by Hombre

Warning: Death fic

Disclaimer: Boys not mine, just playing. Sure someone has written along a similar theme. Hope mine is not too alike. Story deals with the reaction of one of the boys after the death of a relative.

Chris was sitting at his desk quietly fuming. He had left his office door open to keep an eye out for the arrival of his undercover agent. He was late again and that made a total of four times this week. Chris's patience had worn thin and he was ready for war. He had already given Ezra one warning and it looked as though it had been ignored. Chris certainly wasn't going to stand for any insubordination, so he sat and fumed, biding his time.

The rest of the team was steering clear of their leader knowing better than to talk to him in his present mood. They knew there was a major confrontation on the cards. Ezra was usually late a few times a month, but this was extremely unusual and talk of the devil, here was the man himself.

Chris caught a movement out the corner of his eye and he looked up just in time to see the rear view of his quarry trying to sneak in unnoticed.

"Ezra! In here now," he yelled.

The object of his wrath winced and noticeably paled. The rest of the team collectively drew in a breath waiting for the fireworks to commence. They certainly didn't envy Ezra. Josiah studied Ezra minutely and noticed that the agent looked upset, tired and had a certain redness around the eyes. He narrowed his gaze as he scrutinized the usually happy man. Something was definitely amiss and Josiah wondered what it was. Ezra had been acting out of character for a few days now. He had been taciturn, unable to concentrate on his work and had developed an unusually short fuse. Both Josiah and Nathan had tried talking to him but had been told in no uncertain terms to mind their own business. They had backed off hoping Ezra would open up in time and tell them what was on his mind. They had also been forced to step in on several occasions to dissipate arguments that had arisen between Ezra and Chris. Yes, the two men clashed occasionally but not to this extent. Josiah shook his head and went back to work as Ezra entered Chris's office, like a lamb to slaughter.

Ezra closed the door behind him and waited for the inevitable dressing down. Chris looked furious and Ezra knew he had every right to be. He'd been pushing his luck recently, with good reason, but he knew Chris had reached the end of his tether. Perhaps he should have confided in his boss and then things wouldn't have got so bad.

"You're late," Chris said sternly.

"I'm sorry."

"That's the fourth time this week. What the hell is going on?"

"Nothing," Ezra replied quietly, his eyes rooted to a spot on the carpet by his feet. He could feel a wave of heat spreading though his body from his feet upwards and he didn't know how long he could keep his composure.

"That's not good enough. Unless I get a good explanation, I'll have to let you go. I can't have an agent who's too lazy to even bother getting in to work on time," Chris continued angrily.

He didn't get a reply. Ezra actually turned away and moved to look out of the window. Chris interpreted it as rudeness but he had missed seeing the tears that had appeared in his agent's eyes.

"At least do me the courtesy of looking at me when I'm talking to you," Chris shouted furiously.

The men in the outer office winced at the loud voice and then strained their ears at the silence that followed. What was going on in there?

Back inside, Chris was studying Ezra's back. Had he seen a slight tremor? Ezra bowed his head suddenly and Chris thought he heard a strangled sob. He watched in disbelief as Ezra quickly raised a hand to his face and gave into his emotions, all his pent up feelings surging out of him like a tidal wave. Chris couldn't believe what he was seeing. His agent, a man who prided himself on showing no emotion, had broken down in front of him. The sobbing pulled at Chris's heart and he momentarily regretted reprimanding Ezra. Something was seriously wrong with the man to get such a bad reaction. Chris moved swiftly and went to stand beside his shaking employee.

The men outside could hear no sound from Chris's office. They hadn't killed one another had they? The quiet was very unsettling and they exchanged nervous looks, but no one volunteered to go and see if everything was alright.

Chris got hold of Ezra's shoulder and turned him round so they were facing one another. "Ez? Whatever's the matter?" he asked, as he pulled Ezra's hand away from his face gently. The emotions flicking across his friend's face frightened him. There was something slightly manic in his eyes. Ezra put his other hand back over his mouth trying to suppress the sobs that escaped his lips. He sounded as though he had a monstrous case of hiccups. He was truly frightened, he had never lost control so completely before and he didn't know what to do to right himself.

Chris got hold of his agent's elbow and led him to the couch and made him sit down before squatting in front of him. "Ez. Talk to me. I can't help if you won't tell me what's wrong." Chris waited for an answer but realized that Ezra just wasn't able to speak.

Chris didn't know what to do for the best. His agent seemed about to tip over the precipice of despair. He rose quickly and went to the office door and opened it a fraction, calling through the gap, "Nate, get in here will ya?"

Nathan looked up and saw the fear in Chris's face. God, he hadn't harmed Ezra had he? The medic rose and strode quickly in to meet his boss and stopped dead at the sight that confronted him. He turned to Chris questioningly as he closed the door but Chris just shrugged.

