Face to Face

By Chris G

I have another story to write so this is gonna be short. I had a up and down   week. I got to meet Major Carpenter in person. I was scared before he got   here that he wouldn't like me 'cause maybe I'm not like my born-dad. Chris   said not to worry about that but I did. Randy (he told me to call him Randy)   is tall and looked brave in his uniform. I liked talking to him.

Buck says I was a hero this week. Buck says not many boys would do what I   done. Buck says he's proud of me. Buck made me smile.

You start, Vin.

Okay, this week I got to meet Major Carpenter. He called Chris and said he was coming by town and could he stop and visit. I was scared at first to meet him.

That why you kept doing all that stuff?

What stuff?

You know, moving the stuff around and making sure the house was clean and…

I just wanted everything to be right.

"I look forward to meeting you, too. See you Thursday. Bye," Chris said then pulled the telephone receiver away from his ear and stared at it thoughtfully.

"Well, I know you can't have just made a date because I know you wouldn't go on a date with someone you haven't met so…who was that?" Buck asked playfully as he watched Chris. He had muted the volume on the television when Chris took the call and tried his best not to listen in but he figured if it were truly a private call, Chris would have left the room.

Chris seemed startled from his thoughts. He smiled briefly as he replaced the phone in its cradle. "That was Major Carpenter. He's got a meeting at Fort Carson on Friday. He's going to fly in Thursday night to visit with Vin for a couple of hours."

Buck grinned as he thought of all the major had done to help Vin learn about his biological father. "That man sure does go above and beyond."

Chris nodded absently. "Yeah, he has. Vin sure likes getting his emails and writing him back."

"How about you?" Buck prodded casually.

"Huh?" Chris shifted his gaze to his friend. " 'How about me?' what?"

"How do you feel about Vin keeping in touch with the guy?"

"The guy was a good friend of Vin's father. I'd be a real louse if I tried to keep them from communicating."

Buck held up his hands placatingly. "Hey, I didn't say you were wanting to stop it, I just wanted to know how it makes you feel?"

"Vin should know about his father."

Buck sighed and folded his arms across his chest impatiently. He knew that Chris knew what he wanted to know and was avoiding answering him.

Chris returned the sigh. "Okay, I feel bad sometimes. Vin can never meet the man. I want him to know about his father but I'm afraid that he'll start to feel deprived because he died before Vin had a chance to know him." Chris paused as he rubbed a hand across his face. "On the other hand, the guy was a hero. Vin should know all about him...but then again, I don't want Vin to think he has to live up to that kind of example. He needs to be himself, to figure out what he wants and go after it."

"You're not a little…," Buck began, then tilted his head and raised his eyebrows, hoping Chris would catch on without him saying it.

"A little…?"

No such luck. "Envious?"

"What?!" Chris stared in shock at his friend.

"Envious. Of the time he spends communicating with the major, of the things he's thinking about his father that you know nothing about, of the fact that you're not his biological father…"

"Buck…," Chris' tone threatened but then he fell silent, his gaze drifting to his lap as he let Buck's words sink in. "I'm not thinking what you think I'm thinking," he added softly.

"Well, I know what you think I'm thinking and I also know that you would know that I would never think that. So what I'm really thinking is that I want to know what you're really thinking."

Chris squinted his eyes as he looked over at Buck, his mind trying to follow his last statement to make sure he knew what was being asked. Finally, he turned his gaze back to his lap. "If I were his biological father, it would explain a few things."

"Like what?"

Chris took a deep breath. "Like the connection I feel to Vin. It's more than just loving him…it's deeper than that, more ingrained…no, that's not right…more…I don't know. I just know there's more there than I guess I ever expected there to be, a connection I didn't think was possible."

Buck smiled as he leaned back into the couch. "Nothing like the connection you felt, oh, thirteen…fourteen years ago when you meet a roguish, yet lovable, new graduate of the police academy?"

