By Chris Gantt

Thanks to the Bad AOeLement for all the help and encouragement on this story.

Thanks to JK Poffenberger and S Berry for starting the Old West Little Britches Universe.

This was a yucky week. Chris says that one bad day don't mean the whole week
  was yucky but it sure feels that way to me. Me and JD had to go get shots
  for school. They stuck us so many times I thought we'd pop and they smarted.
  (Uncle Nathan says smarts means the same thing as hurts) After shots,
  we went to buy our school stuff from the lists that our teachers mailed to
  us. JD and me both got new backpacks but I didn't feel like shopping so JD
  and Buck picked them out. Now I wish I had said something cause I really
  wanted the blue backpack that JD got. I got the red one. I guess it don't
  really matter. All this buying stuff just makes me think how little summer
  is left and that makes me sad. Buck says there's still lots of days left
  to have fun in before we go back to school but it sure doesn't feel like
  it. It starts next week. I'm a little scared about going back to school.

Tell it, Vin.

I will. ???

Go ahead, tell how you throwed up at the wall mart. Hey, it didn't spell wall mart right! It's supposed to spell it like wall mart the big store but it didn't spell it right.


Oh well, go ahead and tell how you throwed up.


What's wrong with that? It's the truth. You did throw up at the wall mart.

I know.

So why don't you want to tell it?


Vin, you know the computer don't know...

I know.

You want me to tell it?

??? If you wanna.

"Awww, sh...ooot," Chris huffed as he re-read the paper he held.

"What?" Buck asked looking up from the page he was reading.

"Letter from Vin's school," Chris said simply as if that explained it all.

"Yeah, I got one too. Seems do-able," Buck replied as he dropped his gaze back down to his hand and continued his reading.

"Well, I know it's do-able, but I don't think the boys are gonna like it."

Buck looked up at that. "They got a kick outta shopping for stuff last year."

Chris looked at his friend. "What are you talking about, Buck?"

Buck waved his paper around a bit. "This list from JD's teacher about the supplies he's going to need this year." Buck frowned at Chris' incomprehension. "What are you talking about?"

Chris waved his paper. "Letter from the school about Vin's immunizations. He needs to have them updated before he can start back next week."

Buck stared for a moment, and then realization dawned on him. "Oh, right. Both boys still need some shots." Buck recalled the events the previous year when the boys had come to live with them. When they had enrolled them in school, both boys were still underweight and undernourished. Their doctor had excused them from getting some of the normal shots children got before starting school saying it would do them more harm than good in their current state of health. Buck sighed knowing the time had come.

"If you look, you probably got a letter too," Chris said, pulling Buck away from his thoughts. "I found mine from Vin's teacher with his list."

Buck shuffled through the small pile of envelopes in his lap and pulled out the appropriate one. "Looks like it, pard. Guess we need to get the boys set up with Dr. Two Eagles." He tore open the envelope and pulled out the paper, unfolding it and turning it so it was right side up. "Man, what are all these diseases? What's Pertussis?"

"It was called whooping cough in our day," Chris answered him, never lifting his eyes from the list Vin's teacher had sent.

"Oh...and, hey, chickenpox. They have a shot for that now?"

"Appears so."

"Do you remember which ones the boys need?"

Chris finally looked towards his friend. "Their doctor will have all that in their records. I just remember getting the exemption for them last year."

"You wanna make the call or should I?"

"Be my guest."

"Nice of them to wait until the last minute to send these out," Buck groused as he set aside the letter as a reminder to make the appointment. "School starts next week."

We both got stuck lots and lots of times. I don't know why they couldn't'a stuck us all in the same place insteada poking us everywhere.

The stuff they squirted in our mouths was good.

Yeah, that wasn't so bad but the rest of them hurt.

That why you throwed up?

I reckon.

"It's all over now, Little Bit," Buck soothed as he held the boy close and ran a comforting hand up and down his back. "I know it hurt but they're all over with, okay?"

JD sniffled as he buried his face deeper into Buck's neck. Buck sighed as he rested his cheek on the boy's head and looked over at his friend. It didn't look like Chris was having any easier of a time.

