Sequel/Prequel to my story “S.A.M.” - Xander and Ezra’s first meeting.
Disclaimer: Buffy, Mag7 & it’s ATF AU - ain’t mine. Sigh.
Xander tried to muffle his tears by burying his head deeper into his chest. He’d found a corner to hide in, pulled his knees up and made himself as small a target as possible.
He’d gotten tired of trying to listen to the shouting coming from the other room. It was hard to hear, and what he had picked up wasn’t very comforting. He’d thought his Dad had followed them to try and get him back, but some of the stuff that was being yelled sounded more like his Dad was trying to get more money instead.
Xander bit back a whimper as he jarred the bruises on his arm against the box he was tucked behind. The evening had been pretty normal, right up until the men had started banging on the door, shouting for his Dad to pay up. Xander had decided to try and sneak over to Willow or Jesse’s house, but a big man with a funny accent had grabbed him and dragged him round to the front door.
They’d got there in time for Xander to hear his Dad say something about the only thing he had left to sell was his kid. Unfortunately, the boss-man who’d been yelling at his Dad had taken Xander’s arrival as a done deal.
They’d bundled him into the car and driven off. The driver had yelled at the big man -- Xander had decided to call him ‘Bob’ in order to make him seem less scary -- about making a mess in his car when Bob had threatened to hit Xander again. It was weird, but when Xander caught the driver’s green eyes in the rear view mirror, he felt less scared. At least the man had stopped Bob from hitting him.
Ezra fought to keep the disgust from his face as the drunken wretch continued to try and get a better price for the child.
The assignment had been to infiltrate a group of Armenian immigrants led by a thug called Dadekian, who was suspected of running an interstate gambling ring. He’d ended up in this odd little California town because something ‘weird’ had happened to Dadekian’s brother. They had left Atlanta and headed out to avenge his disappearance, disrupting the planned FBI bust. Ezra had managed to contact his partner but apparently he was having trouble with the local LEO’s and the LA FBI office were dragging their feet about getting involved in this particular town.
Ezra was still a relative novice but he’d already gained a good reputation. However, he was willing to let it all go to hell; there was no way he was going to let Dadekian get his hands on the boy. The child couldn’t be more than 10, and while Ezra didn’t have any proof, he had a nasty suspicion about Dadekian’s preferences.
Ezra took advantage of the opportunity offered as the argument over the price of the boy became more heated. The inebriated swine was not fit to be called a parent, but he was providing a useful distraction.
Ezra slipped into the back room. At first glance he thought his cover could remain intact, after all, as it appeared the boy had managed to escape. A soft gasp from the corner as the door clicked closed behind him dispelled that notion.
“Good evening, young sir.” Surprised brown eyes popped up at his gentle words, causing Ezra to smile.
Xander looked up to find the kind eyes of the driver staring at him. Xander studied him suspiciously but had to admit this man was the only one hadn’t been mean to him. Willow said he shouldn’t talk to strangers, but he figured that he was in a lot of trouble already--one more thing really didn’t matter.
“Would you like to play a game?” Ezra spoke softly, not wanting to panic the boy. He’d not had much time to formulate a plan but figured for now he just had to hide the boy until he could orchestrate a proper rescue.
“I want to go to Willow’s house.” Xander was tempted by the idea of playing a game with this man, but first he wanted to get away from the nasty men in the other room.
“Is Willow at home?” Ezra mentally cursed as the boy’s eyes welled up and he feared ensuing sobs would draw the others. No sounds were forthcoming, fortunately, as the boy shook his head vigorously.
“No. My Willow’s is safe,” Xander spat, throwing a glare toward the raised voices from the other room.
Ezra sighed. Of course, home wouldn’t be where the child felt safe; his father was in the other room negotiating his sale, after all.
“We’ll see about getting you to your Willow later. For now, my young friend, we must play a very important game of hide and seek.” Ezra rose and went to the other door in the room.
“It’s locked, mister.” Ezra looked round to find the boy a few steps behind him.
“Do not fret, my good sir, I have just the thing.” Ezra slipped his fingers to the concealed pouch in his belt and withdrew his lock picks. He made swift work of the lock and surveyed the small cupboard. Ezra knew that Dadekian didn’t have the keys to this part of the house so felt fairly sure that the subterfuge should work.
“Wow.” Xander stared in wonder as the man made the door open without a key.
“Now then, I need you to hide in here for now. There can’t be a light on, so you’ll have to be brave.” Ezra dropped down to the boy’s eye level. “I shall return as soon as I can, but those men can’t know I’ve helped hide you.”
“Won’t they guess?” Xander frowned. Jesse and Willow would work it out really quickly; surely grown-ups would too.
“I’m going to make it look like you went out the window.” Ezra pointed to the small window opposite.
“It’s pretty high.” Xander eyed the window for a moment before turning back to the man. “Why don’t I go that way now?”
“It’s not safe for you out on your own.” Ezra was saddened to see the boy’s surprise at his concern. “I’m going to move things around a little so it looks like you climbed out. A little misdirection works wonders.”
“Why do you sound different?” Ezra paused at the child’s query. He’d been ‘Emin Sindyan’ in the car but had slipped back into his normal accent when he’d spoken to the boy.
