The New Law
(Alternate Y2K)

by Leigh Richards

Disclaimer: The following work of fan fiction is not intended to ingringe on any copyright or to make a profit.
Rating: PG-13
Author's Notes: This story is in AU where the boys are Detectives in a Major Crimes Division [Sorry watching The Sentinel what can I say?].

"So, I take it that's Standish?" Nathan Jackson the tall black man asked, sinking down into his chair.

"Yeah Nate." Josiah Sanchez the larger man responded turning so he could also see the office.

"Got a rep doesn't he?" JD Dunne, the young man who bumped into Standish earlier questioned disregarding the files they were looking at.

The lean blond man studied the man in the office. "Yeah he does. But, don't we all JD." Chris responded, looking over at the kid who grinned at him.

"By the looks of things, I don't think his giving too much away." the tall lanky man said grinning smoothing his moustache as he did.

Chris glanced at his old friend and grinned murmuring, "Mary ain't looking to happy is she Buck?"

The tall man grinned replying with a cheeky grin. "You'd know all about that now wouldn't ya!" as he moved quickly out of reach as Larabee went to slap his arm.

They all stopped their analysis when the man in question headed out of the office with Mary in tow. The two made a formidable pair. Both were dressed in smart clothes, making them both appear as if they were in some catalogue for Armani.

Vin Tanner shook his head, he was certain that the man who had met his gaze so openly was a man who had nothing left to lose and who would not give up on his fellow man - except when it came to him.

Yeah, he had seen himself before he had joined this group. The loner who refused to care. Watching Standish he appeared to be a man who had been the fall guy too many times, he probably expected the same here. So, when the man headed over to them so blatantly refusing to wait for Mary he had to grin at the guy's balls.

The six men had had 3 new Detectives pass through the doors of Major Crimes here before leaving. As a group they were feared and admired a good thing he knew, but for the rookie in the bunch it meant a hellhole. Seeing this Standish character tackle them head on was a fresh approach instead of waiting to be introduced. It meant this guy had guts. Vin's blue eyes met Larabee's, his partner's, and they shared a look. Vin knew that Chris had reached the same conclusion he had, this man had it where it counted.

"Gentleman." He drawled coming to a stop in front of them. His southern accent making them all start. "I'm Detective Ezra Standish." As he waited for the information required by turning to the slight woman next to him who angrily removed a stray piece of blond hair from her face.

"Yes, well we have Detectives Vin Tanner, Chris Larabee..." as she continued on with the introductions each man nodded in turn.

"Well..."Standish drawled, once they were completed. "I am to understand that you are working on a serial killing?" The men exchanged uneasy looks. They had three 'apparent' suicides, which might be a serial killer, how did this man know Wilmington thought. Ezra saw the looks and mentally kicked himself.

"Shit", he muttered not really caring if the blond woman heard him or not. He had had a long flight and he hadn't yet gotten a place to stay.

"How?" Larabee asked steadily his eyes hard. They didn't need a leak and with his less than sterling reputation this could be it. Ezra sighed, gazing past Chris for a moment before his green eyes snapped back to the obvious unofficial leader of the group.

"It wasn't that hard" he stated. "I caught a cab from the airport to the precinct. The cabbie filled me on the latest events, including the 'apparent killings. The man asked if I was the FBI profiler." Standish finished his face unreadable. Both JD and Buck snorted and Ezra looked at them for a second.

"I can believe that." Wilmington drawled. "You dress like the suits."

Laughing as he glanced at the kid beside him. It wasn't obvious to the other's but Vin saw something flicker across before it was replaced with a mask of no emotion. Vin knew that Buck had unintentionally offended the man, watching with interest to see how the smaller man would react. Buck had had a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way. "Well, there is nothing wrong with class Wilmington." He purred his southern charm oozing out of him, as he went from detective to refined gentleman. The others watched this brief transformation in amazement, before he switched back. "The Serial Killer, Detectives." he reminded bringing their attention back to more relevant matters. Tanner couldn't help but be impressed. He could see however, that the rest weren't entirely convinced. Tanner sighed, the man was going to have to prove himself. Except he was sure the man wouldn't try it for their sakes, but rather his own.

"Right." Larabee said into the uneasy silence, glancing quickly at Tanner. "We have three women dead. All in their mid to late 20's. All single. No apparent sexual assault. All were washed and cleaned. They all died of an overdose, too much morphine. All were considered to be suicide at first, except, all three were found the same way, down to their positioning on the beds." He finished, as he pulled out the photos and handed them to the newest member of the team.

Ezra studied the pictures, the victims were all lying as if they were asleep. "They look like dolls." He whispered, his hand gently tracing the hair of the victim. A memory flickered across his mind - a similar vision of a figure lying on a bed, in the same position. He blinked, trying to place it, yet it faded before he could.

Ezra glanced up at the men and for an instance he was unable to hide the pain and anguish in his eyes, before his expression shuttered closed. His voice was rough when he spoke "The fact that the cabbies know isn't good. That they considered it be a killing means that the public is aware of the deaths." He glanced at Tanner taking the file from his hand, only then was he aware of the fact that his hands were shaking. He looked at the man and met his honest reassuring gaze. He had been blatantly studying him earlier, but now the curiousness and protectiveness while still there had lessened slightly. It was then he felt a surge of hope maybe he could belong. Nevertheless that hope quickly died, never had he been accepted before. He had always lived on the fringe of society, which was where he grew up. Too good to be friends with the poor kids in the south where it wasn't "Respectable". Yet, not good enough for the genteel society of the South. With an effort he brought his focus back to the men in front of him as they continued to hash out the case.

Hours later found the rest of the men drinking in the local bar, it was policemen's bar and they had their table. Standish had declined the offer for a drink, giving the rest of the men time to evaluate their new team member.

"I don't Chris." JD responded, looking over at his hero. " I don't think we can jump to conclusions. I mean rumours are just that rumours." He paused, thinking hard as he sipped his beer. "I mean there were no charges filed against him and that alone says something." He finished his brown eyes looking over at the man who sat staring at him. Buck slapped him lightly on the back laughing.

"How's that Chris the kid listens." JD looked over at Buck annoyance crossed his face. He had proved himself for these men and he deserved to be a Detective.

"I know" Buck said quickly seeing the look. "You're not a kid." he apologised laughing as JD smirked at him.

"Jeez Kid." Nathan laughed as he observing Josiah set a bottle of whisky on the table with shot glasses. "You're getting too good at playing Buck here." JD just laughed as Buck ruffled his hair.

Vin watched them with amusement. "I agree." His voice cutting through the chatter.

"With what?" Sanchez asked in bemusement, it never ceased to amaze him how Vin could always cut to the chase.

