"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe
Authors Notes: I must give a big sloppy kiss to both Marian and Phyllis for all their help in bringing me into this universe. Also, an extra thanks to Phyllis for allowing me to make mention of characters and events depicted in her LB-ATF fic The Bird Man. And, of course, thanks to JK Poffenberger and S. Berry for creating the Little Britches universe and allowing others to play as well.
Maddie never expected to find such total bliss in being pregnant and unwed, but bliss was the only word she could compare her emotions to. She felt as though she was living in fabled Eden, for even though, at 20, she had nothing to offer any child coming into this world, her days were lived with a determined smile upon her face. For within this frozen city, Maddie had found the one thing she truly believed in, love.
It had been love at first sight when she had met Jack. He was everything she dreamed of. Handsome, caring, smart, and, most importantly, he loved her and the child she carried. The two planned to marry and then move to Boston, the city of their childhood. Together they would raise their child and all the rest of the children they planned to have. It would be the blissful life both had dreamed of, but never had. In the end, it wasn't the usual breakup of a young mother and a young man who didn't really want to be a father. No, as promised, Jack was there every step of the way as Maddie brought their son into this world.
They smiled and cried and took millions of photos of their dark-haired boy, and when the event was over Jack was led back to a van and to the minimum-security prison that would be his home for the next 12 years, four if he was lucky.
Even that didn't deter the two lovebirds. Every week, Maddie wrote Jack. She sent him photos of all the important things in their son's life. Everything from his first tooth to his first big boy potty. And everyday, Jack dreamed of when he would get to hold his son for only the second time. As sad as their life seemed, they were happy. Then, one year before Jack's parole, it stopped, the letters...calls. All stopped with no reason.
His love and their son had vanished and with them, their dreams.
The sound of screaming and laughing children could be heard for blocks. Even louder were the calls of parents and honking of car horns. Chris Larabee couldn't help but winch as a crossing-guard blew his whistle for yet another group of children to cross the busy downtown street. Facing the entryway of the school, he watched for his two charges to exit with the rest of the crowd. When the crossing-guard blew his whistle again, Chris cringed and tried to remember why he and Buck had decided on transferring the boys to the new, and very busy, downtown school.
"JD, look OUT!"
He smiled as the two small boys argued over a large piece of cardboard which appeared to be holding up a large lump of clay.
"You're going to drop it! Let me help," young Vin Tanner yelled at JD.
"I can do it. Let it GO!"
"Then stop hittin' me with it!"
"I didn't!" JD's attention quickly returned to Chris who was walking up to his young sons. "CHRIS! CHRIS! LOOKIT! I made it myself in Miss Robin's class. LOOKIT! It's everyone an the ranch an the horses. And lookit Chris, I gots all the boys. Are we goin to the office? I wanna show all the boys I gots them. Miss Robin said it was the best ever. How come Buck ain't here? Is he at the office?"
Chris reached down to take the large model from JD's small arms. He carefully placed the model next to JD's booster seat as the younger boy continued to describe every detail of the clay model. Smiling, he remembered why the decision had been made to move the boys to the Denver downtown School. Five men had sat down together and gone over the pros and cons of transferring the boys, because, although two men had legal guardianship of the children, it seemed all five had signed on to raise the two orphans.
It was nothing short of fate the day the men of ATF Team Seven found the two boys living in an abandoned warehouse. Had the men never been handed the case that led them to Denver's warehouse district, they would never have found the two boys. Vin would surely have died and little JD would have become just another faceless street child. From that moment on, every decision in the life of the two men now centered around the two boys they had taken into their home as well as their hearts.
Making sure both boys were safely sitting in the truck, Chris closed the doors and moved to the driver side. Inwardly he groaned as he heard the two boys already going at each other. Yep, he thought, it's gonna be one of those days.
