Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish I had an Ezra doll to play with
Warning: angst, fluff, family, implication of past child abuse.
Summary: The boys are wondering about Ezra's birthday
Author's Note: Josiah is 22, Chris and Buck are 20, Nathan is 19, Vin is 11, JD is 9, Ezra is 6-7
Vin & JD attend one school, Ezra another.
It was JD's birthday that opened Josiah's eyes about Ezra. As everyone else crowded around, smiling, talking and enjoying the party, the smallest boy seemed confused by the celebration. He moved cautiously, backing away from any involvement, seeming uncertain what he should do. An outsider.
Theyd all had their birthday celebrations this year, except for Ezra and it was clear from watching him that he did not have a childs usual enthusiasm for such events. He had watched each celebration silently, never smiling or singing along with the traditional birthday song when his brother blew out the candles.
Josiah observed the way that Ezra was staring at JD as he opened his gifts, noticing the child's wondering reaction when he found that JD had got exactly what hed asked for this year.
As the party broke up, JD and Vin running outside to play with JDs new toys in the waning light of day, Josiah noticed Ezra was not following, instead slipping out of the room unnoticed by the rest of his family. Josiah felt sad but unsurprised when he saw Ezra retreat into his favorite place of solitude, the dark, curtained window-seat that looked out upon the back yard.
Ezra? he called softly. Are you all right?
The boy lowered his head, attempting to hide the tears running down his cheeks. Josiah was immediately beside him, reaching out with a gentle embrace and rocking the boy, offering what comfort he could.
"What is it, Ezra?" he asked softly.
"Nothing." The boy muttered, hiding his face in Josiahs shoulder to cover his embarrassment at being caught crying like a little baby.
"This is not nothing, Ezra, I can see those tears. Please, tell me whats wrong. Maybe together we can fix it."
When no response came from Ezra, Josiah sighed, tightening his hold a little. Ezra had learned to trust all of them more over the past few months but still found it difficult to express himself.
Everything okay? a voice called softly. Looking up, Josiah saw Chris, Nathan and Buck standing in the doorway. We noticed you two kind of disappeared.
Josiah gently stroked Ezras soft hair. Our baby brother was a little upset. We havent got around to discussing why just yet, but I think it has something to do with not liking birthdays.
Ezras face popped into view, looking very surprised at the insight.
Is that right? Chris asked, crouching down in front of the boy. You dont like birthdays?
Ezra shook his head. No, I do. Its just, its silly . . .
What is? Buck encouraged. You can trust us, Ezra. We wont laugh at you, whatever it is.
The child hesitated. I dunno . . . I just . . . JD seemed so happy. Everybody did when they had their birthdays and I . . . and I . . .
He hid his face again, unable to say the words.
Suddenly, Josiah understood. You wish it was yours, instead. The boy looked up at him in clear astonishment. Suddenly worried, remember that the paperwork from Childrens Services had listed Ezras date of birth as Unknown, Josiah asked, Ezra, we didnt skip your birthday this year, did we?
The boy gulped, lower lip wobbling dangerously. I dont have a birthday, he whispered. Im only six because somebody took a guess. The last word was more wailed than spoken and the child broke down in tears again.
"Not in this house," Nathan told him, wrapping an arm around the small shoulders as he took a seat next to him on the wide padded window sill. Around here, everybody has a birthday.
Wiping his nose on his sleeve, Ezra looked doubtfully at the surrounding adults. Even me?
Buck grinned at him, gently slapping on small knee. One of these days, when you least expect it, youll find out its your birthday.
Chris nodded. What that happens, pay attention, because that day will be your very own, every year for the rest of your life.
Not totally convinced, but much cheered by the idea that perhaps he was not to be left out of this simple ritual that every other child seemed to enjoy, Ezra reached out to give Chris a tentative hug.
Hey, you got one of those for me? Buck asked, also getting a light hug from the small boy.
Josiah smiled at them all. Come on, Nathan, lets you and me go collect those rascals outside and get everybody washed up and ready for bed. They all have school tomorrow.
Nathan stood, scrubbing his hand over the little boys head. You feelin better, squirt?
Ezra nodded, his expression caught somewhere between a smile at the question and a scowl over having his hair messed up, making the men laugh.
