Chapter 26 added 21 January 2007
Chapter 27 added 23 January 2007
Chapter 28 added 26 January 2007
Chapter 29 added 11 February 2007
Chapter 30 added 14 February 2007 - Completed
Author's Note: Thanks to Malantha for the Chris/Mary scene in chapter nine.
Chris Larabee woke up next to a warm body, in his and Ezra's bed at the ranch. He wrapped his arm tighter around the waist, sleepily smiling, as he snuggled closer. He shot completely awake when he heard a feminine voice say, "Chris? Are you awake?"
'Am now,' he silently thought as he quickly sat up. He looked to his left and saw that the face looking at him belonged to Mary Travis. He combed his fingers through his hair and sighed. He had royally screwed up. What was he going to do?
"Mary? What exactly happened?" he hesitantly asked.
Her face quickly registered annoyance and she asked, "You don't remember? You couldn't've been that drunk!" Smiling smugly, she added, "I rocked your world last night."
Chris started getting flashes from their time together. He remembered going to Inez's bar, that he and the whole team had dubbed The Saloon, and getting a bottle of whiskey. The other guys, except for Ezra Standish, had been there with him. But he hadn't been in the mood for company, he was missing his green-eyed lover, Ezra. They had been dating for a year and had moved in together after eight months. They were completely in love with each other.
Ezra was the undercover agent on their team, Denver's ATF Team Seven. And, he had been undercover for two months, with just a few phone calls to brief them on how the undercover operation was going. He had been in a bad mood the night before and the other guys had finally had enough. Buck escorted him home and told him to sleep it off. That Ezra wouldn't want him drinking like that.
He hadn't drunk like that since he and Ezra had gotten together. The undercover agent said that he didn't like what happened to Chris when he was drunk. Chris had a volatile temper at best when he started heavily hitting the bottle. The next thing he remembered was Mary knocking on his door, asking if she could come in. He had let her in, wanting to know why she was visiting so late. The next thing he knew, she took off her tan ankle-length coat, showing him that she was wearing nothing except a skimpy nightgown that left hardly anything to the imagination.
She had started kissing him and his alcohol-soaked brain had started thinking about Ezra, causing his body to start responding. Before he knew it, they were having sex, in his and Ezra's bed.
"Oh my God, what have I done!," he yelled as he leaped off the bed, keeping the sheet wrapped around his waist.
"What are you talking about? We just had a great night of sex," said Mary. She didn't like the way Chris was acting, not at all. She thought that he had enjoyed the sex the night before and had hoped for a repeat performance. She had wanted the blond-haired green-eyed leader of Team Seven since she had met him. She thought he would fall at her feet, most men did. She was used to being able to get any man she chose. She had tried giving Chris some time, after he had taken the job as the head of Team Seven.
Then she had found out that he was dating Ezra. A man for Godsakes! That was a serious shot to her ego and her pride. She didn't know what to do. She had tried a little subtle slander of Ezra at the ATF offices, but found out that the little weasel had a lot of allies. Plus, her father-in-law, her late husband's father, Orin Travis had told her that he was going to be finding out who was talking and put a stop to it. Orin was the ATF director and a former Federal Judge, she knew she would've been in serious trouble. So, she backed off. Then, when she found out that Ezra had been gone for two months, she knew that now was her chance. And, now Chris was acting like it had been a mistake.
Facing her, Chris growled, "Mary, you know I'm in a committed relationship with Ezra. And, you also knew that I had been drinking heavily. You had to have known it, I wasn't thinking. This was a huge mistake! I want you to get dressed and get out!" With that said, Chris stalked into his bathroom and slammed the door.
A few minutes later, he heard the front door slam shut and cautiously walked back into his bedroom. He sat down on his bed, put his head in his hands, and asked himself, "What the hell am I going to do!"
It had been two days and Chris was no closer to a solution about what to do than he had been. 'Do I tell Ezra? Do I not tell Ezra and hope he never finds out?' were the thoughts running through Chris' head. His indecisions were making him even more snappy and temperamental than he usually was. The other members of his team were staying away from him as much as they could, and kept throwing him looks, trying to figure out what was going on.
They knew he was worried about Ezra, Chris was always worried about Ezra when he was undercover. But, this was different. This was something else. They just didn't know what.
Buck Wilmington, Chris' long-time friend and Team Seven's explosives expert, looked at Chris' closed office door and sighed. "Do any of you know what's goin' on with the Ole Dawg?" he asked the other four members of Team Seven that were in the Bull Pen.
"I have no clue! But, he's really starting to worry me," said JD Dunne, Team Seven's electronics expert and its youngest team member.
"Maybe he's sick and not telling us," fretted Nathan Jackson, Team Seven's medic. "Maybe I should go in there and see if he's feelin' alright," Nathan suggested as he started to rise from his chair.
"I wouldn't," said a Texas drawl.
Nathan looked at Team Seven's sharpshooter, Vin Tanner, and asked, "Why not? You know something about what's going on?"
Vin shook his head, "Naw. But, I think something's goin' on and he's liable to bite your head off if you go in there."
Josiah Sanchez, Team Seven's profiler, spoke up, "I agree with Vin. I've been watching Brother Chris, and this is something other than him being worried about Ezra. There seems to be a war waging inside him."
"Well, what can we do?" questioned JD.
Buck sighed and replied, "Nothin' we can do, Kid. Not until Chris decides to come clean and fill us in on what's eating at him. But, Ezra's assignment is almost over. Last time he checked in, he said that he had initiated contact and should be able to call us in within a couple of weeks. Maybe he can bring Chris outta this when he gets back home."
"Maybe. Or, maybe he's the cause of it," replied Nathan. The other four men rolled their eyes at Nathan's remark. Nathan and Ezra could hardly ever see eye to eye at the best of times. Nathan was always harping about Ezra's less than moral ways and Ezra would just make some snide comment that would fuel the flames even more. Nathan just couldn't seem to understand that ninety-five percent of Ezra's actions were a cover to hide his true self and to keep whatever undercover persona he was donning at the time intact. But, Ezra and Chris seemed to truly be in love and to be good for each other.
"How the hell could Ez cause it, Nate? He's been undercover for two months!" replied a frowning Vin.
Nathan just shrugged, but kept silent.
"I think we just need to give Brother Chris a little time to work out whatever it is bothering him," said Josiah. The others nodded their heads in agreement.
Chris walked into his and Ezra's house at nine that night. He had been the last one to leave the office, because he had been finishing up some paperwork. He sighed as he flopped down onto the couch. He couldn't believe that he had screwed up so bad! He still had no clue what to do. Tell Ezra and hope to God that he forgave him? Or, keep quiet and hope the whole thing disappeared? He'd had a headache all day and it didn't seem to be willing to go away any time soon. He was rubbing his temples with his fingertips, when the doorbell rang.
"Great," he mumbled as he pulled himself up and walked to the door. Looking through the peephole, he saw Mary Travis standing there. 'What the hell does she want?' he asked himself. He thought about just ignoring her, but his curiosity got the best of him and he opened the door.
"What?" he curtly asked.
Mary raised her eyebrows at his tone and asked, "Can I come in? I just wanted to talk to you."
He stepped back, to allow her entrance into the house, and shut the door. When they were facing each other again, he said, "So, talk."
"I wanted to talk to you about what happened the other night."
Chris gritted his teeth and said, "I already told you, Mary, that was a mistake. It won't happen again. I love Ezra and only Ezra."
Mary's eyes flashed in anger and she spat out, "Why? Why do you love him? He's a man! Chris, you were once married for Godsakes!"
"I know that, Mary. And, I loved Sarah with all of my heart. But, she's been dead for five years and I think that she would want me to move on. And, I have. With Ezra."
Mary shook her head, "I seriously doubt that she would've wanted you to move on with another man, Chris!"
"I really don't think she minds. I think she would've loved Ezra and that she only wants me happy."
"Why can't you be happy with me, Chris? I've wanted you since I met you."
Chris sighed in frustration and said, "Mary, I don't love you and I don't want you. Now, please leave. Besides, shouldn't you be at home taking care of your son?"
Mary narrowed her eyes and said, "Fine. I'll leave. But, I don't think that Ezra will enjoy knowing what happened between us, will he?"
"What are you talking about, Mary?"
Mary shrugged, "I'm sure I can find out where Ezra is. I am a reporter after all."
"You can't do that! You would ruin his cover and he could get killed!" shouted an enraged Chris.
Mary raised an eloquent eyebrow and replied, "Then I suggest you make me happy."
Chris narrowed his eyes, giving Mary such a cold look that she inwardly shivered. It was like he could see right through her. Strengthening her resolve, she pushed all of her second thoughts away. Chris would thank her one day. He would realize that he should be with her, not with another man.
"You do realize that what you're attempting to do is illegal, don't you?" When Mary remained silent, Chris continued. "You are attempting to blackmail a federal agent and are, more or less, threatening the life of another federal agent. If you ever attempt to blackmail me again, I'll arrest you, throw your ass in jail, and lose the key. Understand?" Chris opened the door and said, "Get out before I decide to go ahead and arrest you."
Mary stared at him for a moment, before walking out of the front door and leaving. Chris slammed the door shut and walked over to the couch, slumping down on it. His headache was even worse than it had been. 'Bitch,' he thought as he rubbed his temples. He had thought about going ahead and arresting her, but he really didn't want to have to explain to the rest of his team and Judge Travis why Mary was sitting in a jail cell. Besides, Mary was bluffing. She had no way of finding out where Ezra was and she wouldn't intentionally blow his cover. She knew she would end up in prison.
With that thought, he decided to take a couple of Aspirins and go to bed.
As Mary drove away from Chris' house, she was seething with anger. How dare he threaten her?! Why did he keep saying no? When they had slept together two nights before, he had seemed like he enjoyed it. Truthfully, she was a little surprised that he had been able to perform, since he had been drunk. 'What if he was thinking about Ezra?' was the thought that suddenly entered her mind. Eyes narrowed and mouth set in a firm line, she pushed harder on the gas pedal, sending her silver Spider speeding faster down the dark and deserted road.
Her lips curved into a smirk as she picked her cell phone up off the passenger seat and dialed a familiar number. When the call was answered, she sweetly spoke, "Hey, Honey. Can you meet me at that deserted park in an hour? ... Yes. Billy's with his grandparents for the night. ... Alright, see you then. ... I love you too," she said as she rolled her eyes. "Bye." After the call was ended, she snapped her cell phone shut and tossed it back onto the passenger seat.
'Should you really be doing this?' a little voice inside of her whispered.
She shook her head as she pushed the voice down deep inside. 'Everything will be okay,' she told herself as she drove toward her destination.
An hour later, she parked across the street from the park. It was a deserted park that she had found one day when she had been out driving around. There were no houses or businesses around and it was a ways out of town limits, so nobody knew anything that she did when she was there. She saw another car parked in front of the park and walked over to it.
The back door, on the left side, opened when she reached it. She got in and shut the door. "Beck, give us a few minutes."
The driver, Timothy Beck, nodded and got out of the car, to stand in front of it on the look-out. Inside the car, Mary was greeted with a kiss and a, "Hi, Darling."
Mary gave a smile and said, "Edward, we need to talk."
Edward Mounds' eyes narrowed as he asked, "You aren't breaking up with me, are you?" Edward Mounds was a very handsome man, with black hair and piercing blue eyes, strong broad shoulders and a trim waist at six foot. Mary had met him, intentionally, when she had finagled an invitation to a party that he was at, seven months before. She knew who he was and what he was involved in. But she didn't care, she just cared that he had connections. Connections that could come in handy. And, the sex was pretty good. And, if he fancied himself in love with her, all the better. All that meant was, she would be able to get even more from him.
She shook her head, "No. Absolutely not. It's just that I have some information that you might be interested in."
"What?" he asked.
"Brian Sanders, your new accountant is an undercover federal agent. His real name is Ezra Standish and he's with the ATF."
"WHAT?!" Edward bellowed in outrage, causing Mary to slightly flinch. Looking directly in her eyes, he asked, "How do you know? How long have you known?"
Mary had known right after Ezra had went undercover. She had been at a party that Edward was throwing and Ezra had been there. Edward had pointed him out as his new accountant, Brian Sanders. He said that he actually liked the guy, he had a sharp mind and a quick wit. Ezra had looked different, he had a cap on his gold tooth, to cover it up, and his hair had been dyed blond, and he was wearing glasses, but he had looked slightly familiar. Mary had excused herself, saying that she had a headache and she needed to get on home. When Edward had believed her, she had wanted to shake her head at his stupidity, but she was glad.
When she had gotten home, she had looked at a picture that had been taken a few months before, at her father-in-law's, Orin's, annual Fourth of July BBQ. She had compared the picture of Ezra to the memory in her mind, and knew that it was the same man. She had thought about how it could definitely come in handy to know that information.
"I've suspected for a little while, but I wanted to make absolutely sure before I said anything," Mary lied.
"You must be wrong. I had him thoroughly checked out and it came back that he was who he said he was."
Mary opened her purse, pulling out a photo that she had found of Ezra in his academy uniform, in the FBI yearbook. She handed it to Edward and said, "See?"
Edward looked at the photo, concentrating on it. He could see it, the man in the photo was a few years younger, but he could see that it was his accountant. His lip rose in a sneer as he looked at the photo. Mary couldn't help but think about how dangerous Edward looked. It scared her but it was also turning her on.
