Go to Part One for the Disclaimer and Notes.


by Ruby

Part Two

Chris opened the door to find Buck stretched out in the recliner, Vin Tanner sleeping across his chest, a heavy quilt over the two. Buck glanced over at him, his face flushed. Chris frowned, wondering if Buck was getting what Vin had.

Buck grinned at him. "Hey, pard," he whispered, "glad you're here. Can you pull this quilt off us, maybe get 'im something lighter?"

Chris nodded, quickly doing what Buck had asked. He was sure Buck didn’t want to take any chances with waking the little boy. This seemed like the first really good sleep he'd had in days.

Buck smiled up at him when Chris replaced the quilt with a light blanket. "Thanks, pard."

"Sure thing." Chris said as he walked through the room, down the hall, and into the kitchen. He shrugged his long, black wool coat off and laid it, his briefcase, and his keys on the kitchen table. He walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed Buck a cold drink, and then took it back in to the front room, setting it on the table beside the chair.

Buck's smile brightened. "Thanks." He reached his hand out and carefully pulled the bottle to him, taking a long drink.

Chris loosened his tie as he glanced around, finally spotting JD sitting in front of the large console TV on the other side of the big room. Some animated movie was playing softly in front of him. Something that had caught the five-year-old's attention well enough that he hadn't even noticed that Chris was in the same room with him, or that he was even home.

Chris smiled at Buck.

Wilmington shrugged sheepishly as he whispered. "Gave 'em a Christmas present early. That 'Spirit' movie." He shrugged again, a wry grin covering his face. "It was either that or me go completely and totally insane today."

Chris cocked his head, his lips turning up in a slight grin. "Well, guess you had a hard decision." He said, his tone solemn. Then he laughed as Buck rolled his eyes.

"We had meatballs for supper tonight, pard. Left ya some in the fridge," Buck told him.

Chris nodded and then quietly walked over and squatted next to JD as the little boy lay on the floor on his belly, his elbows on the floor and his hands holding his head up. The five year old's eyes were bright as he watched the screen, a smile covering his small face.

Chris reached out and tapped him on his shoulder.

JD jumped slightly and looked over at him. He squealed in happiness. "Chris!" He jumped into Chris' arms, giving him a hard hug. "You came home!"

Chris laughed. "Yeah, little bit. I sure did." He whispered as he put his index finger over JD's mouth. "Gotta be quiet, remember? Vin's sleepin'."

JD's face fell. "Oh, yeah. I forgot. Sorry."

Chris smiled. "That's okay." He hugged him again. "Why don't you and me go in the kitchen and I'll grab some supper and you can tell me about your day."

"Yeah!" JD squealed again. Chris shook his head as he looked skyward, grinning.

He carried him towards the kitchen and JD looked over Chris's shoulder, his eyes on Buck. "Can we start the movie when we get back?" He asked, his voice hopeful. "Mr. Chris hasn't seen it yet."

Buck's eyes got big. "Ah... sure, little bit."

Chris glanced over at him as he smiled. "How many times you watched it?"

Buck grimaced slightly as he tried to smile. "This will be the fourth time." He said, fake-happy.

Chris laughed, shaking his head. He carried JD the rest of the way into the kitchen and then put the boy down on the floor so he could open the fridge.

"There's meatballs in there." JD said, standing next to him and staring earnestly into the refrigerator. He looked up at him. "Buck made them." His little face scrunched up as he shrugged and looked back at the food. "You could eat them, Mr. Chris." He pulled his mouth over to one side as he shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Or..." he looked up at him and then quickly back down. Glancing at the table and then back. "Mrs. Potter made some cookies for school yesterday." He glanced up at him. "We could eat those," he asked hopefully, smiling angelically.

Chris smiled and shook his head at the little boy's getting-a-treat tactics. He pulled a covered dish out and carried it over to the microwave. JD followed along behind him, hanging his head with dejection.

"Meatballs." The boy sighed, a long suffering sound.

As he punched the timer on the microwave, Chris looked down at the little boy and he couldn’t help but laugh at his 'loss.' "We can have some cookies, too, JD," he agreed, grinning as JD quickly looked up at him, a blinding smile on his face.

"All right!" He sang as he skipped in circles around the kitchen floor. "Did you know that we don't have to go to school for a whole week and a half?" He asked, looking up at him every time he circled in front of him, his little voice slightly breathless. "Not till after Christmas! That's a whole long time!" he told him, nodding his head in affirmation of the 'greatness' of it all.

Chris turned his back to the microwave, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back on the counter, smiling down at the dark-haired five-year-old's antics.

"And yesterday was our last day at school. Not ever. But just till after Christmas." JD caught his breath and turned around, starting to skip the other way, his circles getting tighter and tighter. "And Mr. Buck and Vin and I had to go to the doctor today." He looked up at him and then back down at his feet as his skipping started to slow into hops. "Vin didn't feel good and he had to get a shot." He stopped and looked up at him, his eyes wide. "But not me." He shuddered theatrically. "I just had to sit quiet and not keep knocking the blocks over."

The timer went off and Chris turned around to see if his meatballs were hot.

"Ding!" JD ran around again, imitating the microwave sound. "Ding! Ding! Ding! Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs," he sang as he now twirled in a tight circle.

