Leap Of Faith
(C&B Ranch)

by Jules

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 them from other authors. Chaucer's name, I believe belongs to Kristen.
Rating: PG
Classification: AU, Action/Adventure, Romance, Angst, Comedy
Summary: Christmas is nearing while Chris and Buck are struggling to adopt Ezra. But misfortune diverts their attention with Ezra falling victim to pneumonia and being taken to the hospital.
Universe: C&B Ranch [open as soon as I finish the first story. 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.]
Author's Notes: Just a short little Christmas fic for everyone. But it does cause some significant changes in the C&B Ranch universe. I hope everyone enjoys it! Just so everyone knows the timeline, Maude left Ezra at his relatives about eight months PRIOR to this story in the C&B series, taking place, and he's been at the Larabee-Wilmington's for four months. That should help at least a little for giving you an idea at the timeline.
Oh, this is set LONG after the first fic, and just for everyone's general knowledge, Nathan's been moved up into his own new room in the attic. He gave up his room so the little boy could be close to Buck and Chris. Don't worry, he's very happy to be there, it's much bigger, and he's turned it into a 'bachelor pad', where he can study in peace.
I am working on the second story in the series, but I wanted to get my Christmas fic out BEFORE Christmas was over!


~* December *~

Winter winds whipped through the state and snow fell frequently, turning the area into a winter wonderland. Cold and flu season came hand in hand with the weather, especially in schools. It was no surprise to the Larabee-Wilmington clan when Vin came home early one afternoon with a wracking cough and runny nose. He was soon firmly ensconced on the couch in the den with a cup of hot cocoa and a box of lotioned tissues.

Ezra was very happy to have one of his brothers home with him during the day; it got kind of lonely spending his days with just his parents for company. Having Vin home from school was an exciting change. Despite their fathers' cautions, Ezra spent as much time as possible with his ailing brother, which was how the 4-year-old caught Vin's cold.

Just as Vin's cold was disappearing and he would be ready to return to school on Monday for what little time remained before Christmas break, Ezra came down with the sniffles. Buck walked into their youngest's room an hour or so after Nathan and JD had been shuffled off to school and found him sneezing his little head off, looking absolutely miserable.

"Oh, you poor little guy!" Buck gushed, scooping up Ezra. "Did you catch Vin's cold?"

Ezra clung to his papa's neck, resting his heavy head against his shoulder, and sniffed.

"Sure sounds like it," Buck cooed, rubbing the little boy's back as they walked out of the room and downstairs.

As the two came into the kitchen, the boy let out a small, congested cough, causing Chris to look up from the pancakes he was cooking for breakfast.

"Uh oh, sounds like somebody caught Vin's cold," Chris commented, coming over and laying a hand on Ezra's forehead. "Feels a little warm. Why don't you go set him down on the couch in the den and cover him up with that warm, goose-down afghan. I'll come in with some children's Tylenol and something to eat in a few minutes."

"Sounds like a plan," Buck agreed, giving his husband a quick kiss before carrying Ezra into the den. When he tried to set Ezra down onto the couch though, the little boy held on. It seemed as though he'd grown attached. "Ez, come on ya little lemur, aren't you going to let go?" Buck questioned, trying to hold in his laughter as the child burrowed deeper into the warmth provided by Buck's body.

Ezra shook his head, holding on tighter. Papa had removed him from his nice warm bed, but he found that Papa made a good substitute. Plus, he didn't feel well, and it felt nice and safe in his papa's arms.

Who was he to say no to the sick little boy? Buck easily gave in and sat down on the couch, covering them both with the down blanket from the back of it. Ezra closed his eyes in satisfaction and curled up against the big man's chest.

Chris entered the den with a tray of pancakes, juice and Children's Tylenol to discover his husband cuddled up on the couch with their youngest. He raised an eyebrow at the scene. "Napping already?"

Buck smiled up sheepishly. "He didn't want me to leave...."

