Main Characters: Chris, Buck
Disclaimers: The Magnificent Seven and its characters are the property of MGM, Trilogy Entertainment, the Mirisch Corporation, and the Hallmark Channel.
Chris Larabee paused mid-stride, looking over at his best friend and co-worker. Despite his own reassuring words, Buck Wilmington wore a forced smile on his face, and his hands were clenched tightly in his lap.
"They will be," Buck repeated in response to Chris's uplifted eyebrow.
Chris sighed expressively. "I know, but Vin's face..." His voice trailed off and his shoulders slumped as he pictured the wide-eyed boy who'd clutched at his sleeve for a second before being led away.
"And JD's." Now Buck was the one who was unable to remain still. He strode from one end of the waiting room to the other, dodging chairs, other patients, and Chris, who stood stock-still in the middle of the floor. "I know he wanted to be a 'big boy,' and go back by himself, but the way he looked when they called his name..."
Chris scrubbed his hand over his face and hair, resuming his almost frenzied pacing around the small waiting area. "They've been back there for almost an hour. What's taking so long?"
Buck eyed the closed door. "We could go check on them." Taking a few steps forward, he looked pleadingly at Chris.
"The boys wanted us to wait out here, Buck," Chris reminded him, shaking his head.
"I know, but that's only because the last two kids went in by themselves. JD and Vin are different. They might-"
"Buck! Buck!" Suddenly the door burst open and a small boy-shaped rocket came flying into the room. Heading straight for his father, JD immediately raised his arms to be picked up, a smile on his face.
Buck swung his son up into his arms. "So, how'd it go?"
"I got to sit in a really big chair while a lady cleaned my teeth!" JD exclaimed. "My teeth are all shiny now, look!" He opened his mouth as wide as he could, displaying his newly polished teeth.
"Woo hoo!" Buck exclaimed. "Those have got to be the brightest teeth I've ever seen." He shaded his eyes with one hand, maintaining his hold on JD with the other. "I just might have to wear sunglasses for a while."
Following JD through the door at a more sedate speed, Vin approached his father, his eyes dancing excitedly.
Chris dropped to one knee, welcoming the boy with a smile. "Everything go okay, Cowboy?"
Vin nodded. "I was a little scared at first," he confided in a whisper.
"I know," Chris whispered back.
"But it didn't hurt none. The lady just cleaned my teeth and gave me a new toothbrush." Vin waved the toothbrush at his father.
"Me, too!" JD shouted. He wiggled to be put down, and, as soon as his feet touched the floor, ran to join Vin, holding out his own new toothbrush for inspection.
Retaking his feet, Chris glanced at Buck, exchanging a relieved grin with the other man. "They did good."
"Yeah, but what about us?" Buck snorted.
Larabee just rolled his eyes in amusement.
"We'll handle it better next time, pard. I know we will."
The two men stared at each other for a long moment before shaking their heads in unison. "Nah."
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