By: Angela B
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be.
Note #1 Thank you Chris for beta reading this for me on your spring break.
Note #2 Not big on Poker, so if I got some of it wrong...keep that in mind
Note #3 NASCAR I know more about….though to be truthful, I’m not as big of an Earnhadt fan as Buck probably would be…More of a Waltrip or Nemenchek(?) (fan…doesn’t mean I can spell name correct) person.
(Moved to Blackraptor January 2010)
Buck rose from his bed and headed for the kitchen. Starting the coffee maker, he walked down the hall to the end room where Ezra slept. Easing the door open, he wasn’t sure whether he should smile or frown at the huddled mass in the center of the bed. Crossing his arms across his chest, Buck leaned against the doorframe and stared at the covers that hid his son. The one-time ladies’ man couldn’t quite get his mind wrapped around that concept. He understood it had been at his insistence, bur the fact that they had allowed him to bring Ezra home with him was still a surprise. Over the weekend, he had kept expecting someone to show and say it was a mistake. The huddle shifted, making Buck freeze for a second. The huddle settled and a smile graced Buck’s smooth face. Years of laughing had left little lines around his sparkling blue eyes, only enhancing his features.
Going back into the kitchen and filling his coffee cup, he sat down at the table and began writing a to do list. Things needed to be bought for and done to the apartment, and specifically Ezra’s room, to make it more of a home. Buck had always kept a relatively clean house, it had a lived-in look, but it was always pretty clean; due to his mother’s influence. No matter what kind of placed they wound up living in, she had insisted they keep it clean. She had said many times, they might have lived in places that looked like pigpens, but that didn’t mean they had to live like them. Until three days ago, the apartment had just been another place to hang his hat and have friends over. Now it was a home, or at least it would be until he told the apartment manager he now had a child. He hoped that all the family apartments would be filled and they could continue living here. He didn’t want to pack up all this stuff just to move around to the other side of this complex.
Buck was still writing when a small figure entered the kitchen rubbing his eyes. Buck laid down is pen and watched Ezra struggle to get both eyes to remain open. The little boy in blue pajamas with trains on it staggered over to the tall man. “Can I have some coffee please, Mr. Buck,” Ezra asked, slurring his words.
Temporarily stunned, Buck stood there for a second before laughing. “How about some hot chocolate instead?” he replied, realizing at the same time that Ezra hadn’t stumbled over his name, like he had over the weekend.
“Okay,” Ezra quickly agreed. He wouldn’t admit it openly, but he liked hot chocolate better than coffee.
Fixing the boy’s cup, Buck sat down in the chair next to the youngster. Slowly he began rubbing the other’s small back, feeling every bone. Remembering the fading bruises, he kept his touch light. He noticed Ezra still flinched at the first moment of touch, but the quivering didn’t last as long as they had that first night. Not really sure how to broach the subject, Buck said softly, “Ezra.”
Instantly the small figure stilled, Buck could feel him stiffen at the name and the small muscles in his back tightened. The cop in him expected that Ezra knew what was coming and from the body language, Ezra was definitely not comfortable enough yet to talk about it. Changing directions, the guardian asked, “I was wondering what color you liked best?”
Caught off guard by the question, Ezra was at a temporary loss for words. “Huh?” he asked.
Buck had to smile at the confused look that crossed the cute little face. “I was asking what your favorite color is?” He restated.
Ezra looked at his guardian for a minute. This was only his third day with the man and he had never felt so confused by any adult as he did with Buck. He understood adults that were mean, or angry, he even understood indifference, but Buck was different. He talked to him like a person. Even more confusing was that the man treated him like a kid. Maude had never treated him like a kid and certainly not one whose opinion counted.
Buck waited for an answer and realized the child’s mind had slipped away to some other place. Watching the green-eyes become shadowed with confusion and then sadness, the big man decided it was time for a diversion. “Hey!” wincing a little when the little boy jerked back. Keeping a smile on his face, Buck said, “ How about some breakfast while you decide?”
“I don’t care for the breakfast meal. Thank you anyway,” Ezra replied.
Buck slumped backwards in his chair with his hand over his heart and a mock shocked face plastered on. “You don’t like breakfast?” he asked, with an equally shocked voice. Leaning forward, he continued his acting. “Boy, don’t you know breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” he asked with half-sincerity.
Getting out of his chair, Buck struck a muscle-man pose, sucking in his stomach and bulging his muscles out. “How do you think I got so big?”
Ezra couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he watched the grown man act silly. Walking over to Ezra, he easily lifted the little boy up into a standing position in his chair. “Let’s see what ya got?”
A raised eyebrow and easy smirk told Ezra that this was still part of some game the man was playing. Going along with the game, Ezra bent his arms, made a fist and flexed his little muscles. Buck gently squeezed the small arm muscles and looked quite impressed. “Wow, you’re definitely got the makings to be a wrestler,” Buck said seriously. The perfect little arched eyebrows furrowing together had Buck bursting into laughter. “Not your thing, huh?” Buck said laughingly, as he picked up the lightweight and swung him around, sitting him on the counter.
Ezra trying to look much older and indignant replied, “ I should say not.”
“Well in any case we’re still having breakfast,” Buck replied, as he took a package of pop-tarts from their wrapping and placed them in the toaster. When they popped up, Buck placed them on paper towels and handed the five-year-old, his. Ezra studied the new food. Buck watched the little boy, trying for a light teasing tone, he said in his mocked shocked voice, “Don’t tell me you have never had a raspberry pop-tart.”
Ezra raised his eyes to the big-hearted guy and the look just about killed the agent when the boy shook his head slowly. “Well eat up, boy. These here pop-tarts are the best thing for breakfast,” Buck said.
Ezra hesitantly took a nibble. Deciding they were pretty good, he quickly ate the rest of his pastry. Buck tore open another package and said, “I’m going to have another one. You want one?”
Ezra eyed the pop tart, and then looked at Buck’s expectant eyes. The small tip of his tongue darted out the side of the small mouth and Ezra eagerly nodded his head. “Yes, sir,” he said. Seeing a raised eyebrow, Ezra ducked his head slightly with a smile and said, “Yes, Mr. Buck.”
After breakfast Buck sent Ezra off to get dressed. The older man had explained the previous morning that the boy’s other clothes would be worn for dress up occasions and the new clothes were everyday clothes. When the boy didn’t come back, Buck clenched his eyes shut and remembered the tennis shoes, thinking this was the reason for the tardiness.
