Second Guessing

by Heather


Ezra Standish held the small flip top cell phone to his ear and nodded his head as if agreeing to everything that was being said. Vin watched from across the table in a mixture of amusement and irritation. Who the hell was Larabee to hound him down, well besides his boss. Vin could hear the squawk of Larabee's voice but could not make out what was said.

Standish placed his hand over the mouth piece and whispered none to quietly, "he's a bit irrate."

Vin shrugged unconcerned.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee leaned stiff armed over the speaker phone. The vein in his forehead throbbing. He ignored Buck and the entrance of the other three men. "Ezra where the hell are you? And where's Vin?" His voice was even each word articulated slowly dripping with venom.

Buck stepped forward trying to listen for background noise over the speaker phone but could not hear any. He silently acknowledged his other teammates with a knowing smile. Things were going to hit the fan. Wilmington was glad it was not because of him for a change.

Chris's face turned deep red as he heard the muffled southern observation, "he's a bit irate."

"Ezra let me talk to Vin." Larabee hissed out. His control was quickly dissolving. If Standish was talking to someone chances were it was the ex bounty hunter. Tanner would not get drunk in the middle of the day but that wise cracking southerner would pull just about every trick in the book to just to challenge authority. Chris would straighten him out in time.

The office occupants listened as once again the mouth piece was ineffectively smothered.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra looked over the near empty bottle of Jack Daniels and peered at Vin Tanner. "The formidable Mr. Larabee would like to speak with you."

Vin shook his head. "I don't wantta talk ta that, that....." he paused searching through a muddled alcohol dazed mind for the proper word.

Ezra saw the hesitation and offered, "Loathsome curmudgeon?"

Vin nodded confident that was the correct phrase, "Yeah..."

Standish turned his attention back to the small phone and removed his hand from the mouthpiece. "Ahh Mr. Larabee, Mr. Tanner is away at the moment and is unable to come to the phone at this particular time," he paused trying to control his chuckle and then continued, "Could I perhaps take a message?" The deadpan seriousness traveled through the cell phone and over the office speaker phone a half mile away with digital clarity.

+ + + + + + +

Buck unsuccessfully suppressed a chuckle. JD snorted and covered his mouth. Josiah bit his lip and Nathan wondered if he should let those two sober up before they brought them to the emergency room. Chris was going to kill someone, better yet a twosome.

Larabee's sandy blonde head shot up silencing the others with the silent promise of a gruesome death. First Vin and now Ezra. Who would be next?

"Ezra. You and Vin had best get your asses back to this office now. Do you understand me?" His voice had become soft. The unvocalized threat hung heavy in the office subduing any mirth.

The response brought tears to Buck's eyes as he shoved JD out of the room to the safety of the 'bull pen.'

"Pardonne moi?" The thickened southern accent asked innocently.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra clicked off his cell phone folding it up. Vin and he started laughing. They polished off the bottle.

+ + + + + + +

After an hour or so and having successfully shooed a stray cat from the confines of her inventory and restacked her boxes Inez returned to her position behind the bar. Inez stared in dismay across the room. She buried her head in her arms on the bar top shaking her brunette mane. Maybe Buck would have been a better choice. Vin and Ezra sat in the back booth slapping the table and laughing at some hidden joke or folly. Both men obviously intoxicated. She considered calling Larabee. This would not be the first time that one of the seven had to be taken home by one of the others and it certainty would not be the last. However this was the first time that it had occurred in the middle of the week and only between two team members.

Inez knew something was wrong the minute Tanner stormed into the bar. When he had asked for the whole bottle she only hesitated. This kind of request was routinely refused but Inez knew of six other men who could take the Texan home whenever she deemed it necessary. Now however watching the drunken ravings of the two men Inez questioned her decision. She reached for the black push button phone she kept under the bar. Larabee's office number and home number were on speed dial just for these occasions.

She hesitated when the two men dutifully gained their feet and with some difficulty donned their coats. She watched as they wobbled passed her. "You two want a cab?" Inez asked. When cleaning the stock room she had checked the snow bound streets and found no evidence of either man's car. They must have walked.

"Nah Inez, it's a nice day for a walk," Tanner intoned a drunken smile playing on his lips.

"Speak for yourself Mr. Tanner," Standish grumbled half heartily the twin dimples still played on his face.

Inez watch as the two ATF agent disappeared through the swinging doors and then the large oak entrance. The Mexican barmaid shook her head in bewilderment and started to clean up the back booth.

