"Little Britches" Universe
Special Thanks: to Kathy. Poffenberger, who created the "Little Britches" A/U in her fics The Train West and In The Arms of Love. A truly wonderful universe to indulge in and watch other parents struggle to overcome the everyday antics of two boys. Thank you for the opportunity to write in your universe ~ SilverWolf.
Three months had passed since the day that Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington had opened their home to the two orphaned cousins Vin Tanner and JD Dunne.
"When can we go on a picnic like Miz Nettie said we can?" JD asked, squirming away from Buck as he brushed the young boys hair. "When can we, Buck?"
JD saw one of his toys lying on the floor under the table and slid off the chair when Buck turned his back to retrieve a pair of scissors. "JD?" Wilmington called and scratched his head. "Where could he have gone?" He asked of no one in particular. "He was only here a minute ago." One more look around the room told Buck that JD was nowhere to be found. "JD!" He called going out to the front porch.
Buck looked down when he felt a tugging at his trouser leg.
"Im right here," smiled JD proudly. "Did you get lost?" he asked.
"No, I didnt get lost, I thought that you did."
"Oh." JD shrugged and went back inside again, seating himself on the kitchen chair. "I found my horse you made me," he added, displaying the carved horse to Buck. "It was under the table."
"Uh huh. Well next time you need a hair-cut I think it would be simpler to take you to the barbers instead."
"Is that where the sheep get their hair cut too?" JD asked, picturing in his mind a sheep sitting in the chair while Mr. Humphries gave it a haircut.
"JD, why would Mr. Humphries cut sheeps hair I mean wool?" Buck asked hoping that JD had some logical explanation.
"Cause you said hes a baa-ber," JD replied and looked at Buck as if he had lost his mind. "So when can we go on a picnic?"
"As soon as Ive got your haircut and when Chris gets back with Vin."
"Do you think Vins armll be all better? Or is it going to fall off still? Is that why Nathan had it all tied up with some wood and bits o materal?"
Buck sighed in relief when he heard Chris Larabee rein his horse to a stop. He was saved from JDs unending supply of questions. "Stay right where you are, Im going out to help Chris with Vin and when I come back we are going "
"On a picnic!" yelled JD excitedly. "Can we have chicken and rolls and biscuits and apples and drinks and "
"And how about you slow down a mite. We havent even finished your haircut yet and we started it when Chris went into town this morning."
"Vin," Chris softly called. "Wake up now, were home."
"Hmmm," Vins sleepy voice responded. He pushed himself off Chris chest and leaned forward. With his left hand he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and tried to focus on his surroundings. Without thinking he started to dismount the horse and clumsily fell to one side.
"Whoa. Easy there, cowboy," Chris grinned, catching Vin and lowering him into Bucks waiting arms. "Nate had to give him some laudanum at the clinic, so hes a little sleepy on it."
"What did Nate say? Hows his arm healing?"
"How about you get Vin inside and let me see to my horse and then Ill answer your questions."
A short while later Chris had finished settling his horse for the night and entered the house to see Vin fast asleep and JD still having his hair cut. "Buck, didnt you start cutting JDs hair before Vin and I left this morning?"
"Hmmm, well, we had a few interruptions during the day."
"And Buck got lost," JD piped up, jerking his head causing Buck to move the scissors in a hurry.
"I did not get lost," Buck replied indignantly. "I was looking for you."
Chris shook his head and moved over to check on Vin. "Well that answers the lost issue, what about the interruptions?"
"We had a visit from Miss Nettie and her niece Casey today "
Before Buck could say anymore JD jerked his head up once again. "And she asked if we could go on a picnic wif her n Casey. So can we?"
"I see," smiled Chris. "Well how about we talk about it after you let Buck finish cutting your hair?"
"I think JD liked Casey," grinned Buck, finally succeeding in finishing the all day haircut.
"No I didnt shes a girl!" JD replied sounding rather horrified that Buck thought he liked Casey. "She jus had some neat things tplay wif. Can I go n tell Vin about going on a picnic?"
Buck managed to grab on to JDs suspenders as he went racing past into where Vin was. "How about you let Vin have a sleep first. Hes pretty tired from the medicine that Uncle Nate had to give him."
