by tannertexaslady

Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 6 | Chapter 7 - 9 | Chapter 10 - 12 | Chapter 13 - 15
Chapter 16 - 19 | Chapter 20 - 22 | Chapter 23 - 25 | Chapter 26 - 28 | Chapter 29 - Epilogue

Chapter 23

Second week Home-Sunday

Chris slept better that he had in days and was ready to take on the world. That is, as long as the pain pills lasted, he found that they helped tremendously and they were doctor prescribed so that made it okay. The day was warmer than the previous ones and since he was so much better, he planned to ride, too.

“Are you sure you feel up to this? You look tired.” Linda was worried about her blonde cowboy. Although he said he felt fine, he did not look it and she planned to keep a closer eye on him.

“I’m fine, it’s just gonna take a while for my body to catch up with the rest of me.” He grinned, “When it does we’ll have some time to make up for.” Chris gave her a kiss as he went out the door.

Linda wished again that they had taken him to the hospital, at least for a day or two. She was on her feet now though and the next time Chris was ill she would make sure that he got the treatment he needed.


Vin was worried about his redhead, she was too quite. He was very much aware of how little she had slept last night and when she did, it was the restless kind. However, the fact that she was neither crying nor ranting with anger fueled his concern the most. He found that he preferred a spirited Kelli to this one any day of the week and planned to do whatever was necessary to get her through this quickly.

As The Texan waited for her and Andi, he noticed Jason trying to be patient and failing miserably. “Relax pard, the horses are not going anywhere without us.”

“Still wished they’d hurry.” He grumbled.

Tanner laughed, “Spoken like a true Lar’bee.” They could have gone on ahead, but Vin wanted to stay close to Kelli today. “Here they are now.”

“We ready!” Andi bounced into the room showing off her braided hair. “Look Jason.”

“Great Andi, can we go now? Chris is expecting us.”

Kelli smiled at the way his eyes lit up when he talked about Chris.” Well, let’s not keep the man waitin’.”

Chris already had the horses bridled when he saw them come in the barn. “Perfect timing, horses are ready to be saddled.”

Vin looked at the three horses. “You plan to ride, too?” He exchanged a concerned look with Kelli

“I am and don’t you dare say I look tired. I’m fine and ready to go!” He snapped, but then immediately smiled. “Besides, I promised Jason and I keep my promises.”

Tanner had to admit on the ride out Chris was full of energy. When it disappeared after the first thirty minutes however, he saw Larabee’s spirit totally collapse and an extremely tired man emerge.

Kelli knew the kids wanted to stay longer and decided to be the one they could blame for going home so soon. “Sorry, kids I don’t feel so good and we probably should head back. I promise to make it up to you on the next ride.”

Vin sent Kelli a wordless thank you. “Okay Jason, fair is fair; you rode out here with Chris. How about ridin’ with me on the way back home?” He was afraid that Chris had really overdone it and he was relieved when Jason agreed to ride with him.

Once they went back home, Tanner took care of the horses while Kelli fixed them something to eat. Chris went straight to the house and his room. He pulled the bottle of pills out from under his mattress, where he had stuffed it that morning. Taking two, he counted the rest and frowned, he had started out with fifteen and now there were only eight left. *You just miscounted Larabee, you did not really take seven pills since 2:00 am.* He put the bottle back under the mattress and waited for the medicine to relieve his raging headache and quiet his screaming muscles.


Jason’s first day of school was a great success. No tears from Jason or Andi, although Vin was sure for a while Kelli might need a Kleenex or two. Andi spent half the day with Inez, Sarah and Maria, content to play with her new ‘cousins’.

Nathan came by and asked Chris some very pointed questions.

“Chris, you should have gained back a little weight by now. Are you eating properly? Are you having any headaches, unusual pains, anything out of the ordinary?

“Yes I am eating and no, no and no, to the last three questions. I told you Nate, I’m fine.”

“I just had to be sure; the Buprenorphin needs to be measured out in specific dosages to work. It is not a cure, but a treatment; it just replaces the drugs without the high and eliminates the withdrawal symptoms. I know you hate the questions, but I want to do this right.”

“No problem, I just don’t want to miss hearing about Jason’s first day of school.”

Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, with your blood work results.”

As soon as Nathan left, Larabee went to his room and grabbed the bottle of pills. He took three, *Damn only four left.*


Immediately after they dropped Jason off at school, Kelli and Vin both had doctor appointments. Tanner felt great, but he was still worried about Kelli, physically she seemed all right. Mentally he recognized that she had not resolved her problem, staying away from the ranch house and refusing to speak to Linda. He had already decided to talk to Matt himself and if she did not work it out soon, he may just take on Linda, too.

Dr Landers had already released her; Kelli now waited for Vin to finish with Dr. Gilford and thought about the last few days. She was worried about Chris. He just did not seem to be himself, but she could not pinpoint what bothered her about him. Then there was Linda, if all this had happened a year ago she would already have told her off and kicked her ass, end of story. However now there was so much more to considered, Chris, the kids, Linda’s pregnancy and the fact that Matt planned to stay in Colorado. *Maybe it was time to quit worrying about who knows about your past.*

“You ready baby? Doc signed off and I go back to work tomorrow, too.” Vin knew she had been lost in her thoughts and didn’t see him come out. “Now to the gun range and we’re official again.” The Texan grinned, “If you’re good I’ll treat you to lunch.”