Vin and Ezra surveyed the street and trudged across heading obliquely in the direction of their building. Chris did give them an order. As they crossed the snow packed narrow alley way something caught Tanner's eye.

Tethered to a 'No Parking' sign stood a sorrel quarter horse cross with a white blaze. " 'Ey Ez, ain't that Chuck McCurdy's horse?" The blue saddle blanket had the customary yellow DPD in bold letters on the left and right back corners.

"I believe he is the only one who uses a saddle such as that." The southerner observed. Instead of the regulation English type saddle, officer Charles McCurdy used his worn leather western saddle. Something about a loop hole in regulations, a case of brandy and some kind of drunken blackmail. His saddle was ok'd by an upper level politician.

Both men weaved their way over to the docile horse. " Ey' Stripe." Tanner whispered softly patting the horse's broad shoulders slowly making his way up it's neck to the muzzle, greeting the horse in a manner horses greeted each other.

Standish stood back wondering who would name such a beautiful animal 'Stripe'. Chuck would. The rowdy Irish cop was as tough as worked leather. He rivaled Josiah's indeterminate age but like the giant ATF agent defied anyone to challenge them. Chuck lacked Sanchez's height but he had a life time of bar room brawls a few years in the ring and a life time as beat cop to fall back on if pressed into fisticuffs.

Standish watched amused as Vin patted himself down found a pen and scrap paper and wrote a note. He wedged it up in the 'No Parking' sign and then untethered the horse. "Come on Ez," Tanner called as he swung himself up into the saddle.

Standish only hesistated slightly before accepting the down out stretched hand. Grabbing Vin's hand and placing a snow booted foot in the stirrup Ezra swung up onto the apron of the saddle just behind the cantel. The world spun at the sudden movement forcing the southerner to bury his head in Tanner's back slowing the rotary motion.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee seethed as the elevator descended from the twelfth floor. The other four men bunched themselves as far as they could from their leader while in the confines of the elevator. JD found the twin rows of illuminated buttons fascinating. Buck wished the elevator speakers still worked. Josiah still bit back his chuckles. The two young men they now hunted were in a pack of trouble. Nathan ran through possible scenarios that might present themselves when Chris found the two wayward agents.

It had been just over a half hour ago that Ezra had hung up on Chris. Wilmington had dragged JD from the office, Josiah and Nathan made a hasty retreat as well. The bubbling volcano that comprised Larabee's temper was about to blow.

It had taken a half hour of pacing back in forth in his office before Chris could calm himself enough so not to pull his service revolver on the southerner. Tanner was not any better and would fair just as poorly.

Larabee had gathered up the rest of the team, which was not hard considering it was unlikely they would allow him to confront the two alone. They headed for the elevator. Chris knew where the two misguided agents had found refuge.

The elevator slowed to a stop as it reached the main floor. The men unconsciously cushioned the movement by bending knees absorbing the motion. The bell chimed and the door opened. Chris stepped out first followed closely by the others. Larabee rounded the corner entering the main lobby of the federal building and stopped....dead in his tracks.

The others following closely on his heels not expecting the sudden stop bummed into him, shoving him forward.

A chorus of awed "oh shits, oh no...figures.." whispered around him. Larabee's hazel eyes narrowed.

+ + + + + + +

Tanner guided the winter shod horse up the federal steps. An exiting visitor held the door open at the Texan's insistence. Stripe clopped unperturbed through the now seemingly narrow doorway.

Ezra mumbled out a thankyou as he munched down McDonald's French fries. He balanced his bag of fast food on the rim of the saddle seat between Vin's back and his front and held his coke in gloved hands. Tanner wedged his drink in the opening just in front of the horn and munched on a hamburger. (A Big Mac's special sauce might have dripped on the saddle.) Both men ducked as the horse crossed the threshold of the door.

Stripes' winter shoes rung out on the marble. The horse picked its way carefully across the marble flooring heading toward the rug directed by the soft minute directions that traveled the down the reins.

Chris watched as his two ATF agents guided the quarter horse across the lobby to the small rugged waiting area. Larabee ignored the rest of his team who no longer hid their amusement. Chris noticed the security personnel watching him waiting for his lead. Larabee sighed and indicated that he would handle this. Chris was sure this was not in the security lists of possible scenarios. He wondered if Nathan had thought up of this as a possibility. The chemist had an amazing ability to develop and prepare for potential unseen situations. One look at Nathan told Chris that yes, Jackson even had a thought of this.

