"Haven" Universe

This is a new AU or sub AU from Brate's Haven series. With her permission I've made it an LB AU also. There are, of course, the two little boys plus Ezra is a teen. Like Brate said, I've read some books, watched a movie or two (X-Men) and watched a series, (Mutant X) most I just made up.

Warnings: This is not our world. What I mean by that is it is Earth but some of the rules are different such as no seat belts or car seats for kids. Other than a few minor things like that, it's just like our time. The guys have paranormal powers or psychic abilities.

I want to thank Brate for letting me try this, LaraMee for all her support, and Marnie for her superb beta job. It's never easy with me.


//Denotes telepathic speaking. Mostly Vin but the others on occasion talk back.//

The PCCA stands for Psionic Control and Containment Act. A little piece of legislation that made what Baines did legal.

An MRE is a Meal Ready to Eat. It's a military pack and you can buy them at surplus stores.

Josiah Sanchez rolled over in his narrow bed. His nose wrinkled at the acrid smell of burning tobacco. Sighing, he got up from bed, pulled on his pants and stumbled outside. Stopping just outside the door he looked around. He could see Chris sitting on the edge of the porch, the glow of his cigar the only light competing with the moon. Beside the man sat a half full glass and a bottle.

"Couldn't sleep?" he asked. Getting no answer he walked over and sat beside the man noticing how tense he was. "Chris? He's fine. He'll be home when he can. You know Ezra, when he's searching out information he leaves no stone unturned, especially when it's the Guild he's after."

"I know. But damn it he's too young to be doing this. He just turned 18 and he should be enjoying his senior year in high school, planning on the prom, buying his first car. I hate his having to do this," Chris growled taking a sip of his drink and a drag on the cigar.

"It's what he's good at. He needs to help, that boy is carrying a load of guilt."

"No need for him to be doing that..." Chris was interrupted by the sound of an engine coming closer to their hidden cabin.

Smiling Josiah said, "See, here he comes now." The empath stood waiting to welcome the man/boy that he'd taken to his heart years ago. Josiah knew how hard it had been on the boy after the PCCA had been passed. The fight against Baines was unrelenting and the teen had proved his metal over and over. But the empath knew that he felt responsible for the deaths of Chris' wife and child. Although what a fourteen year old could have done to stop it was beyond reason. Yet Josiah felt the guilt and grief in both the man and the teen constantly.

Ezra pulled the motorcycle into a spin, stopped, took off his helmet and looked around as he turned off the motor. He smiled when he saw the two men the moonlight catching the old fashioned gold tooth.

"Show off," Chris commented.

"Mr. Larabee, a little late for you is it not? And you also, Uncle Josiah?"

"You're a little late. We were worried about you, Ezra. Weren't we, Chris?" Josiah answered.

Larabee ignoring Sanchez asked, "Did you find anything we can use?"

Ezra sighed and threw his gloves into his helmet, "Yes, I believe so, Mr. Larabee. But can it not wait until I've had some sleep and everyone else is up? It's been a long two days and I've not slept. I require a shower and sleep before I can relate what I've found. There is no immediate danger if that is what is bothering you." He rubbed the heal of his hand into his forehead which usually meant he had a headache coming on.

"No, Ezra, I'm not worried about danger, I just want to get to more travelers before Baines does," Chris said with some sadness in his voice. "You go on in and clean up, I'll put the bike up."

"I will tell you this much now, I have found a rather large group hiding, waiting for their 'coyote' to come get them. There are whole families; it will be quiet a coup to get them before the Guild does. But I believe we have several days to work on this one...." Ezra swayed, "as I said I must get some sleep before I fall down." Without another word the youth pushed passed the two men and entered the house heading straight to one of the bedrooms.

Once inside the room Ezra simply kicked off his shoes and fell across the bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow. The action displaying how truly exhausted he was.

Josiah followed him quietly and pulled a blanket over the sleeping man. "Oh Ezra, some how you and Chris have got to stop this sparring.. It's killing you both, just as both of you are in pain over what happened. It wasn't your fault, Ezra, you were only fourteen and there were five grown trained Guild men. You forget how hurt you were, how hard a time Nathan had mending that stubborn thick skull of yours." Sighing Josiah left the room to see if he could convince the older man outside to come inside and rest.


The sun shining in his face woke Ezra. He tried rolling over and then putting a pillow on top of his head, but he couldn't go back to sleep. Besides the enticing scents coming from the direction of the kitchen coaxed him into getting up. After all, he told himself, it'd been two days since he had eaten. Make that three days now. He stumbled into the kitchen ignoring the others as he pulled a mug from the cabinet and poured himself a cup of coffee.

Chris waited until the younger man was sitting and then asked, "What did you find out?"

"Hush, let him eat first," Nathan interrupted as he set a plate of pan fried steak, potatoes, squash and bell peppers in front of the hungry teen.

Throwing an irritated glare at the healer, Larabee sat back and sipped his coffee. He could wait as long as Ezra ate fast.

Looking around Ezra finally slowed down and began to enjoy his meal. "This is most excellent, Nathan. I have learned to really appreciate your cooking talents. Out 'there' it's hard to come by a good meal without an identity card. Cash isn't the persuader it once was." Finishing the last bite he sat back and sipped more coffee.

"Things are changing rapidly in the world. It seems that since most non sentient do not understand the true function of the Guild they seem to have the freedom to do what ever they want. Civil Rights only apply if you are not a sentient. If you are sentient all bets are off as they say. Also it seems Baines is looking for someone, someone he wants very badly. The word out on the street is that whoever turns this person over to the Guild will be as they say 'set for life'. The coyotes seem to be working for him now instead of themselves, they gather travelers and then, rather than seeing them to safety, they turn them over to the Guild, for a price of course."

"Who is it that Baines is looking for so desperately?" Chris asked.

Shaking his head the teen said, "All I have is a name. Tanner. No description, no statistics, nothing. The very unreliable word is that this Tanner is a powerful telepath and Baines wants him or her to study, possibly to turn. If he had a powerful telepath under his control no one could stop him."

"That's it, just the name Tanner?" Chris asked.

"Yes. I'm sorry there's no wanted poster or APB out for Tanner. I do however have a meeting set up with a coyote tonight. I shall instill myself within a group, hopefully one I can help. Once sure there are no moles, we can make sure that this group at least finds their way to Haven and safety."

"No, someone else will go. It's too dangerous."

"Mr. Larabee, may I remind you that I've been taking care of myself for a very long time, besides I've already met the coyote and he would accept no one else."

"Ezra..." Josiah cut in.

Looking at the older man the teen sighed. "Josiah, you may be my uncle and however convoluted the blood relationship is I still am a grown man of legal age and I want to do this. I am the only one in our group that has the special gift to even pull this off. None of you could pass as a desperate sentient on the run. I, however, as a young teen runaway, can do it quite easily. And my pre-cog abilities will warn me if necessary."

"Only just, Ezra." Josiah said sadly.

