Title: The Transitive Property (6/6)
Fandom: Magnificent 7 & Make It or break It
Rating: PG
Universe : Mag 7 ATF and Pre-series for MIOBI

This story is now complete

Chapter 6

Ezra was still reeling from Lauren's revelation. There was a part of him that was attracted to the idea that he had brothers and a niece that he'd never known about, but there was another part of him, the part that sounded like his mother's voice in his head, which wondered what the angle was. He certainly could believe that he and Steve were related; the physical resemblance was impossible to ignore, but Vin was younger than him. It didn't seem possible that they could be brothers too, unless his mother had been keeping some huge secrets.

Over the past weeks it had felt like Vin was making special effort to get to know him. Now Ezra understood part of his motivation; Vin was preparing Ezra for the reveal of their familial bond. Ezra had been drawn in by Vin's easygoing nature and genuinely liked the man. He did not believe that there was anything motivating Vin beyond a real desire to welcome Ezra into the family and certainly Lauren was almost giddy at the idea of adding him to her family tree. Steve, on the other hand, had glared at him with such dislike that Ezra was wondering what he'd done to anger a man he'd never met.

"You ok, Ezra?" Chris' voice cut through his musings and he turned to face his boss.

He gave him a neutral smile. "For someone who has just discovered a family I knew nothing about, I believe I'm doing quite well."

"Good," Chris said. "Then as family, you think you can tell that nurse to let us into see Vin?"

Ezra chuckled. "It does appear that I do have that power now." The others hadn't said much and were looking to him to set the tone for future dealings with the Tanner clan.

Lauren placed a hand on his arm. "I don't think Daddy wants everyone in there. He's not real happy about Uncle Vin getting hurt."

"I think that …your father is going to have to accept that when Mr. Larabee wants something, he is hard to dissuade." Ezra was surprised to find that he'd almost said 'my brother'. It seemed his subconscious had already accepted the truth of what Lauren had shared, even if he still had doubts about the situation.

"Ok, but don't say I didn't warn you."

Buck stepped up beside Chris and Ezra. "Maybe Ez should go in by himself first. You know, meet the family."

Chris nodded. "Much as I want to see Vin, Buck has a point."

Ezra appreciated the gesture on Chris' part knowing how hard it was for him to restrain himself when one of them was injured.

Before any decision could be made, the doors leading to the patients' wing were flung open and Steve stalked toward them.

"Lauren, what are you doing out here?" he called to her.

Lauren gave him the sweetest smile as she said, "Nothing Daddy. I got turned around and Uncle Vin's friends were just pointing me back in the right direction."

Ezra couldn't help but smile at the blatant lie. After these few minutes with Lauren he no longer doubted that they were related, especially since Steve seemed to buy her innocent act.

"It's this way." Steve placed a hand on Lauren's shoulder propelling her back toward Vin's room. He still hadn't made eye contact with any of them and Ezra sensed that Steve was trying very hard not to notice him.

Lauren caught Ezra's eye over her shoulder and tilted her head indicating he should follow.

Ezra wasn't one to air his personal business in public, but he knew that no matter the fallout from Lauren's revelations, the others would eventually know the whole story. He was fairly certain that his relationship with Vin would only improve once they had a chance to discuss their new connection, considering the effort Vin had put in getting to know him, but Steve was another matter.

Steve seemed intent on ignoring Ezra, while making it perfectly clear he didn't want anything to do with any of Vin's teammates. Given that, Ezra thought it best to confront his new relation with the others present and possibly use Chris as a focus for some of Steve's anger over Vin's injury. Plus, it seemed unfair to burden Vin with all this drama while he was still recuperating.

"Excuse me, Mr. Tanner – Steve," Ezra called after them. "I think we need to talk."

Steve's shoulder's stiffened slightly but he kept walking. Lauren did not; instead she ducked under her father's arm and returned to Ezra's side.

"Come on, Daddy. Talk to him. He's your brother after all."

Steve stopped and pivoted in place. "Half-brother!"