Seemingly placated JD nodded his head and then turned his focus on Chris. "So is his arm going to fall off? Reckon it must be its all tied up still. Can we go on the picnic when Vin wakes up? Do sheep get their hair cut at the baa-ber's?"
Bombarded by JDs exuberance Chris ran his left hand over his tired face. "Has the little toe-rag been like this all day?" he asked looking up at Buck.
"Oh, only since Nettie came calling this morning."
"What time was that?"
"About twenty minutes after you and Vin left."
Chris shook his head and hid his amused expression. "Think Ill go and check on Vin. He wasnt too happy when Nate told him that the splint had to stay in place for another three weeks."
+ + + + + + +
Two weeks prior Vin and JD had been roughhousing in the barn and after being caught by Buck they took their antics outside to the corral. Vin had been showing his younger cousin some tricks that he could do with Peso the horse that he had been given as a present by Chris.
Though a temperamental horse to most that came into contact with him, Peso regarded Vin as more than the person who rode him. He was his human companion and would often follow Vin to the creek or around the yard like a puppy.
When scolded by Chris for being up on Peso without a saddle or a bridle Vin slid off the horses back and leaned against the fence. He cocked his head to one side and looked at the top rail. "Betcha I can walk around the whole corral on this here rail," Vin said and shook the rail to make sure it was sturdy enough.
"Go on," JD encouraged and watched as Vin walked around the top rail with his arms spread out to the sides for balance. JD started to clap as Vin was making his way along the last part of the rail back to where he had started. His clapping came to an abrupt halt when he saw Chris and Buck approach. He could tell by their expressions that they were not happy. "Vin!" he called out hoping to warn his cousin.
On hearing JDs alarmed voice Vin looked up to see what the problem was. That was all it took a momentary lapse of concentration. He slipped from the top rail and put his right arm out to break his fall as the earth came racing up to meet his face. He lay on the ground motionless and oblivious to the frantic activity around him.
+ + + + + + +
"Hes still asleep," Chris sighed and sat down opposite Buck. "A picnic huh? Could be what the boys need. Did Miss Nettie have any particular time in mind?"
With the promise of a picnic if he was good and went straight to sleep when he went to bed, JDs face lit up in a huge smile. "You mean it?" he looked from Buck to Chris and then back to Buck again.
"Yup. But first you have your dinner and then well get you ready for bed."
"Buck, what about Vin?"
"When he wakes up later on well get him something to eat then if he wants it okay?" Buck was quietly amazed at how fiercely protective of each other both Vin and JD were. Both boys had been through a lot together the train journey to Four Corners, the near separation when Josiah had been unable to place the boys in a family home together and getting used to not only two dads but also three very doting uncles.
The next morning couldnt dawn fast enough for JD. He was up as shards of light entered the house. He quietly tiptoed out of the room not to disturb Vin and started on his assigned chores.
Buck lifted one eyelid open as he watched his young charge dress himself and quietly set about his work. "You really want to go on this picnic," he quietly said.
Most of the picnic had been packed the night before when both he and Chris were up with Vin. As expected Vin had woken up not long after JD had gone to bed and ate a small meal. Like his cousin he was also excited at the prospect of a picnic and games until Chris reminded him what Nathan had said about taking things easy still.
Finally the time had come to leave for the picnic. Both boys chatted excitedly from the back of the wagon while Chris and Buck sat up front.
"Casey will be there," JD said.
"Whos Casey?" Vin asked, not recalling anyone of that name.
"Shes a girl and she had ribbons in her hair," JD was silent for a minute and then in all seriousness asked, "do girls just have ribbons cause they are ugly?"
"Miss Mary wears a ribbon in her hair sometimes and she isnt ugly." Vin countered.
Buck jabbed Chris in the ribs with his elbow. "Better watch it pard, that boy has taste."
JD looked thoughtful as if pondering something and then spoke in a loud voice. "Yeah, but shed not ugly shed just old."
Unable to contain himself Buck burst into laughter at JDs comment. "You best not say that in front of Mary, JD. She might get a little upset."
"JD, dont you know anything?" Vin admonished. "Its a girl thing."
The remainder of the trip to the picnic site passed fairly quickly and thankfully for Chris no more references to Marys age.
Nettie was already setting out things when Chris reined the team to a stop. "Pleased you decided to come after all," she called out and straightened her skirt.
