Ezra had found it hard facing anyone outside his circle of friends. To aid
his mental state, he'd seen a counselor at the hospital but he had apparently
not said one word to her; not even returning her friendly greetings. After
he'd rejected her help, the man's six friends had deemed it best to keep
things in the family, so to speak. Therefore, Nathan tended Ezra's ailing
body by doing daily intensive physical therapy sessions on his leg, while
Josiah was trying his best to see to Ezra's mental needs.
The injured man still hadn't really talked about events and Josiah couldn't
help becoming increasingly concerned about the man's mental state. It couldn't
be doing him any good at all keeping things inside for so long. The profiler
had tried to get the man to open up to him on many occasions but Ezra wouldn't
even talk about the day of his fateful train journey. He clammed up immediately
whenever a hint of the topic was mentioned. The man was still on powerful
painkillers so at least he was sleeping, but over the past few nights when
Josiah had checked on him, Ezra had been exceedingly restless. The profiler
wondered what that signified.
+ + + + + + +
"Ez? You okay?" the profiler asked one evening as the two men sat silently
in the living room.
Ezra looked up and nodded as he had the feeling that Josiah was going to
start the usual inquisition again. Each day followed the same pattern and
always ended with Josiah trying to get him to talk about the train wreck.
Ezra, as usual, was going to avoid it. "I'm rather tired. I'll see you in
Josiah sighed unhappily, not wanting to push the man. "Sure, son. Call if
you need anything."
Ezra left the room slowly and made his way along the hall to the bedroom
that had been allocated to him. Josiah had converted a downstairs room so
that Ezra didn't have to negotiate the stairs.
The profiler stayed in the living room for another couple of hours before
retiring for the night too. He just didn't know how to get his friend to
talk to him. He felt that Ezra should by now have been comfortable enough
to broach the subject with him, but he was still avoiding the issue and Josiah
was now beginning to feel the strain. Every day his friends asked for a progress
report, and every day he said the same thing: no progress. He hoped that
didn't remain the case for much longer. He was starting to feel inadequate
and hopeless because of it.
In the early hours of the morning, Josiah was startled awake by a yell. It
took him a moment or two to remember that he had a houseguest. The injured
man had been so quiet since he'd arrived that it was easy to forget that
he was there at all. A further cry from the man, though, had Josiah tumbling
out of bed and hurrying downstairs in just his pajama pants. He opened Ezra's
door and switched on the light to find the injured man sitting bolt upright
in bed and shaking from head to foot while whimpering.
"Ezra? Did you have a bad dream?" Josiah asked as he hurried toward his friend
anxiously. He got no reply, so he sat on the bed and got hold of Ezra's shoulders
gently. "Ezra? Can you hear me, son? What's wrong?"
The man was trembling under Josiah's hands as if he were freezing cold. The
profiler grabbed a blanket and wrapped it round his friend as Ezra kept making
a soft keening sound. Finally, Ezra sobbed once and seemed to snap out of
his trance-like state.
"Oh, God," he stuttered as he raised a hand to his face.
"Why?" Ezra asked plaintively.
"Why what, son?" Josiah asked quietly, although he knew what the man wanted
to know. He just needed Ezra to voice the whole question himself.
Ezra had been burying the events of the wreck so deep that he hoped he'd
lost them. The hospital counselor had warned his friends that the memories
would come flooding back to the surface at some point, and Josiah reckoned
that that time was now.
"Why me?" Ezra asked forlornly as he broke down in tears. It was the first
real emotion he'd shown since being released from the hospital.
Josiah pulled the man into his arms and held him until he stopped crying
half an hour later. During that time, Josiah had whispered non-stop in the
man's ear as he continually rubbed a hand up and down his back in comfort.
He kept his other hand against the back of Ezra's head and stroked his hair
gently every so often.
"Hush, Ez. Yer safe, son. I won't let no harm come to you while you're in
Ezra finally pulled out of Josiah's tender grasp and wiped his red, tearful
eyes with his fingers. Josiah put a hand on either side of Ezra's face and
waited until the undercover agent raised his eyes to look at him.
"Ezra, son? I want you to promise me that you will talk to me about what
happened. Whenever you need me, I'll be here, okay? You ain't said one word
and it won't do you no good to hold it in any longer."
Ezra blinked once before his face crumpled again.
"Oh, Ez. I ain't gonna force ya. I just hate seeing you like this,
son," Josiah said as he took the distraught man back against his chest.
