by MAC

Disclaimer: I don't own them, or the show they rode in on. I wrote this for fun, and no profit is made from it.
Archive: Starwinder's, You Want Fries With That?, and The All-Ezra FanFic Archive --- all others, please ask.
Summary: When Ezra is shot, Chris can no longer maintain his distance.
Completed: November 2001
Feedback: welcomes comments

Chris glanced down at Ezra's huddled form, he could see the tremors racking his man's body. Damn. This was supposed to be an easy bust, no one on the firing line, no one in jeopardy. And now this, a fuckin' wasted junkie had risen like the dead from behind one of the alley's large dumpsters and started shooting. Not aiming, mind you, just shooting off some Saturday night special. His own special undercover agent had just gotten lucky, if you could call it that. Fool had jumped in front of Larabee and now…

Chris shook his head in frustration. Not supposed to be this way! He signaled to the others who had quickly subdued both their targets, some simple-minded gun runners, and this nutso shooter. Nathan was already loping towards the spot where Chris stood. Larabee leaned down, then squatted beside Standish, putting a hand on his shoulder. He tried not to show his own fears, yet one more time. And he'd never seen anyone react like this to a bullet before, not even Ezra who'd had more than his share. "Ezra?" Nothing, no sign of hearing him.

The night was so velvety, soft and dark and quiet. Ezra wandered about in the emptiness that was all he saw. No dwellings but not outside either. Where was he? What was happening? No pain. A good feeling, in fact. Then something touched his shoulder and it burned, into his hissing, melting flesh. Ezra screamed in agony.

"What the hell is wrong with him?" Larabee yelled, ignoring how close he was to Nathan Jackson, their EMT. He tipped back on his heels, wrapping his arms around himself in an effort to keep from flinging the black ex-medic away from Standish. When Nate had grabbed at the southerner, to turn him onto his back, the man screamed as if he was dying. Scared the hell out of both of them. Jackson actually looked pale and only shook his head in answer to Larabee's outburst.

"We have a man down…" the rest of Jackson's commentary into his cell phone was lost to Chris as the other men from his team arrived breathlessly.

Panting as much from fear as from exertion, Buck Wilmington skidded to a stop beside his oldest friend. "What's goin' on?" The others quickly crowded in but all watched wide-eyed as Standish began to literally spin on his side.

Got to get away! Ezra knew he was going to die if he stayed there. Where the pain had been. So he turned and began to run, pelting through a void so profound that it was like running through his own soul.

Chris looked up into the circle of bewildered men, then back down at his injured agent. They had yet to figure out where Standish had been hit even. He'd started to try when Jackson arrived and elbowed him out of the way. Then, the moment Jackson touched the man, Ezra had screamed and now he was pushing his legs, pumping them as if running but only the ground-side foot was hitting anything, causing his curled up body to spin on shoulder and hip. This is crazy! Chris unfolded his arms and reached out and caught his panicking man. Unlike when touched by Jackson, Standish quieted under Larabee's firm and well-known hands.

"Ezra! Look at me!" Chris tried to force gruffness into his tones despite his own rising panic. The dark haired southerner's eyes slitted open and peered up at Chris.

"Chris?" Only Larabee was close enough to hear the breath of sound. He nodded encouragingly.

"Tell us where you're hit."

"Hit?" Puzzlement in the liquid green eyes scared Larabee even more.

"Ezra! You got shot just now. Lay back so Nate can see where you're hit."

This got him a blink and sleepy nod. "Chris, I'm going to sleep for a bit now…" the tired voice began to fade from a whisper to non-existent.

"NO!" The ATF team leader yelled, totally focused on his wounded man. His touch changed to a grip and he pulled the smaller man up against him as he knelt there in the dirty alley. "No." He repeated firmly into one ear as he dragged the man against his own chest. Pretenses be damned, this was his Ezra! "Ezra, don't sleep. Please baby, stay awake for us!" His voice was low now, so quiet and intense that it seemed to thread directly into the southerner's mind.

The surrounding men all stiffened and blinked, turning to each other in surprise and confusion. None could deny what they heard but none were certain what it meant. Or at least weren't ready to admit that they might be.

Jackson, who had finished his 911 call, was swiveled back around, prepared to help when he saw his boss grab the undercover agent and pull him up into a clench, murmuring something that sounded suspiciously like "baby" to him. Taking a deep breath and deciding he really didn't want to know just now, Jackson crawled closer to the two men and tapped Larabee on the shoulder. "Chris? You want me to take a look? Paramedics are on the way."