"So it's true." He'd known it was, but to hear Steve admit the connection was the final piece he needed for it to be real. Ezra took a step toward him and asked cheekily, "Which half?"

Steve glared at him. "Paternal."

Ezra absorbed this new piece of information. It actually made him feel better to realize that his father had been indiscreet rather than thinking that Maude had given away a child. But that still didn't explain how he could be related to Vin, so he asked, "And Vin?"

"You aren't related to Vin."

"Are you?"

Steve balled up his fists and Ezra was sure he was restraining himself from taking a swing. It had seemed a logical question to ask, but then maybe that was to the root of Steve's anger.

"He's my brother!" Steve hissed. "My real brother. Vin doesn't need any of you two faced bastards. I told him he couldn't trust you." He gestured wildly at the six men in front of him as he glared at Ezra. "He's done with the ATF so you can just leave because none of you are getting to see him."

Ezra frowned at Steve's rant, surprised that the man clearly disliked them all and him specifically. He was actually dismayed by the idea that without ever having talked to Steve, Ezra had somehow betrayed his trust. As he stared into the angry eyes of his brother, Ezra suddenly understood. Steve knew about Atlanta, he had to. It was the only thing that would explain his cutting remarks and his dismissal of Ezra.

Ezra was not usually one who cared what others thought of him, or so he told himself, but he found he desperately wanted to make Steve understand that he was badly mistaken.

Before Ezra could express these thoughts, Steve had once again pulled Lauren to him and attempted to storm away. This time Chris wouldn't be put off so easily. Their leader was not one to forgive the kind of accusations that Steve had thrown at them.

Chris grabbed Steve by the shoulder and whirled him around. "Now just a damn minute! I've tired to be polite, but I will see Vin and hear from him what the hell is really going on."

"You're not family. So don't even try it," Steve shot back.

"Vin's awake, which means I don't need your permission anymore." This time it was Chris that stormed past Steve heading for Vin's room.

Vin opened his eyes and groaned as he tried to sit up. The pain wasn't debilitating thanks to the medication, but he still felt stiff and weak from his wound.

Steve had left in a hurry to find Lauren, but Vin suspected if he was trying to head her off from talking to Ezra it was already too late.

Lauren had mentioned that Chris and the guys were in the waiting area and that meant Ezra too. Vin wished he could get out of this damned bed and see what was happening because whatever it was he knew it wouldn't be good.

Steve had his dander up and Vin was sure Ezra was probably in shock. Damn it! He'd had it all planned for dinner Saturday so that Steve and Ezra couldn't help but like each other. Now, he was sure the shit was hitting the proverbial fan which, without a doubt, was aimed right at him.

Knowing how furious Steve was with Chris and convinced they shouldn't have anything to do with Ezra, Vin's imagination was running wild with images of a violent confrontation.

He slowly sat up and threw off the covers; biting his lip as a wave of pain and dizziness washed over him. Vin carefully maneuvered his legs so that they were hanging off the bed and paused to catch his breath. He eyed the distance to the floor and knew that the transition to standing was gonna hurt. He had just worked up his nerve to make the move when the door opened and Chris stormed in, closely followed by the rest of his teammates.

Steve was right behind yelling at them. "I said you can't see him. Don't you people listen?"

Vin smiled, because not one of the ATF agents paused as they entered the room.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Nathan snapped when he caught sight of Vin sitting on the edge of the bed. He rushed forward to gently push him back into a prone position. Chris was right there too, helping Nathan settle him back down.

"Just thought I go for a walk," Vin replied.

"Not the best idea you've ever had," Chris said.

"Get away from my brother." Steve moved toward Larabee but Buck was there in a flash blocking his approach.

"Now let's calm down," Buck said, ever the master of the compromise. "Vin's injury was an accident. We all feel badly 'bout what happened but it weren't no one's fault. You need to listen 'stead of yelling."

As Vin had suspected things had not gone well when his brother had met his friends.

