Author's Note: I want to thank Karen (The Bad Element) for the beta on this fan fiction. I know she had a mess to deal with. Thanks Karen!!!
Chris Larabee pulled the long black duster on as he made his way toward the back door, which would lead him to the barn. He wanted to get the horses bedded down for the night before the winter snowstorm hit the Denver area. The weather channel had made it perfectly clear to their viewers that this snowstorm would be the worst one the state of Colorado had seen in many years. Chris had pretty much demanded that Vin, JD and Ezra, stay at the ranch, knowing that Josiah and Nathan would come on their own. The ranch house was their refuge place when something was going wrong, weather it be a winter snowstorm or the healing from one of their busts gone wrong. Earlier in the day the Judge had called down to the team's office and advised them that the building was closing early due to the storm. Judge Travis had also advised the team that the office would be closed the next day and wouldn't reopen until Monday. So the team had a three-day weekend to themselves. JD, Ezra, and Vin sat on the large black couch in the living room with the big screen t.v. playing a football game that was a rerun from last week. Josiah was at the stove cooking his famous chili that all the guys were in love with. Nathan on the other hand was also getting his heavy jacket on to help Larabee with the horses. Vin really wanted to help Larabee, but with the cold he was getting, Nathan wouldn't hear of it nor would Chris.
Three years ago Larabee would have bet that he wouldn't have this many friends in his home or in his life. After his wife and son were killed he didn't think that he would ever feel normal again. Joining up with the other five men that made up the team was a blessing in disguise for the blonde. Where he thought his life would consist of nothing but guilt and loneliness, it was now filled with laughter and friendship. Chris had learned to deal with the guilt of his family dieing. There were months where he prayed to God to take him from his pain. People kept telling the blonde agent that God had different things in store for him. They told him to wait it out and see what God would hand him in life. At that time all he knew was what God had taken away from him. Now he knew that God had given him five men to watch his back
"Let's make this fast, it's damn cold out here and I don't plan on being cold long." Larabee said as he opened the door and walked out followed by Nathan.
Chris and Nathan trudged through the snow that was already on the ground and fought with the snow that was flying around them. Larabee could already feel his nose getting cold from the icy weather and walked faster to get the horses bedded down.
Once the duo was close to the barn they went their separate ways. Larabee went to get hay while Nathan went to start cleaning up the stalls. Chris climbed up the ladder to the loft and once there he stood up and looked around. Something was out of place to the blonde. He blocked it out of his mind and grabbed one of the bales of hay then tossed it closer to the edge of the loft. Chris turned back around and grab the next bale of hay, however this time when he moved it out of the way of the others he noticed blue colored material. He dropped the bale, walked toward the material, and stopped. The material came from a small shirt that was worn by a child. At first Chris looked around him making sure that it wasn't a trap, when he felt safe enough he immediately went to the child. Chris knelt down and pushed shaggy black hair away from the child's face.
"Hey little guy. What are you doing here in my barn?" Chris spoke softly so as not to scared the little boy. When the boy stirred and turned his feverish eyes toward him, Larabee had all the answers he needed. Larabee's worry kicked in as he took in the appearance of the little boy. He didn't look to be more than 3 or 4 years old. The sweat that covered his face told the blonde agent that the little boy was very sick.
The young boy was only wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans that looked to be two sizes to small for him. His shoes also looked to be too small and he wore no socks. Bruises covered his arms and his face. Anger started to over take Larabee as he continued to take in the little boy's appearance. The small boy's hair looked like it hadn't been cut in months leaving it shaggy and unruly.
Chris knew without a doubt that the little guy was cold, the shaking of the boy's body told him that. Chris quickly took his black duster off and draped it across the boy.
"Nathan!" Chris didn't dare move the child, for all he knew; the boy could have some broken bones. And if that were the case, then moving him could cause more pain and damage. Something Chris did not want to do. At the sound of Chris's call, Nathan had dropped the shovel he had been using and ran to the ladder. After climbing up, he walked quickly over to Chris and looked over his shoulder. Once he saw the boy, he pushed Larabee out of the way and knelt beside him. He began to feel the boy's body for anything broken. Not finding any, he let out a sign. Then he picked the small child up and carried him to the loft's ladder. Chris stepped out on to the ladder and took the boy from Nathan. After he repositioned the boy he carried until he was in a fireman's hold, he climbed down from the ladder. To say he was scared was putting it lightly. Larabee didn't know what to do or what to think. He had found this little boy in his barn loft and he didn't know who he was or what he was doing there.
Nathan followed Chris down the ladder and after assuring himself that the boy was warm, he pushed Chris towards the barn door, "Take him to the house Chris. I'll get JD and Josiah to do this." Nathan said quickly. Nathan had noticed right off that the boy hadn't moved when Chris repositioned him. That worried the ex-paramedic. On top of the obvious abuse, he wanted to know what was a kid doing out in this kind of weather without a jacket or the proper clothes on. He knew that the kid must have been running from something or someone.
"Chris take him to your room and cover him up with a blanket. I'll get a few things and be there in a minute." Nathan said as he opened and held the door for Chris to come into the house.
Chris quickly walked into the house and headed directly towards the staircase that would take him to the second floor and his room. He paid no attention to the snow that he was tracking into the house or the looks that he got from his agents. His mind was only on the boy that he carried in his arms.
Josiah stood to the side when Larabee came through the laundry room and into the kitchen. The large man had seen the worry in both Larabee's and Nathan's eyes and knew something was wrong. He also knew that once Larabee had time that he would inform him of what was going on. Josiah stayed silent as he watched Chris go through the kitchen and into the living room.
"Josiah, Chris found that little boy in the barn. From what I could tell with a quick check, the boy has been abused. He has a lot of bruising. I couldn't find anything broken though. Could you get me the first aid kit from under the cabinet while I go wash up. Oh and someone needs to go and take care of the horses." Nathan said before also going out of the kitchen and down the hall .
Josiah walked into the living room after pulling the first aid kit out of the cabinet and setting it on the kitchen table for Nathan. He looked to the three men sitting on the couch still staring at where Larabee went up the staircase to the upper level of the ranch home.
"Hey let's go and take care of those horses for Chris." Josiah spoke breaking the three men's thoughts. Each man turned around to face the large man. "I'll explain on the way. Vin don't you move, you sit right there. Nathan will have your hide if you go outside."
Chris laid the small boy down onto his bed and then pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed over the boy. In the light Chris could see the large purple colored bruise that marred the right side of the child's face. Anger started to overtake the agent. Chris placed his right hand on the child's forehead and felt the heat that radiated there. Larabee ran the back of his hand down the boy's cheek and lightly over the large bruise. A small almost silent moan escaped from the boy's mouth and Larabee quickly jerked his hand back.
"You're okay little guy." Chris spoke softly, not wanting to scare the small child. Chris didn't have a chance to think before the kid pulled the blanket and jacket from himself and flew across the room to stand in the corner. Chris saw how terrified the child was and stood up slowly.
"Calm down, I'm not going to hurt you." Chris spoke as he slowly walked toward the boy. Larabee noticed how the boy tried to back up more into the corner and became hysterical when he couldn't go further. Larabee hated to see the child in this shape but he also knew that he needed to calm him down. He walked around to the other side of the bed and sat down on the floor, a few feet away from the boy, so he would hopefully be less of a threat.
"Listen, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm here to help you, I promise. You can trust me; please, give me your hand. I'm not going to hurt you." Chris promised, putting his own hand out.
The boy looked at the out stretched hand. Something in the blonde man's eyes told him that this man standing in front of him wasn't going to hurt him. He felt so sick, he just wanted his headache to go away along with his other aches and pains. The man's voice was gentle, not harsh, and demanding. Not many people talked to him so gentle, but he still didn't want to go near him. The child was scared that the blonde would take him back and that was one place he didn't want to be.
How could I have been so stupid? Hiding in a barn. I was so cold and tired. All I needed was a warm place to rest until I could get going again. Why'd I have to choose this guy's barn? Now this guy will send me back. Well, he'll try to send me back, but I ain't going.
He had walked forever it seemed and he couldn't take another step. When he had found the barn he thought he found heaven.
"I'm not going to harm you little guy, I just want to help you. I know that you're feeling bad and you're cold. Please let me take care of that for you. You can trust me." Chris kept saying over and over to the child hoping he would get a reaction from him. It was tearing Larabee up inside to see such a small child afraid of him. "Come on, take my hand I won't hurt you."
The small child stepped closer to the blonde man. He was cold and he just wanted to get warm. The blonde man's eyes finally got through to the boy along with the man's words.
He stuck his arm out to allow the blonde man to take his hand. Once Chris had his dirty little hand in his he looked the boy in the eyes. "Do you trust me?" Chris asked.
The shaking of the boy's head told Chris what he was hoping. He pulled the boy closer to him until he had his arms around him and the child close to his chest. The heat that radiated from the child worried Chris. Larabee picked the child up into his arms and carried him back to the bed. He felt the child tense up in his arms and feared that another fit would come on like that last one. Finally the boy relaxed once Chris laid him back on the bed.
"See that wasn't so bad was it? You can trust me, I'm not going to hurt you or allow anyone to hurt you okay?"
Once again the little boy shook his head. Chris sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled the blanket back over the child as he spoke. "So what's you're name little one?"
