Loyalty III: Aftermath and Proof

by Celeste

Feedback: Yes! (But please, no flames… they’ll shatter my already fragile self-confidence. LOL!)

Summary: (Sequel to Loyalty II: The Bust) The Wednesday after the bust, Teams 7 and 8 show Team 5 that real loyalty does exist, if they’re willing to work for it.

Chronology: Loyalty was set on Wednesday morning, Loyalty II was set on Monday, and Loyalty III is set during late Wednesday afternoon. How’s that for confusing? :P Wow, I hope I’m not wrong about it. I even confused myself! How embarrassing.

Disclaimer: Okay, so the GOOD good guys aren’t mine. The 7 don’t belong to me, and I’m just messing around with them a little bit because my muse (who incidentally, looks like a cowboy dressed all in black that smokes cheroots and drinks whiskey) likes them so much. LOL I may have roughed Ezra up a little bit, but I guarantee he’ll be returned in tiptop condition, none-the worse for wear. Or however that saying actually goes…

Um… the ATF universe isn’t my creation (it’s Mog’s; for all you uncultured brutes that didn’t know…LOL!) and again, I’m just messing around in someone else’s sandbox. I’ll clean it up when I’m through, I always do. ;)

The characters of Team 8 are Heather F.’s creation, and I’m borrowing them again, b/c I needed more GOOD good guys. LOL do I make sense? But anyway, BIG thanks to her for letting me borrow them, and helping me out by giving me their character descriptions and stuff. ;) We needed SOMEONE to put Team 5 in their places while Team 7 is worrying about Ez. ;)

Speaking of Team 5, the 7 BAD good guys from Team 5 are entirely my creation (would you BELIEVE I actually thought of SOMETHING on my OWN?!). I don’t know if I want to keep them though, they’re a bunch of bastards. LOL Oh well. They’re my bastards, I guess. Talk about characters only a creator would love. Hehe. Um, I’ll stop rambling now. Promise.

Distribution: Ask (Nancy) and ye shall receive. (More likely than not) ;) I mean, how could she say no? (Hint: Bribe her!)

Author’s Notes: My beta Luna suggested, after reading "Loyalty" that I fill in some stuff from both before and after the accident I mentioned in Loyalty. You know, to elaborate. Since I just finished the before one, I thought I’d go ahead and do the after now. I’ve never been one to shun good advice from my elders and wisers anyway. This is dedicated to Ker, my sis, who constantly reminds me of all the things I love that are M7, and to the girls at LA, for volunteering to read my stories even though they know nothing (save for Skye) of what I’m talking about. Early apologies if I’ve thoroughly confused anyone with all my rambling.

I swear to god I’ll kill Delvin and Jameson for this, Ezra… fucking bastards deserve to be ripped open and have their intestines yanked out. Better yet, they should have their intestines pulled out and used as a noose to hang themselves. Okay, I know I’m not helping, but I’m worried about you, you crazy son of a bitch. Yeah, I saw that bullet. You saved my life. The guy went for a headshot, didn’t want to risk missing the kill. Lucky for you, hell, for all of us, that he only nicked the side of your head. You’ll be okay. But, damn if I wasn’t scared to death when I saw that spray of blood erupt from your fool skull. I thought for sure he had gotten you. I don’t think I’ve felt that hopeless since the car bomb.

I’m sitting next to Ezra’s hospital bed, waiting for him to wake up. ‘Cause I want to make sure he won’t be alone when he does wake up. It’s a little past one o’clock now, almost two days past since Monday’s bust gone bad. The head wound is probably keeping the guy down, but after a while longer, we’ll be able to take him home; hopefully even tonight. ‘Cause we definitely don’t want to stay here, and the others miss him. It’s only ‘cause that damn nurse, who looks a bit like the dancing alien from "Men in Black," (God, I’m quoting from one of JD’s movies now) would only let us in one at a time in to see him.

The bullet went right into his shoulder, but didn’t come out the other side. The impact broke some bones, but the doctors say he’ll be okay. Shit, why didn’t the bastard keep his vest on? Okay, I know I didn’t either, but I’m going to from now on. I’m going to have to talk to the fellas about a new rule. You don’t take the Kevlar off ‘til I fucking say you can. But, the doctors say Ezra will be okay. He’ll be in pain for a few weeks while we wait for his collarbone and shoulder to heal up, and the gash on the head will leave him dizzy for a while. But, he’ll be okay. I guess I really couldn’t ask for anything more right now. Except, maybe Delvin or Jameson’s head on a platter. Hell, maybe both of them. I think if I asked my team or Team 8 to get ‘em for me, they would. And it’s not like anyone would miss those self-serving assholes, anyway.

