By Joy K
Hurry up, JD.
I thought Uncle Ezra was going to teach the computer how to spell it when you sigh, Vin.
We got to finish the book.
Oh yeah. Does it hurt?
You're rubbing your arm.
Yeah, I guess it's a little sore.
Wasn't your fault. We need to finish the story before Uncle Ezra comes in.
Okay. We went to the baseball game
"Buck?" JD paused for a breath as he walked through the stadium clinging to his Da's hand. "Why'd they call it Coors Field? Why are there so many cars? How come we hadta park so far away? When do the baseball players come out? When do we see the Giants? Why do they call 'em Rockies? Are they like the mountains? Can I have a hotdog? How come Vin's being so quiet?"
"JD?" Buck tugged on the hand, stopping both the forward progress and the questions. He scooped up the dark haired child. "Breathe, Little Bit. Breathe," he teased.
"I am breathing!" JD protested as Buck tickled him. "Look Vin! There's Dinger!"
Vin, clinging to Chris' hand, turned his head in time to see the Colorado Rockies' Mascot, Dinger the Dinosaur as he played with some children.
Vin didn't say anything, but Chris felt a slight tug on his hand in the direction of the Dinosaur.
Chris smiled. The seven year old might pretend he was getting "too old" for playing with the mascot, but his subconscious tug indicated otherwise.
"Do you want to go have your picture taken with Dinger?" Chris asked.
"Yeah!" JD shouted.
Vin simply nodded and smiled shyly.
Ten minutes later the foursome were headed for their seats with a receipt to pick up their picture after the fourth inning.
Even though the boys had never been to a baseball game, they seemed to pick up on things quickly, clapping and cheering at the appropriate times, screaming at the top of their lungs when the scoreboard flashed the word "louder!" They joined right in with the chants of the crowd.
They laughed at the between inning antics of Dinger the dinosaur riding his ATV around the warning track of the field, doing hand stands and stunts on the slow moving vehicle. After the second inning, they chose a car and cheered for the digitized 'car races' on the big screen.
When the peppy music blared over the speakers Vin and JD spontaneously danced to the beat. It was one of the dancing moments that the camera in the family section caught and flashed up on the big screen. Both boys waved excitedly at the camera seeing themselves on the screen.
"Wow, that was cool!" said Vin. "Did you see, Chris? Me and JD were on the TV!"
"Yes, I saw," chuckled Chris.
"Hey Buck," said JD.
"Yes, Little Bit?" Buck replied.
"Did ya see me? Did ya? Huh?"
Buck pulled JD onto his lap, since he had practically climbed there already. "I sure did."
"Do you think Unca 'Siah saw me? Or Unca Nathan? Unca Ezra don't watch baseball or he coulda seed us too."
"Well Little Bit, I think this TV is just for in the stadium. I don't think it shows at home."
"Aww," JD moaned. "They missed it."
JD squirmed around so he was practically hanging upside down.
"When are the giants going to come out?"
Buck frowned. "What?"
"The giants," JD insisted.
"They're up to bat right now, Little Bit." Buck replied.
"Huh-uh," said JD. "They ain't big enough to be giants."
Buck rolled his eyes at the misunderstanding.
"You asked," teased Chris.
"Go Barry!" Vin yelled. "You can do it!"
"Vin, what are you doing?" Chris asked as the crowd around them murmured in disapproval.
"I'm cheering for Barry Bonds," Vin explained.
"I heard that," confirmed Chris. "But why? He's on the other team. He's a Giant, not a Rockie."
There were murmurs of agreement from the fans around the family.
"I know," said Vin. "But the news man on TV said his dad died. I didn't want him to be sad."
Vin turned back to the game. "Go Barry!"
Chris couldn't say anything. He smiled, put his arm around Vin's shoulder and gave him a squeeze.
A man behind him leaned forward and said softly, "Great kid."
Chris nodded in agreement.
Vin needed to use the bathroom, so he went with Chris to pick up the photograph after the fourth inning. A lot of people were moving around the stadium between the innings and their trip took longer than they expected. They stopped to buy hotdogs and softdrinks for the family. Vin proudly used his own money to buy Chris' hotdog as he had promised on Chris' birthday. Chris carried three drinks and three hotdogs in a carrier, letting Vin carry his own.
