by Sue M
AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Thanks again to Nancy for betaing for me, and thanks to Katy for her help, for keeping me on track, adding some great points and ideas and, as always, for her awesome collage to accompany my story
It was fast approaching the Easter school break and Buck and Chris were enjoying a nightcap while reflecting on how March had gone by, both in speed, and events. The diary of proceedings kicked off at the end of February, just after the boys returned from France. It had been a tearful farewell to another uncle and brother of their hearts, but getting back into school and routine helped everyone reconcile. It was then, once the boys were more settled that Buck tackled JD's epiphany about his mother being in Heaven.
FIVE WEEKS PRIOR - MID - LATE FEBRUARY
In the den the Friday evening of the boys' first week back in school, Chris looked over the newspaper he was reading and smiled at his son. "Hey, Pard."
"Can I sit with you?"
Setting down his paper, Chris patted the seat. "Now that's one question you never need ask me, Vin." He watched his son sit down. "Something on your mind, Cowboy?" There was a long pause from the boy, then a soft sigh. "Vin?"
"I miss home."
"Yeah?" Chris nodded. "Me too..."
"...I really like it here," Vin quickly assured. "But..."
"I know, son. Buck and me are having a real good time here, but we think of home a lot, too. It's okay to miss things - and people, from time to time."
Vin's large, blue eyes fixed on his father. "D'ya think folk from home miss us, too? D'ya think Peso hates me for bein' away so long?"
Pulling Vin in close, Chris's arms enveloped the boy. "Peso could never hate you, son. He'll be pleased as all get out to see you when we get back, just like all the friends and family we left behind. You'll see."
Vin nodded, seemingly satisfied. "Good."
"Anything else on your mind?" Chris was shocked at the intensity of the returned gaze.
"I...I think the picture broke JD."
"What...? Picture? Broke? Uh, oh, you mean the one he got from Uncle Ezra?"
"Why do you think JD's 'broke', son?"
"'Cause all him and Elvis do since Buck put it up in our room is sit on his bed an' stare at it. He don't hardly ever wanna play after school, and homework, no more."
"Does the picture bother you?"
"No, I really like it, 'specially when JD figured our mamas live in a place like that; but I miss JD - even his yammerin' when I just wanna sit quiet."
Chris couldn't help but smile. "Would it help if I ask Buck to talk to him for you?" The blond was amazed with Vin's timing on this, as Buck planned on doing that very thing this weekend.
Vin nodded and snuggled in, unaware of Buck's peek into the room, and his gesture to Chris that he would be heading upstairs.
"You did a great job of protecting JD from the whole truth about his mom. Him finding out there's more wasn't your fault."
Vin nodded against Chris's chest. "Oh, I know. The nice teacher from school came and talked to us 'bout religion an' stuff. One boy asked where we go when we die, an' JD said we dream of angels. A couple 'a kids laughed, but the teacher was real nice to JD. She took his hand and 'splained all about Heaven and such and how everyone's idea of it is special to them."
Chris sat up a little. "When was this?"
"Just before school break and our trip with Uncle Ezra. We wanted to talk to you 'bout it, but we 'cided to promise not to. We didn't want to upset you an' Buck 'cause you was hurtin' an' all, but I figured it's okay now, right? 'Cause you and Buck are all better."
"Did it upset JD, to talk about his mama?"
Vin nodded. "He went real quiet for a while, even after we got home."
"And you?" Chris pushed.
Vin stayed nestled against Chris's chest. "Only 'cause JD cried in bed, and asked if I'd told him the wrong stuff 'bout our moms. I told him it was true, I just didn't know about the part that folk see it diff'rent to us. We talked - a lot - an' fell asleep in JD's bed. When we woke up, JD hugged me and said sorry, and that he liked our kind of Heaven the best, so I was okay after that." He looked up at his father. "And so was JD."
Chris could feel the relief welling up inside that a teacher hadn't taken it upon herself to interfere over this issue before talking to him and Buck, as he had feared. The school held specific information on the boys' histories, and it appeared they had taken it on board. He squeezed Vin tighter. "Glad it's all settled, son."
"Sure, we're good. I just wish..."
Chris kissed Vin's head. "I know, and don't fret, Buck'll sort it, and if he struggles, we'll help, right?"
With Elvis's chin in his lap, JD sat cross-legged on his bed and stared contentedly at the picture from France that hung on his and Vin's wall directly opposite their beds. When Buck poked his head around the door, JD leapt to his feet, stretched up his arms, and bounced.
Relieved and delighted with the response, Buck stepped inside the room and swept his boy into his arms. He blew a raspberry into JD's neck, then sat down on the bed with the giggling five-year-old. "Missed you downstairs, buddy." Buck sat back and savoured the closeness as JD snuggled in.
"I was looking at Mama."
Buck rested his chin on his son's head. "Uncle Ezra told me you were talking about Heaven." He felt JD nod. "You up to talking to me about it, now?"
"Uh huh." JD sat up a little. "I kinda knewed about mine and Vin's mama, after the teacher 'splained about how folks see Hea-vun diff'rent to Vin and me, but, well, me and Vin kinda had us a fight, then we talked some, and then I said 'sorry' an' we made up, so I didn't wanna make Vin sad by saying 'bout Mama out loud again."
Buck nodded and made a mental note to check in with Chris over the matter. "And now?"