Good, you head on back and put your PJs on, Chris ordered him. One of us will be back to tuck you in, in a few minutes.
Gnight, he said softly, smiling a little as he scampered off to bed.
Half an hour later, after all of the boys were in bed, Josiah, Nathan, and Chris had started to formulate a plan for what to do about Ezra. It had been Bucks turn for tucking-in duty tonight, and as he joined his brothers he could see the smiles.
"Tell me," Buck ordered with a grin of his own.
"Tomorrow is your turn to pick up Ezra from school, right? Buck nodded at Chriss question. So, take a bit longer than usual coming home, keep him occupied for an hour or so, until I call you to your cellular.
"And what are you going to be doing while I occupy Ezra?" Buck asked.
"Buck do you remember what we did for Vin when he had his eighth?" Josiah asked, immediately gaining a wide smile of recollection in response.
~ THREE YEARS AGO~
Vin was eight today. Chris ignored his expectant look, even though he itched to wish him a Happy Birthday, because he did not want to spoil the surprise he and his brothers had planned.
"Chris?" Vin asked hopefully.
"What is it Vin?"
"What day is it?"
"Monday, why?" Chris replied, pretending nonchalance.
"Oh nothing," Vin sadly said.
"Tell me, Vin," Chris urged gently.
"No its not important," Vin sighed, casting one more hopeful look as he left the room.
Chris said to Josiah, "So far so good, but Im not sure I can keep this up. That sad face is killing me!"
"Dont worry, brother, itll all be over soon," Josiah assured him. Nathan who was close, nodded in agreement. Once he sees the gift we got him, all hurt feelings will be a thing of the past, I guarantee it.
"We just gotta hope JD doesnt let the surprise slip," Nathan said.
"He won't," Buck assured, watching from the window as his two little brothers chased each other around the yard.
Chris smiled at the thought of their gift, certain that Vin would love it dearly.
Later that day, following a thunderous shout of SURPRISE! from the whole family, Chris handed Vin a paper with his name on it. Happy Birthday, Vin. This is your gift, from all of us. Delighted to realize that they had, indeed, remembered his special day, Vin tore open the paper and frowned, not understanding. Chris explained, "Tomorrow after school, I am taking you to the Royal stables, where youll learn how to ride horses. You can stay with the horses all day, and ride as much as you want to."
Vin gasped in shocked delight. He adored horses, but they couldnt afford one of their own. This was a wonderful substitute and the best gift in the whole world. Grinning widely, he hugged his brother. "Thank you, thank you!"
Chris and his brothers smiled in return
"So what do you think we should get for Ezra?" Nathan asked. If this is his first real birthday party, it ought to be something special. When Vin got those riding lessons he was in 7th heaven but Ezra doesnt seem to really like horses so we cant do the same thing for him.
"I have no idea what that boy really likes." Chris replied with a frown. Hes a little enigma. Most of the time he just goes along with whatever the others want to do, too afraid to say what he wants himself.
"Maybe books?" Buck suggested. "Did you know that hes already read the first three Harry Potter books from the school library? At six!"
"About to be seven, Josiah reminded with a smile. Though I still would have thought that too young for those books."
"Apparently not to him," Buck chuckled. "How many of those books are there, anyway? We could get him the whole set for his own."
"It is a great idea, Buck," Nathan said. "I think theres six or seven of them. The movies are pretty good too. I saw the first couple with Rain, and they were great. Never did catch the rest of em."
"There are movies about Harry Potter?" Chris asked blankly.
"Chris, you really need to get out more," Josiah advised, slapping his shoulder with a chuckle.
The brothers settled the details between themselves, and Josiah reminded them to let Vin and JD also know the plan.
In the morning
It was the time for Chris to drive his little brothers to school. After dropping Ezra off, he turned to JD and Vin.
"When you finish school today, Nathan will be waiting for you. Buck will go get Ezra, and before you ask, we are going give him a very special birthday party this evening and he doesnt know anything about it."
"Surprise Party all right!" JD bounced with happiness. Even though he had just had his own party, he was always ready for another one. I didnt know him and me almost shared a birthday!
Not feeling like explaining, Chris just shrugged. It was a surprise to me, too.
"How come Bucks picking him up instead of Nathan?" Vin asked, sounding a little hurt. We wouldnt spoil the surprise for Ezra.
