"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe
Disclaimer: They still belong to those guys in Ca. who dont love them like we do. This is just for fun. No money made Warning: some mild cussing and lightly touched child abuse. Nothing graphic Notes: A big thanks to Winnie and Julie for all their help and suggestions. This follows right after Full Circle. Thanks to Barbretta Hayden and Joy K 'cause I love their stories and used some of their background.
The members of Team 7 sat on the porch of Chris Larabees ranch house enjoying the warm early summer sunshine and watching the two little boys play. Each sipped on the drink of their choice, feeling relaxed and content with the world.
Josiah, Buck and Ive been talking. Weve decided that there should be some special something to start the boys calling us dad. We thought youd have some suggestions to how to go about this, Chris said grimacing at the tumble JD just took.
Nathan smiled letting the conversation flow around him as he watched the boys play. JD ran and jumped with his usual exuberance but for the first time he noticed how Vin played. Hed watched Vin all day, since Chris had told him about his back. Little clues that were easily missed, and dismissed unless you were looking for something.
Every culture has some sort of naming ceremony. I suppose it wouldnt be difficult to come up with something appropriate. Ill check in to it. Youre doing the right thing Chris. Theres one thing those boys need as much as they need a place to stay and eating regular. Thats love and to know they truly belong. The love they have, its the feeling of belonging thats hard. Josiah looked over at Nathan.
Nathan if you watch that boy any harder your eye balls are going to fall out.
Nathan started. What? Oh, sorry. Im just not sure how I could have missed something like that.
Nathan its not any fault of yours. The doctors at the hospital never said anything about Vins back. Buck and I hadnt noticed anything either. Not until JD said something, Chris said trying to easy the EMTs guilty feelings.
Yeah but .
No yeah buts, Nathan. You cant know it all. You know how good Vin is at hiding things he doesnt want any one to know. We will get this checked out.
Nathan signed. Your right Chris, its just hard not feel like I should have spotted his tells as Ezra would say. Let me call Rain. Shes working at the hospital again tomorrow. Maybe she can work Vin in.
Ok Nathan. Are you sure its that urgent? I know how busy she is. But Vin likes Rain and doesnt seem to be afraid of her. So it would make it easier if it were her.
Dont know how urgent it is, but Rain likes Vin and shell work him in if she can. Nathan got up to go inside and call. He was back in just a few minutes and handed Chris a slip of paper. Here, tomorrow at 2. Shell work him in.
7 7 7 7 7
Come on Vin, get dressed. We gotta go, Chris said glancing into the boys room. Vin sat on the bed one sock on one sock in his hand.
Blue eyes glanced up, bottom lip almost in a pout. Dont wanna go to the hospital.
Chris sighed. Vin weve been over this. Were going to see Aunt Rain so she can look at your back and make sure theres nothing that we should know about. We talked about this last night. Little boys' backs dont just hurt all the time. We need to find out why yours hurts.
Doesnt hurt all the time.
OoooK. It shouldnt hurt at all. Chris tried hard to keep the exasperation out of his voice. Seven year olds had their own sense of logic and it drove adults up the wall most of the time.
Dont matter none. Im fine now.
Were going, no argument. Get dressed. When logic failed, orders worked just fine.
The bottom lip went out further, Yes sir.
7 7 7 7 7
A worried Chris and a rebellious Vin sat waiting for their turn to see Rain. Finally she came inside the little room. Hey Vin.
Hey Aunt Rain. Vin smiled shyly at the pretty woman.
How ya doing?
Im fine. Chris is just a worry wart.
Rain glanced over at Chris. Yeah, he is. But that makes him very loveable. He worries about Nathan, Buck, Josiah and Ezra all the time.
Vins eyes got big. He does?
UmmmHum. So lets take one worry away and see if we can find out whats wrong. OK?
Aint nothin wrong.
Vin! Chris warned.
Ok, Aunt Rain.
Alright, I want you to lay down on your tummy.
Chris watched closely as Rain examined Vin. When she finished, she said, Ok Vin Im finished. You can get up if you want. Im gonna talk to Chris for a minute. Well be right outside the door.
Vin nodded and sat watching. I wont tell Mama I promise.
Outside the door, Well? demanded Chris.
Patient as ever I see. OK, the ex-rays they took when you first brought him in after you found him showed nothing. Neither can I find anything today. Chris, I want to do an MRI. It could pick up something weve missed.