JD moved to look up at his father. He pointed at the print. "He can't be sad now we got this. Who'd be sad when their mamas live in a place like that?"
Buck hugged JD tighter and kissed his head. "Tell me about the picture, would you?" He barely escaped a smack to his jaw as JD bounced off his lap and kneeled on the bed.
JD pointed as he spoke. "See? Them's the stars in the Heav-uns, and all the pretty glass is 'cause Heav-un is bootiful, and only bootiful things can be there." He turned to Buck to explain. "Mama once tol' me that Heav-un's full of the so...sow-els...of good people, and good people are bootiful, right?"
Buck smiled. "Right."
JD turned back to the picture and pointed toward the gilded High Altar perched on top of the out of shot Reliquary. "And that's where God an' Jesus sit..." Still on his knees, JD sat upright, reached for, and laid out some photos he, Vin, and Ezra had taken of various parts of the Reliquary, Apse, and Apostle Columns. He pointed to the shots of the Reliquary, directly under what JD considered to be God's Seat. "...And lookit, Da, see? See all the pretty angels? I'ss like they's holding up God's chair."
With tears in his eyes, Buck studied the pictures and print through the wonderment of a small child. "Yes son, I see," Buck whispered, truly understanding how JD was finding closure over his Mama's passing. He quickly composed himself when JD turned to him and held Buck's face in his hands as they went almost nose to nose.
"And tha's why I wanted Vin to share my present. So's he can see where his Mama is, and be happy, like me."
Buck snatched his boy into a fierce embrace and sighed inwardly when JD hugged right back.
"Is you sad, Da?" JD whispered into his father's ear.
"No, baby, I've never been happier." He pulled back to look at JD. "Or more proud. But...I have a huge favour to ask you."
JD nodded. "Uh huh."
"I'm real glad you love your print, and pictures, but...well, we kinda miss you bouncing around the place. Do you think you could spare us a little more of your time, huh?"
JD looked back at his print, then at Buck. "Okay. I miss playing with Vin. Can I still come and see my picture even if I ain't going to bed?"
"Sure you can, anytime; just maybe a little less than lately, hmm?"
Buck checked his watch. "Okay...how about we zap us some popcorn, and all watch a movie together? You can choose the DVD if you'd like."
JD leapt up, and this time his head caught Buck square on the nose. "Yeah!"
As the little one raced off, Buck's eyes watered again, but for a very different reason. He got up off the bed and tweaked his aching nose. "O-o-h boy, Li'l Bit's back."
It was the end of February and the grounds were filling with colour as Cherry Blossom and Magnolia trees were coming into bloom, and Forsythia bushes stood out bright yellow. Soft breezes sent blossom cascading down like scented snow as the onset of Spring and warm weather brought the gardens to life.
The boys had been tickled by an energized Welshman as Ieuan's beloved Welsh rugby team became the Six Nations' Triple Crown winners. Curious about this game that had their friend and carer not feeling so good directly after returning from that particular match, though their dads seemed amused by his condition so they figured a 'hangover' wasn't too serious; the boys succeeded in getting Ieuan to show them how to play.
During their lesson in the walled garden, they were thrilled to discover rugby to be similar - sort of - to American football, and did surprisingly well at catching and running with the ball. Ieuan declared them to be 'naturals', and at the end of their 'game' rewarded them with a Welsh scarf each, and they promised to keep their fingers crossed for Wales when they played Italy on the 10th of March.
On March 1st, the boys learned all about St David, the Patron Saint of Wales, and Ieuan treated them to a Welsh delicacy, Laver Bread, or 'Bara Lawr' as Ieuan called it. However, they didn't much care for it, especially when they learned it was made of edible, boiled seaweed, and not actually bread at all, but a paste to spread on toast.
He also made his mother's recipe bakestones, or Welsh cakes; soft, round, thin, scone-like cakes bursting with raisins and sultanas, and spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. The boys truly loved them cold and dusted with sugar, but moreso served hot; and took great pleasure in watching Ieuan bake the cakes on the griddle stone especially for them.
Before bed that night, the boys declared Mrs Potter needed to learn how to make bakestones, as they wanted to keep up the tradition when back in Denver, much like they had declared a similar intention for Pancake Day, too. Chris and Buck couldn't help but notice that most of the British traditions the boys wanted to maintain, revolved around food.
March 8th saw the start of the biggest annual dog show - Crufts. It was with great amusement, and after the little ones had watched the agility trials, the dads observed the boys take the dogs into the walled garden to 'put them through their paces' over their homemade obstacle course. Much to Vin and JD's frustration the dogs thought they were playing and chased their little masters, or simply sat and watched while the boys demonstrated over - and over - and over - and over - how the course worked. That night, two exhausted little ones crashed out and went to bed early.
A strange highlight of the show emerged during the agility trials in the form of one dog named Libby, who was looking to be a new leader when she stopped and pooped right there on the course. Her disqualification had the boys, and most of the nation howling in dismay, and the video of the incident going viral on You Tube almost instantly.
That weekend, Ieuan had travelled back to Cardiff to watch the Welsh rugby team take on Italy. Following Wales' win, the boys became concerned for their carer's health after an extremely excitable and garbled phone call to them. Chris had picked up, but put the call on speaker phone when the first word uttered or rather bellowed, was 'BOYS!' The pair rushed to the phone.
"Ieuan, did the Whales win?" JD asked.
