by Jeanne

This is a surprise birthday fic for Joy. We owe you so much, lady for keeping the LB AU alive and well. Here’s a very short one of your two favorite guys, Little Vin and Uncle Ezra.

Ezra P. Standish jammed the Jag into first as he left the parking area. Angrily he jerked the stick into second once on the street mentally cursing everything in sight including the damnable bureaucrats that had held captive, all the ATF teams of the Denver office all day including through lunch.

It was only by chance and skill that he’d managed his escape and upon arriving at the offices of Team 7 he’d found a large pile of pink message slips. He’d flipped through them quickly stopping only twice. Messages from Gloria Potter stating she and JD were finished at the dentist and they were caught in traffic trying to get back to the school to pick up Vin. The time on the first message was 12:09.

The second message Ezra read was from Mr. B saying that someone needed to pick up Vin Tanner as it was an early release day and the staff was attending an in service meeting at 1:00.

Ezra looked at his watch. It was 3:16. He speed dialed Gloria’s cell phone.

“Hello,” came a tired voice over the phone.

“Mrs. Potter. This is Ezra Standish.”

“Oh, Mr. Standish I’m so glad someone called. Is Mr. Larabee with you, or Mr. Wilmington?” Gloria asked hopefully.

“I’m afraid I’m alone. Mister’s Larabee and Wilmington are still trapped in their meeting. I just now saw your message. Have you by chance picked up my other nephew?”

“No, Mr. Standish. JD and I are still trapped on I-25. The radio said there was a tanker turned over and a pile up behind it. I don’t know how long we will be. The snow has slowed here and is lifting somewhat. I’m pretty sure we’re near an exit where we can at least head back to the ranch. That is if we ever get to the exit.”

“Then you and young JD are safe?”

“Oh yes. Of course JD was restless, that is until he mercifully fell asleep. It’s hard on such an active little boy to be still for so long.”

“I understand. Mrs. Potter when you can, go ahead and go to the ranch. I shall go get young Vin.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. I shall rescue Vin and bring him to his father.”

“Thank you, Mr. Standish, I’ve been worried sick and I’m sorry to say the young woman who kept answering the phone and taking my messages was less then helpful.”

“Not a problem, Mrs. Potter. Thank you for your diligence.”

Ezra grabbed his coat and on his way to the parking area tried several times to get through to the school. Each time all he got was the answering machine. After the third try Ezra flung the phone into the passenger seat and cursed. Even as the words flew from his month he promised the swear jar a fat bonus.

He glanced at the dash clock. It was 3:30 and would take at least 25 minutes to reach the school, maybe longer in this weather. The snow was light but steady and the streets were slushy right now but would get icy quickly as the sun set.

“Hold on, Vin. I’m coming,” he whispered between the cursing.

Earlier that afternoon.

Mr. B looked down at the small boy. “Are you sure Mrs. Potter is coming Vin?”

“Yes, sir. She said she might be a little late ‘cause of the snow and she said ya never know how long the dentist would be,” the small boy told his teacher.

“I see.” Mr. B looked at his watch and sighed. “Vin is it alright with you if I leave you here in the hall to wait? I would stay with you but I must be at this meeting.”

“Yeah, I mean, yes, sir. I’m fine.”

“All right then, you sit down here and wait.” Mr. B laid his hand lightly on the boy’s shoulder and then went down the hall.

Vin sat on the bench carefully setting his back pack beside him. He could see out the window beside the door to the drive outside. Turning his head he could see down the hall where Mr. B and the other teachers went.

The hall had never seemed so long or big or dark before. It made him feel so small. He laid his hand on the top of his backpack. He watched the empty hall and then looked out the window at the empty drive and parking lot.

Maybe I should go outside, then I could watch better for my ride. But Mr. B said to stay here and wait.” Vin sighed. He wanted to go outside but it was so hard for the little boy to disobey an adult.

