Why me?

by Hombre

Main character: Ezra

Universe: ATF

Notes: This story is a sequel to Off the rails as requested by quite a few readers. Thanks for keeping me in business, guys! Thanks to those of you who offered a few thoughts and suggestions to get me started. They were a great help, and I hope that you're not disappointed by the results. Bit worried about the ending but there is only so much you can write about this topic and I may have brought things to a rather rapid close for some tastes. Really not sure about the whole thing to be honest, aaahhhh!!!!

A week had passed since the train wreck and Ezra was in the hospital recovering from the serious injuries that he'd received. Although he'd woken five days after being admitted, he was still semi-conscious most of the time. When he did wake properly, he became very distressed about what had happened to him. His six friends knew it would be months before he fully recovered physically, let alone mentally.

At the ranch

Since the accident, Vin had been staying with Chris at the ranch. The blond had asked his best friend to move in for a while after spending the first night alone and suffering a nightmare.

One evening at the end of that first week, Vin walked out of the kitchen to find Chris smoking on the porch. "Chris? Somethin' on yer mind?"

"Just can't get the pictures outta my head, Vin. Can still smell the burnt metal and flesh, and my stomach ain't settled once since that day. I've seen bad things in my time, Vin, but nothing's affected me in this way before, except, of course, when Sarah and Adam died," the blond said as he rubbed his eyes with a thumb and forefinger. He still kept his cigarette clenched between the first and second fingers of the same hand while he completed the maneuver. As he moved his fingers, some ash fell and he scowled when it dropped onto his pant leg. He brushed it off irritably and then tapped the remainder of the ash off his cigarette. He looked across at his friend and sighed as he rubbed his eyes again with his free hand.

Vin sat beside the man and rubbed his back with a gentle circular motion. "From what you've told me, Chris, it was real awful. Not surprised you can't get over it, cowboy."

"Everywhere I looked there was devastation. I've never felt so helpless, Vin. I knew Ez was there, but the waiting while Nate looked for him was unbearable. I just didn't know what to do with myself."

The two men sat quietly for another couple of minutes. Chris finished his cigarette and stubbed it out with his boot heel as he sighed heavily and shook his head in despair.

Vin looked over at him and frowned worriedly. "You look a bit pale. Is there something else you wanna tell me?"

Chris shrugged awkwardly. "I just keep thinking that we're gonna get a nighttime hospital call about Ez."

"Is that why you've been wandering round the house at all hours?" Vin asked quietly.

The blond nodded and stared unseeingly at his boots. "Yeah, I can't get it outta my head that we're still gonna lose him."

"Chris! No, he ain't gonna die, cowboy," Vin said as he patted Chris's back in comfort again. "The doctors said he's outta danger."

"I know but I keep seeing him lying there when Nate called for help to keep him alive. I just replay it over and over in my mind and I can't stop it. I just can't believe he's gonna recover. Perhaps I'll feel better when he's outta the hospital, but seeing him in there every day just brings it all back," the black-clad man said as he stood and wandered off across the yard, leaving a worried man behind him.

At Nathan's house

Buck had been keeping the medic company since the accident too. All the men knew that both Chris and Nathan had been having a hard time getting over what they had experienced, and the group of friends was doing everything they could to help.


Buck heard the medic curse loudly so he hurried into the living room to find Nathan standing by the window gently kicking a chair. "Pard? You okay?"

Nathan whirled round in fright and nodded when he saw that it was only Buck. "Yeah."

"You sure? You look upset," the ladies' man said, sounding unconvinced by Nathan's assurances.

"I really thought I'd lost him. After all I did, I still thought I'd lost him."

There was no need for Buck to ask whom Nathan was talking about. "You didn't, Nate. You did a real good job in saving his life and those of countless others. You should be proud, pard. You have a true gift," Buck said as he moved to stand beside his friend and put an arm round his shoulders.

"Yeah, but I still dream about it all. It's just so difficult when yer treating someone you know. The pressure to save them is so great that it can be crushing. I'm not saying that I would try harder to save someone I know, 'cause I treat everyone the same, but it seems so much easier dealing with strangers. I wouldn't be able to handle being the one who had to declare a friend dead."

"Nate? Don't beat yerself up about it. Ez is alive because of you. We're all real proud of ya," Buck said loudly as he squeezed the man lightly.

"How's Chris?" the medic asked after a quiet minute had passed.

"Feelin' as bad as you."

The medic nodded and sighed. "Yeah, well it weren't pleasant. What we're experiencing is only about a tenth of what Ez will feel when he's up to thinking about things again. It's gonna take him a long time to get over this emotionally. He's already showing the signs of survivor's guilt."

One month later

Josiah wandered along the hospital hallway with an empty wheelchair. He had mixed emotions; glad that Ezra was well enough to be released, but apprehensive about what the immediate future held for the man. The profiler sighed, knowing that they would just have to take it one day at a time.

He made a left and ended up at the doorway to Ezra's room. "Hello, Ez. Got everythin'? You ain't left nothing behind, have you?" he asked as he checked the room thoroughly before ending up next to the bed where Ezra was waiting silently.

No reply.

The profiler studied his troubled friend for a minute. "Ain't ya even gonna say hello, son?"

"Hello," Ezra mumbled without looking up, as he continually clenched and unclenched his fists in seeming agitation.

