by Angela B.
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine. They belong to some to someone else.
Note: 1). This is my first fan fic. Hope ya like it. Please let me know if you have comments or suggestions
2). Mog created the ATF world. Kuddos to her.
The men were gathered at Chris' house watching the Sunday football game, a weekly ritual for the seven ATF agents. Buck and J.D. were sitting on the floor, having their usual friendly argument over which team was better. Josiah and Nathan were on the couch watching in amusement as Buck grabbed J.D.'s cap and started playing keep away with it. Chris and Vin had both grabbed the two recliners and were stretched out watching the game and catnapping. Ezra, having made the weekly wager was sitting at the end of the couch in a chair between Josiah and Chris. When the news broke into the game all the men came to attention. All immediately began silently praying there had not been another terrorist attack on the country. As the newscaster announced that the bombing in Afghanistan had begun the seven men remained deathly quiet in rapt attention. Finally J.D. let out a whoop, "Yes!" It's about time we struck back. We'll show them we're not to be messed with." J.D.'s youth and pride was clearly showing. Buck shook his head sadly. He was for retaliation as much as most other Americans but he understood that no war is without its ramifications. Vin's heart dropped, the military personnel fighting over there were in for a long battle, and it would not end quickly like "Desert Storm". Josiah quietly said a prayer for all nations and their citizens. War wasn't a grand thing just a sometimes a necessary one. Nathan thought of all the injuries and casualties and felt helpless in being so far away. Chris stayed lying in his recliner and closed his eyes. He thought of all the children who had lost parents and of the parents who lost children four weeks ago, he thought of the losses yet to come in the future. No, war was not without its ramification no matter how necessary it was.
Ezra sat there in stunned silence, he knew it was coming and yet he still wasn't prepared for its arrival. The last four weeks had been wrenching enough trying to deal with past experiences. Memories bought back by the downfall of the towers and the pentagon and now this. Would life ever be normal again? The room began closing in on him. He couldn't get his breath. He got up and found his way to the porch. Sitting down in a rocker, the saddened agent closed his eyes and tried to will away the uneasiness that had settled in the pit of his stomach lately and now had increased. This is how Chris and the others found Ezra a few minutes later. Chris had watched the changes in this usually outgoing agent as he became more withdrawn these last few weeks and knew the attacks had been the key, but he was still surprised by the actions of this particular agent. The news of the war seemed to affect Ezra differently than the others. As the six men found spots to sit they couldn't help but notice the washed out look on their seventh brother. Ezra heard the men come out and settle down he just couldn't face them yet. After a few silent moments the agent who kept everything to himself whispered, "I was there". "Afghanistan?" asked a confused J.D. This earned him not only a slap to the back of his head by Buck and Nathan but stern warning looks from the other three. Still having his eyes closed the agent went on, "No." he said slowly. "Oklahoma City". This earned him shocked looks that he felt rather than saw. 'Dang' Chris thought, "Would this man ever stop surprising him. No, probably not' he answered himself.
Ezra continued, "I was on a case, it took me to that jurisdiction, so I was temporarily assigned to the home office in Oklahoma City. I had finished the case and was going in to file my final report and have my last debriefing". Ezra slowly sat up and leaned over placing his elbows on his knees he rubbed his face before continuing. "I was actually running early that morning." turning towards Chris and giving him a slight ironic smile, which Chris returned. "There was a coffee shop across and down the street a bit. I stopped and got a cup. As I came out there was this horrific noise and then suddenly brick and debris started falling from the sky. One minute the building was there and the next half of it was gone." Ezra put his face in his hands needing to get himself under control before continuing. The other six, contemplating how close they had come to never knowing this man that had become their brother, sat and waited patiently knowing Ezra wasn't finished. Finally, the man raised his face up but continued to stare at his hands. "There were people running and screaming everywhere. Then they started bringing out the children." Ezra paused and took a shaky breath. "They didn't have their jackets on and some didn't even have shoes". Ezra, with wetness in eyes, stopped and looked at the silent leader, who chose to ignore the tears, needing him to understand this last statement. The leader merely nodded and rested his hand on the shaking man's shoulder. They all understood. Ezra cared about people in general but children and animals were his downfall. None of them liked to see children injured but Ezra felt it deeper. At times he could almost become murderous if a child was harmed. It seemed to go even deeper than Chris' own emotions about children. Yes, they all understood how that scene would have been devastating for the undercover agent.
"Then four weeks ago two more buildings exploded and another one was partially crushed. It just brought it all back." Ezra quietly finished. He continued to stare at his hands. "Ezra, why didn't you say something earlier. We would have listened." Buck said softly, aching for his little brother, who continued to hold everything inside. 'If only he would realize he wouldn't be judged by them'. The other five men were also mentally grieving for their lost lamb and wondering, like Buck, when this man would learn to trust them with his feelings like he did with his life.
Ezra took a deep breath and continued, "Some people say there's no comparison. I don't know. I just know both buildings were destroyed and people were killed by some deranged lunatic who was trying to carry out his message in a very sadist way. Children were orphaned and people lost so much in both cases. Foreign or domestic, does it really matter the origin of any of the terrorists. It doesn't make either bombing o.k. nor the aftermath any easier to bear. The only difference is we will never get to look the men responsible for this last attack in the eye and tell how they destroyed so many innocent lives. Not that they would care anyway," Ezra finished lamely.
After a few more breaths he added, " I feel like I've been on a roller coaster lately and I don't see it stopping anytime in the future. "I just..." Ezra paused, he had told them more than he had planned. He looked up for the first time since he had started talking and focused on each of the six friends sitting with him. He decided he could trust them with the rest of his thought. "I just want to be able to get up in the morning without feeling so overwhelmed. Like life will never be normal for me again". Ezra finished so softly that the other men had to strain to hear the last part. They circled around the man who had lived thru so much. Each one having a thousands questions but holding off for now. For right now they would just be there for the brother who had just shared a piece of himself. They would get each other through this and stay on stable ground. Especially the one who had a hard-shelled case and a very soft heart.
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