by Hombre

Chris watched Ezra for a while to see how he was acting before making contact again. The man was sitting with his back to a wall with his legs drawn up and seemed to be trying to make himself invisible. Chris knew there was no way of approaching him without being seen. Ezra looked up every so often and the blond could see his lips moving as if he was having a conversation with himself. The dark- haired man looked around warily and watched pedestrians and passing cars with a worried look on his face. He had his gun in his hand and Chris was glad he hadn't agreed to use the taser. He'd never have been able to fire it before Ezra reacted to the threat he posed.

"Vin?" Chris said into the mike.

"Yeah? You okay, cowboy?"

"He's already got his gun handy. Can you see him from where you are yet?"

"No, he's just outta sight. I can't move any further sideways either without him spotting me. There ain't much cover for me to use around here and I can't get any higher neither. You'll have to get him to move into the open so I can get a clear shot if I need to. Keep his attention focussed on you or things could go bad real quick."

"Okay, I'm going in. Just keep alert everyone."

"Sure. We're all here, Chris. Good luck, pard," Buck said quietly.

Chris crossed the street and walked slowly toward the dark- haired man while keeping alert in case Ezra reacted badly to his presence. Although the undercover agent had asked him to come, in his present state he may have changed his mind or totally forgotten the arrangement.

"Are you alright, Ez?" Chris asked as he squatted down near his rogue undercover agent so he was on a level with the man.

"They're here. Can you see them?"

"See who?"

"Them!" Ezra shouted as he pointed to a spot just in front of him. He felt in a world of his own and totally isolated. It was as if he was under water and the things he could see swam in and out of his vision and suddenly changed shape. He turned to the blond again and the man's face loomed into sight appearing twice as large as normal. Ezra said insistently, "There, right there."

"No. There's no one there," Chris disagreed quietly but he came to a halt as he heard Josiah's voice in his ear-piece.

"Chris? Just agree with him. If you say you can't see what he can, it'll make him more scared and likely to do something stupid," the big man advised. "If he's experiencing symptoms like PCP gives, he's gonna be having a real bad time."

"There.....right there...right there," Ezra said as he continued pointing with a shaking finger.

Chris followed Josiah's advice and said, "Oh, over there? Yeah, I see them now, Ez. If you come with me we can leave them behind and they won't follow if I'm with you."

"Are you sure?" Ezra asked uncertainly as he continued staring at the things only he could see.

"Yes, I'm sure. Come on. Do you want to go home?"

Ezra nodded and got to his feet slowly. He looked down at his hands and could see the blood flowing through his veins as plain as day. His skin seemed transparent and he frowned at the sight. He looked back up at Chris and then stood still and stared into space as the voice in his head warned, He's lying to you. He wants to lock you up 'cause he thinks you're mad. Don't go with him or you'll regret it.

Vin was watching events through his rifle sight now he had a slightly clearer view of events. He saw the change in expression on Ezra's face from fear and confusion to anger. "Chris? He's gonna blow any minute. Move to your left slowly when you can because I still can't get a clear line on his body. Just don't spook him when you do it."

Chris had seen the change in his agent's demeanor for himself. His friend's moods were very unpredictable and changed from one second to the next and that was proved when Ezra suddenly turned the gun unerringly toward Chris. The blond stood with hands outstretched and moved slightly to the left as Vin had instructed.

"Stand where you are!" Ezra yelled hysterically as he waved the gun around erratically. "You're one of them. You're lying to me! He said so." Everything in his vision suddenly turned mauve and he shook his head and put his fingers to his eyes and rubbed them irritably. It had no effect whatsoever and the world stayed the unnatural color.

Any pedestrians that were nearby turned and ran until the two agents were left standing alone in the middle of the sidewalk.

Chris watched the wayward man carefully. He wanted to keep the situation calm so he said quietly, "No, Ezra. I only want to help you and you can't believe everything he tells you. We're friends and I wouldn't hurt you."

"Liar!" Ezra took a swift stride forwards until the end of his gun barrel touched the center of Chris's forehead. Chris's heart started pounding and he closed his eyes briefly and prayed. To have a gun held to his head twice in one day was unnerving, to say the least. Jeez! Why bother with body armor when he always goes for my head?

Vin swore and said, "Chris? When I give the order just drop and I'll take him out. It don't look as though he's gonna let you move outta the way. If you think he's gonna shoot you before I speak again drop anyway 'cause I'll be ready whatever happens."