“I’m better than good Tanner or have you forgotten already?” They slowly walked to the truck, hand in hand.

“Yeah you are, especially when you’re sassy and misbehavin’.” He gave her a kiss and waited for her to get inside before he closed the door. *Okay Vin, another step toward normal again. When Chris gets back to work, this nightmare is over.*


“I wanted to bring these out myself. “Nathan took his lunch hour to pick up Chris’ test results. “Negative on HIV virus, one more test in three months and you can breathe easy. For now, though just take precautions. We still have to wait on taking the test for hepatitis for a few months. Jack’s autopsy result showed no sign of either, but we want to play it safe.”

“Thanks Nate, but can we keep this between us for now. I am not ready to move back to the master bedroom yet. I want to wait until I’m completely clear of all the drugs first.”

“Sure Chris, but you do know it could be another couple of weeks.”

“I know.”

Chris just wanted him to leave. He had taken his last pain pill and already could feel it wearing off. Tomorrow when he went to therapy, he would insist on seeing the doctor and ask him for more. For now though, he would just have to suffer.


Linda heard Chris moving around; it was 1:00am, she got up to check on him and found him pacing the smaller room.

“Chris, what wrong?”

“Damn leg hurts, go back to bed.” He thought that sounded like a reasonable excuse.

“Maybe I should call Nathan, how bad is it?”

“No! Let Nathan sleep, he has to work in the morning. I’m gonna see the doctor tomorrow when I go for therapy, I’ll manage.”

“Chris you’re in pain now though, surely we can do something. It might be serious; the infection may be causing the pain.”

Larabee stopped pacing and thought for a minute. “You could be right, maybe I need a shot of antibiotics, but I hate to wake Nathan.” He gave it another minute to make her think he was weighing his options. “There’s a twenty-four hour emergency clinic just off the interstate, I could get a doctor to look at it, but of course Nathan would have a fit if I did that.”

“Then we won’t tell him, you need a real doctor Chris, give me five minutes to change my clothes and I’ll drive you.”

It took less than an hour at the clinic, the shot of Demerol the doctor gave him for pain would get him through the night and tomorrow he could fill the prescription he had in his pocket. Linda helped him into her car and was satisfied that a real doctor had seen him, at least now he would not be hurting.

Chris leaned over and kissed her, “Thanks babe, I love you.”


MCAT office

“Damn it good to see you back here, Vin.” Buck was more than ready to hands the reins back to Tanner. “Now if we can just get Chris back in here, maybe our lives can get back to normal.”

“It’s good to be back, it seems that it’s been much longer than three weeks.”

“Welcome back Captain Vin, your coffee is ready and a breakfast plate is waiting for you on your desk.” Gunny was business as usual.

“Gunny? Why didn’t you ever have breakfast for me?” Buck questioned.

“You Agent Wilmington are not the Captain or the Commander, beside I can tell from the looks of you that you don’t miss many meals.” Gunny patted Buck’s stomach. Vin swore he saw her smile while Buck sputtered for an answer.

*Yep Tanner, it is good to be back.*


Chris drove himself to therapy. Actually, he skipped therapy and went straight to the orthopedic doctor’s office. He left with another prescription to fill. He thought about going by the MCAT office, but decided to go home instead. Vin was back and he knew that the unit could handle anything that came up for a while.

Linda felt better now that Chris was taking control of his medical decisions. Oh, she knew the family meant well, she just did not agree that they were right. Besides, Chris looked and felt better after he had gotten the antibiotics, so that must mean that he needed them. Now she just had to convince him to move back into the master bedroom.

“Thinking about me I hope.” Chris walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“You’re back early; they kick you out for bad behavior?” Linda smiled, her old Chris was back and she loved it.

“Of course,” he grinned. “Actually, I am doing so well they did not make me go through the whole thing. Guess those antibiotics worked.” he hated lying to her, but it was easier than trying to convince her that his dead brother had been visiting in the middle of the night, dragging Phillip Deveraux along with him. At least the pills kept the nightmares away.

Linda fixed two glasses of tea and they sat together in the den. She decided to talk about their sleeping arrangements. “Chris, I want you back in the master bedroom with me. I know you still have some rough nights ahead, but I can help.”

“I know you could, but until I am sure about the HIV test and the hepatitis, I won’t take that risk.” Chris changed the subject. “Did you talk to Kel about keeping Andi a couple days a week, instead of Inez doing it every day?”

“Kel’s been really busy and I just haven’t caught up with her, but I will.”

“Don’t wait too long; I want Andi and Jason to feel comfortable with you before Ezra sets up an official home visit. He has to report to the court about our petition before anything can really get started.”

“I know, but I’ve been thinking Chris, I really don’t want to give up a big wedding and I can’t get my family all together until the end of next month.”

“Babe that is over seven weeks from now and you’ll be almost seven months pregnant. Couldn’t we just get married and maybe have a big family thing later?”

“Chris my brothers and their wives don’t do family things, as you call them. I still think we will have plenty of time after the wedding and the baby gets here to worry about adoption. The kids are okay with Kelli and Vin, you see them almost every day. Isn’t that enough for now?”

