By Helen Adams

{Challenge by J Brooks: "Write us a story inspired by a song. I don't know about anybody else, but I have a whole list of tunes I associate with the boys and their adventures. Let's compare Magnificent soundtracks! You don't have to use the lyrics in the story -- we're not looking for songfic here -- but please do include the lyrics at the end of the fic, with due credit."

The usual disclaimers: I do not own any part of the Magnificent Seven, CBS, Mirisch, Trilogy, etc. ATF universe created by Mog. Song credits given at the bottom of the page. Oh, and the reference to Jacob Marley is from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", of course}

Moved to Blackraptor November 2009


The sunset was incredible tonight, lighting up the western sky in a gorgeous display of orange and pink and gold, with fiery streaks of red here and there to outline the finery. It filled the whole horizon, the patterns and colors weaving together in an ever-changing tableau. Tiny silver wisps of cloud passed across the blazing light every so often, the last remnants of a thunderstorm that had passed through Atlanta earlier in the day. The whole sky seemed alive.

Ezra Standish sighed softly, the sight filling his heart with a strange ache. Such beauty had always affected him deeply, making him realize how lucky he was to be present during one rare and perfect moment in time. He smiled wistfully. There were days when he had his doubts about the existence of a Higher Power but a sight like this one, Mother Nature at her very finest, had a way of bolstering his confidence in the idea. He was sitting cross-legged in the grass, his elbows resting on his knees, chin propped on his loosely clasped hands. He felt relaxed both physically and mentally, and for a moment he idly wished that he could fly right up into those pink and gold clouds. He wanted to lose himself in the brilliance; just stay right here in this moment forever.

As the last of the rosy light faded, Ezra closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. It had been hot all day but after the storm things had cooled. The air had become calm and soft, and a faint sweet-smelling breeze had risen up. It ruffled his hair and clothing gently, feeling much like a caress.

Relaxing still further, Ezra unfolded his arms and legs and lay back, stretching out full length in the lush, sweet-smelling grass. The green blades formed a cool cushion beneath his body, the surface still ever so slightly moist after the rain of a few hours past. Most days, the probability of damp clothing and grass-stains would have been enough to dissuade him from sitting on the bare ground to watch the sun set. Tonight he hadn’t given it a thought and still did not care about any damage his clothing might suffer. Even if every article were ruined it would be worth it. Tonight was the last one he would spend in this place, the last sunset he would view from this particular hilltop. He had spent the entire day packing up his belongings, making phone calls and arrangements to have his things shipped to a new as yet unseen residence. There had seemed to be a million and one little things needing to be done, but it was over now. There was nothing more to pack, no one else to call, and the emptiness had suddenly been overwhelming. Needing to get away, he had jumped in his car, driving with no particular destination in mind until he arrived here.

Ezra had spent many evenings in this spot over the years. He had spent his entire life roaming from place to place, between relatives’ houses as a child and between jobs and schemes as an adult, but somehow his travels had always led him back to the city of his birth. Since earliest memory, Atlanta had been firmly fixed in his heart as "home", and this little grassy knoll was one of the reasons. He had spent many hours up here as a small boy, lying next to his father in the tall grass, finding shapes in the clouds, watching sunsets and counting the stars. It held a sense of peace and security that no other place on earth ever had. He had come here to celebrate the day he had graduated high school, and again when he had been accepted into the FBI academy. He had dreamed dreams and buried sorrows on this little hilltop. This was where he had brought Lindsey on the night he had asked her to marry him.

Bleak green eyes opened to regard the bright stars now becoming visible overhead. It was all gone now. His father had been dead for many years and his dream job with the FBI had turned into a nightmare of false rumors and unwarranted accusation. His engagement had turned out to be little more than a joke, something too weak to stand up against the weight of scandal. Ezra had lost other friends over that and while those betrayals had hurt, he had felt foolishly certain that Lindsey would stand by him through anything. "I should have known better," he whispered sadly.

