ATF Little Britches Universe
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be
Note: Betaed by Sue
"Mmm?" Larabee wasn't really listening to JD. He was too preoccupied with choosing a pair of cufflinks for Ezra.
Chris hated shopping at the best of times. Christmas shopping was even worse. Taking along a bored, hyperactive, mega intelligent five-year-old was just a nightmare, but there had been no alternative. This was the last weekend before Christmas. Buck had taken Vin off on some secret shopping trip, presumably for his present, and Gloria Potter had already left for an extended Christmas holiday with her elderly parents in Florida. Chris had tried to off-load JD on to one of his uncles, but all three had other plans.
"It's your own fault," Josiah commented. "You're the one who left his Christmas shopping until the last minute." With that he left to do a shift at a shelter for recently released prisoners, not somewhere he wanted to take JD.
"As much as we'd love to," Nathan told him. "We have to visit Rain's mother this weekend. Her Alzheimer's is pretty advanced these days, I don't think it would be appropriate for JD to come to the home with us."
"You know if I could I would," Ezra assured. "But my mother will be here, and much as she doesn't deserve the title, she is my mother, and I am duty bound to spend some time with her over the festive season. I'd like to say JD is welcome to join us, but in all honestly I am sure it will descend into its usual acrimony. I don't want the boy to have his view of mothers tarnished by that."
So there he was, shopping with JD. To be fair, the boy had been no trouble at all. He'd held Chris' hand as they walked through the crowded mall and hadn't whined or complained, He'd given plenty of warning when he needed the bathroom and hadn't asked for candy or toys once. Nonetheless, he was an added stress to an already stressful day.
"Chris?" JD asked again.
"What?" This time Chris turned around to see the boy. He was standing, eyes wide as saucers, starting at display Chris had failed to notice was right behind him. On it was the most intricate Christmas Village, all lit up with a train running though it. It was, even he had to admit, charming.
"Wow, that is wonderful isn't it?" he commented.
"Do you have a Christmas Village?" JD asked, never taking his eyes off it.
"No, it's not something my family did."
"Oh," JD sighed, then he leaned forward and placing his forearms on the table, he rested his chin on them, still gazing at the Christmas scene.
Deciding that the ovals of polished Malachite cufflinks he'd picked up were perfect for Ezra, Chris paid for them quickly and turned back to JD. He was about to tell him it was time to leave, when he noticed the look on the small boy's face - he was transfixed. Ezra's was the last gift he had to get; there was plenty of paper and ribbon at home, so he had time to indulge the boy.
Squatting down, together they watched the train for a few laps. "Did your mother have a Christmas Village?" he asked, knowing it had begun as an east coast tradition.
JD shook his head. "Her mamma did, she told me about it.... Chris?"
"Can we have a Christmas Village?"
Chris looked up at the boxes stacked behind the village, and at those prices, even a very modest village without a train, was really more than he and Buck could afford. It wasn't that they were poor, far from it, but even combining their income and sharing a home, the cost of two boys and a housekeeper had stretched there resources somewhat.
"Well not like this one, but we could have a couple of pieces this year, if you like and then add one or two next year. That's how you get a village like this one, you add to it each year. It takes a long time to build one this big," he explained patiently.
"Okay, but not this one," JD stated firmly.
"No, this one is wrong."
Now Chris was confused, but before he could question JD further his cell phone rang.
"Hi," he greeted, knowing who was calling. "What do you want?"
"Nice to speak to you too," Buck commented sarcastically.
"Sorry, what's up?"
"Nothing. We're in the Mall, so where are you?"
Chris told him and in no time the family was together. In an instant Vin was by JD's side gazing at the display, while Chris explained what was going on.
"What does he mean, 'wrong'?" Buck asked.
"No idea." With that, Chris moved to Vin's side. "Son?"
"JD says he'd like to have a Christmas Village, but not this one, he says it's wrong. Do you know what he means?"
"It's not a cowboy town, we need to have a cowboy town," Vin stated confidently.
"Ah." Chris glanced up at Buck and grinned. "Of course."
Buck now joined his son. "So you really want a village do you?" Buck asked softly.
"Can we?" JD asked in an uncharacteristically quiet voice. "Like Mamma had when she was a little girl."
"Well, I reckon we can start one."
After consulting with the salesman, they found that the company did make a western collection but didn't have any in the store. They could order them, but it wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas. They settled for a train, since the steam trains all looked vaguely western, along with enough track to make a basic circle, and a station.
Chris found an old folding card table he'd inherited with the ranch and pulled it out from the back of the workshop. After dusting it off and running a vacuum cleaner over the faded green felt top, covered with a while sheet, it was a perfect platform for their new village. The table was set up in the dining room.
Buck commented that the full half hour JD spent gazing at it as the train went around and around, was the longest time he'd ever been silent at least while he was awake. Sunday night it snowed and snowed and snowed. While the Ram would have no difficulty getting into the city, the schools were closed. With no Gloria to look after the boys, Buck was forced to stay home with them. Normally a snow day at home with his family would have been something to look forward to, but his boss insisted that if he wanted Christmas Eve off, then he needed to continue preparing their latest case for court and thus e-mailed him a stack of work. Playtime in the snow was limited to an hour, then he had to insist the boys entertain themselves in the house while he worked.
Paperwork never was Buck's forte and worse still, when it was for court there was no room for error, so it required his full attention. Had he not been so absorbed in his work he'd have noticed how quiet the boys were. They only knocked at the door of the den once, to point out it was two o'clock and they were hungry.
