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The Betrayal

By Bernadette

The ATF (Alcohol, Tabacco and Fire Arms) universe was created by Mog.
Lenny Hoskins is my creation.
I don't have any medical knowledge so please forgive any mistakes.

Strong Language, violence and drug use.

They assumed it to be just like any other summer day but the men that sat in the large conference room on the 7th floor of the ATF building were about to find out that it was a day they had been expecting but secretly hoped wouldn't come. Chris Larabee raised his cold blue eyes to the blinking flourecent light that was failing to brighten the front area of the room, he would have to remind the maintainence crew to fix it, if they didn't then he would just put a bullet in it and put the damn thing out of it's misery.

The dark clad leader looked down at his watch, the meeting was supposed to start at eleven. He looked at the still empty leather chair that was placed between Buck and Josiah, Ezra still had another five minutes to join the rest of the team in the conference room. His eyes went to the large wooden clock that had been placed on the wall above the door, it agreed with his watch. The southerner was going to be late again, he silently cursed him. This meeting had been called by Harrington, the man that Chris answered to and he knew that it wasn't going to look good for the team if Ezra showed up late.

Chris could feel someone's eyes watching him, he turned his head so he could look into the pale blue eyes of the ex-bounty hunter, he could never hide anything from Vin. The normally quiet man's gaze moved to the empty chair and back again, he shrugged, indicating that he had no idea why Standish was late.

"Where the hell is he?" He growled not realising that the others had heard him.

"He'll be here Chris, you know how Ezra likes to make an entrance, especially when the meetings are called by the big boys from upstairs." Buck assured him, the large smile that crossed his mustached face did nothing to reassure Chris.

"One day Ezra is going to push them to far." Josiah commented from the end of the table, he had been quiet all morning, not voicing the concern that he felt for the younger man that he hadn't seen since the day before. He knew that something was troubling him, he had watched him when he knew he wasn't looking and sometimes the facade that he used to keep them away would fall, revealing troubled emotions. Josiah had wanted to speak to him but had so far been unable to get him on his own, he knew he wouldn't talk in front of the others.

"So what did Ezra do to piss them off anyway?" JD asked the group, he yelped when Buck slapped his arm. "What?"

"That's Ezra's business JD, if he want's to let us know what happened when he was with the FBI then he'll tell us." Buck still had a few things to teach the kid, especially when it came to respecting a man's privacy.

All eyes and chairs turned to the door when they heard a cough that announced someone's arrival, they expected it to be Ezra but it wasn't, it was Harrington. Chris groaned, this wasn't going to be good, Ezra was going to pay for this. Chris watched the man walk towards him, he could see the hesitation in the man's brown eyes, he also looked like he had some bad news.

'Something's wrong.' thought Chris, his eyes quickly darted to the empty chair.

Harrington sat his tall thin frame into the chair that was always reserved for him, he didn't look directly at Chris, his eyes moved around the table looking at the elite group. He sat for a moment watching the men that sat before him, a group of men who seemed to have nothing in common and yet were like family, they were willing to die for each other and now they were about to find out that they had been betrayed by one of their own.

"Gentlemen are we ready to start this meeting?" Harrington asked them, his steady but firm voice gaining their full attention.

"Ezra's not here yet Sir." Buck informed him.

"Mr Standish will not be joining us." Harrington finally looked at Chris. "There is something that I have to tell you and I thought it would be best to do it as a group, I don't want you hearing any rumors."

"What's happened?" Chris demanded as he leant towards his superior. "Has something happened to Ezra? Is he . . . ?" He left the last question unspoken.

"No Ezra is fine." The use of Ezra's first name worried everyone. "At five o'clock yesterday afternoon Mr Standish entered my office and handed me his resignation." He waited for a reponse before continuing.

"He what?" Chris asked, the words were barely heard because his jaw was clenched tightly.

"Mr Standish resigned." Harrington repeated.

"Ezra quit, just like that?" Buck ran his hands through his hair as he let out an exasperated breath, he couldn't believe it.

"Yes he did." Harrington answered calmly.

"What was his reason?" Josiah asked as he inwardly kicked himself for not speaking to Ezra sooner, he had known something was wrong, he should have made more of an effort to talk to him, instead of waiting for an opportunity.

"He didn't give me one." Harrington took in Chris's quiet form, he could see the anger building, his hands were clenched so hard his knuckles were turning white.

"He didn't say anything at all, nothing that told you why he wanted to go back to the FBI?" Nathan asked him, he always knew that Ezra would do it, he just wished that he had pegged the man wrong.

"He resigned from everything, this team, the ATF and the FBI. Mr Standish is now a civillian as far as were concerned."

"What the hell is going on with him?" Vin finally spoke up, he was stunned, he thought he knew Ezra better than any of them, he thought they were friends and that he would talk to him if things got bad, he was obviously wrong.

"Why did you accept his resignation?" Chris spoke in a calm but cold tone, he kept his eyes glued to his hands so they wouldn't see the disgust that he now felt for the southerner. He knew that he would run out on them, he had always known, he just thought the man would have the guts to tell them to their faces instead of taking the cowards way out.

"I didn't." Harrington spoke bitterly of his confrontation with Ezra. "He started out calm enough. I asked him for an explanation, he said that it was in his letter. I told him that I wouldn't accept it unless he told me personally. I wanted to hear his reason not read it." He paused for a moment. "He walked out and went over my head. Judge Travis accepted it without question."

"Why would he quit without telling us?" JD asked Buck, he needed an explanation.

"It's simple JD. He ran out on us." Chris said bitterly.

"Chris, I know Ezra can push a person's limit and he has trouble with authority but should you judge him so quickly." Harrington didn't expect this, he thought they looked after each other.

"He didn't give a reason. What else are we supposed to think?" Chris growled at him, he realised who he was talking to and raised his hand as if to apologise.

"Perhaps you should use your skills to find out what that reason is and leave your judgement of the man until you know why he left." He pushed his chair back and stood up. "Gentlemen." He turned and left room, closing the thick wooden door behind him.

"Aw hell!" Buck shouted as he got up, he knocked his chair over but ignored it. "Why would he do that?"

"Does anyone know anything about this?" Nathan asked them, he hoped that Ezra had a good reason, God help him if he didn't.

"I noticed that he seemed to be troubled about something." Josiah admitted to the group. "I was going to talk to him, I should have tried harder, it might not have gone this far if I had."

"And when did you notice this?" Buck asked him, he kept his voice as calm as he could but he didn't really succeed.

"The last couple of weeks." He lowered his head, it was now as heavy as his heart felt. He should have done something sooner.

"Two weeks! Why didn't you say anything to us about what you knew!" Buck didn't even try to stay calm any longer.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why, I should of spoken to him and you as soon as I noticed that something was wrong. I just thought it was best to wait until I got him on his own before I talked to him, just never seemed to happen."

"Ezra is always on his own, he hardly ever seeks out company, even more so in the . . ." Nathan stopped in mid sentence. "Your right Josiah, he has been different lately, he's kept more to himself during the last few weeks. I didn't realise it till you mentioned it."

"Did anyone else notice anything?" Chris asked them. There were no answers, everyone had suddenly found their hands very interesting as the guilt began to plague their minds. "Vin?"

The silent man shook his head, how could Josiah and Nathan notice something that he hadn't. Ezra seemed the same to him. Now that they had pointed out that something was wrong he still wasn't able to see it.

"I still want to know why he didn't tell us?" JD demanded to know as he broke the silence that had settled over the room like a shroud. "Why did he quit like that?"

"Let's find out shall we." Chris smiled but it was a smile that held no humour, only a promised threat, if Standish didn't have a good enough reason he would kill him. "Nathan, Josiah you go to his office see if you can find anything. Buck, JD see if you can get your hands on that letter." Chris looked at Vin. "Were going to his apartment, if he's there we'll make him talk, if he isn't then we search the place." He looked down at his watch. "We meet back here in an hour."

Nathan and Josiah made their way down to the end of the hall to Ezra's office, their stride stopped anyone from interrupting their short journey, their steps were full of purpose, they intended to find out why Ezra had resigned without speaking to them first. Josiah tested the door to find it unlocked, he opened it and looked around the small crack that he had created to find it empty of any inhabitants. He nodded to Nathan and they both entered the room, the door was closed quietly.

Nathan looked around the empty white walls, there were no pictures, no plant life, nothing to show that someone usually occupied the small office. They moved as one to the desk that was also lacking anything that made the room look homely. He realised that Ezra's office had always looked like this, the southerner had been with the team for six months and he had never done anything to show that he was settling in. It was as though he had always known that he was going to leave, like it was inevitable.

"Nathan start on that side." Josiah's baritone voice brought him back from his thoughts and he began to search through the drawers on the right side of the desk. He closed them again, banging them into the desk showing his frustration at the situation.

"Nothing." Nathan looked across at Josiah. "You?"

"This bottom drawer is unlocked." Josiah frowned.

"So." He didn't know what an unlocked drawer had to do with Ezra leaving.

"It's always been locked, always."

And!" Nathan was becoming agitated.

"Ezra sent me in here once to get something for him. This drawer was locked, I went back to him and told him that I couldn't find what he wanted and I asked him for the key to this drawer." Josiah thought back to the day that it had happened, he remembered the glazed look that had appeared in Ezra's eyes.

"Josiah will you just tell me what the hell your talking about!"

"He said no, that the drawer was always locked and always will be. He obviously had something important in there that he didn't want us to know about."

"Great, more secrets." Nathan growled. "Come on, let's go and see if Buck and JD had any success."

Josiah looked back into the room, regretting the fact that he had never really noticed it before. Everyone else had little things that made their offices look lived in but Ezra had nothing, he suddenly realised that his apartment was the same, he had only been there once but the image of the cold apartment stayed in his mind. He mentally kicked himself again for not trying to get closer to the man and find out what was wrong.

"Buck your supposed to be watching the door." JD told him as the older man tried to look over his shoulder.

"Have you found it yet?" Buck asked him.

"No, it's not here." JD slammed the file cabinet drawer closed. "The Judge must have kept it."

Buck and JD had made their way to the Personnel File room on the second floor of the ATF building. JD had used the knowledge that Ezra had given him in the fine art of picking locks to gain entry to the room and file cabinet. They didn't think that Ezra's file would be there but they had to try the most simple choice first before they went on to the harder one. It would prove to be more difficult to get into the Judge's office than the file room.

"Let's go and see if Debbie is willing to help Ezra." Buck suggested as they left the crowded room and headed to the elevator that would take them to the tenth floor and the main office of Judge Travis.

Buck stopped outside of the office and made sure that he looked presentable as if he thought his good looks alone would get the young secretary to help them.

"That's not going to work Buck, she has no interest in you." JD smiled dispite the dire situation that they were in.

"It might help." Buck replied but his eyes held none of the mischevious glint that was usually there before he tried to chat up the opposite sex.

They opened the door without knocking and entered the well furnished outer office. Buck moved towards the pretty blonde that sat behind the large desk that was situated in front of the Judge's main office. JD stood back and fidgited with his hands while Buck did all the talking.

Buck stood in front of the young woman who didn't look up from her paperwork, he ran a hand quickly through his hair before speaking. "Debbie, JD and the rest of the guys were hoping that you could do us and Ezra a favour. You see Ezra . . ." Buck stopped as the blonde head lifted revealing blue eyes that showed intelligence, this girl wasn't just a pretty face.

"I wondered what took you so long." Her voice was soft and it sent a shiver down Buck's spine, he had tried often enough but she had never accepted his advances.

"Huh?" He looked down at the folded letter that was handed to him.

"This is Mr Standish's resignation letter. I knew that you would be here as soon as you heard the news." Debbie smiled at him.

"But . . . " Buck stammered.

"I know there's something wrong Buck, I was here last night when Ezra spoke to the Judge." She forced the folded piece of paper into his hand. "I like Ezra, I want to help him, I just wish that he knew he had such good friends." She stood up revealing a frame that was almost as tall as he was, the clothing showing her thin but toned figure. Debbie began to push him towards the door after taking a quick backward glance to the double doors of the main office. "Now get out of here before the Judge finds out and fires me."

"Thanks Deb." Buck looked down at the letter then back to Debbie. "Thanks."

"JD get him out of here please." She watched as JD came forward and grabbed Buck's arm, he dragged him away from her and out of the office.

Buck waited until they got back into the elevator before looking at the letter that held the reason for Ezra's resignation.

"Aw gawd!" He exclaimed as his fist slammed into the elevator's wall. "I hope Ezra isn't at home because Chris is going to kill him."

JD took the photocopied letter from him and instantly knew what Buck was talking about. "Shit!"

Chris pulled his black Dodge Ram into the curb outside of the townhouse that Ezra Standish had spent the last six months of his life. He had never been to Ezra's home and had to rely on Vin's directions. He got out of the airconditioned car and felt the heat of the summer's day as it hit his cool skin, he slammed the door and waited for Vin to lead the way to Ezra's front door.

When they reached the overhanging green vines that led the way to Ezra's apartment Vin grabbed Chris's arm and held him back. "Keep your anger in check Chris, don't force him to put up his wall of defence before we even get our foot in the door." He waited for an answer. "Okay?"

Chris ignored him and stepped up to the entrance, he banged on the door causing it to rattle on it's hinges. It also caused the sleeping figure that lay in the large bed that was centered in the middle of the main bedroom to jerk awake. Chris used his fist to knock on the door once more, he didn't wait for an aswer, he turned the doorknob and found it to be locked. He stepped back and used his right leg to kick the door in, it only gave slightly so he had to use even more force. It finally opened and he put his hand out to stop it swinging back and hitting him as he walked through into the hall.

Vin followed him without saying a word, he knew there was nothing that he could do to calm him down, he just hoped that if Ezra was home he wouldn't say or do anything that would cause Chris to completely loose his temper.

Chris stormed through the hallway looking into the rooms as he passed them, he saw the blank walls, the boxes that he thought had been packed, he didn't stop to think that they had never been unpacked, this made him even more angry. He stepped into the large living area, it was empty, he moved on until he came to the main bedroom and saw the man he was looking for as he raised himself from the bed.

Ezra looked at the clock on the side table and groaned inwardly. 'They're early.' he thought to himself. He turned his sleep filled eyes to the two figures that stood above him. "Is there something that I can help you with Mr Larabee?"

"You can start by telling me why you quit your job." Chris demanded as he took in Ezra's appearence, there were dark circles under his eyes, his colour was paler than normal and he was wearing a loose t-shirt that revealed a loss of weight. Ezra usually wore long loose fitting shirts with a light jacket, the clothing had obviously hidden his thinning frame from them. Chris thought for a moment that Ezra was sick but he soon changed his mind.

"That is none of your business." Ezra glared back at him, his own stare was unflinching and just as cold as Chris's. The emerald green eyes showing a threat that he was more than willing to carry out.

"You work for me Standish, the least you could do is give me an explanation for why you want to run out on us." Chris spoke calmly and Vin stepped forward, he knew that when Chris spoke that way he was at the end of his patience.

"I don't work for you anymore so you can get the hell out of my home!" Ezra stood up from the bed and pushed his way through the two men.

Chris grabbed Ezra's upper arm and spun him around, he then pushed him backwards until the smaller man's back slammed into the wall behind him. He saw Ezra grimace in pain and ignored the painfilled expression. "I want to know why you quit and your going to tell me!"

"I'm not telling you anything." Ezra said coldly as he tried to push the man that he had thought was once his friend away. "You don't deserve a reason."

"What about me Ezra?" Vin looked into the green eyes hoping that he would see something that would show him that Ezra still cared about his job and his friends but his next words cut him like a knife.

"You!" Ezra spat out as his angry gaze turned to Vin. "Your a joke Tanner, you think you know me! You know nothing about me! Your pathetic, both of you are!" He felt Chris's fist as it was driven into his stomach, it forced the air from his lungs and he tried to double over and clutch his stomach but strong arms held him up.

"He knows your a coward." Chris smiled down at him.

Ezra's expression didn't falter, he carefully moved his right arm around Chris's waist and removed the gun that he knew his ex-boss kept hidden in his pants waist band.

"Get the fuck away from me!" Ezra yelled at him as he placed the gun against Chris's stomach.

Chris looked down and saw his own gun but he also saw something else. He stepped back from Ezra and then looked sideways at Vin. "Look at his arm Vin."

Vin saw what Chris was pointing out. He saw the needle marks that lined the top of Ezra's forearm, he could tell that some of them were old while others were still fresh.

"What have you been using?" Chris asked him as he hid his own feelings. "Heroin? Is that it?" Chris stepped further away from him. "Your a user?"

"I'm going to ask you to leave nicely and I don't want you or any of the others coming back here. I don't want to see either of you again." Ezra pulled the ammunition clip out of the gun and then handed the unloaded weapon back to him. "Get out."

Ezra leaned back against the wall of his bedroom while he listened to the footsteps of the men who he knew were no longer his friends as they left his apartment. He took a few minutes to get himself back together and then changed into some clean clothes. He pulled on an old pair of faded blue jeans, a short sleeved white shirt which he didn't bother to tuck into the loose fitting pants and then black boots. He took his gun out of the bottom drawer of his dresser, checked it to make sure that it was fully loaded, he took an extra clip from the open drawer, put it in his back pocket and then left his room. Ezra cringed at the sight of the broken lock, he grabbed his keys and wallet from the small table in the hall and walked out not bothering to close the door, he knew he wouldn't be coming back.

He looked down into the street and saw that Chris's Dodge was still parked in front of the building, the car's two occupants were waiting for him. He walked to the garage that held his black Jaguar, he got into the expensive car and started the engine. He took a deep breath and drove out of the garage, he reversed into the street, drove forward and stopped his car next to the dodge. Ezra put the car in neutral and got out, he walked around the car's bonnet until he stood in front of Chris's car. He pulled the gun out of his waist band and placed a bullet in each of the Dodge's front tires, stopping them from following him which he knew they wanted to do. He kept the gun aimed at the shocked faces while he backed up to his own driver's door. Ezra got back into the Jaguar and drove away from his life and the men who were no longer his friends.

Buck watched as Chris stormed past him, he didn't even acknowledge any of the four men who were waiting for his and Vin's return. He knew by the cold expression that his friend and leader wore that Ezra had been home, he heard the office door slam shut behind him. Even though he was no longer in the room Buck could still feel the anger that had followed Chris out of the elevator, it hung in the air like a shroud. He thought that if he waved his hand through the air in a cutting motion he would hear the anger fall to the floor.

"I take it Ezra was home?" Josiah asked as he quickly moved a stack of paper work when he realised that Vin was going to sit down on the desk that he was occupying.

"Oh he was at home alright." Vin growled as he landed heavily on the corner of the desk.

"What happened?" Buck asked as he leaned against the door frame of his office, he already had an idea but Chris's fury told him that the confrontation had gone badly.

"Did anyone notice that Ezra had lost weight?" Vin's question surprised all of them.

"Ezra lost weight?" Nathan pulled his feet from the desk they were resting on and stood up, he moved closer to Vin. "Is he sick? Is that why he left?" Nathan hoped that this explained why Ezra's resignation letter had assassinated their friendship with such finality. The reason had showed the disgust that he had felt working with the six men for the last six months.

"Yeah he's sick but it's self inflicted. Ezra's sick by his own choice." Vin answered him, the sarcasm was heavy in his voice, he lifted his pale eyes and looked at Nathan. "He has needle tracks on his arm, he's been using drugs." He looked around at his friends and saw understanding in their eyes. "You guys don't seemed to be as shocked as I thought you would be." Vin's eyebrows lifted, the movement asking the question that he didn't want to voice.

"It explains his letter of resignation." Buck mumbled. "It's not pleasant."

"Are you sure Vin?" Josiah was stunned, his mind was suddenly clouded with bewilderment.

"I'm sure, Chris asked him and Ezra didn't deny it." He pulled his eyes from Josiah. "Some of the marks were old, he's been using for a while."

"Why didn't we notice?" JD asked, his voice was hoarse, the emotion that he felt caused his chest and throat to contract.

"Ezra is very good at hiding things from people." Josiah reminded them. He could feel the guilt at his failure to help his friend when he needed him.

"Josiah?" Nathan's face showed the shock at the acknowledgement of what he remembered. "That draw that was always locked . . . you don't think that he kept drugs in there do you?"

"He could have been using it for that reason." Josiah saw the look of confusion that the other men held. "He always kept one of his desk drawers locked." He thought that was a simple enough explanation.

"He wouldn't have used anything here, we would have noticed if he was drugged out." Vin dismissed the thought. "He isn't that stupid. Well I thought he wasn't stupid."

"We have to help him." JD stated with confidence. "He needs our help."

"He doesn't want our help JD." Vin told him, he knew it would be a wasted effort on all their parts to try and help him.

"How do you know that, maybe he quit because he wanted help, maybe he thought it was the only way to ask for our help!" JD growled at him.

"First of all he pulled a gun on Chris and told us to leave, he didn't want to see any of us again." Vin got off the desk, he ignored the expressions that told him to keep talking and moved to an empty chair. "We waited outside for him. He left straight away but we couldn't follow him, he shot out the front tyres of Chris's car. So we have no idea where he is." He turned his gaze to Buck. "And if that letter is as unpleasant as you say . . . "

Buck walked back into his small homely office and picked up the letter, he came back out, his eyes not looking down at the hateful words that filled it. "Here read it for yourself." He handed it to Vin and watched his face carefully as he read it.

"Bastard." It was one word but it voiced the disdain that Vin felt towards Ezra Standish. "Who's going to show it to Chris?"

All eyes turned as one towards Buck. "Whoa! Hold on a minute, I don't want to be on the receiving end of his anger." Buck protested as he put his hands in front of him. "I'm not doing it."

"Your closer to him than any of us Buck, he'll be more lenient with you." Josiah assured him.

Everyone jumped when they heard Chris's voice vibrate off the walls.

"All of you in here now!" Chris yelled out of his now open doorway.

They only hesitated for a moment before hurrying into Chris's office. Each man found a position to stand or sit and watched and waited for Chris to speak.

"Buck did you get that letter?" Chris's voice was calm but cold, the anger and hatred that he now felt for Ezra was evident in his voice.

Vin moaned as he realised he still held the letter in his hand, he moved forward and passed the letter over Chris's desk to his leader who was now sitting in his chair. He quickly stepped back and hid behind some of his friends. They all watched carefully as all the emotions Chris felt stayed hidden behind his calm facade.

"Incompetent." Chris continued to read. "Lack of trust . . . , fears for his life . . . , difficult to get along with . . . , domineering . . . ," the anger began to show, "disgraceful attitude." Chris threw the paper away in digust. "I've read enough!"

"What are we going to do Chris?" JD asked him, he backed away at the look in his eyes.

"Nothing, the Bastard deserves to rot in hell." Chris growled at him.

"We can't just . . . " JD began.

"That was an order JD, we do nothing." Chris pulled out a folder from under a cup of cold coffee. "We have another case to deal with." He had cut off all any notions of helping Ezra, he had given an order that most of them agreed with and others reluctantly followed. "We received some information regarding a small arms transaction . . . " Chris began to give out the information that had been passed onto him by Judge Travis.

Ezra used his well trained green eyes to scan the quiet side street, eyes that were trained by his mother and not the the FBI Academy that had recruited him. He didn't recoginse any of the homeless figures that lined the street, he hadn't looked at their faces but instead watched their body language. His mother had told him that even though people could disguise themselves with makeup and clothing, they weren't able to disguise their body language which usually stayed the same and it was this mistake that often gave them away. But the eyes that watched had to know what to look for, they had to be able to recognise certain characteristics. Ezra knew what these would be, he knew the different habits that his former workmates had and he knew he would have no trouble picking them out of a crowd.

His eyes darted up and down the street one last time before he stepped into the small dirty restaurant, he grimaced at the smell that came from the greazy kitchen. Ezra first looked to his left then to his right, he spotted the man he was looking for immeadiately. A huge smile covered his handsome face as he made his way to his long time friend, he ignored those around him, he knew that Lenny would have checked them out when he first came in.

"Lenny!" Ezra didn't sit down at the booth his friend occupied, he stood to the side and his eyes took in the form that sat before him. Lenny Hoskins who had been a training instructor at the FBI academy still had the same light blue eyes that hid the child that had never grown up, his face was lightly tanned as it had always been, the rugged handsome features were clean shaven and the graying hair was closely cropped in a military manner.

"Jesus Ezra, you look like hell!" Lenny gasped as he looked up from his coffee, his gaze taking in every detail, the haunted look in his green eyes, the dark circles that stood out against the pale skin, the figure that was a lot thinner than he remembered. "Hell Ezra." He stood up quickly and took his friend into his arms, hugging him fiercely and slapping his back. "I didn't think you would go this far." He pushed him away and looked into the green eyes that now smiled back at him, the haunted looked had dissapeared. "Will you sit down before you fall down."

Ezra did as he was told and when the thin blond waitress showed up at his side he ordered a cup of coffee, he waited until she moved away and then smiled back at his friend. He could see the worried look that was in his eyes. "Don't worry about it Lenny, I'm fine."

"Don't worry about it, look at you, I've never seen you look so sick." Lenny argued with him.

"I'm supposed to be a drug addict remember, I have to look the part, this won't work otherwise." Ezra sat back as the waitress placed a cup of coffee in front of him, he took a sip and screwed his face up in disgust. "They have to believe it or they won't leave me alone until I tell them what's wrong, my cover will be blown before I even get in there."

"I'm sorry Ezra, I couldn't think of another way. We have to catch this guy, two of my men have been killed already." Lenny hated to bring Ezra into this but there had been no other choice, he was the perfect candidate.

"I know Lenny, don't worry about it, I mean it's not like I lost any real friends." Ezra muttered as he looked down into his coffee.

"They bought it then?" Lenny asked him. He felt a tinge of regret for his friend. He knew Ezra was having a hard time with the rumours of him being on the take while he was with the FBI, he had been transferred without any say in the matter to the ATF. He knew that Ezra had finally begun to settle in and found a group of men who cared about him more than he knew and he now had to ruin his friend's life to catch an ATF agent they knew had become dirty, they just didn't know who he was. The crooked agent had sold information that had gotten two good FBI agents killed, he had also put out feelers for a contract on Larabee's life.

"There was no doubt in Larabee's mind." Ezra remembered the look that had been in his leader's eyes when he saw the needle marks in his arm, Chris now believed that he was a drug addict. "Are you sure about this Lenny, there's no mistake?"

"No mistake, Joey never lied to me Ezra, he owed me his life." Lenny repeated, he had already told Ezra everything on more than one occasion. Joey was a snitch who always gave him good information. He had been shocked the day Joey had told him about the ATF agent. He didn't have a description or name and before Joey had been able to get anymore information he had died of a drug overdose. Lenny though didn't believe that it had been an accident. "We know he's part of Travis's ATF team but that's all."

"And you really think that this will flush him out?" Ezra needed to be sure that he wasn't doing this for nothing.

"If you play your part right Ezra." The silence filled the booth for a few minutes before Lenny spoke again. "So how did you convince them?"

Ezra turned his arms up and Lenny took in a quick intake of breath, he hadn't noticed them until Ezra showed them to him, both arms had needle tracks, doubt quickly crossed his own mind. "Vitamin shots. Believe it or not my mother has a Doctor who would do a lot of things if you paid him enough, nothing seriously illegal though. Told him what I needed and he gave it to me. A few injections a week, anymore would have just made me sick, he used a needle that would leave these types of marks. He said they would fade after a few months."

"And the weight loss?"

"Skipped some meals." Ezra shrugged, he didn't tell him that he had lost his appettite once he had agreed to take on the job.

"You sure your ready for this Ezra?" Lenny looked for any doubt, he knew Ezra was putting everything on the line to help him, he could loose his friends, his job but most importantly, his life. He had to be completely sure that he wanted to do it. "You can back out if you want to, I'll understand."

"I'm ready Lenny." Ezra assured him, he knew what had to be done and he knew that he would loose his friends doing it but he owed Lenny, he had been the first real friend that he had in his life and he loved him like a brother but he never admitted it to him, it had taken a long time to admit to himself. Lenny had been one of his instructors at the Academy and he had taken him under his wing, he had also made sure that Ezra was transferred to the FBI section that he worked in so he could continue to take care of him. Lenny had stood by him during the trouble that he had in the FBI, he believed him when he told him that he wasn't on the take. Ezra knew he would do anything for Lenny.

"Here's where I want you to go." Lenny handed him a piece of paper with an address. "You be there at two tomorrow afternoon, Judge Travis will make sure that Larabee and the rest of his team raid the building, they'll arrest you and whoever else will be there and take you back to the ATF building where Travis will make sure they keep you a few days. Hopefully once this guy finds out what you've been up to he'll make himself known to you, maybe even offer you the job of killing Larabee."

Lenny had discussed the whole situation with Judge Travis, he had to make sure that there was someone in the ATF that knew what Ezra was doing, it was more for Ezra's protection than anyone elses. The Judge had informed him of the already strained relationship between the southerner and his boss and that it wouldn't take a lot to destroy the friendship that had begun to grow slowly. The rumors that Ezra had been on the take would help his cover as well.

"And you?" Ezra asked him.

"I'll be there when they bring you in." Lenny forced a smile onto his face. "I have an appointment to see Larabee in the morning to discuss rumors that Agent Ezra Standish is on the take and will stay for a few days to conduct interviews with your colleagues." He saw the flicker of emotions that passed through Ezra's eyes before his wall was forced back up. "We have to make it look bad Ezra, that way this guy will think your just as crooked as he is."

"Yeah I know, it's just that . . ." Ezra shook his head as he tried to push the pain of more rejection away.

"It's just what Ezra?" Lenny asked him carefully, he knew how easy it was for Ezra to push people away, it had taken him years to gain Ezra's trust.

"No, it's nothing really, just a stupid thought." Ezra wished he hadn't said anything.

"I know you don't like keeping them in the dark Ezra but we have to make it believable so this guy will hopefully try to help you." He kept repeating the reason for the operation that Ezra had agreed to undertake.

"I know Lenny." Ezra smiled at him but his eyes showed a different emotion.

"They'll understand Ezra." Lenny saw the doubt cross his young friend's face.

"I highly doubt that Lenny." Ezra knew by the look that Chris had given him that the man would never forgive him, even if he did have a good reason for doing it. The man would think he ran out on them, that he didn't trust his friends enough to tell them what was going on. "There not like you. They don't trust me, never did. Hell most of the time I don't think they even like me." Ezra stood up from the booth. "Lenny."

"Yeah Ezra?" Lenny looked up into the green eyes, the haunted look had returned. He wasn't sure if it was part of the cover or from what the young agent had just told him.

"Can you also make sure that there is a Doctor there tomorrow, I'm sure that Larabee is going to try and beat the shit out of me at some point." Ezra didn't wait for an answer, he turned away from his friend and left the dirty restaurant.

"I'm sorry Ezra." Lenny whispered under his breath, he was going to do everything that he could to make sure that Larabee and the rest of the team understood why it had to be done this way.

Lenny Hoskins stepped out of the elevator onto the seventh floor of Denver's ATF building. He began to walk down the wide corridor that had been decorated with large potted plants towards the offices that housed Ezra's six friends, he silently prayed that these men would still be his friends once the operation was over. He stopped at the first open doorway he came to and looked into the small office, he saw a man who was not much younger than Ezra. He coughed into his hand and the man looked up, he saw eyes that mirrored his own, the young man had the same light blue eyes that his mother had given him, he also had a head of hair that desperately needed a haircut. 'The youth of today.' he thought to himself.

"Is there something that I can help you with?" Vin asked the man who stood in the doorway to his office.

"I'm looking for Chris Larabee, I have an appointment to see him."

"About?" Vin eyed him suspiciously, he didn't like the look of the man.

"That's between Agent Larabee and myself." Lenny took a step forward. "Are you going to show me to his office or am I going to have to ask someone else?"

Vin hesitated as he looked the man up and down, he looked like a military officer, he could never understand why some men wore their hair in such a short way. He pushed his chair out and stood up, he walked past Lenny without giving him another glance. "Follow me."

Lenny walked behind the man he believed to be Vin Tanner, Ezra had described them all to him during one of their long phone conversations. They stopped outside a larger office and Tanner knocked on the door.

"What!" An angry voice called out from behind the closed door.

Vin opened the door and stepped inside, he indicated to Lenny to wait but he didn't, he walked right into the large office and up to the desk. "Someone here to see you Chris, said he has an appointment." Vin quickly removed himself from the office before Chris could take his anger out on him.

Vin could understand the reasoning behind his anger, they all felt angry and betrayed by what Ezra had done, by what he had become, it was against everything they fought for. He knew that Chris also felt a lot more, he was the one who had selected Ezra for the team, he was blaming himself for misjudging the man, he felt that what Ezra had done reflected on himself and the team. Ezra had made them all look bad.

Lenny waited for him to acknowledge him but he didn't, he coughed again but it didn't cause the man to react as it had Tanner. "I don't have all day Agent Larabee." He still waited and while he waited he wondered why Ezra respected this man so much.

"What do you want?" Chris asked him in a cold tone as he kept working on the paperwork that had been sitting on his desk for the last week.

"When your ready Larabee, I'd rather talk to you than the top of your head." Lenny told him as he sat down in one the comfortable chairs. He looked down at the chair knowing that Larabee had finally looked up at him. He felt the soft leather with his finger tips while he kept his eyes down. "They don't have chairs like this with the FBI."

"I asked you what you wanted!" Chris growled at the man that sat before him.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realise you finally decided to join me." Lenny smiled at him. He could see the threat in the blue eyes that glared back at him, he didn't flinch, he was use to it, Ezra had given him the same look quite often when he first met him. "Agent Lenny Hoskins, I'm with the FBI." He pulled out his ID and showed it to the man who sat across the table from him, he didn't bother to try and shake his hand, he knew that Larabee would refuse it. "I won't beat about the bush Mr Larabee." He turned his eyes to the photo that sat on the table, he could see six of the agents. "Fishing trip?"

"Something like that." Chris tried to calm down. "Are you going to tell me what your doing here or am I going to throw you out of my office."

'You couldn't handle me Larabee.' Lenny silently told him. "When was it taken?"

"Two months ago." Chris stood up, he had all intentions of throwing the man out and he was going to cause him an injury in the process, he didn't care if he was with the FBI.

"Agent Standish didn't go?" Lenny wondered if it had been Ezra's choice or if it was because he wasn't invited.

"I believe it's time you left." Chris walked around his desk but the agent's words stopped him from carrying out his silent threat.

"I'm here to investigate allegations that Agent Standish has been selling information in return for money or drugs." It took all of his control to hide the shock that he felt at the amount of hatred that had filled Larabee's eyes at the mention of Ezra's name. He couldn't understand it, he knew Ezra was a good judge of character so he didn't even want to begin to comprehend why he respected this man.

"Your here to what?" Chris asked him.

"Come now Larabee, I didn't know that it was a requirement of the ATF to be deaf as well as stupid." Lenny was beginning to enjoy himself. He didn't like this man and he wanted him to know it, he obviously succeeded, the expression on Larabee's face and the look in his eyes would have scared the hell out of any normal man but Lenny Hoskins wasn't a normal man.

"And where did these allegations come from?" Chris was fuming, if the man had been here for any other reason he would have literally thrown him out of the window, even if it was the seventh floor.

"I knew you heard me the first time." Lenny couldn't take the smile off his face, he was going to enjoy telling Ezra about this when it was over. He looked around the office and ignored the threatening look. Lenny saw another holiday photo on the file cabinet, again Ezra was missing from the picture. "I take it Standish doesn't like fishing."

Chris didn't answer him, he leant back in his chair and waited, he wasn't going to play any more of his games. He lifted his feet and placed them on the corner of his desk, the left crossed over the right.

"Perhaps you would like the rest of your team to hear this, I'm going to need to talk to them anyway." Lenny leaned back in the chair and crossed his legs. "I don't really want to have to repeat myself."

Chris pulled his feet from the desk and stood up, it took everything he had not to kick the crap out of the man in the chair on his way past. He practically tore the door from it's hinges. "All of you, get in here now!" He left the door open and returned to his chair.

Lenny only had to wait a few minutes until the rest of the team filed into the room, he looked at each man and was able to match each of them with a name from the descriptions Ezra had given him. He looked away from them, his eyes turning to the photo on the file cabinet again. He made a mental note to ask Ezra if he had been invited.

"Well?" Chris demanded. "Are you going to tell them or not."

"Why don't you tell them." Lenny allowed his gaze to fall back on the five men.

"Agent Hoskins is from the FBI, he's here to investigate Standish. Seems he's been selling information for money and drugs." Chris informed them.

Lenny watched their reactions carefully, each man showed the anger that they felt, only three showed hatred but not as much as he had seen in Larabee's eyes. The two that didn't show any hatred towards Ezra were Dunne and Sanchez. Ezra had told him that JD Dunne wasn't experienced enough to mistrust people as yet and Sanchez liked to give people the benifit of doubt before he judge them.

"I said allegations Larabee, it hasn't been proven yet." Lenny reminded him. He decided it was more than dislike that he felt for this man. "Where is Agent Standish anyway?"

"He quit the day before yesterday." Vin told him.

"And his reason for quiting?" Lenny asked again.

"Apparently he didn't like working with us." Chris spat out, his voice was full of disgust.

"Where is he now?"

"We don't know but we do know that the allegations must be true." Chris continued to answer his questions.

Lenny raised his eyebrows. " And what proof do you have that he has been selling information?"

"We went to see him at his home yesterday to find out why he quit." Vin spoke up again. "He had needle tracks, he'd lost weight and he looked sick. Were pretty sure that he's become a drug addict."

'You certainly know how to do your job Ezra.' Lenny thought to himself. "You only noticed all this yesterday, doesn't make any of you look good now does it." He saw the look of guilt cross the face of Agent Sanchez.

"How come the FBI is investigating him and not the ATF?" Josiah asked him. Any hope that he had that there was a reason for what was happening was shattered.

"I investigated Standish two years ago when the same type of allegations were brought to my attention, I couldn't prove anything then but I hope to now, especially after what you have just told me Agent . . . " He looked at Vin but the younger man didn't answer him. Lenny looked at Chris. "Did you recruit him, he seems to be just as deaf as you are."

"The name's Vin Tanner." The ex-bounty hunter growled at him, he knew he didn't like this man.

"And like you he heard me the first time." Lenny chuckled out loud. "Your raids must be fun to watch, you probably have to repeat all your instructions twice."

"Get on with it." Chris warned him.

"I'm going to be hanging around for a few days, question each of you individually in regards to Standish." He looked around at the men. "I was hoping to talk to Standish himself but it seems you drove him away."

"What makes you think that were going to talk to you?" Vin asked him coldly.

"Judge Travis thinks it actually, I have his permission. You can check with him if you want." Lenny got up from his chair and walked towards the door. "I'll be checking through his arrest records this afternoon so I won't need you but please make yourselves available tomorrow." He smiled at them then left the room, as soon as he had his back to them he allowed his own look of disgust to surface, he now knew that these men weren't going to understand, even if one of the reasons for Ezra going undercover was to save Larabee's life.

Ezra walked into the run down building on Laymen street, he still wore the same clothes that he had been wearing the day before, he hadn't bothered to change. He made his way to the middle of the room, passing the people that were laid out on the floor, he could see the empty needles that lay next to them. The building must have been a regular hangout for drug dealers and users. He bent down and picked up an empty needle and pulled a rubber strap off the arm of an unconcious drug addict and took both items with him. Ezra turned around to see a black man approaching him, he wore a double breasted suit and dark glasses to hide his eyes.

"Agent Standish?" The man spoke loud enough for the people who lay around them to hear what he was saying, when they were questioned by the ATF they would be able to repeat the conversation that was being spoken for their benefit. "I believe you have some information for me."

"Have you got what I asked for?" Ezra knew that Lenny had arranged for this man to be here, he was going to be arrested with him, more proof that he was a bent agent.

"If I remember correctly we agreed on two thousand." The man pulled out an envelope that was filled with hundred dollar bills.

Ezra took another envelope that was filled with false information from his jeans pocket and handed it to him, he took the money and tucked it into the loose waist band of his jeans. "There going to be here any moment, don't do anything rash, their likely to shoot you."

The man laughed at him but stopped when he saw that Ezra was serious, he watched as the smaller man took some pills out of his shirt front pocket and swallowed them. He frowned at him when he saw the needle in his hand.

"For the show." Ezra told him. "There here." He could see a flash of metal from the corner of his eye. Ezra took in a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly. He shut away all of the emotions that he was feeling behind a solid wall and became the person that he knew Larabee and the others were going to despise. He heard the umistakable voice of Larabee as he made their presence known. The pills that he had gotten from his mother's Doctor were already taking effect on his system, the voices began to echo in his mind and he became unsteady on his feet. He lifted his arms above his head and then let the needle and strap fall to the ground, he knew they would see it.

The ATF team leader had given his men their instructions, they split into three groups, each man wearing an ATF jacket and made their way into the building, Vin stayed with Chris as they made their way through the front entrance, Buck and JD moved down the alley that ran along the left side of the building so they could enter through the back, Nathan and Josiah made their way the right side and gained entrance via the fire escape.

Chris recognised Ezra immeadiately, he pushed the anger aside, he was here to do a job, once the raid was complete he would let his anger out and Ezra was going to be on the receiving end of that anger. He motioned to Vin to go around to the left and then wait for his signal.

"ATF! PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM!" Chris yelled out to them. He watched as Ezra slowly lifted his hands over his head, he saw the needle and rubber strap fall to the ground.

Chris and Vin moved as one towards the two suspects, he knew the other four members of the team would watch their backs. Chris stood behind Ezra while Vin checked the other man for any weapons. Vin removed a semi automatic from a shoulder holster and emptied it of it's magazine, he then tossed it to Nathan who was standing behind him with Josiah. Buck and JD soon joined them. He put his own gun back in it's holster and pulled out his handcuffs, when the man was secured he finally allowed his eyes to look at Ezra. He could see by the look in his eyes that he was doped up, he looked away in disgust.

Ezra turned his eyes away from Vin, he knew he got off lucky with just that look but he knew he would recieve more from Chris and he did. He felt the gun slam into his right kidney, he fell to the ground and tried to curl up as the pain tore through him. He didn't have a chance. Chris's arms pulled him back to his feet, he roughly pulled his arms behind him and handcuffed his wrists. Ezra could feel the metal cutting into the skin, he then felt the world spin as he was spun around to face him again.

"You make me sick Standish." Chris then used his gun again to force the air out of Ezra's lungs, he grabbed him before he fell to the ground and slammed his fist into his face, he didn't grab him this time but instead allowed him to fall to the floor.

Ezra wasn't able to put his hands out to protect himself from the fall, his head slammed into the cement causing white spots to flash across his vision, he blinked his eyes to try and clear it.

"I make you sick, your the one beating up a man who can't defend himself." Ezra held onto the spit and blood that filled his mouth.

"I'm giving you what you deserve." Chris retaliated.

Ezra's vision blurred but he didn't know if it was caused by the pills or from his head hitting the floor, he closed his eyes and opened them again to find Chris leaning over him. He gathered all the spit and blood from his split lip and spat it into Chris's face.

"You son of a bitch!" Chris hawled Ezra to his feet and dragged him towards the front door while everyone watched, none of them tried to stop him and that was going to be something that Ezra wasn't going to forget.

Ezra knew what he was going to do but there was nothing he could do to stop him, he closed his eyes and turned his head to the side just before he was slammed into the cement wall. Chris grabbed a handful of hair and pulled Ezra's head back, he then hit his face against the wall. Ezra could feel the cement tear the skin away from his cheek, he could feel the blood as it began to run down the side of his face, he felt Chris pull his head back again, this time it was his forehead that took the full force of the blow, he blinked his eyes hoping to stop the blood from flowing into them.

Chris used one hand to hold Ezra against the wall and the other to wipe the spit from his face, he then pulled him back towards him and pushed him out the door, he dragged him across the street towards his car, he didn't stop, he threw Ezra into the side of the Dodge and let him collapse to the pavement. He could see the damage that he had caused but he didn't care, the man had betrayed him, he was selling information to help feed his drug habit, as far as he was concerned Standish got what he deserved, he just wished that he could give him more.

"Chris?" Vin called from behind him.

"Did you see the needle?" Chris asked Vin as he turned around.

"Yeah. We found this on the other guy." Vin handed him an envelope, he pulled out the piece of paper. "This is about the raid we had planned for when Tascon brought in another shipment of guns." Chris didn't even hesitate, he kicked Ezra in the side and enjoyed the cry of pain that finally came from him. He bent down and quickly checked his pockets, he felt the thick envelope that was in his waist band and pulled it out. "There's at least two thousand here." He handed it to Vin. "Put him in the car before I kill him."

Vin pulled Ezra up to his feet and held him against the car while he opened the car door.

"Aren't you going to take a turn Tanner? I know you want to." Ezra asked him coldly. He was struggling to stay on his feet, the beating he had just received and the pills he had taken were trying their hardest to take him into a black void but he fought against it.

"I wouldn't waste my breath." Vin shoved Ezra into the back seat and slammed the door shut. He then got into the front passenger seat, he wasn't going to sit in the back with Ezra.

Chris excelerated the car away from the curb, leaving the other agents to clean up the aftermath of the raid, they would ask the normal questions, take names and then head back to the ATF building with the second prisoner.

Ezra leaned his head back against the seat, he was feeling strange, the Doctor had told him that the effects would only last a few hours and that he would have to act after that. 'That's okay.' Ezra thought to himself. 'I can act, just look at my face.' He laughed out loud at that thought.

"What's so funny?" Vin turned his head as he heard Ezra's laughter.

"You are. Did anybody ever tell you to get a haircut?" Ezra laughed again but he began to choke on the blood that flowed down the back of his throat, he leaned over and spat it out onto the back seat. He looked into the rearview mirror and saw Chris's blue eyes threatening him. He smiled in return and then sat sideways so he could wipe the blood that was still flowing from his head wound onto the back of the seat. He felt himself lunge forward as the car was brought to a sudden halt.

Chris slammed on the brake and when the car stopped he leaned into the back and slapped Ezra across the face. "You keep doing that and next time I'll do more. You understand me?"

"How can I refuse such a polite request." Ezra smiled back at him, he turned his head and spat onto the seat again. "Seems I can refuse." Ezra quickly pulled away as Chris practically jumped into the back seat.

"CHRIS!" Vin yelled at him. "He's not worth it. Your just going to get yourself into trouble."

Chris threw Ezra a disgusted look and turned away from the smile that grew on Ezra's face.

'You've just bought yourself more trouble than you can handle Larabee!' Ezra told himself. 'Your going to regret what you did.' He had known that Chris was going to react but he didn't know it was going to be with so much hatred.

Chris Larabee threw Ezra through the double doors that led to the holding area in the basement of the ATF building, he wanted to announce their arrival so everyone could see what the man had become. Ezra who was still unable to protect himself fell onto his left side, his shoulder jarring painfully as he hit the recently cleaned tiles, the blood that flowed from his face left a small trail as he slid along the freshly polished white floor, he only stopped when he hit the legs of the man standing near the elevator.

Lenny had looked around when he heard the doors crash open only to see his friend of ten years thrown onto the floor and then land at the bottom of his feet. His eyes moved from the look of hatred and disgust on Larabee's face down to the battered visage of Ezra Standish, he saw the blood that covered both the left side of his face and his white shirt and his own blood began to boil.

'Shit Ezra, I didn't think you were serious.' Lenny berated himself for not listening to Ezra. He put the battered image that lay before him in the back of his mind where he could retrieve it at a later time, it would help give him the incentive to beat the shit of Larabee, not that he really needed any, he now hated the man with a passion. He was going to pay dearly for what he had done to Ezra. Lenny bent down and rolled Ezra off his left side onto his back and took on his own character.

"We meet again Agent Standish, or should I say Mr Standish." Lenny hid the emotions that he felt when Ezra's green eyes looked up at him, he could see that his vision wasn't focused, partly from the blood that had flowed into his left eye from the wound that sat just above the eyebrow and from something else. Ezra actually looked liked he had taken something. 'No wonder your the best at what you do Ezra.'

"What the hell are you doing here?" Ezra asked him through gritted teeth. He forced his eyes to focus on his friend, the only friend that he had left in his life. He saw the concern that flashed in his eyes, it quickly dissapeared but Ezra understood, he had to hide everything, he had to be like Larabee. There would be one difference though, Lenny wouldn't hit him.

"Seems you've been up to your old tricks." Lenny smiled down at him.

"And what tricks would they be?" Ezra tried to change his position, the weight of his body was causing the handcuffs to press further into his wrists.

Before Lenny could say anything, arms passed his vision to grab a handful of Ezra's shirt. He watched as he was roughly pulled to his feet and then slammed face first against the wall, leaving another trail of blood. "Is that necessary?" Lenny asked Chris with a hint of amusement in his voice. In his mind he could see himself allowing his anger to take control by pulling Larabee away from Ezra and inflicting the same sort of punishment that he had on his friend but much worse.

"Very!" Chris growled at him as he pulled Ezra away from the wall and began to drag him towards one of the interview rooms.

Lenny followed them to the empty room and watched as Larabee pushed Ezra towards one of the chairs. Ezra hit it with a force that caused a cry of pain to escape from his bleeding lips. Both the chair and Ezra fell to the floor in a heap. Lenny inwardly winced at the face that was contorted in pain. He wanted to yell at Larabee to stop but he knew he couldn't so he did the next best thing.

"Has Judge Travis been informed that you have Mr Standish?" Lenny asked Chris in a casual manner that even suprised himself.

"No." Chris answered him as he moved forward to pick Ezra up off the floor, he straightened the chair and pushed the southerner into it.

"Don't you think you should. That way you can explain it to both of us why you have Standish in custody and why he is in this condition."

'You tell him Lenny.' Ezra smiled. 'And while your at it, hit him for me.'

Lenny pulled out his cell phone. "Would you like to call him or shall I?"

"The man deserves what he gets." Chris growled at him as he tore the cell phone from his hand.

"I agree but you still have to stay within the law Larabee." Lenny's warning was serious. "You don't want him laying assualt charges do you?"

"He doesn't have any witnesses." Vin told him while Chris was talking on the phone.

"Oh, it's like that is it, I suppose he was resisting arrest too." Lenny gave him a look that asked for a challenge.

"The Judge is on his way." Chris informed them as he went and sat down in the chair that was placed on the other side of the large plain table.

Ezra heard the words that buzzed in his painfilled mind, he groaned and allowed his head to fall to the table. It landed with a loud thud. "Ow!" Ezra rolled his head off the cut that was on his forehead and opened one eye to watch Lenny, he needed to see him standing there, he wouldn't get through this otherwise. He couldn't stop the smile that covered the bottom half of his face.

"Something funny Standish?" Lenny asked him. He could see that whatever he had taken was effecting his personality, he suddenly became concerned that he was going to give everything away.

"Nope, nothing funny about having some bastard beat the crap out of you while your hands are handcuffed behind your back." Ezra yelped out in pain when Chris used his boot to kick his shin under the table. "Bastard." Ezra mumbled while he kept his head down, he wasn't going to lift it, if he did he would throw up, he hated doing that.

Lenny knew that small piece of information was meant for him, he filed it along side Ezra's battered image. He allowed his eyes to shift so he could see Larabee's expression, he didn't like what he saw but he knew that when the opportunity became available to him he would wipe that look off his face and replace it with one of pure guilt.

"What the hell is going on here!" Judge Travis yelled at all four men as he entered the interview room.