"With JD" Vin said as if it was dead obvious to the rest of the men. "The man deserves a chance." Chris nodded it was decided they would give him a chance to prove his merit to belong with the group.

Three weeks later found Vin, Ezra and JD out the front of an old terrace house. Vin motioned, he would go round the back while JD would take upstairs, being the best climber. "What can I say mis-spent youth." The kid smiled at Vin's instruction before beginning his climb. Ezra nodded that he understood. He didn't like this he had had a bad feeling all day. Something was nagging at his brain he watched the cab drive by as he picked the front door casually.

As the door swung open he pulled his gun the house was bare. No furniture at all completely empty. He could hear Vin in the back room and JD upstairs. Standish made his way to the staircase and headed up the steps to cover JD. The climb up the stairs made the feeling of apprehension seem to grow and Standish thought he was going to be sick. Reaching the landing he saw a door at the end of the hall. He didn't know how he knew, but he knew, that would be where they would find the dead girl. Pushing open the door he felt the fear as the elusive memory crashed down on him taking him back to the past.

A 6 year old Ezra pushed open the door. "Mama?" he called only to be met with the words. "You be good darling." He saw her laying on the bed, her hair all brushed and laying about her. He nodded, walking over he felt her skin as he gave her a kiss goodnight. It was smooth and soft. The next morning she was still in the same position and Ezra couldn't wake her. She was so cold and her eyes stared at him. Her skin was saggy now. He had crawled under the bed and stayed there until his Uncle came for him late in the afternoon.

Ezra swung back to the present, he had forgotten. 'Morphine overdose,' flashed across his thoughts as he stared an unmovable figure in the door. He wasn't seeing the girl but his mother and he let his gun drop to his side. Backing away from the still form, he hurried down the steps and out the front door. He kept on walking his steps getting quicker until he was running away from the scene. Vin watched as Standish ran down the street he was joined by JD. Both men wearing similar expressions of bemusement. Sighing, Vin pulled out his cell phone to call it in.

Ezra made his way into the bullpen he hadn't been home all night. He had walked the streets till dawn. His eyes travelled over to his fellow detectives, noting Jackson shake his head before continuing to file a report. Sanchez just eyed him doubt and disappointment showing clearly on his face. Buck and Chris stood with their respective partners who had not yet noticed his entrance. Pausing at his desk, he placed his jacket on the hook. He wasn't surprised that when he looked up to see that Larabee was standing beside him.

Chris eyed him thoughtfully, his face giving nothing away. Chris could tell that something was up, by the fact that Ezra was still wearing the same clothes. Yet, he had to make a point here. There could not be a repeat performance of yesterday. Grabbing Standish's arm as he started to move away. "Don't you ever run out me or my men again" Chris enunciated harshly. Ezra green eyes met his and there was a flicker of surprise in them, before the mask returned. Except, Chris had the distinct feeling that Ezra had been expecting something else from him. He saw the man nod as he turned to give Mary an overview of yesterday events as she approached, Vin and JD quickly following.

"I trust you are feeling better Detective Standish." she asked sweetly, smiling at Chris who smiled slightly.

Ezra nearly fell for the sincerity from the petite woman, but he knew better. She wanted him out. Why? He had no idea , although he had a suspicion that it was because that the committee didn't trust him. 'When had anyone.' Ezra thought darkly.

He saw JD and Vin both nod frantically behind her and he gave her a small pathetic smile making sure he leant on the desk for support. "Yes Ma'am, I'm still getting used to this cold weather." he said shrugging his shoulders as he rubbed his head as if trying to remove a headache.

He must of pulled it off convincingly, for she patted his arm and said, "Well take it easy Ezra." Before turning away and heading to her office with Chris.

Ezra then turned to the two remaining men who were watching him intently. He tried to pull a poker face, only failing when he saw their twin expressions of sympathy and understanding? He tried to clear throat to speak but found the words sticking in his throat. Ezra glanced away attempting once more to school his expression Realising belatedly that the two men had grabbed his jacket and were now in the process of leading him of the precinct and into the cafe across the street.

Seating there at the booth he saw that he had to tell them. JD sat next to him effectively sealing any chance of an escape. Swallowing hard he met Vin's gaze, quickly looking at his hands as he felt the tears his eyes. He felt JD wrap an arm around his shoulders' and he shuddered. Raising his head he looked at the two men, "You know?" He whispered. Ezra saw Vin's expression of regret, as he reached over and patted his hand.

Speaking soothingly he murmured. "Well, we needed to know. The information was there if you looked hard enough. Although, changing your name was effective - Simpson to Standish being your father's name right?" Tanner paused for a beat, then said simply. "Your mother died of a morphine overdose and you found her." Vin watched the distraught man carefully.

Ezra quickly looked away giving a tiny nod, even though these men knew the answer. "I... she .... I." He began. Looking at the men he breathed out deeply leaning back in the chair. "She wouldn't wake up...morphine overdose...I blocked it out, saw many therapists.... convinced myself I was passed it... can't actually remember the day just the days after..." Ezra said roughly, watching the customers in the cafe. "They said it was normal...." he whispered, running a hand distractedly through his hair. "Its this case.." He continued, "They lie like her.... I can't get over it... down to what she was wearing, the placement of the hair the bed... everything in the room is the same....." Standish trailed off, missing the quick exchange of looks between Tanner and Dunne as they heard his words. Tanner gave a quick nod to JD and he nodded in agreement, placing some bills on the table the two men pulled Standish out of the cafe. It was also by unspoken agreement between the two youngest members of the team that, Tanner would head back to the precinct while JD would take Standish home. It was apparent to both men that Ezra was holding onto his control by sheer will power. A testament to the man's courage. Vin couldn't help admire the man as he watched JD drive off, as he crossed the road to the station.

Vin made his way through the bullpen, he was aware of the curious gaze that Mary gave him as he motioned with a quick nod of his head for Chris to join him. While he waited he also gestured for Buck, to come over. The two men arrived at once to his desk and he smiled, although the twinkle in his eye was gone. A sure sign to the rest of the men that something was up. That and the fact that Standish and Dunne had not returned with the man. Wilmington cocked his head, impatiently waiting for the man to speak.

"We meet at Chris's place tonight after work. Doesn't matter what time you finish, just be there" Vin said when Buck looked like he was about to object.

"Standish?" Larabee asked quietly looking around the room. Tanner sighed, distractedly combing back his hair. "Not Now Chris" he responded just as quietly. Both Chris and Buck exchanged looks. He wasn't going to talk now that was obvious. After they were silent for a minute staring at him, Tanner finally relented. "JD is with him." Smirking at their now thoroughly confused expressions.

