Nursing Insecurities by JK

"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Thanks to Barbretta Hayden for her vision of "Dreaming with Angels" and trolls and for allowing me to use them. The idea of a dollar penalty for cursing in front of the boys comes from "A Trolling We Will Go" co-written with my beta and friend, Kerry. Heather F. and I discovered that indeed "great minds think alike" as we wrote "Hey Joe" and "Nursing Insecurities" concurrently. Both stories feature hurt Ezra and angsty Vin and JD. What more could you want? J

With the abandon that was always prevalent on a Friday afternoon, Vin and JD ran all the way up the long driveway to the house after getting off the school bus. The two boys were thrilled that it was finally the weekend but that wasn’t what propelled them so fast up the gravel drive. Uncle Ezra was supposed to come home from the hospital today, and Chris and Buck had told the boys that morning at breakfast that Ezra was going to stay at the ranch until he felt better.

The clock in the foyer was just chiming three when the two breathless boys breezed in through the front door, scattering backpacks, jackets and lunch boxes as they went.

"Boys!" called Mrs. Potter.

Two boys froze at the door to the guestroom where Ezra would be staying.

"Pick up your things and put them away and close that front door." Gloria scolded as she shuffled them away from the door to the guestroom. "Remember what Chris and Buck said. You are not to bother Mr. Standish."

"Yes, ma'am," both boys mumbled as they trudged back into the front room. Vin picked up the coats and flung them up in the air, catching them on the arms of the coat tree, while JD scooped up his backpack and slammed the front door in his natural exuberance. Vin grabbed the lunch boxes with one hand and his backpack with the other, depositing the lunch kits in the kitchen before making his way to the room he shared with JD.

"Change into your play clothes, and come have a snack," said Gloria.

"Yes, Ma'am!" they called eagerly, hurrying their footsteps down the hall.


Clothes changed, snacks eaten, the boys headed out to do their chores before playing. Vin put the grain in the bucket and poured it into the feed boxes for the horses while JD raced back and forth with armloads of hay, leaving more hay on the ground than in the stalls.

Gloria watched out the kitchen window as the two boys emerged from the barn chasing after each other, smiling at the squeals of laughter when JD tackled Vin and began to tickle him. She turned her attention to preparing dinner, knowing that the two boys were entirely capable of entertaining themselves, and for the most part, they managed to stay out of trouble.

It was nearly thirty minutes later before she realized she could no longer hear the boys. Silence was not a good sign with two boisterous children, especially when their names were Vin and JD. It usually meant trouble. Gloria walked out on the back porch and called the boys, but they didn't come. " Oh dear," she muttered, "Mr. Standish!" as she realized the boys must have sneaked back into the house. She walked to the bedroom and quietly opened the door, hoping not to disturb him if the boys weren't in the room.

She should have scolded them, but she had to smile at the sight in front of her. Ezra seemed to be resting well and Vin was sitting in the chair beside the bed watching his every breath. JD was sitting on the floor cross-legged, leaning against Vin's chair. He too seemed to be mesmerized by the rise and fall of the silent man’s chest. They weren't disturbing Ezra, and perhaps they were laying to rest their own fears, so she let them stay for a few minutes while she put dinner in the oven.

"Vin. JD?" she said softly when she returned to the room.

JD swung his head sharply. "We wasn't bothering him!" he whispered loudly.

Ezra shifted slightly at the noise.

"Come, now," insisted Gloria, "you don't want to wake Mr. Standish."

The two reluctantly obedient boys followed her from the room.

"We wasn't bothering him," JD insisted again as Gloria closed the door.

"All the same, JD, you were told not to go in his room."

JD grimaced and Vin scuffed his sneaker on the floor. They knew they weren't supposed to go in the room, but they were inexplicably drawn to Ezra's side. Both boys had been told repeatedly that Ezra was going to be all right, but adults weren't as good at hiding things as they thought, and Vin and JD could read the worry on Chris and Buck's faces. Both boys were afraid that Uncle Ezra was going to dream with angels and that their new family would disappear.