"This is my niece Casey," she added and introduce the young girl to Chris, Buck, Vin and JD.
The day wore on in a relaxed atmosphere when a stylish carriage wound its way up to the well-traveled road to the shaded area. Buck was first to notice the two women that disembarked and watched as they walked to the waters edge. "If youll excuse me duty calls." He said and made his way over to where the women were now standing.
Chris shook his head and refilled his cup with the apple cider that Nettie had packed.
"Why dont you go and join Buck, Ill watch the boys," encouraged Nettie. "Buck seems to have struck up quite a lively conversation with both of those young ladies."
"The only thing Buck wants to strike up is "
"Yes, well." Nettie forestalled Chris before he could say anymore.
"Sorry maam." He apologized and looked to where Vin and JD were playing with Casey.
"Go on. Go and meet the young ladies. Why should Buck get the girls all the time." Nettie smiled and gave Chris a subtle wink.
Taking Netties advice Chris joined Buck whom was in conversation with the young ladies.
"Cindy, Amanda this is Chris Larabee." Buck said doing the introductions. "And these are our boys." He quickly added when Vin and JD came running up to join them.
"And your wives are they here too?" Cindy casually asked looking down at the two boys.
"No maam were not married," Buck responded and caught her look as she glanced at the two boys. "Chris and I adopted Vin and JD."
JD gripped Bucks large hand and gave Cindy a look that told her Buck was his. "We was orphans but we aint no more cause weve got Chris and Buck."
The rest of the afternoon was taken up with Cindy and Amanda both trying to vie for the attentions of Chris and Buck while Vin and JD stood close by watching their every move.
Vin pulled JD off to one side and whispered in his ear. "Do you think Amanda wants to be with Chris?"
JD nodded and glared at both the women. "And Cindy wants Buck."
"Well this is what we are goin tdo," Vin whispered conspiratorially.
Vin and JD wondered back to where Nettie was brushing the twigs out of Caseys hair and waited patiently for Buck and Chris to return. The occasional giggle erupted from the boys as they whispered to each other of what would befall Cindy and Amanda. Nettie would just shake her head and thought it best if she did not know what was transpiring.
"Are you two ready to go?" Buck asked the boys after ending his interlude with Cindy. "Maybe we can do this again tomorrow."
"Really? Truly? Can we bring our fishing poles next time?" JD asked eager at the prospect of another outing.
Buck smiled and reached down to pick JD up. "Hang on there, pard. We have to clear it with Chris first."
"Clear what with me first?" Chris asked, finally joining the boys and Buck.
"Another picnic. Tomorrow." JD smiled.
Chris nodded and looked at Buck. And another meeting with Cindy no doubt. He reflected on his afternoon with Amanda and while she really wasnt his type he didnt mind the thought of seeing her again and maybe getting to know her a little better. "Okay, tomorrow it is."
Both Chris and Buck were surprised at how agreeably the boys went it off to bed and put it down to the activity of the day little did they know what surprises Vin and JD were scheming.
"Surprised to see Vin wearing his sling," Buck grinned, watching Chris adjust it so that it was comfortable. Whenever Vin could he would ditch the sling and try and use his arm as much as he could.
Chris simply smiled and bent down to put Vins boots on him. "Told him Nathan might be at the lake this afternoon."
"Oh." Grinned the moustached man.
When Vin and JD were finally alone they readied the items that they would need for the days surprises.
"JD, if ydont quit squirmin around Chris n Buck are gonna know you got Harry in your pocket. Youre hoppin around as much as he does."
"Well, I dint have no where else for im." JD pouted, his bottom lip quivering.
"Give him here." With that Vin took JDs pet frog and slipped him inside his sling carefully adjusting the other items around the frog.
Chris and Buck had arranged to meet the girls at the lakefront and arrived early enough to let Vin and JD run off some of their pent up energy. While they watched he boys play Chris leaned back against an old oak tree and closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face.
"Think the boys will like the girls, pard?" Buck asked, silently voicing Chris own unasked question one that had been nagging at him all morning.
"Not sure. Neither seemed that interested yesterday in getting to know them. Maybe today will be different. JD will probably be okay but Vin, Im not to sure."
"Ahhh, hell be okay pard. Probably surprise ya. Guaranteed hell have them girls wrapped around his little finger by the end of the day."
