Camp Out

By Phyllis

I need to thank a few people and then on with the show. First, my thanks to Joy for allowing me to play in her wonderful world of Little Britches summer tales. The whole concept was wonderful and her determination in plotting, scheduling, and, in general, running the show, is awe-inspiring. My congratulations to the great mind and artist that she is. Second, my thanks to Mom for providing me with some of the experiences that follow-they are painfully true. My thanks go out to Marian for the beta work and Antoinette for the great story ideas. I didn't get to use them all, but that's always tomorrow. But, that's another story.

This was the best week so far this summer. Chris and Buck did not have to go to work and we got to go campin. We had them all week and it was fun. We learned about the trees and the birds and the shunks. Chris got stinged by a bee and Buck burned his fingers. And I broke my toe and JD turned into a rackcoon.

Even the boys all got boo-boos. Uncle Nathan got a busted lip when I stepped on his face and Uncle Ezra didn't watch out and his leg got all red and bumpy. I am not sure what Uncle Josiah did, but he was walking funny when he left to go home.

We had a lot of fun in the woods. It rained and JD made the tent leak and we had to move all the beds to stay dry. 

I hope that's enough words.


Uncle Ezra!

Yes, Vincent?

Would you count and make sure I have enough writing words?

Certainly. JD is getting some milk and cookies…oh, you have the computer started? Very well. You start the recitation and I shall assist with the refreshments.


Talk while I help JD.

Oh. Okay. Well, Chris and Buck came home and…

Chris smiled as he watched the two orphans jumping around at the news that he and Buck had the next five days off and they had decided to go camping.

"When are we goin'? Are we gonna fish? Can I bring Torkus? And Elvis? He's too little to stay by his self. Are the boys coming, too?"

"Whoa, Little Bit. Take a breath." Buck laughed at the dark haired boy's enthusiastic response to the announcement. The tall ATF agent had assured Larabee that JD would love the idea of the impromptu vacation as long as his best friend made no objections.

Vin had stood quietly as JD's questions poured out. He now turned to his father. "We gonna take the horses? We could ride." His voice carried a hopeful quality that he very seldom allowed to come out. The blond head drooped before Chris even answered. The boy saw the look in the man's eyes and knew the answer was no.

"No, afraid not, Vin. But I asked Mr. Cochran to keep an eye on them and the ranch while we're gone." Chris was relieved to see Vin look up and smile at him.

Meanwhile, Buck was putting out fires with his young ward.

"JD, Torkus has to stay here." Before the boy could protest and launch into his reasons for taking the little reptile, Buck continued. "Gloria is coming over to feed and take care of him. The forest is a great big place and we'll be fishing and hiking, and climbing all day. Torkus would get lonely by himself or he could get lost and we might never find him. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

Dark hair swayed as the little boy agreed that, no, he didn't want the tortoise to get lost. Looking up, he said, "Miz Potter knows how to take good care of Torkus. He likes her and trusts her. I guess he should probably stay here."

The little boy smiled sweetly as he moved close to the tall man and wrapped his arms around his leg. "But Elvis can come. He minds and he won't be any trouble. Pleeeaase."

Wilmington glanced at his partner, struggling to not laugh at the boy's obvious attempt to get his way by looking cute and innocent. Larabee shook his head as he rolled his eyes and looked toward the ceiling.

Buck began to shake his head and JD's grip tightened on his leg as he began to jump up and down. "Pleeeeeaaase, Papa. They's too little to stay by theirselves. You wouldn't want Vin and me to stay by ourselves, would ya? Ringo and Elvis are babies." Tears rolled down the little boy's face as he implored the man, but Buck stood firm for once.

"You don't worry about the pups. We've made arrangements for a real nice lady to pick them up and take 'em to a doggy hotel. They'll have lots of fun."

"But what if they forget us?"

Buck laughed as he pried the small boy from his leg and lifted him onto his hip. "Elvis and Ringo aren't about to forget you two. We're going on vacation and they're going on vacation, too."

