Rating: K - Intended for general audience 5 years and older. I'm switching over to these 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.
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.
Little Britches ATF Universe
Chris slowly climbed out of his truck, his body aching, his eyes gritty from lack of sleep.
"Hi, Chris!" JD yelled out from across the yard.
Wincing, Chris turned that way, to see JD and Vin tussling with the two dogs. It looked like the dogs were winning. The kids' clothes were filthy, their faces flushed with pleasure.
Vin looked up at him then, his light eyes searching his face diligently. The young boy pushed the dogs off him and said something to JD before he started towards him.
Chris waited for him to come, leaning against the Ram's hood.
Walking up to him, Vin's gaze raked him up and down, finally meeting his eyes. "What's wrong?" he asked, sounding older than his years.
Smiling sadly, Chris ruffled his hair. He frowned when Vin ducked away. "Nothing," Chris answered.
Vin's eyes narrowed, his face darkening. "Don't look like nothin'."
Raising his eyebrows, Chris stared down at him.
Shrugging, Vin said unapologetically, "You look like something the cat drug in."
Chris laughed at the little boy's imitation of Buck. He sobered quickly. "I'm fine, Vin. Just..." Chris sighed deeply, "been a long day." He motioned his hand in front of him. "You know." He shrugged.
Vin nodded wisely, a 'been there' look on his face. "Tired?"
"Yeah," Chris told him, the corner of his mouth turning up in a half smile.
"Sore?" Vin asked.
Wilting, Chris kneeled down in front of his foster son. "How'd you guess?" He held his arms out, Vin immediately walking into them for a hug.
"Could just tell, is all," Vin said, his voice muffled against Chris' shoulder.
Chris held him out at arms length. "You're a very perceptive young man."
Vin cocked his head. "What's that mean? I can percept things?"
Chuckling lightly, Chris squeezed the boy's shoulders. "Means you can tell things. Figure things out quickly, correctly. Means..." Chris' brow furrowed. "Not exactly sure what it means," he laughed. "A good judge of character." He shrugged and smiled. "Heck, Vin. It's a good thing."
"Okay." Vin nodded.
"Chhhrrriiiiiss!" JD's high-pitched voice squealed loudly a second before Chris was knocked to the ground, a grinning five year old sitting on his chest. The dogs quickly followed and Chris was on the bottom of a wriggling pile.
"Enough!" Vin yelled in his best 'adult' voice.
Everyone, dog and human alike, turned to stare at him wide eyed.
Vin pursed his lips as he glared down at them. "Chris is tired. He don't feel good."
JD's bottom lip quivered. "I'm sorry, Chris," he whispered hoarsely as he started to scoot off Chris' chest.
Chris sat up. "Hold on a second there, little bit," he said, grabbing onto JD.
JD squirmed. "No, I'll hurt you."
Chris hugged him tight to his chest, trying to block the dogs renewed efforts to lick him to death. "It's okay, JD. I'm okay. Just tired is all." Chris looked up at Vin, his expression stern. He cocked his head towards JD and mouthed, 'Now, Vin.'
Vin sighed, kicking his toe in the dirt. "I'm sorry, JD. It's okay if you play with Chris. I was just trying to help."
"And I appreciate that, Vin." Chris smiled. "You're both good sons."
JD's face brightened. "We are, Chris. We's really good. And you know what? We helped Mrs. Potter make supper. You know what it is? Rav-olies. That's those little square things in s'getti sauce. I really like 'em. You can stab them with your fork and they don't fall off. Well, sometimes they do. And they make a plop sound. I like that sound. But then s'getti sauce goes all over and Buck gives me that look." He bugged his eyes out. "You know, that look he gives me when I'm making trouble."
Chris laughed, knowing the look only too well.
"Anyway," JD smiled at him. "We was good today." His dark little gaze went from Vin and then quickly back to Chris. "We didn't do nothing wrong. Not once." He cleared his throat and looked down at his dirty hands clasped in his lap.
