by KellyA

 Webmaster Note: This fic was previously posted on another website and was moved to blackraptor in June of 2004.

****Part 1

Seven ATF agents sat around a long table in the conference room on the seventh floor of the Federal building.  The men made up the members of the highly venerated Team 7, also known as the Magnificent Seven for their high success rate. 

Large pieces of paper were laid out, covering the shiny laminated wood surface of the table and giving audience to the seven men.  JD, being the only one showing the exuberance of youth, was bent over between Buck and Josiah, examining the detailed plans and maps. The others displayed varying degrees of interest, from apathy to mild concern to irritation at JD's profusion of energy, which Buck finally restrained, by forcing the youngest member of their elite team into a chair.

"These are the plans to the warehouse district.  We got a tip that a load of weapons will be delivered to this building."  Chris placed his finger on one of the many abandoned warehouses that still cluttered part of downtown Denver.  His eyes came up, scanning the faces of his men.  He knew they were paying attention, even though it was hard to tell.  "They'll be there in two days, for one night.  We'll be able to grab the sellers and buyers in this one."

Buck arched a dark eye brow as his interest piqued.  He loved it when they could catch some big fish.  He got tired of always arresting little inconsequential puppets, who ended up thrown to them to protect the real scum.

"So what's the plan, cowboy?"  Vin asked with a sly smile as he leaned forward in his chair.

"Simple, us and another unit will raid the warehouse, hopefully surprising them," Chris explained.

Buck shook his head, folding his arms across his chest.

"Is that a problem, Buck?" Chris asked, straightening.  He had noticed his old friend's perturbed expression.  Buck was never one to hide his feelings; they were always posted on his normally jovial face for all to see.  Next to JD and Nathan, Buck was the easiest to read.

"What if they're ready for us? This could be a set up and we'd be caught in the middle, as usual," Buck answered, his brown eyes glared at Chris from across the table.

"That's just a chance we'll have to take, Buck.  We have to get those weapons before they reach the streets," Chris explained.  He could tell that Buck was on edge, had been ever since he heard about this raid.

"I have a bad feelin' about this one, Chris."  It was the tone in Buck's voice that got Chris' concern.  He couldn't remember ever having heard him so ominous before.

"Buck, this is just a simple raid don't go thinking about things that might not even happen," Chris reprimanded, he didn't need Buck planting doubts or fears in everyone's mind, especially JD's.

"Hey, whose turn is it to get the grub, I'm hungry," JD suddenly voiced as he felt his stomach rumble.  He also hoped to extinguish the growing tension between Buck and Chris.   Everyone turned their attention to Ezra who seemed oblivious to the goings on.

The undercover agent raised green eyes as he felt everyone's attention now directed at him. "Gentlemen, I regret that I will be unable to widen your culinary horizons, my car is indisposed."

"You mean it's in the shop again," Josiah chuckled, never passing up an opportunity to deliver a little jab here and there to the smooth talking southerner, and when it came to his car it was always hitting below the belt.

Ezra gave the large agent an offended frown.  "It's just being detailed," Ezra added.  He caught the flash of metal coming toward him and caught the keys in mid air, flashing a traitorous sneer at Vin who only grinned and sat back.  Everyone chuckled as Ezra reluctantly walked out mumbling under his breath about the lack of appreciation his cohorts showed for him. 


"That's Tanner's car."  Three men in a black sedan cruised slowly by the beaten up red jeep.  "Tanner is one of Larabee's closest friends, if we grab him it should be easy to convince Larabee to stop the raid."


Ezra continued to complain under his breath as he made his way down to the parking garage.  When he reached the ground floor, he started going over a list of restaurants in his head.  Discounting most, as his fellow agents' tastes were far below his own sophisticated palate.  However, if he brought them something truly exotic they might never ask him to do this bothersome duty again.   Now, there's a thought that brought a mischievous grin to his clean shaven face.  He got behind the wheel of Vin's rather beat up jeep, careful not to rub up against the mud caked outside, which was probably the only thing holding the vehicle together.  He placed the key in the ignition then froze as he felt the barrel of a gun at the back of his head.  It's a unique feeling, having a gun pointed at your head, a feeling one never gets use to.

