THE WAY TO A STUBBOURN HEART

By Enola Jones



It had been a very long week. The bust had gone down without a hitch -- for once -- but Ezra had been undercover for so long without a break that the man was physically and emotionally exhausted.

So the other six had been taking turns staying at his place, keeping an eye on him as he slept -- watching his back.

It was Vin's turn and Ezra was out. He'd finally agreed to sleep and once he had gone, he had gone. Three hours now and Vin was hungry. He turned the game on the radio and walked into the kitchen, looking for something he could pop in a microwave or something.

When he found a box of Bisquick stuffed in a corner of the pantry, he smiled as he read the side of the box. "So much for your 'epicurean talents'," he whispered, amused. Ezra had always talked up his gourmet cooking talents, but here he had Bisquick and other packaged foods in his pantry.

"This looks good," Vin said to himself as he set the box down and pulled the refrigerator door open. "Ah, yeah, hamburger meat. Looks like he's got everything...."

He set the oven for 450 and greased a square pan. Then he crumbled half a pound of hamburger into a bowl and added a small handful of minced onions. As he microwaved it brown, he gathered the rest of the ingredients he needed.

The oven signaled ready just as he finished draining the meat and onion mixture. He opened an envelope of taco seasoning and spread it over the meat dry. When it was all mixed together, Vin spread it over the bottom of the greased pan.

"That's done," he whispered as he poured three-quarters of a cup of Bisquick in a bowl and poured a cup and a third of milk over it. Taking a swig of milk from the carton before replacing it in the fridge, Vin took out three eggs. He broke one into a small bowl before putting it in the mixture and repeated it with the second. The third egg turned out to have bloody streaks in the yolk, so he put that one down the disposal and used a fourth. This one was okay, so he added it in.

Using a whisk, Vin smoothed the mixture together and poured it over the meat. He slid it into the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes, busying himself with cleaning up his mess. "Wouldn't do for Ez to find a mess in his tidy kitchen," Vin chuckled.

Thirty-five minutes later, the oven beeped. Vin put aside the paper and got out the pie. It had, indeed, made its own crust, which was a golden brown. Smiling, Vin sprinkled a cup of mixed mozzarella and cheddar cheeses over it, then returned it to the oven for five minutes.

As he removed it after the cheese browned and set it on an eye to cool, he heard a soft, "Vin?" behind him.

He turned, smiling. "Hey, Ez. I made supper."

Ezra's emerald eyes were wide and he inhaled. "....taco pie?"

Vin blinked. "Yeah. Found the recipe and --- Ez?"

A slow, slightly drunk smile was spreading across Ezra's face. "....taco pie," he half-whispered as he made his way to the table. "You... you made taco pie."

"....yeah....I found the recipe on the side of the box. Looked good, so...."

Ezra's hand gripped his forearm. "Vin.... this dish has always.... well...." He was blushing, but grinning broadly. "It's meant love. A familyís love."

Slowly, Vin began to smile too. "Then I reckon I made the right thing, bro. Sit down, I'll get us something to drink."

"I'll make a salad...."

"No, I will. You sit."

Ezra sat and just stared at the stove.

Once the salad was eaten, the pie was served. Ezra cut his up and drizzled taco sauce over it, then took a bite. His eyes closed and his mouth curved into a delighted smile. "Perfect!" he said around it, then finished eating his bite.

"Glad you approve!" Vin laughed. They ate in silence, then he asked, "Ez?"

"Hm?" Ezra asked as he took a long drink of beer.

"How come this dish means family to you? Which of your relatives would make this?"

Ezra smiled, remembering. "None of them."

Vin blinked, confused. "None of them?"

"No." The gold tooth, free from the ivory cap he wore while undercover, gleamed as he grinned at Vin. "This dish, only one person made."

"Must'a been someone special."

"I thought so." He raised a forkful. "My mother couldn't cook worth a dime, most of the time. But when it was just the two of us -- and there was no con to be run, just us.... It was rare, but it did happen." He turned the forkful over. "During those peaceful times when Mother was, indeed, a mother -- she would make taco pie. With her own hands."

The significance of that statement sank in slowly, but when it did, Vin couldn't help but smile. "So I made ya feel like part of a family again."

Ezra nodded, his mouth full. When he swallowed, he said, "Brothers bonding over taco pie. Thank you, Vin."

"You're welcome Ez. Very welcome." Thank you, Maude, for not being a good cook. Finally, a way to connect with this stubbourn cuss. He looked at his plate. Bisquick's Impossible Taco Pie. Who'd'a thought?

The End

Authourís Note Ė this recipe is real. It is a family favourite and the ingredients and preparation are exactly as outlined in the story. The recipe used to be found on the side of a Bisquick box. I donít know if it still is.




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