Magnificent Seven ATF Universe

The Boxes

by Freespirit

I needed to write this sequel to A Texan Wildflower to give a little more info on CJ. Enjoy.

Please send comments to

With a rather large light blue teddy bear wearing a red, white and blue tank top, (like the basket ball players wear), in hand, Chris waited for Vin and Ezra with their daughters. Chris and the rest of team seven returned to Denver to get CJ's room done before she was to come home. Chris couldn't believe that Mrs. Manitoe bulked at Vin taking his daughter, even though he had proof she was his. It hurt Vin to leave CJ at the home that night, but according to the law, CJ was still a ward of the state. Vin was, however, allowed to pick her up the next morning and keep her all day. After making a call to AD Travis, they didn't have much trouble with Mrs. Manitoe. It's been a week since Vin found out he was a father. Thanks to AD Travis, they were able to cut through a lot of red tape and Vin was able to adopt CJ and bring her home. Chris chuckled every time he thought about the day Mrs. Manitoe was handed the papers from Ezra stating Vin had temporary custody of his daughter. And by Friday, adoption papers were to be drawn up for Vin to sign so he could take her back to Denver on Monday, Tuesday at the latest. So, when Friday came, Vin signed papers for the adoption and had to wait until Monday for them to be filed, Chris said he and the others would return to Denver and work on a room for CJ. Ezra told him to fix up another room for a playroom for both girls. CJ said she liked sky blue and looking at the stars at night. The night before Chris, Buck, Josiah, JD, and Nathan left for Denver, CJ told them all where to and how to find the different constellations and what each of their names were. Chris was impressed with the child's knowledge of the stars.

Chris was lost in thought and didn't hear his name being called until he was almost knocked over when his nieces each grabbed unto a leg.

"Hi Uncle Chris," both girls said in unison.

Chris put the teddy bear down on one of the airport chairs and knelt down to get hugs and wet kisses from the girls. "Hi to you."

Chris stood when Vin and Ezra approached the trio. "How was your flight?"

Vin and Ezra both looked down at the girls. "Ask them," Ezra answered.

"What did we do?" Both girls said.

Chris looked down at the girls, then back to Vin and Ezra. "It's like listening to a stereo."

"Indeed. The flight attendants thought it to be cute," Ezra said.

"Okay, but what did the girls do that was so wrong?" Chris asked as he lead the way to the baggage claim area after picking up the teddy bear.

"It ain't what they did," Vin said.

"It's rather what they said," Ezra said with a shake of his head.

This had Chris' curiosity peaked. "What did they say?"

"We were their Daddies and we live together in the same house," Ezra answered.

"Yeah, and we were partners," Vin shook his head. "Then Charity told them she was adopted."

Chris laughed when he pictured the scene.

"It ain't funny, Cowboy. Ez and me had to explain to them that we's straight."

Chris lead the two men and their daughters out to his pick up.

"Ooo, a Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab. Brilliant black, right?" CJ said as they got closer.

All three men stopped and looked at her. "You know your trucks," Chris said, impressed.

"Yeah, and trucks ain't the only cars I know," CJ said.

"How is it you have come to gain this knowledge?" Ezra asked.

CJ shrugged her shoulders. "TV commercials. They have a lot of car commercials on TV. And one of my daddy wanna-bes let me look at the pictures in the books he had at his car store."

The three men nodded in understanding. "What's your favorite vehicle?" Chris asked.

"I like 'em all, but I really like Jeeps and Mustangs," CJ answered. Did you know the mustang wasn't named after the horse? It was named after a airplane. I like the old mustangs from the sixties. I liked that daddy. He was my favorite daddy wanna-be."

The three men looked at one another. "Daddy wanna-be?" Ezra asked as he and Vin buckled CJ and Rorie into their car seats.

"That's what I call the daddies that let me stay at their houses."

Chris looked back at the girls. "How many daddy wanna-bes did you have?"

