By: Angela B
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be.
Note: Second story in my new AU. The Journey To Avalon
Thanks to Twyla for beta reading this on short notice.
Note: Follows No Rhyme or Reason
(Moved to Blackraptor January 2010)
Everyone else had gone home for the day, as Chris stood in the doorway watching his friend try to concentrate on finishing his report. The normally jovial man had been withdrawn and reserved for the past week. Every since a routine drug bust had led the men to finding a five-year-old boy alone in a motel room. When they had first found the child, they had all guessed his age to be four; the boy was small for his age. Ezra, the child, had tried to escape from them, only to wind up out on the balcony. Alone, terrified and facing five men with guns the boy had clung to the railing with nowhere to run. The sheer look of fear on that child’s face haunted them all, but especially Buck.
Chris and the rest of the men had left Buck to talk the child back in to safety. Putting that child into the social worker’s car and watching drive away had seemingly sucked the life out of the ever-happy man. Not Josiah’s talks, JD’s over-the-top antics, or even his oldest friend could pull the man out of the depression Buck seemed to be falling into.
Buck stared at his computer screen. He was supposed to be writing his version of how the simple bust had turned into a recovery of an abandoned five-year-old. The words, however, wouldn’t come. How was he supposed to put into words how he had felt when, instead of cornering an accomplice, they had managed to scare a little boy? How was he suppose describe those incredibly wide green eyes filler with terror? Or, the way his heart had pounded at that thought of that little boy flinging himself over the railing? How was one, to put into words the sinking feeling he had, as he had put that child into the back of a car and watch it as it drove away. The veteran agent finally put the events of the bust into as few words as possible and turned off his computer.
Buck climbed into his truck and headed home, his mind flashing back to the picture of seeing Ezra huddled between a tub and a toilet, with tears streaming down his small delicate face. Twenty minutes later he found himself sitting in the parking lot of the Children’s Home. Scrubbing his hand over his face, he convinced himself that if he just saw that the boy was alright, he could get on with things. Passing through the lobby, Buck stopped at the desk and flashed his I.D. and gave his explanation for his appearance. A man showed up a few minutes later.
“Hello. I’m Mr. Knight,” a short, round faced man said. As the director approached the tall agent, he stuck out his hand for Buck to shake.
Taking the smaller hand in his, Buck automatically altered his normal grip. “Buck Wilmington. I just wanted to come check on Ezra,” the large man said. He shrugged his shoulders, trying to make it appear as if the visit didn’t mean as much to him as it really did.
“Ah, yes. Ezra. Interesting little boy,” Mr. Knight said, as he began to lead the agent out to the playground. Buck wondered what the man meant.
Buck stepped out into the playground and started seeking out the little boy among what seemed to be a hundred kids. Finally, the director pointed out the little tyke. Buck’s gaze came to rest on a lone figure sitting primly on a bench. The boy was dressed in khaki pants, a long-sleeve blue Oxford shirt and brown loafers. Buck thought the kid should be posing for the GQ magazine.
Buck was a little steamed. The kid should be out running and having fun. Turning to Mr. Knight, Buck asked, “Why is he dressed in his Sunday best and not out playing?”
Mr. Knight turned to the agent, feeling the anger coming off the other man. “ We gave him more suitable clothes, but he insist on wearing his own. As for the playing, he refuses to play. Says it’s demeaning and that he doesn’t like sweating, or the noise of screaming children.” The director waited for a moment before saying, “Personally, I have a feeling the kid has no idea how to associate with other children.”
Buck raised his eyebrow at that observation. He thought back to the hotel room when they had found Ezra and assessed the details that he could remember. The place had been spotless, not a dish lying around or even clothes scattered about, like it sometimes happens when you live in place for longer than a couple of days. As Buck thought about it more, he couldn’t remember any toys either, or even video games. Maybe, this guy was right. Maybe, Ezra had been more than abandoned for couple of hours; he might have suffered from neglect. Just because the kid was dressed well, didn’t mean he was taken care of properly. He had learned from his many years on the force that there was more than one type of abuse. Taking his leave from the director, Buck walked off.
Walking up o the small boy, he said, “Hello, Ez.”
The small face jerked up and his eyes momentarily lit up, a smile blossomed on his face briefly before Ezra pulled his emotions back under control. Buck wondered at this ability.
