by LaraMee

Little Britches ATF AU

March 03, 2004

Will Lowery delivered a rather energetic Vin Tanner to the play room, leaving him chattering to a happily bewildered Buck Wilmington. He returned to his office with a second chatterbox, five-year-old JD Dunne, who had managed to ask at least fifty questions on the way.

Lowery decided that he would have to ask the mustached agent just how he managed to keep up with the boys.

JD climbed into the chair Vin had just vacated, sitting cross-legged on the seat. As Dr. Will sat down at his desk, he said, "me an' Da talked 'bout feelin's a lot this week."

Grinning as the little boy got right down to business; the therapist turned the tape recorder on as he said, "So tell me about it."

"'Kay, what'cha wanna know?"

"Well… what sort of feelings did you talk about?"

Little face screwing up as he concentrated, the tiny brunet said, "Well, Thursday we talked 'bout bein' angry 'cause me an' Freddy got in a argument but he started it.

"Friday we talked 'bout bein' s'prised 'cause Unca Ezra picked me an' Vin up after school and taked us to dinner an' a movie.

"Saturday we talked 'bout bein' happy 'cause me an' Da spent the whole day in town an' we played games an' ate at Mickey D's an' had lots a fun.

"Sunday I didn't know what I was feelin' but Da said he liked th' word… um… ca-tent?"


"Yeah, that's it! Content. I was feelin' content 'cause we was all at home together. We cleaned a little but then we played the Scooby Doo game, even Chris, but Vin had to move his piece for him 'cause we was playin' on th' floor an' Chris can't get down on the floor 'count of his broked leg.

"Then Monday we talked 'bout sad 'cause we had to go back to school and I wanted it to still be the weekend."

"Yeah, those weekends never seem to last very long, do they?"

"Nope. Then last night we talked 'bout… um… "

Lowery realized that the boy wasn't hesitating because he couldn't remember. He was hesitating because he wasn't certain he wanted to share something.

"JD, you know our rule. You can say anything you want in here."

"Well, I just don't wanna hurt your feelin's Dr. Will." He looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Leaning forward, the therapist said gently, "Buddy, as long as you tell the truth, you'll never hurt my feelings."

Studying the man's face intently, the little boy decided that he was being honest. "Well, we talked 'bout bein' nervous 'cause Da said we'd be comin' to see you today."

"Well, I can understand that," Lowery said with a quick smile.

"You can? You're not mad?"

"Nope," the therapist reassured the child.

With a relieved smile, the five-year-old said, "I like you, Dr. Will, but sometimes you ask really hard questions."

"Yeah, I guess I do," Lowery said. "You know why I do, though, don't you?"

"Cause you wanna help me figure things out."

"Right," the doctor said, deciding that the boy understood enough for now. "So tell me, JD, do you think Vin had the same feelings that you did?"

The tiny brunet studied the question than shrugged. "Sometimes I think. He was s'prised like me when Unca Ezra picked us up. An' I think he was nervous last night 'cause we was comin' here t'day. But I don't know 'bout the other times. Was I s'posed to check with him?"

"No, you did an excellent job, JD. You and your Da."

"We did?"

"Yes, exactly what you were supposed to do." When the child grinned proudly, he shifted the focus. "So would you like to look through the pictures to find one to add to your board?"

"Sure." The little brunet seemed a little hesitant, but took the folder and began looking through it. After a short search he held out a picture for the therapist to see.

Lowery looked at the cartoon of a man. To the therapist the picture exuded loneliness, but he was curious as to what the little boy saw. "So, could you tell me about this picture?"

"Well, the guy's all alone 'cause he's all by hisself, see?"

"Yes, I see that."

Nodding, the child continued. "So since he's all by hisself he's sad. 'Cause he wants somebody to play with. But his friends all gots other things to do."

"They do?"


"He doesn't want to go do other things, too?"