JD looked doubtful, glanced at Vin to judge his response. Vin, in turn, looked at Chris. Larabee nodded his head slightly and Vin did the same, a silent agreement reached. JD had watched the exchange and, laying his head on the broad shoulder, he responded, "Okay."

The animals taken care of, the evening was spent gathering the equipment and supplies. By the time the boys had eaten and bathed, they were dead on their feet and fell to sleep as soon their heads hit their pillows. Breathing a sigh of relief, the two men headed to their own beds to get as much rest as possible.

The next morning was a flurry of activity as equipment was stowed in the truck, clothes selected and packed. Food was collected and stored in boxes or coolers full of ice. Teresa Collins arrived to meet the boys and collect the pups. While the dogs were trained to stay near the house or the boys, they were still under a year old and the men were not prepared to leave them alone for several days. The service Teresa provided was perfect for them. Tearful goodbyes were said as the van pulled away, but the two men quickly distracted the boys by grabbing them and heading to the loaded truck. Buckling the boys into the back seat, Buck checked to be sure they each had one stuffed animal to keep them company. Vin had Cat, but JD had a harder time selecting only one, having finally settled on the 'Tigger' he had gotten at Disneyland when Ezra had taken them earlier in the year.

Five hours later, after a lunch stop, three potty stops, two photo excursions, and one loose tarp repair, they arrived at the agreed location in the national park. Josiah had given everyone instructions on the exact camping area. He and Nathan had arrived earlier and set up their tent. They stood and waved a greeting as the black Dodge Ram came into view.

The doors opened and seconds later, the two small bodies exploded out and ran to the two waiting men. The boys talked over each other as they told their 'Uncles' all they had seen on the drive up. As they talked, the truck was unloaded and the tent set up. Two air mattresses were aired up and the sleeping bags lay on top of them. Vin wanted to sleep on the ground, but Chris insisted on the air mattress to prevent causing Vin any back pain since seven-year old had experienced problems with his back in the past. With all the exercise he would be getting in the next few days, the blond man did not want to take a chance on aggravating the condition.

While they were busy setting up the camp, Ezra arrived to complete the team. But unlike the others, he was driving a small rented camper, complete with kitchenette and toilet. Buck and the boys quickly piled in to check it out, while Larabee merely rolled his eyes and snorted.

The afternoon was wiled away checking out the area and the trails close by. The kids were under strict orders to not leave the immediate area without an adult accompanying them. JD had no problem agreeing. He was small for his five years and even the smallest tree was a daunting sight. Vin was more adventuresome than the younger boy, but he was also a bit leery of the woods with its unknown elements.

The day finished with a meal of hotdogs and chips, a couple of stories that had the boys hanging on every word, ending with a mock wrestling match between Sanchez and Wilmington over who would cook breakfast. Wilmington lost the match.

We had fun that first day. Uncle Josiah pointed out the different trees.

Yeah, and Uncle Nathan showed us the plants that Indians used to make ya feel better; and the stuff that you can eat.

And the stuff you can't eat. Remember how he yelled when you picked those berries?

Yeah! He scared me bad.

I think he was afraid you were going to eat 'em. You weren't, were ya?

Well…not after he hollered at me.

JD, he told us which ones to not eat.

Well, they was red. I remember that red was okay.

No, JD, red was danger, like stop lights. Weren't ya listening?


Was not.

Was too.

Was not.

Was too.

Gentlemen, if you do not desist, I shall turn the machine off until you can settle your differences.

Sorry, Uncle Ezra.


Please continue.

The next morning was the beginning of the trouble for the five men and two boys. With the exception of the children and Ezra Standish, they were all seasoned woodsmen, but sometimes things just don't go your way.

Buck rose quietly and began the preparations for breakfast. He was making eggs and bacon along with biscuits. He had greeted each man as the smells drew the sleepy-eyed agents from their beds. He chuckled as he heard Chris arguing with JD on what he would wear today. He glanced over at the sound of the zipper opening and smiled.