Chris braced himself for instant action and looked into the wild, green eyes that stared back at him unblinkingly. He decided to try and reason with the man once more but by the look in his eyes he knew he was going to fail. "Ezra? I'm not going to hurt you. Who told you I was one of them?"

"The voice. He told me."

"What voice?" Chris asked quietly.

"In my head......always telling me about you. Don't trust you."

"The people you showed me earlier, are they still here? Can you still see them?" the blond asked.

Ezra quickly looked over his shoulder to check and then frowned. He looked back at Chris with fury etched in every line of his face. "You said you could see them! You told did."

Chris swore as he realized his mistake. He made a last-ditch attempt to calm the man down so he could disarm Ezra without Vin intervening. "They were hidden behind you and I couldn't see them but I can now. They're right behind you. I see them, Ez." Even the blond detected the hint of desperation in his own voice.

Ezra hesitated and flicked his eyes around him anxiously. He didn't know what to do. The voice in his head was screaming at him to pull the trigger but something held him back from completing the move.

"Drop now, Chris," Vin said softly.

The blond went down on his knees and bent forwards as he heard Vin's rifle bark twice. He looked up and saw Ezra thrown off his feet to land on the sidewalk with a thud. The black-clad man rose swiftly and kicked the gun away that Ezra had dropped. He drew his own weapon from where it had been hidden in an ankle holster and aimed it at the undercover agent after quickly cuffing the man's hands at the front. The blond could see his friend had been shot in the right shoulder and side and he was bleeding heavily. Chris heard pounding feet but didn't look round, knowing it was the cavalry coming to his aid.

"Chris? You okay?" Josiah asked as he drew alongside.

"No." The blond stared down at his shackled agent and saw the man was shaking and crying. He felt like doing the same.

All the men had their weapons trained on their fallen colleague and Nathan made them move away slowly so he could try to treat him.

"Alright, Ez. Calm down and let me look at you," the medic said as he walked nervously toward his friend.

"Don't touch me. Please.......leave me alone," Ezra cried haltingly as he kicked out with his feet, like a child having a tantrum, in an effort to keep the medic away.

Nathan continued moving forwards slowly despite Ezra's attempts to keep him back but the nearer he got, the more upset the undercover agent became. Ezra raised his cuffed hands to his head and shut his eyes while screaming loudly. "They're coming.....they're coming. Keep them away. Please keep them away......please. Leave me alone!"

"Nate? Step back!" Josiah ordered brusquely. "Give him some space." The profiler was regretting with each passing minute not getting help for Ezra sooner. He knew he should have gone with his gut instinct at the time and not let things reach the stage they had. Okay, he'd only delayed a day but those twenty-four hours may have made all the difference. The big man sighed and turned his attention to the man lying on the sidewalk. "Ezra? It's Josiah. Who do you want to help you? Who do you feel happy with, son?" the big man asked as he squatted down so he was nearer eye level.

"I don't know. I wanna go home. Please don't let them hurt me. They're in my head.....won't leave me alone....... Don't hurt me again," the injured agent begged.

"We ain't gonna hurt ya, Ezra. We had to shoot you to stop you from hurting Chris." Josiah could see the undercover agent watching him from under his arm so the big man smiled reassuringly.

"I hurt....hurt bad. Stomach...hurt," Ezra said as he clamped a hand over the wound there and stared at the blood in horror.

"I know you do and we need to look at your injuries. Are you gonna let Nate help ya?"

"No. Don't want Nate."

"Who then?" Josiah inquired quietly as he kept a close eye on the pale, trembling agent.

"Bucklin.......Bucklin.....only Bucklin," Ezra mumbled continuously. He didn't know why he felt he could only trust the one man but his thoughts were so garbled he didn't know what he wanted half the time anyway.

"Hey Ez, I'm here pard," the ladies' man said and then turned to the others. "Leave me alone with him, will ya? I think it'll be easier."

"We'll stay in sight in case of trouble and we'll keep him covered. Just 'cause he's cuffed and unarmed don't mean he's defenseless. Don't take any chances with him," Chris warned.

The medic put a hand on Buck's arm and said quietly, "Keep reassuring him, Bucklin. He's feeling scared and alone but take care. If he looks like losing control again back off immediately."

Buck nodded and waited until the men had moved away a short distance and then approached Ezra carefully. He knelt down next to him and caught the man's eye. "Hey, Ez. Let me see yer belly, pard. It's alright to touch you, is it?"

