~~ Aftermath… ~~

by TJ

Larabee fully recognized the fact that he had fallen asleep when he woke with a start. 'Something's touching me' his weary mind told him. Keeping his eyes shut tight, he thought quickly. 'The strenuous days labor… the late night… the knock at the door. Kate!'

A finger was slowly marking its way along the gentle curve of his hip.

Lying on his side, Chris smiled lazily, hoping she couldn't see.

Reaching his butt, the single digit was joined by its companions, and then, her whole hand.

Trying to remain perfectly still, Chris cussed silently as one part of his body refused that command.

There was a ruffling of the bedding and then the blond felt the wetness of a kiss placed against the small of his back. He stirred, an audible moan seeping from his lips before he could stop it.

Under the sheets, Lansky grinned. She knew her manipulations would give her what she wanted. Her hand continued to snake its way down Larabee's legs as her mouth nibbled its way across his hips. When she'd reached the highest point, her chin urged his body down. She shuffled as he fell towards her, ending up on his back, just where she wanted him.

For more than an hour, they 'played'. Their lovemaking was mischievous, yet, intermittent with serious passion. At last, more than satisfied and blissfully content, they settled on the mattress.

Pulling the blankets, the blonde found her pillow and curled into it.

Matching the arch of her body, Larabee spooned her, laying one arm across the valley of her waist. "Night, Kate," he whispered. A kiss quickly found her shoulder.

Pulling his wayward arm up to cuddle it, the lady took another deep breath. "Night, Chris," she responded contentedly.

~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~

Warmth from the body beside him gradually drew Larabee from a blissful sleep. He surrounded her, practically encompassing her entire frame with his. A realization hit him as another level of consciousness was attained. He wanted this. He so missed waking up with someone in his arms and no woman satisfied that yearning like Sarah did.

His breath caught quickly as the cruel reality of his life set in. It had been over four years since his wife had lain in his arms and that harshness hit him hard. He bit his lip to keep his emotions in check. 'God!' How he hated feeling this way.

He cuddled his lady closer and he tried to focus on the difference he knew too well. He would have to remember these distinctions if this were to continue... 'And I so want it to' he reinforced.

Clearing his thoughts, he made mental notes…

Sarah was taller, but not by much.

She had long brunette curls where Kate's natural hair was his color and had the same wave to it when it got too long.

But… they were so much more than statistics…

Breathing in deeply, Larabee's mind drifted again. Sarah had tamed him. A little later in life than most men maybe, but she was the woman he had fallen so desperately in love with. She completed him, defined him as a man… Stole his heart… and returned his love willingly, ultimately giving him the greatest testament to her love… a child.

Rubbing his cheek against the softness of her shoulder, the blond shook away the painful thoughts and tried to think about Kate. The first thing that came to his mind made him smile. 'So much like oil and water'

Yet, she meant so much to him. She was a unique gift, especially for such a hard man. She refused to take any of his crap, no matter what the cause or reason. She could be as tough as nails or a tame as a kitten. She'd won his friendship and more importantly, his respect. She was there for him when he needed someone and they'd grown closer as their trust grew and strengthened. Now, here she was, lying in his arms, accepting implicitly a man who didn’t deserve her trust.

'So different…'

Larabee couldn't help but recognize how contrarily he'd just thought about the two women. He'd 'fallen so desperately in love' with his wife and… Kate had 'won his friendship and respect'? Readjusting his cheek against her shoulder, Chris frowned. 'Well… I was different back then' he reasoned. 'I was… more open with my feeling… Hell, I HAD feelings!'

'And, you don't now? Another part of him responded quickly.

Cussing without words, he heard his doubt again. 'Maybe that's why she doesn't want to hear you say you love her, you idiot! Because you don't!'

'Sure I do!'

'No you don't'

'Yes I do… but… maybe, just not in the same way, is all'

'Then you don't love her'

'I must… I mean I do… It's… just… different…'

Eyes closing tight, Chris swallowed hard in a desperate attempt to chase away the battling entities of his consciousness.

A soft moan distracted him and he refocused as Kate migrated in her sleep. He felt her try to straighten and Chris readjusted, too, moving as she turned to lie on her back. He lay there staring at her for a time. The woman he saw here… now… was so different. Calm, peaceful and sated. 'More like Sarah…'

A finger reached out slowly to trace the softness of her cheek. 'So gentle…'

Chris quickly withdrew his hand as she 'shooed' away the 'tickle' and settled back into her slumber.

