Title: From My Home.
Author: Lopaka Tanu
Disclaimer: I do not own The Magnificent Seven or Without A Trace.
Characters: Chris, Casey, Mary, Billy.
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven/Without A Trace
Sequel To: Guess The World Didn't Stop.
Summary: Someone's birthday is celebrated at the ranch.
Author's Note: Summer - 1999
Chris stood in the window of his home office. Through it, he could see Billy playing with the other kids, all twenty of them. What he had been thinking when he agreed to host the youngster's birthday here at the ranch, he couldn't really say.
After a sigh, he took a sip of the whiskey from the glass he held. The tumbler had been a gift for their third anniversary from Sarah. He rarely used it any more. Too long had it been since he had last needed it.
He glanced down at the glass and frowned. It was almost as much a surprise to himself as it was to everyone else that he hadn't turned to drinking after Vin's... Unlike when he lost Sarah and Adam, there hadn't been the need to lose himself.
Chris just hadn't been able to do it.
Grimacing, he turned to set the glass on his desk. He paused when he found someone standing in the doorway. Chris had thought he was alone in the office.
Her hand on the doorway, Casey watched him with wide eyes. "We were wondering when you were going to come out. They want to serve the cake."
"All right." Putting the tumbler on a coaster, he nodded for her. "I'll be there in just a second."
She gave him a tight smile. "I've wanted to tell you, I miss him too. But Aunt Nettie said to wait for a good time." Shrugging, she looked around his office. "Now's a good time, I think."
"Yeah." There wasn't anything else he felt like saying. He waited until the moment became uncomfortable enough for her to leave before looking back to the window. It wasn't anything special, but this was his place. Chris felt that he belonged here.
Arms crossed over his chest, Chris leaned against a post. At the back of the crowd, he watched as Billy closed his eyes and made a wish. For a moment, he saw another boy doing the very same thing.
Billy opened his eyes and hurriedly blew out the candles. His lips puttered as he spent the rest of his breath on the last three. Wheezing, he shook his head and smiled. "I did it!"
"What did you wish for?" It was one of the multitude of kids gathered around the table.
Shaking his head, Billy put a finger to his lips. "I can't tell you, it won't come true!"
Laughs rose up from the adults.
Rolling her eyes, Mary settled her hands on Billy's shoulders. "Time to cut your cake. Which piece do you want?" She chuckled as he pointed to the Yellow figure at the center of the cake. "Of course." Raising her eyes, she found Chris watching them. Her smile grew as their eyes met.
Looking down, Chris let his smile drop. All the noise of the party started to fade away. Pushing off the post, he turned and headed out towards the barn. There would be riding later on and he needed to get the three nice horses ready.
Vin's horse was still waiting in the stall, watching him. Chris let the ornery beast out to roam, but never saddled him. On the good days, when it would let him near it, he would wash and brush him. Most of the time, though, the horse just wanted to be left alone.
Not that he could blame the animal.
In a lot of ways, they were a lot of alike. He supposed that was why Vin wanted him. That thought brought a sad smile to his lips.
Picking up a saddle, he checked it once more for any wear marks that might bother the rider or the horse. Finding nothing, he carried it over to older mare. She was Josiah's, matching his temperament. The kids had nothing to worry about when it came to riding her.
He raised the saddle up and over her back to drape it on the thin blanket. A quick shrug settled it in to place. That done, he reached under and cinched the buckles tight. The mare knackered at him, but other wise didn't respond to this. To show his appreciation, he patted her along the neck.
The final horse saddled, he started to guide her out to the walker. There were no chances taken today. The horses would remain on the guide wires, moving at the pace of the walker. A thump of tennis shoes on his barn floor made him stop. He didn't have to turn around to know who it was.
"Mr. Larabee." The voice was almost hesitant. "Chris." Walking in to the barn, Mary came to a stop several feet away. When he didn't look at her, she frowned and crossed her arms. "I wanted to talk to you alone."
"I have nothing to say to you." He started to twitch the mare's reins when he heard her sigh.
"But there is something I have to say to you." Uncrossing her arms, she laced her fingers together in front of her. "It is kind of important."
"Save it. You've done enough." This time, before she could stop him, he made a snicking sound and twitched the reins.
"I'm sorry, I wish there was some other..." Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. Biting her lip, Mary exhaled through her nose. "I'm pregnant!"
Chris jerked to a halt. Stopping the horse, he turned to look over his shoulder at her. His face was twisted in a disturbed expression.
She sucked in a deep breath as she looked to the rafters. "I have no idea what I am going to do." This caused her to snort. Sniffling, she rubbed at her eyes. "I mean, I don't know which I should do."
"Do whatever you want. It's not my problem, lady." Still shaken, he rubbed at the mare's ears. He made the snicking sound again, and guided it out the barn door.
Left behind, Mary dropped her head to her chest.