Disclaimer: I claim no rights to the Magnificent Seven in any of their incarnations and make no profit from writing these stories.
Warnings: Smarm, bad jokes, and a little language. It's LB, though, so nothing too dark or dangerous.
Notes: This story is part of the In the Good Ol' Summertime series, created by Joy. My thanks to her for allowing me to participate in this fun little venture. She also provided me with a series of story ideas that hadn't been used as yet. I think I've used 8-9 of them in this story, so THANK YOU JOY for getting me rolling!! Also, the knock knock jokes (oh, stop groaning) came from here: http://www.kidsjokes.co.uk/jokes/knock/ I altered a few to fit the story but, for the most part, they're directly quoted. Also, the Wacky Kids page, which you can find here: http://www.wackykids.org/welcome.htm lists both Samurai and a Northwest Indian "hands on" exhibits. And in case you're wondering, Ezra learned to make a paper replica of a Bentwood Box.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Joy, Jeanne, Jean and Jill (a J theme if ever I saw it) for their feedback on this story. THANKS LADIES!
Characters: li'l Vin and wee JD along with Uncle Ezra. Chris and Buck also make appearances, as does Uncle Josiah. Uncle Nathan is a bit scarce in this one I'm afraid his biggest scene is via the telephone.
Synopsis: Ezra invites Vin and JD to spend the weekend with him at the end of the summer. As he has been doing all summer, Vin records the events for the special book he is creating, with a little help from JD and Uncle Ezra.
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"Sometimes I think being a kid's a lot harder than it looks."
~Stu Pickles, Rugrats
??? JD, not now.
??? Knock knock.
Aww, come on Vin. Just one more joke.
??? Hey, look Vin! The computer doesn't understand when I laugh.
???? I know, JD. Are you going to tell your joke?
Oh yeah! Knock knock.
Abbey stung me on the nose! ???? Get it? A bee stung me on the nose! Except maybe we should change it to a bee stung me on the foot.
That isn't funny, JD!
Hey, Uncle Ezra! I was just helping Vin with his homework.
Yes, so I heard as soon as I entered the house. I think perhaps it might be best if Master Tanner worked on the written segment of the assignment now. Perhaps you and I could find a video to entertain us while we wait, Master Dunne.
It was late Friday afternoon, and the members of ATF Team Seven were wrapping up the week's work. They were also watching the clock as well as the front door to their suite, an air of expectation heavy in the room.
At exactly 4:45 p.m. the door was pushed open by a double whirlwind. Vin Tanner and JD Dunne sprinted into the room, JD already in mid-speech.
"Unca' 'Ziah! Unca' Nathan! Unca' Ezra! We's here! Buck! Chris! We's here!"
"Hey, Li'l Bit!" Buck Wilmington called out as he leapt from his seat and came to grab up the little boy. This was no small feat, since JD was loaded down with a heavy backpack as well as an armload of toys. Grinning over the shaggy mop of black hair, the agent spoke to their housekeeper. "Hi, Gloria. Is there anything left at home?"
Rolling her eyes and smiling, the woman said, "Only what was too heavy or too big to carry."
The other boy stood quietly, waiting. His tiny, elfin face lit up when the door to the private office off the side of the open bullpen opened and a familiar figure emerged.
"Chris!" Sprinting across the room, he grabbed the big blond around the waist.
His own face splitting into a wide grin, Chris Larabee reached down and pulled the little boy into his arms. Like JD, Vin wore his backpack, although his wasn't quite so heavy. Hugging his adopted son to him, Larabee said, "Hey Cowboy! You ready for your big weekend?"
He nodded, sandy blond hair bobbing as he did. Big blue eyes glittered with excitement as he said, "Yep. I got ever'thin' I need. Miz Potter's got our sleepin' bags 'n Cat in the car."
"Well, that's good," the agent said in a serious tone. "I wouldn't want Cat meowing and crying for you all weekend."
Little boy Tanner giggled at the thought of a stuffed animal crying. Then he turned a serious face toward his adoptive father. "Y' sure this 's gonna be okay? I mean y' sure you 'n Buck "
Larabee watched the child struggle with his thoughts and emotions over the coming separation. He could see it in the child's eyes. Vin was afraid that, if he left for even two days, that something would happen to change their relationship. Hugging the little boy snuggly, Chris said, "Buck and I will get by, but it sure will be hard. If we start missing you too much, could we call you at Uncle Ezra's?"
