Red Star

by Jenn

One Big Happy Family AU

Author’s Note: This story takes place in the wonderful One Big Happy Family AU created by Purple Lacey. You may want to read her story "One Big Happy Family" before reading this one. This story begins about 3 months after that story ends. Thanks to Lacey for letting me play in the AU she worked so hard to make, and for the ideas that made this, and my other stories, better.

Ezra watched the truck approach. It was bringing him a new colt whose bloodlines were impeccable. He was hoping for great things from this colt, which made it worth the high price he’d had to pay. Half an hour later Ezra was very frustrated. The colt was unbelievably skittish. He and his top stable hands had tried to look the colt over, but the young sorrel would not let them near. He never heard his young nephew approach, but with Vin that was a common occurrence, though young he could move silently and often did so out of habit.

"What’s wrong, Uncle Ez?"

Ezra felt like he jumped a foot in the air. "Oh! Vin, you startled me. I got a new colt in and he doesn’t seem to like people. I think that’s why the owner was willing to sell him, which, unfortunately, means I’ve been had."

"Can I try talking to him?"

Ezra considered the request carefully. Normally it would be out the the question to let a young boy near an anxious horse, even a colt; but Vin was no ordinary child when it came to horses. He had a way with them, he seemed to have a bond with them and to almost be able to truly speak with them. "All right, but be careful, and don’t get to close until he calms down."

Vin directed a rare, million watt smile at his uncle before moving toward the corral. He deftly climbed the side and took a seat on the top board. After reaching into his jacket and pulling out an apple he began calling to the colt. Ezra motioned the other stable hands away. Soon the colt was literally eating out of Vin’s hand. Vin then slid into the corral with the young colt, taking a rope with a lassoed end with him. He held out another apple extending that arm through the one with the lasso. As the colt took the apple he extended his other arm and gently rested the rope around its neck. He patted the neck and the horse remained calm.

One of the stable hands whistled in admiration. They’d all seen the boy around horses, but this was amazing even for Vin. The sound attracted his attention and he looked to his uncle.

"What’s his name?"

"That hasn’t been decided. Do you have an idea?"

"Red Star."

Ezra smiled gently at his young nephew. "Well, that does seem appropriate, I suppose his name is Red Star."

"I think I’ll just call him Star, everyone can see he’s red."

That comment, delivered in a serious-little-boy tone drew chuckles from the men watching, including Chris Larabee who had walked up unnoticed, due to the focus on boy and horse.

"The ladies sent me to get you two for dinner. Now I know why no one was answering the phone. You were all to busy out here."

"Was Inez worried?"

"Not too bad, she knew you had a new arrival."

"Can’t dinner wait, Uncle Chris?" pleaded Vin, taking a step closer to the colt.

"’Fraid not. But if your school work’s done, maybe your Uncle Ezra could bring you back after dinner to tell Star good night?"

Seeing Ezra nod Vin relaxed and started leading Star to his new stable. Feeling very glad that he’d finished the studies Mary had given him before coming over.

What might have been an uncomfortably silent ride home was filled with uncharacteristic chatter and questioning by Vin. He first told his Uncle Chris all about meeting the colt then asked his Uncle Ezra questions about his new friend.

The tale of Vin and Star dominated the dinner conversation. The whole family had to solemnly promise to come meet Star. The boys all wanted to go after dinner, but Buck and JD still had homework they’d not done and would have to wait till the next day. Josiah went and was suitably impressed. Soon all the boys loved Star, but found they could only ride him if Vin was nearby. Ezra and the stable hands Star would not even let on his back.

6 Months Later

Ezra slowly closed the door to Buck and JD’s room, having finished reading JD his story. When he got downstairs he saw his wife and Chris and Mary sitting in the living room and decided to join them. He figured this was a good time for a talk he’d been thinking they needed to have. He gave Inez a quick kiss on the cheek as he sat down beside her

"There is a matter I believe we should discuss."

"What is it Ezra?" Asked Mary as she put down the book she was reading.

"Vin’s birthday will be here in a few weeks. I would like to "give" him Red Star as a gift. Red Star would, of course, stay in my stables, but I would present Vin with the papers listing him as Red Stars owner."

