by Jenn

Alternate Universe One Big Happy Family

Disclaimer: Just having fun, not making money. Don’t own them, just borrowing.

Author Note: This story is for Lara and Luise, both of whom I promised a Buck story; another longer one is coming.Thanks to Lacey for letting me play in her wonderful AU One Big Happy Family (and for all her help and encouragement). You may want to read OBHF first for this one to make sense. This story takes place about 5 months after that story ends. Thanks also to Lulu and Tammy. Feedback is always welcome.

Chris knew that Buck's being quiet often meant he was planning some sort of extra good practical joke, but he sensed that was not the case this time. He wasn't sure how he knew it was different, he just did; it was something he felt in his heart.

The boy had been growing more quiet and withdrawn as the week progressed. That was fairly normal behavior with Vin, but not Buck, who tended to be talkative and outgoing. By Thursday it had Chris very worried. Friday evening at dinner he told the other boys he and Buck were going to run an errand to his old house. Since trips there to keep an eye on the house and keep it clean and in good repair were normal Buck and the others thought nothing of it. Mary, Inez and Ezra knew he was getting Buck alone for a talk, they'd also become worried about him. Chris had announced he was going to talk with the child and try to help him. The others had seen the bond between the two and didn't argue with the idea, knowing he had the best chance of getting Buck to talk about things.

Chris stopped in front of his house on the Lazy L Ranch. Once inside he had Buck sit down on the coach then sat down beside him. Buck thought Chris might have brought him here to scold him away from the other boys so he was surprised by his Uncle's first question.

"Buck, do you trust me?"

Realizing he wasn't in trouble, Buck looked up to meet the concerned eyes of his Uncle. "Of course I do, Uncle Chris."

"Then will you tell me what's bothering you? Why you've been so sad this week?"

"Sunday is the. . ." Buck paused, searching his mind for the right word, "anniversary of when Mama died."

"Oh, Buck." Chris said softly as he pulled the boy into a hug. He now understood the boys sadness and withdrawal. He knew Buck was speaking of Rachel, his birth mother whom they'd always called Mama. The boys had taken to calling Eileen Mom to keep the two straight for the time they and Rachel had lived with her. The "names" had stuck. Rachel was Mama and Eileen was Mom.

"It's hard to remember her face sometimes."

"We have lots of photos of her. You can see her face any time you want."

Buck tried to explain his feelings, his voice sounding young and lost. "I know, but it's not the same as remembering it my mind. And it's not just her face. I loved her voice, and I can't hear it in my head as clear any more, or remember how her hug felt."

His quick mind jumped to a new thought, his tone becoming determined. "I have to be strong for JD. So I can't talk about this stuff with him. I love JD, but it's hard always trying to be the strong one."

Chris is speechless for a moment. Buck had always been the over protective big brother, but this. . . Chris suddenly realized how much the losses Buck had suffered had aged the boy beyond his 9 years, and answered accordingly. "He may need someone to talk about it with, but doesn't know how to tell you that. Talking together might help you both. You don't always have to be strong. It's OK to cry, to lean on someone else.

I know you want to protect your little brother, but sometimes you can't; and it's not always the best thing for him in the end. He has to grow up, and part of that is learning that life hurts sometimes. I know all you boys have had a bad deal so far. You're stronger than you should have to be. But you are strong, and so is JD. Give him some credit. Trust him to be able to deal with things. Let him help you. Help each other."

Buck decided it was safe to ask some things he'd been thinking about, knowing that his Uncle Chris would give him honest answers. "Why did all this happen? Why does everyone any of us love die? Does God hate us? Is he punishing us?" Buck's voice once again had the lost-little-boy quality.

"No, Buck. No. God doesn't hate you. He loves you very much. That's why he gave your Mama time to find you new parents and then made sure your Aunt Inez and Uncle Ezra, And Aunt Mary and I were here to take care of you when your parents died. I know it's hard to see, but things do work out. Even if it hurts and is hard."

"I don't want to talk to the Aunt's about it."

Chris was surprised by Buck's statement. "Why not? You think they wouldn't understand?"

"It's not that. I think it would hurt their feelings. I don't want them to think I don't love them, I do; I just love and miss Mama too."

Chris was again struck by the boys surprising maturity, and wondered how he could have missed seeing it sooner. He thought it might have been because he was dealing with his own grief. "That's kind of you, Buck. You have a big heart. One of the biggest I've ever seen. That means there's plenty of room in it. You don't have to love someone less to love others more. You know I love you boys, right?"

