Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. No money being made.
"Hey Ezra did you bring in that copy of your birth certificate?" Nathan asked.
Ezra hung his head and gave the EMT a sheepish look. "No. I'm sorry Nathan I completely forgot all about it," he said.
"Try and remember to bring it tomorrow okay?" he asked. "I can't finish all this insurance paperwork without it."
"I promise," Ezra told him.
"Well, let's see if we can't answer some of these questions anyway," Nathan said. "Where were you born?"
At those words Vin's head jerked up in surprise. "Really?"
"Believe or not. Why?"
"So was I."
"Date of birth?" they heard Nathan ask.
Ezra said, "The 18th of April 1971."
While Vin said, "April 18, 1971."
They both looked at other with a small grin on their faces.
"Now what do you reckon the chances of that are?" Buck asked with a laugh.
"Uhm," Nathan said getting everyone's attention. "Vin did you have a twin?"
"Lord Nathan, the world couldn't survive two of him," Buck teased.
"Ha. Ha," Vin mocked. "A twin? Me? Nah. Why?"
"Well here on your birth certificate Multiple is checked," the EMT explained.
"I only ever remember me," Vin told them.
"Well, Vin you were awful young when your mama died so maybe she just didn't around to telling you," Buck added with a shrug of his shoulders.
"That makes sense, but still I have . . . or had a brother or sister and never knew it."
"You have us," Ezra suddenly said then quickly ducked his head and began shuffling papers. Damn, he couldn't believe he'd just said that out loud. You're getting soft in your old age, Ezra told himself.
"Yes, I do," Vin agreed with a smile.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning the others looked up in surprise as Ezra hurried into the room. They looked from him to the clock then back at him. "Mornin' Ezra," Vin said, "You okay?"
"Morning and yes, yes, yes I am. Why do you ask?" Ezra asked in an agitated way.
"Because it's only 7:45," Chris told him.
"7:4. . . Good Lord," Ezra shook his head in disbelief. "Where's JD?" he asked the turned as the bathroom door opened.
"Ezra? What are you doing here so early?" JD asked then frowned, "Did we have a meeting?"
"Not that I'm aware of," the Southerner replied then followed the younger man as he walked over to his desk. "Excuse me, but may I please borrow your chair?" Ezra asked of Buck, who currently sitting in said chair.
"Oh, sure," Buck replied and got up without even thinking. "Hey!" he cried as he realized he no longer had a chair. "What am I supposed to sit on?"
"Nathan is not using his at the moment," Ezra suggested. After making sure no one was near by he turned his attention to JD and said, "I . . . need a favor."
"Sure Ezra. Anything," the younger man replied. "What do you need?"
"I wish to find out more about the night I was born," he said as he sat down. "As you know I do not believe in coincidences so I . . . wish to know more about the night of 18th of April 1971. Can you find out who else was born that night?"
"I'll try," JD told him. A couple of hours later he called Ezra over. "There were only three babies born on April 18, 1971 in Jasper. All boys," he told them.
Ezra didn't like the look in those hazel eyes and pushed him just a little, "And?"
"And . . . only two are living."
"Two?" Ezra repeated. "Vin and myself. I take it the other was Vin's brother."
"Yeah, his name was Jonathan."
"Jonathan? My twin?" Vin asked as he joined them.
"This is getting really weird," they heard Nathan say.
"What is?" Vin asked as all three men turned to look at the medic, who was still working on the insurance papers.
"You two were only born two minutes apart."
"Something's not right here," Ezra said. Looking at Vin he went on to say, "I'm sorry for your loss Vin."
"Thanks Ez," Vin said with a nod of his head.
The Southerner picked up JD's phone and punched in a number. "I need to speak with Maude. Now," he ordered. "Tell her it's her son," Ezra told the person on the phone. "Oh, really! No, I do not want to leave a message," he said and slammed the phone down.
"You okay, Ezra?" Josiah asked.
A little while later Josiah happened to glance up and just had to grin because both Ezra and Vin were drumming their fingers on their desk while resting their heads in their other hand. Sometimes those two were so in synch with each other that it was scary. Just then Ezra reached up and ran a hand through his hair at the same time that Vin did. Josiah almost laughed at the look Ezra sent the long-haired man.
"Would you stop mimicking me," Ezra said. "It's very annoying."
"Mimicking? I ain't mimicking you," Vin snapped.
"Yes you are. Now stop it!"
Josiah did laugh as both men jumped to their feet and headed for Chris's door.
"I gotta talk with Chris. Stop following me," Vin fussed.
"I'm not following you," Ezra replied. "I wish to speak with Chris as well."
"No way. I called it first."
"I don't care."
"Look Standish, I have seniority over you . . ."
"How do you figure that? I've worked for the government for almost ten years . . ."
"I don't give a shit!" Vin said then gave Ezra a little shove.
"Don't you shove me," Ezra fussed as he shoved Vin right back.
"ENOUGH!" Chris bellowed from his doorway. Neither man had even noticed that he'd open the door. "What the hell is going on here?"