Buck was the first to move. " 'Ey where've you guys been off to?" Wilmington asked as he closed in on the small tastefully furnished area. Stripe stopped near the large over stuffed couch. A well designed imitation tree rested in a wicker basket at the end of the couch. Stripe sniffed it curiously but left it untouched.

Vin and Ezra both gazed up and waved nonchalantly at their approaching team. Tanner was beginning to think the lunch stop might have been a bad idea. The food settled uneasily in his stomach.

"McDonalds." Vin answered swallowing what he hoped was a burp.

"You guys walked into McDonalds with Stripe?" JD asked incredulously.

"No, the drive-thru" Standish drawled out truthfully. He crunched on another French fry, idly wondering why the others were all in the lobby. The introduction of food seemed to have slowed the spinning.

"You boys want to inform me as to what you are doing?" Larabee asked. His anger held in check. He noticed the uncontrollable horizontal nystagmus that afflicted both men. They were drunk.

"You told us to," Ezra paused changed his countenance and mimicked Larabee from tone to supposed body language with unfortunate success, "to get our asses back to the office, now."

Josiah shut his eyes. Standish would die a slow agonizing death at their leaders hands.

Chris simply nodded and quietly pointed out, "So you did understand me."

Vin's "Uhhho." echoed across the quiet lobby.


Chuck McCurdy trotted up the federal steps and pushed his way into the lobby, "Hey Tanner whacha doin' with my horse?" The thick Irish cop strode over to the knot of men.

"Ya know ya could get me busted this is against regs." McCurdy grabbed the reins of the horse from the wielding grip of the long haired Texan, patting the horse comfortingly on the neck.

Tanner had ridden Stripe many times before and the mounted cop knew Tanner had more respect for horses than he did most people. Anyone else had taken Stripe and Chuck would have shot them on the spot.

"Come on you two funs over." Larabee said expecting his men to dismount.

Standish stared at the floor and then his leader and back to the floor. "Now?" With his feet frozen he did not relish jumping off.

Chris looked to Josiah and Nathan his patience running dangerously close to empty. "Would you please help Maverick and Jedadiah down."

Buck and JD took the McDonald's food bags and drinks and stepped out of the way.

"I ken git m'self down," Tanner gritted out. He might be slightly under the influence but he could damn well handle himself better around horses than most people alive today. In defiance he swung his right leg out of the stirrup up over the croup of the horse...successfully sweeping Standish off the horse.

Ezra let out a yelp flailed his arms grabbed hold of Tanner as he tumbled from the horse.

Tanner felt himself getting yanked unceremoniously from the saddle. With neither foot in the stirrups and someone tugging on him Vin Tanner ungracefully toppled from the saddle.

Josiah followed the bounty hunter to the ground preventing the younger man from bouncing his head off the floor.

Standish unable to get his legs underneath him fell heavily into Nathan. Both men ended up in a tangled heap.

Larabee closed his eyes and shook his head. Graceful...boys...real graceful. Josiah and Nathan quickly extracted themselves from their sluggishly moving teammates.

"Just get them home." Chris said tiredly. He would deal with them later. Larabee met McCurdy's eyes. The Irishman smiled matching Chris's gaze.

"I ain't inclined to report this." Chuck said nodding toward the two men who were being hauled to unsteady feet by their peers.

"Thanks Chuck.I owe ya" Chris held out his hand which McCurdy accepted it with a tight grip of his own. Larabee was sometimes thankful for the ole'boys network that still existed.

"Naa ya don't Chris. I can never repay ya fer yer help with lil' Shannon." The proud paternal glint in the light blue eyes were always thanks enough for Chris. Little Shannon was worth all those sleepless nights. She was a success story. A lost cause that was pulled from the brink. Chris and Buck would always be proud of that bitter battle and besides in aiding the misguided sixteen year old they met her bull headed dad. Chuck McCurdy was a good honest man to have on your side.

Chuck led Stripe out of the lobby. The winter shoes clopping across the marble. McCurdy greeted each security guard friendly and courteously as if they were his own.

Chris turned his attention to the sorry messes of his crack sniper and unparalleled undercover agent. They teetered back and forth toe to heel and slightly left to right. Sanchez and Jackson held each charge steady by their respective upper arms.

Larabee shook his head tomorrow would make for an interesting day. He expected this kind of behavior from Standish, maybe even Buck or Josiah but not Tanner.