"You did real well, Vin. I'm proud of you. I know it hurt," Chris encouraged as he rubbed the boy's slumped shoulders. Vin sat on the floor of the examination room, legs pulled up tight to his chest, head pressed onto his knees.

"Both you boys were very brave," Dr. Two Eagles agreed. "I've had patients twice your ages scream and cry." The doctor paused as he watched both boys for a moment. "I've got the toy box here for you to pick from when you're ready. And gentlemen, I'll leave their immunization reports with the receptionist. You can pick them up as you leave."

"Thanks, Doctor," Chris said from his kneeling position on the floor. He watched as the doctor stepped from the room and then returned his attention to his son. "You wanna have a look at the box, Vin? See if anything catches your eye?"

"I see some mighty fun stuff in there myself, JD. Wanna take a peek?" Buck added.

Neither boy moved so Chris and Buck remained silent as they let them rest a little.

"I know what we can do," Buck finally broke the silence. "I think we need to hit Maggie Moo's for some ice cream...maybe even have a banana split for lunch. What'd'ya say, Chris?"

Chris nodded his approval. "Sounds like a great idea to me."

Finally, there was movement from the two boys. JD made one final sniffle as he pulled away from Buck's chest and let his gaze find the toy box. Rubbing a finger under his nose, he shifted in Buck's arms in an effort to get down. Buck gently lowered him until his sneakers hit the floor; keeping his hands around the boy until he was sure JD was steady on his feet. Slowly, JD stepped over to the box and squatted down to peer inside.

Vin lifted his head from his knees only far enough to rest his chin on them. He blinked several times as he watched JD tentatively stick his hand in the box and start shifting the items around. "Anything good?" he asked in a husky voice.

"Why don't you go take a look, Vin?" Chris suggested.

Vin slowly lowered his knees until he was sitting cross-legged on the floor then shrugged his shoulders. "When JD's done." He rubbed his hands up and down both thighs, locations of two of the more painful inoculations he had gotten.

"They got Darth," JD informed them as he thrust his arm out towards Vin with the said item wrapped in his fingers.

When Vin made no move, Chris took the figure from JD and passed it to Vin. "That's one you don't have, isn't it?" he asked.

Vin nodded his head as he looked at the toy in his hand. Without a word, he slowly wrapped his own fingers around the toy and Chris knew that Vin had made his choice.

Buck squatted down beside JD. "See anything you like?" he asked just moments before JD raised a triumphant hand in the air and shouted his glee.


"Ah...I guess you do," Buck snickered, playfully rubbing at his now deafened ear. "You boys ready to head out now?" he asked then groaned as he pushed himself back up.

The group gathered themselves up and moved to the reception area where they picked up the boys' immunization reports to turn in to their school and made arrangements for the next follow-up shot for the hepatitis series. Both boys frowned, feeling that they had had enough shots to last them until they were at least as old as Josiah. JD even voiced that opinion.

Buck grinned at the comment as he herded JD towards the exit. "I'm sure Josiah will be happy to know he's that old. Now, time for banana splits?" he asked, hoping to turn the conversation to happier things.

" 'Nanna splits...'nanna splits..." JD sing-songed as he and Buck led the way to the parking lot.

Chris looked down at Vin and caught the boy rubbing roughly at his thighs. "They bothering you, Vin? You want me to carry you?" he asked, knowing the boy would likely refuse. "I've had a little practice in that lately, you know." Chris grinned and winked at Vin. A broken toe and a couple bottom-of-the-foot bee stings had made walking difficult at times the past few weeks for the seven year old.

"They's just sore. I can walk," he replied, though he did slip his hand in to Chris', something he rarely did.

Chris smiled as he gently led the way out to the parking lot.


Buck snickered as he watched JD smash his plastic spoon into one of the mounds of ice cream, smooshing the toppings into it. He repeated the action on the other two scoops and then proceeded to swirl the mess together. Shaking his head, Buck took a bite of his own banana split then looked towards the other boy. Vin was taking a little more care in preparing his ice cream for consumption and was making sure that every bite contained a little bit of everything.

