Triple Play

by Purple Lacey

Monday turned out to be extremely busy for the new father. At Nathan's suggestion, Vin was taking the triplets in for a medical check up. Buck was kind enough to phone Angela's pediatrician and arrange an appointment for them. Buck had used all his charm on the office manager to talk her into fitting the babies into the pediatrician's busy schedule, but eventually, and predictably, the older lady had succumbed to his cajoling.

“Dr. Kinley is the best pediatrician in town, Vin. She's absolutely great with kids and Angel loves her. She really knows her stuff, too,” Buck assured Vin confidently. “She's also real easy on the eyes.” Buck finished with a wink and his familiar grin.

Vin was forced to borrow Buck's Volvo for the trip. He knew with the arrival of the triplets he would have to start shopping for another vehicle. As much as he loved that old Jeep, he wouldn't put his children at risk by driving them in it. He needed something safer and more reliable.

Buck had offered to take off work to help him get the children to the doctor's office, but Vin had politely refused. The children were his responsibility and it was up to him to see to their medical needs. He knew he had to rely on his friends for their help, but didn't want to make what he felt were unnecessary demands on their time or goodwill. Vin wanted to begin as he meant to go on.

Vin arrived at the doctor's office early and parked Buck's purple Volvo in the lot. He undid his seat belt and took the keys from the ignition before removing his lanky frame from the vehicle. He walked around to the back of the station wagon and used the key to unlock the backdoor. He reached in and removed the triple seated stroller from the back cargo area then pulled the door shut and relocked it. Vin hurried around to the side of the vehicle unfolding the stroller and locking it in position as he went. When he reached the back passenger door he opened it and leaned in to undo the safety straps holding Austin in his car seat. The tiny baby slowly blinked at his father at being disturbed but soon settled back to sleep when Vin deposited him into the stroller and buckled the stroller's safety strap around his middle. Vin returned to the car twice more to remove the other two children in the same fashion.

When all three were safely secured in the stroller, Vin reached into the car once more and pulled the large, heavy canvas diaper bag off the floorboard and slung the strap on one shoulder. He used a little too much energy when picking up the heavy bag, and the momentum he created caused the very well loaded diaper bag to hit him in the back with enough force to knock him into the side of the vehicle.

Embarrassed, he glanced around quickly and was relieved to find no one was in the parking lot to notice. He closed the car door and hit the remote to set the alarm and hurriedly pushed the stroller toward the pediatrician's office.

After struggling to push the stroller through the door while trying to hold it open, he discovered a whole new respect for parents. Vin had never realized what most parents with small children have to go through whenever they left the house with them. He was getting a “baptism by fire” this morning. He'd only been out an hour with the triplets and he was starting to wonder if he had been a little hasty in turning down Buck's offer of help.

Vin managed to get the stroller into the waiting room of the doctor's office and let the door swing shut behind him, which, as his luck seemed to running that day, promptly closed on the diaper bag. As he started forward the strap slung over his shoulder jerked him to a sudden stop and Vin started turning red as he became the focus of the entire waiting room. Mother's gently shushed their laughing children, trying to hide their own smiles at the embarrassed man pushing the stroller with three infants into the room.

Vin was happy to turn his back on the amused women that filled the busy waiting room, to sign in with the receptionist. He was less happy to be handed three sets of blank medical forms he was told to complete since the children were new patients. Foreseeing writer's cramp in his near future, he took the forms in one hand and the stroller with the other and pushed it to the first unoccupied seat he could find. Dropping down into the chair with a sigh, Vin began the tedious task of filling out forms. He scanned the form before completely filling it out and realized he would be entering a lot of the same information repeatedly, and had a brain storm. Vin got to work and completed one form that contained the information about him, his job, and his insurance coverage. Leaving the triplets in the stroller by the chair, he went back to the receptionist's window and knocked on the frosted glass until she slid it back and looked at him with as smile.

“Already finished?” the woman asked with a surprised look.

“Umm, no ma'am, not yet. I was wondering if it would be okay if you made two copies of this. Everything's the same except the kid's names. I thought it would be easier and take less time to just fill in the parts that are different. Would that be alright?” Vin asked with as shy smile.

This receptionist was used to dealing with upset parents and fractious children, and had developed something of a hard shell in self defense. That hard shell cracked wide open at one glimpse of that smile, and the poor woman almost melted on the spot.

