The Last To Fall

by Joy K

Note: This is Marnie's fault! She challenged me to write a ficlet in two hours. It took me three, but, I was watching the "Dog Whisperer" at the same time and kept getting distracted. This one is short, but sweet. Enjoy!

Buck opened his eyes wide in an effort to stay awake. JD had already lost the battle. The little brunette was sprawled across his lap, snoring softly. The explosion of wrapping paper was over. The morning of figuring out how things worked and trying out every new toy was done. The bountiful Christmas dinner was over and everyone was winding down.

Everyone except Vin. The normally quiet boy was talking a mile a minute and didn't look like he'd stop any time soon as he hopped from foot to foot emphasizing his point.

Despite his best effort, Buck felt his eyes close and his last conscious thought was to cut down on the amount of sugar in the cookies next year.

Josiah grinned as he watched Buck doze off. Vin seemed undeterred. He simply moved his conversation to his Uncle Josiah.

"Uncle 'Siah, did you know that..."

Josiah felt himself zoning out. It was the turkey - it had to be the turkey. That and contentment. He yawned. It had been a wonderful day with family. The sheer delight of the boys over their gifts had been a precious gift to each of the grown-ups. But something had to done about their oldest boy. Vin had been going non-stop since the Uncles' arrival and probably before that. He didn't envy Chris the job of calming Vin down enough to get him to bed tonight. As he felt himself drifting off to Vin's chattering, Josiah promised that next year he wouldn't bring the triple chocolate chunk brownies... or at least limit Vin to one or two.

Ezra stifled a laugh, as Vin zeroed in on him. His seven-year-old nephew had certainly had too much sugar or too much stimulation. He smiled as the boy continued his narrative without missing a beat. Mother would be appalled. That thought made him smile. Mother taught that children were to be seen and not heard. And sometimes they weren't even to be seen. Vin had been neither seen nor heard for far too long and it was refreshing to see his excitement, or it would have been if Ezra weren't so tired. Too many long days undercover seemed to be catching up with him. Or maybe it was the turkey. Whatever the case, he needed to remember not to bring Vin the Swiss chocolate next year.

Nathan chuckled as another one bit the dust. He rolled his eyes slightly as Vin turned his attention on him. The seven-year-old didn't seem to realize that the others had fallen asleep while he was chattering.

"Uncle Nathan, I was looking on the in'ernet and I found that..."

Nathan smiled at Vin's exuberance. The boy was normally so quiet that it was easy to forget he was in the room. Not today, however. Nathan yawned. Who had picked "It's A Wonderful Life" for their after dinner viewing? At least with a football game he'd stand a chance of staying awake. Oh, he knew it wasn't the turkey. Turkey did contain L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid with a documented sleep inducing effect. The body used L-tryptophan to produce the B-vitamin, niacin, which in turn, produced serotonin, a neurotransmitter that exerted a calming effect and regulated sleep. But, L-tryptophan needed to be taken on an empty stomach and without any other amino acids or protein in order to make you drowsy. So it wasn't the turkey. More likely it was the carbohydrates or simply increased blood flow to the stomach to help digest the big meal and less blood flow to the brain.

Whatever the cause, Nathan knew one thing: when he and Raine had kids, they were going to make sure they had plastic candy canes on the tree and sugar free cookies. The thought of Raine and the way they'd celebrate tonight when she got off work made him smile as he nodded off.

Chris smiled as he watched his son go from person to person talking non-stop. He hoped that Vin would wear out soon, because he didn't think he'd be able to outlast the boy. He and Buck had been up until the wee hours of the morning putting together the new bicycles and the Xbox. And then the boys had pronounced it Christmas morning shortly after six. But even with the short night, the day had been wonderful. Vin had been free flowing with his use of the word "Dad" today and that itself had made the day perfect. The seven-year-old hadn't called him Chris at all.

"Dad, I'm so glad Santa brought me the..."

Chris pulled the jabbering child into his lap wondering at his verbosity. Vin preferred being quiet, but today his words wouldn't stop. And Chris didn't mind all that much as long as the "Dad" word was involved. He rocked the chair gently, hoping that the motion would soothe Vin and lull him to sleep, but it had the opposite effect. Vin joined into the rhythm of the rocking motion as he talked and Chris was the one losing the battle to stay awake. He remembered thinking that this had been the best Christmas ever and then Morpheus claimed another victim.

None of them would have believed that it would take another 30 minutes for Vin to wind down if it hadn't been for the video camera inadvertently left on when Buck fell asleep. Watching the video later, they chuckled when it took Vin nearly five minutes to realize Chris was asleep and slip off his lap. The boy padded over to the pups, Ringo and Elvis, and sat down between them, telling them of everything that happened that day. He told of the bikes, the video games and various toys as well as everything they had for dinner. But the words that brought tears to the adults' eyes were uttered as the boy reclined, using the now sleeping Ringo for a pillow.

"And Dad called me "Son" lots of times today and it maked me feel so happy. He always says I's his son just like Adam, but I's always afraid I'm not. Today I knowed for sure that I'm his son. I love Dad and Buck and Uncle Ezra, and Uncle 'Siah and Uncle Nathan. And JD, too. And today was the bestest Christmas ever."

The boy's eyes closed and soon a soft snore was the only sound on the tape. A few minutes later the tape ended.

Buck sniffed and patted Chris on the shoulder. Chris said nothing, afraid that his voice would crack if he did.

"It would appear that Master Tanner was the last to fall," said Ezra with a smile.

Chris nodded. Vin was the last to fall in more ways than one. He was the last to fall asleep, but he was also the last one to let the protective walls fall away and truly accept that this was his family. It had taken a lot of work, but Vin finally believed that he belonged, that Chris was his father and that he was Chris's son.

Vin was right. This was the "bestest" Christmas ever.

The End