Edward looked at her, "You get on home. We'll talk later."
"I'm sorry that I didn't tell you sooner, I just wanted to make sure," Mary said.
Edward nodded, "I understand."
'Sucker!' Mary thought with an inward smile.
"Bye," she said before giving him a slow kiss. When they broke apart, she left the car as he rolled down his window and yelled, "Beck! Let's go!" Mary watched as Edward's car drove off, before heading toward home.
Inside his car, Edward dialed a number. "Stilts, I want you and Brown to go over to Brian's house. ... Yes, the accountant. I want you to bring the bastard to my house after you get him. Don't tell him anything, just tell him that I want to talk." With that said, Edward snapped his cell phone shut and sat in thought, his eyes narrowed.
Ezra Standish was sitting on the couch in the condo that he was using for his undercover persona, Brian Sanders. It had been made to look like a real lived-in house, with furniture, pictures, the works. He leaned his head back against the couch, staring up at the ceiling, lost in thought. He missed his lover, Chris, so much. As well as his other team members. When he and Chris had acknowledged their mutual attraction to one another, they hadn't been sure that it could work out. Not only did they work together, but Chris was his boss.
And, the ATF frowned on inter-office romances. As far as homosexual romances went, there was a silent understanding within all ATF agencies, don't ask, don't tell. He smiled as he thought about when he and Chris had first gotten together. They had run into each other at a bar, an hour away from Denver, that Ezra would frequent every couple of months when he had the time. It was a bar that gays, bisexuals, and straight people went to, to dance and have fun.
Ezra still couldn't believe that Chris had been there. He just hadn't seemed like the type. Both of their faces showed shock when they had bumped into each other at the bar. They had walked outside, to get away from the noise, so they could talk. Chris confessed that it had been his first time at the bar and he was hoping that it would be his last, as a single guy.
They confessed that they were attracted to each other and both of them wanted to see where the relationship could go. Then, they had gone back into the bar and had danced for a couple of hours, before heading back to Chris' house. They had talked, in between making out, for a couple of hours. They had talked about anything and everything. After that, they were a monogamous couple, very much in love.
A month later, they had told the other guys about their relationship. A few months after that, Ezra had moved into Chris' house at the ranch. Vin, JD, and Buck had been immediately supportive, although Ezra had detected sadness in Vin's eyes. He was never able to find out why. Josiah had been supportive, but made sure that Chris was warned that he'd better not hurt Ezra. And, Nathan had been anything but supportive.
Nathan tolerated his and Chris's relationship, but he made it pretty clear that he thought Ezra was just going to end up using Chris, then breaking his heart. Ezra sighed as he thought about his tedious friendship with Nathan. 'It is not really even a friendship,' Ezra thought. He liked Nathan, even respected his medical knowledge and his concern for everyone. But, Nathan was also a hypocrite in Ezra's opinion.
He didn't like people being prejudiced toward him because of his color, but he would discriminate against Ezra because of his ways. Because Ezra liked to bet and play poker. Because he was an undercover agent, he was able to mask anything he might be feeling. And, he had to mask his feelings a lot when Nathan would make some comment about him. It hurt more than he cared to show. Ezra shrugged and thought, 'But, at least I have Chris and the other guys are like brothers.'
He would just be glad when the case was over, so he could go home and catch up on lost time with Chris. He smirked as he thought about all the fun they were going to have. He was dragged out of his thoughts by the doorbell ringing. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was ten at night. 'Wonder who that is?' he thought. As he walked to the front door he had a bad feeling, that only intensified the closer to the door he got.
When Ezra opened the door, he saw two of Edward Mounds' henchmen, Stilts and Brown, standing there. They were the men that Edward Mounds sent when he wanted someone taken care of. 'This can't be good, Ezra,' he thought to himself. He smiled and said, "Good evening, gentlemen. What can I do for you?"
"Mister Mounds sent us, Sanders. He wants to see you at his house, now," replied Stilts.
Ezra nodded, "Alright. Lead the way."
Ezra still had on his suit, from working on the account books for Mounds earlier in the day, and he had his little Derringer up his right sleeve, hooked to a rig. It made him feel a little more secure. He knew that it could not be good news that Edward Mounds wanted to see him.
He followed Stilts and Brown to the black Cadillac and got into the back seat. Even though he looked unconcerned, he knew everything that was going on. A little while later, Stilts parked the car in front of Mounds' house. He and Brown escorted Ezra through the front door and into Edward's study.
"Shut the door," ordered Edward. After Brown had obeyed, Edward walked to where he was standing in front of Ezra. "Brian Sanders. That is your name, correct?"
Ezra nodded, "Of course, Sir."
"Are you sure? You're not keeping something from me, are you?" Edward asked in a deceptively calm voice.
Ezra was a master at reading people, he had to be in his line of work. And, he knew right then that somehow his cover had been blown. But, he kept up the charade. "I'm sure it's my name, not keeping any secrets from you," Ezra said with a smile.
Edward raised an eyebrow, picked something up off his desk, and said, "Oh really? Then, what's this?"
It took all of Ezra's skills to keep his eyes from widening and his mouth from dropping open. It was the picture of him at the FBI academy, from the FBI yearbook. Edward held it up, beside Ezra's face and said, "Yep. Just wanted to make sure, and I can see the resemblance."
Edward's eyes turned cold as he said, "You're an undercover cop. Thought you could keep tricking me, didn't you? Since you're ATF, I assume you're here to try and find out about my illegal gun sales. Right?"
Ezra remained silent and Edward grabbed a hunk of his hair, jerking his head back, and growled, "Right?" Ezra still remained silent, he didn't see any point in talking. Besides, he was busy trying to find the right time to put his plan into action.
Edward smirked at him and said, "We have ways to make you talk." Looking at the other two men, Edward said, "Stilts. Brown."
Henry Brown, who was all muscle and six-foot, grabbed Ezra, pinning his arms to his sides. Gordon Stilts, who was pulling on black leather gloves, smiled at Ezra. He was going to enjoy this. He pulled back his left arm and let his fist fly directly into Ezra's stomach. Ezra lost his breath, and bent a little at the waist.
Edward was sitting behind his oak desk, puffing on a cigar as he watched everything unfold. Ezra felt his bottom lip split open as Stilts landed a vicious punch to his face. Another punch to his face and Ezra knew he was going to have a serious black eye.
"Well, ready to answer my question yet? Are you here to learn about my gun business? Or, you don't have to say anything, I'm enjoying the entertainment," Edward said.
Ezra knew he needed to put his plan into action, or they were going to kill him. So, he slammed the back of his head into Brown's nose, causing Brown to loosen his grip as he grunted in pain. Ezra jerked his arms free and hit Stilts in the stomach, then kneed him between the legs.
He then triggered the rig on his right arm, causing the Derringer to shoot out of his sleeve and into his right hand, briefly wondering how Brown hadn't felt the rig while was holding him. But, he had no time to think about that. He saw Edward lifting a gun, aiming it at him, and he fired. He'd always had excellent aim when shooting and now was no exception. He hit Edward Mounds in the hand, causing him to howl in pain and drop his gun. Ezra quickly ran out of the study, shut the door, and rammed a chair under the handle. That would hold them for a little while. He needed to get away and contact Chris, to let him know what was going on.
He raced down the outside stairs, hearing yelling behind him and jumped into the black Cadillac. In sixty seconds, he had hotwired the car and was racing off, seeing Stilts, Brown, and a couple other men running after him. He knew he was going to have to dump the car soon.
He sped through the streets, heading for a garage, thankful that the police didn't seem inclined with stopping him. He knew that Mounds' men weren't far behind him, so he turned down an alley. He took shortcuts until he was a block from the garage where he had stored his Jaguar. He deserted the car behind a building, entered the garage, and jumped into his Jaguar.
After he had been on the road for a few minutes and didn't see the men behind him, he pulled out his cell phone. It was a special cell phone that could not be traced. He only used it when undercover, to be able to safely contact his team. He figured Chris would be at home, so he dialed the house number. After two rings, Chris answered, "Hello."
"Ezra? What's wrong?" demanded an instantly concerned Chris.
"I've been compromised, Chris. My cover's been blown!"
Chris sat straight up in bed, his legs hanging off the side. "What?! What do you mean your cover's been blown?"
"Mounds had two of his men come by the condo and get me tonight. When I got to his house, he knew that I was an undercover cop. He wanted to know if I was there to find out about his illegal gun sales. I refused to say anything and he had Stilts and Brown start beating me. I was able to get away and made it to my Jaguar," Ezra answered.
Chris sighed, instantly knowing what had happened. That bitch had blown Ezra's cover. "Ezra, you know the drill. You have to make it to safe territory. You have to make it to the safe house."
The safe house was a place where undercover agents tried to make it to, when their covers were blown. Then they were retrieved there and taken to a debriefing and taken off the case. The safe house usually changed every three months, and right now it was a shack in the middle of woods that were right outside of town.
"I know, Chris."
"Me and the other guys will meet you there, immediately. Be careful."
"I will. I love you, Chris."
"I love you, too," Chris said as he closed his eyes to hold back the tears that wanted to escape. They hung up and Chris called Vin.
"Vin, we have to get to the safe house, now. Ezra's cover has been blown. He's going to try and make it there."
"Is he alright?" Vin asked in a fear-laced voice.
"Yes, he's alright for now. Do me a favor and call Nathan and Josiah, will you? I'll call JD and Buck."
"Sure, Chris," Vin said, then hung up without a goodbye.
Twenty minutes later, Chris was in his black truck, on his way to the safe house. 'This is all my fault! If I had never have gotten drunk, that night, Mary and I never would have slept together. And, Ezra wouldn't be in trouble right now!' Chris thought to himself as he banged the palm of his right hand on the steering wheel.
"Please, let Ezra be alright," Chris pleaded, hoping his prayer would be answered.
Half-an-hour later, Chris and the others were at the safe house, waiting inside. "Where is he?" growled a worried Chris.
They were all worried, even Nathan. Even though they didn't get along, Nathan didn't want Ezra hurt or dead. "I'm sure he's okay," Buck said as he tried to reassure Chris.
Chris shot him a glare, just as his cell phone rang. "What?" he asked harshly.
"Ezra! Where the hell are you? Are you okay?" demanded Chris.
Ezra's voice filtered through the phone, and Chris could tell that he was nervous. "Chris, I can't make it to the safe house. I'm on foot, about twenty minutes from the safe house. Mounds' men caught up with me and ran me off the road, after shooting out one of my tires. My Jaguar is at the bottom of a cliff." Ezra sighed, "My poor car."
A second later, he added, "They're still after me, aiming to kill me. I'm trying to hide. If I try and make it to the safe house, I know they will catch me."
Chris's face paled, causing the others to get extremely frightened for their undercover agent. "Where are you? I'll come and get you!"
"No, Chris. I will not risk you or the others getting hurt," Ezra firmly stated.
"Can you get a cab or anything and make it to the ATF offices? To the ranch? Anywhere?"
"I'm going to try and make it to the ATF offices. I will not lead them to the ranch. If I absolutely cannot make it to the offices, I will call you back. I love you." Without giving Chris time to reply, Ezra ended the call.
"What is it? What's wrong?" asked JD.
Chris sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "Mounds' men caught up with him and shot out one of his tires, before running him off the road. He's on foot now and about twenty minutes from here. He didn't tell me exactly where he was. He's going to try and make it to the ATF offices.
Half-an-hour later; Chris, Vin, Nathan, JD, Josiah, and Buck were at the office, along with Orin Travis. They had had to call him and explain everything to him. Now, they were waiting for Ezra to show up. Chris was pacing back and forth on the floor, growling at anyone or anything that got in his way. Vin was leaning against one of the desks, his blue eyes clouded with worry. JD was biting his fingernails, a clear sign that he was nervous and worried.
Nathan was sitting in a chair, not saying anything, just hoping that Ezra was alright. Buck was trying to comfort Chris, but wasn't making any progress. Josiah had his head bowed in a silent prayer, praying for the safe return of their teammate. Judge Travis was sitting in a chair, watching everyone and hoping that the best undercover agent he had ever met could make it to the office.
They heard the ding of the elevator, and all turned toward it, hoping to see Ezra walk out of the elevator. Instead, they saw Mary Travis walking toward them. Judge Travis stood up, to greet her. "What are you doing here, Mary? Where's Billy?"
"I was talking to Evie when she mentioned that Ezra's in trouble, she was really concerned. So, I thought that I should come down here to offer my support. I left Billy with Evie."
Chris growled as his top lip lifted in a sneer. He knew why she was really there, she was there so she could gloat in front of him about what she had done. He didn't know how she was able to find out where Ezra was or how she was able to blow his cover, but he knew that she had done it. All of his anger, fear, and guilt reached boiling point and, before anyone could move, Chris was in front of Mary.
He grabbed her by her throat, with his right hand, and slammed her against the wall. Not hard enough to cause any damage, but hard enough to rattle her. He lifted her up, so that only her toes were touching the floor. He got right into her face, his green eyes as cold as ice, and growled out, "You blew his cover didn't you?" He ignored everyone as they gasped in shock, he kept his gaze on Mary.
