by LaraMee

Little Britches ATF AU

March 17, 2004

Dr. Will entered his office right behind young Vin Tanner. The little blond climbed into the chair and waited patiently for the therapist to settle into the chair beside his desk.

Smiling over at the child, Lowery said, "Well the first thing I'd like to know is if you remembered the question you were supposed to ask Chris?"

With a shy smile the little boy said, "I 'most forgot it, but I 'membered it yesterday."

"Well, you remembered it, that's the important thing. Can you tell me what you found out?"

"Sure," Vin said.


"Hey, Pard," Chris said with a smile. He was settled back in the recliner, reading the newspaper. Laying it aside, he asked, "What's up?"

With a downcast expression, the little blond said, "I just 'membered I was s'posed t' ask you a question 'fore I go back t' see Dr. Will."

"All right, ask away," Chris said. When he saw how hesitant his foster son was, he added, "Is it a hard question?"

Vin nodded, then shrugged, "Well, sort 'a."

"Do we need some privacy to talk about it?"

Another shrug. "Maybe." He glanced over to where JD was playing a game with Buck.

"Okay, how about we go for a walk?"

Smiling now, the little blond said, "Okay."

A few minutes later they were walking across the yard. Vin tried mimicking his father walking on crutches, hopping on one leg. Then he decided that it wasn't nearly as much fun as it looked.

Beside him, Chris waited for the little boy to speak, sensing that he needed the time to sort out his thoughts. They simply walked randomly around the yard for a while, eventually finding themselves nearing the big rock that sat near the barn. Vin climbed up onto it, while his foster father leaned against it, setting aside his crutches and resting his cast-weighted leg.

Little Tanner settled on the rock, cross-legged, chin planted in one upturned palm. He stared out across the yard for a while longer. Then, his voice quiet, he said, "I'm s'posed t' ask you somethin'."

"Cowboy, you can ask me anything," Larabee said gently.

"Well, when I was talkin' to Dr. Will… well, we was talkin' 'bout b'fore… back when me an' JD was in th' warehouse. An' I told him that I made up them games we used t' play so… so," he sighed. It was harder than he thought it was going to be. And he thought it was going to be hard enough.

"So you… could keep him safe?" Chris had long ago deciphered his foster son's ways of coping with life on the street.

Maybe not as hard as he thought. With a grateful smile the little blond said, "Yeah. An'… well, I told him that… that I was… scared back then. An' then Dr. Will said that anybody'd be scared if they had t' live like that. I told 'im not you, an' he said yeah you would. Then he said I should ask you if you'd be scared livin' like… well, like we did."

"He did, huh?"

"Yeah," The boy's voice was barely a whisper. He wasn't certain he wanted to know the answer, but he wasn't certain what answer he wanted. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Would you?"

Chris wasn't certain what the therapist had been aiming at, and wished the man had let him know that this question was coming. He did know that his answer would be important to his son, so he decided to move slowly. "Well, do you mean if I lived in that warehouse now, or when I was seven?"

Vin frowned. They hadn't talked about that, had they? The doctor said adults would be scared if they lived like they had, but he didn't know if that meant Chris, too. He didn't know if he wanted to know that Chris could be scared of things now. "Well… both, I guess."

So how did he answer this one? How did he let the child of his heart know that his reactions had been normal, while reassuring him that there was a strong adult who would protect him now? Well, about the best thing he could do was go with his gut.

"Well, if we're talking about me now… no, I don't think I'd be scared. I think I'd probably be angry."

"Angry?" Vin moved around on the rock so he could look at his father.

Shifting around, Chris said, "Yeah. I'd be angry because it would mean I wouldn't live here, and I wouldn't work where I do, and it would mean that I wouldn't have you in my life. And that would make me really, really angry."

Tilting his head, Vin said, "Well what if I lived with you at the warehouse?"

"That would make me angriest of all." At the child's surprised expression, he added, "Because I would want you to have a better life than that. I would want you to have the best life you could have, and if that meant not living with me… then that would be the way it had to be."

