From the wooden steps beneath the ranch house, Buck kept watch over his two charges while at the same time keeping an ear tuned to the storm raging outside. He’d set a halogen lamp in the middle of the floor to give them all a little light, and the portable radio was at his feet, playing some old love song from the seventies.
In one corner of the shelter, JD sat cross-legged on the cement floor, looking a little bit nervous but he’d been calm for the most part. He was clinging to his blanket, with their two big pups curled up on either side of him.
Vin, who was usually the calm, reliable one, was not dealing well with the situation. The boy was breathing raggedly, still trying to twist his body in a vain attempt to escape Buck’s firm grasp.
“Settle down, Junior,” Buck murmured calmly, tightening his hold just a little when Vin stiffened and a seemed to struggle with a new burst of panic. The boy squirmed against him, his little hands desperately trying to push for freedom, but he was no match for the strong arms surrounding him. Buck’s hold remained steadfast, refusing to be budged.
Several more minutes passed before Buck felt the slight body finally begin to relax against him. “That’s it,” he whispered. “Everything’s gonna be just fine.” He dropped a kiss on top of Vin’s head then rested his chin there, and gave a reassuring smile and wink to JD.
JD smiled tremulously, his big brown eyes filled with concern for his ‘brother’. “Is Vin scared of the Nortado?”
“Nah, he’s doing okay.” Buck knew Vin wasn’t afraid of the weather; in fact he’d much rather be standing out in the middle of the storm than be cooped up in this tiny, suffocating space. Vin didn’t like being closed in and Buck had no doubt that if he let go right now, Vin would be up the stairs in a flash.
In addition to that anxiety, he was also terrified for Chris who’d been on his way home when the sirens went off. Buck hadn’t heard from him or been able to get a hold of him since he left the office, but he wasn’t going to burden JD with that. The kid didn’t need any more worries than the ones he already had. “You’re okay, aren’t ya, pal?” Vin nodded against his chest, his thin arms finally reaching around to hold on to his protector instead of trying to push him away.
From the sound of things, the storm was dissipating, but Buck decided to keep the boys in the shelter until the tornado warning expired. A few minutes later, he thought he heard the sound of a car door closing, but he didn’t say anything to the boys because he didn’t want to get their hopes up. A moment later, though, the heavy door to the shelter creaked opened and a ray of late afternoon sunlight spilled into the tiny room. “Hey,” a familiar voice called down to them, “is everyone okay down there?”
Buck looked up, giving his old friend a relieved smile. There was a vibrant rainbow arching across the still malevolent-looking sky, bright sunlight was just beginning to peek out from behind the storm clouds. He shifted the boy in his arms and stood slowly, looking down into a pair of sky blue eyes and a beaming smile that rivaled any rainbow he’d ever seen. “We are now,” he said quietly, giving Vin one last squeeze before handing him up to his partner.
The two pups circled the room, before Buck shooed them up the stairs. He turned off the light and the radio, took one last look around then scooped up JD, who was waiting patiently for him.
Outside, a gentle rain still fell from the sky, in spite of the sun and the rainbow. Chris was following Vin across the yard, grinning and shaking his head as the boy purposely splashed through every puddle he could find. The two pups were romping in his wake, barking with joy at being set free.
Buck glanced down to find JD with his little face turned up, his eyes closed and mouth open, catching drops of rain as they fell on his tongue. Suddenly he felt such a rush of love and affection for his family that it seemed to make his heart swell and his chest feel tight. He brushed his lips across his son's soft cheek and took a deep breath, inhaling a faint trace of baby shampoo mingled together with the scent of wet puppy and damp little boy. Closing his eyes, he turned his own face up towards the sky and opened his mouth, sending a silent prayer of gratitude for everything he had right then, in that single moment of time.