I hold onto my crutches real tight. We're visiting the daycare near their office to see what it's like and so it's familiar when they have to take me there while they work. Their boss gave them extra time off after they rescued me but they have to go back to work in two days so we're getting ready for that.
It's kind of scary to think about being away from them for a whole day. For the first time in my life, I like spending time with grownups. We talk about lots of things and they listen even when I have trouble saying what I need to. I don't have to be so formal with them either. I think maybe I got stuck on saying 'Mr.' because Gibbs is older than Tony.
But he said it makes him feel old so now I just say Gibbs.
Although sometimes I like to think about calling him something else, maybe Papa like the little boy in the story he read to me a couple of nights ago. That's my secret for now.
I've got eight books and they read to me every night and sometimes afternoons, too. I already knew the alphabet and one of the books teaches about every letter. 'A' is for apple. I like that one the best and Tony says I'm learning real quick. He hugs me tight when I read back to him.
But it's not just books. Now I know where the name munchkin comes from, 'cause we watched a movie called the Wizard of Oz a couple nights ago. Tony has lots and lots of movies on shiny silver discs. Gibbs rolls his eyes whenever we talk about them. I don't think he watched much TV or movies until Tony came to live with him. But he joins us on the big couch every evening now and watches with us.
I didn't know any of the titles Tony read to me. I didn't get to see much except sometimes when I snuck out to watch whatever my foster family was watching. They were mostly big people shows and were kind of scary so I stopped after a while. One had lots of blood and loud noises that gave me nightmares. My families didn't like it when I woke up scared and woke them up too.
I still don't have a favorite yet but every one has been pretty neat. Last night we'd cuddled all together on the sofa and ate popcorn while watching a cartoon movie called 'Lady and the Tramp'. It was really good and had singing in it that Tony sang along with. He has a nice voice. Gibbs thought so too, 'cause he kissed him after one of the songs.
Every time they do that in front of me, I feel safe.
"Okay, Ezra, we're here." I've been so focused on using my crutches correctly, like Dr. Ducky showed me, I forgot where we were heading. Tony is holding the door open for me while Gibbs steadies me from behind.
The door is glass and steel, and I go through it slowly. The hallway has three doors but before we get to go through one of them a lady greets us. "Welcome to Kinder Care, gentlemen. Agent Gibbs and DiNozzo, if I may see some ID?"
Tony gets out his ID and so does Gibbs. They show them to her and she checks them carefully even though it seems like she knows them. Gibbs introduces me and I nod to her like he did.
"It's nice to meet you, Ezra. My name is Jenny and I'll usually be the one greeting you every morning. The kids are outside at the moment but I'll buzz for Miss Amber. She'll be glad to take you on a tour of our facility." She pushes something and far away, I hear a ding.
A tall lady with pretty blonde hair comes out from one of the doors. "Welcome! I'm Amber Franks, lead teacher."
Everybody shakes hands and I watch her flirt with Tony. Gibbs doesn't seem to mind but I notice he keeps an eye on her while we go down the hall to the big room where there's a lot of stuff to look at. It's bright with lots of windows and light colored tables with chairs just my size. Every thing is metal or plastic though so I know Gibbs wouldn't think much of them.
Miss Amber is pointing out some of the crafts the kids are doing. The purple clay looks kind of neat and my fingers think it would be fun to make something out of it. But the paint looks like the most fun although kind of messy. I don't know if I like that. I might get it on my new clothes and spoil them.
"Everything okay, Ezra?" Gibbs kneels by me, his voice quiet.
I nod then think about what to say. I'm starting to believe I can say whatever I want and it will be okay. "What happens if I get something on my clothes? Maybe I shouldn't do such messy crafts?"
He nods but reaches a hand out to pick up one of the paint bottles. "If you get something on your clothes then we'll wash them. And it looks like," he reads the side of the red bottle, "this paint comes out with soap and water, like the latex paint we used in your room. I promise we'll never get mad if you get dirty or your clothes get messed up. Tonight I'll tell you the story about when Tony got stuck in the sewers. He had a real job getting his clothes clean after that."
I smile a little hesitantly. "Okay, Gibbs. Do you ever get dirty?"
"Lots of times, Ezra, lots and lots of times," he chuckles. "I'm sure Tony will love to tell you a few stories about me."
