Seven Brothers AU
Disclaimer: Dont own them and I never will
Note: Thanks to Libby for beta reading this for me on short notice. I truly appreciate it
This is an open AU Have fun
As guidance counselor for the middle and high school there were certain obligations Josiah had to meet. Going to a weeklong conference was one of them. He was packed and ready to go; last minute preparations had been taken care of and now all he had to do was have a heart to heart talk with his school-aged brothers. He wasnt as worried about JD and Nathan getting into trouble as he was the other two, but he wasnt going to single out the dynamic duo, as theyd come to be known.
As Josiah called the four into the study he noticed a variety of expressions. Nathans was of unconcern he understood that it was necessary for him to go and that he would return. Ezras, well with him it was hard to discern how the boy felt about him taking this trip. The fourteen-year-old had his trademark blank mask that he wore when he didnt want anyone to know what he was feeling or thinking firmly in place. Vin was looking relaxed as always, but that boy could be caught in a tornado and still remain unruffled. JDs expression clearly said he was anxious about this trip. Josiah couldnt blame him. At only nine years of age the youngster had lost two sets of parents. Separation was still a bit of a problem, but since it wasnt Buck that was leaving Josiah knew the boy would be alright.
Josiah leaned against the desk and looked at his four brothers. Buck and Chris had walked to the doorway and stood listening.
"Ok guys, weve been over this I know, but just so theres no misunderstanding, when am I due back?" Josiah wanted to reaffirm to JD that he would be coming back.
"Friday afternoon," the four answered in unison. Josiah caught Ezra rolling his eyes.
"Nathan will be taking you to school and bringing you home, right?" Josiah asked, another reaffirmation.
Getting confirming nods he asked, "And you wont be causing him any trouble, will you?" This time he was looking right at the two junior high students.
He didnt figure Vin and Ezra would do anything purposely harmful, but as younger brothers they had hit their stride in the aggravation department. Especially Ezra when he was in a foul mood.
"No," Ezra, Vin and JD answered together. JD answered more earnestly than the other two. Ezra was looking for all the world a little too innocent for Josiahs liking.
"And," clasping his hands together Josiah pinned Vin and Ezra down with a look, "You wont be getting into trouble at school either, will you?" the oldest asked, looking purposely at Ezra and Vin.
"No," the twosome answered, sounding very bored.
"What do I mean by trouble Vin?" Josiah asked sternly, standing straight up, expecting a defined explanation.
"You mean I am absolutely not to play any types of pranks or jokes or commit any acts that end with potential situations that could get me in trouble or Chris called to school," the twelve-year-old repeated robotically. They had been over this for the last seven days after all.
"And for you, Ezra?" Josiah said, turning his attention to his other brother.
"There is to be no correcting, arguing, mocking, or harassing of any and all school officials. I am to keep my learning ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and comments to myself. I am not at any time supposed to make a teacher cry, quit or have a nervous breakdown," Ezra quoted verbatim Josiahs rules which he had been repeating every since he learned he was going on this trip.
Satisfied with both answers, Josiah leaned back once more and smiled big, "Now group hug, I gotta get out of here. I have to be at Mr. Leons house in forty-five minutes."
JD lunged into Josiahs strong arms as Nathan and Vin walked up to either side of the older brother. Ezra stayed put and sighed wearily. Group hugs were still too awkward for him to fully participate in.
"Come on. Youre in this family too," Chris said, as he walked up behind the youth and gently pushed him into position between him and Buck.
Hanging his head, Ezra reluctantly put his arms around the two brothers, but refused to give into the giant squeeze Josiah initiated. When they broke apart they all heard Ezra whisper, "Thank goodness thats over with."
Walking out of the study Josiah caught Ezra around the waist and leaned down to whisper in his ear, "Behave, okay?" He gave the youth an imploring look with a gentle smile. Ezra merely sighed and nodded once. The youth didnt know why the older ones felt the need to single him out.
Josiah headed out the door as his six brothers paraded out onto the porch after him. Reaching Bucks vintage truck that he was borrowing to go into town he waved before climbing in and began pulling out of the driveway. He gave one last wave to the guys on the porch. Smiling a little he tried to convince himself all would be ok, After all what could go wrong in just five days? Josiah jerked his head as all the scenarios raced through his mind. The words Murphys Law popped into his head.
Chris and Buck roused the sleeping forms of the three youngest students. Nathan was already up and getting ready. As the rest of the kids readied themselves for school Chris fixed their breakfasts and lunches. After all were ready, they piled into the Suburban and Nathan drove them to school.
During their lunch break Chris and Buck were sitting at the table enjoying the last vestiges of their meal when the phone rang. The blond stood up and answered it.
"Chris," he answered.
Pausing for a few minutes Chris answered, "Yes He did what? Ok, Ill be there in a half an hour Alright, thank you."
