"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Disclaimer: don't own `m, just play with `m. Don't make a cent off `m either.

Warnings: smarm alert… smarm alert… smarm alert…

Notes: Just a little ficlet, focusing on Chris and Li'l Vin and Vin's reaction to being separated from his father when Chris is injured. Buck and JD are there, too, in cameo.

He peered out the front window of his house, staring across the yard to watch the road. One hand was wrapped in the curtain tied back away from the glass, the other in the thick fur of the dog that waited beside him. He didn't move… barely seemed to breathe. Only his big blue eyes moved, flickering from right to left and back again as he watched.


The young boy didn't move, but replied quietly, "Yeah?"

"Mz. Potter's makin' chocolate chip an' peanut butter cookies for `sert. She's even puttin' nuts in `m. wanna come help?"


JD Dunne's little shoulders slumped, big hazel eyes dropping to stare at the floor. He hadn't been able to get his friend to do much of anything for two weeks now. All that Vin wanted to do was sit around, stare out the window, or talk on the phone.

Vin knew the smaller boy was still there, but he ignored him. He knew that he was being mean to JD, but he couldn't help it. There was only one thing that was important right now… having Chris home.

His adopted father had been injured during an assignment. He wasn't for certain exactly what had happened, but it had to have been bad. Vin had overheard Buck and Josiah talking about things like `severe blood loss', `infection', `internal injuries' and `high fever'. He hadn't been allowed to go see the big man because he was too young, and the words terrified him even though he wasn't certain what they all meant.

Chris had been gone for three days before he had even been able to talk to him. Three days filled with worry and three nights filled with nightmares. Buck had done his best to comfort the little boy, and Josiah had come to stay with the distraught family as well. The big man had sat with the restless little boy, calming his fears as well as he could, deep voice filling the night with stories meant to console.

The first time he had been able to talk to Chris on the phone, he had embarrassed himself by crying through most of the conversation. At the other end, unbeknownst to the child, Buck held the phone for Chris so he could talk to his son. His father's voice had sounded small and tired, but had given Vin something nothing else had been able to. Comfort.

After that, he was allowed to talk to the blond each day. It wasn't as good as having Chris there, but at least it was something that allowed him to feel the connection with his father. Each day the blond sounded a little better, his voice a little stronger…

+ + + + + + +

"Hi, Dad!"

"Hi, Cowboy."

"How y' feelin' t'day?"


"Did th' doctor come t' see y'?"


"Did he say y' git t' come home t'morrow?"

There was always a sigh and a slight hesitation before, "Not tomorrow, pard."

Then there was silence before, "So, what did you do today, cowboy?"

But then, yesterday, things had changed.

"Did th' doctor come t' see y'?"

"Yep." Chris' voice had sounded different.

"Did he say y' git t' come home t'morrow?"


He had fumbled, not expecting the single word answer. In a small voice, he said, "Wha… what?"

"I'm coming home tomorrow, cowboy," The excitement and love came through the phone.

"Comin'… yer comin' home t'morrow?"

"Yep. Buck's gonna bring me home tomorrow afternoon, as soon as he gets off work."

"It's Friday t'morrow," Vin said breathlessly.

With a smile in his voice, the blond said, "Oh, do you have plans or something? Do you want me to wait?"

"What? NO! Dad, please, I wan'cha t' come home!" Panic crept into the little voice.

"Whoa, hold up there, I'm sorry. I was teasing. I'm sorry, pard."

After the blond had calmed his little boy, he said, "I can't wait for tomorrow to be here Vin. I miss you."

"I miss you, too, Dad. A whole bunch. An' I'm `cited 'cause it's Friday an' I c'n stay home all weekend with y'. Can we have a picnic `r somethin'?"

"Vin," Larabee sounded tired now. "I'm sorry cowboy, I'm not gonna be able to do a whole lot for a week or so."

The little boy's "oh" rang with disappointment, but he recovered quickly. "Well, that's okay. Don't matter what we do, Dad, I'm just happy yer comin' home."

"Me too, Vin, me too."

+ + + + + + +

Vin shook himself from his thoughts as something caught his attention. A big black truck was coming up the long drive. His heart began pounding so hard that it felt like he had been running for a hundred miles. His fingers dug into Ringo's fur until the pup yelped and pulled away, but he couldn't pull his gaze from the vehicle. It became bigger and bigger, seeming to take up the whole world.

Rather than parking in the drive, the big Ram pulled to a stop on the walk, right next to the front porch. Inside the house, Vin hardly registered the fact that the engine stopped. He stood staring, gulping nervously as he saw Buck appear on the far side of the truck. The big man moved around the big black vehicle, opening the door and leaning inside.

Vin could barely breathe as he watched Buck help his father out of the truck. Tears came to his eyes as he saw how small and pale Chris looked, and how he leaned against the other man after he stood up. Buck stood, strong and tall beside him, steadying the blond until he was able to stand alone. Then they moved slowly to the porch. There, Wilmington put his hand on the other man's elbow, helping him up the steps.

The little boy watched as his father put his right foot on the first step, than pulled the left one up beside it. He repeated the movement as he slowly moved up the four stairs. Once he was on the porch, he took a deep breath, Buck still holding onto him. They moved forward once more, coming toward the front door.

