Something Wicked

by Mary K

Ezra Standish reluctantly admitted to himself that he was waking up and would not be able to avoid moving for very much longer. Reaching blindly for the bedside table in an effort to locate his clock and determine the time, he realized he was not in his room when the table he had reached for proved to be nonexistent and he ended up on the floor having overbalanced and rolled ignominiously off of the bed. Good Lord, he thought, how much did I drink last night and where the hell am I? Coaxing his sluggish mind to work as he lay on the floor with his eyes tightly shut against the blinding headache that had taken up what seemed like permanent residence in his skull, he tried to remember what had occurred the night before.

The FBI had requested his assistance and after the debacle that had occurred the last time he was loaned to the FBI, Chris had mandated that Ezra wasn't going undercover for those SOBs - his actual words -- without at least one member of Team 7 there to back him up. Consequently, he was undercover with Vin, and they were investigating a carnival for God's sake. There was the concern that it was being used as a front to sell drugs, guns and various other questionable and illegal activities but no one had been able to come up with anything concrete working from the outside. A fact that resulted in Ezra and Vin approaching the carnival as partners who owned a couple of game booths that involved among other things a giant roulette wheel and target shooting. Ezra was actually enjoying working the crowd and would have made a tidy profit if his booth had been an actual business proposition while Vin's sharp shooting had people lining up in droves sure that if he could do it they could.

Ezra and Vin had slowly started to get to know some of the members of the carnival, and they had realized that for some of them, the carnival was probably the only place they could even attempt to have a normal life -- even if said life involved placing themselves on display for the paying public. They had both been surprised at that particular exhibit having assumed that any such displays would have long since fallen out of favor and they had wondered about the vagaries of human nature that made such attractions one of the carnivals number one draws. Walking past the snake man’s booth, Ezra shook his head wondering once more what would possess someone to have scales tattooed all over their body, their tongue split and their teeth filed.

They had been with the carnival for close to two weeks, and they had yet to uncover anything reportable. However, the atmosphere was such that both Vin and Ezra felt increasingly uneasy and the underlying air of menace that seem to hang over the carnival especially after the crowds had gone home set them both on edge. The proprietor seemed to have some strange hold over the other members of the carnival, but they had been unable to determine whether it was fear or loyalty or both that kept the others under his control. All Ezra knew was that the man gave both of them the creeps. Although he wouldn't have used that term, Vin's description was a highly accurate description of the feeling Mister Knight evoked. Several days had passed since he had attracted Knight's attention, and as much as Ezra hated to admit it, he was getting increasingly unnerved by Knight's continual observation and repeated offers of granting his every wish if he would just join the troupe permanently. An offer that Ezra had turned down unless it also included his partner. For some reason, Knight had taken an instant dislike to Vin and while Ezra knew he should accept the offer in order to advance the case, he had long ago learned to trust his instincts and they were literally screaming at him to never let Knight trap him alone.

After the fourth time in as many days that he had turned down Knight's offer expressing incredulity at the promised rewards, the infuriated proprietor had fixed him with the coldest look he had ever seen and said, "I was once like you, but I came to my senses. I can give you everything if you'll follow me. I suppose it is necessary to prove myself to you. I do hope you are capable of learning from experience. Despite your absurd loyalty to the ridiculously chivalrous idiot you have as a partner, you are quite the most promising subject I have met in years."

Unwilling to admit that the meeting had shaken him, he nevertheless reported the conversation and veiled threat to Vin. Not surprisingly, Vin picked up on his unease and had suggested that they stick close to each other for the duration of the assignment instead of separating during the investigation as they had done previously.

They had closed up for the night and had once again made the rounds of the carnival without finding anything concrete when they had heard the sound of the carousel.

They had gone to investigate, and he had a vague recollection of pain and music and the sensation of moving -- followed by an even less clear memory of a headlong flight with his partner at his side. The next thing he knew he was waking up here, wherever here was.

Shit, where in the hell was Vin? He didn't hear anyone else in the room and he reluctantly opened his eyes, only to shut them again immediately, shaking his head before cautiously opening them again. No, it was still there, the entire room appeared to be decorated with some bizarre yellow rat like creature with lightning bolts coming from its head. It was obviously a child's room, but why he was there and how he had gotten there was a total blank. It wasn't Adam's room at the ranch -- that was decorated with trains and cowboys not yellow rats with red cheeks -- what was that thing anyway? Cautiously getting to his feet, he made the mistake of glancing down at his clothing and discovered that he was attired in blue pajamas that were covered with a variety of bizarre creatures including apparently two different versions of the yellow rat. "What is going on here and where is Vic?" he wondered only to be interrupted by a woman's voice coming from the hall.

