Going Home

by Grey

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4

Josiah had entered the other tent to find Ezra lying on his side faced away from him, dealing out a hand of solitaire. He waited a moment, but the younger boy didn’t acknowledge him.


"Yes?" The tone was bored, and Ezra didn’t turn around.

"I want to talk to you."

"About what?"

Josiah looked at the back of Ezra’s head and counted to himself. "How ‘bout if you sit up and look at me while we’re talking."

"I’m in the middle of a game."

Josiah moved forward and reached over Ezra, gathering up the cards and then settling back. "And now you’re done. Sit up, Ezra." It was a command, and Ezra rolled over to face him, and then reluctantly pulled himself into a sitting position. He gave Josiah a disdainful glance from underneath his bangs.

"Do you approve of my posture now?"

Josiah tilted his head. "Kid, I don’t think you want to be pushing your luck right now, do you?" He held the younger boy’s gaze until he flushed almost invisibly and glanced away. "How about if we talk about what you were doing this afternoon."

Ezra’s voice was flippant. "But it would be redundant, since I assume you and Buck have already spoken, and he has no doubt seen fit to tell you."

"I want you to tell me, and I want you to cut out the attitude, Ezra," Josiah said, his tone warning.

Ezra shrugged a shoulder. "It wasn’t a big deal. Vin and I just tried some beer."

"Which you stole from Buck."

"We just took—"

"You stole it, Ezra," Josiah said sharply. "And then you went with your two younger brothers into the woods, and you drank it."

"J.D. didn’t even know what we were doing," Ezra protested, his bluster starting to wilt.

Josiah speared him with a look. "No, he didn’t, because you stuck him behind some trees and then left him!"

"Nothing happened to him," Ezra mumbled, looking down. "We were right nearby."

"Drinking beer." Josiah’s tone was harsh, and Ezra felt a prickling springing to his eyes. He turned his head, blinking quickly before turning back around defiantly.

"It was just one beer, Josiah! We barely had any before Buck came along!"

"Are you serious?!?" Josiah asked incredulously. "Are you really sitting there and telling me me it was no big deal, because you only had one?!?" Ezra flushed, looking away.

Josiah’s tone was grim when he continued. "All right. You’re gonna spend the rest of the night sitting in here, thinking about why this is a big deal."

"All night!" Ezra protested. "But Josiah—"

"And then again tomorrow."

"You can’t—"

"Yes, I can," Josiah snapped. "Don’t even start that, Ezra. You drank, you let Vin drink, and you took J.D. along. You’re just lucky we’re still out here." Josiah leaned down so that his face was a little closer to Ezra’s. "Consider this time your warning, because if you even think about pulling something like this when we get to our home, you’ll be grounded for a month, you hear me?" Ezra folded his arms and didn’t reply. Josiah’s voice hardened a notch. "I asked if you heard me!"

"All right, fine!" Ezra mumbled. Josiah looked at him for a moment longer before nodding.

"All right. You can come out for dinner. I’ll get you when it’s ready. Until then, I don’t want to hear a sound from in here." He left the tent, zipping the flap back up after him. Ezra waited until he was gone before angrily brushing at his eyes with the back of his hands.

+ + + + + + +

Buck struck a match and held it up, examining the flame for a few seconds before kneeling and touching it to the twigs. He poked half-heartedly at the flickering glow with a stick, coaxing it into life. Normally he liked being the one in charge of the fire, but tonight it was just something to do until the others got through with the guys.

Josiah returned first, dropping onto a log and folding his arms across his knees. He ignored Buck, scowling at the flames.

Buck asked the obvious. "You speak to Ezra?" He mentally kicked himself when Josiah just looked at him. "I mean, how’d it go?"

Josiah picked up a stick and snapped it in half, throwing both pieces onto the fire. "He’s Ezra. How do you think it went?"

"He was a pain in the ass?" The inquiry from behind was dry.

