Title: Father's Day, Tornadoes and Tigers
Author: Heather F
Disclaimers: Not mine, no money made…
Acknowledgements: The June Challenge offered by Katherin Lehman (who's wicked funny)
Of the boys, we know about Ezra's mother, Vin's mother, JD's mother, Buck's mother....Josiah's father, Nathan's mother and father, and not a thing about Chris' parents. What I want is a story that fills in some details on the missing parents or even the ones that we do know something about. Our boys weren't hatched from eggs, and I want to know something about the people who brought them into this world (Figuratively speaking) Can be the guys just talking about how they didn't know their fathers, or reminiscing about some fond memory of their mothers. Or you can take it upon yourself to create an original character and fill in the details that way. I don't care which one of the boys you pick, or what AU you choose. Any or all is acceptable.Have fun.
Thanks: Mitzi for her endless patience and Meg because she's funny
Warnings: Wrote it in a teeennny weeeny little bit of time….Influenced by the Tornado next town over etc. Any and all mistakes are home grown and cultured and perhaps as individual as finger prints.
Webmaster Note: This story was formerly hosted at another website and was moved to blackraptor in September 2013.
"Chris?" The puzzled tone seemed to highlight the thick layer of worry that graced the name. The anxious tone in the southern drawl had Larabee lunging against the bars that separated the two men.
"Let 'im go, you sons of bitches." Larabee pulled on the rusted cell door to no avail. He braced one hand against the barred wall and pushed against the door; the locking mechanism clanked within its fasteners, but held. He would not be exiting through the door. The low stone ceiling with its heavy three foot wooden beams rested nearly flush to the rusted iron cage that held him.
The abandoned zoo and its cage was more than adequate to contain and hold a mere 170 pound man.
Anger and concern warred with one another as Larabee watched in frustration as his undercover agent, fastened to a wooden chair, had the sleeve of his right shirt torn away.
Not that Standish hadn't fought. The black eye and the cut above the eyelid that had ceased seeping blood only a few minutes earlier were a testament to his resistance.
They had both fought, fought hard and desperately, after Chris Larabee had been recognized as an ATF agent. Things had spiraled out of control from there and were quickly spiraling into the realms of bleak and desperate.
Ezra and he were only scheduled to meet with two lackey's today. Buck and the others had been given word but only at the very last minute. The call for the meet had come unexpectedly and try as Ezra might, he could not cancel the impromptu gathering.
Hence the two of them were alone in the old abandoned zoo on the outskirts of the derelict section of Denver.
Things had gone from bad to worse when Larabee had been recognized. The two they were suppose to meet had swelled to four. Standish tried to talk them out of their 'false and heinous' accusations and Larabee had done his best to intimidate them with his looks and serious alternative of meeting a bullet…head on.
In the end four against two, no matter how desperate the two were, did not prevail.
As a result, Larabee stood caged behind bars pacing back and forth snarling and bristling at the men who moved outside his barred walls, threatening them with an unholy death should he escape. It was as if the ghosts of the last residents stalked behind the bars.
Standish had been dragged into a chair. His wrists and forearms were taped to the arms just as his ankles were taped to the wooden legs. It left his head and shoulders with some moveability. The gun traffickers soon learned that shoulders and the quick snap of a head were, in fact, brutal weapons.
Standish and Larabee were not the only ones sporting vicious deep bruises or lacerations.
A section of yellow flimsy tubing was tied tightly around Standish's right bicep, just near the insertion of the deltoid muscle. The veins of the lower forearm and hand quickly swelled in response.
Standish watched with growing trepidation, his fear rising exponentially.
"Chris?" he mumbled out quietly, hating himself for looking outside himself for help and depending on others, while a another part of him was thankful he was not in this alone.
The simple plea for help set Larabee off again, as if someone had intentionally put an electrical charge to a tiger's flank.
"You sons of bitches let 'im go; he doesn't know anything." Larabee's deadly soft voice somehow filled the room and quickened the heart rates of those that dared defy him.
"Guess we're gonna make sure, now aren't we?" Markus held up a small syringe partially filled with a clear liquid. He spared Larabee a mocking smile, taunting the man as he showcased the syringe making sure the supervising ATF agent saw the needle.
He approached the undercover agent with all the grace and finesse of a panther about to pounce for the kill.