"Buck, sir," came the almost silent reply.
"Well Buck, my name is Chris Larabee. Do you have a last name?"
"That is a nice name for a boy. Buck how old are you?"
Chris couldn't believe the manners the kid had. Every question he gave the child was answered with a "sir." Buck had said he was 5 years old but to Chris he didn't look any bigger than 3 or 4. Buck was small for his age. Chris looked into the boy's eyes and could still see how frightened he was and Chris vowed at that moment to find out who had caused the boy to know that much fear. Further questions would have to wait as Nathan came into the room with the first aid kit. Chris felt Buck tense up once more as he buried his head in Chris's chest and held onto his arm tightly.
"Buck this here is Nathan Jackson, he's a good friend of mine and you can also trust him. There are also four other men in this house that you can trust. They're all my friends and they won't hurt you either. Okay?"
Buck turned his face to Nathan before turning it back to Larabee's chest. He just knew that he was in deep trouble. He gripped tighter to Chris's arm still in fear of what was going to happen to him.
"Nathan is going to help you feel better buddy." Chris said pulling the child from his chest getting him to look at him again. "Remember you can trust me, I'm not going to lie to you Buck."
Nathan walked closer to the bed and placed his hand on the child's forehead feeling the heat that came from Buck. He took his hand away and gave Chris a concerned look over top the child's head. Chris returned the same look as he once again pulled the child back to his chest.
"We need to get him into a bath tub Chris. His fever needs to come down." Nathan spoke as he walked out of the bedroom and down the hall to the bathroom that was equipped with a tub.
"Buck, we are going to give you a bath. You have a fever and Nathan says that it needs to come down. You can trust me remember. I'm not going to hurt you or let anyone else hurt you okay." Chris spoke as he lifted the child into his lap and then stood up.
Once Chris and Nathan removed the child's clothes the anger hit them once more. Purple bruises showered the boy's back and chest. Old bruises and cuts covered Buck's legs and even on his butt. Chris clenched his fist as he watched Nathan run the cool washcloth over the child's body. He had to leave the room, but fear stopped him, the fear of Buck going into another fit like before. Finally his anger gave in and he slipped from the room as the little boy lay in the tub with his eyes closed. Chris walked back into his room and went to the dresser to find the boy a shirt to put on. It would be way too big but at least it would cover him.
Chris had finally gotten it out of the boy that he came from a boy's home and didn't have any parents. That made the blonde wonder how the bruises got there. He knew that things like that happened in boys' homes but the bruises that covered this child weren't at the hands of other children. It had to be at the hands of an adult. Chris made a silent promise to himself that when he found the bastard that put those bruises on the boy that the person would be sporting their own.
"Mr. Larabee?" Chris turned to see Ezra standing in his doorway.
"Ezra, I'm glad you're here. Do me a favor. Call the boy's homes in Denver, see if they're missing a Buck Wilmington. If you find them let me know, I want to have a talk with the person in charge."
"Yes, sir." Ezra said before walking back down the staircase and into Larabee's home office on the ground level floor of the ranch home.
Chris quickly walked back in the bathroom. Nathan had Buck standing up on the floor with a towel wrapped around him. The ex-paramedic was talking softly to the child, letting him know that he wasn't going to hurt him and that he was going to make him feel better.
"Hey there buddy, I brought you a shirt to put on. Now underwear is a different story, I don't reckon mine would fit you." Chris said with a smile then got an idea. He left the bathroom again and walked down the hallway to the bedroom he rarely stepped into anymore. He opened the door and slowly walked in and walked across the room to the small dresser. When he opened the drawer and saw the small boy's boxer brief underwear tears came to his eyes. He remembered having to go to the mall to purchase them for his own son. Adam wanted to have the same kind of "undies" that his daddy wore. Still new in the package, the boy had never had a chance to wear them out. Larabee had placed them in the drawer the day the child died and had yet to clean up the room or remove everything. The blonde quickly grabbed the package that held boxer briefs and fled from the room quickly not wanting to spend another minute in the room.
Stepping back into the bathroom, he tore open one of the packs. He hoped the boy's underwear would fit Buck. Adam was a bigger child when Chris had bought them. Larabee pulled out a gray pair and the walked closer to the boy.
"Lookie here what I found." Chris said as he put them on Buck. The underwear was a little big for Buck but they would due. Chris then slipped the blue t-shirt over the child's arms.
Buck looked down at the shirt and then lifted it up to look at the underwear. He was scared now. The blonde man had to give him clothes. He turned teary eyes to the blonde.
"What's wrong Buck?"
"I don't want to be in trouble sir."
"Why are you going to be in trouble?"
"I'm not supposed to have someone's things. I'd get in trouble." The tears started to fall down the child's cheeks.
Chris put his arms out and waited for Buck to come closer and when he did Chris wrapped him in a hug close to his chest.
"You're not going to be in trouble. I promise." Chris then lifted the boy up and carried him back into his bedroom and laid him on the king size bed once again pulling the blanket up around him. "Buck, Nathan is going to give you something to make you feel better okay. Then you can go to sleep." Chris said as he moved out of the way of Nathan.
Nathan quickly read the back of the flu medicine bottle. He was scared to give Buck much in fear of him being allergic to it. So he gave him half of the required dose for under the 12-year-old limit. When he was finished he made sure the blanket was up around the boy's chin and then left the room leaving Larabee alone with the child to go fix Buck something to eat.
Chris picked up the black duster from the bed and laid it across the chair that sat in his room. He then went and lay down beside the scared little boy on the bed. He put his arm around the little boy's waist and waited until Buck relaxed.
"I want you to remember Buck, that I'm not going to hurt you. I'm here to help you okay."
"You don't have to call me "sir". Chris will be fine." Larabee stated. After letting Buck relax. Chris made an attempt to question the boy.
"Buck why did you run away from the boy's home?
"I don't like it there."
"That's no reason. Why didn't you like it? Would you tell me how you got all those bruises?"
Chris felt the child tense up again under his arm. He knew right then that he had hit a soft spot with the child. Chris looked down into Buck's eyes and saw fear in them again.
"You can tell me, buddy"
"I am bad sometimes and Mr. Lakey says that kids have to be punished when they're bad."
"Buck how does Mr. Lakey punish you and the other kids?"
"Well mostly it's me, he says I can't stay out of trouble. He whips me with a belt sometimes and a stick. Chris I don't want to talk about Mr. Lakey anymore. I sorry I was bad and I know I have to go back to the home but just tonight can I stay here with you in your big bed?"
"Sure you can little man, and you can stay here tomorrow to. How does that sound?" Chris asked the little boy knowing that the roads would be too bad to drive on for a couple of days.
"Sounds good. I sleepy now." Buck said with a small smile before closing his eyes.
Chris waited until Buck was sleeping soundly before easing off the bed and leaving the room. He wanted to find Ezra and see what the southerner had found out about the boy's homes. Anger was being a big issue with the blonde right now. He wanted to get his hands around Mr. Lakey's neck and leave him a bruise or two himself.
Chris walked down the staircase and made his way to his home office. He knew that would be the place he would find Ezra. When he walked into the room he was shocked to see that Ezra was not alone. The remainder of his team was helping him. JD's fingers were flying across the keyboard to Chris's computer. Ezra was on the phone and having what looked like a heated conversation. Josiah standing in the back ground talking with Nathan while Vin stood in the corner looking out of the window at the snowstorm outside. The ex-paramedic quickly walked toward Larabee once he saw he was in the room.
"Chris, Buck ran away from St. James's." Nathan didn't need to go into detail with the blonde; he would know the home that Nathan was talking about. "I filled the guys in on Buck's condition and all the bruises that we found on him. And Ezra is having a hot headed discussion with the person in charge at that home now."
Chris walked over to the desk where Ezra was standing. He could tell from the southerner's voice just how heated the conversation was.
"You would be wise to believe that we shall be back in contact, Sir." Ezra said as he slammed the phone down in its cradle. The conversation that he had just went through sent chills up his spine.
"I just got off the phone with a Mr. David Lakey, and let me be the first to tell you. I'm most delighted that he is not here in front of me."
"What did he say?" Josiah asked.
"When I asked about the child, Mr. Lakey acted as if he meant nothing to him. Wanted to know and I quote "Just what has the little bastard gotten into this time"." Ezra said and waited for the other men's reactions. "How on earth a man like that run a boy's home is beyond me."
"So what else did he say, what do we do with him?" Nathan asked as he quickly looked over to Chris.
"He stated to me that Mr. Wilmington's parents are no longer among the living. He also stated that no one in his or her right mind wanted or would want to adopt the child. That Buck is at the boy's home until he is of legal age, which means thirteen years from now."
Ezra started to pace the floor, anger over taking him. "That imbecile also stated that he wouldn't show the child's profile to anyone because he was ashamed of him. Mr. Lakey stated that Mr. Wilmington's mother was a well lets say working woman and one of her tricks had gotten her pregnant with Buck."
"That ain't any reason to be ashamed of the little guy." Vin said taking his thoughts from the outside world and directing his look to Chris. "What kind of trouble did this kid get into to get those whippings Ez? I would like to know before I go to that boy's home myself." Vin said before stepping from the window.
"Oh that poor excuse for a man couldn't recall any particular reasons Mr. Tanner."
