May not be suitable for all readers.

Rating: T - Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.  I'm switching over to these Fiction Ratings.  Fiction Ratings.

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish and MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes.

Warning: Very dark story. Bad language.

AU: Little Britches ATF Universe

Author's Notes: I'd like to thank K. Poffenberger and S. Berry for creating the Little Britches AU. Thanks to all of the wonderful LB authors who've really made this AU a lot of fun to read.

Okay, another therapy story. ;) I read basically this premise on a webpage, I can't remember where, but it was a real story. I elaborated on it. It really bothered me so I did what I usually do - I wrote it into a story. The story idea is VERY dark. A child dies. And there is really bad language. A huge thank you to my Mom for reading it over for me. I don't write a lot of LB stories, so I really hope this is okay.

 

I Just Thought

Little Britches ATF Universe

By: Ruby

 

"Hey, Chris." Buck stuck his head in the door. "The rest of the guys are gone. I'm gonna head out. I'll tell the boys that you'll be home as soon as you..." Buck's voice drifted off when he saw how pale his best friend was.

Larabee had his office phone up to his ear. Grim-faced, he spoke softly into it before quietly hanging it up. 

"Chris?"

Wiping a trembling hand over his face, Chris slumped into his seat, staring at his desk blotter.

"What's going on?" Buck's throat tightened. He took a quick step forward. "Is it the boys?"

Chris darted his eyes up to Buck's. "No," he reassured quickly. "No-" his voice broke and he shook his head, looking down.

"Damn it, Chris, what in the hell is going on?"

Shaking his head hard, Chris suddenly straightened in his chair, his demeanor taking on a professional tone.

Buck watched the transformation from Chris Larabee-friend, to Chris Larabee-ATF Group Supervisor. 

Chris looked up at him, his eyes glinting. "An hour ago, Jack Matthews six year old son shot himself to death with Jack's police issue."

"Jesus," Buck hissed out as he dropped into the chair in front of Chris's desk. "Oh, Jesus. The boys hang out together. Hell, we've been to their house. Oh, God. Laura." Leaning forward, Buck scrubbed his hands through his hair before looking back up at Chris. "But we just saw Jack a few hours ago. He was on stakeout. He was going home for a couple of hours to catch some sleep and then he was going to take Jim Asner's seven o'clock shift because Jimmy's got the flu."

Chris slowly nodded. He swallowed hard. "Jack went home. He laid down on the couch. Since he had to get right back up, he didn't lock up his gun, just tucked it under the couch cushion and went to sleep. He didn't think Laura or Garrett would be home until after he went back to work. Garrett was supposed to have a ball game tonight but it was cancelled. Laura brought Garrett home after school. Garrett found the gun, turned it around and shot himself in the face." His voice raw, Chris swallowed twice.

Open-mouthed, Buck shook his head in mute horror.

Chris turned his gaze to the wall, his eyes glazed, his thoughts far away.

"Oh my god," Buck breathed out, unbelieving. 

The two sat in silence.

"Jesus Christ," Buck groaned. "The boys were in school with Garrett today."

"I know." Chris wiped his face roughly. "Fuck. How are we going to tell them?"

Buck shook his head and shrugged helplessly. "I don't know but we better make sure that they hear it from us in stead of someone at school."

Chris pushed away from his desk, glancing down at the unfinished report. He walked over to get his coat. "Let's go."

Buck nodded. "I'll call Gloria on the way and give her a heads up, make sure the boy's don't get any calls, or watch the news."

Chris nodded once. "Good thinking." And then they both hurried out of the office.

*****

"Why did you get in a fight, Vin?" Chris gently prodded his son.

Vin ducked his head, his bottom lip trembling. He looked up. "Joe Peterson said that Garrett's dad killed him," he whispered.

Chris gasped. "That's not true. What happened was an accident. And no one feels worse than Garrett's mom and dad."

Vin nodded. "I know."

