Vin Tanner sat beside Standish on the airplane. It was a red eye special. The tracker did not care he just wanted out of the grey city. His soul was not made for city life, he could not tolerate all the people, the cars, the subway. It was a type of sensory overload. Vin was a country boy. He could handle himself in the city, in any situation, and given time he could and would adapt to any environment. He did not wish to mold himself into accepting New York. He wanted nothing more than to be back in Denver. Even Denver got to crowded but at least in an hour he could be in the country side enjoying the mountains and the solitude. Hell it took an hour just to drive a few miles in NY traffic. Road Rage took on whole new meaning and almost fell under the auspices of justifiable homicide. No one from New York should be allowed to drive, well at least not outside their city. They were crazy.

Tanner leaned over his arm rest peering down the small aisle. Buck and JD sat infront of them. Dunne had finally calmed down enough to fall asleep against the window. Wilmington dozed quietly with his seat pressed as far back as it could go. The leg room was still inadequate and Buck stuck his right leg out into the aisle way. Josiah and Nathan sat across from Buck and JD. Tanner could not see Nathan but from the position of the Chemist’s head, Vin assumed him to be asleep. Josiah flipped mindlessly through a magazine trying to pass the time. JD’s Walkman which he borrowed was shoved in the front seat pouch. “Pearl Jam” was not one of Sanchez’s favorite music selections.

Sanchez turned around feeling someone watching him. He smiled lightly at Vin. With a simple motion of his chin he silently asked, ‘How’s he doin’?’

Tanner understood the question and turned his gaze to the undercover agent. Standish slept leaning back in his seat. His left arm still trapped against his chest. He rested his left shoulder against the window. A navy blue blanket covered him and he had kicked off his shoes. His shoulder had been giving him trouble so he had taken one of the prescribed pain meds and drifted off before the plane ever left the ground.

Vin looked back to Josiah and merely nodded, ‘Ok’. Sanchez turned his attention back to the magazine.

Josiah’s thoughts wandering back to the funeral.

The funeral had been early that afternoon. Standish had slipped from them and headed for the suburban grave yard alone. The others figured where he had left to and followed. They found him standing apart from the crowd. Amongst the bare limbed deciduous trees. The sky had turned a dark slate grey and the temperature had plummeted. Ezra stood with his right hand buried deep in his long coat pocket. He stood apart from the gathered mourners far enough that he could not hear the words that were spoken at the grave side services.

The others had pulled up in two cabs. Sanchez was amazed at how Chris could get his point across to those who feigned poor English abilities.

Without a sound the six men slowly stood beside their teammate. No one spoke. They stood silently as a team watching the service from a far. Ezra looked neither left or right. He kept his gaze straight ahead. His sunglasses hid his eyes, the rest of his face expressionless. The others knew him well enough to recognize the ploy. He hurt.

Terry and Andre noticed the collection of men on the next knoll. The two partners carefully extracted themselves from the throng of mourners and weaved their way past head stones to the ATF agents.

Guidino motioned for Standish to step aside and follow him. Ezra without a word without hesitation followed the silent request.

Andre stood before the six imposing men and understood why Standish had longed for their friendship. From Ezra’s descriptions and stories the large body guard was confident who was who.

“Mr. Larabee,” Andre had addressed the leader of the team. Chris had watched as his undercover agent left their midst to speak with Guidino. It bothered him somewhat that these two relative strangers could offer condolences and aid so easily where the team struggled.

Chris pulled his attention away from Ezra and back to the mountain of a man before him.

Larabee merely nodded. Neither shook hands nor proffered friendship. They were enemies they stood on opposite sides of the playing field. Their shaky alliance was due only to the mutual desire of an old man trying to save a lost agent. In doing so weak ties were formed and a flimsy truce called between warring sides. In the end a common enemy was destroyed, a life lost and a life saved.

“Mr. Burkhardt asked me to give this to you,” Andre produced a thick manila envelope. It was large enough to hold a brief. Chris accepted it after a bit. It weighed as much as a book. Larabee passed it off to Jackson who quickly opened it and peeked at the contents inside.
Larabee had ignored Jackson’s actions and waited for an explanation from the body guard in front of him.

“Mr. Burkhardt wanted to make sure the kid was not blamed for what happened,” Andre continued, “he and his lawyer put this together hoping it would help.”

