Curiosity Nearly Killed the Cat

by Hombre

Notes: Hope this is okay. I´ve had to invest in a wig because I´ve pulled all my hair out in the process of writing this fic. I think I´ve had at least four different endings and three different middles. The start was real easy compared to those and it had better all be worth it. I thought this story writing lark was supposed to be enjoyable! Oh, but the stress! This is for Linda Fiskum.

Size: Approx. 120K

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Chris was talking to Buck in the man´s condo when his cell rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and walked away from his friend while he answered it.


“Senor? Can you come to The Saloon? I´m having trouble with one of your men.”

“Inez? What´s the matter? Who´s causing trouble?” Chris frowned. He couldn´t think for the life of him who would be misbehaving. His men just didn´t do that sort of thing.

“Senor Standish has been here all evening and he refuses to leave. I had to stop serving him ‘cause he´s blind drunk. I thought it best to call you rather than the police.”

“Okay. I´ll come now. How´s he acting?”

“Abusive, aggressive. Most unlike his usual manners. I took his car keys off him to make sure he couldn´t drive home if he did leave and he didn´t like it one bit.”

“He didn´t hurt you? You´re not there on your own with him?” Chris asked anxiously as he looked at his watch to see what the time was. It was so unlike Ezra to go off the deep end and the blond wondered what had caused his unusual behavior. There was one possibility admittedly but Chris didn´t think that the upcoming disciplinary hearing would have made the man act in such a way. Ezra hadn´t been in the least bit concerned about the whole affair. He knew he´d acted properly and several people had come forward to agree with his version of events.

Inez interrupted his thoughts when she replied, “No, Eddie´s here with me. Senor Standish didn´t hurt me, he just shouted a lot. He was quite frightening actually.”

“Alright, try to keep him there although by the sound of it you won´t have any trouble in that respect. I´ll be as quick as I can.” Chris put his phone away and searched his pockets hurriedly for his keys.

“What was that about, pard? Is Inez alright?” Buck asked from where he´d been listening curiously.

“Ezra´s drunk as a skunk and refusing to leave The Saloon. He´s causing a bit of trouble by all accounts.”

“What? Never known him to drink to excess before and he can usually hold what he does have. Musta drunk a hell of a lot to get into such a state. Do you want me to come too? He could prove a handful.”

“No thanks, Bucklin. Don´t wanna overdo it. He might feel threatened by too many people and Eddie´s there anyway to help if he becomes too hot to handle. I´ll call you and let you know how I get on.” The blond hurried down to his car and drove to the bar as fast as he could.

When he arrived, he knocked on the door loudly because Inez had locked it to prevent further customers entering. He walked in when Eddie opened up and the blond could hear Ezra straight away. The man was shouting in Latin at the top of his voice. Chris joined Inez at the bar and leant with his back against it as he studied his raucous agent silently for a couple of minutes. The undercover agent looked disheveled and his clothes were in less than their usual pristine condition.

“What´s he been doing?” Chris asked Inez when he´d finished his perusal.

“Swearing. Demanding more drink and nearly having a fight with Eddie and another customer. I didn´t want to throw him out in the state he´s in. I could´ve called a cab to collect him but I didn´t think he ought to be on his own at home.”

“Yeah, I can see why. Okay, I´ll handle it.” Chris stood up and wandered over to his friend while keeping a close eye on his activities. “Ezra? What you still doing here? Inez needs to close up and she had to call me here ‘cause she says you won´t leave voluntarily. Are you in some sort of trouble, buddy? Why are you behaving like this?” the blond asked quietly.

Chris touched the man´s arm and Ezra leapt up from his chair as if he´d been electrocuted and then swayed violently. He managed to keep himself upright by grabbing hold of the back of a chair although that too nearly fell over when he suddenly staggered sideways. The drunken man yelled, “Back off, Larabee. I don´t want mothering. Get enough of that from Maude. Just fuck off!” Although the words were meant aggressively, the verbal assault lost its sting because Ezra´s speech was so slurred.

“Ezra. Settle down. I´ll drive you home,” Chris offered as he held his hands out in a pacifying gesture.

“No, you won´t. I´m staying. Another drink, Senorita,” Ezra called loudly as he tried to snap his fingers together to add weight to the demand. No sound emerged and he stood looking at his hand in puzzlement. He moved his fingers in another attempt but his thumb and middle finger just wouldn´t connect to make the distinctive click.