(Team 8: Ryan Kelly)

Walking through the hallways, I can hear laughing around the corner. Before turning it, I recognize Terry and Campbell’s voices. Wonder what could possibly so funny today? Especially after the way Jameson and Delvin screwed up Monday.

"Yeah… Team 7’s a bunch of lucky bastards. They’ll probably take the rest of the week off, go hit the clubs while Standish is out of commission…" I hear Campbell snort.

"Seeing to Standish in the hospital is just another one of Travis’s lame excuses to cover for his precious team. Larabee and the rest are probably planning to hit the Saloon as we speak."

I try to keep from bristling with indignation. Is that what they think? The bastards. They have no idea, do they? It comes as no surprise to me, but then again, what can I do? Terry’s always been a selfish ass, even when we went through the academy together. He doesn’t watch out for anyone but himself. How could I expect him to care for anyone else?

Maybe because it’s a team. How can the leader of his team not care about his members, even a little bit? It sickens me to think that a man like Terry is in charge of six other lives. It sickens me even worse to be hearing Jake Terry talk about Chris Larabee in the same context he holds himself to. I have never met someone more fucking dedicated to his team and his men than Chris Larabee. Yet here Terry is, undermining the integrity of that team and how much Chris cares about every single one of them. A man like Jake Terry has no right to even let that name slip past his lips. It seems blasphemous.

"Say, how many bullets do you think it’ll take to actually kill Standish the next time some shit like this happens?" Doug asks Jake, still chuckling.

Terry shrugs. "I give it three."

"I’m guessing four."

I push back the urge to storm the hallway and knock the man unconscious. Instead, I round the corner to see the two lazy asses lounging just outside the restroom doors, Terry stretched out in one of the armchairs just across from the door. They turn up and look at me, having heard me walk upon their little get together.

"Mornin’, Kelly." Campbell greets me, but I just glare at him.

"Don’t you two have something to do?"

They shrug and look at me; Terry starts playing with a pen he took out from his jacket pocket. "We got tired of cleaning up Team 7’s shit, Kelly. Thought we’d take a break."

My eyes go wide before I can stop them. Did that bastard just say what I think he said? "Team 7 doesn’t usually leave much shit after a job, Terry" I respond, my voice clipped.

"Yeah well, they made a mess after this job, and we still have to do the paperwork," Campbell sighs.

"Heard it was your team that made the mess."

"From who, Travis? As far as that old bastard sees, his precious Magnificent Seven is infallible."

I’m impressed. Terry used the word ‘infallible’ correctly in a sentence. "That’s because, most of the time, they are," I respond, glaring at him with my best impression of Larabee’s infamous one.

It must have worked pretty good, ‘cause Jake just goes back to playing with his pen. "Yeah, well, it’s not fair for us to be stuck with the paperwork," Campbell responds, lamely.

"Don’t worry, Travis asked Tanner and Larabee to write up their own reports too. You know, to make sure nothing gets, overlooked."

Brad laughs. "Wow, Clint’s in for a shit load now, isn’t he, Campbell?" he snorts, finally pocketing that damn pen.

Campbell grins. "Been a long time coming to that cocky ass son of a bitch anyway, Terry."

I look at these two, and I feel sick. This is their teammate’s career they’re talking about.

I think about the men on my team, and how we’ve come to depend on each other, become friends. I think about the weekend barbeque we had a Brett’s last week, and the arm-wrestling contest Dougie and I got into Friday at the Saloon, when we were bored and buzzed. Then I look at these two, and I wonder what went wrong for them. I wish there was something I could do about it.

(Team 5: Jake Terry)

Campbell and I are sitting out in the hallway, guessing about how many bullets it’ll take before Standish ends up dead next time. The man has more fucking lives than a cat, I swear. Campbell and me, we were just minding our own business, taking a break from finishing up Larabee’s shit. Then Kelly rounds the corner, and he kinda stops and looks at us. I remember when Kelly was a pretty good guy, back in the academy. He was straight laced and he did everything by the book, minded his own business. Now he looks at me, and I see that holier-than-thou expression on his face. It takes all my restraint to not get up and knock that look off the bastard’s face. Fuckin’ asshole.

"Mornin’, Kelly." Campbell greets him. I see him glare back at Doug in response. Who the fuck does this guy think he is, anyway? He here to glare at us just so we don’t stand a chance of forgetting Larabee? Doug is too friendly sometimes, makes me wonder if the bastard’s gone soft. If he has, he’ll be the first to go. You don’t get soft in this line of work. You end up like Sanchez, or Wilmington, or Dunne. Then we’d all be on a one-way trip to hell.

