In Spite of...
Disclaimer: Characters of the Magnificent 7 do not belong to me, just borrowing them for fun...not profit

This is the third story in the Townsend Series. It was written as a challenge answer on the M7Challenge list. The first paragraph was the challenge, we were to pick up from there.

Also- I forgot to mention when I started posting this that the ATF AU belongs to Mog. She deserves a HUGE thank you for opening it so freely for the rest of us to write in.

He had no idea just where he was but he knew that he was moving—a curiously disorientating feeling considering he was laying down. Several sensations, none of them pleasant, transmitted themselves to his waking brain in a split second of overload.

Confused, Ezra opened his eyes trying to get his bearings. He gasped, surprised by the total darkness and blinked several times in a vain attempts to decipher if he was merely in the dark or actually blind. His legs ached intensely and he tried to shift to ease the pain but stopped when his movements did nothing more than intensify the cramping in his contorted limbs.

His arms, bound tightly behind him, throbbed and his fingers tingled sharply, stiff and swollen from the lack of circulation. He took a deep breath and coughed, noticing immediately the thickness of the air around him. Sweat rolled down the side of his face and across the bridge of his nose before dripping onto the coarsely carpeted floor beneath him. Simultaneously he recognized the sounds of traffic and smelled the exhaust fumes. He groaned, realizing he was in the trunk of a car and listened to the hypnotizing hum of the tires beneath him rolling over the pavement.

The car came to a hard stop, his body lurching painfully. He grimaced when the car started moving again, jerking sharply to the right and driving his head into the side of the trunk. The vehicle seemed to pick up speed quickly as Ezra tried to force his confused thoughts into a clear picture of what was happening.

He knew he'd been at a bust –a large bust. Team 7 had been assigned to back up and, for some reason, it was important that they were in the thick of things.

Ezra frowned, his ATF windbreaker sticking uncomfortably to his back and arms as he continued to sweat. It was unbearably hot in the small space and he found it was becoming more and more difficult to get a satisfying breath of air. On top of that he was horribly thirsty.

Cursing as a cramp tightened his right calf muscle, Ezra bit his lip and tried to remember the events leading to his current incarceration.

They'd been at an estate…one that he was familiar with somehow. The scenes flashed quickly, awakening his memory. A smooth talking stranger, friendly and generous…his tanned hand resting lightly on the thin shoulder of a young, sad-eyed child.

Standish jerked upright, slamming his head against the top of the trunk and instantly re-igniting a series of cramps in his arms and legs. Townsend! The memories suddenly fell into their proper places as his mind cleared. They'd been at Townsend's estate. The FBI had wanted to borrow Ezra because of his knowledge of the grounds but Chris had insisted that if they wanted Ezra, they had to take all of Team 7 along. He and Larabee had been covering a little used exit on the east side of the garage. The last thing he remembered was hearing Chris grunt and seeing his friend go down.

Damn, he hoped Chris was okay. He hadn't understood at first Chris' insistence on being involved with the operation but when he'd voiced the question, Larabee had simply looked at him and said, "I promised you this time we'd take this bastard down together," and that was the end of any discussion on the matter. Ezra only wished he could have stayed on the original case long enough to have prevented this whole scene. If he'd been stronger and better able to lock away his emotions…none of this would be happening now.

The car swerved sharply and Ezra slid, crying out as his legs taking the brunt of the hit. Before he could regain his composure the car took another sharp turn, this time his head caught the impact. He barely heard the sirens as he felt the car pick up more speed. How long had the sirens been there?

Struggling Ezra tried to breathe through a wave of nausea, clenching his teeth together and wishing he could hold on as the car spun wildly. Loud blasts of gunfire erupted near by and he found himself picturing Townsend's goons hanging out of both sides of the car, like a scene from a bad action movie. Bullets hit the car, sounding like a hailstorm as whoever was in pursuit returned fire. Two projectiles pierced the car's thin shell, one grazing along his arm like a brand, the other missing him completely. He jumped and bit through his lip when a third bullet embedded itself deep in his thigh.

There was another harsh turn and the vehicle bumped roughly over something. Standish lay gasping now, the heat intensifying with each moment. He could feel himself beginning to panic and tried to calm down, but it felt as if someone had put a large pillow over his face and was slowly applying pressure. His headache spiked torturously and he was bombarded with pain. His legs, his thigh, his arms, and his chest…everything hurt. He knew he should be fighting to stay awake but he couldn't remember why. His breathing slowed and the pain faded. His senses slowly shut down until all that was left was the sound of rubber shrieking against asphalt and then a sudden, jolting explosion ripped him away from consciousness.

Chris was furious. He pressed on hand against the top of the cab to steady himself as Vin struggled to keep the truck under control.

"Damn them! What the hell are they doing?" Chris shouted as he watched the cars in front of them.

"They're chasing their man, Cowboy." Vin answered, his eyes not straying from the road.

"Ezra's in that car," Larabee growled.

"We aren't sure of that," Vin's voice rose in volume as he took another curve and laid his arm across the horn. "Get out of my way!" he yelled at the small compact in front of them. "Don't they pay attention to the freaking lights?" he asked whipping frantically around the small car.

"Not sure, huh?" Chris asked. "Watch that Escort." He pointed out the slower car.

Vin swore again and narrowly missed clipping of the Ford's side mirror. "Okay, so we're pretty sure."

