Always Be Mine

By Joy

Vin sat alone in his room with his treasure box on his desk. He smiled as he looked at his purple cast with all his family's signatures on it. It seemed so long ago that he had broken his arm. He still remembered how scary it was when he broke it, and how much scarier it was to be all alone at the hospital, but he also remembered how safe he felt when Chris arrived and stayed with him the whole time.

He grinned at the picture of him as the Headless Horseman on Peso. They had a copy of this photograph in their memory book, but Chris had made an extra copy just for Vin to keep. Halloween was a long time ago. The stale piece of candy he unwrapped and began to chew attested to that fact.

Swallowing the candy, he picked up the ticket stub from the football game. That had been scary when the troll came after Uncle Ezra, but they had found Bubba the horse and he had kept them safe when they got lost. He wondered what Bubba was doing today and where the posse was working.

Tears clouded his eyes as he looked at the picture of his mom and dad, and he clutched his father's harmonica tightly. He was so happy to know about his father, but it also made his heart sad that his father was gone.

So many things were changing, but one thing always stayed the same.

"There you are. Nathan and Rain will be here soon," Chris said as he sat down beside his son. "Are you all right, Cowboy?"

Chris was always the same. Loving him, taking care of him, helping him do the right things.

"Yeah," said Vin, putting his treasures back in his box. "We're gonna finish the book tonight, right?"

Chris nodded. "And then we'll take it and get a copy made for each of us."

"They're here! They're here!" JD's shrill voice called from the living room.

Vin quickly tucked his box away and raced to the front door. He had tried so hard to trust that Nathan and Rain weren't going away forever, but he'd fought with a nagging doubt all week. Now he stood at the front door, beaming, without a clue that next time it would be just a little easier to trust because Chris' word had come true.

"Hi, Unca Nathan!" shouted JD. "Hi, Aunt Rain! How was your hummymoon?"

"JD, that's not something you should ask," said Buck with a huge grin. He didn't think Nathan could blush.

"C'mere you two rug rats," said Nathan fondly.

JD leapt off the porch into his arms as Vin ran down the steps to stand next to him.

Nathan freed one arm and pulled Vin close. "Did you miss me?"

Vin nodded.

"Yeah," said JD. "I fell down and scraped my knee, but Da said I couldn't call you. He said you was on your hummymoon and we shouldn't 'sturb you. Why can't we call you on your hummymoon?"

"Hey, Little Bit," Buck laughed nervously, "We should let Nathan and Rain come inside. It's chilly out here."

"Oh yeah," said JD. He squirmed out of Uncle Nathan's arms and grabbed him by the hand. "We got choclit cake!"

"After dinner," added Buck.

"But we gots peas for dinner," said JD making a yuck face.

Nathan laughed as Vin grabbed his other hand and Aunt Rain's hand and the boys led them into the house.

After dinner the family sat in the living room and paged through the memory book together, laughing over the fun times, and quietly reflecting on the more serious moments.

They added a page with digital prints from Nathan and Rain's wedding, showing the entire family in their tuxedos.

Josiah presented the boys with copies of their illustrations for "The Empty Kingdom" book that he had written, and the pages were added to the memory book.

The three ring binder was now bulging with pages.

"Well, boys," said Chris, "I think that just about wraps up this book."

"NO!" said Vin sharply.

Chris looked at him.

"I mean, no," said Vin with a softer tone. "Everybody needs to write one more essay for the book."

Chris smiled. "I like that idea, Cowboy."

Vin hurried over to the desk and grabbed some paper from the printer. JD grabbed the cup of pencils and the two boys passed around the supplies.

JD threw himself on the floor on his tummy and started writing immediately.

Vin sat himself down, leaning against Chris' legs, and tapped his pencil against his teeth as he thought about what to write.

The room was silent except for the sound of lead scratching on paper.