"Young man, I know you have been through a lot lately, but that is no excuse for being so rude. It's time for breakfast."

"Ma’am, I apologize for being rude, but I feel like hell, and I don't know who you are or what's goin on. Eric was with me last night and iffen he's here, I aim to find him, but I ain't coming out until I get some proper clothes. There's some sort of blue turtle lookin thing all over this room and on my clothes. I ain't bein'' seen in these by no one."

Ezra opened the door a fraction and was greeted by the site of a woman standing in front of a closed door, apparently trying to coax his partner out of the room. The voice seemed somewhat high pitched for Vin's, but the words and inflections were unmistakable. Glancing down the hallway, he didn't see any sign of anyone but the woman and decided that while he wasn't thrilled at the idea of being seen in his current garb either, answers were necessary and would not be forthcoming if they refused to leave the rooms they found themselves in.

"Victor," using Vin's current alias, he called softly, "I do believe blue turtles would be preferable to yellow rats which is what I seem to be attired in currently."

The woman turned in surprise, "Why, Sweetie, I didn't think you would be awake yet, I was sure you'd be sleeping still."

"Excuse me, Madam, but did you just refer to me as Sweetie?" Ezra asked incredulously, still trying to pull his disjointed thoughts together over the pounding of his head, wondering why the woman seemed so tall and why his voice sounded so strange. At the sound of his voice, the door the woman had been standing in front of had opened slightly, and as he continued speaking he heard his partner's voice once more,

"Damn, Eric, what's goin on here?"

"To use your vernacular, Hell if I know, Vic, but it might prove beneficial to actually discuss it face to face. I'll come out if you will."

"Alright, but you best not ever tell anyone about this."

"Likewise." The door to the other room opened, and Ezra froze in shock.

His subconscious mind had been clamoring at him since he woke up, but he had been steadfastly ignoring it. Something he could no longer do when confronted with the image in front of him. A young boy of approximately 7 years of age with his partner's hair and eyes stood in the doorway staring at him with a look of complete shock on his face.

"Vic?" said Ezra cautiously and the boy nodded apparently shocked into speechlessness. "May I assume from your reaction, that I also find myself chronologically challenged, so to speak?"

Finally finding his voice, Vin replied, "Eric, if you're askin if you been turned into a little kid then the answer's yes. What happened, Pard, and how're we gonna explain this one to Chris?" Continuing to use their current pseudonyms, Ezra and Vin had slowly left the apparent safety of the rooms they had found themselves in. Talking softly together, they had completely forgotten the presence of the woman until they each felt a hand clamp down gently but firmly on their shoulders and heard,

"I do declare, if you two aren't the strangest children I have ever seen. I know you don't know me, but my name is Miss Johnson, and I have some pancakes and sausages ready for you downstairs, so why don't you come on down and then we'll deal with all the questions you must have running around in those heads of yours." With that she reached up and ruffled their hair before gently guiding them down the hallway. Stunned, Ezra and Vin walked a few steps before stopping abruptly. Vin looked up at the woman standing between them and then glanced over to his partner and receiving a slight nod began,

"Ma'am, we're right sorry for bein' so much trouble, but if ya don't mind we'll meet ya downstairs in a few minutes. We just got up and we gotta, um, you know, get dressed and all."

"I'm sorry child, I don't know what I was thinking. Well you two hurry up and get dressed and come on into the kitchen when you get done. Matthew wants to talk to you."

Once the woman was out of earshot, Ezra turned on his partner, "What happened, Vin; and what are we going to do? Look at us, nobody's going to believe us if we try to tell them who we are. We'll end up in an institution."

"Ya think I don't know that, Ez? Think we're just gonna have to ride it out for awhile until we know what's goin on and how to get back to normal."

"It was Knight who did this to us. It's my fault. He kept saying he had power to grant any wish I desired and I laughed at him. I should of known better. I'm sorry, Vin."

"Dammit, Ez." Vin interrupted before Ezra could continue blaming himself. "Ya told me all about what that son of a bitch kept promisin ya. I didn't believe it anymore than you did. Weren't no reason to believe he could do what he claimed. Hell, I still don't hardly believe even with what all happened. If'n it was just me, I'd of decided I'd gone crazy or been shot up with somethin. Sides, Pard, he made a big mistake ya know."

"Really, Mister Tanner, and just what mistake would that be?"

"He left us together."

"So he did, although, I don't believe that was his intention." Ezra paused before continuing, "Vin, I just, I'm sorry." he trailed off trying unable to adequately describe what he was feeling.

