Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, ever will be.
Note: Betaed by Phyllis.
Vin tossed and turned in his bed, for some reason he wasn’t sleeping well tonight. Suddenly he sat up; there was someone sitting on the end of his bed. The drapes had been opened, so that the room was now flooded with moonlight. Before his eyes had really gotten used to the light, he assumed it was Chris.
“I am not your new father,” came the reply.
Vin gasped, it wasn’t the voice of anyone he knew. He pushed back, pressing himself back against the wall. Glancing over to the other bed, he saw JD sleeping as he always did, flat on his back, little arms and legs in all directions, dead to the world.
“Look at me, do you not know me?” the man said.
Vin peered at the man. “Grandfather?”
“Yes son of my son.”
The fact that Michael Tanner’s father was still alive had only come to light a few months ago. There had been some anxious weeks while they waited to find out if he was going to challenge for custody. But it transpired that Jerry Two Feathers Tanner, a full blood Comanche, was living in a nursing home in Oklahoma, and in no position to offer a home to Vin. Chris was told it wasn’t appropriate for Vin to even visit him. The home had, however, sent a photograph, which Vin treasured.
“Why are you here? Is Dad okay?” Vin asked anxiously.
“I have to go on a great journey now, so I have come to say goodbye, it will be a long time before we meet again. There are things I must tell you before I go.”
Vin edged closer to his grandfather, feeling no fear.
“Firstly you must always remember that you are one of the People, a Comanche, even though most of your blood is white, you are not, you are one of us. Never forget this.”
“I’ll remember,” Vin promised.
“And you are a Tanner. Your new father is a good man, he loves you as his own flesh, he will protect you and teach you to be a man. Honour him with your obedience and love.”
“I do, I try t’mind Chris, and Buck.”
“He too is a good man, he and the little one are well matched.” The old man looked over at JD and smiled benevolently.
“Buck loves JD an awful lot,” Vin confirmed.
“But never forget you are a Tanner.”
Vin shook his head; his name was something he treasured.
“There is one more thing you should know, when I am gone, I will leave you some things, they will be sent to you, listen carefully.”
"Morning Dad," Vin greeted as he ran into the kitchen, still tucking his shirt into his jeans.
"Well someone sounds happy," Buck commented as he put some cereal into JD's bowl.
"‘Cause I am, is grandfather up yet?" Vin asked, already pouring milk on his own cereal.
"Grandfather?" Chris asked.
"Grandfather Tanner, he came last night." Vin looked up, catching the slightly anxious look on both adults' faces. "He came and talked to me, he sat on my bed," Vin explained.
"Son, no one came here last night, I think you had a dream," Chris assured him.
"But I wasn't dreaming, it was him, he looked just like in his picture."
Chris could tell Vin was taking this seriously. He crossed the kitchen and knelt down beside him. "That picture is over twenty years old. If he came here, he wouldn't look like that now, would he? Your grandfather is an old man now, and very sick."
Vin's shoulders slumped. "I know, I guess I did dream it, but it felt so real."
"Was it a nice dream?" Chris asked.
"Oh sure, we talked and he told me to remember I was a member of the tribe, one of the people and that I'll always be a Tanner. And he said you loved me and you'd teach me to be a man if I minded you and I said I tried."
"You do son, you're a very good boy," Chris assured. Vin beamed at him
"He said Buck loves me too and he said," Vin looked over at Buck and JD. "that Buck and JD was well matched. The means they's alike don't it?"
"Doesn’t it, and yes it means that."
"Sounds like it was a really good dream," Buck commented.
"A real Indian said I was like Buck?" JD asked. Vin nodded. "Cool," JD gasped. "That's good Pa, 'cause real old Indians is real wise, Uncle 'Siah said so."
"I don't need no one to tell me that you're mine, I knew it from the start," Buck told him.
A few hours later, Chris put the phone back down sadly. The news wasn’t unexpected, but still unwelcome. It was Saturday, with barn chores done, and light but persistent rain outside, the boys were playing with their Lego in the bedroom. He could hear them chatting, laughing and occasionally bickering over the ownership of a particular brick. After a brief discussion, Buck went to the bedroom to collect JD, taking him to the den to give him the news. He’d be upset, little JD’s heart was almost as big as his foster father's, but he’d get over it. Vin was a different story.
“Why’s Buck taking JD away?” Vin asked as Chris stepped into the room.
“Because I need to speak to you in private." Chris almost cringed at the look on Vin's face. "Don't worry son, you didn't do anything wrong. Come on, let's sit down."
