Another Brick

by Heather F.

ATF Universe

Part 4
...I don't need no arms around me...
Chris Larabee woke to the harsh, unforgivable ringing of a telephone. An arm snaked out from under a quilt. A hand fumbled around the night stand knocking the alarm clock off the table. The groping hand found the receiver and picked it up. It snaked the receiver back under the covers.

"Lar'bee," the mumbled words did nothing to hide the threat that infused the short identifying name.

"Its 7am Mr. Larabee. Do you know where your undercover agent is?"

Chris paused for a moment wondering if he really cared. The voice sounded familiar. If someone had kidnapped one of his agent's well that was FBI territory..least ways until he woke up. So whoever was on the other end of this line had to be insane.

"Who's this?" The vehemently hissed question really did not want an answer.

"Agent Larabee get your ass out of bed NOW!" Orrin Travis sat in his private study with the doors closed. Evie padded around the kitchen gathering things for breakfast. A life time of waking up at 630am did not respect late night socializing.

Chris immediately sat up. "Judge?"

"I'll ask again Mr. Larabee, Do you know where your agent is?"

Larabee stared at the white gauze bandage that encased his forearm. 15 stitches...maybe Vin's head hurt worse than his arm. That would be justice. The Judge's question repeated itself bringing Chris's foggy mind back on track.

What agent?


JD's eyes snapped open. His breath caught in his throat. He thought he heard something that sounded suspiciously like Aunt Nettie's truck. Casey slept curled against his left side.

Dunne peeled himself from his girl and peeked out the window. It over looked part of the dirt drive. He let out a strangled curse. JD dropped to his knees under the window sill hopefully out of sight.

Aunt Nettie.

The agent grabbed his clothes. He flicked his jeans out in front of himself and wiggled into them desperately.

Casey woke up to the struggles on the floor and watched somewhat bemused.

"JD whatcha doin'?"

"Aunt Nettie jist pulled in!" The whispered exclamation nearly made Casey scream out loud.

"Ya gotta git out of here JD...she'll kill ya," Casey hopped out of bed tossed a t-shirt on and threw JD's jacket at him. She opened the window all the while pushing him toward it and out of it.

"Git out JD....oh Gawd git out of here will ya!"

Dunne gathered up his sneakers, socks, shirt and coat and headed for the window. How did Buck do this night after night?


Buck cursed when the apartment door slammed shut. The sleeping beauty he had entertained last night had left early this morning with promises of being back. Wilmington had wanted to coast through the morning laying on his back and enjoying the quietness.

"Buck!" JD's hollering had shattered his plans.

"In here kid," Wilmington sat up on one elbow when Dunne exploded into his room.

Buck furrowed his brow at his young protege. JD had leaves in his hair, his shirt was ripped and he wore only one sneaker and carried the other.

"You in trouble kid?"

"Ya can say that," JD whispered out attempting to come to grips with hanging from a tree branch by his feet trying not to sway as Nettie Wells walked quietly up the front walk. All she had to do was raise her hand and she could have swatted him. Oh, thank God she never looked up.

"Well give me a sec...." Buck was cut off by a ringing phone. He sighed and answered it. "Oh Hey Chris...."

JD watched the pause and then, "Left 'im with Josiah."

More nodding, this time Buck wearily wiped his face with his hand. "Hold on a second he's right here," Wilmington stared at JD, "Whatcha do with Ezra last night?"

Dunne shrugged. Ezra was the least of his problems right now, "Left 'im with Nathan."

Buck nodded and answered into the receiver, "pawned him off on Nathan....but Nathan found me and dumped him in my lap....but I was entertaining a beauty fit for sculpturing so I gave him to Josiah....Why?"

JD stepped back out of the room as Buck held the phone away from his ear.


Josiah lay sleeping comfortably in his bed. The restless feeling that he was forgetting about something important had plagued him since the fire. Now in the soft grey twilight just before deep sleep it finally reared its ugly head.


The big man bolted upright to the sound of a ringing phone.