Ezra struggled within the confines of the chair, trying desperately to free his wrists and arms or legs, anything to keep the syringe away from him and his veins.
"Kirby hold 'im still."
Ezra swung his head left and right, bobbing and weaving, trying to keep his one last weapon free. Kirby merely waited and suddenly snapped a massive arm out and curled it around the trapped agent's neck. Kirby cinched his arm up close, bringing his wrist back toward his chest, and grasping it with his other hand, essentially locking the agent's head between the crux of his elbow and upper arm.
"He's told you everything….There isn't anything else to know….Let 'im go." Larabee clenched the bars again and pushed them, never taking his eyes off his undercover agent and the man that converged on him.
With his head pulled back and trapped, Standish strained and followed Markus and the syringe with eyes.
The tight bite of the tourniquet was forgotten.
"He's right you know," Ezra hissed out, unable to work his jaw, "I really don't know much about anything…. Quite sad really, expensive education but truly learned nothing of any importance." There was a pause, "hence my current occupation."
Ezra hissed a breath in as he watched the needle pierce the skin just adjacent to an over enlarged bluish vein.
Markus started pressing the plunger. Liquid was forced through the hub of the syringe, down the needle and into the vein.
Standish jerked. He pulled his elbow back and twisted the arm the best he could with what little latitude the tape allowed him.
"Hold him still!" Markus continued to depress the plunger forcing the drug out of the syringe.
The needle end slipped from the vein. The drug collected beside the vessel creating a bleb. He angrily pulled the needle from the skin when the syringe was emptied.
"Shit," Markus spat. "Gawd damn it." With anger he lashed out and punched the undercover agent square in the left eye.
"Son of a bitch," Marcus shook his fist and brought it close to his chest.Gawd damn that hurt. He leaned forward and pulled the ATF agent's hair forcing the trapped man's head to the side, "Gawd damn rebel bastard,you're gonna be whimpering for ya momma by the time this shit's through with you."
Markus pushed Standish's head back into Kirby's chest, enhancing the agent's sense of captivity.
Markus straightened up, "Let 'im go. He ain't goin' anywhere." As the angry man straightened up he unfastened the rubber tubing.
The veins in Standish's forearm and hand immediately shrunk.
Kirby slowly uncoiled his massive arm from around the southerner's neck and cautiously stepped back as if expecting to have to tackle the man.
The two federal agents had proven to be tough and resourceful. Kirby was taking no chances.
"Ezra?" Chris watched from behind the bars.
"I'm fine Mr. Larabee, though I fear my tailor may be put out," Ezra sighed.He eyed his bared arm and the mark the tourniquet had left on his upper arm. His swelling green eyes slowly slid down to focus on the small bleb just under the skin near his vein on his inner forearm. It burned as if someone had left a torch lit under the skin.
Thunder boomed and rolled overhead.
Chris watched his agent, still tied to the chair, raise his head and look to the ceiling.
Thunder tolled again and suddenly it sounded as if the sky opened out.
"Sounds like hail." Chris listened for a bit. The sound of hail pounding the roof and ground was deafening. "Sounds big."
Ezra merely nodded and wondered if the dizziness he felt was from the blows to the head or the drug. He could feel his heart race and struggled to discern if it natural fear or artificially induced.
"You doing ok?"
"I am fine Mr. Larabee," a half hearted smile tweaked his face, "the imbecile couldn't hit a vein with a knife."
"Hey, he's in the room asshole." Kirby spoke up in defense of his boss.The big man glared at the back of the man taped in the chair and then sent a threatening glare at the blonde in the cell.
Larabee met the gaze.
Kirby diverted his eyes and focused back on the card game with the other three.
"Making friends again," Ezra chuckled, feeling the dregs of weariness pulling on him. He cast his eyes down and away from Larabee. It unnerved Standish to see his friend and boss bruised and trapped, helpless. Instead,he focused his attention on the sounds surrounding him, the men playing cards, the howl of wind rushing just passed the over head windows and his own racing pulse. He stared at his own bare arm trying to will the bleb of fluid beside his vein not to leach any further into his system.
The metal bars of Larabee's cage remained in his peripheral vision.
Silence was never Standish's forte, and words were something he could manipulate and control. They were a way to exert some control and independence in a deplorable situation that left him none.
