Warnings: Swearing and hints of child abuse.
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, they belong to Miramax and CBS and whoever else owned them in the short time they were on.
Authors notes: Here it is, my first solo M7 fic. I wanna thank Voni for betaing and for encouraging me to write faster and finish the thing. She helped me mesh out this crazy idea. Thanks to the Brigs, who give me inspiration and who understand my Ezra obsession. Please provide feedback, I'm a little insecure about my writing! (yes this is a guilt trip but it's true!) Enough of this, on with the fic!
Requiem: (n) any hymn or solemn musical service to honor the dead.
"Go damnit!" Ezra snarled as he stood up and fired again. He dropped down beneath the rocks. "I will hold them off for as long as I can. You must reach civilization."
"Ezra, I can't"
"Go now JD. Don't argue with me." Both men ducked as a rain of gunfire feel around them. Ezra and JD stood up to return fire. They fell back again; both slightly out of breath. "Listen to me JD, you must get to a phone and tell Chris what happened. He must know."
"Come with me!"
"I'll only slow you down JD, you know that." Ezra looked down at his twisted ankle. His resigned green eyes looked in JD's worried brown ones. "No, you will reach a telephone quickly if I am not there to slow you down. Don't worry JD, I'll be fine." Ezra flashed JD his most charming smile but JD could see that he didn't believe that.
"Ezra . . . "
"I'll be here waiting JD. Get out of this cursed forest and bring in the calvary. Go!"
JD turned and looked around. He turned to Ezra one last time. "Ezra, I just want you to say . . . "
"Tell me when you get back. Now go boy."
JD nodded and took a deep breath. He nodded again and Ezra stood up, firing his weapon to distract his pursuers.
JD ran into the woods and disappeared.
Ezra sat down again, leaning against the stone outcropping he was using for shelter. He had always known he would die alone but he didn't realize it would be so soon. Ah well, at least my death will mean something. Young Mr. Dunne will live and perhaps Mr. Wilmington and Mr. Larabee won't be too angry, Ezra thought. With a resigned sigh, Ezra stood up and fired a few times and emptied his clip. Throwing away the useless gun, he began to limp quickly away, going in the opposite direction JD had headed.
He had almost disappeared into the woods when he felt the bullets enter, one high in his chest, the other in his good leg. He fell to the hard, unforgiving ground.
No! Not now! I must lead them away from JD, Ezra thought frantically. With a stubborn determination that he was famous for, Ezra began to crawl along the floor leaving a small bloody trail in the woods. He crawled for what seemed like aeons, in reality only 30 minutes. His body weighing him down, he fought because he knew if he gave up now, all would be lost.
His broken body finally quit and he collapsed, unable to move. He rolled over onto his back and gazed at the blue sky. He mumbled to himself. "Blue like Vin's eyes. Oh dear, I do believe I'm delirious. But I must save the others! Why can't I move?"
Frustrated he let out a cry, knowing it would attract the enemy away from JD. He lay there breathing heavily and bleeding slightly, beginning to feel cold. Darkness encroached his vision but he fought it, defying death even then. He was a Standish and they beat the odds.
Before he blacked out, he thought he heard a familiar voice.
+ + + + + + +
"He's here!" Chris Larabee's triumphant voice called out. "Oh my God," he whispered as he caught sight of the wounded agent. He turned to Buck. "Get Nathan," he ordered. Buck looked at Ezra's still form, paling at the blood and nodded. He ran off, calling for him.
Chris knelt down and felt for a pulse. He let out the breath he had been holding when he felt the weak beat. "Damnit Ezra, I leave you alone for one day," he said with a weak grin.
He grew hopeful when he heard Ezra groan. "C'mon Ez, open your eyes.
The green eyes looked up at him up at him, confused. "JD?" he whispered.
"Is fine. He wasn't hurt."
A faint smile graced his lips as the green eyes closed.
"Ezra? Ezra?? Damnit Ez, don't do this, you hear me?" He felt for a pulse and felt himself grow cold all over. "NATHAN!" he bellowed.
He began to do compressions, fighting to keep Ezra's body alive for him.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan, having heard the bad news from Buck, raced through the woods looking for the two men. When he heard his name yelled out, he ran faster knowing he was needed.
He ran into a clearing, his heart nearly stopping when he saw his leader trying to jumpstart Standish's heart. He ran to his side and felt for a pulse, praying for some type of divine intervention.
"Let me take over." Chris backed off, allowing Nathan to begin administering CPR. He moved to Ezra's nose and began to breathe for him.
They kept this up for 2 minutes. Chris was about to lower his head to breathe again when Ezra jolted and took at breath on his own. Chris sat back and Nathan checked his pulse.
