Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, yadda, yadda, yadda. The characters are based on those created by John Watson, and the always wonderful Mog created this little universe and allows us to play in it. I make no money, and have none to pay anyone else either. This is for the pure joy of it.
Notes: Wrote this today at work. Ok, yeah, I WAS supposed to be working, what's it to ya? When the muse strikes, you do not ignore it. It could be very dangerous. This is my first post on the fic list, although not by any means my first Mag7 fic. It IS my first ATF fic, though.
I fell down this morning while dressing. Most embarrassing. Glad no one saw it. I hurt for most of the day, so I decided to take my frustrations out on Ezra. Believe me, he'll hurt worse. (I love him. I really, really do. Its just a very addictive hobby of mine to do this to him.)
Rating: R (for language)
Warnings: I'm not a medical expert. If some things in here do not ring true, blame ignorance. Also, this is not betaed. Any spelling mistakes and/or general bad grammar should be taken in stride.
Outwardly, nothing appeared out of the ordinary. The single breasted suit was perfectly pressed, and hung on his body as if it had been designed with him specifically in mind. The friendly, easy going smile that he flashed to others as he passed them was the same one that greeted them each day. He seemed confident, self-assured, and well put together.
Of course, that was unless someone bothered to look too closely.
An almost unnoticeable wince crossed his features from time to time, but was gone again before anyone could see. The pain had been bothering him since early in the morning. A sharp, very annoying pain that seemed to come from his side. He wondered what he could have done to injure himself in such a place. He couldn't remember doing anything that would be considered strenuous.
Then there was the fact that he felt nauseous, he had a headache, and he was more tired then he could ever remember being before in his life. But he was not sick. He couldn't be. He, Ezra Standish, did not, and would not get sick. He had decided upon that long ago when his mother would push him aside if he even got so much as a sniffle. Maude didn't like sick people, and Ezra got so little of her attention as it was. So he ignored every ache and pain, every cough and sneeze, and hid them all behind the calm, cool exterior that Chris always liked to refer to as his 'poker face'.
And he was good at it, too.
The difference this time was that now he had six friends, co-workers, whose eyes' missed very little.
"Ezra? What's wrong? You look tired."
Ezra shot a look at Buck that could have frozen the steaming mug of coffee that he held in his hands.
"Thank you ever so much for your astute observation, Mr. Wilmington."
"Ah, and cranky too. Guess you didn't get much sleep last night, did you?" Buck grinned at him. He was used to Ezra in the mornings. The undercover agent was usually in a foul mood in the early hours of the day.
"Hey Buck, here's that file you where looking for." Nathan handed him a manila folder, then turned his gaze to Ezra, noticing his blood shot eyes. "Geez. Late night, Ezra?"
"No" was all he said before walking away toward his own office. It had not been a late night. In fact it had been quite the opposite. Ezra, who was normally a late to bed, drag his ass out of bed in the morning type of person, had gone to bed around 10pm the night before. He had felt so rundown, and could honestly not keep his eyes open.
And he still had to forcefully drag himself from the comfort of his warm bed.
He just wasn't a morning person. Never had been, never would be. That was all.
Yes, of course. That was all. Now all he had to do was convince everyone else of that.
"Ahh." Ezra couldn't keep the cry of pain from escaping his mouth as he felt his body collide with that of another.
"Sorry, Ez. Wasn't looking. You ok?" The young face of JD looked up at him.
Ezra sighed. What was it going to take? "I'm fine. I was only surprised by the force of you knocking me over. May I ask, 'where is the fire'?"
"Oh, I got to get his report to Chris before he brings down his wrath on me. You sure your ok? You look kinda pale."
"Nothing to worry about, I assure you. Go on, before Mr. Larabee blows a blood vessel waiting for you." He walked into his office, ignoring the concerned look that JD gave him. He did not want to answer anymore questions about his health. His health was fine, never been better. He felt like a freakin' 20 year old for christ's sake! What was so hard about accepting that?
"God damn!" He swore, as the sharp pain spread its way across his side.