"Well he ain't going back to that place, and you can count on this. I'm going to pay a visit to that home come Monday morning." Chris stated.
"So what are you going to do with him Chris?" JD asked looking away from the computer and at his boss.
"I'll call the social services Monday morning, ain't much we can do with this storm going on outside anyways. Ezra did you let Mr. Lakey know that Buck was here and there was no need to worry about him. Like he would any how."
"Yes Mr. Larabee I did and let me tell you the shocker here. He didn't care. Said to keep the kid for all he cared, that it was one less brat he had to worry over." Ezra said with anger in his voice.
"Okay for now he stays here then. I want all guns put in the gun safe and out of reach of him." Larabee said as he walked to the gun safe and turned the knob for the code that would open it. He waited until all of his men had placed their weapons in the safe and grinned when it took Vin and Ezra longer to get all of theirs together. It still amazed him how the two men could hide so many guns on their body without anyone noticing.
"JD what were you doing?"
"Just doing a little 'research' of my own. I'll be done in a minute." JD said turning his attention back to the computer.
"Okay when you're done get in here and get some food in ya." Larabee said before walking out of the room.
Six men sat around the kitchen table sipping on coffee and talking. They were trying to figure out what to do with the little boy that slept in Chris Larabee's king size bed upstairs. Ezra had filled the men in on the whole conversation he had with the boy's home manager. Anger filled the kitchen with each word the southerner spoke. It was clear that Mr. David Lakey didn't want the child around. It was also clear that something had to be done about him.
Chris Larabee sat in the chair and listened to his men talk about the small boy that was sleeping in his bed. His anger wanted to take over control but he wouldn't allow it, not while the kid was in the house. Larabee also imagined the little boxer briefs that he had put on the child. Buck Wilmington made him realize how much he missed his own little boy. The blonde felt the need to shelter this small child as if he were of his own blood. He wanted to protect Buck and not allow anyone to hurt him ever again. His feelings toward the child had him confused. Confused in a way he didn't know how to explain. All he knew right now was that he needed to calm his anger down before he let himself loose control.
"I'm going to go and check on Buck's fever." Nathan said getting up from the kitchen and walking to the sink where he put his coffee cup down. " I think he's going to have a long night. I hope not though." Nathan stated before leaving the kitchen.
"I'm going back to the computer." JD said standing up and placing his cup in the sink also before leaving the kitchen.
The now four seated men at the table were lost in their own thoughts as they drank their coffee. Each man wondering what would happen, to the child come Monday. Vin Tanner was thinking on his past when his own mother died, when he was at a young age. He had to live in the same type of homes as Buck and like the child, he, also hated them. He knew what it was like, the older kids would tease and taunt the little ones. So Tanner could relate to Buck in so many ways. Vin looked across the table at Ezra and could see that he also was thinking about his past. Buck was just like most of them there. JD's mother had died when he was younger leaving him to defend for himself. JD however was of age where he didn't have to go to any homes.
Ezra excused himself from the table and went to the office where the youngest member of their team was. Josiah also left the kitchen and walked up the staircase. He wanted to pray for the small child.
"What ya thinking about cowboy?"
"Buck, I'm just thinking about what kind of life the little guy has had."
"Yeah well make that the two of us. If he has lived in those homes for most of his born life then it ain't been good." Tanner said looking into his best friend's eyes seeing concern.
"What do you think will happen to him?"
"I'm not sure Vin, but I plan on making sure it something good." Chris said as grabbed hold of his coffee mug and stood up. "I'm going back up stairs, you want to come?"
"Sure." Vin replied getting up from the table.
"Don't get to close to the boy with that cold you got going on." Larabee stated as the two men walked out of the kitchen.
During the night the snowstorm outside worsened. Chris was up most of the night looking out his bedroom window, thinking on the boy that lay sleeping on his bed. Nathan had stayed up most of the night along with Chris, watching the boy's fever. Finally in the middle of the night the child's fever broke, leaving both Nathan and Chris relieved. However the night was a long one for Buck. Nightmares had invaded and over took his sleep several times, making him cry out. Each time he cried, Larabee was there to sooth him with his soft words and gentle touch. Chris would remind the child that he wasn't going to allow anyone or anything to hurt him, and he was safe there for as long as he could help it. Buck had wrapped his arms around the blonde's neck and held on as if his life depended on it. Larabee had to change his shirt several times during the night after Buck latched onto him and cried, leaving tears and other fluids on the front of Larabee's shirt. The little guy felt so safe with the blonde. Safer than he had ever felt since his ma had passed away and Buck wanted to stay like that forever. He knew however that he would be returned to the home and he would have to remember to run in a different direction next time.
Chris knew that the time was getting to be around 9 am or so. The light of day had been showing for a few hours now. Chris just sat there watching the kid sleep and trying to get his thoughts together. He looked down to the child and saw that Buck was staring back up at him.
"What are you thinking about?" Chris asked the child as he looked down into his big blue eyes.
"Nothing Sir" came the almost silent reply. Chris wrapped his arm around the child's shoulders and pulled him close. "Come on you can tell me."
"Well...I...I was thinking um about leaving."
Chris had to hold back his chuckle because of the way he said, "leaving." It was stated in a tone like an adult getting ready to go on a trip or to the store.
"What are you leaving for Buck?" Chris asked. Then things got serious for the two. Buck's tears stung his eyes as they threaten to fall. He looked up into the blonde's eyes and spoke. "I know I can't stay here, I like it here though. I saw you have horses and one day I'd like to ride a horse. I love horses. I like your house and I like the underwear you put on me, but Mr. Lakey won't allow me to stay here. He is probably mad now because I ranned away and I'll get a whipping when you take me back. You are taking me back aren't you? Or is he going to come and get me? I don't want him to come and get me, at least not yet." Buck answered with his head hung down.
"No, son, Mr. Lakey won't be here to get you. I promise you that." Chris said holding the child close to him. The thought of that guy brought anger back to the blonde. Chris also made a silent promise to himself that he would never allow Mr. Lakey to touch Buck ever again. The blonde just hoped he could keep those promises without landing himself in jail for assault.
"You can stay here for now." Larabee said not going into details in fear of getting the kid's hopes up. Chris knew that Buck was going to stay at the ranch until Monday because of the weather. He didn't however have a clue of where he was going to end up after Monday. Chris hugged the child tight before speaking. "How about we go downstairs and see if anyone else is up? What do you say?" Chris asked to get off the subject they were on.
"Sure" Buck said standing up on the bed and then waited for Chris to get up. "Can I have a piggy back ride?" Came the question from the now almost healthy child.
"I don't see why not." Chris said as he allowed the child to jump up on his back. Together the two walked out of the room.
The aroma of coffee hit Larabee once he walked through the living room and into the kitchen, with the child still on his back. He knew someone was already up and when he walked into the kitchen he was shocked to say the least when he saw Ezra sitting at the table.
"Morning Ez, you're up pretty early ain't you." Chris said bring Buck around to hold in front of him. Chris walked over to the table and sat Buck down in one of the chairs.
"Yes Mr. Larabee, I had a few things I wanted to do this morning." Ezra said winking at the blonde indicating that he had information.
"Buck, this here is Ezra." Chris said to the child before walking away to the counter where the coffee pot was.
"Hello, there Mr. Wilmington. How are you doing on this cold day?"
"Fine." Came the simple reply from the child. He liked the way Ezra talked. He liked the funny way Ezra talked.
"What would you like for breakfast Buck?" Chris asked setting his coffee mug down on the kitchen table.
"Nothing that's going to be harsh on his stomach Chris." Nathan said as he entered the room and went straight to the child. "How are you feeling Buck?" Nathan asked as he placed his hand on Buck's forehead.
"I feel fine sir, see feel." Buck said taking Nathan's hand from his forehead and putting it on his arm to show him how he felt. It took everything Chris and Ezra had to not laugh out loud at the seriousness of the child's voice and actions.
" Yep, you feel good. Plus no fever." Nathan said kneeling down next to Buck's chair. The ex-paramedic looked over to Chris and grinned then got up, walked over to the coffee pot, and poured himself a cup.
"Mr. Larabee may I speak to you in your office?" Ezra asked as he stood from the table with his coffee mug in his hand.
"Sure. Buck stay here with Nathan and I'll be back in a few minutes okay." Chris said as he looked to the child. Chris's heart ached when he saw those big blue eyes tear up telling him he didn't want him to leave the room. Chris placed his hand on top of Buck's head and smiled down at him. "I promise I'll be back in a minute. Maybe Nathan will help you cook some breakfast. You can make sure he doesn't mess it up okay?"
"Yes sir" came the almost silent reply. He didn't want Chris to leave the room but he also knew he was a big boy and he didn't want the guys around thinking he was a baby.
Chris walked out of the kitchen following Ezra into his office. He sits down behind the desk while Ezra sits in the chair across from Larabee's desk.
"What's up Ez?"
"I spoke with Miss. Kaye Lawton from social services this morning."
"I didn't know they had people working there right now because of the weather."
"I called her at home. Miss. Lawton is a good friend of mine and I had a very long conversation with her about Mr. Wilmington and the situation that we have here."
"What was her input?" Chris asked with a little worry in his mind. He didn't want the child to have to return to the home and to Mr. Lakey.
