Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em...damnit!
Thanks to Phyllis for the Brothers Larabee 2 Universe
Characters: Ezra, JD
Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language
My thanks to Nancy for giving my stories a home.
This particular day was a special day for Ezra. It was his birthday.
When he joined the family that morning for pre-breakfast coffee, he was grateful, but not truly surprised that Josiah got it for him. He wasn't even taken aback at the excessive noise coming from inside the kitchen, though he was more than a little curious when he heard JD was the one making it. Said brother didn't join them for breakfast, although JD did appear long enough to hand over his gift to Ezra, and watch Ezra unwrap all his birthday presents before disappearing back into the kitchen.
Unfortunately, with a trip to his business in Vegas scheduled for tomorrow, Ezra had little time to rest on his proverbial laurels, and so headed into the study for a working birthday of spreadsheets and audio conferences. It wasn't until dinner that evening would he learn what all the noise and secrecy earlier was about.
After dinner, Ezra eyed the recently presented birthday cake with a degree of suspicion.
JD frowned. "Don't you like it?"
The southerner glanced around at his brothers, resting his gaze between a grinning Buck and an anxious JD. "Forgive my hesitancy, but I was contemplating the possibilities of it exploding in my face…or...perhaps smelling of something odious." He sniffed the cake, and then smiled. "Thank you, it's a splendid effort. Most impressive."
Buck blew out a soft sigh of relief. JD couldn't believe no one had considered how important a birthday cake was on the big day, and so spent the previous two evenings planning the cake, and most of this morning baking and decorating it. The brunet considered the kitchen, and winced inwardly at the devastation once there. It had been too soon in the process to clean up before Nettie arrived to prepare the lunches and evening meal. She was not amused, but didn't let that stop her from helping JD before leaving for the day, along with a stern warning for JD to clean up after himself. Buck figured the best way for him and JD to stay in her good books was to quickly get to work and spend the rest of the day scraping cake batter off just about every surface imaginable in the hope of taking the growl out of her tone, and the stone-cold look she had on her face before she left.
"Did you also decorate this, John Daniel?" Josiah asked, clearly impressed with the effort.
"Sure…well, the icing's actually the roll-out kind, but I really did make the little playing cards and spots," JD assured.
"And what are the spots on the cake and cards made from?" Nathan asked, poking one with a finger.
"That's a secret," JD grinned, feeling rather proud of himself. "See if you can guess. Are you ready to try some, Ezra?"
Standish nodded, grinning wide enough to show his gold tooth. "I can hardly wait," he said sincerely.
Chris disappeared into the kitchen and returned with some napkins and a large knife, which he handed to Ezra to cut into his cake.
"Wait, wait!" JD excitedly pulled out his iPhone to snap some photos for posterity.
Ezra was tickled by the fuss. It was not something he'd experienced on prior birthdays, and his delight must have been evident as all his brothers were grinning back at him.
"Make sure you at least have the ace from the hand of spades," JD insisted, "I made them 'specially for you."
Nodding his approval, Ezra began cutting, and handed out a slice of cake to each brother in turn. He kept back the rather large piece with the spade cards on top for himself. "My goodness, had I known of this, I would have eaten less dinner," he chuckled.
Due to Ezra catching an early flight in the morning, the others decided that a more fitting celebration would take place at Rosie's on the weekend, after he returned from Vegas. Not that Ezra knew - yet. Chris held up one of the six glasses of whiskey and one soda that Josiah had just poured.
"Happy birthday, Ezra," he toasted.
The others did likewise.
Standish's features lit up at the request. His face felt a little tight which he figured was due to the whiskey. "Well," he half raised his glass to them all. "Due to the pleathsure of exthellent company, delightful giftsth, an exthellent dinner, and thisth delithious birthday cake, thisth hasth truly been a wonderful day. Thank you."
He took another sip of whiskey but dribbled it down his shirt. "I mutht apologize for my poor mannerth." He snatched up a napkin, but as he dabbed at his shirt, he noticed his brothers were staring at him.
