IF WISHES WERE HORSES by Barbretta Hayden and Pat Merritt

"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

The front door opened on their third knock finally allowing Nathan, Josiah and Ezra to enter the apartment. It was close to nine and seeing the dazed look on their friend's face, the three men assumed the worst.

Josiah put a comforting hand on Buck's shoulder. "Well brother, I'm sure you gave it your best try."

Buck simply nodded his head and gestured for his friends to follow him into the living room.

"What's all this?" Nathan was surprised to see books and papers scattered across the once clean coffee table and floor.

Ezra bent over and picked up one of the volumes, reading the title out loud. "Raising An Above Average Child, What Every Parent Should Know."

Josiah scooped up another book and read its title. "Be A Better Parent, Raise Your Child By Example."

Nathan found his own curiosity peaked. "Fast Fun Foods For Healthy Kids." and "Is Your Home Safe? A Complete Guide to Childproofing."

All three agents turned to stare in shock at the man sitting dazedly amidst all the clutter.

"You mean…?"

"You get to keep…?"

"She actually approved you to…?"

"Boys, I've only got one thing to say." Buck looked at each of his friends and his smile slowly grew into a grin. "Thanks. For everything. Just…thanks."

+ + + + + + +

'Some hero I'm turning out to be.' Chris thought to himself as he hurried down the quiet, deserted hallway of the hospital. The meeting with Vin's doctors had taken longer than he had planned and that plus the last minute arrangements at the office had him returning to the hospital well after visiting hours. 'Poor kid. Probably went to sleep thinking ...well, God only knows what. Need to do better Larabee. Got to start thinking like a father again.'

His mental chastisement came to a screeching halt at that last thought. His mind was suddenly flooded with visions of his son Adam; laughing, playing, pouting, crying, excited, scared...it was like a slide show in fast forward and Chris staggered slightly before catching his balance against the nearest wall. 'Lord, what am I doing? It's only been three years since I lost him. Am I really doing the right thing?'

Chris shook his head and wiped the cold sweat from his brow. 'Get a hold of yourself Larabee. You're going into this as a foster parent. It's just a temporary arrangement until Vin gets over the trauma.' Somewhat reassured, Chris pushed away from the wall, giving the corridor a quick scan to make sure no one had seen his moment of weakness.

Quickly reaching the door to Vin's room, Chris hesitated with his hand on the latch. Doubts tried to rise once more but he forced them back with an annoyed frown and another silent message of encouragement to himself. 'Get a grip and quit having these conversations in your head. Keep this up and your gonna start talking to yourself.'

"Yeah, that's all I need."

Chris slowly eased the door open, expecting to find the room dark and Vin asleep in his bed. The sight that greeted his eyes lay to rest once and for all any misgivings he might have had about becoming the child's foster parent.

Directly in front of the door was a window that overlooked a small park area within the central grounds of the hospital. The window's blinds were pulled up revealing black panels of glass glistening with jewel-like drops of rain. Vin stood gazing out into the darkness, his forehead resting against the casement and one hand slowly tracing the silver trails of water. The thermal long johns that Chris had given him hung from his small shoulders, accenting not hiding his too thin frame. As Chris watched, a small cough shook the slight body and ignited every fathering instinct that he had feared forgotten.

"What are you doing still up and why aren't you wearing any socks? You trying to catch pneumonia?"

Vin's head turned so fast it was a wonder he didn't give himself whiplash. Blue eyes went wide with surprise and his mouth dropped open in a startled 'oh'.


"You ...you came back."

The awe and wonder in that simple statement was almost Chris' undoing. Clearing his throat, he stepped further into the room while giving a curt nod toward the bed. "Of course I came back, I said I would. Now hop in that bed and get those feet covered up. I thought you wanted to come live at my ranch and ride horses with JD?"

"I do but…." Vin frowned doubtfully as he slowly made his way to the bed. He wanted to be happy that Chris had returned but too many upsets and disappointments in too short a time made him wary of getting his hopes up.

"But what?" Chris held the covers back as Vin climbed into the bed.

"Dr. Jake said I couldn't leave."

"I think what he said was that you couldn't leave tomorrow." Chris tucked the blanket in securely as he reassured the child. "He wants to make sure that cough doesn't get any worse. Didn't he explain that to you?"

