The Most Special Day
Disclaimer: The characters of “The Magnificent Seven” belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc and are used here without permission. The Little Britches AU was created by JK Poffenberger and S Berry. No copyright infringement is intended.
Note: For the LB_AU list anniversary challenge
Characters: Chris, Vin
Rating: Suitable for all ages
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The Most Special Day
Though the sun had yet to peek over the horizon, Chris knew it was time to go. Moving as quietly as he could, he slipped into the house and moved to the small room shared by the boys. A smile played across his lips as he watched Vin and JD sleep. It had taken many months for Vin to relax enough to sleep through a check. Chris could still remember the blue eyes that met his each time the curtain was moved. The fact that the blond boy slept through the checks was one more victory in the struggle to become a family, a sign of trust.
Taking a few short steps, Larabee softly touched Vin’s shoulder. Seeing the blue eyes fly open, he put a finger to his lips, indicating for Vin to be silent.
Nodding his understanding, Vin quietly slipped out of the bed and into the clothes Chris held out for him. He wasn’t sure why his father had woken him up so early or why he was to be quiet, but he trusted the man enough to obey without protest.
As the two nearly-silent forms slipped outside, Vin was about to ask what was going on when Chris whispered, “When we get to the barn, I’ll tell you.”
Vin took in his father’s smile and the warm, joyful light in his hazel eyes and simply nodded, slipping his boots on and trotting after the man to the barn.
Reaching the barn, Vin took two steps inside before stopping and staring. Both his and his pa’s horses were saddled. There were full saddlebags slung across both animals and fishing poles as well. Turning to look at the man who had stopped in front of him, Vin couldn’t stop the smile that split his face, rejoicing at the identical one on his pa’s face. “We’re going fishing,” he stated.
A low chuckle escaped Larabee as he reached out to ruffle Vin’s hair. “That we are, son. Just the two of us.”
If possible, Vin’s smile grew even bigger. It was rare for him to be able to do something alone with just Chris. “Just the two of us,” he echoed softly, his joy radiating from his small face.
“We best get going, though, if we want to make it out of here without a Buck or JD sized shadow,” Chris advised.
Vin nodded and headed over to his horse, mounting swiftly and looking over toward his pa, waiting for Chris to take the lead.
“Let’s go,” Larabee directed, leading the way.
An hour and a half later found them sitting beside a small pool, lounging back in the sun with their poles sitting idly in the water.
“When did you find this place?” Vin asked, curious.
The pool was in a little, hidden glade. With no existing path to the spot, they had to make their own. There was a small stream that came in one side of the pond and trailed out of the other. It was a secluded spot, unlikely to be discovered by other humans. They had spotted some wildlife on their way in and Vin had quickly identified the various animal tracks in the soft soil by the pool.
Chris’ smile faded for a moment as he thought back to when he had first found the pool. Dark didn’t even begin to describe his state of mind that day, the first anniversary of Sarah and Adam’s death. He had gotten blind drunk, shot up the town, injured a few people and then staggered out to his horse. At some point he must have passed out and his horse had led him to the nearest water source, this small pool. When he awoke the next morning, his pain changed to hope momentarily as he took in the idyllic landscape and believe, just for a moment, he had made it to heaven to be reunited with his family. That hope, that dream, was cruelly destroyed when he rolled over into a pile of horse droppings
The headache and nausea that quickly followed his discovery of his horse’s presence further confirmed that he was still firmly on earth living his own private hell.
“Pa?” Vin’s worried voice interrupted Larabee’s dark memories.
Smiling at the boy who had brought sunlight and warmth back to his life, Chris replied, “Sorry, son. Just lost in thought.”
“Not a happy one?” young Tanner asked tentatively, already knowing the answer.
“No, Vin,” Chris confirmed. “Not a happy one.” Then, as if shaking off the cloak of memory, he stretched and answered, “But, since you’re here, this place will only have happy memories from now on.” The smile he received in return for this statement nearly blinded him, not just chasing away, but destroying any remaining darkness.
Vin was just about to say something else when he felt a tug on his line. His eyes snapping around to his pole, he cried excitedly, “I have one! I have a fish!”
With a little help from Chris, the boy quickly brought in a good-sized trout.
“Looks like you’ve caught our lunch,” Larabee congratulated and was rewarded with another beaming smile.
After a few more hours of fishing and exploring, the duo had settled in for lunch and then an afternoon nap, although neither of them was actually tired.
Lying on the blanket under a tree, Vin rested his head on his father’s stomach, lying perpendicular to the older blond. He relaxed as Chris absently ran his fingers through Vin’s locks. “Why’d we come here today?” Tanner asked, curious.
Chris smiled. “Today is the most special day of the year.”
“More special than your birthday?” Vin asked.
“Yep,” came the short reply.
“More special than Christmas?” the boy inquired.
A soft chuckle escaped the man. “Most definitely,” Larabee assured.
Frowning in concentration, Vin tried and failed to think of why today would be so special. Turning his head to face he father he asked, “What day is it?”
His smile and eyes softening with love for the young life lying so trustingly with him, he answered, “Today is the anniversary of the day you first called me ‘Pa’.” Smile broadening at the surprised blink he received in response, he continued, “You’d been with us a while before that, but it wasn’t until this day a year ago, when you called me ‘Pa’.” What he didn’t explain, but knew one day he would, was that the moment Vin called him ‘Pa’ a portion of his heart that had lay long dead was suddenly brought back to life. That caring for Vin, rather than being just an obligation, became a joy. That it was that one word that caused Chris to start looking beyond the current day and begin to hope and plan for the future. It was this day, one year ago, when he, Chris Larabee, began to live again. And all of this was due to one little boy loving him enough to claim him as father.
“I’m glad we had this special day, Pa,” Vin assured, smiling up at his father, his hero. He remembered that day, how scared he had been to actually say the word, but knowing it was right how it was finally time for him to admit that Chris was more than a caregiver to him, that he was family. “Can we celebrate again next year?”
Chris chuckled, causing Vin’s head to bounce up and down on his stomach. “Sure thing, pard,” he assured. “But we’ve still got some time to celebrate today. Sit up,” he directed before pushing himself into a sitting position. Glancing at the horses, he looked back into the trusting, loving blue eyes and observed, “Seems to me the horses have been standing around not doing much of anything for a while.” He easily read his son’s puzzled look and felt the corners of his mouth twitch upward. “What say we give them a little exercise?” he inquired. “I’m pretty sure I saw a nice, flat stretch of land just a little ways from here…” His sentence was cut off as Vin let out a joyful ‘whoop!’ and launched himself at Larabee, wrapping the man in a tight hug.
Loosening his hold slightly so he could look into his pa’s face, an impish expression appeared on young Tanner’s as he leaned back to meet his father’s eyes. “You sure you’re up to eating our dust?” he asked, a mischievous smirk playing across his lips.
“Eat your dust!” Larabee exclaimed in mock outrage, fighting a smile, and failing. “Why, Pony and I will be past you so fast you and Peso will be spinning in circles!”
Releasing his hold and rising to his feet, Vin taunted, “You sure that won’t rattle your old bones too much?”
Jaw dropping in shock at being teased by his normally quiet and respectful son, Larabee rose to his feet, his eyes narrowing even as he found it impossible to wipe the smile from his face. “Old bones!” he cried in mock indignation. “I’ll show you old bones!” With a quick snatch, he had Vin in his arms and began tickling the boy.
Their joyous laughter filled the glade, echoing across the landscape and dancing away on the wind on this, the most special day of the year.
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