"Just git'em out of here," Chris intoned softly and headed for the elevator. Buck and JD paused not sure who to follow. Wilmington wanted to accompany one of the other two and avoid a full days work. JD would follow his lead, besides Chris was in a foul mood.

"Buck, JD we still have work to do." Chris warned halting any argument that might have spilled from Wilmington.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah pulled the suburban out of the parking garage. Tanner had already fallen into a heavy alcohol induced slumber. He slumped against the passenger side door resting his head against the cold window. Sanchez sat at the first red light wondering if he should take Vin back to Purgatorio or to Sanchez's own place. The anthropologist snapped on his blinker made a 'right on red' and headed home. No one else might think his Suburban was worth much but Josiah was not willing to take the risk. Besides with Vin's jeep still at work he would need a ride in the morning. Sanchez turned on the truck heat ignoring the fact it had stopped working years ago.

Nathan peered over the console of his Cherokee, at the undercover agent. Standish gamely fought against succumbing to the effects of the alcohol but after the first red light he lost. Jackson sighed and headed in the direction of Standish's townhouse/apartment. Jackson glanced at the southerner trying to figure out what motivated the man to buck authority so blatantly. What made him go to Inez's Saloon and get Vin drunk? Tanner was already at odds with his friend what did Ezra hope to gain by his actions. Jackson figured he would wait at Ezra's and find out for himself. Vin had enough trouble as it was and did not need the 'help' of a calculating conman.

After the twenty minute drive, Sanchez leaned over Vin and opened the passenger side door. (it had to be opened from the inside the outside handle did not function properly...on occasion).

Josiah got out of the truck locking his door and circled around the front of the truck. The right front headlight still needed replacing. He received his fourth warning last night. The giant man wrenched the door open not noticing the groan of protesting metal. He undid the seat belt and draped the unconscious sharpshooter over his shoulder. Josiah adjusted the weight of his burden shifting it to a more comfortable place on his shoulder. He then stepped back and balancing precariously on his right foot on the ever present ice kicked the passenger door shut with a resounding thud. Sanchez then turned and started up the outside stairs to the third floor. He held the railing as he ascended the steps trudging up the small two bedroom apartment.

Nathan opened the passenger door and slapped Standish's face one more time. Jackson cringed slightly at the sting in his hand. Ezra had not responded to earlier attempts and Nathan would be damned if he would risk throwing his back out hauling the southerner around. The slapped worked glazed green eyes opened and blinked owlishly. Jackson did not give him a chance to drift back to sleep and unceremoniously dragged him from the truck.

Standish stumbled and toppled heavily into Jackson. Nathan sighed and shrugged the smaller man back onto his own feet.

"Come on Ezra." Jackson spoke wearily. He led the undercover by his upper arm to the building. Standish no longer under the jovial lure of the fickle Jack Daniels had become surly at being woken up and hauled around by his upper arm. He shook his arm out of Jackson's grip grumbling he could walk unassisted. He proceeded to slip on the ice and land in an ungraceful heap on the concrete walk way.

Nathan closed his eyes and counted to ten. Why did he have to be stuck with the disagreeable conman? How come he always got stuck with the ornery ones? Jackson watched the southerner groan and roll around on the frozen sidewalk. The man was so intelligent and gifted and yet he squanders and wastes it. He could have done so much with his life, so many opportunities had probably presented themselves to the undercover agent, but Ezra threw them all away.

Jackson reached down and grabbed the southerner by the collar of his coat and dragged him to his feet. If Nathan had the opportunities that Ezra had, Jackson would have earned his doctorate maybe even continued and pursued a life in Academia. Instead he struggled and clawed his way from the low rung in life to where he was now. No one ever thought he would have made it out of the old neighborhood but he did. He made a success of his life when so many others failed. Ezra never would have made it if he had been forced into Jackson's shoes.

"Ezra..." Jackson began and stopped. Sometimes Standish was just not worth the effort. The Chemist tightened the grip on the undercover agent and lead him to the building.


Josiah shut and locked the door seemingly unfazed by the added burden over one shoulder. He turned back and faced the small apartment he called home. Ancient stained hardwood floors were visible under the few stringy throw rugs that laced the small rooms. Sanchez weaved past the scant furnishings and headed toward the bedroom. He dropped his charge on the worn double bed and tossed a blanket over him. Sanchez chuckled at the lack of movement in the younger man. The older agent peeled off the worn cowboy boots noticing that they should visit a cobbler soon or Vin would have wet socks sometime in the near future.