"Either that, or running for the hills," Chris laughed.
"He might shock us both and have a surprise or two up his sleeve."
Little did they know how words spoken in jest had a tendency of coming true.
"Buck, you did make sure that he left his sling-shot back at home, didnt you?" Chris asked in fear that Vin may have brought the toy with him.
"I made sure he left it at home, so quit your panicking. What could possibly go wrong?"
+ + + + + + +
"Did you find the right plant, Vin?" JD asked his cousin carefully wrapped the leaves of the stinging nettle in a piece of cloth.
Vins blue eyes sparkled like the dew on a gossamer web as his eyebrows bounced up and down. "Yup and mixed up some special repellent to keep the bugs away too." Stashing the wrapped leaves into his sling they worked through their plan.
Biding their time Vin and JD watched as Buck flirted with Cindy and Chris maintained his reserved stance with Amanda. Secretly the boys wished that Buck would marry Inez and Chris would marry Mary Vin approved of his choice for Chris as not only would he get a mother but a brother as well. Of course he had figured that he would share Billy with JD.
Seeing the boys sitting under the shade of the tree he had been leaning against earlier, Chris beckoned them forth. "Vin, JD, why dont you get to know the ladies while Buck and I get lunch ready."
"Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea. Perhaps we could get to know you better." Cindy smiled. She clasped JDs hand in her own and walked a short distance where some wild flowers grew.
Whereas Cindy genuinely liked children, Amanda was the opposite. Begrudgingly she offered her hand out to Vin who refused it and put his left hand in his trouser pocket.
"What did you do to your arm?" Amanda asked, trying to inspire some conversation.
She quickly grew tired of her one-sided chat and lead Vin to where JD was happily picking some flowers.
"Think Inez and Mary will like these?" JD asked, holding a colourful floral bouquet aloft.
"I reckon they will." Vin smiled and added a few more to the bunch. He winked at JD and quickly began to itch. "JD have you got that repellent stuff? These bugs have got teeth."
JD placed the two bouquets he had made on the ground and handed Vin the repellent that they had made.
"What is that you have there, Vin?" Amanda asked, surreptitiously itching at something behind her neck.
"Stuff fer keepin bugs off ya." He answered and pretended to dab some on to his exposed skin. "Ywant some?"
Graciously she accepted the bottle and tentatively sniffed it to make sure it wasnt a ploy to get her to put some awful smelling scent on. Satisfied that it was safe and harmless enough she rubbed the lotion onto her arms, neck and face. Cindy followed suit and thanked the boys for being so thoughtful. "I wonder why Chris never mentioned about the bugs around here." Amanda spoke placing one last dab just under the collar of her dress.
"Guess he forgot. He does that sometimes," replied Vin, taking the bottle of water and sugar from Amanda.
"Can we go and watch the swans on the lake?" JD asked this time exchanging a quick wink with Vin. Before Cindy could answer JD grabbed her hand and dragged her to the waters edge, right where the marshes grew.
Content to watch the swans glide gracefully across the water it was not long before the second part of Vin and JDs plan fell into place. A series of gentle slaps was heard as each lady tried to ward off the annoying mosquitoes that had found where their next meal was coming from.
"I thought you said this stuff was a repellent and would keep bugs away?" Amanda cried, desperately trying to get the mosquitoes to stop biting.
Vin shrugged and looked at JD. "Reckon they must like girl skin bettern boys' skin. Me and JD aint been bit." He stood up to leave when Cindy called out.
"Where are you going?"
"Gonna tfind some of them special leaves that my friend Chanu told me about. They stop ya from itchin n stuff. Yjust rub it all over where you got itches."
A short while later he returned holding the very suspect looking leaves out to each of the ladies.
"And you expect these leaves to work?" Amanda said disdainfully.
"Nope," Vin barely whispered as Amanda and Cindy both took a leaf and began to rub furiously at their skin.
The itching did seem to abate for a while more than likely due to the harshness with which Amanda and Cindy scrubbed at their skin with the healing leaves.
"Maybe Miss Cindy and Miss Amanda would like a cup of tea to make them feel better," offered JD.
Seeing no harm in a simple cup of tea both ladies accepted and followed the boys back to the wagon.