Ezra had wanted to be by himself, but JD had glanced at Vin and shook his head 'No.' Tanner had concurred - the kid was observant. Standish had looked like he would break. JD, was one of the few of them who had made an effort to be friendly with the man - Himself excluded. Chris didn't like him, but that was mainly due to Mary. Standish was a threat to the budding relationship between their beautiful boss and their unofficial leader. Yet Ezra had never given an inch where she was concerned and this bickering and flirting was too similar to Larabee's relationship with the woman. The fact that Standish and Mary had gone a date hadn't been the brightest of moves. Except Standish had smiled enigmatically at Chris when asked about it. Later saying to Buck that they had actually met in the restaurant. Both had been eating alone and thought it better to save space and eat together. Tanner reflected that even then Standish had known who to give this piece of information to in order for it to find its way back to Chris. Indicating to both JD and Vin that this man belonged to the group. Besides seven was a lucky number.

Josiah and Nathan and been more reserved with the smaller man. Their reasons they had kept to themselves, however they had been warming up to the Southerner until yesterday.

The thought of Ezra's face as he ran down the stairs was one of terror. Vin knew all about running from the past they all did. Which was why JD and Vin were determined to help the man now.

Standish stood nervously in the hallway of Chris apartment. The place was sparse there wasn't much in decoration everything was simple. He saw a photo on the wall of Chris plus a woman and a young boy. "Must be his late wife and child - died in the fire.' Standish thought sadly. 'Can't be easy dealing with somethin' like that.'

The day had been informative from JD's perspective. It had seemed to Ezra, however that the younger man had been researching all day, what he was quite sure, yet he had a feeling that it was in relation to him. This didn't help the Southerner distract his mind, knowing the other man was digging into his past. A past that he had tried to forget.

Ezra wasn't sure that he wanted to know how the kid new how to hack into the department database. Yet, if they received some answers to these murders, then that would be enough. Ezra sighed, as he heard the soft voices emanating from the room in front of him. These men would want the truth and the truth was not something that he was willing to face. Standish knew that he could con and talk his way out of anything. He had been one of the few rookies that could handle anything the job had thrown at him. Now, everything was different. Ezra realised that he desired acceptance from these men. Ezra took a deep breath, unwilling to think about the consequences of perhaps not receiving it. Entering the room, everything appeared to freeze.

The conversation ceased, then JD smiled. "Hey Ezra right on time!" he exclaimed, hurrying over to the Southerner, Buck grabbed the jacket that was about to fall from his arm.

Ezra watched the men warily he did not know what to expect. Chris had said 'not to do it again,' which meant he still had a chance. But now... it seemed strange to be standing in the legendary Chris Larabee's living room.

"Ezra" he heard Josiah call nearly jumping as the big man touched him on the shoulder. "Sit down." Josiah said softly, Ezra's green eyes met the concerned gaze of the 'preacher.' So, nicknamed because he had once studied to be a priest, before turnin' to save the souls and the innocents. Ezra nodded mechanically, as he was gently pushed into a chair accepting the drink that Nathan handed to him.

'They were being too nice.' Ezra thought, observing Nathan sit back down on the couch opposite. It was then Chris and Vin entered, carrying a bag of chips.

Vin smiled at him as he dumped the contents in a bowl that was placed on the table behind the men. Chris paused looking at the pale man seated on the couch.

The fact that the man had a tan emphasised the sallowness of his features. His eyes seemed to stare out at the other men. "Like a child awaiting punishment." Chris thought, watching as Vin poured himself a drink and sat down next to the man, JD taking the other side. It was a sub-conscious thing for the two men, but they both had the appearance of protecting the victim or a witness. The others had seen this before and they wondered. What was happening here? Weren't they here to talk about the serial killers or suicides - depending on the information JD had found.

As the silence increased Ezra realised he needed to talk. He needed these men to understand, and for no other reason than that, he began. "I found my mama dead when I was little. She was positioned like the women are." He stated, pleased that his voice had remained steady. The silence thickened, Josiah and Nathan exchanged rueful glances - It explained a lot.

Chris nodded. "Okay. Let's talk about these murders...." trailing off as he saw both JD and Vin raise a hand. "Yeah ?" he queried.

JD glanced at Tanner before speaking. "The killings started about 3 weeks before Standish got transferred here right?" JD said to Buck, who nodded giving the younger man his full attention. JD's eyes sought the other men. "Remember how random they were? Things being carefully added to each scene?" Dunne again waited for the collective nods from the other men,

"Go on. Kid." Buck encouraged.

"Well. Ezra mentioned, today that the way these women were lying, down to their hair and dress made him suddenly remember his mother." Quickly glancing at the man beside him, who was staring fixedly at his hands, JD proceeded. "It seemed a pretty big coincidence even for us." His dark brown eyes intently assessing his fellow detectives. "Uhh… So anyway, I did a little research." Apologetically looking at Ezra, as he pulled one of the folders on the table towards him, handing it to Chris, who took it with a slightly confused look.

Opening the folder Larabee looked at Ezra in surprise. Examining the photo once more, as Buck leaned over his shoulder also scrutinising the photo's and comparing the two images that were before him. Ezra watched them with a slight detachment. He knew the number of his mother case it was, Case 747 of the Savannah PD. That was the file number printed on the outside of the file Chris was now examining.

Chris's voice was slightly shocked when he spoke. "You didn't know?"

Ezra shook his head. Speaking was too much of an effort especially when it felt like he was moving through water. Vin interceded then, taking up the narrative.

"The killings started here in the same exact week that Ezra transferred in, give or take a few days. I checked the other area's where he had been previously and there was at least one killing before he got there. Except they had it listed as a suicide, not a murder: Like our first one was. So the thing is whoever is doing this..." Vin paused the unspoken thought falling heavy into the air, the killer was after Standish.

Ezra could almost feel the walls closing in around him. He rose jerkily to his feet, like a marionette who strings were tangled stumbling to the window to try and catch his breath. Staring out he was oblivious to the other men, who were watching him worriedly. All he could see were the images of the past. There was a glint of metal that drew his attention, at he saw a cab driver across the street pull out and speed away. Standish stumbled back from the window his mind frantically trying to tie the pieces of the puzzle before they slipped away. Buck was next to him then, attempting to get him to sit down, Ezra gripped his shirt, speaking quickly. "Cabbie knew about the murders." Buck leaned forward to indicate he was listening. "He knew.... No one knew... under wraps.... listed as suicide. How did he know?" he murmured incoherently, gripping the shirt tighter before letting go and stepping away. "He was at the scene yesterday - drove by... and now... " He whispered agitatedly rubbing his forehead. "Why?" he asked to the silent bystanders. "Why me? Why now...." It was a broken whisper, looking down Ezra was aware that his hands were shaking. Rubbing his forehead again, trying to block the surroundings, he tried to breath evenly as the room turned grey , his legs finally giving out, collapsing as the man beside tried to break his fall.

