Vin stopped his Jeep and climbed out as he saw Chris' truck come up the driveway. He stood by the little Jeep and waited.
Chris parked and climbed out of the truck, watching Vin as the boy peered down the driveway.
Buck pulled up next, but the seven year old kept watching the road. As Uncle Ezra's Jag pulled into the driveway, Vin broke into a grin. The world was right again.
"Can I talk to you boys for a minute?" asked Chris.
"Aw, Chris," complained JD. "I'm showin' Unca Nathan how to drive."
"Just for a minute, JD," Chris negotiated with the excited boy.
"C'mon, JD," said Vin.
The two boys joined Chris by the truck.
"I know it's not Pow-wow time yet," said Chris, "but I need to tell you something."
"Okay," said JD. "Did you do something bad?"
Chris smiled and roughed up JD's hair.
"Something like that." Chris looked down at Vin's big blue eyes. The boy was still worried.
"I got mad at Uncle Ezra and said something bad to him. I hurt his feelings and that's why he left." Chris looked to each boy, making sure they were listening.
"Was it like when I say 'Viiiiiiii -innnnnn' and Vin gets mad?" asked JD.
Chris nodded, not wanting to go into the details of the argument, but wanting the boys to know that the right thing to do was to apologize.
"Is that why Unca Ezra had a 'pointment, and you had an errand and Buck had an errand?" asked JD.
Chris nodded. "I went to apologize to Uncle Ezra. And Buck, well, he came along to make sure we had a pow-wow."
"Are you still mad at Uncle Ezra?" asked Vin as he glanced at his new Jeep, figuring that the cars were the reason Chris was upset.
"No," said Chris with a certainty that made Vin look at him. "We're family, and we may make mistakes or get mad sometimes, but we fix it."
"Did I miss the party?" asked Ezra coming up to join them.
"Nope," said JD. "Did Chris yell at you?"
"Well," said Ezra, "Yes, he did, but he also apologized and I forgave him. And I apologized for making him mad and he forgave me."
"Good," said JD. "I has to 'pologize to Vin sometimes, too. But he forgives me and I forgives him. Do you want to see me drive?"
JD hurried back to his truck without waiting for an answer while Vin edged closer to Uncle Ezra.
Ezra looked down as he felt a small hand slip into his. Vin squeezed his hand and leaned on his arm. Ezra returned the squeeze with a smile as the threesome headed towards the yard.
They spent the better part of the afternoon eating and playing, the boys enjoying their new basketballs with their uncles as well as the new cars.
Chris made a great effort to let the boys know how great he thought the cars were, so that Vin would relax and enjoy the Jeep. It had not escaped Chris' attention that Vin had stuck extra close to Uncle Ezra all afternoon. Even with Chris' reassurances to Vin, JD had spent much more time playing in his new truck than Vin had in his Jeep.
As was their nature, boys will always be boys, no matter their ages. Buck and Chris watched their sons drive on the driveway, and Buck waggled his eyebrows at Chris.
"Remember that time when we matched up your GTO and my Camaro?" he asked.
"You cheated," Chris replied.
"Did not!" countered Buck.
Ezra, Nathan and Josiah watched the debate with interest.
"You got the prettiest girl around to start that race, knowing I was sweet on her," protested Chris, "knowing I'd be watching her and not that starting flag!"
Buck stood up and put his hands on his hips. "I won that race fair and square!"
"Did not," Chris said, standing up to Buck.
Buck frowned. "JD, can Da borrow your truck?"
Vin had stopped his Jeep during the exchange, and stood next to it grinning at Chris. He nodded to Chris before the blond could even ask permission.
And the race was on in two tiny vehicles that had a top speed of five miles per hour if fully charged, and if being motored by a child, not an adult male. But these two vehicles had been run for several hours and were now carrying adults.
Vin and JD cheered for their respective dads as they 'raced' to the barn door. Both boys ran alongside, easily outrunning the cars as their batteries drained.
"Come on, come on!" urged Buck as the tiny red Chevy slowed to a premature stop.
About that time, Chris reached the barn door and climbed out of the Jeep, victorious. He laughed as Vin did a victory dance. He joined his son, but his dance was more 'wiggling his hips' since his recovering leg created balance issues.
"Da," said JD. "Get out. It's my turn."
"Well, Little Bit," Buck laughed nervously. "Ol' Buck needs to just rest for a moment."
JD saw Vin dancing and ran over to join him, even though he was the opposition.
Chris left the dancing boys and walked over to Buck who was still sitting in the little truck.
"Need a hand?" Chris asked.
"Uh, might need more than that," Buck hedged.
