Open House

by Nadine

Follows Chocolate

This was going to be a short piece of fluff till my muse took over and demanded a longer story. This story will make more sense if you have read three of my other stories; A Home of Ma Own, Hole in the Wall Gang and Chocolate, as I refer to them. As always a big thank you to Mog for creating the ATF universe for us to play in and to my hubby for being my beta and encouraging me to start writing in the first place.

Ezra wearily crawled into his feather bed with the intention of never getting out again. As he felt himself sinking into a deep sleep, there was this nagging feeling that there was something important he was forgetting. Too late Morpheus had him in his domain. No matter, tomorrow was another day.

+ + + + + + +

Something heavy hit the feather bed and Ezra instinctively reached for his gun as a voice called out.

"Rise and shine Ez, time ta get up."

He knew that voice (friend) so he wouldn’t shoot it. Couldn’t comprehend what it was talking about, maybe if he ignored it, it would go away. Pulling the quilt over his head Ezra burrowed back into his feather bed. ZZZZZZZZZZZ. Back to sleep he went only to have his quilt pulled off a few minutes later by that damn voice again.

"Uh uh, ya gotta get up, people are coming."

Uncovered and exposed Ezra was changing his mind about shooting that voice, friend or not, when a cold wet wash rag was dropped on his face. The voice had gone too far, he was going to shoot it as soon as he found his gun.

"Oh no ya don’t, I ain’t dumb enough to leave ya anything ta shoot with in arms reach when I’m trying ta wake ya up. Besides with children coming we gotta lock everything up."

The voice was starting to make sense. Ezra was beginning to remember what had been nagging at him the night before. Aw hell, it was today, the open house that Chris set up, a house party to show off the Victorian to friends, co-workers and to any neighbors that showed up. Ezra sat on the side of the bed, glaring at Vin Tanner, the owner of the voice that had disturbed his sleep.

"That was most unkind sir!" Throwing the wash rag back at him. " Why are you waking me at such an ungodly early hour?"

"Cause ya got people coming and it’s later then ya think. Besides I lost the toss with Chris ta wake ya up." Vin told him.

Ezra flopped back into the bed. "Why did Ah ever agreed to this? This wasn’t ma idea, letting strangers into ma home to do God knows what. Do Ah  really need to be acquainted with the people living around here?"

With unerring aim Vin threw the wash rag back at Ezra hitting him on the face.

"Ya’re doing this ta pacify Chris, he’s been way too nice ta us since he painted Buck and Travis. All he does is smile and it’s making both of us nervous waiting for the other shoe to fall."

Ezra shuddered at the thought of the always-nice Chris Larabee, always smiling and patting them on the back no matter what they did. If he had yelled or had gotten back with practical jokes of his own, then he and Vin would had known where they stood, but all that Chris had done was to be nice, too damn nice. He even took the heat from D.A. Travis for his paint job.

"Ya doing this ta make Miss Evie happy, which in turn will make Travis happy, which will make Chris happy and hopefully normal," Vin reminded him. Chris had come up with the idea for the open house as a way to appease Travis for an unfortunate incident involving a couple of cans of paint. Miss Evie (as the younger members of the team called her) was D.A. Travis’ wife and a member of Denver’s Historical Society. She took great delight in touring Denver’s historical homes. Ezra’s new home was a Gothic Victorian built in the late eighteen hundreds, which he, with the help of his friends, had been restoring. Chris hadn’t bothered to tell Ezra about him hosting an open house till the week before. The week had been a flurry of activity to get the house ready. Ezra dragged himself out of his bed and into the shower to get ready for the day’s activities.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra walked into his kitchen and saw Buck and JD scarfing down muffins at the kitchen table. He had spent yesterday baking treats for today’s guests. His no longer secret hobby of baking came to light after pitching in to help young Billy Travis make cupcakes for a school function. Pouring himself a cup of coffee he grabbed one of the few remaining muffins.     "There were at least two dozen muffins here last night." Ezra said as he sat down.

"Well Ez you know how Vin and JD eat," commented Buck.

"Hey!" objected JD "You and Josiah ate as much as we did. Chris and Nathan ate their share too."

"Ah take it everyone else is here?" asked Ezra.

"Yeah, Josiah and Nathan got here a little while ago, just after we did," Buck told him as he picked up another muffin.

"Where are they now?"

"Well Chris, he’s reading the paper on the front porch. Josiah is in the  library cataloguing books."

JD chuckled. "Yeah one book at a time as he reads them."

Buck reached over and swatted the back of JD’s head "As I was saying, Josiah is in the library and Nathan is trying to run Vin to ground. Seems he counted Vin’s pills and junior hasn’t been taking what he’s supposed to."

During a training session Vin had cut his leg and being Vin, he had ignored it till the session was over. The exercise had had him climbing over filthy rooftops, which had gotten dirt in the cut. Afterward he had showered and placed a couple of bandages over the cut, then forgot all about it. Of course it had gotten infected. Nathan and Chris had to drag him to the doctor to have the cut cleaned and were given a bottle of antibiotics, which were to be taken till all were used. There lay the problem; Vin didn’t like the pills saying that they tasted bad, they started to dissolve before he got them swallowed.

"Speak of the devil," Said Buck as Vin came into the kitchen from the back porch.

