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Hombre's Magnificent Seven Fan Fiction

Kaboom!

Notes: All three boys get hurt in this one, although as usual Ezra comes off worst. I just can't help myself where he's concerned. Vin gets a bit of coddling from Chris although it doesn't look as though it's appreciated very much. JD brings up the rear as he usually does in my fics. Sorry, JD fans, but at least your boy actually got a part to play, which is a rare thing in itself. Thanks to Tex and Yuri for sorting out a few problems for me. I hope that you don't mind me using one of your quotes, Yuri. It just explained things so well. The medical stuff with Ezra is something that I saw on a real-life TV program and I hope I got the details right. (July 2004)

 

Ezra rolled reluctantly out of bed with a groan. He had woken with an ache in his guts, and that usually signaled that the day wasn't going to go his way. He rubbed the affected area firmly and bent double in an attempt to ease the persistent pain. As usual it didn't work, so he stood up and stretched slowly with arms held over his head and fingertips pointing to the ceiling. He accompanied the movement with a loud drawn-out yawn, but neither action helped to relieve his stomachache either. The undercover agent sighed dejectedly and made his way to the bathroom to get ready. After washing and shaving at his leisure, he got dressed equally slowly. He then went downstairs and ate a very sparse breakfast before heading out to the Jag. He flicked a quick look at his watch and saw that he would be cutting things fine if he wanted to get to the office on time.

"Damnation. Mr. Larabee will have my hide."

He arrived at work just in time and only received a pale version of the Larabee glare as a result. After greeting his workmates, he sat at his desk and began typing up a report that Chris wanted handed in that day. When he was halfway through, he heard his boss's phone ring and after quarter of an hour, the black-clad man appeared at his office door.

"Listen up, guys. I need you in the conference room 'cause we've gotten a job that needs quick action."

After saving his work, Ezra stood and followed his colleagues through to the conference room and took his favored chair with a quiet groan. He looked round the group of men and sent a small smile to Vin when the younger man caught his eye and winked.

Chris planted himself at the head of the table and began talking as soon as his men settled. "I've just had a call from a counterpart in Florida. He's received some information about some drugs that have recently been shipped here by someone that they've just arrested. He asked if we could pick it up and capture the buyer before news of the drug lord's capture gets out."

"Who was it? Anyone we know?" Vin asked.

"Pascal Ross."

"Jesus," Buck said as he whistled in surprise. Ross had been on the country's most wanted list for years.

"You see why we have to act fast. It also means that we could have a turf war on our hands if we aren't careful."

"How do ya wanna play it, cowboy?" Vin asked quietly.

The blond met the sharpshooter's gaze and nodded. "Well, when we get to where the drugs are being kept, I want you to scout the area first, Vin. There's supposedly one man guarding it there, but we can't guarantee where he'll be. The drugs are in an inner room but the building is alarmed, so JD will need to get us in. Hopefully it should then just be an in and out job without any trouble. Josiah? I want you to find the guard and arrest him while the rest of us search for the drugs."

The profiler nodded but stayed silent.

"I thought we were gonna wait and see who comes and gets the drugs," JD said in confusion.

"Don't need to. We already know."

"What?" the kid queried, even more confused.

"Ross had sold it to the man who's guarding it at the moment. He's one of our up-and-coming dealers, so hopefully we can put him outta business before he gets too well established. He actually deals his drugs from the building that we're going to. He's also sending some of the batch on to his cousin in Dallas, and the ATF division there are gonna move in on that man at the same time as we act here."

"I don't like going in without knowing the building's layout, Chris. Can we get specs?" Vin said worriedly.

Chris nodded, the thought already having crossed his mind too. "JD? Can you do that, son?"

"Sure, I'm on it," the youngster said as he rose and hurried out.

"Right, as I said before, most of us will concentrate on tracking down the drugs once we're inside the building. You know the drill: secure each room as we go, and look out for anything that might be useful to aid our case. Vin? Can you stay near the entrance and keep an eye out for any unwanted guests?"

"You don't want me to take the high ground?"

"Not this time, given the number of people we expect to encounter. I think we can handle things from the ground this time."

"Whatever you say, boss," Vin replied with a grin.

JD came back in a short while later and spread a sheet on the table. All the men rose and looked down at it intently.

"Okay, we go in the back way," Chris said as he pointed with one finger at the location. "From what I've been told I think the drugs are likely to be in one of these rooms. The dealer has a room nearby where he apparently lives when he has a consignment of drugs for sale, but I've no idea which one it is, Josiah." Chris moved his finger and tapped the page. "Somewhere here, maybe," he suggested with a shrug.

"You're sure that he doesn't employ anyone else?" the big man asked.

"That's what I've been told, but we go in expecting to encounter more than one person. I don't want us to be complacent," Chris said as the men retook their places round the table. The blond began giving out other instructions as he looked at each of his men.

As Chris talked, Ezra moved his eyes and stared out the window at the gray skies and knew it would be raining by the time they left. The weather suited his mood and he sighed.

"Ezra?" Chris said sharply, after hearing the man's heartfelt sigh and then noticing Ezra's wandering gaze. "You listening?"

"Every word, Mr. Larabee," Ezra replied dreamily as he reluctantly turned to face the blond again while quickly rubbing his aching stomach once more.

"What's up? You look like you've just swallowed a lemon," the slender man snapped in irritation.

Ezra shrugged and admitted, "I just feel unsettled about our upcoming escapade."

"Jeez, not yer fortune-telling guts acting up again, are they, pard?" Buck said as he threw his eyes to Heaven dramatically.

Ezra looked at the ladies' man seriously and pursed his lips at his skepticism. "They've been proven right in the past, Mr. Wilmington. Take heed of them and beware."

The ladies' man leant over and slapped Ezra's back boisterously. "God, you'll be charging Travis for yer doom-predicting services soon."

"Well, my guts, as you so disgustingly call them, are worth their weight in gold and you should afford them the proper respect," Ezra replied haughtily, as he rubbed the sensitive area once more.

"Oh, God. You talk crap, you know that?"

"Guys!" Chris growled as he slapped the flat of his hand on the tabletop to get their attention. "Time's marching on and we *don't* have time for considering the merits of Ezra's abdominal aches. Get what equipment you need and meet me back here in fifteen minutes. Nate? Bring the first aid boxes with you 'cause, even though we only expect to encounter one person, we'd better be prepared for injuries."

"Always am," the medic smiled.