Larabee merely nodded. Standish had been exonerated of any charges or supposed wrong doings. The packet however maybe useful in other ways.

Chris turned his attention back to his undercover agent. Ezra stood nearly ten yards from them. His head bowed as Terry spoke to him. Guidino rested a massive hand on the smaller man’s right shoulder talking trying to break through the guilt. Standish merely nodded his head staring at the sage colored grass at his feet. In a fluid motion Terry pulled the smaller southern agent into and embrace and held him tightly. Standish returned it the best he could with his right arm clenching his fist into the front of Guidino’s tailored full length coat, burying his head in the larger man’s chest.

Buck had diverted his gaze giving his friend some privacy. JD just stared wondering how long Standish would hurt. Josiah had offered up a prayer seeking help and strength for the undercover agent. Nathan folded the manila envelope’s opened flap and wished they made a medicine that washed guilt and loss away. Tanner watched the grave side service wishing they were far from here, hoping that going home would ease the pain Standish tried to disguise from them.

Chris waited patiently giving his agent time. The flight left in six hours. They had plenty of time.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah flipped through the last of the magazine. He would try getting some sleep. It seemed everyone had chosen to pass the time in a similar manner. The flight certainly did not hold the super charged atmosphere that they had traveled to NY with but it was certainly far from normal. Josiah knew Vin would stay awake and watch over the southern agent. Though he was not in danger, any of them for the matter, it offered comfort and security. Standish might sleep through most of it but he was sly enough to recognize the effort.

Josiah took one more look back over his shoulder. Vin had picked up a magazine and was thumbing through it quietly. Chris sat behind them also alert preparing to deflect any nuisance that made its way near his team.

The team wearily pulled itself through the Denver airport. It was relatively quiet this late at night or early in the morning. Buck guided JD who walked in an owl eyed zombie like state. Wilmington shouldered both bags. The kid had pulled some all nighters working on the computers trying to connect Tedeschi to Hawkins. The least Buck could do was help with the bags.

Josiah and Nathan walked with Vin. The threesome trailed behind the unusually slow pace of Standish and Larabee. Chris nonchalantly stayed by the southerners side. The landing of the commercial liner did not roust the undercover agent from his sleep. It took Vin a couple of solid shoves to wake the sleeping agent. Even then a few minutes passed before awareness kicked in fully. Now Chris hung by his side toting both their bags.

The team split up and headed toward their own vehicles. The brisk cut of the winter air revived them. The heavy gas smell of the parking garage brought back reminders of NewYork. The men bade their farewells and disappeared to their respective trucks.

Chris drove quietly the cruise control set. The highway was pretty much empty. At 75mph they would make it to his place within forty-five minutes. He had detoured through Purgatorio and dropped off Vin. Tanner climbed wearily out of the truck. The last few months had bee rough but this trip to New York wiped them out.

Larabee turned his attention from the mesmerizing flashes of the highway white lines to his lone passenger. Standish still slept.

He had not argued or offered any kind of resistance to the idea he would spend the night at Chris’s house. This concerned Larabee, until Tanner quietly pointed out that Ezra had no way of knowing his condo was still actually his and he infact had not moved out. Larabee did not bother sharing the tidbit of information with his undercover agent just yet. Larabee needed to ascertain his friend was truly ok to be on his own.

+ + + + + + +

The weekend passed quickly. Buck and JD had found it easier staying at the CDC. Nathan visited with Rain, Josiah helped Vin with the three on three basketball tournament the sharpshooter had set up at the Purgatorio mission. Standish slept most of the two days away waking only to eat or stare out a living room window at the incessantly falling snow.

Chris watched his agent from a distance giving the southern man his space. Larabee silently thanked the others for their consideration. Though the phone rang continuously throughout the weekend and into the evenings. The team checking in, ‘how was everything?’, ‘Did they need anything?’ etc. Chris answered every inquiry with nothing less than blunt honesty, “I don’t know.” Though it was not the answer the others wanted they expected it. Six grown men who faced violent turmoil and conflict on a weekly basis were unsure how to deal with the quiet withdrawal of one of their own.

The week passed slowly. The others tried to engage the undercover agent in conversation, in their after work festivities. Standish answered when needed offering just enough information to satisfy questions. He kept his nights to himself. By Tuesday Chris had dropped him off at his own apartment. He still had a place after all. Larabee did it grudgingly following Judge Travis’s advice.