"Okay Tanner, very slowly, step out of the jeep and keep your hands where we can see them," a deep voice instructed.

Ezra stepped out and turned to see three men standing before him.  All of similar size wearing three piece dark suits and dark glasses, looking like the characters from the movie, 'Men in Black.'  Ezra had to suppress a chuckle as a smile cracked his handsome face, bringing out his dimples.

"I would have a talk with whoever designs your wardrobe, gentlemen," Ezra sarcastically said.

"Shut up!"

One of the men stepped up and rather intimately frisked him, relieving him of his weaponry.  Ezra glanced toward the elevator wishing someone would come down, but it was late for lunch and most people had already left to eat.

"I feel it's my duty to inform you that you have made a grievous error. I'm not Mr. Tanner," Ezra admitted.

"He's right, Frank," the smallest of the three said as he opened Ezra's wallet.

"His ID says Agent Ezra Standish."  The three men glared at the well dressed ATF agent.

"Well, let's just hope he's as good a friend of Larabee's as Tanner," Frank sneered.

Ezra didn't get a chance to realize the implication in that statement as one of the men struck him over the head letting him crumble to the cement floor.  The three men picked up Ezra's limp body and threw him into the trunk of the car.


"Where the hell did Ezra go to get lunch, Kansas City?"  Buck grumbled.  He had been in a bad mood all day and he didn't know quite why.  It was usually Vin or Chris who got these premonitions, but lately Buck had been blessed or cursed with them.  He just couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen.

Chris hadn't realized how long the southern agent had been gone until Buck voiced his complaint loud enough for everyone to hear.  Chris got a bad feeling, which started in the pit of his stomach.  When he heard JD swear from somewhere out in the other room that feeling sent tendrils of dread up to his chest.  He closed his eyes.

JD came running through the maze of cubicles waving a piece of paper in his hand.

Chris stepped out of his office meeting the anxious agent who was being dogged by the others.

"Chris, this just came over the fax!"

Everyone gathered around their leader as he read the message, "We have your man, call off the raid or he's dead."

Chris crumpled the paper in his fist.  Vin's eyes went wide and he took off.  Buck clenched his fists in helpless rage.

Chris sat down on the corner of one of the desks, realizing that it was Ezra's.  He looked at the sterile cubby that the undercover agent worked in.  He smiled when he noticed the single picture of all of them during a fishing trip last month hanging on the wall.  It was the first one Ezra had ever been on.

Vin returned moments later.  "They must've grabbed him thinking he was me.  My car is still there."  Guilt stabbed at the lean sharpshooter.  Josiah placed a hand on his shoulder.

"It's no one's fault Vin, they would have grabbed any one of us," Josiah said, trying to soothe the sharpshooter's troubled soul.  Vin and Ezra had grown closer in recent weeks.  Ezra was secretly helping Vin with writing his reports, and helping to improve his writing and grammar skills.  Chris was aware of this literary alliance and was grateful to the sometime arrogant agent.

"What are we going to do, Chris?"  Buck asked, running his hand through his thick dark hair.  He blamed himself.  He had felt that something was going to happen, why hadn't he acted on it?  God! How did Chris and Vin live with this?

"Try and get the raid called off,"  Chris replied, the tone of his voice revealing the lack of confidence he felt that this would happen.  This was to be one of the biggest weapon deliveries to come through Denver, and their best chance to catch sellers and buyers together.  He wasn't sure the agency would pass up this chance to save one man.


Ezra was taken to an old abandoned house not far from the warehouses, which ran along an old rail line.   He awoke on a cold cement floor, his hands tie-wrapped in front of him.  He was in a small basement with a small dirty window above.  They had taken his jacket and vest.  He slowly pushed himself up to a sitting position, wincing at the pain in his head.  He had no idea how long he laid unconscious or if the others realized he was even missing.  Larabee would probably just think he was taking one of his extended lunches.