"Ain't no need for that, Ez." Vin interrupted. "What we gotta do now is figure out how to get back to normal. I didn't much care for being a kid first time through, I sure as hell don't want ta do it again." Vin paused as Ezra nodded in agreement, "We gotta get out a here, but we gotta be careful about it."

"I believe, given our current predicament, we are in need of some assistance. As much as I hate to admit it, finding the carnival and convincing Mister Knight to reverse whatever he did to us is probably beyond our current capabilities. Given the fact that we appear to be children, our resources and freedom of movement are going to be severely limited."

"Yeah, but Ez, ain't no one but the team gonna believe us on this one, and while I'd put the guys up against Knight any day even if he does know some sort of magic and stuff like that," Vin paused trying to find the words to describe the situation before shaking his head and shrugging. Looking intently at his partner, he smiled before saying, "Actually, I thinking this will be a chance for you to prove just how good a con man ya are. I'm kinda looking forward to listenin to you convince em of who we are." Vin continued talking over Ezra's sputtering, " But first, we gotta find out where we're at and what the date is and start trying to figure out how to get home."

Settling for glaring at his partner, Ezra said "Indeed Vin, some additional information is definitely in order." Taking a closer look at his companion, Ezra continued "You know, I think its actually a toss up as to which is the worst as far as the yellow rats or the blue turtles, but I hope to God that there is some kind of appropriate attire back in that room."

"You and me both, pard, reckon we best go see."

Ezra met Vin in the hallway after having determined that jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt appeared to be the only options available, at least he had been able to find one t-shirt without strange animated creatures on it. Although moving out of the country and changing his name may be the only solution if any of his other coworkers ever discovered he had worn a T-shirt emblazoned with the Hogwart's Crest on the back and the Gryffindor lion on the front. Ezra had managed to successfully hide the fact from his colleagues that he had actually read all four of the Harry Potter books and had quite enjoyed them - actually identifying to some extent with Harry and his uncaring relatives and the eventual discovery of friends who would stand by him. Vin was dressed similarly, although his t-shirt was orange and said Chudley Cannons Quidditch Team on it.

"Hey Ez, nice shirt, I couldn't wear that blue turtle thing anymore, but this one ain't to bad. Do you know what the heck Quidditch is? I thought I knew most sports, and I ain't never heard of that one and what's that on your shirt?" said Vin.

"That would be because it isn't an actual sport, Mister Tanner. It is from the Harry Potter books as is the Gryffindor Lion and Hogwarts."

"Harry Potter, those are the kid's books that everyone's been talkin about aren't they? Leastways, I won't be totally humiliated wearing this thing compared to a blue turtle."

"Indeed, they were by far the least offensive items of apparel available," returned Ezra.

The two "men" were making their way down the stairs when Ezra caught a glance out of the window. They had been so busy trying to figure out what had occurred that the issue of where they were had taken a back seat to the question of what in the hell had happened. Stopping in his tracks, Ezra realized they were in even bigger trouble than they initially thought. Vin realizing his partner was no longer with him made his way back up to Ezra who appeared to be mesmerized by the view out the window.

"Ez, what is it?" asked Vin quietly.

"Vin, do you recognize anything? I don't recognize where we are?" Replied Ezra.

Vin looked out the window to see mountains on one side and water on the other, "I don't recognize it either, Ez."

"Vin, until we figure out what is going on, it might be better for us if we did not use our real names. As we said earlier, they'll never believe us. I would suggest we continue using Eric and Victor. We've used those often enough that it won't be that hard to keep in character."

"Yeah, Think you're right. Eric and Victor it is. What about the last name, Ez? We look like kids. If they don't think we're related, you know they'll try and separate us."

"We've used Simpson before, lets stick with one we're comfortable with. We're brothers, and we will not be separated," said Ezra his voice like ice and a hard look in his eyes.

Vin matched the look before smiling slightly and extending his hand, "Brothers." He said, "I always wanted one."

They started down the stairs stopping at the door into the kitchen pausing to listen when they realized that Miss Johnson was speaking to someone.

"They just woke up so you can just wait and ask your questions when they've finished eating. I declare those two boys are just flesh and bone. I'm sure I don't want to know when was the last time they had a decent meal."

"Jo, you know I don't want to do anything to hurt them after whatever they've been through. You know me better than that, but damnit I have to talk to them. The Doc said they're in OK shape right now other than some nasty bruises, a few minor cuts and scrapes and being thin as a rail; but they have scars all over their bodies that no one, much less a couple of kids should have. For crying out loud, they have scars from stab wounds and bullet wounds."

Jo interrupted, "What?" her amazement and outrage was plainly evident.