Chris watched for a few moments then looked down at the immunization report he had pulled out of his pocket. There were inoculations listed that hadn't been in the requirements that had come from the school but since they had no history on whether or not either boy had ever had any of the normal childhood shots, they assumed they hadn't and proceeded to give them those as well.

"Polio?" Buck asked, peeking over Chris' shoulder.

"What's plolio?" JD asked right before he pushed a spoonful of ice cream into his mouth.

"Polio," Buck corrected. "It's a disease that makes it so you can't walk," he explained simply, knowing there was more to it.

JD rested his spoon in his dish and looked at Buck askance. "How's it do that?"

"Well, I'm not rightly sure, Little Bit but you don't need to worry about it. They still give medicine for it but it's pretty much gone now."

"Did you get shots when you were a kid?"

Buck nodded. "Sure did. Lots of 'em. I kinda liked the polio one though. They gave that one in a sugar cube," Buck recalled smiling.

"How'd they do that?" JD asked as he swirled his spoon in his ice cream, mixing it up further.

"Well, the doctors would put the medicine in a sugar cube and then we'd just eat the cube," Buck explained. "I guess that was the stuff that they squirted in their mouths?" Buck stated, kind of making it a question as he looked over at Chris. Chris shrugged slightly then nodded that he agreed. "Those sugar cubes were mighty tasty, even if they were really medicine. Num num," Buck grinned as he rubbed his stomach.

JD and Vin both giggled at Buck and continued eating.

Chris had put away the immunization report and had taken out their list of schools supplies. There were quite a few specific things on the list that he found unusual but figured the teacher had her reasons for requiring them.

"Looks like a lot of the stuff we have to get is the same for both boys. That'll make it easier," Buck noted as he looked over Chris' shoulder at Vin's list. "JD does have some different things. His teacher wants him to get those big fat pencils instead of the regular ones," he went on, pausing to spoon in some of the last bites of his banana split.

"JD, what're you doin'?" Vin whined.

Both men looked up to see JD pouring the sugar from one of the packets on the table onto his tongue. Buck reached out to grab the packet with what little sugar remained in it from JD's hand. He pressed his lips together and shook his head but said nothing.

"I'n tating ny oleo tudar," JD explained around the pile of rapidly dissolving sugar on his tongue.

Buck took a moment to decipher 'I'm taking my polio sugar'. He shook his head.

"Ice cream wasn't gonna make you hyper enough? Gotta super-charge it with sugar too?" Buck asked rhetorically. He looked at the still half full dish in front of the boy. "You 'bout done?"

JD shook his head vigorously. "Nope," he replied picking up his spoon. "Gonna eat it all!" JD had said that before, but to date had never been able to finish a whole banana split.

Vin had been sitting quietly spooning in his ice cream and his dish was cleared almost to the bottom.

"Well, hurry up boys. We've got shopping to do!"


The local Wal-Mart was huge and crowded. It seemed everyone decided that today was the day to shop but thankfully most weren't shopping for school supplies. The two men had their hands full as it was finding the stuff they needed and keeping track of the two boys without dodging countless other shoppers. Buck had the handle of the hand basket resting in one palm with the fingers of that hand gripping JD's supply list. His other hand alternated between grabbing items off the shelves and keeping a hold of the boy.

"I wanna see," JD insisted as Buck was about to put the package of washable markers he'd grabbed off the display into the basket.

Buck sighed and handed the box of markers to the boy and took the previous item that JD had to see and placed it into the basket. Glancing down at the list crumpled in his fingers, he sighed again when he realized he was only halfway through it.

Vin stayed a pace behind Chris as the man picked up things from his list. His gaze shifted from all the supplies on the shelves, to the other people shopping for the same things and then to the end of the isle where the books were, books on reading, arithmetic and science. Vin grimaced and pressed himself backwards into the shelves as he stared at them all. A little girl stepped up and excitedly pulled down one of the readers, showing it to her mother. Vin wished he felt that excited about going back to school. Now that they were starting to get ready for the new school year to begin, he was getting nervous.