As they returned to their seats a big man stepped into the aisle right when they were going by, knocking Vin down and spilling his soft drink.
Vin hit the concrete steps hard, catching himself on his knees and his right hand, his left hand clutching frantically to his hotdog.
At Chris' glare, the man apologized and moved out of the way so Chris could help Vin up. Chris handed the hotdogs and drink carrier to Buck.
"You all right, Cowboy?" he asked as he brushed off Vin's knees.
Vin nodded, but Chris could see he was fighting tears.
"You sure?" asked Chris.
"I spilled my root beer."
"Here kid," said the man who had knocked him down. "I'll buy you another." He offered a five dollar bill.
Vin looked at Chris for a response.
"Root beer," said Chris, not accepting the money.
The man nodded and waved a drink vendor over to the family and paid for a replacement for Vin's spilled drink.
Vin sat down in his seat. He reached for the drink with his right hand as Chris passed it to him.
Vin quickly dropped his hotdog in his lap from his left hand and grabbed the drink with both hands, afraid that he would spill it because his arm hurt. He carefully took the drink and set the cup on the floor between his feet. Then he sat back and ate his hotdog left handed.
"Does your hand hurt?" Chris asked, knowing that Vin wasn't likely to volunteer that he was hurt.
"A little," said Vin around a mouthful of hotdog.
"Well, when you finish your hotdog " said Chris.
Vin looked up at him a little guilty for talking with his mouth full. He took another bite.
"Then try holding your cup against the sore spot. The ice will help."
Vin nodded and swallowed. He followed Chris' instructions, icing his wrist until the ice melted, and then he was caught up in the game and his hand didn't seem to bother him anymore.
Chris was grateful that the game didn't go into extra innings. It was late anyway. He and Buck had words earlier about his choice of games for which he had purchased the tickets. School had started and it wasn't good for the boys to be out late. But the tickets had already been purchased and the boys had already been promised the game.
In Buck's defense, the private school the boys attended operated on a different schedule than the public schools and he hadn't known school would be in session. He helped Chris hurry them home as quickly as he could, but it was still almost eleven when the boys climbed into bed.
With a last reminder that they had school in the morning, a thank you for the birthday ball game, and kisses good night, Chris and Buck tucked the boys in.
I didn't feel good the first day of school.
I know, JD. I almost got in trouble because you didn't.
??? Because I wasn't really sick but I said I was because I didn't want to go to school, but then I really felt sick because my tummy hurt because I was lying and so then I really was sick, but then you didn't feel good because I didn't feel good so Chris talked to me about how I'm supposed to be the sample for you.
Wow, Vin. You talked a whole bunch. I liked school though. Didn't you? I thought Mr. Beidler was cool and it was fun being in the same room as you all all all all day even though we didn't play together all the time.
Yeah, it was okay. Mrs. Rouquette really liked my essays. She's really nice and she doesn't make me feel like I don't know nothing.
I like her too. She showed me how to wash the tables yesterday. An I like it when I get to make my own snack, because I get hungry when it's not snack time.
Yeah, I like that part too. Nobody gets mad if you spill something either. They just show you how to clean it up.
School is fun.
I guess so. At least it was until Jerry tripped me.
It scared me when you screamed.
Well it hurt. It hurt a lot!
I cried when they take-did you to the doctor and wouldn't let me come too.
I know. That's how come Buck had to go to the school and get you.
Your cast thing is really cool. I wanted one too. But mine didn't work like yours.
I know. But I could have told you that it's not made of tape if you just asked me...
Chris tried to remember to breathe as he drove towards the hospital. He was glad that he had been able to pull himself from the budget meeting when the school called. Sure, Buck could have gone to the hospital with Vin if necessary, but it was better for both Vin and Chris that he could be with the boy.
He tried not to imagine Vin in pain, crying, scared and alone - but that was the only picture his mind was letting him see. He pressed the gas pedal a little harder as he hurried towards the emergency room as fast as the law allowed.
Okay. So he was a few miles per hour over the speed limit.
The head teacher had told him on the phone that the injury was perplexing. She had seen the incident and the fall had been minor. The other child hadn't pushed him and he had not landed awkwardly. It was simply the force of the seemingly "normal" fall that had caused what they had assumed was a fracture to his arm.