Buck could read his brothers face and by the sound of Chris voice and the rubbing of a finger over the eyebrow Buck knew it wasnt good.
After Chris hung up the phone Buck asked, "Ezra in trouble already? Dang that kid, he promised Josiah to behave." The black-haired man was rising from the table, dishes in hand, headed for the sink.
"It isnt Ezra its Vin. He broke his arm," Chris said, voice colored with guilt. He, too, had jumped to the conclusion that it had been about Ezra.
"He did what? Good grief," Buck stated, as he wiped down the table.
"Yeah. Ill see ya later," Chris called, as he headed out the door.
"Call!" Buck shouted to the back of his brother only to receive a nod of affirmation and hand wave in the air.
Chris entered the nurses office to find Vin being comforted by his older brother. Looking at Ezra with a very unpleasant expression on his face he asked gruffly while he bent down in front of the injured brother, "What happened, Ezra?"
"Werent Ezs fault," Vin said angrily. "He wasnt even there when it happened. They just called him down here until you got here," The tear tracks were quite evident on the small face.
Chris looked back to his other brother, "Sorry, Ez."
The brown-haired brother merely shrugged his shoulders indifferently and replied, "Nathan has already been informed, but was unable to come. I, on the other hand, was more than able and willing to come be of assistance and lend my support until a more suitable prospect arrived. Now that youre here I shall adjourn back to my scheduled programming." With that, he slid off his chair and walked out the door.
Vin gave Chris a hard look before calling out, "Thanks, Ez."
Chris got the message loud and clear. He stood up and jogged to catch up to his brother. Grasping the thin shoulders he turned his brother around, "Thank you, Ezra for taking care of Vin until I could get here."
Ezra muttered a, "Youre welcome," and walked off. He didnt know why they all automatically assumed he would be the one causing trouble. JD and Vin werent exactly perfect little angels, but if something went wrong he was the first one they looked at for answers.
Chris drove Vin to the emergency room and was attended to by Dr. Hannel. They had seen this doctor before on a couple of occasions. Living in a small town their options were limited and all medical and police personnel were known, if not personally then at least by sight.
Nathan drove Ezra and JD home. When their homework had been completed they were allowed their own time to do as they wished. Buck was soon calling Ezra to come in and help him fix supper.
Arriving on the top step the youth looked up at his brother questioningly, "Why do I have to help? Its JDs turn."
Reaching out for his brother Buck guided Ezra into the kitchen, "Because I wanted to spend time with you, alright?"
"I didnt do anything wrong at school and I already told Chris I wasnt responsible for Vins accident," Ezra stated heatedly, he was by now heading into a surly mood. "Isnt my fault he took a non-winnable bet."
Ezra shook his head in disbelief, "Jumping off the top bleacher on a dare was not one of his smarter moves."
Buck was getting out the ingredients that were going to be needed as he spoke. "I know that, Ez. Chris called from the hospital and explained everything. I just wanted you to help instead of JD for a change," Buck explained patiently.
Ezra looked disgusted. He concluded Buck was trying to make up for Chris accusation and on top of that, from what he could tell they were going to have tuna casserole. One of the few things the man could cook and Ezras least favorite dish. "Well, if Im going to help with this chore at least lets make something edible," he said
Buck smiled, stepped back and swept his hand in an inviting motion, "Have at it, maestro."
Ezra began getting the ingredients out for Eggplant Parmesan, salad and garlic bread.
Three hours later Chris arrived with a sedated Vin asleep in his arms. Buck warmed up the leftover supper that Ezra had showed him how to make.
After Chris came back from laying the boy in his bed, Buck looked at the worried and tired face. Knowing what was going through his brothers mind, he said, "Itll be okay."
Suddenly laughing out loud, he slapped the black clad shoulder, "Dont worry. We only got four more days," Buck said with a large smile.
Since Vin had been nauseated from the pain medication after waking up last night and the fact his arm naturally still bothered him, the youngster was kept home. Nathan drove the other two to and from school. Chris and Buck figured they had it made, at least no phone calls had occurred today.
Chris appeared at the study door, "Okay, Ez, come help me with supper."
Ezras brown head popped up from behind the book he was reading. "Me? I helped last night," he said, indignantly. "Why not get someone else to help?" he asked huffily.
"Because Buck is out keeping JD entertained, Nathan is studying and you know good and well Vin cant help," Chris explained, with more patience than he felt.
Oh, alright," the younger brother grumbled, as he swung his legs off the side of the chair and stood up. "At least you can cook," he mumbled under his breath. Chris had started fixing B-B-Q steak, grilled vegetables, a potatoes and onion casserole, and hot biscuits.
Buck was watching JD play "Tarzan." The name of the game was to grab the dangling end of the rope that was tied to a high limb and take off running, then lift ones legs and swing around the tree.
"I can get higher than that, kiddo," the older brother teased.
"No, you cant," JD shot back. "Beside your legs are too long," The black-haired boy explained.