The blonde's heart melted at that statement. It wasn't as if Buck had anything vitally important to do today, and he'd spent the last week looking after Vin while Chris was taking care of the day to day running of the ranch. One wouldn't think it to look at Vin, but the normally laid back boy tended to become a bit of a whiner when he was sick. The preteen just did not take well to being in less than tip top condition. The boy got absolutely grouchy if he ever happened to get injured. The fact that Buck had handled it without complaint earned him more than a little leeway in this situation.

"Alright then, you stay in here with the two sickies. Vin'll be up any minute so expect him to shuffle in soon. He should be well enough to go back to school on Monday, though," Chris warned, setting the tray down on the end table next to the couch. "Make sure he gets some Tylenol, too, if he's still feverish."

"Will do," Buck promised.

Chris stroked a hand over the small head of curls. "And I hope you feel better soon, little man. I'll come back later with some soup for everyone."

Ezra gazed up at his daddy with sad eyes and nodded his head in understanding, and then snuggled back down into his papa's arms. Buck hugged him closer, kissing him on the top of his head.

 

As predicted, about forty-five minutes later, Vin stumbled sleepily into the room, the quilt from his bed wrapped loosely around his shoulders. He glanced curiously at the bundled pair as he curled up onto the other end of the couch before turning his attention to the TV. Squinting, Vin was able to make out Charlie and Lola on the screen.

"What are you guys doin' in here?" he croaked out distractedly.

Ezra only response was a series of coughs.

"Baby boy, here, seems to have caught your cold," Buck answered, rubbing Ezra's back as he winced at the harsh sounding coughs.

"Huh. Oops. Guess I shouldn't have let him hang around so much this week," Vin lamented.

"Nah, he would have probably caught it anyway. Don't you fret any," Buck reassured him, seeing the guilt building in his middle son's frame. "Want some pancakes? Your dad made them for breakfast but Ez don't seem hungry for anything. You can just warm them up in the microwave if you'd like."

Vin shrugged. "Sure." He got up and grabbed the plate, carrying it over to the microwave behind the mini-bar. As his breakfast was heating, Vin felt something clawing at his leg and glanced down to see Molly at his feet, bouncing up and down excitedly and licking her chops. "I don't think so, Miss Molly. This is my breakfast. Dad already fed you yours."

Buck glanced over from the couch. "I haven't seen that dog all morning, yet the moment you start the microwave, whoosh, she appears."

"She's probably been sleepin' in front of the vent in the Great room, like she does everyday," Vin suggested, pulling out the plate and returning to the couch.

"Wouldn't surprise me. I was just shocked she didn't follow the pancakes in here when Chris brought them in."

"Was probably still asleep then, plus Dad wouldn't have had the familiar sound of the microwave," Vin told him as Molly managed to get herself up onto the couch to stare pointedly at him and his hastily guarded bounty.

Buck reached out with his free hand and pulled the puppy over to him and Ezra in order to allow Vin to eat in peace. "Leave that poor boy alone, yah pig."

Molly seemed to glare at Buck for a moment, but settled down when a small hand ventured out of the blanket to scratch her head. Her boy was paying attention to her! She hopped up on Buck's chest, and snuggled next to her boy.

"Ooff!" Buck grunted as the air was forced from his lungs. "Ugh, you're getting too big to do that, Molls."

Molly ignored him in favor of giving Ezra kisses all over his face. Buck just shook his head and gave the dog a scratch behind her ears.

** A few hours later **

Chris came in at lunch to find his family lounging on the couch, quietly watching TV Land. Ezra softly snored from within Buck's arms.

He kneeled down next to Vin, laying a hand on the pre-teen's forehead. "How you feeling today? Fever seems down."

Vin swatted away the unwelcome hand. "'M fine."

Chris merely raised an eyebrow at his son.

"Well, better," Vin disclosed. "Still a bit stuffy, but my chest isn't all heavy like it was and my head isn't poundin' anymore."

Chris gave a nod. "Good. You're sounding lots better, too. Throat feel better?"

