"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe
Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money.
Authors Note: My thanks to Phyllis for proof reading this for me.
Chris was seriously annoyed; no he was mad as hell. A suspect they knew had a stash of illegal explosives had - after two whole months of doing nothing - decided to move the stash today, October 31st, Halloween! And his team was forced to follow, for as long as it took. Hasty calls to his and Buck's housekeeper, Mrs Potter, and to Rain Jackson ensued. Nathan wasn't with the rest of the team because the DA had called him as an expert witness in forensics in an unrelated case. Rain and Nathan would pick up the two boys and take them home for the night.
Buck sat beside Chris in the Ram as they trailed the truck carrying the explosives, sulking. He had complained bitterly about how unfair it was. Chris agreed with him, but there was nothing to be done. He knew Ezra and Josiah, travelling in Ezra's Jag somewhere ahead of the truck, were upset as well. They had all been at the ranch when on Sunday the boys tried on their costumes. Black jeans, new, from Chris and Buck. White shirts and black boots, they already had. Black ties, actually ribbon from Mrs Potters sewing basket. Black jackets, Vin's came from Mrs Potter's son - he wore it a long time ago to be a page boy - and JD's was from a thrift shop - it was actually from a woman's suit, but he hadn't noticed. Black sunglasses, a present from Ezra. There before the five men, were two miniature MIB agents. To complete the outfits, Nathan gave them a shiny silver pen each, that looked like a 'flashy thingy' once it was in their top pockets and Josiah had purchased two toy 'Noisy Cricket' guns from Toys R Us.
Vin had been so excited about, not only the costume, but that Chris and Buck were going to go with them in costume as well. It wasn't hard for Chris to find an all black outfit. Buck had every thing except the jacket, which he borrowed from Josiah. It was a bit big across the shoulders but it didn't look too bad.
"Damn it!" Buck suddenly exclaimed, hitting the window beside him with the back of his hand.
"Yeah ,I know, but it ain't the car's fault." Chris sympathised, but there was little they could do.
He could just see Vin's face when Nate and Rain turned up at school, and not him and Buck. JD no doubt cried, but not Vin. No, Vin would be stoic and resigned. It worried him how easily the boy seemed to accept injustice, as though it was his lot in life to be disappointed. He knew, as did Buck, that the boys would be safe with Nathan and Rain, that the Jackson's would take them out tonight 'Trick or Treating'. But it wouldn't be the same. He had told Nathan to tell them they would have a party at the ranch on Saturday. It wasn't much but it was better then nothing.
It was just after eleven when they made the arrests, catching buyer and seller in one sweep. Chris had phoned Nathan instantly to say everyone was okay and they would be home in about two hours. Nathan told him the boys were fine, they had been good kids, had lots of fun with the other kids in the neighbourhood, some of whom went to the same school as them, and that they were now sound asleep. Chris promised that he and Buck would be over there to pick them up first thing in the morning.
^oo^ ^oo^ ^oo^
Rain rolled over under the heavy comforter to find no husband, only a warm spot. So she opened her eyes to see Nathan standing by the bed pulling on his robe.
"What's up babe it's " She glanced at the glowing green numbers on the alarm clock. "two thirty am? What's wrong?" Alarm grew inside her, had something gone wrong with the bust, was one of the guys hurt?
"Not sure Hun, I heard something." With that, he pushed the little snub nose revolver from the bedside cabinet into his robe pocket, having first loaded it with the bullets from the locked drawer, a precaution he took before the boys came to stay. "Stay here," he warned.
Nathan stepped quietly onto the landing and glanced toward the stairs - nothing - then up toward the landing window, and sighed with relief. Clearly what had woken him was Vin, walking to the window. The boy was kneeling by the window, apparently gazing up at the sky, his toy cat held firmly by the tail, in one hand.
As Nathan approached, he called softly to his surrogate nephew, not wanting to startle him. And although he saw him react to his voice, Vin didn't respond. Now that he was closer, he could see by the orange glow of the street light outside that Vin was cold. He was wearing only his pajamas, the grey camouflage ones Josiah gave him. His bare arms had goosebumps all over them and he was shivering.