Going to the bedroom, Buck stopped and had to turn around immediately. Biting his lower lip, he fought the laughter building up inside of him. Turning back into the room, he watched the boy turning circles, like a dog chasing his tail. Ezra had put on the new overalls and was currently trying to grab the straps. Buck buried his grin and walked into the room. “Need some help there, pal?” he asked, as he kneeled down before Ezra. Buck quickly untangled the straps and snapped them into place. “Need help with your shoes?” he asked.
“No thank you,” Ezra replied as he slipped one on. With his tongue securely trapped between his lips, he began slowly tying his shoes. Concentrating very hard, color flushing his cheeks, he smiled inwardly at the praise and encouragement Buck gave for every step he tried and successfully accomplished. Ezra felt like he had performed some kind of miracle the way his guardian carried on when he finished tying his first shoe. After both shoes were tied, Buck high-fived him, another thing Ezra was learning since being in this new home.
“Okay pal, first thing we do is start cleaning out this mess I’ve made over the years,” Buck said.
Ezra glanced around the room. The room had been the catchall. There was exercise equipment, a computer stuck over in the corner, that hadn’t been used since it had first been hooked up; boxes overflowing with magazines on weapons and ATF material, envelopes, books and assorted stuff. One corner had been used for taking care of his guns. Buck had even acquired the equipment for making his own bullets. The closet had been used to store his extra clothes and his weapons lock box. Ezra looked up in consternation at Buck, who was scratching his head as he took inventory of all the stuff to be dealt with appropriately. About that time the doorbell rang. A look of relief covered Buck’s face as he grabbed Ezra’s hand. “First, we answer the doorbell,” Buck said cheerfully, hoping it might be part of the Calvary and not a salesman.
Buck opened the door and stood aside as JD bounded in. “Morning Buck. Morning Ez,” the agent said, ruffling the small brown head and laughing at the scowl it earned him.
“Hey, JD. Whatcha doing here?” Buck asked, wondering why he wasn’t at work.
“Figured I’d take the day off and come help ya clean out the storage bin you call a bedroom,” JD said, heading for the kitchen in search of breakfast.
Buck had no sooner shut the door and walked into the kitchen than the doorbell rang again. Ezra, still in the living room, gave no thought to going and answering it. Buck came out of the kitchen, figuring he knew who it might be. Stopping for a moment, he became slightly unhappy to see the five-year-old boy answering the door by himself. “Ezra,” he said a little sharply.
The little boy immediately recognized he had apparently done something wrong. Backing up against the wall, his eyes having grown wider as traces of fear lined his face, Ezra watched Buck come into the room. Buck, realizing he was the source of the fear, relaxed his posture and smiled. Stopping at the door, he greeted Josiah, who had been watching the scene from outside. “Hey Josiah!” Buck greeted the profiler cheerfully.
“Buck,” he answered back as he stepped into the apartment. Turning to the little boy backed up against the wall, he said, “Hey, Ez. How are you today?”
“I am well, Mr. Sanchez,” Ezra answered softly, unsure if he was in trouble with Buck or not.
“JD’s in the kitchen,” Buck announced.
“Great! I bought some boxes; they’re down in the suburban. I’ll get JD to help me bring them up,” Josiah said as he headed for the kitchen.
Buck waited until Josiah disappeared into the kitchen before kneeling down before the child. His gently placed his hands on the thin arms and said, “I’m not mad at you, but I don’t want you to ever open a door without me or a trusted adult being there with you, okay? It’s sometimes dangerous and I don’t want any harm to come to you.”
Ezra looked into the blue eyes for any hints of danger and found only sincerity. Slowly nodding his head, he replied. “Yes, sir.”
“Good and by the way it’s Buck, remember?” Buck stated. Standing up, there was a perfectly timed knock on the door. Cocking an eyebrow at Ezra, he asked, “Hmmm. Wonder which one that will be?” Ezra smiled and shrugged, but secretly hoped it was Vin and Chris. He liked the strange little boy who had played in the dirt so carefree yesterday.
“Why don’t you open the door, so we can find out?” Buck stated, stepping out of the way, so Ezra could open the door.
Ezra opened the door a crack and peered out, turning back, he said, “It’s Mr. Jackson.” Getting a nod from Buck, he opened the door all the way and greeted the man, “Good morning, Mr. Jackson.”
Nathan entered the dwelling and bent down to eye-level. “Good morning, Ezra. How are you?”
“I am well. Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Dunne are already here. They’re in the kitchen,” Ezra informed him.
Buck smiled at the thought of having such good friends. Placing his hands on the small shoulders beside him, he couldn’t help but wonder where Chris was or if he was even coming. He decided now would be as good as time as ever to go talk to the manager. If they were going to have to move, he might as well start packing while he had the help. Looking up as Josiah and JD come out of the kitchen, Buck asked if Ezra could stay with them for a while while he went to take care of business. Ezra looked a little unsure about staying alone with these men until JD stepped forward. “No problem, Buck. Ezra can help me start sorting out that mess you call a filing system.” Ezra almost spoke up to defend his guardian, even if Buck had used the same words, coming from JD they sounded more like an insult. He quickly thought against saying anything. Some adults liked for children to be seen and not heard. The four broke up into pairs, while Buck went to talk to the manager.
JD and Ezra went to the back room and began pulling the boxes out of the room and setting them on the dining table. Buck could use the table to sort through the keepable material and throw away the unnecessary stuff. Ezra worked without speaking, unless spoken to. Josiah and Nathan bought up the empty boxes and began packing the weapon’s equipment. They would find a better place for it later. Everyone was involved in an activity when the doorbell rang. Ezra looked hesitantly at the door, but didn’t move to answer it.
Josiah moved up behind the small boy and clapping a hand on the small back said, “Why don’t we go see who that is?”
The two walked to the door and Josiah lifted Ezra up to look through the peephole. Seeing a tall blond man standing on the other side, Ezra looked down at his holder. “It’s Mr. Larabee,” he announced.
Putting Ezra back down, Josiah nodded to the boy he could open the door. Turning the doorknob, Ezra sent up a silent hope, wishing Vin would be there, too, but remembering the boy probably had school. He reluctantly opened the door. Seeing his wish come true, he couldn’t keep the smile from his face. “Hi, Vin!” Ezra said.
Quickly remembering his manners, he addressed the adult. “Hello, Mr. Larabee. Welcome,” he said, stepping aside for the two to enter.
“Hey, Ezra,” both newcomers announced at the same time.
“Where’s the old man?” Chris asked and wondered at the small scowl this caused on the little face.
