On Second Thought
Ezra Standish sat staring at the wall clock. Two hours. Two hours had passed since he had called Buck. The usually unshakeable undercover agent had spent those two hours watching the clock. He had done other things. Such as unpacking the groceries and doing the dirty dishes in the sink. But that had only taken twenty minutes at most. The other time had been spent watching the second hand.
He didnt know how to feel. Of course, he was worried. But the reasonable part of him kept reminding him that JD was a grown man capable of taking care of himself and that Lila had always been self reliant. Unfortunately, that part of his consciousness was being muffled by the part that was screaming with heart straining apprehension.
And when he did find those two scoundrels he wouldnt know whether to be relieved or angry. Yes, part of him was furious. What gave them the right to do this to him? To play with his feelings so recklessly? It had taken him years to let himself to feel again, and they do this? Well, when they show up, he would make sure they were both fine, then he would be stern. Lila would be grounded and JD would not be allowed to visit for a week. Yes, that is exactly what he would do. When they showed up.
A knock at his door caused the ordinarily unflappable agent to jump. Within two seconds, he had crossed the room and flung open the door completely forgetting his usual habit of looking in the peephole. "Where in the world have you two been?" The words were out of his mouth before his brain registered it was Buck.
"So, theyre still not back."
Ezra blinked then sheepishly turned and headed back into his condo. Buck followed and looked around the apartment. "Geez, Ex. I dont think Ive ever seen this place look so¼..lived in."
Ezra looked around. It was true. Until recently his apartment had been decorated with packed boxes and nothing else. Now, the boxes were collapsed and stored away in his closet. They were still there just in case he had to make a quick escape, a safety net of sorts. But long ago, he realized that he wouldnt need them ever again. A few pictures adorned the walls, mostly of Ezra and the other six men, and a few of him and Lila.
"Well, Mr. Wilmington, with the constant visits of yourself and the others and the now temporary residence of one teenage female, Im actually quite pleased with the state that my condominium has managed to retain."
Buck rolled his eyes. "You know you like it."
Ezra smiled genuinely for the first time that day. "Dont know how I managed to survive without it."
The youngest agent on the team rested up against the wall of the storage chamber. He tried not to think of the throbbing in his ankle or of the hopeless situation or of the tongue lashing he was going to receive. Instead, he concentrated on the figure that was sitting next to him.
Lila leaned into JD, resting her head on his shoulder. She fought gamely to keep her eyes open but in the end they fluttered closed. JD shook her hard and they snapped back open.
"Come on, Lila. Stay awake." He admonished. Nathan always told him to never let someone with a concussion fall asleep.
"Im awake." she said drowsily.
"Yeah and Im the Prince of England." he retorted.
"Nice to meet you, your highness."
JD laughed softly. "At least hitting your head didnt hurt your sense of humor." No response. He shook her again.
"What? Leave me alone. Im tired."
"No." JD sighed. Keeping her awake was harder than he thought. Hed just have to keep her talking. "So...What do you want to do when you get older?"
"Sleep." She leaned heavily into JD. He shifted underneath of her, trying to keep both of them comfortable.
"No, really. Do you want to do undercover work like Ez?"
She didnt answer for a moment and JD was almost scared she had fallen asleep again. But she was only contemplating her answer. "No."
"Arent you mister twenty questions." she snapped at him. "You think that just because Ez and I are friends that I want to be exactly like him. Well, news flash. I cant be like him. Ive already proved that."
JD blinked. Where had that come from? "What do you mean?"
Lila put a hand to head trying to stop the marching band that was parading around up there. "I screwed up, JD. Not only could I have gotten Ezra killed but Buck too or any of the others. And then, I take a mans life to get myself out of that situation. I screwed up, big time. There is no way I could ever be like Ezra, or any of you for that matter." She sighed dejectedly. "I dont know why Ez even keeps me around."
JD took all the information in. So that was the problem. "Everyone makes mistakes. I mean, look at me. Ive screwed up. But its ok. Just because you mess up doesnt mean that youre useless. And I know that dealing with death is hard. Especially if youre the cause. But youll get on with it. I did. Sure, I think about it every now and then but I had to do it. You had to do it. Believe me, we would rather have you around than Max Marcum. I know that youve been having nightmares. Theyll go away. You just have to realize that you did what you had to. Ok. Lila?"
