ATF LB Universe
Notes: What would happen if Ezra was put in charge of the boys for a week? This is written, other than the prologue, in drabble fashion.
“Ezra, can I see you in my office?”
“Certainly.” Standish stood and made his way through the office suite that was home to ATF Team Seven, trying not to feel as if he had just been called to the principal’s office. As he crossed the threshold into Larabee’s inner sanctum, he spoke hurriedly, “If this is about the expense report for the Dannon case –“
Holding up a hand to stop his agent, Chris said, “No, it’s not… I haven’t gotten to it yet.” His expression said that he would go over it with a fine tooth comb now, however. “I have a favor to ask; a big one.”
Frowning, Ezra settled into the chair his supervisor indicated. In a rather hesitant tone, he said, “Okay.”
“Travis just called. It seems that Bob Wyans was in a car accident last night. He’ll be all right, but he’s going to be in the hospital for the next few days. He was set to run a week long seminar in Las Vegas…”
Standish found himself all but salivating at the mention of the city of casinos. Was Larabee going to ask him to step into the role left vacant by Agent Wyans?
“… and since Buck is the expert on firearms, I’d like him to come with me to run that part of the seminar. So, I wanted to know if you’d be willing to stay out at the ranch with the boys while we’re gone?”
Reality clanged like the door to a prison cell as Ezra belatedly realized what was being asked of him. Not to take Wyans place, but to take theirs; Larabee and Wilmington’s. He was being asked to step into his role of Uncle Ezra. For a week. By himself?
“By myself?” He should be embarrassed by the squeak in his voice, but at this point he had other things to worry about.
“Gloria will be there through the day, so you’ll be able to put in your regular work day. With Buck and me gone, you, Josiah and Nate will have plenty of time to catch up on paperwork. You know, perhaps go over that expense report again… just to make sure you didn’t miss anything? So?”
“So?” he asked, still feeling as if the world had tilted slightly to the left and he hadn’t gotten the memo.
Huffing out a breath, the blond said, slowly, “Can… you… stay… with… the… boys?”
“Oh… uh…” his brain refused to provide him with a viable reason that would allow him to decline gracefully. All he was left with was, “Yes. Yes, of course.”
Grinning, Chris responded with a hardy, “Thanks, Ezra. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”
‘Well,’ Standish thought to himself, ‘It’s only for a week.’
“Vin! I gotta go!” JD yelled through the bathroom door.
“Go use Buck’s bafroom!” Vin yelled back.
“Gentlemen, just what is the problem here?”
“Vin’s been in there forEVER and I gots to go!” JD whined, doing a strange little dance outside the bathroom door.
“There are two other lavatories in the house, are there not?”
“Unca Ezra I don’t need a lab-atory, I gotta PEE!” the five year old complained.
Rubbing his forehead in an attempt to forestall the headache he felt building, he tried again. “JD, why don’t you use your father’s bathroom?”
“Oh! Okay, thanks Unca Ezra!”
Gloria Potter entered the house through the kitchen. She was immediately assaulted by an incredible volume of noise. She stepped into the great room, stopping abruptly just over the threshold.
The television was on full volume, the boys lying on their tummies in front of it. Vin had on his pajama top, jean shorts and his boots. His hair was slicked back with what seemed to be half a tube of gel. JD lay beside him, still in his pajamas with a serious case of bed head.
“Boys, where’s Ezra?”
“Still sleepin’,” Vin replied, eyes still glued on the television.
“Standish.” Ezra spoke into the phone as he continued typing his report.
“Yeah. Can you come get me?”
“Come and get you… aren’t you at school?”
“Yeah, can ya?”
With a note of exasperation in his voice, the child said, “Can you come and get me from school?”
“Are you ill?”
“Then why do you want me to come and get you early?”
“’Cause, it’s Monday!”
“I know the day, why do you want to leave school?”
“It’s show – n – tell!”
“I don’t gots nothin’ to shooooow!” the five year old whined pitifully.
“All right, gentlemen, have all your chores been completed?”
“Your homework has been finished?”
“Boys… have you taken your baths?” The question was redundant, considering the sheepish looks he got from the two children. Sitting on the couch, he muted the television and simply waited.
“See… we was goin’ to take a bath,” Vin began.
“Then, we ‘cided our room was messy…” JD added.
“So we cleaned it up,” Vin explained.