Chris's eyebrows were high on his forehead as he shoved his meal back into the microwave after stirring it a bit. He shut the door and started the timer again. He turned back around, staring down at the hyper bundle of energy with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

JD was half twirling and half catching-himself-from-falling-every-other-twirl. "And on the way home," he said, his voice high, "Buck pulled the truck over cause a bunch of cars had their lights on." He twirled. "And he said it was a funral recession and we was showing 'respect' by pulling over and not driving while they was going past." He kept twirling. "And Vin was sleeping and when we got home Buck carried Vin inside and I got out of my car seat on my very own and Buck got mad at me and told me that I wasn't supposed to do that."

He clamped his little hands over his mouth and stopped twirling so suddenly that Chris had to step forward quickly to catch the boy and keep him from spinning out of control. He picked him up as JD kept his hands over his mouth, a smile showing from underneath, his eyes wide. He looked at him seriously. "Oops." He tucked his head lower like a turtle trying to hide in its shell. "I didn't say that." He chuckled as he repeated one of Buck's favorite lines when he got caught 'letting the cat out of the bag.'

Chris sat him back down when the microwave sounded again. JD immediately plopped down on the floor, Indian style, his arms behind him, hands on the floor propping him up, his head back and looking up at Chris. He continued like he'd never stopped talking. "And then Buck let us open a Christmas present early it was wrapped and everything. Vin didn't help open it," he paused, "he was real sleepy," he clarified, his voice solemn as he defended the reason he'd opened the present alone.

Chris walked over to get a plate, JD jumping up and following him and then standing right next to his hip as Chris forked some meatballs onto his plate and poured himself a glass of milk and a smaller one for JD.

"So I opened it and it was a movie about a horse." The little boy continued, as he stood next to Chris's leg, so close that he was touching him. "His name is Spirit and he's really pretty and does lots of neat stuff. It's a really good movie and we watched it all day long, again and again and again. And I really like it and the horses are real pretty and they don't sing or nothin' silly." He pulled a long breath in as Chris walked over to the table, JD right next to his leg the whole way over.

"Christmas is coming soon, Mr. Chris. Did you know that?" JD asked as he looked up at him.

Chris had to smile as he took a step sideways to avoid running the little boy down and dropping meatballs and milk all over him in the process. Chris sat down at the table and JD climbed up into the chair beside him.

Chris sat JD's milk in front of him, got him a cookie, and then started eating his supper as he listened to the boy.

"And Santa will come and bring baby Jesus with him and then he'll drop him down our chimney."

Chris spewed meatballs all over the kitchen table, choking and laughing and trying to catch his breath.

"You okay, Mr. Chris?" JD asked, his voice serious as he dutifully patted Chris on the back, like he'd seen Buck do.

"Yeah," Chris answered, his voice hoarse.

JD leaned over the table, pushing Chris' glass of milk towards him.

Chris coughed, nodding his thanks to the little boy and grabbing the milk and drinking as much of it as he could. He coughed again and then cleared his throat loudly. He patted himself on the chest as he coughed three or four more times for good measure.

JD was leaning towards him, his eyes big, his mouth open.

Chris reached over and rubbed the little boy's arm in comfort as he tried to get his voice back. "Thanks, JD," he rasped. "I'm okay now."

Chris took another drink of his milk.

"Want me to call Nathan?"

Chris spewed milk all over the table. Choking and hacking, he started all over again. He couldn’t help it. JD's voice, so earnest, and so grown-up sounding, asking that very same question that the little boy had heard he himself ask on a regular basis, Standish and Wilmington alone needing the EMT's aide every few days... well, it was too much.

This choking fit didn't last as long as the last and Chris finally wiped his mouth with his napkin and then leaned back from the table, deciding that it was less dangerous just not to eat.

Chris glanced over at JD with raised eyebrows. 'Drop baby Jesus down the chimney?' Obviously the little boy had gotten a few things confused with all the Christmas stories, songs, movies and shows. "JD..." he started in on the clarification when JD started talking again, the choking fit and near death of his 'Other Dad' obviously already forgotten.

"And Spirit bucked the blue guy off and then he let all the other horses go cause they're supposed to be free." He pulled in a breath. "And he has a mommy and everything. And there's buf'a'los and trains and painted horses. And in the beginning he's a baby and gets borned."

Chris's eyebrows rose high as he wondered just what Buck had been letting the boys watch.

JD was nodding at him earnestly, maybe thinking that Chris didn’t believe everything he was telling him about the movie because Chris was shaking his head and looking at him with that there-is-no-way look.

"Really, Chris." He pouted, his lower lip stuck out, his arms crossed over his chest.

"I believe you, little bit," Chris assured him as he laughed lightly and ruffled the little boy's hair. He stood, picking his plate up. "Why don’t you go and have Buck get the movie started and I'll clean this stuff up and meet you in th-"

"Whoo hoo!" JD interrupted him as he jumped down from the chair and started running for the front room. "Spirit. Spirit. Spirit!"

"And keep the noise dow- Oh, nevermind..." his voice drifted off as he realized he was now talking to an empty room. He picked his glass up and walked the dishes over to the sink, a smile on his face as he thought about JD Dunne and how much he loved that crazy little boy.

Continue to Part Three

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