"She would like to have a conversation with you and also she would like to meet with you."
"Why does she want to talk or meet with me?" Chris asked with a puzzled look on his face.
"I requested that Mr. Wilmington stay with you until we can find him a family that wants to adopt him."
"YOU DID WHAT?" Chris's asked with his voice raised.
"Listen Chris before you blow your top. It would be best if the child stays here with you. I've been thinking on this most of the night. That is the reason that I called Kaye, she will do what is right. Buck trusts you and from what I can see he hasn't had much trust in anyone."
Chris couldn't believe what he was hearing. How was he supposed to care after the child? It could take weeks or months to find a permanent home for Buck.
"Kaye wants to interview you so that Buck can stay here at the ranch."
"Stop Ezra, just stop and let me think!" Chris stated.
Ezra sat in silence; he honestly didn't think that Larabee would have gotten upset about this. He for one knew that it was the right thing to do for the child.
"I think it would be best for Buck to." Came the new voice from the doorway. Chris turned around to see the sharpshooter standing there leaning against the doorframe.
"Why is that?"
"He trusts you Chris. I think you want the same and you're just scared. I saw you this morning walking through the living room with him on your back. You were grinning and laughing with him. Something I haven't seen out of you. Sure I've seen you laugh and grin before but nothing like that."
"I thought you don't talk much."
"Only when I feel something is right." Tanner stated.
"I'm happy that someone else agrees with me here." Ezra said looking back and forth from Vin and Chris.
"You two leave me alone with this. Let me think on it." Chris said and watched as his men left the room. Chris leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He didn't think he could be responsible for another small life after his son died. Chris opened his eyes and sat straight. He placed his elbows on the desk and put his head in his hands. When he looked down on the desk he saw the information that the youngest agent was looking up on the computer the day before. He picked it up and started scanning through it. The information was on Buck and his little life before they knew him. There were hospital records from the child being admitted because of "accidents." Chris's anger started to boil with each paper he scanned through. The information told how Buck had nothing at the boy's home. Mr. Lakey took everything that belongs to the younger children of the home. He allowed the older kids to beat up on the smaller ones. Chris couldn't believe that JD had gotten a hold of Mr. Lakey's personal online journal nor the chat sessions the man had with other people. There were emails that were written by Mr. Lakey in the information. Larabee could see how JD had gotten a hold of Buck's medical records stating that he had been to several hospitals in the Denver area. Chris also found in the medical records that Buck hadn't had a decent check up since being at the home. His teeth hadn't been looked at either. One thing Chris noticed was the hospitals that David Lakey had taken Buck to. They were the hospitals on the bad side of town that he wouldn't even take his dog to, if he had a dog. Before thinking he yelled out for the youngest member of the team, and for Ezra.
"Yeah Chris." JD said running into the office wiping the sleep from his eyes. JD's gray jogging pant legs were half way up his legs and his blue A.T.F. shit was wrinkled showing he had still been in bed. Ezra followed him, the undercover agent knew that Larabee must of gotten the information that he made sure was sitting on the desk in front of the blonde.
"Where did you get all this information JD? All these, hospital records, and his time at the boy's home. How in the hell did you get all of Lakey's information, chat's, and emails? Especially his online journal?"
"I just found them on the Internet and I may have also used some of my computer skills." JD said in a way that didn't come out saying he hacked into someone else's computer. JD knew that Chris wasn't stupid and he also knew that the blonde didn't like for JD to hack into other's peoples systems.
"Okay never mind I don't wand to hear it." Larabee stated. "You can go on back to bed. I'll talk with you later on."
JD left the room feeling as if he was in trouble. He thought he had done the right think checking on the child's past. No matter how much Larabee would yell at him, he knew that he had helped the child's case in some way. If it kept Buck from having to return back to that home then he was happy to do it and he would've done many times over.
"Ezra call that friend of yours, Buck stays here, and I mean he stays here for good. I want you to make that happen you understand me. I don't want anything else like this to happen to that kid again. He deserves better than the life he has had. So call your friend back and if she needs to do a interview right now then let her know that Josiah will come and get her no matter what the weather is." Chris said then got up and walked out of the office. Once his anger calmed he knew that he might regret his decision. He hated how he always allowed his anger to get the best of him and do the talking for him.
Ezra held his grin until Larabee left the room. He picked up the information that JD had gotten off the computer and silently thanked the young agent for leaving it to where Chris could see it with the help from himself of course. Ezra sat down in the chair behind the desk and grabbed the phone from its cradle. He knew that if anyone could make something like this happen it would be Kaye Lawton. She owned him a few favors and he would use them all up on Buck. Ezra also knew that Larabee's anger had over taken the situation. He wanted to hurry and start the ball rolling before Larabee could change his mind about any of it.
"Oh Mother you'd be so proud of me! I really do wish you could see me now!" Ezra laughed as he spoke to himself. Ezra quickly dialed the number to Kaye Lawton and then leaned back in the chair and propped his socked feet up on the desk. At least Larabee couldn't get mad that he had his shoes on his desk.
Chris walked up stairs to the second level of the house and back into the bedroom he was in the night before. He looked around the room and pushed the tears from his eyes. He hadn't really been in the room much after his son had died. Chris remembered when he and Sarah had decorated the room for Adam. The walls were painted in a tan color with darker brown colored trim work. The curtains along with the bedspread and sheets were covered in brown, white, tan, and black horses. The shelves on the walls held many model horses and the toy box that sat against one of the walls was wooden with horses craved in the top that Chris had made with his own hands. The bookcase that sat beside the child's arm style chair held many children books. Even the lamps on the nightstands along with the floor lamp's shades had horses on them. Chris looked over at the twin size bed. It looked so small, just the right size for a child. The headboard of the bed was wooden and with horses craved in it. Chris ran his finger across the wooden headboard and remembered when he had tucked his son in the bed the night before he died.
"Whatcha doing cowboy?" Came the sharpshooter's voice. Chris turned around and looked at the sharpshooter.
"I reckon the little guy is going to need a room of his own."
"Why not the guest bedroom down the hall or the one downstairs? Why this one?" Tanner suggested.
"This one is perfect for a boy. Plus I want him across the hall from me. And he loves horses so it fits."
"Can you handle this cowboy?"
"I'm just thinking on what Sarah would've done. I believe that she would have opened our home to him and loved him as her own. I keep thinking that Adam would want his room to have a child in it. He was like that you know, a loving kid and always thought of others. I guess he got that from his mother." Chris said sitting down on the bed with the medium size stuff animal horse in his hand.
"Chris you don't have to do this you know?"
"Yes I do. Did you read all the info on that child, JD looked up?"
"Yes, I mean you don't have to let him stay in here." Vin said as he moved his arm around to indicate he was meaning the bedroom.
Chris got up from the bed and walked into the small bathroom that was located inside the room. Even the bathroom brought back many memories for the blonde. The bathroom wasn't a large bathroom, just a tub and shower combo. Sink against one wall and the toilet on the other side. The room was also decorated in horses. Chris grabbed all the towels from the bathroom and walked back into the bedroom with them in his arms. He threw them down on the floor next to the sharpshooter.
"What's this for?"
"You can help me carry everything down stairs to be washed. This stuff hasn't been used in a few years and needs a good washing. I want all the bedclothes, towels, and clothes taken down to the laundry room and you are here so you opt to help."
"If this is what you want." Vin said bending over and picking up the towels from the floor. "I'll send Ezra and JD up to help to. If you plan on Buck staying here everything is going to have to be cleaned." Vin thought if he said something about everyone touching Adam's things then Larabee would change his mind. The sharpshooter was shocked when Larabee didn't argue. Chris knew exactly what the sharpshooter was trying to do, but it wouldn't work on him.
"Yeah I've already thought about that. I'll go down and get the cleaning stuff."
"Why don't you have a talk with Buck. Chris he might not even want this."
"Vin why are you acting like this?"
"Acting like what?" The sharpshooter questioned.
"You agreed he needed to stay didn't you?"
"Yeah I just don't want you to hurt over him using Adam's room Chris. I'm only thinking of how this is going to affect you is all. I think the kid should stay in the home though."
"I appreciate that Vin. But I have to move on. I can keep this room locked up til I'm dead but that isn't what they would want. Sarah and Adam would want me to move on. Besides I don't need this stuff to remember my son. I remember right here." Chris said pointing to his chest.
Chris took the bedclothes off the bed and the stuffed horse and carried them out of the room under his arm. There was a lot to do and he wanted to get started on it. He knew that he would have to talk to Buck. Chris also knew that he wasn't getting either one of their hopes up. He had faith in Ezra. When that stubborn southern set his mind on a project, he always came through. So there was no doubt in Chris's mind that Buck wouldn't get to stay at the ranch. It pained Chris's heart to go through Adam's things and clothes. But right now Buck needed clothes and he knew that his son wouldn't mind. Larabee's thoughts stayed on the info of the child he had read earlier. At the home, Buck was not allowed to keep any personal belongings, no clothes, any toys, or not even friends. Chris wanted him to have Adam's things. Buck wouldn't have to share them or have them taken away from him. Chris thought it might also help him if he saw the toys, clothes, and room put to good use. He knew that his wife and son were watching him and he hoped they had the same smile on their face as he did his.