Ezra finally exhausted himself and Josiah eased the man down onto the mattress
and pulled the comforter over the trembling agent as he fell asleep. The
profiler took a seat beside the bed and dozed fitfully until dawn without
Before Ezra woke, Josiah left the room quietly and headed to the kitchen.
He began frying eggs and bacon, and after smelling the tempting aroma, Ezra
appeared in the doorway looking awkward.
"Mornin', Ez. Pull up a chair, son. It's almost cooked," the big man said
as he tried to put the man at ease.
The injured man hobbled to the table and sat down without a word. Josiah
placed the plate of food in front of him and Ezra picked at it distractedly.
"How ya feelin', son?" the profiler asked as he studied the disheveled man
"Do ya remember what happened last night?" Josiah asked tentatively, hoping
he wasn't going to set off another emotional outpouring.
"Do ya wanna talk about it?"
"No," the younger man whispered as he put a trembling hand to his face and
rubbed his brow wearily.
"Okay, well, eat up yer breakfast and then I'll get ya dressed."
Ezra ate a few mouthfuls before pushing the plate away. Josiah said not one
word to make Ezra feel uncomfortable about not finishing the meal. He certainly
wasn't going to tell the younger agent off. After eating his own meal, the
profiler washed up quickly and then trailed along slowly behind Ezra to his
bedroom to get him ready for the day ahead.
"What do ya fancy wearing today?"
"Well, how about this?" Josiah asked as he turned back from the closet and
held up some loose jeans and a red t-shirt.
"Whatever," Ezra replied with a shrug as he sat staring at the carpet.
Josiah sighed. Ezra was usually as proud as a peacock about his appearance
but since the accident he couldn't have cared less about how he looked. It
upset Josiah to see the total change in Ezra's character. The profiler had
been trying never to let his own feelings show but it was getting harder
and harder to remain in control. Ezra was certainly not the chattering, happy
man that he used to be.
Josiah sighed once more and knelt in front of his friend. Ezra still had
great trouble bending his injured leg, although he was improving slowly,
so after first helping Ezra to put on his boxers, the profiler threaded the
man's injured leg into the pant leg of the jeans. He then left Ezra to put
on his t-shirt while dealing with the man's shoes and socks himself.
The profiler then escorted Ezra into the living room and left him alone while
he did some chores. The injured man spent most of his time in that one room
either playing cards, watching TV or usually just staring into space. Josiah
had tried on several occasions to get Ezra to do something a bit more
challenging, but he had been as successful at that as he had been with getting
Ezra to talk about the accident.
+ + + + + + +
An hour later, Vin and Chris turned up at Josiah's house in order to allow
him to go shopping and visit his sister. The two men were going to keep an
eye on their troubled friend until Nathan turned up for the next session
of therapy that he had planned for that afternoon.
The big man knew that Ezra was, as usual, in the living room playing solitaire
so he beckoned his two friends into the kitchen. He scratched the back of
his head and turned to face the curious men.
"Everythin' alright, big guy?" Vin asked quietly when he saw the look on
the profiler's face.
"Think Ez is finally questioning what happened to him. He had a nightmare
last night and then cried for a full hour. He's only had a real small breakfast
this morning and hardly spoke to me at all. I don't know what else I can
do for him, Chris, except be around if he ever decides that he wants to talk
to me. I can see that he's really suffering inside and I feel so helpless,
'cause at the moment, I don't seem to be aiding his recovery."
Before any more could be said, Ezra cried out. Chris held out his hands and
signaled for the other two men to stay in the kitchen while he dealt with
the injured man.
Josiah nodded and headed toward the front door. "Okay. I'll leave ya to it
and see ya later."
The blond went through to the living room and saw Ezra sitting on the couch
with his head in his hands. "Ez?" Chris sat beside the man. "Anything I can
"What happened? Did ya fall asleep and have a nightmare?"
Ezra nodded and sighed.
"What did you see?"
Ezra shrugged and didn't answer.
"Shall I tell you what I see when I dream about the accident?" Chris asked.
"I see wreckage; I see you; I see your wallet covered in blood."
Ezra's voice then began in a whisper. "I see a little boy sitting with his
parents. He had such a lovely smile. I was watching him when the train
crashed. There was such an expression of terror on his face when he looked
at me. It's etched on my memory for all time. Everything then turned pitched
black and all I could hear was screaming. We were thrown around, hitting
the seats, hitting each other and I've never been so scared. Then all I could
feel was pain, like no other I've had before." Ezra paused an shook his head.
"I just can't get the picture of that little boy out of my mind. He died.
They all died, except me. Why me?" Ezra mumbled as he began to cry once more.