"I know, but Buck will keep him out of the house while the rest of us prepare everything. You two can help us after youve finished your homework," Chris replied, still smiling.
"That sucks!" Vin muttered.
"Watch your language, young man," Chris warned his brother.
"But why do we have to do homework first?"
"Because you wouldnt want to finish it after the party and before you go to bed," Chris explained.
"But but there is tomorrow " Vin tried to excuse himself from doing the homework.
"What is there tomorrow?"
"My class is going on a field trip with our Geographic teacher," Vin replied. I wont have any homework today.
Chris sighed heavily, suspecting that his younger brother was playing with him but not having time for a fight as they were already pulling up to the school.
"Fine, but I want to see a short essay about the trip," Chris challenged, then noticing another argument forming, "No buts, Vin. I don't want to see you failing another class."
After Chris left, JD poked his brother, "Since when do you have a trip?"
"Just forgot to mention it," Vin tried.
"You lied to Chris!"
"What will you do?" JD asked. About the report he asked for?
He shrugged. Make something up, I guess.
JD rolled his eyes. Fine, do whatever you want, just remember that I dont know anything about it."
'It's not like its a big lie, it's only a little lie.' Vin thought as he and JD walked toward their classes.
Ezra left the school gate, seeking out a familiar car, and smiled when he spotted it and noticed Buck's head popping from the window.
"Where are Vin and JD?" he asked curiously, seeing that Buck was alone.
"They finished early today and Nathan took them home. Looks like its just you and me, little brother."
Ezra nodded, not unhappy with this arrangement as he climbed into the child seat in the back of the car and clicked his belt in place.
Before Buck put the car in drive, he turned around and asked, "How was class today?"
"Splendid, he replied, making Buck smile. It never failed to amuse the men a little to hear such formal words coming from a small child. Except, we had an art project, and . . . Will you . . . do you think you could teach me . . . how to paint? the child asked hesitantly, lowering his gaze. The teacher thought I wasnt very good. I could tell.
Buck sighed, wishing that the child would not feel embarrassed because of the need to ask for help. Be happy to, Ezra. Dont worry, you know your brothers are always happy to help you out." Buck winked at him with a large smile.
"Thanks, Buck." Ezra returned the smile with a hesitant one of his own and turned his eyes toward the window.
Buck sighed again, and put the car in motion.
On the ride, Buck observed his brother in the rear view mirror, noticing his expression. "Is there something bothering you, Ezra?"
Ezra mumbled, "No "
Catching the hesitation in that drawn-out word, Buck wasn't convinced. "Come on, now, you can tell ol Buck," he teased.
The boy smiled a little. "Youre not old, Buck."
Buck just waited him out.
"Where are we going?" Ezra asked finally. He blurted, "You missed the turn to our street. Did I do something wrong?"
Silently cursing a past that made this small boy instinctively assume that he was about to be thrown away if he failed to please his elders, Buck assured him, "You did not do anything wrong, Ezra. Were just not going home yet. I thought maybe since its just you and me today, we might go have a little fun first."
"Because its been awhile since we did it," Buck replied, heart aching at the doubtful question. He needed to encourage the rest of his brothers to do fun things with Ezra, one on one, more often. To reassure him that there was nothing wrong with having a little fun and not being serious all the time.
The suspicious tone was still present as Ezra pressed, "What are we going to do?"
"What do you love to do for fun?" Buck countered
"Reading, and " Ezra replied, unwilling to say the other words.
"And, what?" Buck asked, noticing the worry in the boy's face, "Its okay, Ezra, you can trust me."
"Promise?" Ezra asked, wanted to be certain.
"Yes," Buck said firmly, turning the car off the road.
"I love to play with my cards, and do tricks with them, and . . . and poker is my favorite game."
The last words came out in a rush and Buck watched his little brother cringe, clearly expecting punishment for this admission.
Buck parked the car and got out. Circling the car, he opened the back door and sat beside Ezra. He couldnt hug him easily, trapped in the car seat as he was, but he stroked the childs hair in a soothing gesture, letting his hands gentle motion convey the love and reassurance that mere words could not seem to.