“No! They need more than that and I need to give it to them!” Chris snapped and stood up. “Call Kel tonight and set up some days with Andi!” He returned to ‘his’ room and slammed the door.

*Dammit Linda, now what do you do? You love a man with mood swings; have a best friend that will not talk to you, a wedding to pull off and a pregnancy to get through. Now Chris wants to add two kids to a family that is still in the planning stages. Time to ask for help Dubois*

Linda picked up the phone and started with Inez.


Vin was walking back from the barn when he saw Matt drive in the yard. Kelli was cooking with Andi’s help and Jason was practicing writing his letters.*Now is as good a time as ever Tanner.* He changed direction and intended to talk to Matt.”

“Dubois! “ Vin gained his attention before he went inside. “We need to talk.” Matt was agreeable and they moved away from the main house and toward the corral.

“I suppose Kelli told you that we spoke. I would also like to extend that apology to you. My behavior was inexcusable and will not be repeated.”

Tanner leaned against the fence and spoke softly, but firmly. “Your apology was accepted, but it’s the rest of what you told her that I have a problem with. Your sister was out of line talkin’ to you about Kel’s past and Kelli will have to deal with her about it. I just want to make sure that you understand that if you ever repeat it to anyone without my wife’s permission, you will have to answer to me.”

“I’m sure Linda thought that as family it was okay to tell me.”

“If Kel wanted family to know, she would have told ‘em. She didn’t and until she decides she wants to, it would be best if you forget that you know.”

“I never meant to upset Kel and you have my word that no one will hear it from me.”

Vin turned enough to look the man in the eye. “I hope so, because I’d hate to have to shoot you.”

“I don’t think that I would like it very much either. I do care about Kelli though and I am deeply sorry if she was hurt over this. Would it help if I spoke to Linda?”

“I doubt it. It’s best to let Kel handle talkin’ to Linda when she’s ready.”

“Very well, I will not say a word. I am gratified though, that Kelli found a man that clearly loves her as much as you do. She deserves to be happy and I can see that she is.” Matt felt a clearer message was appropriate and that he needed to offer his assurances. “Kel’s welfare is important to me and I will never do anything to interfere with that happiness or your marriage. You and I may never be the best of friends for obvious reasons, but I do hope that we can be friendly neighbors.”

“I reckon we understand one another then, Dubois.”

“I reckon we do, Tanner.” Matt extended his hand as a neighbor and Vin offered his in return.

Tanner home

Kelli was ending a phone conversation when Vin came in and apparently she was not pleased by it. “I am tryin’ very hard to be reasonable, but … damn it’s not easy.”

“Who was on the phone?” Vin helped her put dinner on the table, while they talked.

“Inez, apparently Linda called her and wants to take Andi two days a week during the day. Before you try to talk me into it, I said no. She needs to be with Sarah and Maria when Jason is in school.”

“I agree, but I wonder why she called Inez, instead of callin’ here.”

“Probably because I have not taken any of her calls and I won’t until ’m ready to talk to her.”

Vin encircled her waist with his hands. “I did talk to Matt tonight, he gave me his word that he will never repeat what he knows to anyone without your permission and I believe him. So that is one less thing for you to worry about.”

“Thanks, that was a discussion that I was not looking forward to.” She leaned into him for a long slow kiss that ended when they heard giggles accompanied by four little feet come running down the hallway. Kelli squeezed a firm cheek of her Texan’s ass and whispered. “We’ll continue this later, Tanner.”

“Count on it.”

Thursday- early evening

Vin was tending to the animals, he had finished with the grain and was working on the hay for the horses when Chris came in. Tanner had thought that by now, Larabee would be better, but if anything, he looked worse than he had on Sunday.

“Hey Cowboy,” Tanner kept working, but watched as Chris moved slowly across the barn. He also noticed that he was not wearing his walking boot. “You’re movin’ kinda slow without your boot aren’t you?

“Damn thing is more trouble than it worth.” Chris sat on a bale of hay. “Beside I don’t really need it any more. Where’s Jason, I thought he’d be out here helping?”

Tanner laughed, “If he had his way he’d practically live out here, but homework comes first and that is somethin’ that thankfully he takes very seriously.” Vin smiled. “He’s smart and already knows how to write most of his letters, practices all the time now.”

“I know he likes school, you are encouraging him with his studies right?”

Vin stopped what he was doing. “You didn’t come out here to talk about what you already know. What’s on your mind, Chris?”

“Why did Kel tell Linda she couldn’t have Andi a couple days a week?”

“Kel never talked to Linda, but if she had she would have said that. We both agree that right now the most important thing these kids need is stability. Andi has adjusted well to spendin’ her days with Inez, Sarah and Maria and it is too soon to start shufflin’ her around. It’s been less than a week, give her a little time.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is? Linda will be their mother and she needs to spend more time with them!”

Surprised by Chris’ words and the anger behind them, Tanner was slow to answer. “Regardless of what you might be thinkin’, the only thing we consider when we make decisions about the children is their welfare, not mine, Kel’s, yours or Linda’s. If you don’t agree with that, then you feel free to apply for custody yourself, but for now the court made us responsible for their interests and will do what we feel is right for ‘em.”

Chris sighed, “I know you wouldn’t use them against us, but dammit it’s gonna take a while before we can even apply. According to Ezra, Linda and I need to get married, go through an investigation and clear up this fucking financial mess, first.”

