Disclaimer: I don't own Magnificent Seven or Timex nor is any copyright infringement intended.
Comments: I've combined first person and third person writing for this tale. I know my English teacher would not approve! I hope you do.
I can hear the tick of my Timex. The sound is like an explosion in my ear, drowning out all other noises. It doesn't stop or soften or falter and it's like a pickaxe to my nerves. I want it to stop, need it to stop! Damn, why'd I buy a Timex....everyone knows they endure. The commercials show the Timex being stepped on, thrown and splashed with water and the announcer comes onscreen holding the watch to his ear saying "still ticking".
But I want it to stop ticking, to not live up to its potential, to rip me off in what might be my last seconds on earth. Hell, even soaked with blood the Timex is still going strong.....wish I was. Vin complained once that it was the loudest watch he ever heard, that comment came after two hours on a stake out laying flat on the wharf behind some fishy crates. The tick of the Timex had kept the silence at bay.
Now as I lay on an empty warehouse's concrete floor with two bullets in my back, watching as my blood pools around me, the tick of the Timex is the only thing that's real. It's so loud that I must have my hand under my head, positioning the watch at my ear for maximum discomfort. But I can't feel much... the pain...at first it was all consuming and I would have screamed in agony but there was no air in my lungs to allow such release. And now it's like I'm either waking from a deep sleep or succumbing to it...like my eyes are open but my body is still asleep, oblivious to any pain and too heavy to budge a millimeter.
I don't need Nathan here to tell me my condition. I'm dying. The blood...my blood is starting to cover more of the concrete floor. It's now edging to the concrete in front of my head. I watch it grow with sick fascination...I can do little else as my cheek presses on the cold cement, my body is numb to any orders from my brain and all I can hear is the watch. Ticking.
I purposely picked a watch that had a resounding tick. For a number of years I hadn't, but two months ago when I took an unplanned dive into the river and my watch died, I stood in the store, looked at watches and made the decision to give a listen to one of them. It ticked, strongly, precisely and determinedly. It was that watch that I took home, knowing by taking a prominently ticking watch, I was making a big decision. I was forgiving my father.
My father is a Navy man, through and through. And everything in his life was supposed to operate like the Navy, including his son. Christopher had to be prompt for his chores and dinner and sports events and ...the list was endless. And to achieve this promptness, my father bought me a watch...a loud ticking watch. Immediately I expected him to have me synchronize my watch and show him I understood the workings of the watch. Instead, he sat beside me on my bed and shared a part of his soul.
He held my watch to his ear and smiled, "Nice reassuring sound," he murmured and looked at my apprehensive expression and smiled and ruffled my hair playfully. "Chris, keeping track of time is important, being where you are suppose to be at the time you're suppose to be there is very responsible and shows good character. But this watch is about more than that...it's about realizing each day is made up of hours and minutes and seconds and milliseconds." I know my eyes must have been huge in my twelve-year old face, my father was talking to me...really talking to me.
"Every moment in this life is precious, son," and my father pulled me into a hug. "I want you to be happy every single moment, safe from any and all harm." Here he pulled back and put his hand gently around my face and stared into my eyes. "But life is not like that, you will be sad and life will hurt you." He smiled and tapped the watch in my hand, "Every tick of that watch is another chance for happiness to come again, for sadness to leave, for pain to fade. Don't concentrate on the ticks that bring about the bad stuff, look forward to the ticks that make you happy. And as long as life is still ticking along, happiness is in your future."
When I bought the watch, I wanted some of that optimism, was ready to hear his words again, to believe in them. And ready to build up the courage to call my father. I hadn't talked to him since two weeks after Sarah and Adam's deaths. He haven't tried to recite his "ticking" speech and I shouted out every hurtful thing I could think of in retaliation. Including that he had been a piss poor father who was never around for me. That said, I stormed out of my parents' house and I haven't spoken to my father since.