Her eyes were widened in surprise and a tear escaped her eye, to roll down her cheek. She looked like she couldn't believe that Chris had dared to treat her like he was. She remained silent and Chris tightened his hand around her throat just a fraction of an inch, to let her know that he meant business. "Didn't you?!," he ground out between his teeth.
Judge Travis grabbed Chris's right arm, trying to get him to let go of Mary. "Chris! Stop it! What are you talking about?"
Chris forced himself to let go of Mary. So sudden was the release, she dropped to her knees, gasping. He saw that everyone was looking at him and knew the time had come to explain.
He faced them all and began the tale. He told them all about how, after Buck had dropped him off at home, Mary had shown up. About how they had ended up sleeping together and, then, a couple of days later Mary had shown back up, threatening to blow Ezra's cover if he didn't keep having sex with her. "I don't know how, but I know she blew his cover. She's the reason Ezra's in danger!" Chris finished as he pointed at Mary, a look of disgust on his face.
She stood up, having regained her composure somewhat, and denied it. "I did no such thing!"
All eyes turned to her and she could see the disgust and questions in all of the members from Team Seven. She couldn't tell if Orin believed Chris or not. "Is this true, Mary?," Orin asked in an even voice.
Mary's eyes widened and she asked, "You believe him?"
"I'm inclined to. You've always been the type to get what you want, and I've often wondered what methods you use to succeed in getting what you want."
"You can't be serious! Orin..." Mary started. Judge Travis held up a hand, effectively shutting her up. "You will stay here until we find out exactly what is going on. If what Chris said is the truth, you're facing serious charges, Mary. Now sit down and shut up."
For once, Mary did as she was told.
"After this is all over, you and I are going to have a talk, Brother Chris," Josiah said. They all knew his tone meant that Chris would be lucky not to end up with at least some bruises.
"About me and Ezra, Sir," Chris started.
"That's not important right now, Chris. I don't care who sleeps with whom as long as it doesn't interfere with work. Right now, we need to get Ezra to safety." Just then, Chris's cell phone rang.
"Ezra?" he questioned.
"Chris, I haven't been able to hail a taxi and the three men are after me. They are pursuing me ruthlessly, I'm not going to be able to make it to the ATF offices." Just then, a shot rang out and Chris heard Ezra grunt in pain. "EZRA! Ezra, are you okay?!" Chris frantically yelled.
"I'm sorry, Chris. I love you." With that, the call ended.
"EZRA! NOOO!" Chris yelled at the dial tone as he fell to his knees.
"What? What is it?" Buck asked as he looked at his friend's pale face. Chris's face was so white that Buck thought he was going to pass out. But, Chris had never been the type to pass out and Buck doubted he was going to start now.
Chris looked at the cell phone, that was clutched in his hand so tight that his knuckles were turning white, then to the faces surrounding him. "Ezra said that... he can't make it here, to the office. Then, I heard... a gunshot, and Ezra grunted in pain. Then, he told me that... he was sorry and he loved me. That was it."
Chris jumped to his feet and started walking toward the elevator. "Where are you going?" Nathan asked as he grabbed Chris's arm. Chris stopped and said, "To find Ezra."
"We don't even know where he is, Chris," said Nathan.
Chris glared at Nathan and said, "I know that you don't like him, Nathan. But I am not going to sit around while he's out there. He could be dying for all we know!"
Nathan took a step backwards and said, "I never said that I don't like him and I'm worried about him, too." Chris snorted in disbelief.
"Alright, Brothers, let's all calm down. We're all worried about Ezra. We do need to find him and we will," said Josiah.
"How? We don't know where he's at," said a worried JD.
"You and Buck try to find out anything about Edward Mounds and his employees. Anything we might've overlooked," started Josiah.
"I have some snitches I might be able to get some stuff outta," said Vin, anger and worry warring in his blue eyes.
"Good. Chris, Nathan, and I will hit the streets and try to locate him," said Josiah. Chris glared at Josiah for taking charge, he didn't like being told what to do. But, his lover was missing, so he let it slide. Ezra was more important than his ego and pride.
"Be careful, boys, and good luck. I'll see what I can find out from my contacts," said Judge Travis.
Buck and JD headed to their desks, ready to start searching by computer and by making phone calls. Vin, Josiah, Nathan, and Chris got into the elevator, ready to start their own assignments.
Orin looked at his daughter-in-law, motioning for her to follow him to his office. They were silent the whole way. When they were inside his office, he shut the door and said, "Have a seat."
Mary sat down, wondering what Orin was going to say. He sat down behind his desk and looked at her in silence for a few minutes. "Mary, is any of what Chris said tonight true?"
Mary shook her head, "No."
"Then, why would he say it? What motive would he have?"
Mary shrugged and relented, "Alright, we did sleep together one time. But I didn't blow Ezra's cover." Mary hoped that Orin would believe her. If it ever came to light what she did, she knew the only thing she had to look forward to was an orange prison jumpsuit and no freedom.
Orin sighed, "I hope that is true. I hope with all of my heart that Chris is mistaken, for the sake of my grandson and Steven." Steven Travis had been Orin and Evie's only child. Steven and Mary had met in college and had gotten married after graduation, having Billy two years later. Then, seven years later, Steven had died in a car accident.
Orin hoped that the wife that his only child had loved so deeply wasn't involved the way Chris had claimed. He sighed and said, "You will have to stay in a holding cell downstairs, for the time being."
"What?!" gasped Mary. She couldn't believe it! Orin couldn't be serious!
"You will have to, Mary. Until we get to the bottom of what happened. Until we get to the bottom of Chris's accusations. I can't treat you any differently because you're my daughter-in-law."
"What about my job?" Mary asked, referring to her job as a reporter for the Denver Gazette.
Orin shrugged, "You will have to arrange for some time off or quit. But, you cannot tell them anything about what's happened. Ezra would be in even more danger if this went public. Understand?"
Mary nodded as she glared at Orin, "What about Billy?"
"Billy will be staying with Evie and I for the time being. Now, I'll escort you down to the cell. Let's go."
The whole way to the holding cell, Mary's anger grew. She couldn't believe that she was being treated in such a manner. When they were almost to the cell, her fear made a little dent in her anger. She was scared, even though she didn't want to admit it, even to herself. She had blown Ezra's cover. He might even be dead because of it. If it ever came out, with proof, she knew she was a goner. She pushed her fear to the back of her mind as her anger grew again. 'Damn Ezra Standish,' she thought. This was all his fault, if he just would've left her Chris alone. 'He deserves whatever's happening to him,' she thought darkly as she was led into the cell and the door was locked.
"You will be allowed to call your boss in the morning and try to get time off. That way if nothing comes of the accusations, you will still have an income," said Orin.
Mary just scowled and remained silent.
Orin sighed as he turned around and walked away. He didn't want to believe that Chris had been correct and that Mary would do something so heinous. But, he also couldn't stop the little voice inside. 'You know there's a great possibility that she did exactly what Chris claims.' Orin shook his head as he reached his office. He had always been a little wary of Mary, but his son had loved her so much.
He sat down behind his desk, picking up his cordless phone, deciding to call one of his contacts.
It was midnight, and none of them were any closer to finding Ezra. Vin had met with all of his snitches, none of them could or would tell him anything. Edward Mounds put a lot of fear into a lot of people. JD and Buck couldn't find anything that they hadn't known before. Josiah, Nathan, and Chris were searching Denver relentlessly. As they neared the offices again, the truck headlights highlighted the street. Chris slammed on the brakes and jumped out of his truck, followed by Nathan and Josiah.
Squatting down, Chris studied the side of the street. "What is it?" Josiah asked as he and Nathan got on either side of Chris.
Touching the spot, Chris found that it was still wet in a couple of spots. Bringing his hand back up, Chris saw that his fingers were red. It was blood. "Blood," said Chris. "He was so close, only five blocks away," Chris added, his eyes closed and his voice sad.
"We don't know that it's Ezra's blood," Nathan said, trying to soothe Chris.
"Yeah right, Nathan." Chris rose and walked back to his truck. Grabbing a napkin, he walked back to the blood. He wiped the spot with the napkin, getting back up when the napkin had some of the blood on it. "We'll get this analyzed, A.S.A.P, and find out for sure if it's Ezra's blood."
Nathan and Josiah could tell, from Chris's tone of voice, that he already believed that it was Ezra's blood. "Let's head back," said Chris as they got back into Chris' black truck.
An hour later, all of them met back at their office to report their findings.
"None of my snitches would say a thing," said Vin.
"Buck and I couldn't find anything new," sighed JD.
"We found some blood on the street about five blocks from here. Chris took a napkin down to forensics, to have the blood analyzed," said Josiah. He paused for a moment, "He's positive that it's Ezra's."
"Do you think it is?" wondered Buck.
Josiah nodded, "I do. But, I'm hoping that I am wrong."
Twenty minutes later, Orin Travis and Chris walked into Team Seven's office. They could all clearly see the guilt, anger, and fear in Chris's eyes as he opened his mouth to speak. "Melinda analyzed the blood and the results were positive. The blood's Ezra's."
"Oh God," whispered Vin as they all absorbed the news.
Ezra was in agonizing pain as he slowly opened his eyes and realized that he was laying on his back. He moved, getting ready to try and sit up, and hissed in pain as his right side felt like it was on fire.
Staring at the ceiling, riding out the flare of pain, the memories of what had happened started rushing back. He had been so close to the ATF building! He knew that Mounds' men were catching up to him and he wouldn't make it to the building, so he had called Chris. Then, he had felt a pain and had ended the call. As he passed out, Ezra knew that he had been shot.
'Now, here I am. Wherever here is!' Ezra thought as he moved his head to look at what he could see, without getting up. He saw a white ceiling and white walls. He knew that he was lying on a bed. He glanced down at his right hand and saw an IV, then he heard the machines beeping around him. As the fog from his mind completely cleared he realized where he was. "Aw, hell, I'm at the hospital!" he grumbled to the empty room.
"The hospital is right! How ya doin' Fancy Pants?" asked a voice.
"Nettie?" questioned Ezra as she walked into his line of sight.
Nettie took the chair next to the bed and said, "That would be me. Now, how are ya doing? You need me to fetch the Doc?"
Ezra gently shook his head, "Not at this time, thank you."
'Leave it to Ezra to be the 'polite southern gentleman' even after being shot,' Nettie fondly thought. She hadn't been so sure of the man when she had first met him. He had been so standoffish, not seeming to want anything to do with anyone. But, as she had gotten to know him and his walls had started to fall, and especially after she had met Maude, she had started to understand the undercover agent. And, he had grown on her. Now, she considered him one of her adoptive "sons", along with Vin.
Ezra licked his dry lips, "Water, please?"
Nettie filled a paper cup with water, stuck in a straw, then held it to the man's lips for him to sip. When he was through, he said, "Thanks." After a pause, he asked, "How... did I get... here?"
Nettie hid a slight smile at the disgust she detected in his voice when he had said the last word. The man was infamous for his dislike of hospitals. There usually had to be someone watching him, just to make sure that he didn't try and make a getaway.
"Well, Casey and me were driving down the street when we heard a shot. We saw three men standing and staring down at something. One of them raised his gun and I sped towards them. We didn't know it was you, but I couldn't let them hurt anyone. Between my truck racing towards them and that old scatter-gun of mine that Casey was pointing out of the window, they backed off. They got into a fancy lookin' car and sped off."
Nettie stopped to take a breath, before continuing, "Then, we saw it was you and managed to get you into the truck. Now, here you are."
"Well, it seems that I owe you and your niece a great debt of gratitude. Where is Miss Casey?"
"She's down in the waiting room, she's waiting on the others to arrive. After we got you to the hospital and found out that you were going to be fine, we called the others. Woulda called 'em sooner, but I didn't think about it. We were worried about you. Sorry, I'm sure you would've liked Chris to be here sooner."
Nettie knew about Chris and Ezra, had for a while. She didn't care that they were in a relationship, they were the same men they always had been.
Ezra gave her a small smile and said, "No worries." Ezra couldn't say anything else, because he started coughing, making the pain in his side worsen.
Nettie pushed the call button for a nurse. A couple of minutes later, a nurse entered and put a shot of pain medication into Ezra's IV. A few minutes after the nurse had left, Ezra's eyes started to droop. "Must be some powerful stuff," Ezra mumbled to Nettie before falling completely asleep.
"What the hell do you mean, you don't have him?!" Edward Mounds yelled into the phone. Stilts winced as his ear was assaulted with the loud and angry voice.
"We shot him, sir. We would've had him, but an older woman and a younger woman showed up."
"You couldn't stop an old woman and a girl?," Edward asked. Stilts could tell that he was sneering and could hear the disgust in his voice.
"The old woman was speeding her truck right at us and wasn't going to stop, and the girl was holding a weapon out of the passenger window! Some kinda gun!"
"Whatever. Did you idiots at least make sure that he was dead?"
Stilts sighed, wincing at having to explain, "We're not a hundred percent sure that he's dead. But, he was unconscious after he got shot. With that beatin' he took and getting shot, I don't think that he'll make it."
"That's why you don't get paid to think. I don't keep any of you around because you're smart, you're not. I keep you fools around because you're good at putting the hurt on people. Now, all of you get your asses back here. We've got plans to work out." With that Edward Mounds slammed the phone down, silently cursing the fools that he had working for him.
