What's In A Name?
Disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own any of the characters of The Magnificent Seven, no matter how much I WISH I did. They belong to CBS & whatever. Eventually there may be a few which are my creations, or any other new characters you may see, I most likely will let you use them though! I don't own the horse's names either. I took some of them from other authors. Chaucer's name, I believe belongs to Kristen.
Classification: AU, Action/Adventure, Angst, Comedy
Summary: It's the first week on the C&B ranch for the nameless preschooler. A time of adjustments, getting to know one another, and trying to uncover their new family member's mysterious past.
Universe: C&B Ranch [Open! You may un-slash it if you wish & make Chris and Buck just friends. In which case Nathan & Vin are Chris' adoptions, JD is Buck's. Yes, I HAVE thought this out if it were non-slash too. I am that thorough in my plans.]
Feedback: Please, I want replies, I know it sounds pathetic, but I live for feedback, good or bad! If you have any questions, or anything you'd like to point out, feel free to e-mail me! I always answer questions. And I'm more inclined to respond back to positive reviews, if there's a specific scene you enjoyed, or a line you loved. I like to know what people enjoyed about my writings. A writer is always improving himself or herself.
Author's Notes: Yes, this shall be the story in which the Larabee-Wilmington's uncover Ezra's name. You have no idea how hard it is to come up with different things that mean little boy, without sounding repetitive.
I deeply appreciate all the reviews I have received, and I am so pleased my first foray into The Magnificent Seven universe is going over so well! I have gotten some comments about the slash aspect of the story, so I've decided that I'll continue to keep Chris and Buck's romance low-key, and not go beyond hugging, kissing, or cuddling with the two. Hopefully, that will keep ALL readers happy, and not offend anyone.
And of course, I'd like to thank my betas. ESPECIALLY the amazing, fantastic, wonderful, forgiving Aimless, without whom my Mag7 fics would wither and die horrible deaths. Aimless is also completely responsible for the moments of stylistic genius, such as not letting Ezra reveal his thoughts until he is given a name. Trust me, that was a long battle, which I didn't want to concede, but of course, as per usual, Aimless was completely right about that. It just takes me awhile to give up something I like in a story, even though in my head, I know my much smarter beta is right.
Ok, STORY notes: This story starts up right where Broken left off. So as long as you've read that, you're set!
Back to: Broken
Story II - Part I
The still nameless boy ended up sleeping for a few hours that first afternoon. When Chris checked in on him around 5:30 p.m., he found the child blinking owlishly back at him.
"Oh, you're up. Good timing. Dinner will be ready in a little while. You hungry?" Chris questioned, sitting down on the edge of the lower bunk.
Chris absentmindedly began petting the yawning puppy, which slept at the child's side and had woken at the sound of his voice. A small rumbling emitted from the belly of the boy, causing Chris to grin.
"I'll take that as a yes." He ruffled the strawberry blond curls, causing the boy to jerk back and glare at him while attempting to tame his hair.
Chris picked up the boy and Molly and carried them both downstairs, setting Molly down at the base of the steps, and continuing on into the kitchen with the child.
"Hey, Buck, look who's up," Chris announced.
The big man looked up from putting two more frozen pizzas into the oven. "Hey, kiddo! Did you have a good nap?"
The still sleepy tot rested his head on Chris' shoulder.
"I think he's still a little tired," Chris told him, rubbing the child's back.
"Aww," Buck cooed, and then looked down at the exploring puppy. "Say, think it's about time for Molly to eat?"
Green eyes narrowed in thought, then the small head nodded.
"Ok." Buck quickly threw together the 'recipe' in a plastic dish and placed it into the microwave for a minute. While it was heating, he put down a water dish for the dog, which Molly headed right to and began lapping up.
"Someone sure was thirsty," Chris commented.
"Aww man, the ends of her ears are floating in the water," Buck groaned, picturing how the ears would soon be dripping all over the floor.
"Well, find a bowl with a smaller circumference and that wouldn't happen," Chris mock scolded.
"Yeah, yeah. Real easy to point that out now," Buck grumbled as he ripped off several paper towel sheets in preparation for the mess.
The boy let out a small, amused grin at their playful arguing.
