I was nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers but Ezra was as calm as a spring day. Ever since we'd gotten the telegram from Oklahoma City and that Pinkerton detective, I felt like our home had been turned upside down. Ezra had looked at me with those hopeful eyes and I'd said yes. Well, what else could I say? He'd been so sure that his vision of a little boy huddled in the cold was a true one.
I didn't believe much in visions but I surely did believe in Ezra.
And this little boy sounded like he needed a good home in the worst way. The news about Vin's vindication had sent us into celebration mode. But although Ezra was just as glad as the rest of us, his mind was on creating space in our small home for the new orphan. With the aid of a screen and some fast work on Josiah and Buck's parts, a small space with his own bed was made for him with Maude providing the feather bed.
We were running out of room fast and I could hardly wait to start building our new home.
But first, we had to get through this winter and the dramatic expansion of our family. I did what I could to help Ezra make ready for our son even though I still wasn't quite sure that this little boy was ours. I should have had more faith in Ezra. On a cold Saturday, Mr. DuBois arrived with his lover and the little boy we'd been waiting for.
One look into wide green eyes and I saw exactly why DuBois had thought of us first. He reached out a little hand to touch Ezra's face and smiled at him while I shook my head ruefully. But when he said his name, William Smith, that's when I knew that we had a son. I welcomed DuBois and the dark-haired man who'd come with him, getting them all settled around the table where a couple of pumpkin pies were cooling.
William was in Ezra's arms now and I sat down beside them with Amanda in mine. She cooed at him and patted his hand with her own while he smiled at her and patted her right back. I really should have believed in my psychic lover. Just like that, we were a family. DuBois introduced his companion to us as David Moreau and the dark-haired man grinned before asking permission to sketch us.
Ezra dimpled at him and little William nodded emphatically, for the first time speaking to us in a soft southern accent. "Pictures. Pretty pictures."
"Well, if Mr. Moreau makes pretty pictures then we'll just have to see some of them." I smiled at him and the artist pulled out a sketchpad full of pencil drawings of the trip, DuBois and William. They were wonderful and captured a moment in time with just the few strokes of his pencil.
"Goodness, you're quite right, William. They are indeed pretty and very well done. We'd be honored to have him find inspiration in our home. Now, while he's doing that, would some pie be welcomed?" Ezra asked our guests and DuBois said a hasty yes.
William sat on my other knee rather gingerly while Ezra bustled around getting plates and forks. He wasn't sure of me yet but Amanda's babbling obviously charmed him. The best plates came out and soon we were all eating pie except for Amanda who had a bottle of milk in my arms. Will was back on Ezra's lap having part of his pie, smacking his lips with a grin that showed a dimple much like my lover's.
Moreau had finished his pie and his pencil was flying across the paper while he looked at Ezra and William. DuBois ate more slowly but with the same relish that he'd shown in December. In between bites, he filled us in on William's history. I could see Ezra hold him a little tighter when DuBois mentioned the bordello and I kept my anger to myself at the sad tale.
Just didn't seem right that children should be having children and for a moment, I mourned the loss of her young life so much like Amanda's mother. And the harsh memories that Ezra still carried from his six months servitude in another bordello. The world was a frightening place these days and children seemed to be a disposable commodity.
That was the most frightening thought of all.
Amanda seemed to feel my sadness because she patted my face while I was patting her back after her bottle. Singing to me, she included William with a wave of her hand. We talked for almost an hour before we sent them off to the hotel to get ready for supper there. DuBois knelt by Ezra's side and accepted a strangling hug from little William before slowly leaving.
It looked like he was ready to start a family but his partner wasn't. I thanked God for Ezra just like I do every day. It might have been an awkward time but Ezra began talking to small Will about his new bed and his private space. He drew the screen to one side and there was the little trundle bed with the orange crate beside it for a night table and a curtain around it to hide the chamber pot.
Will nodded when asked if he used one regularly and I breathed a sigh of relief that we weren't going to have two in diapers at the same time. The little valise that held his clothes tucked into the little corner between the wall and the crate and Ezra promised him some hooks so he could hang his clothes up. The worn brush went onto the top of it in a place of honor since it was all that he had of his mother.
I watched him pull himself from the crate to the bed and back to Ezra who knelt just an arm length away. The leg looked twisted but I needed to see closer. "Will, would it be all right if I took a look at your leg? Is it hurting right now?"
