ATF "Little Britches"
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Response to the challenge to write a fic that includes:-
A seasonal/Christmas party, a spiked drink, faulty decorations/Christmas lights, and at least one of the seven in their underwear, long johns, thongs...you get the idea.
The party was a bit of a cheat but the rest is there. My thanks to Helen for all the beta work.
Chris paced by the big window that over looked the driveway. It was late, gone midnight, but he had vowed to wait. Buck was on his way home, after three gruelling weeks under cover as Ezra's bodyguard. It had been very hard on the boys. They were distraught enough when their beloved Uncle Ezra went under cover, to have Buck away had put a huge strain on their little family. Vin had started to act out again, getting into fights at school, becoming sulky and sullen when asked to do chores he didn't like. JD was clingy, following Chris or Vin and even Mrs Potter around like a puppy, he had nightmares and even wet the bed. It was meant to be one week, but one became two and two became three, and in all that time Buck had managed to call home only twice. But it was over, the case was all wrapped up and Buck was coming home. Normally Chris would have been there but the boys needed him more, and he had faith in Josiah's leadership at the take down.
Sanchez had called with the good news and a warning. Buck was running on pure adrenalin, as was Standish, but while the more experienced undercover operative knew how to handle the pressures, Buck was trying to pretend he was fine, just a little tired. He knew better really, but his desire to not let the boys see just how tired and emotionally drained he was, overrode his own good sense. It was Friday, tomorrow they were going to trim the tree. The boys had insisted they not do this until Buck was home.
Chris had a plan, worked out with Nathan, to make sure his friend got the rest and sleep he needed. The lights of Josiah's Suburban briefly illuminated the room as he pulled up in front of the ranch house. Chris flicked on the lights and came out onto the porch, instantly shivering as the icy wind plucked at his flannel shirt. The passenger door opened, causing the interior light to come on and Chris could see the slumped form of a slumbering Standish in the back of the vehicle. Buck unfolded his long frame with painful slowness from the car.
God he looks awful, Chris commented to himself.
"Hi," he greeted.
"Hi," Buck returned. Then he turned and bent to look at Josiah, still sitting at the wheel. "Thanks for the lift, take care of Ez for me."
"I will, you take care of yourself. Bye Chris," he called, just before Buck shut the door.
Chris waved at him as he pulled away.
"Come on, I've got something for you." Buck didn't respond other than to trudge wearily up the steps and into the house. "Here." Still Buck didn't respond, he was standing just inside the now shut door and he hadn't even noticed Chris pick up a tumbler of whisky and hold it out to him.
"Wha'?" Buck suddenly seemed to notice Chris again.
"Twelve-year-old malt, all the way from Scotland, it's medicinal, drink," Chris instructed firmly.
"I'm okay, I just need to see the boys, I wanna see my boy."
"And you will, but drink this first."
Obediently he took the glass and emptied it, the smooth liquor slipped easily down, warming the inner man. Once it was empty he handed it back to Chris.
"Can I see them now?" he asked softly, almost pleading.
The weak orange night-light gave the boys room a soft glow. Two small heads were just visible above the comforter on one bed.
"Together?" Buck asked.
"JD's been getting nightmares, you know Vin, he just gets in there with him rather than wake me."
Buck leaned heavily against the doorframe. "Damn," he commented softy. "That's it, I'm not going under again, not if this is gonna be the result."
Chris knew he would change his mind, if the case was important enough, he might not do it as often as Ezra, but Buck was good undercover, better than he was. But now was not the time to discuss that.
"Come on you need to get to bed." The small quantity of sleeping pill he had dissolved into the whisky, combined with the alcohol, would start to kick in any time now - according to Nathan. And right on cue Buck yawned. While combining sleeping pills with alcohol wasnt normally recommended, a big man like Buck would have no problem with the small quantity of mild sedative he had used. The pills themselves were old, dating from the time after he lost Sarah and Adam and their use by date had almost passed.
"Guess youre right."
"Is Buck really here?" JD asked, as he sat at the kitchen table, clutching a sticky waffle in one hand and a glass of milk in the other.
"Yes he's really here but he's asleep. Boys?" Chris sat down at the table.
Vin instantly recognised the more serious tone of voice. "Yeah?"
"Buck's really tired, even when he wakes up he's gonna be tired. So I want you to try to be quiet and not pester him, also he might be a little short tempered "
"What's that?" JD asked.
"He might get mad," Vin supplied.