"I'm so sorry, Ez."
"Tell me what you saw. What you felt," the upset man begged as he hugged
a cushion on his lap.
"You're the one who needs to talk about things, Ez."
"I need to hear some more of your thoughts. It might make me feel less alone
if I can hear your thoughts," Ezra pleaded as he looked up at the blond.
"You're never alone, Ez."
Chris sighed, hating to talk about his own feelings but knowing that doing
so would help his friend. He could certainly understand Ezra's reluctance
to talk about things: he had trouble enough himself. "I keep seeing you,
Ez. You're so pale in my dreams. I see all the other injured people too but
in my dreams they're cast aside, discarded like a pile of garbage. I was
terrified that day, Ez. I couldn't believe that anyone coulda survived that
wreck; then there you were. I was so pleased that you'd been spared. That
has to be one of the worst days of my life but after all the terror, things,
at least for us, ended on a brighter note. You were still with us. Almost
got my faith back in God that day," the blond admitted.
"I don't know how to move on. I feel so ashamed and guilty for being alive,"
"I know it ain't easy for ya, Ez. Josiah told me what happened last night."
Ezra wiped a hand slowly down his face from brow to chin. "I couldn't hold
it in any longer and I'm afraid I lost control."
"Did you good to let it all out, I 'spect, Ez."
Ezra finally felt a real need to talk about some of his experiences. As Chris
had been present during the direct aftermath, and had some knowledge of what
he'd been through, Ezra felt better able to relate to him rather than Josiah.
Not that Josiah wasn't capable of understanding, but Chris seemed a good
person to begin talking to. "There was a shoe," he said quietly. "It belonged
to the little boy. After the train stopped, there was just this empty shoe.
A blood-spattered shoe, lying in my line of sight. There's something so evocative
about an abandoned shoe, especially when you knew who once wore it," Ezra
said as he sobbed. "Whenever I sleep, I see that shoe."
Chris put his arm round the man's shoulder and Ezra leant hard against him
as huge sobs wracked his small frame. The blond held him tight and rocked
him back and forth. After about fifteen minutes, the injured man finally
sat up and wiped his eyes.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"Don't apologize, Ez. You know any of us are happy to listen to what you
have to say, at any time. You've been through a real bad experience
so don't feel ashamed of letting yer feelings show. We won't think any less
of you for it."
Just as Chris finished talking, there was a quiet knock on the living room
door and Vin poked his head round. "Ez? Nate's here. Do ya still wanna do
yer session? He said he can leave it 'til tomorrow, if you prefer."
"No, I'm alright."
The medic walked into the room after getting the go-ahead from Vin, and he
smiled at Ezra when he saw the man's tear-streaked face. "You sure yer up
to this?" he asked kindly.
"Yes, it might help take my mind off things," Ezra replied as he tried to
pull himself together.
The undercover agent then endured half an hour of various exercises, which
always left him exhausted. By the time Nathan left, the smaller man was fast
asleep on the couch.
Josiah returned an hour later and Chris sat him down and told him everything
that Ezra had said to him. Josiah was pleased that the man had finally broken
his silence although he was slightly upset that after all his efforts, Chris
had been the one able to get Ezra to open up.
"Thanks, Chris. Maybe this will start him on the road to recovery. Sorry
I wasn't able to get him talking to me before today."
"The main thing is that he did talk. It don't matter who succeeded
and who didn't."
"I know, but I just feel that I've let ya down," Josiah said with a shrug.
"Your kindness last night when he was so upset played some part in his feeling
comfortable enough to start telling us about things. You've done real good
so far, buddy. We should just be grateful for the fact that he is finally
"I know it's selfish of me for wanting him to talk to me first, but I just
wanted to help him so badly," Josiah admitted.
"I understand, Josiah. You're helping him a lot by having him stay and keeping
him company. He's obviously feeling safe here and that's a tremendous help."
"Yeah, yer right. Thanks for putting things in perspective. I've just been
letting things get to me lately."
"Well, if ya need to talk, you know where I am," Chris offered as he rose
and made moves to leave the house.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra went to bed that night and lay staring at the ceiling. He was desperately
trying to come to terms with all the emotions and visions that had surfaced
over the past twenty-four hours. He kept looking at the clock every so often,
thinking that hours must have passed by, only to find that it was five minutes
since the last time he'd checked. Finally, in the early hours of the morning,
Ezra fell asleep, but not for long. He slipped straight into his shoe nightmare.
"Ahhhh!!!!! Oh, shit," he yelled as he woke up screaming.