CJ sighed, "A lot. Some were mean. I didn't like Mr. Crane. He was creepy," CJ shivered at the thought of the man.

The shiver didn't go unnoticed by the three men.

+ + + + + + +

Four men were waiting for them on the front porch when they arrived. Buck and Josiah helped with the baggage. CJ carried her bear that was almost the same size as she was.

CJ was so excited to have her own room, that she started to run toward the house with her bear. The bear was so big, she ended up tripping over it as she ran. The men chuckled a little. Buck sat the bags he had in his hands down and then picked CJ up, bear and all, and set her on her feet. "Why don't I take your teddy so he don't trip you up again."

"Okay Unca Buck," CJ said, brushing herself off.

"Your room ' going anywhere, little Darlin'," Buck smiled.

"I ain't never had my own room at the home."

JD came over and picked up the bags Buck sat down on the ground and went inside.

CJ was jumping up and down with excitement. "Where's my room?"

"Charity Joy," Vin said in a stern voice, "Calm down."

"Yes, please. We do not wish for another episode like you had in the park," Ezra sighed.

"What episode?" Nathan asked.

"She passed out," Vin answered.

"Yes, and believe me Gentlemen, when I say it was the scariest thing I have ever witnessed, I am not exaggerating."

Vin shivered then shook his head. "I called Miss West at the hospital and she said when CJ gets excited, she passes out."

"He didn't take me back to Miss West either like the others did when I's passed out," CJ smiled. "It ain't like I can help it," CJ sighed. "I just ferget ta breathe sometimes."

"Was she born with them?" Nathan asked. "Because there wasn't anything in her file about seizures."

Ezra laid a hand on Vin's shoulder. "No, Nathan, she was not born with them."

Chris looked over at Vin and noticed the anger in his eyes.

"Let's get Charity settled in her room then we will explain Miss West's theory on the matter," Ezra said.

CJ's room was next to Vin's. It was painted sky blue. It had a canopy bed, much like Rorie's.

Vin put CJ's cloths away. He was happy to see that CJ liked her new room. He knew what it was like having to share your room with so many other kids. Ezra and Rorie entered the room. "Do you like your accommodations?"

"Ah, no," CJ smiled up at Ezra. "I love 'em." She then hugged Ezra around his legs.

Josiah stuck his head in the room. "Hey, we have something else to show you."

Rorie and CJ looked at one another then ran out of the room.

Vin and Ezra both called out. "No running in the house."

The girls were lead to a room that was located in the hallway between the two wings. Inside they found a lot of toys. The guys found out CJ liked playing with cars and trucks rather than dolls. There was a Barbie dream house off to one side of the room with a Barbie jeep and convertible. The jeep had a horse trailer with two horses in it. There was a train set complete with scenery and miniature town. The rocking horse was brought from Rorie's room so both girls could enjoy it. The room was painted in light blue and pink. Against one wall was a small book shelf lined with children books. A small child size table sat in the middle of the room with two child size folding chairs with Disney princesses on them.

Vin and Ezra looked from one co-worker to the other, surprised at all the stuff in the room. The guys held up their hands in surrender. "Nettie, Mary, Inez and Casey did the decorating. We just painted the walls," Buck said.

"It looks real nice," Vin said, as he looked around the transformed room.

Ezra was in awe of the room. There were Disney princesses decorating the walls. "Very impressive. I will have to thank the ladies for their decorative expertise."

CJ went to the book shelf to see what books were on it. She also found coloring books and crayons and sighed.

JD walked over to her and knelt down beside her. "How do you like the room?"

CJ faced him. "I like it a lot." She then looked up at Vin. "Can I get some colored pencils? I like them better than crayons. They ain't as messy."

Vin shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, I guess."

CJ smiled up at him. "Thank you."

"You girls play in here while your fathers have a talk with us down stairs," Nathan said.

"Okay," both girls said in unison.

