A Raven in the Snow

Book EIght

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Chapter 11
Josiah rubbed his tired eyes and looked around the room to the sleeping forms. Buck's feet were crossed and still resting on the corner of the bed his chin and arms resting on his chest an occasional snore would crease his lips. JD's head rested on his arms on the bed next to Ezra's hand. Nathan had gone hour's earlier and gotten blankets and pillows for everyone. Vin had taken up residence on the floor. Chris had stayed awake watching both Josiah and Ezra.

The morning sun was making it's way over the horizon and Chris stood up to turn down the blinds knowing the others still needed to sleep. Nurse Richards had come in early and changed all of Ezra's bandages, replaced IV bags, and monitored the ventilator. She had reassured Josiah and Chris that everything looked fine. Ezra's blood pressure was up and the nurse relayed that to the team leader letting him know that the ventilator could come out shortly.

"I keep wondering why we found him the way we did?" Josiah said in a low tired voice. He pushed Ezra's hair off his forehead again trying to keep those curls under control. "By all rights he should be dead right now."

"Makes me think someone found out who he was and tried to make it look like a stabbing instead of what it is," Chris responded to Josiah's question. The team leader kept his voice low because he didn't want to wake the others.

"Carson?" Josiah questioned, feeling like Agent Carson was involved in this case even if they couldn't prove it.

"We know Agent White tried to kill 'im a couple months back...maybe this was a way to get rid of him without involving someone else." Chris tried to reason. "Maybe a convenient way to get him out of the way."

"What if it had been planned that way all along?" Vin's voice rose from the floor as he threw off the blanket and sat Indian style on the hospital room tiles.

"How the hell do we prove it?" Chris sighed. "And who the hell do go after? This whole fuckin' mess ain't exactly black and white."

"Hell, Ez is anything but black and white." Vin joked. "We all know that evidence he found wasn't got by 'legal means'," he repeated what Judge Travis had said the night before.

"Maybe so," Josiah agreed, "but you can bet your ass when Ezra gets done with his report it will be air tight."

Chris nodded his head in agreement. Ezra had a knack for finding evidence when he was undercover and the team leader knew not to ask questions when it came to how the Southerner obtained that evidence. Ezra knew how to use words like Vin knew how to shoot a sniper's rifle, and Chris gave him the respect and space he needed to do his job. The team leader smiled at the thought. "Vin, why don't me and you go out to Ezra's and get him and the others some clothes to wear. Josiah, you need anything?"

Josiah looked down at his shirt and pants and noticed the dried blood still caked there. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the keys to his house. "Would you mind stopping at my place and getting me a change of clothes and could you check on my dog, Spot?"

Chris took the keys from the big man and got to his feet. Vin followed suit. "We'll pick some things up for everybody." Chris started for the door but stopped before he exited. "Call me on the cell...should anything happen."

Josiah watched the two men leave. He turned his attention back to Ezra, wanting him to awaken.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan jumped awake when his head slipped off the edge of the chair. He rubbed his eyes and looked around the room. "How's he doin' Josiah?" he asked, noticing JD and Buck were still asleep.

"Nurse was just in, says she going to take him off the ventilator in a couple of hours. Dr. Straus should be in shortly."

"Where are Vin and Chris?" Nathan stood up and stretched his back.

"They should get back shortly. They went to get everyone some change of clothes."

"Good," Nathan said, looking down at his attire.

Buck groaned and rubbed the back of his stiff neck before bothering to open his eyes. He pulled his feet off Ezra's bed and rubbed his face with his hands. He needed a shave. Buck nodded to everyone in the room then looked to the still form of the team's undercover agent. The bruising around his jaw and neck was more obvious than it had been the night before but it did show how the Southerner's color had improved. Buck slapped JD's knee waking the kid. "JD."

"Not now Casey," JD said tiredly, moving his head away from Buck trying to fall back asleep.

Buck snorted at JD's unconscious comment and slapped him on the knee. "Casey ain't here JD," he said in a louder voice. He then got the results he intended to get when he slapped the kid again.

"What?" JD raised his head and looked up confused by what he'd heard. He pushed himself away from the edge of the bed and ran his hand over his face.

"I said..."