"Come now, thurely it wathn't that bad." He frowned. "Hmm, I theem to be thluring my wordth."
JD stared, glanced at Nathan, and then back at Ezra to stare some more. As Nathan approached, Ezra was using the napkin to mop the damp skin on his neck, face, and forehead.
"And I appear to be perthpiring." He allowed Nathan to guide him to a dining chair and sit him down.
"Ezra, you're swelling up like a balloon. Do you have any allergies?" the doctor asked as his practiced hands examined his impromptu patient. He glanced at JD. "Go get a popsicle from the freezer, his throat is closing up."
With a squeak of trepidation, the youngest Larabee ran off to the kitchen. Vin and Chris exchanged concerned glances and with a nod, the former headed off to start up Josiah's SUV. JD was back in seconds, and Nathan unwrapped the frozen treat and eased it into Ezra's mouth.
"This will keep your airway open. I'm gonna go get an EpiPen, then we need to get you to the hospital," he explained.
Ezra tried to protest, but with a mouthful of popsicle and a swelling tongue, throat, and lips, it was a wasted effort so he just nodded.
JD's attention went to the birthday cake and his stomach flipped. His brother was fine until he took a bite of cake - was this his fault? Before he could dwell on it further, Nathan had injected the epinephrine, and the brothers were heading out to the car and on to the hospital. As the family sped their way to Four Corners Memorial, Ezra he was still saying, albeit more muffled, what a wonderful day this had been.
JD's anxiety rose as he looked at the puffy southerner. It was impossible to tell if he was smiling or not. 'Shoot, now he's delirious, too.'
An hour later, in the ER's small waiting room, JD groaned and bent forward in his chair to bury his face in his hands. "Gawd, I feel awful," he mumbled.
Buck, seated next to him, rubbed his back. "Quit beating yourself up, JD…you couldn't have known. Hell, none of us did."
"Kid, Nathan was right there…and it made all the difference. Buck's right, this isn't due to you," Vin insisted.
Straightening, JD's misery-filled eyes looked at them. "I ruined his birthday."
"Bullshit!" Chris huffed. "I know it was hard to tell with all that swelling, but he was smiling."
The memory of Ezra's face and lips swelling up like they were being steadily stuffed with cotton just made JD even more despondent. "That was a smile on Ezra's face?" JD groaned again, but before he could re-bury his face, Nathan appeared from behind a curtain just across the way in the ER and joined them.
"He's a little drowsy from the meds, but you can see him now."
All but JD stood to go.
"Kid?" Buck asked, tilting his head as he spoke.
"Go ahead, I just need the bathroom first." While his brothers looked on, JD rose and headed in the opposite direction.
"Give him a minute," Chris suggested and the five remaining men walked on in to visit their swollen sibling.
Inside a bathroom stall JD, crouched down and rested back against the door. The guys were right, there was no way he could have known Ezra was allergic to licorice…but it didn't make him feel any better.
"Why can't I do anything right?" he sighed. "I couldn't even make a freaking birthday cake without poisoning a member of my family." JD groaned, softly. He wanted to go see Ezra, too, but was Ezra ready to see him?
Ezra smiled at his brothers. At least this time it actually looked more like a smile. "Where is our talented chef?" Standish asked as he lay in the hospital bed. There was a hint of a tease in his voice, which still sounded a little thick.
"Bathroom," they all chorused.
"I see," Ezra said, concern now crossing his deflating features. "Would someone be so kind as to extricate him from said edifice so I may speak with him before sleep claims me?"
Chris gave the group an amused look. At least Ezra still sounded like himself, even if he was looking a little shiny, red, slit-eyed, and puffy-faced right now. With a nod, he backed out of the cubicle.
Hands clutching either side of the bathroom washbasin, JD stared at himself in the mirror in an effort to motivate himself into moving. He turned sharply when the door opened and Chris entered the men's room.
"JD," the blond answered. "Get your ass in to see Ezra, now. He needs to rest."
JD turned to face his brother, resting back against the sink as he did so. "I was…am…just needed to use the…you know."
