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Persona Non Grata - Part Seven

Part Seven - Waiting Rooms

Ezra guided Chris to the waiting room. He hadn't been able to talk his friend into getting himself checked out, even though he was still clearly dazed from the explosion.

Once inside, they found Buck sitting on one of the sofas staring at the floor. Vin was sitting in a chair across from him. Ezra kept the guiding hand on Chris' shoulder as they approached their friends.

Chris in turn rested a hand on Buck's shoulder. Buck turned . . . lost eyes to his old friend, and for a moment, Ezra felt like he was intruding. He withdrew his own hand and crossed his arms across his chest.

Ezra was not prepared for what he heard next.

"Drano . . ."

Did Ezra hear Buck right?

"They poured drain cleaner down his throat," Buck almost whispered.

Vin cut in, in a voice that was thin, brittle, and damn-near devasted. "I saw it. They shoved a hypodermic in his arm while they poured that shit down his throat."

Vin smiled sadly. "JD thought . . . they were giving him a drink of water. He was . . . straining to drink . . . then they . . ." He stopped, turning his head away. Ezra bit his lip--biting back the utter rage he felt. God, Vin had had to watch those bastards do this. On impulse, the gambler lay a hand on Vin's arm. Vin nodded his thanks and, after taking a couple of deep breaths, he continued. "His whole body jerked. And the f****rs hit him. After all that. . . "

Maybe that was the moment in which Ezra decided to retaliate . . . no matter what it would cost him. Chris stood up and walked to the window, his back to his friends. "How is he now?"

This time it was Buck who answered. "His heart stopped."

Ezra felt a dead weight on his chest. He noticed a decided slump in Chris' shoulders. "Dear God . . ." Chris murmured, and Ezra himself prayed for the second time that day.

"What about Nathan and Josiah?"

Vin's question seemed to shake the picture back into motion, and Buck glanced up.

"Nathan was shot in the leg," Ezra answered. "Josiah . . . the blast shook him up a bit."

Ezra caught Vin's eye and nodded toward Chris, the unspoken suggestion being that Chris had been shaken as well. Vin stood up and went over to their leader.

"Maybe if you let 'em check you out, we can get some inside word on the kid."

Ezra had to smile. Damn, Vin was good. Sometimes Vin was the only one who could make a dent talking to Chris Larabee. Their conversation lowered to shared whispers, and Ezra absently walked over to the window.

The day was so gray. Appropriate, Ezra thought. He watched the cars coming into the parking lot and looked beyond to the strip of fast food places and shops that were busy with midday activity. How could people be going through the drive-thru when JD was fighting for his life? How futile.

Disgusted, Ezra turned away from the view and looked again at the inside of the waiting room--a room someone had attempted to decorate in calming colors. But colors did little to ease the ache. Ezra looked at the big man sitting alone on the sofa.

Buck Wilmington was suffering. Ezra knew how he felt. But what could anybody do to assuage his grief?

Well, he may not know what to say, but he could sit by him for a while.


Vin Tanner had heard of horrific experiences seeming like bad dreams, but this was the first time he'd had such a strong sense of it himself. Seeing Chris so . . . defeated . . . was terribly unsettling.

But what did he expect of Chris? Chris had spent the last week trying to find one of his men . . . one of his men who'd been kidnapped right out from under their noses. Then Chris had taken off to rescue JD without so much as an acknowledgement from the agency. Finally, he'd been in a gun battle and barely escaped a massive explosion. Now three of his men were in the hospital . . . one of whom was most likely dead.


Vin felt his throat tighten. //Don't be dead, JD. Please . . .//

The sharpshooter let his head tilt forward until he almost leaned into the back of Chris' shoulder, then abruptly, Vin took a step back. He'd gotten too close . . . too close. He squeezed his eyes closed, damming the emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. He let the gap widen back to the safe proximity that allowed him to communicate with Chris Larabee without threatening him.

He kept his voice steady. He needed to get Chris to a doctor, although he wished Chris could help him instead. He had to set his own grief aside. "How 'bout it, Cowboy? Go see the doctor?"

He didn't get an opportunity to know Chris' answer. The terrifying report of gunfire interrupted them. Instinctively, Vin pulled Chris to the floor. Even though the screams and the running and the chaos made it difficult to determine what was going on, it became evident that the gunfire was coming from another room.

God--this was impossible.

The gunfire was coming from *inside* the ER.

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