"Better ask the ladies if they have sugar, JD," Vin suggested and pulled a small packet of salt from his sling, careful to hide his actions from Chris and Buck.
"Yup, they both have sugar. They said two teaspoons full each," JD said loudly and then leaned in close to his cousin "and their itchin again too."
"You boys are being mighty helpful," Buck said, cocking his head to one side, trying to determine whether they were up to something. Unable to decide otherwise he went back to helping Chris prepare lunch.
"Arghhhh," cried Cindy spitting the salt laced tea from her mouth while a new round of itching made itself known. Amanda followed suit and also spat the bitter tea out in an unladylike fashion.
"Something wrong with your tea?" Vin asked innocently.
"Whatever gave you that impression?" Cindy vehemently asked reaching over and pushing JD to the ground. "If being with Buck means having to get rid of you I will do it," she continued to fume.
"You lay one hand on my cousin and Ill "
"Youll what, you insolent little brat?" shrieked Amanda. "Ill have Chris send you away so fast it will make your head spin."
On hearing the raised voices Chris and Buck rounded the wagon to see Cindy slap JD and Vin trying to protect his cousin only to be pulled out of the way by Amanda when she grabbed his splinted arm. He fell to the ground painfully bumping his injured arm. Vin had seen JDs pet frog hop out of the sling but lost sight of him soon after.
"Stop right where you are ladies," Chris glowered when he spat out the word ladies. "What is going on here?"
"Where would you like us to begin?" Cindy huffed, still scratching at the now raised red lumps as she sat on a fallen log. "First of all your son, Mister Larabee gave us some lotion to keep the bugs away with."
"Oh he did, did he?" Chris asked, turning his gaze to Vin. "Where is it?" When Vin handed him the bottle he removed the stopper and tipped a little of the liquid onto his finger. "Sugar water," he said tasting it and trying valiantly to hide his smirk. "Well that would attract every bug from here to Eagle Bend."
"And then they told us these leaves would help get rid of the itch from the mosquito bites," Amanda sobbed, holding up the remains of a stinging nettle leaf.
"Chanu." Buck grinned running a hand over his face. He had been with the boys when Chanu had told them about which plants to be wary of. "Ladies, I would suggest that you dropped those leaves unless of course you want to continue scratching."
"And what else did our sons do?" Chris asked, afraid to hear any more.
"The tea," both women replied in unison. "They put salt in it."
Before Chris could question either boy, Cindy filled the air with an ear-piercing scream. "Somethings crawling in my hair."
"Harry!" JD squealed when he saw his pet frog atop Cindys head. Without thinking he grabbed the frog and in pulling it from her hair, pulled with it a hairpiece that had been plaited in place. "Im sorry Miss but your hairs fell off," he said holding up the blonde ponytail with a blue ribbon still attached.
Unable to contain themselves any longer Chris and Buck bent at the waist and rested their hands on their thighs while they laughed raucously.
"Well, I never," Amanda glowered and stomped away angrily to the carriage. "Cindy are you coming or not?" Not wanting to be left behind Cindy ran to the carriage her skirts gathered up in one hand while she held onto her faux hairpiece with the other.
"So what do you two have to say for yourselves?" Chris asked when he finally got himself under control.
Vin looked at JD and decided to answer for both of them. "It was all my fault. I did all those nasty things to them," he said, trying to take the bulk of the blame. "It werent JDs fault, he just helped a little cause I asked him to." He looked at Chris for a while and dropped his gaze to the ground.
"They were going to have us sent away," JD piped up.
"Pardon?" Buck asked unsure of what JD meant.
"They said that when you got married that they would send us away. They didnt want us around," cried JD, no longer able to hold back the tears.
"JD, we would never send you boys away. You know that dont you?"
"Yes," the dark haired boy sniffed. "So youre not angry with me and Vin?"
"We can talk about that later. Just so as I know," Buck said, raising JDs head so that he could see his sons eyes, "you arent planning on scaring all our dates away are you?"
"Only the ones we dont like," Vin answered before he could stop himself.
Intrigued at Vins answer both men looked at him and asked the boys who they would not scare off. With the answer given Buck watched the rapidly departing carriage. "Well pard," he said to Chris. "You were right about one thing."
"And that was?"
"Our boys had them girls heading for the hills," laughed Buck.
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