The same arm he had fallen on at the baseball game.
Chris grimaced, hoping that Vin's arm hadn't been broken all this time and that he had hidden it from them after his fall last night. That would be like the child, not saying anything so he wouldn't "spoil" Chris' birthday gift, or worse, not saying anything because he was afraid it would cost too much or be too much bother.
Chris sighed as he pulled into a parking spot. He hoped he was wrong, but somehow looking back at the little things, he was more certain that Vin had indeed been more seriously injured than they thought last night. He had complained that he was "too tired" to put on his pajamas or brush his teeth. Maybe what he wasn't saying was he was too sore. This morning he had been very slow getting dressed, but refused help. He hadn't wanted his cereal either, which would mean using his right hand with his spoon. Instead he opted for toast, which Buck had already lathered with butter and jam. And he had eaten it left-handed.
Chris swore as he walked through the emergency entrance. Vin had been in pain all this time and not said a word until the fall forced him to admit it.
"Vin Tanner?" Chris asked at the desk.
"Are you the parent?" asked the nurse.
Chris nodded impatiently.
"Exam room two." She pointed to the hall.
"Thank you." Chris turned and walked quickly towards the room.
He pushed open the door.
"Dad!" Vin cried desperately and reached out for Chris with his left arm. The nurse was carefully supporting his right arm.
Even if it wasn't proper hospital protocol, nothing would have stopped Chris Larabee from wrapping his arms around his son.
And the hug was all Vin needed as permission to let go with huge sobs of pain, fear and relief. Chris soothed him with comforting words and continuous strokes on the back of his head.
It took a few minutes, but eventually the tears subsided and all that remained was the occasional deep hiccupping breath as Vin tried to regain his composure.
"My arm got broke," said Vin as he pulled away from the hug and looked at Chris uncertainly.
The insecurity of Vin's statement was obvious. He didn't say, "I broke my arm". He said, "My arm got broke." Did he think he was in trouble for breaking his arm? Was he trying to avoid responsibility by saying "it got broke" instead of "I broke it"? How could Vin think he would blame him for an accident?
"So I heard," said Chris gently, keeping all traces of anger or frustration from his voice. Vin didn't need to be worried that he'd done something wrong as well as being afraid and in pain.
"Doc Terry is looking at pictures of the insides of my arm so he can fix it."
"X-rays?" Chris confirmed.
"They took pictures with that machine right there so I didn't have to go to the room way down the hall and then maybe you couldn't find me." The last few words were barely audible, revealing Vin's insecurity.
"I'll always find you," Chris reassured.
That must have been an interesting conversation. He could picture Vin telling the doctor he couldn't leave the room or Chris couldn't find him. Apparently the doctor was sharp enough with kids to recognize the fear and work with Vin.
"Well, how are you doing, Vin?" asked the doctor as he entered the small room, followed by a second doctor.
"This is my dad," said Vin.
The doctor nodded his acknowledgement to Chris. "Mr. Larabee."
Chris was slightly impressed by the fact that the doctor had read Vin's record enough to know that his name was Larabee and not make the assumption that his name was Tanner as well.
"Do you want to see your pictures, Vin?" he asked.
Chris was also impressed that the Doctor related directly to his little patient, and not just the parent.
At Vin's nod, the doctor clipped the x-rays to the viewer. "This is Doctor Steve. He's an orthopedic doctor, which means he works with broken bones. He's going to explain these pictures to you and your dad, and then he's going to fix your arm, okay?"
"Okay," said Vin.
"I'm going to go help someone else now, Vin. You be good. And make sure Doctor Steve lets you pick out a toy from the box."
"Bye Doc Terry," said Vin, "Thank you."
Doctor Steve showed Vin and Chris the fracture just above Vin's right wrist. It was a simple fracture and with the proper care it would heal without any permanent effects. Vin would be in a cast for four to six weeks, depending on how fast it healed.
Chris carried Vin as they followed Doctor Steve to the casting room. The nurse retrieved the materials needed in the colors Vin had requested while the doctor helped Chris situate Vin on the table.
Vin winced as Doctor Steve straightened his injured wrist and began the casting procedure.
