Getting It Said

by Purple Lacey

Seventeenth story in the Angel Girl series.

Characters: Josiah, the guys, OFC

Disclaimer: I don´t not own the Guys and the excerpts are from the Paul Overstreet song “What´s Going Without Saying” written by Paul Overstreet and Jeff Borders. All rights belong to BMG and RCA.

Thanks to MOG for inventing this universe and allowing us to play in it.

Part One
“NO!” Josiah jerked up from his prone position on the bed, panting in fear and horror. “Damn, damn, damn,” he whispered as he ran a trembling hand through his tousled hair. He swung his legs off the bed onto the floor, and rested his elbows on his knees. He dropped his head into his hands and took deep breaths, trying to get control of himself. He tried to push the nightmare´s images aside, but found they kept replaying in his head. He wished he could tell himself the images he watched were just figments of his imagination, just his subconscious trying to speak to him in dream forms, but he knew they were only too real. He was simply reliving the horrific moments of this afternoon when the warehouse, where his teammates were doing a final sweep after a bust, had exploded in a shower of deadly debris. Josiah´s large frame shuddered as the memories flooded his mind. He remembered how he had stood frozen for a moment in confusion and disbelief, before the reality of the situation hit him.

“NO,” Josiah´s voice thundered as he ran to the ruined building, thinking the worst. Believing no one inside the building could have survived the blast, he tore open the door of the building his team had used to enter the warehouse, and then froze again at the sight that met his eyes. He could see his teammates picking themselves up off the floor, battered and bruised, but miraculously alive. He quickly entered the warehouse to assist his still-dazed friends out of the building that was rapidly catching fire, all the while sending silent prayers of thanks to the heavens. The team had been fortunate enough to be in the farthest corner of the warehouse from the blast site when the bomb exploded. There had been several rows of loaded metal cargo containers in between themselves and the bomb that had absorbed the worst of the shock wave and shrapnel. Other agents soon arrived to help them exit the building before they had been trapped by the fire.

The team had been taken to the hospital to be checked out just as a precaution, but amazingly none appeared to have any serious injuries. Josiah had found himself alone in the waiting area of the Emergency room while his friends were being examined, feeling a strange kind of loneliness. Usually whenever he was waiting in that room he had other members of his team there to share the fear and worry. Now he was alone, pacing the floor, thinking about how the six men that now made up his family had almost been taken from him. He knew it could have so easily turned out very differently.

“Don´t go there. Don´t go there,” became his mantra as he paced from one end of the room to the other, trying to control his emotions. He forced himself to sit in the too small chair in the waiting room, and tried to use the relaxation and mediation techniques he had trained in, but found for once he lacked the concentration necessary to center himself properly.

“I told you two I don´t need any help,” the voice of his team leader growled at the two men who accompanied him down the hall from the examination rooms to the waiting room. Chris was walking with the aid of crutches, his right knee wrapped in an elastic bandage under his jeans. Ezra and Vin exchanged amused glances behind the irritated man´s back as they followed him into the room. Josiah rose to his feet and started toward Chris only to be warned off with a glare. Chris maneuvered around, and managed to sit on the waiting room sofa, then used his hands to help swing his injured leg onto the sofa cushions. He settled in with a grimace and a pain-filled sigh.

Chris turned his gaze up to Josiah and asked, “Have you heard anything from the others yet?”

Josiah just shook his head no and asked, “What´d the doctor say about your leg?”

“Strained a ligament. Doc said to stay off it for a few days and it should be okay.”

“That´s real good news,” Josiah said then turned to look at Ezra and Vin raising an eyebrow in question.

“Sprained wrist,” Vin smiled as he held up his wrist to show off the Ace bandage wrapped around it.

“I sustained a small cut,” Ezra said, “Nothing to be concerned about, I assure you.”

Josiah eyed the small white bandage taped to the agent´s forehead. “No concussion?” he asked.

“Thankfully, no,” Ezra smiled. “I have been spared that particular discomfort this time.”

Josiah nodded and sighed in relief.

“I don´t know about you guys, but I´m ready to blow this Popsicle stand,” Buck said from the doorway.

