Disclaimer: The characters of "The Magnificent Seven" belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended
Author's Note: Thanks to J K Poffenberger for creating the LB universe and letting the rest of us play. This was initially an answer to an M7M challenge offered on 04 August 2003. A lot of people wanted more to the story and wondered what would happen, so… I’m laying the groundwork for this new addition to their family and then would love to see what others do with it since I’m sure Emma, Vin and JD will get into enough trouble to keep any set of peacekeepers on their toes.
Universe: Little Britches Plus One AU
Characters: Seven, plus one
Feedback: Email MMW
When they had agreed to take in the boys Chris had had a number of reservations. He’d had some fears and foreseen some problems. This had not been one of them. In fact, never in his wildest dreams could he have ever imagined finding himself in this position, yet, looking at the faces of those around him, he knew they were waiting for him to do something, to say something, to lead them. The expressions ranged from curiosity to amusement to pleading. None of this helped him with his question though. What were they going to do about this?
Buck couldn’t offer an answer. He saw the distress on Chris’ face, but had nothing to offer him. The truth was, he had never expected something like this. In fact, he couldn’t quite wrap is mind around the situation. He knew he should feel something, but he didn’t know what. He should have an opinion, but didn’t know what it should be. He had just been stunned completely speechless.
He knew what the boys wanted, knew what they would say if they thought they could. Of course, a part of him felt the same way, but would it be fair?
‘The Lord works in mysterious ways,' Josiah thought. He had seen some unusual things in his time, but he felt fairly certain this was one he wouldn’t have dreamt of in his wildest dreams. A part of him wanted to laugh at the stunned expressions on his friend’s faces, but he understood the seriousness of the situation. He understood what accepting this responsibility would mean. He understood the impossibility of the situation, yet a part of him hoped for the answer that he could so clearly read in young Vin and JD’s eyes. The question was, what would Chris decide?
Nathan wanted to laugh. Somehow since the boys had arrived on the orphan train the five lawmen had found themselves in one impossible situation after another. Nathan had always believed that when faced with the absurdities of life you could laugh or you could cry. In this instance he wanted to laugh, especially as he saw the looks on Buck and Chris’ faces. Oh, he understood the responsibility associated with this and knew his own responsibilities would be increased, but right now he just wanted to laugh. He looked at Chris, waiting for the answer to what would happen.
Ezra maintained his mask of indifference. The longer the silence dragged on, however, the more his anger rose to the surface. There could be only one answer to the question of what to do. Certainly Mr. Larabee saw that. If, however, Mr. Larabee came up with the wrong answer, he, Ezra Standish, would ensure the gunslinger saw the error of his ways. He kept a careful eye on the black clad gunslinger and waited with the rest, praying for the answer he knew to be correct. Praying the pleas writ large in Vin and JD’s eyes would not go unheeded.
JD was almost bouncing in place. He was so anxious for Chris to say yes. If Chris hadn’t told him to be quiet, he’d be begging for an answer of yes and promising whatever he had to. This was really important and JD knew the answer had to be yes. He knew it with all his heart. As he looked at the faces around him, he noticed that Vin no longer looked anxious. Chris’ face hadn’t changed, but for some reason Vin relaxed. JD smiled. Vin relaxed so it must be good news. He could always trust his cousin.
Vin relaxed. He knew Chris hadn’t realized it yet, but the gunslinger had reached a decision, the one Vin knew to be right. Looking down at the small baby they had found on the doorstep to the jail that morning. He thought about the note asking Chris and Buck to take good care of the little girl, Emma, because her parents couldn’t. He wanted a baby sister. Even if her mom and dad did come back for her he wanted a little sister. It was the only decision to make. He smiled and waited for Chris to realize his decision.
Looking down at the note in his hand once more, he read the words again.
Mr. Larabee and Mr. Wilmington,
We have heard about your generosity in opening your home to two small orphan boys. We have also asked and discovered you are excellent fathers and your fellow peacekeepers wonderful examples.
We are unable to keep Emma and were reluctant to leave her at an orphanage. We hope you will find it in your hearts to give her the same love and home you have created for the two boys.
God bless you both. Love our little Emma well, we know she is in good hands.
He stared at the letter. He knew in his heart they had to keep the young girl, but there were so many problems. The difficulty of their job as peacekeepers remained. That hadn’t changed and a part of him still felt it unfair to Vin and JD that he and Buck so frequently found themselves in harm’s way. What if something happened to them? What if their past came back and any of them got involved? Then there was the question of the house. They would have to add another room and if Emma got her own room then the boys would each want their own room. And then there was a problem of her needs. He could remember nights of disturbed sleep as Adam would wake in the middle of the night demanding to be fed. When had that stopped? How old was Emma? What about when she got older and needed to talk about … thing? Chris felt a small shudder course through him. Buck would have to handle that. After all, he had the most experience with such things and if he couldn’t maybe Mrs. Potter or Inez would step up. And boys? What about when she started sparking. He felt a protective flash of anger. No boy was going to put his hand on Chris Larabee’s little girl!
That pulled him up short. His little girl? When in the past five minutes had Emma become his little girl?
Now that the realization had hit him, Chris knew what his answer would be. His shoulders squared as his face cleared. “Boys,” he announced, looking at the six expectant faces, “we’re keeping her.”
Smiles broke out as well as laughter. Backs were slapped and congratulations were given. Joy washed over the men at the new addition to their makeshift family. Vin and JD were bent over the young girl when Vin noticed her begin to make a face in her sleep. “Dad, why is she making that face?” he asked.
