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: The inspiration for this story came from the title of a book which I also used for my story. The concept however is all my own. I started with what I thought was a basic idea but the continual threads just seemed to evolve. I hope you enjoy the Ezra hurt and team angst thrown in. Vin and JD get quite a share in this story as well!!

A Wire in the Blood - ATF

By Ladysmiths


"Ezra said he'd only turn it off for ten minutes," Vin said. "It's been that already."

"He's not known to be on time," Chris watched Vin's pacing, he didn't like it when Vin started worrying, unfortunately the sharpshooter's hunches were usually right. "Maybe scanning for the wire took longer than he anticipated, or maybe he hasn't had a chance to turn the damn thing back on."

For once Ezra hadn't complained about having to wear a wire to a bust, mainly because he would be able to turn it on and off as required. Chris was beginning to wonder whether the device was such a good idea, he preferred to know what was going on at all times, and by the expression on his face so did Vin.

"Still nothing," JD informed moving the headphones slightly.

Nathan, Josiah and Buck watched from their respective positions as the van's doors swung open and Vin stealthily headed towards the alley, his gun in hand. When they saw Chris following Vin, all three men drew their own weapons and came out of hiding.

The four men turned into the alley to find no-one there. They carefully made their way further into the alley, as Vin came back from the other end having run right through the alley and having checked every corner. JD came up behind Chris, he'd been the last to leave the van, the young man started when he saw the patch of blood on the ground.

Noting the kid's expression Nathan tried to sound calm, "We don't know that it's Ezra's blood."

Vin bent down, pulled out his pocket knife and carefully lifted something off the concrete where some of the red liquid had pooled. "It's his wire," he stated as he placed it in the plastic bag Josiah handed him.

* * * * * * *

"Dammit," Chris hissed. "What the hell happened? Trimble hasn't even shown up yet, there's been no traffic."

"The could've have been waiting for him at the other end of the alley," Vin stated.

"I knew we should have been covering both ends," Chris was mentally kicking himself. He hadn't liked the idea of doing the bust in an alley in the first place, and this one in particular hadn't been the most visual, which is probably why Trimble had picked it. In fact even with six of them positioned around the front and sides of the alley, they would still lose sight of the undercover agent. Ezra had cited the many occasions this had occurred in the past and how often it would probably occur in the future. Then he reminded Chris that he was going to be wearing a wire so that even though they couldn't see him, they'd at least be able to hear him.

"Ezra said it was a dead end, we would only have trapped ourselves," Josiah said.

Vin shook his head, "The gate's open, a vehicle could have driven through and we wouldn't have seen it."

Chris continued cursing, so JD turned to the others and asked, "What should we do now?"

"Trimble must've found out Ezra was an agent and jumped him," Buck mused.

"It seems we should pay Ross Trimble a visit," Josiah suggested.

"We'll go to his office first," Chris decided.

Nathan put his cell phone back in his pocket, "We won't be able to get a search warrant till the morning."

"We can still question Trimble and his people," Josiah said.

"Yeah," Buck agreed. "Someone might slip up and give somethin' away."

All six men glanced down at the blood on the floor, each of them refusing to consider that the undercover agent might be dead.

* * * * * * *

"You two circle the building, make sure no-one's skulking around," Chris indicated JD and Vin. "Trimble has offices on the first and second floors, we'll see who we can find to question inside. We can look around but we can't unlock any doors or cabinets. Hopefully they won't be expecting us this early, so look and listen for anything that may point to Ezra."

Chris looked at his friends and noted anger, worry, frustration and desperation on his team's face he continued, "We have to do this by the book. I don't want Trimble to get away on a technicality." Then looking pointedly at Buck and Vin, Chris added, "No-one is to do anything rash."

"I hope that goes for you too," Buck mumbled as he followed Chris, Josiah and Nathan inside.

* * * * * * *

A well dressed, alert looking man stood up behind his desk when he saw the four agents enter the building, "Can I help you gentlemen?" he asked as he led them into his office and closed the door.

They all held up their ID's, "We're looking for Ross Trimble," Chris stated.

"I'm afraid Mr Trimble hasn't been in all day," the man answered. "My name is Henry Collins, can I help you with something?"

"Well Hank," Buck smiled as Henry flinched at the nickname. "What do you know about a shipment of guns that were supposed to be bought today?"

"I'm sorry, but we only deal in packaging products," Henry answered smoothly.