"Shut up Buck," JD snapped, before the ladies man could finish.

Josiah and Nathan chuckled lightly thankful for the short-lived antics between the two. Chris and Vin entered the room carrying a couple of bags full of clothing. Vin had a drink tray full of coffee cups and the aroma filled the room. It was a sweet smell compared to the sterile smell of the hospital environment.

"Rain sent some clothes for you Nathan." Chris handed the healer a small duffle bag full of clean clothes and toiletries. "Josiah." The team leader handed the big man a small bag. "Spot is doin' fine. I fed and watered 'im. Your neighbor Mrs. Penny said she'd take care of 'im until you got back."

"Ms. Moneypenny," JD said, trying to impersonate Sean Connery from the James Bond films. He frowned when everyone looked at him in question.

"Why the hell did you name a yellow lab, Spot?" Vin asked, trying to ignore the snickers from the room after JD's bad attempt to impersonate the true James Bond. He looked at the big man sitting next to the bed and waited for him to answer his question. The big yellow dog didn't have a single spot on him.

"He's got a spot on his tongue," Josiah replied knowingly.

Vin shook his head in disbelief as he laid a pile of clothing for Ezra in the chair Nathan had used earlier. The sharpshooter handed everyone one of the coffees he and Chris had purchased while out getting everyone some extra clothing and toiletries. "Chris and I looked all over for a pair of sweats for Ez to wear home, or even some pajama bottoms..." Vin looked disbelievingly around the small room, "the man doesn't have anything except slacks and this old pair of jeans." The sharpshooter pulled the old faded pair of blue jeans out of the bag. They were the kind of jeans you put on when you wanted to be comfortable, they weren't worn to impress anyone, and they were worn for the feeling of familiarity. Like an old pair of shoes, an old hat, or an old college sweat shirt. "The man folds his boxer shorts," Vin continued to rant, "who the fuck folds their boxer shorts?"

"I do," Nathan quickly replied with a smile, which earned him a confused look from the sharpshooter.

"You people are nuts." Vin gasped before taking a sip of his coffee.

"How much coffee have you had to drink?" Buck asked, noticing Vin had said more in the past few minutes than he did in a twenty-four hour day.

The small group of men was interrupted when Dr. Straus entered the room looking refreshed. Her hair was pulled back much like it had been the night before. "Gentlemen," she greeted, and picked up the chart from the end of the bed and made sure it read the same as the one she had in her hand. She then moved passed JD and checked the IV's attached to Ezra's arm. "His blood pressure is up, which was my main concern." She leaned over the bed and checked the Southerner's pupils then she pulled off her stethoscope to listen to his heart and lungs. She smiled at the concerned faces that looked at her in question. "Everything sounds fine," she encouraged. Debra looked at her watch, 10:30am. "I'm going to send in a respiratory therapist to remove the endotracheal tube in about an hour. He should start to come around shortly afterward."

"Thank you doctor," Chris said sticking his hand out for her to shake.

"You should thank Mr. Jackson," Dr. Straus shook Chris's hand then looked to the medic, "you did the hard part, getting him here alive. You should think about medical school." She turned to head out. "I'll be back after rounds." She smiled to them all and then left.

Vin slapped Nathan's arm in gesture and the medic nodded his head in humility. "You should listen to her Nate." Nathan rolled his eyes and tried to divert the attention back to Ezra.

"Josiah," Chris motioned for the bag of clean clothing by the big mans feet, "go get cleaned up."

Josiah reluctantly nodded his head in agreement and grabbed the bag by his feet. "I won't be long."

"Nathan...you go with 'im," Chris instructed, taking the seat Josiah vacated. He watched as the medic grabbed his bag of clean clothes and followed Josiah out of the room. Chris reached up and placed his left hand over the Southerner's forehead checking for himself if he had a fever. He ignored the slightly amused look Buck sent him and leaned back in his chair.

JD stood up and stretched his back. He was craving a large Coke and chocolate muffin. The kid stepped up to the window and looked out over the city and sighed. As bad as things were they could have ended much worse and he was thankful everyone one was here.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah reentered the hospital room clean-shaven and dressed in clean clothes. He still had the look of not enough sleep but he did look better than when he left. Nathan followed the big man in looking better as well. Josiah took up the seat on the other side of the bed where JD had been sitting earlier and once again took the Southerner's braced hand in his own.

