Ezra sighed as he and Vin finally exited the courtroom, then reached up to loosen his tie. He glanced over at the Texan, unsurprised to find that he had already removed his tie and stuffed it haphazardly into his jacket pocket. "Tell me again, Mr. Tanner, why we were chosen by Mr. Larabee to attend this fiasco of a trial?"
Vin just grinned tiredly. "Can't tell ya what I don't know, Ez. But I figure we must have done something awful to deserve this."
The Southerner snorted, too tired to even bother with his poker face. "One would think that we would have remembered doing something that would have engendered Mr. Larabee's wrath to this extent." He lengthened his stride, pulling slightly ahead of Vin as he heard the younger man chuckle. He suddenly stopped in the middle of the hallway, causing the sharpshooter to nearly run him over.
"Ez, if you're gonna stop like that, give a fella some warning." The Texan stopped speaking when he saw what it was that made Ezra stop.
A young blonde girl was standing in the middle of the hallway, tears streaking her small face. Her blue eyes were wide as she stared up at the two men. She backed up slightly when Ezra knelt in front of her.
"It's all right, darlin'. We're not going to hurt you." The undercover agent smiled at her, making sure that he flashed the gold tooth. "Now what are you doing all by yourself, darlin'?"
She sniffled, wrapping her arms around herself. "Mama had to come here, and the babysitter was sick so she brought me with her. But then I got a little lost, and now I can't find her anywhere."
Vin dropped to his knees next to Ezra and smiled reassuringly at the blonde. "Well, how about me and Ez here help ya find her? We're real good at finding stuff, aren't we, Ez?"
Ezra returned the Texan's grin, then slowly slid an arm around the girl's shoulders. "Of course we are, Vin. Now, darlin', do you have a name, or must I make one up for you?"
The girl giggled as Ezra reached forward to wipe away her tears. "It's Angela. But what should I call you, mister?"
The Southerner just arched an eyebrow as he heard Vin's snicker. "Well, Angela darlin', my name is Ezra and my friend here is Vin." He rose to his feet and took Angela's hand. "Now, perhaps we should begin our search for your mother."
They had only made it part way down the hall when the entire building suddenly rocked. The two agents shared a quick glance as they felt the floor shifting under their feet, then Ezra pulled the startled girl into his arms. He and Vin dashed down the hallway as the floor began to collapse. Suddenly the two men found themselves falling. Ezra quickly shifted in the air until Angela was on top of him, trying to protect her from the impact with the floor.
The undercover agent bit off a curse as his left shoulder slammed into the wall, painfully dislocating it. He kept his right arm around Angela until they finally came to a sudden and forceful stop somewhere on the floor below. He barely had time to think before he felt Vin rolling on top of him in an attempt to shield him and the blonde girl from the debris that was about to bury them.
Rubble rained down around them and Vin grunted when he felt something heavy land on his right leg, snapping the bone. His breath hissed through his clenched teeth as he tried to ignore the pain. After a few moments, everything quieted and the dust began to settle. The sharpshooter pushed himself up on his hands, trying to give Ezra enough room to slide out from under him.
"You're gonna have to move, Ez. My leg's pinned down."
The undercover agent slowly pulled himself and a crying Angela out from under the Texan, his dislocated shoulder making the process take twice as long. He gingerly moved until his back was resting against what was left of the wall, the small blonde still tucked under his good right arm. He slid his arm away from the girl's shoulders and tilted her chin up.
"Darlin', I'm going to go and try to help Vin get that beam off of his leg. You just sit here, and we'll be back over here with you before you know it. All right?"
Angela sniffled but slowly nodded. "Be careful."
Ezra smiled, cradling his now useless left arm against his chest. "Never fear, darlin'. I am always careful."
The undercover agent slowly rose to his feet and made his way to the beam that was pinning Vin's leg to the ground. He took the opportunity to glance around, silently cursing when he saw that there was no way out. The three of them were trapped in a small air pocket, the remains of the upper floors blocking them off from the rest of the building. He looked up and his green eyes widened when he saw the awkward pile of rubble that kept the rest of the building from falling on their heads. It was only a miracle that had kept them from being completely crushed.
Vin grunted as he felt the beam on his broken leg move slightly as Ezra tried to lift it. "You okay back there, Ez?"
Ezra grimaced as he continued trying to move the beam with only one arm. "Just wonderful, Vin. And yourself?"
