THE STORM by LaraMee

"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Disclaimer: The rights are still in the hands of MGM, Mirisch, Trilogy, CBS, TNN, and now Hallmark. And none of them deserve what they have. I own no rights to The Magnificent Seven in any of its incarnations. Poffenberger and Berry are responsible for the LB AU. I make no monetary gain from writing this piece of fiction.

Warnings: It’s H/C, nothing other than some smarm and a curse word. Since its LB, it’s pretty tame.

Characters: Chris and Li’l Vin. Buck and JD a little, with cameos of the others.

Notes: Not certain where this came from. Sometimes these darn plot bunnies just sneak up on me and take over the place!

Chris sighed deeply, trying to stifle a cough as he did. Rubbing stiff fingers across his forehead, he attempted to ease the headache that seemed to have taken up residence behind his eyes. He had wakened that morning feeling exhausted, as if he hadn’t slept at all even though he had gone to bed right after dinner the night before. The ATF agent had dragged himself through the day, managing to get a minimum of work done at the office before climbing wearily into his truck and driving home earlier than normal.

Larabee told himself over and over again that it was just a reaction to a long few weeks filled with long days as his team juggled several cases at once. Each one seemed to require all of his attention, and he had just been spread too thin for too long.

But, when he found himself dozing in his recliner as he waited for his adopted sons to come home, though, he began to suspect that there was something else going on.


The blond blinked open aching hazel eyes and found himself looking into the face of one of the young boys he had brought into his home several months ago. Vin was staring at him with a look of concern on his young face. Managing a smile, he said “hey cowboy.”

“Y’ okay?”

“Yeah, just a little tired. When did you get home?”

“Jist a few minutes ago. Where’s Miz Potter?”

“I sent her home. Where’s JD?”

“In the kitchen, lookin’ fer somethin’ t’ eat.”

“Oh, boy.” Envisioning the mess the smaller boy would more than likely make, he pushed his aching body out of the chair and padded out of the room. Entering the kitchen a few seconds later, he found JD Dunne just getting ready to climb from one of the kitchen chairs to the countertop. Snagging the little boy around the waist, he deposited the child on the floor.

“Hey, Chris!”

“Hey, JD. What are you looking for?”

“Sumpin’ t’ eat,” the five-year-old replied.

“Well, hold on right there, Li’l Bit,” a new voice entered the conversation. They all looked to see Buck Wilmington sauntering into the room.

“BUCK!” JD bounded across the room, launching himself into the big man’s arms.

“Hey, kiddo,” Wilmington said fondly, ruffling the thick black hair. Grinning at the other two members of their little mix-and-match family, he said, “who’s up to a night out on the town?”

“What’s that?” The child in his arms asked.

“That,” the big man replied, “is where we all get cleaned up and go into town for dinner and a movie. In fact, I was thinkin’ we might just stay in town for the night. Nathan and Raine are going out of town for the weekend, and Nate said we could use their place if we want. We could have breakfast out in the morning before we come home. How’s that sound?”

“GREAT!” The two boys voices blended together in excited harmony.

Buck frowned when he noticed how quiet his old friend was. “What do you think, Chris?”

“Sounds great,” he said unconvincingly.


Heaving a sigh, the blond tried to ignore the fact that he could see the happiness seeping from the big blue eyes that were looking up at him. “I’m sorry, guys, but I’m just not up to it.”

Wilmington looked closer at his friend, seeing the smudges of gray beneath the slightly glassy eyes and the faint flush in the typically ruddy features. “You feelin’ all right?”

“I’m just tired,” Larabee hedged. “Do you think you could handle both these yahoos alone?”


“I’m stayin’ home.” Both men looked down at a very determined seven-year-old Vin Tanner.

“You go with Buck and have a good time,” Chris instructed.

Shaking his head, the child said, “I’m stayin’ home with you.”

“Vin, I’m probably just going to go to bed. It’s gonna be boring here. Go on with Buck and JD and have fun.”