"Yeah. The Ludens are actually helping now. Plus, since I'm not coughin' so much, it isn't getting irritated all the time."

"So you'll be ok to go back to school on Monday?" he questioned, knowing Vin would be honest.

Vin thought about it for a minute, and then gave a nod. "Yeah, probably. Long as my cough doesn't come back."

"Good. We don't want you falling behind too much, especially so close to Christmas break." Buck murmured.

Chris ruffled Vin's hair affectionately. "So, what do you feel up to for lunch? Bet you're getting a bit tired of soup."

Soup, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal had been pretty much the only things Vin's sore throat could tolerate for the past week. More often than not, he didn't feel up to eating at all.

"Macaroni and cheese?" Vin suggested with a hopeful look.

Chris smiled. "I think I can manage that. Think Ezra can handle that?" he asked his partner.

Buck looked down at Ezra, gauging the extent of his illness. "Well, he hasn't shown any signs of a sore throat yet. I think he can still cope."

That decided, Chris went into the kitchen to make lunch for everyone.

 

By Monday, Vin was back in school but Ezra was no better. In fact, he seemed to be getting worse. He rattling cough had settled deep into his chest and his fever was climbing, causing Buck and Chris to worry. They did their best to hide their fear from the other boys, but the tension in the house was palpable.

 

Late Tuesday night, all the boys were in bed and Chris and Buck were on their way. As they were passing Ezra's room, Buck decided to check on him one last time. Softly, he opened the door and crept over to the sleeping child. When he neared the bed, he frowned at what he heard. It sounded as if the child had to fight for every breath he took and the crackle of phlegm was obvious. In the dim light streaming in from the hall, Buck could see the curls on the small head were damp with perspiration. Grabbing the ear thermometer from off the nightstand, Buck took the child's temperature and his stomach dropped when he saw the read out, 104. Immediately, he gathered the sleeping boy into his arms and rushed into the master bedroom where Chris was just starting to prepare for bed.

"Chris, I think we need to go to the hospital," Buck intoned seriously.

Chris spun around, a cold chill descending upon him. "What's wrong?"

"His temp's up, Chris. 104, and I don't like the sound of his breathing."

Chris swallowed in fear as he re-buttoned his shirt. "Ok, ok. Um, you go get him bundled up, I'll go wake up Nate and tell him where we're going. He can get the kids off to school in the morning if need be."

"Right." Buck nodded, and rushed downstairs.

Chris took the stairs to Nathan's atticbedroom two at a time and hurriedly shook awake his eldest.

"What's going on?" Nathan sleepily questioned.

"Ezra's real sick. Buck and I are taking him to the emergency room. We might need you to get yourself and the boys to school tomorrow. Can you handle that?"

Nathan was now wide-awake. "Yeah, of course I can. You guys don't worry about anything but Ezra."

"Thanks Nathan, you're a good man," Chris stated with pride, warmly squeezing his son's shoulder before rushing down the two flights of stairs.

 

By the time Chris made it back downstairs, Buck had Ezra all bundled up and his own coat on. Despite all the activity around him, Ezra was still soundly asleep. The large man threw his husband his winter coat and rushed out to the car to strap their son into his car seat.

 

Four hours later, the tot was admitted to the pediatric ward of the hospital with pneumonia and placed on IV antibiotics. He slept fitfully in the small bed while his terrified parents looked on from a distance.

Josiah was called the next morning and asked to stay with the other three boys.

~*~

It was two days before Christmas and the Larabee-Wilmingtons were still at the hospital, where they'd been for over a week. The congestion in Ezra's chest had eased after the doctors finally managed to find the right combination of medications. His fever had gone down, but still hadn't abated.

Chris picked up the ringing hospital phone before it could disturb little Ezra.

"Hello?" he whispered gruffly into the receiver.

"Mr. Larabee or Wilmington?" A male voice asked.

"This is Mr. Larabee."