"Don’t you two have something to do?" Kelly asks, trying to keep his voice even. Fucking bad actor if I ever met one. Glad he’s not undercover.

So, now not only is he doin’ Larabee’s job with the glares, he’s trying to be AD Travis by telling us to get back to work? He thinks he’s such a hot shot, since his team’s got the second best record in the state. Yay him, and his mother fucking team. If I were him I’d be pissed that the likes of Larabee’s Team 7 was beating me. I wouldn’t have made friends with Larabee, wouldn’t have helped him out as much as Kelly helps him. That’s what happens when you go soft. You lose your edge, and you’re fine with being number 2 when you could be number 1. I keep myself from saying that out loud, and instead, Campbell and me just look at each other and I pull a pen out of my pocket to fiddle with. "We got tired of cleaning up Team 7’s shit, Kelly. Thought we’d take a break."

His eyes widen before he can stop himself, but he doesn’t rise to my bait. Damn, guess today is gonna be pretty boring. Instead, he just straightens a little and says, "Team 7 doesn’t usually leave much shit after a job, Terry."

I try not to laugh aloud at his statement. Not a lot of shit, right. That’s why they have the highest injury rate of any team in the goddamn country. No shit, ha. Ryan Kelly’s a fuckin’ riot.

"Yeah well, they made a mess after this job, and we still have to do the paperwork," Campbell sighs.

I look over at my man, and he barely even knows what’s going on here. But, I guess my team ain’t full of any fuckin’ geniuses. Never has been, guess it never will be. Putz.

"Heard it was your team that made the mess," Ryan responds. Sounds like he’s calmed down some. Good. I wouldn’t want to have to kick his ass if things got out of hand.

I look Ryan in the eye. "From who, Travis? As far as that old bastard sees, his precious Magnificent Seven is infallible."

He looks impressed. Damn straight. I know what’s going on here. Someone in Team 7’s got Travis in their pocket. But then Kelly goes and opens his gob again. "That’s because, most of the time, they are." He finishes off his little statement with another glare, and I just go back to fiddling with my pen. Does this guy really think Larabee and his team are perfect? Is this a fucking joke? ‘Cause if it is, hardy har har. Great one everybody pulled over Terry’s eyes. Hello? Was I the only fucking one that saw Standish jump into a couple of bullets yesterday? From what I’m hearing, if he was two inches more to the left, his goddamn brains would need scrapin’ off the warehouse floor.

"Yeah, well, it’s not fair for us to be stuck with the paperwork," Campbell butts in, lamely. Great fuckin’ comeback, Einstein.

"Don’t worry, Travis asked Tanner and Larabee to write up their own reports too. You know, to make sure nothing gets, overlooked," Kelly replies. I catch the undertone in his voice. Oh, real scary Ryan, I’m fuckin’ shaking over here. He’s trying to threaten us? Ass hole. I know what happened, and I goddamn wrote what I saw. If this bastard doesn’t think it’s good enough for his god, Chris Larabee, then fuck him. I didn’t do anything wrong, Standish was the one that took the jump. I stop after a second. Clint might be screwed to kingdom come though. Fraser says Clint disobeyed an order from Larabee and left those guns on the floor. I almost laugh out loud. He’s so royally fucked. And this time, my team’s actions won’t get me reprimanded. Oh, this is too good.

"Wow, Clint’s in for a shit load now, isn’t he, Campbell?" I say aloud to Doug. Poor bastard probably wouldn’t have realized it unless I pointed it out anyway.

Campbell grins. Finally, he gets it. "Been a long time coming to that cocky ass son of a bitch anyway, Terry," he says, laughing.

I look back up at Kelly, and the guy looks a bit green around the gills. It’s really kind of funny, I wish I had a camera.

(Team 8: Douglas Stone)

I’m glad to hear that Standish is all right. He’s a good guy, whether he wants the rest of us to believe it or not. Arrogant son a bitch, but all around nice guy; good agent, too. He knows I’m a better agent than him though. I laugh a little to myself at the thought of that cocky bugger admitting someone’s better than him. Not gonna happen.

Me and the rest of Team 8 are planning on getting a card signed round the office for the guy and bring it buy the hospital with some presents later. We’ll call it a late lunch break. We’ll bring around stuff to you know, to speed up his recovery. Maybe a little Jack Daniel’s and a dirty magazine. ‘Cause the sooner he gets back, the faster we see him piss off Terry and his team with that smart mouth of his. Yeah, I like that silver tongued little bastard. He’s got grit. Kirk and me are rounding the corner to Team 7’s offices now, where Team 5 is wrapping up their paper work for them. Kirk was the one that suggested we come down here and get those boys to sign. Kelly and I, we knew they wouldn’t want to, but Kirk doesn’t like to write people off, no matter how much the rest of us might hate ‘em. He was always great that way. I wish I had Kirk’s faith in Terry and his lot.

