Disclaimer: No profit, but still so fun.
Vin Tanner was a quiet man by anyone’s standards, but this last week of August he was downright silent. Chris Larabee watched his teammate peck absently at the keyboard in front of him for a moment before trying to focus on his own paperwork. He had stopped to peer out his office window several times this morning. Looking into the greater office shared by the six men under his command, he couldn’t help but focus on the sharpshooter who’d become like a brother to him.
He’d seen Vin fighting loneliness and fatigue and anger. Seen his haunted eyes when the demons of his past threatened him. But this was different. Vin was just… sad.
Chris went out of his office under the guise of making a quick copy. A thin wet shine on Vin’s cheek stopped him in his tracks. He caught Buck’s attention and glared, then looked meaningfully into the hall.
Buck stood and stretched. “You boys plannin’ on workin’ through your dinner break? C’mon, JD, you all - let’s grab some lunch.”
JD jumped up immediately. Nathan nodded and poked a few more buttons on his computer before moving to his feet. Josiah slid the file drawer closed and went to grab his jacket.
“Ezra, come on, now. Hustle up.” Buck swept his arm toward the door.
“Unfortunately, gentlemen, I cannot partake with you all today if I am to complete the required essay before leaving early to dine with Mother this evening,” Ezra replied, never looking up.
Josiah, walking up behind him, grabbed his shoulder and pulled him from his seat. “Come along, Ezra. Three square meals a day for Maude’s growing boy.”
Ezra’s protests were ignored. Buck took his hat from his desk and twirled it a moment before following the boys out. “Ah, Junior? Vin? You’re welcome to come…”
“Thanks, Buck,” Vin said, but made no motion to leave.
Chris walked over to Vin’s desk when the room had cleared and propped himself on the edge of Vin’s desk. Still, Vin never turned. He only swiped the back of his hand over his eyes. Chris was startled. Yep, Vin Tanner was crying.
“Vin, been meaning to ask ya…”
“’m fine, Chris. Be okay.” Vin’s voice was muffled and thick. He still spoke to the screen before him.
“Mind telling that to my face?” Chris asked.
Vin leaned back in his chair, slightly to the side to ease the backache Chris knew bothered him sometimes. Chris watched him swivel around and lay his head back on the rest. Chris winced at the tears he saw in the washed blue eyes Vin turned his way.
“I’ll be okay.” Vin closed his eyes a moment and another tear escaped along the track created by a previous one. This one, too, was swiped away.
“Vin, listen, if there’s anything I can…” Chris let the offer hang. What could he do to make things right for Vin?
Vin leaned forward with a heaving sigh. “Guess ya have a right to know. Not like it’s gotta be any great secret.”
Chris settled into a chair in front of Vin’s desk.
“Ya ever hear of the group, Sons of the Desert?” Vin asked.
Chris shook his head.
“Doesn’t surprise me. They sang back up with Leanne Womack on that ‘Hope You Dance’ song originally. Got gypped when she cut a pop version, you know.”
Chris shook his head again. You’re not cryin’ over some band not getting their dues, Vin.
Vin allowed a small smile. “I’m getting’ there, Larabee. Thing is, they had an earlier song, called, ‘Leaving October Behind’, I think was the title. Don’t suppose you’ve ever heard it, either. Chorus goes something like this: I’m just fine ‘til the end of September…then I remember, losing you October ’89…but if I live in the past, there’s no future…I’m looking forward to leaving October behind…”
Chris leaned forward now, leaning an elbow on Vin’s desk. What in the world was he talking about?
“You see, I always kinda figured that song could be me, ‘cept for me, it’s September always causes the problem. My mom died early September - 1989. I remember, ‘cause I had to stuff all my new school clothes in my new backpack when they came to take me.”
“Then, seemed like every September after that, there was a new foster home, new school, havin’ to meet new kids, getting a new family ‘n all. You know how school’d be fer a kid like me, Chris.” Vin took a moment to grin, but even that seemed melancholy. “Love ta learn, but couldn’t read much more’n my name at that age. Just thinkin’ on school starting brought this on, even when I’s a little fella.”
“Then when I was on my own in the streets, this last week in August kinda reminded ya that cold weather was comin’ on, makin’ ya wonder if ya’d make it to another summer. September reminded ya that ya weren’t so tough as ya let on. And then ya didn’t dare let anyone see ya cry.”
Chris stared at the floor a moment. It was a rare occasion for Vin Tanner to share so much at once. Chris couldn’t remember another time he’d talked so long at a stretch, but felt oddly warmed that Vin had chosen him to share this all with.
“Don’t usually go blabberin’ in front ‘a folks even now – you know that, Chris. But this being August 24 already, seeing those buses doin’ a practice run this morning…just reminded me, you know? Thought about callin’ in sick, but didn’t seem right. ‘Sides, you all’d have Nathan over there fussing over me for no reason. Anyway, figured maybe work’d take my mind from it, but somehow it didn’t.”
“Then it hit me. What’re you guys gonna care? You all’ve been there when I’s pukin’ sick, thrashin’ with fever, bleedin’ hurt. Not like a few drops a’ salt water are gonna label me a weenie with you guys. Didn’t intend on makin’ a display a’ m’self, either, though. Hoped y’all wouldn’t notice, but then again, I reckoned I’s man enough iffen ya did.”
Chris nodded. “Been known to shed a few a’ my own, Vin. And I’m glad ya feel free to, glad you told me what’s going on with you. There anything I can do – anything you want me to tell the guys?”
Vin smiled now, wide and true. “Tell ‘em things’ll be okay with me. Just lookin’ forward to leaving September behind.”