Sighing again he swung his feet back and forth under the bench and waited some more. Then finally he got up and walked to the door. He could sit there on the second step and that way he could see the drive better but would still be in sight of the door. He grabbed his backpack and pushed the door open and stepped outside. The door shut with a resounding bang that made Vin jump a little. It was colder then he thought. He turned and tried the door, but it was locked. He hadn’t thought of that. He looked inside and saw no one in the darkened hall. Sighing again he curled up on the step hugging his backpack and his knees.

Mr. B hurried to his office and turned off his computer and turned out the lights. As he slipped into his coat he looked down the hall toward the front door. Not seeing the boy he thought, “Good. Someone came to get Vin.” Then he turned and rushed to the staff parking lot. He was late and desperate not to miss his daughter’s début as Juliet in the high school play.

The shadows got longer and the air colder. Vin shivered. “Maybe no one was going to come to get him. Maybe something bad had happened to Mrs. Potter or Dad and everyone has forgotten me.” He looked around hoping to see the ram coming up the drive.

Ezra snapped the headlights on in the waning twilight. He pulled into the drive and stopped in front of the doors.

As he got out his heart dropped as he took in the dark building. He practically raced up the walk and took the steps two at a time reaching for the door pull. But the doors were locked.

Letting fly another un-gentlemanly phrase he turned, and sighing leaned against the door. His eyes swept the landscape. They stopped at the huddled forlorn little figure just three steps away from him. With a deep intake of breath Ezra realized it was Vin. The boy hadn’t even moved when he’d raced by.

The agent was frozen in place, the boy’s body language shouted at him. Bringing back the days and nights he’d spent huddled on porch steps or in front of windows waiting for his mother to come for him. Ezra swallowed the anger the memories brought and carefully approached the boy.

“Vin?” he called softly.

The boy slowly raised his head and blinked. “Uncle Ezra?”

Ezra smiled, “Yes, it is I.”

“I’ve been waitin’ an’ waitin’. No body came an’ all the teachers left and I didn’t even know they’d gone. It’s almost dark and no one came.” Vin blurted out. But he didn’t move.

“I came Vin as soon as I knew you needed me. Now come, we’ll go back to the office.”

Vin sniffed. “Okay, where’s Mrs. Potter and JD?”

“They are caught in an awful traffic jam. I told them to head for home as soon as they could and that I was going for you.”

“Where’s Chris?”

Ezra sighed, ‘Chris’ not ‘dad’. “Your father, Buck and the others are trapped in an endless meeting. Come Vin, you must be quite chilled. We’ll get in the warm jag and I’ll explain as we go.” He held his hand out to the boy.

Vin reached out and Ezra took the icy small hand. As the boy stood the man saw and felt the shivering. He quietly led the stumbling boy to the waiting car. Opening the door the man reached into the back seat and pulled a blanket he carried there and folded it, placing Vin on it so the boy was high enough for the seat belt to be somewhat comfortable. Ezra reached for the backpack to place in the back.

Vin gripped tighter his eyes widening.

“I just want to put your backpack on the floor Vin. It won’t be out of your sight.” He gently took the pack and set it under Vin’s feet.

The southerner rushed around and starting the jag turned the heater on full blast. He refused to recognize the look of fear that crossed the tiny face again bringing back unwelcome memories. “Not now, Ezra. Focus on the present,” he chided himself silently.

“You should be warm soon, Vin. I need to make a call then we’ll be on our way,” he said glancing at the too quiet boy.

“K,” Vin managed to say.

Ezra speed dialed the direct line to the office but was answered by the message machine. Managing to keep his voice smooth and even, showing none of the distress he felt he said, “Chris, this is Ezra. I’ve picked up Vin and we are on our way back to the Federal Building. With any luck we should be there a little past five. I assume you will be waiting. I shall attempt to contact Mrs. Potter and let her know of our status.”

Ezra clicked the phone off and then dialed the number Gloria had given him.


“Mrs. Potter, it’s Ezra Standish again. I have Vin and we are going back to the office.”

“Oh, that’s such a relief. We are almost home and I’ll have some stew ready when everyone gets home.”