I look down at the card Brett picked out for Standish; figures the guy would get something like this. It’ got a picture of some cartoon guy in a hospital bed getting a sponge bath from one of those really hot nurses. Says, "Get Well Soon… As You Want To." I didn’t think it was that funny, but Brett thought it was a hoot. Brett’s always been stupid that way, but I guess that’s why we like him so much.

I round the corner with Gustin to see Jameson and Delvin still giving each other the evil eye from across the place. Those two never learn. "Hey fellas. We got a get well card for Standish, any of ya want to sign?" I ask, waving the card up in the air.

Delvin snorts, but I guess he’s feeling bad for leaving the weapons on the floor, cuz he gets a pen and grabs the card. I let him take it, and look to the rest of his team. Erikson is making his way over; he’s probably the only one of ‘em I can really stand. Normally, I’m a pretty friendly guy, but sometimes, some people just don’t deserve bein’ nice to. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Kevin is a likeable guy most of the time, I’m kinda sorry he got thrown in with this lot. Maybe things would have turned out different for him if he’d got tossed a better hand of cards.

He’s got a pen now, and he’s trying not to look any one of his teammates in the eye as he walks up here. When’d they get to such a stage that they’d ridicule each other for showing some compassion?

Devlin is finished, and he hands the card to Kirk, before throwing Jameson the finger and getting back to work. I can feel the love in here. Kirk looks at what Delvin wrote and laughs a little, shaking his head before handing it to Erikson. I can’t help but wonder what’s so funny. It couldn’t have been the card. As far as I know, Brett’s sense of humor is a little far off compared to the rest of us. But I reiterate, he’s a good guy. I’m glad Kelly recruited him instead of Fraser, like he had planned to do when we were starting Team 8.

(Team 8: Kirk Gustin)

I take the card from Delvin and I look at it, seeing his new signature, small, and off to the side, underneath Ryan’s. I’m curious as to what Clint has to say after yesterday’s fiasco. I can’t help but smile a little when I read it.
"Get well soon Standish, we need you to piss off Terry with that smart ass of yours. Oh, and learn to duck, dumbass."

I figure that’s the sweetest thing we’ll ever get out of any one of Terry’s men, and I try to be content with it. I’m guessing that Clint just doesn’t understand. Ezra knows how do duck, I’m pretty sure. But he also knows what’s more important to him, who’s more important to him. Maybe Terry’s guys will learn that someday, too.

I hand our little card to Erikson when he gets over here, and look around to see if there are any other takers. Fraser looks like he might come up, but only if none of the others are watching. He makes a move, but thinks better and sits down. I shrug mentally. Two from Team 5 isn’t bad; I was barely expecting one. But, I didn’t have the heart to condemn any of them without trying, blast my gentle nature. I grin to myself at the thought while Dougie and I wait. He hates it when I call him Dougie. He’s not that much younger than me, but I play it up anyway. What better way to show your teammates you care about them than annoying them every once in a while, huh?

Erikson gives me back the card and moves to sit down. I see Jameson sneer at him for doing it, and Kevin quickly flashes the little rat of an undercover agent the finger. I guess that’s a sufficient means of communication between these guys. I wave the card around once more. "Anyone else?" I ask. "C’mon guys, I’m sure Standish will appreciate it."

"Standish can shove it up his ass," Jameson shoots back. I know jealousy when I hear it, so I ignore him. It’s not hard to feel incompetent around Ezra, especially if your own field of expertise is his as well. He’s too damn good sometimes.

"How about you, Brad?"

Fraser looks up from his work. "What?" he asks, exasperated. I ignore the tone. He’s got to have a heart down there, somewhere.

(Team 5: Brad Fraser)

I look up when Gustin calls my name, holding that damn card he wants us to sign. I want to tell him to fuck himself but my damn conscience is nagging at me. I feel kinda shitty for not telling Clint that he’d been taken in by that perp. If I had, Standish probably wouldn’t have gotten shot. This is kind of a weird feeling for me. Usually, what happens, happens, ya know? I don’t think about it. Sure, it would have been a hoot if Clint had gotten his wallet taken and had no money for lunch. But instead, Standish was shot and the perp was eviscerated.