Ezra woke to a sore jaw and an aching belly. He found himself comfortably curled under a white down comforter. Confusion reigned for a moment as he realized he lay in a strange room. Sun light seeped through large windows. The soft morning hue revealed cozy but unfamiliar surroundings. A freshly clean pile of clothing lay in the rocker beside the bed. His clothes. His eyes widened in dismay. He peeked under the comforter. His memory flooded back with all the subtly of a breached dam. Good Lord.....


Orrin Travis checked his watch as he answered the front door. Nine am.

"Mr. Larabee, " The Judge ignored the bruises and white gauze bandages.

The cold greeting did nothing to cool the fury in the agent. Standish damn man can't stay put.

"Why don't you come in," Travis stepped to the side allowing Larabee to enter the foyer.

Chris stood unmoving in the small area. A hallway extended down the left side. Hardwood floors graced with elegant oriental runners stretched into the next room a few yards down. Oversized windows bordered by spring drapes lined the wall. Morning sunshine cut the shadows, chasing away the potential enclosed feeling created by the narrow passage.

A woman's soft voice floated down the hallway. She spoke to a second party not visible to Chris or Orrin. Though the articulation had shed itself before the sound reached the two men in the foyer, Chris could easily make out the tender intentions of kindness. Ezra.

To the right lay a small moderately decorated dining room. A cherry wood table settled on plush rugs under a crystal chandelier. A breakfront rested against the far wall near a window. Again the spring sun lanced the room lighting it with more color than any man made invention.

The Judge led him this way. Chris followed dutifully. Anger seethed under the boiling frustration of finding one of his agent's had gone missing last night. Missing or misplaced?


The Judge opened the French doors to his study. The full length glass doors lay covered by tasteful light material, effectively providing privacy.

Chris followed bristling. His men had a simple job to do and Standish only had to stay put. No one could do anything without him watching over them.

Travis stood at the front of his desk. With arms folded squarely across his chest, he stared blatantly at his personally chosen supervising agent. A man of responsibility and steadfast dependability.

Larabee did not bother sitting down in one of the chairs. This had no correlation with their professions. This had all the makings of a private situation.

"I don't care who's fault it is...if you gentlemen are unable or unwilling to care for one of your own I suggest you find someone who is capable....." The Judge pursued life adhering to certain codes he thought should remain unbreakable. He regarded his agent with something akin to disappointment. Travis walked a few steps toward the doors and paused, "Maude Standish may even have a few suggestions," he strode passed his agent and back toward the kitchen.

Larabee found himself alone in the plush study. His anger dissipated. How did he miss that?

The heavy smell of leather and wood cleaner filled the air. Leather bound books graced two of the three walls. Large windows over looked the side yard and gardens.

Chris stood staring out the window. The gardens were well manicured. A few clouds dotted the sky. Sunshine warmed the surrounding area. Nothing moved.

Larabee sighed. He wondered how he would convince Ezra that things were not as they appeared..... No slight had been meant. Chris closed his eyes. How could he come up with a convincing argument that Maude had not yet employed on her son?

The truth? Heck, truth be told no one wanted to be bothered with baby-sitting, they had other plans that did not include Standish.

Reality came crashing down and Chris sat heavily on the back of an overstuffed chair.

They had probably dumped Standish as many times, in one night, as Maude had done in years. Ezra had simply become inconvenient.

Why the hell couldn't the damn man just stay in one place and trust them to get him home? Couldn't the fool unbury enough faith to wait for Josiah? Was it so hard to just sit for a few minutes.....or hours?

They were his friends, family. Ezra should have known better, he should have just waited for the others. Larabee glared out the window grinding his teeth. The formidable leader of Team Seven closed his eyes and rubbed a hand down his face trying to control his breathing. He stood, his muscles twitching wanting to vent some of the pent up energy.

Maybe he did know long would you have waited?...Son of a Bitch! Chris closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest.

Hell, Ezra had trusted them.....Just as he had trusted and hoped Maude would keep him by her side as a kid.

How could Larabee see fault with a young mother who had struggled to raise a son?

There had to be a difference...right now.....Chris couldn't see it.


