Notes: The July 2002 Challenge:
offered by Enola (jennytork)
I would like to see stories where a physical change of some kind happens to one or more of the Seven, how he and the others react to it. Any change you want, as long as it's physical -- some kind of disability, sense removal, becoming another gender or another age -- anything! All I ask is, please, no death stories. If it's temporary or permanent, that's up to you. Any universe. Have fun!!
Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Guns were drawn and pointed toward the subject who held a pistol to the head of his hostage. FBI, ATF, and local police had surrounded the area like buzzards waiting for their next meal. Threats were made and discarded, as the muzzle of the gun was pressed harder against Ezra’s temple.
Chris watched the situation deteriorate before his eyes. The simple transaction had gone awry. He could see fear and determination in his agent’s eyes. The suspect stood there…eyes wide…
The weapon was pushed forcefully into sensitive skin, bruising and abrading. The suspect’s back pressed against the brick wall, his strong arm choking his hostage. Ezra’s hands…still cuffed…grasped at the sleeve of his captor’s jacket. The toes of the undercover agent’s boots pointed downward as he tried desperately to allow precious air enter his lungs.
A flash of light reflecting off nearby glass windows caused the subject to move just slightly to his left.
Vin saw his chance…and he took it.
The sudden blast from the handgun that had been pressed to Ezra’s temple sounded more like a cannon as it passed before his eyes. The undercover agent fell forward, grasping his face in pain. The second shot, happening right after the first, hit its mark.
The suspect fell violently back and then to his left…dead.
Chris and Josiah rushed forward, their concern for their teammate and the status of the subject’s weapon. Chris tended to the unnamed man while Josiah saw to Ezra.
Organized confusion filled the now busy alley. Police and agents documented data, collected evidence, and interviewed witnesses while the body of the unknown man was carefully handled. Voices, papers being flipped, and cameras clicking filled the air as business was tended to.
Josiah pushed Ezra up against the black SUV and then quickly unlocked the handcuffs around his wrists. All the while praying the undercover agent’s injury was minimal. The lack of blood made the situation look promising. However, Ezra’s quick intakes of breath, back of the throat groans, and his inability to say anything had the big man worried. The heels of Ezra’s palms remained pressed against his eyes. His clenched jaw and thinned lips told Josiah that the Southerner was hurting.
“Your head botherin’ you?” Nathan asked, knowing the undercover agent suffered from migraines. The lack of blood was a welcomed a sight.
Ezra shook his head, not trusting his voice. His hands remained in place. He could hardly stand the pain.
Nathan reached up and gently grasped the Southerner’s arm in hope of checking him over. “JD,” the medic spoke softly, despite the commotion around him, “Have one of the EMTs bring me some eye wash.”
“It burns…” Ezra gasped through clenched teeth.
Nathan turned worried eyes in Josiah’s direction before looking back at Ezra. “Your eyes are burnin’?” he asked, trying to pull the Southerner’s hands away from his eyes without forcing him.
“Yes,” came the overly simplified answer.
JD rushed back with a bag of supplies and two EMTs on his heels. Nathan managed to pull one of Ezra’s hands down and was surprised to see only a faint red mark running below his still clenched eyelid while running into a thin line over of the bridge his nose.
“It don’t look bad,” Nathan said, taking a gauze pad that had been soaked with solution. He carefully pressed the pad to the Southerner’s eye and received a hiss in pain. One of the EMTs did the same to Ezra’s left.
“We should get him to the hospital so his eyes can be flushed,” Barry, as his nameplate indicated, said. He motioned to his partner to get the ambulance ready for transport.
“No,” Ezra replied sternly, pressing himself up against the SUV. He replaced the heels of his hands over the white gauze bandages. The cool moisture felt good.
Nathan shook his head: “You’ve got to go,” he said harshly, “you could have metal fragments from the gun blast in your eyes.”
“Flush them here,” Ezra argued. The determination in his voice was enough to let everyone know that he could have lost a leg and would still refuse to go to the hospital. After what he’d been through…nobody could blame him.
“Everything all right?” Chris asked, stepping up to the situation. He watched his undercover agent try and keep his composure while standing like a brick wall. Ezra was trying to hide the pain he was in…but he was failing, and obviously it was getting worse.
Ezra grasped Josiah’s jacketed arm with one hand and the doorframe of the SUV with the other. His knuckles turned white and the muscles in his hand tensed with excruciating definition. He’d leaned over to allow Nathan the ability to flush out his left eye first. Saline solution ran to the ground and splattered when it hit the pavement. Nathan’s shirtsleeves continued to get wet. Ezra’s shoes, pant legs, and shirt collar absorbed much of the fluid.
“What’s it feel like?” Nathan asked, leaning over and laying an arm over the back of Ezra’s shoulders.
The Southerner shook his head for a moment and took a deep breath. “Feels like they’re on fire,” he gasped, letting go of the door to press his hands on his eyes again.
Josiah reached up and grabbed Ezra’s free hand, immobilizing it.
Nathan looked up toward his teammates and shook his head. “We need to get him to the hospital.” His words were spoken clearly and urgently. “Now.”
“I’ll take him,” Josiah said, knowing they’d never get the Southerner into an ambulance.
“I’ll go with you,” Chris offered, looking toward his men.
Josiah wasn’t surprised when the undercover agent was hesitant to enter through the hospital doors. He was agitated but thankfully not yet combative. It took both Josiah and Chris to get Ezra inside and both men had noticed the severe shaking…and that wasn’t from the pain.
Ezra lay back on the gurney with his legs bent upward and leaning against the bed railing. His hand still grasped Josiah’s arm in a tight embrace. Never one to seek comfort in any form, it was strange watching the Southerner battle with himself as the burning in his eyes increased. On more than one occasion he’d sit up and make a move to get off the narrow portable bed in an attempt to leave. But Josiah’s strong hand and soothing voice would fill the air, bringing some comfort.
The big man knew Ezra was scared. This wasn’t like watching a scary movie or someone jumping out at you on a dark street. This was different. The last time Ezra had been on a gurney he’d been strapped to it…unwillingly, and the team had come close to losing him.
Josiah spoke softly trying not to hear the rough breathing from his friend beside him. He watched on occasion as a doctor or nurse would enter within the curtain enclosed exam room and then leave quickly, muttering to themselves.
“It burns,” Ezra gasped for the first time. He rolled over onto his side giving himself enough room to press his face onto the mattress.
Josiah reached up and gently squeezed the undercover agent’s shoulder in a comforting grip. “You want me to get someone?”
“No.” He didn’t want to be left alone…not here.