"Okay, guys?" Tony is looking at us and I smile at him so he knows I'm good. "Have you seen enough, Ezra? Are there questions you want to ask Miss Amber?"
"Where are the bathrooms?"
"Good question, Ezra. You can get to them from this classroom or from the hall." She points to two doors side by side, one has a picture of a boy and the other has a girl on it. "To get permission to go, all you have to do is raise your hand and ask. We also have scheduled potty breaks at recess time and lunch."
"Thank you, Miss Amber." I get my crutches under my arms so I'm ready to go.
"Will he need a mat for napping?" Gibbs stands up while he's talking.
"Yes, he will. The dimensions are on the fact sheet. Oh, we also offer lunch and both a morning and afternoon snack. If there are any dietary restrictions, we'll need to know them." She smiles at him.
"Good enough, I guess that's all for today. We've already given our emergency information to the front desk and a copy of our normal schedule." Gibbs is real business like but his hand is still on my shoulder and it feels good.
"Ask Jenny for the fact sheet." Miss Amber is kind of pouting when Tony turns away from her to smile at me. "Oh, and any restrictions because of his leg would be helpful."
"Thank you, Miss Amber; we'll make sure she has them." Tony turns back to shake her hand while Gibbs just nods.
Miss Jenny hands Tony some papers in exchange for the list of things Dr. Ducky wrote about my leg. Once we're outside, Gibbs picks me up while Tony plucks the crutches from my hands. I really like it when one of them holds me. And this way, we can go faster.
"Ready to see our office, Ezra?" Gibbs asks me while striding towards a big building with lots of glass and metal.
"Yes, please." I hug him and smile.
Tony keeps up with us easy. "Aunt Abby said she's got a surprise for you. And Ducky is going to take another picture of your ankle to see if it's healing right."
"I wonder what my surprise is? Aunt Abby always has neat things to show me." I like all my new family but Aunt Abby is special. She's like a really big kid who still enjoys playing. Gibbs won't let me wear the Goth outfit she got me but she looks real pretty in hers.
"Here we are, Ezra." Gibbs lets Tony hold the door open for us while my eyes fly around the lobby.
The guard is wearing a uniform and has a big gun on his hip. There's a tall gate in front of the hall, and I know it's a metal detector. Tony had explained what it was earlier. Gibbs waits for Tony to sign in then reaches down to write his name and time in the little boxes. The guard hands Tony a tag with his picture on it.
"George, this is Ezra Standish. Ezra, this is George Worth, the best gate guard in NCIS." Tony introduces us while he clips his tag onto his shirt pocket.
"Nice to meet you, Ezra. How's your leg?" Mr. Worth smiles at me.
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Worth. My leg is getting better." I smile back.
"Is everybody else in, George?" Gibbs asks.
"Whole team and Dr. Mallard just came in from an early scene in Hampton," Mr. Worth says and I feel Gibbs tense up. But Tony just clips Gibbs' ID tag on his collar before quietly patting his shoulder.
"Thanks, Tony. How about we make up an ID for Ezra, George?" Gibbs asks and helps me stand on the desk so Mr. Worth can take my picture.
There's a little machine that takes the paper Tony fills out with my name 'Ezra Standish' and Gibbs' and his name, too. When it comes out the other end, it has my picture on it and there's hard plastic stuff coating it. Mr. Worth puts it in another plastic holder with a clip and hands it to Tony.
"There you go, munchkin." Tony clips it to my collar just like Gibbs' is. "You're now an official visitor to NCIS. When we leave, George will keep it for you in a safe place. Every time you come visit, you'll wear it so everyone will know it's okay for you to be here."
I look at it curiously. It's pretty neat, and I like that it's just like Tony and Gibbs' IDs. "Thank you, Mr. Worth."
"We match," Gibbs whispers in my ear before picking me up again, saying goodbye to Mr. Worth, and walking through the metal detector.
People we pass all take double looks when they see Gibbs holding me. There's a little hum of conversation in the big room with all the partitions. Aunt Kate is the first to see us and her smile is bright.
"Welcome, Ezra, it's good to see you," she says while getting up and coming around her desk to kiss my cheek.
"Hi, Aunt Kate, it's good to see you, too." I kiss her back. She smells really good.
"Hi, Uncle Tim." I smile at him and he pats my back while going around us to sit at his desk.
