Magnificent Seven ATF bar

by Heather F.

A haze had settled over him. Not a cloudy misty haze one would expect with a muggy coastal night, or the drizzle cold of a London morning. No, this cloaked him in a different manner.

Something was happening and he couldn't quite fathom what.

It was raining, but not water. Blows? Yes, perhaps...solid, punishing, blunt trauma, striking and sinking into his flesh…Yes, he could feel his body mold and tense under the staccato of repetitive assault. It hurt…surely it damaged him. He couldn't fathom what or whom perpetrated this abuse upon him, couldn't quite penetrate the malingering gloom that embraced him.

What lay beyond the shifting curtain of shadows? His curiosity was not quite powerful enough to demand answers.

He paused for a minute in his thinking….did he pause or had his mind simply wandered away lost in the haze that had enveloped him like a sightless, bitter night on the English moors?

Bitter. Raw. and cold.

Voices murmured in the background. They had a cadence, inflexion and even something of a questioning tone. The words, however, floated off. Pronunciations and syllables filtered away unable to penetrate the swirling grey that seemed to blind his physical eye and entrap his body.

Cocooned? Perhaps he was entrapped in the silky confinement like a caterpillar. Wrapped snuggly and protectively biding his time waiting for some magical change to occur. Spread his wings and fly…Soar free of the numbing dullness that enveloped his itinerant mind.

Something heavy rained down upon him. It sparked pain. Dull pain. Dulled by the swirling grey that buffeted him somehow, protected but entrapping him as well. He felt his body slide…move with the force that shoved harshly at his torso.

Cocooned but somehow not protected from the preying vultures that would destroy his delicate hiding spot.

Voices murmured beyond the wavering blanket of haze. He wanted to touch the swirling mass of heavy clouds but his hands refused to move, refused to listen to muddled commands from a blurry mind.

Voices and blows. First one then the other.

A throbbing pain soaked his skin, like the heavy mists on a San Francisco wharf.

Brittle and bleak.

Things bled away, faded. The blows melded into a steady constant stream. The pain peaked sharply nearly piercing the tangle of interchanging hues of disorientation but waned only to peak again, and again and again.

Nothing focused and the heavy fog blackened.


Voices again. Through the grey. Swirling and suffocating. Hands touched him. Voices called and spoke. Urgency laced the sounds. He waited for the rain, anticipated the blows.

Gentle hands reached through the fog. Soft touches against his shoulder then his head. The blows lay hidden unfallen behind the maelstrom of swirling muffled sounds and odd sensations.

A name filtered in, through the ringing he hadn't recognized. A voice wormed its way into the suffocating grey of dull senses. A single name wrapped around a numb brain and settled heavily.


He missed the inflexion, missed the worried tones, the slight touch of fear and apprehension.

Ezra….they had called him Ezra….why did that frighten him so? He wanted so much to pull from the grasp that seemed to suddenly materialize, cinching his shoulders.

He recognized another word….Ambulance….ambulance? perhaps one of the others were injured? The others? What others. Only he stood mired, bogged and trapped in the comforting incomprehension of a shifting twilight.

Was it Chris? Hadn't the earlier voices been seeking Chris? The voices outside the fog, the voices that rang across the icy dark moors from an unseen source? They wanted Chris….didn't they? They wanted answers…..


There it was again…through the overshadowing landscape of shifting shadows, he heard his name again. Something touched his face…it didn't hurt. Shouldn't it hurt? Wasn't it raining? The rain had hurt…hurt his face, his legs, his arms…his whole body. When hands had touched him, they had been balled, angry, vindictive. They wanted answers…wanted Chris.

He had remained mute…hadn't he? Hadn't the suffocating fog descended upon him after he had made a remark or two about attire and intelligence? Something about Jackasses and elbows?


His name again. It sounded worried. Scared even….Hands slowly moved over him, shifting him within his cocoon, or perhaps it was the silken strands of a spider web?