"Oh boy, da...rn, I'm sorry. Come on to the kitchen, we'll have some lunch."
After a lunch of hot tomato soup, buttered toast, and ham sandwiches, Buck and the boys headed out to check on the horses and let the dogs out into the yard. After the chores were done and they enjoyed another half hour's play in the snow, he was forced to go back to work.
"Sorry boys, but it's really important."
"It's okay, we understand," Vin assured.
"Do you want to put a DVD on?" Buck offered.
"No, we's playing a game," JD told him with a beam, his cheeks positively glowing from the cold.
"Okay, if you're sure. Let's get inside."
Buck was still diligently working when Chris got home. More heavy snow was forecast, so he'd sent everyone home early, before the worst of the weather closed in.
"Come on buddy, leave it for today," he told Buck.
"No, I'm almost done, I'd rather finish, if you don't mind?"
"Really?" Chris walked in to the den and read over Buck's shoulder.
"Yup, I just got this phone log to type up and I'm done. Once Ezra checks it over, it can be printed."
"I'm impressed." Chris gave Buck an encouraging pat on the shoulder. "How did you manage that?"
"The boys have been angels, never bothered me, not until they were hungry." Buck looked at the time on the computer screen. "Damn, it's almost five; they haven't even had a snack."
"Don't worry, I'll see to it, if you want to finish."
Chris found the boys in their room building something with Legos.
"Hi boys," he greeted.
"Dad!" Vin exclaimed, jumping up. "You're early."
"More snow coming, I didn't want to get stuck in the city."
JD jumped up. "No school tomorrow?" he asked.
"Yes!" Vin exclaimed.
"So, Buck tells me you boys have been very good all day, which I think means it's time for hot chocolate and cookies."
By seven they'd all had a hearty meal at the kitchen table of meatballs and spaghetti and as the snow returned, the family had settled down for a night in the den, a huge fire roaring in the hearth. Chris had stopped for gas on the way home. It was always wise to have a full tank when bad weather threatened. In the bargain bin beside the till, he'd spotted a DVD. It wasn't a well known film, but he'd remembered watching it with Adam on TV. The boy was really too young at the time, and had fallen asleep, but Chris remembered the film and he just knew the boys would love it. With the promise of a new movie to spur them on, the boys willingly had their baths and got ready for bed, before settling down to watch Prancer.
The film worked its magic and two contented boys went to bed happy, with visions of Santa and his reindeer in their heads. Buck eased the door closed and joined Chris in the lounge.
"I'm gonna have a shot, you want one?" Larabee asked.
Buck stretched, causing his back to crack loud enough for Chris to hear. "Yeah, why not?"
Larabee disappeared into the dinning room where they kept the liquor.
"Buck!" he called urgently.
"What?" Wilmington asked as he ran into the room.
"Did you know about this?"
He pointed to their new Christmas Village. Where there had only been a simple circle of track and a station, there was now a whole community. In the centre of the track was the boys' Lego cowboy fort, complete with cowboys and cavalry men. On the outside were all kinds of Lego buildings, in bright primary colours. In one corner of the table stood a whole herd of mini Breyer horses next to their carry case barn. In another corner stood something that resembled a castle, precariously built with wooden building blocks and decorated with chess pieces along the battlements. On the corner closest to the men stood the tepee Vin had so lovingly made for a school project. Outside it stood some Lego Native American figures around a fire made of what looked like a red candy wrapper and some twigs.
"Oh wow," Buck breathed. "No wonder they were so quiet."
"You had no idea?" Chris turned to look at his friend, his hand was over his mouth, tears in the corners of his eyes.
Buck shook his head. "I guess JD really did want a Christmas Village."
"I've got an idea," Chris announced.
Buck and Chris woke their respective sons a little earlier than normal. They wanted them to be up while it was still totally dark outside.
"Is there school today?" Vin asked.
"I don't know yet but going by the snow outside, I doubt it. Come on, we've got something to show you.
"W't Da?" JD mumbled around his thumb, as Buck hoisted him of the bed and onto his hip.
As they approached the dinning room, Buck felt his son stiffen. "It's okay," he whispered, glancing down at Vin standing beside Chris.
"We think what you did was amazing, but we wanted to help," Chris began. "We hope you like what we did." He let go of Vin's hand and opened the door.
The room was dark, except for the village, which glowed with light. All the Lego buildings had light coming from their little plastic windows, light also shone from the building in the fort, under the camp fire outside the tepee and from the train station. The roofs were covered in sparkling white 'snow'
"Is it okay?" Buck asked nervously.
"It's booterful," JD gushed, clapping his hands excitedly. "We got the bestest Christmas Village ever!"
It had taken them hours, but that night the two of them were men on mission. First they took a number of pictures of the village the boys had constructed. Then they lifted each piece with care, marking the position of all the buildings with a pen. With that done, they made a hole in the sheet corresponding with each mark. Removing the battery powered string of LED lights that had been in the window of Buck's bedroom, they spread it out on the table under the sheet, pushing the lights up through the holes, then, using the pictures as a reference, they replaced each and every building, figure and animal. Finally Buck had mixed talcum powder with silver glitter from the boy's art supplies to make snow and sprinkled it all over the village.
"We don't need no fancy 'spensive village, do we Dad?" Vin asked. "'Cause this one is perfect."
"Reckon you've got that one right son."