Steve stood toe to toe with the much taller Buck, refusing to back down. "Accident!" Steve snorted. "I know all about how dirty you feds are especially my new found brother." He sneered the last and gestured dismissively in Ezra's direction.

Vin watched the storm flash in Chris' eyes before he moved to grab Steve by the shirt collar slamming up against the wall. "You had my agent investigated!"

Steve struggled against Chris' hold. "Let me go or I'll have you arrested for assault!"

"Don't hurt my Daddy!" Lauren yelled.

Chris released his grip like he was holding something hot and stepped back allowing Lauren to move in to hug her father.

In their anger, they'd forgotten that Lauren was present. Silence pervaded the room and Vin saw Ezra trying to hide his chagrin that these falsehoods from Atlanta might have turned Steve not only against him, but the whole team.

"Daddy, Uncle Ezra's been really nice to me. I don't understand. What did he do?" She looked back at Vin silently asking him the same question.

Vin wanted to reach out and hug Lauren. It seemed she'd accepted Ezra and truly wanted everyone to get along.

Steve, on the other hand, just glared at the ATF agents and before he could answer Chris did. "He didn't do anything." Chris' anger was bubbling just below the surface and Vin could tell he was trying hard to get his temper under control.

The whole situation was spiraling out of control. He met his brother's eyes pleading with him to put his manic need to protect his family in perspective. "Steve, I told that you were all wrong 'bout these guys! And just so you know I ain't quitting no matter what you think." Vin gasped the as the pain of his wound reminded him that effort to yell or sit-up was not appreciated

Nathan was still at his side. "Stop moving around. You want to tear those stitches?"

"Perhaps, Mr. Larabee, I should go," Ezra said. "I do not believe that Vin needs this conflict in his condition."

Chris didn't look Ezra direction. "Don't you move, Standish. We're gonna work this out," he said before addressing Vin. "You ok?"

Vin nodded and relaxed back into his pillow; allowing the pain to dissipate. He looked up at Chris. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have let him hire that PI. I didn't - "

Chris waved him off. "Understand why. Bet Ezra does too." Vin was a bit surprised that Chris wasn't angry at him as he was with Steve, but then his boss didn't really know Steve.

Vin looked toward Ezra, who met his gaze and nodded slightly. It seemed all was forgiven at least between them.

Steve had made his way to the other side of the bed. "Vin, tell them to go." He was glaring at Chris who was meeting his brother's displeasure with equal intensity. "They obviously won't listen to me and you need your rest. We can discuss your position on the team when your up for it."

"No one's goin' anywhere," Chris growled before shifting his attention back to Vin. "You staying on the team?"

"Yep." Vin held up his hand when Steve opened his mouth to protest. "Ain't open for debate, Steve." Vin gasped a little as another wave of pain washed over him when he lowered his hand.

Steve fell silent, releasing some of his anger and replacing it with concern for Vin. It bothered Vin that he was feeling so weak; he just didn't have the energy he needed to get this mess settled. And while Vin had been known to put his brother down physically when trying to knock some sense into him, that, unfortunately, was not an option today.

No one seemed anxious to pick up the argument and the silence stretched in to awkward minutes.

Vin caught Lauren's eye giving her silent support to continue to challenge her father. A determined look come across her face as she understood what Vin wanted from her and he found himself cheering inside. Lauren was the key to making Steve see reason because, though his brother never admit it, he spoiled his daughter. If Lauren wanted to get to know her Uncle Ezra, his brother would be hard pressed to deny her the opportunity.

Lauren moved to stand next to Ezra. "Why is my daddy so angry with you?"

Ezra glanced at Vin before sighing as he recognized his role in this play. "Your father has discovered some things about my former employment with the FBI that concern him. It is a long story, but I'm willing to share it with you if you truly wish to know."

"Lauren," Chris said getting her attention. "All you really need to know is that Ezra's a damn good agent. The things your father found out were lies; rumors spread by jealous and petty men. I wouldn't have him on my team if I didn't trust him."