Three men entered the small room.  The same three that had taken him in the garage, one carried a Polaroid camera.  "Okay pretty boy, we need to make you presentable," Frank sneered, removing his own jacket and rolling up his sleeves.

"Actually, I was at my barber just yesterday," Ezra smugly replied, earning him a kick to his side which began the fierce beating from all three men.  Ezra tried to curl up and protect his stomach and face.  Frank grabbed him under the arms and pulled him up, holding him while the other two took turns landing punches and kicks to his face and upper body.

After twenty minutes, Ezra laid semi-conscious, tasting the blood that filled his mouth.  He knew his ribs were cracked and his whole body ached.  He could feel the blood on his face from the numerous cuts and his left eye was already swelling shut.  Frank forced Ezra back up opening his shirt to show the growing bruises across his mid section.  One of the others started taking pictures.  He thought his name was Dillon, since he had kept hearing the other man yell, 'good one, Dillon' every time a particularly painful punch was made to his mid section.

Ezra was sure the pictures were to give Larabee something to think about.  After the photo shoot was done, they let him fall back onto his side.  Ezra closed his eyes, trying to push back the pain that he felt with every breath he took.  Someone grabbed his arm and wrapped something around his upper bicep.  He forced his eyes open enough to see the needle coming toward his exposed vein.  New found strength and energy created from unmitigated fear flooded through him and he started to fight, trying to push himself away.  He felt the weight of two more bodies holding him down and watched in horror as the needle slid into his protruding vein and the liquid slowly injected.  He screamed.


Part 2

God, how he hated needles, ever since he was a kid and his mother would trick him by saying they were going to the store then he'd find himself at the doctor fighting for all he was worth as his mother continued lying to him, telling him it won't hurt.  The thought of that thin piece of metal entering his body made him nauseous.   He had felt the narcotic seep into his vein like a demon thing, rejoicing to be let loose to reap chaos within its host.  The room started to heave and tilt.  Ezra stared at the walls that ballooned and fluctuated for hours, they almost seemed to be reaching out for him.  He heard laughter and saw the disjointed bodies of the three men around him.  A face swam to within a few inches of his.  Ezra brought his head forward fast and hard his brow connecting with the bridge of the man's nose, bringing a smile to his face as it brought a scream of pain from the other.

He felt the kick to his ribs, but his smile refused to leave his face.


"What do you mean Travis said no!"  Buck yelled, pacing angrily back and forth in front of Larabee's desk, his arms waving wildly.  Chris sat behind his desk his head in his hands rubbing his temples.  He kept his head down as his friend continued to rant.   Buck quieted as the receptionist entered, lying a manila envelope on Chris's desk.

"Thanks, Patty," Chris said to the petite woman who gave him a warm smile and quickly left.

Chris had known the raid wouldn't be called off.  He had spent two hours with Judge Travis and several other high end executives who recited the unofficial lines to every situation, 'Every man knows the risks when they join the force. It's what they're paid for. It's part of the job'.  Chris had to control the urge to punch one rather smug looking captain in the mouth.

"Travis says the raid goes down as plan.  We have two days to find Ezra," Chris stated flatly.  Vin sat in the corner not saying a word and looking down at his cowboy boots.   Why hadn't he just gone and got lunch?

"Well, that's just great!  Two whole fucking days, we don't even know where to start or who grabbed him,"  Buck fumed, but some of the fervor was leaving him.  He couldn't help thinking about what could be happening to Ezra right now.  He fell heavily into a chair as if all the life had been suddenly drained from him.