"I need to talk to you," they both said at the same time then gave each other annoyed look.
"Me first," they said again at the same time.
They shot each other dirty looks and said, "Stop doing that!"
"Why?" Chris quickly asked before they got started again.
"I need a few days off," Vin quickly said then elbowed Ezra.
"Me too," Ezra said then frogged Vin in the upper arm.
"To go to Jasper, Texas," they both said.
By now Josiah was holding his side as he shook with laughter.
"Josiah is there something you'd like to share with us?" Chris asked with a frown.
The older man looked up and wiped his eyes. "No. I . . . just loved it when they do that," he finally said.
"Well I don't," their leader said then looked at the two men in front of him. "Go. Just promise me not to kill each other. Okay?"
"Don't worry Chris you can trust me," Vin said with a cocky tilt of his head.
"Oh . . . oh s..so you're s..saying he can't t..trust me," Ezra sputtered out.
"Ezra," the sharpshooter began only to be interrupted.
"Well, you can just make your on travel arrangements then," the undercover man said in a huff. "I hope you enjoy flying coach!"
"Ezra wait! I didn't mean nothing!" Vin whined as he followed Ezra out the door.
"WAIT A DAMNED MINUTE!" Chris bellowed.
Both men came to a stop and looked at their leader with a frown on their faces.
"Where are you going?"
Ezra and Vin exchanged a look then said very slowly, "Jasper."
"Yes," Vin replied then turned and grabbed Ezra's arm and said, "Come on, let's go. You aren't really gonna make me fly coach, are ya?" The Southerner pulled his arm free, but didn't say anything so the Texan whined, "Ezra you know I don't like to fly. Aww come on, don't make me fly all by myself." Still Ezra continued walking not saying a word.
"You two be sure and call when you get there!" Josiah hollered.
"Yes, Father," they both snapped causing Josiah to burst out laughing again.
Ezra sighed and looked at his traveling companion and snorted. 'You know I don't like flying,' he mimicked in his head. For someone who didn't like flying he sure was sleeping like a baby. With a grin on his face Ezra reached over and adjusted Vin's pillow then turned to look out the window. Shaking his head, he was once again struck by the feeling that this trip was going to change his whole life.
Ezra and Vin emerged from the plane and headed for the terminal to retrieve their luggage then went to rent a car. Stepping up the counter, Ezra politely waited for the attendant to complete what was obliviously a personal call. "Excuse me," he said then cleared his throat. When he was ignored Ezra felt his limited patience, begin to wan.
"Come on Ezra, let's take our business AND our money somewhere else," Vin snapped.
"No," Ezra replied in a deceptively calm voice. "I want some service and I want it now," he said looking directly at the young lady on the phone.
With a sigh she finally hung up and walked over to them with a smirk on her face. "May I help you?"
Raising one eyebrow Ezra looked at her and replied, "Oh I see sarcasm is included with your other services. How nice." Then with a glare that had the lady standing at attention he said, "Now we'd like to rent a car. And since you are the only one here then I would have to say yes, you may help us."
The lady gave Ezra a nervous look then handed him some forms to complete. She then looked at Vin and smiled as she noticed how attractive his was. She gave a start when Ezra slapped the papers down in front of her. "The Taurus or the Saturn?"
"The Taurus," they both replied.
The attendant quickly turned and bumped into a table knocking it over sending papers flying. After picking some of the papers up she returned with a set of keys and handed them to Vin. Looking over at Ezra she frowned then glanced back at Vin and asked, "Why's he looking at me like that?"
"He's trying to picture you with a personality," Vin taunted then turned on his heel. He stopped at the door when he noticed that his friend wasn't behind him. "You coming Ez?"
"Chaos, panic, and disorder, my work here is done," Ezra said with a smile then followed him.
Vin chuckled as he pushed open the door.
It didn't take them long to get Jasper. Once there they went to the first motel they came to and got a room. "So what should we do first?" Vin asked.
"Well, I suggest we get something to eat then head over to the hospital and see what records we can dig up," Ezra replied.
Half and hour later they were sitting in a booth each lost in his own thoughts. They looked up as the waitress stopped at their table. "My name's Janice and I'll be your waitress. What can I get you boys?" Janice asked with a genuine smile. She was an older lady and gave Ezra a searching look as if she thought she might know him. "You ever been to Jasper before?"
"Ya got family in the area?"
"Not that I am aware of. Why do you ask?"
"I'm sorry, child," she apologized. "I'm not usually so nosey. It's just that you look like a man I used to know." Turning her attention to Vin said, "And come to think about of it you remind me of a woman I used to know."
"May I ask who?" Vin wanted to know.
"Her name was Vicky Tanner," the waitress said.
The sharpshooter sat up and said, "That was my mama's name."
Janice paled and dropped her order pad. "Oh my God!" she whispered. "You're Vincent," she said in wonder as she grabbed his chin and turned him toward the light. "You look just like your mama."
