by tannertexaslady & Tonny

MCAT: Turbulent Transition #3

Characters: Chris, Vin, Buck, OCs

Disclaimer: This is entirely a work of fiction for entertainment only, based on the characters from "The Magnificent Seven." I don't own them, but if I did I would run away with 'm and never be seen again. CBS and Co., Trilogy Entertainment, and MGM had 'em first and do not want to give 'm away. I only do this for fun and do not make any money doing it. No infringement of any copyrights is intended.

MCAT AU: MCAT (Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism) is under the leadership of Commander Chris Larabee and he has every reason to be proud of the new unit that has handled fifteen cases in the first five month of operation. Six of which were very high profile and all of which were successful. The unit that began as an experiment is on the verge of becoming permanent as an essential tool for aggressively fighting crime and terrorist threats. In his personal life, he had found contentment with his extended family of brothers on their ranch, Larabee 7 and new love, Linda Dubois.

This series of seven stories will establish relationships and provide background for the characters in this AU.' Decisions' is third in a series of seven.

#1 Transitions

#2 Connections

#3 Decisions- The team is up for the six-month review. Their new case starts with a gang war on the streets of Denver, which quickly spreads to an attack on Larabee's family and ends with a shocking discovery.

Acknowledgements: My thanks go to Wendy for her beta work and her great advice. Tonny, thanks for reading, listening to the ravings of my silly muse and giving me valuable feedback, along with your contributions to this story. My thanks also go to the gracious readers that took the time to send me feedback for "Transitions".

Notes: Any mistakes are mine, as are the original characters I have created for this series. You are welcome and encouraged to play in this AU, but no slash parings please.

Background from Parts One and Two: For those who would like to have some information about this new AU at hand, here is a brief description:

MCAT is set after the wonderful ATF AU that Mog created. Team seven is disbanded and Chris Larabee is asked to lead a whole new type of law enforcement unit, MCAT (Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism), a totally independent unit that has the authority to act outside the existing boundaries within law enforcement and politics, their authority also overrules these other agencies. He accepts, and the other members of team seven decide to become a part of this unit as well. Chris, as the unit commander, only has to answer to Orrin Travis; Vin is his squad captain and Buck is his number three man.

In the first and second story, Transitions/Connections, new members became a part of this team as well:

Pamela Walton, Native American, computer genius who worked for the Justice Department, 30 years old.
Kelli Coulter, Caucasian, from Texas, degree in criminology/criminal justice, worked New Orleans PD, State of Texas Criminal Task Force and the DEA, 27 years old.
Justin Michaels, Caucasian, former homicide detective with Denver PD and then worked with the State Police investigations in Colorado, 43 years old.
Mark Westin ,Caucasian, excelled at the Police Academy, worked LAPD and California Highway Patrols, 26 years old.
Paul Roberts, African American, worked Atlanta Metro police departments with excellent records, 31 years old.
Ross Anderson, African American, Detroit Metro police departments, career until then focused on inner city crime, 34 years old.
Judy Mullins is not an agent, Caucasian, Data typist/computer assistant, 21 years old.

CASSIE is (Collaborative Analysis System for Sensitive Information Engineering). State of the art computer and is a valuable team member to the unit.

Dr. Robert (Bones) Metfield, Chief of Forensics, Caucasian, medical examiner, born Dumas, Texas ME Tarrant County twenty-five years, 10 year Chief ME six county area Amarillo 62 years old
Katrina Santos, Latin American, certified medic, forensics investigator, coming from the Taos Police Department and the DEA, 31 years old.

Family life has changed for the seven, as well. Josiah has married Mallory, 43 years old, former leader of ATF team six. When their old ATF teams disbanded and MCAT formed, she was pregnant with their second child and decided to quit working. They have a three year old, Joanne and at the end of Transitions, Mallory gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Adam.

Buck and Inez are married and have two lovely daughters, Sarah (2) and Maria (1). Nathan and Rain are married as well, Rain finished medical school, works at the Jewell Avenue Clinic (in Purgatory area of Denver) and is pregnant with their first child. JD and Casey are married, Casey is pregnant and they live with Nettie Wells on her ranch. The seven and their spouses have formed a real family now, have pooled their resources, and become partners in the horse ranch, Larabee 7, hoping that one day, when law enforcement becomes too much, this ranch will provide their income. Chris still lives in the ranch house, the gathering point of the whole family, while Vin lives there in a smaller house built nearby. Ezra passed the bar and his legal expertise is something the whole family gratefully uses. He still has his townhouse in the city and owns the Standish Tavern where Inez works part-time.

Chris is in love with new neighbor, Linda Dubois who, along with her brothers, owns the Southern Breeze horse ranch that borders Larabee 7 land. She comes from a family with old money, well known for the racehorses they breed. In Transitions Vin married colleague Kelli Coulter and the two Texans live in his house on Larabee 7. The Wilmingtons have built and The Jacksons are building homes there. Josiah and Mallory live in their home on adjoining property.

Size: Approx 280K

Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 7 | Chapter 8 - 11 | Chapter 12 - Epilogue

I have not found much time to write in the last three months and here it is, almost the end of September already. After I returned to work in July, our caseload has kept me busy. Personally, my family life has been full of activity. Linda is spending more time with me at the ranch and I find myself looking forward to seeing her here at the end of the workday. Our relationship is getting stronger with each passing day and I feel the time is fast approaching that I will have to decide what our next step will be. In spite of what my head tells me, my heart seems to have a mind of its own where Linda is concerned. I can feel the ties to my past loosening and I am more inclined to spend my days looking to the future. I do wish she had a better understanding of how Vin and I communicate, but given enough time maybe that will change and she will realize that Vin's connection to me is no threat to us.