+ + + + + + +
Carlos passed his friend a bottle of Coke as he reentered the dark green Honda. His buddy hadn't even moved from where he sat, staring at the school. He sighed, resigned to sitting in silence. After a few minutes, Carlos noticed his friend was getting restless. Maybe he's giving up and we can leave this place, he thought. The two had been sitting across the street for the entire day, his friend just watching and him, just sitting. The only real movement from his friend had been when the children would run outside for recess or PE.
Around them, cars lined the street as parents came to pick up their children.
"We look like pedophiles," Carlos said as he watched the hordes of children make their way out of the gated school. He groaned knowing his friend didn't hear him. "Dammit, Ja-"
Before he could finish, his friend slapped him across the chest, trying to get his attention. "There," he said, pointing, "There he is!"
Carlos leaned over to get a better look at where his friend was pointing. Across the street, two boys were being helped into a large truck by a smiling man dressed in black. "That's your niño? His daddy sure looks-"
"He's not his daddy."
Carlos almost rolled his eyes. For months he had heard nothing but talk about this kid. He probably knew as much about the boy and his family as his partner did. Before he realized, it the car was started and they were pulling out into the busy downtown traffic. They followed the black truck for about ten minutes. Pulling over, both men took note as the truck pulled into a secure parking structure. It was another five minutes before the two pulled back out into traffic. Carlos noticed the white-knuckled grip his friend had on the steering wheel.
The two continued to drive in silence. Carlos stared out the window at the passing scenery of downtown Denver. He was beginning to feel claustaphobic, having been cooped-up in a car all day, not to mention all the strange drives his buddy dragged him on over the past few weeks. He was beginning to lose his nerve. Reaching down, he uncapped his soda and began to take a long drink as once again they drove around the Pepsi Center parking lot.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra Standish was a selfish man. It wasnt that he meant to be, it was just that being selfish was the only way of life that knew, and for the first 27 years of his life it served him well. Then it happened. His selfish ways and always cool demeanor were stripped away, forcing him to depend on that which he had for so long pushed away. Of course, he pretended that nothing had changed but those that knew him best saw the truth when they looked in his green eyes. Ezra Standish had become a giving and loving soul. According to Josiah Sanchez, it was nothing less than a miracle bestowed by the Almighty, Himself.
The sound of the elevator moving up pulled Ezra from the stack of paperwork on his desk. Glancing down at his watch, he saw that it was too early for Chris to be back with the boys, so he returned to the paperwork only to be interrupted by the loud voice of the resident ladies man, Buck.
"Well, arent you a ray of sunshine on this cloudy day, Miss Holiday."
"Its actually a very beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky," she replied as she made her way toward Ezras desk. Rebecca Holiday was Orin Travis temp secretary. She was a classic beauty, straight out of an old French noir film, blonde hair, blue eyes, radiant smile and a soft voice that seemed to have a strange calming effect on everyone, even the always harried Travis.
"Without your smile, my whole world seems gray."
"Well then, you should get out more," she said before flashing Buck a smile. Turning toward Ezra she handed him an envelope. "As promised, three front row tickets for tonight at seven-thirty."
"You are a savior, Miss Holiday, thank you," Ezra said, matching her smile for smile. Rebecca left Ezras desk and made her way back to her own floor. Ezra watched her go before placing the envelope in his coat pocket. Butterflies filled his stomach as he looked up at the wall clock. He felt ridiculous for feeling nervous, but he couldnt help it. Being deprived of simple childhood things left him feeling anxious when faced with those things as an adult.
Calming his stomach, Ezra set back to work. It was only a moment before he felt the presence of his team member, Buck, hovering. "Is there a reason you find it necessary to hover around me like some irate Musca Domestia," Ezra said as he coolly swiveled his chair to face the mustached man.
For a moment Buck seemed like he was going to laugh. "Did you just call me angry spit?"
Ezras face didnt betray the laughter that was happening in his head. Instead, he simply raised an eyebrow and answered, "No. Musca Domestia- House Fly. I was simply asking what you wan-"
"Yeah, I get it. Im buggn you," Buck interrupted. "Just wonderin if Miss Holiday was able to get them tickets."