"Here son." Nathan removed the loaded gun from his pocket and placed it on top of the tall narrow bookcase in the corner and then slipped his robe off and wrapped it around Vin.
"What's up son? You feeling sick?" It was a good bet, considering the amount of candy he had consumed.
The boy shook his head.
"What then? Bad dream?"
Finally Vin nodded.
Nathan knelt down beside him. "Want to tell me about it? Might help you know?"
Vin looked around for the first time, his eyes were wide as saucers. The gloom had made the pupils dilate so they looked dark and fathomless. The phrase "Windows to the Soul" was meant for eyes like that, Nathan thought.
"Do you know what Halloween means?"
Nathan did, but now was not the time to be the fountain of knowledge.
"Well you know, I'm not sure I recall, it's been a long time since I was at school. Do you know?"
Vin went back to looking out of the window.
"We did it in school today, it means All Hallows - that means holy - Eve, and tomorrow is All Saints Day. Tonight is the one night the souls of the dead can rise up and walk about."
Nathan was afraid the serious boy had taken his teacher too literally. "I don't think you are going to see any souls Vin; it's just a story."
Vin leaned his forehead on the cold glass. "But do you think maybe it could be a bit true, that maybe souls can come back tonight, just fer a visit?" he asked, the tone of his voice very serious indeed.
"I don't know, but I do know there are no monsters."
"I know that. I was thinking of my Ma, I was wondering if she could come back tonight. Just for a visit, just for a little while. I wouldn't ask her no questions or nothing. I wouldn't ask her to tell me the angels secrets. Only " his voice began to waver, a crack in it that went to Nathan's heart.
Vin looked up at the sky; tears now glistened in the eerie orange glow as they ran unchecked down his cheeks. "It's jist that, what I mean is I love Chris, and Buck a whole lot, but sometimes "
"You miss your Ma and you want her back." Nathan finally supplied after an agonisingly long silence.
"Come here Tiger." He reached across and gently, relieved to feel no resistance, pulled Vin down to sit on his lap and gathered the well worn robe around the boy.
"Just for a little while, just a visit, I don't think God would mind. Just once more." Vin sobbed into Nathan's chest. "It's not fair, Tommy Bell, at school, his mom and dad don't live together but he gets to see his dad on holidays and Suzy Kutz, her dad is in prison, but she goes t' see him sometimes, she told me. Oh!"
"I wasn't s'pposed t' tell no one that, I promised."
"It's safe with me, I won't tell."
"They all git to see the other one, sometimes. It's not fair! Why can't I see her again, why?"
The anger that had flared briefly subsided, into sobs.
Nathan, acting purely on instinct, rocked gently back and forth as he rubbed gentle circles on Vin's back under the robe.
"Wish I could give you an answer, I really do. I'd like to see my Mama again too. You know? I was still a kid -older than you - but still in school when she died."
Vin looked up at his uncle. "She did?"
"'M sorry, Uncle Nate."
"Thank you Vin. I was very angry for a long time after that. You see I couldn't understand why God would take someone so good. It just didn't seem right somehow. Them preachers were always talking about how good God is and how he loves us all so much. Well I didn't see how God could love me or my Dad or my Mom. If he did why did He hurt us so bad?"
Nathan pulled Vin closer to him. "You know what I decided in the end?"
Vin shook his head.
"That maybe it's a big world, maybe God can't be everywhere, sometimes the devil sneaks past him and does bad stuff, then all God can do is clean up the mess. He can help doctors to save lives. He can help little boys who are left all alone find new homes where they are loved and wanted and cared for." He glanced down to see a small smile spread across a tear-streaked face. "And he can take the ones he can't save and hold them close to his heart in heaven, so nothing can hurt them again, not ever, and I think, as much as we would like to see our moms again, it would be very painful for them and us, to see them and have to say goodbye again. Goodbyes can hurt terribly."
"But I never got to say goodbye," Vin admitted quietly.
"But she did Vin, when it was her turn, when God called her to him, she said goodbye to you, in her heart, even if you didn't hear it she said it. It would hurt both of you to say it again, wouldn't it?"
He looked down into the boy's eyes and held Vin's dark bottomless pools with his own. "I guess," Vin finally admitted. "But it's not fair."