When a response wasnt immediately forthcoming, JD turned and looked at the young girl. Her eyes were closed. She had fallen asleep. He shook her again but she didnt awaken. He sighed and rested his head against the wall. Great.
Ezra watched the minute hand on the clock move to the six. "Thats it. Its 1:30! Theyve been gone for well over four hours! Im calling the police!" He jumped up from where he had been sitting in his overstuffed chair.
Buck put his hand on Ezras shoulder. "You know damn well that you cant file a missing persons report until 24 hours have past."
"Fine then. Im calling the office." Ezra began to pace as he dialed Larabees number.
Buck threw up his hands. Of course he was worried but JD was a man. He knew how to take care of himself. And Lila had proved that she wasnt the average fourteen year old. However, he couldnt get rid of the sinking feeling he had in his stomach as each hour passed. Buck watched as the undercover agent paced.
Suddenly, Ezra threw the phone across the room. It hit the wall and shattered. Buck shot the undercover agent a look.
"What did that phone ever do to you?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "No one was picking up."
A knock at the door caused both men to jump. Buck opened the door and was greeted by his four friends. "Well, we know why no one picked up the phone."
The four men entered and cast a glance at the pacing distraught agent. "They not back?" Chris asked.
"Unless theyve drunk a magic concoction that has rendered them invisible, then no."
The other agents exchanged a glance. "He been like this all day?" Nathan whispered to Buck.
The mustached agent grinned. "You shouldve seen what he did to the phone."
Vin ambled over to his friend. "Ez. Theyre probably just out having fun. Its what kids do." he said with a grin. Ezra shot him a look that resembled on of Larabees stares. Vin visibly flinched. "If looks could kill."
"Ez think rationally."
"I am past rational, Josiah. All rationale left three hours ago."
"No shit," Buck quipped.
Ezra ignored him and continued pacing.
"What I was trying to say," Josiah continued, throwing a perturbed glance to Buck, "is that Lila has been cooped up for a while. Shes probably out, having a good time with JD. And weve already called the hospitals and there have been no motorcycle related injuries today."
"Yeah, Ez. Calm down. Theyll be here. Besides, youre wearing out the rug and youre making Buck dizzy." Chris added.
Ezra stopped walking the imaginary line he had drawn. He sighed and ran a shaky hand through his hair. "Youre right. Theyre fine."
"Oh, he listens to you." Buck remarked.
"Thats because he knows that we arent full of shit." Chris shot his friend a wicked smile.
Ezra took comfort in his friends bantering and collapsed wearily on the couch. He absently reached for the remote and pressed the power button. The TV flickered to life and all conversations ceased. The only sound was Ezras whispered "Oh dear God."
The game had been left on and the six men were greeted with the site of a dead 3D figure lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Everyone held their breath as the implications hit them like a cold wave.
"You were saying gentlemen." Ezras voice was cold and emotionless.
"This could be totally unrelated, Ez." Nathans voice sounded hollow to his own ears.
Buck closed his eyes and groaned. "Oh shit. I know where they are. Or where they went."
Ezras head snapped around and stared at Buck. His green eyes boring into the other agent. "Where?" he asked with a very pronounced southern accent.
Buck squirmed underneath his gaze. "When JD had trouble dealing with killing a man, well, it helped him to go back to where it happened."
Ezras eyes widened in horror and disbelief. "He wouldnt." He caught Bucks eyes. "He would."
In a flash, all six men had donned their jackets and running out the door.
Lila balanced precariously on the old crate that had been left in the storage chamber. She stood on tip-toes and reached for a piece of the rickety ladder that was still hanging on to the side of the wall. Her fingers barely brushed it. If only she could get a little higher.
JD still sat against the wall and watched the young girl with a mixture of awe and uneasiness. She had woken up a few minutes ago more revived than he had ever seen her. For some reason, she was a bundle of energy. And now she was determined to get them out of there.
"Lila, the last thing you need is another concussion. Please, get down."
"I can almost reach it JD. If I could get a little higher." She reached again. The crate beneath her jostled and JD sucked in a breath. She reluctantly gave up and stepped off the wooden box. "JD, if you gave me a boost then..."
Lila gave him a quizzical look. "Why not? It will get us out."