The smile returning full force, the child said, "That'd be good. I'm gonna miss you, too."
"Well young sirs," Ezra Standish interrupted. "If we're to get the rest of your things and load everything in my car, eat dinner, and get to the show at 7:30, we really need to be on our way."
"Yea!" Twin exclamations of excitement rang through the air. The children hugged their fathers again, said good-bye, and marched out the door behind the undercover agent and their housekeeper.
Chris looked at Buck and shook his head. "You think Standish will survive the weekend?"
Shaking his head, the bigger man said, "Hell I wouldn't take bets on him surviving the evening!"
Ezra finished putting the boys things in the trunk of his car, shaking his head at the number of toys JD had brought with him. The younger of his two adopted nephews still held onto something he referred to as a 'beyblade' as if the little toy had been made of gold. The older of the two was staring into the trunk with those fathomless blue eyes that at once warmed and saddened him at times. Following the child's gaze, he saw the stuffed animal Chris had gifted the boy with when he was in the hospital.
Smiling, Standish said, "Would you like to leave Cat out, Vin?"
Young Tanner debated the answer for almost a full minute but, in the end, he shook his head. Despite his love for the toy, which was already showing signs of wear and tear, the thought of being seen in public carrying Cat would be embarrassing for the seven year old.
"Okay," the Southerner said with a knowing wink. "I'm sure he'll enjoy the quiet it will be a good time for contemplation."
Vin nodded, not certain what his uncle said but deciding that it was meant to make him feel better. Squaring his shoulders and pretending he couldn't see Cat looking out at him through the trunk, he followed the man around to the side of the car.
Standish buckled his two young weekend guests into the backseat, then climbed in behind the wheel. With a quick wave to Gloria Potter, he pulled out of his parking spot and headed toward the exit of the garage.
He had talked the two boys out of dinner at McDonalds with promises of any dessert they wanted in exchange for eating somewhere without a plastic décor. Sneaking a look in the rearview mirror, he decided that they were dressed appropriately for the little restaurant he had chosen. It was one of the less elegant places he dined at, but would be a good compromise, and might even expose the young men to something new.
They pulled into the parking lot beside the little restaurant, the name 'Lili's' etched in the windows in a tasteful script. Extracting the two boys from the rear seat, he took each by a hand and led them around to the front door. He couldn't help but smile as the boys took in the quaint surroundings, but his smile faded as JD spoke up.
"I don't see no playground, Unca' Ezra. Do you see a playground, Vin? Maybe it's in 'a back? Ain't there no playground, Unca' Ezra? Where we gonna play af'er we eat? Do they got 'burgers, Unca' Ezra? I wanna burger. An' fries. An' a choc'ate shake. They do gots shakes, don't they Unca' Ezra?"
Groaning, Standish said, "No, there is no playground, JD. They do serve hamburger sandwiches, but I would count it as a favor to me if you would consider eating something else just this once. As for shakes we shall see."
As they entered the building, young Dunne said, "Well, what 'bout pizza?"
Dinner was an exercise in patience for the Southerner. He read through the entire menu twice for his young guests, explaining many of the entrees as he went along. In the end JD ordered a patty melt and fries, and they did indeed serve shakes.
Vin insisted on ordering for himself. "I want the 'pasgetti an' meatballs. Only can y' moosh up the meatballs 'til they're little bitty?"
The waitress smiled down at the little boy who stared back at her with a serious expression. "How about we change that order to spaghetti with meat sauce instead?"
Frowning, Vin said, "No ma'am. I like that red sauce stuff on my 'pasgetti, but them meatballs is too big t' eat."
Keeping her smile in place and winking at the slightly embarrassed man he was with, she said, "All right honey, we'll 'moosh' up the meatballs. Do you want garlic bread or breadsticks with that?"
"Sticks!" Both boys called out.
Ezra flinched, wondering just what the tiny duo had in mind.
