Ezra walked into the office sporting a black eye, a big stitched cut on his brow and a heavily bandaged wrist. He tried to avoid being noticed by sneaking in with his head down but he might have guessed he stood no chance of succeeding. It was only delaying the inevitable anyway.
The ever-vigilant Buck looked up and caught him just as Ezra drew level with him. "Jeez, Ez. What the hell happened to you?" the ladies' man asked as he saw the injuries.
Ezra didn't answer but looked very embarrassed as he felt the eyes of the other men turn to look at him. He raised his eyes and met Vin's gaze before backing up a step, as if putting distance between himself and the men would help in some way. He felt highly uncomfortable and for once in his life he didn't quite know what to say.
"Ez?" Buck persisted as he eyed his friend curiously.
The undercover agent sighed and said, "Promise you won't laugh, Mr. Wilmington."
"I'll try Ezra but I can't promise," Buck replied and could feel the corners of his mouth twitching in anticipation of being told something funny.
"I fell out of bed and knocked myself out on the bedside table," the green-eyed agent replied quietly. He looked up and saw Buck's eyes open wide and his mouth screw up in disbelief at the news.
"What? Yer kidding."
"Unfortunately not. I think my wounds are more than enough evidence, aren't they?" Ezra replied as he rubbed a hand up and down his aching arm. He drew in a breath at the pain that erupted at the touch. He dropped his hand back to his side and bent his injured arm at the elbow while balling his fist to try and relieve the pain.
"How did ya manage that?" the mustached agent inquired.
"What sort of question is that? I rolled out the side. How else do you think?" Ezra snapped irritably as he put a hand to his brow and pinched the bridge of his nose to try and clear his head.
Buck was like a dog with a bone and wouldn't let up the inquisition. "What were ya doin'? Didn't get over-amorous with a woman, did ya?" the ladies' man asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"Mr. Wilmington! I did not," Ezra protested indignantly. "We're not all like you, jumping into bed with any woman who flashes her attributes at you. I was alone I'll have you know. One minute I was in bed and the next I was on the floor and in pain. I spent all night in the Emergency Room waiting to be treated."
"Cut looks painful," Vin observed quietly from where he was watching the undercover agent closely. He could tell that Ezra, for once, didn't want to talk and wanted to be left alone.
"Yes it is and I've got a doozy of a headache to go with it, Mr. Tanner."
"Should you be here? How long were you unconscious for?" Nathan asked as he rose and stood in front of the undercover agent while examining the wound.
"I really don't know as I was on my own. Seeing as I was only semi-awake when it happened as well, I didn't see the time. All I can say is that I awoke to find myself on the floor at 12:53am precisely," Ezra said with a pained expression on his face. Why can't you all just leave me alone?
"Well, you take it easy today. I'll just go and tell Chris what happened." The medic disappeared and came back with the blond in tow after a few minutes.
The team leader walked over to the undercover agent and stood in front of him. He raked the dark-haired man from head to foot with keen eyes and then pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. "Ezra? You look a bit pale. Are you sure you wouldn't be better off at home?" Chris asked.
"It's just lack of sleep. I'd be too embarrassed to say I had to take a day off because I fell out of bed. I'll be alright."
Chris didn't look convinced but he was willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt for the moment. If Ezra did seem not to be coping later on though the blond would step in and insist the man went home. Chris nodded, now he'd made his decision and said, "Just say if you change yer mind or if you don't feel well. We ain't got much on today anyway so just take care."
"That don't mean we've gotta be nice to him all day, does it?" Buck asked the blond with a smile.
"Yes it does. Treat him like yer best piece of china."
"Smash it, ya mean?"
"No I do not, Bucklin! Just keep an eye on him, okay?" Chris replied seriously. He sent a warning look to his friend to tell him he meant what he said.
Buck nodded to say that he understood and meant no harm before turning his attention back to Ezra. "Ah, bless his little cotton socks. Would you like a blanket and a nice cup of tea?" he asked the undercover agent with a grin.
Ezra raised his eyes to Heaven in disgust and sighed loudly. "Give me a break, Bucklin. I can well do without your dire sense of humor at the moment."
Ezra turned his back and sat down at his desk and was pleased when his colleagues lost interest in his problem. He pulled out a file and began slowly entering the data on his computer. He punched the computer keyboard with the fingers on his left hand because it was his right wrist that was badly sprained. He found it took twice as long to input the information as it usually did.
"Wish I was ambidextrous," he muttered as he corrected yet another mistake.
"What's up, Ez?" Vin asked as he heard the man moaning.
"My fingers won't do as they're told. I've lost all coordination. I aim at the D on my keyboard and hit the F instead," Ezra moaned as he continued striking the keys slowly.
"You normally type with both hands, don't ya?"
"Yes but today my left hand can't seem to cope on its own. I think it's lonely." Ezra sighed in exasperation and complained loudly, "Oh good Lord! Now look what I've done."