"Oh, thank goodness I finally got a-hold of you. I've been trying to reach you for a couple days."

"Who is this?" Chris demanded.

"Oh, sorry. It's John Anderson, your lawyer."

Chris bolted upright and motioned for Buck over. "Mr. Anderson, what's going on? Why did you need to get in touch so badly?"

Buck stared at Chris, frozen in shock. The two had been trying to get permanent custody of Ezra for months now, and they were hoping to adopt him, if possible.

"I have some wonderful news. The courts have revoked all parental rights on Ezra, so you and Mr. Wilmington's adoption of him can go through!"

Chris collapsed into the near-by chair in shock. "Are you serious? He's ours?"

"He's yours. Congratulations. Just a little more paperwork and approval by Judge Travis, and he's all yours."

"Oh, my God. Thank you. Thank you so much."

"It was my pleasure. Merry Christmas." With that, Anderson hung up.

Chris stared at the phone in shock.

Buck's heart was racing; did he hear what the thought he'd just heard? "He's ours? Ezra is ours?"

"Yeah, the courts finally revoked parental rights. The adoption's going through."

With two strides, Buck was at Chris' side, enveloping him in an exuberant hug. "He's ours, Chris! He's really ours now!"

Chris hugged him back with joy. "Yep he is."

Pulling away, Chris took Ezra's limp little hand in his. "You hear that, little man? You're all ours now. You won't go anywhere ever again."

Buck leaned down, caressing the boy's sweaty forehead. "You're our boy now, and we're never going to let you go, even if your momma does come back. We'll fight until our dying breath to keep you with us where you belong."

Chris grinned as two pale green eyes blinked up at him and dimples appeared on flushed cheeks. "Yeah Ezra, you're a Larabee-Wilmington now."

Buck grinned up at his lover before placing a gentle kiss on their son's forehead.

** Late that night **

Chris had gone home, he and Buck alternated staying at the hospital with Ezra and returning home to be with the other boys. Buck sat in the rocking chair with a sleeping Ezra cradled against his chest, softly singing his baby boy's favorite song, Molly Malone.

"In Dublin's fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive alive oh!"..."

"Papa..." a faint voice sighed.

Buck stopped sing and glanced around. Ezra was still sleeping peacefully in his arms and no one else was in the room. It must have been just a dream....

** The next day **

Chris had returned to the hospital early the next morning so Buck could go home, clean up, and spend some time with the boys.

According to the doctors, Ezra was doing much better, but he still slept most of the day. Chris had his youngest wrapped up in a blanket and cradled in his lap while he sat in the rocking chair. It was one of the few things they'd found relaxed the little boy during this frightening stay in the hospital.

Chris felt a little hand clutch at his shirt and looked down. Pale green eyes fluttered open to gaze up at him.

"Daddy, I wanna go home," a little southern voice whispered up at him.

Chris' heart raced as he stared down at his youngest in shock. He joyfully hugged his son tightly against him. "You talked! Holy shit, you spoke!" He kissed the warm forehead. "Just wait until your papa hears about this."

"Home, daddy," the tiny voice pleaded. Ezra didn't want to be responsible for ruining everyone's Christmas. He wanted to be home, with his new family.

"Oh, baby. I'll do my best," Chris vowed. This was the first thing Ezra had ever verbally asked of him, and he'd be damned if anyone was going to keep him from fulfilling the request.

** A couple hours later **

Buck exited the elevator on the pediatric ward to find Chris arguing with a doctor outside Ezra's room.

"Hey! What's going on? Is Ezra alright?" Buck demanded worriedly, afraid Ezra's condition might have deteriorated in his absence.

"Ezra's fine," Chris assured his lover. "No worse and his fever's down. He wants to go home, but the doc, here, wants to keep him for a couple more days 'to be safe'."

"Is that such a bad idea?" Buck questioned in confusion.

"But, tomorrow's is Christmas Eve. He wants to go home. He asked to go home."