"This is all yer belongings then, is it?" Josiah asked again insistently. The undercover agent nodded. "Yes, and my crutches."

"Right, in ya get then, son."

Ezra stood up and transferred to the wheelchair when Josiah pushed it over so that it was right next to him. The undercover agent shifted on the seat and then settled his gaze on his knees. Josiah gave the man the crutches, which Ezra lay over his thighs. The big man picked up Ezra's bag and hung it on the handle on the left side of the wheelchair and then pushed his friend outside. Ezra didn't lift his eyes once on the journey out to Josiah's truck.

The profiler squatted down in front of him when he reached his vehicle and studied the silent man critically. "You okay, Ez?"

The man nodded, still staring at his knees and clinging tightly to his crutches.

"Bet yer glad to be getting outta here, ain't ya?" Josiah asked, trying to get a response of any kind from his friend.

"Yes, I am," Ezra whispered.

Josiah sighed and stood up, knowing better than to push things right now. He helped Ezra climb in the truck and made sure he put the seat belt on. The profiler then climbed in the driver's side and drove his friend back to his own house. He'd offered to have the injured man stay with him for the time being so that he could keep his eagle eye on him. He hopped out when they arrived home and helped to lift Ezra out of the truck when the man seemed to have trouble exiting by himself. Josiah handed the man his crutches before walking alongside his friend as they made their way slowly indoors.

"Ezra? I'm gonna put you in this room. Hope you've got everythin' ya need."

Ezra nodded softly. "Thank you, Mr. Sanchez. I'm sure I will be very comfortable."

"Any time you need to talk, just give me a yell."

The undercover agent smiled but didn't agree verbally as he disappeared into his room and closed the door behind him.

One week later

Ezra had found it hard facing anyone outside his circle of friends. To aid his mental state, he'd seen a counselor at the hospital but he had apparently not said one word to her; not even returning her friendly greetings. After he'd rejected her help, the man's six friends had deemed it best to keep things in the family, so to speak. Therefore, Nathan tended Ezra's ailing body by doing daily intensive physical therapy sessions on his leg, while Josiah was trying his best to see to Ezra's mental needs.

The injured man still hadn't really talked about events and Josiah couldn't help becoming increasingly concerned about the man's mental state. It couldn't be doing him any good at all keeping things inside for so long. The profiler had tried to get the man to open up to him on many occasions but Ezra wouldn't even talk about the day of his fateful train journey. He clammed up immediately whenever a hint of the topic was mentioned. The man was still on powerful painkillers so at least he was sleeping, but over the past few nights when Josiah had checked on him, Ezra had been exceedingly restless. The profiler wondered what that signified.

+ + + + + + +

"Ez? You okay?" the profiler asked one evening as the two men sat silently in the living room.

Ezra looked up and nodded as he had the feeling that Josiah was going to start the usual inquisition again. Each day followed the same pattern and always ended with Josiah trying to get him to talk about the train wreck. Ezra, as usual, was going to avoid it. "I'm rather tired. I'll see you in the morning."

Josiah sighed unhappily, not wanting to push the man. "Sure, son. Call if you need anything."

Ezra left the room slowly and made his way along the hall to the bedroom that had been allocated to him. Josiah had converted a downstairs room so that Ezra didn't have to negotiate the stairs.

The profiler stayed in the living room for another couple of hours before retiring for the night too. He just didn't know how to get his friend to talk to him. He felt that Ezra should by now have been comfortable enough to broach the subject with him, but he was still avoiding the issue and Josiah was now beginning to feel the strain. Every day his friends asked for a progress report, and every day he said the same thing: no progress. He hoped that didn't remain the case for much longer. He was starting to feel inadequate and hopeless because of it.

In the early hours of the morning, Josiah was startled awake by a yell. It took him a moment or two to remember that he had a houseguest. The injured man had been so quiet since he'd arrived that it was easy to forget that he was there at all. A further cry from the man, though, had Josiah tumbling out of bed and hurrying downstairs in just his pajama pants. He opened Ezra's door and switched on the light to find the injured man sitting bolt upright in bed and shaking from head to foot while whimpering.

"Ezra? Did you have a bad dream?" Josiah asked as he hurried toward his friend anxiously. He got no reply, so he sat on the bed and got hold of Ezra's shoulders gently. "Ezra? Can you hear me, son? What's wrong?"

The man was trembling under Josiah's hands as if he were freezing cold. The profiler grabbed a blanket and wrapped it round his friend as Ezra kept making a soft keening sound. Finally, Ezra sobbed once and seemed to snap out of his trance-like state.

"Oh, God," he stuttered as he raised a hand to his face.


"Why?" Ezra asked plaintively.

"Why what, son?" Josiah asked quietly, although he knew what the man wanted to know. He just needed Ezra to voice the whole question himself.

Ezra had been burying the events of the wreck so deep that he hoped he'd lost them. The hospital counselor had warned his friends that the memories would come flooding back to the surface at some point, and Josiah reckoned that that time was now.

"Why me?" Ezra asked forlornly as he broke down in tears. It was the first real emotion he'd shown since being released from the hospital.

Josiah pulled the man into his arms and held him until he stopped crying half an hour later. During that time, Josiah had whispered non-stop in the man's ear as he continually rubbed a hand up and down his back in comfort. He kept his other hand against the back of Ezra's head and stroked his hair gently every so often.