Josiah turned to face the door as Nathan, Buck and JD entered the room, all with white gauze covering their palms. Buck was limping slightly from the scrape he had sustained on his left knee.

JD caught Josiah´s questioning look and answered it, “Just scrapes and bruises is all, Josiah. We´re all fine.” He turned and examined his other teammates. “You guys?” he asked, and smiled with relief when he received their assurance that all injuries were minor. “Well, I agree with Buck. It´s time to get out of here.”

“No argument here, Pard,” Vin drawled.

He stood by the couch and offered Chris his arm to help him get up from the sofa. Chris hesitated, throwing the sharpshooter another annoyed glare, then sighed and accepted the help. The team made their way outside to the parking lot, letting Chris set the pace since he was hampered with the hated crutches.

“They´re all alright. They´re just fine. Nothing to worry about at all,” Josiah kept telling himself, as he helped his friends into his old Suburban to drive them home.

+ + + + + + +

‘Cause when you love someone
You gotta let ‘em know.
When you´re thinking of someone
You need to tell ‘em so.
Don´t know what makes us think
Our minds and our hearts can be read.
What´s going without saying should be said.
No one needs our roses
When the sun of life´s gone down.
If you´re gonna send a message of your love
Then send it now

Josiah lifted his head from his hands, stood up, and walked to the bedroom window. He moved the curtain aside and stood looking out at the moonlit scene without really seeing it. He had come so close to losing his family today. Intellectually and philosophically, Josiah accepted death as just another inevitable stage of life, something to be neither sought nor feared. Emotionally, he found himself unable to accept the thought of losing his friends to its icy clutches. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had always assumed he would pass into the next life before his much younger friends. The close call his friends had that afternoon had shaken him from that complacency, and left him contemplative.

Josiah thought about all the people he´d lost in his life: various friends, his parents, and his sister. He had so many things he wished he had been able to say to them when they were alive. He bitterly regretted not making peace with his father before his death. He wished he could have told his mother how much he loved her before she passed away. He wished he could have told his sister how proud he was to be her brother, and how much she meant to him. He could find so much he wanted to say to them now, when he no longer had the chance. If only he had taken the time to find the words then.

Josiah´s thoughts turned to his friends. They had filled a void in his life that he hadn´t even realized was there. They brought so much happiness and enjoyment and fulfillment to his life that he could no longer image life without them. Did they realize how he felt about each and every one of them? Did they have any idea what they meant to him? Josiah realized he had never really taken any of the opportunities he had been given in the past to tell them his feelings. It was just something that went without saying. He had always assumed they would know. Josiah realized he had been given a wake up call today. It had been graphically pointed out just how uncertain tomorrow really was. His friends could have so easily been taken away from him when there were still things he needed to share with them. Josiah knew he couldn´t afford to waste his next opportunity. He might not be given another. What was going without saying needed to be said, and it needed to be said now while he still had the chance. Josiah spent the rest of the night deciding on how to tell his friends what was in his heart.

+ + + + + + +

Oh, I don´t believe I´ve let you hear the things you should have heard.
I don´t believe I´ve truly put my feelings into words.
‘Cause to me you are so beautiful,
Much more than words can say,
But if you don´t´ mind and you´ve got the time
I´d like to try today.
‘Cause when you love someone
You gotta let ‘em know.
When you´re thinking of someone
You need tell ‘em so.
Don´t know what makes us think
Our minds and our hearts can be read.
What´s going without saying should be said

+ + + + + + +

Josiah parked his aging Suburban at the curb in front of Buck´s lovely old Victorian home, noting that all of his teammates had already arrived. The team was gathering on the lovely Sunday afternoon to watch football and relax together. Josiah turned the ignition off and sat for a moment, steadying himself for what he was about to do. He really wanted to do this, but it still took a great deal of courage to leave the vehicle knowing he was going to be bearing his soul to his friends. Not giving himself time to change his mind, he opened the rear door and removed a large cardboard box. With both his arms full, he had to use his hip to close the door. Josiah stepped onto the sidewalk with his parcel and proceeded up the walk. He took the front porch steps two at a time then he bent down and used his elbow to ring the doorbell. A smile slipped across his face as he heard the laughter echoing from inside the home. The smile turned into a grin as the door was opened by the home´s youngest occupant.

