Disclaimer :- I don’t own ‘em though I darn well wish I did. They belong to you know who, I just borrowed them for a while and I’ll grudgingly give them back!
Rating :- Well, just normal I guess. No surprises here. Not even any language.
Notes :- I wrote this story for my best pard Ingunn on the occasion of her birthday on 28th March. She thinks that Ezra is the best thing since sliced bread, and seeing as I am a devoted Vin fan, this story is, strangely enough, centered around the two of them. Although the others do appear!
Thanks Nin, for the encouragement and too kind words about this and other stories of mine, thanks Winnie for the info and the banter!….and thanks Ingunn for letting me share this with other folks!
Last but not least thank you to Mog for creating the ATF universe and letting us play in it!
His heart was heavy.
It wasn’t so much the fact that it felt like it was pulling so hard, it seemed like it was going to break free from where it lay in his chest and plummet into his stomach. It was more like; every beat his heart took sent a lump into his throat that threatened to turn into a sob.
A child’s chuckle caught his attention, and he turned to watch as a small boy of around four years old ran unsteadily through the grass, an older man running after him. A smile touched his lips when the man caught the small boy and the two bodies toppled and rolled over and over in the grass, the man hugging the child to him, to protect him from harm.
Turning back around to face front, he shifted his weight on the uncomfortable wooden bench. The afternoon sun sent shimmers through the lake, and he was glad of his Rae Bans that shielded his eyes from the bright light.
The park had seemed like a good place to go. He needed peace. Tranquillity if he wanted to get poetic about it. He had said some things he regretted, deeply regretted. But how could he go back and say he didn’t mean them? How could he expect a man he had deep respect for to just brush off the hurtful and hateful words that he had spat at him only an hour ago?
The truth of the matter was, he was afraid to go back. Afraid that if he did, and his friend did not forgive him, he would have lost something that was unbelievably important to him.
“Ezra Standish, you are a despicable specimen of a human being.”
The southern drawl hung heavy in the air. The shoulders clothed in the expensive jacket sagged just a little more as the unhappy agent tried to berate himself.
He closed his eyes as another heartbeat sent another potential sob into his throat. How could he have said those things? The one person who believed in him, more than anyone he ever knew; the one person who put all his trust in him when he had to, and he had hurt him terribly.
The sob moved further up his throat as he saw in his minds eye the devastating hurt that he had seen in the expressive blue eyes. The eyes that spoke volumes in the few seconds that his own had been in contact with them, the depths of hurt plain to see. The look in those eyes had sent him reeling, causing only one course of action; escape.
Why did he have to ruin everything? He wanted to have people trust him, to depend on him, to be his friend. So why did he insist on ruining anything that was anywhere near a friendship? Was he afraid of having people get close to him? Did he not want people to find out the secrets he held close to himself?
Vin Tanner was his friend, his soul mate. They were so different and yet so much the same; and in a few angry sentences he had ripped that mans soul in two. He had seen it in the young agent’s eyes, a pain that was beyond anything Ezra had ever seen reflected in anybody’s eyes before. And he had been the cause of that.
The sob hitched in his throat and he gasped, his eyes remaining shut as he fought to control the anguish. The last thing he needed was to go hysterical in the middle of the park.
He felt a pull on his trouser leg, just above the knee.
“D’you think he’s dead Daddy?”
“No son. He’s probably just sleeping. Lets just leave it here and leave the man alone.”
Ezra slowly opened his eyes. What he saw through the Rae Ban lenses made his breath catch in his constricting throat. Two big blue, questioning eyes looking right back at him.
“I’m sorry, young sir. Did you wish to speak with me?” Ezra managed to find his voice enough to respond to the child he had been watching earlier.
“You dropped this.”
Ezra looked down at the small hand that was held out to him. He swallowed hard as he reached out and took the small boomerang from the boy.
“Why thank you very much.” The agent put on the most jovial voice he could muster, which took great effort. “I would have been lost without this.”
“Yer welcome Mister.” The child replied, grasping hold of his Fathers hand, a proud smile on his face. “G’bye.” The child raised a hand and waved, and Ezra automatically raised a hand and waved in reply. He returned the Fathers nod and watched as the two walked away, the small boy happily skipping alongside his Father, tightly grasping his parent’s hand.
Ezra looked down at the object he had almost lost, and with a sigh, put it into his pocket.
Returning his attention to the two people, one big and one small, he recalled the child’s innocent happy face, and it reminded him of someone else. His friend.
Before he had ripped his friends guts out, that was the look Vin had had on his face. An innocent happy look. And Ezra had wiped it clean off of his face and out into the universe.
God! How could he ever make amends?
He dropped his head, and issued a long shuddering breath. He had to make things right. He had to.
He got purposefully to his feet and walked towards the park gates, to his parked Jaguar. He stopped in front of it and looked down at the mark along the driver’s door. Reaching out, he traced the foot long scratch with his finger. ‘This is nothing compared to losing a friend’ his thoughts decided.