"No no it isn't fair, life isn't fair sometimes Vin, and anyone who tells you it is, is lying to you, but " He gave Vin an extra big squeeze. "Things have a way of working out, you lost yer mom and Chris lost his son and now you have each other."
Just then the quiet moment between uncle and nephew was disturbed by a plaintive cry from the guestroom.
"Mama!" JD wailed in his sleep.
"JD!" Vin cried out in response, trying to get up, but Nathan held him fast.
"Aunt Rain will see to him." He glanced up to see, what he knew he would see, his wife moving from the doorway where she had been watching, to go to JD.
^oo^ ^oo^ ^oo^
"Mama, Mama." JD was now just muttering as he tossed and turned in the big double bed he had been sharing with Vin.
"Hush now darling, hush little one," Rain soothed, letting her soft warm hand rest on his little forehead.
Impossibly long lashes fluttered once, twice and then huge, sleep weary hazel eyes opened.
"Mama?" he asked.
"No JD, it's Auntie Rain dear, remember, you came to stay?"
The little brow furrowed with concentration was he tried to orient himself, suddenly he looked around, eyes wide with fear.
"He's outside with Nathan. He's fine. Come here, let's go see him, shall we?"
JD nodded and, sitting up, he crawled into Rain's arms as she pulled the comforter around him.
Out on the landing, Nathan and Vin still sat on the floor by the window.
"Do you like snow?"
"Yeah." The voice was sleepy now.
"And did your mom like snow?"
"Yeah, I used t' make snow men, but mom said that was wrong and we had t' make snow women as well, then we had snow ball fights and made angels."
"Well you know? I think maybe your Ma knew how sad you were tonight and she had a word with the big guy. Look."
Vin pulled himself up to look over Nathan's shoulder and out of the window. It was snowing, big, heavy, fluffy snowflakes, drifted down to speckle the dark ground. Soon, they would cover it.
"Oh Ma," Vin all but breathed.
Two adults and one boy winced at the high-pitched, ear-splitting shriek, that had Rain tilting her head away from the source and Nathan worried the neighbors would be calling up to complain.
A now very awake JD squirmed to get down and once liberated, but still with a huge double comforter wrapped around him, ran forward to the window. Vin too, extricated himself from Nathan's lap and stood beside him at the window.
"Friday t'morow Vin," JD said solemnly.
"D' ya think the snow 'll last till the weekend?"
"D' ya think we can go fer a ride in the snow? Do horses like snow?"
"Hope so," was Vin's only response.
Nathan got up quietly and backed up, to stand beside his wife.
"Darling, when we have kids I want two just like them," Rain whispered into his ear.
"They look just like them, I'll be wanting an explanation dear!"
Rain hit him on the arm, just to remind him who was the boss.
"Don't be stupid, you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." With that, he kissed her. "Wait here, I have a call to make."
^oo^ ^oo^ ^oo^
An hour later the boys, still on the floor in front of the window, had fallen asleep wrapped in each other's arms and the big comforter. So they didn't see or hear the big black Dodge Ram as it rolled to a stop outside the Jackson house, nor see the two tall men exit the vehicle and walk up to the front door. They didn't hear Nathan open the door and welcome them or see him take their bags out to the car, as their fathers mounted the stairs.
Buck scooped JD up, as Rain wrapped an afghan Buck had brought with him around the small boy. JD's thumb fell out of his slack mouth as Buck raised him high enough to lay a gentle kiss to his forehead.
"B'ck," he mumbled.
"Yes Little Bit, I'm here, hush now, bedtime."
"'K." With that, he lay his head under Buck's chin and was asleep again, Rain gently pushing his thumb back in his mouth.
Not until Vin was untangled from the comforter and wrapped in another afghan did he stir.
"Chris?" he asked sleepily as he recognised the smell and feel of his father before he was fully awake.
"Yeah its me."
Vin's once slack limbs now came up and encircled his father, arms around his neck, legs clamped tightly around his waist.
"Ma sent me snow," he muttered. "'Cause I was sad. Is it morning?"
Chris looked up at Nathan who signalled he would explain later. "No it's not morning, but when you wake up, it will be in your own bed, is that alright?"
"Mmmm." Vin was drifting back to sleep, secure in his father's loving embrace.
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