Crossover Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Several demons suffered in the writing of this story, but frankly, we don't care.
Vin Tanner didn't like Sunnydale, California, even if it had a beautiful beach and mountains and looked like a harmless small town. The minute the van full of Team 7 drove past the Welcome to Sunnydale sign he got a cold chill down his back that just danced there all day and seemed to clutch his spine when the sun went down.
He looked about the van surreptitiously and noticed that Josiah had actually pulled his cross out of his shirt and was holding it in one big hand. Ezra stopped bitching about Buck's driving
J.D. shut up and Chris stopped threatening them all with death and started to stare intently out the front passenger's window. Nathan, who was reading a medical course book, looked up and said, incredulously, "This is the town with the biggest death and disappearance rate in the country?"
"It looks fairly innocuous," said Ezra, "but that may be part of the reason why no one is making any kind of fuss. The plebian facade lends itself to a carefree attitude."
"What the hell does that mean?" said Chris.
"It means it doesn't look like a damn murder capital so the people don't notice!" snapped Josiah.
They all stared. Josiah Sanchez never snapped at anyone unless one of the team was in danger
Vin wasn't one to talk about his feelings, but he was one to go with instinct, "Got that right.
This place scares the hell out of me and it gets worse the longer we stay."
JD frowned, "Maybe they have some kind of radio signals or ley lines or chemicals in the air that make you nervous, cause I feel weird too, like I should be watching my back."
Nathan Jackson put his head in his hands and said softly, "you know what, now that you mention it, I feel kind of, well, anxious."
Chris Larabee, their leader, was silent. "Okay, change of plans - no direct confrontation of the mayor's office or any other official here. Instead, we check out the hacker JD found looking up the same information we were."
"Willow the Wisp?" said JD.
"Yup," said Larabee, "and from this moment we are all on alert - we stick together and watch everyone's back. This place gives me the creeps, too."
They calmly found a hotel room and then went to the house of one Willow Rosenberg, high school honor student and hacker extraordinaire. Only another Hacker of JD's ability would have been able to discover her cyber trail and learn that she too was investigating this town, where too many people died and too many more disappeared.
They drove to a pleasant house in a very well-maintained neighborhood and parked the van. "According to their itinerary, her parents are in Europe and Ms. Rosenberg is home alone." said Buck.
"Amazing that they trust a girl of such tender years all alone." said Ezra thoughtfully
"From the information we were able to pull up, it sounds like they leave her by herself a lot," said JD,
"Ezra, you and JD go to the door and make contact," said Larabee, "If the whole lot of us show up on her door step, she'll be liable to call the cops."
"Not that they'd do a hell of a lot of good," remarked Buck, who had been extremely unimpressed with the records of the local PD.
Ezra and JD exited the van and went to the front door
The lights in the house were on and Ezra rang the doorbell
Then from the side of the house, they heard a growl from something large, and loud.
Ezra drew his service revolver. A young woman's scream coming from the back yard put both agents into motion, running toward the growl that raised the hairs on the back of Ezra's neck.
He could hear the van doors snap back and Buck yelling for JD. He beat JD to the back yard.
There stood something that looked like a nightmare Ezra had at age 7 and it was flinging itself on a young redheaded girl with a blood chilling shriek.
The girl shrieked too.
Ezra threw himself on the monster, intent on saving the girl, trusting JD to shoot it when he got it down. He could hear pounding of feet behind him and knew the rest of the team would be there to watch his back. The creature roared and Ezra brought it down with a perfect flying tackle. He heard bullets fly, the girl scream, and the monster attempting to turn and rend him with claws. JD was yelling at the top of his lungs, but he couldn't really understand what it was.
A weird glowing light was flying from the girl's hands and encompassed him and the thing, stopping the menace of those razor sharp appendages. The glow burned and Ezra froze, wondering if he had been tazered.
The monster hollered in fear and pain. And then, like something out of movie, it shriveled up.
The girl shrieked, "RATS" in a high squeaky voice.
And perspective changed. The shriveling monster got bigger. Ezra realized that the girl was getting bigger too.
Then he moved back and realized he was on all fours. He looked down. The grass under his feet was now extremely large, where it had been a well-cut lawn previously. He reached out and realized that his hand had turned into a white paw.
He screamed and heard a squeak of terror. It was him squeaking.
"Whoops," said the girl
"Holy Fucking Shit!" said Larabee
"Goddammit to Hell," said Buck
"EZRA," screamed JD, and VIn
Ezra looked up at the giants that comprised the remainder of team seven. He looked at his paws and realized that he had long sensitive whiskers on each side of his nose. He turned and realized he was instinctively using a tail to balance. He looked at the tail. He looked at his white fur covered belly.
He was a rat
Everything went black
"What the Hell just happened here?" Screamed Nathan Jackson
Terrified, they stared at the girl who was gazing at the large white rat lying on its back before them.
"Um, I think he just fainted," she said
When the demon had attacked her in her own backyard, Willow had trouble starting her counter spell. She was shocked when two men ran toward the demon and one of them attacked it
The other shot it as other men poured into her backyard, with big impressive guns and scowling expressions
"Oh Rats," she'd cried when the counter spell had hit the man who had tackled the demon.
While she tried to get her breathing under control, she wondered where the dickens the men came from. They certainly weren't Sunnydale PD--that was for sure.
Then the spell engulfed the demon quite properly, and shrunk the man into a rat, quite improperly.
She was left with six very angry men and a passed out rat.
One of the bigger ones fainted and darn near landed on his little buddy. The blonde haired one who looked scariest glared at her, and Wllow gulped.
"What the hell did you do to him?"
"I don't know," she gasped, "I was trying to kill the demon."
"Is that what that thing was?" asked the younger cute guy with long hair.
"You betcha" she said and then knelt by the rat. Gently she picked him up, "This has never happened before and I don't know a counter for it".
"You mean you can't turn him back?" said the hugest of them, a big man wearing a cross that made her wonder if he understood her town and its history.
"Um, I don't know," she said softly. She carried the very handsome and still unconscious rat into the house, and the six men followed after her, uninvited, which at least proved the men not wearing crosses weren't vampires.
The large man wearing the cross carried the man with the big mustache with him.
The youngest looking one helped the big guy put the man with the mustache in her dad's favorite armchair and was patting his cheeks, trying to get him to come to.
The rat twitched in her hands, and she touched him gently.
