Disclaimer: All the boys belong to CBS, Mirisch, Trilogy, and MGM. Thanks go to Mog for creating this wonderful alternate universe, where the seven are agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It's so much fun!
Rating: PG-13. A little swearing, a little violence.
Author's Notes: My first ATF story, and only my second Mag7 story. Hope y'all like it! Unbeta'ed. So blame me for typos, or anything else that pops up at you.
"Let me see the money," Emmanuel Romano ordered.
Ezra Standish straightened his shoulders. He nodded to Buck, who lifted a metal suitcase and set it on the trunk of Ezra's black Jag. Turning, Standish watched as Buck, undercover as Bud Talbot, flipped open the latches and raised the lid. Inside was 2.5 million dollars.
One of Romano's men strode over and flipped through several random stacks of bills. "It looks okay, Manny," he said.
"All right, Mr. Romano, now that we've proven our good faith, I believe it is your turn." Ezra, a.k.a. Edward Montgomery, watched as two of Emmanuel's men went to the back of a late model van and opened the rear doors.
Movement caught Ezra's eye. A man was walking across the abandoned warehouse's loading bay towards Romano. He was of average build, heavyset but not fat. As he walked, his eyes traveled over Buck, then landed on Ezra. Their gaze locked, and Ezra felt a shiver run down his back that had nothing to do with the cool October evening. He knew he'd seen that man before. But where?
The man stopped before Romano, stared at Standish for another second, then turned as if he'd lost interest. He leaned over and whispered something in Romano's ear. Turning, Ezra saw that Buck was watching the two thugs unload several crates from the van. When he turned back, the heavyset man was gone.
Romano came up and ordered the crates opened for Ezra and Buck's inspection. Inside was an assortment of semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Buck picked up a Sig Sauer 9mm and whistled appreciatively. "This is a mighty fine piece of craftsmanship," he said, looking it over.
"Yes, it is," Ezra agreed. "I believe that this is a done deal, wouldn't you say, Mr. Romano?"
As he turned back to face the weapons seller, he felt a warning sensation on the back of his neck. True enough, four guns were pointed at he and Buck, the sound of hammers being cocked loud in his ears.
"I've had second thoughts, Mr. Montgomery," Romano sneered. "Or should I call you Mr. Standish?"
Oh hell, Ezra thought. His mind jumping quickly from thought to thought, Ezra decided he'd have to bluff their way out of this. "I have no idea what you're talkin' about, I assure you. I am no agent." He put on his best irritated air.
Which, apparently, didn't work, since Romano just snorted. He replaced his gun in its proper place, then said, "Take care of 'em, boys."
"I hope you got a plan, pard," Buck whispered in Ezra's ear as they were forced to walk, hands held up in surrender, a distance from the vehicles, into an area filled with shadows.
Plan, plan, they needed a plan. Just to buy their backup enough time to get to them. His mouth quirking into a grin despite their serious circumstances, Ezra said to his fellow agent, "We need a distraction, Buck."
Buck nodded in understanding, willing to go along with whatever Standish had in mind.
Stumbling on purpose, Wilmington feigned surprise and grabbed onto the nearest thug, a short, wiry individual. The man staggered under the extra weight and tried to push Buck away. The other two men stopped to see what the commotion was. Ezra took this advantage and clubbed one man on the back of the neck with both hands. Before the man could do more than lurch forward, Ezra kicked him behind the knees, sending him to the hard cement with a thud. Buck, meanwhile was busy taking care of the one he'd grabbed on to. He had a considerable advantage in size and weight, but the man was holding his own.
The third man swung toward Ezra, gun raised, pulling the trigger. Buck pushed his man, only semi-conscious, into the third man, sending him staggering. His shot went wild, and at that exact second, in burst the cavalry screaming, "ATF! Freeze!" It was a blur of activity as several of them secured the three thugs. Only one was still conscious, now.
Chris Larabee marched up to his oldest friend and the newest member to his team. He eyed them for injuries. "You all right?" he asked in his succinct manner. Buck assured him they were. Chris' eyes landed on Ezra's left arm. There was a rip just above the elbow in the sleeve of the gray Armani suit, and the surrounding fabric was slowly turning red. "Nathan," he called, "reckon you might wanna come over here. Ezra's been shot."
Standish sighed. Another nice suit ruined. The second one this month. "It's nothing, Mr. Larabee. Just a scratch." He was ignored, of course. Nathan Jackson, JD Dunne, and Josiah Sanchez approached.
"Lemme see, Ezra. Take off your jacket," Nathan commanded. Sighing again, loudly, Standish did as he was told. Next he slid his arm out of his shirtsleeve, wincing at a stab of pain. Jackson examined the small wound. "Just winged ya," he stated. "Probably need a couple of stitches, but that's it. You'll live," he added with a smirk.