The seven men went down stairs and into the living room. Each man found a place to sit.

"What about these seizures," Nathan inquired.

"I ain't mad about her rolling off the bed. Babies do that," Vin said.

Five men looked to Ezra for an explanation. Ezra sighed. "The foster home Charity was in at the age of six months had its heating grates located in the floor. The foster mother laid her on the bed when she fell asleep. She put pillows around her in hopes she wouldn't roll off."

"But she did," Vin said.

"Yes, she did," Ezra sighed, with head bowed. Ezra continued when he raised his head. "When she rolled off the bed, she hit the grate with her chin. That snapped her head back, or so they thought because her chin was scraped underneath. When the foster mother heard the thud coming from the bed room she ran to see what happened. She found Charity on the grate, not breathing. She dialed 911 and started CPR. By the time they got her to the hospital, she was breathing on her own. At the hospital, the doctor on call examined her and sent her home."

"That's it? No testing?" Nathan asked.

"Nope. Just put a bandage on  her chin," Vin said angrily.

"Charity was almost a year and a half before she could walk."

"Oh, she tried, but she had a hard time keeping her balance. She still stumbles some." Vin shook his head.

"Charity started to have the seizures soon after the accident. The foster mother couldn't handle them. She took Charity back to the children's home."

"Sounds like Charity might have had a cracked vertebrae or a pinched nerve somewhere," Nathan said. "Anyway, they should have taken an x-ray."

"Well, they didn't, and there ain't nothin' I can do about it."

Ezra sighed. "Vin, please. We do not know that for sure. I gave Harry a phone call. He said he would look into it."

"I hope he can do somethin', Ez."

"What about her Pediatrician?" Nathan asked.

"She was a ward of the state," Vin stated as if that explained it.

"What about Dr. Waterhouse? I'm sure she could get CJ's records," Nathan stated.

"I guess it won't hurt to ask her," Vin thought.

"No it would not," Ezra agreed.

"Before we forget, some boxes were delivered this past weekend. They had CJ's name on them," Buck said.

"Good. Miss West sent them while I was dealing with Mrs. Manitoe. I never liked her," Vin said.

"Where did you put the packages?" Ezra asked. "I did not noticed them in Charity's room."

"They're out in the back room," Chris answered and started to head that way.

"Why did ya'll put 'em out there?" Vin asked.

"Well, it's like this, they were to heavy to lug up stairs to her room," Buck answered.

"And to bulky," Josiah added.

"I'm dying to find out what's in them," JD said when he got up off the sofa.

"Well, if you want to know what's in them, JD, go get CJ and Rorie and meet us in the back room," Chris said then lead the way to the back room.

Minutes later, JD and the 2 girls entered the back room.

"My stuff!" CJ squealed.

The seven men and Rorie covered their ears when CJ squealed.

"Charity! Please, use your inside voice."

"Oops. Sorry Unca Ezra. I got excited. I ain't seen my stuff in ages."

"We understand this," Vin said as he knelt down to be eye level with CJ, "but ya got a real high squeal, Munchkin."

"I know, like a banshee," CJ sighed.

"Got that right, kiddo," Buck said wiggling a finger in his ear to get rid of the ringing.

"Can we open the boxes now?" JD asked as he hopped from one foot to the other.

Vin took out his Swiss army knife and cut the shipping tape off the boxes. The first box had a lot of smaller boxes and storage containers in it. The second box only had two items in it. They needed to be put together. They were a scooter and a bicycle.

"Looks like we need to get ya a helmet and pads," Nathan said when the second box was opened.

"Nope, they's in the first box." CJ smiled up at him.

Nathan looked in the first box for the helmet and pads. "Good Lord. She has a set of inline skates in this box. Not even opened," Nathan said and showed the guys the box with the skates.

CJ shrugged. "I like things with wheels that make me go fast."

Buck shook his head. "Next thing she's goin' ta want is a battery operated car. Those things ain't cheap."