Rain and Casey are keeping Nathan and JD on their toes, too. With both of them pregnant, it makes for lively conversations at the family dinners. Inez has her hands full with the girls and Mallory has a challenge with Joanne's jealousy of her new brother. Kelli seems to be adjusting to having family around and she and Vin are very good for each other.

Five months after the inception of MCAT, the all important six-month review is looming just around the corner. MCAT survived the attempt by Reed and his backers to take over and our team is stronger because of it. Politics and jealousies still surround us, but we are proving to everyone that this unit is here to stay. Our reputation is growing and I am pleased with our accomplishments. I am enjoying my position as Commander and Vin has found his comfort zone as Captain. Ezra remains an essential player with his people skills and legal expertise. Buck is in his element working with the younger agents and JD has made CASSIE an effective member of our team. Josiah is in demand for his profiling abilities after all the publicity we had on the last three cases and Nathan is spending most of his time coordinating our new forensic department with Dr Metfield's help. Gotta go meet Travis, more soon.

Chris closed his journal and left for work.

Chapter 1
Travis Office - Thursday

"Chris the unit has performed beyond expectations and that is wonderful."

"I hear a but in there, what is it?"

"Reed. What he did only highlighted the attention MCAT is getting, good and bad. There will always be an interest in MCAT for both good and evil purposes. We have proven the need and effectiveness of this unit, now we must find a way to protect it."

"Translation...Damn politics!"

Travis sighed, "Yes, damn politics. Although I must admit, you have flair with your tactics for handling the press and those with political interest Orrin smiled, with some resignation, remembering the tactless way Chris had responded to the press during MCAT's second case. "We need your ...uh talents concentrating on the unit. Our six-month mark is approaching and we need to make some decisions."

"Your point is, Orrin?"

"My point is that you and I need to be on the same page when our review comes up. How is all this publicity affecting the team?"

Larabee sat in thoughtful silence before he answered. "Truthfully, it has made our job harder. We came into his with the intention of taking on cases too hot for the other agencies to handle. Now they want us for any case they do not want to deal with and the requests for Josiah's profiling skills are mounting as we speak. We have to guard what we say about CASSIE and keep her capabilities a secret. If we are to function at our best we need to stay independent and chose our cases carefully."

Travis sighed, "I agree, right now I have at least fifty requests for our help and over one hundred applications for a place on the team. You have had time to think about this and access the potential of this unit. To stay effective what manpower do you need and what limits are necessary on case selection?"

"Manpower may fluctuate, but should never exceed eighteen field agents. We should only take high priority cases that either poses a threat to national security or for the welfare of the public, other cases, we should examine individually. All media access should be with press releases that we approve and we stop loaning out help to other agencies.' "

Orin was sure that there was more, "What do you need to make it better?"

Chris decided to lay out all his preferences. "We can be the best ready response team in the country, but to do so we must make that our only focus. I need time to work with the agents I have, not have them spread out on six different cases where our presence is not essential. We do not need to loan out our agents to anyone, not of our choosing. I want the authority to decide what we take or do not take. I also want our own helicopter with a trained agent as a pilot.'

Orrin stood up and passed two stacks of folders to Chris. "As of now you have it, these files are the request for MCAT help and the applications for a place on your team. Chose your next case, find the new agents you need and are satisfied with, I will take care of the rest." Travis was pleased with Chris' assessments and ready to let him run with it. "From now on I will handle the press and if you need anything else, let me know."

"Why do I get the feeling you just set me up for this?"

Travis grinned, "Because you are a smart man and ...I did."

Orrin watched Larabee head to the elevator and had to smile. Chris did not know yet that the Attorney General declared MCAT a major success and there was no longer a question of its worth. Larabee was the reason for that success and deserved credit for it. Orrin planned to make sure he got it, but it was going to be special and would take some time to make the proper arrangements. The six-month celebration, for this MCAT team would be one to remember. Travis picked up the phone to call Linda Dubois for assistance in planning the event.

MCAT Office

Chris entered the bullpen and went straight for the war room, indicating on his way for JD and Vin to join him. Dropping the files on the table, he started with Vin. "We need Nathan and Metfield in here for this, ask them to join us." Tanner turned on his heels and went to get them.

"JD, you know more about that computer than I do, can it sort applications by skill?"

"Sure, CASSIE can rate them any way you want her to." JD explained, "I'll get Judy to put the info in and let CASSIE do the rest of it. Just tell me what you want."

Vin walked in, "They're on their way."

"Good, these files are requests for our help on cases. Tanner, you and I are gonna go through them and decide which one we want to take and send our regrets to the rest." Chris pushed a chair out with the toe of his boot. "Take a load off and start reading."

Tanner eyed the stack of files and shook his head. "Damn, Chris, we'll be here til midnight, you sure know how to wreck my plans for the evening."

Chris laughed, "I know what kind of evening you have planned. Since when did time or sleep interfere with you and Kel"

The Texan grinned, "Hell, I'll take lovin' over sleepin' anytime."

"Vin the whole family knows how you are when you miss your playtime. "JD smiled." You tend to get a bit irritable and a cranky Texan is something we don't want, so CASSIE and I will help you."

Before Tanner had a comeback, Dr Metfield and Nathan came in. Larabee was quick to get to the point. "Bones, you stole one of my agents for your team and I plan to keep the rest of them. Tell JD what qualifications you need and we'll find you another one."

"Kat is damned good and 'm keeping her, as to a second one I already know who I gettin'." Dr Metfield threw out his challenge to Larabee. "Greg Ramsey, now workin' in New York, I trained him and they don't come any better."

"You get him here and I'll interview him, if he is as good as you say I'll know it."