Vin wasn't sure what to say so he just nodded his head.
"Did you know the late Mrs. Tanner well?" Ezra asked what Vin couldn't.
"She was best friends with a cousin of mine," Janice told them. "You looking for answers. Is that why you're here?"
"Yes, ma'am," Vin told her. Then Ezra helped him again.
"What can you tell us about Jonathan Tanner?"
The waitress hung her head. "Nothing more than he didn't survive the delivery," she said in a soft voice. "Tell you who you need to talk is Sandra Frost. Sandra's my cousin and was your mama's best friend. She was there with your mama when you were born."
"Do you know where I can find Mrs. Frost?" Vin finally asked for himself.
"She lives at 123 Howell Street. When you leave here go to the fourth red light and take a left. Howell is one block down on the right," Janice told him. "Now about some lunch?"
Once they finished their cheeseburgers and fries. They sat there once again lost in their thoughts. When Ezra could stand the silence no longer, he asked, "So how do you want to handle this?"
"What ya mean?" Vin asked stalling for time.
"Well, do you want to talk with Mrs. Frost now. Or do you want to wait until morning? Or do you want to call her first?" Ezra gave him several options.
Hanging his head Vin sighed and said, "I don't know Ezra. What's she gonna tell me that I don't already know? I mean, they're all dead."
"True, but then you knew that before we left Denver," the Southerner pointed out to him. "So why come all this way?"
"Why did you? What did you hope to learn?" Vin countered.
Ezra was quiet a long time before answering. "I don't know. Something about all this is . . . well bothering me," he said.
"I know what you mean. I got this feeling in my gut. There's more to it than what meets the eye."
"Usually is when Maude's involved," Ezra agreed.
They paid for their meal then left the diner and headed back for the motel. Once in their room Vin flopped down on one of the beds with a sigh. Looking around the room, he noticed for the first time a picture of an Indian on the wall and immediately thought of Josiah.
"Did you call Josiah?" Vin could tell by the way Ezra went completely still that he had not.
"I thought you were," Ezra said.
"No. Why would I?" he asked. "Besides, he told you to call him."
The Southerner finally turned to look at him. "Excuse me, but I seem to recall him telling us to call."
"Yeah, well, we both know he meant you," Vin pointed out with a grin. "You're in trouble now," he teased. Then when Ezra made no move to call their older friend he asked, "Aren't you gonna call him?"
"Once I finish what I'm doing," Ezra told him.
The shook his head and got to his feet then grabbed his bag. "Well, I'm gonna take a shower," he said then headed for the bathroom. Leaving the door slightly open Vin grinned as he watched Ezra pull his phone out of his pocket and immediately call Josiah. After easing the door shut he turned on and adjusted the water then took his clothes off. Stepping into the shower Vin thought, it was a shame how Ezra felt the need to hide how he felt about Josiah. Hell, not just Josiah, but the rest of them as well.
The six of them had fought damned hard to get that stubborn Southerner to trust them and after three years it was just now starting to pay off. From the moment they met Vin had felt that there was something familiar about Ezra. And even though Ezra was just as distant with Vin as he was with the others he had always felt comfortable around the Southerner. Like he was with family.
Ezra waited until the bathroom door shut then reached for his phone. It rang only twice before Josiah picked up. "Finally!" he fussed. "I've been trying to get you most of the afternoon."
"Ezra, do you take me for a fool?" Josiah asked, but Ezra could hear the grin in his voice.
"Certainly . . . not," Ezra said with a laugh. "Seriously, Josiah I forgot. We landed, harassed the rental car assistant, drove directly to Jasper, and then got something to eat."
"Well, it's nice to hear that nothing out of the ordinary happened," the older man told him. "Have you found out anything yet?"
"No, not really. We did meet someone that knew Vin's mother and she gave us a name," he replied. "We're going to speak with her tomorrow. Apparently she was there the night we were born." Ezra looked up as Vin stepped out of the bathroom and suddenly grinned. "You know Josiah it isn't really my fault that I didn't call sooner," he went on to say.
"Oh really? Whose fault is it then?"
"Vin's. I asked him to remind me, but did he . . . nooo!"
"That's not true!"Vin shouted then walked over and snatched the phone away. "I told him to call ya, 'cause you'd be worried about him. Then Ezra said he wasn't afraid of ya . . ." he said with a laugh and dodged the pillow that Ezra threw at him.
Josiah laughed as listed to the two of them arguing and switched on the speaker phone. Him and the others were waiting for Chris to finish a phone call before going to get a bite to eat.
"I never said that!"
They laughed as they heard Vin say, "Yes, he did Josiah! He also, said he'd call you when he was damned good and ready and not a minute sooner."
"Give me that phone!" They heard a brief scuffle then a muttered, "Oh shit," as the phone was apparently dropped. "Now look what you did?" they heard Ezra fuss.
"Me? You're the one that threw it across the room."
"It better not be broken."
"Josiah? Are you there?"
"I'm hear," Josiah managed to say between laughs.