"I dont need you getting hurt."
"Like Im going to get hurt."
"Well you have a nice gash on your head now."
JD hobbled to his feet. "Lila, I mean it. Sit down."
She sent him an exasperated look. "Who died and made you Hitler." JD threw up his hands in an imitation of Nathan. "Look just give me a boost and we can get out of here."
They were stopped from the foolhardy venture when they heard voices. Very distinct voices in the factory. JD shot Lila a grin. They were found.
They heard rapid footsteps approaching the storage chamber. They both listened for a moment then Lila turned to JD. "Ten bucks says Buck is the first to look in here."
JD thought. "Ill take that bet. And its going to be Ez."
The two youngsters shook hands and waited. It was Chris who first appeared above them and looked into the pit. "You two alright."
"For now," Lila answered. "Mr. Larabee, could you do me a favor?"
Chris raised his eyebrows. "What?"
"Order Ez and Buck to not freak out."
Chris smiled. "Ill see what I can do." He then straightened from where he had been kneeling on the floor. "Found them!" he yelled to the others.
The five other men came running. Before Buck and Ezra could reach the scene, Chris stopped them both. "I have been requested to order you to not freak out."
Ezras eyes widened and Buck frowned. "Whats happened?" They asked in unison.
Chris shook his head. "Dont rightly know. But from the looks of it, theyre both just banged up a bit."
Ezra and Buck exchanged glances then brushed past their leader. Vin, Nathan and Josiah were already staring down into the storage chamber figuring out a way to get the two scoundrels out.
Ezra watched as Lila flung JDs arm around her shoulders. JD was trying to keep weight off his right ankle. "How on earth did you two get down there?"
Lila looked up and Ezra gasped audibly at the amount of dried blood on her face. She smiled. "We were exploring. Actually, I was exploring. JD just followed me. The ladder sort of broke and we couldnt get back out."
JD sent Lila a look. She just told a bold face lie to the one person that could spot a falsehood a mile away. And she was taking the blame.
"Whos idea was it to come out here in the first place? Without leaving me a note? Or waiting for me to come back?"
Lila squinted her eyes. Her headache had come back with a vengeance. "Cant the interrogation wait til we get out, at least?"
"Dont get smart with me, young lady."
"It was my idea." JD fessed up.
"You?!?" Ezras voice cracked with anger.
"Geez, JD. I thought I was the only one that could make that vein in his forehead pop out. Good job. Im impressed."
Both JD and Lila chuckled. It seemed to enrage the undercover agent more. "This is no laughing matter. Thats it! Im coming down there!" Josiah came up behind Ezra and laid a calming hand on his shoulder.
"Calm down Ezra. Lets get them out, then you can yell at them all you want."
Lila imperceptibly moved closer to JD and hid part of her body behind his. "Ok, I knew he would be a little upset, but not like this." she whispered.
"Just wait til Buck gets a hold of us."
Lila closed her eyes and moaned. Her headache just got worse. "On second thought JD, this wasnt the best idea in the world."
"Tell me about it."
A few moments later a rope was thrown down. "You think yall can climb out?" Vin asked in his slow Texan drawl.
Lila looked at JD. "You think you can?"
Lila swept her hand out to the rope. "Well, then, after you."
"Oh, thanks. Let me go first so I can get my head bit off."
She smiled sweetly. "Actually, I was going to stay down here and make sure you dont fall."
"Uh huh, right." JD grabbed the rope and slowly began to ascend. Soon, several hands reached down and grabbed hand fulls of his shirt and hauled him up onto the floor.
"Alright, Lila, your turn." Vin called down.
"I think Ill just stay down here and avoid the wrath of one..."
The harsh southern accent cut through her weak excuse. "Lila, up here. Now!"
"Must you yell?" She bit back as she scurried up the rope. As she neared the top of the rope, hands reached down and grabbed her forearms. Josiah and Vin pulled her the rest of the way out.
Once out of the storage chamber, she took a look around. JD was already sitting on the floor with Nathan examining his ankle. Buck was silently hovering over him. His face was set with a frown and his arms were crossed. Lila shivered. He looked mad. Ezra was standing beside Buck in an all too familiar pose. His arms were crossed, like Bucks and he was putting more weight on one leg than the other. He was also watching as Nathan diagnosed the youngest agent. Her vision wavered for a moment and she ran a hand over her eyes wincing when she made contact with the bruise.
