Cold Case
Episode 1:
A Gift Or A Curse

(Cold Case)

by BML

Parts 2-4 added 14 August 2007 - Completed

Summary: After spending three months in a drunken haze after the death of his wife and child in a fire he can't prove to be arson, Chris Larabee is going back to work. But being sober isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Open AU: Chris heads a cold case unit at the Denver PD, with a little help from the Afterlife. First Story. It's Cold Case but with a couple of twists. Two very interesting twists.
Mild Slash: Vin/Ezra
Author's Notes: A cross between Cold Case and Ghost Whisperer, all characters are from the Magnificent 7. And don't worry, there shall be lots of Ezra. Just not how you think. Lol.

Part 1

Chris Larabee was, for the first time in three months, completely sober. When his wife and son had died in a house fire, that Larabee knew to be arson, the man had fallen into a well of grief, drowning himself in whatever liquor he could find. If it hadn't been for Buck, his oldest and closest friend, he would still, right now, be drunk.

And in all honesty, he would prefer to be drunk.

When he had woken that morning, after a binge he had gone on after the massive blow-up with Buck the previous night, he had, naturally, a raging headache. He also had the desire to pull himself together and prove that his family's death had not been accidental. Chris was the head of a cold case unit, a branch of the police force that brought closure to cases that remained unsolved, anything from two to seventy years old. He worked with Buck, a bit of a ladies man, but a damn good cop. JD, an absolute whiz at finding new information, whether in old archives or on the 'net. Josiah dealt with the families involved in the cases, and Nathan dealt with any bodies they had (whether exhumed or newly discovered).

However, what Chris had not expected as he walked into his living room, holding his aching head in one hand as he grumbled about aspirin, was to find two complete strangers sitting there, lounging on his couch as if they belonged there.

"Why, it appears Mr. Larabee has made a return to sobriety. At last," a chestnut haired man drawled in a distinctly southern accent.

The other man in the room, a blond longhaired man, a little scruffy looking compared to the other, smiled slightly. "Looks like."

Larabee glared, reaching to his side for a gun he hadn't worn in months. Not surprisingly, he didn't find one. "Who are you? And what are you doing in my apartment?" he demanded to know.

"Well, had you bothered to pay any attention when we first arrived you would know the answers to both those questions," the Southern man said, looking as if he had the right to be put out by Larabee's behaviour.

"I'm a cop you know," Larabee stated.

The scruffy looking one snorted a little at that while the southern man blinked slowly before raising a hand to his mouth in mock shock. "Oh my, a man of the law. I'm absolutely terrified." The hand dropped and an elegant eyebrow rose. "Really Mr. Larabee, if you hadn't wasted three months imbibing that foul substance you call alcohol we could have been done with these formalities and could have moved onto business."

There was little Larabee, in his hung over state, could say in return, or even really make sense of. "You... What?" He knew he should be on the phone calling Buck, or the station, or something. But he had a feeling the two men in the room would not harm him. He didn't know why, but it was a feeling.

"Ez," the scruffy man said quietly.

The southern man sighed deeply. "All right." The man stood gracefully, as did the scruffy man. "My name is Ezra Standish, this is Vin Tanner. And we are your spirit guides." The man took a small bow as he finished.

Larabee blinked, and was silent for a long moment. "What?"

Ezra Standish heaved a theatrical sigh and turned to Vin Tanner. "You talk to him. He is obviously more in tune to your own form of communication." The man retook his seat on the couch.

"We're spirit guides," Vin said, his accent Texan.

"Spirit guides?" Larabee asked slowly.

Vin nodded.

"As in..."

Vin nodded.

"I need a drink," Larabee groaned. This was all some kind of hallucination. Some kind of alcohol induced dream. "I need a drink," he repeated.

The fact remained that, even after two shots of whisky, the two 'spirit guides' were still there, Ezra making derogatory comments about his choice of alcohol. He tried ignoring them, thinking that if he pretended they weren't there, they wouldn't be. Ezra kept up a running commentary on his choice of TV program, about the shampoo he used, his pictures, the colour scheme of his apartment. All the while Vin stood just in his line of sight, smiling slightly at his partner in crime.

