7.

On Monday, Ezra had to return to work, but between the team, Rain, Nettie and Casey, there was no need to involve a stranger in looking after Emily. Of course, Ezra didn't want to 'bother Miss Rain on her more than deserved days of rest', but Rain stated that spending some time with a child who was healthy, both physically and emotionally, was the best rest for her.

On Wednesday, everyone in the office was on pins and needles. The operation was scheduled for 11 a.m. New York time; and since Ezra had gotten the message that the operation had started, the loudest sound in the bullpen had been typing. Lunch was delivered to the office, though Ezra didn't touch it; the fact that he actually managed to get some work done, really amazed Chris.

Finally, around 3 p.m. Ezra's cell rang, and he hurried into the break room. The moment he shut the door every activity in the office stopped; Chris, having heard the ringing, came out and sat on Vin's desk. Everyone stared at the door waiting for news.

Ezra emerged twenty minutes later and, for once, his expression was telling; the smiles began appearing even before Ezra opened his mouth.

"The operation was successful. Judith will recover fully."

"Woo-hoo!" JD whooped, and lots of back-slapping followed.

"Okay, guys, back to work," Chris said after a couple of moments, but it didn't have the desired effect. Chris sighed and added, slightly louder and in a firmer tone: "Tanner, call 'Pti France' and order a table for nine for 6 p.m. Nate, Ezra, call Rain and tell her to bring Emily there to meet us."

'Pti France' was a café with the best desserts in town; a place Vin and JD adored openly, and the rest of the team secretly.

"And," Chris continued after the calls had been made "anyone who wants their dessert better get something done."

"Yes, Pa," Vin smirked, but actually started typing something. The rest followed his example.

8.

A week after the operation, and Judith had recovered enough to want her little girl by her side. Ezra, naturally, wanted to accompany Emily on her flight, but he had to be present in court for next couple of days, so his own ticket was for Saturday. He had to see for himself that Judith was doing well after all.

On Monday evening, the Team organized a farewell party in Ezra's apartment; and Ezra almost wasn't surprised by it. It was obvious, by that point, that not only Nathan and Rain, but every other member of his team, plus both Miss' Wells, were ready to name Emily their cousin and actually mean it. The party went well; Emily, blossoming under everyone's attention and entertaining her guests, felt like her birthday had come early.

"It's so cool to have a big family, Uncle Ezra," she said in the evening, after the party was over, and Ezra was putting her to bed. "I didn't know that before."

"There is no need to pick up your vocabulary from Mr. Dunne, my dear. But you are right, a big family has its advantages." 'And I didn't know that before either…'

The next morning, Nathan and Ezra drove Emily to the airport; Nathan was behind the wheel, stating he would never let Ezra drive at that 'ungodly hour' if it was avoidable.

"Goodbye, Mr. Nathan," Emily said seriously, tilting back her head to look the tall black man in the eyes. "It was a pleasure to meet you."

"For me too, Miss Emily."

"If you and Miss Rain ever come to New York, I will show you the best hiding places in Central Park."

"That's a most generous offer, Emily," Nathan answered, keeping his face straight with great effort. "I'll remember it."

With that, Nathan leaned forward and hugged the child; Emily returned the hug and whispered loudly: "But I hope Mom will be well enough in November so that we can come here for Thanksgiving instead."

Ezra groaned inwardly at that, he had yet to know which one of his well-meaning teammates had planted that crazy idea in Emily's head.

"We'll be waiting," Nathan assured the girl, letting her go, and seconds later Ezra was lifting her up.

"Well, young lady, it seems Colorado is good for you, you most certainly have grown more than I thought was possible in two weeks!"

Emily laughed out loud, hugging Ezra's neck tightly. "I love you, Uncle Ezra."

"Love you too, angel," Ezra whispered, putting her down. "See you this weekend," they both said simultaneously, then laughed.

The intercom announced Emily's flight was now boarding; the girl sighed, then smiled broadly, and, grabbing her carry on, a small wheeled backpack filled mostly with presents, went carefully to the gate.

Nathan watched the girl walking away, and thought it would be great if the Sanders came for Thanksgiving. He knew he would be missing Emily, and he really would like to meet her parents.

Emily stopped, half-turned back and waved; Ezra and Nathan dutifully waved back, and Nathan's thoughts drifted to the last two weeks, to the way Rain had been around Emily. He hadn't been blind; he'd seen the signs. The signs that clearly said Rain wanted to start a family of her own, to nurse her own children. She had been ready for some time, it was Nathan who hadn't been. And if he was honest with himself, it was because he'd been afraid. He'd seen too many shattered families, too many marriages that didn't work out – and they both had jobs that were less than forgiving and more than demanding.