"Can a boy his age legally own a horse?"

"With some help from Orin Travis it can be arranged. I discussed it with him, but thought we should all have a say in the decision before I finalize things."

"That was thoughtful of you." Chris rather grudgingly admits.

"It would be a big responsibility for a by his age, but I think he can handle it, and if he needs help we can assist him. Since Vin's the only one who can handle him and he already does most of the caring for Red Star anyway, I didn’t think there was any harm in making it official."

Inez faught to hide a smile. She was often amused at Ezra's need to excuse the selfless acts he was secretly prone to.

"No, I guess there isn’t," agreed Chris. "Vin would love having Star as his horse."

Mary seconded her husband’s opinion, and Ezra’s. "Yes he would, and I agree he can handle it. Like you say he does most of the stuff all ready."

"I think it’s a wonderful idea." Commented Inez, who already knew of her husbands plan. Then she brought up a related subject that had been on her mind. ""Vin’s last birthday was not long after his adoption, before he was speaking to anyone. There was no real way to have much celebration. And from what we know, his parents (Inez almost spat the word. She’d always been disgusted with Vin’s birth parents treatment of the boy) never made much of him or gave him anything close to a party. I think we should this year."

Mary wasn’t so sure about the idea. "Do you think he would like that? He’s not big on being the center of attention or having lots of people around. Since I teach him here he doesn’t really have any school friends."

"We could keep it to just the family, and of course Nettie. Maybe the Jackson’s as well. Vin knows and likes them."

"That’s not a bad idea, Inez. Vin could use some "normal" experiences like a birthday party. And as long a we keep it to family, and the Jackson’s Vin shouldn’t get spooked."

Ezra smiled at his wife. "It’s a wonderful idea, my love."

"I think we should let the boys know so that they can choose presents for him if they want," suggested Mary.

Once the boys were told of the plan to have a family birthday party for Vin they happily fell in with it. Vin agreed the Nathan and Raine should also be invited.

3 Weeks Later

"You ready for your birthday party tomorrow, Vin?" Asked Chris as he tucked Vin in for the night.

"I guess so."

Hearing the uncertainty in the young voice Chris asked, "What’s wrong,Vin?"

Vin had learned to trust Chris, so he gave an honest answer. "I’ve never had a party before. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do."

Chris felt a surge of anger at Vin’s birth parents for depriving the young boy of simple childhood joys, but kept it inside and answered the unspoken request for help and direction. "That’s easy. You unwrap presents. Blow out the candles on your birthday cake, and then eat a really big piece of it. Oh, you make a wish before you blow the candles out. You can wish for anything at all, but you can’t tell anyone what your wishing for. The hard part is letting everyone fuss over you, and being the center of attention. But it will only be the family, Miss Nettie and the Jackson’s. You don’t have to worry about any strangers."

"OK. I think I can do that stuff. Can you tell the ladies not to make a big fuss?" requested Vin.

Chris laughed softly. "I can tell them. But I don’t think they’ll listen."

"I don’t think they would either, Uncle Chris. God night." He reached up for a final hug.

"Night, Vin." Murmured Chris as he returned the hug.

The next morning Vin discovered the first of his birthday presents at breakfast. Nettie had taken advantage of it being a Saturday to cook a big breakfast for the family. With some help from Inez and Mary. It was not just any breakfast, but home made French toast with eggs, juice, and the choice of bacon or sausage. A variety of jelly and syrup had been put out as well. It was Vin’s favorite breakfast. Nettie informed him that every meal or snack that day was to be his favorite foods, her gift to him. Nathan and Raine showed up just as they were getting ready to sit.

The boys were anxious to give Vin their gifts and didn’t want to wait until afternoon. The adults relented and sent the boys to get their presents from the respective "hiding places".

As the youngest, JD went first. He handed Vin a paper he had decorated into a coupon. It said he would do Vin’s chores for 1 week. Vin thanked him and in an unusual display of physical affection hugged JD.