Chris moved toward him while he was occupied but Ezra saw him coming at the last minute and struck out wildly with a fist. Ezra could actually see three men in front of him and he didn´t know which one to fend off first. The images bobbed up and down before his eyes and he continued swinging his arms like a demented windmill in the hope he´d hit one of them. Chris easily ducked the flying fists as Ezra finally lost his balance and stumbled past him with a curse so vulgar that the blond actually winced. The undercover agent turned unsteadily to face Chris again and then reached out to pick up a bottle from a nearby table. He managed to grab it after two attempts and he smashed it against the table, spraying glass in all directions. He waved the remnants in the general direction of the three attackers he could see and Chris had no choice but to hit him. The blond got inside Ezra´s non-existent defenses easily and sent a fist to his agent´s face and succeeded in knocking the man off his feet. The green-eyed man fell backwards at speed and skidded along the floor until he came to a halt under a table. He had collapsed like a punctured balloon with his uncontrollable limbs flying in all directions. The blond shook his fist and then sucked his stinging knuckles while keeping an eye on his friend to make sure he didn´t get back up. The only part of Ezra´s anatomy that was visible was one of his legs poking out from under the table. When it hadn´t moved for over a minute, Chris felt he could finally relax.

He pulled out his phone and called Nathan. “Nate? Can I bring Ezra round? He´s drunk himself into a stupor and I had to knock him out when he got aggressive.”

“Sure. Did he receive any blows to his head other than when you hit him?”

“Can´t say for sure, Nate ‘cause he fell like a pole-axed giraffe and disappeared from view when he hit the floor.”

“Okay. I´ll check him out when he gets here. It just happens to be the most common problem with someone who has drunk to excess. They hit their head and it´s not noticed until it´s too late because their confusion is put down to drunken rambling.”

“Thanks, Nate. I´ll be with you shortly,” Chris said as he hung up.

Inez wandered toward him and said, “Thank you, Senor. I´m sorry to call you out but I didn´t think you´d want the police involved.”

“It´s okay, Inez. I appreciate you letting me know,” Chris said gratefully as he treated her to one of his rare megawatt smiles.

He turned and walked to his friend´s body and knelt down so he could get hold of both his ankles. He pulled him out gently from under the table and stayed kneeling down beside him. He checked the man over thoroughly for any injuries and found he´d cut his hand quite badly on the broken bottle that he still held. The blond carefully removed the glass fragments from his friend´s grip and then tied a clean handkerchief round the wound tightly and continued with his examination. Nathan´s words had worried him and he was particularly vigilant when looking at Ezra´s scalp. When he found nothing amiss, he slung the unconscious agent over his shoulder and took him out to the Ram. He laid him on his side on the back seat and quickly covered the man with a blanket. He then drove to the medic´s house and lifted the drunken man into his arms and carried him inside gently. He rather regretted the unfeeling way he´d handled his friend before. He equated it with how someone would carry a sack of potatoes and he thought Ezra deserved better than that.

“What set him off?” Nathan asked as he led the way upstairs. Chris followed carefully behind with his precious burden hanging limply in his arms.

“Don´t know. He wasn´t in the mood for talking. He had a broken bottle in his hand and the only way to deal with him was to knock him out. Hit him rather hard, I´m afraid and he cut his hand badly on the bottle as he fell but it coulda been a lot worse, Nate. I´ve never known him let drink take control before and it was quite an eye- opener, I can tell ya. With the nature of his job, I know he always likes to stay alert even when he´s off duty. He´s usually so polite and well- behaved that it comes as quite a shock when he acts otherwise.”

“Yeah, I was sure surprised when you called to say what he´d done. It´s real strange behavior for him. He usually limits himself to a couple of whiskeys and then sticks to beer.” The medic opened a door and led the way in. “Bring him in here. He´d better stay with me tonight,” Nathan said as he helped lay Ezra on the bed.

Chris watched the medic check the drunken man for injuries and asked anxiously, “Is he alright?”

“Gonna be as sick as a dog, have a beautiful black eye and a splitting headache, I should think. Can´t see anything else wrong with him. I´ll just see to his hand but it doesn´t look as though it needs stitches.”

“Do you want me to stay tonight as well?”

“Yes please. We can split guard duty. Better have someone with him all the time in case he vomits or has an injury that I missed.”