"Oh no, theyre not," Buck answered back. "Give me that rope and let me show you," he said, as he grabbed the rope from the smaller hands.
With power from strong legs, the older sibling took off running and swung high. Seeing he was about to come in too short, he stuck out one of his leg to keep the rest of his body from hitting the tree. Instead, his foot connected with the solid form.
"Ow!" Buck hollered, as he dropped to the ground and grabbed his ankle.
"Buck! Buck! Are you okay?" JD asked, worriedly, hunkering down on the ground next to his brother.
"Yeah," the older one hissed out between clenched teeth. "Just give me a sec," he breathed out.
Supper was soon called and like all little siblings, JD couldnt wait until everyone was seated before telling them that Buck had hurt his leg.
Chris turned to his older brother, "Buck?"
The mustached man understood the underlying question. "Im fine. Just popped it a good one," he answered, trying to hide the fact of how much it really hurt.
As the evening wore on, Buck could no longer ignore the pain nor the obvious reason. "Chris," he said, in a soft voice.
"Yeah?" the blond answered, looking up at his brother.
"I think I broke it," Buck said.
Chris didnt have to ask what or why his brother took so long in acknowledging the broken appendage. Buck was as bad as any of them when it came to admitting pain or sickness. With a slow shake of his head, he rose out of the chair.
Digging into his pants pocket he retrieved his keys and threw them to Nathan, "Go pull the truck up and Ill get him."
Nathan left in a hurry. The blond walked over to his injured brother and stooped down to help Buck up off the couch, where he had his foot propped up.
The other three up until now had watched the interaction in silence. That was broken by a muffled cry. "Im coming, too," JD wailed, as tears streamed down his face.
Buck had Chris stop as he leaned down to his little brother and gently said, "No, kiddo. You got to stay here with Nathan and Ezra and Vin. Youll be alright."
"But but what if you dont come back?" JD questioned, as the flow of tears increased.
"Ill be back," Buck said, firmly. They all knew JD associated hospitals with death. Buck continued, "Just like Vin did, yesterday. Im just going to get a cast and well be back before morning."
JD seemed to accept this new connection and nodded. Ezra could still see the fear and worry in his little brothers face as Chris helped Buck down the stairs and into the truck. The fourteen-year-old walked up beside his brother and suggested, "Hey, JD? How about some hot chocolate and a game of checkers before we go to bed?"
Ezra received the smallest of nods and knew JD was only consenting because he needed some companionship and comfort.
As the five remaining brothers headed back into the house, Ezra whispered another suggestion in JDs ear, "I could tell you a story perhaps, if you wanted me to." The black-haired brother looked up at his brother and nodded his head vigorously. Ezra never offered to tell him a story. It was either Buck or Chris that did that.
Chris helped Buck through the sliding doors of the emergency room and ran right into Dr. Hannel, who happened to be on break. With an uplifted eyebrow and a slight smirk, the congenial doctor motioned for the two to follow him back into an examining room. Chris gave out a low sigh. Only three more days left.
Chris and Buck had returned home around midnight, so the blond was a little sluggish getting around. Hearing a noise behind him Chris turned around to find Ezra already dressed and standing in the doorway. Ezra looked hesitant for a moment before inquiring, "Did Buck come home last night?"
"Yeah. Broke his leg just like he thought," Chris said. Continuing to fix breakfast he mumbled, "Dont know why he didnt speak up sooner."
"Maybe he didnt want to appear a burden," the other one offered as a defense.
Chris mentally slapped himself for sounding so harsh. They had a hard enough time getting Ezra to admit when he was sick without him making it sound like a hardship when someone actually was hurt.
Chris turned to face his brother, "What I meant was that instead of lying there in pain and suffering needlessly I would have liked it if he had spoken up sooner so, I could take him on to the hospital and have him fixed up. Dont like anyone to be in pain when they dont have to be is all."
Chris had been watching his brother get out fixings for his and the others lunches. Nodding towards the lunch bags, he said, "Thanks. That helps a lot."
Ezra, in his customary way, shrugged off the compliment, "I just wanted to make sure I didnt wind up being forced to purchase that that reproduced tasteless hazard they refer to as a balanced meal at school."
The morning ritual was soon done and the kids off to school. Vin, feeling much better and wanting to show off the soft cast adorning his arm, was the first out to the Suburban. It was JD who did not wish to attend school. Between Chris and Ezra they managed to persuade the youngster that the older brother would mostly sleep during the day and that JD could take care of Buck when he got home from school.
"Besides you dont want to upset Buck by making him responsible for your absence, do you?" Ezra asked. "Especially since he will have to answer to Josiah about it when he gets back," putting just the right amount of guilt in his voice.
"No!" JD answered quickly and raced off to the vehicle. He would never do anything to get his older brother in trouble.
"Nice going, Ez," Chris said, with a smile and a slight slap on the back.