"I need food," Buck stated as a fact rather than a need. He stood up and looked at the others. "Do you boys want anything?"

"More coffee," came the reply from almost everyone in the room. JD, however, intended to get a very large Coke.

Buck chuckled and headed out followed closely by JD. Vin grabbed a chair and swung it around so he could sit on it backwards. Nathan seated himself in a chair next to the sharpshooter.

Josiah jumped when Ezra pulled his hand out of the big man's grasp. He looked to Chris who jumped up and headed out to find a nurse. Nathan stood up and checked Ezra's vitals and grabbed his other hand knowing the undercover agent was starting to come around.

Chris reentered the room with the respiratory therapist who'd been directed to remove the ventilator and her two assistants. The woman moved past Nathan and immediately began checking the patient's respiration. "We'll get him off the ventilator, are those his?" she pointed to the bag of clothing on the chair. Dr. Straus had instructed her to help get the patient dressed and ready for transport.

"Yeah," Vin said, surprised things were happening so fast.

"Why don't you gentlemen wait outside and we'll get him changed and get these tubes out of him." She smiled and pulled the curtain that was around the bed closed as everyone left to wait outside.

The respiratory therapist and her two assistants managed to get the intubation tube, catheter, and most of the IV lines out. Dr. Straus had wanted to leave one line in so she could administer medications just before Ezra was going to leave. He started to come around quickly, much to everyone's surprise, and his heart monitor relayed that information to them when his pulse rate shot up from 58 beats per minute to 93 beats. The two assistants placed restraints on Ezra's arms wanting to keep him from hitting any of them unintentionally while they got him dressed.

The nurses worked franticly trying to get the Southerner dressed when he began to fight them. They'd managed to finish getting his jeans on when his pulse rate jumped again and he started to pull furiously at his restraints. "Go get Dr. Straus, tell her it's an emergency!" the therapist yelled at her nurse as she tried to calm the agitated patient. She was worried that he would break his right arm because he was pulling so forcefully on it.

Josiah and the others rushed into the room after the nurse had rushed passed them in the hall. Josiah hurried to the far side of the bed to try and keep the Southerner from knocking the bed over and hurting himself further. Ezra looked franticly around the room not seeing anything except a means of escape. The look of fear in the Southerner's eyes was more than the team had ever seen before. Josiah reached around and tried to push the undercover agent back on the bed. The big man understood how Ezra had fractured his left wrist. He was pulling so hard on the restraint of his right hand Josiah was sure he would break it as well. Nathan and Chris grabbed the Southerner's legs all the while telling him to quiet down. Josiah reached up and carefully wrapped an arm around Ezra's head and shoulders to keep him from hitting his head on the bed rails.

"Ezra!" Josiah snapped trying to get the Southerner's attention but Ezra didn't see anything except getting out. His jaw was clenched and his breathing quickly became labored as the others tried to get him controlled. They knew he might panic when he came out of the anesthesia they just didn't know how bad.

"Na po-mashch," Ezra muttered almost inaudibly, while trapped in the strong embrace of Josiah's arms. He continued to repeat the phrase in an unfamiliar pleading tone.

"What's he sayin'?" Vin asked, helping Chris and Nathan lean over Ezra's legs.

Dr. Straus rushed into the hospital room out of breath. She was shocked at the scene that greeted her. "What happened?" she snapped pushing the respiratory therapist out of her way. She heard and understood what Ezra was saying and she tried to respond to his pleas. "My zdyes' po-mashch," she tried to speak in a smooth even tone but her patient wasn't responding to her. "Repeat the phrase Mr. Sanchez," Debra said in a serious tone, looking at the big man, "Fsyo kha-ra-sho', spa-koj-nyj vnis." She watched, as the big man looked questionably at her then repeat the phrase.

"Fsy kha-ra-sho', spa-koj vnis," Josiah, said in a soft voice. He noticed Ezra look up at him with a look of question. The words were just enough to get the Southerner to stop fighting for just a moment and time enough for Dr. Straus to inject a short term sedative in the last remaining IV line. Ezra tried to fight the fast acting drug but failed and he collapsed back onto the bed.

