by LaraMee

Little Britches ATF AU

March 10, 2004

Lowery had escorted Vin back to the playroom and had quickly seen that JD was still struggling with his anger. Excusing himself, he checked in with one of the interns, asking her to stay late if he needed her assistance. Getting her agreement he stopped by the office and let the office manager know that he'd more than likely be working late. That taken care of, he returned to the playroom.

A few minutes later, a reluctant JD Dunne marched ahead of him down the hallway.

Entering the office, Will saw that the five-year-old was standing rigidly beside the chair he typically climbed into. As he settled into his own chair he said, "Would you like to sit down?"


Well, it might not be a long session after all. It didn't look as if his normally chatty client was going to be very talkative during this visit at least. "Well, all right. What would you like to talk about this afternoon?"

"Nothin'," the little brunet grumbled.

Pausing only briefly, the therapist said, "Well then, can I take a guess at what feeling we could talk about today?"

"Don't care," the tiny brunet shot a glare toward the man. He didn't like Dr. Will anymore. He didn't like anybody anymore. Everybody was just stupid. Especially Vin and especially Dr. Will.

"All right." Lowery pretended not to see the emotions boiling through the little boy. Instead he said evenly, "Well, I think that we could probably talk about being angry today."

Young Dunne stared at the man. He started to say 'well, duh', but Buck told him that wasn't nice. Instead he just stood there and stared.

"So, what do you think, would that be something we could talk about today?"

Blowing out a breath in exasperation the little boy said, "Whatever."

"You know this would go a lot better if we both talked."

"Don't feel like talkin'."

"How about drawing a picture?"


Leaning forward, Lowery said, "You know, buddy, whatever it is that's bothering you isn't gonna go away if you keep it all bottled up inside."

"Ain't nothin' botherin' me."

Deciding to try a different ploy the therapist said, "Well I'm very glad to hear that. So… what should we do? You don't feel like talking, and you don't feel like drawing… hey, I know. What if we play a game? You'd have to talk a little bit, but not too much. How does that sound?"

JD shrugged, which Will decided was about the closest he would get to an agreement with the child. Going to his bookcase he retrieved his "Angry Monster Machine" game, setting it up on the table in the corner of his office. The little brunet came over slowly, standing beside the table, watching.

Lowery held out a selection of play-doh containers. "Which color would you like?"

Shrugging, the five-year-old studied the different color lids. After a moment he pointed to the green-capped container.

"Excellent choice for making 'monsters'," the man said, catching the look of curiosity on the cherubic face. Pulling out a small, white plastic mold he said, "See? A monster."

JD edged a little closer, studying the object in the doctor's hand. Frowning, he said, "Don't look like no monster."

"Really?" Will frowned, pretending to study the mold. "How come?"

"Ain't scary," the child proclaimed.

"By golly, you're right," the therapist said. "Well, I guess we'll just have to pretend then. You know, I never can decide what color to use. Any suggestions?" As he spoke he quickly used bits of the green clay to make four 'monster' playing pieces. He placed on in each of the four corners of the playing board.

The little boy studied the other options, finally pointing to the orange-topped container.

"Oh yeah, that should make some pretty cool monsters." As he made his own play-doh creations he explained the game.

The board was set up with colorful squares laid out in random paths. In each corner was a cartoon representation of different settings a child might find themselves in. One represented home, the second school, the third the playground and the fourth represented the general community.

The object of the game was to move the game pieces around according to the roll of a die. The pieces, each one a little truck, could move in any direction. When the player landed on the corner, they were supposed to share a time they had become angry in that setting. The situation could then be discussed and alternative ways to respond to similar situations could be suggested. These were made with the help of small cards, each with an anger management technique listed on it. Then the 'monster' in that corner was 'changed' into something different.

They began playing the game. The little brunet participated reluctantly at first, still holding on to his anger. As they continued he slowly warmed up to the game, his more talkative nature coming through.

Lowery guided the action without seeming to, moving the play along to keep the little boy from losing interest. He got his own piece on one of the corners first, using his own tale of becoming angry while at the park to lead by example. It was an answer he had scripted himself, vaguely based on an incident from his childhood.

The play faltered slightly as the little brunet pouted at not reaching a corner first, but otherwise it went relatively smoothly. JD landed on the schoolhouse and shared an argument with a classmate named Freddy Chaney. They discussed asking an adult for advice and he turned his green 'monster' into a crude representation of one of his teachers.

Next he landed on the playground corner and recounted the time another little boy had cut in front of him on the McDonald's playground slide. They talked about counting to ten, and he broke the 'monster' into ten pieces.

