No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment
Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is
intended. This is purely fiction and based on the television series The
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CHARACTERS: Chris & Vin
SUMMARY: Chris is troubled and Vin lends a sympathetic ear.
SPOILERS: Nope. Stand alone.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi and Beth Baker for beta reading this fic.
COMMENTS: Yes, please!
DATE: 10 March 03
All in the Way You Smile
Blood Brothers, AU
Tanner sat tall on the back of his fine black horse with his slouched
hat hung low over his head and shading his face.
This gave the sixteen-year-old a chance to study folks as they
passed him on the street without them feeling his scrutiny and without
inviting unwanted conversation between himself and them.
He watched for strangers in particular and if he came across any,
he would make an effort to find out their business in town.
He needed to keep an eye on all the newcomers – it always paid to
keep abreast of things. And
the more he knew ahead of time, the safer he was.
said Vin needed to socialise more, but that was the gambler’s way, not
his own. Perhaps if Vin
remained in town then he’d eventually take a more active interest in
meeting others, but he knew immediately that he wouldn’t.
He became tongue-tied and awkward when talking to strangers, and it
shamed him to admit he couldn’t read or write.
It was his secret, but the disadvantage of such a lack in education
was obvious at times. He only
had to stand next to Ezra Standish and listen to the gambler ramble on
about this and that to know that he would be considered inconsequential
beside the other teenager. He
shrugged, it didn’t bother him. Or
so he told himself.
Vin guided his mount toward the livery, he noticed Chris walking quickly
round the side of the church. His
shoulders were rounded and hunched forward.
“Chris!” Vin called out a greeting, knowing that before he’d
left that morning to go on a ride, the seven-year-old had been anxious to
go with him. Even as he
called out, Chris continued in his stride and disappeared behind the
church, as though he hadn’t heard the youth shouting out his name.
Vin pulled the reins back hard and stopped.
He leaned forward in the saddle and frowned.
He noticed several others turn and stare at him curiously after
he’d called out, so he was fairly certain Chris should have heard him.
The teenager tipped his hat up a fraction.
Something was wrong. He’d
put Peso away, and then find Chris.
hadn’t taken very long for Vin to track the child down, he’d followed
the small footprints and they led directly to Chris.
Young Larabee hadn’t thought to hide his trail.
When Vin found Chris sitting with his knees drawn to his chest, his
arms wrapped tightly around his shins and his chin resting on his knees,
Tanner was afraid to approach the boy for a minute – there was something
terribly wrong. The
expression on his young face was an indication of the boy’s troubles,
and it obviously told Vin that something traumatic had upset Chris.
“Hey, Chris!” Vin
smiled tentatively at the small child, who persisted in wearing only black
clothing. His smile thinned
when Chris turned his back. But
he’d seen enough in the hurt expression to not be offended by the
hunkered down to Chris’ level. “Chris…is
something wrong? Has
gently touched Chris’ shoulder, and was surprised when he flinched away
from him. “I ain’t gonna
hurt you,” Vin reassured. Was
that it? Had someone taken a
hand to the boy? “You hurt,
shook his head vigorously and sniffed.
sick? ‘Cause if you are,
Nathan can take a look at you and have you feeling better in no time.”
sick,” Chris mumbled.
shook his head in frustration. “Chris,
you mind turning around so I can see your face…it’s kinda hard talkin’
to yer back.” He waited
thirty seconds, and when Chris didn’t turn around, Vin shuffled in the
dirt and attempted to move in front of Chris.
scowled at the teenager wearing buckskins, and quickly turned his
shoulders once more.
rolled his eyes, he wasn’t used to this.
He didn’t know what to say or how he should respond to Chris’
stubbornness. Perhaps he
wasn’t the right person to try. He’d
thought that he and Chris had developed some measure of trust between
them, but it was becoming clear that they had not.
“You want me to go get, Josiah?
Or maybe Ezra?” Chris
seemed very fond of the gambler for some reason; so maybe he’d like to
talk to one of the others. “Would
you tell them what the problem is?”
clamped his lips together in a stern line, and shook his head
want to go riding now?” Chris
had been excited about riding his horse every chance he could get, but
Josiah and Nathan had been adamant about him riding with one of the older
boys until he was more confident on the mount.
Ezra had bought Chris the black gelding and he had taken an instant
shine to his mount.
sighed. It must be serious if
Chris did not want to go riding. How
did he break though the barrier? Maybe
Chris just needed some time alone. “You
want me to leave?” He
watched the child’s head bob up and down and then side to side with
indecision. He couldn’t
prevent the smile that slowly spread across his face.
“You want me to stay?”
the seven-year-old shrugged. In
a very small voice he asked, “Do you think they take me seriously?”
sat back on his heels. Where
the hell did that question come from?
“Who you talkin’ about?”
others, anyone, everyone…” he finished lamely.