The blonde agent flashed his gold tooth as he reached into his coat pocket, pulling out the envelope and handed it to Buck. "Indeed. Tonight, I will be accompanying your young charges to the fine establishment of Denvers own Pepsi Center, where we will be entertained to our hearts content by cowboys and dinosaurs on ice."
Handing the tickets back to Ezra, Buck replied, "The boys are gonna love it. I swear JDs about to wear out them DVDs you bought them for Christmas. Chris just about hid the damn player when JD decided to play Toy Story over an over again during Easter vacation. That vein in his forehead was stickin out by the eighth time."
Ezra smiled as he imagined the teams once stoic leader slowly being driven mad by an overly energetic six year old and talking piggybanks.
The image was interrupted by the soft ping of the elevator announcing the arrival of said leader and the two boys.
"PAPA," JD squealed, as Buck picked both boys up in a crushing hug.
"Hey there, Lil Bit. How was school?"
JD wiggled until Buck put him down. He ran over to where Chris was setting down his clay model. "LOOKIT! I made it all by myself! Its the ranch and theres me an Vin an you an Papa Chris. And lookit, theres Uncle Siah and Nathan and Ezra AND I even got the horses." Slowly the team made their way over to JD and his model. In all honesty it looked like small, deformed lumps of clay spread haphazardly on a piece of cardboard, but ask any of the men standing there and they would say it belonged in the New York Museum of Art.
" And thats where Vin ran into the side," JD continued.
"No I didnt! YOU ran into ME," Vin said, defending himself.
Josiah placed his large hands on each boys shoulders, stopping them from any further argument. Chris offered him a grateful smile. "Well, it still looks very nice," he continued, "I think we should all get back to work and you two need to start on your home work."
Vin frowned, "Its Friday. We aint got any homework."
Chris pretended to look bewildered before looking down at his watch, "Well, so it is. Guess that means you need to go straight to daycare downstairs."
Both boys groaned loudly. As much as they loved going to school so close to the men and being able to sit in the office while they did their homework, neither boy liked having to spend the afternoon in the buildings daycare center. It wasnt like when Mrs. Potter had watched them, they didnt get to play outside and they had to take naps everyday. Vin being one of the oldest children there didnt help much either.
Looking up at Chris, Vin caught that mischievous glint in his eyes as he reached down to pick the boy up. From the corner of his eye, he saw Ezra step forward. "If I may inject, Mr. Larabee," he asked. "It has come to my attention that these young men have made well in their grades, including Mr. Tanners B+ on his spelling test. Therefore, I think they are entitled to be my guests tonight for the only showing in Denver of Toy Story 2 on ice."
Vin looked back to Chris with a silent pleading. It was no lie that he loved the cartoon as much as JD did. "Well, I dont know," Chris said.
"Oh please Papa Chris," JD begged, grabbing onto Chris right leg, giving him the look, or as Buck called it the kicked puppy look.
"Hmm. What about you, Cowboy," Chris said tickling Vins side.
Vin just nodded between the giggles Chris was causing.
"Well, its okay with me, if its okay with Buck." Immediately both boys looked at the fun loving man, even though Vin knew what his answer would be.
"Why not," Buck answered.
JD released Chris leg and let out a loud yelp as he danced around the office. "But," Chris said causing the boy to stop mid-rear shake. "You have to obey Uncle Ezra the whole time, and behave. I dont want to hear about you two fightin with each other."
"We promise," both boys said in unison.
Looking to Ezra he said, "Go ahead and take off after you finish the Hansburrow report. Hopefully, you can get these two cleaned up before you go. If you dont mind, I figure they can spent the night at your place and well pick them up in the mornin."
"That would be fine," Ezra agreed. "Actually, I can just bring them over to Nathans for that barbeque."
Chris patted Vins behind before putting him down. "That would be great," he said. Looking at both boys, he asked, "You two think you can behave while Uncle Ezra finishes his work?"
"YEP," JD answered.
