ATF "Little Britches" Universe
Warning: This was written on 9-16-01 and deals with children and the possible reaction to the terrorist attack.
Chris' feet hit the ground before his mind registered that he was moving. The terrified scream still reverberated through his head. He reached the hallway with a slam of his door against the wall.
Buck was coming from the opposite direction. They converged in front of the door that opened into the boys room. Chris reached for and turned the knob. He entered with Buck on his heels.
JD sat against the wall, clutching a blanket to his face. Huge tears rolled down his face to be absorbed by the blanket. His mouth was open, but no sound came out . He was staring at the bed on the other side of the room. Vin sat in the middle of the bed, gasping for air. Chris was at that bedside in two strides.
Vin sat in the center, gasping and pale. He did not notice the blond approach until he was beside the bed. The small boy leapt into the arms of the man and locked his arms and legs around the well muscled body. Chris held the trembling form and rubbed the boy's back. He turned and sat on the bed as Buck crossed to the other bed.
The big man reached out to the dark haired child. JD pulled his eyes from the scene across the room and looked up. Buck's throat constricted at the sight of the huge hazel eyes and quivering chin.
" Come on, little bit. Let's go get a drink of water." Buck reached out and drew the small body to him. He hitched the child onto his hip and started to pull the blanket from the boy's hand.
"No" the tiny voice requested.
Buck released the blanket and placed his hand on the tear streaked face. He glanced over at Chris and inclined his head toward the door. Chris nodded.
Buck left the room with the scared boy, leaving Chris to find out what had prompted the scream of terror that startled everyone from their sleep.
Buck carried JD into the kitchen and sat down at the table. JD kept his head down. Buck placed a finger under the little chin and tried to raise the boy's head,.but JD pulled away and continued to keep his head down.
"What's wrong, son?" He received a shake of the dark hair in response. Buck rubbed the slim shoulder. "Come on, JD, you can to talk to me."
JD looked up and then glanced around. He crooked his finger at the mustached man and, when Buck bent down, JD whispered in his ear.
"I wetted myself," he sniffed.
Buck chewed on his lip to stop the smile that threatened to creep onto his face. He knew JD was embarrassed and ashamed and he did not want to undermine the child's confidence in himself.
"Dang, son. If I'd been woke up like that, I would've done the same thing. Ain't your fault."
He was rewarded as the huge hazel eyes looked up at him with a glimmer of his normal exuberance shining through. He breathed a sigh of relief.
"How 'bout we check in the laundry room for some clean drawers? I think Miz Potter had some ready to go to your room."
JD nodded and smiled. "Can we have a cookie? And a glass of milk?"
Buck laughed and ruffled the boy's dark hair. "Yeah, I think we can do that."
He sat the small body onto his feet and stood. Taking the small hand offered to him, he started to the back room to get the boy changed. A tug on his hand brought his attention back to the boy.
JD looked up and, with a solemn look on his face, he asked, "What's wrong with Vin, Buck?"
Buck squatted down in front of the five year old and rubbed his hands along tiny arms. "I don't know, little bit, but Chris'll find out. And he'll help Vin feel better."
JD nodded. Buck scooped up the boy and whirled him around as he headed to the back and clean clothes.
As JD giggled and squealed, Vin shuddered and sobbed.
Chris rubbed the slender back, feeling each bone his hand ran over. He 'shh'ed' and murmured as he waited for the boy to calm down. Slowly, he felt the boy relaxing. He continued to comfort the frightened child, biding his time. Finally, Vin pulled away and wiped his eyes. He kept his head down as he scooted off Chris' lap. Vin seemed intent on studying his hands. Chris waited. Vin pulled his feet up and crossed them on the bed and went back to studying his hands. And Chris waited.
Finally, Vin glanced up, chewing his lip. Chris reached over pushed damp tentacles of blond hair from the boy's neck. He could feel the tiny tremors course through the boy's body.
"Vin. You ready to talk now?" Chris kept his hand on the boy's neck. He felt him shake his head. "Nightmare?"
"You want to tell me about it?" Another shake.
"Okay. Think you can go back to sleep?" A nod.
Chris tucked the boy back into bed. He started out the door.
"Could you stay?"
The blond crossed the room and lay down next to young boy. Vin rolled over and placed his head on the man's chest and Chris wrapped an arm around the boy, his hand stoking the temple and ear of the small boy.