"It's just a phone," Vin told him.
"This phone cost more then . . . your jeep!"
"Well, hell Ezra that ain't saying much. I only paid fifty dollars for my jeep," they all laughed at what Vin said.
"Yeah, and it shows," Ezra returned. "I don't know why you don't get you something with doors on it!"
"It had doors!" Vin defended his ride. "It's not my fault they fell off."
"Oh, no, of course not!" the Southerner said in a mocking tone. "Doors are always just falling off. Happens all the time."
The others were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.
"Shut up! My jeep has character . . ."
"Character? Is that fancy new word for rust?"
"It's better than that tin can you drive around in . . ."
"My Jag has style . . ."
"Jeeps are real vehicles. That Jag of yours ain't much bigger than a toy."
"Well at least I don't have to jump start to get it going," Ezra countered. "AND it has doors!"
By now Chris had joined them and was laughing as well. "Are you two behaving yourselves?" he asked.
"Like always, Cowboy," Vin told him causing Chris to groan.
"Don't worry, Chris I'll keep Vin out of trouble," Ezra reassured him.
"Who's gonna keep you out of trouble?" Josiah asked.
"Me? I'll have you know I am perfectly capable of handling any given situation."
"So long as there are no spiders involved," he pointed. Ever since Vin discovered that Ezra was afraid of spiders he'd been teasing the man to no end.
"Kindly shut up, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said with a sigh. "Well, gentlemen I think we've entertained you enough for tonight. We'll call you if we find out anything."
"You guys be careful," Josiah told them. "Talk to ya soon. Night."
"We will. And goodnight to you as well." Josiah and the others listened to the dial tone for a few minutes then turned the speaker off and disconnected the call.
The next morning Vin dropped Ezra off at the hospital while he went to see Mrs. Frost. Pulling up in her driveway, he sighed when he saw no vehicle in the garage. Still Vin got out of the car just in case she didn't own one and when there was no answer at the door he decided to head back to see if Ezra was having any better luck.
Pulling into the parking lot at the hospital Vin saw Ezra waiting on him. "No luck either," he commented when his friend got in the car.
"No. The lady I need to speak with won't be in until after lunch," Ezra told him as he fastened his seatbelt.
"So what do we do now?" Vin asked as the pulled out on the highway.
The Southerner ran a hand through his hair and sighed then shook his head.
"Would . . . you come with me to the cemetery?" Vin asked.
"I'd be honored."
"Thanks," he whispered. "Let's go to the diner and see if Janice is there so we can get directions."
Janice was happy to give them directions and even gave them a general area where Vin's family was buried. Stepping out of the diner Vin noticed a florist shop across the street. He grabbed Ezra's arm once they were in the car then pointed toward the shop and said, "I want to get some flowers or something."
Ezra nodded in agreement.
Vin looked at Ezra in question when he stepped up behind him to pay for two large arrangements of his own.
"This will be from all of us. To show our respect for your loss," he said in a casual way.
The Texan simply nodded his head. Don't worry, Ezra, I won't tell anyone that you actually give a damn about someone, Vin silently vowed.
It didn't take them long to reach the cemetery and Vin parked the car next to another one under the only shade tree. They walked around in silence. "Ezra," Vin called with a horse voice, "I found them."
Ezra looked at the simple markers and noted that someone had been caring for them. Fresh flowers adorned the graves. The Southerner noticed that Vin was rapidly blinking his eyes and without a word handed him his handkerchief then turned away to give him some time alone.
"Excuse me," he heard a female voice call out. Turning he spotted a woman who looked to be in her mid to late fifties headed their way. "Can I help you?" she asked.
"No, ma'am, we found who we were looking for, but thank you," Ezra told her with a smile.
"Oh my!" she suddenly exclaimed causing both of them to rush to her side.
"Are you all right? Do you need to sit down?" Ezra asked as he reached for her. But when she backed away from them he stopped in his tracks. "We're not going to hurt you."
"Joey?" she whispered.
Ezra and Vin exchanged a look and wished that Nathan was there.
"I knew you'd show up one day. I just prayed I would still be alive when you did," she said with tears in her eyes. "You're those Tanner boys aren't you?"
"He is, but I'm a Standish," Ezra replied then watched as the lady paled. "Ezra Standish."
"Oh, my God," she whispered stepped closer and took a very confused and reluctant Ezra in her arms. "You poor baby," she said and patted him on the back then grabbed Vin and hugged him as well. After a moment she stepped back and said, "I'm sorry. I know you must think I'm crazy."
"Yes ma'am," the Southerner said without thinking.
"Ezra!" Vin said.
Ezra just shrugged.
"It's okay," the lady said with a laugh. "The two of you look just like your parents."
"Parents?" Vin repeated with a frown. "I'm sorry ma'am, but what are you talking about? Ezra and I ain't kin."
"Oh, yes you are. You're more than just kin," she told them. "My name's Sandra Frost. I was your mama's best friend."
