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Notes: Thanks to Kathy for beta reading this before posting.
Ezra and JD stood on the sidewalk and looked in the window of the clothing store. The undercover agent made moves to continue on his way but stopped when the youngster put a hand on his arm.
JD turned to his companion quickly and pointed to a t-shirt that had attracted his attention. "How about that, Ez? What's wrong with that one?" the kid asked in exasperation, having asked the same question at each store that they had visited that morning.
The undercover agent stood with his head on one side while studying the item that his young friend was pointing to. "What's right with it? If I were a hillbilly it might be just dandy, but a gentleman of sophistication wouldn't be seen dead in it."
"Well, I ain't asking you to buy it, am I? I'm looking for clothes that'd suit me, and I like it, so I'm gonna buy it," JD said indignantly.
"I rest my case, hillbilly," Ezra retorted smugly.
JD scowled and stood with his hands on his hips challengingly. "I'm gonna buy it right now. You comin'?"
Ezra shook his head vehemently at the prospect of setting foot inside such a place. "Not likely. I'll remain here, thank you. This establishment isn't the sort of emporium that I would frequent, even if it were the last place on this planet."
"Suit yerself," JD grumbled.
The youngster headed inside while Ezra perused, with obvious distaste, the selection of clothes on display in the window. JD, meanwhile, collected the highly-colored t-shirt that he wished to purchase and went to the cash register. He smiled at the assistant and handed over his money eagerly.
Ezra could see his enthusiastic friend inside and he watched his movements distractedly, wishing that he'd hurry up. The undercover agent wanted to leave the vicinity of the store before anyone he knew saw him there. It turned out that being seen there was going to be the least of his worries.
The undercover agent heard a noise behind him and his gaze focused curiously on a reflection in the window. His heart seemed to stop beating as he watched with morbid fascination as events unfolded to his rear in seeming slow motion.
JD heard the sound of a racing motor and he turned just as the store window shattered. The tiny pieces of glass flew through the air like sparkling, but deadly, diamonds as the light reflected off them beautifully. Through the shower of glass a vehicle suddenly appeared, coming to a halt with its hood just inside the store. JD's gaze, though, had followed another object's journey. Ezra's body landed with an almighty thud in amongst the shattered glass and clothing mannequins that had once constituted the display window. Luckily, the injured man was thrown just in front of the vehicle and not crushed beneath it.
"Shit! Ezra? Oh, Jesus," JD yelled in fear as his blood seemed to freeze in his veins.
The youngster ran to the prone agent but stopped when he heard the sound of crunching glass beneath his sneakers. He took careful steps from then on to get closer to his friend without showering him with more potentially dangerous chips of windowpane in the process. Once he'd reached Ezra, JD took off his coat and laid it down over the sharp, glittering fragments of glass. The padded coat would protect him as he knelt next to the injured man to treat his injuries. He threw aside a few items of clothing, as well as the shattered leg of a mannequin, so that he could have some room to work.
"Call 911," he yelled to the store assistant before turning back to his friend. "Ez? I'm here. Yer gonna be alright," the youngster said shakily as he studied Ezra's bloody body.
Ezra was face down with arms beside his head as if protecting himself. JD examined the back of the man's body carefully and immediately saw his badly injured legs. He then thoroughly swept away some of the glass from nearby before gently turning Ezra over into the cleared space. His eyes roved over the front of his friend's body and he cursed at what he saw. The youngster quickly reached out a hand to cover a bad wound on Ezra's arm that was pumping blood at an alarming rate. He lifted the injured limb in the air to try to stem the flow as he also tightened his grip.
"Get something that I can put under his legs, will ya? Need to raise them too," he called worriedly. "Jeez, he's bleeding real bad."
The kid looked up when he suddenly realized that he had an audience out on the sidewalk. "How's the driver?" he yelled to a nearby man.
JD looked at the vehicle, but from his position he couldn't even see the occupant. "Dammit. Did ya see what happened?"
"Yeah," the bystander replied.
"Stay around, would ya? Police will need to question ya."
"Sure," the onlooker agreed.
"Can the rest of you move away from the area? Give 'em some damned privacy," the youngster snapped irritably when the crowd pushed even nearer to get a better view of both the injured agent and the dead driver.