** A week later **
The tot was finally cleared to move around on his own, as long as he didn't put too much weight on the injured foot. He'd been given a child-sized pair of crutches, but as a toddler, he didn't have the coordination to maneuver well with them. Fearing the child would further injure himself, Chris and Buck asked him to only use the crutches when he had to go to the bathroom. It wasn't easy for him, but the two adults could tell the boy was immensely relieved to at least be able to go to the bathroom on his own. But otherwise, one of the adults would carry him wherever he needed to go.
The entire clan, including their new addition, had soon settled into a new summer routine.
Every morning, Chris would get up at six a.m., dress, then get Molly from the toddler's bunk and let her outside to 'take care of business'. Together, man and puppy would head to the stables to check on the horses and help the stable hands with the morning feeding. Approximately an hour later, Chris would return with Molly to the house.
He'd fix Molly her morning meal, then start making the first round of breakfast. Vin would come creeping into the kitchen a little after seven and father and son would enjoy a quiet breakfast together, watching the news and discussing plans for the day. With breakfast under his belt, Vin would then head outside to do his chores.
At eight, Chris would wake Ezra enough to take his meds, and then head out to his office attached to the barn to tend to the massive amounts of paperwork involved in running a business.
Buck would wake sometime after 8:30, as would Nathan. Buck, usually still dressed in his robe, would fix the second round of breakfast for everyone else. JD, usually the last of the family to wake, would come bounding down the stairs, absolutely starved, around 9am, at which time Buck would go back upstairs, dress, and rouse the soundly sleeping toddler. They had discovered that, even after cutting back the pain meds, the child was not a morning person. He'd doze in Buck's arms, glaring blearily at anyone who tried to talk to him, until around 10am, when he'd finally fully wake up, and Buck would be able to get a piece of toast into him.
After 10 was when Buck's workday began. He would drop the boy and Molly off in Chris' office, where they'd converted a small corner of the office into a play area. Coloring books and crayons, children's books, and a few other toys were brought in to occupy the boy. He would play contentedly with his leg propped up on a pillow. Chris would slog through paperwork and computer stuff, taking occasional breaks to see to the child's needs, and once he was done for the day, scoop up the small boy and carry him into the house.
JD would typically be on the computer or X-Box playing games. Nathan would invariably spend his days at his volunteer job at the local clinic, though both his fathers made him promise to take the occasional day off to rest and enjoy his summer vacation.
Around noon, Chris would start lunch, and Vin would materialize from one of his many hideaways on the ranch that morning. He would help out by 'chatting' with his new brother while Chris made lunch. Vin had quickly learned he could capture the boy's attention by telling him about animals, especially horses. His whole attention would become fixed on Vin, and he would hang on to the preteen's every word. If Vin were completely honest with himself, he would admit he'd grown to enjoy being revered by someone. (It was a heady experience!) Just before lunch, Vin would take the tot to the downstairs bathroom next to the kitchen. The little boy would use the facilities, and then they would both wash their hands for lunch.
If it were just the four of them, they would eat at the island in kitchen, the boys sitting on the three stools, while Chris leaned against the counter. JD would help clean up, while Chris cleaned up Ezra.
In the afternoon, Vin would practice his reading, JD would play in his room, and Chris would spend time with Ezra. The afternoons were quite flexible; the boys pretty much doing whatever they pleased. On the days he volunteered at the clinic, Nathan would return home around 4:30. Buck's arrival time varied depending on his duties that day. Most days he was back within a couple hours and would be cleaning up around the house or going to the grocery store to restock the vast amounts of necessities the ranch went through weekly.
Around 5:30, Chris or Buck, depending upon whose turn it was, would start preparations for dinner, whether it be home made, frozen, or an easy dinner of take-out. The boys would then look after the preschooler while Chris and Buck retired to the den to watch the evening news.
At eight, the family would settle on a TV show everyone would enjoy, or a game they'd like to play, and relax together for several hours.
Around nine, their new charge would begin fading, and Buck would take him upstairs, brush his teeth, help him into some summer jammies, then rock him to sleep in the room's rocking chair. The tot would soon drop off, Buck would lay him in bed, and then return downstairs after turning on a new baby monitor, just in case.
Chris would accompany JD up to bed around 10pm, and supervise the youngster in his nightly ablutions, then tuck the boy into bed. Vin would go up on his own sometime before 11, and Nathan was allowed to stay up as late as he wanted since school hadn't started yet.