"I want a portable x-ray up here ten minutes ago!" Dr. Straus yelled. She turned and looked at the respiratory therapist and the two scared nurses standing next to her. "You three wait in my office until I get done here. We have some things to discuss." She had no intention of disciplining hospital staff in front of an audience. She had told them that under no circumstances were restraints to be used. Debra turned back around in time to notice Josiah quickly remove the restraints from Ezra's arms. Disregarding the expressive looks coming from everyone in the room she quickly started attending her patient.

"What were you sayin' to 'im?" Vin asked, keeping one hand on Ezra's jean covered right leg.

"I was telling him that everything was going to be fine." Dr. Straus wrapped the stethoscope back around her neck satisfied with the Southerner's respiration and heart rates.

"It didn't sound like German or French?" Nathan looked at her. He knew Ezra spoke fluently in both languages.

"It was Russian," Dr. Straus responded, moving out of the way of the x-ray machine and the technician. She immediately began unwrapping the bandages from Ezra's right wrist.

"What was Russian?" JD asked bounding into the room with a plate full of muffins and rolls and a large Coke that looked as if it had been bought at the 7-11 down the road. Buck followed with a tray full of coffees and a look of 'where does he get the energy' on his face.

"It's not uncommon for a patient who has suffered a traumatic experience to unconsciously pull memories from their past," Dr. Straus continued to explain, while the x-ray technician took a quick image of the Southerner's wrist, "many times it's a memory that for one reason or another has been repressed."

Chris took a deep breath and ran his hand over his face. He looked back at his undercover agent realizing the man was a puzzle the size Canada and the more pieces the team leader found the more confused he got. Chris grabbed a coffee from the tray Buck was carrying and took a long drink. Now would be a good time for that Jack Daniels.

"I'll get the x-rays to you ASAP," the technician said, as he headed back out of the room.

"I want them sooner than that." Dr. Straus sent him a look of warning.

"What's goin' on?" Buck looked around the room at the concerned faces. He felt like a kid who'd just walked in on a conversation between a group of adults. The ladies man finished handing out the coffee cups and set the tray on the stand next to Ezra's bed.

"How soon can we get 'im out of here?" Chris asked. He took a step forward wanting to meet the doctor's gaze as she finished bandaging the southerner's wrist.

"Mr. Standish should start to come around in about ten minutes, after I get the x-ray for his wrist I can take a look and make sure he didn't break anything. I'll also want to check and change these bandages and make sure he didn't pull any stitches, if everything looks fine you should be able to take him out of here in about an hour." She looked at the faces of the men standing around her. "I'm going to close the blinds on the windows and I'll instruct all staff to stay out of this room. I think it would be best if you were the only ones around when he comes to." She looked back at her patient and at Josiah who was pulling the blanket up over Ezra's bare chest.

Chapter 12

Josiah continued to brush the hair back away from the Southerner's forehead. Vin had taken up residence in the chair the big man had been sitting in the night before. The sharpshooter had grasped Ezra's newly braced right hand. Dr. Straus hadn't waited to get the x-ray back, she'd went ahead and braced his right wrist like she had his left. Better to be safe than sorry.

"I'm goin' to ask for the last time," Buck snapped, "what happened?"

"Ez came to and he panicked, the doc had to knock him out again," Vin answered. He looked at Josiah when he saw Ezra roll his head to the right away from the big man's hand. "He's comin' 'round again." Vin got to his feet when the undercover agent pulled his hand from the sharpshooter's grasp and grabbed the portion of the blanket that covered his right side.

"Hey Ez," JD said, in a soothing voice as he stepped up to the bed.


Ezra could hear familiar voices around him and he furrowed his brow trying to remember what had happened. His mind was a thick fog and someone was unceremoniously hitting his right temple with a sledgehammer. He grabbed his right side feeling a sharpness of pain.


"Come on son," Josiah encouraged, watching the Southerner roll onto his left side.