His heart threatened to break free from what held it yet again, and opening the door he climbed into the drivers seat.
He would stand before Vin Tanner and beg for his forgiveness. He would stand there dressed only in a sack and drop to his knees at his friend’s feet and beg and plead if that is what it took to get Vin to forgive him.
He started the engine and steered the Jag towards the Federal Building where the whole nightmare had begun.
Ezra’s day had begun badly.
His alarm clock had not gone off; and when the agent had finally awoken it was almost seven o’clock. He had thrown back the covers and sprung out of bed, only to step onto his cell phone. He heard a sharp snapping noise at the same time as the pain in his foot registered. He gasped and hopped around the room, holding his foot between his hands. He did not need to look at his phone to know it was broken.
When the pain in his injured foot had receded to a dull throb, he had gone into the bathroom. He stepped into the shower, and found, when he turned the unit on, only cold water sprayed out. But at least it woke him up fully.
The rest of the morning had got no better.
In the fridge he found only sour milk and he took fifteen minutes to find his car keys.
By the time he was safely in his car and driving to the office, he was a nervous wreck, his head and eyes flitting from side to side, in search of any danger signs.
He turned into the underground car park, and pulled into his regular spot, catching sight of Vin, JD and Nathan as he manoeuvred his pride and joy until it was completely straight. He looked into the wing mirror, creasing his forehead into a frown as he tried to fathom what the agents were up to, whatever it was, it had them all chuckling with mirth and had Vin running around, after something which seemed invisible.
“Hey Ez, look at this!”
Vin’s cheerful voice met his ears as he climbed out of the car, and he watched as the Levi clad agent walked towards him, fiddling with the object of his delight in his hands.
Before Ezra knew what was happening, something whizzed past him, and he watched as Vin’s face turned to a look of horror, just before he heard a sharp scraping sound coming from behind him.
He stopped dead in his tracks and turned slowly around; almost afraid to have his eyes confirm his suspicions. But there it was, plain as day. He quickly retraced his steps, until he was standing beside his beloved car once more.
Ezra hardly heard the voice coming from behind him as he looked down at the scratch in his car door, caused by the missile Vin had released. He looked down and saw Vin’s new toy lying on the ground, stooping down, he picked it up, slowly rising to his feet once more.
“Ez I…I’m real sorry. I didn’t mean fer….aw hell.”
Vin’s words sunk in just as the anger started to rise inside him. All of the day’s frustrations bubbled to the surface. Ezra spun around, his face a picture of pure fury. He held up the miniature boomerang and waved it into Vin’s face. Ezra’s lips pursed before words of pure hate spewed from his mouth.
“You moronic imbecile! Look what you have done with your stupid toy. When will you grow up Mr Tanner? Is it because you are undereducated that you have to amuse your small mind with these pathetic little games?”
Ezra was on a roll, the words spilled out of his mouth one by one in a steady torrent. All of the days frustrations were being unleashed, and Vin was the target. By now, JD and Nathan had caught up with Vin and were standing dumb struck as they listened to the words that spouted out of Ezra’s mouth. Vin stood silent, his face slowly changing its expression, as the torrent continued.
“You look more like a vagrant most of the time, than a government agent, a long haired layabout who has no business being in the ranks of the ATF. You were only hired because of your shooting skills did you know that Mr Tanner? You can hardly write, let alone spell. It’s a wonder you have held down your job this long, playing the silly childish games that you do.”
“Now, Ezra…” Nathan found his voice finally and stepped towards the seething southerner, but was cut off as the deluge continued, the only response he received was a sharp shove from Ezra’s quick moving hand, which sent him reeling backwards and landing on the floor.
Ezra took a step towards Vin, until he was only inches away from the shocked sharpshooter’s face. “You have no respect for other peoples property and one day you will die alone in a pool of blood and noone will care. No, Mr Tanner, noone will care enough to even go to your funeral. Because all of your friends will be criminals, and the good friends you may have made in the past will have learned not to be your friend as they found out more about you and they will leave you out in the cold. Yes Mr Tanner. They will turn away from you.” Ezra shifted his weight, not noticing the hot tears that were now stinging Vin’s eyes. He stood paralysed, not quite being able to believe what was happening.
“You know why noone adopted you Mr Tanner? Because you are trouble with a capital T.” Ezra nodded his head as he continued. “That’s right Vin. It is written all over you, and that is why noone ever wanted you; unless they just wanted you around so they could beat you senseless; which they obviously did, because noone your age with any sense would do what you just did.”
Ezra stopped dead. His mouth had opened to carry on the soul destroying onslaught just as Chris’s roar filled the air. He slowly looked around him, blinking twice as he slowly came back from the place he had gone to, the place where he had turned into a hateful spitting demon.
His shocked eyes finally rested on Vin’s face. JD and Nathan were at the sharpshooter’s side, each of them had a hand on his shoulder. But Vin was looking at Ezra. The look on his face, and the pain in his eyes was enough to make the southerner turn away in shame. Oh Lord, what had he done?