"Fine, tomorrow soon enough for you?"

"Two o'clock and Bones...don't promise him anything, yet." Chris smiled as Dr Metfield grunted his answer and left. "JD..."

"I know, background on Ramsey. What else?"

"Take these application, we need a good agent that can also pilot a chopper. Don't limit your search to those apps."

"You got it Boss and then I'll help on your case files." JD was off and running.

Nathan's eyes sparkled, "Helicopter? Outfitted for medical care, too?"

"Yep, start making your wish list and I'll get it to Travis." Jackson was already on it.

"Damn Chris, you're on a roll. Meeting with Travis go that good? Vin smirked, "Or did Linda get you in that mood?"

"Both, Travis was so agreeable, it scares the hell out of me and Linda...well it was a great morning." Chris smiled, "You know Vin I feel good about the way things are coming together. Sending Ezra to that anti-terrorism training was a good move; he was the best choice and will be one hell of a force to deal with if we need him to negotiate. Josiah has been terrific as profiler; JD and Pam have made CASSIE practically a team member. Buck is training Mark on explosives and Kel has proven to be a damned good investigator. Justin, Paul and Ross have established themselves, too. Our record of success is outstanding and now we are in control of our choice of agents and cases."

"All of the agents are good, but without your lead they would still be struggling. You made it happen, Cowboy."

"You ain't done so badly yourself Captain. Now enough of this let's get to work."

For the next few hours, they worked in comfortable silence with only an occasional interruption. They sorted the files and then ran them through CASSIE to check on connecting cases. Finally, they were down to fifteen possibilities and JD was printing out all available information on them.

Kelli came through the door with an armload of bags; Vin took some and set them on the table. "I knew y'all would lose track of the time and not think about eatin', everyone else is gone, so I brought you dinner, before I go home. Sandwiches from the deli and you can spring for the drinks, Lar'bee."

"Thanks, Kel, I guess we did lose track of time." Chris smiled at the young agent that just happened to be married to his best friend. He had liked her the first time he met her and was pleased to have her as part of his family. "It's past time for a break, anyway."

Chris went to get the drinks from the machine down the hall and JD excused himself to call and check on his Casey pointedly saying, "I'll be gone at least ten minutes." That gave Vin and Kelli a few minutes of privacy.

The Texan did not waste the opportunity and pulled his redhead close, "Missed you today." He reinforced his remark with a fiery kiss that ignited a spark of desire that could have consumed them both, if they had been truly alone. Instead, they took their few minutes of mutual enjoyment; the loving Texan, allowed time for a few tender caresses over soft curves, while Kelli was content just to be close to the man she had missed all day. The rest of their feelings would have to linger until they could be together with no interruptions, later. Vin sighed and whispered to her, "Chris is coming, but hold on to those pleasurable thoughts you're havin', til I get home." Tanner gave one last pat to her backside and pulled away.

Larabee walked in a minute later and grabbed a sandwich. It still amazed Kelli when Vin and Chris 'communicated', but she was grateful that Vin had a friend like Chris in his life. Her only regret was that her best friend, Linda, did not share her view on that relationship. For Kelli it represented the kind of trust that she knew was hard to come by and it did not bother her in the least that Vin was close to Larabee. In fact, she liked, as well as respected the man immensely and was even getting used to the brothers' strange connection. When JD returned they ate until all the food was gone.

"I'd better go so y'all can get back to work, just don't forget Vin, we still need to find a present for Sarah's birthday. Her party is Saturday and a girl doesn't turn three everyday." Kelli got up to leave.

Tanner stood up and took her hand. "I'll walk you to the truck, 'm sure Lar'bee can do without me that long."

"Just make sure walking in all you do, I want to go home, too." Chris exchanged a grin with JD as Vin gave him a silent hand gesture for an answer, as he walked out the door.

Chris went back to reading until, fifteen minutes later; JD laid three folders in front of him. "These three are your best candidates for a new agent. All three have flight experience and good work records. Everything I could find on them is in their file."

"Thanks JD, how many more cases does CASSIE have to run?"

JD checked as Vin came back. "Five more Chris and then we are done."

Chris slid the employment files to Vin, "Set up interviews with these three as soon as possible. Tanner nodded in the affirmative as an answer. "This pile we don't touch, they don't need MCAT's abilities and these we might take a second look at to see what we can do." Larabee separated the files.

"Hey guys, I think CASSIE may have found something, take a look at this." JD passed some printouts to Larabee and Tanner.

Chris read and then looked up, "JD, I want everything CASSIE can find on this file, as of now, this one is our priority. According to what CASS came up with this one, it has trouble for Denver, written all over it.

Chapter 2
Larabee 7 - Friday

Chris took one more look at the woman in his bed. I do not know how she did it, but she made it through all those barriers I built around my heart. Now I find myself more and more thinking us, instead of me. God if feels good to be in love again. He moved on to the kitchen for coffee, letting her rest, aware of how much she enjoyed sleeping through the sunrise. Larabee shook his head and smiled, thinking how she made up for it with those long loving nights. Grabbing a cup on his way out the door, he put a lid on it, so he could enjoy it on the way to work. Outside he saw Vin and Kelli were ready to leave, but they stopped long enough to make another memory as Tanner called it.

"Okay, you two, break it up, work calls." Chris grinned at the young couple and could not resist teasing them. "If I didn't know better I'd swear you both were sex-starved adolescents, instead of two grown-up federal agents."

Vin did not answer immediately, but finished kissing Kelli first. "Them that can... do, them that can't, nag the rest of us." The Texan smiled, gave his wife another kiss and a loving swat to her backside. "Come on, Kel before the principal decides to give us detention for being late."