He gripped the back of his chair to keep from falling to the floor in agony. What the hell was wrong with him? Maybe he should see a doctor, just to prove that there was really nothing wrong with him.
And there was nothing wrong. It was just a freak, phantom pain that had decided to haunt him on this day.
The knock on his open door brought his head up, and he straightened his back as much as he could without bringing on another pain attack. Vin stood in the door way, watching him concerned eyes.
"Ezra, are you......"
"For God's sake, I am perfectly fine. What is everyone's problem with that!" Ezra's hand gripped the chair back so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.
"I'm sorry, pard. You just don't look, well...., like you." Vin put a hand on his arm, and reached his other up to touch Ezra's forehead.
Ezra jerked his head away, but Vin had already felt the warmness that his skin held. "Ezra, maybe you should go home. You got a fever."
"I don't have a fever, and I don't need to go home. Why can't you all just leave me the hell alone?"
"What is going on in here?" Chris stepped into the room at the sound of Ezra's raised voice. He looked from Vin to Ezra, and saw that Ezra did not look good at all. His face was covered with a sheen of sweat, and he appeared to be breathing too hard.
"Ezra's sick," Vin said, "and he won't admit to it."
Chris came closer to the stubborn young agent, and looked closely at him. "I think he's right. Go home. Now. You're not going to be any good in this condition."
The pain was becoming too intense. It was everything he could do not to cry out from it. "I don't have a 'condition'. I'll be fine if you would just go away."
"Ezra, don't be such a gole damned stubborned ass," Vin said, picking up Ezra's discarded coat. "Come on, I'll take you home. I don't think you should even be driving like this."
"As if a ride in that prehistoric dinosaur you call a automobile is going to be good for my health," Ezra said, shrugging off the coat that Vin had draped across his shoulders. "Quit treating me like I'm some child. I am more then capable of taking care of myself."
"Well, you sure wouldn't know it." Chris went back to the door and called out to Nathan. Maybe the most medically intelligent of them all could talk some sense into him.
"Listen," Ezra said, taking a deep breath to keep the pain out of his voice, "If it makes you happy, I'll go home. But it's not necessary."
Nathan entered the room and immediately knew what the situation was. Ezra looked as if he was about to pass out. He quickly crossed the room, and felt Ezra's warm forehead. Too warm.
"How long have you felt like this?" he asked.
Ezra was about to say that he didn't know what Nathan meant. He felt fine. But he knew they would not accept this, and besides, he did feel bad. More then bad.
"Since early last night," he admitted.
Nathan shook his head in exasperation. "Ezra, sometimes I don't know why I bother with you. Come on, sit down." He pushed the other man down into the chair, and did not miss the grimace of pain that crossed Ezra's face as he sat. "Ezra, I want you to be honest with me. Are you in pain?"
Ezra nodded, no longer caring that they knew, only that the pain stop.
"Ok, I'm going to touch a few spots on your stomach. I want you to tell me what hurts." Nathan began to move his hand over Ezra's stomach, pressing in slightly here and there, and watching Ezra's face for reaction. He touched the spot below the stomach, and Ezra sharply took in a breath. "There? It hurts there?"
"Yes, it hurts there! Fuck it, it hurts!" Ezra's eyes watered as he leaned forward to stop Nathan's touch. "Please, don't do that again."
"Ok. Ok, I won't." Nathan turned to the other two men in the room, and gave them a look that said exactly what a serious situation it was. "I don't think Ezra should go home. I think he should go to the hospital."
The mention of that accursed word, 'hospital', made Ezra snap his head back up. "No. I don't need a hospital. Nathan, can't you just give me one of those herbal remedies of yours?" The look in his eyes was heartbreaking. He seemed no more then a small, and very scared child.
The handsome black man shook his head. "Uh-uh, Ez. You're going to the hospital, and you're going now. I think your appendix is about to burst."
"Shit." Chris swore, and went over to his agent, putting a strong arm around his waist, careful not to harm him. "Come on, *I'M* taking you to the hospital whether you like it or not."