"Yeah, they're just little kids, how the hell did they get shot and stabbed repeatedly. The smaller one, Doc says the way his shoulder moves, its been dislocated at least a couple of times and the other one his back is all messed up but whether it was from birth or from abuse he can't tell without x-rays. All I want to do is make sure they're safe and," his voice hardened, "I want to make whoever did that to them pay. Kids shouldn't ever be treated like that.

I appreciate you taking them in by the way; I haven't actually called the state in yet. I don't know why, but I just didn't want them waking up in a hospital or children's home. They were found in my jurisdiction, and I want to talk to them first. They've been through enough right now without adding to it. I mean it's obvious they were either dumped or ran away; and if they ran, I am not going to be responsible for handing them right back over to the people who hurt them. Hell, it just isn't right."

"I know Matthew, and I was glad to take them in for now. It's awfully quiet here now that John and David have gone back home. They seem like sweet boys, so you just take it easy on them."

"You know I will. Come on, let’s see what's taking them so long."

He opened the door to find the two boys coming down the stairs. They were almost at the bottom step when they noticed him, and they paused briefly before continuing. He smiled at them reassuringly and was rewarded with two extremely wary looks before they edged past him into the kitchen. The clothes they wore were too large which wasn't really a surprise - Jo's nephews were 8 and 9 respectively -- and neither of the two boys coming towards him could be more than 6 or 7, and they weren't that big to begin with. Add to that the abuse he suspected and their small size and the looks they gave him weren't too surprising. Their eyes were too old, he decided, haunted and shadowed. They had seen far too much far too soon, and he hoped that he would be able to help them.

Not wishing to reveal that they had been listening, Vin and Ezra had retreated to the stairs as soon as they heard movement toward the door and looked cautiously at the man who was revealed when the door opened. He was a little over 6 feet tall and built like Josiah. He was wearing a sheriff's uniform, and they kept a careful eye on him as they moved into the kitchen. Matthew watched the two boys slide past him. They didn't make a sound, and they moved as if they expected to have to make a run for it at any moment. They didn't look like they were related, but the way they moved with each other and communicated with a glance made him sure that they were brothers in every way that mattered. Vin glanced at Ezra a silent indication that he would leave the talking to the southerner.

"Sir, Madam" began Ezra nodding at each in turn, "It would appear that we are in your debt. My name is Eric Simpson and this is my brother Victor. I hope you do not mind our forwardness in utilizing the clothing that was in the closets, but the lack of appropriate attire made borrowing the clothing we are currently wearing essential. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you, and I assure you that we will not trouble you any longer than absolutely necessary."

Vin stood silently at Ezra's side fighting to control the laughter at the glazed look that was forming in Miss Johnson's and the sheriff's eyes - Ez was on a roll. Ezra paused, and Vin saw the Miss Johnson jump into the breach.

"Yes, well, uhm Eric? And Victor?" she looked at each of them in turn, "How would you like something to eat? This is Matthew Griffith, and he has a few questions he would like to ask you after you've eaten. Also, Doctor Williams is going to be coming back to see how you're doing."

"Breakfast would be greatly appreciated, Madam, and we would be happy to answer whatever questions we are able to Sheriff. However, allow me to alleviate any concerns you may have regarding our current health. We are both feeling quite remarkably well this morning, and I assure you there is no reason for the doctor to call here."

At Ezra's pause, Matthew began speaking "Son, I am sure that you and your brother think you're fine, but you really need to be checked out just to be sure."

Vin spoke up "We're fine, sir, we know what it feels like when somethins broke, and since we ain't bleeding, we really don't need any doctor poking and prodding us to tell us we're too thin or something else we already know. Do we Eric?"

Ezra almost cringed at the look that passed between the two "adults" when Vin said they knew what it felt like when something was broken. Keeping child welfare out of the picture was going to be impossible. They were going to have to cut and run as soon as they were able to. "Certainly not Victor. For now though, would it be permissible for us to take our seats?"

"Of course, I'm sorry boys, I don't know what I was thinking," Miss Johnson began, pausing when Ezra walked around the table and held the chair for her.

Noticing that Vin was standing at his chair, she looked a question at him, and he said, "It ain't proper to sit down before any ladies that are present are seated."

Once she had been seated, she watched as Eric walked back around the table to take his place at Victor's side. Exchanging a brief glance, the two boys took their seats before Eric motioned with his hand to the empty seat and Matthew.

"I assume that you are joining us, sir? Perhaps we might converse while we are dining. Things always seem less troublesome when discussed over a fine meal."

