Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Betaed - very speedily - by Phyllis.
JD and Vin stood just behind Buck's legs. It had only been a month since they had come to live with their new guardians; Vin had only been out of hospital for three weeks and only allowed out and about for the last ten days. The boys hadn't even started school yet. Chris and Buck, working with the boys' doctor and counsellor, had decided to wait until after the Easter break before attempting to pass that milestone.
The two boys had had to deal with a lot of upheaval in four short weeks. First they were rescued, then JD moved in with Buck while Vin was in the hospital, then he had to start day care at the federal building. Vin had been released from the hospital and moved out to the ranch with Chris, then he had to join JD in day care. Buck and JD moved out to the ranch. Only last week Chris had employed Mrs. Potter to keep house for them. The boys had to meet her and get to know another adult. They seemed to like Gloria well enough, but were still learning to trust her. All that was more than enough for two small, traumatised boys to deal with in just four weeks.
It was the Thursday before Easte. JD had informed everyone that then next day was 'Good Friday' but he wasn't sure why it was good. Mr. Ezra had told them that today was called Maundy Thursday. Why it was called that was apparently not important for small boys to worry about. Mr. Chris, Mr. Buck and all their friends didn't have to work on Friday and the boys had been promised a long weekend of fun. There was to be horseback riding, an Easter egg hunt and on Sunday, they were promised a feast.
Mrs. Potter was spending the afternoon shopping for the coming weekend so had dropped the boys off at the federal building at lunchtime. They had greatly enjoyed their lunch with their new guardians and their friends at the Chinese restaurant, before spending the afternoon in the day care center. Buck had come up to collect them early. He hated to admit it, but he missed the little tykes when they weren't around, especially the little brunette who had stolen his heart.
"Hi guys, we're back," Buck announced. "Where's Chris?" he asked, knowing Vin would be anxious to see his guardian and saviour as soon as he got there, and more than a little surprised to see that he wasn't there to greet them.
"He was called up to see Travis," Josiah informed him. "Said he wouldn't be long."
Buck looked down at Vin, who looked crestfallen. "Hey now, none of that. He'll be back soon. Come on over to my desk."
He led the two boys over to his rather cluttered but very user-friendly desk. "Now, what would you like to do to pass the time?"
JD frowned then turned to Vin and whispered in his ear. Vin smiled then nodded.
"We made cards in 'care today," JD began to explain. "For Mr. Ezra and Mr. Nathan and Mr. Josiah. Can we give them out?"
"We made cards for you too," Vin explained quickly.
"But we want to give them to you on Sunday, when it's real Easter," JD finished.
"Well, you know all the guys are coming over to the ranch on Sunday, to watch basketball - remember?"
Vin chewed his lip, then looked at JD. There was another whispered conversation, before two sets of big eyes looked back at Buck. "We wanna do it now," JD announced solemnly.
"Well alright, you go ahead."
The two boys headed off toward Nathan's desk.
"Hello," the boys greeted in unison.
"Hello boys, have you had a good day?" Nathan responded, pushing himself away from his desk so he could face the boys more easily and bend down to their level.
"Uh huh, we made you something," JD told him. "Both of us together."
"Well that was very kind of you."
Vin pulled off his Superman backpack and pulled out the card they had made. It was in the form of large egg, covered in hundreds of small balls of scrunched up tissue paper, forming bands of bright colours. On the inside, JD had written 'HAPPY EASTER MR. NATHAN FROM JD AND' then Vin had added his name in his more hesitant hand.
"Wow boys!" Nathan gushed. "It looks like you put a lot of time and effort into that, it's beautiful."
"It's for Mrs. Nathan as well," Vin added solemnly.
"And she'll treasure it, I promise you. Now..." Nathan lowered himself down even lower and whispered to the boys.
Buck had been watching from a distance, but confident that the boys were in good hands and enjoying themselves, he went back to his desk, desperately trying to finish his work before five, so they could leave early. He was vaguely aware that the boys had moved around to the other side of Nathan's desk and began speaking to Josiah. Sometime later he looked up to see them coming out of the break room with Ezra, both grinning happily.
By the time Chris walked back into the office, the boys were standing in front of Ezra's computer, playing an Easter egg hunt game he'd found on the Internet.