Ezra slowly became aware of his surroundings opening his eyes he found himself situated on a large double bed. Where was he? 'Oh God.' He thought, 'I am at Chris house. Which means I lost it in front everyone.' This meant that he would now be shown the door that was the way it worked. Blinking, he allowed himself to sit up it was then he saw Nathan sitting contemplating him. At Ezra's raised eyebrow, Nathan smiled. "Medic in the army. It tends to come in handy around these fellas."

Standish nodded, he felt like he had been put through the ringer. "The others?" he asked, his voice sounding harsh.

"In the living room, JD is searching for information on possible connection to your mother, Vin and the others hashing out the guys movements." Jackson answered, handing him some water.

"How long?" Ezra queried, manoeuvring himself to the side of the bed.

"That you were out? A little over an hour." The lean black men replied, helping the younger man to his feet. 'He couldn't be much older than JD or Vin.' Nathan thought as they entered the living room. Five men all looked up at once each reaching for the guns only relaxing when they saw who it was.

"Easy." Nathan laughed, helping Ezra to a chair.

Standish studied the other men, seeing a mixture of understanding and sympathy on their faces. He was surprised when Chris sat down next to him saying, "It ain't your fault none of this. It belongs to the sick bastard who is doing this." That said Larabee patted him on the back, stood and began to move away. "Ezra you know a Mark Diamond?" Chris enquired turning back to the man, abruptly. The glass Ezra had been holding fell to the floor as he stared wildly at Chris.

"Mark?" he questioned, an elusive memory coming back of a young man screaming at the funeral. Standish told the story hurriedly as he remembered, "He loved my mother. Maude. At that funeral he screamed, 'That he adored her.' Maude had always smile at him tolerantly, accepting the gifts Mark gave her. Yet, Mother had chosen to marry Dominic Standish, Except he married another woman and that was that" Ezra, waved that old pain away of his father not wanting him. Clearing his throat he continued huskily " He came to the funeral, swearing to make sure that we never forgot." Green eyes, shining with unshed tears.

Chris sank back down sighing heavily, reaching out to comfort the smaller man as the tears finally came. Saying sadly to no one in particular "And You forgot."

Tanner muttered, "Guess we got motive." The only sound in the room was the harsh sobs of the small man being consoled by their leader. Later, the others would point to that event that changed the situation between the men. It was then that Sanchez, Jackson and Wilmington truly accepted the Southerner. Larabee, also saw that the man was not a threat, but rather someone in need of honest compassion loyalty and friendship.

'Yeah.' JD mused as he observe red the scene in front of him "Ezra belongs." The youngest looked over at Vin who nodded in agreement, each having each come to the same conclusion the minute they had met the man.

Ezra wasn't sure what happened, but the night quickly faded into oblivion. He had been carried back to the bedroom by Josiah. He had tried to protest, the big man just hadn't listened. Then much to his embarrassment Chris had tucked him, like he was a child. He had again tried to protest, but there wasn't much force behind it, as it dawned on him that after years of searching he might have actually found people he could count on. Smiling to himself he decided that he liked that feeling.

Wilmington sighed heavily, watching his old friend exit the guest bedroom where Jackson and Sanchez sat keeping an eye on Standish. Larabee met his friends gaze and read the same murderous feeling in his eyes. No man should be made to feel responsible, not like this.. Buck looked over at his partner where he sat conversing with Vin, both men looked beat, but were intent on their discussion.

He grunted when Chris sat down beside him. Chris studied their partners' for a moment also, weighing his words. "Mary wants him out. Reckons, 'He ran out once. We don't need men like that around.' Besides which she can't read him as he is quote 'too smart, for a cop.'" Chris said, smiling slightly.

Wilmington winced. "Ouch!" he drawled. "Thought you two were making dinner plan, Chris not..." he trailed off as the full impact of what Chris implied hit him. "Shit Chris, There were mitigating circumstances." He argued his voice rising.

"Don't you think I realise that!" Larabee snapped, his eyes pining Buck's.

"Yeah!" Wilmington said, one of the few not to be intimated by him. "The Man's been the scapegoat for every fucking department. I read his record. His good Chris but if something goes wrong he takes the blame...." Wilmington hesitated, closing his eyes as he leaned back into the chair.

"You sensed that too." Vin commented, his Texan drawl making both the two men shift their attention to JD and himself.

"Yep." Chris responded for Buck, as Vin seated himself on the edge of the couch JD sprawling himself on the rest of it.

"You saying he stays Chris?" Dunne asked, looking up at his hero.

Larabee nodded, meeting the hazel brown eyes of the man. "Yeah, we gotta get Mark for Standish..." His thoughts turned inwards, the unspoken tangible thought of his family in the air. They had not been able to get the man responsible for the deaths of Larabee family back then, only Wilmington had been Chris's partner.

Tanner nodded, "The man deserves to let it rest. No kid should ever see something like that. The mind has defence mechanisms for a reason." he stated shaking his head. The sound of the computer chirping behind the men on the couch interrupted the conversation. JD and Vin raced over to it keen to check out the information to be gleaned from the Metro database of transit. Skimming the information rapidly for a moment Dunne glanced at Vin beside him, then both turned to their partners. Dunne grinned. "We got him".

Sanchez studied the man lying on the bed curled on his side sleeping. Standish looked so young, he reminded him of Vin. Both men had that same air about them. It was as though they had been screwed over one to many times and which meant that the expected the worst of every situation. Vin had kept people at a distance, with his quiet demeanour. Waiting till he knew you to let you in. While Ezra kept them away with his talk. He made one always concentrate on his right hand, while you never knew what the left was doing. Tonight however, things had changed. He had seen in Standish, the small boy who had found his mother dead and the man who longed to belong. Josiah met the curious gaze of Nathan's who's own thoughts had also been travelling the same path. They had known each other for a while before becoming partners and becoming part of Major Crimes. Neither had desired a seventh member to their team, they had seemed to be going along fine. Yet the readiness in which Ezra had moved from man to man signalled to Josiah that their was perhaps something greater at work here. They had found a part of their group which they had not even know was missing.

Their was a quiet knock on the door as JD stuck his head round motioning for Sanchez and Jackson to join them in the lounge. Leaving with one last at the small man on the bed, they followed Dunne out.

As Larabee entered the bullpen with Ezra he felt a protective urge come over him. Standish looked drained. Ezra met the questioning gaze of Larabee with a slight shake of his head to indicate that he was fine. Chris nodded as they walked to their respective desks. It was early so only Tanner had managed to arrive before the others, all had worked early into the morning on possible ways to catch Diamond.