Chris turned a startled expression towards Buck. He opened his mouth to speak but then closed it as he thought back to the first few months of their relationship. There had been a definite connection between the two men that went beyond normal friendships, a connection that tied the two mens' souls together.

Buck reached over and slapped his hand gently on Chris' arm. "Last time I checked, Pard, we don't share a chromosome between us but I don't know two people who are connected like you and me…well, 'cepting maybe you and Vin."

Chris smiled as he looked away, feeling a tingling in his eyes that he refused to believe were tears. "I'm a lucky man, Buck."

"We're both lucky men, Chris, we're both lucky." Buck stretched and pushed himself to his feet, gently tossing the television remote within easy reach for Chris. "I'm gonna go review the files for court tomorrow and then head to bed. See ya in the mornin'."

"Night, Buck…and thanks," Chris told the man exiting the room.

"Anytime, Pard, anytime."

"Come on, boys! Breakfast is almost on the table!" Buck's bellow could be heard throughout the house. It was only a few moments later that the equally loud sound of two sets of running feet could be heard coming down the hallway.

"What're we havin'? What're we havin'?" JD hollered as he darted into the room in front of Vin.

"JD..." Buck warned.

The boy stopped and stared up at Buck. "Sorry…inside voice."

"Right, and no running in the house."

"Okay." The boy made a show of walking slowly and staying quiet as he climbed into his chair at the table.

"Mornin', Vin," Chris said over the top of his coffee cup.

"Mornin'," Vin replied softly as he took his place at the table.

Buck set a large plate at the center of the table and then slid into his chair.

"Waffles! Mmmmm. But we don't have waffles on school days. They take too long," JD argued.

"Well, Little Bit, I cheated this mornin'. These are the toaster kind so they didn't take as long to make." Buck reached out and grabbed the plate. "But if you'd rather have something else," he began as he started to stand up.

"NO!" both boys shouted then both slapped hands over their mouths and a moment later said in much quieter voices, "no."

The synchronization of the boys' actions could not have been planned any better and both adults were chuckling at it.

"Well, okay, if you're sure," Buck agreed as he lowered himself back into his seat and released the plate of waffles. He grabbed a fork and began distributing the food to the boys and himself.

"Vin, I got a call last night from Major Carpenter," Chris began, watching Vin's reaction as he reached his own fork out to snag his own breakfast.

Vin stopped his waffle preparations and looked up at Chris. "You did?" He looked back down at his plate, trying to decide if the call were a good thing or a bad thing since he wasn't included in it. Without looking up, he asked, "What'd he say?"

"He wanted to check with me that you were available on Thursday evening. Seems he's going to be passing through Denver on his way to Fort Carson and wanted to know if he could visit with you for a couple hours."

Vin slowly raised his head, his eyes wide as he stared in disbelief at Chris. "He's comin' here?" He began swinging his legs beneath the table in nervous excitement. He'd shared countless emails with the man and written several real-mail letters, but he'd never spoken to him on the phone. Now, the man was going to be coming to Denver and Vin would get to meet him in person. His mind began to fill with the things he felt needed to be done before the man's arrival…and with questions.

"I thought I'd pick you up after school that day and you can get your homework and chores done before he gets here. Sound good?"

Vin nodded absently as his mind continued to race.

"I mean it, Vin. You'll need to focus and get your homework done before you can see Major Carpenter. Understand?"

"Yeah," Vin breathed out his acknowledgment.

"Best hurry up and finish, boys. We have to be out of here in ten minutes or we'll be late," Buck prodded and the four dug into their morning meal.

Mrs. Potter smiled at the two men as they entered the kitchen. "Good evening, gentlemen. Have a good day?" she asked as she stirred the contents of a large pot on the stove.

Buck began nodding his head as he stepped up to take a deep sniff of whatever was cooking. "Not bad, not bad. Court was quick and easy and that always makes me a happy man."

"I can imagine," Mrs. Potter agreed.