"Hush, Ez. Yer safe, son. I won't let no harm come to you while you're in my house."

Ezra finally pulled out of Josiah's tender grasp and wiped his red, tearful eyes with his fingers. Josiah put a hand on either side of Ezra's face and waited until the undercover agent raised his eyes to look at him.

"Ezra, son? I want you to promise me that you will talk to me about what happened. Whenever you need me, I'll be here, okay? You ain't said one word and it won't do you no good to hold it in any longer."

Ezra blinked once before his face crumpled again.

"Oh, Ez. I ain't gonna force ya. I just hate seeing you like this, son," Josiah said as he took the distraught man back against his chest.

Ezra finally exhausted himself and Josiah eased the man down onto the mattress and pulled the comforter over the trembling agent as he fell asleep. The profiler took a seat beside the bed and dozed fitfully until dawn without further interruption.

Before Ezra woke, Josiah left the room quietly and headed to the kitchen. He began frying eggs and bacon, and after smelling the tempting aroma, Ezra appeared in the doorway looking awkward.

"Mornin', Ez. Pull up a chair, son. It's almost cooked," the big man said as he tried to put the man at ease.

The injured man hobbled to the table and sat down without a word. Josiah placed the plate of food in front of him and Ezra picked at it distractedly.

"How ya feelin', son?" the profiler asked as he studied the disheveled man before him.

Ezra shrugged.

"Do ya remember what happened last night?" Josiah asked tentatively, hoping he wasn't going to set off another emotional outpouring.

Ezra nodded.

"Do ya wanna talk about it?"

"No," the younger man whispered as he put a trembling hand to his face and rubbed his brow wearily.

"Okay, well, eat up yer breakfast and then I'll get ya dressed."

Ezra ate a few mouthfuls before pushing the plate away. Josiah said not one word to make Ezra feel uncomfortable about not finishing the meal. He certainly wasn't going to tell the younger agent off. After eating his own meal, the profiler washed up quickly and then trailed along slowly behind Ezra to his bedroom to get him ready for the day ahead.

"What do ya fancy wearing today?"

"Don't care."

"Well, how about this?" Josiah asked as he turned back from the closet and held up some loose jeans and a red t-shirt.

"Whatever," Ezra replied with a shrug as he sat staring at the carpet.

Josiah sighed. Ezra was usually as proud as a peacock about his appearance but since the accident he couldn't have cared less about how he looked. It upset Josiah to see the total change in Ezra's character. The profiler had been trying never to let his own feelings show but it was getting harder and harder to remain in control. Ezra was certainly not the chattering, happy man that he used to be.

Josiah sighed once more and knelt in front of his friend. Ezra still had great trouble bending his injured leg, although he was improving slowly, so after first helping Ezra to put on his boxers, the profiler threaded the man's injured leg into the pant leg of the jeans. He then left Ezra to put on his t-shirt while dealing with the man's shoes and socks himself.

The profiler then escorted Ezra into the living room and left him alone while he did some chores. The injured man spent most of his time in that one room either playing cards, watching TV or usually just staring into space. Josiah had tried on several occasions to get Ezra to do something a bit more challenging, but he had been as successful at that as he had been with getting Ezra to talk about the accident.

+ + + + + + +

An hour later, Vin and Chris turned up at Josiah's house in order to allow him to go shopping and visit his sister. The two men were going to keep an eye on their troubled friend until Nathan turned up for the next session of therapy that he had planned for that afternoon.

The big man knew that Ezra was, as usual, in the living room playing solitaire so he beckoned his two friends into the kitchen. He scratched the back of his head and turned to face the curious men.

"Everythin' alright, big guy?" Vin asked quietly when he saw the look on the profiler's face.

"Think Ez is finally questioning what happened to him. He had a nightmare last night and then cried for a full hour. He's only had a real small breakfast this morning and hardly spoke to me at all. I don't know what else I can do for him, Chris, except be around if he ever decides that he wants to talk to me. I can see that he's really suffering inside and I feel so helpless, 'cause at the moment, I don't seem to be aiding his recovery."

Before any more could be said, Ezra cried out. Chris held out his hands and signaled for the other two men to stay in the kitchen while he dealt with the injured man.

Josiah nodded and headed toward the front door. "Okay. I'll leave ya to it and see ya later."

The blond went through to the living room and saw Ezra sitting on the couch with his head in his hands. "Ez?" Chris sat beside the man. "Anything I can do?"


"What happened? Did ya fall asleep and have a nightmare?"

Ezra nodded and sighed.

"What did you see?"

Ezra shrugged and didn't answer.

"Shall I tell you what I see when I dream about the accident?" Chris asked. "I see wreckage; I see you; I see your wallet covered in blood."

Ezra's voice then began in a whisper. "I see a little boy sitting with his parents. He had such a lovely smile. I was watching him when the train crashed. There was such an expression of terror on his face when he looked at me. It's etched on my memory for all time. Everything then turned pitched black and all I could hear was screaming. We were thrown around, hitting the seats, hitting each other and I've never been so scared. Then all I could feel was pain, like no other I've had before." Ezra paused an shook his head. "I just can't get the picture of that little boy out of my mind. He died. They all died, except me. Why me?" Ezra mumbled as he began to cry once more.

"I'm so sorry, Ez."