The more Chris and the others tried to wrestle the subdued gambler within their grasp the more he would try and wiggle free. It was a quiet non violent struggle but the rift was there and no matter how many bridges were put up, despite all their efforts the southerner stood hunched shouldered on the otherside just watching. The team had tried everything but nothing seem to reach the unusually silent man. He did his job, with a lack of flare and ambition, he faced the morning without grumbling. He went through the motions of living.

Tanner had pushed the etre’ post card and Alphabet poem back onto the undercover agent’s desk. The small minute action was not lost on Standish. Ezra had to admit he was not sure if he was comforted by the small overt show of camaraderie. He noticed it and left it.

Wednesday morning Chris drove into work alone. He fought the temptation to swing by and check on the southerner. The leader wanted to assure himself that his agent would indeed come to work. Vin had offered to drive the agent into the office but Standish assured them all his shoulder was fine he could handle the Jag. When nine am rolled around none of the six had managed to accomplish any work. Every time the elevator chimed they waited anxiously to see the undercover agent round the corner. By nine thirty he had yet to show. At ten o’clock JD unable to contain himself headed for the garage. He wanted to see the black Jag park in its usual spot. Nothing. Buck tossed pencils into the ceiling plaster. No one bothered to reprimand him. No one really noticed. Jackson contemplated calling the Southerners apartment. Josiah stopped him with a simple shake of the head. Ezra had to make up his own mind. Sanchez prayed for guidance, hoping Standish recognized the life boat the others offered.

Chris sat in his office wondering if the Judge might have been wrong. What if Ezra walked away from them? What kind of fears did the Southerner harbor that kept him from accepting the help that stood before him in the form of six persistent men? In the days he had stayed with Chris Ezra had spoken nothing of the time in New York. He spoke about very little, showing interest in nothing but gazing mindlessly out the window at the winter snow or absently scratching Diablo’s broad grizzled head. Larabee’s aged black Lab offered more comfort than any of the agents. Ezra was no longer animated, just a form going through each day, one step at a time. Larabee saw himself in the younger man and was at a loss on how to reach him. Travis told Chris to let go of the leash. Let Standish find his own way back.

Chris checked his watch. 1030am and still no Standish. He was two and a half hours late. Larabee felt his stomach knot. They had lost him.

His office door flew open banging off the wall. Buck Wilmington’s frame filled the space. He stood face taut, teeth clenched, Wilmington was ready to fight.

“I’m draggin’ his sorry ass to work,” Buck’s determination brooked no argument.

“Leave’m be Buck,” Chris answered tiredly. The Judge was older and wiser, he knew how to deal with people. Then again Buck had kept Larabee from leaving the game. Wilmington in his loud overhanded manner had saved Chris from making terrible mistakes. Buck had saved Chris from himself so many times Larabee did not care to count. Maybe Wilmington knew something the Judge did not?

The argument was cut prudently short when JD announced, “’Ey Ez!”

Standish entered the small oasis of the twelfth floor. He wore his typical well tailored four figured suit. His left arm still held in a sling. The bandages over the left shoulder barely noticeable under the fine clothing. He carried his typical designer coffee. Jackson wondered if the sling had a designer tag attached to it somewhere. More importantly Ezra carried some of the cocky smirk. It was a shadow of his former self but it was better than the quiet expressionless drone they had come to face over the past few days.

“Damn Ez’, your late even for you?” Buck exclaimed trying to suppress the glee to slap the man on the back in relief at just seeing him.

“Yes well, I had to reconnect the phone and cable. Dreadful companies don’t open until after nine,” Standish drawled out. There was a hint of the old enthusiasm in his voice.

“Ahh hell, Ez you never git up b’fore nine, don’t see what yer gripin’ about,” Tanner responded not bothering to hide the tentative smile that creased his face. Standish was slowly coming back to them. Vin would wait, be patient.