"He just broke down. I can't get him to calm down or tell me what's wrong," Chris explained.

The men outside had heard the sound of crying when the door had been opened. What was going on in there?

Nathan walked over to the couch and sat down beside Ezra. He put an arm round his shoulders and rubbed the distraught man's back.

"Ez. Come on, I need you to calm down." Nathan turned to Chris and asked, "Can you get him a drink?" before turning his attention back to Ezra. Chris ducked outside to the water dispenser and ignored the curious looks from the rest of his team. They would have to wait. He had more pressing matters to deal with. He returned to the office and placed the drink on a small table in front of Ezra.

There is only so long anyone can keep crying before becoming worn out and Ezra was rapidly reaching the limit, for which Nathan was glad. Short of slapping his face Nathan didn't know how to get Ezra back on track. Ezra's sobs started to lessen and he began to calm although his body shook uncontrollably. He finally reached out and lifted the drink in a shaking hand, spilling some of its contents on the journey to his mouth. He wouldn't raise his eyes to look at the two men with him. He was too embarrassed at his loss of control. He drank deeply before lowering the glass to his lap and turning it round and round in his hands. No one spoke for a few minutes which allowed Ezra time to settle properly.

Chris was worried about setting the man off again, but he asked tentatively, "Ezra. What's wrong?"

Ezra took a deep halting breath before finally answering, "Maude."

Chris frowned. "Is she ill?" he asked. Surely that wouldn't have resulted in such a total collapse.

"She's dead," Ezra said quietly, shivering at the memory.

Chris was stunned. No wonder Ezra was in such a state. Maude and Ezra had enjoyed a sparky relationship to say the least. She always came out on top in any confrontation between them which infuriated Ezra no end, but he loved and admired her greatly. Chris squatted down in front of his agent again and put a hand on his knee to get his attention.

"I'm so sorry, Ez. What happened?" he asked gently.

"She had a routine operation but developed complications and never recovered," Ezra said baldly. He really couldn't go into details. He was just keeping his head above water as it was but he could feel the tide of emotion rising again.

"Why didn't you say anything? How long was she in hospital?"

"Five days. I went and sat with her every evening after work and stayed overnight. She died yesterday morning. I haven't had much sleep which is why I've been late so much."

"Jeez, Ez. You could have taken time off. Why didn't you ask?" Chris scolded.

"I knew you were all flat out with the Watson case. I wanted to keep working anyway, to keep my mind off things. She was my mother. It was my business. I thought I could handle it."

Nathan spoke before Chris could answer. "Bugger the Watson case, Ezra. This isn't the sort of thing you should deal with alone. You should have told us. You'll make yourself ill if you don't take care." Ezra didn't answer and Chris could tell he was trying not to cry.

"I'll take you home," he said, patting Ezra's knee. He stood and went outside, leaning with his back against his office door after he had closed it.

"I expect you're all wondering what's going on," he said to the curious men outside. "I'm taking Ezra home. Maude's dead." He sighed deeply and wiped a hand over his face. God, what a day.

"Christ Almighty. No wonder he's been behaving oddly. How is he?" Buck asked, shocked.

"Not good, especially since I bawled him out for being late. She died yesterday apparently. He totally flipped. I've never seen him like it before." Chris pulled himself upright and looked the men over. "Would you mind going into the conference room while I get Ezra? I don't think he can face anyone at the moment."

"Yeah sure. Give him our best, won't ya?" Josiah said. The men rose as one and moved into the conference room in silence. Chris turned to go back into his office but felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to find Josiah behind him.

"Let me know if he wants to talk. He can call me any time."

"Thanks, Josiah. I appreciate it. I'll tell him."

The two men split up and went to their respective rooms. Chris opened his office door and looked toward the two men on the couch. Ezra looked drained but at least he had calmed down.

"Come on. I've cleared the outer office so you don't have to see anyone. Are you coming, Nate?" he asked.

"Yeah. I will if that's alright?"

"Yeah, that would be great. Thanks."

The two men rose from the couch and Nathan kept a grip on Ezra's arm. All three men left the room and made their way downstairs to the parking lot. His two companions shielded him from anyone they encountered on the way, sure in their minds that Ezra would relapse to his previous state if confronted. Ezra got in the back seat of the car feeling stupid. He had never let anyone see him stripped so bare before. He knew Nathan was use to dealing with people in distress but he had never counted himself as someone who would have disintegrated so completely. Nathan got in beside him and put his arm around his shoulders while Chris drove them back to Ezra's house.