"Ya seen Nathan?" he asked them looking around as if he expected Nathan to jump out at him.

"He was in the living room a little while ago looking for you," JD told him.

The sound of a door opening from the direction of the living room sent Vin hurrying toward the pantry only to find Nathan there waiting for him.

"Aw hell."

Vin dropped into one of the kitchens’ chairs in defeat. Nathan glared at him and shook the bottle of pills in Vin’s face. Vin looked up at Nathan and smiled when he said

"Hell if I hadn’t forgotten ya knew about the secret passageways I would have gotten away."

In an attempt to appease Chris and Buck for the practical joke (Josiah called it a mind game) the pair had played on them, they had showed them and the rest of the team the secret passageways. The guys fanned out to check the rest of the house and in the process they discovered a few more. There were hidden corridors throughout the house. The original owner and the man who had build the Victorian, Sean O’Brien, must have had either a wicked sense of humor or he had been paranoid. Only one other outside of the team knew of the passageways and that was D.A. Travis. He was shown the passageways as part of the explanation of why he got covered with paint.  

Nathan stood in front of Vin; he was an angry man, which he demonstrated as he growled down at Vin.

"This isn’t a game, Tanner."

Vin winced at the use of his last name; Nathan must be really pissed at him to be using his last name. Vin saw his cut as an annoyance that would go away in time. Nathan saw the same cut as possibly being life threatening and it was his duty to keep his teammates healthy.

"I’m trying to keep you from losing that leg." Reaching down he tapped Vin’s leg where the cut was. Vin flinched.

"Still tender isn’t it? That infection isn’t going to go away on it’s own you know." Shaking his head Nathan went on with a sorrowful sigh. "It’s bad enough that you disrespect me in this, why you think so little of me I don’t know. But no matter what you may think of me as a person, you could, no you should respect my training as an EMT. I’m only trying to do my best for you, you know." Sighing and letting his shoulders droop, he went on, "I guess I am not good enough for you." He then sat down heavily in one of the kitchen’s chairs hanging his head down on his chest and sighing deeply, obviously deeply hurt by Vin’s lack of trust.

Damn, Vin thought to himself, Nathan was good. He must be taking lessons from Chris in the passing-out-the-guilt department. Ah well he had been caught fair and square; he’d take the medication.

"All right Nathan I’ll take the nasty stuff and Nat I don’t mean ta disrespect ya in anyway. I’m sorry if’n ya think that I have."

"Your word on it, you’ll take the pills?" Nathan asked him.     "Yeah."

"Good, I will give you your meds today. I know you’ll take them, I just want to be sure with all that will be going on today that you don’t forget. I expect you to swallow what I give you; the antibiotics must pass through your system to do any good. It’s the only way to get rid of the infection in your leg." Smiling Nathan patted Vin on the shoulder. "I know you don’t mean me any disrespect Vin, but you boys do give me a hard time of it," he said giving Ezra and JD a hard stare. Both found the tabletop interesting, not wanting to meet Nathan’s glare.

Chris and Josiah had come in at the beginning of Nathan’s guilt trip and had taken chairs to listen in. Together with Buck they stood and gave Nathan a standing ovation.

"Couldn’t have done that any better myself, Nathan," Chris praised him.

"As long as he takes the medication, that’s all ah’m asking," Nathan told them.

"Hey I’m still here ya know. Don’t be talking like I ain’t," said a very unhappy Vin as he took the pills Nathan gave him, making a face as he  swallowed them. Ezra came over with the last muffin.

"Here Vin perhaps this will diminish the unpalatable taste of your medications."

Vin smiled this time with a mouth full of muffin, it was nice to have friends like these and the muffin did make the taste go away.

+ + + + + + +

Chris and DA Travis had decided that an open house would be a good opportunity for an informal get together of the ATF’s teams. The other teams often saw Team 7 as the elite of the ATF. Travis tried to encourage the teams to interact more in less formal settings outside of the work place. Drinks at the saloon didn’t count. An open invitation had been posted on the ATF’s bulletin board for anyone interested in touring the old house the seven had been talking about restoring. Chris also wanted to use the open house as an opportunity to change Ezra’s reputation of being aloof; a reputation that the undercover man cultivated when he first came to Denver before he learned to trust his teammates. Ezra had been surprised at the number of interested parties in his home, that number grew after he let it be known that children would be welcome and that there would be free food. The invitation was from noon Sunday till dusk. Food would be served all day. Josiah and Buck would take turns manning the grill and there would be a buffet of side items.

+ + + + + + +

It was just past noon when the Travises arrived, still dressed in their church clothes. Miss Evie paused at the front gate to take in the house and yard. The flower beds and planters had been replanted, trees and shrubs had been trimmed back. The wild overgrowth of vegetation had been tamed. Two stately evergreens stood guard on either side of the walk leading up to the front porch. The stonework that made up the house had been steam-cleaned and the tall windows sparkled. A wooden swing had been hung on one end of the porch, a discarded newspaper laid abandoned on it. Looking up she saw that the cleaning had included the upper stories as well. Even the slate shingles appeared to have been washed. Letting her gaze wander over the roof to the tower, Evie started to laugh and her husband turned to her,

"Orin look up."