Ezra sat at the battered old oak kitchen table. A small bowl of ice- cream sat before him with a pill. Mrs. Travis bustled gracefully about the kitchen, making conversation out of nothing. An amazing woman. If she sensed the burning humility that seared Standish she gave no indication. She spoke and acted as if she had not knelt by his side at a toilet bowl last night dressed in a formal gown.

Standish had tried to unbury his pride but found it too had to have been flushed down the drain so to speak. Mrs. Travis had seen and aided him through more sickness last night than his own mother had in a life time.

A shameful display of weakness. He rested his forehead in his hand. With elbow propped up on the table, the undercover agent slugged through his thoughts trying to finagle a way home. He could not impose up on the Judge and wife anymore. Getting sick in their truck certainly should have been enough, but oh no he did not do things in halves...not Maude Standish's little boy..Nope. He had to get sick in the foyer, then the first floor bathroom. The Judge and his wife finally had to drag him bodily upstairs in a frantic fashion, to the guest bathroom.

There ,of course, his degradation into his own private hell spun out of control.

His memories after that had become a bit hazy: Mrs. Travis wiping his mouth and rubbing his back in support, a cool cloth resting against the back of his neck as his face dove into the toilet bowl, the helping hands aiding him in the removal of his clothes and then being put to bed. Mrs. Travis talking to him reassuring him that everything would be better by morning.

Well, it was morning...and his stomach felt better, though his head was still mercilessly attached to his neck...his humiliation had not improved terribly.

Mrs. Travis had done his laundry. Who had stripped him of his clothes? Oh Lord please let me have done it myself....and not Mrs. Travis or The Judge.

He would never be able to repay them.....or look them in the eye.

The Judge would no doubt have something to say to him on Monday. Then, of course, there is always Mr. Larabee's wrath. Not that he didn't deserve it. What had been running through his mind?

Ezra shut his eyes and groaned. Where was Josiah's merciful God when you needed him?

Footsteps sounded the arrival of someone into the kitchen. The Southerner took his elbows from the table. Poor manners on top of everything else.

Standish gazed up when the Judge crossed the oak kitchen floor to the glass doors that led to the patio and pool. He nodded an easy hello to the Southerner. Standish smiled weakly back and dropped his eyes to the table top.

A second set of steps hallmarked a new arrival. Ezra nearly gasped when the man emerged from the shadow. Larabee. Aww Hell...


"Ezra lets go," Chris straightened an arm across the front of the oak door. The carefully neutral tone kept everyone at bay. Hackles remained down and postures somewhat relaxed. Standish had yet to melt into the background. Evie patted the undercover agent's arm reassuringly. She still tried to ease his obvious discomfort. Though last night and this morning had not been pleasant for any of them, it felt good to help a friend. Surely Mr. Standish understood that.

Ezra smiled weakly at the older woman. His jaw and head hurt terribly but it started to dull as the little white bomb began to take effect. The relentless pounding that had pulsed up and over his head and neck paled miserably in comparison to his embarrassment.

His boss had come to chauffeur him home. The Travis's had stripped him of his clothes and put him to bed.

The Undercover agent took an unsteady step over the threshold onto the small brick patio. The welcome mat stuttered the movement of his feet.

Chris quickly latched onto his agent's elbow.

With the thank-you's already uttered and the apologies plodded through, the two ATF agents descended the short three brick steps to the circular, gravel, driveway.

Ezra wished he could wrench his arm from Larabee's grasp. The glaring mid morning sun beat down on them. Its early spring brilliance did nothing to soothe an aching head. Standish found it easier to keep his eyes closed and let Larabee lead him toward the extended cab.

Orrin and Evie Travis stood in the threshold watching the two men.

"You think he'll be alright?" Evie leaned against her husband, knowing he would be behind her.

The Judge watched as Standish struggled with lifting the door latch. Larabee had already circled around the front of the truck and sat behind the wheel trying to give Ezra some of his independence. Travis watched his two men carefully, silently hoping Chris would help his fellow agent. The Judge nodded his silent approval when Larabee finally leaned across the seat and flicked the door handle.