The Judge had waited outside for a moment before entering so he could gain control of his emotions and put what he called his poker face into place. It was a face that he had used during all his years of being a Judge, you weren't able to show how you felt and had to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. He was just grateful that he knew that Standish had gone under cover because if he hadn't know about the operation he would have thought the man was guilty without giving him a second thought. Standish was a man who was very hard to get to know, he wouldn't allow anyone to break through his emotional defenses and any person with that type of personality was hard to trust.

"So good of you to join the party Judge." Ezra smiled at him. "Now we can perhaps have a trial, these men seemed to have condemed me without one."

"Larabee, I asked you a question." The Judge showed the anger that he felt at the scene that was laid out before him, he was shocked at the injuries that Ezra had recieved and knew that they were inflicted by Chris.

"We raided the building on Laymen street and caught him selling information regarding the Tascon raid that was supposed to happen next week." Chris kept his eyes trained on Ezra's head, he hoped for some sort of movement that would allow him to hit him. "We arrested him."

"Is that what you call it?" Ezra asked him as he kept his head down, he could feel his stomach turning. "You didn't even read me my rights!"

"Is that right?" Travis asked him.

"Things went a bit to quickly . . . " Chris started but Ezra interrupted him.

"You mean you were to busy throwing me against a cement wall!" Ezra decided not to say anymore, it was making his nausea worse.

Travis moved forward and knelt down next to Ezra, his used his hand to gently lift his head off the table, forcing the smaller man to sit up. He saw the emotion that the haunted green eyes held. He memorised each injury, the split lip, the torn left cheek, the cut above Ezra's eyebrow and the blood that covered the left side of his face. "Tanner, take the cuffs off him and then go and arrange for a Doctor to check him over." The Judge looked at Larabee. "I don't want you questioning him until the Doctor says he's okay to answer your questions."

Ezra took in a quick intake of breath when Vin removed the handcuffs, he didn't do it in a gentle manner. Ezra lifted his arms and outwardly grimaced when the pain ripped through his cramped shoulder muscles, he placed his hands on the table so Travis could see them. The sight of the blood on his wrists made his stomach roll violently.

"I need to use the bathroom." Ezra moaned as he tried to keep the bile down.

"Hoskins you take him, Tanner go with them, ask someone else to get the Doctor on your way back." Travis ordered them. "And while your doing that, Larabee and I are going to have a talk."

"You tell him Judge." Ezra told him as he was pulled painfully from his chair. "Make the Bastard pay for what he's done." He turned to Vin when he gripped his arm to tightly. "Enjoying yourself are you?"

"Handle him carefully Tanner or it is going to cost you your job." The Judge warned him when he saw the strained expression on Ezra's face. They had no right to treat Standish in a way that they wouldn't treat another prisoner.

"Your in for it now Tanner, you piece of shit." Ezra laughed at him but stopped when his stomach threatened to empty itself. "Good Lord."

Lenny grabbed him by the arm and hurried him to the bathroom that he knew was down the corridor, he walked quickly, leaving Vin behind. "How you doing Ezra?"

"I'm going to be sick Lenny?" Ezra moaned.

"Just hold on a minute okay." He squeezed his arm gently and then lead him through into the bathroom.

Ezra pushed him away and ran into one of the cubicles where his stomach violently emptied itself. Lenny wanted to help him but he knew that Tanner would be right behind them so he leaned back against one of the wash basins and listened as his young friend continued to be sick. He managed to put a look of disgust on his face when he heard Vin walk into the room.

"Bastard nearly threw up on my shoes." Lenny told him. Vin only glanced at him and then looked into the cubicle, he could see Ezra bent over the toilet bowl, his shoulders heaving with the effort of throwing up, he shook his head and turned away from him. Lenny didn't see any sympathy at all on the young agent's face. 'And I thought these men were supposed to be your friends Ezra.'

They had to wait another ten minutes for Ezra to finish and each time he threw up Lenny inwardly hated Chris Larabee a little bit more, he didn't think that he could hate him anymore but he did. He didn't know what was causing Ezra to be sick, it could have been the drugs that he had taken to make his character more believable or from the beating that he had received, he decided that it was probably the latter, he would find out after the Doctor checked him over.

When Ezra had finally finished he dragged himself off the floor, he could barely stand, he felt weak and his legs were unsteady. He made his way gingerly to the wash basin and turned the tap on, he splashed cold water onto his face and couldn't stop the grunt of pain when the water hit the abrasion on his cheek and the cut on his forehead.

"You finished yet?" Vin growled at him.

"I will be once I take care of you and Larabee." Ezra retaliated.

He gave Vin a cold look that he didn't usually allow these men to see and he smiled when the ex-bounty hunter actually flinched, a normal person wouldn't have seen it but Ezra knew how to read people, he had been trained by the best; his mother. It was the only good thing that she had done for him, apart from what she had taught him, she had done nothing else, she hadn't been the mother that she was supposed to be. She hadn't wanted him or loved him and Ezra knew that there was nothing that he could do about it so he had accepted it. That was when she wasn't around though. When she did visit all the resentment that he felt came to the surface and the visit usually ended in an argument.

Ezra pulled out a paper towl and carefully dried his face, he then walked towards the door with Lenny and Vin following him. Lenny led him back to the interview room while Vin went to arrange for the Doctor to come and see Ezra.

"Great friends you've got Ezra." Lenny whispered to him.

"Not anymore." Ezra knew that he had lost them, what had happened over the last hour proved that he never had them. Real friends would have given him the benefit of the doubt and then tried to help him with his problems but not these men. Larabee had beaten with with a hatred that he had never seen in his eyes before and the others had let him but that was the reason why he had agreed to go undercover, he knew that they would react, he just didn't realise that it would be this bad.

"Why is Standish in that condition?" Travis asked Chris as he sat down in the chair that Ezra had been sitting in, he looked down and saw the blood that was on the table. The sight of it sickened him, it wasn't the blood that made him feel sick, it was the way that Chris had treated Standish, he knew he would react to the situation but he hadn't expected so much violence.

"I lost my temper." Chris told him truthfully.

"You loose your temper again and you will be suspended." Travis told him coldly. "Do you understand me?"

"He deserves what he gets Judge, the man's a traitor." Chris began to argue with him.

"That's not the answer I wanted." Travis warned him.

"I understand you." Chris allowed the anger that he felt to show, he couldn't understand why he was protecting the bastard.

"Only one person stays in here with him when they come back. And that person is not to be you or Tanner." Travis stood up and looked down at the blood again. "Is that clear."


"I want to know when the Doctor gets here." The Judge stood over him. "And if his injuries are serious then I may consider suggesting that he press assualt charges against you."

"Why are you protecting him! He's a drug addict and he's been selling information to pay for his habit!" Chris stood up angrily, the chair fell to the floor behind him.

"Because it's my job! What he did is reflecting back on me but what your doing is worse, you don't treat any other prisoner this way! Your making me and the ATF look just as bad as Standish is!" The Judge turned his back on him and walked towards the door, he could see Lenny returning with Ezra. He knew that Ezra was risking and loosing everything to protect Larabee's life and bring a killer to justice. Travis turned to look over his shoulder. "You have a job to do Chris, so get your emotions under control and do it!"

Travis stormed out of the room, he stopped Lenny and Ezra outside in the corridor and made sure that no one was within hearing distance. "You okay Ezra?" Travis asked him quietly.

"No." Ezra admitted to him.

"He was being sick." Lenny informed him. "The beating Larabee gave him probably caused it."

"The Doctor will be here soon Ezra, I'll have Lenny stay with you until he gets here. Okay?" Ezra didn't say anything, he was too busy trying to kept himself upright. Travis looked at Lenny and saw the anger flash through his eyes. "You stay with him Lenny, I've made sure that Larabee won't touch him again." Travis left to intercept Tanner and move him to the observation room so he could still watch Ezra but not cause him any more harm.

Lenny took Ezra by the arm and helped him back into the room, he made sure that it looked more like he was dragging him back. He didn't hestitate once he placed Ezra into the chair. "Judge said he wants me to stay with him and he wants you to leave." He spoke in a manner that told Chris he wouldn't accept an argument, he dismissed Larabee and expected him to leave the room without another word. He did. But he knew he would go into the next room so he could watch Ezra through the two way mirror that had been built into the wall that Ezra was facing.

Lenny closed the door behind him, he went back and sat in the empty chair. He watched as Ezra folded his arms on the table and laid the uninjured side of his face onto his arms.

"You want some water?" Lenny asked him in a flat tone.

Ezra lifted his head and nodded, he then allowed it to fall back onto his arms. Lenny stood up and went to the door, his stuck his head out through the opening and saw JD and Buck at the front desk with the man that he had arranged to meet Ezra. He guessed that the other agents were already in the other room with Larabee and Tanner.

"Agent Dunne. Would you please bring me some water!" Lenny called to him.

JD looked up from the paperwork that he was filling out to see Agent Hoskins poking his head out from behind the door of one of the interview rooms, he had the same opinion of the man that everybody else did. He didn't like him.

"I'm not your . . . "

"Now Dunne!" He shut the door and went back to the chair. "I don't know how you managed to work with such incompetent assholes." Lenny smiled at Ezra although his voice held a sarcastic tone. His back was facing the mirrored wall so he knew they wouldn't see the expression that his face held but they would hear every word he said.

"That's exactly what I said in my resignation letter." Ezra lifted his head and smiled back at him. "Well, I left out the asshole part of course, can't use that sort of language even if the term does desribe them perfectly." He began to rub his temples, trying to force the pain to leave his skull. "You didn't tell me why you were here."

"I got some new information on you." Lenny leaned forward, Ezra had started the game. "Seems your back to selling information to the guys that were trying to put in jail."

A knock sounded on the door interrupting the conversation, JD entered and walked to the table, he placed a large paper cup of water in front of Hoskins.

"It's not for me." Lenny told him as he forced the anger to stay out of his voice. "It's for him." He nodded towards Ezra who hadn't looked up to see who entered the room.

"Then you give it to him." JD turned around and walked out the door.

"Now you know why I resigned." Ezra spoke bitterly.

"And here I was thinking it was because you were selling information to pay for your drug habit." Lenny stood up and turned around to face the mirror, he smiled at the men he knew were on the other side and then walked over to the corner of the room where they wouldn't be able to see him.

"Yeah well, there was that too." Ezra smiled as his eyes followed him.

Lenny nodded his head towards the water and put his most serious expression on his handsome face, he knew that no words would be needed. Ezra had no doubt what the expression meant, he drank some of the water.

"So who were you selling the information to?" Ezra didn't answer him. "Was it Tascon?" He still didn't answer. "I could sneak Larabee back in here if you like, I'm sure he would have some questions for you."

"Larabee can expect a fight then because I won't have my hands held behind my back." Ezra stared at the mirror. "The man is a coward."

"You wouldn't be able to take him." Lenny laughed but he knew Ezra would, he'd seen him fight and he knew that after a childhood spent with many relatives and their children he had to learn how to fight to protect himself, he had gained a black belt in Tae Kwon-Do but he knew it was something that he rarely used, he didn't need to. It was like his poker skills, his mother had taught him how to cheat but he didn't have to, his skills won him the game and he knew that it was the same when he had to defend himself. His fighting skills were enough to stop an opponent, he didn't need to use the martial arts training that he had. He also assumed that it was something that Larabee and his team didn't know about.

"I know I can take him, there's a lot of things he doesn't know about me." Ezra smiled but the expression showed a man that none of the men watching behind the mirror had seen before. "They'd be surprised at what I'm capable of doing."

Lenny knew he was speaking the truth. Ezra hid a lot of things from people, especially the side of him that he was talking about. He had only seen it once and he didn't want to see it again and he was afraid that that side of him would show itself when this was all over.

Chris was too angry to sit in a chair, he paced the length of the small observation room, leaving a trail of anger that followed behind him. His eyes continued to glare through the mirror at the man he had come to hate. He listened as the comments passed between the two men and he wanted nothing more than to go into the other room and kill the son of bitch but he knew the Judge was serious, if Standish didn't press charges, he would. He just couldn't understand why he was defending him. He finally stood still when the word 'coward' was spoken and he listened as Standish confidently asserted that he could take him in a fight, he acknowledged the underlying challenge the words held and silently accepted it with a slight nod of his head but he failed to notice the hostile expression that he had never seen before. It was a mistake that he was going to regret.

"I don't care if it costs me my job, I want to get some time alone with him." It was a simple statement but it held a menacing threat that he intended to carry out.

"He's not worth loosing your job over Chris." Vin tried to tell him as he struggled to control his own emotions.

Vin had thought that Ezra was a good friend, someone that he could trust and confide in but now he had to watch and listen as he tore that friendship apart as though it had meant nothing to him. He didn't think he could hate anyone as much as he had despised Ellie Joe, the man who had framed him for murder but his feelings for Ezra Standish had become an uncontrollable torrent of anger and hatred that he had never felt before. He couldn't understand why he was allowing the southerner to fuel his anger in such a way. Usually he was able to keep his anger under control but he wanted to lash out at Ezra. It wasn't just the fact that he had become a drug addict and was selling information to the men they were trying to put behind bars, he had taken the friendship that Vin had tried so hard to create and destroyed it without any remorse and he wanted to hurt him like he had hurt their friendship.

He knew that it had been a struggle for Ezra to allow a friendship to grow between himself and the rest of the team, he had fought them all the way but they had finally begun to break down his wall of defense only to have him repay them in such a way that completely shattered the trust and companionship that had started to develope. He thought he had made one of the worst mistakes of his life allowing a friendship to grow with this man, to get close to him but he was going to find out that he had made an even bigger mistake for thinking that Ezra had been capable of doing such a thing to destroy their growing friendship, that it was his own lack of faith in the southerner that had damaged the friendship beyond repair.

"Yes he is!" Chris turned his cold stare to the door when it opened, he watched as Nathan and Josiah found a position to watch the man they had called a friend, a man they had begun to trust with their lives, a traitor they now so readily accepted as being the enemy. "Well?"

Josiah knew he was asking about the man they had arrested with Ezra. He looked at Nathan and knew that he wasn't willing to supply the information that would cause Chris's anger to grow so he had to do it.

"The man's name is Randolf Henson, he had no trouble telling us everything in the car on the way back. He didn't want to receive the same treatment that you gave Ezra." He flinched back from the expression that Chris gave him but he knew that it had to be said, he didn't like the way Chris had treated Ezra but deep down a part of him agreed with it and allowed the punishment to be handed out to the former agent. "He was buying information from Ezra." Josiah confirmed then hestitated a moment. "He also paid for information on six other occasions, four times with money and twice with herion."

"And?" Chris knew there was something else.

"Henson said that Ezra's been selling information to other people but he doesn't know who they are."

"Did he say how long this has been going on for?" Chris demanded to know.

"Two months." Josiah answered.

"Even more proof to nail his coffin shut." Chris smiled but the humour didn't reach his blue eyes, instead they became even colder.

"Has that Hoskins guy got a nerve or what?" JD complained to Buck as they entered the crowding room. "Did you hear him . . ."

"JD! Just tell him to go to hell next time!" Chris growled at him stopping the conversation from going any further.

JD nodded and stepped back out of the way, he knew Chris was angry, livid in fact and he didn't want to get in the way of that anger because he was likely to lash out at anyone. As the minutes passed the observation room began to echo the silence that overcame the the two men in the other room, they no longer spoke to each other.

"He hasn't got a lot to say anymore, has he?" Buck commented.

"Which one?" Vin asked him, he watched as Hoskins began to pace the length of the room, he had taken an instant dislike to the man and he knew his instincts were always right.

A knock at the door tore everyone's eyes from their scrutiny of Ezra Standish. The man who dared to interrupt them was Henry Glading, an ATF agent who was on light duties while he recovered from a gunshot wound that he had received while on duty. He worked behind the front desk of the holding area and had been there when Standish was brought in. After everything had settled down he had made a phone call to someone who would find the agent's arrest very interesting.

"The Doctor's here." He announced to the crowded room, he could feel the anger that filled it. Before he could escape the room Chris's threatening voice spoke to him.

"Let Judge Travis know he's here." Chris told him. He felt sorry for Glading, the man was aging in body and not years. The injury that he had suffered caused him to look ten years older that his real age of thirty three, even his red hair was already thinning, leaving a high receding hair line that he tried to cover by brushing his hair forward.

"Sure. You want me to send the Doctor in to see Standish?"

"No, I'll do that." Chris followed him out the door, leaving the others to stay and watch.

Lenny looked towards the door as it opened, revealing Larabee and an older man as they entered the room. His gaze moved back towards Ezra, the worry that he felt was hidden from his light blue eyes. Chris didn't make any introductions as the Doctor moved towards Ezra and placed his bag on the table.

The Doctor roughly took Ezra's jaw in his hand and lifted his face up so he could see the injuries that had been inflicted. Ezra tore his head away from him and gave him a glare that caused the Doctor to step back from him. The Doctor looked over at Chris, his expression asking him to calm the prisoner down.

"You let him look at you or you stay like that." Chris warned Ezra.

Ezra turned his head back to the Doctor and looked up at him, his green eyes holding a warning of their own but the Doctor took courage from the fact that two other men were in the room with them. "Has he vomited at all?" The Doctor asked Chris as he checked Ezra's pupils.

"Yes." Lenny answered him as he tried to control his anger.

"Are you still feeling sick." The Doctor asked him.

"Only when I look at him." Ezra nodded towards Chris.

"How many fingers do you see?" He only lifted one.

"Just the one and if you use that finger again I'll break it." Ezra told him, he enjoyed the look of fear that quickly flashed in the man's brown eyes.

"Has he lost consciousness at all?" This question was also aimed at Chris as he tried to swallow his fear. The green eyes that stared back at him unsettled him in a way that most prisoners weren't able to do.

"No I haven't." Ezra growled at him. "You can ask me these questions. I'm not dead yet."

"He's only trying to help you Standish." Lenny told him as he allowed the smile to creep onto his face. Ezra always gave as good as he got.

"He has a slight concussion but it's not serious." The Doctor explained as his fingers probed the various injuries on his face and wrists.

"Now why doesn't that suprise me." Ezra grimaced as he tried to pull away from him, the Doctor was purposely pressing harder than he needed to.

"Is he up to answering questions?" Chris asked him as he ignored Ezra's pain.

"Yes." He bluntly answered him as he took a bottle of antiseptic out of his bag and began to clean Ezra's wounds. He cried out at the pain the Doctor was unnecessarily causing him.

"Doctor Aitkens." The Judge called him from the still open doorway.

Aitkens turned around at the sound of the familiar voice. "Judge Travis it's nice to see you again. Is there something I can do for you?"

"If I hear the prisoner make another sound you'll be out of a job." The threat was clear in the calm tone that the Judge had used. He had to do everything to control his anger at the situation that Ezra had been placed in through no fault of his own. "Carefully, finish what your doing then get out."

Travis made his way to the empty chair across from Ezra and watched as the Doctor continued to administer the medical treatment that the undercover agent required. He inwardly grimaced each time the handsome face showed the pain that Ezra was feeling. Aitkens carefully taped small gauges over the wounds on the southerner's face hiding them from the Judge's sight, he then bandaged the torn wrists of the prisoner.

"He should be fine, just watch him for any signs of nausea or blurred vision." The Doctor informed them.

"What about something for my headache?" Ezra asked the Doctor.

Aitkens pulled a small bottle of pain killers out of his bag and placed them on the table. "Two every four hours." He turned to Chris. "No more than what I just told him."

"What about some Methadone?" Ezra looked around the room, a pleading expression covered his face. "I'm going to need something."

"No." The Judge's word was final.

"You can't say no! I'm going to go through hell if you don't give me something!" Ezra yelled as he stood up. Chris moved towards Ezra quickly and pushed the smaller man back down into the chair.

"You get nothing!" Chris smiled down at the painfilled expression, finally seeing the fear that he wanted to see.

"You can go now Doctor but I want you back in the morning to check him again just to make sure that he's doing okay. We don't want any unnecessary law suits." The Judge spoke quietly but his tone left no room for arguments. "Hoskins."

Lenny watched the Doctor leave. "Yes?" He came forward and took the opportunity to take a closer look at Ezra, he could see the pain that still filled his eyes, he knew it was real but he wasn't sure if it was physical pain or emotional.

"I don't care if he hurts himself but if anybody else does I'm holding you responsible." Travis turned his head to look at him. "Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

"Yes Sir I do." Lenny smiled at him, he was grateful that he now had the chance to protect his young friend the way he had wanted to since the operation had started.

"Good, now let's get on with it." The Judge stood up and walked towards the door. "Chris." He indicated for him to follow him out of the room. He stopped just outside the door so Ezra and Lenny could hear the conversation. "What have you got?"

Chris looked inside the room and then turned his back to block the door. "The man that we arrested with him has admitted that he bought information from him on six other occassions and that Standish was also selling it to other people."

"Did he say who they were?"


"I want to know their names and we need to know if any of the information he sold has anything to do with future operations." He stepped closer to Chris. "I want to know everything, you have seventy two hours to get it, after that his arrest will be processed as normal." The Judge glared at Ezra over Chris's shoulder and then walked away. He knew that if there was any more trouble Hoskins would call him, he gave him the authorisation to look after Ezra without the others becoming suspicious.

Chris smiled and walked back into the room, closing the door behind him. He had all intentions of making the man suffer without actually touching him.

"I want to see my lawyer." Ezra demanded as he tried to stand up again.

"No." Chris pushed him back down then sat on the corner of the table.

"I have a right to see my lawyer!" Ezra yelled at him.

"For the next seventy two hours your mine, you have a right to nothing. As far as everyone else is concerned your not here."

"You can't do that, it's against the law!"

"What you did is against the law and your going to pay for it." Chris ignored his protests.

"Is that before or after I make you pay for what you did to me." Ezra's expression was cold and threatening, he had every intention of returning the beating, he no longer thought of this man as a friend, he lost all the respect that he had felt towards his leader.

"You don't have a hope in hell." Chris smiled at him, the humour that he felt showed on his rugged features. He got up and went to the mirrored wall and tapped on it, he mouthed Josiah's name and then used his finger to motion him into the room. A few moments later Josiah entered the interview room, he didn't know why Chris wanted him in there but he was sure he would find out.

"Are you going to get him to preach to me, show me the error of my ways." He didn't hide the malice from his voice.

Ezra thought that out of the six men who made up the team that Josiah would be the one to keep Chris under control but he had stood to the side with the others while Chris beat him, he had made no effort to stop him. Ezra looked at Lenny and thought of the two FBI agents that had been killed, he knew that he couldn't back out now, he had to go through with the operation, he couldn't allow anyone else to be killed, even if it meant loosing his job and the friendship that he thought had begun to grow between himself and the rest of the team. His green eyes moved back to Chris and Josiah and he realised that there was never a real foundation for the friendship that he had with these men, if there was it wouldn't have been so easily broken.

"He's here to keep you in line." Chris sat down in the chair and leaned back, he folded his arms across his chest.

"His size doesn't intimidate me." Ezra looked up at Josiah as he moved behind his chair.

"Who else have you sold information too?" Chris began the questions that Ezra knew would be coming.

Ezra ignored him and took two of the painkillers with the water that Lenny had demanded JD bring in for him. 'There's another suprise.' Ezra thought to himself, he hadn't expected JD to react the way he had. He knew that the kid had looked up to him so he couldn't really blame him for the way he felt. His cover destroyed the image JD had of him. He decided not to blame JD, he didn't really know any better and he always seemed to allow the others to lead him rather than let him have his own opinions.

"I'm not answering any of your questions." Ezra glared at him.

"I've got seventy two hours, I can wait but I'm sure you can't. By tomorrow your going to be feeling a lot worse."

"My suffering will be nothing compared to what you and the others are going to go through in a few days when I get out of here." Ezra was serious, he knew that they were going to feel guilty about what they had done to him but how guilty would be determined by how strongly they felt about the frail bonds of friendship that he decided no longer existed.

"I doubt that very much." Chris didn't allow his smile to waver.

"You've been wrong before, you'll be wrong again." Ezra saw the warning look that Lenny gave him.

"Who else have you sold information to?" Chris repeated the question.

Ezra answered him by folding his arms on the table and laying his head on his forearms, he closed his eyes and waited for the pills he had taken to ease his headache. He also did it to get himself together, he didn't think it was going to be this bad. He tried to convince himself that he had agreed to do it because he knew they would react this way but he kept seeing the hatred and disgust in their eyes, it was as though they expected this, that it didn't surpise them to find out that he was a drug user and sold information. He was looking forward to seeing their faces when they were told that he had been working undercover, it was one of the conditions that he had given the Judge when he had agreed to do it.

"I asked you a question." Chris growled at him.

"Your mother." Ezra had enough, if they were going to treat him like this then he could at least return the favour.

Chris looked around at Lenny and knew that he would inform the Judge if he laid a finger on the bastard. "Who else?" The loathing that he felt towards Ezra sounded in his voice.

"Your mother." Ezra repeated.

"Very original." Chris laughed.

"Well the air in here is stale, makes it hard to come up with something that would wipe that stupid smile off your ugly face!" Ezra lifted his head and smiled back at him.

"What was the information that you sold." Lenny asked him.

"We all know that I'm not going to tell you anything so stop wasting my time!" Ezra growled at him.

"If that's the way you want it." Chris stood up. "Josiah, have Glading put him in one of the holding cells, we'll see if he changes his mind tomorrow."

Ezra's green eyes darted to Lenny and Chris saw the fear in them. "He's not going to help you."

"He won't need my help as long as you remember what the Judge told you Larabee." Lenny retorted. "And if any of you try to spend some time alone with him I'll know about it!"

Josiah took Ezra's arm but he roughly pulled it from his grip. "Don't touch me!" Ezra spat at him as he stood up and walked to the door.

Josiah looked at Chris and then followed Ezra, he opened the door and stayed close to his side as he made his way to the front desk.

"Henry, Chris wants him in a cell for the night." Josiah told Glading.

"They want me to suffer." Ezra corrected him. "Thinks I'll talk if I'm desperate for a fix." He needed to get the other ATF agents in Travis's team to know that he had been brought in and why and he knew that Glading was one who liked to gossip. Ezra despised anyone who was an informer of other people's problems, they had no respect for a person's privacy but he was going to use this man to his advantage. What Ezra didn't know was that Glading had already made contact with the man that he had gone undercover to catch.

"That's not true Ezra." Josiah spoke quietly.

Ezra was grateful for the opportunity that Josiah had just given him. "And I suppose it wasn't true when you stood by why Larabee beat the shit out of me. None of you want to help me, you only want to condem me for what I did." Ezra turned on him. "Where's the understanding that your supposed to give a friend? None of you even asked me why I did it."

"That's enough Ezra." Josiah tried to warn him.

"Nothing's enough, Larabee is going to pay for what he did, even if I have to kill him." Ezra had said it, he now hoped that Glading would tell a few people what he had overheard and it would spread through to the other agents. It would then be only a matter of waiting to be contacted. Ezra knew that it would happen, the others had done exactly what was expected of them, they had actually done more than was necessary.

"Let's go Standish." Glading came around the front desk and began to lead Ezra away from Josiah and towards the holding rooms. Glading walked Ezra to the end of the hall to the last holding room and unlocked the door, he gently pushed Ezra into it.

"Is this so they can't hear me scream?" Ezra asked sarcastically.

"You didn't mean what you said did you Ezra?"

Ezra was suprised by Glading's question and the use of his first name. "What did I say?" Ezra pretended to be confused as he looked around the small white room that held only a bunk and toilet.

"About killing Larabee?" Glading reminded him.

"Look at me Glading, look at what he did to me." Ezra stepped closer so that Glading could see that he was serious. "Of course I meant it. The man is making me suffer and I intend to take pleasure in seeing him suffer when I get out of here."

Ezra turned his back on him and walked further into the small room. Glading closed the door and hurried back to the front desk so he could make another phone call.

Ezra had no idea how long he'd been in the holding room, he was tired but knew that he had to stay awake, a drug addict who needed a fix wouldn't be able to sleep, he was also hungry but had refused the meal that Glading had brought to him for the same reason, he could do all of that when it was over. He'd given up walking from one wall to the next and was now sitting in one of the corners of the room. He had kept expecting Larabee to open the door so he could spend some quality time alone with him but Ezra knew it would end up being quality time for him and not Larabee.

He quickly jumped to his feet when he heard the lock on his cell door being disengaged, the thick door opened revealing Glading and not Larabee.

"What the hell do you want?" Ezra instantly became agitated and paced the room.

"We have a similar acquaintance Ezra, he asked me to bring you something." Glading told him as he stood in the doorway. His shift was due to end in an hour at four am and this had been the first opportunity where he was able to approach Ezra without anyone else knowing.

"If your talking about Larabee he's not . . ."

"No, I'm not talking about him." Glading explained patiently, he could see that Ezra was already suffering the effects of not having his regular fix of heroin.

"Then who the hell are you talking about?" Ezra began to run his hands through his hair as he walked around in small circles.

"Let's just say he's a friend for now."

'Contact.' Ezra thought to himself, he hadn't expected it to happen this quickly. "What have you got?"

Ezra watched as Glading looked up the hallway and then stepped into the room. Ezra only just managed to hide his shock, he knew that he was in trouble. Glading's left hand held a needle and a rubber strap, he knew that the needle was full of heroin, in his right was a small package of pills. Ezra recognised them as being Methadone pills, they were used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. He instantly knew that this was a test and if he didn't make the right choice the whole operation would end here and now. He stepped forward and looked into Glading's eyes.

"Where did you get that?"

"I told you that you have a friend Ezra, he wants you to have one of these but it's your choice which one you take." Glading explained.

Ezra knew he didn't really have a choice, this had to be done, his shaking hand took the needle and strap. He hoped that Glading would then leave but he didn't, he was waiting to make sure that Ezra injected it into his system. Ezra quickly walked to the corner of the room and sat down, he tied the strap around his left upper arm and used his teeth to keep it tight. He opened and closed his fist to make a vein and then forced the needle into his flesh and slowly injected the heroin into his blood stream.

Ezra was familiar with the effects of heroin and knew that it would only be a matter of seconds before the illegal substance reached his brain and when it did he would feel an intense pleasure. But that wasn't going to be the only result of the injection that he had just given himself. Once the pleasure part of the drug's effect was over his pupils were going to become constricted therefore causing his vision to blur and his speech would also be effected. The drug was going to interfer with his brain's ability to perceive pain but that wasn't going to be the worst of it. First time users such as himself became nauseated and vomited. He hated throwing up, he despised it as much as he despised early mornings.

He also knew that if he was still here the following night that Glading would bring another syringe that would contain more heroin, he would have to try and speak to Lenny on his own and tell him to get him out of here. If he passed the test then the crooked agent would contact him outside of this building. He didn't want to become a real addict, it was bad enough pretending to be one. Ezra curled up into a ball on the cold floor and let the heroin take it's toll on his body. Lenny was going to kill him when he found out what he'd done, he laughed at loud at the thought. His friend was going to have to wait his turn behind Larabee and the others.

Glading moved forward and gently removed the needle from the crook of Ezra's arm and released the tight strap that still bound his upper arm and left the room, closing and locking the door so Ezra could enjoy his fix. He went back to the front desk to report to their mutal friend that Ezra had taken the heroin, he had passed the test that he was given.

"Well I for one like the idea of making Standish get up at five in the morning, there's nothing better than making a man suffer what he hates the most and for that bastard it's early mornings." Buck smiled as he made his way to the holding rooms with Nathan. "I'm going to enjoy this."

"But why did it have to be us." Nathan complained as they reached the door to the room at the end of the hall.

Buck unlocked the door and then stepped inside while Nathan waited in the doorway. What he saw made his anger grow out of control. Ezra was sitting in the corner of the room with a large smile on his face, his knees drawn up to his chin. Buck moved closer and knelt down next to him, he could see the constricted pupils and droopy eyelids.

"Where did you get it!" Buck growled at him.

"Get what?" Ezra asked him innocently as his smile grew wider, causing the dimples to appear on his handsome face, he hadn't felt this good in a long time.

Buck reached down and grabbed a handful of Ezra's hair and dragged him to his feet. "Where did you get it!" He yelled into his face.

Ezra tried to pull his head away from Buck's grip but he didn't let go, he attempted to push him away but the bigger man turned him around, pulled him back and then slammed him against the wall in the same way that Chris Larabee had done the day before. Ezra grunted as his body struck the wall, he didn't feel any pain.

"Buck what are you doing?" Nathan asked while he stayed in the doorway.

"He's high on something, probably heroin." Buck answered as he turned Ezra around to face him.

"I'm only going to ask you once more." Buck warned him.

"Then that will be once more that your wasting your breath." Ezra continued to smile, he wasn't feeling the pain that he should be because the heroin still hadn't left his system.

"Bastard." Buck didn't hold back when he used his right fist to punch Ezra in the stomach, he pulled him back up to stop him from doubling over.

"Why Mr Wilmington . . . do you always copy what . . . your boss does, I seem to . . . remember already going through this . . . yesterday." Ezra gasped as he tried to replace the air that had been forced from his lungs. He was really beginning to despise these people for the way they were treating him. No excuse was going to be acceptable.

Buck hit him again and allowed him to fall to the floor where he began to kick him in the side. Ezra tried to move away from his boot but the wall stopped him from going any further. Nathan quickly came forward but wasn't fast enough to stop the kick that cracked two of Ezra's ribs on his right side.

"Buck stop it!" Nathan pulled him away and then knelt down next to Ezra.

"Get the fuck away from me!" Ezra yelled at him. "You fucking bastards! Get away from me!"

"Ezra, let me have a look." Nathan tried to stay calm, he actually felt angry at Buck for what he had done.

"NO!" He crawled away from him and curled himself back up into a ball in the corner of the room. He wrapped his arms around his sides. "Your not going to touch me, none of you are!"

"Buck, you better go and let Chris and Hoskins know what's happened, I'll stay here with Ezra." Nathan looked up at him and saw that there was no remorse on his face. "Buck!"

"I'm going!" Buck growled at him.

When Buck had left the room Nathan turned back to Ezra and saw the tear that rolled down his right cheek, the small bandage on the left side of his face soaked up the tear that had fallen from his left eye. "Why?" It was a simple question that Nathan didn't have an answer to. "Why are all of you treating me like this?"

"I'm sorry Ezra." Nathan sat down on the floor next to him and waited for the others to come, he didn't know what else to say to him. It was a few minutes before Lenny Hoskins ran into the room to see Ezra curled up in the corner, the tears had stopped but his cheek was still damp.

"What the hell happened here?" He struggled to get his emotions under control, he wanted to hit someone very badly.

"Ezra somehow managed to get hold of some heroin during the night, Buck got angry." Nathan explained.

"How the hell did he get heroin in here and what do you mean by angry. What did he do?" Lenny demanded as he took some deep breaths. His anger was finally flowing from his body only to be replaced by the need to comfort Ezra but he knew he couldn't do that, not now, he would have to do it later and it tore at his heart that things had to be done this way.

"If you don't believe me check his eyes." Nathan told him. "From what I can see it was probably only a couple of hours ago that he shot up."

"You didn't answer my second question Jackson." Lenny growled at him.

Nathan ignored him as he stood up and walked out of the room leaving him alone with Ezra. Lenny hung his head and then looked at Ezra.

"There's two of them, I met one last night, Henry Glading but I don't know who the other one is yet." Ezra whispered to him.

Lenny nodded and tried to smile at him but it came across as an angry grimace.

"I'm sorry Lenny I had to do it, there wasn't any other choice, it was a test, I had to take it."

"It's okay Ezra, I understand, I'm not angry at you." Lenny heard footsteps in the hallway outside the door and looked around to see Chris Larabee standing in the doorway. "What did Wilmington do to you?"

"I think he cracked some of my ribs." Ezra winced more at the anger that appeared on his friend's face than the pain he felt as he pressed against his right side, trying to show Lenny which part of him had been hurt.

Lenny knelt down in front of Ezra, he gently gripped his arms and pulled him to his feet. "Think you can make it to the interview room?"

"Aw hell!" Ezra knew he was going to be sick, he pushed Lenny away and rushed to the toilet bowl and began to throw up, he could feel the pain as it exploded in his side when his stomach muscles contracted but nothing came up, they were only empty violent convulsions, there was nothing left in his stomach.

Lenny waited until Ezra was finished and then helped him to stand up, he led him to the bunk and laid him down, making sure that he was comfortable. "On second thought, why don't you get some sleep while I call the Doctor and then speak to the Judge." He smiled at the expression that overcame Ezra's painfilled face. Ezra knew the Judge was going to give Buck hell but Lenny knew that he was going to do a lot more than that. "I'll come back when the Doctor gets here."

Chris watched as Lenny took care of Ezra but waited until he left the room before he said anything. "Why are you treating him like that, he's supposed to be the enemy now, he's a drug user, he sold information."

"Because I am a better person than you Larabee and besides, I can keep my emotions under control, I don't allow them to rule my way of thinking." Lenny walked away from him and pulled his cell phone from the inside pocket of his black leather coat. "Doctor Aitkens please."

Chris controlled his anger and followed Hoskins back to the interview room. He noticed that he didn't go in but stayed outside while he phoned Judge Travis. Chris went into the room and saw that Vin had joined Buck and Nathan.

"You want to tell me what happened before the Judge gets here." He glared at Buck.

"He either had a needle on him when you brought him in which is unlikely or someone gave him some during the night because he's flying higher than a kite." Nathan told him.

"I didn't ask you Nathan." Chris kept his eyes on Buck's face.

"I got angry, the bastard made me loose control." Buck protested.

"You better hope that you don't loose your job." Chris sighed.

"Don't you think that we should be trying to find out who supplied him with the heroin." Nathan asked Chris.

"Not right now, we have to sort this out first before the Judge gets here." Chris told him.

"There's nothing to sort out Chris. Buck hit him without cause." Nathan didn't like what Ezra had become but he also didn't like the way they were treating him either. He had his reasons for not trusting or liking Ezra when he had first joined the team but he thought the man had proven himself on more than one occassion since then. He deserved some sort of compassion for what he had become "There was no reason to beat him like that."

"I'll pretend you didn't say that Nathan." Chris warned him coldly.

"The Judge will be here in twenty minutes." Lenny interrupted them as he entered the room, he had heard everything that Nathan said but chose not to let them know it. "I don't suppose anyone wants to tell me what happened?" He was answered with silence. "I thought as much." He turned back towards the door. "I'll wait for the Judge out here shall I?" More silence. "Yep, just like I told Standish, a bunch of incompetent assholes, no wonder he turned to drugs, couldn't cope with working you guys." He left the room with a smile on his face. He was going to follow those remarks with his fist when he got the chance.

Vin held Chris back, they didn't need anymore trouble, Hoskins could wait.

Lenny took the Judge to the holding area and entered the last room to find Ezra sleeping on his left side. Lenny knelt down next to him and gently shook his shoulder. "Ezra?" He shook him again. "Ezra can you hear me?" He watched as Ezra's eyes slowly opened, he saw confusion in the green eyes that were unable to focus on him. "Ezra?"

"Lenny?" Ezra muttered as he closed his eyes again.

"Yeah Ezra. Listen, Judge Travis is here, can you tell him what happened?" Lenny used his right hand to wipe the hair from Ezra's forehead and felt the slight fever that flushed his skin.

"I'm too tired Lenny, just let me sleep." Ezra tried to roll away but cried out in pain when his right side made contact with the hard mattress, he quickly rolled back onto his other side.

"I'm going to check your ribs Ezra." Lenny waited for him to answer him but he didn't. He lifted Ezra's shirt and winced at the bruising that had already begun to form. He carefully used his fingers to press against his ribs. Ezra tried to move away from him so he quickly removed his painfull touch. "You get some sleep Ezra. Okay?" He stood up and went back to the Judge

"Is Ezra still suffering from the concussion that Larabee gave him?" The Judge asked him, the anger wasn't hidden from his voice.

"No it's the heroin he injected." Lenny explained to him. "The after effects will make him drowsy so he'll probably sleep for a while, he also tried to throw up after it happened." He took his eyes off Ezra and then looked at the Judge, his own expression was serious. "First time users of heroin usually suffer from nausea and vomiting."

"Why did he do it?" Travis wanted to know.

"Ezra said it was a test, that Henry Glading brought it to him. But Ezra says there's someone else." Lenny had explained about Henry Glading when he spoke to the Judge on the phone. "Judge, he wouldn't have done it unless he thought he had to. I think the guy were after was testing him like Ezra said and now that he's passed the test it should only be a matter of time before he contacts Ezra again."

"Do you think that he'll approach him here?" Travis asked him as his own eyes watched Ezra.

"No but your going to have to keep Ezra here for the full seventy two hours or he might become suspicous, he'll probably use Glading to pass on any information to him." His gaze turned back to Ezra's sleeping form. "We can post a guard outside this room while he's in here, they would expect that. Unfortunately it would have to be Larabee's team because we don't know who this other guy is. We can start by getting Jackson to stay with him for a while, he's seems to be getting soft about the whole situation. He doesn't agree with what Wilmington did. Overheard him arguing with Larabee."

"If I had known that it was going to be this bad for him, I would never have agreed to this operation." The Judge spoke silenty, the regret that he felt was evident in his voice. "Agent Hoskins, I think it's about time we took care of Mr Wilmington." Travis left the holding room.

Lenny gave Ezra one last glance and silenty apologised for what he was putting him through, that he would make them pay for what they did to him. He closed the door and followed Judge Travis back to the interview room.

When the Judge entered the room he looked at each man, he saw the false expression on Jackson's face but didn't see any guilt or sympathy for Ezra on the others and this made his anger explode. He ignored everyone else in the room and stepped closer to Buck. Travis waited and watched Lenny in the mirror as he stepped into the room and stand just to the side of the doorway, he knew that Lenny wanted to witness and enjoy every moment of what was about to happen.

"Would you like to explain to me what happened this morning." Travis spoke firmly as his angry gaze moved back to Wilmington.

"I entered the holding room to find out that Standish had injected heroin into his system." His eyes moved quickly to Nathan for confirmation of what had transpired thirty minutes earlier.

"Don't look at him, look at me!" The Judge demanded.

"He wouldn't tell me, I got angry and I hit him." Buck continued.

"How many times did you hit him?"



"He fell to the floor and I kicked him." Buck hung his head as he waited for the tongue lashing that he knew was coming.

"Your badge and your gun please Mr Wilmington." The Judge saw the hesitation in his body language. "NOW!" He ignored the shocked expressions that filled the interview room and took the items that he asked for when Buck handed them to him. "You are suspended without pay until further notice. If I see you in this building before that notice is given you will loose your job!" He waited for any comments but there was none. "Get out of my sight!"

"Judge you can't do that!" Chris argued.

"Do you want to join him Mr Larabee?" Travis practically yelled at him, he wasn't going to hide his anger any longer.

"I've got a job to do remember." Chris reminded him. The sacarsm didn't fail to reach the Judge.

"Then why aren't you doing it!" He snapped at him then turned his eyes back to Buck. "I thought I told you get out!"

Buck looked around the room at the faces before him, they showed understanding, he nodded to them and left.

"Chris, I want you to arrange a roster, each of you are going to take a turn staying with Standish. He's not to be left alone, I don't want this happening again." He stepped closer to the man who always dressed in dark clothing. "The drugs or the beating. If anybody else touches Standish, they won't be suspended, they'll be fired." He nodded to towards Lenny. "Hoskins here will take the first shift." He glared back at Chris and then the rest of the men. "Is that understood!" He waited for their acknowledgements. "Hoskins, when will the Doctor be here?"

"Any minute now." Lenny answered him.

"Make sure Aitkens doesn't do the same thing he did yesterday and I want Standish back in this room when the Doctor is finished with him, we need to know about that information he sold. Do you think you can handle that?" The Judge turned around. "You don't seem to have done a good job so far."

"It's the people that I have to work with." Lenny shrugged. "There not very good at what they do."

"I'm beginning to agree with you on that point." The Judge glared at his men then stormed out of the room.

Lenny knew that each of the five men wanted to hit him, he could tell by their expressions of anger and hatred, he would glady take them up on their offer after Ezra was safe.

"He has two cracked ribs on his right side." Aitkens informed Lenny as he examined Ezra's side, he felt the southerner's forehead and then stood up. "He also has a slight temperature. How long ago did he inject the heroin?"

"Somewhere around three this morning." Lenny answered him as he watched over his examination of his friend, he was ready to hit the man if he caused Ezra any pain.

"The pain killers that I gave him yesterday will help bring his fever down but don't give him any until your sure the drug's effects are out of his system." He leant down and pulled some bandages from his bag. "Can you sit him up so I can strap his ribs."

"Sure." Lenny sat on the small bunk and carefully lifted the still sleeping man up into his arms. He allowed Ezra's head to fall back onto his shoulder and watched his face carefully while the Doctor bandaged his ribs. He felt Ezra move within his embrace. "It's okay Ezra, the Doctor's fixing you up."

"Like he did yesterday." Ezra muttered as he pulled his eyes open.

"Not this time Ezra, I gave him my word that I would cause him a serious injury if he did that again." Lenny smiled at the Doctor.

Aitkens finished strapping Ezra's ribs and then changed the gauges on his face, once he was finished he left the room leaving the two men to talk.

"Do you want to pull out of this Ezra?" Lenny had waited until the Doctor closed the door.

"No." Ezra didn't move from Lenny's embrace, he need his friend's comfort. "It can't get any worse than this, could it?"

"It might Ezra." Lenny pushed him to the side and turned him around to face him. "The Judge has arranged for them to take turns watching you so Glading won't have a chance to offer you anymore heroin."

"I think I'd prefer the heroin." Ezra moaned.

"If it's any help Nathan's leaning more to your side, he had a go at Chris about what Buck did to you." Lenny tried to console him.

Ezra couldn't hide the surprise that he felt. "Nathan?" He watched as Lenny nodded his head. "If you asked me, Nathan would have been my last choice. We've never really gotten on, don't know why, suppose he just doesn't like or trust me. But then none of them do."

"I'm sorry Ezra." Lenny smiled at him trying to break him out of his sombre mood. "I can't understand it, I mean your witty charm and good looks usually persuade people." He took a deep breath when Ezra didn't react and changed the subject. "Did Glading give you any idea who this other guy is?"

"He said he was a mutual friend, that's all."

"Are you okay Ezra?" Lenny was beginning to worry about him.

"No I'm not Lenny." Ezra lifted his green eyes to look at his only friend. "I thought those men were my friends, I knew they were going to react but not like this. What Buck did this morning . . . " He hung his head. "I didn't expect that."

"I'm sorry Ezra." Lenny repeated as he took him into a hug.

"Yeah, you and me both."

"Judge Travis wants me to take you to the interview room. You up to it? I can tell them that the Doctor said you have to rest for a while."

"No, let's just get it over with. Hell maybe I can cheer myself up by pissing them off." Ezra smiled but it was forced and didn't reach his eyes, they seemed to have a permanent haunted look that Lenny knew was going to be difficult to remove.

Ezra stepped into the interview room, the whiteness of it's walls matching his pale complexion. He knew what the day had in store for him, it wasn't going to be pleasant. It was going to be a lot worse than what he had thought it would be before he agreed to take on the assignment. He felt terrible, emotionally and physically, his ribs ached with a passion, reminding him of the anger that Buck had shown towards him that morning. Lenny followed close behind him and settled into a position in the corner of the room facing him so the others that were watching through the two way mirror wouldn't see him. He would be able to use his facial expressions to talk to Ezra.

Ezra held onto his ribs as he eased himself down into the chair, he kept his eyes down cast and wouldn't look into the cold hate filled eyes of Chris Larabee. He couldn't understand why this man now hated him so much. He knew he would be angry but hateful, it was beyond his comprehension. His eyes quickly lifted and turned to the left to look at Lenny who nodded back at him.

"Who gave it to you?" Chris's cold voice entered his mind, the questions had begun.

"No one." Ezra stated simply, he was going to make it as difficult as possible, it was going to be a long day so he thought he might as well try and get some enjoyment out of it, even though his heart wasn't really in it but he had to keep up the facade. He had a job to do and he was going to finish it.

"There was no needle in the room." Chris told him as he stared at the slumped figure. "Whoever gave it to you took it with them."

"Am I going to get any breakfast?" Ezra asked.

"No." Was the clipped reply.

"No food, no questions Larabee." Lenny retorted as he tapped the mirror, indicating for someone to bring Ezra something to eat.

"Who gave it to you?" The repeated question silently stating that he agreed with Hoskins ultimatum. While this man was around he had to do what the Judge demanded. Chris still didn't know what was behind the Judge's reasoning. When he actually stopped to think about what he himself was doing he was unable to decide where his own anger and hatred were coming from. He knew that Ezra had betrayed them but there was something else, something that he was yet to put his finger on.

"No one." Ezra repeated as he gingerly tested his ribs. "It was in my boot."

"I doubt that very much." Chris laughed at the man who would still not look at him. The smile stayed on his face as thought about how only yesterday Ezra had confidently stated that he could take him in a fight but today he didn't have the courage to look him in the eye.

"Are you certain about that, you didn't search me when you brought me in." Ezra finally lifted his head, he looked into the blue eyes of the man who now hated him and controlled the emotion that he felt, he replaced it with a look of sarcasm.

"Maybe we should search you now." Chris suggested.

"Now is to late." Ezra smiled at him. Chris's anger had stopped him from doing his job effeciently and it gave Ezra a way to put doubt into their minds in regards to how he got the heroin.

The sound of the door opening broke the stare that the two men held, Ezra allowed his eyes to turn away first, he saw Nathan step towards him. He looked up into the normal gentle man's eyes and saw sympathy but no understanding there, it shocked him at first, he pushed the hope away that one of these men may actually not hate hm.

"Don't eat it to fast Ezra, it'll just make you sick." Nathan told him as he placed the sandwich and coffee in front of him.

"Like you care if I get sick or not!" Ezra growled up at the larger man who stood over him.

Nathan nodded as his expression changed to one of understanding, he agreed with Ezra's reaction, he had every right to be angry at him and suspect him of not caring about what was happening to him. "I'm sorry Ezra." It was all he could say while under Chris's scrutiny, he would say more to him when he took his turn guarding him, which would be the midnight to dawn shift.

"You and everyone else." Ezra replied sarcastically. He had no other choice, if he accepted the apology then his cover would begin to disintergrate as the friendship and trust had done. He didn't want what he was going through to be waste of time, he had to find out who the second agent was and why he wanted Larabee dead.

"You cold, you want a jacket or anything?" Nathan asked him.

"You can go now Nathan." Chris ordered him.

"Those headache pills the Doctor gave him yesterday and a jacket." Lenny spoke up for Ezra, he knew he wasn't going to say anything. "He said the pills would help his fever."

"He's got a fever?" Nathan asked and instinctively reached forward to feel the southerner's forehead.

"Don't Nathan." Ezra shoved the large hand away as it pressed against his forehead.

Nathan quickly pulled his hand away, he hadn't realised what he'd done until Ezra used the familiar habit of pushing his hand away, for some reason the man had never allowed them to show any type of concern, he kept them shut out and had often failed to admit to an illnesses that had taken control of his body or the after effects of an injury that he had suffered during one of the many undercover operations that he had taken on. Something flashed in Nathan's mind but it was gone before he could grasp it's meaning. Ezra had kept them at bay and he wondered if this was due to the drug habit that had taken over of his life. Nathan frowned down at him as a thought crossed his confused mind. 'If he was on drugs why didn't we notice, why didn't it affect how he did his job?' The thought was interrupted when Chris's voice spoke once more.

"Nathan!" Chris growled at him, he was showing concern towards a man who didn't deserve it.

"I'll come back with a jacket. Chris has got the pain killers." Nathan told Lenny before he left the room.

"Mr Larabee." Lenny's use of Chris's name told the dark clothed man to supply the prisoner with what he required.