The giant anthropologist hesitated and then figured it was best to remove Tanner's outer coat as well. It was as 'broken in' as his boots. Josiah meandered back into the kitchen and fired up the stove he needed something hot to settle the chill in his bones. As he filled the battered and dented tea kettle his mind wandered back to Nathan Jackson and the current dilemma now at hand.

Nathan impatiently pushed the door open half dragging half guiding the weaving southerner behind him. Jackson had been here only a few times in the past and not much had changed. Comfortable, relatively new furniture tastefully decorated the small living abode. The only thing out of place were the moving boxes still stacked discreetly in the far corner near the glass sliding windows. A small patio graced the third floor apartment. It was big enough to accommodate two chairs comfortably or a small grill.

Ezra slid passed Jackson slipping out of his charcoal tweed stitched designer coat and collapsed on the couch.

"Ezra go to bed." Jackson ordered. He really did not want to baby-sit anyone this afternoon or tonight. He had enough on his mind that he did not need to put up with the self indulgent nature of the undercover agent. Nathan liked Ezra well enough just at times Jackson became so frustrated with the younger man. Ezra could easily attain what Jackson struggled so hard to earn.

"Leave me alone Mr. Jackson." Standish mumbled up as his right arm draped across his wind blown features. Gawd he felt so dizzy. Mr. Tanner was going to pay dearly for this as well as dear Mr. Sanchez.

Nathan leaned against the granite kitchen counter and stared at the man who lay half on and half off the full size over stuffed leather couch. One handmade, leather, booted foot rested solidly on the ground while the other hung over the arm of the couch. He looked miserable. Jackson smiled.

"Ezra come on get up." He slapped the booted leg off the arm of the couch unbalancing the unsteady form.

"Oh Gawd." Standish groaned as the blackness behind his closed eyes suddenly tilted and whirled. This was not a good sign.

"Serves you right for getting Vin drunk." Nathan pointed out lightly but the undercurrent of accusation was present.

Ezra let his arm fall from his face and peered up at the dark healer. 'I got Vin drunk?' He would have liked to have been able to focus on Jackson but at the moment the team medic spun with the rest of the room.

"Oh is that what happened?" Standish remarked his sarcasm not cleverly disguised at all.

Nathan did not want to fight with Ezra the man was drunk. Jackson figured he had already caused enough unrest between Chris and Vin he did not need to start a battle on another front.

"Ezra quit arguing there's enough of that going around already." Jackson stated quietly.

Standish arched an eyebrow and though he could not focus clearly on the dark features he knew self doubt and self incrimination when he heard it. Again he owed his mother his thanks.

"Ahh so that's it." Standish groaned out as he pushed himself gamely up into a sitting position. He rested his forearms on his thighs and hung his head. He actually contemplated spitting the heavy saliva that suddenly flooded his mouth onto the plush carpet that graced the whole apartment.

"Whatta are you babbling about now?" Jackson asked. He was becoming annoyed.

"So tell me Mr. Jackson, how long are you going to wallow in your pool of self doubt and pity?" Standish slowly turned his head and faced the proud agent. "I'd always imagined you had more intelligence than that."

Jackson stood his ground feeling his anger grow. He felt blood rush to his cheeks as he clenched and unclenched his hands. What would Standish know about responsibility?

"Guess not." Ezra replied turning his attention back to his shoes. His stomach flip-flopped.

"What's that suppose ta mean." Jackson bit out.

"Let me ask you this. Have you already contemplated leaving the group?" the undercover agent again rolled his head in the direction of the chemist. He continued allowing the alcohol to do the talking, " spare the rest of us any more intolerable Jackson mistakes?" Ezra knew he had indulged in too much alcohol. He was aware that it would be prudent to keep his mouth shut. He even cringed inwardly as his thick now coarse southern drawl continue to speak. He wish he would shut up.

"Or are you just going to accept responsibility for Vin's supposed wrongful actions?" Ezra paused trying to fight the rising bile. "do the right and noble thing and leave us, for the good of the group." Standish threw all the arguments he had with himself at the medic. "Maybe spare JD or Vin's life in some future raid. Mmmm that it?"

Standish knew he was pouring salt in the wound. What the hell, he did it to himself over the past three years why not let someone else climb into the pitiful ring. "Tell me Mr. Jackson are you really that pompous to believe you can see everything that happens around you with divine clarity?" Ezra paused and let out a scornful chuckle. "And you think I'm self indulged. Take a good long look in the mirror some day." Standish finished softly but his words grated out harshly. Damn if he behaved anything like Nathan was doing now he owed Chris Larabee one hell of an apology.