Standish had gotten uncooperative fingers to work the latch. The fickle reflective onyx door swung open.

"Mr. Standish's pride will heal as well as his jaw," The Judge answered placing his hands on his wife's narrow shoulders.

She chuckled softly. Then cocked her head slightly rolling her eyes toward her husband, "And what dastardly things did you and Mr. Standish come up with to retaliate for last evening's misadventures?"

Orrin chuckled quietly. The grumble of his chest was drowned by the sharp ignition of the truck. The Dodge hummed to life with a rolling sound of power.

"He has devious mind," Travis chuckled again remembering the careful conversation that had been waged in his study.

The next few weeks certainly would get interesting. The Dodge rolled passed the door step. Gravel crunched loudly under its tires. Chris inclined his head in gratitude toward the Judge and his wife. Standish sat tilted back against the seat rest his eyes closed.

The truck disappeared down the quarter mile drive slipping between rows of high, evenly, manicured hedges. Orrin gently ushered his wife inside the house and closed the door.

Part 5
...I have seen the writing on the wall...

Ezra kept his eyes closed as the truck lifted itself onto the pavement. The midmorning chatter of a Saturday filled this residential area. The sounds of lawn mowers, kids playing, the clamor of radios and the distinctive pitch of voices and laughter blew in through the partially opened window.

Standish sighed. He was in hell.

Larabee drove, his right hand resting at the 12 position. His left hand lay against the glass window. The truck had become heated sitting in the sun. He contemplated cracking his window even further. The figure, seated as far across the bench as he could from Chris, appeared slightly chilled.

Larabee would endure the heat.

Instead, Chris tried to untangle the events of last night. What had gone wrong? It seemed so simple. Very simple in fact. Some how they blew it. Dropped the ball, as Buck would say.

What the hell was Standish doing out in the middle of the night wandering around the derelict section of Denver stoned out of his mind on pain medication? The pain medication......the damn fools nearly overdosed him. They had dished out those little white pills like candy, trying to soothe and moderate the behavior of a child. No wonder the guy puked his guts out until his mouth bled. It certainly came as no surprise that Mrs. Travis had to hold his head out of the toilet bowl as his body revolted against the undue amount of medication.

He'd strangle his team...every last one of them. Including Standish...just so that fool wouldn't feel left out.


Chris's gaze drifted toward the undercover agent. Standish sat leaning against the front door with his eyes closed.

Larabee hit the door locks. The hum of the engine droned on.

Ezra flinched slightly at the clunk of door locks hitting home. His sense of captivity increased.

"You doin' ok?"

Chris's soft question lay unanswered for a few moments. Larabee tossed a quick glance at his agent. Maybe he really had fallen asleep. According to the Judge it had been a hellacious evening and morning. Thanks to the multitude of pills missing from the prescription bottle.

Standish cringed at the question, afraid of conversation for the first time in a life time. The fading discomfort in his jaw, head and stomach, paled miserably to the thoughts running in haphazard turmoil through his fogging mind.

He straightened himself up in the bench, trying to assume some control over his slipping posture. He watched the scenery crawl by at a moderate pace. Apparently Mr. Larabee worried about upsetting his passenger's stomach. A real concern.

"Mr. Larabee," Ezra licked at dry lips. The tangible taste of last nights activities had yet to be truly disguised. He rubbed at the edge of his chapped, lower lip with his thumb. His hands still felt miserably heavy. They even had a tremor all their own.

Chris's hand tightened on the steering wheel. How could he possibly straighten this mess out? All they had to do was get him home. Hell, if none of them could have done it, at least they could have stuck him in a taxi.

Instead they had passed him off like a leper. Drugging him as they went down the line.

"An apology is needed," Standish tried to focus on the greening lawns that boarded this quaint residential street. A child raced his bike down the side walk popping wheelies with varying degree's of success. The smell of fresh grass should have filled the area...but right now the sharp bite of last night's activities around the toilet still burned his nostrils.

