"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Follows Promises to Keep and Miles to Go.

Comments: Raven

JD was asleep.

Buck's arm was going to ache with pins and needles when they moved him to bed, but he really wasn't bothered. He pushed with one foot and the chair rocked slowly as he hummed under his breath. JD was a warm, heavy weight on his lap, his head slumped against his chest, his legs, one thinner than the other where the cast had been, splayed out. One dangled off the arm of the chair, the other crooked around Buck's knee.

"You coming in?" Chris asked softly.

"In a minute."

He shifted JD in his arms, lifting him higher ready to carry him inside.

"I'll take him," Chris offered, and Buck shook his head.

"We'll be fine."

"I know, I just." Chris stopped and turned. "I'll be inside."


"Later, Buck."

The door clicked behind him, and Buck sighed heavily. Maybe he was being overprotective. Ezra still wasn't speaking to him after the incident with the cookies, and even he had to admit he was driving JD crazy with his hovering. Right now was the first time all day that he'd felt completely content and happy. JD was where he could see and touch and smell him. Safe. He hugged the boy closer, closing his eyes.

It had been so close.

When he'd heard the two shots he'd been terrified that Charles had had time to take his shot. The gun was aimed directly at him, and when he heard a shot he knew he was hit. In the long endless moment that stretched out as Charles convulsed, and vomited blood, and finally fell towards him he had realised that he was uninjured.

He swallowed hard. He'd seen Ezra behind Charles. Saw the gun in his hand pointing dead at Charles even as horror had gripped him. If he wasn't injured, where had the second bullet gone?

He had slumped to the floor, to JD as though his strings had been cut. He hadn't been able to speak, just stroke the still dark head over and over until it turned and whispered, "Da?"

It had taken a split second for the world to set itself to rights and time to restart.

JD was alive. Nothing else had mattered.

Even when the doctors had feared Chris was in a coma he'd known that he'd come back. His family was going to survive. JD was alive. He would accept nothing less of the universe.

Chris had emerged from the coma state in less than two days. Ezra's shoulder had been messy but entirely repairable. And Josiah had been saved from a knife and a gun by the armored vest that he had put on before going out to protect his family in a stand that none of them had thought they could survive.

Sure, the kids were still having a hard time of it. JD's nightmares were less now, but he was still afraid of small spaces, though strangely the dark didn't bother him in the least. And the flinching wariness when people approached him unexpectedly was fading. A little. Vin's nightmares had turned into sleepwalking, sometimes into JD's bed; sometimes Chris's. Occasionally even Buck's own, usually if he had taken JD into it because of the little one's own night terrors. Vin would find his way into Buck's room, and he had woken more than once to discover JD half buried under himself and Vin, sleeping as peacefully as though small spaces had never troubled him. At first he'd worried that they might accidentally smother him, but sharp elbows and knees had disabused him of that rapidly.

They had split the bunk beds, giving each boy a single to himself, and JD's nightmares abated, no longer trapped in the boxlike structure of the lower bunk. They'd taken them both to Dr. Lowery, who had made extra time for them, helping both with the forensic interview that had taken hours and hours, and with the later, gentler therapeutic ones. And he had gone to his own sessions, trying to exorcise the anger and pain, the grief and guilt before they spilled over and harmed the very person he was trying to protect.

JD had had the cast removed two days ago. He'd taken it easy yesterday, his steps still a little uncertain. Today though, today he had run around like a mad thing, twirling in circles for the sheer joy of it until he fell, dizzy and giddy and laughing. He'd ridden Milagro on his own, jumping little low fences until they'd all gotten fed up of JD pleading and let him jump the corral. He'd run and run and not once, not *once* had anyone said 'JD, slow down!', or 'Walk, JD!'.

They'd just laughed, as giddy as the wildly happy little boy, until he simply stopped, crawled into his father's lap and fell asleep.

It wouldn't hurt to let Chris carry him in. It wouldn't even hurt to wake the kid and make him stumble back into the house, yawning and sleepy-eyed.

He stood abruptly, JD wrapped up in his arms. He could carry his weight a little longer. But he should get him indoors. The sun had set, and he'd be getting cold in the September evening. Besides. He smiled at the sound of Vin protesting something loudly, and Chris laughing. They were home. He walked smoothly towards the door, opening it with an elbow, and grinning as bright yellow light flooded out over him. He squinted and saw Vin flick a soaking washcloth at Chris, then dodge madly around the kitchen table as Chris chased him, the cloth held high in one hand. He laughed and JD stirred.

"Da," he mumbled and snuggled closer.

"My boy," he whispered back. "Always gonna be my boy."

He pushed the door closed behind them.

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