"I think if ya can lift it just a little higher, I can slide out. Then I'll be great." He groaned as the beam finally rose just enough for his leg to move out from under it. As soon as his leg was out of the way, he glanced back at Ezra. "You can drop it now, Ez."
The beam fell to the floor with a loud clank, stirring up a cloud of dust that sent the two men into a fit of coughing. The Southerner was clutching his left arm closer to his chest, but released it to help Vin scoot back until he could lean against the wall next to Angela.
The blonde looked up at the Texan, her arms wrapped around her knees. "Are we going to die?"
The two agents glanced at each other before answering. "There is no way that we're gonna die, Angela. Ya see, your ma is gonna be out there looking for you." Vin looked back up at Ezra, hoping that the lie he had just told the girl wasn't visible in his eyes.
"And Vin and I have five friends who are going to be digging through this rubble for us as soon as they hear what happened." He turned back to Vin. "What did happen, anyway?"
Vin shrugged. "Not really sure, but it was probably a bomb planted somewhere on one of the lower floors. It was probably a pretty big one, too."
Ezra slid his good arm back around Angela's shoulders and felt her snuggle closer. He glanced at the sharpshooter when he felt the other man's arm on top of his as they bracketed Angela. He smiled slightly at what he saw in the blue eyes.
"Don't worry, Ez. Chris'll find us."
+ + + + + + +
Chris and the other four members of Team Seven were sitting impatiently at a table in The Saloon, waiting for Ezra and Vin to arrive. JD was constantly checking his watch while Chris merely slouched in his chair and glared. After a few more minutes of tense silence, Josiah spoke up.
"You dont suppose that our younger brothers have gotten into any trouble, do you?"
The blond just raised an eyebrow, his glare never wavering. "Wouldnt be the first time. But if I find out theyre just keeping us waiting for fun, Ill kill them both."
Buck just laughed, earning him a glare as well. "You know, Chris, Im surprised those boys have survived as long as they have with as many times as youve threatened to kill them."
Chris didnt have time to respond before his cell phone rang. He switched it on, fully intending to give whichever missing team member it was a thorough tongue-lashing. But when he heard the voice on the other end, the blood drained from his face. "You wanna run that by me again, sir?" He ran a hand through his hair, glancing around at his now worried team. "Yes, sir. Well be there as soon as possible."
Everyone waited for Chris to speak after shutting off the cell phone, but he remained silent. The others looked at Josiah, indicating that he should talk to Chris. "What happened, brother?"
The blond raised his head and finally looked at the rest of the team, pain visible in his eyes. "That was Travis. There was an explosion at the courthouse; almost the whole building has collapsed. And Vin and Ez were still in there when the bomb went off. Travis has no idea if they're even still alive."
There was utter silence around the table for a moment before the other four men all began shouting out denials, ignoring the stares from the other customers in the saloon. They only fell silent when Chris let out a piercing whistle. He met each man's eyes, letting them see the determination in his own. "We're gonna go down there and we're gonna keep looking for them until we find them. And when we find them, I'm going to lock both of them up until they're old and gray."
The others smiled grimly and they all rose to their feet as one and headed out of the saloon. They broke more traffic laws than any of them could count getting to the courthouse, but none of them cared. When they finally arrived at what was left of the building they just stood and stared at the ruins. The whole building had collapsed inwards and none of the agents could see how anyone could have survived.
Josiah stepped up behind Chris and put a hand on the blond's shoulder. "Have faith, brother. If anyone can walk away from this, it's those two. We just have to keep faith."
Chris just swept his eyes over the wreckage. "I can manage a little hope, Josiah, but I'm leaving the faith to you."
"Fair enough, brother. Fair enough."
The five agents soon found themselves working with the Denver police and many volunteers trying to clear out some of the wreckage. Every announcement of the discovery of a body chilled their blood, but none of the bodies were their missing men. As the hours dragged on and there was still no sign of Ezra or Vin, they began to slowly lose hope that they would ever be found. But still they continued searching.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra blinked slowly, trying to remember where he was. It all came rushing back when he shifted and pain shot down his arm from his dislocated shoulder. He glanced down, relieved to see Angela dozing as she leaned against his side. He then looked over the blonde head and met Vin's eyes.
"I don't think we're gonna get outa this one, Ez."
He sighed when he saw the pain and lack of hope in the sharpshooter's blue eyes. "Vin, you were the one telling me earlier that Mr. Larabee would certainly find us. What has brought about your change of heart?"