"Ezra?" Chris spoke when he walked into the office. Ezra was still talking on the phone and Chris sat down in the chair across from Ezra. He quickly slapped Ezra's feet off his desk and tried to listen to the one sided conversation.
Ezra said his goodbyes to the caller and then hung up the phone. "Well that was Kaye. She doesn't need Josiah to come and get her. She said that she would meet with you on Monday when you bring Buck in."
"What does she need Buck for?"
"She needs to see the boy Mr. Larabee to see how he was treated and how he likes staying with you. Miss. Lawton said that she would have several forms for you to fill out. Also there will be a home study on your home and on you. She can get the files from the A.T.F. on all of your background checks, things like that. However she'll have to see how you live. So we will have to get the house child proofed this weekend. Seeing that your home is already half way child proof then it shouldn't be too hard."
Chris nodded his head in agreement. "What did she say about Buck staying here permanently?"
"Miss. Lawton stated that it shouldn't be too big of a problem, however Mr. Lakey will have to sign a form releasing the child from his care. We both know once he realizes we can send him to prison unless he complies, then he will be happy to sign any documents that will be required of him. Monday Miss. Lawton said that she'd be giving you a medical card for Buck to go to the doctor, dentist things like that. You will also get papers to enroll him in school. Mr. Lakey had a private tutor come to the home, so it will be a change for the young man. You need to get together all contact numbers, and numbers to any babysitters that you plan on using for the child when you're not around."
"I can handle that. So does it sound good for us?" Chris couldn't believe this, he felt in a way like a small child at Christmas time waiting to open his gifts. He knew that he was doing the right thing for Buck and for the child's future. "How can this be though Ezra, I've heard of things like this? Don't you have to have a home study before a child can even be in your home? It just seems to easy."
"Yes in certain situations that is correct. However as you know Miss. Lawton is a good friend of mine and she is head of the department of social services here in the Denver area. It doesn't hurt that she owed me a few favors, either." Ezra said as he grinned at the blonde and watched, as Chris's grin grew wider.
"Thanks Ez, I really appreciate it."
"Your very welcome Mr. Larabee, now let's go and let the other's know."
Chris walked into the living room to see Buck playing on the floor with JD. Buck was laughing and his laugh brought a smile to Chris's face. He missed a child's laughter in his home for so long. Chris walked over to the recliner and sat down. Josiah was already sitting in the other recliner while Nathan and Vin sat on the couch watching Buck and JD playing on the floor. The men sitting around the room were still dressed in their pajamas. Chris had to laugh; most of them looked like a kid themselves. Josiah watched as Larabee sat down. The profiler knew that something was up and he hoped that it would only be good news that he had to tell. Add the grin that Ezra had on his face, made Josiah think that it was just that; good news.
Chris looked to Josiah and nodded his head indicating that he had Buck. Josiah then turned to look at Nathan and Vin.
"Nathan how about we go and check on those horses for Chris?" Josiah said getting up from the recliner. Nathan stood up from the couch and looked at Vin. "Since you can't come outside just yet, you and Ezra can clean up the kitchen. JD let's go." Nathan said before leaving the room to go and get dressed.
"I would rather go outside." Vin wined when he got up and walked into the kitchen following Ezra.
Once everyone was out of the room Buck climbed up on Chris's lap. "Can I go out and see the horses?" Buck hadn't seen the horses other than when he hid in the barn the night Chris had found him. He was too sick at the time to pet them or even really look at them closely.
"No not right now, you're still a little sick and we don't want you getting worse do we?"
"No, Sir!" Buck said.
"Buck, I want to talk to you about something."
"Uh oh this is serious huh?"
"Yes it is." Chris smiled down at the boy that sat in his lap.
"Do you like it here with me?"
"Yeah, I think its cool! I like JD he is fun!"
"How about you coming here to live with me?"
Buck hung his head down to look at his hands. Chris hadn't meant for him to get upset, he had figured the child would want to stay at the ranch.
"You don't want to?"
"Yeah I want to Sir, but how long?"
Buck turned around to look in Chris's eyes and had a shocked look on his face. He couldn't believe what the blonde had just said "forever." That can't be right Buck thought as he stared at Chris.
"You mean I can stay here with you? I can live with you? I can stay with JD? I can............"
"Whoa there pard, slow down. Yes you can stay here with me. I want to adopt you if that is okay."
"So you will be my daddy. I ain't ever had a daddy before; I had a mommy but no daddy. Will I have a room?"
"I guess that will make me your daddy huh? And yes you have a room. It's upstairs across the hall from mine. You also have your own bathroom."
Buck knew it was to good to be true. Nothing like this ever came to him. He loved the ranch and he had only been there for a little over a day and he loved all the guys that were there.
"Does all the guys live here to?"
"No they have their separate homes. Why?"
"I like them, why don't they live here? I like JD can we adopt him to?"
"No we can't adopt JD." An idea struck Chris at that point. JD was having a hard time paying his townhouse payment each month. JD had trouble with paying bills all together, he usually missed one or two not remembering to pay them and something would get cut off. Ezra had tried to help the young agent with his finances but JD was a young adult. He wanted to spend it money in other places. Chris thought maybe if he could get JD to move in with them that it would be a big help for the both of them. When Chris had the Saturday meetings then JD could keep Buck for him. It would help JD with money also.
"I'll talk to JD how does that sound?"
"Sound's good. Can I see my room?" Buck asked.
"Sure, come on buddy lets go take a look." Chris said holding on to Buck as he got up from the recliner and walked up stairs.
The morning was spent doing laundry and cleaning up Buck's new room. Each man that stood in the kid's bedroom kept looking to Chris to see if it was in some way bothering him. Buck ran through the room looking and touching at everything and not once did Chris flinch in hurt. Chris kept laughing and smiling at the child. Buck showed him all the books, and Chris acted as if he hadn't ever seen them before. Buck fell in love with all the horses and started calling the room "The Horse Room." Which only made the other men laugh. Most of Adam's clothes fit Buck along with the shoes. Chris made a note to go to the mall on Monday to pick up some school clothes and school supplies for the boy. The men made the bed once the bedclothes came out of the dryer and then put the clothes back in the drawers and let Buck decide where they would go. The bathroom and bedroom were cleaned from top to bottom. Chris made sure that everything was perfect for the child. Buck was laughing most of morning.
"Okay it's lunch time, then Buck needs some more medicine and so does Vin." Nathan said walking out of the room. Vin looked over to Buck and stuck his tongue out making a face at the medicine they both were getting ready to get. Buck laughed and run out of the room after the ex-paramedic.
After lunch was served Chris took Buck back to his room and laid him down on the bed for a nap. Larabee pulled the blanket up to the boy's chin and being careful put his thumb across the bruise that was starting to fade on Buck's face. "Buck, I promise you that no one will ever hurt you ever again." Chris said as he watched the medicine Nathan gave the boy start to take effect. Buck's eyes finally closed and he was sleeping. Chris brushed some of the dark hair from the boy's face, bent down, and kissed his forehead before getting up and leaving the room. God how he hoped he was doing the right thing he thought as he left the room and pulled the door closed only leaving a small crack.
Chris walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the table with the other guys. Nathan poured him a hot cup of coffee and sat it down in front of him.
"JD, I want to talk to you." Chris said bringing the hot liquid to his lips.
"Should we leave?" Josiah asked.
"No, it ain't anything that you can't hear." Chris said.
"JD, what would you think about moving here at the ranch with me, and help me with Buck."
"Why?" JD asked.
Chris smiled, "Well, there's lots of reason. I'm gonna need some help around here with Buck. Like when I have to work late or on Saturdays. Or when he wants to play those annoying video games you love so much. And it can help you too."
JD didn't understand that last part, "what? How can it help me?"
"Let's face it JD. You are a wiz with the computer, but when it comes to finances, you are lost. This will help you get straighten out in case you want to marry Casey someday." Chris said then watched the young agent's face turn to a bright red color.
"Yeah! Sure, I'd love to."
"Well it won't cost you much. I won't charge you any money for the bills. The ranch is already paid for so there is no need for money there. I would expect you to help pay for food, and things like that. Also, if you want another phone line for your computer and phone then you pay for that. You can take the guest bedroom down the hall next to my office. It has its own bath as you know and so it will be good for you. And hell you sleep in that room most of the time anyways." Chris said with a grin on his face letting the young agent know he was teasing him.
"I'll need you to keep Buck when I'm at the office late or on weekends. I also plan on asking Casey if she'll keep him when we both have to be gone. I will call the daycare center at the office on Monday and make arrangements for him to stay there after school. I'll check to see if the school bus will bring him there." Chris said.
"Sounds like you been thinking on this pretty hard cowboy."
"Yeah I have Vin. I just want what's right for him is all."
The men sat around the table in silence with their own thoughts. Ezra, Vin, and JD kept looking at each other with grins on their faces. They knew that the little boy would find a place in Chris's heart.
Chris held Buck's hand tight as they walked into the Social Service Department and found a place to sit down. Larabee watched as Ezra talked to the receptionist at the front desk, letting her know that they were there. Ezra walked toward the two and sat down on the other side of Buck.
"Where are we?" Buck asked in a soft almost silent voice. He knew that in a building like he was in now, he was supposed to be very quite and well mannered. He kept looking around the room at the other small children there with their mother's or father's. Buck swung his legs back and forth and pushed his jacket back over his shoulders.
