Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!
Thanks to Phyllis for BL/AU2
Universe: AU/Brothers Larabee
Main Characters: Seven
Summary: Murphy's Law applies…always.
In his bedroom at the Double L ranch, Nathan looked himself up and down in the freestanding, full-length mirror, and smiled. He scrubbed up well, even if he did say so himself. Smoothing down his suit jacket, he checked the time and nodded.
This day was an historic occasion for the Larabee brothers. Despite plans to soon take a lengthy sabbatical; today at Denver Memorial Hospital, Doctor Nathan Jackson's completed yearlong combined fellowship in the fields of Pathology and Traumatology was to be recognized, along with the accomplishments of several other physicians. Their families, including his brothers, were invited to attend a graduation ceremony to honor not only the achievements but, for Nathan, an unprecedented move by the hospital board to offer Nathan tenure, also.
Sharing his news and the invitations with his brothers had been a moment in Nathan's life he would never forget. Their pride and delight for him made his heart swell with affection, and their excitement caused him to appreciate the significance of the culmination of a long, hard year; a year in which his home life had also changed significantly. And now, he couldn't help but wonder if his decision to add Traumatology to his fellowship was either Divine Intervention, or Linc reaching out from the grave and guiding him to more ways to keep his newly extended family safe.
From this day, Nathan could be called on as attending or consulting physician in either field, a fact that prompted the Board to extend to him the tenure in an effort to keep his skills local. They were unaware that Nathan had no plans to take his expertise elsewhere. He was content with his salary, which would now increase anyway, and happy to be close to home, and family. The tenure did however, ensure Nathan's request for an extended sabbatical was authorized with the full and gratifying knowledge he had a job to return to when he was ready.
Most of his day would be meeting with the Hospital Board to sign contracts, and generally rub shoulders with all the right people his position merited. In the early evening, the graduation ceremony to which family and friends were invited would take place, followed by a sumptuous buffet. His brothers were scattered throughout the area today, but had strict instructions to be showered, dressed and back in town by six pm.
On that thought Nathan left home, confident the guys would be there, as requested. He would soon find that his confidence was not misplaced, but would also learn that sometimes, to coin a phrase of Vin's, even the best laid plans could go 'tits up'.
Later that day, Ezra couldn't contain the satisfied smile that played across his handsome features. Not only was he early for Nathan's big event, but had enough time to indulge in his secret weakness…a Starbuck's full leaf Chai tea. To quote a claim from their own menu…'a satisfyingly rich blend of black teas and exotic spices.'
The fact that the hospital actually had a Starbuck's on site, made it all the more tempting…and justifiable, he decided. After ordering and paying for his cherished brew, and before turning to leave, he checked that the snap on spill-proof lid was secure. This was not a day for wearing his drink of choice on his clothes, especially while dressed in his new taupe gray, Ralph Lauren, single-breasted suit with matching silk tie and white, 100% cotton shirt.
So inevitably, when he moved to leave, this would be the occasion a portly youth wearing iPod earphones, and texting someone he would likely be talking to in person within minutes, decided to walk directly into him and test the sturdiness of said spill-proof lid.
Needless to say, it failed miserably, sending scalding Chai tea all over the front of a once handsome suit, tie, and a no longer white, 100% cotton shirt. Ezra figured it only fair the youth caught some too; not that it penetrated the sturdy thickness of a hooded sweatshirt and three layers of t-shirts.
"Oh man, I'm s-o-o sorry."
Slapping away the youth's feeble attempts at mopping at him with a clutch of Starbuck's napkins and a rather questionable Kleenex, a pain-stricken Ezra half-walked, half staggered into the foyer of the ER entryway. Fortunately he wandered into the path of an off-duty nurse by the name of Patrick, who sweetly guided him into the trauma area, and the very capable hands of a rather jolly nurse called Beatrice.
Lying on a trolley bed, Ezra felt the chill of air on his skin when the now cooling shirt was peeled back to reveal heated, red welts on his chest and abdomen.