Disbelief flickered across Ezra's face before he clamped down on it, but Vin had seen it. He'd had learned early on that the poker face Ezra so carefully cultivated was no use with him as Vin had seen similar expressions on Steve's face all his life.

"Thank you, Chris," Ezra said simply, clearly touched by the support.

Lauren looked at Steve. "Daddy, why would you believe the rumors?"

He moved to stand in front of his daughter. "Sweetheart, it's more complicated than that."

"No it isn't!" she insisted. "These men know Uncle Ezra and Vin likes them all a lot and you know he's a better judge of character than you are; I've met some of the women you date."

"Lauren! That was inappropriate."

The ATF agents couldn't help but chuckle and it seemed that at least for the moment some of the tension was broken.

"You know I could help ya with that," Buck teased. "I'm pretty good with the ladies."

"It's true, Steve," Vin added, wanting to keep the conversation from turning dark again. "Buck has the entire secretarial pool drooling over him."

Lauren laughed and smiled at Buck. "You definitely need to help my dad. Some of the bimbos he dates - " She rolled her eyes

"That's enough, Lauren." Steve was obviously embarrassed and a bit lost by the fact that Lauren seemed to be on Ezra's side.

Lauren just continued to glare at her father; she wasn't about to let him off the hook. "You always say to get all the facts before rushing to judgment. Did you do that?"

Ezra interrupted her. "Lauren, while I am touched that you are championing me, I do not think it's appropriate for you to share personal details of your father's life in public."

Steve looked at Ezra, confusion on his face, and Vin thought for a moment that he might tell their brother to mind his own business, but then his expression softened. "Ezra," he paused addressing his new family member directly for the first time. "It seems my daughter has decided that I overreacted."

"You did, Daddy!" The tiny gymnast stood in the middle of the room staring at her father pleading with him to stop being such an idiot. "He's family and we haven't exactly made him welcome."

Vin had to smile because he knew that Lauren had won. It wasn't often that Steve admitted he was wrong, but ultimately as a lawyer, if the evidence was telling him something else then Steve was usually willing to step back and find out what it meant.

Steve glanced toward Vin as if drawing strength for what needed to happen next – for what Vin hoped would happen next - before looking at Ezra. "Maybe – maybe, we should start over."

Ezra gifted Steve with a genuine smile and held out his hand. "I am amenable to your offer."

Steve shook it. "I guess we have a lot to talk about."

Lauren practically cheered as she flung her self at her father and then at Ezra. "This is going to be great!" She moved to stand by Vin and they shared a conspiratorial smile. This hadn't been the first time they'd tag teamed Steve, and this time they'd had Ezra's help. Vin was truly impressed at Ezra's ability to adapt, though he was sure his new brother was still reeling inside, he was handling it a hell of a lot better than Steve.

"I am still willing to share all the details of the situation you find so distressing, but," Ezra looked around the room," I would prefer to do so in private."

"I am amenable to you offer." Steve laughed as he repeated Ezra's words.

"You sure you two ain't twins?" Buck couldn't help but get at least one twin joke into the conversation and there were a few chuckles around the room.

"I assure you, Buck, as Steve is some years older than me, that is a biological impossibility."

"Daddy, does this mean you're not mad at Uncle Ezra anymore?" Lauren asked. He voice dripping with an innocence her previous actions belied.

Steve looked from his daughter to each of his brothers. "I wasn't mad exactly - just – well – I guess I was unwilling to accept that things in our little family had changed."

Vin watched the tension dissipate from the room as Steve was finally willing to give Ezra a chance and with Ezra came an acceptance of the rest of Team Seven and Vin's place in it. "Change for the better," Vin said.

Steve moved to stand beside the hospital bed. "Well little brother, looks like you were right after all."

"Damn right I was, and I ain't gonna let you forget it neither."

Ezra couldn't help but be pleased with the way that Lauren had won Steve over. She was a little spitfire; definitely had some Standish in her he thought. Lauren had expressed an interest in meeting Maude and Ezra wondered how his mother might take the news of a granddaughter – well not exactly her granddaughter, as Lauren would have been Preston's descendant not Maude's. Which had him wondering about the relationship between himself and Vin; that had still not been clarified.