Ezra just rolled his eyes. Putting his shirt back on, he retorted, "Thank you, Mr. Jackson. Your prognosis has reassured me immensely."
Just then, Vin walked up. "Looks like Romano got away," the Texan said disappointedly.
"Damn!" Chris ground out through clenched teeth. The sentiment was unanimous.
"So did the other man," Ezra said, inspecting the rip in his jacket. Silence. He looked up. They were just looking at him. "What?"
"What man, Ezra?" Josiah asked for all of them.
"Yeah," Buck added. "I didn't see no other man."
"That's because you were too busy lookin' at the guns. There was another man. He came in, walked up, and said something to Romano. I turned to Buck for a second, and when I looked back he was gone." There was no need to tell of the creepy feeling Ezra got just by looking at the man. "However, the stranger seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn't be sure."
Chris cursed again. "Okay. Let's get you patched up, and then head back to the office. See if we can't find this mystery man."
Ezra and Vin headed on over to the hospital while the others went back to the office to see if they could track down Emmanuel Romano and the man Ezra saw. Two hours later, they were back at the office. Needless to say, the combination of having spent the last hour and a half sitting in the ER waiting room, the pain in his arm, and losing Romano had put Ezra in a bad mood. He grumbled all the way from the car, in the elevator, and down the hall. Vin was about to smack him if he didn't shut up.
Thankfully, they arrived at their offices. JD and Buck greeted them. Apparently, Nathan and Josiah had gone for some take-out. Chris was in his office, talking on the phone.
"How's your arm, Ezra?" JD asked. Standish was touched by the genuine concern in his coworker's expression.
"It hurts, JD," Ezra said. He didn't want to take painkillers for such a minor wound, but the aspirin in his desk drawer were starting to sound pretty good right about now.
Chris came out of his office, obviously angry. Stopping before the other four, he said, "I just got off the phone. Nick Byers just got word from one of his informants. It looks like Romano's going into hiding."
Everybody was silent. Buck threw a Nerf football across the room in anger. They knew what this meant. Three months of work down the drain. It would probably take another three to unearth Romano's whereabouts again.
Yes, Ezra thought to himself, aspirin was what he needed. Maybe it would even help with the headache that was forming behind his eyes. Somehow, he didn't think it would.
A week had gone by and still no news. The team went about their work, taking on other cases. But they still searched for Romano and his man.
Ezra, thinking that the most likely possibility was that he was someone from before he joined the FBI, searched Georgia police files from years ago. No luck.
Five o' clock came, and the seven agreed to meet at Inez's for a round of drinks and a little pool. They needed a little relaxation after a hard week. Standish pulled up alongside Tanner's Jeep, and headed inside. The place was crowded. The jukebox belted out "Two Pina Coladas" by Garth Brooks--that he actually recognized the song was credit to how much time he'd spent there in the eight months he'd been in Colorado--and several of the more inebriated patrons were singing along with it.
He found his friends at their usual table, engaged in teasing JD about his girlfriend Casey. Ezra smiled as he sat down. "Hey, Ez," he was greeted by Vin.
"Buck ordered for you," JD said.
Inwardly, Ezra cringed. God knew what would arrive on his plate if Buck were the one who ordered. "Dare I ask what?" he inquired, wary.
"Relax," Josiah calmed, "it's nothing too messy."
When dinner arrived, Ezra was pleasantly surprised to find grilled chicken and broccoli placed before him, along with a glass of Michelob beer. While he normally preferred wine or champagne, at least it wasn't Coors. He commended Buck on his choices.
The evening progressed along with the number of beers consumed. Vin was beating Chris at pool. Buck was flirting with all the waitresses. And Ezra and Nathan were competing in a game of darts; JD and Josiah took turns watching them and the pool match ten feet away.
It was late by the time Ezra got home. JD, the designated driver, had given him a ride in Buck's truck.
Ezra unlocked the door to his two-bedroom, one-and-one-half bath condo and flipped the switch on the wall next to the door. A single lamp came on on a table next to the couch. Around the sphere of illumination, the rest of the condo was cloaked in darkness. He was too tired to care, so he left it that way.
Stepping in, he closed the door and shrugged out of his suit jacket and shoulder holster. Not having the energy to hang them up, he stumbled to an armchair and draped it over the back. "I guess I shouldn't have had that last drink," he slurred to no one in particular. Grabbing a glass of water from the kitchen, he shook a couple aspirin into his palm. His head was going to hurt like Hades by morning.
He was draining the last gulp of water when it hit him.
The mystery man.
He knew who he was.
The brother of a man Ezra had arrested back in Vice, when he was just a rookie. The man, Tyrell O'Connor, Ezra remembered, had been convicted of Murder One. The last he'd heard, Tyrell had died in a prison fight three years ago.