"What are the boys up to?" Chris asked, setting his briefcase on the table long enough to shrug off his jacket.

She looked at them in a way that said something was up but she didn't know what. "They've been terribly quiet this afternoon."

"Uh-oh," Buck shivered. "Never a good sign." He turned to look at Chris. "You want to come along or you gonna let me brave it alone?"

Chris threw out his arm in invitation. "Be my guest."

"Daring leader of a crack ATF team…my Aunt Fanny…you're a chicken," Buck grumbled as he left the kitchen.

"Not chicken," Chris disagreed, though only Mrs. Potter could hear him. "I just know sometimes it's better to bat clean-up." He stepped up beside the stove, sniffed appreciatively and patted his hand on the woman's arm. "Thanks, Gloria." Not really intending for Buck to handle any potential problem with the boys alone, he followed after his friend.

Buck stood in the doorway to the den, watching the boy sitting on the couch. He was pressed deep into the cushions, his legs straight out in front of him, GI Joe resting on one side and the television remote on the other. Rather than watching the cartoons flickering on the TV screen, the boy was watching his feet as he repeatedly tapped them together. Buck glanced briefly at Chris as he walked up then turned back to JD.

"Whatcha doin', Little Bit?" Buck asked as he sauntered into the room.

"Buck!" JD shouted as he scrambled up onto the couch cushions and threw his arms in the air. Buck picked him up, squeezed him tight then rested him on his hip. "I's watchin' my shoelaces dance. When I banged my feet together, the laces bounced around and it looked like they was dancin'. Hi, Chris," JD explained, adding the last when he saw the other man standing at the entrance to the room.

"Hi, JD. Have a good day?"

"Pretty good. I's getting bored though. Vin's working on somethin' and don't wanna be bothered." JD lowered his eyes and his level of enthusiasm. "I didn't mean to bother him."

"It's all right, JD. Where is Vin?"

"Our room," JD sighed as he lowered his head to rest on Buck's shoulder. Buck looked over at Chris who shrugged and left the room.

"Why don't you and me find something to do until Vin is done with whatever it is he's working on...or dinner is ready, whichever comes first?" Buck asked, bouncing JD a little to try and get him to perk back up.

"Can I beat you on the new computer game?" JD asked, trying to look sad so Buck would lose to him out of sympathy but a smile started creeping in on the edges of his mouth.

"You can try," Buck replied, wiggling his fingers into JD's stomach. JD giggled as Buck set him on his feet and the two went to the computer to play.

Chris stood at the doorway to the boys' bedroom and watched Vin working at the boys' play table. He seemed to be concentrating very hard on what he was doing. Chris tapped lightly on the doorframe before he stepped into the room.

"Hi, Vin," he said.

Vin sat up straight and looked towards the door. "Hi, Chris. I didn't hear you come home." He looked back at the work on the table in front of him.

"Don't let me bother you. JD said you were working on something and didn't want to be bothered."

Vin shook his head a little. "Not bothered...just...I was working on something and I wanted to get it done." Vin sighed heavily. "Is JD mad?" Vin was still very conscious of the recent sessions the family had had with Dr. Will and knew he would have to explain himself at the evening's pow-wow.

"Not mad, just a little concerned. He thinks he made you mad."

"I'm not mad at him," Vin contradicted, shaking his head and looking confused. He tried to think back and remember what he had said to the younger boy to make him think he was mad, but couldn't come up with anything.

"So, what are you working on?" Chris asked, stepping up to the table.

Vin looked down at the papers in front of him a little guiltily. "Uhmmm," he stalled. "It just a list," he explained simply.

Chris glanced at the pages spread out on the tabletop.

"A list of what?"

Vin sighed. "I was just making a list of things I wanted to remember to ask Major Carpenter when he comes. Things about my born dad."

It briefly occurred to Chris that he always heard Vin refer to Michael Tanner as his "born dad" as opposed to just his "dad" or "father". He wondered if Vin referred to the man that way with anyone else, or was he saying it that way just in front of him.