Buck handed Vin a wrapped up shoebox. Inside were two Walkie-Talkies. "These aren’t just normal walkie-talkies. I fixed ‘em so the range is almost all of the ranches. If you leave one here with someone and take one with you it’ll let you explore more without the Aunt’s, or Uncle’s, worrying." Buck finished this with a wink at Vin and a sly glance at his two uncles. They both choose to ignore the comment, knowing it was true, they did worry when Vin went off on his own.

"Just don’t forget to give one of us the extra radio, young man," admonished Nettie.

"No, maam, I won’t." Vin promised her. Happy at the idea of the extra freedom. Especially since his favorite horse, Star, was now old enough to go on longer rides.

"Thank you, Buck. These are really neat. You’re amazing."

Buck beamed at the compliment.

Josiah then handed Vin the large box that held his present. It was discovered to be a be be gun. Josiah had asked permission to get this gift for the young boy, and was happy when he’d received it.

Vin eyes grew big as he looked in the box. "I can have this? I get to keep it?"

"You’ll have to lock it up with the other guns, but it’s yours." Mary reassured him.

"For now you will not be allowed out with it alone. Josiah, your Uncle Chris or myself, will be with you. After a while that may change."

"I know how to use a gun Uncle Ez."

"I am aware of that, and we do trust you. But for now. . ."

"All right. I promise."

Chris saw the speculative gleam in Buck’s eye and decided to head things off. "And Buck. NO working on it or "fixing" it. Understood?"

"Understood." Buck reluctantly agreed.

Mary went next. The box she gave him held a high quality sketch and colored pencils. She’d seen Vin’s artistic talent and wanted to encourage him. "This way you can draw what you see while you’re out exploring the ranches, or anything else you want to."

"Thank you, Aunt Mary." Vin whispered as he hugged her.

The large, simply wrapped box from Chris revealed a set of beautifully crafted saddlebags to match the saddle he’d received from Ezra months earlier.

"Thank you, Uncle Chris. I’ll take good care of them."

"I know you will, Vin. But like your saddle, their made to be used, not just looked at."

Inez handed Vin a colorful bag, the handles tied together with matching ribbon. Inside Vin found a saddle blanket Inez had made for him. "It’s beautiful Aunt Inez. You made this for me?" Vin asked, almost disbelieving.

"Yes, Vin."

She then received a quick hug and "Thank you."

"This is to go inside your new saddle bags." Was Nathan’s instruction as he handed Vin his gift. "It’s so that I don’t have to worry so much."

That comment drew chuckles from everyone; especially when his gift was revealed to me a fairly small, but extremely well-stocked first aid kit.

Vin thanked him and promised to keep it in the saddle bags. Nathan told him to let him know when he needed it restocked. The fact that he said when, not if, was lost on the children, but not the adults.

Raines gift was a heand embroidered bridle to go with Vin’s saddle and new saddle bags. They were all impressed with the detail Raine had included. Vin shyly smiled at her as he thanked her, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to give her a hug.

As the grand finale Ezra handed Vin a think folder. Vin couldn’t believe he was reading it correctly when he saw what the papers inside said.

As Vin looked up at his Uncle the hope in his eyes almost broke Ezra’s heart. Mostly because Vin was obviously trying to fight that hope, having been disappointed in the past. "Does this say what I think it does? Am I readin’ it right, Uncle Ez?"

"Yes, Vin. It says that Red Star belongs to you. He is now your horse. Happy Birthday, Vin."

Ezra was surprised at the young body suddenly wrapped around him in a tight bear hug. He wrapped his arms around the young boy and felt well rewarded for the admittedly extravagant birthday gift. After a few minutes Vin pulled away.

"Thank you."

Seeing that Vin was feeling a bit overwhelmed Nettie spoke up. "Would you boys like to help me get the picnic ready?"

The boys quickly jump to their feet.

May stops the exodus to the kitchen before it can start. "First, why don’t you help Vin put his gifts away and get rid of the boxes?"

Vin smiled gratefully at Nettie as he took a deep breath, then picked up his gun to take to the gun safe. He was glad for a few moments to breathe and collect himself, without all eyes on him.