"Um, Buck..." Vin said when he opened the third box. "She's already got one."

Ezra looked in the box. "A pink convertible Corvette."

"I know how to drive it to. The daddy wanna-be that had the car store got it for me so I could be in the parade with him. It needs a car battery," CJ sighed. "Mrs. Manitoe took the one that was in it cause she said she needed it for her car. She never put another one in it."

"We'll get ya one in the spring when the weather gets warmer," Vin said.

Vin opened the fourth and final box and found a child's skateboard and clothing. Among them, there's a blue leather jacket with fringe, blue cowgirl boots with matching cowgirl hat and a denim skirt. There were a lot of dresses. Vin pulled out a video tape that had the word pageants on it and handed it to Ezra.

Ezra read the word. "Really? This is a must see video."

CJ moaned when she noticed the tape in Ezra's hand. "Not the tape."

"What's wrong with the tape?" Buck asked.

"Aggg," CJ moaned. "I'm a baby in it."

Ezra shook his head. "This would explain why the price of shipping was so expensive."

Nathan picked up a shoe box from the first box and opened it. Inside it were envelopes and a few loose pictures. "Hey, Vin. Look at what I found."

Everyone looked to see what Nathan found.

"Oh, you found my box of pictures. There should be one of me in my car."

Nathan handed the box to Vin.

Knowing the box belonged to CJ, he knelt down in front of her and asked, "May I look at your pictures."

CJ smiled. "Yes you may." The smile left her face.

Ezra noticed the look on CJ's face go from happy to worry. "Is something wrong, Charity?"

CJ didn't answer.

Rorie looked over at her new cousin. "Uncle Vin won't care about them. Just tell em about them."

This set off alarms in the guys minds.

"Please, CJ, tell us," Chris said. "We would want to know."

CJ took a deep breath and let it out. "Some of the pictures you won't like. I don't even like em. Mr. Crane took em. Then there's the ones when I was born. I wish I had one with Caroline."

"Who is Caroline?" Josiah asked.

"My sister," CJ answered.

Josiah looked to Vin. "Sister?"

"Yeah. CJ's a twin, Josiah. Caroline lived two hours. Miss West said if Caroline had lived, she would have been in a wheel chair her whole life. Miss West didn't go into a lot of detail, but what she did tell us," Vin swallowed the lump that formed in his throat when he looked down at CJ. "We're lucky to have Charity."

Ezra laid a hand on Vin's shoulder. "But we do have her, Vin."

JD picked up what looked like a flannel pillow case that had a handle sown in a side seam. The opening at one end was velcroed shut. "What's this, CJ?"

CJ looked up to see what JD had. She rushed over to him and took it from him and held it close to her, with tears running down her cheeks.

No one expected CJ to react like she did. What ever was in side the pillow case was very dear to her.

"Really, CJ?" Rorie asked. "Can you play it?"

This brought a smile to CJ's face and she nodded.

"What's in the case, Rorie?" JD asked.

"Show em, CJ. They's want ya to play it for em."

CJ opened the case and pulled out a violin and its bow.

"Wow, CJ, that's a nice looking violin you have," Chris said.

"Thanks. I got it from one of my momma wanna-be's momma. She was real nice."

"How well can you play it?" Ezra asked as he admired the instrument.

CJ wiggled the fingers on her right hand that was in the cast. "I don't know with this cast on."

"Perhaps you could show us when you have it removed in a few weeks." Ezra smiled. He would have loved to see how well his niece could have played the instrument.

CJ looked up at Ezra. "I play left handed Unca Ezra. It'll be hard, but I think I can play it now if ya like?"

"In that case, Gentlemen, shall we adjourn to the living room for a private concert," Ezra said and motioned everyone into the living room.

As everyone entered the living room, Terri Greer and her daughter, Olivia entered through the front door.

"I'm glad to see you got home okay," Terri greeted.