Vin looked up and saw the undercover agent turn red. "What?"
"As well as my D's and F's getting muddled I've now misplaced a comma. The combined errors have resulted in something rather rude. Instead of typing, 'As I was ducking comma the Mayor's daughter yadda, yadda, yadda. I've written, 'As I was fucking the Mayor's daughter comma."
Vin burst out laughing. "Good job you realized yer mistake. Don't think the Mayor would be too pleased with you if he read that, Ez."
"Quite so." The undercover agent smiled and continued typing but had to admit he didn't feel particularly well. He rubbed his brow and sighed loudly.
"You okay, Ez?" Nathan asked sympathetically.
"Yes. Just got a slight headache still. I don't think staring at a computer screen is helping."
"Take a break. I can give you something for the pain if you want," the medic offered.
"No. I'm alright. It's only a headache after all. I'll go and get a drink and change activity for a while." Ezra stood and made his way to collect a drink. He'd just disappeared from sight when Chris exited his office in search of the man.
"Is Ez about?" the blond asked when he saw the undercover agent's desk unoccupied. He stood with hands on hips and an inquiring look on his face as he waited for an answer.
"Yeah. He went to get a drink," the medic informed him so Chris headed off to find the undercover agent.
Ezra, meanwhile, picked up his mug and filled it from the water dispenser. He leant back against the table and sipped the cool liquid before putting the mug down and rubbing his temples distractedly. He closed his eyes and hoped the headache would soon begin to subside. He heard the sound of soft footfalls heading his way but he ignored them as he continued rubbing his head carefully.
"Ez?" Chris said anxiously as he approached the man.
The undercover agent opened his eyes slowly and looked at the blond with squinting optics as he picked up his mug again. "Mr. Larabee? What can I do for you?"
"I was gonna ask you to come with me but I think you oughta go home instead. You don't look good, Ez."
"Thanks Chris. After that damning assessment I feel a whole lot better," Ezra retorted sarcastically as he put his mug down with a crash.
"Sorry. Just being honest," Chris said as he shrugged and continued his visual examination of the man standing in front of him.
"Well, I don't mind being lied to once in a while. In fact lie all you like at the moment."
"You sure you're up to staying? I could insist you go home you know."
"Yes, I know but I'm fine really," Ezra said emphatically as he stood up straight. "What did you want me for?"
Chris watched the man for a few seconds more before sighing and saying, "There are apparently a few problems with the Dwyer case. I said we'd go down and see the team that's dealing with it and find out if we can help. As you had something to do with the initial bust I thought you might be interested."
"I'll see what assistance I can be but all the details were in the file I passed on to them."
Chris put a hand on Ezra's elbow and steered him out into the hallway and continued talking as they made their way to the other team's office. "I know but I thought we'd better show willing. If they've messed it up that's their fault. We've done our bit."
"Waste of our time though if things have gone pear-shaped. I put in a lot of hours to bring that bastard to book," Ezra said quietly as the two men finally reached their destination.
After spending a fruitless hour with the other team, which only resulted in Ezra nearly losing his temper, the two men left. It seemed that the case was on the verge of collapse because of some lost evidence. The team involved was desperately trying to find some other means of securing a conviction.
"Cretins," the undercover agent said sourly as he walked out into the hallway. "Look Chris, perhaps I'll go down to see Pat. He might have some useful input into our predicament. I worked closely with him on this and we need to salvage something from the mess that bunch of hypocrites have created. I could do with stretching my legs too so I think I'll take the stairs," Ezra said as he indicated the door to the stairwell and came to a halt near it.
"Sure, Ez. Take yer time but come and tell me if you learn anything useful." Chris turned away from the undercover agent and walked back toward his team's office area.
Ezra was just about to go through the door to the stairwell when it was suddenly flung open from the other side. It caught him full force in the face and he was thrown off his feet with a yell. He fell heavily and felt as if he'd been pole-axed.
"Ezra?" Chris called as he looked back worriedly to see his agent sprawled on the floor. He'd heard an audible crack and he wondered what had caused the sound.
"Shit," the undercover agent muttered as he held his already injured wrist loosely against his chest. He sat up gingerly with his back to Chris as his eyes filled with tears and his ears began ringing. His face was just coming back to life after the initial numbing blow he'd received from the door. It stung with pain and felt as if it was ballooning to twice its normal size. Ezra's nose streamed blood and he raised his uninjured hand to try and stop the flow but he was unsuccessful and his shirt rapidly turned from white to red.
"Sorry, pal. I didn't know you were there," the door opener apologized as he squatted beside the bloodied agent.
Chris ran back to the two men and knelt down beside his friend and inquired, "Are you alright?"