JD shrugged. "Kind 'a, but they didn't ask him. They wanted to do 'em without 'im."

"Is that the reason he's sad?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"What other things might make him sad?"

The little boy sighed, hazel eyes dropping to the floor. He sat like that for a few minutes before the therapist moved to a slightly different tack.

"Could you tell me what made you choose that picture to go on the board this week?"

"'Cause that's how I felt some of the time," JD said sadly.

"What was going on some of the time?"

Another sigh; heavier than the last. Hesitantly he said, "Vin didn't like me no more."

"Can you tell me more about it?"

With the heaviest sigh yet, the little boy said, "Yeah, I guess."

JD was bored. He was hanging over the side of the couch, viewing the TV upside down. He had seen the cartoon that was playing. Deciding that it was just the same upside down, he flipped over backwards, landing on his knees.

"JD, you've been told before not to do that," Chris' voice came from the far corner of the big den.

"Sorry," the little boy said quickly as he climbed back up onto the couch. Right side up this time he peered over the back of the couch. Chris was sitting at the desk, working at the computer. His right leg was propped up on the stepstool that usually sat in the kitchen. Vin was sitting on his knees on a chair. He was working at one corner of the desk, writing on a piece of paper.

Climbing back off the couch, the little brunet wandered over toward the desk. "Chris?"


"When's Da comin' home?"

Checking the time posted in the corner of his computer screen the blond said, "In about half an hour, Little Bit. Are you hungry?"

"Nah," The bored child shook his head and wandered over near his friend. Standing on his tiptoes he tried to see what Vin was writing. The older boy frowned at him, but he simply asked, "What'cha doin'?"

"Writin' a letter."


"'Cause I want to send a letter t' Major Carpenter."

"But I thought you wrote the letters on the 'puter."

Heaving a sigh, the little blond said, "sometimes, but sometimes I wanna send 'em through th' mail."


"JD," Larabee interrupted the conversation. "I know you're bored, buddy, but I have to finish this report tonight. I need you to be quiet."

"Oooooooooh…kaaaaaaaaaaay," young Dunne said sadly.

Putting his pencil down, Vin looked up at his father. "I'm gonna finish this later, Chris."

Flashing the child a smile, the blond said, "Okay."

Climbing down off the chair, Vin said, "What do y' wanna do, JD?"

"I don't know. I'm just bored," the smaller child complained.

"How about you take the dogs outside and play?" Chris suggested. "Just make sure to put your coats, boots, hats and mittens on."

"'Kay." Vin said, leading the way from the room.

A few minutes later they were dressed and heading out the door. The pups were dancing around them, excited about going out with the two children. Going outside through the mud room door the boys ran aimlessly around the yard for several minutes, the two dogs bounding around them as they did.

After a while, JD stopped running, his smaller legs not able to keep up with his older friend. "Vin! I don't… wanna run… any… more." He gasped, out of breath.

"Okay," Vin called back. He didn't even break stride, running zig-zag patterns across the yard.

The little brunet watched as both Ringo and Elvis ran along with Vin. Dropping onto the deck steps he watched the older boy run for several more minutes.

Finally the blond sprinted over and dropped to the deck steps as well, his face flushed. The dogs came over as well, settling next to the boys.

"What'cha doin'?" Vin asked as he caught his breath.

In an indignant voice, the smaller boy said, "I was waitin for you. I thought we was gonna come out here and play."

Not certain why JD was upset, Vin said, "I just wasn't through runnin'."

"Well I was."

"Okay." He hesitated, not quite certain why JD seemed angry now. "So, what do y' wanna do now?"

"I don't know," the smaller boys pouted. "You d'cide."

Shrugging, Vin said, "I dunno. We could run some more with the dogs."

"I don't wanna run no more."

"Okay," the older boy frowned as he tried to come up with a game. The truth was he really wanted to go back inside with his foster dad. He didn't like the fact that Chris was hurt, but was enjoying the extra time they could spend together.