With a smile Nathan said, "There's a heartbeat. It's weak but it's there. I'd rather not move him but we have to get him to the car and a hospital.
"I'll carry him." Both men looked up surprised at the voice of Josiah Sanchez, followed by the rest of Team Seven. They had silently watched the fight to save one of their own.
Chris nodded. "Let's go.
+ + + + + + +
Six men sat in the hospital waiting room, tired and confused. "You have no idea why those men were shooting at Ezra?" Chris asked again.
JD looked frustrated at his own lack of knowledge. "None. Ezra knew who they were but didn't tell me."
Chris turned to Vin. "How many are in custody?"
"Four. Two were shot."
"After we know Ez is ok, we'll go talk to them." A wicked gleam in Chris's eyes let the others know what kind of talking he and the five men would do.
"Ah, Agent Larabee. Of course you're here for Agent Standish?" Dr. Michaelmann looked at the man he had unfortunately gotten to know well. Team Seven was notorious in the ER ward for causing the most trouble and having the most injuries. "Agent Standish is in recovery. It was touch and go for awhile. Between the bullet wound and the blood loss, his heart stopped again and we had to restart it while in surgery. We managed to get the bullet out and stop the bleeding. He needed to receive quite a bit of blood as well. He should make a full recovery. Give the nurses about ten minutes and then you can see him in ICU. I trust you gentlemen know where that is." With that, the doctor walked away to check on other patients.
Relieved grins found their way onto all the faces of the six as they grew impatient to see their injured friend. Finally a nurse came to take them to Ezra's room.
Ezra lay in bed, pale and frail looking amongst the many wires and tubes that were keeping him alive and watching over his condition. They heard the reassuring beeping of the heart monitor and they immediately felt better, knowing their friend was still alive. They all sat down and watched over their fallen comrade.
Chris broke the silence. "Tell all of us what happened JD."
JD sighed. On the way to the hospital, he had ridden with Chris, telling him what had happened today. "Well, it all started this morning when Ezra asked me to go with him . . . "
"Mr. Dunne, I was wondering if you would like to accompany me today. I'm sure you wouldn't mind leaving this cramped office and . . . riveting work."
JD looked around. The team was busy working on paperwork. They had just finished an assignment, getting a large amount of drugs and weapons off the street. JD was bored out of his mind though and wanted to be anywhere but in the office. "Sure Ez, I'll go witchya. Let me get my jacket."
They met downstairs, taking Ezra's Jag since JD had driven his motorcycle to work. "So, what're we doing?" JD asked. He rarely spent time with the secretive undercover agent and was hoping to learn a bit more about him.
Ezra smiled. "We're going to inquire about some rather . . . dubious dealings. Perhaps get some information on the new weapons dealer in town. Our first stop is downtown."
"We drove to a pretty rundown area," JD said to the 5 attentive faces. "We brought coffee and food for everyone we talked to. We had just finished lunch when the trouble started."
Ezra sipped at his coffee as he listened to JD's account of this morning. "Then the door opens and in comes Chris and the bucket of water drops on him! I was afraid Chris would find out I put the water up there for Buck. So anyway Chris is just fuming and in comes Buck, asking 'What did I miss?' with this stupid grin on his face! I swear, if looks could kill, Buck would be six feet under!"
Ezra chuckled, he had missed the scene because he had come in late that day. "It's a shame I missed that Mr. Dunne. Perhaps you and I should get together to . . . " As Ezra was saying this, he had been watching the other customers of the restaurant. He stopped speaking suddenly and paled. JD noted this and looked at Ezra's widened eyes. JD thought he saw fear before the poker face Standish was famous for clamped into place.
"Hey Ez, you ok?" JD said, trying to see what had unnerved the usually unflappable agent. He only saw customers waiting to eat . . . except for one man in a suit who seemed to be staring at them.
"JD, we should vacate the premises immediately."
JD got up, looking at Ezra with concern. The agent had used his first name; Standish only used first names when he was worried. "Ok."
JD took one more look at the old man who was still staring at Ezra. He was dressed in an expensive business suit but did not look as stylish as Ezra. He had black hair, which was balding. His lips were thin and he had a small nose and flat brown eyes. JD shivered slightly at the man's incessant stare. His practiced eye also caught the sight of a slight bulge in the man's suit jacket. He has a gun, JD thought, surprised. He wisely kept his mouth shut until they paid and reached the car. "What's going on Ezra?" he asked as they drove out of the city. "Who's that guy at the restaurant? Where are we going?"
They were heading for the city limits, near the wooded areas where Chris lived. Ezra didn't say anything, just watched the road and kept checking his mirrors. They had driven for another twenty minutes when JD noticed a Lexus following them. He opened his mouth to ask again but seeing the uninviting look, closed his mouth.
