Fighting The Infidel


It was meant to snow but it rained. We
  went to the store and helped with the shopping. We got to use the new scan
  guns, but Chris got mad. Then Buck hurt his leg and we had to go to the hospital
  while he got it fixed. Me and JD got very bored so Buck hellped us make a
  camp and we had marshmallows and stuff and Ringo and Elvis played with us.
  Chris was trying to be mad but he was lafing too much.

I was sad went Da hurt his leg. I dont like it when Chris was mad but I no
  he waznt mad at us. We had fun with Buck.

Who's gonna talk first?

You go first Vin, talks about the weathered man

Okay. We came home on Friday and it was really, really cold. Mrs Potter was watching the T.V. The weatherman said it was going to start snowing an me and JD was excited.

But he lied.

No JD, he just got it wrong, grownups aren't always right, he just got it wrong.

But I wanted it to snow. ??? Look, Vin. I did a heavy sigh.

I can see that. Chris said it might snow later; we just have to be patient.

Tell about the store.

Okay. We had to go to the new Wal*Mart to do the shopping. We got to help do the shopping with the new magic guns.


Yeah scanners. The new Wal*Mart let you scan your own stuff and me and Chris had one scanner and JD and Buck had one. When we saw each other we played ray gun wars, Buck played as well, we didn't know it was gonna do stuff.

"It's snowing!"

JD was bouncing on the spot, his head hidden by the bedroom drapes. The boys had overheard the weather forecast when they had got in from school on Friday and instantly become very excited about the prospect of the first big snow of the winter. The next morning, JD had run to the window even before he went to the bathroom.

"Really?" Vin jumped down from his top bunk and ran to JD's side.

The two boys stood and watched for a few moments.

"It ain't sticking JD, look, it just melts when it hits the ground," Vin observed dejectedly.

JD watched the big snowflakes carefully, and his shoulders slumped. "Maybe it'll sticked later?"

"The ground's all wet now. Snow don't settle on wet ground."

"I guess," JD admitted with a dejected sigh.

Vin looked at his little brother, who sounded so disappointed. There was nothing he could do or say to make him feel better, so he settled for distracting him. "Come on, let's go watch cartoons."

They had been watching cartoons for almost an hour when Buck's voice boomed through the house. "Boys?"

"Yeah!" they called in unison.

Buck's appeared in the den. "Come on guys, we're going to the new store today - remember?"

Grinning, the two boys hurried to get dressed and then headed into the kitchen for breakfast.

For months, Vin and JD had been watching the construction of the biggest store they had ever seen. It was on their route to and from school. They had even done a class project about it. The store had been open for a few weeks but so far they hadn't been inside it. The Larabee/Wilmington household had a simple philosophy when it came to the weekly shopping - speed! Get in and out as fast as possible. This included getting to the store early. One of the new features of the store was 'Scan and Pay'. Once you had signed up and received your I.D. cards you could scan as you shopped and then all you had to do was pay and leave.

As ever, they split up into two teams - complete with 'Team Wilmington' and 'Team Larabee' tee shirts. The shopping list was divided up between the teams. The first team to reach the checkout was the winner and was awarded the honour of choosing the Saturday night takeout. McDonalds wasn't an option, as it had to be food that could be delivered. Buck and JD tended to choose pizza, while Team Larabee favoured fried chicken; both teams would occasionally choose Chinese.

With JD safely strapped into the Wilmington cart and Vin pushing the Larabee cart, they entered the store. The first thing they faced was a huge board with row upon row of scanners. After reading the instructions, Chris pulled his card down the swipe box and then searched out the scanner who's holder was flashing. Once Buck had done the same, they were set. The scanners were shaped like guns except the end was somewhat short and flattened, the trigger activated a wide beam of red light that read the bar codes. Sitting in the cart, JD quickly mastered the art of scanning. Buck held out a packet with the code showing, JD scanned while Buck made sure he heard the beep - and only one beep - before placing the purchase in the cart.

Vin guarded the cart while Chris moved down the aisles picking up two or three things, which Vin then scanned. The trouble started when Buck pushed JD past the waiting Vin.

"Get him JD!" he hissed.