"Lar'bee, you'd miss having us to pick on in the mornin's, if we weren't here." Kelli smiled, "What are you gonna do when we grow up and leave home?"

Chris became serious, "This is home young lady and don't ever believe otherwise."

"Does that mean I get to drive this mornin'?"

"Hell no!" Chris and Vin answered at the same time.

The three of them left for work with Kelli still mumbling that there was nothing wrong with her driving. Both Chris and Vin long ago decided that she drove too fast for their comfort zone. Vin didn't mind her off-road excursions so much, in fact they were fun, but she did not always switch her mind back to city traffic.

Kelli drove with the same enthusiasm that Linda shopped with, both looking for adventure, just from different sources. They were both good at their chosen 'sport', but that did not make it easier for the men to handle. By the time they reached the federal building, she forgave them both for the insult to her driving ability and was ready to face another workday.

MCAT Office

They were early, but Wilmington was already there and because Buck was seldom the first one in the office that could only mean one thing. He and Inez were having a serious disagreement.

"Morning Buck, what brings you in so early on a Friday?"

"Chris, you tell me what is wrong with buying a three year old a pony."

Larabee took a large swallow of the coffee Kelli just handed him. "That depends, Buck. What kind of pony are we talking about?"

"A pony, you know one of them little ones like Linda brought to the party that time. Hell, it's small enough that Sarah could even bring it in the house, but Inez is dead set against it. She says Sarah is too young for a horse, but she would have a ball with one of those midget horses."

Chris looked at Vin for help, but the sharpshooter put up his hands and backed off. "M not touching that one, Cowboy, you're on your on.


Kelli shook her head at the two men. "Buck, maybe it's the idea of havin' the pony in the house that Inez doesn't like. Why don't you compromise and instead of buyin' a pony, bring Sarah down to ride with one the adults until she gets her confidence. Let her pick one of the colts that she likes to be hers and then they can grow up together."

"I'll call Inez and talk to her about it, thanks." Wilmington left to call his wife.

She looked at Chris, "What? I don't have to read your mind to know what you were fixin' to say. Tellin' him he was crazy for expectin' his wife to welcome a pony into her home without raisin' hell would solve nothin'. Now, you have an opportunity to teach Sarah to ride." Kelli went to tackle the paperwork on her desk.

Vin, are you sure she can't read minds or am I that easy for her to read?

I wonder about that myself sometimes, she seems to read you almost as good as she reads me.

Buck came up and slapped Chris on the back, "Inez loves the idea and between you and me we'll have Sarah riding in no time."

"That's great, now can we get some work started around here?"

Larabee and Tanner headed for their respective offices, while Buck settled in at his desk. He had plans to make, teaching Mark about explosives would be a challenge, but the boy was smart and willing to listen. Wilmington had several learning guides for him to start on and when he was ready, Chris had already approved his training time. Now all he had to do was convince Mark that his teaching started in the classroom. Grabbing the manuals, he dropped them on Westin's desk.

"This is to get you started."

Mark looked at the stack and winced, "All that, why can't you just show me in the field?"

Buck sighed, "Mark, if you make a mistake with explosives, you don't get a second chance. You will learn the right way and then when you are ready, we'll go into the field together. Start studying."

"Thanks Buck. I do appreciate you backing me on my decision to specialize in explosives. I promise you will not be sorry that you agreed to help me.

"I'm gonna hold you to that, kid." Buck was smiling as he walked away because Mark had already immersed himself into reading.

An hour later, Vin came out of his office and once assured that everyone was busy went to see Chris. He was on the phone so Tanner made himself comfortable and waited for Larabee to finish.

"Okay, keep trying and if you run across anything, let me know." Chris hung up, "Dammit, how did that sonofabitch just disappear off the face of the earth?"

Vin knew who he was talking about, they both had been searching for this man for months. "I don't know, but my sources can't get a line on him either. As much as I would like to get my hands on the bastard, I can only hope that he is dead and gone. What he did to Kelli was bad enough and I pray he never got a chance to hurt another child. Maybe the Devil already took him to hell and we weren't meant to find him."

"So we give up?"

"Hell no, not until I have proof the bastard's dead."

"I didn't think so." Chris smiled, and moved on, "Okay, what have you got?"

Tanner handed him the three folders from last night, "I talked to all of 'em, they all sound good, but my money is on the last one, Raphael Cordova he's 43, with the DEA fifteen years, Marine pilot, veteran of Desert Storm. He learned to fly from his dad and soloed at the age of twelve, he can fly anything that has wings. I set up interviews with all three for Monday."

"Good, I talked to Morgan at the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. He heads up the Major Crimes Division and is the man that asked us to take on this case. Initially we do a Security Threat Assessment and then go from there. This is the background that he gave me, but JD has twice that much already set up in the war room." Chris passed Vin a folder. "I told Travis that we wanted to take this one first and put the Seattle case up second. That one can wait a couple of weeks, this one we get started on ASAP."

"Ten minutes?"

"Fine, herd 'em in."

War Room

There were at least twelve different conversations going on, while the agents waited on Larabee and Tanner to tell them what was going on. The seasoned seven listened with amusement as the newer team members speculated on their next case. All chatter ceased when the Captain and the CO entered the room.

"Okay boys and girls, I know you are all anxious to get started so let's begin. JD and Pam have already put background together for us and you will find it in the folders they are now passing out. For now we are only to do an STA, once we can confirm the facts, then we move to step two. The Colorado Bureau of Investigations has asked us to take this on. Our contact there Special Agent Morgan will coordinate information with the following law enforcement groups: The DA's Gang Unit, Denver Police Gang Bureau, Rocky Mountain Safe Street Task Force/Metro Gang Unit and NAGIA, which is the National Gang Intelligence Center."