“Oh, sure, hun. I can do that for you. Just one minute,” she replied with a happy smile. The woman took the paper from Vin and hurried to the copier.

“There you are,” she said as she handed the three sheets back to him. Vin quickly wrote the children's names and genders on the forms, signed them, and handed them back to her.

“Much obliged, ma'am,” Vin said and gave her another smile before turning away and going back to his seat. He failed to hear the enraptured sigh that escaped the receptionist as she watched him walk away.

Vin sat down again, pleased with himself for being so smart and avoiding the repetitious paperwork. Whether in the office or out of it, Vin detested paperwork and was proud to have circumvented it so easily [not realizing of course just how much paper work he would be obliged to complete in the next eighteen years or so].

As he sat silently patting himself on the back, Houston began to stir and shove his fist into his mouth. Vin recognized the baby's non-verbal signal that meal time was approaching and pulled one of the bottles that Rita had prepared for him that morning out of the diaper bag. He debated the wisdom of taking the child out of the stroller and decided to leave Houston where he was. This turned out to be a wise choice. As Houston eagerly consumed his bottle, Dallas woke and demanded to be fed as well. Her cries, of course, woke Austin who let everyone know he didn't appreciate being made to wait for his meal either.

Poor Vin was trying to balance three bottles with two hands, but wasn't succeeding very well. One bottle always managed to slip out of one of the little mouths causing said mouth to regale the waiting room with its impatient cries for satisfaction.

Vin started feeling “busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger” as Buck would have said. Vin was aware that he was once again the center of attention in the room as amused mother's watched his struggle.

One woman finally took pity on him and moved into the chair next to his and offered assistance.

She looked to be in her mid- twenties and a boy that appeared to be around Angel's age followed behind her and stood by her legs as she sat down next to Vin. Her hair was long and nutmeg brown and her brown eyes showed her sympathy for his current predicament. “Looks like you could use another hand,” the young mother said with a laughing smile.

Vin returned her smile and replied, “That I could. They've got me outnumbered.”

This caused most of the women in the waiting room to laugh.

“They're adorable,” his savior said as she held the bottle for Austin. “How old are they?”

“They're ten days old today,” Vin said with paternal pride very evident in his voice.

“They're so small. It's almost hard to remember when Mickey was that little. They grow so fast,” came her wistful reply.

“That's the truth,” threw in another woman from across the waiting room with her own smile. “I swear sometimes, you blink and they've grown an inch.”

“I can't imagine giving birth to three of them. I had a hard enough time with my one,” The brown haired mother stated, and asked, “Did their mother have a very hard delivery?”

Vin's faced closed up immediately at the mention of the children's mother, and he kept his eyes directed at the triplets. His voice came out in a monotone as he answered her without emotion.

“They don't have a mother.”

The room was suddenly silent as the women took this in.

“I'm so sorry,” the woman at his side gasped, “You have my deepest sympathy!”

Vin looked at her strangely as he took in her words and realized exactly how his words had been interpreted.

“No, I didn't mean she's dead,” Vin informed her, “She just didn't want them.”

The women in the room stared at him in shock at this blunt announcement. Each mother stared at her child for moment and tried to image walking away from him or her only days after giving birth, most had a very difficult time of it. All eyes returned to Vin and his current neighbor.

“You mean she just…left them? Walked out on them… on you?” She said in amazement.

“Pretty much, yeah. I still don't understand her,” Vin said shaking his head.

The flood gates seemed to open as each woman present had to voice her opinion of the kind of woman Charlotte was. Vin unconsciously started to relax as the women's sympathetic support washed over him.

He found himself, uncharacteristically, pouring out the whole sordid story to the commiserating mothers. They told him he was better off without Charlotte. He told about Buck and his other friends' unselfish help and encouragement. They told him how lucky he was to have such good friends. He told them about his fears and they tried their best to soothe them, telling him stories about their own experiences. They gave him inside information on what to expect and when to expect it.

By the time Vin's name was called to see the doctor he felt quite at home with the women, and was almost sorry to leave the waiting room.