“I’m pretending to be their friend so I can help stop them from doing bad things. If anything happens, you’ll have to pretend too. They mustn’t know I’ve helped you, but I promise I’ll keep you safe,” Ezra told him. He stood still as the boy studied him with an air of seriousness. Finally he was given a smile.
“Like a secret agent?” Xander suddenly understood; it was actually kind of exciting.
“Exactly!” Ezra stiffened as he realised things had quietened down in the other room. “Quickly now, hide.”
Xander took one last look at what the secret agent man was doing. He nodded in approval as he saw the way the furniture had been moved: it was exactly how he would have done it, if only he’d thought of trying to escape that way!
Xander hurried to the storage cupboard and swallowed nervously as he realised how dark it was going to be. Still, if he was going to be a secret agent too, he needed to be brave.
“I’m sorry about this,” Ezra told him as he closed the door. “Quiet as a mouse, now. It might get loud out here, but I’ll be back soon.”
Ezra dropped to his knees before the locked door, forcing him to bite back a moan as the move jostled his dislocated shoulder. He took a calming breath. Picking the lock with only one hand was much harder, but not beyond his skills.
The subterfuge of the boy’s escape had been effective, but unfortunately Dadekian had decided to ‘shoot the messenger,’ so to speak.
The others had left to search for the child, including the poor excuse for fatherhood. Ezra decided that maybe he’d been a little harsh on the assessment of some of his stepfathers, in hindsight. At least none of them had tried to sell him.
Ezra breathed a sigh of relief as he felt the mechanism give. Pulling the door ajar he was met with the sound of panicky breathing and a broom handle to the thigh.
“Easy, my friend.” Ezra staggered slightly as the small form barrelled into his legs.
“Sam! I was scared, but I didn’t make a noise just like you said, even when they rattled the door. They sounded really mean. Are you all right? Did they hurt you? Are they gone? Are we safe?” The words tumbled out seemingly without a pause for breath, causing Ezra to smile.
“I’ll be fine, little one. It’s not quite safe yet, but I thought I might stay in here with you.” Ezra had planned to flee with the boy but with one arm out of commission and what he suspected to be a mild concussion, he didn’t want to take the risk. He’d sent his partner his distress code, so help should be on the way.
“I’m not little! I was brave, and I’ve made a nest. You should sit there, Sam.” Xander had to remind himself to stay brave as his secret agent man pulled the door closed behind him.
“Of course you were. You did a fine job, I must say. Now, I need you to cover your ears and close your eyes for a moment. I’ll tap your arm when it’s safe to stop. OK?” Ezra had reluctantly decided that the only chance he had of being able to mount any kind of defence, should Dadekian and his goons return before his back -up arrived, was to reset his shoulder.
“Er, okay, Sam.” Xander was puzzled but did as instructed. It seemed like an odd thing to do, but his Sam had kept him safe so far. He jumped when he felt a hand on his arm.
“Well done… I’ve been very rude and not asked your name, young man.” Ezra was still breathless from the excruciating pain of relocating his shoulder. He cradled his arm close to his body as he slid down next to the boy, keeping himself closest to the door. His eyes were adjusting to the low light and Ezra was touched to see the expression of concern on the child’s face.
“I’m Xander. Did you hurt your arm, Sam?” Xander was sad that the nice man had been hurt helping him.
“Why are you calling me Sam?” Ezra asked, skipping the question of his injury, as he didn’t want to worry the boy any further.
Xander ducked his head. “Well, in the dark, on my own, I was getting a little bit scared, and my Willow’s been helping me with my spellings, and she showed me how the first letters of some things make other words, and well, you’re a secret agent man and I worked out the sounds, and that makes S.A.M., Sam.” Ezra caught the slight shift as Xander snuck a look at him as he finished his explanation.
“Indeed it does, Xander. You are not only a brave young man but clever too.” Ezra was about to offer his real name when a careless movement caused a spike of pain to shoot through his arm.
Xander slipped up onto his knees beside him and leant over to place a gentle kiss on his injured shoulder.
At Ezra’s startled look Xander gave him a shy smile. “Willow kisses always make my hurts feel better.”
Ezra pulled the boy back down beside him and tucked him in close under his arm. “I can state for the record that Xander kisses are most effective as well. May I suggest you get some rest? Help will be arriving soon.”
Xander sighed and snuggled into him. “Night, Sam. Thank you.”
“Good night, Xander.”
Ezra sat in the back of the ambulance, trying to appear contrite. The SAC of the LA field office had been yelling at him for the past five minutes.
While Dadekian had been apprehended, the manner of the arrest did not shine a suitably glorious light on the Bureau. The SAC apparently did not appreciate all the paperwork, most of which would remain firmly in his hands, as Ezra had been recalled to Atlanta on a matter of urgency.
Xander had been whisked away in all the furore, and Ezra had felt an odd sense of loss. The child’s so-called father had escaped arrest, and seeing as Ezra had no idea of the man’s name, it left the follow-up to the local police department who had taken custody of the boy until Social Services arrived. The situation didn’t sit well with Ezra, but it was out of his hands.
The SAC was finally beginning to wind down his tirade. However, his words caused Ezra to smile as he berated him about his James Bond antics.
Secret Agent Man, indeed.
Thanks for all the lovely responses to S.A.M. & to RevDorothyL for the beta.