"Hi boys!" he greeted.
Vin instantly abandoned his game and ran to Chris, who for his part dropped the papers he was holding onto the corner of the closest desk and scooped up the slight boy - backpack and all - into his arms.
"Wow, you're getting heavy," he commented. "You got bricks in that pack?"
Vin grinned, then shook his head.
"Ready to go home?"
This time Vin nodded. Every time Chris said that word 'home' it gave him a wonderful warm feeling in his tummy. In those months living in an old warehouse, eating out off trashcans, trying to look after JD, all he wanted was a real home, with someone to look after him and make him feel safe. In his imagination, it was a home in country, with horses. Now all his dreams had come true.
On Friday Mrs. Potter came in to take care of the boys in the morning. Some months ago, long before they met two small boys in a warehouse, Buck and Chris had offered to help an elderly neighbour replace a stretch of fencing, his cattle were forever straying onto Chris' land. It wasn't going to be easy. The land was poor, bed rock often only a few inches below the surface, which made digging fence holes difficult. It was just going to be too dangerous, with bales of barbed wire around, for two small boys.
Gloria Potter, having listened to the boys singing 'Hot Cross Buns, one a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns' all week, a song they had recently learned at day care, decided to actually make some Hot Cross Buns. She used Chris' computer to search for recipes. There was some contradictions about the cross, some said they were made of icing, some said cut a cross into the top of the bun, then she found a recipe on a British web sight - the BBC - and decided that was probably the most authentic. It said the crosses were made with flour and water paste, so that is how she did it. More importantly she had the boys help her. They were fascinated by how the dough rose after it was placed in the airing cupboard. JD thought it was magic, while Vin wanted to know exactly how it happened. Gloria wasn't able to tell him, so told him to ask Mr. Sanchez, since he always seemed to have an answer to most questions.
The finished buns sat on the cooling rack, resplendent with their white crosses, awaiting the boy's foster father's return. Some of JD's crosses were a little lopsided, he had been more interested in making patterns with his piping bag of paste than crosses. But Gloria knew their father's would love them anyway. When Buck and Chris did return home, all five feasted on the buns, split in two, toasted and buttered. In keeping with tradition, Gloria cooked them fish for lunch, salmon steaks in cheese sauce, before she went home to enjoy Easter with her family.
On Saturday the weather was kind to them, it was dry and sunny, though cold. They went riding. JD rode in front of Buck, Vin rode, albeit on a lead rein, on Peso, a black, blaze faced pony of about fourteen hands, that another of Chris' neighbours had loaned him, her daughter having recently grown out of him. Peso turned out to be something of a 'character' but he and Vin had made a connection and in just two weeks the two were firm friends. Chris had already approached his neighbour about buying the cantankerous horse.
In the afternoon, as it got darker and colder, they retreated inside to toast marshmallows over the open log fire, play games and watch DVDs. Finally, the boys were tucked up in bed, bathed and fed and happy. Buck sat on the floor beside the bunk beds and read Winnie the Pooh, while Chris leaned against the wall and just listened, enjoying the sights and sounds before him. Buck had always been the storyteller. He used to read to Adam; having the boys in the house kept bring back memories of his son, but though these memories were often emotional, they were not painful.
Sunday morning - Easter Day - the boys ran into the kitchen when they were called to breakfast, cards in hand. JD's was a chick, or at least Buck guessed it was, since it was hard to tell. There was a mass of yellow tissue paper all over it, in places it was scrunched into little balls, in other places the 'balls' were not so scrunched, some were barely attached. There was a random black ball, which he took for an eye, on the edge some orange paper that was presumably a beak. Remembering the neatly made egg cards the boys had given out on Thursday, it was clear to Buck who had done most of the work on those ones.
"Wow Little Bit, that is a fine Easter chick!" he guessed, praying he had guessed right.
"I wrote on the back too," JD told him.
Buck turned the card over. It read 'HAPPY EASTER MR BUCK I LOVE YOU'. A lump formed in Buck's throat, he had to fight to stop tears forming.
"I love you too, JD," he finally managed to say.
Chris' card was clearly a bunny; it was neatly made with grey tissue paper, with a pale blue collar, white tail, pink nose and black eye.