"Yeah, Eric, a full belly in the morning always makes the day seem like nothin can go wrong." Vin grinned at Ezra. Ezra's normal mode of conversation and the differences between them were keeping the sheriff and Miss Johnson completely off balance so much so that neither of them had managed to ask a single meaningful question yet. The longer he and Ezra controlled the conversation, the more chance they had of finding out what they needed to know and getting out of here before they got packed off to an orphanage or something.

Ezra started up again, "Might I inquire as to our current location? From the view, I would hazard a guess that we are in New England, but I must confess that I can not place our locale with any degree of accuracy."

"You're in St. Albans, Vermont. We found you in a field right out side of town near the train tracks the night before last around 1:00 in the morning. You slept all day yesterday, an we had the doctor come out and check you over after I brought you here since, even though your injuries weren't that severe, we didn't want to move you anymore than absolutely necessary. Jo's nephews just went home, and I knew she hadn't put their stuff away yet. I don't think John and David would mind you borrowing some of the stuff they left behind." He paused briefly before continuing, "Can you boys tell me, what's the last thing you remember?"

Ezra and Vin looked at each other briefly before Vin replied, "We were at a carnival havin a pretty good time; and next thing we know, we're wakin up here."

"Victor, Eric, where are you parents? Where do you live?" asked Jo.

Ezra looked toward Vin receiving a slight nod in return began, "Our mother died when we were five. I had been living with my father and didn't know about Victor until Mother passed on. He came to live with us, but then after about a year, father was called away on business and never came home. They wouldn't tell us what happened to him," said Ezra, shifting his chair so that it was close enough to Vin that their shoulders were touching. Vin reached up and placed his hand on Ezra's shoulder. "We don't have any family but each other anymore, and no one is going to take that away from us." Ezra glanced toward Vin as he made this declaration.

Vin briefly squeezed the shoulder he held before saying "We're brothers, and we're stayin together."

The icy looks that settled on their faces as they turned to look at him almost made Matthew flinch. Children or not, he didn't think he wanted these two mad at him. Vin had caught the brief catch in Ezra's voice, realized that some part of the story concerning his father was true, and filed it away for further discussion. Matthew had been watching the dynamics between the two boys and was trying desperately to start putting pieces together. Matthew and Jo exchanged glances and decided it was time to change the subject. Obviously the boys weren't ready to talk about what had happened or where they were living. Matthew suspected they were probably living on the streets to prevent being separated from each other. Vin and Ezra were relieved that their story seemed to be sufficient for now. As far as anyone tracking down the fictitious Eric and Victor Simpson, well the fact that they would have given false names wouldn't be a surprise given their obvious determination to stay together.

"Come on boys, eat up, you must be hungry. Once you've finished, we can go in the front room and talk. It'll be more comfortable there." Jo said, trying to ease some of the tension that enveloped the room. Seeing the wary looks they were getting, Jo and Matthew left the room to allow the boys some privacy while they finished. Ezra and Vin quickly finished the food in front of them, only realizing how hungry they both were after being presented with a breakfast of pancakes, sausages, potatoes, and orange juice. Jo and Matthew were in the meantime discussing "Eric and Victor".

"They have to be brothers, the way the act, but they are so different. Matthew, how much of what they told us do you think is the truth?"

"I don't know how much of their story is true, but I do know that they were playing up their differences on purpose in order to keep us off balance so we wouldn't ask them anything they didn't want to talk about. I've spent twenty years questioning suspects, but those two -- damn - they could give anyone I've ever seen a run for their money. They've obviously been through hell. In fact, I doubt that their real names are actually Eric and Victor. They're too cautious to give up anything that might be to their advantage until they know more about us. They aren't going to really tell us anything until they have decided they can trust us. And right now, I would be willing to bet they don't trust anyone except each other."

Jo nodded, thinking about the two children currently in her kitchen before saying, "Do you think, you could get permission for them to stay here until everything is settled? They are obviously extremely intelligent and very dependent upon each other. I don't want them ending up in a state institute or separated because you can't find a family that will take both of them."

Matthew glanced up from the floor he had been staring at, "I was going to ask you if you would be willing to have them stay here longer. There's something about them. I don't know what, but they are hiding something. They're a mystery, and I want to solve it. I want them to be safe and happy like kids are supposed to be. You've been on the foster list for years, so I'll take care of getting permission for them to stay here." He paused briefly, "I think I better see about when the Doc is going to arrive and see if he'll bring Davis with him. Social services is going to insist on seeing some sort of psychiatric evaluation of them."

"But Doctor Davis is your criminal profiler, are you sure that would be appropriate?"