Chris opened the envelope, as Nathan, JD and Josiah entered, spilling the contents onto his desk.  Seven polaroids slid out, causing audible curses and gasps from everyone in the room.  Chris abruptly stood, as if some vile creature had leapt out at him, shoving his chair back hard enough for it to bang against the wall.  He picked up one of the pictures looking at the battered figure of his friend being held up by an unknown pair of hands.  Ezra's chin rested on his chest, black and blue marks dotted his smooth stomach.  JD turned away unable to stop the tears that now flowed freely.  Chris's hand shook.


It was always the same three men that Ezra had contact with.  The one that he had head-butted now sported a thick bandage across the bridge of his nose and two black eyes.  Sometimes they would talk, thinking he was too out of it to know what was going on.  During the times when his mind was able to fend off the effects of the drugs, he listened, but it was getting harder.  He knew he was losing his fight to hold on to some part of reality.  He actually felt rather proud that these men thought him important enough that a whole agency would halt a raid, just for him.  Boy, were they in for a surprise, Ezra quietly chuckled.


Larabee had everyone in the agency, and friends outside the agency, on the lookout for the missing undercover agent.  The Magnificent Seven had a reputation for getting the job done, even if there methods, at times, were rather unorthodox.  Everyone knew of the bond that held the seven men together.  They were as close as any family, and everyone feared what would happen if one of those bonds was broken.

The six agents worked around the clock checking every lead; the only sleep they got was when they finally passed out at their desks whenever they checked in.  They raided the lobby vending machines for substance.   Buck took a baseball bat to one of them when it cheated him out of a turkey sandwich.  Everyone was on edge and as time passed no one wanted to think that their efforts might now be in vain.


Ezra no longer had any concept of time, only the intervals between  injections, which seemed to be getting shorter and shorter.  They had tried to ply him for information, but he believed he succeeded in totally confusing them, at least he hoped so.  He was never sure what he actually told them during these brutal sessions.  He was scared.  He no longer feared the needle, and infact, welcomed it, and this realization scared him more than he'd ever been scared before.

They had just given him another injection when Frank, who seemed to be the leader, entered the small room, his face contorted in anger.

"Damn!  Patty just told me they're going through with the raid tonight," he yelled at his two associates.

'Patty? The receptionist at the office was named Patty,' Ezra thought for just a second then reality ceased to exist.

"Can we change the delivery place?"  Dillon asked.

"No.  Hell, we can't even get in contact with the sellers--it's too late.  They're on their own," Frank explained, regretting having to leave their sources out to dry.  He had bet on a long shot, on the camaraderie and loyalty of the agency and it had back fired.  Frank glared down at the wasted agent who lay unmoving on the floor.  At least he would get some satisfaction out of all of this.  "Take him to some back alley and finish him off.  It'll make for good headlines in tomorrow's paper, 'ATF agent found dead from drug overdose."

The two men roughly picked up the drugged southerner and dragged him out.


It was the night of the raid, the six agents having just returned from another futile search.  Chris had managed to talk Judge Travis into calling in another team to take their place in the raid.  He wanted to spend every second he could in trying to find Ezra.  They only had five more hours before it all went down and Ezra's life would then be worthless.  Josiah and Vin had threatened, bribed and pleaded with every snitch they had, but no one was talking or knew a thing.

JD passed out coffee to the five dejected and weary agents.  They all were running on less than six hours sleep in over 48 hours, but they wouldn't stop until they found their missing man and brought him home, no matter what.


Ezra's hands had been untied and he was leaning up against the door in the back seat of the sedan, barely coherent.  His whole body shook convulsively, he couldn't feel his hands and he had a hard time making anything work.  The car drove the speed limit down Colfax Ave., the smoked windows making it hard to see out into the late evening darkness, and smudging the passing headlights.  They were going to dump Ezra's body down around Elitch's amusement park just off Speer Ave.  It was Wednesday night so the streets weren't too congested but construction zones had forced traffic to a crawl on Colfax nearing Sixth.  Ezra felt the car stop and heard the two men engage in conversation.  He was acting on an instinct to survive when he brought his foot up striking the man next to him in the ribs, taking pleasure at the yelp of pain he produced.  Ezra yanked at the door handle and fell out of the car.   He staggered to his feet, disoriented for a moment and then ran across the median. 