"Now look at me Ezra," Buck ordered softly, waiting until Ezra stared up at him. "No one will hurt you while youre with us. Not ever. We may yell a little if you do something naughty, but we wont ever hit you and you dont have to worry about being punished just because you like to do something that most kids dont do, like play poker.
Ezra nibbled his lip as he considered this.
And anytime you need me, just holler and Ill be there, all right?" Buck pressed.
Finally, Ezra nodded, and allowed Buck to wipe away a few tears that had escaped.
"All righty, then. Now, I heard that theres a special sale in town for books, just up the road a piece. Do you want to go check it?"
Ezra nodded, and then he asked, "Do you think that they might have any of the Harry Potter novels?"
"Well only know if we go see," Buck replied with a smile. He returned to his own seat, belted himself in and put his car back into motion.
When they arrived, Buck noted immediately that there were ice-cream cones and balloons on offer for the little ones. He bought one of each for Ezra, keeping hold of the boys hand as they browsed the long tables of books on sale.
Buck enjoyed seeing Ezra so fascinated with all the books, and hearing him sound like any other child as he said, I want that one! Or, that one! I want that one too, filled the big mans heart with joy.
"Ezra, look, if we buy two books, you get another two books free," Buck suggested as he saw the flyers on display.
Ezra smiled and ate the last of his ice cream, wiping his hands off on a handkerchief he pulled from his pocket. It took him several more minutes to narrow the selection down to four books, but while there were no JK Rowling titles on offer, he appeared very happy with the books he did find.
While waiting to pay, Buck's cell phone rang. Ezra eyed him doubtfully as he told whoever was on the other end where they were, clutching his new books tight to his chest as if fearing that Buck would allow himself to be talked out of the purchase. He relaxed with a small unconscious huff of relief when Buck ended his call by saying, Well be there in a few minutes, then smiling at Ezra and asking What do you say we get these paid for and head on back home?
"Yes, please. Thank you for buying them for me."
My pleasure. Maybe youll do me a favor and read me one of them new stories before you go to sleep tonight, Buck suggested as he helped his small charge back into their car. Couple of those books look real exciting.
Ezras smile was filled with honest delight, the rare expression making Bucks heart swell. If you like.
I do like. Now, we better get home before anyone starts to worry.
The first thing that Ezra noticed as they pulled up to the house was that the curtains covered the windows and there was no sign of anyone present. Did they all go somewhere? he wondered aloud.
Buck helped Ezra from the car, took the bags of books and Ezra's school bag onto his shoulder.
"I don't know, lets go in and find out.
When the door was opened, Ezra jumped in shock as laughter, yells of SURPRISE! and multiple enthusiastic hugs greeted him.
"SURPRISE!" JD and Vin shouted again.
Ezra was trying to gather himself from what he just heard.
"Here Ezra, have a seat," Josiah invited, leading him over what the family had designated the birthday chair.
Ezra sat, and held on to the chair tightly with both hands as he tried to catch his breath. His eyes went wide and he held on even tighter as he felt himself lifted into the air while his brothers raised the chair seven times, then one more time saying, "And one for next year!"
When Ezra was back safely on the ground, he mumbled, Thank you.
Nathan came from the kitchen holding a large cake, and Ezras eyes widened when he saw his name on it.
"For me?" he asked with hesitation.
"Yep, but only one piece for now. You still need to eat your dinner later," Josiah replied.
"Thank you," Ezra said again, feeling tears of happiness trailing down to his cheeks that he did not bother to wipe away.
"We have another surprise," Chris said, gesturing toward two brightly-wrapped packages on the table next to the cake. Open em up.
For a moment, Ezra hesitated, looking around at each smiling face, then childish instinct took over and he tore eagerly into the paper. Harry Potter! he crowed, eyes lighting up with pleasure at the thick collection of books. Oh, and the movies too! Wow!
Delighted with the honest, unusually child-like expression of glee, the entire family grinned and elbowed one another, congratulating themselves on the success of their choice.
What do you say, Ezra, Chris asked him. Shall we check out Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone before dinner?
Ezra jumped from the chair and hugged Chris.
"I think we can take that as a, yes." Josiah said with a smile. Happy Birthday, baby brother.
Ezra smiled at the reminder that he finally had a birthday of his very own. It was a day to remember, a day that would always be his; a special day from his very own family.
The End for now