Vin introduced CJ to Terri and Olivia. Terri noticed the cast on CJ's right arm and the violin in her left.

"I heard about what happened. Are you doing okay?" CJ nodded. "Good. What are you doing with the violin?"

"I was going to try and play it for my Dad and Uncles and Rorie."

"Would it be okay if Olivia and I listened to, that is if you're sure you can play with a broken arm. I don't want you to over do it."

CJ looked around the room and sighed. She wasn't sure she could with this many people.

"You can do it, CJ," Rorie encouraged.

CJ took a deep breath and looked down at her feet for a couple of minutes then smiled and looked up at Ezra when she brought the violin up to her chin with her right hand. In her left hand she twirled the bow and then brought it across the strings.

Rorie leaned back against her father. "Daddy, who is Charlie Daniels?"

Ezra smiled as CJ started to sing the lyrics to 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia.' Ezra saw the humor in the chosen song as did everyone else. When CJ was done, she took a bow when everyone applauded. Buck even whistled. Even with the cast, CJ did a pretty good job. Everyone was impressed with her ability to play the violin. Ezra could only imagine what she could do if she didn't have the cast on.

"That was real good, CJ," JD said. "Can you play anything else?"

"I can play a lot of different songs, but not tonight," CJ answered as she rubbed her cast and shoulder.

Vin got up from where he was sitting and went to his duffle bag and got CJ's pain meds and a glass of milk. CJ took the meds with out complaint. Vin then repositioned the sling for CJ. Everyone enjoyed the song and said so. Vin was very proud of CJ.

"So, you play left-handed?" Josiah stated more than asked.

"Yep. I do a lot with my left hand," CJ answered.

Josiah smiled down at her. "Did you know that I'm left-handed?"

CJ shook her head no. "I do now. I guess that means I'm not the only one in my right mind."

Josiah laughed out loud. "No, you're not little darling."

Rorie noticed the bags Terri and Olivia had with them. "What's in the bags 'Livia?"

"Halloween stuff. Want to see my costume?"


Olivia showed Rorie and CJ her costume while the adults informed Terri about what happened in Texas. Terri said she would be taking Olivia over to the college campus for Halloween this year.

"Shoot! I forgot all about the holiday," Buck exclaimed.

"How on earth did that happened?" Chris said, surprised at Buck's confession.

"Hey, stranger things have happened. It slipped my mind with everything that's been going on in the last, what, two weeks," Buck defended himself.

Rorie tugged on Ezra's hand. Ezra looked down at her. "What is it?"

"Can we go get Halloween costumes?" Rorie asked.

"How about we do that tomorrow after school? It is getting late and we have not eaten dinner yet. And then there is still your bath and tidying up the play room."

"Okay," both Rorie and CJ said in unison.

"Oh, speaking of school," Terri said, then went over to where the land line was and picked up the note she had put next to the phone. "A Mr. Crimshaw called for Vin about the pre-school program," Terri handed the note to Vin.

"I'll see 'em tomorrow," Vin said as he read the note. "Now, let's get ta lookin' at them pictures."

Everyone gathered around the coffee table as CJ opened her shoe box of pictures. Some of the pictures were loose. She took them out first and passed them to Vin, who passed them around so the others could get a look at them. She then took out an envelope that read birth. She sat in Vin's lap and opened it.

"There ain't too many in here," CJ said and took the pictures out. "I don't have any of me and Caroline. She was hurt bad like our mommy."

CJ handed Vin a picture of her in an incubator with tubes and IV's coming out of her. It broke Vin's heart seeing the photographs of the tiny baby that he knew was his. He passed the picture on to Chris, who sat next to him on his right. Also in the envelope was her birth card from the hospital that said she was the second of a set of twin girls and that she was just under three pounds.

Ezra was to Vin's left with Rorie in his lap. Ezra saw the unshed tears as Vin looked at each photograph that was handed to him. He leaned over to Vin to whisper in his ear, "We can do this another time if you wish."