“Unca Jo! You´re here!” Angela Wilmington grinned up at him before throwing herself at him and hugging him tightly around his knees.

“Hello to you too, Angel,” Josiah said, as he carefully set his box on the porch then bent down to swing Angela up into his arms for a proper hug and kiss. “How´s my girl today?” he said as he set her back down.

“I´m great, Unca Jo. I…” Angela began, but was interrupted by her father´s voice.

“Angela Sarah Wilmington! How many times do I have to tell you that you are not to open that door without an adult with you! ” Buck´s stern voice was accompanied by an equally stern look, as he shook his finger at the small child now gazing at the floor with a guilty expression.

Her daddy had used all three of her names so Angela knew she was in serious trouble. She risked a peek at her father´s face and quickly returned her gaze to the floor. Oh yeah, she was in deeeeeppp trouble because Daddy´s face had the “mad look”. Angela didn´t see the “mad look” very often, but she really hated it because it meant Daddy was going to do more than just talk to her and tell her not to do it again, or take away her toys for awhile. Daddy was going to sentence her to the worst punishment Angela could imagine. He was going to make her sit in her time-out chair to think… in her room… all alone…when she could be downstairs playing with her Uncles.

“I´m sorry, Daddy. I forgot,” she said, trying her best to do her pre-school version of damage control. “I won´t do it again. I promise.”

“You promised the last time, too,” Buck said as he placed his hands on his hips and looked down at his daughter. “Don´t think you can get out of this so easily, young lady. You have to learn to do what you´re told. I think you need to spend some time thinking about this.”

“No, Daddy! Please! I´ll be good. Really! ” Angel cried. She sent a pleading look at Josiah, who silently shook his head in disappointment, then looked away and bent down to pick up the cardboard box once again.

Buck just raised his arm, pointed to the stairs and said, “March, young lady.”

Angela gave a deep, dramatic sigh, and slowly started toward the staircase with dragging feet, her head hung low, and bottom lip thrust out in a disappointed pout. Buck sent Josiah an exasperated glance and motioned him into the house before shutting the front door after him.

“Come on in, Josiah. I´ll be right back after I make sure Gretta Garbo there makes it to her room.”

“Sure, Buck,” Josiah said laughing at his friend. “I think you have your hands full right now so don´t worry about me. You just take your time.”

“Looks like I´m not the only one with his hands full. What´ve you got there?” Buck asked, eyeing the box in Josiah´s arms.

“You´ll see. You go take care of our little Angel first. This´ll wait until you´re done.

Knowing the impossibility of rushing his friend into revealing anything before he was ready, Buck shrugged his shoulders and turned to follow his wayward child upstairs.

Part Two

Josiah walked down the hall to the den and stopped in the doorway to observe his friends as they stared at the television screen.

“Go, go, go,” JD yelled as the receiver for his team made a spectacular leap to catch the pigskin and then raced for the end zone.

“Block him! Block him!” Nathan shouted just as enthusiastically for the other team. “Faster! Get him! Get him!”

“Touchdown! They´re gonna win this one, you just watch,” JD crowed, jumping out of his chair and doing a little victory dance.

“Really, Mr. Dunne. You should try to control yourself,” Ezra´s voice drawled in amusement. “This is only the first quarter, after all. The outcome is far from decided.”

“Nah. It´s in the bag. I can tell,” JD stated positively as he continued his one-man celebration.

“Don´t be so cocky, kid,” Nathan growled. “My boys are just getting started. Your guys don´t even stand a chance. They´re fixing to start whomping up on your guys, then the only dancing you´re gonna be doing is dancing to the deli the rest of this week to buy me my lunch.”

“Nuh-uh,” JD grinned. “You´re gonna be buying ME lunch all next week when my guys wipe the field with your team.”

“Children, children,” Josiah said as he entered the room. “Can´t we all just get along?”

His friends gave laughing groans at his attempt at humor, and greetings were thrown his way.

“What´s in the box, Josiah,” JD asked.

“All in due time,” Josiah replied as he cleared a spot on the coffee table and set the box down. “Let´s just wait until Buck gets back, okay?”

JD shrugged and returned his attention to the television screen.

