|The Best Medicine
Author: clair beaubien PM
When a local family takes in a family of orphans, it brings back painful memories for Vin. Rated for bad words and descriptions of child abuse. Now also rated for descriptions of slaughtered buffalo. NOW COMPLETE!Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Friendship - Chris L. & Vin T. - Chapters: 36 - Words: 81,497 - Reviews: 71 - Favs: 20 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 01-23-10 - Published: 11-22-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5528677
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It wasn't hard to find the O'Brien's cabin. Before they were close enough to see it, Buck and Vin could hear the shouts and laughter of a herd of children having the time of their lives, chasing each other around the yard of the little building. As Buck pulled the wagon to a halt, Mrs. O'Brien came out the open front door of the small home to greet the two men. Even the kids stopped their play; some grouped around the wagon and climbed up the wheels to greet the visitors, each child trying to outdo the other in volume, and some of the kids hid behind Mrs. O'Brien. Over the din, Mrs. O'Brien thanked Buck and Vin for their effort.
"I just can't thank you boys enough." She was a large woman with worn hands and a genuine smile. "I was sure we wouldn't get the new room built before the snow came!" She turned to the cabin and the sound of hammering. "Thomas! The boys are here with the lumber!" She had a big voice too. The hammering stopped. "It's just so sweet of you boys to bring our supplies all the way out here."
"Now don't you say another word, Miz O'Brien." Buck said as they jumped down from the buckboard. "You know it's our pleasure. 'Sides, we wanted to meet all your new little ones...how you kids doing?" He crouched down and addressed the littlest ones hiding behind their mother's skirt. "Have you ever seen..." With a flourish and a smile Buck produced a chunk of amber from his jacket pocket. "...a frozen bug?" After a moment, they sheepishly approached, and soon Buck was swarmed by armfuls of children. Vin was left alone on his side of the wagon. Mrs. O'Brien directed her attention to him.
"I mean it now, we expect y'all to stay for supper. It's the least we can do -- Bart! Bartholomew, don't be chasing that bird now! He won't come down for you. You know..." She was back to Vin. "If you need anything, anytime, you let me know - Will! Run over there and get Doug before he swallows that pebble - you know, mending, or if you're out this way and need a place to spend - Annie - it's all right honey, Mama will sew that button back on, just hang onto it - the night..." She rattled on, dividing her time easily and efficiently between Vin and Buck and the 11 kids surrounding them.
Mr. O'Brien appeared around the house, wiping sweat off his forehead, with a hammer in one hand and nails still held in his teeth. He shook hands first then took the nails out. "Sure didn't waste no time." He was a tall, spare man, but somehow went together perfectly with his wife. "Sooner I finish, sooner the boys have a bigger place to sleep..."
"The sooner we have peace and quiet at bedtime." Mrs. O'Brien added. "Come on now boys, Will, Ben, Dan, you take the wagon 'round back. Abby, Martha, you give 'em a hand unloading." Vin watched as the five bigger kids disappeared with Mr. O'Brien and the wagon around the back of the cabin where the new bedroom was being added on. He felt a familiar annoyance; orphans taken in and put to work. He felt sorry for them.
"It's mighty -" He searched for the word and honestly tried not to sound sarcastic. "-Christian - of you to take them young 'uns in." He nodded to the children with the wagon.
"Oh - those are the children I got the old-fashioned way." Mrs. O'Brien turned to the group, most of them still wrestling with Buck, six kids aged from 3 to 9. "These are my new little chickens." She knelt down and all but the youngest rushed into her arms. The last little boy stood in front of Buck, all eyes and hand gestures, describing some adventure to Buck in serious words that no one could understand, but Buck nodded and responded as though he could.
"Is that right?" The little boy nodded. He had dark hair and reminded Vin of JD. "And then what did you do?" Buck asked and was answered with more chatter that he didn't understand. "Well, could you show me right where all this happened?" Excitedly, the boy chattered and pointed to the creek off the far side of the cabin. He took Buck's hand to lead him over, still all eyes and hand gestures. Buck walked, keeping an eye on the path, but giving all the rest of his attention to his little guide.
Vin smiled as they wandered out of ear shot then turned back to Mrs. O'Brien. She was making faces and rubbing noses with the kids. Her kids. Vin felt familiar pain, stronger than he remembered feeling it. Stranger's children, recently orphaned by illness, and they were already part of the O'Brien Clan. He tried to keep his mind from his own history. Mrs. O'Brien looked up at him.
"Honey, what is it?" Vin didn't realize at first that she was talking to him. He shook his head, and shook the memories away. She stood up and shooed the children off, either to the creek or to help their Pa at the back of the cabin. Before she could ask anything else, Vin gestured that way.
"Reckon I'll go see if I can give 'em a hand."
They stayed for supper and helped with the carpentry and before nightfall the roof was on the addition. As they drove the empty wagon back to town Vin was quiet and Buck didn't notice.
"Those kids were great. You wouldn't think they'd been together only a few months. They all get along real well. That little guy especially was something. Couldn't understand a word he said, but he sure was determined to say it."
Vin spoke the only words he'd say on this trip back to town. "JD Junior you mean?" and Buck laughed.
"Yeah - he did kinda remind me of the other little guy - ha." And he talked on and Vin ran over in his mind how much he wished Mrs. O'Brien had been around when he was a little guy.
Chris managed to look confused and understanding both at the same time. He knew something was working in Vin's mind, he just didn't know what.
"It'll just be a few days." Vin was saying. "Gotta get some air, y'know? Just want to be out - there..." Out of the town, out in the wilderness. "I won't go far - I'll be easy to find if something comes up. I just -" He had the words, just not the inclination to say them.
"Well, go on then." Chris urged him. "We'll try to take care of ourselves while you're gone..." Vin only nodded and stood up from the table and was gone. Josiah came over from the bar and sat in the vacant chair.
"Now that is a man carrying a burden."
"I know..." Chris drawled the words out. "I hope he's just feeling cooped up."