Dillon, the driver, got out of the car, drawing his gun.  He fired at the fleeing agent.  Ezra didn't even feel the bullet rip through his shoulder.  The second man leapt out yelling,  "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

The two men looked around at the other cars stopped around them, seeing people pull out their cell phones.  "Shit, let's get out of here."  The two men got back in their car, drove over the median, and headed west.

Ezra heard the sirens and brought his hands to his ears.  People stared at him, moving aside at the state that he was in.  Ezra just ran, fell, picked himself up and continued running, his heart thundering in his chest.  He didn't feel the blood running down his arm leaving a trail down the sidewalk.  He looked up at the tall buildings, which suddenly appeared to melt down around him.  He leapt as the sidewalk seemed to buckle, and he shoved someone aside who tried to help him.


JD, Vin, Buck, Nathan and Josiah headed for the elevator to once again try and search for their missing friend when they heard Chris yelling as he raced out of his office.

"They found him!"

"Is he alive?" Vin asked, as the six men ignored the slow elevator and headed for the stairs, taking two at a time as they raced down the seven flights.


The team drove through the streets in two vehicles, their sirens blaring.  They pulled up in front of a small Korean restaurant on the east side of town.  Chris raced inside stopping when he saw a familiar uniformed police officer talking to a small, elderly Korean woman.  The cop nodded and broke away coming up to Chris.

"He's in the back, Chris," the officer replied to the team leader's silent question.  Chris saw in the officer's face that there was more and he held his breath as the officer added, "He's strung out."  

Everyone's mouth fell open and JD felt his stomach knot.  "No one else has been notified and it won't appear on any reports, just get him out of here quick before anyone else shows up." 

Chris smiled at the huge officer.  "I owe you one, Harry."

"Hell Larabee, this is just one less I owe you."  Harry smiled and returned to the distraught restaurant owner.

The six agents entered the small back room, which functioned as the kitchen and were shocked at what they saw.  Ezra's bruised and bloodied body was hunched down in a corner, sweat ran down his face and chest.  His breaths came out in fearful pants, but what grabbed everyone's attention was the intensity of his green eyes.  Ezra looked like a wild animal, trapped, coiled and ready to strike.  He held a large butcher knife in front of his face, seeming to take an interest in the shiny metal. 

Nathan saw the blood that flowed from Ezra's arm and knew they had to get to him fast or he was going to bleed to death.

"Ezra?"  Chris almost choked on the name, trying to keep his emotions from overwhelming him.  He quickly wiped away the tear that escaped his watery gaze.  He would exact his own form of punishment when he caught the people who did this, and he would catch them.

Nathan placed a hand on Chris's shoulder and leaned toward him.  "I don't think he recognizes any of us."

Vin silently backed up and left.

"God, Buck, look what they did to him."  At the sound of JD's voice, Ezra's eyes came up.  Chris grabbed JD by the arm bringing him forward.

"Talk to him, JD," Chris whispered, afraid any sudden noise would send the man over the edge.

JD tentatively approached, keeping his hands in front of him.  "Ezra,  it's me, JD.  You're safe now, why don't you put the knife down."

They barely heard the southerner's quiet voice.  "Can't. No more, won't let them."  Ezra's eyes glazed over and returned to his knife, running the blade down his arm.  Nathan inwardly winced at the sight.

Chris's rage was building.  When had the enigmatic agent gotten to him? When had he entered the family and their hearts?

The five men moved a step closer breaking Ezra out of his fascination with the knife.  Faster than anyone thought imaginable, he swept the knife out, almost catching Buck across the stomach and causing everyone to jump back.  Chris saw Vin slip in the back door.  He moved to Ezra's right hoping to keep his attention and enable Vin to creep up on him.

"Ezra, we're you're friends, we're not going to hurt you," Chris calmly uttered, keeping his voice even.