Josiah quickly informed the blond of the other’s whereabouts and then suggested where he could be used most helpfully.
Turning back to Ezra, Chris said, “Vin bought some videos and some games for ya’ll to play.”
Ignoring the blond, Ezra turned to Vin and said huffily, “Buck bought me some toys the other day, and we can play with them.”
Vin shrugged off the sudden anger and said, “Okay.”
Ezra seemed to straighten up a little taller and said, “I’ll go get them.”
Watching Ezra walk away, Chris turned to Josiah and asked, “What was that about.”
“I don’t know brother, but don’t feel bad JD’s received two of those looks,” Josiah said with a laugh.
“Vin have the day off?” Josiah asked, changing topics.
“No, but figured it wouldn’t hurt for him to miss one day. Besides figured he’d be company for Ezra while we cleaned,” Chris explained.
Chris and Josiah met Ezra coming back from the room they were headed towards. Since Buck was gone, the other men made the decision to move the gun and exercise equipment down to the younger agent’s apartment for the time being. The lock box was moved to Buck’s bathroom and put inside one of the cabinets that used to hold towels.
The clothes were boxed up and labeled. For now, it would have to do. With four men working on the room, it was pretty much cleaned out by the time Buck came back. Now all that had to be done was clean up the living/dining room where they had put all the boxed items.
The happy tune he was whistling and the smile on his face said it all, Buck and Ezra wouldn’t have to move. A relieved sigh washed over the rest of the guys. Going through the ordeal with Vin, they had all learned how much stability counted in the beginning in making a child feel better about their surroundings. Now that Buck was staying, the men redivided into groups, with most of them helping to move the stuff down to JD’s place.
Vin and Ezra had been using the action figures, with Vin taking the lead and doing most of the narrating. Ezra just followed along and took the small suggestions Vin offered. After a while the seven-year-old could tell the younger boy was getting frustrated and tired of the game. Putting down his toys, the Vin exclaimed, “Let’s play Wild Kingdom.”
This earned him not only a dubious, but confused look. Vin shook his head inwardly as the sad thought of how much this kid didn’t know about being a kid. Of course the memory of not knowing this game himself, until Uncle Buck showed him, never crossed his mind.
“It’s easy, watch,” Vin said as he grabbed the throw off the back of the couch and threw it over himself. Hunkering down on all fours, there was only a wiggling bundle of cover to be seen. Ezra backed up against the wall and watched the wiggling mass with furrowed brows. He wasn’t sure Buck would want his throw cover on the floor, much less be used in a game. Survival instincts told him to distance himself as far from trouble as possible.
Soon the covers were thrown off and Vin was on all fours tossing his head back and forth and neighing. Rearing up on his knees with his hands pawing the air, he began snorting and blowing air. Lowering back down to all fours, the “horse” came over to Ezra and shook his face at the younger one, the sounds of horse never ceasing. Ezra could only stare with widened eyes. All to quickly, before he could adjust, the horse was off to find other humans. Ezra watched in intense and morbid fascination as the horse pranced up to Josiah. Wondering what the older man would say or do to the other child, Ezra could feel himself getting nervous.
Josiah bent down and patted the mane and exclaimed, “Hello Horsy. How are you today?” The horse only neighed back before moving on to the next human, each one stopping what they were doing to give the horse a pat or back scratch. Ezra never realized when his two fingers slid into the edge of his mouth, worry, wonder and puzzlement all displayed on his young face. The green eyes widened when Buck came into the room. He wondered what would happen to the young boy when the older man found Vin playing with his cover. Buck bent down and patted Vin’s head then continued on, pretending not to watch the little boy backed up against the wall watching it all.
Vin returned to the living room and offered Ezra a chance to try. When Ezra shook his head, Vin merely shrugged and threw the cover over himself again and transformed into a monkey. This time when Vin approached him, Ezra reached up and pretended to scratch the monkey’s head, smiling when Vin began hopping up and down and making monkey noises. Vin changed animal three more times before coaxing Ezra to try it. Seeing the unsure face before covering up, Vin said, “How about a dog?” Vin figured it would be the easiest to portray.
Ezra’s ‘dog’ lasted until the first adult came into view, then disappeared, after that, the adults learned to stay back in the hallway and watch. The dog didn’t get very loud or playful, but by the fourth change, Vin had joined back in the game and the noise in the living room increased dramatically, especially since a dog and a cat appeared. The dog chasing the cat around the apartment began causing trouble as the men began having to watch where they walked.
The five men gathered back in the room as the cat and dog ran down the hallway, now apparently able to run just on their hind legs, chasing each other. Buck threw his arm around JD’s shoulders. “Kid, if you value my sanity-”
Before Buck could finish, JD completed the thought. “You want me to take the wild kingdom around to the playground?”
Chris came up next to the pair. “Not just Buck,” he said. Chris loved his son, but enough was enough.
JD laughed and went to round up the menagerie. Ezra was thinking quite seriously about balking at the idea of going somewhere with this relatively new adult. It had never bothered him before to go with a complete stranger, well it had, but he had never felt able to verse it. Buck saw the concern in the green eyes and walked over to his son. Taking off his watch, he said, “Look here. I’m going to set my watch for forty-five minutes. When the alarm goes off you and Vin tell JD here and he’ll know it’s time to come back for a lunch. Okay?”
Ezra nodded his head slowly and watched as Buck placed the watch in his overall pocket. Buck looked up into the hawk like green eyes and said conspiratorially, “Keep an eye on Vin, will ya? You know how wild horses are? They like to run and play.”
Ezra smiled back at the joke and nodded his head. Vin grabbed Ezra's hand and took off out the door JD had standing opened. Buck grinned at his friend, before saluting and saying, “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” JD playfully growled.
Stopping the boys at his door, JD stepped inside the door and returned immediately with a box of sand toys. Mindful of Ezra’s constant surveillance and judgments, like that of an earlier Vin, JD quickly explained, “I keep the toys, so when Vin comes over to visit, we have them to use.” Adding quickly, “You can come down any time and borrow them.”
Ezra merely nodded and thanked the agent quietly. Following the seven-year-old leader around the building, Ezra stopped for a second as he took note of the fairly good size playground. There was everything a regular playground had, just a little more crowded together. Ezra watched the other children as Vin took the box from JD, and then led them over to the sandbox.
JD settled himself under the same tree he always did, so Vin would know where to find him. For all of Vin’s act of assurance around the other little kid, he still had his moments of insecurity. JD, as well as the others, had noticed Vin’s sudden blossoming of leadership skills yesterday with the new boy. JD had to laugh inwardly, all it took was a captive audience and someone more scared than him, to have the young boy’s real personality come shining through.
