It was midday Thursday, the third and final day off that Larabee had given to his team, and Ezra sat on the sofa in the main room of his apartment thinking thoughts he didn't want to think. He'd avoided thinking the previous two days by actually sleeping through them, so exhausted that even nightmares had stayed away. Now, however, he was wide awake, shifting his stare between his bookcase and a few empty moving boxes scattered around the floor. It was time to pack, but he couldn't bring himself to begin.
He'd rented the apartment and had his books and CDs shipped over from Atlanta during his first week in Denver, when it had become clear that the case would take serious time. The few other possessions he'd accumulated through the years, barring clothing, were currently stowed away in some storage facility back in Georgia, waiting for a, most likely never coming, time when he'd own his own home. He always took books and CDs with him. They grounded him; helped him remember his own identity, his own tastes and likings, and helped sell the illusion of someone waiting for him in the evenings.
With a sigh, Ezra got up and went to the bookcase. He ran his hand over the spines stopping at the large, and expensive, biography of Joseph Turner, one of his favorite artists. He slid it out with both hands and carried it back to the sofa. Opening the tome randomly he saw a reproduction of 'The Harbor of Dieppe' printed on the page and stared at it, his mind wandering off.
Mr. Larabee had mentioned early on that there was a permanent position on the team for someone with his skills, and after they finished the case, it could be his – if he fit in. At first, Ezra had completely dismissed the idea – Ezra Standish, fit in? That was an oxymoron. But as time had passed, he'd found he liked Larabee and his men, liked them more than any other team he'd worked with, and he wanted to be a part of their group. All right, so being a part of something might not be in his agenda at all, but he wanted to work with them, and for a while it had even seemed possible. Larabee had been satisfied with the results he got, and the rest of the team, though not exactly thrilled with the idea, hadn't seemed to mind him staying on after the case too much. And then he'd blown it.
The strangest thing about the whole mess at the bust was that it might have been the first time he'd actually been given the benefit of the doubt – despite the fact that he had been at fault. There had been some tense moments during the operation, but once the dust had cleared, Larabee had asked for Ezra's side. And the questions really had been questions, not accusations. It had felt nice. Maybe it was because of that, that the last stubborn shred of hope refused to die inside Ezra's heart. 'Don't ever run out on me again,' Larabee had demanded in that compound, and the word 'again' implied that there might be a future. Ezra had readily given the leader his promise, silent as it had been, and was determined to keep it if… the southern agent shook his head. 'Damn it, Standish, you are too old to believe in miracles.'
And yet, no matter what tomorrow would bring, Ezra knew he would be forever grateful for his time with Team Seven. The last four months were probably one of the best periods in his adult life; sure, the assignment itself had been hard and tiring, both physically and emotionally, but working with Larabee's men… even the simple fact that such men existed in law enforcement made him warm inside. Maybe that knowledge would be enough to keep him going after tomorrow.
Ezra looked at the bookcase and boxes one more time before deciding that they could wait. Larabee had ordered them to rest and relax, and it was a good idea to obey that order, especially if it was the last one he'd ever receive from the man in black. With that thought, Ezra turned the book to the beginning and tried to lose himself in what he read.
At precisely 9 a.m. on Friday, Chris heard a knock at his office door.
"Come in," he said, and Standish entered, wearing exactly the same face he had during their first meeting in Atlanta all those months ago. It was clear the man wasn't expecting anything good.
Without any more words, Chris nodded to the papers on the edge of his desk which were lying so Ezra wouldn't need to turn them around to understand them. Standish came close, looked at the papers, flipped through them, and then raised his head, obviously confused:
"What are they?"
"Your permanent transfer to the ATF, Agent Standish."
It took the southerner a few moments to comprehend the words, but when he did, his damn poker face finally slipped, and Chris saw the man beneath the mask – one who'd lost all hope long ago, and had a very hard time believing in miracles.
"Permanent?" he asked, blinking. It seemed he'd forgotten the meaning of that word.
"Yes," Chris said softly, but seriously. "Permanent. You'll be all ours, Ezra, if you want it."
Ezra looked at the papers again, but not before Chris noticed the unusual brightness in his eyes, then looked up and gave that dimpled smile, the one which made him look like a teenager.
"Where do I sign?"
Assistant Director Orrin Travis stood before a large window in the Denver airport, waiting for his flight to start boarding, and not even the fact that he was going to Washington, DC, could spoil his good mood. It was the first sunny day after two weeks of constant rain and a huge rainbow was shining across the sky. 'Maybe them old tales got it right,'Orrin mused, admiring the view. 'Seven truly was a lucky number.'
It seemed unbelievable and impossible, but it had worked. The crazy idea about putting together a special team under Larabee's command had worked, and though Travis had yet to report about it officially, unofficially he'd already received a few congratulations … and a big pack of antacids from an old friend at Denver's DA Office. Orrin got a feeling he'd run out of them soon enough, but Team Seven was worth all the headaches they caused and would be causing; like that rainbow out there made up for the rainy days. The grey-haired man smiled, thinking of another gift that had mysteriously appeared on his desk earlier in the week. A collectors edition of "The Magnificent Seven". Well, the nickname was already spreading through the ATF, and, after re-watching the movie with Evie, Travis had to admit it was more than fitting. The legend rides again, indeed. The next few years would be fairly interesting….
DJ Aida made wonderful banners for this story, you can see them at LJ-community mag7bigbang, posts from the 22nd of November, 2010, or in her own LJ (dj-aida), post from the 27th of November, 2010.