Everyone went back to work, while the two boys played on one of the swivel chairs. Watching JD fall out the spinning chair for the third time, Buck finally told them to stop before someone broke their neck. It wasnt long after that both Vin and JD found themselves standing next to Ezras desk, quietly watching him type his report. Looking at the clock on the wall Ezra timed it at exactly two minute and seventeen seconds when the question came. "You done yet?" What surprised Ezra was that the question came from the usually quiet Vin.
"Are you finished," Ezra corrected. "And no, I am not."
Both boys moved closer to the desk. Three minutes, four seconds. "Are you finished?"
Three minutes, twenty-six seconds. "How much longer," JD asked, now leaning against Ezras arm.
One minute, forty-three seconds. "Finished now," Vin asked, moving in to lean against Ezras other arm.
Two minutes, five seconds. "Finished now?"
"No, and I can assure you both that I will be done soon, but not if you continue to beset me."
"Sorry," came two small voices.
Five minutes, eighteen seconds. "Uncle Ezra, how much-"
The entire team looked up as both boys raised their voices in a loud YES and began to jump around.
"Alright, alright. Get your things and say goodbye to your fathers," Ezra said as he gathered up his items.
Both boys ran through the office looking for their backpacks. JD stopped in front of his model with a questioning look. "Dont worry Lil Bit, I take it home for ya"
JD rushed to his father and gave him a long hug followed by a loud kiss on the cheek, "Bye. I promise to listen to Uncle Ezra and not fight with Vin."
Buck offered a hearty laugh as he swatted his adopted sons rear, "Okay. Remind Uncle Ezra to call when you get home. Go say bye to Chris and have fun."
"I will," JD replied before running off to Chris office.
Seeing Vin running toward him, Buck scooped him up in a big hug, "Have fun, Junior and take care of JD for me, okay."
With their goodbyes said, both boys ran over to where Ezra was waiting by the elevator. "BYE," JD yelled throwing everyone a big kiss, behind him Vin rolled his eyes. Chris had come out of his office and watched with his men as the elevator doors closed on his teammate and his sons.
+ + + + + + +
By ten thirty, Buck was fuming. He had tried Ezras cell phone three times, only to get his voice mail. The apartment phone had yielded the same result. He was going to kill the man.
The loud ring of the phone brought him out of his state and reaching it before Chris he started. "EZRA! I cant believe you can be so stupid! Dammit you yes this is yes I am WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEYRE AT THE HOSPITAL "
Hearing the panic in Bucks voice, Chris took the phone from him. "This is Chris Larabee I understand well be right there." Hanging up he turned to his volatile friend, "Get your keys, Ill call the boys." Seeing Buck wasnt moving he snapped, "BUCK!"
"What did they say?"
Chris was already dialing Nathans number. "Nothing. Go get the truck ready."
Less than five minutes later both men were on their way to the hospital. When they got there they found their friends in the lobby. They separated to reveal a puffy-eyed Ezra who quickly stood. "Oh God, I so sorry," was all he could say.
+ + + + + + +
".. and then the nurse called you," Ezra finished explaining. He looked down at the tiled floor, allowing the tears to once again flow free. The silence in the waiting room was too much for him, but he was unable to look any of the men in the eye. Not because he feared their anger but because he feared he would see his failure reflected in their eyes.
Before anyone could speak, a young doctor approached the group. "Mr. Larabee," he asked the men.
"I'm him," Chris answered. "How's Vin?"
Opening up a thin file the doctor said, "Vin's doing fine. There is no damage from the electrical shock. His small body just wasn't able to recover from a jolt the way an adult body can, and stun guns were made to be used on adults. The charge knocked Mr. Standish out for thirty minutes, Vin was out for just over an hour."
"Was? So he's awake?"
"I need to see him," Chris interrupted.
"Of course, I just need to-"
"Where is he?"
"Station six," the doctor answered only to find Chris walking to the ER stations. He opened his mouth to protest only to find a large man holding up his hand to stop the doctor.
"Let him be," Josiah said.
