by LaraMee

Little Britches ATF AU

March 24, 2004

Therapist's Note
Date:  March 24, 2004

Session Notes:  Both of the boys exhibited anxiety this week, for different reasons.  Vin seems to feel that things have not been changing fast enough for him, while JD seems to feel that things are changing too fast and too frequently.  This is more than likely due to the fact that they feel that their security is being threatened.  Discussion with their fathers and, for JD, Vin, may help them understand change a little better.  They were unanimous in deciding that they'd like to take a break in therapy for now, with the understanding that it can be begun again at any time they feel it is needed.

Homework Assignment:  The discussion concerning individual change was derailed this week due to the difficulties the boys had.  The family has agreed to do it during the coming week for our final session.  

William Lowery, PhD

Will Lowery stood in the observation room, watching the four people waiting for him in the playroom. After several phone conversations with Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington during the past week, he knew that things had been rough for the unique little family. The two men had become more and more concerned about their two foster sons.

Vin had been argumentative, not wanting to go to school or anywhere that took him away from home and his foster father's side. They also suspected that he was having nightmares, although he denied it.

JD had become clingy, needing almost constant reassurance from the adults. He seemed to suddenly fear that "something bad" was going to happen, although he couldn't say what that thing might be. He also sought out reassurance from Vin that they were still "brothers". Given the older boy's state of mind, this had led to several arguments.

None of the reported turmoil seemed in evidence at the moment. Chris and Vin sat at the art table, working a puzzle. Buck and JD sat across the room, building towers at the block table.

To the casual observer it seemed an almost idyllic picture, but Lowery knew better. Even without the almost daily reports from the two men, he could see just how great a toll the week had taken on the little family. All four of them looked weary and on edge. He also wasn't surprised to see Chris in attendance this week, his thigh to toe cast no match for his concern.

Watching the foursome for a few more minutes, he finally left the dark little room and walked purposefully toward the playroom.

[tape recording]

Hey, Doc

Afternoon, Doc.

Buck, Chris. Hi boys.

Hi Dr. Will.


Well, it looks as if you're having fun.

Me an' Chris almost got this puzzle together.

I see that, you're doing a wonderful job.

We been makin' towers with th' blocks.

They're very good towers, too.

Dr. Will… do we gotta talk now?

I thought we could, do you have a problem with that this week Vin?

No… guess not. It's just… well, we're almost done with the puzzle.

We can finish it later, Vin.

I know it's just… okay.

Would you like to go first, Vin?

Yea! Me an' Da can finish the towers.

But, we're 'most done with the puzzle.

We gotta finish buildin' the towers!

Guys, as much fun as it is to play with the toys here in the playroom, that's not what we're here for, is it?


No, Da.

Well, before I talk to anyone individually, I'd like to talk to everyone. So, let's make a circle with the chairs, shall we?

[sounds of movement]

All right, who would like to begin?

[extended pause]

Well, I guess I can start.

Go ahead, Chris.

The boys know that we've talked to you several times this week. They know that both Buck and I have been pretty concerned with the way things have been going. We've all talked about it just about every night since our last meeting, but it doesn't seem like we're getting anywhere. The boys seem pretty confused about the problems we've been having and, frankly, so am I.

So you feel that the problems come at least partially from the fact that no one seems to know what's going on?


Okay. What about the rest of you?

Well, Doc, I've gotta agree with Chris, I'm confused. I'm also gettin' pretty frustrated because it seems like what time we have together as a family is taken up trying to figure out why things have been going so badly.

All right, so if I hear you correctly, you feel that you're spending a lot of time on this issue, and not getting anywhere?

Right. By the time I get home, Chris has already had to deal with two or three arguments and that's a lot more than we used to have.

Okay, thanks, Buck. Boys, what would you like to say about all this?


Nothing, Vin?


All right, perhaps we can discuss your feelings in a little while. JD what about you?

I don't like nothin' no more.

You don't like the way things are going, is that what you're telling me?

I'm tellin' you that things stink at our house!

