By LaraMee

Little Britches ATF Universe
Characters: Vin, Ezra and Chris
Birthday: Carole
Summary: Ezra hurt / Vin and Chris comfort
Note: The song, "Helping Hand" by Gemini, can be found here:

"Shit! Ezra!"

Two words the undercover agent cringed to hear called in that voice, and in that tone, especially together. With the look of a doomed man, he rose and walked like a man to the gallows. Reaching the door to Chris Larabee's office, he tapped softly, hoping it was soft enough not to be heard.


"You wished to see me?" He opted not to say, "You bellowed?"

"Yeah, I need a favor."

Well that was a surprise. Of all the things that had gone through his mind in the last four seconds, this was not one of them. "I'm at your service."

"Travis just called an emergency meeting at four. Since Buck and JD left for the weekend, I need someone to go out to the house, pick up Vin and bring him back to town. Gloria has to leave by four, Katie's in the school play tonight, so she can't stay or bring him into town."

Smiling now, hoping the relief didn't show too much, Standish said, "I'd be happy to escort my nephew back to town."

A look of relief spread over the blond's face. "Thanks. I promised him we'd go see Dog Hotel and have dinner in town this evening. He tried not to show it, but I know he's upset that he didn't get to go out of town, too." Since recognizing that the boys needed to develop as individuals, each adopted father had made it a point to take their son off for a special trip or outing without the other boy from time to time. Buck had taken JD for trip to Grand Junction after a friend had given him tickets to see the Peking Acrobats performance there. They were also planning to spend some time touring the Dinosaur attractions to make it a real adventure.

"Yes, young Vin still finds it troublesome to express anything negative, doesn't he?"

Heaving a sigh, Chris reached into his pocket as he said, "Yeah. Anyway, you can take my Ram; wouldn't want your Jag to bury itself in the snow out there."

Catching the car keys that his supervisor tossed them to him, Ezra said, "Well, I'm certain that you're only thinking of the safety of your son."

"You caught me." The blond smiled. "Thanks, Ezra."

"You're most welcome."


Vin Tanner sighed. He stared at the TV, watching Animal Planet. It was something he didn't watch often, and even more rarely when JD was around. Right now JD and Buck were on their way to Grand Junction for the weekend. He knew that 'special time' was good for him and JD; they got to spend time with their fathers. Sometimes they just went out to dinner and a movie, like he and his Dad would tonight. Other times, they had something really exciting to do, like JD and Buck were doing this weekend. He was still trying to figure out his feelings. He was glad that JD was getting to see the acrobats and the dinosaurs. JD had been really, really interested in dinosaurs for at least six months. But he liked them, too. He wouldn't even have to go see the acrobats; that could have been Buck and JD's special time. But he really, really wanted to see the dinosaurs!

"Vin?" Mrs. Potter's voice came from the kitchen. She had told him earlier that she was going to make peanut butter cookies special for his father and himself, so maybe she was going to let him help.

Trotting into the kitchen, Vin asked, "Yes, ma'am?"

Instead of asking him to help make cookies, Mrs. Potter held out the phone. Vin frowned, he hadn't even heard it ring. Taking the handset, he said, "Hello?"

"Hi, Cowboy."

"Hi, Dad!"

"Hey, we have a slight change of plans."

Trying not to sound as disappointed as he felt, Vin replied warily, "Oh?"

"Yeah, just a slight delay, nothing major. I have to go to an emergency meeting at four, so your Uncle Ezra's going to come pick you up and drive you back into town. Is that okay?"

Feeling his mood lift slightly, Vin said, "Sure! What time's he comin' to pick me up?"

"He's on his way there now." Chris had purposely waited until about the time Ezra would arrive, so his son wouldn't have too long to fret about the change of plans. "He should be coming up the drive in about fifteen minutes or so. Now, I've got to go to the meeting, but I should be out about the time the two of you get back here."

"Okay." Vin was making his way back through the house, carrying the cordless phone with him. Settling next to the picture window at the front of the house, he said, "Tell Mr. Travis I said hi, okay?"

With a chuckle, the blond said, "I will. See you in a little while, buddy."


Ezra smiled when he spotted a familiar face at the window as he pulled up near the ranch house. Cutting the engine, he unbuckled his seatbelt and exited the Ram's cab. By the time he reached the door, Vin had it open and was standing there, a big smile on his elfin, little face.

"Hi, Uncle Ezra!"

"Hello, nephew. How are you this afternoon?" Standish tipped an imaginary hat, knocked the snow off his boots, and entered the foyer.

"I'm fine. I've got all my stuff ready, but we ain't s'posed to put on our good clothes 'til we're 'bout ready to leave. I think that's mostly for JD, though, 'cause he always finds somethin' to get into. Last week - "

"Vin, sorry to interrupt," Gloria prompted from the doorway, "but you need to go get ready. Go to the bathroom, changed your clothes... even your underwear... brush your teeth and your hair, and use the bathroom, all right? You can share your story about JD while you and your uncle are driving back into town."