He shook his head shyly but moved right over to me. "Mama rubbed it. Sometimes."
Handing Amanda off to Ezra, I picked him up and set him on the table. "Let me see, Will. Your Papa Ezra will tell you that I can sometimes rub his back right into feeling better."
I tugged the little pants down and pushed up the leg of the tiny pair of long underwear he was wearing. I'd been right - the leg was twisted and slightly withered looking. "Will, if it's all right with you, I'll rub some liniment on it to help stretch your muscles."
He nodded slowly and Ezra smiled at him before heading to our room for the bottle of liniment we kept by the bed. When he came back, he handed it to me and sat down beside me with Amanda halfway sleeping in his arms. Quietly he began to tell Will about how he'd first gotten a massage from me and I smiled in my thoughts at the memory of the last massage I'd given him that morning.
There'd be none of that until Will had settled in and we knew if he slept soundly. I mourned the loss of our loving but the slightly pinched look on the little boy's face was slowly smoothing away the longer I stroked the small leg. By the time that summer arrived, I was hoping that he'd no longer limp. Or at least he wouldn't limp as badly.
He thanked me politely when I rolled his long underwear down and helped him pull his pants up. "You're very welcome, Will. I'm glad that you've come to live with us."
Tilting his head, he looked at me for a long moment. Then like a small sunrise, he smiled at me. "Me, too."
Ezra sniffed a little but his smile was just as bright. "Will, we've just been waiting for you to come and be our son. Amanda needs a big brother to help look after her and tell her stories and help her grow."
He nodded vigorously. "Big soon, Papa."
My own eyes were a little teary right then and I dropped a kiss on the top of the fair head before standing up. "It's time for us to get ready for supper. Will, you're going to meet the rest of our big family. They're going to love you, too."
He smiled hopefully and raised his arms to be picked up. I showed him our room but it was the bathroom that made his eyes light up. In more ways than one, he was definitely the child of Ezra's heart. I helped him wash his face and hands while Ezra changed Amanda's diaper, powdering her with the sweet smelling talc before dressing her in one of the dresses she'd received at Christmas.
Then they sat on our bed while we changed our shirts and picked out what ties we'd wear. I fixed Ezra's then he tied mine while our children watched us. Our children, I shook my head at the way our family had grown and blinked back tears at the richness of our lives. I was the luckiest man in the world that Ezra loved me and he wanted our sons and daughters.
I hadn't known how alone and lonely I'd felt until I opened my heart to the others of the seven. But loving Ezra had freed my soul to soar above all the things that I'd once thought important. Amanda was a blessing and now, William fit right into a corner of my heart that I didn't know I had. Maude had said that Ezra was more maternal than she'd ever been but I think it was simply his great heart opening up to take all of us inside.
And being inside of Ezra's heart was right where I always wanted to be.
Once we were ready, I took Amanda into my arms while Ezra threw her baby quilt over her so she didn't catch a chill. William came obediently into my lover's arms and we left to walk to the hotel restaurant. The little boy looked around while we showed him the clinic where I worked and the school where Ezra taught. He gazed curiously at all the stores while we told them the names of some of our neighbors.
Several people greeted us, looking at William with smiles and in the case of Mrs. Potter, a gentle pat on the shoulder. We'd made sure that the town knew that we were adopting another youngster so every one was prepared to see him. He was silent and clutched Ezra a little tighter at all the attention, his shy gaze darting to all the new faces then back to us. I hoped that he was going to be all right with the rest of the seven.
The hotel was warm and we went right inside to the tables that had been pushed together so all of us had a seat. DuBois and Moreau were already there and Ezra chose the seat by the Pinkerton agent. I knew that it was because Will would be more comfortable with the men he knew but I still felt a twinge of jealousy. Sitting besides him, I fussed a little over Amanda to cover my silliness.
I felt his hand on my leg under the table, giving me a pat of reassurance. That made me feel better and I was able to greet Josiah and Maude with a smile. Maude sat down beside me and Amanda immediately wanted to hug her so I let her go. Will watched them for a moment before smiling that shy smile that made him look so like Ezra. Maude blinked but hastily caught herself and smiled back.