"What was the information you sold?" Chris asked Ezra as he pulled the packet of painkillers out of his coat's inside pocket and threw it across the table.

"Your mother's phone number." Ezra replied while he removed two of the pills from the packet and swallowed them with the help of a mouthful of coffee, he grimaced at the taste.

Lenny didn't know whether to smile or frown at Ezra, he wasn't sure if the sarcasm that he threw at Larabee would only cause him more pain, not only physical but emotional, the way that he was acting may cause Larabee or one of the others to have another go at him, even if it meant loosing their jobs. He couldn't fathom where the anger and hatred within this small group of men, who were once friends, was coming from.

"Who did you sell it to?" Chris kept his anger hidden, he wanted to jump up and violenty force the information from him.

"The men at the Sanson's Bar." Ezra leaned back in the chair and began to pick at the sandwich. Nathan had supplied him with something he knew he would eat, chicken. Ezra smiled inwardly at the thought that he may still have a friend when all of this was over, he refused to believe it before, he had pushed the hope away but he now knew that Nathan felt that there may be a reason behind this and that he was willing to listen to that reason, he wondered though if he would change his mind when he learnt what the reason was, he wondered if Nathan would accuse him of not trusting them enough to let them in on the operation. 'Of course he will.' Ezra thought to himself. 'What else would he think of me.'

"Who gave you the heroin?" Chris began to repeat the questions but Ezra refused to answer them any more.

Henry Glading walked into the holding area expecting someone to greet him and then arrest him but he was not challenged as he made his way along the corridor to the locker room. He passed the interview rooms and knew that Ezra Standish would still be in there if Larabee's character was anything to go by. His reaction to what Ezra had done didn't suprise him at all.

After he had put his bag and lunch away he walked back to the front desk where Vin Tanner and Josiah Sanchez were waiting for him. 'Maybe he turned me in after all.' Glading silently commented to himself as he wiped his red hair down in a nervous fashion.

"Can I do something for you guys?" He asked them carefully.

"Somebody gave Standish some heroin at about three this morning." Vin leaned closer to him. "Know anything about it."

"Heroin?" Glading pretended to be shocked and he did a very good job at it. "How did he get heroin?"

"That's what were asking you." Josiah's baritone voice caused Glading to look at him.

"You don't think that I would . . . guys I didn't." He put his hands up in protest but inwardly accepted Standish into the small team.

"Where were you this morning at around three am?" Vin asked the question while Josiah watched the man's expression.

"What makes you think that someone gave it to him at that time." Glading knew the reason, he had taken the needle on purpose, it was another test to see if Ezra would turn him in. He had been paid alot of money for the risk and if it paid off he would be closer to that holiday he wanted, a holiday that he was not going to return from and if it didn't, the most he would loose would be his job.

"Buck and Nathan went to get him at five and he was high on heroin, Nathan was able to tell that he had injected it at least a couple of hours previously which would be around three." Josiah explained to him.

"You don't think that he brought it in himself, I mean, I know it's not my place to say but Larabee didn't exactly search Ezra and take any personal effects from him when they came in." Glading stopped himself from stepping back from the glares that were thrown at him.

"There was no needle in the room, if Standish brought it in with him we would have found it. So whoever gave it to him took the needle back." Vin growled at him.

"Why would they do that? That's like leaving a calling card." Glading looked at each man and saw the frustration that he was causing. "Three? If I remember correctly I was stuck in the john. This injury of mine," he patted his stomach to emphasise his words, "causes my bowl to loose control sometimes, don't really know how long I was in there for." He saw the looks they gave him and knew they had lost interest. "Suppose anybody could have come in. Sorry guys, you know sometimes I think I'm never going to get back to full duties, I mean . . . "

"Thanks Henry." Josiah acknowledge the lack of information that would tell them who had given Ezra the heroin. He walked back to the observation room with Vin following him.

"Another test passed." Glading smiled as he picked up the phone.

"Sit down!" Chris growled at the now pacing figure.

"Why don't you try and make me Larabee." Ezra calmly challenged him.

The questions had been thrown at him for most of the day, they took turns. Tanner, Sanchez and Larabee who was here again. It was the same three questions over and over, it didn't change, he had become quite bored and made sure they knew it. Neither of them had asked him why he started taking drugs or even why he sold the information, they didn't care about why only that he had. He heard the chair scrape along the floor and prepared to defend himself.

"Don't even think about it Larabee." Lenny warned him as he stepped forward.

Ezra heard the threat in his friend's voice, he looked at him as he turned around and saw the anger in his eyes. He turned away from that anger and pulled the large jacket that he was wearing closer to his body hoping to get rid of the chill that had taken up residence in his bones. He started acting in an agitated manner and allowed the occassional grimace to cross his handsome features so they would think that he had begun to suffer withdrawal symptoms.

"I want to phone my lawyer." Ezra demanded as he wrapped his arms around himself, he gritted his teeth against the pain that flared in his side.

He didn't receive an answer so he continued to pace and pulled his arms away from his sides, he ran his hands through his hair. He knew everyone was watching him and were probably enjoying the sight, thinking he was in pain, that he was suffering, which he was but the pain and suffering wasn't caused by the need for heroin.

"I'm going to sue." Ezra warned him, knowing that he would have a case.

"Do what you want." He heard the pleasure in Chris's voice.

"Do what I want?" Ezra headed for the door because what he wanted was to get out of there. Someone grabbed his arm and dragged him back to the chair at the table and pushed him down into it. He looked up expecting to see Larabee's face but instead saw Lenny who smiled back down at him. Ezra fidgeted in his chair, his eyes on Lenny's retreating back.

"Think your a smartass don't you!" Chris told him as he got up from his chair, he walked to the mirror and tapped on it then made his way back to the table. He stood over Ezra threatening him with his cold stare.

"Compared to your ass, yes I do." Ezra smiled without looking at him but his eyes turned towards the door when it opened, Vin and Josiah stepped through the opened doorway.

"Take him back to his cell, he'll answer our questions tomorrow." Chris leaned down closer to Ezra and glared at him. "He won't be able to get his fix during the night this time."

"Maybe." Ezra shrugged up at him.

"Vin, search him before you put him in the cell." Chris's stare became colder.

"Be glad to." Vin smiled at Ezra as he grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the chair, he led him away towards the holding cell for another night.

Ezra tried to pull his arm away but Vin's grip was strong, he knew he would have more bruises to add to the growing list of injuries by the morning. He couldn't help but notice that Henry Glading was watching him as they walked passed the front desk, Ezra smiled at him and shrugged. Glading gave him a knowing smile back after he made sure that Vin couldn't see him.

Chris called to Josiah as he made to follow Vin. "Josiah, stay here a minute." He waited a moment as he watched them walk away. "What did Glading say?"

"Said he was indisposed at the time, that anyone could have passed the front desk while he wasn't there." Josiah repeated what Glading had told him in less descriptive details.

Lenny smiled inwardly because he knew that the information that Glading had given them was a lie, that he had in fact supplied Ezra with the heroin.

Chris nodded. "Go and watch him, you've got first shift remember."

"Mr Sanchez." Lenny's firm voice caused the larger man to turn towards him. "Also remember that your there to watch him and make sure that no one enters his cell. Nothing else. Understand?"

Josiah looked away without answering him and gave Chris a look that caused his leader to laugh. Lenny joined in the laughter, the two men looked at him with confused expressions.

"Sorry but you guys, you get me right here." He tapped his chest with his right fist and used his left hand to wipe at his eyes, he smiled at the disgust that crossed Larabee's face.

Vin turned Ezra around and pushed him face first against the wall outside of his holding cell, he heard the grunt of pain and ignored it. He roughly searched him, hearing another groan of pain as his hand pressed against the cracked ribs on his right side. He checked his pockets and the expensive black boots and after finding nothing he opened the door and pushed him into the room, he closed the door and turned to see Josiah approaching him.

"I don't know why we have to do this!" Vin growled.

"Punishment." Josiah commented to him as he placed the chair that he had brought with him against the wall. He opened the viewing window to see Ezra pacing the room, he could feel the sympathy as it stabbed at his heart but the memory of Ezra selling information that could get somebody killed pushed all the passive emotions that he felt towards the southerner away.

Ezra knew that Josiah was watching him, he waited for the opening to close again and made his way to the bunk, the exhuastion that he felt was beginning to take it's toll. He laid down on the bed thinking that he wouldn't be able to sleep even though he felt tired, his mind was over active with the thoughts of what had happened, he could also feel the emotions as they made his body hurt in a way that was worse than the ache in his side. He rolled onto his left side and allowed his heavy eyelids to close, the darkness of sleep took him into it's comforting embrace within seconds, giving him solace from his pain.

Nathan made his way to the holding cells and the one at the end of the hall, he carried a couple of blankets in his arms knowing that Ezra would need them, no one else was thinking about his comfort. He could see Vin sitting in a chair outside the door, a flask of coffee on the floor beside him.

"Feeling cold Nathan?" Vin smiled at him as he stood up and stretched the stiffness out of his back.

"There for Ezra." Nathan told him but instead of waiting for an answer he pulled opened the holding room's door, grabbed the empty chair and entered the room. He closed the door behind him without saying another word to Vin. He put the chair and blankets down and waited a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness of the room. Nathan's dark eyes looked towards the small bunk that Ezra lay on. He was lying on his side facing the room, the paleness of his skin stood out against the darkness that surrounded his sleeping form.

"Ezra?" Nathan's voice was soft at first. "Ezra?"

He moved towards the bunk and knelt down in front of the former agent. "Ezra?"

He gently placed his hand against the pale forehead feeling the warmness of Ezra's fever, once he was satisfied that it wasn't high he lifted the jacket and white shirt to check that the bandage around his waist was still tight enough to support his ribs. He pulled his hands away when he heard Ezra's quick intake of breath, he waited while the smaller man rolled onto his back, hoping that he wasn't waking. When he settled back down he got up and grabbed one of the blankets from the chair, he placed the blanket over the inert form and went back to sit in the chair to wait for him to wake up. He wanted to talk to Ezra about what had happened to him and why it happened.

Ezra woke slowly as the splinters of light broke through the darkness in his mind that was giving him a reprieve from the nightmare that he was going through in reality. A nightmare that he had agreed to suffer. He could feel the pain that returned to his side and the emotions as they began to fill his mind once more. He was about to force his heavy eyelids to open when he heard a noise coming from the other side of the room. He jerked fully awake and sat up, a small cry of pain escaped his lips as his ribs protested against the sudden movement.

"Take it easy Ezra, it's Nathan." The gentle man told him in a soothing voice.

"What the hell are you doing in here?" Ezra gasped as he grabbed his sore ribs causing them to hurt even more. He heard Nathan move towards him but he kept his eyes closed against the pain.

"Lie back Ezra and let me have a look." Nathan placed his hand on his shoulder and forced him to lie back on the small bed.

"There's nothing to look at so get away from me." He tried to push Nathan away but the larger hands easily held him down. "Nathan!"

Nathan placed his arm across Ezra's chest and put his weight on him to keep Ezra from moving around, he used his other hand to press against his right side. He heard Ezra gasp through clenched teeth and looked up into the face that was contorted in pain.

"There going to cause you a lot of pain for a few more days Ezra." Nathan told him sympathetically.

"As if you care!" Ezra growled at him.

"I do care Ezra." Nathan felt Ezra's forehead. "Your fever's coming down."

Ezra ignored the comment, like yesterday he had too. "Get off me Nathan!"

Nathan did as he was told, he went and picked up the chair and carried it back to the bed, he allowed it to drop to the floor, the noise causing Ezra to look up at him. He sat down and his eyes took in Ezra's battered form.

"What happened Ezra?" Nathan asked him.

"You know what happened. You were there on both occassions and you didn't stop either of them from hitting me." Ezra accused him, he would've rolled over onto his right side but he knew the pain would be to much.

"I'm talking about the drugs Ezra and you selling information." Nathan explained even though he knew Ezra understood the question. He watched his face carefully hoping for any sort of sign that would give the southerner away but he couldn't read the facade that covered his true feelings. None of the six men who had worked with him was able to read the man, they never knew what was really going on with him and he felt that it was this reason that they weren't able to see or recognise the signs that would have allowed them to know what was happening to their friend.

"It just happened Nathan, there's nothing else to it." Ezra tried to get up but Nathan leaned forward and pushed him down again.

"Something like this doesn't just happen Ezra it . . ." He jerked his head around at the sound of the door opening. He saw JD's body peak through the small opening blocking off the false light that tried to enter the room.

"Nathan, Chris wants him in the interview room now." JD was about to pull his head back through the door when Nathan's voice stopped him.

"Tell Chris that Ezra's talking to me and you can bring us some coffee and those pain killers the Doctor left for Ezra." Nathan turned back towards the man he wanted to still think of as a friend.

"Nathan I don't think Chris wants. . ." JD began.

"I'll be back in a minute Ezra." Nathan gently slapped his shoulder and ignored the look of confusion on the smaller man's face.

Nathan pushed JD back into the hallway and closed the door so Ezra couldn't hear what he had to say. He glared down at the younger man that stood defiantly before him.

"I don't care what Chris want's JD. There's a reason behind all of this and I want to know what it is even if the rest of you don't. None of you seem to care about why this is happening but I do and from this moment on I'm standing by him." The anger and frustration that he was feeling could be heard in his voice. "I want you to go and get us some coffee and the pain killers for Ezra. If Chris has a problem with that then he can come and get Ezra."

"Why Nathan?" JD asked him. "You never really liked him before, you were always the one that expected he would run out on us again and he did. Why are you helping him?"

"Go and get what I asked for JD." Nathan turned his back to him and walked back into the room to find Ezra pacing the width of it.

He leaned back against the door and watched Ezra as walked across the room, turn around and walked back again, his fingers tapping against his forearms that were crossed against his chest. He thought about what JD had said, he wondered if he had accepted what Ezra had become more easily than the others because he expected him to run out on them. JD and Buck both strongly denied that Ezra would do that to them, Chris and Vin now trusted Ezra but he knew they still had a small amount of doubt that they kept hidden and Josiah said that he had faith in the boy. Nathan had been the only one who would openly admit that Ezra might run out on them again.

"Stop staring at me Nathan!" Ezra growled at him, he was doing his best to try and convince the larger man that he was suffering withdrawal symptoms but he was beginning to think that Nathan knew something that he didn't, maybe he knew that he was working undercover but Ezra wasn't going to admit anything unless Nathan told him something first.

"Why don't you sit down Ezra so we can talk about it."

"I don't want to sit down and there's nothing to talk about!" Ezra angrily replied. "Stop trying to help me Nathan, I don't want your help or anyone else's."

Nathan was about to say something when the force of the door opening pushed him into the room. He turned around to see Chris in the doorway, his dark clothing a stark contrast to the white walls that surrounded him.

"Nathan, I'll talk with you later." Chris pushed past him and grabbed Ezra's right arm, pulling him towards the door.

Ezra ignored the pain in his side and ripped his arm out of Chris's grip and stood where he was. "You can't keep doing this to me. I have a right to a lawyer and I'm not going anywhere until I see one."

"I told you Standish, I can do what I want with you and you are coming with me!" Chris went to take his arm again but Ezra violently pushed him away and stepped back from him.

Chris quickly moved forward but Ezra was ready for him, he allowed Chris to grab his right arm again and as he turned to pull him forward Ezra lashed out with his left fist striking his former friend on the bridge of his nose causing it to bleed. Chris's grip on his arm weakened and Ezra turned to face him, pulled his arm away and bent it, then brought it forward smashing the bone in his forearm against Chris's jaw, the force of it knocking him to the ground.

Nathan stepped closer to Ezra, he was careful because he didn't want to aggravate him anymore than he already was, he ignored Chris as he lay on the ground, his hand clutched to his bleeding nose.

"Ezra just take it easy." Nathan put his hands up in front of him so he could see that he didn't want to hurt him.

"I want to see my lawyer!" Ezra yelled at him as he began to fidget with his clothing and pace the room again. He too ignored the man on the floor.

Chris couldn't believe that he had been so stupid to allow Ezra to get the better of him. He heard the running footsteps in the corridor then heard Vin's voice call his name, the sound broke through his clouded mind. He could feel someone's hands on him and then heard Ezra's laughter.

"I told you I could take you in a fight." Ezra laughed at him as he continued to pace the room and pull at his clothing. What he just did was to help convince Glading that he wanted to make Larabee pay for what he had done to him but that didn't stop him from enjoying every moment of it. He knew he was going to pay for it, he didn't care, it was worth seeing Chris do the bleeding for a change.

"I'm fine Vin, take care of Standish." Chris was pulled to his feet and he looked into Josiah's caring eyes. "Josiah don't help me, help Vin."

Chris stood where he was and watched as Vin and Josiah grabbed an arm each and dragged the fighting, protesting southerner out of the room. He gave Nathan one of his famous glares and followed the others back to the interview room.

Lenny could hear Ezra's voice as it echoed off the walls of the hallway that led to the interview room that he was waiting in. He listened to the profanity that his friend only used when it was required, he began to worry that something had happened to him and he promised himself that if Ezra walked into the room with another injury that he would hit Larabee there and then.

He stepped forward when he saw Ezra enter the room while trying to remove his arms from Tanner and Sanchez's hold. He quickly looked him over with experienced eyes and saw no further injury, he relaxed but frowned when Ezra turned towards him with a large smile lining his handsome face, the familiar dimples forming on his right cheek, the left was still covered by a bandage. And then he saw what he had been smiling at.

Lenny tried to hold it in but he couldn't, he lost control and started laughing at Chris's still bleeding nose, he doubled over as the tears ran from his eyes. What he saw broke the tension that he had been feeling for the last few days.

"What the hell are you laughing at?" Chris demanded as he wiped the blood from his face and moved towards the table.

"Did Standish do that?" Lenny asked him. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the grimace cross Ezra's face as he was forced into the chair.

"Enjoyed every second of it too." Ezra admitted to the room. "You should have seen him lying there with . . ."

"Shut up!" Chris slammed his fist on the table in front of Ezra.

"The blood pouring of his nose . . . , " he continued on as though he hadn't heard the warning. "and him sitting there . ." Ezra cried out in pain and leaned forward as Chris grabbed his injured side stopping him from saying anything else.

"Larabee!" Lenny growled at him. He stepped forward to pull him away from Ezra so he could cause another part of his anatomy to bleed but Ezra's expression as he stared up at him told him not to interfer. It took all of his strength to step back to his position in the corner of the room.

"Are you ready to shut up?!" Chris growled down into Ezra's face, he could see the pain that he was in but he wasn't going to let go until he agreed to his demand.

"First you . . . want me to talk . . . and now you . . . want me to . . . shut up." Ezra found it hard to talk through the pain but he refused to give Larabee what he wanted.

"Chris!" Nathan called him as he entered the room. "Let him go."

Both Ezra and Lenny looked towards him in suprise and both just as quickly wiped the surprised expressions from their faces.

Chris squeezed even harder and enjoyed the small cry of pain that once again escaped Ezra's tense form. He let go and stormed out of the room pushing past Nathan. "I'm going to get cleaned up."

Nathan knelt down next to Ezra and forced him to remove his arms from his side allowing him access to his damaged ribs. "Why do you have to keep pissing him off Ezra?" Nathan whispered up to him as he checked his side, he found no further damage.

"What, you don't think that I should have given back what he gave me?" Ezra growled at him.

"Just be more careful Ezra." Nathan warned him.

"Thanks Nathan." Ezra whispered to him and squeezed his hand.

Nathan saw the fleeting look that filled Ezra's eyes and for a moment the man seemed like his old self, he was confused and was about to question Ezra about it but Chris came back in. He gave Ezra a reassuring smile and left the room keeping the sudden doubt that filled his mind to himself.

"What have you got for me Agent Larabee?" Judge Travis asked him as he sat down in his large leather chair that was placed behind and even larger mahogany desk in his office. He watched his face and inwardly smiled at the bruises hoping that in the long run they weren't going to cause Agent Standish any more pain.

"Nothing." Chris had spent a second day questioning Standish and as the day before he had refused to answer any questions and if he did they related to his own mother and each time he mentioned his mother his need to hit him became stronger. The man was now settled in his cell for a third night with Nathan who had volunteered to stay with him. Nobody had argued with him they didn't want to stay with a someone who had betrayed them and they had no understanding as to why Nathan did.

"He's not going to talk." Lenny added who sat in the chair that was next to Chris.

"Do you want to spend another day questioning him Chris?" Travis asked him and felt relieved by the answer that was given to him.

"No, we'd only be wasting our time." Chris admitted. "The only thing we can do now is release him and keep him under surveillance and hope that he approaches the people that he sold the information to or maybe they'll seek him out."

The Judge pretended to take a moment to think. "Okay, do that in the morning and keep me up to date on what happens." He watched as Chris nodded and stood up to leave. "Chris." He waited until he had his full attention. "Just because Standish is out on the street does not mean that you can use the opportunity to beat the shit out of him." He saw the shock that Chris felt at his language but ignored it and continued with what he was telling him. "If I hear anything that suggests that you or any of your men have done that you will loose your jobs. Understand?"

"Yes Sir." Chris turned away from him and left the room, he didn't wait for Hoskins.

When Chris shut the door the Judge turned his eyes to Hoskins. "Do you think Ezra will be okay out there?"

"He'll be fine, all he has to do is wait for this second agent to approach him. Once he's done that I'll bring Ezra in. Then Larabee can do his job." Lenny shrugged his shoulders. "That's the easy part, the hard part will be sorting out the friendship and trust that has been destroyed because of this operation."

"I'm not sure Ezra will be willing to do that." Travis told him. "Not after what Chris and Buck did to him and I wouldn't blame him. I don't want to loose him though, he's a good man and he's the best undercover agent that I have ever come across."

Lenny coughed into his hand. The Judge ignored him, he knew Lenny was better but he wasn't going to tell him that, he wouldn't hear the end of it if he did.

"I better go downstairs then and somehow let Glading know that Ezra is going to be released tomorrow." Lenny commented. He pretended to be hurt by the lack of acknowledgement in regards to his own undercover skills.

"I'm sure you'll manage Lenny." Travis smiled at him. "Ezra would have taught you a trick or two."

"You really know how to hurt a guy don't you." Lenny scowled at him.

"Speaking of hurt." Travis stood up and walked around the table and sat on the corner of the desk. "Lenny make sure he's okay after this is over, he's going to need you."

"I think you should be more worried about Larabee." Lenny smiled as he stood up, the smile didn't reach his eyes though because he knew that Judge was right. Ezra was going to be hurting when this was over and he was going to need him to help him get through it.

"I'm serious Lenny."

"So am I Judge." Lenny left the room and closed the door behind him, he leaned against it and closed his eyes. "So am I Judge." He repeated with more assertiveness, he was going to make Larabee and the others pay for what they were doing to Ezra. He pushed himself away from the door and headed towards the holding area to start the next phase of the operation.

Nathan watched as Ezra tried to find a comfortable position on the cot, he finally gave up and lay on his left side. His eyes hadn't strayed from Ezra's face for the last hour, there was nothing to indicate that he was trying to hide anything from him. Nathan knew that something was going on and he didn't think that Ezra would admit to it if he asked him but he had to try.

"What's going on Ezra?" Nathan asked him carefully.

"Your not stupid Nathan and your not blind." Ezra scowled across the room at him. "You can see what's going on."

"Then tell me why." He waited for an answer but he didn't get one, Ezra had closed his eyes. "Talk to me Ezra."

"I can't Nathan, not now." He opened his eyes and looked at Nathan. "Later, ask me again in a few days, I'll tell you then." He allowed his eyelids to close again, he expected his friend to keep questioning him. Friend, he still had a friend among the group. Nathan still believed him to be a drug addict and an informer but he wanted to help him. This show of help confused him and when it was all over he was going to ask Nathan his own questions. He wanted to know why he was taking care of him when he knew that Nathan had never really trusted or liked him and why he was the only one willing to stand by him and help him.

"Okay Ezra, I'll leave it for now." Nathan settled back and watched as Ezra drifted off to sleep, he was suprised that he could sleep when he was suffering from withdrawal symptoms, his mind told him that Ezra must be exhausted but that nagging thought crossed his mind again but he was too tired to understand it completely. He dragged himself out of his chair and moved towards the bed, he placed his hand against Ezra's forehead to find that his fever and finally left him. Nathan carefully pulled the loose jacket up on his right arm and took a closer look at the needle marks, he knew they were real, he hoped that they were fake, even silently prayed that they would peel off but they didn't. He wiped the loose hair back from Ezra's forehead and looked closely at the slack features. "Your going to tell me Ezra and then your going to let me help you."

Ezra was once again jerked from his sleep, it hadn't been the sunlight or Nathan but the noise of the door to his cell slamming shut. He opened his eyes to find that three of his former colleages had come to collect him, he smiled at thought. Chris, Vin and Josiah stood just inside the room not voicing their request that he get up and follow them. Ezra ignored them and rolled onto his side. He saw the empty chair and wondered where Nathan had gone. His line of sight was blocked by Josiah's form.

"Come on Ezra, get up." Josiah ordered him.

"No." Ezra's voice was slurred, he wasn't fully awake. He turned his head so he could look up at the larger man who stood over him, his expression giving the man a challenge even with the drooping eyelids that wanted to close again.

Josiah took it, he leaned down and grabbed Ezra by the arms and pulled him from the bed, he saw him wince against the pain in his side. Josiah pushed him towards Vin and Chris who took an arm each and led him out of the room.

"How's the nose Mr Larabee." Ezra couldn't help but smile at the bruises that had formed on Chris's face, the dark colouring making his skin seem paler than it really was.

"Better than your ribs." Chris shot back at him as he elbowed Ezra's right side. He smiled at the grunt of pain that came from the southener.

Ezra was suprised when they dragged him to the front desk, pushing him against it with more force than was needed. He had been expecting another day in the interview room. His green eyes fell on Henry Glading and he wondered why he was here at this time of day. Glading placed a clip board in front of him.

"Sign this." Glading pointed to the area on the page where he wanted Ezra's signature.

"Sign what?" Ezra asked him.

"Your being released." Chris informed him.

"What do you mean I'm being released, what happened to the law. I'm supposed to have a bail hearing. You can't just arrest me then let me go." Ezra looked around at them and saw Lenny standing near the elevator doors, he watched as he nodded towards him and then dissappear into the elevator after it's doors had opened.

"You were never legally arrested Standish. Sign it and get out." Chris pushed the clip board closer to him.

"If I haven't been arrested then I'm not signing it, I'm just going to leave."

"Do what you want Standish and believe me when I tell you this." Chris grabbed Ezra's jacket lapels and pulled him towards him. "If anybody dies or gets hurt because of the information you sold I'm going to come after you and when I catch you, I'll kill you."

"Not if I kill you first Larabee." Ezra smiled at him and then pushed him away from him. He turned around and headed towards the doors, he expected someone to grab him and drag him back to the desk but no one did. He made it to the glass doors and pushed them opened. He wanted to look behind him to see if they were following him but he wouldn't allow himself to.

Ezra walked through the underground garage towards the ramp that led to the outside world, he could hear his footsteps echoing off the cement walls, he didn't hear anyone else's. He walked up the ramp and out into the sunlight, he squinted his eyes against it's brightness and when they adjusted to the natural light he looked around at the passerbys and parked cars looking for the men who would be following him. He spotted them easily but made sure that they knew they hadn't been made.

Buck and JD were supposed to be two of the best when it came to surveillance but Ezra was better when it came to marking a tag. He had seen the foam coffee cup that lay on the road next to the passenger side of the car, he knew that it was something that Buck did. People had complained about the mess that he left in the ATF's cars and vans so he had begun to drop his rubbish outside of the car. It was a dead giveaway but only to Ezra because he knew Buck's habits. He walked away from them towards the subway. He had every intention of loosing them and he knew it would be easy.

Nathan had woken to find that Ezra was still sleeping soundly, he didn't want to wake him so he left him as he was, he sat quietly watching him as he had the night before. During the night the nagging thought continued to plauge his mind and everytime he thought he had it, it was gone again before he could understand it's meaning. He decided he had to do something and if Ezra wasn't going to tell him then he would have to do his own investigating. He quietly pushed himself out of his chair and stepped towards the door. He froze in midstep when he heard Ezra shift on the bed, he waited with his breath caught in his throat as his friend rolled onto his side and settled his head back down into the pillow. He opened the door and stepped out into the corridor. Once the door was closed and the locked engaged, he let out the breath that he had been holding.

He made his way up to the seventh floor that held their offices, he was going to search Ezra's again to see if he could find something that he may have missed the last time he looked for evidence as to why Ezra had resigned. He needed to find out what was going on and he knew that when Ezra was released tomorrow that he may not have the chance again. He knew that he would dissappear without a trace and he wouldn't be able to find him.

He stepped off the elevator and walked along the quiet hallway, he didn't think that there would be anyone around, they had all been spending their days down stairs either with Ezra or watching him. He looked into the other offices to find them empty. When he reached Ezra's he opened the door and stepped in, he looked around at the bare walls again, he sighed at the thought of Ezra not making it homely and now knew why, he hadn't expected to stay, he must have known that he was going to be caught one day.

Nathan sat down at the desk and began to look through the drawers again. It was the same as last time, there was nothing. He was about to give up when the phone rang, he was going to ignore it but something told him to pick it up and when he did he was shocked. Like Ezra he had thought that Maude Standish never got out of her bed at this time of the day.

"Mr Jackson is that you?" The voice on the other end of the line demand.

"Yes Mrs Standish." Nathan licked his lips nervously.

"Is my son there? I need to talk to him." There were no pleasantries from the woman so Nathan didn't bother to supply any.

"No he isn't."

"Do you know where I can find him, I've been trying to get him for days now but he won't answer his phone at home and I haven't been able to get an answer at that office of yours either." He could hear the anger in her voice but he didn't want to tell her what had happened to her son over the phone.

"Mrs Standish maybe you should come out here in person . . . " He didn't get any further.

"He is sick isn't he, I knew it." There was a pause on the other end but Nathan didn't take advantage of it, what Maude had just said peaked his curiosity. "I found out from a friend that Ezra has been seeing my Doctor in Denver for at least two months now, she said that she had seen him in the waiting room on six occassions while she was there. I rang the Doctor but he wouldn't tell me anything until I threatend to sue him but all he would tell me was that he was getting vitamin shots." She stopped talking and when she spoke again Nathan could hear the fear in her voice. "He is sick isn't he Nathan?"

"No Maude he's not." Nathan took control of the conversation. "He was getting vitamin injections?"

"Yes he . . ." Nathan didn't hear the rest of the conversation, he had hung up the phone. "SHIT!" He ran out of the office and kept running until he reached the elevator. He pushed the down button but it was slow to respond. He ran to the stairwell and took them three at a time. He burst through the doors and into the holding area to find Chris and the others standing in a group near the interview room, Chris was yelling into the phone but Nathan ignored him. He ran to the group and took the phone from his bosses hand and again hung up on the caller. He didn't stop to think about taking the conversation that he was about to have with them into a private room.

"Nathan! What the hell are you doing?" Chris turned on him, Nathan was going to be the perfect excuse to allow him to let out his anger. Buck had just informed him that they had lost Standish.

Nathan took a moment to catch his breath. "He's working undercover. . ." He pointed to his own forearms. "I was just talking to Maude on the phone, Ezra's been getting vitamin shots for the last two months, that's where the needle marks came from. He's been seeing her Doctor."

"Nathan what the hell are you talking about?" Chris demanded. "Vitamin shots don't leave scars."

"Ezra has to be working undercover." He threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "He's not a drug addict, the needle marks have to be from the vitamin injections. If he's undercover he would have made sure they left marks."

"Nathan he shot up in here himself." Chris ran his hand through his hair. "Even you said he was high on heroin."

"Maybe he didn't have a choice." Nathan remembered something. "You said that he threw up that morning. First time users throw up and suffer from neausea afterwards. He did feel sick for a few hours after didn't he."

"What about the information he sold Nathan, we caught him red handed." Vin reminded him.

"I don't know, maybe it was all set up for our benefit, there has to be a reason why we weren't told about it, for some reason he was trying to convince us that he was a user and that he was selling information." Nathan tried to explain but he could see that his efforts were a waste of time.

"But he was going through withdrawal symptoms, look at the way he's been acting Nathan." Chris growled at him as he roughly took his cell phone back.

"Ezra's an undercover agent Chris, he's the best at what he does. He would be very convincing. But the question is why was he trying to convince us that he was a drug addict and an informer."

"Maybe he was trying to convince someone else." Josiah spoke softly, afraid that his words would tell them the truth. That Ezra was working undercover and if he was then they would have a lot to answer for.

"Were going to see the Judge. Ezra being undercover would explain why he was coming down on us so hard for the way we were treating him." Chris stopped moving before he even started. "The way I was treating him. Oh God what have I done."

"We don't know it's true yet Chris. Let's find out first and then deal with it." Vin assured him. He knew they would all have to deal with it if it was true, he still had his doubts as he was sure everyone except Nathan did.

"Why don't we just go and ask Ezra?" Nathan wanted to know.

"Because we let him go and Buck who was following him just lost him." Chris explained.

"Aw hell." Nathan muttered under his breath.

They all walked silently to the elevator, no one noticing that Henry Glading no longer stood behind the front desk, he had slipped away as soon as Nathan had informed Chris that Ezra was working undercover.

Debbie looked up from her computer terminal and saw the six determined men who stood over her, each of them holding an expression that was full of different emotions. She could see a mixture of remorse, anger and sadness. Debbie frowned causing the light lines on her brow to show on her otherwise perfect complexion. Her bright eyes turned to Chris Larabee as he took a step closer to her, she had to strain her neck so she could continue to look up into his cold blue eyes but they were no longer cold, she could see that something had replaced the usual coldness. Debbie could see that he was full of regret. 'They know.' It was the only explanation to the way they were acting.

"The Judge is in there with Agent Hoskins." Debbie got up from her desk and walked away. "I wasn't here when you came in." She told them over her shoulder before she closed the double doors behind her.

Chris didn't bother knocking on the thick wooden door, he opened it and stepped into the office with three of the remaining five members of his team ready to back him up if he needed them. He knew that there would no longer be seven, there was nothing that was going to make up for what they had done, for what he had done to Ezra. The man was very convincing but he should never had treated him with so much anger or hatred, he had beaten him when he was unable to defend himself. He knew Ezra would never forgive him for what he and the others had done.

Judge Travis raised his eyes from his paperwork and saw Chris standing in the open doorway, he saw the expression on his face and his first thought was that something had happened to Ezra. Lenny who was watching the Judge saw the look of dread on his aging features and turned to see what he was looking at. His anger rose as he clenched his fists.

"Why weren't we told that Ezra had gone undercover?" Chris asked them. His mind had been going over everything that had happened, his finger finally finding the reason for his anger, for the way that he felt about what had happened. He realised that he knew all along that something was going on, that there was a reason behind it all but his anger had quickly taken control and didn't allow any other thoughts to voice their opinions, he wouldn't admit to what he had actually been feeling. He had pushed it away and allowed the anger to take control because that was more believable than the other feelings that he had. Now that the anger was gone these other thoughts began to speak up, telling Chris that he was wrong, they explained everything to him. If he had listened to them in the first place none of this would have happened. Chris's whole body filled with dread, it joined the guilt that was already flowing through him. He knew why he believed that Ezra had betrayed them, he had wanted to believe it, he understood his own feelings but he knew that Ezra wouldn't.

"What makes you think that Standish is working undercover?" Travis calmly asked him, he had been able to hide the surprise that he felt and saw that Lenny had hidden his just as well but he could see the underlying anger that was building in him.

"Maude phoned and from what she told Nathan we know he's undercover." Chris hadn't moved forward, the guilt was tearing through him in much the same way as the pain of a bullet wound would.

Lenny watched the Judge carefully, he could tell that he had made a decision to include these men in on the operation but before he did he wanted to do something that he had needed to do since the first time he saw Ezra's battered body when he had been thrown into the corridor of the holding area.

"Judge?" Lenny got his attention. "Would you mind if I say something to Larabee first?"

Travis frowned at him but he didn't say no, he nodded his head hoping that what he was going to say didn't start an argument, he was wrong.

Lenny stood up and slowly moved towards Chris, his face lacked any expression but instead held a facade that would have made Ezra proud. He stopped and looked into Chris's eyes, he ignored all the emotions that he saw in them, the emotions were too late, the damage of his anger had been done. Lenny was so quick that Chris didn't have time to react. He felt the fist that slammed into his jaw before he saw it, he fell back into the arms of his friends who were still standing behind him.

"That's only a taste of what I'm going to give you when all this is over!" Lenny spoke with vehemence.

Chris pushed himself away from his friends and wiped the thin line of blood that flowed from his split lip. "I'll take that as confirmation that Ezra is undercover." Chris growled back at him, his own fists were clenched but he held them at his side. This man was giving him what he had given Ezra, he was showing the anger that he'd felt at his treatment of Ezra.

"And a promise Larabee! You hurt him, not only physically but emotionally and I'm going to make you pay for that." His eyes took in all the men that stood behind Chris. "All of you are going to pay." Lenny turned away from him and went back to the leather chair, he didn't sit in it but instead sat on the corner of the desk, he now wanted to see everything that was going to show on the faces of Ezra's former friends.

"Why don't you sit down Chris." Judge Travis used his arm to usher him to the empty chair, he ignored what Lenny had just done, knowing that Chris had gotten off lightly but it would be a different matter when it was all over. "We'll explain everything now that contact has been made."

Chris slowly walked towards the chair and sat down heavily into it. He felt his men move forward and stand behind the two large chairs, neither one of them willing to sit in the other empty chair that faced Hoskins angry travelling gaze.

"Agent Hoskins approached me two months ago asking if Ezra could be used in an undercover operation." He saw Chris's quick glance towards the man who sat on his desk and noticed the returning stare didn't flinch. "We have an agent within this building who has been selling information causing the death of two FBI agents."

"Shit." Vin spoke quietly but they heard him clearly.

"Shit is right Mr Tanner." Lenny's angry light blue eyes turned to him. "Ezra was willing to put everything on the line to find out who this person is and he has, he's lost just about everything doing it."

The Judge nodded to Lenny asking him to continue with the explanation of what had transpired during those first two months.

"I had an informer who gave me this information but he died before he could give me a name or a description. The Judge and I decided that the only way to flush him out was to make him think that another agent had also gone bad." Lenny continued.

"Why Ezra?" Nathan asked him.

"Judge Travis told me that you would react to the situation and your reaction would make Ezra's cover even more convincing. It was going to be this reaction that would convice the crooked agent that Ezra had also gone bad. We then hoped that he would contact Ezra, maybe offer him some work." Lenny didn't elaborate on the last statement, he was going to leave that till last. He didn't mention the rumors of Ezra being on the take when he was with the FBI that would have also helped his cover, he knew that these would men would question his innocence.

"He assumed we would react to the situation?" Josiah asked.

They all looked towards Lenny who had replaced his anger with an expression of pure disgust. "He didn't assume anything Mr Sanchez, Ezra was adamant that you would believe his cover, that you wouldn't question it and none of you did. He told me that you would be angry but he didn't expect the hatred or the beatings to be so bad." The last statement was aimed at Chris.

"How else were we supposed to react." Vin spoke up, he decided to defend what they had felt towards the southerner thinking that they had a right to feel the way they had. "Did he think that we were going to give him a hug and tell him that we were sorry and that we would help him. We thought he betrayed our friendship and trust."

"Your not stupid Tanner, you know that's not what he expected." Lenny got off the table and took a step closer to Vin. "All of you lived up to his expectations but what he couldn't foresee, like I already told you, was how bad the beatings were. When I spoke to Ezra the day before you arrested him, he told me something that I didn't take seriously," he turned away from him and leaned on the armrest of the chair that Chris sat in and placed his own visage inches within the man in front of him, "he asked me to make sure that there would be a Doctor in the holding area because Chris at some point would try and beat the shit out him." He enjoyed the grimace that flickered across Chris's face.

"He expected the beatings." Josiah was shocked, he wasn't the only one.

"He anticipated that Chris would use physical force but he was shocked by the excessive amount of it in his arrest. Larabee beat him after his hands were secured behind his back giving him a concussion in the process." Lenny could feel the Judge tense up at his words. "Wilmington kicked him until his ribs cracked when he was under the influence of heroin, that he didn't expect." Lenny pushed himself away from Chris's chair, the anger was leaving him, all he felt now was sorrow.

"He cried after that, wanted to know why we were treating him the way we were." Nathan confessed to the room.

"They Jackson." Lenny assured him. "You gave him the friendship that he deserved, you stood by him."

"When we arrested him. That was all part of his cover?" Josiah asked him as he tried to bring the conversation back to the reason why Ezra went undercover.

"Yes it was." Travis answered him while he kept his eyes on Chris, he noticed that he had become quiet, he wasn't asking the questions like he thought he would be.

"And the heroin that he took in his cell." Vin growled at Lenny. "What about that?"

"He didn't have a choice, it was offered to him as a test." Lenny replied, his anger was building again. Tanner still wasn't convinced, he had thought that Larabee would be asking these questions but he wasn't saying anything. "If he didn't take it then his cover would have been blown and we wouldn't find out who the second Agent was."

"Second?" Chris finally spoke up.

"Ezra found out that there are two Agents who have gone bad." Travis answered him. "There is also another reason for this operation Chris."

"The agent that we're after put out feelers for a contract on someone's life." Lenny spoke before the Judge could continue, he wanted to give out this information but he didn't go into details yet, he wanted to drag it out. He could tell that Larabee was feeling a lot of guilt, he was going to make sure that he felt even more.

"Who's life?" Josiah's baritone voice broke the silence that suddenly filled the room.

"Ezra planned on reacting to Chris's anger . . . "

"He did that yesterday." Vin interrupted him.

"And I deserved it." Chris didn't hold any anger towards Ezra for what he did, he now knew that he did it as part of his cover but he also knew that there would have been anger behind the punches that he had inflicted on him.

Lenny ignored the interruption and continued. "hoping that this guy would believe that he would want to get him back for what he did." Lenny paused for the effect, all eyes were on him but his eyes stayed on Larabee's face. "Ezra hoped that he would offer him the contract on Larabee's life."

"There's a contract on Chris's life?" Vin was shocked.

"There you go being deaf again." Lenny grimaced at him. "He's only put feelers out, he's looking for someone to offer the contract to." Lenny explained.

"So Ezra's doing this because he thought the guy would ask him to do it?" Vin wanted to know.

"Yes he is." Travis kept his anger under control, Vin was questioning everything but now that he knew that Chris's life was in danger he believed everything that he had been told.

"Judge." Chris could tell that he was controlling his anger and it took a few moments before he turned towards the sound of his voice. "You said that he made contact. Does he know who the agents are?"

"Only one. Henry Glading, he was the one who supplied Ezra with the heroin and . . ." Travis explained but his next words caught in his throat when he saw the expressions that overcame the men who were listening to him.

"What?" Lenny spoke calmly even though he didn't feel calm, a sudden dread had taken over every nerve ending in his body.

"I told the guys about Ezra in the corridor near the interview room." Nathan whispered but his voice echoed in the silence that hung like a shroud.

"And?" Lenny couldn't breath, his chest was constricted, he knew what he was going to say.

"Glading was behind the front desk, he must have heard us." Chris told him knowing what it meant, if Glading and the other agent got to Ezra first he was a dead man.

"SHIT!" Lenny began to walk around in circles, Ezra would have no idea that his cover had been blown by his own people, if he was contacted by the other agent he would walk blindly into a trap. He gained control of himself as he listened to Larabee bark orders to his men.

"Josiah, Nathan go to his apartment just in case he went back there. Vin contact the appropriate authorities, have them put an APB out on Ezra and his car, tell them his cover's been blown and to inform him of that if they do find him and have them put one out on Glading. When you do that, phone Buck and find out where it was that he lost him and tell him what's going on." Chris turned to Hoskins. "Lenny your with me, were going to go to Glading's house, see if we can find something."

Lenny didn't argue with him, there wasn't time for that. He kept every emotion that he was feeling under control but only just. He followed Larabee and his men out of the large office and to the elevator. No one spoke, they each knew the implications of what had happened, they knew that Ezra could now loose his life as well as the friends that he thought he'd lost.

Judge Travis walked behind them and watched as they entered the elevator, when the doors closed across the morbid expressions he turned to his secretary. "Debbie could you please phone the hospitals in Denver, ask them if anyone with Agent Standish's description was brought in to their emergency room." He ignored her shocked expression as she picked up her telephone book, it was only a few seconds before she started dialing. The Judge didn't move from his position next to the desk that was half the size of his own. He listened to each phone call and was relieved each time Debbie shook her head indicating that Ezra had not been brought into the hospital that she was speaking to. He was still listening when she began to nod her head during her conversation with the fourth hospital on the list, her head continued to nod as the tear slowly fell from her moist filled eyes.

It had only taken Ezra ten minutes to loose Buck and JD, he had to smile, he could easily imagine the look on Chris's face when Buck informed him that they had lost him. He noticed his second tail five minutes after he left the ATF building, he had to double back after loosing Buck so the other person who was following him could pick up his trail again. He didn't want to loose them because he knew the only way for the rogue Agent to contact him was to follow him, Ezra didn't have a phone and he wasn't going to go back to his home or his car. The man couldn't take the chance that Ezra didn't go underground never to be found again.

Ezra stopped in front of a quite coffee shop, he looked inside the window and found it to be nearly empty, he could see the reflection of the man following him but couldn't make out his features because he was standing with his back to him, he was watching Ezra's reflection in a window shop. Ezra smiled to himself and walked into the cafe, he made his way to one of the many empty booths at the back, he looked around as he sat down to wait. There were only two other customers and a plump waitress behind the counter, the pink uniform was tight enough to allow the material between to buttons to spread open showing the brown slip that she wore beneath it.

The overweight waitress made her way to his booth and he ordered a cup of coffee. He smiled at the heavy made up face but she turned away from him revealing a man standing behind her.

"Come to arrest me have you Agent Collins?" Ezra grimaced up at the tall man. He knew Paul Collins, had even thought that he was a good agent, he hid the suprise that he felt behind a calm poker face.

"No." Collins looked down at the battered visage of Ezra Standish. "I came to offer you a job."

Ezra frowned at Collins as he sat down across from him, the flourecent light that hung on the wall behind him reflected off the steel rimmed glasses that hung low on Collins's nose making it hard for him to look into the green eyes that were similar to his own.

"I resigned from the agency." Ezra told him as he watched the waitress place his coffee on the table, she pushed it towards him causing it to spill onto the plate that it rested on, she walked away again without wiping the spillage up. "Now there's a woman who loves her job."

"It doesn't have anything to do with the agency." His voice grated on Ezra's nerves, the high pitched tone could be very irritating. "And you can make a lot of money if you accept it."

Ezra raised his eyebrows in interest. "Money?"

"A lot, enough to keep your drug habit going for a long time." Collins watched his former associate carefully, he could see that he was fidgeting with his clothing. He knew the man that sat across from him was on the take when he was with the FBI and was now in the same kind of work that he was, he had been selling information. The only difference between them was that Ezra had a drug habit and he got caught.

Ezra nodded in understanding. "Your the mutual friend that Glading told me about. Don't suppose you have any more on you?"

"Sorry, I don't have a habit." Collins grinned at him.

"So why did you get it for me?" Ezra looked at his coffee and saw a film of dust floating on the top.

"You needed it." He shrugged at him.

"I don't need money." Ezra told him as he looked back up from his coffee, his gaze turned to the counter and he tried to get the attention of the waitress.

"What about payback against Larabee?" Collins saw that Ezra was now totally absorbed in what he was saying.


"Are you interested?" Collins placed his forearms on the table and leaned forward.

"Depends on what type of payback it is." Ezra sat back against the booth's read vynil seat.

"His death." It was a simple statement and it took all of Ezra's skills not to flinch. "I want you to kill him."

"What makes you think that I would want to kill him." Ezra began to fidget even more. "And why would you want him killed?

"Let's just say that you and I are in the same business. Larabee is a liability and you also said that you wanted to kill him." He saw Ezra's confusion. "Henry overheard you."

"You've been selling information too?" Ezra smiled at him.

"You can say that." Collins waved off the waitress before Ezra could complain about his coffee.

"How much?" He leaned forward knowing that his body language would tell Collins that he was interested.

"I thought you didn't need money." Collins sat back, mirroring Ezra's former position.

"I lied." Ezra smiled.

"Why don't we get you fixed up, figuratively speaking and then we can make an agreement." He stood up just as his cell phone began to ring.

Ezra didn't wait for him he needed some fresh air after being in such a close proximity of a traitor.

"Collins." He listened for a few moments as he watched Ezra leave the coffee shop, he stood in the sunshine for a moment and then started walking away. He quickly made his way to the door. "Are you sure Henry." He opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk, he turned to the direction that Ezra had taken. "No it's too late, I've already spoken to him, and told him what I wanted." He cut Glading off and pulled his gun from his shoulder holster. "Standish!"

Ezra turned around and saw the expression on Collins's face first, it told him that his cover had been blown, he then saw the gun just as it fired. The first bullet hit him low in the left shoulder, the second fractured his skull sending him into oblivion.

Chris kept his speed over the legal limit, he pulled around the cars that were slowing them down and pressed angrily on the horn at the ones he couldn't pass.

"You didn't answer my question Hoskins." Chris risked a glance at the man in the passenger seat of his Dodge, he saw the fear that mirrored his own.

"What question is that Larabee?" Lenny didn't look at him, he kept his eyes forward.

"Why weren't we told that Ezra was undercover?" He repeated the question that he asked in the Judge's office when he had first entered the room.

"Ezra's the best at what he does," he looked across at Chris and saw him nod in agreement, "I didn't have to worry about him, but you and the rest of Team Seven might not have been convincing enough and the only way to make it convincing was to not tell you."

"Did Ezra agree to that?" Chris swore as he pulled the Dodge around a car that had stopped suddenly.

"No, he wanted to tell you but I asked him not to." Lenny jumped when he heard his cell phone begin to ring, he looked at Chris and slowly pulled the phone out of his inside coat pocket. His hand was shaking as he placed the phone next to his ear. "Hoskins." Chris slowed the car when he saw the colour drain from Lenny's face, his black leather jacket giving his now pale features a ghostly white colour. "Where are they taking him?" He turned to Chris. "Denver Memorial Hospital. Now!" He went back to the conversation.

Chris didn't need to be told twice, he knew it was Ezra. He glanced into the rear view mirror and saw that there were no cars following him. He jerked the wheel to the left and continued to turn it until the Dodge was facing the opposite direction, his foot reapplied pressure to the accelerator. He listened to the one sided conversation that Lenny was having.

"Did they say how he is?" He grabbed hold of the side of the seat to stop himself from sliding into Chris's lap when the Dodge spun around. "Oh no." He put his hand over his eyes as he continued to listen to what the Judge was telling him. "Yeah I'll let you know Judge." Lenny hung up the phone and carefully placed it back in his pocket, he wanted to throw it at something, mainly the man who sat in the driver's side.

"Well?" Chris demanded.

"The Judge had Debbie start phoning the hospitals in the area. The Memorial said that they were bringing him in. One of the medics on the scene recognised him, you guys must spend a lot of time there. He told the emergency nurse who he was when he called it in just before Debbie spoke to her." Lenny slammed his fist against the dashboard.

"How bad is he?" Chris wasn't going to ask him if Ezra was dead.

"Two gunshot wounds, one to the chest and one to the head." Lenny could see the hospital in the distance through his blurred vison, he looked behind him when he heard a siren. "This must be him."

