[AnneACK's
 

Pushing and Pulling

by


Chris Larabee, yawned, stretched, and prepared to start the day. Big surprise, he could already feel a headache starting. Rolling over, he looked at the clock and blinked, it was nearly nine in the morning! He never got to sleep this late. Assuming his alarm didn't wake him, or worse a phone call in the wee hours, Soot did by this time. In fact, Soot, his ever loving and loyal Black Lab should be in here begging to be let out and have his food dish filled. Reaching into the bedside table, he pulled out a bottle of aspirin and swallowed two of them dry. Maybe he could stop the headache before it really got started.

Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he got up. He had best hustle before the horses decided to tell the entire world how sadly neglected and unloved they were. Going over to the bedroom window, he looked down on the main pasture. No wonder the horses were silent and he didn't have to fight off the `help' of Soot in getting going this morning. Might as well shower before meeting the day, since there was time, now.

Half an hour later, showered, shaved, and dressed, Chris was as ready to meet the day as he was going to get. He just wished that danged headache would go away. Sipping his coffee, he smiled, hadn't even had to make it, the same elf that had taken care of the animals and seen to him, as well.

With a practiced eye, he glanced over everything. Soot was gleefully chased a squirrel, the two horses Chris boarded whose owners wanted them stabled, were already turned out to enjoy the crisp sunny fall day, and there was hay in the feeder for the pasture horses, since the summer had been dry and the grass was having to be supplemented, now. In other words, all of the critters had been taken care of.

Vin was over by the gate, toolbox out, tightening up the loose latch. Moses, Josiah's gelding, was watching with great interest, while Hen Solo perched on his rump. That had to be the most mild mannered horse he had ever known in his life. The rest of the horses, to judge from the nipping and kicking and playful romping about they were doing, were enjoying the day as well.

The lean Texan looked up suddenly. Seeing that he was not alone, he checked the latch, gave the horse a final pat and headed to the porch were Chris was holding up a second mug. Seeing that his master was up, Soot came bounding over as well.

Vin took the offered coffee and joined his friend, taking the chair opposite him.

The two men sat in silence, sipping their coffee. It was rare that they had time to just enjoy one another's company.

"Thanks," Chris broke the silence eventually.

Vin shrugged it off. "Everyone ought to be able to sleep in once in awhile, and it's not like I mind the chores."

Chris nodded, his friend was never one to fear hard work, and as long as it allowed him to be outside he probably wouldn't even think of it as work. Vin boarded his black gelding, Peso, here but didn't pay for it. Instead he was out here most weekends helping in the seemingly never-ending list of chores and repairs that every ranch seemed to have. Chris preferred the help to the money; an able and willing second set of hands were invaluable.

"Sides' figured that if we got the chores done now, we wouldn't have to be doin' them when the rest of the guys are here," Vin grinned.

Chris sat up straight and stared at the other man. He had not invited the team out to the ranch. True, they all boarded horses here and tended to come and go as they pleased, but he had done nothing to indicate that he was going to be entertaining anyone this weekend. No way no how did he want to be inundated by the rest of his team dropping in for the day.

"You invite them?" Chris asked in an even tone.

"Nope, think that was Buck."

The blonde sighed. "Figures."

"Yep, invited everyone out for an all day party and grillin'."

Chris groaned. He was going to kill the man when he got hold of him.

"Scowlin' like that and they're going to think you don't like them anymore," Vin teased.

"I like them just fine, I just don't want everyone around, today. I don't feel good, I've got a headache that will not go away, and I'm just not up to a full house," Chris explained.

Vin leaned back, "Didn't think you would, but Buck seemed really determined."

"I'm sure he was; well if we're going to be flooded with company, might as well get done what we can before they arrive," Chris got up and, taking the empty coffee cup from the other man, he went back in the house.

Vin sighed; he had had a feeling from the first that this was going to be a bad idea. At least he'd been able to get here early enough to warn his friend about what was coming. Chris hated surprises. This definitely fell under the wrong thing for the right reason. Well, nothing to do but help Chris as best he could, and hope the whole thing didn't blow up in Buck's face. If it did, he would try and pick up the pieces.
 


Chris looked up from the board he was holding in place while Vin nailed it in, to see Buck's truck parking next to Vin's jeep. Buck got out; JD followed him, carrying two grocery bags. The younger man waved a greeting and then headed into the house with the food. Buck headed toward the two men.

"Hey," Buck greeted them with his usual enthusiasm.

Chris narrowed his eyes at his oldest friend. "Did you really invite everyone out? For the entire day?"

Buck gulped slightly. "Vin and I got to thinking..."

Chris turned his glare on the other man.

"Oh no, Buck! All I said was that maybe Chris shouldn't be alone; I never suggested that we have the entire team out for the whole day," Vin shot back, making his small part in this known. He might have inadvertently started the ball rolling, but Buck was the one who grabbed it and ran out of bounds.

Chris sighed, he had a full-blown headache, now, and these two were not helping.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to butt into your business, I just thought maybe if you had some company you wouldn't end up in a bottle this year."

"I appreciate that you were concerned, Vin, but like you said it's my business and I'll handle it," Chris responded in an even tone, glaring once more at Buck.

Vin looked from one of his friends to the other. This was something that the two of them needed to settle. "I'll see if JD wants to do somethin'."

"Thanks," Buck replied glaring back at Chris.

Vin nodded to both his friends and left. JD tended to get rattled at those two fighting, not realizing that sometimes it was simply the way they communicated with one another and when the dust settled they would be as good of friends as they ever had been. Hopefully, it would not come to physical blows, although the two had exchanged those a few times in the past as, well.
 