He put his head in his hands as he heard pounding footsteps coming down from
upstairs. His bedroom door was flung open and the light switched on. It was
a carbon copy of the previous night's events.
"I'm sorry, Josiah. So sorry to disturb you again," the undercover
agent mumbled tearfully.
The profiler sat on the bed and pulled Ezra's hands away from his face. "Look
at me, Ezra." No response to his demand. "Ezra?"
"I can't handle this, Josiah. I want to get rid of these images. It's driving
me insane," Ezra said in despair as he stared up at the bigger man.
Josiah looked back at him sadly. "I can't imagine how yer suffering inside,
son. I see the external signs yer exhibiting but they're only half yer symptoms,
I reckon. You really need to talk about yer feelings."
"I talked to Chris."
Josiah rubbed Ezra's upper arms briskly in encouragement and comfort. "I
know, son, and he told us what you said. Why don't you talk a bit more to
me now? It might help if you can tell me again about the little boy and the
"I can't," Ezra said as he began shaking uncontrollably.
"What aren't ya telling me, son? There's somethin' else in
yer dream to do with the shoe, ain't there? Something that is horrible."
Ezra lifted a hand to his mouth and sobbed as he closed his eyes. What had
once been hidden had suddenly jumped into his mind as Josiah talked. The
prompt from the profiler had been the final catalyst in setting it free.
Josiah reached out a hand and laid it on Ezra's arm again when he saw that
his friend was getting increasingly upset. "Come on, Ez. Tell me."
"The shoe....," Ezra mumbled through his fingers.
"What about it, son?" Josiah asked softly, hoping he was going to get to
the bottom of his friend's distress.
"The shoe....his foot was still in it. It'd been ripped off," Ezra whispered
before throwing up and beginning to cry again.
"Oh, son," Josiah said, totally shocked.
Ezra scrambled out of bed and headed as fast as he could to the bathroom.
He stumbled against the wall as his leg gave way but he managed to remain
upright and forced himself onwards with determination.
Josiah bowed his head and wiped a weary hand over his face before getting
up and following his friend. "Ezra? Can I come in?"
He received no reply but he entered the room anyway. Ezra stood leaning over
the sink and the profiler watched as the man continued to puke periodically.
Ezra's skin was covered in sweat and he shook uncontrollably as if he were
cold. Josiah looked round quickly and pulled a large towel from the rail
and put it over Ezra's back.
"How ya doin'?"
"Sick. Can't stop," Ezra said and proved his point by throwing up once more.
The man was twitching constantly and had tears streaming down his face. He
seemed to have totally lost control of his emotions and his body.
"Come and sit on the floor, Ez. Better go near the toilet so you can puke
in there if need be."
Josiah eased the man down and Ezra leant over the toilet bowl, retching noisily.
The profiler sat beside him and rubbed his back gently whenever he was sick.
Josiah didn't know quite what he'd expected to happen but he became increasingly
concerned that Ezra didn't seem to be improving. He'd thought that maybe
Ezra would've been sick a couple of times, because of what he'd remembered,
but this scenario was truly frightening.
"Cold. So cold," Ezra mumbled almost to himself.
Josiah reached out a hand but the man's skin was not cold to the touch. He
reached out again and found another towel, which he put round his friend's
shoulder. Ezra seemed not to notice and nothing Josiah did, or said, seemed
to help. The undercover agent was past being able to communicate coherently
and his behavior deteriorated rapidly. The profiler flinched as Ezra began
screaming like a banshee. The big man felt his skin erupt in goose bumps
at the dreadful sound that alternated with wailing and sobbing. He really
had the sense that he was losing his friend to insanity. He'd never felt
so scared for someone's mental health in all his life. For once, he was totally
at a loss at what to do. He really felt the need of Nathan's company and
medical knowledge at this point.
The profiler stood up and hurried to the phone, although he hated leaving
Ezra alone. "Nate? Need you over at my place now. Ezra's having some kind
of breakdown. I'm scared of what he might be capable of."
"Is that him I can hear?" Nathan asked.
"Okay, I'm on my way. Try to keep him from harming himself, or you,"
the medic said meaningfully.
Josiah went back to the bathroom after collecting some blankets from the
bedroom. "Ez? Nate's coming."
Ezra was still beyond answering. The man leant back against the wall and
curled up as much as he could and continued crying and screaming. Josiah
put the extra blankets over him and then sat beside him after moving his
razor surreptitiously out of sight. He then heard his front door being pounded
so he hurried along and let Nathan in. The medic had obviously just thrown
on the first clothes that he could find and he even had odd shoes on. He'd
been in such a rush to reach his unstable friend that he hadn't concentrated
on what he was doing. Not that it made the slightest bit of difference. Ezra
was all that mattered.
