"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe
I don't own them, a bunch of rich guys in Hollywood or wherever do. Thanks to Barbretta Hayden and Joy K 'cause I love their stories and used some of their background.
Before Buck could lower the footrest a tousled head with big brown eyes was peeking from beneath his paper. "Hey Little Bit. What's up?"
JD finished climbing onto Buck's lap, preparing to snuggle down. "Nothin'. Read to me?"
"Nothin' huh. What's Vin hollering for then?"
JD wouldn't meet Buck's eyes and he started fiddling with a button on Buck's shirt. "Nothin'," he said again sticking out his lower lip.
With a big sigh JD said, "I accidentally bumped Vin's back."
"That's why he yelled?"
Buck watched JD trying to decide how to continue. Something was wrong and it was something the boys hadn't shared with him. Looking up he saw Chris watching with a puzzled look. OK, Chris doesn't know anything either. Vin never just yells. JD settled and laid his head on Buck's chest.
"Is Vin's back sore?"
"How did Vin's back get sore?"
"I'm not supposed to tell."
Buck raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Why?"
"'Cause Vin said not to tell 'cause grownups don't like kids that are too 'spensive." JD looked up at Buck, "Buck? What's 'spensive? Vin says you and Chris would give us back if we were to 'spensive."
Buck let out a big breath, stalling for time to think. "Well, Little Bit, expensive is something that costs a lot of money. But neither Chris nor I would give you boys up for any reason. No matter how expensive you got. Understand?"
"I guess. Why does Vin think that?"
"I don't know JD. If Vin got hurt at school, how come the teacher or school nurse didn't call us?"
"'Cause Vin didn't tell. He was playing dodge ball at recess and he got slammed by the ball. But when they asked him if he was ok, he just said 'I'm fine'."
"Was this today?"
"Nah, yesterday. But I think it does hurt him 'cause he's all stiff and he was making sounds last night after we went to bed. He woke me up once but he said not to say anything. Buck how come Vin's back hurt him so much?"
"I guess, 'cause the ball hit him hard."
"No, I mean before, before you found us. Sometimes he'd just be still all day 'cause it hurt to move."
Buck looked up at Chris with a questioning frown. Chris shrugged and shook his head.
"JD how do you know when Vin's back is hurting? Does he tell you?"
"Nah, Vin never says, he just gets grumpy and sometimes he moves funny. I asked once and he said it hurt even before his Momma went to dream with the angels. But they never went to the doctor 'cause they never had any money."
JD yawned and snuggled down tighter. "Tell me a story Buck."
"Sure Little Bit." Damn, kids took the oddest things for granted. He looked at Chris again watching the tension in his walk as he headed toward the boys' room. Go easy Chris, he thought as he then looked down at the sleepy boy in his lap. "Well, once a long, long time ago..."
Chris tuned out Buck's voice as he stood in the hall wondering again just what he was going to do or say. Not only this time, but it seemed that there was no way he could lay to rest Vin's constant fear of being abandoned. How am I supposed to fight Vin's demons when I don't even know what they are? Why won't he trust me enough to tell me? What am I going to do? God this is hard. It was so easy with Adam; Sarah just knew what to do. Chris squeezed his eyes closed before he entered the bedroom. Help me sweet Sarah. I don't know what to do or say.
He glanced around the room looking for Vin and then he heard the water running in the bathroom. Smiling, he sat in the chair waiting for Vin to finish. It took forever to convince the boys they needed to bathe and brush their teeth every night. Vin still maintained it was a waste of water. So many little things that I always took for granted most of the time were such a wonder to the boys.
Chris frowned as he went over what to JD said, What the hell did he mean that Vin's back hurt before? Why hadn't the docs said anything? Or had they and he just didn't hear? God it was so complicated. He'd call Monday and find out. Before the warehouse, before Vin and JD there was...what??? Quiet? Yeah. No worries except the job. But then... Chris shrugged mentally, there wasn't much of a life either.
The sound of the bathroom door opening caused Chris to look up and he critically watched Vin walk across the room, trying to pick up on clues he'd missed.
Vin's eyes widened a bit seeing Chris waiting. He'd yelled at JD. Now he was in trouble. His heart started beating faster and even though he knew that Chris would never hurt him, he hesitated getting within reach of the grownup sitting and waiting. Blue eyes betrayed the fear that ran unbidden through his thoughts.
"Vin, JD said he bumped your back and that's why you yelled at him." It wasn't quite a question but it still required some kind of an answer.
"May I see where JD bumped you?'
Vin bit his lip. This could be trouble. He tried to tell if Chris was angry with him, but couldn't. He took small slow steps until he stood in front of Chris and turning, he lifted his pj top.
There just above the small of his back on the left side was a large purple bruise about the size of Chris' fist. The outside of the bruise was already turning yellowish.