"Tell me what you saw. What you felt," the upset man begged as he hugged a cushion on his lap.

"You're the one who needs to talk about things, Ez."

"I need to hear some more of your thoughts. It might make me feel less alone if I can hear your thoughts," Ezra pleaded as he looked up at the blond.

"You're never alone, Ez."

"Tell me."

Chris sighed, hating to talk about his own feelings but knowing that doing so would help his friend. He could certainly understand Ezra's reluctance to talk about things: he had trouble enough himself. "I keep seeing you, Ez. You're so pale in my dreams. I see all the other injured people too but in my dreams they're cast aside, discarded like a pile of garbage. I was terrified that day, Ez. I couldn't believe that anyone coulda survived that wreck; then there you were. I was so pleased that you'd been spared. That has to be one of the worst days of my life but after all the terror, things, at least for us, ended on a brighter note. You were still with us. Almost got my faith back in God that day," the blond admitted.

"I don't know how to move on. I feel so ashamed and guilty for being alive," Ezra admitted.

"I know it ain't easy for ya, Ez. Josiah told me what happened last night." Ezra wiped a hand slowly down his face from brow to chin. "I couldn't hold it in any longer and I'm afraid I lost control."

"Did you good to let it all out, I 'spect, Ez."

Ezra finally felt a real need to talk about some of his experiences. As Chris had been present during the direct aftermath, and had some knowledge of what he'd been through, Ezra felt better able to relate to him rather than Josiah. Not that Josiah wasn't capable of understanding, but Chris seemed a good person to begin talking to. "There was a shoe," he said quietly. "It belonged to the little boy. After the train stopped, there was just this empty shoe. A blood-spattered shoe, lying in my line of sight. There's something so evocative about an abandoned shoe, especially when you knew who once wore it," Ezra said as he sobbed. "Whenever I sleep, I see that shoe."

Chris put his arm round the man's shoulder and Ezra leant hard against him as huge sobs wracked his small frame. The blond held him tight and rocked him back and forth. After about fifteen minutes, the injured man finally sat up and wiped his eyes.

"Sorry," he mumbled.

"Don't apologize, Ez. You know any of us are happy to listen to what you have to say, at any time. You've been through a real bad experience so don't feel ashamed of letting yer feelings show. We won't think any less of you for it."

Just as Chris finished talking, there was a quiet knock on the living room door and Vin poked his head round. "Ez? Nate's here. Do ya still wanna do yer session? He said he can leave it 'til tomorrow, if you prefer."

"No, I'm alright."

The medic walked into the room after getting the go-ahead from Vin, and he smiled at Ezra when he saw the man's tear-streaked face. "You sure yer up to this?" he asked kindly.

"Yes, it might help take my mind off things," Ezra replied as he tried to pull himself together.

The undercover agent then endured half an hour of various exercises, which always left him exhausted. By the time Nathan left, the smaller man was fast asleep on the couch.

Josiah returned an hour later and Chris sat him down and told him everything that Ezra had said to him. Josiah was pleased that the man had finally broken his silence although he was slightly upset that after all his efforts, Chris had been the one able to get Ezra to open up.

"Thanks, Chris. Maybe this will start him on the road to recovery. Sorry I wasn't able to get him talking to me before today."

"The main thing is that he did talk. It don't matter who succeeded and who didn't."

"I know, but I just feel that I've let ya down," Josiah said with a shrug.

"Your kindness last night when he was so upset played some part in his feeling comfortable enough to start telling us about things. You've done real good so far, buddy. We should just be grateful for the fact that he is finally communicating."

"I know it's selfish of me for wanting him to talk to me first, but I just wanted to help him so badly," Josiah admitted.

"I understand, Josiah. You're helping him a lot by having him stay and keeping him company. He's obviously feeling safe here and that's a tremendous help."

"Yeah, yer right. Thanks for putting things in perspective. I've just been letting things get to me lately."

"Well, if ya need to talk, you know where I am," Chris offered as he rose and made moves to leave the house.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra went to bed that night and lay staring at the ceiling. He was desperately trying to come to terms with all the emotions and visions that had surfaced over the past twenty-four hours. He kept looking at the clock every so often, thinking that hours must have passed by, only to find that it was five minutes since the last time he'd checked. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, Ezra fell asleep, but not for long. He slipped straight into his shoe nightmare.

"Ahhhh!!!!! Oh, shit," he yelled as he woke up screaming.

He put his head in his hands as he heard pounding footsteps coming down from upstairs. His bedroom door was flung open and the light switched on. It was a carbon copy of the previous night's events.

"I'm sorry, Josiah. So sorry to disturb you again," the undercover agent mumbled tearfully.

The profiler sat on the bed and pulled Ezra's hands away from his face. "Look at me, Ezra." No response to his demand. "Ezra?"

"I can't handle this, Josiah. I want to get rid of these images. It's driving me insane," Ezra said in despair as he stared up at the bigger man.

Josiah looked back at him sadly. "I can't imagine how yer suffering inside, son. I see the external signs yer exhibiting but they're only half yer symptoms, I reckon. You really need to talk about yer feelings."

"I talked to Chris."

Josiah rubbed Ezra's upper arms briskly in encouragement and comfort. "I know, son, and he told us what you said. Why don't you talk a bit more to me now? It might help if you can tell me again about the little boy and the shoe."

"I can't," Ezra said as he began shaking uncontrollably.