JD turned his head to the left when he detected movement and he saw the store assistant come to a standstill beside him. She had an armful of clothes in answer to his earlier request.
"Great. Can you lift his legs real careful and slip those under his ankles." Once his order had been obeyed, he asked, "Can you call someone for me? I need to tell a friend what's happened."
The young woman nodded. "Sure. Just give me the details."
JD told her the number and the name and watched as she punched it into the cell phone that she pulled from her pocket.
"Mr. Larabee? JD wants me to tell you that Ezra's hurt," the woman said with a trembling voice when Chris answered.
The black-clad man frowned anxiously. This was the sort of out of the blue call he hated. It put his teeth on edge to receive bad news like this. "Ma'am? Who are you? Where are you?"
"I'm Mindi and I work in Carter's Store. There's been an accident," she said haltingly.
"What happened?" Chris asked, wondering what could go wrong in a clothing store. He knew Carter's well.
The woman began pacing as she related her tale of woe. "A car went outta control and came through the window. Ezra was out on the sidewalk and he was hit and thrown through the glass. He's badly hurt."
Chris's heart skipped a beat and he felt terribly cold all of a sudden. "Is JD okay?"
"Yeah, but I reckon he could be a bit shocked. He looks kinda pale," Mindi said as she flicked a quick look at the youngster.
"Okay, thanks for calling. Can you get JD to call me when he reaches the hospital?" the blond requested anxiously as he drummed his fingers on the desk continually.
"I will." Mindi passed the message on and then sat down to help JD tend his injured friend.
Chris stared into space while he digested what he'd been told. He then stood up and headed outside to tell the rest of the team about their friend's misfortune. "Guys? I've just had a call to say that Ez is hurt. He's been hit by a car or somethin'. I didn't get too much info but JD's gonna call me when they reach the hospital."
"Was it JD who called?" Buck asked as his stomach did a backflip.
"No, I guess he was with Ez somewhere."
"Is the kid alright?" Buck couldn't help but worry after hearing so little detail about what had happened to his friends.
The blond shrugged helplessly, unable to ease the anxiety on the faces of his agents. "Think so. Look, we'll all go to the hospital when I hear from him, okay? No use speculating on possible injuries at this point."
"Easier said than done, pard," Buck replied quietly as he began fidgeting incessantly.
The ambulance and police arrived in convoy at Carter's with a wail of sirens. While the police dealt with the observers and dead driver, the paramedics hurriedly took up position beside Ezra.
"Hey, kid. How is he?" the taller of the two asked, taking in how pale JD looked too.
"His arm's been cut bad. I ain't been able to check him properly for other injuries, though, but his legs don't look good. I don't think that they're broken but they're bleeding a lot," the youngster replied shakily.
The man took a quick look at the upper limb concerned and winced at the sight. "Okay, keep hold of his arm while we take a look at the rest of him. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just shaken."
The paramedic nodded and got to work, starting Ezra on fluids and oxygen before doing anything else. JD watched anxiously and didn't like the muttering and concerned tones in which the medics spoke.
"Guys?" the young agent said when the men had finished and began to get the necessary equipment out of their bags that they would need to treat Ezra.
The second medic glanced up with a serious look on his face. "As you say, his lower legs are real bad. The bumper musta caught him there first and the force of the hit flung him face first through the window. Think he put his hands up to protect himself 'cause his face ain't as bad as it coulda been. Gotten a few cuts but they'll heal without scars hopefully. Looks like his arms took the brunt of the glass, but he's gotten bits stuck in the front of his body too. Some have gone real deep."
JD stood up when the taller medic took over his grip on Ezra's bleeding arm. The dark-haired youngster hovered nearby, staring fixedly at his injured friend. Once the unconscious agent's many injuries had been treated satisfactorily, JD accompanied him to the hospital. The journey seemed to take forever, even though it was only a matter of miles.
As soon as they arrived, the youngster stayed outside and called Chris as promised. "Chris? We're at Mercy," JD said when his boss answered the phone after only one ring.
The blond turned the phone to speaker so that the rest of his team could listen in too. "How's he doin'? The lady didn't give us much detail earlier."