"'Only just' as you put it is all that's needed. Surely, Chris, you see that I have to be the one to go."

Larabee leaned back again and studied the teen. He was no longer the scrawny 13 year old that had showed up on his and Sarah's door step looking for an uncle he'd never seen and didn't know even existed until Maude sent him to an old address on a piece of paper. "You're right, Ezra, you are the best one of us for the job. Get some more rest and get your gear together, we'll use Buck's old pickup and I'll drop you off in town around dark."

Swallowing Ezra looked at their unofficial leader, "Thanks, Chris." Then looking at the others he announced, "I think I'll take a walk." He abruptly stood and putting his dishes in the sink quickly walked out the kitchen door.

Ezra walked far enough into the trees to block his view of the house and the view of those in the house from him. Taking a twig he started breaking it into tiny pieces and throwing them to the ground. He thought back to that first day......

Five Years Ago
Thirteen year old Ezra Standish stood beside the dirt road watching the bus pull away. He turned and looked down the winding path of rock and gravel and silently cursed his mother again. "How could you, Mother, how could you send me here, where ever here is?"

Sighing and knowing he had no where else to go, the boy slung the backpack over his shoulder and began walking. It wasn't long before the bend in the road revealed a small valley with a house and some out buildings in the back ground. There was a small boy playing on the porch with a collection of various sized dogs lying around him. Taking a deep breath, trusting his senses to warn him of any immediate dangers, Ezra finished his walk.

As he approached the house the boy glanced up and then walked to the steps and leaning against the rail said, "'Lo."

"Hello there, is your mother around?"

Before the boy could answer the screen door opened and a dark haired woman stepped outside.

"May I help you?" she asked.

"I'm looking for Josiah Sanchez, this is the last address my mother had."

"Josiah stays here sometimes, but he's been gone for a couple of weeks now." Sarah lightly scanned the boy trying to determine his purpose. She was surprised to find that he had been literally 'dumped' at the end of the road, somewhat like a lost puppy or kitten. "What is it you want with him?" she asked out loud.

Ezra not showing that he'd felt Sarah's scan answered with the truth, "My mother sent him a letter. It seems he's an uncle of hers, or mine, or who ever, she sent me to stay with him. But if he's not here..."

"No, no that's not it, Josiah should be back in a few days. I'm sure if you're kin he'd be glad for you to stay in his trailer. But first come inside I bet you're hungry." Sarah held out her hand and coaxed the boy inside.

The small boy followed him inside and watched as his mother sat the teen down and put a large bowl of stew and a glass of milk in front of him. "My name's Adam, What's yours?"

"Ezra, Ezra Standish, "the boy said between mouthfuls of stew.

"Adam, let the boy eat. Can you go out to the barn and get your dad?" Sarah interrupted.

"Sure, Mom," the little boy said as he ran out the back door. "Daddy!" he hollered as he ran.

It wasn't long before a tall blond man came inside carrying the boy. The boy was talking the whole time. "...and he says Uncle Josiah is his uncle. And his mama told him to come here, can I ride the bus by my self?'

"We'll see, Kiddo," the blond said as his eyes swept over the boy, assessing him, trying to decide if he was a danger to the Larabee household.

When Ezra heard them come inside, he immediately stood and faced them. He held out his hand and said, "Ezra Standish, sir. I'm looking for an uncle, Josiah Sanchez."

Surprised at the gesture Larabee took the boy's hand, "Chris Larabee, Josiah works for me sometimes."

"I see. Would it be possible for me to stay here until he returns?"

Glancing at Sarah and seeing her slight nod Chris smiled. "I don't see why not. I'll show you where he parks his camper. "

Four years ago

That had been the beginning of the happiest time Ezra could remember. He was surrounded by people that didn't regard him as a freak but welcomed his special gift and made him part of the family. That is, until the day the Guild came. He could still hear Chris, "You're in charge while we're gone Ezra, take care of Sarah and Adam. We should be back around noon tomorrow."

"Yes, sir, I will."

But he hadn't, the Guild had come with too many men and even though he'd warned them to run and had tried to prevent them being captured he'd failed. He was a complete failure; he knew that when he woke with a throbbing headache, Nathan leaning over him worriedly. He'd heard in his heart the screams from Chris' soul. Then there were the screams of the guildsmen as Chris killed them. He had watched with pain squinted eyes as Chris and Buck carried the bodies of Sarah and Adam inside the house. He watched as Buck, standing beside Chris, made the fire balls and threw them at the house. He watched as the house burned. He watched as the last timber fell in a shower of sparks and then he turned into Josiah's strong arms and cried like a baby. He didn't notice that Josiah's tears were mixed with his or that Nathan cried also. All he knew was his world was shattered and he cried. Somewhere during in the tears he had passed out from his wounds.

Later when he was almost healed from what the Guild had done to him, he'd gone to Chris. The man was dressed all in black now and spoke hardly at all. It was as if he'd built an impenetrable wall around himself. Ezra had tried to apologize to the man, for his failure, for letting his family be killed.

Chris had just looked at the fourteen year old and said finally, "Forget it, kid, it wasn't your fault. There was nothing you could have done."


Ezra broke another stick remembering what had happened. "Yes, there was, if I'd just..." But the vision had come too late and there hadn't been enough warning to get Sarah and Adam to safety. The eighteen year old knew logically that there hadn't been anything he could do. That it was impossible for the fourteen year old Ezra to prevent anything that had happened. But his heart didn't know that or accept that, and he'd vowed that he's stop Baines and the Guild or die trying. It was the only way to bring peace to himself or the rest of them.

It was late in the afternoon when Ezra strolled into the house. One of the more useful things he'd learned from his uncle it was how to calm himself and focus on the job at hand. He found the others waiting for him.

The blond looked at Ezra, "You ready for this?"

"As ready as I'll ever be." Lifting the backpack he raised an eyebrow. "What in the world?"

Chris grinned, "Nathan packed it full of MRE's and water bottles. You'll have to forgo changing your clothes for the duration. Although I do remember seeing several pairs of socks used as padding."

The teen snorted, "I can just imagine," he said as he headed out the door.

They rode in silence in the mud splattered ancient pickup until Ezra pointed, "That corner will be an acceptable place to drop me off, Mr. Larabee."

Pulling the truck over, Chris looked intently at the younger man. "You got everything you need?"

"Yes, and the shoe is ingenious."

Smiling Chris said, "We got the idea from an old TV show. The cell phone is well cushioned and turned off. All you need to do is turn it on and speed dial one. It will make you limp slightly but you can add that to your persona."

"It will work well. A limp will add to the air of desperation I need."

"Ezra....I...I don't need to tell you to be careful do I? If you can just let us know where you end up. Sneak out and phone us if you can. And keep an eye out for this Tanner character. We gotta keep him out of Baines hands."

"I will be careful. If luck is with me we shall be able to save more than one person." Ezra opened the truck door and stepping out said loudly, "Thanks, mister, for the ride."