"Do you have any homework, Vin?" Gloria asked. Vin grimaced. Yes, he had homework. He always had homework. He had to write the extra pages of letters, words and sentences. He had to do that every weekend, but he didn't want to do his homework. Uncle Ezra had been helping him with the writing part. The southerner had showed him how to make the letters right. But now he was hurt and maybe couldn't ever help him again.

"Well, perhaps you should get started." She looked at JD. "And you, young man, can help me set the table for dinner."

Vin went to his room and got out his books but just sat at his desk. Sometimes it was too hard to do the homework all by yourself. Besides, Uncle Ezra needed someone to be with him. He shouldn't wake up all alone.


Gloria shooed the boys out of Ezra's room three more times before dinner. Each time they had been very quiet and had not disturbed the healing man, but they were being disobedient. Gloria reluctantly filled Chris and Buck in on the day’s events when they arrived home. Nathan and Josiah were there as well and went to check on Ezra.

"Mr. Standish seems to be a magnet to those two boys, Mr. Larabee. They didn't disturb him, but they kept going in his room."

"Thanks, Gloria, for everything. We really appreciate you staying with Ezra today."

"Oh, it was no bother at all Mr. Larabee. I'm just grateful that he will be all right." Chris helped Gloria slip on her coat. "Now, if you need me for any reason this weekend, you just call."

Chris smiled and walked her to her car, making sure it started and she was on her way before returning to the house.

"Can we come out now?" called JD, his voice reverberating through the house. Buck grinned. There was no way to keep that voice quiet. He and Chris walked to the boy's bedroom.

"Found yourself some trouble, Little Bit?" asked Buck.

JD bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Buck." Buck lifted the little chin. "We didn't 'sturb him."

"I know you didn't, but you did something you were told not to do," said Buck sternly.

"But we didn't 'sturb Uncle Ezra. We just watched him sleep!" insisted JD.

"What about you, young man?" Chris sat down in the chair next to Vin's desk. He observed Vin's homework. He had only written a single letter. Gloria had told him that she sent the boys to their room thirty minutes earlier. "That's all the homework you've done in a half hour?" Chris saw the flash of hurt on Vin's face and wished he could have taken back the words. He hadn't meant them the way they sounded. Vin was very sensitive about his struggles with his schoolwork. Chris was proud of how hard the seven-year-old worked to deal with his dyslexia.

"I was thinkin' about Uncle Ezra," Vin said softly.

Chris nodded. "Okay, boys. We know you've been worried about him, but he's home now and you've seen him. So, from this point forward, you are to stay out of his room unless we tell you it's okay."


"No buts, Vin," said Chris.

It was his "no arguing" tone, but Vin figured Chris just didn't understand. Uncle Ezra shouldn't wake up all alone. He needed someone with him. Vin made a conscious decision to push it.


"Vin." Chris frowned as Vin flinched at the firm tone. Chris hated Vin's look of terror when his words were harsh in discipline, but he'd come to love the look of trust that immediately followed when Vin's mind reminded his face that Chris would not hurt him.

"He shouldn't be alone," Vin whispered, staring at the scarred desktop.

Chris laid his hand carefully on Vin's head and ruffled his hair affectionately. "He's not alone. Nathan's going to sit with him for awhile tonight, and we'll all be here if he needs anything."

Vin sighed dramatically, realizing that Chris just wasn't getting it. Uncle Ezra shouldn't be alone. It was scary to wake up alone and not know where you were. Vin knew that all too well. He had been terrified when he woke up in the hospital all alone those many months earlier to find that even JD was gone. Nope. Uncle Ezra shouldn't be alone.

"We'll let you see him when he's ready, but no sooner. Understood?" asked Chris. Vin nodded sadly.

"That goes for you too, Little Bit," added Buck. JD nodded glumly. He wasn't worried about Uncle Ezra waking up alone. He was worried Uncle Ezra wouldn't wake up at all. His mama was dreaming with the angels and had been gone a long time. He didn't want Uncle Ezra to go away too. Besides, he wanted to see where Uncle Ezra got shot.