"Cut the crap, everyone in this goddamn room knows what Trimble deals in. We've spent months preparing this bust. Now its gone bad, there's no guns, the money's gone and I've got an agent missing," Chris' eyes burned as he advanced on Collins. "Now to top it all off you're giving me the runaround. I swear if anything happens to..."

Henry didn't look like he was backing down, he didn't even falter under Chris' glare as he interrupted, "I'm sure I have no idea what you are babbling about. An it seems clear you have no proof or search warrant."

Josiah watched as Chris clenched his fists, Henry was about to feel the brunt of Chris' temper. Even though Josiah understood and would have loved to wipe the smug look off Collins' face, he intervened stepping in front of Chris and facing Henry, "Trust me, you don't want us hounding you, and we will everyday until we find our friend. It'd be better if you spoke to us now, but rest assured, if we don't get any answers, we'll be back with a warrant."

"For your arrest," Buck added, his eyes also flashing, the anger and frustration simmering just under the surface.

Henry just shrugged his shoulders, "I hate to repeat myself but..."

"That's it," this time Buck was stalking towards Collins. "I'm gonna tear this place apart, starting with you."

Nathan placed a hand on Buck's shoulder, pulling him back. "We have to do this right," Nathan whispered to Buck. "C'mon we've got some more people to question," he added a little louder dragging the usually easygoing man towards the door.

"Upstairs are Mr Trimble's private offices, he keeps them locked when he's not in. However, you can speak to anyone on this floor, but you'll get the same answer," Henry said in his smooth, unfaltering manner.

Josiah grabbed Chris before he reached Collins, "Let me question him, you help Nathan and Buck."

Chris nodded and slammed out of the room, that guy irritated the hell out of him, or maybe it was the situation.

* * * * * * *

Chris stalked out of the office building, "Well that was a waste of time."

"Collins is probably calling Trimble right now," Josiah speculated. "Letting him know the FBI are breathing down their necks and to hide anything illegal."

"We should still go to his estate and talk to him, we may catch him out," Nathan said and then glanced at the doubtful looks he was getting from everybody. Well, at least he'll know we're not going to stop."

Chris nodded and watched JD approach them, "Did you find anyone?"

"I circled the building," JD answered. "There were a couple of guys out back, but they said they didn't know anything."

"Big surprise," Buck muttered.

"If you circled the building, where's Vin?" Nathan asked.

"Here," Vin appeared beside Josiah. "Before you ask I haven't spoken to anyone."

"Our next stop is Trimble's estate," Buck informed JD and Vin.

"I said I'd have the van back before six," JD said. "It's ten to now."

Chris nodded, "You go back to the office, go over what was recorded on the wire before Ezra turned it off, maybe there's something in the background that can help us."

Vin placed a hand on Chris' shoulder, "I'll go with JD. I want to get forensics to go over the wire."

Chris stared at Vin wondering whether he should try and force Vin to spill whatever he was hiding. It wasn't like Vin couldn't just give JD the wire, and usually the sharpshooter would want to be in on the action, not back at the office. Deciding that Vin wouldn't be very forthcoming anyway, and that they'd just end up wasting more time, Chris consented. "I want to know as soon as you think you've found something," Chris warned in a dangerously low tone so that only Vin could hear.

Vin just inclined his head slightly and followed JD to the van.

* * * * * * *

Vin stepped quietly into JD's office after having come up from dropping the wire off with forensics, taking note of all the equipment JD seemed to have collected, wondering whether the agency was ever going to come in and raid the place.

JD had his earphones in place and was listening intently when he noticed Vin in the doorway.

"Anything?" Vin asked as JD removed the headphones.

"No, I'm almost positive Ez was alone when he turned it off," JD answered. "I thought you'd have wanted to go after Trimble with the rest of them," he added.

"Overheard those bodyguards talkin' before you questioned them," Vin stated by way of explanation. Looking at JD's expression and realising that wasn't enough information he continued, "They were saying that Trimble just called tellin' them that there were a bunch of Feds hovering in the alley, but that their buyer was nowhere in sight. They seemed to think we arrested Ezra."

JD thought about it, "Maybe Trimble figured we'd be asking questions and lied to his men."

"What about this," Vin pulled a sheet of paper from his jacket. "It looks like another trade that went wrong for Trimble. Christianson we know is a weapons dealer, he's obviously the buyer. This is the amount of guns and how much Trimble expected to get. Something went wrong and he ended up losing this much and he's got this name circled."