JD watched the two young boys dig in the sandbox for a while, then move on to the swings. He watched as Vin got behind Ezra, who was unable to get his swing in motion, and push slowly. The swing taking the little boy to higher and higher limits until JD became uneasy with the height. Thinking he should get up and go stop the swinging in case the little boy fell out of the swing, the smile plastered on the face stopped him. The kid seemed to be enjoying the high swinging, so he let it be and watched closely. Tiring of the swings, the two brown haired boys ran off in search of something else to investigate. JD momentarily lost track of them, but quickly spotted them squatted down, digging in one of the many puddles left by the previous nights watering. JD watched them filing their sand pail wit what he guessed was sand and shrugged it off. They seemed to be studying something on the ground and whatever small insect they had found, it definitely had their undivided attention until the watch went off. JD had kept a close eye on his own watch and when the two boys came running towards him knew it was time to go.
The two boys stopped beside the standing man, Vin wearing a smile that would light up a mansion and Ezra wearing a look that was a mixture of mischief and uncertainty. Walking beside the two boys, he kept glancing down at his charges; he had the unmistaken feeling that something was up with the two boys. Leading the way up the stairs, JD suddenly noticed the boys had stopped and Vin seemed to be giving a reassuring pep talk to Ezra. JD waited until the boys caught up to him, then continued on to his apartment. Stopping at his door, intent to put the sand toys away, Vin piped up and asked, “Can we take them to Uncle Buck’s. We might get to go again this afternoon?”
JD saw no problem with that so he agreed. Opening the door, he was assaulted with the smell of hamburgers; one of the guys had gone and picked up lunch. Buck, seeing the boys had returned walked over to them and asked, “You boys have a good time?”
Twin mischief looks should have warned the law enforcer something was amiss, but he was just so glad Ezra looked like he had a good time, he ignored the warning signs. Looking down at the boys, he noticed Ezra’s shoelaces were untied. Later, Buck would look back on that moment and laugh whole-heartedly. Buck said, “Ezra, your shoe is untied.”
Without thinking, Ezra bent over to look at his shoe and removed the small hand that had been covering his front bib pocket. In that moment, a plague Buck would never forget began. Ezra, bending over, felt a movement in his front pocket to late to do anything about it. A frog jumped out of his makeshift prison. Buck jumped a mite at the sudden appearance of the creature. Looking at the frog hop away, Buck tried to scoop it up and missed. Ezra quickly dug his hand into a side pocket and pulled out another frog. Holding it out to his guardian, he stated, “Maybe, she’ll come if you hold her baby out to her?” Shadows of fear and concern flittered across the sculptured face.
Buck looked at the frog being held out to him and took it gingerly, knowing the chances of such a thing working went against all the odds. In the next second the frog he'd been holding was joining the one already loose. By now the others had gathered around and began laughing too much to be of any assistance. Chris finally said, "Vin, get down there and help Uncle Buck and Ezra catch the frogs," he said sternly, knowing his son was not entirely innocent in the crime.
"I can't," Vin said, still holding the pail with the shovel over it.
Chris looked at his son sternly, "Vin, now."
The seven-year-old sighed heavily and set the pail down making sure the shovel was over the top. No sooner had he done this and gone to help catch the other frogs, then Chris watched in fascinating horror as more green amphibians leaped and bounded out of their plastic prison. "Oh my!" Josiah exclaimed.
Buck turned around to see his apartment become a large zoo for the small animals. "JD!!" he ground out, looking accusingly at his friend. "This wasn't funny!"
JD stood there and sputtered. He knew the boys were acting a little particular, but he had no idea this was the reason. "I didn't know," he answered back as a frog jumped on his shoe.
"You were suppose to be watching them," Buck shot back. "Well, don't just stand there, get down here and help catch them!" he ordered.
Ezra heard the definite irritation in his guardian's voice and began shrinking inside. He knew he shouldn't have let Vin talk him into this. Vin had said frogs made great pets. He had foolishly let himself be persuaded by a seven-year-old, Mother would have been sorely disappointed in him if she knew how easily he had been persuaded to keep one as a pet. Of course gathering the others had been his idea, but then again he had his reasons and Vin had agreed.
The others had already begun chasing the hopping amphibians. Nathan found an empty box that could be sealed and used it to hold the caught escapees. Men scrambled for the small objects, while a little boy, holding one little frog, watched grown men grumble and laugh as they crawled around the place on their hands and knees, furiously trying to catch the elusive green animals. Sadness filled him as he realized his grave error in trying to be a `little boy' as Vin had called him.
After rescuing all the frogs, or what they hoped was all of them, Buck suggested they go set them free. The three adults trailed after the two boys and their fathers back to the spot where the frogs had been found to begin with. After their release Buck and Chris looked at each other, trying to keep the mirth from showing. Chris took the lead and looked down at his son. "Vin, what were you thinking? You know better." He said in a soft voice.
Vin hung his head; at the time it hadn't been such a bad idea. Ezra needed a pet. Pets were great; they needed you. He had told Ezra only one, but that had changed after Ezra's explanation.
Ezra looked from Chris to Vin and spoke up to take the responsibility. He was after all the one to blame and besides, after what just happened he was a goner anyway. No use letting Vin get in trouble when it had been his fault. "Mr. Larabee, you need to let me explain. It wasn't Vin's fault. He told me one was all I should take for a pet, but I couldn't do that."
Chris looked over to the little five-year-old, his eyes held so much more than any other little boy; sorrow, sadness, despair. It was almost too much for the tough agent. "How come you couldn't take just one, Ezra"" he asked, figuring there was more to this story than just a frog.
"Well, if I took just one, he would be so alone," biting his lip before completing his explanation. "He might think he had been bad and sent away if none of his family went too," Ezra said.
Chris and Buck had to look away. Feet shuffled as three grown men standing around the huddled group felt unsure of just what to say to that. The blond looked over to his son and read the loneliness on his face, as his son remembered a time he too had been without family. Hooking an arm around his son and pulling him in tight against his side and encircled the boy in his arms. Chris said softly, "You might be right, Ezra. He would be awful lonely."
Buck sucked up the tears that threatened to fall and looked at Ezra with such love in his eyes that the boy literally took a step back from the emotion aimed at him. Buck sighed and put on a warm smile and said cheerfully, "I bet if we went to a pet store, we could find a perfectly good pet to give a good home to."