"What's his name?" she asked
"Ezra, Ezra P. Standish," was the answer
"Ezra," she said softly, "I'm sorry you were hurt. Thank you for coming to rescue me."
The rat woke up and looked around and then promptly fainted again. She looked at the scary cute blond one.
"He's retained his human intelligence," she said, "He knows what happened."
The handsome black man sat down abruptly.
The big guy with the cross on started to silently pray
The rat finally woke up again and looked up beseechingly into Willow's eyes
"Help," he squeaked
The men just stared and didn't appear to understand
"I know what he's saying!" Willow said in surprise. "I understand you Mr. Standish. I didn't mean to hurt you, you have to believe me. I was just trying not to get eaten by the demon."
"You understand me," squeaked Ezra triumphantly.
"Yes," she said softly, "I understand you but your friends don't."
"Can you turn me back?" said Mr. Standish in a rather desperate squeak.
"I don't know," she blabbered, "This never happened before and I've never heard of a person turning into a rat and retaining his full intelligence. You might be stuck."
"Oh SHIT," said the rat
"I'm sorry," said the girl, "You can live with me. I'll take care of you and everything. I've always wanted a pet anyway. I promise to do everything I can to reverse the spell."
"A Pet?" said Ezra P. Standish. The rat sat up and look, well, offended. "Young Lady, I may appear to be a rat, but inside I am a human being and I don't want to end my days covered in white fur."
"No, of course not," said Willow placatingly before he could faint again.
"What's he saying?" asked Chris Larabee, anxiously.
"He doesn't want to be a rat," said Willow
"Lady, he's our friend, what the hell is going to happen to him?"
"Well, if I can't reverse the spell, he'll stay a rat," said Willow.
Ezra fainted again.
"I need to call Giles," she said
"Who's Giles?" said Mr. Cute and Scary
"My school librarian," said Willow, carrying Ezra carefully, she grabbed the phone and hit speed dial #3 for Rupert Giles, her mentor in magic. Rupert's clipped British voice instantly made her feel a little better.
"Giles, Giles," she babbled into the phone, "I was attacked by a merflug demon and I did the counter spell but a nice man tried to save me and I turned him into a RAT. HELP!!!!!"
"Good Lord, said Giles, "I'll be right over."
During this session, Ezra woke up again and leaped from the girl's hands onto the floor and began to run up the stairs. He wasn't really panicking or anything, he just needed desperately to sit and think for a minute.
The stairs were steep, but apparently he was in excellent shape for a rat.
He raced up the stairs and whipped into an open room that was apparently the young girl's bedroom. He crawled up the bedspread and flung himself on the pillow. He squeaked and wailed in despair for a few moments. His life was over. He was unable to communicate with anyone but a young girl of mystic power who had accidentally destroyed his career. He'd never have a beer at the saloon with his comrades or play cards or plan a practical joke with Vin Tanner. He could no longer drive a car, or have a life. He was doomed, and if his memory still served him, rats only lived 4 or 5 years. He sat chewing nervously trying to think of a resolution to this conundrum when he realized he was chewing the end of his tail. He was horrified. Perhaps he should just go and jump out of the open window in the girl's room. No with his luck and smaller body mass, he'd probably survive the drop and be eaten messily by some other demonic entity. He wondered if the girl would delve into her parent's liquor cabinet for him - he really needed a shot of something.
Downstairs the doorbell rang and Willow opened it to reveal a tall scholarly looking man in tweed, who appeared to be Rupert Giles, her friend and school librarian.
Rupert Giles was astounded to find out that the nice man who had turned into a rat apparently came with his own swat team and a recon van.
The six men in Willow's living room looked like they were in varying stages of shock, disbelief, and rage. Their leader, a Mr. Christopher Larabee, was especially unhappy and Giles would have offered him a nice cup of tea, but feared that something stronger was called for.
He opened willow's parent's liquor cabinet and found some particularly fine whiskey.
He served everyone, but Willow, who preferred chamomile tea anyway, and noted that they all seemed to stiffen up somewhat after a good shot.
Now Giles started a gentle interrogation that nearly drove them all crazy. "You encountered Willow being attacked and Mr. Standish attempted to stop the demon was caught in Willow's counter spell and turned into a rat. Is this correct?" They all nodded miserably.
"Willow, he said, turning to her kindly, "did you say something when you saw that your counter spell was going to hit Mr. Standish."
"Um, I don't remember, she whimpered
"RATS," said Vin, "She said rats."
"Oh dear Lord," said Giles, and started to clean his glasses. "And where is the unfortunate Mr. Standish?" he asked, wondering how much whiskey a rat could handle.
"OH SHIT," said Vin, looking around.
"He's gone!" yelled JD. They all started searching for their truant team member. Buck, who was still woozy, crawled on the floor and looked under the couch, while Nathan checked under the cushions. Then Larabee stood up abruptly and shouted, "EZRA GODDAMMIT get your furry little ass out here RIGHT NOW."
A rapid pattering noise as of claws scrambling on hardwood floors was heard, and a large white rat ran down the stairs and leapt onto Larabee's pant leg and scrambled up to his shoulder where it sat panting.
"Good Lord," said Giles, "Does he always respond like that?"
"Wouldn't you?" asked Josiah Sanchez, the big man with the cross.
"Ah yes, I see your point." said Mr. Giles, eyeing Larabee who was rather frightening in his ferocity.
"Mr. Standish," asked the librarian, "Can you understand us?"
The rat squeaked and Willow nodded anxiously.
"Yes, He says he understands".
"I'm terribly sorry about your, um, condition, Mr. Standish, but Willow is apparently much stronger a witch than I anticipated, and I know of no way to counter her spell."
The rat squeaked
"What did he say?" asked Giles.
Willow blushed, "Oh shit."
The rat squeaked again
Willow looked worried, "Um he wants to try some of the scotch, too." And she obligingly got a shot glass
Ezra drank rather a large amount considering his new body size
He paused and squeaked once more.
They all looked at the girl, who looked pensive, "He says that my dad has good taste in liquor."
"He's definitely still Ezra," said Buck and the men all nodded.
Rupert Giles then explained the mystical properties of the town (hellmouth) and about the dangers inherent with running surveillance in the town.
They listened carefully, Nathan watching Buck to make sure he didn't pass out again, and Ezra sitting on Larabee's shoulder.
Finally, Mr. Giles finished his explanation.