Well that's pretty plain. Can you tell me more?

Ain't nothin' more to say, Dr. Will. It stinks!

Okay. Vin, are you sure you don't want to add anything to what the others have said?


Well, all right. How about you and I go into my office then, and we'll go ahead and talk privately. And I think it's safe to say, gentlemen that we're going to be meeting for a while as a group after I've talked to the boys individually.

Whatever it takes, Doc.

However long it takes.

All right. Vin, shall we go?

Will Lowery entered his office just behind his seven-year-old client. At the best of times it could be difficult to read Vin Tanner. At the moment it was impossible.

They settled into chairs, neither of them speaking at first. Lowery watched the little boy. He sat slumped in the chair as if the weight of the world had settled on his narrow little shoulders.

In a quiet voice, the doctor said only, "would you like to talk about whatever it is?"

Shrugging, Vin simply stared into space.

"You don't seem to be in a very good mood today."

More silence.

"Your dad said you've been having bad dreams lately, and you haven't wanted to go to school."

A shrug.

The therapist stifled a sigh. How often had he seen this? A client would go for some time, moving forward; making excellent progress. Then something would cause it all to come crashing down. Sometimes it signaled a breakthrough, the pain bringing with it growth and healing. At other times, however, it simply meant that the client wasn't ready, that they were in the process of rejecting the changes brought on by examining their life.

He only hoped that he could bring about a positive resolution with this little boy. There wasn't much he could do, though, until he got him to talk. "Vin, whatever it is that's bothering you is just going to keep bothering you. If we talk about it, maybe we can find a way to make it go away."

"Don't wanna talk t' you, Dr. Will."

"You don't?" When he received a negative head shake, Lowery asked, "Can you tell me the reason?"

"Don't do no good," Vin said firmly.

"Talking to me doesn't do any good?"


"Well, could we talk about that? If I'm not helping you in any way, I'd like to know more about it so I can try to change what I'm doing."

The seven-year-old sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes, but didn't offer to say anything.

Waiting for a few minutes and seeing that the little boy wasn't going to offer an explanation, he said, "Well, is it the homework?"

Blue eyes flared, but young Tanner said nothing.

"How about picking out the pictures?"

The little boy sighed and rolled those expressive eyes once more.

"Okay, how about our talks about the things that have been changing?"

Sapphire sparks popped and a 'baby glare' was aimed in his direction.

"You're not happy about the talks then."

"You lied." The little blond said through clenched teeth.

"I did? Could you tell me what I lied about? I didn't mean to, Vin."

"You said you'd help me stop havin' those feel bad thoughts if I was patient. I been patient for a long time an' ain't nothin' changed."

"Nothing's changed?"

"That's what I said."

"Did I promise you that it would be different by now?"

The seven-year-old huffed a sigh, folded his arms and stared out the window behind the therapist.

"Vin, I'd appreciate an answer," Lowery said in a firm but patient voice.

Young Tanner shifted slightly, but said nothing for several minutes. Then he finally said, "No."

"But you feel that you've been patient for a long time."

"I've done whatever you said, and I've even done other stuff, and I'm still havin' feel bad thoughts."

"I'm sorry, Vin," the doctor said sincerely. He leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. The little boy stared at him, obviously not expecting an apology. "I'm sorry that you feel I've let you down. I didn't do it on purpose. I know that you're not happy, and that it doesn't feel good to keep having all those bad thoughts.

I wish I had a magic wand. If I did, I'd tap you on the head, say some magic words, and all of the bad thoughts would go away.

"But I don't have a magic wand and I don't know magic words. All I can do is talk things out with you. I'm sorry that I can't help you more."

"You shouldn't 'a said you'd help me get rid 'a those feel bad thoughts."

"I shouldn't have?"


"What should I have said, Vin? Could you tell me?"

The sandy brows furrowed and the little face scrunched up as the boy studied the question. "Y' should 'a just said that me an' you would talk 'bout stuff, and not said you'd help me get rid of the feel bad thoughts."