"Chris, would you stay?"
"I'm right here; I'm not going anywhere."
"No, I mean.. never mind."
Chris brought his other arm around to wrap it around the boy's shoulder. He waited, again.
"Please don't go to work."
Chris closed his eyes. He should have seen this coming. "Vin, I have to go to work. You know that."
Vin sat up. "No, you don't. You can stay here. There's lots to do. There's the horses and fences and ..and JD and me to watch after. You can stay at home and take care of us."
"And what about Buck? What if I didn't go and something happened to him?"
"Well, he can stay home, too."
"Vin, we can't do that. We swore an oath. We have a job to do."
The small boy jumped over the man and onto the floor. "No. You made a promise to take care of us-me and JD. You and Buck are supposed to be here and take care of us. Ya'll are our dads now and your job is to be here."
"Vin, this is about what happened Tuesday isn't it." Chris looked at the boy. Vin had tears in his eyes. Slowly, he nodded. Chris swung his legs off the bed and reached out for the boy. Vin stepped back.
"You and Buck and Ezra and the others, you have to go after those men, don't you? And you could get hurt, 'cause they're bad men." Vin stood, feet apart, fists clenched at his side. "I don't want you to go. I want you to stay here."
Chris drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. He needed to get this right, but he had no idea what to say to the child he had taken into his home and heart. They had counselors at work, but he had never thought to talk to one about the boys and their reaction to the terrorist attack that Tuesday. Now he was faced with a little boy who was terrified of losing the family he had just acquired.
"Vin, do you remember the day we rode up to the bluff and watched the clouds? Remember what I told you about how proud I was that you helped JD when his mama died and he had no one?"
Chris saw the blond nod and continued. "You told me that you were afraid, because you didn't know if you could do it. And I told you what?"
Vin chewed on his lip. He looked at the man and replied, "You said that being a man means that sometimes you do things that you're scared of. But, you ain't afraid, I'm the one afraid."
Chris leaned forward, his forearms resting on his knees. "There's where you're wrong, son. Because I am scared. And Buck is scared. What happened Tuesday, nothing like that has ever happened. Not in my life, or anyone's. Everyone is scared." Chris looked at his hands which he had clenched in front of him. He made a conscious effort to relax them.
"I want to stay here. I don't want to go on normal days. I would love to stay and be with you boys everyday, but I have a job and I have to do it. These people want us to not go to work or school or church. They want us to stay home, afraid to go out anywhere. That's what terrorism is about-making people afraid to go places. That separates us from our family and friends. That gives them control. And we can't let that happen."
Vin stood and thought about what he had heard. He looked Chris in the eye. "But what if something happens to ya? Or to Buck? Me and JD just got ya. Don't want to lose ya."
"Vin." Chris reached out to the boy again. This time the offer was accepted and the boy approached. "You know that I love you, son. I swear that I will always try to come home. But if something happens to me, know that I love you. And as afraid as I am of something happening, and as much as I want to stay with you everyday, I have to go to work. We can not let this tragedy control us. We have to do things that we don't want to because it's the right thing to do."
Vin climbed into Chris' lap and leaned against him. "Promise me one thing."
Chris took a deep breath and held it as he asked. "What's that?"
"Promise me you'll be careful." The boy's voice was soft.
Chris sat with his arms wrapped around the boy until he felt him relax into slumber. He stood and lay the limp child on the bed, tucking the covers in around him. The man bent down and kissed the boy. He understood the fear that the boy felt. Chris felt it also. But he was determined to not be ruled by that fear. He hoped that the strength of character the boy had displayed before would see him through this crisis.
Brushing hair back from the child's face, Chris whispered, "One day at a time, son, one day at a time. That's how we'll get through this. Be strong, Vin. We need ya to be strong. For me and Buck, for JD, but mostly for yourself."
Chris left the room and strolled down the hall to find Buck. He wanted to see if he needed any help with JD. Getting to Buck's room, he glanced in. Buck lay flat on his back, snoring. The small boy was lying on the man's chest, his arms and legs draped off either side like a big cat on a tree limb.
Guess they don't need any help Chris thought. JD was a different personality then the much more serious Vin. He might never be disturbed by the events of the last week. Or he might have trouble tomorrow. They would just have to wait and see. Chris smiled as looked at the two sleeping so comfortable with each other. He turned and headed to bed.
One day at a time. That's how they would get through this.
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