I listen while everybody talks around me. It's mostly about Hampton and something bad that happened there last night. The phone rings and Uncle Tim answers it. He listens for a minute then says, "Yes, Sir."
After he hangs up, he looks at us. "Gibbs, Director Morrow would like to see you now."
Gibbs sighs quietly, and hands me over to Tony. "Ezra, I'll come find the two of you in Ducky's lab in a little bit."
"Okay, Gibbs." I nod like he does and his fingers brush my cheek before brushing Tony's.
"See you soon, love." Tony's voice is low so only the two of us hear him.
"Count on it." He smiles again then heads up the stairs.
"We're going down to Ducky for a new x-ray." Tony tells the others. "We're barbequing this Saturday. Can you guys make it?"
"Yeah!" Uncle Tim is grinning really big. "I'll bring chips and dip."
Aunt Kate nods. "Me too, Tony. I'll bring coleslaw. I've got a new recipe that's much healthier."
Oh-oh, I think. I ate some of her tofu-spinach salad and it was double icky. She's really nice but she sure eats weird stuff. Tony rubs my back and I know he'll protect me from anything too nasty. I have to smile when I think that. It feels good to be able to trust someone with everything. I'm pretty lucky.
********* Ezra *********
Gibbs has another list. We've got the fact sheet from the Kinder Care place and there's stuff I need before I start going there. I've never been to a place like this before. There were commercials sometimes about toys and games and stuff but it's so exciting to see the place for real.
"Okay, munchkin, here we are at Toy's R'Us. You ready?" Tony settles me in the seat of the special big blue cart. I'm still up near Tony but the bed of the cart is next to my feet and I can see where we're going. We'll have lots of room for stuff.
"Oh, yes." I grin up at him. "What are we looking for first?"
"Well, I think we should just start in aisle one and work our way through the store." Tony says while pushing through the silver gate. "Jethro has the list . . . o-o-okay, it looks like we have some help."
I look up and see Aunt Abby, Uncle Tim and Aunt Kate waiting for us. I wave at them and they wave back.
"Dear Lord," Gibbs whispers behind Tony. "We're not getting out of here alive."
Tony steps on his foot and bumps him with his hip. "Be nice, Jethro. We can use all that energy to our advantage." Then he raises his voice. "Great to see you guys. We've got several lists you can help us with."
"Yeah!" Aunt Abby is bouncing. "I've got dibs on the music."
Uncle Tim is grinning at me. "I thought I'd help with the computer games selection."
"I'm going to make sure the drawing and crafts are well-represented." Aunt Kate winks at me before smiling sweetly at Gibbs.
"We're very grateful for your help," he smiles back at her.
"Oh, this is going to be fun," I whisper to myself.
But Tony hears me and drops a kiss on my hair. "You bet it is, Ezra! Let's get started."
There are so many things to look at, it's kind of bewildering. The first aisle is mostly sports stuff and while I've got the cast on, it's going to be hard to use any of it.
"What's your favorite sport, Ezra?" Tony asks me quietly while Aunt Abby and Uncle Tim kick a black and white ball down the aisle.
"Um, I don't know much about sports, Tony." I hate to disappoint him.
"That's all right, munchkin." His smile makes it okay. "We'll watch some different games on TV and you can take your time. I like watching soccer and that's a soccer ball the Terrible Two are kicking around." He winks and pushes me past them. "No sports for now, guys. Ezra hasn't decided on a favorite yet. We'll save them for later."
"Okay, video games are in the next aisle." Uncle Tim perks up and turns the corner excitedly. "There are some great hand/eye coordination games. My nephew likes the retro Pacman. It's got fifteen levels so Ezra could play it for a while before he gets bored."
"Fisher-Price is a solid company for games, aren't they?" Gibbs is looking at all the brightly colored boxes with a little frown. Everybody stops moving and stares at him. He notices and frowns more. "What?"
"I didn't think you knew what a computer game was, Gibbs." Aunt Kate is smiling so I know she's just teasing him.
He grumbles under his breath then smiles back. "I talked with Joe Stout yesterday about what his kids play. I can learn something new when I need to."
"Of course you can, Jethro." Tony brushes his hand over his arm. "And Fisher-Price is a very good company. Are these arranged by age, Tim?"