Moving closer to the child to take a look, Chris bent over and saw the small wiggle. Suddenly memories of Adam as a child flooded back. He remembered that face and that wiggle. Suppressing a curse, he reached into the basket, hoping that the parents had left some extra diapers. Coming up with the square of cloth he noticed the other men begin backing a way, looking toward the door. They knew what the diaper meant and wanted no part of it. “You’re not going anywhere,” Chris admonished, staring at each of the men, freezing them in place. “I’m not going to be the only one doing this, so you’d best all learn how.” He watched carefully as the men’s shoulders slumped in resignation and they started moving closer. God he hoped he remembered how to do this. If he didn’t maybe Nathan did.
Looking down he saw two curious faces looking at him. Chris read the question in their eyes. “Emma’s going to need a diaper change soon,” he explained.
“I never seen a diaper change before,” JD said excitedly.
Vin smiled at his dad, wondering what adventure it would be. He positioned himself closer to Chris. He had just settled next to Chris’s leg when Emma let out a discontented cry.
Lifting the young girl up, Chris motioned for Buck to move the basket off the desk. Nathan grabbed a blanket and laid it out. Settling Emma on the blanket, Chris glanced at the healer and received a nod. Feeling a little more relaxed as he realized Nathan had his back in this, he began the process of changing the diaper.
“Eeeewwwwww!” JD called out, holding his nose as the smell assaulted him and taking a step back.
Vin wrinkled his nose but watched as Chris cleaned up his new sister. His brow furrowed slightly and he tugged on Chris’ sleeve.
“What Vin?” Chris asked, his attention focused on the task at hand.
“Dad,” he said in a quiet voice, “she don’t have a … you know…” His voice faded as his cheeks colored. His dad looked at him, puzzled about what was disturbing his son. Shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, Vin looked away and tried to think of a way to say it, “She don’t have a… for goin’…”
As what Vin was saying dawned on the men, smiles broke out and laughter was suppressed.
Stepping closer, JD looked as well. “Hey! Vin’s right! How’s she pee without…” JD was cut off as Buck’s hand clapped over his mouth.
Seeing his friends all laughing and knowing Vin would wait all day for an answer if he had to, Chris looked at the shaking shoulders of his best friend and fellow father. A wicked smile curved his lips as he said, “Well boys, I think Buck would be happy to explain the differences between girls and boys to you.”
Buck’s eyes grew wide as all desire to laugh instantly left him. He looked into the laughing green eyes of his oldest friend and tried to think of a reply. Looking around for help, he saw six very expectant faces looking at him, four were laughing, two were serious as they waited for his wisdom. Clearing his throat he thought about all he knew about women. Then he thought back to his time growing up and what he learned about girls.
Looking at the two small faces waiting for information, he tried to think about how much to tell them. At eight and six much of what he had to say wouldn’t apply. Then there was the added concern that JD would go ahead and repeat everything he said to the ladies around town. He felt his face color at the thought of JD repeating his words to Ms. Travis or Mrs. Potter.
“Well, Buck,” Chris teased, “We’re waiting.”
Buck cleared his throat, opened his mouth, shifted from one foot to another, closed his mouth and scratched the back of his head. The procedure was repeated several times before he finally had an inspiration. “Boys,” he said looking at JD and then Vin. “You know how there are momma dogs and daddy dogs, right?” Both boys nodded Buck smiled, maybe he would get through this yet. “You know that momma dogs… uh… look different than daddy dogs.” Again he received nods. “Well, the same holds true for people. Men and women are different. As for how girls, um… well… because they’re different, they need different… um… parts.” Smiling in relief at having gotten the explanation out, Buck stood and looked triumphantly at his fellow peacekeepers.
“Yeah, but …” JD began
“I think that’s enough learning for today,” Buck said quickly, trying desperately to change the subject. “So what do we feed the little darlin’?” he asked hastily.
This question quelled the laughter. Looking at Emma and then at each other, all eyes eventually rested on Chris and Nathan who happened to be standing next to each other. “What?” they asked simultaneously.
“Well, brothers,” Josiah said, “you would be the ones with the most expertise in this area.”
Nathan and Chris exchanged a quick glance, during which Chris indicated Nathan was on his own. “Well,” the healer said, rubbing his chin, “I reckon it depends.”
“Depends upon what, Mr. Jackson?” Ezra asked.
“Number of things,” Nathan replied. “Any idea how old she is?”
All the men shook their head. Vin piped up, “Does this say?” He held up a document. Even to his untrained eye it looked important and he was pretty sure one of the words was a date. He waited as Chris walked over and took the paper from him.
Taking the paper, Chris scanned it. “Emma Japhbeth Collins…” he mumbled aloud, reading his daughter’s full name. Scanning the birthdays, he grunted slightly. “Looks like she’s about fifteen months,” he said, returning the paper to the basket along with the note. Picking up the little girl, he held her and ran his finger along her lips until she opened her mouth and started sucking. “Got some teeth on her. Top and bottom.”
Nathan pursed his lips. “Mrs. Potter might be a better help, but I reckon by fifteen months, she’d be ‘bout split on real food and breast milk. Reckon we ain’t gonna be able to get her any breast milk, though. Her food’ll need to be all mashed up real well and it could be a while before she’s happy and settled. I’ll check her out and make sure she’s OK, but she’s most likely to be underfoot and maybe even startin’ ta walk.”
"Where's she going to sleep?" JD asked suddenly.
"And what about clothes?" Vin inquired.
"We'll take care of it, boys. One thing at a time," Chris advised, tucking the little girl on his hip and heading for the door. Vin rushed in front of him to open the portal, firing questions at the blond in the short spaces left by JD.
“Let the adventures begin," Josiah mused aloud, watching as the others grinned and nodded in agreement. Things were never boring, but they were just about to get more interesting.
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