“You’re just gonna have to be patient, Chris. Be thankful that we have custody and that they are close enough for you to see ‘em every day. Linda has had the same opportunity, but so far, she has not made the same effort you have to visit with ‘em. That is somethin’ she has to come to on her own and she cannot be forced into it.”

“I want to have them at the house on Saturday.” Chris did not request, but demanded. “Bring them over early.”

“They’re gonna ride that morning, Buck is bringing Sarah over for one of her lessons, but then you can have ‘em the rest of the day. Vin helped him up. “Take care of yourself; Jason and Andi need you to get well and be there for ‘em.”

“Don’t worry about me; I’ll be good as new in another week or so.” They walked out together and Vin watched until Chris was safely inside. He made a metal note to himself to have a long talk with Nathan tomorrow.


MCAT office

It was shortly before quitting time when Vin asked Nathan to step into his office. “I hate doing this at work, but things have been a little hectic on the home front this week.”

Nathan laughed, “I bet it has. Life changes fast when kids are involved.”

“I need to know about Chris. He looks like hell, he quit wearin’ his boot and he’s just not…himself.”

“He keeps telling me he’s fine, but his appearance says something else and I know what you mean about the difference. One minute he’s Chris and then in the same conversation he changes completely.

“Is it all from the drugs or his leg or what?

“I don’t know Vin, the drugs should be pretty much out of his system by now. I have slowly lowered the doses of Buprenorphin and we should be seeing a marked improvement in him, but it’s not there. Drug use can cause mental changes, but usually it takes longer than a week of injections for them to be permanent. I plan to give him a few more days and if something doesn’t change, then I suggest we get him into a treatment program.”

“I hope it don’t come to that.”

“Me too, Vin.” Nathan started to leave.

“One more question. I plan for the kids to go over there to visit tomorrow, is there any reason that they shouldn’t’?”

“Not that I know of, but don’t plan to go off too far. I will see Chris in the morning, if anything changes, I’ll let you know. Goodnight, Vin”

“Goodnight Nate.” The Texan sat there for a good while wishing he could shake the uneasy feeling that he had.

Larabee 7

Chris threw the empty bottle across the room. *Twenty fucking pills in two days and you still have a roaring headache, Larabee.* He reached for the second bottle that he had hidden earlier. These were different, but stronger and he decided to take four because he wanted to sleep well tonight so that he would be fully rested… The kids were coming over tomorrow.


Chapter 24

Saturday Tanner home

Vin Tanner was in a pensive mood this morning. He studied the woman cuddled up next to him, her red hair was in disarray and still slightly damp from this morning’s boisterous session of lovemaking. Stroking his hand down her back he had to smile, it was hard to believe that this time last year, he did not even know her name and now he could not imagine his life without her. Hell, this time last year, he was single, there was still an ATF team 7, and they had no idea that it was all going to change in four short weeks, after a seven-year run. That was when fate had decided to turn the wheel and deal a new hand.

*The fifteenth of next month will mark a year since your life change irrevocably, Tanner. Travis dropped the bombshell about MCAT and a few days later, you saw a certain redhead for the first time. MCAT may have made you stretch your skills Vin, but finding Kel completed your life and she holds your heart in the palm of her hand. Now you’re layin around in bed at six in the morning, wanting to hold her just a few more minutes before the world wakes up and calls your name. The only thing that would make this perfect would be to hear her lose her temper again. It has been a week and the only fire from her has been when we make love. The rest of the time, she has made an effort to be reasonable and calm. Damn, but I miss that feisty, hot tempered, stubborn to the bone woman. Patience Tanner, she can’t stay this way much longer, she is a Lar’bee after all.*

An argument from the other room drew his attention and Kelli stirred. He kissed the top of her head and whispered, “You make coffee and I’ll go referee the little Lar’bees.” The world was awake and calling his name.

They rolled out of bed, dressed quickly and went in different directions to start another day.

Andi had her arms crossed in front of her and repeated again, “No!”

Jason saw Vin at the doorway. “See what you did, you woke ‘em up!”

“Did not!” She did cast a slightly worried look toward Tanner. “Did I?”

Vin smiled at her, “No princess, I was already awake. You two have somethin’ that I can help with?”

“Shoot Vin, she’s just being stubborn! I told her she can’t wear the same clothes she wore yesterday ‘cause they’re dirty and Kelli will make her change.” Jason glared at his little sister. “Then she threw a fit.”

Tanner however, was pleased that they were arguing. This was the first time Jason allowed himself to share his feelings without trying to smooth things over. It meant that he was becoming more secure about his place here. “I see the problem; I reckon we should wash ‘em then.”

“No!” Andi got that set look on her face and dug in her heels. “I want it stay purple!” The stomp of a little foot added to her exclamation.

Jason rolled his eyes and crossed his arms in front of him. “See…Stubborn!

The Texan was beginning to understand the impasse. For some reason, Andi had it in her mind that if her purple shirt was washed, the color would disappear. He knelt down to her level. “Andi, your shirt will still be purple, but clean, and if we wash it now, by the time we go out to ride Dancer, it will be finished and ready to wear again.”

She thought about it long and hard, but the horse ride won out. “OoooKay, but you do it now?”