Smiling, Tanner said, "okay! I'll be right back, Uncle Ezra."

A few moments later, the two of them were on their way back down the long drive. It had been snowing lightly all afternoon, but now it was coming down harder. Ezra was very glad that Chris had loaned him the Ram. The big truck, with its four wheel drive, was a much better mode of transportation than his little sports car.

"Boy, it's snowin' a lot," Vin said from the back seat.


"Is it snowin' in Grand Junction?"

"I'm not certain. Shall I find a station on the radio that might tell us?"

"Nah. I was just wonderin' if Buck and JD are gettin' snow."

Not missing the faint tone of regret in Vin's voice, Standish said, "You know, Vin, I'm certain that you and your father are going to have a wonderful time tonight. Have you decided what restaurant you're going to?"

"It's gonna be fun. David even liked Dog Hotel, Miz Potter said, and he's 'most a grown up. I told Dad he could choose the rest'rant this time. I don't think he liked goin' to McDonalds too much. That's where we went last time. Are you goin' with us, Uncle Ezra?"

"Alas, no. I had already made other arrangements for this evening. I appreciate the offer, though."


The cab grew quiet, as he knew it would. Unlike his other nephew, this one had not trouble being quiet. He did turn on the stereo, leaving it on the station it had been on earlier. He was glad, too, that unlike Buck, Chris tended to listen to classical and light jazz while driving.

As they continued on along the little side road that would, eventually, take them to the highway, Ezra felt his tension rise. The snow was coming down with growing alacrity. He eased off the accelerator and let the truck slow down. The weather reports had called for more snow, but there had been no mention of a white out condition. However, meteorology wasn't a perfect science.

"I don't 'member the last time the snow was this bad." The words were delivered in a small voice from the backseat of the cab.

"It only looks bad because we're driving into it. I assure you, everything is all right."

"But you ain't drivin' as fast now, and it's still hard to see."

"We're going to be fine, Vin." Ezra turned to shower the child with an encouraging smile. As he turned, however, the smile was jerked from his face, as he found himself looking directly at another truck which seemed to be out of control. "Hold on!"

Time seemed to stop, and then proceed in a series of still shots. The other truck. The mountain beyond the road. The drop off. Nothing but road. Snow, falling. The mountain. The drop off. Around and around they spun.


Then clarity. He was outside himself; outside the fear. "God." He began to pray silently. "Do not harm this child. He's been through so much. His father has been through so much. Do not separate them. For, if you do, I fear that neither will survive. If you must, do whatever damage you choose, to me. But spare this child."

And then... silence.


Someone was crying.

The world seemed to be askew.

It was very, very cold.

Who was crying?

There seemed to be something wrong.

"Uncle... Uncle E-Ezra?"

"Vin?" His voice seemed very small.

"Uncle Ezra! A-are you... are you okay?"

"I believe... AHHHH!" Pain seemed to rip through him. He tried to pinpoint the point of origin, but his entire body was a single quivering, pulsing nerve ending. "Oh, GOD!"

"Unca EZRA!!" Vin screamed, panic stricken to hear his uncle cry out so. "What's wrong!?" Trapped in the backseat, he struggled to get lose so he could go to his uncle.

"Oh, God! Vin? What is it?" He lifted his head from the hard, cold surface it lay on as he attempted to find the child.

"What's wrong, Unca Ezra? Why'd you scream?"

"Are you all right?"

"No! What's wrong, Unca Ezra? What's wrong!?"

His head, too heavy to hold up, dropped back to that hard, cold surface. "I... my... I'm sorry, Vin... I'm not certain what's wrong. I hurt so... much... are... are you all right?"

Shrugging off the soreness, the bleeding lip and nose and the feeling of something heavy on his chest, the child said, "I'm okay. What hurts, Unca Ezra?"

"I'm... not certain. It would seem... my body... h-hurts all... all over."

"What can I do?" Vin was struggling to open the straps that were holding him in the booster seat.

Hearing the little boy grunting and whimpering, Standish said, "Vin! Please... what's... wrong?"

"I'm st-stuck."

"Stuck?" He found himself struggling to breathe, but the fear of something happening to his precious nephew gave him enough strength to push himself up. Raising himself up as far as he could, pain once more tore through his body. The world, already twisted at a strange angle, began to spin faster and faster. Then his vision grayed, grew blurry, and finally went dark. Oblivious to everything around him, Ezra fell back, unconscious.

"Uncle Ezra?" Vin called out. Then, his voice shrill with fear, he cried out, "Uncle Ezra! Wake up!"