Chris slid his head up from where he'd tucked it into his friend's neck. He smoothed his open palms across the now still form in his arms for a moment more. With a sigh of regret and fear, he sat up straighter and offered his friend to the ex-medic. "Yeah, thanks, Nate."

Jackson carefully put a knuckle under Standish's chin and pushed up. The eyes were open now but staring in an unfocussed fashion. Almost black - the greens were not even showing. Damn. This was no ordinary shooting. He got hit with something other than a normal bullet. Shaking his head, he spoke softly. "Chris, this ain't right. He's flying on something. Whatever that guy was using, wasn't regular bullets."

Ezra felt his lover's warm arms tight around him. An anchor in this misty place. Even with his eyes open, he really couldn't see anything at all. He could hear Chris' voice but it was far away. Chris wanted him to open his eyes, to stay awake. But he felt so very tired. Then there was another touch again. This time it didn't burn, only aggravated because Chris didn't hold as tightly now.

Ezra fought Nathan's hand under his chin, tucking back down against Larabee's chest. Chris looked up at Jackson for guidance, but the medical specialist shrugged and shook his head. "I don't know, Chris. If he feels better like that, let's leave him until the paramedics get here. I think this one ain't gonna get solved until we get him to the hospital."

Chris' worried pale green eyes dropped to the man in his arms. He rested his forehead against Ezra's. To hell with it. Without lifting it, he spoke aloud to his team. "Vin, find the gun. Buck, take over the clean up. JD, get ready to follow the ambulance. Josiah, let headquarters know what's going down." He didn't listen to hear any acknowledgements, his team was good - they would know what to do. What to say. They'd get the job done. He concentrated on listening to Ezra's breathing which was becoming increasingly erratic.

"Ez," the Midwesterner spoke gently, "You gotta calm down, try to breath normally."

"Chris?" Again the puzzlement. Larabee's fear was growing and he hugged his private partner closer. "Chris, I can't see."

With his own heart breaking in terror, Larabee still managed to speak reassuringly. "It's okay, sweets, it's okay. Just relax into me, love, I'm here."

Ezra nodded, listening to the steady beat of Larabee's heart. He was safe as long as he was with his Chris. Nothing could happen to him here in Chris' arms.

The hospital waiting room looked the same, the men taking up residence looked the same, worried and tired. Larabee paced the center of the room. No one spoke for a while. Then, finally, Vin stood up slowly and wandered over until he stood in Larabee's path.

With an oath, Chris looked up into blue eyes, having just collided with his friend's bodily roadblock. "Chris. Everyone heard ya. Ya might as well tell'em." Vin nodded to indicate the rest of the team. He looked directly into the worried eyes of his boss and friend. "They'll understand. Be able to help you, and Ez, better, once they know."

Larabee rocked back on the heels of his cowboy boots and shuddered visibly. He gave a single penetrating look into those ice blue eyes that somehow were warm with concern. He nodded once and turned around, walking directly to a chair.

Once seated, he leaned forward, lacing his fingers and resting his elbows on his knees. He didn't look up, hung his head as if awaiting a blow. The silence in the room was absolute. They were alone there, at least for now. He started talking to the rug.

"Ezra and I have been lovers since Atlanta." He stole a look up at Vin, instinctively knowing where to look without a sound to help him locate the sharpshooter. He saw only acceptance there. Of course, Vin had known about them for a bit now. Not since the beginning but for a few months anyway. Not sure how, but he did.

He swallowed, it sounded loud to his own ears in the continued silence. "We didn't tell anyone. Figured, as long as we didn't advertise, we could continue to work together."

Josiah stood up abruptly. He wasn't angry, just hurt. He clenched his large hands into fists. The tension in the room raised several degrees. Nathan Jackson stood then too, putting a hand on their profiler's shoulder in solidarity and comfort. They'd been kept on the outside of this too long.

Buck Wilmington smiled hesitantly. Why not tell me? He thought to his old friend. Didn't you trust me? He swallowed his hurt and stood, too. Beside him, looking shocked and unhappy at the long ruse, JD rose and stood at his elbow.

Vin looked around appraisingly at his teammates, almost a family after all this time. Two years. He knew what was going on in their heads even though no one had said anything yet. Two years. With seldom seen assertiveness, the sharpshooter stepped up beside their team leader and put a supportive hand on one sharp shoulder. Damn it, they WERE a family and they'd get past this. This was no time for hurt feelings to get in the way. He looked around at his teammates' faces with defiance. "Well? Y'all gonna just stand there like a forest?"

