The Ritual

by DoggyJ

Disclaimer: I don't own anybody, so there.
Author's Note: Okay, this is my first one! Kind of dark, but this scene popped into my head and I couldn't get rid of it except to write it down.

The darkness had pursued him from Atlanta to Denver. After that first case, it had almost caught him. Somehow, Larabee's admonition to 'never run out on them again' had chased it away for a while. But now it had found him again. Now it waited; breathing outside his door, prowling around his windows, pushing at his mind.

When he was younger, his mother had dragged him from therapist to counselor to doctor after doctor. But all the talking, all the drugs, all the DSM-IV's diagnoses did nothing to keep the black moods away. In frustration, she would dump him at the nearest relative in search of brighter prospects. When Josiah talked about his crows, Ezra understood perfectly.

There was only one way to defeat it. Becoming a member of law enforcement had simplified the ritual greatly. Now he had no need to steal his uncle's razor blades or forge prescriptions that college town pharmacists would turn a blind eye to. Now he had a gun; several guns, in fact.

Ezra walked through the condo, picking up the few items that were out of place. He put away his dishes from dinner that he had washed and were now dry. Turning out most of the lights, he left one lamp set to the lowest setting on in the living room.

He chose his Smith & Wesson Chief's special this time; a sweet little five-shot revolver that was his first back up weapon. Checking to see that the gun was loaded, he laid it carefully on the mantle above the fireplace. The cut crystal decanter of Scotch was placed on a silver tray with a matching tumbler. He placed the tray on the table next to the leather-covered chair.

Before he sat down, he went to the bathroom. Staring in the mirror as he washed his hands, he could see the darkness hovering behind his eyes. He had to chase it away again, before anyone else could see. He ran the brush through his hair, making sure he looked as neatly groomed as always. Satisfied, he turned out the light and went back into the living room

Ezra sat down in the chair, facing the mantle - and what lay on top. He poured two fingers of Scotch in the tumbler. Raising the glass, he swirled the contents around, delighting in the way the amber liquid caught the light in shards of gold. Sometimes that was enough to banish the darkness, sometimes not. Tonight, not. He downed the drink quickly, relishing the smooth smoky taste.

"One." He stared at the light gleaming dully off the metal object on the mantle.

He poured the same amount in the glass again. Without looking at it this time, he raised the glass to his lips. Eyes glued to the sight before him, he drank quickly.


Once more he poured the required amount of alcohol in the glass. His focus had narrowed to the gun lying atop the polished oak of the mantle. He noted how harsh the light on the metal was contrasted with the warm glow from the wood. The darkness pressed in from all sides. His hand began to tremble as slowly, so slowly, he raised the heavy glass.

The smell of the aged Scotch filled his nostrils. The hum of the air conditioner was the only sound in the room as the cool air sighed about his skin. Night beat its wings against the windows, tried to find a way in through the locked doors. Ezra felt the cool glass against his lips. Opening his mouth, he allowed the fiery beverage to trickle across his tongue and down his throat, feeling it wind its way through his chest and into his mind.

Suddenly the room snapped back into focus. The darkness fled wailing into the night. Ezra slammed the glass down on the silver tray hard enough to rattle the decanter still sitting there.

"Three. I win again, you son of a bitch!" he snarled. Taking a deep breath, Ezra pushed himself out of the chair. He replaced the decanter and tray, taking the glass into the kitchen to wash and dry it. Once it had been put back in its proper place, he stepped to the mantle. He stared at the revolver for a long moment. Then, reaching out his hand, he carefully picked up the weapon, checking to make sure the safety was on.

"I'm glad it wasn't you, old friend," he murmured. Opening the chamber, he emptied the rounds into his hand. Walking back to his room, Ezra placed pistol in the gun safe he'd had installed when he first moved in. He put the ammunition away, closing and locking the safe.

Almost stumbling with weariness, he stripped off his clothes and pulled on his pajama bottoms. Bare chested, he fell into bed, pulling the lightweight cover over him. Just before sleep claimed him, Ezra turned his head. He could see the almost full moon shining through his window. There was no danger any more. The darkness had gone back into hiding. For now.


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