The ambulance sped pass them and Chris roared out of the traffic to pull in behind it, he matched their speed and followed them to the emergency department of the hospital. Chris parked the car at an awkward angle, he got out and ran after Lenny who was already running towards the ambulance. They reached their destination just as the back doors were opened. Arms pushed them out of the way as the nurses and Doctor made their own way to the patient.

Chris and Lenny stood frozen in time as they watched them pull the gurney out of the ambulance, they saw the medic that was straddling Ezra while he applied CPR to man underneath him. Ezra's shirt had been torn open, the glove covered hands of the medic were soaked in blood, so was Ezra's face and chest, the rough bandages that had been wrapped around his head and chest only soaking up so much.

Chris pushed Lenny into the same direction that the gurney had taken, neither of them hearing the instructions that the Doctor was yelling to the nurses that surrouded him, all they could hear were their own guilt ridden thoughts and fears. They knew that CPR was only used when someone's heart had stopped.

Two nurses stopped them from following Ezra into the emergency room. "Mr Larabee, you know you can't go in there." The older nurse gently pushed him back towards the waiting room but Chris wouldn't go.

"We'll stay here, were not going anywhere." He looked through the plastic doors and saw the gurney dissappear behind a set of swinging doors.

"Think you can manage to fill out the usual forms?" Nurse Julie Henshaw asked him as she placed a comforting hand on his arm. "If not we can do it later."

"Later." Chris whispered.

Nurse Henshaw walked through the doors to follow the gurney and the man who was fighting for his life, she looked over her shoulder at the two men who stood side by side. She knew from what she had been told that Agent Standish's chances of survival were very slim.

While the medic continued to apply CPR a nurse pulled Ezra's head back and gently forced the breathing tube down into the chamber that led to his lungs, she taped the tube to his face to hold it in place then attached a large bag to it and squeezed on a regular basis to give the patient the oxygen that he was no longer able to breath into his lungs on his own, he now needed help to stay alive. The medic who had been keeping Ezra's heart beating got off the gurney to allow the Doctor to do his job.

"Get me two units of A negative stat!" Doctor Falex yelled at one of the nurses who then ran from the room, he knew the man who was near death, he had treated him on more than one occassion, he was worried that this would be the last. "Julie, call xray and tell them were going to need a Cat Scan and a chest xray, then surgery, we need an operating room asap, and tell them we'll also need a neural surgeon." He looked at the other nurses who were busy cutting the clothing from Agent Standish and placing the appropraite IV tudes in his arms. "We'll take him up as soon as we stabilise him."

"The Doctor hasn't come out yet." Chris didn't look at Lenny. "That has to be good news. Doesn't it?" He didn't expect an answer, he was talking more to himself than to the man who stood beside him.

"Chris!" Vin called to him as pushed through the doors of the emergency entrance, he had seen his friend standing in front of the clear doors that led into the emergency area. He saw the slumped shoulders and then the glazed eyes as he turned around at the sound of his voice.

"Ezra's not . . . " His voice trailed off.

"We don't know, he's still in there." Chris turned back to his scrutiny of the doors that led to the room that Ezra was in. "Where are the others?"

"They'll be here in a minute." Vin turned around and saw Buck and JD running to the entrance, he went to meet them.

"Vin! What happened? Is he okay?" JD spurted out as he looked over Vin's shoulder towards Chris.

"They don't know JD but from the look on Chris's face, it can't be good." Vin explained what he knew which wasn't much.

"Aw Hell!" Buck groaned. "He can't die Vin, not after what we did, he can't die thinking we hate him."

JD placed an arm around Buck's shoulders which was difficult because the man was taller than him.

When Josiah and Nathan arrived a few minutes later Vin told them the same thing. Each of them stood behind Chris and Lenny, the longer the Doctor took the better they thought things would be for Ezra. Another ten minutes passed before they saw Ezra being wheeled from the emergency room, the medic no longer stradled him but they did see the oxygen bag that was still being squeezed as it pumped air into his lungs. They stepped back when one of the nurses came towards them.

"Chris." Julie used a soft voice, she smiled encouragingly at him and at the men who stood beside him. She looked at Lenny then back to Chris.

"Julie this is Lenny Hoskins, he's . . . " Chris halted, he wasn't sure what Lenny was to Ezra.

"I'm a very old friend." Lenny assured her.

"I'm not going to lie to you Chris, his chances aren't good. They're taking him up to xray now and then surgery. One bullet missed his heart, his left lung has collapsed causing fluid to build up in it, the other bullet may have fractured his skull." She took his hand trying to give him some comfort. "There's nothing you can do standing here so why don't you go to the waiting room. I'll keep you informed."

"Thanks Julie." Chris watched as she dissappeared back into the emergency hallway, he hadn't failed to notice that she wore clean scrubs, she had taken the blood soaked ones off before she came out to see them. He turned around slowly and managed to make his way to the waiting room, the others following him so they could take up residence to wait once again.

Chris couldn't control the strong torrent of emotions that were following through him, he looked around the comfortable room at the men that would be mirroring the feelings that he felt, all except Lenny. Chris knew his emotions would be stronger and they would include anger towards the rest of the men in the room, he had gotten the impression the FBI Agent was close to Ezra, that he had managed to gain a strong rapport with the southerner that they had yet to succeeded in obtaining. Chris was sure Lenny blamed them and he didn't disagree with him.

Chris's own anger was also rising, he wanted to turn that anger towards Ezra, if only he had told them what was happening, they would have backed him up but he knew he was only pointing the blame in the wrong direction, he wanted to be angry at someone who couldn't fight back, someone who couldn't scream into his tortured mind that all of this was his fault and he knew beyond any doubt that it was. The blame for the operation going wrong would sit squarely on Team Seven's shoulders, he would make sure that none of it was aimed at Ezra, he had done nothing wrong, his friends had turned on him and then blown his cover. His mind began to go over the reasons for his reaction to Ezra's convincing undercover roll.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the waiting room door opening, he wouldn't look up from the floor, someone coming so quickly could only mean one thing. Ezra had died, they weren't able to save him. The words that came from the male voice caused the one tear to fall from his left eye. The small drop of moisture fell to the carpet landing between his boots, he concentrated on the area of the carpet that soaked up the tear, causing it to disappear, denying that it had ever fallen from the strong leader. The tear had shocked him, he didn't think that he would actually cry over the death of Ezra Standish but then when he thought about his reaction to Ezra's cover he understood his emotions, he wasn't going to push the strange feelings that had come to the surface away like he had before, if he had accepted them in the first place none of this would have happened.

"Agent Larabee." The police officer didn't get a response from the man who's eyes were downcast, he looked around the room at the other men, some of them he knew but others were still just names to him. "If I could talk to you for a moment please."

"Chris it's okay." Buck knew what his old friend was thinking, they had all thought it but Chris was the only one who hadn't looked up when Sargeant Herbot walked into the waiting room.

Chris lifted his emotion filled eyes to the room, he saw the uniformed officer standing before him and relief flooded through him causing his throat to constrict, a small sob escaping. He quickly gained control of the emotions that were making him feel uncomfortable.

"Miles." Chris stood up on shaky legs, he took the smaller man's hand and shook it with a firm grip, he knew the officer from a previous case that Herbot had taken part in.

"I just came from the scene, thought you guys would want to know what happened." Herbot adjusted his gunbelt as all eyes turned towards him.

"Don't you mean that you came to see if it would be a murder investigation." Lenny growled up at him from the chair that he sat in, his light blue eyes didn't look at the man he spoke to, he couldn't tear his gaze from the double doors that led to the emergency rooms.

"Lenny . . . " Chris began.

"That's Agent Hoskins to you Larabee." Lenny retorted.

"Agent Hoskins." Josiah's quiet but firm voice gained the attention of the angry but frightened Agent. "This is not the time or place. Ezra wouldn't want us at each other's throats."

"I'll comply with that request Sanchez, there will be plenty of time for blame later." He smiled at the large man who had moved towards him and now stood over him.

Herbot coughed into his hand and he had everyone's attention once more. "We have witnesses to the shooting, one of them saw the shooter." He stepped back from Chris, he didn't allow the anger that the man held in his eyes to scare him, he knew it wasn't aimed at him.

"What happened?" Chris's voice was but a mere whisper but it clearly carried his anger.

"Standish was in a coffe shop on Station street, he was on his own at first but someone joined him," he continued to read from his notebook, "apparently they spoke for a few minutes. Standish left first, the other man stayed behind to answer a phone call, he then hurried out after him, called his name and then shot him twice." He closed his small book and put it back into his pocket.

"The phone call would have been from Glading." Lenny looked over at Nathan. "Must have told him that Ezra was undercover."

"We got a description but . . . " Herbot continued as he ignored the sudden tension in the room.

"But what?" Chris interrupted him.

"But it may not be needed, we got a name from the waitress." Herbot smiled, his grey mustache seeming to grow on his dark face.

"How the hell did you get a name?" Vin was suprised the rogue Agent was that stupid.

"Ezra." Lenny informed them. "Ezra gave it to her."

"Herbot, do you want to give us some more information!" Chris was getting frustrated.

"The waitress was taking Standish's order, when she walked away he spoke to the man that was standing behind her. She remembered what he said because she thought there was going to be trouble." Herbot saw the anger rising in Chris so he quickly finished. "He said, 'come to arrest me have you Agent Collins'."

"Paul Collins, glasses, green eyes?" Vin asked Herbot.

"The description includes eyeglasses, also that he was tall and thin. Eye colour wasn't mentioned, no one was that close to him." Herbot confirmed. "I've already contacted your boss and he's making all the arrangements. An APB is already out on him and this Glading guy you told us about earlier."

"Why would Collins be so stupid as to shoot Ezra in front of witnessess?" JD spoke up from seat near the door.

"He obviously reacted instead of thinking." Chris smiled, he remembered what Hoskins said, Ezra had managed to give them a name. "Thanks for letting us know Miles."

"Sure, no problem." He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "How is he?"

"He's hanging on Miles, he's hanging on." Chris told him as he made his way back to his chair to continue the waiting game. He didn't see Officer Herbot nod his head or notice that he had left the room.

The men who were standing followed Chris's lead, they returned to their seats to wait for news on Ezra's condition. They knew the normal procedures would be put in place. Alerts would be sent out to the Airports, Bus Terminals and Train Stations, the police had APB's out on both of them but until they were caught, Ezra's life was still in danger.

Eyes continued to look at watches as the minutes gratefully turned into slow agonising hours. Tension had begun to fill the room, each man becoming irritated by something someone else was doing. Fingers tapped, legs paced the length of the crowded room, pages of magazines were constantly turned as eyes ignored the words and pictures, bodies stood up then sat down again in an agitated manner. An angry word or a look would stop the annoying movements or sounds.

When Dr Falex finally walked through the door to the waiting room, six hours had passed. He still wore his surgical gear, the cap that covered his thin blond hair was soaked with sweat, the green surgical top was stained with sweat and dark stains that they knew was Ezra's blood.

Lenny got up quickly and stood in front of the Doctor, his stance full of determination, he stared into the bright blues eyes that looked back at him. "Well?"

"Why don't you sit down Mr . . . " The Doctor gestured to the empty chair that Lenny had just been occupying.

"Why don't you tell me how Ezra is?" Lenny tried to hide the fear that he was feeling from the men who surrounded him.

"The bullet that entered his chest missed his heart," he used his hand to indicate an area just above the heart, "it reflected off one of his rib bones, breaking it in the process, the bullet grazed his left lung then exited out through his back. The lung filled with blood and collapsed, we drained the fluid and stitched the tear stopping the internal bleeding. So far that's okay, there shouldn't be any serious complications to that, the lung may collapse again but that won't be life threatening." Doctor Falex sat down in one of the spare chairs and waited for Ezra's friends to do the same. "The head wound though is a different matter. The bullet fractured his skull," this time he pointed to the left side of his skull, just above the temple, "there was fluid build up and swelling on the brain. Like the lung we had to drain the fluid so the swelling can reduce."

"Is he going to make it?" Chris asked for everyone.

"At the moment he's in a coma Chris." He slowly looked around the room then back to Chris who's eyes were now turned downward. "Chris, Ezra's not breathing on his own, he's hooked up to a machine that's breathing for him."

"Is there any brain activity?" Nathan held his breath as the shocked expressions looked towards him.

"There is brain activity, we checked that already but we'll have to wait to see if he wakes up before we'll be able to determine if there's any brain damage."

"Is he going to make it?" Lenny repeated the question that the Doctor was yet to answer.

"If he doesn't start breathing on his own . . . ," his own expression showed remorse, "he won't make it."

"And if he does start breathing?" Nathan continued to ask the questions, he knew everyone else would be in a state of shock, he also had a better understanding of what the Doctor was saying.

"Then it would be a matter of waiting to see if he comes out of the coma."

"How long are you willing to keep him on the machine?" Everyone knew what Nathan's question meant.

"As long as we believe there's a chance that he'll come out of the coma, we'll keep the machine breathing for him." Falex assured him.

"Do you think that he'll come out of it." Chris asked him when he got his lungs working again.

"As I said there is brain activity, so the odds are in Ezra's favour, there small odds at the moment but at least he has a chance." Doctor Falex tiredly pushed himself out of the chair. "There taking him to ICU now, Julie's going to come down and get you once he's settled." He was about to head to the door when he remembered something. "The marks on Ezra's forearms, he wasn't a drug addict at some point was he?" He thought he better explain after seeing the expressions that crossed the faces in front of him. "We did blood tests that came up clear but I need to know it he had been one at some stage, if he was we'll have to be careful with the pain medications that he'll need if he wakes up."

"No Ezra's never been on drugs, the needle marks were part of his cover, he was working undercover when this happened." Lenny explained to him.

"Okay, that's good." He felt awkward that he had to ask but he needed to know. "I've got other patients to see but I'll be back up to ICU shortly to check on Ezra."

"Thanks Doc." Chris's eyes returned to the carpet between his boots, he knew exactly how many speckles of colour were in the small area but he continued to count them.

"You can all go in for a couple of minutes but after that only two can stay with him at a time." Julie instructed them as they rode the elevator to the ICU. "We've put him close to the entrance so those of you who aren't in there can still see him from the doors."

"Thanks Julie." Chris forced a smile to cover his rugged features.

"That's okay, we know how you guys feel about each other." Julie frowned at Lenny when he snorted at the remark.

They stepped off the elevator and headed to the door that lead to the patients who were in a critical condition, Julie opened the door for them but they hesitated. Lenny though didn't, he pushed past them and walked to the bed that was going to keep his young friend a prisoner while he remained in this condition. He stood at the foot of the bed and looked down at Ezra. The first thing he saw was the thick tubing that led from the mouth piece to the machine that was doing his lungs work for them, his eyes moved to the bandage that was wrapped around his forehead, the bruising still managed to spread out from underneath it, giving the impression that he had two black eyes, the colouring a strong contrast to the white bandage and pale colour of Ezra's skin. The small bandages had been removed from the injuries that Chris had inflicted, the wounds were already beginning to heal.

"I know Ezra looks bad but he isn't in any pain." Julie assured Lenny as she came up to his side.

He didn't look at her, his gaze moved to Ezra's chest where the wires had been placed to monitor his heart rate, a smaller bandage peaked out from under the thin blanket that had been placed over Ezra. He stepped around the bed and moved closer to Ezra's left side, he sat down in the chair that had been made available for them and picked up the near lifeless hand with his own. He squeezed it once hoping that Ezra felt the comfort he was offering. He used his right hand to wipe the hair from Ezra's forehead while he spoke to him.

"Ezra, it's Lenny." The tears fell from his eyes, he wasn't afraid to show them, the others hadn't come in yet, they were allowing him some time alone with Ezra before they entered the room. "I'm here with you kid and so are your friends, I know you don't think they are at the moment but they care about you more than you realise Ezra. You should give them another chance and yeah I know what your thinking Ezra. Your lying there giving me one of your smart mouth comments and I agree with you, I'm not going to forgive them but hell, I don't even know them, I don't have to forgive them I mean that Larabee, he's a real asshole. Don't know why your respect that guy but you should forgive them Ezra and I'm going to make sure you do. I'll do the hitting and shouting for you, you just do the listening and forgiving." He continued to wipe the hair that was no longer there while he listened to the machines that told him Ezra was still alive. The oxygen machine made it's normal terrifying sound as it moved up and down, forcing the oxygen into his lungs and drawing out the carbon monoxide, the heart monitor continued to beep in a steady rythm.

Chris couldn't help but smile at the words that Lenny had spoken to Ezra, he had been standing close enough to the FBI Agent to hear what he was saying, he nodded to the men behind him to come closer. Each of them took in Ezra's appearance. They had all taken turns spending time in this hospital but none of them had been as close to death as Ezra was, he actually looked like death. Chris could hear JD's jerking breaths coming from behind him and knew he was about to loose control of his emotions.

"You and Lenny stay with him first Chris, we'll wait outside." Josiah gently pushed him towards the other empty chair. "I'll go and phone Maude and then do the Hospital paperwork."

Lenny quickly wiped his eyes when he heard the voices behind him, he looked up to see Chris sit down in the chair opposite him, he watched as he placed his hand over Ezra's and kept it there.

"Do you think he'll forgive us?" Chris asked Lenny.

"Depends on how hard your willing to try to gain his forgiveness." Lenny growled at him over Ezra's inert form.

Chris nodded in agreement, the silence then hung heavily around them as each turned their eyes to Ezra's slack features.

"We should be trying to get away from Denver Paul not stay in it." Glading tried to convince his cohort. They had just met up in one of their regular meeting places, a booth in a run down bar, they could see the front door and were sitting next to the exit that led to the back door. If someone entered the bar they could leave before they were seen.

"I don't know that Standish is dead yet and until I'm sure I'm not going anywhere." Collins knew that he had done a stupid thing by shooting Standish when there were people watching, the other Agent had also used his name in the coffee shop. He had been made and all because he had been stupid.

"What if he's not dead?" Glading was worried, getting two FBI Agents killed was one thing but to kill one of the Magnificent Seven as they were known was another. If Ezra Standish died, his friends wouldn't stop until he and Collins were in the same state.

"Then he will be because I'm not going anywhere until he's dead. He went through a lot of trouble to flush me out and I'm going to return the favour." Collins confidently announced.

Chris hated the sound of the machine that was breathing for Ezra, each time the noise echoed in his mind it forced the reality of Ezra's death into his thoughts driving out any hope that his friend would survive. He looked into the slack features of the man that lay in the bed in front of him, there was no movement at all from the prone figure and he wondered if there ever would be again. Making sure that he was careful of the IV tubes, Chris turned Ezra's arm so his forearm faced upwards. He carefully ran his finger along the needle marks, touching each one.

"Why did he have to be so convincing?" He looked over the still form into Lenny's light blue eyes and noticed for the first time how much they were like Vin's.

"Why did you have to be so brutal?" Lenny threw back at him, he lifted the hand that was still held firmly in his grip so Chris could see the healing torn flesh around Ezra's wrist.

"Because it was easier than admitting to something that I wasn't ready to accept." Chris didn't want to go into it with Lenny, he wasn't sure the man would understand.

"You want to explain that." Lenny laid Ezra's arm back down on the bed but didn't let go of his hand.

"I'd rather explain it to Ezra if he'd let me." Chris told him. "He's the one that deserves the apology, not that it's going to be enough to make up for what I did."

"He'll let you, I'll make sure that he does, but I'll be there with him Larabee, to make sure that you don't hurt him any more than you already have." Lenny's confident words told Chris that the FBI Agent wasn't threatening him, he was making a promise.

Chris nodded in agreement, Ezra had suffered enough already, he looked back at the pale features that were covered in bruises. His own hands had inflicted those bruises on Ezra's face, he knew they would heal but it was the emotional trauma that concerned him, it was going to take a lot more to heal the damage his friends had caused. They had used physical force to show their anger but he knew that it wouldn't have hurt as much as the hatred they had shown in their expressions and vocalised in their words. His guilt ridden thoughts turned to Lenny, he knew the man had to be close to Ezra, his eyes followed his thoughts to see the concern and worry that filled the older man's eyes.

"Lenny?" He ignored the angry expression. "How long have you known Ezra?"

"Ten years." His eyes took on a glazed look while his mind remembered distant memories.

Chris waited but Lenny's continued silence told him that he wasn't willing to say anymore. "How close are you?"

"Ezra loves me like a brother but he won't admit it, even after ten years, but I know exactly how he feels about me, he can't hide anything from me, never could." Lenny couldn't help but smile down at Ezra's expressionless face, he stroked his forehead with loving affection.

"And you?"

"Me?" Lenny's suprised expression quickly moved back to Chris but his eyes began to fill with moisture so he turned them back to Ezra, the sight of the tubes caused the tears to fall once again. "Ezra's the younger brother I never had."

Chris kept silent and gave Lenny the time he needed. Until Ezra improved there were going to be a lot of these awkward moments. They both turned to the sound of the door opening to see Josiah coming towards the bed. The normally quiet man stood beside Lenny and placed his hand on Ezra's lower thigh and squeezed it gently, hoping that the pressure would be enough to bring him back to them. He knew it was a false hope but he had to do something, he wasn't able to just stand there and stare at the man who looked more like death than life.

"Maude's in France." He informed them while his eyes continued to look at Ezra's inert form, he watched his chest rise and fall in rhythm with the machine that breathed for him. "I left a message with her answering service."

"That's going to make things a lot easier for everyone." Lenny sighed in relief while he used his free hand to dry his eyes.

Chris and Josiah gave each other a strained smile, they silently agreed with Lenny's admittance. They knew Ezra had a difficult relationship with his mother. Each time she flew in to visit, Ezra's mood became sombre, he closed himself off completely to everyone, they didn't understand why he acted this way towards his mother until her third visit. Ezra had been injured during one of his undercover operations and Maude had blamed him for what happened, saying that it was his own fault because he was an FBI Agent instead of the person she had brought him up to be. The visit had ended in a heated argument and it had taken two weeks for Ezra to get back to his normal alusive character.

"She must have been worried though to be ringing from France to see if he was okay." Josiah commented trying to break the silence that had once again filled the small area.

"Believe me, Maude has never cared about Ezra, she must've been phoning for her own selfish reasons." Lenny argued with him. "If Maude was here now she would be blaming all of this," he waved his hand above Ezra's upper body, "on Ezra, telling him it was own his fault that this happened."

The small area of the ICU became silent once more, allowing the noise coming from the machines that crowded the bed to echo in each of their minds, reminding them how close to death Ezra was. Josiah rubbed Ezra's leg in one last gesture of hope then walked away from his bed leaving the two rivals alone again.

"Lenny is going to stay with Ezra while we take turns." Chris informed the group of men who had gathered around him in the small waiting area outside the ICU.

"Because Hoskins says so?" Buck asked angrily.

"No! Because I say so!" Chris kept his voice down, he didn't want Lenny to hear their discussion but he did allow the anger to show on his rugged features. "He's known Ezra for ten years, their close and I'm not going to seperate them." He looked over his shoulder through the glass window and watched Lenny for a few moments, his head was down allowing Chris to see Ezra's face. "Lenny stays with him."

"That's going to make it hard for the rest of us to sit in there with him." Vin commented.

"Your not here to make conversation with Lenny and if you can't deal with him being in there while your sitting with Ezra then you can stay out here." Chris informed them. "Look, none of us know what Lenny's really like . . . "

"I know exactly what he's like." Buck interrupted Chris. "He didn't give any of us a chance during this operation, he didn't trust us and neither did Ezra. You heard what he called us, incompetent assholes."

"And we are, if we did our job right and trusted Ezra he wouldn't be lying on his death bed right now." Chris agreed with Lenny's observations of their abilities. "Besides why should Ezra trust us." Chris quickly moved closer to Buck until he was standing face to face with his old friend. "I gave him a concussion Buck, you gave him two cracked ribs. We haven't given him any reason to trust us and I wouldn't blame him if he didn't want anything to do with us if he survives." He hung his head and took a deep breath before looking back at the group. "You should be grateful that Lenny's allowing us to sit with him because he has every right to stop us."

"Ezra's not going to die." JD whispered more to himself than his friends, he moved away from them and walked into the ICU to take up his vigil of Ezra's comatosed form.

"Chris is right." Josiah had seen the tears in Lenny's eyes when he had told them about Maude. "Lenny cares about Ezra, he should stay with him."

"That's an order." Chris had seen the hesitant expressions on Buck and Vin's faces.

Buck was about to continue the argument but the sound of the elevator doors opening stopped him from speaking his mind. Judge Travis stepped through the doors before they fully opened and walked towards them. His understanding eyes turned to each man, he saw the mournful expressions they held, he walked to the window which allowed him to see into the ICU, he could see Lenny and JD sitting at Ezra's bedside, he saw the tubes that led to one of the many machines beside the bed and understood it's meaning. The machine was keeping Ezra alive, he didn't need to ask them how Ezra was doing, the sight before him told him everything he needed to know.

"There's brain activity," Chris had read the Judge's thoughts and stepped up to the window, he watched Ezra's face but spoke to Judge Travis, "Doctor Falex said that if he doesn't start breathing on his own he won't make it."

"If he does?" Travis turned his head to look at Chris, he could no longer gaze upon Ezra's machine breathing form.

"Then we wait for him to come out of the coma." Chris informed him.

Lenny jerked awake, a small gasp escaping from his dry throat, he blinked his eyes in confusion and once they were able to focus he could see Ezra lying in the bed, the tubes still attached to the mouth piece, he could also hear the heart monitor that told him Ezra was still alive. He looked down at his watch and frowned, he'd been asleep for three hours, it was the first time he had slept in four days.

"You okay Lenny?" Nathan asked him from the other side of the bed, he was worried about the FBI Agent, he hadn't eaten much in the four days they had been here and the three hour reprieve he had just woken from wasn't enough to keep him going. The older man needed to keep his strength up but he refused to eat a decent meal or sleep and only left Ezra's side when he had no choice.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Lenny wiped the sleep from his tired eyes, he was suprised to see Nathan there. Buck had been sitting in the other chair when he fell asleep, he was grateful that the angry stare was gone. After everything that happened Buck and Vin now tried to take their anger out on him, he didn't care, he would take anything they threw at him, because the anger was no longer aimed at Ezra and once he knew that Ezra was going to be okay then he would display his own anger. "Ezra?"

"No change." Nathan informed him. "Doctor Falex was here earlier, checked him over, his pupils are still unresponsive."

Nathan watched him carefully, Chris had told them how close Lenny and Ezra were, it was also written all over the older man's face each time he looked at Ezra. They were family, much like the members of Team Seven had become, Ezra though was the black sheep of the family, at first he had refused to become part of it, not allowing the others to get close to him for reasons the rest of the team were yet to figure out. The southerner kept himself and his feelings behind a wall that he had built around himself trying to make them think that he didn't care but they knew he did, when one of the others were hurt they could see it in his eyes, and his body language spoke volumes but he still refused to voice his concerns.

It had taken two months before a friendship had finally begun to develope between Ezra and the others, Vin had been the first one to start breaking down the wall, Josiah, Buck and JD were next. Nathan knew he had kept himself at a distance because he was yet to fully trust the southerner and he knew that Chris mirrored his concerns. But even after the friendship had started to grow Ezra still refused to show any emotions, he continued to hide everything behind his calm facade they had begun to call his poker face.

"Lenny can I ask you something?" Nathan decided to voice his thoughts to find out if they had any hope of getting closer to Ezra.

"Sure." Lenny was glad of the distraction, Nathan was the only he was able to have a conversation with, neither of them held any anger towards each other.

"How long did it take you to break down Ezra's wall?"

"You mean the one he uses to stop people from getting close to him so they can't hurt him?" Lenny smiled but his eyes still held the sadness he felt.

"Is that why he won't let us in, he thinks we'll hurt him?" Nathan frowned down at Ezra and thought he saw a movement that went against the rhythm of the machine.

"That's one reason, he's been hurt by people all his life, he built the wall to protect himself against that pain, he doesn't want it to happen again. He also uses it to hide his feelings, his mother taught him to hide everything ever since he was a child, told him that people would think he was weak if he showed his emotions and that they would take advantage of him, the woman has a lot to answer for." He paused for a moment and took a deep breath before he continued. "Took me five years before I could get him to fully trust me and open himself up to me, now he'll tell me anything and everything." Lenny followed Nathan's gaze, curious as to what he was looking at, he saw nothing different. "He hasn't let anyone else get that close to him."

"Do you think we might have a chance with him?" Nathan turned back to Lenny when he didn't see anything to confirm his hopes.

"You did have one, I don't know anymore though." Lenny leaned forward and looked into Nathan's gentle brown eyes. "We speak to each other whenever we can, we visit each other when our jobs allow it. Ezra told me all about you guys, said that he finally thought he found a place he could call home and friends that he could see himself getting close to . . . " He shrugged his shoulders. "He knew that it would take time and a lot of effort on his part but then this situation came up and he had to pull himself away from all of you. I hoped that he was right, he's too much of a loner, he needs friends, other people that he could confide in but after what I saw, I mean the way they treated him Nathan." He rubbed his eyes hoping to rid them of the sleep that wanted to take him back to it's embrace. "I told Chris I'd do what I could to help but I don't if it's what Ezra would want."

Nathan smiled as he saw another movement that went against the machine. "Well Lenny, I think we might have a chance to find out!" He stood up quickly and pushed his chair out of the way while at the same time pulling the blanket back. He placed his large right hand against Ezra's bare chest next to the small bandage that had been changed only an hour before and the other hand against the slack right cheek, covering half of Ezra's face and waited.

"Nathan what's going on?" Lenny also stood, the hope catching in his throat caused his voice to break.

"Push the buzzer Lenny." Nathan noticed that Lenny didn't hesitate, the man trusted him.

Nathan ignored the nurse who ran to the bed to find out what the emergency was, she moved closer to the patient after pulling Lenny out of the way. She glanced at the slack face then up at the large man leaning over him, her eyes moved downward again and she also saw the movement.

"I'll get the Doctor." She spoke quietly but her voice was firm.

"Nathan?" Lenny called him, he didn't get response but he heard him talk to Ezra and the air froze in his own lungs.

"Come on Ezra, try and take another one." Nathan began to wipe the unbandaged area of Ezra's forehead with his hand, his eyes moving from his face to his chest and back again. "Come on Ezra you can do it!"

Lenny watched as the nurse ran back to the bed with the Doctor behind her, he also felt movement beside him and turned to see Chris standing next to him, his eyes moved back to the bed and his heart broke when he heard the choking noises coming from Ezra.

"Turn the machine off." The Doctor ordered the nurse. He expertly detached the tubes from the mouth piece while Nathan lifted Ezra's head and pulled the pillow out of the way, he laid his head back down while Ezra struggled to breath around the tube that was blocking his airway.

Lenny continued to watch as the Doctor quickly but gently removed the tube from Ezra's throat and everyone heard the deep intake of breath which was released, and another one was taken.

Nathan turned towards his friends, a huge smile covering his face. "Ezra's breathing on his own."

Lenny let go of the breath that he was holding, he felt someone slap him on the back but he didn't look to see who it was, he wanted to sit back down in his chair next to Ezra but the Doctor wasn't finished. He spent a few minutes monitoring Ezra's breathing and heart rate and then checked his pupils.

"Nathan's right, Ezra's now breathing on his own." The Doctor informed them.

"He's going to make it then?" JD asked him.

"His chances have improved but he's still in a coma. We'll monitor him closely for the next twenty four hours and if his condition hasn't deteriated we'll move him out of the ICU into a room on the general ward." He turned to the nurse and began giving her instructions as they walked back to the nurses station.

Lenny moved back to the chair and sat down, he picked up Ezra's hand and began to stroke his forehead. He ignored the men that stood around the bed and leaned closer to Ezra, he started to talk to him hoping that he would hear him.

Chris listened to Lenny, his words causing a smile to grow on his own face. Lenny was encouraging him to wake up so he could help him take care of his so called friends, he knew that he was hoping his words would make Ezra angry enough to wake up, it was something that he would have done himself. He turned to his friends and ushered them out of the ICU. He knew that it was going to be a long twenty four hours and he silently prayed that Ezra wouldn't suffer any complications, once he had gotten through those hours it would then be only a matter of time until he woke up.

Glading shifted in his seat and felt his sweat soaked shirt pull away from his back, he leaned back into the seat only to still feel uncomfortable, he glanced sideways at Collins and watched as the small droplet of sweat ran down the side of his face. Glading hated summer, it made his receding hair line even worse, the remaining red hair on his scalp became even thinner when it was wet, he subconsiously used his hand to wipe it across the bald spot. He shifted his eyes nervously to the rearview mirror and lowered himself even further in the seat when he saw a woman in a nurses uniform walk towards the car. Glading's body moved but his damp shirt stuck to the seat, it pulled the damp material from the waist band of his pants causing his flesh to rub against the vinyl, he froze at the squeaky noise his skin made as he forced it down the back of the car seat.

"Will you please sit still!" Collins growled at him but he kept his green eyes glued to the front doors of the hospital.

"Someone is going to see us." Glading warned him, he leaned forward and pulled his shirt back down.

"No one is going to see us." He lifted his glasses from his face and wiped the sweat that had built up around his eyes.

"We can't get to him in there, they won't leave him alone for a minute, they'll catch us first." Glading began to complain again, he couldn't understand why they had to keep sitting in here in the heat of the car when they could be sitting on a beach somewhere.

"It's been more than a week and they haven't left yet, that means Standish is still alive." He turned his hate filled eyes sideways so he could look at Glading's profile. "I'm not going anywhere until that man is dead! He ruined my career and he's going to pay for it with his life!"

"And how are you going to get to him when there's seven men who won't leave his bedside?" Glading rolled down the passenger window only to find that there wasn't enough of a breeze to give him a reprieve from the summer heat.

"He has to leave the hospital at some point, and so do his friends." They had been watching the hospital for three days now and were yet to see a member of Team Seven. Judge Travis and other ATF Agents had made an appearence, bringing them the everyday necessities the team needed to help them get through their vigil of their fallen comrade. "I have plenty of time to wait."

Glading looked more closely at Collins and wondered why he had ever let him talk him into this, sure he paid him a lot of money but what good will it be if he got himself killed or spent the rest of his life in jail for killing a Federal Agent. He began to think of a way to get himself out of the mess that he had allowed his greed to get him into.

Nathan gently slapped the handsome face that had turned to the side, allowing his head to fall onto his left shoulder, giving Nathan an advanced warning that he was waking up, the face grimaced at the touch and a hand lifted to stop Nathan from hitting him again. Nathan looked over his shoulder at his friends, Chris seemed to be the only one that was enjoying the scene before them.

"Time to wake up." Nathan smiled down at the figure that had slept for eleven hours, he began to shake his shoulder trying to bring him out of the deep healing sleep he'd been in.

The man groaned and turned over onto his side, his hand trying to push Nathan away at the same time. Chris moved forward and hit the leg that hung over the bed, this gave them the desired result they were after. He jerked awake and sat up, he eyes darted around the room in confusion, then focused on the inert form that still lay in a coma.

"What happened?" Lenny looked up into Nathan's eyes.

"You fell asleep." Nathan told him.

"Asleep, I don't remember falling asleep." The forehead frowned in concentration, the last thing he remembered was drinking a cup of coffee then nothing. "What the hell did you give me?" Lenny demanded to know.

"You needed to sleep Lenny, it's been a week, you were exhausted." Nathan explained, he stepped away from the second bed in the hospital room when Lenny jumped off it and made his way back to Ezra's bedside.

"If Ezra woke up while I was asleep there'll be hell to pay." Lenny growled at the group.

"He hasn't woken up yet." Chris informed him.

Lenny sighed and rubbed his eyes, he took a few moments and watched his friend carefully, the wounds on his cheek and forehead were nearly healed and the gunshot wound was now covered by a small bandage but he still hadn't woken up from the coma.

"How long was I asleep for?" He sat down heavily in the chair and picked up Ezra's hand.

"Nearly twelve hours." Nathan smiled carefully, he wasn't sure how Lenny was going to react. "I asked Doctor Falex to give me something that I could put in your coffee." He winced when Lenny glared at him.

"Don't do it again Nathan, I won't forgive you so easily next time." The older man warned him. That meant it had now been three days since they moved Ezra into this room, the forlorn expression that covered his face echoed the dread that began to fill his heart.

"You were making yourself sick Lenny, what good would you be to Ezra if he woke up to find you in a sick bed." Nathan gathered all his courage together and glared back at him.

"He's not going to wake up." Lenny gave in to the inevitable. "If he was he would have woken up by now."

Nathan moved forward and put his hand on his shoulder. "Don't give up on him Lenny, Ezra's a fighter, always has been."

"He hasn't exactly got anything to fight for anymore, I know he won't take his job back, he's lost his friends." Lenny knew he wasn't fully awake and he was allowing his emotions to get the better of him, he tried to fight them but he had been holding them back for a week and they took advantage of his weakened state. "Why won't he just give up, I can't stand to see him like this anymore." He threw Ezra's hand back onto the bed and leaned back, he covered his eyes and allowed the tears to fall. He felt Nathan squeeze his shoulder again but this time in sympathy, he shrugged him off and placed his head on the bed, his forehead resting on Ezra's arm.

"He still has you Lenny and us even if he doesn't know it, were not going to give up on him and neither should you." Chris reminded him. "Ezra will wake up, just give him some time, even you should know how stubborn he is about waking up when he's not ready.

Lenny laughed and nodded in agreement, it was something the two of them had in common, they both hated early mornings. He lifted his head and wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve. "I'm sorry, I don't usually get this emotional in front of people."

"You and Ezra seem to have a lot in common." During the last week Chris had seen characteristics that Lenny shared with Ezra, he silently groaned at the thought of now having two of them to deal with.

"Disliked each other on sight." Lenny remembered the first time they had met. "He was a smart mouth maverick who was willing to risk his life to get the bad guy."

"So nothing's changed then." Chris smiled, it had also been his first impression of the southerner but he found out with on the job experience that it was the way Ezra worked and if he risked his life it was usually to save someone else's.

Lenny lifted his damp eyes to look more closely at Chris, he was beginning to understand why Ezra respected him so much but the acknowledgement did nothing to ease his anger at the situation that Ezra was put in, he still intended to pay the man back for the physical and emotion abuse that he had given his young friend.

Ezra groaned - well he at least thought he groaned - when the sound of the alarm began to break through his sleep clouded mind, he tried to lift his arm so he could throw the clock against the wall, he was looking forward to hearing it break into half a dozen pieces then fall to the floor so it would join the other ones that had previously been broken. He began to relax again so he could go back to sleep but the sound continued to vibrate within his mind causing him to become irritated. He seemed to remember breaking the clock earlier, he was about to break it again when he remembered his clock was actually set to the radio position, he hated waking up to the buzzing sound, not that the awful racket they called music these days was any better, what was with the crap JD listened to. He would have to educate the boy in the finer points of music that didn't damage a listener's eardrums. But he realised that it wasn't a buzzing noise he heard, it was more like a beeping sound, he rolled over onto his side - or so he thought - before falling back to sleep.

"Eat it!" Nathan placed the tray of food next to Ezra's unmoving legs.

"How do I know you haven't put something in it to make me sleep!" Lenny's disgusted look told Nathan what he thought about hospital food.

"You don't!" Nathan retalitated, he was really becoming tired of the agrevation this man was causing him, he was nearly as bad as Ezra.

"Then I'm not going to eat it!"

"If I didn't know any better I would say you and Ezra were brothers." Nathan threw his hands into the air in frustration. "Did you teach him how to be stubborn or was it the other way around?"

Lenny smiled at him and realised the man was serious, his smile dropped from his face, he looked around the larger man at the small group of men who were smiling at him, then back at Nathan, his mouth opened then closed again.

"Yep, your just like him." Nathan muttered under his breath.

"I'm sure Ezra would take that as a compliment." The smile returned to Lenny's face.

Guns were quickly pulled from their holsters when the door to the room was pushed open, tensed muscles relaxed when they saw the pizza delivery man. There had been no sightings of Glading or Collins and the group of men were now not only waiting for Ezra to wake up but were also protecting him, there would only be one reason the two rogue agents were still in Denver, they wanted to make sure they finished the job they started.

"Um, sorry guys but I couldn't handle the food in this place anymore." JD admitted as he stepped forward to take the pizzas from the young man's hands, he handed him some money then pushed him back out of the room.

"Now that I would eat." Lenny licked his lips, the smell alone was enough to make him feel hungry.

'Good Lord.' He waited for answer, thinking that he spoke aloud but he didn't receive one. The incessant sound of the beeping was beginning to drive him mad, he wanted nothing more than to tear whatever it was from the wall and shoot it. He now had all intentions of buying Buck a decent alarm clock. He knew he was in the cesspit that Buck and JD called an apartment, who else would eat pizza for breakfast. He frowned but his forehead didn't show the movement. 'Why am I here in this cesspool?' he thought for a moment and felt the headache that was pounding in his skull. 'Must have a hangover, doesn't explain why I'm here though.' He feel asleep again while trying to figure a way out of his predicament.

"His pupils are responding." Doctor Falex happily informed the group of men who stood around the bed, they had been waiting for ten days to hear those words.

"He's waking up?" Lenny couldn't believe what he was saying, he wanted to but doubt nagged at his mind.

"Yes Lenny, he's waking up, it might still take him a couple of days but he's coming out of the coma."

"Your sure?"

"He's a Doctor Lenny," Nathan rolled his eyes at him, "of course he's sure."

"He's coming out of the coma?" Lenny asked again, he couldn't stop the smile from showing on his face.

"Doctor, wasn't there something you had to do?" Chris asked him and smiled at the mouthed thankyou.

Nathan stepped closer to Lenny after the Doctor had left. "Lenny!" he waited until he had his attention, he didn't want to ruin the good news but he had to make sure that Lenny was still aware of the potential brain damage the bullet may have caused.

"What?" Lenny saw the serious expression and knew what Nathan was about to say. "I won't think about that until he wakes up Nathan, I can't think about that, not yet." He sat back down in the chair and squeezed Ezra's hand, he now knew that the affection was going to be returned, it was now just a matter of time.

Nathan stepped back, he felt the same but refused to push the thoughts away. Ezra had a quick intelligent mind and none of them wanted to see it dulled by a gunshot wound.

'Will someone turn that damn noise off!' Ezra yelled then frowned when his voice didn't sound in his own ears. 'I'm not deaf, I can still hear that beeping noise.' He tried to sit up but his limbs were too heavy. 'Maybe it's more than a hangover.' He grimaced at the pain that continued to pound in his head, it was becoming more irritating than the noise that wouldn't stop. 'I'm in hell, there is no other explanation.' He frowned in concentration and this time his forehead mirrored the movement that was in his mind.

"Ezra?" Lenny whispered in his ear, he had seen the frown that crossed his pale features, and was nearly brought to tears by the movement.

Ezra heard his name being called as the voice fought it's way through his mud filled mind but he fell asleep again before he could ask them why they wouldn't turn that irritating noise off or give him something to stop the pain that continued to torment him.

"Did you see that Nathan? He frowned." Lenny looked across Ezra's sleeping form at Nathan, his returning smile told him that he had seen it. "Chris?" He was to happy to be angry but he knew that emotion will return later, he wasn't ready to forget what they had done to Ezra.

"I saw it Lenny." Chris turned and looked at the others and saw smiles that he knew would be just as large as his.

"Ezra!" Doctor Falex waited patiently for a response, it had been three days since his pupils responded to his examination, he should have woken by now but he knew Ezra, the man was being lazy, he wanted to sleep. "Ezra!"

Ezra heard the voice but didn't recognise it so he continued to ignore it, he just wanted to sleep, he was tired and the hangover he had was not helping.

"Ezra!" Lenny spoke loudly in his ear and was rewarded with a grimace. "Wake up Ezra!"

He knew that voice and the tone it held told him he was in trouble, he turned his head away from the voice and hoped that it would go away. He became aware of the beeping sound, it was still there, the noise was becoming a constant source of torture.

"Ezra wake up!" Lenny raised his voice, if it wasn't for the serious expression on Falex's face he would be enjoying himself.

Lenny watched as Ezra turned his head back towards his voice, he could see that he was struggling to open his eyes, they slowly fluttered open, giving him a glimpse of the green eyes that hid behind the eyelids but they quickly disappeared again.

"Ezra will you do as your told!" Chris growled down at him, he had moved into the position the Doctor had just vacated.

Now he knew he was in trouble, if Lenny and Chris were mad at him, he must have done something wrong. He frowned again as a memory tried to force it's way to his consciousness, he didn't do anything wrong, they did.

"Ezra!" Lenny watched as the eyelids lifted again, the normal bright eyes were dull and full of confusion, they stared back at him for a few seconds then closed again.

He finally managed to open his eyes to see a blurred figure standing over him, he tried to blink his eyes to clear his vision but they wouldn't open again, they stayed closed, it felt like someone had glued them together. 'Probably Buck.' he thought to himself, it was something only he would do. He turned his head back to the beeping noise, God he hated that sound. His mind went back into a peaceful oblivion before he could voice his protest against the noise that he thought would never end.

"I'll come back in a few hours and we'll wake him up again." Falex saw Lenny's concern. "Don't worry it's normal, it'll get easier to wake him up and he'll stay awake longer each time."

He woke up again to the beeping noise, now he was angry, why were they doing this to him. This time he was going to voice his anger, he didn't care if he hurt Buck's feelings, he shouldn't have bought an alarm clock that only beeped. 'Will you turn that damn noise off!' But all he heard was the word 'noise' and even then it was only a hoarse whisper.

"Ezra? It's Lenny." He moved closer to Ezra's face, he saw the frown that turned into an angry grimace.

". . . noise . . ." Ezra tried again and failed miserably, he was becoming more agitated.

"Ezra?" Lenny didn't understand what he was talking about, maybe the Doctor was right and there was brain damage.

". . . hate . . . it."

"Ezra, what are you talking about?" Nathan used his firm voice and Ezra turned his head towards him.

". . . noise . . . hate . . . it." Ezra forced his eyes to open, but the heaviness caused them to shut again, he waited a moment then opened them again, they fell shut before he could focus on Nathan's voice. ". . . beeping . . . hate . . . it."

Nathan looked at Lenny and saw the confusion that also filled his mind, his eyes saw the heart monitor behind him and he realised what it was Ezra was saying.

"It's the heart monitor Ezra." Nathan explained to him.

". . . no . . . alarm . . . clock." He opened his eyes again and saw the dark figure hovering over him. ". . . Buck's . . ." He allowed his eyes to close again, they were to heavy. ". . . cesspit . . ."

"Ezra thinks he's at my place?" Buck moved closer to the bed, the worry filling his thoughts.

"Nathan is there brain damage?" Lenny asked him, his fear sounding in his voice.

"I don't think there's brain damage, I think he's just confused, his speech was fine, it wasn't slurred and I could see the confusion in his eyes." Nathan assured them.

". . . Lenny . . ." Ezra turned towards his friend's voice and felt the warm hand on his face, he smiled underneath it. ". . . noise . . ." He allowed the darkness to take him back because he knew the beeping sound wouldn't be there.

"I'm here Ezra, I'm not going anywhere." He felt more than saw the smile that Ezra expressed and he finally allowed the tears that had filled his eyes to fall, one of them hitting Ezra's face, he wiped it away with his thumb. He had recognised his voice, he now knew he was going to be okay physically but he still had a long way to go, they still had to repair the emotional damage and find the man who shot him.

Chris sat quietly beside the bed, the natural afternoon sunlight shone through the window, it's light filtering across the bed revealing Ezra's pale features. His eyes moved from Ezra's sleeping form to Lenny's relaxed expression, the tension had flowed from his face when Ezra had woken up from his coma. The younger man wasn't lucid but Nathan had assured them that he didn't seem to be suffering any sort of after effects from the gunshot wound that had fractured his skull. Doctor Falex had agreed with Nathan's untrained diagnosis after he had examined Ezra when he woke up again a few hours later.

He watched Lenny carefully, thinking the man was anware of his scrutiny, he wanted to believe that Lenny would help them to recover the friendship the team had lost when they retaliated against Ezra's convincing cover, but he wasn't sure, the man reminded him of Ezra and he wondered if he too found it hard to form friendships but he pushed the thought away, it wasn't Lenny's friendship that he wanted, he wanted to fight for Ezra's, he also needed it. Chris would do anything to gain the trust and friendship that he had so viciously destroyed without remorse. He felt no guilt over what he had done until Nathan's words broke through his hatred of the younger man. 'He's working undercover.' The words had continued to echo in his mind for the last two weeks.

His mind had instantly dismissed the hatred of Ezra's betrayal and began to fill with feelings of remorse but also something else, something that he had been denying and it was this that he had to explain to Ezra. Chris had tried explaining it to himself first but the thoughts were confused, he needed to get them in order or he would never convince Ezra of the reason he had treated him so badly. Chris looked at Ezra's peaceful face once more then looked back at Lenny.

"It's not me you have to convince Larabee." Lenny told him.

"I know." Chris hung his head, he wasn't suprised by Lenny's comment, the man was able to read his expression but he had made it easy for him by not hiding his emotions. "But how are we going to get him back?"

"I told you that I would help you." Lenny pulled his eyes away from Ezra's face, he had been watching for the grimace that occassionaly crossed the handsome features and he still felt relief each time he saw the movement that he thought he would never see again.

"Why?" Chris hadn't asked him why when he last offered to help but he wanted to know now.

"Before all this happened, Ezra respected and liked you, the others as well but he felt like an outsider who was trying to intrude on an already formed family." His light blue eyes turned back to Ezra and Chris followed his gaze. "He didn't think he was welcome which actually made things easier for him, didn't think he had to worry about people pretending to be his friend, he thought none of you were willing to try and develope a friendship with him." He saw the guilt that filled Chris's eyes and tried to wave it away. "Don't blame yourself Chris, Ezra is just as much at fault than the rest of you, probably more so. He pushes people away, won't let them get close to him because he doesn't know if they'll accept him for the person he really is instead of the person that he pretends to be." He used his hand to wipe Ezra's face, making sure he was careful of the nearly healed abrassion that Chris had caused. "Friendship is something he won't accept at face value, he thinks there's a catch, a payment of some sort and he's not prepared to play the game."

Chris had never taken the time to find out why Ezra always stood on the outside of the circle insteading of stepping into it and taking part in the family that the team had formed but then again they had never really made a real effort to invite him in. Vin had been the first to do so and it had taken weeks before Ezra began to accept the extended hand of friendship but there were days when he threw it back into their faces, now he knew why, they must have done something to make him think they wanted something in return for the friendship.

"When I first offered him friendship, he had actually phoned his mother and accused her of paying me to get close to him." Lenny laughed at the thought. "He thinks friendship is only offered for a reason and once the person has what they were after they would then leave him alone again. Ezra grew up alone and had to fend for himself, it's become habit, he won't allow himself to depend on others, he's become to independent for his own good."

"So what changed his mind?"

"With you or me?" Lenny wasn't sure who Chris was talking about.

"Both." Was the simple reply.

"It took me five years of hard work to break down his wall of defense, almost gave up on him a few times but once it started to crack I knew the effort was worthwhile. Ezra can be a very loyal friend, will do anything to help me, even give his life." He took a deep breath when he thought about how Ezra had almost done that with this operation. "With you, it was when you gave him a second chance after the first operation, the one he ran out on."

Chris nodded, he rememebered that day, he hadn't asked for a reason from the southerner, he had know about the rumors of him being on the take, he had been transferred to his team without any notice. He had given up on his job and the people around him but something had brought him back, he risked his own life to save the teams, it was because of those reasons he had given him a second chance. Ever since then Ezra had done anything and everything he could to make up for his mistake and show Chris that he was grateful for the chance. Chris mentally kicked himself for not seeing these things sooner.