Let me make a phone call and well see. Rain saw the doubt in Chris eyes. She laid her hand on his arm. Its not as bad as it sounds. Honest. Well give Vin a drink, a sedative to relax him and hell sleep though most everything. We do this for children because they must be still.
Can I stay with him?
Theres no need Chris. Hell be asleep.
Can I stay with him?
Rain sighed. Sure youll need some scrubs, you cant have anything metal on. OK?
Its fine, I understand. And she did, sort of. Chris Larabee was a fiercely protective man when it came to family. She knew this; shed seen it before with his men. She expected nothing less when it came to that little boy.
Chris went back inside the exam room. He found Vin huddled on the examination table. Hey Little Man. You ok?
Can we go home now?
Not yet. Rain wants to do one more test then well go. A nurse came in with a paper cup of grape colored liquid. Vin, you need to drink this for me.
What is it?
Its some medicine that will make you sleepy.
Because the test your going to take is called an MRI and you have to be very very still. If youre sleepy or asleep its easier for you to be still.
Vin took the cup and wrinkled his nose. He started to drink then stopped his eyes big. Your gonna stay with me arent you?
Yeah, Ill be right there. I even get to wear some hospital clothes. Drink.
Vin did drink, making a face at it, not liking the taste.
Chris smiled. I know, theres a rule some where that medicine must past the bluck test before it works.
Youre making that up.
Yeah. Chris smiled.
There was a knock at the door and it opened. Vin looked around Chris. Hi, Uncle Nathan.
Hi kiddo. Rain called she thought you might need some help, he said as he handed Chris the scrubs.
Chris smiled again, Thanks. Taking the scrubs, he said, Vin, Im going to change clothes then Ill be right back ok?
When Chris got back in his purple scrubs he handed Nathan his pile of clothes. Badge and wallet are in the pants pocket.
Nathan nodded. Ill watch them.
Chris sat down beside the droopy-eyed Vin who surprised him by climbing into his lap, then laying his head on Chris shoulder.
Good. You're supposed to be.
Rain looked in. You ready?
Chris stood still holding Vin. Sure.
Once in the hall there was a gurney waiting. Chris sent a shot of green fire at Rain. I will carry him.
Rain raised an eyebrow. Ok, this way.
It wasnt a long walk but by the time they reached the room where the MRI was, Chris was sure Vin was asleep. He carefully laid Vin down on the table but before he could straighten up Vins hands fisted in Chris shirt. Blue eyes opened in fright and stared around.
Its ok, Cowboy. Im right here. You gotta lay on this bed thing ok? And be very, very still.
Vin looked up at Chris. Ooo..k I promise Ill be still. His eyes drooped closed again and Rain arranged him for the test. When she finished, the bed started its slow trip toward the metallic tube.
Chris walked beside it whispering reassuringly. Go back to sleep Vin youre going to take a slow ride through a tunnel and Ill be on the other side.
Neither adult noticed as Vins small body started to disappear into the tubing, his hands knotting around the sheeting, squeezing until his knuckles were white. I promise Ill be still. I promise Ill be still. I promise Ill be still. I promise Over and over Vin promised Chris. Even when he did doze he kept saying it over and over in his head. Hed promised Chris hed be still. He had to do it no matter what.
It seemed as if hed laid there forever, then finally he could hear Chris voice clearly again. Almost done Cowboy.
Vin hoped so. His stomach was rolling and he just knew he was going to be sick. But hed promised to be still. Vin opened his eyes just a bit, just enough to see if he could see Chris. Hed opened them once before and it had scared him so bad that only his promise had kept him from jumping up.
I promise Ill be still. But his stomach had other ideas and just as his torso cleared the tube Vin rolled, leaned over the edge of the bed and a fountain of grape colored vomit spewed from him onto the side of the bed and floor.
Over and over he heaved until his small body was shaking and tears ran down his face. Between gasps of air Vin looked up pleadingly at Chris. Im sorry C..Chris. I t..tried to be still.
Its ok Vin. Chris gathered the trembling child into his arms. Its ok, you did good.
Rain patted Vin on the back. Its fine, lets go get you cleaned up, ok?
Chris rubbing one hand up and down the thin back looking at Rain. Rain?
It should be fine Chris. Go ahead and you two get dressed. Nathan is waiting at the same exam room. Ill see you in a few minutes. Itll be tomorrow before we get any results.