He looked up and found himself staring into the livid face of Chris Larabee.
“I…I’m…..oh Lord.” He had to escape. He couldn’t stand to look at Vin.
The words he raged at Vin went over in his head as he wrenched his car door open and climbed behind the wheel. He started the engine, and took a look out of his window. And wished he hadn’t. Vin’s eyes stared back at him; the deep hurt clearly evident as JD and Nathan tried to comfort him. The strange thing was, Vin had just stood there and taken it all, had not even tried to argue or stop him. Why? His heart sank as his eyes veered over to where Chris stood, a picture of pure fury. His green glare bore deep into Ezra’s head; he could almost feel the gaze boring into his skull. If Chris Larabee’s eyes were a weapon that could be loaded, there was no doubt in Ezra’s mind that he would be a dead man. Taking his gaze quickly away from their team leader, he spun the car around and screeched out of the car park. Leaving behind him a pool of destruction.
Ezra pulled into the space his car had occupied only a couple of hours before. He turned off the engine, but made no move to get out. His heart was like lead, and he feared that he would be rooted to the spot if he tried to move. He shook his head and covered his face with his hands, resting them on the steering wheel in front of him.
“Proud of yourself?”
Ezra was startled by the voice to his left. He raised his head slowly and looking through his side window, he saw the angry face of Chris Larabee glaring back at him. Opening his mouth to speak, he was cut off before he began.
“Save it. Don’t wanna hear anything you have to say right now.”
“I can understand that.” Ezra managed to reply.
Chris wrenched the door open and got down on his haunches, his face almost level with Ezra’s. “You? understand? I doubt that. D’you know what you’ve done? Do you even care?”
“Mr Larabee….” Ezra began.
“Ah, forget it.” Chris rose to his full height once more, and waved a hand in Ezra’s direction. He started to walk away, but then spun back around and walked back to the car. “You know what I don’t get Ezra?” Chris asked but did not wait for a reply before he continued. “I don’t get how you can switch your feelings so fast. You left here an hour ago, after hurting a man you called a friend very deeply. Then you just waltz back in and I bet you were just gonna walk outta the elevator and act like nothing happened. I’m right aren’t I? You figure that we will all put it down to you being in a bad mood and brush it off. Well, Mr Standish, I’ve got news for you. We aren’t going to brush it off, well I’m not anyhow. We’re gonna talk about this at great length until we figure out how you can start to make amends to Vin for the low, down right dirty way you treated him.”
Ezra sat, listening and nodding, his head bowed. He could not bring himself to look at Chris. He knew he deserved what Chris was saying to him; knew that it was nowhere near as bad as the tongue lashing he had inflicted on Vin earlier. He felt totally deflated by Chris’s words, and could not begin to imagine how Vin must have felt listening to what Ezra spouted off at him that morning.
“Chris? I’m jest goin’ fer coffee, we ran out.”
Ezra and Chris turned their heads quickly to the direction of the Texan drawl. Vin was walking slowly along towards his jeep, his hands were pushed deep into his jeans pockets and his head was bowed. He hadn’t even glanced over at the two agents.
“I’ll go Vin. You go back up.”
Vin looked over at Chris and it was then that he realised Ezra was back. Ezra swallowed hard when he saw the depths of anguish Vin had been sent into by his earlier outburst. The pain in the blue eyes that regarded him warily was almost too much to bear. Vin looked at him as a wounded animal would; and that hurt Ezra deeply. He vowed that never again would he cause anyone to suffer as much as he had caused Vin to suffer that day.
“Nah, I need the air.” Vin said finally. “B’sides I reckon I should make m’self scarce fer a while.”
Chris started to walk towards the sharpshooter. “Vin, it’s not you who should make yourself scarce.”
Ezra knew he could not sit in the car all day; and he had returned to make amends to Vin. This was his chance, and it might be his only one. He stepped from the car and began walking towards the two agents.
Chris saw the look on Vin’s face and spun around. “Just stay away, Ezra. You’ve done enough for one day.”
“Leave ‘im be, Chris. I ain’t a kid, I can fight m’own battles.”
Ezra looked at Vin, trying not to show his shock at the sharpshooters words. Did Vin consider that he had to fight with him? Did he believe that the words he had spoken in anger and frustration were said as the truth, and not just said in a moment of rage?
“I’m warnin’ you Ez.” Chris growled.
“Leave it Chris.”
“Vin, how can you even be in the same air space as him?” Chris asked his friend incredulously.
“I said leave it.” The three agents stood for a second, no one speaking. Then Vin began walking once more towards his jeep.
Ezra followed, feeling Chris’s eyes boring into his back.
“Mr Tanner. Please, let me drive you.”
Vin turned around as he reached his battered jeep and looked at Ezra in puzzlement. “No, it’s okay. No need. Um, it’s okay, I can go get it.”
