Triple Play

by Purple Lacey

Twentieth story in the Angel Girl series.

Characters: Vin, Seven, OFC, OFM

Note: Before you say it, yes, I know I'm evil…but I just couldn't help myself. I kept imaging the look on Vin's face and couldn't resist the temptation. What can I say? The devil made me do it!

Feedback is welcomed…alright craved!

Size: Approx. 105K

Vin Tanner was happy… and the feeling left him uneasy. It was a feeling he didn't trust. Happiness had always been a very fleeting thing in his life. At least it had been until he had joined the ATF and found the six men that had become his family. The periods of happiness had steadily grown longer and longer after joining the ragtag bunch of men that made up Team 7, but his earlier experiences in life had taught him to be wary of the emotion. You never knew when something was going to happen to steal it away again.

That might sound cynical to some people, but it was just the plain truth to Vin.

Vin looked over the toes of his scuffed boots as he lay in one of the comfortable recliners in the den of his friend, Buck Wilmington, and let his gaze travel the large, homey room. He's eyes stopped periodically to observe the other men that were sprawled around the room on the lazy summer afternoon. Team 7 had gathered together on this Saturday afternoon just to kick back and relax with each other. The large television screen that sat across the room from his current position was alive with the vivid explosions of the old science fiction video that JD had rented at the video store that morning.

The vintage Japanese sci-fi thriller was the cause of much laughter, and sarcastic comments from the relaxed men as the campy aliens fought the embattled earthlings for control of the planet. Vin couldn't help but smile at the sight of JD rolling around on his back in front of the muted television as he laughed at Buck and Ezra. The two men were making up their own dialog for the movie, with the occasional remark thrown in by Nathan and Josiah, who had decided to root for the aliens. Even Chris was grinning like a loon, a very rare sight for the usually taciturn team leader.

Vin wasn't able to suppress his own grin as he watched his friends enjoying themselves so much. It was hard to be cynical when surrounded by this family of brothers, but that still, small voice in the back of his head kept whispering at him, telling him to not get too comfortable because it couldn't last. Try as hard as he might, he just couldn't silence that obnoxious voice.

“Take that, you slimy, scum-sucking lump of extraterrestrial- ness,” Buck said, in his best Japanese accent, as the hero on the screen fired a rocket into an alien spaceship.

“That'll teach you to mess with us righteous defenders of Mom, apple pie, and a man's inalienable right to watch porn and drink beer.”

“What's porn, Uncle Chris?”

Vin heard the curious voice of his “courtesy” niece, Angela, clearly over the sounds his fellow team members were making. Vin struggled valiantly to contain the bark of laughter that almost escaped him as he caught the deer-in-the-headlight look that suddenly flashed on his team leader's face as the tiny girl that sprawled across Chris' lap leaned her head back far enough to look at his face while she waited for an answer.

“Uh… corn. That's what he said, Angel, corn. You know what corn is, right? Like corn on the cob and pop corn,” Chris told the child.

Satisfied with the answer, Angel returned her attention to the Barbie doll she was trying to undress, and Vin watched Chris' chest heave with a silent sigh of relief.

“Dodged the bullet that time, didn't you, Cowboy?” Vin smirked as he could not resist taunting the blond haired man.

This remark earned him one of Larabee's infamous glares which, much to the irritated team leader's disgust, did not seem to affect the long-haired sharpshooter in the least. Chris gave an aggravated snort and returned his attention to the antics of the others. Vin just chuckled at his friend. The afternoon fun was interrupted by the chiming of the doorbell, and Buck groaned.

“Why does it always happen when things just start getting good?” he complained as he rose from the sofa and headed out of the den to answer the door.

“Hey, it's okay, Buck,” JD reassured him. “Why don't I just stop the tape until you come back? I could use a bathroom break, and a chance to get another soda anyway. That alright with you guys?”

Buck smiled at his friends' ready acceptance and hurried to the front door, eager to return to the fun. He checked the peephole and saw the distorted view of a large man in a blue suit standing on his porch. Buck opened the door and raised a questioning eyebrow at the stranger before him. The man was tall but decidedly overweight and took up most of the space right in front of the door. Buck noticed the trail of perspiration that made its way down the side of the stranger's face and disappeared into his collar. The dark suit adorning the massive body was not exactly what Buck would have chosen to wear on a hot summer afternoon, and he felt a few degrees warmer himself just looking at the sudoriferous man.

“Can I help you?” Buck asked.