"Hi Ieuan, they won, huh?" Vin stated, expectantly.
"We w-o-n! Itwasacrackin'game-an'I'mayhavehadabit-toomuch-todrink!"
The rush of words had JD go pale and look at Buck. "Da! He sounds like the day when you banged your head and Unca Nathan and Chris tooked you to the hopspital."
Chris snatched up the phone and hit the speaker button off. "Hey, buddy. You a little snookered there, huh?" Chris laughed at the reply, causing Buck to grin, but the boys frowned.
"Snookered?" Vin whispered to JD, who simply shrugged, while failing in his attempt to regain the handset.
"Take it easy, Pal. We'll see you Monday morning," Chris rounded. Replacing the handset, he smiled at the confused boys.
"Is he sick?" Vin asked.
Chris shook his head. "Remember that day after a barbeque when Uncle Josiah drank a little too much whiskey and started singing?"
The little ones grinned and nodded. Uncle Josiah had been real funny that day.
"Well, Ieuan's real happy right now - just like Josiah was that day."
"He had a lot of whiskey?" Vin asked.
"Something like that," Chris replied.
"He's gonna be okay, right?" JD fretted.
Buck squatted down next to the pair. "Sure he is, though he may have a sore head tomorrow."
"Did he bang it, Da?"
"Uh..." Buck looked to Chris for help.
"No," Chris answered, quickly. "Who's up for ice cream?" He hung his head at the expressions on the boys' faces. Bribery wasn't gonna work this time. He leaned over. "I promise you, he's okay. It's a grown-ups thing."
Vin and JD exchanged looks and nodded before grinning at their dads.
"What ice cream we got?"
With the boys seemingly satisfied with the explanation for Ieuan's condition, the four headed for the kitchen.
The weekend of March 17th and 18th, and the days leading up to it saw a time of mixed emotions. Ieuan was beside himself with excitement due to the Welsh rugby squad playing the final game of the Six Nations tournament on home territory in Cardiff. If they beat France, not only would they win the Six Nations title, but the prestigious achievement of the 'Grand Slam'. The title could be won on points, but the honour of a Grand Slam only came with winning every game played.
Ieuan wanted to head to Cardiff to meet up with his family on Friday 16th, but wouldn't ask for the time off as he hated to let Buck, Chris, and the boys down. However, his problem was solved when the second dilemma and an invitation from the school for all mums, and any 'surrogate mums' to a Mothers' Day Celebration on the Friday, saw Chris and Buck take a personal day to attend.
The dilemma came in the form of two American children, still mourning the loss of their moms, and confused as to why Mothers' Day was being celebrated too soon. After a heated argument, and some tears, the teacher realized the issue, sat the class down, and explained to them how the UK, and the US, celebrated Mothers' Day in different months.
With the children more settled, the celebration day for Friday was planned, and invitations went out. There would be a short concert, followed by refreshments, after which the children could leave for home with their parent or guardian. Cards and gifts were made with all manner of items, and a lot of glue and glitter found its way onto much more than the craftwork.
As Ieuan sat with the boys in the den on Thursday night, all three smiled when Buck and Chris walked in. The boys leapt off the sofa to greet their dads, and Ieuan rose to hand over, and leave.
"Hiya. Good day?"
With JD in his arms, and between the sloppy kisses to his cheek from the boy, Buck shrugged. "So, so. At least it was uneventful, so no paperwork to worry about over the weekend."
"Any issues?" Chris asked.
Ieuan shook his head. "Nope, all good. Are you sure you don't want me to drop the boys to school before I leave for Cardiff?"
Now Chris shook his head. "Nah, we're good. We rarely get a chance take them. You head off, and have a great weekend."
Ieuan grinned. "If Wales win, it will be hwyl fawr!"
"Does that mean three sheets to the wind?" Buck asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"Err…" Ieuan laughed. "Sort of." He turned to go.
JD and Vin waved.
"Bye, Y-eye-an. I hope the Whaleses win."
"Bye Ieuan, have fun."
The Welshman grinned. "Thanks boys. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday." He looked to Chris and Buck. "My whole family is travelling down for the weekend. I'm treating my Mam to a Mothers' Day Champagne Tea at the St David's Hotel in Cardiff Bay on Sunday, and then they're travelling back home, and me, here See you as usual on Monday morning."
"You sure it won't be too much for you after all that travelling and, uh…stuff?" Chris smiled.
Ieuan moved to the door. "No, I'll be fine. Once the boys are in school, I've got all day to rest." A few seconds after he left, he called back. "Don't forget there's food warming in the oven for you."
Buck and JD, and Chris and Vin set off for the kitchen. "So, what you got planned for us tomorrow?" Buck asked both boys.
They stared at each other, then rolled their eyes. "It's a su'prise!" they chorused.
"Buck, it's a surprise," Chris mock-scolded.
Buck made a face at the man that only minutes before they entered the house had rhetorically asked him the same question, and chuckled at the huge grin Chris threw him when the boys weren't looking. Joking aside though, they were both curious as to what to expect tomorrow.
After being guided to their seats in the school's auditorium, Buck and Chris faced the small stage and, with the other mums, and a smattering of dads, nannies, and grandparents, waited for the concert to begin.
Children from each age group performed all manner of things from little ditties, to group songs, to playing straining, musical instruments, and all were greeted by wild ovations from an enrapt audience. The head teacher walked onstage to another ripple of applause and smiled as she stopped at the stage's edge.
