Rowan '05: Contradicted

"Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before, and she felt that she was losing her temper." - page 45, Chapter 5: Advice from a Caterpillar, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll.

Ezra said nothing: he had never been so much contradicted in all his life before, and he felt that he was losing his temper. He had tried suggesting a false lead ploy for the bust. No. He tried suggesting a bait-trap. No. He'd suggestion a substitution dangle. No. He would have suggested going in naked except for a banjo, but he already knew the answer. No. Well, maybe the one with the banjo had some merit. He felt a tiny smile crack the armor of his anger.

"What the hell has you so happy?" Chris was at his cranky best. His undercover agent was going to have to go in blind on this one, and pull a rabbit out of the hole that the FBI had dug itself. He frowned at Ezra's irritating smile. Probably the last thing I'll see of him.

Shit! Stop thinking like that, Larabee! Chris clenched his fists on the conference table and didn't see the looks that Vin and Buck exchanged, but he could imagine them. "Cut it out, girls." His growl was so hoarse it was nearly a hiss.

Nathan pushed back from the table and stood up. He looked down the way to where Chris Larabee sat in gloom and then over to where Ezra sat in a pique of anger. "Take it home, you two." He slammed his notepad on the table and leaned on straight arms, hands in big knuckled fists on the mahogany. "Ezra! You aren't in this alone. Stop acting like you are. We need suggestions that will work with ALL of us helping out." Jackson's hot eyes shifted to Larabee. "Chris! He is a fully competent agent, probably the best undercover we'll ever see anywhere. As long as you and he are part of this team, he still has a job to do. We all know he can do it. Let him!" Nathan stormed out of the room, leaving the door open behind him.

Josiah slowly climbed to his feet. He looked first at Chris, then at Ezra. His long face was devoid of expression unless you looked into his eyes, which twinkled. "Sage words." He nodded at each man and strolled out after Nathan.

JD squirmed uncomfortably and elbowed Buck in the side, then made a go-ahead gesture with his hand. Buck raised an eyebrow and made the same gesture back, then slumped in his seat, letting it spin to one side. JD Dunne pursed his lips into an almost-frown and stood up. He cleared his throat, eyes darting from man to man among the remaining team members. "I know you love him." He picked up a pen and fiddled with it at his waist level. "We all know that." Dark eyes raised and JD looked directly at Chris Larabee. "Time to trust him, too."

Ezra was stunned. He'd never expected such support and from the quietest members of the team. He'd nearly fallen out of his seat when Nathan spoke. Josiah wasn't such a great surprise, but JD? JD facing off with Chris? Ezra was stunned.

Four men silently watched Dunne drop the pen on the table and then quickstep out of the room. Larabee drew in a deep breath and held it, releasing his fury with his exhalation. Nathan was right, Josiah and JD were right. Vin and Buck, the shits, were right too and they hadn't even had to say anything, he'd felt them, damn it.

Vin pushed away from the table with one booted foot on the table's edge, his seat rolling back. He yawned and stretched. "Figure we meet again tomorrow morning, try this again after you two get your heads on straight."

"YAAAHH!" Buck brayed suddenly with coarse laughter. "Shit, Vin, which 'heads' you talking about? And 'straight'?" Buck hooted.

Ezra stood up stiffly and frowned, the hurt he'd felt earlier giving way to impatience as he waited for Vin and Buck to leave. Vin lurched to his feet and gave them a salute before gliding out the door. Ezra eyed Buck. Wilmington wiped at his mustache with two hands.

"You fellers go home. Figure things out and get back here in the morning." Buck rose to his feet and thudded Chris on the back with a heavy hand. "It'll be fine, Pard. You are two smart boys."

Buck didn't watch as Chris dropped his head on the table and thumped it twice more before leaving it there, his arms sprawled out unevenly on the surface, to either side of his head. Instead, Buck wandered over to where Ezra was still standing like a statue. As he went by, Buck stuck his neck out so that his lips were nearly against Ezra's ears, "He'll eat his words for dinner, Ez. You can eat him for dessert." Buck patted the smaller man on the shoulder and walked out, carefully closing the door behind him.

"That went well." Ezra moved over to wall of windows and stared out unseeingly.

"Would saying I'm sorry do any good?" came as a muffled question from the table.

Ezra tucked his chin against his chest and sighed, then turned around to face his lover. "It's a start."