Ezra coughed his throat feeling sore and misused. Someone put a straw to his lips but he quickly pushed it away. When he found that he could not bend his wrists he opened his eyes and looked at his left wrist in confusion. He then looked up and saw Josiah smiling down on him. Ezra turned slightly and noticed everyone was looking at him. It was a sea of familiar faces showing a range of emotions from concern to happiness and he started to push himself away from the onslaught of activity. He bumped into something and when he turned to look at what it was he was surprised to see Vin smiling down at him. "Ah hell," he sighed, letting his head fall back against the pillow.

"Nice to see you awake," JD said enthusiastically, taking another noisy slurp of his Coke.

Ezra covered his eyes with his left hand feeling a sudden barrage of emotions. Fear seemed to be the one that wanted to surface first. His right hand moved to grasp his right side and he remembered all too well what had happened to put him here. Control. He needed to maintain control. He felt someone reach out and touch his thigh and he jumped in response. "I've got to go," he said abruptly, while trying to sit up.

"Rest easy Ez, we're all set to get you out of here," Vin tried to reassure him. Josiah and Vin helped him into a sitting position but they realized that the simple movement had tired him out but Ezra didn't want to stop.

Chris stepped up and stopped Ezra from pushing his stocking covered feet over the edge of the hospital bed. "We'll leave in a few minutes," he looked at his undercover agent, "besides you can't leave without your shirt or shoes on." The team leader put a subtle smile on his face trying to ease the moment.

Dr. Straus looked in the room and smiled when she realized her patient was awake. She took her white hospital coat off and draped it over the chair next to the room door and she placed her stethoscope on top before she entered the room. "Mr. Standish," she said confidently walking into the room, "it's good to see you awake." She smiled and moved past the men that stood around the bed. Her cowboy boot heels tapped lightly on the tile floor. Her jeans and white tee shirt made her look more like a hospital visitor than a doctor. "How are you feeling?" She flipped off the heart monitors and without being asked to do so she removed the white circle pulse, and respiration rate attachments that had been placed on his chest.

Ezra looked at the woman not sure if he should answer. His mind was still in a heavy fog and his limbs felt like they'd been weighed down with cement.

"Are you in any pain?" she went ahead and asked. She knew he would be feeling out of sorts and it would take him some time to get back into the swing of things. Dr. Straus stepped up to him and gently probed around the area that had been traumatized. She watched as Ezra clenched his jaw in conformation that he was in pain. "What about your head?" She sat on the edge of the bed and gently forced Ezra to look at her by placing her hand under his chin. She nodded her head in agreement knowing he would be feeling the effects of the anesthesia and as a result a headache would ensue. She started to explain in detail what he was feeling, what he could expect to feel, and how soon he would be feeling better. It was more for the men standing around than it was for him, her patient would only forget half of what she was saying anyway. "Although you have sustained a great deal of trauma it's in an area that regenerates quickly and the other wounds you received are superficial. You should be up and walking with assistance by tomorrow, the sooner the better to get your muscles moving again. If you feel dizzy, sharp pains, or cramping on your right side you need to let Mr. Jackson know immediately and then you'll need to get to a hospital. And thanks to modern medicine you won't have to spend weeks in a hospital bed." She injected a small dose of a painkiller into the IV shunt and then carefully she removed the intrusive needle from his arm. Dr. Straus handed Chris a card. "That's my home number, beeper, cell, and office number should you need to get in contact with me for any reason." She gently slapped his arm. "Don't give that to anyone else," she warned before leaving.

JD and Buck followed the doctor out of the room intending to retrieve a wheelchair. "Dr. Straus?" Buck called after the woman who was putting her hospital coat back on. Debra stopped and turned to face the two men her eyebrows raised in question. "I, ah, wanted to ask you somethin'." Buck waited until the doctor nodded her head before he continued, "What are the bruises around Ez's neck and chin from?"

Dr. Straus cleared her throat and looked at the two men standing before her. "My best guess under the circumstances is that he was forcefully intubated." She watched as both men shook their heads in disbelief. "Mr. Standish is young and healthy and I don't see any foreseeable long term effects. What he needs is peace and quiet and the closeness of friends and family." She gently patted JD's arm before heading to her office.

Buck grabbed JD around the shoulder and pushed him foreword. Things would work out. It may take some time but that's all they had.

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Vin helped Ezra get situated on the edge of the bed while Josiah helped him into the overly large blue flannel shirt. Ezra weakly rubbed his face and then noticed his shirtsleeves were too long. He pushed Josiah's hands away when the big man started to button the shirt. Josiah stood back as the Southerner struggled with the buttons.

