Rating: PG-13 - Language

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish and MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes. Breyer horses belong to Breyer. The small horse pictures belong to Breyer and I got them at www.BreyerHorses.com. The movie Spirit belongs to DreamWorks and is lovingly used here. The pictures from that movie that are at the bottom of the third page belong to DreamWorks. There, I think I have everyone covered. <g>

Warnings: Spoilers for the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

AU: Little Britches ATF

Author's Notes: I've played with Adam's age a bit. No harm meant, just trying to make the story work. Thanks to K. Poffenberger and S. Berry for creating the LB universe and letting others write in it. Thank you to Barbretta H for her story Dreaming of Angels, bringing the boys to the ATF universe. A huge thank you to every single LB writer who made this universe what it is. Thanks, Mog for the ATF universe. ! :)

Thanks to Phyllis for betaing the story for me. She's wonderful! :)

Feedback is LOVED! :) Please let me know what you think. Thank you, Ruby :) ruby1481_7@yahoo.com

Part One Part Two Part Three


by Ruby

Part One

Chris slowly pulled the Ram to a stop, wet snow crunching under his tires. Slipping the gearshift into park, he turned the engine off and then sat, looking at his home.

The barn was closed up against the cold winter night. The horses all tucked warmly inside. The ranch house shined brightly with colored lights and smoke flowed out of the chimney. The full moon above cast a silver glow on everything.

It was beautiful.

And he hated it.

He sighed. Hate wasn’t really the word he wanted to use. Not hate, just... it made his heart hurt. It was Christmas time and the people inside the house were happy. And here he sat, outside, alone, sad, depressed, hating the way the green and red lights twinkled with pride.

The year before he'd been able to get through Christmas by ignoring it. Working long hours. Glaring his men into turning the Christmas music down, shutting the lights off, and putting the god damned decorations away. But, this year... this year he had a family. Two little boys and his best friend.

He wasn't alone anymore, but... that didn’t make him miss 'them' any less. Sarah and Adam.

Chris hung his head as he brought his hand up to rub his eyes. They'd loved Christmas. Loved it. Sarah would start decorating the day after Thanksgiving and by the time the big day got there, the house would be so bright with lights, it looked like it was on fire.


'God damn it, Chris,' he berated himself. 'Why can't you just leave it alone? Why can't you be happy? For the ones inside? For yourself?'

It was Christmas, for God's sake.

Bah humbug.

He sighed. He'd loved Christmas too. Not so much before. But after he met Sarah it was hard not to be won over by her love and enthusiasm for the holiday. Carols. Lights. The tree. Tinsel. Garland. Cards. Candy. Cookies. Presents. Sharing. Family. Love. Sarah'd loved Christmas. And he loved her.

And Adam. Oh, how he loved the season. He loved taking time to pick out a present for someone, getting them just what he thought they wanted. Of course, for his young mind, what he thought they wanted and what they wanted were sometimes two different things. But Chris cherished the little gifts his son would pick out. Stuffed animals. Cars. Trucks. Horses.

Chris could still remember the first time that the little boy had seen the plastic horses in the Ranch and Supply store. He'd stood in front of those Breyer horses for almost twenty minutes, wide eyed and in awe. Horses of every shape and size shrunk down and put into a bright shiny box, the Christmas lights reflecting a million times from the hard, clear plastic. It was Heaven as far as he was concerned. Horses everywhere!

Chris had been about to ask him if he was ready to go when the little boy had looked up at him and, with shining eyes, asked him which one he liked the best.

Chris had been surprised, thinking his little boy would be picking a few favorites out for himself, not wanting to know which ones Chris liked. But he saw that Adam's face was serious and the question was important to him. So Chris took a few minutes to closely study the varied selection. Finally he decided on a big black stallion, rearing up on his hind legs, his front legs reaching for the sky.

Adam's eyes had lit up as he nodded, looking at the horse with studying eyes. Then, he squeezed Chris' hand and pulled him from the aisle, a happy grin on his little face.

That Christmas morning, when Chris had opened his present from his son, his throat had gotten tight when he saw that it was that very same horse.

Adam had been so proud as he'd watched him open the gift. His face had shined with happiness when Chris had smiled and told him it was the best present ever.

After all the other gifts had been opened and the family was taking a break, Sarah on the couch, and Chris in the recliner with Adam on his lap, the two Larabee boys had gently pulled that wonderful black horse out of his box and freed him from his captivity. Adam held him in his little hands, looking him over with wonderment and love. Then, he gasped, his eyes wide and a happy grin on his face. He'd jumped off of Chris' lap and grabbed him by the hand, pulling him from the recliner and out of the room.

Chris had followed his son down the hall. They stopped when Adam pulled Chris into he and Sarah's bedroom. Adam pointed up to a wooden shelf hanging on the wall on Chris' side of the room. Chris kept some old pictures there and some other things that he'd forgotten about.

"Put him there, Daddy," Adam told him. "Then you'll have lots of room for more." He smiled up at him.

Chris nodded, his face full of loving admiration for the little boy's idea. "Sounds good," he said as he picked him up and carried him over. The two of them cleared the shelf off, Adam laughing when Chris sneezed from the dust that had accumulated on his stuff. Chris had leaned over to whisper conspiratorially. "Mommy needs to dust." He grinned.

Adam, with all of his almost-three-year-old wisdom, had smiled and said, "It's your stuff, Daddy."

Chris had laughed, hugging his son tight as they put the horse up there. The first of many.

Adam gave Chris another Breyer horse every Christmas after that. One year, after Chris had told Adam which one he liked the best, he'd been surprised when he got two horses. Adam had smiled sheepishly and said that he got him his favorite too.