"So...?" Chris hedged.

Swallowing hard, Vin looked up at Chris with red-rimmed eyes. "Joe said that anybody who has a gun is a murderer. I told him nuh uh, not policemen. I told him that you and Buck have guns and you're good guys. You help people. But then he said that his mom said that people shouldn't be able to have guns. And anybody that had a gun in their house didn't love their kids and wanted them to die."

Hissing out a sharp breath, Chris leaned forward, pulling Vin into a hug. "That's just not true, Vin. There are people out there who hurt people with guns. But there's more that use guns as a means of protecting people, or themselves. It's not the gun, Vin. It's the person. And people are individuals." Chris sighed. "What happened to Garrett was an accident. Jack *always* locks his gun up. It was just one time. One time, Vin. And he's going to have to live with it forever."

"I know." Vin sighed. "Mr. Matthews loved Garrett a lot. He even cheered for Garrett at the baseball games, and Garrett was really, really bad at baseball." He shook his head sadly. "But," he swallowed hard, "Mr. Matthews didn't care. He even cheered for Garrett when he was on the bench. He loved him a lot. And Mrs. Matthews did too. She always sent extra cupcakes on her goodies day. I think she knew that it was hard being the 'new kid' and wanted Garrett to be liked." Vin sniffed, tears running down his face.

Chris rubbed Vin's head.

"I miss him. He sat with me'n JD at lunch." Vin shook his head. "JD won't talk about it. He's acting like it didn't happen. He said that it's not true, that Garrett's just gone for a while and will be back. But it's been two weeks, and he still doesn't believe it's true. Every time I try to tell him... to ex-plain it to him... he just puts his hands over his ears and starts to hum." Vin sighed. "You know how JD is."

Smiling sadly, Chris nodded. "Yeah." He patted Vin on the back. "Buck and I will talk to him."

"Thanks," Vin said softly, as he looked up at Chris with shining eyes.

Chris pulled him in close and kissed the top of his head. "Why don't you start working on your homework in here until we call you for supper."

"Bu-"

Chris looked at him sternly. "Consider it your punishment for fighting. What have I said about that?"

"That fighting isn't the answer," Vin recited.

"And what is?"

Vin looked up at him, his eyes twinkling. "JD?"

Chris rolled his eyes and smirked. He put his hand on his hips in mock frustration. "Now how is 'JD' the answer?"

Vin shrugged. "You can just put JD in front of them and let him dazzle them with... baloney," he changed his word quickly when he saw Chris' eyes narrow.

Rolling his eyes again, Chris stood up from the side of the bed. "Get your homework done." He ruffled Vin's hair affectionately.

"Thanks, dad."

Chris swallowed the lump that that word always gave him. "Anytime, son." And he was gone.

*****

"Hey, big dog, I think we've figured out why JD got over Garrett's death so quick and seemed uncaring," Chris said softly as he walked up next to Buck, who was in charge of supper for the evening.

"Oh yeah?" Buck lowered his voice, as he stood stirring the shells and cheese noodles into the boiling water. 

JD was sitting at the table, oblivious to them as he happily worked on his math homework.

"Vin told me that JD doesn't think Garrett's really dead. That he thinks he's going to be coming back to school," Chris explained.

Buck looked over at him sharply. "How can he think that? It's been two weeks."

Chris shrugged. "You know JD. Sometimes he wants something to be a certain way, so he just believes it is."

"Yeah." Buck nodded slowly. "I can see that." Then he shook his head. "But we talked about it. JD and I talked about this. A couple of times. I asked him if he understood and he said he did."

Chris shrugged helplessly. "I don't know, pard. But we better talk to him."

"Yeah," Buck agreed, glancing over at his little boy. "God I'd rather face down a bunch of gunrunners than do this. We'll talk to him." He swallowed hard. "But after supper?"

"Okay..." Chris smiled sadly. "After supper."