Ezra moved from Chris's touch. "I can walk by myself," he said, but took one step and fell forward. Vin and Nathan rushed to him, catching him before he hit the ground. "Oh, dear GOD," he moaned in painful agony, and tried to curl himself into a ball on the floor of his office.
"Maybe we should call an ambulance," Vin said, trying to drag Ezra into his arms. He hated seeing his friend in this kind of pain, and felt his eyes begin to water in sympathy.
"We don't have the time to wait for it" Nathan said. "I think the appendix just burst. We got to get him there now!"
Chris moved into action. "I'll get my keys, we'll take him in my car. Vin, go get Josiah."
"No need." The large man came into the office, as if he had known somehow that the younger agent needed him. He bent down and effortlessly lifted Ezra into his arms. Ezra gave no protest, and leaned his head against Josiah's shoulder, closing his eyes from exhaustion and pain.
Carrying Ezra from the office, Josiah headed for the elevators, followed by Nathan, Chris, and Vin.
Buck looked up to see the strange happening, and felt his own face grow pale at the sight of Ezra lying limply in Josiah's arms. He grabbed the arm of the passing JD, and dragged him with him. "Come one, kid. Looks like we got an emergency."
All seven men crowded into the small elevator. Six pairs of eyes where trained on one whose eyes where shut. He was one of them, and he was sick. What hurt him, hurt them. None of them would leave his side till that hurt was gone.
The hospital staff was used to the sight of six men pacing the hallways, drinking coffee in the cafeteria, or just generally bugging the hell out of any doctor or nurse they could get their hands on;
searching for any piece of information available about their friend.
Sometimes one or two of the faces would change, but the concern was the same. These men did not seem to be complete without the missing member, and they would all gather to be near that member when he was hurt. It was as if they could combine their strength to make the other stronger.
Theirs was a relationship that went beyond friendship, family, or love. It was like their souls were connected to each other; they had all experienced lifetime after lifetime within each others' company, and each life kept leading them back together.
And now they waited to hear about the fate of one life.
Chris stood by the window, his eyes seeming to stare out across the busy city street that stood outside, but in truth he saw nothing. His minds' eye could only picture Ezra's pale face, wincing even in his unconscious state from the pain that continued to hound him. He could not understand why Ezra refused to believe that he was seriously ill.
How could he feel so rotten, and yet brush it off as if it were nothing more then a minor inconvenience? Ezra's stubbornness could have cost him his life. And to die from something like a burst appendix just didn't make any sense.
"I'm going to find out what's going on." Vin said, pushing himself up from the couch that he had just sat down on only a minute ago. He had been up and down from the couch, and in and out of the room so many times that Chris had lost count.
"They're not going to tell you anything that they didn't ten minutes ago. Sit down, your making me dizzy." Chris turned from the window and pushed Vin back down onto the couch.
"But Chris, its been almost two hours. What could possibly be taking so long?"
"Brother Vin." Josiah's voice brought all attention to him. Until them he had been sitting quietly in a chair in the corner, his hands clasped together in his lap, and his eyes closed as he silently prayed for their ailing friend. "You'll do him no good by making yourself sick with worry. He is in good hands, and he is a man of amazing spirit and strength. I have every faith in him coming through this just fine."
Chris smiled. Josiah had a way of calming the waters with just a few simple words. "So do I. Now why don't we all just calm down, and wait for the doctor to come to us." He looked pointedly at Vin, who gave a sigh combined of weariness and frustration, and leaned back into the couch, his arms crossed over his chest. Chris sat down beside him, and began the second part of the waiting process.
On one level, he had to agree with Vin. This was the worst part. This long, excruciating waiting. Waiting to hear if Ezra would be alright, or if it had all been too late,....they had been too late. No. He
wasn't going to go there. But, why WAS it so taking so long?
He pushed such thoughts from his mind, knowing that if he allowed them to take control of him, it would drive him mad. He turned his thoughts to a current case, and tried to concentrate on that, but others things kept getting in the way. Little things that no one should really notice, but did anyway.