A surprisingly high pitched voice answered him with, “I'm looking for Mr. Vin Tanner. I was told I could find him here.”

“Who's asking?” Buck looked suspiciously at the man who returned his gaze calmly.

“My Name is Edgar Wainwright. I am an attorney, and I have some private, but urgent, business with Mr. Tanner.” The lawyer reached into his breast pocket and removed his business card and handed it to Buck. “Is Mr. Tanner here or not?”

“Just a minute,” Buck said and he closed the door in the man's face.

Buck walked back toward the den and stopped in the open doorway.

“Hey, Vin,” he called. “There's some guy at the door looking for you. He says he's an attorney and he has business with you. Urgent business he said. He gave me his card. His name's Edgar Wainwright,” Buck informed his friend. “Were you expecting him?”

Vin looked at his friend blankly for a moment the said, “Nope. Never heard of the guy. Did he say what kind of business?”

Vin took the business card from Buck's outstretched hand and perused it.

“Nope. He just said it was private… and urgent.”

“Well, I guess I better see what he wants then,” Vin drawled as he rose from his chair and started from the room.

He could hear the clink of glasses being set down on furniture as his friends prepared to follow him, not even making a pretense of allowing him any privacy to deal with this unexpected visitor. Vin didn't know whether to feel irritated at them for nosing into his business or glad that his friends cared enough to back him up. Vin swung open the front door and faced the waiting attorney calmly.

“I hear you have some business with me,” he said evenly. His light blue eyes scanned over the man melting on Buck's front porch, trying to remember if he had ever met this man before, but quickly realized he was a complete stranger.

“Mr. Vin Tanner?” Wainwright asked.

“Yeah, that's me. What can I do for you?”

“Mr. Tanner I represent Mrs. Charlotte Richmond. I am here at her request.”

At these words Vin rocked back on his heels as if the man had reached out and hit him with something other than words. Of all the things he might have expected to come out of the man's mouth that was absolutely the last thing he would have imaged.

“I don't have nothing to say to that woman,” Vin ground out through his clenched teeth.

“That may be,” Wainwright said as he blotted his sweating face with his handkerchief, “But my client has a few things to say to you.”

“I ain't interested.”

“Mr. Tanner, you and my client engaged in an illicit affair one weekend, did you not,” Wainwright pressed.

Vin's temper was on a slow burn as he confronted the man.

“That ain't any business of yours,” he ground out.

“I'm afraid it is very much my business. I've been instructed by my client to give you this,” Wainwright reached into his inner breast pocket and removed a sheaf of folded papers and handed them to Vin.

“What the hell is this?” Vin whispered as he glanced through what turned out to be legal documents.

“That is a relinquishment of parental rights,” Wainwright said evenly. “My client is surrendering all rights to the progeny that resulted from your affair.”

“Progeny? What are you…,” Vin broke off abruptly as Edgar Wainwright stepped aside and Vin got his first look at what the man's large body had obscured.

There on Buck's front porch, lying peacefully asleep in a stroller, were three incredibly tiny babies.

Vin froze and his brain went completely blank. His face went slack with shock and his jaw dropped. His eyes flew open wide and held a glazed look that was a mixture of soul-deep surprise and primal fear. He started taking panting breaths as he stared at the sight before him. Vin hardly felt the hand that closed around his shoulder as Chris stepped up behind him to give him support when he swayed.

“Vin, are you okay?” Chris looked at his friend with worried eyes. When he didn't get a response he snapped out, “Nathan, get up here!”

His voice seemed to break the spell on the rest of the team as they surged forward, each feeling the need to support their stunned friend.

“Nathan, Josiah, help him back inside and take care of him,” Chris ordered. Chris growled as he swung around, and scowled at the now wary lawyer. “I'll take care of him.”

“Chris,” Buck spoke up anxiously, “we need to get those babies in out of this heat.”

Chris nodded his agreement without ever taking his eyes off the man that had dropped this bombshell so callously on his friend. Buck quickly brushed by his team leader and pushed the stroller into the house. Buck left Chris to deal with the lawyer and continued straight on into the den with the children.

Vin was seated on the sofa with Nathan on one side and Josiah on the other. Buck could hear Josiah speaking in low soothing tones to the almost catatonic Texan. Ezra and JD stood in front of the coffee table watching but not speaking. Ezra held a confused Angel on his hip.