"I see. But if that was all I had said, would you still have worked so hard and thought as hard about things?"

Shrugging, the boy said, "I guess."

"So, maybe you would have, but maybe you wouldn't have?"


"Is that what you mean by 'I guess'? That maybe you would have, but maybe you wouldn't have?"

The child processed the question and finally said, "Yeah, that's what I mean."

"Okay, so we don't know for sure that you would have worked as hard if you hadn't known why you were working. But we do know that you worked very, very hard, don't we?"

Hesitating only slightly the little boy said, "I did my best."

"You did your best," Will echoed.

"That's what I said!" Vin yelled.

Will watched the anger continue to build and prepared for the coming explosion.

"All y' do is say th' same things I say, Dr. Will! Don't keep sayin' the same things I say! I don't know the good words to say! If you say the same things I say, you can't help me! You can't make the feel bad thoughts go away if you do that!"

"What do you want me to say, Vin?"

"I want you to say how to make the feel bad thoughts go away! I want you to say how I can be a different boy!"

Lowery sighed. It seemed that nothing any of the adults told him had helped the little boy understand what they wanted. And, unless he could make things clear in the next few minutes, he was afraid that everything would have been for nothing.

"Vin," he said gently, "what kind of boy do you think we want you to be?"

"I… don't… know!" The seven-year-old's voice was raw with pain. "You gotta tell me! I c'n do it if y' tell me!"

I can change to fit the role if you'll only give me the script. I will be the child you want me to be if only you will give me his description.

Leaning back, the doctor said quietly, "I want you to be happy, Vin."

The child's scowl could have scorched Superman's cape. "I was happy 'til ever'one wanted me t' change!"

"You were happy?" Will questioned.

"Yer doin' it again!" The little blond was rigid in the chair, two tiny fists clenched and his accent growing in proportion to his anger. "Don't say my words!"

"All right," the therapist agreed. "I won't use your words any more today, Vin, unless I don't understand what you're telling me. And I need to apologize to you again. I thought that I was being clear, that you understood that this could take a while. I made a big mistake and I'm sorry.

"The feel bad thoughts that you've been having are because you are changing. You are becoming a different boy."

"No, I ain't! I'm the same, Dr. Will! I ain't a different boy!"

"You're not? Can you tell me how you're the same?"

"I'm the same, that's all!" Vin growled.

"Okay, then tell me how you'll know when you're different."

"I'll be different when I don't have feel bad thoughts!"

"And what will happen when you're a different boy, Vin?"

"I won't be scared!"

"What else, Vin?"

Taking a deep breath, he said, "If I'm a different boy, I'll be Chris' son forever and I won't have to go back an' live by myself!"

Lowery frowned. "Did something happen to make you think that Chris might still send you away?"

Rather than answer, Vin slumped back in his seat. A single, heart-rending sob escaped him. For several minutes there was no sound other than an occasional sniffle. The doctor handed over the tissue box and allowed the child to cry for a time.

Finally pulling himself together, the little boy said, "Freddy Chaney heard me an' JD talkin' 'bout comin' to see you. It was last week, th' day after we was here. He started laughin', an' said we was crazy if we come to a… a… head doctor. I told him t' shut up, an' then I told JD t' go on an' wait for Buck… it was at the end of school then Freddy said if I was comin' here, it was 'cause I'm a bad kid and if I didn't get fixed, Chris would prob'ly kick me out. He said that he had to go to a… head doctor… 'cause his dad wanted him to get fixed. An' when he didn't get fixed, his dad made him and his mom live somewhere else. And I know that's true, 'cause he don't live with his dad. An' since I don't got a mom, 'cept my Mom that lives with th' angels, that means I'd have to live by myself, so I'd have to go back to the warehouse!"

Will Lowery wanted to groan, or scream, or cry out against the thoughtless and mean-spirited words that had not only foist another burden on the already over burdened child in his office. They were words that had potentially ruined the life of the other boy. "Vin," he asked, "What do you need from me to help you feel safe?"