Ignoring the experience and teachings of a lifetime, he had given his heart away with an eagerness that seemed wholly pathetic to him now. He had placed complete faith, trust and love in another person, thinking that he had finally found someone who saw all of his fears and flaws, and loved him anyway. It had been like a blade driven straight through to his soul to learn that he was wrong about her. The pain of having his circle of friends grow steadily smaller following the start of rumors that he was on the take had been bad enough. Every week had brought one less returned phone call, one more cruel whisper, another cold-shouldering, but none of that came close to the agony of recognizing distrust and dislike in the eyes of the woman he loved. Lindsey was from an old, well-respected Georgia family and she had evidently found it easier to join the majority than to stand fast and risk being condemned along with him. That was what had hurt the most, realizing that she had never truly believed in him at all.

With a groan, Ezra flung his left forearm over his eyes, wishing he could block out the memory of that whole failed relationship as easily as he could block his view of the stars. So much for true love! He had been a fool and he would simply have to live with it.

"Told you so, darlin’," he mumbled, disgust coloring his tone as he quoted his mother's words from the day he told her there was to be no wedding. Maude Standish had not minded the idea of her son settling down, particularly as the girl was financially well-to-do, but she had disapproved of his blatantly love-struck demeanor when he had broken the news to her. His mother believed that marriages were business arrangements and loving nothing more than a pleasant form of play. She had been rather unsympathetic to her boy’s broken heart but had expressed a certain degree of disgust toward "those fools" at the FBI who didn’t know a good deal when they had it. She had insisted that he finally acknowledge that the life of an underpaid civil servant was a waste of his talents, and leave Atlanta behind to join her in Paris.

Well, he was leaving all right but Europe was not his choice of destination. His decision was one that would ensure a stony, scolding silence from his mother for months to come. Ezra could not help but smile at that thought. It seemed that civil service did have some benefits, after all. Tomorrow he would be in his beloved Jaguar, bound for the city of Denver and the new life that waited there. He had one last chance to prove to the world, and to himself, that Ezra Standish had something worthwhile to offer and he was going to take it.

It hadn’t been an easy decision. For nearly a week he had resisted the idea of leaving, somehow knowing in his heart that this parting would be final. No matter how things turned out in Denver, after tonight Atlanta would never be home again.

Folding his hands behind his head, Ezra frowned thoughtfully. What had clinched his decision to give the ATF a try? It wasn’t really the desire to return his mother’s "I told you so", pleasant as that thought was. Nor was it a burning desire to continue working for the Federal Government. They had screwed him once. There was no reason to think things would be different at this new agency just because the acronym had changed. His reputation all but guaranteed a rough time to come. No charge of corruption had ever been proven, but the taint would always be with him now, as inexorably bound to him as the chains and moneyboxes bound to Jacob Marley’s ghost. No, the real reason he was taking this chance was a man named Chris Larabee. A man he had met only once.

Ezra sighed as he remembered that day. There had been a message sitting on his desk as he entered the FBI offices. It had been tersely worded, ordering him to report to the office of Martin Winslow, the FBI director, immediately upon arrival. Dreading yet another reprimand for something he had not done, he had adopted an unruffled demeanor and complied, hiding his unease when he saw that somebody else was waiting on him.


The Director introduced him to a lean blond man in a black suit. It seemed that Mr. Christopher Larabee was heading up a new ATF unit in Denver, Colorado and he, Ezra, had been assigned as the man’s new undercover specialist. Drafted, lock, stock and barrel.

Staring at the papers that Winslow shoved into his hand, Ezra was utterly unable for a moment to grasp the meaning of what he was seeing and hearing. It was as though the words on the papers had been written in hieroglyphics. It was not until he looked into the face of his boss and saw the guilty relief written there that things sunk in. Winslow was not a bad man, really. He had done his best to be impartial in the face of the flood of rumors sweeping through his department, pointing out repeatedly that nothing had been proven, but now he had a means to an end and he had jumped at it.

Ezra did not really blame the Director for his actions but it was still all he could do to keep his posture from slumping in defeat as he realized that he had been transferred. Swept under the rug like a shameful secret and shipped off to another city to be someone else’s problem.

Adopting a well-practiced air of impassivity, Ezra faced Chris Larabee. The ATF leader was not smiling. His expression was suspicious and a little angry as he took in the silent exchange of the other two men. At first, Ezra assumed that the emotion was directed towards him. After all, Larabee was probably only just putting two and two together and realizing he had agreed to adopt the FBI’s problem child. It therefore came as quite a shock when the first words out of the stranger’s mouth were directed at Winslow.