Little arms folded across a narrow chest as the stubborn little boy dug in his heels. “Gonna stay home with you. Buck ‘n JD c’n go.”

Realizing they weren’t going to get anywhere, Wilmington said, “look, we’ll all stay home… we can go next weekend.”

“Ah, Buck,” JD moaned.

Chris slumped against the counter, rubbing a hand across his face. The argument was only increasing his headache. “Vin, look, I’m not up to playing with you or anything. If you go with – “

“Ain’t goin’. Y’ need t’ go t’ bed. I c’n answer th’ phone an’ I’m good at makin’ soup in th’ microwave. I c’n take care a y’.”

The ATF agent couldn’t help but smile as his heart swelled at the child’s words. Knowing he wasn’t going to budge the child, he said, “are you sure?”


Looking at his old friend, the man shrugged as he said, “guess you and JD are on your own. No sense in everyone staying home.”

“You sure?” Wilmington was torn, not liking the look of the other man.

“Buck, I don’t need two mother hens. I’m just tired. You and JD go have fun.”

Hesitating another moment, the big man nodded his head. Hoisting his ward over one broad shoulder, he said, “c’mon Li’l Bit, let’s go get ready.”


A short time later, Buck and JD were heading out the door, overnight bags in hand, and Chris’ promise that he would call Buck on his cell phone if he needed him for anything. Larabee tried once more to get Vin to go with them, but the child was obstinate, stating simply that he was staying. Shaking his head, the blond let the matter drop, standing with young Tanner as they watched the others driving off.

Closing the door, Vin looked up at his surrogate father. With a stern look on his tiny face, he said, “y’ best git t’ bed, Chris. I’ll answer th’ phone, ‘n I’ll make y’ some soup whenever yer hungry.”

The blond couldn’t help but grin as his son took his hand and began pulling him down the hall. By the time they entered his bedroom, though, he had to admit that the bed looked very inviting.

A few minutes later, Chris was in pajama pants and a tee shirt, being ushered to bed. He allowed Vin to tuck him in, his aching head sinking into the blessedly cool pillow. He had taken a couple of migraine tablets while in the bathroom changing, and was praying the medicine would take effect soon.

Patting his father’s broad shoulder, the little boy said, “I’ll be in th’ den watchin’ TV, okay? Holler if y’ need anything.”

“Okay. No scary shows, right?”

“Right. C’n I watch videos?”

Knowing that anything rated more than PG was under lock and key, Larabee decided that this would be one way to make certain the child didn’t come across anything he shouldn’t be watching. “Sounds like a plan. You sure you can handle getting yourself something to eat and all?”

“Yes, sir,” the frustrated boy said.

Managing a chuckle, he said, “sorry. I forget that you can take care of yourself.”

With another pat to the broad shoulder, Vin moved softly away from the bed. At the door he turned, seeing that his adopted father’s eyes were closed. Quietly he moved from the room, pulling the door to.


The first thing he was aware of was a very loud, drawn out rumble. Managing to blink open eyes that felt like they were lidded with sandpaper, he looked around. The room was pitch dark, and he realized that he had been asleep for several hours. Then the sound came again, and he recognized it as thunder. A blinding flash of light caused him to flinch as the blue-white blaze caused his head to explode with pain. Groaning, he turned his head away from the window, and discovered what a mistake that was. Nausea threatened to overwhelm him, and he struggled to keep from vomiting on the bed.

Slowly Larabee pushed himself off the mattress and staggered toward the bathroom. Inside, he dropped to the floor next to the toilet, leaning his arms on the toilet seat. By the time he was finished being sick some time later, he was trembling and panting, his eyes streaming and nose running. Managing to push himself up a little, he was surprised to find someone handing him a damp washcloth. Taking it, he wiped his face. Looking up, he found Vin hovering over him. “Thanks, pard.”

Nodding, the little boy watched the man before him. He saw the dark circles beneath glassy eyes, and the sheen of perspiration covering the ashen features. Sagely, he said, “yer sick.”

“Yeah,” Chris admitted. “You think you could do me… a favor?”