Chris and Buck would retire to their room around 11, and settle in for the night.
The next day it would start all over again.
One afternoon, a week and a half after the family received their new addition, Buck and Chris decided it was time to make the long journey into Denver to go shopping for clothes and other necessities for the still nameless boy. Nathan was home for the day, and agreed to watch Vin, who loathed the crowds of the large city. JD decided he wanted to go along to 'help' his first younger sibling pick out his new clothes.
Buck loaded the two youngest in the middle seats of their six-passenger, dark blue Toyota Sequoia, while Chris started the SUV.
Buck jumped into the passenger side with a grin. "Let's head out, War Dog."
Chris slipped a Sponge Bob DVD into the built-in player, and shifted out of park. An amazingly uneventful - thanks to the DVD player - hour later, they were pulling into a parking spot at a large department store on the edge of Denver.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the mystery of the boy's name had been eating at Vin since the child's arrival and his curiosity was finally getting the better of him. Vin settled himself into Chris' office to ensure he wouldn't be disturbed while he called the number he'd copied out of his dad's address book.
"Mary Travis speaking," the familiar voice answered.
"Hi Mary, it's Vin," the preteen greeted simply, knowing she would recognize his voice.
"Oh! Hello Vin! This is a pleasant surprise. Nothing is wrong, is it?"
"Nope. The kid's been settlin' in fine. Seems to know how to amuse himself good. Doesn't need to be kept entertained like JD did when he came."
"Ah, so he's more like you. Self-sufficient," Mary said with understanding.
"Well, is there something I can do for you today? You're not one to call just to chat..."
Vin smirked. "No, guess 'm not."
"So what is it?" Mary pressed.
"I was just wonderin' if you'd gotten any leads on the kid's name. Gets frustratin' just callin' him 'the kid' or 'little 'un' all the time."
"I bet it does. I have been insanely busy, but I have managed to stumble onto a clue. I've been meaning to call your fathers, but I've been just swamped with work and haven't had a spare moment for anything. You were fortunate to catch me during the 5 minutes I've allotted myself for lunch today."
"Lucky break I guess..." Vin shrugged.
"I guess so!" Mary laughed, taking a sip of her Coke. "Alright, now..." Vin heard paper shuffling in the background. "The police finally interviewed the last of the neighbors and, according to a nice, elderly woman who lived down the street, the child arrived a few months ago. A pretty blond woman driving an expensive car dropped him off. She remembered him having some sort of biblical name, starting with 'A' or 'E', but she just couldn't quite remember his name. Just that it was quite unique."
"Well, it's a place to start," Vin commented, mulling over the new information.
"Yes it is. Oh darn, Vin, I've got to go. I have an appointment arriving. Be sure to tell your fathers, and I'll be by next week to check on everything. Good-bye!"
"Bye, Mary." Vin hung up, his brain working furiously.
The Larabee-Wilmingtons weren't a very religious family. They weren't churchgoers, and were definitely not the type to be very familiar with the bible. Josiah might have been, but these few weeks were the only time of the whole year the man had to himself, and Vin didn't have it in his heart to disturb him. Vin didn't think there was a bible in the house, not one that he knew of at least, but in this age of instant information and technology, he really didn't think he'd have that big of a problem figuring something out.
The store was a large, confusing place. Buck and Chris were pretty much starting from scratch with their new little one. The closest they'd ever come to dealing with a child so young was with Billy Travis, but they'd never actually taken care of him long term or bought things for him.
With nervous hearts, the men settled Ezra into a shopping cart, and ventured into the first department: children's clothes. Chris pushed the cart while Buck and JD traveled along side. The group stopped in front of a rack of t-shirts.
JD immediately zeroed in on a bright green one with The Hulk on it. He held it up for all to see. "How about this one?" he suggested eagerly.
Chris blinked, fearing he might go blind from the colors, then glanced down at his passenger. The look on the tot's face said it all. Absolute horror. Buck snickered at the child's reaction.
"Um, JD, I don't think that there is 'xactly the little guy's taste. Maybe a little too bright," Buck told him, careful to not hurt the elder boy's feelings.
JD blinked, looked at the shirt, at the boy in the cart, then back to the shirt. "Really? Huh. I love it!"
"We know JD, you have one just like it in your dresser," Chris reminded him.