When they reached the less-traveled roads, Ezra increased his speed. The Lexus matched it. "Ok Ez, what's going on? Do I need to call the others?"
"I have the situation under control Mr. Dunne."
"Ezra! Why is that car following us? Who are they?"
"Demons, Mr. Dunne. Demons." No more was said.
"The Jag was rammed from behind a few minutes later. We ran to that stone area, and Ezra made me leave to get help because he wouldn't have been able to keep up. My cell phone broke when he had hurt his ankle. He had fallen and dragged me with him while we were running. My phone went flying and smashed on the rocks. I ran to the car and found someone passing by, then called you guys. You know what happened after."
Chris sighed. They had nothing except for the men in custody. A phone rang and five pairs of hands went searching through their pockets. "It's mine. Larabee . . . " The men watched as Chris's eyes darkened with anger. "Watch them! I wanna know where they are at all times!" Chris hung up the phone. "Our shooters were released."
+ + + + + + +
The room was furnished in calm colors and comfortable furniture. It was spacious with a large picture window. A bookcase filled with first and second edition books stood next to the window on the far side of the room. In the center of the room was a mahogany desk with two large chairs in front of it. There was a glass decanter that held an amber liquid and four glasses next to it.
"I want that bastard killed now!" Andrew Birmham was red in the face as he yelled at his incompetent men. "He could ruin all my plans! That little bastard! I thought he was in Atlanta! Why wasn't I told?" he asked in a heavy southern accent.
"S-sir, he had been accused of being dirty. We thought"
"You thought? I don't pay you to THINK, I pay you to do what I say! He could ruin my chance at the senate, that little prick."
"Maybe he w-won't say anything" Birmham's lackey started to say.
"Of course he will! He's Maude Standish's son! He'll probably blackmail me and I won't have it. You hear me?! I WON'T HAVE IT!" Birmham picked up a glass from his desk and threw it at the wall. He spun around to look at his closest friend and confidante who had just entered the room. "Andre," he said in a calmer voice. "Find our wayward men. Kill them, I don't want them talking." Andre nodded and walked to the door. "Oh and Andre."
"Yes sir?" he asked in a soft voice.
"Find young Ezra and kill him please. Make it look like an accident."
The younger man grinned, his blue eyes glittering dangerously. "Yes sir."
+ + + + + + +
"What?" Buck said and jumped out of his seat. "Who let them out?"
"Someone from higher up pulled some strings. They were released." Chris frowned. "Ezra is the only one who can tell us who these men are."
Nathan snorted. "We might as well try to get Vin to speak like Ezra. It ain't happening." They all grinned.
A few hours passed with no change in Ezra's condition. After a few more phone calls, Chris had set up some guards to watch Ezra. He and Vin were taking the first watch, Buck and Nathan were following the shooters and JD and Josiah were trying to dig up info on the shooters.
Chris stood up and stretched. "I'm gonna get some coffee. Don't fall asleep Tanner." With a grin, he slipped out.
Vin looked at Ezra's still form. "Damn Ez, I know ya like to sleep but we need ya to get up to tell us who's after ya." Vin was silent for a moment.
The door opened and a male nurse walked in. He was tall, about 6'2 with short blond hair and blue eyes. His face was handsome but had a hard look about him. He didn't strike Vin as being a nurse. The man looked around Ezra checking the tubes. He pulled out a syringe from his pocket.
"What's that?" Vin asked. He had a bad feeling about this.
"Just some antibiotics." the man said. He smiled, showing perfect white teeth. Vin didn't relax and looked at the syringe.
Wait, don't they usually put the antibiotics IN the IV? Something's not right here, Vin thought suspiciously as he watched the nurse check the syringe. Oh God, is it empty?
"Hey!" Vin shouted as the man plunged the needle into Ezra's arm. "Stop!" He knocked the man away from the empty needle still stuck in Ezra's bicep. Grabbing the man's arm, Vin brought it against the man's back, straining it. The man snapped his head back, smashing Vin's face and Vin let go. He turned and kicked against the back of Vin's knee, knocking him to the floor. The fake nurse ran out the door, escaping. Vin ran out and looked down the hallway, seeing no one who resembled the attacker.
"I need a doctor here!" he shouted. A dark haired nurse came running at his call.
"What happened?" she asked and saw the syringe. She gently pulled it out.
"Some guy was trying to stick that thing in him and inject air into him."
"Well if he did, he'd be dead now."
"What's going on here?" Chris asked when he entered the room and saw the nurse.
"Some guy tried to kill Ez again."
"What?! Is he ok? Where's the bastard?"
"He got away!" Vin said, disgusted with himself. "Ezra's ok."
"You get a good look at him?"
Vin grinned. "Oh yeah."