"You know Mr. Larabee, it would behoove you to try and be a little less threatening. It has been my experience that terrorizing everyone you meet might not be conducive in earning others' trust." Standish paused and then added, " tell me, in grade school did you ever 'Play well with others'? or was it always marked as an 'N'….needs work?" Standish chuckled at his own remarks.
"Ezra?" Chris leaned against the bars studying his undercover agent. Was the man becoming more talkative because of the drug or was it nerves? His face and neck seemed more flush….was it from being held or was the drug running through his system already?
"Mr. Larabee do you hear a train?" Ezra rubbed his cheek on his shoulder.He could feel sweat running down his face. Had it been this hot all along?
Chris straightened from the bars and listened. The constant rapid drum of hail had ceased. The sound of a rushing locomotive filled the suddenly heavy and still air.
Larabee furrowed his brow and pushed back from the bars, his stomach clenching and the hairs on the back of his neck and arms raising. He searched left and right, his brow furrowed trying to pinpoint the danger that seemed to permeate the air.
"Ezra?…" Chris backed away from the bars, something was terribly off, a horrible feeling of dread drenched him.
Then the world exploded.
Chris was lifted from his feet and hurled against the far wall. The unshakeable iron cage was lifted from the concrete flooring as straw was whipped into the air and circled the room.
The small table with the four men simply disappeared within a maelstrom of noise, wind and crushing force.
The ceiling over the far side of the room was sucked from its braces and joints pulling chunks of the heavy stone wall with it.
As quick as the wind and storm had come, it had left.
What had once been the stone basement of the medical wing of the old zoo was now simply a partially covered hole in the ground.
Of the six men that had been in the basement only two remained.
The section under the missing roof was remarkably bare of debris while the section that housed the cages and the simple wooden arm chair lay in rubble protected from the elements by a sagging wood beamed roof.
For a moment nothing moved. A soft breeze tickled the air, stirring dust and moving small leaves of paper that somehow defied the laws of logic and physics.
Then movement. At first it was just a stirring of dust; then a low groan and finally true discernible movement.
Ezra Standish lay still for a moment trying to get his bearings. He lay on his side still trapped in the damnable chair. His eye hurt. Instinctively he raised a hand to rub at it. It was then he noticed he was no longer confined to the wooden seat.
Things were looking up.
The undercover agent raised the hand and was rewarded when the broken arm of chair slapped him in the cheek.
The southerner cursed. He slowly sat up, dust cascading from him in a small shower of grey particles. He coughed slightly and felt the pull of some muscles. He raised a hand again and noticed that tape still bound his wrist to the chair but the wooden arm was no longer was attached to the rest of the furniture.
The same appeared true of his ankles and other wrist. Standish sighed and began the tedious task of untaping himself from the remnants of the chair with his teeth.
Just as he was pulling the last of the grey tape away from his ankles a quiet voice broke through the unnerving silence.
Standish stopped moving and listened. Nothing. No noise. Perhaps whatever had ruined the building had deafened him.
"Standish?" This time the voice sounded a little peeved.
Ezra closed his eyes and tried to beat back the dizziness that seemed to sit just in the background but present enough create an unsettling feeling.
"Mr. Larabee?" Ezra rolled forward and tried pushed himself to his feet. The crumbling, sloping ceiling had him hunching over. The undercover agent waved his hand in the air trying to clear some of the suspended dust that seemed to defy gravity.
"Chris? Are you alright?" Standish shuffled forward. With each forward movement, realization as to what had happened slowly started to penetrate and he began to fathom what they had just survived and avoided. Suddenly his surroundings and why he was down in a basement made some sense and added somewhat to his anxiety.
"Damn…Mr. Larabee?" Ezra shuffled forward, bent at the waist, "can you hear me?" the undercover agent saw the bent and twisted bars of the cage. The roof had all but collapsed filling the small straw covered pen. The metal door had warped and bent, bowing out, while the cage walls had crumbled and bent inward.
The collapsed ceiling appeared to have filled the whole cage. There wasn't enough room left within it for a small dog let alone a grown man.
"Good Lord," Ezra stood outside the bars afraid to touch them afraid to shift the precarious balance of the rubble. Even if he had a key for the cell door there was no way he would be able to get it open. The cage had become a twisted wreck, buckled under the weight of the collapsed roof.