"Shut up Ezra." Jackson warned. How could Standish have hit so close to home? What did he know of the self doubt that haunted Nathan during his waking and sleeping hours? Standish walked around confident he could scam the world of anything he desired. The man wanted for nothing.

Nathan had worked hard fought every step of the way to attain his place with the team. He poured his heart into this job into this team. Jackson had strove every day to prove to Chris that Larabee had made the right choice in recruiting him.

Ezra knew he hit a nerve and pressed his advantage. How could someone as intelligent and confident as Nathan Jackson fall under the foolish deluge of self doubt? The man exuded self confidence. He was everything Ezra never was or wanted to be. Nathan was a hard worker, a better friend and a wizard with predictions. The man was almost as unshakable as Josiah. Jackson was always the first on the scene when one of the others got struck down. He never faltered when given an impossible assignment. There was never anything that daunted this man. Here he was in Ezra's apartment like a self-conscious rookie not sure of his actions. Where did all this insecurity come from?

"Why? Could it be Mr. Jackson does not have eyes in the back of his thick headed skull?" Standish smirked out, pushing himself unsteadily to his feet. He nudged the low level oak coffee table out of he way with his shins. The spinning only seemed to increase with the slight change in altitude. No this was not good at all.

"Shut up Ezra." Jackson warned again. He would not be insulted by a drunk.

"Oh Mr. Perfection beginning to see the light?" Ezra's mocking tone rang through the tense silence. The howl of the winter wind buffeted the large windows. "Tell me Nathan are you really that stupid to think Chris values Mr. Tanner's life over yours or do you think you're just losing that over indulged perfection you exude?" Standish brushed past Nathan. His unpredictable balance lightly knocked him into the taller man.

Jackson exploded.

He grabbed Standish by the lapels of his rumpled suit coat and slammed him into the textured plastered drywall. The southerner unprepared for the brief attack found himself up against the wall fighting for breath and seeing stars. Jackson's furious face inches from his own. Ezra noticed how white Jackson's teeth were and wondered if he himself would have any after this little encounter.

"I said shut up." The threat in Nathan's words, the trembling checked violence in his body went unheeded by the southerner.

"You've got everything Nathan," Standish hissed out his anger matching Jackson's for a brief moment. Nathan Jackson had a permanent place in this team. He did not have to prove himself to the others. He did not have to keep looking over his shoulders for the knife that Ezra knew would one day find he himself would find embedded in his back. Nathan had friends and family that cared whether he got up and made it to work. Someone cared if he made it home ok. Someone out there was proud of his accomplishments. Nathan Jackson had everything a person could want and potentially more. Ezra could not believe Jackson would be so willing to throw it all away, so willing to walk away from it all.

"So you're not perfect welcome to the human race," Standish bit out wanting very much to slap some sense into the frightfully angry man inches before him. How could someone as accomplished as Nathan fall so easily?

"You son of a bitch," Jackson roared out and violently pulled the smaller man from the wall only to hurl him back toward it. The plaster cracked and gave a few inches, the wall stud preventing any further backward movement. He pulled Standish forward again only to once again catapult him against the wall a third and final time. He jammed his coated forearm up under the clean shaven jaw shoving it further into the plaster that had given way just a split second ago. He leaned onto the arm increasing the pressure and effectively cutting off the smaller man's wind "You know nothing of me." Jackson breathed out between fiercely clenched teeth.

"I know you well enough to know you're contemplating running." Standish choked out his wind being squeezed from him. They all feared it would be him to leave first. No one considered Nathan not even Ezra.

A cell phone rang.

Ezra's green eyes swam as the room spun out of control and his stomach lurched. The heavy saliva build up unable to be swallowed drooled from the corners of his mouth. He could not breath and he was going to be sick. Then the ringing started.

The phone rang again.

Jackson gave the southerner a disgusted shove and reached for his cell phone in his coat pocket.

"Jackson." He practically shouted into the phone.

Josiah pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it as if it had a life of its own.

"Brother Nathan?"

"What'da ya want Josiah?" First Ezra now Josiah.

"Everything all right, Brother?" Sanchez asked. He could almost feel the anger emanating over the phone. What did Standish do now?

"Everything's fine." Jackson stated, his tone clearly indicating things were less than stellar. The Chemist stared disgustedly at the downward sliding form of the undercover agent. Nathan turned his back on the crumpled dazed man and headed into the living room.


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