Only a few moments passed before the hand returned to her skin, softly trailing the lines of her shoulder down her slender arms. 'So small' he studied her wrists and hands. Wrapping his fingers around hers, he inched lower and adorned them with a kiss.

Another soft moan saw Kate pull her arm away and turn slightly.

With the shifting of the covers, Larabee could see one complete side of her body; the sheets lay across the curve of the opposite breast, diagonally to the hip on his side. He smiled, looking at her nakedness, yet, he accepted without question that it wasn't just her body that he desired. Chris needed Kate's tenacity. 'More than a need' he argued with his thoughts again. 'Her strength… keeps me in check'

Yet, with desire and need firmly set in his mind; Larabee's blood began to stir.

As though it had been days since they had last touched, Chris drew Kate to consciousness with the tender touches only a lover can bestow.

Wrought with the heat of arousal and desire not long forgotten, they partook, once more, of all their bodies could give one another. Ever playful, yet tender, their passion this time was energetic, wanton, and needy.

When it was all over, they settled once more. Arms crossed at each other's abdomen, the pair lay blissfully in the twilight of morning's first glimmers.

Breathing slowly returned to normal and Chris found that he could talk again. "So?" he questioned, "Was it good for you?"

A swat across his belly was the first reply. The deep-seated contented moan was the second.

"I'll… take that as a yes," he smiled.

Kate was too exhausted to swat him again.

Silence reigned as the couple grew weary. Gradually, they drifted off to sleep.

~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~

Stopping short of the parking area on the opposite side of the stable, Buck leaned forward on the steering wheel and frowned.

JD looked at his roommate quizzically. "What?" he inquired, not sure why Wilmington had halted in the middle of the drive.

Staring at the large main doors to the barn, the ladies' man huffed. They were still closed and none of the horses were out in the corral. "That's strange," he checked the time.

Still a little confused, Dunne looked at his watch, too. "Almost nine thirty," he confirmed.

"Lazy son-of-a…" the rogue grumbled as he put the truck in park, turned off the ignition and climbed out of the cab.

Exiting on the other side and quickly making his way around to his friend, JD scowled. "You know Chris don't like us to park here, Buck. We're supposed to…"

"Well, he's just gonna have ta get his sorry butt out here and remind me himself," Wilmington grinned mischievously. He knew full well that Larabee would 'advise' him in a heartbeat. There weren't too many rules around the ranch but parking out back of the barn just happened to be one of them.

"Maybe he's sleeping in," JD offered. "Everyone's got 'a do it once in a while."

"That's what Saturday is for," Wilmington complained with a smirk. "Come on, kid. Let's get them horses out 'a the barn. They deserve some fresh air on such a beautiful mornin'."

Following as his roommate headed towards to wooden doors, the young man smiled. "Yep, then maybe we can ride out to the pond and do some of that fishing we came for."

"Sure thing," Buck replied. Unlatching the smaller entryway, he headed inside.

JD was hot on his heels.

After all, Sunday was 'Team' day at the ranch. Chris had extended a standing invitation when The Seven first formed. All that wished to, could spend part or all of their day at the house and surrounding lands, doing whatever they chose. All of the men took advantage of the offer on occasion, sometimes in groups, and from time to time, with company in tow.

Meanwhile, inside the ranch house, Kate stirred and rolled over. Encountering the warmth of Larabee's body, she curled into his side, setting her head on his chest and pulling the sheets up snuggly.

Lazily, one arm wrapped around her, the other drew across his face to shield his eyes.

"Good morning," she tapped on his chest.

"Morning," he responded. Looking down at her, his head rose enough to kiss the top of her head.

Taking in a deep breath, Kate let it out slow before glancing at the alarm clock. "It's late… You, eh… get enough sleep?"

Chris grinned, licking at his lips. "Well worth the sacrifice, if I didn't." His curled arm pulled her closer, tapping her hip as he snuggled. "How about you? Did you sleep okay?"