"Sorry, forgot the spare key to yer house. Coulda let myself in without you
having to leave Ez on his own. Where is he?" Nathan asked as he stepped inside
the house worriedly.
"In the bathroom, but I'm sure you'd have found him easily enough without
me telling you. Just follow the sound of screaming," Josiah said as he let
Nathan go down the hallway first.
"What happened exactly?" the disheveled medic asked as he suddenly stopped,
realizing he ought to have all the facts before tackling the injured man.
"He told me a bit more about the shoe and it really upset him." Josiah gave
Nathan the details of Ezra's confession and then said, "He started being
sick after that and he's real cold and shaky. He just totally lost it and
began screaming and I can't get through to him. I admit that I'm real scared
for his welfare."
The medic nodded and continued on his way to the bathroom. He sat beside
Ezra and saw how pale, sweaty and sick he appeared. The man was now just
whimpering, and Nathan was glad to see that he seemed to have come back to
his senses a bit more.
"Ez? It's Nate. Can you tell me how ya feel?"
The only reply he got was another severe bout of sickness from the man. "Okay,
Ez. Just try and calm down," Nathan instructed as he reached a hand under
the many blankets and towels that were heaped over his seemingly-freezing
"Shall I get an ambulance?" Josiah asked from where he stood hovering in
Nathan shook his head quickly. "No, I'll deal with him myself. Don't think
he could really handle any strangers right now."
"Okay," Josiah agreed, knowing that the injured man would probably freak
out big time again at the prospect of a visit to the hospital.
Nathan patted Ezra's cheek gently to try and gain his attention. "Ez? Talk
to me. How are you feeling?"
Nothing happened for a while, but then the sick man slowly looked up at Nathan.
The medic could see the terror in his friend's eyes and he felt his heart
skip a beat at the sight.
"Trembly, inside and out," Ezra finally managed to say through huge sobs.
"What? What do you mean?"
"Shaky in my chest," Ezra said as a tremor shook his body so badly that it
made his teeth chatter. He raised a hand to the area concerned and bent forward
slightly as if his chest hurt.
"Have you gotten pain in yer chest?" Nathan asked worriedly, knowing
he'd have no choice but to call for an ambulance if that was the case.
"No, just cold. Shivery inside."
Nathan took Ezra's pulse and found it pounding away under his finger. He
also felt the man's skin and found that it was warm but not clammy as he's
been expecting. Not shock then, but he hadn't really considered that option
to begin with. He found a washcloth and gently wiped the sweat from Ezra's
face and upper body before drying him off.
"Okay, Ez. I'm just gonna give you a mild sedative to calm you down a bit
and I'll find something to settle yer stomach too." Nathan treated the man
gently and was glad when he finally stopped shaking and crying. The medic
could see that the undercover agent was now totally exhausted after his severe
emotional outburst. "Alright, let's get you to bed."
Nathan and Josiah pulled the now quiet man to his feet between them. Ezra
put his arms round their shoulders while his two friends gripped him tightly
round his body. Ezra seemed half-asleep already but still somehow managed
to put one foot in front of the other.
"Dammit," Josiah cursed when he remembered something. "Have to put him on
the couch. He puked in the bed and I haven't had a chance to clean it up
yet. Don't wanna put him upstairs in my bed until he's more mobile."
"Okay, the couch will be fine. Can you find a pillow and comforter for him
"Sure," Josiah said.
The two men settled their friend on the couch and helped him lie down. Josiah
went to his own bedroom, found the requested items and headed quickly back
to the living room. He handed them over to Nathan to hold while he first
changed Ezra's sweat- soaked pajamas. The medic then covered Ezra with the
thick comforter and tucked in the sides to keep out any draughts.
"Feel any better, son?" Josiah asked as he sat beside the man and rubbed
a hand up and down the comforter to try and warm it up quickly.
"Not so cold," Ezra admitted softly as he curled up in a ball and hugged
the pillow tightly. He couldn't really understand what had happened to him.
It all seemed rather unreal.
"That's good. Now try to get some sleep."
The profiler and medic sat with their friend until his eyes closed and his
breathing evened out and deepened, signaling an unconscious state. They then
left the room together and adjourned to the kitchen so that they could talk
without disturbing their patient.
"I'll just call Chris," Josiah said after they'd finished discussing the
night's events. He wandered into the hallway and punched in the blond's number.