When they arrived, Nathan took Ezra inside and gasped as he saw the state of the house. It was usually immaculate, but at the moment it was a tip. He left Ezra standing in the hall and went to see if there was a room they could use until they had sorted out the others. Chris was walking up the path to the house. The front door had been left open for him and he could see Ezra standing inside. As he watched, he saw Ezra reach out one hand to the wall and the other to his head while swaying alarmingly. Chris knew what was coming but wasn't close enough to do anything. He watched helplessly as Ezra's knees buckled beneath him sending him to the floor with a thud and hitting a table on his way down.

"Shit," Chris said with feeling. He hurried inside and knelt beside his companion. Nathan came out from the kitchen wondering what he had heard and knew immediately what it was when he saw Ezra sprawled out on the carpet with Chris beside him.

Chris looked up angrily, "Why did you leave him?"

"Sorry. I went to see if the rest of the house was in a similar state to the rooms down here."

Chris looked around him and saw what Nathan meant. "Jesus. Sorry Nate," he apologized.

"I've just been in the kitchen and it's the only room that's clean and tidy. I'm not surprised he passed out, it doesn't look as though he's eaten in days. Help me get him on a couch will you?" Nathan said.

Both men stooped and gently picked the unconscious man up between them. They moved into Ezra's den and laid him on the couch. Nathan checked him over and found a slight cut on his forehead where he had connected with the table as he'd fallen. He went and found a plaster and stuck it securely over the wound.

"Stubborn fool. When is he going to realize he's not alone any more?" Chris asked.

Ezra stirred and raised a hand to his head. He opened his eyes and saw the two men standing over him. "What happened?" he asked.

"You passed out. When exactly did you last eat?" Nathan asked, as Chris helped Ezra sit up.

"I don't know," Ezra replied faintly, head in hands. He was feeling sick and empty.

"Well, I'll go and fix something up now and then you'd better catch up on some sleep. You look shattered," Chris said.

Ezra didn't have the energy to protest but he really wasn't hungry. The three men moved into the kitchen and Chris looked in the fridge and cupboards for food. There wasn't much to choose from. He threw out quite a few things that had gone off and they had to settle for eggs and bacon. Ezra picked at the food on the plate in front of him, but he ate it in the hope Chris would then leave him alone. Ezra sat back dejectedly when he had finished and didn't help in clearing up the mess Chris had made in preparing the meal. Chris turned round and looked at him from the sink, his sleeves rolled up and soap suds round his elbows.

"Why don't you get some sleep, Ez? We'll tidy up a bit, but call if you want anything." Chris studied the man sitting at the table. He really did look rough, not his usual dapper self, that was for sure.

Ezra looked up and saw Chris watching him. He dropped his gaze and wiped a hand over his face. "Yeah, I think I'll go upstairs. Thanks for everything." He rose and headed toward the door quickly. He couldn't wait to be on his own.

Chris watched him and called out before he left the room. "Are you alright, Ez? I mean really alright. Don't just fob me off with any lies."

Ezra turned round and looked at his friends. "I'll survive if that's what you mean," he replied before turning and continuing on his way.

"I'll look in on him later. He just wants some time on his own I expect," Nathan said. The two men returned to their task and in due course Nathan made his way upstairs. He knocked on Ezra's door and walked in. Ezra was lying on the bed wide awake. He hadn't even bothered getting undressed.

"Are you okay?" Nathan asked. "Chris is worried about you." Nathan sat down on the bed and looked at the man beside him.

"I'm fine." Actually, Ezra thought to himself, he did feel better. After his initial outpouring of grief back at the office, he had not felt quite so emotional. He had been trying to bury his feelings for the past week and it had done him good to let go.

"Yeah, you look it. Come on Ez, open up. You can talk to me, you know."

"I just want to be left alone. This is exactly why I didn't say anything before. I can't stand being smothered by do-gooders."

"Do you want anything to help you sleep?" Nathan asked unperturbed. He had known it was a waste of time trying to get Ezra to talk, but at least he could try and help him get some much needed rest.

"I've got some pills somewhere."


"God, I don't know," Ezra snapped irritably. Why couldn't Nathan leave him alone?

Nathan rose and looked around the room before making his way into the bathroom. He found a bottle of pills and took them back into the bedroom. He tipped two out and passed them to Ezra along with a glass of water he had filled. Ezra angrily took them and turned over on his side so his back was to Nathan. The medic put the bottle in his pocket. There was no knowing what Ezra was likely to do. He certainly wasn't going to leave temptation in plain view. He made his way downstairs and joined Chris in the kitchen.

"He alright?"

"Not really. He had some sleeping pills, so I gave him two and brought the bottle with me."

"You don't think he'd do anything stupid do you?" Chris said in alarm. He'd always thought of Ezra as level headed, but one could never tell.

"I don't think he would, but better safe than sorry."