“Agent Sanchez,” the soft yet authoritative voice filled the small area and caused both men to pause and turn toward the woman. “Agent Standish…I’d hoped never to see you again.” She smiled and moved toward the bed.
“Doctor Strauss,” Josiah said with a soothing smile. Now they could relax. She looked the same. Her hair was maybe a little more gray.
Debra smiled and gently grasped Ezra’s wrist and took his pulse…not at all surprised by his heart’s speed. “I’m going to do an eye wash and then check for foreign bodies.” She rubbed her patient’s wrist all the while she spoke to him. “Would you like me to send for someone else or will Josiah be suffice?” she asked, wanting to make sure Ezra was comfortable. She’d seen his grasp on the big man’s arm and felt as though he’d be enough…but she wanted to make sure.
Josiah nodded, indicating to her that it was fine to proceed. He watched her for a moment, all the while thanking the Good Lord that she’d been at the hospital. “Several people have walked in but nobody’s done anything.” He took Ezra’s hand and gripped it tightly.
Debra nodded in understanding and proceeded to brush the Southerner’s hair back from his forehead and then wipe his face with a sterile cloth. She noted how tightly his lids were shut. “My brother and I were having dinner when I was beeped, informing me that you had come in.” She looked in Josiah’s direction hoping he’d understand. When the recognition didn’t register she continued, “Because of Ezra’s situation in regards to his last visit here, I thought it wise to limit what doctors he sees.” She gently tilted his head back and placed a small plastic cup over one of his eyes. “I spoke with Mr. Larabee and informed him of the wait and the possible conditions surrounding your injury,” she was talking softly and smoothly to keep her patient calm. “Dr. Carver will be here momentarily to take a closer look at your eyes to determine the damage that’s been done.”
Debra stood up and placed a white cloth over the freshly flushed eye and then continued with the other. “He’s an ophthalmologist and one of the best.” She noted what she saw but didn’t say anything. “He’ll be able to tell you what needs to be done and the proper care needed. I regret to say my abilities are minimal when it comes to the eye.”
“Will I be able to see again?” Ezra asked softly but through clenched teeth.
Debra looked up and met Josiah’s concerned eyes. She smiled tightly, wanting more than anything to give good news. “I don’t know,” she spoke softly.
Chris looked up when the rest of his men entered the waiting area of the hospital. His face was lined with worry…this time however, it wasn’t a life they might lose…but something more…complicated. He motioned for his men to take a seat near the corner of the room. He’d tell them what he knew. They deserved that.
“How is he?” JD asked, hoping and praying for good news.
“Dr. Strauss is with him now,” Chris answered softly.
“But…?” Vin pushed.
Chris bowed his head and clenched his jaw. “I told her the situation in regards to him getting injured and she’s worried about thermal burns to his corneas.”
“Which means?” Vin asked, needing an answer.
“He could be blind,” Nathan answered, taking a long sigh.
Doctor Carver entered the small exam room after having an in-depth conversation with Doctor Strauss. He smiled toward Josiah and then at his patient, all the while knowing he couldn’t see. “I’m Dr. Evan Carver and I apologize for my tardiness,” he said, gently touching Ezra’s arm and then moving his hand to shake Ezra’s firmly. “My daughters thought it would be entertaining to celebrate my 50th birthday 50 days before the event,” he chuckled, “nothing like rubbing it in.”
Josiah nodded, he understood that feeling after having arrived there some eight months ago. He was surprised by Doctor Carver’s size. Obviously the man enjoyed his steak and potatoes. He wore a bright tie with small happy faces patterned into the material. His belt strained to keep its hold on his large belly, and Josiah guessed that if it were to blow apart the pants would slip to the ground…probably unnoticed.
Josiah noticed Ezra’s grip increase in strength, as the new doctor looked him over. Doctor Strauss entered and moved to stand at the head of the bed, she too noticed Ezra’s anxiety.
“As a medical doctor and your friend, Evan,” Debra started, “I’m going to tell you for the umpteenth time to lose some weight.” She placed soft hands on either side of Ezra’s face and gently tiled his head back, all the while rubbing her thumbs along his cheekbones.
“Tell that to the steaks that arrive on my plate, just begging me to eat them,” the big doctor laughed, spreading clenched eyelids apart and carefully dropping a small amount of pain reliever into the corner of his patient’s eye. He did the same to the other. “Besides,” Evan spoke up again, “how many cigarettes are you still smoking a day.”
Josiah smiled when Debra met his eyes. The doctors’ distraction was working.
“Are you still feeling a lot of pain?” Evan asked, sitting on a stool and rolling toward the head of the bed.
Keeping his eyes tightly shut, he nodded: “A little.”
Josiah rolled his eyes, knowing Ezra’s ‘little’ was a lot.
Evan motioned for Debra to dim the lights. He raised the head of the bed so Ezra could sit up. “I want you to open your eyes, Mr. Standish, and tell me exactly what you see.” His voice was soothing, almost comforting.
Josiah realized the good doctor probably worked with children the majority of the time. His size made him appear almost cartoonish. His animated movements, expressive features, and colorful attire would certainly appeal to children. Though Ezra couldn’t see him, he could definitely sense his kindness.
Debra smiled and looked at Josiah, knowing he knew her secret. She grasped the big man’s shoulder in a comforting grip and then she did the same to her patient. For reasons she didn’t understand the smooth talking Southerner with the dark green eyes had done what very few of her patients could. He’d worked his way into her heart and as a result she went out of her way to help in any way she could. If Judge Travis’ men needed anything she was always willing to help, no matter what. Ezra had defied the odds; he’d lived when he should have died.
Ezra slowly opened his eyes. The pain was still there but not as much. His eyes continued to water uncontrollably but that’s not what scared him. He couldn’t see…at all.
Words were spoken, more tests taken, and Ezra was prodded more. It took everything he had just to remain seated. He felt soft pads cover his eyes and then he felt gauze being wrapped around his head just above his ears. He sought comfort in the tight grip Josiah had on his hand. Ezra didn’t want to think about losing his sight temporarily or permanently. If he couldn’t work…
Living life as an invalid, relying on others for help…or maybe he’d get lucky and get a Seeing Eye dog…either way, he’d be blind. He wouldn’t be able to drive…no more movies, though it wasn’t his favorite thing to do, he did enjoy it on occasion.
Ezra could lose himself in a book, become someone else…
Ezra never heard the curtains being pulled back, he was too much in thought about his new circumstances…he knew what wasn’t being said…and that’s what scared him.
Dr. Strauss and Carver left the room to discuss the situation.
“Can we go?” Ezra asked, keeping his face forward.
