Reed '05: Kung Fools

Nathan rolled over and flopped his hand onto the bedside table, scrabbling until fingers met the source of the offending noise. Slapping it didn't help because it wasn't his alarm clock.

"Jackson," he grumbled into his cell, then turned it right-side-round and repeated, "Jackson. Hello?"

The only sound that greeted him was laughter, rather insane cackling broken in parts by snorting and high-pitched tittering. His groggy mind tried to run through a checklist of nutcases they'd tried to bust recently or those who might be up for parole. The line went dead in his hand.

Disgruntled at the interruption of a perfectly good night's sleep, by what was obviously a wrong number or prank call, Nathan growled his displeasure and set the phone back on the table.

"Was' wrong?" Rain turned toward him, half awake, snagging him around the waist and snuggling her head beneath his chin. Her hair tickled.

"Nothin' babe." He stroked the satin skin of her upper arm. "Just a wrong number."

"Cell phones do that?"

Nathan grinned; her question probably made sense in the half-moon world of the somnambulant.

"Go back to sleep, Rain."

She made a small humming sound, already on her way. When they were first newlyweds, he would have used this interruption as an excuse to roll her over and ravish her. Awake is awake and any excuse is a good one, and spending the day yawning because you'd gotten some was well worth the teasing he would get from the rest of the guys. He would never tell them that this was one of the simple pleasures in life, easily as satisfying as sex – watching his wife sleep and holding her while her soft breaths warmed his neck. They would tease him to *death**.

He was snug and drifting away when the phone rang again. He would answer it once more, and then turn it off, consequences be damned. Larabee would have to come to his house and break a hand on his door if it was a real emergency.

"Jackson," he snapped angrily into the phone. "Mssser Jackson. How magninimus of you to answer your phone. Did I wake you?" A staccato burst of giggles followed, and there was that cackling again, in the background this time.

"Ezra, so help me God– " Nathan found he couldn't follow that half- statement with anything. This was not happening. Ezra fucking Standish was not drunken dialing him in his home on a Saturday night. Morning. "Yes, you woke me. It's two o'clock, and someone had better be dead or dying."

"Does bleeding count?" Hiccup. Very serious concentration on proper enunciation. "How much blood nesssitates death?"

"Ezra– " Nathan stopped himself from saying any number of colorful things in reply and wondered if he had his tape recorder handy. The blackmail possibilities were endless. "Where are you and who is bleeding?"

"I'm on the floor," was the lost and pitiful reply, as though Ezra couldn't possibly fathom how he had ended up there.

Nathan's laughter was forestalled as Rain rolled in his arms, mumbling something about idiots and guns, and turned on the lamp on her side of the bed. Both of the blinked and squinted in the sudden brightness. Then she lay back down and pulled the covers over her head. Smart woman.

"Well, Ezra, look at the bright side. You can't fall off of the floor."

A deep, mocking guffaw came through the line. "You wanna bet?"

Jesus. "Ezra, listen to me, tell me where you are besides the floor. Tell me whose house and who's hurt. Or I'm hanging up and you'll all have to bleed to death on your own."

"Why're you always so meeeen to me?" The word mean contained far too many syllables.

Nathan thought he heard Ezra sniffle, and perversely, it brought a smile to his face. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. But – "

"Vin is divessing himself of his trousers as we speak."

"Oh Christ, spare me the intimate details."

"Issss not inimate details. He's hurt. When he tried the round- house at the fichus." Giggling ensued.


"The fichus won."

Ezra's laughter at this made Nathan hold the phone away from his ear.

"Mssssr Larabee is bleeding and we don't know why," Ezra sang cheerily, "I'm certain imminent details are involved," he added, lowering his voice conspiratorially.

So, the cast of characters involved Ezra, Chris, and Vin. And God help them all, they were drunk and fighting. "Who else is there, Ezra?"

"Buck!" He exclaimed proudly. "He's trying to fix the coffee table which suffered terribly in the conflict."