"Chris? Just thought that you oughta know that I had to call Nate out to
"Why? What happened?" the sleepy man asked.
Josiah gave him all the details and he couldn't help shaking as he recalled
Chris listened in horror. "Jeez, poor Ez. I'll come over tomorrow unless
you need me now?"
"No, we're okay. Nate's staying over. Sorry to wake you at this hour but
I thought you'd wanna know."
Chris rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed a bit. "That's alright, Josiah. I
wanna know how things are no matter what the time is, and you know that I'm
quite often awake at night anyway. I'll contact the other guys in the morning,
so don't worry about them. Are you okay?"
"Been better. He really needs professional help, Chris. I think I'm just
making matters worse."
"No, you ain't. He trusts you. He talked about what was really bugging
him. I think that getting someone else in now would give him the wrong message.
He's just started opening up to us and he'd see it as us not caring, or not
wanting to help him any more," the blond pointed out worriedly. He really
didn't want Josiah to give up at such a crucial time.
Josiah nodded. "Yeah, I get what you mean. I'll keep giving him as much support
as I can, Chris."
"Thanks, big guy."
+ + + + + + +
The next morning, Nathan answered the insistent knock on Josiah's door and
found Chris on the doorstep.
"How is he?" the blond asked as soon as he set eyes on the medic.
Nathan backed up and allowed his boss to step inside. "Been asleep since
Josiah called you. I had to give him a sedative 'cause he was in such a state.
He had a severe psychotic episode, which is kinda like a breakdown, or a
bad panic attack. He finally told Josiah what was really troubling him and
it set off this nasty reaction. His mind couldn't handle it after being
suppressed for so long."
"Will he be alright?"
Nathan shrugged and rubbed his eyes sleepily. "Can't say. He's obviously
just started suffering flashbacks at night within the last day or so, but
now he's finally fitted the last piece in the puzzle it might mean the beginning
of recovery, or it might mean that he can't live with what he knows. I really
Chris grimaced. "How are you getting on? Are you feeling any better
about the accident? I know you were still finding things hard to cope with."
"Well, until Ezra is fully recovered I don't think I'll feel totally at ease
with things. We're still being confronted with the aftermath every time we
see Ez, aren't we? Anyway, Rain's home from Chicago so Buck's gone home again.
I've talked to her about everything that happened and I feel a lot better
for it. How about you?" Nathan asked.
Chris shrugged. "Vin's gone home too so I'm on my own. I still dream about
it but things are improving. Like you, I think we can only really start to
put things behind us when Ez is alright."
"'Spect Buck would be happy to stay with you if you want some company," the
The blond leant back against the wall and shook his head. "No, now I've started
accepting things, I don't wanna take a step backward by having someone stay
again. I need to learn to cope on my own. If someone's always asking if yer
okay, you believe that you ain't, if you get my meaning. I need to get back
to some semblance of normality."
"Yeah, I understand. It's difficult, ain't it, knowing what's best in the
"It is. What's good for us, certainly wouldn't work in Ezra's case. He needs
support, company and comfort for the foreseeable future," Chris pointed out.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. There still seems a long way to go for him to
feel comfortable with his life again."
Josiah poked his head into the hallway and interrupted the conversation.
"Nate? He's awake."
The medic hurried back in with Chris following worriedly in his wake. The
blond really wanted to see Ezra for himself to see if there was anything
that he could do to help.
"Ez? How ya feelin'?" the medic asked as he squatted down at eye-level and
ran his fingers through the man's hair.
"Why are you here? Did something happen?" Ezra asked drowsily. He squinted
at the medic in confusion because he couldn't recall any events that would
have warranted his presence.
"Yeah, you had a real rough night after having a nightmare."
"Oh." Ezra closed his eyes as he desperately tried to remember what had happened.
Just thinking about what day it might be proved hard enough for the undercover
"Do you remember anything, Ez?" Nathan asked quietly.
"I recall sickness. I recall cold," Ezra said as he shivered again and tried
to snuggle back down under the comforter.
"Alright, Ez. We'll talk about what happened later on, when yer feeling a
bit better. Get some more sleep," Nathan said as he made his two friends
leave the room. He didn't want to force Ezra into talking just now. He'd
wait until Ezra'd had time to recollect some more about the night's events
before broaching the subject again.
+ + + + + + +
A couple of hours later, Ezra woke once more while Chris was checking on
"Hey, Ez," the blond greeted as he sat beside the man and helped him get
upright. "You okay?"
"I'm sorry. It was all so overwhelming."
