by Sue M
AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Self betaed with a little help from Nancy and some additions from Katy.
The little family were approaching their first weekend in the UK, but it was a subdued breakfast the morning after their meal with the Greens. At first the men thought the boys were still adjusting to the time change, but it soon became apparent it was much more.
Knowing Vin would be more guarded, and with a nod from Buck, Chris probed JD.
“Li'l Bit, you'd tell us if something was bothering you, right?” His heart sank to see the depth of sadness in the big hazel orbs looking up at him. “JD?”
JD glanced at Vin, whose blue-eyed gaze held a hint of melancholy.
“Boys?” Buck urged, his own concern rising to tighten his throat.
JD sighed, then spoke. “Would you be's in trouble if we went home?”
Both men swallowed against dry throats. “Home?” Chris asked. He reached out to curl his fingers around the boys' little hands. “We are home...at least for a year.”
“JD?” Buck tried again. He noticed another glance between the boys.
“When we gets bumps and scrapes...Unca Siah, Unca Nathan and Unca Ezra...” JD sighed.
“...They help make it all better,” Vin finished.
Finally understanding, Chris smiled. “Well, last night I dropped them an email about your adventures. Why don't you go see if they've replied?” He and Buck chuckled as whoops, accompanied by chairs scraping across flagstones heralded the boys racing off to the den.
Buck shook his head. “Thought it was going too well.”
“It'll be fine, Buck,” Chris assured. “Kids are real adaptable. I know our boys have been through a lot, but they trust us, now. Once they settle...get to know a few more folks, stuff like that'll just be a memory.” He noted Buck frown, and smiled at him.
“Then, when we get back to the States, it'll all fall back into place. You'll see.”
Knowing Chris spoke from experience, the brunet nodded. “Yeah, I guess. Can't deny, it's all been a bit of a whirlwind, huh?”
“I reckon you just described our whole lives since meeting the boys.” Chris's eyes twinkled and he laughed. Buck joined in. Wasn't that the truth?
“You know, we need to get Skype sorted out,” Chris suggested. “My lap top has a web cam; I just have to learn how to use it – right?”
“The boys surely would love to see their uncles and catch up some. Wouldn't mind it myself.” Buck admitted.
Both men turned to look when two squealing ‘whirlwinds' came rushing in, or limping a little, in Vin's case. “They's sent us emails! JD exclaimed, excitedly.
Vin nodded. “They asked us to send photos of our scrapes so they could kiss ‘em all better and send ‘em back.”
Unsure as to where this was going, Buck nodded. “Sure, we can do that. I'll use my phone to take the pictures, and upload and send, okay?”
Both boys' moods had brightened considerably, and Chris gave Buck a knowing wink as his partner took the little ones back to the den to do the deed.
Clearing the table, Chris was just loading the dishwasher when several men carrying gardening tools, passed by the window, heading toward the car and the woods beyond. Confused, he opened the door just as Eric Green was about to knock.
“Good morning, Chris.”
Larabee nodded. “'Morning, Eric.” He glanced up as more people passed by. “Something we can help you with?” He gestured for the man to come in.
Stepping inside, Eric smiled. “I called a quick meeting of the Residents' Committee this morning in relation to the garden the boys were injured in.”
Chris raised both hands defensively. “Shoot, look, we're real sorry...”
Eric waved him off. “No, no, you misunderstand.” He pointed to a kitchen chair, and Chris nodded and he and Eric sat down. There was a slight pause.
“You see,” Eric explained. “It's been a long time since we had children living here. When I addressed the residents, they immediately wanted to make you, and these little ones feel at home, so a team of us are going into the walled garden over the next few days to clean it up, and make it safe.” He paused for Chris to absorb the information, then smiled and continued.
“In prime condition, the garden is a wonderful and safe place for the boys to play; also, it will be lovely to hear the sounds of children having fun here, again.”
All Chris could do for an instant or two was stare. It was a rare moment to see Chris Larabee lost for words, however, it was short-lived. “I...we can't let you go to all that trouble.”
Eric stood. “It's no trouble. The task is long overdue, and it will not only be our pleasure, but also a collective ‘welcome' gift to you in your new community.”
Also standing, Chris extended his hand and the pair shook. “Then let us help.”