"You alright?" Josiah asked.
"When? Before or after Ezra kills me?"
The big agent chuckled. Lila managed a half-hearted smile. At the sound, Ezra lifted his head. His green eyes met her blues ones and he noticeably softened.
"Its just a minor sprain, JD. Just keep off of it for a while."
JD nodded his head. Nathan looked up and spied Lila backing away from the group. "Oh, no you dont. Let me look at that cut."
Lila begrudgingly walked over to Nathan and let him examine the gash. He also checked her pupils. "Well, its too late for stitches. Youre going to have to settle with a bandage. You also have a minor concussion. Nothing serious but if your vision wavers or you get dizzy, let me know."
"Now that we have established that our two rascals are both fine, I think we all deserve an explanation."
Lila looked down at the floor and shuffled her feet. Then she looked up and caught JDs hazel gaze. "Well, we were bored. So I suggested we go out. We ended up exploring. I went in first. JD followed and the ladder gave out causing JD to twist his ankle. I got my nice bump from trying to stand on that crate down there and reach out. I fell."
Ezra gave Lila a hard look. "Thats a nice story but I think you owe us the truth."
"We saw the video game," Buck added.
JD sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "Shes just covering for me. It was my idea to come out here. I thought I could help."
Ezra turned his gaze from the teenager to the agent sitting on the floor. "Help? HELP? The only thing you have succeeded in helping is my early departure due to high blood pressure and heart problems. First off, I have told you that I do not want Lila riding around on that two wheeled monstrosity that you like to refer to as a vehicle. What if something had happened to the both of you? I had no clue where you were or if you were hurt. Do you know what that feels like?" JD opened his mouth to respond but Ezra continued. "The next time you decide to help why dont you just leave it to the grown ups."
That was it for Buck. He stepped in between the irate agent and JD. "Whoa there, Ezra. Now you just hang on for one dang burned minute. He was just trying to help her out. No reason to go off on him like that."
Ezra wasnt one to pick fights with men that were twice his size, but today he would make an exception. "No reason? I have been out of my mind with worry over these two for the past," Ezra dramatically pulled up his sleeve and looked at his watch, "six hours now."
"I have too Ez. But you dont see me laying into Lila."
"Lila is not the one at fault here."
"Not the one at fault? Shes the one that led JD down in that whole in the ground. Shes the reason hes hurt."
"Excuse me? Can I interject here?" Lila asked tentatively.
"No!" Ezra and Buck shouted in unison. Lila took a step back from the sound and put a hand to her head, hoping to quell the headache. She looked around at the other four men who were watching with amused smiles. They werent going to break up the verbal fight unless it became physical. They had decided that both men needed to relieve some tension.
"Well, they wouldnt be here if it werent for the brilliance of your protege!"
"JD wouldnt have ever thought of the idea if that little no account street kid didnt screw up in the first place and meddle around where she didnt belong! Sometimes, I wonder how a stuck up priss like you can put up with the little pain in the..."
Buck stopped when he saw the shattered look on Lilas face. As soon as it was there, it was gone and was replaced with a poker face.
Lila took a few determined steps forward and looked the taller man right in the eye. "A what?" she countered. "A pain in the ass. Go ahead and say it, Buck. Its not like I havent heard it before."
"No, Lila. Thats not what I meant..."
"Yeah it is! Geez, Lila youre such a pain in the ass! No wonder youre parents gave you up. Wow, Lila youve fucked up again. Why cant you be like our real kids, Lila? Maybe a few days in a locked closet will straighten you out. Oh and my personal favorite. Pack your things. Youre going back! Ive heard it from everyone, Buck! I dont need it from you too! And I sure as hell dont need to stay around somewhere Im not wanted!" She turned away from the astonished Buck and looked at Ezra, trying desperately to keep the world from spinning. "Im sorry, Ez. I really am sorry for making you worry. So Ill just leave and it will solve everyones problems."
Lila took a few steps toward the door. Her headache had grown exponentially since she raised her voice and her vision began to waver. She lifted a hand to her head and muttered an aw hell before her legs crumbled.