An apology?...Hell, Chris thought, an apology would be getting off easy. He had failed his own agent. Of all the men, why did it have to be Standish they dumped? Not that the Southerner would throw a fit, none of them would do that. The simple maddening fact was that Standish, above all people, expected that kind of treatment from everyone, friends and family. Expected it so much that he waited patiently for it to happen. It finally did.

An apology....oh yeah but a simple sorry somehow would not strengthen that broken trestle.

"It was not my intention to impose myself on the Travis's," Ezra felt his face redden, " or to take advantage of their generous hospitality....or encumber you with chauffeuring myself back to my living accommodations," He turned to gage the expression on Larabee's face hoping he could make amends.

Apparently he failed miserably. Wonderful.

Chris's blood boiled. His knuckles blanched white over the steering wheel. He turned his attention out his side window clenching his free hand into a fist.

Larabee squinted his gaze back out the windshield. The fool! The damn fool! He's trying to apologize for last night?

How could he be so screwed up? What ran through that muddled mind of his?

He unclenched his teeth, "Gawd damnit Ezra," the hissed words fired across the cab of the truck.

Standish closed his eyes wondering how he could fix this colossal mess. All he had to do was acquire a cab home last night. Not a difficult task, certainly something he had done countless times before in his life. Dear Lord he had made an embarrassment out of himself and Larabee. He certainly did not make a good impression with the Travis's. Dear Lord...

Ezra closed his eyes and leaned back against the window. Maybe Chris would just drop him off and let it go.

They had left the residential neighborhoods behind and now flowed with the heavier traffic of the small business district.

Larabee's pulse raced up his neck. He pursed his lips. The light up a head turned yellow and then red. They sat third in line. A forest green Ford Explore sat in front of them. The back compartment seemed stuffed with soccer balls and kids. A few waved to them. Chris lifted the corner of his mouth in a futile attempt at a smile and unpried two fingers from the top of the steering wheel. dumb imbecile. You did nothing trusted us.

Chris rubbed his shoulders as sweat trickled down his neck.

Ezra watched Larabee from the corner of his eye. Maybe he should try again.

"Mr. Larabee..."

The light turned green. The car full of kids shot forward.

"Shut up Ezra..." Chris's growl left no room for misunderstanding. Larabee kept his eyes straight ahead.

The kids in the Explorer squished their faces against the back window. They dragged their lower eye lids down with fingers and stuck their tongues out giggling the entire time.

Standish nodded in defeat and leaned his head against the passenger window. Mother had been correct, sometimes he could be quite burdensome. He should have insisted last night at Inez's to have gone home. The others certainly were not responsible for him. His predicament last night had been born purely out of his inability to control his situation. He had lost his edge.

Chris caught the stony expression from the corner of his eye. Larabee had had it with the silent self degradation, "Are you trying to apologize for last night?" His quiet fury seared the pickup.

He glared at the frozen features of the kids in the Explorer. Smiles faltered. His scathing tone seemed to have been understood by the kids in front of them. The soccer players,seeing his expression, suddenly turned in their seats and faced forward.

Least someone pays attention Larabee felt some satisfaction.

The incredulous tone of his voice made Standish wonder if his swollen mouth muffled his words more than he suspected.

"I was endeavoring to make amends for disrupting everyone's' evening," Standish found some hope. Maybe Chris would take his simple utterance and let bygones be bygones.

"That's it..." Larabee slapped on the blinker, cut the wheel and pulled the truck roughly over to the sidewalk. The pickup lumbered up and over the curb jostling the occupants of the vehicle left and right.

Ezra squeezed his eyes closed and bit his lip. This did nothing to ease a queasy stomach.

Horns blared behind them as cars swung around the truck. Larabee ignored the various hand gestures tossed in his general direction.

Instead, Chris swiveled in his seat resting a forearm across the steering wheel and faced his undercover agent.

Ezra slowly unpeeled his eyes and watched as a few cars swung around the truck that straddled the sidewalk and slow lane. "Perhaps Mr. Larabee it would behoove you to give other motorists a little more warning before taking a decidedly pedestrian route."

Chris narrowed his eyes, "Shut up Ezra ....just shut up," his frustration rose almost as quickly as the blushing in Standish's cheeks.

