + + + + +
Cordelia wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and smiled seeing Ezras back. He was sitting on the bottom step wrapped tightly in his coat overlooking the valley. "Mr. Standish according to my books you still owe me, $1350.50. Gin is not your game."
Ezra smiled. He raised his hand over his head and felt his longtime friend grasp it with a strength he was in need of. Cordelia sat directly behind him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders and rested her cheek against his ear. She didnt utter another word. They sat in silence gently rocking back and forth, gently mimicking the motion of the oceans surface.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah smiled. He rested his arm over JDs shoulder and turned him back toward the kitchen. "Sometimes Brother, it just takes a womans touch."
JD nodded his head in agreement. He understood, in many ways he was more open with Casey than he was with Buck or any of the others. When hed shot that girl, Caseys was the shoulder he leaned on the most and he loved her more for it.
Vin continued to help Chris and Buck put the groceries away. All the while looking at the odd assortment of items collected.
"Everything alright Josiah?" Chris asked, looking oddly at the packets of yeast.
"Just fine," Josiah answered confidently.
"So whats for dinner?" Vin questioned. The ingredients laid out on the counter top looked like items that went into bombs, as far as he was concerned anyway. Who, in their right mind, would mix orange marmalade with skinless chicken?
"Unless youre planning on cookin," Chris paused and looked at Vin, "I think it would be safe to say that Miz Cordelia is gonna make dinner."
+ + + + + + +
"Who is he?" Ezra asked, holding Cordelias left hand in his own. The ring on her finger was as elegant as she was.
"His name is Levi Grant," she said proudly. "Hes plays the cello in the same company I do. Im on my way to meet his family they live in Sacramento."
"Does he make you happy?" he asked.
"Immensely," she answered softly.
"Good," he responded barely above a whisper.
"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Cordelia asked, changing the direction of the conversation. She tried to keep her voice even. She didnt want to put him on the defensive.
"Okay." She rubbed his arms knowing he was chilled. "How about some dinner?" She messed up his hair and got to her feet before he could say no.
"What are you cooking?" Ezra asked with a smile.
"Glazed chicken," she answered, knowing it was one of his favorites. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the house.
JD looked up when Cordelia and Ezra entered the living room. He suddenly sneezed a couple times and rubbed his nose feeling slightly embarrassed. He smiled and looked up to meet Cordelias gaze. She was looking at him oddly. "Are you alright?" he asked, slightly concerned.
"Im having a Snow White moment," she responded, placing the back of her hand on her forehead.
"Does that mean I get to be your handsome prince?" Buck asked, walking across the floor like a peacock flashing his feathers.
"No Dopey, there were seven dwarfs not six." Cordelia answered. She moved past a shocked Buck Wilmington and headed toward the kitchen leaving the others laughing at Bucks expense.