I can’t help it, I feel bad. I still hate everyone here, but it’s not like I’d want to kill them or anything. Well, most of them. Sighing, I get up and head over towards Gustin and Stone with a pen in my hand. I ignore the sneer I get from Riley, but resolve to get him back for it later. Now him, he’s one of the few I wouldn’t mind dead, so much. Damn conscience.

(Team 8: Brett Jordan)

Doug and Kirk are off getting Team 5’s sigs right now, and I’m wondering if Standish like’s Guinness or Corona better. Then I wonder if we should get him an O’Doole’s instead, so Jackson won’t kill us for giving his patient alcohol. Then I wonder if Standish will kill us for giving him something non-alcoholic. It’s kind of funny when I think about it. See, me and some of the fellas are taking off for a late, late, lunch break in a bit to see Standish and the others at the hospital. I called Larabee and he said when Ezra wakes up to get his head examined again, they’ll be able to leave later. But knowing those guys, all they’ve been eating is vending machine fare; cheese balls, and if they’re lucky, some Gardettos. I got Wanda from expenses to put together a little "Get Well Ezra" pool and we’re gonna go get the guys from Team 7 something substantial to eat. God knows they won’t do it by themselves while one of ‘em is in the white house. That’s what we call the hospital, by the way. White’s the only damn color they put up in there, sometimes. Hurts the eyes, but hey. Well, I figure I’ll take three Guinness, three Corona, and three O’Doole’s and let Larabee and his team figure out what they want on their own. Now, should we just go pizza or deli?

Standish likes Thai food, I hear. Never tried it, but I guess we’ll have to take him out for some after this. Hero’s celebration and all. Not everyday a man as cocky as Ezra puts his life on the line for men as volatile as Larabee. I guess that’s what I like so much about their team. They’re all so different; seem so polar. But when they come together, it’s like the big bang. There’s suddenly something out of nothing. Me and the fellas on Team 8, we got something like that too, and I’m not just talking about when Dougie’s got gas.

I hear voices around the corner coming towards the kitchen area, as I toss the beers in a bag. We’re technically not supposed to have alcohol on the premises, but no one really checks anyway. A few seconds later Terry and Campbell round the corner, both holding empty coffee cups and laughing about something.

I look up as they enter the little kitchenette, and they immediately stop talking. Okay, either they were talking about me or… I pause and wave at them. "Hey guys."

Terry just nods. "Afternoon, Jordan."

Campbell cranes his neck to see what I’ve got in my bag, and makes a face. "You plan on getting’ really drunk tonight?" he asks.

I shake my head and offer him another Corona from the fridge. "Nah, going over to the hospital to have a little, um, celebration with Team 7," I respond. Campbell takes the beer without so much as a thank you, and examines it in his hand.

Terry just snorts. "Yeah, figures Standish gets a big congratulation party. Don’t know if it’s worth getting shot over, though."

I dig some more in the fridge for a coke, because I know JD prefers those. "Don’t think he wanted to get shot for the party afterwards," I explain, moving aside something wrapped in foil that might have been here since the first Bush was president.

"Yeah, he did it ‘cause he thinks the world needs guys like Chris Larabee," Terry states, heavy on the sarcasm.

I don’t really react to the comment and push aside a Tupperware with Jackson’s name on it to grab the last Dr. Pepper. "Maybe he’s exactly what the world needs."

"Like a hole in the head," Campbell replies, popping the cap off his drink with his teeth. He was a football player in high school and through college. I hear that being able to do something like that to a bottle of beer is part of the initiation process.

I kind of look at Doug for a moment and don’t say anything. I’m a studier I guess, always have been. I like to think that there’s something good about everyone, but I’m not naive enough to probe where I’m not wanted. Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes, like Ryan says, I can be fuckin’ incorrigible. I guess this is one of those moments. "Hey, why don’t you guys come down with us? We’ve got the go-ahead from Travis, and we can take an extra long lunch break with Team 7. I think we’re ordering out, something nice, you know, that Standish would eat. It’s on us."

Terry looks like someone smacked him in the face. Either that or something really long and barbed got shoved up his ass all of a sudden and he’s reeling from the sensation. Campbell’s brow narrows for a moment, like he’s trying to process some complicated, dastardly plot I’ve got against him and his team that started with my invitation. After a minute he gives up ‘cause he can’t see it, and looks to Jake for the answer.

Obviously, Jake Terry has never been invited to a luncheon with coworkers before. He looks positively dumbfounded. If I had a camera, I would have snapped a picture, just because my team and the rest of Team 7 would have gotten a hoot out of it. "Ah…you askin’ us to come with you guys, Jordan?" he asks, brow furrowing.