Buck returned to the den to the joyful cry of his roommate as JD´s team intercepted a pass and ran it back for another touchdown.

“Let´s see,” JD crowed, “I think for Monday I´d like some General Tso´s chicken from The Tea Tree Restaurant. Then on Tuesday I want Barbeque from The Round Up. Then ….”

Nathan interrupted the gloating man to say, “You know what they say about counting your chicken´s before they´re hatched, don´t ya?”

JD grinned at his disgruntled teammate. “You might as well concede right now, Nathan. I´ll go easy on you if you do. I´ll let you get away with Mickey D´s for a couple of days next week.”

“Grrrr….” Nathan growled at the teasing man before pointedly turning his back on him and focusing on the game again.

“Hey, kid,” Buck walked up behind his roommate and yanked on his hair. “Didn´t I teach you better than to rile somebody bigger than you?”

“It sure doesn´t look like it,” Vin threw in. “Either that or the lesson didn´t stick.”

“It would appear our young colleague delights in poking a stick into the lion´s cage,” Ezra said. “One can not help but wonder if such an act is courageous or simply foolhardy.”

“I say we just put it down to the enthusiasm of youth, and hope he outgrows it,” Josiah smirked.

JD rolled his eyes and said with a smirk of his own, “You old guys are no fun.”

Buck got JD in a headlock and said indignantly, “Who are you calling old?”

JD was laughing too hard to speak but managed to twist away from his friend then rushed out of his reach. JD held his hands up in surrender.


“Wise choice, son,” Chris drawled out slowly, while giving his customary half-smile as he watched the antics of his team.

The attention of six of the men was drawn to the football game once more. Josiah´s gaze roamed between each of his friends continuously, rather than focusing on the game. His observations did not go unnoticed.

“Something on your mind, Pard,” Vin questioned softly.

Josiah captured the immediate attention of the other men when he smiled a little self consciously and nodded. “Yeah, actually there is.”

Buck reached for the television remote and turned the volume down when he saw the serious expression on his friend´s face.

“What´s up, Josiah?” Buck queried.

Josiah drew a deep breath and let it out before stating, “Last week when that warehouse blew, it made me realize a few things. I realized that in the blink of an eye all of you could have been killed, and I realized there were a lot of things I wanted you to know but have never taken the time to tell you. I always assumed I would have plenty of chances to let you know my thoughts. The incident last week drove home the fact that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. I realized if I don´t make the time now, I might never get another opportunity. So if you´ll bear with me, I have some things I need to say.”

Josiah searched each man´s face and continued only when he had received a nod from each man.

“You all came into my life five years ago and I expected to find teammates that I could work with, hopefully men I could trust to watch my back, and who might eventually come to be friends. Instead you became so much more.

We´ve laughed together, cried together, and worried together. We´ve worked and played together. We´ve shared our fears and joys, our failures and triumphs with each other. We´ve seen the best and the worst in each other.

You´ve been my strength when I was weak, and trusted me enough to accept my support you when you needed it. You´ve been there to drag me back into the light whenever darkness came creeping up. You´ve provided companionship, understanding, humor, and acceptance. You´ve taken me into your hearts, and allowed me to claim you as mine. You are my family, and I love you. I wanted you to know that, now… while there´s still time to say it.

Josiah reached to the box he had put down on the coffee table, and opened the flaps. He reached in and withdrew an object. He handed Buck a statue carved from a dark, well-polished wood showing a lion holding a cub in its mouth as it stood over a slain antelope.

“I got this while visiting a friend in Kenya many years ago. My friend was studying lions for a thesis, and I spent several weeks following him around observing these great beasts. The lion is a many faceted animal; truly a beast of contradictions. The lion is at once a gentle protector and a fierce predator and enemy. It is kind and loving to its pride, cruel and vicious to its prey. The lion has teeth that can rip the throat from a water buffalo, but the same teeth can also pick up a young cub without leaving the smallest mark on its neck. The lion is proud, strong, and confident. In all these ways, he reminds me of you, Buck. You, too, have your predator side. The side of you that is prepared to hunt down criminals until they´re caught, no matter how long it takes or how much they resist. We´ve all witnessed the darker side of your nature emerge when the innocent are threatened or you see an injustice being done, and seen how fierce you can be in protecting those you care about. You are proud, strong, confident, kind, loving, gentle, and playful. In all these ways this statue reminds me of you, so I want you to have it. Remember how much you are loved and how much you mean to me, little brother, whenever you look on this.”