His scanner held two handed, JD 'shot' Vin. In response, Vin ducked down behind his cart and shot JD in the foot. From then on, whenever the two teams passed, there was a gunfight, Chris remained oblivious to all this. For the first time, JD was happy he and Buck lost the shopping race, because it gave him more scanning time, when there was no Vin to shoot, he shot Buck, and anyone else who he nominated as the enemy, when they weren't looking. Vin too, wasn't above shooting the odd passer by, one of the teenage bag packers he shot, made him laugh by dying for him.

Chris was getting impatient. He's been waiting at the special express 'Scan and Pay' checkout, for ten minutes before Buck rolled up.

"This was supposed to speed things up," he hissed at his friend.

"It will. Look, all we have to do is hand over the scanners and pay - no problem." Buck beamed confidently. It had been at his insistence that they signed up for the scheme.

"Hello gentlemen, thanks for using 'scan and pay'." The young man at the checkout took the two scanners and downloaded their purchases. "That will be $383.51."

"What!" Chris spluttered.

"How much?" Buck asked in disbelief.


"It can't be, the most we have ever spent was $205, and that was for 'the fourth'," Chris fumed.

"I'm sorry sir, that's what it reads. Do you want to see the printout?"

"Of course I fu…"

"Chris!" Buck warned.

Casting a glare at Buck, Chris took a deep breath. "Show me."

As Chris read the printout, Buck hushed JD. As normal, the bright and inquisitive boy was full of questions, but he knew Chris' temper was getting frayed. Vin, too, understood the need to be silent. Worse, Buck could hear people behind him getting annoyed about the delay.

"What the hell is this?" Chris suddenly spluttered.

"What?" Buck asked.

"Vassarette! Did you buy lingerie stuff in front of JD?" he accused.

"No way, let me see that." Buck grabbed the list. "I didn't buy that. Hey, what do we need with two dozen Pampers?"

"Pampers?" Chris gulped.

"Yup and two boxes of Tampax," Buck added, in what he believed were hushed tones.

"What's Tampax?" JD piped up.

"Shush, JD," Vin warned, he could see Chris was really mad, and he had a sneaky feeling he and JD were responsible.

"But I wanna know," JD protested.

"Little Bit, hush up now," Buck warned softly.

"And when did we start eating liver?" Chris accused.

"Yuk!" JD blurted out. "I ain't eating liver, yuk, yuk, yuk!"

"JD, I'm warning you, be quiet!" Chris snapped.

JD's face blanched, his mouth snapping shut.

"Chris, don't snap at JD," Buck warned.

"Um sir?" The now worried checkout clerk tried to get the men's attention.

"What?" they both snapped in unison.

"I still need $383.51 - sirs."

Chris fumed. "Right, clearly things have been scanned that we didn't want," Chris eyed the two small and one very large boy. "…It'll all have to be unpacked and scanned the old fashioned way."

A full on Larabee glare silenced the murmur of discontent that came from the mounting line of people behind them. "Buck, take the boys out to the truck and wait."

Buck bristled, he didn't care for being ordered around like a naughty school boy, he especially didn't like being ordered about in public, and if the boys hadn't been there, he would have made something of it, there and then. But for the boys' sakes, he said nothing.

"Come on boys, let's go." He lifted JD out of the cart and settled him on his hip, and then he stretched out the other hand to Vin, who gave Chris a sad look and then took the proffered hand and walked dejectedly out of the store.

The wet snow had turned to heavy, cold rain while they were inside and now Buck hurried them across the lot to the huge black truck. At least arriving early meant they were parked relatively close to the entrance. Buck opened up the truck, and while Vin climbed onto his booster seat and did up his own straps, Buck helped to buckle JD in.

"Da," JD sniffed, fisting tears out of his eyes.

"Yes, Little Bit?"

"Is Chris really mad?"

Buck looked up sadly into his son's wide eyes. "Yeah, I reckon he is," he admitted.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make him mad."

Buck smiled and reached out his hand to ruffle JD's hair. "You didn't, and …" he looked over at the sad looking and ominously silent Vin. "…Neither did you. I'm the one who started it." Buck sighed. "I guess… I guess I didn't think." He gave them another smile. "So I don't want either of you thinking it's your fault, 'cause it ain't - okay?"

JD managed a weak smile. "'K."


"Okay," Vin finally admitted.

The three of them sat in the truck waiting for Chris for nearly twenty minutes. The windows steamed up, and JD started to draw pictures in the condensation, until Vin stopped him, reminding him Chris didn't like it when they did that because it made marks on the glass. Buck decided a distraction was needed, he asked the boys what they would really like to do if wasn't raining and it wasn't cold. After some discussion about swimming and riding, playing with the dogs and McDonalds, they finally decided that their favourite weekend activity was camping.