"I'm stuck," said Buck softly.
Chris shook his head and laughed.
Hearing the laughter, and not wanting to miss out, the two boys ran over to their fathers.
Buck wrestled his leg around, trying to free himself. Chris laughed harder.
"It's not that funny, Pard," said Buck.
"What's funny?" asked Vin.
"Buck is stuck," Chris announced.
That brought laughs from the boys and the other men as well.
Buck shifted and twisted, trying to free his trapped leg. These things just weren't built for long limbs.
Buck looked pleadingly at Chris. "This thing won't turn me loose."
"Serious?" asked Chris.
"C'mon, Da," said JD. "It's my turn."
Chris started to crouch down to try to loosen Buck's leg, but he straightened back up quickly. His leg wasn't quite ready for that stress and the pained muscles told him so.
"Let us have a look," suggested Josiah as Nathan approached Chris.
"You all right?" Nathan asked.
Chris nodded. "Yeah. The leg isn't ready for crouching."
Nathan smiled. "That's to be expected. You've only been out of the cast for what, almost two weeks?"
"Two weeks on Tuesday," Vin added.
Chris smiled. Vin had been watching over him like a hawk, making sure he was careful, making sure he did all of his therapy exercises. He was almost as tough as Nathan.
"The Doc okayed me for light activity, but the Cowboy, here," Chris winked at Vin, "isn't as lenient."
Vin frowned. He looked at Uncle Ezra who had just joined them. Ezra leaned down and whispered, "He means you're tough on him."
Vin nodded. "He has to do the right things to be well."
"You been training him behind my back, Nate?" asked Chris.
Nathan laughed, but turned his attention quickly back to the trapped man when Buck yelped.
"Ow! No!" complained Buck. "My leg isn't made to bend that way."
"Don't hurt Da!" JD warned, focusing an ineffective mini-glare on Josiah.
"It's okay, Little Bit," said Buck. "You know that he's just trying to help."
"Now you know why you should ask first," Chris said to Ezra.
"Not at all," countered Ezra. "The vehicles specifically state they are designed for children."
Ezra looked directly at Chris and grinned, "And I do believe they mean chronologically, not intellectually."
Chris snorted, making Vin giggle.
"Well," said Josiah, "It looks like we're going to have to take it off."
"NO!" JD screamed, throwing himself onto Buck. He latched his arms around Buck's neck and sobbed.
It took a few moments for the response to register with the men.
"JD? JD, listen to me," said Chris. He had to shake the boy's shoulder to get his attention. "Nobody's going to hurt Buck." It's not like Joey, he thought to himself, but didn't voice. "What Josiah meant was, we're going to have to take the truck apart."
JD sniffed loudly. "Okay," he said, relieved that Buck wasn't going to be hurt. But then Chris' words sank in. "Noooooo!" he wailed. "Not my truck!"
Ezra scooped JD up into his arms to offer comfort. "Now don't you worry," he cooed to the boy. "Uncle Josiah will be very careful, and we'll put it back together."
JD looked over at his new truck. If it was between his Da and his truck
"Okay," said JD. "You can break my truck if you has to."
"Thank you, JD," Josiah acknowledged. He picked up a wrench from the tool kit Nathan had retrieved from Josiah's Suburban.
For the next fifteen minutes Josiah worked to dismantle the body of the truck so that he could free Buck. He did his best to keep the cursing and muttering to a minimum as he tried to fit large hands into tiny spaces to loosen nuts and bolts.
Ezra was muttering to himself about the warranty being voided.
JD sniffed every once in a while and asked Buck, "Can you get out, now?"
Chris and Vin had moved back to the picnic table in the yard, apparently so Chris could rest his leg, but really it was because Vin couldn't stop giggling. The seven year old felt badly for JD, that his car was being dismantled, but every time he looked at Buck stuck in the truck, the laughter would well up again. Buck just looked so funny with his knees up by his chin.
Chris had thought it was best to move away from the spectacle so that Vin's mirth didn't cause more trauma for JD. Besides, every time Vin giggled, he couldn't help but laugh as well - his son's free and earnest laughter was contagious.
He was a bit surprised when Nathan joined them at the table, covering his mouth to hold in his own laughter. Every time he heard JD ask, "Can you get out now?" Nathan would start laughing again.
"Laugh it up, guys," Buck called from the tiny truck.
"It could be worse, Mr. Wilmington."
"How so, Ez?" Buck replied.
"Mr. Sanchez could have forgotten his tools and we could have called the Fire Department."
"It's okay, Da," said JD. "The firemen are good guys. They would help."