Chris nodded in agreement. He wandered out of the room and called Buck as promised and told him what had happened. Nathan then showed him to his own bedroom so the blond could get some rest. Nathan sat with the undercover agent first and then Chris took over near dawn. The blond sat down by the bed and wondered why Ezra had drunk himself into oblivion. He was usually fairly sensible and the black-clad man shook his head in exasperation and watched over his friend until he stirred mid-morning.

The undercover agent put a hand to his head and rubbed his temples wearily as the world spun round inside his head. He ran his tongue round his teeth and discovered his mouth seemed to be lined with fur. He grimaced at the disgusting taste and then licked his dry lips. He opened his eyes and promptly shut them tight again because the light hurt them too much.

“Shit,” he muttered.

“Ezra?” Chris said quietly as he stood and leaned over the man.

“Stop shouting,” the undercover agent pleaded. Chris´s words reverberated in his head and he put his hands over his ears to try and lessen the impact as he screwed up his face in pain.

“I´m not shouting. How do you feel?” Chris asked as he pried Ezra´s hands away from his head. He got his answer soon enough when Ezra threw up spectacularly. “Godammit, Standish. Couldn´t you have aimed somewhere else? Shit, I´m gonna stink.” Chris stood up straight rapidly and looked down at his dripping pants and shirt as he held his arms away from his body in disgust.

Nathan heard Chris´s raised voice and he entered the room quickly to see what had happened. He took one look at the two vomit-covered men and walked out to find them replacement clothes. Chris took the ones handed to him and stripped off where he stood as quickly as possible as he muttered continually under his breath. Nathan, meanwhile, saw to Ezra´s needs. He took the man along to the bathroom and left him there for a short time while he went back to change the sheets on the bed. He worked fast because he didn´t want to leave the drunken man alone for too long. Chris, by this time, had cleaned himself up and Nathan left him to finish tidying the room on his own. The medic returned to the bathroom and found the undercover agent leaning over the toilet bowl spewing for all he was worth. Nathan squatted beside him and rubbed his back until Ezra sat back on his heels and sighed as he wiped his mouth and flushed the toilet.

“Okay, Ez?”

“Do I look okay, Mr. Jackson? Would I be expectorating in this fashion if I was alright?” Ezra asked weakly and with a dry croaking voice. He rested his forehead on the rim of the toilet bowl and groaned loudly.

“No. Don´t s´pose you would, at that. Come on, let´s get you cleaned up. That´s if you´ve finished puking yer guts up?”

“For the moment. Don´t think I´ve got any liquid left in my body.”

Nathan helped him to his feet and sat him on the lowered lid of the toilet seat until the man had recovered some of his strength. While he was seated Nathan took the clothes off Ezra´s top half and then pulled him to his feet to take off the rest. He washed his friend over before putting on the spare set of clothes he´d brought along. He had to guide each of Ezra´s limbs into the garments because the undercover agent couldn´t seem to aim them in the right direction. Nathan smiled as he thought it was just like dressing a toddler. “Jeez, Ezra. You know drink and yer stomach don´t agree when you overdo it. What´s gotten into you?”

“Oh shit. I feel awful, I think I´m dying Nathan. Shoot me and put me out of my misery,” Ezra begged pathetically as he stood with the top of his head resting against the medic´s chest. Without the support of Nathan´s body, Ezra knew it was more than likely he would collapse in a heap at his friend´s feet.

“If you don´t, I will, Nate,” Chris stated from the doorway. “You´d better sober up quick Ezra ‘cause you´ve got some explaining to do and it´d better be good.”

“Not now, Chris. Let him be until he feels better. Come on, Ez. You´d be better off in bed so you can sleep it off.” Nathan tightened his grip round Ezra´s waist as he felt the man´s knees begin to give way and Chris hurried to support the man from the other side.

The two men led him back to bed and Ezra flopped down on the covers and went to sleep instantly. Nathan found another blanket and covered him over gently.

“Stupid fool,” Chris said. “Drink don´t solve problems, it just delays them and usually makes ‘em worse.”

“You don´t know why he did this, Chris. It´s gotta be something out of the ordinary. Ezra don´t get drunk for no reason and never to this extent as you pointed out before,” the medic said reasonably as he escorted the blond from the room. He hoped Ezra would be alright to be left on his own now so he closed the door quietly behind him and took Chris downstairs.