Chris slowly opened the curtain hiding Vin from view. Large blue eyes looked up as he moved over to the bed. There was no sound as Chris pulled Vin into a hug. Harsh sobs broke the silence once Vin crushed his face into his father's chest. Chris rocked the young boy, having no words of comfort of to offer.
+ + + + + + +
JD slowly awoke, a pinch in his bladder telling him he needed to go to the bathroom. While he adjusted to the darkness of the room, he noticed he was alone. He knew both he and Vin were to spend the night at their Uncle Ezra's, but he couldn't remember being brought into the room or why Vin was not with him. Climbing out of the large bed, he took a moment to look around and realized something very frightening. This was not Uncle Ezra's guest room. In fact, this was not Uncle Ezra's condo at all. Fear gripped him, but his natural curiosity took over as he made his way to the door.
Quietly as he could, JD opened the door and peered out. To his right was a dark hallway, with several doors. To the left was another hallway, this one softly lit by light emanating from around the corner. The decision was easy, JD slowly made his way toward the end of the hallway.
Turning the corner he found himself at the top of a long staircase. He could barely make out several voices from below, their conversation growing with each step he took. Halfway to the bottom, JD stopped. From his vantage point he could see two men sitting across from a blonde woman. Sitting down on the step, he tried to hear what they were talking about.
"Well, you can consider all this my good deed for the year," the woman said.
"Alana, you've got to do this one last favor."
The woman stood but didn't turn toward JD. She replied, "I don't have to do anything. I helped because you're a friend, but more importantly I helped because you're Daniel's nephew. I was sent to get information, not be your personal missing persons." Reaching down she picked up her purse and continued, "Now, keep low, do your job and before you know it, you'll be living the family life in Boston with your kid." With that she turned to leave.
JD gasped, unable to move, as the woman faced him. Hearing his gasp, she looked up. "Well, look who's awake."
Behind her, the two men stood up. "John," one man said as he moved forward.
JD's eyes never left the woman's. He didn't know what to do. Across from him stood Miss Holiday, the kind woman who worked for Mr. Travis. Only the men hadn't called her Rebecca, they had called her Alana. "Where's Vin?" he asked.
"John," the man was now at the foot of the step, slowly making his way up.
"I'll call Mr. Couley," the darker man said.
"No, Carlos." The man was almost to JD. "John, it's okay. Come on with me and we can talk."
Without hesitation, JD jumped up and ran back up the stairs. Behind him, he could hear the man curse and begin to follow. JD didn't know where he was running to, he just knew he had to hide. Running back into the room he woke up in, he quickly dove under the bed. The man was right behind him and stopped at the side of the bed. JD wanted to cry, he desperately wanted Vin or Buck but was afraid to make any noise, hoping the man wouldn't find him. He watched as the man kneeled down and looked under the bed.
"John, it's okay. Please don't run away," the man pleaded. "I've been looking for you and your mother for so long. Please come out, John. Please."
The desperation in the man's voice and the sadness on his face tugged at JD. He knew he should run, that this man was a stranger and everyone had always reinforced the idea that strangers were dangerous, but something pulled him to this man. Slowly JD scooted closer to the man.
"It's okay, John."
"My name's JD," he answered.
The man smiled at him, holding out his hand. "That's right, I remember your mother used to call you that."
By now, JD was almost out from under the bed. "You knew my mamma?"
"Yes, yes I did. Do you want to talk about her?" Those words were all that were needed. JD grabbed hold of the man's hand and scooted the rest of the way out from under the bed.
Standing up, JD found himself looking into the kindest eyes he'd ever seen. "What's your name," he asked.
Standing, the man picked him up and placed him on his hip before answering, "Jack. I'm your daddy."
+ + + + + + +
Standing in the doorway of the empty room, Buck took no notice of anything around him. His entire world had just shattered. When Ezra had finished telling the team what had transpired earlier that evening, Buck had fallen to his knees. The nurses rushed to his side, but surprisingly had been chased away by Nathan. The world had become muted and only when Buck finally looked up into the Ezra's face, did he make any attempt to move.