"Yeah, the younger ones are down here. I was thinking maybe Ezra would like the new Charlotte's Web program by Sega." He pulls a box off the shelf and it looks just like the front of the DVD case at home.
I hold the box carefully when he hands it to me. I really liked the movie when we watched it last week. Even though Tony had to tell me that animals really couldn't talk. I think Mother Earth should work on that.
//languages are difficult, Ezra//
I think real hard back to her. //I know, Mother. I just think it would be really cool to work on when you're not too busy//
She gives me a mental hug and I give one back. It's pretty neat to talk to a planet.
Uncle Tim and Tony are both looking at different boxes when I check back on them. One of them has Elmo on the front. We watched a show with him in it. He makes me laugh so I hope we get that one. Unless it costs too much.
Tony looks at me when I start to worry. He always seems to know when I do that. "Ezra, we're going to get three games today. And I promise they're not too expensive so don't be worrying about the cost. Okay?"
I nod. "I like Charlotte's Web and Elmo."
"Me too, munchkin." He hands me the box with Elmo on it and it looks like fun. "How about we get Elmo's Deep Sea Adventure and one of the Rescue Heroes set? Would you rather learn about meteors, volcanoes, earthquakes, or hurricanes?"
Uncle Tim holds up two of them while Tony holds the others. I think hard and decide. "I think I'd like to find out more about hurricanes like the one on the news."
"Good choice, Ezra." Uncle Tim puts it in the cart. "Hurricane Katrina was a bad one. Maybe you'll grow up to be a meteorologist."
"Maybe," I smile at him. "I can't decide what I want to be when I grow up."
Gibbs ruffles my hair as he goes by. "You don't have to decide today, Ezra. Aunt Abby is waiting impatiently in the next aisle. If we're done here, we better join her before she explodes from excitement."
"Wow," I whisper, thinking about pieces of Aunt Abby all over Toys R'Us.
"A slight exaggeration, Ezra, people don't really explode from excitement." Uncle Tim explains while putting back the games we're not buying. "Although with Abby, I wonder sometimes."
"I heard that, Mister." Her voice floats over the aisle, and I have to giggle at the look on his face.
I think they're sweet on each other. Maybe they'll get married and have kids I can play with. Tony pushes me around the corner, and I see lots and lots of music CDs. Aunt Abby already has bunches in her hands and as soon as she sees me, she smiles real big while she juggles them.
"Okay, we've got to get the Sesame Street Sings the Alphabet. It's got my favorite song, Sammy the Snake on it. And their Numbers album is pretty cool, too." She hands them to me while still talking. "And the first three of the Disney Greatest Hits CDs are absolutely necessary. I know Tony has quite a few of the movies."
"Absolutely," Tony takes the Disney ones from her and looks at them. "Wow, I didn't even know these were available. Look, 'The Ugly Bug Ball', I remember that one. Burl Ives had such a mellow voice."
"I know Burl Ives." Gibbs reads over Tony's shoulder. "Mary Poppins, now there's a movie I wouldn't mind seeing again."
Tony smiles at him and if we weren't in public, I think they'd be kissing. I don't see why they can't but Tony told me some things need to be private. "We can watch it tonight, Jethro. We need to check and see if they've got 'Summer Magic' in DVD. I think you'd like that one, too."
They're all new to me so I can hardly wait. Aunt Kate comes up with two CDs. "Every child needs these, 'Return to Pooh Corner' and 'More Songs from Pooh Corner'."
"Hey, Kenny Loggins, those will be good, and I know I don't have them. Thanks, Kate." Tony grins. "This should do for now, guys. We've got more to shop."
Aunt Abby pouts a little then perks up again. "I'll go check the DVDs. Next aisle is pretty girly, it won't take much time to go down that one."
Gibbs puts all the CDs in the cart so we can move on. The next aisle has lots and lots of dolls. Big ones, tiny ones, and lots of ones with different costumes on. They're kind of pretty but I don't see anything I needed. At the end of the aisle are all kinds of animals. I've never had one before. I always wanted one but didn't know how to ask if it was okay.
"Ezra, we're going to get at least two stuffed animals for you today. You can have absolutely any one you want." Tony leans down and whispers in my ear.
Wow, any one I want. My eyes start at the top shelf and move over all the animals. There are bears, frogs, cats, birds, and some I don't what they are. I see a bright yellow bear that looks soft and I point to it. Gibbs brings it over to me and I stroke the fur. It's kind of bristly and not as soft as I thought it would be.