He stepped back and watched the pickup drive away. Only after it turned the corner did he look around his dismal surroundings. Sighing he hefted the backpack onto his shoulder and began limping down the alley.

Halfway down he stopped by the windowless van. On the driver's side a man leaned out and called, "Hey kid, you looking for a safe ride?"

"Depends on where you're going."

"All my rides are to Haven."

"Then I'd be pleased to have a safe ride."

"Let me see your money first."

Ezra dug into his pocket and pulled out a roll of well worn bills. "I have the money. Now take me to the ship. Then you will get your money."

"You ain't in no position to dicker, Kid."

"Fine, I shall find other transportation."

The coyote saw his money leaving, "Wait, Kid, I'll take ya, get in the back."

"I'd prefer to ride up front."

"It's in the back or nothing." the man said as he got out of the van and walked to the back. Opening the door with the key then holding it open, he said, "Get in."

Ezra felt some apprehension, but no warning of danger so shrugging he climbed inside. The door slammed behind him. It was totally dark, the front having been closed off. Ezra felt the van lurch forward and sitting down on the floor tried to remember all the sounds, bumps and turns he felt on his dark ride.

Finally the van stopped and the door opened. Squinting at the sudden light Ezra crawled out.

"You wait in there with the others. Can't take ya to the dock 'til I got a full load," the coyote said pointing toward a large door.

The teen looked at the small storage building in front of him. He watched as a second man unlocked the steel door.

The driver placed a hand on Ezra's arm. "I'll take my money now," he said squeezing hard.

Ezra pulled out the roll and handed it to him. Then the second man pushed him into the building and slammed the door shut and turning the key with a loud sound.

Eyes adjusting to the dimness the young man looked around. There were perhaps thirty or forty people huddled inside. Most were clumped in family groups. Toward the back, there seemed to be an empty space. Ezra limped toward it. He could feel several light mind touches as he went by. He allowed only his current persona to be scanned. They saw only that he was a runaway teen with some talent for pre-cog. Faces relaxed as the news of his being a sentient spread.

Coming to the back wall Ezra saw a young woman sitting with her back against a crate. In her lap sleeping was a very young boy with dark hair. Beside her sat an older boy who watched him suspiciously.

"May I share your space?" Ezra asked.

"Sure, help yourself." the woman answered. "'M' name's Cindy, this sleepy head is JD and this is Vin, my nephew."

"Ezra. How long have you been waiting here?"

"Maybe a week. Ain't so bad. We got water and some food and 'facilities' over that way behind the little door."

"Well, that is good to know." Ezra sat down. He hadn't realized that his leg would ache so much from the strain of the higher shoe sole. He shrugged off his backpack and wrapped an arm around it. Slowly rubbing his leg he appeared to doze. But he was watching the others.

Unaware how much time had passed he looked up suddenly at the small boy standing before him and staring.

"Lo, 'm JD," the boy said showing missing front teeth.

"Hello, my name is Ezra."

"Is you goin' to the safe place, too?'

"Yes, I believe I am." Ezra was startled to hear the boys' stomach growl.

"It sounds like you're hungry."

"Yeah, only we done ate today. There's only enough for once an Mama says it's better to eat early in the day, that way you're mostly hungry while you sleep."

"Ah, that sounds like good advice." Ezra glanced at the other boy who was watching them. "How about you, are you hungry also?"

"Vin don't talk."

"I'm sorry?"

"Ain't nothing to be sorry about. Vin don't talk, lest ways not aloud no more."

"Oh." Ezra decided to change the subject. "I believe I have something to eat in my backpack, I'd be happy to share."

"You don't have to do that," Cindy said quickly.

"No, it's quite alright. I do not like the idea of children going hungry." He began digging into his backpack looking for an MRE that the boys would enjoy. Looking at Cindy he said, "How about turkey and dressing for the boys?"

The two looked longingly at the woman. "Alright, but one is enough for the two of them."

Nodding Ezra handed the package to JD who carried it over to the older boy. "You know how to use one of those?" Ezra asked.

"Yes." JD answered.

//Thank you.//

Ezra felt the words lightly touch his mind and smiled. "And you, what would you like, Cindy?"

"You don't have to give me any."

"I realize that but, if I eat you eat, and I'm hungry.'

Smiling Cindy said, "Okay, thanks."

As they ate Ezra asked, "Has Vin had his telepathic ability long? He seems very young."

Cindy glanced sadly at the young man, "Not long, about a year maybe."

Ezra nodded and chewed, he really hated MRE's but if you were hungry enough they were wonderful.

Licking his fingers JD walked back over to where Ezra sat. "Do you know any stories?"


"JD, what do you say to Ezra for sharing?" Cindy interrupted.

"Thanks for the mrees. It was good. So, do you know any stories?"

"I believe I could relate a story or two to you. But let us wait until you've visited the 'facility' and are ready to lay down.'

"Mr. Ezra, there ain't nothing to do but lay down here," the boy said in disgust. "Mama, can I go now?"

Cindy nodded, "Vin, go with him."

When the boys walked away she looked at Ezra, "It's best they go together. Watch each other's back." Smiling sadly at the memory she added, "I was a twin, we always watched out for each other."

"Your twin, she was Vin's mother?"

Cindy nodded, not taking her eyes off the door to the restroom. "She died when Vin was five." She relaxed only when the boys were coming back.

"Alright, my friends, sit down one on each side and I shall tell you a great story about two young scallywags that lived a long time ago. One was named Tom and the other was Huck."

Ezra began to softly tell the story of Tom Sawyer and his friend Huck. He didn't realize it but before long everybody in the shed was listening to him.


By the time Tom was painting the picket fence Ezra noticed that the only listeners were the adults. All the children were asleep. Clearing his throat he said, "If there is no objections I'll conclude for this evening. My throat is not used to this much talking."

The adults nodded and Ezra dug a water bottle from his backpack. Taking a long drink he noticed Cindy watching him.

"Would you have another water?" Cindy asked.

"Sure, here." Ezra leaned over and reached out. Cindy's fingers brushed the teen's.

That was all it took to trigger the vision. Her eyes widened and the world stopped for her. The room spun and then screeched to a halt.

She saw the building they were in only everyone was gone. Except for some shadowy men and Ezra. Ezra was on his knees holding a struggling Vin talking to him. Her nephew was crying. Looking around she saw JD. Her boy was in the arms of a big mustached man. JD was crying and clinging to the man. There were others but no one Cindy knew. The small warehouse was in disarray and there were blood spatters everywhere.

JD was crying, "I want my mama."

Ezra was saying to Vin. "Calm down, Vin. We are here to help. These are my friends. We will take you to a safe place and then we will look for Cindy."

Gasping Cindy withdrew her hand.

"Cindy... Cindy are you alright?"

She blinked trying to focus on the voice. "Yes, yes I'm fine."

"Alright, you just seemed ....distracted for a minute."

"Oh, well, I just got lost in thought. Um, do you have any family?" Oh God, did I really say that.