“Vin, I want to drive you. We need to talk, maybe we can talk better on neutral ground.”
Vin stared thoughtfully at Ezra for what seemed like an eternity to the undercover agent, he could feel Vin’s gaze boring into him, deep into his soul. It made Ezra think of the Star Trek episodes he had watched where the crew held scanners to alien life forms and scanned them to see if they were friend or foe. He figured that that was exactly what Vin was doing now, trying to figure out what the sudden change was in Ezra, why he suddenly wanted to talk to him so badly. Ezra decided to attempt to explain.
“Vin, I wish to make amends.”
“No need Ez.” The sharpshooter turned towards his jeep, fishing in his pockets for his keys.
Ezra grabbed him lightly by the arm. “There is a need Vin.” He said as Vin turned to look at him. “This cannot be left, we were friends before this."
The undercover agent watched as Vin rocked back and forth on his heels, he could almost see his mind ticking over, wondering whether to accept Ezra’s olive branch or not. Vin’s eyes searched Ezra’s face and it hurt to see the look of distrust in the sharpshooters eyes.
“Alrighty then, we’ll use your gas.”
Vin did not wait for a reply. Walking past a very unhappy Chris, he stood at the passenger door of the Jag.
Ezra’s heart leapt in triumph. Yes! He had been given his chance. All he had to do now was not blow it.
He too walked past Chris, feeling a shiver go down his spine as he sensed the warning Chris was silently handing out to him. Oh yes, he certainly had better not blow it, his life depended on it.
When they were both seated in the Jaguar, Ezra started the car. He pulled out of the space and both men saw Chris, still standing in the same spot, watching them. Vin and Chris exchanged silent words. A look of worry and puzzlement on Chris’s face was answered by a ‘Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing’ look from Vin.
Chris sent a silent message to Ezra too, with green eyes that bore into his. ’You’ve hurt him enough, don’t hurt him any more’. Ezra knew it was a silent warning, and he sure as hell was going to listen to it.
The two agents were silent as Ezra drove along the street.
“Ez, you’ve passed two places we coulda got coffee.” Vin said finally.
“I know Mr Tanner. But I want to take you to a better class of establishment.”
Vin sighed. “Ez, we’re buyin’ coffee, not caviar.”
Silence fell once more, and Ezra knew it was now or never.
Vin cut him off. He had been bracing himself for the talk that was inevitably coming, but when he knew it was upon them, he couldn’t stand the thought of it. He didn’t want to dredge the morning’s events up again. He just wanted to try and forget it, and learn by it. Some people were just not the friends you thought they were. End of story.
“Ez, I’m not sure I’m ready fer this. Stop the car, I kin walk”
“No please…..Vin. Let me apologise.”
“It hurts Ez, I can’t talk about it now. It hurts too damn much. Please pull over ‘n let me out.”
“We’re too far away for you to walk Vin. I can’t leave you stranded.”
“Don’t talk to me like you give a damn!” Vin had raised his voice but he couldn’t help it. “You said it all this morning in a nice little package, now pull over and LET ME OUT!” The agent could feel tears stinging his eyes and had to escape before Ezra saw the weakness. He had let him see too much already, like how much he had hurt him.
Ezra’s heart hammered. He reached over to touch Vin’s arm and was shocked at the way Vin pulled away from him, pressing himself against the car door, as far away from Ezra as he could get.
“Vin please.” This was getting out of control; he should pull over. But if he did, Vin would bolt and things would be even worse between them, if that were possible. He checked the road in front, knowing they were nearing a junction, the lights had turned green so he knew they could keep going, and Vin could not jump out of the car if it had to stop.
Turning to Vin, his stomach clenched at the turmoil on the younger mans face. “Vin, I know I hurt you. I had a bad morning. My alarm failed to go off, I stepped on my cell phone. I showered in cold water, had only sour milk and couldn’t find my car keys. I know that is no excuse for my behaviour but please know that……”
“Ez…” Vin interrupted, his voice tight as he looked at something through the front window of the car.
Ezra frowned as he watched Vin’s eyes go wide. The sharpshooter was looking through the windshield and Ezra turned to see what Vin was seeing.
“EZ LOOK OUT!”
There was no time. A car had jumped the red light at the crossing, and there was no way Ezra could avoid it. There was a screech of tyres followed by a sickening sound of crunching metal. As the debris settled, all that could be heard was a car horn sounding endlessly in the stillness.
Thirsty. He was so thirsty…..and his head ached.
What was that noise? That beeping that was making his head throb in time to it.
A low moan involuntarily left his lips and he moved his head, regretting it immediately.
Chris! That was Chris’s voice. What was going on? Where was he and why did his head hurt so damn much? He attempted to lift and open one of his closed eyelids. A bright light made him groan again, and he closed his eye again immediately.
“Hey Vin. Wanna open them baby blues for me?”
He sighed, and wished he hadn’t. His body hurt. Oh boy, did his body hurt. “Go t’ hell Larabee.” He croaked, keeping his eyes shut tight.