Only two or three minutes had passed before the boys began to get bored. Ezra found himself coaxing JD out from under the table, and explaining several times why there was no playground in the vicinity. Vin sat in his chair, swinging his legs in every widening arcs, until one little foot connected with the table leg. Standish flinched as the water glasses bounced as young Tanner made contact a second time. He looked to see the little boy grinning.
"Look Unca' Ezra. I made the glasses jump!"
"Why yes you did, my young friend. But do you think you could refrain from a repeat performance?"
"Please don't do it again."
Standish felt a flash of guilt at the forlorn look on the elfin face. Softening his voice, he said, "It really is an excellent trick, Vin, but the glasses are real glass. If you should knock one over it might break. Not to mention the fact that your toe hasn't completely healed. You wouldn't want to damage it again, would you?"
Although the deflated expression didn't leave all together, the older boy seemed a little less hurt. "No, but it don't hurt no more. Unca Nathan said it's 'bout healed."
"Well that is good news. We don't want to risk re-injuring it though. After all, we have a lot of plans for the weekend."
"Could we go t' Mickey D's t'morrow?" JD asked, oblivious to changing the subject.
"We'll see," Standish said, cringing at the decibel level the child was using. Looking around, he saw several of the patrons watching them. To his relief, the majority of them were smiling.
"Knock-knock," Dunne chirped unexpectedly.
Brow furrowing, the Southerner said, "Excuse me?"
"Knock Knock," JD repeated more slowly.
Heaving a long-suffering sigh, Vin said, "Buck gave 'im a new joke book last week. He's already mem'rized most of 'm."
"Oh, good Lord," Standish moaned, dropping his head into a manicured hand.
"KNOCK KNOCK!" JD announced with more insistence.
Ezra looked to Vin for help. With a put upon look, the younger boy turned to his adoptive brother and said, "Who's there?"
"Ada who?" Young Tanner asked obediently.
"Ada 'burger for lunch!"
Ezra managed a chuckle, but Vin only groaned. Oblivious to the less than enthusiastic response of his audience, JD continued. "Knock knock."
Vin ducked his head and Ezra was suddenly quite fascinated with the craftsmanship of their table. Young Dunne waited a heartbeat and then repeated, "Knock knock."
Squaring his thin shoulders, the blue-eyed boy beside him answered, "Who's there?"
"Acute little boy!" JD grinned broadly confiding in the others loudly, "that's me a cute little boy. Mrs. Potter said so."
The other two were saved from responding as the waitress approached their table with their meals. The two boys eyed the big serving tray expectantly, watching as the waitress passed the plates to the table.
Ezra watched the children closely, as if expecting some disaster to befall them. Instead, the boys sat up in their seats, took their napkins, and spread them on their laps. Then they clasped their hands before them, looking expectantly at their unofficial uncle.
Standish returned their gazes, a frown drawing dark brows down. "Is something wrong?"
"Y' gotta say grace, Unca Ezra," JD explained.
"Grace? Oh um I'm afraid I don't " the Southerner stammered.
Confusion coloring his fine features, Vin said, "But Unca Ezra, Ms. Potter says it's 'portant t' say thanks 'fore y' eat."
"Yes, well of course I perhaps you would like to start, Master Tanner?" He regretted his suggestion the second it left his mouth. The bashful and self-conscious child turned bright pink, his blue eyes growing wider in near panic. "Forgive my manners, young sir. It is simply that I have never been one to I'm a bit rusty I'm afraid."
"Buck says y' just gotta say what'cha think," JD added helpfully.
"Yes, of course," Standish managed. Clasping his hands, he watched as the two former orphans bowed their heads. In a timid voice he said, "Dear Lord, we thank you ah for this food. Ah Amen."
The undercover agent ran his tongue over suddenly dry lips, than managed a smile when the two boys looked over at him. They were both grinning at him, as if he had delivered a benediction. Emboldened by their expressions he leaned toward them conspiratorially. "Or as my Uncle Eustus would say 'Good food, good drink, Good LORD, let's eat." The boys giggled hysterically, and it was several minutes before they settled down to eat their meals.
The rest of the dinner went fairly well. Ezra's vigilance allowed him to head off what could have been a rather disastrous "breadstick battle" between the boys. As soon as JD announced to the surrounding tables that he and Vin had watched Star Wars the night before, grabbing a breadstick as he did, Standish was ready.