Vin bit his lip as he silently squirmed into a comfortable position. Should he tell Chris the truth? Would Chris still want him to live in his house? And if he didn't live with Chris, would he have to go back to the warehouse?

He couldn't help the shudder that wracked his small frame. He liked sleeping in a real bed again, all warm and safe. It was wonderful having a light on in the middle of the night and not having to worry about rats and men with guns. Of course the best part was having food brought to him whenever he pushed the button and said he was hungry. The nice ladies had even told him he could eat all the green Jell-O he wanted.

Yeah, all the ladies were nice, even the ones that had to poke him with needles. And Dr. Jake was real friendly...well, he had been up until today. Vin glanced up at Chris' face and could tell that he was waiting patiently for him to say something. Deciding he couldn't lie; not even if it meant he had to go back to living all alone he told Chris the truth.

"I...did something... bad..."

Chris sat down on the edge of the bed and waited for Vin to finish. He had a pretty good idea of what was coming but he thought it best to hear it in Vin's own words.

"I...yelled at Dr. Will and...and..." Vin felt the tears forming and couldn't hold back the unhappy sob. "And I pushed over the play table." There, he'd said it. Now Chris knew the truth and would probably leave. Squeezing his eyes firmly shut, he rolled onto his side and curled his body into a tight ball of misery.

"Actually, the way I heard it, you practically threw the table across the room."

Vin twisted around until he could see Chris' face. Even with the tears blurring his vision he could see the warm smile and the understanding in the bright green eyes. See...but not quite believe.

"You...you knew? And you still came back? You still want me to come live with you?"

"Of course."


Chris pulled a tissue from the box near the bed and gently wiped away the tears. If only he could wipe away all the unhappy moments just as easily. He couldn't change Vin's past, but the good Lord willing, he could make his future a lot better.

"I want you to come live with me because I care about you and I want to take care of you. There's nothing you can do or say that will change that." He could see the doubt in Vin's blue eyes and knew that time was the only cure. "I talked to Dr. Will and he told me what happened. He also told me that it was mostly his fault because he had been pushing you pretty hard."

Vin nodded in wholehearted agreement, his long bangs falling over his eyes. "He asks a lot of questions."

"And you don't like that, do you?"

This time Chris received a vigorous shake of the tousled head. "S'none of his business."

"Well, it sort of is. Doesn't Dr. Jake ask you how your side feels?"


"And don't you tell him?"


"And it's important that he knows so he can make you well, right?"

"I...guess so..."

"Dr. Will has to ask you questions for the same reason."

Vin sniffed and thought about that for a moment. "You mean my mind is sick?"

Whoa! Didn't see that one coming. God, I hope those classes start soon.

"No, no, there's nothing wrong with your mind." Chris quickly recovered. "But sometimes you might think of things or remember things that make you feel bad. Dr. Will wants to help you with thoughts like those. If you answer his questions, he can tell you what's wrong and make it better."

Feel-bad thoughts? Yeah, he definitely had some of those. Dr. Will had told him that talking about things would make him feel better but it was easier to believe when he heard Chris say it.

Relieved and happy once more, Vin snuggled down under the covers pulling his toy cat tight to his chest. Stifling a yawn, he fought to hold back the sleep he could feel sneaking up on him. "If you could wish for anything, what would you want?"

My wife and son. Chris gritted his teeth against the first, honest answer that jumped into his mind. The boy doesn't need to hear that. Time to use some tact Larabee. He could see Vin was on the verge of falling asleep and the question was probably just his way of stalling off the inevitable.

"I'd wish it was Friday."

<yawn> "Why?"

"Because that's the day you get to leave here and move in with me."

A happy smile broken by another yawn demonstrated how much Vin liked that answer and his blue eyes finally closed as he surrendered to his exhaustion.

Leaning down, Chris brushed back the ragged bangs and placed a soft kiss on Vin's forehead. "G'night kiddo. Have good dreams." Stepping back, Chris found it difficult to tear his eyes away and discovered that he hadn't told a complete lie. At that moment, he truly wished with all his heart that the next morning would be Friday.

+ + + + + + +

"Gentlemen, a toast to Buck Wilmington for daring to go where few bachelors have gone before."

"Here here."

"Aw, you fellas know that I'm only doin' this cause the kid's a great chick magnet."

Ezra gave a loud snort. "Did I hear you correctly? Did you actually just use the word magnet?"