Ezra first became aware of a dull pain running through his body, then he heard hushed voices in the room. He didn't want to open his eyes and acknowledge the pain. There was no antiseptic aroma so he knew he was no longer in the hospital, but the pain told him he should not move. He focused on the voices while he tried to control the growing discomfort. It was not unusual to have his teammates whispering back and forth in his room, trying not to disturb him. They had been at his bedside for the majority of the past four days. A slight smile graced his face as he realized the whispers belonged to the smallest members of his unique family. Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to the youthful voices and their not so quiet whispers.

"Shh! JD. You'll wake him up. We're not supposed to disturb him."

"I'm not 'sturbing him. See? Uncle Ezra's still sleeping."

"Your voice is too loud."

"It is not!"

The room got quiet and Ezra wondered what the boys were up to, but was content to keep his eyes closed and listen.

"Is Uncle Ezra dreaming with the angels?" asked JD.

"No!" said Vin strongly.

"Shh!" chided JD.

"Uncle Nathan says he's just resting and he's gonna be fine."



"He sure looks like he's dreaming with angels, Vin."


Ezra heard more than frustration in Vin's voice. The seven-year-old was obviously afraid it was true and seemed to feel that protesting the idea would make it not true.

"Maybe he could tell them to let my mama come back," JD sniffed.

"JD, don't cry. Here take this."

Ezra could hear JD blow his nose and assumed Vin must have handed him a tissue, at least he hoped so and that the five-year-old wasn't using his sleeve as he had been known to do during other times.

"JD, I don't think our mamas are coming back. My mama's been gone a lot longer than yours and she hasn't come back."

Ezra took a deep breath, uncertain as to whether he should interrupt the conversation. In any case, he would have a talk with Chris and Buck. They all had assumed that Vin understood the concept of death and that he had told JD his mama was dreaming with angels to protect the younger boy from the harsh reality. Now that he had overheard the whispered conversation, Ezra realized that someone had told Vin the same thing about his own mother and that the seven-year-old was just beginning to see that death was forever.

"Buck says they have to stay with the angels. But I want her to come back."

"I know. Me too."


"So if Uncle Ezra's not going to dream with the angels, do the angels want only Mamas?"

"What? JD that's silly."

"Well, my mama and your mama are dreaming with the angels. And Buck's mama and Chris' mama, and Uncle Nathan's and 'Siah's too."

Vin made some kind of nonverbal response, but Ezra didn't see it as he continued to observe the boys with his eyes closed.

"Vin, how come Uncle Ezra's mama isn't dreaming with angels?"

Ezra snorted. He couldn't help it. The thought of his mother and angels in the same room was unbelievably ridiculous to him.

"Uncle Ezra, are you awake?" asked JD.

Ezra opened his eyes to find JD's face about four inches from his nose.

"Hello, JD."

JD stepped back in surprise. "We didn't 'sturb you, did we? We wasn't supposed to 'sturb you."

"Not at all, Master Dunne." Ezra glanced at Vin, who was standing at the foot of the bed, beaming.

"Vin," he rasped.

Vin quickly grabbed the glass of water from the table by the bed. "Do you want some water?"

"Thank you, Vin."

Vin held out the cup, but they quickly found that Ezra wouldn't be able to get a sip without dribbling the water on him. Vin was afraid to touch him because he didn't want to hurt Ezra. He knew what a bullet wound felt like and it hurt a lot!

"JD, go get a bendy straw," ordered Vin.

Ezra smiled as JD rushed to the door, opened it a crack and peeked out before sneaking down the hall. Obviously the others did not know about his visitors.

"Where are the others, Vin?" asked Ezra.

"Chris and Buck are doing chores in the barn. Uncle 'Siah and Uncle Nathan are doing the dishes."

"Here, Vin," said a breathless JD as he hurried back into the room.

"JD! I said a bendy straw, not your Crazy Straw!" Vin took the odd straw that JD offered. It was plastic tubing wound into a funny shape for kids.

"I know, but Uncle 'Siah and Uncle Nathan are in the kitchen," explained JD.