He could hear the flipping sound of pages turning as JD went through a magazine that he was really not paying any attention to. The sound was deafening in the heavy silence of the room. Buck sat next to him, his head leaned back as he contemplated the ceiling tiles, and he finally had enough of JD's flipping. He grabbed the magazine from the young man's hands and tossed it across the room. JD, undeterred, picked up another magazine and took up the flipping again. Buck shook his head, and turned his attention back to the ceiling again.
Vin continued his impatient sighing, and added to that a nervous little shake of his knee. Chris knew that he was worried, they all were, but out of all of them Vin was the most nervous. His friendship
with Ezra was the biggest surprise out of the forming of the team. Ezra had at first been reluctant to let any of them get close to him, but Vin was never one to back down from a challenge, and Ezra was the biggest challenge that he had ever encountered. But slowly, he managed to break through that 'hard as nails' exterior that Ezra showed the world, and the two had formed a close friendship. Chris knew that if something happened to Ezra, Vin would likely go crazy from grief.
"Excuse me?" A voice cut in through all the jumbled thoughts, and made the men snap to attention.
"I'm looking for," She consulted the paper on her clip board, "Mr. Chris Larabee?"
"That's me." Chris said, standing up.
"Your friend, Mr. Standish is out of surgery. The doctor is finishing post-op. He should be here to talk to you in a minute."
"Do you know how he is?" Chris asked, anxious to hear word of Ezra.
"The surgery went well. I'll let the doctor fill you in on the rest."
She smiled at the men, and left the room, once again leaving them alone to wait.
What seemed like hours, but was actually only a few minutes, passed and a tall man with a head full of white hair and a pair of kind blue eyes entered the waiting room.
"Hello gentlemen," he said, greeting each man with a smile and nod, "I'm Dr. Longbrook. You must be Mr. Standish's friends."
"How is he?" Vin spoke up first. "Can we see him?"
"One question at at time, Mr........?"
"Tanner. Vin Tanner."
"Mr. Tanner. Your friend is doing fine. The surgery went well, and he should make a full recovery." A sigh of relief escaped the mouths of all men in the room. "Right now he is in recovery, but you can see him for a few minutes before we move him to a room. Only one at a time please, we can't have all of you crowding him."
The six men nodded and thanked the doctor. "You go ahead, Vin. I know your dieing to see him."
Vin smiled, and grasped Chris's shoulder for a second before getting up and going to find Ezra.
He knew where he was even before he opened his eyes. The smell alone was enough to tell him. That horrid, tangy smell of disinfectant that no other place on earth held. He hated it. If he wasn't sick already, he was sure that smell would accomplish the task.
The feel of stiff linen was beneath him. One would think that to make a person feel better, they would be given something more comfortable to rest upon, but no. A hard mattress covered with itchy sheets.
Oh joy. He felt so much better. If it wasn't for the dull ache in his stomach, he would be jumping up and down on top of the bed and screaming out his happiness at his current situation.
He always did get a little cynical at these times.
He tried to let himself drift back into the soft world of sleep, knowing that it would be about the only place that would not hurt. If he should open his eyes, he would be sure to see six pairs of anxious eyes staring down at him, asking him questions, talking to him in stern tones for causing yet more fear to their hearts. Well, he was used to that, but he didn't feel like putting up with it at the moment.
What he wanted was more time alone in his own brain to sort out some things. A vague memory of seeing Josiah's face above him, hearing Vin's voice saying his name, telling him to hang on. A tear had escaped Josiah's eye, he could not fathom that. Never in the entire time that he had known the man had he ever seen him cry. He had wanted to tell Josiah not to cry, had wanted to answer Vin's voice as it continued to call him, but he had felt so weak, and his breath would come only in short pants. He took comfort for the mere presence of his friends.
It was a new, and strange word to him. Not even in his years as a child could he remember having anyone that he truly called a friend. Maude had never allowed him to get close to any other child, telling him that he was either to good for them; or, in her more nasty moments, that no one would really like him for himself, so to try to make someone his friend was a useless exercise. He had gone through many years believing just that, until six men with the hardest heads besides his own began to slowly break down the walls that he had built around himself.
