AU: LB - ATF
Characters: Vin, JD, OCs
Status: Pre AU
Synopsis: Leading up to Barbretta Hayden's wonderful originating story, Dreaming of Angels. Just what happened during those first fateful days after Vin found JD? And how did Vin know how to keep them both alive and safe on the streets at such a tender age?
Part One: Fateful Meeting
Vin was digging through the pile of refuse behind the apartment building, looking for anything that could be useful to him.
He didn't really remember much about before; before he was all alone and on the street. He tried not to think about it much, because it always made him feel funny. There was a place in his tummy that felt hollow, like he was hungry, but not hungry for food. He was always hungry for food, there was never enough to eat. But this hungry was for something different; something that he couldn't really put a name to, or understand well enough to search out. He just knew he felt it when he thought about before.
"Find anything, brat?"
Vin jumped, turning toward the voice. Frowning, he said, "ain't none 'a yer business, Danley."
He watched as the bigger boy advanced on him, smiling as he said, "this is my block, brat, everything that goes on here is my business."
"You ain't the boss 'a this block, and ya ain't the boss 'a me, so shut up." Puffing his tiny, thin chest up as much as he could, Vin tried to look menacing. It only made Danley laugh again.
"I'm the boss 'cause I say I'm the boss. And if you don't believe me " the bully was only a step or two away now; he balled up his fists to strike, the knuckles covered in scabs and dirt. Danley liked to fight.
Vin didn't. Tossing an old, stained shirt he had been holding, toward the other boy, he turned and ran as fast as his legs could take him. Sometimes it was good to be little and what Granny Winn called "wiry". He could outrun about anyone and anything. Behind him, he heard Danley yelling angrily, "I'm gonna pound you if I see you around here again!"
He ran and kept running, dodging people on the sidewalks and cars on the road. Several times he heard the people yelling not nice things at him as he ran, but he didn't care. He had been called a lot of not nice things since he had run away. If he let those words make him feel bad, he would start crying, like he did the first few days here. He couldn't afford to do that again. He had to be tough, or he could get caught and sent to one of those places.
Turning into an alley, Vin slowed down. He was a ways away from Danley, so he could stop now. As he did, he leaned forward and put his hands on his knees, trying hard to catch his breath. He couldn't hear anything but the sounds of his own breathing for a long time. His whole body shook, and he felt dizzy. That happened a lot, especially when he had to run.
When he could, he straightened up and looked around. Then he heard something. Looking around, Vin tried to figure out what the sound meant, and where it was coming from. Moving cautiously along the ally, he followed the sound, finally locating it near the far end, just before the sidewalk on the other side of the block. The sound was coming from a battered old car that was parked close against one wall of the ally, so close even he couldn't get in or out of the doors on that side.
Someone was crying.
"Ma! Ma! Wake up, Ma!"
Cautiously Vin moved closer to the car until, standing on tip-toe, he could peer inside through the windshield. Gasping, he stumbled back, choking as his empty tummy seemed to flip over. He would have thrown up, but he hadn't eaten for two days now.
He might be what Granny Winn called a munchkin, but he wasn't dumb. He had seen a dead body before; some guy had gotten in trouble with Gator and Marco, and they had hit him until he fell onto the ground. He had witnessed it, and run back to Granny's hidey-hole to tell her that the man needed bandaged up. She had put a bandage on his knee when he'd fallen on glass, and it felt better in a day or two. Granny had gone with him, carrying her old purse where she kept all the 'portant stuff.
When Granny saw the man, she made that 'mm-mm-mmm' sound with her lips all tight, and told him the man couldn't be helped, 'cause he was killed. He didn't know what killed meant, but he felt sad when he looked at Granny and then back to the man. "But what can we do for him?"
"Nothin', Baby. He's gone ta listen to the angels now."
"What's that mean, Granny?"
Reaching down and stroking through his hair, the woman that anyone else would see only as a 'bag lady' said softly, "Mean's the Good Lord chose him ta come ta Heaven and listen to the angels secrets. He won't wake up 'til he's heard 'em all, and they've got a passel 'a secrets ta listen to."