Finally, Chris got so pissed off with the imaginary Ezra's comments that he drove his fist straight through him. Literally straight through him, and all he got in return was a raised eyebrow and the comment, "Really Mr. Larabee, resorting to violence is truly not necessary. Merely asking me to desist in talking would procure a much better response."

Vin laughed. "Doubt it Ez, you nev'r could keep yer mouth shut more'n a second a time."

Ezra glared over at Vin, and Chris stepped back, wondering why on earth his subconscious was making him see two strange men bickering in his apartment.

"Grief," he finally decided. "This is some insane way I've worked out to help me get over... Or maybe I'm just losing my mind."

"Yer not losing yer mind, Cowboy," Vin said, breaking off from bickering for an instant.

"Well, what little there is left to lose after killing off possibly all your remaining brain cells with that rotgut," Ezra added. "No, Mr. Larabee, I am afraid that we are not figments of your imagination, nor are we the remnants of some kind of bad food or alcohol in your system. Nor indeed are you losing your mind. We are quite real, Mr. Larabee."

"And we're here to help," Vin finished.

"Hmm," Chris said, sitting in his chair and burying his face in his hands.

"Ez, explain."

"We tried explaining Mr. Tanner, he doesn't want to listen." Ezra heaved a sigh at the imploring look Vin gave him. "Fine. Mr. Larabee. When your wife and son died -- and before you explode in a fit of temper, yes we do know about that -- when they died your grief allowed your mind to open up to another plane of existence. The spirit plane, apparently. Where myself and Mr. Tanner were assigned to become your spirit guides. Sort of like the intermediaries between you and the spirits. In some way, you are searching for the souls of your wife and son. There is no guarantee that we can find their souls for you, but we can try. You probably won't believe this, and I must say I can fully understand your situation..." he trailed off and shot a look at Vin, before taking a breath and continuing. "But we are real, and we are here to help."

"Help?" Chris choked out, around the lump in his throat at the mention of his dead wife and son.

"Yeah, Cowboy," Vin answered.

Chris sucked in a deep breath. "This is insane. And not happening." He got to his feet, made his way to the bedroom where he changed into his now habitual black clothing (that is habitual if he bothered to dress at all). And, ignoring the two 'spirit guides', he left his apartment and stalked down the stairs of the apartment block, angrily. He got into his car, that he had not driven in months, started the engine, glancing in the rear-view mirror, almost expecting those two figments of his warped mind to be there. But the car was empty save for himself.

Taking a deep breath, he started the car and pulled out of his parking space.

Part 2

His entrance into work was nothing short of dramatic. He stepped through the door of the Cold Case unit, silence fell like a curtain, and all eyes turned to him. Thankfully, there were only four people staring at him. The drive had lessened the insanity that had occurred at his apartment. Now just proved it. It was all just a combination of restless sleep, too much drink, and grief. A way to drive himself out of his apartment and back into the real world.

Now he really had to stop thinking about it.

"What?" he barked, annoyed at the looks, and winced inwardly when he saw Buck's face grow sad and turn away. Taking a deep breath, and rubbing his temples with one hand, he sighed. "Sorry." It was stilted, he wasn't used to apologising. "I'm here, I'm not drunk, and I'm coming back to work. Buck. Can I talk to you for a moment?"

Silence answered him, everyone looking between him and Buck, until finally Buck stood. "Sure hoss."

They went into Chris' office, a small frosted glass square that was the only thing between him and the rest of his team. Chris stood beside the desk he hadn't sat behind in three months, frowning at the files sprawling over it. When he heard the door click closed behind Buck he took another deep breath and steeled himself for the biggest apology of his life. Possibly even bigger than when he had had to apologise for breaking that goddamned ugly plate Sarah's mother had given them as a wedding present.

"Buck," he began.

Buck didn't respond, and Chris could imagine his expression. He really owed Buck this apology.

"Buck, I've been an ass."

"That's true."

"And I shouldn't have taken it out on you."

"That's true too."

"And I'm sorry Buck."

There was no response. "Look me in the eye when you say that and maybe I'll believe you."

Chris turned and looked Buck straight in the eye. "I'm sorry Buck. I ain't gonna promise it'll never happen again, because it probably will. But it won't be your fault, it'll be mine."