"Chris is coming," Vin announced softly, he'd been watching the store entrance - even as they talked.

Buck turned to face the boys. "You two stay here, and …" he looked at JD. "…on the way home, you keep quiet unless Chris asks you a question, all right?"

Both boys nodded. With that Buck stepped back out into the chilly rain to help Chris load up the groceries before they got too wet. It was a frosty encounter, Chris said nothing, just thrust the original receipt at Buck as they climbed into the front of the cab. Buck read as they drove home. Among other things, he and the boys had accidentally 'purchased' were a Ballerina Barbie, three pints of prune juice, tofu - Buck wasn't entirely sure what tofu was - a lawn mower and a pine toilet seat.

Once they got back to the house, all four of them helped unload their purchases into the kitchen. True to Buck's instructions, the boys were silent as they helped and once they were done, retreated to their room.

"Vin?" JD looked up at his brother.


"Do you think Chris is gonna yell at Buck, like he yells at Uncle Ezra?"

"Maybe, we better stay here until Buck says it okay to come out."

JD nodded. Just then, their dogs, Ringo and Elvis, nosed their way into the room.

"Do you think Chris is mad at them, too?" JD asked.

"No, but Uncle 'Siah says dogs know how you feel, I guess they know Chris is mad and they wanna get outta his way."

JD gave Ringo a big hug. "Don't worry boy, Buck will tell us when he's not mad no more."

Chris was on his way out of the house, after depositing the last of the groceries - the beer - in the kitchen, to put the truck away when Buck stopped him outside the door.

"Just hold up, Chris."

Larabee looked up, pure venom in his eyes. "Haven't you done enough?" Chris accused.

"Yeah, me, I'm the one who started the boys playing with those things, me and only me. So don't go taking it out on them. I know I messed up, I saw an opportunity for them to have fun and I didn't think through the possible consequences. Sorry, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? I'm sorry. Sorry it took longer to do the shopping than it should have, sorry you were embarrassed - 'cause that's the problem ain't it? That the great Christopher Larabee was the centre of attention, people talked, they complained, they hassled you and there was nothing you could do about it. Well, welcome to the real world, pard. I may not know much about being a parent - I know that, I admit when I don't know something - but I do know that out there …" he waved his arm vaguely in the direction of Denver. "… things happen, especially with kids, and some of it is embarrassing. And I know all about being embarrassed - don't I? You don't think hauling you sorry drunk ass out of bars, having you puke on me in front of people, call me … well, never mind, wasn't embarrassing? Being embarrassed isn't fatal, trust me."

Chris just stood there, unsure how to respond to this onslaught.

"Now - you scared them boys so much, that, no one dared say a word on the way home, result?" Chris looked confused and shrugged. "You drove right past the feed store, we was meant to get hard feed for the horses - remember?"

The exceptionally hot summer had depleted the grazing and they had been forced to supplement the horses' feed. Now they needed to re-stock.

"So…" Buck continued. "You go in there and sort this mess out, I'll go get the feed." With that he pulled up his collar and set out across the rain lashed yard to his own truck.

Chris stood and watched his friend hurry away through the rain - the man was as much a brother to him as any blood relative - and, he admitted to himself, his 'brother', who knew him better than he knew himself it seemed, was right on all counts. Admitting he was wrong was not something Chris was good at, he recognised that, but nevertheless, he needed to bite the bullet and face the boys.

The window in the boys' room overlooked the front of the house. By standing on the toy boxes, they could get a good view of the front porch. When they heard their fathers arguing, the two boys hopped up onto the boxes and peered out. They couldn't make out the actual words, but they could see what was going on.

"Vin?" JD looked at his brother.


"Is Buck leaving?"

Both boys had seen grownups argue, and they knew what the usual consequences were. Vin didn't know what to say, he's never seen Chris so mad… well, so mad at someone who wasn't a bad guy or his uncle Ezra, and Buck had explained about that.

"'D'n know," Then Vin thought a bit. "No," he stated firmly. "Buck loves you and he wouldn't leave without you."

JD looked up at Vin. "He loves you, too."