Chris frowned, stretching to look out the window across the room. He sat in the executive meeting room with Orin Travis and the other SAC's of the local ATF. They were listening to the droning voice of David Marsteller, the director of training. Rather than the meeting being about an urgent matter, it seemed that David had failed to realize that the Supervising Agents hadn't been given information about the latest updates to the Bureau's computer program used to formulate the endless reports that seemed to be important... to someone... somewhere. All he knew was that he was about three seconds away from reaching across the conference table to throttle the pasty faced computer jockey. And, judging from Travis' expression, he wouldn't be stopped or reprimanded.

"... I want to thank you for your time, gentlemen. I realize that it's Friday afternoon and the last thing you want to do is to listen to me ramble on. However, research..."

He envisioned his hands closing around Marsteller's throat.

"... so I'm certain you understand why it was necessary to call this meeting."

"Thank you, Dave. I'm sure we'll make use of the information you've give us today. Not to mention how valuable the forty-five page report you've supplied us with will be."

Chris wasn't certain if he was the only one that picked up on the note of sarcasm in the Area Director's voice. He barely disguised his laughter as a cough. When he recovered, he said, "I agree, David. I'm sure my men will be grateful to get all of this information." He forced himself not to look in Travis' direction as the older man barked a cough now.

The meeting was quickly dismissed and Chris Larabee was the first one to hit the door. He managed to keep himself to a quick, but dignified, walk as he headed for the stairway. It was only two floors up, and at this time of evening, it would be quicker to take the stairs than wait for the elevator.

Reaching the suite a few seconds later, he entered, only to find no sign of either his son, or Ezra. "Aren't they back yet?"

"Who, Boss?" Josiah asked.

"Ezra was supposed to bring Vin into town for me, but they should have been here..." he glanced at his watch, "at least fifteen minutes ago."

"It has been snowing, maybe the jag got stuck?" Nathan chimed in.

"No, he took the Ram."

"Well, maybe the roads were worse than in here. You know that they don't clean off the roads where you're at until the main roads are cleared." Josiah suggested.

"Maybe." He wasn't convinced. Pulling his cell out of his pocket, he flipped it open and speed dialed Ezra's phone.


"UNCLE EZRA!!!" Vin continued to call out. Finally he managed to get the buckles loose and yanked the straps away from his chest and hips, whimpering as bruised flesh protested his movements. Due to the truck's odd angle, he found himself holding onto the headrest atop the driver's side seat. "Uncle Ezra!"

The faint sound of a ringing cell phone caught his ear. As quickly as he could, he pulled himself over the front seat, yelping when he found himself slipping on something wet. His blue eyes widened and he cried out again as he realized that it was blood. Uncle Ezra was bleeding!

"Uncle Ezra! Please, wake up!" Even as he was calling to the unconscious man, he was reaching into the pockets of first Ezra's coat, and then his slacks, trying to ignore the growing blood stain creeping across the right leg. Uncle Ezra, where's your phone?"

Finally he found it, pulling the little device out of an inner pocket in his coat. Just as he opened it up, it stopped ringing. "NO!"

"V... Vin?"

"Uncle Ezra!" Relief was rich in the child's voice. "Are you awake?"

"Wh-what hap... what happen... happened?" Green eyes fluttered and closed.

"Uncle Ezra! Please wake up!" Just then the phone rang again. As quickly as he could, he opened it up. "Hello?"


"Dad?" He couldn't help it, he began to cry.

"Vin? What's the matter, Cowboy?"

"We... we wrecked and Uncle Ezra's bleedin', and I don't know what to do, he won't wake up, Dad, I'm scared!"

"Vin, Vin, it's all right. Buddy, tell me where you are." Unbeknownst to his son, at the other end of the line, Chris Larabee slumped onto a chair. The hand that held the cell phone trembled, and he was holding it so tightly that his knuckles bled white. "Where are you, Vin?"

"I'm... we're in the truck." He couldn't think, it was too hard. He just wanted his dad to come get him and take him home. "I wanna go home, Dad. Please come get me."

Recognizing that his son sounded shocky, Chris said, "I will, Cowboy, but you have to tell me where you are."

"I... we're on the road. The road that's between our road and the big road."

"Josiah," Chris alerted the other man. "I need you to call county and have them search the two mile stretch between the ranch and 121. Tell them to look for my Ram."

"Will do." Sanchez was already punching buttons.

"Vin? Are you all right?"

"I got a b-bloody nose and my belly hurts."

"How bad does it hurt? Remember the one to ten game? Does it hurt a one or a ten or in between?"

There was a long pause, only the sound of labored breathing on the phone then, after what seemed like forever, there was a soft, "a... a three I think."

"Okay, that's good. Now, has Uncle Ezra been awake at all?"

"For a minute I think, not very long."

"That's okay, Cowboy -"

"Dad, Uncle Ezra's bleedin' so... so much!"

"Okay, okay. Calm down. Can you tell where he's bleeding from?"

"I think... maybe his leg?"

"Okay, I need you to be sure. Are there any tears in his pants?"

"I... um... yeah."

"Is there anything poking out of it? Glass or metal or anything?"