"I guess that means that your homework is done?" Chris' tone told the boy that it had better be.

"Well, I got some vocab'lary words that are for Thursday. I did some of those," Vin told him, looking up hopefully. "I can finish them tomorrow."

"Is that all?"

Vin looked down at his lap and sighed dramatically. "I got math homework, too. It's for tomorrow."

Chris smiled sadly at the boy, knowing Vin was so excited about meeting the man he'd been corresponding with for the past few months that thoughts of it pushed everything else aside and made it hard to concentrate. He also knew that sometimes a person had to force themselves to do some things when they wanted to be doing something else.

Chris made a non-committal grunt before he said, "Wind it up and get cleaned up for dinner. I'll help you with your math homework after dinner and we'll see if we can wrap it up fast so you can get back to this, okay?"

Vin looked up at Chris, a pleased smile on his face. "Okay, thanks, Chris."

"Anytime, Pard, anytime." Chris smiled to himself as he turned and left the boys' room, remembering Buck saying those same words to him the night before.

The next day dawned gray and dreary, quite a change from the sun of the previous few days. The night before had passed calmly, Vin finishing his math homework, mostly by himself, and having a little time to return to his list before the evening pow-wow and bedtime. Vin had explained to JD that the younger boy hadn't been bothering him when he was working on his list but that he felt he couldn't play until he got it done. JD seemed to understand but would have been happier if Vin could have played with him. He used the time to practice playing alone, something Dr. Will had tried to encourage.

Now, the four rushed around as they gathered the things they needed for the day. The men made sure the boys had their school supplies, homework, lunches and anything else required for their day at school and then made sure that anything they needed with them got packed into briefcases.

"Ohhhh, it's good to be home," Buck groaned as he stepped through the door into the kitchen. Chris followed him in, pulling the door closed behind him.

"Another tough day?" Gloria asked from her spot beside the counter where she was cutting up vegetables.

Buck shook his head. "Not so tough, just woulda rather have been here." He stepped up to look at what the woman was working on. "Whatcha makin'?"

Gloria stiffened her back and threw back her shoulders. "I am under strict orders to make sure we have appropriate snacks for the Major's visit." She smiled as she relaxed her posture. "Vin's going all out to make sure everything is just right for tomorrow."

Chris stepped up beside her. "Gloria, you don't have to do anything special. Major Carpenter isn't expecting to be fed. He told me not to worry about it."

Gloria smiled fondly. "Vin just wants to make a good impression. He's been racking his brain making sure nothing gets overlooked. If it makes him feel better having some veggies cut up, I'll cut up some veggies."

Chris smiled fondly in return as leaned over and pressed his lips lightly on the woman's cheek. "You're a saint, Gloria Potter."

"Oh, pppsshhhh," Gloria replied with an undignified sound. She resumed her cutting as the men went in search of the two boys.

Vin stood in the entrance hall with his back to the front door, scanning the room in front of him. Suddenly, he dashed into the room and up to the sofa. One at a time, he grabbed the throw pillows lying there, patted each of their sides and replaced them neatly along the back cushions. He looked at the placement, adjusted a few pillows, then darted back to the front door to resume his inspection of the room.

"Vin?" Chris asked as he and Buck entered the living room from the kitchen. They had witnessed the 'fluffing of the pillows' and both were a little curious as to what Vin was trying to accomplish.

"Hi, Chris. Hi, Buck," Vin greeted distractedly as he continued to look over the room from his vantage point at the front door.

"What are you doin' there, Junior?" Buck asked, scratching his head.

"Just makin' sure the room looks right for tomorrow," Vin explained.

"Vin, Major Carpenter is coming here to see you, not the house," Chris told him gently.

Vin turned his eyes to Chris then looked down at himself. A moment later, his panicked voice cried out, "What'll I wear tomorrow!" Vin bolted from the room towards his bedroom and immediately the sounds of frantic searching through dresser drawers could be heard.