Oh, the walls where still there, but they where crumbling a little more everyday. And soon, only old and broken ruins would remain.
Which was good, he thought. He liked to look at old ruins.
A soft smile formed on his lips at the last thought. The drugs he had been given must still be affecting him.
He felt a strong hand grasp onto his and squeeze, as if to tell him that he was not alone, and a voice reached through the haze in his mind.
"Ezra? You awake?"
Chris? He wasn't who Ezra had been expecting to be waiting at his bedside. Vin, yes; or JD or Josiah seemed to always be the ones to sit by him during such times. Chris was around also, but he never remembered him to be the one he first saw.
His eyes opened slowly, blinking away the brightness of the stark, white room, and his gaze swam into focus on the hard lines of Chris Larabee's face.
Chris smiled to finally see Ezra waking up. He had been moved to the room a few hours ago, but had remained asleep. They had all been worried about the length of time that Ezra had been under, but the doctor reassured them that it was not uncommon for a patient to sleep longer than the anesthesia would last. Still, they had stayed by Ezra side the whole time, sometimes in shifts and others all together. They had not wanted Ezra to wake to find himself alone.
"How you feeling?" Chris asked, reaching out to brush a stray strand of hair off Ezra's forehead. His skin felt cool now, a huge difference from the heat that had emanated from him only the day before.
"Like a useless appendage exploded inside of me," Ezra croaked out. His dry tongue reached out to run over equally dry lips. Chris, in his uncanny way, seemed to know what he wanted, and put a straw to his lips. Ezra sipped, feeling the cool water enter his mouth, and slide down his throat. It felt wonderful. "Thank you," he said, sliding down onto the stiff pillows behind his head. "Where are the others?"
"Vin should be here soon, he went home to change. Nathan and Josiah had to go to the office, seems one of our cases broke all on its own and they went to finish off some of the paper work. Buck and JD are probably still asleep down in the lobby. Want me to get them?"
Ezra shook his head, closing his eyes again. "No. Not right now. I'm too tired to put up Mr. Dunne's enthusiasm at the moment. Maybe later."
A yawn that he could not hide spread over his mouth.
"Alright," Chris said, and Ezra heard him sigh. It usually meant that he wanted to say something, but didn't want to bother Ezra at the moment when he felt as he did.
"If you've something to say, Chris, please do so. I don't know if you will get another chance later."
"Ezra, why did you refuse to let us help you? You where sick, you could have died."
Ezra opened his eyes again to look into the steel blue ones that usually appeared so distant, yet now where filled with compassion and concern. It made a great difference on Chris's face, taking away so
many years from him. He was a lot younger then Ezra had initially thought upon first meeting him. It was the pain and hardship that he had gone through that made him appear so much older.
"I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment." Ezra tried to joke his way out of the conversation, but the look in Chris's eyes told him that it would not work. Not this time. "I didn't think it was serious. I rarely get sick, and when I do its hardly enough to get worried over."
Chris fought the urge to slap some sense upside Ezra's head. Not enough to worry over? Who was he kidding? From the day they met Ezra had been giving Chris too much to worry over. The agent was a maverick. Took too many chances. It was enough to make his hair turn gray.
"I want you to promise me, that whenever you feel sick or hurt that you will tell me, or Vin, or any of the others. I wouldn't want any of you to go through something like this, and I know that you wouldn't want me to either. We're a team. We stick together, look out for each other. When are you
going to accept that?"
He meant for his words to sound stern, but he could not keep the relieved smile from entering his voice.
"Force of habit." Ezra's voice became soft and distant again as the sleepy haze came down over his mind again.
Chris smiled as he watched Ezra fall asleep again. He shook his head, and pulled the blanket up to the young agent's chin. "A habit that I will break you of. If its the last thing I do."
Chris leaned back in his chair again to wait for Ezra to wake. They would have plenty of time to talk, all of them. Ezra would have to listen; and, sooner or later, believe.
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