"We're here to see Miss Lawton, remember she is Ezra's friend and she is the lady we have to see to get the paperwork together for you to live with me." Chris said as he picked the child up from his chair and sat him in his lap. Chris fixed the too large jacket back on Buck's shoulders. "Everything is going to be okay, Buck there is nothing to worry about."
"Mr. Larabee, Miss Lawton will see you now." Came the woman's voice from the receptionist's desk. Chris stood up with Buck in his arms and looked to his undercover agent. "Are you coming?"
"I wouldn't miss this Mr. Larabee." Ezra said. He felt good inside to be sharing this moment with his boss and friend.
Chris could see why Ezra was so fond of the woman. She stood as tall as Ezra with long straight brown hair and big brown eyes. Kaye looked to be in her early thirties and anyone could tell that she worked out and took good care of herself. He watched the looks that she and Ezra were giving each other and wondered just how close of friends they were.
"Come in gentlemen, Mr. Larabee it is so nice to meet you." Kaye said as she stretched out her hand to shake Larabee's hand.
"This must be Buck?" Kaye said.
"Yup that's me ma'am." Buck said has he stuck his hand out to shake the woman's hand.
"Please come in and have a seat." Kaye stood to the side as the three walked in. Chris and Ezra sat down in the chairs across from the woman's desk as Buck sat in Chris's lap.
"Mr. Larabee, I'll need to speak with Buck alone, then, I will need to speak with you. Will that be alright?"
"Yes, I understand." Chris said then turned Buck around until the child was facing him. "Buck, this nice lady wants to talk to you. Ezra and I will be in the lobby waiting for you when you're done. Okay?"
"Okay, but you won't leave me here?"
"No, no way. I'll be right out there in the lobby. I promise." Chris said. Buck hated for Chris to leave the room, he remembered a time when he was left at the same kind of office and that was when Mr. Lakey had came and took him away. He didn't want Mr. Lakey to come and take him; he wanted to stay with Chris.
Chris stood up and then kissed the child on his forehead, sitting him in the chair, and then looking down at him with a smile on his face, he left the room with Ezra following him. The two men walked to the lobby to sit down and wait for Kaye to finish.
"Buck is it okay if I ask you a few questions?" Kaye asked as she stood up from her chair, walked around the desk, and then sat in the chair across from the boy.
"I guess so."
"Buck I would like to know a little about you and your time in Mr. Lakey's care."
"I don't like Mr. Lakey ma'am."
"May I ask why Buck?"
Kaye watched as the small child suddenly found his shoes interesting. Buck turned away from Kaye, not wanting to talk about his time at the home. He knew though that there was a reason she was asking him this. He wondered if she was going to send him back to the boy's home.
"Are you sending me back there Ma'm? I don't want to go back, I want to stay with Chris."
"Do you like staying with Mr. Larabee?"
"Yes, Ma'm I do, he is real nice and I'm not scared of him." Buck said in a matter of fact tone. "Miss Lawton, can I stay with Chris?"
Kaye at this point didn't know what to say, the little boy's words was starting to pull at her heartstrings. In all of her years as a social worker she hadn't ever had to talk with a small child as heartbreaking as this one.
Kaye pulled herself together and finished the conversation with Buck. The child started crying midway through the conversation and Kaye ended it before she had gotten all the information that she wanted. Buck had given her enough information to keep him from having to go back to the home. Adding in all the information that Ezra had pulled together with pictures of how the child looked when he was found in Chris's barn, thanks to Nathan, she wasn't about to send the boy back.
Kaye led Buck by the hand back to Chris and Ezra. Once Buck saw Chris he ran to him with fresh tears on his cheeks. Chris scooped the child up into his arms and held him close to his chest. Chris looked at Kaye Lawton over top of Buck's head and he could see the regret in her eyes as she looked back.
"Ezra would you mind taking Buck out to the children's room while I talk with Mr. Larabee?" Kaye asked as placed her hand on Ezra's elbow.
"Come on Mr. Wilmington, why don't we go to the children's area of this building, as we walked past on our way in, I observed a room full of toys." Ezra said as he stretched his arms out toward the child. Buck turned and looked at Chris. He didn't want to leave the blonde man, then again he did want to go and play with the toys.
"It's okay Buck, you can go with Ezra. I'll come and get you in a little bit. I promise." Chris said as he placed his index finger on the child's nose, he kissed his forehead and then handed him off to Ezra.
Once Ezra and Buck were out of hear shot Chris and Kaye walked back to the woman's office, Chris sat down in the chair across from Kaye's desk and waited for her to speak. Larabee watched as Kaye Lawton gathered papers together and placed them into a folder than sat it to the side of her desk. He couldn't believe how nervous he was feeling. His hands were sweaty and his heart felt like it wanted to jump out of his chest. He remembered the same feeling when Sarah was having his son Adam. The feeling was there once again when he first held his son in his arms and when he brought the infant home. Chris wondered if it was going to be the same with Buck, if he was going to have the same feelings he had with his own son.
"The conversation that I had with Buck was an upsetting one. I do not think it would be wise for Buck to go back to that boy's home ever. I also spoke to him about you Mr. Larabee and I must say in the short time that you have known the child I believe that you have become his biggest hero. You mean a lot to that child and he sparkled when he spoke of you." Kaye said as she smiled at Larabee. Chris felt like things were looking good for the child and for himself.
"I need you to sign these forms and I'll get you the things you need to enroll him in school and to see the doctor. I also think he may need to see a physiatrist. I can recommend you one." Kaye stood up from behind the next and walked out of the room.
Chris looked over the papers he was signing, as he waited for Miss Lawton to return. He had seen the hurt in the woman's eyes and knew what ever it was Buck told her had really upset the woman. Larabee was glad that he didn't have to stay in the room and listen to the child. One reason was he had already heard enough about what happen to Buck and he didn't think his anger would allow him to hear anymore.
"Okay Mr. Larabee here is everything that you need." Kaye said as she walked back into the room and laid papers down in front of the blonde.
"Thank you Miss Lawton I really appreciate what you done for us both."
"You are very welcome Mr. Larabee, I'm glad that I could help the little guy. He seems like he is going to be very happy."
Ezra picked up the magazine that lay on the small coffee table as he listened to Buck laughing. Buck was playing with another child his age and his laughs made the southerner smile.
At first, Ezra wasn't sure what had happened. One second he was listening to the child's laughter and the next he was listening to the child scream. Ezra threw the magazine down on the table and quickly went to the child who was trying to hide under a small table in the corner that held children's books. From the corner of his eye he saw a shadow. Standing up, he noticed the large, angry man walking toward them.
"Sir, I advise you not to step any closer to the child." Ezra spoke as he stood to block the man's path.
"That kid belongs to me, don't you Buck?"
"NO! I BELONG TO CHRIS!" Buck screamed as loud as his lungs would allow him. Tears streaming down the child's cheeks. He had seen David Lakey come through the front door. Hoping not to draw attention to himself, he had stood as still as he could. But Mr. Lakey had looked through the window and seen him. And the anger was written all over his face. And when he had entered the room and headed straight for Buck, the child could only think of one thing to do - scream! Scream as loud as he could and hide.
"Miss, please call the police and let them know what is going on and that Agent Standish of the A.T.F. asked you to call." Ezra said hoping that the agent information may scare the large man.
David Lakey stood as tall as Josiah, his hair was dark, clean cut, and his eyes were green. Ezra could tell the man was angry, the look he directed toward him told the undercover agent that much. Ezra walked closer to the man, Lakey had much more height on Ezra, but the southerner wasn't about to back down, not while Buck's safety was involved.
"This child belongs to me Agent Standish. I have yet to sign those papers." David spoke as he reached around Ezra and grabbed the boy by his jeans, pulling him from under the table. Lakey didn't know that the man he had spoken to on the phone was a government agent.
"NO STOP, I WANT MY NEW DADDY!" Buck screamed loud.
"You don't have a daddy kid, no one wants you, remember?" Lakey laughed out. When David turned around Ezra blocked him.
"Give me the boy sir."
Lakey easily took hold of Standish's shirt and pushed him across the room. Ezra lost his footing and fell against the chairs that sat in the middle of the room.
"LET ME DOWN, LET ME DOWN" Buck screamed and then as hard as he could he allowed his tennis shoe to connect with Lakey's knee.
"Kid, you'll wish you hadn't done that!" Lakey growl.
Chris looked to Kaye Lawton when he heard the screams coming from the child's area of the lobby; he instantly stood up and ran from the office with Kaye close on his heels. When the couple turned the corner they saw Lakey push Ezra across the room and watched Buck kicked the man hard in the knee.
"Let him go Mr. Lakey, you don't want to do it this way." Kaye Lawton said in a voice that sent chills up Larabee's spine. Kaye walked toward Ezra and helped him up from the floor. "You okay?"
"Just my pride is bruised my dear, how about dinner later?" Ezra said and smiled as he stood up and smiled at the woman. Ezra then walked toward Larabee.
"Let him go Lakey, or you'll wish you never laid your hand on that child the first time." Larabee's voice was low and evil.
The glare that Larabee shot toward Lakey scared the large man. He had never in all of his years seen a look like the one he was getting now. He dropped the child on the floor as the police came through the door. Kaye Lawton instantly went toward the child; Lakey was holding him up pretty high when he had dropped him.