Ezra slept peacefully and woke again late afternoon. He saw he was alone so he got up and went to join his two friends downstairs. He followed the sound of their voices and found them in the kitchen drinking coffee. The semi-sober man sat at the table and put his head in his hands as he groaned at the pain in his head.

Chris knew from previous experience that it was no good approaching Ezra like a bull at a gate when he had a problem because the man would just clam up. Chris decided on the softly-softly approach instead, so he took a seat next to his agent and asked gently, “Why Ezra? Is the disciplinary hearing next week that´s upset you?”

He knew the man had at first been angry that he´d been accused of misconduct but Chris didn´t think it would have affected him so much. The charges had come about when the undercover agent had been working with the FBI on a case. He´d been blamed when the person they were after had killed one of the FBI agents and then escaped. The blond frowned as he remembered another possibility and asked, “Or is it something to do with the problem that Maude was having?”

“Neither. I had a rather disturbing phone call last night while I was trying to enjoy a quiet evening in the Saxon Bar,” Ezra said quietly in reply.

“Who from?”

“He said he was my father.”

“What!?” Chris exclaimed.

“No, I think your question should be who?, Mr. Larabee. As you know, Maude doesn´t even know who my father is. Not surprising after having a handful of husbands and numerous lovers,” Ezra snorted in disdain. “God, it´s depressing.”

Nathan was surprised at Ezra´s explanation for his behavior. It was certainly the last thing he would have thought of and he could see how it might´ve triggered a drinking binge. “Did he say why he´s contacted you now or how he knew where you were?” the medic asked.

“I´m afraid I didn´t ask. I put the phone down.”

“Why? Aren´t you in the least bit curious about him?” Chris asked, slightly mystified.

“No. He´s never been part of my life and I don´t know him from Adam. Why should I care?” Ezra retorted in a very matter of fact tone.

“Well, you obviously do care or you wouldn´t have reacted so badly. Did you get his name? You should at least ask Maude if she remembers him.”

“I already know what her answer will be. She´ll say no. She forgets each lover as soon as she gets her fangs into the next victim. He could hardly have made much of an impact anyway, could he, if she didn´t even know back then that he´d sired me? I´m a bastard in every sense of the word, Mr. Larabee.”

“Don´t say that, Ez.”

“Go and talk to Maude. You can use my phone, Ezra,” Nathan ordered.

The undercover agent looked at his two companions in turn and rose reluctantly when he saw they wouldn´t take no for an answer. He picked up the phone in the living room and punched in his mother´s number with a heavy heart.


“Ezra dear. How nice to hear from you.”

“Does the name Simon Pease mean anything to you? Was he among your many romantic conquests?” Ezra asked hopefully.

“Ezra! Is that any way to speak to your mother?” Maude admonished.

“Do you know him?” Ezra asked insistently.

“Doesn´t ring a bell but then I´ve known so many men,” Maude admitted sheepishly.

“Yes, I think you´ve worked your way through half the male population of this country. You should have slept with the remainder by the time you shuffle off your mortal coil. It seems to be your main aim in life,” Ezra snorted derisively.

“Ezra! Whatever´s gotten into you? How dare you speak to me like that?”

Ezra interrupted angrily, “Why should the truth upset you? Now just listen to me for once in your life Mother, will you? Do you know Simon Pease? Please think exceedingly carefully before answering.”

“Why are you so anxious for me to remember this one man? Why him and not any of the others? I can´t be expected to remember them all.”

“Well, this one claims to be my father. Surely that would be memorable,” Ezra snapped disgustedly as he slammed his already injured hand against the wall in frustration. He hissed in pain and looked down at it and noticed the bandage for the first time. He frowned and shook the injured appendage to try to get rid of the pain before turning his attention back to Maude.

The two men in the kitchen heard Ezra continue his agitated conversation and could tell that he didn´t get a satisfactory answer. Ezra eventually wandered back in and sank down on the chair with a sigh. He put one hand over his mouth suddenly and rested his forehead in the palm of the other as he leant his elbow on the table and closed his eyes. The room spun alarmingly, making him feel sick and he breathed deeply to fend the feeling off.

“You okay?” Chris asked with a worried frown as he reached out a hand and rubbed the man´s upper arm.

“Just a bit dizzy from the last remnants of the whiskey that´s still sloshing around in my system. God, having an altercation with Maude is truly not the best hangover cure.”

Nathan stood up and came back with some coffee. “There ya go. Drink that.”