Stepping further away, but staying within eyesight of Chris and Buck, Vin found himself taking several deep breaths to try to settle the butterflies that had started fluttering around in his stomach. He pushed the heels of his hands down his thighs as the injection sites began to throb again.

Chris took a moment to locate the two boys, just to make sure neither one had wandered off, and noticed the frantic look on Vin's face. He stepped over to him and squatted down. "What's the matter, Vin?"

Vin bit his lips together, afraid of what would happen if he opened his mouth. His stomach was sending definite signals.

"Vin? Something wrong?" Chris tried again.

Vin nodded quickly and blurted out, "Need a bathroom."

"Can you wait just a few more minutes? We can go after we have everything and Buck can go through the check-out while we hit the restroom," Chris negotiated.

Vin shook his head rapidly and bolted towards the end of the isle. He didn't get far around the end before the feeling overtook him and he leaned forward as his stomach rebelled. Chris rushed up behind him but all he could do was try to comfort the boy until the retching ended. He knew Vin would feel devastated to have thrown up in a public place.

Buck came up behind the two with JD in tow. "Uh-oh. Used banana split...not a pretty sight," he joked feebly as he pulled JD away from the mess.

"Vin?" JD called in a small voice, scared for his friend.

"He'll be okay, Little Bit. Let's let Chris take care of him and we'll stay out of the way, okay?" Buck maneuvered JD back around the end of the isle to finish up their shopping.

A Wal-Mart employee noticed what was happening right away and rushed off to get a bucket and mop to clean up the mess. The rolling bucket squeaked to a stop a few feet away and the teenager dutifully began to mop the area, smiling insincerely at the worried father.

Chris got Vin turned around to face him and began rubbing his dry handkerchief across the boy's mouth. "Doing okay now?" he asked.

Vin shook his head slowly as several tears rolled down his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he whimpered.

"Nothing to be sorry for, cowboy. These things happen and I know you didn't get sick on purpose. I guess you just weren't ready for shopping after getting your shots."

Vin agreed by shaking his head again but the tears kept rolling down his face.

Chris smiled sadly as he brushed his thumb across the little boy's cheek. "It's okay, Vin."

"I wanna go home," Vin plaintively whispered.

Chris thought for a minute and then said, "I'll tell Buck to finish up as fast as he can. You and I can go wait for him outside, okay?"

Vin rubbed his arm under his nose and nodded.

"Okay, come on." Chris stood up and took Vin by the hand, briefly wondering if he should carry him, and led the way back to where Buck waited. Vin dragged his feet a little and kept his eyes on the floor, knowing that everyone was staring at him. "We're going to wait outside for you." Chris handed his shopping basket over to Buck. "Can you finish up and meet us?"

"Sure, pard," Buck agreed, looking down at the forlorn little boy.

"And get Vin a new backpack. Little piggy did a number on his other one and I don't think it'll make it another year."

Buck grinned as he remembered the rodeo they had taken the boys to early on in their time together and the little piglet that Vin and JD had tried to "save" by hiding him in Vin's backpack. The pack did not come out of the event unscathed and while it had survived long enough for Vin to finish out the school year, it definitely needed to be replaced.

"Got it covered, Chris. You take care of Vin and I'll handle everything else."

"Thanks." Chris turned and slowly led Vin towards the exit of the superstore.

Buck leaned down and tried to get JD's attention away from his departing friend. "Let's get this taken care of quick so we can get Vin home, okay?" JD nodded though he kept looking towards the doors. "Chris said Vin needs a new backpack. Why don't you go pick one out for him, okay?"

JD finally looked up at Buck. "Me too?" he asked, wanting whatever Vin got.

"I don't know, JD. Your backpack is still in pretty good shape."

"But it's a little one. I need a big boy one now," he insisted.

Buck grinned. How could he argue with that logic? "Okay, you've convinced me. The backpacks are right over there," he said as he pointed to a pile at other end of the long isle. "I'll finish up with these lists while you go give them a look see."