“No, no, we'd rather the boys stay safe until we're done.”
Chris pondered for a moment. “Okay, you tackle the worst of it, for now, then we'll help when it's less hazardous, and fire up the grill and have us a cook-out for everyone when we're done.” He noted Eric frown. Chris smiled. “Barbecue.”
“Oh...Oh, yes, that would be wonderful. Some of our residents are unable to help due to health issues and work commitments, but clearly wanted to do something.” He pondered for a few moments, then checked his watch.
“Alright. How about you drop us in some tea and biscuits from time to time? Jane will be bringing over some sandwiches and cakes throughout each day, too. We'll attempt to get to the point of burning the garden rubbish by the weekend, hopefully Saturday, either way we'll have your ‘cook out' around 6pm Saturday evening?”
The blond nodded. “Sounds like a plan.” He saw Eric out, and prepared to tell Buck and the boys.
In the den, Buck knew it had been quiet for too long and grinned when his son broke the silence.
“Is they ‘ploaded now, Da?” JD asked, craning his neck to see how his dad was doing.
Buck swivelled the chair away from the computer to face JD and Vin and grinned. “Yup. The guys should be getting the photos anytime now. Might be a while before they reply, but you know they will.” All three looked to the door when Chris came in to tell them of Eric's plan.
As the boys took off to see the ‘workers', Chris turned to Buck. “I said we'd fire up the grill this weekend. We got a grill, right?”
Buck grinned, and stood. Gesturing for Chris to follow, he led the blond into the yard and pulled up a leaf-covered tarpaulin. Underneath was a brick-built grill. “I found it this morning, when I took out the trash. I guess we'll need to clean it up, and I'm not sure if there's charcoal here, but I can soon go pick some up.”
Buck laughed when Chris smiled, stretched his arms out in front of him and cracked his knuckles. “Awesome. Let's get to cleaning it.”
Over the next few days the small army of volunteers toiled hard, occasionally assisted by Buck and Chris when Jane offered to watch the boys, or walk in the woods with them and Hamish; and the garden was almost cleared. Saturday afternoon, and much to the boys' delight, Buck returned from the local gas station with charcoal, and two children's gardening sets. With a reminder that Vin still needed to be careful of his leg, Jane Green again happily watched over them after dropping in some well-earned refreshments. While Buck, Chris, and the other residents got stuck into the final back-breaking clearing and raking ready for the rubbish-burning, the little ones scraped up leaves and grass at the garden's periphery.
Several hours later the task was close to completion, so Buck and Chris headed back to the house to wash up, change clothes, and fire up the grill. Throughout the afternoon, both men occasionally stopped to watch their sons, and now, as they returned to the house, tears of pride pricked their eyes to see the little ones still working. Vin's concentration was in the form of a deep frown, while JD's enthusiastic efforts were accompanied by the now familiar tongue poking out between rosy red lips.
As if sensing their fathers were near, both boys looked up and gave the men the biggest grins. After telling the boys of their plans, and thanking Jane for looking after them, Buck and Chris continued on back to the house.
Chris glanced at Buck. “Boy, do they need a bath.”
Buck chuckled and nodded. “Oh hell, yeah.”
Within the hour, a roaring bonfire was crackling away outside the walled garden, incinerating all the brambles, vines, weeds, and rotting wood that had been painstakingly ripped out and gathered throughout the last few days.
The large wooden door that had gotten stuck now had fresh hinges and a new doorknob. There was a high bolt, and a fresh lock, the keys for which were distributed out as one for Eric, and one for Buck and Chris. The residents would have access to the garden, should they want it, by collecting the key from Eric and Jane, and the boys when their fathers unlocked the door for them.
There was one more plan for Eric and the residents to hatch. For the cook-out, the neighbours who were unable to assist with the clean-up brought beer, both bought and home-brewed, wine, elderflower cordial, ginger beer, and cake, and while hotdogs, ribs, burgers, and chicken, courtesy of Chris and Buck, were also passed around the tired, but happy helpers, Eric put his final strategy into play. Approaching the two dads, he smiled at his apron clad American friends, and laughed as the dirt-smudged, giggling boys ducked and dived around Hamish, who was eager to share a sausage or three with them.