The blue eyes snapped once again as the child said, "I told you! Tell me how to be a different boy!"

"Vin, you already are a different boy," he said again.

The little boy frowned at the man. "No I ain't. I'm the same!"

"Can you tell my how you know you're the same boy?"

"'Cause I am!" He replied quickly.

"I don't understand that, though. Can you give me an example?"

The seven-year-old's frown deepened. He considered the question, but only said again, "'Cause I am."

Nodding, Lowery said, "Could I show you how I think you've changed?"

Shrugging, Vin simply looked at the man. He knew Dr. Will was wrong. He hadn't changed at all.

Will opened the file on his desk and retrieved two of the pictures he kept there. Turning back to his client, he held one out. "Do you remember this little boy?"

Vin looked at the picture. It was of the little boy with the black eye, who looked sad. He was sitting on some steps with trash all around him. "Yeah, that's the picture I picked out first."

"Do you remember the story you made up about him?"

"Yeah." He was growing calmer as they began to process things together once more.

"Could you tell me about him?"

Heaving a sigh the boy said, "He's sad, 'cause he's livin' where I used to live. And he don't have good food or new clothes or toys. He's scared all the time and cold and people try to hurt him."

"All right now, what about this one?" He held out the second picture.

Vin couldn't help but smile as he looked at the little boy with the hat on who smiled back at him. "He's happy, 'cause he lives in a nice house. He's got people that love him and good food and nice clothes and toys."

"So, can you tell me how these two boys are different?"

"Well… one's happy, and one's sad." Vin studied the pictures. "One has lots of good stuff an' people who love him. The other one don't."

"Can you tell me the reason you chose the first picture?"

"'Cause it 'minded me of me before I lived with Chris."

"Okay. How about the second one?"

"'Cause it 'minded me of me now."

"Are the two boys the same or are they different?"

"Different, Dr. Will. I said that already."

"So, if they both remind you of you, and they're different… does that mean you're different, too?"

The boy's frown slowly dissipated. "I… guess. Yeah. I ain't the same as I was."

"Then, if you're different, does that mean you've changed?"

"I… yeah, well I… is that what you mean? I'm changed 'cause I'm different since I live with Chris now?"

"That's part of it, yes."

"But…" He sighed, but didn't finish.

"But what, buddy?" Lowery prompted.

"But… I'm still havin' feel bad thoughts." Vin whispered.

"Do you share these feel bad thoughts with Chris?"

Shrugging, the little boy said, "Sometimes."

"Did you share the feel bad thoughts that you had because of what Freddy said?"

"No!" The little boy said quickly.

"What would happen if you did tell him?"

The tiny body slumped as the child said in a pain-filled whisper, "I don't know."

Lowery saw the fear written across the fine features. "You need to ask him, Vin."

The thick blond hair flew as the little boy shook his head adamantly. "No! I can't!"

"What if we play the tape for him?"

The child seemed ready to leap from the chair; to stop the tape. "No."

"What if I told him?"


"Then is what you're telling me is that you want to keep that feel bad thought?"


"I'm confused then. You don't want to try and get rid of this feel bad thought but you don't want to keep it, either. So what can we do?"

The little boy looked ready to bolt. His eyes widened, filled with tears, his face paled. Finally he said, "I don't want it no more, Dr. Will."

"What are you feeling right now, Vin?"

"I'm scared!" The statement exploded into the room before the child could stop it. Blue fire flared, but quickly died, to be replaced by something akin to terror.

"What are you scared of?" Lowery prodded gently.

"What if… what if F-Freddy's… right?" The little boy stammered.

"What if Freddy's wrong?" The doctor countered.

A glimmer of hope struggled to counter the almost overwhelming fear. With tears evident in his voice, he whispered, "Will you help me?"

"Yes," Will replied calmly. He nodded toward the phone. "Can I ask him to come join us?"

Taking a trembling breath, Vin said, "Yeah."