JD followed what Vin was pointing out, "Todd Lashner," he mumbled. "I've never heard of him."

"Vin moved some of JD's equipment aside and sat on the edge of the desk, "Maybe we could look him up."

JD started tapping on his computer, "Where'd you get that from anyway?"

Vin shrugged, "Trimble's office."

"But we weren't supposed..." JD stopped, if Vin never listened to Chris he certainly wouldn't listen to JD.

"There's nothing much on Todd Lashner, he doesn't have a record or anything like that, runs a small print shop on Wallis Street." Vin leaned over JD's shoulder as the kid continued, "When I checked Trimble's records it appears Todd's brother worked for one of his companies, and was killed."

Vin looked down at JD, "This could have been about getting Trimble, I don't think anyone realised Ez was an agent."

"Vigilantes," JD picked up where Vin was leading. "Todd thought Ezra was a real buyer and saw the opportunity to avenge his brother's death."

Vin nodded, "Maybe even take the money too."

"If you had a hunch, why didn't you let Chris know?" JD asked.

"Wasn't sure, still ain't. It's better that someone's attacking Trimble's operations in case they do have Ezra," Vin said. "We can check out the print shop ourselves, if we find anything then we'll call the others."

"What about..."

"We'll leave them a note," Vin answered before JD finished asking, scribbling something on a piece of paper.

JD turned his computer off and quickly followed Vin, not wanting to be left behind.

As they came out of the office Mac from forensics stopped them, handing Vin the wire, "I'm glad I still caught you, the wire's too small to get a useable print, however it is Standish's blood and no evidence that anyone else touched it."

"Thanks Mac," Vin muttered becoming more determined to find out what happened.

* * * * * * *

The pounding in Ezra's head eventually lifted him from unconsciousness. Ezra blinked, trying to take in his surroundings. He was lying on a narrow bed in a very bare room, but it didn't feel like he was in a hospital. He tried to sit up and winced at the pain in his side, moving his hand over the area Ezra felt the rough bandages. No, he definitely wasn't in hospital, they certainly would have done a better job and he felt sure he'd be on pain killers by now.

Ezra tried to clear his head. He remember waiting in the alley for Trimble and his men, he had the money with him and he'd just informed JD that he was going to switch the wire off. Then what? Ezra again glanced around the room, felt the dull ache in his head and the sharp pain in his side. Well, obviously he was jumped, but he didn't recall Trimble showing up.

Noticing his jacket thrown onto the floor in a corner, Ezra got up almost doubling over. Once he'd regained some semblance of balance, Ezra stumbled over to the now crumpled piece of material. Naturally his guns were missing, and so was the case of money he'd been carrying. Ezra painfully lowered himself to the floor, running his hands over the jacket hoping that they'd missed the wire. Damn, it wasn't here, either they'd taken or he'd dropped it, he couldn't remember which.

Ezra clutched at his side as a wave of pain hit him, damn but that hurt. He heard the door opening, but was in no position to do anything but glance towards it. Two young men came into the room, and one of them rushed over to Ezra, "Are you okay?"

Ezra moved his gaze from the man at the door to the one in front of him, he didn't recognise either face, "Who are you?"

"I'm Luke, and that's Todd," the one assisting him said, as he lowered Ezra back onto the bed.

"Thank you," Ezra muttered. "Now if you'll return my weapons and money I'll be on my way."

"I don't think so," the one named Todd stated firmly.

"He needs a doctor," Luke was still at Ezra's side. "He's burning up and looks really sick."

"He should have thought of that before he got involved with that bastard," Todd's voice was harsh and set.

Luke glared at Todd, "We were just supposed to scare them off, not stab them, or kidnap them."

Todd shrugged, "He struggled, besides we're helping get these people off the streets, maybe we should have been more aggressive with Trimble from the beginning."

Ezra's head was spinning trying to work out what was being said. It sounded as if they were after Trimble, vigilanteism. He reached out an touched Luke's arm, "Luke."

When Luke turned back towards Ezra, he continued, "My name's Ezra Standish, I'm an ATF agent."

Luke swung his head and stared at Todd a startled expression on his face.

"He's lying," Todd stated.