"You lousy bastard," the blond man said flatly. "You didn’t even bother to inform him, did you?"

Winslow tried to be indignant. "Now see here…"

Larabee ignored him, instead turning back to Ezra. "Agent Standish, you should know that I am fully aware of all the problems you’ve had this year. I’ve read through all of the case histories and looked at the evidence that was gathered to try and corroborate the story that you’re on the take."


"And I think you’ve been a hell of a lot more patient than anyone should have had to be, given the circumstances." At Ezra’s cautiously hopeful look, the man smiled wryly. "I own a small ranch back in Denver, Agent, and I know horse shit when I see it."

Caught off-guard by the bald statement, Ezra released a puff of surprised laughter. "I appreciate your candor, sir."

Larabee grinned, the expression softening his harsh features considerably. "I thought you might. As you’ve heard, I’m heading up a new ATF unit. We need a man with brains, guts, and a talent for living on the edge to be our undercover man. I think you’ll fill that role very well and I want you on my team. I realize, however," he paused, shooting a venomous look toward the FBI director, "that you weren’t expecting this. I can’t give you a lot of time to think about it, but I can give you a week to decide whether or not you want to join us."

"The transfer papers have already been signed," Winslow pointed out hurriedly, only to clear his throat and fidget with his tie, lapsing back into uncomfortable silence as Larabee and Standish both shot him glares that threatened to reduce him to a smoldering pile of ashes.

Drawing a deep breath, Ezra reluctantly gestured with the papers in his hand. "Unfortunately, Director Winslow is correct. You are under no obligation to wait on my ruminations, Mr. Larabee."

Larabee gave a significant raise of his eyebrow. "We’re not in the habit of shanghaiing new recruits, Standish. It’s your life; your career. I figure it ought to be your decision." Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a card. "Take a couple of days and think it over. Call that number when you’ve made up your mind."

The man held out his right hand and Ezra took it in a firm handshake. Then, with a barely civil nod toward Winslow, Larabee departed. The two FBI men stared at one another for a long moment, then Ezra left to clean out his desk, closing the door both literally and figuratively on his days with the Atlanta FBI.


Larabee. Now there would be an interesting person to work for. It had taken almost the full week he had been extended before Ezra had made up his mind to take the man’s offer. He had weighed all of the negatives – backbreaking workloads, long stints of undercover, probably no trustworthy contacts while he was under, a brand new group of suspicious and distrustful co-workers – against just one positive. He liked this Chris Larabee, with his blunt manner and sense of fair play. It was possible to believe that such a man might surround himself with equally worthwhile colleagues. Perhaps the other members of this new ATF unit would be willing to allow Ezra to prove himself before condemning him for a bad reputation. Maybe they would give him a second chance and just maybe he would not be the only misfit who needed one.

Ezra was neither an optimist nor a pessimist. He had always believed that one had to just take whatever cards life dealt them and make the most of the hand. God knew he had made a few bad choices in his life, choices he regretted every day, but he had lived to try again. Maybe that meant he had been on the losing end long enough. It was time to take a new chance. When he had awakened that morning, Ezra had been filled with a sense of determination such as he hadn’t felt in months. He had called Larabee immediately, not wanting to give himself an opportunity to change his mind or let the doubts overtake him again.

"You’ll never win the pot if you don’t stay in the game, after all," he informed the twinkling stars above. He rose from the grass and dusted himself off, smiling as he slowly walked back down the hill to where his car waited. It was time to be moving on.

The End


Feedback craved and appreciated:

Song Title: I’m Movin’ On

Performed by: Rascal Flatts

Written by: Phillip White and D. Vincent Williams

I’ve dealt with my ghosts and I’ve faced all my demons

Finally content with a past I regret

I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness

For once I’m at peace with myself

I’ve been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long

I’m movin’ on

I’ve lived in this place and I know all the faces

Each one is different, but they’re always the same.

They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it

They’ll never allow me to change

But I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong

I’m movin’ on


I’m movin’ on.

At last I can see, life has been patiently waiting for me

And I know, there’s no guarantee, but I’m not alone

There comes a time in everyone’s life

When all you can see are the years passing by

And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn’t

Stopped to fill up on my way out of town

I’ve loved like I should, and lived like I shouldn’t

I had to lose everything to find out

Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road

I’m movin’ on.