Josiah looked down with a gentle smile at Buck who gazed back at him with eyes suddenly swimming with emotion. Buck rose from his seat and threw his arms around the large man, squeezing tightly for several seconds before stepping back.

He returned Josiah´s smile, and nodding said, “I´ll remember, big brother, and I love ya, too.”

Josiah continued to smile at his friend and laid his hand on Buck´s shoulder, squeezing gently for moment, then withdrew his hand and allowed Buck to return to his seat with the statue cradled protectively against his chest, right over his heart.

Josiah reached into his box once again and pulled out a wall hanging that he handed to Nathan. “This is a representation of the Goddess Tara, who is the most important female deity of the Buddhist Pantheon. She was born from a tear of the Bodhisatta of mercy, Avalokitesvara, and is considered the mother goddess of compassion. She is believed to protect human beings while they are crossing the ocean of existence and is the over-comer of obstacles. I thought she was most appropriate for you, Nathan. You are the most compassionate man I have ever met. The word “caregiver” should have your picture beside it in the dictionary, my friend, for you are truly the epitome of caring. You have been my sounding board when I needed to talk, my counselor when I needed advice, my protector when bullets were flying, and my nurse when I was injured.

You take care of us in spite of ourselves and continue to do it even when we appear to be less than grateful for your efforts. None of us would be alive today without your caring and your skills. You´ve saved us all so many times I´ve lost count, and never once asked for anything in return except our friendship. I want to take the time right now to say the words that you don´t hear nearly enough: thank you. Thank you for the care you´ve given to me, and thank you for keeping my family alive. Thank you for being part of my family. Remember how much you are loved and how much you mean to me, little brother, whenever you look on this.”

Nathan found he couldn´t speak over the lump that had built in his throat as he listened to his friend speak, so he let his eyes speak for him. He reached out and grasped his friend´s forearm in a gesture of brotherhood, which Josiah returned. Nathan finally managed to push words past the lump in his throat and whispered, “I love you, too, Josiah.” Josiah smiled at the barely audible words and let go of Nathan´s arm with a final shake.

Josiah pulled another item from his box and held it out to Ezra who took it and gazed appreciatively at the lovely gift. It was a beautiful Chinese puzzle box made of inlaid strips of wood, polished and lacquered until it shone brightly in the sunlight filling the room. Josiah waited as Ezra gently turned the box in his hands, looking at all sides, before speaking again.

“When I look at this box I see you, Ezra. I see a puzzle, an enigma. You try so hard to let the world see only what you want them to see, like the outside of this box. The box´s polished beauty and sophistication covers a strong shield meant to keep others from seeing into the heart of it. It is cunningly designed to use misdirection and confusion to protect its secrets.”

Josiah took the box from Ezra´s hands and showed him the secret for opening it. Josiah turned the opened box to Ezra and revealed the interior. It was lined in blue silk painted with such delicate designs and flowers that Ezra gasped at its beauty when he gazed on it.

“As lovely as the exterior is, it pales in comparison to the beauty within. That´s you, my friend. Your sophisticated facade is a shield you use to protect yourself from those that would damage the beautiful soul and soft heart that lie hidden behind your walls. I can´t tell you how truly honored and blessed I feel that you have gifted me with your trust, and let me into your heart. You have shared with me the true self that you hide from the rest of the world. Thank you. Remember how much you are loved and how much you mean to me, little brother, whenever you look on this.” Josiah handed the box back to his friend.

“I am the one who has been blessed, Josiah, for I was given you. I don´t have the words to express exactly how much you mean to me also, so I´ll just say I love you too, and hope you understand,” Ezra smiled warmly at his friend, for once all his shields were down and he allowed his friend to read all he was feeling on his face and in his eyes. Josiah reached out his arms and pulled the smaller man in to hug him tightly, feeling the usually reserved agent´s arms wrap around him and return the hug with feeling. The two mean separated and Ezra returned to his chair, running his fingers over the gift with loving care. He gazed on it with a slight hint of wonder showing in the happy smile that continued to shine on his face.