+ + + + + + +
Ezra slowly became aware of what he felt and heard around him. Hmmm, pain in my head, shoulder and leg, an antiseptic, revolting smell, uncomfortable linen sheets . . . I do believe I'm in a hospital. How wonderful, he thought sarcastically. He tried to remember how he had ended up in this awful bed. He suddenly realized there was a conversation going on around him and began to listen.
"They were killed last night but we saw nothing." Nathan's voice came through clearly. "Someone must have sneaked in and shot our suspects with a silencer.
"Damn. Now the only information we have is Ezra." Chris said, slightly annoyed with this turn of events. Getting information out of the undercover agent was like pulling teeth. "Any luck, JD? Josiah?"
"The man in the diner was Andrew Birmham." Josiah said. "JD recognized the face. He's a candidate for the Senate. Apparently he's lived all around the south, particularly New Orleans and Atlanta." They passed around a picture of man.
"Good chance he knows Ezra then." Nathan stated.
"Yep," agreed Josiah. He turned to JD and gestured for him to continue.
"You tell them," JD urged Josiah.
"Seniority son," Josiah countered.
"But," JD started to argue.
"JD just tell us," Chris said irritably.
JD sighed. "We went to Ezra's apartment to get the mail and stuff like that. There were some messages on his answering machine." JD took a deep breath. "Maude's in town and wants to see Ezra."
Ezra groaned at this news and opened his eyes. "Aw hell." He rasped out then closed his eyes and fell into an uneasy doze.
The other six looked at Ezra surprised. "He was awake?" Buck asked.
"Well he's not now." Vin said sarcastically. "Hey there, cowboy. Don't blow a gasket." Vin grinned slightly as he noticed Chris's face get stormy with annoyance.
"Ezra! Oh my dear boy what happened?" The whirlwind known as Maude Standish swept into the room. She went to her son's bedside. "Is he ok?" she asked the men.
"He'll be fine ma'am. He's already woken up." Nathan answered.
"What happened?" she demanded.
"He was shot. We still don't know why. Tell me Mrs. Standish, do you know a Mr. Andrew Birmham?"
Maude thought for a moment. "No, I don't believe I do. Why?"
"Could you look at this photo for us Maude?" Josiah asked, holding it out to her.
Maude sighed and took the photo. She glanced at it and felt her heart rate quicken but did not show it on her face. Or hoped she didn't. "I'm sorry gentlemen, I do not know who this man is." She handed it back to Josiah and turned to her son. "You said he had woken up?" she asked, trying to change the subject.
Nathan took over, explaining Ezra's condition while Chris sat back with a frown. It was hard to read Maude Standish, much like her son. Chris usually had trouble deciding if the Standish clan were lying or not. He felt that Maude knew who this man was from his face. The question was why would she lie? And how did Ezra know this man?
A low moan brought him out of his musings. "Ezra, Ezra dear. It's your mother. Time to wake up."
Ezra groaned again and opened his bleary eyes once again. He looked around at the faces around him. His eyes focused on Nathan. "Water," he asked. Nathan grabbed a glass and straw. After Ezra finished drinking, he asked, "What happened?"
"You were shot. Do you remember anything?" Chris answered.
Ezra thought back. The woods . . . my car! "JD!" he said.
"He's ok." Buck responded. JD waved and Ezra relaxed.
"We were in the woods and I told JD to locate the five of you. I endeavored to lead them away when I was shot. Good to see you made it Mr. Dunne."
Josiah entered the conversation. "Ezra, who's Andrew Birmham?"
"This man." Josiah took the photo and showed it to Ezra. While no emotion passes over his face, the heard monitor sped up slightly. Damn monitor.
"Who is he Ez?" Vin asked softly.
"I don't know." Ezra whispered. His heart rate remained elevated. He looked at his mother for help. She saw his pleading eyes and quickly jumped in.
"Ezra! How many times must I come to this wretched hospital? Really dear, I do believe you should travel with me! Why work as a civil servant?" Maude scolded lightly, picking a topic she and Ezra always argued on.
"Oh Maude, please let's not get into this now." He closed his eyes but not before the group caught the gratitude there.
"If you don't mind, Mr. Jackson, I think I will spend a few minutes with my son."
Nathan nodded. "Of course, Mrs. Standish. Alright, everyone out so Ez can rest." Nathan ordered and herded the group out, leaving the mother and son alone
"Thank you mother." Ezra opened his eyes. "He recognized me. I believe he sent those miscreants after me."
"Why would he try to hurt you? What is he trying to do?" Maude looked at her son questioningly.
"I believe he is running for senate," Ezra informed her.
"He is afraid we will blackmail him." Maude said with certainty. "That's what I would be afraid of."