Having gotten his feelings back under control Ezra spoke neutrally, “Mr. Wilmington. What a pleasant surprise. Please sit.” Motioning to the empty space next to him, Ezra watched as the long-legged man sat down on the low bench. The little boy couldn’t quite squelch the delight he felt at seeing the friendly face. “I would offer you a refreshment, but it seems I’m not in control of such niceties,” he said.
Buck heard the soft dismay in the child’s voice and wondered again at the miniature adult sitting next to him. Buck looked down at the youngster and said, “How are you holding up?”
Ezra looked up into the kind face, looking for something to tell him the man was only asking out of some sense of guilt or perhaps, good manners. Seeing only true concern in the man’s face, Ezra sighed. Why did this man care how things were going, he wasn’t the agent’s responsibility. Looking back into the blue eyes, the prepared lies wouldn’t come. “This place is horrendous. Some gentleman with no regard to individualism must have made up the rules to be governed here. The exercise program is atrocious. Do you know they actually expect me run around, screaming my head off, in some kind of farce called fun?”
Buck couldn’t help but smile at the incredulous look showing on the small face. The two sat in silence for a long while, watching the other children play. Finally, a small voice broke the quietness. “They took away my cards,” Ezra said.
Buck wasn’t sure what kind of cards the kid had that was taken away, but he could discern they were important to the boy. “I’m sorry, Ez,” the agent said, not knowing what else to say.
Buck slowly put his arm around the small shoulders and couldn’t help but wince when the boy involuntarily jerked at the movement. Buck let his hand rest lightly on the trembling shoulders and forced himself to relax his posture even more. The two sat there for a long time talking. Ezra deflected every personal question Buck asked. The agent finally found the general topics the boy would talk about and when Buck mentioned his horse he could detect a definite interest.
A half-hour later Buck realized he had to go. His heart seemed to actual ache more now at the thought of leaving this boy behind, than it had all week. Buck realized this had been a bad idea. Instead of feeling better, secure in the knowledge that the boy was safe and well cared for, he felt worse. He stomach actually felt physically ill. Taking his arm off the shoulders that had finally quit quivering, he looked down into the shimmering green eyes and offered an apology, “I’m sorry, Ezra, but I gotta get going.”
Ezra stood up, squashing the emotions that threatened to erupt and took an internal deep breath. He would not cry, crying was for babies and he wasn’t a baby. He could take care of himself. Sticking out his small hand, he said, “It was a nice gesture on your part to drop by. I enjoyed our visit immensely.” Being able to read the man’s face, he knew the man was upset, but couldn’t fathom the cause. “I want to thank you for your concern about my momentary lapse in planning back at the motel. I am sorry if I caused you any unwarranted stress.”
Buck took the small hand in his and shook it gently. “I liked our visit, too, and you just had me worried for a while. Unwarranted or not,” Buck said.
His cop instincts kicking in, he didn’t need Josiah’s psychological thinking to tell him how little the kid thought of himself. Buck stood up and walked to the door. He knew he shouldn’t have, but he couldn’t help himself. He looked back. Ezra was sitting back down on the bench in his clean starched clothes, hands in his lap, staring at him. Giving and receiving a small wave, he turned back to the open door and walked with a determined purpose. Walking into the director’s office, he said, “Mr. Knight, I want Ezra.”
Thirty minutes of arguing, convincing and filling out more paperwork than the ATF threw at him, Buck walked back out to the playground. Ezra noticed the large man walking back towards him with a big silly grin plastered on his face. When the man stopped in front of him, he asked, “Mr. Wilmington, Did you forget something?” Looking around, wondering what the man could have left.
Remembering Ezra’s reaction to touch, Buck slowed his actions as he reached down and picked up the lightweight child. “Nope. Come on, we’re getting out of here,” he stated confidently.
“Sir?” Ezra asked in confusion.
“You’re going home with me,” Buck explained, as he headed back towards the building to collect the boy’s personal belongings. Including whatever cards had been taken away.
Ezra looked into those blue eyes sharply. This had to be a cruel trick or a lie. Something had to be amiss; he wasn’t the kind of kid people wanted. Previous life experiences had taught him that much, but Ezra could only see the truth in those other eyes. Ezra put a tentative smile on his face, he decided anywhere with this man would be ok.
Continue on to First Day