A shaft of sunlight coming through a gap in the curtains hit Ezra in the face and woke him up. If the sunlight had reached the windows of the bedroom he commonly used at Chris's ranch, it had to be later in the morning. It was the primary reason he often used this bedroom when staying at the ranch.
He stretched then curled back beneath the heavy comforter, pulling it over his head to block out the sun. Mornings and Ezra had never been the best of friends and he doubted they ever would be. If he could steal a little more time in bed, he wasn't opposed to the idea.
"Nice try," he heard Chris's voice say. "I know you're awake."
Obviously, there would be no extra time lying in bed this morning. He pushed the comforter down and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes before pushing up to sit. He blinked sleepily in Chris's direction and saw him sitting in a straight-backed chair at the side of the bed. "Do you make it a habit of watching me sleep?" A bit of annoyance colored his voice.
"Not usually but I thought it might be a good idea after last night."
"Last night?" Ezra asked clearly confused. "Did something happ...," he started to ask then trailed off as the memories of the previous night slammed into him. His face first paled then his cheeks grew hot with embarrassment. "Oh lord," he whispered. "I made a fool of myself."
"I wouldn't say that. Josiah and I weren't even sure you'd remember."
"Josiah was here? Who else witnessed the spectacle I made of myself?"
"Josiah was the only one here and considering what happened, I wouldn't say you made a spectacle of yourself. We do need to talk about what happened, though?"
"I imagine it's for the best."
Chris nodded and got up from the chair. "I'll be in the kitchen when you're ready. There's a pot of coffee on."
Ezra waited until Chris had left before throwing back the covers and getting up. He slowly made his way to the bathroom across the hall. Once done there, he made his way to the kitchen. "Good morning, gentleman," he said as he came into the room.
"How are you doing?" Josiah held out a mug of coffee that was eagerly accepted.
Ezra smiled hesitantly. "A bit embarrassed but none the worse for the wear. He settled at the kitchen table and reached for cream to add to his coffee. "Before either of you ask, yes, I do remember...not only what happened last night but also bits and pieces from when I was gone."
"Last night, you said it was Anton MacDougall. Is that correct? What did he want?"
"Chris," Josiah cautioned. "Give him a chance." He put a dish with toast on it in front of Ezra then sat at the kitchen table as well. He pointed to the empty chair across from Ezra and looked pointedly at Chris until he also sat. Once he had, he grasped Ezra's shoulder and gave a comforting squeeze. "Just take your time and if you'd rather talk with someone else, maybe the psychologist from the hospital, we can arrange that." He looked pointedly at Chris daring him to disagrees.
"No," Ezra said. "I'd rather talk to you gentlemen than someone I don't tr...know."
Both Josiah and Chris picked up on Ezra's self-edit. It was Chris who addressed it. "You can trust us Ezra. Would you rather the others were here as well."
Ezra thought over the question for a moment. He raised the coffee mug to his lips with a shaky hand and took a sip. "No. I'd rather not wait. I just..."
"Whatever you need, son."
"I just need to tell you what I remember without a lot of questions...at least not until I get it out. I don't think I'll be able to otherwise. And I'm still not sure if I remember everything or even what order things happened. It's still very hazy in my mind."
This time, it was Chris who reassured him. "Just take your time. We've got all day."
Nodding slightly, Ezra blew out a breath. "I'm not even sure where to begin."
"The beginning's usually a good place," Josiah suggested.
"The beginning," Ezra echoed. He got up from the table and began to wander the kitchen as he composed his thoughts. He stopped by the backdoor where he could look out to the mountains in the distance. "I was taking the trash out and someone...a couple of someone's grabbed me. I wasn't expecting it and before I could even think about fighting, they'd pulled some kind of hood or bag over my head and then I felt a prick in my arm." As he spoke, he rubbed his hand over his right shoulder in remembered pain. "Everything just sort of got hazy. I don't think I ever lost consciousness. It was just all disjointed." He looked over his shoulder at Chris and Josiah still sitting at the table. "I think I'd left the door open. I wasn't going to be gone long when I took out the trash. Did Kenny...is she..."
It was the first time since he'd been found that Ezra had asked about the cat he shared his home with. Even though he always refused to call her a pet, Josiah and Chris both knew how attached he'd become to her. "She's fine," Josiah reassured him. "We found her sitting on your Jag in the garage. It's how we knew something was wrong. JD's been looking after her since."
"Good," Ezra said with a nod. "That's good. I'll have to remember to thank him. I'd hate to think she'd gone homeless again because..." He pulled in a deep breath and let it out shakily then started wandering the kitchen again. Although he'd never said anything, he'd always found it a warm and inviting space. There was no doubt the decorating had been done by Sarah and Chris hadn't changed it. Everything from the sunflower curtains to the butcher block table fit the mental picture he'd always had of what a normal family's kitchen would look like...what he'd always dreamed about having as a child. He felt safe here. Maybe that's why he was finally able to catch onto some of his lost memories and talk about them.