Josiah nodded and gently helped the Southerner to his feet. The big man motioned toward the nurses’ station, letting them know that they’d be outside waiting. He knew Ezra was to his limit and the hospital stay was over.
Doctor Strauss and Caver entered the waiting area and sought out Chris and the rest of his team. Finding them tucked away in the corner, obviously worried.
Chris stood up and waited for the doctors to join them…he was concerned. “How is he?” he came right out and asked, not giving them an opportunity to volunteer their information.
Evan took a deep breath and looked at the five men standing worriedly before him. “Thermal burns to the cornea can be problematic…given the circumstances. Agent Standish has suffered severe burning to his right eye…”
“But it didn’t look that bad,” Chris jumped in.
“The cornea is extremely sensitive…”
“So he’s blind?” JD questioned, feeling helpless.
“The burns to his left eye are minimal and with proper care and treatment it will recover…he may even regain 70% of his sight back in that eye…”
“Holy shit!” Buck gasped, running his hands through his hair. “So there’s nothin’ you can do?!”
“He would qualify for a cornea transplant, but the success rate for burn victims is significantly less than patients of natural problems.”
Chris and Vin were shaking their heads long before the doctor finished his statement.
“A transplant is out of the question,” Nathan admitted softly. “No matter what…he wouldn’t go through with it.”
“Is there anything else we could do?” JD pleaded.
Doctor Carver looked hard at his colleague and then back at the group of me. “Like many things there is always the possibility that he could fully recover. But I must warn you that those chances are slim.” He took a deep breath and allowed his news to be absorbed. “It’s important to prevent further damage to the eye and by doing so Agent Standish will need a limited amount of help for the next two weeks.” The doctor’s seriousness caused everyone to listen carefully and pay full attention to him.
“Have you told him?” Chris asked softly.
“No, Dr. Strauss thought it would be best to tell you first…”
“Don’t tell him…at least not yet,” Chris ordered, looking at all his men.
“Chris…” Vin started to protest, but one look at the team leader told him not to challenge his position on the subject.
Doctor Strauss stepped forward and proceeded to aid Doctor Carver on the instructions for Ezra’s treatment. Chris listened all the while wondering what he was going to tell his agent…his friend, when he asked. For two weeks Ezra would be limited to his activities…no lifting, bending over, no stress…things that would be easy to get Ezra to do…if he were dead.
Doctor Strauss left with Evan, after once again reinforcing her availability should they need it.
“He could stay at my place,” Nathan offered.
“You’ve got Rain and the kids, Nate,” JD spoke up sadly.
“Well hell,” Vin gasped, “Seems we’ve already got ‘im labeled as a bother!” he snapped, storming out of the waiting area.
“Shit,” Buck swore under his breath.
“He’ll stay with me,” Chris offered. “My place is farther out and I don’t have stairs…or car parts littering my bathtub.” He shook his head, thinking of Josiah’s house.
“Maybe one of us should go with you,” Buck said, looking toward the exit.
“I’ll think about it,” Chris nodded sadly.
Ezra unwillingly sat in Chris’ leather chair that rested somewhere in the family room. The smell of flowers blooming filtered though the air as windows were opened allowing spring’s cool breeze to embrace the home. He felt…helpless…and he hated it…with a passion. He could hear the others moving around…avoiding him, or that’s what it felt like. His eyes still hurt and the pain reliever that had been prescribed for him did little to soothe his discomfort.
“Feelin’ all right?” Nathan asked, squatting down next to the Southerner.
“Fine,” came the simple answer.
Nathan shook his head and stood up. “If you need anything…” he let his statement hang.
Ezra turned his head trying to listen to the soft murmurs of the others talking. About what, he didn’t know…but he assumed it was about him. Ezra leaned back, feeling suddenly drowsy. He brought his hand up to his eyes, wondering if he was ever going to see them again. He knew the feel of cards and coins through his fingers…but it was his sight that told him so much. The twitch of a gun dealer’s hand, JD crossing his eyes while mocking Buck, and even the Larabee glare. More was said with a look than with words…
Sight wasn’t everything, people survived everyday without it. But how many of them were undercover agents? How many of them depended on their sight to turn a life-threatening situation into a successful case? Ezra took a deep breath, feeling as though his world was no longer his. This place was strange, unfamiliar…and ultimately frightening. He wasn’t dumb, he knew Chris and the others were keeping something from him…more than likely it was bad news.
“Ezra,” Josiah spoke softly, unsure if the Southerner was awake or asleep…he couldn’t see his eyes.
The undercover agent sat up, suddenly aware of his surroundings. His heart raced a moment before realizing he was in Chris’ home, and it had only been Josiah that had roused him.
“You need anything?” Josiah asked, leery of the response he might get.
Ezra sighed and reached up to scratch at the bandages but Josiah’s quick hand stopped him. “I’m perfectly capable of carin’ for myself, Mistah Sanchez.” His accent thickened and his anger was noted.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Josiah responded. “Two weeks, Ezra…that’s all we’re askin’ for.”
“I’m not a fool…don’t treat me as such.” Ezra stood up and tried to get his bearings. He felt Josiah grab his arm to steady him and on many levels Ezra wanted to push him away, but he knew he’d never find his destination without help. At least at home he would know where things were…like his bedroom…the bathroom…
Josiah nodded his head, knowing what his friend had said without having said it. Ezra knew his condition was serious and the results could be life changing. Josiah knew that he and the others would be foolish to believe they could keep the truth from Ezra. The big man looked up and met Chris’ eyes. They shared a brief moment of understanding before Josiah escorted the undercover agent to the guestroom.
Chris woke with a start after hearing a crash from down the hall. He jumped to his feet and rushed toward his living room. He found his undercover agent trying desperately to pick up magazines, a broken lamp, and a tipped over end table.
“You should have called for some help,” Chris said, slightly more harsh than he’d anticipated.
“I didn’t want to bothah you,” Ezra replied sharply, in a hushed tone.
Chris grabbed the Southerner’s arm and pulled him to his feet. “Don’t worry about it,” he said calmly, guiding him around the mess. “I’ll take care of it…besides, you’re not supposed to do anything strenuous.”
“I’m familiah with my own place, perhaps it would be bettah…”
“No,” Chris remanded. “Besides, you wouldn’t want one of us yahoos makin’ your place into somethin’ it’s not.” He made sure Ezra was seated before moving toward the kitchen. “Buck would have nudie pictures hangin’ all over and Josiah’d be rebuildin’ somethin’ in your bathtub.”
The refrigerator door was opened and its subtle humming filled the air.
“You want somethin’ to eat?” Chris yelled, closing the door and starting a pot of coffee.