Following her line of sight Travis looked to where his wife was indicating and joined her in laughter. There looking perfectly at home sat a gargoyle. He was perched on the space between the tower and the attic roof. The beast looked to be a cross between a wolf and a panther. He had wings and was baring his fangs. What had set off their laughter was the fact that the gargoyle had a gold tooth set behind one of his front canines, just like the master of the house. Sunlight shined off the golden incisor making it stand out against the gray background. Travis shook his head, a gargoyle of all  things. Well it was as unique as the man who lives here was, so why not? Addressing the beast he said. "Long may you guard this home and all who dwell here."

Still smiling, he took his wife’s hand and opened the gate with the other and escorted her into the yard. Walking up to the front porch Evie got a closer look at the yard. The lawn was a little spare of grass, and the bushes showed that they were newly trimmed, but they all held the promise to fill out even better then before. The front doors were open; Evie admired the cut glass design on the interior door. As they walked through the vestibule into the front hall they were greeted by the sight of their grandson getting a lesson on banister sliding by his hero Chris Larabee and Chris’ oldest friend Buck Wilmington.

"Not a word Orin, I still remember the time I caught you and Stephen doing the same thing." whispered Miss Evie.

"So do I." Orin Travis smiled back at his wife as they watched their grandson slide to the bottom of the banister where he was picked up by Chris and swung around in the air. Man and boy were clearly enjoying themselves as their friends looked on. Laughing Billy looked up and saw his grandparents. 

"Grandma, grandpa, you got here." Billy ran over to them after Chris sat him down. "Isn't this the neatest house? Did you see the gargoyle?"

"That I did and a very handsome gargoyle he is," Miss Evie hugged her grandson, then turned him loose so his grandpa could do the same.

Billy tugged at his grandpa's hand. "You gotta come see, there’s a tower that lets you see almost forever and an attic full of old trunks and a big deep basement and lots of rooms with neat stuff in them and you can walk around in a circle and still be inside and an old stable out back with a car Buck’s working on and lots of stuff." Billy finally ran out of air and his grandpa got to put a word in.

"I look forward to you showing me all of it." giving the boy another hug, "But first we need to say hello to Ezra before we go tramping all over his house. It’s only good manners that you say hello to your host when you arrive."

Billy shook his head up and down as if agreeing with his grandpa. "Good manners, a gentleman should always have good manners. Come on lets find Ezra," he said tugging at his grandpa's hand and pulling him toward the back of the house. "Ezra and mom are in the kitchen."

Miss Evie lagged behind smiling at Chris and Buck wanting them to know she wasn't upset about what she had walked in on. "It’s all right, all little boys should know how to slide down a banister. What was all that about manners?"

Chris and Buck were relieved that Miss Evie was OK with the banister sliding. Buck chuckled,

"Ezra explained to Billy that a gentleman should always have good manners when visiting and yelling indoors was bad manners."

"How is Ezra taking to the idea of strangers touring his home?" asked Miss Evie as they made their way to the kitchen.

Chris answered her question, "He’s a might nervous when he thinks about it. But the boys got it covered, Nathan and JD will be walking through the house to keep an eye on folks. Josiah and Buck are taking turns on the grill by the picnic tables we’ve set up under the trees. Vin will stroll around outside and me; well I plan to enjoy myself in the company of Mary and Billy. Of course it doesn’t hurt that most of the guests will be fellow ATF agents."

Miss Evie admired the hallway as they made their way to the kitchen. From the hard wood floor to the ornamental ceiling, she was looking forward to seeing the rest of the house. In the kitchen she found her husband and grandson sitting at the table eating cookies and drinking milk. Orin made eye contact with his wife and smiled a smile that matched the one on their grandson’s face.

"Now Evie, Ezra told us lunch wouldn’t be for a while. Billy and I only ate a few to hold us over till they get the grill going." Orin Travis told his wife, who didn’t believe a word of it, but let it go. This wasn’t a day to be sticking a to a diet and helped herself to a sugary pastry, enjoying the taste as it melted in her mouth. Ezra my dear you’ve got to share your recipes, she thought.

"Where are Ezra and Mary?" Miss Evie had been expecting to find the young man she thought of as another son to be here. Much as Nettie Wells had taken Vin under her wing to be a surrogate mother to, Miss Evie had come to care for the green-eyed agent, who had had as little mothering growing up as the Texan who had been orphaned at an early age. A sound at the back door answered one part of Miss Evie’s question about where Ezra and Mary had disappeared. There was Ezra and Nettie Wells entering the kitchen. Vin came in behind them carrying foil wrapped bowls.

Nettie and Evie exchanged greeting as Ezra found room in the refrigerator for the bowls. Billy was squirming in his chair; he was impatient to show off the house. Orin Travis, seeing his grandson growing impatience at the grownup delays suggested. "Billy why don’t you show me how far we can see from the tower? Care to come along Chris?"

Getting an OK from both younger men, Travis and party headed out. Buck went out to help Josiah with the grill, leaving Vin, Ezra, Miss Evie and Miss Nettie in the kitchen.

"What’s in the bowls Nettie?" Asked Vin.

"Just a few things from my garden and I expect to see you eat some of it along with the hamburgers today young man. You too, fancy pants," smiling at the faint blush that came over Ezra’s cheeks when she used her nickname for him. "You’re both too scrawny and need fattening up."