Blinking, Chris glanced over at Vin.
Vin swallowed hard. "Yeah." He held his palms out. "All good."
Chris shook his head as he stared up at the sky. "What am I going to find out about later?"
"Oh, nothing, Mr. Chris!" JD answered adamantly. "Vin said there's no way you could find out about it."
Vin growled deep in his throat as he glared daggers at the younger boy.
Chris pursed his lips, trying to hide his grin as he looked over at his son. "Vin?"
Shifting his stance, Vin cleared his throat before sighing deeply. "We was only trying to help."
"You were?" Chris was careful to make the words sound like a question and not an accusation.
"Yeah." JD's earnest little face looked up at him. "We thought Mrs. Potter needed some help."
"You did?" Raising his eyebrows, Chris looked from one boy to the other.
Vin rolled his eyes, his breath coming out in a long-suffering sigh. "We pulled weeds around the house and next to the barn."
Chris looked around, blinking rapidly at the scene that greeted him.
"Yeah, but, we figured out that they weren't really weeds, that they was flowers. But they sort of look like weeds. Except that they have flowers on them," JD clarified. "But dandi-lines look like flowers, but they's really weeds." He shrugged helplessly. "How do you know?"
Hiding a laugh, Chris looked away while he composed himself. "So what happened?" He looked back at both boys, his gaze finally resting on Vin.
"Well, we had the weeds all in a big pile when we decided they weren't really weeds after all. So," Vin shifted and shrugged one shoulder, "we planted them all back just the way they was. Mrs. Potter didn't even notice when she came out to get us for our snack."
"She didn't?" Chris asked, wondering if the housekeeper was just trying to be nice. There was no way that someone would miss the poor wilted flowers that lined the front porch and circled the edge of the corral. Chris couldn't believe now that he'd missed them when he first got home. He must be even more tired than he'd thought, or losing his detective skills rapidly.
JD clapped his hands. "Yep, good as new."
Chris nodded. "But, you know what? I bet, if the three of us worked really hard, we could maybe get them planted back into the ground a little better. And then give them a good watering. Make sure that they're gonna be all right."
JD's face darkened. He pursed his lips, his bottom lip jutting out in a pout. "But we did a good job."
Vin saved him. "But, JD, Chris is probably right. We did do it sort of fast. We could do it again, better."
Sighing, JD looked down at his hands. "But I already did it once. And," he huffed out a sad breath, "they really did look like weeds."
Chris patted him on the butt as he stood, JD reluctantly standing up next to him. "It won't take long. We'll be done before supper. Done before Buck gets home."
Vin stared up at Chris. "But you're tired. Don't feel good."
"Ah," Chris smiled down at him, "I'm never too tired for you guys."
"Never?" JD asked, his small face squinting up at him. "But, remember, that one time, you were tired and you went... Oh, no, wait, that was me." He smiled sheepishly. "Nevermind."
Vin rolled his eyes and Chris barked out a laugh. "You're priceless, JD." He hugged him up against his knee.
"That means I don't got a price tag on me." JD looked over at Vin, his little face smug.
"Means we can't pay no one to take you." Vin poked him in the ribs, making him squeal.
JD laughed. "That ain't true, is it Chris?" He pushed Vin away with a jab at his stomach.
Chris looked from JD to Vin. "You're both priceless," he said, pulling JD away from Vin when the older boy tickled him under his arms. He started them walking towards the shed and the planting materials.
"Even though we pulled out all the flowers?" Vin looked up at him, his voice hesitant, his eyes pleading.
JD, his smile gone, his eyes bright, looked up at him also.
Chris' brow furrowed as he pursed his lips, glancing around at the wilted wildflowers, some planted too far into the dirt, so only the tops were visible, and some just laying on top of the soil, their roots still in the air. He sighed and looked down at his sweet little boys, who looked up at him imploringly. "Well," he shrugged, cocking his head as he smiled at them. "They *do* look like weeds," he said, and wisely kept the 'now' to himself.
August 22, 2005
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