Josiah turned around and favored Chris with a small grin. Chris wiggled an eyebrow in response before settling beside him on the log.

"I do suppose that would capture it, yeah. Yours?"

Chris shrugged a shoulder, then shook his head a little ruefully. "He was one whipped little puppy before I ever got in there. Near killed me to keep it straight with him."

Josiah broke into a slow grin. "You know, to be honest, Ezra wasn’t so far off that. Rottweiler, though, maybe. Or one of those yippy little lap dogs."

Chris chuckled, and then stretched back. "So, this has been a fun day."

"Dazzling," Josiah agreed.

Chris watched Buck poke at the fire, resisting the urge to take the stick out of his hands. He glanced sideways at Josiah. "A skee ball level kind of fun day." He smiled as Buck’s shoulders stiffened.

"Enjoyed yourself that much, did you?" Josiah drawled, leaning back.

"And who do we have to thank for this all new, skee ball-like, fun day, Josiah?"

Josiah shrugged, eyeing the back of the dark-haired youth. "I dunno, Chris. You think Buck knows?"

Buck turned to face him briefly, eyes miserable before he looked away again. "You guys are saying this is my fault. And you’re right. I shouldn’t have—"

"Oh, pipe down, bro," Chris interrupted tiredly, the game having lost its fun when he saw Buck’s eyes. He reached out and gave him a little push. "We’re just messing with you."

"This wasn’t your fault, Buck," Josiah agreed. "Those two went and decided to have themselves a beer, all on their own."

"No, Chris was right, before," Buck argued, still looking away. "If I hadn’t had the beer, they wouldn’t have had it to drink in the first place."

Josiah shook his head. "Look, Buck, I’m not saying you don’t have some responsibility, here. They look at you, and the choices you make. But they can’t do everything you do, and they know that. And they sure as hell know they’re not allowed to drink. This isn’t anywhere near all on you, bro."

Buck nodded, poking needlessly at the fire.

Behind him, Josiah and Chris exchanged glances. Buck had been mostly quiet since all this started, not a typical pattern for him and a sure sign something was really bugging him. Neither wanted to press him, though. Usually, with Buck, if you waited long enough, he’d spill whatever was eating at him. He had never been that great at tall, dark, and silent.

They smiled briefly at each other when Buck finally broke the quiet.

"You know," he said hesitantly, "When I found them, Ez said something."

They waited. Josiah finally sighed and encouraged him. "What’d he say?"

Buck turned to face them. "He said, ‘It’s just Buck.’" His eyes were still hurt. "Like I wouldn’t even think it was a big deal."

"But they were wrong, weren’t they, Buck?" Josiah said gently.

Buck nodded, but avoided his eyes. He moved away from the fire and sat across from the others. "But they might not have been, you know?" he admitted. "If we’d been at the Forrest—I’d of yelled and all, but—," he paused, leaning back. "It’s different, out here." He looked up, at the trees. "I don’t mean like this stuff, the woods and the tents and all. I mean—" he gestured. "Just—out here, it’s different."

Chris nodded. "It means more."

Buck pursed his lips, leaning forward. He stared into the fire. "How do you guys know?" He didn’t look up at them.

"Know what, Buck?" Chris asked, even though he knew the answer.

"That what we’re doing is right," Buck said quietly, just like Chris expected him to. Chris gave him the expected reply.

"Because it is."

"But how do you know?" Buck repeated, not accepting his answer this time.

"Because I do," Chris said simply, shrugging a shoulder.

"But what if we do something wrong, Chris? What if something happens to them, something big? What do we do then?"

"Then we deal with it," Josiah answered him.


"That’s what we’ll do, just like we’re doing right now." Josiah’s voice was calm, and he looked at Buck gravely across the fire. "Listen, Buck—deep down inside—is there any part of you that feels like all of us being together is the wrong thing?"

Buck thought about it for a while, before slowly shaking his head.