Hands touched him, lifted him even. Through a pillow of floating thick mist he sensed something moved him away from the potential rain of unremitting fists.

The grey thickened and turned to darkness.


It was dark. No longer grey. Things ceased to swirl and float in a lazy manner. Pain did not sit blandly behind a thick curtain.

It hit him sharply, quickly. Pain lanced him like bolts of lightening, sparking raging fires of torment where ever they struck. Bolt after bolt burned its way through his body, marking and registering every insult. Fierce radiating spears tore through his shoulder with each rise and fall of his chest. Muscles woke twitching and knotting aching under their own duress.

Smell worked its way pass the hurt. Olefactory senses disseminated odors, sluggishly categorizing, recognizing and labeling them. Antiseptic. Iodine soaps and coarse detergents wove their way through the sparkling maelstrom that assaulted a waking brain.

Information filtered and floated in random sequence as consciousness struggled to cope with shifting awareness.

He moved a hand. He sensed the movement from his hand long before he realized he had asked it to move. The hand responded of its on volition, ignoring the conscious mind and accepting the demands of the unconscious nervous system. His hand raised.

Weak eyes, dilated and glassy recognized the plastic tubing that lead to his skin, it recognized and labeled the catheter that slipped somewhat grotesquely under his skin and into a vein.

Both vision and muscles grew tired and the hand rested heavily back on the flat surface and eyes drifted closed.

A coldness seeped from his bones, spreading from inside out, making itself known. A raw chill blossomed and infused his very being.

Darkness threatened to resume. A strange sense crashed quickly behind the flooding cold. Fear. A fear he had not felt since a small child. An uneasiness that had not clenched his stomach for a life time. It filtered through with the blanketing cold and settled heavily upon him like an old dreaded enemy.



The soft banging on the door continued. Buck shut his eyes and tried to ignore it. He chalked it up to thunder, knowing it wasn't but unwilling to act otherwise. Rain pelted the darkened bedroom window. Strobing flashes of lightening thrust the midnight world into the realm of brilliant daylight. Thunder crashed and shook the area hot on the heels of the iridescent light.

Between the deafening rolls of clashing thunder, a soft knock seeped through the apartment.

It had been a hellacious two days. Two miserable, frightening days. Things were finally looking up. They had found Ezra in the abandoned garage just on the outskirts of Denver. Doctors were confident he would be fine. In fact, they would be cutting back on the sedation and pain medication in the morning. Hopefully that would allow Standish a chance to wake up.

The group from Forensics had gathered enough evidence to point the investigating team on the trail of Jack N. Thomas and his cohorts.

Yes things were looking up. Chris had finally gone home to his place with Vin to keep him company. Jack Thomas was an old enemy of Larabee who swore revenge upon the ATF leader. Frustrated unspent anger poured from Larabee's very pores as he had sat beside Standish's hospital bed. The revelation of Thomas's potential responsibility poured guilt over the leader of Team Seven nearly drowning the man.

Why grab Ezra? Who knew? Chris wasn't difficult to find. Hell, Thomas was the kind of person to call you out into the street and Chris was the type to go.

How Standish fit into all this, no one knew. Right now it didn't matter. They found Ezra, they were onto Thomas…. Things were leveling out. Tonight the team had finally gone to their own homes. For one night they would live their lives as their own and face the world and its consequences in the morning. Tomorrow they would hunt down Thomas and stick close to Larabee and harass Standish…when he finally woke up.

Tonight, however, Josiah would work on his church until dawn, Nathan sought out Rain and he, himself had managed to make a date with this blonde beauty. Buck smiled gleefully as he stared down at the deep brown eyes that twinkled back up at him. Better still….

JD was out on a date with Casey.

A soft persistent rap at the door. Lightening cracked the sky and Thunder tolled overhead rolling across the sky.

A simple quiet knock. Unrelenting.