Vin's eyes grew wider at the thought of not living with this man, but then he saw the tears in Chris' eyes. He knew that the thought of not being together was just as scary to his father as it was to him. "I wouldn't wanna live no place else but with you, Dad."

Smiling, Larabee said, "That's good, because I wouldn't want you to live any place else, either. So I'm glad we live here and don't have to deal with that."

"Me, too."

"So… if I had lived in that warehouse when I was seven?"

"Yeah, how 'bout then?"

"Well, if I had lived in the warehouse when I was seven… I'd have been scared to death."

"Nu-uh!" Vin's mouth flew open. Chris wasn't scared of anything.

"Uh-huh," the tall blond replied, reaching out to tweak the boy's nose. "I would have been really, really scared."

He wasn't certain why, but the thought of Chris being afraid made him want to smile. But he didn't think that would be a nice thing to do. Instead, he said, "You would have?"

"Yes, son, I would have," Larabee said seriously. He reached out, canting his head in an invitation. As Vin slid toward him, he lifted the little boy into his arms, turning so that he leaned back against the rock. Vin's legs wrapped around his waist, but the little boy frowned.

"You sure I ain't gonna hurt yer leg?"

"Positive," he replied with a smile. Then he returned to the topic at hand. "Vin, I know that living in the warehouse was very scary, we all do… your uncles, Mrs. Wells, everyone."

"But everybody's always sayin' that I was real brave."

"That's because you were very brave."

Vin frowned, big blue eyes staring into the man's face. "Y' can't be brave an' scared at th' same time, Dad."

"Sure you can," Larabee replied. "Most people are only brave because they're scared."

"Dad, that don't make sense."

The blond chuckled at the expression of disbelief on the little face. "I guess it does sound pretty funny, doesn't it?" When the little boy nodded, he said, "I'm not sure if I can explain it very well, but I'll try."


"If everything is okay… when there's nothing scary going on… you don't have to be brave. It's only when there's something scary going on that you have to be brave, because otherwise you can't get through it." When the little boy shot him a puzzled look, he sighed. "Not explaining it very well, huh? Okay, let's see… all right, let's try it this way. Can you tell me something that was scary when you lived in the warehouse?"

Vin's head dropped, his eyes focusing on the rock they leaned against. "Do I have to?"

Rubbing a hand over the thin little back, Chris said softly, "It's hard to talk about that time, isn't it Buddy?"

Nodding, the little blond said, "When I think 'bout it, it makes me have feel bad thoughts, and sometimes it makes me have bad dreams."

Gently kissing the top of the little boy's head, Larabee said, "Okay, then let's think about another time. How about when you, JD, Joey and Freddy got lost at the museum?"

Leaning back Vin said, "'Kay."

"Were you scared?"

"Yeah… some. I mean I thought we'd find someone to help us 'ventu'lly, but it was scary. 'Specially 'cause Joey was in th' wheelchair an' 'cause Freddy kept runnin' off and stuff."

"And you felt responsible for them, didn't you?"

Vin shrugged. "I just didn't want nobody to get hurt or nothin'."

"So you took charge?"

Frowning, the little blond said, "I guess. I mean Freddy didn't listen very good, and it took us a long time to find Mrs. R."

"But you tried, right?"


"And you were scared?"


"But you did it anyway?"


"Then you were brave." Chris said with certainty.

The little blond ran the comment around in his mind for a moment. Then he looked up and smiled. But as he wrapped his arms around his foster father and gave him a hug, all he said, was "Okay."

As Vin finished relating the exchange, Will said, "So, how are you feeling about everyone saying you were brave now?"

"Well, I guess I understand how come they say it, 'cause Chris 'splained that you have to be scared 'fore you can be brave."

"Do you think you were brave then?"

With a shuddering sigh, the little blond said, "Yeah, 'cause I was awful scared then."