“’Cause we want you to be happy ‘bout bein’ here with us!” the boys exclaimed in unison.
Ezra smiled. Baths could wait.
Groggy and grumpy, Ezra padded to the bedroom that the boys shared. He peered into the gloom, broken only by a small nightlight in the shape of some cartoon character he wouldn’t identify. As his eyes adjusted, he focused on the bunkbeds. The lump on the top bunk was humped up, and he realized that Vin was sleeping with his bottom in the air. The lump on the bottom bunk was sprawled sideways on the mattress, and he saw one socked foot dangling over the side of the bed.
Sighing, he wished he didn’t have to disturb the peaceful scene.
“Standish,” he announced as he answered the phone.
“Yes, what is it, Vin?”
“Um, I need a favor.”
“All right, what is it?”
“Can… um… can you bring home some pizza for dinner?” The child’s voice was soft; he was whispering almost sounding fearful.
He frowned, growing concerned. “Isn’t Mrs. Potter there?”
“Isn’t she preparing dinner?”
A pause and then, “Yeah.”
“So, why do I need to bring pizza home?”
“She’s fixin’ BROCCOLI Unca Ezra! BROCCOLI!”
Choking back a chuckle, the agent managed to instruct, “Please let me speak to her… about a menu change.”
“I am sorry, Mr. Standish,” Gloria Potter said once again.
“Please, don’t worry, Mrs. Potter. I’m certain we’ll manage. If you aren’t able to get the car running by this afternoon, please let me know.”
As the phone call ended, Ezra sighed. He made a quick call to the office, leaving a message that he would be late coming in. That completed, he threw back the covers and climbed out of bed with a groan, knowing that he now had to face the battle of getting the boys up, ready, and off to school.
Was it only Wednesday?
“What time is it, Unca Ezra?” JD asked. Again.
“Five minutes later than the last time you asked me.” He tried to keep the patience in his voice, but it was becoming difficult.
“You think maybe they got in a acks-dent?” Vin asked, the fear clearly evident in his voice.
“No! They’re in a very nice hotel, there’s no reason to think they’ve been injured in any way.” Where there was room service and fresh linen every day. And gambling. He sighed.
“Maybe they just can’t find a phone?” JD guessed.
“Your fathers will call, soon.”
And the phone rang.
Standish looked up, realizing that he had drifted off at his desk. Blinking, he looked up to find both Josiah and Nathan staring at him. “Uh… yes?”
Josiah asked, “Long night?”
“Long?” He paused, then looked shocked as he admitted, “Good Lord, I can’t even think of a word to describe it.”
The other two men exchanged shocked looks. Ezra Standish couldn’t think of a word!
“The boys gettin’ to you?” Josiah asked.
“Yes… no! Oh, I don’t know!” Throwing up his hands he went in search of caffeine.
“I think he could use a break,” Jackson said, knowingly.
“But Unca Ezra’s okay?” Vin asked, worriedly.
“He’s fine,” Raine reassured the boy. “Now, eat your dinner and then we’ll read a story before bedtime.”
“Then how comes he ain’t here?” JD asked.
“How come he ISN’T here, sweetheart.”
“Yeah, how comes he ain’t here?”
With a sigh, Raine explained, again, “Uncle Nathan and I thought we’d like to spend the night with you. Isn’t that okay?”
“Yeah… long’s he ain’t hurt,” Vin decided.
Raine Jackson smiled. “Okay, finish up, then we’ll find a book!”
“Hey, guys,” Nathan said as he entered the room. “Who wants to watch a movie?”
Nathan put his arms around his wife, from behind as the two of them watched the boys, sleeping peacefully in their beds. It had been a very… busy… evening, and he had a better idea as to why Ezra looked more tired each morning. How did parents do it on a fulltime basis?
“Well, husband, we did it.”
“You sound shocked. Didn’t think we could pull it off?”
“I had my doubts. Think we’ll be good parents?”
“I think we’ll be great.”
Moving his hands lower, to rest on her stomach, she said, “Good… I’ve got something to tell you…”
“How many hours til Da and Chris come home?” JD asked.
Ezra had left work early and picked the boys up from school, planning to have fun on their last evening together. Looking around the restaurant as he struggled to keep his composer, he asked, “When will their plane land?”
“10:45 tomorrow mornin’,“ Vin supplied.
“What time is it now?”
“7:15,” JD answered, having checked the clock on the wall nearby.