"Then don’t worry about it so much, okay?" Josiah’s tone was gruff, but his eyes were smiling. "This is what we do."

Buck folded his arms, leaning back and looking at the others. "This is what we do, huh?" he finally asked.

Chris nodded slowly. "Yup."

Buck let air out through pursed lips. "You know, I always pictured it being a lot more exciting than this." He grinned a little, and looked up at Chris, who spoke his next words with him.

"And with a lot more girls," they chorused together.

Chris grinned back at him. "We’ll get there, bro, we’ll get there. Just gotta find us a home, first."

"Amen to that, brothers," Josiah echoed fervently.

Buck held up his hands to the sky. "And a HA-le-LU-JAH!" he bellowed to the heavens.

They all turned at the sound of unzipping.

"Have you all lost your minds?" Ezra inquired politely, poking his head out. His neutral expression cracked just a little at the burst of laughter Vin let out—and then quickly stifled—from where he was poking his own head out of the next tent.

The three at the campfire shot matching daggers at the tents, and the two heads pulled back imperceptibly. "Buck, you wanna take this one?" Josiah asked quietly, not turning away from the now frozen expressions of the younger boys.

"And then some," Buck muttered, before raising his voice. "I ain’t even gonna BOTHER to start counting, because if I get to so much as ONE you’re both gonna be DEAD ME—" he cut himself off with satisfaction at the sound of two tent flaps zipping. " ‘Just Buck’, my ass," he muttered, bestowing a last glare on the tents.

Josiah smiled at him affectionately. "Good to have you back, Buck."

"Like I ever go anywhere," Buck grumbled, leaning forward. He looked up as first Josiah, and then Chris, started laughing. "What?"

"Well, Buck," Josiah finally said gravely, "We’ve been 1500 miles in the last week or so, alone. Where else would you like us to go?" He laughed some more, as Chris elbowed him.

Buck looked at them sourly. "You really want me to answer that?" He scowled as they broke down laughing. "What is it with people around here?" Not surprisingly, neither answered him as they got their laughing under control.

"Guess I’ll just start dinner, then," Buck muttered, standing and turning just as J.D. and Nathan came around the curve in the path.

J.D. spotted Josiah and Chris still laughing and broke into a relieved smile, running over. "What’s funny? Why are you laughing? Are we done being mad, now?"

Josiah grinned at him. "Yeah, kid, we’re done being mad."

"Good!" J.D. bounced on his toes, and then looked around. "Where’s Vin?"

"He’s in the tent, J.D.," Josiah said.

"Okay," J.D. said, twirling toward the tent.

"J.D., wait," Josiah said, as he began to move toward it. "You can’t go in the tent, right now."

"But I want to play with Vin," J.D. said, taking another step away from Josiah and watching his expression carefully as he did it.

Josiah shook his head. "Vin can’t play any more today."

"But we’re done being mad, and he said he’d play with me if I stayed quiet behind the trees, and I did a really good job, Josiah," J.D. argued, sliding back a little closer to the tent.

"Sorry, kid, it’s gonna have to be another day."

J.D. frowned at him and then took another careful step toward the tent.

"J.D., I see you moving toward that tent," Josiah said mildly, tilting his head and looking at the little boy sideways. J.D. pouted a little and crossed his arms.

"Was not."

Josiah grinned. "Were too."

"Oh, for Pete’s sakes," Chris said crossly, turning to look at J.D. "J.D., Vin and Ezra broke some rules, and they’re being punished. So stay out of the tents, okay?"

J.D. looked back at the tents. "What if I just went in for a little bit?"


"Just really, really quick?"

"Hey, squirt," Buck said, walking over. "How about if you help me with dinner? Once we cook it, Vin and Ez’ll come out and eat with us, okay?" He reached down and lightly cuffed the top of the little boy’s head.

J.D. tilted his head back and looked up at him appraisingly. "Can I put the food on the fire?"