"I'm sure you were, Buddy, and I hope you understand that being scared was normal. Any little boy would have been scared in your place."

"And girls?"

Smiling, Lowery said, "Yes, girls, too." He paused and then said, "Now, how about your other assignment?"

Vin slid out of the chair and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. He opened it up and smoothed it out before offering it to the therapist. "It took a long time t' write it. Me an' Dad worked on it for three nights."

The doctor wasn't surprised that they had been so diligent in this assignment. "Would you like to read it?" When the little blond slanted a look at the tape recorder he said, "We can turn it off if you'd like."

Taking a deep breath, Vin nodded his agreement, watching as the therapist reached over and turned off the recorder. He looked down at the paper and took another deep breath. Pausing, he glanced back up at the doctor. "Dad asked me to please write it, 'cause he said it was good practice. That's why it took so long."

"That's fine," Will said with a smile. He knew that the seven-year-old struggled with his ability to read and write, and was stalling long enough to get his nerve up in front of someone else. "If you have trouble with any of the words, we'll figure them out together, all right?"

"'Kay." Vin managed a weak smile and began to read.

    My name is Vincent Michael Tanner, but I like
	    to be called Vin. I'm supposed to write about who I'm going to be when I
	    get older. I had to pick out pictures in Dr. Will's office but I couldn't
	    decide on just one. That's because I want to be lots of things when I get
	    older. But the three I picked out were a cowboy, a police man, and a soldier.
	    This is why I picked them. 

I want to be a cowboy because I like to be around
	    horses. I have a horse named Peso and I like him lots. Chris calls me cowboy
	    and he says I can be a cowboy now. That's neat cause then I'll have lots
	    more time to be the other things I want to be. 

When I get done with school I want to be a soldier.
	    My born daddy was a soldier. His name was Michael Vincent Tanner, which is
	    most like my name. I didn't know my daddy Michael cause he died when I was
	    a baby. He died being very, very brave. He saved some guys' lives. I wish
	    he hadn't died, but I'm proud that he was so brave. My dad now, Chris, was
	    in the Navy. He was a SeAL, which is a special kind of Navy man. He did a
	    lot of stuff when he was the Navy, but he didn't die and I'm glad cause now
	    he's my dad. So I want to be a soldier like both my dads. 

And the third thing I want to be is a police
	    man. My dad, Chris, and Buck and my uncles are special police men. They're
	    part of the A. T. F. I want to be a police man first and then maybe I can
	    be an agent with the A. T. F. I want to help people and arrest bad guys and
	    maybe even help some little kids that don't have homes. I'd like to do that.
	    Chris says that I would be carrying on with tradition.

 That's what I want to be when I grow up.

Vin finished reading his essay, and looked up at the therapist. He gave the man a hesitant smile, not certain if what he wrote was what the man wanted. He couldn't help but heave a deep sigh when Dr. Will smiled back at him.

"You did a very good job on that essay, Vin."

Shyly the little boy said, "Thanks. Is it okay?"

"Yes, it's okay. Can I make a copy of it to put in your file?"

His smile growing bolder now, the seven-year-old said, "Sure."

"Thanks. Now, it's time for us to look through the pictures again. I'd like you to find a picture that makes you think about how you're changing." When the little blond frowned up at him he said, "Like how some things about you were different when you lived in the warehouse than now, and how you might be different when you get older. That's what I mean by change."

"Oh... okay." Vin took the folder and began to look through it. After a few moments he held one out. "This one."

Taking the picture, Will smiled and nodded, "okay, I'll put it in the folder, and we'll talk about it next week."

Buck and JD looked up from where they were playing with the race track as Vin and the therapist entered the playroom. Buck was relieved to see that both boys seemed to have made it through their individual sessions without tears. He hoped that was a good sign, and that things were on the upswing. At the same time he was afraid to ask the doctor, for fear that the answer would be no. The big man wasn't certain how many more upheavals their household could take.

