Vin shivered under the thick blankets and rolled over onto his back. Sighing, he stared up into the darkness that made up the boys' room. He sat up, pushing the blankets off and slipping out from the warmth.
Ezra, the other boy who was adopted by Chris, was still dead asleep.
The nagging feeling that something was wrong prevented Vin from going back to sleep so he tiptoed across the room towards the door. His wool socks kept him from feeling the worse of the cold wooden floor as he made it to the door.
The bed across from his and Ezra's was occupied by Nathan and JD who had been adopted by Josiah and Buck respectively. They too were fast asleep.
Another chill went over Vin and he rubbed his little arms, trying to get some warmth through his long johns.
Making his way to the kitchen seemed scarier than it normally did. It was dark and the entire house was cold, the fire in the fireplace having died out hours ago.
Taking up one corner of the house was a tree that Josiah had cut down. Buck and the children had all spent the previous weekend decorating it. The presents under the tree were carefully wrapped and labeled for each of them. Vin had tried to determine what he had gotten but wasn't having any luck. Ezra had proudly told his brother that he knew what his presents were.
Using a chair and climbing onto the counter, Vin was able to reach the cupboard. He grabbed a cup, preparing to get himself some milk. When he was about to step back down from his chair, he thought he saw something out of the window beside him. Climbing back onto the counter and shuffling closer to the window, he pushed the drapes back to get a better look. Squinting, he tried to see into the darkness. He wasn't completely sure, but it looked to be like someone was standing outside in the falling snow.
It made him feel uneasy, something that had kept him safe for years. His grandfather had said it was his instinct to sense danger.
Was that it now? Was that the reason he couldn't sleep?
Jumping down from the counter, not even bothering to use the chair, he rushed to his father's room. Normally he would've waited to knock, but he figured that if he was right, his father wouldn't mind the slip-up.
He pulled himself onto his father's bed and crawled to the sleeping figure. He shook Chris hard, trying to stir him.
"Papa. Papa. I think someone's outside" Vin whispered urgently.
Chris grunted as he sat up and propped up his tired body on his elbows, "What?"
"I think I saw someone outside," Vin repeated himself.
Chris pulled the covers off immediately feeling the chill. He climbed out of bed, picking up his gun belt and his colt. With determined steps, he walked into the kitchen and peered out the same window Vin had been looking through. Vin had followed his father and watched him from a distance as Chris seemed to be looking for something outside.
"Papa?" he asked hesitantly. Vin wasn't sure what he had seen out there, but he figured it wasn't good if his father was carrying his gun.
Chris turned back to his son, "I'm not seeing anything out there."
"I know what I saw. It was somebody standing out in the snow. They looked to be staring at the house" Vin insisted.
Chris looked back out the window, taking his time to scan the area before looking back at his son. Vin wore a determined look, and Chris never had issues with the boy lying. "I believe you."
Vin looked relieved that his father trusted him.
Putting his colt into his gun belt, Chris crossed the kitchen and picked up his son. "Let's get you back in bed."
"But what about the guy I saw?"
"I'll take care of it," Chris reassured, rubbing the boy's back.
Chris carried Vin back into the boys' room and to his bed. He placed a kiss on top of the wavy curls before laying him back in bed and tucked him in. He pushed a stray curl that fell on the boy's face before checking on Ezra. The older boy was still sound asleep and he kissed the top of his head too before stealing himself out of the room.
Closing the door softly, Chris made his way down the hallway to Buck's room. He knocked once before stepping in.
A sleepy Buck sat up in bed, "Chris?" He yawned, "Something wrong, pard?"
"Maybe. Vin came in my room just now. He had been in the kitchen and saw someone outside the house in the distance."
That woke Buck up fully and he was pulling himself out of the warm confines of his blankets and getting dressed quickly.
"It may have been nothing, but I'm thinking..."
"That they may be connected to her." Buck nodded, finishing up on buckling his pants. "So, what's our next move?"
"I think it best that we get everyone out of here. Too many blind spots and it's only the three of us with six kids. We'll head into town for now" Chris sighed and ran a hand through his already disheveled hair, "I knew this was a mistake. We've stayed in one place too long and we can't move as fast with six kids. What the hell was I thinking that--"
Buck stopped his progress of getting dressed and glared at Chris who was beating himself up and starting to regret everything. He strode across the room and grabbed his best friend by the collar of his long johns, slamming him against the wall. He was breathing hard as he tried to keep himself from yelling and waking up the entire house. "Don't you ever say that" He hissed, "Don't you ever say that taking in these kids was a mistake. You know as well as Josiah and me that those children saved you as much as we saved them that day we took them in. I know you're just scared and that it's the fear talking. But Chris, if Ella has really returned, I swear that I will not let her take them away from you like she did Sarah and Adam. You got to believe that, Chris." Buck loosened his grip on Chris's collar and pulled him into a hug. The blond didn't object to the comfort, almost slumping into it.
"I'm sorry, Buck. Even if it's the fear talking I shouldn't have--"
"I know you didn't mean it." Buck smiled sadly, patting Chris on the arm before moving back to finish getting dressed.
Chris took in a shaky breath to calm himself, "We can wait until there's more light out before heading out. Can you get Josiah to get the kids' things packed and ready? After that, get the wagon and horses prepared. I'll do a perimeter check to make sure there won't be any surprises. Hopefully, I can catch the trail of whoever was out there."
Buck nodded and went to go wake up their friend.
Chris walked back into his room. He pulled on his clothes, adding another layer of warmth before packing his saddle bag and checking his rifle. Shrugging on his black duster, he finished up by putting his hat on. The spurs he forewent, needing stealth more.
He could hear Josiah somewhere else in the house, packing. Buck, he found outside, getting the wagon ready before hitching up the horses.
Buck stole his friend a quick glance as he cinched the last belt around the horse's middle.
"Keep a good look out of your surroundings," Buck warned.
Chris nodded as he led Pony out of her stall and climbed into the saddle. The pair set off, a stark contrast to their almost all white surroundings.
Buck jogged back into the house, his gloveless fingers freezing already. He rubbed them together as he watched Josiah warm up blankets for travel.
"Chris has gone already?"
"Yeah," Buck sniffed, his nose was already starting to run, "He'll be back in probably an hour."
Josiah sighed, the oldest of their group looking tired still. "None of this feels right brother."
"You're telling me. Was ready to shake Chris just to get him to see sense." Buck dropped into a chair, looking up at Sanchez, "He's scared, Josiah. He's doubting everything all because this woman continues to haunt him."
"It truly is sad." Josiah agreed.
"We can't let him go off like he did before. You know he will. But it isn't like last time. He has someone who is depending on him."
"I think I'll do a little prayer before waking the children up." Josiah pushed himself from the counter he was propping himself on to walk towards the back of the house.
Buck moved to the fireplace, warming his hands up a little more before heading back out to do the rest of the packing.