Ezra forced himself not to laugh at his pint sized nurses with the Crazy Straw that looped in several circles. He wasn't sure he'd be able to suck with enough energy to pull the liquid through the extraordinary length of tubing, but his mouth was very dry. He gratefully took a sip from the Crazy Straw, trying not to think of where it might have been.

Ezra sank back into the pillow with a grunt as Vin put the cup and the straw back on the table.

"Are you okay?" Vin asked, unable to hide his worry. The seven-year old laid his arm across the top of the pillow, carefully avoiding Ezra’s head. "Do you want us to get Uncle Nathan?"

"No, don't bother him," said Ezra quickly. Nathan would insist on giving him more of the pain medication, and Ezra was really tired of his mind being muddled. "It's just a headache."

"I can fix that, Uncle Ezra," volunteered JD. "I have magic tickle fingers."

At Ezra's doubtful look, Vin confirmed, "He does. It really helps when you have a headache."

What could it hurt? The boys were being very cautious not to jiggle him or bump his shoulder.

Giving a slight nod, he braced himself as JD began to climb up on the bed. "Go ahead, Master Dunne," said Ezra.

JD crawled up on the head of the bed and began to gently massage Ezra's forehead. His feather light tickles were actually quite soothing. Ezra closed his eyes with a sigh and began to relax. He felt his right arm lifted and something soft and fuzzy put under it. He cracked open one eye and found Vin's cat cuddling up to him. This was the cat Chris had given Vin in the hospital after they had found the desperately ill child in the warehouse.

Ezra turned to look Vin directly in the eyes. "Master Tanner, I cannot take your cat."

"Please," pleaded Vin, "ya gotta."

Ezra didn't understand Vin's urgency. Vin always had that cat by his side. It was a symbol of his connection to Chris. Why would Vin be willing to part with it?

"Please take him. Chris doesn't want us to disturb you, and he's gonna make us get out of the room and I don't want you to wake up alone and be scared."

Warmth flooded Ezra at the simple explanation. The magic tickle fingers, Vin's sacrifice of his beloved cat, their worry about him dreaming with angels, it was almost too much for a man who had spent most of his life with very little real affection.

"Well, then," the southerner quietly conceded, as he plucked the forepaw of his new bedmate. "Thank you, Vin." He patted the plush fur of the toy as Vin smiled in relief. Despite his best efforts, his eyes began to droop. Those tickle fingers certainly were magic. The headache had eased and slowly Ezra drifted off.

Hearing the backdoor of the ranch house close, JD and Vin hustled out of Ezra's room, not wanting to get in trouble again for disobeying.


After washing up, Chris made his way to the boys' room and found JD playing with his GI Joe half way under the bed. Vin was sitting at his desk, valiantly attempting to write his letters, unaware that Chris was standing behind him. Chris watched as Vin angrily flung his pencil at the wall and then leaned forward banging his forehead on the desktop several times.

Chris quickly stopped the action, startling Vin in the process. He held his grip on Vin's shoulder firmly, until Vin's trembling stopped. Chris wondered if Vin would ever get to the point where an unexpected touch was not a threat.

"What's wrong, Vin?" asked Chris, although he had a very good idea. Vin had completed a single line of letters. He had four pages to go.

"I can't do it. It just don’t make any sense." Vin clenched his fists.

"Let me help," said Chris.

"NO!" Vin pushed Chris' hand away.

Chris watched Vin's eyes widen in fear as he realized what he had done. Chris knew they were all under added stress with Ezra's injury, so he held his initial reaction in check. He waited while his silence worked it's own brand of discipline on Vin.

"Uncle Ezra's supposed to help me," said Vin softly, tears glistening in his eyes.

"Come 'ere," said Chris, holding out his arm. He pulled Vin into a hug, gently patting the youngster on his back. Ezra had come to visit the past few weekends and helped Vin with his writing. They had learned that Ezra had some relative somewhere who had battled with dyslexia so he knew ways that would help Vin succeed in something he had always felt he was doomed to fail in. He had a knack for helping Vin and making him feel gifted rather than ashamed. Vin was reluctant to let Chris help him because he was afraid Chris would think he was stupid and not worth keeping around. They were working hard on changing that fear.