Ezra got Luke's attention back again, "No, take me to a hospital and I'll prove it. You interrupted a bust, we've been working to take Trimble down ourselves." Ezra wasn't sure if he was getting through, "I'm telling you the truth."

"We found no ID on him," Todd was speaking again. "The first things he asked for were guns and money. He's making this up to scare us and let him go."

Luke had trusted Todd for a long time now, "You really think so?"

Todd nodded, "C'mon we've got some more plans to go over, we can work out what to do with him later."

Luke moved towards Todd, Ezra tried to reach out again, "Please, Luke."

Luke wavered, "I'll bring you down some water."

"We'll get someone else to do it," Todd amended not wanting Luke to be alone with this guy, Luke seemed to be easily influenced by his smooth talking.

* * * * * * *

"It's closed," JD mumbled.

"You really expected them to be open?" Vin asked as he pulled out his pocket knife.

JD looked around the darkened street, at least there weren't too many people out this evening, "I suppose this is how you got into Trimble's office."

JD barely finished the sentence when Vin swung the door open. Handing JD a flashlight, Vin entered first, "Shut the door behind you JD."

* * * * * * *

"I don't think Ez is here," JD muttered after they'd been searching for a while.

"Look at this," Vin said and showed JD the small notebook he'd found. "It has a list of times and places. This one looks like today's bust."

"So they did know about it," JD affirmed.

Both Vin and JD ducked behind the desk they were standing at when they heard the back door.

"Why do we have to pick the delivery up," one man grumbled.

"Todd still has a business to run," the other guy answered, touching a stack of papers. "Something's not right here."

"They might know where Ez is," JD whispered.

Vin nodded in the dark, "I have a feeling they do, but they're not just going to tell us."

"What then?" even though it was dark and JD couldn't see Vin's expression, he figured Vin was thinking up some plan.

"They may take me there if I get caught."

"You mean we," JD said. "I'm not letting them take you alone."

"You can follow us in the jeep, or go get Chris," Vin hissed shoving the keys in JD's pocket. "I'll be fine."

"No," JD was adamant. "I'm coming with you." With that he dropped his flashlight.

Vin glared at JD in the dark, how dare the kid manipulate the situation to suit what he wanted.

Both men were grabbed and a struggle ensued, although neither Vin nor JD put all their effort into the fight. Eventually they were standing with their own guns aimed at them.

"Who do you work for?" one of the goons asked.

"We work for people who want back what you stole," Vin answered.

The guy leered at them, "I would've thought that Trimble could afford to send better guys than you two. Or have we actually put a dent in his finances."

The other guy turned to his friend, "Todd'll be happy, we actually got Trimble's men to hold over him."

"How would he know," Vin interrupted. "We could have just quit on him."

Both guys glanced at Vin inquisitively.

"If you left one of us behind, that person could then tell Mr Trimble how you got the better of us, and that we couldn't find the hideout or the money," Vin continued hoping these guys wouldn't think about the plan too much, there were much more competent and logical ways to let Trimble know his men were being held.

"One would be easier to manage," one of them said. "Take that one," he added pointing to Vin.

The goon tied Vin hands. And Vin winced when the other guy punched JD for good measure and threw him in the back store room, locking the door.

* * * * * * *

Chris, Buck, Nathan and Josiah stepped off the elevator onto an empty floor.

"Trimble has to be lying," Chris couldn't wait to get that search warrant and tear Trimble's place apart.

"I don't know," Josiah said. "He seemed pretty sincere."

"And he was definitely upset about having lost the deal," Nathan added.

"Where are the other two?" Buck wanted to know as he wandered into JD's office.

"Maybe they went home, it is getting pretty late," Nathan suggested.

"You really think either of them would go home while Ezra's still missing?" Chris dismissed that idea.

"Plus there's a note," Buck handed the slip of paper to Chris.

All four men spun around as JD tumbled out of the elevator.

"What the hell happened to you?" Buck asked rushing over to his bruised and battered friend.

"Todd took Ezra and we went to the print shop Vin wanted to go alone but they caught both of us they left me there I couldn't follow so I came here."

"Take a deep breath and start again," Josiah suggested.

JD breathed deeply, "Vin found something in Trimble's office with the name Todd Lashner on it. We looked it up and found out that Trimble might have had something to do with his brother's death. Anyway, we went to the print shop he runs, where we found a list of Trimble's deals including Ezra's. Then these goons showed up, by this time we were pretty sure it was these guys who had Ezra so Vin thought if we got caught they'd take us there."