"But he won't mean it, he's just tired and sometimes when adults are tired they say things they don't mean - okay?" Chris looked from one boy to another, each boy nodded solemnly.
Despite Chris' assurances he had to take the boys to Buck's room and ease open the door so they could see him, before they - especially JD - would really accept that he was home.
The decorating of the tree had to be delayed until Buck was able to join them but Chris did persuade the boys he wouldnt mind if they set the tree up and got the decorations out and sorted. Before today JD wouldn't even hear any talk of getting the decorations box down from the attic and had cried constantly when they went to get the tree. It had sat outside the house for three days, waiting for Wilmington to return. Vin had only agreed because Nathan and Josiah assured him there would be none left if they didn't get it soon.
It was just past one when a freshly showered and shaved Buck, dressed in his old DPD Academy sweats and soft pair of sheepskin moccasins ambled into the kitchen. The two small boys at the table had their backs to the door.
"You know I was told there were boys in this house, I must be wrong," he announced with a grin.
"BUCK!" JD screeched. The fork he had been attempting to skewer baked beans with clattered to the floor as he scooted off the chair and ran to greet his father.
Bending down to meet the whirlwind Buck scooped the five-year-old up and into his arms. Small arms ringed his neck; small sturdy legs clamped themselves around his waist.
Vin also ran up, a huge impish grin on his face. Without letting go of JD, Buck knelt on one knee and pulled Vin into his side. Since JDs arms were firmly wrapped around his neck, Vin pulled his around the Bucks chest as best he could. Then Vin did something unusual for him; he kissed Buck on the cheek, before letting his head come to rest on the slightly stunned but very happy mans shoulder.
"I missed you," he whispered.
"You know what Junior? I missed you too, and you!" He gave Vin a gentle squeeze as he tickled JD, who howled with laughter and squirmed.
Just then his stomach audibly rumbled, coursing both boys to laugh.
"Sounds like someone's hungry," Chris commented from across the room.
"I could eat," Buck admitted. He looked at JD. "You gonna let go of me?" he asked.
The little raven-haired boy shook his head with grin. Buck just smiled and releasing Vin stood up, still holding the boy at his side and crossed to the seat JD had just vacated. He sat down, moving the boy around to sit on his lap.
"Well what do we have here, hash browns, bacon and beans. Good?" he asked Vin, as the boy sat down next to him.
Vin nodded as he picked up his fork and began to eat again.
Once everyone had eaten, they moved to the main room to trim the tree. Buck stood back to view it with a critical eye. The boys watched him anxiously; they had spent a long time choosing just the right tree. Vin liked tall ones, JD wanted a bushy one. It had taken the boys, Chris and all three of their uncles a full three hours to find the perfect tree. They had to go to three lots, where they selected no less than five trees eventually going back to the first tree they chose in the first lot.
"Boys, did you choose this tree? he asked. The two waifs nodded nervously. "Well dang it boys, I ain't never - ever - seen a better Christmas tree, not in all my born days! That is the mother of all Christmas trees!"
Vin positively shone with pride, JD frowned.
"What's the matter Little Bit?" his father asked.
"Is the Christmas Tree gonna have babies?" he asked.
"What? Oh - no, no baby trees. I just meant it was the best tree of all the trees ever - okay?"
Now JD was smiling as well.
While the boys pulled the huge box of decorations out of the den Buck looked at the base of the tree. Although Chris hadn't bothered with much more than token decorations, in the years between losing his family and the boy's arrival, Buck remembered that normally the Larabee tree stood tall and firm in a purpose-built stand. It now seemed to be standing in a cylinder of translucent orange plastic, wedged in place with bricks and stones.
"Where's the stand?" he asked.
"Couldn't find the feet," Chris explained.
"So what's that?"
"Not a hundred percent sure, but I think it used to be what Sarah sterilised Adam's bottles in."
Buck looked back at his friend. "You okay with all this? I mean I know we're using a some of my decorations as well, but we don't have to use your old ones. We can go and get new ones if you like. The boys will understand," he assured.
"If I didn't want them used I'd have thrown them out long ago. They would be happy other kids are getting to enjoy them."