"Ezra?" The voice sounded weak, but held a touch of ire.
Standish eased himself down to his knees. He wiped sweat from his eyes and pulled on the torn edges of his shirt collar. The basement seemed to be getting hotter. His skin tingled and his face felt flush. It was hot.
"Mr. Larabee?" Ezra knelt outside the bars and searched the rubble within the cage. He let out a small gasp when his uncooperative eyes settled on his friend.
Ezra and Chris stared at one another.
Neither flinched, or averted their eyes. They stared at one another in silence.
"Mr. Larabee, I don't mind telling you, but you look like Hell."
"Ezra," Chris wheezed fighting the loss of breath and building headache,"Shut up."
Both men contemplated one another. Their complexions were covered in grey dust. They were close enough to almost touch but might as well have been separated by miles.
Chris lay on his belly trapped beneath the collapsed ceiling. Only his head and one shoulder and arm were visible, the rest of him lay hidden under rubble.
"Are you injured?" Ezra suddenly rediscovered the convenience of Josiah's religious beliefs and sent up a hasty request….a prayer.
"Don't think so." Larabee sounded bewildered. Ezra didn't like it. He wanted, needed to hear the anger, the disgust and the promise of hellish retribution on those that got them into this situation. He needed to hear Larabee fight and buck the situation they found themselves in. The undercover agent needed the strength because he himself was not a leader.
A leader would infer that someone followed and depended on you for their well being. Ezra Standish had no delusions about himself, nor did his team. Ezra was a survivor, they all knew that; he would do his best to keep them safe, everyone was aware of that too; just as they were all cognizant of the fact that Chris was a leader, as was Buck, Vin, Josiah and Nathan, even JD when push came to shove, and if the kid ever broke from the mold of being labeled a kid. They were all leaders…but Ezra P. Standish.
Ezra wasn't a leader, never aspired to be one, never wished to have that dreadful label of responsibility thrust upon him….and he certainly didn't seek it out…unless it was as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company…then he could lead, financially.
Ezra slipped from his knees to his rump and settled against the bars.As he sat on the floor of a ruined basement in an abandoned zoo staring at the one man that had proven to be able to lead his men against insurmountable odds and win time and time again, Ezra could only think of…..tigers. Tigers. The edges of his vision sparkled with color and light.
"Mr. Larabee?" Ezra leaned his head against the bars and closed his eyes.He could feel pins and needles in his legs, and his face felt tingly.
"Ezra?" Larabee watched his undercover agent slouch against the bars and hoped that it was not the unknown drug in his system that was making the Southerner so apathetic.
"Tigers?" Standish felt the bars bend against his weight. He immediately straightened up and pushed on them. They didn't give.
Chris sighed. Damn. "No tigers here Ezra." Chris watched somewhat disenchanted as Standish absently nodded and scrutinized his own hand as if he was seeing it for the first time.
"Tigers." Standish pushed on the flaking iron bars. They felt like putty in his hands but they wouldn't budge. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement. He snapped his attention up and blinked the dizziness away. A tiger melted into the shadows.
"Are you hurt Mr. L-larabee?" Standish stumbled over the name and was curious as to why his tongue felt as if it had no sensation. He chewed on it for a bit, marveling at the gummy texture of it and wondered if a Cow's tongue was as gummy. It would be most unappetizing if it were as chewable.
Chris furrowed his brow and watched as his undercover agent chewed softly on his tongue as if testing it for palatability. shit.
"Ezra, stay focused" Larabee answered tiredly. He could feel his legs, but worse he could feel something running down the inside of one of his knees.It was thick and warm and seemed constant. He couldn't take a deep breath, because of the crushing weight on his torso but also because of searing pain that lanced through the left side of chest.
He was afraid to take a deep breath, but felt as if he was running out of air. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep his eyes open. He was nervous and Ezra staring at him like a piece of beef wasn't making him feel any easy.
Standish scrutinized Larabee wondering if the tiger watching them from the shadows was sizing his team leader up for an impromptu meal.
"Mr. Larabee I am focused, it is the rest of the world that is out of focus."
Chris simply nodded. Shit.