"Gang? Isn't that a little off what we do?" Buck wanted to make sure he understood.

"Gang activity is not just limited to street gangs anymore, Buck. They have gone national and with all the attention to terrorism have slid under the radar and flourished in both large cities and rural communities. Drugs will always be associated with them because that is how they finance their business and it is a business. They use new technology just as we do and have the money to keep up with anything law enforcement can get. However we are not taking on all the gangs out there, we are looking for evidence of one in particular. 'The Soledad'."

Ross whistled, "I know about them, but I thought they ceased doing business five years ago."

"So did everyone else, but the CBI thinks they might be trying to resurrect here in Denver. First we find proof they are here and then we make sure they stay dead." Questions bombarded Chris. "Hold it. Ross is the closest we have to an expert in this area so let him explain."

"There are several bad boys out there, but the fastest growing are the OMG's or Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The Soledad was or is one of the deadliest. in addition to drugs, they were responsible for murder, bombings, arson, assault, extortion, weapons trafficking, home invasion, prostitution, money laundering, insurance fraud, kidnapping, robbery, and contraband smuggling to names a few of their enterprises. The gang was thought to be wiped out five years ago in Detroit, I was there and I can tell you no one mourned their passing. If they are back, this means big trouble because the first thing they will do is try to eliminate the competition and they do not care who gets hurt in the process. Boss, if there is any chance this rumor is true I want to be on the front line. I saw what they did in Detroit and I sure as hell don't want to see that repeated here."

"Here is how we start, Ross I want everything you know about their activities in Detroit and any ideas on who might be trying to bring them back. Bones, I have forensic reports from known murders they committed five years ago, I want you to compare them to several unsolved we have had in the last few weeks. Ezra, I want the word on the street from your sources and take Kel with you. Buck, you and Mark on the street, Paul you go with them. Josiah work with Ross and give me a profile of who their new leader might be. Vin, take Nathan and Justin, hit Purgatory see what the word is there, I'll join you after my interview with Ramsey. JD and Pam keep CASSIE going on this. Remember, first we need to find out if it is true and then we plan from there. I want every one of you back here no later than five o'clock. Hit the streets."

Dr Metfield approached Chris, "Larabee, Ramsey is in town, if you want to see him earlier I can have him here in twenty minutes,"

"Do it and I assume you want in on the interview so come with him, just in case I miss a question or two." Chris grinned.

"Twenty minutes."

Ramsey and Metfield hit Larabee's office in nineteen minutes; it took less than fifteen minutes for Chris to decide to hire him. Bones had his man and now the forensics team was complete with the addition of Greg Ramsey. He was to report to work in two weeks, enough time to find a place to live and have his things moved.


When Rain Jackson went to medical school, she did not have a great design to change the world, just a small part of it. The Jewel Avenue Clinic was a place where she knew that she could make a difference and feel good about it. Being pregnant with her own baby only made her more determined to help the children that had to grow up in Purgatory, they called it that because once you were here it was hell to get out. Gangs, drugs, poverty and violence, all called this area home.

"Honey, listen to me. If what we hear on the street is true, you may not be safe working here. Please think about taking off, as least until our son is born." Nathan pleaded with Rain to consider it.

"Rain, I understand how you feel about helpin' these people and you know 'm the first one to defend this place, but this time I have to side with Nate. At least for a couple of weeks you need to be away from here, you have a choice the people that live here don't." Vin did his best to persuade her, too.

She looked at both men and the third one she did not know as well. "That is exactly why I need to stay, these people can't leave and they might need me."

Justin watched and he had been married long enough to know when a woman had made up her mind. He did not blame Nathan for pleading with her; if it were his wife, he would be doing the same thing. He just could not see her changing her mind for anyone.

"Dammit Rain, this could get very dangerous fast and what about our son?"

"He's right." Chris joined them. "I have lost a wife and son and I do not want to see Nathan go through that. You have until Tuesday to tie up loose ends and then you will be out of here. No arguments."

Dr. Jackson met Larabee's green eyes, hesitated, and after a minute of thought responded, "Okay, Tuesday."

"Nate, you stay here with Rain, we can't do anything until we get the hard files from Detroit and after Monday I won't guarantee you two any time together. I'll see you both at home, later."

Nathan walked out with them. "Thanks Chris, I know that was not easy to bring up, but I appreciate you getting through to her." Chris just nodded and kept on walking. "Vin, Justin, I'll see you guys later."

MCAT Office - 5:00p.m.

"Okay, most of your reports indicate that we have more than rumor. We still have time to do this right; I will alert The CBI and Travis. Monday we go on the offensive and we will have a hard job ahead of us. Take the weekend with your families; it may be the only free time your have for the next few weeks. You are all welcome at the ranch on Sunday, open invitation, bar-b-q served at two. Now go home." Chris watched them leave, he knew the next couple of weeks would be hell, but he also knew he had the right team to face it.

"That goes for you too, Chris. There is nothing we can do until Monday, let's go home, Linda made a special request for us all to have dinner together and you don't want to disappoint her."

Tanner's words brought Chris back for his musing, "Right, some kind of announcement and with Linda you never know where that could lead."

Larabee 7

As soon as they got home, Vin and Kelli went straight to the barn to tend to the horses. Chris was ten minutes behind them and with a little luck; they might have some time for themselves before dinner was ready.

"You have any idea what this announcement will be?" Tanner poured the oats, while Kelli refreshed the water for the horses.

"Nope and knowing Linda it could be anything from buying a jet to findin' a new litter of kittens on the ranch." Kelli laughed, "Is Chris worried?"