Vin wasn't so sure. JD was small and cute, he was smart, he didn't get 'feel bad' thoughts the way he did, JD didn't get into fights at school, he almost never had to bring a note home from the teacher. The more he thought about it, the more he wondered why anyone would want him. Before he could think on it anymore, the bedroom door opened a little. While the boys got down from the boxes, the dogs ran to greet Chris as he came in.

"Boys, I need to talk to you," he said seriously.

JD instantly took hold of Vin's hand. The gesture wasn't lost on Chris, who silently cursed himself again. He had the boys sit on JD's bottom bunk while he pulled up the little table and sat on it so he was facing the two boys. He looked at the two little faces, looking up at him, so worried and anxious. The boys had been with them less than a year, yet so well had they seemed to settle, that he had already forgotten they weren't 'normal' kids, whatever that was. They didn't have the same blind faith in their parent's love that other kids had - not yet.

With a deep breath, he started. "Boys, I want to apologise to you. I was mad today, and I made you feel like I was mad at you - and I wasn't, I was mad at Buck but…" He saw the look of instant distress in JD's wide eyes. "I shouldn't have been," he assured. "It wasn't his fault, not really. I was mad because … well let's just say I was mad at me - kinda." He smiled at the two bemused boys. "No matter what I may say, no matter what I may do, I love you two and I will, never, ever send you away, this is your home - forever - okay?"

There was a brief pause, and then both boys crawled to the edge of the bed and wrapped their arms around his neck. Chris responded by hugging both of them.

"I love you Chris," Vin whispered.

JD planted a big wet kiss on his cheek and then giggled.

We had to stay very quiet in the truck, 'cause Chris was mad, Buck explained that Chris wasn't mad at us, and even though he said he was mad at Buck, he wasn't. Buck explained that Chris has a bad temper, an he has to work real hard to control it an we have to help him. He said when Chris gets mad we have to be real quiet and be extra good, but to always remember that he loves us.

An then Chris tolded us that as well. Do you think Chris should go an see doctor Lowery about his feel bad thoughts?

Maybe, but I think doctor Lowery is a doctor for kids.

Pr'haps he knows a grownups doctor for feel bad thoughts.

That's a real good idea JD, I'll ask him.

Can I say what happened next?

Sure go on.

I thought Buck was leaving 'cause Chris was mad at him, but he went to get the food for the horses. After Chris explained that he wasn't really mad at us or Buck, we went out to look after the horses. It was raining real hard and we had to stay inside the barn. When Buck came home he drove backwards into the barn an we helped take the big sack to the back in the wheelbarrow.

Buck stepped out of his truck and into the rain. He looked at Chris, who was holding the boys back so they wouldn't run out into the deluge. The unspoken greeting and the boys' huge grins told him that Chris had sorted out the misunderstanding. Buck stood on the back of the truck and handed the heavy sacks down. Chris carried his on his shoulder, while the boys managed to transport one between the two of them in a wheelbarrow. It didn't take long before there was only one sack left, so Buck jumped down to haul to the far end of the barn himself. The back of the truck was wet, the rain having not let up all day. He was tired, hungry and already thinking about his lunch and he slipped. He had been turning even as he jumped, ready to grab the waiting sack. As he fell, his shin hit the edge of the tailgate and raked down it. He fell back on landing, ending up on his back on the hard packed dirt floor of the barn. At first he just thought he'd bruised his leg, as he lay there clutching it, trying not to scream in agony, but he quickly became aware that his hands were getting wet. Risking a look down, he noticed the blood seeping out between his fingers.

He could hear the boys' voices further back in the barn. The one thing he wanted to avoid was scaring them. So, forcing himself to let go of his leg, he reached up and grabbed hold of the truck's tailgate again and then used it to pull himself up until he could sit on it. Since this end of the truck was actually inside the barn, it was out of the rain. Taking off his coat he used it to cover injury. From what he could see, and he didn't want to look too closely, his jeans were ripped all they way from ankle to knee and a dark wet stain was spreading rapidly.

"Buck, Chris say's hurry up 'cause he's hungry." JD came barrelling down the barn toward him.

"JD, son," Buck called, hoping to stop his very tactile and affectionate son from charging into him.

"Yeah?" The little boy pulled up short just a few feet from Buck.

"Can you go and get Chris for me?" JD frowned up at Buck, not understanding. "Please, Little Bit, quickly," Buck urged.

JD shrugged. "Okay." He turned and bounced back into the dark barn. "Chiiiiirs Buck wants ya!" he called as he went.

Buck could hear the conversation at the other end of the barn.