"The car hit him from behind and hurt his legs. He fell through the window and cut his arm real deep where he put his hands up to protect his face. He landed on the glass and he's gotten a lot of bits stuck in his body. He's unconscious, Chris. Can you come?" JD pleaded with a trembling voice.
"Okay, hang tight, kid. We'll be with you shortly," the blond said, detecting the obvious upset in his youngest agent's voice.
By the time Chris had hung up, his companions were already heading to the elevator. He ran to catch up and squeezed in with them when the doors opened to allow them access.
The five agents ran through the hospital's hallway to the waiting room where they had been told JD would be.
"JD? You okay?" Chris asked when he saw the forlorn figure sitting on his own in the corner of the room. The youngster looked about twelve years old and Chris's fatherly attributes came to the fore at the sight.
The dark-haired agent looked up at the blond in relief and shrugged. "Kinda."
The black-clad man sat down beside him and put an arm round his shoulder as he asked gently, "Where were you when it happened, kid?"
JD leaned closer to the blond and shivered. "I was in the store. I heard the sound of a racing motor and then Ezra came flying through the window. It was awful."
Chris rubbed his friend's arm briskly in comfort and encouragement. "I can imagine, son, but you did real well from what I've just been told at the nurses' station."
The kid smiled nervously, but looked pleased with the praise from his boss.
All the men sat down to wait for news while also helping to comfort their youngest friend as best they could. Half an hour passed by very slowly and all the men were startled when a voice called from the doorway.
"Yeah," JD said as he stood up rapidly.
The doctor took two paces toward the young man. "Mr. Standish is heading for surgery to get his arm seen to. There are a lot of other bits of glass that need removing from his body as well. There's one piece that's gone real deep in his chest, which is causing us some concern. It doesn't look as though it's hit anything vital but it might have caused internal bleeding."
"What about his legs?" Buck asked.
The medic transferred his gaze to the mustached agent but at the same time took two paces backward as if wanting to leave. "They're pretty badly damaged. They aren't broken but there's massive ligament and muscle damage. Look, I'd better get going but I'll come back and see you when we've seen to his hurts."
Josiah strode up behind JD when the youngster remained rooted to the spot after the doctor had gone. "Sit down, son. Ezra will be alright."
The profiler got hold of JD's shoulders and steered him to a seat before taking up position beside him.
The doctor returned after a few tense hours. "Hello. Mr. Standish has just come out of Recovery, so if you wanna follow me I'll take you to him. He's asleep again but it's okay for you to sit with him."
The six men stood as one and followed the doctor to ICU. The medic stood back and allowed them to enter Ezra's room in front of him to see their friend.
The youngest agent headed straight for the bed and reached out a hand to touch Ezra's cheek gently. "Hey, Ez. Seems you went inside the store anyway. Against yer will, though, I admit," JD said quietly as he sat down and clung to Ezra's hand.
"Doc? How is he?" Chris asked after taking a cursory look at the injured agent.
The doctor stood up straight from where he'd been leaning against the door frame. "The wound in his chest was just like a stab wound. It caused quite a bit of bleeding but we've gotten it under control and the glass, luckily, didn't hit anything vital. His lower legs are probably gonna take a long time to heal so he'll be stuck in here for a bit, but he's doing well all things considered."
Josiah sighed and shook his head. "Do we know what happened to the driver?"
The doctor nodded and winced. "They think he had a heart attack at the wheel. Nothing your friend coulda done."
The big man nodded sadly as he took a seat and joined his friends in their vigil.
When Ezra didn't wake after a couple of hours, Chris sent most of the men home and arranged for them to come back to take turns sitting with their friend. The blond wanted to make sure that there was always someone with the injured man. One man, though, refused to leave. No matter what was said to JD, he vowed to remain until Ezra was at least awake.
The following evening, Chris detected movement from the bed. He stood up and attracted JD's attention with a wave of his hand. The two men moved to the bed and looked down at the patient.
"Oh, dear," Ezra mumbled as he opened his eyes slowly and blinked uncontrollably.
Chris waited until the undercover agent focused on him before speaking. "Hey, Ez. Do ya remember what happened?"