"Hell, no, but you heard them. A child psychiatrist would be eaten alive by those two." They heard Matthew place a short call before saying to Jo, "He's already on his way. Davis and Grady are both with him." Vin and Ezra grinned at each other as they listened at the door to the front room when Matthew paused before saying, "Actually, maybe we should turn them loose on Grady. I can't stand that guy." Ezra and Vin decided they had probably heard all they needed to at the moment and pushed open the door to the living room.

"Thank you for breakfast, Ma’am. It was really good, been awhile since we ate that good," said Vin while Ezra contented himself with nodding his agreement and for once remained quiet although he cringed once at his partner's turn of phrase.

"I'm glad you boys enjoyed it. Are you sure you had enough to eat?" when she had received a nod from both children, Jo continued, "Let me know if you get hungry before lunch and I'll get you something else to eat. Now, please call me Jo; and this is Matthew."

"Thank you for your hospitality, Ms. Johnson. Might I inquire as to what your intentions are concerning us?" Said Ezra.

"Don't worry bout Eric bein' all formal to you, Miss Jo. He's like that to everybody," said Vin seeing the look of concern cross Jo's face.

At that moment, the doorbell rang, and Matthews went to answer it returning with three men. The one in the middle carried a medical bag and appeared to be in his mid forties with an open and friendly face. The one on the left was young, no more than late twenties, and had what appeared to be a permanent look of disdain on his face. Ezra and Vin glanced at each other, that had to be Grady. The one with the medical bag was obviously Doctor Williams, which meant the third gentleman was probably Davis. Focusing their attention on Davis, they were reminded forcibly of Josiah. He wasn't nearly as tall, but he had the same presence and air of reassurance that their teammate had and they were unaccountably comforted by his presence. It was obvious that the two psychiatrists disliked each other intensely, and Doctor Williams seemed to be attempting to run interference between the two. Vin nodded to Ezra with a slight grin, and Ezra turned to the three men.

"Doctor Williams, I would presume. We were informed of your coming but did not realize you would be bringing additional colleagues with you. Let me assure you, that neither my brother nor myself are in any additional need of your services. However," Ezra continued raising his hand slightly when it appeared the Doctor was preparing to say something, "having some experience with the medical community, I know that answer will not suffice and that you will undoubtedly desire to conduct an examination. I simply wished to assure you that your work last night was more than sufficient and that we are duly grateful for your assistance. If you will allow me to make introductions, I am Eric Simpson, and this is my brother Victor." Ezra and Vin bowed slightly enjoying the looks that flickered across the three men's faces. Taken aback by the mouthful that had come out of the child in front of him, Williams was momentarily dumbfounded before recovering his wits and his manners.

"I am glad to hear that you and your brother are feeling better, Eric. Allow me to return the courtesy and introduce my colleagues. This is Doctor Grady on my right, and Doctor Davis on my left. They heard about the two of you and decided to come along. They wanted to meet you and see how you were doing."

Vin and Ezra both nodded in acknowledgement of the introductions, before Vin spoke up for the first time. "You had to bring two shrinks with you. There isn't anything wrong with our minds, ya know."

Ezra and Vin moved closer together until their shoulders were touching presenting a united front. Davis looked intrigued, "How did you know we were psychiatrists, Victor?"

"What else are ya gonna be, Doc." Vin's disgusted tone showed what he thought of the question. "You don't have doctor bags, and he's got a clipboard." Vin shot Grady a look of pure disgust, "Not ta mention the fact that he's wearin an expression like he knows everything there is to know." Looking back at Davis, Vin continued, "If we got a choice, we'd rather talk to you than him. I hate talkin to people who aren't gonna listen to anything I say cause they've already made up their minds."

Taken aback at this strange vote of confidence, Davis said, "Not that I'm complaining, but would you mind explaining why you're willing to talk to me?"

"I would have thought that was obvious, Doctor. We have no desire to be subjected to testing and questioning by someone who has already made their decisions based solely on first impressions and hearsay. Indeed, I can not imagine your colleague is that successful in dealing with his patients if he always maintains the air of smug superiority he is currently exhibiting. On the other hand, you are intrigued by us. You haven't passed judgement, and your expression says that you won't ever know enough because there is always something more to learn. Consequently, I would second Victor's motion, if I may," said Ezra.

Davis could hear the choked laughter coming from everyone but Grady and was taking great pains not to look at anyone but the two children in front of him. He could just imagine the look on Grady's face. He had never seen anyone peg the sanctimonious SOB as accurately and as quickly as the two boys in front of him. Fighting laughter and shaking his head slightly, he began to reevaluate the tentative assumptions he had made before meeting them. Grady began sputtering things like "I never" and "We'll see about that". Prompting twin looks of utter disdain from Eric and Victor.