Buck studied him for a long moment, probably trying to work out if Chris was actually fully sober and sincere. Finally, he nodded slowly.

Chris let out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. Glad Buck was not one to hold grudges. "Been up to anything then?" he asked quietly, breaking the awkwardness he could feel coming.

"Work wise?" Buck queried, clearing his throat a little. Chris nodded. "Cleared up two cases thanks to new information JD found. That's it." He hesitated for a moment. "You sure you're ready to come back to work?"

Chris thought back to the situation this morning and nodded firmly. "Yes. I need to stop drowning in my grief and do something about it." Then he could leave the imaginary 'ghosts' well alone, and he'd be fine.

He really needed to stop thinking about it.

Buck stared at him for a long, long time. Before stepping forward and gripping him in a huge bear hug, crushing Chris to him. Chris made an 'ouf!' sound before wriggling out of the tight grip. "Folks'll talk Buck." This got a laugh from Buck. One he hadn't realised he missed. "We good?" he asked.

Buck smiled. "We're good hoss."

Chris nodded.

Outside the little office when they came out was a lot more relaxed, as finally the remaining members of his team approached him, slowly, and a little warily. Condolences were said all round, and Chris shoved away any feelings they brought up ruthlessly and thanked them. He left the unit and made his way up to the chief of police. It took some talking (something Chris Larabee rarely did) and some intimidation (something that came naturally, and was even impressive when he looked as haggard as he did). And with the promise to attend a counselling session to make sure he was ready for duty, he was told he could start in a week.

By the time Chris pulled into his parking space at his apartment block he had almost completely forgotten about the incident this morning. It was just an unpleasant memory he had pushed aside. So there was no apprehension as he made his way into his apartment.

The living room was empty.

See, he had been right. It was all some elaborate trick conjured by his mind to get him out of the apartment and back into work, where he could make a difference. No 'ghosts' or 'spirit guides' here. With a half smirk he made his way through his apartment, took a second shower to further clear his head before making his way to the kitchen for a proper meal.

"Howdy Cowboy," came the Texas accent.

"Ah, welcome home Mr. Larabee!" came the southern cry of welcome, complete with beaming smile.

Chris opened his mouth, and closed it. Opened it again... but for the life of him he couldn't think of a single thing to say.

"I told you Mr. Tanner. You owe me five dollars now." Ezra grinned.

"Put it on my tab Ez." Vin shook his head, before turning an accusing look to Chris. "I had high hopes Cowboy." He shook his head again in disappointment.

Ezra grinned happily. "Well Mr. Larabee, how was your day? Returned to work yet? When should we expect our first assignment?" He made the word 'assignment' sound like a dirty word.

Chris closed his mouth with a snap, and felt his temperature skyrocketing as his temper rose to the forefront. The windows rattled in their panes and doors shuddered as he finally found his voice.


Part 3

Two weeks later and Chris still couldn't seem to shake the ghosts. And he had tried everything he could think of. He had ignored them for three days, but he couldn't block out that southern drawl and the running commentary it gave, or the silent presence of the Texan. Finally, when he couldn't ignore them any more, he had told them to leave, repeatedly. To which he had gotten laughs and repeated 'no's.

At the mandatory counselling session, he had tactfully brought up the subject, asking the doctor whether or not it was possible to conjure up... 'ghosts' to help with grief. The answer he had gotten hadn't helped much. Apparently, sometimes those suffering with grief will see the loved ones they lost. Not some strangers. Who were in fact in that very room. Ezra reading the doctor's notes over his shoulders, while Vin leaned against the wall, eyes trained on Chris. Who was doing his level best to ignore them.

He had even resorted to calling in a priest to perform an exorcism. All the while growing more and more pissed off when the 'ghosts' sat on his couch and actually laughed as the priest prayed and scattered holy water and some ash stuff all over the apartment. After the priest had left, promising that now no ghosts could possibly be in the apartment, Chris had spun to the two on his couch.

"I am really losing my mind," he said. It was the only logical explanation.

"No, Cowboy, yer not," Vin told him, conviction in his tone.

"Exorcisms only work, Mr. Larabee, if the apparitions in a place or person are bound in some way to that place or person. As we are not bound to this place, nor in possession of you, exorcism will not work," Ezra explained, voice gentle.