"Okay. Vin, I need you to find something that you can make a pad out of. Uh... your scarf, maybe. Do you have your scarf on?"

"Noooo." The child cried.

Realizing that his son was on the ragged edge, Chris told his men, "Come on, we need to go."

Nodding, Nathan said, "We'll take mine."

As the three men hurried out the door, Larabee tried to think of something that Vin could get his hands on. "Vin! Listen to me, buddy. It's all right. I need you to check and see if Uncle Ezra has a handkerchief in his pocket."

For several moments there was only the sound of the little boy sniffling and a faint rustling. Then, "YEAH! He's got a han'kerchief."

"Good, I need you to fold it up and press it against the place on Uncle Ezra's leg where it's bleeding."

"But, it'll hurt him!"

"Listen, Vin... listen. It might hurt him but, if he's bleeding, we need to make it stop. So I need you to put the handkerchief on the cut and then I need you to press down on it as much as you can."

"But, Dad!"

"Vin, listen," Chris said softly, with a calm he didn't feel, "I know you're scared, Cowboy, but I need you to do it. It's just until help comes, okay? Can you do this for me, and for your Uncle Ezra?"

"I... I... yeah... I can do it... Dad?" Another loud sniffle and a choked sob finished what the child couldn't convey in words.

Seated in the passenger seat of Nathan's Envoy now, Chris was trembling, fear eating at him unlike anything he had felt since long before the child on the other end of the call had entered his life. Holding the phone tight to his ear, Chris said, "You can do it, Cowboy. It's going to be fine. We're on our way now, and the emergency crews are going to be looking for you, too, so it's not going to be too long. I need you to be very, very strong right now. Lay the phone down - "

"NO! DAD!"

"Listen, Vin," He called out loud enough to get the boy's attention, "Lay the phone down where you can still hear me. I need you to press down on the cut on his leg with both hands, all right?"

"I... I... okay... okay, Dad." The sound of movement and then, much fainter, "I'm doin' it, Dad."

"Good! Good boy!" He pitched his voice as loud as possible, praying that the frightened child at the other end could hear him.

"Dad?" came the faint call.

"Yeah, Buddy?"

"Please hurry."

"We are, Cowboy. We've got the lights and sirens on so we can come as fast as possible."

"I wish we was home, Dad."

"We will be, Buddy, soon. Hey, do you remember the song Mr. B. taught you last week?"


"No? The one about helping hands?"

"Hands? Oh! Yeah."

"Can you help me sing it?"


"Sure, why not now? Here, I'll start." Fighting to keep his voice from breaking, Chris began singing the children's song that, until now, he'd only considered annoying, because Vin and JD had sung it over and over again since learning all of the words.

Reach down, a little deeper.
Reach up, a little higher.
Reach out a little wider.
And give someone a helping hand -
Let's work together now.

Chris could see Nathan out of the corner of his eye. Catching the man's attention, he mouthed, "how long?"

Realizing that Larabee was far more frightened than he was letting on, if he wasn't even certain of where they were, Jackson replied, "another ten minutes."

Eyes closing as he pinched the bridge of his nose, Chris began the next verse.

Give someone a helping hand.
Are your hands ready? Yes, yes.
Are your fingers ready? Yes, yes.
Are your arms ready? Yes, yes.
Well, then give someone a helping hand -
Let's work together now.

On the other end of the line, Vin could hear the faint sounds of sirens. "DAD!"

"Right here, Buddy."

"I hear the sirens. They're comin'!"

"Thank God," Chris breathed. Behind him he heard Josiah echo the sentiment. "Okay, Pard, now don't let go of the bandage."

"But, Dad!"

"Listen, now. You have to keep that pressure on his leg until the rescue workers get to you. Understand?"

"Ye... yes..." The little boy's tone of voice spoke volumes. He very much wanted to crawl back over the seat and hide in the backseat. He wanted to be very, very far away. Instead, he continued to press down on the handkerchief, even though the blood was getting all over his hands.

"Okay, so you start singing this time, and I'll follow you." Whether Vin understood what his father was saying or not, the little boy began singing the Helping Hand song again.

"Chris," Nathan said quietly, getting his attention.

Larabee looked up to see flashing lights in the distance. "Vin? Vin?"

"Dad? The 'mergency peoples are here."

"Are they right there with you?"

"Um... yeah. You wanna talk to 'em?"

Smiling as he heard the relief in his son's voice, Larabee said, "yeah."

A moment later, after a rapid, faint conversation on the other end, a strange voice came on the phone. "Hello?"

"This is Chris Larabee, Vin's father."

"Vin?" A small voice spoke up, and the voice said, "Oh, okay. My name is Mike Cullen, sir, I'm an EMT."

"We should be there in a few minutes. How are they?"

"We're just assessing them now."

"Okay, put my son back to the phone, okay?"