Buck put an arm over his friend's shoulder. "Yeah, they would," he agreed
Trimming the tree took a lot of the afternoon, lights first, then tinsel, then baubles and ornaments, JD just put things on where ever he could reach, his theory was volume, more was good, even if that meant three things hanging from one branch. Vin liked to stand back, look for an empty spot and then place the ornament with care. Between the four of them they finally got to the stage of putting the star on the top. It was decided that Vin would do this, since he had the steadiest hand and, in compensation, JD would switch on the lights. Chris hoisted Vin up on to his shoulders and Buck handed him the glittering gold and silver star. Once that was done, they drew the curtains and stood back as JD waited to flip the switch.
"Go get it JD," Buck instructed.
Suddenly the room was aglow with multi-coloured lights and twinkling reflections. Vin gasped. JD ran from the switch to stand next to Buck, his eyes big as saucers, hands doing a strange wave as he opened and closed his fists. Buck felt he could feel his son's excitement as a humming energy radiating off the boy. Chris knelt down beside Vin.
"You guys did a great job," he complemented softly.
"It's ours, isn't it?" Vin breathed in wonder, as if he could hardly comprehend that something so beautiful could be his.
"Yes Cowboy it's ours, and no one else's."
Once the tree was done they set about decorating the rest of the room, and the boy's room, and the outside of the house, by the time they were stringing lights along the porch it was late and dark. This time Vin had the honour of turning on the lights - except nothing happened. He tried again, still nothing.
"But they worked inside," JD whined.
Vin just looked downcast. Chris went to the switch himself. Finally he decided it was the circuit breaker he used for all outdoor electrical appliances that was at fault. When he told the boys that they would have to wait until the next day before the house lights would work, the looks of disappointment would have melted the stoniest heart.
"But Uncle Ezra is coming tomorrow, and Uncle Nathan and Uncle 'Siah. We gotta to have the lights working, we just gotta," Vin pleaded.
"Please Chris - please make it work, Buck said it was gonna be a 'Christmas-decorations-coming-out-from-the-covers party'! Please," JD begged.
Chris sighed. "Oh did he indeed?" he threw a half-hearted glare at Wilmington, who just grinned at him. "Very well, I know were we can get one, quickly, even at this time." Two small boys beamed at him. "And why don't we get takeout on the way home?" he suggested.
"Yeah!" both boys shouted excitedly.
"Pizza!" JD bellowed.
"Fried Chicken!" Vin shouted simultaneously.
Chris smiled at the predictable result. "Tell you what. Why don't we let Buck choose?"
Three faces turned as one to look at Wilmington. "Well boys, you know while I was away I had a hankering for Chinese, is that okay?"
"Can we go see Mr. Tsui?" JD asked instantly.
Every time they went in person to the restaurant to collect their food, rather than have it delivered, the genial owner, Mr. Tsui gave the boys a bag of fortune cookies, a bag of crackers and a banana fritter each - free of charge.
"Can we?" Vin asked.
"Oh alright, come on, we better get going if we're all gonna go."
Buck hesitated. He hated to admit it, but even after nearly 12 hours sleep he was still tired and somewhat stiff.
"Guys, reckon I'll stay here and maybe take a bath." He knew JD wouldn't like it, but he just couldn't face the impromptu late night shopping trip.
"I don't wanna go neither," JD stated, his bottom lip trembling.
Buck dropped down to kneel in front of him. "Now Little Bit you know you'll enjoy it really, and I need you to make sure they get me some paper prawns - right?"
JD sucked in a deep breath.
"Please Little Bit, I'm just a bit tired right now. I promise, I'll be here when you get back." Much as he loved JD, right now he needed a long, hot, quiet, soak, without having to worry about what one bored, inquisitive, five-year-old was up to.
JD remembered what Chris had said about Buck being tired, finally he nodded.
The trip took a little longer then anticipated, and they were expecting Buck to be a bit impatient for his supper, but nothing prepared Chris and the two boys, for the sight that greeted them as they finally walked back into the house. Buck - dressed in nothing but his soft grey boxers - lying on the floor under the Christmas tree, head toward the TV, apparently watching an old Tarzan movie, presumably upside down since he was lying on his back.
"Where the he heck have you been?" Wilmington demanded from the floor. "Just how long does it take to get a new circuit breaker and some takeout?"
Ignoring the questions, Chris asked. "What are you doing down there?"
"Just come and get the tree will you?" Buck demanded.
"Yes the tree - the one I'm holding up, the one that will crash to the ground if I let go! That tree! It's been hours - what have you been doing?"
Even as the words came out of his mouth he knew it was a mistake; you never - ever - asked JD what he had been doing, not if you were in a hurry.