"So that's where Vin is," Chris stated as JD took another breath.

"Yeah. Somehow he convinced them to only take him, but they locked me in the store room. By the time I got out I was too late to follow them. I'm sorry Chris."

"It ain't your fault kid, Vin knew what he was doing," Buck was still checking over the cuts and bruises, relieved that they were just superficial, and that JD here now.

"Although you should have let us know what was going on way before this," Chris admonished.

"We weren't sure," JD figured he should use Vin's excuse. "Besides, we left you a note."

"Following a lead," Chris read aloud. "Real helpful."

"I didn't know what it said," JD mumbled.

"Did you hear anything about where they might be going?" Nathan asked.

"No, but I did grab some papers before I left," JD said as he pulled some crumpled sheets out of his jacket.

"You're becoming as bad as Vin or Ezra," Josiah observed.

"He better not be," Buck's eyes narrowed at JD giving him a warning look.

JD ignored them and headed to his office to see if he could look up some of the names and places on the pages he'd swiped. "Do you guys hear that?" he asked as he moved around his desk.

"What?" Buck followed him into his office, the other three men not far behind.

JD lifted the headphones to his ear and fiddled with some of the buttons on a piece of equipment on his desk.

"You're really going to have to return some of this stuff," Chris mumbled wondering when he was going to be called into a meeting to explain why all the audio and video equipment was stashed in JD's office.

"It's Ezra's wire," JD stated.

"It can't be," Nathan said.

"Vin must have turned it on," JD looked up at the blank faces and elaborated, "Mac gave it back to Vin before we left for the print shop. He must have kept it on him."

"Can you hear what's being said?" Josiah asked.

"No, the frequency's pretty weak. It has been dropped and wet, I'm surprised it's still working at all," JD answered.

"Can we trace where it's coming from?" Chris wanted to know.

JD again started fiddling with some buttons and wires, "Now we can."

"Let's go," Chris sighed.

* * * * * * *

Vin pulled the pocket knife out of his jacket pocket, these guys definitely were not professionals, they'd missed the knife and the wire. He had contemplated telling them the truth once they'd gotten to this house and he'd finally met Todd Lashner. That guy was hell bent on revenge, not that Vin could blame him, it's a shame he was going about it the wrong way. Vin had hoped to get the guy named Luke alone when they'd shoved him in this room. Luke seemed afraid and nervous, he might at least have told Vin about Ezra. But Luke had stuck close to Todd and Vin didn't have the time to find out whether he might come back alone.

Vin quietly pushed the door open a crack and looked out, no guards, someone should have given them lessons in kidnapping. Vin snuck down the hall trying every door he came to. All of them were open and empty. When he finally reached a locked door he carefully opened it and stepped inside closing the door behind him in case someone did actually decide to come down the stairs.

"Dear Lord, I'm delusional," Vin heard the soft southern drawl.

"If it's me you're seein' then you're still fine," Vin said as he turned around.

Vin caught his breath, Ezra didn't look fine, in fact he looked terrible. Ezra's hair was dark and slick with sweat, his whole body was shaking, his breathing was heavy and irregular and pain reflected in his eyes with every slight movement.

Vin rushed over and knelt beside the bed. Ezra winced as a hand brushed over the bruise on the side of his head, "Okay so it is you, you don't have to prove it by causing further pain."

"Sorry," Vin mumbled.

"Are the others here too?" Ezra asked.

"No, but I brought this," Vin held up the wire.

"Is it working? Where did you find it?"

"I hope so and it's a long story Ez, I don't think we have time to go into it right now," Vin stated as he moved Ezra's hands away so he could check the wound the undercover agent was trying to protect.

Ezra flinched as Vin pulled back the bandages, "Jesus Ez, the wound's seeping and it looks infected. I need to get you to a hospital right now."

"A hospital sounds wonderful Vin," Ezra whispered.

"You must be feeling really awful, you're not sounding like the Ezra I know," Vin said as he turned to open the door.

Luckily there was still no-one outside, so Vin leaned over Ezra, "Can you help me get you out of here?"

Ezra wrapped an arm around Vin's neck and swung his legs onto the floor. The pain was excruciating but with Tanner's assistance they managed to stumble out the door and down the corridor.

Vin had to lean Ezra against the wall as he picked the lock to the back door, before they could make their slow progress out into the open.