"There's only my mother and an assortment of distant, very distant cousins and aunts and uncles."

"No one you're close to?"

"There is one elderly uncle. He understands my gift. Mother always considered it either an embarrassment or an asset to be used."

Cindy eyed the boy with compassion, "Is that what you're running from, your mother?"

"Not really. What are you running from?"

"Not running from, not anymore. Now I'm just trying to find a safe place for my boys. A safe place for them to grow up in, there doesn't seem to be many safe places anymore."

"If you don't mind me asking, what happened to Vin's mother?"

"Cassie, my twin, she just got sick and died five years ago. Vin's dad died when he was a baby. He worked on an oil rig. It's just the three of us now."

"I'm sorry." Ezra said not thinking of anything else to say. "If you will excuse me," he added as he eased himself up being careful not to wake anyone. He limped quietly to the 'facility' hoping that there was a window or some other way out. Once inside he turned on the dim light bulb and looked around. There was a small window about ten feet off the floor, not only was it too high but it was barred also. There was a toilet and a sink that dripped water. Sighing Ezra began exploring the wall. The second time around the room he felt the boards give just a bit. Pushing harder he managed to push it out enough to allow him to pass through. Looking outside he saw an open field seemingly abandoned.

Replacing the boards he flushed and quickly went back to his place. Pulling the blanket around his shoulders he settled himself and watched the others. Tomorrow he'd check out the escape route and see if he could contact the others.

Ezra smiled at the loving care Cindy gave the boys. He frowned looking at Vin and asked, "Has he always been mute?"

Cindy looked down at the child and smiled sadly. Even in sleep his posture was defensive. "No. About a year ago we were picked up in a general sweep by the PCCA. I'm not sure what happened to Vin, but when I found him after we were released he was like this."

"You were released?"

"Yes, both JD and I were let go after three days. We were classified as "normal". They wouldn't answer any of my questions about Vin. We were transported to another city. It took three months for us to get back. I searched...had given up when we found him. Starved, scared of everyone, every thing, and he hasn't made a sound since then. He...he had scars, scars I'd never seen before." Reaching up she touched her throat. "Around his throat. They did something to him because that's when the telepathy started."

"He's never told you about what happened?"

"No, I asked, but he only says he woke up in the alley and we came. But I think he has nightmares and he can't stand being touched. He barely tolerates me. He was such a loving little boy. My sister was a great mom." Taking a deep breath she looked at Ezra, "What about you?"

Ezra shrugged remembering he was playing a role. "I got separated from Mother when we were traveling. I'm still looking for her."

//Liar.// Ezra heard in his head. He raised an eyebrow looking at the boy who'd rolled over and was looking at him with old eyes.

//One says what one must.//

//You say what you think people want to hear, Ezra.//

//Vin, I promise you I mean you no harm. We, my friends and I, are only trying to help people escape from the Guild.//

The quiet answer came back, //I believe you.//

"Cindy, if you don't mind I'm really very tired."

"Of course, go on to sleep."


Ezra was wide awake and moving just as the sun peeked over the tops of the buildings. He crept out through the hole he'd discovered and crouching low ran across the empty field. When he was several blocks away he stopped to catch his breath and look for a safe place to make a call. Even though Buck had promised him the cell had all the security bells and whistles he still didn't trust that the Guild couldn't tap in and catch him.

He swiftly removed the phone for his shoe and punched speed dial.


"Chris, it's me."

"Where are you and how many?"

" 177th and Commerce. I'll wait an hour. There's almost 50 with kids, too."

"We're leaving now. Wait, it'll take us about half an hour to get there."

"I'll be here." Closing the phone Ezra put it back in his shoe and moved to a place where he hoped he could see if any trouble was coming.


Cindy Dunne looked around the dark building and watched quietly as Ezra left. She knew he was leaving and she wondered if he'd come back. Without moving she again searched each box and empty crate with her eyes plotting where she'd hide the boys if the need arose. She hoped against hope it wouldn't be necessary, hoped that their 'coyote' a name borrowed from guides for wet backs from Mexico crossing the border into the States, was honest and would really guide them to safety. Now for money these same men were willing to guide sentients south where their special abilities were more acceptable and where the Guild couldn't touch them.

Cindy looked over at her son. Her hand brushing lightly over his dark hair, he was the joy of her life, the one bright spot. She and her twin Cassie had run away from home as soon as they could. They'd traveled all over doing what jobs they could until Cassie had married an oil rig worker on the Texas coast. Cindy had stayed close and it looked like things would finally work out for them.

They thought they'd manage to hide the 'twin thing' from everybody, even Dave Tanner. Until the baby was born, little Vin was such a precious little boy. With his dad's big blue eyes and blond coloring, Dave fell in love with him and chose to ignore the odd behavior of Cassie and Cindy.

But when Vin was three years old their luck changed. A sudden storm in the gulf blew in without warning and Dave Tanner was lost. There was no insurance and the small amount of savings lasted a few months. Then the twins and the four year old loaded what they could into the old van and headed north.

They'd stayed in Dallas for a while and then they were hit with a double whammy. Cassie got sick and Cindy got pregnant. The father disappeared leaving Cindy a thousand dollars and a fake ID. They both worked as long as they could but a year after JD was born Cassie died.

"Promise you'll take care of Vin, Cindy. He's... he's so special and you have to teach him how to hide his gift. Promise!" the desperate mother begged.

"You know I will. He and JD will be brothers. They already think they are anyway. I'll keep them safe. You rest, you'll be fine." But Cassie's eyes told her otherwise.

Within a year the PCCA, the Psionic Control and Containment Act, had been passed and the hunting of sentients was made legal. The small family was on the run.

JD was talkative and outgoing while Vin was shy and withdrawn. Cindy couldn't figure out why until Vin told her that he could hear people's 'inside voices', and it scared him. He didn't like it at all. Cindy tried to teach him to block but she wasn't as powerful and didn't know how to teach him. Her contact had been mostly with Cassie.

She'd thought that JD was free of any gifts until she'd found him crying holding an inspectors tag on a new shirt.

"What's wrong, baby?"

JD's big brown tear filled eyes shown as he held up the crumpled tag. "She's sad, mama."

"Who, baby?"

"Her. She hates this stupid job and wants to stay home when her baby comes only there's something wrong with the baby."

Cindy gathered her son in her arms, "You know this from touching the tag?"

"Pictures come to me, when I touch things sometimes. Mama? I don't like it."

"I know, baby. We'll work it out."

Only it hadn't worked out and the three of them had been picked up by the Guild. Cindy had been terrified for her boys when they were separated. Then two days later JD had been returned to her and they had been bussed out of the city. She'd begged and pleaded for Vin, but no one had spoken to her or told her anything.

Turned loose she'd worked and even stole and made her way back to the city where she'd last seen Vin. She and JD had looked for months with no results. Then one day JD had pulled away from her, "Mama, it's Vin."