The men rose and did as they'd been told, and once everyone was ready, they made their way down to the parking garage. Chris and Josiah drove the group in two vehicles to the building where they would be searching for the hidden drugs. They parked nearby and then congregated opposite the building while Vin disappeared for a quick scout of the area.

"All clear on the outside, Chris. I took a peek through a few windows but couldn't see nothin'," the man said when he returned as quietly as a ghost.

The blond patted JD's back and said, "Okay, kid. Off you go and take care. Vin will be right behind you watching your back."

JD nodded and looked at the sharpshooter to make sure that he was ready to go. Chris watched as his two agents ran across the street to end up standing with backs flat against the wall near the building's rear entrance. After a quiet minute, JD set to work to disengage the ringing bells to allow them to get inside unnoticed. He soon waved to say that he was in. Chris was always glad that the youngster was on their side of the law. The boy could break into anything electronic, be it computer files or security systems, if he put his mind to it. His talents were invaluable to the team.

Chris and the rest of his team moved to join the two youngest agents, and the blond signaled for his men to wait for a minute before going inside. When he was happy with the situation, they entered one by one. Vin took up position just inside and settled down to watch from there while Josiah split from the others and headed off to search for the guard. The others, meanwhile, successfully secured the first rooms that they came to and continued onward slowly. Ezra had somehow managed to get to the front of the group and he led on through to the inner rooms where they knew the drugs were being kept. Still no sign of the guard, and Ezra's innards tied themselves in ever-tighter knots and almost made him gasp at the pain they created.

*This does not bode well. Whenever my stomachache increases, circumstances tend to go downhill rather rapidly. I wonder what is in store for us?* he thought to himself as he flicked a glance back over his shoulder to see Nathan give him the thumbs-up sign.

The undercover agent continued drawing ahead of the others as he entered the next room and quickly secured it. He walked toward the back where he saw something interesting, but he never got to check it out.

"Everyone out!" Chris yelled suddenly from behind. "Get out now! Out, out, out!"

The five men didn't question their leader, but turned and high-tailed it back to where they'd come in, picking up Vin and Josiah on the way.

Ezra was now last and quite some way behind the others. He increased his speed and sprinted out the doorway but tripped and fell heavily just at a vital moment. The winded man scrambled to his feet and stood swaying dazedly as he heard a popping, crackling sound from deep inside the building. The rest of the men were, meanwhile, heading for cover but before they could reach it, the whole building exploded. Flame, smoke and debris blew toward them and the seven agents were thrown off their feet. It was rather like watching a ten-pin bowling game, but with the agents as the target. *Strike.* All the pins were down, but it had been a rush of air, not a ball, that had knocked them over. The men nearest the building took the worst hits and flew through the air spectacularly. They all landed hard on the unforgiving concrete with grunts and yells of pain. The noise around them was deafening and they stayed on the ground until the worst was over.

Six of the men stood up shakily, coughing and spluttering in the clouds of dust from the explosion. They all put hands over mouths and noses to keep out the unwanted smoke and airborne particles. Every man then proceeded to wipe his eyes to try and rid them of irritating specks of dirt, which still rained down on them like snow. The air finally cleared and they turned as one to look at the building to find out what damage had been done. What they saw first, though, was the seventh member of their team lying motionless, face down on the ground, covered in debris and blood.

"Shit! Ezra!" Nathan yelled as he began making his way as fast as he could toward the prone, injured agent.

Chris immediately called the emergency services while running his eyes over the rest of his men to see if anyone else needed medical attention. He spotted two other likely candidates for the hospital, so asked for an extra ambulance to be sent. He then called the bomb squad to get them to check the area in case there were other devices. He'd been appalled when he'd spotted the explosive device, but things would have been much worse if the team had still been inside the building at the time it blew. He'd been extra alert for trouble, although unconsciously, ever since Ezra had complained about his stomach that morning. As the undercover agent had said, his stomach had proved to be a good indicator of trouble ahead, and Chris had taken heed, be it unknowingly or not. The blond sighed and looked round the area to see what his men had been doing while he'd been on the phone. Everything looked under control.

Buck was already scrambling toward Vin, whose hair he could see was now red with blood. "Vin? How ya feelin'?" the tall agent asked as he peered into his colleague's eyes.

"Headache," the soft-spoken man said as he put a hand to his head and grimaced.

"Sit down until Nate can look at you, pard."

"But...," Vin objected, trying to head toward Ezra instead.

"No *buts*. Sit," Buck said as he pointed to a suitable spot and helped to ease the man down onto it. "Ez is being seen to, so don't fret about him." The ladies' man squatted beside Vin and began running his hands gently through his long hair to try and find the wound that was obviously hidden underneath. He drew in a sharp sympathetic breath when he found it. "You've got a real nasty cut, son. Do ya feel sick or anythin'?"

"Not really. Just hurts, and my eyes are kinda fuzzy."

"Well, there's a load of dirt in the wound too from what I can see, pard. Stay where you are and I'll get a first aid kit so that I can sort you out." Buck stood up and turned to see JD hovering nearby looking as if he were in pain. "Kid? What's up with you?"

"Arm hurts somethin' awful, Buck."

The ladies' man took a couple of long strides toward him and looked at the injured limb that JD was holding awkwardly against his chest.

"Hold still, son." Buck ran his fingers up and down it and JD cried out. "Broke it real good by the look of it, kid. Go and sit beside Vin and try to keep it still. Ambulance is on its way, I think." He watched as the youngster wandered toward Vin and then the ladies' man hurried on toward Chris's Ram.

Josiah, meanwhile, had worked his way through the devastation to help Nathan with Ezra. He removed several pieces of wood that had fallen on top of the undercover agent's body, so that the medic could see exactly what was wrong with the injured man.

"Brother? How bad is he?" the profiler asked after Nathan had done a quick examination.

"Bad," the medic replied shortly. "He's been hit hard by some of the bigger debris and he's got multiple dislocations too. I saw him fall over before the explosion and he'd only just got up when the building blew. The force of the air from the blast literally pulled his body apart because he was stationary at the time. If you think of, say a child standing still when an adult strides by and grabs its arm and pulls it along, the force of that movement would be enough to dislocate the joint. I reckon it would be similar to what Ezra experienced and his shoulder, knees and ankles all popped as a consequence. Some of the dislocations may have been a result of being hit by flying objects but I reckon not. As well as those injuries, he's got broken ribs and collarbone to contend with from where he was thrown to the ground. There's also a deep wound to his back and he  musta really whacked his head on the concrete when he fell too. If he'd been moving at the time of the blast, like us, it wouldn't have been so bad."