Ezra nodded while he continued shouting at the people and mysterious voice only he could see and hear. Buck pulled his friend's shirt up gently and sighed when he saw the wound and the blood. He opened the first aid kit that Nathan had given him and began to treat the injury as best he could. "Alright there, Ez? Still with me, pard?" Buck asked kindly after a while.

"Yes. Hurts."

"I know but I'll soon be done with this wound and then I'll see the one in yer shoulder. Just stay still for me, will ya?"

Ezra groaned and disobeyed Buck's request straight away as he curled up onto his uninjured side when the ladies' man touched his flesh. "I'm sorry, Bucklin. I feel all mixed up. I didn't mean it....didn't mean it."

"I know you didn't, pard. We'll get some help to sort out yer problems, don't you fret." Buck patted the man's back.

"You'll look after me, won't you? I don't trust anyone else. They want to kill me. He said so."

"Kill you? Who?"

"The others," Ezra said emphatically as he pointed into space.

"What others? Not Chris surely."

"Everyone. They all watch me, just waiting for the right time. I've seen them. Like lions waiting for their next meal," Ezra rambled incoherently.

The ladies' man glanced quickly at Chris and then said, "It's just yer imagination, Ez. You're perfectly safe."

"No, no! They're all around watching...waiting," Ezra shouted. He hiccuped and became very agitated. He started breathing fast and mumbled constantly, "Lion....kill me."

Ezra looked up as Buck continued treating him and he saw images behind the man's head. They were people he'd convicted in the past and they looked terrifyingly real. He stared at them in horror and gasped when Buck's face changed before his very eyes into Paul Simmons's countenance.

Ezra recoiled from the man and shouted, "Get away, you bastard. Don't touch me!" Even as he looked at the mustached agent though, his face changed back to normal. He's one of them. I told you so. Do you believe me now? Ezra shook his head and put his hands back up to his head and screamed at full volume.

Buck flinched at the high-pitched noise and looked down anxiously at Ezra as the man suddenly curled up into a ball as if he'd been hit. "It's alright, pard. I'm still here. Are you okay?" he said calmly. He removed his hands from Ezra's body so as not to make matters worse.

Ezra didn't know what to do or what to believe. He looked back at Buck and blinked rapidly. Is he my friend or not? He decided to continue to trust the man for the time being because he didn't know who else to turn to and he didn't want to be alone. "Watching, waiting.....always watching. Bucklin, help me....I don't know what to do. I tried to escape but I couldn't...I couldn't."

Buck had no idea what Ezra was talking about. All he saw before him was a terrified man and he moved to help him in the only way he knew how. "I'm here, pard. I won't let anything happen to you," Buck said calmly as he scooped the undercover agent's upper body into his arms. He patted his friend's back and rocked him back and forth as the man cried hysterically.

Josiah caught the ladies' man's eye and when Buck nodded the big man took a step forward and waited so he was just in Ezra's sight.

Buck spoke softly to the man in his arms. "Ez? I have to get you to the hospital and I need Josiah to help me. Will you let him carry you?"

"No," Ezra yelled as he hid his face once more in Buck's shirt.

"Come on, Ez. I can't do it on my own. I'll still be with you and I won't leave you alone, I promise." Buck hugged the man tight and Ezra eventually nodded slowly.

Josiah walked forward and knelt down beside the two men. "Okay, son. I'm just gonna carry you to Chris's Ram and Buck will be with you all the way. I ain't gonna hurt ya, alright?"

He picked up the man carefully and headed for the Ram, which was parked not too far away. Buck walked beside them and kept Ezra's hand clutched tightly in both of his. The profiler put Ezra in the back and Buck climbed in to sit next to him.

"There ya go, Ez. That wasn't so bad, was it?" Buck asked as he put a hand on the man's thigh and patted it gently in encouragement.

Josiah got in the front seat and started off to the hospital. He kept a close eye on the two men in the back in case Buck encountered any problems with the volatile undercover agent. They finally arrived at the medical facility after a very noisy journey because Ezra shouted and screamed at anyone he didn't like the look of. The man's behavior actually got worse, if anything, when he got inside the room he was given in the secure medical unit in the hospital. As soon as he looked at the young doctor who had treated him before he began trying to get away. He lay on the bed and fought for all he was worth, kicking fiercely and striking out with his manacled hands.