Ever since Miss Nettie had discovered that Ezra had an inclination not to eat when he was distressed or undercover too long, she had been keeping an eye on his weight. Even his well-made and fitted Armani suits hadn’t fooled her. The feisty old lady would set him down and made him eat if she thought he needed it, much to the amusement of his co-workers. No one said no to Nettie Wells. Her years as a social worker had taught her how to handle boys of any age young or old. Vin and Ezra were both too fond of her to give her any grief.

"Where’s Mary?" asked Nettie of Miss Evie. Before she could answer Ezra gave her the information.

"She’s in the library on the computer."

"Whatever for?"

Ezra sighed, "She’s trying to quarry out information on the house. She desires to compose a chronicle on this one and how Ah purchased it. Something about saving older homes from developers who want the land but not the residence on it."

Miss Evie nodded her head in acknowledgement. " I‘ve been telling her about the homes we have been losing to developers. In the older sections of Denver, there are developers who would love to get their hands on property like this. They’ll buy up an old neighborhood and build apartment buildings or build the houses so close together that you can hardly walk between then. If they can buy enough abandoned houses they can usually get the other owners to sell out. "

Ezra appealed to Miss Evie, "If Ah let her write about this one could you get her to leave ma name and the address out of it?"

"Of course, Mary wouldn’t do that without your permission, but I promise, I’ll make sure she doesn’t."

Miss Nettie was sitting at the kitchen table sharing cookies with Vin as she studied the remodeled kitchen. Buck had done an excellent job refinishing the oak cabinets. He had brought out the natural beauty of the woodgrain. Gone too were the 50’s appliances. They had been replaced by modern appliances that had been fronted with oak panels to make it look as if they were part of the original kitchen. They were large enough to handle a small army. Stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer and a deep freezer, a fully equipped kitchen. Of course, with seven grown men in and out, especially the ones with the bottomless pits for stomachs there was a small army using them. JD and Casey came in and went to the refrigerator, pulling open one side of it for sodas. Next Vin got up and refilled his glass of milk. Buck came in and got the burgers and went back to the grill. Shortly, Josiah came in and pulled his sauce out of the refrigerator and took it outside. Even Rain and Nathan came through to get items out of the refrigerator to take out to the tables. There was a lot of traffic running through this kitchen, no wonder Ezra had gotten large size appliances. Smiling she thought to herself, maybe he’s thinking about settling down and turning this house into a home is a start. Have to get Vin to tell me if he’s got a young lady somewhere he’s a courting. If not, she could think of a few. Taking the plate of cookies away from one of the bottomless pits, Nettie told Vin.

"Show me around this place, boy."

"Yes ma’am." Getting up he held her chair, then offered his arm to his surrogate mother. Together they went off to explore the house.

Miss Evie looked at Ezra and saw beyond the poker face he was hiding behind. Something was bothering him. Hoping to find out what she asked him.

"Ezra dear how are you coping with the invasion into your home?"


"Then what’s bothering you?"

Observing the motherly woman who had shown him more affection in the few years he had known her them his Mother ever had in his memory, he would try to explain what he was feeling for her sake. But it was hard to let go of the habits of a lifetime. He was more used to hiding behind words than using them to express his true feelings. Deciding to take the chance that it wouldn’t turn out to be a painful mistake he would tell her.

"Ah’m happy."

Miss Evie didn’t comment, she just waited for him to go on.

"Ah’m happy and scared that it won’t last." Rushing on afraid that if he stopped he wouldn’t get it out. "It has been ma experience that happiness doesn’t last. That someone always comes along to destroy that happiness."

Miss Evie laid a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "You’re not alone any more Ezra. There are six men closer than brothers who will fight to keep their seventh by their side. Orin and I are fond of you and want you to stay here as part of our ATF family. I myself think of you as my sometimes-mischievous son, so don’t ever think you can just disappear. You’ll not only have your six brothers looking for you but me as well and I will not be as forgiving as Chris if you should go missing." Stroking the side of his face she added, "It would break my heart to lose another son."

Ezra closed his eyes and leaned into her touch giving in into a fundamental desire to be touch, as he enjoyed the warmth of her hand. A noise started him and he straightened up and pulled away from the pleasure of that maternal touch as Buck and Inez came in.

"Inez honey, I can show you the house especially the out of the way places where we can be alone."

"No thank you Senor Wilmington. I wish to see this lovely home not listen to your foolishness. Ezra, I wanted to thank you for inviting me here today. Mrs. Travis it’s so good to see you again."

Miss Evie smiled at the lovely Inez Recillos, "It’s good to see you too my dear, Ezra was just going to give me a personal tour. Would you care to join us?"

Ezra had regained his composer and spoke up. " Ah would be delighted to have the honor of escorting two beautiful young ladies through ma home." Holding out his arms to the women he led them out of the kitchen. Buck followed pouting and muttering under his breath.