"What else," Chris prompted when Ezra seemed to lose track of his thoughts.
"Um...I remember being in a vehicle of some kind...I think. I don't know how long, though. I kept fading in and out." He came back to sit at the table with Chris and Josiah. "I feel I'm not being very helpful."
"You're doing fine," Josiah reassured as he squeezed Ezra's forearm. "Just take your time." Even though Ezra had asked that they not question him, he felt it might help the younger man to get on track. "You said last night that Anton MacDougall broke your wrist," he prompted.
"Yes. Unfortunately, I remember that very clearly now." He again took a deep breath then straightened up. His voice was surer when he spoke. "MacDougall was there when they took the hood off me. He wanted to know where I'd hidden it. He knew I was an AFT agent."
"It?" Chris prompted.
"The information I'd obtained that would prove MacDougall's guilt. He wanted to know where I'd hidden it. You see, I wasn't sure it was enough. I wanted to get more to make sure it would be an airtight case." Ezra's forehead scrunched up as he tried to latch onto fleeting memories. "I didn't give it to you, did I?"
Chris shook his head. "You didn't."
"Damn it," Ezra exclaimed as he punched the table. "And that's one thing I can't remember. I don't think I ever told MacDougall...no matter what drugs he gave me or...anything else he did."
"What did he do?" Chris asked. He was almost afraid to hear the answer.
"Food. It would be days before he'd let me eat and then food would be brought into the room I was being held in. I was so hungry; I'd want to eat it but if I did without his permission..." He looked down and away.
"What?" Josiah asked kindly. "What would happen if you ate without permission."
"He'd have me beaten. The last time it happened, he took a baseball bat and hit my wrist." Ezra turned pale and swallowed convulsively a few times. "I heard the bones break...and the pain..."
"Damn it," Chris exclaimed.
Hearing the loud voice, Ezra pulled back in fear. He saw Josiah reach a hand to him and quickly scrambled out of the chair. As he had the previous night, he dropped to his knees, head bowed, and wrists crossed the small of his back. "I'm s-sorry," he stammered. "I'm sorry."
Josiah and Chris exchanged anguished looks. Chris wiped a hand over his face. "What the hell did he do to him?" he whispered. He'd often described Ezra as a cocky son-of-a-bitch but the man cowering on the floor at his feet was anything but that. He knew they'd only heard a fraction of what had happened in the time Ezra was missing but it was enough to turn his stomach. All he could think of was that he wanted MacDougall in front of him so he could personally beat the man to death. He was barely aware of Josiah getting up to kneel on the floor by Ezra.
"Ezra. Son." Josiah was careful not to touch the younger man since he didn't know what effect that would have. "You're safe. C'mon back to us." He kept up a litany of soothing words until Ezra raised his head, his eyes blinking rapidly. "Ezra?"
The frightened man swallowed a few times and looked around the kitchen. "It happened again," he half stated, and half questioned.
"Just for a brief moment," Josiah assured. Now that Ezra seemed to be back, he helped him up off the floor and back to his seat at the table. "How about if we put this off for a little while." He shook his head slightly at Chris. "I think it might be a good idea to call Dr. Dawson as well. She might be able to help you deal with these memories better than we can."
Ezra nodded his head slightly. "Yes. Perhaps." He looked between Josiah and Chris. "But you'll both be there, right?"
"If that's what you want," Chris quickly reassured. "You just say the word."
"Ok," Ezra said after taking a deep breath. "I'll talk to the doctor, but only if the two of you are there. And..." he started to ask hesitantly but trailed off.
Josiah sat down next to Ezra and squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. "What is it, Ezra? Is there something you need?"
Although Ezra answered Josiah's question, he directed the answer to Chris. "Would it be possible for JD to bring Kenny here. I'd like to see that she's safe...or, maybe, I could go home."
"As long as MacDougall's out there, it might not be safe for you to go home," Chris said. He caught Josiah shaking his head slowly from behind Ezra and quickly added on, "I'll call JD and ask him to bring Kenny when he comes later."
"Thank you." Ezra pinched the bridge of his nose then rubbed at his eyes. "I'm getting a bit of a headache. Would you mind if I lay down for a while?"
"No. Go on," Chris said. Once Ezra had left the room, he let out a sigh. "I never thought I'd see the day I'd say this, but I miss the cocky son of a bitch Ezra usually is."
"We all do, Chris." Josiah pushed up from the table. He collected the used mugs and the plate the toast was still on and took them to the sink. "Bringing Kenny here might help him."
Chris couldn't stop the skeptical look he gave Josiah. "You really think a cat's going to help him?"
Josiah leaned back against the sink and crossed his arms over his chest. "Animals can be very soothing. She might provide him the security he needs."
"If you say so. I'll call JD and have him bring the cat here. We should probably get everyone together and fill them in on what Ezra has remembered."
While Josiah finished cleaning up in the kitchen, Chris went to the living room to make calls to the rest of Team Seven. He had a feeling it was going to be a long day.