He recognized the doctor's voice from somewhere else. He'd heard it outside the hospital and it frightened him and he didn't want anything to do with him. Ezra went white and began to hyperventilate as he suddenly realized where he'd heard the doctor's voice before. He totally lost control and went berserk as he yelled over and over again, "No! Get away from me!"

The doctor finally managed to inject him with a sedative but Ezra's behavior deteriorated rapidly.

"They want to kill me! Please help me.......... You bastard. What have you done to me? What did you give me? Poison...poison!" Ezra shouted hysterically.

The ladies' man got everyone to leave and tried unsuccessfully to calm him down by himself. "Ezra? They're gonna help you not hurt you. They're doctors, pard."

"Get away from me. Leave me alone.... You lied to me....I hate you...hate you!"

"I didn't lie, Ez," Buck said shakily. He didn't like seeing his friend in such a state and although he knew Ezra didn't mean what he said he couldn't help smarting at the outburst.

"Don't touch me," Ezra shouted as Buck took a step toward him.

The undercover agent got up and backed away as far as he could and cowered in the corner behind a curtain that was used to shield the bed from view. The rest of the team had arrived by now and Nathan heard the commotion. He saw that there was another door to the room and he entered quietly through that with a part-filled syringe in his hand. He was behind Ezra and was hidden behind the curtain that the injured agent was sitting next to. He saw Ezra's shadow against the curtain and the medic's eyes met Buck's. Nathan nodded and both men pounced. Nathan tried to get hold of Ezra's arm while Buck attempted to keep the man still.

Ezra continued shouting, crying and kicking out. "No, no! Let me go. Bastards."

Nathan eventually stuck the syringe he held in the man's butt as that was easiest and emptied the contents quickly. Ezra screamed like an animal and jumped up as the two men lost their hold on him. Buck made moves to catch him but Nathan put out a hand and pulled him back because he could see the drug was already taking effect.

Ezra put a hand to his head and stumbled against the bed when he felt dizzy and his sight dimmed. His legs felt wobbly and he put out a hand as he tried to stay on his feet. He staggered on a few more steps toward the door before his lower limbs gave way completely and he collapsed unconscious to the floor.

Nathan hurried to him and turned him over slowly. Buck then helped lift the man onto the bed and he ran his fingers through his friend's hair lightly.

"It's alright, Ez. You're safe now, pard," the ladies' man said quietly.

Chris walked in after watching proceedings and saw the tears on Buck's cheeks. He reached out a hand and squeezed the man's shoulder. "He'll be okay, Bucklin. He's best out of it."

"He'd hate to see himself like this, Chris. It's so degrading," Buck said as he watched Ezra being strapped to the bed after his wrists had been re-secured with softer cuffs. "Do you have to do that? He ain't gonna do nothing now."

"It's for his own safety too, Bucklin. He could harm himself accidentally," Nathan said quietly. The medic turned to Chris and said, "I'll get a tox screen done now although we know partly what's involved already. I just want to see how much he's got in his system and whether any other drugs are involved."


The blond turned to see JD hovering in the doorway. "Yeah? What is it kid?"

"I just heard back about the other drug. They say it's sort of a mind control drug. It was outlawed because it had been abused in the kind of way it's been used on Ezra. It was supposed to be a treatment for really difficult mental patients to get them to behave in a more manageable way. To change their behavior really, I s'pose by telling them, while under the influence of it, what sort of behavior was acceptable. Someone, though, started using it for criminal purposes like coercing someone to kill another person on their behalf. The real culprit got away with their crime while the coerced person took the rap. Do you understand? I can't explain it properly," JD said as he shrugged nervously.

"Yeah, I understand alright kid but why give it to Ezra? Has he been programmed to do something? Kill someone?" Chris asked angrily.

"God knows but maybe getting him off the drug cancels out the orders he's been given," Buck suggested as he shook his head in disbelief.

JD nodded. "Yeah, that was one of the drawbacks they found in the research. Once the patients were taken off the drug their behavior reverted to how it had been before. The drug wasn't seen as a long- term solution but just a sort of stopgap until something better came along. In this case, however, the effects might be different if it's being combined with another drug. They just don't know."

Chris sighed and flicked a quick look at the silent, sleeping undercover agent. "Nate? Can you and Vin stay with him while the rest of us try to sort out who did this? We'll swap round later, okay?"

"Sure. We'll stay all night. Don't worry."