He heard a soft chuckle, and could just picture the look on Chris’s face. Right now he would like nothing more than to wipe that stupid grin off of his friends face.
“Open yer eyes then, and I think I can help you with that.”
Vin vowed to knock Chris unconscious the first chance he got. Steeling himself in preparation he slowly peeled open his eyes; groaning as they were assaulted by the bright light.
“Aw hell, I’m in the hospital ain’t I?” he asked as he realised the reason for his discomfort.
“’Fraid so pard. D’ya remember what happened?”
Vin looked at Chris, trying desperately to remember. His head was clouded in a thick fog and hurt badly. “Mebbe if I had a drink it might help.” He hinted.
“Oh yeah sorry.”
He felt a hand at the back of his head and a spoon touched his lips. “Yeuch! Ice chips.” He grimaced, but sucked at them thirstily.
“Just for now, til they check you out.” Chris answered, lowering Vin’s head back down to the crisp white pillow. “Can you remember anything Vin?”
The sharpshooter let his head sink deep into the softness. He searched his mind, his head throbbing at the effort. All at once, images flashed through his mind. A toy boomerang, Ezra yelling, an empty coffee pot, sitting in Ezra’s Jaguar, a green light, another car……
His heart began to race, and the beeping sound he had been hearing grew faster.
“Calm down Vin, it’s okay. What do you remember?”
Vin felt Chris’s hand on his shoulder. He tried to control his breathing, it was hurting him to breathe that fast. He swallowed a couple of times and blinked his eyes. An image came into his mind…
He sat upright in the bed before Chris could stop him. The pain shot through his entire body like waves crashing onto a beach. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth, and felt himself being gently guided backwards until he was laying down again.
“Take it easy pard, you need to keep still.”
Vin turned two worried eyes to look at Chris. “Ezra.” He croaked, a catch in his voice. “Ezra was in the car with me, where is ‘e Chris? Wheres Ezra?”
“It’s okay Vin.” Chris placed a calming hand on the top of Vin’s head. “He’s gonna be okay. Pretty bashed up, but he’s gonna be fine.”
Vin turned his head and saw an empty bed beside his. “Where is he? Why isn’t ‘e here wi’ me?”
Chris sat back and sighed, running his fingers through his blond hair. “We figured you two would rather be in separate rooms, after what happened this morning.”
“Oh yeah.” Vin said softly. He knew the truth. Ezra had asked for a separate room; he didn’t want to be around him anymore.
“Ezra? Hey Ez?”
Ezra frowned. What was Buck doing here in the middle of the night? Surely they weren’t on surveillance again. He tried to answer but found that his voice would not co-operate.
“Ezra? I know you’re awake. Can see them eyes o’ yours moving around under them lids.”
“I am awake….” The agent swallowed, trying to add moisture to his dry throat. “I am awake because you woke me, Mr Wilmington.” He croaked.
“Yes! I knew you were! It’s good to hear yer voice Ez.”
Ezra winced. His head throbbed with every word Buck uttered. “I wish I could say the same for yours.”
He heard two separate chuckles. Josiah. Josiah was here too? This was strange. Why weren’t they hauling him out of bed and into his bathroom like they normally did when he was late?
“Are you early?” he asked. He smacked his lips. “And would one of you mind turning on the coffee machine, I am in dire need of fluids.”
Buck and Josiah looked at each other and grinned. They knew only too well the disorientated feeling that went with waking up in a hospital bed.
Josiah reached over and picked up the cup of ice chips. He lifted Ezra’s head gently and placed the cup to his lips, tipping it carefully.
Ezra was shocked, but took in the ice gratefully. He sucked on it and swallowed before he asked, “What is going on? Why are you being nice to me?”
Buck’s loud laugh caused Ezra to grip the sheets against the pain in his head.
“Ezra.” The moustachioed man began. “Maybe if you open your eyes you can begin to figure out what’s goin’ on.”
The undercover agent decided this was a good idea and slowly opened his green eyes. The sight that met him made him groan. “Oh no! I am in the hospital.”
“That’s right Ez.” Buck answered, more serious now. “Remember what happened?”
Ezra thought, his mind momentarily halting its search for answers when a severe pain shot up his leg and settled in his knee. He hissed and clenched his eyes shut, until it passed, and was grateful for the comforting hand on his arm.
What did he remember?
Oh no! He had broken his cell phone. He had stepped on it. Surely he was not in the hospital because of that, he couldn’t recall cutting his foot.
The park! An image of a little boy handing him a small boomerang slammed into his aching head; and with that image came others.
He groaned loudly. “Oh no. I fought with Vin.”
“It was a little more one sided than that Ezra.” Josiah said gently.
Ezra tried to shift in the bed, but found it difficult to move. “You shouldn’t be doing that, ya gotta keep as still as ya can, you hurt yer leg pretty bad.” Buck informed him.