"Vin's, but not mine. My ma . . . mother never lived in Jasper," Ezra told her.
Sandra sadly shook her head and went to pat him on the cheek, but he was ready for her this time moved out of her reach. "I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you're a Tanner. Not a Standish."
"I'm sorry ma'am, but I think you've been in the sun to long," the Southerner told her.
"I don't blame you for not believing me, but I can prove it."
"Then do it," Ezra said.
"Come with me," Sandra told them then headed for her car.
"Please tell me you think she's crazy," Ezra said to Vin once they were back in the car.
"I wish I could, but she seems sincere," Vin told him. "What do you think she meant when she said we were more than kin?"
"Who knows," he replied as they pulled up and parked behind Mrs. Frost's car. The two men exchanged a look before entering the house. Mrs. Frost pulled a large locked medal box out of a cabinet and sat it on her dinning table then motioned them over.
After opening it she handed each of them a picture of a young couple. "This is a picture of your parents," she said. The man was tall and lean with dark brown hair and jade green eyes. And the woman was about average height with soft chestnut colored hair and sky blue eyes. But what had both men catching their breath was the fact that Ezra looked exactly like the man in the picture.
Ezra looked up at Vin with wide shocked eyes and stammered, "I d..don't u..understand."
"You best sit down this gonna be a long story," Sandra told them. "There was a horrible wreck on the night you were born and there wasn't a doctor available to deliver you so a nurse had to. Her name was Molly Sanders. Now, the two women in the delivery room were first time mothers and had no idea what to expect. So Molly was run ragged trying to tend to the both of them. Vicky went into labor first and delivered two healthy baby boys . . . "
"Healthy? I thought my twin died," Vin said.
"So did we," Sandra said. "By that time Mrs. Standish went into labor as well and also had a baby boy," she told them then took a deep breath. "Something was wrong with one of the babies. It wasn't breathing and Molly wasn't able to save it. You have to understand that none of us knew that Vicky was pregnant with twins so it came as quite a shock when your parents were told that one of them hadn't survived." Sandra was crying by now and had to stop and gather her thoughts before continuing. "Your mama loved you so much. And she loved you even though she never met you," she told them both, but looked at Ezra. "Vincent . . ."
"Vin," they both replied.
"He's prefers to be called Vin," Ezra told her.
"Vin. Anyway, you were just two when Joey, your daddy, was thrown from his horse and broke his neck. Then three years later Vicky followed him. I would have have taken you in myself, but I was going through a bad time with my husband and just wasn't able to," Sandra explained.
"It's okay, ma'am I understand," Vin told her.
"What does this have to do with me?" the Southerner asked needing to get to the point.
She pulled a folder out of the medal box and removed a letter from it. "This is a letter written by Molly. She gave it to me five years ago. Please try to understand that she needed the money. She did what she thought was best at the time. He gave her fifty thousand dollars."
"Who?" Ezra asked.
"What did she need the money for?" Vin asked at the same time.
"Molly's husband ran out on her. Stuck her with a bunch of bills. She was working from dust to dawn trying to keep a roof over her kids' heads. Trying desperately to keep her family together," she told him. "I'm not saying what Molly did was right because it wasn't, but she did what she had to to keep her family together."
"She kept her family but destroyed another," the Southerner said. "So where's this Molly now?"
"She died two months after giving all this to me."
"Who gave her the money?"
Vin shot a look at Ezra saw that he'd lost all his color. "So you're saying that this Molly switched Jonathan with Ezra?" he wanted to know if he got it right. To which Sandra nodded her head, yes. "Ezra and I are . . . twins," he said and again she nodded her head then got to her feet and gave them some time alone. Looking over at his . . . brother Vin saw him struggling to come to grips with everything. "Ez, you okay?"
"N..no," he whispered. "God, Vin my whole life has been a lie. I mean, my mot . . . Maude would never win a Mother of the year award, but she was mine. Or so I thought. And my father . . ."
"I wish I knew what to tell you to make it better," Vin said and gave his shoulder a squeeze.
They sat is silence for a few minutes then Ezra shot to his feet and began to pace around the room. "Let me see if I have all this straight," he said. "Your moth . . . our moth . . . ," he sigh and started over. "Patrick Standish paid Molly fifty grand to steal a baby from Vicky and Joey Tanner. Is that the jest of it?"
"Yeah, but it sounds kind of cold when you put it like that," Vin told him.
"They stole me, Vin! No, wait . . . they paid for me!" Ezra said. "How else am I suppose to put it?"
"You know there could be a reasonable explanation," Vin went on to say even though he knew it wasn't true.
"Please, Vin this is Maude we're talking about. Believe me when I say she doesn't have a reasonable bone in her body," Ezra snapped.
"You boys okay?" Sandra asked as she stepped back into the room.
Vin shrugged his shoulder and Ezra stood at the window. "Don't rightly know ma'am. It's a lot to take in," Vin told her.