"Is that pain medication wearing off?" the doctor asked.
"Yeah. It was a long time ago, but it's okay. I don't need another shot."
Chris shook his head slightly at Vin's abnormal verbosity and his aversion to needles. Either the pain medication or adrenaline - maybe both - made the little blond more talkative than usual.
"How about a pill?" asked Doctor Steve.
"I guess that would be okay," said Vin, watching the fabric of the cast as it was wound around his arm.
"Jennifer," Steve said to the nurse, "Let's take care of that." He went on to prescribe the standard dose of a pain reliever for a child of Vin's size.
Vin gripped Chris' hand a little tighter as his discomfort grew.
"You okay, Cowboy?" he asked, squeezing in return.
Vin nodded. "It's kinda achy all over but it's more achy than it was."
Jennifer brought a pill and a cup of water. "This will help take the edge off, Honey."
Chris took the pill and put it in Vin's mouth, and held the cup of water for him so he could drink it.
"Just a little longer, Vin," said Doctor Steve. "Almost finished here, and then we'll take one more picture to make sure everything's lined up right, and then you can go."
"I get a toy," said Vin boldly.
Steve laughed. "Yes, you do."
He put the finishing touches on the fiberglass cast. "There. How's that look?"
Vin looked up at Chris for his opinion. "I got purple cuz it's the Rockies' color. I could'a got orange for the Broncos, but I liked purple better and since we were at the Rockies' game "
Chris' heart sank at the thought that Vin had suffered for more than 18 hours with a fractured arm. "Why didn't you tell me it hurt?" he chided softly.
"It didn't hurt bad, Dad," he explained. "It was just sore. It didn't hurt bad until Jerry tripped me at school and I fell on it."
Vin looked around the room as if he had forgotten something. "They made JD stay at school. He was scared an' he was crying an "
"It's okay, Vin," soothed Chris. "Don't worry about JD. Buck went to school to get him. In fact, I would be surprised if they aren't sitting in the waiting room right now, waiting for us."
"Let's get that picture now, Vin," said Doctor Steve. "We're going to go to the x-ray room."
"Chris too!" Vin demanded.
Doctor Steve smiled. Doc Terry had filled him in on Vin's fear that his dad wouldn't be able to find him if they moved him somewhere else.
"Yes, your dad too. And I tell you what - how about I print out a picture of your arm so you can show all your friends?"
Chris lifted Vin off the table and followed Doctor Steve.
"That will be great, huh?" asked Vin. "Then I can show JD and Buck and Uncle Ezra and Uncle Nathan and Uncle Josiah and "
Chris grabbed Vin's collar and looked inside.
"What are you doin'?" asked Vin curiously.
"Looking for JD," Chris teased at the babbling.
"Aw, Dad!" Vin complained with a smile. He rested his chin on Chris' shoulder and enjoyed the rest of the ride to the lab.
"Okay, all finished, Vin. Why don't you pick out a toy, while I get the pictures. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Vin nodded as Chris came back in and the nurse helped put his arm into a sling.
Chris knew that wouldn't last long. Vin didn't like anything confining, and the sling would be seen as something trapping him from moving.
"Cool!" said Vin, admiring the dark blue sling that coordinated with his purple cast. "It's the Rockies' color too."
Chris just stared. Vin was full of surprises today. He believed Vin was telling the truth when he said his arm didn't hurt that bad after the fall at the Rockies' game. He wasn't trying to hide it because he was afraid of spoiling the fun, or afraid he'd be in trouble. He wasn't hiding it at all - because it really wasn't too bad at that point.
He had been more open with his emotions than Chris could remember. Vin had openly cried and clung to him even with an audience to witness it. Vin had openly told the doctor he was hurting and seemed totally at ease with the medical staff, with the exception of the potential shot.
He had apparently 'forgotten' his vow to watch over JD and hadn't even mentioned him until the appointment was almost over - a sure sign that he was trusting others to help him with that care of his little 'brother.'
Vin was a kid. A normal kid with very normal kid reactions.
"What are you grinnin' at?" asked Vin.
"You," Chris said with a chuckle.
"But it's not funny," said Vin.
"No, breaking your arm is not funny," Chris agreed. "Did you know I did the same thing when I was a kid?"