Ezra frowned and stayed silent for a minute as he rubbed his brow wearily. He breathed in deeply but regretted it when his chest began to throb mightily in reaction. He took a moment to settle and then said, "I was looking in the window at those ghastly clothes when I noticed the reflection of a car approaching fast behind me. I didn't have time to move away before it hit me. Then I found myself heading for the window at high speed. It hurt."
JD grimaced as he patted Ezra's hand sympathetically, while remembering the sight of his friend's body flying through the air. "I know, Ez, but it was an accident. The driver died at the wheel, making his car go outta control."
The injured agent stared up at JD in disbelief. "How tragic," he mumbled. He always marveled at how quickly life could be extinguished. Split seconds were all that separated the hereafter from existence.
"You okay, Ez?" Chris asked when he saw the man pale.
"Just thinking about life and death," Ezra said quietly.
"Yeah, well, luckily you have life," Chris replied, knowing that Ezra always dwelt on his fear of dying at times like this.
"It could so easily have been the other way."
"Yeah, I know, Ez, but it wasn't," the blond reiterated as he leaned forward and held Ezra's gaze for a while.
Ezra sighed. "How long am I going to be incarcerated this time?"
"Quite a while, bud. Your legs are real bad."
"I seem to have a thing about injuring my legs, don't I?" Ezra mumbled as his eyes started to close in exhaustion. "I'm almost permanently on crutches."
"I know, Ez, but legs always come out second best in an argument with a bumper." The blond smiled sadly. "Why don't you get some rest?" Chris stroked Ezra's hair and watched his friend shut his eyes. The blond then turned to JD and said seriously, "You too, son. You've been here non-stop and you don't look so hot yourself. Go home."
"No, I want to stay," the youngster said. He immediately planted himself on a chair as if it would prevent Chris making him leave.
The black-clad man was having none of it though. He shook his head firmly and narrowed his eyes. "No arguing, JD. I'll get Buck to come get you. You can catch up on some sleep and come back tomorrow refreshed." The blond went outside and called his oldest friend. "Buck? Can ya pick up JD?"
"Sure, is he okay?" the tall man asked worriedly.
"Tired. He's refusing to leave but he really needs a break."
"Okay, I'll be there soon, pard."
Buck duly arrived and ambled through to Ezra's room. "Hey, guys. How's it goin'?" he greeted as he stepped up to the bed.
"I ain't going home, Buck," JD said as soon as his friend appeared beside him. He crossed his arms stubbornly and stared at his roommate.
"Tough. Don't make me force ya, kid. Ez will still be here when you get back so there's no need to stay. Right now you need to eat and sleep," the ladies' man said forcefully. He could see how badly the youngster needed some rest. He had dark rings under his eyes and his body posture betrayed his exhaustion.
"Can do that here," JD retorted defiantly.
Buck moved another pace toward his friend and pulled him to his feet. The youngster could be as obstinate as a mule sometimes. "Well, you obviously haven't done so up to now, son. You look like shit." Buck pointed to the door and slapped his ass gently. "Home. Now."
JD looked back at Ezra and then up at Buck, conceding defeat. He sighed and smiled weakly at Chris as Buck started to steer him out of the room almost by the scruff of his neck.
Buck fed his housemate and packed him off to bed as soon as he could. The ladies' man then took up position on the couch in the living room and watched TV until falling asleep in the early hours. He didn't get much rest, though, before he was woken abruptly by a noise. He sat up and listened intently and heard a yell from JD's room. Buck hurried to see what was wrong, although it didn't take much to guess the reason.
"Kid?" he said when he saw the youngster sitting bolt-upright in bed.
JD looked up at his friend with wide, fear-filled eyes as he shivered from head to toe and wrapped his arms round his knees.
The kid nodded and pulled the covers up to try and get warm.
Buck sat on the bed and rubbed his back in comfort. "How about a milky drink to help ya get back to sleep? We can talk while ya drink it."
JD nodded, so Buck went to the kitchen and made the promised beverage. He returned soon after and passed over the steaming drink carefully.
"There ya go. Now, tell me what you dreamt about."
"Just keep seeing Ez." JD shivered and tightened his grip on the mug when he spilt a bit down the side because of the movement of his trembling body.