With a reassuring smile, the therapist picked up the phone and asked one of the office workers to send the little boy's foster father to his office. Hanging up, he said, "He's on his way. This is your choice. Would you like to tell him, should I tell him, or should we play the tape?"

I'm scared - I'm scared - I'm scared. His mind spun, the words echoing over and over. "If… I… can you… will you help me?"

"Of course."

Nodding, he said, "I'll tell him."

"All right." Lowery smiled at the little boy then stood at the sound of someone knocking at his door. Opening it, he greeted the tall blond and stood back to allow him to enter the office.

Chris swung into the room, his gaze immediately going to the obviously upset seven-year-old huddled in a chair. Fighting the urge to scoop the boy up, he said, "Hey, Cowboy."

Vin looked up with a wan smile on his face. He wanted to speak, but suddenly couldn't seem to manage it.

Larabee watched his foster son worriedly even as he settled into a chair. He set aside his crutches and said, "So, the lady up front said you wanted to see me?"

Lowery paused long enough to allow Vin to speak. When he didn't, the doctor said, "Vin has a question for you."

"Okay," Chris kept his gaze on his son.

"Vin, could you tell Chris the story you told me earlier, the conversation you had with Freddy last week?" Will prompted when the silence lengthened.

The child took another deep breath. Then he slowly stammered through the recount of his confrontation with the other boy. He spoke haltingly, at times needing the doctor's help to continue.

When the tale came to an end, the therapist looked from father to son and back. He easily read the building anger in the elder's face and the responding sorrow and fear in the younger's. Turning to the tall man he asked, "What are you feeling right now, Chris?"

Sparing the man a quick look, Larabee's attention stayed on his foster son. "I'm feeling angry… furious… right now."

"At Vin?"

"What!? No!" The blond shot an incredulous look at the other man.

"Are you certain?" Lowery felt the burn of the agent's glare, but didn't dare back down.

"Of course I'm certain! What are you getting at?"

"Look at Vin," Will said gently.

"I am," Chris growled. Then he stopped as he looked past his anger. He saw the dejected and frightened stance of the child. "Ah, Vin," he nearly moaned.

"Vin," Lowery continued, "What are you feeling right now?" He saw Chris open his mouth to speak, but stopped him with a shake of his head. As painful as it might be, the little boy needed to work this out.

"I… don't know. I…" tears began to fall from those fathomless eyes.

"Think about it, Vin, take your time."

Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh, the child said, "Don't be mad, Chris. Please?"

Forcing his features to smooth out, Larabee avoided mentioning how many times he had made such promises to the boy. Instead he said only, "I promise, Cowboy."

"Scared," he admitted quickly before he lost his nerve.

"Scared of what?" Lowery asked.

Ducking his head, the little boy said, "scared… I'm scared 'cause Chris is mad."

"Do you feel like he's angry with you?"

"No," Vin shook his head, "he ain't angry at me. He's angry 'cause… he's angry 'cause of me."

"He's angry because of you?" Will asked. He turned a glance at Chris and found the man looking very confused. Turning back to his young client, he said, "Can you tell us more about that?"

Another sigh, and then the child spoke in a rush. "Whenever somebody does somethin' mean or bad to me an' Dad finds out, he gets real mad."

"And that scares you?" When Vin hesitantly nodded, he said, "Can you tell us more about how that scares you?"

"It just does!" The baby glare flashed once more.

Come on, buddy, talk to us! Larabee's mind screamed. Then he saw the look of fear that filled his child's face. His gut clenched and his heart skipped more than one beat. He had to force himself back to the conversation as Will Lowery spoke.

"Vin, tell us what scares you when Chris gets angry because of you."

"No!" He didn't want to say it. Saying it out loud would be scarier than keeping it a secret.

"Cowboy," Chris said gently, "Please… tell us what it is so we can work on it. Please?"

Vin chanced a look up, his eye focusing on his foster father's face. He saw a sad look and felt bad that he had put it there. Please don't be sad, Dad. I'm sorry. "I… I get scared 'cause you… Dad, you get so mad at people when they do stuff to me. And… and I get scared that you're gonna keep getting' mad and mad and - " He broke off, gulping air as his little body trembled.