So who the Hell was knocking on his apartment door at….Buck pulled his dark blue eyes from the brown eyed beauty that gazed up at him from the pillow, to look at his nightstand clock….1:33am…?Who the Hell would be knocking on his door at 1:33 am?

"Maybe you should answer it Sugar?" the sweet Texas twang sent shivers up and down Wilmington's spine. Her voice alone was enough to make him want to forget whoever knocked on his door.

Buck was more inclined to disregard the disturbance, but could not help but notice Monica seemed concerned.

Wilmington bit his lip, fought back a curse and left the comfortable curves of his sweetest date in the last few weeks.

With a grunt and promise to kill who ever stood in the hall outside his apartment, Wilmington shuffled into a pair of discarded jeans and despite his fury carefully zipped them closed.

The soft incessant banging continued.

"JD…." Buck stalked into the main room of their apartment, kicking his way through detris and the such, "you forget your key one more time…I'm going to tattoo it to your ass." Wilmington peeked through the peep hole anger coloring his view.

He hesitated just a second.

"Holy Shit." The anger evaporated. The dead bolts were turned and flustered hands fought with the door knob. A soft, "Geezus…" breezed past suddenly dry lips.

The door flew open.

Standing barefoot, with drenched clothes clinging to a hunched frame swayed Standish. He kept his head bowed, hiding his face from scrutiny.

"Ezra?" Buck reached out a hand and gently led the Southerner into the apartment while he himself stepped into the corridor. Wilmington shot a quick glance up and down the hall searching for any clue as to how Ezra came to be standing at his door.

Standish shuffled in as if his very bones were made of lead.

Wilmington, never relinquishing his grip on his friend, followed him back into the apartment and shut the door.

"Ezra what the Hell?"

"Hurts," Standish mumbled out not wishing to raise his eyes. It hurt, the fear, the familiar dread of loneliness that had accosted him when he woke up cold and hurting in the hospital. A ball of fear had filtered through him and knotted in his gut and festered. It deepened the cold that threatened to make his bones brittle, it strengthened the grip the bruises and cuts had on his flesh.

It hurt. Hurt so much that he needed to escape it. Flee the solitude of waking alone and disoriented much like he did as a child.

He filtered from the hospital leaching in and out of shadows, moving slowly and methodically out into the rain and bitter cold.

He wandered with no distinct impression as to his true destination. He wanted to go home.

"Shit," Buck felt his heart race. The last time they had seen Ezra was this evening when visiting hours were over. He had been out, much like from the time he had been admitted. Bandages, gauze, IV's and leads covered most of his body. He had not truly woken only because the doctors had not desired it.

What the Hell had happened?

"Come on pard'," Wilmington led him toward the sagging couch that looked more like a sink hole than a piece of furniture.

Standish shuffled obediently following Buck's lead.

Monica slid from the bedroom wearing a Bronco's practice shirt and not much more. Long dirty blonde hair caressed her shoulders in a haphazard manner bringing out the natural beauty of her face. "Buck?" Her soft questioning voice offered only assistance.

"Monica, honey," Buck took his attention from the undercover agent to the amateur La Crosse player at his bedroom door, "could ya get me some towels from the bathroom and some dry clothes."

The young lady disappeared without a question.

Buck turned his attention back to Standish, who still stood quietly beside Wilmington as if in reaching his destination he was unsure what else to do.

"Ez, I'm gonna set ya on the couch and then go to the kitchen ok?" The phone that worked was in the kitchen as well as the coffee pot. Not that Ezra was needing any coffee but something warm would probably be good.

Wilmington started to guide Standish down onto the couch that was known to have devoured guests from time to time. When he thought Standish could handle the movement on his own, Buck headed for the small kitchen.

He made it as far as the delineating line between rug and linoleum when he stopped. Ezra had followed him. Head still bowed, walking on the cut and torn heels of green surgical scrubs Standish kept a step behind, simply trailing.