Cindy looked at the raggedy, filthy, little boy sitting on the curb. He was so thin that you could see every bone in his wrists and hands. Walking slowly afraid to believe she'd called softly, "Vin?"

The small body jumped and scooted backward to get away from the woman and boy.

Cindy squatted down, "Vin? Don't you know me? I'm Cindy, your Aunt Cindy, and this is JD, your cousin."

The frightened boy stopped moving and really looked at the woman and boy. //Aunt Cindy?//

Blinking in surprise Cindy nodded. "Yes, Vin, it's me. We've been looking and looking for you."

//I've be lost?//

Cindy slowly moved closer until she could gather the boy in her arms. "Yes, baby, you've been lost but we've found you now."

Vin never told her what had happened and other than not talking he was seemingly the same little boy she'd lost. JD was young enough that he didn't find it unusual for his cousin to only speak in his head. The young adapt so easily.

Now the young woman knew from what she'd seen that she had to trust Vin to take care of JD and keep him safe. Feeling the boys' stir she sat up and brushed the tears from her eyes. She had to make sure no matter what the Guild did not get her boys.

Once they'd gotten their share of the rations she sat them down, "Vin, JD, you remember the hidey hole you found the other day when you were playing?

Vin nodded.

"If I tell you to go, I want both of you to promise that you will go quietly and quickly into the hidey place and be very quiet. No matter what you hear be very quiet."

"Okay, Mama."


//I understand. // The answer echoed in her head as the boy's blue eyes searched her face.

Cindy smiled. "Good. Someday your gonna have to start talkin'."

//Not today.//

"No, not today, remember not a sound."

Vin looked around, //Where's Ezra?//

Cindy shook her head. "I'm not sure. But you can trust him, if I'm not around you can trust him."


The boys were playing when suddenly Cindy sat up. Trying to stay calm she said, "Vin, go, go now."

The boys looked startled and then scrambled for the back. Vin pushed the younger boy ahead of him into the tiny space. It turned out to be a tunnel or vent of some sort.

Once Cindy knew the boys were safely inside she crawled back to their blankets, balling them up she pushed them and the crate, back against the wall. She raised her chin as the door was busted down.

Inside the tunnel in the dark, the loud bang and pops and shouting scared JD. The younger boy tried to call out but Vin quickly pressed his hand over the other's mouth.

//Be quiet. You promised not to make a sound.// Vin closed his eyes and began searching for his aunt's mind. He quickly shied away from minds he didn't recognize. He couldn't find her she wasn't there. He couldn't feel any of the others either. Finally he sat holding the softly sobbing JD tightly and rocking back and forth.


"Hey, Kid," Buck, arrived first and instantly saw that Ezra's face had gone blank and pale.

"Buck...." Ezra looked at the tall man that had appeared before him.

"You okay, Ezra?"

"I...I don't know. I have to get back, something is happening, I have to go." Without waiting for an answer from Buck the teen took off at a run heading straight to the warehouse not even attempting to hide.

Buck stood startled watching the teen run and then called Chris on his cell. "Something's happened, get down here and bring the van, Ezra just took off at a run. " Buck kept watching the boy and looking for the van at the same time. When it roared up next to him he jumped in before it even completely stopped. He looked at Chris and shouted, "GO!"

The van bumped and thudded over the field going the way Buck pointed. It screeched to a halt beside the panting and frozen Ezra. Buck rushed over to him. "Ezra?"

Standish didn't look at the man, he was staring at the beaten down door. "Too late. We're too late," he whispered. Then he started forward.

"Ezra, wait." Buck reached out to stop the teen but he was too slow. So he followed him inside.

The inside was in chaos with strewn personal belongings and spatters of blood on the floor. But there was no one there, no bodies either. It was totally, utterly deserted.

"Oh God!" Ezra groaned his eyes going over every inch of the room.

The others followed them into the warehouse and stood too stunned to move.

Finally Ezra looked over to the spot where his backpack should have been. But it was pushed up against some crates along with something else. Ezra slowly walked over to the pile and recognized the childish print on the fabric. Tears in his eyes he slowly bent to pick up the old blanket. When he touched it he got a flash of the boys in a small dark cramped place.

Gasping he stood. "The boys, they're still here somewhere."

"What boys?" Buck asked stepping closer.

Ezra shook his head as if to clear it, " Two little boys I met. They're still here somewhere. JD!" he shouted. "JD, CAN YOU HEAR ME?"

He stepped back and began studying the crates and how they were positioned. "Help me! We need to move these crates." He started to move forward to push them out of the way.

"Back off, Ezra," Chris ordered and with a hard stare and a flick of the wrist he sent the crates flying across the room. The path cleared he saw the vent and 'pulled' nails and screws and then sent the cover flying to the pile the crates lay in.

The vent hole was too small even for Ezra. Kneeling down he called, "JD? Vin? It's Ezra, you can come out now. Please, it's safe now." The teen held his breath hoping he was right.

Suddenly a small dark body streaked past him only to be gathered up by Buck. The little boy was sobbing and struggled against the man's hold. "NO! I want my mama. Let me go."

Ezra was prepared when Vin shot out of the vent and he grabbed the struggling, fighting boy. It was eerie watching the boy struggle and fight without making a sound. "Stop, Vin. Stop it's me, Ezra. These are my friends we came to help you. Please, Vin, stop."

Vin slowly stopped trying to get loose and stood stiff and still. His wild eyes darted from one man to another stopping at the man who held his small cousin. //Please don't hurt him,//he begged.

Buck looked down at the boy. "I won't hurt him. I would never hurt him," he said his arms tightening around the boy.

JD pulled back and looked at the man who held him. "Where's my mama? I want my mama."

"I don't know, Kiddo, there wasn't anyone here when we got here," Buck said trying to reassure the boy.

Vin turned in Ezra's hold and looked at him. //Aunt Cindy said we were to trust you. The helmets took her and the others.//

"Helmets?" Ezra asked.

//Bad men, they wear helmets, I can't see inside their heads.//

"Vin, will you and JD come with us?"

Chris started to step forward, "Ezra..."

Huge blue eyes locked with his and he felt his heart stop. The world stopped, and Chris Larabee stopped lost in those blue eyes.

"We have to take them, they have no where to go and no one to take care of them." Ezra looked at each of the adults.

Ezra nodded and looked at the boy. //If I let you go will you not run?//

Startled Vin's eyes moved away from the man in black and looked appraisingly at the teen. //I won't run.//

Letting the boy go Ezra nodded, "Good, let's get out of here." Stepping forward he started to drop the old blanket.

JD saw the movement, "No, that's my blankie, I need it." He reached out toward it.

Ezra looked down at the ragged and dirty piece of fabric. It wasn't much but it might be all the boy had left of his mother. He handed it to the boy.

JD eagerly took it and rubbed it against his cheek. He smiled, "Mama love," he said.

Buck hitched him up, "Come on, Kiddo, let's blow this Popsicle stand."