Stilts took a deep breath as he hung up the pay phone's receiver. "Bastard," he mumbled as he walked back to the car, where Brown and Millard were waiting.
"He wants us back at the house," he informed them.
"He pissed?," asked Millard, who was driving.
"What do ya think?" countered Stilts. The rest of the drive was done in silence, each of them wondering exactly how pissed their boss was. The man was crazy, you never knew what he would do.
"How is he?!" demanded Chris when they encountered Casey.
"He seems to be fine, considering. I don't know all of his injuries, you'll have to talk to the doctor," Casey answered.
"What room?" Chris asked.
Without another word, Chris started towards the elevators, the others following behind.
"How are you, Sweetie?" JD asked his girlfriend of five months.
Casey sighed, "Alright. A little tired now that all of the adrenaline has worn off."
JD nodded in understanding as they rode the elevator to the second floor. A few minutes later, they walked into the hospital room that had the number two-fifty on the door. Ezra was laying on the bed asleep, with an IV in his hand and a monitor monitoring his heart and blood pressure. Chris went directly to his left side, picking up his left hand and holding it.
"How's he doing, Nettie?" asked Vin.
Nettie could hear the worry, anger, and sadness in Vin's voice. "He seems to be alright. The doctor wouldn't really tell us all of his injuries. He said he had to wait for Chris, since he's his next of kin. But, I managed to convince him to let me in to see him."
"Ya didn't go threatenin' him with your old scatter-gun, did ya?" Vin asked, a twinkle in his eyes.
Nettie laughed, "Naw. I didn't have to go that far."
Just then, the doctor entered the room and asked, "Chris Larabee?"
Chris raised his head and the doctor said, "I'm Doctor Han. Would you like for everyone to stay, while I tell you about Mister Standish's condition? Or, would you rather they wait outside?"
"They can stay."
Doctor Han nodded and continued, "Mister Standish has sustained a severe beating. As I'm sure you can tell."
Of course they could all tell. It would've been impossible not to notice the swelling and bruising that was marring Ezra's face.
"He suffered a couple of cracked ribs because of the beating. And he's dehydrated, so we're pumping fluids into his system through his IV. He was shot in the side, but he was a lucky man. The bullet missed anything vital and passed through the fleshy part and muscle. We've stitched the wound up and wrapped his ribs. As long as infection or high fever doesn't set in, I expect Mister Standish to make a full recovery. Given that he rests and doesn't move around a lot, give the ribs and the gunshot wound time to heal."
"We'll make sure he rests," said a determined Chris. Ezra was going to be okay, thank God! Chris was so relieved, he couldn't lose him. 'You're not out of the woods yet. You still have to tell him about Mary,' a little mental voice reminded him. He'd cross that bridge when he had to. Right now, it was all about getting his lover well.
"I need to go check on some other patients. You all are welcome to stay for a while longer. Let a nurse know if you need anything. I'll be here for a few more hours, so have them page me if you need to."
"Thank you, Doctor Han," said Nathan. The doctor nodded, closing the door behind him.
After Doctor Han had left, everyone tried to find a comfortable place to sit or stand in the small hospital room. Ezra looked around at everyone and could feel that something was wrong. Nettie and Casey just looked worried, but his six teammates looked worried, angry, and sad.
"Alright, what is the matter?" Ezra asked, deciding for the forward approach.
"What? What are you talking about?" asked Buck, his mustache twitching. "We're just all worried about you," he added.
Ezra raised an eyebrow, clearly stating without words that he didn't believe Buck. After a moment, he said, "I am an undercover agent and it is my business to know how to read people. I can read all of you like an open book right now. The only two people in this room that are strictly worried about me are Miss Casey and Nettie. The rest of you are trying to hide something. What is it?"
Before anyone could answer, there was a knock on the door as it was pushed open. "Hello, Ezra. How are you feeling?"
Ezra looked at the visitor and said, "Hello, Mister Travis. I'm fine."
Orrin could feel the tension in the room as he stepped completely inside. "That's good. Josiah called me to let me know that you had been found and you were in the hospital. I assume that you know who did this to you?"
Ezra nodded, "Yes. It was three of Edward Mounds' goons. If it hadn't been for the timely arrival of Miss Nettie and Miss Casey, I think my early departure from Earth would have been certain."
"Well, I'm glad that Nettie and Casey were able to be in the right place at the right time. Do you know the names of the men? Can you identify them?"
Ezra nodded, "I know who two of them were. Stilts and Brown. The third man, I do not know who he was. But, I would probably be able to make an identification."
Orrin nodded, "Good. That's good." He shook Ezra's hand and said, "I'll let you get some rest, and I'll tell Evie that you're doing okay. Good-bye."
After Orrin left, Nettie and Casey decided to take their leave also. Within an hour, the only people left in the hospital room were Ezra, Chris, Vin, and Josiah.
Looking at Vin and Josiah, Ezra said, "You guys can go home. I won't try to escape."
Vin chuckled and said, "Nah. We'll stay."
Ezra covered his mouth as he yawned and, too tired to argue, he said, "Alright." Five minutes later, Ezra was asleep.
Chris, Vin, and Josiah sat in silence for a while, the only sound in the room was Ezra's soft breathing.
It was Josiah that finally broke the awkward silence. "When do you plan to tell him, Chris?"
Chris immediately knew what Josiah was talking about, without having to ask. He glanced at Ezra, to make sure he was still asleep, before answering. "I'm waiting for the right time. I can't tell him right now, not after everything he's been through."
Josiah nodded, "You will have to tell him, though. It's the right thing to do."
Chris nodded, "I know. I'm just scared. Scared that I'll lose him."
"You should have thought about that before. I'm not going to keep your secret forever, Cowboy. Plus, everything will come out when he finds out about Mary being in jail."
Chris was mildly surprised at the hard look in Vin's eyes and the cold voice that was being directed his way.
"I know that, Vin. You think this is easy on me? It's not. I love Ezra."
Vin snorted, causing Chris to narrow his eyes and scowl. "Don't give me that look. If you truly love him, you wouldn't have done what'cha did."
Vin stood up and said, "It's a little too crowded in here. 'Night." With one last look at Ezra, Vin walked out of the room.
"I'll be going too, let us know if you need anything," said Josiah.
After the door closed behind Josiah, Chris looked down at Ezra, surprised to see emerald green eyes looking back at him.
"What were they talking about, Chris? What's everyone trying to hide?"
Chris sighed as he thought about what to say. Should he tell him the truth, that way Ezra had nowhere to run? Or, should he try to distract him and wait until Ezra was out of the hospital?
Chris decided to try for distraction. "Huh? I don't know what you're talkin' about." Chris then bent his head down and pressed his lips to Ezra's. Ezra let the soft kiss carry on for a couple of minutes, before he pulled his head away.
Ezra raised an eyebrow and asked, "Do you always think that form of distraction will work?"
Chris allowed a slight smirk to grace his face and shrugged, "It usually does."
"True as that may be, Chris, I want the truth. I know that you all are trying to keep something from me. And, all of you know that I detest being kept in the dark about anything. So, spill."
Chris sighed and knew that Ezra wasn't going to stop until he found out what was going on. "Alright, there is something that you need to know. But, I don't want to tell you here. Let's wait until we get you home." Chris could hear the slight pleading tone in his own voice, but he didn't care. He didn't want to tell Ezra what had happened while he was in the hospital.
Ezra shook his head, "I would prefer to know now. What can be so bad that all of you are trying so hard to keep it a secret? Does it have something to do with the Mounds case?"
Chris nodded, "Some of it, yes."
Ezra's face turned determined. Chris knew that look well. It was the look that meant Ezra was going to find out what had happened. One way or another. "Then, I think that I deserve to know."
Chris sighed, tightly squeezing Ezra's hand. Looking into Ezra's eyes, Chris started speaking. He just prayed that he wasn't about to lose everything. "Ezra, I love you. You know that, right?"
Ezra nodded, "Of course, Chris. Why do you ask?"
Chris could see the confusion written on Ezra's face. He knew that Ezra was wondering what the question had to do with the Mounds case.
Chris paused as he took a deep breath. After exhaling, he continued. "While you were undercover, a few days before your cover was blown, something happened. Something terrible, something I would take back in a heartbeat if I could."
Ezra's expression turned wary and a little fearful. 'Maybe I should not have asked. Maybe I should put a stop to whatever Chris is going to say,' Ezra thought to himself. A second later, however, he squashed that thought. His curiosity wouldn't allow him to stop Chris from explaining. He had to know what Chris was talking about.
"This is hard for me to say, Ezra. Just remember that I love you. I love you very much, with all of my heart and soul." After another short pause, Chris added, "I... slept with Mary."
It took a couple of seconds for Ezra's mind to process what he had just been told. But, when it did, Ezra jerked his hand out of Chris's. "What? Please tell me that I heard you incorrectly."
"I wish you had. But, I went to The Saloon with the guys and had a few too many. Buck took me home to sleep it off, and Mary showed up. I invited her in, to see what she wanted, and it just happened. And, she showed back up a couple of days later and demanded that I keep her happy, or she would blow your cover. I'm pretty sure that she did."
Ezra's emerald green eyes turned stormy as he looked at Chris. "It just happened?! What do you mean it just happened? Ms. Travis just happened to trip and fall into bed with you?" Ezra struggled to keep his voice down, aware that he was close to yelling. His mother had taught him to always be in control of his emotions. To never let anyone see any weakness in him. He just didn't think he could control his emotions this time. The pain was too great.
Chris reached for Ezra's hand, only to have Ezra move it out of reach. Chris felt his heart breaking. He was seeing his worst fear come true. And, what was worse, was he knew that it was his own damn fault. "Ezra, please, I'm sorry. So very sorry!"
Chris could see the anger and hurt in Ezra's eyes. He could also see the feeling of betrayal, and he felt like crying and screaming, knowing that he had caused it. He had promised Ezra that he could trust him, and he had thrown that all away one drunken night.
"You're sorry? That makes it all alright, then?"
"No, I didn't mean that. Just, please, let me fix it."
Ezra shook his head, "I don't think it can be fixed. You promised me that you wouldn't ever drink so much that you lost all common sense again. You knew that Mary was wanting you. Hell, she pretty much threw herself at you every time you two were in close proximity together! Why did you let her in?"
Chris helplessly shrugged, "I don't know! But, please don't throw away what we have!"
Ezra's eyes turned hard as he looked Chris straight in the eyes. "I'm not. You did." After a pause, Ezra said, "I would appreciate it if you would leave. Now."
"I can't do that. You need protection. And, if I walk out that door, I'm losing another chance to fix my mistake."
"Either leave, now, or I will call the nurse and have you escorted out," Ezra replied in a flat voice.
"You need someone to stay with you."
"Not you. I will be perfectly safe in the hospital."
Chris sighed, and decided that it might be good to give Ezra some space. He could always talk to him tomorrow. "Fine. But, I'm calling Josiah to stay with you." Ezra didn't reply, so Chris took that as acceptance.
After staring at Ezra for a moment, he turned and walked out the hospital room, with tears sliding down his face. Ezra just watched his lover leave the room with a blank face. 'Former lover,' he corrected himself.
Numbly, Ezra realized that he had commented on finding out that it was most likely Mary that had blown his cover. 'Oh, well,' he sighed, 'I'll take care of that later.'
He reached with the hand that didn't have the IV in it, and picked up the phone. Dialing a number, he waited for someone to pick up. A minute later, he heard, "Hello?"
"Mister Travis, I am sorry if I woke you. But, I need to speak to you, Sir."
Ezra sighed as he sat in a wheelchair outside the back entrance to the hospital. He had talked to Orrin Travis and had demanded that he have him moved from the hospital at once. Orrin had refused, saying that he would be safer at the hospital, plus, he wasn't well and needed taking care of.
Ezra was stubborn, sure, but he was no fool. He told Orrin as much. He informed Orrin that he had a safe-house that he had kept secret, in case he needed it in a hurry. It was in another state. Utah, to be exact. Plus, one of his mother's ex-husbands lived there and was a doctor, and Ezra knew that he would provide care for him. Ezra had told him that he wanted to leave the hospital at once. And, if Orrin didn't help him, he would leave on his own. After a few minutes, Orrin finally agreed. He had also agreed to one other of Ezra's requests.
Ezra saw Orrin Travis's car drive up and sighed in relief. The orderly helped him into the car and shook his head as he walked away. What was the man thinkin'?! Leaving in his condition!
"Thank you, Mister Travis," said Ezra as Orrin drove.
"I still don't think that this is a good idea, Mister Standish. And, I definitely do not want to lose you as an agent," Orrin replied while keeping his eyes on the street.
Ezra sighed, "I detest hospitals and would just prefer to stay at my safe-house. Plus, I hate to resign from the agency, but I can no longer work there."
Orrin glanced at him briefly before returning his attention back to the street in front of him. "Chris didn't mean it, Ezra. It was a mistake." After a pause, he added, "What if I just transfer you to another team?"
Ezra shook his head, "No. I just need to get away. Make a clean break. Chris broke my trust, cheated on me. With Mary, no less. Then, I almost got killed. I guess in a way, I blame Chris for that. And, I can't, I won't, work for him or near him while I blame him. I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive him."