"Why? It was a long time ago. And it's my word against his. My word isn't worth much these days." Ezra responded bitterly.
"Oh son, he sees you as a liability. Any allegations brought to light now would destroy his campaign. He knows that."
"I just want him to leave me alone." Ezra looked into his Maude's eyes. "Promise me you won't do anything mother."
"Now Ezra, we could certainly profit . . ." she started to say, avoiding his gaze.
"Promise me." Ezra stated as strongly as he could.
Maude sighed. "I don't know when you became so noble. Fine Ezra. I won't blackmail him. You do realize the amount of money we will lose?"
"The only thing I don't want to lose is my life." He smiled at her in gratitude. "Thank you.
Maude smiled in return and kissed her son on the forehead. "Be careful." She walked out the door. Ezra fell back into an uneasy sleep, thoughts of the past on his mind.
+ + + + + + +
It took him a week to heal before Ezra was discharged from the hospital and even then he couldn't be discharged without a keeper. That was why he was currently sitting in Chris Larabee's living room drinking tea and relaxing. Or trying to relax anyway.
"Mr. Larabee, would you like to participate in a game of chance?" he asked as he put down his teacup and picked up the cards on the table. He had borrowed them from Chris when he had gotten bored and longed to play some solitaire. Ezra felt the need to keep his mind engrossed, he didn't want to think about the past, didn't want to think about what Birmham did.
Chris looked up at the reclining gambler. He was slowly shuffling the cards with one hand, his arm still in a sling. Though he was a little pale and slightly thinner, he was recovering well under Chris's care. The two spent as much time arguing and getting on each other's nerves, it was a wonder Ezra managed to recover.
But Chris knew about the nightmares. They started the first night. Ezra had been tired and went to sleep early; Chris was still awake when he heard muttering coming from Ezra's room. He opened the door and looked in.
Ezra was sleeping fitfully and occasionally murmuring. He was turning as if trying to escape something only he could see. With a gasp Ezra sat up. Chris slunk deeper into the shadows, not wanting to be seen and embarrass the younger man. Ezra took a few deep breaths to calm himself and wiped his face of the fine sheet of sweat that had developed there. Chris slipped out and said nothing the next day.
Chris didn't know how much more both could take. Every night for 5 nights Ezra dreamed and every night Chris watched. He knew Ez was a private person but this was ridiculous. Someone would have to give and it wouldn't be Chris.
Night fell all too soon for Ezra and soon he grew tired. He dreaded going to sleep, he did not want the images to return. He laid down and turned on the TV, trying to keep his mind occupied while Chris cleaned up the remains of dinner. Unfortunately his body had other ideas and he soon fell asleep on Chris's couch.
~ He was in the room, that awful room where John made him do things he didn't want to. He had been playing the game for four weeks now. She had joined in after two weeks. It was ok when it was just him but now her life was in the balance and he was pulling the trigger.
He didn't want to do this anymore. His fifteen-year-old mind thought he wouldn't get hurt, she wouldn't get hurt but he still knew the dangers that came with pulling a trigger.
He felt the familiar weight of the gun in his hand. He looked in the girl's scared brown eyes. She knew he didn't mean anything. She knew he had no choice. They had a chance of living if they played. If they didn't, John would kill them. They had a gun held up against their heads. Literally.
"Shoot, little Ezra. Before I get bored." That smooth horrible drawl came from the man behind him. "Let's play the Game again." Ezra gagged slightly at the smell of alcohol that drifted off the crazy man. He sighed and raised the gun. He opened the chamber and checked the one bullet. He spun the chamber then clicked it back into place.
Another night to gamble with their lives. He hated gambling. He aimed at the girl and squeezed.
Ezra aimed the gun at his head mechanically and squeezed.
He aimed the gun at the girl once again.
There was a loud bang. ~
"NO!" Ezra sat up on the couch, his cry awakening him. "Oh no," he whispered and covered his head with his hands. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Ezra? You ok?" Chris rushed into the room. After Ezra had fallen asleep on the couch, Chris had covered him with a blanket and relaxed. He stepped into the kitchen when Ez's cry interrupted his cleaning.
"Ezra?" he kneeled in front of the couch. He remembered his own dreams, waking up alone in a cold sweat, imagining his family leaving him and dying in that bomb meant for him.
"Yes Mr. Larabee?" came the muffled response.
"You wanna talk about it?"
"No Mr. Larabee."
"Look at me Ezra."
"I don't believe that would be wise."
"Ezra . . . "
"Drop it Mr. Larabee." Chris sighed and got up.
"Fine. I'll let this go. For now. You will talk Ezra and that's a promise." Chris got up and walked to the kitchen.
"Not if I can help it." Ezra whispered.