"Oh." He sort of understood, but not completely. He had understood it a little more when, a while later; Granny had gone to the angels. At least she hadn't been all bloody. The woman he saw inside the front seat of the car was bloody. Her head looked funny, like it was broke, and there was stuff he didn't recognize stuck in her hair.
"Ma!" The little boy was still crying. He was in the passenger seat, half in and half out of his car seat. He had long, black hair that was sticking up every direction, and his face was red and streaked where the tears had washed away layers of dirt. He was nudging the woman, trying to wake her up. The whole time he was screaming and crying for his 'Ma'.
"Hey, hey kid!" Vin hollered as loud as he could, to be heard over the other boy. "Stop cryin'!"
The tiny brunet clamped his jaws shut, his tear-washed eyes going so wide there was white all around them. He looked out the window, saw the other boy staring in at him, and screamed again.
"Shit," Vin muttered, using a word that grown-ups thought sounded funny when he said it. He pulled on the door handle, trying to get the door to open. It was shut tight and, he belatedly realized, locked. Looking around, he found an old piece of rubber that was big enough to lie over the front window, which was shattered. Laying the rubber over the window sill so that he wouldn't get cut, he looked around again. Finding an old, empty paint bucket, he dragged it over to the car as well. Sitting it open side down and standing on the bucket, he leaned into the car and searched for the lock. He had been forced to break into a few cars to look for things he could sell for food, so he wasn't completely ignorant about cars, even if he couldn't remember ever riding in one.
Getting the door unlocked, he jumped back down and pulled the bucket away and opened the door. It made an awful 'screeching' noise, but he didn't let it stop him. When the door was open, he motioned to the other boy. "Hey, kid, settle down. I'm gonna take you outta here."
"No! I want my Ma! Ma!"
"I know yer scared, but it's gonna be okay. I'm gonna take ya to someplace where yer gonna be safe. Now, c'mon, we need ta go."
"I am safe. MA!"
"Hey, quit hollerin'! Ya ain't safe not here."
"But my Ma!"
Vin looked at the ruined body lying between him and the other boy. "Look uh yer ma, she's she's sleepin' with the angels."
"Nu-uh! My Ma's right there!" He began to shake her harder, and Vin thought he'd be sick again at the sight of the woman's broken head moving against the seat.
Vin sighed. "Look, yer ma wanted me ta git ya outta here. I'm sorry, kid, but she had ta go ta sleep. She wants me ta take ya somewhere, where nobody else could hurt ya. Okay? So, c'mon over here so we can go, okay?" He sighed in relief when the tear-soaked boy moved around his mother's body and came toward him. Then, as he came to the open doorway, he looked up at the woman. The brunet screamed, stumbling back until his rump made contact with the hump in the middle of the floor.
"Th-that's that's n-n-not my MA!"
Quick thinking helped him get through to the squirming, wriggling, crying boy. "Yeah, yeah, yer right. That's that's not her. She's gone ta heaven kid she's dreamin' with th' angels. Now, c'mon, we gotta git outta here. Okay?"
Vin was relieved when the other boy allowed him to pull him up and forward. Stepping down onto the rubbish strewn ally way, he led the smaller boy out and away. "Now, c'mon, okay? We gotta be real quiet, 'cause there's growed ups 'round here that'd be mean to us, okay? So, be real quiet and come with me." Sniffling loudly, the little boy nodded. As he allowed Vin to pull him along the ally, his thumb found its way into his mouth.
Turning to look at the smaller boy from time to time, Vin tried his best to figure out what to do. He hadn't lied; whoever had killed the kid's mother might come back and kill the kid. If not that, then the cops would come and take him away and put him into one of those bad places what they called foster homes. Vin had heard too many stories about those places. He wouldn't go there for any reason, and he wouldn't let another kid, go there, either. He would take the kid home with him, and keep him safe.
Part Two: A New Home
JD Dunne stared at the place his new friend called 'home'. He and his ma had lived in some pretty bad places, even in the car, but never anything like this. It looked like a bunch of boxes had been shoved together and he was fearful of getting too close, since it might fall down on him. "You really live here?"