“Can you go call Buck for me and ask him to come home?”

Eyes growing wide as he realized that the request meant that his father was feeling really bad, the little boy nodded and hurried from the room. The thunder continued, rattling the windows as the storm outside built in force. Vin ran into the den, grabbing up the cordless phone. Pushing the power button, he jumped as loud static burst from the earpiece. Holding the instrument away from his ear, the child pushed the speed dial number that connected to Buck’s cell phone, hoping the sound would go away. It didn’t. He pushed another button, trying to connect to Nathan’s home, but the annoying sound continued, just as it did when he tried to contact Josiah and Ezra.

Finally turning the phone off and returning it to the base, the child went to the table in the front hall, where he knew Chris left his keys and cell phone. Activating the phone, he was greeted by silence. Once more he tried the phone numbers, hoping to get through to someone. When he couldn’t reach anyone through the little device, he dropped it to the table in frustration. Not knowing what else to do, he started back for his father’s bedroom, the lightening lighting his way.


Taking a deep breath, Larabee pushed himself up, staggering slightly as he gained his feet. Feeling lightheaded, he held onto the vanity as he ran cold water into the basin, taking a drink and then wiping his face. Turning the water back off, he continued to hold onto whatever was handy as he stumbled toward his bedroom. Managing to make it to the bed, he all but fell onto the mattress. It took the rest of his strength to pull his legs up onto the bed, and he lay there panting and shivering. He knew he should pull the covers up over him, but couldn’t find the energy to move any more.

A sound drew his attention, and he looked to find his son beside him. He tried to smile, hoping to reassure the child, but couldn’t do anything but stare up into the saucer-like blue eyes.

“Phone’s broke,” Vin said softly.

“Cell phone,” Larabee managed to rasp.

“Broke,” he repeated.

“Oh.” He tried to force his foggy brain to work, to figure out what to do next.

Watching the ill man shiver, the little boy pulled the sheet and comforter up over him. Touching the pale face, he was surprised at how hot his father felt. Thinking back on the time he had been sick with a fever, he trotted to the bathroom and returned a minute later with a damp washcloth. Standing next to the bed, he carefully ran the cool cloth over Chris’ face.

Closing his eyes, he felt the heat chased away for a minute by the child’s actions. Larabee felt himself begin to drift, and tried to pull himself back from the darkness. He couldn’t leave his son alone and scared. Yet, try as he might, the blond was soon oblivious.

Vin watched as the man’s eyes closed and his body went slack on the bed. He placed one small hand against the flushed cheek and patted gently. His father muttered, but his eyes remained closed. “Chris? Chris… wake up, please? I… I ain’t sure what t’ do. Dad? Please wake up.”

When Larabee continued to sleep, the little boy found himself crying. It was something he didn’t do often, and he chastised himself. “Stop it, stupid. Ain’t gonna do no good t’ be standin’ here blubberin’ like some baby. Y’ gotta figger out what t’ do, cain’t jist stand here. C’mon Vin, y’ gotta think a somethin’.”

He pulled himself up and marched back through the house to the den. Picking up the phone, he once more heard the screeching sound of static. Putting the handset back in the base, he marched once again to where Chris’ cell phone was. Taking a look at it, he realized that it had lost its charge. Feeling better that he could do something about that at least, he carried the phone to the den where he knew the charger was. Pressing the little instrument into the holder, he looked at the tell-tale red light, hoping to see it turn green. When it didn’t happen, he huffed a sigh and tried to make up his mind as to what to do next. Then another loud rumble sent him scampering toward the window, looking out into the darkness. The night was split down the middle by lightening, and he could see the rain spilling from the heavens in sheets.

“Buck ain’t gonna be able t’ come home in this rain,” he whispered to himself. The fact that he was going to be the only one available to help his father sank in, and spurred him to action. Running back through the house, he slowed only as he crossed the threshold into Larabee’s room. There he moved on tiptoe across to the bed, his eyes widening as he realized what was happening.