Chris reached out and gently brushed the discolored skin with his fingers. "That's some bruise. How'd you get it?"
Vin shrugged, "Got hit with a ball. It's nobody's fault. I just didn't move fast enough."
"Um, Does it hurt?"
In his best 'dad' voice Chris said, "That's not what I asked."
Vin turned around so fast he almost tripped on Chris' feet. "It don't hurt no more, honest. Only when I bump it. It's much better now."
Chris, grabbing at Vin to keep him from falling, tried to decide if Vin was talking about just the bruise or his back. "Vin, it's ok to tell me if it hurts. But we need to call Nathan or the doctor if it really hurts. So, no it doesn't hurt or no it doesn't hurt as bad as it did?"
Almost in a panic Vin pleaded, "No you don't have to do that. I, I don't want to be no trouble."
"Vin," Chris tried to gather the troubled little boy into his arms but Vin backed away hastily. His face instantly showing fear, then regret and confusion.
Chris stopped and sat very still, not saying anything. He waited, letting the frightened little boy calm and hopefully come to him willingly.
Vin shifted from foot to foot, then approached Chris, leaning into him between legs and arms.
Chris slowly closed his arms around Vin, feeling a slight tremor as he started trying again to explain. "You are here to stay, no matter what. But you've got to tell Buck or me if you're sick or hurt. I promise to try to listen and it doesn't matter how expensive you are, I wouldn't trade you for anything. You're very important to me, to Buck, to all of us."
Then trying a new track, "How would you feel if JD got hurt at school and wouldn't tell anyone? What if he made you promise not to tell but you heard him crying in his sleep? What would you do?"
"That's different. JD is just a little kid. He can't take care of himself."
Chris half snorted, "Well, to me and to Buck you're just a little kid too. You think about it."
Vin chewed on his lower lip. "I'd worry 'cause JD's so little and he could be really sick and, he could di------" Vin gasped and looked up at Chris. "You think I could die?"
Oh Lord! "No, but I would have lots of those 'feel bad thoughts' if you were sick or hurt and I didn't know or see it. It would make me not a very good poppa." Chris almost choked after saying that. Shit. Where did that come from?
Vin leaned even deeper into Chris' arms and absorbed the moment. It was so safe and warm there. Chris always felt safe. Maybe if he was really good and not a lot of trouble, someday Chris would want to be his poppa not just his guardian. That would be so nice. Vin smiled to himself at that thought.
Chris could feel Vin relax and he carefully got up and laid Vin down on the top bunk. Putting his cat by his hand, covering them both and lastly bending over placing the softest of kisses on Vin's forehead, he whispered, "Sleep tight, Little Man," smiling down as Vin's eyes closed.
Turning, he felt another presence. Buck stood in the door, JD sound asleep in his arms. His dark blue eyes full as he shook his head in wonder. Adam had always been Chris' "Little Man". Now in an unguarded moment he'd called Vin that. Buck quietly smiled and shaking his head again, he laid JD down, and following the same pattern bent and pecked JD on the forehead and turned to leave with Chris but Chris was already gone. "Trouble!" he whispered to himself closing the bedroom door and heading back to the living room.
Chris headed straight to the liquor cabinet. Unlocking it, he took a bottle to the counter and poured a shot threw it down and poured another.
Chris looked up at Buck's worried face, then down at the shot glass. Slowly setting it down, he looked at Buck again. "Don't worry Buck. I'm not gonna get drunk." Then he sighed, "What am I doing? I can't seem to reach him but, dear God, does he get to me." He threw back the second shot.
Leaving the bottle and the glass on the counter, Chris walked over to the window and looked out. If it were warmer he'd been on his way outside. He felt like a caged tiger. All tied up in knots, ready to scream or hit or get very, very drunk. He leaned his forehead on the cold glass. He didn't dare go that route. Not now. That would the sure way to lose everything he had.
Buck went back to the lazy boy trying to give Chris the room he needed to sort out things. It was hard to watch and even harder for him to keep silent. He watched Chris, felt the turmoil writhing inside him even though he was perfectly still.
Chris turned his head just enough to see in the window glass the reflection of the picture wall. All the pictures that made up the extended family they were becoming. Even though he couldn't see them clearly, his eyes went to the picture of Adam and Sarah.
He reached out to the reflection gently placing his finger over Adam. Feeling the too familiar black hole welding and swirling in his chest. Growing until all he was aware of was the pain, the loss as fresh as it had ever been. Eyes squeezed shut there were no words in his mind just an ache as he saw first one dark little boy being kissed good night then overlapping the fair-haired curls of Vin. Chris groaned. How could he have called Vin 'Little Man'? Oh Adam I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. That's your name. It just slipped out, I promise he's not replacing you.