"What does he want?"

"I d'n no."

"Tell him I'll be there when I've got this lot squared away."

"He said I's to get you quick," JD stated with surprising firmness, for which Buck was very grateful.

"Da ..." Chris cut off the curses just in time. "Right, I'm coming."

Buck watched Chris amble down toward him with agonising slowness.

"Well?" Chris asked.

Buck looked past Larabee to the two boys. "Hey, boys, can you go on inside and wait for us, please?"

Before Chris could question what was going on, the boys obediently walked past them and out into the rain, trotting through the puddles to the house.

"What's up?" Chris asked, somewhat irritated, once the boys were out of earshot.

Buck just held up his hand until he saw the two small figures disappear inside. Once they were gone, he lifted the jacket. "I slipped," he stated simply.

Chris followed his friend's gaze down to the bloody and torn denim below his knee.

"Oh shit!" Chris knelt down and tentatively pulled the torn cloth back from the wound. You didn't need to be Nathan to know this was job for the hospital; the sight of exposed yellow bone was enough on its own.

"Vin, what's happening?" JD asked his brother anxiously.

"I d'n know," Vin admitted, both boys were watching the barn from the house. Even though Chris had reassured them he wasn't cross anymore, they were both still a little anxious.

It was only fifteen minutes before Chris came running toward the house, though to the two boys it seemed like an eternity.

"Boys!" he shouted as he ran into the kitchen. They appeared at the door instantly. "Grab your coats and put some books and toys in your back packs as quickly as you can." He saw fear flash in both little faces. "It's alright," he assured. Making himself calm down he approached the two little waifs. "Buck slipped and hurt his leg, we have to take him to the hospital to get it fixed up, and it might take a while, so hurry - okay?"

Vin let go a silent sigh of relief. It wasn't that he was happy Buck was hurt, but at the back of his mind was that little, ever present fear that one day Chris would get tired of him and send him away. "Sure Dad," he tugged on JD's hand to get him moving.

"I want Da," JD stated, his lower lip trembling.

Chris knelt down in front of the little boy. "I know, he's already in the Ram waiting for us, so all we have to do is grab your stuff, I'll get some things Buck needs and we can go see him - okay?"

"Come on, JD, we have to be quick," Vin urged, but still he didn't move, still staring at Chris, seeking further assurance.

"Buck cut his leg, that's all, if Uncle Nathan was here, he could fix it." That wasn't true, the wound was far too serious for Nathan to deal with, but JD didn't need to know that. "But since he's gone skiing this weekend, we'll have to go to the doctors at the hospital."

An old friend of Ezra's had called up out of the blue to say his weekend plans had fallen through and could Ezra make use of the luxury ski lodge he had booked in Aspen, but now couldn't use. Since it had three bedrooms, Ezra had invited Josiah, Nathan and Rain to join him.

Finally JD nodded, and let Vin lead him to their room. While Chris locked the house and confined the dogs to the kitchen and mudroom, making sure they had water and toys, the boys packed. Vin up ended his backpack and then pulled the bag of trail mix he always carried from the heap and pushed it back into the bag. He then pulled Cat off his bed and pushed him in as well, followed by his current favourite book 'A Fly Went By'. He selected a few of his model cars and lastly he filled his Lego travelling bag. So they could carry some, but not all their Lego, with them on trips, Ezra had presented both boys with their own 'Executive Lego Travelling Cases' they were actually men's leather toiletry bags, the kind that have a hinged opening.

JD watched Vin for a moment and then copied him. Putting in his GI Joe, his Beanie Baby spider, his fluffy snake, like Vin he added some cars, at least four books, several animals from his model zoo, some ranch, some farm and his own Lego travelling case, full to overflowing. Both boys then raced to the door to find Chris waiting, and holding out their coats, he too, had a small bag.

The boys were full of questions as Chris got them buckled into their seats in the truck, but as much as he wanted to put on a brave face, Buck was in too much pain and feeling too unwell with the effects of mild shock to cope.

"Boys," Chris started firmly, but softly. "I don't think Buck is feeling so good, so I think you should just sit quietly and I'll answer all your questions once we find a doctor - alright?"

"Yes Dad," came Vin's respectful response instantly.

JD didn't say anything.

"Little Bit? I'm gonna be fine son, it's just smartin' a might at the moment, okay?" Buck assured.

"'K," the scared five year old finally acknowledged in a very small and un-JD like voice.