"I never completely trusted him after that day, even though I gave him another chance, there has always been a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that he would run out on us again, and when this happened I thought that he had, I thought he threw that chance away." Chris admitted but it wasn't the only reason for his anger towards Ezra.

"The fishing trips that you guys go on, the photos in your office." Lenny saw the shocked expression on Chris's face and ignored it. "Was Ezra ever invited?"

"Not the first few times." Now it was Chris's turn to laugh. "He did his job, I had no problem with that but socially, we couldn't even get a smile out him for the first month, all we got was smartass comments, still get them even now. Then after that first job, he seemed to be more comfortable with us so we started asking him to join us at Inez's Bar for a drink, he kept saying no, that he had prior engagements, we believed him in the beginning, then we started to think that he was just being unsociable, stuckup as Buck would put it." He lifted Ezra's hand and began to stroke the fingers without realising it. "Then we started to notice things, this look would come over him when he thought we weren't looking, he looked lonely." His eyes lifted, he looked into Lenny's eyes and saw understanding. "After three months we finally asked him to come, he said no, his mother was visiting that weekend, we knew that was a lie, you can tell when that woman was going to show up, Ezra's mood got even worse, especially in the mornings. After the fourth month he finally said yes, the picture on my desk is the one taken on that weekend, don't know why I didn't put the one with Ezra in the photo in it, kept telling myself it was habit."

"That was the weekend after he agreed to do this case, must have thought he wouldn't get invited again." Lenny smiled but the expression was full of sadness.

"Everytime we seemed to start getting to him he would do or say something that would totally piss me off, and we would be back at square one again." He smiled at Lenny, he didn't think a friendship would develope between them but he knew he would end up respecting the guy, anyone who got Ezra to open up deserved respect. "Did he ever do that to you?"

"What do you mean did, he still does." Lenny returned the smile. "I think it's in his nature, his mouth always talks before his brain thinks."

Ezra woke to the sound of voices and that damn beeping sound that wanted to echo the beating of his heart, obviously no one had the consideration to turn it off, each time it sounded his head seemed to hurt even more. He had enough of it, he wanted it off, even if he had to do it himself.

"Will someone . . . turn that . . . fucking noise off!" He tried to sound angry but his voice was weak.

"Ezra." It was Lenny's voice, he'd turn if off for him.

"Turn it . . . off!" He turned his head towards Lenny voice and waited. The noise still vibrated within his skull. "Turn it off!"

"Ezra we can't." Chris told him, he squeezed his hand trying to reassure him.

Ezra felt someone grip his hand, he knew it wasn't Lenny, his voice had come from a different direction, it must be Chris, he weakly pulled his hand away but the effort was futile, his limb didn't have the strength to free itself. He opened his eyes and looked for Lenny, it took a couple of minutes before his eyes would focus on his friend. "Lenny . . . turn it off!" He pleaded him.

"Ezra . . ." Chris tried to get his attention.

"Turn the fucking thing off!" Ezra began to become more agitated, he could hear the noise begin to beat faster in rhythm with his heart beat, it was torture on his mind. "Turn it off!"

Lenny leaned back and twisted himself in his seat, he turned the machine off and silence filled the room. He turned back to Ezra to find his green eyes staring up at him. "It's okay now Ezra, I turned it off."

Ezra nodded his thanks but winced at the pain that the movement caused, he hadn't noticed the pain until now, he had been too concerned with the noise that was causing another sort of pain. He closed his eyes and tried to calm down.

"Lenny, my . . . head . . . hurts." He drifted back into the world of slumber.

"You can turn it back on now Lenny." Chris listened to Ezra's steady breathing, it told him he had fallen back to sleep.

"No, Ezra asked me to turn it off, so it stays off." Lenny knew it was more than stubborness, the noise was aggrevating Ezra, it seemed to be causing him more pain.

Before Chris could argue, the door was pushed open, Doctor Falex and a nurse quickly entered the room, they were followed by the other members of Chris's team. Their faces were filled with fear, they thought something had gone wrong.

"Why is the heart monitor turned off?" Falex asked both Chris and Lenny.

"Ezra asked me to turn it off." It was a simple statement but his tone told the Doctor that he wouldn't allow anyone to turn it back on. "He also said his head hurts, are you going to give him anything for the pain?"

"Not yet." He stepped back from Lenny's angry stare. "He's only awake for a few minutes at a time, I don't want to give him pain killers until they would actually be of some use to him, besides, they would only make him drowsy, just the excuse Ezra would need to stay alseep when he should be awake."

"He's got a point there Lenny." Nathan told him.

Doctor Falex stepped forward again when he saw the doubt on Lenny's face. "Agent Hoskins, at the moment it's the pain that is causing Ezra to wake up on his own, without it we would have to forcebly wake him up and I for one don't want to do that. The last time this man was in here he had a serious concussion, he broke a nurse's nose when he tried to wake him."

"I get your point." Lenny smiled.

"So did the nurse, as soon as he found out Ezra was back he asked to be moved to another ward." Falex's attempt at humour eased the tension in the room but no one asked Lenny to turn the heart monitor back on.

"Lenny is going to help us repair the damage we did with Ezra." Chris told the men that sat around the table. They had left the Federal agent alone with Ezra so they could discuss what they were going to do about Ezra. "I thought we could each take a turn sitting with him and explain our reasons for what happened, I don't expect his forgivness there and then but we have to say something to him or he's going to think that we're backing up what we did to him with silence. We have to get it through to him that we care."

Josiah turned and looked at the door at the end of the corridor, they hadn't strayed to far from Ezra's room, they sat around the table in the waiting area. "That's going to be hard, I don't think he'll want to listen."

"Lenny's going to make sure that he does." Chris told them.

"So why does he want to help us?" Buck put his near empty cup of coffee on the table, he was beginning to like the taste of the foul liquid.

"Let's just say that he understands our relationship with Ezra better than any of us do and that includes Ezra." His cold blue eyes caused Buck to flinch under his gaze.

"I don't know what to say to him." JD admitted. He had spent the first two weeks fearing for Ezra's life, now he was afraid that Ezra would never forgive him for what he had done.

"I'm sure you'll think of something when the time comes." Nathan affectionately rubbed his head.

"You haven't got anything to worry about JD, you didn't do anything, neither did Nathan, it's the rest of us that have to do all the work." Chris told him, he watched as the others nodded in agreement.

"That's exactly what I did, nothing, I didn't trust him or believe him, that's just as bad as what you guys did." JD muttered.

"I'm not really one for words either, what am I going to say?" Vin spoke quietly knowing that they would hear him, he had also shown a lot of anger towards Ezra, he had no idea how to repair the damage that he had caused the friendship, when it happened he had blamed Ezra, he now knew he was wrong, he should have known that Ezra wouldn't do anything to put the trust that had begun to develope at risk, he'd made a misake the he would always regret.

Chris stood up and glared down at all of them. "I'm not doing your talking for you, if you really care about your friendship with Ezra, you'll know what to say." He turned on his heels and walked back to the room, muttering under his breath. "No wonder Ezra found it so hard to let us in." He was still talking under his breath when he sat down in the chair next to Ezra's bed, he ignored Lenny's amused to look and scowled at the others as they followed him into the room.

This time there was blissful silence, no alarm clocks, no head banging music and most of all no beeping. He lay unmoving enjoying the silence, he even tolerated his headache. The only thing he wanted to do was to squeeze his eyes tighter against the light that was trying to find it's way through to his darkened mind. He flinched when he felt a hand on his forehead, it began to stroke his face, he moved his head away from the touch, he had no idea who it was and he wasn't willing to open his eyes to find out who the hand belonged to.

"Ezra?" Lenny saw the quick reaction when he put his hand on Ezra's face and knew he was awake.

It was Lenny, that was okay, he moved his head back towards the voice and felt the hand again. He frowned, there were others here before, Nathan and Chris, what if the hand belonged to one of them. Nathan was alright but he didn't want Chris near him. Ezra grimaced when he remembered the hate he had seen in the blue eyes only days before, he could still feel the pain that the expression caused him.

"Ezra!" Lenny tried again with more force in his tone.

'Aw hell, he wants me to wake up.' Ezra thought to himself, he weakly lifted his hand and tried to push Lenny's away, he wanted to go back to sleep, he didn't want to find out if Chris and the others were there. He couldn't even remember where here was, he had no idea what was going on and he didn't want to know.

"Ezra? Wake up." Chris knew he was being stubborn, he smiled at the thought.

He was here, he tried to roll onto his left side away from the voice but a sharp pain erupted in his chest, a small cry of pain escaped from his throat and hands pushed him back over.

"Take it easy Ezra, just relax." Lenny wiped a loose strand of hair from his forehead and watched the eyelids flutter open, he smiled down at the green eyes and kept the expression in place when he saw the anger in Ezra's eyes.

"What happened Lenny? Where am I?" Ezra looked around the room, what he saw answered his question before Lenny could speak, he was in a hospital room with everyone watching him, he turned his head back so he could look at his only friend. "How did he know I was working undercover?" He recalled the expression on Collins face before he shot him, it had told him that his cover had been blown.

"I'm sorry Ezra, that was my fault." Nathan moved to the foot of the bed, he could see the anger in Ezra's eyes but it didn't stop him from giving him an explanation. "Your mother called, she wanted to know why you were getting vitamin shots, I put two and two together but made the mistake of telling the others in front of Glading."

"My mother phoned?" He was shocked. Ezra could see the guilt Nathan was feeling, he could see it in his eyes, the way his shoulders were slumped. "It wasn't your fault Nathan, you didn't know about Glading."

Nathan felt the relief flood through him, he knew Ezra was sincere, now if only he could get him to forgive him for everything else.

"Nathan." Ezra turned his eyes back to Lenny. "Has she phoned since?"

"Yeah, Lenny told her you were going to be okay." Nathan remembered the phone call, Lenny had spoken to her and he had actually hung up on her.

Lenny saw the sadness that replaced his anger. "She said she'll see you when she comes to visit in a few weeks Ezra."

Ezra closed his eyes, he knew she wasn't going to come, she only visited if she was in town for another reason and right now she didn't have one. He tried to roll onto his side again so he could be closer to Lenny, he felt the pain again but it wasn't as bad this time, he felt Lenny's hand on his shoulder but he also felt something else. A catheter, God he hated those things. He allowed Lenny to push him back while he lifted his leg, it was a struggle but he was determined to get rid of that thing. He managed to grabbed the tube between his toes and when he knew he had a decent hold he pulled it out, he grimaced at the pain he caused but there was also instant relief.

"Ezra what the hell are you doing?" Lenny lifted the blanket and saw what he'd done, he pulled the tube away from his legs before any of the warm liquid could spill onto the bed.

"I hate those things." Ezra muttered, the small struggle and sapped what strength he had gained. "Lenny," he lifted his left arm and felt Lenny grab it, "I also want rid of something else."

"What's that Ezra." Lenny frowned down at him but Ezra wouldn't open his eyes, he was falling back to sleep again.

"Them, I don't want them in here Lenny, I don't want them near me, not after what they did to me." Ezra's words were becoming slurred but he forced himself to stay awake, he knew Lenny would do what he asked but he had to make sure he understood what he wanted.

"Ezra . . ." Chris didn't even get a chance to finish.

"Get them out Lenny!" Ezra managed to roll onto his left side and struggled against Lenny's hands, the IV tube freed itself from the needle that had been re-inserted into the back of his right hand. "Lenny!"

"Get out Chris and take your men with you!" Lenny growled at him.

"Lenny were not leaving." Chris stood up ready for an argument but he found himself facing a gun, Lenny had pulled it so fast, he didn't see it coming.

Lenny pulled his gun with his right hand while his left tried to keep Ezra still, he continued to fight him, he was getting agitated and he knew the only way to get him to calm down was to make the others leave, and he wasn't going to take no for an answer but Chris gave him the answer he wasn't willing to accept.

"Get out!" Lenny warned him.

"I thought you wanted to help?" Chris asked him calmly.

"Look at him Chris, do you think this is helping him. I'll do anything he asks of me, and when the time is right I'll help you but not now. Your still hurting him and I won't allow that."

"Lenny." Ezra groaned against the pain.

"Okay but when he's asleep again I want to talk to you." Chris growled at him.

"Send the nurse in will you." Lenny smiled in return and watched the six men leave. "There gone Ezra." He put his gun away and sat down on the edge of the bed, he pushed Ezra onto his back and began to stroke his face, hoping to calm him down.

"I don't want them coming back, even when I'm asleep Lenny." Ezra tried to open his eyes but couldn't, they were too heavy, he could feel the darkness coming for him but he wouldn't let it take him until he had Lenny's word. "Promise me you won't let them back in here."

"You've got my word Ezra." Lenny assured him while he continued to wipe the hair off his forehead. "I won't let them back in here." He smiled when Ezra missed the meaning of his words, he was still going to help them try and repair the friendship, he'll just have to find somewhere else for them to talk to him.

He was still brushing his hand through Ezra's hair when the nurse came into the room. He told her not to bother with the catheter, that he would only pull it out again. She fixed the IV tube, took the catheter bag and left. Once Lenny was sure Ezra was comfortable and sleeping he prepared himself for battle and left the room.

Chris was fuming, he paced back and forth within a small area outside Ezra's hospital room, his anger followed him as it always seemed to do, the tension floated in the air around him. His anger only increased during the fifteen minutes he had to wait for Lenny to come out of the room, he was beginning to think the man was purposely taking his time. He ignored the guilt ridden faces that watched him carefully, neither of them wanting to be on the receiving end of his wrath. They deserved to feel guilty, he deserved to feel guilty, he would take any sort of treatment from Ezra, because he understood his anger but he wouldn't take that sort of treatment from Lenny Hoskins. Yes he was Ezra's friend but so were they and each of them wanted to show Ezra that they cared about him in their own way, that what they had done was a mistake that none of them would forget or forgive themselves for. They had committed the ultimate crime of friendship, they betrayed him, a betrayal that he may never forgive.

He stopped in mid-stride when the door finally opened, the expression on the Federal Agent's face was a passive one but Chris didn't care, he clenched his fist then slammed it against the jaw of the man who stood before him.

"The next time you pull a gun on me you better be prepared to use it!" Chris glared at him, his own expression was one of pure anger.

Lenny stood his ground making sure he didn't step back, he somehow managed to keep his balance and rubbed his jaw at the same time to make sure there wasn't any damage. He wanted to retaliate but he kept his anger and his fists under control, so instead, he smiled at Chris knowing that it would aggrevate him more than a physical confrontation.

"I was prepared to use it the first time." Lenny spoke calmly.

Josiah watched in amusement as the two men stared at each other, neither one willing to break eye contact. The usually calm man took a deep exasperated breath and stepped between the two men. He looked at Chris then Lenny, the anger and stubborness evident in their eyes. Just when they finally seemed to reach a silent agreement, they allow their male pride to get in the way.

"Gentlemen, your ego's aren't the issue here, we have something more important to talk about." Josiah warned them, if they continued to carry on the way they were he would deal with both of them himself. "Ezra!"

Lenny and Chris continued to stare at each other silently, each of them not knowing what to say to break the silence between them. Josiah turned his back to Chris and used his arm to push him away, finally breaking the eye contact the two men held.

"What do you suggest we do now Agent Hoskins?" Josiah asked him.

"I suggest you stay out of the room, he doesn't want you in there." Lenny answered him.

"Is that what you call helping us?" Buck growled at him as he stepped closer to the man.

"Yes it is." Lenny returned the stare.

"I don't agree, I don't believe that you want to help us." Buck continued to argue with him.

"You Wilmington, are letting your anger blind you." Lenny took the step that Buck refused to take, he now stood face to face with the man that was a less opposing figure than his boss. "Didn't you see the state he was in, do want to make him go through that just so you can feel better about the way you treated him." He saw the guilt flash through Buck's eyes. "I told Chris that I would help and I will but now is not the time, when he's physically ready I'll make sure he listens to you, even if I have to tie him down."

"That could be weeks." Nathan informed him. "If you make us wait that long to talk to him he might think we don't care."

"I'll talk to him when he wakes up and so can you." He turned to Nathan after giving Buck another one of his famous glares, he smiled when the man flinched. "I'll ask him first but I don't think Ezra will mind if you sit with him Nathan, he didn't seem to show any anger towards you."

Nathan nodded his thanks and walked to one of the many chairs that filled the waiting area, he sat down and made himself comfortable, he was willing to trust Lenny, they didn't really have any other choice. JD and Josiah joined him but Chris, Buck and Vin continued to glare at Lenny with questionable expressions on their faces.

"Chris come and sit down, there's nothing you can do until Lenny talks to Ezra." Josiah took the inititive, he knew if Chris sat down the others would follow him.

"How do we know he'll talk to Ezra." Vin quietly stated.

"I'm going to be honest with you, all of you, Ezra hasn't had any real friends in his life, I was the first, the rest of you were starting to put an end to his self inflicted loneliness, I don't want to see him go back to a life of solitude. I'm not always there for him, I had hoped you guys would be." Lenny leaned against the door to Ezra's room. "I'm willing to help you but I won't do it if it means Ezra's going to get hurt again. And what just happened in there hurt him, you may not have seen that hurt but I did. I know Ezra better than you do."

"I'll take anything from Ezra over what we did but I won't take anymore of that crap from you!" Chris informed him.

"Then that makes two of us, the next time I ask you to do something in regards to Ezra, I don't want an argument." He stepped away from the door and turned to open it but decided to say one more thing. "Oh and by the way, you'd better be prepared to take anything from Ezra, as you put it, because there is a side to him you don't know about and I'm sure it's going to be that side you're going to have to deal with and I warn you, it's not a pleasant side." Lenny waited for an answer but he didn't get one, they were interrupted by Chris's cell phone.

"What!" Chris yelled into the phone.

Lenny smiled, Ezra was right, you could really enjoy getting Chris Larabee angry. He soon lost his smile though as he listened to the conversation unfold.

"Here . . . what about Glading . . . shit!" He hung up the phone then started barking orders. "Collins was just spotted in the car park of this hospital. Lenny you get back in there with Ezra. JD, Buck you stay out here and guard the door, the rest of you follow me."

"Knock once before you come in, I'll probably shoot you otherwise." Lenny informed Buck before he went back into Ezra's room.

"Why do I have to go, why don't both of us go?" Glading complained, he was sick of spending his days sitting in a hot car in the middle of summer watching a hospital where the man Collins wanted to kill was being protected by seven men they would never be able to get past.

"Because, if we split up, they'll split up. More of them will come after me than you, that will give you a chance to get to Standish and if you kill him for me there will be a lot of money in it for you." Collins explained once more, he was tired of this man and if this didn't work he'll take his frustration out on him by killing him.

Glading liked the idea of the money but it was his greed that had gotten him into this un-winable situation in the first place. "And if I can't get to him?"

"Then you won't get paid." Collins smiled. "Now go and do your job, wait at the side entrance until they come out then you go in."

Glading grimaced but did as he was told, he got out of the car and adjusted the white lab coat and cap that he was wearing. He was grateful for the cool breeze that gently brushed his face, it was hotter in the car than it was outside in the open. He moved away from the car, quickly glancing around to make sure there wasn't anybody who would recognise him.

Collins waited until Glading reached the side entrance to the hospital, he pushed his glasses back onto his nose then started the car and pulled out of one of the many parking areas they had been occupying for the last two weeks, he was going to drive around slowly until he was recognised by one of the policemen who guarded the front and side entrance, men who hadn't been doing their job because if they had, he would have been spotted the first day they were here.

Lenny moved quickly to Ezra's bedside, he grabbed the spare blanket from the foot of the bed and laid it on the floor, he pulled the second blanket that covered Ezra's sleeping form from the corners of the bed, loosening it. Lenny gently placed his arms under the blanket, his left arm under the limp shoulders and his right under Ezra's knees. He lifted the smaller man into his arms, causing him to wake abruptly, the Agent ignored his friend's muttered protests and carefully moved him from the bed to the floor.

"Lenny . . . what are . . . you doing." Ezra clenched his teeth against the pain that erupted in his skull.

"Collins is in the carpark which means Glading has to be somewhere near by and you'd make a nice target if you stayed in the bed." Lenny wiped Ezra's forehead and pulled his gun from the shoulder holster that was hidden by his black leather coat.

"They haven't caught them yet?" He tried to shift into a more comfortable position on the hard floor.

"No." Lenny didn't want to go into details, now wasn't the time for an argument and he knew he'd get one if he told him Larabee and the others hadn't left him since the shooting.

"Why are you . . . putting me on the floor?" Ezra forced his eyes open and looked at the amused expression on his friend's face. "Can't you find somewhere more comfortable."

"Such as?" Lenny asked him, he shifted his body so he could place his left hand on Ezra's shoulder to keep him down and be facing the hospital room door in case Glading come bursting through it. He knew Team Seven would do their job but he wasn't going to relax until he knew Ezra was safe

"In my own bed at home." The southerner suggested. "Where no one could . . . wake me up!"

"Your not going anywhere Ezra and quit complaining. Your only going to be able to get so much sympathy from me and when your walking around on your own, well lets just say that you'll be feeling sorry for me." Lenny spoke to Ezra but keep his eyes on the door.

"And why would I be feeling sorry for you . . . I don't see any . . . bullet wounds." Ezra could feel the sweat begin to form on his face. "Lenny could I at least have a pillow?"

"Sorry Ezra." He pulled the pillow off the bed, he hesitated before putting the gun down and lifting Ezra's head so he could put the pillow under the grimacing features, he quickly picked the gun back up. "Better?"

"Yeah, now answer my . . . question."

"I've been dealing with Larabee and the others for you." Lenny sort of told him the truth. He wanted to look at Ezra when he didn't receive an answer but kept his eyes on the door. "I had to put up with them for more than two weeks."

"Two weeks?" He thought it had only been a few days. "Is that where you got the bruise?"

"Actually I just got it, you were right about pissing him off." Lenny smiled, he hadn't thought about the bruise that would be forming on his jaw.

"You can't be doing it right, he . . . never hit me." Ezra proudly announced. "Well until . . . this happened anyway. . . And what do you mean two weeks?"

"More than that Ezra. You were in a coma for almost two weeks."

"Good Lord." Ezra muttered before his breathing took on the normal rhythm of sleep.

"Nathan, Josiah you take the side entrance, we'll go through the front door." Chris calmly told them when the elevator doors opened, they ran out with guns drawn then seperated, going into different directions.

Chris and Vin ran through the front automatic doors sideways, not waiting for them to fully open. They stopped to talk to the policeman who guarded the front entrance and allowed their eyes to adjust to the unfamiliar sunlight.

"Where is he?" Chris asked while his eyes searched the parking lot.

Chris didn't have to wait for an answer, his head turned towards the sound of screeching tyres and saw the face of Paul Collins driving away in a red Mercury Marquis. He ran towards the moving car with Vin by his side, and once he was sure there weren't any innocent bystanders, he lifted his gun and fired two shots into the back of the car shattering the rear window and a third that caused the right rear tyre to explode, but the car kept going.

"He was the bait, he made us come out so Glading could go in." Vin cursed under his breath.

"Shit, Ezra!" Chris ran back into the foyer and quickly looked around for Nathan and Josiah, he saw them coming back through the side entrance. "Did you see Glading?"

"No, we came back when we heard the shots." Josiah answered him.

"We have to get back upstairs, you two use the elevator, Vin and I will take the stairs. Your looking for Glading." Chris informed them as he ran to the door that led to the stairs.

Glading watched as members of the 'Magnificent Seven' ran out of the building, he could never understand why they were called that, he didn't think they were that magnificent. He waited until Jackson and Sanchez were on the sidewalk that passed the side entrance. Glading had made a decision, this was going to be his last job, he would collect his money then leave the country, he wasn't going to deal with Collins anymore.

He stepped out from behind the tree and slipped through the side entrance. 'I knew the nickname was wrong, if they were that magnificent they would have caught me.' He confidently told himself. He looked around for his insurance and saw her walking past the door that led to the stairwell.

Buck could hear the faint sound of gunshots echo into the building from outside, he checked his gun for a third time then turned towards the elevators. He knew JD was watching the stairs, after a few minutes he heard his young friend swear. Buck turned around and voiced his own curse. Glading stepped out of the opened doorway with a nurse held in his grip, his left arm was around her throat and his right held a gun to her forehead. Buck recognised the nurse, it was Julie, she worked in the emergency department and was there when Ezra had first been brought in.

"Throw your guns over here then move away from the door." He ordered them but they ignored his orders. "Now!"

Glading moved closer to the door, he knew Standish was in there, they wouldn't guard an empty room. When the two agents didn't do as they were asked he aimed his gun at JD. "Throw your guns over here, if you don't I'll shoot him." He waited again. "I'm in a position where I have nothing to loose. I'd rather die than go to jail."

"Were not going to let you get to Ezra." JD retorted.

"If you don't put your gun down I'll shoot you." Glading repeated himself, he couldn't believe the kid was willing to die for Standish.

"You can only shoot one of us, the other one will shoot you before you could pull the trigger a second time." Buck smiled at him.

"You forgot the nurse, you won't shoot me while I have her."

"Seems we're at a standstill then because were not putting our guns down and we certainly aren't going to let you kill Ezra." Buck told him.

"Do you really want the kid to die?" Glading asked him.

"I'm not going to die." JD warned him.

"Want to bet on that do you?" Glading lifted his gun and pulled the trigger. JD knew Glading was going to pull the trigger, the man had no other choice, he had put himself into a situation which he wasn't going to win, the man would either die or go to jail and he already said what he would prefer to do. The only thing that JD had to do was decide which way to throw himself, so the bullet would do less harm to his person. He watched the rogue agent's eyes for the flicker of emotion that would tell him he had made the decision to pull the trigger. This was another thing Ezra had taught him, to watch the person's eyes and not their hands, the eyes always gave the person's intentions away. He didn't know why but he was able to read this man's eyes easily, Ezra had taught him well.

It was at moments like these that he would realise just how much the southerner had done for him, he pushed the thought away before it could be replaced by the guilt he felt for the way he had returned his friendship and trust. Ezra would deny it of course, he would never admit to it as being friendship, he would instead say that it was part of the job and the younger man needed to learn things to keep himself alive and also protect the others in this type of situation and that someone had to give him some of the finer points to keeping one's health but JD knew otherwise. He smiled inwardly at the thought, it was these finer points that had saved Ezra's life on more than one occassion and JD was willing to take his advice.

JD threw himself sideways when he saw the flicker of emotion he was taught to look for, but he knew he didn't move fast enough, he pulled the trigger of his own gun while waiting for the white hot agony to tear through him when the bullet struck his body but all he felt was the sharp pain that erupted in his shoulder as he hit the floor and the air being forced from his lungs.

"Buck!" He managed to gasp out between the great gulps of air he tried to breath in so he could replenish his lungs.

Buck didn't answer him, he was still in shock, he saw Glading lift his gun then heard the gunshot echo in his mind, his only thought was that JD was a dead man. But that was not the case, he saw JD throw himself sideways just as Glading pulled the trigger, the younger man then fired his own gun, hitting Glading in his right side causing him to spin around, he lost his gun and his grip on his hostage.

He finally found his voice when he saw Glading lift his gun a second time but still didn't say anything, he quicky moved forward and kicked the gun away from his grip. Buck crouched down making himself a smaller target when he heard the stairwell door slam open but relaxed when he saw Chris and Vin burst through the opening they had created. He turned again when he heard the elevator doors and smiled at the sight of Nathan and Josiah, but he quickly forgot them when he remembered JD, he moved towards Julie and pulled her up. Buck dragged her towards JD, he knew he was injured and the younger man was his first concern.

"JD!" Buck called to him, he saw his friend sitting up searching for a bullet wound, the younger man's head lifted, an amazed look in his eyes.

"I'm fine Buck, he didn't get me." JD felt nothing but total shock but he wasn't allowed to dwell on what happened, he felt Buck's hands on him, he also looked for a bullet wound that didn't exist. "Buck I'm fine!" He pushed his hands away and tried to stand up.

"Just let me make sure." Julie pushed him back down again while trying to keep her own fear at bay, once she knew that JD was okay she would let go of her emotions. She expertly used her hands to quickly check for any injuries but found none. "Is there any pain anywhere?"

"I hurt my shoulder when I hit the ground but that's easing now." JD winced when Julie used her hands to examine his shoulder.

"We'll have to do an xray just to make sure it's okay." She smiled at JD then looked at Buck. "Would you mind if I used your shoulder for a couple of minutes?"

Buck was confused for a moment, then kicked himself mentally when he saw the tears begin to build in her eyes, his hesitation ended and he took her into his arms and comforted her. He selfishly thought only of JD and forgot about what she had gone through. He watched over her shoulder while Chris and Vin took care of Glading, he noticed their wasn't any blood on his shirt or lab coat. Chris roughly handcuffed his hands and dragged him to his feet. They pushed him towards the others.

"JD shot him, where's the blood?" Buck asked them.

Vin faced Glading and pulled his shirt open, they all saw the bullet proof vest that he wore.

"Have to be prepared." Glading smiled.

"Imagine our dissapointment." Vin growled at him.

"JD, you okay?" Chris asked him, he had heard the concern in Buck's voice, he needed to know what happened but he had to take care of Glading first then make sure Ezra was alright.

"I'm fine, shoulder's a bit sore but that's all." JD smiled at him.

"Imagine my dissapointment." Glading repeated Vin's words.

"Shut up!" Vin warned him.

Julie pulled herself together at the mention of JD's shoulder, she pushed herself away from Buck and wiped the tears away from her eyes. "Thanks Buck, but I better get JD fixed up."

"Someone else can take care of JD, while don't you use my shoulder a bit longer." Buck winked at her and was grateful for the smile, he knew she would be okay, he just wished he had thought more about what had happened to her.

"I'd rather use someone else's, you'll take it the wrong way and think I was asking for a date." Julie laughed, the nervous tension obvious in her voice.

"You going to be okay?" Buck asked her seriously.

"Yeah, it's not the first time that's happened." Julie reminded him as she pulled JD to his feet.

"You sure?"

"I'm sure." She ended the conversation by taking JD's arm and leading him away.

Buck wasn't convinced though, he made a mental note to talk to her when he had a chance. He turned back to the others when he heard Chris's voice.

"Vin, Josiah. Take him back to the office, find out what he knows about Collins's whereabouts." Chris ordered them.

"I don't know anything about Collins." Glading managed to voice through his pain. He was angry at himself, why did he always let his greed make his decisions for him, if he had thought about it more, he could be sitting on a beach somewhere instead taking stupid risks for Collins. He thought if he had a hostage he would be able to get to Standish but he was obviously wrong, his greed made another mistake and he was going to regret it.

"Doesn't mean we can't have some fun trying to get that information out of you." Vin began pushing Glading towards the elevator where Josiah held the doors open for him.

"And we know what sort of fun that is don't we, will it be the same sort of fun that you had with Standish?" Glading smiled when Josiah grimaced, he knew he hit a sore spot with all of them but he could only see the larger man's reaction.

Chris ignored Glading's reminder of what they had done to Ezra. "Buck take care of the crowd." Chris nodded towards the group of people that were gathering at the nurses station to see what had happened. "Nathan stay out here, I'll go and make sure Lenny and Ezra are okay." He made his way to the door that led to Hoskins and Ezra.

"Chris, knock once before you go in." Buck smiled at him.

Chris frowned at him but did as he was told, he knocked loudly on the door then entered the room.

Lenny heard the voices outside the room and knew that Glading had managed to get past the others, he could tell by their words that JD and Buck were willing to give their lives to protect Ezra, he just wished the younger Agent was awake so he could also hear how they felt about him. It was only a matter of seconds before he heard the gunshot and felt Ezra jerk awake under his left hand.

"What is it with this . . . place that a man . . . can't get any sleep." Ezra grumbled.

Lenny heard the slurred words but ignored them, he needed to concentrate in case Glading came through the door. A few minutes later he heard the knock on the door but kept his gun aimed at the door just in case, he only relaxed after Chris followed the loud knock into the room. He put his gun back into his holster then turned towards Ezra.

"What happened? Did he fall off the bed?" Chris asked as he made his way around the empty bed.

"I put him on the floor, just in case." He wiped the dampened hair from Ezra's forehead. "Ezra?"

"What!" The word was spoken harshly.

"I need to get you back on the bed." Lenny informed him.

"Aw hell, why can't you just . . . leave me here!" Ezra was getting tired of being woken up.

"If I remember correctly you were only complaining about being on the floor a couple of minutes ago." Lenny retorted.

"Yeah, well if I was . . . in my own bed I wouldn't have . . . to complain about anything . . . except your cooking!"

"Shut up Ezra." Lenny ordered him, he nodded to Chris to pick up Ezra's legs and together they carefully lifted him and placed him back on the bed. "You comfortable now?"

"I would be more . . . " Ezra started then realised that someone else was in the room. He carefully opened his eyes and looked around the room, his painfilled eyes finally resting on Chris's form. "Lenny you promised!"

"Due to unforseen circumstances I didn't have any choice." He gave him a look that told him not to say anymore.

Chris had been listening to the conversation and saw the look that Lenny gave Ezra, he was impressed, not only could he get Ezra to open up but he could also get him to shutup with a single phrase or a look. He would have to ask him how he managed to do that.

"What happened?" Lenny asked Chris.

"I haven't got the whole story, JD and Buck took care of Glading. I wanted to make sure Ezra was okay before I talked to them." He began to explain.

"It's a pity you didn't . . . think of my . . . health earlier." Ezra growled from the bed, he had closed his eyes hoping that he would fall asleep but for some reason it was evading him.

"Ezra!" Lenny nodded to Chris to continue with what he was saying.

"Vin and Josiah are taking him back to HQ to question him but I don't think he'll tell us anything."

"Don't even say it Ezra." Lenny knew what Ezra was about to say so he stopped him before he could. "Anyone hurt?"

"JD hurt his shoulder . . ."

"Is he alright?" Ezra asked him, he opened his eyes and looked towards Chris.

"He's getting an xray now but he should be fine." Chris watched as Ezra nodded in acknowledgement then close his eyes again. "No one else got hurt, except for Glading that is."

"Ezra." Lenny moved closer to the bed. "Would you mind if Nathan sat with you while Chris and I talk?"

"Nathan?" Ezra thought about it for a moment, he remembered how Nathan tried to take care of him. "Nathan's okay."

"I'll be back in a little while then Ezra." He squeezed his shoulder and looked into the green eyes that revealed themselves to him.

"Don't take to long, Nathan might try and talk to me about . . . things I don't want to discuss." Ezra weakly grabbed his arm. "And get me something . . . for this damn . . . headache."

Ezra watched Lenny follow Chris out of the room, he continued to watch as Nathan entered the room a few seconds later, his eyes followed him as he made his way to the chair that Lenny only left vacant when he had to answer to the call of nature.

Nathan didn't expect Ezra to be awake when he came into the room, he hid his surprise behind a smile. "How you feeling Ezra?" He sat himself down into the chair next to the bed.

Ezra raised his eyebrows at the question but even that small movement hurt. "I have one hell of headache. You want to tell me why?"

"You were shot twice Ezra, one of the bullets fractured your skull, the other one reflected off a rib causing it to miss your heart, if it didn't get in the way the bullet would have killed you." Nathan explained.

"Remind me to thank it later." Ezra replied, the sarcasm was heavy in his voice. "Lenny said . . . I was in a coma."

"Two weeks, for the first four days a machine kept you alive, you weren't able to breath on your own." Nathan missed the shocked that registered on Ezra's face, he had turned around at the sound of the door opening.

The nurse made her way to the side of the bed, she carried a small tray in her hand that held a syringe. "Something for the pain." She informed Ezra.

"I was thinking . . . more along the line . . . of a pill." Ezra drew back from the needle but Nathan put his hands out to stop him moving to far.

"Sorry but your on fluids only at the moment, besides this will work quicker." She smiled at the foul look that was thrown her way. "But if you insist on a pill we could always insert it somewhere else." She looked down at Ezra's hips to emphasis her point.

"The needle." Ezra surrended, he put his arm out and waited for the pain of the needle pricking his skin.

"Ezra, she'll put it in the IV tube." Nathan couldn't help but smile at him. After all the times he had spent in a hospital he still didn't know the procedures.

Ezra gave the nurse a look that would normally make a person cringe but she had dealt with Ezra before and knew that it was only a look, there was no malice behind his expression. She inserted the needle into the IV tube and released the painkiller, once the needle was empty she withdrew it then began to fuss over the patient. She made sure that he was comfortable by lifting his head and moving the pillows, she ignored his angry remarks, she then tucked the blanket back under the mattress. After writing some notes on Ezra's medical chart she flashed him a smile and left the room with all intentions of bragging to the rest of the nurses about the handsome expressions she had managed to get out of the patient.

"I think she enjoyed that more than I did." Ezra muttered, his headache was already easing but he could also feel the effects of the drug. "Nathan when can I go home?"

"Probably won't be for another week at least Ezra." Nathan watched as his eyelids grew heavy.

"A week? Nathan . . . " He was loosing his struggle against the drugs side effects. "Thanks for not . . . asking me to talk . . . about it."

"That's okay Ezra, I know your not ready." He watched as Ezra fell back to sleep, his head gently rolling to the left so he was facing Nathan, he waited a few moments then picked up his hand, he would have done it sooner but he wasn't sure if Ezra would accept the touch.

Lenny listened to Chris's explanation of what happened, then waited patiently for Buck to finish his exaggeration of what JD had done, he felt like telling him he had heard everything that happened from his vantage point in the room but decided not to spoil his fun.

"Collins drew you out so Glading could get up here?" Lenny asked.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Chris knew what the FBI Agent was thinking, that the team had failed, that they were incompetent.

"But he would have to know that all of you wouldn't go after him, that some would stay behind to protect Ezra." Lenny thought out loud. "Even Glading would have known he'd either get caught or killed in his attempt to kill Ezra."

"Maybe Glading could give us an answer to those questions because I have no idea why they tried something so stupid." Chris answered Lenny's spoken thoughts.

"Somehow I don't think your going to get much out of him." Lenny confirmed what Chris was thinking.

"I have to agree with you on that point." Chris smiled at him, this man continued to surprise him, he thought he would take the opportunity to degrade them once again but he didn't.

"I for one would like to know who told them what floor Ezra was on." Buck stated, he knew there was more than one answer to that question. Collins could have gotten that information easily.

"I don't think Collins is going to try something like that again, he'll wait until Ezra leaves the hospital." Lenny moved towards the waiting area's chairs and sat down heavily into one of them. "I think it was more of a test to see how many of you would go after him and how many would stay with Ezra."

"He's up to something." Chris followed Lenny and sat in the chair across from him.

"I'm surprised the guy stayed around." Lenny looked up at Chris. "He's set his mind to killing Ezra hasn't he?"

"He won't succeed, we'll make sure of that." Chris assured him.

"We'll need to take him somewhere safe when the Doctor discharges him. Got any suggestions?" Lenny asked him.

"I'd like to take him somewhere quite, somewhere that's going to be hard for him to get away from, somewhere that will also give us a chance to talk to him." Chris smiled. "We'll take him to my place."

"The one in the mountains, won't that leave us a bit isolated." Lenny wasn't sure that it was a good idea. "I don't like it. Collins isn't going to go up against seven of us, he'll just wait until we bring Ezra back into the city."

"It may draw him out, we can't keep Ezra in hiding for too long, not in the city anyway, he'll go nuts, he'll manage to get away from us, he always does, and where will that leave him. Out in the open where Collins will be waiting for him." Chris explained. "You said you know Ezra better than us. How long will you be able to keep him in a room before he tries to get away." Chris raised his eyebrows at Lenny's expression, he had made his point.

"We'd be lucky to keep him locked up for more than a couple of days." Lenny agreed with Chris's argument.

"He's less likely to try and get away from us if he's surrounded by mountains, even Ezra's not that stupid." Chris continued with his argument, he knew Lenny was beginning to agree with him.

"But he's stubborn and sometimes that stubborness can make him do stupid things." Lenny warned Chris.

"Collins is going to get desperate if we make him wait, he'll either try something stupid and if he does we'll be waiting for him or he'll give up and try and leave the state, in which case he'll be caught." Chris told him.

"We both know he won't leave." Lenny sighed and looked towards Ezra's door, he knew Chris was right, if they kept Ezra locked up in a small room or house in the city he'd go crazy and then do something stupid, he would think that he was the prisoner and try to escape but he was also worried that Collins would wait, he'd already waited nearly three weeks before trying to kill Ezra and he was sure that he could wait even longer but Chris had a point, if Collins thought they were going to stay in the mountains he might be pushed into making another attempt and they would be waiting for him. "Two weeks, and if Collins hasn't tried anything we come back."

"Agreed." Chris accepted the two weeks, the Judge had already transferred their cases to other ATF teams, he had known Ezra was going to need protection until Collins and Glading were caught, they now had one of them in custody, it would only be a matter of time before the other one was caught or killed.

"Do you think Doctor Falex would give Nathan another one of those pills that he slipped me." He smiled at Chris. "Because I'm not going to be able to talk Ezra into going anywhere with you guys."

Ezra grimaced as the dawn's new light broke through into the comforting darkness that caressed his mind, the light wasn't going to let him sleep, he hated this time of the day. He squeezed his eyes tighter against the evasion but it only caused bolts of pain to flow through his skull so he tried to roll away from it instead, this caused another pain to erupt in his chest. He reluctantly turned back over, he felt someone squeeze his hand but he didn't respond to the touch, he just wanted to go back to the darkness, he felt safe there, he didn't have to talk to anyone and he knew they were going to start talking to him. Lenny had promised him that he wouldn't let them back in but he knew Lenny, he would find another way.

He turned his head away from the light that was becoming even brighter, he felt the pressure against his hand again. He was grateful that Lenny didn't start talking to him to get him to open his eyes, but he knew it was only a matter of time so why delay the inevitable. He opened his eyes but the weight of sleep quickly closed them again, he waited then tried again, this time succeeding. Ezra's eyes finally focused on the form that was sitting with him, he was shocked to see Nathan at his bedside. The idea of sleep suddenly left him.

"Where's Lenny?" He tried to sit up so he could search the room.

"It's okay Ezra." Nathan gently pushed him back down, which wasn't hard considering the smaller man was still weak. "He's in the other bed."

"The other bed?" His struggles continued as he panicked. "What happened to him Nathan?"

"He's sleeping Ezra, he's just catching up on some much needed sleep." He felt Ezra relax and removed his hands from his chest.

"Sleeping?" Ezra tried to lift his head so he could confirm Nathan's words with physical evidence but he didn't have the strength so he allowed it to fall back onto the pillow.

"Yeah, he hasn't been doing much of that lately, he won't leave you alone and you wouldn't let anyone else sit with you except me." Nathan explained to him.

"Don't start on me Nathan." Ezra warned him.

"I'm not starting anything Ezra." Nathan looked across the room at Lenny's sleeping form. "It's only the second time in three weeks that he has actually slept more than a few hours, the first time I had to slip him something to make him sleep." His gaze turned back to Ezra and he saw the concern flash through his eyes and inwardly smiled, he and Lenny had spoken about this earlier, Nathan was to try and make Ezra feel guilty, and that guilt may allow another member of the team to stay with him. "Can't even remember when he last had a decent meal."

"It won't work Nathan." But Ezra knew it would, Lenny always knew how to get the better of him.

"What won't?" Nathan asked innocently but he knew Ezra could see straight through him, he wasn't as good at conning people as Ezra was.

"The guilt trip." Ezra enlightened him. "I know Lenny just was well as he knows me, he put you up to this didn't he?"

"Yes he did, but he's got a point Ezra, I wasn't lying about his lack of sleep or not eating properly." Nathan smiled at him. "He thought if I told you about it you would feel guilty enough to let one of the others sit with you."

"Aw hell." Ezra moaned.

"I assumed that it worked." Nathan inquired as he watched Ezra's face contort into a grimace.

"Lenny knew it would, just do me a favour and make sure it's when I'm sleeping." He tore his eyes from Lenny's inert form. "I don't want to talk to them or look at them, if I wake up they have to leave the room."

"I'll tell them Ezra." He squeezed his hand again.

Ezra frowned down at his hand, he'd forgotten that Nathan was holding it. "Do you have to keep doing that Nathan." It wasn't a question, if Nathan didn't let go he would pull his hand away.

"Sorry Ezra." Nathan tried to understand but he couldn't, it was only a simple gesture that would show Ezra that he cared but like everything else he rejected it.

Ezra had refused to accept it for what it was, concern. Nathan knew that he would think there was another reason for it, that he would think that the giver would ask for something in return. He quietly let out the breath he was holding and sat back into the chair.

"They're going to give you solids today." Nathan changed the subject.

"Great, they are going to try and succeed where Collins didn't?" Ezra hated the food in this place.

"If you don't eat it Ezra, they'll just keep you here longer and I know you don't want that." Nathan leaned forward again and rested his forearms on the bed.

Ezra nodded and closed his eyes, he knew he wouldn't go back to sleep, he was becoming less tired as each day passed but he also turned away from Nathan because he could tell by his body language that he wanted to say something else.

"Ezra could you look at me please." Nathan waited patiently.

Ezra knew this was coming, he turned his head and opened his eyes, he could see the conflict that Nathan was going through, he allowed Ezra to see into his soul.

"I want to talk about what happened." Nathan ignored the building anger in Ezra's eyes.

"I don't." Ezra tauntly replied.

"We have to talk about it at some point Ezra, it may as well be now." Nathan argued.

"I don't want to talk about it at anytime so drop it." The anger was becoming evident in Ezra's voice, and visible on his countance but Nathan continued to ignore it.

"Ezra it'll help both of us to talk about it." Nathan tried to convince him but he could tell by the determined expression that Ezra's face held that he wasn't going to agree to his request to talk about what happened.

"NO!" His agitation caused Nathan to become submissive.

"Alright Ezra, if that's what you want." Nathan sat back into the chair once more and looked over at Lenny to see if Ezra's raised voice disturbed him, it hadn't, like Ezra he seemed to sleep like the dead.

Ezra continued to watch Nathan while his face was turned away, he could see the torment that he was going through and that he did need to talk about. He sighed to himself, when did he begin to care about these people, he still couldn't actually work out the moment that he realised these men could become friends, he had pushed them away not wanting them to get close to him but somehow they managed to slowly break through his emotional defenses.

"Lenny's been teaching you how to inflict guilt hasn't he?" Ezra saw the confusion in Nathan's eyes. "Talk about it if you want Nathan, I can see you need to but don't expect me to talk, I'll listen but that's all I'll do." He wasn't going to open himself up so the larger man could see all the hurt they had caused, he would keep that to himself as always.

"Your not going to like what I have to say Ezra." Nathan warned him.

"I don't think anything you say will change the way I feel about the others and what they did to me." Ezra watched him carefully.

"I'm not talking about them." He looked away from Ezra's scrutiny. "What I have to say may change the way you feel about me at the moment."

"If your trying to change my mind about listening to you Nathan your doing a pretty good job of it." Ezra forced a smile onto his face, he was now dreading what Nathan was going to say.

Nathan looked down at his hands, he couldn't look Ezra in the eye anymore. "I accepted what I thought you had become because I expected it." He could feel Ezra's frown, he didn't have to look at him to know what he was thinking. "Deep down I always thought you'd run out on us again, turn your back on us, you just did it in a way that I didn't expect." He began to fidget with his hands. "I wasn't angry because I thought you always had it in you, so instead of being angry over something I anticipated, I decided to help you." He finally looked up at Ezra, he could see the hurt in his eyes but it quickly disappeared under his gaze. "What you did, it didn't surprise me."

"When you were told that I was using drugs and selling information . . . you weren't suprised." Ezra was shocked. "You always thought I was capable of doing something like that."

"I was at first but when I stopped to think about it . . . yeah, I wasn't shocked and I think that's why I didn't stay angry at you, I ended up feeling sorry for you." Nathan waited for the angry outburst but it didn't happen. "I'm sorry Ezra."

"Why you're only being honest." Ezra turned away from him. "You're confirming what I always knew, that none of you trusted me, all of you expected me to run out on the team, you thought it was only a matter of time."

"But the other guys do trust you Ezra, it was only Chris and myself." Nathan waited, hoping to get a response.

"I don't believe that Nathan, if it were true they wouldn't have treated me that way, Buck wouldn't have kicked me the way he did." Ezra turned his eyes back to Nathan. "I saw the hate in their eyes Nathan, that emotion was real and there's nothing they could say that would change what I saw." He could feel his eyes filling with moisture, he lifted his arm and weakly wiped away the tears before they could fall. "I put everything on the line to catch this guy Nathan and I lost, I lost the friendship that I thought was beginning to develope, I'll probably loose my job because the FBI won't take me back. I'm going to loose everything."

"Chris and the others are willing to fight to get that friendship back Ezra, so am I." Nathan could feel his heart tighten. "And if your willing to fight also . . ." He left the sentence unfinished.

"I'm too tired to fight Nathan, I don't know if I want that sort of friendship." He rolled his head away from him and closed his eyes. "It's not worth the effort, Mother was right, people only pretend to be your friend and when the test comes they always fail."

"We won't fail again Ezra." Nathan knew Ezra wasn't willing to listen anymore, he was grateful that Ezra hadn't gotten angry and demanded that he leave the room, it was a start in repairing the damage to the friendship that he had caused.

Chris paced the waiting room, he was told that Doctor Falex would be up to see him thirty minutes ago and he was still waiting, he knew Vin and Josiah were watching him from the chairs they occupied. They hadn't managed to get any information out of Glading and returned to the hospital to make sure JD and Ezra were okay. Buck and JD were talking to Julie to make sure that she was alright, she had brushed it off like they usually did but Buck knew that something wasn't right so he thought they would spend some time with her, get her to talk about what happened.

The dark clad leader turned to head back towards the elevator when Falex finally stepped from it into the waiting area. Chris walked straight towards him, he didn't want to give him anytime to compose himself, he knew he would argue if he had the chance.

"We need to know how soon Ezra can be discharged?" Chris was a threatening figure but Falex didn't flinch under his gaze.

"At least another week, we're going to start him on solid food today to see how he goes and . . . " Falex began but Chris became impatient as always.

"That's too long, we need to get him somewhere safe, we don't want the person who is trying to kill him to make another attempt while he's here. Someone else might get hurt next time." Chris didn't hold back on what he was thinking, the Doctor needed to know that Ezra's life wasn't the only one under threat.

"Ezra suffered a traumatic headwound, you can't just start dragging him around everytime you think someone is going to try and kill him." Falex became defensive.

"He won't be dragged around, you'll give him something that will make him sleep for at least eight hours so we can take him somewhere quiet until this guy is caught." Chris smiled at him.

"I'm going to what?" Falex actually laughed at the suggestion.

"You heard me Doctor. Now how soon can he leave?" Chris repeated the question.

"Your going to take him anyway aren't you?" Falex frowned at him and saw the confirmation of what he said in Chris's blue eyes. "You'll make sure he gets plenty of rest, he has to eat, he's lost a lot of weight that he needs to gain back, and he's not to do anything strenuous." The Doctor gave up, he knew that if he didn't agree with him that they would sneak Standish out as soon as his back was turned. At least this way he could give them instructions and have them take some medication with them.

"Even if we have to tie him down." Chris agreed.

"I have a chest xray and CAT Scan arranged for this afternoon, if there clear and he takes to solids . . . three days and no sooner." Falex gave Chris one of his own looks but the man didn't even wince. 'Going to have to work on that.' He thought to himself. "I want your word you won't help him escape before then."

"You have it." Chris smiled at him.

Lenny threw the blanket off in frustration, how was anyone supposed to get any sleep with all that racket. He tried to keep out of it as long as he could but Ezra's stubborness got the better of him, he had a way of making a Saint want to hit him. He had listened to his protests long enough. He jumped out of the bed and stormed towards the one that Ezra was sitting up in.