He had gained a lot of useful information and had a lot of his fears laid to rest with the conversation. Vin left the waiting room feeling much more confident of himself as a parent than when he had entered it.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Vin never really knew what made him look to his left as he was stopped for a red light on his way home from the pediatrician. Maybe it was the reflected light catching his eye, or maybe it was just fate, but for whatever reason Vin did look and he saw the answer to one of his current problems. There, sitting forlorn in the used car lot next to the intersection, was a 2000 Chevy Suburban. The price showing on the windshield was unbelievably low, at least until you got a closer look at the navy blue SUV. The whole body of the vehicle was dimpled with what could only be hail damage. As the traffic light turned green, Vin threw on his right turn signal and pulled into the lot, parking Buck's car right behind the SUV.

He eyed the damaged exterior critically as he got out of the station wagon. Appearances had never mattered much to Vin. It was what was on the inside that counted with him. That applied to cars as well as people so the battered body of the vehicle didn't immediately put him off.

He glanced back over his shoulder to check on the triplets, who were sleeping peacefully in the back seat, then opened the back door to be sure the car was ventilated and he could hear them if they stirred. When he was sure the children were taken care of he turned to face the displayed vehicle again. Vin walked around the Suburban and was gratified to see brand new tires on all four wheels. Even though the body was dimpled with dents the windows were not damaged. Obviously the dealer had already replaced them. Vin opened the driver's door and peered inside. The navy upholstery and carpets were in excellent condition and Vin was gratified to see such a spacious interior. He could also see the Suburban was loaded with options.

While he was busy looking it over, the salesman approached and greeted him cheerfully, “Good morning, sir. I'm Sam Waters. Can I help you this fine morning?”

“Maybe,” Vin answered. “Something sure did a number on this thing.”

“Sadly, yes,” Sam nodded in agreement. “I have another dealership in Jackson, Wyoming, and the inventory was too large there so we were transporting it here when the driver ran into a very bad thunderstorm. Before he could find any shelter it started to hail and this,” Sam threw his arm out in disgust pointing to the Chevy, “was the result. Ruined it completely.

It would cost too much to do the body work to fix it and I'd be selling it at an even bigger loss if I had it done. I marked it down to get rid of it, but so far you're the only one in weeks to even stop to look at it. I can make you a good deal if you're really interested.”

“How does it run?” Vin asked.

Sam tossed him a set of keys and said, “Here. Try it out.”

Vin caught the car keys, threw a look at the Volvo to check on the kids, and then climbed into the Big Chevy. He inserted the keys into the ignition and cranked the engine. It ran so smoothly it almost purred… so did Vin. He ran his fingers over the dashboard trying the various switches. The vehicle actually had a working air conditioner and heater, something that had given out on Vin's jeep a long time ago and he had never bother to fix. He listened to the fine stereo system, and Sam explained some of the other features to him. Vin popped the hood and carefully examined the engine, and then crawled underneath to examine the frame and drive train. He was very impressed with what he saw.

“Why don't we take it for a test drive, son,” Sam asked him.

“Uh, that… might be a little more involved that you think,” Vin drawled,

Sam looked puzzled for a moment until Vin nodded his head at the children sleeping in the back seat of the Volvo.

Sam smiled in understanding.

“Well, sir. Like I said, you are the first person to show any interest in this thing in weeks, so if you've got the time, believe me , so do I,” Sam told him with a laugh.

When Vin drove Buck's station wagon into the parking garage of the Federal Building in downtown Denver three hours later he had the pleasure of watching Sam Waters park his new Suburban in the satellite parking lot across the street. Vin parked close to the entrance to the garage and stood waiting for Sam to cross the busy street with the keys to his new prize. He couldn't wait to see the look on his teammates' faces when he showed them his new vehicle. The guys had already begun making jokes about him having to buy one of the dreaded minivans for his brood.

Now Vin would get the last laugh. He now had a car that could handle all three children and their gear easily and still leave room for other passengers… and it was a MAN's kind of vehicle. Vin couldn't wait to tease Buck with that. He had a hard time taming the goofy smile that broke across his face at this thought.

This day just kept getting better and better.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Vin finally managed to maneuver the stroller through the elevator doors as they opened on the floor where Team Seven had their offices. He had been stopped several times along the way by other ATF employees. The women who had stopped him had oooed and aahhed over the children and the men had made jokes about safe sex and not knowing went to quit, and learning to “just say NO”. Vin reacted to the first with pride and the second with a longsuffering patience.

He had known what to expect as soon as his co-workers spread the news about his new fatherhood. For the next few weeks he expected to be the butt of some good-natured teasing from the other teams, and probably of some less well intentioned humor from the few people in the agency who actively disliked him.