"Ezra's going to be all right, Vin," Chris assured for what seemed like the hundredth time, "but he's not going to be able to help you with your homework this weekend." Chris watched Vin nod, but the head was still bowed, shoulders slumped.

"What do you say, we put away your homework and start fresh on it tomorrow?" Chris ruffled Vin's hair lightly. "I think I might be able to fill in for Ezra until he is better. Won’t be the same but between the two of us I bet you we can do it." The little boy’s shoulders eased a little bit as the quiet words flowed through his tired brain. "Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed." Vin seemed reluctant to leave the hug, but pulled away and took his pajamas to the bathroom.


Chris smiled at JD who had sidled over to him as Vin left. "Yes, JD?"

"Is Uncle Ezra going to dream with angels?"

The quiet words shocked Chris into silence as he struggled to find the right words to say to the worried child. That simple phrase still chilled him whenever he heard it. Ever since the day they had found the boys in the warehouse and JD told them his mom was dreaming with angels, Chris had been haunted by what might have been. If they had been so much as a few hours later, Vin could have been dreaming with angels as well. Chris shivered at the thought of how close Vin had been to dying from the infected bullet wound. He sighed. He and Buck had told the boys repeatedly over the past few days that Ezra would be fine, but Vin and JD couldn't seem to believe it. Now they had seen him awake, albeit in pain, but they were still asking the question.

"No, JD," said Chris firmly. "Ezra is going to be fine. He just needs lots of rest and time for his body to recover."

JD twirled his GI Joe by the arm. "Why did the trolls shoot Uncle Ezra?" He walked the GI Joe across Vin's desk and then poked the doll’s head against Chris' shoulder.

"JD, the people who shot Ezra were very bad men. They shot Ezra because they didn't want anyone to find out how many bad things they did." Chris took hold of the doll, readjusted the arms and handed it back to JD.

"Will those bad men shoot you and Buck too?"

"No, JD," Chris answered quickly, trying to alleviate JD's fears. "Those bad men are in jail and they are going to be there for a very long time." Chris knew in his heart that it was a possibility that a bad man could shoot them, but JD had enough worries on his plate to deal with right now. "Okay, JD, time for you to get ready for bed too."

"Okay." JD shouted as he tossed the doll towards his toy box and grabbed his cowboy pajamas before running down the hall. "Buck! Buck! Time for bed!"

Chris winced, hoping that he didn't wake Ezra.

"What if they get out of jail?" a soft voice asked from behind him.

Chris whirled around to find Vin standing in the doorway. Vin walked over to Chris and held out his arms so that Chris could lift him up to the top bunk. "Vin, those men are going to be in jail a long time. But you know that our jobs can be dangerous." Vin nodded. "I can promise you this, Vin. I will always be as careful as I can. Buck and the boys will watch my back and I'll watch theirs but we need to do this job. We need to try to stop the bad guys from hurting people."

"I know," said Vin softly. "I'm glad you're an ATF agent. 'Cause if you wasn't, you and Buck wouldn't be our dads now."

Chris winked at him as Vin crawled under the covers after punching his pillow into shape. Chris pulled the covers up to his chin and ruffled the little boy’s hair. "Hey, where's your cat?" Chris looked around the room, trying to find the stuffed animal. With Vin's insecurity over Ezra's injury and the possibility of harm coming to Chris or Buck, Chris figured Vin was in for a rough night. He had been having fewer nightmares, but the stress from this week was likely to bring them back.

"I'm a big boy. I can sleep without it," said Vin uncertainly. He didn't want Chris to go looking for the cat and take it from Uncle Ezra.

"You sure?" Chris asked as he searched JD's bed for the missing feline.

"I'm okay. Really."

"All right, Vin. Sleep tight and..."

"Don't let the bed bugs bite," said Vin.

"Okay, Little Bit," said Buck as he entered the room with JD tucked under his arm in a football hold, "time for bed." JD giggled as Buck dropped him on the bed hard enough to let him bounce once. "You get some sleep and remember to be extra quiet in the morning. We don't want to wake up Ezra. Okay?"