Buck knows the whole story, about the watch and about the fight that ended my relationship with my father. Countless times he has tried to get me to go talk to my father, tells me how lucky I am to have a father, that my father loves me, always has and always will. But I was unwilling to listen. Until I bought the ticking Timex. As soon as Buck saw the watch, he bent over to hear it tick and raised his eyes to meet mine with a smile plastered on his face. He knew my resolve was starting to crumble.
And now I'm alone with the ticking, with my father's words running through my head. I have so many regrets, so many ticks that I made bad, so many happy ticks that I turned a deaf ear to. Now all I can do is listen..all my defenses have left me.
My eyes are growing heavy, the void is starting to lay claim to my brain, seeping over it like my blood is seeping over the floor. I know I will not get a chance to reconcile with my father and I realize what I fool I have been. I love my father, always have and always will. Buck will probably tell him that I bought a determinedly ticking watch, will explain what it signifies. Buck has been my best friend, protecting me and backing me since the day we met. I know he wouldn't give up that duty even after I'm dead.
Buck. I've treated him like shit since Adam and Sarah were killed. Pushed him away as viscously as I did my father, but Buck stuck with me, weathered my tornado of self-destruction. Buck proved stronger in will than even my father...maybe will isn't the correct word...loyalty. If Buck were here, I would tell him he's the best damn friend I ever had, that I love him like a brother and would sacrifice my soul for him. Words I should have said when we reunited to form Team 7.
My eyes fall shut and I wonder with curiosity how the arms dealers pegged me as ATF. Regardless of how, they did and this last minute meeting to discuss the particulars of the deal was a set up from the word go. I came to the meeting alone...without telling anyone. There was no one in the office to tell.
I can still remember the shock and pain as a bullet rutted into my upper back and before I even hit the ground, another bullet embedded itself to the right of the first one. Then I was on the floor, immobile but still alive, still conscious. They took my gun, my cell phone and my wallet and I could only grunt in pain at their touch. I could hear their voices but their words didn't register and then they were gone. The warehouse on a Saturday night is deserted and cloaked in blackness. No doors squeak open, no windows blow in the wind, no rats scurry into long forgotten crates, the only sound is the tick of the Timex. And this time I know that a tick not so far away is going to announce my death.
I soulfully wish I were a Timex, that I could endure and keep on ticking. But I am made up of more vulnerable materials than my Timex, namely organs, muscles, skin and blood. I don't know how to take stock of my organs or muscles or skin but I can honestly and confidently say my blood is in a critical state. I hear it's suppose to remain in your body to thrive and most of mine is lying on the floor underneath me.
With acceptance rather than fear, I realize the ticking is becoming distance, muted as the void blankets me. I know it is not the Timex that is quitting. It is me doing the quitting. I'm not a Timex, I'm a fragile human with two bullets in my back. The ticking falls silent but I know the watch is stilling ticking. It's me who's stopped ticking. I never came with a guarantee.
Chris gave me a guarantee. His words are as clear to me today as they were one year ago in Atlanta. And now he's trying his best to renege. He apparently forgets the role he is to play and the role I am to play. I am the one expected to renege, not him. If anyone has the right to call him on his word, it's me. I've earned the right.
"You gave me your word, Larabee!" my desperate yell is loud and echoes through the empty warehouse. They can probably hear it five blocks away....but the man I am kneeling beside doesn't show a flickering of response...of life. I continue the CPR I've been doing since I burst through the warehouse doors. Time seems to have stopped for me...like it has for Chris.
I am crying, would be sobbing if I knew I could do that and still give Chris mouth to mouth. Instead, tears are silently running down my face, dripping onto Chris like some Chinese torture method. My coat is wrapped around Chris' chest but he is as cold as ice. There isn't enough blood left in his veins to keep his temperature up. Instead, his blood is spreading across the floor like a spilled cooler full of spring water, covering more floor every second, soaking my pants, coating my shoes and I can do nothing to stop the flow. Not until I get his heart pumping, his lungs functioning. His blood loss is not my greatest worry, hell, if need be, I'll let the doctors drain every ounce of my own blood for Chris.
