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After... Mag7, ATF AU, Gen (3/3)


Title: After
Characters: Ezra and Buck, as well as all the others
Warnings: Big time language (sorry), reliving of violent times, major angst
Summary:  This is the next installment in the story arc started in Gone Wrong.  If you haven't read that one first, I suggest that you do (otherwise, you might get a little lost).  After the events of Gone Wrong, Ezra's life, and that of the rest of the guys, starts on the road back to normal.  But things aren't as happy as they seem.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“JD, where’s Buck this morning?” Josiah asked as JD got to his desk and started up his computer.

 

“He was running way behind. He got in wicked late last night and went right to bed. I didn’t ask, cuz he woulda given me the details. There’s only so much of that you can take at 7AM.” JD replied, sipping on his early morning coke.

 

Josiah glanced at Buck’s empty desk before looking at Ezra’s. Had Buck gone to Ezra’s last night? Maybe. Lost in his own thoughts, he caught Nathan’s concerned expression out of the corner of his eye. Looking directly at the healer, he answered the unasked question with a slight headshake saying, no nothing was wrong. He hoped.

 

Buck strode to his desk twenty minutes after JD had arrived. It wasn’t uncommon for the two of them to take separate vehicles, but at the same time, there was a weird tension about the tall mustached man this morning. “Boys,” Buck said as he took his seat. He nodded slightly to Josiah and smiled. 

 

“Buck,” Josiah said in greeting, accompanied by Nathan’s ‘good morning’ and Vin’s nod. Josiah watched the man carefully. Buck looked tired, but hid it well. He also looked tense. What had gone on between the two men last night?

 

Within the hour, the seventh man entered the office, looking as normal as ever. It was only when Josiah was scrutinizing Ezra he could see the same weariness and tension that Buck had shown. Josiah watched Ezra and Buck greet each other with somewhat sad smiles and ducked heads. Both men seemed determined to not look at each other. Josiah smiled to himself. Maybe both of these men were starting on the right road. Then again…

 

*******

 

Josiah entered Chris’s office without knocking. Shutting the door behind him, he strode over to the front of Chris’s desk. 

 

Chris had looked up as soon as Josiah had entered. From the look on the preacher’s face, he knew something was up. Exactly what, he wasn’t sure, but he figured it had to do with their undercover agent.

 

“What’s up Josiah?”

 

“I know you said not to push, and I know you said not to preach, but I can’t help but think that Ezra is hiding something from us. And I think that whatever it is, he let Buck in on it.” There was no accusation in his voice, just concern for his brothers.

 

“Ok?” Chris was confused.

 

Josiah sat in one of the two seats in front of Chris’s desk.  “Chris, I’ve been watching the two of them this morning. I have never seen those two try harder to make it look like something wasn’t bothering them; both of them. I talked with Buck yesterday and told him that he and Ezra could help each other to heal, but now I wonder if the problem hasn’t been compounded a bit.” He took a long breath and blew it out. 

 

“It could be nothing, you know,” Chris said.

 

“I know. And I know I don’t have the gut instincts that Vin does, but still, I wanted to put my concerns out there for you to think about.”

 

“Are you worried about them? About how they’ll perform their jobs?”  Chris was trying to understand what it was that was eating Josiah. “Are you worried about the safety of them being on active duty?” 

 

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about them. Both of them. I know they would never endanger anyone on this team, and I know that they would seek help if they truly felt that they needed it.”

 

“But?”

 

“But I don’t think they know that they need it.”

 

“Jesus Josiah, what are you saying?” Chris asked, exasperated. He was sick of all the dancing around. Someone just say what they needed!

 

“As the leader of this team Chris, I think you need to know that we’re still reeling from this.”

 

“You think I don’t know?” Chris almost snapped.  “So far, I’ve had Vin tell me Ezra isn’t all put together, Buck tell me he isn’t ready for Ezra to be back at work, and Ezra is too bull headed to let anyone care. I’m losing sleep over this myself, Josiah. And unless Ezra says he needs or wants help, our hands are tied. He passed the psych eval, and was cleared for duty.”

 

“You know as well as I do Chris that he could pass a psych eval without batting an eye,” the profiler argued.

 

“I know that Josiah. But he has to work it out in his own right. We’ll be here for him, but we can’t force him into anything unless we feel that he poses a danger to himself or others, or unless he flat out asks for help. What do you want me to do?”

 

“Watch him. Talk to him. He listens to you Chris. He might give you a heap of shit about it, but he listens to you more than anyone else.” Josiah stood and headed for the door.

 

Chris blew out a long breath. He knew Josiah was right; they would be reeling from this for a long while. And he knew Ezra was having trouble with the whole ordeal; the man had told him so. He hoped that Buck hadn’t riled the southerner and caused him to regress into the state of withdrawal and moodiness he had been in for the weeks after the incident. One way to find out, he mused.