"What aren't ya telling me, son? There's somethin' else in yer dream to do with the shoe, ain't there? Something that is horrible."

Ezra lifted a hand to his mouth and sobbed as he closed his eyes. What had once been hidden had suddenly jumped into his mind as Josiah talked. The prompt from the profiler had been the final catalyst in setting it free.

Josiah reached out a hand and laid it on Ezra's arm again when he saw that his friend was getting increasingly upset. "Come on, Ez. Tell me."

"The shoe....," Ezra mumbled through his fingers.

"What about it, son?" Josiah asked softly, hoping he was going to get to the bottom of his friend's distress.

"The shoe....his foot was still in it. It'd been ripped off," Ezra whispered before throwing up and beginning to cry again.

"Oh, son," Josiah said, totally shocked.

Ezra scrambled out of bed and headed as fast as he could to the bathroom. He stumbled against the wall as his leg gave way but he managed to remain upright and forced himself onwards with determination.

Josiah bowed his head and wiped a weary hand over his face before getting up and following his friend. "Ezra? Can I come in?"

He received no reply but he entered the room anyway. Ezra stood leaning over the sink and the profiler watched as the man continued to puke periodically. Ezra's skin was covered in sweat and he shook uncontrollably as if he were cold. Josiah looked round quickly and pulled a large towel from the rail and put it over Ezra's back.

"How ya doin'?"

"Sick. Can't stop," Ezra said and proved his point by throwing up once more.

The man was twitching constantly and had tears streaming down his face. He seemed to have totally lost control of his emotions and his body.

"Come and sit on the floor, Ez. Better go near the toilet so you can puke in there if need be."

Josiah eased the man down and Ezra leant over the toilet bowl, retching noisily. The profiler sat beside him and rubbed his back gently whenever he was sick. Josiah didn't know quite what he'd expected to happen but he became increasingly concerned that Ezra didn't seem to be improving. He'd thought that maybe Ezra would've been sick a couple of times, because of what he'd remembered, but this scenario was truly frightening.

"Cold. So cold," Ezra mumbled almost to himself.

Josiah reached out a hand but the man's skin was not cold to the touch. He reached out again and found another towel, which he put round his friend's shoulder. Ezra seemed not to notice and nothing Josiah did, or said, seemed to help. The undercover agent was past being able to communicate coherently and his behavior deteriorated rapidly. The profiler flinched as Ezra began screaming like a banshee. The big man felt his skin erupt in goose bumps at the dreadful sound that alternated with wailing and sobbing. He really had the sense that he was losing his friend to insanity. He'd never felt so scared for someone's mental health in all his life. For once, he was totally at a loss at what to do. He really felt the need of Nathan's company and medical knowledge at this point.

The profiler stood up and hurried to the phone, although he hated leaving Ezra alone. "Nate? Need you over at my place now. Ezra's having some kind of breakdown. I'm scared of what he might be capable of."

"Is that him I can hear?" Nathan asked.


"Okay, I'm on my way. Try to keep him from harming himself, or you," the medic said meaningfully.

Josiah went back to the bathroom after collecting some blankets from the bedroom. "Ez? Nate's coming."

Ezra was still beyond answering. The man leant back against the wall and curled up as much as he could and continued crying and screaming. Josiah put the extra blankets over him and then sat beside him after moving his razor surreptitiously out of sight. He then heard his front door being pounded so he hurried along and let Nathan in. The medic had obviously just thrown on the first clothes that he could find and he even had odd shoes on. He'd been in such a rush to reach his unstable friend that he hadn't concentrated on what he was doing. Not that it made the slightest bit of difference. Ezra was all that mattered.

"Sorry, forgot the spare key to yer house. Coulda let myself in without you having to leave Ez on his own. Where is he?" Nathan asked as he stepped inside the house worriedly.

"In the bathroom, but I'm sure you'd have found him easily enough without me telling you. Just follow the sound of screaming," Josiah said as he let Nathan go down the hallway first.

"What happened exactly?" the disheveled medic asked as he suddenly stopped, realizing he ought to have all the facts before tackling the injured man.

"He told me a bit more about the shoe and it really upset him." Josiah gave Nathan the details of Ezra's confession and then said, "He started being sick after that and he's real cold and shaky. He just totally lost it and began screaming and I can't get through to him. I admit that I'm real scared for his welfare."

The medic nodded and continued on his way to the bathroom. He sat beside Ezra and saw how pale, sweaty and sick he appeared. The man was now just whimpering, and Nathan was glad to see that he seemed to have come back to his senses a bit more.

"Ez? It's Nate. Can you tell me how ya feel?"

The only reply he got was another severe bout of sickness from the man. "Okay, Ez. Just try and calm down," Nathan instructed as he reached a hand under the many blankets and towels that were heaped over his seemingly-freezing friend.

"Shall I get an ambulance?" Josiah asked from where he stood hovering in the doorway.

Nathan shook his head quickly. "No, I'll deal with him myself. Don't think he could really handle any strangers right now."

"Okay," Josiah agreed, knowing that the injured man would probably freak out big time again at the prospect of a visit to the hospital.

Nathan patted Ezra's cheek gently to try and gain his attention. "Ez? Talk to me. How are you feeling?"

Nothing happened for a while, but then the sick man slowly looked up at Nathan. The medic could see the terror in his friend's eyes and he felt his heart skip a beat at the sight.