"Morning. Breakfast is about ready. Anybody hungry?"

"Yeah." JD said. He moved close to Wilmington, as he squatted near the fire, and tossed him a quick hug and a morning kiss.

Chris led the boys off to take care of morning business in the designated latrine area.

Buck removed the foil tented over the biscuits and took the hot pan off the fire. The pans with scrambled eggs and bacon set to one side, staying warm. He held the pan with a rag and moved to set them down. Everything was on his left and, without thinking, he switched the hot pan to his left hand to set the biscuits next to the rest of the meal. There was a moment's hesitation before his brain registered the pain and he tossed the pan up, falling onto his backside as he grabbed his left hand.

Nathan jumped to his feet, grabbing a cup to fill with ice and water. He took Buck's wrist and plunged the injured hand into the icy water, causing the man to hiss at the intense pain.

Buck was muttering to himself as he sat with his eyes clenched shut and his heel pounding the ground.

Chris and the boys returned to camp in time to see the big man's expression and JD ran over to stand near his foster father, tears in his eyes.

Buck pried his eyes open and, seeing the scared expression on the boy's face, he squeezed out a smile. "It's okay, Little Bit. I just burned my fingers a little, nothing bad."

"Does it hurt bad?"

"Nah, not as bad as when Peso nipped me in the as…butt."

JD relaxed some, but worry still showed on his young face. The group finally settled down to eat. JD stuck close to Buck, helping him by buttering one of the rescued biscuits.

While the dishes were cleaned and put away, Nathan tended the burned fingers. Buck insisted that he wait until the water had taken the sting out of the burn before applying the ointment. JD watched each procedure to make sure Nathan wasn't hurting his dad.

Once the camp and Buck were squared away, the discussion began on what they would do first. They finally decided that a little fishing was in order. They grabbed the gear and headed to the river that ran clear and cold less then three hundred yards from their camp. After assuring that they had the licenses, the group headed down to the river.

It was midday and Ezra and Josiah went back to the camp to make sandwiches. By the time they returned, Vin had caught the first fish. JD had a bite but he yanked the hook too soon and the fish got away. But the younger boy was jumping up and down with excitement at the little blond's catch.

He ran to meet his two 'uncles' and danced around them as they lay out the food.

"Did ya see? Vin catched a fish. It's huge." Holding out his arms to full length, JD said, "It's this big."

Both men's eyes widened in appreciation of the 'size' of the older boy's catch and they made the appropriate sounds of approval.

"Well, then, I guess we'll be having fish tonight," Josiah commented. He laughed as JD turned and ran back to edge of the river.

"I have to catch a fish for Uncle 'siah to cook tonight."

Ezra turned to the team profiler and chuckled. "I believe you just volunteered to cook, Mr. Sanchez."

Standing with his hands on his hips, the big man shook his head. "Yeah, I guess I did." Laughing, he clapped the smaller man on the shoulder. "I'll do the cooking, just as soon as you get them cleaned."

Josiah laughed at the expression of revulsion on the undercover agent's face and clapped his hands together. "Lunch, boys."

Pulling their lines from the water, the five fishermen joined the two men for sandwiches. The food was passed out and, after grabbing a bottle of water, Vin moved to sit down on a log. Chris was reaching for a bottle also, when he spotted something moving on the log. Recognizing the small insect, Chris jumped forward and placed his hand under the boy's bottom as he sat down.

Vin tried to stop, but momentum took over and he sat on Larabee's upturned palm. The boy bounced up as Larabee hissed. Chris jerked his hand back and wrapped his other hand around it. It happened so fast, everyone stood or sat unmoving for a moment. Nathan recovered first and moved to examine the injured hand. Vin stood frozen at the pained expression on his father's face.

"What happened, Chris?"

"Wasp. Vin almost sat on a wasp. I guess he got me."

"You been stung before?" Nathan nodded as Buck indicated that he would go get the medical kit.

"Yeah. Several times. I'm not allergic."