"Really?" Ezra said, giving away more than he intended to with his enthusiasm.
"Really!" Buck answered back with a big grin. "Now, what do you say we go eat our lunch?" he asked. "I'm starving," he said with a gleam, taking the small boy up into his arms. Though the small arms still didn't encircle his neck, Ezra wasn't as stiff as he had been in the beginning and let his body meld into the large man's frame.
Lunch was as loud and raucous as it had been the previous day. This time Ezra was less bothered by the noise and entranced by the camaraderie. It was turning into a pretty good day. The four other men had not pressed Buck to hard about the things that worried them most about him taking in the boy. They didn’t want to overburden him with too many worries and make him feel unfit. Still JD couldn’t help but ask, “Have you thought about what you are going to do with Ezra on nights when we have to work late and the daycare center is closed?”
Buck had not gotten that far in his thinking. He had known he was going to have to go put on Ezra on the waiting list to get him into the daycare center that was part of the services for the employees at the Federal Building, but had yet to think about what he would do in those special circumstances when he would need a babysitter.
“Haven’t gotten that far,” Buck replied reluctantly.
“I could talk to Mrs. Potter for you,” Chris offered. “She’s already looking after Vin, maybe she wouldn’t mind adding one more.”
Ezra had been listening to the conversation and was becoming irritated at the subject. Finally hearing enough, he said indignantly, “I don’t need a babysitter. I’m not a child you know? I’m five, I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”
Buck hid his mirth and sadness at the statement and said, “Sorry Ez, but in my household five-year-old boys are not left by themselves. No matter how capable they think they are of taking care of themselves.”
Ezra huffed up and replied, “I’ve been left alone plenty of times and I’ve always managed.”
Taking the silence as a victory and not as a stunned audience, Ezra smiled to himself. He was sure the matter had been handled to his acceptance. Taking a bite of his hamburger, his subconsciously hoped that Buck would stick to his guns, about not being left alone. He hated the feeling of an empty house, but he couldn’t let this man know that. People didn’t like children who were afraid.
Buck chewed his food slowly, clamping down his anger and hate at the woman who had raised a child in thinking it was perfectly normal to be left alone. How could a mother do that? Mrs. Potter didn’t even let her thirteen-year-old daughter stay by herself for more than a couple of hours at a time, much less stay the night by herself. A parent was supposed to be more responsible than the child. The large man looked over at his young charge and declared silently that Ezra would never be left alone until he forty.
Buck swallowed his food and slowly stated, “We will find a caregiver and that’s that.”
Ezra looked up into the blue eyes and simply nodded his head. He knew he had lost the battle, but somehow it was a battle he was glad to lose. “Yes, sir,” he said. Seeing the raised eyebrow, he quickly added, “Buck.”
Cleaning up the kitchen, Nathan was wiping down the counter top when he turned to Josiah and said, “Well, there won’t be any germs around here. At least not until the next time Buck decides to cook.”
Josiah laughed at the inside joke. Not being home for a real meal yet, Ezra had not had given the privilege to experience one of Buck’s cooking ordeals. The man was a pretty descent cook, but the mess he created in making one of his famous dishes could set Julia Childs’ head spinning.
Ezra, still sitting at the table finishing his milk, glared at the two men. His little heart couldn’t take any more bad mouthing of the man who had delivered him from the evil empire of the foster care system. He had stewed all morning about the slanderous remarks made. Growing in proportions to a fertile mind. “Shut up! You’re mean!” Ezra cried out as he ran from the kitchen and straight into Buck.
“Whoa there, pard. What’s the matter?” Buck asked, looking down at the little boy whose jaw was working double time to control the anguish hidden not so well in those glimmering green eyes.
Looking up at Nathan and Josiah, who had followed the boy out of the kitchen, the two men shrugged in confusion. Buck looked back down on the boy with his small, shaking fists clenched tightly. Taking a wrist in his hand he began leading the child out of the room and towards his bedroom. Closing the door behind them, Buck led Ezra over to the bed and placed him on it. Kneeling down in front of the boy, Buck watched the small chin quivering and the short pants of breath and knew something had happened in the little one’s view.
“Wanna tell Buck what’s wrong?” he asked gently.
Ezra diverted his eyes from the face in front of him. It was too much, this man had a good heart, he deserved better friends than the ones out there in the other room. Ezra had expected to be sent back immediately this morning after the frog incident; instead, Buck had just said they would go to the pet store and get him an animal. This wonderful man with crystal blue eyes deserved so much better than what he was getting.
Buck used his hand to cup the chin gently and bring the focus back on himself. “Tell me what happened, Ezra,” he coaxed.
“They’re mean to you. You should have better friends than them,” Ezra said haltingly, trying his best to get his emotions back under control.
Buck stared at the little boy trying to control his emotions and knew that if the boy had continued on the path he had been on, that in a few years, Ezra would have had complete control over his emotions and nothing would shown. Luckily Ezra was still a little boy and his heart was still open enough to care, not a stone wall it could have become.
“What makes you think they’re mean to me?” Buck asked, slight wondering if this kid had picked up on something he hadn’t.
“Mr. Dunne said your place was a cluttered. Then, Mr. Larabee called you a stupid old man, while you were gone. He had Vin bring his toys over, like you weren’t smart enough to buy me any. And...and just now Mr. Jackson said your place had germs. You don’t have germs!” Ezra restated from his point of view. The wall of tears broke through and flowed down his cheeks.
Buck gathered the boy in his arms and had to smile. At five, Ezra was quite the defender of people. Buck could see it already. Running his hand in small circles over the shaking back, Buck crooned quietly, “Its alright, Ez. Everything is alright.”
Sitting the teary-eyed boy up so he could see his eyes, Buck tried to explain, “Those guys out there are the best friends a guy could ever need or want.” Seeing the doubt rising in the other, Buck held up his hand to stall any comments. “They say one thing, but they don’t mean any real harm. Its just how we joke around with one another,” Buck said.
Still seeing the troublesome look in those green eyes, Buck said, “For instance, I call JD, “Kid”. You know why?” Ezra shook his head. “Because it aggravates the heck out of him,” Buck explained with a mischievous smile. “Same reason we call Josiah, “gramps” or Chris, “dad” or Nathan; a “mother hen”. It’s just our way of teasing. We all know the others don’t mean any harm.”
“You’re still smart enough to keep a clean house and you bought me toys of my very own,” Ezra defended.