+ + + + + + +
Monday came and Ezra returned to work. He just wanted to get this whole mess behind him. He could feel the eyes of his coworkers watching him, making sure he was all right. While he was touched by their concern he found it slightly annoying.
It was towards the end of the day that the call came in over his cell phone. He was sitting at his desk preparing to leave when it rang.
"Hello little Ezra."
"How the hell did you get this number?"
"Oh a little birdie told me." There was a slight shuffling noise and Maude's voice came on.
"Ezra dear, how are you?"
"Mother! Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine dear but I think you better" She was cut off as Birmham wrenched the phone away.
"Well Ezra, if you want your mother to live, I suggest you come to 625 Lynel Street. Come to the old warehouse. And if your friends show up, your mama won't live to con another day." Birmham laughed evilly then hung up.
+ + + + + + +
He opened the door to the huge, dark room. It was large with boxes stacked in corners, a standard warehouse. Ezra looked around in disbelief. Ezra snorted silently and thought, after all the creative hell he put me through, THIS is the best place he could come up with? He walked to the center of the room. "Bailey, where are you?" he called out.
"Right here. And it's Birmham now." John Bailey walked out from behind a large crate, pulling Maude Standish along. Gone was the smooth politician, Andrew Birmham, now only the deranged man stood in his place. He was holding a gun to her head. Ezra pulled out his gun and aimed it at Birmham.
"Did you have to be so cliched in your choosing of a diabolical headquarters?" Ezra asked wryly.
"The great villains of the past certainly had the right idea." Bailey pulled Maude along until they were facing each other.
"Let her go." He watched Bailey like a hawk. His mother looked at him, her poker face in place but he detected a bit of fear in her eyes.
"Of course little Ezra, I'll let her go. But first you going to have to get rid of your gun." Ezra hesitated. "Now." Complying, Ezra threw his gun into the dark depths of room.
"Wonderful. I expected more of a fight from you. You were always gambling Ezra. With your life, with other lives. I was quite surprised how the Game turned out."
Ezra stiffened at mention of the Game. "Are you going to keep rambling about inconsequential things?" Ezra asked, trying to look and sound bored.
"Inconsequential? Why Ezra, you killed a girl"
Ezra interrupted him. "I have taken many lives Bailey, sometimes it's hard to keep track of them all." Ezra kept his poker face on, trying to stop him for speaking about that horrible time.
"Ahhh, but did you forget? This was murder young Ezra. You shot her without provocation."
"Let my mother go." Ezra struggled to keep his temper under control and tried to change the subject.
Bailey grinned. "Of course." He shoved Maude away. "Go on my dear." She walked carefully, passing Ezra. He gave a reassuring smile and turned back to the madman. He heard the door open and close. There was a pause then a gunshot.
Bailey laughed. "You didn't think I would let her live did you? Please! She was a liability. Just like you are."
"You bastard! I'll kill you!"
"No, _you_ are the bastard. Goodbye Ezra." Bailey raised his gun.
A gun cocked from behind Bailey. "Drop it." Chris Larabee's hard voice said.
Bailey looked at Ezra incredulously. "You told them."
"What can I say, I took a gamble." Ezra said with a slight grin.
"Damn you!" Bailey suddenly shouted. He elbowed Chris in the stomach. His gun dropped and Bailey raised his, sighting Standish. Before he could shoot, three bullets entered his body; one from Vin Tanner, another from Josiah Sanchez, and the third from Ezra Standish's ankle gun.
Ezra ran to Bailey and kicked away his gun. He aimed his ankle gun at Bailey's head.
Bailey coughed, blood tingeing his lips. "I may die . . ." he rasped out. "But I will get the last laugh." Birmham struggled for breath as his blood flowed out of his body. "You must always live with your, your guilt." He breathed out these last words and slumped, dead.
Ezra stared at John Bailey's unseeing eyes and knew he was right.
"Mother!" Maude ran into the warehouse and hugged her son fiercely. Buck and JD watched the scene as they dragged to large men in handcuffs.
"Good thing we took care of these guys, right Buck?" JD grinned.
"Yup. Great thinking Ez, Bailey would have some bad guys as back up. And the gunshot idea was a nice touch."
"Thank you Mr. Wilmington." Ezra looked around the room, his eyes resting on the corpse. "Now if you gentlemen don't mind, I would like to depart the premises as soon as possible." Without waiting for an answer, he escorted his mother out.
+ + + + + + +
It was only a few days later that Team 7 gathered for their annual poker night. They were trying to establish their normal routine and unfortunately it was Ezra's turn to host it. He wasn't feeling up to hosting six men but he couldn't cancel. They would just come anyway. Chris was still trying to find out about Ezra's dreams and Bailey's last words but Ezra wasn't talking.