JD nodded vigorously and darted towards the pile.

"And stay where I can see you," Buck called after him.

Buck finished his shopping in just a few minutes and joined JD in his search for the perfect backpack.

"I like the blue one."

"Okay. What about Vin's?"

"He gets the red one 'cause it's just like my blue one which is the best one only his is red so we can tell them apart."

Buck nodded and smiled at the little boy's exhuberance. "If you say so. Let's go pay for these and see how Vin's feeling." Buck led the way to the checkout and picked a line. He'd given up going for the shortest lines. They always seemed to take the longest time so he looked for a mid-length one and hoped for the best.

The sun was shining outside as the man and boy exited the store. Buck looked around but saw no sign of Chris and Vin. "They must be waiting in the truck," he said softly to himself and started towards where they had parked. Sure enough, he saw Chris sitting in the passenger seat with Vin curled tightly on his lap. He went to the driver's side and opened the door. "How's he doing?"

Vin looked to be asleep, his hands wrapped around a plastic Sprite bottle that Chris had bought out of one of the many vending machines outside the store's entrance. Chris lifted his eyes from the boy. "I think he's more embarrassed now than anything. The ice cream and shopping on top of the shots was a little too much for him."

Buck grinned as he watched Vin doze. "You wanna sit here for a while or wake him up to put him in his seat?"

"He can ride between us. There's a middle belt here."

Buck nodded and pulled the driver's seat forward to gain access to the child seat in the back for JD. "Come on, son. Up you go." Buck easily lifted JD up and maneuvered him into his booster seat, fastening the straps and then tossing their purchases onto the other side of the seat. When he pushed back the driver's seat, Chris eased Vin into the spot in the center and dug the rarely used seat belt out of the cracks.

Once everyone was secured in his seat, Buck started the engine and headed for home.


The trip home was uneventful with the two men staying quiet, the older boy resting against his father and the younger boy firmly held in his car seat. JD occasionally stretched up as far as he could reach to see the top of Vin's head in the seat in front of him. Then, he would sigh and turn his attention back to quietly playing with the small Nemo toy he'd gotten from the doctor. Something inside him told him he shouldn't make too much noise.

Finally, Buck pulled into the long driveway leading up to the ranch house and Chris began to gently rouse Vin.

"We're home, Vin. Time to wake up."

Vin took a deep breath as he slowly lifted his eyelids. He hadn't been asleep, just pretending so he didn't have to face the men in the car. It had mortified him when he threw up at the store and even though he knew his family understood, he felt like he never wanted to face anyone ever again. As Buck pulled the truck to a stop, Vin pushed himself away from Chris and looked out the window.

JD had taken Vin's movement as the okay to start making noise again and began swimming his fish in the air in front of him. "Home, home, home, home, home, home, home," he chanted as Buck moved to get him out of his booster seat.

"That's right, we're home. Let's get you boys and all your booty inside."

The group trudged into the house, tired by the full day. Buck led the way into the living room and dropped the bags in the center of the floor. The two men took seats as the two boys stopped and looked down at the bags. Since Buck had paid for everything, Vin and JD's stuff had gotten mixed in together. JD grabbed the closest bag and upended it, dumping the contents into a pile on the floor then knelt down and began picking through the supplies.

Vin squatted down beside JD and reached a hand forward to grab one of the colorful packages.

"That was on my list," JD informed him as he grabbed the item away and set it aside.

Vin looked sadly at JD for a moment then turned his attention back to the pile. Everything that caught his eye seemed to be on JD's list and not his. His stuff was boring. Frustrated, he turned to the other shopping bag and pulled out the top item. A new blue backpack. Vin's eyes got wide.

"That one's mine," JD said firmly as he took the pack. "My favorite color is blue and so the blue one is mine. You get the red one sos we can tell them apart."

"But, I want blue," Vin whined unhappily. He reached his fingers out to brush them on the canvas.

"I gets blue and if you has a blue one too, then we'll get 'em mixed up and I'll end up taking your stuff to my class and you'll take my stuff to your class," JD blurted out his explanation.