Chris nodded and headed toward Nathan who was waiting in hall. Chris sat Vin on the counter by the sink. Lets get the hospital stuff off and then well wash a bit, OK? Hows the stomach? If you need to throw up again holler, ok?
Chris carefully took off the hospital gown and wadding it, threw it in the corner. Taking the corner of a towel, he wet it and washed Vins faced and then helped the still sleepy little boy into is own clothes, then laid him on the examination table.
Here Cowboy, you lay down while I get dressed, OK?
K. Vin lay very still and with half massed eyes watched as Chris put on his own clothes. His stomach still hurt and he didnt want to throw up again.
Ready to go home Cowboy?
Umm. Vin opened his eyes and reached for Chris, who bent down to pick up the lethargic boy. At the movement Vins eyes widened, Chris!
Chris quickly took a step and turned the boy so his head was over the sink as another spray of purple came up and out. Several small heaves followed. Tears again streaming down his face, Vin struggled as Chris sat him on the counter. He grabbed the damp towel and wiped Vin's face again.
I dont like that stuff Chris.
I dont blame you Cowboy. Feel any better? Want a drink of water?
Rain peeked in and seeing Vin had been sick again came over to him. Hey kiddo, I got something for you to suck on. It tastes like peppermint and it should make your tummy feel better.
Vin looked down at the chalky tablet in her hand. Dont want it.
Come on Vin, it will make your tummy feel better. Im sorry the other medicine made you sick.
Vin pinched his mouth closed until a warning from Chris had him taking the tablet and popping it in his mouth. Vin!
He looked up surprised because it did taste good. Rain smiled, See?
Vin nodded and waited.
Chris, Ill call when I get the results and we can set up an appointment. Should be sometime tomorrow. Now, here in this bag are some drinks for Vin. Theyll help replace the fluids hes lost. Hell most likely sleep most of the evening, even all night. If the vomiting gets too bad call me, OK?
Sure Rain. Thanks.
Chris gathered the boy in one arm and the sack from Rain in the other. Vin laid his head on Chris shoulder and sighed.
7 7 7 7 7
They managed to make it home without incident, but once home Chris had to fight off an over eager JD.
I missed you Vin. Whats the matter Vin? Wanna play? I wanna play.
Slow down, JD. I dont think Vins up to playing right now. Aunt Rain gave him some medicine that made him sleepy. Wheres Buck?
Hes in the barn. Want me to get him? JD practically bounced in that direction.
Please, that would be great.
Chris walked into the house relieved at the quiet JD left behind him.
Vin? You awake?
You need to go to the bathroom?
OK, wanna lay on the couch?
Chris walked into the living room and lay Vin down, grabbed a plastic lined trashcan and set it beside the couch. Vin, if you get sick again there is the trashcan right here by your head. Ill be in the kitchen. He pulled the afghan off the back of the couch and covered the sleepy boy.
Chris opened the refrigerator door and reached in for a beer. Sighing as he popped the top, he was talking his first long drink when he heard from the living room, C..Chris.
Setting down the can, he ran to the couch finding Vin bet over the trashcan. Vin, easy. He reached down to pick up the crying boy.
Chris attempt to pick Vin up only made the boy cry harder. Easy Vin, its ok. Well just go into the bathroom. But when he reached to take the afghan Vin clenched it tightly to him.
NO. Chris I messed myself when I threw up. The crying became harder.
Its ok, well get you cleaned up and in some more clothes. It was an accident, Vin. Its ok. Chris bent down and carefully gathered the sobbing child into his arms and carried him into the bathroom.
While he was taking care of Vin he heard Buck come in the house. Hey Pard, where are you?
Bathroom Buck. Taking care of some business.
With a clean and pajama dressed Vin in his arms Chris went back to the kitchen. Let's get some of that drink Aunt Rain sent.
No, Ill be sick again.
Hold on Buck interrupted, You know Vin, my momma use to give me some coke to drink and soda crackers to munch on when my stomach was up set. Think you could sip some coke and maybe eat a cracker or two?
Alright, you and Chris just go sit down and Ill bring you a little bit of cold coke and a few crackers. Buck nodded to Chris telling him with the nod that things were cleaned up in the living room.
Chris carried Vin in and sat down in the big rocker and slowly started rocking. Buck brought in the coke and Vin sipped it, nibbled on a cracker and sighing, relaxed and let him self fall asleep in the safety of Chris arms.