Ezra led the way with Vin following. The boy stopped at the door and with sad eyes looked around one last time. Buck followed still carrying JD.

Josiah was the last. He walked by Chris who hadn't moved at all since he'd locked eyes with Vin.

"Chris? Chris, you all right?" the empath asked as he carefully laid a hand on the black clad shoulder.

At the touch Larabee jerked and slowly blinked his eyes. He looked around and without answering briskly walked toward the door with Josiah following behind.

When they reached the van Nathan was in the far back, Ezra, Vin and Buck with JD on his lap were in the second seat. Josiah pulled the door closed and climbed onto the passenger seat.

Chris walked around and got behind the wheel. He glanced into the rearview mirror "Ezra? Anything?"

"No, at this moment we are as you say, 'good to go.'"

Nodding Chris started the engine and they drove a twisted route in silence for several minutes. Stopping under a tree on a back street Chris and Josiah got out. While Josiah changed the plate Chris slapped magnetic signs on the side of the van.

Getting back in they started off again. Once underway again Buck looked down at the little boy sniffling in his lap. Then he glanced over at the older boy who sat stiffly, his arms wrapped tightly around himself.

Looking back at the smaller boy Buck asked, "What's your name, Kiddo?"

The boy leaned away so he could see the man's face, "JD."

"JD, what?"

"JD Dunne."

"Oh, what's your name?" Buck asked the older boy.

"Vin don't talk." JD interpreted.

"He doesn't? Is that his name, Vin Dunne?"

JD giggled, "No silly, he's Vin Tanner, I'm JD Dunne."

When JD said Vin's last name Buck looked up into the rearview mirror and saw Chris staring back at him with a shocked expression on his face.

Swallowing hard Buck asked, "Why doesn't Vin talk, JD?"

The six year old glanced at his cousin, "I do' know. He just hasn't talked for a long time. Not out loud anyway. He talks in my head though."

Vin started at what JD had said and wanted to run, only there was no where to go.

Ezra gently laid a hand on Vin's knee to get his attention and quickly withdrew it. "It's okay, Vin, we're all sentient. There's no need to be afraid."

"You might briefly scan each of us if you wish. Only I do suggest you wait until Chris is no longer driving."

Vin looked over at the teen and nodded. He frowned and looking at Josiah first concentrated on him.

Josiah felt the light touch of the boy' s mind. Being an empath he was naturally open. He felt a soft mental caress as the boy left his mind.

Buck knew he was being scanned. While he wasn't sure a boy needed to be in all his memories he let thoughts of his mother and the friendship with Chris come forward. He was startled when the mental picture of the Larabee house burning came up. Clamping down on the grief that bubbled up he sent, //That's enough, junior.// Buck looked down at the ten year old and was surprised to see tears in his eyes, tears that matched the ones in his own eyes.

Nathan waited as the boy turned and looked at him. The healer in him itched to examine the boy to see why he couldn't or wouldn't talk, to find out why he was so thin and pale. Even the younger one was small for his age and Nathan wanted to feed them and make them 'all better.'

Vin must have caught that last thought because he smiled at the healer before he turned around.

"Well?" Ezra asked.

//They are sad. But they hate the helmets, the Guild. Where are we going?//

Ezra looked at the country they were passing. "We're going to a place where we've been staying. It's safe for now."

Josiah watched the exchange with interest. "Vin, can you 'talk' to the rest of us?"

The boy shrugged.

"Would you try?"


The van swerved, "Holy shit!" Chris gasped. "Vin? Was that you?"


Josiah looked at Nathan and Buck who both nodded. Chuckling he looked back at the boy. "That was great, Vin. But you need to tone it down a bit I'd say, judging from Chris' reaction. If you were talking I'd say you don't have to shout."


"Much better," Josiah said not only meaning Vin's telepathy but also the fact that the boy had relaxed a little.

Wondering why the little one hadn't reacted to the shout Buck tipped his had around to see the peaceful tear streaked face. JD was sound asleep the 'blankie' firmly placed between him and Buck. Apparently he was so use to Vin's voice he could ignore it.

The rogue placed his cheek on the top of the small head and sighed. It had been a long time since he'd held a little guy. Not since...Buck looked at his longtime friend. What would having two boys around do to Chris? He wasn't sure. But to him it felt wonderful.

It was almost dark when they got to the house. Chris had back tracked and taken alternate routes trying to make sure they weren't followed. He slowly pulled the van around back under a camouflage tarp and trees.

Josiah got out and went to the door. Unlocking it he went inside looking around, making sure no one had been there. He then went back to the door and signaled the others it was safe.

"Wake up, Kiddo," Buck said softly.

JD's eyes fluttered, "Mama?" he called sleepily.

"No, Kiddo, it's just ol' Buck."

JD sat up and looked around. "Vin?"

//I'm here, JD,// the older boy said as he watched Ezra get out and then offer his hand to help. Vin ignored it and avoiding touching the teen he jumped down. He carefully looked around and seemed to notice everything.

Chris got out and headed for the door. "Hurry up and get inside," he growled.

Vin glanced up and frowned but scooted inside.

As Ezra walked past Chris he said softly, "Try a little harder you just might scare him to death."

Larabee glared at the young man who simply grinned and kept walking.

Buck walked past still carrying JD, "Way to go, Stud. Maybe you can scare them away if you try hard enough."

Chris glared but didn't say anything more.

Once inside Nathan began issuing orders. "Buck, these boys need a bath. You take them in and strip them down and start the showers. Don't forget to get their hair scrubbed. Meanwhile, Ezra, get a couple of old tee shirts for them to wear. Yours will fit better then anybody else's. I want to examine them for injuries and other things. What ya standing around for, Buck?"

"Yes, sergeant," Buck said, mock saluting the healer.

Ignoring the rogue, Nathan continued, "Ezra, get a fire started, it's cold in here and Josiah, there's a pot of leftover stew in the fridge. That should sit easy on their stomachs."

Chris lifted an eyebrow, "What do I do, boss?"

"Go outside and stop scaring the kids. They're here, we're gonna take care of them. Get used to it."


"I mean it, Chris, those boys don't have no body else right now. They're scared and hurt and the last thing they need is you being a bad ass toward them just because they're kids. We're all use to you growling but they ain't."

Making the muscles in his jaw jerk Chris stared at the healer, then quickly turned around and stormed outside.

By the time Buck had the boys scrubbed and wrapped in big towels the woodstove was sending out waves of warm air. The pot of stew was bubbling on the stove and the tee shirts that Ezra had collected were warming by the fire.

Nathan sat down by the stove and called JD over. "JD, my name is Nathan. I heal folks and I'd like to make sure you're okay. Then I have a tee shirt of Ezra's for you to wear until we get your clothes washed and dried. Is that okay with you?"

The little boy nodded, "It's okay."

Nathan moved slowly and explained everything he did knowing that not only JD was listening but Vin, also. He hoped that seeing him work on JD would help Vin understand that he didn't plan on hurting him.