+ + + + + + +

Members of the Historical Society came to the open house at Miss Evie’s invitation. While they were impressed by the condition of the home and it’s history, they made a point of telling Ezra if he wish to be listed on the official Denver Historical Society list of homes he would have to get rid of the gargoyle. Ezra who had no wish to be listed anywhere was polite (for Miss Evie’s sake) and told them he would think about it and get back to them. The Society wasn’t sure what to think of the cookout going on in the yard. They turned down the invitation to help themselves and left. Miss Evie shook her head and said that they (the Historical Society) took their duties and themselves too seriously at times. Ezra’s neighbors and other ATF teams and their families began to arrive. Some only took a look through the house out of curiosity then got a bite to eat before leaving. Others stayed to enjoy the company of the other team members and to get to know them better. Most of those who stayed had children, this unexpected picnic under the trees was a nice change of pace for most of them. An inexpensive way to spent the afternoon and feed the kids at the same time. People in the yard gathered round the picnic tables eating or just talking. Most of the couples that had planned to stay had brought a side dish of some kind to add to the cookout. A relaxed and festive feeling filled the warm afternoon. Mrs. Cooper, Ezra’s next door neighbor came over with her two pre-teens and a plate of brownies. Trailing behind them came their mother cat Molly and her kittens. While Mrs. Cooper spoke to Ezra and the Travises, the other children came over to play with the kittens.

"Mr. Standish I can’t tell you how glad I was to see someone moving into this old house. It was empty when Jack and I moved here as newlyweds, and it’s nice to have someone else on this cull-de-sack. You and your friends have brought a lot of life back to this neighborhood. I’m going to get Jack to take a look at your improvements, maybe I can get him to do some work to our house."

"Is your husband going to be here today, Mrs. Cooper?" asked Mrs. Travis.

"No Jack is on the road, won’t be back till the end of the week, he is a long haul trucker. He’ll be sorry that he missed a chance to see inside."

As they talked one of the kittens decided to investigate one of Ezra’s Italian leather loafers. Tiring of the taste, the gray fur ball started to climb the pant leg over the shoe.

Ezra suddenly looked down to see what was attacking his leg. There by his knee was a kitten, solid gray in color with large paws and a too large head industrially working up his leg.

"What is this?" asked Ezra as he plucked the kitten off his pants leg and held his prize up level to his face.

"It’s a kitten Ez," Vin told him as he strolled up to the group, after taking a look under it’s tail said. "A boy kitten."

"That Ah had already ascertained." Ezra shot back at him, "What Ah was inquiring about was, why he was climbing up my leg?"

"I think he has chosen you," Miss Evie told him. "Isn’t it said that cats choose their owners and not the other way around?"

"Ah’m not home enough to care for a pet, it would not be sensible. Therefore Ah can not be chosen," Ezra responded sadly as he stroked the furry gray head of the kitten. Green eyes met green eyes as the kitten rubbed his head against Ezra’s palm and started to purr. A smile played across Ezra’s face at the sound. He didn’t notice Vin having a word with Mrs. Cooper. He reluctantly placed the feline down and watched him scamper back to his mother. His hind legs seemed to keep getting in the way of his front paws causing him to sit down unexpectedly only to get up once more and try again. Ezra smiled as he watched the antics of the kittens and the children as they played together. Ezra pulled himself away from the scene in front of him and back to his guests.

"Mrs. Cooper, may Ah escort you through the house?"

"Thank you Mr. Standish, I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to see the inside of this beautiful Victorian," Mrs. Cooper told him as they made their way inside.

Miss Evie took the plate of brownies and Mrs. Cooper’s children over to the picnic tables to feed them. Molly and her kittens followed.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan and Rain were enjoying themselves, the good food and good company made for a pleasant afternoon. Even Vin took his pills without complaining when Nathan handed them to him. All in all Nathan was in a good mood, Rain had told him that even though she loved Ezra’s house she wanted something a little more modern and with a lot less upkeep for herself. When the time came for them to go house hunting she wanted a more modern house and he agreed with her. While getting ice for Rain’s drink he noticed the ice in the ice bucket was getting low and volunteered to go get more.

Inside he found Ezra in the pantry getting more paper plates to take out to the tables.

"Ezra, where’s the extra ice for the drinks?"

"Bottom half of the deep freezer. If we run out we can send JD and Casey on an ice run. Do you think any one else will be coming, Ah’d like to lock the front doors."

Nathan looked at his watch and said. "If they do they can come around to the side of the house to the tables and let us know they’re here."

"Nathan you seem awful comfortable with using that passage way from the living room to the pantry. When did you discover it?"

"The night of your paint party, while the guys were up stairs getting the paint off I took a look around and found it."

"You didn’t enlighten the others," wondered Ezra, "Why not?"

"I didn’t want to spoil the fun. The way Chris and Buck kept going on about what you two did to them. And you made sure with the non-alcoholic beer that they didn’t hurt themselves, though I almost did say something when they came into the office with those cans of paint. But by then I knew nothing was going to stop them from making fools of themselves."

Both men shared a laugh at the memory of the morning Chris and Buck had covered their boss with paint. Nathan thought of something and asked Ezra about it.

"Whatever happened to the pictures you took that night?"

"DA Travis confiscated them and the ones Chris had of me with the teddy bear." Ezra told him. "Ah don’t know what he did with them afterwards.’

Pleased that Ezra had answered his question, Nathan thought he’d try another.

"Can I ask another question Ezra?"

"Of course Nathan, you can inquire about anything you desire."

"But will I get an answer?" Ezra just raised his eyebrow at that and smiled at his friend.

"Why a gargoyle Ezra?"