Ezra took the offered mug gratefully and blew on the steaming contents before taking a tentative sip.

“What did Maude say?” Chris asked once his agent looked settled again.

“She said she didn´t remember his name. It´ll turn out that he was the mailman, I expect. She slept with all and sundry, damn her,” Ezra said quietly as he shook his head.

“What ya gonna do?” Nathan asked.

“Nothing. I certainly didn´t get his number and even if I had I wouldn´t call him.” Ezra paused and suddenly asked, “How did I get here anyway?”

“I had a call from Inez asking me to collect you from The Saloon. You wouldn´t leave.”

“Oh. I certainly remember arriving there after leaving the other bar in a daze but what happened afterwards is a mystery. I know I felt the need of a whiskey to get over my shock.”

A whiskey? I think you nearly drowned in the spirit, Ezra,” Nathan said with a smile. “You´re lucky you didn´t get alcohol poisoning with the amount you musta consumed.”

“Yes. I think I rather overdid it, didn´t I? I´ve never felt so bad.”

“Well, you need to apologize to Inez. You were less than a gentleman to her,” Chris told him seriously.

“What? I didn´t….?” Ezra asked worriedly.

“No, you didn´t touch her. You just swore and shouted at her.”

“Oh, dear. Drink certainly brings out the worst in me. I will definitely apologize. Can I use your phone again, Nathan?”

Nathan nodded and Ezra disappeared. The two men he left behind could hear him making a groveling apology and they both smiled as they traded glances. Ezra could sure use some pretty language when he needed to suck up to someone. That, combined with his natural charm, had Inez eating out of his hand and saying she forgave him. The men in the kitchen had seen two totally different sides to Ezra´s character within a matter of minutes. First with the way he´d spoken to Maude and now with Inez. The two conversations had been poles apart.

Ezra returned and sat down with a sigh again. Chris patted his shoulder and said with a smile, “You look like shit, buddy.”

“Feel it too, believe me. My head is spinning and hurts beyond imagination,” Ezra admitted as he closed his eyes and rubbed his temples.

“Not surprised. You puked all over Chris, you know,” Nathan informed his friend with a mischievous grin.

Ezra opened his eyes abruptly and stared at the blond as he cringed in embarrassment. “I did? Oh, dear another apology is warranted then. What else happened?”

“At The Saloon you tried to hit him with a broken bottle so he had to thump you. That´s how you cut yer hand and got yer black eye.”

“I did wonder how I came by that. After what you said earlier, I thought perhaps Inez might have lost her temper and walloped me. I don´t think I want to hear what else I got up to. I obviously behaved in an appalling manner,” Ezra said as he leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes with a groan. “God, I feel dreadful.”

“Can you face something to eat now? You haven´t had anything all day,” Nathan said.

“Don´t really want anything but I suppose I´d better have something. Not too much though in case it has dire consequences on my sensitive stomach. Wouldn´t want to throw up over Chris again, would I?” he said as he smiled broadly, revealing his gold tooth.

Nathan usually expected his guests to eat what was put in front of them but he made an exception for Ezra´s sake. The medic searched his cupboards and nearly had the entire contents out before he finally found something that Ezra could face. The undercover agent ate as much as he could manage and had another cup of coffee to wash it down with.

“Thanks Nathan. I wouldn´t have bothered eating if I´d been at home on my own. Talking of my humble abode, could one of you drop me off at The Saloon to collect my car so I can go home? I think I´ve rather overstayed my welcome.”

“I´ll take you. I´d better be going as well,” Chris said as he stood up and went to collect his coat and newly washed clothes. He came back and collected Ezra and drove him to The Saloon after thanking Nathan for his help.

“Sure you´re alright on yer own?” Chris asked as he finally dropped the agent outside the bar.

“Yes, thank you. I am truly sorry for my behavior. What with Simon turning up coupled with the problem that Maude had asked me to look into and the small matter of the disciplinary hearing at work it´s been a hell of a week.”

“Don´t sweat it. You had a few good excuses for getting drunk although I can guarantee the latter problem will be sorted quickly in your favor. The Simon problem is a bit more difficult but if he phones again don´t ignore him. You might regret it in the long run if you turn him away.”

“Maybe. See you tomorrow.” Ezra turned and walked to his car and got in. He waved goodbye to Chris and then drove home. He went straight to bed and slept well despite everything and in the morning he felt much better.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra rose mid-morning and headed to the Saxon Bar, which was just round the corner from where he lived and offered food and drink at all hours of the day and night. He was halfway through satisfying his hunger when the waitress came over and said there was a phone call for him.