The rest of the week passed quickly. Each day Standish crawled out of the shell he had burrowed into. The others gently pushed and prodded, the old insults were slowly coming back. The foolery and pranks began to resurface cautiously as if testing for stormy waters. Buck and JD had gone back to being loud and troublesome. Buck even more over bearing if that was possible. Tanner, well someone, had taken to showering the office in small nuisance pranks. Nathan hounded the southerner about his shoulder and doing to much. Not a day went by that Jackson could not be heard saying, “Ezra put that gawd damn sling back on.” Josiah’s deep baritone laugh echoed around the small area. Chris let it all ride. The men were trying to find their old ground. They were feeling out the tensions that still existed, though slowly dissolving. They were not a hundred percent but heading in the right direction. Chris would have to remember to thank the Judge.


JD swiveled around in the booth for the hundredth time. Ten at night on a Friday found Inez’s Saloon packed with people. The seven occupied their normal booth in the back near the pool tables. A young waitress had just served up another round of appetizers and took yet another order of beers.

“Damn it JD just sit down,” Buck hollered over the din at the younger man. Dunne tossed Wilmington a feral look.

Tanner grimaced, the kid was getting good at that, in few years it might even look intimidating.

“He ain’t gonna show,” Dunne said dejectedly with a hint of anger.

“Brother Ezra gotta live his own life,” Josiah answered. Sanchez could not help but feel some disappointment.

Nathan nodded in agreement and sipped from his beer. Push to hard and Standish would balk, they all would, funny how much they were all alike, Jackson mused.

Chris gazed up at the door. He had done it as many if not more often than JD. The leader had the advantage of facing the door and height.

The large oak door opened a figure pushed through then made his way between the batwing doors.


“He’s here,” Larabee answered.

The others could not help themselves and half the team straightened up in their seat to peer over at the door, while the other half had to twist around in the booth.

“Shit, Millard,” Tanner said.

Sure enough, Stanley Millard saw Standish. Millard was the personification of every weasely trouble maker that existed in offices around the country. He spoke to cause trouble spread unfounded rumors made speculations vocally, and was a flat out pain in the butt. No one understood his role in the ATF community except to cause trouble and dissension in others. The greasy little fellow’s narrow gaze fell on Standish.

Larabee knew he nor his men would cross the distance to spare Ezra the trouble of having to deal with the sharp tongued trouble maker. Chris normally would let the southerner or his other teammates to fend for themselves. Tonight, however, Larabee was not sure how Standish would handle it. The southerner wavered between explosive and submissive. Millard ran the potential of undoing all they had accomplished.

Kelly Ryan watched as Standish entered the saloon. Team seven was finally pulling itself back together. ThankGod. They were just itching for a fight. It seemed with one down the others bristled and snarled like an over protective pack. Ryan sighed, he wished Larabee had better control of his team. Then Millard entered the picture. Shit. Ryan tossed a glance over at Larabee’s table. All six men saw the weasel descending on one of their own. Kelly saw the brewing fight mayhem was about to hit. The leader of team 8 had to deflect the confrontation.

Douglas Stone and Kirk Gustin saw the impending disaster. The two ATF agents noticed the look of consternation on their leaders face. The two members of team 8 made their move. They cut through the crowd like sharks zeroing in on a meal. They descended on Millard from behind hoping to take out their prey before damage was done. Their imposing size alone would make most people stop and take notice.

Millard fixed his gaze on the Southerner. It was a shame they let such bad seeds in an organization such as the ATF. No wonder the FBI got rid of the man. Standish, like the rest of Team 7 was troublesome and should have been drummed out of the service. Milliard knew it was his duty to try and clean up the department and rid it of questionable men like Standish.

Stone and Gustin each grabbed an upper arm of the smaller man heading him off before his sharp dialogue started any trouble.

“Hey Millard,” Stone said in a carefree manner, as if talking to an old time friend.

“Stone,” the smaller man said trying to hide his annoyance. The over exuberant man was another troublemaker. He worked under Kelly, figures. The ATF office would be better off without either team.

“Let us buy ya a beer,” Gustin added steering the prickly little trouble maker away from the unawares Standish. The southerner had been through enough he did not need this headache.

Ezra gazed over his shoulder when a hand clasped itself around his neck. “Ey Reb,” Kelly said with a smile. He handed the southerner a beer. Standish accepted it and returned the smile half heartily.

“Mr. Kelly,” Ezra replied. Both men continued in the direction of Team 7’s table.

“Heard you and the boys turned New York upside down,” Ryan said making conversation as they weaved through the thick crowd. His hand still rested on the back of Standish’s neck. A simple gesture of protection that was lost on the southerner but not on any other that chose to observe them.