Buck smiled. The kid hated to lose an argument. “I bet the reason Vin bought his toys was because he didn’t want to show up empty handed. He just wanted to share. As for the mess and the germs, sometimes I do have a habit of coming in and throwing things down. And when I cook I love making a mess. It adds to the ambience,” Buck said, smiling wickedly and bouncing his eyebrows, causing Ezra to smile.
“Now what do you say we go take a look at that bedroom and see what it’s lacking?” Buck asked, as he helped Ezra off the bed.
“Do I have to apologize?” Ezra said in a pout, his bottom lip rolled out.
Buck contained his laugh and nodded. “Think it’d be right nice of ya and I bet you’ll be surprised how well it’s received.”
“Yes, sir,” Ezra said begrudgingly.
Walking out of the room, the two came face to face with the four adults and Vin. Heaving a heavy sigh, Ezra looked Nathan in the eye and said, “I apologize for my outburst. It seems to have been unwarranted.”
Nathan stood there looking at Ezra, trying to figure out how a five-year-old came to have such a strong vocabulary until Josiah cleared his throat and Nathan remembered he had been apologized to. “Thanks. That’s okay, Ezra,” he replied.
Being relieved of that nasty little duty, Ezra went over to where Vin was standing. The four men looked to Buck for an explanation. Buck shook his head ruefully and said, “It seems you think I live in an clutter,” he said looking at JD. Changing directions, he looked at Chris and continued, “You think I’m a stupid old man,” then looking at Nathan, “And apparently I have germs.”
Each man winced as they recalled their earlier comments and forgot how easily a young child could misconstrue them. Though they knew it didn’t bear any weight to their friendship, they all decided for the sake of one little boy, they too could apologize.
Ezra stood off to the side as each man clearly apologized for any comments they might have said in jest that might have caused hurt feelings. Ezra smiled to himself; maybe these adults weren’t so bad after all.
There were a few more things to do to the room before it was complete, but it at least resembled a bedroom. Buck figured with the right accessories it would make for a good room for a little green-eyed boy. Clapping his hands together Buck announced, “Anyone up for a shopping trip with me and Ez?”
The little boy rolled his eyes and mumbled, “It’s Ez-Ra.”
Hearing full well what his boy had said, Buck quirked an eyebrow and asked, “What’d you say, Ezra?”
Straightening up, Ezra put on his face of sheer innocence. “I didn’t say anything,” he replied.
“Hmmm,” Buck hummed. “Could have sworn you said, ‘My name is…Ez-RA!’” Buck hollered as he swooped up the little boy and spun him around.
Bouncing the boy in his arms, Buck asked, “Is that what you said?” Getting no reply, the larger man poised one hand out in front of the little tummy and said, “Talk or torture by tickle fingers. Your choice,” Buck said laughingly.
A smile cracked across the small stoic face and he gave in to the giggles. “Yes. I said my name is Ez-Ra. Two syllables, not that hard to say.”
Tossing Ezra up enough to turn him around, Buck pretended to try out the name, “Ez-Ra, Ez-Ra. Ezra. Nope, still like Ez better.”
Putting the boy down, the larger man asked, “So, we ready to go find some stuff for that new room of yours?”
Not wanting to be pushy or presumptuous, Ezra merely said, “If that is what you want to do.”
Buck would have been thrown for a loop if they hadn’t had the same problem with Vin. Children who had nothing or nobody tended to be less vocal about what they really wanted or needed for that matter. It always amazed Buck and the rest of the team how self-reliant Vin was when he first came to live with Chris. Now it seemed Ezra was going to be the same way. Make do with what they had and not rock the boat sementality.
Without a second thought Buck said, “Yep, that’s what I think we’ll do then.” Turning to the others, he asked, “Anybody else want to come?”
Nathan spoke first, “I signed up to make a couple of runs with the E.M.S. I still need to complete my ambulance hours to meet this year’s quota.”
Chris spoke up and said, “If JD goes along then Vin can go with ya’ll while me and Josiah will run this load out to the ranch.”
Chris had volunteered to take a few of the exercise machines and the gun equipment out to the ranch and store it until Buck knew what he wanted to do with for certain.
“That sounds like a good idea to me,” the youngest agent said, giving Vin a small punch in the arm.
“I can go with that plan, Brother,” Josiah added.
“Alright then, let’s do it!” Buck said as he gathered up his keys and ushered everyone out the door.
The men separated to their vehicles. JD took Vin with him and headed for his Jeep Wrangler. Placing Vin in the back, he made sure the boy buckled up before pulling out of parking lot and waiting for Buck to take the lead.
Buck helped Ezra up into the truck and secured him into the booster seat. Ezra was glad Vin had gone with JD; he didn’t want the older boy to know he had to ride in a baby-seat. It would have been hard to keep up the appearance of someone older if he were being watched strapped into a car seat.
The vehicles pulled out and headed their own direction. Buck headed back for the discount store. Although, he planned on going to other toy stores for other accessories, he wouldn’t be able to go exclusively with the higher priced stores. Once parked and removed from the truck the two joined up with JD and Vin and headed first to the bedding department.
Walking up and down the aisle, Ezra wasn’t sure what he wanted. There was so many to choose from. Of course there were those that were automatically eliminated. No matter what anyone thought he wasn’t going to get something that looked completely to kiddy. He was five, he was almost grown and grown-ups didn’t have childish caricatures on their bedding. He stood in the middle aisle and looked over each choice carefully, but the one that kept getting his attention was drawn to exactly what he was avoiding, something that looked too childish. Buck and JD stood back and watched the seriousness with which Ezra seemed to be taking this job. Both noticing the green eyes darting back to the bed-in-a bag that held the comforter that resembled a patchwork quilt and had trains, planes, cars and trucks on it.
Buck finally walked up beside the little boy and kneeled down, pointing to the exact bag of bedding that held Ezra’s attention, Buck said, “I like that one. It seems to be completely appropriate boy bedding. What do you think?”
Ezra turned to the seven-year-old to see what his opinion would be. Vin felt the intense stare of the other boy beside him. Turning to Ezra, Vin’s eyes met Buck’s, squatting on the other side of Ezra and without any prompting Vin nodded his head, “Yep, I like that one. Very cool, Ez.”
Ezra breathed a sigh of relief. The one he had picked seemed to have met with everyone’s approval. The next stop was the children’s furniture. Here the selection was a little slimmer and the choice for a chest drawers and shelving seemed easier to chose.