Ezra gave a small smile to the man as he handed him a coffee, before heading back to his desk which was opposite Chris's. The southern man felt a warmth grow in his belly that had nothing to do with the hot coffee. The hope of finding a place belong blossomed anew, only this time it didn't fade. He knew that despite the nightmare awakening around him, that he could count on these men. Shaking his head he sank in his chair and pulled his mail to him. Discerning a large plain envelope that was unmarked he frowned - there was a reason he was good. Automatically he grabbed some plastic gloves, opening the envelope he shook out the contents. Black and White photos' spilled out onto the desk, one glance and Ezra knew he was going to be sick. Rising abruptly he hurried to the restrooms and shut the door to the stall before sinking down onto the floor shaking uncontrollably.

Where they sat talking both Chris and Vin watched the Southerner open his mail Perceiving the jerky movements of the man , they each shared a look before rising to their feet intent on discovering its cause. The rapid loss of colour and hasty departure had the two men worried. Chris motioned for Vin to follow Ezra, Vin was already moving. Chris watched for a moment then moved over to the desk to see the what had precipitated the breakdown. Seeing the photo's Larabee swore softly and explicitly, carefully he picked up one with a spare glove that he had found. There were at least 20 photographs on the desk. Some were of Standish around town, taking part in cases, some were of the dead girls, the worst was the top photo. Chris doubted that the Detective had even seen the other photo's.

It was a photo of a small boy at a funeral. That boy was Ezra. He was standing next to his mother's open casket the anguish was apparent on his face as placed a rose on his mothers' body. Larabee felt his own gut clench in agony at the utter despair that seemed to radiate from the photo. He felt someone touch his shoulder, looking up into Buck's concerned gaze, who was staring in shock at Chris and the photo he now held. "Ezra?" He queried noting the other photos' now strewn across the neat desk.

"Yeah." he murmured, "Don't know who else it could be." Placing the photo down he saw Tanner approach supporting a shocked Standish. Chris could not help, but admire the determination that the man was showing. Dunne curious joined the odd circle and stared in utter bewilderment at the gruesome collection of images.

It had been personal many times, but never this close or never in his time with a member of this crew. JD watched as Ezra stoically met Chris's eyes, resolutely never letting his eyes travel to the photos on his desk. "I think we should get forensics onto this." He stated the emotion in his voice, clearly heard to the other men. It made Vin who was about to release his hold on the man tighten his grip reassuringly for a moment. Ezra sighed heavily, rubbing his free hand over his face. "Looks like your hunch was right gentlemen..."

Ignoring JD gathering the pictures together to give to forensics. Larabee nodded in understanding. "We'll get him." He said confidently to Standish who gave a sad smile his eyes having once again caught the top photo before JD shoved it the envelope. "I hope your right." he whispered to no one. "I hope that your right..".

"Don't fucking believe it!" Buck said in disgust as he flipped through the report on another 'apparent suicide that had occurred that day. His partner Dunne sat their typing a way on some report not really looking at him. They weren't due to log out for another hour then it was their weekly poker night. But at this instant he was mad at the sick son of bitch who was gunning for Standish. "I Fucking hate this" he fumed out loud. Looking up he saw JD sitting watching him with a mixture of amusement and confusion. "He's playing with us" he said leaning back in his chair and running his hand threw his hair.

"I know Buck, but it's not us he's playing with " JD countered taking the file that Wilmington had just dumped and thumbing threw it.

Buck looked at him a moment before sighing heavily "Your wrong JD, he's a part of our team which means that sick sadistic some of a bitch is playing with us" he stated his eyes travelling to Standish's empty desk.

Standish stood staring out of his apartment window the blank envelope once again had arrived, he couldn't bring himself to call anyone from the precinct. He had arrived home to find the envelope just sitting on his bed. Never in his whole life had Ezra been at a loss as to what to do. Mark wanted to make him remember, but despite his best efforts the memory of that time still remain hazy apart from actually reports from the time which only served to point out to him where his memory had blocked the events. Repressed. Yeah they were repressed al right he thought, the nightmares he had had as a child had returned with a vengeance and he found that he couldn't sleep. The knock from the door pulled him from dark thoughts and he went to answer it.

"Yeah he called reaching for his gun, but hearing the voices he already knew "Its Vin and Chris" Larabee called. Removing the safety chain he opened the door. He saw the worry in their expressions, and the idle thought came to him they really need to work on their poker faces. He motioned them in and shutting the door behind them in asked quietly "What brings you here gentlemen?"

Vin shrugged uneasily they had come up with a whole list of reasons but why lie it got you nowhere he thought and with a grin he said "Came to check on ya, see how your doing?" he asked noting the dark shadows under his eyes.

"Ahhh" Ezra breathed his eyes roaming around his living room before snapping back to them with an intensity. "Follow me" he said leading them to the master bedroom and switching on the light he waited for the reaction.

"Fuck" Chris stated walking into the room and looking at the envelope.

"I agree Larabee" Ezra mocked, his eyes hooded and his expression grim.

Vin shook his head anger turning to the man beside him "How" he asked his running a hand over his newly cropped hair.

"Came home, walked in to get changed found that... checked the place nothing was broken into so..." Standish trailed off feeling suddenly extremely tired. He was tired of this game this man was playing, he was tired of the dead ends and the fact that they knew who he was they just didn't have the evidence to catch him.

"Come on" Vin said, grabbing the other mans arm and propelling him through the living room and out the door.

"What?" Ezra asked as he was manhandled into the back of Larabee's jeep.

"No questions, your staying at my place tonight" he said watching as Chris exited the building with Ezra's jacket and a bag, the envelope wasn't with him.

He saw Vin raise an eyebrow at the blond haired man and he gave a sarcastic grin, "Buck and the kid are on their way, got a forensic team with them..." he said to the question.

Vin nodded while Ezra looked up at his apartment once and shuddered 'I need a new place'

He didn't realise he had spoken out loud until Vin responded "Yep, and I have a spare room" he smiled at the man in the back seat.

"But..." he trailed really looking at the man in the front seat. "Shit! You cut your hair off Vin!" he exclaimed.

"Yep" Vin said self-consciously patting his hair.

"Looks fine" Chris said not looking at the man as they drove away.

"Yeah, I look like him" he said nodding to Standish in the back seat.

"Yeah right he's shorter than you..."

Ezra listened to the by play of the men in the front seat and for the first time in days a genuine smile lit up his features, relaxing as he listened to the easy banter of the two men. Joining in he asked "The other fellas seen you yet Tanner?"

The silence in the truck lengthened as Vin winced and sighed heavily. "Nope" he replied.

"I'd pay money to see their reactions" Ezra stated laughing at the look the other man threw him.

Chris chuckled "Yeah well, its poker at Vin's tonight so you won't have to wait long" he said ducking away from the light punch Vin threw at him.