 

“Ezra!” Chris barked from his office.

 

*******

 

“You bellowed?” Ezra asked as he sauntered into Chris’s office. 

 

“I did. Shut the door.”

 

Ezra shot Chris an inquisitive look, then complied with the request. Turning back around, Chris gestured to one of the empty seats in front of his desk. 

 

Wincing his eyes and sitting where directed, the Southerner looked for any clue from his leader of what was coming. As Ezra sat, the blond man rubbed his eyes and scrubbed his hands over his face.

 

“Something wrong?” Ezra asked, perplexed.

 

Chris dropped his hands palm down onto his desk. Locking eyes with the Southerner, he said, “You tell me.”

 

Quirking a half smile, Ezra honestly answered, “I don’t understand.”

 

Chris stood, blowing out a breath and turned towards the window, arms crossed over his chest. He stared at the city buildings that filled the landscape. “Ezra, I know this isn’t easy for you.” He paused.

 

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about Chris.”

 

Chris turned slightly and looked at his undercover agent. Ezra’s face held the confusion he was feeling. He turned the rest of the way around and came around the front of his desk. Leaning against the desk, he faced Ezra directly.

 

“If you can’t handle this yet, I understand.”

 

The meaning of the conversation dawned on Ezra. “You think I’m not ready to be here?” he asked carefully. His voice held no emotion. 

 

“I am asking you, right here and now, if you’re ready to be back.”

 

Ezra just looked at him, feeling blindsided by the question. After a moment of dumb silence, he managed to get out “What makes you think I would come back before I was ready?”

 

Chris crossed the room to sit in the other empty chair that faced his desk. He twisted in the chair facing the southerner. “Ezra, I need to know.”

 

“Of course I’m fine to be back. It says so in your files.”

 

“You know I don’t put all my faith in what the files say.” Chris’s gaze was unwavering.

 

“Are you doubting me?” Ezra asked, incredulously.

 

“Never.”

 

“Are you worried I’ll put someone in danger?” the southerner fished.

 

The slightest pause was the giveaway. “No,” Chris said forcefully.

 

“Chris, I read people for a living. That’s exactly what you’re thinking.” Ezra sighed loudly. “And if it isn’t you, then it’s someone else on the team thinking it. Who is it, Nathan? Vin? Maybe Josiah?” He eyed the blond skeptically.

 

“Ezra, if you’re not 100%...”

 

“You know I’m not fucking 100%,” Ezra countered, keeping his voice even, controlling the urge to yell. There had been enough yelling last night. “And I may not be for a while yet.”

 

“Fair enough,” Chris said. He took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. 

 

“We done?” Ezra asked, a half smile again playing on his face.

 

“For now,” Chris nodded. 

 

Ezra got up and turned towards the door.

 

“Ezra,” Chris waited until he had the other man’s attention. “None of us doubt you or your abilities. We just want to make sure you take care of you.”

 

“I always do.” Ezra smiled and turned back to the door. Resting his hand on the doorknob, he looked back at Chris. “I may be fucked up lately Chris, but I am still capable of doing my job.” His smiled didn’t falter. After a moment he added, “I may put myself in danger, but I would never do anything to put anyone in a bad position.”  I would quit if I had to, just to keep them safe, he thought to himself.

 

Chris nodded and Ezra left the office, closing the door behind him. His gaze returned to the window, and he spoke to the empty room, “I know.”

 

 

*******

 

Half an hour after Ezra left Chris’s office, the blond strode through his door into the bullpen. Never actually stopping, he announced “Gear up, Nine’s rolling on the shiners.”

 

They were in motion.

 

*******

 

Chris had to hand it to them, Team Nine ran a smooth operation. But then, Karl Morgan, leader of Team Nine, had a good team backing him. The moonshiner was spewing off some rather unpleasant sounding threats as he was led off to an awaiting cruiser. His three sons had attempted to run off into the woods. Doug Mason of Team Nine halted the escape of two of the brothers, who gave up fairly easy, while Ezra pursued the third man.

 

Chris shook his head as he looked to where his undercover agent had been. Ezra’s guy was a little more determined than Doug’s.

 

And fast.

 

*******

 

Why do I always get the ones who run? Ezra thought while he chased the fleeing son of the moonshiner. More like a son of a bitch.

 

“Fucking track star,” Ezra muttered as he panted, moving at a full out run. “You’re making this worse for yourself!” he yelled up to the sprinter.

 

And for whatever reason, the runner turned his head back towards the southerner… and proceeded to trip over debris on the forest floor. A spectacular wipeout followed, creating a mass of arms, legs, twigs and leaves. The moonshiner lay unmoving once he came to rest. Ezra caught up to the heavily panting body as it groaned in pain.