Vin shook his head. "I kinda thought what it was going ta be like ta see 'em, but I was wrong. She was so tiny." CJ handed Vin Caroline's card. "Caroline was bigger than you?"

"Yeah. She was in front of me too. That's why she died."

Vin didn't want to think about it. He knew if he thought about it, he would get sick to his stomach.

Ezra laid a hand on Vin's shoulder. He knew what was going through Vin's mind. "Do not dwell on it, Vin."

Vin nodded and took in a deep cleansing breath to calm his nerves. He wished he was there when she was born.

The pictures made their way back and Vin placed them in their envelope. The next envelope had the word's Foster Homes on it. That envelope was much thicker than the first one. Vin flipped the pictures over to read the names of the foster parents when CJ handed him each one. He smiled at the one CJ was in her car with the daddy wanna-be squatted down next to her with an arm draped over the back of the car and what looked like a remote control for a remote control car he and JD liked to play with. There were pictures with puppies and kittens. Even with her on a pony at a county fair. There were a lot of Foster Homes. When they made their way back, as before, Vin put them in their envelope. CJ sighed as she picked up the last envelope.

"Is something wrong, Munchkin?" Vin asked when CJ sighed.

CJ shrugged her shoulders. "I don't like some of these pictures. Most of 'em are 'kay."

"It's okay. We won't judge them," Chris said with a smile.

On this envelope was the word Charity. CJ took out the pictures of only her in them. At first, there wasn't a thing for CJ to be ashamed of as far as the adults were concerned. They even got a few laughs. Then CJ came to the last half dozen or so. Then the adults were getting a bit confused and angered. Vin got really pissed with the last two.

Vin looked at them, horrified. "Charity, who took these?"

"Mr. Crane," CJ answered.

"Mr. Crane?" Ezra asked, barely able to hold his anger in check.

CJ took out the envelope that had the foster homes in it and went through them until she found the one she wanted and handed it to Ezra. Ezra flipped it over and read the name. Ezra read the name out loud.

Chris reached past Vin to take the picture from Ezra and gave the man in the picture a good going over. He wanted to remember the man's face, just in case.

"He don't like cops. When ever he'd see one he would make a pig sound and laugh."

Chris handed the picture back to CJ and she put it away. CJ then put the lid back on the shoe box and sat it on the coffee table. CJ than looked at everyone. "Does anyone want to see what's in all the other boxes?" she asked.

"Sure," Buck answered. "After we eat."

Josiah went and took the casserole out of the oven and started dishing it out. After everyone ate, they went back to the living room.

"Can we look at the boxes now?" Rorie asked.

Vin laughed. "Yes."

Buck and the two girls went to the first box for some smaller boxes to bring out.

"Come on, Olivia. Let's go," Terri said as she looked at Vin and silently let him know she would be there for him if he needed someone to talk to other than the guys.

Vin smiled and nodded his thanks and understanding.

The girls came in with a couple of shoe boxes each while Buck came back with a storage container. CJ and Rorie climbed up into their father's laps. The two men took the boxes from the girls.

"After these, I think ya should pick up the play room and take yer baths and go ta bed," Vin told the girls.

"Okay," both girls said in unison.

"It's like a stereo," Josiah commented.

"You have no idea, Josiah," Ezra said.

The girls smiled up at their Uncles.

"Guess what else we can do?" Rorie asked."

"What's that?" JD asked, curiously.

"We can finish..," Rorie started.

"...Each other's sentence," CJ finished. Then both girls laughed.

"Now I's know what ya'll feel like when Chris and I do the mind talkin'."

"Yes, it wasn't bad enough that you and Mr. Larabee to have a silent conversation between the two of you, now our daughters have the same gift." Ezra glared at Vin.

CJ opened one of the shoe boxes. "Oh, my cars."

Vin looked down into the shoe box and saw it was full with hot wheel cars and others like them. CJ took out a few of the cars to show her dad and Uncles. "Can we put them in the play room?"