He couldn't let them know about his past, how he had shot that girl. Ezra was beginning to feel as though he belonged, as though he were part of a family. He didn't want to lost that because of his past.
His mother was recovering in Rome with some male friend of the week no doubt. They had talked, really talked a bit the night before she left about John Bailey AKA Andrew Birmham. Still she didn't truly understand, she had never held a gun to her head and been forced to pull the trigger.
That incident was the reason why Ezra chose to go into law enforcement. He wanted to get psychos like Bailey off the street and he made damn sure people like him didn't hurt children like he hurt Ezra. He knew it went deeper then that though. He had felt the need to make it up to that girl he killed, so he became a law man out of guilt. After all the cons he pulled with his mother, or alone, the ghost of the girl haunted him until he finally chose to enter Quantico.
A knock on his door interrupted his reverie. He quickly got up to answer the door and let his friends in.
+ + + + + + +
An hour later, he was beginning to relax. They were in his living room area. He was dressed in slacks and a sweater. His guns rested on the table near the door. The rest of the team was in similar states of undress. He had already acquired a substantial pile of chips when someone knocked on the door. He looked at the door with surprise on his face. He wasn't expecting anyone, the team was all here. Conversations quieted then ceased altogether as the 6 men picked up on the slight tension Ezra was displaying.
He moved out of the way and three Denver police officers entered.
"Yes officers?" Ezra asked.
"Ezra Standish, you are under arrest for the murder of Alexandra Franklin in New Orleans 17 years ago. You have the right to remain silent." Ezra froze, shocked
"Wait a second!" Chris jumped out of his seat. "Who's Alexandra Franklin?"
"A homeless child. We have a warrant for your arrest Mr. Standish, if you will come with me." The lead officer handcuffed Ezra and took him by the arm, ready to lead him out.
"17 years ago." Josiah said incredulously. "That would put Ezra in his teens." The rest of the team members looked on in shock and suspicion. There was something not right, they could all feel it but they weren't sure what it was.
"The law knows no age sir." The lead officer smiled grimly, his blue eyes nearly blank with emotion. Vin tensed. I know that guy Vin thought and wondered where he had seen him
Ezra was whisked away before the men could react, brought outside by the police officers to face the charges. Team 7 looked at each other and jumped up as one. They all felt it, a wrongness to this situation. They ran out of the condo and onto the street, looking for their missing man.
Ezra sighed and hung his head in defeat as he was led away. He knew he would be caught eventually he just never expected it to happen with his friends around. He was lost in his musing as he was led onto the street, not noticing the gun the lead cop pulled out.
"EZRA!" Chris and Buck shouted when they reached the street and saw the gun the cop was holding. Ezra's head snapped up at the call and then noticed the weapon. His eyes widened and he grabbed hold of it, trying to fight for it. He was knocked on the head from behind, leaving him dazed for a moment and he was roughly grabbed. A hand snaked around Ezra's throat and the gun was pressed against his head.
"Leave or he dies." Andre called out, his hand tightening slightly. Ezra took a few deep breaths to clear his head and analyzed his situation. The remaining members of Team 7 stood 15 feet away, guns aimed at the fake officers. Ezra stood in front of Birmham's loyal second, a gun to his head. The other two men flanked Andre. Ezra knew Andre would kill him if given the chance, the question was how would he escape.
"Let him go." Chris called out.
"Oh, that will produce results." Ezra muttered.
"Shuddup!" Andre said. "You'll pay for what you did to Mr. Birmham!"
Will that man ever leave me alone, he wondered silently. The hand around his neck tightened as Andre was hit with an idea. He would first try to break Standish and make him suffer.
"Well Mr. Standish, perhaps you should tell them a little about your past. For example, what happened 17 years ago."
Ezra tensed slightly. If the others find out, they will hate you, shouted that voice in his head, the one that sounded like his mother. It constantly warned him not to trust these six men. He silenced that voice, now was not the time for it. Ezra remained silent.
"I'm sure you would like to know," he said, directing his question to the men waiting for an opening to save Ezra, any type of opening. "Why don't you tell them Mr. Standish."
"I'm dreadfully sorry but could you be more specific? My memory is failing me at the moment."
Andre hit Ezra's head with the gun. "Tell them Mr. Standish." Andre said menacingly. "Tell them!" he shouted and aimed the gun at Ez's foot. "Or I'll shoot you until you bleed to death."
"You shoot him and you will not leave here alive." Chris warned.
"Tell them." Andre hissed.
"I shot her." Ezra said softly though clenched teeth.
"I shot her."
Andre laughed. "I knew you could do it." He pulled the trigger, the bullet entering Ezra's left foot. Ezra stifled a cry, balancing all his weight on his right leg.
"Damn you! You shoot him again . . " Buck cried out as the others looked on worriedly. Chris just ground his jaw and tightened his hold on his gun.