"Viiiiiiii-iiiiiiin," the brunet whined when his friend simply sat there. "I… am… bored!"

"Gees, JD," Tanner protest. "I don't know what t' do next. You figger out somethin'."

"No! You d'cide! You used t' make up really good games!"

"Hey guys, what's goin' on?"

The two boys looked up to see Buck coming from the garage, two pizza boxes in hand.

"I wanna play, but Vin won't make up a game," JD complained.

"I just can't think 'a nothin'," Vin countered.

"Well, it's dinner time anyway, so let's go get ready to eat."

"It sounds to me like you were pretty angry with Vin," Dr. Lowery said as JD's tale concluded.

"Yeah, I was."

"Did you talk about it with Buck?"

"Kind 'a, after dinner. He aksed why I was upset an' I told him it was 'cause I wanted t' play only Vin wanted t' run. But he just said that sometimes I just needed to find something to play by myself."

"But you wanted Vin to play?"

"Yeah, 'cause we used to have fun. Vin used to come up with lots 'a games to play, before."

"Before you came to live with Buck and Chris?"


Lowery had worked with the boys long enough to have formed a fairly good picture of how the boys had survived. The 'games' that Vin had made up were often survival tactics. Hiding from people who could hurt them became hide and seek. Scavenging in trash cans for food became digging for treasure.

Now however, Vin had no more use for those 'games' and was abandoning them. To JD however, it seemed as if his friend was pulling away from him. Just as the seven-year-old needed something to replace his role as JD's protector, the younger boy needed a substitute for old behaviors. He needed to learn to stop relying so heavily on the older boy.

"There sure are a lot of changes going on, aren't there?" Dr. Will asked.

"I guess," JD replied. "Vin just ain't fun like he used to be. He hardly ever makes up games anymore."

"How about you?"

Frowning, the little boy asked, "What?"

"Have you ever made up a game?"

"No, cause Vin always makes 'em up. He's real good at it."

"Do you think you could make one up?"

"No!" JD replied adamantly. "That's what Vin's s'posed to do!"

"And it's no fun if he doesn't do his job."

"His job?"

"Well, that's what it sounds like to me, that making up games is Vin's job."

JD stared up at the therapist. "Vin's too little to have a job."

"Maybe so, but if he's always supposed to make up the games it's sort of like his job. It sounds to me like maybe he doesn't want to do that job now; at least not all of the time. Maybe he wants to have a new job… wants to do some other things now."

"Why? Playin' games is fun. I don't want him to stop playin' games!"

"I can understand, JD," Lowery said.

"Then tell him that he has to play like he used to!"

"Would that make everything better?"


"JD, do you remember what compromise means?"

"That's when you talk 'bout stuff 'til everybody's happy," the little boy said with a little frown.

"Close enough. How about this; when we go back to the play room, we'll sit down and talk to Vin. Maybe we can find a compromise so that you and he can have some fun, but he'll also have time to do other things. Would that help?"

"Maybe," JD said begrudgingly. "But I still don't see why you can't tell him to do it."

"Would that be fair to Vin?" The doctor asked.

"But if you told him…" the little brunet said in something suspiciously close to a whine.

"JD," the therapist's voice was still gentle, but there was a firm tone there as well. "You know that's not how I work, kiddo. Now, would it be fair to Vin for me to try and force him to do something?"

"I guess not," the little boy wasn't yet ready to let go.

Dr. Will could empathize with the five-year-old. Change was never easy and the two boys were being asked to change on a very fundamental level. He was only surprised that they hadn't acted out in a far more negative manner. And the doctor knew very well where to place the credit for that. Squarely on the broad shoulders of the two ATF agents who were fostering them.

"Well let me ask you this. If Vin wanted you to do something that you didn't want to do, and I told you that you had to do it, would you?"

"Sure," JD said quickly.

"How would you feel about it?"