"Oh, God, Vin," Larabee leaned forward, hands wrapped around the chair arms until his knuckles bled white.

Watching the man's body language, the doctor said, "What do you want to do right now, Chris?"

"What?" The blond hesitated then said, "I want… I want to hold him - "

"Tell Vin."

Blinking as he tried to focus on what he needed to do, the man nodded. "Vin, I want to hold you right now. I want to make sure you're okay. I want to hug you and make you understand that it is okay. I want to make you understand that I would never want to give you feel bad thoughts with my anger."

"What's your body language telling him?"

Chris frowned, not certain what the man meant. Then in the next second he realized only too clearly what Lowery was saying. He was rigid, his entire body as taut as if more then his leg was in a cast. It was no wonder Vin continued to be confused and so tentative at times. No matter what he said, his words were overshadowed by what the child saw. With an effort, he forced himself to relax.

"Why don't you hold him, Chris?" The therapist asked.

Heaving a sigh, the man said, "Vin gets scared when someone touches him unexpectedly."

The seven-year-old shook his head, eyes squinting as he frowned.

"You don't look like you agree with your father, Vin," Will prompted.

Taking another deep breath, the little boy said, "Not you, Dad. Not no more."

Larabee thought back as he took in his son's words. How often had he held back for fear of startling his son? How often had Vin needed his touch to soothe his fears? How often had Vin seen anger on his face and felt guilt for having caused it? When had things changed, and why hadn't he changed with them? Why had he not been aware enough to truly accept the gift of his son's trust? He had noticed individual incidents, but had considered them exceptions. When had they become the rule?

Feeling like a drowning man, the ATF agent turned toward the therapist. How badly had he blown it? Would the doctor be on the phone to Nettie Wells in the morning, suggesting a change of placement for the boys? The look of compassion on the other man's face offered him some comfort, but he still worried.

"I see surprise on your face, Chris," Lowery said quietly. "I also read several other emotions."

Shaking his head, the blond said, "Why am I only understanding this now, Doc? Why didn't I see this before now?"

"I'm sorry to tell you this," the doctor replied, "but you're a human being, Mr. Larabee. And, where Vin is concerned at least, you're a very loving, caring and fiercely protective father. It's my guess - and at this point it's only a guess - that you've been so focused on caring for the child you found in that warehouse, you haven't seen the little boy who lives with you now."

The object of their exchange sat listening to the men. He didn't understand a lot of what they were saying, but he followed what the therapist said last. "Dr. Will?"

"Yes, Vin?"

"You mean Dad don't know the different boys? Like we talked 'bout while ago with the pictures?"

Smiling, the doctor said, "Exactly. Would you like to show them to your dad?"

"Sure." Picking up the two pictures, the child brought them over and stood beside his foster father's chair. Holding up the first picture, he said, "See? I picked this picture when Dr. Will asked me to find one that 'minded me of me b'fore… um… b'fore you founded me."

"So this reminds you of that time?" Chris asked as he looked over the picture.

"Yeah, see? He's sad, an' he gots a black eye 'cause maybe someone hit 'im. An' he's got all this trash 'round him 'cause he's looked for somethin' to eat. 'Kay?" Vin's finger pointed to the various aspects of the picture that had reminded him of his life on the streets.

"Okay," Larabee said in a voice choked with emotion. He couldn't understand how the son of his heart could talk of that time so matter-of-factly.

"'Kay. So that's like me… b'fore. Now this," he handed over the second picture, "is like me now. See? He's smilin'."

The tall blond grinned at the child's explanation, eloquent in its simplicity. "Yes, Cowboy, I see he's smiling."

His own smile overshadowing that of the child in the picture, Vin added, "See, he's got a cowboy hat on, 'cause you call me Cowboy. An' he gots lots of good things now. An' he gots lots of people that love him. 'Specially his dad."