Buck froze. "Wait, you mean he asked you to go? He actually asked for this?"

"Yes," Chris confirmed, the smile back on his face.

With glowing eyes, Buck turned to the pediatric resident. "Our son wants to be home for Christmas, and by God, he will be home for Christmas. This is his first year with us, and that boy deserves to spend it at home, with the people who love him."

Realizing he was facing a united front, the doctor offered a deal. "Alright, I can see there's no reasoning with you so here's what I'm going to offer. You let us monitor him for one more day, until tomorrow afternoon, and I will release him as long as you agree to certain conditions."

"Name them."

"His meds have to be taken exactly on time. No letting him go outside for at least two more weeks. Keep him in bed or wrapped up on the couch for at least one more week. If his cough worsens in any way, you return immediately. You'll need to monitor his condition and take his temperature often. If it goes above 102, you bring him back in. And absolutely no physical exertion."

"Done," Chris and Buck immediately agreed.

"His temp will rise a little during the night, that's normal. Should he have any trouble breathing, a warm bath should help. Keep him well hydrated, but avoid dairy for now; it just causes more phlegm. He's going to need lots of sleep, so just let him...."

 

Buck and Chris agreed to the lengthy list of rules, and then returned to their son's room.

Buck burst in full of excitement, "Hey, baby boy! I hear you're talking!"

The four year old sleepily gazed up at him. "Papa, can we go home?"

Buck sat down in the rocker next to the bed. "Yep, Daddy and I talked the doctor into it."

"He said you'd have to stay here one more day, but he'll let us take you home tomorrow," Chris told him, still in awe at the sound of his son talking.

Ezra pouted. "Can't go home now?"

Chris combed the soft, strawberry blond curls off his son's forehead. "No. Sorry, baby. It took a lot just to get your doctor to agree to send you home tomorrow, but you'll be home before Christmas."

The boy nodded his understanding then looked around him. "Puck?"

Buck and Chris looked confused.

"What? What puck?"

"Can't find Puck. He was just here."

Chris and Buck glanced around, absolutely confused as to what their son could be talking about. Then Buck spotted the boy's stuffed blue dog on the floor. He grinned at the realization that the stuffed dog had a name.

Scooping it up, he placedit on Ezra's chest, tickling him with it. "Is this what you were looking for?"

Ezra's face lit up and he hugged his toy eagerly. "Puck!"

"Its name is Puck?" Chris questioned confusedly. "Like a hockey puck?"

Ezra rolled his eyes. "Nooooooooo, wike in the play. Momma took us."

Buck and Chris' eyes grew wide at the mention of the boy's mother.

Before they could question him, Ezra went on. "Puck was funny. He made one of the girls act all funny about the wrong boy."

Chris caught on and gave up the mother issue to continue his first conversation with his son. "You mean 'A Mid Summer's Night Dream'?"

Ezra shrugged.

"Well, I think it's a great name," Buck proclaimed. "Has a certain ring to it. Sounds kind of familiar if you ask me."

Chris shook his head; his lover was so strange sometimes.

** The next day **
** C&B Ranch **

Buck and Chris had decided to make Ezra's homecoming a surprise for everyone, so not even Josiah knew they were due to arrive with Ezra.

The boys were sitting in the great room in front of the fireplace roasting marshmallows when their fathers burst through the door, startling everyone.

"You're home!" Nathan called out in shock, pulling his marshmallow out of the flames and laying it on a plate.

"And Ezra's with you!" Vin happily exclaimed. He'd been really worried bout the little guy, and he felt kind of guilty about passing his cold to the younger boy, no matter how many times everyone assured him that he wasn't to blame.

The three brothers rushed the bundled up trio while Josiah came in from the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about. He grinned at the sight of the reunited family.

"We've been so worried," Nathan admitted.

"Is he all better?" JD called out.

"He sure looks better," Vin claimed.

"He's better, but he's still sick. The doctor let us bring him home for Christmas," Buck told them all, brushing the snow out of his hair and taking his jacket off.