Buck looked at him thoughtfully. "Are you ten yet?" J.D. shook his head. Buck gave him a disappointed look. "Well, then, not yet. But you can help me with it, if you do what you’re told."

"I’m great at that," J.D. told him confidingly, slipping his hand into Buck’s. "Plus, I’m a really good helper."

"Well, then—" Buck lifted the proffered hand in an exaggerated shake, "Partners." He led the little boy toward the cooler, where they began to rummage.

Nathan looked after them with apprehension, before settling onto the log that Buck had vacated. He looked over at Chris and Josiah with a scowl. "You’re letting them cook?"

Josiah shrugged, giving Chris a sideways glance. "Folks’re always complaining about my cooking."

"Not me, Josiah," Chris said, holding up his hands in mock defense. "Sides, everyone knows my specialty is coffee." He grinned at Josiah’s harrumph. "How about if you help them out, Nathan?" he suggested.

Nathan looked over at where J.D. and Buck were immersed in the cooler, and folded his arms, leaning back. "No way."

Josiah grinned at Chris. "Well, brothers, it’s gonna be an interesting meal."

+ + + + + + +

Dinner had been quiet, more than anything else. Other than a quick exchange of glances when they first exited the tents, and a few whispered comments when they thought no one was looking, Vin and Ezra had mostly kept their eyes away from each other and from the older boys. The three oldest had pretty much cooled off by then, but didn’t want to let the transgressors off the hook just yet, so kept their tones neutral and their words short. J.D. stuck to Vin like glue, ignoring everyone else. Nathan was generally annoyed with everyone, and kept to himself.

Vin and Ezra were sent back to the tents soon after dinner, and J.D. demanded to be sent to bed shortly after that, more out of loyalty to Vin than real sleepiness. Fed up with the day and ready for a new one, the others had all followed soon behind.

Chris woke early the next morning, and went about making a small fire with the twigs and branches they had gathered the day before. He had just placed the kettle by the flames and sat down to wait for it to brew when he heard the soft padding in the grass. He was surprised when he turned to see J.D. standing behind him, yawning. J.D. was wearing his favorite Spider Man pajamas, his bare feet curled up a little at the early morning chill on the ground, and his eyes didn’t seem to be quite focused yet.

"You’re up early," Chris observed.

J.D. blinked at him. "Isn’t it morning?"

The blond’s eye twitched. "Yeah, it’s morning." J.D. continued to blink sleepily, not moving, and Chris’s lips lost the battle. He smiled at the younger boy. "You sure you’re up, kid?"

"Mmm hmmm," J.D. said, taking a step and then shivering. Chris reached back instinctively, pulling J.D. forward and then lifting him over the log to sit next to him.

"You cold?"

"No," J.D. said, but snuggled against Chris anyway. Chris draped an arm around him.

"You shoulda put your clothes on before you came out," he said gruffly.

J.D. wiggled some under his arm, finding a comfortable position. "Chris?"


"You still mad at Vin’n Ezra?"

Chris looked down at him. "You still worried about that?"

"Vin feels sad." J.D. looked at him accusingly. Chris’s eyes flashed guilt for a moment, and then he pushed it away, shaking his head.

"Vin feels bad because he knows he did something he shouldn’t have. He’s gonna be just fine, J.D."

J.D. nodded doubtfully, and then remembered his mission. "Vin wants to know if he can come out." He leaned closer to Chris, whispering confidentially, "I think he has to PEE!" He giggled on the last part, and Chris suppressed his smile, frowning sternly down at him.

"Yes, he can come out, and you go tell Vin to make sure he gets you dressed before sending you out here next time!" He stood the little boy up and gave him a push toward the tents. J.D. skipped toward the tents, a little more awake now. Just before he got there, he sang out loudly, "It’s okay, Vin, Chris says you can come out and pee!"