"I wasn't actually here at the time, Ez, but Josiah told me what you said
to him and what you did afterwards."
"I didn't remember the last, nasty detail about the shoe until yesterday.
I always knew there was something more but I couldn't quite get it. It was
there at the back of my mind until Josiah said something to me last night,
and then there were so many images, that I couldn't cope with it all. The
crash itself was awful but it's that little boy's severed foot that will
haunt me for the rest of my days. I picked the shoe up, you see. I was kinda
drawn to it, hypnotized by it and then I saw what was inside." Ezra began
crying. He hated feeling so vulnerable but his emotions just seemed to have
free-rein at the moment and there was nothing he could do to keep them in
"Oh, Ez," Chris said as he put an arm round the man's shoulder.
"How do I move on?"
Chris gave Ezra's back a vigorous, encouraging rub. "Well, you have
moved on, Ez. By finally talking about what happened makes it a step in the
right direction. The fact that you remembered the foot part too is progress."
"Doesn't feel like it," Ezra said as he wiped his eyes and pulled the comforter
up higher when he felt cold.
"I know, but it is a good thing that you've remembered it," the blond
replied as he helped his friend adjust the bedclothes.
Ezra sat quietly for a few minutes but then startled Chris with his next
statement. "I need to go to the wreck site."
Chris studied the man anxiously as his own stomach started doing back flips.
"Are you sure?"
"I feel I must. It might help and I need to....I don't know. I just need
"Okay, Nate and I will go with you. We've gotten some demons of our own that
need laying to rest," Chris said with a sigh, hoping Nathan didn't mind his
services being volunteered.
"Yes, you must have. It can't have been nice to see what you did. You had
it worse than me in that respect. I only saw what had happened in my very
confined space, but you saw the aftermath of it all."
"Yes, we did," Chris said softly as he remembered the raw fear of that fateful
day. The blond looked up as he felt his own back being patted and he smiled
at Ezra in thanks. "You okay on yer own now? Do ya wanna get up and have
something to eat?"
"No, I think I'll go back to sleep for a bit unless I'm in the way here."
"You stay on the couch as long as ya like. We're in the kitchen if ya need
anything. Just give a yell." Chris stood up and left the undercover agent
to catch up on some more rest.
"Chris? He alright? We heard ya talking but didn't like to interrupt," Josiah
said as the black-clad man returned.
"He talked a bit more about the accident. He seems to have taken the death
of the little boy rather hard." Chris paused and looked uncomfortable. "He
also said that he wants to visit the wreck site."
"Is that wise?" Josiah asked anxiously as his stomach did a somersault.
Chris shook his head indecisively. "God knows, but I said that Nate and I
would go with him."
"Sure, I'll come," Nathan agreed. "Least we can keep an eye on him then.
It's good that he's not refusing to visit the site, which I think would be
more worrying. He's facing up to what happened," the medic said with a shrug.
"So you see it as positive?" Chris asked, slightly encouraged by the man's
"Yeah, I do."
"Great. Do ya fancy coming for a drink on yer way home tonight, Nate? Wanna
talk to you about another coupla things," Chris said.
Nathan nodded but flicked a look at Josiah worriedly. "You be okay on yer
own with Ez, Josiah?"
"Yeah, I'll watch over him. You coming back tonight, Chris?"
"Not unless you want me to," Chris said as he raised an eyebrow in question.
"No, we'll be okay, I reckon," the profiler said as he stood and escorted
his guests out.
"Right, well, give me a call when he wants to go to the wreck site and I'll
come and pick him up," Chris offered as he patted the big man's back.
"Sure, Chris. Thanks for yer help today, guys. I appreciated it."
"No problem. We're only a phone call away."
Nathan and Chris left together and went to a nearby bar. The blond bought
a couple of beers and then settled down with his friend in a far corner of
"How do ya think Ez is really doin'?" he asked after a couple of minutes.
The blond lit a cigarette and leant back in his chair as he waited for Nathan
"Physically, he's progressing slowly. He still tires easily and his leg is
really causing him problems. He's still in a lot of discomfort. As for his
mental health, I think ya need to ask a professional 'cause it ain't my
specialty. I will say this, though. It's gonna be an up and down journey
for him, so we have to be patient, don't push him, and treat him with kid
gloves. He's really on edge, Chris. I've never seen anyone in such a state
like Ez was last night, and I didn't see the worst of his behavior.
Josiah was at his wit's end when he called me. He ain't usually fazed by
witnessing such behavior but he was real upset."
Chris nodded in understanding. Even he could see how badly Josiah
had been affected by events. "What about Ezra's flashbacks and nightmares?"