*****

"JD?" Buck and Chris sat with the little boy at the kitchen table. The dishes had been cleaned and Vin sent back to his room.

"Yeah?" JD looked up from where he was destroying his used napkin.

Chris and I need to talk to you about Garrett.

His face paling slightly, JD squeezed his eyes closed and then opened them. "What about him?" he asked jovially.

Chris glanced at Buck. 

Buck shook his head wordlessly.

Chris cleared his throat. "JD, Garrett had an accident. You know that, right?"

"No he didn't." JD started pulling the napkin apart. "Garrett's fine."

"No, son." Buck reached over and gently pulled the napkin from JD's small hands and then squeezed them in comfort. "Garrett's not coming back, JD. He had an accident and..." He coughed.

"He's not dreaming with angels." JD shook his head adamantly. "He's not."

"Yes, son." Chris scooted his chair closer. "He is. Garrett died, JD. He's not coming back."

"Yes he is." JD's voice cracked as it got louder.

Chris and Buck shook their heads hopelessly.

JD pounded his fists against the table underneath Buck's grasp. "Garrett's daddy wouldn't kill him. It's just not true. I know it's not true. So Garrett's not dead. He's not."

"JD," Chris sighed. "Garrett's dad didn't kill him. I think you've been listening to the same boy that Vin has been. Mr. Matthews accidentally left his gun out. He would have normally never done it. It was just a..." He shook his head as he put his palms out. "It was a..."

Buck smiled sadly. "It was just an accident. We can't explain it any better than that. Mr. Matthews didn't think anyone was going to be home. He was only going to be there for a couple of hours so he thought he could just hide the gun, wouldn't have to take the time to lock it up and then get it right back out when he got up to go back to work."

"But Garrett got it?" JD looked up at them, for the first time the truth starting to register.

"Yes, son. Garrett found the gun," Buck said gently.

JD shook his head in denial. "But Garrett wouldn't play with it. I know he wouldn't. He knows not to touch a gun. Mr. Matthews told him, Garrett told us so."

Chris sighed. "Sometimes kids are curious, JD. Maybe Garrett saw it and wondered how it worked. We don't know." 

Pouting, JD shook his head. "He wouldn't. He wouldn't. He wouldn't!" he yelled the last word. He started to jump down to run.

Buck scooped him up and held him on his lap. 

JD sobbed into Buck's shirt.

Chris patted JD's shoulder.

Buck soothed him with soft words and a gentle hand rubbing his back. "Easy, easy, little bit. Easy, son. It's going to be okay."

JD stopped crying instantly, his sobs ending with a hiccup. He sat up, glaring at Buck. "No it's not going to be okay. It's not." 

"I know," Buck tried to appease. "I didn't mean that. I meant you're going to be okay."

"But Garrett's dead," JD told him, as silent tears started running down his cheeks.

"I know, son." Buck hugged him. "I know."

JD looked down. "I know Mr. Matthews didn't mean to kill him. I don't care what Joe says. Mr. Matthews..." he gulped.

Chris leaned in, his voice stern. "Now you listen to me, JD. Vin told me what Joe's mom said. About how anybody who has a gun wants their kids to die."

Buck gasped, not having heard this before.

JD looked up at Chris, nodding. "Vin punched him in the nose," he said approvingly.

Buck snorted. "Yeah, uh... well..."

"Vin and I had a talk about that and it won't happen again," Chris scolded slightly.

"Oh," JD said, wide eyed.

"I explained this to Vin, JD, and I'll tell you too," Chris said. "Guns are a tool. They can be used for harm and then can be used to protect people. Mr. Matthews used his gun to protect people. He never meant for Garrett to find it. It was the first time he didn't lock it up. It was a mistake. An accident. But that doesn't make all people who have guns in their houses bad, or mean that they don't love their kids."

