"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Author’s Notes: Thanks goes to Barbretta Hayden for allowing me to use some scenes from her story "Dreaming of Angels". And also to J. K. Poffenberger for creating this cool universe. ;)

It was a routine bust, which turned out to be anything but ‘routine’. An unexpected appearance by their foes had ended in a blood bath with the leader of Team 7 seriously injured, and judging by the look on Nathan’s face, their leader was also probably hanging to life by a thread.

A long wait, probably a few hours. That’s what the doctor had told them about Chris’ surgery. As much as Buck wanted to stay and wait for news on his best friend, he knew he had to go home, where two young boys were waiting for their return.

All the way home, he contemplated whether he should tell the truth about Chris, or make up a story. Before he could reach any decision, he realized that he was already in front of the house. Absurdly, he wished that the babysitter had put the boys to sleep. But he knew it was only wishful thinking, neither of them would sleep at 7 p.m.

Chris, you owe me big time for doing this…maybe you could pay me back by just staying alive.

Wishful thinking. Again. Buck sighed.

+ + + + + + +

Everything around him was white. He guessed that he must have died and gone to…where? It sure couldn’t be heaven because the Pearly Gates were nowhere in sight, and white never really did apply to hell. So where was he?

All of a sudden, he found himself sitting on a white couch. An improvement from standing, he thought. And in front of him, there was a white table. Whoever lives here sure likes white. He wanted to shout to see if anyone could hear him, but it seemed like he had lost control over his vocal chords for no sound came out.

Past or present? The words seemed to echo around him. He didn’t know what meaning those words held but somehow, he felt compelled to stay and find out.

Past or present?

+ + + + + + +

Within a blink of an eye, Chris found himself no longer in the white room but in his office, his old office, the one he had before the formation of Team 7, and before Sarah and Adam died. A loud shrill of the phone called for his attention. Tentatively, he picked up the phone, still feeling very confused about what was going on.

"Chris!" came the excited voice on the other end. A voice that was only too familiar to him, a voice that he thought he would never hear again.

"S-Sarah?" he asked cautiously. Let’s not let our hopes soar too high, it could be a mistake.

"Who else could it be?" teased the person. " Chris I have something very important to tell you." The cheerful voice grew serious. "I went to the doctor today…" A pause.

Chris clutched the phone tightly. It was too real. He knew every word of the conversation before the words were even spoken. How could he forget the day his beloved wife told him that he was about to become a father?

"And?" The exact same words he had uttered many years ago, ever eager to hear what his spouse had to say.

"Guess what dad…" before Sarah could finish the sentence Chris was already shouting "you’re pregnant!" over and over again.

"You’re p…" the words were quickly withdrawn as he realized the scene before him had changed once more. No longer was he in the office, but in a hospital room. Next to him was the sleeping form of Sarah Larabee, taking a much deserved rest after delivering a healthy baby boy, which both parents had immediately agreed on naming him Adam.

In front of him, was Adam, wrapped tightly in a blue towel. All he could do was stare at his son. His son. He felt a powerful feeling surge through him, like the first time he had held Adam in his hands. The feeling of love and protectiveness for his first-born.

Whatever this is, I like it. Chris thought.

+ + + + + + +

Like before, the scenes just kept changing, one after another. They were memories, Chris knew that, but nice ones. His memories of Adam learning how to ride his new two-wheeler, of day Adam grew his first tooth. And, yes, the day Adam first called him "Daa", his proudest moment in fatherhood.

How he missed touching his wife and son, how he missed their voices. Chris didn’t want the scenes to end. In fact, he wanted it to go on forever.

But just as sudden as its beginning was, so was its end. One moment he was playing catch with Adam, "Adam, throw it right outta the sky!", and the next, he was in a dark room holding the baseball Adam had thrown to him. Unlike the white room, the silence in this room was eerie.

He wanted to shout ‘don’t stop’, but like before, no words made it past his throat. He craved for more time with Sarah and Adam. Please don’t take them away again! He pleaded in his heart with ‘The Voice’.

The only reply he got was something that sounded like the rustling of leaves. Adam…Sarah…The only thing he had now, was the baseball that Adam had thrown him, which, surprisingly, hadn’t disappeared with everything else.

Past or present? There was that voice again. Even though he knew it was futile, his hands groped wildly in the dark to find where it was coming from. And just as he had expected, he found none.

Past or present?

+ + + + + + +

This time, he was in a hospital room. But he wasn’t the one on the bed and he was holding a stuffed animal. The scene seemed so familiar to him, but still he could not remember what it was about. After numerous visits to the hospital, this one just seemed like the rest. But who was the patient this time?

Suddenly, he realized that the baseball wasn’t in his hand anymore. Where’s the baseball? he thought frantically and looked in his pockets, but it was gone, just like the scenes with Adam and Sarah. In his frustration, he wanted to throw the stuffed toy away as far as he could.

That was when he noticed the stuffed toy. It was the same stuffed cat he had given Vin in the hospital room. As he looked at the still form on the bed, he remembered how glad he felt that they had canvassed the wrong warehouse

Although Chris and Vin had never even met before, Chris had felt a strong sense of protectiveness for the child.

Past or present?

Chris was starting to understand what ‘The Voice’ was trying to tell him. To put it simply, he was being asked to choose between Vin or Adam, and what a choice it was going to be.

Life or death.

+ + + + + + +

Looking around, he realized that he was now in his own home. And he was standing in front of his bathroom door. Huh? Chris wondered why he felt a sense of foreboding, like something not so nice was going to happen. I am sure I’ve seen this before. But when?

Maybe one of the boys had created some masterpiece that would assault his eyes if he opened the door. To open or not to open, that is the question. Damn, I wished I could remember what this is about.