"Jesus." The profiler knelt down. "Tell me what ya need doing."

"I don't wanna move him yet 'cause he ain't stable enough. Can you clean the wound on his back and then hold this pad over it to stop the bleeding? He's got a really big bit of wood in there that's gone below the skin, so I'll have to leave that for the hospital to get out. Was anyone else hurt?" Nathan asked as he continued treating Ezra's other injuries, wishing he had more equipment.

"JD's hurt by the look of it and I think Vin had a head wound. Buck's seeing to them both at the moment, but every one of us is pretty shaken up, Nate."

Chris, meanwhile, made his way over to see how Vin and JD were faring.

He bent down to one side of his best friend and studied him critically. "Cowboy? You okay?"

"Feel a bit dizzy and sick now. Was alright to start with but it's just come over me now," the sharpshooter admitted while Buck bandaged his head wound carefully.

"Do as Buck tells you." Chris turned to his youngest agent. "JD? What's up with you, son?"

"I broke my arm."

"Buck's gonna take care of you too, is he?"

The ladies' man looked up and nodded with a strained smile. "Yeah, he's next on the list, pard. Go and check on Ez, will ya? I really wanna know how he is 'cause Nate's looking rather grim from what I've seen of him so far."

"Okay, I'll let you know, but I think it'd be best for you guys to move as far away from here as you can, Buck. I called the bomb squad, just for safety's sake. For all we know, there may be another bomb somewhere with a time delay switch or somethin'."

The mustached agent gasped and kicked himself mentally for not thinking of the possibility himself. "Shit. Okay, I'll get them over to the other side of the street. What about Ez?"

"Have to see what Nate says. May have to move him no matter how bad he is." Chris patted Buck's shoulder in comfort and then looked at Vin and JD again. "You two do as you're told, alright?"

The blond climbed over bricks, wood and debris to finally arrive by Nathan and Josiah's side. He raked his unconscious undercover agent's body with his eyes from head to foot and frowned worriedly. "Nate? What news?"

"The sooner he gets to the hospital the better. He's in a real bad way, Chris." The medic glanced up at his boss. "How's Vin doin'?"

"He's just started to feel sick."

"'Spect he's got a bit of concussion. What's wrong with JD?"

Chris flicked a quick look back at the youngster. "Broken his arm. Buck's in charge over there so he'll keep them both in order; don't you worry about that. Ambulances are on the way too."

"Great," Nate said as he wiped away some blood from the uppermost side of Ezra's face so that he could see what lay underneath. "What caused the explosion?" the medic asked when he'd finished.

"Bomb. I spotted it in the last room I checked," Chris said as he wiped a shaking hand over his face.

"Shit! Someone maybe knew we were coming then," Nathan said angrily.

"Dammit, I shoulda listened to Ezra's guts this morning, shouldn't I?" Chris said as he walked around the three men irritably.

Nathan couldn't help smiling at the comment as he got back to work on his patient. The medic signaled for Josiah to help him turn Ezra over onto his back so that he could treat the rest of his injuries.

Chris surveyed the area quickly. "Look, I asked Buck to move Vin and JD away in case there's another bomb. I can't take that chance with everyone's lives, Nate. Can you move, Ez?"

"No, it could kill him," the medic replied anxiously.

The green-eyed man looked down at his feet as he stood with hands on hips. "Shit. Right, Josiah, I don't want anyone around who doesn't need to be here. Get over and help Buck move Vin and JD, will ya?"

Josiah looked as though he was going to refuse but he knew this was one time that an argument would not go down well with the blond. "Sure, Chris."

Chris took up the big man's vacated position beside Ezra and looked set to stay.

"Ain't ya leavin'?" Nathan asked as he looked at Chris quickly.

"No."

"One rule for yer men and one for you, is that it?" the medic asked with raised eyebrows and a wry grin.

Chris looked serious and shuffled on his haunches to get comfortable. "The captain goes down with his ship. If Ez is stable I want you out of here too. I'll stay with him."

Nathan shook his head vigorously. "No, you ain't qualified if he should deteriorate. The paramedics sure as hell won't be allowed in until the area's been declared safe neither, so I need to be here. You go, Chris."

"Dammit, I hate it when you're right," Chris cursed as he watched the medic continue treating Ezra with the sparse equipment that he had with him.

The sound of sirens filled the air soon after and two ambulances, five police cars and the bomb squad pulled up nearby. The paramedics headed for Vin and JD who had now been moved well out of harm's way. The police began putting a cordon round the area to keep out sightseers and they also started to clear nearby buildings of people. Two bomb squad men, meanwhile, arrived next to Ezra.

"How bad is he?" the taller of the two asked.

"Real bad. You'll have to set something up to shield him while you search for any other bombs. I'm staying too,"Nathan said as Chris got up and left. "I can't get him stabilized at the moment so I really can't move him," the medic said, seeing that he was going to get an argument from the man.

The man pursed his lips but organized a large bomb blanket to be set up to shield the two agents.

Chris, meanwhile, sought out the bomb squad's leader. "I'm Chris Larabee and I'm an ATF agent. My men were here to get a consignment of drugs from this building. Can you let me know if you find any remnants of the device or the drugs 'cause I wanna catch the bastard that did this. I've got one seriously injured man so call me with any information you get."

"Sure," the man said as he took Chris's card.

Chris then hurried back to see Vin and JD because they were on the verge of being taken to the hospital. As he drew near, he could hear one of the paramedics questioning Vin. It seemed that the sharpshooter's condition had changed in the short amount of time that Chris had been away.

"Can you tell me your name?" the man asked.

The young agent frowned and flicked a quick look at Chris before shaking his head. "No, I can't remember."

The medic tried again. "Do you know what day it is?"

Vin hesitated and said, "Friday." He didn't sound overly convinced that he was correct and Chris knew that his friend was just guessing. It was actually Monday.

"Okay, let's get you to the hospital," the paramedic said as he helped Vin to his feet and escorted him to the emergency vehicle where JD was already waiting.

Chris poked his head in the door and smiled at the youngster. "You feeling alright, son?"

"Not really. Kinda shaky and sick. Is Ez okay?"

"No, he isn't, but you concentrate on yourself for the time being. We'll meet you at the hospital later. Take care of Vin for me, will you?" the blond asked.

"Sure," JD said, surprised that Chris wasn't coming with them, but pleased that the man's best friend's welfare had been entrusted to him.