“It would seem New York was not quite ready for Denver style work,” Ezra answered allowing the larger man to guide him through the crowd by the base of his neck.

Ryan laughed, “Well Reb if that’s the explanation you have for not being allowed back in city limits I think I like Wilmington’s version better.”

Standish smiled, “I can just imagine,” Buck could make a trip to the dentist sound exciting.

They reached the table. Ryan let go of Standish. They were within Larabee’s reach, the brief responsibility Kelly had assumed was quickly relinquished. Ezra slid into the booth beside JD oblivious to the motives of the other man.

“Look what I found Larabee,” Kelly chuckled as Standish took a seat beside the kid.
“I know how anxious ya’ll git when your umbilical cords get stretched to tight,” Ryan added in good humor.

“Thanks Kelly,” Chris returned. Though humor and levity drifted off the simple statement but the leader of team 8 did not miss the appreciation in the hazel eyes. Ryan just nodded his head, ‘anytime’.

“Good to see ya back Reb,” Kelly laughed out and disappeared back into the crowd.

+ + + + + + +

The crowd at Inez’s seemed to grow. Chris wondered how many people could actually fit into the small tavern. The pool tables were crowded. Buck, Vin and JD shifted amongst themselves as they faced opponents over the green felt. Jackson admonished Standish for indulging in beer while still fighting anemia from blood loss. Chris had left the booth to find Kelly, Stone and Gustin and buy them a round. Josiah watched the pool game from the booth.

JD suddenly appeared at the table. His brown eyes wide trying to fight off the effects of alcohol.
“Ez we need yer ‘elp,” Dunne stumbled over the words. “There’s ‘his guy, says the shhot’s impossible,”

Standish merely raised an eyebrow, “Why prey tell do you need my services?”

“Well Buck’n’Vin said the guyz all wet, don’t know whatda hell he’s talkin’ ‘bout,” JD tried to imitate Buck’s swagger and tone of voice. He did a fairly decent job.
“The guy put a hundred bucks on the table challengin anyone to make the shot,” Dunne went on. The mention of a bet made Standish’s mouth water. Nathan and Josiah saw the familiar gleam in their under cover agents eyes. They could hug Vin and Buck. Even a blind sow could find an acorn.

“A hundred dollars,” Standish repeated suddenly very interested. “well young man lead the way,” the southerner drawled out grabbing for a few more nacho chips he followed Dunne.

Josiah and Nathan shared bemused looks and slid out after the others.

Chris, Ryan and the rest of team eight noticed the gathering around the pool table. Kelly chuckled, wages were being made, good natured insults tossed between two groups of adversaries. Figures team Seven was in the midst of it. Ryan followed Larabee over to the escalating betting.

As Larabee drew closer he heard a new comer boasting about a shot being impossible to make. The younger man dropped a few note worthy names, expounding on his great knowledge in the game of pool.

Vin listened quietly, his blue eyes swimming with the effects of the alcohol. Wilmington never did anything quietly and harrumphed the younger smaller man, with arms crossed.
“Hewy!,” Buck finally said shutting down the challenging man’s dictation.

“100 bucks says you can’t make the shot,” The clean cut challenger put his money on the table.

“I know I can’t make the shot,” Buck answered pulling crumpled twenties and tens out of his pocket counting the handful of bills in his hand, “ole’ Ez can make it,” Wilmington said confidently. He slapped the southerner on the back. Standish for his part munched quietly on nacho chips glancing unconcerned at the table.

“You want to take the bet?” The younger man crooned out. He turned his attention to the man in the sling. Hell this was easier than taking money from babes.

Ezra munched on his chip. He raised his eyebrow at the confident man across the table from him.
“Not if the bet is a hundred dollars,” He answered matter of factly. He sipped from his beer.

“To rich for ya?” The challenger threw back. Gawd how was he suppose to make a killing here if no one was willing to bet real money.

“I was thinking more along the lines of 200$” Standish cooed out. His green eyes matched the brown eyed stare of the obviously new hustler. This was met with sighs and whistles.

Kelly leaned over to Larabee, “He that good? or just cocky?” Ryan was so glad his team did not have the exorbitant egos of Larabee’s misfits.