7 7 7 7 7 7
It was late and both boys were long ago in bed and Buck was out on a date. Chris had tried reading for a while but couldnt concentrate. He finally gave up, watched the news and turning most of the lights off, headed to bed.
Stopping by the boys room, he let the hall light shine into the room. Chris frowned, something was not right. He walked into the room letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. It was Vins bed. It was empty. Chris reached around and flicked on the light, his eyes searching around the room for Vin.
Then he saw him and heard him. Huddled in the far corner was Vin, one fist crammed in to his mouth the other held out in front of him fingers splayed wide as if fending of something. The sounds coming from him could only be described as whimpers and tears streamed down his face.
Vin? Chris moved forward slowly and crouched down making himself as small as possible and least threatening as possible. Vin, its Chris.
Wild blue eyes stared at him without recognition. The whimpering became louder as Vin tried to push himself deeper into the corner.
Chris reached out to touch the frightened boy when he was suddenly pushed hard out of the way. No Chris. You cant touch him. JD stood between him and Vin like a guardian. You cant touch him when hes like this.
Like what, JD?
Hes having a bad dream kinda, only hes kinda awake too. You have to talk to him til hes all awake. JD turned to his friend and standing very still he started talking Vin? Vin its ok, theres no bad people here. Vin its me JD, you have to wake up now, I need for you to wake up. Im scared Vin, please. JD patiently talked to Vin until the tiny gasps for air and the whimpering sounds slowly stopped.
Vin blinked slowly two or three times and he looked and saw JD. He took his fist out of his mouth and put it behind him. Then he noticed Chris behind JD. Terror shown in his eyes as he tried to understand who this tall grown up was.
Its ok Vin. Its just me and Chris. You was having a bad dream.
Vin looked from JD to Chris. Chris? His voice shook.
Yeah Cowboy, its me. That must have been some dream.
Vin frowned, dream?
JD turned to Chris, He never remembers them you know.
Really. Did this happen often before?
JD cocked his head Vin had bad dreams all the time when I first went with him. But he hasnt had so many since we been here.
Chris slowly inched closer to Vin watching him closely preparing to stop if need by. Are you ok now Vin?
Vin looked at Chris hard searching his face. Did Was .did I wake you up? I didnt mean to, Im sorry.
No Vin I was up, I just stopped to check on you and JD before I went to bed. Chris slowly reached out at gently laid his hand on Vins shoulder. He could feel the quavering under his hand. Vin? Are you all right now.?
Im fine. Chris? I dont have to do that test thing again do I? I I dont want to go back in that tunnel thing. It was too little. I couldnt breath right. Please Chris, dont make me.
Chris was taken aback by this revelation. You were awake?
Yeah, kinda. I was doing ok til my stomach started churning and then I couldnt hold it no more. Please Chris dont make me do that anymore.
Ill try not to. Come on. Let's let JD go back to bed and get you in bed too. Chris slowly stood and turning, tucked the already half asleep JD in, and then lifted Vin upon his bed. Can you go back to sleep?
Vin nodded and closed his eyes. You want me to stay a few minutes? Vin nodded again and softly whispered Yes.
Chris stood beside the bed one hand holding Vin's smaller one and with the other rubbing Vins forehead with his thumb. What brought the nightmare back? The stress of the MRI? Being sick afterward? Over and over Chris saw in his minds eye Vin curled up in the corner trying not to make a sound and crying. God Vin, what happened to you to make you act that way? Who hurt you so bad that youre terrified to make a sound? Chris stood there until Vin's breathing evened out and he was asleep again. Maybe tomorrow will bring some answers.
7 7 7 7 7 7
5:30 am. Buck Wilmington drove slowly to his parking spot beside the house and then tip toed inside.
Want some coffee? The voice came from the living room and Buck jumped.
Damn Stud, you scared five years out of me. What are you doing up? The boys ok?
Couldnt sleep. Theyre fine now.
Buck walked from the kitchen with a cup of coffee, What do you mean, now?
Vin had a nightmare, a bad one.
Buck sat down across from Chris. Tell me.
Ive never seen him like that. Not even when he first got here. He was so scared. He was trembling and crying. His eyes were open but he wasnt seeing the here. Buck, he had his fist crammed as far into his mouth as he could get it. He was making these little whimpering noises. God, it was the most soul shattering sound Ive ever heard. I went to him but he just .he tried to get away from me. Thats when JD stepped in.
He was great he got Vin to wake up and calm down. He said Vin had done this before. How can they act like this is normal?