"I don't want your damn apologies...," Chris's cell phone started ringing cutting off his tirade. Larabee tried to ignored it. Like Pavlov's salivating dogs, it was difficult not to respond to the sound.

Ezra caught his breath wishing for the hundredth time today that he could be somewhere else. Anywhere else but here. Maybe even back at the oral surgeons. Anything....Gawd how could he make a mess of something so simple? No mystery as to why Mother had found it easier to just drop him and go.

The phone continued to sound.

Ezra couldn't take the dissecting stare of his boss any longer. He needed to break the tension, "Do you intend on answering your telephone?"

Chris jerked the phone out of his coat pocket, "Larabee." The one word fell like brimstone.

"What do you want Buck?"

Standish turned his attention back out the passenger window. They were near the strip mall section of Denver. The small shops that could not afford the rent of the inner city or malls. A grocery store sat on the corner, a dry cleaner next to that and a Credit Union just adjacent to them. Chris had just missed taking out a public trash barrel. Pavement stretched for as far as the eye could see.

"No, I got'im...gonna bring'im to his place,"

Ezra tried to ignore the conversation.


Standish tried to block out the frustration emanating from the man beside him.

"No, no that's alright we'll go up to the ranch."

Ezra closed his eyes despair and fury vied for an outlet.

Chris folded up the phone and pocketed. "Change of plans we're gonna have to go to the ranch."

"I'd rather not," Standish spoke softly resting his head against the window in dejection. Why did this have to be so complicated?

"Well you don't have a choice," Chris returned shortly. Things never flowed as planned with his team.

"I would prefer to return to my own abode, is that so difficult?" Standish had half a mind of opening the door and leaving.

"That was Buck. Your apartment complex has no water, Fire Department had to have it shut off," Larabee watched as the quiet docile sheep beside him started showing fangs. People will only allow themselves to be pushed so far. Everyone had their limits. Standish had been manipulated and ushered into a corner. He raised his hackles and bared his teeth. Chris found himself responding in kind but forced a more civil attitude.

Chris tried for redirection. Maybe meet Ezra on his playing field.

"Someone in your building own a weasel or a ferret?" Larabee asked with a smile. It seemed the varmint had eaten through some electrical wiring, insulation, and somehow disrupted the whole water system.

The question hung on the air for a little bit. Then Standish released a sigh and shook his head. Why now? And what was Mr. Wilmington doing at his place?

"Young Thomas, a few doors down, owns a weasel type creature by the name of Reese," Standish had unfortunately been asked to watch over Reese one weekend while the little boy and his mother took time to visit relatives. The diminutive monster had a voracious appetite and an uncanny ability to escape his tiny habitat.

"Yeah, well I guess they'll be snaking for Reese in the pipes today and tomorrow while the Fire Department makes sure the fire alarm system gets re-wired. Least ways that's what Buck and JD are saying." Larabee paused. He noticed the raised questioning eyebrows. Finally a spark of hope.

Chris casually tossed a meat laden bone at the feet of a skittish dog, "They were stopping by to make sure you were ok and to be sure you had decent food for the weekend."

The Southerner slumped in his seat grinding his front teeth. Buck and JD...making sure he had decent food? Why not drag Mr. Tanner along as well? Ezra was convinced then he would have some HoHo's, Yankee Doodles and soda for his weekend of soft food. Some despondency flickered away,they had stopped by, a gesture of kindness.

Apparently,though, all the kindness and good intentions were not getting him any closer to his apartment. Once again he would be dragged off to endure the overtures of an abused sense of duty. Just as his relatives had to take him in so long ago...he was family after all.

Chris witnessed the slumped posture. "Its only for one night Ezra, I'll get you home tomorrow." He hit the blinker and started to feed back into traffic.

"Of course," Standish closed his eyes and rested his head against the window wishing the door would suddenly spring open and he fall out. He'd find his own way home this evening.

Larabee could not ignore the biting sarcasm in the unconvinced answer. They might have stumbled last night as a group but they did not deserve this. You faithless son of a bitch.