"That's it Ezra, I've had enough, you eat it or I will force feed you." Lenny growled at him.

"I can see you got up on the wrong side of the bed." Ezra scowled at him. "You do know it's lunchtime don't you."

"If you'd quit arguing with Nathan and eat the food that's in front of you, I wouldn't be getting up till it's time for a decent meal and that would be around six tonight." He moved closer to the bed when Nathan stepped out of the way.

"You call this a decent meal, I'd rather wait and have the same one that you're having." Ezra grimaced and pushed the trolly away.

"Your going to eat this one Ezra." Lenny watched as Ezra crossed his arms in front of himself. "Ezra, I'm not in the mood for this . . ."

"Neither am I so why don't you give up and save us both the trouble." Ezra tried to lower himself back down into the bed but instead found his chin in Lenny's strong grip.

Lenny grabbed Ezra's jaw and turned his face towards him. "I don't want any of your selfpity Ezra, eat it!" He released his grip. "Now!" He turned away from him knowing that the stubborn man would now do as he was told. "I'm going to have a talk with Nathan and when I come back I want to see you eating." He continued to walk away from the figure that lay in the bed, his own anger simmering. "Nathan!"

Lenny walked out into the hallway and ignored the three men who were sitting in the waiting area, he turned around when Nathan joined him. "It's like dealing with a four year old."

Nathan was still smiling at the exchange he just witnessed, Lenny certainly had a way with Ezra.

"Why is he in that mood, he would only be like that if he was angry or hurt?" Lenny stood with his hands on his hips as he faced Nathan.

"He's willing to allow the others to sit with him but he said that it can only be when he's sleeping and they have to leave the room when he wakes up." Nathan knew he was avoiding the question, he could see that Lenny was near boiling point, he was even more threatening than Chris.

"Don't make me repeat my question Nathan."

"What's going on?" Chris and the others stepped closer to the arguing pair.

"I had a talk to him about what happened." Nathan admitted. "We only talked about what happened between the two of us."

"And?" Lenny forced him to continue.

"He thinks we hate him, he's upset about the whole thing." Nathan informed him.

"Do you blame him?" Lenny ran his hand through his short hair. "Don't talk to him again unless I'm there, and I mean awake."


"He said the others can sit with him." Lenny raised his eyebrows.

"It worked just like you said it would, but he won't allow them to stay in the room if he's awake." Nathan smiled, he was quite pleased with himself.

"It's a start." Lenny nodded, he turned towards Chris. "Did you speak to the Doctor?"

"He can leave in three days, no sooner, I gave him my word." Chris informed him. "And what worked?"

"It's amazing what Ezra is willing to do if you make him feel guilty enough." Lenny smiled. "I'll go and sit with him until he falls asleep then one of you can takeover, I can do with a decent meal and I don't mean hospital food.

Chris waited until Lenny closed the door behind him then turned on Nathan.

"How upset was he?"

"Very, he's not willing to fight to get the friendship back, it's going to be a lot harder than we first thought." Nathan looked towards the elevator at the sound of Buck and JD arguing as they stepped off it. "He saw the hate in everyone's eyes Chris and it's going to take a lot of work to get that image out of his mind."

"What's going on?" Buck asked when he joined the group.

"Nathan will explain it to you Buck." Chris moved away from them, he had some thinking to do, in three days time they would have to begin to convince Ezra that they didn't hate him, he wasn't sure what the other guys were going to say to him but he knew what he wanted to say, he just had to sort it out in his own mind first.

Lenny stepped back into the room to find Ezra eating the food on the plate, he saw the look of disgust that crossed his young face. He held the smile that wanted to form on his own face at the sight in check, Ezra was already angry, he didn't want to make his mood any worse.

"I see you managed to eat some of it." Lenny sat down in the chair and watched him.

"I just wish I knew what it was." He used his fork to lift some of the food up but it leaked from the fork. "I don't know if it's soup or something else."

"You can get a decent meal soon, Doctor Falex said you can go home in three days." Lenny told him.

"I certainly hope your talking about takeaway because your cooking isn't any better." Ezra retorted, his mood hadn't improved, even at the mention of being released from the hospital. Ezra knew Lenny would allow him to take out his frustrations on him, he always understood how he felt.

"Now that depends on how well you behave between now and then." Lenny warned him.

"With that threat, I'll be on my best behaviour." Ezra smiled at him.

"Nathan told me he spoke to you about what happened." He watched as Ezra pushed the trolley away a second time. "You okay?"

"No." Ezra took a deep breath to control his emotions. "Nathan wasn't angry because he always thought I was capable of doing what I did, he expected it."

"He didn't tell me that part." Lenny's anger grew again.

"At least he was honest about it."

"Doesn't make what he did any easier on you Ezra."

"I know." Ezra tried to ease himself back down but had to rely on Lenny's help.

"You get some sleep Ezra." He wiped his forehead and felt him nod underneath his hand, he only had to wait a few minutes before Ezra's breathing took on the normal rhythm of sleep. "You have a lot of work ahead of you, your going to need your strength and I'm going to need mine, especially when you wake up in Chris's cabin in a few days."

Ezra sat on the edge of the bed, hoping the look of disdain on his face was enough to destroy the article of clothing that lay on the bed next to him, he looked up at Lenny, his expression never changing. He saw the inflexibility that was written all over his friend's face and knowing that he wouldn't be able to get through to him he looked back at the clothes. It was bad enough that Lenny woke him as soon as the sun came up, then forced more hospital food down his throat, he now expected him to put on the piece of clothing that he supplied. The jeans were blue Levis and similar to the pair he used to own - they had been used for undercover operations - that was okay but the shirt was something completely different.

"Buck bought the shirt didn't he?" Ezra looked back at Lenny. "Is this supposed to be some sort of punishment, did I do something wrong." Lenny smiled at him. "I'm not wearing it."

"I'm not letting you go home without a shirt on." Lenny's smile didn't falter.

"But . . . " Ezra grimaced at the shirt, he moved his hands, palms facing upwards, towards it and lifted his shoulders. "You can't . . . I won't . . . it's . . ." he sighed in frustration. "Alright." he finally surrended but continued to complain. "At least I won't be seen in public with it on." He lifted the white short sleeved shirt that was covered with small bright orange flowers and grimaced at it, he would never understand that man's taste in clothing. "Collins would see me coming in this thing." he muttered to himself and was grateful that Lenny hadn't heard him. He managed to pull one sleeve on but grimaced when he had to lift his left arm up to shoulder level.

"Let me do that Ezra." Lenny pulled the shirt across Ezra's back so he could keep his elbow bent and slip his arm into the sleeve. He began to do the buttons up but Ezra pushed his hand away.

"That I can do." Ezra told him.

Lenny watched as Ezra did the buttons of shirt up, he had noticed how pale his skin was in comparison to the white shirt, the fresh scar on his forehead was a dark purple, the bruising only leaving the surface of his flesh two days ago, even the scar on his chest stood out darkly against the taught colourless skin. Both scars were reminders of how close Ezra had been to death. He remembered the first sight of his rib cage, the bones nearly protruding from his skin, he had lost a lot of weight since he started the operation nearly three months ago but Lenny didn't realise how much until his saw the bones that use to be covered with toned muscle. He was grateful in one way, without his normal strength Ezra may not confront Larabee physically.

Once the buttons were done up and the shirt given another foul look, Ezra carefully slipped himself off the bed, the Doctor had allowed him to start walking around two days ago but he was still unsteady on his feet. Lenny pulled himself away from his worried thoughts and quickly grabbed Ezra when he began to sway.

"You okay?" Lenny didn't hide the concern from his voice.

"Yeah, but I'm going to need help with the jeans." Ezra admitted, he allowed Lenny pulled the jeans on for him while he held onto his shoulders.

"Your going to need a belt, they didn't account for your loss of weight." Lenny pulled his own belt from the waistband of his trousers and began to thread it through the jeans.

"Why doesn't it surprise me, you didn't expect them to actually take me into consideration when they bought these things did you." He saw Lenny's look. "I mean would you buy me a shirt like this, I think not."

"Get back on the bed so I can put your boots on and no you can't do it, if you bend over you'll fall down." Lenny smiled at him, he knew Ezra was in a good mood, and that it was because he thought he was going home but the mood would quickly change once he found out that he had been deceived.

They looked towards the door when it opened to see Doctor Falex enter the room, he carried a small plastic container. Lenny knew what was in it, he could also see that the Doctor appeared nervous, he just hoped that Ezra wouldn't notice. Lenny pulled his own trousers back up over his slim hips before they fell down and stepped away from the bed, as soon as Ezra was asleep he was going to demand Wilmington's belt, he was the one that bought the jeans that were too big so he can be the one to walk around all day keeping his pants up with his hands.

"Ezra, how are you feeling?" Falex handed him the small cup that contained two sleeping pills.

"I'm fine." He dismissed the question. "What are these?"

Falex poured some water into a cup and placed it in Ezra's other hand. "Pain killers, they'll make the drive home easier for you."

"You know how I drive Ezra." Lenny reminded him.

"You have a point there, it's as bad as your cooking." Ezra put the pills in his mouth then drank some of the cool water to help him swallow them.

"Why don't you lie back down Ezra, it'll be another twenty minutes at least until a nurse shows up with a wheelchair and no, your not walking out." Falex knew what he was going to say, he said it everytime he was discharged from the hospital. "Besides I want to use the opportunity to give you the once over before you leave."

Ezra didn't find anything wrong with that so he did as he was told, he gingerly laid himself down on the bed so the Doctor could examine him, it wasn't until his eyelids began to try and force themselves closed that he knew something was wrong.

"What did you give me?" Ezra fought against the drowsiness he felt.

"Don't fight it Ezra." Falex ordered him, his lifted his wrist and felt his pulse.

"Fight it?" He tried to sit up but Lenny moved forward and pushed him back down. "Lenny what the hell did . . . he give . . . me?"

"Just relax Ezra." Lenny sat on the bed and picked up Ezra's hand, he bent over him and began to wipe his forehead.

"Your . . not taking . . . me . . . home are . . . you?"

"It's for your own protection Ezra." He watched as Ezra lost his struggle against the sleep that was trying to take control of his body, his eyes finally closing.

Falex lifted one of Ezra's eyelids and checked his pupil. "He's asleep, I'll go and get Chris."

Lenny nodded but didn't look at him, he kept his eyes on Ezra's face. "I'm sorry Ezra but I have to do what's best for you, you'll thank me later." He heard the door open again and listened as Chris wheeled the chair into the room.

Lenny got off the bed and sat Ezra up, he positioned his head onto his shoulder and watched as Chris carefully put the bullet proof vest on Ezra. "You ready."

After Chris acknowledged that he was he leaned Ezra back onto Chris who took his arms, Lenny took his legs and together they carefully lifted him off the bed and sat him in the wheelchair. Lenny stepped away and pulled his trousers back up.

"You haven't got a belt you don't need do you?" Lenny asked Chris.

"Sorry, I usually buy clothes that fit." Chris smiled at him.

"I had to give mine to Ezra, Wilmington forgot that Ezra had lost weight when he bought his clothes." Lenny smiled back at him but the sarcasm wasn't lost on Chris.

"Doc?" Chris looked at him.

Falex pulled his belt off and handed it to Lenny. "It's more for show anyway." he shrugged.

"Thanks." Lenny threaded the belt through his trousers. "He'll sleep for at least eight hours?"

"Yes he will, and in his condition he may even sleep longer, if he does don't worry about him." Falex followed them out of the room. "Lenny, I can't stress the importance of Ezra eating, I want him to have at least five small meals a day, he needs to put the weight back on and get his appetite back. He'll get sick if he doesn't eat."

"Don't worry he'll eat." Lenny pushed the chair towards the elevator. "And thanks for everything."

"Your welcome." He shook Lenny's hand then Chris's. "Just make sure you look after him and when you know he's safe bring him back for a checkup."

"I will." Lenny shook his hand again and watched the Doctor walk away.

"It's all clear." Chris informed Lenny after he hung up his cell phone, he pushed the down button on the elevator. "Josiah's downstairs and Nathan's waiting in the car.

"He's going to kill me when he finds out what I'm doing." Lenny commented more to himself than to Chris.

"He'll understand." Chris kneeled down next to the chair and lifted Ezra's fallen hand back onto his lap.

"And if he doesn't." Lenny asked him.

"Then we tell him it was a direct order from Judge Travis." Chris tried to reassure him but for the first time since he met Lenny he could see fear in his eyes, it was a different type of fear to the one they had seen when they thought Ezra was going to die.

The elevator doors opened and Lenny pushed the chair into it with Chris following him. He pushed the button that would take them to the first floor. "He'll understand Lenny." Chris said with more confidence.

They stepped off the elevator and headed to the exit that led to the outside world, this time with Josiah following them. They stopped at the doors while Chris used his phone to let Nathan know they were waiting, a few seconds later Nathan's car reversed into the ambulance only area. Josiah walked through the opening doors first, he efficiently used his eyes to check the area then nodded to Lenny who pushed the wheelchair through the large opening with Chris behind him. Josiah already had the back door of the car open and Lenny got into the back seat, he took Ezra's head and laid it onto his lap when Chris and Josiah lifted Ezra into the car, he nodded to Josiah who bent Ezra's legs then shut the door. He got into the front seat and told Nathan to go. Lenny looked over his shoulder through the back window and saw Chris running to his own car, he looked down at Ezra who was oblivious to what was happening around him and wiped the loose hair that had fallen onto his forehead. He was doing the right thing, he was sure of it.

Lenny looked up for the first time during the five hour drive when Nathan slowed down and turned onto the dirt road that led to Chris's cabin, he leaned back as far as he could and looked out of the rear window to see the larges trees as they appeared when they drove past them, he lifted a hand to shade his eyes against the bright sunlight that filtered through the thick branches. His felt his body shift on the seat when the car hit a pot hole, he quickly grabbed Ezra's shoulders making sure he didn't fall off the back seat of the car.

"Sorry, you might want to hold onto Ezra, the road is pretty rough." Nathan looked at Lenny in the rearview mirror.

"Maybe you should try driving a bit slower." Lenny suggested. He looked back down at Ezra to make sure the rough movement didn't wake him, his head now lay in a different position but he wasn't sure if he moved on his own or if the change of position was caused by Nathan's driving, he decided it was the latter, Falex had told him Ezra would sleep for eight hours or more.

"How's Ezra doing?" Josiah twisted himself in his seat so he could look into the back, he could see that Lenny was worried.

"He's fine." Lenny didn't look up from Ezra's face.

It was another thirty minutes before the cabin was in view, Lenny looked over Nathan's shoulder to see the large wooden building, only the front was visible, the rest of the building was surrounded by trees. A large porch spaned the width of the front part of the cabin then disappeared around the corners of the building, a large bay window sat on either side of the front door, shutters that were placed inside of the house allowed the occupant the privacy that he cherished. As they got closer he could see the lake through the trees, a long jetty reached out into the water, a boat house sat beside it, the large ripples in the water causing it to sway slightly.

"Wow." Lenny didn't realise he'd spoken out loud.

"That's what we thought when we first saw it." Josiah turned his head to look at Lenny. "Wait until you get inside."

Nathan pulled the car to a stop in front of the steps that led up to the porch and the front door of the cabin. Lenny waited for Nathan to open the back door, he carefully lifted Ezra's head while he managed to sqirm his way out of the car, then laid his head back down again, allowing the peaceful expression to fall towards the back seat, he made sure he was comfortable and closed the door. There was no use in getting him out until Chris and the others arrived. Lenny put his hands on his lower back and stretched the stiffness out then took a deep breath of fresh mountain air.

"How long until they get here?" Lenny asked Josiah, he didn't look at him, his eyes were too busy taking in his surroundings, he enjoyed the scenery and he wanted to be familiar with the terrain in case something happened.

"Ten minutes." Josiah answered him.

Lenny looked down at his watch, he squinted his eyes towards the part of the trees where Chris's car will appear, he turned to look into the window of the car to make sure Ezra was alright and when he was satisfied that he was still sleeping he turned back to the trees. After what seemed like an enternity the dodge finally showed itself to the waiting trespassers. Chris drove past Nathan's car and reversed his own so it to was facing away from the building, it would be easier if they had to leave quickly.

"How's Ezra?" Chris asked when he got out of the driver's side of his car.

"Sleeping." Lenny replied.

"Josiah help Lenny with Ezra, the rest of you get the stuff out of the car." Chris ordered them as he made his way up the steps to the front door.

Lenny thought that Chris gave orders like it was a gift that came naturally to him, it was something that he himself respected in a person, he was confident that Ezra was in good hands, physically anyway, he still required some lessons when it came to a person's emotions, especially Ezra's but he'd make sure that the lessons would be taught during the next two weeks. He turned back to the car and opened the door, he lifted Ezra's shoulders and carefully dragged him out of the car, he hesitated so Josiah could grab Ezra's legs.

"I'll carry him." Lenny told Josiah, he allowed him to help him adjust his hold so he could carry the sleeping burden in his arms as though he were a child.

"You got him?" Josiah held out his arms just in case.

"Yeah, he really has lost a lot of weight." Lenny gazed down into Ezra's face then nodded towards the house. "Lead the way."

Lenny easily carried Ezra into the house, he meant to follow Josiah but he stopped just inside the door, he allowed Chris to gently push him to the side so he could close the door. His light blue eyes travelled the large open sitting area, a huge fireplace had been built into the south wall, he could see into the kitchen from where he was standing, he could also hear Buck and JD arguing about the ruined frozen pizza. He knew instantly that the cabin had been decorated in a western style, the couches, rugs and wood panelling that lined the walls only to be seperated by brick was a dead give away, to the left of the large open space were doors that must have led to the main bedrooms.

"Are you going to stand there all day." Chris asked him.

"I know you already don't like me Larabee so I have no problem asking you this," he turned to Chris, a smile on his countenance so he would know he didn't mean what he was about to say, "are you on the take?"

"It's not as expensive as it looks." Chris didn't take any offense. "You can put Ezra in my room, second door." Chris pointed towards the door that Josiah held opened.

Lenny walked into a large room that was decorated in a similar style to the living area, he laid Ezra down on the large bed that was flushed against the wall facing the door. He sat Ezra up so Josiah could take the bullet proof vest off, he laid him down, easing his head onto the pillow. Lenny removed Ezra's boots and pulled the handmade quilt up to his chin, he wiped his cheek in a gesture of affection then walked away leaving him to continue sleeping.

"It'll be another few hours yet so how about some coffee then you can show me around so I can get the feel of the place." Lenny requested of Larabee.

"Sure, Josiah why don't you sit with Ezra, I'll get one of the others to bring you some coffee."

"Only if Buck and JD don't make it." Josiah settled himself into the large rocking chair and watched the sleeping form in the bed.

Ezra could hear a familiar sound, he waited a for few moments for his memory to register what it was. Once the source was connected to the sound he remembered what happened, they tricked him, he had been given something to make him sleep and was then brought to Chris Larabee's cabin. He knew where he was because of the rocking chair, he had spent his first night of the fishing trip in this room. He hadn't been able to cope with the comradeship among the six men, and feeling left out he had drunken too much alcohol to try and drown out the lonely feelings that had taken control of him. He had seen the way they had interacted with each other and knew he would never really be a part of it. He also knew it was because he wouldn't allow himself to become a member of the family for fear of being hurt, not being accepted as one of them, that had happened once to often in his life and it was now happening again.

He had woken the next morning to the same sound, but it had been made worse by the hangover he had been suffering from. Nathan had been sitting in the chair, being an ex-medic he always took it upon himself to be the healer of the group and take care of them when one of them became sick, which surprised him because he didn't consider himself to be one of them. He wondered who it would be this time, he decided to use his voice to find out.

"Lenny?" His voice came out as a hoarse whisper, he was about to try again when a familiar voice answered him.

"I'm here Ezra." Lenny had returned to the room to find Ezra lying on his stomach, he had rolled over which meant the sleeping pills were wearing off, he sent Josiah out of the room, he wanted to be alone with Ezra when he woke up. He didn't want any outside influences to make him even more angry. He moved to the bed and sat down next to Ezra's waking form.

"Why am I here?" Ezra didn't try to roll over, he was still tired and knew he was going to go back to sleep as soon as his question was answered.

"We want to help you Ezra, and we thought this would be the best place, you also need protection, Collins is still out there." Lenny answered him, he watched his face carefully, the light coming through the window showed his features clearly and he looked for the anger that he had been expecting but there wasn't any.


"They need to talk to you Ezra, they need to explain their reactions." He thought he may as well bring it all out into the open, he had to know what was going to happen.

"And you brought me here so I couldn't walk out the front door." Ezra could already feel the darkness coming back for him. "Lenny, if they hurt me, you'll pay for it."

"They won't Ezra."

"You better be right Lenny, I won't take that again, not from them and not from you." He didn't fight it anymore, he wanted to go back into oblivion.

Lenny waited a few minutes then left the room, he closed the door quietly behind him and made his way to one of the three couches that faced the fireplace, he sat down, his expression showing the worry he felt.

"We've got a problem." He informed the group of men who were watching him from the moment he walked out of the main bedroom. "He's calm, too calm."

"And that's a problem?" If it wasn't for the expression on Lenny's face Chris would have laughed.

"It's a problem." He pushed himself out of his chair and walked into the kitchen.

"Nathan." Chris nodded to the bedroom door then followed Lenny into the kitchen that was small compared to the living area. "Why is it a problem?"

Lenny leaned back against the counter and crossed his left foot over the other and then his arms across his chest. "When Ezra is in this mood he can be dangerous, very dangerous." He looked up into Chris's blue eyes and saw his doubt. "If you push him the wrong way he'll either beat the crap out of you and yes that includes Sanchez, or, if he can't be bothered he'll just shoot you."

"You can't be serious." Now Chris knew he was joking.

"I'm very serious, I've seen it once before, hoped I would never see this side again but deceiving him like we did has brought it out, I hope that things will be different when he wakes up again but somehow I very much doubt it."

"Will he let us talk to him?" Chris hoped the trip to repair the friendship wasn't going to be futile.

"Yeah, he'll talk to you, but he'll manipulate it so he can enjoy your discomfort and get as much out of it as he can before he tells you to go to hell, so in his own way he's actually giving you a chance to get your case across and if you do a good enough job you may be able to get him back." Lenny frowned at the thought. "Actually I'll probably enjoy it as well."

"Just when I begin to think that you might be alright Hoskins, you go and ruin it for me." Chris smiled at him.

"We did get off on the wrong foot but because of what you did to Ezra, that footing will never be in sync." Lenny smiled back at him.

"So we're at a mutal agreement then." Chris raised his eyebrows. "We don't like each other?"

"Agreed." Lenny walked to the fridge and opened it to look at the contents. "How about I cook us all something to eat, I need to get my mind off Ezra for a while."

"Sorry but I've heard rumors about your cooking." Chris walked away from the Agent. "Josiah and Nathan can cook dinner."

Ezra lay in the large bed not wanting to open his eyes to find out who was sitting in the chair watching his every movement, he could feel someone's eyes on him but he didn't acknowledge their presence in the room by informing them that he had woken up earlier than was normal for him. He rolled away from the rocking chair and opened his eyes, he closed them against the early morning sun's bright reflections that shone off the pictures that lined the dresser that was against the wall. He opened them again and looked for the picture he knew would also be there, it was at the end of the procession of photo frames, he looked at the faces of the six ATF Agents, his own not being one of them. The photo was just like the two in Larabee's office, one of them had been taken on the weekend that he was here but for some reason Chris chose not to put the picture that had included him in the frame. Ezra had to look at it everytime he entered that office, it was a stark reminder that he wasn't welcome to join the family that had formed within the small group of men.

He pushed the quilt aside and sat up but he had moved to quickly, he held his head in his hands while he waited for the dizzy spell to end, they always did. His mind heard Josiah's voice asking what he was doing but he ignored him, he slowly stood up and made his way to the dresser. He looked more closely at the picture, Buck had JD in a bear hug while Josiah had his hand on Nathan's shoulder, Vin leaned back against Chris, both men sporting a smile that was unusual even for them.

Ezra pulled his eyes from the picture and pulled the sickening shirt off his back. He didn't care about the pain that registered in his chest, the wounds had healed closed but the broken rib that was still mending gave him a certain amount of pain. He searched the drawers in the dresser for a plain one to wear, he pushed the black material aside and finally found a simple light blue cotton shirt, he slipped his arms into the long sleeves and only did enough buttons up to stop it falling open and revealing his thin frame.

"Ezra?" Josiah couldn't get a response from the younger man, he obviously didn't want to talk to him. He watched him slowly move towards the door, each step seemed to be an effort for him. He quickly got up out of the chair and followed in case his legs protested against the exsessive use and collapse on him causing him to fall to the ground but Ezra made it to the door and beyond.

Ezra shuffled into the living area of the cabin, the socks that he still wore slid against the polished wooden floor, relieving him of any real effort on his part to put one foot in front of the other. He didn't see the dark clad figure that sat on one of the couches facing the fire place, he was concentrating on making it to the kitchen so he could get a much needed drink of water or coffee if there was any made, he was sure there would be.

Chris looked over his shoulder when he heard the soft movement behind him, he saw Ezra's form come into his line of vision, he recognised his shirt and smiled, the man would never wear a shirt Buck picked out unless his life depended on it and yesterday it had, Lenny wasn't one to take no for an answer. He could see the concentration on Ezra's face and decided not to disturb him.

The injured man continued to move forward but he reached an obstacle, his feet stopped when they met the edge of the thick rug. He looked down to his left then right to see if there was enough room on either side of the large cream coloured rug, he still hadn't seen Chris who was watching him from the couch. He sighed, he couldn't go around it, there wasn't enough room, he turned slightly to look at the bedroom door and contemplated going back but the sight of Josiah leaving the room was enough of an incentive for him to pick up his right foot and move forward. Ezra carefully walked across the rug, waiting for the last struggling step that would take him to the other side of the hurdle so he could make use of the wooden floor once again.

Ezra gratefully made it to the kitchen without any mishaps, the last thing he wanted was to be picked up off the floor and carried back to the bedroom. He smelt the coffee and scowled at the brewing pot, the smell told him that Buck had made it, he walked to the sink and got a glass of water instead. He tried to reach into one of the cupboards above the sink but the restrictive movement caused by his rib made him fail in his attempt.

"Can I get it for you Ezra?" Josiah asked him, he had entered the kitchen in time to see the look of pain on Ezra's face when he tried to raise his arm above his head.

Ezra nodded and stepped back. "The Tylenol please."

"Your head?" Josiah got the Tylenol from the cupboard and handed them to Ezra.

"No, I have six pains in the butt, of course I have a headache!" He took four pills out of the packet and swallowed them with the help of the water.

"Would you like me to make some fresh coffee?" Josiah refused to play Ezra's game.

"Thanks." Ezra shuffled away and headed back into the main room.

Ezra continued to move in the same way, he found it easier if he didn't have to actually lift his foot off the floor, especially after the tiring effort he just made when he walked across the rug. He sat down heavily on the couch closest to the kitchen and winced at the sight of Chris Larabee sitting on one of the others. He locked eyes with him for a few seconds but his headache was too bad to continue, he turned away from him and leaned his head back against the couch and closed his eyes, hiding any view of Larabee's form from his mind. He could feel the cold blue eyes still on him.

"Have you got something to say Mr Larabee, perhaps you would like to know why I am up at this ungodly hour." Ezra asked him.

Chris had looked back up at the shuffling sound, he watched as Ezra practically fell down onto the couch. "No but I would like to ask you how your feeling Ezra?" He couldn't hide the concern he felt towards the undercover agent.

"Considering the current conditions I am being held under against my will, I am doing just dandy thankyou Mr Larabee." The anger and sarcasm fell in heavy droplets from the tone of Ezra's voice.

Chris didn't fail to notice the anger that was in Ezra's words, he decided to do what Lenny had asked of them and that was not to talk to Ezra about what had happened without the FBI Agent's presence in the room. He also remember what the seemingly calm man had told him about the side of Ezra that was dangerous and wondered if the anger was part of that side.

"How's your headache?" Chris watched for any changes in his facial expression but knew that any emotions he was feeling would be hidden behind his calm facade, Ezra's poker face was the best in the business, that's why he was second to no one in his chosen profession.

"It's fine." Was the clipped reply.

"He just took four Tylenol." Josiah informed him when he entered the room carrying a tray with three large mugs. "Here's your coffee Ezra." He looked down into the angry green eyes which was the only response to his statement.

Ezra took the mug by the handle then sat back against the couch, he grimaced when Joisah sat down next to him. 'Just great!' he thought to himself. He closed his eyes again and waited for the painkillers to take effect and for the coffee to cool down enough so he could drink it, once he had done that he was going back to bed.

Chris watched Ezra while he drank his coffee, the permanent scowl on his face telling him that Ezra knew he was being scrutinised but refused to say anything about it. He could see Ezra's sunken stomach through the opening of his shirt, he hadn't done all the buttons up and when he sat down on the couch the lower half of the shirt had fallen open. Chris stared at the pale skin, he saw the gap between the waistband of the jeans and Ezra's flesh. He hadn't realised how much weight the undercover agent had actually lost.

"Ezra?" Chris didn't expect an answer.

"What?" Ezra didn't look at him.

"If Josiah made you some breakfast would you eat it?" He waited patiently. "Doctor Falex wants you to eat at least five times a day."

"Doctor Falex isn't here." Ezra retorted.

"No but Lenny is." Chris smiled at the hurt expression, and realised he had an ace in the hole, if the mention of Lenny's name could get Ezra to do something then he'd use it.

"Only if it's something light."

"What about some scrambled eggs and toast?" Josiah stood up and looked down at Ezra, he saw the slight nod that indicated he accepted the decision.

Buck finished tying the sling then stepped back to appraise his efforts, he shrugged, he couldn't do any better than that. If Hoskins wasn't satisfied then he could do it himself. He didn't like being told what to do by that man, he couldn't understand why they all couldn't just sit down with Ezra and talk to him. He may refuse to listen but he wasn't in any condition to physically keep them away from him.

"Why do I have to wear this." JD argued while he pulled at the sling. "There's nothing wrong with my shoulder."

"Apparently it's for Ezra, not you." Buck hadn't liked the idea at first, it was more or less another lie aimed at Ezra but Hoskins had said that it would work.


"Hoskins said it would get you the sympathy vote, that Ezra won't be angry at you if he thinks your hurt." Buck explained a second time.

JD had been there when Lenny suggested the sling but the result of the plan still refused to register in his young mind. He didn't like lying to Ezra, if he found out there was going to be hell to pay and he thought he would be on the receiving end of that anger.

Buck saw the doubt on his young friend's face and it hit him like a fist slamming into his stomach, the air caught in his throat and he had to remember to breath, if JD was in Ezra's position, he himself would do anything to help him and that was exactly what Lenny was doing for Ezra. If he had to lie to Ezra to help them bridge the gap that had been created between Ezra and his friends then he would, if he had to use physical force he would do that also.

"Could you just wear it for today JD and see what happens." Buck asked him.

"Fine but if Ezra finds out that I'm faking it . . ." He didn't finish the sentence, letting the unspoken words hang in the air.

"Come on, I can smell eggs cooking." Buck slapped him on the shoulder and pushed him towards the bedroom door.

Buck followed JD out of the room, his eyes searching for forms that were already making there way into the main room of the cabin. He spied one sitting on the couch, the figure was watching someone else. "Aw hell." He spoke before he could stop himself, he hung his head in shame when Ezra looked back at him. Buck hadn't expected to see Ezra up at this time of day and it had suprised him, he kicked himself knowing that Ezra would take the two words that expressed his suprise the wrong way.

"I can leave the room if you wish Mr Wilmington." Ezra only saw the disdain that was on Buck Wilmington's face but it was his troubled mind that saw it, not his eyes.

"I'm sorry Ezra, I was just surprised to see you up so early that's all." Buck tried to repair the damage.

"Like hell." Ezra replied. His eyes moved from Buck to the sling that held JD's left arm, he looked away before the concern could register on his features, something also nagged at the back of his mind about the image of JD in a sling.

Buck nudged JD forward and when the younger man turned to look at him he nodded towards the couch that Ezra was sitting on, the younger man refused to take a step towards the angry southerner but Buck continued to push him until he was to close to move away and sit in one of the other chairs. He sat down next to Ezra and looked at the man who refused to returned the gaze that was aimed at him.

"How you doing Ezra?" JD didn't know what else to say.

"I have a headache." Ezra carefully turned his head until his eyes took in JD's concerned features. "And you?" When he didn't get an answer he lifted his hand and pointed towards the sling.

"Oh, I'm fine Ezra, just some bruising." JD answered him.

Ezra leaned sideways and looked into JD's eyes, he smiled at him then pulled the sling from his arm, when the younger man didn't grimace in pain he knew the sling was a lie. JD pulled away from him, he expected Ezra's fist to connect with his face but it didn't happen. Buck quickly moved forward, he would defend JD if Ezra threatened him physically.

"Don't bother Wilmington, if I was capable of hitting anyone it wouldn't be Mr Dunne." Ezra glared at Buck, his expression told the man who stood over him that he was the one that would be on the receiving end of any physical altercations that may occur.

"Sit down Buck and stay down." Chris growled at him. "Ezra wouldn't hurt JD and you know that."

"I'm sorry Ezra." Buck moved back to the couch that Chris was sitting on. "I'm sorry about everything, I . . . "

"Buck!" Chris got his attention. "Don't!" It was a statement that didn't want an answer.

"And why not?" Ezra raised his eyebrows in amusement, he thought they would take every opportunity that arose to talk to him about what happened, wasn't that what he was here for. "Do you have a spokesperson that is going to do your talking for you?"

"No but . . ." Chris began.

"Then let him talk, I'm interested to hear what he has to say, besides he's always been a source of amusement." Ezra smiled at Buck and enjoyed the hurt expression that overcame him but it was an emotion that would never equal what he felt when Buck continued to kick him when he lay on the floor of the cell in the ATF building. "Well Mr Wilmington, you have the floor."

Chris now knew exactly what Lenny had meant when he said that Ezra would manipulate the conversation to his advantage, he already had the upper hand on the converstation, Buck was already looking for a way out so he didn't have to talk about it. Chris was going to watch and learn so he would be more prepared when it was his turn to talk to Ezra.

"I'm sorry Ezra . . . "

"You already said that." Ezra leaned his head back, the Tylenol hadn't started working yet. "And it's going to take more than those three words to show me you are truly feeling apologetic towards my cracked ribs."

"I don't know what else to say Ezra." Buck threw his hands up in the air, the movement showed the frustration that he was feeling. He didn't like the look that blazed in Ezra's green eyes.

"Well then Mr Wilmington, the only thing that I can deduce from that is that my friendship and trust doesn't hold much importance to you." Ezra sneered at him. "So I suggest you go away and give it some more thought before you try to persaude me that you are sincerely regretful about what you did and are continuing to do."

"I'm not continuing to do anything Ezra." Buck spoke quietly, he wished he had never spoken.

"You just assumed that I would actually cause JD physical harm." Ezra shifted his eyes to take in JD's face. "It's not his fault that he allows you to lead him on the wrong path, he hasn't seen enough hardship in his life yet to make his own desicions when it comes to something like this."

"I did make my own desicion Ezra, it's as much my fault what I did than it is Buck's." JD informed him.

Ezra held back his shock, JD had also believed him to be capable of doing what he pretended to do. He had told himself that JD had allowed the others to convince him that he had betrayed them but to find out he actually had his own thoughts and feelings, all of them against him, he didn't know how to reply so he resorted to what he was comfortable with.

"Then you have my sincere apologies Mr Dunne because I am now quite capable of causing you bodily harm, and you will pay just like everyone else will." Ezra warned him.

'Oh shit, where's Hoskins when we need him?' Chris thought to himself.

"I won't let you hurt him Ezra." Buck stood up.

"But you'll stand by and let Chris beat the shit out of me!" Ezra gingerly stood up and faced Buck, he knew he didn't have the strength to fight him but he wasn't going to let him get control of the situation.

Chris raised his eyebrows in suprise at the use of his first name. "Back off Buck, that's an order."

"Your making this too hard for me Ezra." Buck stormed away from the room, he walked through the kitchen and ignored Josiah's shocked expression, the back door slammed shut leaving the tension to answer any questions that Josiah might have.

"No, I'm just trying to decide if your willing to put any real effort into this," Ezra sat back down and rested his head on the back of the couch, "obviously not." He didn't speak loud enough for the retreating figure to hear what he said but Chris and JD did.

"I'll go and talk to him Ezra." Chris told him.

"Please don't do anything on my behalf." Ezra's tone was full of sarcasm.

"Buck's going about this the wrong way, he needs to be sorted out." Chris welcomed the smile that crossed Ezra's taunt features.

Buck stood on the porch and gazed out across the lake, he thought of the times he had spent with Chris and Adam during their many fishing trips. He had been part of a small family and like Chris he had found a replacement with the group of men who made up the ATF team. This made him think of Ezra, was he really part of the family, did he want to be a part of it, he wasn't sure anymore. The man didn't want to try and deal with what happened. He didn't turn around when he heard the door close behind him, he knew who it was and he expected understanding from his longtime friend but he didn't get any.

"You played right into his hands Buck, you walking out like that just confirmed what he thought, you don't want to try and talk to him." Chris stood beside him and spoke without looking at him.

"I sort of had it the other way around." Buck turned to him.

"It was a test, you failed." Chris faced him. "You remember what Nathan told us about the conversation he had with Ezra in the hospital. That when friendship is tested people fail, they turn away from him and that hurts him Buck, you just did it in there." He saw the understanding flash in Buck's eyes. "Next time don't leave the room, stay there, make Ezra leave if that's what he wants but you stay."

"But how are we supposed to talk to him when he acts like that?" Buck angrily asked him.

"He's only trying to hurt us with his words, but what he says means nothing compared to the way we hurt him, you have to remember that Buck. We deserve everything he throws at us so keep your mouth shut and deal with it." He put his hand on his shoulder. "I know your angry at yourself for what you did to him but your taking that anger out on Ezra, none of it's his fault, your only making things harder for you and easier for Ezra."

"I don't know why I hit him." Buck admitted

"Ezra won't accept that."

"I know." Buck looked at the lake that lay before him, it mirrored the stillness of the air around them, the boat house wasn't even moving. "So how are you going to manage talking to him?"

"Me? I'm seriously considering gagging him." Chris smiled.

"Ezra . . . I . . ." JD hesitated, he didn't want to anger Ezra in the same way Buck had.

"Just say it, see if you can do any better than Buck did." Ezra was looking forward to this.

JD took a deep breath and began the speech that he hoped would repair the friendship that he had thought existed between himself and the man who sat next to him.

"I looked up to you Ezra, you didn't treat me the same way the others do, like a kid. You taught me things they didn't." He turned sideways on the couch but Ezra didn't respond, he continued to look into the cold fireplace. "What you told me about looking at people's eyes and not their hands saved my life at the hospital when Glading came after you." He saw the shift in Ezra's expression and hoped it was in his favour. He got off the couch and sat on the coffee table so he could look directly at Ezra, his own expression showed a maturity that was beyond his years.

"I wanted to help you when you resigned, even after we read your resignation, I didn't want to believe any of it." JD could see Ezra's green eyes and the emotions that flowed through them but the eyes still didn't look at him, he looked over Ezra's shoulder and saw Josiah standing in the doorway of the kitchen, the older man nodded to him to continue.

"When I saw you in that warehouse I thought that everything you told me was a lie, the image I had of you became distorted and I couldn't see past that broken image."

Ezra finally looked up at JD. "You also seemed to have picked up some of my extended vocabulary along the way."

"I'm really am sorry Ezra, if I could change any of it I would, I didn't want to hurt you."

"But you believed it JD, that's what hurts." Ezra looked back down at his hands.

"I'm sorry Ezra, I reacted instead of thinking, I think we all did, some more than others." JD didn't know if he was getting through to him or not, he knew Ezra wasn't angry but he didn't know if that was a good sign or not.

"If it was Buck, would you have believed it?" Ezra didn't want to see the look on JD's face, he never hid his emotions and Ezra knew he would know if JD lied.

"Honestly Ezra, no I wouldn't. For one thing Buck couldn't act to save his life, all he needed was a woman to walk past and he would forget he was undercover." This comment actually received a small chuckle from Ezra. "You were very convincing Ezra, I mean you could convince the Pope that you were God if you wanted to."

"You do have a point JD." Ezra smiled up at him.

"I wouldn't blame you if you didn't forgive me Ezra but could we at least stay friends."

"I didn't realise we were." Ezra stated seriously.

"Why would you think that?" JD asked him.

"No reason." Ezra turned towards the bedroom door, he could see the picture that stood on the dresser in his memory, reminding him that he was never a part of the group.

"I'll need to think about it JD."

"That's enough for me Ezra, I'm not going to push you into anything you don't want to do, your too stubborn for that." JD agreed.

"I'm not that stubborn." He wasn't sure about what JD had said, he hadn't realised that the younger man had considered him a friend, he didn't know how to accept that piece of acknowledgement.

Chris and Buck walked back into the kitchen to find Josiah watching the two men who sat in the living room, he still held a plate of scramble eggs and toast in his hand, the steam floated into the air and fanned around the quiet man's face.

"What are you waiting for Josiah? An invitation." Buck stepped up to him and looked at JD who was talking to Ezra. "What's the kid think he's doing?"

"He's not a kid Buck, JD just succeeded where you failed, he just retrieved the friendship he thought he had lost." Josiah smiled at him then walked into the room, disturbing the two men who had failed to notice they were being watched.

Ezra tried to eat while being watched by four men, they didn't directly stare at him but he knew that each time his eyes moved to the plate that sat on his lap they would look at him, and when his eyes lifted their heads turned away. This game continued during the fifteen minutes it took him to eat most of the breakfast Josiah had made for him. When the plate of eggs was nearly eaten clean he leaned forward to put it on the coffee table, but he went to far and a dizzy spell took control of his body causing the plate, fork and eggs to fall to the wooden floor. Someone grabbed his arms and helped him back onto the couch.

"You okay Ezra?" JD asked him, the concern was not hidden from his young voice, he had seen the pale complexion pale even more, if that was possible and knew he was going to fall off the couch, his quick reflex's stopped the southerner from falling and hitting his head on the table.

Ezra nodded and allowed JD to help him, he leaned his head back, the colour of the couch making his taut skin seemingly even more pale, and closed his eyes until the dizzy spell passed. He listened as someone cleaned the mess he had created, he wanted to apologise but couldn't find the strength to open his eyes and speak. Ezra couldn't believe he was about to fall asleep again, he'd only gotten up thirty minutes ago. He had no idea how he was going to deal with the people who sat hovering over him, he needed his strength to physically fend them off when he needed and wanted to but it was beyond him to do so at the moment and it was making him feel vunerable.

"Come on Ezra, let's get you back to bed." Chris leaned over him and stepped back when Ezra's green eyes sprung open, he saw the emotion that flashed through his eyes, a frown creased on his forehead as if he was concentrating on something that was beyond their grasp.

"No!" He didn't want to go back to the room that reminded him he was an unwelcomed intruder to the family that existed between the other men, the photo that sat on the dresser would be a constant reminder to him.

"You need to get some rest Ezra." Chris tried to pursuade him.

"I'll rest here." Ezra laid down on the couch and JD had to get up to give him more room, he made himself as comfortable as he could on his right side, his head resting on the couch's arm rest, he had to bend his knees so he could fit his ailing body more easily onto the confined space. "I don't want to go back into that room."

Chris saw that Buck was about to say something and angrily motioned to him with his hand, his forefinger slicing through the air in front of his throat, to shut up. "Why not Ezra?" The question was spoken calmly so Ezra would know that he wasn't angry about it.

"It's a reminder." Ezra was too tired to argue.

"A reminder about what?" Chris asked him.

Ezra opened his eyes and looked up at his former colleague, he knew that he was never a true friend, he frowned again, this time in confusion, Chris was never a friend because he wouldn't let him be, he didn't allow any of them to get close to him, how could he blame them for something that he was responsible for, it was what he wanted but a false childhood security told him that they also wanted it, they didn't want a friendship with a man they couldn't trust. Ezra decided that he wanted to tell Chris why he didn't want to go into the room, why he hadn't wanted a real friendship to develope between them but a life long defense mechanism prevented him from doing so, he was afraid if he told them they would only hurt him with their response, they would agree with his impression of the false relationship they had with each other, neither of them wanting to admit that they didn't want one to exist. He closed his eyes again, not allowing himself to answer the question.

"What about the other room?" Josiah asked him, he sat down on his knees, facing Ezra and waited for an answer that would give him permission to pick up the smaller man and take him into the second room, he knew he wasn't capable of walking, not at the moment anyway, he was still weak and needed time to build his strength up, time he wasn't sure the southerner had.

"No, that's Adam's room." It was another reminder but for something different, he had seen the room when he was last here and it was still decorated the same way it had been when Adam was alive, he could see the happy childhood in the brightly painted walls, the toys that filled the toy chests, and the books that sat on the bookshelf. The sight had told him what he had missed out on during his young life, all he had seen when he was growing up were small barely furnished rooms with white walls. "I'm staying here!"

'Then when I get enough strength back I'm leaving.' Ezra didn't voice these words out loud.

"JD go and get Ezra a blanket." Chris watched as Ezra's mouth partially opened, his breathing becoming more shallow as he slipped into a peaceful slumber.

"What was that all about?" Buck wanted to know.

"I have no idea." Chris's answer only caused more confusion.

"Maybe he wants to stay here with us." Josiah suggested, he stood up and stretched his already stiff back, he would have to make sure he didn't sleep in one of the bunk beds in Adam's room again.

"I doubt that very much." Buck grimaced, he knew that if Ezra had the chance he would leave, the southerner always hated it when someone tried to force him into doing something he didn't want to do, he'd always been like that, bullheaded, the more you pushed him the more he pushed back, and he always won, unless of course it was something beyond his physical bounds. Buck's grimace turned to a smile at the return of some fond memories of butting heads with the smaller man on the couch.

JD returned with a blanket and Chris carefully laid it over Ezra's prone form, then stepped back from the couch. "Why don't we let him sleep while we get some breakfast for ourselves." he suggested to them. After making sure Ezra was comfortable Chris followed the others into the kitchen.

Buck and JD offered to make the most important meal of the day but Chris and Josiah refused the offer, and they were not polite in conveying their feelings in regards to the two men's cooking abilities. Josiah again volunteered to make the eggs while Chris took care of the toast. The leader of the group wasn't able to concentrate though, his mind wondered back to what Ezra had said, 'it's a reminder,' what could his room remind him of. He mentally took note of what was in the large bedroom, his mind's eye scanning the room that had been decorated by his wife, he could see the rocking chair, the large bed, the dresser with the family photo's. Those photo's were also a reminder for himself of what he had lost, a family. He could feel the guilt begin to overwhelm him once more, the guilt was what had driven him to drink when it happened, they had died instead of him, that had happened five years ago and the person/s responsible for their deaths was still at large. He mind saw each frame on the dresser, then finally settled on the last one, his new family.

"Damn!" Chris exclaimed.

"You burn the toast again Chris." Buck got up from the wooden kitchen table and made his way to the toaster. "And you tell me I can't cook."

"It's the photo in my room, the one of us on the fishing trip that Ezra came on." Chris turned his back on the toaster, he didn't notice the smoke coming out it, or as it began to flow around him and head towards the opened back door. "That's the reminder."

"But what does it remind him of?" JD asked innocently, he had no idea of the implications of the photo that held only six faces instead of the actual seven that were in attendance on the fishing trip.

"He was here that weekend JD but he's not in the photo. How would it make you feel if you weren't in it?" Chris finally smelt the smoke and turned around, the thick bread had caught in the toaster instead of popping up like it was supposed to. He pulled the burning bread out, putting an end to it's misery and replaced it with two new victims.

"Like I wasn't part of the group, just a visitor who wasn't going to be staying." JD admitted.

"Couldn't have put it better myself JD." Josiah smiled at him, he was having a good day with his sudden matureness, he knew what to say when the rest of them didn't.

"Smells like Buck's cooking breakfast." Vin commented to Nathan as they entered through the back door into the kitchen, he waited for the rebuttal but he didn't get one. He looked around at the glum faces and knew that something was wrong. "What's happened?"

"Is it Ezra?" Nathan also knew by the expressions that the four men wore that something wasn't right.

"Ezra's fine, he's sleeping on the couch." Chris gave them some relief.

"What's he doing on the couch?" Nathan asked the group.

By the time Chris explained the situation to Vin and Nathan the toast was burning for a second time, Josiah pushed him out of the way and took control of the bread toasting, they were going to be here for two weeks and he didn't want them to run out of bread on the second day.

"Everything clear outside?" Chris changed the subject, he pushed the other thoughts to the back of his mind, he knew he would have to bring the photo's up in the conversation he was going to have with Ezra, it was another explanation that he would have to give the younger man, a man who deserved none of this, he'd only been doing his job, and sometimes he was too good at what he did but that couldn't be used as an excuse, especially in this situation.

"Yeah, it's clear." Vin answered him.

Vin and Nathan had gone out early to check the surrounding terrain for any sign of visitors, they had taken their time, enjoying the early morning sun and the quiet they didn't get to hear in Denver. After sunrise the trees seemed to be greener, the sky more blue and the stillness of the lake would be enough to calm even the most agitated person, if it wasn't for the threat against Ezra's life they would have him sitting in a boat enjoying the calmness of the waters it floated on.

"Where's Hoskins?" Nathan asked Josiah as he took over the job of making the toast.

"Still sleeping, the guy's as bad as Ezra." Josiah smiled at him.

Lenny forced his sleep glued eyes opened and looked at the blurred numbers on the digital clock that sat on the small dresser in the guest bedroom, he waited patiently for the numbers to come into focus then swore silently under his breath. He hadn't meant to sleep so late, he didn't want to leave the others alone with Ezra for such a long time, they were quite capable of ignoring his request and speaking to Ezra when he wasn't there. Just because Ezra didn't have the strength didn't mean he wouldn't try and retaliate using his fists. His young friend needed his help and protection, and Lenny was going to make sure that he got it even if he had to use his own fists to keep him safe from any physical or emotional harm.

He dressed quickly, making sure the automatic weapon was hidden in his jeans waistband, and ignoring the pressure that told him his bladder was requesting that he alleviate it of it's burden, he rushed out of the guest bedroom. His mind registered the amused glances but he also ignored them, he headed towards Larabee's room so he could check on Ezra before answering to his bladder's needs. He heard someone say something to him but he refused to acknowledge the words, Ezra was at the forefront of his mind, nothing else mattered.

"Hoskins!" Chris tried again, he didn't want to raise his voice to much, he was afraid of disturbing the sleeping form that lay under a thick blanket on the couch. Chris waited until the Federal agent came back out of the room, his worried gaze searching the large living room. "Ezra's here!" He finally got the older man's attention.

Lenny heard and understood the words that were being spoken to him, he moved towards the group of men who shared the two remaining couches. He knelt down in front of Ezra and wiped his hand across his forehead. "Why is here instead of in your bed?"

"The fishing photo, it's the same as the one in my office, he wouldn't go back in there because it's a reminder to him, he thinks he's not part of the family." Chris stood up and knelt down beside Lenny.

"He doesn't have to think Larabee, the photo speaks for itself, if he was a member of your family he'd be in the photo!" Lenny growled at him, his bad mood becoming even worse at Chris's words, he thought that Larabee was aiming all the guilt of what was happening towards Ezra. He allowed his eyes to move from Ezra's slack face to the hardened one of Chris Larabee. "Wouldn't he!?"