Vin's right shoulder rose in a half shrug, his left arm still over the sleeping Angela's shoulders. "Don't really know, Ez. It's just a feeling."
Ezra was silent as he digested that thought. Whenever Vin said he had a feeling about something, he was almost always correct. But something was telling him that this time the sharpshooter was wrong. He suddenly cringed as he heard the rubble above their heads shift and groan. He had to bite back a curse as his shoulder began throbbing, determined not to wake the girl at his side.
He glanced back at Vin, clearly seeing the concern in his expression. "Chris will find us and he will get us out of this death trap."
Vin found his lips curling up at the conviction in the Southerner's voice. "And how do ya know that, Ez?"
"Because I simply refuse to believe otherwise."
The Texan leaned his head back against the wall, the slight smile still on his face. "I hope you're right, Ez."
+ + + + + + +
It was quickly growing dark and the rescue personnel were beginning to send the volunteers home, stating that it was too dangerous to try to work in the dark. But the five agents refused to move. Nathan was trying to reason with the officers while the other four continued their digging.
"Look, we heard someone down there and we're almost at them. We'll stop after we get them out, but not a minute before."
The officers were about to argue when they heard a low moaning coming from under the rubble the agents were trying to move. They quickly moved to help and soon they were pulling a battered brunette woman out of the wreckage.
As they lifted her out and carried her towards a waiting ambulance she reached out and grabbed Chris's sleeve. "Please, my daughter is still in there somewhere. She got lost right before it happened, and I don't know where she was." She began coughing harshly and tears were streaming down her cheeks but refused to release Chris's arm. "Please find my Angela."
The blond gently pulled his arm away and smiled at her. "I promise, we'll try our best to find her, ma'am. You just let them take care of you, okay?"
The woman nodded and was quickly whisked away in the ambulance. As soon as the vehicle was out of sight, Chris turned to the officer in charge. "You had better get some lights in here, cause we're not going to stop searching." The blond glared when the officer tried to protest. "Our friends and a little girl are still in there, not to mention who knows how many other people. And we are going to get them all out no matter what. Do we understand each other?"
He nodded. "Yeah, we'll see what we can do. We wanted to keep going, but word came down from somewhere for us to stop for the night." Then he hurried off, shouting orders to his men.
Nathan shook his head in disgust. "Who in their right mind would tell them to stop searching for the night?"
"I don't know, brother Nate. But whoever it is doesn't deserve to be in that position." Josiah slapped the medic's shoulder, then jerked his head back towards the rubble. "Now, shall we go back to our search for our missing brothers?"
+ + + + + + +
The night dragged on, but neither of the trapped agents could manage more than a few minutes of sleep at a time. They had both just dozed off when a low keening woke them. As one they glanced down at the crying girl between them, even though it was too dark to actually see her.
"Angela darlin', what's the matter?"
The blonde sniffled, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. "I'm scared, Ezra. It's dark and scary in here, and I wanna go home."
The Southerner pulled her closer with his good arm, making comforting noises in her ear. "I know, darlin'. We all want to go home, but we can't just yet." He paused for a moment, then resumed speaking. "Tell me, darlin', what does your mother do when you're scared?"
She leaned against his side, resting her head on his shoulder. "Whenever I had a nightmare, Mama'd come in my room and sing to me. That always made me feel better."
Ezra sighed, certain that he would never be able to come up with an appropriate song for the child next to him. He suddenly jerked his head in the direction of the sharpshooter when he heard Vin start to sing softly. He was even more amazed when he realized that he knew the words. After a moment, his voice rose to join Vin's.Remember when, now and then, everything went wrong?
And then our friends would sing the friendship song?
And by and by we'd start to sing along.
We sang try a little longer for your friends,
Try a little stronger for your friends.
You work all night, you work all day,
you still can't keep those worry blues away.
Life comes up and life goes down,
there's just one way to keep it going 'round.
Try a little longer for your friends,
try a little stronger for your friends.
Once their voices faded, the only sound was Angela's rhythmic breathing. She had curled up closer to Ezra and was now asleep with her head pillowed on his leg. He kept his good hand on her shoulder as he turned to peer into the darkness towards Vin. "I didn't realize that you were a fan of Jim Henson."
Vin smiled tiredly at the subdued shock in the Southerner's voice. "Didn't think you were, either. But that was the only thing coming to mind."