“You got it, princess,” Tanner grinned. He gathered up a load of clothes. “You two dress for breakfast and I’ll get these started.” He stopped and threw them in the washer before heading for the kitchen.

Kelli had his coffee ready for him and offered it to him with a smile. “I heard, another crisis averted, damn you’re good.”

The Texan took the cup, “Better than good, baby.” He leaned over for a slow kiss, “Good mornin’ again.”

Larabee home

Chris was on his second cup of coffee. Nathan was coming over early and he wanted to get the expected inquisition over with so he could take his pills after Jackson was gone. He was surprised when Linda joined him.

“What in the hell are you doing up so early?”

“Well good morning to you, too. I thought since we don’t share the same room any more, we might eat breakfast together, if that’s alright with you.” Linda walked over to pour herself a cup of coffee.

“I’m not hungry, but you go ahead.”

Linda sat down. “Chris I know you are not happy with me about how I have handled this adoption thing, but I have given it some serious thought. If you are determined to go though with this, then I’ll support your decision, however, we need to talk about some plans.”

“I’m listening.”

“First off, we need to do some remodeling so we have a bedroom for each child and then I will need some help with all the extra work. Therefore, I want a housekeeper that can cook, too. Inez is coming with Buck this morning and I’m going to ask her to help me with the wedding plans.”

Chris could not believe what she just said. “Linda, in case you have forgotten, I’m almost broke or at least I am until I get a few things straightened out. We cannot afford to remodel or hire a housekeeper. Besides, with Matt taking over the management of the Southern Breeze, you will have plenty of free time.”

“I have enough to pay for…”

“No! Your money is yours, not ours! You are marrying a man that works for the government and owns a share of the Larabee 7, not a man that is independently wealthy. I think it is time that you quit being a Dubois daughter and think about being a Larabee wife and full-time mother. We live on what I make, not your family’s money!”

“I have my own money Chris.”

“Then put it in a trust for our children and their college education if you want, but I pay the bills around here. If you need assistance after the baby comes, I am sure that Inez, Mallory, Casey, Rain and Kel will be happy to help. That is what families do. As far as the wedding is concerned, you have two weeks to get it done.”

“Two weeks is not long enough Larabee. We have to get out the invitations, plan the reception and we haven’t even decided on where we’ll go on our honeymoon.”

“Linda, you’ve had five months to plan this already and we can only take a weekend for a honeymoon. I have been off work too long as it is and I cannot take an extended time off again for a good while. You pick where you want to spend it and it will be fine with me as long as it’s within reason.”

A knock on the door ended their discussion and when Nathan came in Chris was ready for him. They went to the bedroom and closed the door.

“Chris, tell me how you are really doing?” Nathan was worried about his appearance.

“I’m fine Nate, a few rough spots but I think the worst is over. I want to go back to work.”

That statement caught Nathan off-guard, “Chris, you need to give it some more time. Drugs induce some changes in the brain that make the one getting the drugs prone to addiction in as little as five to seven days It also means Chris that you will have to be very careful the rest of your life about the medicines you take and we need to make the time to do this detoxification right. That’s why I ask so many questions and why I don’t think you are ready to go back to work.”

“I know me dammit and I am not an addict! I will wait one more week, but then I am going back to work! Now give me what you need to because I want to spend time with the kids.”

“I did not say you were Chris, I just said we have to do this right.” Nathan sighed, “One week, but I had better see some improvement or we have to look at alternatives. Are we clear?”

“We’re clear and I will be better in a week.”

When Nathan left, Chris paced the room. *I am not a junkie dammit. Jack did not win! Hell, Nathan makes it sound like I could be out buying on the street corner. I will stick with what the doctor prescribes and be fine.* He took three pain pills, waited about twenty minutes for them to start working and then went back to talk to Linda.

She was dressed and in the kitchen finishing some toast. He slid up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “Babe, we will work it all out, just be patient for now and I promise that you will have what you need. I just want to get our life moving forward.”

Linda was still upset with him, but gave in to how good it felt to be close to him again. “Me too Chris, me too.”

“I saw Buck’s truck, let’s go out and join the rest of them at the corral. I want to see how the riding lessons are going.”


It was a beautiful day for February in Colorado. The sun was shining and it was close to sixty degrees, the warmest that it had been in three weeks. Buck and Inez were there with the girls as well as the Sanchez family. Apparently, Nathan never left after seeing Chris because he was there, too.

Sarah saw Chris first. “Uncl Chris!” she ran to meet him. “I ride, Daddy said real good.” She giggled when he picked her up.

Vin had Jason on Dancer and was walking her around the corral. “Chris, look! All by myself!” Jason yelled at him.

“You’re doing great!” Chris yelled back. He felt a sharp pang of jealousy that Vin was the one in the corral with Jason instead of him.

Inez and Mallory greeted Linda, quickly pulling her into a conversation.

“Hello Chris, it’s good to see you out and about.” Josiah was not there by accident, Nathan asked him to come over and observe Larabee.

Buck held onto a squirming Maria. “Hey Stud, glad you could join us.”

Chris looked around, Joanne was with her dad and he saw Kelli on the opposite side of the corral with Andi, watching Jason. “Why is Kel way over there, you guys make her mad?” He laughed, but thought perhaps that he should pay more attention to what was happening around him. He seemed to be missing a lot of things lately.

