Keeping the Faith

By Tiffiny

ATF Alternate Universe

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. etc.

Warnings: Ummm..Just a little bit of language is all.

This is just a mild little piece of gratuitous Ezra hurt and angst. This time it was written while at the dentist's office. As usual, feedback is always appreciated. Thanks to Mog for letting me play. I promise I'll pick up my toys when I'm done.


Toss in a few BLAMS and KABLOOEYS and it would sound remarkably like one of those dreadful episodes of Batman that Mr. Dunne insists upon watching.

Ezra Standish's thoughts were somewhat fuzzy as he tried to brace himself for the next blow. No matter what anyone said about disassociating oneself from the pain, it simply was not possible. It just kept hurting and hurting and hurting...

"What do they know? Tell me!" Each word was punctuated by another blow.

Ezra spit out a mouthful of blood. I wonder what Mother would say about such dreadful manners?

She would say that only a fool would have taken the ATF position and that if I'd listened to her, I could be sipping champagne in the South of France at this very moment, Ezra answered his own question.

Question? Now why did he have the feeling that was somehow relevant to his current situation?

Another blow caused the southern ATF agent to double over, gasping for breath. It felt like he had some cracked ribs if the fiery pain in his chest was any indication.

"Answer me!" the voice demanded angrily.

Oh yes. Question. The large, fashion-impaired gentleman wants me to answer a question.

"I sincerely regret havin' to disappoint you, my charmin' friend. But I simply cannot recollect a thing. Blood, particularly my own, is not conducive to clear thought, you know." This piece of bravado cost Ezra his last remnants of strength. He only hoped the gun dealer didn't realize that.

"What do you think we should do, Boss?" The third man in the room stood just behind the chair Ezra currently occupied.

"Damn. I can't cancel this deal. It's worth too much fucking money to me. See if you can switch the time and place," he ordered his cohort.

"What do you want to do with him?" the man prodded Ezra's sagging form disdainfully.

"Just make sure he's tied up real good. Have Johnson keep an eye on him. We might find a use for him, yet. In the meantime, we got things we need to take care of."

The voices receded into the distance as the two men left the room.

Ezra let his body fall forward as far as the ropes which bound him would allow. A groan escaped his lips. His entire body throbbed with pain and the coppery taste of blood was making him feel nauseous.

"What's the matter pretty boy? You fall down and get a booboo?" the sneering voice of the man they called Johnson came from over near the door. The man entered the room and pulled Ezra's unresisting body out of the chair. Dragging it to the storage closet at the far end of the room, he shoved the southerner into the small space, after making sure that his hands and feet were securely bound.

Ezra curled up in the corner of the closet and tried not to think about how hopeless his current situation appeared. There would be no Batman or Robin to rescue him. Or any of his fellow ATF agents either. They would all think he had run out on them again. The arms dealer and his men had been very efficient. They'd packed a suitcase and taken his car when they'd surprised him at home. Made it look like he'd left town. And his fellow agents would have no reason to believe otherwise.

The former FBI agent wouldn't blame the others for believing the worst about him. They could hardly do otherwise when he encouraged it at every opportunity. Just this morning he'd had a rather heated argument with the others about their propensity to get involved in matters which were not their concern. It had started with Nathan's desire to help a gang member turned informant. He'd asked the rest of the team if they knew of any openings for the young man. Ezra had made a pointed remark about the futility of trying to change a person's nature and things had gone from there.

He hadn't really been talking about the young man, however. He'd been thinking of himself as he said it. Cowardly. Selfish. Unreliable. The other men were right not to trust him. He wanted them to, though. That was the ironic part. Even as he cultivated his flippant attitude to keep them at a distance, he couldn't bring himself to leave them. They would have to abandon him. And they would. He didn't deserve anything else. His whole life was a testament to unfulfilled promises and careful lack of commitments.

Mr. Larabee is likely imagining the 101 ways he shall kill me if I ever dare show my face around Denver again.

Mr. Tanner is shaking his head, not looking surprised in the least.

Mr. Jackson is congratulating himself on having been correct all along.

The bitterness of his thoughts did not quite hide the intense pain he felt at the thought of his friends. Former friends, he thought with another knife-like twist of his guts.

Ezra closed his eyes and tried to formulate a plan. Nothing sprang immediately to mind. The shooting pain in his chest every time he drew breath and the assorted sharp aches and pains everywhere else made it difficult to concentrate.

He finally fell into a fitful sort of doze and it took him a few minutes before he realized that what he was hearing was not a dream.

"ATF. Freeze!" That was definitely the voice of Mr. Dunne.

"Find Ezra. He's around here somewhere." That particular voice of authority was also unmistakeable.

Then the door was being opened and light flooded the small area. Ezra closed his eyes against the brightness. He felt gentle hands remove the ropes which bound him.

"Nathan. Get over here. They messed him up pretty good." The urgent voice belonged to Vin.

Seconds later, Ezra felt a pair of familiar hands probing his various injuries. He stifled a groan. He felt vulnerable enough at the moment without letting them know how much pain he was in.

"How is he, Nathan?" The anxiety in JD's voice caused the older man to open his eyes in surprise. The others couldn't possibly care that much about him. Could they? He looked up and saw all five of the other agents gathered around him and Nathan. Their faces all wore identical looks of concern. Ezra felt something catch in his throat. Suddenly, it was important that they knew.

"Kept the faith," he whispered, looking directly at Chris Larabee. "Didn't run out."

Nathan looked up from his examination of Ezra's ribs just then.

"I think they broke a couple of ribs and we need to get you to a hospital and make sure there's no internal bleeding. Your face isn't going to be too pretty for a while, but I think you ought to make a full recovery."

JD and the others breathed sighs of relief.

"You might not want to look in a mirror for a while, Ezra," JD suggested. Your face is all swollen and you're going to have a couple of beautiful shiners and.."

"Ooof..." JD's catalogue of Ezra's injuries was cut short by an elbow in the ribs from Buck.

"I have every faith in him. He'll be just fine." With that quiet declaration, Chris Larabee turned and began barking orders at the remaining agents. Business as usual.

Ezra Standish relaxed and let his friends take care of everything. He should have had faith in them, as well. He wouldn't make that mistake again Who the hell needed Batman and Robin? Certainly not him.

The End