"One must use the talents they were given," Ezra replied with a wide smile.
After returning home from school that afternoon, Vin and JD sat down on the porch with Buck. Ezra and Nathan headed inside to do their homework. The three brothers sitting on the porch watched Chris working out in the pasture work on a water pipe that fed the water tank for the horses and cattle.
Sighing heavily, Buck cursed himself silently. JD, being quick to notice something was wrong with his brother asked, "Whats wrong, Buck?"
Turning towards the little image of himself, he smiled softly, "Nothing, JD. Just berating myself for being so stupid last night."
Turning to stare right into his brothers eyes, JD offered, "Chris said it was an accident and that accidents happen."
"Yeah, they do. But, if I hadnt broken my leg last night I could be out there helping him," Buck explained.
Before the oldest could stop him, JD flew off the porch headed towards his blond brother yelling, "I can help him."
In a matter of minutes an out-of-breath JD showed up at Chris side. "Hey Chris!" JD claimed excitedly, "I came to help ya."
Chris stopped where he was for a minute and looked at his enthusiastic brother, "Thanks for the offer JD, but thats alright I got it." Chris turned back and bent over to pick up a coupling to fit on the end of the pipe.
"No, Chris, honest, I can help," he said, as he picked up the pipe to show his brother he was strong enough to help.
The next few seconds would prove Murphys Law to the extreme. Having picked up the heavy steel pipe off center, the other end become top heavy. Trying to adjust for the imbalance of the weight JD swung the pipe around as he tried to readjust his grip. At that moment Chris began to stand back up only to have his temple connect solidly with the pipe. Chris grabbed his head with a yelp and fell to the ground woozily, blackness threatening the edges of his eyes.
Seeing the blood and not understanding head wounds bled more profusely than anywhere else on the body, the young boy began screaming bloody murder, "NATHAN! I KILLED CHRIS!"
The scream could have been heard in the next county. In any case it definitely brought his brothers on the run. Nathan and Ezra soon passed up Buck and Vin, who had been watching the whole process and had started off the porch. They soon were beside the fallen brother with JD draped over his chest screaming and crying. Ezra struggled a bit, but was finally able to remove the black-haired boy off the blond. Nathan was already talking to Chris and getting pressure pads out from emergency kit he had grabbed on the way out the door.
"Lets see, Chris," Nathan said, as he removed his brothers hands from the bleeding gash.
"Its ok, Nathan. Its just a scratch," Chris explained, with a slur to his speech. He was trying to downplay the injury for his brothers benefit.
"Yeah, probably is, but we still need to take ya in and have it looked at for everyones benefit," Nathan said, playing along with his brother. "Besides it being a metal pipe you might need a tetanus shot."
"Thanks a lot," Chris snorted, giving Nathan a dirty look.
By this time Buck and Vin had finally managed to make their way out to the site. JD had left Ezras grip and gone to Buck for comfort. Ezra moved to the other side of Chris and between Nathan and him they were able to get Chris into a sitting position. They both knew as wobbly as the older one was that it would be difficult to get him back across the distance to the pickup. Nathan dug into the blondes jeans and took out the keys.
Handing them to Vin he asked sincerely, "Think you can manage to bring the truck closer?"
Vin nodded and took off at a jog, cuddling his arm closer to his body to minimize the juggling. As kids living on a ranch they had all been taught to drive, in case of an emergency. Even JD could steer the pickups as long as he sat on some elses lap. In no time Vin was easing the automatic pickup closer to the small group. JD had muffled his crying to sobs. Chris had told him several times he was fine and he knew it was an accident, but the colorless face was hard to believe. The truck rolled to a stop and Ezra and Nathan maneuvered Chris up onto his feet and into the truck.
Vin, looking very worried, offered, "I could go with ya and hold the bandages for ya, Chris."
The blonde reached over and ruffled the long hair and smiled, "Thanks for the offer, pal, but I think its best you stay here and help Ezra out." Nodding his head toward Buck, hobbling back to the porch with JD holding onto his waist. Vin nodded once and shut the pickup door.
Ezra looked at JD and Vins sad faces and decided something needed to be done and quickly before the tears started flowing again. Taking a deep breath Ezra walked up to JD and said, "Come on JD, you may assist me in the making of our evening meal. Ill even let you chose what we make."
"I dont want to," the younger one pouted, curled up in Bucks arms.
Ezra blew out a long breath and leaned down and whispered in the little ear, "It is up to us now to see to Bucks health and that includes eating." Standing back up he cocked an eyebrow at his brother.
JD was off his brothers lap and headed towards the kitchen in a flash. Buck gave his brown-haired brother a grateful look while he encircled Vin into his arms and gave Ezra a wink. Vin looked up at his brother with a sad lopsided smile, blue eyes pooled with unshed tears.
JD called from the kitchen, "Hurry up, Ezra. I bet you cant guess what I want for supper?"