"Okay, so you're at Buck's?"


"Are you at the ranch?"

"Yep." Nathan was about to call the paramedics and let them deal with it when Ezra said, "Buck wants to drive Chris to the hosipal … hosipital."

"No! Christ, no, no, no. Stay where you are. Whatever you do, don't drive." Nathan was already up and out of the bed, snagging jeans from his bureau. "Just stay there."

"On the floor?"

"Yes, Ezra. Just … I don't know. Don't let them leave."

"You have my word as a gentleman, sir."

"Great. Great." Nathan eschewed socks, slipping into his shoes barefoot. He hung up the phone and yanked a shirt over his head. "Honey?" Rain grunted at him. "The boys are in some sort of trouble and they're drunk. I have to go save them from themselves. Again."

"Too late," she replied from under the covers. He grinned as he shut the bedroom door.

Nathan drove at recklessly unsafe speeds to arrive at the Larabee ranch within forty-five minutes. Knocking on the front door, repeatedly, produced no results and he could hear no struggles from within, so he called Ezra.

"Ezra, it's Nathan. I'm at the front door."

"You told me to stay on the floor."

"Yes, well, you can get up now. I need you to answer the door for me."

Grunting with the effort, Ezra announced that he had achieved an erect state, and Nathan declined to comment.

Several minutes later, the front door opened and the smell of alcohol hit Nathan like a baseball bat. Ezra attempted a one-armed sweeping gesture to welcome him, but lost balance and clung to the door, swinging with its momentum until he hit the wall and the door hit him.

So, Nathan entered, emergency med kit in hand, and gently pried the door from Ezra's grasp. Standish was leaning heavily against the wall and grinning like a loon.

"I am a load-bearing drunk," he announced, and then collapsed in a fit of giggles which forced him to slide down the wall to the floor.

Nathan stepped around him and decided that Ezra must be the least injured and, possibly, least drunk since he was the one who made the call. This deduction did not bode well.

As he pressed further into the house, the overwhelming smell of alcohol grew stronger. If anyone lit a match, the whole place would go up in flames. The entryway and living room appeared to have been either attacked or rifled through. Under any other circumstances, Nathan would have suspected a break-in and would have called the cops. But Ezra was still tittering away by the front door, so Nathan assumed that the umbrella stand on its side, and the scattered distribution of shoes and sofa pillows, and the chair tipped over on the floor were par for the course this evening.

He'd seen them all drunk before, but he could not believe that they would get *this** drunk.

It was taking that final step into the den that seriously tested the limits of his disbelief. Conflict was an apt description. It appeared that a war had taken place, right there, in that very room.

The coffee table was in pieces. All of the pictures were askew and two were on the floor, glass broken, not as though they had been used as weapons, but as if a sudden impact had felled them. The TV was all static, but otherwise appeared unmolested. He could not say as much for the DVD player. Smoke was never a good sign. No furniture had escaped unscathed, although it did look as though it had been righted, save for one chair. Papers from the roll-top desk were absolutely everywhere. A glance up proved that, yes, there was a pair of sneakers, laces tied together, whooping slowly around, dangling from one of the ceiling fan blades.

However, the pièce de résistance was the wet bar, the one that was open on both sides to the living room and den. Here was the source of the smell. Not a single bottle remained whole, and most of the glasses had crashed to the floor. Shelves were hanging on with brave struggle, but even as Nathan watched, one of them lost the battle with gravity and fell with a fatal thud to the floor.

At this sound, three pairs of bleary eyes tried to focus in his general direction.

"You came," Vin stated with the sincere but weary joy of a man held captive for months, who has nearly given up on all hopes of rescue.

Nathan edged forward and noticed that Vin was sitting on the floor in front of the backward-facing couch, cradling Chris' head in his lap. Ezra was right about the bleeding, but it was obviously coming from Chris' head. Nathan sighed heavily and knelt beside Vin.