But his heart refuses to pump, his lungs remain frozen and a sob is crawling up my throat. "You can't die on me Chris! You promised that you would never make me vulnerable! You leave me now and I'll be more vulnerable than I ever was in my life! Keep your damn promise!" And with those words echoing through the warehouse, I recalled the first time I met Chris Larabee.
I had agreed to meet the ATF agent out of curiosity, not interest. My job in the FBI was quickly spiraling into the toilet and law enforcement as an occupation was starting to feel like a horrendous mistake. Being regaled with another spiel on law enforcement careers seemed a fine way to amuse myself over dinner...until Chris Larabee strode into the restaurant and claimed a seat at my table.
Larabee's mere presence demanded respect and to my utter surprise, he received it from me. He met my eyes unflinchingly, unguardedly, and with integrity and his words weren't flummery but straightforward and honest. I can still hear Chris's words that night.
"I know the FBI is presently doing an internal investigation on you. They think you're on the take." And that's when I saw the Larabee smile for the first time. A 'the devil ain't gonna beat me' smile. "Of course I know if you were ever going to pocket some cash, you would have taken Parker's bribe when he offered it."
I still remember how my breath caught and I stared at this total stranger with alarm. "How...? That wasn't in my report!"
Then there was that Larabee smile again, "I know, I've got my own informants. Truth is, Parker offered you two million dollars and you turned him down ....flat. Instead, you barely made it out of that situation with your life...woulda been easier, smarter and healthy to take the money. But you didn't take one penny. And I know that you never have and never will be on the take. And the FBI knows it. I also know early in the operation, you sensed that Parker may be onto you and asked to be pulled from your cover. Your supervisor refused your request."
His words were like a proud pat on the back and a sucker punch to my gut at the same time. This stranger walked in and told me my whole story of woe. And he saw through the games the department was playing. With uncertainty I inquired, "So you are aware of my innocence, my deplorable working relationship with my boss and my employer's wish to fire me. And now you arrive here offering me a job out of this nightmare. Why? My soiled reputation will taint your team, my evaluations certainly are not complimentary and if the FBI is going to such extremes to purge me from their ranks, why would you want me inducted into your group?"
"Because you're one of the best at undercover work. As far as your evaluations, your supervisor was definitely prejudice in his opinions. I also know the FBI has always been afraid of mavericks. I'm not. And my policy regarding my agents in the field is this: you EVER tell me you want to come in from the cover, you're in, regardless of my feelings or the brass's feelings. I'm not going to make you vulnerable...not for a successful bust...not for anything. That I guarantee you."
Even as those words now replay through my head, vulnerability grips me like it never has before, not when my FBI career was in jeopardy, not when criminal charges loomed over my head, not even when my own life was threatened. But now, here, in this warehouse kneeling on the concrete floor clutching onto the man who means the most to me, I am vulnerability itself.
He's dying....I knew it the second I flung open the warehouse doors and saw him lying unmoving on the floor, his blood seeping around him. My voice broke as I screamed his name, my legs faltered as I ran to him and sank to my knees at his side. My arms trembled as I gently turned him onto his back, trying hard to block the image from my mind of the two bullet holes in his back.
And now I allow myself the sobs I had kept in check. "NO!!! Don't die on me Chris! Please stay with me!" and I pull Chris into my arms and clutch onto him like I never have another soul on earth. "I need you! Doesn't that mean a damn thing to you!?! I'm begging you to live! Begging Chris!!" To all my pleas, the limp body doesn't respond and something in me snaps. I haven't asked much out of life...not really, but I did require this man to be with me. Suddenly even that request is being denied and a rage is overtaking me.
I lean Chris back in my arms and deliver a resounding slap to his face. He isn't going to leave me, I won't let him. "Come on Chris!" I deliver another slap, harder this time and the limp head flies to the right. I shake the man I love like a brother, "You're not a quitter Larabee!" I deliver yet another slap. "You leave me now and I'll be vulnerable...what about your promise?! You promised you'd never make me vulnerable?!" I land a back handed slap that rolls his head left.