Ezra cleared his throat which drew everyone's attention to him, but he looked directly at Vin as he spoke. "While I'm pleased that we have resolved some of the issues revealed today, I still have one more question."

"Shoot, Ez. Whatcha wanna know?"

"Are we," he waved a hand between them, "actually related?"

Vin looked at Steve, who nodded. It appeared to Ezra that they had discussed this issue previously and had come to some important conclusion. "Yeah, we're brothers too," Vin replied simply.

"Steve has said that he and I share a paternal bond and clearly any one who sees us would believe that, but how is it that you and I are related?" Preston Standish had passed away less than a year after Ezra's birth and since he knew Vin was two years younger, it was a physical impossibility for them to be related in the same manner.

"It's simple, Ez. Surprised you ain't figured it out. I'm Steve's brother cause of our ma and Steve is your brother cause of your dad, so it stands to reason that you and I are brothers too."

Ezra listened to this explanation, but clearly he was missing something. It seemed he was not the only one who was befuddled by Vin's explanation as he noticed confused looks on most of his teammates faces. Steve and Vin were grinning at him; obviously they had thought carefully about this odd string of statements and felt it was proof that they were all three brothers.

"I get it!" JD blurted out. "It's like the transitive property."

"What the heck are you talking about, JD?" Buck asked.

JD had said next to nothing all day and now with everyone's attention on him, he was suddenly reluctant to explain. "It's – it's a mathematical theorem."

"We're talking about biology not math. Didn't think I'd ever have to explain the difference to ya," Buck teased.

At this point Lauren spoke up, a big smile on her face. "JD's right! It's the transitive property." The men now directed their confusion at Lauren.

"You understand what JD was saying?" Buck asked.

Lauren rolled her eyes. "What, I can't be pretty and smart?

"No," Buck tried to back peddle. "I didn't say that."

The others began laughing as Lauren stared up at the flustered agent. "I do have to take math, you know, and I have a brain for a reason."

"Best quit while you're behind, Bucklin," Vin teased.

"I agree," Ezra said. "Let the lady finish. She is obviously the smartest one in the room."

Ezra was truly impressed by his niece, holding her own in a room full of grown men and literally getting them to do what she wanted. Maude would have a field day with her though Ezra wondered again if the two of them meeting might be a very bad idea.

"Thank you, Uncles," she said gifting them both with a gorgeous smile which showed her dimples. "The transitive property says that if A=B and B=C, then A=C." As she recited the formula, JD was nodding along with her. "It makes perfect sense. I mean that is if Uncle Vin is A and Daddy is B and Uncle Ezra is C."

There was a moment of silence as Lauren and JD shared a look which implied that everyone else were idiots.

"I think that's exactly what I said." Vin laughed and then grabbed his stomach once again forgetting that he was only hours out of surgery. Steve placed a hand on his shoulder indicating he was ready to take over the exposition duties.

Ezra could tell that Steve was struggling to make things right. "Look, I know I've been a bit difficult about some of the more … delicate things that have been discussed today - "

"That's an understatement," Buck grumbled, paling when Chris' elbow impacted his ribs and he realized that he'd spoken aloud.

Steve shook his head, but made no retort, accepting that it would be awhile before he undid the damage he'd caused today. He looked back at Ezra. "But there's one thing Vin and I did agree on. It's an all or nothing situation. We're all three brothers or we're," he waved a hand between Ezra and himself, "not. And thanks to JD and Lauren, I believe it has been proven mathematically that we three are, in fact, brothers."

Ezra tried to absorb the offer that was being handed to him. It seemed that Steve's insistence that they were only half-brothers had fallen by the wayside as he'd come to tentatively accept the idea that Ezra was not the man he'd read about. If he wanted to claim Steve as his brother then he got Vin as a bonus; and that was a hell of a bonus. There was really only one thing to say. "It seems that I am a firm believer in the transitive property."