The men left and Nathan and Vin took up residence in the silent room. The medic periodically checked the sleeping man and the young doctor also came once or twice as well. Nathan finally received the results of the toxicology test and he didn't like what he saw. The undercover agent inevitably had quite a large amount of the two drugs in his body as well as the prescribed sedatives.

"Hate seeing him tied up like that, Nate," Vin said quietly after Nathan had told him the results.

"I know but it's for the best. Just need to watch him carefully for any complications."

"Hope the guys can get to the bottom of who did it. Can't imagine how Ez has felt through all this. Musta thought he was going mad acting like he did."

"Yeah, it weren't nice for him but he ain't outta the woods yet neither."

The two men lapsed into silence again as they were consumed with their inner thoughts. They took it in turns to sleep throughout the night though neither man slept well. When it was getting toward dawn Nathan went to phone Rain, leaving Vin on his own.

The young doctor arrived for one last check before he left the hospital for the day and he turned to Vin and asked, "How's he been?"

"Been asleep all night."

"Good. Do you mind stepping outside while I check him properly?"

Vin looked at the undercover agent and his eyes swept the restraints keeping him in the bed. He knew he was still cuffed although his upper limbs were currently out of sight beneath the sheet. The man was still asleep so was unlikely to cause any trouble. "Sure. I'll wait outside but call if you need me."

Vin stepped outside and turned to watch proceedings through the window. He couldn't see exactly what was happening but the doctor seemed to be doing a very thorough examination. The doctor finished and smiled and nodded at Vin as he exited the room. Vin sat back down beside a now wide-awake Ezra and the sharpshooter could see the man was very upset.

"Ezra? What's up? Are you okay?" he asked anxiously. He couldn't understand why the doctor had left the man in such a state and hadn't even told Vin about it either.

"Dying," Ezra mumbled.

"What? What do you mean?" The longhaired man saw his friend fidgeting beneath the sheets restlessly.

The undercover agent watched Vin closely and when the man looked quickly over his shoulder to see if Nathan was returning, Ezra acted. He took advantage of Vin's lack of concentration and leapt out of bed with his hands now free. His gunshot wounds hadn't proved a hindrance to him in any way.

"Shit!" Vin exclaimed when he heard the sounds from the bed. How had he got free? Vin then noticed the straps on the bed had been cut through and that his friend's hands were unrestrained too. Where were the handcuffs now?

Vin then saw what Ezra had clutched tightly in his left hand. A razorblade was held ready for use but certainly not for its usual purpose. The sharpshooter got ready for the expected attack and automatically reached for his gun. He was totally unprepared for what happened next though. Instead of trying to hurt Vin, Ezra turned the blade on himself with a vengeance.

"No! Ezra, shit!" Vin hurried forward and managed to disarm the man but not before he'd been able to cut himself repeatedly. "I need some help here! Can I have some help?" Vin yelled as he tried to stop some of the deeper cuts from bleeding as well as keeping a good hold on his friend. Ezra had cut his wrists and neck badly and Vin wondered whether it had been a concerted suicide attempt.

Nathan was walking back along the hallway and heard Vin's frantic shouts so he immediately broke into a run. He entered the room fast and saw Vin on the floor with a bloody, screaming Ezra in his arms.

"What the hell happened?" the medic asked as he moved toward the two men.

Vin didn't answer the question but shouted an order instead. "Get the others here now!"

Nathan got one of the nurses to call Chris and then he knelt down on the other side of Ezra. "Vin? How did he get in this state? How did he get free?"

"The doctor came to look at him and asked me to leave so I watched through the window as he was examined. When I came back in though Ezra was real upset but wouldn't tell me why. He just said 'dying' and I didn't know what he meant. I couldn't understand why the doctor would leave him like it or not say anything to me. I looked to see if you were coming back and he was out of bed with a razorblade in his hands before I knew it. The restraints had been cut through but left over him like he was still secure. I thought he was gonna attack me but he turned the blade on himself. I couldn't stop him, Nate. He musta been trying to kill himself because of where he cut on his body," Vin said in a shaky voice.

"Shit, I shouldn't have left you alone with him. I'm sorry, Vin. Okay, let's get him back on the bed," Nathan said. He rose and pulled back the sheets and found the cuffs hidden there. He looked at Vin quizzically and then put them to one side. He helped Vin lift the injured man up gently and put him on the bed. An older doctor appeared after hearing the commotion but Nathan made him leave, saying he would deal with Ezra himself from now on.