Vin shook his head and smiled, "Nah, I think he likes the element of surprise that Linda has brought to his life." He put down the empty bucket, walked up behind Kelli and circled her waist with his arms. "Just like you have to mine," he kissed the back of her neck. "You may not be as impulsive as Linda, but you did manage to surprise the hell out of me."

Kelli leaned back against him." How did I do that?"

He rested his chin on top of her head and sighed, "When I first laid eyes on you in that restaurant, I thought if I set my mind to it that we might get together, have a few nights of wild lust and move on."

"Well, you were half-right, we did get together and we have had more than a few wild nights. That wasn't such a surprise was it?"

"Maybe not, but the rest of it sure as hell was. "He turned her to face him, "The last thing I expected to find was a beautiful, spirited, and stubborn to the bone, redhead that would be able to steal my heart, start a never-endin' fire inside me, and bury herself deep in my soul before I knew what hit me. Until you, I didn't believe that kind of life changin' love existed." Long lean fingers trailed through her hair and down her cheek.

Like drawing water from a well, Vin's words reached deep inside her and drew her emotions to the surface. It never ceased to amazed Kelli how this Texan set her spirit into motion so easily, with a look, a few words or a touch. He tore though every defense and all the walls she had spent a lifetime building with no difficulty and then took her to a place that she had never believed was destined for her. Vin filled all the empty spaces within her, wrapped her in the security of his love and changed her life forever.

Her voiced rough with emotion she questioned softly, "You think they would miss us if we skipped dinner?"

Vin kissed her tenderly and then in a husky voice answered, "Yeah, Lar'bee would be beatin' on our door, but... we still have twenty minutes and 'm willin' to share a shower, if you're interested."

Kelli's heavy emotions lifted and her eyes filled with mischief, "I never could resist a wild, wet Texan. Come on, I'll race you home." She pushed off his chest and took off running.

They raced across the yard reaching the house at the same time, then they practically fell though the open front door, laughing. Vin shoved the door shut with his boot and leaned back against it, while his hands took a firm hold on Kelli's hips, pulling her close. "A beautiful woman and a wild wet Texan can make a helluva combination." He claimed a hungry kiss that fueled the desire that had been building between them and then grabbed her hand, "Time's wastin' baby and I hear that shower callin' our name."

They were only five minutes late for dinner.

Chapter 3
Larabee 7 - 6:00p.m.

Linda had dinner planned for the four of them and was anxious to share her news, but it could wait until after they ate. Chris arrived first and the moment he laid eyes on her his concern about the case disappeared, other thoughts took over instead.

"Hello beautiful," he slipped his arms around her. "Dinner looks great, but you look even better,"

"You don't look so bad yourself," Linda leaned into him and kissed him, with a fierce passion that made him consider canceling dinner altogether. "It won't be ready for another thirty minutes or so, How about a cold beer?"

"I'd rather have you, but I suppose that will have to wait. Thirty minutes should give Vin enough time to take care of business and get his butt over here." He smiled, Tanner had already tuned him out, but Chris had a good idea about what he was doing.

Linda gave him a strange look, "You can't....I mean," she blushed.

"No and neither can he so just relax." Chris took the offered beer and stole a quick kiss. "You worry too much."

"Well, hell, Larabee how am I supposed to know these things? This is all new for me; don't you have a list of rules or something that goes with this connection thing?"

Chris laughed, "No, it just is... it's not something for you to be concerned over and has nothing to do with us, ever. I love you Linda and that is more important than anything or anyone else, remember that."

Thirty-five minutes later, the Tanners joined them. Both were in a great mood, and wet hair along with a few passion marks left little doubt as to what they had been doing before they arrived. Linda still had a few reservations about this connection business, but she was not going to let it ruin their evening. They enjoyed a leisurely meal and moved to the den for desert and coffee.

"Okay Dubois, you have made us wait long enough, what is this announcement, you're so hot to tell us about?" Kelli decided to push her.

"Well, yesterday, I received a phone call from Orrin Travis. He is such a nice man, you are all so lucky to work for a man like that and his wife is a doll..."

"Linda...the phone call." Chris interrupted.

"Oh yes... well you know the six-month anniversary for MCAT is coming up and, he asked you believe, to help plan the celebration. This is going to be so much fun; I can see it all now. I was thinking maybe a formal ball or maybe something historical. Anyway I just wanted to share with all of you and I promise it will be an event to remember."

Kelli answered first. "That's great, Linda." I hope Travis has a big budget.

"Good for you, Linda." Vin added. Aww hell, formal.

Chris offered his enthusiasm, "I'm glad he recognized your talent, sweetheart." Orrin, do you know what you are getting yourself into?

Dinner was finished, the Tanners said goodnight, the kitchen was cleaned up and Chris was ready for some loving from his lady. He may not know everything there was to know about this woman, but he did know they made magic every time they came together. He took her hand and pulled her close to him, "I may have to share you with the rest of the family this weekend, but tonight it is just you and me.

A moment later, they were in the den together, huddled on the big couch. With a fire roaring in the fireplace and the wine on the coffee table, it was a great start to the weekend, Chris thought, taking Linda in his arms. She snuggled against his chest, eyes on the fire and a deep sigh of contentment escaped her.

"I do hope this new case will leave you some time for us, for this," she murmured, trying to dig in even deeper.

Chris grinned and kissed the top of her head. Slowly he opened the top buttons of her blouse and soon his hand was inside, caressing her. "I'll sure try and make time," he whispered in her ear, blowing softly to make goose bumps rise all over her body. He grinned wickedly when he felt her shiver. "And at least we have this evening and tonight. Come close, I want to kiss you."

Linda tilted her head so they could share a deep kiss. Without breaking contact, she turned around in his arms and started to unbutton Chris' dress shirt. "Time to get you more comfortable," she murmured without taking her lips of his. The kiss deepened again and her hands started to push the shirt off, when the phone rang.

