Little Britches ATF Universe

by LaraMee

Disclaimer: I don't, they ain't, no money. Period.

Warnings: Smarm… may cause tooth decay.

Notes: Just a little PWP with Chris and li'l Vin. Buck puts in a cameo. Also a nod to Jeanne and her fic Full Circle for Vin's back problems.

He had settled into his Lazy Boy with a beer, one of his slim cigars, and the latest Grisham novel. But, when he felt a pair of eyes on him, Chris Larabee knew his evening plans had changed. Moving the book aside, he saw his foster son standing just close enough to the chair to catch his attention. Vin stood stiffly, a sure sign that his back was bothering him.

Chris had half expected something like this, even making certain that there was muscle cream and wet-naps in the chair-side table. The four of them - he, Vin, Buck and JD - had spent most of the day outside. It was bound to be one of the last decent weekend before winter set in, and they had taken full advantage of it. Horseback riding and touch football had complemented barn cleaning and yard work. He and Buck had noticed that the older of the two boy's movements had grown more calculated by that afternoon. Even JD had sensed that Vin was hurting, offering to carry things and insisting on picking up their messy bedroom by himself.

They were all wary of any undue strain the little boy put on his back. Abuse at the hands of some heartless bastard years before had led to a badly healed fracture in his lower spine. And, although it was stable, it continued to cause him pain at times.

Admonishing himself for becoming lost in his thoughts, the blond said softly, "couldn't sleep?" He had to tread lightly or the child would continue to refuse attention for the pain. He had barely gotten the pain medication down him without causing a major argument earlier.

Shaking his head, young Tanner said, "was sleepin'… woke back up."

"Bad dream?" When all he received was a shake of the head and a slight wince as the child shifted position, he asked, "back bothering you?"

Shrugging tensed little shoulders he answered, "Some."

Holding out his arms, Chris gathered the child up and settled him on his lap. Trial and error had taught them both that settling Vin sideways on his foster father's lap, his left side leaning against the broad chest, was the only position that offered anything resembling comfort.

Larabee lifted the back of the loose tee shirt, then retrieved the cream. As he squeezed some into his palm to warm it, he asked, "Pills didn't help?"

"Some," Vin said, a hint of weariness in his voice.

"Not enough though, huh?"

Vin was torn. He didn't want to lie to the man who was the only father he had ever known. At the same time, he feared that the truth would lead to his physical activities being curtailed in the future. Before he settled on an answer, the big man spoke again.

"Maybe Aunt Raine can help us out… find a way to keep your back from hurting too much after you've been playing."

Relief flowed from the child when he realized that the man understood how important days like the one just passed were. Unable to put those sentiments into words, however, the boy said only, "'Kay."

Chris smiled over the child's head, feeling the thin body relax. Slipping his hand beneath the lifted shirt, he began to rub gentle circles over the pale flesh. Both man and child sat silently, simply enjoying the comfort of being together.

Larabee continued the tender, soothing movements, feeling the knotted muscles beneath his hand begin to loosen. For nearly half an hour he rubbed the little boy's back, his mind simply wandering randomly through the day's activities. He wasn't quite certain when Vin had fallen asleep, but he continued rubbing the narrow little back anyway.

Finally admitting to himself that the seven year old should be in his bed, Chris pulled the boy's shirt back down. He managed to retrieve one of the little square packets and opened it to wipe the residual cream from his hand, then shifted Vin in preparation for carrying him to bed.

A soft sigh and a few murmured words stopped him, however. Looking down, he saw that the seven year old was still asleep, the movement having been just enough to interrupt his dreams. Brushing the loose curls back from the child's forehead, he whispered, "Sh. It's all right… go on back to sleep."

Vin's lips moved a few more times, uttering silent words, then he grew quiet again. The child snuggled against the broad chest, one little hand reaching out and latching onto Chris' shirt.

Larabee smiled wistfully, settling back in his chair. "All right, cowboy, we'll stay here for a little while longer."

The blond brushed a finger over the sandy brows, still slightly furrowed. Rubbing over the little forehead, he watched them smooth out. The finely carved features relaxed, wide mouth parting slightly as Vin drifted toward the deepest part of sleep. Chris watched him, in awe at the look of utter contentment that settled over the tiny face. It was something he had once despaired of ever seeing. Eight months ago he couldn't have conceived of seeing anything other than fear and distrust on the boy's face.

So much had changed during that time; so much had changed in them, for them, and about them.

He remembered what it was like during that awful time between the loss of his first family and finding the second… remembered what he was like. He tried to imagine what he would be like now if the boys hadn't come into his life, but set those thoughts aside quickly. He didn't want to remember the man he had been any more than he missed the life he had lived.