"Thank you all for coming. Once we put our program together, the children voted for which performance should close the show. This act won hands down, so for your entertainment, here are; The Little Ambassadors."
As everyone clapped, Vin, dressed in a red and black flannel shirt and jeans, and JD in a blue and green flannel shirt, and also in jeans, walked onstage. Standing front and centre, Vin gave a little wave to a stunned Chris and Buck, then, much to the audiences' amusement, nudged a wildly grinning and waving JD. Vin cleared his throat.
"What Our Dads Mean to Us, by Vincent Michael Tanner, and John Daniel Dunne."
Vin recited his own poem, while JD 'acted out' the words with highly animated gestures.
"We lived inside a box inside a warehouse,
And cuddled up each night to keep us warm,"
JD hugged himself tight and 'shivered'.
"We went through trash to find some food for eatin',
And hid a lot to keep us safe from harm."
JD made a sad face and then hid his eyes, half stepped behind Vin, and 'trembled'.
"The bad men 'cross the way would always scare us,
But we was smart and stayed well out of sight,
We knew that they would hurt us if they saw us,
And they shot me when we watched them late one night."
The audience gasped as JD peeked out from behind Vin, acted shocked, then held his back like he'd been hurt and dropped to the stage floor and lay still. Engrossed in the words and theatrics, no one looked to Buck and Chris who were both openly emotional.
"While I was lyin' hurt, JD was frightened,
And looked for stuff to keep us both alive.
He cared for me and told me lots of stories,
He did so much, and wasn't even five."
JD was now sitting cross-legged on the stage and pretending to read from a book while 'patting' an invisible person. Vin's face saddened as he snuck a look and saw JD 'crying' into his hands. He quickly composed himself, then continued.
"Then God sent us two very special heroes,
Two lawmen who came sweepin' in with guns."
JD rode around the stage like an Old West lawman on horseback, and then walked toward Vin with his arms outstretched as if holding a gun, while acting like a cautious special agent. The audience was now chuckling.
"They took us home because we had no mamas,
And said, 'we'll be your daddies, little ones'."
JD cuddled in to Vin, who put his arm around his brother of the heart and pulled him close.
"So now our days are filled with fun and laughter,
From trail rides, toys, and Bucklin's Elvis dance,"
Laughter erupted as JD rode around again as if on a horse, then danced and swivelled his butt and hips just like Buck did when singing along to an Elvis song.
"With cuddles given any time they're needed,
And quiet talks whenever there's a chance."
To plan, JD went to hug Vin, but with classmates watching, Vin went shy and took a half step back while offering a glare his father would be proud of. Hands on hips, JD huffed and was about to whisper as only JD could that Vin wasn't sticking to the plot, when he noticed the audience laughing and dabbing tissues at their eyes, so he just grinned his megawatt grin and shrugged.
They recited the last part together.
"We miss our moms, but we have dads who love us,
And uncles too, we are a lucky pair,
So dads, please listen up, 'cause we both love you,
And want to thank you for how much you care."
The boys held hands and took exaggerated bows, both beaming as the audience, teachers, and schoolchildren stood and applauded wildly. JD waved at his father, then leaned in to Vin.
"I think they liked it."
Vin nodded, but his gaze was fixed on his father's face.
Both Chris and Buck were visibly moved, politely nodding to those who congratulated them while they stared back in adoration at their boys. They were vaguely aware of an announcement, and then found themselves being swept along to the school canteen as invited guests headed out for refreshments, and to be reunited with their children.
It took a minute to locate them, but once JD and Vin spotted their fathers, the whole room knew, as JD hollered out their names, and they hurried to their fathers' outstretched arms. The boys giggled at the crushing embraces and offered kisses, grinning widely as the men stood, each holding his son.
"Did you like my poem, Dad?"
Chris's eyes filled. "You wrote that?"
Vin nodded. "Uh huh. JD helped lots, 'cause he talked about when we lived in the warehouse, and 'specially when I was sick, and while he talked, the words just came in my head. My teacher helped me to write it all down, and with the rhymes." Vin went serious. "I wanted it to rhyme."
JD held Buck's face in his hands, not that he needed to keep his father's attention, the man's adoring, liquid gaze had never wavered. "Did you like my Elvis wiggle, Da?"
Buck laughed and gave JD a squeeze. "I loved every part of it, Li'l Bit, you're a pretty good actor." Buck turned to Vin and winked. "Awesome work, Junior."
The pair suddenly wriggled to be put down, and the men noticed all of the kids had disappeared. They trooped back in to the hall bearing handmade cards and flowers, and handed them out to the gathered guests.
With the two fathers temporarily overwhelmed, JD beat the men to speaking. "We made Ieuan some, too, 'cause he takes care of us, and we wanted to say thank you."
Chris nodded. "Great idea, Squirt." He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Thanks for these, guys, they're awesome."
Buck nodded. "They sure are. Hey, how about I spring for pizza later?"
"Yeah!" Both boys punched the air in celebration.
Within the hour, the family were home and the gifts were on proud display on the mantelshelf in the den.
The next day they coloured food and drinks with green food colouring in honour of St. Patrick's Day; received a phone call from a *very* excited Ieuan in celebration of Wales winning the Grand Slam, though they had been watching it on TV, so already knew, and after Skyping with their uncles, spent the evening with the Greens, before the couple headed off the next morning to their daughter's home for a planned Mothers' Day, dinner.