Chris lay on his back, his head tossing and turning and strangled gurgles coming from his mouth. The boy hurried to find a wastebasket, returning just as the blond vomited, the bile covering his face.

“Oh no. No, no, Chris… wake up!” He climbed up onto the mattress, pulling on one heaving shoulder until he managed to get Larabee onto his side, his head hanging over the side of the bed. Most of what continued to spill from the ill man made it into the wastebasket, but Vin knew he was going to have a mess to clean up later.

The blond slowly came to, the sounds of someone retching ringing in his ears. Managing to peel open his eyes he tried to make sense of his strange point of view. Struggling to push himself back up onto the bed, a wave of nausea overtook him, and he vomited once more. As he lay there, panting, he became aware that someone was rubbing his back.


“You awake?” Relief was evident in the little voice.

“Think so,” Chris tried to take a deep breath, only to have another bout of nausea overwhelm him. He wasn’t certain how long he hung suspended over the plastic receptacle, his body shaken by dry heaves. Finally he managed to calm his rebellious insides enough to push himself over to his back. Groaning softly, he blinked his eyes open once again as he felt something wet and warm sliding over his face. Vin sat crouched beside him, a serious expression on his little face as he looked down at him.

“Y’ okay?”

“Don’t think… think so, pard,” Chris admitted. Then he realized that whatever was causing him to be so ill could be passed on to his son. “You need to… to stay in… in the other room.”

“No. Yer sick.”

“Could make you… sick.”

“Don’t care.” Pushing away one flailing hand, he said. “Ain’t nobody else here, ‘n yer sick Dad.”

“Vin… I…” Larabee grew quiet, realizing that, as much as he hated to admit it, the child was right.

Realizing that he had… for once… won an argument with his adopted parent, the child reached down and gently patted one flush cheek. Then he grabbed up the damp cloth and wiped away the drying gore on the man’s face.

Slowly they worked together to get Chris cleaned up. Too small to get the man off the bed, Vin jogged back and forth from the bathroom with wet cloths and towels. Cleaning him up, he took away the soiled pillow and put another one under the sweat-soaked head. Finally finished cleaning up the remains of his father’s illness, the child cleaned up the floor and took away the wastebasket. Bringing back another receptacle, he placed it beside the bed. Next the little boy brought in a glass of water, and helped the weakened man to take a drink. Lying back on the fresh pillow, Larabee managed a weak smile of thanks to the child.

Feeling his chest tighten with pride at that smile, Vin once more patted his father’s shoulder before slipping from the bed. He hurried back toward the den, once more aware of the thunder. Realizing that the noise was fainter, he heaved a sigh of relief at the thought that the storm was passing.

Going to the desk where his adopted father kept the charger for his phone, the little Texan whooped with joy as he saw that the light on the little device was now green. Carefully pulling the cell phone loose, he opened it up and pushed the ‘on’ button. Rewarded with a dial tone, he quickly speed dialed Buck’s cell phone.


“Buck! come home!”

At the other end of the conversation, the big agent’s face blanched at the frightened tone. “Vin? Calm down cowboy. What’s wrong? Where’s Chris?”

“In bed. He’s awful sick, Buck. Please, I need y’ t’ come home now!”

“We’re on the way, buddy. Tell me what’s going on.”

His speech hurried, the seven-year-old gave a rundown of the horrible evening. Several miles away, fighting the urge to press the accelerator to the floor, Wilmington drove one-handed as he listened to the frightened child. He watched the road, the violent storm leaving deep pools of water and debris in its wake. From time to time his eyes went to the rearview mirror as he checked on his small charge. JD was blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding as he slept curled up in the backseat.

Finally finishing his tale, the terrified child repeated, “come home, Buck!”

As he heard the unmistakable sounds of the child sobbing, Buck swallowed his fear. “I’m on the way, buddy, I promise. Me and JD will be there in another half hour or so, okay? Vin, hang on, okay, it’s gonna be fine.”

“’Kay,” came the small voice.

Needing to concentrate on his driving, Wilmington reluctantly said good-bye to the tearful child. Dropping the cell phone into the seat beside him, he gripped the wheel with both hands, offering up a prayer that things would be all right.