The next corner he landed on was the home corner. Lowery watched as anger flared once more in the big hazel eyes.

"What would you like to share about this one, JD? Can you tell me about being angry at home?"

"I don't wanna play this game no more. It's dumb."

"You seemed to be having fun a few minutes ago."

"Well I ain't now."

"JD, is it the game or this question?" Lowery asked gently.

"I ain't gonna talk 'bout home and I don't wanna play this dumb game no more." He sat back and folded his arms across his chest.

Mirroring the child's stance, Will leaned back in his chair and folded his arms as well. The difference was that his body held none of the tension that the little boy's body did. Inwardly, though, he groaned. He had been expecting some sort of fall-out when Vin began releasing his identity as JD's 'boss'. However he had been expecting more of a backlash from Vin. The seven-year-old seemed to be blooming though, while the five-year-old was wilting. The therapist only said, "You know I'm not going to try and force you to talk, JD, that's now how I work. But you also know - at least I hope you do - that I'm here to help you figure things out."

"Don't have nothin' to figure out," the little brunet insisted.

The therapist studied the boy for a moment. Then nodding, he said, "Okay."

Surprise flashed across the cherubic little face, but little Dunne said nothing.

"Well, I guess we really don't need to sit here any longer if you don't want to talk today. I would like it if you'd find a picture to add to your bulletin board though, could you do that? You wouldn't even have to talk about it if you don't want to."

JD shrugged, his face growing sadder as the seconds ticked by.

Lowery retrieved the folder that held the pictures JD had been going through each week. Holding it out, he began putting away the game while the tiny brunet leafed through the pictures. He saw the big eyes flicker toward the game from time to time, but didn't offer to stop putting it away.

Finally, the little boy held out a picture. In a soft voice he said, "This one."

Will studied the picture, not surprised at the choice of a cartoon shark. Bringing out the little corkboard they were using, he held it up and offered JD a tack. He watched the sadness growing as the child tacked the picture on the board, next to the lonely man from the week before.

Not looking up, the five-year-old said, "It's an angry shark."

"Yeah, he certainly does look angry," Lowery said non-commitally.

"I was angry all week."

"You were?"


"Were you angry with someone or at something?"

Shrugging, the child said, "Mostly I was just angry."

"Sounds like you had a pretty bad week," Will said, a sad tone in his voice.

"It stinked!" JD growled, suddenly feeling the anger well up once more. Then the storm that had been building up since before he had entered the clinic was unleashed. "Nobody was bein' fair all week! They was mean an' didn't wanna do nothin' fun an' they wasn't nice to me at all!"

His calm voice a stark contrast to the child's loud tone, the therapist said, "I wonder what made everyone change?"

"They was all changed 'cause you didn't make Vin do what he's s'posed to do, Dr. Will! Since you telled him not to play with me no more, he don't never wanna do nothin' fun! And if you ain't gonna make him be like he was then you're just mean an' I don't wanna talk to you no more!"

"So you're angry at me," The therapist replied.

"Well, duh!" JD didn't care if it wasn't polite. Dr. Will was just dumb sometimes.

"Well, duh? I'm sorry, I'm not certain I understand what you mean."

The little brunet huffed and glared at the therapist. After a couple of minutes he saw that the man was simply sitting there, looking at him. "It means yes!" He growled.

"Okay, so you're angry at me because I didn't make Vin do what you wanted him to. I thought we talked about that last week and we decided that it wouldn't be fair to try to force Vin to do something."

"Yeah… well… I wan'cha to make him change his mind so he wants t' be like he used to be!" His anger was losing steam in the wake of the doctor's calm voice.

"How did he used to be, JD?" Lowery's voice was just above a whisper now.

Blowing out another breath the five-year-old said in a small voice, "He used to be my friend. He used to make me do things an' he pr'tected me an' he told me what I was s'posed to do."

"And he's not doing that now?"

"No. He let's me get into trouble an' he don't remind me when I ain't s'posed to do something an' I get into trouble and people are mean to me an' he doesn't pr'tect me."

"And what happens to you, Buddy?"

"I get into trouble an' big kids are mean to me."

"Is that what happened since last time you were here?"

With a hard sniff, the boy said, "Yeah."

"Wanna talk about it?"

Slumping back in the seat the upset boy said, "Yeah."

The two adults looked up as the door to the playroom opened and JD entered the room. Will Lowery was right behind him, and he nodded to the agents. Spotting the seven-year-old across the room, the therapist said, "Vin, could you join us, please?"