That was the reason the man in the warehouse looked so familiar. He looked like Tyrell. Steven O'Connor had been there at his brother's trial. He'd seen Ezra testify and had threatened him. And he'd recognized Ezra in the warehouse.
This was bad. Oh, this was really bad.
Snatching up the phone on the table behind the couch, he dialed from memory. Freezing, he realized there was no sound from the phone. Looking down, he trailed the cord to the jack at the base of the wall. It was unplugged. He knew that he hadn't done it. Someone else had.
A noise came from behind him. Oh shoot. Spinning around, Ezra reached for his gun, forgetting that he'd taken it off with his coat. The muffled sound of a silencer filled the air. A searing pain shot through Ezra's abdomen, and he went tumbling back into the wall. Clutching his hands to his stomach at the intense pain, he slid to the floor. He couldn't prevent himself from sliding sideways, knees drawn up. He stared up at his attacker. The man stood six feet away, gun pointed at him.
"Remember me?" he sneered. "It's your fault my brother's dead. Now you're going to pay." He was about to pull the trigger again, when a knock sounded upon the front door.
"Ezra!" It was JD. Thank you, God, Ezra thought, his vision blurring. "You left your briefcase in the truck. Open up!"
O'Connor half-turned to the door. Grabbing the opportunity, Standish reached for the gun secured in his ankle holster. O'Connor whirled back gun raised, but Ezra already had the derringer out. They fired simultaneously. O'Connor missed. Ezra did not.
"Ezra! Ezra!" JD shouted frantically, struggling to break open the door.
Standish heard him, but he was too weak to answer. Any minute now, he was going to pass out. Blood loss and shock were taking their toll, and he shivered. The small movement shot agony throughout his entire body. Just wonderful, was his last thought before he passed out.
A feeling of triumph flooded through JD as the solid wood door finally gave, and he went tumbling in, gun drawn. He swept the room with his eyes and his gun but saw no movement. His relief was short lived, however, when he saw the scene in Ezra's living room.
Dunne saw a man he'd never seen before lying on his back next to the couch. A single bullet hole was dead center in the middle of his heart. Agent Standish was lying on the ground near the wall, limp, a small pool of blood growing beneath him. "Oh no," JD whispered. Since the stranger was obviously dead, JD rushed to Ezra's side, knelt beside him and felt for a pulse. He didn't realize he was holding his breath until he expelled it in relief at the feel of a heartbeat. It was weak, but it was there.
Help. They needed help. Snatching out his cell phone, JD called for an ambulance. Next, he dialed Chris Larabee's home number. It rang four times before Team 7's leader picked up. "Whoever the hell this is," he growled across the line, "you'd better have a damn good reason for calling."
"Chris! I'm over at Ezra's. He's been shot. It looks like someone came after him. The man's dead." The words spilled from JD's lips in a rush.
"What? JD, did you just say Ezra's dead?'
"No, Ezra's alive, the other man's dead. I called an ambulance."
"All right JD. I'll call the others. We'll meet you at the hospital."
JD hung up, and ran to the bathroom for a towel. He knelt again, the knees of his jeans turning red with Standish's blood. He folded the towel and pressed it against the gunshot wound in Ezra's stomach, hoping to staunch the flow of blood. "Come on, Ezra, don't die. Please don't die," he whispered like a mantra.
A few minutes later, although it felt like an eternity to JD, a flurry of paramedics and police came bursting in. JD moved aside when one of the paramedics took over. The other medic checked the dead man for any signs of life, then went over to help.
In no time, they had Ezra on a gurney, with an IV running saline. JD followed as they made their way down the front walk to the waiting ambulance. He climbed in back with Ezra and the medics, and the ambulance started its rush to the hospital, sirens blaring and lights flashing.
He was pulled out of the darkness by the sound of voices. He knew those voices. He wanted to tell them to be quiet so he could sleep, but he couldn't get his voice to work. Instead, he settled for opening his eyes. He immediately regretted it, the bright fluorescent light blinding him momentarily. Once that became bearable, he noticed the six men crammed around him. The hospital again, he groaned mentally.
"How ya feeling?"
"Want some water?"
"Good to see you again."
Ezra accepted some water from Buck, then smiled at them. They looked... like they hadn't slept in days. Each and every one of them. He sympathized.
"Have y'all looked in a mirror lately?" he asked.
This caused a varying degree of chuckles and snorts. "We may look bad," Nathan said, "but you look worse."
"And feel worse, no doubt," Ezra agreed. "How long have I been here?"
"Three days," Chris answered. "You were hurt pretty bad, but the docs patched you up good as new. Almost, anyway. You'll be back to normal in no time."
"Yeah," Nathan joked. "Too bad."
The others laughed. Ezra grimaced in pain. Damn. He'd have to remember not to do that again. So he settled for a smile, happy to be alive, and happy to be with his friends.
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