The next stop was the toy aisle once again. This time, Ezra wasn’t quite as terrified now he was just moderately afraid of picking the wrong thing. There was so much to chose from, Imaginext characters, Rescue Heroes, GI Joes, Power Rangers, the whole thing left Ezra with a tight knot in his stomach and a bundle of nerves. Ezra couldn’t help but look to Vin for guidance, the seven-year-old would know what the best kinds of toys to pick out were, and that would be fun and meet the grown-ups approval.
Vin knew exactly how the kid felt. When Chris had first bought him here to pick out toys he thought he was going to pass out from the stress. Luckily Chris had seemed to know just what little boys like to play with and had helped him find some neat things. Of course when Uncle Buck and Uncle JD had taken him to the toy store that had been an entirely different story. Those two grownups were like little kids. Vin looked over at the anxious face and figured Ezra wasn’t ready for that kind of pressure yet.
Vin reached for some Imaginext Castle Battle figures and turned to Buck. “These are pretty cool,” he stated.
Showing the different kinds to Ezra, the boy finally decided on the ‘Giant’ and the ‘Jousting Knight’. Buck picked up the ‘Brigade’ and said, “Can’t have a knight without his army.”
After the three moved on, JD picked out the Battle Castle and put it into his cart. The knight had to live somewhere. He caught up to them looking at the Matchbox cars. Ezra had moved off to the side while Buck and Vin were discussing the pros and cons of different cars. JD pushed the basket down the aisle a ways and hollered, “Hey, come look at these.”
Buck and Vin walked down the aisle to see what had caught JD’s attention and were just excited about the discovery. There were NASCAR and Matchbox racing cars. Ezra watched in interest as the three boys began arguing which one would be best. There were the regular cars, the cars with driver’s racing card and the platinum racing cars. Ezra couldn’t tell the difference and couldn’t imagine why it made such a difference which car was picked. Apparently it did though, because Vin was holding a Home Depot/ Peanuts sponsored car with a picture of guy named Tony Stewart on the card, JD was talking about a Kevin Hardwick guy and Buck was adamant about some guy named Ward Burton. Ezra hung back and let the guys figure it out; all of this was way beyond him.
After settling on a Tony Stewart and a Dale Jarret car, Buck grabbed one more saying it was ‘have to’ thing. Ezra looked at the name of the racer’s picture and read Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ezra merely grinned when Buck asked them if they were all right to him. If this was all it took to make Buck happy, he’d go along with it.
Pushing the cart, Buck said, “Only need one more thing, a toy box.”
Seeing this item also was limited and ruling out any ‘girlish’ styled box, Ezra picked out a simple wooden fake pine looking toy chest. Ezra looked at all the things piled in the two carts and began having second thoughts about his choices. Tugging at Buck’s shirt, the big man stopped and leaned down to listen Ezra whisper to him. “I don’t need all this stuff, Mr. Buck. Really I don’t.”
Buck looked at the boy in the eyes and simply said, “Yes you do,” before straightening up and heading for the checkout counter. Going back down a different furniture aisle, Buck suddenly stopped and smiled. There was the perfect little desk and chair set. It was a simple little wooden desk with a matching chair. Looking down at Ezra, he asked, “What do you think?”
The tongue darting out of the side of his mouth was the answer, before Ezra could nod once and say quietly, “I like it.”
JD and Buck wrestled the unassembled furniture onto the top of JD’s cart. The young agent shook his head at all the things that Buck was going to have to assemble. He couldn’t imagine anyone who was going to have more fun at it than his best friend. He had had concerns, still had a lot, about Buck taking on the role of fatherhood on the spur of the moment, but watching the one-time ladies’ man with the little boy, JD was sure Buck was going to be alright and if it changed their personal relationship as friends, well then he would just have to adjust because the look on his friend’s face said it all, Buck loved Ezra with all his heart and there was nothing he would do to interfere with this new family.
Buck opened the door to his apartment and let the others in. Buck had stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items to prepare for the guy’s supper. It was a way of thanking them for all their help. He was only sorry Nathan was going to miss it.
Buck and JD were busy preparing pan-fried steak with gravy and mash potatoes. He had suggested Vin and Ezra watch one of the new movies that they had picked up earlier. Buck still remembered that conversation. It was quite the eye-opener.
They had been standing in the checkout line looking at the videos on display there, when Vin had asked Ezra what his favorite Disney movie had been. Ezra had turned and simply said, “I’ve haven’t seen any of them. Mother says T.V. and movies are just capitalist ways of degrading one’s mind into nothingness, so they can control you.”
Buck and JD had just stood there trying to think of something to say when Vin shot back, “Dad lets me watch them sometimes, so they can’t be all that bad.”
In the end Vin had picked out his favorites for Ezra to take home and watch. Buck had no intentions of being the kind of parent who used T.V. as a babysitter so, he could do whatever he wanted without interruption, but at the same time he didn’t see any harm in a little imagination and entertainment.
The doorbell rang and Buck was glad to see that Ezra waited for him before going to the door and answering it. Chris and Josiah had finally made it back. Usually the guys didn’t bother knocking and waiting for the door to be answered, they knocked once and walked in, but with Ezra being new they didn’t want to startle him by having people walk in unannounced.
While Buck continued to fix supper and create the mess Nathan had complained about earlier, the three men headed into the sparse bedroom and started unloading the sacked and boxed purchases of the shopping trip. JD stripped and remade the bed while Chris and Josiah went to work on assembling some of the furniture. The toy chest and shelves were the first to be built, so they would have somewhere to put the toys, themselves.
Hearing Buck’s booming voice call from the kitchen that supper was fixed, Chris, JD and Josiah walked into the living room as Buck appeared from the kitchen carrying hot food to the small dining table. Chris easily spied the two children sitting on the carpet in front of the T.V playing cards. Walking over to the two he asked, “What are ya’ll playing?”
Vin looked up his father with pure childlike innocence and replied. “Ezra’s teaching me the finer points of poker. Did you know that there are many different variations of the game? There’s High-Low, No-Hold Texas, Omaha, and many more. He’s just teaching me the basics right now. Like a Full House beats two pairs and you never show your hold card. He also says one should never let the other players be able to read you and therefore remain impassive no matter what kind of hand you’re holding.”
Chris looked hard at Buck. His friend had a lot of explaining to do to a certain little green-eyed boy. Turning back to the two boys playing, the blond held out his hands to help each boy up. “Come on, Buck’s got supper on the table.”
Still sitting at the table after the meal had been ate the doorbell rang. Knowing all of the guy’s but Nathan were present and having a limited view of Buck’s world, the five-year-old popped up, “Perhaps that’s my mother.” After saying the words, Ezra thought about those words and wasn’t sure what he thought about that prospect.