"This is wonderful, Vin, I can see how much work that took, you must have worked very hard on that." Chris was pleased to see Vin smile as he turned it over. Vin's writing was noticeably worse than JD's, and even though he had almost certainly copied the letters, he'd reversed some letters and misspelled Easter. 'HAPPY ESATER MR CHRIS LOVE FROM VIN' none of the mistakes mattered to Chris, it was what was there in the words that counted. "I love my Easter card, Vin." He bent down and kissed the boy on the top of the head.
Unfortunately, the day was cold, with driving sleet lashing the yard. The Easter egg hunt the men had planned had to be quickly reorganised for inside the house. This meant telling the boys to stay in their room for a little while after breakfast.
"But why?" JD asked.
Both boys had been awake for some hours before Chris came to their room to find them. He didn't want to go back in there to wait some more.
"It's a secret Little Bit, but a good one, I promise." Buck picked JD up and headed for the bedroom, it was the only thing to do, once JD got into a 'but why?' cycle of questions.
Chris knelt down beside a pensive looking Vin. "Can you keep him from peeking? It'll spoil all the fun if you peek."
Vin beamed, he basked in Chris' trust in him, and in the responsibility he was given.
"We won't look," he assured.
Some fifteen minutes later the men took them to the to living room. "Right," Buck began. "somewhere in this house the Easter Bunny had hidden sixteen eggs. Tthese are not chickens eggs, these eggs are wrapped in bright shiny paper, in lots of different colours, all you guys have to do, is find them."
"But, there are no eggs in our bedrooms, there are none on or in my desk, none in any place you're not allowed to go and none anywhere too high for JD to reach - okay? Chris assured them.
"Can we start looking now?" Vin asked.
"Sure, go for it!"
The two boys ran around the house like little dervishes. Some of the foil wrapped chocolate eggs they found quickly, others took longer. Buck and Chris helped by calling 'warmer' or 'cooler' when they got stuck. Vin was more methodical than JD and when the last egg was found, he had eleven eggs to JD's five. Even before JD's bottom lip began to quiver he offered to share the bounty equally.
"You can have one egg each now, one this afternoon and one this evening," Chris told them solemnly. Each egg was one ounce and there was no way they were letting the boys eat half a pound of chocolate each.
Vin picked out a blue egg and JD a red. Both boys eagerly peeled off the foil and popped the eggs into their mouths. Then they watched cartoons while Chris did the barn chores and Buck began to cook the lunch: lamb chops followed by apple pie - made the day before by Mrs. Potter - and ice cream.
The food was cleared away just as Josiah, Nathan and Ezra arrived to watch the big basketball game on TV. Ezra, though marginally more interested in basketball than football, was distracted enough to leave the TV and play with the boys, showing them magic tricks. The first sign something was wrong was when the game was over and Chris produced the chocolate cake Ezra had brought with him.
JD played with his cake, not really eating it. Vin began to eat his, but little by little he slowed up, until he was just sitting there looking at it. Buck and Chris looked from one boy to the other.
"Hey there kiddo, you not hungry? I thought you liked chocolate cake?" Buck asked JD.
JD looked up at Buck, and instantly his foster father knew something was wrong, the boy was positively grey.
"JD son? You feel sick?" Buck asked, fear creeping into his voice.
JD nodded, his hand coming up to his face. Buck didn't stop to think, he stood, grabbed JD and began to run for the bathroom; he almost made it, got within three feet of the door before JD's little tummy rebelled. The inevitable smell wafted back to the others in the living room. Nathan, having anticipated this and the possible consequences had dashed for the kitchen, grabbed a plastic bowl just managing to get it under Vin's chin, before he too, lost the contents of his stomach. In the next hour both boys vomited several more times, the mess was cleaned up, the air refreshed and all the food put out of sight.
Finally the boys were snuggled up on the sofa and recliner respectively with their fathers, sipping water, and looking very sorry for themselves.
"What do you think Nate?" Chris asked. "Should we take them to the hospital?"
Nathan pulled the thermometer out of JD's ear. "Well, they both check out fine, so I think it's just too much chocolate and all the excitement."
"We've only let them have one small chocolate egg so far," Buck pointed out. Then he looked at JD. "Little Bit, did you two eat all the others eggs you found?"