“Thank you Mrs. Potter, I shall relay your message. Good bye, I must get on the road now.”

“Good bye, Mr. Standish.”

Ezra drove in silence glancing occasionally at the boy beside him. Vin had said nothing out side of answering direct questions. He sat staring out the side window huddled in his coat even after the interior of the car was more then warm.

The undercover agent parked his car and led the boy to the elevator. They rode in silence up the floors and entered the still empty office. A quick glance around told Ezra that no one had received his message, that his teammates were still unaware of the small drama being played out by one of the youngest members of their odd family.

“Well, it seems that your father and other uncles are still being held hostage by the bureaucrats. Would you care for a soda or perhaps some hot tea with some sugar and cream?” He turned and started toward the break room.

“Uncle Ezra, aren’t you gonna rescue them?” a small voice stopped him.

“Rescue whom, Vin?”

“Dad and the others. You said they was bein’ held hostage by Bea Okrats.”

Ezra was confused for a second. “Oh, no, Vin. I didn’t mean that literally. I just meant they were still in their meeting. And bureaucrats are um, like a big machine that’s very complicated and tends to make everyone miserable. Now, do you want that warm tea?”

“Yes, please.”

The southerner quickly made a cup of hot tea with plenty of sugar and creamer in it.

“Here you go. Sip this, it’ll help you warm up.”

Vin wrapped his small hands around the cup. “Thanks, Uncle Ezra,” he whispered.

It was a short but very quiet wait before they heard the others coming in. Ezra called out, “Mr. Larabee, I think you should come in here.”

Frowning as he entered Chris started saying, “Ezra! I don’t have time for your Bullsh……” He caught sight of his son. “What the he… heck are you doing here?” he asked. The headache the ‘meeting’ started suddenly becoming worse.

Buck right behind his boss scanned the room. “Where’s JD?”

Ezra stood and walked around the table. He allowed his anger to begin to show. “I suggest you read these before you ask any more questions.” He practically shoved the stack of pink phone messages into the blond’s hand.

Buck looked over Chris’ shoulder and they read each message from Gloria and the school. All neatly written down and the time noted.

Buck looked up after the last one. “Gloria and JD?”

“Safely on their way home finally. I called to make sure and to tell her that I had Vin. It was a great relief to her to know that Vin at last had someone to pick him up.”

“Thank you Ezra. I really appreciate you doing that,” Chris said more subdued.

“It was nothing. I couldn’t just leave him there once I saw the message.” Ezra turned away from the team leader and gently placing a hand on Vin’s shoulder said, “I must go now Vin. Will you be all right now?”

“I’m fine Uncle Ezra. Thanks for coming to get me.” The small boy smiled up at his uncle.

“I was happy to do it, Vin.”

Chris wanting to make amends with his son walked over to the chair and reached out.

Vin flinched and pulled away from the tall man. He jumped up and his hands in tiny fists shouted, “I waited for you to come. I waited and waited and waited. It was cold and dark and the door was locked. Then everybody was gone an’ I was all by myself. There wasn’t any where to go so all I could do was wait and you didn’t come. No body came. Not until Uncle Ezra. He cared enough to come.”

Chris was shocked by the outburst. Squatting down he said, “Now hold on, Cowboy. Stop screaming first. And second, I didn’t know about Gloria or you until just now. I was locked in the meeting; all of us were, in one way or another. Vin…if I’d known you were waiting, I’d've left and come to get you. You know that don’t you?”

“You’re my dad now, you’re supposed to know.” The seven year old was having nothing to do with adult logic.

“You’re right, Cowboy. But I never got the messages. Monday I will be having a word with the secretarial staff about this. Vin, I can’t promise this or something like it won’t happen again, but I’ll do my very best to see that it doesn’t.”

Chris glanced at Buck and the look on his face promised that heads would roll.

The father held out his hand. “Let’s go home Cowboy, I’m tired, and hungry and I bet JD wants us home as much as we want to be there.”