“Hello?” he said as he frowned and chewed on a piece of toast that he´d taken with him.

“Hello son.”

“I am not your son,” Ezra declared haughtily as he swallowed the toast quickly and nearly choked in his haste.

“Well, I believe you are.”

Ezra coughed for a bit, but finally got his breath back and croaked, “Why have you bothered to get in contact now? You can´t have cared all that much about me before.”

“I´m dying and I wanted to see you just once. Can´t we meet so I can at least tell you how I met Maude?”

Ezra hesitated. His curiosity was growing and he was beginning to believe he ought to see the man but the excuse Simon had given for getting in contact was as old as the hills. “Maude doesn´t remember you,” he said instead.

“So you were interested enough to ask her then. Come on, what harm could it do to just meet up once?” the man cajoled persuasively.

Ezra didn´t answer for a minute but his curiosity was gnawing away at him persistently. Chris´s words also popped into his mind at that moment so he decided to give into temptation. “Okay. When and where?”

“You choose. I don´t know Denver very well.”

“Okay. Let´s make it The Saloon. You can find it in the phone book and anyone you ask can give you directions.”

“See you tomorrow evening then. Is that alright?”

“Sure. See ya later.” Ezra disconnected and walked back to his table. He looked down at his plate and realized he´d lost his appetite. He paid for the meal and walked out onto the sidewalk and wandered home slowly as he pondered his predicament. What harm could it do to meet up just once as the man had said? he thought to himself. What harm indeed?

+ + + + + + +

Ezra hung around on the sidewalk outside The Saloon but he couldn´t seem to get the courage to enter. His stomach was in turmoil and he felt sick. How am I going to recognize him anyway? he wondered. I didn´t even ask what he looked like.


The undercover agent turned round swiftly as his heart leapt into his throat but he relaxed when he saw it was Chris standing behind him. “Mr. Larabee,” the dark- haired man greeted solemnly.

“You haven´t come to drown yer sorrows, have ya? I don´t wanna have to punch yer lights out again,” the blond said with a grin.

“No, don´t fret although I admit a whiskey would go down well at the moment. I foolishly agreed to meet the cause of my previous drunken state. I can´t place my foot over the threshold though for some reason.”

“Do ya know if he´s in there?”

“I have no idea. Don´t even know what he looks like so perhaps I´ll just go home. He´d never know that I actually came, would he?”

“No, don´t go, Ez. Come on, I´ll wait with you until he turns up if you like,” Chris offered as he put a hand on his friend´s elbow to stop him leaving.

Ezra looked at him uncertainly before studying the opposite side of the street distractedly. Chris heard him sigh loudly and then the undercover agent turned to face The Saloon´s entrance reluctantly. He took a step forwards and Chris followed him inside with a grim smile He thought that his friend looked like someone who was heading for his own execution. The dark-haired man headed straight to the bar and ordered a large whiskey from Inez. The woman flicked a quick look at Chris but he smiled and nodded to say he would watch his friend closely to prevent a repeat of his previous behavior.

The two men picked a table near the entrance and sat quietly as they watched new customers arrive. Ezra hardly touched his drink and Chris could see his hand shaking slightly as he turned the glass around in his grip. Every time someone came through the door, Ezra flinched and the more the minutes ticked by, the more agitated he became. He suddenly raised the glass to his lips and downed the contents in one go before slamming it back on the table making Chris jump in fright.

“Calm down, Ezra,” Chris said worriedly. “He´ll turn up eventually.”

“I´m sorry but I can´t bear the suspense.” Ezra wiped his face with his hand and then said desperately, “God, I need another drink.”

“I´ll get them but make do with a beer, will ya?” Chris said as he stood and patted his hyperactive friend´s shoulder. The blond walked to the bar and ordered the drinks. When he turned back with a glass in each hand he saw Ezra now had company and he studied the tall, thin man who was sitting beside the undercover agent. He tried to see some sort of family resemblance but he couldn´t see that the man looked anything much like Ezra at all. He walked slowly back to the table and put the glass of beer in front of Ezra.

“There ya go, Ez. I´ll leave you alone but I´ll be here if you need me. I´m meeting a couple of the guys later if you remember.”