Fresh excitement was already building as next week both men and boys were involved in one of the UK's biggest biannual charity events - Sports Relief 2012.
For months, sponsored sports events by celebrities had led the way to the biggest week of the sporting charity calendar, culminating in a weekend of fundraising from Friday 23rd March to Sunday 25th March. As usual, many schools, law enforcement, rescue services and the like, had rallied with their usual enthusiasm encouraging millions to also get involved.
For their part, Chris and Buck were taking part in a charity cricket match. Neither had played before, and so they studied the game online, with Buck declaring it to be 'kinda like baseball with big shin guards, so how hard could it be?' They figured they could use a few tips, so secured some tuition at the nets in a local leisure centre with fellow officer and future team player Nazir Chopra. His final words of advice to the pair were to 'not swing the bat like a baseball bat - too much.' When they had used a cricket bat for a few hours, and realized how heavy it was, they could see why. Misuse made their backs ache like hell.
Buck and Chris were currently shadowing the officers of the Metropolitan Homicide and Serious Crimes Command so would be playing for them. Those people, and also the opposition and their recent partners the Constables of the Metropolitan Police, sponsored the boys, and the parents and teachers of the school sponsored the men. All the residents sponsored both men and boys in their events, along with the regulars and licensees of the Black Horse Pub. In honour of the occasion, the school allowed the boys the day off to watch their fathers, and Ieuan offered to drive them there. The Greens decided they wanted to go, too, a gesture which oddly made the two normally confident ATF Agents a mite nervous, so they focused on the fact that, whatever happened now, money was guaranteed, and that was what it was all about.
That - and having fun
The village green used was rurally set and bathed in warm sunshine for the event. Mrs Green had packed a picnic, and so had Ieuan, so the boys were treated to a veritable feast. The constabulary opted to bat, which meant the boys were on their feet for several hours, standing and cheering at the boundary while their fathers stood close by as their team fielded.
Due to limited overs, the game was fast, a fact the boys were grateful for as they were soon hot, and tired. After a short break, the cricketers were back out, and the leading batsmen for the Serious Crimes team stepped up to the wicket.
JD frowned and turned to their adult friends. "Where's Da and Chris gone?"
Vin shrugged, and also looked to the adults for an answer. Ieuan explained.
"It's just like Baseball, one side batted and were out, and now the other side are up."
"Oh," both boys chorused, understanding fully.
Eric checked the program. "Your dads are middle order, so they won't be out on the field for a while."
"They ain't on leadoff?" Vin queried.
"If that means starting, then no, but that position's good considering they've never played before," Eric assured.
Satisfied, the boys sat and watched, but an hour later, with full tummies, and warmed by the afternoon sunshine, they both dozed off.
"Hey sleepyheads, you're going to miss your daddies."
Jane's gentle rousing had both boys sitting up and rubbing their eyes. JD leapt up and pointed. "Lookit, Vin, i'ss Chris!"
Jumping up, Vin rushed to the boundary and watched in awe as his father prepared to be bowled to.
Chris stood at his wicket and surveyed the field. A little smile curled his lips on seeing Vin watching and JD bouncing along the boundary line excitedly. Touching the bill of his cap, he rolled his shoulders, and got ready to accept his first ball.
The bowler thundered in and a red leather ball bounced off the pitch and barely missed Chris's head. The American's eyes narrowed as bowler Andrew Crumb grinned and took his walk for the next run up. Chris smirked, and prepared for the onslaught. He failed to connect with the next two balls bowled, but knew he was getting a 'feel' for it, and eagerly awaited his next ball. As Andrew released, the ball bounced off the pitch toward the blond. Chris's eagle eye followed it and, using the swing he was taught by Nazir, while throwing in a little baseball twist for good measure, his bat struck it perfectly. Spectators roared when the ball sailed high over the boundary.
"Whoa! A six!" Ieuan cried as he jumped to his feet.
Vin turned. "A what?"
Eric explained. "If a ball goes over the boundary without bouncing, it's six runs. If it bounces over the boundary, it's four, so the batsmen don't need to run as they've already scored."
Vin nodded his understanding, JD just leapt around excitedly yelling 'SIX!’
By the end of the over, Chris had scored another two, making eight runs. A change of bowler had his partner facing the ball, and it went clean through the wicket to shouts of 'OWZAT?!' With the stumps down, the batsman, despite a good innings, was dismissed, and while Eric explained that the batsman defends the wicket, so if it's knocked down, he's out, Buck arrived on the field in his usual jaunty fashion. He turned and waved at a familiar cry.
Buck passed Chris as he moved to the empty wicket. "Having fun, Stud?"
Chris leaned in. "Knock it out of the ballpark, Pard."
"Will do," Buck winked. "Though I've been told we're not too far off their score, now."
His first ball would have taken out his teeth had he not ducked. He glared at bowler Neil Price. "Jeeze, Neil, y'almost took my teeth with that there ball."
Price grinned. "And such nice pearly whites, too."
Buck straightened. "Oh, like that, huh? Okay pal, you guys are going down! Bring it on."
Like Chris, his next two balls scored nothing, but then he hit a four, then a six, then another four. Now Neil was glowering. Buck grinned. "This is fun, keep 'em coming, buddy."