“Hell no, we know better than that, she just moved over there a few minutes ago. Probably to be closer to that Texan,” Buck grinned. “With two kids in the house, I bet their loving time has been cut way back”

“Maybe…I think I’ll go say hello.” He walked around the fence and the minute he got over there, Sarah wanted down to play with Andi. Before they ran off Chris hugged Andi and surprised Kelli with a hug, too.

“You two play right over there where I can see you.” Kelli instructed. “Hi Chris.”

“Hi yourself Red, haven’t seen much of you in the last week. Come to think about it, I haven’t seen you since last Saturday.” He watched her eyes.

“Chris, this has been a busy week, school for Jason, doctor, back to work, kids, dinners and a husband to take care of keep me on the run. How about you? You’re feeling better?”

“I’ll be good as new before you know it.” He noticed how she kept an eye on the kids. “You know for a woman, who has never had kids, you make a great mom.”

Kelli looked up, “It’s easy. I just do the opposite of what I know from my own experiences as a kid and it seems to work.” She noticed Matt’s arrival. “All we need now is JD with his gang to make this a family gathering, excerpt for Ez and I know he’s already preoccupied today.”

Larabee saw them all, too, and realized that the quite day he had planned with the kids was disappearing fast. “Damn and I suppose they’ll all be staying!”

His words held true anger and Kelli was shocked. “I thought you of all people would be ready to welcome a houseful of family again.”

“Not today!” Chris sighed and tried to smooth over his angry outburst with an obviously forced smile, saying quietly. “I just wasn’t expecting them, that’s all.”

The redhead thought he sounded more like a defensive Jason than the Chris Larabee she knew. *Okay Lar’bee, what do you have to hide?* “Yeah well, looks like the last of the troops are here, now.” JD and Casey had just pulled in, insuring a family thing was not far behind. *Dammit Kel, now you’re gonna have to join in or answer questions you are not ready for yet.*

Vin and Jason joined them. “Chris, I got to help with Dancer, we took her saddle off, brushed her down and put fresh hay in her stall.” His eyes were shinning with excitement. “I think she likes me.”

“I’m sure she does and you know what…so do I.” Chris put his arm around the boy’s shoulder. “I happen to think you and Andi are special. Now how about we go and see what everyone else is up to.”

“Come on girls, we’re moving out.” Vin grabbed Kelli’s hand, and picked up Andi. Chris carried Sarah and he walked next to Jason to join the rest of the wild bunch.

As expected, it turned into a family time at the ranch, Nathan called Rain to come over and with the exception of Ezra, the wild bunch was complete. Standish was spending the day with Barbara Lindsey and only they knew where they were going. Jason stayed close to either Chris or Vin and the girls talked Kelli into playing with them. The other women went over wedding plans, while they prepared dinner for everyone.

“Linda, has Kel seen the dress you selected for her to wear?” Rain asked about the matron of honor dress they had looked at.

“Not yet, we haven’t had time to talk much about the wedding, but I’m sure it will be fine with her.”*You hope Linda. You had better fix this argument soon or she might not even come to your wedding.* “You all like what I chose for each of you don’t you?”

Casey answered. “Yeah, I think mine is great. Have you decided on who is going to be your flower girl? “

“Definitely Sarah, you know how she feels about Chris.” Linda had not considered anyone else.

“Inez laughed, “She’ll love it, but I can’t promise she won’t do it her way.”

Mallory was thoughtful for a minute. “Josiah told me you two wanted to apply for adoption of the Larabee children. “What about Andi, will she feel left out? “

“We are, but it will take some time. I…I’m sure I can find a place for Andi in the wedding party.” Linda had not thought about Jason and Andi’s place, but promised herself that she would.

Rain looked through the open door to the other room. “I hope it doesn’t take too long. It appears Kel is already very involved with those kids. The longer it takes, the harder it will be for her to let them go.”

Linda suddenly realized the price her friend was paying for her procrastination, it seemed that there were other things she had not thought about *Damn Linda, you should have seen this coming. Dubois, you should do something about it.*


The men talked. It was hard not to see that Chris’ conversations were mixed with laughter one minute and then anger the next. Josiah and Nathan were not the only brothers concerned about him.

Chris noticed that Matt and Vin seemed to be on good terms. When Matt went to the kitchen, he waited until Jason was out of earshot and asked. “You okay with Dubois as a neighbor, Vin?”

“Yeah, I reckon I am. We have come to an understandin’ so to speak.”

“What kind of understanding?”

“Simple, he remembers that Kel is a married woman and I don’t shoot him.” Tanner grinned.

Larabee laughed more than usual, “Yep I suppose that’s an easy one.”

Chris’ loud laughter drew Buck’s attention. “Must be one helluva joke, you two gonna share?”

Kelli came over in time to hear Wilmington’s words. “Maybe, I should come back later.’

Vin pulled her down next to him. “Relax Kel, it’s nothin’ couldn’t be said in front of children.” He smiled, “Them little girls wear you down?”

“Lord yes, I love ‘em all, but I was outnumbered four to one.” She saw Jason slide closer to them. “Whatever you want to say Jason, we’re listenin’,” She knew he was still hesitant about asking for something that he wanted.

The young boy directed his question to Tanner. “Vin, can I go outside for a while. I promise not to go near the horses or go off far. I…”

“Whoa Jason, yes it’s okay and ‘m sure you remember the rules, but dress warm or Kel will have both our hides.”