Angel looked up at her father as he entered the room and wiggled to get down, so Ezra absently lowered her to the floor. Angel ran toward her father seeking reassurance since her uncles were acting so strangely, but came to a surprised halt when she recognized what her father was pushing.

“Ooo babies!” Angel squealed with delight, and started forward again eagerly.

Buck stepped in front of the stroller quickly and intercepted the excited child. He went down on one knee and wrapped his arm around Angel to keep her from waking the sleeping infants.

“Shh, Angel. We don't want to wake them up,” Buck told her.

“Are they ours, Daddy? Did the stork bring them for us?” Angel asked with bright-eyed wonder.

“No, sweetheart, they're not ours. They're Uncle Vin's, and where did you hear about the stork?”

“Jenny's mama went to the hospital and came home with a little brother for her and told her the stork brought him,” Angel said while craning her neck to try to look around her father at the babies again. “Can I play with them, Daddy? Please, I'll be real careful, really!”

“Not right now, Angel. Little babies need to sleep a lot, so it's better to just leave them alone for now. Maybe later we'll see, alright?”

Angel reluctantly nodded agreement but continued to watch the new additions to the family with fascination. Buck released her and rose to his feet. He pushed the stroller farther into the cool room and Angel followed right along side, never taking her eyes off the three babies.

Buck got close enough to the trio on the sofa to hear the muttered words that had started to tumble out of the stunned sharpshooter.

“Three…three of them. How could… why… three…,” was all Vin managed to say.

“Come on, Vin,” Nathan leaned closer and said. “Come on back. We're right here for you. It's gonna be alright.”

Vin continued to mumble to himself and ignored his worried friends. Nothing seemed to penetrate his shock. That is until one of the babies woke up and gave a little mewling cry. Vin's head jerked up and his eyes focused sharply on the stroller that now occupied the space in middle of the room. Vin stared as the baby on the far right wriggled around and started waving its arms. The little face screwed up and the tiny cries started to increase in volume.

Vin jumped from the sofa and over the coffee table to kneel in front of the stroller and lay a trembling hand on the downy soft head of the child. The face looking back at him had his nose and his chin and his same square jaw line. The infant's eyes also promised to be the shade of his own. The faces of the other two infants were equally marked with signs of their paternity.

Mine, he thought. They're mine! My children! My family! Mine! Vin felt his eyes flood with emotion and start to leak down his face as the reality of the situation hit him.

Vin reached down and released the safety belt holding the crying child in the stroller and cautiously lifted the blanket-wrapped baby out and settled it in the crook of his arm. Vin sat back on the carpet staring at his child all the while.

“Hush, little one. Daddy's here. Daddy will take care of you. Hush, baby,” Vin whispered brokenly as he rocked the child in his arms. Vin caught one of the flailing arms and the tiny fist closed around his index finger with an incredibly strong grip. Vin felt like his heart was being squeezed by that little hand as well as his finger.

JD sat down on the carpet beside Vin and reached out a hand to caress the small face of the baby his friend was so lost in.

“He's beautiful, Vin,” JD said with a smile, “or she's beautiful. Which is it?”

Startled, Vin looked at JD and shrugged. He pulled the blanket open and checked inside the tiny diaper and discovered it soaking wet.

“Well that's what's got you so riled, isn't it, little one. My boy needs a dry diaper, doesn't he?” Vin almost crooned.

“A boy! Congratulations, Vin,” JD grinned and slapped him on the shoulder. “Can I hold one?”

Vin was reluctant to surrender the child he was holding but found the idea of anyone being the first to hold any of his children was also unacceptable. Vin knew it was probably foolish, but he felt the need to impress his claim… his bond of kinship… on the children first. So he passed the child he was holding to JD and reached into the stroller to lift out one of the others.

JD carefully managed the exchange and sat making faces and cooing at the whimpering child.

“Hey, Buck,” JD turned his head to address his roommate, “Go see if that lawyer brought any supplies for them, will you? This one really needs a new diaper.”

“Sure,” Buck assured them, “I'll be right back,” and he hurried from the room.

Vin unwrapped the second child and said, “This one's a girl.”

Ezra suddenly appeared on Vin's other side and sat cross legged on the carpet beside him.

“May I, Mr. Tanner?” Ezra asked with a smile and held out his arms.

Vin deposited the little girl into Ezra's arms and reached for the last baby.

“Another boy,” Vin informed them.

“You've been blessed with an abundance of riches, Brother Vin,” Josiah intoned.