Without warning, Chris cut the truck across the lane and back onto the sidewalk.

This time the ATF supervisor answered the raised finger gestures of passing cars with one of his own.

"Mr. Larabee one should at least attempt and live with in the motor vehicle laws.....Driving is a privilege, not a right," Standish figured if Larabee swerved that quick again, his light breakfast would be all over the dashboard.

"Ezra shut your mouth and listen to me. I will get you home tomorrow," He faced the Southerner, trying to control his temper, "And I don't want any apologies.... you have nothing to be apologizing for....You were damn lucky to have run across the Travis's last night." The curt words filled the truck.

Ahh yes the infamous Lady Luck, Standish mused. "Yes, well then perhaps I should purchase a lottery ticket seeing how my Luck has saved me from such certain disaster." The cagey expression matched the scathing satire.

Larabee suddenly couldn't unravel who Standish struck out at...his teammates or himself?

Judging from the posture and words, it seemed the undercover agent only found fault with himself. No one else. He was suppose to watch out for Number One, been taught that all his life, and he had failed. His dependency had grown to such a degree that he had been unable to get home. He directed his fury inward. He blamed no one but himself.

Larabee narrowed his eyes. The idiot.

"I let you down, can't change it, can't do a thing about it....except make sure it doesn't happen again," Chris stared at his agent wishing he could have eliminated some of the abruptness in his words. I gave you a second chance you bastard....give us the same courtesy.

Neither broke eye contact.

A second chance? Is that what your asking for Mr. Larabee?

Standish nodded acknowledging what he heard. Second chances meant getting burned a second time, Turn the other cheek to allow the other side to be slapped...

Chris had taken a risk and so far it had paid off....Ezra would make sure that it continued to as well.

Reciprocity though? No. Ezra's stomach turned at the bitter memories of giving others second chances. Always hoping that maybe next time around they would not disappoint him. Bitter resentment and loneliness, as well as, empty pockets had hallmarked his foolish gestures of generosity.

Mr. Larabee was undoubtedly made of stronger stuff.

Ezra would rather keep his independence than feel the burning wound of disappointment from his six teammates.

Larabee angled the truck back onto the road creating a space between a Honda Civic and GMC Blazer. Chris had a sinking feeling. He could see the strands of the rope slowly unraveling. The tether that cradled Standish within their group began to fray. No one's fault but my own

Larabee would make damn sure something like this did not repeat itself. He uttered the promise softly to himself.

"I assure you, I will strive to ensure it never occurs again," Ezra reiterated quietly with resigned conviction. He wouldn't allow it. Mother might have been right after all. FBI, ATF, ...Alphabet soup....different letters, same bitter taste. His own fault The others had plans for last evening, he knew that in the very beginning and yet had imposed himself. With all honesty, he could only disparage himself.

Buck and JD had stopped by his place this morning....they taken time to make sure Chris would get him home this morning. Chris had come to get him...again an act of responsibility. Perhaps Duty...Larabee could have just as easily requested one of the others fish him from the Travis's residence. But he hadn't

Standish sighed quietly to himself. Confused...disoriented. How long had he held out for his mother, hoping for a change? How long had he struggled for aid or a friendly gesture in Atlanta?

Now, history smelled of repeating itself...but subtle differences peeked through. Were they really differences or was he searching for friendly shapes in approaching storm clouds? How far did he bend until he broke his own rules that protected him from the events that had nearly torn him apart in the FBI?

His gut churned.

Ezra stared out his window at all the normal people. Second Chances are like steadfast friends, Mr Larabee, they are out there, just exceptionally rare and even harder to grasp. Standish closed his eyes, leaning his head against the cool glass. He grew tired of holding on. He would wait and watch but not venture forth into the outwardly placid waters of the ATF. Rip currents most times were invisible.

Larabee watched his undercover agent for a second and then turned his attention back to the traffic.


The end

I don't need no arms around me
I don't need no drugs to calm me
I have seen the writing on the wall
Don't think I'll read anything at all
No don't think I'll read anything at all
All in all its was all just bricks in the wall
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall

Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
- Pink Floyd

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