"Trembly, inside and out," Ezra finally managed to say through huge sobs.

"What? What do you mean?"

"Shaky in my chest," Ezra said as a tremor shook his body so badly that it made his teeth chatter. He raised a hand to the area concerned and bent forward slightly as if his chest hurt.

"Have you gotten pain in yer chest?" Nathan asked worriedly, knowing he'd have no choice but to call for an ambulance if that was the case.

"No, just cold. Shivery inside."

Nathan took Ezra's pulse and found it pounding away under his finger. He also felt the man's skin and found that it was warm but not clammy as he's been expecting. Not shock then, but he hadn't really considered that option to begin with. He found a washcloth and gently wiped the sweat from Ezra's face and upper body before drying him off.

"Okay, Ez. I'm just gonna give you a mild sedative to calm you down a bit and I'll find something to settle yer stomach too." Nathan treated the man gently and was glad when he finally stopped shaking and crying. The medic could see that the undercover agent was now totally exhausted after his severe emotional outburst. "Alright, let's get you to bed."

Nathan and Josiah pulled the now quiet man to his feet between them. Ezra put his arms round their shoulders while his two friends gripped him tightly round his body. Ezra seemed half-asleep already but still somehow managed to put one foot in front of the other.

"Dammit," Josiah cursed when he remembered something. "Have to put him on the couch. He puked in the bed and I haven't had a chance to clean it up yet. Don't wanna put him upstairs in my bed until he's more mobile."

"Okay, the couch will be fine. Can you find a pillow and comforter for him though?"

"Sure," Josiah said.

The two men settled their friend on the couch and helped him lie down. Josiah went to his own bedroom, found the requested items and headed quickly back to the living room. He handed them over to Nathan to hold while he first changed Ezra's sweat- soaked pajamas. The medic then covered Ezra with the thick comforter and tucked in the sides to keep out any draughts.

"Feel any better, son?" Josiah asked as he sat beside the man and rubbed a hand up and down the comforter to try and warm it up quickly.

"Not so cold," Ezra admitted softly as he curled up in a ball and hugged the pillow tightly. He couldn't really understand what had happened to him. It all seemed rather unreal.

"That's good. Now try to get some sleep."

The profiler and medic sat with their friend until his eyes closed and his breathing evened out and deepened, signaling an unconscious state. They then left the room together and adjourned to the kitchen so that they could talk without disturbing their patient.

"I'll just call Chris," Josiah said after they'd finished discussing the night's events. He wandered into the hallway and punched in the blond's number. "Chris? Just thought that you oughta know that I had to call Nate out to Ezra tonight."

"Why? What happened?" the sleepy man asked.

Josiah gave him all the details and he couldn't help shaking as he recalled events.

Chris listened in horror. "Jeez, poor Ez. I'll come over tomorrow unless you need me now?"

"No, we're okay. Nate's staying over. Sorry to wake you at this hour but I thought you'd wanna know."

Chris rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed a bit. "That's alright, Josiah. I wanna know how things are no matter what the time is, and you know that I'm quite often awake at night anyway. I'll contact the other guys in the morning, so don't worry about them. Are you okay?"

"Been better. He really needs professional help, Chris. I think I'm just making matters worse."

"No, you ain't. He trusts you. He talked about what was really bugging him. I think that getting someone else in now would give him the wrong message. He's just started opening up to us and he'd see it as us not caring, or not wanting to help him any more," the blond pointed out worriedly. He really didn't want Josiah to give up at such a crucial time.

Josiah nodded. "Yeah, I get what you mean. I'll keep giving him as much support as I can, Chris."

"Thanks, big guy."

+ + + + + + +

The next morning, Nathan answered the insistent knock on Josiah's door and found Chris on the doorstep.

"How is he?" the blond asked as soon as he set eyes on the medic.

Nathan backed up and allowed his boss to step inside. "Been asleep since Josiah called you. I had to give him a sedative 'cause he was in such a state. He had a severe psychotic episode, which is kinda like a breakdown, or a bad panic attack. He finally told Josiah what was really troubling him and it set off this nasty reaction. His mind couldn't handle it after being suppressed for so long."

"Will he be alright?"

Nathan shrugged and rubbed his eyes sleepily. "Can't say. He's obviously just started suffering flashbacks at night within the last day or so, but now he's finally fitted the last piece in the puzzle it might mean the beginning of recovery, or it might mean that he can't live with what he knows. I really can't speculate."

Chris grimaced. "How are you getting on? Are you feeling any better about the accident? I know you were still finding things hard to cope with."

"Well, until Ezra is fully recovered I don't think I'll feel totally at ease with things. We're still being confronted with the aftermath every time we see Ez, aren't we? Anyway, Rain's home from Chicago so Buck's gone home again. I've talked to her about everything that happened and I feel a lot better for it. How about you?" Nathan asked.

Chris shrugged. "Vin's gone home too so I'm on my own. I still dream about it but things are improving. Like you, I think we can only really start to put things behind us when Ez is alright."

"'Spect Buck would be happy to stay with you if you want some company," the medic suggested.

The blond leant back against the wall and shook his head. "No, now I've started accepting things, I don't wanna take a step backward by having someone stay again. I need to learn to cope on my own. If someone's always asking if yer okay, you believe that you ain't, if you get my meaning. I need to get back to some semblance of normality."