"Of course," agreed the boy, there was not doubt in his mind that Chris loved them.

"But I also loved Adam, I still do; but that doesn't mean I love you or the others any less just because I still love him."

"I think I understand, but I still think it might hurt their feelings. I'd never want to do that."

Chris just gave the boy a hug, knowing there is nothing he could say to that. Buck could be incredibly stubborn when he got an idea in his head.

"Is that why you don't talk about Adam, you don't want us to think you love him and not us?"

"Sort-of. But mostly it's because it still hurts to think about him being gone. And your Aunt Mary lost Billy at the same time. Talking about Adam might remind her of that and hurt her. It just seemed easier not to mention it."

"Yeah. I thought so too," agreed Buck.

Chris smiled down at the boy still held in his arms and grinned. "Well, they say great minds think alike."

Buck smiled back, and Chris was relieved to see a little of his natural sparkle and humor back in his eyes and smile.

"Will you tell me about him? About Adam?" Asked Buck, catching Chris completely by surprise.

"Uh, sure. He had blond hair, like mine, and his Mom's brown eyes. He was almost as much of a trouble maker as you like to be. You two would have loved each other, and gotten in a LOT of trouble together, I have no doubt."

Buck grinned up at his Uncle and nodded in agreement.

"His mother and I had. . . problems; but whenever I'd start to wish I'd never met her I'd look at him and the thought would go away, because if I hadn't met her I'd never have gotten him. No matter what our troubles were, it was worth it to have Adam. He was the one good thing we did together. He was a very happy child. Even as an infant he wasn't fussy or unhappy. He loved everyone, and everyone loved him. Once he started walking around I got worried, 'cause he'd go to anyone. I was afraid that would make it easy for someone to take him. He had a good heart, like you.

I remember the first time he said Dada, it was like my heart had melted. I thought I could never love him more than the first moment I saw him in the hospital, but every day I just seemed to find more reason to love him. His favorite game was to have me carry him on my shoulders."

"Well, it was fun when I was littler," agreed Buck, smiling at the memories of himself riding on Chris broad shoulders.

Chris grinned down at the boy. "Like I said, you two would have loved each other."

Buck was quiet for a moment then looked up to meet his Uncles eyes. "Will you tell me about Mama? What you remember?"

Chris smile faded, and his voice was quiet. "Mostly I remember how much she loved you and JD. You could see it when she looked at you. She was so worried about what would happen to you and helping you deal with her dying. She was very proud of you, thought you were the smartest little boy in the world. You'd begun to show some of your mechanical ability by the time I really got to know her. JD was hardly more than a toddler.

I remember the first time I saw her she was on a horse. I'd come over to see my brother and he was out with the horses. You're Ma was there training a new horse. She didn't have Vin's magic with them, but she was pretty close. Anyway, she was so beautiful that all the men had stopped working and were watching her. The thing was, it wasn't just her looks, she had so much life in her, so much joy; it showed and people were drawn to it. It's why the women didn't hate her or become jealous, they became her friends. I think that's why it was so hard for all us when she got sick, to see that life fading."

Wanting to put things back on a lighter note Chris tried to think of another memory. He smiled as it came to him. "One day I came over to visit. You were "helping" your mom cook as JD watched. You were making cookies. There was flour everywhere; and I do mean everywhere. Your hair looked white, not brown. But you guys were having fun, together. That was all that mattered to your mom, or Nettie. They spent the night cleaning the kitchen after you and JD were asleep. They never said a word of complaint."

"Thanks, Uncle Chris."

"You're welcome."

He gave the child a hug. "You feeling better?"


"Then why don't we head back before the others start to worry?"

"OK. But. . . will you come with us to take flowers to Mama Sunday?"

Chris feels his heart melt at the question. Every year Cody and Eileen had taken Buck and JD to put flowers on Rachel' grave. He hadn't really remembered it till Buck mentioned it, but he knew this was a big thing for the two boys. "I'd be honored to. Buck. And if you ever want to talk again or hear more stories about your Ma, just let me know."

On the drive home it seemed Buck was trying to make up for his week of being quiet all at once. Chris just hid his smile and nodded or commented when needed.

The other adults were pleased to hear things back to normal as Buck walked in beside his Uncle still chattering. JD came up and gave his big brother a huge hug, happy he was feeling better.

The End

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