Chris finally arrived and looked in horror at the state of Ezra's body. "Jesus Christ," the blond said in awe. "What the hell's happened to him?"

Vin told the story again while still helping Nathan to treat the numerous cuts on his friend's body.

"Nate? Is he alright?" the blond asked anxiously.

"He probably didn't even feel the pain from the cuts because of the drugs he's had. If it's like PCP it dulls pain and could have triggered him to harm himself too. He should heal but he's gonna have a few scars 'cause some cuts are real deep. Didn't hit nothing vital luckily. Getting the drug out of his system is still gonna be the toughest thing for him though." The medic looked up when he heard the arrival of the rest of his friends but transferred his attention back to Ezra quickly.

"Vin, are you okay?" Chris asked as he turned his attention to the pale, shaking sharpshooter.

"Not really. It weren't nice seeing him do that. I shoulda been more alert."

"You did yer best to stop him, cowboy," Chris said as he patted the man's back comfortingly. "Who treated Ez today?"

"Young doctor. Early thirties. Dark hair."

"Same man on every occasion then. Did he give Ez anything by injection?"

"Not that I saw but I couldn't see everything he was doing. I shouldn't have left Ez alone with him but I thought he was still secure and asleep and I was only outside the door. How could I have missed seeing what he was doing?"

Chris gave the man a hug when he saw how badly he was taking the situation. He kept an arm round his shoulders as he turned to the medic. "Nate? Do another tox screen and compare it with the other one just in case. Let's just hope he ain't been overdosed on something else. Find the doctor too 'cause he's at the bottom of all this."

Nathan went to carry out the orders but found the doctor had disappeared. The medic questioned the other staff about him and didn't like what he heard.

Meanwhile, JD took a phone call and he listened intently and with increasing alarm to what he was told. He put the phone in his pocket and arrived back at Ezra's room just after Nathan did.

The medic was already talking. "Chris? The drug results are conclusive. He's definitely been given another large dose of the PCP type drug since the last test. I also discovered the doctor isn't a proper member of staff here although he must have had medical training of some kind to get away with his deception. It seems he's only ever been here when Ez has been admitted. The other staff said he told them he was temporary and as he had the proper papers they didn't question him. They haven't seen him here on any other day though."

The blond sighed and asked, "So he definitely gave Ez the first dose then after the wreck?"

"Yeah. That started him off and then Ez has been drugging himself without realizing it ever since."

Buck nodded his head and reported what he'd learnt during his investigations. "He'd have been very susceptible to what he was told while under the influence of the drug especially while he was asleep. The doctor used the speakers we found to talk to him during the night. Sorta subliminal messages, ya know? He's told something while he's asleep and when he wakes up he don't know any different. He just does as he's told perfectly naturally without suspecting a thing. It taught him to drink only bottled water because it was safe. He was probably told that his main water supply was poisoned or something. He was being watched all the time at home so the doctor knew when he'd be most vulnerable to what he was saying. He phoned him and added to his worries about being followed or us trying to kill him. Probably saw him drink the water and waited for it to take effect before phoning. There are a lot of calls he received that came from an untraceable number."

"Bastard. We don't even know if he was working alone or whether there are more people involved. Poor Ez."

"Chris?" JD said tentatively.

"Yeah, kid?"

"The doctor is the hit-and-run driver too. The police just tracked down one of the cars from their list to him and it's badly damaged."

"Shit. Who the hell is he and what does he want with Ezra? Find the answers to those questions and let me know what you find out. I'm staying here and you'd better stay too seeing as Ezra trusts you, Bucklin."

"Trusted, in the past tense, pard. I'm not sure about that now 'cause he wasn't very happy with me yesterday."

"Stay anyway. I need your support even if he don't," Chris said as he sat down wearily and put his head in his hands after the rest of the men had gone.

Ezra woke several hours later from a nightmare shouting loudly. "Let me go! Let me go. Help me," he yelled and then whispered plaintively, "Help me please."

Buck had stood in alarm as soon as Ezra had uttered his first word. "Ez, we're gonna help ya, pard. Tell me what you see."

"I can't get door. They've come back to haunt me. I can't get out. Let me out!" Ezra's voice rose in pitch until he was screaming.

"Ez? Calm down, buddy. You're safe." Buck reached out a hand and tried to comfort his distraught friend but Ezra curled up and cried. "Shit. Can you take over for a minute, Chris?" the ladies' man asked as he looked quickly at the black-clad man with haunted eyes.