Ezra snorted softly. "Considering our current situation, it's actually quite appropriate." He lifted his hand from Angela and reached out to Vin, finally coming into contact with the Texan's arm. "We will get out of this, Vin." He felt the sharpshooter shifting closer, wincing in sympathy when Vin grunted at the pain in his leg. "The others will get us out of here."
Vin felt his lips curling up as Ezra's words brought back some of his earlier optimism. "Yeah, they will. And if they don't, we'll come back and haunt 'em for the rest of their lives."
The undercover agent chuckled even as he felt himself drifting back to sleep. "I like the way you think, Vin. We shall indeed return to haunt them." He leaned slightly to the right as he fell asleep, his head just touching Vin's. Within moments, the only sounds among the rubble was their even breathing.
+ + + + + + +
Dawn was just breaking and the five agents still hadn't found any sign of Vin and Ezra. They were all exhausted, but none of them would stop searching for more than half an hour and only one of them would rest at a time. They just continued digging through the wreckage though their hopes that they would find the two missing agents alive fell with every hour that passed.
Chris was taking a break only because the others had noticed his hands beginning to shake. They had ganged up on him and forced him to sit on the sidelines and watch while they continued working. Only the realization that he was too tired to even glare at them had convinced him to take a breather. He glanced up from his coffee when one of the head officers walked up to him.
"We've found a spot on the bottom floor where the walls haven't completely caved in yet. It's a couple of floors below where your men were supposed to be, but one of the men thought he heard some movement down there." He met the blond's eyes, trying not to give him any false hope. "If your men are down there, then it's possible that they're still alive. But if they were anywhere else..."
Chris didn't need the officer to finish that thought. If Ezra and Vin weren't there, then they had most likely been crushed in the explosion. He closed his eyes, but he could still feel a tiny spark of hope that was trying to burn brighter. He couldn't explain it, but somehow he knew that the two men were still alive. He didn't question that knowledge, just climbed slowly to his feet.
Within just a few moments, all five agents were carefully digging through the rubble where the officer had taken them. Buck suddenly hissed at them, motioning for them to stop moving. Through the silence, they could just barely hear the sound of two very familiar voices coming from somewhere below them. A silly grin spread across Buck's face when he realized that the two voices were singing.
"Vin! Ez! You two down there?"
There was silence for a moment, then a Rebel yell pierced the air followed by a familiar Texan drawl. "What took you boys so long? Me and Ez have been waitin' on ya all night."
The five men all burst into relieved laughter. They returned to their digging with renewed vigor and soon they were joined by several officers and volunteers who were heartened by the thought of finding survivors. When they finally cleared enough of the rubble away to pull Vin and Ezra out, the agents received another surprise. Instead of pulling either of the agents out they were presented with a small blonde girl.
Chris took her, lifting her onto his hip while the others worked to free the two men. "And who are you, little lady?"
Chris suddenly smiled, immediately recognizing the name. "Well, Angela, as soon as we get Vin and Ezra out of there, how about we go see your mom?"
Her face lit up and she threw her arms around the blond agent's neck. "Please, can we? Vin said that she'd be looking for me."
"She sure was, Angela." He turned back to the wreckage just as a disheveled Ezra was pulled out. He frowned when he noticed that the undercover agent was holding his left arm against his chest. He walked over, the girl still on his hip. "You dislocated that shoulder again, didn't you?"
Ezra nodded. "Yes, but I believe that Vin is more seriously injured than I am." He shook his head at the worried expression on Chris's face. "I only meant that some falling debris landed on his leg and broke it. I believe that is the only injury that he suffered."
Both men smiled as Vin was brought up, biting off his curses when he realized that Angela was still there. Chris's expression quickly turned serious. "You two were very lucky. Other than this little lady's mother, they've only pulled a few people out alive."
"I know." Ezra's green eyes lost some of their focus. "Lady luck did indeed smile upon us." He suddenly smiled. "But we never gave up hope that you would find us."
Chris smiled too, finally able to relax now that his family was back together. "And we never gave up hope that we'd find you." His smile suddenly turned sly. "And as soon as the hospital lets the two of you go, you're coming back to the ranch with me. And I don't care if I have to tie the two of you up and stuff you in a closet, you're not gonna leave my sight."
Ezra groaned dramatically. "Perhaps Vin and I would have been better off staying down there, after all."
Chris just shook his head, shifting Angela on his hip. "No, Ez. I like it much better with the two of you up here."
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