"Normally, I wouldn't believe any of this, but I can see what's happened to Ez," said Larabee in terse tones.
Everyone looked at Willow.
"He says any doubts he had previously had disappeared into a puff of fur," she translated meekly.
"I shall, of course, endeavor to find a way to reverse this, but I can hold out no immediate hope." said Mr. Giles, "And under the circumstances I feel it would be foolish to let Willow continue experimenting."
The girl's eyes filled with tears. "I didn't mean any harm," she whispered.
Vin spoke up, "You were in fear of your life". His raspy voice was kindly, "Many a good man has died under friendly fire in this kind of situation."
Ezra squeaked for a rather long time.
"He says he wonders if that would have been a more acceptable fate than being turned into a rodent with a shortened life span and a tendency towards cancer." Willow translated this and now a single tear made its way down her cheek.
Then Ezra gave a squeak that sounded a lot like a snort, and crawled down Larabee and ran to Willow. Still crying, she put down her hand and he hopped on and then jumped on her shoulder and pressed his head to her cheek and made busy noises that were evidently making the girl feel better, because she gave a little smile.
"Thanks," she whispered.
"I realize, Willow, that you were in danger, but I hope this makes you understand that magic is dangerous and can have deadly consequences." Said Mr. Giles
The girl nodded, and the rat continued to squeak softly into her ear.
Finally, she said, "Mr. Standish, are you sure you wouldn't like to stay here. I'll take really good care of you."
Chris Larabee stepped forward and smiled down at the girl, "Miss Rosenburg, Ezra is our friend and a part of our team. I appreciate you wanting to translate and all, but I'm not going to leave him here unless he wants to stay. We don't leave anyone behind."
"But you won't understand him." She protested this with a quivering chin.
"That's true, but I reckon if we called you, you could translate on the phone," said Vin Tanner.
"And we can work with a small keyboard and see if he can use that," burst out J.D. Dunne.
The rat stroked his whiskers and chattered to Willow.
"He says that he'd feel more comfortable with his friends, but he thanks me for my kindness. He says this locality doesn't agree with him at all."
Larabee smiled. "I agree. I say we scrap this mission and take Ezra home with us. We'll figure things out as a team." He looked around at his men and said softly, "Agreed?"
All 5 men nodded while Ezra apparently agreed with them.
There was a flurry of email and phone number exchanges, with promises of care packages from Willow, but finally the team left with Ezra riding on Vin Tanner's shoulder.
"All I can say," said Buck, "is this was one hell of a FUBAR mission and Ezra can stay with me and JD iffen he wants."
The rat straightened and then shook his head to show disagreement.
"Ez can stay at my place, boys. It's quieter and less messy," declared Vin Tanner.
"How the hell are we going to explain what happened?" asked Nathan Jackson.
"We're not, we're going to take care of Ezra, research magic, and then, if we have to, we'll pull the Judge into Sunnydale and have him meet Willow and Mr. Giles," said Larabee.
J.D. pulled out his blackberry, turned it on and put it on the seat between him and Vin. Ezra's whiskers quivered, and he ran down Vin's arm and began to slowly and then quicker and quicker type on the keyboard.
Soon they all received a message from J.D. that says, "Gentlemen, May I bring to your attention the undercover potential in my current predicament?" the message said.
Chris slammed his head on the steering wheel, while Vin started, and then said softly, "Aw Hell."
And thus began a new life for Ezra Standish and the ATF agents known as Team 7.
Vin woke up the next day and gazed at the ceiling. Did yesterday really happen? Did his teammate, his friend, really get turned into a rat by a teenager with redhair and a tendency burble? Magic was real and the town where the girl lived was on the mouth of hell.
He heard a low pitched squeak of discomfort. On the pillow next to his, a large white rat was sitting up on his hind legs and holding his paws over his eyes. Damn it was true.
"Told ya ya drank too much whiskey, Pard." The rat, er, Ez, glared at him, and then went back to holding his paws over his ears.
Vin pondered how to deal with a rat with a first rate hangover? He got up slowly and then went and put the coffee on. Ezra might be a rat, but he'd drink coffee. After all, he had downed some excellent scotch last night and got plastered silly.
The Monday after the Transformation, Josiah didn't show, or come in. Vin was gone, staying at the ranch with Ezra, while the team tried to think of appropriate lies for their reports, because, well telling the judge Ezra had turned into a rat just didn't see like the smartest move right now. JD thought they could probably convince him, but the Judge might have a full out heart attack then. Nope not a good idea.
Chris nodded at their youngest agent. "JD, run over and see how Josiah is. I think he's not handling this too well."
JD nodded and took his motorcycle to Josiah's place. The door was open, not a good sign. JD entered using all the caution he'd learned on patrol as a police officer.
Josiah was sitting on the floor in the middle of a trashed living room.
He looked up at JD through bleary eyes and then sighed, "My boy is a rat. I can't ever tell him what's he meant to me."
When JD was sure Josiah wasn't going to go into one of his famous rages, he sat down next to him.
"Ezra is still the same Ezra we know and love, Josiah. He isn't turning rat-like. Mr. Giles said this is the oddest thing he's ever seen, and that Ezra understands everything we say." JD paused and shuddered at the thought of being trapped in the body of rat.
Josiah's eyes were moist. "You sure he understands?" he asked.
"He wrote Chris an email off that blackberry telling him how to do the report without mentioning demons. Sounds like pure Ezra".
Josiah barked out an unwilling laugh.
"But is he still Ezra Standish, or is he becoming a monster, like those demons and vampires little Ms. Rosenburg told us about?" pondered Josiah sadly.
JD suddenly realized what Josiah was worried about, "Aw Hell, Josiah, this is not because a demon bit him, it's a spell. That little girl seemed really nice to me. She was trying to protect herself.
"And Ezra doesn't seem demonic at all," JD continued, when Josiah sort of perked up. "He's a pretty little rat. His eyes are green as Ezra's eyes, and they don't glow red with evil and his little teeth seem normal for a rat. And he didn't act mean, just sort of upset as hell and drunk."
The lines of sorrow on Josiah's face seemed to smooth away. "Don't tell Ez you think he's pretty, he'll never forgive you."
JD smiled bravely, "He'll probably chew through all the cables on my computer."
Both men felt some encouragement at the thought of a pissed-off Ezra taking vengeance on a computer.