Chris looked at the stricken look on the boy's face and he smiled. "It's okay, Vin. I'd rather it was my hand, than your butt." Seeing that he wasn't convincing the boy, he nodded and looked right into the sky blue eyes. "Really, Vin, I'm fine."

Finally, the boy relaxed and, after checking the log carefully, he sat down. Chris told him to eat and he obediently took a bite of the sandwich. He chewed slowly as Nathan removed the stinger and sprayed some antiseptic on the small wound. Only when Chris had taken a plate for himself and sat next to him, did the youngster begin to truly eat.

They finished the meal and the two boys gathered the trash to take back to camp, with Ezra accompanying them. The southerner expressed a deep desire to avoid the mundane and menial task of fishing. His companions might have given him the repugnant job of cleaning their catch but he refused to be a part of the actual capture.

By mid afternoon, they had gotten more than enough fish to cook for dinner. While the fish were cleaned and filleted by Standish, along with Josiah's help, the others decided to go hiking with Nathan in the lead. They hiked up the trails that surrounded the camp.

They were starting to head back when they found a stream and the boys asked to kick off their shoes and wade. The three men joined them and the five of them ran through the water, splashing and laughing.

One by one, they got tired and plopped down on the bank to dry off and rest. JD was the last one out, along with Buck. They scrambled onto shore and collapsed next to the others. They lay there one next to another and it wasn't long before they drifted off.

Vin woke first, amid the light snores of Wilmington and Jackson. He sat patiently for a while, but grew bored and decided to check out the immediate area. He found a tree with branches down low and climbed up to look around. The view was beautiful and he settled back and got comfortable.

It was a while later that the others began to stir. Chris yawned and stretched as he sat up. He immediately noticed that Vin was no longer lying next to him and he jumped to his feet. Glancing around and seeing no sign of the boy, his heart rate increased and he called out, "Vin!"

The others were yanked from their slumbers at the call and quickly stood, looking around. A giggle had them looking up and over to the nearest tree to see Vin sitting comfortably twelve feet up.

"Vin! What are you doing up there?" Chris called out angrily.

A blush colored the boy's cheeks as he ducked his head. "I was just looking."

Chris ran his hands through his short blond hair and sighed. He wasn't angry with the boy; his fear had made him snap at the seven-year old.

"So, how's the view? Pretty spectacular, isn't it?" His voice held the apology for the harsh words.

Vin heard and accepted the silent plea. "It's grand, Dad. I could stay here forever."

Chris chuckled. "You're going to get mighty hungry if you stay up there forever."

Vin turned a lop-sided grin on his father. Noticing movement he looked down to see Nathan standing near the tree, his arms outstretched. Nodding, Vin started down the tall tree. Getting down to a lower branch, the boy's feet slipped and he hung off the limb he now clung to with only his hands. Jackson reacted in the blink of an eye and he moved under the youngster. Vin was busy trying to find a foothold and hadn't noticed the man move directly under him. He kicked out to maneuver back onto the branch and his bare foot struck Nathan full in the mouth, toes impacting the man's teeth. Both of them yelled out.

Chris ran over and grabbed the boy's feet. "Vin, let go. I've got you." He wrapped his strong arms around the legs as they descended. After taking the boy's full weight in his arms, Larabee lowered the boy to the ground, where he hopped on one foot.

Buck had JD perched on his hip as he approached a cursing Nathan. The medic had both hands pressed to his mouth as blood dripped between his fingers.

"Uncle Nathan? Are you okay?" JD asked quietly.

Hearing the concern in the boy's voice, the man turned to him and nodded. "I'll ve fin. Jus spit ma lifs."


"Nathan's fine, Little Bit. He has a split lip and it's hard for him to talk."

"I'm sorry, Uncle Nathan. I didn't know you were right under me." Vin continued to hop on one foot, which drew Nathan's attention away from his own plight.

"Wha's wong wif your foot?"

"I…I hurt my toe on your face."