"They're a permanent feature and can crop up at any time, not just when he's
sleeping. I think Josiah's gonna have disturbed nights and troubled days
for the foreseeable future. Now that the bad dreams have started, they'll
keep coming until Ez starts to come to terms with what happened to him. Probably
continue after that too. He'll never forget, Chris," Nathan said as he wiped
a drop of beer off his pant leg.
"I just can't imagine what he's feeling. The nightmares I've had were horrible
but I ain't had one for a while and they were very intermittent anyway. To
suffer them regularly would drive me insane," the blond observed quietly
as he ran his fingers through his hair.
"Yeah, I know, Chris," Nathan agreed.
Something in Nathan's tone made Chris anxious. "Are you sure you can handle
going to the wreck site? You don't have to come if ya don't want to."
The medic nodded wryly. "It'll be good for us to go. We have to support Ezra
in this; our needs are secondary. What about you?"
"Bit apprehensive about goin', I admit. I was kinda taken aback when Ez said
he wanted to go. Didn't wanna say no seeing as he'd made up his mind, but
I just hope it's a step forward for him. It may be another door he can hopefully
close on this whole affair."
"It'll either close a door, or open another one with a whole load of other
problems for him to contend with. I can't say what reactions will be brought
to the fore with this."
"Yeah, I know what ya mean. Just have to cross our fingers and say a few
+ + + + + + +
The three men stood and surveyed the crash site; each thinking back and reliving
their own memories from the last time that they had been there.
"God, it's as if nothing ever happened," Ezra said quietly as he raked his
eyes from one side of the area to the other. "Like those people never died.
They were wiped out in a split second and forgotten."
"They're not forgotten, Ez," Chris said although privately he partly agreed
with his friend's observation. They had probably been forgotten by
the vast majority of the population, but they would never be forgotten by
those who had been involved in the train wreck; be they firefighters, police,
or survivors like Ez.
As they stood looking, a train suddenly hurtled down the track and passed
close to where they stood, making Ezra flinch mightily and stagger sideways.
He wobbled precariously on his crutches and gasped as he heard the sounds
of the crash in his mind.
"Alright, Ez?" Chris asked worriedly as he watched the color drain from his
"Oh, God. So clear, so real," Ezra whispered as he bowed his head, eyes tight
"Ezra? Come back. Can you hear me?" Nathan called, not wanting to touch the
man while he remained in his present introverted state.
"Screams, so loud."
The undercover agent snapped upright and looked at the man in confusion.
He darted his eyes round the area and then stared at Chris before turning
his gaze back to Nathan. "Mr. Jackson?"
"You okay? We lost you for a bit there."
Ezra took a halting breath and blinked rapidly as he surveyed the area nervously
to make sure that what his mind had just re-run was not actually happening.
It had been too real for comfort. "Flashback," he said in a relieved tone.
"Come on, let's go back home. I've seen all I need to, I reckon," Chris said
as he exchanged glances with Nathan. There was absolutely no point in staying
any longer, because it just seemed to be upsetting Ezra.
"Yes, so have I," the medic agreed.
"Thank you for bringing me. I'm glad I came, although you may not have seen
any benefits," Ezra said as he looked gratefully from one man to the other.
Chris reached out a hand and rubbed Ezra's back softly. "We both needed to
come, whatever the outcome, Ez."
"I hope that you didn't feel that I forced you to keep me company on my
expedition," the undercover agent said anxiously. He desperately needed to
get some reassurance from his friends that he hadn't wasted their time.
Chris shook his head vehemently. "Not at all. We'd talked about coming here
ourselves before you even mentioned it."
"It was a kind of an ending for all of us, I reckon. The next step along
the road if you like," Nathan said in explanation as he reached out a hand
and rubbed Ezra's back too.
"Yes, I understand," Ezra said quietly, taking comfort in the fact that his
friends seemed happy to accompany him on his journey to recovery. It made
it a less lonesome trip. "Well, there's something else that I need
"Ez? What ya talking about?"
"I need to go on a train again."
The blond shook his head and looked nervous. He stepped into the injured
man's line of sight. "Ez, it's too soon. Yer not physically fit, let alone
Ezra met his gaze unflinchingly. "Until I do it, I don't think I'll ever
be mentally fit again."
Chris studied Ezra uncertainly. The man seemed dead-set on completing his
mission and the blond couldn't help but be concerned. "When you do go we'll
come with you, but I want you to think long and hard before definitely deciding."
"Fine," the injured man agreed, although his mind was already made up.
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