Because, Chris, for them it is normal. We know better, but they dont. Hell Chris, when I was their age I though everyone was like Mom and me. Id never lived any other way. Its the same for them. Did Vin tell you about his nightmare?
No. He didnt even know hed had one. JD said he never does. Once he was awake it was like nothing happened. He went right back to sleep.
Buck shook his head. That boy's got some powerful secrets.
They sat in silence for a while each lost in their thoughts of what is normal. Buck broke the silence first. You taking off today?
Yeah, Im gonna stay close waiting for Rains call. Mrs. Potter is due in at the usual time to watch the boys.
Well, some of us have to work for a living. You call me as soon as you know anything.
You got it.
7 7 7 7 7
Chris sat in Rains office trying to make some sense of all the pictures Rain was showing him. She stopped mid sentence.
Ok, Let me try again. Nathan is always accusing me of being too hi-tech. Ill try to tone it down. These are regular ex-rays. They show absolutely nothing wrong with Vin's spine. But these are from the MRI. See these little lines that look like cracks?
Thats exactly what they are. At some time in Vins past hes had a hairline fracture here. It still shows, its what we call stable now, but it was very painful when it happened. And it can be painful now.
Like when the dodge ball hit him.
What would cause this?
I cant say for sure Chris. But my best guess is he was struck, hard, and he didnt get any medical help.
What? How old was he?
Im guessing 3 or 4.
Someone hit a 3 or 4 year old hard enough to fracture his spine and he wasn't taken to a doctor. Chris was angry and getting more so with each word.
Rain had heard of the Larabee temper from Nathan but had never seen it until now. Calm down, Chris. What happened, happened. We need to deal with the now, not what happened three or so years ago. Vin needs you now.
Chris seethed making a dedicated effort to calm down and listen to Rain.
You ok now?
Sure you are. Now, has Vin ever said anything about being hurt or anything about his past?
No, he still refuses to talk about anything in his past. We know very little about before he and his mom showed up at the shelter.
He was so young, his memory is bound to be hazy at best. Try to get him to talk but dont push too hard. Ive a packet of things for you. Things to watch for and ways Vin can learn to take care of himself. Although Im guessing he is very aware of what to do and not to do because of the pain.
7 7 7 7 7 7
Chris was driving. When hed left the hospital hed planned on going home, but changed his mind. He was too angry and upset for Vin or JD to see him. He pulled over out of traffic and dialed home.
Gloria, this is Chris... No, everything is ok. Im going by the office for a while. Ill be home around the usual time. Tell Vin for me. Ok. Sure. Bye.
Sighing Chris did just as he said he headed to the office. When he walked through the door Buck looked up in surprise.
Chris didnt answer, he just headed to his office. Buck could see the anger rolling off of him and sighing, followed him in. The others looked at each other and shrugging, followed Buck.
Chris standing behind his desk looked up as the other four men entered.
Well? Buck asked.
What? Chris avoided.
Come on Chris, What did Rain say?
Chris clenched and unclenched his fists. Vin has a stable hair line fracture in his lower spine. Thats why it didnt show up on the ex-rays, its an old break.
How old? Nathan asked.
He was 3 possibly 4 when it happened. Chris gritted his teeth. He knew what the next question was going to be.
Ezra asked softly, When what happened?
Fire shooting green eyes bore into him. Best guess when someone hit him, hard, with something like a stick or pipe.
Son of a Bitch.
Chris deflated before them. Yeah, my thoughts exactly.
But how who ? Ezra stumbled over his own questions. Maude for all her faults had never struck him, nor had she allowed anyone else to.
That my friend is the $64 question. Vin never says much. Either he doesnt or he wont remember and he refused to talk about anything other than he loves his mother and she loved him. Chris sat down rubbing his face. I dont know what to do. We need to know more, but grilling a seven year old? Vin never responds well to prying.
Chris looked up. Did Buck tell you about Vin's nightmare?
Josiah spoke first. Yes. Chris, for a nightmare to be that vivid, severe, and then for him to block it so completely would indicate its based in reality and that Vin is, for self protection, forgetting whatever happened.
Something triggered the nightmare. Being sick, the MRI, the stress of the hospital visit, it could be any of those things.
Nathan shook his head. It couldnt have been the MRI. He slept through that.
No he didnt. He told me he was awake through most of it.
Chris thats unlikely. The medication they gave him would knock out an adult, let alone a little boy.