There are many things I could reflect upon as the focus of this essay.  However, when I look back at the past several weeks, there is one thing that stands out in my mind.  And while I have not spoken of it aloud, I feel that it is something that does deserve a place in this special book.

When I was recently sent 'under covers' as the boys have dubbed it, something quite unexpected happened.  Previously, my sole focus during such assignments was performing the task and protecting myself.  However, that was not the case this time.

For, while duty and self-preservation were in my thoughts, a new thought encroached upon these and became uppermost in my mind.

My nephews.

Indeed, it was thoughts of returning from that assignment so that I could once more enjoy their company that frequently made life bearable.

Now, I am certain that this confession may raise concerns.  After all, how can one concentrate on the task at hand when distracted by such thoughts?  Allow me to reassure you that this is not the case.

For, duty and self-preservation only allow me to finish the assignment.  It is the promise of the shy smile of Vin and the cheeky giggle of JD that give me a reason to complete the job.  It is Vin's honesty and JD's joie de vive that give me the strength to persevere.  It is the gift of the title 'Uncle' that gives me a home to return to.

Uncle Ezra.

This is me. JD. We finished another speshul book to member things. Unca Nathan and Ant Rain camed home today. I'm glad. We had a party, but it wasn't a party like a birthday because it wasn't no one's birthday. We had choclit Cake.

Torkus is still asleep. I miss him. I hope he wakes up soon. His box is by Milagro's stall. And Peso's. 

What I like bestest about today is we's all here. Chris and Da and Vin and Me and Unca Ezra and Unca Ziah and Unca Nathan and ant Rain. We restled and laffed real hard. I love all my famly.


Over the last few months I've seen Chris and Buck struggle sometimes with things but I've never seen them fail.  I can only hope someday to be as good a father to my own child as they have been to Vin and JD.  

I know I've learned quite a few things from being an honorary uncle, like what 'Ants on a Log' is - it's a very healthy treat, by the way - and how to watch kids when you're Christmas shopping (or perhaps what happens when you make assumptions with children while shopping). But the thing I appreciate most is the unconditional love that only a child can give, the love graced upon me by my nephews, Vin and JD. 

I'm so glad the boys were there for my wedding.  Someday I hope to return the favor.

Uncle Nathan

I love watching Nathan with JD and Vin.  Seeing them together tells me what a wonderful father he will be.  I can only hope to be blessed with a child as wonderful as these two one day.

It's been an eventful few months.  Most of these stories I heard third hand from Nathan over dinner.  Helping Vin with his Halloween costume was a joy for me.  Memories of Christmas day with the boys and the story of their makeshift nativity still give me a warm feeling.  I feel honored to be a part of their extended family.

Aunt Rain

It is only with the heart that we can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'               Antoine De Saint Exupery (1943)

What a precious gift it has been to be a part of this unique and wonderful family.  It has been my joy and my pleasure to be counted as an Uncle to these two precious boys.  It has been my honor to give their fathers whatever assistance I could provide.

I know that the road has not always been easy; there have been many bumps and unexpected turns.  However, the fact that this family has persevered is a testament to the strength of that thing we know as love.  And I am confident that love will be present on the journey yet to come.

Uncle Josiah

'Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other.' Euripedes (400 BC)

I'm not good at expressing my feelings, on paper or verbally.  My first attempt at this sounded like a status report.  Listing all the things we'd been through.  The sad times, hibernation, tragic accidents, misunderstandings, and emotional upsets.  The good ones, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, snowball fights.  Just the facts.   But the way I feel about Vin and JD don't fit cold facts.  They've given me my life back in a way I never expected.  Thanks to them I've learned more about myself, and the men I work with, than I ever expected too.  As a team we were close and good at what we did.  But these boys have bonded us into more.

In the future when we look back at this book the thing I want to be clear about most … I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything.

To Vin.  I love you very much, no matter what.  Every time you call me Dad I can feel my heart growing. I love reading with you, working with you, playing with you, talking with you, and especially being quiet with you. It is my honor and delight to be your Dad and to have you as my son.  