The tent flap unzipped quickly, and Vin poked his red face out, as Buck let out a groan behind him, covering his head with a pillow, and muffled laughter came out of the next tent. "Shh!!! J.D.!" he hissed, eyes shooting daggers at the younger boy. "You gotta tell the whole world?!?"

J.D. frowned at him. "There’s lots of people in the world who couldn’t hear me, Vin," he pointed out logically. Vin gave him an exasperated look and then looked over at Chris questioningly. Chris nodded at him, and Vin exited the tent and hurried to the path that led to the bathrooms. Chris turned to J.D.

"How about if you go get dressed, and help me get breakfast started?"


"Yeah, you."

J.D. bounced on his toes. "Can I help make the fire?"

Chris gave him a weary look. "Kid, do you ever think about anything else?"

J.D. laughed at him. "Silly. ‘Course I do, lots and lots of things." He hopped on one foot toward the tent, and then switched to the other foot before turning. "So, can I help?"

Chris considered it. "Tell you what. You go get yourself dressed, and you can hand me the wood for the fire."

"Can I put it on?"

Chris shook his head. "You can hand it to me."

"Welll-ll—," J.D. thought about it. "Okay."

Chris smiled at him. "Okay, then."

+ + + + + + +

Things fell into a routine, the next few days. Illinois turned into Missouri, and Missouri into Kansas. Kansas seemed to last forever, mile after mile of neverending cornfields, and the younger boys looked distastefully out the windows at the endless stretch of flat land. When they finally passed the sign welcoming them into Colorado, Buck turned to the others and grinned, "Hey, Toto!"—he wiggled his eyebrows toward J.D., and the others joined in wholeheartedly, "I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!"

"I’m not Toto," J.D. protested, eyebrows drawn together. When Buck had laughed, turning away from him, J.D. had crossed his arms and glared at his back. "Toto’s a dog," he said disgustedly, kicking at the seat in front of him. The other boys were silly. Of course they weren’t in Kansas anymore. The sign said so.

Whether it was something in the air, or whether it was just not being in Kansas anymore, the boys didn’t know. They just knew that the road in Colorado seemed different, and Josiah found himself slowing the van for no real reason. They came to a turnoff, and after a silent conference with Chris, Josiah turned the van off and followed the state road to the north. They drove until sundown, and then found a campsite. They left early the next morning, and drove on roads that circled mountains, the normal bickering silenced as they all watched the world rise to meet them.

They followed a side road to where it ended in a wooded hill and stopped for lunch. They spread out afterward, in no particular hurry to get moving. Vin found Chris behind a knot of trees, sitting on a bluff overlooking the valley and road below. Vin stood and then sat beside him for a while, before speaking.


The older boy didn’t turn, but the quickening of his muscles let Vin know he’d been waiting for the question. "Yeah?"

Vin looked down at the road, stretching for miles till it was lost behind a curve. "You think maybe—" his voice was hesitant, "You think maybe we come far enough yet?"

There was a pause, and then a slow nod. "Yeah. Yeah, I do." Chris flicked his eyes sideways, catching Vins’ for a moment before he looked back over the landscape.

"Good." Vin’s shoulders relaxed a little. "Then all we gotta do is find the right place."

Chris nodded, silently agreeing, and they both leaned back, watching the clouds go by until the others called them back to the van.

+ + + + + + +


The question hung in the van, filling the suddenly crowded space, and Josiah felt the enormity of the moment before Chris looked at him, his eyes glowing with a rare buoyancy.

"Let’s do it," Chris said, the smile spreading throughout his body but not quite reaching his mouth yet. They shared a look, and then Josiah put the van back into drive and rounded the final curve before the campsite, watching their brothers spill out of the tents and the woods to meet them.