"I’ll remember. I promise, Buck!" JD nodded with a yawn. "Night Buck. Night Vin. Night Chris."

Chris shook his head with a smile. "Good night, JD."


He flipped over in bed for what seemed like the thousandth time. His hair was plastered to his head with sweat from his restlessness.

"NO!" Vin screamed and shot up in his bed, knocking his pillow to the floor. He looked around the room fearfully as he tried to figure out where he was.

Vin took big deep breaths to calm himself as he recognized his room at the ranch. He wasn't in the warehouse and the trolls weren't looking for him. So why was he still scared? Chris hadn't come to the room when he yelled. Vin peered over the edge of the bed and looked down at JD on the bottom bunk. He was still sleeping so maybe he hadn't yelled out loud, or maybe everyone was just too tired to hear him. He took a deep breath. He was seven-years-old. He could do this. He could go back to sleep after a nightmare without someone one else being there. Vin lay back and closed his eyes. He quickly sat back up as visions of trolls filled his mind's eye. Who was he kidding? Vin reached around the bed and frantically began to search for his cat in the darkness. Suddenly he remembered where it was. His cat was in the guestroom with Uncle Ezra.

Vin slid off the bed landing lightly on the floor. He needed his cat. He knew that Uncle Ezra would understand. He padded barefoot down the hall to the guestroom and quietly opened the door and slid into the quiet room. The night-light gave enough light to find his way. Vin felt bad that he was going to take back the cat, but he was scared. He moved the blanket and started to pick up the cat but frowned when he realized that it wouldn't budge. Uncle Ezra was holding onto the cat! Great. Now what was he going to do?

Vin struggled only a moment with the question. His feet were cold, he was tired and scared, and his cat was here. He carefully climbed up on the bed next to Ezra and snuggled up to his cat, carefully making sure that he didn’t jostle Uncle Ezra’s hurt arm. He knew that he was going to be in big trouble in the morning, but at least Uncle Ezra wouldn't be alone when he woke up and Vin would be able to sleep with his beloved toy.

As Vin's breathing became even, indicating that the seven-year-old had fallen asleep, Ezra slowly reached down and pulled his blanket over his benefactor. He laid his hand back on the cat making sure his arm wrapped over Vin as well. A smile graced the tired man’s face as he drifted back into his dreamless sleep.


Cartoon Day! As soon as light peeked into the room around the shades, JD slipped out of bed. It was Cartoon Day. They didn't have school and they could get up early and watch cartoons if they were very quiet while Chris and Buck slept late. JD yawned and stretched, then looked up at Vin's bed and found that Vin was already up.

JD went to the bathroom thinking it was strange that Vin didn't get him up too. He made sure to wash his hands so Buck wouldn't holler at him, then headed for the den to watch cartoons. Uncle Josiah was sleeping on the couch, but there was still no sign of Vin. It didn't surprise JD that Josiah was on the couch. His honorary uncles stayed over lots of times. JD turned on the TV and then pushed the button that said "m-u-t-e" like Buck showed him before heading out to the kitchen to get his Cartoon Day cereal. Buck and Chris had a stock of the individual serving cereals and small cartons of milk so the boys could have cereal with their cartoons with the least amount of mess. JD headed back to the den and watched cartoons awhile with Uncle 'Siah snoring loudly. JD was still kinda sleepy himself and he wiped his fist across his eyes as he tried to focus on the latest adventures of Scooby-Doo.

After eating his cereal, his curiosity got the best of him and he began to search for Vin. Suddenly he remembered Uncle Ezra and he knew where Vin had to be. He slowly opened the guestroom door and smiled in triumph. Yep. He was right. Vin was in bed with Uncle Ezra. Not one to be left out, JD climbed up on the foot of the bed and sat quietly for awhile, but it was boring watching people sleep.

JD bounced lightly on the bed, jostling Vin and Uncle Ezra.

Nope. Uncle Ezra didn't wake up and neither did Vin.

JD sighed loudly, then peeked at Uncle Ezra.

Nothing. He was still sleeping.

JD crawled carefully up the bed and leaned over Uncle Ezra's ear. He whispered not too quietly, "Are you awake, Uncle Ezra?"