“Both,” Chris answered.

The bet was agreed upon. Standish quietly convinced JD, Buck and Vin to cough up another hundred bucks and placed the wrinkled money on the table fender. Ezra silently cringed looking at the condition in which his teammates kept their cash.

Ezra wiped his chipped greased hand on Buck’s shirt tail. He removed his sling and handed it to JD. Standish leaned over the table holding his cue. He ran his tongue over his teeth behind sealed lips working chip fragments from his teeth. He stood in a lefty stance. It pulled at his shoulder. The pool area had fallen into a hushed silence. Standish grimaced at the pain in his left arm. He straightened up and switched stances. Ezra did not miss the triumphant glare from the hustler. Standish kept his face straight.

He took a breath and exhaled part of it. He slid the cue between slightly curled fingers as he prepared to shoot. The room fell silent. Suddenly he stood up asking, “How bout we make this really interesting, lets say 300$” His southern drawl floated over the moans of those who unconsciously leaned in tense silence watching for the shot.

The hustler sighed, his heart raced, he smiled coolly, “300 it is,” he laid another crisp 100$ on the table fender. Kelly, Stone, and Larabee dug into their pockets and contributed another hundred to the ATF side of the table. The pool room had split into sides people standing behind the person they backed. Team 7 and 8 stood behind Standish.

“Ezra just take the damn shot,” Larabee hissed out. He despised waiting especially with 40 of his dollars in limbo.

“Yes Mr. Larabee,” Standish complied he matched the hazel eyes. Ryan and Chris stood at the head of the table. They were a frightful pair. Ezra bent back over the fender. He stared at the cue ball for moment then gazed back up at the hustler. A cocky, dimpled, smile cross Standish’s face. He shot the cue ball without even looking at it. The southerner never broke eye contact with his challenger but listened as the ball careened around the table off bumpers hitting its mark and knocking in the nine ball, the cue ball then banked off the three and sank the fifteen.

Hoots of pleasure went up. Standish merely collected up all the cash and pocketed it. The young hustler across the table realized he had been hustled.

Finally he shouted out, “That shot is suppose to be impossible. Where’d you learn to do that?”

Ezra handed the cue back to JD and slipped back into his sling. He re-adjusted it unconcerned the room had quieted down waiting for his response.

He raised his green eyes, a confident, sly smile spread infectiously across his face, “My mother, she is an amazing woman.”

This earned laughter from the men behind him.

Josiah quietly mumbled, “Amazing woman indeed.”

Chris chuckled and shook his head. Cocky son of a bitch. It was good to have him back. Larabee and Kelly turned back toward the bar for another beer. They suddenly realized they held no winnings.

“Ezra!” both men shouted turning looking for the southerner who was in the process of ducking out the saloon door.


Chris Larabee sat watching the Ten O’clock news in quiet of his living room. He listened only half heartily until the blonde haired newscaster mentioned a name. Samuel Hawkins. Chris quickly hit the volume button on his television and leaned forward.

“In New York City a gruesome tale of double cross and illegal arms seems to have washed ashore. Samuel Hawkins wanted in connection to the murder of Agent Shawn McDermit,” the television flashed a smiling picture of the young ATF agent the went back to the newscaster. The next picture showed a beach with people in blue windbreakers with Coroner, ATF and NYPD on the back of jackets. The coroner personnel were placing tiny objects in clear plastic baggies with thumb forceps. “Pieces of Samuel Hawkins have begun to wash ashore.” The voice commented as the grizzly scene was aired. “Authorities suspect foul play,”

Chris would have chuckled. Suspected foul play. Pieces of Hawkins washing ashore would be a definite indicator of something gone wrong.

“Authorities were alerted to the scene when an on shore fisherman reeled in the severed remains of one of Hawkins limbs.”

The phone started ringing. Chris answered it.

“Chris you watchin’ the news?” It was Vin. He sounded worried.

“Yeah,” Larabee answered. Hawkins was dead. He turned down the volume. Guidino or Mancini had a hand in it, or maybe both probably.

“Ya think ya should call Ez?” Tanner asked. The sharpshooter could not feel sorry for Hawkins. Someone had gone a little ‘medieval’ on Hawkins most likely Burkhardt’s body guards.