Vin’s lips pursed, he just wasn’t ready to forgive, not yet. “Okay.” He refused the hand and walking around Chris grabbed his backpack. Then turned back and glared at them with a ‘I’m ready why aren’t you’ look.

The adults followed the boy to the elevator. Buck whispered, “It’s gonna be a long weekend Pard.”

“Yeah,” Chris whispered back.

The ride home was silent. Even the usually talkative Buck was quiet. He glanced over at his friend occasionally noticing the telltale throb of the temple vein as the big man flinched mentally. He knew that Chris’ anger was directed at himself as much as toward whomever had taken message after message and not notified him.

He could also feel the anger coming from the pint sized Larabee and had no doubt there was a Larabee like glare being sent to each of them. He’d never seen Vin show so much temper before, but the boy had one that was for sure.

Wilmington did pull out his cell phone and call the ranch. “Gloria? It’s Buck, I just wanted to call and let you know we’re on our way home…….. Yeah, we have him. What did the dentist say?……..Oh, okay. Thanks, Gloria we should be there in about 30 minutes…..Oh, that sounds great, you are an angel, Gloria.”

Chris heard the click as Buck shut his phone. “How’s JD?”

“He’s fine. Made it through the filling just fine but the dentist thinks there may be some trouble when his adult teeth come. Gloria laughed and said I’d better start saving for braces.”

“That’s low. But she’s right. Braces cost a fortune.”

Buck snorted. “I know.”

Silence prevailed again, broken only by the occasional sniff from the back seat. Larabee mentally kicked himself again. “Oh great, now he’s gonna get sick because I didn’t get there to pick him up,” he thought as he glanced back in the rearview mirror.

They pulled in behind the house and barely turned the motor off before two pups and one small dynamo came barreling out of the house.

“DA!!!! You’re home, where’s Vin?” JD shouted not paying any attention to his stocking feet getting wet.

“He’s here, Little Bit. Get back inside before you catch cold.” Buck grabbed the little boy and carried him into the house.

Larabee turned to help Vin out of the cab but the boy jerked away.

“I can do it,” he said as he climbed down and headed toward the back door.

Chris slammed the door shut and ‘clicked’ the lock, and then he followed the others inside. He went straight to his room hollering at Buck. “I’m going to feed the horses. You feed the kids. I’ll eat later.” The angry man quickly changed clothes and slammed the door as he went outside. Larabee knew he needed to calm down, to cool off, before he faced his son and tried to make amends.

The little boy’s anger and the circumstances had almost done him in. What if Ezra hadn’t snuck away? What if he hadn’t seen the messages and gone after Vin? He fought to keep the mental picture of Vin frozen, dead, alone, because he hadn’t gotten the messages out of his head. He tossed hay into each stall. Words flew as fast as the hay as he berated the meeting, long-winded old farts, dumb-assed office help, semi drivers on bad roads, traffic jams, and in the mix were also early release days, and, as he wound down, fathers who were helpless so much of the time.

By the time each horse had fresh water he was down to thanking God for Ezra and his talent for getting away, that Vin was alright enough to be angry at him but most of all that he was safe. “Oh, God, thank You he’s safe. I can’t lose him, too.” When had this small boy become so important to him? Being brutally honest it had been from the first minute he’d seen him lying in the warehouse so near death.

Walking back to the house he took a deep breath of cold mountain air and walked in. Vin sat alone at the table staring at the almost full bowl of beef stew sitting before him. Chris could hear Buck and JD in the living room. Getting himself a bowl he sat down opposite the small boy.

“What’s the matter, pard? You love Gloria’s stew,” he asked.

Blue eyes looked up. “Ain’t hungry.”

“Oh,” Chris said casually. “I guess being mad kinda kills the appetite.”

Vin’s lower lip slipped out. “Ain’t mad. I jest…. I don’t know.”

“Well, eat just a few bites and if you don’t want any more it’s okay,” Chris urged.