"We're not going to leave Cowboy," Vin added.

Chris rubbed between his eyes at the muted thumping he could feel there. Missing the concerned looks shared by the ghosts. All he knew was that he needed to get rid of them before he started work properly at the end of the week.

Two weeks after that disaster, Chris was back at work, and struggling through an old suicide case that the family continued to protest was murder. The reason he was struggling was because he had two very unwelcome visitors in his office, and his team was afraid to come inside for fear of getting their heads chewed off. He knew his behaviour was irrational, but he really couldn't think of any way to stop. It was hardly like he could just turn to them and say, "Oh, I'm sorry I've been acting like an 'ornery mule lately, but you see, I have two 'spirit guides' following me around. One who talks a mile a minute and doesn't know when to shut up, and the other that just stares at you."

Yes, that would go over very well.

And to top it all off, he had another goddamned headache!

"You know, we could help," Vin said after a long stretch of silence.

Chris looked over, glaring. "Sure," he growled.

Ezra and Vin shared a look before Ezra took over the dialogue. "Mr. Larabee, you really are going to have to stop fighting the truth, and the inevitable. We are here, and we are not leaving. Though I must say I wouldn't mind, you are hardly the most interesting conversationalist I've ever met. However, we cannot leave. Those headaches--"

"Shut up," Chris growled.

Ezra paused, pursing his lips for a moment before continuing, "Those headaches you've been experiencing are a direct result of your not accepting us as we are. You're leaving yourself open to attack from the spirit plane. That is why we were assigned to you Chris, we keep the vengeful spirits from getting in and destroying your mind... supposedly, anyway."

"But if you don't let us, we can't do our job," Vin added quietly.

Chris sucked in a breath. "I have a headache because you two won't just disappear down whatever holes you crawled out of," he hissed out.

Ezra heaved a sigh. "That's it. Vin, I'm leaving," he said, and vanished.

Vin sighed deeply. "Cowboy, listen, you're going to have to trust us at some point. You don't want to alienate Ez, trust me. It's not worth the consequences." The two long words were sounded out, like he had only heard them spoken and was a little unsure of their usage.

"Trust you? Sure. Trust some figment of my imagination, or 'ghosts' or 'spirit guides' or whatever you are. Yeah. Now, you find out whether this guy killed himself or if he was murdered and I might be willing to listen," Chris spat.

"Wha's his name?" Vin asked.

"Samuel Granger," Chris smirked.

Vin nodded and vanished. And Chris was surprised. Shaking his head, he went back to his notes, ignoring the feeling of unease that swept through him when he recalled Ezra's words, and Vin's. They weren't real, he wasn't going crazy. He just couldn't work out how to get rid of them. But he would.

That evening he was sitting on his couch, a mug of coffee in front of him so he wouldn't be tempted to get a shot of whisky to wet his throat. He hadn't been bothered for the rest of the day surprisingly. Though his headache hadn't let up, which made him think of Ezra's words. The fact that he had gotten rid of the 'ghosts' had left him elated for a time. But sitting in his now silent apartment, he found he actually missed the constant chatter from Ezra, and the bickering sessions the two engaged in regularly. They were almost like family in their actions.

Forcing his thoughts away from them, he concentrated on his work. "Spend a month wishing they'd go away, and when they do you want 'em back. You really are losing your mind," he muttered to himself.

"Aw, Mr. Tanner, it appears Mr. Larabee has missed us." The southern accent was distinctly sarcastic.

"'ppears so," Vin smiled.

"Now, if he would care to make an apology, I might be persuaded to reveal the information I managed to glean from Samuel Granger."

Chris looked at him suspiciously.

"Ez," Vin warned.

Ezra huffed slightly. "I refuse to be treated like that Mr. Tanner, as you well know! Either he apologises for the way he behaved or I shall not breathe a word of what truly happened, and he can puzzle through this case for as long as it takes for him to close it again."

"'is brother kilt him," Vin stated.

Ezra blinked before turning an incredibly wounded look at Vin. He opened his mouth to say something, most likely high dramatic that would have all ended in tears, had Chris not suddenly found something that made this accusation make perfect sense. "Good God... It was!" he breathed. He was reaching for the phone and dialling Buck's number in an instant.