"Yeah, I understand. It's difficult, ain't it, knowing what's best in the circumstances?"

"It is. What's good for us, certainly wouldn't work in Ezra's case. He needs support, company and comfort for the foreseeable future," Chris pointed out.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. There still seems a long way to go for him to feel comfortable with his life again."

Josiah poked his head into the hallway and interrupted the conversation. "Nate? He's awake."

The medic hurried back in with Chris following worriedly in his wake. The blond really wanted to see Ezra for himself to see if there was anything that he could do to help.

"Ez? How ya feelin'?" the medic asked as he squatted down at eye-level and ran his fingers through the man's hair.

"Why are you here? Did something happen?" Ezra asked drowsily. He squinted at the medic in confusion because he couldn't recall any events that would have warranted his presence.

"Yeah, you had a real rough night after having a nightmare."

"Oh." Ezra closed his eyes as he desperately tried to remember what had happened. Just thinking about what day it might be proved hard enough for the undercover agent.

"Do you remember anything, Ez?" Nathan asked quietly.

"I recall sickness. I recall cold," Ezra said as he shivered again and tried to snuggle back down under the comforter.

"Alright, Ez. We'll talk about what happened later on, when yer feeling a bit better. Get some more sleep," Nathan said as he made his two friends leave the room. He didn't want to force Ezra into talking just now. He'd wait until Ezra'd had time to recollect some more about the night's events before broaching the subject again.

+ + + + + + +

A couple of hours later, Ezra woke once more while Chris was checking on him.

"Hey, Ez," the blond greeted as he sat beside the man and helped him get upright. "You okay?"

"I'm sorry. It was all so overwhelming."

"I wasn't actually here at the time, Ez, but Josiah told me what you said to him and what you did afterwards."

"I didn't remember the last, nasty detail about the shoe until yesterday. I always knew there was something more but I couldn't quite get it. It was there at the back of my mind until Josiah said something to me last night, and then there were so many images, that I couldn't cope with it all. The crash itself was awful but it's that little boy's severed foot that will haunt me for the rest of my days. I picked the shoe up, you see. I was kinda drawn to it, hypnotized by it and then I saw what was inside." Ezra began crying. He hated feeling so vulnerable but his emotions just seemed to have free-rein at the moment and there was nothing he could do to keep them in check.

"Oh, Ez," Chris said as he put an arm round the man's shoulder.

"How do I move on?"

Chris gave Ezra's back a vigorous, encouraging rub. "Well, you have moved on, Ez. By finally talking about what happened makes it a step in the right direction. The fact that you remembered the foot part too is progress."

"Doesn't feel like it," Ezra said as he wiped his eyes and pulled the comforter up higher when he felt cold.

"I know, but it is a good thing that you've remembered it," the blond replied as he helped his friend adjust the bedclothes.

Ezra sat quietly for a few minutes but then startled Chris with his next statement. "I need to go to the wreck site."

Chris studied the man anxiously as his own stomach started doing back flips. "Are you sure?"

"I feel I must. It might help and I need to....I don't know. I just need to go."

"Okay, Nate and I will go with you. We've gotten some demons of our own that need laying to rest," Chris said with a sigh, hoping Nathan didn't mind his services being volunteered.

"Yes, you must have. It can't have been nice to see what you did. You had it worse than me in that respect. I only saw what had happened in my very confined space, but you saw the aftermath of it all."

"Yes, we did," Chris said softly as he remembered the raw fear of that fateful day. The blond looked up as he felt his own back being patted and he smiled at Ezra in thanks. "You okay on yer own now? Do ya wanna get up and have something to eat?"

"No, I think I'll go back to sleep for a bit unless I'm in the way here."

"You stay on the couch as long as ya like. We're in the kitchen if ya need anything. Just give a yell." Chris stood up and left the undercover agent to catch up on some more rest.

"Chris? He alright? We heard ya talking but didn't like to interrupt," Josiah said as the black-clad man returned.

"He talked a bit more about the accident. He seems to have taken the death of the little boy rather hard." Chris paused and looked uncomfortable. "He also said that he wants to visit the wreck site."

"Is that wise?" Josiah asked anxiously as his stomach did a somersault.

Chris shook his head indecisively. "God knows, but I said that Nate and I would go with him."

"Sure, I'll come," Nathan agreed. "Least we can keep an eye on him then. It's good that he's not refusing to visit the site, which I think would be more worrying. He's facing up to what happened," the medic said with a shrug.

"So you see it as positive?" Chris asked, slightly encouraged by the man's thoughts.

"Yeah, I do."

"Great. Do ya fancy coming for a drink on yer way home tonight, Nate? Wanna talk to you about another coupla things," Chris said.

Nathan nodded but flicked a look at Josiah worriedly. "You be okay on yer own with Ez, Josiah?"

"Yeah, I'll watch over him. You coming back tonight, Chris?"

"Not unless you want me to," Chris said as he raised an eyebrow in question.

"No, we'll be okay, I reckon," the profiler said as he stood and escorted his guests out.

"Right, well, give me a call when he wants to go to the wreck site and I'll come and pick him up," Chris offered as he patted the big man's back.

"Sure, Chris. Thanks for yer help today, guys. I appreciated it."

"No problem. We're only a phone call away."