“Have you had the pleasure of a traditional roast, yet with...how do you boys put it...with all the fixings?”
Grinning at Eric's phrasing, Buck turned a beef patty on the grill and shook his head. “Other then your wife's wonderful chicken and roast potatoes, can't say that we have.”
“You should, especially a Sunday roast. Do you know of the Black Horse Pub?”
The men nodded, Chris replied. “Sure, we've been there, once.”
“Well they do a very good Sunday lunch. You should go...tomorrow. It will give us an opportunity to complete things here. What do you think?”
Buck nodded. “Well, we were kinda wondering what to cook for the boys tomorrow. Might be worth a shot, huh Chris?”
Larabee nodded. “Yeah, sounds good.”
Eric grinned. “Splendid, I'll book you in for...1pm?” He noted the nods. “Always good to book ahead, they get very busy.”
A cheer caused them all to look toward the outside of the walled garden, where a huge and final pile of rubbish was added to the bonfire. The boys whooped and tore off to investigate. Chris raced off after them, relieved, and grateful when Jane and several others took the little ones in hand and watched the flames with them from a safe distance. Chris stood and observed, his heart warmed to see how quickly their two boys had been accepted, and how JD and Vin, well, definitely JD, Vin was his usual cautious self, had taken to their new neighbours. Also watching the boys' excitement, Eric chuckled to Buck.
“They're going to love Bonfire Night.”
Turning more burgers, Buck nodded and grinned, with a plan to look up what that meant, on the internet, later.
It was getting dark by the time all the food and a good amount of liquid refreshment was consumed. It became obvious Vin and JD were fading; Vin's arms were wrapped around Chris's leg as the little one balanced on his good leg and leaned in hard, and JD had held up his arms for Buck to pick him up. With ruffles of hair and shakes of little hands, the neighbours bid a fond ‘goodnight' to their youngest residents and their handsome fathers.
After the boys had bathed, not easy for Vin, with still having to keep his bad leg dry, but his efforts since the accident to do so, had amused JD to no end; they then got into their pyjamas while each man showered. Two tired little ones were ready to hear the next instalment of The Secret Garden from Buck. They kissed Chris goodnight, but before they could head up the stairs, the computer beeped to say a message had arrived. Curious, all four headed into the den.
Chris picked up the email from Josiah, downloaded the attachment, then bent over to pluck several photos from the printer. For a moment, no one spoke as they stared at the pictures that lay on the desk. Fighting emotion, both Buck and Chris jolted when the boys laughed and squealed with excitement.
“Okay, now to bed,” Buck managed to choke out. He glanced at Chris, before patting pyjama-clad butts to urge the little ones up the stairs.
Chris sat in front of the computer and, copying it to Nathan, and Ezra, fired off a quick, but heartfelt ‘thank you' to Josiah. He moved to return to the kitchen, but before he left, the blond ran a finger reverently over the images Buck took of Vin and JD's injuries, the photos now returned to the boys with huge, red ‘kissy-lips' overprinted on them. He nodded.
“We owe you one, guys.”
All Sunday morning, Eric and several men had worked in the garden, but with the door closed, assuring the men they were just going over the place one more time for safety reasons. Figuring it was what a Residents' Association needed to do, the four kept out of their way.
Later, choosing what to eat at the Black Horse Pub became quite an adventure in itself, but finally, and after playing for a while in the pub's garden, the four settled down to eat. Chris chose lamb. The boys wanted beef, and Buck decided he wanted beef too, and now the four were staring in wonder at the array of meat and vegetables, smothered in dark gravy, before them. Unable to figure something out, Buck re-read the menu, nodded knowingly, and tucked in, grateful there were no sprouts on the plates.
Conversation was light while the little family enjoyed their food. As everyone finished up, Buck and Chris, who had noticed the boys scraping food left and right throughout the meal, were staring at a large, uneaten item on their plates.
“Didn't you like it, Li'l Bit?” Buck asked. “Vin?”
The pair exchanged glances and JD shrugged. “Like what?”
Chris pointed to the uneaten item. “The Yorkshire Pudding.”
“We didn't gets one,” Vin assured.
“Maybe only growed ups gets one,” JD added, now wondering if his Da had.