Sensing his young nephew was not in a huge hurry to return to the group Chris didn’t rush as he opened the gun safe and locked up Vin’s new be be gun. "You doin’ OK, Vin?"

"Sure, a picnic sounds good. It’s pretty outside today." Vin paused for a moment considering, then his face lit in a tentative smile. "Think I’ll have time to ride MY new horse later?"

"I’m sure you’ll find time." Chris answered, returning the smile. He was amused at the happy way Vin emphasized his new ownership of Star.

The picnic took place out under a huge old tree in back of the house. Netties fried chicken was quickly devoured, along with the rest of the food. The boys got into wrestling matches then decided to gang up on their Uncles and Nathan, much to their Aunts and Raines delight and laughter. The afternoon passed quickly and enjoyably for everyone.

For dinner the family ordered in Pizza and watched a video, Vin getting to choose the movie since it was his birthday. After the movie Nettie brought out the Birthday cake, in truth it wasn’t a cake but was chocolate brownies, with chocolate frosting, Vin’s favorite. Walnuts had been sprinkled across the top to spell HAPPY BIRTHDAY VIN

Once the brownies had been placed on the table Josiah got to light the candles. Remembering what Chris had told him Vin silently made a wish before taking a deep breath and blowing out the candles. As Nettie poured cups of milk, Mary cut the brownies. She sliced off large pieces for herself and Inez, knowing they shared a love of chocolate. Chris pretended to try and snatch her piece while she cut pieces for the boys.

"Chris Larabee, you put my brownie back right now!"

"But a little thing like you couldn’t eat this whole big piece." He teased back.

Inez quickly picked up her piece before her husband could try anything.

"These brownies are delicious." Raine complimented Nettie before looking over at Vin. "No wonder you wanted these instead of a regular birthday cake."

"They’re Birthday Brownies," announced JD. This had everyone laughing.

"Yes, I guess they are at that," agreed Nettie, as she smiled indulgently at the young boy.

Once everyone had their cake Chris had to give her a kiss to make it up with her. The boys laughed at the display of adult sillyness. After finishing their brownies, Nathan and Raines reluctantly decided to leave.

"We’d better get going. I have an early appointment at the clinic tomorrow."

"Drive safe, Nathan." Was Chris farewell.

"Thank you for coming," said Vin politely.

"Thank you for inviting us to your party,Vin."

"You’re welcome, Miss Raine. Thank you for the bridle. And thanks for the first aid kit, Nathan."

"You’re welcome." Both spoke at once, causing chuckles and smiles.

The boys were told to wash up and get in their night clothes before the movie was started. All the boys fell asleep before the second movie finished, except for Vin. He was tired but, for the first time he could remember, didn’t want to miss a minute of his Birthday. His eyes were on the TV screen, but his mind wasn’t. He was thinking about the day. He was still almost unbelieving that Star was now his horse. His. And he had a lot of other gifts as well. That had never happened before, and amazed him. Despite his best intentions he was drifting off as the movie ended, but he knew he’d have good dreams instead of nightmares tonight. The adults carefully carried the boys upstairs and tucked them in.

"Happy birthday, Vin," whispered Chris as he tucked him in.

"Thanks, Uncle Chris," came Vin’s sleepy reply. Then he stayed awake just long enough to ask a question. "Did I do it right? Being the birthday boy?"

Chris gently placed a kiss on Vin’s temple as he whispered, "Yes, you did perfect."

With that reassurance Vin was soon dreaming of riding star and having his new gun strapped in beside him. Feeling safe knowing he had Buck’s improved Walkie Talkie and the first aid kit from Nathan in his new saddle bags. He smiled slightly in his sleep.



Author Note: The idea of having brownies for a birthday cake and calling them Birthday Brownies on that one day a year is from my childhood. Here is the recipe. Enjoy.


Melt together:

Mix together and bring to rapid boil. Pou over dry ingredients and mix; then--


Beat together well; batter will be thin.

Pour into greased & floured sheet pan (17"x11"). Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes. Meanwhile:

Prepare icing by melting together:

Mix together until smooth and spread onto cake while it is still hot.

Option: leave nuts out; spreadsliced (or slivered) almonds over top of finished and iced cake while still warm.