Inspired by Duchess. Thank you all for the reviews.
“Señor Standish,” Inez greeted one of her favourite customers with a smile. “Is Xander well? He usually says hello.”
“He’s fine, Inez. Just had a bit of a run-in with the delightful Mr. Larabee in full protector mode,” Ezra explained. “I’m sure once he has sampled some of your exquisite cuisine he’ll perk right up.”
“Poor thing.” Inez looked across to the seven’s usual table. “I’ll be right over with something for you both.”
Inez bustled off and Ezra returned to the table where his friends were already eating.
Josiah smiled at the southerner. “Sorry we started without you, but we assumed you weren’t coming as you were so late.”
“It’s no problem, my friends. We were held up at the hospital.” Ezra removed his jacket, placing it carefully over the back of his chair.
“Vin alright?” Nathan queried.
“Mr. Tanner is fine. Well, as fine as he can be with our fearless leader hovering over him,” Ezra answered, a note of sympathy in his voice.
Nathan looked between Ezra and a dejected, unusually quiet Xander. “What happened?”
“Xander took it upon himself to relieve Vin’s and his own boredom with an excursion in the hospital.” Ezra glanced across to where Xander sat, fiddling with a beer mat.
Nathan frowned. “Vin’s still recovering from the surgery to fix the break. He shouldn’t be up and around on it yet.”
“He wasn’t. We found a wheelchair and were real careful getting him out of the bed,” Xander defended. “You’ll have more luck keeping him in the hospital, if he’s not feeling trapped by the four walls of his room.” Xander raised his head. “Anyway, we left a note.”
Buck caught the look of exasperation on Ezra’s face.
“Sounds fair enough to me,” Buck offered tentatively. “So what did it say?”
Xander huffed, “Just that we’d gone exploring. We didn’t have a specific destination in mind and, anyway, Chris just said to make sure he didn’t discharge or injure himself any further. Vin didn’t, on both counts, and still Chris ‘relieves’ me of duty!” Xander exclaimed.
Buck glanced to Josiah, who gave him a quick smile. Clearly the other man had also picked up on the fact that Xander hadn’t actually answered the question.
“Where did you go?” JD asked curiously.
“Here and there. We ended up in the children’s ward.” Xander gave a huge smile. “They’re great kids. I was demonstrating the Scoobies’ unofficial dance, when Chris came storming along. Then Ezra joined in.” Four sets of shocked eyes swivelled to the undercover man.
“No, gentlemen, I did not partake in the ‘Scooby’ dance.” Ezra cut that line of speculation off instantly. “I merely joined Xander in entertaining the children.”
“Yeah, then Chris gave me the evil eye and dragged poor Vin back to his room.” Xander sighed.
Inez approached the table with their food.
“Hey, Inez.” Xander greeted her with a smile. “That looks great, thanks.”
“Hello, Xander. I made you your favourite to cheer you up.” Inez put a plate down in front of Xander, brimming with food.
“Thanks, Inez. You’re an angel.” Xander gave her a wide-eyed gaze of adoration, making the bar manager flush with pleasure. She leant down and gave him a peck on the cheek.
Buck stared in disbelief. Damn, the boy was good. Josiah let out a booming laugh and slapped the moustached man on the back.
“Looks like you’ve got some competition there, Buck.” Josiah gave Ezra a wink before returning his attention to his food.
“Huh, what competition?” Xander looked up from his contemplation of the delicious dish Inez had prepared.
“Buck has been chasing the lovely señorita for as long as I’ve known him,” Ezra explained with a mental sigh. Sometimes his son appeared to lack intellectual acuity.
“Oh. Well, maybe if he spoke to her as a person instead of a challenge to be conquered, he’d have more luck,” Xander answered offhandedly. Ezra stared at Xander. Or maybe the boy was surprisingly adept at disguising his intelligence, he mused.
JD had tears running down his face, his laughter redoubling every time he caught sight of Buck’s gobsmacked face. Nathan and Josiah simply shared knowing smiles.
Thanks again to RevDorothyL for all her hard beta work.