Davis almost had to leave the room to regain control when Eric announced,

"Surely, Doctor Grady, you cannot expect anyone to take you seriously if you can not even articulate a single statement clearly and concisely. Should you by any chance ever manage to ask a question that is worth answering, my brother and I may consider responding to it. But I must admit we find it very difficult to acknowledge the presence of someone who obviously considers us inferior. Although, I do find it somewhat promising that you have lost the supercilious look you wore upon entering this room." Obviously dismissing Grady from their minds, the two boys once more exchanged glances and turned toward Doctor Williams.

"If'n you don't mind, we'd just as soon get the check-ups out of the way as quick as possible, Doc. Neither of us like all the poking and prodding you people have to do." Glancing at Ezra and seeing a slight nod, Vin turned to Davis, "If ya want, ya can come with us. And before you decide you're comin to," he said looking at Grady, "we ain't gonna say anythin as long as you're in the room. Miss Jo, can we use one of the rooms upstairs that we woke up in? It'd be a might more comfortable up there than down here, I'm thinkin."

A choked, "Of course, Victor." Was all the reply Vin got as Jo tried desperately not to start laughing at the pole-axed look Doctor Grady was wearing.

"Come on Eric, best we get this over with so we can start tryin to figure out what to do next."

The two boys started up the stairs leaving behind five dumbfounded adults. They were halfway up the stairs when Eric turned around, "Gentlemen, are you coming or not? We would both be more than happy to dispense with this examination, if you have changed your minds about its necessity."

Regaining their senses, Williams and Davis exchanged glances and quickly started up the stairs before Eric could get into full swing. When they reached the bedroom, they found the two boys already sitting on the bed with their shirts off. Davis stopped in his tracks as he took in the scars that were scattered across their bodies. Williams had told him, but he hadn't really believed it. Christ, those were bullet wounds and stab wounds. How in the hell had social services missed these two? Davis watched intently as Williams gently and quickly ran experienced hands over the two small bodies, checking the bruises and replacing the bandages he had applied the previous evening. Neither boy so much as flinched as they submitted reluctantly to the examination wearing identical expressions of sheer boredom. As might have been expected, Eric kept up a running commentary that had the Doctor fighting the impulse to throttle him just to get him to shut up.

Williams finished his examination, and began to report on his findings, "Well, everything appears to be healing up just fine, although I would suggest you both take it easy for a few days. I'll tell Jo that with a couple of days of bed rest and some good food, I think you'll be fine."

"Bed rest, surely you are joking Doctor Williams. As you yourself stated, we are fine."

"We ain't stayin in bed, Doc. We don't need to. We'll be right as rain in a day or two. Sides, we don't like havin people makin us drink nasty concoctions that are spose to help make ya better and that's what always happens when you're stuck in bed."

Both boys began speaking at once.

Davis interrupted, "James, I don't think you're going to win this one. Is it absolutely critical that they stay in bed?"

"Well, it's not critical, but"

"I would suggest then that it is left up to the boys discretion as far as how much time they spend in bed. Just try to take it easy for a day or two, OK." Davis turned to look at the boys who had finished getting redressed. They were looking at him intently before glancing at each other in unspoken agreement and returning approving gazes to him looking at him with slight smiles on their faces. Strangely enough, their looks of approval filled Davis with a sense of pride and he found himself wondering at the strange desire to prove himself worthy of their trust. Obviously highly intelligent children, they were going to prove a definite challenge, and he got the impression that even as young as they were it would be dangerous to cross them.

"Well, Doc, I suppose it's your turn to do your poking and prodding," said Vin looking at Davis.

"I'm afraid I don't follow, Victor, what do you mean." Returned Davis.

"And here we had such high hopes for you, Doctor. Surely you realize that your examination is even more intrusive than Doctor Williams'." was Ezra's contribution.

"Yes, well I must admit that's true, but I am surprised to hear that assessment. Most children aren't that perceptive." Was the stunned reply from Davis. He was beginning to think he should just pitch anything he had ever learned about children out the window when dealing with these two; they certainly didn't behave like any children he had ever met before. "OK then, it's obvious you know that there are some questions I have to ask you, so the first one is going to have to be, is there anything I can do that would make you more comfortable?" He watched as the boys once again glanced at each other reaching some unspoken agreement. If it weren't for the fact that they looked so completely different, he would have sworn they were twins.

"Conveniently forgetting that this interview is necessary would be extremely beneficial, but as we know that is not a possibility keeping Doctor Grady out of the picture is about all that can be reasonably expected. Oh and before you even make the suggestion, if you separate us, we will be forced to refrain from providing you with any of the information you desire." The boys settled into more comfortable positions on the bed as Ezra continued, "Shall we begin, Doctor."

