September 2003 Challenge: Write a story that somehow involves one of the guys with a teddy bear or other stuffed toy of your choosing. The toy does not have to be the focus of the story, but it should have at least some significance. Any AU is acceptable. Have fun!
Moved to Blackraptor November 2009
Five heads shot up as Chris Larabee's telephone rang from within his open office. The seventh and final member of Team Seven was already more than an hour late for work and his comrades had been busily making bets as to his probable arrival time or possible excuse for not arriving at all.
"Standish, where are you?" Grins flew around the room as the men realized that they were about to get their answer. "What the hell do you mean you'll be out all week? Are you hurt, sick, what?"
The smiles were quickly replaced by frowns of concern when their boss' voice stopped for a full minute, then took on a tone of shock. "Want to run that by me again? You won't come in because you have what?"
Another long silence dragged by then came a most unexpected sound. Chris Larabee was laughing!
"I'm sorry, Ezra. I know it isn't funny." Another snort of amusement. "Aw hell, yes it is! How did you manage not to have that before? Uh huh. Well, weren't you ever immunized?"
Nathan Jackson was standing by this time, leaning against the wall outside of Larabee's office, having given up all pretense of doing anything but eavesdropping, his expression increasingly concerned.
"I guess this gets you out of the Rosales case at any rate. No, no, don't worry about it. I can't exactly send you in to meet with them in that condition." Perplexed faces searched one another for explanation as another pause indicated that Standish was talking. Why wasn't Chris upset? He had been adamant that Ezra be prepared to go undercover within the week to set up a bust against a major gunrunner. Now it sounded as if Ezra wouldn't be involved and Chris actually sounded cheerful about it. "Just gather up whatever you've been able to find and get it ready for us. Yeah, well never mind. Just do as you're told for once. We'll figure it out. I'll be over after work to pick up that stuff."
Whatever Ezra said in reply set his boss laughing again. "Hell, yes, it's necessary! I gotta see this for myself."
Following the sound of the receiver clicking back into its cradle was a long, thoroughly amused chuckle.
"Aw, I can't stand this anymore," Buck Wilmington declared. Jumping out of his chair he strode across the room to Larabee's office quickly followed by the others. Catching sight of the still grinning team leader, he blurted, "What the heck are you laughing about? Where's Ezra?"
"What's wrong with him Chris?" Nathan demanded. "Is he sick?"
"Yep," Larabee replied pleasantly. "He's staying home sick today, and he will be for the next week or two."
Vin Tanner and JD Dunne exchanged a confused look. "And that's funny?" JD asked. "What about the Rosales bust?"
Chris looked a bit less happy at the reminder but a smile still played about his lips. "The timing isn't too great but there's no way Ez would be able to infiltrate that gang with a fever and a bunch of crusty spots all over his face."
As he put all the clues together, a suspicious look crossed Josiah Sanchez' face. "What's he got?"
Snorts, laughs and a babble of overlapping voices greeted the announcement.
"Folks get that when they're little. I had 'em when I was six!"
"Every kid's had chicken pox."
"Are you sure Ez isn't just trying to con you out of an extra couple of days off?"
Chris held up a hand to stop the racket. Instead of answering the statements himself, he gestured for Nathan to do it. The team medic gave a reluctant nod. "It doesn't happen too often, but sometimes people don't get it in their youth, especially if they're not around other kids much. An only child like Ezra who grew up around more tutors and grown-ups than he did school kids could've easily missed out. The FDA didn't approve a vaccine against chicken pox until about 10 years ago and I'm guessin' it never occurred to Ezra to get the shot."
Josiah nodded. "Much as the man hates doctors, present company excluded of course Nate, I wouldn't expect him to get vaccinated even if it did occur to him. I'll bet he's wishing he had now though. Chicken pox are a hell of a lot harder on adults than kids."
"That don't hardly seem fair," Vin commented.
Nathan shook his head. "It's not but that's how it goes. The older you are when you catch 'em, the worse they're likely to be. Ezra's gonna have himself a miserable couple of weeks."
"How did he get 'em anyway?" JD wondered. "Is he dating somebody we don't know about that's got kids?"
"Apparently he was at the children's hospital over the weekend and they've got an outbreak," Larabee explained, drawing noises of understanding from the other men. Standish volunteered his time reading stories and doing magic tricks for the sick children on a regular basis. "It didn't dawn on anybody to ask him if he'd ever had chicken pox until it was too late."
Vin laughed. "Bet he's pissed."
The amused look came back to Chris' face. "To put it mildly. Apparently the fever and headache started up last night. Said he went to bed early and by the time he woke up this morning he'd already broken out in a rash all over his face and chest."
A quiet chuckle sounded from Nathan. "Guess I'd best go along with you Chris. He's gonna need some calamine lotion and acetaminophen if he doesn't already have them."
"I'll come along too," Josiah volunteered. "Ezra won't be able to leave his house for awhile and I noticed the fridge was looking pretty bare the other day when we were over."
Buck laughed. "Maybe we oughtta get him some mittens too, so he'll be reminded not to scratch."
As the banter continued in the outer office, Chris returned to his desk to call Judge Travis. It looked like Team Seven's case load would need to be temporarily shifted.