I nod slowly. "Yeah. You want to?"

"Um…" Campbell and Terry exchange a look. I think this is the most teamwork I’ve ever seen either of them exhibit. They’re trying to make a decision together. I can almost hear Wilmington’s snide ‘ain’t that cute’ in the back of my head.

"Sure…" Jake shrugs after a second. "Free lunch, you say?"

"Yup," I nod, and I don’t give him that customary disgusted expression he’s gotten used to. My sincerity throws him for a bit of a loop, and I happily return to raiding the fridge. I hope Kelly won’t mind if I steal some of his grapefruit Fantas. It’s towards a good cause and all. "We’re meeting at the hospital at around 2. Just show up, and we’ll take care of the food. I just need to tell Kelly to order for 7 more…" I stand up and close the fridge, leaving the kitchenette before Terry or Campbell can get a word in. Smugly, I make my way back towards the office I share with Dougie, and I can picture Terry’s flailing mouth in the back of my head. That’s right you two, you’re bringing your whole damn team.

(Team 5: Doug Campbell)

Okay, I have nothing against free lunch. Those are good. But free lunch with the rest of my team seems like a fuckin’ trap somehow. I’m not exactly sure how, but it does. It’s just one of those gut feelings I get, you know? I move as if to say something to Terry, but he cuts me off.

"You pussy out of this and I’ll find some excuse to fire you, Campbell," he says without missing a beat. "They’ll be laughin’ it up about us bein’ no shows for weeks if we don’t go."


"Yeah, I don’t like it either. Smells like a trap."

I hate this fuck. I hate how he never lets me finish a goddamn sentence, walking around like he’s the only one that has permission to speak. But, I don’t say anything, because I know he can do it. He can find a way to get me fired. And that’s exactly the fuckin’ thing I need least right now. Gambling debts are already a bitch to pay off. "Fine," I reply, knowing at least that he can’t cut me off from a word that short.

"Go tell the others."

"Wait a fuckin’…"

He stops me with that hand of his again. That one he puts up in the air between us, right in my face. Then his mouth sort of opens and he gives this, "ah ah ah, naughty Doug" look. I feel like some scolded puppy when he does that. I hate it. "No excuses Campbell. I’m team supervisor. You know what that means?

I think something along the lines of sleeping in late and pressuring the secretaries to sleep with him, but don’t say anything out loud. "What?"

"It means I run your fuckin’ life. So go and tell the others to be at the hospital at two. And tell ‘em that if any of them don’t show, I’ll have their badges. Then I’ll take those badges and shove ‘em up their asses."

I sigh internally and head off towards the office, with the message, and that nasty image in my head. I hate Jake.

(Team 8: Douglas Stone)

I hear Kirk on the phone from my office, ordering the lunch we’re going to go pick up on the way to the hospital. Then I hear Jordan join him, and ask him to order for seven more. This piques my curiosity, and as Stone adds to the order, I get up and round the corner, intercepting Brett.

He smiles when he sees me, a bag full of drinks in his hand. "Goody bags?" I ask, amused.

He nods. "Just call me the Santa Claus of soda and liquor," he quips.

"I heard you ask Kirk for seven more."

He nods. "I invited Team 5."

Okay, I’m a little skeptical about that, but I figure on giving Brett the benefit of the doubt. "You did?"

"Yup." He pops his ‘P’ brightly. That’s Brett, our little ray of erratic sunshine. He sure can be irritating as all hell sometimes. But I guess we all can be.


"Because no one else did."

Damn kid likes to play games, he does. I sigh. "You know that Team 7 and Team 5 aren’t on the best terms right now."


"Well, clue me in, Jordan, cuz I’m obviously missing the punch line."

"Figure now’s as good a time as any to open Team 5’s eyes a little," Brett shrugs, putting his bag of treats on a nearby filing cabinet. "Make ‘em see the light."

"Larabee will kill them. Only light they’ll be seeing is the bright white one at the end of the tunnel when Chris sees those boys anywhere near his agent again."

"Larabee’s got more important things to worry about, I figure," Brett responds.

"So you decided to play Aesop?"

He looks confused at my analogy.

"Moral to the story? Sour grapes?"

"Must have been before my time."

I catch the second layer of meaning behind his answer. "Fuck you."

He grins and heads back towards his own office. I watch him go with a little smile on my face. Gotta admire the man, he’s a bold one.