While Chris and Buck knocked the ball every which way and totalled up runs like their lives depended on it, spectators were howling and cheering, and the rest of the Serious Crime Squad came out to watch.
Before long, and with score overtaken, the Met called the game to concede to their opponents. Vin and JD were hoarse from yelling. Players' children ran onto the field to be swept up in their fathers' arms. Buck and Chris placed their hats on their sons' heads.
"Aww Da, i'ss all sweaty," JD groaned.
"Then I'll just take it back," Buck said, grabbing the bill.
JD clung on. "No! It smells like home."
Vin nodded and hugged his father. "You played great, Dad, both of you."
Chris smiled and hoped he didn't give away the little pull to his back. "We had you and our friends to cheer us on, how could we lose?"
After showering, and a small celebration tea, everyone headed for home. Vin and JD were asleep long before they got there, prompting Chris to call the school, and leave a message that the boys might be a little late in the morning.
And they were...just a little.
Friday 23rd March was the start of one of the family's biggest activity weekends since being in the UK. On Thursday there was a bake sale and Ieuan, after some brief pleading from the boys, made dozens of bakestones for them to take along. Jane donated a Victoria Sandwich; two light, fluffy sponges, with her homemade redcurrant jelly, and vanilla buttercream sandwiched between them. The buttercream replaced her usual filling of clotted cream, as she feared it might curdle due to the surprisingly warm weather.
Even though Chris and Buck had taken Friday as a personal day, Ieuan accompanied them when they later returned to the school to watch the boys in their charity events. Every child was given a red Sport Relief sweat band to wear, though JD's needed to go more on his arm due to its size.
The older children were up first. Inside the school hall and halfway along its length, sets of spaced poles were set out. There would be heats, where a team of four children would race other teams in relay by dribbling a basketball through and around the poles, turn, and do the same again, for the final teammate to finish by throwing the ball into the fixed basketball net behind the starting point.
The fastest team, on condition that they scored a basket, would go through to the semi-finals, and the winners of those, to the final. In the event of a failed basket in any heat, the fastest team, or teams of all the heats would go through.
It was the fourth and last heat before Vin's team was up. Buck, Chris and Ieuan moved forward from their standing positions on the sidelines. Their stomachs flipped in anxious anticipation, until a familiar holler made them smile. JD was right there, and cheerleading even before the whistle was blown.
"Go - Vin, go - Vin, go - Vin!"
His team sailed through the heats and the semi finals, and were now poised to compete against the other winners.
A shrill peep set the first teammates off and dribbling. Schoolmates, parents, and guardians cheered regardless, as balls were dropped and chased causing some kids to run into the opposite team's territory, while others moved around the poles with skilful ease.
Vin's team was behind by the time he took over. Chris prepared himself for a gallant loss. Vin was good at hoops, and fast, but surely the gap to close was too great. With JD screaming his brother's name, little Tanner took up the challenge.
Vin watched as some teammates lost control, and his team fell behind. Prepared for loss, but determined to give it his all, he tugged his blue bib straight and as his teammate approached, got into position. Taking the basketball, he set off. Totally focused, he whipped around the poles, bouncing the ball with remarkable dexterity.
He turned for the home strait as loud, animated encouragement spurred the two teams on. Vin's focus never wavered, while the sounds of his family urging him on rang in his ears. JD's 'You can do it, Vin!' gave him the final boost and he passed the last pole. With a spurt, he leapt up and threw the ball, causing a momentary gasp as it sat on the ring's edge before dropping through the hoop to rapturous clapping and cheering.
As the other player finished, Vin was surrounded by his teammates, and grinned widely at the hysterical celebrations in his honour. His grin widened and he happily accepted the hug from the howling incoming missile that was JD. A minute or so later, he and his team were called to the 'podium', and presented with little red Sport Relief pins, and a small trophy each. From there, clasping JD's hand, he joined his family. Buck ruffled his hair, grinning broadly as he praised him, as was Ieuan. Chris scooped his son up, hugged him tight, and spoke, his voice thick with emotion.
"I'm so proud of you, Vin. You did great."
Everyone moved outside and into the warm sunshine for JD's age-group's event - an egg and spoon race. Wearing blue caps with protective neck flaps, the children lined up. They were given a large spoon, and a rubber egg, and were told that, on the whistle, they had to run to the line where Miss Brooke was waiting to give them a badge.
Whistle blown, and tongue poking out, JD was off like a rocket, and with Vin's, Chris's, Ieuan's, and Buck's encouragement from the sidelines, and with a near-seven year-old girl called Carly right on his heels, he headed for the tape. Way ahead of the field littered with dropped eggs and pouting kids, JD was almost at the line when he heard a wail.
Buck quit yelling and looked in confusion as his son halted and turned to a crying Carly. "What...why'd he stop?"
JD looked down at the egg she dropped and took Carly's hand. "Don't cry. C'mon, you can share mine." As the pair was passed by other children and without a care in the world, each with a hand on JD's spoon, complete with egg, the little ones walked hand in hand to cross the line.
An adoring gaze fixed on his son, an emotional Buck placed his hand over his heart. "Holy shit."
"Swear jar, Buck," Vin reminded.
Buck nodded, but never took his eyes off JD. "It was worth it, Junior."
As Miss Brooke pinned the badges to JD and Carly's sweaters, she stroked JD's cheek. "That was a very noble thing to do, JD. Well done."