"Ah like gargoyles," was the short, uncharacteristically short answer from Ezra. Nathan sat the ice bucket down on the counter top and waited, watching his friend decide between the truth and a fabrication. The eyes tell all Nathan thought to himself as he watched. Over the years he had learned to read Ezra by his eyes. Of course no one outside of the team could make that statement. Ezra’s poker face would let nothing show if he didn’t want it to or unless you knew what to look for. His teammates had learned, it had taken time and patience but they had learned how to read their stubborn southern brother. A decision, the truth it would be, now Ezra needed to voice that decision.

"You are acquainted with the particulars that Ah obtained ma education from attending boarding schools. These schools were build when architecture was more ornamental then today’s modern buildings. On the highest spirals sat the guardians, the gargoyles both big and small. Not just as elaborately decorated waterspouts, but as sentinels that stood guard over the school and the students that went there. As Ah was undersized for ma age, Ah found Ah could climb upon their backs and not be found. A perfect place of solitude and the view was breathtaking from that elevation." Ah fancy having such a guardian for this house to watch over ma family here." With that said Ezra picked up the pile of paper plates and went back to the picnic.

Nathan shook his head. He felt honored that Ezra had shared part of his childhood with him. Ezra didn’t often share memories of his past. The not being found part bothered him, undersize for his age must have made Ezra a target for the school bullies. But finding safely on a rooftop on the back of a gargoyle, that part was scary. Nathan picked up the ice bucket and rejoined the party outside. The fact that the southerner now considered the team his family gladdened his heart. For each and every one of them considered Ezra part of theirs.

+ + + + + + +

The children were bored and it was hot, the house would have been a fun place to explore, but their parents wouldn’t let them go off by themselves to explore it. Some of the grownups were playing a game of touch football, the others were talking about work and other boring stuff. The food was good but even Billy’s best friend Zeb couldn’t eat another hotdog. Seeing his younger guests unhappy made Ezra decide to do something about it. Walking over to young Billy Travis and Zeb Randolph he squatted down beside them. A whispered conversation took place that put smiles on the boy’s faces. Each ran off to speak to the other children in the yard. Ezra strolled around to the back of the house, heading toward the stable.

Buck was helping Josiah with the grill when he saw Ezra talking to the boys.

"Uh oh, that don’t look good."

"What doesn’t look good?" asked Josiah as he checked the food he was cooking.

"Ezra and the boys’," Buck told him.

Josiah looked up and took in the happy faces on the children as they talked to Ezra, and smiled.

"That boy has the gift when it comes to caring for children, whatever he said to them seems to have made them happy. Probably has some activities planned to amuse them."

"Oh he’s got a activities to amuse them alright, if he plans to pass out what I saw stashed in a couple of boxes in the stable," Buck told the profiler with a chuckle. At Josiah’s questioning look Buck leaned over and whispered in his ear. Josiah burst out laughing and started covering up the food.

Billy and Zeb came back with the other children in tow; they met up with Ezra behind the old stable. Ezra had a large box that he sat on the ground by the water faucet. The children crowded close as he opened the lid. Happy sounds were made as each child pulled out a brightly colored supersoaker. When they were all armed he held up his hands by the water faucet and told them.

"Here’s the deal, you can make use of these anywhere as long as it’s outside of the house. The porch is a safe zone, no shooting from the porch. Are we all agreed on this?"

Each child nodded its head; each taking its turn as Ezra helped fill his or her water gun. As Billy and Zeb held their full supersoakers they exchanged wicked grins before asking.

"Ezra are the grow-ups out of bounds?"

Ezra thought it over before answering. "Your Grandparents and Miss Nettie are out of bounds and if Mr. Josiah or Mr. Buck are manning the grill they too should be considered out of bounds and no ruff housing around the grill. As for your parents I leave that to your own discretion. I do believe, he said looking at Zeb and Billy as he finished filling the last toy with water, that I saw your father and Chris chatting by the large evergreens in the front yard." With a whoop the two boys ran off, the other children were quick to follow looking for their own targets.

Billy and Zeb crawled under the evergreen branches completely out of sight. Between the branches they saw their targets. Zeb’s father Bill and Chris were talking quietly, drinking from cans of soda. Both were unaware of the trouble stalking them from a few feet away.

"He got all of this for back taxes?" asked Bill Randolph, leader of Team 6, as he waved his hand to take in the house.

"Yeah, he did."

"Lucky son of a gun."

"Luck and determination, he and his lawyer must have deforested an acre of trees before they were done with filling out the paperwork," Chris told him. "Ezra mentioned there were other houses in the area that could be had for back taxes."

Bill picked up on that; he and his wife had been looking for a house for their growing family. He wanted one with enough room for their boys to be boys in and yet one he could still afford.

"Think he’d give me some pointers?" asked Bill.

Chris didn’t get a chance to answer as two small boys rushed out from under the tree yelling and firing their brightly colored supersoaker as they came, taking both adults unaware and soaking them down to the skin. Chris acted quickly, as Billy ran by he grabbed him and swung him into the air, disarming him at the same time. With Billy on his hip he aimed the supersoaker at the leader of Team 6 and let fly, soaking both Bill and Zeb. Laughing, he and Billy took off.

Once Bill got over his shock that the usually grim Larabee had shot him with a supersoaker he too laughed and swung his son up onto his hip, yelling out "You know this means war, Larabee!" and took out after them.