Vin paused, “do you want them to take you seriously?” How could they not?
From the first moment Vin had met Chris, he’d been scowling and
frowning and deadly serious in everything he did.
Very rarely did the child smile or laugh, or play like a normal
child of the same age. Chris
was like an old man in a boy’s body, wise and mature beyond his years.
A great tragedy lost him his mother and brother.
Through no fault of his own, despite what the child thought, the
event had devastated him just the same.
I do.” He wanted to be
something happen?” Vin repeated an earlier question.
you won’t laugh?”
That was easy enough to agree to.
Or so he thought.
nodded and finally spun around on his backside.
Tears had flown from his eyes and they were still red and puffy,
but they were dry at the moment.
what’s this all about?” Vin gently lifted Chris’ chin off his knee
and looked directly into green eyes.
of answering, Chris fished around in his pocket, slowly withdrawing his
hand clasped tightly in a fist. He
held it out to Vin and slowly uncurled his fingers.
watched the concentration on Chris’ face and then moved to watch the
small hand unfold. His mouth
twitched and he bit down hard on his lips to stop the smile from forming. Lord, he’d lose the kid now if he so much as smirked.
He might have to resort to covering his face behind his hand.
Centred in the child’s palm was a small pearl white tooth.
He stared at the tooth for a full minute, letting the implications
sink in. “That yours?” he eventually managed to ask.
nodded, but didn’t open his mouth.
sighed and blinked his eyes in frustration.
He grimaced in a wide false smile at Vin.
The middle tooth from on the top was missing and an empty gap was
all that remained.
bit his tongue, and patted Chris on the shoulder sympathetically.
“It ain’t so bad, Chris. It’s
only a baby tooth, so another one will replace it soon.”
If Vin could have a closer look, he would probably find the sharp
point of the new tooth already growing, but Chris had already closed his
lips down tight.
How was anybody going to listen to him now, when every time he
opened his mouth they’d see this great big gaping hole?
They would only laugh at him.
take long… I promise.”
didn’t believe Vin. It was
going to be an eternity before he could open his mouth again. And he could see Tanner was having difficulty keeping a
straight face. Damn, it
wasn’t funny! “S’not
fell backwards on his rump and grinned.
“I ain’t laughing.” He
tried valiantly to keep the mirth out of his voice.
balled his fists tightly. He
was not going to cry again. “You
got to promise not to tell anyone? Please
nodded. He saw the pleading
look in Chris’ eyes, and felt bad for the child.
This was not going to be the last tooth Chris lost; in fact, it was
only the beginning. And it
was something he would not be able to hide from the others.
“Reckon they might cotton on quick…”
considered not speaking, or opening his mouth until his new tooth emerged;
he was generally a quiet child, perhaps nobody would even notice his lack
of conversation. This was a
possibility; though he wondered how long this muteness would need to be
employed. It could be weeks
or even months, and even Chris couldn’t stand the self-imposed silence
for that length of time. Chris
sighed, realising the hopelessness of the situation.
Vin was right; he wouldn’t be able to hide it.
Maybe he could stick his tooth back in place until the new tooth
underneath had fully grown. What
could he use to hold it in place? Maybe
some gum would work?
could see the wheels turning round in Chris’ mind and the glances he’d
given the baby tooth in his palm. “You
can’t put it back in. Once it’s out, it’s out for good.”
quickly glanced up at the teenager. How
did Tanner know what he’d been thinking?
can ask Nathan if you like, but that tooth is only good for tossing in the
nothin’ I can do?”
if they haven’t come out yet?”
crossed his legs and sat forward. “Don’t
need to worry none on it.”
about this?” Chris opened
his mouth wide this time and used his tongue to poke behind the back of
the tooth that was alongside the gap – it pushed forward at a hideous
angle. And when Chris pulled
back his tongue, the tooth fell to its original position.
screwed up his face and winced. “Guess’n
that one’s about to fall out too.”
you can do about it. ‘Cept
letting Nathan help pull it out.”
eyes bulged. He wasn’t
letting anyone pull out his teeth. It
was bad enough having lost the first one, but having a gap twice the size
was going to be awful. “Noooo.”
figured Chris wouldn’t be agreeable to anyone pulling it out. Still, it was worth a try.
That tooth could hang like that for a couple of days, before it
came out naturally. Vin
should know, he’d never let anyone near his mouth when he’d been
losing his teeth. He grinned
a feral grin at the child. “You
do that to Ezra, and I bet he’d lose his dinner.”
returned the Texan’s grin. He
hadn’t thought of that. Maybe
there was an advantage to losing teeth after all.
He pushed experimentally at the back of the loose tooth and
projected it into his gum; it might be good for a few laughs before it
came out. “Do you know where Ezra is?”
“Nope.” Tanner climbed to his feet and pulled Chris up off the ground. “But it won’t take us long to find him. Come on.”
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