By Sarah (winks7985)


Part 3


How did I miss it? Josiah asked himself.  Some profiler I am.


Buck had been easy.  He had seen a psychologist after the warehouse incident, and he seemed to be on the mend.  Josiah knew Buck was still seeing the doctor once every other week, unbeknownst to the rest of the team. 


Ezra…  Well, Ezra had been more difficult.  But that was the man’s nature when it came to talking about himself.  Only when an issue was ‘safe’ to discuss would he bring up.  And “safe” in Ezra’s mind could mean anything.  And even then, there was never anything truly personal discussed during those rare conversations.  Like the Atlanta thing… Ezra had laid out the facts, plain and simple, but never offered his own personal thoughts about those facts.  And those plain and simple facts were only brought to light if Ezra were asked directly.


Ezra had seen the department shrink, same as Buck.  Buck had wanted to continue the counseling, but Ezra had discontinued his visits as soon as he’d reached the mandatory number of sessions.  He insisted he was fine and appeared to have gotten things under control fairly quickly.  Control.  That was his game.


But if things were not as well as they appeared, the southerner never let on.  The sheer amount of energy he must have put into making his day seem so normal to everyone around him would have to be astounding.  Josiah shook his head.  It would be like being undercover 24 hours a day every day.  The stress would have taken its toll, slowly eating at the insides of the man.  And they had all sat there, blissful in their ignorance.  Fooled.  Conned.  Ezra was the best at what he did, but he should never have to be that way around them.  Why he thought he had to be


Vin looked to the restroom door again.  It had been five minutes since he last looked at his watch.  He ran his hand up through his hair.  “Fuck this,” he said as he stood.  He walked purposefully towards the back of the bar and entered the men’s room.


The rest sat at the table, waiting.  They were not about to crowd the southerner, not now. 


“So, how do we fix this?” asked Chris.  He was directing his question at all of them, but looking at Josiah specifically.


Josiah was about to admit that he didn’t know, but Vin came stalking back up to the table quickly.  “He’s gone.”


“Gone?” asked Nathan.


“Gone.”  Vin was shrugging into his jacket as he spoke.  “I’m going after him.”


“Vin wait.  We’ll all go,” Chris ordered. 


“Where would he go?” asked JD.  “He left his jacket, keys, and his wallet here.”  JD had searched the jacket hanging on the back of the chair and found Ezra’s wallet in its customary inner breast pocket.  He held it up to illustrate his findings.  “Damn, it’s a cold night too,” he muttered as he replaced the wallet and shrugged into his own coat.

“Then he’s walking,” said Buck, grabbing Ezra’s effects as he readied himself to depart with the others. 


“Split up and head out,” Chris ordered.  “Call if you find him.  He can’t have gotten far.” 


Chris and Vin strode out the front door and towards Chris’s truck, with Buck and JD heading for Buck’s truck, and Nathan and Josiah each heading for their own vehicle.


Let’s hope he didn’t get too much of a head start, Josiah thought to himself.




Ezra had no set direction as he walked into the night.  His mind was reeling. 


Flash to the warehouse.


Flash to the moonshiner.


Flash to the Saloon.


He shook his head, as if in doing so he could rid himself of the garish images.


Flash to Bull Holland.


Flash to Mendez.






The subtle sound that fabric makes when sliced.


His head spun. 


His back burned.


His chest ached.






He staggered in his path, treading heavily on the sidewalk.  He veered to the left and heaved into someone’s bushes.  Azaleas.  How unpleasant. 


Get a hold of yourself!  You’ll be arrested for public drunkenness the way you’re moving about!


But he wasn’t drunk.  Or was he?  He would be the first to admit that he hadn’t been eating very much at all lately, and he sure as hell hadn’t been sleeping much.  And what little sleep he’d gotten was riddled with nightmares and restlessness.  He had what, two glasses of beer?  Or was it three?  No, he had spilled the third…

He bent in half as his gut twisted and his stomach tried to heave, but there was nothing left.  He spit into the dirt and pulled himself upright.  He trudged on.