"Chris and I have guns, JD," Buck told him. "When we come home from work we lock them up. We want you boys to be safe, but we also need to have a gun in our line of work. We can't just keep it at the office; it has to be with us. But we work hard to make sure that you boy's would never have access to it. Never."

"And what have we told you about guns, JD?" Chris asked sternly.

"Don't touch them. If we see a gun we tell an adult. We don't touch it." JD's face scrunched up in confusion. "But Tommy Hayes goes hunting with his dad. He gets to hold a gun."

"And that's Tommy Hayes, JD. Every family has to make that decision. The Hayes are into hunting, so they teach their children gun safety," Buck explained.

"Buck and I made a decision that if we teach you boys about guns, it will be when you're older. But that doesn't mean that Tommy's dad's wrong and we're right. We're both doing what we think is best," Chris told him.

"We love you boys. We want you to be safe. Just like Mr. and Mrs. Matthew loved Garrett. They wanted him to be safe and they practiced gun safety in their house, it was just an accident." Buck rubbed JD's back.

Patting JD on the knee, Chris said, "Mr. Matthews isn't a horrible person. He made a bad judgement call. And he lost his son. He'll never be the same."

"He's sad." JD nodded his head. "Maybe me and Vin could go tell Mr. Matthews how much Garrett loved him. That would make him feel better."

Chris nodded. "You could. But not right now. It's best, I think, if we leave Jack and Laura, Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, alone for a while."

Buck was silent. He swallowed hard. "Yeah, JD..." he agreed distractedly. He glanced at Chris, looking thoughtful.

Chris stared at him. 

"It's been a couple of weeks, Chris," Buck told him. "Sometimes staying away is the worst thing we can do. We're at the point where all the well wishers have gone and it's just the two of them now. Jack's not back to work," he said, and then added under his breath, "if he ever will be." He shook his head, looking determined. "I know for a fact they don't have family around. Let's see what we can do."

Sighing, Chris just shook his head. "I don't know, Buck."

Buck's face hardened. "Jack and Laura are friends. They need their friends right now."

After a moment, Chris nodded hesitantly. "Make the call."

*****

The Ram pulled up in front of a condo. 

"Hey, this isn't where Garrett used to live." Vin looked around in confusion. 

Buck turned in his seat to look back at the boys. "Mr. and Mrs. Matthews are renting this condo for a while. They're going to sell their house."

"'Cause it reminds them?" JD asked sadly.

"Yeah, JD," Chris said, looking into the rear-view mirror.

The four slowly got out of the truck and trudged up the stairs to knock on the door.

*****

Laura Matthews answered the door, letting the four of them in. Her face worn and her eyes red-rimmed, she swallowed hard, purposely not looking down at the two little boys. She shut the door behind them and then they stood in the foyer awkwardly.

"Chris, Buck," she greeted them, letting them both give her a quick hug. "Thanks for coming."

"Laura." Buck kissed her on her cheek after he hugged her.

She shook her head. "I was surprised to get your call. But..." She looked up at them. "It's nice to see you..." she said hesitantly.

JD reached up and took her hand in his. "Mrs. Matthews?" he said, frowning when she didn't look down at him. He grasped Vin's hand with his other before looking back up at her. "Me and Vin..." he stalled.

Buck and Chris stood, tense, watching.

JD swallowed hard. "Me and Vin wanted," he paused uncomfortably as he was ignored, "to tell you... that..."

And then Laura dropped, falling onto her knees, instantly pulling both boys to her, hugging them, while she cried, gut-wrenching sobs.

JD and Vin just grasped onto her, holding her as tight as they could. 

She sat down, pulling them onto her lap, rocking.

"What's going on?"

They all looked up to find Jack in the kitchen doorway. He was staring down at his wife and the two little boys.

Buck walked towards his friend.

Jack instantly took a step back.

Vin pried his way out of Laura's hold, leaving JD there. Walking up to Buck, he reached up and took his hand, standing at his side.