"I know," she said and stepped closer to Ezra, who had turned to face them. "I cannot tell you how many times I've wondered what you looked like. The both of you," she said as she looked at Vin. "You were such a sweet little boy, so full of life. You were your mama's world after your daddy died," Sandra told him. "I don't know if you remember, but I had this old mama cat that . . ."
"Blossom," Vin suddenly said with a grin. "She was orange with white strips."
"You remember!" she said with a laugh. "Blossom didn't like anyone, but adored you. Followed you everywhere you went."
Ezra turned his back to them and looked out the window. He had no such memories like that. He had a few pleasant memories of his fath. . . . of Patrick Standish. But after he died there was nothing only a few scattered distorted images of Maude and the numerous places he'd been dumped. Ezra had often wondered why Maude never wanted him around and now he knew. He was never hers. Ezra had one thing to thank Maude for he realized, as he called on every trick she ever taught him as he felt tears sting his eyes. The tears dried before they ever had a chance to fall.
Vin silently swore he saw Ezra turn away. He knew what the other man was doing, but didn't know how to stop him. "Ezra . . ."
"I'm going head back to the motel," he said in a flat voice.
"I'll come with you . . ."
"No. I want to be alone."
Vin watched him leave and knew Ezra would not be there when he returned.
"Is he gonna be all right?"
"Yes, ma'am. Ezra's tough. This won't keep him down long." I hope, he silently added.
Ezra quickly packed his bag and left a note for Vin then . . . He sat on the side of the bed and remembered that Vin had the car. So just how was he going to get to the airport, he asked himself. Getting to his feet he walked over to the window and contemplated the option in front of him.
People traveled by them all the time. 'Standish's do not use public modes of transportation,' he suddenly heard his mother say. Stalking over to the bed Ezra snatched up his suitcase and muttered, "Well, Tanners' do." Walking out of the room he quickly purchased a ticket before he could change his mind. Handing the driver his ticket Ezra found him a seat in the middle of the bus and prayed no one sat next to him. He also, made a mental note to burn his clothes once he got back home.
Vin checked out the room clutching the box to his chest as he got into the car. He drove out to the cemetery for one last visit. Sitting next to his mother's grave he pulled a picture out his wallet and placed on the headstone. "This here's Ezra. His as stubborn as a hot day in July. Contrary as a snake. And about as easy to get next to as a cactus. He's also, a damned good man and a better friend," Vin told her with tears in his eyes. "The best thang is that now he's . . . my brother. I have a real blood brother to go with my other five adoptive ones," he said with pride. "Don't you worry about us mama, we're gonna be just fine," Vin stopped to sniffle then got to his feet. "Gotta go. I got a plane to catch. Bye mama," he said he headed for the car.
He returned the car and boarded the plane clutching the box to him. As soon as the plane touched down Vin got his luggage and got a cab home. He tossed his bag in his apartment then stuffed the box in a bag and snatched up his helmet, his keys, and then hopped on his bike and headed for Chris's. It was Sunday and he knew that that's where the others would be.
Without knocking Vin walked into Chris's house and right up to the table where the others sat. He tossed the bag in the middle then headed for the kitchen and grabbed a beer before sitting down next to Nathan.
"Vin?" Chris asked.
"Where's Ezra?" Josiah wanted to know.
"You guys are not going to believe this," Vin said then told them the whole thing.
"So . . . you and Ezra are twins," Buck said with a shake of his head. "You know that explains a lot."
"What ya mean by that?" Vin asked with a frown.
"Hell, Vin, you two sometimes mirror each other . . ."
"Am I? Come watch this," the mustached man said. "Do you remember that last summer when JD got that video camera for his birthday and just about drove us all mad with all the filming his was doing?" Buck saw the look on JD's face and quickly added, "No offense, JD."
Vin nodded his head.
"Well, we watched this tape earlier today and . . . anyway you'll see," Buck said then pushed the tape in and pushed play.
Vin watched as him and Ezra came on the screen. Neither of them said anything, but still they passed each other stuff without being asked. Buck fast forwarded the tape and he saw them sitting at Josiah's kitchen table. Vin sat at one end while Ezra sat at the other. They were drumming their fingers on the table in perfect unison. Just like they'd done at the office.
"So that don't prove nothing," Vin said.
"Yeah, well how do you explain how you each know when the other's hurt?"
"Where's Ezra now?" Josiah interrupted.
"I don't know. Looking for Maude I guess," he replied.
Ezra watched as Maude made a face at his appearance. He suppose he was a sight. He still wore the same clothes he had on when he left Jasper two days ago.
"Ezra what have I told you about appearances?" she said with disdain. "Dressed like this I'm ashamed to even know you."
He flinched at that, but didn't say anything. Ezra had it all worked out in his head. Had everything planned. Knew exactly what he was going to say. But now that the time had come, all thoughts flew from his mind and he found himself just wanting to know the truth. "Tell me about Jasper, Texas," he said with no emotion in his voice.
Maude paled, but that was the only outward display of her discomfort. "You're lucky you caught me. I'm about to depart for Paris," she told him totally ignoring what he said.