Once they were both sitting on the bed, Chris began to explain. "Your grandfather Tanner, you know that he was sick, don't you?"
"There is no easy way to say this son, but, I had a phone call this morning from the home. Jerry died in his sleep last night."
Vin looked at him for a long time then sighed. "He said he was going on a long journey, he said he wouldn't see me again for a long time."
"Was this in your dream last night?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, I guess he means I'll see him in heaven, when I die."
"Yes, I expect he did." Chris didn't know what else to say, so he just put his arm around Vin, who relaxed into the embrace.
"I'm glad he came to say good bye," Vin finally commented.
Approximately a week later, a UPS van drew up at the house and unloaded a large parcel from Oklahoma, addressed to Master Vincent Tanner. When Vin came home from school, he was beside himself with excitement and wanted to open it straight way, but heeded Gloria Potter's instructions to wait until his father came home. Chris was hardly through the door before both boys were pleading with him to open the box.
The first thing they found was an envelope addressed to Chris. This proved to be Jerry Tanner's official papers, birth certificates, marriage licenses and the like. Under it was a treasure-trove of artefacts. Among other things, there was a genuine bone breastplate and fan of eagle feathers.
"Wow!" both boys gasped as Buck and Chris held them up.
"Can I wear them?" Vin asked.
"I don't think so Cowboy, these are the real thing, very old and quite valuable," Chris told him. "I think we should have an expert look at them, then get a cabinet made with glass doors and a lock and then we can hang it in your room, so you can see them all the time. Okay?"
Vin shrugged a half-hearted agreement.
"If we put it in our room, hardly anyone will see it," he said quietly.
"Do you want people to see it?" Chris asked.
"Sure he does," Buck cut in. "If that was mine, I'd be right proud of it, I'd want the world to know that it was mine."
Vin beamed, sometimes Buck was real good at figuring out what he was feeling.
"Okay, no problem, we'll find some place for it in the house were it can be seen by all the visitors," Chris explained. "Okay?" Vin nodded again. "Maybe we'll even let you put them on once and have a special picture taken, how would that be?"
"That'd be great!" Vin enthused.
In the box there was another box. This was a simple cardboard box containing hand carved wooden animals, mostly horses and buffalo, but there were other animals as well.
"These were my dad's, Grandfather and some of his friends made them for him when he was little," Vin explained as he took them out.
Chris and Buck exchanged glances but said nothing.
Vin looked at each animal carefully. Then he handed a black horse to Chris. "He told me this one is for you Dad, he said it is for your wild heart."
Before Chris could react, Vin had picked up another toy. "Grandfather told me to give this one to you." He held out a large wolf to Buck. "He said you have the heart of a wolf, he said wolves love their families a lot."
Buck took the carved animal and turned it over in his hands. "I don't know what to say Vin, thank you so much."
"It's okay, it's what Grandfather wanted." Vin turned to JD, who was mesmerised by the whole thing. "JD, this is what he told me to give to you, but it’s not a toy, you have to keep it in safe special place, okay?" JD nodded as Vin gave him the small carved fox. "He said foxes are real smart, just like JD," Vin told Buck.
JD got up and carrying his toy with great care, walked over to Buck. "Pa will you look after my fox for me?"
"Sure Little Bit, how about we keep them safe together?" Buck asked him. JD nodded vigorously.
"What about you Vin, did your grandfather say you had a special toy?" JD asked.
"Uh huh," Vin confirmed, holding up a beautiful carved eagle. "He said I got the eyes of an eagle and one day I'll be able to use them to help folk."
Vin handed his eagle over to Chris for safe keeping then told a happy JD that the other toy animals could be played with and he wanted to share them, so long as JD promised to be careful. The last thing in the box was a small wooden cube. At first glance it looked solid, but on closer inspection you could just make out lines indicating it would open, though how wasn't clear.
"I reckon it's one of those puzzle boxes. We may have to ask Josiah or Ezra for help," Chris observed.
Vin however, just took the box and began moving sliding panels and twisting it. In no time at all the box was opened. Inside were three rings, wedding rings from three generations of Tanners.
"Vin, how did you know how to open the box?" Chris asked.
"Grandfather told me," the boy replied casually.
The next day Chris called the nursing home where Jerry Tanner had lived for the past ten years. They confirmed that he came to them after suffering a stroke, which had robbed him of the power of speech. Five years ago he'd shown the first signs of Alzheimer's, by the time Vin and JD met, let alone came to live with Chris and Buck, he was highly confused and all but bed ridden by a second stroke. There was no way he could ever have shown Vin about the toy animals, much less told him how to open the box, even if they had ever met.