Orrin listened while Ezra spoke, not knowing what to say. Sorry just sounded so inadequate. Orrin sighed and nodded, knowing he had to respect Ezra's decision. A little while later, they pulled up to the ATF building, where Ezra was going to put a plan into motion.
Orrin wheeled Ezra, in the wheelchair that the hospital let them borrow, into the elevator. A few minutes later, they were in the area where the holding cells were. Orrin enlisted the help of the officer in charge, and had him take over wheeling Ezra. Orrin stayed where he was while Ezra made his way over to Mary's holding cell.
"It is alright, you can leave us alone," Ezra told the officer.
The man nodded and walked away while Mary and Ezra stared at each other. "What are you doing here?" sneered Mary.
"I came to see you," Ezra said as he stared at Mary through the bars that separated them.
"That is the question I should be asking you. Why? Why did you sleep with Chris, knowing that he and I were together? Why did you blow my cover?"
"I slept with Chris because I wanted to. He should be with me! As for the second question, I have no idea what you are talking about."
"I think you do," Ezra stated as he calmly stared at her. "You blew my cover to Mounds, trying to get me out of the way. Or, was it as revenge since I had the man you wanted?"
Mary stayed silent and Ezra shook his head. "I always thought you were a sophisticated woman. A confident, successful woman. Even though, I wouldn't trust you as far as I could throw you. But, in reality, you are nothing but a man-eating, conniving, pathetic, little bitch."
Pausing for a moment, Ezra stared at Mary's surprised and enraged face. "Normally, I would never call a woman such names. But, then again, my mother did teach me to call things as I see them."
"You... you... you, I can't even think of a word bad enough! Chris should've been mine from the beginning! Yes, I blew your cover. I met Mounds a while back and started dating him. I saw you at one of his parties. When Chris rejected me after our one night together, I knew what I had to do. So, I showed him a picture of you. You should be dead right now!"
Ezra gave her a slight smile and motioned for the officer. The officer grabbed the wheelchair's handles, getting ready to roll him away, when Mary spoke. "Don't you even want to know what Chris and I did when we had sex? How he made me feel? How he screamed and moaned as he fu--"
Ezra cut Mary off, holding up a hand. "Frankly my darlin', I just don't have the time." Ezra left Mary standing there, open-mouthed, as he was wheeled back to where Orrin stood waiting.
His heart breaking and holding back tears, Ezra took the small tape recorder out from under his leg, and handed it to Orrin.
"It's got everything," Ezra stated in a surprisingly calm voice.
Orrin nodded and said, "I managed to finagle you a helicopter to get you to your safe-house in Utah. There will be some ATF agents, from Utah, there to meet you. Your care will be in their hands until we are able to arrest Mounds and his men."
Ezra nodded, reaching into his coat pocket. He withdrew several envelopes and handed them to Orrin. "Could you please see that my... ex-colleagues receive these?"
Orrin nodded and Ezra, said, "Thank you." With that said, Ezra had the officer wheel him outside, where the helicopter was waiting. A few minutes later, he was seated inside and headed for Salt Lake City, Utah.
"What do you mean he checked out?!" Josiah thundered at the nurse and Doctor Han.
"He left, Mister Sanchez. Against my orders, I might add. But, he is of age and I had no choice but to discharge him. Director Travis insisted."
Josiah gaped for a moment, before walking outside and dialing a number on his cell phone. "Chris, Ezra's gone," he said as soon as his call was answered.
As a worried and angry Chris was getting into his truck, his cell phone rang. He flipped it open and growled, "Larabee."
"Chris, get the rest of your team and get down to the ATF offices and come to my conference room. Now," Orrin said.
"Where's Ezra?" Chris demanded.
"You will soon find out what I can tell you. So, get here." With that said, Chris was greeted with a dial tone.
Sighing, he punched in Buck's number, doing what Orrin had told him to.
A little while later, six members of Team Seven walked into Judge Travis' conference room. He was sitting at the head of the long table, "Take a seat, gentlemen."
After everyone was seated, Chris demanded, "Where's Ezra? Doctor Han told Josiah that you insisted they release him. Why?"
Orrin looked at each of them, and started to explain, "He called me from the hospital. I tried to persuade him to stay there. But, he informed me that he was leaving, either with my help or without it. So, I picked him up and brought him back here. We had come up with a plan, or rather Ezra had, on how to get Mary to confess. I took him down to the holding cells and he was able to get Mary's confession recorded." Orrin held up the tape recorder for them to see.
"He still here?" questioned the soft, raspy voice of Vin. Chris was already starting to rise from his chair.
"Sit back down, Chris. Ezra is gone," said Orrin.
As Chris sat back down, Buck asked, "Gone? What do you mean, gone?"
"He left, flew to a safe-house that he has. He had one on hand, just in case something like this happened. He plans to stay there, I hope, until this Mounds case is wrapped up. And, then, whether or not he comes back to the team, I can't say."
"Where's the safe-house?" demanded Chris.
"I can't tell you that," answered Orrin, causing Chris to glare at him. Orrin just glared right back. "He made me promise." Orrin paused and sighed, "Look, gentlemen, he just needs some time. Some space. Please respect his wishes."
Orrin stood, laying six envelopes in the middle of the table. "He asked me to give these to you. Let yourselves out when you are through. Good-night, gentlemen."
After each man had found the envelope with their name on it, they tore them open. Chris felt like his heart was breaking as he read the letter, the letter that was telling him that he and Ezra were definitely through. That Ezra didn't feel like he could trust him any more. To please not try and contact him. But, by the end of the letter, Chris was angry. 'How can he just throw what we have away?! Just walk away and not look back? To not even try and fix it?' Chris silently fumed.
Buck and J.D.'s letters, they found out, were about the same. Telling them how proud he had been working with them and how they were great agents. Great friends. That he would miss them deeply. Buck hugged J.D., his 'little brother' as J.D. cried.
Josiah's letter told him Ezra had looked upon him as a father figure. Even though he always had denied it. And, he was grateful that he had been given the chance to know him. Josiah raised his hands, wiping the tears off his cheeks.
Nathan was shocked when he read his letter. Ezra told him that even though they didn't get along, he respected him. He respected the way he wanted to help people, and thought he was a good agent. Then, he asked him, why? Why didn't he like him? Ezra wrote that maybe, one day, they would be able to resolve their differences. Nathan took a shaky breath as he refolded the letter, sticking it back in its envelope.
Vin felt extreme sorrow as he read his letter. The letter that told him what a true friend he had always been. The letter that told him that he was a great man for walking away from his feelings, for the sake of a friend. For the sake of two friends. That, maybe, if things had been different, he and Ezra would've been together. He read what Ezra said about, maybe, one day seeing each other again. And, maybe they could talk about what they felt. After, he had time to put everything behind him. Vin felt the tears prickling at the back of his eyes, but his hands were rock steady as he put the letter into his jacket pocket, over his heart, for safe-keeping.
He stood up, glaring at Chris. "Hope you're happy," he sneered at Chris.
Chris also stood, returning the glare. "You love him, don't you?" Chris asked causing everyone, but Vin, to gasp.
Vin refused to deny his feelings any longer. He nodded, "Yes. I do."
"That's just great! One of my best friends in love with my man," said Chris.
Vin snorted, "It's not like I was trying to take him away from you. I've been in love with him for a long time. You just got to him before I did. When I saw how happy you made Ezra, I decided to step aside." Vin paused, before continuing, "But, now, you've screwed everything up. It's your fault he's gone. You screwed Mary, costing you your relationship and almost Ezra's life!"
"Wait a minute, Vin, I'm sure..."
"Stay outta this, Buck. Chris doesn't need you to defend him," Vin replied.
Chris gritted his teeth, "I love Ezra. What happened with Mary was a mistake..."
"One hell of a mistake!" Vin interrupted.
Chris continued, "I'll always regret it. But, Ezra's the one that decided to run out. To not let us protect him. The one that decided not to try and fix our relationship."
Josiah decided he'd better intervene, before damage was done that could never be repaired. "Alright, stop it! We need to quit this bickering and try to find out where Ezra is, so we can bring him back home. So we can try and fix things. We also need to try and take Mounds and his men down."
"Well, Ezra didn't say anything in my letter about where he was going. He say anything in any of yours?" asked Nathan.
Five heads shook in negative. J.D. sighed, "How are we ever gonna find him?"
"Any way we can. However long it takes, we keep looking. We don't give up," Josiah firmly answered. "Plus," he added, "we keep going until we nail Mounds and all the scum that works with him to the wall."
Orrin Travis sighed as he walked to the holding cell that Mary was in. It was almost dawn, and he had yet to be home. He had explained the situation to Evie over the phone, and had told her that he'd be home to help her try and explain it to Billy.
He never thought that things would turn out this way. Not in a million years! He had been wary of Mary from the first time Steven had introduced them, but he never thought that she was this... this cold-blooded and manipulative!
He reached her holding cell, seeing that she was laying on the cot but was very much awake. When she saw him, she jumped up. "Are you here to release me?"
Orrin shook his head, "No. Very much the opposite. I have talked to the District Attorney, and he has agreed to file charges against you."
"Charges?! What charges?" Mary demanded.
'Surely she can't be this stupid,' Orrin thought. He internally shrugged, 'Then, again, maybe she can.'
"You blew a federal agent's cover, Mary. For malicious intent," Orrin replied. "You couldn't honestly have thought that there wouldn't be repercussions."
"I can't believe this! I'm family, Orrin. You can't let this happen!"
"What do you expect me to do? You made your bed, now you can lie in it. Evie and I are going to sue for custody of Billy, Mary. Starting in," Orrin looked at his watch and saw that it was four in the morning, "five hours."
"You can't! He's my son, Orrin!" Mary cried.
"I can and I am going to, Mary. I don't think that you are a fit mother, Mary. Billy, my grandson, does not need to be under your roof. Plus, I would say that you will be going away for a while. Your arraignment will be at noon. Good day." With that, Orrin turned around and walked away, while Mary shrieked curses at him.
Edward Mounds was not a happy man, not a happy man at all. In fact he was downright beyond pissed. The three idiots; Stilts, Millard, and Brown were lucky that he hadn't killed them! They had a simple job, 'take care' of Standish. But, somehow, they had let two women get the better of them.
'It's so hard to find good help these days,' he thought as he poured himself a shot of whiskey. After downing it, he sighed. He had a federal agent out there, somewhere, that knew a lot of critical things. And, to make matters worse, he had no idea where the hell Mary was. He had tried and tried to get her at home and on her cell, but to avail.
As Edward walked back to his desk, there was a knock on his closed door. "WHAT?" he barked.
The door opened, to reveal Millard. "You'd better have a damn good reason for disturbing me right now," Edward sneered.
He could see Millard visibly take a deep breath, before speaking. "Well, Sir, I just got a call from one of our contacts in the D.A.'s office."
After a minute of silence, Edward ground out, "And?"
"Well, he told me that Agent Standish has left town. The state, actually. He overheard a Judge Travis, who's now the director of Denver's ATF, talking with the D.A. Agent Standish is in Utah, Sir. Supposedly at a safe-house."
Edward let his lips curve into a small smile, already making plans about what he would do when he got Standish back. He'd send him back to the ATF director, in a matchbox! No one screwed with him! And, now that he knew where Standish had gone, it wouldn't be too difficult to find him. Pricey, maybe, but not too difficult.
Pulling himself from his musings, he saw that Millard was still standing in front of him. "Something else?"
"Yes, it's about your girlfriend."
"What about Mary," Edward demanded.
Millard hated having to tell Edward bad news. But, he had lost the coin toss against Brown and Stilts. One never knew how Edward Mounds would react to something. And, Millard, definitely did not want this to be a case where the messenger got shot.
Praying, Millard opened his mouth. "Our contact also told me that Mary is in a holding cell at the ATF building. She will be having her arraignment at noon, for blowing a federal agent's cover on purpose."
"WHAT? How the hell did they find out that she told me?!" Edward demanded as he jumped to his feet.
"There's more. Mary is the ATF director's daughter-in-law. She was married to his son until the man died. And, from what I found out, Mary slept with another federal agent a few days ago. Chris Larabee, Agent Standish's boss and... boyfriend. She turned Standish into you because she wanted Chris. Our contact said that he heard it all on a tape, they had gotten Mary to confess. Supposedly, they're wanting to hurry this along and get Mary convicted. And, the Travises will be suing for custody of Billy."
Edward couldn't believe what he was hearing. In a rage, he slammed both open palms onto his desk, causing Millard to visibly flinch. Mary had never told him that she had been married to a federal judge's son! And, then to cheat on him? She had been using him all along, she had probably known who Standish was from the beginning.
He didn't accept betrayal from anyone. Mary would be taken care of, then he would get that agent. They had screwed with the wrong man! His mind made up, he dismissed Millard, who couldn't get out of there fast enough, then sat back down behind his desk. His eyes cold and his mouth set in a firm line, he started to make plans.
It was six-thirty in the morning before Orrin was able to arrive home. And that was just to pick up Evie and Billy, and to give Chris a call.
When the phone was answered, Orrin spoke. "Chris, it's Orrin. I apologize for calling you so early. I wanted to let you know, that I have met with the D.A., and Mary's arraignment is set for noon today. And, I will be unreachable for an hour or two. Evie and I are suing Mary for custody of Billy, and we have to be there at nine."