Larabee dutifully ate a bite. Usually Gloria’s stew was wonderful but tonight it wasn’t. Logically he knew it tasted the same as it always did, it was just him. The stew still didn’t taste worth a shit with the second bite.

Chris glanced at the boy who’d choked down at least a spoonful and was staring at a second one. Sighing he said, “You don’t have to eat, Vin.”

Without a word the boy got up and left the kitchen.

The blond straightened the kitchen and joined Buck and JD in the living room. Buck was reading to JD. Chris looked around but didn’t see Vin. He went back to the boys’ room. The light was off. Larabee opened the door enough to see Vin in bed. The blond crept closer and saw Vin curled up under all his covers tightly clinching Cat. Chris reached out and gently brushed a wayward curl from the boy’s forehead. He whispered, “I’m sorry I disappointed you, son. Grownups can’t always live up to the expectations of their kids no matter how hard they try. I love you, Cowboy.” Chris stood and watched his son breathe slowly a slight frown on his small elfin face.

Then tucking the blankets tighter around the boy he turned and left. As he entered the living room he glanced at Buck. “Vin’s already asleep.”

Buck nodded and continued reading. Chris went into his study. He had some paperwork to do and tonight seemed to be the perfect night to do it.

Ezra stood before his large living room window. The stereo was playing softly and the lights were dim. He stood watching the snow fall, it shined in the street lights. He swirled his brandy once more and took another sip.

The afternoon adventure had reminded him of a too often occurrence in his own childhood. One in particular came to mind. Maude had placed him in boarding school. She’d told him he must do well and that the other students were from the finest families. He was to make friends with them for one never knew when such acquaintances would come in handy.

School was good and young Ezra had enjoyed it very much. He’d done well in his classes and managed to stay out of trouble despite the clandestine poker game he sponsored.

Then it was the end of the term. There was a month break and he watched as his roommates left one by one. Ezra sat on his bed his trunk packed. He read and re-read the note from his mother.

“Ezra, Darling. I shall be there to get you on the 15th. I’ve missed you. Mother”

Later that day there were cold sandwiches in the dining hall for snacks as the school slowly emptied. Until finally there was only Ezra, waiting in that long hall sitting quietly mentally willing Maude to come.

The late afternoon shadows stretched across the large hall. The footsteps of the headmaster echoed as he approached. “Mr. Standish.”

Ezra stood. “Sir.”

“I’ve received, just now, a phone call from your mother.”


“She regrets she can not make it but has asked a relative to pick you up.”

“Did she say who, sir?” Ezra asked hoping it would be Aunt Grace.

“No, I’m sorry, only that they would be here by six.”

“Thank you, sir, I shall be waiting.”

“Of course, Standish. It would be much more comfortable in the drawing room by the fire.”

“No, sir. I shall wait here. I don’t wish to be any trouble.”

The headmaster looked at the small boy standing stiffly before him. Thinking of nothing else he could say he nodded and left.

Ezra sat down on the bench again. His mind was numb. “She can’t come. A relative? That certainly sounds ominous. God please don’t let it be them this time.” Flashes of faces raced across his mind. Each more unwelcome then the last.

He waited silently. He waited alone. He waited, steeling himself against who he feared might come. Everything he owned was in the trunk beside him. He guarded it fiercely as he waited.

There was a commotion at the door and this ‘person’ whirled in.

“Hey, kid, I’m Jasmine LaFree. Your ma asked if I’d pick you up.”

Ezra looked at her in shock. The woman who stood before him was a nightmare of clashing colors. Her waist length curly auburn hair was held away from her face by a multi colored scarf. She was wearing a long skirt of swirling colors, a crimson blouse and the biggest roundest thickest glasses he’d ever seen.

She stood in front of him, her hands on thin hips. “Well, come on Cuz. I got chores back at the farm.”

Ezra stood, closed his mouth and then opened it again. “There must be some mistake…I… you’re….we couldn’t possibly be related,” he stammered out.

“Get a grip kid, not everyone puts on airs like Maudie. We spent several summers together when we were younger. We just chose different paths once we were grown. That yours?” she asked pointing at the trunk.