“I brought this for you, Vin,” Josiah said handing his friend a small oil painting. “A friend of mine painted this for me when we were on a trip to Egypt several years ago. It´s the Nile River.”

The painting showed a stretch of the river flowing peacefully and still right before it reached a cataract where the water was churned up with white foam. A small boat was being carried along in the current. The picture showed several women dipping jugs into the water that they then carried away to a small village that could just be seen in the distance. “This river reminds me of you, Vin, peaceful and still on the surface but with deep, hidden currents that can sweep the unwary away. There is also a bit of wildness popping up when you least expect it. The river nurtures those that live by its banks, but can be deadly to any that underestimate it or don´t give it the proper respect it deserves. It is enduring, and has passed through times of flood and drought, adapting and changing with the seasons, but always remaining. It flows along in the path it sets for itself and no one can change its course once it decides it is going in the right direction. It is patient, so nothing and no one can stand against its slow erosion. This is how I see you, Vin, for you are all of those things.

You drew me into your life, made me a part of your world, when you shared your thoughts and feelings with me. You let me help you protect the children in your neighborhood, and shared with me your dream of making a better place for them to grow up. When you gave me a chance to help make the world a better place for those little ones, you gave me another reason to get out of bed everyday, to anticipate what chances another day could hold. You´ve made me laugh, made me worry, made me mad with some of the pranks you have pulled, touched my heart with your poetry, and saved my life too many times to keep track of. Remember how much you are loved and how much you mean to me, little brother, whenever you look on this.”

Vin rose from his chair and approached his friend with a steady step, stopping with only a foot between them. He looked into Josiah´s eyes and spoke with a small grin on his face, “Always knew it, pard, but I guess you´re right, some things do need to be said. So here goes. Nothing I´ve ever given you can be half as much as all you´ve given me. You´ve always been there when I needed you, offerin´ your help and understandin´ without ever passin´ judgment. You´re part of the family I never thought I´d ever have. I love ya, big brother and I always will. Whenever you need me, I´ll be there.”

Vin reached out and pulled Josiah into a hug, then winked at his friend and returned to his seat. Josiah grinned in return and reached into his box again. He pulled out a silver necklace with a pendant made of turquoise. The stone had a symbol carved into it that resembled the capital letter “I” with a short line parallel to the top and bottom lines, half way between the two. He handed it to JD, who took it eagerly and studied it closely. JD turned his eyes up to Josiah as the large man spoke.

“This is the Native American symbol of the Universal Law of Innocence and Truth. The upper line represents the Heavens, and the bottom line represents the Earth. The vertical line is the connection between Heaven and Earth and represents the creation of innocence and this is reflected by the center line. In this culture Innocence has no right or wrong, no good or bad. This results in truth.

Before you jump on me, let me make it clear that I am not confusing innocence with naiveté. No one can hear of the life you have lived to date and believe you are naïve. When I speak of your innocence I mean the goodness that I see in your soul. It shows in the way you deal with people, and in your willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove themselves unworthy of your regard. It shows in your acceptance of human frailties, and your readiness to forgive wrongs done to you by a friend rather than give up on that friendship. It shows in your curiosity and eagerness to embrace new things and new experiences. It shows in the passion you show in everything you do, whether at work or at play. It shows in your faith in us. It shows in your desire to help, to make a difference that will better the world. It shows in the enjoyment you take in simple everyday pleasures, and in your sense of humor. It shows in your ability to share your joy in simply being alive with those of us that had become so jaded we had lost the ability to find it for ourselves

“So shines a good deed in a weary world.” I don´t remember where I read that quote, but it´s true in your case. You shine as brightly as the sun in my weary world, JD. You helped restore a part of me that the harsh realities of life had ground away. You gave me back a piece of myself that I thought was lost forever, the ability to find joy in living again. I pray everyday that you never loose that special innocence. It would be a tragedy for all of us. Remember how much you are loved and how much you mean to me, little brother, whenever you look on this.”