"Yep." The older boy said, with a hint of pride and his voice. "Granny made part of it for me, but I put a lot of the stuff up there. Ain't no growed up that can git in there."
The too-thin boy sighed and he looked as if he might cry. "Granny Winn was a real nice lady. When I first come ta the streets she showed me how ta take care 'a myself. She lived out here for a real long time, ever since her man died and left her without no monies. She had a lotta pride, and she wouldn't take no char'ty. Now, come on in." With a wave, Vin got on his hands and knees and started crawling into an opening in the mound of crates. Hesitantly, JD dropped to the ground and followed.
Inside the makeshift shelter it looked even more chaotic. There were clothes and blankets all over the place. And there were toys. Most of them were broken; discards, but they were everywhere. "It sort'a looks like when a bird makes a nest or somethin'."
Vin frowned as he looked at his visitor. "What'cha mean?"
"Me and my Ma found one that blowed outta a tree once. It had a bunch of stuff stuck in the nest. That's what it 'minds me of in here." The thought of his mother belatedly brought pain to the little boy, and he began to sniffle again. "I want my Ma!"
Coming closer, Vin reached out and touched him, tentatively. "It's gonna be okay, kid. My Mama she's been dreamin' with the angels for a long time."
"Who takes care of you?"
"Granny Winn showed me how 'fore she went ta dream with the angels, too."
"What about now?"
Shrugging, Vin said simply, "me."
"But you're just a little kid! How can you take care of yourself? You can't work, you don't have no monies, you don't even have a house. You gots to have a mama!"
"Shut up!" The scruffy boy yelled, glaring at JD. "You don't know nothin'! I been out here fer a long time, and I been by myself fer a long time, and I know more 'n you! So just shut up or I ain't gonna let'cha stay with me!"
"I never said I wanted to stay here, any way!" JD yelled back.
"Fine!" Then, suddenly, everything that had happened since he had awoke that morning came crashing in on him and he started to sob so hard that he was struggling to catch his breath. He barely noticed when the other boy put his arm around him.
"Hey, kid, it's okay. I won't kick ya out, okay? I know yer scared and sad, but it's gonna be okay."
"J-J D " he managed to whisper harshly between sobs.
"My name's JD." He tried again, sobs turning to hiccups.
"Oh, okay. JD, I'm Vin."
"Hi. Are are you mad at me? I-I didn't mean to yell, but " the tears began anew.
"I ain't mad at'cha, JD. I know yer sad right now. I cried fer a long time after my mama went ta Heaven. I was real scared."
JD sighed, pausing to catch his breath. Suddenly he felt as if he was going to fall asleep sitting right there. "I'm tired, Vin, I wanna take a nap."
"Okay." The shaggy, dark blond hair bounced as the older boy nodded, his expression knowing. "C'mere and I'll show you where you can sleep."
He followed his tiny benefactor deeper into the ramshackle home. Vin led him to a small area that was filled with pillows, blankets, and even a thick comforter that only had a few holes in it. Smiling, the scruffy boy said, "Crawl in, JD. It's real comf'table in here."
Doing as he was told, JD quickly found that Vin was right. It was comfortable, even if it didn't smell very good in the middle of all of the refuse-rescued bedding. He didn't care, though; he just wanted to go to sleep. Curling up, he found he could barely keep his eyes open. He felt something being pushed against him and managed to focus enough to see a battered, well-worn teddy bear lying beside him. Smiling, he wrapped an arm around the worn gift.
Smiling back, Vin explained, "You go on ta sleep and I'm gonna go find us somethin' ta eat."
"'Kay." He was asleep before his new friend left his side.
JD barely left the shelter for the next few days. He slept quite a bit and, when he wasn't sleeping, he was simply sitting and staring. Vin could get him to eat most of the time, when he was lucky enough to find something to eat. The older boy tried his best to engage his new companion in playing with his treasured toys, but even that didn't interest the depressed child.
"Sheesh, JD, c'mon, ain't ya bored!?"
"Leave me 'lone, Vin. I'm sad." He watched as Vin huffed out a breath and said, "I know yer sad, JD, but ya gotta stop layin' 'round. Don't ya know that you're gonna grow to the bed?"