Sated in the comfort that she felt, the lady smiled, curling tighter into his body. "When I got around to it… I did." Kissing the flesh below her cheeks, her concentration seemed to lapse. The words rolled from her tongue, yet Kate couldn't help but think about what they were basing this newfound relationship on. Sure, she'd come to him this time. She'd initiated their first sexual encounter earlier… and had been thoroughly immersed in the second. But…

Playing with the sheets between her fingers, the blonde's mind wandered to the past few days and her eyes closed at the recollections. 'Yeah, you're comfortable now' she chastised. 'But, what happens when you get out of this bed? What happens tomorrow?' Sucking in her bottom lip, the lady sighed. 'What the hell are you doing, Lansky? Too much confusion in all of this… terms to accept, on both sides. And what if he holds up his side of the bargain? What kind of relationship could we possibly have?'

When those stray thoughts had crossed Kate's mind in the past, she'd always been stuck on the same problem. Probably why she'd only ever thought about 'being' with Larabee before, and had never actually done anything about it.

Still… moving into this phase of their relationship wasn't ever going to give back what Chris had lost. He was a man with part of his soul missing and in her heart, Kate knew he wasn't ready to say goodbye to his wife. He'd had no real reason to, and she sure as hell wasn't planning on being the one to ask him to do that.

Not that she was the marrying kind, mind you. She wasn't about to become all domesticated, settle down and… have kids?

Pursing her lips, Kate backed off a little. 'Does he even want that anymore?' And at what point were they supposed to have that conversation? Before, or after they eventually got around to Sarah…

Deep down, Lansky felt that she and Chris had become too close. He'd told her things about the way he felt. Things that tore him up inside… regular, everyday happenings that no one really noticed; yet they struck a nerve in him. She knew, probably better than almost anyone alive, that the Chris Larabee of now, wasn't the same man that Sarah Connelly had fallen in love with.

Listening to his strong heart beating below her ear, the woman finally spoke, "Chris?"

Opening his eyes, the blond looked down at her again, "Yeah?"

Turning on to her belly, Kate kept her chin on his chest, tucking one arm below her body, the other remained strewn across his abdomen. Looking up into his smile, she studied the man carefully. Her free hand reached up to trace his features. The dirty blond of his hair, and the darker shade that colored his eyebrows and the scruff of his unshaven whiskers… the straggle of those same blond wisps as they covered his forehead and the tops of his perfect little ears.

'Such a wonderful sparkle' she looked into his pale green eyes! She smiled as her hands drifted over his eyelids. They fluttered closed, before opening again as she passed. 'So damn sexy' she mused. 'And this is so easy…'

As her fingers felt their way down the bridge of his nose and around the end, Chris wiggled it in protest.

Kate subdued the smirk that threatened; instead focusing on the succulent lips that protruded below. Although one might assume otherwise, Larabee's mouth wasn't big. Instead, it was the perfect size for his appearance and produced such a beautiful smile… 'When he let's it…' A smile that lights up his entire face.

"Is this… really what you want, Chris?" the lady finally continued her question.

The blond frowned, "Of course it's what I want."

Her hand pressed against his lips before he could say anymore. "I don't just mean the sex, Chris," Lansky rose on one elbow. "The sex… well, it’s the easy part, remember?" 'So right… so easy' she thought with a sigh.

An eyebrow rose and he smiled. "Was a little more than just sex, don't ya think?" he questioned, grinning when she smirked coyly at him. "I remember what you said," he graced her cheek with his hands. "And I remember what I said having a piece… any time I want. But, it's… like this was meant to be."

A thought instantly came to her mind and almost spilled from her lips, yet, just as quickly, she stopped herself from saying those words. Cupping his hand in hers, Kate kissed it, her eyes closing as she did.

Breaking the lingering embrace, she finally looked back into his eyes. "Sex is still the easy part… This could get comfortable real quick, but…"

There was a lingering silence.

He frowned. "But what?"

'But… there's a ghost between us!' Taking a deep breath, she shook her head gently. No, she couldn't say that. "This isn't easy, Chris…"

Larabee could see the thoughts calculating their way through Lansky's mind. She always got a certain look on her face when she was thinking too much, and right now, the blond knew she was doing just that. "I said no topic off limits, Kate," he smiled. "That means for both of us… if you're planning on accepting my terms, that is."

Slowly, her head drifted to his chest, lips pursed tightly together, eyes firmly closed.

With one arm wrapped around her, and the other resting softly at her temple, Larabee scowled. "But what, Kate?"

As Larabee shuffled below her, the woman moved off a little, giving him room to get the pillow tucked under his shoulder. Now, partially propped, she readjusted herself, settling her cheek on his abdomen. "We've been colleagues for a long time, Chris. Over two years."