JD hurriedly brushed at the moisture in his eyes and jumped from his chair to throw his arms around Josiah and hold on tight. Josiah wrapped his arms around the young agent and held him close until the he felt the man pull back. JD slipped the chain over his head and wrapped his hand around the stone tightly.

“Thanks, Josiah. This means a lot to me. You mean a lot to me. I love you, big brother,” JD said before throwing his arms around the man again then returning to his seat, once more holding the turquoise in his fist.

Josiah turned to face the last member of his family, one eyebrow raised in question. Chris was the only one he had any misgivings about opening up to, not knowing how his normally intensely private friend would react to having such an emotional display directed at him in front of his team. Chris gave a half smile and a small nod, silently giving him permission to continue, and Josiah returned the smile.

“Chris, I owe you so much for choosing me for your team. I didn´t know it at the time, but that one act changed my life forever. Almost every good thing in my life in the last five years can be traced back to that one decision. You gave me a family again without ever realizing it. That´s something that I didn´t have for a very long time before I met you. I never realized how much I missed it until I woke up one morning and realized I had six brothers waiting for me, not merely teammates or friends, but brothers.

You know, too many people start focusing on the past and their memories when they get to be my age. They get so trapped in what has been that they fail to appreciate what they have now, and what may come in the future. Then they seem to spiral into old age too quickly. By giving me a place on your team, you not only gave me a family again, but you also gave me a purpose, and a reason to keep looking forward to the next day. You keep me on my toes, keep me sharp.” Josiah suddenly flashed a quick grin at his friend and then continued, “So, I guess you could say you´re helping me fight off old age.

You´ve kept vigil at my beside when I was injured, prepared to take on all comers, even Death itself, to protect me and make sure I had whatever I needed to heal. I´ve never had anyone be so protective of me before I met you. I was usually given that part to play. That kind of role reversal took some getting used to at first. Now, I can´t tell you what a warm feeling it gives me inside to know that there is someone out there watching over me so ferociously and so faithfully.”

Josiah drew a plaque from his box and handed it to Chris, who seriously examined what turned out to be a coat of arms. The escutcheon was divided into four squares, alternating red and blue, and each square containing a symbol or symbols.

“I found this in a small second-hand shop in an out of the way street in London when I was visiting England in my twenties. I liked the way it looked and bought it for that reason alone. The shop clerk told me that everything on the coat of arms had some kind of meaning, so later I did some research. The red stands for military fortitude, the blue for loyalty and truth. The cock stands for courage and the readiness for battle, to the death if necessary. The Horns and Antlers mean strength and fortitude. The Bear means ferocity in the protection of family. The Shield and the Scepter in the last square stand for a defender and Justice. Somehow I think this was meant to be yours someday, for you personify all the traits symbolized on this coat of arms. Remember how much you are loved and how much you mean to me, little brother, whenever you look on this.”

Chris studied the plaque gravely for several seconds then looked up at the face of his friend, a slow smile making its way across his face. He rose from his chair and faced his friend saying, “Bringing you onto the team was one of my better ideas, Josiah. I have never once regretted that decision. I thank you for letting me be a part of your family, big brother.” Chris reached out and laid his hand on the big man´s shoulder and Josiah returned the gesture. They stood smiling at each other in understanding for a time then Josiah gave Chris´ shoulder a light squeeze and released it.

They stepped back and Josiah said, “I have one more thing to give everyone before we get back to watching the game.” He reached into his box one last time and pulled out a crockpot. “Chili!”

His team mates laughed and wooped in appreciation.

“Alright, food!” JD yelled.

“I´ll get the bowls,” Buck stated with a grin.

The chili took a long time to consume as each of Josiah´s brothers had to stop periodically to stroke and admire their new gifts, and reflect on how lucky they were to have found this family of brothers.

“Daddy, am I done thinking yet?” a tiny voice cried from the top of the stairs. The group of men laughed at the sound and Buck shook his head in amusement. The words, “Yes, you can come down now,” were barely out of his mouth when the thunder of little feet could be heard heading down the stairs as their little Angel rushed to rejoin the rest of the family, forgetting the rule about running down the stairs.

“Angela Sarah Wilmington!”

The End

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Author´s note: I think I should get extra points for finding a way to use the word escutcheon. ;-)