The men glanced at each other. “And this?” Buck wondered, tapping a plate-sized, scraped clean, crispy, golden brown Yorkshire Pudding.
JD's eyes narrowed, then he giggled. “That's the plate, silly.”
It was all Buck and Chris could do to stifle a laugh. “No, Baby, that is the Yorkshire Pudding. The nice chef put the meat, potatoes and vegetables inside a really big one. You're meant to eat it all...together, like me, see?” Buck tapped first his, then the china plate beneath JD's pudding case. “This is the plate.”
Other customers turned their way and smiled when the little ones burst into giggles. Vin covered his face with his hands, while JD bounced in his chair and pointed to Buck's plate. He tried to speak, but couldn't catch his breath for laughing, so Vin helped out.
“We thought you'd eaten your plate,” Vin cackled.
“...Your plate,” JD huffed out, breathlessly.
It took a second to sink in, but then both fathers were laughing helplessly, too. It hadn't occurred to them that their boys wouldn't realise their dinners were inside a giant, edible Yorkshire Pudding case. Once they all settled down, Chris leaned over and cut the cases up into bite-sized pieces.
“How about trying them now?”
Tentatively, little fingers picked pieces up and nibbled at them. Eyes wide with delight, it took no time to devour the food, leaving near-clean plates. The waitress serving them grinned widely when she collected up the dishes.
“Well done, what good boys you are.”
Biting back the urge to tell her just how good he could be, too, Buck flashed a bright smile. “They sure are.”
“Dessert menu?” she asked, laughing when the boys clapped and cheered, loudly. “I'll take that as a ‘yes'. Be right back.”
The boys chose the ice cream factory, while Chris opted for Apple Pie and custard, and Buck...well, he could hardly ignore it...Spotted Dick and custard.
Several hours later, and full as ticks, the four headed home. They had thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon, and the men looked forward to the boys writing emails to their uncles, and with no horses or dogs to see to just now, maybe catching some shut-eye themselves.
After parking up, and before they could head inside, they were surprised to be met by Jane.
“Hi there,” Chris greeted. “Something we can do for you?”
“Would you come with me?” she urged, smiling when all four happily followed her to the walled garden. Eric and several of the ‘clean-up crew' were standing at the garden's open door. He pointed inside.
“Welcome to you all.”
A little confused, Buck and Chris led the boys inside. All four audibly gasped, and the boys squealed, quickly letting go of their fathers' hands to run to their new ‘playground'. The adults watched in delight as Vin and JD moved across the grass from the swings, to the horses on springs, and then to the combined climbing frame and slide complete with integrated Western fort with its US and British flags flying proudly over it.
“It's all well secured. We decided to keep it to grass. It's a little rough at the moment, a few bald patches, but with a bit of seed and feed it'll green up in no time. However, if you'd prefer a safety floor laid; just say the word and we'll arrange it.” Eric pointed.
“There's also a sandpit, and the lid flips off to pour in water if the boys want to paddle, but with all the cats around here, it's a good idea to replace the lid when they're not using it.”
Having been temporarily lost for words, Buck finally rallied. “Jeeze, guys...I, I...thanks, thank you so much. This is...”
“...Awesome,” Chris finished. He smiled at the gathered, grinning group. “You must allow us to offer you something towards this.”
Jane waved him off. “Absolutely not. The Association is allocated funds for the upkeep of the grounds, but as the grounds are mature, we have accumulated a small excess. We took a vote, and decided this is what we wanted to spend it on.”
“But, we're only here for a year,” Chris reminded.
Eric nodded. “Yes, but...well, we have often had young families look at the properties here, then not take up the option. We wondered if it might be due to the place looking a little...child unfriendly. Maybe this will go some way to rectifying that, not to mention that some of us older ones have grandchildren, so it'll be good for them to finally have somewhere to play when they visit.”
Chris and Buck were nodding, while also taking in the array of play equipment. “How did you get all this stuff in so quickly?” Chris asked. Even though this was a different country, he figured they surely had to wait for orders, just as Americans do.
Eric grinned. He had been well pleased with this part of the plan, and was excited to share how they'd managed it. “Well, we got it all at cost price. One of our residents owns a company that makes this stuff.”