“No, thank you,” Ezra replied, turning his face toward the rising sun. Had he gotten up so early?
“Better eat somethin’ otherwise Nathan’ll have my ass,” the team leader replied.
“Am I blind…permanently?”
Shit, Chris thought…not ready to answer that just yet.
The silence gave Ezra the answer he’d already known deep inside. He reached up and touched the bandages, still feeling the pain beneath the cotton gauze.
“There’s a slim chance that you’ll fully recover,” Chris tried to sound hopeful but failed. He stood in the archway to his kitchen and watched his friend and coworker, wondering all the while what it must feel like to lose your world in the blink of an eye.
“What are my odds?”
How do I tell him there aren’t any? Chris asked himself, bowing his head and running his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know,” he admitted softly.
Ezra nodded in acceptance and kept his face toward the glass window. He could feel the morning sun on his skin, and for the first time in his life he wished he’d made a point to get up early and memorized its pastel like colors.
“We’ll do what we can to get you back,” the tall blonde said with more force in his voice.
“I hadn’t realized I was gone.” Ezra smiled tightly, not hearing Chris’ sudden intake of breath.
Chris’ door burst open and a barrage of people entered the home with…Frankincense and Myrrh. Chris sighed, he was hanging around Josiah too much. Buck and JD entered the home with bags of pop and munchies. Nathan followed with Josiah and pots of food, much of it had been sent by Rain who was sorry she couldn’t make it. Vin entered the home with Nettie and Casey, all of whom were ready for a bar-b-que. Orin and Evie entered lastly, looking to see how everyone was doing.
Voices filled the air, a baseball game blasted from the TV screen, cooking utensils scrapped along pans and under running water, feet stomped and skidded along linoleum, and JD’s belching of the alphabet once again entertained. Ezra sat at the table all the while wishing he were invisible, yearning for some quiet. He felt a soft hand brush his shoulders and gently squeeze them. Evie. She kissed the top of his head and chuckled softly, watching the antics around her. Her husband spoke with Chris in a dark corner, every once in a while the judge would look in her direction and smile. Vin and Nettie tried to keep from burning the house down as food rested on the grill outside. Nettie would on occasion reach out and touch Vin in a motherly manner…just a reassurance that he was doing okay. Nathan and Josiah continued to spice the food cooking in the kitchen to the point that only a select few could stand eating it. Buck, JD, and Casey had taken up residence in the family room, cheering for whatever game was being played.
Evie rubbed Ezra’s back, not realizing how much of a comfort she really was for him. The Southerner sighed and unconsciously leaned into her. Evie smiled. The green-eyed undercover agent had come a long way from a few months ago. She remembered seeing him in the middle of a panic attack outside the hospital doors…trying to hide his fear. But she and Orin had seen it and knew what he was going through. Oh, he hated hospitals still, and he forever would, but now at least he could seek treatment.
Evie ran her fingers through his hair all the while wondering how her son would have fit in with this group of men. She hoped he would have. She squeezed Ezra’s shoulder again and quietly asked him if he needed anything. When he shook his head she chuckled and headed into the kitchen.
The smell of spicy food hit her senses like a club. Without warning she reached up and clasped her tiny hands around Josiah’s face and brought him down to her level and then she kissed him on either side of his face. She then did the same to Nathan. Her boys, as Orin now referred to them. She babysat for Rain and Nathan…even when they didn’t ask for help. She cooked meals for JD and Buck…nobody could live off fast food and delivery forever. She was in the process of helping Nettie make curtains for Vin’s apartment. Casey’s aunt was determined that the longhaired sharpshooter was going to live like a normal person and have decent household goods. When it was learned that Chris and Josiah each had a well-hidden secret of a major sweet-tooth, Evie went out of her way to make sure those teeth were well nourished: cookies, pies, cobblers, and she found them quite helpful for discovering new recipes for her bridge club. And Ezra? The Southerner had succumbed to Evie’s charms just like all the others…perhaps even more so.
Evie poured a glass of water, and then carefully maneuvered around the two large men who seemed to be right at home in the kitchen. She chuckled to herself, wishing Orin had been more enthusiastic with the cooking duties…well…perhaps not.
She watched as Ezra sat motionless in his chair, the bandages still wrapped securely around his eyes. Though she could never empathize with him, she could surely sympathize. Gently, she took Ezra’s hand and guided it toward the tall glass of water she’d gotten for him. He smiled in thanks…at a loss for words.
“When can the bandages come off?” Evie asked softly, sitting down next to him.
“Next Monday…I believe,” Ezra answered softly. He was trying to separate the sounds around him. The confusion was causing his head to hurt.
Mrs. Travis smiled and touched his arm in a comforting grip. “Are you doing all right?” she asked seriously.
Ezra’s jaw clenched but he smiled tightly, trying once again to hide his pain.
“It’s all right, Son,” Evie said. Getting to her feet she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “Things will work out.” Her words were spoken in confidence.
“SOUP’S ON!” the strong yell came from the kitchen as dishes were pulled from cupboards and silverware from drawers.
Ezra turned his head toward the floor…he was trying to hide. He knew if he stood up and tried to make his way toward the kitchen he’d fall and make a fool of himself, and he knew if he remained seated he’d become that invalid he was in fear of. Damned if he didn’t…damned if he did. He heard a chair being pulled out from under the table and the subtle thump of someone sitting down.
“You hungry, Ez?” Vin asked in a low voice.
Ezra sighed and turned to face his compatriot. “An attainable way of gettin’ across the floor would gladly be accepted.”
Vin knew without seeing his friend’s eyes what he was asking. Slowly, Vin stood up and then helped Ezra to his feet. Without any word to the others the two men slowly made their way across the floor toward the bedroom the undercover agent was staying in.
“I seem to be quite entertainin’,” the Southerner alleged, having noticed the sudden quietness in the room.
Vin shook his head and looked up to meet Chris’ eyes. Understanding passed between the two men as the sharpshooter escorted Ezra into his bedroom. Chris quickly moved everyone into the kitchen…moving their attention from their friend to the food on the counter.
“Thank you, Mistah Tannah,” Ezra said, feeling his way onto his bed. It felt odd, not being able to take for granted where the bed sat, or the nightstand…or himself for that matter.
“If you need anythin’…”
“Yes,” Ezra quickly interrupted, smiling, and trying to place comfort where it wasn’t needed. He turned his face down suddenly and spoke ever so softly, “Please leave.”
“Sure, Ez,” Vin replied, closing the door behind him.