Unable to reply due to the hiss escaping him when something damp and cold was applied to the scalds, Ezra simply nodded. He surprised his savior when he tried to sit up. She instantly attempted to halt him.
"Madam," he pleaded, "I need to be at a ceremony being held on these premises in exactly…" Ezra checked his watch. "…Fifteen minutes." He looked into her eyes. "I simply cannot miss it."
With a nod, and a promise to be as quick as possible, she disappeared through the curtain. The southerner groaned, more with frustration than in pain. "Marvelous. Well done, Ezra."
Buck was at the end of his tether. In Rosie's Bar that afternoon he had watched a man who, while despite being only semi drunk, behaved like a total jerkass to the clientele. Buck's patience ended when the guy picked on JD, who was helping him during Inez's vacation. Determined JD would not end up in the ER and miss Nathan's ceremony, Buck sent the boy on home with orders to shower and change. Once Matt his bartender took over for the night, and before going on to the hospital for the ceremony, Buck planned on visiting his personal quarters next to the bar's office to do likewise.
Deciding enough was enough, Buck approached the man's table, and towered over him. "Time to go home, buddy."
Alf Tucker stared up at the brunet. Today he lost his job. When he went home early to tell his wife the bad news, he found her in bed with his foreman. It had not been his best day. "Just wanna drink, pal."
Buck shrugged one shoulder. "Well, you have, and now it's time to go home and sleep it off…maybe have something to eat too, huh?" The brunet's entire 6'4" frame arched back when the burly, 6'6" ex-bricklayer rose to now tower over him.
Un-intimidated, Buck straightened up and replied. "Says me. My name's over the door, and I say, it's quitting time for you." He smiled. "Come back tomorrow and the first drink'll be on me."
Due to years of experience, Buck appreciated that the guy had more than drink weighing heavily on his mind. However, despite also being more than aware that the bigger they are, the harder they fall; and that they usually punched, kicked, and choked harder too, Buck still failed to move fast enough. The punch to his midriff, and then his left eye, rocked him and he staggered back a few paces. Before he could retaliate, several cops enjoying a post-shift drink, plus his current barman, Andrew, quickly had the ranting guy contained and in a headlock.
Through the haze, Buck acknowledged Andrew helping him to a seat and placing a cold beer bottle against his cheek, just below his eye. Buck grunted and rubbed his belly. "Damn, I think he cracked a rib."
Andrew nodded. "Yup, I wouldn't be surprised. You got one hell of a shiner there too, Pard, maybe even a concussion. I need to get you to the hospital."
Buck groaned. "No way, I have to get to the…" he sighed. "Fine. Grab my suit bag from the office too, will you?" He swayed when attempting to stand, so waited a moment. Ah well, at least he was going in the right direction. Good thing he told JD to head to FC Memorial under his own steam. However, he'd call the kid on his way there, just in case.
Sitting in the passenger seat of Chris's Ram, Vin tugged awkwardly at the tie completing his suited attire. He huffed. "We ain't gonna be there for at least a half hour. I need to take it off…"
Chris shook his head. "Suck it up. We're tight on time as it is with that damned stock sale running an hour over. I'm just glad we brought our change of clothes as a precaution."
Tanner snorted. "Yeah, the fact we smell like horseshit and moldy hay shouldn't cause any problems."
"Nothing wrong with good, honest work, Vin. 'Sides, the place'll likely smell of antiseptic, anyway."
The Texan bobbed his head. "At least we'll be there for Nathan…and have a tasty buffet to enjoy afterwards."
Chris grinned. "I figured you'd think about the food sooner or later."
"What do you mean, sooner or later? Try all day." He barely noted Chris's frown at a large cement truck just ahead, before the Ram's brakes were engaged and both their bodies hurtled forward until the seatbelts snapped them to an abrupt halt.