JD grinned unabashedly as he returned the shirt to the rack. "Oh yeah! I knew I liked it for a reason."
Buck addressed the child they were shopping for, "What about you? See any shirts here you'd like?"
The boy carefully scrutinized the rack of shirts emblazed with cartoon and comic book characters, soon wrinkling his nose in distaste and shaking his head negatively.
Buck sighed, this was going to be harder than he thought. "Alright then..." he grabbed a plain red t-shirt off a nearby rack. "How about this one?"
After a moment, the small boy gave a curt nod.
Buck grinned excitedly. "Good! We'll take several of these, then," he proclaimed as he held the shirt up to the boy for size comparison.
After going through a majority of the department, they managed to agree on several different kinds of shirts, including some rugby shirts, some nice long sleeve t-shirts, and a couple button ups. After rejecting several pairs of pants, the tot allowed them to add a couple pair of corduroy overalls and pants, some kakis and slacks, plus some knit pants and shorts. He had absolutely refused anything denim. After 10 minutes of arguing the merit of denim, Buck and Chris had little choice but to give in.
In sleepwear, the group managed to pick out several shirt and short pairs, a few long pants and tops for when it got cooler, and two pairs of footy pajamas for when it got cold. They also picked up some fuzzy green frog slippers that had caused the boy's eyes to light up when he saw them.
The bath section was next so, while JD and the timid boy picked out some bath toys, as Chris and Buck had insisted, the two men picked out the other bath time necessities. Chris made certain to find a soft faucet cover, to prevent injuries, while Buck found baby shampoo, conditioner, and baby body wash. Chris stocked up on bubble bath and after-bath lotion, and of course a set of children's combs and brushes that would be better with those baby-fine curls than anything they currently had at home.
"Ok, now what?" Chris questioned as they paused just outside of the bath section.
Buck gave him a grin and pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "Made up a list of a few things I've come across that we've needed but didn't have. JD, you're going to be our gopher and help us find what we need. First off," Buck glanced at the short list, "a booster seat for the table, so the little guy doesn't have to sit on phone books anymore."
Chris definitely approved of that item. Having the boy precariously perched on those Yellow Pages always made him nervous. "Find one with straps, to make sure he doesn't fall out."
JD quickly pointed to one on a shelf above his reach. "What about that one?"
Buck joined his son in a few strides and looked at the boxes JD was indicating. He grabbed two and turned to the toddler. "Blue or red, baby boy?"
It took the tot a second to realize the large man was talking to him. After a moment of deliberation, he hesitantly pointed to the red one. The tall man grinned at him, putting the blue one back on the shelf.
"Good choice!" he assured the child, putting the box with the red seat into the cart.
The boy gave him a tentative smile.
"Alright, next thing we need is a step-stool, so once he's out of the cast, he can wash his hands and brush his teeth and hair all on his own," Buck told JD.
"Buck," Chris spoke up from behind the cart, "add a stroller to the list."
The curly-headed tot whipped his head around to face the blond with dismay. Chris noticed the look be was being given, but ignored it.
Buck considered his partner's suggestion for a second, and then nodded his head in agreement. "Good idea Chris. Particularly with that broke leg. It would really help us get him around, especially when we leave the ranch." He added stroller to the list.
The little guy scowled from his seat in the cart.
Meanwhile, JD returned with two stools. "One for upstairs, one for down." he explained, displaying his find to his fathers with pride.
The final thing they picked out from the shelves was a large toy chest. They had a sales assistant take it to the register to hold for them, so they didn't have to lug it around the store.
The next area they entered was the toy department. The couple and JD took great enjoyment from the expression of complete awe on the small boy's pixie-like face. Though, the idea that such a sight was so awe inspiring to the little boy caused the foster parents' hearts to clench. No child should be so unfamiliar with a trip to the toy section of a store.
Buck swallowed the lump in his throat. "JD, why don't you pick out a couple stuffed toys, grab one for yourself if you want one, too. Chris, why don't you find a couple board games. I'm going to look at those Leapster educational things you hear about in commercials all the time."