Buck waited as long as he could. "Chris, talk to me pard. What's going on in that head of yours?" Buck watched, wondering what was going to happen. Before the boys, this kind of reaction would end in a bender but now, things had been so much better since the boys had come. It had been a long time..."Chris?"
"What!" Chris snapped, turning around facing his friend. "What great pearls of wisdom are you going to impart? After all your such an expert. Right?"
"No. I'm no expert, Chris, but I do know that little boy in there loves you more than anything in the world. Hell, you are his world. And he's terrified he'll lose you. That he's not good enough to be your son. That he'll do something wrong or he'll never meet some standard he thinks you've set for him."
"What the hell are you talking about Buck?"
"You tell me you didn't cringe when you realized that you called Vin your 'Little Man' just now? Tell me you don't hold back, just a little, whenever that boy gets too close to that ice block you call a heart. Oh yeah, you go through the motions, do and say all the right things, but you can't or won't let go of that last bit of reserve and he knows it."
"You're wrong, Buck."
"Am I? You ask yourself why then, after all these months, there's been no mention of calling you dad, or poppa? JD follows Vin's lead. But I've heard him talking to the horses and he calls me Dad and you Dad Two. But he'll never say it, not to us, not until Vin does and Vin won't because he feels you pulling back."
"That's bull shit."
"Is it? You think about it, Chris. You think real hard. Because you got some decisions to make about yourself and that boy in there, and they need to be made soon."
Before Chris could answer Buck walked out of the room. As he walked down the hall, he peeked in, checking on the boys before closing the door to his room. Leaning against the door he whispered, "Oh, Lord, that may have been the dumbest thing I've ever done, or the smartest."
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Hours later, Chris was sitting in Sarah's rocker staring out at the moonlight drenched pasture. He'd rather have been in bed, but he couldn't stop thinking. His drink sat untouched on the table. Chris' mind darted from one thing to another. Seeing over and over every time Vin flinched away, every school paper hidden, every secret kept. Buck's words would echo over them like subtitles in a foreign movie. The look of trust and longing that poured out of those sky blue eyes.
Chris closed his burning eyes. "Oh sweet Sarah, things were so much easier when you were here. What should I do? How do I let go and let him in?"
"Why do you have to let go? Has your heart grown so small that there's no room for our son and this beautiful little boy that's come into your life?"
"Yeah, Dad. Can't I have that little brother I always wanted?'
"Adam?" Before him stood not the five-year-old Adam, but a 10-year-old he might have become, with Sarah standing beside him. Chris reached toward him.
Adam smiled, "I have a little brother now, but he needs to know that. You take care of Vin, Dad. He needs you, and you need him too."
"It's not that simple."
"Your right honey, it isn't simple, or easy. Oh, it's easy to love Vin. That first time you saw him you loved him. But giving him your heart is another matter. My brave Chris who can face down the toughest bad guy is afraid. Afraid to give your heart completely because you might lose him as you think you lost us."
"But Chris, you haven't lost us, not forever. We'll be together again someday. You have to take that chance. That's called life." Sarah smiled. "Look what being a 'dad' has done for Buck. Be a dad for Vin, Chris. Take this step of faith for us. We love him too, you know. We love you so much, Honey."
"Love you Dad."
"No, don't go..." Chris jerked; he was still sitting in Sarah's rocker. He frowned and rubbing his hand over his face, he turned at the faint sound from the couch.
Squinting in the dark room, there sat Vin hugging his legs with his chin resting on his knees. His blue eyes watching Chris closely.
"What are you doing up?"
"You weren't in your room." It was almost an accusation.
Chris smiled, "You were checking on me?"
Vin shrugged his shoulders.
"Come here, Cowboy." Chris opened his arms. Vin walked over and Chris enfolded him in his lap. With his chin resting on the top of Vin's head he asked. "Do you often check on me?"
Again Vin shrugged. "Sometimes."
"To see if I'm still here?" Chris felt Vin nod once. He tightened his hold, just a bit. He didn't know quite what to say so they sat in silence looking out the window.
"You miss them a lot don't you?" Vin asked hesitantly.
"Yeah, I do. You miss your Momma, don't you?"
Chris closed his eyes, Help me Sarah, swallowing as he sent his thought to her. "You know Adam always wanted a little brother. He'd see someone with a new baby and ask why we didn't have one. He drove us crazy. Anyway, if you want, you could be Adam's little brother."
Vin leaned away, turning to search Chris' face. "Me?"
"Yeah, if you want me for your dad."
Vin placed one small hand on Chris' cheek, asking in wonder, "You want to be my dad?"
"Yes, Vin. More than anything." Green eyes met blue searching for the truth behind the words. A slow grin of absolute joy filled the blue ones.
"Yes." Vin whispered and threw himself around Chris' neck, each squeezing in a hug that would never end.
Comments to: Jeanne