Rolling his eyes as he walked towards the kitchen knowing exactly what his brother would want to fix for supper; JD would live off chili-cheese hotdogs if he could. Muttering to himself as he began the task of turning on the small hibachi grill, "And Josiah thought I would be trouble?"
After cleaning up the supper mess, Ezra spent the rest of the evening doing magic tricks for his younger siblings. As bedtime neared Buck and he were aware of the potential problem. Vin would want Chris, but wouldnt say anything and JD would be divided between wanting to stay with Buck and not abandoning his roommate, Vin.
Once again Ezra saw the problem as his to solve. Without further thinking he suggested as enthusiastically as he could force, "Hey guys, why dont we make a tent in my room?"
Vin, JD and Buck looked at their brother as if he had become possessed. Ezra liked having certain things certain ways and one of those certain things was having his privacy so Ezra didnt offer his room to any of them for any reason.
"What about Buck?" JD piped up.
Before Ezra could answer Buck jumped in, "Im going to sleep on the couch again." Seeing the doubt still lingering in his brothers eyes he added, "Yall go on and make that tent." Then in a staged whisper he said, "Besides, Ez doesnt make that kind of offer every day. You better take it while you can."
Vin quietly added, "And maybe he will tell us another story."
JD looked at Vin and asked, "Think thatll really happen?"
Vin looked at his small brother and gave a small grin. Buck and Ezra knew the twelve-year-old was putting on the act for JD. "Maybe. If we ask, he might."
Ezra, seeing the happy bright smile JD had plastered on his face before turning to him said, "Perhaps I might be persuaded into giving another oration if the two of you get upstairs posthaste."
"Then we better go, huh?" Vin said softly, as he headed for the stairs. Turning back he gave the oldest a quick hug, saying, "Goodnight, Buck."
JD hugged his older brother for a longer time and instructed, "If you need anything just holler, ok?" Then started up the stairs after Vin.
Ezra turned to follow before the large hand grabbed his small bicep and stopped him. Looking at the smiling blue-eyes Buck ruffled his head as he said, "Thanks a lot, Ezra. You really came through and I appreciate it."
Ezra gave a slight shrug and began to walk off before being pulled back into Bucks arms for a quick hug. "Didnt think youd get away that easy, did you?" Buck asked, laughingly.
Ezra tried giving his brother a disgusted look and failed. Going up the stairs he could hear his brother settling himself on the couch and knew Buck would wait up for Nathan and Chris.
Nathan helped Chris to a chair in the waiting room before going to get the necessary papers to fill out. Dr. Hannel came out with a patient at that time and saw the two brothers in the waiting room. Lowering his head and slowly shaking it, he raised it back up and motioned for them to follow him.
Nathan woke the three youngest quietly. He softly explained that Chris had to have stitches and would have a headache so they should be quiet and not wake him up. Vin and JD readily agreed. He discreetly left out that the man had suffered a moderate concussion. Nor did he tell them the doctor had wanted to keep the blond for observations, but Chris had refused to stay.
Then without warning JD started silently crying again. "I want to stay home," he sobbed.
"You cant JD. You have to go school," Ezra explained.
"Whos going to take care of Buck and Chris if were gone?" JD argued back.
Nathan looked at JD, then at Vin and could see that though he hadnt said anything it was clear Vin agreed with JD.
"Ill call during the day and if they need help they can always call Mrs. Wells," Nathan added, trying to pacify his brothers.
Accepting their fates and moving on to his next concern JD asked, "Nathan? What are we going to do for breakfast?"
"We can have cereal," Nathan answered.
"What about lunch?" Vin asked worriedly. He, like Ezra, didnt like the school furnished meals.
"We are just going to have eat at school today," Nathan said sternly.
Vin and JD turned their eyes to their other brother for help. Ezra had become really good at solving their problems this week, surely he could solve this one, also.
Ezra rolled his eyes and headed down the stairs. "Ill find something," he stated resignedly.
Sometimes they had leftovers from the night before, but since they had hotdogs he would have to find something else. Going into the kitchen he opened the refrigerator, then moved to the pantry. By the time the others came in for breakfast of pancakes and scrabbled eggs, Ezra was finishing their lunches of turkey sandwiches, veggie sticks and for Vin and JD he put in cups of pudding. It wouldnt be great, but it was better than the alternative.
Nathan called home a couple of times during the morning. Buck always answered and said Chris was doing ok. The blond had a killer headache and was asleep every time Nathan called, but was hanging in there.
During his fifth period the senior was called out of class and instructed he was needed across the street at the elementary school. All three schools had been informed that the older two brothers were out of commission for the day and if there was an emergency Nathan was to be notified. Walking over to the other school he wondered what the nine-year-old had done.
He found his brother sitting on the white standard cot that was found in all nurses offices holding an ice pack to his cheek and softly crying.
Walking over to JD and sitting down next to him Nathan put his arm around the usually tough brother. "What happened, JD?" he asked.