"Why you do it regulations?" he asked leaning forward, seeing the other man shake his head and glare at Chris who was openly smiling this time.

"He did it because it was a bet and he lost" he smirked .

"Well I'm always up for a wager...what was your wager on ..." Standish enquired innocently laughing enjoying the reprieve.

"None of your business" Vin retorted his blue eyes glaring at his two fellow detectives who burst out laughing at the look, as they sped through the city streets towards Vin's house.

Ezra climbed out of the jeep grabbing his jacket and bag, briefly his eyes met Larabee's as he exited the vehicle. Chris saw the gratitude there and he acknowledged it with a nod and a smile. Turning he looked at Vin's house, whereas Larabee had an apartment Vin had a house. Glancing over at Vin, Ezra noted that he looked much younger now that he had his hair cut. He smiled thinking, 'he his going to give Buck a run for his money for the ladies at the precinct who had practically swooned whenever he went by'. "Pretty big place..." he stated entering the home observing the polished wooden floors and open area where the bedrooms was up the top.

Vin nodded. "Yeah I know, I like to redecorate places and sell them off... working on this place for about a year taking me longer than expected..." he explained walking around and switching on lights that lit up the finished living room, it had already been furnished.

Standish raised his eyebrows impressed. His eyes assessing the detail of the work, turning to Vin who stood watching his reaction. Ezra shook his head in amazement, meeting Tanner's gaze he said simply "Its beautiful.".

Vin nodded in appreciation. "Thanks." He said self-effacingly as Chris laughed at them, before taking hold of Ezra's arm and pushing him towards the spare room in order to dump his bag. "We'll get the rest of your stuff tomorrow" Chris said.

"But, I really couldn't impose on you..." He was stopped abruptly by two fiercely intent looks that were turned upon him. Swallowing he managed to breath out "Fine".

Larabee nodded at him. "Good don't want you going back there...don't know what this fella is up too..." Chris said protectively, and with that he headed towards the kitchen his footsteps echoing on the wooden floor.

Vin stood watching Chris leave before turning back to the other man. "We're here for you Ez." He said softly gentle eyes meeting the sad green ones.

Ezra sighed softly "No-one but my mother called me that".

Vin smiled at him sadly, then as if reaching some inner conclusion he reached out and tugged the smaller man into a brief hug. Tanner then guided him out of the room, they could hear Larabee greeting the dark booming baritone of Sanchez and the softer gentler one of Jackson.

And for a little while Ezra was able to escape the darkness that had seemed to be encompassing his world. His sides ached from laughing at the shocked expressions of the other men as they caught sight of Vin's new haircut. Vin just smiled and took it on the chin, all of his self-consciousness hidden behind his quiet intensity.

Yet, Vin caught his eyes and Ezra grinned at him returning the favour by defending his newly found friendship with this man. He saw Larabee nod in apparent approval at his actions when Buck's and Sanchez teasing turned a little more cutting.

Vin however had just risen to the challenge by declaring that if he won a hand Buck would have to shave his moustache of. The other man laughed they all knew that Vin wasn't that good at poker. Ezra shared a grin with JD who knew that while Vin was not a master Ezra certainly was he had gone undercover many times infiltrating gambling rackets. JD hid a smile staring sympathetically at Buck reaching the same conclusion as the other men - Buck was going to lose.

And so it was, Ezra played the hands so smoothly that Buck wasn't sure how it happened. Vin was winning but only just. As the three remaining players stared at their hands, Ezra said dramatically. "I Fold." He looked at Buck who sat staring at his hand in despair, there was a moment of silence as everyone waited.

Vin broke the silence grinning at Buck "Full house."

Shaking his head, Buck swore. "Damn. I don't know how it happened you never win. And I knew Jackson was good....' He stopped taking in the smirks of satisfaction on JD and Ezra's faces. They looked at him innocently and he cursed again. "Your a cardsharp aren't ya." Buck caught the rueful smile that crossed the man's face, he turned to JD. "And your my partner.... geez." He threw back his shock of whisky in disgust, as one the other men fell about laughing.

"Razor." Chris ordered, having disappeared into the back of Vin's place for a minute. Seeing the look of dismay on his old friend, Larabee sighed. "You gave your word." He reminded looking at the lanky man.

"Aw Hell." Buck groaned, grabbing the razor from Chris and a pair of scissors which Jackson handed to him. With a look of dread he left the other men at the table and headed towards the bathroom. He was followed by Standish, who watched the other detective for an instant. "I apprenticed as a barber" Buck looked at him hard for a minute, before handing him the tools.

Half an hour later the two emerged with a cleanly shaven Buck Wilmington the guffaws of laughter of all the men could be heard clearly out on the street. "You look fine." Chris reassured glancing at him once, then focusing on gathering the cards so he deal another game. The situation was so absurdly like the one earlier in the day that when Ezra caught Vin's eye, both fell about laughing helplessly. It was then that Ezra knew what it felt to belong too something.

Mary watched the detectives from her vantage point in her office; the fact that the murderer was after one of her men made her furious. She had observed these men over the last week with interest. The dynamics between the newcomer and the old crew had faded away.

Standish was suddenly never left alone. His desk had been shifted so it rested alongside with Wilmington and Dunne's. This fact had not gone unnoticed by the uniforms. It was a subtle suggestion to all that this guy was accepted he was one of the squad. It also meant that the protective streak in Larabee that she herself had witnessed still ran strong.

Apparently she reasoned, the other men also shared it as well. Whatever had happened that day after Standish had been sent home had been colossal these men didn't change their opinions easily. Granted, she had seen the way the Southerner had shifted between the partners as if he had been doing it forever. Pushing the boundaries of these men, while there still had been a distance between all of the men and Standish. Now it was gone. The blond hair woman doubted whether Standish actually was aware that it had happened - Probably not. His record indicated that his past dealings had made him a loner by necessity.

She watched Tanner walking in with Ezra and it made her wonder again. For the past week he had left the same number as Vin's on which to be contacted. Mary sighed, heavily again her own opinion of the man was changing. "Yes." She had probably judged him too quickly, but the fact that he was incredibly good - looking, charming had had her on edge.

However, the one man who continually had her on the back foot was Chris Larabee. She winced inwardly when she realised that she had tried to make him jealous. In hindsight she realised that Ezra had known what she was up too, before she did. He had made sure that the leader didn't get the wrong impression, now Mary was at a loss in how to make amends to Ezra. The fact that the man was living through a personal nightmare made her actions seem petty and childish. Mary realised that the real reason, she had argued for his transfer was that she hadn't wanted Chris to get hurt. It was that which had formed her immediate reaction to Standish - mistaken as it was- he could've caused Chris to get hurt.