"Whoa, whoa Ez, Pard," Buck turned and placed both his hands on Standish's upper arms, mindful of the left one that was ensconced in tight bandages.

Standish leaned into the hold and rested his forehead on Buck's chest. There were consequences to his actions, penalties for his dependence, but at the moment he couldn't fathom what they were or where the danger lay. He acted on buried, long ignored impulse.

"Hurts," he mumbled softly and thickly, afraid of his own weakness but even more fearful of being left alone.

Buck let his arms slip gently around Standish and rested his chin on the rain matted head, "I know pard', I know….just let ole' Buck take care of it." His softly spoken words were barely a whisper.

Monica exited the room with an arm full of towels, a T-Shirt, socks and sweat pants. She stopped when she noticed the two friends and gave them some time.

"Ez, ya soaked to the skin," Buck spoke again after a few moments, "gotta git ya out of these wet things or ya'll catch pneumonia and end right back at the hospital."

A soft pleading "No" waived up from the undercover agent as he leaned his forehead further into Wilmington.

"I know Hoss…I know," Buck motioned for Monica to come closer, "that's why we gotta get ya dried off." Wilmington took the proffered towels and gave her a reassuring wink.

The young lady smiled in understanding pleased that she was allowed to help. "I'll go change the bedding."

Another relieved smile lit Buck's face as he watched the best looking thing that had ever worn his Bronco's shirt sashay back into his bedroom.

"Cold," the heavy accented word brought Buck back to the situation at hand.

"Gonna fix that right now pard'," Wilmington let the towel unfold behind Standish's back and then brought it up to the undercover agent's bowed head.

"Gonna git ya fixed up in no time Ez…no time at all." Buck carefully started manipulating Standish out of clinging wet clothes.


Buck gently shut the bedroom door but didn't allow it to click close. He nestled the phone receiver between his shoulder and ear.

"He just showed up," Wilmington stated again, his disbelief matched by the voice on the other end of the line. "Hell if I know Chris….shit one minute I'm with Monica," there was a pause and Buck pulled back from the phone for a second before talking again, "Theresea? Heck Chris she's been gone what three weeks?" Buck shook his head as if to clear it, "….anyhow I was with Monica and the next thing ya know someone's knocking at my door…." Wilmington tossed JD a sly smile and a wink, "Pissed me off at first, thought the damn kid locked himself out again."

JD flipped Buck off. Dunne sat in the recliner watching the conversation that occurred over the phone. He had made it home only fifteen minutes ago. Casey and he had gone to a late show and then a real early Breakfast at Sam's Place. Monica had left when JD showed up. She was pretty. Better looking than Carol.

"Nah, he's sleeping….kept saying he hurt," Buck answered pacing back and forth in front of the partially closed door as if guarding it, "he stuck to me like glue. I didn't know better I'd say he's scared."

Wilmington nudged the bed room door open again with his toe. He peeked inside.

Just making sure…

"I don't know Chris….maybe they cut back on his meds a day early. All I know is he looked scared to death, didn't want to be alone and kept sayin' he hurt." Buck paused, "I gave him some of my old Percodan."

JD cringed. He hated that stuff.

"No, it makes Vin hallucinate….Uhuh, that's JD who gets itchy on it."

Dunne nodded in agreement. Stuff made him break out and itch all over. Vin would fight with things no one else saw. Kind of creepy too.

"No that's me," Buck shook his head. Last time he took Percodan he spent the day hugging the toilet searching for internal organs after every bout of dry heaves. "Yeah, it makes Ezra dumb."

JD chuckled quietly. Buck had puked his guts out on it. Doctor had told him to get rid of the stuff and gave him a new prescription. Of course, Buck didn't. He kept a bottle on hand in case one of the others needed it. Apparently he was right. Nathan and Josiah handled it ok. It didn't do much to kill pain for Josiah, especially when his back acted up. He seemed immune to the stuff. Chris slept all day when he had to take it. Nathan did too. One time, Nathan slept for almost 8 straight hours. Ezra, on the other hand, became dumb. He'd just sit and stare into space. He wouldn't even move his eyes. Just sit and stare. If you tried to make him lay down, he'd resist…but that was it. Put cards in his hands and they just slipped right back out.