"Yeah?" he nodded, a slight questioning tone hidden in the confines of the reply.

"We've been friends for that long, too."

"Good friends," he interjected.

"Good friends," she repeated slowly.

There was another moment of silence before a slight hint of the blond's temper started to get the best of him. "You got a point here… You always do."

"Yeah… I do," she confirmed slowly. Lying there on his body, Kate could think of a thousand reasons to just let this happen. It would be so easy to forget her doubts and fears. Forget the reason why this 'wasn't' meant to be and pretend, just like Chris did, that he was ready to move on. Misleading others was easy… but misleading yourself could be a very dangerous thing. 'But… maybe… for just a while' she considered…

Outside the front door, JD looked at Wilmington rather exasperated. "You think we should be doing this, Buck?"

Pulling the wallet out from his back pocket, the rogue opened it and searched around for the spare key he kept safely hidden there.

"What if the alarm's on?" Dunne questioned as his roommate found the key and proceeded to slide it into the door, and turn.

"Got it covered," the older man grinned. "Can't ever forget that code," he snickered. Edging the door open, he quickly lunged at the keypad when the warning buzzer sounded. Knowing he'd have twenty seconds to enter the correct sequence, Buck punched in the code and sighed when the panel signaled the all clear.

"Maybe he's in the shower." Dunne voice was barely a whisper. He looked around nervously as they ventured down the short hallway that branched left, to the living room and right, to the kitchen.

Looking down the main hall, Wilmington smirked. "I'm bettin' he hit the hay this mornin' instead 'a last night and now he's sleepin' it off," he replied in same quiet tone.

Always the peacekeeper, JD tried to reason things out. "Well, maybe we should put on some coffee in case he needs some."

"Good idea, kid," Buck smiled. "I could use a cup myself." Clapping the younger man on the shoulder, the two headed for the kitchen.

Looking at the closed bedroom door, Chris frowned, "You hear something?"

With her mind on other things, Kate shrugged. "Nope," she looked up at Larabee again.

Chris was distracted, too. "So, you gonna tell me what's on your mind?" he took a deep breath.

Kissing his bare chest again, the lady sighed. 'Nope, we're not having this conversation now' she decided. "Just thinking, that maybe we should keep this our little secret, for now," she smiled. "As long as you're sure this is what you want," she added. "I'll go along with it."

"You make it sound like this is all my idea," he objected sternly.

"No," she shot back. "No… there's definitely two people in this bed that want this."

Larabee grinned. "Kind 'a like the sound of that."

She looked at him questioningly.

"Two people in this bed," he repeated. His expression suddenly went blank; his green pools drifting down to focus on nothing at all. A few moments passed before he spoke again. "I've been sleeping alone for too long, Kate," his eyes reacquired hers. "There have been others… since Sarah… but… To be honest, it was usually like… like I was with you, the other night. Well, the other morning."

Slowly, Kate nodded her understanding.

"I was… too rough… too demanding. There was no passion."

A hand reached up to caress the lips that made the quiet confession. "Those women didn't understand."

"Didn't give me the right to treat them like that," he cut her off.

With only their eyes doing the communicating, Lansky drew hers away when she saw the doubt in his eyes.

"Or you!" he added.

As her reflections moved back to his, the blonde closed them briefly, her head shaking softly. "Don't, Chris," she urged. Her voice slowly became commanding, "You better get one thing straight right now, mister. I understand why. I know the pain and anguish in your heart and I understand more than you may give me credit for. But… and don't you ever question this, alright?"

Larabee frowned.

"I wanted the other night, as much as you did. I enjoyed every moment of… and the…" There was a strange silence at Kate licked at her lips. "The morning… The strength… the power that you… showed. Guess…I have… I wanted… I…"

The confusion in his expression slowly waned as she searched for her words. A cocky grin took over and Chris finished the sentence that his lady couldn't seem to, "wanted to be dominated?"

Truth or not, Kate reacted. Her mouth hung open; the shock stopped the breath halfway to her lungs. She slapped him hard, yet the playfulness was evident.

Curling into the strike, Larabee grabbed at her hand when she came in for the second attempt. "Hey… truth hurts," he teased. "Don't mean we've got 'a get into hitting each other."

"Oooh," she growled, fighting playfully against his hold.