“My leg?” Ezra continued to search the roads in his mind. One had to lead him to the destination he sought.
All at once he let out a loud gasp, which defied his weakened state. “Vin!” he started to rise, but was held back by restraining hands. “Vin! Where is he? We were in my car. He wanted to get out. The lights, that car….Oh nooooo…..where’s Vin?”
“Easy Brother.” Josiah moved to the side of the bed and placed a comforting hand on Ezra’s shoulder. “He’s gonna be okay. A bit busted up, but nothing life threatening.”
Ezra breathed a sigh of relief, ignoring the discomfort it caused. That was easily outweighed by the knowledge that Vin was alright.
He turned his head from one side to the other and his eyes rested on the empty bed next to his.
“Where is he? Why isn’t he in here with me?”
Buck and Josiah exchanged a look.
Well.” Buck began. “After the incident of this morning, we just figured you two would rather have separate rooms.”
“Oh.” Was Ezra’s only response; he knew the truth. Vin did not want to be in the same room as him.
Vin’s head rested against the pillows. He felt better once he persuaded the doctor that he could handle being a little more upright. He couldn’t stop his eyes going to the empty bed next to his. If things were normal, Ezra would be there. But that was before their friendship had disintegrated.
“Ezra had a bad day yesterday.” He told Chris who was looking out of the window at the early morning sky. It had been a long day and night for them all.
He turned to look at the pale face of his friend. “And you didn’t?”
“Not as bad as Ez’s.” the room fell silent again, and Chris moved quickly when he saw Vin reach out for the cup of water at his bedside.
“Thanks.” Vin took the cup and sipped the water slowly. He hated the hospital. He hated the fact that he had a needle in his arm sending drugs into his body. He hated the fact that he had a tube connected to him that made it possible to take a leak without leaving his bed. He hated it that he hurt like hell from the top of his head to the tip of his toes.
A concussion, the doctor had said. Plus three cracked ribs, severe bruising to his back, a fractured wrist and cuts and bruises that covered the rest of his body; including one on the side of his left knee that had needed twelve stitches.
He let Chris take the cup from him before he continued.
“D’ya know when he got outta bed yesterday he trod on his cell phone n’ broke it?”
“No I didn’t.” Chris answered.
“And when he got in the shower, the hot water wouldn’t work.”
Chris’s mouth twitched slightly at the corners.
“And he couldn’t have coffee, ‘cos his milk was sour. And then to top it all, he couldn’t find his car keys.”
Chris nodded his head. “Yeah, I guess that would be classed as having a bad day.” He had to agree, although the smile had grown wider on his face.
Vin dropped his eyes. “Then I scratched his car with that darn boomerang.” He said quietly. “Guess he had a right to be angry.”
“Yeah maybe he did Vin.” Chris answered carefully. “But he had no right to say the things he said to you.” He shook his head once. “He had no right.”
“I reckon he was sorry after.” Vin said quietly.
The two men fell silent again.
“I wanna go see Ezra.”
Ezra was grateful to his friends for their company. Even Chris, who he thought was the last person who would want to see him right about now, had come to sit with him for a while during the night, while some of the others went to be near Vin.
If only Vin were here then he would be able to bear the indignity of the hospital. He still had not lost the heavy feeling in his heart that had settled there yesterday morning after he had released his pent up anger at his friend.
Well, he was not his friend now, Ezra figured. And that hurt him more than any of his injuries did.
The doctor had been to see him the night before. He had fractured his right leg in three places, and was in a cast, which was already making his skin underneath itch. He had five stitches in his head but had miraculously escaped a concussion. The throbbing that beat incessantly at the rest of his battered body told him exactly where every last cut and bruise was, and there were many. The bruises around his ribs told their own story. He had two broken and the rest were black and blue, as he had found out when that monster of a nurse had been by the night before to give him a bed bath. Oh the indignity of that! He hated everything about the hospital, especially the catheter that was connected to a part of his body that he would rather not have anything connected to.
But if Vin were there, so that he could finish what he started, and mend their shattered friendship, he would have felt a whole lot better.
But Vin did not want anything to do with him. He had made that perfectly clear when he had tried to escape from the car the day before. And brought the message well and truly home by not wanting Ezra in the same hospital room as him.
He was suddenly brought out of his thoughts when he sensed someone new enter the room. JD and Buck were watching tv quietly in the corner, leaving him to his thoughts, Josiah was handling some things at the office, and Chris and Nathan were with Vin.
Well Chris had been with Vin. Now he was standing at Ezra’s bedside.
“Mr Larabee. How is Vin?”
“Hurting, like you I would imagine.” Chris replied. “Ez? Can I ask you something?”
Ezra felt his heart sink. Chris looked serious, and he sensed that it had something to do with Vin. Did Chris want him to transfer to another team? Had he really blown it well and truly with all of his friends by his one stupid mindless act of rage?
“Of course. Chris. Ask away.” Ezra braced himself.
“Vin wants to see you. How do you feel about that?”