The blond watched the ambulance drive away before turning back to see how the bomb squad was getting on. He could see the men working systematically but fast. They knew that Ezra needed to be moved as quickly as possible but until the all clear was given no one inside the cordon was going anywhere.

Nathan was having real difficulty with Ezra's fluctuating condition. He knew he was going to have to take over the man's breathing if he were to survive, but being on his own made it an awkward procedure. He looked up and called a nearby member of the bomb squad and told him exactly what he needed. The man ran to one of the paramedics and the medical equipment and drugs were handed over without question.

Nathan took the drugs from the bomb squad man first and put them safely to one side. He then laid out the ET tubes and checked them to make sure they weren't faulty. He started Ezra on IV fluids and oxygen, wishing he'd been able to do that much earlier. They were the most important components when treating a badly injured patient and the medic hoped they would solve some of Ezra's problems. They didn't. Nathan quickly injected two doses of drugs into Ezra's arm, which would anesthetize and paralyze the injured man so that he could be intubated safely. The medic waited until he saw Ezra's body twitch as the powerful paralyzing drug took hold and then he began to put the tube down his friend's throat. Once he'd done that, he attached a bag to the end of the tube and started pumping oxygen into the man's lungs at regular intervals after taping the tube into position in Ezra's mouth. Unfortunately, the undercover agent's condition improved only marginally after the procedure.

Finally, Nathan heard the all clear being given by the bomb squad. Chris hurriedly joined the paramedics who were heading at a run toward Ezra.

"Nate?" the blond asked as he hovered nearby.

The medic looked up worriedly. "I've had to take over his breathing. He really ain't well right now, Chris. His blood pressure's up and down like a yo-yo and he's going into shock, so he's gotta be bleeding inside somewhere."

"Shit."

The black-clad agent watched as the paramedics quickly transferred the injured man onto a gurney and made ready to leave.

"I'll go with him, Chris," Nathan said as he walked beside his patient and climbed in the emergency vehicle.

"Are the others okay?"

"Vin's definitely got a concussion. He can't remember his name or what day it is."

"Jeez," the medic said as he took a seat in the ambulance.

"See you later, Nate," the blond said as he closed the door of the vehicle once Ezra had been settled safely.

*************************************

Chris arrived at the hospital with the remainder of his men and saw Nathan wandering up and down in the waiting room.

"Nate?" the blond said as he strode toward the man. The medic was never usually one for pacing up and down; that was Chris's domain. "You okay?"

The medic looked up and rubbed a hand over his face as he let out a noisy breath. He hadn't broken stride once, but he finally slowed down and came to a halt in front of his boss. "Yeah, fine. They're all being looked at. I can see why Vin's got a concussion. Real nasty cut and a lump the size of an egg. Shoulda checked him out myself at the time."

"You can't be in two places at once, pard, and Ez was the one who needed yer skills most at the time," Buck said as he patted the man's back. "If anyone's to blame *I am*, for not spotting something was wrong."

"You ain't the medic, Buck. Anyway, concussion can kick in later so, other than the obvious wound, there may not have been any other sign when you checked him."

The ladies' man squeezed Nathan's shoulder encouragingly as he smiled kindly. "Well, there ya go. If that's the case then you've just exonerated yerself too."

"Mr. Jackson?" a doctor called from nearby, interrupting the conversation.

"Yeah, that's me," Nathan said as he turned and walked toward the man. The agent flexed his fingers in agitation as he wondered what news he was going to be told.

"Mr. Standish has been assessed and we're just taking him for surgery. We need to deal with his dislocations but we've also discovered some internal bleeding. The wood in his back is what has caused some of it so we'll be real careful when it is removed. It's gone deep and the wound itself is filthy so there is the danger of infection, but he'll be watched closely in the near future in case of complications. We'll irrigate the wound thoroughly, of course, but there's always the risk that something doesn't get washed out." The doctor paused and took a deep breath to refill his lungs.

"You didn't mention his head injury."

The doctor shifted his weight and crossed his arms in satisfaction. "Looked worse than it was, thankfully. We've stitched it but there's no fracture or bleeding, although he'll have a massive headache I should think when he wakes after surgery."

"That's a bit of good news, anyway. About his head injury not being too bad, I mean, not the fact that he'll have a headache," Nathan said with a smile, knowing that his answer had sounded ambiguous. "How's his breathing?"

"Not good, but he *is* managing to breathe for himself again, thankfully. You did very well to see to his needs on your own. It can't have been easy for you." The doctor smiled and then began talking about one of his other patients. "Mr. Dunne's arm is a mess. He must've landed full on it and he's got multiple fractures. We're taking him for surgery 'cause we need to insert a rod to keep the bones together and in line."

"Will it heal properly?" Buck asked with a worried frown.

"Hopefully, but we'll have to wait and see."

"What about Vin?" Nathan enquired.

"Mr. Tanner will be kept in overnight. His head injury is rather nasty, so we'd like to keep a close eye on him for the moment. He was feeling very nauseous, as well as suffering from amnesia."

"Can I see him?" Chris asked, making the doctor turn to face him instead.

"Sure, if you follow me," the man said as he crooked his finger at the blond.

Nathan, Josiah and Buck retired to the waiting room to await more news of their other friends.

Chris, meanwhile, wandered along behind the doctor until the man pointed out the sharpshooter's room. The injured agent was asleep, so Chris took a seat and settled back to wait for him to wake. The blond closed his eyes and tipped his head back as he thought back over the day. He'd had high hopes that morning, but it always amazed him how quickly things could turn nasty. Chris rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands and then took another quick look at Vin. The younger man's face was covered in scratches, cuts and bruises making the blond think that he must have fallen to the ground face first. Chris sighed and stood up to stare out of the window with a trance-like gaze. After an hour of contemplation, the blond heard a groan and turned to see his friend's eyes open.

"Vin?" he called as he walked back to the bed quickly.

The long-haired agent didn't acknowledge Chris at all. The blond put his hand on the injured man's arm and the blue eyes turned to look at him in confusion. Vin blinked and frowned as he continued staring at Chris without speaking. He looked like a lost child.

"Vin?"

The sharpshooter hesitated and asked quietly, "Who are you?"

"Chris," the blond sighed. "My name's Chris."

Vin digested that piece of information and spent some more time looking at the blond, as if trying to etch his face on his memory for all time. He finally asked, "Do I know you?"

Chris said quietly, "Yeah, you sure do. Why don't you get some sleep and we'll talk later?"

"Okay," Vin agreed.

