This is a surprise birthday fic for Joy. We owe you so much, lady for keeping
the LB AU alive and well. Heres 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 hed managed his escape and upon
arriving at the offices of Team 7 hed found a large pile of pink message
slips. Hed 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 Glorias cell
Hello, came a tired voice over the phone.
Mrs. Potter. This is Ezra Standish.
Oh, Mr. Standish Im so glad someone called. Is Mr. Larabee with
you, or Mr. Wilmington? Gloria asked hopefully.
Im afraid Im alone. Misters 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 dont know
how long we will be. The snow has slowed here and is lifting somewhat. Im
pretty sure were 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. Its hard on such an active little boy to be still for so
I understand. Mrs. Potter when you can, go ahead and go to the ranch.
I shall go get young Vin.
Yes. I shall rescue Vin and bring him to his father.
Thank you, Mr. Standish, Ive been worried sick and Im 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. Im coming, he whispered between the cursing.
Earlier that afternoon.
Mr. B looked down at the small boy. Are you sure Mrs. Potter is coming
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. Im fine.
All right then, you sit down here and wait. Mr. B laid his hand
lightly on the boys 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 hadnt 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
daughters 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 hadnt even moved when hed raced
The agent was frozen in place, the boys body language shouted at him.
Bringing back the days and nights hed 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.
Ive been waitin an waitin. No body came an
all the teachers left and I didnt even know theyd gone. Its
almost dark and no one came. Vin blurted out. But he didnt move.
I came Vin as soon as I knew you needed me. Now come, well go
back to the office.
Vin sniffed. Okay, wheres 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.
Ezra sighed, Chris not dad. Your father, Buck
and the others are trapped in an endless meeting. Come Vin, you must be quite
chilled. Well get in the warm jag and Ill 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 wont be
out of your sight. He gently took the pack and set it under Vins
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 well
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. Ive 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, its Ezra Standish again. I have Vin and we are going
back to the office.
Oh, thats such a relief. We are almost home and Ill 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
Uncle Ezra, arent you gonna rescue them? a small voice
Rescue whom, Vin?
Dad and the others. You said they was bein held hostage by Bea
Ezra was confused for a second. Oh, no, Vin. I didnt mean that
literally. I just meant they were still in their meeting. And bureaucrats
are um, like a big machine thats very complicated and tends to make
everyone miserable. Now, do you want that warm tea?
The southerner quickly made a cup of hot tea with plenty of sugar and creamer
Here you go. Sip this, itll help you warm up.
Vin wrapped his small hands around the cup. Thanks, Uncle Ezra,
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 dont have
time for your Bullsh
He caught sight of his son. What
heck are you doing here? he asked. The headache the
meeting started suddenly becoming worse.
Buck right behind his boss scanned the room. Wheres 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 blonds
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
It was nothing. I couldnt just leave him there once I saw the
message. Ezra turned away from the team leader and gently placing a
hand on Vins shoulder said, I must go now Vin. Will you be all
Im 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
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 wasnt any where to go
so all I could do was wait and you didnt 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 didnt 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 Id known you were waiting, Id've
left and come to get you. You know that dont you?
Youre my dad now, youre supposed to know. The seven
year old was having nothing to do with adult logic.
Youre right, Cowboy. But I never got the messages. Monday I will
be having a word with the secretarial staff about this. Vin, I cant
promise this or something like it wont happen again, but Ill
do my very best to see that it doesnt.
Chris glanced at Buck and the look on his face promised that heads would
The father held out his hand. Lets go home Cowboy, Im tired,
and hungry and I bet JD wants us home as much as we want to be there.
Vins lips pursed, he just wasnt 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 Im ready
why arent you look.
The adults followed the boy to the elevator. Buck whispered, Its
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. Hed
never seen Vin show so much temper before, but the boy had one that was for
Wilmington did pull out his cell phone and call the ranch. Gloria?
Its Buck, I just wanted to call and let you know were on our
.. Yeah, we have him. What did the dentist
..Oh, okay. Thanks, Gloria we should be there in about 30
..Oh, that sounds great, you are an angel, Gloria.
Chris heard the click as Buck shut his phone. Hows JD?
Hes 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 Id better start saving for braces.
Thats low. But shes 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 hes
gonna get sick because I didnt 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!!!! Youre home, wheres Vin? JD shouted not paying
any attention to his stocking feet getting wet.
Hes 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
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.
Im going to feed the horses. You feed the kids. Ill 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 boys anger and the circumstances had almost done him in.
What if Ezra hadnt snuck away? What if he hadnt seen the messages
and gone after Vin? He fought to keep the mental picture of Vin frozen, dead,
alone, because he hadnt 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 hes
safe. I cant lose him, too. When had this small boy become
so important to him? Being brutally honest it had been from the first minute
hed 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.
Whats the matter, pard? You love Glorias stew, he
Blue eyes looked up. Aint hungry.
Oh, Chris said casually. I guess being mad kinda kills
Vins lower lip slipped out. Aint mad. I jest
Well, eat just a few bites and if you dont want any more its
okay, Chris urged.
Larabee dutifully ate a bite. Usually Glorias stew was wonderful but
tonight it wasnt. Logically he knew it tasted the same as it always
did, it was just him. The stew still didnt taste worth a shit with
the second bite.
Chris glanced at the boy whod choked down at least a spoonful and was
staring at a second one. Sighing he said, You dont have to eat,
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 didnt 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 boys forehead. He whispered, Im sorry
I disappointed you, son. Grownups cant 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
Then tucking the blankets tighter around the boy he turned and left. As he
entered the living room he glanced at Buck. Vins already
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. Shed 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. Hed 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.
Ive 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.
Ive received, just now, a phone call from your mother.
She regrets she can not make it but has asked a relative to pick you
Did she say who, sir? Ezra asked hoping it would be Aunt Grace.
No, Im 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 dont 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 cant
come. A relative? That certainly sounds ominous. God please dont 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, Im Jasmine LaFree. Your ma asked if Id pick you
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 hed
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
.we couldnt 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
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. Im
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 hed spent at Cousin
Jass had been an unforgettable experience. One hed 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 shed 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
Its Jasmine, Maudie. You know I hate that name. And you asked
me to get Ez cause you couldnt be bothered at the time and you
had no one else to call on for help.
Please do not call me Maudie, Its Maude.
Then dont call me Matilda, Cuz.
Maude sighed Very well. Ezra, please clean and dress yourself and pack
your things. Were 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 hadnt admitted it to anyone.
But hed 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 boys forehead. It was hot.
Bleary blue eyes opened. Dad? came a raspy voice.
Hey, Vin. Chris smiled down at his son.
I dont feel good, Dad, cant breathe.
I can tell. Come on well take care of that. Chris reached
out and pulled the boy to him. Grabbing the top blanket he headed to the
Sitting Vin on the counter top he got some medication from the cabinet. Vin
shook his head.
No, I dont like that stuff. It tastes awful.
I know, Cowboy, but it works and makes you feel better. Come on just
a spoonful and then well 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. Im so sorry. I would have come as soon as I knew. You
know that dont you? he asked gently.
I guess, but being scared made me forget that, the boy tried
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 its better now?
Yeah, Cowboy, Its better now. Now that youre here.
I love you Dad. The small boy said as he snuggled down feeling
his fathers comforting heart beat.
I love you, too, Cowboy.