Buck smiled at his son's innocence. Yeah, they'd help all right, and he'd never hear the end of it. There'd be insufferable teasing and photos plastered all over the ATF offices.
"Hey!" Buck yelled as he heard the unmistakable sound of the click of a camera.
He turned his head, surprised to see it was JD holding Ezra's camera.
"I taked a picture so Unca 'Ziah can put it backs together."
Ezra stood behind the boy grinning like a Cheshire cat.
With JD watching him, Buck couldn't use the hand signal he wanted to communicate with the smug undercover agent.
"There," said Josiah. "Try it now."
Buck shifted his foot.
"Can you get out now?" JD asked.
Buck sat there grinning.
"Buck?" asked Josiah.
"I'm free, but my leg's asleep."
"Well, wake it up, Da," said JD. "It's my turn!"
Buck laughed and pulled his son in for a hug.
"Well, we'll have to wait until we put it back together, and we recharge the battery," he said.
"The battery?" asked JD.
"Yeah, it's like gas for the big trucks," explained Buck.
"Oh. Is your leg waked up?" JD persisted.
Ezra offered a hand to Buck as Nathan joined them. The two men helped Buck unwind himself from the car as Josiah held the car in place.
"You all right?" asked Nathan.
"Oh just dandy," replied Buck, giving Ezra a glare as the southerner snapped another picture.
"Me, Unca Ezra!" begged JD.
Ezra snapped a picture of JD as the boy hammed for him.
JD watched Uncle Josiah work on his truck for a few minutes before getting bored.
"Does your Jeep still work?" he asked Vin.
JD looked wistfully at the Jeep.
Vin grinned. "It has two seats. You wanna drive with me?"
"Yeah!" said JD as both boys ran to the Jeep. It wouldn't run much longer before the battery ran down, but the boys would make the best use of it until it stopped.
With JD's truck fixed and the sun setting two boys ran out the last of their energy as they chased the pups around the yard. Ringo decided he was going for a ride with Uncle Ezra when the southerner opened his car door to leave. The malamute pup jumped in, uninvited and sat in the passenger seat panting.
"No, Ringo!" said Vin.
Ezra clamped a hand over his mouth to prevent himself from saying anything.
"Get out of the car," Vin demanded.
Ringo whined and jumped out.
Ezra gave his nephews a hug goodbye and headed down the road, followed by Josiah and Nathan. Little did he know that in a few days that the reek of rotten egg would consume the Jag from the gift Ringo had just left in the car.
Vin let out a huge yawn as the vehicles drove away. It had been a great day.
The blonde held out his arms to Vin, offering to pick him up.
Vin hesitated. Chris had to be careful of his leg.
"Come on," Chris encouraged.
Vin let himself be lifted and laid his head on his Dad's shoulder, careful not to shift his balance.
Buck scooped up JD, dangling him over his shoulder and the pups happily followed their family into the house.
Are you boys about done in there?
I'm done, JD.
Uh-Uh. You didn't tell about getting in trouble at school.
I don't want to talk about that.
But it happened this week and we're supposed to talk about what happened this week.
I don't want to talk about it.
Hi, Chris. Vin doesn't want to talk about getting in trouble at school.
I can understand that.
But we're supposed to say everything and he won't say it.
Did you know that your essay was very special to Uncle Ezra?
Yes. After he helped you rewrite it, I saw him take the crumpled one out of the trash. He folded it up and put it in his pocket.
Don't be sad, Vin.
I'm not, JD. I like that Uncle Ezra saved my paper. I just didn't like making Mr. B disappointed in me.
The assignment was to write an essay about an everyday hero. Not a firefighter or a police officer or a soldier, but about someone who was heroic in their everyday life.
As Mr. Beidler watched several of his students struggle with his project, he realized he might have made it more complicated than his students were ready to handle. But over the course of the next couple of months, he was certain that his students would begin to discover the courage in people around them whether it be the little old lady who had chosen to go on with her life after losing her husband of 50 years, or whether it be a seven year old and a five year old who had survived incredible odds and now struggled to become part of a family.
As it neared time to collect the papers, he observed Vin Tanner looking around the room nervously. The boy had a paper on his desk, ready to be turned in, but suddenly he grabbed the paper and wadded it into a ball, stuffing it into his backpack. When he approached the boy, young Tanner told him haltingly that he hadn't done the assignment.
Mr. B tried to coax an explanation from the boy, but Vin continued to insist he had not done the paper. This left Jim Beidler in a difficult position. He knew that Vin had done a paper, and for some reason was now lying about it. His inclination was to let it go, but he had 19 other students in the class who had to complete their assignments. With reluctance he told Vin that he would need to stay inside during his next recess and work on the essay.