Chris, with his passenger's help, easily picked out several children's games. Cherry Picker, Memory, Hungry Hungry Hippo, and a sound matching game that helped young children learn to identify noises. JD came back while they were still choosing games and tossed several stuffed toys into the cart. Chris recognized the look on his son's face, it was his 'great idea' expression. He trusted his son so, with a simple nod of his head, Chris gave JD permission to follow through with whatever plan he'd concocted.
Buck soon came striding back into the aisle with a pile of books, games, and some sealed electronics including a child's boom box, walkman and earphones. "They have some great stuff!" he declared brightly.
Before Chris could comment on the massive amount of things his husband had just dumped into the basket, JD came running back to the cart with an armload of Play-Doh containers in every color of the rainbow. "I remembered loving this stuff when I was little," he proclaimed, out of breath from his dash to collect the Play-Doh.
"Great idea, bud!" Buck confirmed with a playful twinkle in his eye as he ruffled the adolescent's hair.
Chris' focus was on their young charge, however. He'd noticed the boy's attention had drifted to the stuffed toys across the aisle. The child had torn his gaze away several times, but his eyes kept returning to the shelf. Chris crouched down to the boy's level.
"Do you see something you'd like? All this stuff is for you, so if there's something specific you want, all you have to do is point," Chris told him softly.
Pale green eyes locked on to hazel, evaluating the man. After several moments, the little boy shyly looked away and cautiously pointed. Chris followed the gesture and spotted a pale blue stuffed dog with floppy ears and a pink tongue. Picking it up, he noticed it was made of that new, extremely soft, fluffy fabric. Turning to his rider, Chris held up the toy. "Is this what you meant?"
The boy chewed on his lip, then nodded his head.
Chris smiled softly, then placed the doggy in his passenger's lap. "Then we'll certainly be getting this."
Large green eyes stared at the toy in shock, then, joyfully it was clutched tightly in small arms as the boy rubbed his face against the soft fabric.
Chris gazed in wonder at the dimples that truly emerged for the first time. He glanced up and caught Buck's gaze, his husband's eyes sparkling. He reached out and gave the other's hand a squeeze. He was very grateful that Buck had coerced him into this now. He'd almost forgotten what it was like to be the one putting a joyful smile on a young boy's face.
"That kid's gonna be a heart breaker," Buck murmured into his lover's ear.
"Absolutely," Chris agreed, momentarily laying his head on Buck's shoulder.
Buck gave Chris' hand one last squeeze, then took hold of the cart, giving the pixie-like nose a tap. "Well, since we've got all we need from here, let's move on."
Buck then led them all to the book aisle. The left side had books for juveniles while the right side was shelf after shelf of children's books.
Buck took these selections seriously as he crouched down next to the cart. "Ok, now I know you like readin'. I've seen you read several of the smaller books we've still got 'round the house. Unfortunately, we gave most of the beginners books to Billy once JD out grew them."
"Except for the Christmas books," Chris corrected. "We kept all the Christmas books 'cause the boys still like to read them every year, no matter how old they get."
"That's cause it puts us in the Christmas mood!" JD proclaimed, bouncing up and down the aisle, picking up one book after another.
"JD," Chris said in a warning tone, "settle down."
JD froze, and set down the book he'd just picked up, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry, Dad."
"Just remember your inside behavior," Chris reprimanded gently as he picked up some small, hardcover Golden Books that caught his eye. "How about these?" he suggested, holding up the books.
The preschooler gave a nod of approval as he hugged the blue dog he'd yet to release from his grip.
JD jogged up with a couple thick books. "What about these, Papa?"
Buck glanced at the covers and smiled. "Looks good to me. Every kid needs nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Now, why don't you go find us some coloring books and crayons."
JD set the books into the cart, and then hurried off to do as he was told.
Chris then added some Babar and Curious George books. "Essentials in every child's library," he explained to his partner.
Buck solemnly nodded his head in agreement. "You see anything you'd like, baby boy?"
The silent child blinked, and eyed the rows upon rows of books until his attention was captured by something familiar. Eagerly, a finger pointed at something further down on the left side of the aisle. Curious as to what the boy could want but glad he was actually asking for something, Buck pushed the cart forward until the child pulled his sleeve to stop. The hand not holding the stuffed dog reached for a collection of books, but it was just out of his grasp.
Buck picked up the book, frowning as he read the cardboard holder of the original Winnie the Pooh book series box set. "Seriously? You really want this?"
The child nodded eagerly, his eyes shining with enthusiasm.