"I know that you've met many new people today, William, but I'm your Papa Ezra's mother and I'm very glad to meet you." She said quietly while patting Amanda's back.
"Nana?" Will asked hesitantly.
"Nana it is, William. Tomorrow I'll come for a visit so we can get acquainted." She smiled and he returned it. "And this gentleman on my right is my soon to be husband so he'll be your Grandfather Josiah."
"Welcome, William. I'm glad that you've come to be our grandson." Josiah spoke quietly but his deep voice made Will hug Ezra a little tighter.
"Josiah knows more stories than anyone I know, Will." Ezra patted his back and smiled at his father-to-be. "When he comes over tomorrow with Mother, we must ask him very nicely to tell us some."
Will finally smiled at the big man and nodded shyly. Josiah chuckled and took Amanda from Maude when she held out her arms to him. That seemed to reassure Will even more and soon he was meeting Buck and JD with more smiles. By the time everyone arrived and got introduced I could see that he'd reached his limit, laying his head down on Ezra's shoulder and closing his eyes.
Ezra just rocked him gently and patted his back while we gave the dinner order to Milly, our waitress. Amanda was half-way around the table at that point, cooing and patting each of her godfathers' cheeks. But when she got to Vin, she leaned in and kissed him before tucking her head under his chin and singing quietly. She'd never done that to any of the seven but us and I could see that Vin wasn't sure what to do.
"She likes your hair, Vin." Ezra chuckled. "I'd be willing to bet that her first words will be 'pretty Vin'."
Our tracker blushed and Chris was hard-pressed not to laugh. Buck and JD didn't even try to restrain themselves but Maude soon put an end to the teasing with a question of DuBois about the investigation that exonerated Vin. The Pinkerton agent told his story well and I could almost feel the relief of the others when he detailed the affidavits that led to the rescission of Vin's warrant. They were profuse in their thanks and he accepted with a graceful wave of his hand.
Milly was back with our soup and the conversation grew general while we ate. Will liked the vegetable soup and he shared Ezra's. I buttered more than one hot roll so Ezra didn't have to and Will really liked his share. When the ham and sweet potatoes arrived, I cut up both the slabs of Virginia baked ham so Ezra could concentrate on feeding himself and Will.
The little boy echoed Ezra's thanks and gave me another one of those bright smiles that wrung my heart. It wasn't going to be any time at all before he was entwined in my heart strings right along with Amanda. Maude had her back by now and her milk, which had been heated in the kitchen, was being slowly sucked down. Josiah was watching closely for his turn since he delighted in burping her.
Dinner was good but not as good as Ezra's would have been. I exchanged a smile with my lover and made sure that he had all that he needed before finishing dinner. Will had eaten a good bit but he'd finally quit chewing and just nestled in Ezra's lap. With sleepy eyes, he listened to us talk back and forth across the table.
Dessert was chocolate cake and Vin lit up like a Christmas tree when his piece was set in front of him. That man can eat chocolate from dawn to dusk and never once gain an ounce. It just wasn't fair that he could stay so thin and wiry when just looking at the icing put a pound on me. But Ezra laughed and predicted that more snow was coming and I'd work off all the chocolate shoveling.
He was probably right so I tucked in and savored the sweet tang of chocolate. Will had a bite and hummed his appreciation to me while Ezra just laughed and dropped a kiss on the fair head. It looked like I had a willing cohort in my dessert eating now and so I told him.
He giggled and patted my sleeve. "Sweet, Pa."
My eyes met his and I stroked his cheek. "Sweet, Will. It's a good thing that your Papa is such a good cook. You just wait until he makes cookies for us."
Will turned a little to look up into those green eyes so much like his own. "Cook, Papa?"
"Indeed, Will, I'll need some help when it comes to making those cookies. Would you help me?" Ezra tweaked his nose and Will giggled again.
"Me, help." He looked expectantly at the cake and Ezra chuckled before cutting another Will-sized bite and feeding it to him.
It looked like I was Pa and Ezra was Papa in Will's eyes. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Amanda was fast asleep when I tucked her into her cradle. Ezra was getting Will ready for bed and I started undressing in our room to give him some privacy. It had been a good evening and a good start on our lives with our new son. Soft giggles came from the other room and I smiled to myself.
"Nathan, we need a goodnight here." Ezra's voice had a definite lilt in it and I chuckled softly before joining him.