Buck broke first. "Damn it, Vin, ain't no reason to go calling me a piece o'wood!" He walked over to Larabee and went down on one knee in front of his friend, putting his hands over the knotted ones in front of him. "Pard," he squeezed the cold hands and ducked his head to try to catch eye contact. Succeeding he sat back on his one heel. Meeting his friend's eyes he spoke with sincerity. "Ez is gonna be alright. I'm right happy for the two of you and now that you're sharing, why I expect ta be invited to the party."

Chris, who had started to smile tentatively, frowned. "Party? What party?"

With wide-eyed innocence, Buck grinned at him. "Why the bachelor party for you and Ez, o'course! Figure it's gonna be a real humdinger, seeing as how it's for TWO bachelors goin' out of circulation!"

It was like some sort of a signal to the rest of the men. Hurt gave way to relief and even to happiness for their team leader and team black sheep. With yips and chuckles of agreement, suddenly the rest of the team was circling closely, everyone finding a way to put a hand on Larabee somewhere. Touch him, let him know that it was alright with them. They touched. Reaching for comfort and brotherhood... and love. Vin smiled teasingly down at his friend. "See? Told you it'd be alright."

At that moment, another piercing scream penetrated the room and Larabee was out of his seat and surging for the door. Multiple hands grabbed at him, dragging him to a reluctant halt. "I have to be there!"

Nathan's face in front of him was talking. "Chris. Wait. I'll go, I'll find out what's happening. Wait here."

Then Nathan was gone from Larabee's view and Buck was there, arms open and pulling Chris close. "Easy, pard. You rush in there, you could do more harm than good. Nate'll let us know what's what."

Ezra screamed again, then again. He couldn't escape the grabbing hands, the painful touches that were burning again. He tried to lurch away and was tied down to something. The ties became serpents that slunk across him, their scales scraping his skin loose. He cried out again in terror. Blindly he flung himself from side to side. A monstrous hand clamped down on his face, pressing some sort of suction cup over his nose and mouth and then he couldn't breath. This time his scream was muffled, though it echoed loudly enough in his head. He hissed as other hands touched him, touched his body freely, leaving trails of fire and pain. Arching up against the snakes that bound him, he seemed to freeze in a bow of pain and terror, only his shoulders and heels actually touching the surface he was bound to. Then an insidious poison flooded his system, a sickly smell that drove all remaining thought out. With tears streaming openly down his pale cheeks, he collapsed, sobbing.

The ER nurse was trying to be noncommittal and efficient in the face of the strange reactions of agent Standish, but it was getting harder. She knew him and his teammates, they were often here as patients or visitors. Never before though had one of them suffered like this. It looked like a drug induced 'trip' that showed no signs of stopping. The doctor had just administered a sedative. She prayed he knew what he was doing, he was new to the ER. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Nathan Jackson, the EMT from the team. They must have heard the screams. Oh, shit.

Jackson had witnessed the last few minutes in horror. When the sedative was applied, he nearly cried out in anger. Fool! You don't know yet what else he's got in his system! Too late now. But Ezra did settle down, at least he wasn't screaming now, his body was relaxing. He was crying. Nathan could see they were going to wait now, find out blood test results. Ezra could use Chris, he decided, as he turned away from the ER bay.

Chris looked up at Jackson's return. He strained to hear what he muttered to Vin by the door, then both men were coming over to where Buck and Josiah held Chris to a seat.

"Chris, Ezra's real upset and for now there's nothing much they can do until the blood work comes back. I think your presence there would help him."

Instantly, Larabee was released. He stood and nodded, strode to the door, his entire team trailing him, ready to fight to protect him and Standish.

As it turned out, one look at the fierce looks on the team's faces and the hospital staff simply backed away, leaving Standish to them. Chris settled in on a rolling stool next to the gurney where Ezra rested. He wiped his friend's face with tissues that JD handed him from a handy Kleenex box. Then he leaned in and kissed him, on the cheeks, and finally on the lips. "Oh, god, Ezra, please…"

The crying jag broke off and with a hitching breath, Standish cried out quietly, "Chris?"

"Yes, baby, I'm here."

The rest of their dialogue was lost to the protective ring of brothers that stood watch and gave them what privacy they could. No one else said anything but everyone was smiling with relief.

Three days later, a still shaky Ezra Standish rose from the curbside wheelchair and climbed, with help, into Chris Larabee's black Ram. JD instantly plopped into the wheelchair and let a boisterous Buck wheel him erratically, and at great speed, back into the hospital lobby where a frantic nurse wrestled it away from them.