Ezra took a deep breath and folded his hands together in his lap. If it were true…that his life had changed…maybe…maybe what? So much had changed for him within the past year and a half. He’d discovered friends for the first time in his life…friends that he trusted. Out of respect for them he wouldn’t be a burden on them…he couldn’t.
Still in his clothing, Ezra crawled under the covers.
Vin sat beside Chris on the deck over looking the distant mountains. The cool night air blew freely through the grass and weeds outlining the yard. The smell of horses filled the air. The ice in Vin’s tall glass of water clanged against the crystal as it was picked up and moved to full lips. He couldn’t’ help but think about tomorrow…tomorrow, the bandages came off, tomorrow, everyone would know if Ezra could see again. Vin shook his head and sighed…maybe he should have waited to shoot that suspect…maybe…
“Wasn’t your fault,” Chris said sternly, keeping his eyes on the landscape before him.
“Maybe,” Vin said softly.
“If you hadn’t fired when you did…” Chris paused; he didn’t want to think about it.
“Growin’ up…” Vin started, “I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I remember this boy. He was a good kid, got real good grades in school, ran track and was on the swim team…” he sighed, “…then his older sister gets picked to do the high dive at the Summer Olympics…”
Chris looked over and watched the sharpshooter as he spoke.
“Sure enough that boy’s sister won the gold medal.”
The team leader leaned back in his chair, not sure where Vin was going with his story.
“Six months later that kid I went to school with finished his swim practice and went into the locker room and blew the back of his head off.”
“We know from JD he’s thought about it,” blue eyes met green, “all I’m sayin’ is we need to watch him. He’s the last one of us to say how he’s feelin’.”
Chris nodded and stood up, resting on the awning pole. “What if he’s blind?” he asked softly.
“I don’t know.”
Ezra sat like a stone while Doctor Carver carefully removed the bandages. Nathan had been doing it until now. Carefully administering treatment. Everything until now had been done in the dark, preventing any light from hitting Ezra’s overly sensitive corneas.
Chris leaned against the far wall, biting his fingernails. The exam room was dark except for a small light that the doctor used to examine his patients with.
“Open your eyes slowly…if the light I have on is too bright…or you feel in the least bit uncomfortable, let me know.” The doctor’s voice was strong, yet soft.
Eyes moved under eyelids that were still moist from their last treatment. Thick lashes looked even darker as they clung together in spots. Slowly they crept open, blinking suddenly and repetitively. His brow furrowed as he tried to focus on something.
“Do you see anything?” the doctor asked, his instruments already in hand.
Ezra started to shake his head: “A light…” he admitted, “but it’s…faint.”
Dr. Carver nodded and gently tapped Ezra’s knee, the big man tried not to let his patient’s anxiety affect him. Carefully he did some tests, some with light, and some without. He checked the right eye first and then the left: poking, prodding, swiping, and puffing.
“Your assessment?” Ezra asked, trying to keep his stone like face.
“The sight in your left eye will continue to improve…more so than I expected.”
“I’m afraid the cornea in your right eye was severely damaged, and at this point in time…”
“I’m blind,” the words came out of his mouth before the doctor could finish his statement.
Evan took a deep breath, hoping he’d have better news. “There are options.”
Ezra shook his head. He wouldn’t have any part of those options…not after what he’d been through. Dr. Wade had made sure of that. Slowly, he stood up, grateful that Chris was there to steady him.
“I want you to wear UV protected sunglasses at all times…at least for the next few weeks. Your eyes are particularly susceptible to damage caused by sunlight.” Evan looked at Chris, knowing the tall blonde would make sure his agent did as he was told. “I’d like to see you again in two weeks,” the good doctor handed Chris a bag of free samples, “I want to take another look at your eyes and check again for light sensitivity. Your eyes will continue to water as they heal so don’t worry about that because it is normal. The eye drop samples I’ve given you will help alleviate the pain. Use it whenever you need it.”
Ezra took the sunglasses Chris handed him…hoping they were somewhat fashionable, and put them on. He kept his right hand on Chris’ elbow and put the glasses on. Ezra’s jaw clenched and he wanted to act as though everything was fine, it would work out, and after all he’d been through worse…right?
“Thank you doctor,” Chris said, shaking Evan’s hand.
“Two weeks,” the big man reinforced, opening the door for his patient and his friend.
Vin stood up from his chair in the waiting area. He locked eyes with Chris and knew immediately that the news wasn’t good. Vin nodded and headed out the side door. He’d call the others at the office and let them know the results. They had all wanted to be here, but Chris thought it best if they weren’t.
He’d been right.
Ezra moved around the living room slowly. His arms stretched out before him, moving suddenly when he’d bump a piece of furniture with his foot or knee. Even the smallest chore seemed like the biggest now.
Chris watched his normally independent agent, friend, and brother move around the room with less grace than a child’s first experience walking. Ezra’s façade was no longer a smooth talking, confident, sometimes cocky, Southern ‘gentlemen’. The man Chris now watched was a stranger. Ezra was now quiet a majority of the time, speaking only when spoken to, stand offish …as though he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. Chris hoped this new persona wouldn’t last long. Ezra was determined, outgoing, verbal, and the first to play a joke on someone to ease the tension in a room.
Angry with himself for letting the accident escalate to the point of Ezra getting blinded, angry because he couldn’t stop it, angry because it was his fault as the team leader to protect his men…at all costs. He’d failed. He’d put Ezra into a situation that should have been avoided…it could have been avoided.
Chris watched in slow motion as Ezra hit the glass coffee table and tumble forward after losing his balance. Chris rushed forward and grabbed his agent’s arm and belt pulling him off the broken glass before he could get cut.
“Damn it, Ezra,” Chris gasped, checking him over for cuts. “You have to be careful.” His words were harsher than he anticipated…he was taking his anger out on the wrong person.
“Don’t you think I know that?!” Ezra snapped, pushing himself away and in the process falling back to the floor. He heard Chris sigh and felt him reach out. “DON’T!” he yelled, holding his hands out before him, preventing the team leader from taking a step closer. “Just…don’t,” Ezra pleaded, pushing himself away. He grasped a chair leg and used it to help him get to his feet.
The front door opened suddenly and Josiah and Nathan entered, quickly followed by the others. The team profiler noticed the broken coffee table first and in response he turned accusatory eyes toward Chris.
Chris shook his head, letting the big man know not to push the issue.
“Everythin’ all right?” Buck asked, looking from his long time friend to Ezra.
“I fell,” the Southerner quickly supplied.
“You should be wearin’ your glasses,” Nathan said, moving into the living room to supervise the cleanup of glass.
Ezra remained standing, feeling like a freak on display at a circus.