With a polite thank you at a word he didn't understand, and a sprint to the waiting embrace of his father, JD leapt into the brunet's arms and squealed with delight as Buck spun him around before hugging him.
"You sure are something else, Li'l Bit."
JD looked at his father. "Is that good, Da?"
Buck nodded. "Oh yeah, it's real good."
JD pulled on his jumper. "Look, a badge!"
The brunet's eyes filled and he laughed. "It sure is, and you earned it." He turned when a woman carrying Carly approached.
"Mr. Dunne, your son is a little darling. You must be so proud of him."
Without correcting her about the name, and giving JD a squeeze, Buck nodded. "He is, and I am, Ma'am, real proud of him."
They walked away and toward Chris, Vin, and Ieuan, who were grinning, clapping and cheering, before ruffling his hair when he reached them. JD giggled, then looked back toward Carly's mother. He huffed.
"She called you my name, Da. She called you Mister Dunne."
Chris glanced awkwardly at Buck and both held their breath in anticipation of tears.
JD burst out laughing. "She's a silly Billy!"
Joining in the laughter, the group headed over for the final event of the day - the wheelbarrow race.
With JD's palms flat to the grass, and his legs around Vin's waist, on the whistle the Tanner-Dunne team set off. With Vin being strong and fast, and JD light, and well balanced considering he was almost upside-down, they went instantly into first place, and stayed there until the tape, much to the delight of Chris, Buck, and Ieuan.
Head teacher Miss Grant presented them with another badge, and a trophy, then addressed the applauding gathering. "Before we conclude today's Sport Relief Games, we have a special award for the most sportsmanlike conduct, and today, it goes to JD Dunne." With a smile, and to more clapping, she presented JD with another trophy. "Well done, JD."
He smiled and took his trophy. "Wha's sports-man-like mean, Miss Grant?"
She smiled wider. "It means you did a very kind thing for Carly during your race."
JD frowned. "Oh. Well, she's my friend, and it's good to share with friends, right?"
Miss Grant looked toward Buck and Chris, her gaze filled with admiration for the men and their parenting skills as she placed a hand on JD's, and Vin's shoulders. "It most certainly is."
On the way home, the three men and two boys had a celebratory meal at Mickey D's. At home, the boys had a bath, then watched some of the Sport Relief Telethon before falling asleep and being carried up to bed. Tomorrow would be a recovery and quiet time because on Sunday, the family would be heading out early to London with Ieuan, and Jane and Eric Green. A neighbour was taking care of the dogs so that Ieuan, Chris and Vin, and Buck and JD could take part in the Sport Relief London Mile.
Dressed in shorts and vests for the men, and Tee-shirts and shorts for the boys, and sporting registration numbers, Buck, JD, Chris, Vin, and Ieuan lined up in front of Admiralty Arch at the top of The Mall, the Mile's starting point. They would go down The Mall, around The Victoria Monument and fountain outside Buckingham Palace, then back up the other side of The Mall to finish.
"Will we see the Queen, Da?"
Buck looked proudly down at his son. "No, Li'l Bit, I think she might still be having breakfast, maybe even lunch by the time we get down that way." With a finger under the chin, he gently raised his son's pouting features. "Y'all set to win a medal?"
JD instantly rallied. "Yeah!"
Chris smiled at Vin. "You're sure you want to run all the way, not just jog, or walk like JD?"
Vin nodded. "Yeah, Dad. I know you and Buck like to run to keep fit, and I'd like to run with you."
Swelling with pride, Chris nodded. "Sure thing, son."
Ieuan approached. "If no one minds, I'd like to run the mile flat out."
"Go for it," Chris grinned.
Sir Steve Redgrave climbed up to the rostrum and as he raised a starting pistol in the air, called to 'get ready'.
"Here, we go," Buck said, excitedly. He ruffled Vin's hair, and shook Ieuan's and Chris's hands. "See y'all later."
JD squealed with delight, Vin rolled his eyes, then laughed and gently punched his brother's arm. "Later, Little Dude."
Ieuan, Chris, and Vin lined up, and Buck took JD's hand in his, just in time for the pistol to sound.
They were off.
At the barriers close to the Victoria Monument, Jane turned to Eric. "See them, yet?"
Looking away from his binoculars, Eric shrugged. "I see people running; just not sure it's them."
Jane unwrapped a sweet and popped it into her mouth. "Well, at least their group have started."
Within three minutes the Greens were waving at, and cheering on Ieuan. Several minutes after that, they were doing the same for Vin and Chris, as the grinning pair waved back.
Vin pointed excitedly as they made the return journey. "It's Doctor Who!"
Chris glanced over and indeed, there was the previous Doctor Who, David Tennant, running with his family for Sport Relief. He glanced at Vin, gallantly running at his side. An overwhelming wave of emotion struck Chris and he struggled for a moment.
Vin looked up. "Dad? You okay?"
Chris nodded as his composure returned. "Have to admit, I find this whole day pretty amazing."
Vin nodded. "Yeah, so many folk willin' to raise money for charity."
Chris smiled. He had actually been referring to having a son at his side running with him, but he nodded at Vin, because he was right, too.
Buck stopped jogging, took out two bottles of water from his backpack, and made JD take a drink. "You okay, Squirt?"
"Uh huh. C'mon, I wanna see the Queen."