"Oh, boy," Chris groaned. "I best go help him before he destroys the room."

"Have fun," Buck teased. "Guess I need to find the little one." He had a pretty good idea where the boy could be found and headed that way.

JD sat on the floor of the den between the couch and the coffee table. His left arm was folded on top of the table and his head rested on it. He scratched a crayon absently across a piece of paper in front of him.

"Whatcha working on, JD?" Buck asked as he entered the room and took a seat on the couch beside the boy.

JD sat up straight and smiled at Buck. "I's just colorin'," JD told him, wrinkling his nose as he looked at his work. The outline on the paper showed a horse but there was only a thick brown line colored on it.

"Hmmm, looks like the feller needs some more fillin' in, huh?"

"I guess," JD agreed though he laid down his crayon.

"Somethin' wrong, Little Bit?" Buck asked, gently rubbing the boy's shoulder.

JD shook his head. "Nope. Nuffin'. I ain't sad."

Aha. "Anything in particular you're 'not sad' about?" Buck prodded.

JD drew in a slow, deep breath and forced it out loudly. "Vin's got something special happnin'. I'm glad that major guy is comin' to see him."

"But…" Buck prodded some more.

"Nuffin' special's happnin' to me."

"And you're feelin' a little left out?"

JD shrugged one shoulder but said nothing.

Buck reached down and pulled the boy onto his lap, wrapping his arms around him firmly. "You know you can't always have special things happenin' to you, JD. Otherwise, they wouldn't be 'special things', they'd just be everyday things."

JD leaned into Buck's shoulder. "I know. I want that man to visit Vin 'cause it makes him happy."

Buck hugged JD silently for a few moments. He knew what JD was feeling. The major wasn't important to him in any way other than he made Vin happy and JD wanted Vin to be happy but the impending visit gave the older boy something to focus on that left JD completely out of the picture.

"What do you say if we were to do something a little special tomorrow while Vin's visiting with Major Carpenter?"

JD perked up. "Like what?"

"We could go out to eat somewhere like…oh…well…maybe…like…"


"Oh, I suppose we could. It's only been, what, four days since the last time," Buck grinned as he saw the smile grow on JD's face.

"Yay!" JD bounced on Buck's lap, making the man grunt.

"We'll have to finish our chores before we go, you know, so we'll have to work hard."

JD bobbed his head. "I know. I will. I'll help."

"Vin, any of what you've already pulled out will be just fine." Chris tried again to convince the boy that what he wore for his visit with Major Carpenter wasn't important. The man was coming to see the son of an old and dear friend, not what he was wearing. Although, Chris thought to himself, if the boy were dressed in rags, the visiting major would most likely have serious misgivings about who was raising the child. Shaking away the thought, he turned his attention back to the next combination of clothes Vin was displaying. "That one looks real nice, Vin."

"Uh-oh, Chris. You seein' this?" Buck asked as he turned up the volume on the television. The boys had been in bed for just under an hour and the two men were relaxing a little in the den before they headed for bed as well.

Chris looked up from the computer screen to watch. "Snow? Did he just say snow?"

"Yes, he did. Cold front moving in tomorrow. Should get three to five inches by dark."

"Great timing," Chris muttered towards the heavens. He shook his head disbelievingly and turned to watch the weather report for a few more minutes.

"Three to five inches shouldn't cause too many problems getting around. May not even stick to the roads. Probably all be melted by Saturday." Buck shifted in his seat to look at Chris.

"I'm more worried about air travel. Major Carpenter is supposed to land just after four. You know how little it takes to really mess up the airport."

Buck nodded, knowing that it took so little to cause a plane to be delayed. Finally, he shrugged. "Guess we'll just have to wait and see."

Chris grunted his agreement and, after scowling at the television for a moment for being the deliverer of the bad news, went back to his internet surfing.