Chris had been chuckling at Vin's reply when, peering through the rain, he noticed the large cement truck ahead start to jackknife on the wet surface. He just registered it was braking, despite no taillights, when his foot automatically slammed on his own brakes. The Ram slid to a sharp halt against the rear side of the askew vehicle, but before he could even consider whether Vin was okay, while their bodies were still in forward momentum, both airbags deployed and the pair took fierce blows to their faces.
Twenty minutes later, found Chris arguing with a paramedic about being taken to the hospital for a check-up. The medic remained adamant.
"Guys, you have bruising to your chests and shoulders from the seatbelts, and blood and bruising to your faces from the airbags. You need X-rays."
Tanner shrugged and peered past the icepack applied his nose and eyes. "We were goin' that way anyway," he said, a definite nasal quality to his tone.
Appreciating that Buck and JD were together, and that Josiah and Ezra were in town and going straight to the hospital from there, Chris nodded in agreement. At least he didn't need to call anyone, they were all heading to where the ambulance was about to transport him and Vin. To the background sounds of local tow trucks taking Chris's Ram, and the cement truck away; and encumbered by ice packs resting on their faces and tucked inside their dress shirts to cover their chests and shoulders, the pair unenthusiastically walk unsteadily into the ambulance.
Inside, and safely strapped to gurneys, the two men looked across at each other. "Nathan's not gonna be best pleased," Vin mumbled. He waved a hand. "I didn't mean about spoilin' his big day…"
Larabee nodded. "Yeah, I know. I just feel bad we won't have time to change...again."
"You think we'll make the ceremony?"
"Hell yeah. Even if I have to attend dragging an X-ray machine…I'll be there."
Tanner chuckled. "Damn straight."
Having showered in the staff changing rooms at the local shelter and food distribution center, Josiah had since slipped into fresh underwear and socks, and his suit pants and shoes. About to put on his shirt, he noticed a dangling, loose thread. A little voice inside his head told him to get scissors, but instead Josiah tugged it. He apologized to thin air at the curse that left his lips when the thread unraveled and half of the sleeve dropped loose at the shoulder seam.
He sought out a sewing kit and sat quietly repairing the line of stitching. "That's what you get, Sanchez. More haste, less speed."
He yelped, several times when the needle found flesh instead of fabric, while cursing that his large hands and fingers were not meant for such delicate work. In fact, the opposite was true, and he often made the most exquisite and intricate jewelry. Today though, he had neither the time nor the patience, but still soldiered on regardless.
By the time the task was complete the shirt was wrinkled, so he went to the store cupboard to locate the ironing board. Unfortunately it found him first. Whoever used the board last was careless when putting it away, and when the door opened, it fell into Josiah with a heavy, metallic thud. Pain shot through Josiah's mouth due to the direct hit, and he spent the next ten minutes stemming the flow of blood. Looking in the mirror, he growled in dismay at the chipped tooth and split, swollen upper lip reflected there.
Hastily setting up the board and plugging in the iron he groaned again on realizing that his spilled blood had dripped onto the shirt's white fabric, not to mention the earlier stains from the numerous needle pricks he'd suffered. Running out of time, Josiah quickly pressed the shirt in the hope his suit jacket would cover the offending splotches. He looked in the mirror for a final check. It didn't cover them all, and his swelling lip was now spreading, affecting his cheek and one eye, too.
Amid a heavy sigh, Josiah again became aware of the time. "Damnit, I'll be late." With a final check of his hair, he hurried out the door, only to be yanked back when his jacket sleeve caught on the door handle. He didn't have to look; the ripping sound told him all he needed to know. The ex-preacher glanced up to the Heavens.
"Was it something I said? Something I failed to do?" He left, still rambling on. "At least find it in your heart to stop the rain and lighten the traffic for my short but vital journey, would you?"
JD hadn't wanted to leave Buck at Rosie's, but his big brother was adamant. Realizing Buck had taken care of himself long before JD even knew him, and also that, because he had ridden in on his bike, his suit was at home and he needed to change, JD agreed to go on the proviso that Buck called him later to let him know he was okay. Buck was happy to consent to that, as the call would also ensure his trouble magnet of a little brother had made it home safely.