Putting the toys he had been playing with back where they had come from, the little blond moved over to join the rest of the group. JD had settled in near Buck, his eyes red-rimmed and his little cheeks flushed. Vin moved beside Chris leaning against his foster father.

With everyone situated the therapist said, "Well, I thought that since the past week has been pretty difficult, and since everyone's here this week, we'd all have a little talk."

"Yeah, an' I told Dr. Will that you ain't my friend no more!" JD announced quickly, big eyes flashing toward the other boy.

Buck's mouth flew open as he started to reprimand the little boy, but he closed it when the therapist caught his eye and shook his head. At the same time, Chris' eyes flashed, but he held his tongue.

Vin, oblivious of the silent exchange between the adults, protested strongly. "I am too yer friend, JD! I don't know why you keep sayin' that, but it's a lie! I'm yer friend!" Blue eyes were awash in a sea of tears.

"I ain't lyin'!"

"Boys!" The two fathers said at the same time as they tried to head off another argument.

"Well, I had wanted to bring this up a little differently," Lowery said softly after they had managed to quiet the little boys, "but this is what we need to talk about most. Vin, JD shared with me earlier that he feels like you've been treating him differently this past week."

The little blond turned a puzzled face from one adult to the other, to the smaller boy, and then finally back to the therapist. "I've been tryin' real hard t' do what y' said I was s'posed to do. I didn't mean t' do nothin' wrong. I told y', Dr. Will, I don't know why he's mad at me!"

"I told you just now, you ain't been bein' my friend!"

"I have, too!"

"Okay, guys listen," Will raised his voice enough to get everyone's attention. "We're not going to be able to figure out anything if you keep fighting. So, I'm going to make a couple of rules. I'm going to decide who talks; nobody else can talk until I say they can. And no loud voices. If we're going to talk this over, then we need to talk, not yell. Is everyone agreed?" Vin nodded his head, then JD. The doctor looked at Chris and then Buck, making certain that they understood that those rules were going to apply to them as well.

"Good. Now, I'm going to make some new seating arrangements." It took them a couple of minutes to get everyone arranged to suit him; they were all situated in a circle. Quickly checking with Larabee to make certain that he was comfortable, his broken leg propped up on a low accent table, Lowery continued.

"All right. Now, JD told me about something that happened a few days ago. JD I'd like you to tell Vin and your dads what you told me earlier, can you do that?"

"I can't 'member all the words, "The little boy replied.

"It doesn't have to be exact. Just tell them the story about what happened at school last Friday."


JD was deeply engrossed in his art project. He had asked and received permission to make a poster for St. Patrick's Day. The five-year-old had spent the morning tracing and cutting out shamrocks and was now making a rainbow and clouds at the top of the big sheet of paper. When he was finished with that he would begin gluing the shamrocks on. Mrs. R. told him that when he finished it she would put it up on the door, so he was working especially hard on it. He was so involved in his project that he didn't hear anyone come up to the table until something bumped it. His mouth flew open in an 'oh' as his red crayon made a scribble across the paper. His head shot up, and he saw Craig Sherman standing there, grinning at him.

"Craig! Look what you did! Now it's ruined!"

"It's not, either," the older boy argued, still grinning. "It's a dumb lookin' picture, any way."

"It ain't either!" JD looked around, trying to find Vin. He couldn't do anything to Craig, but Vin would. He found his friend all the way on the other side of the room, talking to Mr. Beidler. JD put his hand up, waving the blond over. He grinned when he thought about how his friend would make Craig leave him alone. But then he felt his paper being pulled away. Turning, he saw Craig pulling at the paper, trying to get it away. He was still grinning. Then, to his horror, JD heard the distinct sound of paper ripping. Aghast, he watched as Craig ripped the corner of his paper. "DON'T!"

"Craig, what are you doing?" Mrs. R. came over, frowning at the older boy.

"Nothin', an' he can't say I did!" The boy protested far too quickly.

"Young man, you march over there to the writing table."

Craig knew what that meant; he'd be given a writing assignment dealing with his actions. His grin disappeared, replaced with a furrowed brow as he stomped away.

"JD, what happened?"

Sniffing, the little brunet said, "He ruined my paper." He pointed out the red mark and the torn corner. "I wanted it to be real special for a dec'ration."

"Well, it's not too bad," the teacher said to console the little boy. "I could tape the corner, and I think white-out will cover the mark. Would that be okay? Or if you'd rather I can give you some extra time to re-do it."