"Who cares? We're in the same class," Vin rationalized.

Even before Vin finished speaking, JD started shaking his head. "But some days we might not be or some days you'll have to go talk to Dr. Will and then I'll need my stuff with me and you might take my backpack instead of yours so I get blue and you get red so we can always tell which one is mine and which one is yours."

The two men watched silently, knowing there was a conflict brewing but not sure how bad it would be. They decided to stay out of it unless it got heated.

Vin reached out and grabbed a strap of the backpack. "But I want blue," he insisted.

JD twisted his body away trying to pull the pack out of Vin's grasp. "No, this is mine."

Vin released the strap but stared angrily at JD. After a moment of seething, he stood up and shouted, "You always get what you want! Why can't I ever get what I want?!"

"Boys," Buck started as he stood up.

Vin stood panting for several seconds, his chest and shoulders heaving, still glaring at the younger boy. Finally, in a cold even tone, he started, "I wish I..." He stopped talking and his eyes grew wide. Suddenly, he slapped a hand over his mouth and ran from the room.

"Vin," Chris called as he stood up beside Buck.

Buck looked over at Chris and shrugged. "I'll take care of mine, you best go get yours."

Chris nodded and walked out of the room.

"Now, JD," Buck began. "There are ways to work out things without getting mean."

"But he's the one who yelled."

"Well, yeah, he did but you weren't being very nice," Buck told him. "And if Vin wants a blue backpack too, then we can exchange the red one. We'll find a way to make them look different so you don't mix them up."

JD looked down at the school supplies in a heap in front of him and sighed dramatically.

Chris was headed down the hall towards the boy's bedroom when sounds from the bathroom sidetracked him. He entered the room and found Vin huddled over the toilet getting sick for the second time that day. Chris sighed as he moved up beside the boy and knelt down.

Vin coughed a few times and spit into the bowl before he straightened up. He wasn't able to look at his father. Chris grabbed a washcloth and wet it, rubbing it gently over Vin's face.

"I guess those shots took a lot out of you, huh?" Chris asked evenly, not really sure if they were the cause of Vin's vomiting or not.

"I reckon," Vin agreed softly. He felt his stomach tighten again at the lie. He knew the shots weren't why he was getting sick, at least not the whole reason. Fear of going back to school was playing a part as well.

"Think maybe you should lay down for a while?"

Vin only nodded in response and headed out of the bathroom. Chris stood and watched until he was out of sight, then leaned over to flush the toilet and followed Vin out.


"I think I'm gonna get me some iced tea. You want some?" Buck asked as he stretched theatrically. After Chris had settled Vin on his bed and Buck had plopped JD in front of the TV in the den with a favorite video playing, the two agents began reading through some files for a case going to trial the next week. After perusing report after report for nearly an hour, Buck decided he needed a break.

"Yeah, thanks," Chris replied as he too took time out to stretch.

Buck got up and started towards the kitchen. As he passed, he leaned over next to Chris and, as he dropped his folder on the stack on the table, he spoke softly. "I think someone's looking for you." He stood and continued out of the room.

Chris looked up at Buck's retreating form for a moment then looked towards the hallway that led to the bedrooms. He could see the top of Vin's head with one eye peeking around the corner and the tips of his fingers curled around the wall's edge.

"Come on in, Vin," Chris invited casually. What he could see of the boy disappeared back into the hallway and it was several moments before Vin came out and hesitantly stepped up to his father. "You doing okay?"

Vin began nodding sadly but the movement eventually turned into a shake.

"Come here," Chris instructed as he reached out his hands. Vin stepped into the arms and was lifted easily onto Chris' legs. It took a little shifting to get comfortable but finally Vin snuggled down into Chris' lap, resting his head against Chris' shoulder. Chris settled into his chair and wrapped his arms around his son. "Stomach feel any better?" he asked softly.

Vin shrugged his response.

"How about your legs?" he asked, rubbing the boy's thighs briefly.

Vin shrugged again.

Before Chris put his arm back around Vin, he felt his forehead, knowing that some children would spike a fever after getting their measles, mumps and rubella shot. Vin felt normal.