"Hey, I had one year of science in high school."

"Boys, boys let's not get side tracked." Josiah waved aside the question of Buck's education. "We are gathered here at Chris' to celebrate and plan for the arrival of the newest additions to our strange but wonderful little family."

"Oh, is that why you guys are here? I thought you were just freeloading as usual." Chris grumbled good-naturedly from his recliner in front of the television. The sprawling ranch house actually was a favorite gathering place for the ATF team since it had plenty of room for such things as a fireplace, a pool table and a decent sized entertainment system. The satellite dish, brick barbecue pit and comfortable guest bedrooms were just icing on the cake.

Of course, tomorrow there would be one less bed for guests, as Vin would be moving in to the room directly across from Chris'. Mary Travis had helped him get it fixed up in a nice western motif and not that silly little cowboy stuff. The walls had been painted like an Arizona landscape while the furniture had a decided Tex-Mex feel to it. Chris had a feeling Vin was going to love it and couldn't wait to see the look on the boy's face.

Chris' thoughts were returned to the present as he noticed Buck standing up and reaching for his jacket like he was getting ready to leave.

"Buck? It's just now a little after eight. What's up?"

"Ah, sorry Chris. Hate to run out on you like this but you wouldn't believe what babysitters charge these days. She say's she saving it up for college but I don't aim to pay for her whole first year. Guess you'll find out soon enough; providin' you can get one to come all the way out here."

"Actually, I've worked out a deal with Mrs. Potter. You remember her; she and her late husband had that little country grocer at the bottom of the hill. Well, I noticed that she had the place up for sale and it turns out she wants to stay home with her two kids instead of work. We talked it over and she's going to take care of Vin when he's out of school and I have to work or need to take some time away."

Buck rubbed his mustache ruefully. "Da…darn it. Ain't you the lucky one. Wish JD and I didn't live so far away, I'd get her to keep him too."

Ezra sat his drink down abruptly, the sharp sound catching everyone's attention. "Of course! Why Buck, that is an excellent idea."

Buck stared at Ezra in confusion. "Well, thanks but what…?"

"You have been moaning all evening over the unexpected cost of raising a child and the so called 'catches' and 'niggling details'. What you are in need of is a way to trim your expenses and the aid of someone with child raising experience."

Buck rolled his eyes while the other men snorted with amusement. "Well, duh Sir Isaac Newton. I could have told you that."

"That's Einstein and if you would kindly return to your seat; I believe I have the solution to your problems. At least the ones where JD is concerned."

Josiah and Nathan both leaned forward, just as eager as Buck to hear the details of Ezra's miraculous plan. Even Chris was curious to know the details although a bit worried that the short hairs on the back of his neck were trying to stand at attention.

Seeing that he had an attentive audience, Ezra stood and cleared his throat in preparation for his speech.

Chris could see what was coming and shook his head. "Forget the pitch and just cut straight to the chase Ezra. Buck needs to go and I'm starting to get an uncomfortable feeling."

"Very well, if you insist. To put it simply, Buck and JD should move in with you."

Silence descended with the swiftness of a falling anvil. And judging by the looks on everyone's faces, a person might have thought that Ezra had used just such a weapon. Josiah was actually the first to find his voice.

"Brother, that is great idea!"


"Of course!" Nathan was quick to agree. "Chris has plenty of room."

"You've got to be…."

"Hey, me and Chris can even carpool together to work."

"Over my dead…"

"Naturally. And Mrs. Potter can keep both boys in the evenings."

Chris slammed his drink down on the table next to his chair. He had heard enough. "Give me one good reason why I should even consider letting Buck move in to my home."

"I'll give you two." Ezra reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a photograph, which he handed to Chris. There in brilliant color was Vin and JD sitting at a child's play table in a room at the hospital. Vin was dressed in pajamas and a robe while JD was sporting the very latest in camouflage fatigues. Both boys were holding up pictures that they had drawn of horses running across a field. JD's looked more like an emaciated wiener dog but the intention was clear.

Chris studied the photograph for a long, silent moment while the other men waited patiently.

"Ezra, you ever get another brilliant solution, I swear I'll shoot you where the sun don't shine."

"I'll take that to mean that you accept my proposal."

"Yes, damn it. Buck and JD can move in…"

Loud whoops filled the room but Chris shouted to make himself heard. "Provided we set some ground rules first."