Studying the paper and turning the offer over in his mind, JD said slowly, "Can we see what it looks like if we try an' fix it?"

"Sure, that sounds like a good idea. Then you can decide if it looks okay, or if you need to start over."

"'Kay." He waited for Mrs. R. to return with the things to try and repair his drawing. While he did, he turned, trying to figure out where Vin was. His friend was still talking to Mr. Beidler. Anger flared once more as he realized that the bigger boy hadn't even tried to come over and help him out.

As JD finished recounting what he had told him earlier, Will watched both boys. The brunet had grown upset during his narrative and appeared angry once more. Vin, on the other hand looked shocked, confused, and upset. When he saw that JD was finished, Lowery said, "Vin, do you remember the situation?"

Frowning, the little boy said, "I 'member him doin' a special project."

Can you tell us what you remember about that time? JD said you were talking to Mr. Beidler."

"Yeah," Vin nodded.

Vin had grown steadily more frustrated throughout the morning. He had been working on a writing assignment, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't seem to get it done right. He had gone to both Mr. B. and Mrs. R. for assistance, but he was still having trouble. Admitting defeat once more, he pulled himself out of his chair and shuffled over to where Mr. B. sat at his desk. He stood quietly, waiting for the teacher to notice him.

"Hi Vin," Jim Beidler said with a sympathetic smile when he saw the frustrated expression on the little face. "Are you still having trouble?"

"Yeah," Vin let out a frustrated sigh as he spoke.

Holding out his hand, the teacher said, "Can I see?"

Nodding, the little blond moved closer to the desk, handing over the paper. As he waited for Mr. B. to look it over, he glanced around. He saw JD across the room at the art table with Craig Sherman. Craig was smiling and, as he watched, JD turned, waved, and smiled at him, too. He nodded, but just then the teacher spoke to him, and he turned back to focus on the paper that was causing him so much trouble.

As Vin's version of the story finished, the room grew silent. Will watched the fathers' responses as well as the little boys'. Both of the men wore expressions that mixed relief and some frustration. Vin's head dropped, more than likely expecting to be taken to task for not having protected JD. On his part, the smaller boy was staring at his older friend, his brow furrowed.

"JD, it looks like maybe you have a question to ask," Lowery prompted.

"You didn't know Craig was bein' mean?"

Head still bowed, Vin shook it, no.

"Vin, could you look up at us, Buddy?" The therapist coaxed. "It's sort of hard to talk to the top of your head."

He raised his head, expecting to see disappointment or anger in the faces around him. Chris and Buck did look sort of sad, but he could sense that they weren't upset with him. He turned to look at the therapist and saw that he wasn't angry either. Finally he ventured a quick look at JD. To his surprise, JD didn't look angry. "I'm sorry, JD. I was mad 'cause I couldn't do my work and when I looked up you and Craig was both smilin'. I didn't know he was bein' mean or I'd 'a made him stop."

"You don't hate me?"

Blowing out a long breath, the blond said, "JD, I told y' and told y' I don't hate you! Yer jist like my little brother… why would I hate y'?!"

"Little Bit," Buck said gently. "Why didn't you say something to us son? We've asked you time and again what was bothering you."

"JD, we could have worked this out without having so many arguments and yelling all week," Chris added softly.

"If you'd jist ask me, I'd tell y', JD. I ain't s'posed t' be yer boss, but I'm still yer friend."

In response to the responses from his family, the little brunet sniffled. Then his little face scrunched up and he began to cry. Before the adults could respond, Vin was out of his chair. He grabbed up a tissue from the table and went to his surrogate little brother. Handing the tissue over, he put his arm around the smaller boy.

While both Buck and Chris ached to give their own comfort, Lowery asked them to wait. "JD needs this one from Vin. They're walking a tightrope right now, trying to redefine their relationship. It's scary, because they're too young to really understand what's going on. All they know is that they're being asked to make a lot of big changes."

"Well, we're not too young to understand and it's scary," Chris said. Turning to the therapist he said, "We really blew it, didn't we?"

"Yeah, we did," Wilmington agreed, his voice trembling with emotion.

"No, you haven't blown a thing. You need to remember that a lot of this is going to be painful… for all of you. That's just the nature of the beast."

"So, what should we do now? How do we help them?" Larabee asked.

"I'm going to give you all some homework this week that will help you with this sort of thing when it comes up again." He smiled understandingly at the pained expressions that crossed both faces. "Yes, it's going to come up again. You're going to have to help both boys figure out how they can change and still be as close as they've been for the past couple of years. We don't want to break that bond, that's the last thing we want to do. What we want to do is make it healthier; help them grow as individuals as well as friends."