"I guess I'm going to have to endure a ride in your jeep," Ezra stated.

"Actually I was brought here by some of Todd's men, we'll have to steal a car," Vin said, he hadn't thought about how to get Ezra to the hospital, only that he had to.

"Oh no, now I am hallucinating," Ezra groaned. "That looks like Chris' dodge and Buck's truck."

Vin smiled, "No you're still fine. They must have gone inside as we came out."

Ezra gasped and would have fallen to the ground if Vin hadn't been holding onto him. Vin stumbled with the sudden extra weight, but regained his balance before they both toppled over. "I'm sure Chris won't mind us borrowing his truck," Vin muttered as he led Ezra towards it.

* * * * * * *

Todd and his friends gave up as soon as they found out Ezra really was a Federal Agent, giving Chris the keys and letting Team 7 know which rooms they'd locked Ezra and Vin in.

The door to the room stood open, and it was empty. "Damn," Chris cursed, why wasn't he surprised.

Buck stepped passed him and picked up the wire from the bed, "Looks like Vin got here first."

All five men stepped out of the back door which had also been left open.

Chris stopped when they were halfway to their vehicles, "Where's my dodge?"

Josiah chuckled, "Where do you think?"

Chris cursed, Vin was going to have to stop breaking into other people's property.

Buck grinned, "Don't worry we can all fit in my truck?"

* * * * * * *

Team 7 were shown into a hospital room and quietly entered.

"How's he doing?" JD whispered to Vin who was sitting in a chair beside the bed.

"Much better," Vin answered and then realising that they hadn't seen what Ezra looked like before, he added, "The wound had become infected, now that the doctors have cleaned it out and stitched the wound up his fever's come down some. Luckily there was no concussion from the blow to his head. The doctor thinks he can be released the day after tomorrow, as long as someone keeps an eye on him."

"At least that's a Saturday, we can spend the weekend at Chris' ranch," Buck said.

"What about you, are you okay?" Chris asked taking in the bruises that covered Vin's face, he looked a lot like JD did.

"I'm fine," Vin grinned. "Thanks for the use of your truck."

Chris glared at Vin, he wanted to yell at him for going off on his own, he could have been seriously hurt like Ezra, or worse killed. JD deserved a severe talking to as well, the last thing he needed was for the kid to pick up any habits. But Chris wasn't going to disturb Ezra while he was sleeping, and what irked him the most was the fact that Vin knew that and didn't look like he'd move from Ezra's side any time soon.

* * * * * * *

A nurse walked into Ezra's room and started when she saw all the men sprawled around the room. She moved over to Josiah, "It's nearly morning, perhaps you should all go home and get some rest yourselves," she suggested.

"We're doing fine," Josiah answered quietly.

"What about you two," she indicated Vin and JD, "Maybe I could get a doctor to look at those injuries."

"No thanks," Vin answered. "We're fine."

"Actually, I think having a doctor check them over sounds like a great idea," Buck grinned.

"Yeah, they were complaining about some pain before," Chris added.

Although Vin and JD tried to protest and let her know that Chris was lying, the nurse led them out of the room anyway.

* * * * * * *

Vin was standing in the waiting room when JD came out of the examining room.

"All clear?" Vin asked.

"Of course," JD muttered. "Aren't you going back to Ez's room?"

"You remember that notebook we found in the print shop?" Vin watched the kid until he was sure JD knew what he was talking about. "Well I'm pretty sure a trade is going down today, in about an hour actually. Trimble's bound to show up, he needs the money and to offload his shipments, especially seeing as how the feds are so close and at least two of his deals have fallen through."

JD nodded in agreement, "We should go get Chris and the others."

Vin shook his head, "They questioned Trimble remember, he might recognise one of them in the distance and go under ground."

"What about backup?"

"I've called Team 3, they're on their way here to pick us up."

"What about Chris?"

"I've left a note with the nurse."

"I hope it says more than your last note," JD mumbled as he followed Vin towards the exit.

"Yeah," Vin grinned. "I added that they shouldn't worry."

* * * * * * *

"Would someone like to hand me that glass of water?"

All four men jumped out of their chairs to Ezra's side when they heard the familiar southern voice.

"Mornin' Ez," Buck smiled. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine now that I'm medicated," Ezra answered. "When can I get out of here?"