When they had stopped in Boulder Thursday morning, it had been for breakfast, and nothing more. Buck had lingered, flirting with the waitress at the diner, and the younger boys had convinced Chris to stop at a nearby park, and then Josiah saw a bookstore he had to check out. Nathan got lost in the books in the science section, and the others finally left him to take a walk. They had ended up back at the same diner for lunch, and had the same waitress. This time, Buck left with her phone number. Chris had said he oughta give J.D. the credit since he did all the charming, and the others, all except Buck, had agreed. They spent the afternoon driving the streets around the town, and by nightfall knew they were staying. They’d set up camp just outside town, and made their plans.

Josiah opened a bank account the next day, and he and Chris had gone about the process of finding them a place, while Buck rode herd over the others at the campsite. At first, they’d all protested not getting to come along because, as Nathan had pointed out, "we’ve all got to live in it." But Chris and Josiah had been firm, and Buck had agreed, that the seven of them descending on anyone was a surefire way to not rent a place, especially since, as Josiah pointed out, they had a credit history in the town exactly two days old. In the end, of course, he and Chris had won, although most of the others were still grumbling about it.

The first two days were humbling, places they could afford too small and too rundown and places that looked right too expensive or with owners who turned them away. The third morning, they picked up the university paper, and started following up on the smaller ads posted there. They circled a few possibilities, and pulled up to one, Josiah maneuvering the van between a VW bug and a station wagon. They sat and stared at the small but well-kept house.

"You think the ad could have printed it wrong?" Chris had asked, not shifting his gaze.

"Maybe," Josiah had said, patting at his pockets. "Don’t think I read it wrong." He located the ad, and examined it. "Got the address right."

"Looks nicer than the price."

Josiah had only nodded.

Chris had frowned. "Wonder what’s wrong with it."

Nothing had been, as far as they could tell. The owner was a woman whose husband, a professor, had passed away the year before. Her sons had moved away years ago, and she had already moved to an apartment closer to her sister. She didn’t want the house sitting empty. She hadn’t given them the looks they’d gotten at other places, and she read the letters of reference carefully, before looking up and smiling.

"You’ve got references from a priest, a former landlord, and a high school English teacher. That’s quite the range, boys."

"Yes, Ma’am," Josiah said seriously, pulling out another piece of paper. "I brought along a copy of my credit report, too."

She had laughed. "That’s pretty thorough of you." She took it, but didn’t look at it, examining them instead. "You say you have brothers?"

"Yes, ma’am, but they’re well behaved. They won’t cause any trouble to your place."

"If this place stood up to my boys, I guess it’ll stand up to yours." She smiled at them.

"You mean—" Josiah had slowly smiled in return, turning to Chris and then back to her. "You’ll rent to us?"

And she did. They had signed the papers, given her first, last, and security, and gotten into the van, holding two sets of keys in their hands. Now, all they had left to do was get their brothers.

Josiah pulled the van slowly into the campsite, braking for a moment when J.D. ran too close to the parking spot. He watched through the window as Buck strode forward and grabbed the little boy around the waist from behind, hoisting him into the air and yanking him back. Josiah eased into the space, and then shut off the engine. He reached over and grasped Chris’s knee before getting out.

"Time to go home, bro."

Chris turned to him, still not letting the smile spread from his eyes to his mouth. "Let’s get’em."

They both turned and exited the van purposefully, wading through the swarm of their brothers.

"Did you find anything? I felt sure—"

"Buck was being mean to me! He said—"

"Kid, you been driving me crazy all day! Did you two see’im run into the street? Kid’s got about as much sense as—"

"Would you cut it out with the griping, Buck? You been driving me crazy all day!"

"Guys!" Josiah’s shout broke the litany of voices, and he sighed, smiling at them affectionately and running his fingers through his hair. Chris looked at Vin, who had hung back, silent as the rest spoke, watching Chris’s face.

"Haven’t you got anything to say?" Chris asked, knowing he knew, letting the smile finally make its way to his mouth.

Vin looked at him a moment longer, then at Josiah, before breaking into a slow smile of his own. "You guys found it." It was a statement, not a question, but they confirmed it anyway, Chris grinning foolishly and Josiah feeling the smile wash over his face again.