The man at Ezra´s table looked up as the blond spoke and he stood and held out his hand. “Hello, I´m Simon. Are you a friend of Ezra´s?”

“Yeah. Chris Larabee. We work together,” Chris replied as he shook the offered hand firmly.

“He´s my boss actually,” Ezra told the man as he watched Chris´s reaction.

“Nice to meet you,” Chris said. The blond raked the man from head to foot with a penetrating stare before smiling at Ezra and returning to the bar to wait for Buck and Vin.

“Good to keep in with yer superiors, son. What do ya do for a living anyway?” Simon asked as he retook his seat.

“I´m an ATF agent and work with six other men.” Ezra paused before snapping angrily, “Look, will you stop calling me son? As far as I´m concerned I´ve never had and never will have a father.”

“You are my son but if it unsettles you I´ll just call you Ezra, okay?”

“Fine.” Ezra really didn´t know what else to say to the man. For once in his life he was tongue-tied and he tried to hide his discomfort by taking a sip from his beer. He studied Simon through the bottom of the glass as he drank and heartily wished he´d never agreed to meet the man. He´d never felt so unsure of himself in his life.

“Do you have a special job within your team?” Simon asked with apparent interest.


“Well, what is it?” Simon asked persistently when Ezra didn´t elaborate.

“I´d rather not say.” Ezra hated answering questions about his job at the best of times, it always made him suspicious. He knew, however, that this time it was just a father trying to get to know his offspring but he still got defensive. Ezra tried to change the subject and asked, “Why did you leave it all these years before getting in contact? Where have you been?”

“I worked overseas. I knew that Maude was pregnant when I left her all those years ago but I was too young to take on the responsibility. She never actually said you were mine but I knew deep down that you were. Anyway we had a blazing row about her roving eye and I walked out on her. I got a job on an oilrig and I never saw her again. When I came back home I got to thinking about you and I did some digging and here I am.”

“How did you come to know Maude?” Ezra asked, his interest piqued despite himself.

“Met her at a Country and Western bar we both used to frequent. We went out for a few months but I knew she started seeing someone else at that time as well.”

“She could´ve been pregnant by him then. Why are you so sure I´m yours?”

“Gut feeling.”

“Well, that´s not very scientific, is it?” Ezra snorted derisively.

“Could get a DNA test to confirm it,” Simon suggested tentatively.

“No!” Ezra stood up quickly and knocked over his chair in his haste to get to the door.

Simon hurried after him and grabbed his arm roughly. “Wait Ezra. I´d like to know once and for all whether you´re mine before I die. Surely you can´t deny me that. Why won´t you agree?”

“Don´t lay that crap on me. You just come waltzing into my life and expect me to be happy to see you and to welcome you with open arms. I don´t want a test. Fuck off.” Ezra shrugged his arm off and left The Saloon. He was extremely unsettled and he really couldn´t get his feelings under control. One minute he really wanted to get to know the man but the next he resented him and didn´t care whether he ever saw him again.

Chris had been watching events unfold and he hopped down off the barstool he had been occupying and hurried after his friend. He stood on the sidewalk and looked up and down the road as he tried to see where he´d gone. He spotted Ezra´s Jag and saw that the man was sitting inside puffing hard on a cigarette. He could see the red glow in the darkness every time Ezra inhaled. He walked over and knocked on the window, causing Ezra to jump like a scalded cat. The undercover agent looked up thinking it would be Simon but when he saw it was his boss, he got out to join him on the sidewalk.

“Ez? What happened?” the blond asked as he watched his friend closely. Before his very eyes the cigarette in his friend´s mouth got shorter and shorter until it was finished. Chris had never seen anyone smoke one so fast before. Ezra discarded the butt and flattened it with his heel before lighting another one straight away.

He inhaled several lungfuls of smoke before finally answering. “He asked for a DNA test to prove he was my father.”

“Doesn´t hang about, does he?” Chris stood leaning against the side of Ezra´s car and he put a comforting hand on the man´s shoulder.

“Tried to soft soap me into agreeing by implying he´s gonna die any minute. Nearly thirty years with no contact and he expects me to accept him just like that and do as he asks. I don´t know what to do, Chris. I can´t stop shaking. I usually make decisions at the drop of a hat but this has completely thrown me and I feel I´m being pulled two ways. My heart wants to get to know him but my head says no and at the moment I tend to agree with my head.”