“Yes sir!” He jumped up, grabbed his coat and then ran out the front door to explore.

JD grinned, “You know, you two are getting this parenting thing down real well. I can already see a big difference in Jason since he came here.”

“Thanks JD, “Kelli laughed, “But when you get an instant family you have to learn fast and we do have an advantage with all those classes we took.”

“Just remember it’s only temporary and that’s my son!’ Chris snapped. “You could consult with me before you make all the decisions for him!”

Silence hung in the room for a moment before Kelli answered. “That is somethin’ ‘m not likely to forget Lar’bee, but I won’t confuse him. For now, he has to follow our rules, not yours and I will not put him or Andi in the middle of a tug of war for their attention or… let anyone else do it.” With a slight tilt of her head, she defiantly dared him to argue that point.

“You’re right; it’s just damn frustrating to have to wait.” Chris changed course again and sounded more like the old Chris. “I know you’re both doing a good job with the kids.”

“If it’s a job Chris, then I guess it’s a labor of love because we only want what’s best for both of ‘em.” Vin looked Chris in the eye when he said it. “Even if you adopt ‘em they’ll be family to us and we’ll still love ‘em.”

“Absolutely and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ Chris flashed a smile. “At least you’re getting plenty of practice before you have your own kids. That’s assuming that you decide to quit playing around and have any.”

Vin squeezed Kelli’s hand, he knew that last remark had to hurt. Andi chose that exact time to come over and crawl onto Vin’s lap. He saw the flash of anger that crossed Chris’ face before he covered his reaction. *Chris what in the hell is wrong with you?* Tanner did not get an answer, he was not even sure that Larabee heard the question.

Abruptly Chris stood up. “I’ll be back in a while.” He took off down the hallway.

Five brothers exchanged worried glances, but stayed silent. Andi was nodding off to sleep and she did not need to hear the conversation that they considered necessary, so they waited.

Andi was asleep within two minutes. Vin laid her on the other end of the couch and was going to get a blanket for her, but Kelli stopped him. “I’ll get it; you stay and talk to them.” While they discussed Chris’ strange behavior, she went down the hall to the linen closet for a quilt. Cursing, coming from Chris’ room drew her attention and the door was partially open.

Inside, Chris had finally gotten the damn bottle open and he shook out five or six pills. He popped them into his mouth and swallowed without water. Now all he had to do was wait long enough for it to work at easing the pain in his head and gut.


Chapter 25


“Fuck! You shouldn’t be in here!” Chris yelled and dropped the pill bottle he was still holding. “GET OUT!”

Kelli snatched the bottle off the floor and read the label, not trying to hide her anger, she shouted. “I don’t believe you! Lord Chris, there are children in the other room and you are in here poppin’ pills! “

“I am not popping pills! I have a headache and was looking for some fucking aspirin!”

“Bullshit! This is not aspirin! What’s the matter Lar’bee, you didn’t get enough of this from Jack?

“It’s not the same! That is prescribed by a doctor and perfectly legal!

“Legal, but still additive! You and twenty millions other Americans are proof of that! Damn Chris, you mix this with what Nathan has been givin’ you and you might as well hold a gun to your head playin’ Russian roulette. Your chance of dyin’ is about the same.”

Chris ran his hands through his hair. “You…you can’t understand…the pain…the damn nightmares…Jack was my brother for God’s sake and he… Hell, nobody could understand.”

“Oh, I understand. Things are beginning to make a lot of sense suddenly! I understand about betrayal from blood kin, too and as for nightmares …I’ve had my share, thank you! What I don’t understand is how a man that professes to love his family and his career could risk losin’ it all for a damn bottle of pills without puttin’ up one hell of a fight!” Kelli turned to leave, but Chris reached out, grabbed her by the arm and brutally twisted her around.

His other hand grasped her shoulder. “You can’t tell the others! I’ll handle this, MY WAY!” He squeezed tighter, with both hands and his anger increased.” This is my fucking business and nobody is gonna tell me what to do about it, but me!” He swayed slightly and he was beginning to slur his words.” You are not going to tell anyone or…”

“Or what Lar’bee? You intend to physically coerce me into keeping your dirty secret!”

“Let her go, Chris.” Tanner spoke softly from the doorway. When Kelli did not come back with the blanket, he decided to check on her and he could not believe what he was seeing, but he was in position to intervene forcefully if necessary. “You’re hurtin’ her Chris, let her go… NOW!”

Larabee looked down at his hands as if they did not belong to him and released her immediately. “God, I’m sorry Kel…I…” He took a few steps backwards almost falling in the process.

Vin moved forward, put himself in front of Kelli and without taking his eyes off Chris asked. “You okay Texas?”

“I’ll live, but I’m not so sure about him.” She gave Vin the bottle that she still had clutched in her hand. “He’s killin’ himself with this stuff. He took some about ten minutes ago…more than a few.”

Chris shook his head. “No…no…no... Doctor prescribed pills…safe. D…don’t worry.” He started to slide down the wall.

“Dammit, how many of these things did you take?” Tanner reached out and steadied him, guiding Chris to sit on the side of the bed. “HOW MANY?” Larabee just kept shaking his head. “Fuck this! Kel get Nathan!”