"Actually, I'm not sure where to begin." admitted Davis. This situation was completely out of his realm of experience.

"Spose, I might as well answer one of the questions you're tryin to figure out how to bring up. Don't ask about the scars, you wouldn't believe us, and we ain't gonna talk about them." Davis and Williams saw Vic stop suddenly and turn to Aaron who nodded his agreement before as one they got up silently from where they were sitting and made their way to the closed door. Bemusement changed to humor as with a slight grin, Vic yanked the door open and Grady fell into the room.

Ezra looked down at the man lying in the floor before announcing in a voice dripping with disdain, "Eavesdropping is really the height of impropriety. Having already made our feelings toward you apparent, I would venture to say that your actions would be seen as completely unethical -- not to mention the fact that anything you might hear would be inadmissible and a violation of our rights. I would assume you are at least passingly familiar with the phrase Doctor/Patient confidentiality." Glancing over at Davis and Williams, Ezra continued, "Gentlemen until we can be assured of our privacy, I believe this conversation is finished."

With that, Ezra attempted to step over the young Doctor missed his footing and planted one foot squarely on Grady's stomach. "I do beg your pardon, Doctor. I truly believed I had sufficient clearance that you would not prove to be an obstacle." Ignoring the gasps coming from the other two Doctors, Ezra held the door open for his brother as Vin joined him, also trodding on the hapless Doctor Grady in the process.

Looking down at Grady, Vin announced with a slight smile on his face, "Doc, we don't like ya, and we sure don't trust ya so I'd suggest ya don't try anything like this again. Cause, I'm sure we could come up with somethin to make you regret it."

With that, the two boys turned as one and left the young Doctor gasping on the floor glaring at the two men who had collapsed helplessly onto the bed laughing. "Oh God. I don't know how in the hell we are going to deal with those two. I wonder if they would consent to intelligence tests; I've never seen anyone like them." Gasped Davis when he had regained some measure of control. "And by the way, Grady, I have to agree with my clients. Keep your nose out of it."

Ezra and Vin left the room together and began walking down the stairs when Davis's voice stopped them. "Boys, please come back. Williams and I promise Grady won't interfere. I'll get Matthew to keep an eye on him if necessary. I really would like to talk to you."

"If you can guarantee that there won't be any unauthorized listeners, I suppose we could continue our discussion with you and Doctor Williams. However, we would like to see Doctor Grady downstairs with Sheriff Griffith before anything further is said." With that the two boys returned to the top of the stairs watching silently as the young doctor made his way down grumbling all the while about who should be examining them and the qualifications of the ones staying behind.

"You boys do realize that I'm not exactly qualified in the field of child psychology..." Davis broke off at the twin looks of incredulity he was receiving. The smaller boy quickly schooled his face into a bland mask showing absolutely nothing before saying,

"By virtue of the fact that you have an open mind, you're far more qualified than Dr. Grady. Besides, do you really want to go to Grady and admit that you don't think you can handle this case."

Ezra knew he had struck a sore spot with Davis and almost grinned when Vin spoke up "Maybe we should reconsider talking to either of them Eric. I mean he doesn't want to talk to us and we won't talk to the other one."

Vin was interrupted by Davis, "I never said I didn't want to talk to you. I just wanted to make sure you understood that this is not my area of expertise. I wanted to give you the option of choosing someone else if you would be more comfortable with them."

The boys didn't even have to look at each other this time, before Vin said "Nah, you'll be fine. Lets just get on with it, O.K."

Ezra and Vin headed back toward the room they had left where Doctor Williams was waiting in the doorway.

"Doctor, shall we continue from where we were so rudely interrupted. I believe my brother had just informed you not to ask about the scars we both wear. Having settled that topic of discussion ... " Ezra paused and closed the door behind him, relatively secure in the knowledge that Dr. Grady had been escorted downstairs by Matthew who appeared quite irritated about the whole situation before continuing, "Gentlemen, shall we begin." Ezra glanced over at Vin. They had determined silently not to volunteer any additional information. They would let the doctors guide the conversation.

"Would it be possible, Eric and Victor, if we spoke to you separately?" asked Williams.

"Not if ya want us to actually talk to ya, Doc. Eric already told Dr. Davis that." Was Vin's reply and Williams and Davis watched in amazement as the two children became completely unreadable and totally silent meeting the Doctors' eyes with all traces of emotion erased. Facing a united front, as Matthews had earlier that day, the doctors determined that fighting it at this point would undoubtedly cause more harm than good and catching the cold looks on the two small faces they determined the harm would not necessarily be limited to the children.


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