"Is he gonna die?" Vin whispered, his lower lip trembling, blue eyes filling with tears. He was tenderly stroking Chris' jaw and holding a blood-soaked towel to the back of his head.

As irritated as Nathan was with each and every one of them – and normally he had cause for irritation nearly every day – he couldn't help but speak gently and kindly, in the face of such concern.

"I don't reckon so, Vin," Nathan cajoled, "Now let me see him a minute, will you?" He nudged Vin's hands out of the way.

"I'm not dead," came the voice from Vin's lap, "I'm just resting."

"He's pining for the fjords," called Buck, who was sprawled on a chair, in what could not be a comfortable position, holding a bag of ice to his head.

"Chris, can you sit up?"

"No." In spite of this, Chris rose slowly, then lunged startlingly for the battered fichus and vomited into its pot.

Fools and their alcohol are soon parted.

It was then Nathan noticed that, in point of fact, Vin was not wearing any pants. Or underwear.

This was discerned and accepted with clinical detachment; Nathan graciously grabbed a stray pillow and placed it on Vin's lap. Vin didn't appear to notice.

Chris crawled back to Vin's side, and didn't seem to take note of the pillow either, but he did make use of it, flopping gracelessly back down into Vin's cushioned lap.

"Chris, I need you to sit up now. Can you do that for me?"

"Again?" Chris seemed to view the request as having been fulfilled.

Nathan tugged until Chris was more or less upright. One of the best detectives in the western world, and he couldn't deduce how to sit up straight. Nathan helped him, and held him as he examined Chris' head.

"Minimal swelling, due most likely to the alcohol, which also probably accounted for all the blood. You know it's a blood thinner?" Nathan asked this of the room in general, not hopeful of a response. Without preamble, he began to swap the area with alcohol. Not that Chris needed more.

"It's all my fault," Vin confessed sorrowfully. "We were drinking and watching kung fu movies. You know Enter the Dragon?"

Nathan shook his head to indicate his ignorance.

"Oh man," Vin began to sing its praises, "It's like, the best, man, the greatest kung fu film, ever. The alpha and megatron. Enter the Dragon/i> is the king of all kung fu." His expression changed into that of a man in worship of a much higher power, and Nathan declined to question him further.

Buck picked up where Vin left off. "We thought, yah, we can do that. Yeah, we could do that stuff as good as them, and so, well, we tried and … you know that scene between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bruce Lee?" Regardless of the lack of reply, from anyone in the room, Buck pressed on, "Well, we thought that we could do all that, and – "

"And it ended poorly," Ezra declared in a tone full of doom, appearing on the threshold.

Nathan gawked, feeling his jaw work itself open and closed. "You mean – you mean to tell me that you were watching Enter the Dragon and thought you, all four of you, could imitate the fight scenes with Bruce Lee?"

"Not all four of us. I stood back and watched," Ezra admitted shamelessly, sipping from his silver flask. This choice was no wonder as all other receptacles of alcohol were broken on the floor.

Nathan continued his examination of Chris' scalp, and bit his tongue. Of all the idiotic things in this world … "He's not concussed, though I imagine he should be. He's just split open, but you've done a good job here, Vin, of staunching the flow of blood and pressing off the wound."

"So he's gonna be okay?" Vin quirked an apprehensive smile that seemed to weight too heavy, and his head tilted sideways with the strain.

"Yes, Vin, he's gonna be fine."

Manifestly heedless of anyone else in the room, Chris and Vin shared a reassured glance and a sloppy yet joyful kiss, doubly ecstatic in the prospect of Chris' continued existence.

"Aaawwww, ain't that be-yoo-tee-ful?" Buck pronounced it with highly exaggerated syllables.

Nearby, there was an answering affirmative hum, but Nathan was concentrating industriously elsewhere, too much so to discern the origin. After a moment, he cleared his throat. "You hurt Buck?"

"I don't know. I think I mighta busted something, but I feel right as rain." He surely looked like he was feeling no pain.