The tall medic bent down and examined the boy's toes. Vin flinched when Nathan touched his little toe, not that the medic needed to look very hard. Vin's little toe was obviously pointing in the wrong direction.


Chris had been watching and he asked, "Broke?"

Nathan nodded. "Prowobe." He shook his head at the garbled words. Nathan's mouth was still bleeding and Larabee reached out to touch the man's shoulder.

"Let's go back to camp and get you cleaned up. There's nothing much you can do for the toe, beyond resetting it."

Nathan nodded as Larabee gathered the little blond onto his hip and the five started back to camp. "We're becoming the walking wounded around here."

Buck chuckled as they walked. "This keeps up, we'll need a vacation from our vacation."

Nathan tried to tell them, 'so what else is new,' but after repeating himself twice, he mumbled, "Nwhvr mi." That, they seemed to understand.

Entering camp, they were greeted with a 'Good Lord, Mr. Jackson.'

Josiah grabbed a plastic bag and filled it with some ice, which they were quickly running out of and, wrapping a towel around a plastic Wal-Mart sack, he handed it to the medic.

"Nathan, what happened? You run into a bear?"

Buck chuckled and Nathan groaned at the big man's response. "It was a bare all right, a bare foot."

"Vin kicked Uncle Nathan. But was a ax-i-dent."

The two men turned to see Chris lowering the boy onto a log and instructing him to sit, while he got him the sandals they had brought in case the boys' sneakers got wet.

Ezra sat down next to the boy, who kept his head lowered.

"Vincent? Are you injured, also?"

Tearful blue eyes looked up as the boy said woefully, "I breaked my toe." He then pointed to the digit that stood out at a right angle to the rest.

"Oh, dear. That looks extremely painful."

"Nah. It just throbs, but I can't wear any shoes, so now I can't go hiking."

"Well, I'm sure we can find some other form of entertainment." He was rewarded with a shy smile from the seven year old. "Now, tell us, what calamity befell yourself and Mr. Jackson?"

Vin frowned up at the undercover agent, who in turn laughed softly and said, "What happened to your toe?"

"Oh," Vin said. "Well, I climbed a tree, to see the mountain, but I slipped coming back down and when I kicked to get back on the limb, I hit Uncle Nathan's mouth. Then Dad catched me. That's all."

Ezra looked very serious, his lips pursed as he listened intently to the story. Seeing the sad look on the boy's face, he quickly replied, "Well, I have always entertained the notion that our Mr. Jackson was a bit…" He paused and leaned down close to the boy's ear as he continued. "…shall we say hardheaded. But I had no idea that he possesses an iron jaw as well."

His voice rose as he spoke and everyone laughed at the tall medic's expense. Nathan didn't mind though when he saw the upset orphan roll his eyes and swat at the southerner.

"Oh, Uncle Ezra, he don't have a iron jaw."

Chris was coming back after digging the sandals out of the boy's backpack of clothes. He heard the end of Ezra's statement. But the laughter turned into a choke as Vin continued.

"Uncle Nathan is only hardheaded 'cause he cares 'bout us. But mostly he's hardheaded with you 'cause you're so pigheaded."

Buck's eyebrows rose at the comment made so innocently. Josiah merely froze, waiting for Standish's response. Nathan, on the other hand, didn't care if his lip DID start bleeding again. He bent over roaring out a belly laugh, blood dripping from the small cut on his lip. JD merely looked from man to man, totally confused.

Chris coughed to clear his throat as he squatted down in front of Vin. His eyes cut up to Standish just as JD wiggled out of Buck's arms and ran over to Ezra, placing his small hands on the man's knees.

"Uncle Ezra, you don't look nothing like a pig."

The man smiled down at the boy, taking the small face between his palms. "Thank you, Mr. Dunne. I do, very much, appreciate that resounding appraisal."

"You don't look like none of them things Chris and Buck say when they're mad at…"

The rest was cut off as Wilmington scooped the boy up and tossed him over his shoulder.

"Now, Ez, you know full well, that anything we say about you is said with the utmost respect and is…"Buck stammered.