Dunne turned his attention back to Buck when he heard his name.

"JD 'n me will keep an eye on'im, jist figured I'd better let you and the others know." Buck hefted the body of the phone in his hand as he walked careful of the cord that acted as its umbilicus.

"Yeah, that would be great, tell Nathan we'll be expecting him…oh and have Josiah pick up some breakfast on his way in after getting Vin."

Dunne furrowed his brow. He thought Vin was staying at the ranch. Maybe the kids in Purgatory were acting up again?

Buck nodded his head in agreement to something Chris said, "yeah sure, no problem Chris, see ya in the morning."

JD looked down at his watch. Morning was already here. Sun would be up in a matter of hours.

Wilmington nestled the phone back on its cradle and placed it on an end table that acted more as an impromptu snack table than anything else.

"You want me to stay up with him?" JD watched his older friend as he scrutinized the slightly ajar bedroom door.

"Ahh, nah kid," Buck turned and faced his young room mate, "I think I'll stick with him for a while, jist in case…."

"Not a problem Buck," JD smiled and pushed himself from the recliner, " if Ez needs anything…or you for that matter…"

Buck chuckled appreciatively, "I know kid, yer right across the way."

Dunne nodded and headed for his small room. He had just turned the knob and pushed it open and paused, then turned around, "Why'd ya think he came here?" JD looked to Buck who stood leaning in the door way of his own room watching the undercover agent. "I mean why here…and not his own place…it's closer by a good five miles…" Especially in the rain. No way he could have walked the distance from the hospital to their apartment….He had to have finagled a ride…perhaps a taxi but still the borrowed white lab coat and scrubs were soaked through…he walked some of the distance.

"I don't know kid…" Buck answered, he rested his arms across his chest as he turned his attention back in a the man huddled under a thick blanket, "said he hurt."

JD nodded believing the statement. Hurt. Yeah, but the Percodan only knocked down the fleshy pain. Not the kind that snuck up on you in the middle of the night when one is alone and scared.

"Least he knew to come here."

"Yeah, kid," Buck agreed. Least he knew to do that….


JD answered the door, dressed and ready for the work. "Hey guys, what ya bring for breakfast?" Tanner simply handed the Kid the donought bag.

The smell of fresh coffee filled the apartment. Larabee had already set the day's plans in motion. Instead of the team meeting in the conference room at the office, they held one at Buck and JD's kitchen table.

Josiah and Vin made their way to the kitchen bypassing the coffee table and couch and heading for Buck's room first.

They had stood in the doorway and simply stared. Standish slept facing the door. Even in the uneven light, created by the morning sun, heavy bruising was visible around his neck and face. A bandaged hand rested beside his pillow. White gauze ensconced both wrists, where rope had been cinched too tightly, furrowing its way brutally into skin.

Small bruises smudged his upper arms where hands had wrenched his arms up behind his back. The rest of the bruising and deep muscle damage lay hidden from sight under the white t-shirt and blankets.

Josiah watched the slow rise and fall of bandaged ribs and pondered the paradox that this event presented.

Standish had turned to them. Unsolicited, of his own free will. He sought them out. Well Buck and JD, but it might as well had been anyone of them.

Sanchez watched as Standish straightened a leg and then slowly drew it back. His eyes wavered open for a split second only to flutter close almost immediately. He seemed more relaxed…content.

Vin let a breath out, "Can't figure how he slithers out of there so easily." The tracker shook his head in mock disgust wondering why his escape attempts from Four Corners Mercy ended more times than not with his 'capture'.