Not that it mattered in the long run; they'd find a way to make it through.

"Hey Brother," JD called out with a giggle.

"Hey Brother," Vin called back.

Nodding toward the art table, the doctor said, "Shall we?" As they moved across the room he noticed Buck retrieving a small notepad and pen from his pocket. "Came prepared this week, I see."

Wilmington chuckled. "Well, Chris said he was gettin' tired of tryin' to read my chicken scratches in crayon and marker. Said it was hard enough readin' 'em in ink."

They settled in at the table, the two boys choosing chairs together. Lowery was happy to see that they were holding onto their closeness during the changes they were undergoing. As the boys continued to grow as individuals they would need that close relationship more than any other.

"Looks like you two were having fun," Will said with a smile.

"Yeah, we was playin' race cars only Da wanted to use a truck so his was a race truck an' we was havin' a lot of crashes," JD chattered.

"Well as long as it's only with the pretend cars and trucks," Lowery said, winking at the little brunet. "Now then, I thought I'd give you boys your homework assignment and see if we need to talk about anything else."

"How'd everything go, Doc?" Buck nodded toward the two boys.

"Well let's see, JD would you like to tell your Da what we talked about in my office?"

At the thought of having to discuss his feelings, JD's face grew somber. But, to his credit, he simply nodded. "We talked 'bout me feelin'… um… f'us'ated?"


"Yeah, f'ustated. 'Cause I didn't know what kind of feelin' it was. I was sort 'a sad an' sort 'a mad but I wasn't sure why. So we talked an' figured it out."

"What were you frustrated about, son?" Buck asked, concern written over his face.

Heaving a sigh the little boy said, "I was f'ustated b'cause it felt like I was bein'… um… "

"Left out?" Lowery prompted when the five-year-old struggled with his explanation.

"Yeah, left out. But when me and Dr. Will talked 'bout it he said it was 'cause ever'body's havin' tough times now 'cause 'a Chris havin' a broked leg. It ain't nobody's fault, so if I help do more chores me an' you an' Vin an' Chris could have more time to have fun."

Leaning a cheek on his fist, Wilmington said, "So you've been feelin' like I've been ignoring you since I've been extra busy?"

"Yeah. An' I felt like you and Chris was payin' more 'tention to Vin, but me an' Dr. Will figured it out that it's cause Vin vol'nteers to help with th' chores an' he gets his chores done quicker. So I'm gonna try an' 'member to help out more an' do my chores faster so we can have more time to have fun."

The big brunet grinned broadly. "Hey, I think that's a good idea, Little Bit. Because you know I'd sure rather be playin' with you than muckin' out the stalls."

JD giggled at the 'yuck' face his Da made. Then he added, "But sometimes I still might not wanna help. But I won't be f'ustrated, 'cause if I don't help you won't get done as quick."

"Well all right then," blue eyes twinkling, Buck tried to keep a straight face.

The therapist noticed that Vin was frowning, and commented on it. The little boy shrugged his shoulders at first, but then said, "JD was you mad at me ag'in?"

Heaving another sigh the five-year-old said, "I thought I was at first, but then I thought I wasn't, 'cause you didn't do nothin' to me. That's why I didn't say nothin' 'cause I wasn't sure what kind 'a feeling I was having."

"Well, you could 'a said somethin' at the pow-wow an' we could 'a figgered it out," Vin replied.

"Junior's right, Little Bit. That's part of why we have the pow-wow; so we can make sure that everyone's doin' okay," Buck added.

The little brunet's head dropped. In a faint voice he said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do anythin' wrong."

"JD, look at me," the boy's foster father said gently. When the tear-filled hazel eyes finally managed to meet his, he said, "you didn't do anything wrong, Little Bit. I just want you to know that I want to help you out when you get confused. Okay?"

"Yeah, me too," Vin echoed, putting a comforting hand on the younger boy's shoulder.

With a wan smile, the five-year-old said, "'Kay."