"Alright," Chris replied on the other end of the phone. "Do the other guys and I need to be at the arraignment?"
"It's not required. But, if you wish, you may attend. I will talk to you and your team later. Good-bye." And, with that said, Orrin hung up the phone.
Evie walked into the living room and worriedly looked at her tired husband. "Are you alright, Orrin? Maybe we should postpone the hearing about Billy. I'm sure the judge will understand."
Orrin shook his head, "No. We'll do it this morning. The sooner, the better. But, we need to get Billy and have a talk with him, before we go."
Evie nodded, "I still can't believe Mary did all of this. I can't understand what possessed her to."
Orrin sighed, "Being told 'no' by Chris. She was used to getting everything she wanted, she couldn't, and still can't, understand rejection."
Evie nodded, "I suppose. I'll go and get Billy."
A couple of minutes later, Evie returned with a groggy Billy. They all sat down on the couch, Billy between his two loving grandparents. "Billy, we know this is last minute. But, there is something we need to talk to you about. Okay?"
Nine-year-old Billy nodded his head, he could sense the importance of what was coming.
"Billy, we have to go to court this morning. All three of us. Your grandmother and I will be asking the judge for permanent custody of you."
Billy's eyebrow's furrowed, "What? Why, Grandpa?"
"Because," started Evie, "we love you very much. You deserve the best life possible, and at the moment, being with your mother is not in your best interests."
"Why? Am I in trouble?" Billy softly asked.
"What?! No! Why would you think that?" exclaimed Orrin.
Billy shrugged his shoulders, his eyes downcast, and replied, "I figure I must be in trouble. A lot of trouble, if Mama doesn't want me any more."
Orrin put his right index finger under Billy's chin and raised his head until the boy's eyes met his. "You are not in any kind of trouble!" Orrin sighed, then continued, "It's your mother who is in trouble right now. Your mother has been arrested and will be sentenced to prison. Do you understand?"
Billy nodded his head, "Yeah. But, why? Because of Eddie?"
Evie and Orrin exchanged shocked looks over Billy's head. "Eddie?" asked Orrin.
Billy nodded, "Edward... um... Mounds. He told me to call him Eddie, though. Mama would bring him to the house sometimes, he would stay the night. One night he was there, and I was supposed to be asleep, but I couldn't sleep. I was sneakin' downstairs, to get somethin' to drink, and I heard him talking.
"He was on a phone and he was saying some things. All I could hear was 'kill' and 'Martin'."
"Why didn't you say anything?" asked a concerned Orrin.
"I did, I told Mama." Billy sighed, "But, she said that she didn't want to hear it. She said not to repeat anything that I ever heard Eddie say, not even to you guys." Billy's eyes filled with tears, "I am in trouble, ain't I?"
Evie wiped Billy's tears away, while hugging him, and replied, "You're not in trouble at all, Sweetie."
Orrin gave him a hug, and said, "That's right, Sport. But, you understand what we told you? You won't be seeing your mother for a long time."
Billy nodded, "But, why? She ain't done nothin'!"
Evie and Orrin sighed. "You'll understand when you're older. Now go and get showered and dressed. We'll be leaving shortly," said Orrin.
"Alright, Grandpa." Billy ran toward his room, tears rolling down his face.
Evie sighed as tears filled her eyes, also. "I hope he'll be okay, Orrin."
Orrin placed an arm around her shoulders and said, "He will be. He might be angry and confused for a while, but he'll understand as time goes by."
Evie nodded, "I hope so." Balling her hands into fists, the usually passive woman cried, "I hate Mary! How could she do this to Billy?! To Us?"
"I don't know, Dear," Orrin replied as he held his wife. He was wondering the same thing, with just as much hurt and anger as his wife.
Chris walked back into the conference room, where the remainder of his team still was. He had been in the break room, taking an Aspirin, when Orrin had called. He and the others were trying their best to find any traces they could of Ezra.
"I just got a call from Orrin. They're going to arraign Mary at noon today. And, he will be unreachable for a couple of hours. He and Evie will be in court, trying to get custody of Billy this morning." He sighed as he looked at his watch and saw that it was seven, "How about everyone try to call home and get a couple hours of sleep this morning."
"I don't think I could," said J.D. "Will we all be attending the arraignment?"
"I will. Whether or not the rest of you do, is up to you each personally."
"Oh, I'll be there," growled Vin.
"Me too," chimed in Buck.
A few minutes later, it was determined that they all would be going. "Well, we all need to try and get some sleep. We've been up for several hours."
"I ain't goin' no damn where! I'm gonna try and find Ez and get enough to bring that Mounds bastard down, until noon. Then, after the arraignment, I'm gonna do it all over again. And, if you have a problem with that, too damn bad!"
Chris' eyes narrowed, "I miss Ezra, too! I love him, I want nothing more than for him to be home."
"Either stay or go, but I ain't leavin'," said Vin.
Chris sighed, knowing that he had brought all of this down on himself. Plus tempers were fraying from lack of sleep and not being able to arrest Mounds. The D.A. had informed them that, even though they had enough to arrest Mounds' lackeys, they didn't have enough to arrest the man himself.
They needed something and they were hoping to get it from Mary. And, they were counting on the fact that Mounds had too big of an ego to turn tail and run.
Chris sat down, "Alright. We all want Ezra home, especially me." Ignoring Vin's snort, he sat back down at the table, ready to get back to work.
At noon, all six men and Orrin Travis were in the court room, waiting to watch Mary's arraignment. Evie and Orrin had been granted permanent custody, because of the situation with Mary. If Mary wanted Billy back, when she was released from prison, she would be allowed to sue the Travises for custody. But Orrin and Evie had already decided that they would fight for Billy.
Evie had taken Billy home, they didn't want him to have to watch his mother's arraignment. They were hoping that he wouldn't have to have to testify about what he had heard, that time, when Mounds had been on the phone. But, they knew that it was a possibility later down the road.
"All please stand for the Honorable Judge Shindler," the bailiff said. After the judge had taken his seat, the bailiff said, "Everyone please be seated... Case number PF2076," she added.
Mary and her lawyer, Adrian Black, approached and stopped at a small table that was a few feet from the judge. "Ms. Travis, how do you plead?"
Mary sighed, "No contest, Your Honor." They all knew that that meant she was pleading guilty, she just didn't want to admit that she was guilty by saying it.
Judge Shindler nodded, "We will see each other again in one week, to determine sentencing."
Adrian Black spoke up, "Judge, my client and I request that you let her out on bail until the time of her sentencing. She has already lost her job and her son..."
The judge cut the lawyer off, "You have got to be kidding me! My answer is no. She is the cause of the attempted murder of a federal agent. She will remain where she is until the time of the sentencing. Dismissed!" And, with that the judge banged his gavel down.
Ezra sighed as he laid on his back on the couch. He had four federal agents from the Utah ATF agency watching him. They took twelve-hour shifts, two during the day, two at night. He looked over at Agents Harry Mullard and Julia Sanders, who were playing a game of cards. They and the other two agents, Neil Harrison and Luke Milter, were all nice and professional. Even though Agents Mullard and Sanders were involved in a card game, he could tell that they were still very aware of everything that was going on around them. To him, that was what made a great agent. Especially when you were watching his back.
"Hey, Agent Standish, you wanna play?" asked Julia.
They had been impressed to find out that he was part of Team Seven, that had been dubbed "The Magnificent Seven". And, they didn't give any indication that they had heard rumors from his days with the FBI, even though he was sure they had. They were great agents and he really enjoyed their company. And, no matter what kind of mood he was in, he couldn't help but give in to his desire to play a good game of poker.
He carefully walked over to the table, still aware of his healing ribs and injuries. "Sure," he said with a slight smile, "why not?" After he had sat down, he added, "And, call me Ezra or Standish. The whole "agent" thing is unnecessary now." The two agents glanced at each other, but nodded.
He took the cards, expertly shuffling them, and asked, "How about Five Card Stud?"
As the two agents warily watched his hands handle the cards, they were both thinking the same thing. 'What have I gotten myself into?'
Two hours later, Ezra smiled as he collected his winnings from the two agents. "Wow, where did you learn to play poker so well?" asked Agent Julia Sanders.
"I've been playing since I was old enough to hold a deck of cards. It was one of the first things my mother ever taught me," Ezra replied.
If only his mother could see him now, he mused. Battered and bruised, hiding from criminals in a 'safe-house'. It was more of a cabin, really, set deep in the woods. It was isolated, he owned it and the land that it sat on for three miles. It was one of the first things he had bought with the inheritance that had been left to him by his grandfather.
Maude was in Paris, France, and Ezra doubted that she knew what was going on. They hadn't been in touch for a year, ever since he had told her that he was in love with a man. And, to add insult to injury, he had informed her that it was Chris Larabee. His mother and Chris had hated each other with a passion, ever since Chris had found out the kind of childhood Ezra had had. And, when he had informed Maude what he thought of her "mothering skills", the war was on.
But, between Chris and Maude, Chris would win hands down, every time. 'Or, he would've,' Ezra thought.
"Ezra, are you still with us?" asked Agent Harry Mullard.
Ezra gave his head a slight shake, and said, "Uh? Oh, yes, I am. I was just thinking about a few things." After a slight pause, he added, "If you two will excuse me, I think I will retire to my room and lie down for a bit." Nodding his head to both agents, he was gone before either of them could say anything.
9 P.M. THAT NIGHT
Ezra had re-emerged from his room around two that afternoon, enjoying a lunch with the two agents. They had all three talked, watched some television, debated the pros and cons of different foods. Even though he was in hiding, Ezra had actually enjoyed the day.
"Well, Agents Harrison and Milter should be here any time," said Agent Mullard.
Ezra nodded just as there was a knock on the door. Both agents drew their Glocks and Agent Sanders approached the door and looked out the little peephole. "It's Harrison and Milter," she replied as she and Mullard put away their guns, and Sanders opened the door.
As the two agents filed in, Mullard and Sanders grabbed their coats and Mullard said, "We'll see you in the morning, Ezra. 'Night."
"Goodnight," he replied.
"How are you doing?" Agent Neil Harrison asked.
Ezra put on his 'poker face' and replied, "Pretty good. You?"
"Can't complain," replied Harrison.
"Same here," said Agent Luke Milter.
"Listen, we have some news on Mary. She has pleaded no contest and she will be sentenced next week. Your team mates are still working on the Mounds case and are still trying to find you," said Agent Milter.
Ezra sighed, "I figured as much." He was glad that Mary was going to be sentenced, he just wished that he would be able to be there.
"What about Mary's son Billy?" he asked. He'd always had a soft spot for children.
"Mister and Mrs Travis sued and won permanent custody of him this morning," replied Agent Milter.
Ezra nodded, "Good."
TWO NIGHTS LATER
Mary Travis had been transferred to the county jail. She was to stay there until her sentencing, then she would be transferred to a woman's prison. She couldn't believe that all of this was happening to her! She loved Chris and she knew that Chris loved her. 'Why are you letting this happen, Chris?' she thought.
It was eight-thirty and lights out was at nine. She was on her way to her cell, not really paying any attention to anything or anyone around her. She sighed as she mentally cursed Ezra Standish. This was all his fault! She was stopped from going any farther by a body in front of her. She looked at the woman in front of her, and made a move to step around her.
The woman blocked her path again, then again. They were starting to draw a small crowd, but she didn't see any guards. 'Where are the damn guards when you need them?!' she silently hissed. Looking in the woman's eyes, she saw that they were cold. It gave her a slight pause, but she knew that she could take her.
"Get out of my way," she sneered.
The woman gave her a slight smile and whispered, "Mounds says hi." Mary only had time to widen her eyes in surprise, before she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen. She looked down and saw that the woman was holding the handle of a knife. The woman pulled it out and stabbed her again, this time jerking the knife upwards. A minute later, the knife was gone as was the woman.
Mary slumped to the floor, noticing that nobody was making a move to help her. She stared at the ceiling, as she coughed and felt a wetness splatter her mouth. She knew that it was blood. It was getting harder and harder to draw a breath.
THE ATF OFFICES
It was nine-thirty when Orrin Travis walked into Team Seven's office. The six men were all at their desks, working. They had been working almost non-stop, trying to bring down Mounds and find Ezra. They couldn't find the three men that had attacked Ezra. It was like they had disappeared. Orrin figured that Mounds had either relocated them or had them killed.
He sighed and walked straight to Chris' open office door. "Chris, we need to talk. All of us."
Chris's head snapped up and he stood. "Alright. We'll use the conference room."
A few minutes later, Orrin and Team Seven were seated in the conference room. "What is it, Orrin?" Chris demanded.
Orrin ignored the sharp tone. He knew that everyone was on edge. "Mary was killed tonight."
WHAT?!" exclaimed six shocked voices.
Orrin held up his hands for silence and continued, "A woman in the jail killed her. The guard that was assigned to that section was dealing with another fight. Mary was stabbed twice, her insides were pretty cut up. She was dead within minutes."
"This was Mounds' work, I know it!" exclaimed Vin as he stood up. He was too restless to sit.
Orrin nodded, "I agree. He was probably afraid that we'd get Mary to flip on him, so he decided to take preventive action. The D.A. and the judge have all been made aware of the situation. Needless to say, the D.A. isn't happy. Nobody can find the three men that attacked Ezra and, now, Mary's dead."