JD was motoring along nicely when the bike pulled violently from the back wheel. He was just able to lay the bike down before it dragged him several yards along the rough road, although he action ensured he didn't entirely escape the inevitable road rash. Moaning at the pull and burn to his shoulder and thigh, JD scrambled to his feet, took off his helmet, and checked out the prone bike. 'Damn, a flat tire.'
JD looked along the road. He was only about five miles from home, but aware all his brothers were otherwise occupied, he decided pushing the bike home was his only course of action. Ten minutes or so into his journey, the Heavens opened. Blinking away the rainwater driving into his face, a bedraggled JD looked up and sighed before hunching over the stricken cycle and pushing on.
By the time JD entered the mudroom he was soaked to the skin. Pushing back wet, heavy black bangs, he shucked off all but his shorts and tee, and then, head down, he gloomily trudged barefoot upstairs to his room. In the bathroom, he stared in the mirror at the angry, weeping welts and grazes on his shoulder, arm, hip, and thigh. Deciding a bath might be best; he turned on the faucets, and swooshed the water around until the tub was half-full. Stepping into the heated water, he yelped when the grazes stung as he submerged. Seconds after his butt touched the bottom, the phone rang.
"Aahh, what?" He growled. "Buck, your timing sucks bro." Shaky arms levered him up and out of the tub and he dripped his way into his room only to find the caller had hung up. Trudging back into the bathroom, he was once more half way into the tub when the phone rang again.
Mumbling all the way there, he picked up the still ringing phone, but never got a chance to answer.
>"Hi, you have won a luxury, all-expenses trip to Florida. To claim your prize, all you have to do…"<
JD slammed down the receiver, and apologized to his mother for the expletives escaping him. He walked from his bedroom into the bathroom, and in frustration kicked out at his waiting dress shoes along the way. Easing down into the soothing water, the youth decided this time,to ignore the ringing phone. "Nuts to it, the machine'll have to get it."
JD jolted awake on hearing the distant sound of the phone ringing once again. Sitting up, he shivered in the tepid bathwater and hauled his aching body out and over the side. He winced when he wrapped himself in a bath towel and the fluffy fibers rubbed at his grazed skin. Worried that any oozing from friction to his wounds might show through his dress shirt, JD decided it might be wise to wear a T-shirt under it. With that thought, he walked into his bedroom…and went butt over tip from the dress shoes he originally put ready to wear and had since kicked a little too close to the bathroom door.
With a mix between a sob and a groan, the youth slid over to the bed and used his un-skinned elbow to lever himself up. However, as he attempted to put weight on both feet to continue to dress, he yelped at the sharp pain resonating from his right ankle.
JD shook his head, stared up at the ceiling and hollered out. "Oh, come on!" With little time to dwell on his frustration…or pain, he rummaged through his drawers to locate a sports bandage before slipping it over his throbbing ankle, and then hastily dressing.
"Where the hell are they?"
After limping down the stairs, and oblivious to anything other than his immediate surroundings, the youngest Larabee spent another ten minutes trying to locate the keys to his Blazer. He first checked the key hooks, and then frantically delved through drawers, down sides of cushions, and under furniture, for the missing keys, which wasn't easy with one pulsating ankle and several stiff and throbbing bruises and abrasions. Back at the hooks, and JD's jaw dropped to see the misplaced keychain curled up on the floor beneath them, and glinting in the early evening sunlight as if taunting him. With no words right then to convey his irritation, not clean ones, anyway, JD snatched the keys up and, after setting the alarms, he hobbled to the garage. Seconds later he was roaring away up the drive even before the automatic garage door-closer had completed its function.
Sitting with their legs dangling over the sides of trolley beds, and holding ice packs to their faces, Chris and Vin were attempting to convince a nurse and orderly that, while they couldn't stick around for the results of their X-rays, they would only be going as far as the hospital auditorium, and so would return later. About to go in for the final, persuasive assault, both men clamped their mouths shut and peered at each other through bruised eyelids when from behind a drawn curtain, a familiar drawl reached their ears.
