I'M HERE by LaraMee

"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Disclaimer: You know the drill… they don’t and I resent that. Don’t make a cent, either.

Warnings: smarmy… LB AU

Notes: Just a little pwp, inspired by Thanksgiving. Hope you enjoy!

Chris Larabee stretched his legs out before him, crossing them at the ankle, staring out into the darkness. The only light came from the cherry of his cheroot, and the faint illumination from one of the windows behind him. The crisp night air held just a hint of cold, unusual for this time of year, but welcome. He had come out in only a jacket, to enjoy the quiet while he contemplated the changes the year had brought.

Vin… JD… the biggest changes and the biggest blessings. The little boys had offered him the chance to reclaim a part of his soul that he had thought long dead. Along with Buck Wilmington, he had fought hard to bring the orphans into his home… and into his life. And, while the lives of all of them had changed drastically, he knew he would never regret that decision.

How could he? He had been given a chance to be a father again, to nurture and love the two boys. It had been a struggle… still was in a lot of ways… but it was also a labor of love.

He drew in a deep breath, the heady scent of the cigar, coupled with that of the night air, spread a sense of relaxation through the lean body. It had been a long day; hectic, crowded, noisy, and wonderful. The other members of Team Seven, along with the Travis family, Nettie Wells, and the Potters had come to the ranch, joining them for their first Thanksgiving as a family. Nettie brought her great niece, Casey, Gloria Potter brought her children, Katie and David, and Mary brought her son, Billy. The youngsters had been banished to the outdoors several times when the excitement of the day caused them to get too rowdy. Finally Josiah had rounded them up and supervised the den while Monsters, Inc and Shrek kept them entertained for a while.

Dinner had been a gathering just short of chaos, the children settled in the den, within sight of the dining room table. Turkey, ham, dressing, noodles, potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, corn pudding and rolls disappeared onto plates and then into mouths, followed by pumpkin, pecan and apple pies as well as applesauce and red velvet cakes.

While the children ran off some of their energy outside under Nettie and Josiah’s supervision, the rest of them cleaned up the aftermath in time to settle in to watch football.

As darkness fell, the gathering dispersed, leaving the four members of the adoptive family alone. Buck had shooed Chris off to relax while he undertook getting the two young boys into the tub, into pajamas, and into bed.

Larabee hadn’t missed the glances from time to time, as the others gauged his endurance. He had been in the hospital just a few weeks earlier, after being shot during an assignment. While the wound itself hadn’t been bad, he had lost a lot of blood before the others could get to him, leading to several complications. He had spent five days in the hospital, and was still on light duty.

He had started to argue with Buck, but the truth was, he was exhausted. Pulling on his jacket he wandered out to the front porch and dropped into one of the big Adirondack chairs. The blond agent had been out there for a couple of hours, enjoying the solitude.

Chris’ thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening and closing softly, followed by the sound of tiny feet padding across the porch. He didn’t turn, knowing exactly where the little boy was. At the feel of a little hand rubbing gently across his knuckles, he whispered, "thought you were asleep."

"Couldn’t sleep." Vin whispered back.

"Bad dream?"

"Nope. Jist… jist couldn’t sleep."

Larabee turned then, looking into the big blue eyes that stared back at him. He had a sudden flash of memory, seeing those eyes, made even bigger by fear, staring down at him. He had looked up from his hospital bed at the little boy, seeming even smaller in Buck’s arms, and felt his heart lurch at the look his son gave him. He wanted desperately to tell the child that he would be fine, but didn’t have the strength. All he could do was wrap his fingers around the tiny hand that reached for him, while Buck did his best to reassure the frightened child that his father would be all right.

Reaching out, Chris ruffled the dark blond curls, noticing then that Vin was dressed only in his pajamas, one bare foot planted atop the other in an effort to keep it warm. Clamping his cigar between his teeth he pulled off his jacket, pulled the little boy into his lap, and wrapped him in the coat that was still warmed from his body.

The seven year old sighed, curled up in the big man’s arms, and leaned against his broad chest. As it had so many times during the past weeks, one hand rested right over Larabee’s heart.

The agent felt a pull at his heartstrings, and sighed. Sometimes he wondered if he had done right by the boy, considering the violence that was too often part of his life. But, at the same time, he knew that neither of them would survive a separation now. He leaned down to place a tender kiss atop the little boy’s head, then rested his cheek against it. He pulled the child close, feeling the tiny body slowly relax.

Safe in his father’s embrace, the exhausted child drifted very quickly toward sleep. His body jerked once, and he responded with a whispered sigh as strong arms held him closer and a second kiss warmed his forehead.

Chris continued to hold his little boy, a sigh of contentment breaking the silence. He finished smoking, stubbing out the butt in the ashtray beside him, and watched as the moon made itself known on the horizon. Vin was sleeping deeply now, his hand still resting against the broad chest. Lifting him up, Larabee rose and headed toward the door, the pull of sleep making itself known to him as well. He was certain that they would both rest easy now.

Stepping inside, he moved to close the door, jostling the sleeping child. Vin mumbled something, his hand flexing against Larabee’s chest as he sought the reassurance of the strong, beating heart.

Smiling as he nuzzled the thick curls, father whispered to sleeping son, "I’m here."

The End

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