“Did he tell you how he met Maude?” Chris received a swift nod and Ezra told him exactly what had passed between the two men in the saloon.

“Have another word with Maude. It may jog her memory,” Chris advised.

“She shouldn´t need it jogging, she ought to know but then she must have slept with every man she´s ever come into contact with. How do you think it feels knowing that your mother is no better than a whore?”

“Ezra! She´s yer mother for God´s sake. What´s the hell´s the matter with you?” Chris rebuked angrily.

“How else would you describe her, Mr. Larabee?” Ezra inquired with a raised eyebrow. He sighed before adding, “Look, you know I love her, Chris but surely even you would have to question her morals. She might as well have stuck a sign outside our house advertising her services. It might have been easier to bear that way. She changes men as often as she changes her underwear. She´s kinda like a female version of Mr. Wilmington really, isn´t she? Wonder how many little Bucklins there are running around in this world without his knowledge. S´pose that means I shouldn´t be so hard on Simon when I tolerate Buck´s behavior but it´s different when you´re the one involved.”

“Yeah. I see what you mean, Ez,” Chris sighed as he patted his friend´s back.

“Why couldn´t Maude even be bothered to find out who my father was? I can´t describe how this whole business makes me feel.” Ezra puffed on his cigarette and blew a smoke ring as he stared distractedly into space, consumed with his inner thoughts.

“Talk to her, Ez. That´s all I can offer in the way of advice at the moment, buddy. Are you gonna meet him again?” Chris asked.

“No. It just makes me nauseous to look at him. He said he knew Maude was pregnant before he walked out on her. Why did he just abandon us?” Ezra inquired despairingly as he walked across the sidewalk and back again to end up facing his boss.

“He told you. Bringing up kids is a hell of a responsibility, Ez,” Chris replied as he met his friend´s questioning gaze.

“Should have thought about that before fornicating, shouldn´t he? He´s got to take some of the responsibility for bringing a bastard into the world.”

“Ezra! Come on. Don´t put yerself down like that.”

The undercover agent continued talking as though Chris had not interrupted. “Other kids made my life hell because I didn´t have a father. It was a good job we never stayed in one place too long. After the first few moves, I began telling them that he was dead rather than that I didn´t know who he was. At least then they´d treat me normally. They invariably found out that I was illegitimate though and I got worse treatment than I would have had if I´d come clean to start with. At least when I was sent away to an out of State school I didn´t have to put up with her behavior on a daily basis. Every time I went home for a vacation though there was a new ‘uncle´ to get to know.” Ezra stopped talking abruptly as he heard footsteps and when he looked up he saw Simon approaching.

“Ezra? Come back inside. I want to learn more about you,” the man said as he drew near.

“No. I´ve had enough. Leave me alone.” Ezra turned and got back in his car after throwing the remainder of his cigarette away angrily.

Simon moved forwards and Chris put a hand on his chest and stopped him as he shook his head in warning. “Leave him be. Maybe he´ll settle down but don´t push things now. You can´t expect him to throw his arms around you after all these years.”

“Speak to him for me, will ya? Tell him to meet me again.”

“Look, I´m sorry. It´s Ezra´s decision. I´m not gonna force him to see you if he doesn´t want to and it´s none of my business anyway. Just don´t hurt him if he does agree to see you again. He´s had enough to deal with lately without you upsetting him too,” Chris warned as he held Simon´s gaze.

“Okay. I´ll leave it lie for a few days and then phone him again. I don´t wanna pressure him.” The man then turned and walked along to a truck parked not far away.

Chris watched him leave and then opened Ezra´s door and squatted down so he was at eye level with his friend. “He said he´ll phone you in a few days. Least that gives you time to think about things.”

“Thanks, Chris. It´s just a bit too much to handle at the moment, coming out of the blue like that,” the undercover agent admitted. “I´ll see you tomorrow.”

Chris stood up and closed the door. He waved goodbye and watched sadly as his friend drove away. He heard voices behind him and recognized Buck´s booming tones immediately. The ladies´ man approached him with Vin tagging along behind quietly and the two men stood beside the blond and watched the Jag move away at speed.

“Ezra not staying, Chris?” the tall man asked with a frown as he saw Ezra´s erratic driving.

“No. He´s not in the mood.” Chris sighed and turned to face his friends.

“What´s up with him?”

“He´ll tell you if he wants to, Bucklin. It´s personal. Come on, I need a drink.”


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