Part of The Friendship Collection
Notes: Many thanks to Phyllis for her help with this.
It happened so fast he barely had time to react, to reach safety.
Had it happened any time other than the middle of the night he would have been ready, or at least better prepared.
Instead it had happened at night while he was asleep. No warning had been given and the devastation to his home was only surpassed by the devastation to his sense of security, his sense of peace, his sense of safety.
Could he be safe again?
Would he ever be able to put the pieces back together?
Hadn't he had to rebuild his life enough times to satisfy whatever gods or fates were doing this to him?
It seemed every time he picked up the pieces of his life and fitted them together, they fell apart again. It didn't seem to matter what he did, whether keeping people far away or letting them near. Eventually something would happen and he would be faced with rebuilding his world one more time.
Looking at the remnants of his house, he could only be thankful that the tornado had completely missed the barn. At least the horses had been spared.
Moving the wheel barrow closer to his destination, Chris rested it on the ground and shoveled a little more cement into the vessel. He knew he couldn't rebuild the entire house himself, but he had to do something, so he had set out to restore the brickwork under the deck. This time, though, he was determined to make the deck's foundation impervious to wind and rain. Should the rest of the world pass away, this foundation would still stand if Chris Larabee had anything to say about it.
With that determination in his heart and driving his actions, the blond shoveled one last scoop of concrete into the wheel barrow and then headed back to his brick.
Josiah watched Larabee move from the deck to the cement and then back, a look of intense determination on his face. The Profiler knew his profession and his friend well enough to be able to judge what was going on in the blond's mind.
Losing your house to anything, be it natural disaster or a bank, was devastating to the psyche. Chris had suffered many losses, had had his world shaken often. Even now, with the seven of them, the foundations to all of their worlds shook periodically. Most recently when he himself had been attacked outside a homeless shelter where he volunteered.
Josiah could still hear the voices of his fellow workers calling good night as he stepped into the dark street. It was a dangerous part of town, but over the years, Sanchez had gotten comfortable there, gotten lax in his attention. That changed when he woke up three days later in the hospital, his six friends looking haggard and exhausted sprawled throughout the room.
They had been shaken then, but they were together. Though the doctor hadn't said it was necessary, Josiah had spent his first day and night out of the hospital at the ranch where the others all found some excuse to stay as well. It had become something of a tradition that after some event, be it large or small, they would gather here, at the ranch, invade Chris' home and resolve whatever needed to be resolved.
Looking around the yard, Sanchez saw the other five men all working diligently and carefully. Chris hadn't been the only one to lose his home when the tornado blew through. But of all of them, it was Chris whose world was most shattered.
As his attention once more focused on the blond, the Profiler frowned. It was evident that Larabee was growing agitated at his work. The time had come for intervention. Josiah only hoped the Lord would provide him the right words.
Sanchez winced as a brick failed to settle properly and Larabee turned the air blue with his curses. Stepping closer, he called, "Chris!" When he received no reply, he took his life into his hands and touched the blond's shoulder as he once more shouted, "Chris!"
"What?" Larabee demanded, throwing his trowel on the ground with more force than the poor tool had been designed to sustain.
Counting slowly to five, Josiah gave his friend a few seconds to gather himself.
Noting the silence from the Profiler and realizing that the last thing he wanted to do was take out his anger and frustration on his friends, Chris ran his hands along his pants and then through his hair. Taking several deep breaths he glanced over at the still-silent man and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry," he apologized.
"It's okay," Josiah responded, meaning it. Taking in the work that had been done, he noted Chris was doubling the thickness of the deck's base. "Pretty complicated work you're doing there."
Looking down at the partially completed wall, Larabee sighed and rubbed a hand across his face hating how long it was taking him, but knowing that it would be stronger this time, strong enough to withstand whatever came next. "I want to be sure it won't fall again," he admitted.
Josiah nodded slowly in agreement. "That's good, Chris," he encouraged. Then, looking directly into his friend's green eyes, he added, " But, your house is wood and brick and nails and cement. It can be rebuilt and replaced."
"No," came the blond's harsh denial. "I'm not going to lose this again. I can't lose everything..." He cut himself off, getting too close to the thoughts that had been a constant source of fear. "I just mixed this last batch of concrete wrong."
Looking at the mixture in the wheel barrow, Josiah could see nothing wrong with it. Picking up the trowel from where it lay, bent and unmoving, he ran the tool through the cement and once more found nothing wrong with it. This time he said so. "There's nothing wrong with this cement, Chris."
"Yes, there is," the Team Leader insisted. "It's not strong enough. It won't hold. It has to be stronger so everything won't fall, so it won't disappear again. If I can make the cement strong enough then it won't fall apart," Chris tried to explain, unwittingly revealing more to Josiah than he would have ever done intentionally.
The wise blue eyes stared at his friend. There were many things he could say, many ways he could deal with this situation, but only one seemed to make sense to him given Larabee's current focus on cement. "Woodrow Wilson once said, 'Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.' Look around you, Chris."
Turning to look at the house, the two men observed their five friends sifting through the rubble. As they worked, their laughter carried over the yard. JD and Ezra were picking through the rubble, Vin was separating the debris into piles for disposal and Buck and Nathan were working on removing the piles Tanner created. JD stood up and waved something in the air, calling all the men to him. With one look at the item, smiles broke out and teasing ensued.
Allowing the laughter to roll over them for several moments, Josiah intoned, "The house wasn't your world. That house held memories, but it didn't hold you or us together."
Seeing the question in the hazel eyes, Sanchez pointed to their five friends again. "They lost a part of their world,too," Josiah pointed out. "But it's not the house that holds them together. It's not the house that makes them feel safe. It's the friendship they have that holds their world together. Brick and wood and cement and nails may make a house, but it's friendship that makes your world. And that, you still have, unshaken, unswerving, and stronger than ever."
As he watched his friends working, Chris was able to feel their strength around him. They were always there for him and he for them.
Resting a hand on Larabee's shoulder, Josiah took a step closer as he saw the fear leave his friend's eyes. "You have the strongest cement possible right here and it's not going anywhere," he assured. "There's no tornado, no gang, nothing that is going to shake us, tear us or blow us apart. Our bond of friendship is too strong." Seeing the slight nod of Chris' head, he continued, "No matter what happens when our world is shaken, when the foundations shutter and groan in protest, our friends are still there. That is our world, our strength, friendship holds us together." Having said all he had to say, Josiah squeezed the other man's shoulder and strode off to rejoin his friends at their tasks.
Thinking over Josiah's words and taking them deep within himself while he once more watched his friends work, Chris felt the tempest of emotions and fears calm. Josiah was right. He had lost his house and that was devastating, but he hadn't lost his friends. They were the center of his world, the core of what kept him going, and they were intact. The foundation of his world was as strong as it had ever been, held together by a cement stronger than anything man could devise; held together by friendship.