"Please sir, is that all you can do? I've had more debilitating wounds from paper," he scoffed lightly and holding back a grimace.
"You will speak only when I tell you, you hear!" Andre shouted, stepping on Ezra's wounded foot. In pain, Ezra breathed quickly, trying to control his reactions and not give this madman the pleasure of hearing him cry out.
"Good. Who pulled the trigger?"
Ezra still remained stubbornly silent as the rest of the team watched helplessly.
"Do you want to get shot again? Whose fault was it?" Andre shouted, spittle flying from his mouth.
"Mine." Again this was said softly.
"I can't hear you!"
The gun was pressed harder against Ezra's head. He closed his eyes and said loudly. "It was my fault."
Andre nodded his approval. "And you enjoyed it didn't you, Mr. Standish. Didn't you?"
"No." Ezra whispered horrified. "Never."
"Yes you did Standish! You enjoyed seeing her die! Seeing her blood splatter all over the floor."
"No." He said louder, his face carefully blank but his eyes showing the anguish and nausea he was feeling.
"She blamed you didn't she Standish. You saw it in her eyes. Perhaps she looked at you as she fell, blaming you. She did, didn't she Standish. Didn't she!" Andre yelled.
"NO!" Ezra yelled back and elbowed Andre in the stomach just so he could stop that shrill voice cutting into his brain. Caught off guard, Andre doubled over slightly, leaving a clear path to his head. A shot rang out from Vin's gun and Ezra and Andre fell.
"Ezra!" shouted JD and Josiah. The team rushed toward the two unmoving bodies, several of them covering the other two fake policeman. There was a groan and Andre's body shifted.
"Could someone please remove this corpse from my person?" The six men grinned when they heard the muffled, slightly strained southern voice of their undercover agent.
A few days later
I feel I owe you an explanation for the events of the past few days. Unfortunately I do not have the courage to converse with you in person so please accept this hand - written note instead.
They say the best place to start is at the beginning. If I was to wager a guess (and I do abhor gambling as you know), it started when Mother left me in the care of John Bailey.
The man was a natural actor. He had my own mother fooled, a considerable feat. I remember a balmy night in New Orleans. It was a late hour but I was still awake. He entered my room "stinking drunk" as Mr. Wilmington would say. He roughly pulled me by the collar into his basement. I was only 15 years old at the time and struggled but to no avail.
His insane mumblings still haunts me to this day. He raged on as he pulled out a revolver, a 6-shooter. Loading one bullet into the chamber, he spun it and handed the revolver to me. He forced me at gunpoint to fire the weapon three times. It was either take a chance or die.
I took a chance.
This went on for a period of two weeks. We played three of these "games." The fact that I am alive still astounds me. But Mr. Bailey grew bored with the whole affair and upped the stakes.
He kidnapped a homeless girl. A child really. I still recall her face. She had dirty blond hair, a small nose and wide frightened eyes. Her eyes though, I will never forget her eyes as they pleaded me to save her.
I could do nothing.
We alternated turns and I always pulled the trigger.
And then the gun went off.
She died instantly and I knew then that God was cruel and merciful at the same time. At least she never suffered the pain and agony of a gunshot wound.
As she lay there in a pool of red blood, growing colder I changed. Maude found me the next week but I was forever different.
I can never escape her eyes. Those clear blue eyes that sobbed silently as I pulled the trigger, the moment of surprise, pain and then cold emptiness as her life fled her.
And the betrayal.
I knew she didn't hate me. She realized I had no choice. But the truth of the matter is, she died and I didn't.
Mr. Larabee. Chris, I realized that the only way I could truly make it up to this poor innocent soul was to stop it. I would never let another child experience the horrors of what I had experienced. I used my "god - given talents" in law enforcement.
And I stacked the deck.
No longer would I lost, no longer would life take me by surprise, I would rely only on myself. Because I was afraid. Trust in this man put me in a position to kill. And I would never allow that to happen again.
Her cries will never be silenced, her eyes will never give me rest. Yet each day I help another poor soul, I feel her approval. I know she believes in me, trusts me to save these unfortunate people.
She will never, truly leave. She is on my mind when I relax, forcing me to be better and help others. This is my motivation.
Perhaps someday her soul will be laid to rest. But until then I fight in her name and keep her memory pure.
And I hope it is enough.
Ezra closed his eyes and dropped the pen. He sighed then opened his eyes staring at the paper. Picking it up, he folded it gently, placed it in his top drawer and tried to forget it existed.
He never intended the letter to reach Chris. Yet he felt better, lighter almost. She would never leave him, he knew this. But as he fell into bed, drained and yet happy, he realized that he could always honor her and never forget her.
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