Guiding the youngest Larabee out of the room by a gentle hand on the nape of his neck, Chris nodded, knowingly. "Uh, huh."
Four men tactfully retreated to the waiting room as Chris and JD entered the curtained area.
Despite being tired, Ezra raised another smile."Mister Dunne, I trust your need was not an urgent one?"
"Oh." JD grinned, coyly. "Nah…I uh, I guess I was just finding the courage to come say 'hi'…and, sorry."
Patting the bedcovers, Standish gestured for JD to sit down next to him while Chris took up a chair. Ezra looked into wide, sad, hazel eyes. "It is I who must apologize to you." He couldn't help but be amused at JD's look of bewilderment. The boy's expressive features never could hide his emotions and reactions.
"I recall, in my childhood, I reacted badly to licorice sticks that Mother once brought home for me. On that occasion, and in my excitement, I veritably wolfed the treats down. Never before had I tasted such a thing and found them to be irresistible. I ended up in the hospital that day, too.
"That was twenty-six years ago, and despite knowing what you used for the spots on the cards and cake, I still chose to eat it. While unable to resist the delights of the delectable candy, I also hoped I had outgrown its effectiveness to make it an issue to my health.
"It truly was delicious and, I believed at that time, well worth the risk; though, in hindsight the worry my decision caused you all would more than suggest that the path I chose was unwise."
His hand encircled JD's wrist. "I'm truly touched that you went to so much trouble just for me." He smiled. "Buck told us you were up at 5:00am to ensure the cake would be finished in time for dinner. I can't begin to tell you how privileged that makes me feel."
"But it ruined your birthday," JD argued, softly, before stifling a yawn.
Ezra shook his head, appreciating that he, too, was tiring quickly. "On the contrary, despite my discomfort, it has been one of the best birthdays I can recall. Sharing my day, a dinner, and a homemade birthday cake with my six brothers is more than I hoped for, and better than I could ever have imagined. And as for the cake, I assure you, I will be eating it, sans the licorice, of course." Ezra was elated to see JD finally smile. "I ask you, what more can any man truly want?"
"Uh, maybe not to look like some freaky cartoon figure when he smiles?" JD asked, biting back a grin.
Ezra laughed, and instantly regretted it. He composed himself and waved off the instant concern. "Please tell me no one took a photograph of me like this." JD's and Chris's silence told the southerner that was exactly what had happened. "Marvelous."
"I think it's gonna get blown up, too," JD added, "now you're alright, an' all." He giggled. "Ha! Blown up, get it? Blown..." He noted Chris's arched eyebrow and his grin faded. "Just saying...okay, never mind."
"Such subterfuge," Ezra noted, "I'm so proud of you all." He yawned. "Oh, my apologies."
Chris stood. "You're tired, and need to rest," he said, urging JD to rise also. "We'll go, and come back in the morning to pick you up." He looked down as Ezra grasped his arm.
"Would you both stay…just for a while, perhaps until slumber claims me?"
Chris looked at JD, who nodded his agreement. "Sure."
Much to Ezra's amusement, JD got comfortable on the bed, slowly edging backwards to eventually rest back against the headboard as the three talked quietly together. Twenty minutes later, Chris joined the other four men after leaving both Ezra and JD, sleeping.
Less than a minute after Chris joined his brothers in the waiting room, Vin disappeared. He returned from Ezra's room with a huge dimpled grin on his face.
Chris sipped on a lukewarm coffee. "What?" he asked.
Tanner held out his cell to show several photos of Ezra and JD, fast asleep on Ezra's bed, with their heads resting against each other.
As Vin flicked through them Buck pointed to one of the pair with their mouths slightly open. "Oh yeah…that's the one for the Christmas cards!" Buck laughed, and the others joined in.
From behind the cubicle's curtain, Ezra opened one slightly less swollen eye and smiled on hearing his family's laughter from across the hall. He glanced at the softly snoring form of his youngest brother lying next to him and sighed with contentment as he finally drifted off.
'Yes indeed, not such a bad day at all.'