Not wanting to disillusion him, Buck took back the bottle, held JD's hand and they continued their slow jog amidst aliens, dinosaurs, men dressed as fairies, Cybermen, Star Wars Storm Troopers and at least one Welsh Dragon, and all of which JD had to speak to personally to see if they were real, or not.
Buck clutched his heart at the sudden outcry before grinning as he spotted first Ieuan, then Chris and Vin passing on the opposite route to get to the finish. JD waved frantically, and tugged Buck's hand to cross to the other side.
"Nu uh, son, that would be cheating."
"Yeah. We have to go around, or we'll be letting down the charity, and all the nice folk who've sponsored us. Plus...you might uh, miss the Queen."
JD relaxed and yelled to his disappearing family. "I gotta go this way and see the Queen!"
Laughing, Chris and Vin waved, and ran on.
Chris chuckled at a bunch of the Metropolitan boys when they passed. They were handcuffed together dressed as cops, complete with truncheons and tall hats, but were shirtless, and wearing pink tutus, not uniforms. Chris was mighty grateful he and Buck had turned down *that* invitation. He looked down at his sweaty-haired son. "You okay there, Cowboy?"
A flushed Vin beamed back. "Great, thanks," he said, a little breathless. "This sure is fun."
Chris rested a hand on Vin's shoulder. "Yeah, it is." He pointed. "Almost there. You up for a sprint finish?"
"You bet, Dad. Race ya!" Laughing, Vin tore off, and Chris was surprised how much speed he needed to catch up before the pair, arms raised, crossed the finish line together.
As they rounded the fountain and monument, a huge cheer went up. Buck noticed all eyes were focused on the Palace and he looked that way. "Holy..." He tugged JD's arm. "Kid, look!"
JD squealed and stopped to wave. "I'ss the Que-e-e-e-n! And her hubsbund the King!"
Queen Elizabeth waved happily at the gathered crowds and passing runners for a long time. Deciding now wasn't the time to explain the Queen's husband wasn't actually a King, Buck tugged JD.
"I know you like waving at her, but we gotta go, son."
"She waveded at me, Da."
"She sure did," he agreed, before they moved on.
Another squeal erupted from JD when he spotted Jane and Eric, who were frantically waving at them.
"Keep going, you're doing great!" Jane called.
"'Kay!" JD replied matter-of-factly as they continued on. "C'mon, Da, I see a Cowboy!"
At the finish line, and proudly wearing their medals, Ieuan, Vin, and Chris cheered, whooped and whistled as Buck and a very sweaty-haired JD crossed the finish line. Offering them water, a nice man placed medals over their heads. JD lifted his and looked at the man.
"Is it gold?" he puffed.
"No, but it's very precious," the man replied. "Only special people have them."
Beaming at the reply, JD ran over to his family. Chris scooped him up. "You did it!"
"Yeah, and the Queen waveded at us," JD yelled, before a tonsil-revealing yawn.
Buck nodded that it was 'true'.
"I saw Doctor Who!" Vin announced, excitedly.
Buck grinned. "Yeah? Was he being chased by aliens?"
Vin rolled his eyes. "Nah, silly!"
"I'm tired, an' hungry."
"Which first, JD?" Ieuan asked.
Reaching out for his father, JD rested his head on Buck's shoulder while unknowingly popping his thumb into his mouth. "Dunno."
Ieuan pointed. "Eric and Jane are going to walk to Hyde Park Corner, and I'm picking them up there. See you later?"
Chris looked at the boys. "Maybe tomorrow. By the time we get home, shower and bath, and eat, I reckon bed might be calling two young fellas."
"Who's the bed gonna call?" JD asked.
Laughing, the group broke up. Later, and as Chris anticipated, it was indeed an early night, as two youngsters slept in their beds, wearing their medals.
Looking up from his book, Chris smiled at Buck as he entered the den. "All quiet?"
Buck nodded. "Yup. Didn't even get to finish reading the chapter of Wind in the Willows." Buck took a seat in a chair, picked up his drink and sipped it. "This good weather sure is tuckering them out."
Chris resumed his reading position. "We're gonna need it with two whole weeks of Easter school break." He chuckled. "And to think we're off on leave the whole time with them. Still, we at least survived April Fool's Day."
"Two weeks; we're gonna need another vacation after that."
Chris raised an eyebrow and looked at Buck. "Hmm, there's an idea. We sure haven't seen much of this country, and we go back to the states in four months."
Buck shrugged and continued drinking. "Well, we got time to think on it some."
"Yeah, I guess we do."
With Easter plans already in place, the two fathers sat quietly contemplating the idea of another vacation...with two, boisterous, curious boys.
Continues in Making the Most of Easter Break
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The High Altar
Triple Crown (Rugby Six Nations)
Special days in the UK for March
St David's Day Parade, Cardiff
St. David's Day and Welsh Recipes
Bakestones (Welsh Cakes)
A Bake Stone
Dog pooping incident
Wales Millenium Stadium (Home of Welsh Rugby)
Wales win Grand Slam (rugby Six Nations
Mothering Sunday UK
Egg and Spoon Race
Sport Relief London/The Mall, to Buckingham Palace and Back
Sir Steve Redgrave
David 'Dr. Who' Tennant (Scroll through page)
Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace
The Queen waving from Palace Balcony
Sports Relief Medal
Wind in the Willows