And the next year, he'd gotten three. That year, it was Buck's turn to smile sheepishly as the tall man and Chris's little boy shared a knowing look. "That one was Buck's favorite," Adam had told his dad. "So I got you your favorite and my favorite and Buck's favorite, too." Chris had laughed, his heart swelling with pride for the giving heart that his son had.

He'd never had a Christmas after that first black stallion, that he didn't get at least one new Breyer horse to add to his collection until finally Chris had accumulated a whole herd of horses on that shelf. The group had just kept on growing through the years until...

The horses stopped coming. They stopped coming because Adam wasn’t there to give them to him anymore. His little boy had been almost eight years old when he died.

But Chris still had the shelf full of horses to remind him of his son's graciousness and love. He hated looking at them but he couldn't bring himself to part with them. Every time he looked at those horses, his world would come crashing to a halt and he'd remember. Remember love and laughter and Adam's pride with a right choice. Bright, smooth plastic horses gleaming with life and ready to run.

He sniffed, shaking his head, trying to rid himself of his thoughts. The cab of the truck was getting cold as he sat out here in the dark and looked at the house.

He had a family in there. A new family.

Vin Tanner, the little blue-eyed homeless boy who had stolen his heart even as he laid in the hospital fighting for his young life. The quiet little boy with the wicked sense of humor and the amazing devotion to his family and his 'little brother.'

JD Dunne. The first boy they'd found in that run down warehouse. Dirty and looking up at Chris with eyes suddenly turning scared.

Jesus, Chris cringed. JD'd been so small. So very young and innocent and living so very dangerously.

JD had led them to Vin. Chris, thinking the worst, and then, almost dying when he saw that 'Vin' was a young boy, looking pale and lifeless, dirt streaking his face and his hair messy and wild-looking. He'd thought he was dead. When he'd heard that little heart beating, it was like Chris started living again.

Then there was Buck Wilmington, Chris' oldest friend.

Well, not his oldest.

Buck hated when he said that. 'Gonna scare all the women away, sayin' that, Chris.' he'd say.

'The friend he'd had the longest,' was the way Buck wanted it phrased. 'The friend who'd stuck with me through hell and back,' is the way that Chris thought of him.

Buck was... Buck.

Lord, what a man he was. Steadfast and loyal, loving and kind. The best kind of friend. The kind to kick someone in the ass when they were throwing their life down the drain, with drinking and loss and grief.

Buck and JD stuck together like glue. Chris would have thought the two were made for each other. Buck took to being a foster father like pigs take to mud. He was good at it. Hell, he was exceptional at it, as Ezra would say.

Buck had moved out to the house with JD. It seemed to work better and the boys, they loved being together. They were brothers in every way but blood.

And Chris and Buck got along well in the house. Only occasionally hitting the other upside the head for stupid things like drinking the last bear or eating the last bit of ice cream. Buck still dated, not as much, of course, but still just enough to keep his 'scoundrel' reputation intact.

And Chris?

Well, he was just what he was. A father. To Vin. And JD too - he shared that responsibility with Buck, just as Buck thought of himself as a 'father' to Tanner.

Chris was a father.

'A damn good one, too,' Vin had let him know not too long ago. Chris had had to tell him that, while the sentiment made his heart glow, the wording, well... it needed a bit of work, and... a little less 'Buck.'

Yep, they were a family.

So, why was he sitting out here freezing his ass off staring at his warm and welcome looking house?

He looked up at the star-filled sky. He sat, his lips pursed and his eyes bright. After a few moments, he spoke, his voice husky, loud-sounding in the truck cab. "Love you two." He swallowed hard. "Miss you lots. 'Specially this time of the year. But..." he glanced to the house and then stared out the side window at the stars over the mountains. "Those three in there, they need me. I'd better get on in there 'fore Buck sends out a search party." He sighed, grinning slightly. "He's had a pretty rough day. He called me twice during the meetings. Once to tell me he was taking Vin on in to the doctor to get his cold taken care of, and once to tell me to get my ass out here cause one 'little cooped up and cabin fevered from Christmas vacation and a big brother who was too sick to play with him and a voice that carried across three states when he was trying to be quiet because Vin was sleeping or resting or plumb tuckered out from the cold medicine was...' and I'm still quoting Buck here, Sarah girl, 'was... just about one more "why? how-come? what's this for?" away from getting a boot in his butt and shoved out the door to live with the horses and the chickens and them damn dirty stinkin' cows in the barn."

He shook his head. "Oh, Sarah, honey, Buck ain't changed a bit." He smiled. "He's still the fastest, longest winded damn talker this side of the Mississi- hell, this side of everythin'."

He sighed loudly as one corner of his mouth turned up in a sad smile, still looking out the window, his eyes on the stars. His voice was gruff when he spoke again. "Adam. Miss ya boy. I see a lot of you in Vin. And JD too. Different things for each of them. But they both got your heart. You'd have loved them. I'm sure. They love you. I've told them 'bout you and they both 'bout think you're God. JD? Well, I caught him looking at our Breyers one day, his eyes huge and his mouth open. When I told him that you'd gotten those for me, his face had lit up and he nodded solemnly. 'I like Adam lots,' he told me. 'He likes horses, and I like horses. He loved you, and I love you too..' He'd cocked his little head and smiled. 'Me and Adam and Vin... we would of been good friends, Mr. Chris,' he said."

Chris reached for the door handle. "Gonna go in there now, you two. I love you." He swallowed hard as a tear slipped from the corner of his eye. "Always." He opened the door and got out. The moon shone brightly on him as he walked towards the house. Towards his family.

Continue to Part Two

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