Rounding the side of the house he stopped. There in front of him were ATF agents and their children in the middle of a supersoaker shoot out. Only those on the porch were out of the action and therefore dry. Buck had gotten the other box of water guns and filled them, passing them out just before the children had come back. With the first shot fired by the children the fight had begun. Highly trained agents of the United States government were engaged in a battle with the enemy–their children. Shouts and laughter filled the air as much as the water did. Bill grabbed a spare supersoaker and with Zeb joined in getting Billy and Chris and anyone else who got into range wet. Many of the adults teamed up with the younger children to help them in the water fight. Ezra and Vin joined the young Harper twins, five year old Josh and Kirsten: taking the brunt of the water shot in their direction while helping the twins aim and hit their targets. Both squealed with delight when they hit their parents. Trees and bushes were hidden behind till their occupants were ambushed and chased out from cover. JD and Casey were firing on the run as they chased each other around the house. Even Mary and Rain got in on the action when they managed to get the drop on Chris and Nathan. Miss Nettie, Orin and Miss Evie cheered them on from the dry safety of the porch. The contest lasted for less than an half-hour; all were thoroughly soaked, but happy. The children were declared the winners and allowed to take their supersoakers home with them. Ezra brought out towels for those who wanted them, but as it was a warm day all were soon dry. The battle had sparked appetites. Josiah uncovered the food and everyone had another helping.

As Ezra was finishing his hamburger he felt something on his leg. Wiping his hands on a napkin he then bent over and picked the gray kitten off his leg again. Bringing his prize up to the table he held the kitten in his hands and spoke to it.

"Young sir we went through this before, Ah’m not a tree." This brought giggles from the children and a few smiles from the adults. The gray kitten paid no attention to the man’s words as he rubbed his head against the hands that held him purring all the while. The kitten had made up his mind with whom he’d be spending his life with; the silly human just didn’t know it yet.

"Ah’m not able to care for you as you should be cared for. You would find yourself home alone too often, it wouldn’t be fair to you," he said stroking the furry purr in his hands, trying hard not to fall under the spell of those big green eyes staring up at him. His brothers didn’t help his resolve not to have a pet when they spoke up.

"Heck Ez, JD and me can cat sit for ya when you’re undercover. Ya’re going to need somebody to check on the house anyway," Vin told him.

"That’s right Ez if not here then he can come stay at one of our apartments," JD added.

Josiah added, "A wise man once said, life is incomplete without a little cat hair in it."

"Does that imply that you too would be a willing participant if the need arose for a sitter?"

"Of course Ezra."

"Ah’ll consider it," Ezra replied as he let the kitten crawl up his arm to his chest, cradling it there as he continued to stroke the furry purr.

Miss Nettie watched the pair and thought to herself a cat would be good company for Ezra and a house this big needs a cat if just to keep the mice out. Making a point not to look at the man with the small kitten she told him. "If the creature is going to hang around it should have a name."

Ezra knew he had lost, he wanted to keep the kitten no matter how impractical it was. He would make his teammates keep their promises to help out when he was undercover.

"Well since he’s wearing Confederate gray, he might enjoy being named after a celebrated cavalryman of that time, Col. John Singleton Mosby. What do you think Josiah? Does the name fit him?"

Josiah chuckled good-naturedly as he reached over and stroked the soft fur, he answered "That it does, if you’re going to call him by the colonel’s moniker that is."

JD had a puzzled look on his face, "What moniker?"

Josiah turned to the team’s youngest member and asked him. "JD didn’t you pay attention in school when they taught history? Seeing the blank expression on JD’s face Josiah told him.

" Go look the man up."

As JD and Cassy got up to do just that and Ezra made to get up as well.

"You’ll have to excuse me but Ah need to have a word with Mrs. Cooper about this young gentleman here," he said, still holding the kitten close to him as he started to his feet.

"No ya don’t Ez," Vin spoke up, "I already asked about him and Mrs. Cooper said you could have him as soon as he was completely weaned and only eating solid foods. Another week that will give ya time to lay in supplies."

"You took it upon yourself to inquire about the ownership of this felis domesticus before Ah had even made up ma mind about the matter?" Ezra tried to sound indignant.


"Thank you," Ezra said.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan smiled as he walked into the living room of the old house. Most of his friends were sprawled out over the chairs and couch in the room. After the last guest had left, the team had picked up the yard and put away the lawn furniture. He had picked up the football that had been discarded when the water fight started and carried it inside. It had been a good day; everyone had had a good time. Ezra was half-asleep on one end of the couch and Vin was on the other end. Nathan tossed the ball he was holding to the Texan, Vin caught it without even opening his eyes. Chuckling, Nathan called out to him.

"Can you pass that with your eyes closed." Turning away he started to sit down on a free chair only to stop when a panic filled voice spoke to him.


Nathan turned around quickly to find out what was wrong, looking toward Vin only to see a pair of large panic filled eyes staring at him as Vin held up the football.

"Nathan," he said again. "I don’t think I can swallow it let alone pass it."

Moans came from the other men in the room.

Nathan started to walk slowly toward Vin picking up one of the discarded supersoakers as he went.

"Hey Nat, it was a joke…Nathan?"

Taking aim he hit the sharpshooter square in the chest.