"We found it."

It hung in the air for a moment, before their voices all broke in at once.

"Where is it?"

"How much does it cost?"

"Is my room blue?"

"Wait!" Josiah’s hand dammed the flood once more. "Everyone sit down, and we’ll tell you about it. Then we’ll break camp."

"We’re going today!?" Buck asked, astonished.

"Yup." Josiah couldn’t stop smiling. "Owner’s already out." They all settled on the logs beside the fire circle, and Josiah continued to describe it. "It’s a two-family, we’ve got the first two floors. Some graduate student lives on the third."

"What’s he study?" Nathan asked, curious.

"Don’t know, didn’t meet him. But Mrs. Foster, that’s the lady who owns it, says he’s lived there a couple of years, nice guy."

"Who cares about some lab-geek, Nathan, what about our place?" Buck interrupted, impatient.

Nathan rolled his eyes at him, and Buck reached across Josiah and poked at him.

"Guys!" Josiah said, reaching out to his sides and giving each of them a small push.

"What is our place like?" Ezra persisted, ignoring the scuffle.

"Our place has three bedrooms, and this little den," Josiah continued the description. "And Mrs. Foster’s got a bunch of furniture in there she’s leaving. We’re gonna have to get some things, but not as much as we thought."

"Who shares rooms with who?" Ezra asked, eying the others.

"You, Vin, and J.D.," Chris replied. "Me and Buck. And Josiah and Nate." The tone of his voice indicated the arrangements weren’t negotiable, but Ezra protested anyway.

"I’m not sharing a room with a seven-year-old!" His voice was slightly outraged, but Chris looked unfazed.

"Yeah, you are. Unless you’d rather sleep in the van."

Ezra exhaled noisily, but didn’t say anything else. J.D. moved next to him and patted his knee. "Don’t worry, Ezra. I’m real good at sharing rooms. Aren’t I, Vin?" He looked to his protector, who nodded and grinned, reaching over and punching Ezra lightly in the arm.

"Yeah, Ez, it’s me you got to watch out for!" Vin grinned again and ducked as Ezra swiped at his head, causing J.D. to protest loudly as he was squished between them. Buck rescued him, standing and lifting him from behind and hoisting him up onto his shoulders.

"You guys said we could move in today?" Buck asked, trying to keep a hold on J.D.’s wriggling legs. Chris nodded, and Buck grinned. "Well, what are we waiting for, boys? Let’s go!" He whooped, and began to spin, J.D. shrieking on his shoulders. One by one, the others joined in, yelling as they danced in small circles around the campfire. They finally wound down, and went about breaking up camp for the last in what they hoped would be a very long time.

They loaded up the van, and headed home.

+ + + + + + +

The room was dark when J.D. woke up, and it took him a moment to figure out where he was. Sometimes, things didn’t make sense when he woke up, but this time the breathing lump next to him slowly turned into Vin, and the one in the bed across the room into Ezra. J.D. liked that he had two brothers in his room now, instead of just one. Ezra had seemed kinda mad about it at first, but Vin said he just liked something to gripe about, and he didn’t think Ezra really minded.

His red suitcase was on the floor, and so were Vin and Ezra’s bags. Today had been too busy, but Josiah said tomorrow they’d find a dresser, and when they got it J.D. could have two drawers just for himself. In the corner were the cans of paint they were gonna use to make their room blue, because Vin and Ezra thought it was okay that a room had to be blue. Buck said he’d help them paint it, and tomorrow they were all gonna put on jeans and old t-shirts and get all messy. And J.D. had told Vin about the stars, and Vin had told Chris, and Chris had promised to get some. So tomorrow night, J.D. was going to fall asleep in a blue room with stars on his ceiling, and two drawers all his own.

J.D. liked it when things made sense. He wriggled under Vin’s arm and nestled against him, closing his eyes. Within moments, he was sound asleep.