"Not soft enough, we'll keep looking." He puts it back.
"How about this one, Ezra?" Aunt Abby hands me something purple with a tail and glittery wings coming out of its back. "It's a dragon. I'm going to bring over a book of dragon tales next weekend."
"Do dragons fly?" I stroke his silky neck and look into shiny eyes the same green as mine.
"Oh yeah! They breathe fire, too." She's bouncing again.
"I like him. Is it okay?" I ask Tony and smile when he nods yes.
I hug my dragon carefully before leaning forward to put him in the cart. Gibbs is stroking all the animals and he's got a real determined look on his face. I'm still looking when he comes back with two more bears, and something black and white. The bears are nice and the brown one is silky smooth. But the black and white animal is so soft I want to rest my cheek on him.
"He's a penguin, Ezra. Penguins are birds who can't fly but they're great swimmers. They live in Antarctica, down at the south pole. Tony has a great movie we'll have to watch called 'March of the Penguins'."
I hold him and hug him tight. He squishes me in all the right spots. "I like him, Gibbs. Are you sure it's okay to get the dragon and him?"
"Absolutely, munchkin. I'm glad you like him." Gibbs looks at the brown bear again. "What do you think about getting this bear for Sebal'c? It's soft and just the right size for him to squeeze."
Tony and I agree with him so he goes in the cart. I keep the penguin beside me on the seat. He feels good.
"Okay, guys, crafts are next." Aunt Kate has a gleam in her eye and I sit up straight to see what's coming.
There are so many things to look at, it's hard to know where to look first. There are crayons and coloring books; beads and crystals; car and airplane model kits; boxes of blocks; and I didn't know what else.
"Okay, first things first, sweetheart," Tony reaches over and grabs the big box of crayons. "Look, there are 64 colors and a sharpener so we can keep them sharp."
"Wow," I really, really want them. "But maybe I don't need that many colors."
"Nope, you need them, munchkin." Gibbs nods in approval. "Just think of all the different blues and greens in Home's ocean."
He's right so I smile happily. "Yeah, I can draw a picture for baby Seb."
"Good thinking. Now what kind of coloring books would you like, Ezra?" Tony pushes the cart down a little ways.
We decide on an ocean one, an animal one, a Sesame Street spiral bound one, and one about a bear called Pooh. It goes with some of my new music CDs. Uncle Tim puts a box of something called Legos in the cart and Gibbs nods approvingly.
"Here we go, Ezra, some watercolors and a special pad of paper to paint on. Tony can show you how to do it." She puts them in the cart then shows me a book with big pages. "And this is a scrapbook where you can put your artwork, photos we take of you and the rest of us, fun things like the ticket stub from a movie you go to or your first report card or anything you can fit on the pages. Here's glue and fun stickers to help make the pages more special."
"Thank you, Aunt Kate. Maybe you can help me for the first few pages?" I'm not sure I would do it right.
She kisses my forehead. "I would love to help you get started. We'll make something special for Tony and Gibbs."
I nod vigorously. "Yes, please."
All my new stuff goes in the cart except for my penguin who rides with me. We get everything on our lists and more. We have to take the cart out with us because its so full. I don't know how much everything costs because Tony took me outside to get the car ready for all the packages. I hope it's not too much.
But Gibbs is smiling when he wheels it out and the first thing he does is hand me my new penguin. I hug him tight and watch the trunk of the car fill up with shiny bags. I can hardly wait to get home. The others are following us so we can barbeque outside. Uncle Tim says he'll show me how to make things with the Legos. And Tony says we'll listen to my new music.
I hug my penguin tight while Gibbs straps me into my safety seat. He strokes my cheek gently. "Okay there, Ezra?"
"I'm great, Gibbs. Thank you for all my new toys."
"You're welcome, Ezra. We did an excellent job picking out just the right things. Why don't you take a little nap while we drive home? We'll be pretty busy once we get there."
"Okay." I realize I'm yawning and it feels good to close my eyes. Leaning my head against the headrest, I hug my penguin. I'll have to think of a good name for him . . . a really good name.
