Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. We have ownership over any new characters but the rest belongs to others (such a shame!).

Authors' Note: This story came from suffering a really bad week at work. I was attempting to do everyone else's duties as well as my own. Ezra just seemed the convenient candidate to suffer along with me. More of a humerous story than heavy plotting. Thanks to Karen for boosting me along when I needed it. Let me know what you think. The more encouragement, the more stories I will get inspired to write.

Healthy Measure of Insanity - ATF

By Ladysmiths

"Ezra, I'm so glad you decided to grace us with your presence," Chris had noticed the tardy agent make his appearance but continued with the file he was reading. "If these meetings are inconvenient for you, perhaps we could arrange something around your busy schedule."

"As a matter of fact, Mr Larabee..." Ezra stopped when Chris’ eyes raised to meet his. The icy steel blue showed that Chris was not entirely joking. **Shit, so I overslept. I'm undercover practically all the time, with a complete lunatic no less, and they expect me to get in early for a meeting where I'm supposed to tell them I haven't gotten anywhere yet.** Ezra scanned the room, "Well, it appears some other members of your team have also been delayed."

As Chris was about to reply, the phone in the conference room started ringing, "It's for you Chris," Vin said, "the Judge."

"I’ll take it in my office. Nathan, you can fill Ezra in while I'm gone."

"Josiah, Buck and JD are on assignment with the FBI. They have had a series of murders on their hands, and they suspect one of their own agents. Some of the guys requested Josiah's help because he'd worked with them before doing profiles. Chris sent JD along to get some exposure to other departments and Buck, well, he decided to tag along to meet some of the female FBI agents."

"I see, so I take it that is all I have missed." Ezra thought Chris’ reaction was going a bit overboard.

"Well, next on the agenda is your report on the Ginnivan case, but seeing as how you weren't here Vin and I thought we'd remind Chris of all the other times you've been late," Nathan smiled watching a flicker of emotion cross Ezra face.

"I don't think that all this sarcasm is warranted, I wasn't that late." It seemed these men were taking pleasure in his misery this morning.

"Nah, Chris only turned, maybe three or four shades of red before you got here." Vin contributed slyly.

"Very amusing, Mr Tanner. I have a very good excuse..."

"I don't need any excuses, I want some answers" Chris walked back into the room bringing them back to the business at hand, "Just tell us about Ginnivan. Has he said anything about the shipment?"

"No, Mr Larabee he has not," Ezra moved forward in his chair and continued. "Mr Ginnivan can be very odd at times. Since acquiring the position of Mr Ginnivan's adviser, the information on his business dealings that he has given me appear to be fabrications. It seems one moment he is ready to tell me everything and then changes his mind." Ezra wasn’t sure he was explaining the situation properly, "It's more than that though, one moment Mr Ginnivan seems to trust me implicitly and the next he appears ready to shoot me."

"Do you think you need more time, maybe it just takes him longer to trust people," Chris didn't want Ezra pushing his luck, the bust could wait for as long as Ezra needed, "You are wearing a vest, right?"

Ezra sighed, well at least Chris still cared, "If I know I will be anywhere near the vicinity of Mr Ginnivan, I most certainly wear my vest, hell I'd wear full body armour if it wouldn't seem suspicious. The man is completely irrational. If we go to dinner, and he will only dine in one restaurant, his eyes always dart in every direction. As soon as he sees something he doesn't like we abruptly make our departure. He never seems quite comfortable."

All the agents sat quietly musing over what Ezra had told them until Nathan broke the silence. “Ezra," Nathan hesitantly asked, "does he ever take any pills?"

"Why yes, Mr Jackson, but when I questioned him he said that they were just aspirin. You don't think he's on drugs do you?"

"Not exactly, he sounds paranoid, I have a feeling those pills he's taking are for some kind of imbalance," Nathan noticed everyone staring at him. "I've seen those symptoms before. As good as you are, I don't think you'll be able to get him to trust you Ezra. With these type of people if you haven't established trust from the start, then you aren't likely to. They pidgeonhole people, friend or foe. If he's lying to you then I'm afraid you're probably in the latter."

Ezra wondered why this type of information was always relayed too late, "If you had come up with this analysis when we started this assignment, I would have waited for one of his saner moments before broaching any subject with him."

"Actually, if you could have fed his paranoia, and then made out you were his only friend from the start, he would probably have told his life story."

"Nathan, do you think you would be able to do that?" Chris asked, "I mean, you seem to know what to look for. I could send you in, with a wire."

"I'm sure I would be able to get close, now that I know what to look for. I wouldn't be able to wear a wire, he has to trust me, but you guys could follow us pretty closely. We're still trying to feed his paranoia just not against me." Even though Nathan believed what he’d said, he was still nervous about going undercover. This was usually Ezra’s territory, deliberately placing himself in danger amongst the enemy was not something Nathan was used to.

"Excuse me gentlemen. May I inquire as to how you propose to replace myself with Mr Jackson? I sincerely hope he would be able to tell the difference," Ezra looked at the faces of the three men in the room and noticed Vin shuffling in his chair. "And whatever plan Mr Tanner is concocting, I want absolutely nothing to do with it."