Originally an ATF case, the operation to take down Brian Townsend had turned into jurisdictional chaos. Once Ezra had reported to Internal Affairs all he'd seen while undercover at Townsend's estate, the FBI, State Bureau and local law had all been brought into the mix. Tempers ran high and there were several altercations but one thing remained solid-- everyone wanted to take Townsend off the streets.

When the FBI had requested Ezra's help on the case, Chris had pulled rank as senior agent in charge. He'd seen what going under alone at Townsend's estate had done to his agent and had originally pulled him off the case because of it. He wasn't about to let Ezra get involved again in any way without the rest of his team available to make damn sure he got the back up he needed.

"Some backup," Chris muttered under his breath as he put a hand out to stop being slammed against the dash. The seat belt cut into his neck, but he ignored it.

Paired with Ezra, everything had gone smoothly during the actual bust until he'd found himself face down on the gravel path with a splitting headache. He'd dizzily pushed himself to his feet, but Ezra was nowhere to be found. He'd run up the path catching sight of the black sedan just as it pulled out of a back drive. One minute he'd been screaming details into his radio, the next he was tossing his keys to Vin and climbing into his truck to join the chase.

"Damn!" Chris watched as gunfire broke out between the first few cars of the speeding caravan. The sedan spun suddenly and lurched up and over the grassy median.

"Hold on," Vin ordered as they followed the other cars. A quick glance in his mirror affirmed that Buck, JD, Josiah and Nathan were following close behind them. "Aw shit!" Vin shouted with fear as they watched the black car lose control, slide across two lanes of traffic and slam head on into the side of a brick building.

Vin hit the brakes and the Dodge fishtailed crazily before he brought it to rest beside a state cruiser. Chris already had the door open and was out of the truck, running with the mix of agents towards the wrecked car.

Guns drawn, the group slowed, as they got closer, ready for anything. The driver however was obviously not a threat, the steering wheel pressed tightly into his chest despite the now deflating air bag. Someone shouted for rescue workers. Chris stepped forward with FBI agent in charge, Ronnie Woodworth, watching as Woodworth wrenched open the back door.

Brian Townsend was alive and virtually unharmed by the accident. Other than a small cut on his face from flying glass there were no other physical signs of injury.

"Brian Townsend, you're under arrest for…" Woodworth started.

"Where's Standish?" Chris interrupted, pushing past the FBI agent. "Where the hell is my agent?"

Townsend shrugged and grinned knowingly, not at all intimidated by Larabee's anger. "Knew I should have made sure you were dead," he commented casually.

Chris moved to shove him up against the car, but Josiah was suddenly there, blocking his path but not pulling him back. "He can't tell us anything if you kill him," he reminded softly.

Chris growled but backed off enough to let Woodworth by. The agent hurriedly read through Townsend's rights and cuffed him. "Where's Ezra?" Josiah asked this time.

"How should I know?" Townsend shrugged again. "I've got no interest in the two face bastard. Maybe he ran off on you. You know, he never struck me as the kind of man who could stomach his job," he jeered.

"Oh God, Chris!"

Larabee turned to where Nathan stood behind the totaled sedan. The former medic was worriedly looking at the trunk.

Townsend chuckled, "Smart guy. Just remember…your guys were the ones shooting at us. If he's dead, it ain't my fault. I had plans for the man."

"Get that trunk open now!" Woodworth yelled as he pulled Townsend out of Chris' reach "and get some more paramedics over here."

The scene unfolded with a strange sense of slow motion even as rescue workers frantically worked at the back of the car. Red lights flashed and police were quick to redirect the afternoon traffic as drivers slowed down for a better look at the action. Agents from three different bureaus swarmed the area and in their midst, six men stood silent and waiting, out of the way but as close to the smashed car as they could get.

A flash of bright light pierced through Ezra's vision and he winced, trying to move away from the pain it caused. His head still throbbed in time with the wound in his thigh, his muscles were still cramping, something had attached itself to his face and though he was finally laying flat…he was still moving.

Groaning he reached up to push whatever it was off his face. "Leave that alone, Ezra. You need the oxygen." Someone grabbed his hand and held onto it, not letting go.

He forced his eyes open again, this time there was no intruding light, and glanced towards the voice, finally recognizing it as Chris'.

Chris smiled seeing Ezra's eyes focus on him. "You're in an ambulance," he explained chuckling at Ezra's moan. "They're trying to check your vitals."

Ezra tried to pull his hand away and reach for the mask again, but Chris wouldn't let him go. "Leave it alone," he ordered. "Carbon monoxide got to ya, plus some heat exhaustion and a bullet hole." He saw the paramedic shaking his head at the list of problems. "But they tell me you're gonna be fine, so just keep that thing on."

Standish blinked a few times and then gave a small nod. He tightened his fingers around Chris'. "Tow-sed," the muffled question came through clearly to Larabee and he squeezed Ezra's swollen hand gently but reassuringly.

"We got him."

Ezra relaxed, letting his eyes close again. He didn't see Chris cast a worried gaze at the paramedic, or hear the calm voice explain that this was normal. Even the siren seemed to fade into the distance as he concentrated on the knowledge that in spite of the undercover disaster, the chaos at the estate, the car chase and…in spite of him, Townsend was finally in custody and those little girls were free.