Frowning, he argued, "Nu-uh."
"Nu-huh. Granny Winn always told me that. If ya jist lay 'round, ya grow ta the bed. Ya don't wanna grow ta the bed, do ya?"
"No!" JD yelped and climbed out of the bed and crawled behind Vin to the larger area of the makeshift home they now shared.
After that, JD began to follow Vin around, learning how to survive on the streets. He never slept longer than Vin did, and promptly left the bed when his friend did, vowing not to be in danger of growing to the bed again!
Part Three: Pirates, Cowboys, Trolls and a Soldier
Over the next several days, Vin taught JD everything he himself had learned about living in the streets. JD was a natural at charming people with a hang-dog expression. His large, clear, hazel eyes, welling up with tears, were impossible to ignore for any but the coldest hearts. By the end of the first week together, the two boys were able to gather enough change to eat sandwiches right from the nearest fast food places almost every day. Sometimes they even got enough to eat breakfast and dinner both, allowing them to go to sleep with quiet tummies that weren't crying for food.
It wasn't all work, however. Being young boys, they needed time to play; to relax and just enjoy a little time away from the harsh realities of their lives. While it was true that they made good use of their active imaginations to get through each day, that imagination could be used to create a world of make-believe.
Vin showed JD how to navigate the maze of walkways and catwalks, climbing to the top of the warehouse where they made their home. On the roof, they were free to let go of the fear the dogged them from the time they woke until the moment they went to sleep. The rooftop became the backdrop for make-believe adventures. Vin enjoyed playing pirates and had since he had snuck into a theater to watch The Pirates of the Caribbean by slipping into the theater amidst a large group of adults. Curled up in a seat next to the wall, he watched in amazement as the wild tale of pirates and skeletons unfolded before him.
JD, not having seen the film, grew bored of the game quickly. He wanted to play cowboys. When Vin refused, he grew angry. "I don't know why you don't wanna play cowboys, Vin. It's fun!"
"Pirates ain't real, JD," Vin responded in seven-year-old logic, "so you can 'tend to be a pirate. You can't be no cowboy when you don't have no horse."
"So? We can 'tend to have horses!"
"No." The response was firm and adamant. "You can't 'tend to have somethin' that's real. If it's real, then you gotta have it to play it. You gotta have a real horse ta play cowboy or it ain't right."
Huffing, the younger boy said, "That don't make sense. 'Course you can 'tend to have something, even if it is real."
Vin looked at the smaller boy. JD looked sad; playing cowboy must be real important to him. He didn't want to play cowboys, but not for the reason he said. Vin wanted to be a cowboy; it had been his dream for as long as he could remember. Playing cowboy just made him feel bad. Then that thought made him feel angry. "You don't know nothin'! We can't play cowboys, and that's it. You don't make the rules no way!"
"You're mean! You ain't the boss of me and I ain't gonna play no more games if we ain't gonna play cowboys!"
"So? I don't need nobody 'round ta play a game. I can play all by myself!" With that, Vin stomped off toward the far side of the roof.
"That's fine!' JD marched to the opposite side of the roof.
Ten minutes later they were back together, having compromised. They would play pirates, but JD would have a horse and six shooters.
They played into the night, as they did most nights. With no adults to give them a bedtime, they stayed up until late in the night and then slept until midmorning. Part of the reason was that Vin loved to look at the stars. Waiting until some of the lights were turned off in the city made it easier to see them.
The two boys sat on the roof, skinny, little legs dangling over the edge. Vin was entertaining JD by telling him about the stars. He knew nothing about them, other than they were little points of light that only came out at night, and that sometimes bunches of them had names. He remembered that his mama had told him that, but she never told him the names. So, being a resourceful seven year old, he made them up.
"That one, Vin, what's that one called?" JD asked, excitedly.
Squinting, pretending to study the group of stars that his little friend was pointing a dirty finger at, Vin said, "That 'ns called Big Mountain. See how it goes up and then down and -" He stopped as a sound came to them from below. "Shhh "
Frowning, JD asked, "What's wrong?"