"Remember, boys, we'll be picking you up this afternoon. We'll have to head straight home and get right to our chores, okay?" Buck reminded them as he helped the boys get out of the truck. JD raced towards the door without waiting for Vin, shouting his good-byes over his shoulder.

"But, what about the snow?" Vin whined as he looked up at the threatening gray clouds, concerned that their afternoon plans would have to be changed.

"I don't think it's going to get that bad, Junior. If it does, the school will call us and we'll come get you, okay?"

"Okay," Vin agreed sadly. Taking one last look at the dark skies, he turned and headed into the school building.

Vin stared disbelievingly at the classroom clock. Half an hour left before the end of the school day. A half hour ago, Mrs. Roquette had handed out pictures to a small group of students, Vin included, and told them their assignment was to write a story about what was happening in the picture. The story had to be two pages long, could not contain the plethora of 'verys' and 'reallys' that children sometimes used to pad out the length of their stories, and had to be handed in tomorrow. They were given the final hour of the day to get started on it. Vin looked down at his paper and cringed at the single paragraph scrawled there. He'd never get this story done.

"Look at the snow!" one of the students shouted. Many of the students rushed to the window to see the large, wet flakes plummet to the ground. Though most were more than ready to be done with winter, the late season snowfall of fat flakes was fascinating to watch.

Vin looked back at the clock. Fifteen minutes! What happened to the half hour?

Frantically, Vin focused on the picture he was supposed to write about. He squinted hard and stared at it. He turned the picture sideways and then righted it. He picked up his pencil and positioned it on the paper, then took another hard look at the picture.

Nothing was coming to him.

Two pages.

Come on!

There was a dog. He liked dogs. He could make up a story about a dog.


Glancing quickly at the clock, he saw there were only five minutes left before the school day was over. If he didn't get more done now, he'd have to work on the assignment at home, along with doing his chores and other homework. Chris had told him explicitly that this was a requirement of Major Carpenter's visit on a school night. His assignments came first.

Vin pulled in a deep breath and pressed the heels of his hands against his forehead. He couldn't do it.

"See you all tomorrow." The teachers were dismissing the class. Vin sat up straight and looked at the clock. The school day was over. He didn't get anything done and would have to do it at home. He'd miss getting to meet the major!

Vin felt the tears grow in his eyes. He folded his arms on the table and dropped his head onto them, letting the tears of frustration fall.

"Come on, Vin. Buck said we have to hurry home tonight," JD prodded. He already had his coat on and his backpack stuffed with all his things.

"I can't," Vin whimpered softly into his arms.

"Vin, what's wrong?" Mrs. Roquette asked as she squatted beside the boy. He and JD were the last two students left in the room.

"I didn't finish," Vin cried.

"It's all right, sweetie, you can take it home and finish it there. It's not due until tomorrow," the teacher explained gently, thinking Vin had misunderstood when the assignment needed to be turned in.

Vin shook his head 'no' against his arms. The words that followed were indistinguishable amid the sobs.

"Hey, boys," Buck called from the classroom doorway. "What's goin' on? We have to go."

"Vin's cryin'," JD told the man as he rushed forward, on the verge of tears himself. It was always a big concern when Vin cried.

Buck grabbed JD's hand and walked up to the small table, looking questioningly at the teacher, who was beginning to look a little upset herself.

"I'm not sure what the problem is. He's supposed to write a story about a picture we gave him. He said he didn't finish it and started crying. It's not due until tomorrow so…" she let the explanation hang there and offered a shrug of her shoulders.

Buck nodded his thanks to her and knelt down beside Vin. "Hey, Junior, ain't nothin' so bad you need to get this upset over," he said softly to the distraught child, knowing that the teacher beside them was most likely cringing at his grammar. "Come on, sit up and tell ol' Buck what the matter is."

Buck snaked his hand in under the boy and gently pushed Vin up. Vin didn't fight it but kept his eyes down.

"So, what's the problem?"