 

Smiling to himself, he said, “You do know you’re under arrest?” Taking advantage of the suspect’s daze, he rolled the downed man onto his stomach, and swiftly cuffed his wrists behind his back. “You gotta work on your dismount my friend. Let’s go.”

 

Ezra wasn't taking any chances as he walked the cuffed man back to the vehicles, holding tightly to the man’s shackled hands. One could never be too sure if he would turn rabbit again.  

 

His chest scar pulled slightly and ached, reminding him that he still had a way to go to being fully healed. The man, whose named turned out to be Frank, still seemed a bit dazed as they made their way back through the copse of trees. Didn’t stop him from telling Ezra exactly what he thought of the ATF.

 

“Fucking ATF!” Frank muttered loud enough for Ezra to hear. He stopped walking and turned to face the agent. “We’re brewing the hooch for ourselves.”

 

“With a five hundred liter still?” Ezra asked sarcastically. “I don’t think so. Keep moving.” He turned Frank in their original direction.

 

“Well…” Frank tried.

 

“No.” Ezra punctuated his reply with a gentle shove forward.

 

Frank huffed. “You think you’re so slick…”

 

Hey Slick… you alright?

 

Ezra stopped mid-stride pulling Frank to a halt beside him. Buck? “What?”

 

Frank turned, his face a question. “What?”

 

“What did you just say?”

 

“I didn’t say anything.” Frank was truly confused.

 

Ezra’s head was light. Buck’s face, a mask of worry, danced through his mind. And what was that smell? Blood? Or was it his own fear?

 

Sensing the agent's confusion, Frank looked like he was thinking of bolting. Ezra placed a hand on Frank’s arm and snapped, “You run, and I will shoot you.” The man's eyes widened in fear at the tone. He nodded once at his captor to show he understood.

 

Ezra slowly shook his head to clear it. Once back in the moment, he directed Frank to keep walking.

 

What the fuck was that? Ezra thought once the momentary flash of panic passed. 

 

Before he had time to consider that thought more fully, he and Frank entered the clearing where the vehicles and the rest of the two ATF teams were cleaning up the operation. 

 

“Doug?” Ezra barked. The other agent was deep in conversation with Josiah, flailing with his arms as he spoke. Undoubtedly reliving his apprehension of the two brothers. 

 

Doug Mason turned when his name was called. “Yeah?”

 

“Will you please take this gentleman and reunite him with his kin?” Ezra pushed Frank towards the other agent, trusting that Frank wouldn’t be running with that offer to shoot him still fresh in his mind.

 

“You alright Ezra?” Josiah asked from nearby.

 

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” he smiled at the profiler. I think.

 

He looked across the clearing and smiled as he caught the questioning eye of his leader.

 

*******

 

Standing next to Karl Morgan, Chris surveyed his surroundings. With the bust more or less complete, cleanup duty had begun. The still had to be dismantled, as was protocol, but much to Buck’s dismay (and to a lesser extent, Vin’s and JD’s), they would not be blowing it up. Josiah was over talking to Doug Mason, who was animatedly recounting for the profiler how he had corralled the two men he just assisted into a waiting cruiser. 

 

Nathan was walking towards Josiah, and Buck, Vin and JD were still discussing the merits of blowing up the still as opposed to just dismantling it… so where was Ezra? Dammit, where had he gone off to?

 

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind did Ezra come into the clearing with the third son of the moonshiner. Ezra said something Chris couldn’t hear, and handed the shackled man off to Doug Mason, who continued ferrying him towards the cruisers where his brothers and father waited. Chris heard Josiah’s deep rumble of a voice, but couldn’t make out the words. Ezra replied with a smile.

 

Looking back across the clearing towards a questioning Chris, Ezra opened his arms in a gesture of a question: What do you think?

 

Chris held Ezra’s gaze, trying to read the his state. He nodded once at his agent. 

 

A curt nod from the southerner in reply told Chris what he wanted to know. Ezra was fine.

 

~End~ 

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ithildyn
Jun. 28th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
Great story! Really enjoyed it.
winks7985
Jun. 28th, 2009 05:21 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm so glad!!

:D
ex_egorstan
Jun. 28th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
Absolutely awesome! And so much woey!

A wonderful distraction to a lousy afternoon.
winks7985
Jun. 28th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
i'm sorry you were having a lousy afternoon, but i am glad that this distracted you from it!

and thank you for listening to me blather on about this for many months...

*squish*
tpena19
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC)
Ooh! i can see so much potential for story 3! flashback was cool. i like how Ez is trying to fool himself that he's fine just as much as he's trying to avoid pity/behavior from the others. wonder what would happen of he confronted a perp with a knife? and wouldn't now be like the worst time ever for a visit from "appearences are everything" maude?
winks7985
Jun. 28th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
i do have something planned for part three involving a knife. and that's all i will say about that. :D

and i think even ezra is realizing he can't just sweep this under the rug and go on like it never happened.

thanks so much for the comments!!
strangevisitor7
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)
You know how much I liked this fic but I thought I'd make it official. I love the scene between Chris and VIn discussing Ezra's first morning back.