Nathan and Chris left together and went to a nearby bar. The blond bought a couple of beers and then settled down with his friend in a far corner of the establishment.

"How do ya think Ez is really doin'?" he asked after a couple of minutes. The blond lit a cigarette and leant back in his chair as he waited for Nathan to answer.

"Physically, he's progressing slowly. He still tires easily and his leg is really causing him problems. He's still in a lot of discomfort. As for his mental health, I think ya need to ask a professional 'cause it ain't my specialty. I will say this, though. It's gonna be an up and down journey for him, so we have to be patient, don't push him, and treat him with kid gloves. He's really on edge, Chris. I've never seen anyone in such a state like Ez was last night, and I didn't see the worst of his behavior. Josiah was at his wit's end when he called me. He ain't usually fazed by witnessing such behavior but he was real upset."

Chris nodded in understanding. Even he could see how badly Josiah had been affected by events. "What about Ezra's flashbacks and nightmares?"

"They're a permanent feature and can crop up at any time, not just when he's sleeping. I think Josiah's gonna have disturbed nights and troubled days for the foreseeable future. Now that the bad dreams have started, they'll keep coming until Ez starts to come to terms with what happened to him. Probably continue after that too. He'll never forget, Chris," Nathan said as he wiped a drop of beer off his pant leg.

"I just can't imagine what he's feeling. The nightmares I've had were horrible but I ain't had one for a while and they were very intermittent anyway. To suffer them regularly would drive me insane," the blond observed quietly as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"Yeah, I know, Chris," Nathan agreed.

Something in Nathan's tone made Chris anxious. "Are you sure you can handle going to the wreck site? You don't have to come if ya don't want to."

The medic nodded wryly. "It'll be good for us to go. We have to support Ezra in this; our needs are secondary. What about you?"

"Bit apprehensive about goin', I admit. I was kinda taken aback when Ez said he wanted to go. Didn't wanna say no seeing as he'd made up his mind, but I just hope it's a step forward for him. It may be another door he can hopefully close on this whole affair."

"It'll either close a door, or open another one with a whole load of other problems for him to contend with. I can't say what reactions will be brought to the fore with this."

"Yeah, I know what ya mean. Just have to cross our fingers and say a few prayers."

+ + + + + + +

The three men stood and surveyed the crash site; each thinking back and reliving their own memories from the last time that they had been there.

"God, it's as if nothing ever happened," Ezra said quietly as he raked his eyes from one side of the area to the other. "Like those people never died. They were wiped out in a split second and forgotten."

"They're not forgotten, Ez," Chris said although privately he partly agreed with his friend's observation. They had probably been forgotten by the vast majority of the population, but they would never be forgotten by those who had been involved in the train wreck; be they firefighters, police, or survivors like Ez.

As they stood looking, a train suddenly hurtled down the track and passed close to where they stood, making Ezra flinch mightily and stagger sideways. He wobbled precariously on his crutches and gasped as he heard the sounds of the crash in his mind.

"Alright, Ez?" Chris asked worriedly as he watched the color drain from his friend's face.

"Oh, God. So clear, so real," Ezra whispered as he bowed his head, eyes tight shut.

"Ezra? Come back. Can you hear me?" Nathan called, not wanting to touch the man while he remained in his present introverted state.

"Screams, so loud."


The undercover agent snapped upright and looked at the man in confusion. He darted his eyes round the area and then stared at Chris before turning his gaze back to Nathan. "Mr. Jackson?"

"You okay? We lost you for a bit there."

Ezra took a halting breath and blinked rapidly as he surveyed the area nervously to make sure that what his mind had just re-run was not actually happening. It had been too real for comfort. "Flashback," he said in a relieved tone.

"Come on, let's go back home. I've seen all I need to, I reckon," Chris said as he exchanged glances with Nathan. There was absolutely no point in staying any longer, because it just seemed to be upsetting Ezra.

"Yes, so have I," the medic agreed.

"Thank you for bringing me. I'm glad I came, although you may not have seen any benefits," Ezra said as he looked gratefully from one man to the other.

Chris reached out a hand and rubbed Ezra's back softly. "We both needed to come, whatever the outcome, Ez."

"I hope that you didn't feel that I forced you to keep me company on my expedition," the undercover agent said anxiously. He desperately needed to get some reassurance from his friends that he hadn't wasted their time.

Chris shook his head vehemently. "Not at all. We'd talked about coming here ourselves before you even mentioned it."

"It was a kind of an ending for all of us, I reckon. The next step along the road if you like," Nathan said in explanation as he reached out a hand and rubbed Ezra's back too.

"Yes, I understand," Ezra said quietly, taking comfort in the fact that his friends seemed happy to accompany him on his journey to recovery. It made it a less lonesome trip. "Well, there's something else that I need to do."

"Ez? What ya talking about?"

"I need to go on a train again."

The blond shook his head and looked nervous. He stepped into the injured man's line of sight. "Ez, it's too soon. Yer not physically fit, let alone mentally fit."

Ezra met his gaze unflinchingly. "Until I do it, I don't think I'll ever be mentally fit again."

Chris studied Ezra uncertainly. The man seemed dead-set on completing his mission and the blond couldn't help but be concerned. "When you do go we'll come with you, but I want you to think long and hard before definitely deciding."

"Fine," the injured man agreed, although his mind was already made up.


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