She saw Chris watching her a slight grin on his face. Blushing she recognised that the man could somehow see right through her into her heart. Which is probably why he had listened to her that day and simply said. "Give him the benefit of the doubt Mary, things aren't always what they seem".

'Damn it.' She mused. 'He was right.'

That night they had discovered that the killer was a man targeting Standish. 'God, guilt could be a bitch.' She thought turning her attention back to the paperwork in front of her. Transfer papers, of one Ezra Standish. She picked them up just as Larabee walked into the office he met her rueful gaze as she reached for the stamp, printing on the form in big letters, 'Denied'. Chris grinned at her then turned to go. Mary's voice stopped him. "How is he?"

Larabee paused his shoulders slumped slightly. "Holding it together by the skin of his teeth. According to Vin his got nightmares but who wouldn't..." he stated grimly. She sighed, brushing her hair back; her gaze travelling to the bullpen once more, Chris turned following her gaze. They both quietly assessed the well-groomed gentlemen; it however did nothing to hide the haunted look in his eyes.

Mary shook her head, distracting herself with other unanswered questions needing resolution. "What happened to Vin's hair.... and Buck's moustache."

Chris looked at her. He tilted his head to the side dropping his chin to meet her curious blue eyes, the corners of his mouth twitched slightly, before melting into a grin that her stomach doing flip flops. He raised his eyebrow looking behind him at the two men in question before looking back at her, the grin widened a little, turning he exited the office. He heard as he shut the door a muffled curse. Mary could hear his laughter as he walked over to the other detectives and she couldn't stop the smile that lit up her face. That man really knew how to get to her, but she found that she didn't mind in the slightest.

It happened suddenly. The photos had been arriving in a constant barrage of envelopes. Each containing snapshots of Ezra at the precinct; in his previous jobs - even from five years ago.

Ezra had looked ill at the extent of Diamond's invasion into life was gradually being uncovered or rather revealed to the seven men by the killer. The cocky man who had arrived at the precinct was gradually fraying at the edges. He jumped at shadows his eyes were hollow with a nightmare that he had yet to fully grasp the concept of. Through it all he had remained strong and determined showing up to work on time with Vin, except when their shifts were different. So when Standish was an hour late without having called to say he would be they all knew the bomb had dropped.

"Jackson." Larabee called, "I want you to check his route to the station. Sanchez, the hospital".

Buck stood signalling frantically; his phone had just rung at the exact moment Chris had started barking orders. With one hand he gestured for a trace, waving for silence at the questions that were on their lips. There was a pause as they waited for him to write a message on his notepad. Dunne froze his blood going cold in his veins at the words. 'He's got Standish.' .

His hazel eyes flicked between their leader and his best friend. "Get a car out to Tanner's, we need to know what's happened to Vin." Larabee said his features hard as he looked at the remaining men - No more needed to be said.

Ezra lay under the bed on the hard wooden floor of a bedroom. He knew he wasn't at Tanner's place anymore the room resembled the one his mother had had. Everything, everything was the same, from his position in the room was exactly as it had been that day. The past and present merged with a blinding flash when Ezra attempted to move, he found he couldn't moved his arms and legs. They weren't responding, one part of his mind calculated that he must have been given some kind of drug. The other was overwhelmed with terror. Ezra tried to breathe through the fear that was enveloping his mind but found that it was too difficult. Hearing the scuffling of feet sent a jolt of fear through him, he knew those shoes they were Vin's. The fear of what was about to happen to his friend washed over him. He saw the larger man, obviously Diamond throw Vin roughly onto the bed. It was obvious by the discussion that Vin did not know he was trapped underneath him.

"Why you doing this to him...!" Vin asked harshly. Ezra tried to follow the conversation, but the words mingled, he could only catch a snippet of a word or two, it didn't make sense to his already cloudy mind.

"You're going to die, like his mother." Mark stated confidently satisfaction dripping from his voice. "And poor little Ezra is going to come too under the bed just like he did with his mother" Laughing callously as Vin attempted to get off the bed.

"You sick mother-fucker" Vin said, struggling against Mark, who laughed again.

Vin was praying that his cell phone line was still open, he had left it lying in his truck as he followed Ezra's abduction from the house. He knew Chris would be angry at him following alone, but he hadn't' had any time. Vin also knew that Chris would've done the same thing in his position. He had snuck into Diamond's jeep after observing the man dragging an unconscious form from his home - it had to be Ezra. Vin had sworn then softly and veraciously, he had been on his way back from the Hardware store. He had decided that he'd grab a few things, as it was his day off. Ezra had a half - day shift so a day polishing floor seemed like the best way to get the Southerner's mind off the case. So, when he had seen the man exiting his house he had quickly dumped the paint tins in his front garden and unobtrusively hopped into the back of the jeep. At the same time pulling out his cell-phone to dial Buck knowing that he would be working on paperwork at the station. Buck had told him so that morning.

Vin had surprised Mark. By creeping into the house he had discovered a girl bound and gagged. Untying her, he quickly helped her out of the house, ordering her to call 911 and ask for Detective Larabee at Major Crimes. Unfortunately, Diamond had walked in then and Vin just hoped that he hadn't totally lost his advantage over this man. He knew that he couldn't find Ezra now. Vin was worried, Ezra hadn't been looking too good when Mark had dumped him in the truck. Now, as he lay on the bed with Diamond standing there pointing a gun at him, he prayed that the other men would arrive soon otherwise both he and Ezra might be dead come evening.

Larabee listened to the hysterical woman as they sped towards the outer city limits. He looked at Josiah who manoeuvred the car as if it was a racing one. "Got a location. Alert the PD we have a woman in need of medical attention." He growled, Jackson nodded already reaching for his cell phone. Chris knew that Dunne and Wilmington would be following in Dunne's 4WD. He just prayed that they would get there in time. Reaching the young woman he was waving that at them frantically, he saw Wilmington slow to help the woman. Chris signalled that they would continue to the house. Chris glanced over at Sanchez, and noted the ticking jaw and heavy frown the preacher was angry.

"I'll kill him, if his hurt those boys." He stated succinctly meeting Chris's eyes in the rear view mirror. A quick nod from Jackson affirmed the sentiment.

Vin was having doubts about having following Mark alone. As Mark stood next to him holding the needle filled with morphine. Diamond was about to press the needle into his skin, when something stuck the large man's legs. Diamond went flying backwards, giving Vin the opportunity to roll to the other side of the bed intent on reaching the gun on the dressing table. Ezra scrambled out from under the bed, he was clearly unsteady on his legs as he backed away from Diamond.

The two southerners stared at each other for one eternal moment, each men weighing the other man's abilities. It was Mark who moved first lunging with a demented yell at Ezra, his hand raising the syringe ready to strike the younger man. Tanner drew a sharp breath, still desperately reaching for the gun, he wasn't fast enough to beat Mark.