"Leave it!"

"I can't... OH!" It was difficult to think with Linda's hands all over his body and her teeth nibbling his ear. Hell, couldn't they do without him for just one evening? He decided not to take it and see if it was really urgent. If it was, his cell phone would be the next to ring.

The phone stopped and Linda had just started to trail kisses down along his body, when his cell phone started to play the Star Spangled Banner. It made Linda giggle.

"Buck," Chris sighed. "When did he get his hands on my phone this time? At least this is a decent tune. Sorry Linda, I really have to take this, you know that." She pouted prettily but let him get up enough to grab the phone from the coffee table. He frowned when he saw the number display.

"Chris, is something wrong?"

"It's Buck. I hope there's nothing wrong with the kids that can put a dent in Sarah's birthday tomorrow." Hastily he punched in the receiver button.

"Larabee, and Buck, this better be damn, damn good!"

"Chris? Chris, old buddy, thank God you picked up! I was afraid you'd already hit the sack with that lovely little lady of yours and had thrown out your cell!"

"I was almost there, Buck."

"Really? Listen, I'm real sorry but I'm in a big, big jam here and I need your help! It's Sarah's birthday present...."

"Her present?" Chris suddenly had a feeling of doom. "Buck, what did you do? We talked about the pony, didn't we?"

"We did and nope, I didn't sneak one in, honest! I just... I bought something really great for her, the next best thing to a pony, but uh... I've got some trouble with it."

"Where's Inez?" Chris wanted to know, still suspicious.

"Uh, hm, she uh... sort of said I was on my own with this one..."

Chris groaned. What on earth had Buck gotten himself into now?

"I'm not going to take sides against Inez with you, Buck, you know that! Damn, what did you do?"

"Nothing, it's a grand toy that I bought, it's from the age of three up, so I don't see the problem! I just ... I didn't get it assembled and I could really, really use the help!"

Chris felt Linda's arms snuggle around him once more and felt her kisses trail his chest and abdomen. He knew he did NOT want to get involved in whatever hair brained scheme Buck had thought up now.

"Damn it, Chris! I've been there enough times for you and I do need help here!"

"If you're going for emotional black mail you're really desperate."

"I AM! Now will you come and help me? Please?"

If he wanted to, Buck could make a stone melt with his pleads. Something Sarah and Maria had already picked up flawlessly. Chris heaved a deep sigh. "I'll be right there."

"Good, you better come directly to the garage, I'll be in there."

"Garage? Buck, whatever did you buy Sarah?"

"A car," Buck stated, the pride evident in his voice. "A real car, ain't it just grand?"

"A CAR? BUCK! BUCK, WAIT...." Too late, the connection was already gone. Chris swore profusely and would have thrown his cell phone in disgust, if Linda hadn't stopped him. She was grinning up at him mischievously.

"Sorry, Linda, I'd better get over there, Buck...." A hand on his mouth stopped him from talking. Linda's eyes were dancing with repressed joy.

"Don't, Chris. Come on, let's go and save Buck. This sounds like fun!"


"Oh yes, I can't wait to see what he's done. A car? Oh, this I've got to see!"

"Linda, you have NO idea how Inez can be when she's mad, can you?"

"Nope. But I don't care. It won't be me she's mad at after all!" The mischievous smile was still there. "Come on, chicken, I'll try and intermediate between you two strong men and Inez. Let me grab my coat." When she walked away, Chris thought he heard some suspicious noises coming from her. Was she snickering?

He was going to kill Buck!

Wilmington's resident - 9.00 p.m.

"God, Buck, is this a car?"

Chris had marched directly towards the garage, ready to give Buck a piece of his mind, but the scene that greeted him when he opened the door had stopped him immediately. Buck was sitting on the ground, some kind of bookwork beside him and a lot of unidentifiable objects spread all over the garage floor. One of the things Chris noticed was that a very great number of those objects were pink, not a soft pleasing pink, but about the harshest and brightest pink he'd ever seen. What wasn't pink was a bright shining silver.

It was ghastly.

"Chris, will you move on? Let me see!" Linda called out from behind him. Reluctantly Chris entered the garage and walked over to his long time friend.

"WOW!" he heard Linda exclaim behind him. Buck was looking up at them with a big, goofy smile under his mustache.

"Chris, thank God! When I bought this, I didn't know it would come in so many pieces! I've been trying to figure it out for ages and I still didn't get any further than the wheels and the underside of the thing!"

"Nice color," Chris couldn't help from commenting.

"Yeah, it is, isn't it? You know how the girls just love pink! Look, this is the picture, isn't it absolutely adorable? And it can go up to five miles an hour!"

Chris winced. It really WAS a car.... Only taking in half of Buck's ravings about rechargeable batteries, gas pedals and steering capacities, he took up the instructions and looked at it.

"I'd better go talk with Inez," Linda said, clearly not wanting to be involved. "I got the impression from Chris' side of the phone call she's not thrilled with this gift." Seeing Buck's face turn crestfallen, she grinned at him. "If it's any consolation, I love it! I think she'll have a ball with it, Buck!"

"Inez thinks it's way too dangerous for a wild three year old," Buck said, looking at it somberly. "Do you think you can convince her it's no more dangerous than a bike?"

Now Linda had to laugh out loud. Shaking her head, she disappeared to the house.

Chris sighed and looked again at the instructions. "You couldn't buy it assembled?"

"Hell Chris, I was too glad I finally found something worth while, you know, after the pony was vetoed by everyone. So I just brought it home. I thought I'd have enough time to assemble it this evening. Never thought it would be like... this!"