Buck surprised his boss and friend by pulling him to his feet and then embracing him in a fierce hug. "Whatever you say, Chris. You've just taken a load of worry off my mind. I wasn't really concerned about the money but all those books I've been reading on child raising have really got me spooked. I just don't see how you can be so calm about it."

"Well, the most important thing to learn about raising kids is that there is no such thing as 'by the book'. With children you can't 'expect' anything or 'anticipate' everything." Chris shook his head and looked at the smiling faces beaming back at him. "Kind of like working with a certain group of guys I know."

+ + + + + + +

"And then we went to the grocery store to buy food but we had to go to the store waaaay over near the mall cause Buck says that's where all the 'vailable women shop and...."

Chris glanced up at his old friend and smiled at the guilty shrug he received in return. He shook his head, and turned back to finish tying Vin's sneaker while JD continued his very long-winded telling of his morning's activities.

"Ah, gentlemen, are we nearing the promised hour of departure?"

Ezra sauntered into the room closely followed by Nathan and Josiah. No formal plans or agreements had been made to gather at the hospital; but it was a sign of the closeness of the five men that such an arrangement just came naturally.

Vin smiled shyly at the new arrivals and gave his toy cat a tight squeeze. It was really happening! He was really going to live with Chris and Buck and JD and ride real horses. Excitement had kept him awake long after his bedtime but it had also caused him to wake with the first light of the new day. A wonderful, quivery kind of happy feeling had bounced him out of bed and kept him moving all morning.

After listening to his chest one last time, Dr. Jake had patted him on the back and told him to watch out for gopher holes and road apples, which was a little confusing but Vin had correctly taken it to mean that he was getting to leave. After that, all the nice ladies had been by to give him hugs and tell him how much they were going to miss him. They had also given him lots of advice about eating his vegetables and staying warm and doing what Chris told him.

And Chris had been with him most of the morning and had just finished getting all his presents into bags ready to be carried out when Buck and JD had arrived. Now he was dressed and it looked like it was finally time to go.

"Hey, look Vin! It's the troll king!" JD pointed to the folded newspaper that Ezra had placed on the foot of the bed.

Ezra glanced at the portion of the front-page image that was visible and saw that it was a picture of Elija J. Rawlins, a rather popular statesman. "The man does have terrible taste in attire, I'll grant you that but to say that he resembles a troll..."

"Oh, he don't look like the other trolls but he tells them what to do. Ain't that right Vin?" JD clambered to his feet and stood on the bed, one hand resting on his hip and the other pointing a finger at Ezra. "And when he gets mad he shakes his magic ring at them and yells real loud until they do what he says."

Silence filled the crowded hospital room following JD's demonstration. Vin looked around at the men and felt his chest tighten in fear. Reaching up, he grabbed his friend by the arm and yanked him back down. Something JD had said was making everyone upset and that couldn't be good. It might even ruin his chance to live with Chris. Panic gripped him and he reacted almost without thinking.

"He's just making it up! We never saw a troll king at the warehouse!"

"But Vin..."

"Shuddup JD! There ain't no such things as trolls. Tell'em..."

Chris placed his hand on Vin's shoulder in what he meant to be a comforting gesture to calm the boy. When Vin jerked back, his eyes wide and terrified, Chris knew he had made a mistake. Easing back while holding his palms up, Chris spoke softly but with a firm voice.

"It's all right Vin. You're coming to live me and nothing JD can say will change that. Now just settle down and relax." Glancing at the paper still lying on the bed, Chris reached over and unfolded it to reveal the full picture.

"Well I'll be damned!" Buck's surprised exclamation was a sentiment shared by each of the ATF officers. The image revealed was that of Elija Rawlins shaking the hand of the Chief of Police. On Elija's right hand was a thick gold ring set with a large, square gemstone.

JD didn't understand what was happening but judging by Vin's tears and Buck's use of the naughty 'd' word, it had to be something bad. And being a normal four-year-old child faced with a disturbing situation, JD followed his instincts.

Everyone in the room jumped as the ear splitting wail of distress shattered the tense moment. His face a dark shade of red and scrunched into a terrible grimace, JD held his arms straight out in a blind search for comfort.

Buck responded like an old pro, leaping forward to gather the distraught child into his arms.