All my efforts, all my rage has no effect on the frail human I hold in my arms. I lower my head resting it against the top of Chris's head, sobbing. "Please God, don't take him from me! Chris, you gave me your promise, you made me a guarantee!" I pull my head up and shake Chris again as I shout, "Honor your guarantee!"
In utter surprise, I feel Chris draw a breath, feel his heart beat vibrate through his body. "Alright Chris, I'm here. Just stay with me, stay with me," and I lean Chris' head against my chest as I tighten my hold on my brother. Another ragged barely audible breath is his response and his heartbeat continues. I look down at his colorless face and place my hand on his left check. "The ambulance will be here shortly, Chris. I'm not leaving you and you aren't leaving me - OK! You give me time and I'll show you how loyal I am, how much I can contribute to the group. Just give me time, Chris, give me time to be part of your family."
Ezra sat beside a sleeping Chris Larabee, pretending to read an article from Forbes but in truth he was mesmerized by the sound of Chris' even breathing. Though Chris had regained consciousness a few days ago, Ezra had not found the opportunity to speak privately with Chris. Ezra wasn't sure what needed to be said but knew he couldn't package all that happened into a nice neat box and ignore it. He wasn't that good at self-containment.
As if on cue, Chris opened his eyes and his vision cleared to reveal Ezra by his side. Rubbing his eyes of sleep, Chris tried to better position himself to receive his guest. His effort only managed to put him in agony and a moan of pain slipped from his clenched jaw.
"Stay still, Chris," Ezra gently ordered, as he put a firm hand on Chris' shoulder. "Should I get the doctor?" Ezra's worry was evident in every crease of his face.
"Nah," Chris mumbled, "just help me sit up a bit."
"I don't know.." Ezra began with hesitation.
Chris' demanding eyes met Ezra's concerned ones. Ezra sighed at the loss of the battle, "Alright, I'll raise the bed a little," and he put action to his words.
Even as the bed rose, Chris seemed to slide down the mattress and he began the struggle to pull himself up again. He was almost relieved when the bed halted and Ezra stood up, leaned over him and with as much care as possible, hooked his hands under Chris' arms and maneuvered Chris higher on the bed.
Though gritting his teeth to not let the scream of pain escape his throat, Chris nodded his thanks to Ezra. He watched as Ezra resumed his chair but was amazed to find the undercover agent fidgeting in his seat and clearly avoiding Chris' gaze. Chris had a pretty good idea what had Ezra unnerved.
His voice low, Chris broke the uneasy silence, "You were the one to find me," a statement not a question.
Ezra's head came up as if lightening had struck him. He finally met Chris' look head on and croaked out with anguish "Yes".
Without pity or preamble, Chris announced, "I was dead, wasn't I?"
Ezra clamped his eyes shut against Chris' words, the horror it revisited on his every sense. Silence held until Ezra reopened his eyes and stared at the man who had lay dead in his arms. He croaked out brokenly, "Some," but stopped and cleared his throat trying to bury his emotions. With a steadier voice he began again, "Some might say that."
Studying Ezra's every reaction, Chris replied with a tone of awe and surprise, "But you wouldn't let me go."
At Chris words, Ezra surged from the chair and began pacing the room, absently running his hand through his hair. "Let you go?!" he exclaimed, not looking at Chris or stopping his pacing. "Hell no I couldn't let you go!" Ezra faced the door, wanting to run from this conversation and yet so grateful to be talking to Chris that he couldn't stand the thought of leaving his side. Swinging around to face Chris, Ezra's whole body spoke of his anguish and the undercover agent didn't make any move to hide this from the wounded man. Chris eyes showed his shock at Ezra's emotions but he remained silent, waiting for Ezra to continue.