Suddenly Vin was scared. He backed up into the shadows, watching as the two men came in the door. From the corner of the big room, he watched Buck guiding Chris inside, the two men moving slowly through the room. As they disappeared down the hallway, he slid to the floor, curling himself into a ball. Ringo curled up beside him, gently licking the tears that were coursing down the little boy's elfin face.

After several minutes, he pulled himself up to his feet and crept down the hall. Stopping at his father's open bedroom door, he peeked inside. Buck was hovering near the blond, guiding him toward the bed. Chris was now in a tee-shirt and pajama pants, his steps unsteady. Buck helped him sit on the side of the bed, lifting his legs up onto the mattress. He heard his father groan tiredly as he stretched out on the big bed.

Buck covered the lean body, then disappeared into the bathroom. Vin took that opportunity to slip into the room, once more melting into the shadows at the corner of the big room. Just as he settled in, Ringo at his side as always, Wilmington returned. One of the big man's hands was closed around something, and he carried a glass of water in the other.

"I don't need – " Chris began to protest.

"Yeah, y' do, stud," Buck scolded. "If you looked at yourself in the mirror right now, you'd give yourself a heart attack."

"Gee… thanks," Larabee growled.

In a serious tone, the bigger man said, "I'm not jokin' here, Chris. You might deny it, but it's real easy to see how much just ridin' out here took out of you. I'm glad it's the weekend, it'll give me a couple of days to make sure you behave."

Heaving a sigh that ended in a groan, the injured man took the pills, chasing them with most of the water from the glass. That taken care of, he settled back, frowning up at his friend. "Where are the boys?"

The big man slid a glance toward the shadows in the corner of the room, than looked back at the reclining man with a wink. "I can hear JD in the kitchen with Gloria. Reckon Vin's around somewhere."

Catching the look and the wink, the blond offered a wan smile. They had expected a rough homecoming with the son of his heart, and had decided to let Vin have his space. Better to let the skittish little boy make the first move, than to push him. "Well, if you find him, tell him I can't wait to see him."

Grinning broadly, the bigger man said, "Will do. Now, somethin' smells good, so I'm gonna go see what Gloria's cookin' up."

From the corner, Vin watched Buck stride from the room, not looking in his direction. Then his eyes drifted toward the big bed, and he took in the sight of his father. He was shocked at how small the big man looked laying there. Once more his heart began to thud hard against his chest, and he took comfort from holding onto the dog that leaned against him.

It was nearly five minutes before the little boy moved from the corner. Slowly he moved across the room, coming to a stop against the mattress, farthest from where Larabee lay.

Chris was trying hard not to give in to the siren's call of exhaustion and the pain medication Buck had given him. He fought hard not to give any indication that he was watching the little boy, either. It was only after Vin ventured out of the corner and came to stand beside the bed that he allowed himself to acknowledge his son. With a broad smile, he said softly, "Hey, cowboy!"

His fears and anxiety began to melt under the force of that smile, and he offered one of his own in return. "Hey, Dad!"

Patting the mattress beside him, Larabee said, "Would you like to come sit beside me?"

The little boy hesitated, and Chris thought for a minute he'd pushed too fast. Then the shaggy head bobbed up and down. Vin pulled off his shoes and carefully climbed up onto the big bed. Moving gently over the mattress, afraid of hurting his father, he crawled across the bed until he was right beside the big man. He looked to see that Larabee's hand was laying, palm up, on top of the covers.

Chris felt the tiny hand settle against his palm; felt it trembling softly. He closed his fingers around that hand, squeezing gently. Continuing to fight the pull of sleep, he looked up into the huge blue eyes. He saw the fear there; could see the toll taken by nightmares and insecurity. Rubbing his thumb along the back of the tiny hand, he said softly, "I'm right here, cowboy… I'm gonna be fine."

Tears welled up in the big eyes once more, cascading down the fine features. He was confused, uncertain as to why he felt afraid now that it was over and Chris was home. The thing he had wanted most in the world had happened, and he was crying like a baby.

Larabee's other hand came up, and he stroked the tousled curls gently. It took very little coaxing for him to get his son to come closer. Quickly, Vin was laying beside him, tiny head nestled against his chest. They still held hands, the child settled so that he could see his father's face. Chris continued stroking the loose curls, listening as the soft sobs slowed.

Finally, his emotions quieted, and Vin felt himself relaxing against the familiar body. He sighed, his eyes drifting closed as the long days of fear and worry took their toll. He barely registered the fact that his father's hand stilled, coming to rest against the back of his head.

Chris felt the tiny body beside him grow still and smiled as he allowed the medication to lure him to sleep. The worry and fear that had dogged his every waking hour since coming to in the hospital disappeared as he settled into his own bed, his beloved child sleeping beside him.

+ + + + + + +

A short time later, Buck stepped to the door, a warm cookie in his hand. He smiled at the sight before him. It was what he had hoped to see… Chris and Vin curled up together, both of them finally getting the rest they needed. Even Vin's faithful malamute was curled up on the foot of the bed.

With a broad grin, the big man popped the rest of the cookie into his mouth and padded softly across the room. Grabbing up the afghan from the rocking chair that sat in the corner, he gently draped it over the little boy. Giving both father and son one final look, he took a deep breath and let it out with yet another smile before padding back out the door.


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