“Hey, Ez,” JD said enthusiastically. He entered the room, not ignoring the situation, just choosing not to focus on it. He held a handful of papers. “I was doing some research on the web today, and found out that there are a lot of blind schools for adults…”
Ezra’s jaw clenched and he clumsily made his way to his room, without the aid of his friends. The bedroom door was slammed shut.
JD’s intentions had been good, but his timing was lousy.
“What the hell happened?” Josiah asked, losing all sense of décor.
“You can’t push ‘im, Chris,” Nathan added.
Chris shook his head. He moved toward the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of beer from the refrigerator and then stormed outside. He didn’t need to hear what he already knew.
Ezra made his way to the bedroom window and carefully opened it. The screen came off without a hitch and he was outside within minutes. He’d been on Chris’ ranch several times to work with China Rose and he hoped that he could get to the barn without causing a crisis. He just wanted to be alone. Ezra had to shake his head; he must look like a blind man without his cane, as he crossed the yard, falling on occasion. He hoped all the while that nobody would see him.
The smell of horses, shavings, and hay hit his senses like a welcomed guest. It had been two and a half weeks since he’d visited his horse and at the moment he yearned for her forgiving nature. She didn’t talk, not like people, but she knew how to listen. She knew when to nudge, nibble, and sigh. She wouldn’t ask of him things that he couldn’t deliver.
Ezra stumbled when he tripped over the edge of the pavement that led to the aisle separating several stalls. He ran his hand along the rough wood, gate latches, and halters that had been hooked outside stall doors. He knew China when he came to her stall. She met him by blowing softly into his face. He smiled and reached up to rub her velvety nose. She searched his pockets for a treat and sighed in disappointment when she didn’t find one.
Finding the halter was harder than handling it. He’d handled it enough to know what it felt like in his grasp. Carefully, he unlatched it and slipped it over China Rose’s muzzle. She held her head still then tossed it upwards when she felt the noseband was placed too low on her head. Ezra latched the buckle next to her jowl and smiled contently after finishing his goal. He grasped the cotton lead and moved to open the stall door.
The tall thoroughbred mare stepped out, her shod hooves clopping heavily on the cement. She stood patiently as the stall door was closed. She didn’t mind Ezra’s slow movements or his need to hold the throatlatch of her halter as they walked toward the corral. She stopped before he did when they got close to the gate. Ezra reached out and smiled when he realized his horse had led him directly to the chain that kept the gate shut. She knew where she was going and what he wanted.
Once inside, Ezra tossed the lead rope over China Rose’s neck and withers. She stood patiently, grunting once as her master maneuvered his way onto her back. She could sense his fear and she wasn’t familiar with it, but she stood there waiting for his command.
Ezra sat behind her withers and gripped her mane with one hand and the cotton lead in the other. His feet dangled at her sides and he paused a moment, knowing very well he could be ending his life. He doubted China would do anything, but she was a horse…and even the trustworthiest of horses could be unpredictable.
With a strong sense of need and courage, he nudged China’s sides and she took a long step forward. Her stride was even and easily paced. Slowly she made her way around the arena, keeping close to the corral walls. She felt Ezra bury his fingers in her thick mane. She kept walking when he leaned over and pressed his face against her soft neck.
Ezra ran his hand down his horse’s neck, feeling the muscles contract beneath his fingers. Her head moved up and down in a slow even manner. He could tell when she focused her attention toward something in the distance…perhaps one of the other horses. He could hear her shod hooves enter the sandy ground and then exit. Her tail would swish though the air sounding like thousands of thick strings blowing in the wind.
It felt good to be out there…riding. He knew the barn like the back of his hand; it was familiar…like his apartment. Chris’ house was a maze and he didn’t feel like he had the right to get to know it…it wasn’t his.
Josiah entered the stables to calm down. He was angry with Chris for pushing the Southerner…and he was angry with himself for not being able to fix the situation. They couldn’t lose Ezra now, not after everything they’d been through together…but Josiah knew they would. Blind or not, Ezra wasn’t a man to seek help from anyone. He needed independence like most needed water…it was a part of who he was. That’s what made him so good as an undercover agent. Josiah sighed; he hadn’t expected to find Ezra laying over China Rose’s withers and neck while she walked slowly around the indoor arena. He stepped up to the gate and leaned against the wall just to watch.
Nothing was said as the two made their way over the sandy ground. Josiah watched as the Southerner’s horse swiveled her ears, listening to her master and everything else around her. She perked up when she saw Josiah…the man with the orange peels. China tossed her head once and in response Ezra sat up…he knew now that he wasn’t alone.
“She sure looks good, Ezra,” Josiah said, placing his foot on the gate and resting his arms over the top railing.
The Southerner slowly dismounted, all the while keeping his hands pressed against China’s soft coat. He didn’t want company, and he made no effort to speak. Ezra reached up and grasped the throatlatch and the tall mare led him through the gate Josiah had opened. He watched Ezra for a moment as he stopped his horse and ran his hands over her form. His hands moved over muscles and bones, feeling the slope of her shoulder, the slight curve of her backbone, the roundness of her hip and hindquarters. Ezra pressed his hands against her flank feeling the different directions of her hair. He moved down to her gaskin feeling the strength of the muscle and the indentations of her hock. Slowly, he moved forward, feeling the roundness of her girth, and then back to her shoulder. The big mare reached around and nudged his shoulder and in response Ezra touched her soft nose, feeling the long hairs on her muzzle and how they tickled his hand. She snorted and blew snot onto his shirt…he only smiled as a result. He moved his hand upward past the bridge of her nose and up around her eye, feeling the incredible size of it. Her ears were soft and they fluttered momentarily in his hand before becoming still. He moved his hand downward past her jowl, mesmerizing the strength it contained.
“You all right?” Josiah asked softly, almost afraid he was interrupting something special.
“Fine,” came the quick reply. He moved China to her stall and released the buckle to her halter, allowing it to slip off her head and hang limply from his hand. The chestnut reached over and grabbed a bite of hay before returning to her master’s side. Ezra gave her a thankful pat before leaving the stall and then slowly and carefully he hung the halter on the hook outside the gate.
“JD didn’t mean…”
“I know,” Ezra interrupted, feeling his way outside by using the wall.
“This isn’t easy for any of us…”
Ezra stopped suddenly and turned to face the larger man. “And this is easy for me?” he asked, no threat or anger lined his words.
Josiah sighed…he’d blown it.