Buck was to enraged to even speak, he just kept staring at his tortured friend and wanting badly to rip someone's heart out of their chest.

Ezra sensed someone behind him and turned.  Chris lunged forward grabbing the delusional agent and driving them both to the tile floor.  Vin fell on Ezra's arm holding the knife down and wrenching it out of his hand.  The others quickly piled on top, surprised at the smaller man's strength.  Ezra screamed in pain and fear.  He spewed a litany of profanity, which stunned all the agents.  Chris looked into the fear stricken face of his friend and did the only thing he could think of.  He brought his fist into Ezra's already bruised jaw knocking him unconscious.

Everyone slowly got up; Vin pulled Ezra's head and shoulders into his lap and pushed the sweat soaked hair back from his brow.  Everyone was breathing hard, and no one could say a word.  JD rubbed his side where Ezra's foot had caught him, knocking the wind out of him.

"Oh my God," Nathan whispered on a breath of disgust.  He had pulled up Ezra's sleeve to reveal an arm covered with needle marks.

"Shit!"  Buck swore turning away, tears threatened to fall from his brown eyes.  Nathan had to swallow the bile, which rose in his own throat.  Josiah said a prayer for the southern agent and a curse for the people who had done this.

"Buck, bring my car around to the back," Chris asked, throwing his keys to the standing agent.  Buck grabbed the keys and raced out, followed by JD.

"They must have been about to finish him off when he got away," Josiah finally found the strength to speak. 

"We'll take him to my place," Chris stated to no one in particular.

"Chris, he needs a hospital," Nathan stated.

"No," Chris snapped.  "The brass already have it in for him, if they got wind of this they wouldn't care what the truth was they'd force him out.  It would kill him."

Nathan bowed his head knowing that Chris was right.  Ezra's disregard for authority had earned him the ire of several high officials, if not for his outstanding undercover work and the support of his fellow agents, he would have been out a long time ago.  Chris laid a hand on the dark agent's shoulder.

"You and Josiah have to take care of him the best you can, at least until we get him clean."

Nathan's lips pressed together in a firm line of determination.  He started checking the bullet wound to his shoulder relieved to find that it had gone straight through.  They heard Chris's king cab rumble up to the back door and Buck and JD raced in. 

Josiah gathered up the smaller man and placed him into the back of the truck where JD had laid out a blanket.  Nathan climbed in next to him followed by Vin, who still felt guilty, knowing it should have been him.

"Chris, I need to go home and get some things that might help our brother through this," Josiah said to the worried leader.

"Sure, Josiah."  Chris jumped behind the wheel as JD and Buck squeezed in the front seat with him.

*****Part 3

Chris had built a small, but comfortable log home, in a secluded area west of Evergreen, which was about thirty minutes west of Denver.  It was nestled within five acres of dense pine and aspen trees, the beautiful Rockies as a backdrop.  Even with rampant growth throughout Colorado, Chris had managed to create a haven from the stress and chaos of the outside world.

Vin and Nathan carried Ezra inside, placing him on the king size log bed.  He stirred briefly, his head going back and forth on the pillow as the demons once again began their delusional dance in his mind. 

Nathan removed Ezra's shirt and boots.  Chris pulled out a couple sheets and ripped them up to use as bandages.  Nathan pressed on Ezra's stomach and ribs, feeling three of them give.  Buck brought in a pitcher of water and some cloths and began wiping Ezra's fevered face and body.

Nathan managed to get the bullet wound cleaned and bandaged when Ezra's eyes flashed open causing him to jump.  Buck and JD were still in the room and saw the dangerous look those eyes held.  "Ah shit!"  Buck yelled as all three men jumped on top of the now violently thrashing agent.  Chris and Vin came running in from the kitchen seeing the others trying to hold Ezra down.

"Jeezes, won't he ever tire out!" Buck yelled over Ezra's horror driven screams.

"Nathan can't you give him something?" Chris yelled.