"Hey, Cowboy, we're almost there, so we need to hang up -"


"Vin, listen. We need to so the EMTs can do their job. Me, Uncle Nathan and Uncle Josiah are going to be there in a minute, okay?"


Chris could hear the tremble in his boy's voice. "Okay, you hang up first." He stayed on the line until he heard the call disconnect. Still holding onto the cell, irrationally feeling that he and Vin were still connected, he said, "Hurry, Nathan."


Mike Cullen lay the phone beside the child, having held it long enough to complete the conversation with his father. He and his partner, Julie Welch, were surveying the scene. The truck had come to rest at an odd angle against a heavy snow bank. The driver's side of the cab seemed to have taken the brunt of the damage, the metal twisted and bent in such a way that the dashboard had pinned the man's leg beneath it. They could see by the amount of blood, which continued to seep, despite the fact that the little boy was pressing hard against the man's leg, that the wound was significant. They could also see that the child was exhausted.

"Hey, Vin?" When the child turned a tear streaked face toward him, Mike said, "How about you let me take over on your friend there?"

"Uncle Ezra."

With a compassionate smile, Mike repeated, "Uncle Ezra. I'll take care of Uncle Ezra's leg, and Julie will look you over, okay?"

Wary eyes looked from one of the emergency techs to the other. "O... okay." As he started to move, he felt dizzy, and everything looked funny.


The young woman realized immediately what was happening. As gently as she could, she moved the little boy from the truck, and positioned him so that he would vomit away from the accident.

Vin felt as if his insides were on fire, and trying to come out of his mouth. He threw up again and again, until there wasn't anything left. Crying now, he lay limply in the woman's arms.

"Sh, sh, it's okay sweetheart," Julie crooned softly. "Sh, it's all right."

"I want my Dad," Vin cried, tiredly.

"He's on his way, honey, it's okay."

"Julie? We've got a bleeder here."

Shifting the little boy in her arms, Julie went to the emergency kit and pulled out a pressure bandage. Ripping the packaging with her teeth, she handed it to her partner.

"Is... is Unca Ezra gonna be all... all right?" Vin sniffled against the woman's shoulder.

"We're gonna take good care of your Uncle, Buddy," Mike assured the child.

"Vin? VIN!"

Little Tanner jerked and raised his head. "DAD!"

Julie smiled, even though she grimaced as the child screamed in her ear. "Take it easy, Tiger," she gently admonished as he struggled to get out of her arms. "I need to look you over."

"NO! DAD!" Vin's voice was shrill with panic now, as the flight or fight instinct kicked in and his overtaxed emotions spilled out in an avalanche. "DAD!"

Speeding up, Chris was tearing through the thick blanket of snow much faster than he should have been able to. His parents' instincts had kicked into high gear, though, at the sound of his panicking child. "Vin! It's all right, Buddy!"

Reaching the EMT and his son, Chris reached out just in time, as Vin leapt from the woman's embrace into his. "Sh, sh... it's all right, Buddy. You're all right."

"Dad, I wanna go home!" Vin's words were muffled against his father's shoulder, his thin arms and legs wrapped tightly around the man, as well. "Dad, take me home!"

"Sh, sh, listen. We need to get you checked over - "


"Yes, we need to get you checked over to make certain that you're all right."

"I'm okay, I promise. Just take me home, Dad."

Rubbing his son's thin little back, Chris said, "I'll be with you as much as I can be, pard. If you have to stay at the hospital - "


"I'll stay in your room with you," he finished as if the child hadn't protested at all. "Dr. Two Feathers will come and see you, I'm sure."

With another, loud sniffle, Vin said, "Okay."

They waited together, while Julie and Mike worked on Ezra. Nathan was helping them, and Josiah went between helping the EMTs and helping Chris comfort Vin. They were finally able to release the southerner's leg, had him stabilized, and slid him out of the cab on a backboard. When Vin saw his uncle, pale and unconscious, his head held immobile, his tears flowed more heavily.

"Uncle Ezra!" He wailed.

"Vin, listen," Nathan said from where they were lifting the injured man onto the gurney, "I know he looks pretty bad right now, but he's gonna be fine."


Jackson knew that he should be entirely truthful with Vin but knew, also, that the child was far too fragile to hear statistics and vital signs right now. So, even at the risk of losing the boys' trust if something should happen, he said, "I promise."

They had Ezra loaded in the ambulance, and Julie stepped back to where father and son stood. "Vin, we need to look you over, too, buddy."

Feeling the child tighten his grip, Chris said, "Julie, Nathan is trained as an EMT. How about we follow you in so we can get Ezra cared for ASAP?"

"Um, well..." She wasn't thrilled with the idea, but they did need to get the unconscious man care as soon as they could. "All right, but let us know if he needs aid."


"All right," Her tone and expression said clearly that she was not all right with the situation, but the little boy did seem to be all right, and his father had the right to refuse treatment.

"Dad?" Vin felt so tired that he could sleep for a week, but he needed to understand what was going on. He raised his head and looked at his dad.