"Yes he would and after all this is over he will be." Chris informed him, he had all intentions of making things right between himself and Ezra.

Lenny, satisfied with the answer, nodded and stood up. "Is there any coffee made?"

"Yeah." Josiah told him.

"Breakfast?" Lenny hoped something was made, the fresh mountain air had increased his appetite, he hoped it would do the same for Ezra.

"Sorry, we've eaten already, so has Ezra." Josiah again answered him.

"You got Ezra to eat something?" Lenny was impressed.

"He wasn't going to but when I mentioned your name," Chris shrugged his shoulders, "you seem to have a lot of influence on him".

"Yeah I do don't I." Lenny admitted proudly. "I just hope it lasts because if it doesn't you guys are going to be in some serious trouble." He was about to go into more detail but felt the agonising calling pressure of his bladder once again. "I'll be back in a minute." He rushed off to the bathroom to answer nature's call.

When Lenny came back, he was more refreshed, his mood relaxed, he passed JD on his way back to the couch that held Ezra's sleeping form. He stopped next to the young man and looked down at his arm, he smiled at the confused expression that looked back at him.

"The sling didn't work then?" Lenny knew the kid wouldn't be able to pull if off.

"No Ezra saw right through it." JD answered.

"And you obviously." Lenny continued to smile.

"JD didn't do anything wrong." Buck defended him.

"No, then why did Ezra know he was faking the injury." Lenny calmly inquired of the man who allowed the older man to defend him.

"Because unlike you, JD can't lie to him." Buck stepped forward. "Ezra could see the truth in his eyes."

"And unlike you JD can't talk for himself?" Lenny's eyes stared at Buck, the anger was beginning to take control of his calm exterior.

"I'm sorry but I don't have a poker face like Ezra's." JD finally spoke. "But I can talk and I spoke to Ezra about what happened."

"You spoke to Ezra?" His eyes continued to move from one person to the next, his eyes now resting on Chris's face.

"Yeah and I think I got through to him, said he needed to think about it though." JD smiled at the back that was now turned to him.

"Larabee, can I have a word or two with you please!" The anger was evident in Lenny's voice.

"Have as many as you want." Chris told him, he wasn't going to allow the agent's anger to ruin the progress that they had succeeded in gaining during the first hour of the morning.

"In the kitchen, I don't want to wake Ezra up." Lenny walked away from the close knitted group, he was going to have trouble keeping them all under control so he would have to get Larabee to do it.

"Sure." Chris smiled at his men then followed Hoskins into the kitchen. "Are you deaf or stupid?" Lenny turned on Chris as soon as he entered the kitchen, he didn't take the time to get himself some coffee and sit down at the table to have a discussion with the leader of the five men who were constantly pissing him off, he was too angry for that.

"I'm neither. Why?" Chris raised his eyebrows at the man who stood before him, he wasn't going to loose his temper like he did when he first met Hoskins, he had allowed the man to get the better of him and he wasn't going to do that again.

"Then you must think I'm stupid?" He took a step closer to Chris, he could see that he was keeping his anger in check and he planned on doing the same thing but he knew he wasn't going to succeed.

"I've always thought that." Chris smiled at him but he could see his answer did nothing to anger Lenny any more than he already was, on the outside anyway, he had no idea how he was dealing with this on the inside.

"So you think I don't know what's best for Ezra, that the friendship I've had with him for the past ten years doesn't tell me the best way to deal with this?" Lenny didn't wait for an answer. "You think I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to taking care of his welfare." He ignored the smell of coffee that assualted his senses, the coffee could wait until later.

"Your being too soft with him, your protecting him from us instead of allowing us to talk to him." Chris argued back.

"I'm protecting him for a reason Larabee, you do remember what you did to him don't you or would you like me to remind you. You beat him while his hands were handcuffed, you gave him a concussion, tore the skin off his face, I have a picture of him up here," he tapped his temple with his finger, "one that keeps reminding me of what he looked liked after you threw him onto the floor when you brought him in to the ATF building!" He saw Chris flinch at the words. "Wilmington kicked him until he cracked his ribs, but what hurt him more was the anger and hatred he saw in your eyes, he's been hurt enough, I won't allow that to happen again!"

"You have my word that he won't be hurt, physically or emotionally." Chris couldn't forget what he had done to Ezra and he never would.

"Your word isn't good enough for me, you haven't done anything to deserve my acceptance of it." It was Lenny's turn to smile.

"Then there's nothing I can say to prove to you that we have Ezra's best interests at heart." Chris walked over to the kitchen counter and leaned against it.

"But there is something that you can do." Lenny answered Chris's raised eyebrows. "You can stop your men from talking to him when I'm not there, I've already asked this twice but they, like you, are ignoring my request."

"Pussy footing around the problem isn't going to help him! JD saw an opportunity and he took it." Chris watched Lenny carefully, he could tell he was struggling to keep control of his anger. "He did the right thing."

"The right thing." Lenny repeated the words then laughed. "What would he have done if Ezra got angry?"

"JD would have been able to handle it." Chris crossed his arms, it was a movement of emotional defense but it was for JD and not himself.

"Mr Sanchez couldn't handle Ezra on one of his bad days, I've told you that before but you won't listen to me!" Lenny didn't realise his voice was becoming louder. "I didn't make this request just for the fun of it."

"Ezra wouldn't hurt JD or any of the others!" Chris protested, his voice was also getting louder.

"And how would you know?" Lenny retorted. "You have no idea what he's capable of doing do you?"

"I know he's not capable of doing much when he's that state!" He pointed towards the couch that Ezra was sleeping on.

"If he got angry enough he could do anything in that state, including beating the shit of you." Lenny spoke calmly but he was fuming inside. He thought differently to what he was actually saying, his words were used to warn Chris of Ezra's capabilities even though he himself knew that Ezra didn't have the strength to carry them out.

"You exaggerating." Chris knew he was.

"Maybe, but give him a few days, as soon as he gets his strength back he'll make you pay for what you did!" Lenny's voice became even louder. "And when he's finished with you it will be my turn, I gave you a promise Larabee and I intend to carry it out!"

"Your welcome to carry out that promise now!" Chris uncrossed his arms and stepped towards the man who equalled his height and build.

Ezra jerked awake, his breath catching in his throat, he could feel the suffocating weight of the blanket and pushed it off his shoulder, he ignored Nathan's voice and rolled over onto his left side, his head facing the back of the couch and listened to the angry voices that had caused him to wake abruptly. He could feel someone adjusting the blanket that had gotten caught under his body when he rolled over.

"Go back to sleep Ezra." Nathan's voice spoke quietly in his ear but he couldn't ignore the argument that was going on in the kitchen, he was the centre of that tirade and he wouldn't have it.

He threw the blanket off, allowing it to fall to the floor, he rolled onto his back and sat up. Two faces suddenly came into view and he pulled away from them until his back hit the couch. He glared up at Nathan and Josiah and they stepped away from him, he took the opportunity they opened up for him and pushed himself up off the couch. Hands tried to grab his arms stopping him from going any further but his anger gave him the strength to push them away.

His sock covered feet managed once more to carry him to the kitchen, it helped that he didn't have to navigate the thick rug that hid part of the wooden floor. The voices grew louder as his mind became more alert. Ezra stood at the opening and faced the two men, one of them was an important part of his life, a person who would never betray him like the man who stood in front of him. But Lenny sometimes treated him like a child and this was one of those times.

"Lenny!" He waited until the two men turned to him. "I am quite capable of looking after myself."

"I know that Ezra but I think that six against two are better odds." Lenny hadn't heard or seen Ezra enter the kitchen, he'd been too angry to see anything but the man who still stood in front of him. His young friend had stopped the physical atlercation that was about to happen, finally breaking the second standoff that was occuring between the two men.

"What happened is between them and me, there isn't anything you can do to help." Ezra told him, his own anger was building, the tension in the room was becoming thick enough to cut with a knife.

"I can help you deal with it Ezra, I can stop them from hurting you again." Lenny wasn't offended by Ezra's refusal of help, he was independent and always tried to deal with his problems on his own but Lenny was going to help whether Ezra wanted him to or not, just like he always did.

"I can stop them from hurting me and you can help me deal with it later, not now." Ezra was looking at Chris.

"We're not going to hurt you Ezra." Chris gave him the same assurance as he did Hoskins.

"Now why don't I believe that." Ezra's tone was sarcastic. He frowned then clicked the thumb and middle finger of his right hand. "I know, it's because you've hurt me already." The frowned turned into a glare that was aimed at Chris. "All of you did, and I still have the pain to prove it!"

"We didn't mean to Ezra." Josiah's voice joined those that were already in the kitchen.

Ezra turned around to face the other members of the group, he moved towards Lenny and stood by his side, his friend was right, if he allowed him to help the odds would be better.

"Of course you meant to, it wasn't an accident, what you did was with intent." Ezra moved even closer to Lenny, he only stopped when his own body touched his, he leant against him, using him to keep himself upright, he felt as though he was going to fall down.

"And you intentially didn't tell us what you were doing." Vin growled at him.

"If I told you that I was going undercover you wouldn't have reacted, you would have given my cover away." Ezra retaliated.

"Exactly Ezra, you expected us to react and now your blaming us for that reaction." Vin moved closer to him. "You can't have it both ways."

"Tanner!" Lenny gently pushed Ezra aside and stood in front of him, he was willing and able to do what Ezra couldn't and that was defend himself physically, when he knew he was able to, he would allow him to do so without his interference.

"Lenny." Ezra spoke quietly and waited for him to return to his side. "I see that your not willing to waste your breath this time Mr Tanner." Ezra stepped forward on shaking legs. "Yes I expected a reaction but my blame isn't aimed at what I expected you to do. It's aimed, and rightly so, at what you did. I didn't expect to be beaten, or to see the hatred in your eyes. I know you never really liked or trusted me but I didn't deserve any of that."

"I did Ezra, I always liked and trusted you, and I still do but . . . " Vin couldn't find the words.

"But what." Ezra stepped backwards looking for Lenny's strength, he was beginning to tremble, the strength continued to leave his body.

"But you can't blame us for what happened." Josiah stepped up to Vin and stood beside him.

"Why not?" Ezra reached behind him and grabbed Lenny's left arm for support, not emotionally but physically.

"You had needle marks Ezra, you looked like you were on something when we found you in the warehouse, where I might add, you were selling information. Hoskins showed up saying he was investigating you." Josiah remembered how he felt when this happened, he had felt guilty because he hadn't helped Ezra when he thought that something was wrong with him. "And there was the resignation letter you wrote, how else were we supposed to feel Ezra, that letter made us angry, we couldn't react any other way."

Lenny waited for Ezra to say something but he didn't. "Ezra!"

"What?" He knew what he wanted but he refused to justify the letter.

"Tell them for christ sake." Lenny was getting frustrated, Ezra said he could deal with this himself but he wasn't telling them everything.

"Tell us what?" Chris demanded.

"Ezra didn't write the letter." Lenny informed them.

"What?" Chris, Vin and Josiah voiced this together.

Lenny rolled his eyes, he couldn't believe he had to keep repeating himself with these men. "I said he didn't write the letter!"

"Who did?" Chris asked him but kept his eyes on Ezra.

"Judge Travis." He enjoyed the shocked expressions. "The Judge asked Ezra to do it but he didn't have it in him at the time but I'm sure he would have no trouble writing such a letter now." Lenny squeezed the hand that held a death grip on his forearm. "Travis knew you would react, show some anger towards him, that's why he wanted it written but he was shocked by the way you treated him."

"The fact that someone else wrote it doesn't change anything, at the time we thought Ezra wrote it." Josiah continued to explain his reaction.

"No but at least you now know that Ezra never had it in him, you can't hold that letter against him." Lenny knew they planned to use the letter to ease their burden of guilt.

"Why didn't you tell us this before?" Chris asked him.

"No one asked me." The smile on his face mirrored the one that appeared on Ezra's.

"Your not making this easy for us!" Chris told him.

"Why should I, your men are blaming Ezra for something that he's not responsible for, he was only doing his job." Lenny retorted.

"Lenny." It was only a whisper and in his anger Lenny didn't hear Ezra calling him.

"We don't blame him, I just want him to realise that it wasn't entirely our fault that we reacted the way we did." Vin continued the argument, he hadn't heard Ezra either.

"Lenny." This time his voice was barely audible, but Ezra's mouth moved, his knees were beginning to buckle, he could no longer stand on legs that refused to hold him upright.

"Ezra!" Nathan was the only who noticed, he saw Ezra's eyes roll just before he began to collapse, he rushed forward intending to catch him but Lenny reacted to his concerned voice, the Federal agent wrapped his arms around Ezra's waist and eased him to the floor. Nathan was by his side within seconds.

"What's wrong with him Nathan?" Lenny sat on the floor, he held Ezra up in a sitting position, his back against his own chest. He waited for the ex medic to answer him.

Nathan checked Ezra's pupils and took his pulse, both were fine, he felt his forehead and found a slight temperature but he kept this knowledge to himself. "Too much at once that's all Lenny, take him to the spare room, he needs to get some rest." He stood up and Lenny followed him, his arms holding Ezra the same way he had when he carried him into the cabin. "I suggest we wait a few days before we try talking to Ezra again and when we do we should make sure he's sitting down!" This anger was voiced at both Lenny and the others.

Lenny nodded then walked away from the group but he could feel the movement of the men following him, he carried Ezra into the spare room and laid him down on the bed and pulled the covers up over him, he sat down on the bed and twisted himself sideways, he lifted Ezra's right arm out from under the blankets and held onto his hand.

"I'm sorry Ezra, I wasn't thinking."

"None of us were." Chris agreed with him.

Lenny looked around to see six men crowded into the room, their expressions were ones of concern, only a few minutes ago they were full of guilt and remorse. He knew these men cared but the way they showed their concern caused him to forget what the main objective was and that was to reunite the group of men who worked so well together. Ezra belonged to this collectively closed knit group, he just didn't know it. He mentally scolded himself for making it harder for them, Larabee had been right, he wasn't making it easy for them, he had told the leader of the group that he would help them gain Ezra's friendship and trust back and he wasn't doing that. He looked back at his young friend, the relaxed features causing him to look younger than he actually was, he knew that Ezra was willing to listen to what they had to say, what just occured in the kitchen proved that.

Now all they needed to do was to convince him to stay within the group and give them another chance at the friendship that he had longed for all his life. Lenny knew his own relationship with Ezra was more like a brother, he cared for him like a brother would, the younger man could confide in him, tell him his fears and hopes, show him the emotions he would never show in front of another person but he wasn't going to be around all the time, he needed new friends, he had to become part of another family and not just the one they had. Lenny knew that if this didn't work Ezra wouldn't be able to cope with it, he'd already had to many failures when it came to friends and his career. He had always loved his job and knew he would be lost without it, if they failed him again he would continue to trust no one or accept the offer of friendship again, he would close himself off completely to everyone and everything and Lenny was afriad that the closure would shut him out also, that he would loose the close relationship that he had with Ezra, he couldn't and wouldn't let that happen.

Lenny rested in the chair that Chris had brought in for him, his feet were stretched out, the booted heels crossed and balanced on the edge of the bed. He eyes continued to glance from Ezra to the view that he could see through the window, he was amazed by the amount of trees that were so close to the house and wondered if Larabee had ever heard of the term 'fire hazard'. When he looked back at Ezra he saw the shift in his body as he rolled over and faced him, he pulled his left leg towards his chest and lifted his right arm until it was positioned under the pillow his head resting on the forearm that was now hidden by the pillow.

When Ezra settled back down Lenny's eyes moved back to the window, he knew the trees would make good cover for anyone who wanted to sneak up on them, he began to think that it hadn't been a good idea to come up here but decided that the same thing would occur if they were in the city, the only way they were going to know that Collins was attempting to kill Ezra again would be when they actually saw him. He also wondered if Larabee's life was still in danger. He wasn't concerned, the man was able to look after himself and he also had five watchdogs who seemed to be keeping closer to his physical proximity than Ezra's. He hadn't asked to be left alone with Ezra, they had chosen to leave the room.

He awkwardly twisted his head towards the door when he heard the soft knocking that informed him someone was requesting permission to enter the room. He didn't answer it, the door opened anyway and Nathan stepped into the room carrying a tray full of food. His gentle eyes took in Ezra's inert form, then turned towards Lenny.

"You didn't have breakfast so I brought you some lunch." He spoke softly so he wouldn't disturb Ezra, his footsteps were just as soft when he made his way to the bedside table. "There's something here for Ezra too, when he wakes up that is."

Lenny looked at the tray and saw the two salad sandwiches and bowls of fruit, he smiled up at Nathan. "A man after my own heart."

"I assumed because you and Ezra are so much alike that you probably eat the same type of thing, besides it's what Ezra needs to get his strength back."

"What I need is a good shot of whisky." Ezra spoke but didn't open his eyes.

"How are you feeling Ezra?" Nathan asked him. He motioned for Lenny to move his feet so he could sit on the bed, he used his right hand to feel Ezra's forehead, his temperature was beginning to come down.

"I still have a headache and I want to go home." Ezra still didn't move.

"I'll get you something for your headache Ezra." Nathan got off the bed. "The going home part, you can dicuss that with Lenny." he smiled at the look the older agent gave him, he turned his back on the argument he knew would begin. Ezra was stubborn, if he wanted to leave, he would fight and argue with Lenny until he succeeded in getting what he wanted but what Nathan didn't know was that the two always came to some agreement, neither of them ever winning the fight.

"Lenny?" Ezra waited for an answer.

"Not yet Ezra, I agreed to two weeks." Lenny put his feet back up on the bed.

"I have to stay here for two weeks." Ezra finally opened his eyes and he stared at Lenny. "Why two weeks?"

"We thought it would push Collins into doing something stupid, he already made one mistake by sending Glading into the hospital." He wasn't going to go into more detail but the expression on Ezra's face gave him a warning, he wanted more information. "And it's an opportunity for the others to talk to you, there going to wait a few days though, Nathan told them to after what happened this morning."

"You do know that when I do get my strength back I'm going to leave." Ezra told him, a slight smile crossing his handsome face but only half of it was visible, the other was still hidden by the pillow.

"As long as you know I won't let you." Lenny smiled back and Ezra's grew, the dimples appearing on his left check.

"We've come to an understanding then." Ezra commented as he rolled onto his back.

"Now that we have that sorted out, you can eat some lunch." Lenny reached for the tray, his eyes not seeing Ezra's face but his mind knew his personality. "And you can wipe that look off your face, your eating it, it won't be a decent fight if you give me the advantage of you still being weak."

"If you beat me it would be because I let you." Ezra smiled at him, he pushed himself up into a sitting position and allowed Lenny to place the plate that was overfilled with a salad sandwich onto his lap. "Chicken?"

"Looks like it." Lenny lifted the top slice of bread. "And you never let me win, I allow you to loose."

"You just keep thinking that Lenny, and you'll be fine." Ezra took a large bite out of the sandwich.

Lenny put down his sandwich and looked at Ezra, he knew the good mood would only last while they were alone, as soon as one of the others entered the room or Ezra left if, his poker face would be put in place and his mood would take a turn for the worse. "Ezra, are you willing to listen to them when they talk to you?"

"Depends on what they have to say."

"You know what they have to say Ezra." Lenny watched for his reaction, Ezra never wore his poker face when they talked.

"No I don't Lenny, I know what they want to talk about but not what they have to say." He was actually curious as to what the explanations would be.

"I told Larabee that I would help them." He admitted to his long time friend, he hoped that he wasn't betraying him.

Ezra lifted his eyebrows in suprise. "Why?"

"Because you belong Ezra, you may not think your part of the family now but you will, they don't want to loose you Ezra." He watched as the suprise spread across the younger agent's face, his left hand lifted towards his face, the thumb wiping his bottom lip. "I saw the worry and concern when they thought they were going to loose you."

"I wonder why they weren't thinking that when I went undercover?" Ezra asked but he knew Lenny wouldn't have the answer, he would have to ask the others.

"You can ask them in a few days when they start talking to you and I expect you to talk back." He took one of the glasses of orange juice off the tray and took a tasting sip, he grimaced at the bottled juice, he preferred the freshly squeezed kind.

"If I'm still here Lenny." Ezra warned him.

"You will be." Lenny smirked and inwardly began to think of ways to keep Ezra in the cabin, they would have disabled the cars and boat but they may need a quick getaway, they could lock the doors but Ezra was a proficient amateur lock smith, that left tying him to something, he had never been good with knots.

Ezra spent the first day in the spare bedroom, only seeing Lenny, JD and Nathan when they sat with him or brought him food, he spent the more peaceful hours going over what Nathan and JD had told him. Nathan's admittance of not trusting him and not being surprised by what he had done had shocked him at first, it was something that he hadn't understood. But the more he thought about it the more he came to realise that he had never given the man a reason to trust him, he had run out on his first mission, being disillusioned with the job and the people he worked with. He was given a second chance after he came back, no, he was no longer suprised that Nathan and Chris didn't trust him, they had a reason not to and he had given them that reason on a platter. He knew he had proven himself on more than one occassion since then but it must have been hard for them to forget that first operation. Maybe now they would. And maybe in some way he wanted to be accepted back into the group and was finding excuses to make it easier for himself to accept what they were going to tell him. He let out a deep breath and continued with his travelling thoughts.

He smiled at the thought of JD looking up to him, no one had ever done that before, Lenny always thought of him as an equal and treated him as such. JD had thought of him as being someone he could learn from and took everything that the agent told him at face value, the young man had hung onto his every word and trusted him with his life, he had given him an unconditional friendship which Ezra had unknowingly accepted. He finally realised that a friendship had existed between the two of them, he knew it would never grow into the type of friendship he had with Lenny, Buck would be that person in JD's life. JD had told him that he had believed what happened but had wanted to help him, it was only when he saw the physical evidence that he reacted, he had caused him to become disillusioned just as others had done to himself. He couldn't blame JD either.

'Aw hell, I'm going to give in to those two aren't I.' He thought to himself.

His thoughts then moved to the conversation that he'd had with the others, what Buck had told him gave him the impression that he wasn't willing to try and explain to him why he had physically assualted him in the holding cell. The older agent was still angry at him for some reason but he didn't know why. He pushed Buck aside and went over what Josiah and Vin had said in the kitchen, they had wanted him to take partial blame for what happened, he wasn't willing to do that, he had done nothing wrong, only his job, and until they accepted the blame for their own reactions there would be nothing they could say that would allow him to accept their apologies.

And then there was Chris, he hadn't said anything yet but he knew that he wanted to, he was just biding his time waiting for the right moment, he was the one that had to put in the most effort in gaining his forgiveness and he was the one that was going to be hardest to forgive. Since when had he decided to forgive him, Ezra blamed it on his weakened state but knew it wasn't true. Everytime he looked into those blue eyes he could see the guilt and remorse that the man felt, he didn't hide it from him and those emotions were as strong as the hatred and anger he had seen during the days he spent in the interview room. Chris had done what he could when it came to hurting him emotionally and physically and succeed on both accounts. Yes it was going to be very hard to forgive him for what he had done.

Ezra finally drifted off to sleep, the thoughts still rambling in his mind, Lenny looked on from his position in his chair. He knew that his friend was thinking about what was to come and didn't disturb his thoughts, they were always able to have a comfortable silence between them. He was able to tell by the peaceful expression that stayed on his face that he was willing to listen, if his face grimaced or frowned then it would have been a different matter.

Ezra spent the next two days moving around the cabin, he now had enough strength to actually lift his feet, he no longer dragged them along the ground, relying on his socks to ease the burden of his weak body's efforts to walk. He was aware of the scrutinising gazes that followed him around the cabin, some of them he accepted, others he glared back at, even causing them to flinch back from his angry stare. But the person who watched him the most wasn't Lenny, it was Chris Larabee, he followed Ezra's every move and he didn't like the attention at all, he would have approached him on the subject but knew the man would use it as an opportunity to talk to him and he wasn't ready to listen, he still needed some more time. But he wasn't going to get it.

Ezra was sitting on one of the couches, his head resting on the back, his eyes closed, he didn't move when he felt someone sit down next to him, he could tell by the new heaviness in the air that it was Chris. He waited for the explanation to begin but instead he was asked a question which surprised him.

"Ezra do you hate me for what I did?" Chris asked him after he sat down on the couch. Ezra hadn't acknowledge his arrival but he knew the southerner was awake.

"Why would I hate you?" Ezra lifted his head and opened his eyes, he didn't look at the man who sat next to him, he wasn't willing to look at the emotions that he knew Chris wouldn't be hiding. "All you did was beat me, treat me like a piece of shit that wasn't worth standing on and believed I was capable of selling information."

"Your cover was good Ezra, you thought of everything."

"You think I should also be taking the blame like Vin and Josiah do?" He looked into the fire place, the burnt embers reminding him of the ruined friendship that Chris was trying to repair. You couldn't relight something that was already destroyed, you had to start with something fresh.

"No, none of it was your fault." Chris followed his gaze. "Your cover was good, it always is."

There was a short silence before Chris continued, he thought that Ezra would have left the room by now, what he had said so far was his own test, the fact that Ezra hadn't left proved to him that he was willing to listen to what he had to say, whether he would accept what he was about to tell him was something else.

"Do you remember the day you ran out on us during our first operation." He watched as Ezra nodded but he still didn't leave. "Then you remember how I gave you a second chance?"

"Yes I do." Ezra replied.

"I thought you threw that chance back in my face, I even thought you spat on it first and then the way you were acting during those days in the ATF rooms it felt as though you were rubbing it in my face." Chris continued to watch Ezra, he couldn't see any emotions crossing his face, he was keeping his poker face firmly in place.

"But I realised that it wasn't the real reason why I reacted, it was just what I told myself so I could accept what I did." He finally looked into the green eyes that turned towards him. "I didn't want to listen to the real reason, didn't think that I actually cared about what happened to you."

Ezra turned away again, the emotions in Chris's eyes were to much for him to handle.

"I lost Sarah and Adam in a way that I couldn't prevent from happening, I didn't see it coming and I've always blamed myself for their deaths." Chris changed his position and sat sideways on the couch, much like JD had done a few days before. "When I found out what was happening to you . . . "

"It was a cover, it wasn't happening to me." Ezra tried to get angry so he could keep himself from being hurt anymore.

"We didn't know that Ezra." He waited for a response but Ezra stayed silent. "When I found out what was happening it was like going through what happened to Sarah and Adam . . . "

"You've got to be joking!" Ezra turned back towards him. "I'm not family remember, what was happening to me," he lifted his hands and curled both forefingers, "isn't the same, you wouldn't have felt the same way. My death would be a relief to you, theirs was and still is torture. It's nothing like what happened to them so don't even compare me to people you loved."

"Ezra would you at least give me a chance to explain, you can say what you want when I'm finished." When Ezra didn't answer he began to play with the shoe lace on his boot. "I'm not talking about their deaths, I'm talking about not being able to prevent what was happening to you, you brought those feelings of guilt back and I didn't want to blame myself for something like that happening again, it felt like I was loosing another family member." He ignored Ezra's laugh, he knew it was hard for him to listen. "I cared about what happened to you Ezra, I just wouldn't admit it to myself. I know it's not the same way I feel about Buck, there's no denying that but I do care in my own way like I'm sure you do. Ezra I was angry at what you were doing to yourself not what you were doing to us. I thought you were slowly killing yourself and there was nothing I could do to prevent it just like I couldn't prevent my first family from being killed."

"You could have offered some sort of help, I wasn't dead!" Ezra retorted.

"I don't know why I didn't, I know you needed it. When I saw you in your apartment on the day we found out you quit, my first thought was that you were seriously ill but then that smart mouth of yours started and my anger took over like it always did and it grew from there."

"You were angry before you even forced your way into my home." Ezra reminded him.

"I thought you had run out on me again but in a different way." Chris admitted.

"Now you have three reasons." Ezra allowed the sarcasm to sound in his voice.

"Only one, the first and third are more or less the same and they don't count." Chris leaned forward trying to look at Ezra's face. "Do you understand what I'm trying to say Ezra?"

"Yes I do! You first thought I was throwing my second chance back in your face, then you thought I ran out on you again, then you realised that none of that was really true." Ezra turned to him causing Chris to lean back. "But then you had a revelation that you may actually care about what happens to me and you couldn't prevent what was happening like you couldn't prevent your wife and son's deaths. Your angry at me because I was making you feel guilty again." Ezra stood up and glared down at the man before him. "Well I'm sorry Chris, it wasn't my intention to make you feel guilty, I was trying to catch a man who wanted to kill you!"

Chris sighed heavily, this wasn't going well at all, he looked over his shoulder and looked at Lenny, they had come to a compromise, Lenny would be present but Ezra wouldn't know he was there. He didn't like the smug look on the agent's face, it was a look that said, 'I told you so.'

"Ezra . . . " Chris began but it was too late, Ezra was angry, he wasn't going to get anywhere with him in this state.

"None of what you just said explains why you beat me while my hands were bound, why you threw me against a wall, why you refused to allow me to eat, or kept the pain killers from me, or the way you grabbed my side to stop me talking! You even threatened to kill me!" Ezra was pratically yelling at him now. "I don't care what you felt, whether it was guilt, anger or even hatred, what you did to me wasn't right, I didn't deserve it! You would never have treated a murderer the way you treated me! How could you ever expect me to understand or forgive your reaction!"

"Ezra!" Chris stood up followed Ezra into the middle of the room.

"What!?" Ezra turned to face him. "You found another reason to add to the growing list!"

Ezra turned away from him but Chris grabbed his arm, pulling him back to face him.

"Larabee! Don't!" Lenny warned him and quickly moved towards the two men.

Chris didn't have a chance to find out what he didn't want him to do, he had spun Ezra around and was shocked by the look in his eyes, it was pure anger and hatred and he instantly knew what Ezra was talking about when he spoke of seeing their hatred. He stepped back from him.

Ezra seeing his chance also took a step back, giving himself more room, he turned onto his right foot then brought his left leg up, his body leaning sideways to keep his balance, the heel of his boot slammed against Chris's jaw, he spun again, this time his boot knocked the leader to the ground, he was unconscious before his body hit the floor.

"EZRA!" Lenny pushed him away from Chris, he knew he wouldn't continue to hit the fallen man but he did need to gain control of himself. "Calm down!"

"I'm calm!" Ezra growled at him, he was watching the others as they surrounded Chris.

Lenny pushed him towards the spareroom, leaving the others to take care of Larabee. He slammed the door behind him then pushed his friend onto the bed.

"What the hell was that about?"

"You know exactly what it was about, you were listening all the time." Ezra growled up at him. "I'm not stupid Lenny so stop treating me like I am."

"I'm sorry Ezra." He sat down on the bed next to him. "I didn't think that you would listen if I was there."

"I need you to be there Lenny, I can't do this on my own!"

"I won't do it again Ezra." He put his arm around Ezra's shoulders and pulled him closer, giving him a brotherly hug.

"Don't leave me alone with any of them Lenny." Ezra rested his head against his friend's shoulder.

"I won't Ezra, you have my word."

"Help me get him onto the couch." Nathan nodded to Josiah.

Together they lifted Chris and carried him to couch and carefully laid him down, his knees were drawn up so he could fit. Nathan prodded his jaw then checked his pupils for a concussion. He knew that Ezra had hit him pretty hard, hit, he actually kicked him, he had never seen Ezra do that before, he had never known that the southerner knew martial arts, it wasn't even in his personal folder. They had all checked it after he first arrived and joined the group.

"There's no dislocation, fracture or concussion, Ezra just knocked him out." Nathan smiled, he didn't think anyone could knock Chris to the ground in a matter of seconds.

"Did you guys see that?" JD held back his excitement until he knew Chris was going to be okay. "Ezra kicked him, did you see it? He was just like Jackie Chan. I never knew Ezra did martial arts. What did you think it was Buck. Judo? Karate? Kung Fu?"

"He was pretty angry wasn't he?" Buck ignored JD's excessive banter.

"Yeah he was and he has every right to be." Nathan agreed.

"How are we supposed to ask for his forgiveness when he's that angry?" Josiah asked the group.

"I have no idea." Chris muttered.

"Chris?" Nathan pushed him back down.

"What hit me?" Chris opened his eyes and looked up at Nathan's concerned face.

"Not hit, kicked and it was Ezra." Vin told him.

"I got him that mad?" Chris grimaced at the pain his speech was causing to his jaw. "Usually it's the other way around."

"You should be glad he didn't do more damage." Lenny told him as he left the spare room, closing the door behind him, he walked towards the couch that Chris was not sitting on. "You okay?"

"I'm fine." Chris answered.

"I told you he was capable of beating the shit out of you or any of the others. Maybe next time you'll be more careful."

"Yeah I will." Chris leaned back. "What did he do?"

"Tae Kwon-Do. He's got a black belt, took lessons when he was a kid to help defend himself against the numerous relatives and students that constantly tried to beat him." Lenny gave them a piece of Ezra's past.

"What's he doing now?" Chris asked him.

"Believe it or not he's sleeping." Lenny smiled and sat down on one of the other couches. "Chris, I just promised Ezra that I wouldn't leave him alone with any of you again. I'd appreciate it if you could help me keep that promise."

"Sure, everyone will help you keep it and that's an order." Chris looked around at the group of men.

He was about to say something else but the sound of a car engine stopped him, all eyes turned towards the bay window.

It had taken Collins nearly a week to find the right kind of men who were willing to risk their lives to take down one ATF agent and anyone else who tried to protect him. He offered them a lot of money but he knew that not all of them would survive the attempt to kill a Federal Agent. He had only managed to find four men but he couldn't wait any longer, he had almost been caught the day before. He needed to take care of Standish, once he had done that he would find a way to get out of Denver.

The four wheel drive had driven past the outskirts of town where Collins had given up the chase when he had followed Larabee out of town nearly a week ago. He had known where they were going, he was aware of Larabee's cabin and it's location, a lot of agents were. And now they were nearly there, he could taste the revenge he was after. The car pulled up to a stop and two of the men got out.

"Head up around the back of the cabin, the car engine will distract them and will probably bring at least three of them outside. Remember Standish is the priority, I want him dead!" Collins ordered them.

The two men, one larger than the other by two inches nodded then seperated as each one ran into the woods. Collin's slapped the driver's shoulder, indicating for him to drive on. He got down on the floor in front of the back seat so he wouldn't be seen.

JD rushed back into the main room with two bullet proof jackets and flannel shirts to cover them. Vin took one and Chris was about to take the other but Hoskins snatched it from his hands.

"Your not going anywhere, you just regained consciousness, you'll just get yourself killed." Lenny growled at him while Nathan helped him put the jacket and shirt on. He pulled the gun from his waist band and checked it then he clipped off the safety switch.

"Be careful." Chris succumbed to the knowledge that Lenny was right.

"You ready Tanner!" Lenny didn't wait for an answer, he headed straight for the door. He turned to see Vin right behind him, he saw the nod that said he was ready.

"It's clear." Josiah informed them from the bay window.

Lenny opened the door and stepped out, he held his gun out at the ready and when a shot wasn't aimed in his direction he lowered the gun. There was nothing to indicate the car on it's way up to the house was hostile but they couldn't take the chance. He walked down the steps with Tanner following him. He turned his head to the side and stood still.

"The car's stopped." He waited a few seconds. "Now it's going again."

"To let someone out you think?" Vin asked him.

Lenny knew it wasn't a question, he was testing him. "Yeah I agree." He moved towards Nathan's car and nodded in the direction of Chris's.

Vin silently agreed and stepped closer to the dodge, they might need cover to protect themselves from the bullets that would try and kill them. They only had to wait a few seconds before a black four wheel drive rounded the bend and head towards them. Vin could make out two men in the front, one of them looked to be about fifty years old and the driver was at least twenty years his junior. The car came to a halt and both men stepped out of the car.

"Nathan, go and wake Ezra, I don't want him asleep if something goes down." Chris told him while he watched Hoskins and Vin walk out the front door.

Nathan rushed into the spare room to find Ezra sleeping on his stomach, half of his peaceful countance hidden in the pillow. He pulled the covers back and placed both hands on the inert form's shoulders. He shook them hard, he needed to wake him quickly.

"Ezra!" He leant down and yelled into his ear.

Ezra jerked awake at the sound, he blinked the momentary confusion out of his eyes and twisted his head to look behind him at the person who dared wake him.

"Someone's coming. Get up!" Nathan pulled him from his bed and began to drag Ezra out of the room.

Ezra saw four armed men at the two bay windows. "Where's Lenny!" He demanded.

"He's out there with Vin." Chris nodded to the outside world.

Ezra was kneeling down next to Chris in a matter of seconds, he watched as Lenny and Vin made their way down the steps and then seperate and take up positions on either side of the cars.

Lenny first looked at the hands that were hidden behind the backs of the two men who exited the car, he pulled his gun up level with his shoulder but before he could turn sideways to make himself a smaller target four bullets slammed into his chest, the bullet proof jacket being the only thing that protected him against death, he was thrown back against the wooden posts that lined the stairs, the back of his head slammed against one of the posts and he crumpled to the ground in an unconscious heap.

Vin realised their must have been a third person in the car because the two men who stood beside the car didn't fire a gun. He ducked behind the dodge and waited. He didn't have to wait long. Both men showed their hidden hands, both carried automatic weapons. Vin fired and swore when the bullets didn't take them down. They too were wearing bullet proof jackets. He took a deep breath and then showed himself, he didn't hesitate, his gun fired and he shot the man on the right, his bullet finding the target in the center of the eyes. He ducked again as a spray of bullets shattered the dodge's windscreen.

He heard more weapons firing and knew they were coming from inside the house. He could also hear Ezra's voice. Vin knelt down and looked under the car, he saw two bodies lying on the ground and another running from the car. He ran after the fleeing assassin.

Ezra saw the two men get out of the four wheel drive, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, he looked at Lenny, saw him raise his gun then heard the gun shots that were fired from the car and watched in horror as his long time friend was gunned down before his very eyes and there was nothing he was able to do to stop it.

"LENNY!" Ezra screamed, he scrambled for the door on hands and knees. "LENNY!"

Josiah managed to tackle him before he got to the door that would take him out into danger. "Ezra!"

"LET GO OF ME!" Ezra struggled in his grip.

"Ezra! He was wearing a jacket!" But he couldn't get through to him.

"Oh God, Lenny!" Ezra tried to free himself from Josiah's arms while the tears fell from his eyes. "LENNY!"

Ezra began to kick out with his feet but someone jumped on them to stop his struggles. Other hands forced him onto his back and someone took his face in their large caring hands.

"He's not dead Ezra!" Nathan looked into terrified green eyes. "Lenny's wearing a bullet proof jacket."

"What?" Ezra gasped. He had heard the words but his tortured mind didn't believe them.

"He's wearing a jacket, the bullets hit his chest. The worst thing that could be wrong with him is a broken rib." Nathan explained to him, he saw the understanding in Ezra's eyes but the fear was still there. He had thought his friend was dead.

"But he didn't get up!" Ezra again tried to get to his friend.

"Stay here Ezra!" Nathan ordered him. "Josiah and I will go and get him."

Josiah began to stand up and saw the metal steel that began to protude from around the corner of the kitchen's opening. "Kitchen!" He yelled then fell back onto Ezra's still struggling form to protect him from a bullet.

Chris, Buck and JD both turned at the sound of Josiah's voice and threw themselves in front of the couches. The bullets they expected to rain down on them didn't happen. Chris lifted his head to look over the couch and one single bullet fired, striking the couch inches from his face. He ducked back down again.

"Shit." He looked at the others, they were boxed in, if they headed for the door they would be gunned down. They were trapped. "Where the hell is Vin!?"

Lenny's first coherent thought was that he was dead, but then he felt the pain and realised he wasn't. Gawd he hurt. He laid where he was for a moment and listened to the quiet. He was about to get up when a single gunshot fired from within the house.

"Ezra!" He struggled to get to his knees, he looked around, his unfocused eyes managed to make out the two forms that lay on the ground in front of the jeep. He looked under the cars to see if Vin was lying on the other side but he didn't see him. He stood up and swayed for a moment, he shook his head and regretted it, the small movement almost made him collapse again. Lenny lifted his head and saw that the front door was still intact and one panel in each of the bay windows were broken. 'The back door.' he thought as he picked up the gun that had fallen to the ground beside him. It was another movement he regretted.

He moved to the side of the cabin and made his way to the corner, he slowly peaked around and expected the sound of another gunshot, the one that would end his life but his eyes saw an empty porch. He kept his back close to the wall and made his way quietly up the stairs. He reached the door without being heard. He could hear a voice coming from inside and he waited to determine which side of the kitchen it was coming from. He was unaware that there were two men inside.

"Send out Standish and the rest of you might live." The larger gunman yelled out.

"We keep Standish and you might live." Chris retorted. He would rather die than hand Ezra over to these men.

"Chris." Ezra didn't want them to die protecting him.

"No Ezra." Chris turned back towards the kitchen. "Well?"

"We have the upper hand here, if you don't give him to us then you'll all die. Are you ready for that?" The man argued.

"Yes we are." Chris answered without hesitation. "Are you ready to die trying to get him?"

"The money is worth the risk."

That was enough for Lenny, he made himself known by standing in the doorway and placed a bullet in each leg of the man who was standing at the opening that led into the living room, Lenny wasn't the type to shoot a man in the back. The larger man fell to the kitchen floor withering in pain. Lenny saw the movement from the other side of the kitchen and heard a gunshot but it didn't come from the man in front of him, it came from the man behind him. A fifth bullet slammed into the Federal Agent's back, it caused him to fly head first into the kitchen, the momentum saving his life. The second man fired a split second later, the bullet entering the space that Lenny's skull had just vacated.

"Aw hell." Lenny groaned in pain, his voice joining that of the other man.

He felt someone grab the back of his shirt and drag him to his feet, it was a struggle for the smaller man but he managed to get Lenny in front on him and push him into the living room.

"Turn Standish over or this man is dead. Did you hear that? Are you willing to risk his life?" The smaller man yelled to anyone who would listen.

"Alright!" Chris looked over the couch, he had expected to see Vin but instead saw Hoskins, the man was barely keeping himself upright, his handsome face was contorted in pain. He hoped to god that Nathan and Josiah kept Ezra behind the couch, if he saw Lenny they wouldn't be able to stop him from giving himself up. There was no way in hell that he would allow Lenny to die for him.

Vin caught a glimpse of the man he was chasing, he knew who it was immeadiately, it was Collins. He saw the change of direction he was taking, he was heading back towards the cabin. Vin turned sooner hoping to catch him before he got there but he was seconds too late. He looked up ahead when he heard two gunshots, he saw Lenny standing in the doorway. Vin felt the relief hit him, he was glad the man was alright. He heard another gunshot and saw the agent fall once more. Vin looked for the man who fired the shot.

"ATF put the gun down." He yelled at the man in front of him, he didn't want to kill him, he wanted the man to stand trial for the attempted murder of Ezra Standish. But it wasn't to be.

Collins thought the two men he had hired were keeping Tanner occupied, he had taken care of Hoskins himself. He listened to the gunshots and hoped some of them had taken Tanner down as well but when the silence echoed through the still air he had known they hadn't. Why did he have to keep hiring such incompetents. He turned and headed back towards the cabin to make sure that at least the other two were doing their jobs. He stopped when he saw an agent standing in the doorway of the back door. He didn't take notice of who it was, if he had he would have aimed higher. He heard the man's gun fire twice then fired his own gun and smiled when he saw the man go down. But the smile dropped from his face when he heard Tanner's voice behind him. He wasn't going to go to jail. He spun on his heel thinking he was quicker than the man he was going to face but he wasn't. Tanner's bullet entered his forehead and ended his life.

Vin moved forward, he took the gun from the dead man's hand and stealthy moved towards the back of the cabin. He didn't know how many men there were so he had to be careful. If they had all been taken care of then one of the others would have come out by now. He tiptoed up the stairs and stopped outside the back door, he quickly poked his head around the corner then withdrew it again. He only had a second's view of the situation but saw all he needed to. There was only one man left standing, another was lying on the floor bleeding from two gunshot wounds to his legs.

The quiet ex-bounty hunter stepped into the kitchen, his sneakers not making a noise on the tiled floor. He managed to get close enough to the man in front of him.

"Let him go or I'll kill you!" Vin's voice was calm but cold, the threat heavy in his tone.

The man was shocked, he was told that this would be an easy job but it hadn't been and now he was on verge of death. He had to decide if he wanted to live in jail or die. He lifted his hands in surrender, his gun swinging on a bent thumb.

"Turn around and move away from him." Vin had his gun aimed at a point between the man's eyes. "Now put in down carefully then step to the right."

Once Vin knew it was safe he called out to Chris. "I've got him, the area's secure!" He waited and was presented with Buck and JD's faces, neither of them were hurt. He helped them take care of the two men while the others took care of Lenny.

Josiah and Nathan kept a firm hold on Ezra stopping him from going anywhere. The voice of the man in the kitchen told them that he had a hostage and it would either be Vin or Lenny. It was only a matter of seconds after the man spoke that they heard another gunshot from outside the cabin. It was a distraction for all of them. Ezra managed to get his head high enough to see his friend standing in the doorway with a gun pressed against his temple. He was about to yell out to him but a hand was clamped over his mouth and he was pulled back into Josiah's grip. He struggled in the larger man's embrace but couldn't escape his arms.

Chris looked across at Ezra, his could see the terror in his eyes and there wasn't anything he could do to ease his fear. He berated himself for putting Ezra in such a vunerable position both physically and emotionally, he had promised him he would never hurt him again and here he was doing it. Chris was about to stand up when he heard Vin's voice echo out from the kitchen. He could have kissed him he was so relieved to hear him and then when he called out the area was secure, he almost collapsed with relief. Ezra didn't have to be hurt again. He nodded to Buck and JD to go in.

"Hold on to him for a few more minutes Josiah, just to make sure." He followed the others into the kitchen. When he saw that it was alright, he called back over his shoulder to let Ezra go. The words hadn't even finished being spoken when Ezra ran past him to Lenny who was holding himself up against the wall.

"Lenny!" Ezra called out to him when he reached him. "Damn it Lenny, will you answer me!"

"I'm fine Ezra." Lenny muttered through the pain in his chest and head. He couldn't focus on his friend. He felt his body begin to sag and collapsed into Ezra's arms and his weight took the younger man to the floor with him.

"NATHAN!" Ezra yelled out, he was still terrified. He saw the pain in Lenny's unfocusing eyes, he could feel his unmoving weight on his own body.

"I'm here Ezra." Nathan and Josiah gently lifted Lenny off Ezra. "Take Lenny into the spare room Josiah, I'll be there in minute."

"Now Nathan!" Ezra growled at him.

"I need to get the first aid kit Ezra." Nathan told him, his tone calm because he knew what Ezra was going through.

Ezra nodded, his face apologetic then he turned and followed Josiah to the spare room.

Josiah laid Lenny down on the bed and began to remove the shirt that covered the bullet prove jacket, but smaller hands tried to push him away.

"I'll do it!" Ezra squeezed himself between the bed and Josiah, he took over after the taller man finally moved away. Ezra sat on the bed and tried to lift the heavy body, but because his own still lacked it's full strength his body shook with the effort.

"Let me help you Ezra." Josiah lifted Lenny into a sitting position when Ezra didn't protest against his offer of help.

Ezra removed the shirt and bullet proof jacket off with Josiah's help then pulled the loose t-shirt over Lenny's head. Ezra swore at the large red areas that covered his friend's chest.

"Ezra." Nathan's voice caused Ezra pull his eyes away from the sight before him. He stood up and let Nathan do his job.

Nathan pressed against the ribs in Lenny's chest while Ezra paced a small area of the room behind him. The ex-medic was relieved to find that none of his ribs had been damaged. He expertly checked the rest of his limbs then used his fingers to check his skull, he found a large lump on the back of his skull. The unbroken skin told him that there would be a possible concussion. He felt his pulse to find it strong and steady, then lifted the eyelids to look for uneven pupils but found them to be fine also. His breathing was also fine.

"He's alright Ezra. He's ribs aren't damaged in anyway but there will be a few very painful bruises. There's a lump on the back of his head but I don't see any complications coming from that." Nathan explained to him. He pulled Lenny's shoes off then covered him with the bed covers. "He'll just need some rest."

Ezra couldn't say anything, his teeth were rattling, he couldn't stop shaking, the fear hadn't left him. He felt his legs buckle and he began dropped to the floor but Josiah's strong arms caught him.

"Ezra." Josiah's concerned voice called to him, Ezra registered who the voice belong to and tried to push him away. He felt another person's hands and heard Nathan's soft voice. He moved towards him away from Josiah.

"What's wrong Ezra?" Nathan allowed Ezra to move close to him, he turned his head in his hands and looked into the green eyes that stared back at him.

"I'm fine . . . just give me a minute." Ezra's voice shook.

"Josiah!" Nathan nodded towards the door and waited for him to leave.

"Ezra?" Nathan asked him again.

"I was scared Nathan, I've never been so scared before in my life." Ezra whispered.

"I'm sorry Ezra, I wish none of this ever happened." He was surprised when Ezra allowed him to put his arm around him but it only lasted a few seconds then he pushed him away.

"I'm sorry, I'm okay now." Ezra forced himself to stand up, his legs only managing to hold him in an upright position. He quickly moved towards the chair and sat down before he fell down.

"Are you sure Ezra." Nathan stepped closer to the chair and put his hand on his shoulder.

"No. Oh God! I thought he was dead Nathan!"

"But he isn't Ezra, he's fine." Nathan turned when he heard the door open, he looked back down and saw Ezra's poker face. 'Damn.' He thought to himself.

Chris stepped into the room and knew by the angry look on Nathan's face that he had disturbed them. Ezra must have been talking to him and his entrance put a stop to it.

"How is he?" Chris looked down at Lenny then at Ezra. He wasn't sure who was paler.

"Lenny's going to be fine. A bump on the head and some bruises." Nathan explained.

"Who hit me?" Lenny asked, his voice was full of pain.

Ezra was on the bed in an instant. "Lenny?" Ezra didn't give him a chance to answer. "Lenny?"

"I heard you the first time Ezra." He growled. "I hurt all over."

Ezra turned to Nathan. "He never could handle pain."

"Chris, can you get some water and a packet of tylenol please." When Chris left the room he pulled Ezra from the bed and sat him in the chair. He took his place then leant over the patient. He just hoped he wasn't as bad as Ezra in that respect. "How many fingers do you see?" He lifted two.

Lenny squeezed his eyes until they were nearly closed then proudly announce two.

"You got a bad bump on the head Lenny and your going to have some bad bruising on your chest but apart from that your fine. Your going to have to stay in bed for a while and get some rest."

"I'm not going anywhere, not in this pain." He turned his head and looked at Ezra's pale features. "And Ezra?"

"You scared the life out of him Lenny." Nathan informed him.

"I'm sorry Ezra." His face was full of concern.

"It's okay Lenny, I did the same to you a month ago." Ezra smiled, he was alright.

"Come here." Lenny put his hand out and took Ezra's hand when he sat back down, he could see the fear that was still in Ezra's eyes now that he was closer. "I don't hurt that much, just want some sympathy, you've been getting it all lately." He gripped Ezra's hand with a firmer hold. "I'm fine Ezra. Really."

Ezra nodded and tried to smiled at him to show him that he was also fine but he couldn't manage it, he wasn't able to get rid of the emotions he was feeling, the fear of seeing Lenny gunned down still tore through his soul.

"Is everyone okay?" Lenny asked Nathan.

"Everyones fine." Chris answered as he walked back into the room. "Josiah's talking to Judge Travis now, he's going to send some men up to take what's left of those guys back." He handed the tylenol to Nathan who removed four from the packet.