Ezra nodded and watched in astonishment as Jasmine grabbed the trunk and led him outside. There parked at the curb was an old bus. Small, yes, but out of each window looked a furry face. The woman opened the door and dragged in his trunk. “Back. Move over!” she shouted at the mismatched dogs inside. “Come on, Ez, we gotta go. Just push the kids outta the way.”

Ezra entered the bus and sat on the edge of the first seat. His seat mate, a spaniel, looked up at him with soulful eyes while the large hound he displaced curled its lip. Ezra held tightly to the pole and thought. “I’m in Hell. My mother has sent me to hell.”

The bus roared to a start and rolled down the drive with ‘Peter, Paul and Mary’ playing loudly on the stereo.

Adult Ezra smiled at the memory. The two weeks he’d spent at Cousin Jas’s had been an unforgettable experience. One he’d treasured. Jas was everything Maude was not. She cared not one whit about money, position or appearances. She made what money she had with crafts, organic veggies, raw honey and goat cheese.

Maude had been appalled when she’d finally showed up. Ezra had been playing in the goat pen with puppies, baby goats and had been sunburned and covered with mud.

“Matilda, I asked you to watch my son, not turn him into a unwashed rustic hippy.”

“It’s Jasmine, Maudie. You know I hate that name. And you asked me to get Ez ‘cause you couldn’t be bothered at the time and you had no one else to call on for help.”

“Please do not call me Maudie, It’s Maude.”

“Then don’t call me Matilda, Cuz.”

Maude sighed “Very well. Ezra, please clean and dress yourself and pack your things. We’re leaving.”

“Yes, Mother,” the little boy said without arguing, surprised because he felt some disappointment that he was leaving.

Ezra took another sip of his brandy. That had been a great two weeks although he hadn’t admitted it to anyone. But he’d never forgotten the awful feeling of waiting for someone - anyone - to come and get him. He hoped things were going well at the Larabee ranch, Vin had been very angry when they had left. Mr. Larabee had also been extremely angry about the messages that had failed to be delivered. No doubt Monday would be very interesting.

The house was dark, Buck had gone out on a late date and Chris was relaxing trying to read. The news channel was on mute. Then he heard it. “Cough, cough, cough.”

He waited listening. “Cough, cough, cough.” Setting down the book Chris went to the boys’ room.

Vin had kicked off all his covers and was tossing between coughs. Chris tried to cover the boy up again but he kicked the blankets off again. The blond laid a gentle hand on the boy’s forehead. It was hot.

Bleary blue eyes opened. “Dad?” came a raspy voice.

“Hey, Vin.” Chris smiled down at his son.

“I don’t feel good, Dad, can’t breathe.”

“I can tell. Come on we’ll take care of that.” Chris reached out and pulled the boy to him. Grabbing the top blanket he headed to the kitchen.

Sitting Vin on the counter top he got some medication from the cabinet. Vin shook his head.

“No, I don’t like that stuff. It tastes awful.”

“I know, Cowboy, but it works and makes you feel better. Come on just a spoonful and then we’ll rock a bit.”

Vin made a face but opened his mouth.

“Good boy.” Chris again gathered the boy and carried him to the big rocker. Sitting down he covered Vin and holding him tightly began rocking.



“I was scared.”

“I know. I’m so sorry. I would have come as soon as I knew. You know that don’t you?” he asked gently.

“I guess, but being scared made me forget that,” the boy tried to explain.

“Yeah, being scared does that, makes you forget the good parts.”

They rocked for awhile. “Dad?”


“Was it because you were you scared? Is that why you forgot the good parts with Mrs. Chris and Adam?”

“I never thought of it that way, but yeah I guess I was scared, for a long time.”

“But it’s better now?”

“Yeah, Cowboy, It’s better now. Now that you’re here.”

“I love you Dad.” The small boy said as he snuggled down feeling his father’s comforting heart beat.

“I love you, too, Cowboy.”

The End