Ezra caught her before she hit the ground and laid her gently onto the floor. Nathan was by her side in a split second.
"What happened to minor concussion?" Ezra shot at the ex-medic.
Nathan ignored the southerner until he was done checking her out. "Well all that yelling certainly didnt help. I dont know what has gotten into everyone but there better be some apologies to this girl when she comes to. I think the best thing would be to take her back to Ezras and let her rest." Nathan turned his attention from Buck and Ezra to Josiah. "Josiah, there are some smelling salts in the first aide kit in my car."
"On my way."
A few minutes later Josiah returned. Nathan waved the salts underneath Lilas nose. She inhaled once and her eyes immediately fluttered open.
She rolled onto her side and coughed. "What the hell happened?"
"You passed out."
"That explains why Im on the floor."
Nathan and Ezra lifted the young woman to her feet. She leaned heavily into Ezra. "Come on, lets get you home."
The ride back to the townhouse was filled with awkward silence. Ezra just concentrated on driving while Lila concentrated on trying not to fidget. Ezra kept shooting glances at her and she tried to ignore the concerned green gaze. Finally the silence became too much for either of them. Ezra leaned over and switched on the radio.
Lila shot him an annoyed glance. Her head still hurt and she didnt need to be listening to what Ezra considered music. Not that it was bad all the time. But he had strange tastes. Sometimes it was Jimmy Buffett and other times it was Beethoven and still other times it was 80's music. This particular time it was the 80's. She leaned over and switched the radio off.
Ezra didnt take his eyes off the road but could picture the self satisfied smirk she wore as she settled back down into the black leather seat. Like hell she would get away with it today. He reached down and turned the radio back on.
Oh no, she was not going to listen to bad 80's music while she had a headache. She turned it off.
Ezra took a left and looked into his rear view mirror. The familiar cars of his teammates did not follow. They were giving them space. Good. He reached down and flipped the radio back on.
Lila turned it off. Ezra reached down and turned it back on. The game kept going until finally the inevitable happened.
"Will you cut it out?"
"You! I have a headache."
"You think I dont? Ive had a trying day!"
"Youve had a trying day?!? Ive spent most of mine in a hole in the floor."
"And Ive spent most of mine worrying about you!"
"Oh get over it!"
Ezra sighed. "Its my car."
"You always have to pull that card."
"Its my ace in the hole." Ezra grinned.
Lila laughed. "Dork."
Ezra put a hand to his chest and put on a face of mock hurt. "Dork? I am a dork? That hurts. Right here Lila."
"Well if you keep hitting yourself, its going to hurt."
The two laughed for a minute and Lila reached over intent on turning the radio on. Ezra caught her slender hand and squeezed.
"I care for you, Lila. I just didnt want you to be hurt. I didnt mean to yell at you but I felt so helpless. I was scared."
Lilas mouth fell open at the undercover agents revelation. He never really told his feelings. Of course, she could always guess at them. She knew how to read him, somewhat. Lila squeezed his hand back. "Now you know how I feel when you go out and have to bust some crazed gun runners."
Ezra chuckled. "Theyre not always crazed." Lila arched a black eyebrow. "Ok, fine. So most of them are less than stable."
"Less than stable?" she squeaked.
"Fine. They are a few beers short of a six pack as Mr. Wilmington would say."
Instead of laughter he was met with silence. Oh shit! Brilliant move Standish, mention the one person that she really doesnt want to talk about.
Lila managed a short laugh after the long pause. She didnt want Ez to think anything was wrong but she knew that he already had figured it out.
"He didnt mean it."
"They never do."
Ezra sighed as he turned into his homes garage. He turned the engine off and turned in the seat to look at the hurt young woman. He reached out and placed a finger underneath her chin to raise her head. He looked into her eyes. "He didnt mean it." He reiterated.
"Like I said, Ez. They never do."
She grabbed his keys that were dangling out of the ignition, got out of the car and walked to Ezras door, letting herself in. Ezra hung his head and gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. Damn Buck!
His head snapped up when he heard the honk of a horn. Bucks beat up truck pulled in beside the Jag. "Speak of the devil," he murmured as Buck got out of the truck and made his way over to Ezras car door. The undercover got out of the car and leaned up against it.
"Hey, Ez." Buck said. He looked in the car to see if his favorite hellion was still there. He gave the undercover agent a quizzical look. "She inside?"