Lowery watched the interaction with a growing sense of admiration. At one point he may have had his doubts that this match of fathers and sons would work. While he never doubted the dedication of the two men, he had once doubted their abilities to raise two boys who had been so damaged by life. But no more. He could see the success of this match more clearly than he ever had.

He would save that observation for the last session that would be coming up in a couple of weeks. He was certain that Chris Larabee would attend that session as well, and he felt that all four members of the family should be there to hear it. So all he said was, "That was excellent guys, good problem solving."

As all three of them smiled, Lowery said, "Okay, Vin, could you tell Buck and JD what we talked about?"

"'Kay," the little blond said. "Well, we talked 'bout bein' brave, and then I read my essay 'bout what I wanna be when I grow up. That's 'bout all."

"What did you talk about when you talked about being brave?" Buck wanted to know.

"Well, last week I told Dr. Will that Chris wouldn't 'a been scared if he'd 'a lived in th' warehouse like me an' JD did. An' Dr. Will said yeah he would 'a , 'cause anyone would 'a been. So I asked Chris th' other night… 'member when me an' him went outside?"

Buck nodded, he remembered it well. While Vin had returned from their walk with a smile, he could tell that his old friend's expression was forced. That night the blond had once more expressed his anger toward the forces that had left their sons in such dire straits for so many months. He pulled himself out of his thoughts as the little boy continued.

"Well, when I asked Chris he said he'd 'a been angry if he lived there now, but that if he lived there when he was seven like me, he'd 'a been real scared, just like I was."

JD frowned as he turned to his friend. "You wasn't scared, Vin."

Blue eyes growing wider, the older child said, "Yeah I was. I was scared all th' time."

"Nu-uh," the little brunet denied the thought that his friend; his protector and champion, had been afraid during that time.

"You don't believe that Vin was afraid when the two of you lived in the warehouse, JD?" The doctor asked.

"No, 'cause he wasn't," the little brunet said with an air of finality.

"JD, I gotta tell you th' rest an' then maybe you'll see why I was scared." The older boy said. Then he related the discussion he had had with Chris that night in the yard. When he finished, he said, "Now y' see? If you thought I was brave, it was 'cause I was scared."

The smaller boy continued to wear an expression of confusion. He still didn't believe that Vin had been afraid, no matter what he said. And he didn't think Chris would have been scared either. Chris and his Da and their uncles were the bravest men in the world. None of it made any sense.

Sensing that the younger boy needed time to process this new reality Lowery said, "This is a big thing to think about, isn't it JD?"

The little brunet shrugged his shoulders. He wasn't certain what there was to think about. They were wrong. Vin hadn't been scared, Chris wouldn't have been scared, and his Da certainly wouldn't have been scared.

"How about we give you some time to think about it, would that be okay?"

"I guess," JD replied quietly.

Giving Buck a compassionate smile, the therapist said, "Maybe that's something you could all discuss during some of the pow-wows this week. You know, you've all had a lot of changes during the past several months. I think that we'll make this your only homework between now and our next meeting. When you sit down to talk together, you can each share something about how your life has changed since you became a family."

"Anything in particular, doc?" Buck asked.

"Whatever you want to share, " Will replied. "Maybe sharing how your lives have changed will help you all learn a little more about one another."

"Dr. Will?" Vin said softly.


"Do I gotta write anything this week?"

"Nope." Lowery smiled.

Slumping back the little boy let loose a sigh of relief. "That's good."

The therapist chuckled then turned to the younger of the boys. "JD, are you all right?"

Shrugging, the little brunet said, "Yeah."

Casting a pointed gaze toward the tall agent, Will said, "As always, call me any time. And I've got some openings this coming week, if we need to schedule an additional appointment. Otherwise, I guess I'll see you all next week."

Squaring his shoulders, Wilmington said, "Will do, Doc. Will do."

Next appointment: March 24

Back to Visits With Dr. Will (Index)

Comments: LaraMee