Buck jerked his head for Chris to come over. With curiosity, Chris glanced over Buck's shoulder and read the title. "He asked for this? Isn't it a bit over his age group? Not to mention, kind of dated..."
Buck shrugged, bewildered, and gestured towards the boy. "That's what he wanted."
Chris looked down to boy, who was reaching for the books again. "You sure these are what you want?"
He nodded emphatically, grabbing at the books held just out of his reach.
Buck and Chris shared another look, shrugged, and then handed the child the box.
JD came back a few minutes later with a stack of coloring books, and a giant box of crayons. "Sorry I took so long. The crayons were hiding on the lowest shelf. Didn't notice them for ages!"
"It's alright, kiddo, we're in no rush," Buck assured him, "Hey, why don't you go get some of those Play-Doh accessories while we pick out some videos and DVDs."
"Ok!" JD eagerly agreed, running back off around the corner."
Vin had returned to the house and checked on Nathan, who was settled in front of the TV in the den, watching 'Dr. 90210'. Knowing that the show would keep his older brother occupied for at least another 45 minutes, Vin knew he was safe to continue his mission. He then ensconced himself in the study, locking the door behind him. He knew that if anyone came upon the locked door, they would just figure Vin wanted privacy while he did his reading exercises.
Vin logged onto one of the family's computers and pulled up a search engine. Using his only lead, he typed in 'biblical names', knowing that someone out on the Internet had most likely created a site of biblical names. He was still a bit amazed however, when his search yielded a large number of results. He sifted through a couple sites but didn't find exactly what he wanted until the third one. It was a site titled 'Biblical Baby Names' and it was an actual database of biblical names, organized by letter.
While perusing the A's, Vin concluded that the kid's name couldn't have been anything too normal or too strange, or else the ladies wouldn't have been able to recognize the name as something biblical. He was able to rule out names like Adam and Able.
In the children's video and DVD aisle, it was obvious from the look of confusion on the child's face that he'd never had the opportunity to pick out this sort of thing either. With shrewd heads, they went through the aisle, picking out things from several different categories. They selected a few Disney movies, some Dora the Explorer DVDs, something called Back Yardigans, and a few Tomas the Tank Engine and Friends tapes. Plus, from the CDs and Tapes on the other side, they chose some children's music and lullaby CDs.
JD reappeared with an armload of Play-Doh toys, rolling pins, crimpers, cookie cutters, etc. "I think this is everything," he groaned, dumping them all into the cart.
"Good work kid," Chris complimented, giving the young boy an affectionate squeeze on his shoulder. "Alright, I think we've got just about everything we need." He glanced at their overloaded cart and added, "and then some."
"Not quite pard," Buck disputed. "We still need some plastic plates, bowls, child-safe silverware, sippy cups, and, as you reminded me earlier, a stroller."
Chris blinked at the inventory. "Guess I was very wrong then."
"It's not that much," Buck corrected, leading them into the aisle that housed most of those things.
"No, you're right. Oh, and also make sure to grab some bibs too. We're running out of towels... well, until we do laundry, at least."
Buck nodded, pausing before a large selection of bibs. He picked out 12 bibs of various colors and design, tossing them into the cart. "JD, grab some of those small hangers next to you, the ones we have at home are too big for these little clothes."
JD did as he was asked, then returned to his Papa's side, tossing the hangers into the basket.
Further down the aisle, Buck stopped in front of some children's dinnerware. "Alright now, you have some choices here, baby boy. You can choose 'Finding Nemo', 'Winnie the Pooh', 'Classic Winnie the Pooh', 'Trains', 'Dora the Explorer', or 'Blues Clues'. You can pick two sets with any design."
The packages contained either dishes - four bowls or four plates, or silverware - a knife, fork and spoon.
The little boy furrowed his brow in concentration. He examined each set, apparently considering the pros and cons of each design. After several minutes of intense scrutiny, he made a decision. Slowly raising his hand, he tentatively pointed to the Classic Winnie the Pooh items.
Buck gave him a warm smile and placed a package of each, bowls, plates, and silverware, into the cart, "Want to pick one of the other sets too?"
The small boy immediately shook his head no, so Buck took down a second set of everything.
Close by, Chris and JD started picking out several tall sippy cups, then loaded them into the cart next to the Pooh items.