Ezra Standish was miserable. That was the only word for it. In the five days since he had first begun to feel the fever and general malaise of illness he had developed a persistent headache that no amount of acetaminophen seem to help for long and a rash that now covered his entire body from hips to scalp. He had not believed that all the itchy little red spots could get any more uncomfortable until those blisters had started breaking open. The scabs they formed itched even worse! If it had not been for the calamine and the temporary relief of long tepid baths he was sure he would have gone crazy by now.
Scratching at his chest and secretly gloating over the fact that none of his teammates were around to see and scold him for it - again - Ezra glanced at the clock and sighed. Almost noon. He wondered which of his friends would decide to baby-sit him today. They had showed up in force that first day after he had called in sick bringing food and medicine, for which he had been profoundly grateful, and equal measures of sympathy and teasing, which he really could have lived without. He had begun to feel like a sideshow attraction by the time they had finally quit gawking and gone on their way. And they had been back every day since - at lunchtime and again in the evening. Each man seemed to feel that listening to them prattle on about every topic under the sun was infinitely preferable to spending quiet time alone. What ever happened to suffering in silence?
As if on a timer, the doorbell sounded just as the clock struck twelve. Ezra pulled himself upright on the couch where he had been reclining with the remote control, idly flipping past a series of boring daytime television shows. "Who is it?" he called, wondering if the visitor might go away if he asked politely enough.
"It's us, Ez!" The voice was JD's. Damn, you couldn't blow that boy off the doorstep with a smart bomb if he was determined enough to stay. All hopes of a quiet afternoon vanished.
Heaving a long sigh, he said, "Come in."
"You mind opening the door? Our hands are kinda full," Vin Tanner called out.
Wondering what they could possibly have brought this time that would leave not a single hand free to grasp the doorknob, Ezra went to let them in, pausing long enough for one last vigorous scratch before the medical police gained entry.
As he opened the door, Standish found himself face to face with the largest stuffed panda bear he had ever seen in his life. He staggered back a few paces, shocked, and the animal walked into his apartment on the legs of JD Dunne, who was revealed as he set the creature down in Ezra's recliner. His other five teammates quickly followed all of them toting teddy bears of every shape and size. As he stood gawking, every available piece of furniture was covered with a plushy guest. Last through the door came Josiah who grinned and pressed a white teddy bear covered in tiny red heart-shaped spots into Ezra's arms. The bear had a larger heart in the middle of its chest that read, 'Get Well Soon'.
"You-, I-, What-"
"What do you know about that? He's actually speechless!" Buck noted gleefully.
Holding the white bear shoulder high, as if he might throw it at somebody, Ezra finally got his mouth working. "Have you all lost your senses completely? What is the meaning of this?"
"Keep yer shirt on, Ez," Vin ordered, grinning as he watched his friend cross scab-covered arms self-consciously over his chest to hide the logo on the shirt Buck had given him. Ezra was not given to wearing oversized T-shirts, particularly one with a pair of lips and the words Stud Muffin emblazoned on it, but when the progression of his rash had made it difficult to tolerate having anything harsher than soft cotton close to his skin he had given in.
"They're a gift from the kids," JD told him.
Ezra shot him a blank look. "Kids?"
"At the Children's Hospital," Nathan supplied. "I dropped by yesterday like you asked, to let the folks down there know you wouldn't be able to come visit for awhile. When they found out that you got sick from bein' around 'em the kids decided they wanted to send you a little get-well present."
"Teddy bears from kids whose life you made a little brighter recently by giving your time to them," Josiah supplied, smiling fondly at him. He placed a hand upon the enormous panda, "And this one is a gift from the nursing staff."
Vin gestured toward the bear the astonished man now held to his chest. "That little fella with the spots came from a girl named Lisa. Said she was sorry she gave you the chicken pox and she hopes you ain't mad at her."
Ezra swallowed hard and cleared his throat, hoping he would not sound as choked up as he felt. "I hope you reassured her on that count."
"Course we did," Chris told him, smiling at the obvious emotional discomfort in his agent. Ezra didn't handle sentiment well. It was a condition he could relate to. "Figure you can tell her again yourself in another week or so when you get out of here."
"Yeah, and in the mean time now you got lots of company to keep you entertained until Nathan springs you," Buck teased.
Looking about the room, a thoroughly dismayed expression stole across Ezra's brightly spotted features.
He reached a hand up to his head and nearly jumped out of his skin when six voices bellowed, "Don't scratch!"
"I wasn't going to," he snapped. "I was just wondering what on earth I am going to do with all of these bears. I can't leave them cluttered all over the living room, and I certainly can't give them back."
"You can always put them in the spare bedroom for awhile then donate them back to the hospital when the current group of patients have been released," JD offered.
"Or you could wait until Christmas and turn them over to a toy drive," Josiah added.
Buck suggested, "The cops are always looking for donations for the Buddy Bear program."
"All excellent suggestions," Ezra agreed, relieved.
The visitors stayed a short while longer before leaving to grab a quick lunch before returning to work. Ezra stood by the door and stared at the wealth of stuffed animals adorning his home. He had never dreamed that the children he entertained with stories and tricks cared enough to do such a thing for him. The sight of their gift warmed him clear through. Stroking his hand over the little white bear with the heart shaped spots, he smiled. Donating the toys to a charity was a good idea, but maybe he would hold on to one or two, just to remember this day. Suddenly it did not seem so miserable after all.