Nathan sat Lenny up and gave him the pills then the water he took from Chris. He held him up for a few minutes to make sure the pills were swallowed and that nothing was going to come back up. He laid him down and returned the covers to their previous position.

"Get some sleep Lenny." Nathan ordered him.

Lenny nodded and closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep with his hand still firmly gripping Ezra's.

"Ezra, you can stay with him for a while but I want you to try and get some rest later. Okay?" Nathan informed him, he saw the slight nod and knew Ezra wasn't going to do what he asked. He sighed and gestured to Chris to leave and he followed him out.

Five hours later a black van arrived to take deliver of three corpses, and two prisoners one of which was injured. The blood had been removed from the kitchen floor. Five men were now gathered on the three couchs in the living room, they all looked up when Nathan came back out of the spare bedroom with a plate of untouched food. The heads turned back and looked into the coffee cups that their hands held.

"Ezra wouldn't eat it." Nathan muttered. He took the plate into the kitchen and returned with a cup of coffee. He sat down next to Josiah.

"He'll be fine tomorrow, he just needs some time to get over what happened." Chris told him.

"Did you see the fear in his eyes when he thought Lenny was dead?" Nathan spoke to the room.

"Terror Nathan. He was terrified." Chris answered. "We have to take better care of him."

"I'll give him some more time then go back in and try and get him to go to bed." Nathan didn't think he would succeed though.

"We nearly lost both of them didn't we?" JD voiced his fear.

"Nearly JD, that's the key word." Buck told him.

"Would you have let Lenny die Chris?" JD asked him.

"No JD." Chris looked towards the spare room's door. "After seeing that look in Ezra's eyes I knew he would have died along with him, but not physically. I promised him I wouldn't hurt him again and allowing Lenny to die to protect Ezra would have done just that. I'm not going to hurt him again."

Nathan tried to open the door without disturbing the two occupants in the room, he made a gap big enough to fit his head in and to allow the light from the main room to filter into the smaller spare room so he could check on them. He knew Lenny would still be sleeping and he was hoping that Ezra was. But the light that illuminated the bed and the chair next to it, revealed green eyes that stared back at him. Nathan's anger grew, he understood what Ezra was feeling but he also needed to take care of himself, he still had a lot of healing to do and the last thing he needed was to become exhausted through lack of sleep.

"Ezra what the hell do you think your doing, I told you to get some sleep!" Nathan whispered harshly towards the younger man.

Ezra ignored the angry tone and turned back to his previous position, his saddened green eyes watching his old friend, hoping for some sort of movement that would continue to assure him that Lenny was fine.

Nathan knelt down next to the chair, he looked up into Ezra's determined face, his arms were also crossed against his chest, he knew that he wasn't going to listen to anything he was about to say. "Ezra, why don't you get some rest, I'll wake you when Lenny wakes up."

"No, I'm not leaving him." Ezra didn't take his eyes off the unmoving form that was covered by a thick blanket.

"I told you he's going to be fine Ezra." Nathan tried to convince the younger man but he wasn't succeeding. If he wasn't so angry at the rest of them he would have gotten Chris to force him to go to bed.

"When I thought he was dead, it was the worse feeling I've ever had, I never felt anything like that before, I don't want to go through that again." Ezra lowered his head to take in Nathan's concerned expression. "But I'm going to have to aren't I, he's not going to live forever. What would I do without him? I don't have anyone else."

"That's why he's trying to help us deal with what happened Ezra. He doesn't want you to be alone anymore, and with six of us you won't be." Nathan rested his arm on his friend's shoulder.

"But how can I trust any of you after what you did to me." He turned away, he didn't want Nathan to see the anger in his eyes. "How do I know that you won't do it again?"

"You have to learn to trust us Ezra." Nathan got up and sat on the side of the bed so he could watch Ezra.

"I was learning to trust you and look where it got me. Too many people have hurt me Nathan, I can't let you do it again."

"We won't do it again Ezra." Chris spoke from the doorway. He poked his head into the opening that Nathan hadn't closed, the false light causing the bruises on his jaw to blend into the darkness. He listened to the conversation and understood Ezra's fear and mistrust and didn't blame him for it. They had caused the anger, fear and mistrust, and now they had to repair the relationship they damaged. "Ezra I want to talk to you but I know you don't want to be left alone with me, can Nathan stay or would you rather I waited for Lenny?"

"I'd rather you didn't talk to me at all." Ezra saw the dissapointed look on Chris's face, the feelings weren't aimed at him but at the man himself, he was failing in his endeavor to apologise for what he had to done to Ezra.

"Okay Ezra, if that's what you want. I'll try again tomorrow." Chris began to leave the room but the soft southern voice stopped him.

"Your not going to stop trying are you, so you may as well get it over with." Ezra looked towards Nathan. "Would you stay please."

"Sure Ezra." Nathan stood up and moved to Ezra's side so Chris could sit on the bed and face the man he wanted to talk to.

Chris waited a few moments trying to get his thoughts together, he hadn't done so well the last time he had spoken to Ezra and he had the bruises to prove it. He hadn't been this nervous in a long time, if he failed again he wasn't going to get another chance.

"Well?" Ezra pushed him.

"I was angry at myself Ezra and instead of blaming myself I blamed you and took that anger out on you. It was the wrong thing to do and I'm sorry." He lifted his eyes so he was looking into Ezra's, he could also see Nathan's confused look. "Nathan and Josiah knew there was something wrong, they'd known for a while before it happened but I didn't. I was angry at myself for not seeing it or being able to put a stop to it and help you before things got out of hand." He looked down at Ezra's hands, his right had such a firm grip on the left that his knuckles were turning white. "And when we were told you resigned, like I said before, I thought you ran out on us again, I thought you threw your second chance back in my face but more importantly I was angry at myself for letting it happen. JD wanted to help you but I gave an order that none one was to help you, I didn't want someone to succeed where I had failed and that was to help you Ezra."

"You blamed yourself for what happened?" Nathan asked him.

"Yes. When Vin and I went to your apartment, I was angry. And then I saw the state you were in. Why didn't I notice before? why didn't I see the weight loss? the bags under your eyes? I didn't see any of it Ezra. I told myself that I didn't see it because I didn't care but that wasn't true. I was angry because I did care." Chris looked down at his own hands. "At the warehouse, I couldn't even begin to apologise for what I did to you Ezra. I don't even know why I did it. All I know is that I was angry and I took it out on you."

"What I told you about Sarah and Adam was true, about not being able to prevent their deaths, I thought you were dying and I wasn't able to prevent it, I felt guilty all over again and I blamed that on you too." He looked back up. "None of it was your fault Ezra but I blamed you when I should have blamed myself, I took the anger that I felt towards myself out on you when I should have taken in out on myself, I refused to help you when I should have given you all the help you needed. I'm sorry Ezra, it was my fault, not yours, I'm sorry for what I did."

"Chris." Nathan got his attention.

"When I told you that Ezra was working undercover, you believed me, their wasn't any doubt in your mind. Why don't you tell Ezra why." He saw the frown. "Tell him why you believed he was working undercover."

Chris took another moment to think. "I wanted to believe that Ezra wasn't going through all of that, it meant that I didn't have to be angry anymore and blame Ezra for something that was my fault, it meant that I didn't have to feel guilty because there was nothing for me to see, that I didn't notice something was wrong because there wasn't anything to notice. I was being selfish Ezra, it was a relief to me, it was what I wanted and needed, a way out, an excuse for what I did but then I realised what it meant to you. All the things that I had done because I didn't want to take the responsibility for what happened."

"You were angry at yourself because you blamed yourself for what you thought was happening to me?" Ezra asked him. He was trying to understand what Chris was saying to him.

"Yes. I also realised something else Ezra and that was I did care about what happened to you, I knew it all along but wouldn't admit it to myself and that made me even more angry." He remembered the feeling that he had but couldn't understand it until after Nathan had informed them that Ezra was undercover. "I only admitted it after what Nathan told us but it was too late then, if I hadn't allowed my anger to get the better of me I could have stopped and thought about it, I would have understood what I was feeling." Chris stood up. "I'm sorry Ezra, I truly am but I don't know what to say or do to convince you of how sorry I am." He walked away from the stunned expressions that followed his exit.

"Aw hell Nathan, I don't know what to do."

"Did you understand what he was trying to tell you?" Nathan asked as he moved to the bed, he wasn't even sure himself.

"He doesn't blame me for any of it, only himself." Ezra released the grip he held on his left hand, he stretched the fingers on his left, easing the tension out of the hand. "Nathan I need some time to think."

"What you need is to sleep Ezra." Nathan informed him but didn't push the issue. He left the man alone to work out what he was going to do, he knew that Chris was going to be the hardest person for him to forgive but once he had done that the others would be easier.

"Well?" Lenny asked him.

Ezra nearly fell out of his seat at the sound of Lenny's voice, he didn't know whether to be angry or happy but he could not control the feeling of the latter. "Lenny!" He moved from the chair to the bed. "How long have you been awake?" He slapped his arm.

"Since Chris started talking, I didn't want to disturb you." Lenny explained while he tried to push himself up into a sitting position. "So are you going to answer my question."

"Well what?" Ezra smiled at him.

"Ezra!" Lenny warned him.

"I don't know." Ezra spoke quietly, his eyes downcast.

"He said he cared." Lenny reminded him, he himself still wanted to beat the crap out of the man for what he did to Ezra, but it wasn't his forgiveness that Chris was after, it was Ezra's and Lenny was going to help Ezra to forgive him. "Ezra what do I do when you put yourself in unnecessary danger."

"You get angry." Ezra muttered, he knew where his friend was going with the conversation.

"And why do I get angry?" He raised his eyebrows at him.

"Because you care."

"Do you think that maybe Chris is the same, does he get angry when you do that sort of thing?" Lenny asked him.

"It's not the same, you'd never hit me Lenny, you wouldn't show your anger like he did."

"No I wouldn't Ezra and I don't think Chris would again, it's something that he would now never do." Lenny assured him. "From what I could understand, he became angry because of what he thought you were doing to yourself, the same way I would when you risk your life when you don't need to and at himself for not seeing or preventing what was happening. He made the mistake of taking that anger out on you."

"How can I believe that Lenny? how can I trust them not to do it again." Ezra turned to his friend, he didn't hide the torment he was going through.

"The only way you could know is by giving Chris and the others another chance Ezra." Lenny reached forward and took his hand. "You have to give them the chance to prove that they care. That they do trust you and consider you to be a friend. You can't deny yourself the friendship that I'm sure they'll give you Ezra."

"I don't know if I want to risk it." He looked into his friend's eyes for the reassurance and understanding he knew would be there.

"You risked me Ezra, you took a chance on me." He squeezed Ezra's hand. "Give them the chance Ezra."

"I'll wait and see what the others have to say first."

Lenny watched as Ezra tried to stiffle a yawn, he looked at the drooping eyelids. "Go and get some sleep Ezra, you look like you could use it."

"I've got nowhere to sleep Lenny, your in the only bed I'll sleep in." Ezra tried to smile at him.

"Jesus Ezra . . .I'm sorry, I forgot . . . here." Lenny shifted over in the bed and pulled the covers aside, the bed was large enough for two and it wouldn't be the first time they had to share a bed.

Ezra pulled his shoes off and laid down next to Lenny, his back facing the older man. Lenny pulled the covers back over them. Ezra closed his eyes against the emotions that were struggling to sort themselves out, he didn't know what to do. He was still confused by what Chris had said. The idea that the man actually did care eased some of the anger he was feeling, but Ezra still wasn't sure, if he cared he wouldn't have done it in the first place. That's what he kept telling himself but he wondered if it was because he was using it as an excuse to keep them away, he didn't want to get hurt again and if he gave them another chance they could hurt him. But Chris had given him a second chance, hadn't he, he didn't ask him why he ran out on them, he understood and allowed him to prove himself to them.

"I'll give them a second chance Lenny, just like Chris gave me one." Ezra muttered, his voiced slurred as he drifted off to sleep.

Ezra woke with a start when he felt the elbow hit his side, he blinked his eyes and looked over his shoulder in confusion and saw Lenny still sleeping, he gave him a foul look and laid back down with the intention of sleeping a few more hours, he felt the elbow again and gave up. He grimaced when he saw the sun's brightness filling the room, they must have slept through the morning. Ezra hung his head at the thought of the others checking on them only to find them sleeping in the same bed. He knew they would use this against him later. It was this thought that made him realise he was ready to begin the process of forgiveness but he knew he wouldn't forget. He pulled himself from the clutches of the bed covers and after pulling his boots on he made his way quietly out of the room. He first used the bathroom although he didn't need to and then walked to the kitchen. He followed the smell of the fresh coffee that he instantly knew wasn't one of Buck's concoctions. He saw the dark figure that was sitting on the couch but chose not to acknowledge his presence, he needed his coffee first.

Ezra poured himself a large cup of coffee and helped himself to a freshly defrosted danish. He turned to walk back into the living room and saw the clock on the oven. It read 5:45am.

"Good Lord!" He turned on his heel and walked into the living room. The anger was evident on face, he didn't try to hide it. He sat down on the couch and looked over at the eyes that were watching him carefully.

"Mr Larabee, if I am to come up here again, you will have to put a thicker curtain on that window, a man can't get his sleep when the room is so bright that you think it's the middle of the day." Ezra said angrily.

Chris was shocked at first but then his mind registered what Ezra had said, 'if I am to come up here again.' He felt the relief flood through him, it was as though a dam had held back the emotions and was now breaking and finally let them flow.

"But you have to get up early Ezra, it's the best time of the day to go fishing." Chris smiled in relief, he actually felt like getting up and giving the younger man a hug but he kept himself in control.

"I refuse to get up this ungodly hour just to go and catch a fish!" Ezra retorted. "Not that there would be any awake."

"Now you have that out of your system, tell me what your really thinking." Chris prodded.

Ezra sighed and slumped lower on the couch. "You gave me a second chance when I didn't deserve it so I decided that I would do the same. I'm not ready to forget and it may take me a while to forgive but I'm willing to give it another go." Ezra explained to his boss. "I'll stay, for a while anyway."

"You won't regret that decision Ezra, I promise you. You have my word that we won't do that again." Chris looked down into his coffee. "What about Buck and the others?"

Ezra shrugged. "I understand what JD felt, Nathan was honest from the start, I pretty much have an idea what you were thinking but I still need time to sort out what you said." Ezra looked at Chris. "Buck hasn't said much, Vin and Josiah want me to take the blame."

"I'll get them to talk to you when Lenny wakes up, I know you prefer him to be with you." Chris smiled into his coffee. "You guys seem really close. Do you often sleep together?" He refused to look up when he heard the muttered curse come from the other couch.

Chris could hear the muted voices as they approached the back door of the cabin, he quickly got up and walked into the kitchen to greet them. The others had decided to go and catch breakfast, it had been the first day since they arrived that they could safely venture outside without having to worry about Collins. JD was the first to enter and Chris raised his forefinger to his mouth, indicating to the younger man to be quiet.

"What's up Chris?" JD's loud voiced echoed through the kitchen and into the living room.

"Shut up JD!" Chris growled at him.

JD was shocked, he stood still and only moved forward when Buck ran into the back of him.

"Get out of the way JD." Buck pushed him further into the kitchen.

"Will you shut up!" Chris repeated. "Ezra's asleep on the couch."

"Didn't like the company in the other bed." Nathan smiled, he walked in after Buck and freed the doorway of it's obstruction.

"Sorry Chris." JD muttered as he walked to the sink.

"It's not your fault JD." Ezra managed talk and yawn at the same time. He shuffled his still sleepy form towards the kitchen table and sat down heavily in the chair. "Did you catch anything?"

"Hmm?" Nathan asked him.

"Fish?" Ezra rolled his eyes.

"They weren't biting." JD told him.

Ezra turned to Chris, a mischevious smile crossed his face. "I told you they would still be sleeping."

"We weren't sleeping." JD informed him.

"He was talking about the fish JD." Chris smiled, it made him feel good to see Ezra smile properly and Lenny wasn't even in the room. But he also knew it was only a momentary thing, it wasn't as if everything that had happened was going to be swept under a carpet. It was going to take time and there were going to both good and bad moments between Ezra and the rest of the group. This was one of the good, one of the bad would be following it.

"I see you two are on more friendly terms." Josiah established.

"Well Mr Sanchez, if you put in more of an effort to talk to me then maybe things would improve with you!" Ezra retorted.

"You don't want us to talk to you while Hoskins isn't in the room remember." Vin reminded him.

Ezra stood up and walked over to Vin, he glared up into the eyes that looked so much like Lenny's. "And you treated me like shit, do you remember that!"

"Yes I do Ezra and it's something that I'll never forget." Vin's tone was sincere.

Ezra grimaced in disgust and walked away from him. He gave Chris a look on his way out of the kitchen. "See, what am I supposed to think! He keeps blaming me! I haven't even heard an apology from him or Josiah yet."

Vin made to follow Ezra but Chris stopped him with a shake of his head. "Wait for Lenny."

"You didn't. Why should we?" Vin asked angrily.

"I asked him, he said yes but Nathan stayed in the room with him." Chris nodded towards Ezra's back. "You've just made him angry, if you try talking to him now you'll end up with a bruise to match mine." He pushed against Vin's chest causing him to move back into the kitchen. "Nathan, JD, why don't you go and sit with Ezra while we make some breakfast."

"Come to keep me company have you?" Ezra asked the two men when they sat down on the other couches.

"Yeah, anything's better than being in there." JD motioned with his head. "Chris is about to clobber Vin."

"It also means that Bucks doing some of the cooking." Nathan smiled at Ezra and saw his face relax.

"I think I am going to have to forgive him just he can sit with me and not cook." Ezra stated seriously.

Lenny woke with a pounding headache and aching chest, he sat up and grimaced as more pain radiated from the bruises on his chest. The pain killers Nathan had given him last night had warn off but then again they weren't really pain killers, they only numb the pain not kill it. He would have laid back down but knew it would only cause more pain so he did the inevitable, he got up. He stood on trembling legs for a moment and waited to fall back down but he didn't. He still partially dressed so he walked carefully to the door and opened it. He'd only taken two steps before he felt a hand on his arm, helping him to walk. He looked into Ezra's green eyes.

"I can walk you know." Lenny informed him.

"Sure you can." Ezra smiled up at him, he wouldn't look at the dark bruises forming on his friend's chest. "That's the way Lenny, now the left foot."

Lenny pulled his arm away from him. "Get away from me, this is your fault you know." He grimaced at him.

Ezra stepped back and lifted his hands up but he also continued to walk sideways matching his friends steps until they reached the first couch. Lenny scowled down at Vin and Buck and they got off the seat so he could sit down. Ezra sat next to him. Lenny looked up at the person who handed him a cup of coffee and four tylenol.

"Thanks Nathan, your taking better care of me than Ezra."

"I protest at that heinous remark upon my person." Ezra retorted.

"Your in a remarkably good mood this morning." Lenny smiled at him.

"I enjoy seeing you in pain, it makes my day better." Ezra shrugged, a look of innocence on his face.

"And here we were thinking it was because you two shared a bed last night." Chris smiled at the two, he was enjoying the remarks they continued to throw at each other.

"Can we talk now?" Buck interrupted the conversation.

"Anyone ever tell you that you have impeccable timing Mr Wilmington." Ezra's tone was heavy with sarcasm.

Buck took it as confirmation that he could start talking, Ezra hadn't said no. But he also realised that he still didn't know what to say, he sat looking at Ezra, his open mouth waiting to say something and nothing would come out.

"It's very unusual for you to be speechless Buck." Ezra actually smiled, the sorrowful look on the older man's face had drained some of the anger from him. He knew they were all sorry for what happened, even Vin and Josiah, they were just having more difficulty talking to him. He knew that Vin always had trouble showing his feelings and voicing them, he was going to have to remember that when he listened to Vin's explanation.

Buck closed his mouth then grimaced at JD who had elbowed him in the side. "Give me a minute will you!" He growled at his young friend. He looked back at Ezra who was still sitting next to Lenny, the pair were just like himself and JD, the relationship was the same, they would do anything for each other, including dying to save the other's life.

"Aw hell Ezra, I'm so sorry." He rubbed his hand through his hair and missed the rolling of Ezra's eyes. "I know I've already said that but I can't say it enough Ezra. I hate myself for what I did. I couldn't handle it when I found you doped up like that, I lost control, I'm never going to forgive myself for what I did and I won't blame you if you don't either." He looked up at Ezra, his face showing nothing of what he was feeling.

"Why did you keep kicking me?"

"I don't know Ezra." But he did, he didn't want to tell Ezra because he was afraid of how he would take it.

"That's not good enough. You kept kicking me until you cracked my ribs. I deserve a better answer than that." Ezra told him.

"Four times I kicked you, I counted each one, I even heard Nathan's voice telling to me stop but I couldn't or wouldn't, I don't know. I blocked everything out and all I could see was a drug addict, all I could hear were your grunts of pain. I wasn't able to stop until Nathan pulled me away and then all I could see was the man that I had once considered a friend. But I pushed that image away because it made it easier for me to deal with what I did." Buck hung his head and looked at the floor. He could feel everyone's eyes on him. "I know that doesn't answer your question Ezra, but I really don't know why I hit you then kicked you like that. I lost control but I don't know why. I'm sorry Ezra. I'm sorry I can't tell you why."

Ezra looked sideways at Lenny to see if he had accepted the answer Buck gave him, he could see the anger in his eyes, he didn't accept the answer. Neither did Ezra, there had to be a reason but either Buck was telling the truth and he was yet to realise what that reason was or he refused to tell him.

"There's a reason you just won't admit it Wilmington." Lenny growled at him. "Tell him why!"

"I saw what he was doing to Chris!" Buck stood up at the revelation. "He was going through the same thing he did when Sarah and Adam died and I hated you for putting him through that again."

"Damn it Buck!" Chris stood up also. "Why the hell didn't you tell me that. I would have known sooner why I was doing it!"

"Aw shit." Ezra moaned.

"I'm sorry Ezra, I saw what their deaths did to him and knew that yours would do the same thing, he does care about you, but like you he won't admit it. I hated you and when I found you like that it gave me an opportunity to give some of that hurt back."

Lenny put his arm around Ezra's shoulders and gave him the support and comfort he needed. What Buck had just said was confirmation of what Chris had said, but how could Ezra forgive him for knowing it all along. He could have put a stop to Chris's treatment of Ezra but didn't.

"I'm sorry Ezra, I worried more about what Chris was going to go through than what you were going through."

"If you say your sorry once more Buck I'm going to be sick!" Ezra yelled at him. He leaned over and laid his head on Lenny's shoulder.

"Ezra . . . " Buck started.

"Get the fuck away from me!" Ezra used his hand to wave him off.

"I should have told him, but all I could see was the hurt he was going through and I knew he was taking his anger out on you. I didn't stop him because of the same reason why I kicked you, he was giving back to you what you were giving him. You were hurting him and I wanted to see him hurt you."

"You fucking bastard!" Lenny pulled Ezra closer to him trying to protect him from what Buck was saying.

"Ezra?" Buck tried to get his attention but didn't recieve any sort of acknowledgement from Ezra.

Ezra didn't know what to think, he was to angry, he turned his gaze to the man who knelt before him and kicked out with his left leg. It landed squarely on Buck's chest and the force of the blow threw him back against the couch that JD was sitting on.

"Now were even." Ezra said calmly. He had felt one of Buck's ribs crack beneath the heel of his boot.

"Do you want to kick me too?" Vin asked as he came forward, he stepped over Buck's slumped form. "Will it make you feel better if you hurt me?"

"It might." Ezra's tone was still calm.

"Then do it, if it will make you feel better then do it." Vin stood with his arms out stretched showing Ezra that he was going to defend himself. "If you want to do to me what we did to you then go ahead Ezra."

Ezra looked away from him and placed his head against Lenny's shoulder once more. He ignored Buck's moans of pain while Nathan examined him. It didn't make him feel any better, he was still angry. He felt another hand on his shoulder and jerked around, his fist came upwards but stopped in mid-air when he saw Chris's understanding expression.

"I'm sorry Ezra. You can't hold him responsible for what he did. It's like when he deals with a woman, his head does his thinking for him and I don't mean the one on his shoulders." Chris managed to get a small smile from the man in front of him and now that he knew he had calmed Ezra's anger he told him what needed to be said. "Buck would do what he thought was right to protect me from being hurt but he did the wrong thing Ezra. Buck does a lot of stupid things, he always has and always will." Chris squeezed his shoulder. "What he did to you was one of those stupid things, he let some other part of his anatomy do his thinking for him, his heart, instead of his brains. He hated seeing me go through what I did after Sarah and Adam's death and there wasn't anyone he could blame or punish, but this time he found someone, he found you, he blamed you then punished you for what I went through and what I was going through. I just wished I had known sooner Ezra, I could have stopped all of it, it's my fault."

"It's not your fault." Ezra whispered.

"I started it Ezra, I beat you, I treated you with hatred, it was my fault, all of it." Chris's own eyes were full of sadness and guilt.

"And I thought you were going to be the hardest one to forgive." Ezra looked at Buck, he could see the pain on his face as JD and Nathan lifted him up onto the couch.

"We all had our own reasons for being angry about what happened." Josiah spoke up. "Ezra, I'm sorry for not helping you, I saw that there was something wrong and I didn't talk to you, maybe if I'd been a better friend you could have confided in me, told me what was happening." Josiah came forward and knelt down in the same position as Buck had. "I'm sorry Ezra, for everything, for not being there for you before it started, for not being there during the operation but most of all for not being here for you now."

"Out of all of you I thought it would have been you and Vin who would have understood. I thought you would have tried to help me but you didn't, you still don't understand." Ezra looked at Josiah then Vin.

"I didn't understand Ezra, I thought we were friends, I thought you could confide in me but you didn't, you pushed me away, kept me in the dark, allowed me to think the worse of you." Vin saw the anger in Ezra's eyes and spoke quickly before he did decide to take him up on his offer of physically hurting him. "It's not your fault Ezra, I should never have tried to put the blame on you." Vin nodded to Lenny, asking him to let him sit down next to Ezra. The older agent thought about if for a moment then stood up but he stayed close. Vin sat down and faced Ezra just as Chris was on the other side of the smaller man. "I was angry Ezra, I don't ever remember being so angry, I thought you betrayed the friendship I fought so hard to start. I saw similar things in you that were in me and they drew me to you, I wanted to be a friend, to give you what I thought you didn't have and when you didn't confide in me I thought that what we had was a lie, that you were laughing at my efforts to befriend you. I'm sorry Ezra, I should have trusted you more, I should have asked you what was wrong." Vin looked at Josiah then back at Ezra who was now looking at him. "I'm sorry Ezra, it wasn't your fault, it was ours."

"Go away." Ezra told them. "All of you, go away!"

"Ezra . . . " Chris tried to talk to him.

"I need time to think Chris. Please, I have to sort this out."

"Sure Ezra, I understand. We'll be outside if you want us." He squeezed his shoulder once more then left the cabin with the others following. Buck was held up between Nathan and JD as they helped him walk out of the room.

Lenny sat back down next to his young friend, he pulled him into a hug and held him tight.

"I can't get over what Buck said." Ezra told him.

"You need to Ezra, you won't be able to forgive him otherwise."

"I don't know if I want to." Ezra admitted.

"It's got nothing to do with wanting to Ezra. You need to forgive him and the rest of them."

Chris watched Nathan strap Buck's chest with a bandage he had removed from the medical kit in the kitchen on the way out. The ex-medic had informed them that Ezra had cracked one of the ribs in his chest. None of them held any anger towards Ezra for what he did. They were all to blame for what happened, not Ezra. His eyes moved to lake, he was listening to Buck's muttered complaints but took no notice of them, what Buck had done was stupid, he deserved what he got, they all deserved it. He had seen the anger that Ezra felt at Buck's admission, he was now worried that Ezra was going to change his mind about staying.

"Chris!" JD repeated.

"What? Sorry JD, I was thinking."

"Do you think he's going to forgive us, stay with the team." JD repeated his question when he realised that Chris hadn't heard it the first time.

"He told me this morning that he was, that he was going to give us a second chance like I gave him but after what Buck just said in there," he shook his head, "I'm not sure anymore."

"He's going to stay." Lenny told them when he exited the back door.

"Is he okay?" Chris asked.

"Physically he's fine, I managed to talk him into getting some sleep." Lenny moved forward and leant against the railing, his back was facing the lake so he could look at the men watching him. "Emotionally, he's hurting. Chris, you know Ezra, he's going to hide his emotions, he's not going to let you know how much he's hurting so please, don't let that convince you that he's okay because he isn't, it's going to be a while before that hurt is gone."

"We're all hurting Lenny but not as much as Ezra. And no we won't allow him to convince us he's okay."

Lenny nodded. "We've still got another week of our deal." He commented as he turned around to look at the lake that stood before him.

"What are you suggesting?" Chris raised his eyebrows even though Lenny wasn't looking at him.

"I'm suggesting we stay here, there's no hurry to go back." He turned back around. "Besides, it will give you the chance to spend some quality time with Ezra. You can start proving to him how much you do care and how sorry you really are, especially you and Wilmington."

"Thanks Lenny." Chris stood up and shook the man's hand. "If it wasn't for you we wouldn't have gotten through to him."

"As long as you realise I still don't like you and I still want to beat the shit out of all of you for what you did to him. Your going to get Ezra's forgiveness Larabee but you aren't going to get mine."

"That's okay, we still don't like you either and maybe one day I'll let you try and beat the shit out of me." Chris smiled.

"Try?" Lenny returned the smile, the amusement that he felt showed through.

Ezra sat on the porch that overlooked the lake, he could see the sunset mirrored on the stillness of it's waters and he found it to be comforting. He glanced sideways at Lenny then turned his eyes back to the lake. He could see the six men lining the jetty with their fishing poles, they were fishing again, trying to catch the fish that they had continuously failed to catch in the mornings. He saw the occassional glances that looked up at the house, it was as though they were afraid he would leave when they weren't looking. He was beginning to feel the need to runaway, he thought he had made the wrong decision. They had spent the last week speaking to him about what had happen, each of them going in turn to elaberate on what they had told him. Lenny and Chris stayed with him when he spoke to Buck, his anger had eased towards the older man but he hadn't forgiven him, it would still take time.

"What are you thinking about Ezra?" Lenny asked him. He knew that he wanted to talk about something.

"I'm scared Lenny." Ezra admitted. This was something he would never tell the others, he couldn't confide in them like he could Lenny.

"About what?" Lenny turned in his chair so he could give Ezra his full attention.

"About going back to work. It's easier dealing with them while your here, but you'll be going back to Atlanta soon, then I'm going to have to deal with them on my own. I don't know if I can do that."

"You won't be on your own Ezra, they'll help you." He nodded towards the men who were gathering up their equipment, they had given up trying to catch the elusive fish. "The first day will be the hardest part but once they welcome you back you'll be fine."

"And if they don't." He looked at Lenny.

"They will Ezra." Lenny looked back down at the six dejected men who were now walking towards them.

"I'm beginning to think I made a mistake by agreeing to stay. Maybe I should leave." Ezra hung his head and wiped his forehead with his left hand. "I don't want to get hurt again."

"Ezra look at me." He waited for his friend to turn to him. "They won't hurt you again, you'll only be hurting yourself if you leave." He could see the doubt on his young face.

"I was angry before but now all I feel is doubt that I made the wrong choice and now fear because I think their going to hurt me again." He looked back at the stillness of the lake hoping to take comfort in it. "They'll never understand how much they hurt me." He shook his head. "I don't know anymore Lenny."

"You told them you were going to give them a second chance, are you going to back out on that?" Lenny watched the damp eyes look up at him.

"But . . . "

"No buts Ezra, you either do it or you don't. It's your choice, I can't make your decision for you. If you want to throw it away then do it, if you want another chance at a good friendship then stay." He got out of the chair and knelt down in front of Ezra, they were both oblivious to the men who stood at the top of the steps listening to the end of the conversation. "I know what they did to you Ezra and I understand how much they hurt you. Ezra, they're hurting nearly as much as you, it's a different hurt but their feeling it as well and like you they need to get things back to normal so you can all begin to heal." He put his hands on shaking knees. "I would never lie to you Ezra. I believe your doing the right thing. You also know I can't stand Larabee and he's not the only one I don't like, but their good for you Ezra, in a different way to what I am."

Ezra nodded, he trusted Lenny.

"Good, now come on," he slapped Ezra's left knee, "I think they deserve some of my cooking on our last night up here, don't you."

"Only if I don't have to eat it." Ezra tried to smile.

"Ezra, I'm offended." Lenny stood up and turned towards the back door that led to the kitchen. He stopped when he saw Larabee and the others watching him and Ezra.

"You Lenny Hoskins are never offended." Ezra turned to see what his friend was looking at. He also saw the group of men who were standing at the top of the steps. "I believe that your idea has just been bitten on the butt." Ezra turned away, a larger smile playing on his lips.

Chris Larabee drove through the streets of Denver, the bright early morning sunlight shone off the windscreen causing him to grimace against the bright glare even though he was wearing sunglasses. His mind drifted towards the southerner who was returning to work today. It had been three weeks since they returned home and Doctor Falex had finally given Ezra a clean bill of health but he still needed to put back on a few more pounds. Chris knew Ezra still had his doubts about going back to work with the members of Team Seven, even after all this time but he wouldn't admit it to them.

Things had gone pretty well during the second week they stayed at the cabin after Ezra had decided to stay with the ATF team, they had all witnessed the strong caring relationship he had with Lenny and they hoped that one day, maybe they could have something like that with Ezra. But it would take a lot of work from both parties, Chris and the others were prepared to work at it and Ezra was willing to give them another chance. But Lenny had returned to Atlanta and now Ezra was on his own with them, he no longer had Lenny to help him deal with the still awkward situation and it was this that was giving him his doubts.

He saw the ATF building up ahead and slowed down to allow the battered jeep to pull into the security gates first. He followed Vin down into the garage and parked his dodge next to the jeep. Chris got out of the car, a smile on his face as he was prepared to greet the quiet man but it turned into a frown. He instead got Vin's attention and nodded towards the black jag that was parked further up towards the end of the garage, the driver still behind the wheel.

"I'll go." Chris handed Vin his briefcase which held the report that would finally put an end to the undercover case that Ezra had taken part in, the report closed with a recommendation that Ezra Standish recieve a commendation, it also held the present the six men had pitched in for. They planned on giving it to Ezra later that day. He gave Vin a reassuring smile and slowly walked up to the jag. He stopped a short distance away from the car and watched Ezra for a few moments first. The younger agent's head was leaning back on the car seat, his eyes were closed. Chris thought that he might have been sleeping but he saw the brow frown in thought. He stepped forward and tapped on the window.

Ezra had been lost in his own world for the last twenty minutes, he was still having second thoughts about coming back to work, he had hoped that Falex would give him another week, he needed more time but it had run out and now here he was in the garage trying to force himself to join his fellow agents on the seventh floor of the building. He hadn't slept at all the night before and instead of dwelling on it at home he thought he would go into his office, thinking that if he arrived before everyone else did it would have been easier for him, but it wasn't, he hadn't been able to get out of the car. Ezra had noticed Buck and JD arrive earlier but they had been to boistruos to notice him sitting in his car. Nathan followed a short time later, then Josiah, neither of them seeing him or pretending not to see him, he decided it was the latter, they were to observant not to see him there. He was grateful for the time and space they had given him.

He fought against starting the engine of the expensive car and going home, he was about to give in to the urge when he heard the knock on the driver's window. The sound that broke through the silence in the car caused Ezra to jump, his head nearly hitting the roof of the car. He turned his suprised expression sideways and saw Chris looking down at him. His poker face quickly fell into place as his arm reached forward to wind down the window but Chris didn't give him a chance to, the dark clad leader opened the door and knelt down in front of him.

"You coming inside Ezra?" Chris smiled up at him, he knew the poker face was hiding the doubts the younger man was feeling.

Ezra looked down at him then over his shoulder towards Vin who was standing at the elevator, he saw the gentle smile that crossed his face. His green eyes turned back to Chris and he nodded at him without saying anything, he didn't trust his voice to stay calm. Chris stood up and waited. It took Ezra another few minutes before he actually got out of his car, his leader closed the door for him. Ezra was still hesitant, he watched as Chris took the lead and began to walk towards Vin. Once he took his first step he found the others to be easier and reached the elevator a few steps behind Chris.

"Good to have you back Ezra." Vin slapped him on the back and left his hand there for a couple of seconds, long enough to feel the tension in the agent's shoulders.

Ezra nodded again. Vin leaned back and looked across at Chris who shook his head in return indicating that he didn't want to push Ezra into anything before he was ready, to let him take things at his own pace. The elevator arrived and the three men stepped into it and stood in silence during the ride to the seventh floor.

"You will protect me from Buck and JD won't you?" Ezra didn't think he could handle those two, not yet, he needed to settle down into his office first. He was sure the two men would overdo if they welcomed him back, their voices would be too loud, the slaps on the back too hard. No, they were the last thing he wanted right now.

"Sure Ezra." Chris smiled at him, he knew exactly what the smaller man was talking about. Buck and JD always meant well but sometimes their exuberance was too much for a person to handle.

When the elevator finally stopped and the doors opened, Ezra had decided that he wanted to go back home, he stepped back away from the two men who had been flanking him and only stopped when his back hit an obstruction.

"Ezra?" Chris saw the flash of fear in the green eyes that darted from the open corridor to the man who stood in front of him. He moved forward and placed his arm on the smaller man's right shoulder. "You have nothing to worry about Ezra. We're never going to let you down like that again. You have my word."

"We all promised you Ezra and we're going to keep that promise." Vin added, he saw the fear in the bright greens leave, only to be replaced by the nagging doubt Ezra had since listening to their apologies and agreeing to stay. But Vin knew that even though he was finally begining to forgive them, he wasn't going to forget what they had done to him. And he knew the rest of the group wouldn't either.

Chris knew what Ezra was feeling, Lenny had confided in him before he left town. Ezra was afraid of allowing them back in only to have them hurt him again, to turn their backs on him and leave him alone. They had destroyed the trust and friendship that had begun to grow and Ezra's emotional defence had become even stronger, they had proven to him beyond a doubt what he thought was true, that they had never trusted him or considered him a friend. Now they had to work even harder to gain back what they had lost. But more than that, Ezra was afraid of not being welcomed back, that they were only doing this out of guilt. Lenny had tried to convince him otherwise but hadn't succeeded, it was up to them to prove to the southerner that he was now a part of the family. They were going to have to encourage the younger agent all the way, assure him that he was an important member of the group. Chris knew it would take time but as long as they worked at it then things will turn out to be fine, they would be able to convince the younger agent he was now one of them and they weren't willing to let him go.

Chris and Vin grabbed a forearm each and gently forced him out of the elevator before the doors closed on them and lead him along the hallway that led to his office. They hadn't even gained any distance when the sound of JD's laughter filled the small area, warning them that the two men were on their way. Chris felt Ezra pull away from him and move behind him as he tried to hide himself from the two agents. Chris felt the guilt squeeze at his heart, they had completely destroyed everything, Ezra had even become afraid of them. His fear of being hurt had come to the forefront of his mind blocking out all the anger he had felt and it overwhelmed him causing him to loose control in front of them.

He motioned to Vin to say with Ezra while he went and spoke to Buck and JD. Ezra stood partially hidden behind Vin, he watched as Buck and JD looked towards him, an expression of guilt and sympathy on their faces, then understanding. They moved towards him as a group and Vin had to grab his arm to stop him running.

"Ezra, I'm glad you came back." Buck squeezed his shoulder.

"It wouldn't be the same without you Ezra, I mean that." JD smiled and brushed his annoying dark hair back from his face.

"We didn't expect you in so early." Buck continued in a quite tone. Chris had told him that Ezra was actually afraid of being back and if they did or said anything wrong, he would leave. Buck could see a mixture of fear and doubt in the southerner's eyes and he knew the emotions had to be strong for Ezra not to be able to hide them.

"Couldn't sleep." Ezra didn't want to get into a conversation, he just wanted to get to his office, he needed a chance to get in control, he knew they could see what he was feeling, he hadn't been able to control his fear. The fear that he had felt since arriving had shocked him. Before their explanations he had felt nothing but anger and then afterwards he was full of doubt and now it was fear. He didn't want to be hurt again, and he was afraid that these men would do that. They had the best intentions but he had a nagging doubt at the back of his mind. Lenny had told him his childhood fears were trying to take control, the child in him didn't want to get close and be put in another situation where the friendships would begin to build up again only to be torn down once more.

"It's good to have you back." Buck took JD's arm and began to lead him away but turned to the smaller man who now stood beside him. "We'll give you some time Ezra, maybe later we could have some coffee and cake." He watched as an expression of suspicion came over Ezra's face, the eyebrows raised in a questioning frown. "Homemade, JD and I thought we would make you one as a welcome back present."

"Good Lord." Ezra moaned. "I am not eating anything that was made by you in that cesspit you call an apartment."

"Now that's the Ezra we know and love." Buck slapped his back harder than he should have and knocked him towards Chris who had to catch him before he fell down.

Ezra was suprised by the words Buck had used and thought that maybe things would be alright after all. He lifted his head to see Chris holding back his laughter, he grimaced up at the man causing his laughter to escape. "If that is what you call protection Mr Larabee I suggest you try harder next time." He pushed himself away from him and saw the guilt that took control of his boss, he instantly regretted his words. Ezra smiled at him and winked. "Now if you'll excuse me I am going to call Doctor Falex and inform him of my impending arrival due to food poisoning."

"You better tell him to expect all of us." Chris smiled back. He hid his concern over Ezra's frequent changes of mood. Lenny had warned him that Ezra would be like that and as long as he was it meant that he was still healing.

"Hey! There is nothing wrong with our cooking." Buck protested.

"Tell that to your cat Mr Wilmington." Ezra told him as he was escorted to his office.

"Ezra, we don't have a cat." JD called after him.

"Exactly my point Mr Dunne." Ezra smiled over his shoulder at them.

They contined on to the office at the end of the hallway, passing Josiah and Nathan's offices on their way, both of them were empty. Ezra felt the fear grow again. He knew the two men were here and they would have heard their voices but they were not going to greet him and welcome him back to the group like the others had done. His steps slowed and Chris and Vin slowed with him.

"You okay Ezra?" Vin asked him. Ezra had been back to his normal self for a moment but something was bringing the fear back.

"No." Ezra admitted to them. "I don't think I can do this."

"You've come this far Ezra, you can't stop now besides if you can deal with those two you can deal with anything else." Chris gave his arm a comforting squeeze.

"Ezra! Your early." Josiah called out as he came out of Ezra's office.

"We didn't expect you till later." Nathan explained as he too left the office that Josiah had just vacated.

"There is no use denying that you saw me in the carpark when you arrived this morning." Ezra told them.

"Yeah we saw you, didn't want to push you Ezra, we knew you would come in when you were ready." Josiah came forward. "I'm really glad you came back brother."

Ezra raised his eyebrow, these men were suprising him, his green eyes turned to Nathan. He glanced down at the hand that was hidden behind the larger man's back. He could see the hammer that he was trying to hide.

"Oh this." Nathan removed the object he thought was hidden. "Your computer needed fixing."

"I doubt that Mr Jackson."

"Sorry Ezra, but I can't tell you what it's for. It's a secret, you'll find out later." Nathan told him. He was suprised that Ezra hadn't heard the hammering. It was their job to put the nail in the wall and to make sure the position was right so Ezra would be able to put his present where he would always see it.

"I'm hoping it will be used to destroy the cake that was made in my honour?" Ezra asked him.

"That too." Nathan nodded at the suggestion. "Ezra, I'm sure everyone's told you that their happy your back and I want you to know that were grateful to you for giving us another chance to prove that you're part of this family."

Ezra nodded instead of speaking, he hadn't expected this. He knew they were sincere in their words and it drove his fear away. But he knew that it would come back, it would be a while before he would be able to get rid of it. Like his friends he was willing to work at it.

"Could you guys give me some time alone?" Ezra kept his eyes downcast.

"Sure Ezra but don't think were going to leave on your own for too long. We have something for you so we'll be back later." Chris informed him. He saw the smile tugging at Ezra's lips. Yes things were going to be fine.

Ezra had been sitting in his office for the last two hours, he had been thinking about things. His fear had been reduced and he was beginning to feel more comfortable about being back, Lenny had been right, after the first initial greetings were over he would be fine and he was, he knew there was still a lot of work to do but the hardest part was over. His thoughts were disturbed by the loud voices that were outside his office, he listened to Buck and JD argue over the cake they had made, one of them insisting that it was chocolate while the other claimed it was carrot. Then both realised that what they had made was a chocolate carrot cake. Ezra shook his head.

"There is no way I'm eating that!" he yelled from his position behind his desk. He smiled when he heard the protests that were yelled back at him.

He was about to give them a nasty retort when his phone began to ring. He looked at it and wondered who would be calling him. He picked up the phone and placed it against his left ear. "Standish."

Ezra smiled, the dimples on his cheeks appearing, he spun his chair around so the back was facing the door. "Hey Lenny, how are you doing? . . . . Yeah I'm fine . . . . no the guys were great, they didn't push me . . . . I think Chris knew I was scared but then that's what you told him didn't you . . . . don't deny it Lenny, you forget I know you better than myself . . . . Thanks Lenny, for everything . . . . " Ezra listened for a few minutes then grimaced in frustration, the guy was more like a motherhen than a friend. "Yes Lenny I am taking care of myself . . . . no I'm not overdoing it . . . . yes I'm sleeping . . . . why the hell did you leave, you should have just stayed here that way you could nag me in person . . . . I know Lenny but I'm fine honest . . . . "

Chris knocked on the door and stepped into the office with the others gathering behind him, the group's leader carried the present, Buck carried the cake that he and JD made. Nathan held the cake the others bought, they were also aware of Buck and JD's cooking. Ezra pushed his chair around, he was grateful for the intrusion, if he had known Lenny was going to spend the entire phone conversation nagging him he wouldn't have answered it. He saw Chris turn to leave but waved him back in.

"Lenny . . . . Lenny . . . . Lenny! I have to go, the others are here . . . . yes I am eating . . . . no I haven't put on anymore weight . . . . no! that doesn't mean I'm not eating . . . . I have to go . . . . Lenny I . . . ." Ezra turned his chair back around to hide his embarrassement. "Lenny! . . . . yes he is . . . . why? . . . . there is no need for you to . . . . okay!" Ezra hung his head and lifted the phone up in the air.

Chris didn't need to be told, he could hear Lenny calling his name over the phone. He gave Vin the present and quickly stepped forward to take the phone out of Ezra's hand.

"Larabee!" He started in an angry tone, even after everything that happened he still didn't like the guy. "Yeah he's fine . . . . no we won't hurt him . . . . " Chris looked at Ezra's face, he was now looking up at him. "Yes I know . . . . you told me before remember . . . . I told you he'll . . . . I . . . . but . . . . if you keep interrupting me I'll . . . . fine . . . . we are taking care of him! . . . . " Chris had enough, he handed the phone back to Ezra.

"Lenny I really . . . . " He hung his head again. "Yes . . . . no . . . . I will . . . . okay . . . . yes . . . . goodbye Lenny." He slammed the phone down on it's hook. "Sometimes that man can be worse than my mother but in an opposite way, I get nothing from one and too much from the other." Ezra muttered more to himself than the group of men who had gathered in his office.

"I'm sorry Ezra but . . . I really hate that guy!" Chris understood that Ezra knew how the two men felt about each other, they had tried for his sake but they weren't able to be friends.

"I assure you Mr Larabee that the feeling is mutual." Ezra turned around, the smile on his face showed that he hadn't been offended by the statement. "And I look forward to the many arguments you are going to have with each other."

"He's coming back?" Chris was glad he wasn't holding the present, it would have broken when it hit the floor.

"In a couple of weeks." Ezra grimaced. "He took me up on my offer of nagging me about my health in person."

Ezra leaned back in his chair when he noticed the nervous movements of Buck and JD, he looked from the cake in Buck's hands to the box in Nathan's then the wrapped present in Vin's. His green eyes moved to Chris, he raised his eyebrows in a question.

"We know we said everything we could back at the cabin Ezra but there was something else we wanted and needed to do." He nudged Vin's shoulder.

Vin stepped forward and handed Ezra the flat square object. Ezra took it, his hands were shaking, these men were doing their best to make him feel welcome, he couldn't fathom where his fear had come from, he should have know they would have gone to all this trouble for him.

"Thankyou." His voice was barely a whisper but the others heard him.

"Open it Ezra." JD encouraged him, he was showing the excitment that the others didn't feel, they felt apprehension, they weren't sure how Ezra was going to react.

Ezra first turned the present over in his hands, he pulled at the tape that held it together and revealed the framed photograph it had been hiding. He freed the frame from the paper and allowed his hands to glide over the glass, his fingers tracing the faces of the seven men, his own included. His forefinger then touched the patterned wooden frame, it was obviously expensive. His green eyes lifted, he looked at each man in turn then back down at the photograph.

"Thankyou . . . I . . . " He didn't know what to say, he couldn't remove his eyes from the photo. Buck was ruffling JD's hair, Josiah had his arm around Nathan's shoulders, Chris and Vin were standing next to each other, the same smiles on their faces, they had been laughing because just before the camera was due to automatically take the photo Vin had done something that also wasn't normal for him, he had put his arm around Ezra, his hand against his chest and pulled him into a hug. A hidden smile had formed on his own face but the camera had caught it before he was able to remove it. The mood of the photo would tell anyone who looked at it that the men in it meant a lot to each other, they looked like family. "I'll be back in a minute." Ezra put the photo down and rushed out of the room.

"Why don't you guys cut up the cake, I'll go and make sure he's okay." Chris smiled at them. They had all seen the look on Ezra's face, he accepted the photo, his emotions were clear in his eyes. Ezra realised they thought of him as family, now he just had to admit to himself that he was part of it and they were going to help him do that.

Chris headed towards the men's room because that's where he thought Ezra was going but he saw the flash of his dark blue suit as he headed into Chris's large office. He frowned then realised what Ezra was doing, he was making sure. He stepped into the office and stood to the side of the door, Ezra hadn't notice him come in. He watched as the southerner looked at the new photo in the frame that stood on the filing cabinet, it wasn't the same as the one they had given Ezra but it did include the younger agent. Seven faces now looked out of the picture into the office. Ezra turned around, a smile on his face.

"You okay Ezra?"

"Why the photo?" Ezra answered with his own question.

"It took us too long to realise that you were family Ezra, but we wanted you to know it sooner, we thought the photo was the best way to convince you." Chris followed him out of the office and back to his own. "Are you okay Ezra?" He repeated the question.

"I think I'm going to be fine Chris."

"Your sure?"

"Yes I'm sure." Ezra stepped into the office, he noticed the small group of men staring at the wall, he turned in the same direction and saw the picture hanging from wall.

"We put it where you'll always see it Ezra, so if you ever need a reminder that your family all you have to do is look at it." Nathan told him.

"Thankyou." Ezra felt uncomfortable and they all realised it.

"You want some more time on your own Ezra?" Josiah asked him.

"No, I think I've spent enough time alone Josiah." Ezra smiled, his eyes sparkled and his dimples appeared on his face.

"Welcome back Ezra." Chris slapped him on the back and then put his arm around the younger man's shoulder's, giving him a quick reassuring brotherly hug.

Ezra smiled in return and watched as the others gathered around the cake, he looked at each man in turn and knew that they were as different to each other as he was too them but they were a family and he was now being welcomed into that family, he felt a warmth in his soul that he hadn't felt for a long time.

The End

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