"My wrist really hurts and my proboscis is leaking red stuff at an alarming rate. I think you could answer no to your question, Mr. Larabee," Ezra mumbled painfully. His jaw hurt beyond imagination and white lights flashed continuously at the edges of his vision.
"Sorry, Ez. I couldn't see yer face until I got close. Just stay where you are and tip yer head forward and breathe through yer mouth," Chris instructed.
"I'll get a damp towel to put on yer jaw. Sure looks painful," the man observed as he rose and hurried to the nearby restroom. He came back with the cooling towel and Chris held it gently against Ezra's rapidly swelling face.
The undercover agent felt as if every passerby was looking at him and he bowed his head even more in embarrassment. Chris realized the man felt unsettled and tried to shield him from view as much as he could. Anyone that still lingered for too long was treated to a Larabee stare and the unfortunate recipient usually moved on quickly.
The three men sat quietly for ten minutes but Ezra's nose refused to stop bleeding. Chris rubbed a hand back and forth constantly across the width of his friend's back. Ezra was continually groaning and gasping in pain and the blond finally decided to get Nathan. He turned to the cause of Ezra's injuries and asked, "Can you help me move him to the wall and then stay with him while I get some help?"
"Sure. I'll wait with him," the man agreed and stood up to help move Ezra to the side of the hallway.
With that job done, Chris then hurried along to the office hoping to find the medic there. As he ran, the blond looked down at the state of his clothes and winced. Can't be helped, he thought to himself as he finally reached his destination. All the men looked up at his hasty entrance and saw the blood on the man's hands and clothes.
"What happened to you?" Vin asked as he frowned and rose quickly in alarm.
"It's Ezra's blood. Nate? Can you come? He's hurt his wrist again and has got a nose bleed among other things."
The medic stood up as did all the other men and followed their boss out into the hallway. They saw Ezra sitting with his back against the wall and one hand clamped to his face. At that distance though they couldn't see the man's injuries.
Nathan hurried over and demanded, "What happened, Ezra?"
"I collided with a door."
"What is it with you and furniture today?" Buck asked from where he stood nearby.
"I seem to be having problems with inanimate objects, don't I?" Ezra said through the blood that was dripping over his lips from his nose. He grabbed the handkerchief that Chris held out and dabbed tentatively at the injured area.
"What happened exactly?" Nathan asked.
"I was going to open the stairwell door when this gentleman came bundling through it from the other side. It hasn't got any glass in it, as you will no doubt notice, and I couldn't see him coming. The door caught me full in the face and knocked me over. I put my hand out to save myself, forgetting I'd already hurt it and it snapped as I hit the floor."
"That's what I heard, was it? It cracked real loud, Nate," Chris said as he winced.
Nathan reached out and began checking the man's injuries. He heard Vin draw in a breath when the full extent of the damage to the undercover agent's face was revealed. The medic sighed as he shook his head in sympathy and then continued with his examination.
"Ow!" Ezra said loudly and flinched in the medic's grasp as the man probed his swollen arm gently.
"You've broken it good and proper, Ez. Let me put it in a sling and then I'll get you to the hospital. Think you've broken yer nose too."
"You sure you haven't been fighting?" Buck asked. "Your face looks like you've been in the boxing ring."
"I feel rather pummeled. When I said give me a break this morning I didn't mean it this literally. A sprained wrist was quite enough to cope with," Ezra sighed sadly but with a faint smile. His face was stiffening rapidly and it hurt to talk.
"You didn't black out did ya if the door hit you in the face? Do ya feel sick or dizzy?" Nathan asked anxiously as he studied Ezra closely.
"No more than I did earlier but I don't think I blacked out. I saw a lot of flashing lights for a while though."
"I don't think he passed out either, Nate. I wasn't close but I heard him yell and he sat up pretty much straight away. Musta caught him a hell of a blow though," Chris said as he studied the swollen and bruised face of his once dapper agent.
"Well, we'll get you checked out properly just to be sure." Nathan helped Ezra stand and took him slowly down to the parking garage.
The two men were gone for a few hours and finally reappeared mid-afternoon. Ezra walked into the office with his arm encased in a cast and now in a sling. He also had a white strip across his nose that concealed a number of stitches. Both eyes were now bruised and one was swollen shut. His jaw was swollen as well and he resembled a hamster that had only filled one mouth pouch with food.
"You'd better go home before you do any more damage, Ez. You look like a one-armed panda," Buck said.
"Thank you, Mr. Wilmington. You certainly know how to cheer people up, don't you?"
Buck grinned but then said seriously, "You look pretty rough, pard. I meant what I said about you going home, Ez."
"Yes, I think I agree with you on that score. I should have stayed in bed this morning." He laughed softly and then said, "I couldn't even do that properly, could I? That was the start of all my problems. Fancy a grown man falling out of bed. What a chapter of accidents. Let's hope tomorrow is a better day."
"Amen to that brother," Josiah said solemnly as he patted Ezra's back gently.
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