"Why can't you ever just tell me the truth? I deserve that much. Don't I?"
"Ezra," Maude said and then sighed. "I don't know anything about Jasper. I've only ever been there the one time."
Ezra nodded his head. "Okay. Then tell me about Molly Sanders." Maude stumbled back a step and seemed to aged right before his eyes. Ezra took a step closer and said, "Mother . . . Maude . . . if you ever cared for me then tell me what you know. Tell me the truth."
Maude closed her eyes and after a moment composed herself enough and finally said, "I had nothing to do with it. Patrick did it all on his own. Are you sure you want to hear this?" she asked him. "It isn't a very pleasant story."
"Just tell me," he whispered.
"I..I never wanted children. Not at all, but your father was adamant that we have at least one. So we did," she told him. "It wasn't until your father lay on his death bed that he told me what he'd done. He wanted a child so badly. It nearly killed him when our baby didn't . . . survive and . . . and desperate as he was he offered the Sanders woman some money to switch . . . our baby with one of twins that had been born on that same night," Maude said. "No matter what you think of me, your father loved you, Ezra. And I did . . . do as well in my own way. I'm sorry," she said. "I know I wasn't the perfect mother, but I did the best I could considering I was in a situation that I'd never wanted to be in, in the first place," she told him. "And I know I've never said it, but I am proud of you Ezra. I know Patrick would have been as well."
Ezra nodded his head and tried to think of something to say, but was at a loss for words. Maude had just confirmed what he'd always known to be true . . . that she never wanted him. Still unable to say anything Ezra walked up to her and took her in his arms and gave her a fierce hug then kissed her cheek. Stepping back, he said, "Goodbye Maude. Thank you."
He walked out of the room. Out of the hotel and stood on the sidewalk contemplating his next move. After hailing a cab Ezra headed for the airport. Standing in the middle of the airport, he still hadn't decided where or what he was going to do. Ezra had always known that Maude never really wanted him and while he knew his father . . . er . . . Patrick loved him they hadn't been very close, but how close can a grown man and a five year old be especially when the man was never around.
So what's changed? Ezra asked himself. Nothing really. You cannot really lose something you never really had. Okay, so I didn't lose anything, Ezra told himself. What have I gained? he questioned. Something he never dreamed he ever have . . . a brother. And not just any brother, but Vin. Vin who he had so much in common with. Vin who Ezra swore was able to read his mind. Vin who . . . was all ready his . . . friend.
Closing his eyes Ezra pushed everything from his mind and asked himself what he wanted to do. He staggered back a step as six faces flashed across his mind. Two in particular taunted him.
Josiah had seen something in him from the start. What Ezra didn't know, but he enjoyed the attention the older man gave him. Even though he would never admit it. Josiah has never wanted anything more from him than what Ezra wanted to give. Something Ezra found hard to believe at first.
Vin had seen something as well. Something beneath the surface that told him that Ezra was worthy of his most valued gift . . . friendship. And now, they were . . . brothers. Ezra supposed if he had to have a brother, then he was glad it was Vin.
Among the six of them Ezra had been given something he craved . . . acceptance.
Suddenly Ezra knew exactly what he wanted to do and he stepped up to the ticket counter and purchased a one way ticket home . . . to Denver.
Vin paced restlessly around his apartment. It had been three days since him and Ezra found out they were . . . brothers. Three days and still there was no word from Ezra. And after three days Vin was starting to worry because they all knew that there was no telling what Maude might say. Or how Ezra would react.
The sharpshooter had done a lot of thinking and realized that Buck was right. Him and Ezra did sometimes mirror each other. Hell, just the other day they were even speaking the same sentences. Vin guessed if he had to have a brother then he was glad it was Ezra.
Vin swore as he noticed the time and quickly grabbed his keys then headed for the door. He was suppose to be at Josiah's thirty minutes ago. It's a wonder someone hadn't called checking up on him, he thought to himself. Pulling out his phone Vin called Josiah to let him he was on his way. Fifteen minutes later he parked beside Chris's truck. Vin knocked on the door and waited for Josiah opened the door.
"Don't worry Vin, Ezra will be fine," was the first thing Josiah said to him.
"I know. I just wish he'd call."
"You know Vin in all the excitement I don't think we asked you how you felt about all this," Josiah said as they walked into the kitchen and joined the others.
"At first I didn't know what to think," Vin told them. "I mean I went from thinking I'd lost a brother I never knew existed to finding out that not only do I have a brother, but that brother was someone that . . . I had already considered . . . my brother," the usually quiet man tried to explain. "And Ezra's not just my brother he's . . . my twin." Vin sat down at the table and suddenly grinned. "Can't you just imagine the fun Ez and I coulda had growing up together? The shit we could have gotten into," he said with a laugh.
"What do you mean could have?" Chris asked him with a frown. "In the last three years Josiah and I have gotten the two of you out of some serious shit. What are you doing making up for lost time?"