Nathan had sidestepped the duo, walking sedately down the path, reading the prescriptions for Ezra that he and Josiah had picked up at the pharmacy window. Nothing too taxing to the system, mostly just stuff to build him back up, Jackson thought with relief. It had been the strangest case they'd ever worked. Actually, he thought, it wasn't even part of the case. But when that hophead shot Ezra with a rubber bullet impregnated with some designer drug, it had started their marathon session for Ezra. A marathon of tests and trial medications, and hovering ATF agents.

Nathan almost chuckled as he thought of how grateful the nearby nurses had looked when the doctor told him that Ezra was out of danger and could go home. Ezra had not been a model patient, once he'd come around enough to really be with them mentally. His sight, which had been out of action, returned as the drug faded slowly from his system. Ezra's outrage and disgruntlement at being stuck in a hospital room more than balanced the moans and cries of his earlier condition. Only when Chris was at his side, did Ezra behave. Fortunately for all, Chris only left for brief periods to use the bathrooms or take a shower, even sleeping on the floor beside Ezra's bed... or IN Ezra's bed, with Ezra in his arms, when the others could stand watch for him. Nathan smiled. Who would have thought it? Damn they hid it well all this time. Now, though, it showed through all the time. It was even nice to watch it, love is something special no matter whose it is.

Josiah nudged him as they reached the truck. Chris was clipping the seatbelt in place for his passenger, spending extra time simply touching without restraint. Both he and Ezra were smiling intimately. Nathan grinned at the profiler.

Josiah flung a happy arm around his good friend Nate and smiled at their dear friends in the truck. "Brothers, this is a happy day."

Vin, who had been holding the truck's door with great patience, let a smile show as well, nodding in agreement. He felt good for his friends.

Buck and JD raced back, thumping into Jackson and Sanchez with glee, sending the big men staggering forward, closer to the truck. All four joined Vin Tanner as Chris stepped down from the running board, one hand still resting possessively on Ezra's nearest thigh. One of Ezra's hands settled on Larabee's shoulder as he peered out past Chris at the others.

"Give us a day to get settled, boys," Larabee grinned at them, "Then you can have your party up at our ranch."

"Our ranch?" Came out of several mouths in confusion.

Chris smiled back over his shoulder at his southerner. Ezra smiled back at him shyly still getting used to the idea that the others knew about them - and accepted it. "Yeah. Been that way for about two years, according to the deed." He let his hand trail down his baby's leg and caught up a seeking hand, their fingers automatically entwining. It felt damn good to be able to do this in front of their friends. He sent a grateful look to Vin who blinked back knowingly.

Ezra felt like his heart was so full that it might burst from the sheer joy of knowing that their team mates, their family of brothers, approved. Knew and approved. It was as if a shade he hadn't known existed had been lifted from his and Chris' lives. They'd have the freedom to be themselves around their brothers now. He met his love's eyes and smiled, his love and happiness in his eyes. Chris grinned and turned fully back to face Ezra. He stepped back up on the truck's running board and leaned in to plant a kiss on his baby's lips. It deepened and both men began to lose interest in the world around them. Whistles and hoots of laughter brought them bashfully back to the present and their very public display.

"Pard, take that sweet young thing home afore you lose him! We'll be up to celebrate that bachelor party in a couple o'days." Buck's tease produced results as the men parted and Chris reluctantly stepped down and hurried around the truck, ducking several encouraging backslaps on the way. Vin pressed the side door shut, meeting Ezra's smiling eyes with his own amused ones, taking care in the door's closing of the still wobbly passenger.

As one, the rest of Team Seven stepped back out of the way and waved, watching the black truck pull out of the hospital parking area. They could see Ezra's head move close to Chris' and then drop on to Larabee's shoulder. Then they saw something else.

Josiah's booming laugh choked as he force out, "Buck! You didn't!"

"No, pard, t'weren't me!" Wilmington, tears of laughter streaming down his cheeks as he turned an eye at Vin who only shook his head silently his own growling chuckles nearly silent as well.

Nathan shook his head too. He was gurgling with laughter. "Well, I didn't do it!"

Moving once again in tandem, the men turned on their youngest. "JD!" the chorused shouts were met with a knowing grin and a handful of ribbons. Ribbons that matched the ones trailing old cowboy boots and Italian loafers from the rear bumper of a certain black Ram truck.


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


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