Ezra sighed and watched Larabee. The man was losing color. Ezra leaned his head against the bars. It felt as if they gave a little, like play dough. He tested the bars with his head, they didn't give completely but perhaps in a few minutes they would simply melt.
Larabee furrowed his brow as he watched the undercover agent lean heavily against the bars and then bang his head against them. The iron bars gave a slight toll. Chris cringed. A worried sigh brought fierce blinding pain shooting through his chest.
"Today is father's day."
The southern laced statement had Larabee opening his eyes and staring at the slouching undercover agent.
"Do you celebrate father's day Mr. Larabee?" Ezra quirked an eyebrow at his boss and wondered why something told him not to broach this particular subject with this man.
Standish ignored it.
Instead, he kept his eyes on Chris but watched the tiger out of the corner of his eye. Somehow he couldn't help but find comfort in her presence.
Chris tried to ignore the question as flashes of Adam and Sarah snapped in his mind's eye like a child's view finder. He would have relished a lifetime of tacky ties, soap on a rope and Old Spice aftershave. He would have cherished every single gift. The pain in his chest rose exponentially, the blood running down his leg seemed to quicken for a bit. Damn you Ezra Standish.
"Did you celebrate it with your father?" Standish raised an impossible heavy hand and brushed it against an iron bar, marveling at the complexity of a rust spot and the flaking sliver of metal that clung defiantly to it.He silently wondered if Tigers celebrated father's day or mother's day. The Tigress watching from the corner seemed like she could use some flowers.Did Mr. Larabee see the tiger?
Chris closed his eyes trying desperately to stay awake but wishing for nothing more than a good night's rest. If he could just sleep for a little bit, then maybe when he woke, refreshed he could think his way out of this.
"Yeah Ez, I did," Chris answered tiredly. He had to keep awake for the sake of his agent. Ezra was slowly losing it. Whatever they injected under his skin was taking its toll. "You?" Where are you Buck? Vin…come on guys…
"You? what?" Ezra asked lifting his head from the bars to stare at Larabee.Chris appeared even more pale. That could not be good. Well good maybe in that the Tiger would want to eat red meat…and if Chris had no blood,then his muscles wouldn't be red so perhaps the tiger wouldn't want to eat him for mother's day. But it was Father's day. "Mr. Larabee do you think perhaps you could look a little more pale?" Ezra rubbed at his forehead.He could feel his hair growing. Perhaps it would be as long as Mr. Tanner's in a little bit. "I'm fearful the tigress might be interested in devouring you for a midday snack." Ezra sighed, "I fear that might be an unfortunate turn of events."
Chris sucked in a careful breath and closed his eyes.Buck…Vin…somebody… Larabee stared at Standish and then spoke very carefully, "Ezra," he paused until he had the undercover agent's attention, though he noticed Standish's eyes darted to the far corner as if watching something in the shadows, "Ezra, the zoo is abandoned, there are no tigers here…none…hasn't been any for years…do you understand me?" Chris let his head slide to the block of stone that had once belonged in the ceiling. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep his head lifted. The dizziness was almost as irritating as the severe dry mouth that stuck his tongue to the roof of his mouth.
"If you deem it so, Mr. Larabee," Ezra nodded in acquiescence as if trying to appease someone unable or unwilling to see the obvious. "It's Father's Day, you know."
Chris mentally shook his head trying to keep up with the change in conversation. He felt lightheaded and heavy all at the same time. His legs were going numb and his left arm which felt trapped under his belly screamed against its own private claustrophobia.
"Did you know your father?" Ezra leaned back against the bars and slowly tossed dirt and dust into the air. Amazing how the dust could simply fly and capture light all at the same time. He watched the Tiger watch the dust.Ezra felt sweat run down his back. It was getting hot. Wonder if the tigers got hot?
"Yeah Ez, I did." Chris leaned his head against the cold stone. The temperature must be dropping. He felt chilled to the bone. His left arm throbbed mercilessly, and he could no longer feel his legs. "You know yours?" Chris knew the answer to the question but asked it any way -- he needed to keep Ezra grounded. Even from where Larabee lay he could make out the pinpoint pupils. Not good, not good at all.
Ezra stared at Larabee and noted the large dilated pupils. The eyes were amazing. The tigress eyes seemed to glow in the dark. Standish resisted the urge to wave at her. She might not like that, Maude certainly did not like such displays of overt public gestures. Ezra turned his attention away from the Tiger in the corner and stared at Chris. He looked terrible.