The sad blue eyes were almost more than Mr. B could withstand. He quickly moved on to collect the rest of the papers, trying to avoid looking at the dejected slump of Vin's shoulders. He knew the little boy was devastated that he had disappointed one of the adults in his life.
Dismissing the children for recess, Jim Beidler again approached the reticent child.
"Vin, can you tell me now what's going on?" he asked.
Vin sniffed and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. "Nothin'," the child answered.
"Vin, did something happen at home?"
"No," said Vin firmly. "I just didn't do my essay."
Jim sat down in the chair across from Vin at the table. "That isn't like you. And it isn't like Mr. Larabee to let you not complete your homework."
"He didn't! I " Vin's defensive anger flared briefly before the sadness cloaked him again. "It weren't his fault. Chris telled me to do it."
"And you didn't?"
Vin picked at an ink spot on the top of the table. He didn't know which was worse, Mr. Beidler being disappointed because he didn't do the essay or because he lied.
Finally tearful blue eyes met Mr. B's gaze. "I wrote my essay, but I can't give it to you."
"Why not?" Jim asked gently.
"Because I did it wrong."
"What did you do wrong?"
Vin took a deep breath, his need to tell the truth overcame his fear. "I writed about Uncle Ezra and he's like a policeman and you said we can't write about policemen but I wasn't writing about Uncle Ezra being a policeman, I was writing about something special he did, but then I thought it might be confidential, you know, just between him and me and now I can't give it to you."
Jim Beidler hid his smile. Vin Tanner had no idea how much he sounded like little JD Dunne right now. But it was more than that. He was being heroic in protecting his Uncle's privacy with the sacrifice of his grade, and the boy had no clue of his own courage.
"I see," said Mr. B. "What do you think we should do?"
"Maybe I could write you another paper?" Vin asked.
Jim nodded. "That's a possibility. How about this? What if you talked to your Uncle Ezra tonight and asked him about it? If he says it's all right, you could turn in the paper you've already done - even if it is wrinkled."
Jim smiled. "I saw. And it's fine that you wrote about your Uncle even though he's in law enforcement."
"That's good, cuz JD wrote about Uncle 'Siah," said Vin with a relieved smile. "We had a hard time figuring out what's a hero."
"That's all right, Vin. We'll all be learning together, okay?"
"Now, I'm going to write a note to Mr. Larabee." Seeing Vin tense, he added, "I'll just tell him what the problem is and that you aren't in trouble. You just had a difficult decision to make. This way he can help you write another essay if needed."
Vin nodded again.
Jim winked at him. "Why don't you go and play for the rest of recess?"
"Thanks, Mr. B." Vin got up, gave Mr. B. an uncharacteristic hug and ran outside.
A warning phone call to Chris from Mrs. Potter that Vin had a note from school, clued him in advance that some extra attention was needed. He had a quick phone conversation with Vin that resulted in inviting Ezra over for dinner.
Ezra had been moved by the fact that Vin had written an essay about him, and more so that he considered him a hero. But what really tugged at his heart was his young nephew risking a bad grade because he might betray his Uncle's confidence.
When Ezra read the essay, he found it very difficult to speak.
It seemed to take forever before Ezra could find any words, but he finally spoke. "Vin, thank you."
"Yer welcome. Why?" asked Vin in confusion.
"You honored me with your paper, and with your concern that it may have contained confidential information."
"I would be very honored if you would submit this essay. But may I suggest that we rewrite it to make it more presentable?"
"Okay," said Vin.
With Uncle Ezra's help, Vin rewrote his essay, correcting his misspellings. He didn't see Ezra retrieve the wrinkled original from the trashcan, smoothing it and carefully folding it and slipping it in his pocket.
After Chris sent Vin to get ready for bed, he walked Ezra to the door as the southerner prepared to leave. "You gave up an expensive toy?" he questioned.
"Well, Master Tanner has some of the facts wrong," explained Ezra lamely. "Mother was quite insistent that we sell it."
"Sure, Ezra," Chris scoffed. He knew the relationship between Ezra and Vin too well. Ezra was honest with the boy and told him things that he'd never dream of telling anyone else. And Vin wouldn't dress up a story to make it fit his essay. "I'll see you in the morning."
Ezra smiled and patted the pocket that held the essay as he walked to his car. That niggling doubt that maybe he was trying to buy Vin and JD's love with the expensive cars had been completely erased by the admiring words of a seven year old. Chris was right. He could never buy love when it was offered so freely from two little heroes, Vin Tanner and JD Dunne.
Everyday Heroes Index
Next: Face to Face
Comments: Joy K