“It was never my intention to become a burden on anyone.” He was angry now. “I will admit, I’ve not been the easiest person to be around these past couple of weeks…but you and the others must remember that I have lost one of my senses…no adjustment time, no time at all to deal with the issue. I’ve not only lost my sight, Mistah Sanchez, but my way of life as well. How many AFT offices can I work in…” he sighed, angry, bitter, and extremely depressed. “I’m fuckin’ blind…” he gasped, coming to terms that he couldn’t run away from the problem. “If that bothers you perhaps you should leave.”
“I’m sorry,” Josiah said softly. “I didn’t mean…”
“Stop patronizing me!” Ezra snapped, gripping the handle on the stall door behind him.
Josiah didn’t say anything. What could he say? That he was sorry, he wished it had been himself and not Ezra, or maybe blindness wasn’t the end of the world. No. He wouldn’t say anything like that, not to a man that had spent the majority of his life watching other’s behaviors. For Ezra his life’s work depended on his sight, hearing, touch, smell, and least of all taste. All were important to him.
“Let me help you back to the house,” Josiah offered.
“I made it out here, Mistah Sanchez…”
“Alone, and without anyone watching,” Josiah said softly yet firmly. “Just want you to get back to the house without any blood on you…Nathan’s got enough goin’ on.” He reached out and grabbed Ezra’s arm and placed the Southerner’s hand on his shoulder.
“Yes,” Ezra agreed. “Doesn’t he always.” The bitterness in his voice was evident.
Chris looked up when his front door was opened and two of his agents entered. He was surprised to see Ezra…having thought him to be in the guest room. Josiah nodded to the others, letting them know that everything was all right.
Trying to give Ezra as much independence as he could, he motioned toward the living room that was now free of broken glass and wood. The Southerner moved first and reached out to grab the back of the overstuffed chair and then carefully seated himself.
“Listen, Ezra…” JD started, “I didn’t…”
“Quite alright, Mistah Dunne, you were only tryin’ to help…the blame lies with me.”
The scraping of a chair across the floor caused Ezra to turn his head in its direction.
Nathan seated himself in front of the Southerner and took a deep breath. For all purposes, Ezra looked normal…even the faint burn marks he’d acquired had faded.
“What is it, Mistah Jackson?”
“Nathan,” the medic corrected. “You’ve known me long enough…call me Nathan…” he paused, “Otherwise I’m goin’ to kick your sorry Southern ass across the continental divide.”
Vin smiled and tucked his head, despite knowing Ezra couldn’t see him. Chris cleared his throat, unsure of what was happening. Josiah took a protective step forward. Buck and JD sat still, their eyes meeting momentarily before landing on Ezra and Nathan.
The medic cleared his throat and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “I did some research today on the possible recovery of corneal damage…”
“Just listen,” Nathan stopped Ezra from continuing. “There’s a doctor by the name of Horrowitz that specializes in natural healing…before you roll your eyes at me I think we should think about this.”
“What’s this entail?” Chris asked with authority…he wasn’t going to have Ezra go to any doctor that might cause more problems.
Nathan took a deep breath and sighed. “You’d have to stay here for a while…and be under constant supervision.” He watched as Ezra remained still…he was listening. “I called this doctor and told him the situation…”
“Everythin’?” Ezra tentatively asked.
“Yes…everything,” Nathan continued to explain. “He said he can’t come up and see you, but the damage to your eye should be repairable…if you follow his instructions to a tee.” He looked hard at Ezra, knowing he’d get a positive result. “You’ll need to drink herb teas, have eye washes, and at night have an herbal paste bandaged to your eyes.”
“Doesn’t sound so bad,” Buck spoke up with promise in his voice.
“Where’s the ‘but’ in this situation?” Vin asked, pulling on his skepticism.
“The eye wash is made from cayenne,” Nathan’s words were filled with unseen pain.
Ezra’s jaw clenched.
“Chris an’ I can teach you some tricks on how to deal with the pain, Ezra,” Buck said. “Hell, it’d be nice to know my SEAL trainin’ did some good.”
“How soon?” the Southerner asked.
“I want you to start with the tea tonight…the eye wash’s tomorrow.”
“As long as it takes.”
Ezra nodded, he’d do whatever it took.
The teas, though bland, were tolerable, even the sticky honey filled ointment that was placed on his eyes to sleep in was…endurable. However, the eyewashes were miserable. Both Chris and Buck had taught Ezra some techniques for pain endurance…but they weren’t enough.
In the mornings he could usually take it, but in the afternoons…
Nathan, Chris, and Josiah had bruises on their arms from Ezra’s tight grips as the washes were administered. His eyes would water for hours afterward and usually he retreated to his room so he could be miserable by himself.
At times Ezra thought he could see some light…more so than when he last visited Doctor Carver. He wasn’t sure if it was his mind playing games on him, like a smell that brings back memories. At times he was hopeful, and at others it was just another hopeless idea that bombarded his senses. He kept it to himself, not wanting to bother the others with it. He was tired…tired of everything. He knew he couldn’t stay in Denver…he’d have to go someplace else…preferably someplace dark.
Moisture clung to the mirror like an icy haze. The smell of shampoo, soap, and freshly laundered towels filled the air. Ezra stood over the sink, wondering why mirrors were standard when many couldn’t use them. He’d never thought about it before…but he did now. He carefully placed the electric shaver back into its charger and sighed. He reached forward to grab the shaving lotion he’d placed on the right side of the sink.
Ezra paused and stared at the mirror…seeing nothing.
It was now that he wished he’d never given that bullet to JD. That bullet would do the job…and do it thoroughly.
With or without motivation, he didn’t know, but he opened the medicine cabinet door. He carefully felt along the bottom shelf until he came in contact with the small box of straight razors. He shut the cabinet and held the box with a tight grip.
He stood there, dressed only in boxers, contemplating the rest of his life.
Minutes or years?
Neither one looked or felt appealing. Muscles twitched and shook…this wasn’t an easy decision. It wasn’t the first time he’d thought about it…and perhaps, if Chris and Vin hadn’t come to Atlanta when they had…
“Need some help?” Chris asked, turning on the bathroom light. He didn’t notice Ezra’s brow furrow and eyes squint. The team leader was looking toward the razors.
The question took him by surprise and he dropped the box of razors into the sink.
“No,” Ezra replied quickly…shamefully.
Chris nodded and watched his agent…former agent, stand nervously beside the bathroom sink. His hand griped the white porcelain and his face looked toward the tub. He was falling apart.
“We’ll get you through this, Ezra.”