"Yup. Only I didn't get a fancy purple cast. Mine was plain white plaster and heavy."
Chris examined Vin's cast with appropriate "appreciation" of the injury.
"How'd ya break yours?" queried Vin.
"Well," Chris sighed, "You know how I tell you boys never to jump out of the hayloft?"
Vin's eyes grew larger in surprise. "You didn't!"
"I did. I thought I was superman. I'd never get hurt." Chris shook his head. "Nope, not me. I'd make sure that I landed on the hay."
Vin nodded. That's what he would do. In fact, that's what he had done several times, but he couldn't tell Chris that now.
"How'd it break if you landed on the hay?" asked Vin.
"Well, I landed on the hay, but I didn't count on the hay shifting and hitting my arm on the wall of the stall."
"Ouch!" said Vin sympathetically.
"Yeah, ouch," agreed Chris. "So now you know why I always tell you boys not to do it. I don't want you to get hurt."
"A broken arm hurts," said Vin a little guiltily. He'd have to rethink jumping off the hayloft when his arm was better.
Chris nodded in agreement.
"Okay, Vin," said Doctor Steve, "Everything looks fine. You need to come back and see me in ten days and we'll see how you're doing, Okay?"
"Here's your picture." He handed Vin a digital print of his x-ray.
Vin examined the picture and then showed it to Chris. "Thanks, Doctor Steve. This is great."
"You're welcome, Vin. Did you get your toy?"
Vin shook his head.
Steve grabbed the small box of toys decorated in kids' gift wrap. He held it for Vin to look through.
"Just like last week," said Vin.
"Last week?" questioned the doctor.
"Last week he had all of his shots for school," Chris filled in quickly. "The boys got to pick a toy at the doctor's office."
"Can I get one for JD?" Vin asked.
There was the Vin Chris knew. The one that looked out for his little brother maybe a little too much.
"Sure," said Doctor Steve.
The doctor gave Chris instructions for Vin's care while Vin rummaged through the box of toys. With great care Vin chose a book about trucks and a toy digger like the big diggers that had been working on their road all summer.
"Thank you," said Vin.
Doctor Steve winked at him. "I'll see you in about ten days."
Chris lifted Vin off the exam table and stood him on the floor. "Let's go, Cowboy."
Vin's hand slipped automatically into Chris' as they left the room.
Band-aids were a major status symbol to little kids. Casts were even better. JD was enthralled with Vin's sling and cast and decided he needed one too. Buck told him he couldn't break his arm just to get a cast.
By the time they reached the truck in the parking lot, Vin was beginning to droop. With the excitement over, the adrenaline waning, and the pain-killer taking effect, the little boy was fighting to keep his eyes open.
Chris helped him into his booster seat without even the slightest protest from the boy that he was old enough to do it himself. He adjusted the sling slightly so that it wouldn't pinch Vin's neck.
With a sigh, Vin leaned his head back on the seat. He was asleep before Chris climbed in the truck.
Buck and JD followed in Buck's truck. When they arrived home Buck and JD opened the doors and cleared the way for Chris to carry Vin into the house. Chris decided to put Vin on the couch in the den rather than his bed, which was the upper bunk bed.
JD was abnormally quiet, carefully watching all the comings and goings. He watched as Chris tenderly propped Vin's injured arm on a pillow after removing the sling to make him comfortable. Vin mumbled, but didn't wake.
JD ran down the hall to the bedroom and came back carrying Cat, Vin's stuffed animal that meant so much. It was the first gift he had been given in a very long time and had become a symbol of his connection with Chris, a symbol of his security.
JD held out Cat to Chris. Chris smiled and winked at JD.
"Good idea," he said softly. "Go ahead. You give it to him. Just be really careful."
JD beamed at Chris' praise. He tucked Cat under Vin's good arm and petted the toy on the head. "Make Vin feel better," he instructed the toy.
JD took a few steps back from the couch and then sat down on the floor, sitting cross-legged, watching Vin.
Chris grinned. Apparently JD was willing to wait until his friend woke up.
"JD, why don't we go have lunch?" he suggested. "Vin's going to sleep most of the afternoon."