Josiah patted Vin's shoulder in consolation, "Because brother, he's better lookin'." The ex-anthropologist met the Texan's shocked look with a wide toothy grin. "lets go see what Chris has in store for us today."

"Ez ain't better lookin'…not by half," Tanner mumbled out as he let Josiah guide him to the kitchen.

"Hell Vin," Buck chimed in having heard the conversation, "finding you is as about as hard as spotting Sasquatch at a Hair Club For Men meeting."

Larabee breathed a chuckle into this raised coffee mug.

Nathan noticed it and was thankful. It was the first hint of a smile from Larabee since this whole fiascal had begun.


Josiah put down the cards and waited. Standish stirred again. His dalliances with the waking world were becoming more and more frequent.

The sun stretched into the morning sky. Nine am and the soft light of mid morning slowly lengthened across the room. Winter was coming.

The voices outside the bed room door had diminished. As the men left the apartment to start their assigned tasks, each one had peeked into the room.

Relief and amazement had marked their faces. Everyone of them. Buck and JD, however walked a little higher. Standish, after all, found his way to their door.

Sanchez allowed a small smile to grace his face. To say the call he had received from Larabee earlier this morning was unexpected, would be an understatement. A pleasant surprise, in a manner of speaking.

Who would have thought Standish would seek one of them out? Suspected yes, toyed with the idea that perhaps the Southerner would trust them enough to consciously make a choice and seek out their aid. Never would Josiah have believed that Standish would actually do it.


In the line of duty, in the right now of the moment, when people were scrambling about in the post bust excitement of adrenaline, even then Nathan or one of the others would have to notice the infirmary before Standish would admit and accept aid. No different than the others, but some how the Southerner's aloofness seemed to stem, not from his attempt to appear tough and independent, but more from a fear of acknowledged dependence and requited faith in his fellow teammates.

Today, however, sparked a light of true trust and voluntary reliance on his team mates. Un-accosted, Ezra had meandered his way searching out one of the others.

Under that glib exterior, beneath fierce independence that refused to accept aid when truly needed, lay a strong layer of trust.

They were gaining. All of them.

Sanchez carefully laid a callused hand on Standish's head and tilted the bruised face toward him. He watched as glazed swollen eyes fluttered opened and closed only to flutter open again. The shocking bright red of the sclera highlighted the intensely green eyes.

"You're ok son." Sanchez waited, speaking softly all the while gaging the glassy eyes that struggled to attain awareness.

Sanchez watched as Standish let his eye rove around the room or what he could perceive of the room from his side. His left eye lay buried in the pillow. With a heavy hand, the Southerner tried to rub at his face.

"Best not be doing that," Josiah intercepted the bandage wrist and placed it back on the mattress. He held it still, keeping the contact, offering support.

"Where?" The furrowed brow asked the question more elogquently than the scratchy lisped vocal inflection that skewered the attempt at speech.

Sanchez smiled like the Cheshire Cat as if holding a secret that the questioner should have already known. "Buck and JD's." The preacher watched as Standish drew in another breath and searched his surroundings with more care.

"Good Lord, Why?" Ezra blinked his eyes more vigorously trying to force himself from the haze that had protected him for so long. His coarse voice wavered between a whisper and normal conversation. Sleep tugged persistently at him.

Josiah's grin widened even further as he leaned back in his chair, pleased with the question, " Seems you felt safer here than in the hospital." Sanchez tried to turn the cards in his hands without peering at them, instead amusing himself with the confused and then slow expression of denial that laced the Southerner's swollen features. "Next time, Brother I think it would be prudent you call one of us before taking a Walk-About through the city of Denver in your hospital gown."

The shocked expression had the preacher tossing his head back and laughing uproariously.

"I see no humor in this situation Mr. Sanchez," Except the cut lips and loose teeth mingled the 'S's and smudged the 'Z'. Ezra carefully rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He closed his eyes. Buck had a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader poster tacked to the wood beamed ceiling. Good Lord was he, himself, the only one with taste? There was no way in his right mind he would go to one of the others when his apartment lay so much closer.