Chris sighed. Things had finally settled back down to normal at the office. Normal being relative when dealing with his men. The old charm was back. The give and take fell into place, there was no more tip toeing and feeling out tensions. Things were finally working themselves out.

“Yeah,” Larabee breathed out, “I’m on it now.” He hung up from Vin. Before he could start to dial his phone rang again.

“Yeah Buck,” Chris answered.

“How’d ya know it was me?” Wilmington answered. Soon JD’s voice popped over the line, “Yeah Chris how’d ya know it was us?”

“Shut up JD,” Chris and Buck said in unison. The line fell quiet.

“You see the...”

“Yeah I saw the news, I’m callin’ Ezra now,” Chris said.

“Good,” Buck said the relief clearly in his voice, “you know Hawkins got what he deserved.” Wilmington still protectively hovered over the undercover agent. It was done from a distance but between Vin, Josiah and Buck, Ezra had three guardian angels or devils watching over him.

“I know,” Chris answered, “I better call Ez, make sure he’s...” Larabee felt a loss for words. Alright? Handling it? What? why was he worried? Why was the team worried? The fact that they were was enough. He had to call Ezra.

He hung up from Buck. The phone rang again, “Hello?”

“Brother Chris,” Josiah’s voice boomed over the phone.

“Yeah Josiah I saw the news,” Chris responded before the question was asked.

“You goin’ to check in on...” Sanchez worried over the southerner from a distance. Josiah figured, Vin and Chris watched each other, Buck and JD, then Josiah and Nathan. That left Ezra. Standish however was not left out. It just meant that six others took extra precaution watching out for him.

“I’m calling him now,” Larabee answered. How many times did he have to have this conversation. His team was worse than an old group of women at a knitting circle.
Chris said his good byes and hung up the phone.

It rang again.

“Damn it Nathan I saw it and I’m calling him now,” Larabee said exasperated.

“Chris?” It was Jackson. What got into Chris? Who was he calling and what did he see?, “What are you talking about?”

Larabee took a breath and clarified, “You see the news?”

There was a pause, “No, I’m at Rains remember, that’s why I’m calling her car broke down I’m gonna to have to give’r a ride to class tomorrow I’m going to be late for work. Just thought you should know.” Jackson thought though, judging from Chris’s mood maybe he should drop Rain off early and get into work on time.

“Yeah that’s fine,” Chris gathered his thoughts. Rain did not have a television, strange girl.
“Pieces of Hawkins began washing to shore in New York, its on the news,” Larabee said. There was a pause again.

“You gonna call Ez? Make sure he’s ok?” Jackson asked. Maybe he would just swing by the southerner’s apartment it was only an hours drive. Not to far out of the way. Nathan did not think Rain would mind. She would understand. He would come back an see her next weekend maybe.

“Yeah, and don’t bother drivin’ down,” Chris could almost hear Jackson’s thoughts. Ezra and he irritated one another like sand paper on a rug burn. Still if one went down the other was right there by their side. “If there’s a problem I’ll call ya, Ok?”

“Ok,” a pause, “You promise to call,” Jackson re-iterated.

Larabee nodded his head saying, “Yes.”

Chris hung up the phone again. This time he got a chance to dial. The phone rang two then three times. Finally a tired sleep laden heavily accented voice answered the phone.


Chris smiled, Ezra was a little inarticulate when he was sleeping, “Ez you see the news this evenin’?”

“No,” there was a pause, “who is this?” The southern accent drawled out.

“It’s me Chris forget it,” Larabee paused, “do me a favor come in earlier tomorrow, I’ve got some news for you.”

“Sure whatever,” Ezra hung up the phone and rolled back over to sleep.

Chris stared at the phone. He had never been thankful for blood loss anemia, until now. Normally Standish would still be awake. Instead his body slept trying desperately to replenish diminished stores. He was nearly a hundred percent, though the body apparently was not taking any chances. Chris would not either. Tomorrow Larabee would pass on the news and gauge his friends reaction face to face. It was better this way. They were a team. One of them was down slowly climbing back to his feet the others would guide him up, and soften his fall should he hit a stumbling block.

The phone rang again. Chris answered it. Ryan Kelly leader of team eight was on the other end, “’Ey Larabee you see the news? You gonna call Standish?”

Chris shut his eyes. Was he going to have run the gauntlet with team eight? He would never get any sleep.


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