"I'm going to make him a jury rigged blackberry that connects to his computer," JD announced, after thinking a bit. "Vin says he had a devil of a time holding down the side buttom to get menu selections. I bet I could do a lot of things to help him that way."
A bit more cheered up, both men cleared up the living room, and then went back to work, Josiah following JD's motorcycle in his beat up old suburban.
Chris Larabee glared at his computer screen. People were asking where Ezra was, and he wasn't sure how to answer. He could tell them he was recuperating from being turned into a large white rat and incommunicado. He sat for a moment and considered how long it would take for a team of mental health personnel to show up with a taser gun to drag him away for a psych evaluation.
A fierce grin that would have frightened his team members, curled his lips back, as he considered that particular scenario. Then he sighed. "On personal leave due to a family emergency" he typed and hit enter. "Standish," he sighed, "Only you could get us in this much trouble."
In a quietly appointed apartment in the Purgatorio district of Denver, a handsome young man with long hair slept quietly, a gun on the nightstand next to him.
In the next room, a large white rat with brilliant emerald eyes was typing quietly on a blackberry.
"Mr. Dunne, thank you so much for this latest invention. I can use the blackberry keyboard to access my files, pay my bills and taxes, and make necessary purchases.
The monitor resolution is the equivalent of having a very large screened television and the different button configuration for input is extremely easy on my poor paws.
I can make or change investments, check my bank, and buy the latest books from Amazon. Of course I can't read this in that form, but I can buy books online and read them on the screen above me, configured to my own special needs. This is quite the help, Sir, and now my existence is intact, at least in the cyber universe.
By the Way, Mr. Dunne, Willow Rosenberg has sent an obscenely large box of homemade cookies to me again. There is no way even Mr. Tanner, of the stomach that has no end, can deal with that many cookies. Please stop by and enjoy
After typing this statement the Rat began to lick his whiskers. Miss Rosenberg apparently dealt with guilt by way of cookies, and Ezra worried he'd end up a very rotund article in deed if he dove back in that enticing and huge box she had mailed.
Suddenly horrified, he realized he'd been partaking of grooming activities and squeaked in annoyance. He was a man, dammit, not a rat!
Then he chided himself. His new form had presented the world much differently. His sight wasn't as good as it had been as a human, although he noticed movement with alacrity. His sense of smell and taste and touch, however, had grown literally awesome. Miss Rosenberg's box of cookies had smelled so wonderful; he'd nearly jumped in and attacked them. Only the sternest self-discipline had allowed him to keep his head and personal honor. Drat the child, she could bake like a genius
Finished with all his projects, he finally crawled down the desk and scampered quickly to Vin Tanner's bed, where he returned to his pillow next to Tanner's head. Tanner had promised not to roll over on him, and had been so concerned that Ezra had allowed what would normally be a terrible and irritating broaching of his personal space.
He lay on his back, pulled the fine silk handkerchief that used to go in one of his Armani suits pockets over himself and slept.
The young man sleeping next to him opened one careful eye, noted that his friend was now safely asleep, smiled and went back to his interrupted repose.
The next morning, Vin Tanner told him that in order to go to work with him, he had to suffer the indignity of traveling in a small cage.
"I know it's stupid, Ezra, but Chris says we gotta do it or he'll skin me."
Ezra was unimpressed at the thought of Mr. Tanner being skinned by Larabee, in fact he actually found himself contemplating biting his friend and team mate.
'Please, Ez, we either go now or you stay," said Vin. The man sounded worried, and while absolutely furious, Ezra allowed himself the ultimate indignity of incarceration.
In the jeep, Vin chatted away amiably, hoping to make things better, while Ezra began to explore the cage. Vin had not locked it, but it wasn't made to be opened by a rat. He examined the hardware, smiled to himself and calmly broke out. No lock, no matter how big, could escape his skill.
Then he carefully hid under Vin's seat. He heard the turn signal and the slight darkness told him they had entered the parking garage. He waited and Vin left with the carrier.
Ezra hopped out of the jeep and sat on the concrete flooring of the garage, still furious and put out. "Ah may be a rat, but I'll be damned if I am carted around like a prisoner." He muttered to himself as he watched Vin Tanner head to the parking structure elevator, unaware that his friend and coworker had escaped. There was mild satisfaction knowing that he could break a lock with only paws. He sat on the floor of the jeep and considered the best way to spend the day. After a few minutes, he was bored. Mr. Tanner hadn't discovered his little deception yet, so he decided to make a survey of the air conditioning venting system. He made his way laboriously from the jeep and began to make his way to a cement column with some passable looking pipes.
Then he smelled something that he couldn't quite place, but immediately with the rat's instincts knew it for Big and Predator. Cuervo, the stray cat adopted by the team. And he was dinner sized.
"EEEEEEEKKKKK," shrieked Ezra and prepared to run as fast as he could scamper. Somewhere deep inside, a voice said, "DId you just eek?" but he ignored it
Then Cuervo jumped on him lazily and sat a foot on his tail
"Good Lawd," said Ezra, "I'm going to die at the hands of a friend."
Then the same strange voice said, "You don't smell like rat at all. What are you?"
He looked up. Cuervo was looking down at him quietly, even inquiringly.
Well, this was something different. He could apparently hold a conversation with those of feline extraction. He wondered why the mice last night hadn't been as forthcoming. "I'm a human, but I was changed into a rat by magic." He explained.
"Oh really," was the lazy reply. Cuervo didn't seem too interested.
"I'm Ezra the man who leaves out the fancy feast for you," said Ezra, hoping this might help, while his mind raced madly screaming, "Please don't eat me, please don't eat me".
"The one with the nice soft hands?" asked the cat with more interest.
Ezra nodded and then realized that cats don't nod as a means of communication. "Yes," he said, carefully.
A great furry head came down and sniffed at him delicately, "You do smell of my friend. I suppose this means no more food?"
Ezra gulped and then said, "I'll make sure Vin gets you some."
The cat began to purr. It was fairly unsettling, because it sounded like a power mower from this standpoint.
"You don't think you could scratch behind my ears do you? You were particularly good at that," said the cat
"Good lawd, I'd be delighted," said Ezra, who was beginning to think he might not end up as cat food.
He scampered up on the cats back and began to pet, and then scratch carefully. :"How's that?" he asked. The purring got louder
Later, a near hysterical Vin Tanner rushed out of the parking structure elevator looking for Ezra, a frantic expression on his face. He skidded to a halt, when he noticed Ezra sitting on Cuervo's back doing what looked like full body rat massage.