"Well," the little boy in question began. "we wented to the shop were the man sells all these things, he's got hammers and paint and pots and nails and wire and wood and he's got this stuff you put on the wall to keep you warm, and the shop is really, really small and all the stuff is squeezeded in together." He held his hands less then an inch apart. "But the man said he didn't have any of the 'sock beakers' 'cause everyone wants to put up the Christmas lights, but he said there was some at the big store down the road so we went there and it was huge!" He spread his arms wide. "And, and, and there was all this stuff and all these people, and we had to hold Chris' hands real tight and I didn't think we could find a 'sock beaker' cause it was small the store is really, really big, but Chris knewded were it was " Finally he took a breath, but before anyone could get in and distract JD he continued. " we went past this place with all these lights and it was hot and pretty and I wanted to look at the lights but Chris said we had to go fast so we couldn't look at the lights, then we went past the place with the powder tools " Buck tried not to laugh at the 'powder' tools. " and then we had to go with Chris and I held Chris' hand and Vin held my hand and he had to put his hand in his pocket 'cause you can't touch anything there, not anything." Buck looked up at Larabee with a look that clearly said, You were in a hurry but you had time to look at the power tools? " and then we went to the checkout and got the 'sock beaker' and then we had to get gas and me and Vin went with Chris t pay for the gas and Chris said we should get ice cream and he asked what kind we wanted, and I said we should get Rocky Road - 'cause it's your favourite." At this point JD had an impish smile of pure delight on his face and gave a little shrug of his shoulders. " and when we was in the car Chris called Mr Tsui on his phone and tolded him what we wanted, but when we got there it still wasn't ready, so Mr Tsui gived us 'nana f'itters but I got toffee in my hair and Mrs Tsui tooked me in back to get it out and Vin got it on his fingers but he didn't want to wash them 'cause he wanted to suck them. Then we got our food and we came home."
When he finally stopped speaking, it was such a surprise no one spoke for almost a half minute.
Finally Chris came to life. "Right, okay, let me get this food sorted out, I'll be right back. Vin?"
"Bring the ice cream."
"No! Wait, hold the tree I'll deal with the food," Buck pleaded, but it was too late.
JD moved toward his father and squatted down. "What ya watching?" he asked.
JD frowned at the screen. The only Tarzan he'd ever seen was the Disney cartoon. Due to his custom of hanging upside down over the couch to watch cartoons, JD was used to watching television from Buck's perspective, so he decided to join his father on the floor.
"Where's Tarzan?" he asked.
There was no way out until Chris came back, so Buck decided to humour JD. "See there he is, on the elephant."
JD watched for a bit. "It's an Indian elephant, that's wrong," he stated indignantly.
Sometimes JD's intelligence took all of them by surprise.
"Tarzan is in India in this film," Buck explained.
"I don't know."
"How did he get there?"
"In a plane."
"I told you, I don't know."
Just then the other two came back in.
"So," Chris started. " what did you do to the tree?"
"Me! I didn't do anything t' the thing. I'm just about to run a bath, when I remember the Avalanche are playing Detroit and I can catch the end of the game. Just as I turn on I realised that my feet were wet, so I try to find out why. This pot thing was leaking, and as soon as I got down here, there was a noise like a crack and it split, the whole darn thing lurched toward me! So I was trapped here, every time I try to let go of the thing, it drops down a bit more, couldn't even get to the remote. So will you please take it from me now," he all but pleaded.
It took some time to move the tree to another bucket and re wedge it without disturbing the ornaments, re-fill it with water, and clean up the spilt water. By the time they sat down to eat it was past nine o'clock. Buck had given up on the idea of a bath and settled for a quick shower and pulling on his pj's. As soon as the meal was over, Chris announced it was bedtime.
"No, not yet," JD protested.
"JD," Buck warned.
"The lights, we still didn't lights the lights."
Buck looked up at Chris. "Kid's right, won't take but a minute."
Despite the chill, they gathered outside, Chris set the new circuit breaker in place and called Vin over to hit the switch.
"Buck should do it," he offered selflessly. "'Cause he saved our Christmas tree."
So as the boys stood back in the drive, with Chris draping a protective arm around each boy. Buck took a breath and flipped the switch. Instantly the porch was lit up with a myriad of twinkling, coloured lights. Buck, having grabbed a coat and a pair of boots ran to join them and admire the sight.
"Boys, I think it's Christmas," he announced with a grin.