Once finished he smiled at the boy, "You look fine. Now slip on this shirt and Josiah has a bowl of stew waiting for you."

JD happily did as he was told.

Nathan turned to the other boy. "Vin, please come over here and let me check you out?"

The youngster looked ready to bolt but he hesitantly walked over to stand in front of the healer. Nathan smiled at him and loosening the towel he dropped it on the floor.

He was right the boy was too thin. Nathan could count every rib. He slowly ran his hands over Vin's arms and legs. "Could you turn around?"

Nodding Vin faced away from the healer.

Nathan frowned as his hand went down the boy's back. He detected a small scar in the small of the boy's back and the echo of long time pain under it.

"Did you hurt your back?"

The boy shook his head no.

Closing his eyes and moving his hands over the area again Jackson searched for the source of the pain. Not finding it he went back up the spine and standing began searching through Vin's long hair for 'critters'.

There was something, a rough spot just at the base of the skull, "What? Vin, bend your head down and look at the floor."

The boy did as he was told, but he tensed as he felt Nathan go over the area again.

Nathan felt the boy tense and knew he'd run any minute. Pressing on a pressure point he called, "Josiah, come help me."

Josiah walked over and stood in front of the boy, "Steady him for me." Nathan said.

Josiah looked at Vin. The boy stood perfectly still a glazed look in his eyes. "Nathan?"

"Wait..." Nathan concentrated on the spot in question. He pulled the hair out of the way and felt again, there was something there, something tiny. It caught on his fingernail when he went over it.

With out moving he said, "Ezra, bring me my surgical tweezers and a magnifying glass."

Once he had them in his hand Nathan said, "Steady his head, Josiah, don't let him move."

Nathan looked through the magnifying glass. It looked like a tiny loop of wire embedded in the boy's skin. Grasping it securely he began to pull.

He pulled gently but it didn't come out quickly. When he had the wires out, they looked like a tiny hair pin. The long thin wires were wavy and dripped with body fluid. Nathan felt them vibrate through the tweezers and he threw them into the fire.

"What the hell?"

Before Nathan could say anything Vin's body began to convulse. "Lay him down," the healer ordered. He knelt down and held the boy's head until the 'fit' stopped.

Then he started feeling his way along the path way of the implant. As he explored where it had gone he told damaged tissue to heal its self.

"What was that?" Josiah asked again.

Nathan shook his head. "I'm not sure, perhaps some kind of control device." Nathan searched deeper for damage. It only took seconds but he was fairly sure that he hadn't hurt the boy.

"Let's get him dressed and wrapped up. I don't know how long he'll be out with everything."

"You put the whammy on him you always know exactly how long that lasts."

"Yeah, but with the convulsions, I just don't know."


Chris stood leaning against the door jam sipping his coffee. He couldn't take his eyes off the sleeping boy. What was it about this boy? He was only vaguely aware of the conversation going on behind him.

The others sat around the kitchen table, drinking their coffee. Buck doing it one handed because JD was asleep in his lap again. He shook his head, "No, he can't be the Tanner that Baines is after. He's just a kid, too young for the kind of power the wanted 'Tanner' is suppose to have."

Josiah shook his head, "Well, from the demonstration that he gave in the van, I'd say he's very strong for a boy and a first generation sentient."

Ezra set his cup down. "What do you mean?"

"Well, first gens usually come to their talent in their middle to late teens. It's practically unheard of for a child as young as Vin to be so strong."

"But he's not," Ezra said quietly.

"He's not what?" Buck asked.

"He's not first gen. I just remembered his aunt Cindy. She told me she and her twin, Vin's mother, were runaways when they were teens. She said, I quote, 'our parents just couldn't cope with our Twin Thing.' I at the time just took her to mean they were very close, what if she meant something more?"

Josiah thought for a moment. "That could explain the strength of Vin's broadcast, but not the why, he's so young to do such a thing."

"Cindy said around two years ago she and the boys were picked up by the PCCA. They were separated but after a few days JD was returned to her. She said he was hysterical, crying all the time. All she ever got from him was 'bad mans hurted him.'

"They were transported to another city. Cindy tried to find out about Vin but no one would tell her anything. It took them months to get back to where they were picked up. Then she and JD spent months looking for him, looking for some clue to tell her what happened to Vin."

"Sooo, did Cindy find out what Vin knew?"

"No, she said they just found him sitting on a curb one day. In rags, starved and mute."

Chris had turned around and listened to what Ezra was saying. "That's why Baines wanted him, because he was second generation sentient?"

"Very likely," Josiah said nodding.

"Second gen, just like Adam." Chris said softly turning back to look at the small boy. "Adam had two sentient parents. That's why they wanted him so badly. That's why they came to our place and ended up killing them."

Ezra looked up at Larabee's muttered musing, then quickly down at his hands.

Josiah leaned back in his chair. "This Cindy told you an awful lot about herself and the boys, you being a stranger and all."

The teen licked his lips and looked up, "I believe that she was a pre-cog. A weak one to be sure, but a pre-cog nevertheless."

"What makes you say that?"

"Just a look she had on her face once when our hands touched. It was after that that she told me about the boys. Also, JD said his mama told them to wait for me. If she wasn't pre-cog she wouldn't have done that."

"That makes sense," Buck nodded.

"Nathan, it's been hours when's he going to wake up?" Chris called softly his eyes still glued to the sleeping boy.

"I told you I don't know. Soon I hope, maybe by morning. I've been thinking about what that thing was. I still don't know for sure. But my best guess is that it was a control device. Only short distances though. When he escaped they lost control of him, so it's been dormant for awhile. When I pulled it out it started vibrating. I have no idea how far the signal went but I think our time here is limited. We may have to change locations sooner than planned. "

"Are you sure?"

"No, I'm not sure of anything, except that Baines wants that boy, and we're the only protection he's got."


Chris Larabee sat in the maple rocker watching the boy sleep. He didn't know why he was there, couldn't have explained it if he had to. He just couldn't leave the boy alone in a strange place. The sun was about to come up and the birds were making a ruckus outside the window. He'd spent the night arguing with himself over the advisability of keeping the two boys. On one hand there was no place to send them, on the other, they were always on the run. But then they had Ezra with them and he was too young for this kind of life, and yet life had changed a lot over the last ten years.

Larabee looked back down at the boy and saw that he'd finally moved. He watched quietly as the boy turned over onto his side and his arms came up and wrapped around his head. There was a soft hiss as two slits appeared, with blue barely showing. Chris didn't have to be telepathic to feel the pain and panic coming from the boy.

"It's okay, Vin, you're safe," he said softly trying to reassure the boy.

At the sound of his voice the boy scooted until the wall stopped him. He tried to sit up but trying to do so made his head feel like it was going to explode. If he could have he'd have cried out or groaned from the pain but he couldn't so he curled into a ball, his knees drawn up and he arms wrapped tightly around his head. Vin automatically started rocking back and forth trying to ease the pain. Then his stomach started gurgling.