Vin got to the porch as JD came out, the food they had brought put away. Looking at the two men over by the gate, JD sighed.

"Chris and Buck are hashing something out, lets shoot some hoops," Vin suggested, steering the younger man away form the obvious conflict by the pasture gate.

"Told Buck I didn't think that having the whole team arrive with no warning was going to help," JD responded as he and Vin played a round of Paper, Scissor, Rock to decide who go the ball first.

"Can't say that it would be my idea of helpin' either, but Buck's been seeing Chris through this longer than any of us, so we'll have to trust that he knows what he's doing," Vin suggested, bobbing back and forth to block JD's shot.

"What's so hard about this particular day for him, anyway?" JD asked, faking past Vin and shooting.

"It's Sarah's birthday," Buck answered, joining them, and catching the ball as it fell through the hoop. "Every year while she was alive they would have a big huge party out here with everyone they knew. Nowadays, Chris wakes up with a headache, by noon he's started on a bottle, and by evening you do not want to know him."

"Buck, maybe we'd best head home," JD suggested. "I know you were wanting to help, but it sound like having people over today won't be a help."

"Where did you two end up?" Vin asked.

"He appreciates that we care but he really is not feeling up to having guests over. Reminded him how he's always saying that we're not guests, we're family. He's going to lay down and see if he can get that headache under control and then maybe join whatever we're doing," Buck informed them.

"They serve it is also said who stand and wait," Ezra quoted to them as he came up with Josiah and Nathan." I take it we're standing and waiting this fine day?"

"Something like that," Buck admitted. This hadn't gone as well as he hoped, but Chris hadn't tossed them all out or said no. And most importantly, it was already noon and he hadn't gone near a bottle. If they could get him through this year, next year would be easier.

"I'll go in the house and see if I can help him with that headache," Nathan offered.

"I've got chili to get started in the crock-pot, then I'll come out and join you if Chris doesn't need anything," Josiah told them.

Josiah and Nathan headed into the house while the other four went back to hoops, there was nothing they could offer their friend except the knowledge that they were there if he needed them.
 


Vin came in the house to get the steaks. This hadn't been a great day, but it also could have been much, much, much worse. Chris hadn't joined them, but neither had he started drinking. Their presence was at least helping as far as that went.

"You okay, Cowboy?" Vin asked, peeking into the den and seeing Chris in the easy chair with his eyes closed.

"Head still hurts, but it's a little better," Chris answered.

Vin sat on the sofa he was next to. "Everything I've heard about Sarah it sounded like she was a great woman."

Chris gave a soft laugh. "They didn't come better than Sarah."

"Liked to have fun, too, from what Buck's said."

"Yeah, she was always one for having a good time. Used to have huge parties out here all the time," Chris said wistfully.

"Can't see a woman like that wanting you to celebrate her birthday by sitting in here nursing a headache," Vin commented.

Chris said nothing.

"Just a thought, I'll toss a steak on for you when I take out the others," Vin said, getting up and leaving the room.

Chris sighed, looked at the smiling redhead in the picture on the mantle, and looked at the door his best friend had just carried the steak through.

"Happy Birthday, Sweetheart," he told the picture, and getting up, he followed his friend.
 


Stepping outside, he winced at the sight that greeted him. Apparently, JD had discovered four man team barrel racing and had decided to get some of the others to join in and form a team.

"JD, if you're going to be team barrel racing you have GOT to have the fastest horses first," Chris informed him, coming up to the corral where the barrels were set up.

"We're having trouble with that, Buck and I have the fastest horses, but Peso practically climbs over them on the corners, and Moses is so confused he doesn't know what to do," JD explained.

"That's a fact," Josiah admitted. His horse was willing, but just didn't get what it was he was supposed to do.

"I'll give you a hand with it later. Right now, Buck, need you to go down to the corner market and get Seven good sized pumpkins," Chris instructed.

Buck whooped, five jaws dropped. What on the face of the planet was Chris going to do with seven pumpkins?

"Might I enquire as to the uses that will made of the procured gourds?" Ezra asked.

"We're going to carve pumpkins," Chris grinned.

Five sets of eyes blinked at him.

"Can't have party on Sarah's birthday without it," Buck grinned, and slapped JD on the back. "Come on, kid, you can help me collect the pumpkins."

The youngest member of the group stared at their leader for a moment and then grinned like a six year old in a candy store. "Cool! I haven't carved a pumpkin for years!"

"Can't remember the last time I did one," Nathan admitted.

"Have ta' admit I'm over due. Loved doin' as a kid," Vin grinned.

"I am proud to say I have never eviscerated a pumpkin and attempted to deface it," Ezra shuddered.

"It's great, Ezra, you'll love it!" JD was almost vibrating with excitement at the idea.

"I help the younger kids at the center out on theirs Ezra, happy to give you a hand if you need it," Josiah grinned.

"I am confident I will raise to the occasion," Ezra assured him, gold tooth flashing as he smiled.

"Glad to have you back among us, brother," Josiah said, clasping Chris on the shoulder. He was one of the few that Chris, not a physically affection man, allowed to do that.

Chris gave his oldest friend and best friend a half smile. "Headache never had a chance against your pushing," he nodded to Buck, "And your pulling," he nodded at Vin.

Buck grinned from ear to ear, Vin gave his smirk. Sometimes you helped a friend best by standing and waiting, and sometimes by giving him a push and a pull if he was stuck.


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