Ezra nodded. "She is Mr. Wilmington."
"Do you mind if I go talk to her?"
"Not at all." Buck nodded and turned away from his friend to go inside. "Oh Mr. Wilmington." Buck turned around to face Ezra but instead was met with a fist. The blow was hard and quick. But Buck was half expecting it.
He tasted a trickle of blood from his lip. "I guess I deserved that. Feel better now, Ez?"
Buck put an arm brotherly around the smaller agent and the walked to the door. "You know, I should get to hit you because you yelled at JD."
"How about an apology?"
"Sure, hell be over with the others in an hour or so anyway."
"Oh you know you like it."
"Dont know how I lived without it."
The two men entered the apartment. Ezra immediately noticed that the playstation had been turned off and put away. The glass of orange juice was off the coffee table and the now sitting in the sink.
"Lila?" he called.
"In the bathroom doing what Nathan told me to." She answered. Ezra nodded. Nathan had told her as soon as she got back to clean out her cut and bandage it. She walked out of the bathroom and froze when she saw Buck was with Ezra.
Buck took a step forward. "Lila, Im..."
"No need." She said then turned and walked back down the hallway toward the guest room.
Buck shook his head and looked at Ezra. "Like talking to a brick wall."
"Or Mr. Larabee."
Buck snorted and followed her down the hall. Ezra stayed behind and prepared for his imminent guests.
Buck rapped lightly on the open door.
"What do you want Wilmington?" She had her back to him, laying down on the bed and didnt bother turning around.
"To say Im sorry."
"Ya already did."
Buck stood in the doorway and leaned up against the trim. "Alright, Ill do it again. Im sorry. I didnt mean it. I was worried about you."
"You mean JD." She said as she rolled over and propped herself up on an elbow.
"No, I meant you. I was worried when Ez couldnt find you. I was worried when I saw you take that swan dive down those stairs. I was worried when you disappeared on us for a while. And when you and Angie called from that warehouse." He sat down on the bed next to her and put a hand on her knee. "Ez aint the only one who cares about ya. Hell, youre the closest thing JD and I have to a little sister. Dont want nothing to happen to ya."
Lila watched him. Looking for any sign of deception. But much to her surprise. He was sincere. "Didnt mean to worry ya Buck."
He smiled. "Oh you know Ol Buck. Im over it now that youre found. Ez, on the other hand, whew, you shouldve seen him."
A grin lit up Lilas face. "Was he really that bad?"
"Horrible. Didnt know which way was up. I swear, he was a nervous wreck."
Lila laughed. "He is such a weirdo."
Ezra walked into the room. "Oh so first Im a dork and now Im a weirdo."
"And you listen to 80's music!"
"And youre ugly and your momma dresses you funny," Buck added.
Lila laughed uproariously. Ezra just threw up his hands. He left the room when he heard a knock at the door. Lila shot Buck a look. "The others?"
He shrugged. "Any excuse for a party."
A few hours later, Ezras apartment was a mess and Vin, Chris, Josiah and Nathan were saying their goodbyes. Everyone had done their rounds of apologizing. JD stood up to leave but Lila caught his arm and pulled him off to the side.
"Whats up Lila?"
Lila looked around before meeting his hazel eyes. "Thanks JD."
He smiled. "Well, call me in the morning. Let me know."
JD pulled her into a hug and she hugged him back.
"Come on JD! Lets go!" Buck hollered from across the room.
JD let go of the young girl. "Alright Buck geez."
Ezra wrapped an arm around Lila as they watched the two brothers leave. He looked at her and could see how tired she was. "Well clean up in the morning." She nodded and turned and gave Ezra a fierce hug. He returned it. "Come on," he gently guided her to her room.
The sunlight streamed into the window. Lila groggily forced herself awake and looked at the clock. Nine oclock. She had slept the night through. No nightmares. She smiled. She had to call JD. Silently she climbed out of bed and caught the smell of bacon and eggs. Ez was already up.
She went into the living room and saw Ezra bent over the stove. She smiled. "Morning, Ez."
"Morning," he drawled as he tried not to burn himself.
Her smile widened and she stretched. "Hey Ez?"
"What happened to the phone?"
E-mail: The Immortal