The sun had finished its descent, but tendrils of colored remnants were still yet to be chased away from the sky… purples and touches of pink continued in their race for the horizon.  Looking up at the street sign for the first time since his trek began, Ezra took in his surroundings.  It was a residential area, trees lined the streets and houses sat cheerily, their lights just starting to come on as the daylight continued to fade from the sky.  Focusing on the street name and taking several deep breaths, he took a left.  He didn’t know why, but at least he now had a destination in mind.




He turned onto the pathway that led up to the front door.  He had one of his arms wrapped protectively around his midsection, fending off the ghosts that assailed him – trying to alleviate the burning he knew he shouldn’t feel, but did.


His feet shuffled along the pavement more than stepped.  He must have covered several miles at this point.  The chill in the air did nothing to perk up his muddled mind.  For the first time since he left the bar, he realized he didn’t have his coat; he wished for it – if not to rid himself of this chill then to just hold it around himself as a security.


He climbed the two slate stone steps and stood on the small porch at the front door.  He looked through the screen storm door at the dark green main door.  An oval window with a decorative glass pattern obscured what lay within, but it shone like a chandelier with the light from inside.  He took two deep breaths, blowing each out slowly through his nose.  He opened the screen door and rapped his knuckles on the dark green paint.  Retracting his hands, he wrapped both of his arms around himself, now fully realizing how chilly he was becoming.


The porch light was flicked on from somewhere inside before the door opened.  Guests hadn’t been expected at this hour. 


He didn’t raise his eyes as the door opened, hugging himself tighter and shaking.


“Ezra?” the feminine voice asked.  “What are you doing here?”  Rain opened the screen door for her friend and got a look at him.  He didn’t say anything.  He didn’t even look at her.  His eyes were fixed down and away, as though the dying bushes flanking the small porch deserved his full attention.


“Ezra are you all right?”  She stepped out onto the porch and put her hand on his arm.  He flinched away, keeping his eyes down; then settled as she came closer, the screen door clicking shut behind her. 




Rain didn’t know what ailed her friend, but he was scaring her.  He was unresponsive to her voice and jerked away from her touch.  She reached for his face, laying a gentle hand along his cheek.  When he didn’t jerk away, she brought her other hand to his face, turning him so he faced her and bringing his eyes up to meet hers. 

“Ezra?” she tried again.




She waited for him to continue, but he didn’t.  He let his gaze fall from her eyes.  She could feel him shake.


“Ezra, come on.  Let’s go inside.  I’ll get you some tea.  All right?” she asked and stooped down a little to make eye contact. 


After a long moment where Rain thought she might be wholly refused, Ezra gave a near-imperceptible nod of agreement. 


“Yes?  Ok.”  She smiled comfortingly.  She gently took one of his hands that still protected his body.  Her long fingers held his in a feather-light touch; enough to guide, but not enough to control or push.


She led him inside and closed the door behind them.  She steered him across the hardwood floors and over to the sofa.  Settling him down, she grabbed the hand-made quilt off the back of the cushions and draped it around his shoulders.  His hands jutted out to grab the edges and wrap himself tightly in it. 


He wrapped himself in the comfort and weight of the quilt and sighed appreciatively.


“I’ll be right back,” she said softly to him and turned towards the kitchen to make him some tea, grabbing the cordless phone off its base as she hurried away.




Nathan turned down another side street, hoping to catch a glimpse of their elusive teammate.  So far, he was having shit luck.


His phone started to ring and he grabbed it off his belt and answered it without looking at the caller ID, his eyes still scanning his surroundings. 




“Hey,” Rain’s voice answered.  “What are you doing right now?”


“Hey,” he answered back, his voice softening.  He sighed.  “Well, I’m kind of in the middle of something actually.  Can I call you back?”