"Oh," said JD dejectedly. It wasn't much fun to miss half the day of school if he couldn't play with Vin. He looked up at Chris.
"Is Vin okay?"
Chris reached down to pick up JD and JD clambered into his arms. Chris hugged him tightly. "Vin will be just fine. He's going to be tired and sore today, maybe tomorrow too, but he will be fine."
Buck came into the den from the hallway. He smiled at Chris and JD.
"I got a hold of Gloria. She can be here in about an hour," Buck said. "How about some lunch?"
Chris nodded and handed JD over as the moppet reached for Buck. "You get started. I'll check in with Josiah."
Chris hated going back to the office, but it was necessary. Vin would sleep most of the day anyway, but he still wanted to be there if Vin needed him. Too bad he wasn't independently wealthy and could do whatever he wanted. He tucked the blanket around Vin and then joined Buck and JD in the kitchen.
The rest of the afternoon, Vin slept and JD played impatiently. He wanted Vin to play and it was boring, boring, boring playing by himself.
Buck had even told him after his fourth phone call that he shouldn't call him at work anymore today unless something was wrong.
JD sighed. This was boring. He turned up the cartoons a little louder on the television, secretly hoping that maybe Vin would wake up.
Vin was lying quietly, but his hand was petting cat's soft fuzz.
"You 'wake, Vin?" JD asked.
Vin blinked sluggishly, then nodded.
"You wanna play with me?"
Vin shook his head. His arm was throbbing and his tummy was upset. "Chris?" he mumbled.
"They had to go back to work. Mrs. Potter's here," informed JD.
"Oh." Vin was disappointed. He wanted Chris to hug him and tell him it was all right. He squeezed cat a little closer.
"I bet you could call him on the phone, if you want!" said JD.
"JD, did you wake Vin?" scolded Mrs. Potter. "You know that Buck said for you not to call back today."
"I know, but Vin wants Chris," JD rationalized. "He needs him."
Gloria rolled her eyes knowing exactly who needed whom. She made her way over to the couch and sat on the edge checking Vin's temperature with her hand on his forehead.
"How are you feeling, Sweetie? Do you want something to eat?"
"My stomach feels kinda icky," said Vin wearily.
"Probably because of the medicine and because you haven't eaten since breakfast," Mrs. Potter soothed. "How about some toast?"
"How's your arm feeling?" she asked.
Vin frowned. He didn't like admitting it, but he finally said, "It hurts."
Gloria gently brushed stray hairs off his cheek. "Well, once you get some toast down, we'll give you some more medicine."
"Can I call Chris?" Vin asked in a voice that was suspiciously close to a whine.
Gloria couldn't blame him. He was tired and not feeling well and all he wanted was his dad.
"Sure," she said softly. "JD, please go get the phone for Vin."
" 'Kay, Mrs. Potter!" JD ran to the kitchen to grab the cordless phone. Mrs. Potter followed at a slower pace.
"Here ya go, Vin. I can dial it for you," JD offered.
"I can do it," Vin grumped as he took the phone.
He laid the phone on his tummy, pushed the on button, then pushed speed dial and one. He picked up the phone and waited.
"Hello?" Chris asked when no one spoke.
"Hi," said Vin softly.
"Hey Cowboy. How are you doing?"
At the other end of the phone Chris smiled. He knew what that meant. Someone needed him to come home.
"I've got one more thing to finish up here, and we'll be on our way home." Chris listened for a moment, waiting for some kind of response from Vin. "How about if we stop and pick up pizza?"
"Noooo," groaned Vin.
"Stomach's not doing so good, huh?" asked Chris.
"Gonna eat some toast," Vin replied. Toast sounded do-able, but pizza - well his stomach was rebelling at that thought.
"We could do macaroni and cheese," Chris suggested.
"Yeah," said Vin. "When are ya comin' home?"
"Should be about an hour Cowboy, if the traffic's not bad."
"Do you need me to bring home anything else?" asked Chris.
"Popsicles?" asked Vin hopefully.
"Grape or orange?"
"Cherry!" yelled JD, making sure his order was in as well.
"JD wants cherry," reported Vin.
Chris chuckled. "So I heard. You hang in their Cowboy. We'll be home soon."
" 'Kay. Bye Chris."