The two men nodded in agreement then the three men turned to check on the boys. They couldn't help but smile as they saw that Vin had climbed into the chair next to JD, one arm protectively around the smaller boy's shoulder. Blue eyes regarded them all with a hint of defiance, daring anyone to try and force him from his friend. Beside him, the little brunet leaned into the comfort of his friend's loose embrace, relief on his flushed face.

"How are you feeling now, JD?" Will asked gently.

A smile growing across the tear-stained features, the five-year-old said, "I feel okay. Vin don't hate me, Dr. Will, he just didn't know."

"How about you Vin?"

"I feel sad that I didn't know that Craig was bein' mean to JD, but I'm glad he ain't mad at me no more."

"Okay, you know I think that I can give you… all of you… a homework assignment to help out with misunderstandings like this." When he saw that he had the attention of all four members of the eclectic family he continued. "What I want you to do is this. You pick a time when all four of you can be together without any distractions for half an hour every night. I know that sometimes it's hard to find that much time distraction free, but I think you'll find it. For that half hour you have to talk about your day. If something's bothering you, you need to bring it up."

"Like when I thought Vin was 'norin' me?"

"Exactly. If you feel like Vin's ignoring you, or Vin, if you feel that JD's angry with you… anything like that. Now you need to use some of the rules we used today. Only one person talks at a time, and no yelling. You can't work things out with angry voices."

"Does that mean Chris and Buck tells us 'bout their day?"

To the surprise of the foster fathers, Will said, "Sure. Now, sometimes they have problems that aren't appropriate for little boys to know about, and there are parts of their jobs that they can't talk about. But let's say that Buck left something on the floor by accident and Chris slipped on it with his crutches. Rather than Chris being angry at Buck and not telling him, he could talk about it when you're all together."

"Oh, Chris always tells Buck when he's mad at 'im," Vin piped up. He grinned when two of the three adults laughed. Then he shot a worried glance at his foster father. To his relief, and causing him to giggle, the big blond made a silly face at him.

"Well that's good to know," Lowery said with a grin. "Okay, that's one homework assignment."

"We gotta do two of 'em again?" Vin asked.

"Yes, but I think the other one will be fun… at least I hope so. Vin, what I'd like you to do is to make up a story. Do you remember the pictures you picked out while ago in my office?"


"Okay, I'd like you to make up a story about what it will be like if you grew up to be those things."

"Y' mean how it'd be if I growed up t' be a cop an' a soldier an' a cowboy?"

"Yes." When the little boy slumped at the thought of a writing assignment, he added, "Chris can help you, of course, and you can use the computer if you'd like."

Brightening a little the little blond said, "Okay."

"Good. Now, JD - "

JD's mouth flew open once more. "Dr. Will! We didn't talk 'bout my homework!"

"You're right, we didn't," the therapist agreed. "Would you like to talk about them now, or could we talk about them next week?"

JD considered his options. He had played lots by himself all week, but it was because he had been mad at Vin. He didn't think that counted very well. And he had been so mad that he didn't do a very good job making up a game. "Could I do them again?"

"The homework assignments?" When the little brunet nodded vigorously, Lowery said, "Sure, that's fine. I don't want to give you too many things to do, so we'll hold off on the other thing I was going to have you do until next week."

"'Kay, thanks Dr. Will."

"You're welcome, JD," the therapist replied with a smile. Then turning to the adults he said, "How are you two doing? Would you like to go into my office for a little while?"

The two men exchanged a look. Turning back to the doctor, Wilmington said, "Honestly Doc, I think we've already had our questions answered in here."

Nodding in agreement, Chris said, "I think what we heard from them tonight will help a lot, and our 'homework' should help us get them talking about what's going on."

"Okay, well as always, if you have questions, call me."

"Thanks, Doc." Buck looked at his friend. He saw the weary cast of the injured man's face. "Chris, you gonna make it through dinner?"

Larabee sighed. His leg was aching and he wasn't looking forward to sitting in on of those molded plastic back breakers in a noisy restaurant. But he also wasn't about to disappoint the two little boys who still sat close together in the chair. "I'm fine."

Shaking his head, Will said, "You're a braver man than I am, Chris. Okay, if you're all done with me, why don't you go visit Ronald? I'll see you next Wednesday."

Next appointment: March 17

Back to Visits With Dr. Will (Index)

Comments: LaraMee