'If I ever meet the Genie from Aladdin, my first wish will be to have those three years erased from my life'. He chuckled at that thought as he realized just how often he had watched that movie during the last few months. Another change in his life. He couldn't even remember the last time he had watched CNN for more than five minutes at a time.

Well, at least he had developed a new appreciation for animation.

Larabee shook his head and then smiled. There were so many things he had gained a new appreciation for over the last several months. As he had once before, he had learned to see the simplest things in a new light. He thought back to a few evenings before. He had been taking care of the horses, while Vin had been as he called it, 'splorin' nearby. Finishing up, he couldn't wait to get inside and step into a steaming shower. Calling to the boy, he got no answer.

By the time he had called for him the fourth time he was feeling a mixture of frustration and mild concern. He moved toward the farthest corner of the barn, where he had last heard the seven year old. Seeing a pair of little sneakers poking out from the shadows just outside the open door he moved closer. "Vin, why didn't you - "

"Shh! C'mere Chris… look!"

Frowning, he moved closer, starting to scold the child for his actions he found the little blond laying, belly down, in the dirt. "Vin, what are you doing?"

"C'mere… look!"

Squatting down, he had found what the child was so excited about. There was a single ant, valiantly tugging at a crumb of food far larger than itself. The little boy watched, intrigued at the tiny creature's efforts. Then he had looked into the child's face, seeing the innocence and awe glowing in the wide blue eyes. He remembered feeling a tightness in his chest, his eyes burning, at the former street urchin's delight.

A few seconds later, he was lying on his stomach beside the son of his heart, watching the ant. He had finally gotten that hot shower sometime later, but it hadn't felt as good as lying there on the ground, listening to the seven year old's whispered comments.

So many changes. His speed dial held entries for school, pediatrician and at least four baby sitters. His kitchen cabinets were filled with peanut butter, jelly and cereal. All of the DVDs in the entertainment center had cartoon characters and a G rating on their covers. He couldn't remember the last time he had made it through the house in the dark without stepping on at least one toy. He held far fewer conversations on dating and far more on the latest Disney movies. He constantly monitored television shows, video games and his language.

And he wouldn't change a moment of it.

A sound drew Larabee's attention from his thoughts and to the door as Buck Wilmington padded into the den. The big man had gone out to dinner and a movie with his latest love interest. Chris smiled when he saw that it was only 11:30 on a Saturday night. Things had changed for Buck, too.

"Hey stud. Problem?" Wilmington nodded at the tiny figure sprawled in the blond's lap.

"Back ache," he replied softly. "You're home early."

Grinning sheepishly, the big man said, "fell asleep durin' the movie. It kind 'a went downhill from there."

"Ouch," the blond said sympathetically. "Not the best way to impress the lady."

Shrugging, Buck said, "wasn't real impressed with her, either… she couldn't figure out why we'd wanna be 'tied down' with the boys."

Larabee felt himself bristle at the comment and saw the same anger flare in the dark blue eyes across from him. All he said, though, was, "well good riddance."

"Yep. Glad I just penciled her in my black book," the bigger man said with a wink. Then nodding toward the sleeping child he said, "You want me to tuck Junior in for you?"

Chris looked down at the angelic little face; felt the warmth of the tiny body tucked against him; heard the soft, contented snores, and smiled. Shaking his head, he said, "nah, that's okay. I'll put him to bed in a minute."

Buck saw the look of peace on his old friend's face and silently rejoiced. How could anyone see that and consider them 'tied down'? The boys weren't burdens… they were lifesavers.

Padding across to the couch, Wilmington retrieved the afghan that hung over the back and brought it to the chair. Spreading it over the tiny bundle in the other man's lap, he reached down and patted a black clad shoulder. As the hazel eyes looked up to meet his gaze he winked and quietly left the room.

Chris watched him leave, knowing what the big man would do next. He'd go to the boys' bedroom and sit next to the bed where JD slept. More than likely he'd pick the little brunet's pillow and blanket up off the floor and cover the tiny form up. Then he'd sit there for the next few minutes, just watching the five year old sleep.

Tomorrow the peace and quiet would be banished once more. Scooby Doo's theme music would be blaring from the television, there would be sugar coated cereal bowls in the sink, and toys covering almost ever useable surface. Along with Buck he would referee arguments, launder jelly coated shirts, and monitor homework. They would make certain that there was enough peanut butter to last the week, most of the socks were paired, and lunch money was set aside.

How could anyone consider that being tied down?

Just then Vin sighed, shifting slightly in his lap. His little fingers flexed, then resumed their hold on his shirt. Once more Chris stroked the tousled curls from the little forehead, whispering comfortingly to the child.

"Sh, it's okay. Go on back to sleep, son."

The End

Comments: LaraMee