As he spoke with Buck, Ezra turned to Vin. "Not even a thank you, did you notice? Not one expression of gratitude for all my hard work."

"Our hard work," Vin corrected, more out of habit than actually annoyed by the omission.

"Yes, well. Not one word, and yet he will get all the credit for this, and he still doesn't believe we are who and what we say we are." Ezra was annoyed now, very annoyed.

Vin nodded, knowing better than to interrupt.

Chris rubbed his head again as he put down the phone, and Ezra's lips tightened and he fell silent. Vin shook his head but said nothing, knowing there was no point. 'You're being stubborn Cowboy,' he thought with a sigh. 'An' Ez ain't gonna wait much longer for ya to come to yer senses.'

Part 4

The case was wrapped up within a week; the brother had indeed killed Samuel Granger and then made it look like a suicide. Because he was jealous. It was a sad, sad day when you killed your own brother over jealousy. Chris had been feeling surprisingly good all day, he hadn't had one headache, nor had he had those two irritating ghosts hanging about. All in all, for the first time in months, it was a good day.

He had gone out with the others, they had forgone the bar, Chris knew it was because of the temptation of drink, and they didn't want him to get into that state again, so he didn't complain when they stopped at a street Chinese stall. Enjoying, for the first time since his family's death, the way Buck and JD horsed around, laughing and having fun, the way Nathan bitched about the food, and how unhealthy it actually was, all the while eating it like it was his last meal. And the way Josiah spouted obscure passages of the bible, just to get their perturbed reactions.

Yes. It was a good day.

And it stayed a good day until he walked into his apartment to be faced with Vin, who looked to be caught between the emotion of panic and pure anger. Chris was shocked when he actually felt Vin touch him, physically catch hold of his arm. A surprisingly tight hold for someone who was supposedly a ghost and unable to touch things.

"Come with me," Vin said, his teeth clenched.

Chris pulled back, annoyed when the grip didn't fade.

"It's your fault this happened. Come with me!"

"My fault what?" Chris backed off again, only to be followed, Vin's face in his.

"We're going, and you don't have a say. I'm going to make you believe."

Before Chris could formulate a reply, he was no longer in his apartment, but somewhere else. It didn't have any form to it, it just was, kind of a shimmer that was everything and absolutely nothing all at once. When he pulled back again he found Vin had already released him. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded to know.

"Your headache's gone isn't it?" Vin asked, his voice tight.

Chris nodded, bewildered.

"This is why." Vin pointed to the side. Chris looked, and his eyes widened when he saw Ezra, on the ground, curled up as tightly as he could pull himself, covered in a sheen of sweat, and convulsing. Fading in and out, as he did.

"What?" he breathed out.

"He's fading because of you. Do something," Vin demanded, leaving Chris to move beside Ezra.

Chris watched as Vin moved to take Ezra's hand, only to have it pass straight through his. Chris had seen them touch before, so he couldn't think why they couldn't do it now. Vin sat back, his face pained as he watched Ezra struggle with himself. It was almost as if he was in some kind of intense pain. But if he wasn't real then how could he--?

"Stop it!" Vin snapped. "He is real! We both are! Now start believing it!"

Chris shook his head, closed his eyes for a moment, hoping when he opened them all this would just be gone. But it wasn't; instead, there was more. A black shadow was crouching over Ezra, reaching inside his head and his chest.

Ezra screamed, a muted sound, but it hurt Chris to hear it.

"What is that?" he asked in a whisper.

Vin didn't look at him, closing his own eyes, reaching out to touch Ezra again only to have his hands pass through him. "That is what has been giving you the headaches. If you'd just believed we could have stopped it. Could have stopped this." Vin opened his eyes, looking at Chris. "You have to do something."

Chris saw it then; saw the same kind of love he carried for his wife and son shining in Vin's eyes. And he knew then that this was real. That kind of emotion couldn't be faked. "How?" he asked, his voice suddenly raspy.

"Just believe," Vin whispered. "Ez..." he reached out again, but Ezra screamed, his body jerking suddenly, painfully, and his emerald eyes shot open. And he screamed again, and again. Vin got to his feet angrily, and threw himself on the shadow impaling his love.