Well he was, and the medication wasnt suppose to make him sick either, but it did, Chris snapped back at Nathan. Stopping for a minute then said, Im sorry Nathan. Im just so angry that some one would do that to Vin... to any little boy.
Makes it real personal when you know the kid, doesnt it?
Yeah, came four replies.
Feel any better, Brother?
Chris stared at Josiah. No but I can face Vin now without blowing up, I hope. Im going to do some paper work and then head home. Sort of a cool down period you might say.
They all filed out and Chris sat staring at a report. But his mind was with Adam at 4, playing in the pool theyd gotten him that summer, romping with his Uncle Buck, Sarah rocking him singing a lullaby. He tried to see Vin at that age. Big blue eyes, curly light brown hair, even smaller then Adam had been. Smiling shyly at who? Who would Vin smile at but his mom? There had been no next of kin on the papers from the shelter. Paper trail wise, it was as if Martha Tanner and her son had dropped out of nowhere. And then she died, and before child services could move Vin disappeared. Never to be seen or heard from again, until Chris and his team found him and JD.
Now it seems that the past was rearing its very ugly head again. The worst part was Chris had no idea what that past was, or how to get Vin to tell him. What was he going to do?
7 7 7 7 7
After supper Buck and JD went to the barn for a good night carrot and pat. Vin and Chris sat on the porch enjoying the cool breeze and the evening sounds around them. Chris leaned back in the old chair and glanced over at Vin. You havent asked me what Aunt Rain told me. Dont you want to know?
Vin looked straight ahead hugging his knees. He shrugged.
What does that mean?
Dont know what? Do you want to know or not?
Well, Chris started plunging ahead, she said you were hurt a long time ago and it put cracks in your backbone. And these cracks are still there. Thats why your back still hurts sometimes. And why it hurt so when you were hit with the dodge ball.
Vin, do you remember when your back was hurt?
Do you remember what your dreams are about? Why youre so afraid?
Vin, why wont you say anything?
Silence, then with a strangled voice, I promised Mama. Blue eyes searched Chris face begging for understanding. I promised Mama never to say anything.
Oh, well making a promise is very serious, and they shouldnt be broken lightly. Chris prayed for the right thing to say. Do you think that now that you live with me maybe itd be alright with your Mama if you told me? It might be grown up important and she would want me to know so I could take better care of you.
Vin looked at Chris for a long time then shrugged.
Vin, I love you very much and I want to help you all I can. Id like very much to know what you remember, but I can understand if you dont trust me enough yet to tell me. Maybe someday you will. OK?
Vin nodded and turned back to watching across the pasture.
7 7 7 7 7
It was almost midnight. The house had been dark for a while. Chris sat in his favorite chair enjoying the quiet and the view. He thought he saw some deer at the far end of the pasture. Then he heard it, just a small sound. Couldnt sleep? Chris asked softly.
No, Vin whispered.
Without turning Chris opened his arms welcomely. Vin came over and crawled into his lap. Look over there by the big pine at the far end. They waited, then as if by magic three big mama deer and five small fawns came out of the shadows. Every few steps the does would stop, looking around for danger and then move again. One by one the does would lower their heads and nibble at the sweet green grass.
The fawns started running and playing in the open field while their mothers grazed. Vin watched entranced. He was where he most wanted to be, near Chris, them both just being.
Hed thought long and hard about what Chris had said and what his Mama had said so long ago. Hed tried to decide if Mama would tell Chris. The more he thought about it the more his stomach hurt, until finally he got up and went to the living room.
Thats when hed found Chris. It was warm and safe in Chris lap. Nothing could hurt him there; no one could get at him. Vin pushed deeper against Chris and felt the arms tighten more around him.
Chris was surprised when Vin started to speak. His voice so soft and matter of fact. Is real little. Mama and me had this place wes livin in. It was just two rooms and a tiny corner we called the bathroom. There was a, Im not sure what it was really, but Mama called it my hidey place. Shed put blankets there an my toy an wed practice me staying in there real quiet. It was kinda dark sometimes and I didnt like it much but Mama made it a game. Id go in an be very very quiet. Quiet as a mouse Mamad say. I could sit up there or lay down and sometimes lights from somewhere would make patterns on the wall."
Mama had a friend. I didnt like him much an he didnt like me none either. Hed come see Mama and Id have to go stay in the hidey room. He never stayed long though. Sometimes after hed leave, Mamad be crying. Shed be sad for a long time. One one time he came an hes all loud and shouting at Mama. Mama told me to get in the hidey room and not come out. No matter what until she called."