* * * * * * *

Chris and Vin were sitting in a van hidden from view off the road. They had followed Ezra and Ginnivan to a secluded wooded area.

"Do you think Ezra will be able to provoke Ginnivan enough?" Chris asked. Vin just gave his best friend a look. "Yeah, I know, stupid question."

When they suddenly heard a gunshot they jumped out of the van making sure they still kept hidden from view until they were sure that it was Ginnivan's car they saw driving away. They rushed towards the small clearing, and Vin heard a soft groan coming from under some of the bushes. "Are you okay, Ez?"

"No I am not, I think some ribs are broken." Vin helped Ezra take the vest off and checked him over.

"I don't think so, just bruised you'll be fine."

"Thank you Dr Tanner.” Did they honestly believe Ezra would trust Vin’s assessment? Well actually, it didn’t feel too bad, but Ezra sure as hell wasn’t going to let them know that. “By the way what if he had aimed for my head?"

"He was shooting you out of anger and fear, it was more likely he'd aim for your chest," After he had secured the area, Chris had also come over to where Ezra was lying.

"Most likely?” Next time Ezra was going to ask for better odds. “Wonderful. And what if he'd decided to bury me?"

"Chris and I loaded shovels in the van."

"Very funny. I suppose Mr Jackson is already in place?" Ezra knew that Vin was finding this way too amusing, but for the life of him couldn’t think of a suitable comeback.

"Yeah, he's already surveying the other companies in the area. Hopefully when he hits Ginnivan Imports, Ginnivan will have made it back," Chris stated, he’d been watching Vin tend to Ezra and smiled to himself. Not many people could get the better of Ezra, but lately Vin didn’t seem to be having much trouble. Maybe someone had finally gotten through to the undercover agent.

"Mr Tanner, if you do not stop poking at me I'll shoot you and you can see how it feels."

Chris started laughing, "Come on Ezra, we'll help you home and you can have the rest of the day off."

"Small compensation, Mr Larabee."

* * * * * * *

Nathan came into the office late afternoon. "How'd it go?" Vin questioned.

"Fine. I told Ginnivan about the survey and asked if he'd like me to check out any companies he deals with. Said you couldn't be too careful."

"Bet he agreed with that," Vin chuckled.

Chris had joined the two agents but remained leaning against the doorway listening to their conversation.

"Sure did. Told him you couldn't trust anyone, except maybe a handful of people. He liked the idea of having somebody snoop around for him. He's keeping it legit for now but if I can win him over, I might be able to encourage him to let me into his illegal dealings. Where's Ezra?"

"I gave him the rest of the day off to rest."

"Is he alright, he wasn't hurt was he?" the concern he felt heard in his voice.

Vin remarked, "Nah, he's just dead tired."

* * * * * * *

After a couple of weeks Nathan had worked his way in to become one of Ginnivan's very few friends. Ginnivan had started telling him about his smaller dealings, and so far everything had checked out.

Chris and Vin had been tailing Ginnivan and Nathan almost constantly, this effectively fuelling Ginnivan's paranoia. By passing Ginnivan on the streets, sitting inside a diner directly opposite Ginnivan’s company and even going to the same gym Ginnivan is known to go to, Ezra was also able to add to Ginnivan’s delusions. Ezra always kept his distance and Chris and Vin were never far away in case Ginnivan reacted violently. Whenever Ginnivan noticed Ezra he would look like he’d seen a ghost and reach for his pills. If Nathan was around he would ask him what was wrong, but so far Ginnivan’s only explanation had been that he must be mistaken. Nathan noticed that Ginnivan had trouble controlling the shaking of his hands and that this was starting to happen more frequently.

Chris decided it was time to push for the information on the big shipment.

"He's on the edge," Nathan stated "We just need to do something big, then I think he'll snap and want someone else to oversee the shipment transaction."

"We need to make sure Nathan's around when that happens," Chris was looking around for any ideas.

Ezra noticed Vin shuffling in his chair and groaned.

* * * * * * *

"Have you noticed anyone following us?" Ginnivan asked Nathan, they were in one of Ginnivan’s cars heading back to the office after visiting one of the smaller storage warehouses.

"No, I don't think so," Nathan looked out the rear of the car and saw the van Chris and Vin had been using.

"I'm sure I've seen that van before," Ginnivan insisted as he took out his pills, "But maybe your right, I mean if you don't think so." Ginnivan was still looking out the window when they stopped at a red light next to a construction site, "That guy leaning on the shovel!"

Nathan peered out to see what Ginnivan had noticed, "What about him, did he work construction for you once?"

"No, he's meant to be, I mean. No, I think I'm mistaken."

Nathan shrugged, "Well, okay. But if you want to talk about anything, I'm here." The red light changed and Ginnivan gave the guy one last glance before the car rolled away.

* * * * * * *

"Hey you, get back to work!"