"It's all right, Buddy. You and I are going to ride with your uncles. We'll go to the hospital and get Dr. Two Feathers to look at you."

"Oh... okay." He dropped his head back down on the broad shoulder.


The trip seemed much longer than it was. Even running with lights and sirens, the two vehicles seemed to be driving through mud. Chris sat in the backseat, Vin swaddled in Nathan's emergency blanket and wrapped in his father's arms. The law enforcement officer in him knew that they should have the child in a seatbelt, but the father in him needed to feel Vin in his arms. On his part, Vin drifted in and out, but was oriented when Chris asked him questions.

Josiah had stayed behind at the scene, talking to the county sheriffs that were investigating the accident. They were half way to the hospital when the older man called to update them.

"What have you got, Josiah?"

"We found a second vehicle, hung up about halfway down the ravine. We can't get to it, but it doesn't look like anyone's alive down there."

"Damn." He didn't know if he was cursing for the loss of life, or the fact that, whoever it was, could have killed his son and his friend. "Okay, keep us updated."

"You've got it."

Disconnecting the phone, Larabee hugged Vin closer, laying his head on the mass of tangled, dark blond locks. Catching Nathan's gaze in the rearview mirror, he relayed Josiah's message.

"I think... that's who crashed us," Vin murmured.

"Really? What do you remember about the wreck?"

"We was talking, and Uncle Ezra looked at me. Then, all of a sudden, there was another car and we crashed together. Me and Uncle Ezra went spinnin' 'round and 'round."

Feeling the little body begin to tremble harder, Chris soothed him with a hug. "You're safe, now, Cowboy. Why don't you settle back and relax? We'll be at the hospital soon and both you and Uncle Ezra will get checked out."

"Okay," He agreed, snuggling back down in the blanket, secure in his father's arms.


Chris moved down the corridor toward the exam room where his son had been taken. He hadn't left Vin's side until Dr. Jake Two Feathers, the boys' pediatrician, had come into the room. Only then, and with Vin's permission, had he stepped outside to call Josiah. The team profiler had stayed with the deputies during their investigation, and caught a ride back into town with the tow truck driver that had come out for Larabee's truck. From there he caught a cab back to the government building to retrieve his Explorer. He let the SAC know that they were still working to retrieve the second vehicle from the ravine, but preliminary speculation was that the driver of the second vehicle had been at fault. There were signs that Ezra had braked, but nothing to indicate the other driver had. Josiah would keep on top of things and, in the meantime, he would be coming to the hospital, bringing them all something to eat as he did.

Pushing the door open to exam room 5, Larabee saw that Vin was being difficult. The little boy was curled up at one end of the exam bed, thin arms over his head. The medical staff had striped him down to his underwear, leaving him to look even more vulnerable. Turning to the doctor, he asked, "Problem?"

"A little misunderstanding, I'm afraid," Dr. Two Feathers said as way of explanation. "Vin's tired of being poked and prodded at, and he's certainly not interested in having an IV."

Turning to the bed, Chris reached out and ran his hand over the child's head. "Hey there, Cowboy. You know the doc won't do anything to hurt you more than he absolutely has to. Come on, now."

"I don't wanna," Vin protested.

"How about if you sit on my lap?" He didn't get a verbal answer, but the little boy relaxed. Lifting Vin into his arms, he perched on the narrow bed, settling the seven-year-old in his lap.

"We good, now?" Jake asked.

"Okay," Vin said, his voice still rich with frustration.

Moving slowly, as if approaching a wild creature, the doctor got the IV in place himself. The nurse stood nearby, trying to hide just how irritated she was at this unintentional slight. Chris wasn't interested in that, the only thing he was thinking about was his son, and his son's health.

"Okay, there we go," the doctor announced as he finished taping the IV in place. Gently he ran a hand through Vin's hair, and smiled as he watched the little, traumatized boy, surrender to the need for sleep. Turning his attention to the blond, he said, "This is the best thing for him right now. He does have a slight concussion, so we'll wake him every couple of hours to assess him, but I think that, other than that and a lot of bumps and bruises, he's fine. The x-rays didn't show any sign of worse injury, although the bruises on his shoulders and chest are going to be uncomfortable for the next several days. The pattern says they were done by the safety harness."

"Is he going to need to stay overnight?"

"I'd prefer it, just to make certain we didn't miss something."

"All right." He looked down at the sleeping child. "I'm staying with him."

With a chuckle, Jake said, "I wouldn't expect anything else. Look. We're going to have to clean him up," he motioned toward the little, blood-stained hands, "I'd rather he not wake up like that. We're going to need to finish assessing him, too. Why don't you go get a cup of coffee, and check in with the others? We'll page you when he's settled in his room."

Larabee was torn. He wanted to stay right there, holding the limp little body; comforting himself as well as his son. But he knew that he'd hinder more than help now that Vin was sleeping. Finally, "yeah, okay."