Buck returned with an enormous bag that was overflowing with diapers, bottles and formula cans.

“He ya go,” Buck said and tossed a disposable diaper and packet of wipees to each of the men holding the children. “That Mr. Wainwright fellar brought these and says the stroller and the three car seats he used to bring them here go with them. Chris'll bring them inside in few minutes.”

“Thanks, Buck,” Vin looked at his friend in gratitude.

“No problem, pard,” Buck assured him.

The crying of their brother seemed to set the remaining babies off and their cries soon joined his.

Angel had moved to join JD on the carpet and had been staring at the little boy in his arms with delight. When the volume of crying started to increase she put her hand over her ears.

“They're so loud!” she cried. “Why are they doing that?”

Buck sat beside her and pulled her onto his lap. “That's what babies do, Angel. They cry because they can't talk yet to tell you what they need. When they're hungry or have a wet diaper, or are too hot or too cold the only way they can let anyone know is to cry,” Buck explained. “You did the same thing when you were a baby.”

“I did?” Angel asked.

“Yep,” Buck assured her. “It took awhile for you to learn to talk. It'll take them awhile too.

We just have to deal with it until then.”

“Oh. Okay,” Angel nodded and smiled. The little girl turned her attention back to JD and the baby whose diaper he was changing.

“Can I help, Uncle JD?” She asked.

“Sure, Angel,” JD said. “You can pull the tabs off the tapes for me.”

Angel carefully watched JD as he closed one side of the diaper and mimicked his actions. She smiled at JD in triumph when she managed to get her side of the diaper closed too.

“Great job, Angel,” JD praised her. “You're a wonderful helper.”

“What's his name, Uncle JD?” Angel asked.

JD shrugged and answered, “I don't know, munchkin. We'll have to ask Uncle Vin, I guess.”

Angel scooted up next to Vin and repeated her question as she watched him change the diaper of the boy he had.

Vin just looked blank for a moment. “I don't know. I don't know if their mother gave them names yet.”

“She didn't,” Chris told him as he entered the den. “According to her lawyer, she had already signed the papers to surrender her rights before they were born and didn't bother to even touch them after their birth eight days ago. She wants nothing to do with them. They're completely yours. You can name them whatever you want, Vin.”

Vin looked at his friend in bewilderment at these words.

“How could she just give them up? I don't understand how she could even think about doing that. They're her flesh and blood too. I don't think I ever really knew that woman. She had me completely fooled about the kind of person she was.”

“You never said anything about her. What happened?” Chris asked.

Vin tipped his head toward Angel and Buck got the message.

“Angel, would you like to be the babies' helper again?” Buck asked.

Angel quickly jumped up, eager to help.

“The little ones are going to need to be fed. Would you take these bottles into the kitchen and ask Rita to warm them up.

You can stay there until they're ready and then bring them back, alright? That would be a big help, pumpkin.”

“Sure, Daddy,” Angel said proudly, “I can do that.”

“Thanks, Angel,” Vin said and the little girl glowed under his approving smile.

The men waited while Angel left the room with her arms wrapped around the three bottles before resuming the conversation.

“So,” Chris began, “what did happen.”

Vin was silent for a moment as he gathered his thoughts then began, “It was a Friday evening and I was on my way out to your ranch to see if you wanted to take a quick trip into the mountains for the weekend. I got hungry on the way and stopped at that diner at the crossroads. I remember it was really crowded that night, so when this lady asked if I minded if she shared my table I didn't think anything about it. I was happy for the company, and she was sure good lookin' company. We spent a couple of hours at that diner just talking. We got along like a house on fire. The next thing I knew we were in her motel room. I won't go into the particulars.”

“Hey, the particulars are the best part,” threw in Buck which earned him an elbow in the ribs from JD, and irritated looks from the rest.

“Shut up, Buck,” Chris ordered, “Go on, Vin.”

“We stayed in that hotel room for the whole weekend, only leaving it for food. I thought we were starting something special together… but she made it perfectly clear that wasn't the case when I came back from a food run on Sunday night to a letter and an empty room.”

Vin went quiet and his friends could see the flash of pain that crossed his face before he stilled it. No one broke the silence. Each man simply waited for Vin to find his composure and continue.

“Turned out Charlotte was married. She never told me that before, although to be fair, I never asked her. I never even thought to ask. Not only was she married but she was married to a very wealthy and important man, and she had no intention of leaving his money or position in society. Seems her husband had this bad habit of sleeping with other women, and whenever Charlotte would find out about one she would punish her husband by having her own affair.