Ezra sat in shocked silence for a moment. Vin wanted to see him? Why? Why did he want to see him? Did he want to tell him exactly what he thought of him for destroying his soul and then landing him in the hospital?
“I thought that he wanted nothing to do with me.” He said quietly. Not wanting to come right out and ask why.
“He thinks you want nothing to do with him Ez.” Chris replied, a little surprised. “I figured you didn’t straighten things out before the crash.”
“We didn’t really have the chance. I tried but Vin seemed to panic.” He turned two sad green eyes on Chris. “I believe I have lost his friendship, Mr Larabee. My stupidity has lost me a good friend.”
Chris regarded Ezra thoughtfully. Maybe they had misjudged the depths of Vin and Ezra’s friendship. They had assumed that the two of them did not want anything to do with each other, but it appeared they may have been wrong. The way they had both reacted when they remembered the crash, and then Vin asking to see Ezra and the man before him looking so sullen, thinking he had lost Vin as a friend could only lead Chris to one conclusion.
“Ezra, I have a suggestion.”
Vin pushed the standby button on the remote control and threw it on the bed. There was nothing on tv worth watching, unless you wanted to watch reruns of Happy Days. And, seeing as he was not having any of those himself lately he figured he didn’t want to see anyone else having any.
He sighed and grimaced, rubbing his sore middle. Hell, where wasn’t it sore?
“Hey Junior! You look like you could use some cheering up.”
“Go t’hell Bucklin.”
Vin rested his aching head against the pillows and closed his eyes, trying to ignore Buck who had settled himself beside the bed.
“Now ain’t that charmin’ Nathan?” Buck asked the medic who had been sitting quietly with Vin. “We come to see our poor sick friend and all we get is abuse.”
“I ain’t sick. I’m injured.” Vin corrected.
“Details don’t matter, kid.”
Vin shot Buck an evil look. “Don’t call me kid, or you’ll be sportin’ a squeakin’ voice fer a day or two.” Vin threatened.
“Ooh now he’s threatening my tackle. You hear that Nate? Looks like he could really kick out right now too.” Buck teased.
“Leave ‘im alone Buck.” Nathan chided. Seeing the weary look on the Texans face. “You need anything Vin?”
“Nah thanks Nate. Reckon all I need is t’ get outta here.”
“That’s not gonna be for a couple more days, Vin. Them kidneys are gonna keep you in for that long.”
“Great.” Vin sighed. He shot Buck a Larabee glare when he saw him look under the bed, searching for the bag that was attached to the end of the foley catheter. He knew he had found it when he chuckled.
“Them things are mighty uncomfortable aren’t they Kid?”
Vin opened his mouth to respond but closed it again when he heard a commotion outside. “What the…?”
He could not believe his eyes as a procession entered. Starting with a bed being wheeled in followed by three men and two nurses.
His eyes widened when he saw the occupant of the bed.
“Ezra?” he asked, not being able to hide his shock.
“Good Morning Mr Tanner. I hope you don’t mind if I join you. I was finding it extremely lonely in a room all by myself.”
Vin grinned. “Ez, ya read m’ mind.”
It was dark outside and the other five men had been persuaded to go home and get some sleep by the remaining two.
Vin and Ezra were both resting after their dinner, and both of them agreed that the best part of the meal had been the jello.
The room was quiet and still, both of them having been relieved of their monitors earlier. It was a blessing not to have to hear the constant beep beeping of the machines.
Ezra was startled by Vin’s quiet drawl filling the room.
“Is that what ya really think o’ me Ez?”
Ezra closed his eyes. There was that sinking feeling again.
“Mr Tanner…..” he began.
“Only, they say ya speak the truth in anger.”
“No Vin, that is not true. Every word I uttered was a despicable betrayal of the friendship we once had. I can only wish and pray to God above that I can redeem myself and earn your friendship again.”
Vin lay quietly in the next bed. He still thought on Ezra as a friend. He was just not sure if it felt the same as it did before. He was just not sure.
“We’re friends Ez. If we weren’t I would never’ve got in the car with ya yesterday.”
“That is a blessing to know Mr Tanner.” Ezra answered, his shoulders feeling a little lighter. A thought suddenly struck him. What had happened to his car? He and Vin were not badly enough injured for it to have been carnage, so how bad was it?
“Thinkin’ about the damage to yer pride n’ joy Ez?” A voice asked out of the darkness.
“It did cross my mind, yes.”
“Crossed mine too, I asked Chris earlier, when you were in x-ray.”
“You did?” Ezra raised an eyebrow. “And?”
Ezra heard a grunt and felt something land lightly on the bed. He shifted carefully, not wanting to make himself hurt more than he already did, and his hand rested on a small piece of card that Vin had just thrown to him.
He turned on his lamp and looked at it, turning it this way and that, trying to fathom out what the photograph was that he was looking at.
“It’s yer car Ez.” Vin said quietly.
“What? No, it can’t be…” Ezra’s voice trailed off.