Ezra never flinched as Buck grabbed him by his collar and began to shake him. It had taken both Josiah and Nathan to drag Buck off. By the time Chris had returned with Vin, security was about to escort Buck outside. Chris had quickly taken over, promising to keep Buck calm. Ezra had walked over to the exit without a word. One look from Chris and Josiah had gone with him.
After speaking with the local police, accepting a few sympathetic words, and getting a long talk from Nathan, Buck had walked out to the truck without waiting for Chris and Vin.
The drive home was silent, only a few muffled sobs from Vin breaking the quiet every now and then. By the time they arrived home, Vin had cried himself to sleep. Chris had carefully carried him to the master bedroom and laid him down. Leaving the door open, he went in search of his best friend. He found him sitting on the bottom bunk holding something in his hands.
Chris knew Buck wanted to be left alone, but personal experience had taught him how important it was to show Buck he would be there. "Buck," he said quietly.
"I should 'a said no."
Buck looked up at his friend, "I should never have let him go tonight."
Chris walked over and sat by his friend. "Ezra should 'a paid more attention."
"What!? It weren't Ez's fault."
"Could 'a fooled me, the way you went after him," Chris said calmly.
"God, I didn't... I meant... Dammit, Chris"
"I know pard'; he knows, too."
Buck allowed the tears that he had been holding in, to slowly fall. "He's gone, Chris. What am I gonna do?"
"The same as the rest of us. Find him."
"Why did this happen? Is God punishing me?"
Chris forced Buck to look at him, "NO! He's God's gift to you. We'll find him and get him back. In no time, he'll be back home where he belongs. You have to believe that." Pulling the man to him, he let his friend shed his mask and cry for the boy he called son. Outside the doorway, in the hall, Vin cried for the boy he called brother.
+ + + + + + +
All the fear JD had felt when he first awoke was almost completely gone. Sitting on Jack's lap, looking over photos of himself and his mother, JD felt as if a hole was being filled in both his heart and mind. Madeline 'Maddie' Marie McVary. Jonathan 'Jack' Michael Green. These were the two most perfect names JD had ever heard. The normally talkative JD sat in silence as Jack told him everything his little mind had ever wanted to know about the family that had been lost to him. Even if he didn't understand most of what was being said, he held onto every piece of information like it was a precious stone.
"Did you love her lots?" JD asked during a pause.
Jack didn't know how to answer. Yes, he had loved her, more than the word love could ever express, but he had told so many lies. Did that make his love less worthy?
Sighing, Jack answered, "More than life."
This answer seemed to satisfy JD, but then he spoke again, "Then why did you go? Didn't you love me too?"
"Oh God, JD, I loved you most of all. It's just... I did some bad things and had to go away. I'm so sorry I left you, but I promise I loved you... both of you."
JD leaned back against Jack's chest, thumbing the photo of himself in his little hands. "How come we ain't got the same name? Was you adopted?"
Again he was stumped. Jack could tell his son the truth, but the truth was ugly and reminded Jack of all the lies he had told to the woman he had wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Then again, if he ever wanted forgiveness from the dead woman, he would have to earn it through their son.
"No, I wasn't adopted," he answered slowly. "See, some of the things I did were very bad and I had to keep my real name a secret or else I would have gotten into a lot of trouble. Dunne was my mother's name."
"Oh." The sound came out silently as JD pondered this new information. "Papa says lyin is bad."
Jack tensed at the mention of the man who had taken JD in, but he couldn't hate the man. He had saved JD's precious life. "That's right. It's very bad and I'm sorry I did it."
"She was really perdy," JD said looking at the photo.
"The prettiest ever."
"I forgetted what she looks like."
Together, they sat, talking about the woman they both loved and missed. JD drifted off to sleep as he sat in his biological father's lap. The man enjoyed something he had wanted to do, but not been able to do since the night of the boy's birth. He cradled his son in his arms and rocked him.
Comments to: JettPhox@yahoo.com