“Sure,” she said.  “I just wanted to let you know that Ezra just showed up on our doorstep looking like shit.”


Nathan slammed on his brakes and pulled over.  Putting the truck in park, he said, “Say that again?”


“I said that Ezra just showed up on our doorstep looking like shit.”  She was obviously trying to keep her voice down, yet speak loudly enough so that Nathan would hear her clearly. 


Nathan blew out a long breath of relief.  “Oh man, you have no idea how good that is to hear.  We’ve been looking for him for almost an hour.”


“Nathan, what’s going on?”


“I don’t know.  Can you keep him there?”


“Well, yeah.  He’s kind of zoning out on the couch.  I wrapped him in the quilt and he was shaking.  I’m making him some tea.”


“I’ll be there as soon as I can.  It’ll be a little while though,” he looked at his watch, “I’m clear on the other side of Denver.”  He paused.  “How did he end up there?”


“I think he walked.”  She leaned back from where she was preparing the tea on the counter and looked into the living room at her late-night guest.  Ezra sat in the same position she had left him in.  “I’m worried Nathan.  He’s not ok.”


“I know.”  He dragged his hand down his weary face.  Trust me, I know.


“I’ll take care of him.  Take your time coming home; I don’t think he’s going anywhere.  He looks exhausted.”  She paused, considering.  “Don’t bring the rest of the guys,” she said.  “I don’t think he can handle it.”


“Right,” he said, agreeing.  “I’ll call them.  I’ll be home soon.  Call me if anything changes.”


“All right.”


“I love you.”


“I love you too.”


Nathan disconnected the line.  He took a deep breath and blew it out.  He put the phone down on the console, and then rested both hands on the steering wheel.  In a sudden moment of rage and frustration, he pounded on the steering wheel with both hands, then shook it as though strangling it. 


His friend was falling apart.


His anger sated for the moment, he took a couple of cleansing breaths and picked up his phone again.


He immediately called Chris.




“Chris, he’s at my house…”




Rain came back into the living room carrying a mug of tea in each hand, the cordless phone tucked into her back pocket.


“Here,” she said softly, announcing her presence before Ezra saw her.  She came around the couch and placed the mug on the coffee table and sat on the nearby loveseat, her own mug still in her hands, careful not to crowd the southerner.  He still looked like a scared animal, but there was at least recognition in his eyes now.

Ezra stared at the steaming mug in front of him on the table.  He pulled himself forward, unfurling his cocoon and resting his elbows on his knees.  He reached for the mug with both hands.


Rain could see the tremor in his hands, even though the shaking seemed less now than what it had been on the porch.


He pulled the mug to his lap, enjoying the warmth in his hands.  He took a tentative sip of it and sighed. 


Rain sat patiently and waited. 


“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.


She hadn’t expected him to speak, assuming he would feel more comfortable when Nathan arrived.  She sat cross-legged on the loveseat, her hands in her lap. 


“I shouldn’t have disturbed your evening,” he said, taking a tentative sip of the tea.


“You didn’t disturb me Ezra,” she answered.  She leaned forward and put her mug on the table, then sat back. 


He nodded in acceptance.  “I just didn’t know… where to go.  I didn’t even know where I was headed.”  He put his own mug down on the coffee table. 


“But you’re here now,” she said softly.  “You’re always welcome here.  No matter the time of day.”


He sighed audibly.  A sound of frustration more than of relief.


“Ezra, when was the last time you slept?” she asked, concerned.


He shook his head once in answer.


“And eating?  You’re having trouble with that too?” her soft voice was gentle.


He looked up at her, a question on his face.


“You’re losing weight,” she said knowingly.  “And don’t take this too badly, but honey you look like shit.”  Her smile softened the words.


He chuckled quietly to himself and rubbed his hand through his hair.


“Nathan’s been worried about you.”


“I know,” he answered quietly.


“I can see why now.”  She paused.  “How long has this been going on?” she prodded.