As their 'wrestling' grew more combative, Chris took both arms and spread them apart, drawing her mouth to his as she collapsed into his grasp.

"Let go," Kate demanded, her lips only inches from his.

"Why?" Larabee teased. "Thought you liked this?"

"I like to play games," she smirked back, "But I don't like to be held."

Chris smiled at her words. "Now that… can have several connotations, can't it?"

Pulling at the arms that restrained her, Lansky wiggled playfully, purposely rubbing her body against the hardness she felt growing beneath her body. "I can see we have many things to discuss, Larabee," she growled.

Reaching up to peck at her mouth, Chris raised a questioning eyebrow. "Is that right?" he kissed her again. "Well, we'd best get to discussing it, don't you think?" Again, their lips met.

Still fighting his arms, Kate repeated her previous demand, "Let me go!" she growled.

Larabee grinned. "Make me!"

As an all-out, yet playful battle ensued in the bedroom, Wilmington's eyes rose from the percolating coffeepot as he heard the muffled noises. "You hear that?" he asked of Dunne.

JD listened intently, a frown gracing his face. Suddenly, he heard a muffled, angry voice and his expression widened in horror. "Sounds like a fight!"

Buck heard the yell, too, and was moving before the kid had fully reacted. Quickly sliding to the drawer over by the fridge, he snaked a hand to the back and pulled out a pistol.

"You think someone's in there with him?" Dunne asked, the worry was evident on his face.

Checking the magazine and loading the chamber, the rogue moved quickly to the hallway. "Don’t know, kid," he answered. "Didn't see any signs of another vehicle but it sounds like a struggle. Stay close." With that instruction, he put his back to the wall and made his way cautiously down the narrow hallway.

JD followed close behind.

As they reached Larabee's bedroom door, they heard a loud grunting noise from inside… one that they both recognized as Chris. Buck waved a finger in the air as the kid signaled for them to rush into the room. Pressing that same digit against his lips, he then tried the handle to see it if the door was locked. When Wilmington realized that it wasn't, he again indicated for JD to be quiet. He held up three fingers and then nodded.

Immediately realizing that they would go on three, the kid replied with a comparable nod. He watched intently as Buck made the count. JD's hand readied at the doorknob so that he could force the door open, thereby allowing his teammate to keep both hands on their only weapon.

Inside the room, Chris and Kate we embroiled in a battle wrought with sexual tension. After several exhausting tries, Larabee had finally managed to get the woman on her back, yet he was having trouble getting her limbs to submit to his 'conquest'. Their play was more than consensual. Their expressions exchanged a constant air of enjoyment, their movements kept things 'goading' and very playful.

With his back to the door, his naked form bent over Kate as she nipped at his mouth, Larabee was startled, to say the least, as the door crashed open, and a voice yelled 'ATF, freeze'!

Larabee and Lansky did as they were instructed; desperate frowns searched each other's faces.

Wilmington's eyes grew wide.

JD was horrified. "Oh, jeez," he blurted out. Looking from the couple to his fellow agent, Dunne quickly turning his back to the bed.

Buck just stood there with his mouth open as a set of blue eyes looked up from underneath her man's shoulder and scowled the wickedest look the ladies' man had ever seen. His eyes grew as big as saucers as realization hit hard. 'He was dead!'

Recognizing the familiar voice, Larabee slowly turned to look at his oldest friend. The expression on his face was worse than anything Wilmington had ever seen. "You planning on using that thing?" Chris snarled at the gun aimed at his back.

"Oh… jeez," Buck repeated Dunne's words, quickly lowering the weapon. Hiding it behind his back, he simply stood and stared at the couple.

As Larabee looked back at her, Kate's expression softened as her eyes shut tight, the embarrassment finally hitting home.

Glancing back at Wilmington and Dunne, Chris cooled his anger and said simply, "Do you mind?"

Eyes still wide, Buck stuttered out, "Oh… oh yeah," as he pushed Dunne out of the room. Quickly grabbing the handle, he closed the door safely behind them. Not knowing what else to do, he slapped the kid across the shoulders as they headed back to the kitchen.

"Hey! What was that for?" JD complained as he followed.

Inside the bedroom, Chris and Kate hadn't moved, except to relax their 'fighting' stance. Propped on his bent elbow, the blond held a portion of his weight off the lady as he looked into her amused blue eyes.

"So much for keeping secrets!" Lansky huffed.



Continued in
First, you Stumble…


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