Vin's grin grew and he shrugged. Noticing the frown on JD's face he asked, "What's wrong JD?"
"I was helping Casey study the other night and read that the first five years of a child's life is the most formative," JD saw that he had the others' attention and quickly continued. "Anyway I was wondering just how different Ezra might have been if the two of you had been together."
The grin fell off Vin's face and he frowned. "It would have been nice to have had someone with me at all those different foster homes," he said almost in a whisper.
"That probably wouldn't have happened," Nathan said. Then at the look on Vin's face he explained, "It's very difficult to keep siblings together in foster homes. Although, it might have been different with twins."
Vin suddenly got to his feet and walked over to the stove. Looking over at Josiah he grinned, "Chili and spaghetti?"
Josiah blushed and got to his feet. "I fixed it out of habit."
Vin reached out and squeezed the older man's arm and said, "I hope he shows up too."
Ezra sighed as he stepped into his townhouse and leaned against the closed door. Suddenly he felt very tired, but knew he couldn't rest now; the hardest part of his journey was just ahead. Pushing away from the door he headed for the bathroom to shower.
After showering, shaving, and changing his clothes, the dirty ones he threw in the trash, Ezra felt almost human again. It was amazing how good a little soap and water could make a person feel. Stepping out of the room he grabbed his keys and headed for his car. Twenty minutes later Ezra swore as he saw Nathan parked in his usual parking space. "A man is gone a few days and they take his parking space," he fussed as he parked behind Josiah. Getting out of the car he walk to the door, but paused before actually knocking on the door.
Suddenly catching a whiff something in the air had Ezra's stomach growling and he grinned as he realized that Josiah had not forgotten him. Raising his hand he knocked on the door and just as he was about to knock again the door opened at he grinned at Chris.
"Welcome home, Ezra," Chris said as he stepped back.
"Thanks Chris," he replied as he stepped into the house. Smelling the air he winked at Chris and said, "I see Josiah was expecting me."
Chris just laughed and slapped him on the back. "You'd better hurry before it's all gone." Stepping into the kitchen the black clad team leader said, "He followed me Josiah. Can we keep him?"
Josiah and the others jumped to their feet at seeing Ezra. "Ezra!" the older man cried and pulled the, for once, unresisting man into his arms for a tight embrace. "Are you all right?"
Instead of answering him Ezra pulled away and walked up to Vin, "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," he said with a nod of his head. "I'm fine. Or at least I will be."
"What'd Maude tell ya?"
"The truth for once," Ezra said with a shrug of his shoulders. "She said she didn't know anything about it until my father . . . Patrick was on his death bed," he told them as he fixed himself a steaming plate of spaghetti before joining them at the table.
"When'd you get back?"
"About an hour ago," he replied then sighed as he took a big bite of spaghetti.
"Are you okay with all of this now? You know us being brothers?"
"This is great spaghetti Josiah. I smelled it as soon as I reached the door," Ezra said then wiped his mouth before continuing. "I am as okay with it as I think I can be. It's going to take some time to get used to the idea, but for the most part I'm fine," he told him.
Josiah smiled as he watched Ezra finished off his food. "When's the last time you ate?"
Ezra frowned for a moment then replied, "Yesterday."
Later after they'd cleaned up the kitchen Josiah and the others sat at the table while the other two were still in the kitchen. They saw Vin watching Ezra and they exchanged a look then moved their chairs to one side of the table so that they wouldn't miss anything.
"All we need now is some popcorn," Buck said in a stage whisper causing the others to grin.
Ezra felt Vin watching him and he looked at him in question. "What?"
Vin shrugged and said with a grin, "You're my brother."
Ezra grinned in response and couldn't help but clarify that statement. "Your twin to be exact. Your . . . older twin."
"Older? Nah ah, I'm the oldest. ain't I Nathan?"
"Well . . ."
"Granted you look older, but I am clearly the more mature . . ."
"Mature? Are ya saying I'm immature?"
"No. That is not what I said."
"Then what did ya say?"
"That I am the oldest and am more mature than you."
"So I am immature."
"You said it not me," Ezra pointed out.
Vin flipped Ezra off and looked at Nathan. "Whose the oldest? Me or Ezra?"
"Ezra, by two minutes," Nathan quickly said.
"Ha! I told ya so!" the Southerner exclaimed.
"Just by two freaking damned minutes!" Vin told him then suddenly grinned and took a step closer and held out his hand. "I always wanted an older brother. Welcome home, Ez."
In a move totally unexpected Ezra slapped Vin's hand aside and quickly hugged him instead. "It's good to be home. Brother," he said and tightened his hold as he felt Vin return his embrace.
The others felt tears sting their eyes and suddenly found the table top very interesting. Each was thrilled that the two brothers were so accepting of the other. If any of them deserved to have some blood ties then it was Ezra and Vin.
They all laughed as Ezra suddenly pushed Vin away and said, "All right. All right, that's enough of that."
"It's nice to see that some things never change," Josiah said with a smile.