"I can assure you, madam, despite the fact that this stunning, yet not at all appropriate scrub top adorns my blistered body, I have every intention of attending my brother's graduation ceremony…"
An auburn-haired head peered around the curtained area to see two battered and bruised siblings looking back at him. Ezra climbed down off the edge of his own bed and stepped inside their area. "Good Lord, what happened?"
"Cement truck," they chorused, making it clear that explanation would have to suffice for now.
"You?" Chris asked, gesturing to the blue scrubs top.
"Scalding tea and a technologically challenged klutz," he replied, also implying that his explanation would provisionally be adequate.
Despite their faces resembling raccoon-like features, and still wearing bloodstained shirts, Vin and Chris slipped off the beds and set down the ice packs. Putting on their jackets and adjusting their ties, neither man gave the nurse a second glance as they left. Calling back a promise that they would return, the three headed off to the lecture hall.
As the three approached the entrance to the large auditorium, they stopped in their tracks on seeing Josiah outside and attempting to neaten his appearance. They all eyed the bloodstained shirt, ripped sleeve, Band-Aid-wrapped fingers, and the fattest lip they'd ever set eyes on. Josiah raised a hand, while scrutinizing his brothers' appearances.
"Long story." He gestured to his brothers' own injuries. "Dare I ask?"
With a quick dismissal of the question, the four moved to enter the room. They halted when Buck's voice punctured the silence of the hushed hallway and from around a distant corner.
"Of all the stupid…you fell off your bike, pushed it home in the rain, fell asleep in the tub and then tripped over your shoes, all in the space of time you left me and got here? No wonder you didn't answer the phone."
JD's voice replied. "Well…yeah, but it wasn't my fault. The bike's back tire blew out and after I successfully laid the bike down, the momentum caused me to skid across the blacktop. It rained while I was pushing it home, and I got drenched, so I took a bath to soak away the dirt, blood, aches, and pains. Then I tripped over my shoes on the way back to the bathroom..." He shoved Buck, "...after having to get out of the tub to answer the damned phone…" he paused, and then shrugged.
"Okay, tripping over and hurting my ankle was totally down to me, but at least I didn't go and piss off some man mountain, fracture my cheekbone, and end up resembling one half of a panda while walking like an old man…"
"It's just a black eye and a cracked rib…"
"Yeah, maybe so, and once I get checked out mine'll just be road rash and probably a sprained…"
Having turned the corner and were now walking down the corridor toward the auditorium doors, the pair spotted their brothers looking back at them. It stopped them in their tracks to see all four of them appearing as if they'd each fought with half a ton of raging bull…and lost.
"Holy shit! What happened to you guys?"
The chorused question from all six men had each one scrutinizing the others. Seconds later, they all shook their heads in disbelief at their collective misfortune, but before another word was spoken, applause from within the auditorium alerted them to the need to move into the room. Together, they hobbled, limped, winced, and hissed their way inside, and just in time, as Nathan stood to walk toward the podium.
From his seat on stage, the Larabee's resident healer scanned the seated audience's features in search of six familiar faces. As his moment of glory drew near, Nathan's heart sank on realizing none of his brothers had made it. His disappointment was quickly replaced with concern when one thought dominated Nathan's subconscious.
'So...where were they?'
He knew they would never intentionally miss this occasion, so now he began to worry. Were they hurt?
Just as anxiety was building into gut-churning alarm, Nathan's name was called out from the man stood at the dais. Switching to autopilot, he stood and walked across the stage to receive his award. A noise from the central aisle that divided the rows of chairs facing the stage, caused many of the seated folk assembled to turn and look. Festooned in his dress robes, the attention of the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital's Board of Trustees was drawn to the escalating mumbling. Curious, he turned away from Nathan, and saw a ragtag group of six stumbling into the packed auditorium. He heard a squeak from Nathan and turned back to see the doctor gawping at the group.