As JD raised his 'sword' above his head, turning in his seat to face Vin, who was also 'armed', he said, "Oh my goodness, look at the time!"
The two boys turned to him, twin looks of curiosity on their faces.
"If we want to have dessert before leaving for the show, we really must eat."
Breadsticks were placed back in the basket and two little heads ducked down. Food quickly began to disappear from their plates. As he lifted a forkful of grilled salmon to his mouth, Ezra smiled in triumph.
They were finished with their entrees a short time later, and the Southerner asked for the dessert menu. Once again, he read through the offerings more than once, explaining several of the desserts to the two boys.
Vin settled on the Chocolate Decadence after hearing the description. It was a chocolate sundae made with chocolate ice cream, covered in chocolate syrup, with sprinkles and whipped cream. JD was immediately intrigued by the Elvis Split, which was chocolate ice cream covered with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce sitting on a 'boat' made of banana slices and topped with whipped cream. They both started to change their order when he himself ordered a slice of Three Layered Bombe with chocolate rum sauce, until they heard that one of the ingredients was coffee ice cream. On his part, Standish decided that he would need the fortification if he was to deal with the youngsters after the sugar kicked in.
That bomb thing Uncle Ezra ate didn't look near as good as our deserts.
I know JD, but he seemed to like it.
I liked my Elvis desert; it had lots a chocolate in it.
My desert did, too. I think they made Uncle Ezra kind a sick though. He looked awful funny when he saw all the chocolate.
Yep. Hey tell the computer bout the play though.
Kay. It was fun, but I don't know why they call it a play cause nobody really player or nothing. There was this girl dressed up like red riding hood and then there was a girl dressed up like she was an old lady.
That was supposed to be the grandma.
??? I know JD. You could tell she wasn't old, though. She didn't look like Ms. Nettie or anything. Then there was a man dressed up like the wood man
He didn't look like he was made out of wood though.
??? JD, he wasn't supposed to be made out of wood. He was a man that goes out and chops down trees.
Oh yeah. Well then there was a wolf man.
That wasn't a wolf man, JD; it was a man dressed up to look like a wolf.
But he sure had big scary ????.
Teeth, computer. JD, the computer didn't know what you said. Anyway, it was all part of a costume like when we dressed up for Halloween. Anyway, the play was good, and that guy dressed up like a wolf was real scary.
Then, right in the middle of it, they turned off the lights and closed the curtains. Then the lights came on out where we was sitting and Uncle Ezra took us out to this other room where they had stuff to drink an these little cookies.
I don't think Uncle Ezra likes cookies, Vin, because he said something like oh good lord, more sugar when that nice lady gave me an you each a little plate with them cookies on it.
Yeah, he looked kind of scared or something when we started eating the cookies. They were real good, too. Then, after we ate all our cookies and drank our juice we went back inside and sat down. They started the play up again.
My favorite part was when the wolf guy started chasing little red riding hood and they ran up an down around where we was all sitting and red riding hood was hollering and crying for help.
Yeah, and you kept trying to get Uncle Ezra to go help her.
I was only teasing Vin.
You had a serious look on your face, JD.
I was just tending Vin.
Boys! If you can't work on that together without arguing I'm going to turn the computer off.
Sorry Ms. Potter.
Yeah, we're sorry Ms. Potter.
Okay, where were we?
Your favorite part of the play was when the girl and the guy dressed like a wolf ran all over the whole theater.
Oh yeah, right. That was fun, cause the girl was hollering an the wolf guy was growling and it got real noisy.
Yeah, it was pretty neat. But in the end the grandma was okay and so was red riding hood and the wolf ran away. And then it was all over we went to Uncle Ezra's house.
You left out the part bout it raining though.
Oh yeah! It was raining, so when we got to the house Uncle Ezra made us run to his door an he let us in an told us to go to the bathroom, get a shower an dry off while he brought in our stuff.
Except for Cat.
???? Yeah, except for Cat.
I'm sorry Vin; I didn't mean to make you sad.
Its okay, JD. It all worked out okay.
Yeah. Except for Uncle Ezra's knees.
Yeah. ???? Except for Uncle Ezra's knees.