Nathan shook his head. One fool at a time. "Vin, I know you're hurtin'. Care to let me take a look see?"

"I think I hurt myself," he admitted in a rough stage whisper.

"I could have told you that." Comments from the Peanut Gallery, courtesy of Ezra, the last man standing.

"Where do you hurt, Vin?" The man in question appeared either uncertain, or dreadfully embarrassed; it was difficult to tell. Excess consumption of alcohol could certainly be blamed for the blush, as could the observable lack of pants. "Okay then, can you stand?"

"I ain't rightly certain. It hurts when I move."

A veritable minefield of deductions to be drawn from that, Nathan mused, so he tried a different tactic. "Well, Chris here moved when you thought he was dead. You gonna let him best you?"

Vin acquired a squirrelly, steely-eyed gaze and began to shift. Beside him, mighty Chris Larabee looked so proud he might cry.

Nathan looked to heaven for strength.

Some grunting and cussing later, and Vin was standing, unashamed, his shirttails covering the greater part of the indignity. Nathan heaved a deep breath and wondered idly if he could demand hazard pay for this as he reached out and began to prod his teammate in a manner to which both of them were grossly unaccustomed.

"Ezra said you tried to kick somethin'. It hurt when I do this?" He pressed forcefully in a specific location. Vin's sharp intake of breath was his answer. "Okay, Vin, do you think you could come with me and lie down a spell? I think I know what you've done."

Solemnly, Vin nodded, and with one last fatalistic glance toward Chris, followed Nathan out of the room. Nathan laid him down on Chris' bed and didn't even bother putting on gloves. He wasn't going to get that personal.

Vin was obviously bruised and would be catastrophically sore come morning, but nothing was broken; no amount of alcohol could numb cracked ribs or broken joints. Nathan began to gently probe the soft tissue between hip and genitals, cataloguing the resulting gasps. The left side was considerably more tender than the right; therefore, Vin must have been attempting a round-house kick from his weak side. Impressive.

Impressively *stupid**.

"Alright, Vin? I think you've just sprained your groin."

"Like in football?"

"Yes, like in football."

"That sucks."

"Yes it does. I'm gonna write this down so's you don't forget come morning. There's nothing I can do for you. You'll need to take it real easy and probably do some stretches. When you're sober, I can explain it to you."

"Okay." Vin's head wiggled on the bed, indicative of a nod. "Hey," he said with a tone of charmed awe, "the room is floating."

"Yes it is, Vin," Nathan hastily agreed, accepting the absurdity of arguing with the drunk, "It is floating on a sea of gentle, sleepy waves. Each one lulling you slowly to sleep."

And so it was that Vin drifted to sleep with a smile on his face.

Returning to the den, Nathan found all its occupants sitting, and if they weren't entirely vertical, he wasn't going to hold it against them. Morning would do that for him. "Okay. Chris? Vin has sprained his groin."

Face extremely grave, Buck gasped, "Oh no!" Then he peered down the length of his semi-prone body, lifted the elastic of his boxers, and frowned in confusion. "I've never sprained it before."

Oh, his kingdom for a camera – Buck was scowling at his own penis.

Nathan hid his face and his laughter, all but convinced he would sprain something of his own with the effort.

Chris was first to collect himself, lurching crookedly across the floor toward the doorway. Nathan stopped him for a moment, but concluded that there was just no conceivable way to inform his boss that he had pubic hair stuck to his cheek. Nathan figured it wasn't a first for Chris, and allowed discretion its appropriate part in the proceedings.

The two of them ambled to the master bedroom.

At its door, Chris pursed his lips and tried to cover them with his forefinger, but mostly missed, his finger listing across his cheek. "Sssshhh," he hissed anyway, as piercingly as the inebriated are wont to hiss for silence.

They crossed the floor to stand by the bedside, Chris clinging to a fistful of Nathan's shirt as he too appeared to feel the waves tossing beneath the floating room. For a moment they stood in silence, then Chris spoke, slurred and quiet.