Chris saw the worried look in his friend's eyes, so he smiled encouragingly at him to try and put him at ease. The sharpshooter smiled uncertainly back and closed his eyes once more. Chris shook his head as he wondered how long it would be before his friend regained his memory. The blond sighed and sat down to wait patiently for the injured man to open his eyes again.

Josiah wandered into the room half an hour later to find Chris staring at the ceiling, twiddling his thumbs distractedly. "He woken up yet?" the profiler asked.

"Yeah, but he didn't know who I was." Chris sighed and looked up at the big man worriedly. "Any more news on Ez?"

"No, not yet, but JD's just come outta surgery. We haven't seen him yet but I think he'll be kept in overnight at least. I'll see if I can get him put in here with Vin," Josiah said as he stood studying Vin.

It was an unwritten rule that the agents would share a room when multiply injured. The hospital had come to know the request well and usually did it without being asked.

Chris smiled and nodded. "Good idea. Keep me up-to-date with things, won't you?"

"Sure, brother," the big man agreed as he wandered back out of the room.

*****************************************

Two hours later, Vin woke again. He looked around the room slowly, taking in every feature. His gaze finally settled on Chris and the blond held his breath, wondering how his friend was going to react to him this time.

"Cowboy? Can I go home?" the sharpshooter asked, sounding more like his old self again.

Chris sighed in relief and smiled as he moved to sit on the bed. "No, Vin. You've gotta stay in tonight. Seems your head isn't as thick as I thought it was."

"Aw, hell, enough of yer insults, Larabee," the sharpshooter grumbled as he turned slightly on one side.

The movement made his head swim and he closed his eyes briefly in an effort to halt the motion.

"You okay?" Chris asked with a frown.

"Sick," Vin replied, being truthful for once in his life.

The blond moved his eyes to the wound on his friend's head and pointed out, "Well, you had a real spectacular cut on your head so you can't expect to feel alright, can ya?"

"No, but I think it's more the prospect of having to eat hospital food that's making me feel like puking, rather than the effects of my head wound," Vin replied with a grin.

"Yeah, think I agree with you there, cowboy," Chris said as he smiled. He rubbed Vin's arm gently and became serious. "You couldn't remember your name earlier."

"Well, I do now. I'm Vin," the sharpshooter said with a lopsided grin. He rubbed his brow and asked quietly, "What happened to put me in here? It's all still pretty foggy."

"There was a bomb at the drug's bust and it blew us all off our feet. Remember?"

"Oh, yeah. Was I the only one hurt?" Vin asked, having a hazy feeling that he wasn't. Flashes of memory kept assaulting him but he knew he hadn't seen the whole picture yet. It was like fitting together a living jigsaw.

The blond winced as he shook his head negatively. "No, you weren't. JD broke his arm real bad, and Ez,.well.you know Ez, he came off worst as usual. He's being seen to now, but he's got a whole load of hurts," Chris said, glad, at least, that Vin seemed to be improving. Now all he needed was to hear good news about his two other agents.

Vin nodded anxiously at the report of his friends' conditions. He rubbed his head once more and sighed at the pain. He then rolled onto his back and put his forearm over his eyes to shut out the light.

"Can I get you anything, cowboy?" Chris asked worriedly.

"A new head?"

Chris chuckled as he patted Vin's arm gently. "Can only provide you with some painkillers. The doc said you could have some. That do you for now?"

"Yeah, thanks."

The blond handed over the medication and Vin took it gratefully. He then lay out flat and closed his eyes, hoping that he could sleep off the pain.

**************************************

"JD? Everything okay?" Buck asked as his roommate finally woke up after coming out of surgery.

"No, it hurts," the youngster admitted quietly after a moment's contemplation. "I feel real battered and bruised."

Buck pushed the youngster's hair from his face carefully. "Join the club, kid. Don't think any one of us got away without a bruise of some sort." The ladies' man showed a big one on his forearm as he spoke, just to emphasize his point.

"Yeah, well, look at the size of *this* one," JD said as he lifted his gown awkwardly to reveal the large, multicolored contusion underneath. "A nurse pointed it out to me when I first got here. She said she'd never seen one with so many colors before," JD stated proudly.

"Wow," the ladies' man said, sounding suitably impressed by the sight of it.

"No, I was thinking more along the lines of *ouch*," JD said with a sigh and a wince. He rubbed another tender spot on his shoulder and groaned. "What happens next?"

"They're gonna put you in Vin's room in a minute 'cause he's being kept in overnight too. We're still waiting to hear how Ez is, though. Judging by his injuries, I reckon that he's gonna be in ICU for a while. You just lay quiet, son, and don't tire yerself out with worrying about the others. I'm gonna be here until yer moved, so close yer eyes and do a bit of recovering." Buck sat back but kept hold of his friend's hand.

A porter arrived soon afterwards and took the young agent through the hallways carefully. Buck strode alongside the gurney with long paces so that JD could see him. They eventually turned into Vin's room and Buck hovered in the doorway while JD was settled.

"Hey, kid. I hope ya don't snore. Got enough noise going on in my head without that too," Vin warned as soon as he set eyes on the youngster.

JD didn't reply but just smiled, feeling pretty rotten himself.

Buck cleared his throat and said, "I'll leave you two with Chris for the moment and I'll go back and sit with Nate and Josiah." The ladies' man was anxious for news of their last injured friend and he hurried off to the waiting room. He would've liked to stay with JD but he knew Chris would take care of him well enough.

The black-clad man watched his oldest friend leave and then turned his attention to JD. "You okay, son? You look kinda pale."

"Just sorta shivery. I keep hearing the sound of the explosion and then seeing Ez lying there. I really thought he was dead, Chris."

The blond moved to sit beside the youngster, understanding his upset. He reached out a hand and wrapped it round JD's uninjured wrist. He gave it an encouraging squeeze and smiled. "I know, kid, but I'm sure he's gonna be okay."

"Sure hope so." The young agent sighed and shivered. "Never been involved with a bomb blast before. Don't wanna experience it again, neither."

Chris studied JD for a while and pursed his lips. He wondered whether the youngster was really alright. "Do you want me to get the doc?" he asked when JD shivered again.

"Nah, I'll be okay."

"Well, join Vin in getting some sleep and you may feel better later on. I'll let you know how Ez as soon as I hear anything," Chris said as he ran his fingers through JD's thick, dark hair gently.

"Promise?" the kid asked as he looked at his boss anxiously.

"Sure, I promise."