"Sure. Take yer time," the blond said quietly as he watched his oldest friend leave the room quickly. Chris knew how the man was feeling because he was having the same trouble coping too.

Buck, meanwhile, walked outside into the hallway and leant back against the window. He bowed his head and ran his fingers through his hair with a shaking hand.

"Bucklin? You okay?" Vin asked as he approached the obviously upset agent.

"I can't stand seeing him like this, Vin. He had convulsions earlier 'cause of the amount of drugs in his body, you know?"

Vin looked into the room and saw the undercover agent struggling on the bed with Chris leaning over him worriedly. "Can't they sedate him so he's at least resting?" Vin asked the ladies' man.

"No. The last lot of drugs the doctor gave him, which made him harm himself, was massive and coulda proved fatal. They don't wanna risk giving him anything else 'cause his body just can't take it. He was nearly comatose for a while, pard. He's been left to endure a living nightmare and they can't do a damned thing to help him." Buck stopped talking and shrugged unhappily. "Least Nate found another doctor to help take care of Ez whom we know we can trust. That's something but Ezra's suffering real bad, pard."

"I know it's hard but we can't desert him. We can't walk away when he needs us most just because we don't like what we see," the sharpshooter said as he patted the man's shoulder.

"I know but I don't know how much more I can take," Buck replied wearily as he rubbed his eyes and sniffed.

"What you're going through is infinitesimal compared to Ezra's experiences."

Buck nodded. "Yeah but he'll probably not remember it when he gets back to normal. I don't think I'll ever forget."

"Bucklin!" Ezra yelled from inside the room as another vision assaulted him.

"I'm here, pard," the ladies' man called as he walked back in reluctantly after Vin had patted his back in encouragement.   The sharpshooter looked into the room again and caught the blond's eye. "Chris?"

The summoned man rose after making sure Buck could handle Ezra and then walked out to join Vin. "Anything?"

"No, the bastard's disappeared. We've checked his home and are putting out calls to airports. Turns out he was a real doctor but he'd been struck off for malpractice. I shoulda gone after him straight away when Ez hurt himself. Mighta caught him then but Nate needed me to help take care of Ezra 'cause he didn't trust anyone else at that time. I was caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea, cowboy."

"Couldn't be helped, Vin. Well, unless we get a real stroke of luck it looks like we'll never know why Ez was put through this," Chris sighed as he looked back through the window at his injured agent.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra soon began suffering withdrawal symptoms and he wasn't sure which was worse. The hallucinations he'd experienced when he'd been under the influence of the drugs had been bad but the way he felt now the drugs were leaving his system was ten-times worse. No wonder people find it difficult to give up addictions if this is what they have to go through to get clean, he thought.

Buck and Nathan stayed with him in turn as he suffered. His body shook uncontrollably and he felt anxious and irritable. He was continually nauseous with the odd session of actual vomiting to add to his misery.

Buck especially found it hard to see his friend suffering in this way but he remembered Vin's words from earlier and certainly wasn't going to let his friend down in his hour of need. The ladies' man was very relieved when Ezra finally began to return to health but the tall man could tell his friend was far from recovered mentally.

+ + + + + + +

Once Ezra was released from hospital Chris decided to send Buck away for a few days to get over events. He knew the man had taken things badly. Ezra went to stay on the ranch with Chris and the blond hoped the change of scenery would do the man good. He tried to encourage his friend to horse ride every day and attempted to keep him busy so he didn't have time to brood. He could see, however, that his ploy was not being one hundred percent successful. The undercover agent still suffered terrible nightmares when he did manage to sleep and he was very quiet, pale and scared. Chris had asked Josiah for some advice to help him deal with Ezra but the profiler was rapidly running out of ideas. Josiah knew Ezra was going to be emotionally and mentally scarred for life because of his experiences.

The rest of the men took it in turns to help Chris look after the man and today it was Nathan and Vin's duty. While the sharpshooter went off in search of the undercover agent, Nathan sat with Chris in the living room.

"Hey Chris. How is he?" the medic asked.

Chris shrugged. "I really don't know, Nate. He's just a totally different man. Usually you can't stop him talking but now I'm lucky if I can get one word out of him during the day. You know I never thought I'd say this but I'd give anything to have the old Ezra back," the blond confessed with a bleak smile.

"Is he eating?" Nathan inquired with a frown.