Looking down at the triplets sleeping in the stroller as he wheeled it into the Team Seven office space, he knew they were worth any amount of ribbing he might receive.

“Well here comes a ray of sunshine into an otherwise grey day,” Josiah's deep voice was raised in greeting to the new arrivals. “How are those little bundles of joy, today Brother Vin?”

“Doc says they're doing great,” Vin told him proudly, “growing like little weeds and healthy as horses, all three of them.”

“That's some truly good news to hear. In the words of John Locke, ‘A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this World: he that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be little the better for anything else' ,” Josiah recited.

“Personally, I can think of several things that should be added to that list if happiness is the final objective,” Ezra interjected. The undercover agent bent down to run a gentle hand over the head of each dozing child before turning his attention back to the adults. “Among them being a good cup of coffee, a fine wine, and of course …the love of a good woman.”

Josiah smiled and, sweeping his arms out slightly, gave a small bow to concede the point to Ezra.

“You seem to be managing your new fatherhood rather well, Mr. Tanner,” Ezra complimented the blond –haired sharpshooter.

“We managed to survive the weekend, anyway,” Vin smiled. “I don't know if I could have done it without Buck, JD, and Rita, though. The kids are a handful.”

“I believe that to be a gross understatement if my memory of our little Angela at that age serves me correctly,” Ezra drawled with a knowing smirk. “Something on the order of saying Buck is slightly fond of women.”

Both Josiah and Vin laughed at Ezra's joke and he gave them a smug smile in return.

“There you are,” the three men turned to face their team leader when he spoke. Chris was heading out of his office with a couple of manila file folders in his hands. “I wondered if you were going to show up or not. I thought you said you were going to come here from the pediatrician's office to complete your paperwork. Cindy in HRS has phoned three times to see if you were here yet.

She wants to get working on the updates to your insurance and pension plan as soon as possible. She said something about a deadline this afternoon and if you missed it you'd have to wait another month to get the kids put on your insurance. I told her I'd send you down just as soon as I saw you.”

“Uh-oh, I better hop to it. I want the triplets on my insurance as soon as she can get them on, so I better head on down,” Vin told him.

“Why don't you leave the children here, Mr. Tanner,” Ezra offered. “I would be more than happy to watch them for you. I'm sure that completing the manifold documents that the Human Resources department demands be filled out in triplicate would be facilitated if you were able to focus your attention exclusively on the task at hand.

I'm sure Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Larabee would be more than willing to lend a hand with the children while you attend to this necessary, if tiresome, chore.”

Josiah looked at the sleeping babies and grinned, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “Ezra's absolutely right. I would be delighted to help, Brother Vin. I haven't been able to hold any of them much and would love another chance. Why don't you just head down to HR and leave these little ones to us.”

Vin hesitated a minute before agreeing. It wasn't that he didn't trust his friends to take care of the kids, because he had seen how all his teammates had been with Angel and knew they were more than qualified to handle the triplets. He just didn't like the idea of letting the babies out of his sight. He was still too new to this father business and somewhere in the back of his mind he had a superstitious idea that if he left them they would disappear and he'd be alone again.

Vin's moment of hesitation did not go unnoticed. Josiah shook his head at the silent father and grinned. He pointed a finger and told him, “It's called separation anxiety, Brother Vin, and we need to get you over it before the kids start kindergarten.

Since there's no time like the present, we best start right now. Go on along. They'll be just fine.”

Vin realized what his friends suggested was only good sense and he knew he couldn't argue with the logic without hurting his friends' feelings, so gave in semi-graciously.

“Alright, then. I'll be right back. Here,” Vin reached up and pulled the diaper bag off his shoulder and handed it to Josiah. “Their diapers are in there, and the diaper cream is in the side pocket. So are the wipees.

I've got the bottles labeled so make sure they each get the right one, and when you feed Houston make sure you stop him about half way through to burp him cause he gulps it down so fast he swallows too much air. And Dallas kind of plays with hers so be sure she's really had enough before you put it away or she'll be crying for more in about ten minutes. Oh, and….”

“Vin,” Chris interrupted with an amused smile, “by the time you finish giving them instructions the kids are going to be off to college. We've got it covered, Cowboy. Go do what you need to.”

Nodding reluctant agreement, Vin took one more look at the babies before turning away and pacing rapidly to the elevator. He couldn't help looking over his shoulder at the three large men watching him with mirth in their eyes as they surrounded the three infants. Vin stepped into the elevator as the doors opened and pushed the button for the 2nd floor.