Chris went to grab for Lakey, his anger taking control. He grabbed the man's shirt and brought him close to his face as he spoke.
"You ever lay a hand on my son again I promise you that you'll be eating from a straw the rest of your life."
"Your son? If you're thinking you are getting a son then you're wrong, you are getting a bad seed." Lakey said.
Chris held the large man close as he brought his knee up hard into the man's groin. "I guess your not listening to me."
"Chris, let him go. Buck needs you." Ezra said as he put his hand on Chris's arm trying to get him to stop. Buck's cries finally reached Larabee's ears as he let the man go and went to the child.
Chris gathered the child in his arms and rocked him back and forth while he sat on the floor. Buck's tears started to ease as Chris held him close.
"You won't let him take me will you?" Buck said as he looked into Chris's eyes. "He ain't taking you anywhere son, you're mine now and I won't let anyone hurt you. Remember what I said?" Chris smiled when the child shook his head indicating that he remembered. Larabee held Buck tighter to his chest, put his hand on the child's back, and tried to sooth him with his touch.
After the papers were signed, and Lakey, was taken into custody by the Denver Police. Kaye had informed Larabee and Ezra that David Lakey was being removed from the boy's home due to his anger problems and would have charges brought against him. Chris wanted to do his own justice just so Lakey would remember him, however Ezra stepped in and wouldn't allow Chris to get in trouble jeopardizing his guardianship over Buck.
Larabee carried Buck back to the black Dodge Ram. Chris had been scared when he saw Lakey holding on to the back of Buck's jeans, the blonde's anger had almost got the best of him if Ezra hadn't stepped in to save it. His hands were still shaking as he buckled Buck's seatbelt and then shut the back door to the vehicle. Larabee stood against the driver door to get a hold of his nerves before he climbed behind the wheel to drive.
"Mr. Larabee are you alright?" Ezra asked, as he was getting ready to open up the passenger side door.
"Yeah, I'm alright I reckon."
"It scared you didn't it?" Ezra asked knowing exactly what was wrong with the blonde.
"Yeah it did Ez, I was scared that he was going to hurt Buck. I was scared that I was going to hurt Lakey myself."
"He didn't though. That is understandable behavior for a man in your position. I wanted to do the same but I couldn't find myself standing up straight." Ezra said as he grinned at the blonde.
"Thanks Ez, thanks for trying to take care of him, thanks for all that you have done for him."
"You know you don't have to thank me Mr. Larabee, I would've done this no matter what for him."
Chris opened the driver side door and climbed into the vehicle. Ezra stood outside for a moment thinking on the child. He was glad he could be of service. He was not ashamed to admit that when Lakey had picked Buck up that the suave, in your face, undercover agent, was scared to death.
Chris pulled into the parking garage of the A.T.F. building. There were things that he needed to do before he went to the school and the mall to do some shopping. Larabee wanted to talk to the Judge about taking the rest of the day and tomorrow off from work. There were things that needed to be done and most was during working hours. He knew that he had some annual time saved up and so he decided to use some of it.
"Come on Buck, let's go meet up with the other guy's. Maybe we can get them to go to lunch with us." Chris said as he unbuckled the child's seat beat. Chris helped Buck out of the truck and then shut the door. He followed Ezra to the elevator that would take them to the floor that held their office.
Once the elevator stopped on the team's floor, Chris took hold of the child's hand and walked out. Ezra walked away from the two and went to his desk, turning on his computer and started checking his messages. Buck looked up at the blonde and Chris could tell that he was in complete awe over everything he was seeing.
"This is where you work?"
"Yep, what do you think?"
"I think it's huge!"
Chris laughed as he walked toward his office, still holding the child's hand. He opened the door to his office and then turned the light on. Buck walked around the room not believing how big it was. He looked at every picture that hung on the wall and saw that they held at least one of the guys, if not all of them. He liked this office; it made him feel comfortable like at the ranch. Buck took his jacket off and laid it neatly on the large couch that sat against one wall. He sat down on the couch and placed his hands in his lap as he sat still taking in the room.
Chris walked to the couch and knelt down in front of the child. "Buck, I'm going to get JD to watch you for a little while. There are some things that I need to do." Chris said as he placed his hand on the boy's knee. Buck smiled at the blonde when Chris mentioned JD.
"Where is JD, can I see him now?"
"Sure buddy, let's go"
Chris sat in the chair waiting for Judge Travis to see him. In a way, he felt like a child that was in trouble at school waiting to see the principle. Larabee knew that he should have called the Judge, on Friday and let him know what was going on, but he was a little preoccupied, he reasoned. Now here he sat waiting to hear what the Judge would have to say about it.
"Mr. Larabee you can go in now."
Larabee stood up and smile to the secretary, opened the door and walked into the Judge's office.
"Chris come on in and have a seat. What's going on?" Just like the Judge to the point.
"Well how do I put this?"
"Just put it out here on the table straight. I know about the child. Ezra called me over the weekend. Chris, I'm going to have to say that I have my doubts about all of this. Nevertheless, before you start with that glare, which by the way I'm immune to, let me finish. I've thought about this all weekend. And well, I think it's a admirable thing that you're willing to help the boy. Ezra filled me in on everything that has happened to him and he faxed everything over to me. I read it and I have to say, I don't like it one bit. What this child has gone through is a crime. I don't understand how men like that can run a boy's home.
"So you understand?"
"Yes, however what worries me about all of this is, what if something happens to you in the line of duty? Have you thought about that? Have you thought about how it would affect the boy? Who would keep him Chris? Would he have to go back to a home?" The Judge asked already knowing the answers to most of the questions he had asked.
Chris stood up and started to walk around the office trying to get his thoughts in order. Of course, he had thought about what happened if he wasn't there. He had planned on asking the other guys to take care of Buck. Larabee turned around to face the Judge. "Of course I thought about that Judge, I ain't stupid. I know that I could get killed tomorrow but I'll just have to take that chance. I plan on asking the guy's to take care of Buck incase there comes a time that I can't."
"What about a mama Chris, the child needs a mother," Judge said and watched as the vein on Larabee's forehead began to throb. He knew at once that he had struck a nerve with the blonde. "What I'm trying to say here Chris is that a child needs both mother and father."
"Then I reckon I'll try to be both, there are single mother's and father's out there everywhere in this world Judge, you should know, Mary is one of those. I can only say right now that I'm going to do what I think is best for Buck and I will be there whenever he needs me, I won't let him down." Chris said the last statement in a low angry voice remembering his own blood son that had died. Chris turned around with his back to the Judge, not wanting the older man see the pain on his face. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.
Judge Travis could tell that his agent had thought about the situation more than he let on. He remembered what his wife Evie had told him only the night before. "I think that they both need each other. Each of they may be the other's hero."
Maybe his wife was right, just maybe Chris needed the child as much as Buck needed the blonde.
"I had a nice talk with Agent Dunne this morning." Chris turned around to look at the Judge when the older man spoke. "Agent Dunne asked for a couple days off, from my understanding he is moving in with you?"
"Yes, sir. It's a win - win solution. It will help me by having someone there just incase I am not able to be. It will help JD with his finances, and Buck, well, he loves JD something fierce."
"Very well, I see that you have that taken care of. Have you spoken with the daycare downstairs?"
"That was going to be my next stop." Larabee stated as he sat back down in the chair across from Judge Travis.
"Chris you don't need my permission to take this child in your home, that is your decision. I don't have the right to tell you how to handle this. However I can say this, if you need any help Evie and I are both here to help."
"Mrs. Travis made you say that huh Judge?" Chris grinned. It made him feel better that Judge Travis wasn't going against him on his decision on keeping Buck.
"Yes she did."
"Judge I hate to ask this on such a short notice, but can I have a couple of days off. Just to get Buck enrolled in school and to a doctor for a check up."
"I don't see why not Agent Larabee. When you have the time I would also like to meet this little guy."
The rest of the conversation was about Buck and the morning events at the Social Services Department. He had filled the Judge in on how he found Buck in his barn, what they had done over the weekend, and how the child acted toward Chris. When Larabee left Judge Travis's office he was feeling much lighter than he did when he walked in.
The child's laughter reached Chris ears before he walked into the office that held his team. He walked over to where Tanner was holding the child upside down by his legs and Buck was laughing hard.
"You drop him and I'll shoot you." Larabee said.
Tanner turned the boy around, sat him on the ground, and walked over to his desk. He was reminded that he had picked up Chris's gun out of the gun safe that morning after seeing the blonde had forgotten it.
"You getting careless cowboy?" Tanner said as he handed Chris his gun and gun holster.
"No, I just didn't think I would need it today is all."
"You always need your gun Chris. You can't let your guard down and now that Buck is in the picture, you have to be more careful." Vin stated looking down at the small child staring back up to the men and the gun holster that Chris was now putting on around his shoulders. Vin looked back to the blonde and then with the nod of his head indicated for him to look at the child.
"Buck, don't ever play with guns, you could get hurt."
"Yes sir, I won't ever play with guns. Can I play with a toy gun sir?"
"We'll talk about it." Chris said placing his hand on top of the boy's head.
"What is your work?" Buck asked curious now after seeing the gun.