Slowly, but cautiously, his left hand reached for the door. He opened it. Like a flash of lightning, something with sharp claws lunged at him, scratched his hand, his arm, and finally, it did a number on Chris’ face before ‘swan diving’ off his head.

"Bad kitty," Vin said meekly with a very guilty look on his face. He wore rubber gloves, goggles, an oversized cap, Buck’s shirt, and not to forget, Chris’ jeans, which made him look like some sort of…monster.

Now I remember. Too bad I remembered too late. As he tenderly touched his wounds, he couldn’t help but smile when Vin said, "I don’t think Mrs. Thompson’s cat likes to bathe." Ah Vin, what an understatement.

Seconds later, he was reliving the boys’ first day of school, which only Murphy’s Law could explain. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

First it was their school bags that had disappeared into thin air. Then it was Chris’ car keys, and for the finale, it was the boys. After much shouts and threats from Buck and Chris, the missing items and persons, miraculously appeared.

Although Vin had claimed innocence with his puppy dog eyes, Chris was not one to be fooled.

After that, it was the time Vin and JD decided to bake a cake for Buck as a surprise. Their kitchen could only be described as a disaster zone.

One after another the images came. Finally, they stopped. But this time, instead of winding up in the dark room, Chris found himself sitting once more on the white couch, with the white table in front of him.

There were two cards on the table, one had ‘Past’ written on it, and on the other ‘Present’.

Decision time. ‘The Voice’ echoed once more.

This is it. Chris thought. He was going to make the decision of his life. Literally. Which would it be? Past or present. Live or die.

At the hospital

To Buck, it had seemed like centuries since Chris was brought into the ER. In reality, only 5 hours had passed. 5 long and terrible hours.

When Buck told JD and Vin about Chris, JD started crying and ran into the comfort of Buck’s open arms. Vin on the other hand, stayed silent and hadn’t said a word since. Buck had expected some show of emotion. Anger, sadness, confusion, or whatever from Vin, he could try to deal with that, but not silence. How do you comfort someone when you had no idea what he was feeling?

Buck had wanted to leave the boys at home when he went to the hospital, but finally decided against it when JD wouldn’t let go of him and Vin’s silence was starting to worry him. And so there they stayed, waiting for news on Chris.

+ + + + + + +

It isn’t fair, Vin thought. Then again, it never was. He couldn’t understand why bad things always had to happen to him. He had already lost his mother, and had gone through enough physical and emotional torture to last a lifetime. Wasn’t it enough? Why Chris? Why now? After so long, he had finally found someone who cared deeply for him, why were the Fates trying to take Chris away? Why?

All seven years of him couldn’t understand. And all seven years of him couldn’t answer any of the questions.

Enviously, Vin eyed JD as he slept, nestled comfortably in Buck’s arms. He too wanted to be comforted and told that everything would be okay, but the only man who could ease his worries was the cause of it. And it just wasn’t fair.

" Please, please don’t die," Vin whispered, looking up at the ceiling. " I need you to be my pa…I need you…"

+ + + + + + +

Chris had a dilemma. He wanted to stay, and he wanted to go. Unless he decided to cut himself in half, he saw no way of that happening. On one hand, there was Adam and Sarah, on the other, there was JD, Buck, his team, and, most importantly, Vin.

If he stayed, he could be with his family, the family he missed so much. He could play catch with Adam again, he could do many things with his family, things that he never had the chance to do. But if he stayed, he would be breaking a promise that he made to Vin.

I’ll always be there.

Just then, as he was deciding whether or not he should flip a coin to make the tough decision easier, Buck’s voice appeared out of nowhere. This time, it was the conversation Chris had with Buck a few weeks ago that was being replayed.

" You know Chris, isn’t it time you started to let go of Adam and Sarah. Before you deck me, hear me out. I mean, I’m not asking you to forget them completely, that’s impossible, I’m just asking you to take a good look around and see what you have on this earth and not in heaven. For instance, Vin. You’re the closest thing to a father that he has and he loves you more than anything…"

"What are you getting at Buck?" Chris heard himself saying.

" I’m just saying, you can’t kill something that won’t die. Like love. Can’t kill it. Think about it Chris, loving Vin more doesn’t mean forgetting or betraying Adam, it just means…you have more love to share than you know…"

The rest of the conversation was drowned out by a voice that sounded so hurt and lost…and voice that sounded exactly like Vin’s. Chris felt as though someone was squeezing his heart as he heard Vin’s plea.

"Please, please don’t die…I need you to be my pa…I need you."

The living are laying down their case…does the dead have anything else to add to this case? Chris thought crazily. He expected Adam to come rushing up to him crying, " Daddy, please don’t go,", making his decision harder to make. But no such thing happened.

Past or present?

That voice was really starting to annoy Chris. He thought of Adam and all the times he had shared with him, then he thought of Vin and all the times he could share with him.

Chris looked down at the cards again. He felt like the judge and jury, and that all the evidence was laid before him. Innocent or guilty. Past or present. Life or death.

I love you Adam. I love you Sarah.

Then, he chose a card.

At the hospital

5 hours and 32 minutes. That’s how long the surgery lasted. Whether it was good news or bad, Buck knew that they would handle it together. At least he and JD would. By the looks of it, if the news were bad, Vin’s mouth probably wouldn’t move again.

Here came the doctor. Buck tried to contain the urge to shake the doctor to make him spit the news out faster. Why was it that at the most crucial moment, all doctors started to speak like Ezra? Buck could see that Vin wasn’t any more patient than he was.

"Just cut the medical limgo and tell us whether he’s going to make it or not," Buck said impatiently.

"Barring any complications, he’ll be fine," the doctor replied.

Life was fair after all, and living in the present was much better than the past.


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