********* Ezra *********
I pull up my pants real careful over my cast. I wish it was off but Dr. Ducky says another week. I pick out a blue long-sleeved shirt to wear from my closet then I put the empty hangar in my dirty clothes basket. Tony explained it would be a help when it comes time to do laundry. We won't have to go looking for hangars when the shirts come out of the dryer. I've done laundry before so I understand how easy that would make it. Tony and I do laundry every Saturday but this weekend, we're doing it on Sunday instead 'cause we have company coming today.
I check the window and the sky is sunny and clear for us. We're going to build something in the back yard today. I don't know what it will be but I know it's going to be fun. Everybody is coming over to help. We bought lots of wood, brackets and different sizes of screws. Tony picked out sealer so the wood won't rot in the rain or snow.
And Uncle Tim is bringing a surprise when he comes to help. I can hardly wait to find out what it is.
"Need any help, Ezra?" Gibbs looks in from the hall. "I can smell breakfast and I think Tony's making pancakes."
"Oh boy," I leave my crutches by the bed and clump over to the doorway. "I love Tony's pancakes."
He swings me up in his arms and I give him a good morning hug. He gives me one back and holds me securely while going downstairs. I always feel pretty tall when he does that. I like it when either of them holds me. I feel safe and wanted and even . . . loved. They say they want me forever and I want to believe them so bad.
"Hey, it's my two favorite guys." Tony grins at us from the stove where he's flipping the pancakes. "I knew the smell would bring you down."
Gibbs carries me over, and they lean into a kiss. I like watching them be mushy. It makes me feel part of something bigger, like a family. A family I want so much.
"And good morning, munchkin," Tony kisses my cheek. "That's the perfect shirt for some hard work today. Sit down and I'll put some pancakes on your plate."
Gibbs sets me down in my chair. The dictionary I sit on is just for now until I get maybe an inch or two taller. It brings me up far enough so I don't feel like the table is so big. I wish I could grow as tall as Tony. But not right away. I like it when he carries me around and that wouldn't work if I was too big.
"Ezra, do you want milk or orange juice?" Gibbs asks from the fridge.
"Milk, please." I tuck my napkin into my collar and make sure it will catch any drips. I don't want to get my new clothes dirty before we even start working.
"Jethro, I'm drinking tea this morning so the coffee's all yours." Tony slips two pancakes onto my plate before putting some on Gibbs' plate.
"Tea?" Gibbs looks at him funny then continues pouring my milk. "You feeling all right?"
"I'm fine, love, Ducky said my blood pressure was a little high and I need to cut back on the caffeine. So, Kate gave me some of her mango chamomile tea. It's pretty good."
Gibbs puts the milk away then pours his coffee and shakes his head. "Sooner you than me." Gibbs really, really likes coffee.
I start to cut my pancake up into just the right size bites. Once it's perfect, I reach for the syrup and carefully pour some on the pieces. Not too much because they get soggy. Putting out a finger, I wipe the drip off the spout and suck it into my mouth. I really, really like syrup. Taking my fork, I take the first bite and it's so good.
"I's good, 'ony," I tell him before I swallow it all and he grins at me.
"I'm glad, munchkin." His fingers brush back my hair. "Remember not to talk with your mouth full."
Oops, I forgot. I nod to show him I'll remember. Gibbs and Tony are eating too but in between bites they're talking about what we're going to be doing.
"I've got the pieces cut to size for the sand box so I'll let you and Tim get that started while I make sure the cross beams are ready for the swing set. Those lag bolts were too light weight so I'll have to re-drill the holes for the bigger bolts I got yesterday." Gibbs has a smile on his face while he pauses to eat half a pancake. "You are such a good cook, Tony."
Tony winks at me while laughing at him. "You just love me for my cooking skills, Jethro."
Gibbs' face gets soft and kind of mushy. "I love all your skills, Tony, all your many, many skills."
And Tony blushes a little before getting his own soft look. I like it when they do that in front of me. I eat some more pancakes before taking a careful sip of milk. The glass isn't too big so I can lift it easily. Tony makes sure all my silverware and glasses are my size. He told me yesterday it won't be long before I'll graduate to big people forks and spoons.
"Hey guys!" Aunt Abby bounces in and hugs me tight. "How's my favorite nephew?"
"I'm good, Aunt Abby. How are you?" I say with my biggest smile.
"I'm supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" She grins back while I giggle at the reminder of when we watched the movie 'Mary Poppins', and sang along with all the songs. Then her nose quivers and she looks at my plate. "Oh wow, pancakes . . . can I have some?"