"Not with all that junk in him."

Josiah walked in the door a few minutes later, seeing everyone still trying to hold down the seemingly untiring southerner.

Josiah came up behind JD and pulled him aside, grabbing Ezra's forearm tight and placing his other hand on the delirious man's forehead.  He kept his voice low, but sharp, trying to penetrate pass the drug induced demons, which plagued Ezra's drug sopped mind.

"Ezra, Ezra."  Josiah brought his hand down off his forehead and squeezed Ezra's wounded shoulder slightly to get his attention.  He was rewarded with an angry, glare thrown up at him.  "Listen to my voice son, feel this?"  Josiah squeezed Ezra's forearm.  "These are the only things that are real, concentrate on my voice."  It took a moment, but Ezra slowly calmed, his eyes regaining some measure of rational as he heard the spiritual agent's baritone voice, trying to break through the wall of hallucinations, which wrapped around his mind.

Ezra swallowed as he looked into the blue-gray eyes of his friend.  "Josiah."

The others slowly released their hold.  Buck fell back against the wall and slid to the floor, putting his head down on his knees to hide the tears.  JD quietly joined him.  Vin flopped down in a nearby chair and closed his eyes totally exhausted.  Chris sat on the floor at the foot of the bed and Nathan sat on the other side of the bed trying to make sure Ezra hadn't re-opened his wound.

For the next fifteen minutes, Josiah talked smoothly and calmly until Ezra finally drifted into a reluctant sleep.  Josiah stood bringing the quilt up to Ezra's chest.  Everyone, except Vin, who had fallen asleep, left the room.

Josiah handed Nathan a small package.  "When he wakes up brew these herbs up into a tea for him."

"What is this?" Nathan asked, wrinkling his nose as he smelled them.

"When my father was doing missionary work down in South America he came across all sorts of cures that the native Indians used."

"How did you manage to get Ezra to calm down?" Buck cut in.

"I did some volunteer work at a drug rehab several years ago. I saw a lot of youths going through exactly what Ezra is going through, only difference, most of them had the choice to start."  Josiah paused as if remembering a rather unpleasant memory.  "Ezra is in for a rough couple days."

Chris turned to Buck.  "Buck, you and JD need to go back to the office and cover for us.  We're going to keep Ezra under wraps for awhile until he recovers and I don't want the Judge becoming suspicious."

"Don't worry Chris, we'll keep him guessing."  Buck grabbed the young agent by the arm and dragged him out after him.


Ezra's violent outbursts diminished by morning, but fevered and uncontrolled tremors took turns ravaging his body.  The drugs had revived many unpleasant memories buried deep within Ezra's mind, memories that were now turning into nightmares.  Someone was always with him, moping his brow with a cool rag and talking to him, helping him through the hallucinations that the drugs and fever conjured up. 

During one unpleasant bout of nightmares, a heart wrenching scream woke Vin.  He jumped and raced to Ezra's side, wrapping his arms around the shivering man and hearing the quiet pleas to his mother to not leave him.  After two very tiring days, Ezra finally slept soundly and peacefully.  His fever had finally broke, much to everyone's relief.

Through those two days, the agents took turns covering for each other,  using the excuse that they were following up on leads.  The Judge indulged the agents, thinking that there was very little hope of them finding Standish alive.

Vin had just returned from the office and entered the room, which was becoming everyone's second home, to find Chris and everyone surrounding Ezra's bed.  He was finally coming around.

Ezra's eyes fluttered open, closed, and then opened again.  He smiled faintly as he looked up into the familiar faces of his fellow agents.

"Welcome back," Chris stated, a genuine smile of relief removing the worry of the last few days from his face.  Nathan took Ezra's pulse and checked his breathing.

"How long?"  Ezra hoarsely asked.

"You were takin' five days ago, we found you three days ago," Chris informed him.