“How many hours between the two?”
After several minutes of discussion, the boys said, “fifteen hours and thirty minutes?”
“Exactly. Shall we do our best to enjoy the evening?”
The jaguar was filled with blessed silence. He looked in the rearview mirror to see that JD was sleeping and Vin was busy flipping through one of the books they had checked out earlier that day. They had made the most of their time together. A trip to see the new Shrek movie was followed by dinner and a trip to the park. He had given them the choice of the mall or the library then. He found himself quite proud of them for choosing the latter. Even Vin, with his reading problems, knew the value of the printed word.
“One more…” *yawn* “… story, Unca Ezra?”
Smiling at the drowsy boys, he said, “I believe that it’s past your bedtime, my nephews. How will you feel tomorrow when you’re sleepy and tired and we’re greeting your fathers?” He meant well, but his words didn’t have the effect he had hoped. Two pairs of eyes widened and two faces brightened with smiles.
“I can’t wait for Dad to be home!” Vin exclaimed.
“I can’t wait for Da to be home!” JD agreed.
“Well then what shall we do to make the time pass more quickly?”
“One more story, Unca Ezra!”
Saturday morning – very early
He groaned as there was a knock at his door. He tried to ignore it, but it came again. Three more times. Finally, giving in, he murmured, “What?”
“Unca Ezra you gots to get up!” JD proclaimed, his voice panic stricken.
Immediately on the alert, Standish leapt from the bed and crossed the room in three quick strides. Opening the door he found the younger boy standing in the hall, fully dressed. It was 5:15. “What’s wrong?”
“We gots to go to the airport!”
“JD… it’s far too early.”
“But,” tears welled in hazel eyes, “we gots to get there.”
Saturday morning – somewhat later
“We’re late!” JD whined.
“No we ain’t!” Vin growled back.
Ezra sighed. The two boys had been bickering since they had woken up and he was getting quite a magnificent headache. “Gentlemen, I implore you. Stop. Bickering!”
“I’m sorry!” JD proclaimed.
“DAD!” Vin squealed, darting away, into the oncoming crowd of people.
“DA!” JD wailed, following his adopted brother.
“BOYS!” Ezra brought up the rear, feeling like a salmon as he moved against the crowd. Suddenly it parted, however, and he saw why. There, in the middle of the causeway, two fathers knelt to wrap their sons in tight embraces.
The five males sat in the busy restaurant, enjoying lunch. Vin and JD had needed almost constant encouragement to eat; they were intent on telling their fathers every minute detail of their week.
“Sounds like you guys had a very busy week,” Buck noted, handing JD a fork and encouraging him to eat another bite of his spaghetti.
“Yeah, it was really cool… even if we had to go to school every day,” Vin agreed.
“How did you enjoy the week, Ezra?” Chris asked.
“It was enjoyable, but I admit I am very happy to see you gentlemen home again.”
Saturday evening (1)
Chris rubbed his cheek against the top of his son’s head, enjoying the feel of the tiny body tucked up against him. They were sitting on the deck, watching the sunset. After the boys had gotten ready for bed, he and Buck had opted for some special, alone time with their respective children.
“Did you an’ Buck have a good week?”
“It was all right, but I have to tell you, something big was missing?”
Shifting to look up into his father’s face, the child asked, “What?”
Hugging his son closer, Larabee whispered, “Being here with you, Cowboy.”
Saturday evening (2)
“… an’ then Alex told Benj’min that he was a creep!” JD completed yet another tale of his week. Very large, hazel eyes stared upward, expectantly.
“So what happened then?” Buck asked. He was listening, but at the same time, his son’s words were simply flowing through him.
“Then the bell rang, so we had to go back inside. But I don’t think Alex an’ Benj’min are friends no more.”
“That’s too bad.” They were sitting at the dining room table, coloring. He reached out and ran his hand through thick, black locks, rewarded by one of JD’s brightest smiles.
Saturday evening (3)
There was classical music on the stereo. He was sitting back in his easy chair, feet propped up on the ottoman. He held a glass of very good wine as he looked out the window, watching the sun set.
But he was uneasy.
He had been trying to put his finger on exactly what had him so unsettled. He had been waiting for this evening for six days, and now it was here. What was he missing? Then, with a melancholy smile he realized what it was and wondered why it had taken so long.
He missed his wonderful nephews.
June 21, 2010