“Donald Banks,” Eric raised his hand above his head to illustrate. “Tall gangly chap with thick grey hair?”
Neither man was sure they could place him.
“Ah well never mind. Anyway as I was saying, his company makes this stuff. Usually it has to be pre-ordered, but the fort and swings were ordered by a theme pub that went out of business before it was delivered.” He grinned. “We did him a favour by taking them, the horse springs and swings aren't a common request; he wasn't sure he could find a buyer, and the equipment was cluttering up the warehouse.”
Before more could be said, two flushed, squealing little boys ran to join them.
“This is awesome...”
“I love the horses...no, wait...the fort...no...”
“We love everything!” they chorused, breathlessly, before turning to their neighbours. “The horses are black an' white, like Pony, Peso, an' Beau! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Laughing residents clapped their hands together in delight. Jane leaned in.
“Eric and I wondered if you could join us for dinner tomorrow, and you can tell us about how you like your new play area.”
Seeing their fathers smile, the boys nodded, enthusiastically. They were quickly joined by Buck and Chris.
“We'd be honoured, ma'am, thanks,” Buck assured.
Once the Residents' group had dispersed, all thoughts of sleep were shelved as Buck and Chris took up one of several new solid wooden benches in the garden, and watched their sons play until the pair could barely lift their feet. Carrying the sleepy little ones in for an early bath and bed, the dads decided maybe they would get to relax a little tonight, after all.
The following day the boys spent all time in their new ‘Kingdom'. Residents not working were treated to the delights of children's squeals of laughter drifting across the mews; and intermittently, with Buck or Chris accompanying them, some dropped by to sit awhile and chat with the dads while they watched the boys play. No one got away without becoming part of their game at some point and, to the little ones' delight, no one minded at all.
At dinner with Jane and Eric that night, the older couple delighted in the boys' tales of how their day went; a day filled with guarding the fort, ‘riding' the horses to chase off the ‘baddies', and building pebble-adorned sandcastles in the sandpit, once Vin had his leg double-wrapped and put on jeans.
Stories told, the six settled down to dinner. Jane smiled as the boys eyed their meals. “I heard you liked Yorkshire Pudding so, although they traditionally go with beef, today we're having pork, so I thought I'd make you some.”
While the adults got stuck in, the two boys exchanged looks, shrugged, and proceeded to move their food around. It took a few minutes, but the actions were finally noticed, and Chris spoke.
“Guys...what are you doing? Why are you playing with your food like that?”
JD's eyes opened widely and he pointed to his food. “We's not. We's putting it into the little plates.”
Seconds later, the two dads, and Jane and Eric, having recalled the tale of what happened in the pub the previous day, covered their mouths to hide their grins.
“Darling boys,” Jane smiled. “Yesterday, you had really big pudding cases, and that was why your meat and vegetables were inside.” She pointed to her own, and then everyone else's considerably smaller Yorkshire Puddings.
“These are the same puddings, but made smaller...more to accompany the meal, than to envelope it...err...surround it. You see? The same thing, but made a little differently. The Black Horse likes to serve it one way, and I like to serve it a more...traditional way.”
“So, we don't have to put the food inside ‘em?” Vin checked.
“No, sweetie,” Jane assured.
After a few seconds silence, JD huffed out in relief. “Oh, goody, I was kinda scared I couldn't make it all fit.”
Once the laughter died down, dinner was devoured with enthusiasm, followed by a dessert of blackberry and apple crumble.
Later, as they stood at their door watching the family return home, Jane turned to Eric and smiled. “I think we're in for an interesting year.”
Eric laughed. “Oh, most definitely.”
Swinging the boys between them, Buck and Chris exchanged grins. Buck spoke. “Well, guys, you sure got plenty to tell your uncles tonight, huh?”
JD yawned. “Uh huh.”
“But maybe you should do it before your baths, yeah?”
Vin nodded. “Mmm, I am kinda sleepy.” He sighed happily as his father's strong hand tousled his hair and then gently massaged his head.
“Me too,” JD said, squeaking with delight when his dad scooped him up and planted him on one hip. Buck kissed the dark-haired head as JD's arms enveloped his neck and the little one snuggled in under his chin.
Later that night, just before shutting down for the evening, both men enjoyed a beer and reflected on how well things were going, while admitting how much they were getting to like their temporary home.