"Yep, seems he wanted to be here with all you nuts," Chris told them, setting Ezra down on the couch to take off the boy's jacket.

Ezra, meanwhile, was staring wide-eyed at all the glittering Christmas decorations and the gigantic, lighted tree in the great room, not to mention all the colorfully wrapped gifts piled underneath it. He'd never seen anything like it.

"Wow, look at all the pwesents," he uttered in awe.

The room went deathly silent as the boys stared at their little brother in open-mouthed wonder. Buck and Chris grinned like fools at the looks on their sons' faces.

"He... he talked," Vin gasped.

"He actually freakin' spoke!" Nate squeaked.

"Way to go Ezra!" JD cheered. "I knew you could talk! I just knew it."

"Congratulations, brothers," Josiah beamed, wiping his soapy hands on a dishtowel.

"What made you decide to finally talk?" Vin questioned.

Ezra looked down, blushing and picked at a loose thread on the couch. "I just wanted to be home for Chwistmas. I didn't wanna wuin it for you."

"Wow, you sure are southern..." Nathan muttered.

Buck kneeled down next to the couch; a bit upset that Ezra had thought he would have ruined Christmas. "That was real sweet of you, baby boy, but it wasn't your fault you got sick. It wasn't anybody's," he said with a pointed look at Vin. "We were all just planning on having Christmas with you at the hospital. Christmas ain't about where you are; it's the people you're with, but we're all real glad you're going to be here at home with us all."

"A blessing to be sure," Josiah intoned wisely.

"Does this mean we won't be splitting Ezra's presents between us?" Vin asked, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

Ezra and JD whipped their heads around to stare at the older boy in alarm. JD hadn't been aware that was an option.

Buck let out a roaring laugh. "Guess not, Vin. Seems Ezra will be here to open his gifts after all."

Chris playfully smacked his husband on the back of the head. "Quit teasing him like that, you buffoon. He's still too sick to recognize when you're joking."

Buck affectionately squeezed the boy's pajama-clad leg. "Oh don't you fret, baby boy. We never would've given away your presents. We bought them for you and just for you. Santa gets upset when the presents he leaves for little boys get taken by other little boys. He gives those other boys big lumps of coal the next year."

JD gasped in horror while Vin and Nathan rolled their eyes. Their father came up with the strangest stories sometimes.

Ezra, meanwhile, spent a moment in deep thought. Papa was probably telling the truth. They wouldn't have given away his presents. He'd never had a Christmas in a real home before. The only Christmas he could remember was spent with his mother in a hotel in Italy. Santa apparently didn't visit hotels in Florence, but his brothers had assured him Santa truly did exist, and would not be skipping him this year. They'd even helped him write a letter to the jolly man, informing him of Ezra's new address. They attached a list of toy's Ezra had pointed out from a few toy catalogues, but Ezra was pragmatically guarded about the whole situation. He'd learned the hard way in his short but eventful life, to never get his hopes up too high. It would just hurt more when it didn't happen.

All the excitement had exhausted the still sick preschooler and he started to sag against his daddy, who had sat next to the tot on the couch. Chris pulled the sleepy boy into his lap and covered him with the afghan. The other boys quieted down and cheerfully went back to roasting their marshmallows. Buck got up from his knees and sat down next to his husband on the couch, putting a long arm around Chris' shoulders. He looked around the brightly lit room, at the beautiful Christmas tree, their sons, softly joking with each other in front of the fireplace, and down at their new son, peacefully dozing in his husband's lap. It had shaped up to be a wonderful Christmas. They had a new son, a new talking son, they were all home in one piece, and their other boys were happy and healthy. What more could he want? Glancing over at his husband's handsome profile his heart swelled. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all. Giving Chris' shoulder a squeeze, Buck settled back to relax and enjoy the rest of Christmas Eve.

THE END

If you enjoyed this story, we're sure that Jules would love to hear from you.

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.
SO REPLY!

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