“Fraid it is Ez, sorry.”
Ezra felt his heart plummet again, but not as much as he thought it would. His Jaguar had been his pride and joy. He chuckled. Yesterday he had laid into Vin for scratching his car, and now it was a pile of mangled metal. But he felt nowhere near the anger that he had felt the day before.
“We could have been killed.” He said just above a whisper. “Hell, we should have been killed.
“But we weren’t” Vin added from the next bed.
“No Vin, we weren’t and that is what matters here.” Ezra realised suddenly why he was not so angry about losing his car. A car is a possession; a thing that can be traded in for a new one. But friendship is for life; it is never ending. Like a car, a friendship could be scratched and repaired again, but repairing a broken friendship took a little more time than a respray.
“’m glad we weren’t Ez. ‘Cos we would have died strangers.”
Ezra’s eyes filled with moisture at Vin’s words. They told him a multitude of things. The main one being that Vin considered their friendship salvageable, and he was going to move heaven and earth to achieve it.
“Mr Tanner, I really think that this is a bad idea. After all, you cannot drive a car properly with your arm in a cast.”
“Ez, we have t’ hurry up. Chris and Josiah were comin’ on over to bail you outta this joint. Jest figured, I’d like t’ be the one t’ do it. Seein’ as I was yer room mate fer a while.”
It had been a week since the accident and Vin had been discharged two days earlier. Now it was Ezra’s turn.
“Mr Tanner. Vin!”
Ezra tried desperately to get through to the Texan who was wheeling him into the lift.
“Ez, calm down will ya? Or I’ll throw my boomerang atcha.”
Ezra felt a smile tug at his lips. It was comforting to know that Vin had no qualms about mentioning anything to do with *that* day anymore. He had done to begin with, shying away from any mention of the outburst in the parking lot. But gradually they had talked and were slowly closing the wound in their friendship.
The bell dinged and the elevator doors opened. Vin began to push Ezra towards the front doors of the hospital, and Ezra began to panic.
“Vin, please. I really believe this is foolhardy.”
Vin stopped walking and stood in front of the wheelchair, looking down at his friend. “Don’t ya trust me Ez?”
Now that was a loaded question.
Ezra trusted Vin with his life, he trusted him more than any one else in the world at that moment in time. What could he say? The sharpshooter had him over a barrel.
“Of course I do. Onward Mr Tanner.”
Ezra struggled to hold onto his crutches as Vin pushed him over the uneven ground of the parking lot. He stopped at his battered jeep.
“You expect me to get into that?” Ezra asked, grabbing hold of Vin’s arm for support as the sharpshooter helped him to stand out of the wheelchair.
“T’ain’t that bad Ez, I kin help haul y’up.”
“My dear friend. You are injured also. I doubt very much that you will be able to…as you put it….haul me up.”
“Don’t underestimate me. Ez. Reckon ya don’t know me as well as I thought ya did.” Vin replied. He shifted his weight onto his uninjured leg. “Tell ya what, lets start from scratch.”
Ezra chuckled. “An interesting choice of words Vin, taking note of recent events.”
Vin looked back at the undercover agent, a puzzled look on his face, and then realisation dawned and he joined Ezra in laughing. “Reckon yer right pard.”
Vin extended his hand. “Hi, I’m Vin Tanner.”
Ezra looked at the offered hand and then fell into Vin’s train of thought. Finally, he took it in a firm grasp. “Hello. I am very pleased to meet you. My name is Ezra Standish.”
The two men looked at one another for a moment, still grasping hands. A look of trust passing between them, tying them to a friendship that could only grow stronger.
“Ya know Ezra.” Vin said, finally releasing his hold and opening the passenger door of his jeep. “Reckon I’m gonna like you.”
“I do hope so Mr Tanner. For a friend is a true gift indeed.”
Ezra stepped forward awkwardly and lost his footing; and his hold on one of his crutches. He watched in dismay as it fell forward, hitting the side of Vin’s jeep hard, and the agent looked in horror as the crutch fell to the ground revealing a deep scratch in the paintwork. He had a feeling of déjŕ vu but in reverse as he continued to stare. It was only last week that the roles had been reversed and it had been Vin who had scratched Ezra’s car. The ramifications of that event were still taking place. They did not need more reminders.
He turned wide eyes on Vin, who was looking thoughtfully at the damage.
“Vin, I am so terribly sorry. I will pay for the repairs. I was clumsy. Please accept my apology.”
Vin held up his hand and turned blue eyes to his friend. “It’s okay Ez. This is an old heap anyways. Not that I don’t love it but….i know the truth…..it’s an eyesore.”
“No, Vin. I want to have it repaired.”
“I like it jest the way it is so stop worryin’ and get in b’fore Chris catches us.” Vin held Ezra’s elbow, ready to help him into his seat, and Ezra frowned as a look of mischief appeared on Vin’s face. “B’sides Ez. What’s a scratch between friends?”