"Think you'll be able to eat dinner?" Chris asked as he began gently rubbing his hand up and down Vin's arm.

After a long silence, Vin asked his own question. "Do I have to go back to school?"

Chris took a deep breath. "Yeah, you do. All kids have to go to school," he explained matter-of-factly.

Vin sighed sadly. "But I'm no good at it."

"Why do you say that?" Chris knew that Vin had trouble with schoolwork but it wasn't because he wasn't intelligent.

"JD's smarter than me and he's younger. Older kids are supposed to be smarter. I don't wanna be the dumb one anymore." Vin's voice quivered and dropped to a whisper as he finished.

"Well, first off," Chris began in a firm voice, "you are not dumb and I don't ever want to hear you say that again, okay?"

Vin remained silent.

"Vin," Chris warned as he gave the boy a little shake.

"Okay," Vin relented.

Chris wasn't sure how much conviction was behind the agreement but he went on anyway. "And second, I don't think JD is smarter than you. He may learn some things easier than you do but that's all. You just need to work at it a little more than he does."

"But it's too hard." Vin tried to keep the tears from falling but a few escaped and rolled down his cheeks.

"Vin, you remember when you were trying to teach JD how to play baseball? He took a long time before he could even hit the ball. But you remember how good you were at it right from the start? Everyone has things that are easier for them to learn and things that take more work to learn. Schoolwork is your 'more work' thing. It doesn't mean you can't do it or that you aren't any good at it. And it certainly doesn't mean you're not smart."

Vin stayed silent as he thought about this, his fingers picking at a fold in Chris' shirt.

Chris wanted to tell him that no one who was 'dumb' would be able to, at seven years old, survive and keep a five year old alive for several months while living on the streets but wasn't sure he should bring up the boys' past life. It was over and best forgotten. He lowered his mouth to Vin's head and kissed him gently.

Buck returned with two glasses of tea, setting one on the table beside Chris. Then, he pulled the half full bottle of Sprite out of his short's pocket and held it in front of Vin. "Thought you might want to try some of this, see how it sits on your stomach."

Vin looked up at Buck and smiled shyly as he took the bottle from him. "Thanks," he whispered.

Chris conveyed his appreciation through a look and also let Buck know that he needed a little more time alone with Vin.

"Guess I'll go see what JD is up to. He's been just a little too quiet." Buck winked at the two and left the room.

Chris and Vin remained silent for several minutes, Chris gently stroking Vin's arm and back. Vin slowly removed the cap from the Sprite bottle and took a sip, letting the cool liquid flow slowly across his tongue to the back of this throat before he swallowed.

"So, what do you think, Vin?"

Vin stayed quiet as he began to pick at the label on his bottle. Taking a deep breath, and keeping his eyes low, he timidly asked, "You really think I can do it?"

"Vin, you can do anything you want to as long as you're willing to put in the time it takes to learn it. And we'll all help you if you need it."

Vin tipped his head back. "You'll help me?"

"Of course I'll help you. And Buck will help you. Mrs. Potter will help you. Uncle Ezra, Uncle Josiah, Uncle Nathan. Everyone will help you if you need them to, Vin, just like we always have."

"And nobody thinks I'm dumb?"

Chris squeezed the boy tight. "No, no one thinks you're dumb."

Vin pressed himself into Chris' chest and took a deep breath, letting it out in a sigh.

"And Vin,"


"I love you. No matter what happens in school, that won't change."

Vin sniffled and rubbed a finger under his nose. "I love you, too."

Are we almost done, Vin? Uncle Ezra will be here soon.

I guess so.

What's the matter?

School starts soon.

But school is fun.

Not for me.


It's hard.

But you're the smartest guy I know.


Look Vin, it spelled the noise you made when I hugged you.

Yeah" ??? "Guess we better say goodbye now. Goodbye computer.



You can have the blue backpack.

That's okay, JD. I like red.

Goodbye computer.

The End

Next: Dancing in the Wind...


In The Good Ol' Summertime (Index)