"Well short stuff, we get the bad people off the streets." Vin said as he put his hand on the top of the child's head, shaking his dark hair.
"So your like police officers?" The child asked still curious.
"I reckon you can say that."
Buck walked off to find JD was but not before Vin and Chris had heard him say "cool, my new dad is a cop." The two men smiled at each other and then went about doing other things. Chris was trying to get a few things done before he went to enroll Buck in school and the daycare center. Larabee went into his office and turned to look out the large pane glass window that separated his office from the others. Buck was sitting on the edge of JD's desk watching the young agent type on his computer keyboard.
After the business with the daycare center was taken care of and lunch was over, Josiah who had taken the rest of the day off to help Vin and JD move the youngest agent's things to Larabee's house. JD wanted to hurry and get everything moved by the end of the week, rent was due and he didn't have the money to pay it. He had just bought a whole new computer set up that had left the young man broke. Nathan had also taken the day off going with Chris to get the things a child Buck's age may need incase he was hurt or sick. Ezra had decided to go along with Nathan, Chris, and Buck shopping. It was set that all men would meet back at the ranch later that evening for supper.
Their first stop was to enroll Buck into school before they went shopping. The school that the child would be attending was close to the ranch, but also close to the office. Buck would be riding one bus in the mornings and then a different bus in the afternoons. Chris had pressed his concerns repeatedly several times to have someone help Buck get on his afternoon bus. He didn't want the child to get on the wrong bus or miss it all together. Mrs. Vicki Lambert, Buck's teacher was there to offer Chris assurance that she herself would put Buck on his afternoon bus.
Vicki Lambert had seen many less unfortunate children before. However, when she saw Buck, her heart went out to the little boy. The bruise that covered his cheek was now fading and was hardly noticeable. She wanted to cry when she and Chris had their conversation about the boy and how he came to live with the blonde. She couldn't understand how people would want to be mean to children.
Vicki Lambert was in her mid forties, she had been teaching kindergarten since she was fresh out of college. She was rather tall with short brown hair. She was a happy woman, the laugh lines around her mouth was proof. Pictures of her own kids and grandkids sat on her desk.
Next came clothes. Chris pulled into the parking lot of the Payless shoe store. Chris was glad at this point that he wasn't the type person to blow all of his money. He had checked his bank account before leaving the house that morning, making sure he had enough to get Buck what he needed.
They were now standing in the middle of the shoe store trying to find the shoes that the boy liked. Chris's plans were to get Buck a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of boots, but as it was neither man could get Buck to choose a pair of shoes. The child sat on the bench with his head down refusing to pick a pair.
"Buck you need to pick out a couple pair of shoes, those you have on are too big for you and they'll end up hurting your feet. Now come on let's find a pair." Chris said as he tried to get the child to get up from the bench.
"Why can't you Buck?"
"I'm not suppose to have new shoes sir, I'm not supposed to have new things. Someone else's things is enough to get in trouble over but it's harder when it is new things." Buck said with tears that flowed down his cheeks.
"No, no Buck listen to me son, you can have new things. I'm buying you the new things. It's not the same like it was at the home. I buy you things and that is the way it's going to be okay? You're with me now, and it is different from the home. I promise." Chris said in the softest voice he could think was possible without showing Buck that he was getting angry. Chris was angry due to the boy thinking he didn't deserve anything new. Larabee couldn't believe that Lakey had put stuff like that in a child's head.
"You mean you won't get mad at me?"
"No, I'm not going to get mad at you. I brought you here to buy new things. Now let's go and pick those shoes out because we have a lot more shopping to do." Chris said as he wrapped his arm around Buck's shoulders and pulled him in for a tight hug.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with shopping for the child. They had gotten everything on the kindergarten list Buck's teacher had given Chris along with a backpack and lunch box. Buck had finally picked out some clothes that he liked and then waited outside of the store with Nathan and Ezra for Chris to pay for the items. Their next stop was at the Wal-Mart; Chris wanted to pick Buck up some pajamas along with underclothes.
The men could tell right off that the child had never been in a Wal-Mart and from the looks of it neither had Ezra. Nathan and Chris both had shook their heads at the looks Ezra was giving the store. While Chris and Nathan went to find the items they came after for Buck, Ezra had taken the child to the electronics department.
Chris had put the fourth pair of pajamas in the buggy when his cell phone started to ring. He pulled it from his pocket and looked to the caller ID and looked around the store.
"Ezra, something wrong?"
"Mr. Larabee did you know that this child has never seen a movie, had never watched t.v. that he can remember?"
"No Ez, I didn't know that, we are still learning about him remember?"
"I think that is just wrong Mr. Larabee. This dear child has missed out on so much."
"Ezra, we're almost done here, we'll meet you in the electronics." Chris said then closed the phone shut.
"What was that about?" Nathan asked curious of the phone call.
"Ezra called to say that Buck has never watched t.v."
"You mean to tell me that he has never watched a children's movie or anything?"
"Uh Nathan what part about ' Buck has never watched t.v." didn't you understand?" Chris grinned as he put a pack of small socks in the buggy.
"That just ain't right, I can't believe what Buck has missed out on. And don't be a smart ass Chris you ain't good at it like Tanner is." Nathan grinned.
Chris and Nathan finished getting the items for Buck and then walked to the electronics department of the store to find Ezra with a shopping cart filled with children movies.
"Ezra what are you doing? You're not getting all that for him?" Chris said looking into the cart. He didn't want to spoil the child all at once.
"Mr. Larabee you can hardly tell me what I can and can not do with my own hard earned money."
"Yeah maybe not but I can tell you what you can and can not do with Buck."
"He's got you there Ez, try again." Nathan laughed as he picked up one of the children movies and read its back.
Chris watched as Buck picked up and looked at the movies on the shelves. He was in complete awe of everything he saw. Once he spotted Chris looking at him he ran to the blonde with the movie in his hand.
"Look what Uncle Ezra got me?" Buck said holding up the 'Spirit' movie for Chris and Nathan to see.
"Uncle?" Nathan and Chris asked at the same time toward the undercover agent.
"Yes, well it is a suitable appellation don't you think?" Ezra said with a grin covering his face.
"So does that make me Uncle Nathan?" Nathan asked the child as he knelt in front of him. Nathan was rewarded with a huge smiled and hug from the child.
"Of course, Uncle Ezra said that it was fitting to call you Uncle Nathan and Josiah , Uncle Josiah and JD..."
"I see where we're going here Buck." Nathan said as he rubbed the top of the boy's head. Nathan handed the video to Buck and then stood up.
"So what does that make me?" Chris asked smiling down at the little boy. The child's reply was on that Chris wasn't ready for.
"You silly, you're my dad." Buck laughed then walked down the isle to look at other movies.
Chris turned to look at his agents; they to wore the same grin on their faces.
Later that night when Chris was alone with Buck in the child's room, he looked back on the day's events. It had been fun shopping with the child minus the misunderstanding in the shoe store. Now sitting on the floor with Buck putting the child's new things away Chris knew he had made the right decision.
"Thanks for all my new things." Came the child's voice from across the room where he was putting his pajamas in the drawer.
"Your welcome son."
"I promise I'll take very very care of them forever."
"I know you will buddy, come on let's finish getting this stuff put up and get your bath. Your first day of school is tomorrow, you don't want to stink do you?" Chris laughed as he got up from the floor, his kneeing making the popping noises letting him know that he wasn't use to getting in the floor.
"No sir, I want to smell nice so all the girls will want to be around me." Buck laughed out closing the drawer and walking across the room.
"I want to wear my 'Toy Story' pajamas tonight." Buck said as he handed Chris the new pajamas.
"You gonna wear any undies under these? Get you some socks to so those little feet won't get cold tonight."
Buck did as he was told, gathering all his nightclothes and placing them on his bed. After Chris had given the child a bath, along with getting soaked himself he sat next to Buck on the twin size bed reading the book the child had picked out for the night.
"I get to live here now right?" Buck asked needing reassurance that he wasn't going to have to leave.
"Yes that's right, this is your room and your things now. Buck things are going to change; you don't have to worry about getting new things or getting punished like before. I want you to be happy and never ever be scared of me. You can come to me no matter what." Chris said as he wrapped his arm around the child's back and pulled him close. "Buck both of our lives is going to change for the better. I haven't had a child in my home for a time now and you haven't had a daddy before. So we both will be learning more and more about each other every day. Plus we both have to learn to live with JD." Chris laughed which made the child grin and put his hand over his mouth.
"Thanks for taking me away from the home and not getting made because I ran in to your barn and hid."
"I'm glad you did, cause if you didn't then we wouldn't of found each other now would we?"
"I love ya kid and I want you to always remember that I'm here for you."
"Okay, I love ya to dad."
Chris grinned; he knew that he hadn't felt that happy in a while. He looked up to the ceiling wondering if Sarah and Adam were looking down on him. The blonde's heart didn't feel empty anymore and he was starting to remember what love felt like. Larabee knew that the two of them had a long road in front of them, but they had each other and that's all that mattered.
Chris looked down at the now sleeping child and being careful so not to wake the child, he slid out of the bed. Larabee stood next to the bed and watched the child sleep for a few moments and then walked out of the room leaving the door cracked a small bit. He went to bed with happy thoughts in his head for once. He couldn't wait for morning, until he could hear the child's laughter again.