"Are they yours by any chance?"
On stage, and despite being mid-stride, the murmuring audience caused Nathan to glance around. He saw his six disheveled, battered, blood-spattered brothers limping and shuffling toward their reserved seats close to the front of the stage. Completely forgetting where he was, he stopped, folded his arms across his chest, straightened his posture, and glared.
"What the hell happened to you all?" He noted six awkward shrugs and apologetic expressions. Eventually the youngest brother broke the awkward silence and his voice echoed around the large hall.
"What? We made it, didn't we?"
The panic that was roiling in Nathan's gut unexpectedly billowed up into a chuckle, and then a full-blown belly laugh. His brothers grinned back. Despite their discomfort, the six surrendered to the craziness of their situation and guffawed right along with him. Within seconds, the whole auditorium was reverberating with the sound of laughter. Suddenly remembering the CEO had asked him a question, Nathan swiped at his eyes and, still grinning, nodded at the smiling man.
"Yessir, they're mine; all six of them. Aren't they something?"
By the time the seven brothers attended the celebratory buffet, followed by returning to the ER to receive the examination results, or in JD's and Buck's cases, to get checked over, it was the early hours of the morning before they got home. The weary family entered their house. Nathan snapped on the lights and staggered back a pace or two on seeing the place festooned with balloons, banners, gifts, a giant cake, heaps of covered plates of food, and rows of beverages. Nettie had set up the surprise sometime after Nathan left, and before JD returned home. However, the latter completely missed the efforts and décor due to his pain, the search for the missing keys, and his haste to get back into town. The others were also staring, but seemed more focused on the upturned cushions and general mayhem and disorder.
"Have we been burgled?" Vin hissed out to no one in particular.
JD raised a hand. "Uh…sorry, this is down to me. Icouldn't find the keys to my truck."
"Where the hell were they?" Chris squawked, unable to tear his gaze away from the disarray…until he heard JD's stammered, squeaky reply.
"Uh…ha…um…uh..." JD coughed. "On the floor…uh…under the key hooks…"
Nathan snorted out a chuckle, and soon, in spite of their exhaustion, all seven were once again laughing. Turning to his brothers, and taking full advantage of the fact they were all too weary and sore to run, Nathan carefully hugged each one in turn.
"Jeeze, I love you guys. I can't believe what you went through to come and see me today. Thanks, boys."
Five pairs of eyes looked to Chris, who spoke for them all. "Nothing could have kept us away, Nathan. We're proud of you, bro, and Dad would be too."
Everyone nodded during the emotion-driven silence.
Several moments passed before Nathan bobbed his head, and then grinned. "And you all wondered why I added Traumatology to my fellowship. The way we're going, we should rename this ranch 'Four Corners General'."
"Can't do that," JD piped up. He waited until they all looked his way before delivering the punch line. "There's no Double L in 'FC General'."
Cackling at the groans, JD ducked the aimed swats. Too tired to eat, and all in agreement to have the party later, JD leaned on the crutches supplied to him, and lead the way to their much needed beds. After watching his chattering family head up the stairs, Chris walked into the study and looked up at the portrait of Linc, Chris, Nathan, and Buck.
"Did I just hear you chuckling, Linc Larabee?" The blond grinned. "There's no way I'm gonna tell JD he tells bad jokes just like you used to, or we'll never get any peace."
Chris turned back into the living room and walked over to lock the main door and set the alarms. He snapped off each lamp as he passed by them, and happily listened to the rumbling sounds of his family as they settled down for the night. Entering his bedroom, Chris kissed his fingertips and touched them to the framed photo of Sarah and Adam. While he got undressed, he reflected on the day's events, and then after a quick shower, he eased his aching form into bed.
Lying comfortable and drowsy between the sheets, Chris sighed contentedly. "Ah well, I guess shit happens, huh Dad? And we get to do it all again tomorrow."
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