*****************************************

"Hey, Nate. You okay?" Buck greeted on reaching the waiting room again to find Nathan on his own.

The medic turned from where he'd been staring out the window and nodded. "Yeah, just can't help being anxious is all."

"Well, Ez was badly injured, so that ain't surprising, pard. He'll be okay," Buck said as he moved to stand next to the man and patted his back in comfort. "Where's Josiah?"

Nathan leaned against the windowsill as he rubbed a weary hand over his face. "Gone to get a drink. I think he was getting itchy feet with all the waiting; I know I am."

"Mr. Jackson? You can sit with your friend now," a doctor called from the doorway, making both men jump.

"Is he awake?" Nathan asked as he strode forward hastily.

The doctor shook his head. "No, and he's not likely to be for another hour or two."

"How is he?" Buck asked as he drew alongside his friend.

"Well, he came through the surgery alright. It's gonna be a while until all his wounds have healed but he should recover fully. He's gonna be in a lot of pain for quite some time but we'll keep him well medicated. His condition has improved considerably since he's been with us, which is good news, I think you'll agree."

Nathan nodded in relief and turned to his companion. "Buck? Tell Chris that I'll sit with Ez, will ya? There's no point in everyone hanging around now. I'll call you when Ez wakes up."

"I 'spect Chris will wanna stay on with Vin but I'll surely give him your message, pard." Buck smiled and wandered along to pass on the news to Chris and Josiah.

The medic, meanwhile, walked along to Ezra's room and took up residence in the chair beside the bed. The undercover agent was asleep, as he'd been told, so the medic waited patiently for Ezra to wake. Nathan studied his injured friend and sighed at the extent of his visible injuries. The slumbering agent had various casts on his body to help the dislocations settle, or mend newly-discovered broken bones. He was also covered in a cobweb of stitches. Nearly every limb had some needlework on it and Nathan knew there were stitches galore all over Ezra's back.

Nathan spent his time reading, dozing or pacing around the room anxiously. He was immensely pleased when he finally saw movement from the bed, so he walked back to it and looked down at its occupant expectantly.

"Hey, Ez," Nathan said, when Ezra finally opened his eyes. "I'll just get the doc to look you over."

Nathan hurried outside and tracked down the man he wanted.

"Can you wait out here while we check him?" the doctor asked after making a quick visual examination of his patient.

"Sure," Nathan replied as he found a seat nearby and took up residence. The medic settled back and listened to the activity in the room. He heard Ezra's voice once or twice, but the injured man spoke very quietly so that Nathan couldn't actually hear what was being said.

The doctor eventually appeared after an hour. "Well, he's doing pretty well all things considered. I think he understood what I was saying about his injuries but his mind's drifting a bit. You can go back in but he's real drowsy and bewildered."

Nathan nodded and stood up. "Thanks, doc."

The medic walked back into the room and stood beside the bed and waited until Ezra turned to look at him. "Hello again, Ez."

Ezra squinted up at his friend and sighed loudly. "Mr. Jackson."

"How ya feeling?"

Nathan knew his friend had been pumped full of painkillers and antibiotics, so at least he didn't seem to be in pain at the moment. The medic, though, could already see the faraway look in his friend's eyes that signaled the confusion to come.

Ezra paused and frowned as he thought of a suitable term to answer Nathan's question. "Stretched," he mumbled eventually.

"What?"

"After being apprized of my dislocations by the doctor, I assume that I must be a few inches taller. The bottom of each pant leg will now only reach my knees in consequence. I'm gonna have to purchase a whole new closetful of clothes," Ezra stated quite seriously.

"I don't think that's necessary. You look the same height that you've always been to me," Nathan replied as he looked the man up and down with a frown.

"I can't believe that I've always been this tall, Mr. Jackson. Maude would have experienced a very uncomfortable delivery if I'd been born this size," Ezra objected drowsily as he rubbed his face and yawned.

"Hah!" Nathan snorted happily. "God, that was truly awful, Ez."

The undercover agent winced as he realized what he'd said. "Sorry, just trying to cheer myself up."

"How are you *really* feeling?" Nathan asked as he laid his hand on Ezra's.

"As I said; stretched. I wasn't joking when I said that." Ezra stopped talking and then began again with words that were slightly slurred with tiredness. "I'm like a string on an archery bow that has been pulled too many times."

*Here we go,* Nathan thought to himself, knowing Ezra's mind was beginning its usual journey toward stupidity.

"I've lost my elasticity. If I were the elastic in a pair of underpants, I'm afraid thegarments in question would be down round the wearer's ankles by now," Ezra rambled, his mind definitely drifting spectacularly.

"*Ez!*" Nathan snorted in delight.

That laugh temporarily brought Ezra back to reality. "Sorry, drugs talking. You know that I'm prone to talk nonsense periodically after surgery."

"Thought you always talked nonsense. Can't understand half of what you say when yer supposedly *normal*," Nathan replied with a laugh.

"Yes, sorry, sorry. I'll shut up now." The undercover agent's eyes fluttered open and closed as he immediately began waffling again, despite his previous vow to be quiet. "Shut up, up shut, shut, shot, shit," Ezra mumbled as he finally fell asleep.

"Oh, Ez," Nathan said as he raked his fingers gently through the muddled man's hair. He was careful not to disturb the many-stitched wound that lay underneath. "Hope yer better when you wake next. I know how much you hate acting like this."

*********************************

Vin turned over in bed and opened his eyes. The familiar black silhouette was still seated next to him. "Jeez, you still here Larabee? Yer like a bad smell that I can't get rid of."

JD guffawed loudly as he exchanged amused looks with the blond.

Chris shook his head in mock anger. "Gee, thanks, cowboy. You sure know how to make me feel welcome, don't you?"the blond said as he folded and set aside the newspaper that he'd been reading.

"While yer here, make yerself useful and go and see how Ezra is, will ya? Just been dreaming about him," the sharpshooter ordered anxiously as he rubbed his eyes wearily.

The black-clad man nodded as he got to his feet. "Okay, but only after you tell me how *you* feel. You look kinda unsettled to me."

Vin moved his hand to his brow and rubbed it gently. "So would you be if you'd got a hammer going for all its worth in yer head. It ain't stopped since I was hit and JD's continual chatter ain't helping."

"That's it, blame me!" the youngster complained, looking highly irritated. "I didn't hit ya in the first place to set it going, did I?"

"P'raps if I *hit* you again, it'll go away," Chris said with a smile as he winked at JD, hoping to calm the tension between the two men. He hoped a touch of humor might do the trick, but he realized that hearing good news about Ezra would be the only thing that would settle his friends totally.