"I love to watch him sleep." Chris' head tilted and his eyes blinked like camera shutters adjusting the focal distance. "This, here - this is the best thing, to see him when he's safe asleep and knowing I'm here, and I love him. I love him, you know." Chris tugged on his sleeve until Nathan nodded.

"He's – " Chris stumbled, verbally and physically, reaching out to pet Tanner's unconscious head. " – he's precious to me."

Nathan looked at Chris and found his cheeks stained with tears as he leaned and stroked Vin's head, so gently, with such poor coordination that Nathan feared he would poke Vin in the eye. It was perhaps the most pathetic display he'd ever seen from Chris, but who would have guessed that Chris was a sappy drunk? It brought a smile to Nathan's lips, and heart.

"C'mon, Chris, let's put you to bed." Frowning at the directive, Chris wiped his nose, using his entire forearm, and grudgingly stripped out of most of his clothes, then sliding easily between the covers and up behind Vin. They reached for each other in intoxicated stupor and purred like twin cats once they were agreeably and familiarly entwined.

Still smiling, Nathan quietly closed the bedroom door behind him.

Buck was already sound asleep and beyond further harm in his chair in the den, but Ezra was wandering about and likely to come to harm.

"Okay, Ezra, let's get you to bed too. C'mon. Your turn."

Ezra managed to glower the entire way to the guest room and would emphatically not get undressed until Nathan was gone. Instead, he gripped Nathan by the shirt collar and tried to shake him, ending up shaking himself.

"Mssssr. Jackson, are you going to have a son?"

"Right now?"

Ezra's scowl deepened. "I meant ever." He waved off any possible response, nearly falling backwards as he did so. "I meant, if you should ever … have a son … you must be there. You – " he repeatedly poked an insistent finger into Nathan's chest, " – you must be there for your son. You must try to love him – "

His voice choked off and his face collapsed in an obvious prelude to tears. Once again, Nathan rolled his eyes to heaven. One maudlin drunk per evening was enough.

Ezra was hiccupping and trying to weep on him, so Nathan twirled them in a full circle and turned down the bed one-handed while Ezra clung to him for balance.

"Okay, Ez, okay. Lie down now, it's okay. It's okay." Ezra lay down but did not appear greatly mollified. "Ezra, it's alright now." Nathan placed a hand on the warm forehead and pushed back the wayward hair. He bent low and whispered, "Hey Ezra, think of money."

Instantly this earned Nathan a smile, Ezra snuggling down into the covers and mumbling to himself about dividends and compound interest.

Before he left the room, Nathan removed Ezra's shoes and set them where they were readily seen but not stepped on.

Nathan spent the next two hours trying to clean up the worst of the mess, the most dangerous. He swept up broken glass, straightened pictures and shelves, poured glasses of water and found bottles of aspirin, wrote instructions for Vin. Lastly, he unplugged the DVD player and pried loose the disc of Enter the Dragon.

Buck stirred in his chair and eyed him critically. Nathan displayed the crispy and slightly blackened DVD, not wanting to know how it came to be burned.

Buck's left eye squinted as the right grew wide, giving him the frighteningly accurate appearance of a silent film villain. "We have slain the dragon," he proclaimed raspily, before finding a more comfortable position and returning to his snoring.

Nathan threw away the disc and made sure the front door was locked as he departed, knowing for certain now that at least Chris would never tease him, should he ever voice his joy at watching his wife sleep. And should he ever have a son, Ezra would be comforted to know that he would hold that boy high and be there for him every minute of his life.

All in all, he was glad Ezra had called.

Monday morning, Nathan arrived at work to find a large bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, an envelope containing two orchestra-level tickets to the symphony, and a stuffed green dragon with a tiny forked tongue. All these things would go far to appeasing his wife, who tended to breathe the righteous fire of exasperation without the aesthetic requisite of scales.

With this in mind, he tucked all his gifts away for an more strategic time. Except the dragon. Which squeaked if squeezed.