The Southerner smiled tightly and shook his head. “Not this time,” he said softly…defeated. “I’ve spent my whole life watchin’ others…learnin’ their tells…” he sighed, trying to maintain his composure, “…Mistah Tannah…Vin, blushes when he gets caught with candy, but he eats it anyway because it’s a part of who he is. JD taps the top of his straw when he doesn’t know the answah to questions he’s asked. Buck chews gum every time Travis entahs a room. Josiah shakes his foot when he’s nervous… Nathan taps his pencil against his teeth when he’s waitin’ for somethin’…” Ezra paused.
“You chew your fingernails when you’re nervous.”
Chris nodded and folded his arms across his chest. Sarah had come down on him several times about that.
“What am I goin’ to do?” Ezra asked sadly, rubbing his hand over his face.
Chris sighed: “I don’t know.” He watched as the Southerner forced another smile on his face…trying to hide his pain. “Don’t end it like this.” There was an unfamiliar pleading in his voice.
“What am I going to do?” the Southerner asked again, this time more clearly.
“If I knew the answer to that…” Chris sighed, “…we wouldn’t be here now.”
Ezra slowly nodded in agreement. He kept his face cast downward, feeling the heat of tears well up. His throat clenched, his breathing quickened, and uncertainty embraced his soul.
Chris averted his eyes, wishing he’d said something brilliant….something that would lift his friend’s spirit…something that could have given him hope. Ezra had always been a proud man. Just like the rest of them. He, just like the others, had his limitations…and he’d reached it. What he needed now was more than anyone else could offer him.
“I’m not good with words, Ezra…you know that better than most.” Chris tried to meet the Southerner’s eyes. “I sure as hell don’t know what you’re goin’ through…but if you leave, for any reason, you’ll have the six of us on your ass the whole time. We’ve worked too damn hard for what we’ve got…and I don’t just mean the job.” Frustrated, Chris ran his fingers through his hair. He was out of his league and he knew it. “I like havin’ friends…brothers that come over here and trash my place during a football game, teammates that challenge my every decision…and just friends to chew the fat with.”
Ezra nodded, but remained still.
“We’ll get you through this, and you’ll get your sight back…even if we have to haul your ass to some remote tribe in the Andes.”
Ezra smiled and wiped his hand over his face, pausing at his eyes. “I appreciate it, Chris…I really do.”
Chris smiled, feeling as if he might have done something right. “Evie sent over some food…why don’t you come out and eat somethin’?”
“Give me a minute.”
The echo of the bat hitting the ball sounded throughout Mile High Stadium. Fans cheered and chanted as their favorite player slowly ran the bases after hitting another home run. The smell of hot dogs and hamburgers filled the air. Men and women walked up and down the stairs selling food and beverages out of the pack they wore designed for this kind of job. They yelled, “Get your popcorn, cokes, hot dogs, and peanuts.”
Ezra cringed when Buck stood up and yelled at the umpire for missing a call. Vin and JD both shook their heads while Nathan and Josiah kept their attention on the visiting team. The Mariners were hot this year, and interleague play was always more fun to watch.
“You ever play baseball, Ezra?” JD asked, leaning over so he could hear the answer.
“No…however, I find myself a fan of the sport.” Ezra grabbed the seat with his hands, hiding them under his thighs.
“Who’s your favorite team?” JD pushed, taking a bit of his hot dog.
“Probably the Yankees,” Buck interrupted. “Seein’ how they’re so wealthy…Shit, they can buy any player they want.” His disgust was duly noted.
“Stop bitchin’ about the Yankees, Buck,” Chris snapped, having been a long time fan.
JD nudged Ezra’s shoulder. “Who’s your favorite team?”
“I enjoy Cleveland…as well as Seattle,” the Southerner answered simply. He squinted his eyes, noting how long the bright and dull glares were starting to bother him. It had been happening for some time, but now it was getting worse.
“Well,” JD continued, “Seein’ that we live in Denver…I think it’s appropriate that at least one of us be a fan of the Rockies.”
“JD,” Buck scolded, “You don’t know shit about baseball.”
“What about you, Nathan?” the kid called to the man sitting below them.
The medic looked up and shook his head: “I’m more of a football fan, JD.”
“What about you, Vin…Josiah?”
The sharpshooter sighed, having been watching Ezra closely for seven innings. “Texas Rangers,” he smiled, knowing the kid really didn’t need to ask, he should have guessed.
Josiah chuckled and then took a bite of his popcorn.
Ezra rubbed his temple and pulled his dark sunglasses down a moment to rub his eyes. He didn’t hurt…but his eyes felt as though he’d been over working them, almost as if he’d been sitting in front of a computer screen all day.
“You feelin’ all right?” Vin asked softly. He leaned over in his seat.
Ezra nodded: “Fine.”
“You ain’t gettin’ one of your headaches are you?”
Vin looked up and watched as the scoreboard started flashing. He also noticed Ezra had covered his eyes with his hand. The sharpshooter leaned forward and tapped Nathan on the shoulder.
Six of seven paused in their activities and turned their attention toward their friend.
Ezra lifted his head and pushed his glasses back toward his eyes. Perhaps he should have said something to someone, but he didn’t want to give himself or anyone else false hopes.
“How long has light been botherin’ you?” Nathan asked, sitting on his knees backwards in his chair.
“Couple weeks,” Ezra admitted.
“Damn it, Ezra, you should have said something,” the medic scolded. However this time it was with a smile. “Are you just seein’ light?”
Ezra opened his eyes and took a long look around. The edges of his vision were cloudy but he could see dark shapes highlighted by different colors. He jumped back and reached out to grab the hand that quickly appeared before his face.
Nathan jumped as well, not having expected Ezra to grab his hand. “How many fingers am I holding up?” he asked, the tightness in his voice was excitement and hope, a welcomed change.
Ezra sighed a moment and concentrated. It took him a moment, but he answered, “Two.”
Nathan’s smiled increased in size and he looked at the others. “Let’s go,” he ordered, getting to his feet.
“Where?” came the question asked by everyone.
“We’re goin’ to get Ezra out of the sun, and then we’re goin’ to go visit Doctor Carver…Ezra ain’t blind.”
Sodas crashed to the ground, popcorn flew out of containers, and hot dogs tumbled over baseball fans. Chris was up and looking like a flager during road repair. With a single look he held back foot traffic as his men stumbled out of their seats and made their way inside. Ezra grasped Josiah’s shoulder, just to steady himself. He still couldn’t see one hundred percent…but he was getting there.
JD rushed passed his friends and toward the door, jumping up to touch the flags that hung from the ceiling on his way. Ezra stumbled on several occasions, not from his inability to see, but because of the slaps of congratulations hitting his back. He was going to be bruised by the time he left the building.
A smile spread across Josiah’s face…once again this team had defied the odds.
They were going to make it.