She never cared about me. She used me to get back at her husband, and then she… thanked me… for showing her such a good time.” Vin gave a shake of his head and disgust and fury battled with each other for dominance on his face before he continued. “Thinking back on it later, I knew she must have been scoping out the diner for a likely stooge and I fit her bill. I can't tell you how … dirty…the whole thing made me feel. I left that motel room and went home and took about ten showers and still had trouble feeling clean.

I put her and the whole thing out of my mind and promised myself I'd be more careful in the future. That's pretty much the whole story,” Vin finished. “I haven't thought about her in months and now…”

Vin kept his head lowered to the child in his arms and avoided meeting the eyes of his friends.

“Seems to me the good Lord has attempted to give you some compensation for the hurt the woman caused you, Brother Vin,” Josiah said.

Vin raised his head and shot a puzzled look at Josiah.

Josiah continued when Vin gave him his attention, “What started out so badly resulted in three little miracles... your very own precious little miracles. I do believe you have been blessed many times over. ”

Vin looked down at the blue eyed baby that he held in his arms and felt a wave of peace and joy wash over him.

“They are miracles aren't they? I never expected anything like this. I never expected to feel anything like this. It's…. it's…,” Vin broke off, searching for the right words.

Buck moved to crouch in front of Vin. He placed a hand of the blond man's shoulder and squeezed lightly, causing Vin to look up at him.

“You don't have to try to explain it, Vin. Believe me, there are no words that can truly describe the feeling,” Buck said.

Vin saw the complete understanding in Buck's eyes and smiled back.

“I guess if anyone could understand it would be you, Buck.”

Buck laughed, “Yeah, been there done that.”

Vin chuckled too, grateful that the big hearted man had lightened the atmosphere with his touch of humor.

The voices of Angel and Rita could be heard coming up the hallway from the kitchen and Vin turned his head to the doorway in time to see the two enter the den. Angel had a bottle in each hand and Rita held the third. Vin met Rita's eyes from across the room.

Vin had known Rita Aragon for several years before she and come to work for Buck and JD. She and her husband had lived in Purgatorio where Vin had lived ever since he had first come to Denver. They had been friends for a long time, and it had been Vin that recommended the new widow to his friend as a housekeeper and babysitter when Buck had suddenly found himself in need of one.

“Angel tells me some interesting news, niño,” Rita smiled knowingly at the man whose face flushed at her look. “It seems we have some new additions to our little family, yes?”

“Uhh, yeah,” Vin gave her a self conscious little grin. “These are my children. Triplets. Two boys and a girl,” Vin ended proudly.

Rita approached the beaming new father and gazed at the tiny children being held by the happy father and his friends.

“Muy bonita, Vin. So small,” Rita crooned. “So precious.”

Rita reached out and made a point of touching each child.

She would have liked to hold one but the body language of the men as she had laid her hand on each child told her none of them would readily surrender the children they held right now. She would have to be patient.

“And their names, niño?” she asked.

“They don't have any yet, Rita. I gotta think on that some.”

Rita nodded her understanding.

“Si, names are important. It's not a decision to make lightly. You are right to take your time.”

JD looked at Vin and smirked, “You can always name one Candy.” This remark caused his friends to groan and Buck to reach out and smack the back of his head.

“Don't even think about starting that again, JD. Once was enough,” Buck told him.

JD laughed and said, “Gotcha!”

Rita watched as the men laughed at the private joke, and then caught Vin's attention again with her next question.

“Where are you going to raise them, Vin? That apartment of yours is no place to raise one child, much less three. Not only is it dangerous, but it's too small. You can't go on living there.”

Vin stared at the woman in consternation as the truth of her words sunk in. Chris suddenly brightened has he realized his fondest wish was about to come true. Chris had hated the dangerous neighborhood his friend lived in and had been trying for years to talk him into finding a home in a better section of Denver, but the stubborn Texan had refused to leave. With the arrival of these three small babies, Chris finally had a reason the new father could not argue with. With Rita on his side as well, Chris knew his stubborn teammate would never stand a chance.

“She's right, Cowboy,” Chris stated firmly. “You can't raise these three in that closet you call an apartment. Babies take up a lot of space. You're also going to need a lot of help. You're not going to be able to handle three little ones on your own. One is tough enough for a single parent, but three… that's almost impossible.”

Vin's shoulder's slumped and for the moment he looked like the weight of this new responsibility was crushing him.