(Team 7: Buck Wilmington)

I hate hospitals. They smell all synthetic and…well, fake. Okay, I know they mean the same thing (really I do!), but I can’t think of another word for stinky. If Ezra were here he’d give me somethin’ ta use. Then I remember where Ezra really is and why we’re all here in the first place. Damn. He woke up a little while ago, still groggy, but he’s formin’ coherent sentences, even if they’re sorta short for Ezra sentences. I figure it’s a good sign though. He should be fine soon. They’re lookin’ him over now, and I just got a call five minutes ago from Kelly. He’n the boys will be over soon, with food. Thank God. Much as I appreciate the nurses, for their good intentions, not for what that other thing I know you’re thinking, but I hate the food they give us. Gave most of mine to JD, cuz the kid was sick of vending machine stuff. Don’t think he was too choosy, which is good, cuz then all them great brown colored Brussels sprouts woulda been wasted.

I’m damn tired. Haven’t left the hospital since the shooting. Haven’t gotten a wink of sleep. I look over across the way where Vin and Nate are sittin’, and if I look as bad as either one of ‘em do, it’s no wonder none of the nurses have tried to flirt with me the entire time. I rub the bridge of my nose and fight back another yawn, because I don’t like the water that comes out of my eyes when I do it. Makes my eyeballs feel cold.

Some of us could go home. Sure. But we all sorta wanna be around, close, in case Ezra needs anything, or he tries to break out. See, we haven’t let on that he’s staying with Chris ‘til he’s up and about again. He sorta gets ornery whenever we tell him he’s got to stay with Chris. It’s probably ‘cause those two usually come to blows when they’re left alone long enough, but they’d never hurt one another (beyond anythin’ a first aid kit could patch up), and Chris is the only one with enough stamina to deal with Ezra’s bullshit when he’s hurt. Works out for all of us.

I just wish Ezra hadn’t been hurt in the first place. It wadn’t a very hard bust, just in and out. JD called it like a pro, we all had our positions, and the bad guys went down. I’m really wantin’ to blame Team 5 for the whole fiasco, but I know part of it’s our fault too. We know those guys; know we can’t rely on ‘em. But we did anyway, and it came back and bit us in the ass. I feel poorly for failin’ Ez, and Chris. Think the other guys do, too.

I’m glad Team 8’s comin’ down with grub. It’ll cheer us up some. Brett and JD can tell each other their ridiculous jokes, an’ the others can get us some real food. And it’ll distract the rest of us from how we feel for a bit. Until we can talk to him, in any case. He won’t blame none of us of course, not even Jameson or Delvin for their part. He’ll just sorta nod tiredly and close his eyes, figure he should cut his losses and be happy he’s alive in the first place. Ain’t Ez’s place to lose his temper. He never does, says it’s bad PR, or somethin’. Usually leaves the temper losin’ to Chris’n me, I guess. That’s something you gotta love about Ezra, he knows when to let other people do the dirty work. I smirk to myself at the thought, and Vin quirks an eyebrow at me from where he’s sittin’ across the way. I just shake my head, and he shrugs. I’ll tell him about it later.


I turn around at the sound of my name, and can’t help but crack a smile, seeing Kelly and team making their way over toward us, with what looks like fuckin’ picnic basket and armloads full of goodies piled high. I think Jordan has a card in his hand. He’s a funny guy, Brett is. Next he’ll be bringin’ those balloons that last a week and bouquets of chocolate roses. Just cause he knows it makes Ez uncomfortable. I count the members of Team 8 and then realize that there’s too damn many of ‘em.

I squint, to try and see who else they brought with them, thinking that maybe they got Team 6 swept up in the excitement too. I don’t see Agent Chung, so I guess not. Butm I do see… holy shit. They didn’t. There’s no fuckin’ way!!! Why on God’s green earth would they…

I lock eyes with some of the members of Team 8, and they all avoid eye contact, nodding subtly in Jordan’s direction. I growl. Who the hell does that guy think he is? I get up, and the storm clouds musta been in my face cuz Team 8 splits like the Red Sea and Brett Jordan is standin’ before me like a Thanksgivin’ turkey I’m about ready to stuff.

"Mister Standish can see you all now."

And then I stop at the sound of that voice. It’s the nurse that told us last night only one at a time. I turn around, and instantly forget that I’m supposed to be pissed at Brett. Cause, well, there’s more important things to worry about. I look at the nurse.

"Really?" I hear JD ask.

She smiles and nods at the kid, who looks like hell cause he hasn’t had a decent night’s rest in too long. "If you all behave yourselves I think we’ll manage to fit you all into Mister Standish’s room."

And there’s a whooshing sound, and I’m the only one of the fellas left in the hallway. Well, that just can’t stand. I’d forgotten Kelly, and Jordan, and Terry and Delvin the second I heard Ezra’s name. One moment later and I’m right behind the rest of my team in Ezra’s room.