The rat waved laconically at him
Vin sat down abruptly on the concrete and muttered mild profanities
"I'm sorry, Pard - I nearly had a heart attack when I realized you weren't with me."
The sharpshooter's shoulders hunched slightly, "I guess the rat carrier isn't going to fly, is it"
The rat carefully extended a front paw and deliberately flipped the bird.
Vin nodded his head. "I'm sorry as hell, Ez. From now on, we do it your way.
The rat nodded and the cat purred furiously.
They returned to the office, Ezra riding triumphantly on Vin's shoulder.
Once there, he had the biggest knockdown dragout fight of his life with Larabee, who yelled, broke a phone, and turned interesting shades of red.
Ezra said nothing, but when Larabee paused, panting with anger and worry, Ezra would laconically made rude gestures and then return to grooming his whiskers, a habit he just couldn't break.
Finally Larabee gave up. "You can travel without the carrier, unless you feel in need of it, Okay, you *&)*)&) son of a *&)*)&)&"
Ezra nodded, which looked odd on a rat, but worked nicely in this instance.
Ezra spent the day on the computer, or with the boys. He was beginning to enjoy his new power. Chris could usually shove him around or threaten violence, but now that Ezra was in rat form, the man was terrified he'd kill him, so Ezra was winning arguments left and right. It was as delicious as Willow's cookies.
J.D.'s ability at communication was a huge blessing. He made Ezra a little necklace with a GPS on it, with a panic button that could be operated by a rat. He kept finding smaller and smaller QWERTY key boards for Ezra and now could set up any computer in the office to work with the small Blackberry as an input device.
Ezra's latest project was driving Larabee insane with requests and ideas for going undercover.
Nathan told Chris to stop grinding his jaw or he would send him in for major dental work.
Life had slipped into a routine, a strange one, but one where six men protected a rat.
People in the Justice Center thought he was their new mascot, and since they had such a great success record, it was let go.
Maude Standish was suspicious. Her son had only contacted her by email or text message in the last few months. He was never at his apartment and never ever answered her calls. Something was up. His team, of course, came up with the usual foolishness about him being undercover, but Maude sensed something off in their explanations as well as a hint of something off in her few conversations with his so-called friends. Josiah in particular had been solemn as a judge.
She visited the courthouse facility that housed ATF offices, and went to the floor where her son's team worked. Such a plebian means of income for someone raised to know better. Her son could be basking on a beach instead of working long hours not using his God given abilities.
When she arrived, she was outraged to find that their offices were locked. Well, locks didn't mean much to Maude Standish, and she quietly made her way into the area.
The offices were quiet, but she could see that Ezra's own desk computer was on. To her utter amazement, a large white rat was typing on the keyboard.
Maude's eyes widened. She stalked silently, and once behind the computer could see that the rat was writing a report.
Maude was not a stupid woman by any means. Her idiot son had done something, probably while trying to rescue some penniless urchin, and gotten himself into trouble that couldn't be repaired.
She had no clue how this had happened, but she believed her own eyes.
Then her eyes narrowed. What a glorious opportunity was here. In this form, Ezra could make millions with the correct handling. And Maude knew just how to handle him.
She reached out and snatched her unsuspecting and transformed son and received the surprise of her life. Ezra BIT her.
"EEEK," she shrieked in utter fear, momentarily feeling a rare female upset at small flashing teeth.
And then her incorrigible offspring sprang off the desk and raced away.
Outraged, she lowered herself to chasing him, "Ezra, how dare you bite your mother!" she shouted, "You come back here now. There is no way I'm allowing you to not put this condition to proper use."
Ezra had never been quite so aware of his new condition's problems as when he was racing for his life away from his own dear sweet mother. Panting heavily, he cursed those damn chocolate chip cookies. He decided that she would tear the office apart looking for him; Mother was absolutely determined and in that mood would leave nothing to chance. So he headed for the hallway and raced into the elevator and with some squeezing made his way through the door.
Inside he found a conduit box, flipped it open, and closed the damn lid behind him. After he had calmed down, he hit the GPS panic button on his chest to alert JD and made his way into the shaft area. He had discovered that since he weighed less, he was in less danger of falling. So crawling up the sides of the shaft should present no problem. And a lonely death in the elevator shaft beat having Mother use him in some horrid money making circus scheme.
On the other side of town, in the surveillance van, J.D. swore
"Buck, Chris, Ez' hit the panic button," JD's voice was high pitched.
Chris Larabee yelled, "DAMN" at the top of his lungs.
"It ain't the damn exterminators again is it?" asked Vin, sounding ready to rip someone a new one.
"No, we told them Vin's allergic, and they're supposed to contact us with their schedule." Said Nathan
Josiah was already on the phone. "Have we had any visitors check in for Team 7? MRS. STANDISH?"
"OH SHIT!" said 6 men simultaneously, a Greek chorus of impending doom
The seven parked and tore into the justice center, frightening itinerant lawyers and police cadets. When they reached the security station, they were informed that Mrs. Standish had checked out. Buck pushed Mr. Stedman, the head guard, out of his chair and immediately scanned the surveillance tapes for the lobby. He looked up. "Her purse wouldn't hold a goddam mouse," he said.
The guard's eyes opened with puzzlement, but they weren't going to waste time explaining anything.
"Thank you. We'll take it from here," said Larabee to the wide-eyed guards.
They raced to the elevator, six desperate men, and stood bouncing with impatience or grinding overstressed molars as the elevator ascended.
Then an access panel on the ceiling opened and they heard a distinct, exasperated squeak
Larabee looked up and Ezra jumped on his head, squeaking madly all the way. Larabee cradled the obviously distraught agent in his hands, petting him gently and cooing to him, "It's okay Ez. She left the building. You're safe."
When the elevator came to the floor that housed their offices, they strode off casually. A cleaning lady noticed Larabee had that damn rat on his shoulder again, shuddered and turned her head.
Silently they all went to their small team conference room
J.D. sat up the computer so Ezra could use the blackberry to type into the system here. They all looked at the screen tensely
"Damn," said Buck shaking his head
"She called me by name, said I had always been a disappointment, and now I had an opportunity to really pay her back. I was going to end up in some kind of circus performance."
The rat paused and then wrote. "I bit her."