Ezra remembered some of what happened over the course of the week.  "I guess...it's safe to assume...I'm out of a job."  He knew certain ATF officials were always waiting and watching for an opportunity to fire him.  What would be better than an agent who was a junkie, even if it was only for a short time and under protest.

Chris pressed his lips together and shook his head.  "No one but us knows a thing.  Officially, you're still missing.  We'll wait another day then tell the Judge we found you tied up in one of the warehouses, just a little battered.  That should be good for another week of convalescence."

Ezra smiled.  He couldn't believe what these men had done for him.  "What happened with the raid?"

"We caught the sellers, the buyers never showed. We think they were tipped off somehow," Buck added.

Something flashed through Ezra's still hazy mind.  "What is it, Ezra?" Vin asked, noticing the strange look that crossed his face.

"Something I overheard when they thought I was out of it.  'Patty said that the raid was still on."  Ezra furrowed his brow making sure he had remembered it right.

Everyone looked at each other then JD voiced their thoughts.  "Isn't that new receptionist named Patty?"

"Yeah and she knew about the raid," Vin added.

"Shit." Chris ran his hand down his face.  "Buck."

"I'm on my way, Bossman."

"Remember Buck, she's still a woman," Chris dryly reminded the slow burning agent.

"Ah, Chris, why'd you'd have to go and remind me."

"I better go with him and keep reminding him," JD said, racing after his determined friend.

"Hey Chris, we can't keep covering for you.  You're goin' to at least have to make a cameo appearance or something, or the Judge's going to send out the whole agency looking for you," Vin said, his eyes shining with amusement.   For the last couple days, everyone had been dancing around the questions that the Judge kept asking.  Chris had only made one quick appearance in the office and rushed out before the Judge could even question him.

Chris chuckled. 

Josiah entered the bedroom holding a steaming cup of tea.  He helped Ezra up and placed the cup to his lips.

"God Josiah! This stuff is awful, you trying to kill me," Ezra sputtered at the horrid tasting liquid.  Josiah tipped the cup back forcing the rest of the noxious liquid down his protesting friend's throat.

"It will purge your soul and your body of the demons, which may still lurk there, brother Ezra," Josiah said with a grin.

"PURGE!" Ezra's eyes widen as he felt the contents of his stomach rise up his throat.  Nathan was ready with a bucket.


One week later.

Ezra had returned to his own apartment after a couple days, but one of the other agents continued to stay with him.  At first he protested, then he decided it would be easier just to get use to it.  He returned to light duty, no one the wiser.  Patty was arrested and confessed to everything.  She was then placed in the witness protection program.  She had been selling secrets for a month.  Her mother had become very ill and she needed the money for her medicine and treatment.  Since she was willing to cooperate they went easy on her.  The information led to the arrest of some of the buyers and two of the three men who had abducted Ezra.  Needless to say, those two men spent three days in intensive care, apparently they fell down several flights of stairs and off a building trying to escape, at least that's what Larabee put down in his report.

The Judge entered the Seven's office area.  He heard the friendly laughter and banter of all seven agents coming from Larabee's office.

"Judge."  Chris nodded as Travis entered.  The esteemed magistrate turned to look at Standish, who still appeared a little unhealthy.  His emerald eyes were bright, but slightly sunken, he had lost some weight and still appeared a little shaky.

"Mr. Standish, under the recommendation of Mr. Larabee and myself I have placed you in for commendation," Judge Travis announced.

Josiah, who sat next to the astonished agent, slapped him on the shoulder.

"Sir, what for?"  Ezra asked warily.

"You identified the leak, which led to the arrest of one of the largest arms dealer."

Ezra shook his head.  "I was just lucky that I overheard what I did," he tried to explain.

"Hey Ez, don't fight it," Buck said.  "After what you've been through you deserve it."

Ezra cocked his head and had to think about that a moment, then a faint smile came to his face as he decided that he did.  Everyone laughed at his expression and the Judge could only stare, slightly bewildered, and realizing that there was something he was missing, but not sure he really wanted to know.




Comments: Colstar8@aol.com