Hazel eyes flitting around the room, only to land on the carpet, the child said, "Fine. I'd feel fine 'bout it."

"Fine?" Lowery echoed.

Again the big eyes took a tour of the room. "Well… maybe I wouldn't be real happy… but I'd do it."

"So it's okay if Vin's unhappy as long as he does what you want?"

With a heavy sigh, the little boy said, "No… I guess not."

"Okay, then you're ready to see if we can find a compromise?"

"Yeah… I guess so."

"Okay, well let's go talk to Vin then."

Buck looked up as Will Lowery and JD entered the room. He was beginning to feel as if he had been transported into some sort of science fiction story. Vin had been more talkative during the last half hour than he could remember the child being. And JD came into the room looking as if he had been upset during this session as well. He hoped that the five-year-old's natural exuberance would kick in like it had last week.

"Hey, JD, look!" Vin said as he pointed to the block 'castle'. "Me an' Buck found some people in th' bottom of the block box. See, we got soldiers an' a King an' even some horses."

"Cool," the younger boy said in a quiet voice.

"Vin, JD and I would like to discuss something with you, okay?" Dr. Lowery asked.

The blue eyes lost a little of their spark, and the older child moved closer to Wilmington. JD moved to the man's other side, as if he was staking a claim.

"How about we all go to the table?" Lowery suggested.

The four of them moved to the table where the arts and crafts supplies sat. Will motioned Buck to one end while he took the other, placing the two boys on the same side between them. His arrangement wouldn't have been workable with some clients, but he didn't think these two boys would come to blows if the coming negotiations went badly.

At least he hoped not.

Making certain he had everyone's attention, Lowery said, "Okay. JD was telling me that he became upset with you the other night, Vin."

Vin's eyes narrowed as he searched his memory. Then he asked, "When we was outside an' I was runnin'?"

"Yeah, you wouldn't play with me!" The younger boy grumbled.

Turning toward his friend, Vin said, "I jist didn't know what t' play, JD. I jist felt like runnin'."

"You don't wanna play no more! You don't wanna make up no games! You don't like me no more!" Everything came pouring out of the angry child.

"JD," Buck started.

"JD! I do too like you!" Vin cried out, tears springing into his eyes. "I love you! Yer 'most my brother!"

"Vin," Wilmington tried again, than looked at the therapist. He was frustrated when the man motioned him to wait. Everything in the big hearted man's being screamed to make things better for the two distraught boys. Almost literally biting his tongue, he nodded to the other man.

"You don't neither 'cause you don't never wanna play games no more!"

"I jist can't think 'a none t' play sometimes JD! It don't mean I don't like you!"

"But you always used to make up games and we got t' play all th' time! Now you don't hardly ever wanna do nothin'!"

"But it ain't th' same no more, JD! We cain't play all th' time, 'cause we gotta go t' school an' we got… got… 'spons'bilities!"

"But I wanna play games!" The little brunet dropped his head, pillowing it on crossed arms on the table top. Sounds of sobbing echoed through the room.

Vin looked from one adult to the other, lost as to what he should do. He could easily see the sadness in Buck's face and looked away quickly, afraid that he had caused that look. Turning to Dr. Will he couldn't see any emotion and that scared him almost as badly.

Seeing the 'fight or flight' posture on the older boy, Lowery stepped in. "Vin, JD and I talked about this earlier. We would like to find a compromise so that you can both be happy. Do you remember what compromise means?"

"Yeah," Vin said softly. He sniffed loudly and wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. "Means we s'posed t' talk 'bout it."

"Right," Will said gently. Then, pitching his voice a little louder, he said, "JD, can you talk with us now?"

More sniffles and sobs could be heard but, after a few minutes, the little brunet sat up. He scrubbed his hands over his face and said, "Yeah."

Offering the nearest tissue box to the boys first, the therapist began talking with them about the issue of playing games. The negotiations were carried out with as much dignity as heads of state might use in striking a peace treaty. In the end he guided the two boys toward not only an agreement, but a homework assignment.