And that was all Chris saw, as that shimmering world faded and he was back in his apartment, staring at the ceiling. He lay there, just breathing for a long few minutes, before finally pushing himself to his feet. On the couch sat Vin and Ezra. If it wasn't for the fact that Ezra looked like death warmed up (despite the fact he was dead), Chris wouldn't have believed what he had just experienced.

"Thanks Cowboy," Vin nodded to him.

Chris took a seat in his chair and looked at the ghosts in front of him, eyeing each one for a long moment. "Mind explaining what just happened there?" he asked.

Vin looked at Ezra, who shrugged slightly.

"That was a..." Vin looked to Ezra for a suitable word.

"Malevolent," Ezra helpfully supplied, his voice weak.

"Spirit. One of the things people like you have us to protect you against."

"People like me?" Chris questioned.

"People whose minds are open to the spirit world," Ezra answered, coughing a little before continuing. "Like I told you before, somehow the loss of your family made you open your mind to the spirit world, whether in some last ditch effort to find them, or something else. But once it opens to our world it can't be closed. So people like you, who have this connection to the spiritual plane, need to have 'spirit guides' to stop malevolent spirits invading your mind and killing you, or possessing you, or something along those lines. I wasn't really paying attention when it was explained to me. The point is that you need us to stop that happening, and neither you nor we can change that."

"So why--?" he began.

"Because you wouldn't believe. As much as he blusters, Ez isn't about to let anything in to screw up your head. He enjoys doing that too much himself." Vin smiled at Ezra, and Chris saw that love again.

"But now that I do believe you are ghosts, or whatever?" Chris asked.

"That won't happen again, because if need be we can draw on you to stop it," Ezra said, before a barely perceptible shudder rippled through him. "I sincerely hope," he added.

"It won't," Vin stated firmly. The 'I won't let it' was clearly heard though never spoken.

Chris sat back in the chair, brows furrowing. "So what now?" he asked.

Vin shrugged. "You go to work, live your life, and we help."

"With what exactly? I can't really see you two doing housework."

"With your cases. We can reach the spirits of those you need to find. Help you solve them." Vin shrugged.

Ezra worried his lower lip for a moment. "And we could try to find your wife and son."

Chris shot him a dark look, before some hope blossomed there. "You could?"

Vin nodded slowly.

"I could really find out what happened," he breathed.

"There's no guarantee Cowboy. We could search the spirit plane for years and not find them," Vin warned.

Chris looked at him, expression very serious, determination in his eyes. "Then we search for years. Cases can be solved years after the actual events. I know that better than anybody," he said, his tone brooking no argument.

"Sure Cowboy," Vin nodded, smiling slightly.

Chris got to his feet. "Seeing as you're obviously gonna be around for a while, let's get one thing straight. Don't call me 'Cowboy', cowboy."

Vin grinned as Chris left the room, but never agreed.

"Vin..." Ezra began softly when Chris was gone.

"Hmm?" Vin asked, reaching over to stroke Ezra's hair.

"I'm not going to enjoy this job am I?" he asked with a put upon sigh.

Vin smiled. "Oh, I don't know Ez. Looks like it might be real easy to rile ole Chris up. An' I know how much you like rilin' up 'authority figures'."

Ezra bit back a snort. "Perhaps."

"Hmm." With a firm grip Vin caught Ezra's chin and pulled it round until their lips met in a chaste kiss. Vin pulled back. "Never do that again," he said softly, but steel underlined it.

Ezra cocked his head slightly to the side and smiled. "Yes Vin."

Vin didn't even have to say how much hearing Ezra say his name meant to him, he pulled him back in for another kiss, one Ezra returned with equal vigour. And the human plane melted from around them to the shimmering world of the spirits.

End Episode 1

Rules for this AU:
1. Vin and Ezra are ghosts (can be un-slashed, but must remain very close friends).
2. They have no previous connection with the others. This is their first time working together.
Currently Chris is the only one who can see them and knows about them. I am currently working on a second story where the others find out about them, it also contains Vin and Ezra's history. But after that's done feel perfectly free to borrow and do with as you wish. (Just let me know so I can read them. ;)

Cold Case Index On to: Episode 4: Revealing The Truth -- Part 1
(Episodes 2 & 3 coming later)

If you enjoyed this story, we're sure that BML would love to hear from you.

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