"But I couldnt Chris. She was crying and he was screaming and I peeked through the cracks and I saw him hit her. I couldnt stay there; I had to help my Mama. I got out and grabbed at him. Is crying and pulling on him. He .I dont remember real clear, but he knocked me across the room against the wall. It hurt so bad I couldnt move or cry or nothing. I just lay there."
"I dont member much after that. Mama crying an me staying in the hidey room an hurtin all the time. I couldnt move for a long time. Mama had to take care of me like I was a little baby. I slept a lot I think. Mama would close the door and tell me I had to be quiet, no matter how much it hurt I mustnt make a sound ever."
"I dont member much of that time, but it was hot when it happened and by the time I could go outside there was snow. Mama said we mustnt tell ever what happened cause theyd take me away. Is scared all the time. Is afraid hed come back and hurt me again."
"He did come back, but he never found me. Is so scared when he came I couldnt hardly breathe, an Id bit my hand to keep from making noise. And Id cry, but I wouldnt make no sound though. Even when..he hit Mama again. I still wouldnt move. Or make a sound."
"Then we went to the shelter. Mama was happy for a while but then she got sick."
"I aint breaking my promise to her Chris. Cause shes gone an so no one can take me away. An you werent there so they cant take me away from you. Vin turned looking up at Chris. They cant, can they?
Chris smiled sadly at Vin. No, no one is going to take you away or ever hurt you like that again.
Vin sighed, smiled and snuggled back into Chris arms.
Go to sleep Little Man, my brave Little Man. Itll be better tomorrow.
Chris slowly rocked Vin and then he glanced over at the hall. Buck stood there just inside the room tears running down his face. Their eyes met and the tears from Chris eyes fell on the soft brown curls.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
The next weekend
It had been a perfect early summer afternoon. The five men and two little boys had played, eaten and played some more relaxing and enjoying each others company. The sun was almost at the top of the mountain to the west and the shadows were getting long when Josiah called out, Brothers, can we all gather around in a circle? Nathan you to my left, Ezra to my right then Chris, Vin, JD and Buck will complete our circle.
Everyone took their assigned seats on the grass. Josiah looked around at the group of men and the boys that had over a few short months become family to each other.
Several days ago, Chris asked a favor of me and after some pondering and a little research Im prepared I hope to honor his request. In most cultures there is some sort of ceremony for welcoming a new member of the tribe or group. The purpose is to give a new name to a member and publicly acknowledge them as a part of the whole."
"We have among us two that only recently joined us. Who by their very presence have made us a family, odd though we may be to some. So to begin we welcome all those here. We invite the spirits of those whom were loved by us who have passed to another plain of existence. We welcome Sarah and Adam Larabee wife, mother and son of Chris here. We welcome the spirit of Martha Tanner, mother of Vin here. We welcome the spirit of Kathleen Dunne, mother of JD here. We want them here; it is in many ways the reason we are here tonight. These wonderful women were and are driving forces in the lives of those whom they touched.
Vins eyes got big as he listened and JD looked around the circle of friends. This was really weird and Uncle Josiah was acting really strange.
Josiah continued, Vin, would you come here and Chris you too. Vin got up and walked toward Josiah. He didnt like new or strange situations especially when he was singled out.
Josiah smiled down at Vin. He winked and the turned him until he and Chris were facing each other. Vin Tanner we would like to give you a new name. You dont have to give up your present name, you are and will always be Vin Tanner. The new name wed like to give you is son of Chris and brother of Adam. Your mother raised you to be a wonderful loving and caring person. Her influence is so strongly evident in who you are and how you act. We can only do her honor. By calling you Chris son we dont take anything away from your mom, we simply hope that we can continue to do the excellent job she started."
Chris wed give you a new name also. One you havent used in many years. Wed give you the name of Father. For you to be the father of Vin in every way possible, for you to re-awaken the father in you that was buried and to use your gift to help Vin grow into the man he should be. Chris, do you have something youd like to say?
Chris smiled he was squatted down so that he looked directly into Vins eyes. Vin, I want you to be my son. I promise to look after you and take care of you. I will protect you from the bad of this world as much as I can. I will be very careful at work so that I can come home to you every night. You will be as much my son as Adam is, as much as it is humanly possible to make you. Will you accept me as your Father and call me Dad now?