"Or that Inez wasn't going to give a hand. Well, let's start, big dog."

"Yeah, let's make this work, stud!" The grinned at each other and very soon were immersed in the job at hand.

"First we have to put this in here."

"Are you kidding? That can't be right Chris! See, how can we stick this in, if you've got that up there?"

"Buck, I don't think that should go there."

"Oh, but something has to go there!"

"Yeah, but what? Give me those instructions."

"Why? I'm reading here!"


"Oh alright, alright, have it your way, see if you can do better...."

"You called me, remember?"

An hour later, when Linda came in with some coffee and cookies, the whole get up was starting to look like a beautiful little pink truck. "Oh yes," she nodded, "I definitely like it! Buck, you bought her a truck, way to go!!!"

"Yeah! I wanted her to be able to cross all through the field. Hey, pretty soon she'll be driving over to you by herself, Larabee! Uh... Linda, how's Inez now?"

"Still pretty angry, Buck and I don't think ideas like Sarah driving on her own to the ranch house would make her feel better about this."

"Oh hell!"

"You two enjoy yourself. Good luck with all those parts still laying around."

"Uh, Linda...."

"Oh no, Chris! No way I'm going to help with that! Buck is your buddy, you have fun with it! Why Buck didn't have it assembled in the store is beyond me...." Hastily she left. They could hear her laughter all the way to the house, again.

"Women," Buck muttered.

"Speak for yourself! Me and my woman were doing just fine until you called!"

Another hour and no more parts were laying around. What was even better, the little car worked. Two proud men were standing there, watching it with silly grins on their faces, when the door of the garage opened again. The two men had their arms around each others' shoulders and didn't notice anything, all their attention was on the little whirling truck.

"Ain't it grand?" Buck sighed.

"It's a ghastly pink, Buck; no way can it be grand! Damn, that's one hell of a birthday gift, pard. She's gonna love it!"

"Yeah, she will, won't she? Oh Chris, I can't wait to see her face when she finds this."

"You still gotta gift wrap it, Buck."

"Are you kidding? How am I gonna do that? No way I've got enough paper, it was a lot smaller disassembled in a box! Just look at it though...."

"Yeah! Glad you got one that stops as soon as her foot gets from the gas pedal though."

"Yep, I specifically wanted that. It's pretty safe Chris, really. Damn, but it feels good to see it standing there!"

"Yeah." Chris didn't say it, but it was clear for the silent watcher peeking through the door that both men had had fun. Not only the grins were giving them away, but also the proud looks they were giving the small, one child truck with its big wheels, sturdy frame and handsome steering wheel. Both men loved what they had wrought here.

"Yep, she's gonna love it," Buck repeated his friend and Chris nodded.

Silently Inez left again, walking back to the house, shaking her head.

Wilmington's residence - 11.30 p.m.

After having said goodbye to Chris and Linda, Buck quietly entered the kitchen. There he hesitated, not knowing what to do. His eyes sought hers and Inez sighed.

"I won't bite, Buck."

Well, you were pretty mad..."

"I know, I'm still not that thrilled about it, but Linda has convinced me to give it a try. She says it's not rated from three years old and up for nothing, that toy manufacturers know what they do."

Immediately Buck's face lighted up. "They do, Inez, they do. It's really safe, you'll see!"

Inez tried not to smile, but if there was one thing that had finally won her over to get serious with Buck, it was the rogue's boyish enthusiasm. The big, happy smile on his face while talking about his gift for their eldest melted her heart. She took pains to keep the devastating effects that smile and that enthusiasm had on her hidden, knowing full well Buck wasn't above taking advantage of them if he knew. So she hastily took another sip of her orange juice and avoided looking at him.


Good, he sounded uncertain again. Schooling her face, she looked up with a frown. "Yes, Buck?"

"Inez, I didn't want to make you mad or do something you hate. I just thought it was the perfect gift for Sarah and when I saw it was for three year olds, I was so happy to have found her something."

She sighed. "One of the things I hate about a big gift like this is wondering what you'll do next year, Wilmington, when you will try to top this one. They are little kids, they don't need grandiose presents. They get a lot of presents on their birthday from the family as well and enough is enough Buck."

"I... Oh ... I hadn't thought about that..."

She looked at him in earnest now. "Do think about it Buck. Please, think very hard about it. At this age it doesn't matter that much yet, because they are living in the moment ... happy in the moment. But next year Sarah will be four and she will start to expect things. If she gets bigger and bigger presents on her birthday, pretty soon she won't be happy with little things anymore. Then what do we do?"

"Shit, you are right. I... I'll remember that Inez, promise. It's just... it's such great fun to give them something you know they'll love..."

"It is." Inez smiled at him. "But she would have loved something smaller just as much, Buck. She doesn't even know that these cars exist. All I ask is that you think about the effects of spoiling and that we talk these things over first. It's not like we should never give them big presents, it's more that I want us to think before we do."

"That you want ME to think before I do."

Now she had to grin. "Yep, I guess that's it. Oh, come here, silly!" Hastily she rose up and walked over to him, taking her third child in her arms. Buck was the most wonderful man she knew, with the biggest and warmest heart she knew, just look at what he'd always done for Chris, how he had never abandoned his friend. He would also fight to the death for them all, but deep in his heart, he was still a kid, a very playful, fun loving kid.

She loved it; she loved the combination of everything that made Buck... Buck. Pulling his head down she gave him a resounding kiss. "Let's do some celebrating right now," she whispered. "And tomorrow... tomorrow we'll just enjoy our daughter's birthday. We'll go back to thinking mature after that, deal?"

"Deal, definitely," he breathed, deepening the kiss. Then he took her in his arms and laughing with joy ran with her to the bedroom.