Chris heard the ominous sound and with a flick of his wrist he moved the waste basket from across the room and next to the boy before the sour contents of his stomach erupted into the receptacle. Stepping quickly to the doorway he called, "Nathan, get in here, Ezra, you, too."

Then he went back to the bed. Vin was dry heaving, tears running down his face, his discomfort all the more evident by his silence.

Nathan rushed in and in a glance knew what was happening. He went to the bed and tried to touch Vin, but the boy dodged his hand and backed into the corner of the bed and wall, his eyes shining with fear.

Ezra stumbled in, and went directly to the frightened boy. "Vin, it's me Ezra. It's okay, these are friends of mine remember last night?"

Vin frowned trying to remember past the pain.

"Your head hurts, doesn't it? If you let Nathan touch you he can help the pain. I promise he's helped me many times. Will you let him?"

Vin searched the teen's face and glancing at Nathan he nodded.

Moving slowly Nathan inched himself closer to the boy and reaching out placed his big hands on either side of Vin's head. His gentle fingers started to massage the temples, top, and sides of the skull, the thumbs going down the neck but avoiding the scab at the base. After several minutes he could feel Tanner start to relax. "Is that better?"

//Yes, some.//

Nathan looked up at their leader, "Chris, close the curtains. I want the room dim it'll help. Vin, I want you to lay back down and close your eyes and try to relax."

//Can't, gotta go.//

Nathan smiled. "Okay, think you can make it by yourself or does someone need to go with you?"

Vin didn't answer but shook off the healer's hands and standing slowly wove his way to the bathroom. His bony knees showing beneath the hem of the over large tee shirt. Watching the painful journey made the men wince in sympathy.

They heard the toilet flush and then the door opened. Vin leaned heavily against the door breathing hard. Chris swiftly got up and walking over scooped the boy into his arms and carried him back to the bed.

At the touch Vin stiffened and struggled weakly.

"Stop fighting me. I'm carrying you," Chris growled gently.

At his voice Vin stopped fighting but the minute he was laid down he scooted out of reach. He looked around the room with wild eyes finally settling on Ezra.

"Please, Vin, we won't hurt you. I know your head still hurts, let Nathan work on it again." Ezra asked.

Rubbing the sides of his head little Tanner nodded. //Okay. Tell me where JD is now.// He obediently lay down waiting for Nathan to began again.

Ezra watched while Nathan moved closer and said, "He's with Buck. They were asleep and if JD sleeps like Buck they still are asleep. JD seems to have become very attached to Buck."

Vin smiled slightly. // JD always seems to know a soft touch. He knows who to trust and Aunt Cindy would ask him... Where's Aunt Cindy?// His eyes shot open at the thought of his aunt.

Everybody in the room heard him but it was Chris who answered. "We don't know she was gone when we got there. We will look for her, Vin, I promise."

The ten year old stared at the bleary shape of the man in black. He couldn't clearly see the man who spoke but he heard behind the words great anger, fire and a sadness that tore through him like he'd never felt before.

Nathan's ministrations began to take effect and his eyes slowly closed as his body relaxed. The healer slowed his hands and then when he felt the child slip into sleep stopped. He waited a few minutes before he carefully got up.

Everyone went into the kitchen and closed the door enough to block most of the sounds. Chris turned after one last look, "Nathan?"

"I did what I could. It's up to the boy's body now. He has to be able to heal himself."


Buck lay very still, only half awake reveling in the little boy heat and little boy smell that he'd missed. It's been so long, No, Buck, you are not going to go there, the usually jolly man scolded himself.

He rubbed his nose in the warm hair just under his chin. Not wanting to wake up but stay in the semi aware place he was in. A place before he became a hunted man, before most of his family had been slaughtered.

The boy he held moved rolling restlessly one hand seeking something. "Mama?" the whispered cry came.

Buck reached over and put the small blanket in the boy's hand.

Smiling in his sleep JD snuggled the blanket close to him sighing, "Mama love," he whispered again.

"It's okay, Kiddo, you're safe," Buck said as he tightened his arms slightly.

The boy settled again but it was too late. Buck was fully awake. He listened for other sounds in the small house. There were muffled voices here and there but little else. The sunshine poured in the small window putting a glow around the angel like face.

As he watched the large brown eyes opened and looked around settling on the arms surrounding him. JD rolled over so that he looked up into the man's face.

Buck smiled down at the boy. "Morning, Little Bit."

"I'm JD."

"I know. It's just a nick name. My ma use to call me that."

"Oh. I gotta go, mister."

"It's Buck and that door over there is the bathroom."

"Okay, Buck," the little boy said as he wiggled out of the bed and ran to the door.

Buck listened as the boy took care of business and then came running back.

"Did you flush?"

"Oh..." the boy stopped mid stride turned and ran back.

Buck heard the water flush and saw the streak run back and climbed into bed. The shivering boy snuggled close.

"Ouch. Your feet are like ice," Buck said wrapping big warm hands around tiny icy feet.

"You're warm. Where's Vin?"

"I'm not sure, shall we see if we can find him and my friends?"

"K. I ain't got no clothes on."

"You're fine right now in Ezra's old tee shirt. We'll see about some clothes later," Buck said as he got up and pulled on his jeans. "Burr, the floor is cold. It must have froze last night."

Carrying JD on his hip they explored the quiet house. Chris glanced up as they looked into the room off the kitchen.

"VIN!" the delighted child called.

"Shush! Vin's sleeping."

The six year old nodded wisely. "Did his head break open again? He always sleeps a lot after that."

Chris answered hoping he'd

nderstood the boy, "Nathan helped him go to sleep."

Looking back at his cousin JD said, "That's good. He don't cry much, he's a big boy but he says the voices get too loud and it hurts. I'm hungry, is there anything to eat? Is it too late to eat today?"

"No, it's not too late. We'll go see what we can find okay?" Buck glanced from the boy to the blond watching as Chris's attention was once again focused on the sleeping ten year old.

Buck managed to scramble some eggs and make some toast for the boy and himself then he watched as the child ate as if he hadn't eaten in weeks. He sipped his coffee and mused over the last twenty four hours.

"JD? Why do you call your blanket 'mama love'?"

Shrugging the boy frowned. "Cause that's what it is. Mama made it for me when I's a baby and when I hold it I can feel all the warm snuggly from here. Mama love comes out like it was really her holding me."

"Do...do you always feel something when you touch things?"

"No," JD played with his egg. "I don't like to do it. Vin showed me how to build a brick wall around me inside my head so things don't talk to me. He said it was called a shield like knights in stories have. I don't like to have things talk to me, some times they're really sad and hurt. When's Vin gonna wake up?"

"I don't know. But I'll tell you what, how about you, and Ezra and me go into town and get some clothes for you and Vin? Then we can surprise him with it all." Buck suggested hoping that the trip would allow the house to stay quiet enough for the older boy to sleep and heal.

"Okay," JD said hesitantly.

"Well, alright, let's find Ezra."