Breakfast the next morning was filled with furtive glances between the boys. Chris finally cracked.
“Something you need, guys?”
JD nodded. “Card, glitter glue, an' some stickers.”
“You're making something?” Buck pushed, gently.
“It's a s'prise,” Vin said, effectively closing down the inquisition.
“Oh, okay,” Buck nodded. “We can do that.”
Chris looked at Buck. “I wanted to clean off the grill. You okay for crafts duty?”
The brunet stood. “Sure.” He turned to the boys. “Who's coming to help?”
JD immediately leapt up in his seat. “Me!”
Vin hesitated and looked at his father. The idea of going to get the supplies appealed to him big time, but then, so did a quiet hour with his dad. Buck and Chris could see the indecision.
“I could use a hand, Cowboy, unless you need to pick out stuff especially.”
Vin turned to JD and whispered. JD nodded, enthusiastically.
“It's okay, JD knows what we need. I can help.”
Decision made, JD jumped down from his chair and hurried away. “Sneakers!”
Buck chuckled. “Yes, you may leave the table; and brush your teeth, Squirt,” he called after his son.
“Oh yeah, f'got, sorry,” came the distant call and giggle as little feet pounded upstairs to the bathroom.
“Make a list,” Chris suggested to Vin, “just to be sure.”
Excusing himself from the table, Vin nodded and raced off to the den.
The two men grinned at each other. “This should be interesting,” Buck smiled.
Recalling a small mall, or as the Brits called it, retail park, where he had bought some things when they first arrived, Buck headed there. JD chattered all the way to a place called HobbyCraft, giving a running commentary of all he saw.
Clutching his father's hand, the little one skipped his way into a craft enthusiast's paradise. It took no time at all to locate the card, stickers, and glitter glue required, and Buck decided to pick up a load of other things, too, for rainy and ‘quiet' days.
At the till, JD's eyes were still bugging at the felt-tipped pens, and colouring books next to the checkout, and, just this once, Buck indulged the pleas and picked up some of those, too, plus some bottles of ready made-up paint, and brushes.
JD was so excited it would have been a cinch to catch him out and get him to reveal the big secret, but Buck resisted and reminded himself to put down plenty of paper wherever the boys decided to do the deed.
Chris smiled at Vin, whose sleeves were rolled back, and as he stood on a step-stool at the large kitchen sink, was scrubbing at the grill wire sitting in suds with the special brush his father handed to him.
“How's it going?”
Little Tanner looked back and grinned. “S'okay. I soaked it like you told me to, and it's comin' up pretty good, now.”
Looking at the wire, Chris beamed. “Great job, Buddy. How about I get us some juice, huh?”
Vin nodded. “Yeah! And a Penguin?”
Chris smirked. “Yeah, I guess we've earned ourselves a Penguin.”
While the dripping wire drained, the pair washed up, sat at the kitchen table, and enjoyed their impromptu break. “Sure is some garden now, huh, son?”
Vin offered a juice-moustache grin. “Yeah, it's awesome.”
“We're lucky, there are some real nice people here.”
“Me and JD like ‘em all, a lot.”
Chris nodded. “Me and Buck, too, Pal, me and Buck, too.”
JD was enjoying the drive so much that Buck took a few sight-seeing detours before heading home. Suddenly, as they trundled along a quiet road, JD squealed out, startling Buck enough for him to slew to one side and slam on the brakes. Despite the fact he had been way behind them at the time, the car following honked loud and long and the driver glared when he passed the now stationary truck,.
An animated JD pointed into the distance at familiar Golden Arches. “Da! Da! i's McDonal's!”
A little shaky, Buck turned in his seat and barked out at the boy. “JD! What have I told you about yelling out while the truck's moving?”
JD's eyes went wide and instantly filled. He had been so excited about seeing a McDonalds, he'd plum forgot himself. His lower lip quivered, and as he still pointed to the reason for his excitement, he sniffed. “Sorry,” he whispered.
Buck was already getting out of the car and furious with himself for his reaction. JD had seen something familiar, which clearly reminded him of home, and so naturally got excited. Buck slid in next to JD and hugged his son. “I'm so sorry, baby. You startled me and...” He hugged the boy tighter when he felt the sobs against his shoulder.