Ezra's delicate whiskers began to tremble and Vin knew he was upset. He picked Ezra up and said, "Pard, if I see her, I'll bite the bitch for you."
Chris was staring at his terribly distraught field agent and then decided something.
"Ezra, I know this has got to suck, having your mother betray you like this. But you got away from her. You hid in a busy building without getting stomped or hurt or lost." Larabee sounded thoughtful
Ezra sat up on Vin's hand and his whiskers quivered
Chris looked down at the hopeful undercover agent
"Ez, if you can escape Maude, you can go undercover again. It will be a whole nuther scenario, but by damn, you can do it."
Ezra skipped on all fours and squeaked, stood on his hind legs and waved his front paws and generally communicated his pleasure
Then he majestically pointed in the direction of the elevators and flipped the bird, wiggling his whiskers as he did so with a defiant gesture.
"I think he just divorced his mother," said Buck.
"His paw coordination is getting way better," said JD happily.
"Yup," said Vin
"And Ezra," said Larabee seriously, "I have a operation in mind, a potential drug ring that we just can't investigate as humans. But you, Ezra, you can get past their security."
Vin Tanner stared at Ezra. He'd have never said a rat could glow with happiness, but Ezra was glowing with out and out joy. They were hip deep in shit for sure.
Rated R for RATLIKE
Ezra pointed out to Larabee (via text message) that since he was a rat, he didn't legally need a warrant to search anyone's domicile, but if Mr. Larabee wanted a warrant, he could get one. Ezra meanwhile was fitted for his new "kill switch" which was a small button on a very well done harness Vin had gotten from a high-end pet store.
Trying on the harnesses had been a hoot. Vin had taken him to the pet store, Ezra riding on his shoulder.
A large elegant rat riding on a scruffy man in a leather jacket caught staff members' immediate attention.
"Sir," said the young female clerk, smiling at Ezra, and eyeing the large rectangular object the man was carrying, "Can we be of help? A habit-trail in a size for rats perhaps?"
The young man smiled at her and she noted he had gorgeous blue eyes. "Nope, though we'll see if Ez wants something like that later. Today Ezra wants to try on some harnesses."
She smiled and thought, "Okay .. gorgeous but slightly off". She took him to the area featuring clothing for pets, including ferrets, rats, dogs, cats and just about anything else. The gorgeous dotty man pulled out the rectangular object, which unfolded to reveal a mirror and sat it on a display table.
The rat hopped down his arm and appeared to wait patiently while the man selected several items.
"Ezra likes soft leather," the gorgeous one explained and she smiled and picked out some of the more expensive name branded items.
He gently put one on the rat and the rat, to her surprise looked at its visage in the mirror and turned its head from side to side to get a total view. She giggled, and this attracted another clerk. Finally the entire pet store staff left their stations and watched the rat called Ezra looking at his visage while Vin gently fastened on each tiny harness. Ezra would tilt his head, make a decision, then shake his head no and she and her fellow employees would make noises of extreme delight. Customers now came up and watched and soon the crowd attracted the manager, who took pictures with a digital camera.
Ezra finally nodded his approval of one particularly lovely ensemble and the entire group of watchers dissolved into laughter. "Dang, the rat has class," The rat turned and eyed the man in a haughty fashion.
"Aye, Ez has more class than most humans," said Gorgeous genially. The rat actually glared at his owner. Deciding she could deal with this kind of dottiness, she gave him her phone number and offered Ezra some extremely expensive dried fruit treats. The rat nibbled daintily.
She smiled when her manager gave Gorgeous the harness for free, since about 20 people purchased pet rats and another 15 purchased the lease/harness setups as a result of the Rat's little show. They hadn't had this good a Wednesday in years.
JD carefully installed the "kill switch" button, which automatically sent an email notification, a beeper notification, a text message and phone page to the entire team, as well as providing a GPS unit for helping them find where the hell Ezra actually was.
Ezra really liked the harness. The fact that it was made of fine leather, fitted well and could carry the tiny GPS, a memory drive and the pencil like device JD had yet to explain, made him feel like he wasn't naked anymore.
He wrote a quick message to JD. "What is the pencil for?"
JD read it and smiled at his friend. "It's a taser, Ez and I want you to test it." He sat down at the desk while Ezra watched him explain the workings, the safety switch and the battery life.
"OK, Ez, if you are ready, give me a shot."
Ezra wrote quickly. "Mr. Dunne, this could be extremely unpleasant."
"Oh hell, I know that Ez, but I have a strong heart and I want you to be safe."
Ezra shrugged and took off the safety.
When JD woke, up he learned that 1) the taser worked really well and had no kickback to bother Ez, 2) it hurt like a bitch, and 3) the kill button worked well too, since the whole team surrounded him, Ezra typing madly on the blackberry, while Larabee glared down at him, while Nathan took his pulse and fussed.
"Dumb stunt, JD," said their team leader.
"Works good though," JD said blankly.
"I believe we are ready to start our assignment," typed Ezra.
First Undercover Assignment
A rather large handsome rat with bright white fur and amazing green eyes woke in a small apartment in Purgatory with an anticipatory gleam that would have put most rats to shame
His eyes shown with intelligence, and his partner, a shaggy haired young ATF sharpshooter named Vincent Tanner, grinned at him.
"Lord, Ez, you're up before me."
For this was no ordinary rat
This rat was a man named Ezra P. Standish. An unfortunate meeting with a demon and a young witch had resulted in the death of the demon (good) and Ezra being turned into his present form (bad).
After months of adjustment, worry, cool electronic devices, a very rude kidnapping attempt and yelling matches with Chris Larabee, Ezra was going to be allowed to do that which he did best. He was going to do surveillance undercover.
It would be a different type of undercover work. His rat form would allow him access to any building. No security system was made to prevent reconnaissance by rats, only humans, so Ezra had a huge edge in this instance.
It was also a tremendous risk. He would be ultimately alone and without backup. His pathetic form could rest forever and rot alone behind the walls or in conduit and never be found. The mere thought of it made his boss, Chris Larabee, slightly dotty.
But Ezra didn't care. His new condition had driven him to despair. To be a rat was bad enough, but to be useless was hell. This was a golden opportunity, and Ezra intended to take the bull by the horns.
He scampered ahead of Tanner in the kitchen where he ascended the cabinets and pointed proudly.