I think the fact that Ezra is not alright is very realistic. You done good!!
winks7985
Jun. 28th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
i love that scene too!

vin POV is so much fun.

and yeah, ezra is not all right at all. and probably won't be for a while... *pets ezra*

and thank you again so much for all your help. you are the best!
romanse1
Jun. 28th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
A curt nod from the southerner in reply told Chris what he wanted to know. Ezra was fine.

LOL - oh yeah, that's what he thinks!! Your loyal readers know waaay better than that!!! : )

Ok, so just how much shameless begging do you require in order to get the muses started on that next story? Hands and knees begging? I'll do it!

Thank you so very much for a wonderful, entertaining morning! I really appreciate it. I loved every word of this masterfully told tale of angst, brotherhood and healing. The story was written by a true Angst goddess Supreme and I can't stop telling you how GLAD we are to have you in the Mag7 fandom!!!!
winks7985
Jun. 28th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
aww... shucks... you're making me blush! and grin like a goober!

i have some of the third one mapped out. so it is definitely coming. i think i need to write a happy one first (maybe with a certain kitten), just cuz.

this did take a lot out of me to write. some of the scenes drained me.

so yes, ezra is not fine. he's trying to make it look like he is fine, trying to convey that he is as normal as ever, but he is going to have to face that some things will never be the same.

angst goddess supreme !! heee!! love that.

i am glad to be in this fandom... you guys are great. :D

thanks for all the comments!
vcg73
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
Excellent story! The first one wasn't my cup of tea, too much torture makes me feel squicky, but I was glad when Ezra opened up about how he was feeling to his team afterward, and this is a perfect follow-up. It was good to see everyone acting sensitive to what Ezra needed without being pushy or overbearing about it, and to see how much Ezra recognized and appreciated their efforts (and the opportunity to tease them).

I really like how you've given us a glimpse into the torment that Chris, Nathan, Buck and the others are going through because of "the Incident" as well. The scene between Ezra and Nathan in the men's room made me feel a little choked up. We just never get to see Nathan expressing his feelings about all the pain his friends go through, and you know he must! Buck's confrontation with Ezra was cathartic for both of them if not completely healing yet, and it's good that they each understand more about what the other is feeling.

I am intruigued by the PTSS flashbacks Ezra is starting to experience, and looking forward to seeing where you go next.
winks7985
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
i'm so glad you like it!

i really did want to do a follow up where it would show how all of the team, including buck and ezra, was affected by the "incident".

and i wanted to have a nathan scene with ezra, where we could glimpse into nathan's tthoughs, because i do agree: nathan must feel ripped up about his friends' injuries sometimes. i am quite fond of that scene :)

as well as the buck/ezra cathartic scene.

ahh, yes. the flashbacks. those will be visited again :D

again, i am so glad you liked it, and thanks for the comments!
gemspegasus
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
Hi,

Just caught up with this fabulous tale. It is superb. I love how charaterization of all the boys. Loved the Buck and Ezra scene which was excellent...It was nice to get a peek into Nathan's thoughts too... Loooved it muchly. More soon please.

Also thanks for all the squirrel love. :)

Am looking forward to the squirrel fic too.

take care
hugs
Angela
winks7985
Jul. 10th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
thanks!

i enjoyed writing this one. it took a while to get through (writing it since december!), and i am sooooo pleased with the finished product.

i am quite proud of the buck and ezra scene. i couldn't say where it came from, but i will tell you that i ended up almost yelling at myself in my kitchen while i wrote it, to make sure it sounded right. people must think i am crazy as a loon. :)

and i am also extremely happy with the nathan bit. i always feel like i have a problem writing him, just cuz i don't always know what to do with him, but this worked out better than i had hoped. you know it has to rip him up inside when his friends are hurting. i'm glad that came through.

and there is always room for squirrel love! and the squirrel fic is done (the draft anyway) and sent off to the beta, so we'll see when that gets posted. it's kind of silly, kind of serious. i think it came out pretty good.

and yes, there should be more fic soon. i feel like i am on a roll. :D

thanks for the comments!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
People spend thousands of dollars on therapy; I just beat shit with a hammer.

~~~~~~~

Monsters do exist. Ghosts too. They live inside us and sometimes they win.
~Stephen King

~~~~~~~

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self...
~Cyril Connolly

>^..^<

Oh! An Irishman's heart is as stout as shillelagh,

It beats with delight to chase sorrow and woe;

When the piper plays up, then it dances gaily,

And thumps with a whack to leather a foe.

~~~~~~~

"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MONTRESOR!"

"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"

~The Cask of Amontillado


ezra

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