by MMW

Disclaimer: The characters of "The Magnificent Seven" belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. The Little Britches Universe was created by S. Berry and J K Poffenberger

Notes: Many thanks to Phyllis for her help with this.

Vin could feel the smile on his face as memories from the day streamed through his mind. It had been an especially good day today.

The teacher at school had been sick for a few days. Other people in the town had tried to fill in, even Uncle Josiah had taken a turn, but they were all busy so the boys had not had to go to school for the past two days.

It was beginning to get cooler outside after the heat of summer and that made it perfect weather for playing. The only bad thing was that the sun went down earlier so they couldn’t play outside as long.

Still, not having to go to school along with getting to spend the days with Pa and Buck had been fun, even if they had done nothing but chores. Chores could be fun when you knew you were helping out and when it meant that Pa and Buck could teach him. His pa and Buck always taught him things he needed to know, not like reading and arithmetic and such

This morning they had surprised the boys by deciding to go on a fishing trip. Fishing trips were one of the boys’ favorite treats. Vin could still remember back three years ago when he and JD first arrived. They hadn’t been fishing…

Vin’s thoughts trailed off and his brow furrowed as one thought repeated in his mind, “when they arrived three years ago”. Frowning, Tanner focused on the time they had spent in this town, knowing that couldn’t be right. Turning his head, he watched his cousin for a few minutes, trying to figure out if he was awake or not. Unable to tell, Vin whispered, “JD”. Not getting a response, he tried again, “JD!”

“Hmm. Whaaat?” the younger boy asked around a huge yawn. Two small fists reached up and rubbed the tired eyes. After a few blinks, JD was awake and turned to give Vin his full attention.

Not wanting to upset the boy, Vin thought about just telling his cousin to go back to sleep, but changed his mind. He had to be sure he was thinking this through correctly. “JD, how long have we lived here?” he asked, hoping he had been wrong.

“That’s easy, Vin,” JD replied, smiling because he knew the answer. “We’ve been here three winters and three springs and three and a half summers and three falls, but it will be four falls soon.”

“That’s what I thought,” Vin agreed, more worried than ever.

Sensing something was worrying his cousin, JD sat up in bed and looked down into his cousin’s worried face. “What’s wrong, Vin?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Tanner denied too quickly.

JD knew something was wrong and began to get worried and scared. “It’s not nothing,” he replied, his lower lip trembling. “What’s wrong?”

Angry with himself for having upset his younger cousin, Vin wanted to say something comforting, but he couldn’t think of anything. With a resigned sigh, he reached out and let JD lay down next to him. “I was just pondering,” Vin explained, liking the word his Uncle Ezra had taught him.

“Pondering what?” JD asked, his thumb slipping into his mouth.

Vin was afraid to just come out and say what was worrying him, afraid that just saying it would make it worse. “JD, how many birthdays have you had since Chris and Buck took us in?”

“Three,” the young brunette said.

“And how old were you when we first came?”

“Almost six,” the small boy replied happily.

“How old did you turn on your last birthday?”


A knot began to form in Vin’s stomach. “And the one before that?”

“Six,” JD replied, though a little more slowly as he began to wonder what Vin was getting at.

“And the one before that,” Vin managed to ask, his voice soft as he began to feel sick.

JD was silent before answering, suddenly understanding what had his cousin so upset. “Six,” he replied, his voice little more than a whisper.

Vin was silent at the response, having already known the answer. He hugged his cousin more tightly too him.

“Vin,” JD said, fear causing his voice to quiver. “I ain’t getting no older.”

“I know, JD,” Vin agreed. “Me neither.”

The two boys were quiet, huddling together in the middle of the bed, seeking what comfort they could from each other. “Vin?” JD asked quietly.

“What?” Vin replied, afraid to think of what this revelation meant, and what it didn’t.

“What if we don’t get no older because we’re just characters in a story?” the small brunette asked, worried.

Vin didn’t have an answer for that. Being a character in a story sure would explain why they never seemed to get older, but it also meant that they didn’t really control what happened in their lives and he didn’t like that idea one bit. Shaking off his melancholy thoughts and deciding to ignore the worry, with more confidence than he felt, Vin replied, “Nah. We ain’t no characters in a story, JD.” He felt JD’s head rise from his shoulder and met the brown eyes. “Everybody gets to turn six a bunch of times and the rest of us just have to wait until you’re done turning six before we get older too.” Yeah, that made sense, Tanner decided.

JD sighed in relief, comforted by Vin’s explanation. His cousin was really, really smart so if Vin said it was normal, than it was what was supposed to happen. Smiling, JD settled onto the mattress once more and closed his eyes. A large yawn escaped and he muttered, “Night, Vin,” as thoughts of the day’s fishing trip appeared in his mind.

“Night, JD,” Vin said, suddenly taken by a yawn of his own. His eyes drifted shut and a smile appeared on his face as the memory of his water fight with Chris rose up, crowding out all other thoughts.

Outside the small room, two larger forms were left staring at each other in concern and worry.

“Do you think they could be right?” Buck asked softly. “Could we just be characters in a story?”

Fear was crawling through Chris' system as he pondered the question. Thinking about it now, it did seem strange that JD had turned six three times and that they hadn’t aged a day since the boys had come to live with them. Shaking off those thoughts, Larabee shoved aside his own concern and worry. “Nah,” he said. “No one could write some of the stuff that happens to us, “ he denied. “It’s just too strange.”

Wanting to believe Chris’ words more than he had wanted to believe anything else in a long time, Buck released his own fear and offered a shaky smile in response. “Does seem like a ridiculous notion,” he replied. Reaching out he slapped Chris on the shoulder and turned his mind to other thoughts. “Reckon we need to take the horses out for some good grazing before the weather changes too much,” he said, stretching and yawning.

Larabee nodded in agreement and watched Buck wander off to his room. Standing alone in the dark, the doubts Vin and JD had raised came back full force, causing a shudder to run through him. “I am not a fictional character,” he announced to the empty room before stalking back to his bedroom and doing his best to ignore the sudden fear that had taken him. He was Chris Larabee and there wasn’t a lot that scared him, certainly not some odd notion expressed by his sons in the middle of the night. It just couldn’t be.

Lying down on his bed, he closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep. He wasn’t a fictional character and nothing and nobody could tell him he was. Another shudder ran through him at the odd feeling that someone was watching him and he had an unreasonable urge to run into the boys’ room, scoop up Vin and assure himself the boy was real.

Slowly the fear left him and the odd thoughts faded away to be replaced by memories of earlier in the day and thoughts of the fun they would have tomorrow. Soon, Larabee, like the rest of the house, was sound asleep, dreaming pleasant dreams. In the morning, none of them would remember the odd worry that assaulted them in the middle of the night.