"Hell, Ez, you made coffee," said Tanner in his usual raspy voice, "We ought to get hitched."
The coffee maker was an old type, and Tanner set it up in the evening, but someone had to turn it on when morning came, and Ezra had apparently already done that service.
Vin poured himself a large mug, while he took out a silver thimble for Ezra. Ezra liked lots of milk and sugar in his morning coffee, and Vin made it for him.
Since Ezra had come to live with the sniper, Vin had to change his evil habit of making coffee thick enough to stand a spoon up in.
After a shared breakfast and a second coffee for both of them, they left to meet the rest of the team, all of whom were in a large reconnaissance van filled with the latest technology.
Ezra had his very dapper vest with the GSP/deadman switch. He also carried a small pencil like creation, which was actually a taser gun. J.D. Dunne, their computer expert, had done himself proud with that, even if the initial testing had knocked him across a room.The Journal of Ezra P. StandishToday I went on my first undercover mission. It's a building housing a construction firm that we suspect of criminal ties, particularly ordnance theft so far, no surveillance has worked. The building is a virtual fort with security that would do the Pentagon proud.
Even entering has been upsetting, because we can't really get near the building. So my first mission included sneaking along phone wires that lead to the building. Mr. Larabee almost fainted when he saw me doing my little circus balance act, but for a rat it's very simplistic
I had a hawk fly at me but decide I was too big a prey. The stun pencil JD developed for me was tantamount to that particular decision
The building has all sorts of exotic openings that would foil a man but not a rat.
Ezra crawled through a small conduit and reminded himself to stop eating Willow's cookies. He noticed the conduit was inhabited
"Good Lawd, don't these people spray for cockroaches?" he thought, as he made his way to his objective.
" I shall definitely need to bathe at the successful culmination of this mission. Spiders - I abhor spiders. It doesn't help that in my present condition they are the size of Chihuahuas. Fortunately they don't seem interested in my person."
The air conditioning vent system proved to be cleaner
His reconnaissance foray was going to take time because of his small size. Ezra pulled a golden raisin out of his little vest pocket and smiled to himself. Vin had been concerned and had added a pocket so small he couldn't put anything in it, but it had proved pouch sized from Ezra's perspective and Ezra had packed it with snacks. The raisin was excellent.
His communication device was excellent, and if he had felt free, he would have sent an all clear message but part of the reason they had chosen this facility was because it had massive security, and even so tiny a communiqué might have exposed what they were doing.
Ezra paused and smiled to himself; trying to find out who was in the facility would be near impossible, but he had already agreed not to use the dead man switch unless he was in true danger.
He continued his reconnaissance. For a mere construction company, the facilities are certainly suspicious. He made his way into one of the rooms with the best security and peered down through an air conditioning duct.
"GOOD LAWD" he squeaked softy, "They have some kind of testing lab."
There were rats there - in cages. The people were testing drugs on those rats.
Ezra could hear the tiny voices of the rats. They were in pain, and afraid, and dying alone in separate cages, crying out to the compatriots. It was not precisely a language, more a communication of sorrow and despair. While not as if they were spouting Shakespeare, the concepts would have done the Bard proud. The misery in this room clutched Ezra's heart.
A lab technician gave a small female rat a shot. "Good God in heaven, that needle is HUGE." Ezra found himself trembling.
He slipped back into the a/c vent and continued his investigation, but knew he was going to come back. " Mr. Larabee will have a fit, but I can't leave those poor creatures there."
In the CEO's office, a computer terminal was left running as the busy executive went to lunch. It would turn itself off in 10 minutes if no one touched the keyboard.
While most of the building had electronic surveillance, the CEO's office was not included. Therefore, no one saw a large white rat skitter silently up the desk and hit the enter key. Soundlessly, the rat strained its neck and looked at the large screen, reading and moving from file to file.
Finally, it used its rear foot to hold down the Alt key and then the front paw to hit Print Screen. It copied dozens of documents and screen in this manner and emailed them to a blind email account. Other documents were directly sent. Then, the rat known to his friends as Ezra Standish, cleared the memory cache, history, email sent and emptied all the virtual trashcans to further destroy traces of his activities.
Swiftly, after half an hour of work, it finished, and raced down the desk and up a potted plant into the a/c vent, squeezing through the slats and squeaking irritably.
His mission was accomplished but this rat had another agenda. He returned to the lab, which was now empty, took a few drug samples, and then, made his way to the first cage
Back in the Surveillance Van, 6 men were driving each other crazy with worry. Ezra had been gone for hours. They kept watching the overhead phone lines.
"Wonder if they spray for bugs a lot," said Vin softly, his eyes dark with worry.
Nathan Jackson winced, "He says they give him a hell of a sore throat,"
"Someone could accidentally step on him," said JD morosely.
Buck snorted, "Ez is too slick for that."
Chris Larabee straightened up. "Rat coming in," he said.
They all peered at his screen.
"It's a brown rat," said Nathan. "It ain't Ezra."
"What the Hell?" murmured Josiah.
"Here comes another one," said Buck. "It's mottled, brown and white."
"Dammit, Ezra! What the hell have you gotten into now?" muttered Larabee.
The increasingly agitated Team 7 counted approximately 15 rats, some of them white, slowly and steadily traveling the phone lines and coming down the phone pole.
Josiah got out of the van and looked at each rat. The rats seemed skittish of Josiah, but they gathered about the ground at his feet and stared at him, whiskers quivering.
Finally a large white specimen that they all knew was Ezra if only because of the vest, made his way down the pole. Any further doubts were erased by the holster on his back with its tiny stun pencil and the fact that said rat waved enthusiastically to them.
Ezra now cheeped and squeaked to the gathered rats and turned and looked pointedly at Josiah.
"I take it you're bringing them home with you?" said Josiah somewhat laconically.
Ezra flipped him the bird.
"Would they mind riding in a large box?" asked Josiah. "I don't want them to get sat on or anything. They look like they need to go to the vets."
Ezra looked thoughtful and Josiah decided not to tell him how cute he looked when his whiskers wobbled. The van door slid open and Buck came out with a large box.
"Howdy boys and girls, It's the Larabee express, come to take you away." Buck's mustache was quivering with suppressed laughter, as well as relief.
Ezra shook his head, but lead his fellow rats into the box. They followed him and watched as he crawled up Buck's arm and onto his shoulder
The box was gently placed in the van on a seat and Ezra was given his blackberry.