JD and Buck burst back into the hospital room. Buck was in the wheelchair while JD pushed. The two had managed to steal the basket of candy that had been on the nurses' desk. Vin reached out and grabbed a handful of taffies with a hungry gleam in his eyes. Chris shook his head in disbelief thankful it was only a candy dish in Buck's lap and not one of the nurses. Ezra didn't seem to notice. He was too busy trying to get his shirt buttoned. Josiah wanted to help the Southerner with his shirt but he knew better than to offer to help. Ezra had lived on his own longer than most and Josiah knew not to hinder that strong vein of independence. Nathan grabbed the Southerner's Nikes out of the bag. He loosened the shoelaces making it easy for Ezra to slip his feet into.

Ezra finished the last button on the over sized shirt he'd been forced into wearing. Though it wasn't something he would normally be caught wearing it was warm and for that he was thankful. He hated the braces on his wrists and as soon as he was alone they'd come off. He was tired, more tired than he ever remembered being and if he were anywhere else he'd lie down and take a long nap. But he wouldn't while he was stuck in this place. He hated the smell, the sounds, the colors, or lack of, and he hated the outfits that every employee wore. He hated it all and he wanted to get out. Ezra jumped when Nathan gently grabbed his ankle and slipped his foot into one of his shoes.

The medic looked toward Buck letting him know to vacate the wheelchair, which he promptly did. JD pushed the chair forward and waited. Nathan and Josiah positioned themselves on each side of the Southerner and helped him down from the bed onto weak legs.

Getting Ezra from the bed to the wheelchair wore him out even more. He rested his elbows on the armrests of the chair and rested his head on his fist, almost fist, the brace made it difficult. Nathan threw a heavy jacket over the Southerner's shoulders. Vin grabbed the remaining bags in the room and took one last look around, wanting to make sure they didn't leave anything behind that it could lead someone to Ezra. JD pushed the wheelchair out into the hall and the team headed toward the elevators.

Chris reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys to Josiah's Blazer. "Vin and I returned the Suburban and we brought your vehicle and mine back. If you and Nate want to take Ezra to the Travis's everyone else can ride with me."

"I'll go with Josiah," JD piped in.

Chris nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Is there anything we should stop and get?" he asked Nathan who had already made out a list.

The medic handed Chris the small piece of paper and then he looked back to Ezra. "You'll probably get to the Judge's before the rest of us, when you get there, turn the heat up. Ezra lost so much blood he's goin' to feel cold for a while."

Chris nodded his head and took the list. "What's all this?"

"Buck and Vin may be able to eat at Burger King every meal of the day but I can't," Nathan smiled at the two sheepish forms standing behind Chris, "and I thought it might be best if we got our own food, wouldn't want to eat the Judge out of house and home."

Chris chuckled. "Probably never get invited back."

"More like a guarantee," Vin spoke up from behind the team leader. "I still say we stop and get some burgers."

Nathan rolled his eyes. "I'm goin' down to the pharmacy to get some more bandages and fill Ezra's prescriptions." The tall medic decided to take the stairs and he quickly disappeared behind the heavy door.

"Be careful driving out to the Judge's," Chris directed towards Josiah. He knew the man hadn't had much sleep in the past twenty-four hours.

Josiah tipped his head and watched as Chris, Vin and Buck headed out. The big man hit the down button for the elevator and waited for the doors to open. Josiah looked toward Ezra as JD moved in behind to push him along. He recognized the signs of nervous behavior. The Southerner was trying to maintain his composure but was finding it difficult. The rubbing of his index finger against his thumb on both hands and the subtle shaking of his right foot were all that would show the casual observer that he was anxious and edgy but Josiah knew better.

The doors opened and Josiah stepped inside while JD followed pushing the wheelchair into the elevator with him. By the time they got to the first floor Ezra had managed to slip his arms into the sleeves of his jacket. Josiah realized Nathan had been right. The Southerner was going to be cold for a while. It wasn't the kind of cold that was felt on the outside that caused goose bumps, it was the cold that lodged in your mind and no matter how worm you got on the outside you still felt cold on the inside.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra seemed to relax once he got outside the hospital. No longer amidst the smells, colors, sounds, and staff his head seemed to clear. Josiah had left to get the Blazer and Nathan was still inside getting prescriptions. JD squeezed Ezra's shoulder and seated himself on the curb next to the wheelchair.