Ezra grumbled under his breath as he struggled into his townhouse, arms loaded down with the boys' things. Dropping the rest of the items in the living room, he dug through their backpacks, finding their pajamas. Carrying them to the guest bathroom, he knocked on the door.
"Yes, it's me JD. I've brought your nightclothes."
The door cracked open, one big hazel eye peering up at the Southerner. "We's nekkid Unca Ezra."
Smiling at the child's attempt at modesty, Standish said, "Quite all right, here you go." He passed the lightweight garments through the small opening, "I'm going to repair to my own lavatory to get out of these wet things. If you need me, just call out."
"Kay," JD agreed, wondering where Uncle Ezra kept his laboratory, if it was like the one on Dexter's Laboratory, and what he had to fix there.
A short time later all three of them met in the living room. Ezra had opened up the small, gas, fireplace and turned it on. The boys smiled at the flickering light that spread its cheer through the room.
"All right, gentlemen, it has been a long day. I would suggest that you both climb into your sleeping bags and prepare for your night's repose."
"Huh?" JD asked.
"Think Unca Ezra said we's s'posed t' go t' sleep," Vin explained.
"Ah, Unca Ezra, it ain't that late, yet! Can't we watch some TV?" The little boy had climbed up onto the couch, and was bouncing up and down.
With a long-suffering sigh, Standish caught the little jumping Jack and lifted him off the couch. Placing the brunet moppet safely back on the floor, he said, "It is most certainly late, Master Dunne. It is exactly 10:07 p.m."
With a frown creasing his small features, the child asked, "Is that late?"
"Yes it is. Now, do either of you need to use the facilities or require a drink of water?"
"No, but I gotta go pee," the smaller boy announced loudly, bounding out of the room. The slap-slap of his bare feet could be heard as he ran down the hardwood floor of the hallway.
Turning to the other little boy, Standish said, "As for you Vin, do you need to use the bathroom or have a drink of water?"
"I'm okay, Unca Ezra," the seven-year-old said distractedly as he dug through their things.
"Very well. Here, allow me to help you." He grabbed up the sleeping bags, and went to spread them out on the floor in the living room. "I have a suggestion. What if we make it a camping adventure? You and JD can sleep in front of the fireplace. Would that be acceptable?"
"Yeah, that sounds good."
Looking up from where he was spreading the bags out on the thick pile carpet, Standish regarded his adopted nephew. The little boy was usually quiet and thoughtful, but he seemed to have retreated much farther than usual into himself. "Vincent, are you certain there's not something I could do for you?"
Shrugging, the child said, "'S okay."
"What is 'okay' son?"
Looking up, wide blue eyes sad, the child said simply, "Cat."
"Cat. Y' fergot t' git Cat. S'okay, though. It's rainin' too hard t' go back out. We can git 'im in the mornin'." Despite his best efforts to appear stoic in the face of the separation, Vin's was visibly upset.
Had he not known what the stuffed animal meant to the child already, one look into those large blue eyes would have told the tale. But Ezra Standish most certainly did know what Cat meant to the little orphan. The toy had been his first tangible means of security in a painfully long time, and it was a physical expression of the bond he had formed with Chris Larabee.
The undercover agent mentally kicked himself for having been in such a hurry that he had forgotten the stuffed toy. Aloud, he said, "Well, it most certainly is not all right, Vin. What sort of host would I be if I were lax in seeing to the comfort of all of my guests?"
Spurred on by the look of relief and appreciation in the huge azure orbs, Standish went to the coat closet in his foyer and dug through it for the proper attire. Tucking the legs of his silk pajamas into his boots, drawing his long raincoat over his robe, and grabbing up his umbrella, the Southerner opened the front door, looking out into the sheets of rain toward the small garage beside his townhouse. He really did need to consider finding a home where he could get to his car without braving the elements.
"Unca Ezra, it's okay really," Vin said behind him.
Plastering a smile on his face, the undercover agent said, "Nonsense, it's only a little rain, after all." With that, he splashed across the small path toward the garage.
Vin stood in the open doorway, thin arms wrapped around narrow chest as he watched in the direction his that Uncle had disappeared. A few minutes later the man reappeared, sprinting back through the rain. Suddenly, to his dismay, Ezra slipped, falling to his knees in a puddle. Stepping out onto the covered stoop just beyond the man's front door, he called out, "Unca Ezra!"