Chris swallowed hard, overwhelmed by the emotions his son's words evoked.

"Dad?" Vin's smile wavered as he tried to make sense of his father's reaction.

"It's okay, buddy," Larabee said softly. "What you just told me gave me a very good… a very big, good feeling."

"It did?" The little boy asked innocently.

No time like the present to make some changes. Reaching down, he scooped his son up and settled him in his lap. Despite the tears that managed to slip down his face, he smiled even wider. "Yes, Vin, it did. It's the same kind of feeling I've had every day since you came to live with me."

Cocking his head, the little blond touched a finger to his father's face and brushed away a tear. "It ain't a sad feelin'?"

"No, it's not a sad feeling."

Another tear was brushed away by a tiny finger. "It ain't a bad feelin'?"

"No, it's not a bad feeling."

Placing a little hand on each broad shoulder, he asked, "It ain't a mad feelin'?"

"No, you don't give me mad feelings, son. I promise you, Vin… and I will say this to you every day if you want. I will never be mad at you."

"But you get mad 'cause 'a me." It was a painfully straightforward statement. Once more the little blond's smile wavered.

"Vin, I can't tell you that I won't stop getting angry at people who do mean and hurtful things to you. I've never lied to you, have I?"

"Nope," little Tanner said firmly.

"And I never, ever will. So I want to make you a promise son. No matter how many people I get angry at because they're mean to you, I will never be angry at you."

"Vin," Lowery interrupted the father and son exchange. "Can you tell Chris why it scares you so much?"

Tears once more filled the big blue eyes and the full little mouth trembled. Then, his voice barely audible, he said, "I get scared, Dad. I get scared that you'll be tired a bein' mad, and tired 'a all the problems. I get scared that if I ain't a different boy you… you won't want me 'round no more."

Mustering every ounce of strength and forcing himself not to rail against that pain-filled statement, Larabee looked directly into those too-old eyes. "Vin, you are my son. You will be my son forever. Forever and ever. No matter what happens, no matter what bad things we have to deal with. You… will… be… my… son. I will never grow tired of you. I will never want you to be anyone but who you are. And, please listen to me and believe what I say. I will never, ever, ever… ever, want to send you away. Never. And that is a promise I will never break.

"You will not ever have to go back and live in that warehouse. Not unless I live there, too."

Vin couldn't help it. He giggled as he remembered the talk they had had before. Chris had told him that if he went to live in the warehouse, then the rest of them would move in with him. As the rest of his foster father's statement began to sink in, he said, "Never?"

Stroking his fingers through the thick, blond hair, the man said, "Never, Cowboy. Even if someone makes me angry every day for the rest of my life, I will never send you away."

His smile returning full force, the little boy wrapped his arms around his father's neck. In return, he felt strong arms wrapped around him. With a contented sigh he said, "Okay."

Deciding to give them a few minutes to gather themselves, Lowery said, "Vin, do you think your dad would like to help you pick out a picture for this week?"

Leaning back far enough to look into Chris' face, the little boy said, "Do y' wanna, Dad?"

"Sure," Larabee responded with a smile.

As the therapist handed over the folder, Vin said, "we didn't talk 'bout the picture I picked out last week, Dr. Will."

"We didn't, did we?" The therapist replied. He knew that they had touched on it much more than the child knew. Do you remember what the picture was about?"

The little blond frowned as he thought back to the previous session. "It was s'posed to be 'bout how I… changed." His frown deepened and then he said in a surprised voice, "Hey! We talked 'bout it already!"

"You know," the therapist said, proud of the little boy for putting two and two together so easily, "I believe you're right Vin. Well then, what I'd like you to do this week is to find a picture that makes you think of being safe and happy. Can you do that?"

Little Tanner smiled then nodded as he turned to the business at hand. Settled on his father's lap he began to go through the file. With a smile he said, "This one."

Lowery saw a look of joy cross Chris' face as he saw the picture his foster son had chosen. When he saw the picture, he could easily see why. "Thank you, Vin. I'll put this one with the others, okay?"