Hearing the faltering voice, Ezra finished, "…meant only as a crude way of expressing your concern for my, sometimes, total disregard for my own personal safety and well-being. Correct, Mr. Wilmington?"

Buck's jaw snapped closed and he thrust out his injured hand, pointing at the southerner. "That's absolutely right. Ain't it, Chris?" Seeing the team leader look up, the mustached man nodded and then turned on his heel and walked away, breathing a sigh of relief to be out of the hot seat.

Chris glared at Wilmington's back and then turned to Ezra, whose green eyes stared at him. Larabee felt like a bug pinned to a mat for a moment. Then he shook his head.

"Hell, Ezra, you are pig headed, ornery, obstinate. But you're also the best there is at what you do and I won't settle for less than the best. Right, Vin?"

The boy knew he had said something wrong, but wasn't sure what it was. But Chris didn't seem mad and Uncle Ezra was smiling now, so he nodded, "Yeah, only the best."

Ezra stood and smoothed the front of his khaki shorts, removing any wrinkle that had dared deface them. "In that case, perhaps we should prepare the meal now. I have been assured that it is the best grilled fish in the state. Mr. Sanchez, how may I assist?"

The two men set about preparing the meal. Nathan popped Vin's toe back around, but there was really nothing he could do, it would have to heal on its own. The boys stretched out on a blanket, surrounded by GI Joe's and cowboys and Indians. They began a battle between the cowboys and GI Joe's with the Indians helping both sides. Before the meal preparation was finished, the sounds of war had died down to gentle snores as the day's activity took its toll on the energy levels of the two boys.

Reluctantly, Chris awakened the boys. As he suspected, both were grumpy with fatigue, but it didn't take long for them to come around and join the five men for the fish fry. They spent half of the meal trying to figure out which filet was the fish they had caught.

Midway through the meal, JD's eyes widened and he slowly pointed to the area behind where Chris and Ezra were sitting. Chris froze when Wilmington took the five-year old's arm and 'shh'ed' him. Vin's eyes took on the same appearance as JD's. Josiah and Nathan just sat, quietly eating. Chris turned slightly until he caught sight of the small animal lumbering around five feet behind the log he shared with Standish. The black fur was broken by a double white stripe down the middle of it's back. He turned back and began to eat again.

"I don't want to know, do I?"

"No. Just finish your fish and don't make any sudden moves." Chris instructed.

"Oh, lord" the undercover agent murmured.

Not finding anything to forage, the small mammal moved away and out of camp. The fish totally forgotten, JD and Vin watched every move the skunk made. They actually looked disappointed when it disappeared back into the woods.

After the meal was finished, Chris and Nathan cleaned up while Buck, Josiah, and Ezra watched the boys chase fireflies. Truthfully, Ezra sat watching the edge of the woods as much as he did the boys.

"He won't be back, brother. We left nothing down to entice him."

"And for that, I am eternally grateful, but you will forgive me if I continue to monitor the area."

Buck and Josiah laughed lightly at the southerner's discomfort. He was a chameleon in the city, but was obviously not a woodsman. A few minutes later, the other two men joined them and the conversation turned to the case they had just finished. A trial date had not been set yet and Chris was questioning Ezra about a conversation he had with the gun smuggler just prior to the bust. The conversation stopped when the two boys came running up, squealing. Well, JD was running, to Vin's skip/jump motion.

"Vin, what've ya got?"

The boy was holding his hands cupped together, grinning as he held them up to his father, JD was bouncing up and down with excitement and Larabee could only wonder what they had found. All he knew was that they weren't taking it home. They had were more than enough animals to care for as it was.

As the boys just laughed, the other men leaned forward to get a look at the prize hidden in the small hands.

"Vin," Chris asked again. "what is it?"

The man leaned forward, his arms resting on his knees. Vin suddenly threw his hands toward the man as if tossing something, causing Larabee to jerk back on reflex, not knowing what to expect.