Ezra was still faltering, awkwardly attempting to dodge the other man; he was too slow, feeling the sharp stab of the needle plunging into his leg. Tanner pivoted in one swift movement raising the gun and flicking off the safety. Ezra's desperate eyes' met Vin's as he felt the liquid pushed into his thigh. He stumbled back pulling the needle out, Mark laughed exultantly watching as Ezra began to collapse. Mark never saw Tanner, he was focused on his obsession, he was never aware of the danger he was in. "Diamond." Tanner drawled icily, his blues eyes flicking to Standish then back to Mark.

Diamond turned slowly, his grin widened seeing the Texan standing there gun raised. "What? Come on shoot me.' He taunted, moving forward pulling out another syringe and medicine bottle.

"I can't kill you Diamond. Gotta bring you in." Tanner said, Mark's smile faltered, and abruptly he jumped at Vin, he had no choice, he fired. Diamond fell his eyes widening in shock; he had lost the game. He was supposed to win not the Southerner. 'Aw hell. Guess I was lying." Tanner muttered, clicking the safety back on, he glanced at Ezra he was now breathing short gasps, his hand clenching the syringe. Vin raced over to him, his hand lying reassuringly on his chest, Ezra's green eyes met Vin's holding an apology. Vin shook his head his blue eyes on shining with unshed tears. "No. You just hang in there Ezra. You hang on." Ezra's eyes travelled to Diamond and for the first time he felt some relief. Diamond was dead he lay bleeding on the floor his eyes staring blankly up at them as he breathed his last breath.

"Come on Ez you just hang in there help is on the way" Vin whispered to the man who lay weakly beside trying to fight the drug in his system. "Vin?" It was a question and Vin turned the man's head up so he could look into the pale flushed cheeks and those bleary green eyes. "It over?" Ezra asked. The child-like tone of his voice sent shivers up Vin's spine, "Yeah, its over." He nodded whispering, gently brushing the other man's hair back as he pulled him into his arms. Vin's eyes closed with relief when he heard the arrival of the other men and the wail of an ambulance.

Tears fell as Ezra blinked up at him, his eyes dull and confused. "Thank you." He breathed grasping the other man' hand. Vin heard Larabee enter the room rushing over to them, but his attention was focused solely upon the individual lying in his arms "For what...?" He asked seeing the drugs beginning to gain control in Ezra's system.

"For being there." Ezra whispered softly his eyes then slid shut.

"No problem. No problem." He replied, beginning to rock him gently, distantly he heard Larabee barking orders. He could only hold the Southerner whispering reassurances. Vin was adamant he couldn't lose a friend so newly found. This past week he and Ezra had formed a bond, due to many a late night session of discussing and working through Standish's nightmares and fears. Tanner had even found himself opening up something he hadn't done apart from with Chris. So the thought of losing this recently discovered friendship was nothing if not devastating to him. Vaguely he was aware of Chris gradually easing the injured man from his grasp, raising his head Vin stared up at the faces of his friends and fellow detectives, desolation clearly evident on his face. "Let them work Vin" Chris said gently, motioning for the ambulances officers to get to work. They moved efficiently categorising everything, noting the drug in the patients system and placing him on a stretcher. Chris followed the ambos out intent on riding with them to the hospital.

Vin wanted to explain to the other men, but he knew that he was trembling too much and was going into shock himself as the adrenalin wore off. He felt the steadying hands of Wilmington help stand and support him out to the jeep, they were going to follow the ambulance to the hospital. Wilmington tried to reassure him, with a grin, but Vin could see it was false all the men were just as worried as he was. Vin sighed he just wanted the coldness that was settling over his heart to ease.

Vin stared angrily into the ICU where Ezra lay unconscious, apparently in a coma. He felt the presence of the other men all hovering with him in the corridor outside the ICU. He sighed heavily resting his head against the glass. Shaking his head, he acknowledged that what he was feeling was grief - he was afraid to lose the Southerner. Tanner hadn't realised he had gotten so close. Glancing at the other men standing around him, Chris head bowed, leaning back against the wall; Buck seated on a chair head in his hands; JD pacing backwards and forwards, Nathan, talking with Josiah, who laid a comforting hand on the gentle black man's shoulder. He shook his head, he wasn't the only one who had, and they all had. Now all they could do was wait, and pray for a miracle.

Ezra awoke to the sound of soft murmuring opening his eyes he shut them abruptly at the brightness of light of the room. "Ahhh Sleeping Beauty awakes." Ezra turned his head to the source of the voice to find Wilmington grinning down at him. He tried to reply, but found a tube down his throat, his eyes met Buck's panic clearly evident in the Southerner's eyes.

"Hey, Hey it's alright. You got a tube helping you breath." Wilmington explained reassuringly, his hand reaching out to still any more movement. Buck glanced over at someone who Standish couldn't see. Ezra gave up on trying move his head it was too tiring, besides his eyes felt too heavy as he went back to sleep.

Buck looked over at Chris who stood conferring outside the ICU unit with the Doctors. Vin sat on the windowsill watching the man sleep. Vin had taken up that position early that morning or was it last night? He had barely left the Southern man's side. Neither had JD who sat with his beside the bed, his head lay resting on the bed arms a cushion - asleep.

Wilmington smiled at Tanner who grinned the familiar sparkle back in both of their eyes. Ezra was going to be fine even Mary had changed her tune. Despite the best efforts of the rest of the crew none of them could get Chris to explain how he had managed that. Although Buck mused silently, if the looks those two were exchanging had something to say it certainly was an interesting tale.

The next day Vin wheeled a rather weak Standish from the hospital who was busy signing an AMA paper. Vin glanced at the amount of sunlight, and quickly handed the man seated in front of him sunglasses before they headed out into the parking lot. Vin heard the whisper soft 'Thank you' and smiled. It would take sometime but Standish was still in there, he just needed some time to heal. Which explained why they were heading off on a camping trip for a few days, nothing better than the outdoors to heal a wounded spirit. Besides what could happen to them out there? Tanner thought grinning as he saw the two jeeps parked in the entrance each car surrounded by the other detectives who stood conversing waiting for their arrival. He heard the soft gasp from Ezra and he patted him on the back. "Feel like a trip?' Vin queried grinning, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. Ezra couldn't stop the sharp intake of breath, when he saw the rest of the men standing there waiting. They were waiting for him Ezra realised. He felt a surge of emotion that couldn't be defined except with a grin and a shake of his head. It was with that grin that Ezra's hope of a finding a family fully blossomed. He looked back up Vin who nodded at the man. "Yeah I do." The other men laughed at that response and began to help Ezra into one of the jeeps and as they pulled out, Ezra couldn't help but feel that he had finally come home.


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