JD, who went on line gave a whoop.
"Ez got in their computer and sent us documents!!!" he chortled.
"Damn Ezra you done good," said Buck.
Nathan Jackson gently touched one of the rats. It crawled into his dark hands and looked up at him. "These little fellahs look like they been mistreated. Look at all the punctures and blood on this little guy."
JD looked at his screen, where he was IMing with Ezra
"Er Nate, that's a lady rat."
Nathan blinked and then gently touched the rat's head.
"I beg your pardon ma'am." he whispered.
Vin Tanner opened the cooler and took out a bunch of fresh fruit, grapes, cherries, blackberries and some slices of cheese. With gentle hands he put the food in the box with the rats, who dove on the food with enthusiasm
"We gotta take them to a vet, Chris," said Nathan.
When the van arrived at the vet, Nathan looked into the box and then winced, giving them all a sad look. "Ezra," he said and Ezra looked up from typing on his blackberry.
"It looks like one of our new friends didn't make it, Ez."
A white streak of fur and whiskers zipped over Nathan's shoulder and into the box before Nathan could move.
He looked down, Ezra nosed and touched the little brown rat gently and looked up at Nathan Jackson.
The other men stared at Nathan Jackson as well. While having a pet rat die hadn't seemed too important in the scheme of things, now it was a tragedy and a horror.
Nathan looked down and his dark eyes filled with tears.
"Your little friend died free, Ezra. That's got to mean something."
Nathan looked at his human friends.
Buck put an arm around JD's shoulder and Josiah Sanchez closed his eyes.
"Shit," said Larabee softly.
It was just as bad as when a human died in a rescue. Team 7 had lost someone.
They arrived at the vet that took care of Larabee's horses. A much-depressed group entered the waiting area with the box. Ezra rode on Nathan Jackson's shoulder. Vin Tanner looked at Ezra's unusual green eyes and realized they were wet.
Vin almost lost it himself for a moment. Rats couldn't cry as far as he knew, but Ezra Standish, who never wept for anything done to him, was crying for an abused animal.
The vet, an older woman with a tired face, looked astounded when six large men walked into her examination room with a box full of rats.
"Chris," she said, nodding tersely, "What the hell is this?"
"We found them in the course of an investigation," volunteered JD. "They were being used in an illegal drug operation. They've been abused."
"What are we looking for here?" she asked, almost suspiciously. "I can tell you right now, I'm not going to be able to test them without hurting them further, and my policy is to never euthanize animals unless a human life is at risk or the animal is in terminal pain." She was ready to tear them a new one if they wanted her to autopsy the pathetic little creatures.
To her relief, they all gave her wan little smiles, and she realized the big black man holding the box had cried.
One rat was sitting on his shoulder. This one looked to be in prime condition but something was wrong with its eyes. She leaned forward. They were a brilliant green.
She opened her mouth to say something, but then glanced down into the box, and saw immediately that one little rat had already died and the rest looked up at her as though assessing her as a threat
"Oh you poor kids," she murmured and gently put her hand in and let the living rats smell her. She gently picked up one little white one, and examined it. Someone had been using very large needles on the poor creature; the gauge was for a human, not a rodent.
She could see the remains of fresh fruit and cheese, so knew that the men had already fed them.
"Rats are raised as food for other animals, as well as mice. I seriously doubt you can bring much of a case for cruelty on this, although I'd certainly like to kick someone's ass for this." She looked up, still a little suspicious, but starting to trust that these big strong law enforcement men were worried about some of God's small creatures.
"If you can't care for them, I can," she said definitely and wondered at how the big healthy specimen's eyes glinted at her, "I can run tests on the little one we lost, if it's all right with you, and I'll give you some supplements and mild pain medications for the survivors. They don't appear to have any disease or parasites, they're just horribly underfed and they've been misused."
"Do you want me to run tests?" she asked
To her surprise, they all looked at the rat on the black man's shoulder.
She gasped but shut her mouth. Rats don't nod. They don't have green eyes for that matter.
She looked at the rat and going with a lifetime of talking to animals anyway, said, "I'll treat your little friend with the utmost respect."
The rat nodded again.
She winced. Something horrible was going on here. But whatever it was, she wasn't going to ask questions. The intelligence in those emerald eyes was astonishing. She shook her head and decided to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home. She knew Larabee was a good man, and had heard about his brave team. Whatever the hell had happened here, it was serious and they needed her help.
She gently put down the one living rat, and picked the pathetic little body up in her hands, clasping it protectively. She looked at the men pointedly. Part of her was amazed that they cared, but they were obviously emotional about a lab rat. So she found herself telling them the same thing she would tell older children who lost rescued animal like this.
"The poor thing didn't die alone and you were kind to it. That's more than many of us so-called humans can expect," she said softly.
Vin woke up hearing the toilet flush. He had absolutely no clue how Ezra managed to do that in rat form, but the beady-eyed look he'd received when he hazarded a question was enough to squelch his curiosity.
The bathroom door nudged open and Ezra popped out and hopped on the stool next to the kitchen cabinet.
Vin was trained now. He put a thimble full of hot fresh coffee in front of his friend and watched Ezra sip delicately.
Then he gazed into his living room where whole passels of rats were sleeping on his couch.
Ezra gestured toward Vin's computer. Vin took his mug of coffee and read his email from Ezra while Ezra followed him and sat on the desk staring at him while he read.
"Mister Tanner," said the message, "How would you like to move into my condo, at least temporarily? And could you assist me in purchasing some habi-trails? I believe I can make a safe and yet appropriate home for our new friends until they decide what they would like to do."
Vin said, "I'm gonna be your rat wrangler, ain't I Ez?" Ezra covered his eyes with his paws. Vin grinned.
A lady rat woke up and crawled up onto Vin's lap and then onto the desk. She looked up at him inquisitively and then began to groom Ezra's ears. Ezra, of course, was covered with fur, but Vin knew a Standish blush when he saw it and grinned. Ezra flipped him the bird in a nonchalant fashion, and leaned into her ministrations with a look of rapture on his face.
The Lady rat's name was Angel, according to Ezra, and Vin wasn't sure if it really had a name or if this was the closest approximation to how rats described her to him. It didn't matter. Vin could tell she was a lady of quality, and probably just the personage to keep one Ezra Standish in hand.
Vin could see that undercover work with Ezra was going into a whole new territory.