"Sort of. Have more trouble getting him to drink, to be honest. He'll only have something if I drink the same thing at the same time. He then sorta waits after I've had mine to see if it affects me adversely before he'll even consider drinking his. I'm at my wits end with him, Nate."

"Jeez, Chris. I really think it's time to bring in some professional help."

"Maybe. Don't know whether he'll agree to it though," Chris replied. "Josiah's done as much as he can but nothing seems to help."

As the two men talked, Vin scoured the whole house trying to find Ezra. He walked through to the kitchen and looked out the window to see if he was in the yard. He opened the door and stepped outside quickly.

"Ezra?" Vin said when he saw the undercover agent sitting on the ranch's porch staring into the distance. He got no answer so he approached the man and sat beside him quietly. He looked across at the undercover agent but could see his friend's mind was preoccupied. Ezra's eyes had a faraway look in them as he stared unblinkingly at something only he could see. After quarter of an hour had passed in silence and with Ezra still in the trance-like state, the sharpshooter put out a hand and rubbed his friend's back. He then moved his hand to Ezra's shoulder and rested it there. "Ez? Are you feeling alright?"

The green-eyed man flinched and looked round. "Mr. Tanner? How long have you been there?"

"Long enough to see you ain't happy. Is there anything I can do?" Vin asked as he studied the face that turned toward him. It didn't look as though Ezra had slept for days. His eyes were circled by dark rings and he was very pale.

"No. Thank you but no," the undercover agent replied quietly as he moved his eyes to watch Chris's dog, Arnie, amble across the yard.

"When did you last sleep?"

"I don't know." Ezra put a hand up to his head and rested his elbow on his knee. "I can't sleep. I'm scared to."

"Why? Tell me why, Ez."

The undercover agent closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "I don't want to dream, Vin. The things I saw, the visions, were so real. I don't want to see them again and if I close my eyes I'm bound to dream about what happened." He shrugged. "I've already dreamt about it as Chris can no doubt tell you. His sleep has been well and truly interrupted on several occasions."

"You saw visions when you were awake too, didn't you? Do you still see them now?" the sharpshooter asked softly.

"No," Ezra admitted with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Well, you can't stay awake for ever and you can't stop dreaming, Ez. The dreams will fade in time, buddy."

"Maybe." Ezra sighed, sounding totally defeated. "I can't explain how I feel about things, Vin. I felt violated when I realized what had happened to me, almost mentally raped, I s'pose. I now don't feel safe anywhere and I don't trust anyone. Even though I know what you've all done to help me I still don't trust you but most of all I don't trust myself. After holding a gun to Chris's head twice who's to say I won't suddenly do something else and actually kill someone in the process? I lost control of my thoughts, my actions and although I knew my behavior was appalling I couldn't stop it. It was as if I was watching myself from afar. I saw myself holding that gun to Chris's head and I felt the overwhelming urge to pull the trigger."

"But you didn't, Ez," Vin interrupted as he rubbed the man's back again.

"I know but I could've killed him without wanting to. Do you know what it feels like to be totally under the influence of something you are unaware of? I thought I was becoming demented. Unable to halt the thoughts in my head, the things I saw. I was totally defenseless."

"No, I don't know what you felt, Ez. I know what I felt though when I saw what you went through and I didn't like what I witnessed. It was hard watching someone I care about suffering like that." Vin looked across at Ezra and saw the tears streaming down his friend's face.

"Why me? What was it all for?" the undercover agent sobbed as he raised a hand quickly to his mouth to try and stifle the sound. "Was it all just an experiment?"

"I don't know, Ez. Both the doctor and the blond you told us about have just disappeared so I guess we'll never find out. We've tried to trace them but they've gone. I'm sorry, Ez." Vin tried his best to comfort the man but until he began to accept what had happened for himself there was not much more Vin could do to help.

The sharpshooter wandered back inside after another hour of talking and sat next to Chris in the living room. He sighed loudly and ran his fingers through his hair as he closed his eyes.

"What did he say, Vin? Is he alright?" Chris asked anxiously as he looked briefly at Nathan.

Vin turned to his friend with a grimace and said bluntly. "He's scared to answer the phone for fear of being given instructions to kill someone. He wonders if a trigger word has been hidden in his mind that will set him off when it's spoken."

"Shit. Let's hope what JD said initially about the orders wearing off when the drug is no longer taken is correct in these circumstances too," the blond replied quietly.

Vin shrugged and gave Chris a worried glance. "We'll never know for sure Chris and that's what terrifies him."

The End?

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