Nathan chuckled, and brought over the water Ezra had asked for, "The wound's healing fine now, and you only have a slight fever, but the doctors want to keep you here at least another day."

Ezra grimaced and took a sip of the water.

"Don't even think about arguing," Chris admonished, he really didn't feel like listening to the same excuses again.

"Where are JD and Vin?" Ezra's eyes roamed around the room.

"Good question," Josiah said.

"Yeah," Buck agreed. "They should've been back ages ago."

"Are you talking about the two men with the bruises?" the nurse who had just walked in asked.

"Yes ma'am," Buck confirmed.

"We released them an hour ago, I think they left a note for you at the front desk."

Everyone groaned, and Josiah headed out of the room.

Josiah returned a few seconds later holding the note in his hand, "Following a lead. Don't worry." he read.

The nurse looked up from her chart, "The doctor will be here any moment to examine the patient, if I could ask you gentlemen to leave."

"We have something we need to chase up anyway," Buck stated. "We'll see you later this afternoon Ez."

"I'm going to kill 'em," Chris muttered as he followed his friends out the door.

* * * * * * *

Vin and JD quietly entered the hospital room, relieved to see Ezra awake and looking much better.

Ezra smiled at his visitors, "Where have you two been?"

"Our job," Vin answered vaguely.

"We caught Trimble and his men from the information we got from Lashner," JD elaborated.

"Mr Larabee is livid. You two are in for one hell of a lecture when he catches up with you," Ezra stated. "Mr Wilmington isn't too pleased with you either," Ezra added turning to JD.

"Buck's no problem," JD said. "Although I've never really had Chris this mad at me before."

"Don't worry kid," Vin smiled at the frightened expression on JD's face.

"Mr Larabee's not here now. So if you two gentlemen will assist me we can depart this dismal place," Ezra threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed.

Vin nodded and started gathering some of Ezra's clothes.

"Where are we going?" JD asked.

"Where we always go to recuperate," Ezra answered.

"Chris' ranch," Vin informed JD when it was clear he still didn't know what they were talking about.

"Aren't you supposed to stay here until tomorrow?" JD stared at Ezra.

"Your point being?" Ezra was reaching for the clothes Vin was bringing over.

"This isn't going to help our case with Chris any, won't he just get angrier than he already is?"

Ezra sighed, "Does it really matter? You and Mr Tanner investigated my disappearance and have now apprehended Ross Trimble without informing Mr Larabee of your whereabouts or movements, and we all know how much Chris hates not being in control of a situation."

"We also haven't bothered going back to the office to write up any of the reports or paperwork," Vin added, which effectively buried their case in JD's point of view.

"I will also be out of favour with our illustrious leader when he finds out I've absconded from this hospital a day earlier than anticipated, and you gentlemen assisted me in this endeavour also," Ezra continued.

"We're going to break into Chris' house," Vin followed on.

"We will disperse our jackets all over the living room, perhaps even find some of Chris' attire to wear considering we haven't had a change of clothes for a couple of days."

"We'll eat all his food."

"Effectively settle in and make ourselves at home."

JD was looking from one to the other as they spoke. Vin helped Ezra to his feet and they were ready to leave.

"I don't know," JD's expression registered his reservations. "All that sounded like more reasons to yell at us. Maybe we should just leave well enough alone."

Ezra smiled, "Mr Larabee will then come home at the end of a very frustrating day to find us sprawled in his living room. Looking around and finding so much to be angry about, poor Mr Larabee won't know where to start."

"So he'll just glare at us, clench his fists, and storm off without saying anything. He'll either go riding or head to his room," Vin grinned.

"Once he's cooled down somewhat, Mr Larabee will be flooded with relief that we are all safe and under his roof, he will actually be quite pleasant for the rest of the weekend," Ezra added.

"And then the rest of the guys will come over with more food and we'll just hang out all weekend," Vin said.

"You did say you could handle Mr Wilmington," Ezra smiled at JD.

These guys were always in trouble with Chris, so JD guessed they should know what they were doing. "Sure, no problem," JD grinned back.

"Don't get too relaxed," Ezra warned as they strolled down the hospital corridor towards the exit. "Come Monday morning, Mr Larabee's is going to assign you and Mr Tanner to the worst duty he can come up with."

JD's face fell and Vin laughed, "Don't worry kid. I'll show you how we can get out of it once we know what the assignment is."

THE END



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16:21 5/05/00