Standish pushed himself back to his feet, limping the last few feet to where the boy stood. "I'm all right, Vin, let's get back inside."
As they entered the Southerner's home, they found JD standing in the middle of the living room, staring at them with distress. "Where was you? I comed outta the bafroom an' ever'one was gone!"
As he pulled the snug and dry toy from inside his coat, Standish said, "Yes, my apologies, young Master Dunne, I had to - "
"Unca Ezra went t' git Cat fer me," Vin said with a smile. Forgetting his status as a 'mature' seven-year-old, he hugged the toy to himself in relief. "Thank you Unca Ezra!"
Taking a look at the expression of joy radiating from the fine features and huge, guileless eyes, Standish said, "My pleasure, Vin. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get out of these wet garments."
Vin looked at the torn knees of the pajama pants that even he could recognize as being expensive. "I'm sorry Unca Ezra. I didn't mean for y' t' tear up yer pants. With a gasp, he cried out, "Oh no! Yer bleedin'!"
Looking down at the ruined clothing and feeling the sting of torn flesh, Standish said, "Not to worry, Vin. The pajamas are old, and as for me, they're only scratches." When the small boy continued to look upset, he finished seriously, "I'm being truthful, my dear boy. I'm fine. Now, I'm going to go change. Can you two get yourselves ready for bed without my assistance?"
"We ain't babies, Unca Ezra," JD said indignantly. "Can we watch TV for a little while paleeeeeeeease?"
Sighing, the Southerner said, "I'll make a deal with you. You can watch one of those networks for children until I return, then it will be lights out. Agreed?"
"No!" JD looked panic stricken.
Frowning, the agent said, "Why ever not?"
"I need a night light Unca Ezra please don't turn all the lights out!"
Realizing his faux pas, Standish said, "No, of course not, JD. I wouldn't dream of leaving us in the dark. We'll leave the light on in the kitchen and the bathroom. Will that suffice?"
Relief covered the cherubic face and the little boy replied, "All right, Unca Ezra."
The boys watched their uncle disappear into the hallway. Vin found the remote in the coffee table's drawer and turned on the TV set in the corner. Both boys frowned when one of the news channels appeared on the screen. Pushing the 'up' button, Vin began searching for Nickelodeon or TVLand. Both were networks their fathers approved of them watching without supervision.
"Vin I'm hungry."
Rolling his eyes, the older boy said, "JD, y' jist ate while ago."
"Can't help it, I'm huuuuuuuuuuuungry!" Young Dunne climbed up onto the couch, stood on his head and began kicking his legs against the back cushion.
With a sigh, Vin went to his backpack and retrieved a bag of trail mix. Carrying it to the coffee table, he said, "Here, but don't eat 't all."
"I don't want trail mix, I want somethin' good!"
"Well I don't know where nothin' is in Unca Ezra's kitchen, an' you know what Chris 'n Buck said. We ain't s'posed t' do nothin' 'r touch nothin' 'r git int' nothin' without permission. If we do, Unca Ezra'll be upset, and then we'll be in trouble. Now, if yer hungry then eat the trail mix."
With a sigh, JD dropped over onto his belly and climbed down off the couch. Opening the bag, he took a handful, stuffing it all into his mouth at once.
"JD! Y' know y' ain't s'posed t' put so much in yer mouth!"
At his adopted brother's loud cry, the younger boy choked, spitting the mouthful of nuts and raisons out onto the table.
"Oh fer cryin' out loud, JD! Now look at the mess y' made!"
"It's your fault, Vin! You yelled at me! "
Heaving a heavy sigh, the seven-year-old said, "I'll go get somethin' t' clean 't up with." He padded off into the kitchen, quickly returning with a wad of paper towels. He frowned as he found that the other boy was now lying on his belly, playing with his beyblade. "C'mon JD, y' gotta help me!"
"In a minute," the smaller boy said absently.
Scowl deepening, Vin moved to clean up the mess. He had finished cleaning it up, disposed of the paper towels in the kitchen wastebasket and returned to find JD still playing with his toys. In a sarcastic tone, he said, "Thanks a lot, JD."
Looking over his shoulder and seeing that the other boy had cleaned up his mess, young Dunne said hotly, "I telled y' I'd help in a minute!"