On their way to the next area, the group came across a small section with lots of Classic Winnie the Pooh paraphernalia. Chris and Buck exchanged a look, then began putting one of almost everything into the cart. A stuffed Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, and Tigger were tossed in. A book set, movies, an afghan, bookends, and a clock. On a whim, Chris grabbed a soft, neutral color knit blanket with satin edging.
This time it wasn't just the cart's passenger's eyes that were wide with shock, JD's were as well. His fathers were acting really weird. But he could understand why they were shopping like this, the boy hadn't come into the family the way JD had. JD had been able to bring all the things he'd already had from his mom's. He'd brought his favorite sheets, pillow, blankie, his toys and clothes. Plus the two men had bought him even more toys and things after he'd arrived. The boy in their cart, on the other hand, had shown up with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, and Molly.
JD just hoped his fathers started acting normal before someone from his school saw him....
Once they'd exhausted the Pooh things, Chris surveyed their overflowing carts and nodded, satisfied.
"I think, that we are almost done," Chris told him. "Just one more thing to get."
JD thought for a moment, then his face lit up. "A stroller?"
"A stroller," Buck confirmed, then laughed at the look on his passenger's face.
Chris shook his head in amusement, then put an arm around JD's shoulder as they led the way to the store's impressive selection of strollers.
Most of the strollers were for infants or children up to the age of two. They didn't need anything big or fancy; just something to help them get the youngster around. A store assistant helped them pull down all the strollers suitable for a child his age and let them test each one out. Chris carefully took the injured little boy out of the cart, and carried him over to the first stroller, a Silver Cross S4 Pushchair. It was all right, but a bit fancier than they wanted.
They didn't even bother with the next one since they didn't see the need for a jogging stroller.
The third stroller appeared to be more what they were looking for. It was a Mountain Buggy Urban Single 2006 . It had two sturdy back wheels and a single swiveling front wheel that easily locked. When the sales attendant explained the features, they were hooked. The stroller folded and unfolded in a single motion, without having to remove the wheels. The padded seat could be placed in numerous positions, making it suitable for slightly older children. It had technologically advanced modular construction using durable and replaceable molded joints and lightweight high tensile aluminum tubing. Large, robust tires, rustproof wheel rims, and shock absorbers as well. It was even designed for both inner city and rugged terrain, so it would work perfectly on the ranch, even if they family wanted to go hiking and take the little boy along, but not have to carry him the whole time.
It was quite expensive, but all things for little kids were. The two men quietly discussed their options before nodding their consent to the sales associate, who happily put the display models back onto the shelf with Buck's help as Chris held the little boy in his arms. The cart's collapsible seat was folded up to make room for the box holding the new stroller.
"If you gentlemen are done shopping, I can ring you up," the sales associate offered, smiling at the sight of the lovely looking family.
"That was the last thing on our list," Buck confirmed. "We also have a toy chest waiting for us at the register."
The blond girl nodded, her ponytail bouncing. "I know the one your talking about. If you'll just follow me, we'll get you all taken care of."
Chris nodded, and Buck put an arm around JD's shoulders as the family made their way up to the register.
As the woman and a helper rang up and bagged their purchases, she made small talk. "So, is he a new member of the family? I wouldn't ask, but you seem to be stocking up on all the necessities."
Buck nodded his head, understanding how easily she could come to that conclusion. "Yep, he's our newest foster son. Never had one this young before. JD was the youngest we'd ever had, and he was already 6 when we got him."
The 25-year-old mother smiled with understanding. "Ah, new territory. My husband and I have a three-year-old girl, but when I married him four years ago, I became a stepmother to a 5-year-old boy. It's hard work getting a little boy to like and trust you."
Chris nodded his agreement. "But it's worth it every time."
"Yes, it really is," she agreed as she bagged up the clothes.
Chris saw they were almost done ringing up everything, so he signaled that he was going to go wait by the entrance with the kids. He wasn't sure how their new boy would react to hearing how much was being spent on him. When Vin had first come to live with him, he always felt guilty when they'd spent money on him. After their initial shopping trip to get things for him, Vin had been afraid to play with his new toys or get his clothes dirty. It took months, but Buck and Chris were finally able to convince him that the money wasn't important to them and they were Vin's things to do with as he pleased. After that, they were much more careful about letting any of the boys know how much they were spending on them. Chris knew today's total was going to be a large one, the stroller alone was in the triple digits, but they could afford to do this, and the two men felt that if they could afford the higher quality products without going into the red, they would get them. It was just money, and their business was doing well.