"Okay," the therapist said, making certain that both boys were satisfied. "Is this the deal? Vin, you're going to come up with a game one time this week, right?"

"Yep," young Tanner nodded and offered up a smile.

"Good. And JD, you're going to make up a game one time this week, right?"

"Yeah," the younger boy still seemed somewhat apprehensive about it. They had all reassured him, however, that he could do it. Buck had also promised to help him work out the details as long as he came up with the general idea.

"And you're also going to play by yourself for… "

Sighing, the brunet said, "For fifteen minutes every day… all week long."

"Right, that's your homework." Lowery turned back to Vin. "And we need to come up with something for you to do this week."

"'Sides th' game?" Vin asked.

"Yes. I think this will be an interesting one for you. And Buck, could you help him get started?"

"Sure thing, Doc." The big brunet said. He had grabbed up a piece of art paper as soon as they had come to the table. The therapist had to grin when he saw that Wilmington was taking notes with a crayon. And if he wasn't mistaken, it was periwinkle.

"Okay, now, how many different adults do you see during the week, Vin?"

"Umm," The child frowned, not quite certain what was being asked. He looked over at Buck for help.

"Well, there'd be me, Chris, Gloria Potter, his two teachers and… "

"Miss Lottie," Vin supplied.

"Right," Wilmington grinned at the boy. Then he continued. "And usually at some point during the week he'll see their three uncles. That's all on a regular basis."

"Okay. Then this is what I'd like you to do, Vin. I want you… and Chris can help if you'd like… to write 'Vin Tanner is…' on a paper ten times. Then I'd like you to have as many of those adults you and Buck just named to finish that sentence."

"Huh?" Vin asked, confusion on his face.

"Let's see," Lowery said. "Well, let's go ahead and ask Buck to finish that sentence. Is that okay, Buck?"

"Yeah, I guess, Doc." It was clear that the big man wasn't completely comfortable with being put on the spot.

"Okay, then how would you finish that sentence?" Lowery asked. "Vin Tanner is…"

"Vin Tanner is…" Buck repeated. Then, looking at the little boy, he said, "Vin Tanner is very brave."

The little boy smiled, but ducked his head shyly as the big man grinned at him.

"There you go, that's the first one you put on your list. Then, you can ask Chris, your uncles, and the other people to finish that sentence as well. Now, they have to write something different. That means nobody else can say "very brave" because Buck has already said it. Make sense?"

The little blond still looked puzzled, but Wilmington said, "I'll be glad to help you with it, Junior."

"'Kay," Vin said in a relieved tone.

"But you said you'd help me!" JD protested.

"I can help you both, Little Bit," Buck assured him.

With a relieved smile, the little brunet said, "Okay."

"Okay, so Buck, do you have your notes?"

Laughing, the big man held up the sheet of paper, covered in crayon. "Yep, just hope Chris can read it."

Shaking his head, Will knew he'd need to set aside time to talk to the blond tomorrow. "Okay, well would you boys like to stay here while I talk to Buck, or would you like to go play with the blocks some more?"

Vin turned to his younger friend. "You pick, JD."

"Blocks," the little brunet said happily.

A short time later, Lowery waved good-bye to the departing family. He had given Wilmington a brief summary of both boys' sessions, reassuring the big man that things were going fine. By the time they left the two boys were giggling and teasing one another. JD was now settled on the tall man's hip, while Vin was dangling over a broad shoulder. The therapist distinctly heard twin shouts of "McDonalds!" as they left the building.

With a chuckle and a shake of his head, the doctor rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder as he made his way back toward his office. Wednesday afternoons were going to be draining for a while, but at the same time he felt confident that the outcome was going to be one of those few positives he saw on the job.

Next appointment: March 10

Back to Visits With Dr. Will (Index)

Comments: LaraMee