"Was he a good man?…Your father?" Standish asked. He felt the urge to move. It was difficult just sitting here not moving. Sure he was tired, but his feet and legs were itching to move, do something. It was hot and he could feel his heart beating. He looked down at his chest and could see it beat right through his ribs. His heart wanted him to move too.
Lord it was hot though.
"Yeah Ez, he was a good man," Chris answered. He watched the sweat rundown the side of Standish's face. He watched the undercover agent's hands twitch as his feet slid back and forth in the dust, unable to keep still.Shit…where were the others?
"Did he like you?" Ezra asked. He could feel his heart beat through the iron bars. The tigress could feel it too, he could tell by the way she looked at him. She didn't appear ill tempered though. He could tell.
Larabee shook his head a little. It hurt his ears. He wouldn't be doing that again. "Yeah Ez, he liked me." Chris watched as his undercover agent nodded solemnly and stared into the shadows of the far corner. The tiger. The damnable tiger that protected him so long ago, the one he professed to have no conscious memory of, yet in times of drug induced duress the tiger from the zoo seemed to appear in his minds eye. Weird. Larabee didn't know what to make of it and Josiah had told them all to just roll with it.So they did, just has he was doing now.
"You have a step dad that liked you, Ez?" Larabee would try anything to get his agent's attention away from the dark corner and invisible tiger.
"Huh?," Ezra turned his attention back to Chris. Wonder if he would be upset if I went for a little walk…around the area. Too difficult to sit still. Could run for miles, not even get tired. Nope. "Would you mind if I…"
Chris cut him off, "How 'bout it Ez, you got a step dad that you would want to give a father's day card too?"
Standish furrowed his brow. Tigers couldn't read father's days cards, and besides she deserved a mother's day card. Mr. Larabee was being silly. Yes, perhaps a good brisk run would do him some good. He could feel his heart beat in his toes. Surely that was an indicator that he should go outside expend some energy. Was this how Mr. Dunne felt every day?
"Heavens no, Mr. Larabee," Ezra cranked his head around. He could hear the dust particles move against the floor. He could here Chris's every breath.The tiger, however, was very, very silent. Much like Mr. Tanner. Where was Mr. Tanner? He would want to go for a run… perhaps this time Mr.Tanner would lag behind and get winded….Yes, yes. Ezra knew he could run for miles.
Chris fought the haze that fogged his mind. He watched as Ezra jerked his head at every sound, like a baby chick. The man couldn't sit still. His feet slid back and forth with jerky impatience. His fingers picked and tapped at the bars while his eyes swung from the far corner of the room back to Larabee to the bars and then to his own chest. Chris couldn't help but wonder what Ezra found so fascinating when he watched his own chest rise and fall.
Ezra watched his ribs bow out and retract with each heart beat. His heart was going to beat right out of his chest. Amazing.
"Was he nice to you?"
"Who Ezra?" Chris fought the building nausea that threatened to rip his body in two. His chest hurt too much to breath let alone suffer the horrible violence of vomiting.
"Your Father. It's Father's Day. Did you know?" Ezra picked at a flake of iron from the bars. He could probably run to South Carolina and back and not get tired. It would be easy.
"Yeah, Ez, and he was nice, greatest man I've ever known," Chris closed his eyes and pictured his father. Tall, lean, leathery skin from working from sun up to sun down, never complained, never spoke ill of anyone and always had a kind word for his wife. A hard man though, as hard as the ground that surrounded him. Chris loved his dad as fiercely as he guessed his dad had loved him. Larabee sighed and listened to the wail of sirens.
Sirens? About time.
Larabee tried to raise his head but hissed when shooting pain sparked his body. "If I could have been half the father he was Ez, I would have been a hell of Dad." Chris spoke softly and rested his chilled cheek against the cold of an unforgiving stone.
He spoke to an empty room.
Ezra and the tiger had decided to make a whiskey run to Tennessee.
Standish had made the Tiger promise not to slow him up.
Chris missed the exclamations of his team mates. He missed the noise and heady frightful excitement of excavators, bulldozers and backhoes as they worked in tandem to free him from the rubble.