When we went to the hospital we had to be very quiet because Buck was feeling bad, Chris put a bandage on his leg but the blood came through it. JD and me are getting real good at being quiet. When we got to the hospital Chris had to get a wheel chair because Buck couldn't walk.

I wanted to push him but Chris said I was too small, but I'm not!

JD you're too small to push Buck. He's real big. Even I couldn't push him.



I could have! I could!

Are you two fighting?

No Chris

No Dad

Glad to hear it, keep your voices down, Buck's asleep.



You tell the next bit.

'K, Chris wouldn't let me push Buck. So I walked beside him and helded his hand so he would feel better. We had to go to the place with all the chairs, there was lots of people there and some of them was sick and some of them was hurt. I sat on the seats with Buck while Chris talked to the lady at the desk, you was with Chris wasn't you?

Yup, he had to fill in some forms so the doctors could fix Buck. Chris said it was wrong and they should look after Buck right away 'cause he was bleeding and feeling bad, but the lady said he had to do the forms first. Chris said the damn paper pushers were taking over the world.



You said a bad word, you gots to pay a quarter.

Do not

Do too

It don't count 'cause I didn't say it, Chris said it, I'm just saying what he said, so it don't count.

Oh okay, 'sides there are times you can say bad words and you don't have to pay.

What times? Who said?

Buck tolded me. If you are hurting lots and lots, you can say bad words.

Bet Buck said some bad words when he hurt his leg.


Eventually after the triage nurse had assessed his injury, Buck was taken away to the treatment area. Both boys had watched anxiously as Wilmington disappeared, but Chris assured them he would be fine and encouraged them to get out something to play with. The boys used Lego to build a racecourse for their cars and Chris read to them. Vin was standing beside Chris, listening to him read when his stomach rumbled. Chris silently cursed himself, it was now almost three and none of them had had any lunch. He was secretly amazed that neither boy had mentioned their empty stomachs. He cast his eyes around and spotted a couple of vending machines.

"Boys, how about some candy and a soda?" he asked, knowing what the answer would be.

"Yeah," Vin responded instantly.

"Yay!" JD exclaimed, sitting up.

"Right, sit here and don't move."

He glanced back a few times to see two faces watching him eagerly as he headed for the machines, on the way back, even before he had handed over the candy, the lady from the reception desk came over.

"Sir, are you the gentleman with Mr Wilmington?" she asked.

When Chris acknowledged that he was, she said there seemed to be some confusion about the insurance information on his form and they needed Chris' assistance. He handed the boys their candy and told them to stay where they were while he sorted it out. Vin watched Chris intently, never letting him out of his sight. JD quickly got bored and started to look around while he munched on his Twix. As he watched, the doors through which Buck had disappeared such a long time ago, swung open, and the he distinctly heard the words 'Mr Wilmington'. He didn't make a conscious decision to disobey Chris, or even think about the consequences, he just stood up and headed toward the now closed door. With Vin's attention on Chris, and Larabee's back to them, no one saw him leave. Finishing off his candy, JD pushed open the door and peeked inside. There was a long corridor with curtains down each side. JD edged along it until he heard the unmistakable sound of Buck's voice.

After the ER doctor had looked at his injury and cleaned it, Buck was told he would have to wait for a plastic surgeon to assess the wound. When the surgeon finally arrived, he announced that Buck needed an operation to repair the large, deep wound.

"If I have a general, I have to stay over night - right?" Buck had verified.

"Yes," came the simple response.

"Can't you do it here, under a local?"

The surgeon frowned. "Theoretically yes, but it's not something I recommend, it's going to take at least half an hour or more. This is a significant injury, Mr Wilmington."

"Please, I've had enough generals to know I hate them and I got a family, I don't want to be away any longer than I have to be."

The surgeon regarded the man before him. He judged that he knew what he was letting himself in for. "Very well."

The operation was almost over, it wasn't entirely painless, but Buck was stoic to the end. He was laying back, the arm that didn't have an IV needle in it, resting over his eyes as the doctor was putting in the final stitches, when he felt something take his other hand.

"What the…?" he turned his head to see who was beside him and came face to face with JD's concerned, chocolate smudged face.

Before he could even speak, one of the nurses spotted the small boy. "Hey, you can't be in here," she said softly.

"I have to hold Buck's hand," JD explained, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

"JD, does Chris know where you are?" Buck asked, his voice pinched with strain.