"Nothin!" the boy yelled, then, quick as he could with a broken toe, he turned to run off. JD was still leaping around, yelling, "Got cha. Made ya jump, Dad" he squealed in delight at the prank's success.

Recovering quickly, the man jumped up and scooped the seven-year old up and tossed him over his shoulder and whirled around.

Buck had reached over and gathered JD into his arms and they slapped at each other's hands, bringing laughter to the three other men around the campfire. JD finally collapsed into Wilmington's arms, out of breath, but still giggling. Chris staggered over; a dizzy kid draped across his arms, and plopped onto the log where he had been sitting.

They finished up the evening pointing out constellations and telling stories of where the names for each came from. It wasn't long before the boys were once again snoring. The men made an early evening of it and the camp soon fell into silence.

Around two in the morning, a clap of thunder in the distance pulled Chris from his sleep. As he lay listening, he felt a warm presence that had not been there when he went to sleep and he glanced over to see Vin snuggled up next to him. Blue eyes peered at him.

The boy's voice was whisper-soft as he confessed, "I got scared."

Chris just smiled and wrapped his arm around the slender shoulders. Vin put his head down and went back to sleep. Looking to the other side of the tent, he saw Buck was splayed out on his back with JD lying across his broad chest. The man doubted that Buck had awakened when the boy had climbed onto him, but Chris smiled at the arm his friend had draped across the boy's thighs to keep him from slipping off. Blinking slowly, he drifted back to sleep.

A couple of hours later, though, only the boys were sleeping as the storm had moved in with a deep rumble of thunder, a lightening strike that turned night to day, and a torrential downpour. Chris sat straight up at the sudden noise. Glancing around, he saw Buck had done the same thing.

Now he was fumbling to catch the small body that had been sleeping on his chest. When he had sat up suddenly, the boy was propelled forward, only the arm across his short legs kept him from being thrown to the ground. JD stared wide-eyed at the man holding him.

"Dang, son. I'm sorry. Are you okay?" Though the boy was trembling, he nodded and smiled.

"Scared me."

Buck returned the smile as he pulled the boy in close and rubbed his hand up and down the small back. "Yeah, scared me, too, Little Bit."

Vin had sat up, clutching at the ATF team leader's arm in sleepy confusion. He rubbed at his eyes with his free hand as the man reached over and smoothed back the wavy blond hair.

"What happened?"

Chris patted the slender shoulder as he said, "Thunder. Weather's rolled in."

"Are we okay in here?"

"Of course. Why don't you lay back down? It's still early." Another clap of thunder had the boy leaning against the side of his father, clutching his waist.

JD looked around as the rain bounced off the tent, his eyes wide at the storm brewing outside. Wilmington crawled forward and pushed open the flap just enough to peer out. For several minutes, they watched the lightening flash and the rain form puddles on the ground. Soon the little boy was yawning and Buck closed the flap and started back to the sleeping bags. He had JD at his shoulder and failed to notice the sleepy little boy reach up to stretch, his fingertips sliding across the canvas material.

"JD, no." Chris called out harshly.

The call had JD jerking in Buck's arms and the man looking around a frown on his face. Wilmington looked at Larabee to see what the problem was and his eyes moved from the man to the spot his green eyes were watching. Buck groaned as he watched the water begin to seep through the canvas, the waterproofing compromised by the oily little finger streaks.

"JD, you can't touch the tent," Buck reminded the dark haired child. Seeing the beginning of tears, the man cuddled the boy to his chest. "It's okay, Little Bit. I should 'a reminded you." His eyes continued to watch the dripping as he talked.

"Buck, move over and I'll get your sleeping bag moved."

Scooting over, Buck continued to pat the boy's back and the boy was soon slumping over in sleep.

Quietly, noting that JD was asleep, Chris said, "We're going to have to crowd in together. Sorry about yelling at him."

"My fault. I should have been watching what he was doing. Didn't even think about him being that close to the roof."

"Well, let's get some sleep."



In The Good Ol' Summertime (Index)