He even missed the swarms of news crews and field lights that sat perched like vultures on the edge of the hulled out basement. He missed the talk of the F4 tornado that had swept through the surrounding areas of Denver.
Only four reported deaths.
Numerous missing pets. One missing ATF agent, though no pictures hit the wire to identify the man.
Chris's eyes were opened for some of the excitement. He even stared at Vin a few times. Couldn't make heads or tales of what Josiah was asking, but he informed them, the best he could, that Ezra was off with a tiger.
Chris missed the nervous looks of the paramedics and local DPD, and whenever heard the soft cursing and muttering of his men as they kicked at dirt and turned in circles searching the surrounding weed choked buildings for any sign of their undercover agent and his invisible cat.
Josiah had quietly stopped any APB's or city wide alerts for a large Siberian Tiger. Though they existed, this particular tigress lived only in a drug induced imagination. Unless, of course, one took the time to visit the Colorado Zoo. Then, in fact, one would meet the feline that inspired such vivid hallucinations.
Larabee saw but did not register the sharp intakes of breath, or rush of activity as he was eased from his entrapment. He watched with detached fascination as two IV's were quickly sunk into his veins. It was then he remembered Markus and his syringe. Chris did his best to relate the facts.
Funny how the world swirled about him when the pressure was released from his back and legs.
Between all this, he saw visions of his father, tall and proud. A headstrong man with a soft tender side reserved only for his wife of forty years. Chris smiled when the oxygen mask was placed over his face. If he could be just half the man he father was, he would be a Hell of person.
His dad was his hero. It was Father's day, perhaps it was time he told his father just how much he desired to be as strong as his namesake.
Tanner and Jackson exchanged unsure looks at Larabee's contented expression.Perhaps Markus used drugs on both agents.
Buck and JD scoured the surrounding area by truck driving slowly checking side streets and back allies. They drove all night through the west part of town.
Vin and Josiah joined the search and took the east side.
Evie Travis leaned out the passenger side window while her husband silently cursed a particular southerner undercover agent, as he drove North of the city.
Casey Wells held a halogen light out the side window while Nettie navigated through the south side of town.
No sign of any tigers or undercover agents.
Nathan Jackson sat by Chris Larabee's hospital bed and prayed that the others found Ezra well before Chris came back to his senses.
24 hours later
Larabee practically growled at the doctor who stated Chris had to remain bed ridden for another seventy-two hours. He snarled at the nurse who attempted to put a sedative in his IV.
Rain sat by his bedside and stared out the window. Searching the little part of the city she could see from the hospital window.
Team 8 had checked the other hospitals.
Team 10 checked the morgue. No one wanted to hear from them.
Chris stewed in his hospital and knew without a doubt his father would not be kept flat on his back if a member of his family was missing. Larabee eyed Rain and gauged her strength of character and devotion.
Chris gripped the arm rest with white knuckles as Rain guided the Ram gently over the dirt roads found on the S.East of town.
Chris thought of his father. His dad had never let him down. Had they fought? Hell yes. They had had some furniture smashing, blood letting blow outs. In the end, his dad always won. Chris could never be sure if it was because his father was that much stronger, that much more experienced, or did Chris himself hold too much respect for his father to ever truly wish to best him in brawl.
Mr. Larabee always won, and secretly Chris was always pleased to know that his father would remain the strongest, most upright man in Chris's lifetime.
48 hours later
Larabee sat in his living room ensconced in blankets with a fire crackling.Slanting, wind whipped rain pelted the windows and wind snapped branches and thrashed leaves from trees.
The other five men sat with him. Josiah spoke on the phone to Ryan Kelly of team 8. The other teams had called it a night at midnight. The storm was building. They were calling it a night.
Hopefully Ezra would be holed up somewhere keeping dry. The man did hate getting wet.
Buck stood leaning against the couch next to phone and watched as Josiah walked back into the room from the kitchen. The big man shook his head 'no'. No word. No surprise.
Wilmington watched the others in the room. It had been a subdued group.Chris was only kept in check by the pain killers Nathan managed to slip to him now and again. JD typed away on his key board, running searches, checking to see if Ezra was using his credit cards or debit card. He double checked admissions into hospitals, morgues, hotels, rent a cars and all of Ezra's known aliases.