"Chris said…" Vin began and followed with a sniffle.

"What did Chris say?"

Vin wiped a hand across his face and took a deep breath. He felt more tears coming and spoke quickly to get it out before they started. "Chris said I had to finish my homework and do all my chores before I could see Major Carpenter and now I have to write a story and two pages is too much and I gots math too and now I won't get to see him." Vin fell forward again onto his arms as the crying started anew.

Not all of the explanation had been understandable with all the hiccups but Buck thought he'd gotten the gist of it. "Now, Vin, Chris is not going to let you miss visiting with the major. We'll figure something out." Buck rubbed his hand up and down Vin's back, trying to comfort him.

Vin shook his head against his arms. "Chris said…"

"You know what he's talking about?" Mrs. Roquette asked.

Buck wasn't sure how much of the whole Major Carpenter story the teacher knew so he briefly ran through the history of finding the man who knew Vin's father, their emails to each other, gifts in the mail and now, the coming face to face meeting and Vin's obsessing over it. "It's pretty important to him that he make a good impression on the major. I think he's taken the whole thing a little too much to heart."

Mrs. Roquette smiled kindly. "Oh, Vin, sweetie, I didn't know about your special plans for this evening. The major sounds like a wonderful man. What do you say I give you until Monday to finish your story and hand it in. Do you think you could do that?"

The crying got softer but Vin remained where he was.

"Sounds like a pretty good deal, Junior. Wish I had such nice teachers when I was a kid."

"We can switch chores today, too, Vin. You can sweep the mudroom and I'll clean the stalls. That'll take you less time," JD offered, his voice shaking a little in sympathy. He hated to see his big brother cry.

Finally, Vin rose up and wiped his hands across his face, sniffling loudly.

Buck placed a hand on Vin's cheek and turned his head towards him. "And, Vin, I am positive that Chris never meant that he would not let you meet with Major Carpenter. He just wanted you to know that homework and chores are important and you can't forget about them just because there is something else you'd rather do. Okay?"

Vin looked into Buck's eyes for a long moment before the hint of a smile grew on his face and he nodded. "Okay," he agreed in a whisper. He wiped his eyes again and looked back at the papers on the table in front of him. "I got them wet," he said softly as he ran a hand down one of the sheets.

"That's okay, Vin. I'll get you another copy of the picture. You can copy what you have written later when you can work on your story again, okay?" Mrs. Roquette got a shy smile in response then stood up and went to find the picture.

"Whats say we get you packed and ready to go, huh, Vin?" Buck said as he pushed himself back to a standing position, his knees protesting the prolonged squat.

"Okay," Vin replied as he pulled together the papers in front of him and stood up. He walked slowly around the room and gathered his backpack and coat. As he rejoined Buck, Mrs. Roquette handed him the fresh copy of the picture he needed. "Thank you," he told her sincerely, looking her in the eye. "I'll get it done, I promise."

"I know you will," she told him as he slid the page into his backpack.

Making sure both boys were ready to go, Buck steered them towards the door where they bumped into Chris who was coming in.

"What's the hold up? Is there a problem?" he asked, taking in the faces of his family, noticing the tear streaks on Vin's cheeks.

"Just a little communication snafu. We can talk about it on the ride home." Buck explained as he physically turned Chris around and gave him a push towards the exit.

You was really crying Vin.

I ??? well, I was nervous.

You was over whelmeded. Uncle Ezra told me that.

What's that mean?

I don't know but if Uncle Ezra says you was it, you was it.

"I'm sorry, Vin. I didn't mean to make you think I wouldn't let you meet the major." Chris had apologized several times both on the way home and once they got there.

"I know," Vin replied as he kept up with sweeping the mudroom floor. It wasn't a difficult chore but was appropriate for JD. "You sure it's okay for JD to be cleanin' the stalls? It's sometimes hard for me and he's littler."

Chris grinned. "I'm sure that Buck will be doing more than a little of that chore, don't you worry."