"He's busy with the forms. Does your leg hurted?" JD squeezed his hand.

"A bit," Buck admitted. JD frowned and squeezed his hand a bit harder, which - to his surprise - Buck actually found comforting.

"All done," the doctor announced as he tied off the last suture. He stood and looked down at the diminutive boy holding his patient's hand. "This your boy?"

"Yeah," Buck admitted with pride, finally returning JD's squeeze with a gentle one of his own.

"Is you finished?" JD asked the doctor.

"I am, yes. The nurse is going to put a dressing on his leg and give him some medicine and then you can take him home - all right?"

JD nodded enthusiastically. "I had to go to hossipal when a bug flewd in my ear and hurt me the doctor got him out and he want to bug heaven we had to go to the hossipal 'cause Uncle Nathan wasn't there he fixes us when we's hurt he would have fixed Buck but he took Auntie Rain skiing with Uncle 'Siah and Uncle Ezra and they get to play in the snow and we don't 'cause it rained and Buck slipped and hurted his leg, so we come here Uncle Nathan is the best at fixing owchies. We get candy if we're brave." JD added, almost as an afterthought.

While the doctor stood and listened in bemused amusement to this speech, the nurse had raised the bed so Buck was sitting up and was now starting to dress the wound. Chris, with Vin in tow, arrived, clearly searching desperately for JD. He was about to speak but Buck raised his hand to stop him, as JD finished speaking, only to notice Chris.

"Hi Chris I found Buck the doctor fixed his leg almost as good as Uncle Nathan and Buck was real brave 'cause it hurt hi Vin."

"Well I think that coming in here and holding your father's hand was brave," the doctor announced. He then turned and pulled down a large jar filled with fun sized candy bars. Glancing at Buck, who gave him a nod, he held the jar out to JD.

JD was about to reach for one, and then he remembered he was never to take candy from strangers without permission, so he too looked up at his father for approval. Once he had it, he reached in and pulled out a mini Kit Kat.

The doctor turned to Vin, standing quietly beside Chris. "What about you, you want one?"

Vin nodded and reached out to retrieve a Snickers bar.

"And Buck," JD piped up.

"Buck?" the doctor asked.

"He was brave, you said so."

"So I did," the doctor admitted and held the jar out to Wilmington.

Buck was about to turn it down when his stomach rumbled, reminding him it was now almost four and he hadn't eaten since seven.

Buck has cutses.

Crutches not cutses.

I said cutses!

No you didn't you said cutses it's got a rer in it. ???

I said that, stop it Vin. I wanna tell the story.

Okay, tell the story.

So Buck had to use his cutses to walk 'cause his leg still hurt. It was still raining and we had to stay inside all the time and we couldn't make any noise 'cause Buck was sleeping. Chris said he had medican from the doctor and that made him real sleepy all the time and that was a good thing 'cause he needed to sleep to get better quick.

Breathe JD.

??? And we did, we stayed quiet all Sunday morning while Buck was sleeping and Chris had to work in the barn we was quiet until Buck woke up. Wasn't we Vin?

Yup. Then Buck woke up and Chris came in and we had lunch and Chris said Ringo and Elvis had to stay inside too, he said he couldn't work with them under foot all the time.

Vin, was Chris walking on Elvis and Ringo?

No, he jist meant they was in the way all the time, like he was tripping over them lots.

Oh, okay.

The strong pain killers made Buck sleepy all the time, he didn't like the 'fuzzy, not quite there' feeling they created, but the doctor told him he was going to need them, at least for the first few days. But after sleeping on and off for the best part of 17 hours, he was now awake.

"Boring, boring, boring." He could hear JD's plaintive whine coming from the bedroom.

Pulling himself up onto his crutches he made his way slowly toward the bedroom. The boys were sitting on the floor; evidence of their attempts to entertain themselves quietly littered the carpet - Lego, cars, GI Joes, toy animals, even cards.

"Hasn't been much of a weekend has it?" he admitted as he leaned on the doorframe.

"It's okay, we don't mind, do we JD?" Vin piped up.

"No," JD admitted. "It's boring 'cause it rained."

Buck smiled, how - he wondered - had he and Chris been blessed with such good kids. He also wondered, not for the first time, what kind of world left such wonderful souls all alone to fend for themselves.

"Boys?" Two little faces instantly turned up to look at him. "I've got an idea."