Holding onto the phone as if it would keep him in contact with the big man, Vin moved back through the house. Entering Chris’ bedroom once more, he crept to the bed. The blond hadn’t moved and lay on his back, his breathing coming in shallow pants. The child retrieved a cool rag from the bathroom and climbed up onto the bed. Tenderly stroking the cloth across the perspiration soaked face, he watched for any reaction. Seeing none, he choked back a sob and folded the cloth over his father’s forehead. Not knowing anything more to do, Vin curled up beside the blond, one tiny hand pressed against the big man’s chest.


Chris Larabee blinked open his eyes, frowning as he brought the room around him into focus. Slowly turning his head from one side to the other, he forced his sluggish mind to work. A single word managed to make itself heard through parched lips. “Hospital?”

“Hey, stud.” The smiling face of Buck Wilmington swam into focus above him. “Good t’ see them eyes open.”

“What… what happened?”

“You ended up with a humdinger of a virus. The doctor said that if you hadn’t already been worn down from all the OT we put in, you’d have been able to fight it off better.”

“Ah.. hell,” the blond muttered. “How long?”

“You crashed on Friday evening, and its Sunday morning now. You’ve been in and out, what do you remember?”

With a groan, Larabee said, “nothing. I … oh no. Vin. Is he okay?”

“He’s been quiet, worried about you, but he’s okay.”

“He… he took care of me.” Dim memories of his little son washing his face, helping him to drink, and cleaning him up came to mind.

“You ought ‘a be real proud of that boy of yours. He did a bang-up job of taking care of you. JD and I were already on the way home as soon as the storm let up. I couldn't get hold of you and got worried. Guess it was a good thing I did. Vin already had everything under control though. By the time I got home, all I had to do was get you to the hospital.”

“I want to go home,” Larabee said, his voice a weak rasp.

Pressing a hand against the weak man’s chest, Buck said, “tomorrow, as long as you behave. You’re gonna be home for about a week, though, according to the doc.”

Heaving a sigh, the blond said, “I wanna see Vin.”

“Well, reckon that can be arranged.”

A few minutes later, Wilmington was wheeling his boss and old friend down the hallway toward the waiting room. As they entered the room they could here giggling and soon found the other members of Team Seven, busily entertaining their little wards. JD was bouncing up and down on Josiah’s lap as Ezra did card tricks, entertaining them all with a constant line of chatter. Vin sat beside Nathan, leaning against the big man as he smiled at the former FBI agent’s antics.

DAD!” The little Texan squealed as he spotted the recuperating man.  He bounded from the couch and ran full speed across the room, barely stopping as Buck intercepted him before he leapt into the sick blond’s lap.

“Hold on there, cowboy. Chris ain’t quite up to that yet.”

Managing to rein in his excitement, Vin stood beside the chair, looking up into the still pale face of his father. Then big arms came up, reaching out to him. His smile widened as he felt himself lifted up and placed in the man’s lap. Wrapping his arms around the strong neck, he giggled with the shear joy of being in those arms again.

With a relieved and grateful smile, the blond agent pulled the little body close, hugging him fiercely. For several minutes, father and son simply sat there, each drinking in the feeling of being with the other. Finally Chris released his hold, leaning back to look down into the little face that was turned up to gaze at him with shining blue eyes. “Hey, cowboy. I want to thank you. You took real good care of me when I got sick.”

A flash of pain darkened the big eyes, and the little voice trembled as the child said softly, “I was so scared, Dad. I didn’t know fer sure what t’ do.”

Running his fingers through the tousled curls, Larabee said, “I remember enough of what happened to know that you did everything right, pard. I’m very proud of you.”

The seven-year-old’s chest swelled with pride as he heard the words his father praised him with. Not certain of what to say in return, he simply hugged the man once more, leaning his little head against the broad shoulder. “I had t’ do it, Dad. I… I love you.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Chris Larabee replied softly, “I love you, too, Vin.”

The End