Pressing his fingers to his lips, Vin pointed toward the ground. "Trolls." He whispered.
JD's mouth flew open and he almost yelped. Vin had warned him about the Trolls right after he came to live in Vin's house. Trolls were scary things that had big, black eyes and crawled up out of the floor. Sometimes they crawled out of the floor in the building where they lived, but other times, like tonight, they must have come out of the building next door. Vin told him that they were mean; they yelled at one another and shot great big guns. One time, Vin told him, one of the bullets had come into his house, putting a hole in the wall not too far from him. And, lots of times after they left, there were lots of dead rats lying around, all in pieces with blood everywhere. He didn't want to be all in pieces with blood everywhere. It didn't look very nice.
Suddenly there was a sound that sounded like fireworks. "C'mon, JD, we need ta go inside." Vin whispered right in JD's ear.
Nodding JD scooted back from the edge of the roof; just as something when 'thunk' next to him. There were more sounds and, after one, Vin hollered really loud. He was just about to tell the older boy to shush, when he looked at his friend. Vin's face was scary. His eyes were all big and round, with white all around, and his mouth was opening and closing without any sound coming out. He stumbled a few steps and then he fell down on his knees.
JD hurried over to his friend. "Vin! Vin! C'mon!!" He grabbed Vin's arm and tried to pull him up. Vin whimpered and pulled away, but he only grabbed him again. He wasn't certain what was going on but one thing was for sure, they needed to get back home.
Finally, together, they got Vin on his feet. One hand was clamped tight on his belly, while JD held tight to the other one. Tugging and pulling, he got his friend to the doorway that sat in the middle of the roof. Getting Vin inside, he took the bar away from the door and let it close with a 'thud'. Now, in darkness, they found their way along the stairway, JD keeping his hand tight on the railing so they wouldn't fall. Behind him, Vin was breathing really funny, like he had been running for a long time.
When they got to the catwalk, they could at least see a little bit, thanks to the moon coming through the windows and the fires that some of the people that lived in the warehouse lighted. Just as they got to the long staircase, Vin fell, and JD almost fell down with him. "Vin!" He hissed.
"J Jay Dee " The older boy moaned. "It hur hurts "
JD chewed on his nail while he tried to figure out what to do. Vin had always been the one to make the decisions, but now he was hurt. Sadly, JD admitted, "I don't know what to do, Vin."
Slowly the injured child raised his head. "Go git Gra Granny."
Frowning, JD said, "Vin, Granny ain't here, 'member? She's lis'nin' to the angels."
The older boy whimpered and curled up on his side. "It hur ts "
"I'm sorry, Vin I'm sorry." He was fairly dancing on the catwalk, still chewing on his nail, as he tried to figure out what to do. Then, looking down toward the floor below, he looked at the fires. One belonged to Dirty Mary, who talked in some weird language that nobody understood. One belonged to Crazy Larry, who sometimes forgot to put clothes on when he went out on the street. The third one belonged to Oswald. Oswald had been a soldier a long time ago, but now he wasn't nobody. That's what he said, anyway. JD didn't understand that, since everybody was somebody. But, when he said that, Oswald would start singing "You're nobody, 'til somebody loves you "
Oswald might help! At least if he wasn't too drunk or high. Most of the time he was, but sometimes he was okay. When he was okay, he didn't cry or cuss at you for walking past his place. Making a decision, he said, "I'll be back, Vin, you just rest." His friend didn't answer, he just whimpered a little bit.
As quickly as he could, JD climbed down the stairs and started across the littered floor. The entire time, he was whispering, "Please be awake, please be awake, please be awake."
"OSWALD!" He cried out as he neared the man's home. He slowed down slightly as he saw Oswald sitting outside his house, staring into the fire. "Oswald!"
The big man looked up, his face swinging slowly toward the child. That face was horribly scarred, one eye filmy grayish-white. "What the hell! Boy, you know better 'n yellin' like that in the middle of the night! I told ya, they'll hear ya and find ya. You wan' 'em-"
"Oswald, I need your help! Vin got hurted on the roof, he's cryin' and can't walk no more. I need you to carry him down the stairs."