"This is just great. What do we do now?" groused JD.
"Are there any sources that you have that might know the whereabouts of those three men?" Orrin asked.
"I've called everyone I can think of," said a shrugging Buck. "No luck."
"I might know of someone," said Josiah. He paused a moment, then added, "That is if I can find him. I'll go right now and start putting out the word that I want to talk to him. Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll contact me."
After Josiah had left the room, Orrin said, "I'd better be getting home."
He walked to his car in the parking garage, but didn't leave. He just sat there. He didn't know what to do. He hated to see them all trying so hard to find Ezra, when he knew right where he was. But, he had promised Ezra that he wouldn't tell them. He knew that Ezra needed some time. Plus, he was in protective custody.
He made his decision. He just hoped that Ezra would understand. Pulling out his cell phone, he dialed a number. When it was answered, he said, "Vin, it's Orrin. Don't let on who it is. I'm going to tell you where Mister Standish is."
Vin couldn't believe it, he knew where Ezra was! Finally! Orrin had told him that he hated to see them trying so hard to find him. But, he didn't want the others, especially Chris, to know. Ezra didn't need them all descending on him at once. Especially considering the problems between him and Chris.
Vin had promised that he wouldn't tell. He scribbled a quick note before walking out of the office. He hurried to his jeep and headed home. Judge Travis had promised that there would be a driver to take him to the private ATF helicopter. The helicopter would take him to Ezra's safe-house in Utah.
Ezra sighed as he gently sat down on the couch. He and Agents Milter and Harrison had just found out that Mary Travis had been killed and that nobody could find the three goons that had tried to kill him. He might've wanted to slap Mary Travis silly. But, he didn't want her dead. He was worried about how everything was going to affect young Billy Travis.
He leaned his head back against the couch and closed his eyes, trying to will his headache to go away. He didn't want to take anything that would knock him out, which was why he had quit taking his pain medication. He had a feeling that he was going to need to be alert, since he was positive that Edward Mounds was on his way. He had a feeling that Mounds knew where he was and wanted him dead.
He sighed again, he just wished that the whole ordeal could be over. He was tired of hiding, even though it'd only been a few days. He just wanted to be free to go on with his life and try to get over Chris and everything that had happened.
It was almost dawn when there was a knock on the door of the safe-house. Orrin had called and told Agents Milter and Harrison about Agent Tanner's imminent arrival, but had told them not to tell Mister Standish. They had agreed, but they had a feeling that they were going to have one pissed-off agent when he found out.
Agent Milter went to the door, and called out, "Who is it?"
"Agent Tanner," a voice replied.
Agent Milter opened the door a crack and said, "Let me see your badge."
Vin handed his badge over. Even though he knew that the man was only doing his job, he was anxious to see Ezra. After a minute, his badge was handed back to him and he was let into the safe-house.
"Agent Luke Milter," the man said, holding out his hand.
"Agent Vin Tanner," Vin replied as he shook the other agent's hand.
Pointing over his shoulder, Agent Milter said, "That's my partner, Agent Neil Harrison." The man looked up from his book and he and Vin nodded at each other in greeting.
"Where's Ezra?" Vin asked.
"He's in his room. Down the hall, first door on the left," answered Agent Harrison.
"Thanks," Vin said as he started walking toward his destination.
AT THE ATF OFFICE
"Alright, my man contacted me and he gave me the information about where to find Mounds' three men," Josiah said.
"Finally! Where?" demanded Chris.
"They're staying underground, trying to stay off our radar. Makes me wonder why Mounds didn't kill 'em though," mused Josiah.
"Right now, I don't really care. Let's go," said Chris.
"Wait a minute, guys, where's Vin?" wondered JD.
"You know, come to think of it, I haven't seen him since Judge Travis stopped by. And, that was hours ago," said Nathan.
"We have to be headin' out. Buck, try him on his cell," ordered Chris as he started toward the elevator, knowing the others would follow him.
After the elevator doors had closed, Buck shut off his cell and said, "I've tried twice. It keeps going straight to voice mail."
Chris sighed in frustration, "Well, we can't worry about it now. We've got to go and get those men before they get a heads up." The others knew he was right, but it didn't stop them from worrying. Now they had two agents, friends, to worry about.
AT THE SAFE-HOUSE
Vin knocked on the door of Ezra's bedroom, getting no answer. He tried the doorknob and, to his surprise, found it unlocked. He pushed the door open, entered the room, then shut the door back. He saw Ezra lying on his back, asleep. But, even in sleep the man looked like he was in pain. Whether it was physical or mental, Vin didn't know.
His heart was breaking for Ezra. He loved Ezra, was in love with him. He had stepped aside, to make Ezra happy, when he had found out that Ezra and Chris were together. But, now, the bastard had broken Ezra's heart. If he had anything to do with it, he wouldn't get a second chance.
Almost as if he knew he was being watched, even in sleep, Ezra started to stir. His eyes slowly opened, then widened when he saw Vin.
"Mister Tanner?! What are you doing here?"
"The name's Vin," he teased. Then, Vin added, "Don't be mad, Ez, but Judge Travis told me where ya were."
Ezra's green eyes flashed with anger and annoyance, "Why, pray tell, did he do that? I specifically asked him not to inform any of you of my whereabouts."
Vin held up both hands in a placating gesture, "He was tryin' to help, Ez. Me and the other fellas have been lookin' for ya since you left. We've been worried. He didn't tell the others, neither did I. I think he just wanted ya to have a friendly face around."
Ezra sighed, causing his cheeks to puff out in a way that Vin found adorable. When he felt 'little Vin' start to want to come out and play, he silently admonished, 'Down, boy!' He was able to bring his desire down, like he had for the past year when around Ezra.
"Go ahead and have a seat, Mi... Vin," Ezra said as he scooted up so that his back was against the bed's headboard.
Vin took a seat at the foot of Ezra's bed, and asked, "How ya been?"
Ezra shrugged, "As well as can be expected."
"Ya healin' up okay?"
"Yes. My ribs are still a little tender, but I think that they're about healed. Everything is okay."
"Still takin' your meds?" he asked when he saw Ezra slightly flinch in pain.
Not wanting to lie to the man, Ezra shook his head.
"Why the hell not?" Vin demanded.
"Because, they knock me out. I want to be in my right mind. I have a feeling that Mister Mounds will be showing up."
Vin let out a breath and nodded, knowing that he would want the same thing in Ezra's place.
"Well, he might, but he won't be layin' a hand on you."
Surprised at Vin's vehement reply, Ezra looked at him and asked, "Vin?"
Vin sighed, "I wanted to talk to you later, but I might as well do it now. I just didn't wanna give you anything else to think about."
Ezra raised an eyebrow and waited for Vin to continue. Which he did after a moment. "Ez, I know this probably isn't the right place or time, especially with everything that happened 'tween you and Chris, but I love you. I'm in love with you."
Ezra's eyes slightly widened and he was silent, for once not really knowing what to say.
After a few minutes, Vin said, "Say somethin', Ez. Are you mad? Do ya hate me?"
"How long?" was what Ezra finally asked.
Vin sighed and replied, "I realized it about three months before you and Chris got together. I didn't know if you went that way or if you could feel the same for me. I guess you could say I was scared, I didn't wanna lose you as a friend. Then, I had finally worked up my courage to say somethin' and it was the same day that you and Chris came out to us."
"That's why you said you were coming down with something and took the day off," said Ezra. Vin nodded, and Ezra asked, "You've loved me all this time?"
Vin, again, nodded, "Yeah. But, I knew that you were in love with Chris and from what I could see he made you happy and treated you right. Until now." He immediately regretted that last part when he saw Ezra flinch. "Sorry, Ez. I wanted you to be happy, so I figured if it was with him, fine. But, I haven't stopped lovin' you."
Ezra carefully scooted a little closer to Vin and captured his hands with his own. "You know, Vin, if you had asked me out first, I could have easily fallen in love with you. I still could. But, I need time to get this Mounds case settled and get over Chris. We were together for a year, it's going to take me a little time. But, when all of this is over, we'll talk." Ezra gave Vin a chaste kiss on the lips.
"I'll wait for you, Ez. No matter how long it takes," Vin sincerely replied.
It was at an old dive of a bar, in the seedy underbelly of Denver, where the three men that had tried to kill Ezra were found. Nathan, Josiah, Chris, Buck, and JD had walked into the bar and had immediately spotted Millard, Stilts and Brown. They walked straight over to the three men, nobody bothering them.
Surrounding the three men, Chris spoke. "Rafe Millard, Henry Brown, and Gordon Stilts?"
The three men looked at the five angry men that were surrounding them, before slowly nodding. "Yeah, that's us. But, you can go right back and tell Mister Mounds that we're not gonna break our promise. We promised him that we wouldn't say anythin' and we won't," Rafe Millard quickly said.
"Do we look like damn thugs to you? Do we look like men that would work for someone like Mounds?" Buck asked in a dangerously low voice.
When Henry Brown opened his mouth, Buck held up his right hand. "Don't answer that," he growled. Henry Brown's mouth closed with an audible snap.
"The reason we're here is because you three men are under arrest," said a cold-eyed Josiah.
"What for?" Gordon Stilts asked defiantly.
"Attempted murder of a federal agent, illegal gun trafficking, murder. And, those are just the beginning of the list. Lord knows we have a lot more we can charge you three with," replied Nathan. "Now," he added, "are you going to come along peaceful or not?"
Gordon Stilts threw a punch at Nathan, only to have his fist caught in a steel grip by the darker man. "Guess that's a no," quipped JD.
"We've got a problem fellas," stated Buck. Looking around, the others saw that everyone in the bar had gone to fighting.
Chris sighed and growled, "Why is it that every time one fool throws a punch, all the other drunken fools have to join in?!" Looking around, Chris saw a back door. "Come on, we've gotta get them out of here."
Grabbing the three men, they propelled them toward the back door, ducking thrown beer bottles the whole way.
Once they had reached the outside, the three men were handcuffed and put into two different cars, Buck's and Josiah's.
AN HOUR LATER
Chris sighed in frustration as he walked out of the interrogation room that was holding Gordon Stilts. The man had done nothing but throw insults that questioned Chris's parentage back several generations. And, now he had finally asked for a lawyer.
Seeing JD and Nathan standing in the observation room, he walked over to them. "Buck and Josiah have any better luck?"
"Well, judgin' by Bucklin's face, I'd say not," answered JD as he looked over Chris's shoulder. Chris turned around and came face to face with a scowling Buck Wilmington.
"No luck?" Chris asked, even though he already knew the answer.
Buck shook his head, "Brown did nothin' but mope and complain about being arrested. Now, he wants a lawyer."
Chris nodded, "Stilts is lawyerin' up also."
"Maybe Josiah can get something from Millard," said Nathan.
A few minutes later, Josiah hurried up to them with Orrin Travis in tow. Before any of them could say anything, he was talking. 'I got Millard to roll over on Stilts, Brown, and Mounds. I recorded the whole conversation."
"Wow! Brown and Stilts want a lawyer," said JD.
Josiah nodded, "Millard never requested one and I asked him. But, I did have to get Mister Travis, here, to get a deal authorized for him. How that man ever made it workin' for Mounds, I'll never know. He 'bout pissed his pants when I started to question him!"
After taking a short breath, he continued, "Mounds knows where Ezra is. There's a leak in the D.A.'s office!"
"WHAT?!" Chris nearly yelled.
"I've already informed the D.A., he's on his way. We need to figure out who it is. But, more importantly, is that they know where to find Mister Standish. And... Mister Tanner is also there."
"What? Why? How?" stuttered Buck.
Orrin sighed and said, "I told him where he could find Mister Standish. And, I told him not to tell any of you where he was going. Ezra didn't want anyone to know where he is, but I thought that he could use a familiar face."
"Why send Vin? Why not me? I'm his... lover," protested an irate Chris.
Orrin shook his head, "You were his lover. You're not now. Besides, he didn't need you barging into the safe-house. It's better that I sent Vin."
Chris growled, deep in his throat, but when he saw the glare that Orrin sent his way, he wisely kept his mouth shut for once.
"They need to be warned that the safe-house has been compromised!" exclaimed a worried JD.
Orrin nodded, "They already have been. I called them before Josiah and I met up with you."
"We need to go up there and help them," said Nathan.
Orrin started, "I don't...."
"No disrespect intended, Sir," Josiah said, cutting Orrin off, "but they're our friends. We need to be up there."
Orrin looked at the worried faces, sighed, and nodded. "Fine. The helicopter will take you all to where they are." Looking Chris directly in the eyes, he asked, "Are you sure that you can be a professional? And, be honest."
Chris took a deep breath and nodded, "I can and I will, Sir."
Orrin nodded, and said, "Be safe. And, be on the lookout, we don't know how much of a head start Mounds has as of right now."
Taking a minute to spare quick nods, the five ATF agents were off and running for the agency helicopter.
AT THE SAFE HOUSE
Agent Harrison went and knocked on Ezra's bedroom door. When he heard, "Come in," he quickly opened the door.
"We need to get you both out of here. Agents Sanders and Mullard are on their way."
"Why? What's goin' on?" questioned Vin.
"The safe-house has been compromised. Mister Travis called and they have Stilts, Brown, and Millard in custody. They found out that there's a leak in the D.A.'s office and Mounds knows where you are. He's probably on his way," Agent Harrison quickly explained.