Taking off the ice pack Nathan gasped at the swollen jaw. "Aw got kixt," JD answered, to the best of his abilities.
"Huh?" Nathan asked questioningly, looking up to the nurse, who had walked over to the two of them.
The nurse quickly explained, "He got kicked."
"How did that happen?" Nathan asked, with alarm. This week was going downhill faster than an avalanche.
The nurse pulled a chair up to the duo. Looking at the nine-year-old she began explaining, "They were playing King-Of-The-Hill on the jungle gym. JD here was making it to the top when another student kicked out to stop JDs procession. The other student has already been dealt with, now we need to take care of this one." The nurse finished by nodding towards JD with a smile.
Nathan gave a quick nod and explained he would take JD to the emergency room. Leaving his little brother in the office while he went back across the street to get his other two brotherss from their classes. Being so close to the end of the school day Nathan knew he wouldnt be back before the end-of-the-day bell rang.
Nathan walked into the emergency room and smiled at the receptionist, embarrassed by his repeat appearance. Ezra sat holding his little brother while Nathan filled out the papers. Vin tried to entertain JD with stories of his previous pranks.
JD took the ice pack from his cheek and looked Ezra. "I wan uc," he whimpered.
Ezra tightened his grip on JD and sympathized, "I know, JD. I know."
Nathan and JD were soon called back to the cubicles. The curtain was pulled aside and Dr. Hannel walked in. Nathan and the tall man looked at each other and the doctor cracked a large smile.
"Your family trying to get a discount or something?" Dr. Hannel joked as he began examining the patients cheek.
Two hours and an x-ray later three brothers walked out of the emergency room, Nathan was carrying JD, to find a darkened cloudy sky. The x-ray showed a hairline fracture in the cheekbone, but they were reassured that it would heal well and the swelling would go down in a couple of days. The doctor suggested keeping an ice pack on for the rest of the day.
After arriving home Chris and Buck checked JD over for themselves and Buck promptly placed him securely in his lap. Vin sat next to Chris, his eyes filled with worry. The blond reassured the youngster that he was fine; he just had a slight headache. Vin looked into the green eyes of his brother and instinctively saw the lie, but the youth accepted it for the comfort it provided.
Nathan changed Chris bandages and quizzed the brother on his well being. After getting the best answers he was going to get Nathan and Ezra went upstairs to change their clothes. Being the only two still capable it was up to them to do their chores the others were unable to do. Nathan headed outdoors, noticing it was beginning to sprinkle, as he walked into the barn.
Ezra replaced JDs cold pack the hospital had given him with the household ice pack. He then went to retrieve the young boys blanket from his bed. The black-haired child found comfort in the soft covering bearing a horses head on it. He spent a good time making sure everyone was settled and had everything they needed. JD had said that a bowl of ice cream would probably make him feel better, the others had also admitted they, too, would like some. Ezra simply nodded his head and went to the kitchen and fixed everyone ice cream complete with chocolate syrup topping.
Nathan came in a short time later soaked to the bone. Chris gave him a cursory glance and ordered, "Nate, you better go get out of them clothes and take a hot shower before you get sick."
The senior simply agreed, turning back to Ezra, "Ill be back to help you with supper in a minute."
Ezra waved his brother off, "Dont worry about it. I shall figure something out."
After a long hot shower Nathan walked into the kitchen to find his brother had already set the table and started the evening meal. "Smells good, Ez," he said.
"It's not much, but I think it will suffice," Ezra said, as he stirred the stew he had made from scratch. "If you would be so kind to watch the stew I believe I will make some Navajo Fry bread to go with it," Ezra asked, knowing Vin loved the Native American bread.
"Sure thing," Nathan responded, as he walked over to the stove and took a peek. None of them said it aloud, but they all liked it when the fourteen-year-old cooked. Somewhere in his life he had acquired the talent for making great dishes.
After supper Ezra helped Vin with his homework then completed his own. Buck had settled JD in bed with him. Bucks leg still hurt a great deal and the older brother was glad for the excuse to go to bed early. Chris had also retired to his room after supper. His headache had grown worse after consuming the cold desert before supper.
The day of Josiahs return finally arrived and though it was not stated out loud, more than one was looking forward to it. On the other hand there were a couple of older brothers that werent so anxious to see their brother return to find them in the shape they were in.
The blond got up with every intention of making breakfast for the household and getting back to his neglected chores. By the time he got dressed and downstairs, though, his head was killing him and all he wanted to do was lie back down. Walking into the kitchen he was greatly surprised to find Ezra already dressed and fixing breakfast.
Looking up, Ezra knew by his brothers face he was not feeling his best. "Its ok, Chris. I have it all taken care, if you wish to go sit down and watch the morning news," Ezra said, giving his brother a reason to go sit down.
"Well," Chris paused, "It would be nice to see the news," he said, as he walked into the living room and eased into his recliner and leaned back without bothering to turn on the TV.