Nathan shot him again, this time getting him in the face. Vin lost no time in getting off the couch and running out of the room, thus showing Nathan how well his leg was mending. Nathan didn’t notice, as he was hot on Vin’s heels firing his supersoaker as he went.

"Not in the house!" yelled Ezra from his place on the couch. "Even the chi’lun didn’t shoot their water guns in the house." He yawned.


"Now what?" mumbled Ezra under his breath as he got to his feet. As Mary and Chris came into the room, Mary held a stack of papers in her hands.

"How did you know?" asked Mary as she waved the papers about.

"Know what?" Ezra asked in bewilderment.

Taking pity on his friend Chris captured the papers and handed them to Ezra. There on top was a grainy picture of the Victorian when it was first built, looking very much today as it did then. There was a couple in the front yard too small to make out any detail as to what they looked like only that they were a man and a woman in a long dress. What caught the eye was the gargoyle on the roof exactly in the same place Ezra had his. Under the picture on the next page was a copy of an old newspaper article about the O’Brians coming home from their European trip and bringing back the gargoyle. At Ezra’s questioning look Mary told him.

"When Chris first began talking about the house I got curious and started my staff looking into its history. I smelled a story here and with what Evie had been telling me about developers destroying so many of Denver’s older houses; I thought this would be a good human interest story to lead in an expose on the over development of the Denver area. I waited till everyone went home before bring in the information in to show you."

As Mary explained how the file came into being Ezra had been looking through the pages. Stopping at a picture of two women the color drained from his face and he sat back down. Noticing something was wrong Josiah asked him.

"Ezra what is it? What’s wrong son?"

"Get Vin," was all he would say.

Mary looked over his shoulder and saw the picture. "That’s the O’Brian sisters, the last descendents of the original owners. They got arrested quite often for civil disobedience, protesting the Vietnam War. Both poor women lost their children in that war. They both came back here to live out their final days. When they died it was the last of the O’Brians."

A very wet Vin rejoined the group in the living room toweling his hair trying to get some of the water out of it. Nathan followed with a satisfied look on his face that was until he saw Ezra’s pale face and asked what was going on. Ezra didn’t answer; he handed Vin the picture. Vin took one look and grinned before asking.

"Where’d y’all get a picture of Miss Eleanor and Miss Harriet?"

"Then you agree that is the likeness of the two ladies you encountered here on the day the house was inspected?" Ezra asked him.

"Yeah, who else could it be?" Vin didn’t understand the question.

Josiah took up the story, "Vin that’s the O’Brian’s sisters, they were the last descendants of Sean O’Brian. They died here in this house."

"Ya sure it’s the same ladies?" asked a quiet Vin.

"Look on the back." Ezra told him.

Turning the picture over, taped to the back was the obituary of the two women giving their full names; Mrs. Harriet O’Brian Fremont, the other as Mrs. Eleanor O’Brian Atwater. Vin sat down beside Ezra.

"Well Ez I guess they approve of ya living here if they went to the trouble of keeping ya company while Josiah checked out the house."

Ezra gave his friend a sideways look, "You don’t find it troublesome that a pair of spirits kept us company that morning?"

"No, they were nice ladies even if they were ghosts. Does it change how ya feel about the house?"

"No it doesn’t in fact it makes it feel…comforting… knowing that the Ladies approve of ma being here," Ezra answered him.

Josiah let out a sigh of relief; some people didn’t react well after finding out they had had an encounter with a ghost. If the two of them were all right with it them the others wouldn’t make a big deal out of it either. Nathan wouldn’t believe in it, Chris and Buck would write it off as a coincidence and JD would think it was cool. All in all everything had turned out favorably, a good day all the way around.

+ + + + + + +

The light from the living room spilled out of the windows onto the front porch. The wooden swing began to move as two forms materialized on it. Two not so old ladies dressed in fashions

of the sixties smiled at the new family inside their old home.

"We chose well Harriet, Ezra and his brothers are going to fill this house with happiness just like our family did."

"I agree Eleanor, but I do wish there were more children in the family. Those young men need wives, there’ll be no future generations without children." Harriet said.

"Then it will be up to us to give nature a nudge when we get the chance." Smiling the two ghosts swung on the swing as they watched over their new family.

Postscript:……….in the future……..

Ezra Standish took a final look around 1861 Rebel Lane. He knew his home would be in good hands during his extended absence. The house had been well maintained and stood as sturdy today as it had when it was first built, despite all the many long years that had passed. His son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren would fill the house with laughter once again. But they would not be here for some time to come and he knew he must be on his way now. He signaled his readiness and Starfleet Captain Ezra Standish vanished in a flash of light to take over command of the Federation Starship Paladin from the newly promoted Admiral Larabee, leaving behind the home his great, great, great, grandfather had established and loved over three centuries ago.

+ + + + + + +

I’ve always admired Victorian homes and gargoyles. Since I don’t have either I have given them to Ezra to have for me. My own life is complete as I have a lot of cat hair in it from my two feline domesticus. As I’m busy with other stories, I don’t know when I’ll be back to this story line. So if anyone wants to borrow any of the characters, house or the kitten (Gray Ghost) you’re free to do so. All I ask is that they are returned reasonably undamaged. Please let me know if you enjoy the story.

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