Ezra walked to the bed and reclaimed his chair at Chris' side. For a moment he studied his hand in his lap, then he bravely met Chris' gaze head on. As he remembered the nightmarish scene in the warehouse, Ezra's voice was breathless and shaky, betraying his emotion. "When I got there...." Ezra swallowed hard and Chris gave a small smile of encouragement. "You...you weren't breathing...had no heartbeat." Ezra ran a shaky hand through his hair, tried to fight the sob that was creeping into his voice even as silent tears tracked down his cheeks. "Your blood was pooling around you on the floor."
Feeling Ezra's hold on his emotions was slipping, Chris tried to spare Ezra more pain. "But you still refused to give up on me."
Ezra eyes glinted with conviction, "No. I refused to let you give up on me."
Chris gave a confused look, "I don't understand."
Though wanting to retreat behind his usual barrier, Ezra let his walls remain down, needing to tell Chris the truth, to make Chris see why he couldn't ever die on him. "You made me a promise when you offered me this job. A promise I intend to make you adhere to."
Chris' confusion only grew and Ezra was now the one smiling. "You guaranteed me that you would never make me vulnerable." But Chris' eyebrows rose in total confusion and Ezra laughed. It was so good to see Chris awake and animated. "You just don't get it do you?"
"I'm starting to think you're talking in another language," Chris wearily said.
Dropping all humor, Ezra confessed, "If you had died," he choked on the words, shook his head and continued, "I would have been vulnerable...more vulnerable than I ever have been. I need you Chris....a younger brother always needs his older brother."
Chris held up his hand and Ezra firmly grasped it. "And this older brother needs his younger brother to save his butt once and awhile. Thanks for not letting me go."
"Not now, not ever," and Ezra leaned over Chris and gave him a quick hug but was back in his seat before Chris could think about responding. With a twinkle in his eyes, Ezra concluded, "Besides, you were trying to renege on a guarantee you gave me. What's a man without his word."
Chris gave a look of dawning as he remembered something that had reached him through the void that had almost claimed his life, "Did you talk aloud to me...at the warehouse?"
Ezra looked slightly embarrassed but decided upon a full confession. "Yes...I believe I was quite vocal...and....I ....well," he stammered and Chris smiled at the usually confident man. With a frustrated sigh, Ezra rushed the words out, "You weren't responding and I became ....desperate ....and I ....I.."
"Yes?!" Chris laughed with mock impatience.
Ezra met Chris' look head on, "I landed a few blows to your face." Then he continued in firm defense, "But only as a way to revive you!"
Chris gave a look of anger but couldn't hold the pretense long and broke into light laughter. "It's alright Ezra. Whatever you did it worked." Then Chris remembered his first question again, "Did you..." he hesitated feeling ludicrous but pressed on, "did you talk to me about the guarantee I gave you?"
Ezra looked stunned and then replied, "Yes...I did. I yelled at you to "Honor your Guarantee" and then....you came back... ...started breathing, had a heartbeat. You could hear me?!"
Chris smiled, "I heard that." At Ezra's askance look, Chris confessed, "When I was laying there, awake, I was thinking about how my Timex had a guarantee but I didn't. You made me realize I did have a guarantee to honor."
"If I'm not mistaken, you owe that guarantee to five other men as well," Ezra said softly as he studied his older brother.
Chris smiled, "Yeah, guess so." They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, then Chris softly asked, "Can I ask you a favor?"
Without hesitation, Ezra replied, "Anything."
"I need to find out someone's phone number, think you could help me do that." There was vulnerability in Chris' voice that caught Ezra by surprise.
"Certainly, who is it that you wish to call?"
A smile pulled on Chris' face, "My father." Ezra's shock was not well hidden, he had heard Buck and Chris argue about the subject awhile ago. Chris saw the look and put out as an explanation, "Seems like I've been given time to say I'm sorry, to tell him I love him." Ezra smiled and nodded his head. "And time to thank him for giving me a loud ticking watch a long time ago."
At Ezra's look of confusion, a smile pulled onto Chris' lips. "Let me tell you about the meaning behind each tick of a Timex...."
I would love some feedback: Cwitty1@frontier.com