"No," JD said, but there was something in the way he said it that set alarm bells ringing.
"We didn't eat the eggs we found, honest."
Disgusting as it was to think about it, the physical evidence did indicate chocolate.
"Cowboy?" Chris asked Vin. "Did you have some other chocolate?"
Vin looked at Chris and then at Nathan, but said nothing.
"Chris," Nathan spoke up. "I gave the boys some chocolate."
Buck and Chris' heads shot up and looked at their friend. "You?" Buck asked. "When?"
"In the office on Thursday, sorry. You see Hershey's had these chocolate Easter cards, you could have any name you want put on them, I got them one each, with their names. Sorry."
"How big was this bar of chocolate?"
"About eight ounces," Nathan admitted.
Buck looked back at JD. "Did you eat the chocolate Nathan gave you?" JD nodded. "Well, I guess half a pound of chocolate is a lot for a little guy."
"Um, it may have been more like a pound of chocolate," Josiah admitted.
"Not you too?" Chris asked.
"I have a friend in England, we were talking on line and I mentioned the boys. She offered to send me some Easter chocolates for them, there's a shop near were she lives - Burgres - they make these boxes of chocolate chicks and ducklings."
"How many chicks and ducks are we talking here?" Chris asked.
"Eight to a box, I think."
"And how big are these things?"
"About two inches high, each box weights about 250 grams."
"What's that mean?"
"About half a pound," Nathan supplied.
Chris looked at Vin; "Did you two eat Josiah's chocolates as well as Nathan's?"
Vin nodded sadly.
Ezra cleared his throat. "Oh no, not you too," Chris exclaimed.
"I fear so, I gifted the boys with a Lindt chocolate bunny each."
"Don't tell me, half a pound?"
"Near enough," Ezra admitted.
Chris looked at his men. "We will talk about this tomorrow, at work," he warned them darkly, and for once his glare was matched by Buck's.
"I think I speak for all of us, when I say we are very sorry," Ezra assured.
"We'll talk about it tomorrow," Chris reiterated. "Now I think it's time these boys had some sleep."
As a very contrite trio of agents left the ranch, two rather miserable boys were put to bed.
"Is Mr. Ezra in trouble?" JD asked.
"Not really," Buck assured. "We just need to get some rules sorted out, so this doesn't happen again."
"Boys, I know chocolate is nice, but I hope you remember this day. Too much chocolate isn't such a good idea," Chris said softly.
"You know guys," Buck continued. "You're safe here with us, no one is going to steal your chocolate."
JD looked up at Buck with huge hazel eyes. "We know, but everyone told us it was special Easter chocolate."
Chris shook his head. "They meant you couldn't eat it until Easter, not that you had to eat it all at Easter."
"Oh." JD smiled up at Buck. "I feel okay now."
"I know you do kid, but it's bedtime. Tomorrow, we can start again. Love you."
"'K. Love you."
Chris stood next to the bed and looked at Vin, snuggled under the comforter with Cat in his hand. "You okay?"
"You know where I am if you need me?"
"No one is angry with you or JD, okay? It was just a misunderstanding."
"I know," Vin whispered. "Don't be mad at Mr. Nathan, Mr. Josiah and Mr. Ezra - please."
"I'm not really mad at them, I know they were only trying to be nice to you, too. They really care about you guys," Chris assured, not that they were going to know that for a while yet.
"Good boy, now you get some sleep. Love you."
"Love you, too, Chris."
Buck kissed JD goodnight then stood up and smiled at Vin. "Night Cowboy."
JD was already asleep, so Chris just smiled down at him as he whispered, "Sleep well, JD."
Once out of the room, leaving the night light on, the two men stood and looked at each other for a long time. Both had heard Vin call Larabee 'Chris' with no 'Mr' in front of it. This was the first time he'd done that. JD called Buck plain 'Buck' on occasion, more and more often in fact, he'd even called Chris, 'Chris' a few times, but Vin was more cautious.
"He..." Chris began.
"I heard," Buck assured.
Tears welled up in Chris' eyes.
"Yeah, I know, come on, I think we owe ourselves a drink, a real drink. Might even have some more of that cake, it is an Easter cake after all and it is still Easter."