"Shit!" said an angry and concerned Vin.
Ezra quickly, but gently, got off the bed and said, "We had better be taking our leave."
"Not so fast," said a voice from the doorway.
Looking at the person that had spoken, Agent Harrison gasped. Agent Milter was standing there, pointing his gun at them. "Luke! What are you doing?!"
Agent Milter gave a smirk and asked, "What's it look like? I'm keeping you from leaving until Mister Mounds gets here."
"You're working for him? I've known you for years and you've always been a by-the-book kind of agent!" said a shocked Agent Harrison.
Agent Milter shrugged. "What can I say? I realized that going by the book doesn't pay as much as throwing the book out. With what Mister Mounds is paying me, I'll be able to retire years early."
"You piece of --" Vin growled as he started toward Agent Milter.
Agent Milter shook his head, keeping his gun aimed on them. "Back right up, Agent Tanner. Or, I'll start shooting."
"Vin," Ezra said softly.
Vin sighed, his eyes never leaving Agent Milter as he backed up to stand by Ezra's side. "Good little agent," said a smirking Agent Milter. He just laughed as Vin growled at him.
"You won't get away with this," said Agent Harrison. "Sanders and Mullard will be here soon."
"No, they won't. I never called them. And, if they do have the misfortune of showing up for some reason, well --" Agent Milter said, letting them use their imaginations to finish the threat.
Looking at his watch, Agent Milter said, "Mister Mounds should be here in thirty minutes. Why don't we all go back out front and have a seat." They knew that it was more of an order than a question.
When they had reached the living room, Agent Harrison made his move. He quickly spun around and head butted Agent Milter in the stomach.
"Ooof," grunted Agent Milter as he stumbled back. Agent Harrison got Agent Milter's back to Vin and Ezra. Vin found a poker by the fireplace and grabbed it. Before he could strike Agent Milter with it, there was a loud bang.
Agent Harrison fell to the floor, blood staining the front of his shirt. Before Agent Milter could turn back around, Vin hit him at the base of the neck with the poker. Agent Milter fell forward, out cold. "Do you have anything to tie him up with?" Vin asked Ezra.
Ezra nodded and hurried off. Vin checked Agent Harrison for a pulse, finding none. He closed the agent's eyes and sighed. He had hoped that the agent would still be alive.
Ezra showed back up, holding some rope. Vin took the rope and hog-tied Agent Milter, using triple knots. When he was satisfied that the agent wouldn't be able to get loose, he said, "Come on. We've gotta get out of here." After a pause, he said, "I can faintly hear a helicopter. We've gotta hurry, it's probably Mounds."
"Agent Harrison?" Ezra asked.
"Sorry, Ez, he's dead."
Ezra sighed, grabbed their jackets, and they took off into the surrounding woods.
Edward Mounds jumped out of the helicopter, as soon as it landed, to the ground. He couldn't believe that those three idiots; Howard, Brown, and Stilts got arrested. Then sold him out! Him! Sniveling little bastards. He'd have to take care of them after he cleaned up this mess.
He quickly strode toward the cabin, knowing that the four men that he had with him would automatically follow him. He saw the door standing open, and cautiously walked into the cabin. Seeing his informant Agent Milter tied up and unconscious, and another agent lying in a pool of blood obviously dead, he shook his head and clenched his fists.
"Blake and Halter, go see if you can find anyone here," Mounds ordered.
A few minutes later, the two men returned. "Nobody's here, Boss," said Michael Halter.
"Setchin, get the biggest glass you can find and fill it full of ice cold water." Tobias Setchin nodded and went to carry out the order.
When Mounds received the two-quart jug of ice water, he knelt down beside Milter's still form. He splashed half of the jug's contents into Agent Milter's face. Seeing that it had startled the man semi-awake, he gave a small smirk.
"That's right, Agent Milter, wakey-wakey," Mounds said in a patronizing voice as he splashed the rest of the water into the agent's face.
Agent Milter sharply sucked in his breath, his eyes snapping completely open. When he saw who was beside him, his eyes widened. "Mister M-Mounds," he said.
"That's riiiiight," Mounds drawled. Pulling out a knife that he always carried, Mounds swiftly cut the ropes off Agent Milter. "Now, why don't you get up off your sorry ass and explain to me just what the hell happened," Mounds demanded.
Milter shakily got up, his body having fallen slightly asleep. "Well, Sir, Standish and Tanner got away. Agent Harrison tried to stop me and I killed him. Either Agent Standish or Tanner hit me with something and that's all I remember. I'm sor--."
Mounds raised a hand, shutting Milter up. "Save your apologies. So, what you're telling me is that you have no idea where they went. And, this is going to take longer that I thought, right?"
Agent Milter said, "Give me another chance. I'll fix it. I'll find them, I swear!"
Mounds held his hand out and Leroy Hevering handed him a nine millimeter. When Mounds looked back at Milter, he saw that the agent's eyes were as wide as saucers. "You might find them. But, you see, the thing about me is that I just don't give... second chances." With that said, Mounds pulled the trigger, shooting Agent Milter right about the left eye. Milter dropped to the ground, instantly dead.
Handing the gun back to Hevering, he said, "Let's find Standish and Tanner and get home."
A MILE FROM THE CABIN
When the helicopter landed Chris was the first out; followed by Nathan, JD, Buck, and Josiah. They quickly ran the mile, slowing down when the cabin was in sight. Seeing five men walk out of the cabin, they instantly knew who it was.
Edward Mounds had arrived before they had. They were all five silently praying that Ezra and Vin were all right. They knew that Mounds and his men had to have heard their helicopter.
"You might as well come out! I know someone is out there!" they heard Mounds scream.
"What do we do, Chris?" JD whispered.
Chris sighed, "Give them what they want. Our way." Raising his badge, so it could be seen, Chris yelled out, "ATF! Put down your weapons and surrender!"
Bullets were the only answer that they received. Staying behind a column of bushes, they started firing their Glocks. "We're gonna have to get closer," said Buck.
Chris nodded, and said, "Be careful, Men."
As one, they stood up and started running toward a bunch of trees, all the while firing.
"It would really help to have Vin's sharpshooting skills right now," grunted Buck.
Chris didn't reply. Getting one of Mounds' men in his sights, he fired. Jeremy Blake fell backwards, blood spraying from his head. Chris couldn't help the small thrill of satisfaction that he felt.
WITH EZRA AND VIN
"Ez, ya okay?" panted Vin as he and Ezra kept running deeper into the woods. They could faintly hear the gunshots.
"Fine. Just... wondering what is going on... back there," Ezra answered.
"Are we any closer to these weapons you were talkin' about?"
As they had run, Ezra had informed Vin that there was a cache of weapons hidden in the woods. Ezra had buried them, just in case something happened. Something like what they had just experienced.
"Yes. Right over... there," said a pointing Ezra.
Vin saw that Ezra was pointing to the right, toward a clump of little shrubs. Dropping to their knees when they reached the spot, they started hurriedly digging with their hands. Ezra didn't even seem to mind the dirt. 'Has survival on his mind,' Vin mused.
Finally, after what seemed like forever but was actually only a few minutes, they found the weapons. They were in a heavy-duty, thick, black garbage bag. Opening the bag, Vin saw a rifle, knives, Glocks, Berettas, and bullets.
They each hurriedly grabbed weapons, making sure they were all loaded, and extra bullets. They each grabbed a knife and stood up. "Do you want to go back or keep going through the woods?" Vin asked.
After a slight pause, Ezra said, "I think we should go back. We have to stop Mounds before he kills us or leaves. If he leaves, we may never catch him."
Vin nodded, agreeing with Ezra. Looking Ezra in the eyes, he started talking. "In case we don't make it, I want to make sure and tell you one last time that I love you."
Ezra smiled, his eyes softening. "I have feelings for you, Vin. They could easily turn to love. If we make it out of this, we'll talk." With that said, Ezra leaned forward, his lips touching Vin's in a soft kiss.
They both had smiles on their faces when they pulled away from each other. Vin asked, "Ready?"
Ezra nodded and they turned back the way they had come, and started running back toward the cabin.
A few minutes later, Vin and Ezra made it back to the cabin. They weren't hearing any gunfire. They cautiously approached, seeing the other guys there. Ezra caught a movement behind Chris and saw Mounds raising a gun to fire at Chris's back.
Without thinking, Ezra took aim and fired. Hitting Mounds in the hand, causing him to cry out in agony and drop his gun. Before he could react, Josiah and Nathan had him in handcuffs, after wrapping a cloth around his injured hand.
"How is everyone?" Chris demanded.
"I'm alright. Just have a bullet graze on my arm," answered Josiah.
"I think we're all good. I don't see any of us bleeding," said Nathan.
"What about you Ezra? Vin?" asked Chris.
"We're okay. Right, Ez?" replied Vin.
"Yeah. I am just ready to get to my nice feather bed at my place of residence," said Ezra.
"We need to call the closest coroner, to pick up the bodies of three of Mounds' men," said Buck. Within two hours, the bodies had been picked up, and they were all back on their way to the ATF helicopter. The ATF were going to send three helicopters, one for each dead body. And, transport them back to Denver. But, they were going ahead and taking Mounds back with them.
THE NEXT DAY--AT THE ATF OFFICES
Ezra and the other six men had spent hours being debriefed by Orrin and the D.A., having to tell them everything that had happened. Edward Mounds was being held in an ATF holding cell until his arraignment. When they were finally back in their office, Ezra was more than ready to go home.
"I'll drive ya," said Chris.
"That is quite alright. I will be fine on my own," Ezra answered.
"Well, I'll be over later."
"I would much rather you weren't," Ezra said.
"We need to talk."
"Chris, I would rather not have this discussion. But, since you insist, let's have it here." Ezra wasn't ready to be alone with Chris, so he'd have to have the discussion in front of their teammates.
"Ezra, we can fix this. It was only the one time, with Mary. I swear!"
"I do not care if it was once or one-hundred. I will not tolerate being cheated on. Look, Chris, I still care for you. I would not be averse to trying to repair a friendship in the future. But, there will never be any more us."
"Oh, I get it. You just wanna shack up with Vin. How long have the two of you been together? Since before we even broke up?!" Chris demanded, his voice angry.
"He never cheated on ya, Chris!" Vin said in Ezra's defense.
"You can't be with him! You're supposed to be with me!"
"Chris, Brother, calm down," said Josiah.
But, Chris was seeing red and charged at Vin. Before a punch could connect, Chris was grabbed in a bear hug by Josiah. Manhandling him, Josiah plopped Chris into a chair, snarling, "Stay!"
"We're going to have a talk and get this settled. You cheated on Ezra. You ruined your relationship. Nobody else. Now, if and when Ezra's ready to move on, I want you to let him. He deserves to be happy, even if it's without you. Understand?" Chris's eyes sparked with anger, but he nodded. He heard the truth in Josiah's words.
"Good. Now, how about we all go home and get some rest?"
"I'm all for that!" sighed JD.
A YEAR LATER
It had been a year and Edward Mounds had been sentenced. He had received a sentence of life without the chance of parole. But, two months after he was sentenced, he was killed in prison by another inmate. The informant in the D.A.'s office had been found and sentenced to ten years without the chance of parole.
Ezra had found out that Orrin had never filed the letter of resignation that Ezra had given him. So, Ezra had gone back to the team as their undercover agent. He and Chris were starting to rebuild their friendship. Chris knew that he had done wrong and just wanted Ezra to be happy. Everything seemed to be working out.
It was eleven at night when there was a knock on Ezra's front door. Looking out the peephole, he saw that it was Vin. Opening the door, with a smile, he ushered him in. "Hello, Vin."
"Hey, Ez. Listen, I think it's time that we had that talk. And, now seemed as good a time as any."
Ezra nodded his head, agreeing, and led him into the living room. Both of them sat down on the couch, not speaking. After a few nervous minutes, Ezra spoke up. "I am ready to try a relationship with you, Vin."
"You're over Chris?"
Ezra nodded, "It has taken a little while. But, I can honestly say that I am over him. All I want from him now is friendship. Over this past year, I have fallen completely in love with you, Vin. Do you... still feel the same for me?"
"Definitely. I love you so much, Ez. And, I promise, you'll have no reason to doubt me. Ever."
"I know," Ezra whispered.
Leaning forward, their lips met in the middle in a tender, loving kiss. When they stopped the kiss, their lips were still touching.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Ez," Vin murmured against Ezra's lips.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Love." Ezra murmured back, more than ready to start this new chapter in his life.
If you enjoyed this story, we're sure that Tammy would love to hear from you.
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This website is maintained by Donna and Barb
with corrections and additions
Chapters 2-3 added 27 November 2006
Chapters 4-5 added 29 November 2006
Chapters 6-7 added 1 December 2006
Chapters 8-9 added 4 December 2006
Chapters 10-11 added 5 December 2006
Chapters 12-13 added 8 December 2006
Chapters 14-15 added 18 December 2006
Chapters 16-17 added 21 December 2006
Chapters 18-19 added 25 December 2006
Chapter 20 added 28 December 2006
Chapter 21 added 1 January 2007
Chapter 22 added 2 January 2007
Chapter 23 added 8 January 2007
Chapters 24-25 added 12 January 2007
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