As the elevator doors closed, Vin could hear his three teammates laughing. Vin sighed. This was going to be the fasted trip to Human Resources in the history of the ATF he decided, because he definitely had some place better to be.

Despite Vin's vow, it was almost an hour later when he made his way back to the Team Seven offices. The silence that met him as he stepped off the elevator made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Vin's well honed instincts kicked in and he knew something wasn't right. Stepping cautiously through the office door, Vin scanned the room, finding it empty. Anxiety started to wind its dark fingers around his heart as he checked Chris' office and found it vacant as well. Where was everyone, and most importantly where were his children!

Vin exited the office and started down the hall, checking the break room and finding it unoccupied. He was more worried than ever when he passed the office of Team Five and found it deserted, too. Vin's paced increased as he hurried farther down the hall, passing two more empty offices as he went.

Something was definitely going on and all Vin could think about was finding the babies and his friends. What could have happened to everyone inside such a well guarded building as the one that housed the ATF? Vin found himself fighting back visions of terrorists infiltrating the building and taking everyone hostage. His speed increased in direct proportion to his fear until he was almost running down the deserted hallway.

When a scraping sound, like that of a chair being dragged across the floor, reached his ears he came to an abrupt halt outside the large conference room that the directors used whenever they needed to brief several teams at once. Heart racing, Vin crept up to the door and laid his ear silently against it. He had trouble hearing any noise coming from the conference room over the sound of his own pounding pulse. He cautiously started to turn the doorknob when it was jerked from his hand and he was grabbed around the shoulders and quickly pulled into the room by none other than Buck and he had to fight the instinctive need to defend himself.

“Surprise!” The loud voices of the missing ATF personnel greeted the startled agent as Buck pushed him farther into the room.

Vin stood inside the door and gawked in astonished silence as his eyes rapidly inspected the crowded conference room. Blue and pink intertwined crepe paper streamers had been draped along the walls and across the ceiling to decorate the usually drab space. The large conference tables had been draped with cheerful plastic tablecloths with baby bottles and rattles printed on them. Off to one side Vin could see another table laden with so much food that the legs should have been bowing. Across the room, a third table was covered with a colorful assortment of wrapped boxes and gift bags. It wasn't until Vin saw the large cake in the middle of the conference table that he realized exactly what was happening. The cake top was shaped like a large teddy bear, and the lower portion had the words

‘Congratulations on your new family, Vin' written in red icing. A grinning Chris Larabee approached holding a contented Houston on his shoulder, closely followed by Ezra and Josiah who each held one of the other children.

“About time you got here, Cowboy,” Chris told the stunned Vin, “Now we can get this party started.”

“How… When,” Vim stammered.

“Well now, pard, just as soon as the word got out about the new additions here, everybody decided it was cause for a celebration. It's not everyday one of us becomes a father, and especially three times over. Everybody wanted to let you know how happy they all were for you, and wanted to help out.

And the ladies decided you couldn't enter into parenthood without observing a time honored tradition. So, welcome to your baby shower, Daddy!” Buck finished with a grin and, with a big flourish, waved Vin toward the place of honor at the head of the long table.

Nathan came up beside him on one side and JD on the other and both men took him by his elbows and pulled him to his reserved seat, pushing their still jolted teammate down on the chair.

“Now that you're here, Vin, maybe you can tell your friends that's it's alright for me to hold one of those darling babies,” Evie Travis said as she bent down to kiss his forehead affectionately. “When I tried to get my hands on one earlier they informed me that they had promised you to look after the children and they couldn't in good conscience let one go to anyone else without breaking that promise. I do believe the actual truth is that they just didn't want to share,” She finished with a little chuckle.

“Now, really, Mrs. Travis, you grievously slander us. We were merely trying to live up to the great trust that Mr. Tanner afforded us by placing his offspring in our care.”

“Umm hmm. Sure you were,” Evie grinned.

“I can assure you, madam…” Ezra began.

“In that case,” Evie interrupted, “you should have no problem handing over that baby now that Vin is here to relieve you of your responsibility.” Evie finished this statement with a smug grin.

Ezra quickly stepped back and his arms tightened a little more against the snoozing infant. “I'm sure Mr. Larabee, or Mr. Sanchez would be more than happy to oblige you. Unfortunately, I fear this little one is in desperate need of a diaper change. If you will excuse me, I will adjourn and see this exigency remedied posthaste.”