Vin smiled. "Rather not try that method, Chris. Pills didn't do no good so I'll just lay here and suffer on my own, if you ain't gonna give me no sympathy."

"I can give you sympathy," Chris said as he leaned down with pursed lips as if to plant a caring kiss on the younger man's cheek.

"Don't want none!" Vin complained as he fended the blond off and wiped his cheek, even though the lips had not touched his skin.

"Jeez, make up your mind," Chris said as he straightened up and laughed. He could see the horrified expression of *yyyeeeuuuchhh* on Vin's face without even having to hear the verbal exclamation to accompany it.

The sharpshooter continued rubbing his cheek vigorously and then looked at his friend with a raised eyebrow. "You still here? Thought I told ya to go see Ez."

"Jesus. Yes, master, I'm going, okay?" the blond said as he bowed like a servant.

"I never thought I'd see you running to carry out an order from an underling," JD said with a grin as he sat up a bit in bed.

"Yeah, well, it doesn't happen often so don't get any ideas, kid. This is the one and only time," Chris said as he exited the room to do his friend's bidding.

***********************************

Chris ambled along the hallways until he found the room that he wanted. He walked up beside Nathan and stared down at Ezra critically. "How is he? Vin and JD want an update."

"Talking crap as usual. You know how he gets when he's on certain drugs. He answers yer questions properly, but then his mind kinda gets carried away. He always makes sense and sounds totally sincere but it's all bullshit. He's real funny though," Nathan said as stood and stretched luxuriously.

The blond nodded as he thought back on some of the very weird conversations he'd had with a drugged-up Ezra in the past. "Yeah, I've heard him numerous times before, Nate. Always makes me wonder how I act in the same circumstances."

The medic turned to the blond with a huge grin on his face. "You swear somethin' awful, Chris. One nurse who was taking care of ya asked to swap patients. She said she'd never heard such language."

"I don't, do I?" Chris asked, aghast.

Nathan put a hand on the black-clad man's shoulder and squeezed it. "Nah, only kidding. Vin is the only other one of us who is really affected. He's ten-times worse than Ezra. He talks nonstop and gets real aggressive. Real change in character for him."

The blond smiled; glad that he didn't react badly as Nathan had said.

"You gonna stay?" Chris asked as he moved to the window and looked out at the view. He watched an airplane fly across the sky leaving a trail behind it. *Lucky devils,* he thought to himself. *Off on vacation somewhere exotic while three of my friends are stuck in here. Life's unfair.*

"Yeah, I'll stay until he's a bit more awake. I don't like leaving him as he is," Nathan said, interrupting Chris's thoughts.

The blond turned and wandered toward the door. "Okay, well, you know where I'll be if you want anything. Better get back 'cause Vin was getting a bit anxious and taking it out on the kid. Hopefully he'll calm down a bit when he hears that Ez woke up."

**************************************

"How is he?" Vin asked as soon as Chris stepped into the room. The sharpshooter was sitting up and he leaned toward the blond, as if getting closer to him would get an answer more quickly.

"They've put him back together and now he's up to his old tricks," Chris said as he approached the bed and settled his friend back on the pillow again. He fiddled about with the sheets, pulling them up higher and tucking them in, before moving on to JD.

"What?" the kid asked in confusion before taking a sip of water from the glass by his bed. He leaned forward as Chris plumped up his pillows for him, while the conversation continued.

"He had multiple dislocations as well a great chunk of wood stuck in his back. He's drugged up to the eyeballs and acting like he usually does: talking bullshit. Nathan's been laughing his head off, I think, with some of the things Ez has been saying," Chris informed his two friends.

"Will he be okay?"

The blond finished fussing around the two patients and took a seat next to JD. "Yeah, but he's got a whole load of stitches all over his back and body. Never seen anything like it. He kinda resembles a well-patched teddy bear. He's gonna be real stiff and sore for a while, that's for sure."

"Feel kinda glad that I just broke my arm. We got off lightly, Vin," JD said quietly as he flicked a look at his roommate.

"You could say that, kid. When can we all go home?" Vin asked as he fidgeted mightily and undid all of Chris's good work in one move.

Chris grimaced as he saw the messy bed. "Both of you guys can go home tomorrow, maybe. They just wanna keep an eye on you until then."

"What about Ez?"

The blond shrugged uncertainly. "He's gonna take a bit longer, obviously. Both his legs are out of action while his dislocations settle, but they think that they'll mend quicker than his shoulder. Once he's improved a bit I expect they'll let him out."

Chris's pager beeped softly and he took a quick look at it. "I'll be back. Bomb squad wants a word with me."

The blond walked out into the parking lot and pulled out his phone. "It's Chris Larabee. Any news for me?"

"Yeah, we found some bits of the detonator and it's been sent to forensics for testing. There was no trace of any drugs in the building that we could find, so whoever planted the bomb stole it. They also killed someone, 'cause we found a body."

"Whose?" the agent asked with interest.

The blond heard a heartfelt sigh come down the line. "We were hoping *you* could tell *us*."

"Well, we were told that the drug dealer shoulda been in the building, but we didn't come across him. His name was Taylor, Brad Taylor. You might wanna see if he matches your vic," Chris suggested.

"Okay, thanks. Speak to ya again later."

The blond sighed as he contemplated the time wasted on the bust and the subsequent injuries that could have been avoided. Sometimes he wished that he had a crystal ball so that he could see into the future and so sidestep these sorts of circumstances. He put his phone away and made his way slowly inside again, his mind full of thoughts.

"What did they say?" Vin asked as soon as Chris reappeared.

"Found a body. They thought I might know who it was,"

Chris said with a shrug. "They also said that there were no drugs there."

"Jeez, do ya think it was a deliberate trap for us? Or were they just trying to cover their tracks after stealing the drugs?" JD asked.

"Don't know, kid. We'll have to wait and see what forensics come up with. The bomb man found a detonator, which he's sent on to them."

The blond sat down by the window and fidgeted as he waited for the expected call. His two charges went to sleep as time passed by and they didn't even wake when Chris started pacing about while muttering fairly loudly. The slender man had to wait a considerable amount of time until he was contacted again with news.

As soon as his pager beeped, he hurried outside and put in the call. "It's Larabee."

"Hi, I'm Peter Ford in Criminalistics. I've been sorting through the bits of bomb that were sent to me. I just wanted to tell you that it was a remote control device rather than on a timer. Whoever planted it was watching and waiting for you to turn up, I'd say."