Tony chuckles. "Of course, you may. Sit down while I dish some up. Where's Tim?"
"Loading up the wheel barrow with the bags of sand." She bounces even while she's sitting. "First thing we'll do is build a castle, Ezra. Well, after we build the sandbox, we'll build the best-est sand castle in the neighborhood!"
"We built one on Home when I first came to Tony and Gibbs." I tell her and she looks impressed.
"Darn, I didn't get to help. Next time we go, we'll have to build another one. Home's sand is so golden and sparkly. Ooh, thanks, Tony." She pours on as much syrup as I did before she cutting them up into wedges.
I'm almost done when Uncle Tim comes in carrying his tool belt and a bag. "Morning, guys. Hey, Ez', you getting excited?"
He ruffles my hair as he goes by to his chair. Why do big people do that? I'll have to ask Tony later. "I can hardly wait, Uncle Tim. How much sand did you bring?"
"Enough to fill up a six foot by six foot sandbox." He tells me while sitting down next to Aunt Abby. Tony already has a plate of pancakes for him. "Thanks, Tony, they smell great."
Gibbs has his lists out again while he drinks another cup of coffee. I notice Tony is enjoying his tea and I lean over to sniff it when he puts his cup down.
"It smells like Home, Tony. May I try some?" I ask him.
"You're right, munchkin, it does smell kind of like the gua'ange tea." He dips a spoon into his cup and brings up some. He blows gently on it for a moment. "Okay, try it now."
It's hot but not too hot. "I like it, Tony. It's kind of fruity and tart at the same time."
"Exactly what I was thinking." He smiles at me, and I grin too before going back to eating my pancakes.
Everybody finishes off all the food, and Uncle Tim and Aunt Abby clear off the table. They put everything in the dishwasher and set it going while I hop down to go wash my hands in the half-bath on this floor. Syrup sure is sticky. When I get back, everybody is waiting for me with big smiles.
"Okay, we're ready. Ezra, here's something for you." Uncle Tim points to Aunt Abby and she opens the bag he brought in to pull out something leather.
"Every helper needs a tool belt, Ezra. So Tim and I got you one." She holds it out to me.
"Wow," I whisper. "It looks just like Uncle Tim's. And it's got real tools on it, too!"
"Yep, can't have a belt without tools, Ezra." Aunt Abby helps me pull out the two screw drivers, the small hammer with a round end, and the pliers with the rubber grips. They're just the right size for your hands now. Tony and Gibbs can replace them as you grow."
I put everything back in their loops before hugging her tight. "Thank you, Aunt Abby." Then I hug Uncle Tim. "And thank you, Uncle Tim. I'll take real good care of everything."
He hugs me back. "You're welcome, Ezra. Now you'll be able to help build your own playground. The pouch will hold nails and screws. I think you'll be in charge of them for all of us."
"Good thinking, Tim." Gibbs smiles at him and Uncle Tim blushes a little. "Abby, I appreciate you foregoing a black belt."
She sticks out her tongue at him. "Not to worry, Boss-man. I'll wait until he's a little older before upgrading his leather."
Gibbs growls a little but I can tell he's just teasing. Tony is trying not to laugh out loud and his snickers make Gibbs growl even more. They're so funny sometimes. It's nice not to have to worry about growling leading to hitting. I really like that.
We head out to the deck and the empty back yard. I can hardly wait to see what kind of swing set we're going to make today.
The swing set is really, really big. The posts are eight inch cedar posts and the bolts are bigger than both my hands laid side by side. It has a ladder going up to a little room with a canvas roof and a silver slide coming down to the ground. Oh, I can hardly wait for this silly cast to come off so I can climb up there. There are two swings beside them. Gibbs makes sure everything is sturdy and by the time we stop for lunch, it's mostly done.
The sand box has its own canvas cover, kind of like a lid so the wildlife from the woods doesn't use it for a litter box. Tony and I watch raccoons come out from the trees and investigate the garbage cans every night. I can see why we have lockable lids on them. Raccoons are really smart and Tony says they get into everything.
That would be messy, and we hate messy. Gibbs is grilling our hamburgers for lunch while Aunt Abby makes something complicated with fruit in the kitchen, and Uncle Tim tosses the salad. We're sitting on the back steps with me in Tony's lap.