Jack stared down at Vin and then up at Buck. "What are you doing here, Wilmington?" he asked, his voice rough.

Chris walked forward, so he was standing off to the side, but close.

"The boys wanted to tell you something. And we thought you needed company. Shouldn't be alone." Buck defended.

Jack scoffed, glancing over at Chris and then back. "Well, you're the only ones. After the funeral no one's been back. They were all here. And now there all gone. It's like we're pariahs."

Laura walked over, holding JD on her hip.

"You're not a piranha, Mr. Matthews," JD told him sweetly.

Jack barked out a laugh. He snorted, shaking his head. Tears leaked out of his eyes and he roughly wiped them away. Turning away, he dropped his head while his shoulders shook in silent sobs.

Vin rushed up to him, running around to his front and grabbing him around his legs, he squeezed him as tight as he could. He didn't say anything, just stayed close.

Jack reached down and picked Vin up. "Unf!" He grunted. "You're getting big, Vin," he told him. And then Jack held him tight, Vin's head on his shoulder, while he cried.

Vin hugged Jack's neck, crying also.

Jack walked over and dropped down on the couch, positioning Vin off to his side, with his arm around Vin's shoulders.

JD immediately climbed down from Laura's hold, and then pulled her over to the couch, pushing her down to sit next to Jack, and then clamoring up onto her lap, sitting on one of Jack's legs and one of hers.

Buck and Chris took seats in the chairs across from them.

Chris pulled his handkerchief out of his back pocket and tossed it at Jack, who caught it with an appreciative look. 

Buck picked up the Kleenex box from the coffee table and sat it on Laura's lap. JD instantly started pulling tissues out and handing them to her.

Wiping his eyes roughly, Jack, took in a couple deep breaths and let them out. He glanced over at Laura and she looked at him. He tentatively reached his other arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.

She cried softly into his shoulder, while JD patted her face sweetly, muttering soothing words.

"You're the first one's who's come," Jack said softly as he looked over at Chris and Buck. "It's just been Laura and I for two weeks." He shrugged and looked away. "And it hasn't been easy."

Laura wiped her eyes and looked up, her cheeks chapped. "Jack and I..." she glanced over at him, silently asking permission. He gave her a grave nod. She swallowed hard. "Jack and I haven't been getting along. This is the first time we've talked to each other in... a few days."

Chris winced. 

Buck leaned forward, patting her gently on the knee.

"I..." Jack looked away. "I don't know how..." He sniffed, swallowed hard. Vin hugged him and Jack squeezed him back. "I don't' know how she..." He glanced at Laura, keeping eye contact with her. "I don't know how you can forgive me."

She shook her head as she cried. "There's nothing to forgive, Jack. I love you. We loved Garrett. You loved Garrett. It was just an accident."

"No," he said, looking away. "It never should have happened. But..." he shook his head. "I thought you guys were gone. I was just going to take a quick nap, and then head back to work. I didn't think I would need to lock the gun up. I never thought Garrett would be here, would find the gun. I just thought you were gone. I just... thought..."

Laura pulled Jack's arm from around her shoulders and then grasped his hand, pulling it up to her heart. JD leaned forward and then turned to watch them. "It's my fault Jack," she told him, her voice husky.

"What?" he squeaked incredulously.

She nodded, tears running down her face. "I'm the one that brought Garrett home. He didn't have that game, so we came home. I saw you sleeping in there, saw you in your work clothes, saw the empty holster. I just... thought... I guess I assumed the gun was locked up. You *always* lock it up."

Jack turned gray.

She pulled him closer. Holding his hand under her chin, her tears falling on it. "I'm not blaming. I'm just saying. I assumed the gun was locked up. I never thought..."

They stared at each other.

He tugged his hand out of her grasp and then gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. "It's not your fault, honey. Never. I never thought it was your fault." He sniffed. "It's my fault. My..." he paled. "I killed him."