"Judge Travis told us he's goin' to meet with the Supreme Court. He's goin' to argue that they need to keep us around, he thinks we have a good chance," JD said, knowing Ezra wouldn't really be listening.

"How soon?" came the unexpected question.

"Six weeks." JD smiled, his grin reached from ear to ear. "You ever been up to the Judge's place?" and watched as Ezra shook his head, "Mary said it's been in his family since before Denver became a city. Billy's goin' to inherit it next. It's a big place, Mary said the house has got five bedrooms, three baths, and a room full of pin ball machines." JD looked up as Nathan stepped through the hospital doors carrying a bag of supplies. "Hey Nate, I was just tellin' Ez about the Judge's place."

"Did you tell 'im that there's an outhouse still standing on a piece of property that Kit Carson used?" Nathan smiled knowing the undercover agent would not find the 'potty humor' amusing.

"I thought it was Billy the Kid?"

"Na, it was Kit Carson," Nathan stated feeling confident in his answer. "Here comes Josiah."

Josiah pulled the Blazer to a stop and jumped out leaving the older vehicle running. He'd turned the heater on full blast wanting the cab to be warm. "You boys ready?" he asked opening up the back passenger side door. He looked at Ezra who didn't seem to want to move and he looked to Nathan who would know exactly how to help.

Nathan threw the bag of supplies in the front seat of the vehicle and turned back to help Josiah get the Southerner into the Blazer. As weak as Ezra was he would need all the help he could get even if he didn't want it. The tall medic motioned for Josiah to get on the opposite side of him and together they would lift the undercover agent out of the chair and maneuver him into the seat. JD stood behind the wheelchair in case Ezra lost his footing.

In a matter of moments Ezra had turned from a beige color to bright white. The simple effort winded him and Josiah had to lift the weakened agent into the seat. Pain was etched on the Southerner's face and it didn't go unnoticed by the three men wanting to make this trip as comfortable as possible for their already uncomfortable friend. Josiah reached around to grab the seat belt but was stopped by desperate hands.

"If it comes to the point where I'm going to need that, I'd prefer going through the window shield." A look of determination was imprinted in those green eyes.

Josiah understood and he nodded his head in agreement. Ezra didn't want to be restrained and he wasn't about to force it on him. Not now, not ever. Josiah shut the door and watched as the others got situated and he silently prayed to himself that the trip would be smooth and uneventful. He was thankful Ezra was still with them. They had been so close to losing him.

+ + + + + + +

Vin threw a bag of chips into the cart Chris was pushing down the grocery store aisle. "That's not on Nathan's list." Chris said knowing the medic was going to reconsider sending three men, bachelors to boot, to the grocery store. When Chris had been married he had a hard enough time finding everything on the lists Sara had made him. Where in the hell was the Gatorade, and why is it not with the rest of the drinks? Chris shook his head as he passed Buck who was still at the deli counter talking to the new employee. So much for getting any help out of the man. As soon as they entered the store Buck, like a hound on the scent of a kill, spotted the blonde woman behind the counter with the incredible smile. That's all it took for him to abandon his job, which was to collect bread, and instead he went to get the unsuspecting woman's phone number.

"So who's goin' to cook all this food?" Vin asked, looking oddly at the cart full of foods that weren't ready made.

"What's the matter Vin?" Chris looked questionably at the sharpshooter, "you afraid you're goin' to get stuck cookin'?"

"I get stuck cookin' everyone's goin' to starve," the sharpshooter stated. He hated to cook. The kitchen was a place of mystery to him. If the directions weren't written on the back of the package then it didn't get made.

"Well boys." Buck sashayed up to the two men waving the small piece of paper with the woman at the deli counter's phone number written on it, "Once again, the stud rules."

"I've seen peacocks with more humility," Chris said, grinning mischievously.

"You're just jealous ya ol' dog," Buck replied, sticking the slip of paper into his wallet.


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