"What the hell are you talkin' about, boy?" Oswald scratched his chin, his one good eye staring at the child.
"Vin. 'Member? He gived you a burger last week when ya didn't feel good?"
"Vin?" Something changed in the big man's face. "JD?"
"Yes. Oswald, please help us!"
Slowly, the man unfolded himself, towering over the tiny boy. "Where is he?"
"C'mon, I'll show you." JD hurried back the way he'd come, trusting the man to follow. When he started to climb the stairs, he felt himself lifted up in one, big arm. Oswald carried him easily, taking the steps far faster than he could have behind the child.
Vin was where he'd left him, and JD felt scared. Last week they'd found a little kitten in the alley, and he had wanted to take it home. Then Vin had pointed out that the kitten wasn't moving. He explained that when people went to heaven, their body didn't move any more. Frightened, he cried out, "Vin!"
Oswald sat him down, and then knelt beside the tiny figure. His hands explored the child, and then he turned toward the other boy. "He's breathin', let's get 'im back to my place."
"'Kay." JD wasn't certain what the man meant by 'he's breathing', he just wanted Vin to move.
With a gentleness that his size belied, Oswald lifted the injured child into his arms. Cradling him one arm, he balanced himself with the other hand on the rusted railing and moved swiftly down the stairs. Behind him, he could hear the other boy trying to keep up.
They moved across the floor, heading back toward the place he had created for himself. He heard JD protesting, telling him that Vin would want to go home, but he ignored him. He had been the one to show the boy who now lay limp in his embrace how to make the opening small enough that no adult could get in there after him. After Winn died, he knew that the little boy was easy prey, so he did what he could to protect him.
Reaching his fire, Oswald carefully lowered the boy onto the old sleeping bag he kept there. Stroking back the tangled hair, he took the carotid pulse, then took a fragile looking wrist and took the pulse there as well. Scanning the frail, too-small body, he saw the stain of blood on the dirty tee-shirt. Lifting the material gently, taking special care not to pull it, he exposed the wound.
"It ain't too bad, just took a chunk 'a meat out of his belly. You sit here, and I'll be right back." Not looking to see if the little brunet responded, he moved into his banged together shelter. Rustling through the piles of things he had squirreled away, he finally found what he was looking for. Coming back out into what he referred to as his 'front yard', he saw that JD was sitting beside Vin's head, talking to him softly. He could hear the tears in the child's voice.
"C'mon, Vin please! You gotta wake up. Please don't go listenin' to the angels, please! I'm scared, Vin, you gotta wake up and be okay!"
"Take it easy, kid, he's breathin'. As long as we keep the wound clean, he'll be okay in a week or so."
Sniffling, JD looked up at the big man. "Are you sure, Oswald?"
He wasn't certain of anything, but he wasn't about to tell the little boy that. "Sure as I know my name's Oswald."
It was silence after that, as the big man tended the child. His supplies were rudimentary, but he made good use of them. When he had done everything he could, he sat back on his heels. He smiled at the other boy, who was curled up in a tiny ball on one corner of the sleeping bag, a thumb in his mouth. Moving quietly, he picked up a water jug, moved outside and down the street. At the gas station on the far corner, they never locked the bathrooms. Going into the men's room, he turned on the faucet and filled the jug with water.
Retuning to the warehouse, he found that neither boy had moved. Rustling around in his belongings, he found a cloth that, while not clean, wasn't especially dirty, either. Sitting next to the injured boy again, he began to bathe the elfin features. After a few minutes, he began to sing softly, his voice rough, but giving some indication that he had once had a fine singing voice.
A short time later, Oswald realized that there was a pair of unfocused, fever-bright, blue eyes, staring up at him. "Hey, kid."
"Yeah. Go on back ta sleep, I got yer back." When the unfocused gaze folded in on itself in a frown, he explained, "I'll take care of you, all you need to do is go back to sleep."
"Right over there," he nodded toward where JD slept. "Now, go to sleep already, enough questions."
Even though Oswald tried to sound angry, Vin saw through the act. With a sleepy smile, he said, "Thanks " before he went back to sleep.