To JD.  You always bring a smile to my heart. I love you so much. Thank you for showing my best friend Buck a whole new world. I'm looking forward to making salad and 'psghetti and fat bread' with you many more times in the days to come - as well as the many other adventures we can think up.

Chris Larabee, February 2004

We did a lot a things sense we started this book.  Lots a things was fun.  Some things was scarey.  Some things was sad.  I know my dadys with mama an the angels.  I got pikchurs of my borned famly and I got my dadys harmonka.  I had lots a bad feelings.  Chris an doktur Will and Buck an Unca Ziah all talked to me bout it and said I can lern to be a new boy.  I don't want to be mad 
no more cause I hurted JD but I don't know how to be a new boy yet.  I hope I can lern so I don't got to be alone no more.

I can't believe we've crammed so much living into just a few months, but this book is proof of all of it.  

Always said I had a good life for the most part and I did.  It still amazes me though how much better it is now.  What I feel for our boys, well sometimes it just shakes me.  Every time I look at you boys I wonder how I could ever survived without you in my life.  

Not only have you given me a whole new appreciation for the world around me, but you've given me back my family.  I know Chris will think I'm getting all mushy, but heck a man's entitled.  And one day I'll show this book to some pretty young thing interested in my 'Little Bit' and embarrass the heck out of him.

JD, I love you, son, you make my world a brighter place.  Vin, I love you. Thank you for letting me be part of your heart.


The room was uncomfortably quiet after the essays were read, the emotions strong, until Ezra, of all people, broke the tension. He was seated on the couch next to Rain and Nathan. Buck was sitting on the arm of the couch on his other side. Ezra impetuously shoved him off the arm of the couch.

Unable to catch himself, he landed on his backside with a thud.

Ezra flashed him an unapologetic grin.

"Now you've done it, Boy!" threatened Buck. From his place on the floor, he used his superior body weight to pull Ezra over the arm of the couch.

JD dove right into the middle of the wrestling match.

Vin tensed and stepped toward the tangle of arms and legs, instinctively trying to protect JD, but the roughhousing itself made him pause.

The threesome rolled into Chris and brought him into the free-for-all. Somehow Nathan and Josiah ended up in the melee as well, as Rain watched from the relative safety of the couch.

"Vin, help me!" squealed JD as Buck tickled him.

Vin stepped forward again, but the guys rolled towards him and he flinched away. He still felt guilty about knocking JD off the couch in their wrestling for the remote control, and truth be told, just the roughness of the play scared him a little. He'd wrestled with Buck and Chris and JD a few times but not with everybody.

A black clad arm reached out of the pile of bodies.

Vin smiled.

Chris pulled him into the dog pile and wrapped his arms around the seven-year-old to give him a sense of security. Soon Vin's squeals mixed with JD's as Ezra slipped free from Josiah's grasp and began to tickle Vin in earnest.

After a few more minutes, the wrestling match quieted to a pile of tired bodies, breathing hard from the roughhousing. As they lay draped over the top of each other, somewhere in the midst of the pile a blond seven-year-old giggled. The sound was pure and sweet, something that had been missing for too long. The contagious giggle quickly drew in the laughter of five men, another little boy, and one woman watching from the couch.

Undoubtedly there would be many more bumps in the road ahead. Many more things would be added to their "Things We Learned" list, but they would go through each one together… as a family.


Comments: Joy

Things We Learned (Index)

Author notes:

Special thanks to LaraMee and Gina D who contributed greatly to the story by allowing me to bounce ideas… numerous times, and extra thanks for each of them writing most of the final essays and fixing continuity problems.

Thanks also to each other who has participated in both of these series, "In the Good Ol' Summertime" and "Things We Learned." It has been a pleasure to work with each of you. Some how we managed to post 32 stories... on time, each week. You are the best!

And thank you to each person who has taken the extra effort in offering feedback on the stories. You will never know how much you comments encouraged us!