Vin looked at Chris hard. Did he mean what he was saying, did he really want Vin as his son just like Adam? Grownups said things sometimes that they didnt really mean but Chris never said that. His first words to Vin had been Trust me. Vin thought about what Josiah had said. He would still be a Tanner but he would belong to Chris too. A slow smile spread over Vin's face. Trust me whispered in his mind. Yes, I want to be your son and Ill call you Dad.
Every one smiled. But JD was jumping up and down as much as a seated five your old could, watching as Vin reached and hugged Chris and then came back and sat down.
Buck and JD come over here. Buck untangled his long frame and smoothly got up and pulling JD up then went over to stand in front of Josiah. Buck reached down and picked up JD holding him high.
JD we want to give you a new name too. We want you to be known as the son of Buck. Buck we want you to be JDs Dad.
Bucks grin widened if that were possible. Little Bit, I want more then anything to be your dad. To take care of you and watch you grown up, to keep you safe, to read you stories, all the things that come with being a dad. I promise to watch over you and keep you close and be your dad as long as you want me to. Do you want me to be your dad and you call me dad?
JD threw his arms around Buck's neck, Yes, yes yes.
Buck spun them around. Cool.
Josiah cleared his throat. Taking Vin and JD by the hand he turned to where Ezra was sitting. Ezra Standish we offer you a new name, the name of uncle. We ask you to take on the duties of uncle to Vin and JD.
Ezra looked startled and then he too smiled. I would be honored to take on such duties and be known officially as Uncle Ezra and I promise to teach then all the things a young gentleman must know.
The three turned and faced Nathan. Nathan Jackson, we offer you a new name, the name of uncle. We ask you to take on the duties of uncle to Vin and JD and be their official uncle and owie fixer. Nathans smile widened at the last. Sure I will. Id be honored to be Uncle Nathan officially and be the official owie fixer.
Josiah went back to his original place in the circle. I too take on the official title of Uncle Josiah. Any time you boys need me, Ill be there for the two of you as will all the others. Brothers, we are indeed a strange and odd family but we are family nonetheless. Bound not by blood but by hearts and minds. There is one more thing Id like to do. It is the custom of may peoples to have spirit animals or protectors, these animals having the characteristics that the person has or desires, so in honor of this occasion I took the liberty of getting something for each of you. Josiah dug into his pocket and brought out a hand full of round metal disks.
Chris to you I give the wolf, the wolf represents guardianship and loyalty. Buck I give you the tiger who stands for strength, protectiveness and fierce loyalty. Josiah handed each their medal. Looking down at them each discovered the head of their animal in base relief. Beautifully cast almost alive in its pose.
Vin, for you the stag which represents rebirth, the hunter and prowess. Vin looked down at the medallion Josiah had handed him, on its surface was a stag, large horns taking up most of the face of the round circle of metal. Vin ran his finger of the base relief. He looked back up at Josiah and smiled his quiet smile.
Josiah stepped over to JD. "JD, for you is the dolphin for kindness and communication. Now young JD as you grow and mature your animal may change but for now I chose this. JD grinned looking at the base relief dolphins.
Ezra? Again Ezra looked startled. Uncle Ezra, for you the bobcat who represents agility, cleverness and cunning; and my old friend Nathan, for you the horse, for stamina, nobility, strength, power, devotion, and loyalty. For in dealing with us you exhibit all these attributes and more everyday.
Josiah was back to his original place when Chris stood. Josiah, for you we have the Eagle for illumination of Spirit, healing and Creation. Handing Josiah the medallion he leaned closer and whispered, You're not the only one who can shop on the internet.
Josiah smiled, knowing the youngest of the group was bound to be getting restless. Well brothers, I call this a fine end to a fine day.
JD looked at Buck. Does this mean I can call you Dad now, Buck?
Sure does JD, if you want to.
I do only
Only what ?.
Can I call you Da? My momma called her daddy Da when she used to talk about him.
Da would be great JD. But it may take me some time to get used to it, OK?
JD giggled, "Sure Buck. I mean Da.
Chris put his arm around Vins shoulders. Vin what would you like to call me?
Vin looked up, green eyes meeting blue. I aint sure. I never called no one dad before. But I guess Dad will do unless something else feels better. Chris, it wont make you sad if I call you Dad?
No Vin, it wont make me sad. Ive missed very much being Dad and you calling me that will take away some of the sad. Ok?
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