"That's understandable, son. It wasn't a pleasant experience for ya," Buck said gently.
"I should be used to injuries by now though, Buck. See enough of 'em during work, don't I?"
"I know ya do, but I don't think you ever become immune to them. There's something seriously wrong if you do, anyway. Just 'cause you see a lot of violence and injuries in everyday life, don't mean that you still can't be *shocked* by them. This accident was out of the blue and it hit ya real hard, son," Buck pointed out kindly.
The youngster stayed quiet as he leaned against Buck and drank his hot milk. The ladies' man took the empty mug away when his friend had finished and could see JD's eyes drifting shut. He attempted to lay him down and leave the room but JD stirred and woke immediately.
"Do ya want me to stay?" Buck asked quietly when he saw the haunted look in his companion's eyes.
JD looked embarrassed but nodded and winced. Buck smiled and settled back on the bed as his friend lay down under the covers again. The ladies' man kept a gentle hand on the youngster's shoulder and watched in satisfaction as JD went to sleep.
The next morning, the two agents arrived at the hospital to take over from Chris again.
"Hey, kid. Feel better?" the blond asked as he looked up to see his friends.
JD shrugged and finally admitted, "Not really. Kept dreaming 'bout Ez."
"Yeah, well I reckon Ez has been dreaming about what happened too. Never seen him so restless."
The blond stood and stretched before allowing his friends to take over. He waved good-bye and set off for home to catch up on some much-needed rest of his own.
The men he left behind sat silently next to the bed, neither feeling like voicing their thoughts. Several hours passed by in this fashion until Ezra woke with a low groan.
"Ez?" JD called as he sprang from his chair as if the seat had suddenly become too hot to sit on. He leaned over his friend anxiously and waited for him to speak.
The undercover agent took a few minutes to come to himself properly and then looked up to see who had spoken to him. "Oh, hello, Mr. Dunne. You haven't been here all the time, have you?"
The youngster shook his head as he took hold of his friend's hand. "No, Chris made me go home."
Ezra screwed his face up. "Wish I could."
"You'll be allowed home soon, I s'pect, and I'll be there to help out, Ez. Feel kinda responsible for all this."
Ezra rubbed his eyes wearily and looked at JD in confusion. "Why? It was fate."
The kid looked uncomfortable as he dropped his gaze to the floor and sat down again. "Yeah, but if only I hadn't dragged you round town looking for clothes with me, it wouldn't have happened."
"Yes, and if only I hadn't rejected each of your previous choices in clothing we wouldn't haven't found ourselves at Carter's. If only I'd accompanied you inside the store I would have survived unscathed. If only are two of the worst words in the English language when paired together," Ezra pointed out with a sigh.
JD looked at his injured friend. "I still wanna help you get better."
"You always do, Mr. Dunne. There is no extra effort needed on your part this time."
Ezra stared at the youngster and his face softened. "It's a deal, Mr. Dunne, just as long as you don't fuss about like our compatriots are inclined to do at such times. We can assist each other in getting over this ordeal in an orderly fashion."
"Sure," JD said with a smile, glad that his friend had accepted his offer. "I'll start now. Do ya want a drink?"
Ezra nodded, wondering if he really could cope with his friend's enthusiastic demeanor at the moment. "Yes, please. My water jug seems to be nearly empty. Perhaps you could fill it for me?"
JD stood up and went on his errand immediately.
"Thanks, Ez. He had a nightmare last night and I think having him help you out will make him feel better," Buck said with a grateful smile as he moved to sit on the bed.
Ezra nodded gently and closed his eyes momentarily. "I wondered if that was the case. People tend to focus on the physical injuries in accidents like this, but it's quite often the mental ones that are much harder to heal."
"Think I agree with ya, pard."
JD came back in, carefully holding the full water jug. He poured a glass for Ezra and helped the man drink it.
"Thank you, JD," Ezra said once the youngster had settled him back on the pillows. The undercover agent had to admit that JD really made quite a good nurse.
"Yer welcome," the kid said as he smiled at Ezra.
Buck looked at his companions and knew that it would take time for them to recover fully after their ordeal, but it looked as though they were already taking the first steps.