A laughing Evie Travis followed the fleeing man as he tried to avoid surrendering Austin to her.

“Only ten days old and already has the women chasing after him,” Buck laughed and slapped Vin on the shoulder. “He makes his Uncle Buck proud.”

“Are you sure you want to live with this one, Vin?” Chris asked. “Can you image all the stuff you're going to have to un-teach those children by the time Buck gets through with them?”

“Hey, now! Are you trying to say I'm a bad influence?” Buck pretended to be outraged.

“If the black book fits, Buck,” a still grinning Chris answered.

In a move surprisingly fast for a man his size, Buck carefully snatched Houston from the blond man's arms and turned away, a satisfied smirk on his face. “Well, I know when I'm not wanted. Come on, son.

Let's go belly up to the bar and talk about girls. Uncle Buck will tell you all the things you need to know. You'll be the most popular guy in first grade when I get done with ya. I guarantee.”

“Buck! You come back here, Buck,” Chris glared at the rapidly retreating back of his oldest friend then took off after him when it became apparent that his words had no effect. “It's still my turn to hold him. You can do it any time, you selfish…. You give him back. I mean it, Wilmington!”

Vin's amused eyes followed the pair as Buck agilely dodged between agents standing in conversational groups around the room. Chris was in hot pursuit. Vin looked up at a grinning Josiah and raised an questioning eyebrow.

“I'm sure you're ready to give Dallas back though, right?” Vin asked with a straight face.

Josiah stopped grinning and drew back from Vin's side a little.

“No, no. We're just fine. No need to bother yourself, Vin.”

Vin couldn't hold back his laughter anymore and Josiah joined him when he realized that his young friend had been teasing him.

“Hey, Vin,” JD hailed them, “everyone's waiting for you to start the buffet line. You have to go first.

Let's eat so you can open the gifts and cut the cake. I can't wait to see what all you got!”

Vin pushed back his chair and stood up. He made his way across the room, stopping a few times along the way to accept the congratulations of his fellow agents. Mary Travis handed him a paper plate and plastic fork, then leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“I'm so happy for you, Vin. I know you're going to be a fabulous father.”

“Thanks, Mary. I glad you're here. Thanks for coming.”

“I wouldn't have missed it for the world. You know you're like family to me, Vin. I wanted to be here to help you celebrate. I better let you get on with it, though. It looks like the hungry hoard is getting restless. We'll talk later. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

“Thanks. I'll be sure to remember that,” Vin smiled then moved down the table, piling his plate high with assorted goodies along the way.

The new father consumed the delicious food, occasionally pausing in his steady eating to laugh at his friends. A swiftly talking, (and moving) Ezra was still trying to avoid a determined Evie Travis, and a gleeful Buck was just managing to stay one step ahead of an annoyed Chris. Who needed television for entertainment when he had friends like this!

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Vin looked over the toes of his scuffed boots as he lay in one of the comfortable recliners in the den of his new home, and felt a curious sense of déjà vu as he let his gaze travel the large, homey room. He's eyes stopped periodically to observe the other men that were sprawled around the room on the lazy summer afternoon.

Although the scene was similar to that of another Saturday afternoon, there were distinct differences that set this day apart from the one exactly one week ago.

JD was again lying on his back in front of the television, but now a tiny Dallas was lying on his chest. Chris was sitting in the same chair as last week, but now Austin was held on his shoulder as the blond man gently patted the little boy he had just finished feeding a bottle of formula. Ezra, Nathan and Josiah were on the sofa this time, a sleeping Houston held on Nathan's lap. The infant's right fist clutched around one of Josiah's large fingers, and his left fist held tight to one of Ezra's. Buck occupied one of the recliners with a giggling Angel on his lap.

Vin was happy. It was a feeling that usually left him uneasy.

It was a feeling he had never really trusted. His earlier experiences in life had taught him to be wary of the emotion because you never knew when something was going to happen to steal it away again. Happiness had always been a very fleeting thing in his life; until he had met these six men, until he had become a member of their family. Now he understood that happiness was his family. The family made up of his six brothers, and the three children that would be his legacy to the future.

Vin was happy, and that still, small voice in his head that always insisted he not get too comfortable because it couldn't last… was finally silent.

The End

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