"Yes, of course," Ezra answered.

The next shoe box had beanie babies in it. CJ took one of the boxes Rorie had. Inside it were clothing for a Barbie doll. Ezra picked up one of the dresses and examined it. He found it to be hand made. He replaced it.

"All the cloths was made by one of the mommy wanna-be's mamma. In one of the really big storage containers is all the Barbie stuff. She made me a patio set for my dolls."

Rorie's eyes lit up. "Cool."

"I know. She even made a fireplace with a screen and all the stuff that goes with it. She made a lot of doll stuff. My favorite one is the flat screen TV."

"She made your Barbie's doll furniture?" Chris asked.

"Yep." CJ smiled up at him. "She said she only had boys and was glad she had a little girl to make em for."

"Well, let's get this last box opened then the storage container yer Uncle Buck has, okay?" Vin said then took the box from Rorie.

In the fourth box, was colored pencils, water color paint, and paint brushes. There was also stencils and chalk, rubber stamps and stamp pads in different colors.

"Mama wanna-be DeeDee got me these so when she did her stamping, I could do it to. It was fun."

"I wonder what's in here?" Buck asked and shook the storage container.

"Open it and find out Unca Buck." CJ smiled.

Buck smiled down at CJ. "Nothing's going to jump out at me is there?" Buck asked, pretending to be nervous.

CJ and Rorie laughed at the same time. "Noooo. I ain't got nothin' that would do that."

"You sure?" CJ nodded her head yes. "Okay, here goes." Buck opened one end and peered inside. Inside were trapper keepers, coloring books and pages. Buck sat the container on the floor in front of him. He pulled out a coloring book that said mystic animals on it. Another coloring book had Celtic designs.

Buck picked up one of the binders and flipped it open. "Did you color these?"

"Yeah, I did. That's why I like colored pencils. There should be a 'lectric pencil sharpener in there."

JD looked down in the container. "Yep, it's in there." JD then reached in the container and took out a book of house designs and opened it to see the houses were colored. "I like this one," JD held the book up so CJ could see which one it was.

"Mama wanna-be Lynda gave that to me. It's an old one and I liked some of the houses so she said I could color 'em if I wanna." CJ shrugged.

"Well, it's time to tidy up the play room and for the two of you to get a bath, and get ready for bed. You are up past your bed times," Ezra said as he stood.

The boxes of toys the girls took with them. Buck carried the storage container to the play room and added the content to the shelf with the other coloring things. The box with the pictures went to CJ's room and placed on her dresser. The two girls asked if they could take their baths together. The fathers allowed it. After they picked up the play room, good nights were said and each Uncle was given hugs and kisses from the girls. After the baths were done, each father tucked his daughter in for the night and met up in the kitchen.

Vin had the palms of his hands on the counter and was leaning hard on them with his head hung low when Ezra came into the kitchen. Ezra walked past Vin to the refrigerator and opened it. "You look like you could use this," Ezra said when he handed Vin a long neck beer bottle.

"Yeah, I could, thanks," Vin said and took the offered bottle.

Both men took a long pull from their bottles and entered the living room. The two men sat in silence for about ten minutes.

Vin was the first to break the silence. "What the hell am I going ta do, Ez?" Vin asked, slumped in one of the chairs. "I can't just ignore those pictures." Vin took another drink of his beer.

Ezra leaned forward and braced his fore arms on his knees and let his beer bottle dangle from his fingers. "What ever you decide, you'll have six men backing you up all the way. I also believe, Mr. Henry Crane had not better show his face in these parts, my friend," Ezra said then looked to Vin. "that is, if he knows what is good for him."

Vin saw the meaning in Ezra's emerald eyes and tilted his bottle towards him and tapped it against Ezra's, then drained the rest of the bottle. Ezra followed suit. After discarding the bottles, both men locked up the house, turned out lights and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.

The End

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