Soon Nathan and Vin came into the kitchen to find a hot meal of eggs, sausage and biscuits waiting for them. Vin noticed the lunch bags sitting on the counter and was silently thankful for Ezras self-preservation. He wasnt going to ask what was in them; anything was better than school lunches.
Ezra noticed Nathan didnt eat much of his breakfast. "Nathan?" Ezra questioned. "Is there something wrong with your breakfast."
Guilt quickly colored the older brothers face. "Nah," he said, Im just not hungry this morning, thats all." Staring at his brother with appreciation he said, "Thanks for your effort, though."
The younger brother shrugged his shoulder to slough off the comment. "It wasnt a big deal," he replied.
Going to school Vin and Ezra noticed Nathan wasnt as talkative as usual. They also noticed their brother kept wiping his nose. Looking at one another Vin mouthed the words, "Sick." Ezra rolled his eyes, "No doubt." Both hid their smiles as the same thought crossed their minds at the same time. After arriving at school the two younger brothers walked toward their classes together.
Vin finally broke the silence, "How long do you think hell last?"
Ezra answered with sureness, "Nathan is pretty strong-willed. I say hell make it until after lunch." After pausing a moment he added, "That seems to be the time allotment for this week." Giving Vin a sideways smile.
Vin ducked his head. It was true JD and he had both been hurt around lunchtime. "Well," Vin started, "I dont think he will last that long."
"Oh?" Ezra questioned, "You know something I dont?"
"I just think he was feeling worse than he was letting on," Vin explained, as he shrugged his shoulders.
"You might be right," Ezra said. "We shall soon see who is right," he finished, before they split up and went their separate ways.
Nathan tried to tough it out, but by third period he felt absolutely miserable. Getting an excuse from his teacher he visited the nurses office. After having his temperature taken and finding it to be over a hundred he was excused from school. He explained to the principal that neither of his older brothers were up to driving and therefore he would have to take his brothers home with him. The high school principal called over to the junior high and had the two brothers excused from school.
Meeting up at the water fountain Vin just grinned at his brother as Ezra conceded, "You were right in your assumptions that he felt worse than he let on."
The younger brother just grinned his lopsided smile.
The smiles left both faces when they arrived at the suburban and saw how bad Nathan looked. They could tell he felt really bad. Climbing into the vehicle Nathan simply said, "Were stopping at the hospital so I can get a prescription."
Neither Vin nor Ezra said anything, but nodded in agreement. Walking in, the nurse behind the desk shook her head and directed Nathan right on to the back. Thirty minutes later he walked out with Dr. Hannel following close behind. Nathan had his prescription in hand and the three brothers left the hospital in silence. They had not rode halfway home when Ezra noticed Nathan was fighting to keep his eyes open. The tiredness his brother felt showed plainly on his face.
"Pull over, Nathan, Ezra directed.
"Ezra whatever you need cant it wait until we get home," Nathan asked wearily.
"No, it cant. Now pull over," Ezra said, more harshly.
Nathan guided the suburban over to the side and put it in park. "Ok, Ez," he said, expecting his brother to get out.
Ez got out of the back seat and walked around to the drivers door and opened it. "Move over," he directed his brother.
Looking at his brother through tired and heavy eyes Nathan asked, "What?"
Ezra began to get impatient with Nathan. Unbuckling his brothers seatbelt he ordered, "Move over! You obviously are not well and I dont intend to let us get into an accident if its preventable. Now move over!" Ezra ordered with authority.
Nathan didnt like it, but saw the reality of the situation as it was. He knew he couldnt go much further and so he reluctantly moved over to the passenger seat. "Just drive slow and careful," he directed as he buckled up and laid his head back against the headrest.
Ezra accepted the order without comment and pulled back onto the highway. Vin watched from the back and never said a word. They all knew what they were doing was illegal and Nathan could get into a lot of trouble, but as far as any of them could figure they didnt have a choice. Ezra drove home at a reasonable speed and all were relieved when he pulled into the yard.
Chris came out and helped Nathan into the house and settled him on the couch. Vin sat down next Chris and took note that JD was curled up in Bucks lap. For the sake of the youngest they had been watching Dr. Dolittle. They all settled down to watch the rest of the movie and Nathan let the much-needed sleep claim him.
Ezra walked into the house after gathering Nathan and his book bags out of the vehicle to find his brothers in their various stages of healing from their assorted ailments and shook his head. Josiah was going to be in for a surprise and a half when he got home this evening. Looking around Ezra noticed that most of the housework had been ignored and figured a good deal of the outside chores had been, too. He figured Nathan had only done what was necessary last night.