"Hey, hey there li'l britches. It's okay. Shhhhhhh. Ain't no need to carry on like this, you're okay."

Meeting Chris' gaze over the top of JD's head, Buck indicated with a nod that he was going to take the child outside.

Chris approved of the idea and looking over at Vin, thought it might be best if the others left as well.

"Josiah, Nathan would you take Vin's things to the truck and wait for us there?"

"Sure Chris, be glad to." Josiah readily agreed and began gathering the bags of presents.

Nathan also moved to help but had an idea of his own. "On our way out, I'll stop by the nurse's station and let them know what's going on. They probably heard JD's yell all the way down the other wing."

"Yeah, thanks guys. Ezra, I want you to call Orrin. Don't tell him anything over the phone, just make sure he comes out to the ranch tonight."

"That might prove difficult without disclosing a reason." Even as he voiced his doubts, Ezra was checking his watch and deciding which phone number to try first.

"Just be your usual charming self. And if that doesn't work you have my permission to use blackmail."

Ezra feigned a look of shocked outrage. "Moi? Resort to such crude strong-arm tactics? Assuming of course I had something to use as leverage..."

"December twenty-first, 1995. Christmas party at Judge Baker's house. Mrs. Travis was feeling under the weather and Orrin came alone." Chris smiled grimly. "Tell him I still have the pictures."

Ezra returned the smile and with a rather predatory gleam in his eyes, he also left to complete his assigned task.

Silence descended on the small room once more and Chris was finally able to give his full attention to Vin. Problem was, he wasn't exactly sure where or how to begin.

Vin had tucked himself up against the head of the bed with his arms wrapped tightly around his stuffed toy and in turn, himself. Tears ran down his cheeks and his body shook with emotion. What made it even worse for Chris was the child's complete silence. What had occurred in the boy's short life that he had taught himself to cry without making a sound?

Dropping heavily into the chair beside the bed, Chris sighed deeply and scrubbed at his face with both hands. Shit. What do I say? What 'can' I say? How do I undo months of fear and distrust? "How do I convince you that I want to take care of you and keep you safe?"


Chris looked up, surprised and confused by the question. "What?"

"Why... do you care?"

Glancing away, Chris thought about that for a moment before trying to answer. "When I first saw you, lying there on that dirty floor...I thought…" Chris had to stop and swallow. "I thought you were …dead...and I got mad. I was mad at who ever had hurt you. I was mad at who ever had 'let' you be hurt. I wanted to find those people and punish them. Make them suffer." Chris realized he was knotting his hands into fists and forced them to relax. "Then I found out you were alive and keeping you that way suddenly became the most important thing in the world to me."

Chris looked down at his clasped hands resting on his knees. "I can't tell you 'why' exactly. Some things a person just feels and knows is right." He looked back up, meeting and holding Vin's gaze. "Your coming to live with me is right. I want to take care of you. I want to protect you from everything bad in this world. I want to begin and end each day hearing you laugh and seeing you smile. It's important to me. You're important to me. I need you to be happy and well so that I can be happy and well."

Vin could see in Chris' eyes that he was telling him the truth. And there was a feeling in his heart that made him want to believe. But there was a kind of sadness to Chris that was also very familiar. "Do you ever have feel-bad thoughts?"

Chris remembered Dr. Lowery mentioning that Vin was now referring to some of his memories as feel-bad thoughts. Deciding that it would be best to be honest, he solemnly nodded. "Sometimes."

"Do you talk to Dr. Will?"

"No, but maybe I should. Maybe we could even talk to him together?"

Vin gave that some serious thought and found he liked the idea. "Yeah, maybe we could."

They both fell silent as Chris waited patiently for Vin to work things out for himself. Looking over at the paper, Vin was reminded of how their conversation had started. Wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt, he asked Chris, "Why're you and Buck mad about me and JD seeing the troll king?"

"I'm not mad Vin, and neither is Buck. We were just ...surprised. I told you about my job and why I was in that warehouse the day I found you. Well, we know there are bad men selling guns here but we can't seem to catch them. They always seem to be one step ahead of us. If that man in the picture is the leader, then that would explain why we're having so many problems."

Chris stood and paced across the room. He's bond with Vin was strong but at the same time very fragile. Did he want to put their relationship at risk over a case? Would he once again be putting his job ahead of someone he cared about?

"Sooo, why don't you lock him up? You said you locked up bad men to get'em off the roads."