Ezra was enjoying the comfortable cloud that seemed to be buoying him up and supporting him along a wonderfully warm, decidedly serene journey. He wasn't certain where he was going or why, but none of that seemed to matter. Nothing at all seemed to matter. But suddenly; "VIN!"

"Take it easy Ezra, he's fine."

Struggling to open his eyes, he was frustrated to find that the world consisted of swirling colors and strange shapes that made his stomach protest. "Oh... my..."

Nathan turned the prone man slightly, holding the little basin so that he could vomit in it. "Now, let that be a lesson to you. Don't move so fast."

"Where... where is... Vin?" Standish panted.

"He's fine; the doctor's going to release him today."

"Doctor? What?"

Realizing that his friend was struggling with consciousness, Jackson said, "You're in the hospital, Ezra. You and Vin had an accident yesterday. Vin's okay, just a little bruised up. But he saved your life, Ezra. That little boy is something else..."


"Vin's going home today and you're going to be in here for a couple more days. You've got a pretty nasty gash in your thigh, and your ankle's broken. You lost a lot of blood, but not as much as you would have. Vin kept pressure on the wound until the paramedics got to the scene of the accident."

Dropping back to the bed, Standish tried to make sense of what he was being told. "Accident? Vin... he's all right?"

Smiling at the confused expression the prone man wore, Jackson said, "he's fine, Ezra, and you will be, too, in a few weeks. The doctor said that, baring complications, you'll be out of here by Wednesday. Look, why don't you just go on back to sleep? Everything's fine."

"Vin's all right?"

"He's fine."

"I'm... glad..." he allowed sleep to claim him once more.

A short time later the door opened and Nathan turned to see Chris entering, Vin on his hip. "You just missed him, he was awake."

"How'd he seem?" The blond asked.

"Confused, but nothing out of the ordinary considering the injuries and the medication."

"Is he gonna be okay?" Vin asked from where he was settled against his father.

"It's going to take a while, Vin, but the doctor expects him to make a full recovery. He broke his ankle, so he's going to have to be in a wheelchair. With the big cut he has on the same leg, the doctor doesn't want him to walk on it until it's healed up."

Turning to his father, Vin asked, "can he come stay with us?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way, Cowboy." Chris hugged his son, thinking of just how good it felt to hold the little boy. Silently he thanked whatever deity was listening that Ezra had taken such good care of his son, despite the accident.


"Chris, there is no reason for you to do this. I will be perfectly fine at home." Ezra argued. Although he was touched that his supervisor was offering to have him as a houseguest until he was, literally, back on his feet, he couldn't in good conscience agree.

As if he were reading his mind, Larabee said, "Look, Ezra, it's not really as magnanimous as it seems. Vin hasn't been sleeping well since the accident. We've been to see Dr. Lowry, and he feels that having you around while you heal could help him out."

"How so? Wouldn't I be more likely to be a reminder of that terrible incident?" Before Chris could speak, he continued. "And, wouldn't you feel better without a constant reminder of your poor choice for a chauffer?"

The blond's mouth opened and closed several times before he managed to say, "What?"

Pulling himself up higher in the bed, Standish said, "Chris, I failed you. I failed that beautiful child. I... I could have killed Vin. My God, I could have killed him!"

Sitting on the side of the bed, Chris reached out and placed a hand on each of the other man's shoulders. With a voice both stern and compassionate, he said, "You listen to me, Ezra Standish. You did not fail either me or Vin. As far as I'm concerned, you saved my son's life. The fact that he is here and home and safe is proof enough for me. Remember what we told you yesterday, the coroner's report says that the other driver had a heart attack. It was a stupid, horrible accident. If we had lost anyone... it would have been you."

Swallowing hard, the undercover man said, "But, Chris - "

"No buts. Am I or am I not the most stubborn man you have ever had to deal with?" That got the desired result; Ezra laughed, and laughed harder when he saw the mock angry expression his supervisor was wearing.

"Very well. I shall happily accept your offer."

"Good. Now, we'll be here tomorrow at five to take you home. Be prepared, JD hasn't stopped talking about that 'ack-row-bats' and 'dino-sours' since he and Buck got home."

"And this is different, how?" Ezra said with a sigh as he settled back on the bed. He managed to keep his smile in place until Chris left the room. Then he could let down the façade, and allow the tears to come.


"Come on, Viiiiii-iiiiiin!" JD whined. "Let's go build a snowman!"

"Not now, JD, I don't feel like it." The older boy was curled up on the couch, watching Cartoon Network.

"But it's really, really fun and you can 'cide where to build it!" The little brunet continued to tempt his brother.

"JD," Gloria Potter called from the kitchen, "you need to remember that Vin's got a lot of boo-boos and they hurt. He's not quite up to going out and playing right now. Why don't you go take the dogs for a run?"