But now, watching Emily and thinking about her parents, Nathan felt ashamed of his fear. Judith and Joseph had been alone against the whole world – and yet they had taken a chance. They'd started from scratch in a strange and crazy city, their only family being a younger cousin far away; and even he had to keep his distance, in order to protect them. And they had succeeded. Their marriage had survived and even flourished, they'd been raising a wonderful daughter, and, as far as Nathan could tell, their love was still there, strong and steady. If they could manage it, then…

Both Nathan and Rain's blood families were scattered all over the country, but that didn't matter. They had another family, a family by choice, here, in Denver. A family that could offer the best support system in the world.

Emily waved one last time as she disappeared from view, and as he waved back, Nathan found himself smiling. This weekend both he and Rain would be free; they hadn't made any plans yet, but he was beginning to form some ideas. The kind of ideas that included a visit to a jeweler's.

Ezra watched Emily leaving, already missing her and counting the days until the weekend. Suddenly the idea of the Sanders spending Thanksgiving in Colorado didn't seem so crazy. Uninvited images started to invade his mind – images of a big Thanksgiving dinner at his apartment, followed by visions of decorating Christmas trees and making snowmen in Chris's backyard. Judith would definitely like the guys, and Joseph would have to admit that Ezra wasn't the only 'reckless idealistic maverick' among Federal Agents.

And then much crazier thoughts started appearing… Joseph had mentioned recently that his company was going to open a new branch in Colorado; and the mountain air was certainly better for a growing child and recovering woman than what passed for oxygen in New York; and 'The Clarion' could definitely use a fashion section.

Those were wild dreams, but for once Ezra allowed himself to have them. For once, the nagging fear, which had been his constant companion since he'd been eighteen and had entered that barn fully knowing what he would see, for once, that fear wasn't there. And Ezra knew why. He wasn't all that stood between the other Standishes and the Sanders anymore; all of his teammates stood there with him now. And Team 7 was a force people more powerful than Jeremy Standish had had to reckon with, and the Team always came out on top.

Ezra was sure the rest of the team already knew the real story behind his connection to the Sanders family. He didn't think that Nathan had betrayed his confidence, but the guys were sharp enough to figure out the truth, based on his silence and Emily's chatter. He himself had told her to trust the team; it was enough that they had had to watch themselves around other people. Though Emily had liked 'playing spy' and had handled herself just fine during accidental meetings, which had occurred a few times, in fact, she'd done better than some FBI's partners Ezra had had undercover.

Much to his own surprise, Ezra didn't mind the guys knowing the truth – he just didn't want to tell it himself. Telling everything to Nathan had been hard enough despite his understanding, Ezra didn't wish to repeat the experience. And he was eternally grateful to his friends that they didn't ask him any questions. They had just let him know, each one of them, through words, looks and gestures, that they were there for him. For him, for Emily, even for Judith and Joseph if need be.

He'd known since the first case in Denver that Team 7 was much more than just a unit of law officers. But the past two weeks, and yesterday's party, had brought another revelation. It seems that, with the help of their womenfolk, from little Emily to venerable Nettie Wells, their brotherhood-in-arms had managed to turn into a real family. One that the Sanders family was now a part of, even if J&J didn't know it yet.

"Ezra," Nathan called softly, when Emily's flight disappeared from the indicator board. "It's time to go, we should be in the office by ten."

Ezra gave his head a shake, coming back to reality. "You are right, Mr. Jackson, it would be impolite to keep the DA waiting."

"Yeah, and we sort of promised a certain young lady that we wouldn't let the bad guys get away."

"Absolutely," Ezra deadpanned, and a second later they were both laughing as they headed to the parking lot.

Up in the sky, the 'fasten your seat belts' signal was turned off in a New York bound plane. Emily Patricia Sanders made sure that her neighbor was sound asleep before she pulled her backpack out from under the seat and extracted one of the presents she'd received yesterday. It was a framed picture, taken by Miss Casey at the ranch on Sunday a week ago; Uncle Ezra was sitting on the front porch, surrounded by his six friends, with Emily on his lap.

Emily had always known her Uncle Ezra was the best, but sometimes she'd envied Chen-Chen, her friend and classmate; the Chinese girl had four Uncles! But now, Emily thought, tracing the figures in the picture, now there was no reason to envy anyone. She had seven great Uncles – and seven was the best lucky number ever.

The End