“Hey, it's okay, pard,” Buck rushed to reassure him. “You're not alone here. We're all here for you. You'll have all the help you need. Those three belong to us now, too, you know. Family sticks together, remember?”

Vin met Buck's gaze and turned to make eye contact with each of the six men watching him. Every man returned his look with calm reassurance and encouragement. Vin couldn't speak over the lump in his throat so he nodded and gave the group an emotional smile of thanks.

Buck caught JD's eyes over Vin's head and a silent question was asked and answered. Buck looked with a raised eyebrow at Rita who met his gaze and nodded her head in agreement to his unspoken query.

“You and the kids are welcome here, Vin,” Buck informed him. “We got room, and plenty of willing hands to help.”

Vin's head shot up and looked at his friend in amazement.

“You mean it, Buck? You'd do that for me?” Vin's strained voice came out in a barely audible whisper.

“Of course I mean it, Vin. Family, remember?” Buck answered.

Vin looked at JD and the young man smiled and nodded his agreement.

“We have the guest room empty and I'll be moving down to the basement with Casey soon, so there will be an extra room anyway,” JD assured his shaken friend. “In fact, the bedroom and bathroom down there is already finished so there's no reason why I can't go ahead and move down there and let the little ones have my room now. It's the perfect arrangement, Vin.”

“Yeah,” Buck took up the conversation again, “and if we need more room when they start getting older, we can always convert some of the attic space into more rooms. We'll work it out, Vin. Everything will be just fine.”

Vin was breathing deeply in an attempt to control his emotions at this display of kindness and generosity from his friends. To someone that had not had the benefit of family for most of his life the caring of his new family was almost overwhelming. Vin was saved from replying by the hungry cry of the little boy in his arms that was swiftly echoed by the other two children.

“I believe this discussion should be tabled until more immediate problems are taken care of,” Ezra intoned. “If you would be so kind as to bring me one of those bottles, please, Angel. I think this young lady is tired of being patient.”

The next half hour was spent seeing to the children's needs and making plans to move JD's things down stairs and Vin's from his apartment in Purgatorio. Buck and Chris had made a trip to the attic to retrieve the crib that was stored there, the same crib that Chris had given to Buck when Angel had been born. They unearthed a playpen and high chair then rummaged through the boxes stacked in the attic to find the crib sheets and blankets that had been stored when Angela had outgrown them, as well as all her baby clothes. Vin's bank account was going to take a serious hit with the arrival of the triplets and Buck was determined to help spare his friend as much expense as he could.

Rita began the task of washing all the things brought down from the attic and sterilizing the crib so the men could re-assemble it for the children. JD had reluctantly surrendered the baby he held to Vin so he, Josiah, and Nathan could begin the task of moving JD's belongings to the basement.

Through all the activity Vin sat holding his children and watching his friends with a wealth of emotions shining out of his eyes.

“Vin,” Ezra's soft voice caught his attention, “you look a bit lost. Are you alright?”

“I guess I'm a bit overwhelmed,” Vin admitted.

“The sudden arrival of three small babies would certainly be enough to justify those feelings in anyone I'm sure,” Ezra assured him.

“It's not just that. It's…”Vin broke off.

“Ah. I see,” Ezra looked at him with eyes that looked deep into the hidden part of him. “You're finding it hard to accept that we care about you enough to go out of our way to help you when you need it, is that it?”

Vin knew how good his friend was at reading people, but was still surprised when Ezra calmly stated what was causing so much turbulence in Vin's mind.

“After so many years, do you still have such little faith in us, Vin?” Ezra asked. “You should know the truth by now. As Buck said, you're family to each of us. You are our brother in all but name, and brothers pull together when one is in trouble or needs help. You yourself rallied behind Buck when he found himself in a similar situation. Why would you doubt we would do the same for you, my friend?”

“I don't really, Ez. I… I guess this all just threw me for loop. I'm still not sure which way is up or down. It's not that I don't trust y'all. I guess I just forgot for a while that I wasn't alone anymore. I don't know how to say thank you for all y'all are doing for me…,” Vin looked down at the two sleeping infants in his arms and the one ensconced in Ezra's arms, “for us.”

Ezra's gold tooth flashed with his quick smile. “Family, Vin.

We all share your joy at the new additions to our little group. These three precious little ones now belong to this family and can claim the right to all our care and devotion. Thanks are not necessary, Vin. We take care of our own.”


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