"No you didn't!" Vin told him from beside him. He scooted up so he was on his knees, closer to being eye to eye. "You loved Garrett, Mr. Matthews, and he loved you. He loved you so much." He grabbed onto Jack's hand from where his arm had dropped when Vin moved. He held it tight. "It was an accident. It was an accident," he repeated, softer. "You were always careful, Buck and Chris said so. You never, never would have wanted anything like this to happen."

JD nodded, looking from Laura to Jack. "Garrett loved you lots," he confirmed.

Jack sighed, glancing at Laura and then away. "I don't know..." he sighed again, deeper, sounding lost. "I don't know how to go on, to keep living. It would be so much easier..." he gulped, slumping his shoulders in shame.

"No!" Laura cried out, grabbing Jack's chin and pulling his face around to look at her. "Don't you even talk like that Jack Matthews! I love you. I love you!" She pulled him close and they both cried. "We're going to get through this," she told him. She leaned back, her hand lovingly caressing his cheek. "We lost Garrett, we're not going to lose each other. I love you."

"I love you, too," he gulped out and hugged her. 

"We love you, too," JD supplied happily, joining in the hug.

Jack and Laura both laughed, pulling away and giving the kids individual hugs. Then they both grabbed tissues and cleaned themselves up.

Sitting silently for a moment the four adults and two children stared at each other.

A loud gurgling growl broke the silence. JD slapped both hands on his stomach as he grinned sheepishly. "My tummy's hungry." He looked out from beneath his bangs.

Everyone laughed, the tension relieved for a moment.

Laura hesitated. "I'd make something... but..." she sniffed. "We haven't been eating too well lately. We haven't wanted to go out and get groceries."

Chris leaned forward. "Buck and me'll go get pizzas."

Laura smiled, her eyes thankful.

"And while we're out," Buck added, "we'll stop and get some staples."

Nodding, Jack sniffed, his eyes wet.

"Why do we need staples, Buck?" JD asked. 

The adults laughed. 

JD glanced over at Vin. 

"I guess they're gonna staple some things?" Vin told him, shrugging helplessly.

That just made the adults laugh harder.

"We're going to get bread and milk and eggs, stuff like that. That's staples. Things you need. Necessities," Buck clarified.

"Cookies." JD widened his eyes. "Cookies are staples." 

"Yeah," Vin agreed. "Have to have cookies."

"Brownies," JD added. "Brownies should be staples too."

"Yeah..." Vin breathed out. "They should."

Chris and Buck stood. 

Jack stood also, leaving Vin to scoot closer to Laura and lean into her.

Pulling out his wallet, Jack started to take out some cash. 

Buck waved him off. "That's what friends are for," he told Jack as he pulled him into a Buck-hug. 

Jack sniffed, patted Buck on the back and then stepped away. 

Chris reached his hand out, and Jack shook it. 

"Thanks, guys," Jack said, his voice gruff. 

Chris smiled, cocked his head towards Buck. "What he said."

They looked down at Laura and the boys.

"We'll be right back, guys," Buck told them. 

JD and Vin nodded.

"We'll watch a video." Laura smiled up at them, some of the paleness and lines gone from her face.

Buck smiled sadly at her, knowing how hard that would be. He turned to go, Chris at his side.

"Wait!" JD's small voice stopped them in their tracks. "I have a question." They turned around to find the five year old staring at them inquisitively.

"Yeah, JD?" Buck winked

His brow furrowed, JD asked, "Are staples staples?"

They all barked out a laugh.

"'Cause, sometimes you need to staple things," JD continued obliviously, "and you need staples to staples things, cause if you don't have staples then you're just making little squeezie marks on the paper. So you need staples, so staples would be staples, right?"

"We'll be right back, JD." Buck rolled his eyes, grinning.

JD's voice followed them all the way out the door.

"...so staples are staples. And Crayons are staples, too!" he yelled at the closing door, smiling happily.

 

October 25, 2006

 

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