Will looked like a little angel in his white flannel nightshirt and his fair hair brushed off his forehead. "Night, Pa."
I knelt by his bed next to Ezra. "Goodnight, Will. Sweet dreams."
He held out his arms and I hugged him tight, kissing his soft cheek. "I'm so glad that you came to be our son, Will."
"Me too, Pa." He said earnestly and I laid him back onto his pillow while Ezra pulled the blankets up under his chin. "Say prayer, Papa."
Ezra leaned over and kissed him. "Bless Will and Amanda and Pa and all of our family tonight and always. And please let Angel Penelope look down and see what a good boy Will is and how happy his fathers are that he's come to stay. Amen."
"Amen," Will and I chimed in. Then I blew out the lamp near his bed and helped Ezra to his feet. "Sweet dreams, Will."
"Night, Pa and Papa." His sleepy voice was half-yawn and half-goodnight.
"We'll be right next door, sweetheart." Ezra slid an arm around me and we left our new son to sleep.
Going into our room, we left the door ajar so we'd hear if he had a bad dream or awoke confused. There'd been an awful lot of changes in his young life in a real short period of time and I worried that he might be upset but trying not to show it. But Ezra was undressing and that sight would always catch my attention. He chuckled at my amorous look and hung up his pants before coming over to help me finish undressing.
That would have led to something spectacular if it weren't for the little boy not ten yards away. Instead, he sweetly gave me kisses for every button that he undid and before I knew it, I was buck naked and lying in our bed watching him hang up our clothes with a contented little hum that told me he was happy. Then he was blowing out our lamp and sliding under the covers right into my arms.
"I love you, Nathan." He said with a sigh, his head finding my shoulder while my arm held him close.
"Love you too, sweet cheeks. He's going to be a fine son. I'm hoping that by summer we'll have his leg straightened out." I kissed his temple and pulled him completely on top of me.
"Really?" Ezra hugged me and kissed my lips right into tingling. That had other parts of me waking up instead of going to sleep. "Was it birth trauma or sickness that twisted it so?"
"Don't know for sure but I'm hoping it was just something that happened when he was born. They probably didn't have a doctor for the birth. If she was lucky, they called a midwife for her and who knows if she was any good." I slid my hands down his back to those cheeks that I love to hold. "Regular massages and some stretching exercises will soon see him right, I hope."
He wiggled a little and made my cock go absolutely rigid with need. Chuckling softly, he reached a long arm for the liniment bottle he'd put back by the bed. "How about a little stretching right now and I'll see if I can't ... massage that ache away?"
"We'll have to be real quiet." I was torn between needing him desperately and not wanting to frighten little Will.
"I can do that." He teased me while coating my cock with the sweet smelling oil. I caught my breath when he slowly eased himself down on me. His hands sliding over my stomach and up to my aching nipples, I had to close my eyes at the beautiful sight of him riding me. He whispered. "How about you, Nathan?"
Flexing my muscles beneath him, I thrust up just a bit and felt him catch his breath. His strong thigh muscles rode me while I slowly stroked his cock with one hand. The other hand was busy pinching those pretty pink nipples that I couldn't see right now. His moan was almost silent and when he flexed his inner muscles around me, my groan was nothing more than a gasp.
It didn't take long to reach our peak together. I held him close while he shivered out his climax between our stomachs and I filled him with my seed. Gradually, our heartbeats slowed and it was my turn to reach for the towel that we kept by the bed for clean up. Settling back in, side by side, we murmured sleepy goodnights to each other and dropped off to sleep.
It was nice here. The room was warm. My blankets smelled pretty and the sheets were clean. Mama always tried to keep things clean but it was hard. I missed her. She was soft and pretty and she loved me more than anything. I know because she told me everyday. But I didn't miss mean old Rose. She wasn't nice at all. She didn't want me to eat anything or drink milk like Mama wanted for me.
That made me sad so I thought about the others who'd taken me away and brought me here to my new home. They said they were glad I had come to be their son. Pa was colored but he had warm hands that made the pain go away. Papa cooked really good food and he liked it when I ate. Amanda was a happy baby. She liked me, I could tell. I was sleepy and I held Mama's brush real tight. It was nice here. Maybe I'd be able to stay for a long time.
The end for now