Uncle Ezra's eye twitched but he slept on, blissfully unaware of his tormentor.

JD slipped off the bed and moved around to the other side. He pushed at Vin's legs, but the older boy simply curled up tighter and snuggled closer to Uncle Ezra.

JD sighed loudly and climbed up on the foot of the bed again. This was really boring. He would have more fun watching cartoons with Uncle Josiah snoring. JD sighed loudly again. He didn't want to leave the room. Vin got to sleep by Uncle Ezra and JD wanted to be with him too.

With a loud yawn, JD sprawled across Uncle Ezra's legs so that he would be more comfortable while he waited for Vin and Uncle Ezra to wake up. He stared hard at Vin, willing him to wake up. Vin just laid there sleeping. JD stared at Uncle Ezra, shifting and resting his chin on Uncle Ezra's knee. Waiting was really boring. Without meaning to, the tired little boy soon fell back asleep, cuddled close to two of his favorite people in the world.

Ezra shifted slightly as he became more aware JD’s dead weight draping over his trapped legs. Vin shifted in his sleep and, as Ezra found a comfortable position with his two new bedmates, the little boy patted his arm in his sleep as if to comfort him. Ezra smiled at the thought of what a sight his "comforters" would make when they were discovered by the others. He closed his eyes and soon drifted off again.


Josiah woke abruptly when someone slapped his leg. He looked around bleary eyed as he tried to focus on the man moving about the den. "Buck?"

"Have you seen the boys?" Buck nodded to the milk carton and empty cereal box.

"No," Josiah said as he shook his head, trying to clear out the cobwebs. "I must have been really out."

"Didn't know you liked cartoons, Josiah," said Chris with a smile. He wasn't worried about the boys. He figured he knew exactly where they were. "Guess we should rescue Ezra."

The three men walked down the hall to the guestroom. "Is Nathan coming back this morning?" asked Buck.

"He said he'd stop by this afternoon," said Josiah. "He's confident that Ezra just needs rest."

Chris opened the door and shook his head at the sight in front of him. Ezra raised his head and looked over at his friends with a grin. JD was sprawled across the foot of the bed using Ezra's leg as a pillow. All they could see of Vin was a small arm wrapped around a fuzzy cat that was resting against Ezra’s left side.

"You get yours, I'll get mine," said Chris to Buck.

"Mr. Larabee… Chris," said Ezra softly. "Let them stay."

"You're supposed to be resting Ezra," said Chris. "The boys can't be helping you do that."

"On the contrary, Chris." Ezra looked at his two miniature self-appointed nurses with a tender smile. There was nothing quite as comforting as the innocent love of two little boys. "Last night was the best night of sleep I've had in a very long time."

Chris just smiled but still moved closer to the bed to take custody of his youngster. As he reached out to move the blanket down off of Vin’s head, an unsteady hand clamped down on his forearm. He looked over to find Ezra staring at him with spark of mischief in his eyes. "If you take them away, I’ll tell Nathan that it was you that woke me up, keeping me from getting my rest!"

Chris moved a step backwards from the bed and glared at the grinning southerner. If there was one thing that Chris would avoid most in the world that was making Nathan Jackson angry at him for disobeying his orders he had given about one of his patient’s care. Nope. Chris Larabee would rather face a horde of gun toting drug runners any day.

"Looks like he got you there, pard," Buck laughed from his station just inside the doorway.

Chris tossed his old friend a dirty look and then started to chuckle. "Fine by me. You explain to Nathan why you have a backache on top of your other injuries, Ezra."

Ezra looked at the smiling man with a question in his eyes. "A backache? I don’t understand?"

"Have you tried to move lately?

Buck started to laugh, "Man, are you going to be like a little old woman when you finally get out of that human pretzel pile you got going there!"

On that note, Buck, Josiah and Chris left the bewildered man and two sleeping boys alone as they made their way to the kitchen for some much needed coffee as they heard the reaction.

"Ah, hell!"

"Uncle Ez," Vin mumbled, "that’s a bad word! You owe a dollar to the pot!"

The End

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