"But y' should 'a helped now. It was yer mess!"
"I said I was gonna help, but y' didn't wait for me. It ain't my fault if you're in patient."
"Yer jist lazy!"
The argument went on for several minutes, the two boys threatening, but never resorting to, physical violence. Suddenly they were interrupted by a stern voice in the doorway.
"Exactly what is going on, gentlemen?"
The two young boys turned with shocked expressions, finding Ezra Standish standing there, clothed only in a towel, which he had hastily wrapped around his waist. The sound of arguing children had greeted him upon his departure from the shower.
"Vin yelled at me Unca Ezra!"
"Well, he don't never help when he's s'posed t'!"
Raising a hand to call for silence, the bedraggled agent said, "Cease and desist, both of you."
"But I - "
"But he -"
"I said cease and desist that means stop arguing and be quiet."
Twin "oh"s were his only reply.
"I'm not certain what caused your disagreement, but it is now officially over. I want you both in your sleeping bags and quiet immediately. That means now." He watched as the two little boys moved quickly to comply before turning to finish his evening ablutions. As he stepped into the hallway, he heard a whispered exchange behind him.
"'S Unca Ezra mad?"
"I'm still hungry."
"Fer cryin' out loud, JD go t' sleep!"
A short time later, with antiseptic and gauze covering both knees and new pajamas on, his wet garments dripping away in his shower, Ezra padded back into the living room to check on the boys. JD lay sprawled out on top of his sleeping bag, chubby thumb in his mouth. Rather than risk waking the little whirlwind, he retrieved a blanket and covered him.
Vin lay curled up in his sleeping bag, Cat clutched tightly to him. Standish watched the child as he shifted, sighing softly in his sleep. He bent down, lightly brushing back the thick fall of dark blond curls that cascaded across his forehead.
He stood for several minutes, simply watching the two small boys. It amazed him at how comfortable he felt in their presence. He had never considered himself domestic in any way, including being able to entertain children. To his constant amazement, however, both Vin and JD seemed to enjoy being with him.
And for that he would be eternally grateful.
"Think the boys will be okay?"
Chris looked over his shoulder, seeing Buck watching him from his recliner. Turning to look back out into the rain-soaked night, with a smile he said, "It's not storming, and they're not in a tent, so they should be okay."
"How do y' think Ezra's doin'?"
Chuckling, the blond said, "Probably wishing it was Sunday afternoon." He moved back to his recliner, settling in with a glass of bourbon. He and Buck had decided to spend the evening at home, relaxing and watching some of the movies they had put off viewing since the boys had come to live with them.
"Probably. Well, what do you wanna watch next Tears of the Sun or Blackhawk Down?"
Shrugging, Larabee said, "As long as it's not animated, I don't' care."
Saturday morning had just dawned when Ezra Standish heard a soft knock at his door. With a groan, he rolled over, pulling his pillow over his head. The knock sounded again, this time louder. The third call was just short of pounding, so he resigned himself to getting up. Pulling himself up off the mattress, he donned his robe and padded across the room to his bedroom door. Pulling it open, he found himself facing two small boys, staring up at him owlishly through sleep heavy eyes.
"Good morning," the undercover agent mumbled.
"Mornin' Unca Ezra!" JD chirped cheerfully. "Me 'n Vin was gonna get some break'ast, but we don't know where nothin' is. Can you git us some cer'al an' some toast, an' some "
"Breathe, Little Bit," the groggy man said, parroting the phrase he had heard Buck spout so often. Then he said, "I had thought that perhaps we could enjoy breakfast at a little coffee shop I frequent near here."
The child understood only enough to decide that the man was going to take them out for breakfast. "Okay, let's go!"
Glancing over his shoulder at his alarm clock, he shook his head, "They won't be open for another hour. Time enough for us to all get showers and dress for the day."
Vin wrinkled his nose and said, "But Unca Ezra, we just took showers last night!"
"Yes, all right." The Southerner sighed. "The two of you go find something to wear and then you may watch television while I get ready."
As the little boys scurried back down the hall, Ezra closed the door and leaned against it with a groan. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he muttered to himself, "as if I could truly make myself ready for this day."
In The Good Ol' Summertime (Index)