“Sorry, Da, I f'got.”
Pulling back a little, Buck thumbed away JD's tears. “I really didn't mean to snap. I'm sorry, too.”
“S'okay,” JD sighed.” He pointed again. “I's McDonal's,” he said, softly.
Kissing JD's forehead, Buck looked at him and smiled. “How about, later, we all come back here, huh?” His grin widened as the infamous Dunne megawatt smile returned and the boy nodded, enthusiastically. “Yeah!”
Just as Chris and Vin replaced the tarpaulin over the grill, the truck pulled in. Buck got out, waved, and, leaning into the back seat, unbuckled JD. Getting out, the little one bounced until his father retrieved the packages from the back of the vehicle. Once in his possession, he ran to Vin, and the grinning pair raced off to the den.
“I need to put papers down...” Buck called after them.
“Already done,” Chris assured. “Coffee?”
Buck sighed in relief. “Oh yeah. You're not gonna believe what just happened on the way back.”
Chris had noted JD's red eyes. “Come on, Pard. I'll even stand you a Penguin.” Laughing, the two men walked into the kitchen for a well-earned coffee break.
The boys had been so quiet that afternoon, the dads were wondering if they had dropped off to sleep. Finally, calls for their attention drew the two curious men into the den.
They were greeted by grinning, glittery children, and mounds of strewn and discarded objects, but there, in the centre of the mayhem was a stack of propped up, handmade cards. After studying them for some time, Buck spoke.
“These are awesome. Who are they for?”
“They're ‘Thank you' cards,” Vin explained.
JD pointed. “The one with the fort is for the nice man who gived us the toys, an' the one with the bone is for Hamish, and the one with the cake and shovel is for Eric and Jane...”
“...And that's me an' JD playin' in the garden that I drew, and them's the bandits we fight with that JD drew,” Vin finished.
The pride in both men's eyes shone like a beacon. “Boys,” Chris said, “these are fantastic. Well done, the neighbours are gonna love them.”
JD clapped his sticky hands together, and Vin smiled, shyly.
“But,” Buck interjected. “Before we head off to McDonald's, we need to clear up, and you two best have a bath, I reckon.”
Vin's blue eyes widened. “McDonalds? ‘Round here?”
“Yup!” JD squealed. “An' I found it!” He suddenly flashed a guilty look at his father, but smiled when he could see he was truly forgiven for how he came to draw attention to it.
“Well,” Chris grinned. “I reckon we'd better get moving, then.”
Just under two hours later, the two agents watched their sons playing in the soft play area. Buck chuckled. “JD's still glittering, he's gonna need another bath.”
Chris turned to him and laughed. “Oh yeah. I reckon they got it just about everywhere on their bodies. Lord knows how.” While they continued watching, and enjoying their coffees, images of two little tykes waging a glitter glue war on each other filled their minds.
On Tuesday their second car arrived. As expected, it was considerably smaller than the orange beast. The black Ford Fiesta was a five door compact, and Buck commented that they had better put JD behind him, because he was going to have the seat pushed so far back there'd be no room for any legs. Chris was just grateful this one was black. As Chris, Buck, and Vin peered inside, JD started jumping up and down and clapping.
Buck pulled his head out of the car. “Li'l Bit, what's up?”
“Little Bit! Little Bit!” JD started to chant, still jumping and pointing at the car's license plate.
“What's that all about?” Chris asked.
“No idea.” Buck straightened up and walked around to the front of the car.
“See! Lookit!” JD rattled, all the time bouncing.
Buck dutifully looked. For a second he didn't see anything, then he laughed out loud and picked up his son, swinging him around.
“Well I guess this sure is our car then, huh?”
By now Vin and Chris were standing at the front of the car and watching the pair spinning around.
“What are they doing?” Vin asked.
That was when Chris saw it too. He pointed it out to Vin. ‘Well I'll be damned.’
The car's number plate began "LB11."
Chuckling, Vin joined JD and while the pair clasped hands and did a little jig, two amused fathers locked gazes and grinned.
Continues in Into the West
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>Note: The picture of the car was selected for size and colour, apparently, it took Katy over a month to notice the number plate! LOL<
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