Going upstairs he changed his clothes. Coming back down he grabbed the dirty clothes hamper and went into the laundry room, after starting a load he headed outside. He tended to the livestock and proceeded to muck out the stalls. Coming out of the barn he noticed that the waterline to the water tank had never been hooked back up. After a few minutes of studying the pieces and evaluating what needed to be done he managed to put the coupling on the pipe and with a bit of struggling and ingenuity tightened the pipe onto the water tank. Finishing that chore he headed back inside to clean the house.
That evening Josiah drove up into the yard and puzzled as to why no one came to greet him. He also wondered at the strange car parked at the house. Walking in through the kitchen door he stopped short. Standing there with a towel tucked into his pants waist, cooking supper alone was Ezra. Wondering what the boy had done to pull KP by himself Josiah announced himself by clearing his throat.
Ezra turned and found Josiah standing there watching him. Red color flooded his cheeks as he greeted his brother, "Hey, Josiah."
Knowing his brother wasnt forward in the demonstrative area Josiah walked over and hugged his brother. Not expecting one in return he was elated at the small pat he received on the back. "Hey kiddo, I sure missed you guys," Josiah said, with a smile.
"Yes, well I can honestly say the feeling is mutual." Ezra replied, surprising his brother even more.
Sniffing the aroma in the kitchen Josiah said, Smells wonderful. What is it?"
Ezra blushed and answered, "Potato soup, green beans and toast."
At the sound of the dryer buzzing Ezra scooted around Josiah before saying, "Excuse me. Theres my laundry."
Josiah really began to worry about his brother, wondering what he had done to get laundry duty, also.
"Wheres the others?" he asked his retreating brother.
"In the living room," Ezra said. Stopping, Ezra turned around to see his retreating brother. "And Josiah," he said, waiting for the brother at the kitchen door to stop and face him.
"Yes?" Josiah asked.
"Next time you go off, youre taking them with you." Ezra said, before leaving the room.
Pondering his brothers statement he pushed open the swinging doors. During the odd conversation with his brother he forgot to ask about the strange car.
Walking into the living room he saw Dr. Hannel straightening up from a bent over position in front of the couch. Vin, hearing the swing kitchen door, and thinking it was Ezra, stood to ask when supper was going to be ready. Instantly spotting his oldest brother instead, the young brother let out a yell and ran towards Josiah.
Buck, Chris and JD all turned their heads to see Josiah standing just inside the living room with his mouth agape staring at the room full of invalids. Buck and JD were in one recliner. Chris was in the other and Josiah was calculating that left an unseen Nathan on the couch.
"What the heck happened?" Josiah exclaimed, as he moved further into the room and picked up his brother with the broken arm.
Dr. Hannel smiled as he walked around the couch towards the oldest brother. "Its good to see you, Josiah." Looking back at the other three brothers walking, or in Bucks case hobbling, towards them, he continued, "It was getting down to the wire whether they would all be in one piece or not before you got back."
Dr. Hannel laughed a little as they heard pots and pans being rustled in the kitchen, "I think poor Ezra was fixing to feel a bit overwhelmed."
Putting Vin down, Josiah could only nod his head as he took in the appearances of his brother and wondering about the unseen one, finally finding his voice he asked, "And Nathan?"
Jerking his head toward the couch he lowered his voice as he talked about the sick one. "Hes got the flu," Dr. Hannel explained. "After realizing all, but Era was incapacitated in some form or another I thought it wise if I came out and checked on them this afternoon."
Josiah could only nod his head as his eyes roamed from brother to brother, taking in the ailments. "Thank you. I appreciate the effort, greatly," he said, as he stuck out his hand to shake the Dr.'s hand in gratitude.
After escorting the physician out the door Josiah walked back in and found JD holding out his arms to be picked up. Lifting the youngest up into his arms he couldnt withhold the question any longer. "What in the world happened to you guys?"
"I cot kixt," JD replied, pointing to his face with sad eyes.
"Ok," Josiah said slowly, nodding his head as he gave the JD a gentle squeeze. "What about the rest of you?"
Twenty minutes later he was still being briefed about their adventures (or misadventures) when Ezra stuck his head in and announced supper. Josiah immediately felt dismayed with himself for forgetting that the fourteen-year-old was in the kitchen by himself.
Six of the brothers gathered around the long table for the simple, but delicious meal. Ezra had fixed a small bowl for Nathan, but had returned with it when he found his ill brother asleep. Sitting down in his spot he felt the eyes of his oldest brother upon him.
Turning towards Josiah, Ezra asked, "Is there something lacking in which I can retrieve for you?"
Shaking his head slowly, a wide grin spread upon the open face. Josiah leaned down to whisper in Ezras ear, "I cant express how proud I am of you." Sitting back the oldest enjoyed the red blush that crept up his brothers cheeks.
Raising his glass of ice tea Josiah saluted his brother, "Heres to Ezra, who came through when the chips were down. Im glad to be back."
Without a moments hesitation Ezra snapped back, "Im glad youre back, too. You can take over tomorrow while I sleep in."
Five brothers erupted in laughter as Ezra began eating his meal.
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