The black-clad man sighed inwardly. "Shit! Don't s'pose you'll get any fingerprints off it?"

"Nah, it's too badly damaged for getting real detailed forensics. Unless someone owns up to it, you'll have to just count yer blessings that you're all still alive."

Chris cursed and scowled. "Yeah, thanks."

The blond wandered back to Vin and JD's room once again. Both patients were awake now, having unconsciously felt that Chris had left the room.

"Where ya been?" Vin asked.

Chris waved his phone in the air. "Forensics called. The bomb was remote controlled, so it looks like we were being deliberately targeted. They obviously didn't intend killing us all, though, because they didn't do anything else when it was clear that we had survived. They coulda picked us off like ducks on a pond if they'd needed to." The blond shrugged. "Just wanted to cover their tracks and distract us for a while, I suppose. Anyway, that's it: dead end. No fingerprints or nothing on any of the evidence," Chris said as he sat down heavily in the chair and sighed. He hated loose ends.

"They might not have come prepared with any other weapons, Chris. They just mistimed setting the bomb off, even though they were watching. They'd probably gambled everything on the bomb catching us unawares so didn't reckon on needing a back-up plan," Vin suggested.

"Well, we'll never know, cowboy, but we were damned lucky Ez wasn't killed."

*************************************

The next morning arrived and Vin and JD were released as expected. Chris and Buck entered the patients' room with a couple of wheelchairs and came to a halt just inside.

"Mount up, pards," Buck boomed as he indicated the modes of transport.

Vin and JD were sitting on one bed side-by-side and they stared in distaste at the wheeled vehicles.

"We can walk," Vin grumbled as he scratched his chin.

Chris sighed. It was the same protest every time. "Well, you either get in them, or you stay here. Make your choice, cowboy."

"I ain't got no more than a cut on my head. Damned stupid having to get in that just 'cause of a cut," Vin moaned as he transferred from the bed reluctantly.

"It isn't for long and you oughta be used to the idea by now. Been in one often enough, haven't ya?" Buck pointed out as he pushed his chair nearer JD.

"I know. Just feel kinda embarrassed, I guess."

"You oughta be grateful that you can get out of it again when we get to the Ram. There are a lot of people who'll never be free of them," Chris said quietly.

"I know, cowboy," Vin said as he watched Buck help JD sink into his wheelchair. "You know what'll happen though, don't ya? It happens every time."

Chris smiled, knowing what Vin was talking about. "Yeah, but I'll bet you ten dollars that you're wrong today."

"Yer on." Vin smiled, having a feeling he was going to make easy money. "We wanna see Ez too before we go. Is that alright?"

"Sure," the blond agreed, having expected the request.

The two agents were wheeled out into the hallway side-by- side. Halfway to their destination, Vin spied an elderly lady and a young helper walking slowly toward them and he held his breath in trepidation. The elderly lady clapped eyes on Vin and smiled as she signaled for her escort to stop.

"Hello dear. What's a young fella like you doing in here? Nothing too serious, I hope?"

"No, ma'am. I'm just goin' home," the sharpshooter replied, turning red in embarrassment. He consoled himself with the fact that he'd just earned ten dollars. Every time Vin found himself in a wheelchair, there was always someone who stopped to talk to him about his injuries. Nine times out of ten it was an elderly lady. It never happened to any of the others when they were injured: only him.

"Glad to hear it. I always hate seeing perfection damaged," the woman replied with a grin, seeing Vin cringe at the comment. She turned her gaze to the sharpshooter's friends. "What a quartet of handsome men! If only I were fifty years younger I'd give you all a good run for your money," she said as she looked speculatively at Buck.

"I bet you would, ma'am, and I'd have been honored to have you run after me," Buck said with a bark of laughter.

The lady giggled and waved good-bye as she continued on her way again with her friend's help.

"Told ya it'd happen. Every time a winner. Hand over the money, cowboy," Vin ordered as he held out his hand. "What is it that makes them always stop when they see me in one of these?"

"Reckon they can't resist yer good looks, pard," Buck said as he patted Vin's shoulder. "They just wanna mother you."

"Get enough of that from you guys. Jeez, it's so embarrassing. Now do ya see why I'd prefer to walk?" Vin asked as he looked back over his shoulder at Chris.

"Yeah, I see, but I bet she'd still have stopped you, cowboy," the blond said as he handed over the money he owed and watched as Vin stowed it safely in his pocket. "'Spect she was just lonely and wanted to talk to someone new."

JD sighed. "I wouldn't mind someone stopping to talk to me whenever I'm hurt. It's real nice of them to show concern. I feel kinda insulted that she didn't ask after *my* health just now."

"She said you were handsome, didn't she? What more do ya want?" Vin said with a grin. "Anyway, I'd rather have a woman who's a mite younger giving me compliments.  Women of my age'll start to think I've got a hankering for the older generation if they keep seeing me with elderly ladies. No wonder I'm still single!"

The four men laughed and continued on their way to Ezra's room, talking amongst themselves without further interruption from passersby.

"Hey, Ez. How ya feeling?" the sharpshooter asked as soon as he entered the room and saw that Ezra was awake.

The medication that Ezra had previously been on had been changed, on Nathan's advice, so the agent managed to be much more coherent than the day before.

 "Damaged," the injured man replied honestly, with a drawn-out groan. He turned his head slightly on one side so that he was facing Vin, and admitted, "My anatomy doesn't quite seem to be in the right order."

"Huh?" JD laughed questioningly.

Ezra flicked an irritated glare at JD. "I really cannot elucidate, in terms that you would comprehend, exactly how I feel, Mr. Dunne."

JD pouted and looked upset. "I ain't stupid. I can understand what you say most of the time. I know a lot of long words."

"Well, I wish you would employ them occasionally. You are not the most articulate person that I've ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with. You tend to utter Neanderthal grunts instead of using proper words. *Huh?*, instead of *pardon*, springs to mind for example," Ezra said as he arched an eyebrow, making the point with the word JD had just uttered.

JD looked round the group of men and said defiantly, "Yeah, well you all know what I mean, don't ya?"

Ezra nodded slowly with a wince. "True, but the English language was created for a purpose. It should be employed correctly, not abused."

"Jeez, can't be much wrong with him, can there? He's already complaining again!" Vin laughed, glad to see his friend was much better than he had imagined.

"With gentlemen like you for company, there'll always something for me to complain *about*," Ezra retorted with a weak grin.

The End

 

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