Buck soon joined his family by the front entrance, a sales associate pushing a wheeled pallet loaded with the toy box following close behind, kindly helping the men out. Chris led the way to their SUV, sending JD ahead to unlock the car and open the trunk. Chris strapped the little boy into his car seat then went to the rear and folded down the last row of seats to make sure they had enough space to store everything.
The three men easily packed the back of the car, and soon Chris, Buck and their boys were on their way back to the ranch, Sponge Bob and Patrick's voices blaring out from the speakers.
Back in the ranch's study, armed with a pencil and a notebook, Vin began compiling a short list of A and E names from several biblical websites.
Logging off, Vin leaned back in his chair, staring at the list in his hand. Now, he just needed a chance to test the kid....
** A couple days later **
Vin had begun spending even more time with his new little brother, bringing him on visits to the stables in a red wooden wagon that he'd carefully cushioned to protect the kid's leg. The boy had an obvious fascination with horses and was absolutely enthralled to meet those owned by the family. Each member of the clan had his own horse.
During their time together, Vin would slip names into their 'conversations', pretending them to be names of kids that had stayed at the camp, checking for reactions on the preschooler's face.
Finally, he was down to his second to last name from the list he'd been randomly drawing from. If the last two names didn't work, he'd have to start over again, but he was sure he'd been accurate in his selections of probable names.
That day Vin took Peso out of his stall and, holding the horse still next to the wagon, allowed the little boy to pet him.
"Yep, Peso's a real fine horse," Vin explained to the child. "Kind of moody, but I like 'im that way. More fun taken care of a horse with personality, wouldn't ya think, Ez?"
The boy's hand froze mid-stroke and he turned to look at the older boy, his eyes wide with shock. No one had called him by his name in a long time now... not since....
"Shoot! So I guessed right? Your name is Ezra?" Vin asked giddily. "Nice ta finally have a name for you, kid," he commented, ruffling the tot's hair. "You sure did a good job keepin' it secret, though."
Ezra scowled at him as he attempted to right his hair again.
Vin smirked. "Alright, you didn't hide it, exactly, but you sure didn't give any hints."
Ezra glowered harder at the insinuation that he'd been purposefully keeping his name a secret.
** Dinner that night **
The Larabee-Wilmington clan was gathered about the table, Ezra safely ensconced in his new booster seat. Everyone chowed down on fried chicken, corn on the cob, and biscuits, a favorite in the household.
Vin had managed to hold his juicy information inside almost all day, reveling in the knowledge that, for once, he knew something the rest of his family did not. He just couldn't hold it in any longer, though.
Turning to the small boy, Vin spoke out over the din of conversations. "Hey, pass me some biscuits, would ya, Ezra?"
The table went silent and everyone turned to stare at Vin and Ezra. Cool as could be, Ezra simply took a biscuit out of the bread warmer and handed it to Vin, then took a bite of his corn.
"How..." Chris stumbled.
"When..." Buck questioned in utter shock.
"Oh," Vin started, acting as if it was an after thought. "I called Mary the other day. She mentioned that a couple of the neighbors knew the kid's name was somethin' religious. Said it was kind of unique, too. I just did a little research and figured it out.
"Why didn't you share this information with everyone else? At the very least, you could have shared with me and your papa!" Chris exclaimed. He tried to act upset, but he couldn't pull it off. He was far too excited to know the name of his new son, Ezra.
Ezra's attention remained fixed on his dinner plate while surreptitiously glancing at the others around the table. They were kinda strange, but they seemed to be nice people who genuinely wanted him around. The boys were fun to be with. JD was always ready to teach him new games while Vin taught him about the horses and other animals at the ranch. Mr. Chris and Mr. Buck were pretty nice, too. They made sure he had everything he needed and even things he didn't really need. More important to Ezra than the toys and animals, this group of people gave him something that he'd never had before. They gave him a family. It was a new concept to the 4-year-old and... he kinda liked it. He repeated the phrase in his mind, trying to get used to it.
His new family.
Yeah, he kinda liked that.
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