"I was not made for menial labour," Ezra grumbled as he picked his shovel up. Glancing towards the road he noticed Chris and Vin waving to him as they drove past and wished he could have reached the wrecking ball in time.

"How did you get the foreman to let Ezra onto the site?" Chris asked Vin.

"They're short staffed, so they were happy to have a couple of extra hands," Vin grinned.

Chris caught onto to his friend’s meaning straight away, "You mean you actually got him a job, he has to work?"

"Only for half a day, I've lined up something else for tonight."

"I think I'm going to have to send you out of town for a while." Chris shook his head, he was really starting to worry about those two.

"Why? Ezra's enjoyin' himself."

"I'm glad this was your plan and not mine." Vin just laughed at Chris’ comment and they continued following Ginnivan and Nathan in relative silence.

* * * * * * *

That evening Ginnivan and Nathan were shown to their seats in Ginnivan's favourite restaurant. It never took Ginnivan long to be served, "May I take your order?"

Ginnivan looked up at the waiter and flew out of his chair, "What the... Who are you? Why are you doing this?"

Nathan had also risen and was grabbing hold of Ginnivan, "What's wrong?"

"This guy, I know him, I...." Ginnivan was searching his coat pockets frantically, "Where are my pills!"

"Here let me help you," Nathan said glancing over to the waiter.

"Should I get a glass of water?" the waiter asked looking quite taken back.

"That's okay, I think I'll take him home. Thanks anyway," Nathan led Ginnivan out the door.

* * * * * * *

A couple of minutes later Chris and Vin were shown to a seat in the same restaurant. "Shouldn't you gentlemen be shadowing Mr Jackson?" Ezra asked.

"No, the guy's lost it. Nathan needs to get him alone so he can get the information. We’ve got a wire on him and I’ve called one of the surveillance guys from the department to monitor it. As soon as Ginnivan lets the location drop, he’ll contact us." Chris answered holding up his cell phone.

"Besides," Vin smiled graciously, "We're hungry."

"Perhaps I'll join you. Just let me find the manager so that I can inform him that I will be taking my leave now." Ezra was famished after having been made to work construction all morning and now the waiter.

"Can't do that Ez," Vin's amused expression was starting to annoy Ezra, "I told the manager to give the waiter you replaced the night off. Said you'd be happy to fill in. Now I think I'll have ....."

* * * * * * *

The next week, Chris, Vin, Nathan, Buck, JD and Josiah were in the conference room discussing their separate cases.

"Once Nathan got the information, the bust went down smoothly. We were able to close down all his operations not just the gun smuggling," Chris was looking pleased.

"How'd you manage to get the information?" JD asked.

"We'll explain later," Chris thought Ezra might want to explain seeing as how their undercover agent had taken to whingeing lately. "I want to know how you guys went, while we wait for Ezra."

"Well, there was this really cute redhead, who thought I was..."

"The case Buck, stick to the case," Chris interrupted, rolling his eyes.

"It ended up being Agent Nelson," Josiah took up the story. "The job just got too much for him and he cracked, started refusing to do assignments because he felt they were asking him go above and beyond the call. He took to listing everything that had happened to him over certain periods of time as excuses, even if he had to make some of it up. Then the murders started, he was letting out his frustrations and killing people he felt were requesting too much of him."

Nathan nodded, "We've seen a little of that ourselves. The Ginnivan case certainly brought out some delusional behaviour."

"Sometimes when your line of business is highly dangerous and unusual at times, you tend to start feeling a little paranoid," JD added quoting what Josiah had explained to him when they were going through the profiles together.

Buck whacked JD upside the head, "Better watch it kid, your starting to sound like a bore." JD glared at him and Buck realised what he'd just said, "Sorry Josiah, no offence. It just doesn't sound right when JD says it."

Before Josiah could reply, Ezra walked into the room and noticed Chris looking at him, "Please, Mr Larabee I don't think I can contend with any sarcasm just yet."

"Just take a seat Ezra, we haven't started the meeting yet so you're not late," Chris smiled. "Vin even bought you a cup of your favourite coffee."

Ezra just glared at Vin. **Like that's going to make up for everything that man's put me through. Just keep grinning Vin, you'll get yours** Ezra thought as he conjured some nasty accidents featuring the lean sharpshooter.

“Okay," Chris started the meeting, "our new assignment is laid out in your folders. Basically, the agency believes that guns are being stolen from the government, relabelled and sold by a large gun manufacturing corporation called Guncorp. Because this is still speculation, they want us to see if we break into the corporation and see if we can find any proof. If there are any weapons that don't belong, then a full operation will be organised. Any ideas on how we can get passed security?"

Ezra noticed Vin shuffling in his chair and jumped out of his seat shaking his head and pointing at Vin, "Oh no. I absolutely refuse. In the past month you've gotten me killed, I still have blisters on my hands from all the construction work which you so graciously lined up for me, and to top it all off I have had to wait on you and Mr Larabee."

Ezra’s eyes darted around the room and he noticed that Josiah, Buck and JD were staring at him open mouthed looking like they thought he belonged in an asylum, "What? What are you all looking at me like that for? It's true..."


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