Stunned silence filled the room. After the initial shock of the announcement, JD rose from his seat and quietly said, “I’ll go see who it is.”
Vin in the meantime had shot daggers at his dad and Buck. He knew the little guy’s mom was in jail and wondered if no one had bothered to tell Ezra. “Humm. Ezra, didn’t anyone tell you your mom went away for awhile.”
Ezra looked at Vin quite calmly and stated. “Yes, the people at that horrid establishment for children told me she had been arrested. But, Mother has been arrested before. She just tells the judge there was a simple mistake and that she’s innocent and the judge always lets her go. Then she comes to get me wherever I am and we move away before the judge changes his mind.”
Chris and Buck looked at each other and wondered what to do next. Chris was thinking he should do a little investigation into a certain woman’s past and see exactly how many times she had been an innocent bystander before. Buck was trying to figure out how to tell the little boy his mother wouldn’t be coming to collect him any time in the near future.
JD came back to the small group and said, “That was Cindy. She just wanted to know if you were going for a swim tonight. I told her no, you had family business to take care.”
Buck looked up at his friend with relief. “Thanks,” he said simply.
JD shrugged and sat back down gingerly. There seemed to be a fragile setting and he had no intention of being the one to break it.
Ezra turned to Buck and nailed the big man with his piercing green eyes and asked, "Do you think Maude will be coming soon? Because if she is, you could take all that stuff back and get your money returned.”
Buck swallowed hard and wanted the world to stop and go back five minutes. Looking at Chris, the blond took a cue and cleared his throat. Picking up his dishes, he motioned for Vin and JD to follow suit. “Sorry, Buck. I didn’t realize how late it was getting. It’s time I get Vin home and put to bed. Its’ back to school tomorrow.”
Vin groaned and Chris chuckled as he ruffled the boy’s hair. “Sorry, ruined a perfectly good day, didn’t I?” the blond said.
The two of them had a tough conversation ahead of him. Chris could really sympathize with the friend. He had had similar conversations with Vin over the last two years and no matter how hard he tried to toughen up, it seemed after tucking the boy into bed, he always wound up wanting to murder someone. At the very least cry for the pain his son had endured in just a short amount of time. Giving Buck a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder, he leaned over and whispered into Buck’s ear, “Call if you need anything.”
Buck nodded back and watched JD and Chris walk out the door. Vin stopped at the door and turned to Ezra, looking sad, he said, “See ya later, Ez.”
“Goodnight gentlemen. Vin. I shall see ya’ll at another time.” Ezra said, standing next to the tall black-haired man.
After shutting the door and locking it, Buck took a small hand in his and walked towards the living room. “Come here, kiddo,” he said gently.
Sitting down in his chair, he pulled Ezra up onto his lap. The two sat there for a piece of time enjoying the silence. Loosely wrapping his arms around the waist in front of him, Buck rested his head on the soft mass of brown hair. “Ezra?” Buck began quietly “I never asked you a very important question.”
“What?’ Ezra said, popping his head up so he could look into the blue eyes that held nothing from him, his voice tinge with concern.
Looking back into the green eyes, Buck said, “Well, I know I wanted you to come live with me and I still do, but I never stopped to ask you if you wanted to come,” Buck stopped, before saying, “That was selfish on my part and I’m sorry for just bringing you without asking you what you wanted. So even though it’s a couple days to late, I’m asking: Do you want to be here?”
Ezra stared hard into those blue eyes, trying to discern what the man was really saying. Was the man really giving him a choice or was this just Buck’s way of saying that he was going back to that awful, crowded, noisy place? Ezra bowed his head and began playing with the large watchband his Buck wore. The tongue slipped out the side of his mouth as he thought about whether to ask the question he had wanted to ask since the beginning, but had been afraid, to.
Without looking up, Ezra asked so quietly that Buck had to lean down to hear, “Is Mother really going to jail this time?”
Buck took a deep breath, he wouldn’t hide the truth from the child no matter how much pain it caused them both. “Yes, Ezra. This time she really is going to jail. She won’t be getting out for some time.’
“Oh,” the little boy said dejectedly. “Maude won’t like that,” Ezra said, the words meaning more than just that simple statement.
Buck waited for the tears or some kind of grieving emotion, but there was nothing but silence. After a long time, Ezra looked up, having almost buried his feelings. Mother had always said emotions were a weakness and could be used against you. Giving it his best shot at indifference, he said, “Am I right in thinking you are giving me a choice of where I live?”
Buck looked at the small boy, who had either learned or been taught not to show his feelings. The need to strangle someone became very strong. Working to hide his own emotions, so the boy wouldn’t get the wrong impression, Buck said straightforward, “That’s right, kiddo. It’s your decision. You want to stay, I’ll be right happy, but if you want to go back to the Children’s Home then that’s your right, too.”
Looking back down and still fingering the watchband, Ezra said, “Well…you and those gentlemen did go to a lot of work to turn it into a bedroom for me. It would be rather rude of me to waste that time and energy, so if you’re sure it’s alright with you, I think I might like stay.”
Tightening his wrap around the small boy, Buck pulled the small boy to him and covered almost the entire little body with his arms. He smiled with relief and happiness. He hadn’t realized how afraid he had been that the boy wouldn’t want to stay. He inhaled the smell of a dirty sweaty little boy and couldn’t imagine anything better. Taking up the remote in hand, he quickly found the song that had somehow become their lullaby, the two of them sitting in silence leaning on one another.
Buck quietly said, “Ezra…about teaching Vin to play poker…”
Ezra’s head popped back up. “You want me to teach you how to play? I can give you some good pointers,” he said in a helpful voice.
Buck closed his eyes for a moment, before using his hand to guided the little head back against his chest. “Never mind, Ez. Let’s just sit here.”
Wondering about the off little facts he had learned about the boy throughout the day. He silently sent up a prayer that he would be able to guide this child to lead a normal and healthy childhood. Resting his head on the small brown head, the two of them sat in silence reflecting on the events of the day. Both had learned quite a bit about the other. Buck had learned his little boy had some hidden talents and could easily be led into mischief. Ezra had learned the man that held him had an unknown amount of forgiveness and patience, he just wondered how much of each. It didn’t matter right now, he had survived one more day with this man and Buck had actually let him decide whether or no he wanted to stay. Knowing things never went the way he wanted hem too, Ezra didn’t voice it out loud, he barely acknowledged the thought, but he wanted to stay forever.
Next: Operation School