By Enola Jones

The ride to the hospital was long and tense. Each of the six remaining blamed themselves and wondered what they could have done differently.

Long hours and little rest had more than taken their toll. While the briefing lasted and lasted and lasted, Ezra had grown more and more distracted. He’d made his part of the briefing as short but as complete as he could and when it was over….

Well, when it was over, he’d walked straight into the suite of offices and toppled over in a dead faint. The CRACK! of his head against the corner of Buck’s desk still echoed through six minds.

The doctor emerged after an interminably long time and told them her findings. Ezra’s blackout was due to no sleep. He’d been eating well – a little too well, from how much weight he’d gained undercover – but he’d not been resting at all. And the result was he’d simply dropped from sheer exhaustion.

The blow to the head, though, could cause some problems. She was just simply unsure what they were – and wouldn’t know till Ezra woke up.

If he woke up.

A week later, Chris received an alarmed phone call from the doctor. Ezra had woken up just before she’d come on-shift and had checked himself out AMA. The other six mobilized. They scoured Denver, focusing on his usual haunts – but the man eluded them.

Eventually, they regrouped at Chris’s ranch to figure out what to do next.

As they plotted and worried, the roar of a motorcycle sounded. All eyes went to JD before they realised that wasn’t his! The six grouped on the porch and watched the blue monstrosity roll up the drive. The driver’s face was obscured by the blue-black helmet. He was dressed in a leather bomber’s jacket over a black t-shirt and wore jeans so old they were white. The cowboy boots were brand-new.

The bike pulled up and the driver turned it off. “You lost?” Chris called a challenge.

“Nope,” came the easy answer in an impossible voice. Jaws dropped all over the porch as the helmet was revealed and Ezra’s gilded grin shone out at them. “I’ve never been more found.”

“Ezra!” Nathan roared, coming off the porch. “What the hell are you doing?”

The grin faded a bit as he looked down at the motorcycle. “Offhand? I’d say goin’ for a ride.”

“You ain’t supposed to be ridin’ so soon after that bad a concussion!”

Ezra laughed. “My word…. Y’really do care.”

Vin’s head tilted. “Ez? Y’all right? Your voice sounds a little strange.”

“It’s his accent,” Josiah whispered. “It’s shifted…”

“I’ll be all right once Mother Hen backs off of me,” Ezra chuckled as he got off the bike and strode with an easy gait toward the porch.

“What happened to you?” Chris whispered.

And the grin spread again. “Chris, this is me. This is the way I was when I wasn’t livin’ with that harpy of a woman who tried to raise me. This is the real me --- the Tennessee born, N’awlin’s bred, fun-lovin’ ME that got buried.”

Vin nodded. “So what changed?”

“That blow to the head?” Nathan asked.

Ezra nodded. “Yeah, that blow to the head knocked the stick right outta my ass. Oh, he’ll still be at work and I’ll still do my job as flawlessly as ever, never fear….” The accent shifted back into the dulcet Georgia tones for that, then the grin spread and the accent shifted back. “But I figured it was high time y’all got to know the other side of Ezra Standish. The side that’s been blacked out for too long cause I thought you’d not like it.”

Vin met Chris’s eyes and grinned. “I like him.”

“Me too!” Buck roared with laughter.

JD just nodded, grinning broadly.

Chris looked at Josiah, who shook his head and grinned. Nathan just glared at Ezra, shaking his head as well.

“Well, welcome, other half of Ezra,” Chris finally said with a grin. “Come on in – after you park that beast somewhere where Peso won’t—“

At that, Ezra turned and with a roared, “HEY!” ran over and dragged the bike out of range of the kick Peso was carefully aiming.

A Beginning….

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