Year's End, Year's Start
By KT  AU - LB~ATF (Future)

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.

Note: Betaed by Kerry. This ficlet is a direct sequel to 'Memories':-
"You okay bro?" Chris asked.

"Sure, 'course I'm okay, got something in my eye is all." Buck turned his head away, as he backhanded the tears away as fast as he could.

"Right. Come on, let's get back to the car."

Not waiting for an answer, Chris set out for the exit, trusting that Buck was following him. Being ahead of Buck also allowed him to pull out his phone and send Vin a quick voice text.


He might have typed it, but Vin would hear his voice speak the words when he picked up the message. Vin had set out to drive himself and his horse Jake to Texas two days ago, even with JD still home, the house felt empty. Now JD was on his way back to Boston, it was going to be even worse.

They drove in silence, until Chris turned off the highway early. 

"Where are you going?" Buck asked.

"We need a drink, you need a drink." Just then he pulled up outside a roadhouse.

"He's only seventeen, maybe I should have made him wait another year," Buck stated as he put his empty beer mug down. "That was the worst thing that happened all last year. Saying goodbye to him in that dorm room. I couldn't even hug him 'cause his new room mate was in there already." He looked up at Chris. "I mean …I didn't want to embarrass the poor kid, it's hard enough him being the youngest and kinda short."

"How can you say that your son starting at MIT on a full scholarship was the worst thing that happened last year?"

"Because he's not here, he's not right here were I can take care of him and protect him and see him smile and hear him laugh and I miss him - okay? I just miss him so bad it hurts sometimes. Don't tell me you don't feel the same about Vin? Or JD come to that, 'cause I miss Vin near as bad."

Chris opened his mouth to answer, then closed it again, taking a long pull on his beer instead. He remembered saying goodbye to Vin back in September. 
Since he wasn't yet on the Rodeo team he wasn't permitted to bring his own horse yet - though he's won his place the first time he tried out for the team - so with no horse to transport they 'd flow down to Texas. The dorm room was okay as dorm rooms went; after all they'd spent hours going through the college website and then visiting the campus to find a room Vin would feel comfortable in. It had to be roomy and airy. They had settled on a ground floor room with not only a window but a door directly to the outside. Yet, as he stood there, it looked so bleak, plain cream walls, unmade bed, empty closets and shelves, not even carpet on the floor, just tiles. What made it worse was that Vin was so excited. 

Vin being Vin, his excitement was near invisible to anyone but his family, but to Chris it was clear to see. If he'd shown even one moment of hesitation, he'd have said 'forget the scholarship, I'll put you through collage back in Denver, no matter what it costs'. The trouble was Vin wasn't showing any sign of doubt, quite the opposite. Since they were the first to arrive he got to pick the beds and chose the one under the window. He was already putting up posters before Chris had even dropped the second bag.

"Reckon I should get a rug, you know for by the bed?" he asked, as he finished putting up his prized classic Magnificent Seven film poster.

"Sure, since you never wear shoes in the house, you'll probably need it." Chris had never felt so redundant.
"You know something, you're right, that was positively the worst thing that happened last year," Chris admitted. 

With that he signalled to the waitress and ordered more beer and added Scotch to the order, two doubles. He downed his Scotch in one. 

"He doesn't need me anymore, he's got a full scholarship, a truck and a trailer, a horse that loves him, he's got girls following around like puppies and he's beginning to win money in rodeos. What does he need an old guy like me for? I need him but he doesn't need me." 

"JD's so smart he's got big corporations offering him cars and holidays and I don't know what everyday. He's gonna make more money than both of us put together the day he graduates." Buck downed his scotch and ordered two more. "All they need us for is to take care of their damn dogs."

"This is worse that having the Dawson case thrown out on a technicality," Chris commented.

"Worse that that RV ramming into the back of Ezra's new Jag," Buck added, downing some more beer while they waited for the Scotch.

"Even worse than that stray firework setting fire to the barn roof the day after the 4th!"

The Scotch arrived and they downed them in one. Just than Chris phone rang. "Hello?"

"Hi Dad, got your message."

"Oh, yes…well…"

"Don't worry I've reminded JD to call Buck when he lands… and Dad?"


"Love you too. Give Ringo a pat for me. Gotta go, got classes, bye!"

Chris closed his cell phone. "They'll be home for spring break."

"Most kids don't do that, they go off and party," Buck added with some pride. 

"Vin'll be back in a few weeks anyway, he's got check up appointment at the hospital."

"We can visit at Easter." 

"We've all got web cams." 

"They're turning into damn fine men."

"Men you'd want on your team, watching your back."

"Damn straight."

Chris held his phone out to Buck. "What?"

"Call your wife."

"Kerry - why?"

"'Cause I wanna go home and we're drunk."

"Oh, yeah, good idea."

The End