(Team 5: Kevin Erikson)

It’s strange really. One second, I see Buck Wilmington bearing down on us like, well, a bear, looking at Jordan like he’s going to rip him a new one. Most likely for ‘inviting’ me and my team here in the first place. Terry and Fraser look like they’re about to place bets on the amount of time it’ll take Wilmington to chew Jordan up and spit him out, but the nurse pops her pretty little head out of Standish’s room and says in a real quiet voice, "Mister Standish can see you all now."

And it was the damndest thing, too. It was like some hypnotist snapped his fingers and Buck went under his spell or something. One minute, he’s a raging bull and the next, he couldn’t care less. He couldn’t care less that the people who may or may not be the direct cause of his current misery are here, smirking and going on about some bullshit or another regarding Ezra Standish. They don’t care that Jameson is saying Standish got what was coming to him, or that Terry is sayin’ Larabee’s probably downtown living it up right now, and the rest of them are here for show. I know Wilmington hears it, because hell, they say it loud enough for the whole hallway to hear it, but he just doesn’t give a shit.

But Team 8 gives a shit. Gustin smacks Fraser upside the head like he’s some ten-year-old kid that said the wrong thing at his aunt’s weekend get together. The rest of us laugh at that, until we hear Kelly say if he hears another snicker he’s gonna beat the shit out of whomever did it and check him into ICU so he can heal up and get beat on again.

Terry isn’t really paying attention right now though. I can see him looking through the window into Standish’s room. He’s kind of got a sick look on his face. I turn and peek in between the blinds to see what he’s looking at while Campbell sneaks a bag of chips from one of the picnic baskets, asking when they’ll get to eat. Standish is awake, I can see, but he looks like shit. He smiles anyway, with all his teammates there, and he grasps Tanner’s hand and they share a sort of look.

I wonder what crawled up Terry’s ass and nested there. I wonder, vaguely, if someone has a Polaroid handy, cuz the look on his face is sorta funny. God, I’ve been on Team 5 way too fuckin’ long. Like proof to myself, I sigh and snag the bag of chips Campbell managed to grab and throw him the finger when he moves to protest.

(Team 5: Jake Terry)

I scratch my head. I count seven of ‘em. They’re all there. Geez, they’re all SO there that there’s barely enough space in the room for all of the bastards to fit. Something bitter builds up in my stomach that I want to chalk up as disgust, but that fuckin’ voice in the back of my head’s laughin’ at me. It’s voice suspiciously sounds like Brett Jordan. So they really were here the entire fuckin’ time. I get that part, I guess. They decided to stay, keep an eye on Standish to make sure his brains didn’t leak out all over the floor and cut their team’s collective smarts in half. I get that. But I don’t get why the fuck they’re here. What is it about Standish that could be so goddamn important that they’d wear the same clothes, eat shit out of a bag, and sleep in vinyl chairs two days straight? Don’t make sense to me. Standish is an asshole. He fucks around with everyone’s heads and then prances off into the sunset like he’s one up on the world with that cocky ass son of a bitch smirk of his and those "I’m smarter than you" big words.

So then, why the hell is Team 7 in there with him? Why aren’t they at home watchin’ the game or having a drink while they’ve got these extra days off? Why didn’t one of the poor bastards even go home to shower? Change? Get some real food? Some sleep? And more importantly, where the fuck was my team the last time I got shot? I woke up to an empty room, a get-well card from AD Travis, and a nurse that looked like something Godzilla fought in downtown Tokyo. I’m just as big an asshole as Standish can be. But look at him. And then look at me. Where the fuck was my team?

(Team 8: Douglas Stone)

I like how it got real quiet the second that nurse told the fellas they could see Standish. Also glad that Jordan didn’t get his nuts yanked out and shoved up his nose by Wilmington, cause lord knows that looked like what the guy was plannin’ on doin’ to the kid. I also like that kind of stricken look on Terry’s face. Like he just got bitch slapped to hell and he doesn’t know what the fuck to do next. I kinda wish I had a Polaroid, to catch it all. Then I realize I’ve been hating Team 5 too long, and make a face. Don’t want to get into that. Instead, I sneak another peak at Team 7, just in time to see Standish’s eyes bug out a little. Guess they told him he was stayin’ with Larabee. I smirk to myself, and then turn to watch the rest of Brad’s expression, cuz it’s pretty priceless too.

Well Sheeeiiit, I chuckle.

And Agent Jordan looks pretty damned pleased with himself.


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