He dropped his gaze and sat back into the couch cushions, fingering the edge of the quilt that still draped over part of his leg.  “I don’t even know.”




“I don’t even know what day it is half the time.  They all seem to blend together,” he waved his hand dismissively.  “I can’t…” he began, then rubbed his hands down his tired face.  “I can’t keep doing this.”


“Doing what?” she asked softly.


He looked at her with sad tired eyes.  “Pretending I’m fine.”


She nodded.


“I don’t want to burden you with this,” he balked.


“You are not a burden.  You are never a burden.  Please,” she said, leaning forward and laying a hand on his knee in support.  He didn’t jerk away, but looked down at it.  She pulled it back slowly, understanding his need for space.


“I can’t sleep.”  He breathed out slowly and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.  “I can’t sleep because I see… it.  I can’t eat… it just comes back up.  This thing… it’s killing me.”


She sat silently.


“I’m destroying myself,” he said quietly, wincing.  “I’m destroying the team.”


She took a breath to respond, but he continued before she had a chance to speak.


“I’m going to die.  If I can’t fix this, I am going to die.  Or, God forbid, I am going to get someone killed.  If that happens, I just…” he sighed, almost sounding like a shallow sob.  “This is consuming me.”  He looked up to her with the pain so plainly written on his face.  “I need to not feel like this anymore…”  When someone touches me, when someone says something.


“I’ll help you Ezra.  We’ll all help you.”


“I don’t want you all to help me.  I don’t want to be saved; I don’t want to be fixed.  I just don’t want to feel like this anymore.  I don’t want to be the burden.”


“Ezra, I told you—“


“I know.  But I know how it will feel.  I don’t have many friends Rain.  I don’t want to put them through this with me.  I don’t want to push them away when they try.”


“Ok, Ezra,” she said, nodding. 


He smiled and half chuckled.  “I can see it happening.  I can take a step back and look at myself and I can see what’s happening to me.  I can’t stop it.  I can only watch with morbid fascination.  It’s becoming a pattern of behavior.”


She shifted in her seat and laid her hand on his knee again. 


“I can’t stop being so angry,” he said, his voice cracking on the last word.  “Nothing I do… will sate this hatred.  It eats at me, day in and day out.”  He inhaled deeply through his nose, keeping himself in check.  “I feel it winning.”


“You’re strong,” she said, squeezing his knee.


He paused in consideration, then looked at her directly.  “How can you say that?” he asked disbelievingly.


She took her hand back and looked at him seriously.  “Because I know it to be true.  I wouldn’t lie to you.  You know that.  I wouldn’t say something just to make you feel better.”


Ezra considered it.  No, she wouldn’t placate anyone.  Not even Nathan.


He ran both hands down his face again.  He rested his forehead on both of his palms, his elbows on his knees.  His fingers entangled themselves on the longer parts of his hair.  He blew out a long breath.  “What do I do?” he asked in a whisper, not moving from his position.


She moved to the sofa to sit next to him.  He stiffened when he felt the couch dip with the added weight. 


Rain gently slid her arm over his shoulders and rested her head on his shoulder.  She wrapped her other arm loosely around the front of him, holding him.  He slowly brought his hands down from his face and leaned into her, his head resting on hers and his arms curling and holding onto the one in front of him.  After a moment, he shifted and turned to face her, returning the embrace properly. 


And she held him.


They sat like that, not moving except for a slight rocking motion Rain had taken up, much like a grandmother soothing a distraught child. 


Headlights shone through the bay window, signifying that Nathan had returned.  Rain squeezed Ezra gently, intending to go and unlock the door for him. 


Ezra gripped her equally as gently, then spoke quietly.  “Please,” he said softly, desperately.  “Please don’t let go.”


Rain’s breath caught in her throat at the pleading tone.  “I won’t,” she said, her voice breaking.


She continued to hold him as Nathan came through the front door using his key.




PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 4 / PART 5




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