"The drugs…must have been the drugs."

Sanchez let his chuckle dwindle and nodded his head. Not in agreement but in the realization Standish still worked on conning himself. He showed his hand earlier this morning when he stood wet and cold at Buck and JD's door. He sought them out. Trusted them to help him when he couldn't quite help himself.

Drugs indeed.

"Speaking of which," Josiah produced two tiny white pills, "Nathan said to take these. He's stopping by the hospital this morning and getting your prescriptions…he said these will do for now."

Standish eyed the pills the best he could from his position. Good Lord, Buck's bed. When was the last time the sheets had been changed… "Are they necessary?"

"Well Brother, I can't say for sure," Josiah sat forward in the chair and leaned in closer to Standish, "but Brother Chris gave me permission to shove them down your throat if you didn't cooperate."

Ezra paled slightly at the threat. With a heart felt sigh, he attempted to sit up and roll onto his left elbow. He stopped almost immediately as searing pain stole his breath away.

"Let me help you," Josiah slipped onto the bed and propped Standish up by simply sliding his hip under the Southerner's shoulder.

"Oh Gawd," Ezra breathed out as agony tore through his midsection and shoulder. Vertigo hit him like a hammer. With his eyes squeezed shut, trying to fight for breath, he could not help but think, There was no way in Hell he voluntarily sought someone out if he was this hurt. No conceivable way. Good Lord he hurt, the pills might not be such a bad idea after all.

"Take it slow brother," Josiah tipped his hand and let the pills slide from his palm into Standish's mouth. He reached over to the night stand and gently tilted the rim of the glass against Standish's bruised and puffy lower lip. After a few sips, Josiah pulled the glass away and eased himself out from under Ezra's shoulders.

Standish lay back against the bed and closed his eyes, trying to adjust to the throbbing aches that had muscles burning. A whirlwind of grey sluiced through his vision blinding him to the room and its other occupant.

"You doin' alright?" Sanchez eyed the tightly curled fists that knotted themselves in the bedding.

"Never better," The sarcasm carried clearly.

Sanchez chuckled again. The man was made of spit and vinegar. "JD is glad to have someone else for Buck to dote on and lecture too."

Ezra quirked open one eye and stared at Sanchez. Out of the frying pan and into the proverbial fire.

"Don't give me that look Brother, you're here for the duration." Josiah leaned back in his chair and gathered up the cards.

The profiler watched Ezra cringed every time he shuffled the deck.

"Will you desist in mauling that deck of cards?" Ezra shifted wincing at every wrong move his body made, "Good Lord man has no one taught you anything about how to handle a playing deck?" Standish eyed the larger profiler with an ever increasing glassy gaze, "and I have every intention of going back to my own abode before nightfall."

Ezra felt his hopes fade away as Sanchez, once again, laughed in his raucous manner.

"Sorry Brother," Josiah turned his amused gaze onto Ezra, "but you chose us this time….your staying put." The profiler paused for affect, "unless of course you prefer the hospital?"

Standish sighed, the man was getting way too much humor out of the situation. Ezra tried to explain again, as if he spoke to a slow child, "It was the drugs Mr. Sanchez," Ezra felt woozy and his eyelids wanted nothing more than to lay shut. He struggled to keep them open, keep the world in focus. The pain melted away with his waning energy, "the drugs not me." His words tapered off as eyes finally rolled without consent. In sliding into the warmth of a heavy drug induced sleep, he could not help but feel comforted by the presence of one of the others. It was safe. He was safe, not alone.

He would get himself home. Just not right away.

Josiah watched Ezra struggle, fight the effects of the painkiller like a child fighting an afternoon nap. Sanchez's smile never diminished. Drugs or not Ezra….you sought us out….No going back on us now.

The End