The two men halfheartedly cleared up part of the mess in a couple of rooms before turning in themselves. They weren't going to leave Ezra alone.

The next morning Chris took Ezra to the funeral home to make proper arrangements and see Maude for the last time. While they were gone Vin turned up and persuaded Nathan to go home. The medic had a court case that afternoon and had preparations to make. So it was Vin who was there to meet Chris and Ezra when they returned a couple of hours later. Ezra didn't speak and headed straight upstairs.

Chris watched him go and then joined Vin in the kitchen. He took a seat at the table and ran his fingers though his hair while sighing deeply. Ezra had handled things pretty well, he thought, all things considered. Vin put a cup of coffee in front of him and sat down opposite.

"How'd it go?" he asked.

"He managed quite well actually. I expected another outburst like yesterdays. He kept it together though and managed to get all the arrangements made for the funeral. I hope he's able to get some sleep now. He really needs it." Chris's heart leapt into his throat. He had left the bottle of pills in the main bathroom. Ezra had seen him put them there. He rose quickly and raced upstairs. Vin followed him, wondering what was wrong. Chris saw Ezra heading toward the bathroom and managed to get there first. Ezra watched in surprise as he was elbowed out of the way. Chris put his hand around the bottle and put it in his pocket quickly.

Ezra frowned and shook his head. "Surely you don't think I'm going to top myself? I haven't got the guts for that," he said.

"We're all capable of things when we're suffering that we wouldn't usually consider," Chris replied. "I would never have thought I would have gone to pieces so completely when Sarah and Adam died. I thought I was strong and it's frightening to discover you're not. I know how you're feeling believe me."

"Well I promise I won't do anything. Thank you for your concern and I wouldn't have blamed you after my behavior this week if you had fired me," Ezra said

"If you'd told me what was going on I'd have cut you some slack. We could have come to some arrangement between us instead of being at odds with one another. Forget about it. You had good reason for your actions, but just let me know in future if you need help, okay?"

Ezra nodded and headed back to his bedroom closing the door quietly behind him. Chris still wasn't sure whether his agent had been intending to do something drastic or if he had been going to the bathroom for another purpose. He hoped he would never find out.

Ezra lay down on the bed and thought about Chris's concern. The way things had been between the two of them, Ezra would have expected Chris to be force feeding him sleeping pills rather than preventing him from harming himself. Funny how things changed but then he'd only got himself to blame. He should have told Chris what was going on days ago. He also regretted the way he had snapped at Nathan earlier. The medic had only been trying to help after all. Ezra knew he should be more willing to accept the help of others when it was offered, but he had been so used to dealing with things on his own that it came hard.

Meanwhile Chris and Vin went downstairs and made some lunch. They saved something for Ezra and started tidying another room. A few hours later Vin went upstairs to use the bathroom and heard Ezra tossing and turning as well as talking quite loudly in his sleep. He stepped into Ezra's room and sat down beside him and rubbed the man's back gently. Ezra stopped fidgeting but didn't wake or stop talking. Vin decided to stay and he leaned back in his chair and watched over his friend. He reached out on several occasions to calm his colleague and Ezra settled down again immediately after feeling his touch.

Vin listened to his friend's ramblings until Ezra stirred and woke a couple of hours later. He looked up and saw Vin. "Mr. Tanner?" he said sleepily.

"You were talking in yer sleep. I came to keep you company."

"I was dreaming about Maude," Ezra said quietly.

"So I gathered, but that proves you haven't totally lost her. She'll always be up here when you need her," Vin said as he tapped his head. "I still dream of my Mom. I know I was only little when she died but I remember her beauty and kindness. Her face isn't clear any more but it's more her presence I can feel. It's comforting to know she's there when I need her."

Ezra spoke softly, "At the funeral home this morning there was a young woman with two small children. She'd lost her husband and I felt so sorry for the children who would never know their father. It puts things in perspective and I now feel privileged that I knew my mother so well."

"I know how much you loved her. You'll never lose her, Ez. It's only her body that's gone, not her spirit." Vin patted Ezra's shoulder and rose to leave.

"Thank you Vin."

"Any time." Vin smiled and left.

Ezra sighed, then smiled too. Vin had helped him take the first step toward accepting Maude's death. Now it was up to him to do the rest. He knew he wouldn't get over losing her quickly, but with the support of his colleagues he would be able to get through the bad times. He would miss her terribly, but at least he could carry her memory with him in his heart and mind. Ezra smiled again as he thought that it had taken the words of a man who he had considered an uncouth no hoper to start him on the road to recovery. Life was full of surprises and that was exactly why he could never do anything to end his own prematurely. Perhaps he could get his life back in order now and get on with things. He intended to do justice to the life Maude had given him.

The End

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