Josiah slowly boiled.
Diablo lay by the front door and waited patiently. Occasionally the dog would let out a mournful off key howl and then listen for a bit before falling back onto his side, dejected.
Buck took a breath. Something had to break soon.
The phone rang. A suddenly intrusive sound.
With a mixture of anxiety and dread Wilmington slowly reached for the receiver. All eyes turned to him.
"Wilmington." There was a pause.
"Yes!" A pause, "Ezra?!…Ezra where the…." a pause, and then softly, "shit…Yes! I accept…Yes! Damn it…I accept…Ezra! ….gawd damn recordings…" Buck paused again waving at the other sin the room to shut up, though no one had spoken, just all sat up more alert, "Ezra?!" Again a pause.
"Geezus fuckin' Christ…" Larabee bit out trying very hard not to just grab the phone from his oldest friend.
"Ezra?!…" Buck kept one hand over his ear, "Yeah! Its me Buck!…Where the Hell are you?…you ok?…You hurt? Tell me where you are, we'll come get you."
"Brother give him a chance to answer," Josiah schooled.
"No, no everyone's fine…where the Hell are you?" Again a pause,"Where?…" bafflement colored his voice as a smile tweaked his face, "Ez, man, no offense pard' but just Left of The Middle of Nowhere, ain't gonna be on a map."
Wilmington let out a relieved laugh, "Ok, ok wait let me write this down."Buck cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder and scribbled on a pad of paper identical to the pads next all the phones in the house. "Yeah we'll be there; it'll take us bit. There a place where you can go in and keep dry?"
Again there was an indeterminate long pause, "No shit, it ain't rainin' over there….ok, ok we're on our way….see ya in a few….just sit tight ok…we're comin'…you sure you're ok?"
"Come on Buck!" JD implored as the others grabbed their coats.
"Ok listen I'm hangin' up, but you just stay right there, don't you move your wiry ass or we'll nail it to the floor." Buck motioned for JD to hand him his coat. "We'll be there in a few hours ok…just don't go anywhere.Stay put…you here me?"
"I say if he don't hang up in the next three seconds, we leave his sorry ass behind and git Ez ourselves," Vin whispered none to quietly to Nathan, as he jutted his chin out toward Buck.
Josiah scrutinized the group and finally spoke softly to Chris as Larabee struggled to gain his feet. Broken ribs, sixty-seven stitches in his leg and being down a few pints of blood had him moving a bit slower than he had patience for, especially with this team.
Larabee hesitated and almost argued with Josiah but Sanchez whispered one more thing. It had Chris settling back down on the couch with his handout for the phone. "You boys go, I'll stay here, make sure Ezra stays where he is until you get there."
The others nodded and filed out the door. Diablo watched them go and then padded over to his master and laid at his feet. The big dog thumped his tail when Chris rubbed his stocking foot over the dog's back.
Chris put the phone to his ear and replayed the disjointed conversation he and Ezra had had a few days ago trapped in the basement of the old zoo. Father's day. Chris had answered a lot of questions. And he had spent the last few days trying to figure out why.
It was now Ezra's turn.
Larabee put the phone to his ear. "Ezra, shut up…and tell me where the Hell are you?"
Following Josiah's advice, Chris didn't alter his normal mode of speech or expression. He did not, 'change hats'. Instead he dealt with Standish the same way he always did, just as he did with the others.
The only difference, was this time, the man who spoke hardly less than six words a day, would take the time to keep a conversation going, no matter the hours, until the rest of the team got to where ever, just Left of the Middle of Nowhere, really was situated.
"I know your tired Ezra, but ya got to keep on the line." Larabee sighed and leaned back against the couch with his free hand against his forehead. He should have had Josiah stay. How was he suppose to keep Standish on the phone until the others arrived?
Larabee sighed and quietly pointed out, "You missed Father's day, Ezra,"Chris listened to the voice some where across the state, wondering if he should even broach the subject with his sometimes volatile undercover agent.
"I told my old man about you," Chris paused and added his little dig,"and about your tiger," Larabee smiled at the indignant sputtering at the other end, "Dad, thinks I deserve having to put up with the likes of you,payback he called it."
Larabee pulled the phone away from his ear and chuckled at the southern-laden offense that crossed the wire with sparkling clarity, despite the storm.