Thinking Outside the Box

By JudyL


December 20, 2010


1 Hour fic challenge – theme word: Box

Length: 946 words


Ezra nibbled thoughtfully on his thumbnail, unmindful of the impropriety the image portrayed. He was too focused on the box that sat before him.

The box should have meant nothing to him. It wasn’t even addressed to him.

Perhaps that is the problem, he mused. He was both entranced and horrified at the possible contents of the box. No… he was entranced by the contents, but horrified at the possible effect they might have on a certain friend of his.

Ezra sighed and picked the box up. It wasn’t very heavy, maybe ten or fifteen pounds. He shook it gently, but no sound came from within. Its size told him nothing. It was a typical office storage box, perhaps twenty inches square. The only signs that it may cause harm being to whom it was addressed and the return address.

Ezra glanced out into the bullpen, but none of the others had arrived as yet. He’d found the box when he returned from their latest bust. Being undercover he’d left - i.e. ‘escaped’ with his undercover persona intact for future use and returned to the office to begin his report.

The box had been waiting for their return. Something about it made his skin crawl and Ezra had automatically taken the box into Chris’ office for safe keeping until he could decide what to do.

Truthfully, he had no right to make any decision about the box. It wasn’t his. But that couldn’t keep him from whisking it into hiding until he could make a rational decision.

Ezra frowned, running his hand over the box as if it would just pop open and reveal all its secrets. Once again he reminded himself that he had no right to keep it hidden. Maybe he could open it, check the contents and reseal it without its true owner being any the wiser… He sighed knowing he would never be able to hide it from his friends, they knew him too well now after so many years.

Ezra’s eyes traced the neatly typed label proclaiming the owner of the box, Vin Tanner, then glanced back to the return address. Why? What could they possibly be sending him after so many years? It couldn’t be good? Could it? Ezra truly didn’t know what to think.

He lifted his head at the sound of the elevator door opening. That was probably one or more of his team mates. Maybe even Vin. No more time to stall, he had to make a decision. Hide the box or let the chips fall where they may and just be there for Vin.

Ezra nodded to himself and went to the door.

Vin came into the bullpen and lay his rifle down on his desk. He was often the first off the scene after Ezra if they were maintaining Ezra’s cover. Vin would follow Ezra at a discreet distance to make sure he didn’t have a tail.

Ezra cleared his throat to get Vin’s attention and to hide his nerves.

Vin looked up and smiled. “Hey Ez.”

Ezra gave a small smile in return.

Vin frowned, easily reading Ezra’s discomfort. “Something wrong?”

“Might I ask you to join me for a moment?” Ezra asked indicating Chris’ office with a nod of his head.

Vin nodded, his frown deepening with concern. “You weren’t hurt, were you?”

Ezra shook his head as Vin walked over eyeing the undercover agent critically. “I’m fine, Vin.”

But that declaration just made Vin more suspicious and he stopped next to Ezra, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Truth?”

“Truth,” Ezra replied. He glanced at the desk where the box sat. “You had a delivery while we were otherwise occupied,” Ezra said, his anxiety showing in his words.

Vin looked at the box, then back at Ezra, uncertain why it was upsetting him so much. He pulled out his pocketknife and started to cut the tape sealing the box.

Ezra ran his hand through his hair. “The, uh, it appears to be from an institution with which you were previously associated,” he stammered, concerned that Vin had not seen who it was from.

Vin stopped and really looked at Ezra, then checked the return address and smiled. “Yeah, I was expecting this. They called a few weeks back, had found some stuff in storage.”

Ezra stiffened. “You… you were expecting it?”

“Yep,” Vin said as he cut through the last of the tape and opened the box. “This was the first children’s home I was placed in. Most of my stuff was left there when I got fostered. Thought it’d been lost, but evidently it had been boxed up and stored in the basement. The home was doing some Spring cleaning, found some stuff with my name on it and called me.”

Ezra frowned. “How did they know where to reach you after all these years?” He watched as Vin fingered some of the items in the box.

“I was just a little ‘un when I was there, they treated me all right, not like the later places,” he frowned then shook his head to shake off the memories. “I’ve been sending them money to help the kids they keep ever since I had more than two pennies to rub together.” Vin shrugged. “Least I could do, I figure. Maybe it’ll help keep some other kid out of the situation I was in.”

Ezra’s frown slowly transformed into a soft smile. He patted Vin on the shoulder, then headed for the door to give him some time alone.

“Hey, Ezra,” Vin called.

Ezra turned back. “Yes, Vin?”

“Thanks for lookin’ out for me.”

Ezra smiled brightly. “Just returning the favor, my friend.”

 The end


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