JD was scared. Never in all the time he had known Vin had he seen him cry. But now Vin was crying. A lot. His friend didn't seem to hear anything he said to him, and he talked as much as he could. And he could talk a lot. But all Vin did was cry, and sometimes he opened his eyes. When that happened, he tried to get Vin to look at him, but Vin didn't. He was really scared, but Oswald told him not to worry.
"It's okay, kid. Vin's got a fever, and when folks got a fever, they don't feel good. You ever have a fever?"
"Yeah, last winter." JD said between sniffles.
"Did you feel bad?"
"See, that's just what's goin' on with Vin. Soon's I get this fever down, he won't feel so bad."
"'Kay." JD went back to watching his friend, and watching the big man who was taking care of him. Oswald dipped the cloth in the jug and got it wet. Then he squished the cloth to get some of the water out, and wiped it over Vin's face and neck. Sometimes the man wiped it down his arms, too. Vin just kept crying, and sometimes he was quiet; Oswald said that meant he was feeling some better, because he was real asleep.
When the sun came up, Oswald moved Vin inside his house, and JD sat with him. Most of the day Vin slept, and Oswald said that was a real good sign, because the fever was going away. Just a little before the sun went back down, Vin woke up, and he was really awake.
"Vin! Are you feelin' better? Oswald said the fever went away, so you're gonna be okay now. Do you want to go play now?"
"What?" Vin looked confused, like he didn't understand the words.
"You're okay now, so do you wanna play?"
"Kid, he ain't that well, yet." Oswald said from where he was sitting on an old chair.
Crestfallen, JD whined, "But you said he was better!"
"Better ain't well. So, do me a favor and quiet down, okay? You're givin' me a headache."
Something in Oswald's voice made Vin flinch. JD frowned and started to ask Vin what was wrong, but Vin gave him the look that said he should be quiet. Despite the fact that he really, really wanted to talk, he didn't.
Oswald started acting really weird, ad JD got nervous. He couldn't seem to sit still, and started pacing back and forth in front of his house. Oswald was rubbing his arms, and even talking to himself part of the time. The more he talked, the angrier the big man sounded, and JD started getting scared. He started using bad words, and all JD wanted to do was to go home.
"Damn it!" Oswald hollered really loud, and threw the chair across the warehouse floor. He was stomping now, each footstep sounding like thunder. "Damn it! I can't do this! I need me some blow." With that, he stormed out of the warehouse and disappeared into the darkness.
Beside him, JD felt movement and turned to see that Vin was trying to get up. "Are you ready to go play now, Vin?"
"Ye yeah." Vin answered breathlessly. "Let's let's go home and and play th-there, okay?"
"Okay!" JD was ready to go back to their house. He wasn't sure why, but he didn't feel safe with Oswald any more.
Vin moved slowly, moving around until he was on his hands and knees. Then he straightened up, whimpering a little. "Help me JD."
"'Kay." Carefully he helped the older boy to his feet. Vin put his arm over his shoulder, and JD held on to him. Very slowly, they started walking toward their house.
They had to stop three times, each time Vin was breathing hard, like he had been running. JD didn't understand, but he just stood really still and let Vin lean on him until he wasn't breathing so hard anymore. Finally they got back to their house. JD wasn't sure how he was going to help Vin into their house, but Vin pushed him down and said, "You go first "
JD crawled inside, through their house. Once inside he turned around and waited for Vin. It was a really long time before Vin came in. He was crawling on both knees and one hand, the other hand holding his tummy where he got hurt. By the time Vin got all the way inside, he was whimpering again, and breathing hard. JD took hold of him and helped him into the bedroom. There he helped Vin lay down, and pulled the covers over him.
Reaching out, he patted the older boy's shoulder. "It'll be okay Vin, tomorrow you'll feel better."
"'Kay," Vin said in a whisper. "'S okay we're home "
Smiling, JD nodded in agreement. "Yep, we're home. Maybe I can even go get you a burger, okay? You like burgers, and they'll make you feel better, okay?"
"T'morrow," Vin muttered, slipping back to sleep. "We're safe we're home "
Next week - Riding For Home by Laramee