It took some doing, especially with Buck's limited manoeuvrability. They dragged the big green plastic ground sheet into the living room. Having pushed the furniture closer together so they formed three 'walls' with the open end facing the fire. They attached strings to all the eyelet holes along the edge and then tied tins of food to the strings. JD couldn't tie knots, so his job was to hold the tins while the other two completed the intricate task. Once the sheet had weights attached all around, it was draped over the furniture 'walls'. The problem was it sagged in the middle. Buck, with the boys help, manhandled the stand that normally held his work out weights, into the room. It was strong and very sturdy, once placed in the middle of the new 'tent', it propped up the roof perfectly. The boys collected the sleeping bags and once unzipped, lay them on the floor in their new tent. They then pulled all the comforters off the beds and added them to the floor.

Buck collected some marshmallows and the long skewers they normally used for barbequing. He eased himself down onto the floor with the boys either side of him. Even with the safety grill in front of the flames, there was more than enough heat to toast the marshmallows.

Ringo and Elvis wasn't allowed to play with us inside to start with, they was all wet an smelly. But Buck made us a tent inside, and we had marshmallows, didn't we JD?

Yup and we got to toast them ourselves an then when it was all gone we put the stuff away so Buck said we could let the dogs back inside and Buck told us a story all about this prince in the desert all the way over in Africa, he said he lived in a tent like ours and he…

Breathe JD.

??? And he made us swords out of a box and they are called sim ee tars an we getted dressed up like Arab princes and we had to fight the in feet Al's. I was Ali Dunne the Magnificent and Vin was…

I can tell who I was!

Oh, okay, sorry.

I was El Vin the Splendid!

Chris came back into the house, tired, wet and in need of a relaxing evening. What greeted him was a house turned upside down. The whole of the living room had been turned into a camp. Vin and JD, both with dish cloths tied to their heads and wearing their bathrobes, were fighting some kind of battle, they had cardboard swords and were apparently fighting the dogs, who thought that their weapons were some new chew toy.

"What in the world is going on here!" he demanded.

JD, oblivious to the undertone of anger in Chris' voice launched, into an explanation. "We're mighty warriors fighting to free our people from the in-feetal dogs! Aren't we, Vin?"

Vin, more in tune with Chris' mood, just nodded.

"Infidel dogs, huh?" Chris asked. Just then, the said infidels noticed their 'glorious leader' and bounded up to him, tails wagging, yipping happily.

"Look, Vin, Chris is on their side!" JD declared, totally caught up in the make believe world Buck had created in his story. "We have to capture him and take him to the mighty Sultan!"

JD advanced on Chris; whose frown of anger was fast becoming barely suppressed laughter. JD's cardboard sword, more than a little chewed and distinctly soggy, prodded him in the thigh. Vin saw the change in Chris demeanour and, letting his own smile return, ran around behind Chris and prodded him in the back.

"March, infidel dog, to the tent of the mighty Sultan!" he declared.

Chris was laughing now, as he allowed himself to be 'marched' to the tent's opening. Unfortunately the mighty Sultan - Buck the Undefeated - was snoring, stretched out on a sea of comforters and sleeping bags.

"Hum," JD pondered the problem. "What shall we do with the prisoner, El Vin?"

"I think we should make him work in the dungeons," Vin announced.

The dungeons proved to be the kitchen. After he had made supper and the mighty Sultan had awoken, they ate their meal in the tent. For the rest of the evening played and told stories until the boys fell asleep. Chris - no longer an infidel but 'Ahmed-Chris the Mighty' - and Buck, decided to let them sleep where they were, it would mean an early start in the morning to get them clean for school, but it was worth it to see them sleeping in their 'tent', still dressed in their robes. In the end the men joined them, even the dogs settled down for a night under canvas.

It was kinder wierd, waking up on the floor, in my robe, but I liked it, especially when I saw that Chris and Buck was there too.

This was the bestest weekend ever! Is that the end Vin?

I reckon.

Bye computer, see you next week.

??? JD I told you a thousand million times, the computer can't hear you.

I know, but it helps us, I was being polite, like we's s'pposed to be.



Hi Buck, you're awake.


Wow Little Bit, turn down the volume. You boys all done?


Well okay. Vin you need me to save what you wrote?

No I can do it.

Good boy, you do that.



What are Tampons?

Err …

The End


Next:  Snow Days and Matchbox Cars

Things We Learned (Index)