Heaving a dramatic sigh, JD said, "Yes ma'am." Tossing a final, pleading look at his friend, he scuffed from the room.

Vin snuggled down under the afghan, barely paying any attention to the frenetic activity on the big screen TV. He had come home Saturday and this was Thursday. He had gone back to school yesterday, although the teachers knew that he couldn't do anything like gym or even go out to recess. That would be different next week, but it seemed like a long, long time away. But, this morning, when he had been getting dressed for school, the bruises looked even worse than they had yesterday. His Dad had assured him that bruises mostly looked worse before they looked better, though. When he went outside to get in the school bus, the cold made him cough. And then his chest would hurt until they were all the way to the highway. That made going outside sound not fun at all.

Besides, he just felt sad. He had gone to see Dr. Will on Monday, to talk about the accident. Dr. Will had helped him talk about his feelings but, even though he felt better, he still felt sad. Dr. Will told him that it would probably take a little while for him to stop feeling sad. So, his Dad had made another appointment for him for next week, and he might have to see Dr. Will more for a while. He and JD had been just going once a month since before Halloween.

"Vin! Vin!"

Vin frowned as JD came running in, covered with snow and hollering. "What?"

"Da and Chris are home!"

"Sheesh, JD, stop hollerin' so loud!"

Undaunted, the smaller boy said again, slightly softer, "Da and Chris are home!"


JD stared at the other boy in disbelief. Why wasn't Vin happy that their fathers were home?

"JD, honey, you go on out and greet your father and Chris. Don't get off the porch until the truck stops, though, don't forget."

"Yes, ma'am." JD couldn't be kept down for long; he not-quite-ran down the hallway.

Vin sat up and pushed the afghan off and climbed to his feet. He tried to make the covering neat on the back of the couch, but finally gave up when his chest started to hurt.

"VIN! Come see!" JD called out from the front of the house.

"Settle down, Little Bit." Buck reminded, his voice only slightly softer.

Vin moved into the hallway and started toward the front door. As he entered the front room, he stopped, a broad smile plastered over his little face. "Uncle Ezra!"

Returning the smile, the injured man said, "Hello, Vin!"

Vin hurried over to the wheelchair where his uncle sat. JD was sitting on Uncle Ezra's lap; there wasn't any room for him. His smile never wavering, though, he said, "You got out of the hospital!"

"Indeed I did."

Chris, standing behind the wheelchair, announced, "Uncle Ezra's going to stay with us until he's feeling better."

"YAY!" JD squealed, punching a little fist into the air.

More sedate, Vin asked, "Really?"

"Really." Placing a hand on Standish's shoulder, Chris said, "Now, I'm sure that Uncle Ezra is feeling pretty tired, so Buck and I are going to get him settled in bed. Why don't you two see if Mrs. Potter needs some help?"

Reluctant, twin voices, responded with, "okay."


He knew he shouldn't be in here, especially right now. It was the middle of the night, on a school night even. But he couldn't help himself. Vin padded quietly into the guest room, where his uncle was sleeping. He and JD had come in earlier, to say good night, but he wanted to see him again.


Jumping as the voice startled him, the little boy said, "I'm sorry, Uncle Ezra, I didn't mean to wake you up."

"That's quite all right, I assure you. Come in."

Tiptoeing closer to the bed, Vin began to feel uncomfortable. "I... you... you should go back to sleep."

"Nonsense, my young friend. I've been hoping to visit with you all evening."


"Really." Patting the mattress beside him, he motioned for the little boy to join him on the bed. "I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too, Uncle Ezra." Then, surprising himself and his uncle, the little boy began to cry.

"Vin, Vin, it's all right. Please don't cry." Standish somewhat awkwardly leaned forward and drew the child to him. "It's all right, Vin, you're all right."

"I... I was so scared. When I had to hold your han'kerchief on yer leg, I... I was sc-scared I was gonna hurt you. I didn't mean to hurt you... Un-Uncle Ezra!"

Ezra was shocked. He knew that they had been trapped in the truck for quite a while, and that his leg wound had bled, but the others hadn't filled him in on the particulars. And he was very upset at himself for not asking. "I'm so sorry, Vin. I didn't realize just how much you'd been put through. My goodness, what a brave, brave young man."

"But I was scared!" Vin protested.

Drawing the little boy into an embrace, Standish whispered softly, "All the more amazing, nephew. It's easy to do things when you feel brave. But, when you're frightened, it's far more difficult. I'm just sorry to put you through all of this, you brave, brave child. Thank you, Vin, for taking such good care of me!"

"Really? You mean it?"

"I never say anything I don't mean."

Vin smiled, the bad feelings getting smaller and smaller. Then he yawned very, very wide as sleep beckoned.

Feeling the tiny body begin to relax against him, Ezra lay back on the bed, bringing Vin with him. One handed he pulled the blankets up over them both as sleep called to him as well.

They were home.

The End
January 28, 2009

Next - Home Sweet Home by Angie