Chris sighed and returned to the bed. "I'd like to Vin but for an important man like that I would need some really hard evidence. That means I would need something I could show people that would make them agree to lock him up."

Vin chewed his bottom lip as he thought about that. He could tell that Chris was really upset about the troll king. He didn't like to see Chris upset. Maybe... Looking down at the eyes of his toy cat, he made his decision and hesitantly asked, "If I told people I saw him at the warehouse, would that help?

God. Can I take him up on that offer? Is it right? He's just a child. He has no idea what he's offering.

"It would definitely help, Vin but you would have to answer a lot of questions."

"Like, what kind of questions?"

"Well, let's pretend I'm a judge." Chris picked up the newspaper and held it where Vin could see. "Now, look real close at this picture and tell me if you have ever seen this man in real life before."

Vin blinked at the sudden change in Chris' tone of voice and his eyes shifted from the paper to Chris and back again. Licking his lips, he hesitantly nodded. "Yeah, I seen him." It's only pretend. It's only pretend.

"Where?" C'mon Vin, you can do this.

"At the warehouse." There, that was easy.

"Do you remember when? How many days ago?" This will really decide it.

When?! I don't... wait a minute ... "It was the day before I got hurt."

God. Close enough. With the doctor's help they could probably narrow it down. "Was it day time or night?"

"The sun was going down." Yeah, I can do this.

"Can you tell me exactly what you saw and heard." At a boy, you're doing great.

"Exactly?!" No way.

"Well, as close as you can." Relax Vin, take a deep breath.

Okay, let me think. Vin took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "JD and me were playing pirates looking for treasure. A big black car drove up and we hid behind some stuff to watch. The troll king, that man," Vin nodded to the paper, "Got out of the car with some other men; three I think. They went up to a door and knocked then went inside. They were in there for just a little while when they came back out followed by some more men. This man here looked really mad and was pointing his finger at the others and yelling. I think I heard him say things like, "Costin' me money' and 'dumb sonsabitches'. Then he got back in his car with the others and drove away."

Shit! Orrin's got to give me the go ahead on this. "Can you remember anything else?" I'll have to get some pictures of likely suspects for him to look through.

Anything else? Let's see... "Oh yeah, before he got in the car he said 'Packer won't play for broken dice'."

What? No, that can't be right; but that's ok, first part should be enough. "Vin, could you answer these same questions just like that for someone else?"

Then it wouldn't be pretend; it'd be for real. "Would you be with me?"

"Maybe not in the same room, but I'd be just on the other side of the door." Chris could see how torn the boy was and tried desperately to keep his voice neutral. It had to be Vin's decision.

"He's a bad man and you want to lock'im up. If I tell people I saw him then they'll let you arrest him?"

"Not quite. With your statement I'm hoping the judge will give permission to do things like look in his home and follow him around until I find more evidence."

Vin looked long and hard at the picture. He remembered the sound of the man's voice and the look on his face. He definitely hadn't been smiling then. Looking up at Chris, he finally admitted the truth. "I want to do it but...he scares me."

"He'll never come near you Vin. He'll never even know you and JD saw him. That's why I told Ezra to bring the judge out to my house. If you decide you want to do this, I'll keep you safe, I promise. But if you don't want to make a statement, that's ok too. It's your decision."

In the few days that Vin had known Chris, there was one thing he had come to learn and trust in, that when Chris made a promise, he kept it. "I'm glad wishes don't really come true."

Chris' green eyes blinked in confusion as he tried and failed to follow the child's train of thought. "Why is that Vin?"

"'Cause if I was a horse I couldn't answer these questions and help you."

The two exchanged smiles, both relieved that the matter was settled for now. Chris suddenly looked down at his watch and his mouth fell open in surprise.

"Uh oh, do you know what time it is?"

Vin looked around the room until he spotted the big, round clock on the wall. "Ummm...twelve o'clock?"

"That's right, it's lunch time. So what are we doing sitting around here? I've got hotdogs and tater-chips at my place waitin' to be et."

"And horses?"

Chris screwed up his face into a mock grimace. "You want to eat a horse?"

Vin giggled. "Noooo. I want to ride the horses."

"Then don't just sit there." Chris held out his hands and after just a brief hesitation, Vin slid across the bed and into his arms. "C'mon Vin, let's go home."