"Tired, Ezra?" Tony smoothes back the hair from my forehead.
"A little bit," I try to hide my yawn in his shirt. "I can still help."
"Yes, you can, munchkin. But since it's going to be a while before the hamburgers are done, why don't you close your eyes and just relax." He cuddles me closer and starts to hum a little song. I like it when he does that.
He rubs my toes a little and I wiggle them for more. When I'm on my feet for a while like now, my foot swells in the cast and my toes get fat. Tony massages them every night and it feels so good, I just have to wriggle all over.
I'm so lucky I'm here. Really, really lucky, I yawn again and hold onto Tony. His little hum always makes me fall . . . right to . . . sleep.
********* Ezra *********
I think about today while snuggling into my bed. Even though my leg is aching, it's not too bad. Tony . . . I smile into my pillow. Daddy gave me another massage while Papa read me a story. They want me forever, for really and truly forever. I make a little memory note inside my head to thank Mother Earth for changing that DNA stuff to match Tony's.
They both want me to stay and be their little boy. That is better than anything that's ever happened to me in my whole life. They want me, Ezra P. Standish although Daddy says we can pe-petition the courts to change my last name to his. I can be a DiNozzo, too. That's so cool, I just keep smiling.
I'm part of a real family now. After being alone for so long, I get to stay in one place. I'm going to be the best son I know how to be. I'm going to help out and do my chores and never give them any trouble ever.
I look around my room and smile. They made it perfect for me even before they knew they could keep me. Papa says he's going to build me some bookshelves and a window seat on the south wall. I'm not sure what a window seat is but he said I could help build it so I'll learn more about it later.
We'll have to go back to the hardware store. That's always fun. Papa has a long list again and I hope they don't get called out on a case. I want to help make our home even better than it is now. I think Daddy wants to paint some more and he's talking about granite countertops. Papa just shakes his head and makes another note on his list.
"Hi, my name is Vin." The little boy is new and Miss Amber has introduced him as a visitor who will be here for a few days. She just brought him over to my table and asked me to see he knows where everything is.
"Hello, my name is Ezra." I hold out my hand and he shakes it. "It's craft time. You can draw or make sculptures with clay or work with beads."
"I like drawing," he says and I smile.
"Me too. We've got chalk or crayons or finger paint." I show him the supplies.
"Do you come here everyday, Ezra?" Vin checks the tub of crayons.
"Yes, my dads bring me in the morning and then one of them comes and gets me after work. Sometimes they have to work late so Aunt Abby or Dr. Ducky comes instead." I pull out a blue crayon and start drawing on a sheet of paper.
"That's cool. My dad's place has a daycare, too. It's in the FBI building in New York." He chooses brown and starts his own drawing. "We're here for a conference and 'cause Daddy is going to see his dad who works somewhere here."
"My dads are in the NCIS but they work with the FBI sometimes. Maybe they know each other?" I ask him.
"Maybe, I've only known them for a couple of months. My mom died and left me to Daddy." He says matter-of-factly.
"I'm sorry you lost your mom. Mine died when I was a baby." I wonder how you can leave somebody to somebody else. I'll have to ask Tony. "I just got adopted by Tony and Gibbs. It's nice having a family who wants you."
His eyes are really blue when they look at me. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Mama always loved me but she told me Daddy got losted. I'm still not completely sure how but he and Jack take good care of me. Dad says I'll understand better when I'm older."
"Papa says that, too. I'm pretty sure he means when I'm an adult or some time far away." I pick up a yellow crayon next to color the sun.
I hug Aunt Kate tight when she gives me the cushion she sewed for me for the window seat Papa and I built. It's yellow and blue so it looks real pretty. Now I can sit right on the seat and look out at the sky and trees. It's eighteen inches deep so I've got lots of storage now under the seat and the shelves on both sides are deep, too. That's so all my books and toys have a place to go.
Papa says we need to keep the house ship-shape so I make sure my room is always neat. I can hardly believe I've got so many things. I used to be able to move with one suitcase holding two changes of clothes. I couldn't do that now, I think. Hugging my stuffed penguin close, I whisper in his ear.
"We're pretty lucky, Penny. We've got the best house and the bestest room in the whole world." I rest my head on his and look out the window. "And the best family there ever, ever was."
The end of parts 6-9