“Shhhhhhh, can’t tell Nathan.” Chris put his finger to his lips to shush them. “Can’t tell Nathan.”

Kelli hurried down the hallway, but because of the children, she did not want to yell. She went straight over to Nathan, “Vin needs you now.” Jackson did not ask why. He turned and rushed toward the bedroom and the other brothers followed.

“It’s Chris isn’t it?” Linda jumped up from her chair. “Dammit Kel, tell me.”

Instead of answering Linda, she spoke to Inez. Y’all might want to take the kids to our house. I don’t know what is gonna happen here, apparently Chris has been medicatin’ himself and possibly overdosed.” She heard Linda gasp, but wanted to take care of the kids before she said anything to her.

“I’ll go with her to help; we can feed all the children over there.” Casey began gathering what was necessary.

Mallory started to help Casey. “Rain you had better stay here, in case your medical skills are needed. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of Terrell for you. What about Jason and Andi?”

Inez answered, “They should be okay with us, Andi is used to being with me and Jason will go where she goes.”

“Rain stay with Linda, I’m gonna carry Andi to the house and talk to Jason, then I’ll be back.” Kelli picked the sleeping child up off the couch to take her home, ignoring the twinge of pain in her back.


“If he only took these fifteen minutes ago and is in this shape now, we have to assume he took several. First thing we do is keep him conscious, Vin turn on the shower, JD coffee strong and lots of it, Buck, Josiah, help me move him.” Nathan took charge as soon as he saw Chris’s condition and the pill bottle. “If he took more than three pills, added to the Buprenorphin it could be too much.”

When Josiah tried to help him up, he started to balk. “Leave me alone dammit!” Chris pushed him and Josiah hit the bedside table breaking the lamp. “Ooops, see what you did now.” Larabee started laughing.

Buck rolled his eyes and took his other arm. “Come on stud, time for a shower.” Josiah helped to led him to the shower, getting him inside it was another matter. Eventually they wrangled him into the shower stall, but it took all of them to keep him there long enough to ‘sober him up’. They were all wet before it was over with and what they ended up with was a drenched, cantankerous, Larabee an hour later.

However, that had to be better that the stranger he had become the last eight days.

“Damn, I think you tried to drown me.” Chris complained.

“The thought crossed my mind a time of two.” Vin shot back. “We need to talk, here, the kitchen or in hell, I don’t care, but this shit is gonna end!”

“Where is everybody? Larabee asked.

“Rain, Kel, and Linda are in the kitchen, Matt’s outside somewhere. Casey, Inez and Mallory took all the kids over to Vin’s house.” JD answered.

Chris was quite for a minute. “I suppose Linda has some questions, so after I dry off, we can move this party to the other room.” He resigned himself to the fact that there would probably be more than a few questions.


“I should be in there with him.” Linda repeated for the fifth time. Matt had excused himself and walked outside for some fresh air after the second time. He told Linda he was staying outside until she called for him.

Rain sighed, “Linda, have some patience, Nathan sent word out that they were trying to get him to the point that he can talk this out. Give them a chance to do that.”

“I suppose you have something to say about this, don’t you Kel?” Linda expected her disapproval of Chris’ actions.

Until now, Kelli had been silent, “Since when does what I have to say matter to you Linda? I thought everythin’ always revolved around you. As long as you had someone that ignored your outbursts and let you go on with what you want, you were fine. You never have been interested in seeing someone else’s viewpoint. Well, no more, ‘m ready to throw my hands up and say you are on your own, Chris too.”

“Chris can’t help being sick! Infections take time to heal, even I know that!” She knew they would try to blame him.

“Infection? Linda, Chris has been poppin’ pain pills and Lord only knows where he got them. The reason Vin didn’t have him taken to the hospital was so the drugs could get out of his system first. Now though, he has only added to the damage Jack did to him and he is damn lucky that it didn’t kill him.”

All the blood suddenly drained from Linda’s face. “He lied to me…the pills weren’t antibiotics. I thought…I thought he needed to see real doctor outside the family and took him to the emergency clinic.”

“He was under my care Linda and I am a real doctor. This detoxification only works if it can be monitored, Chris seeing another doctor…He is lucky it did not kill him.” Rain was upset. “I guess that I should have refused to treat him in the first place and let him take his chances at the hospital.”

“Someone should have told me, about all of this!” Linda stood up to pace.” Hell, you all kept everything so damn secret!”

Kelli’s anger had been on hold for a week and once unleashed at Chris, it did not want to go back anytime soon. “Excuse us for worryin’ about you and the baby! I mean emergency trips to the hospital are so much fun! I reckon we should have disregarded your doctor’s warnin’ and let you see Chris the way he was when we found him! Or maybe let the kids tell you how sick he was and what they saw! God knows they have not been through enough yet! Maybe you should have had to deal with all of this, raise your blood pressure again and risk going’ into labor. After all, there is only you to consider. Right?”

“Look, I know that you are upset with me and that you don’t agree with what I said that Sunday. But you have never have let it go this far before without trying to fix things between us and we could have talked.” Linda was ready to clear the air.

“That’s my problem Linda, ‘m always lettin’ you rant, say what you want and then I forget about it and move on. This time the issue was too damn important to me and I could not just forget about it. Besides, it sure as hell did not stop you from talkin’ to Matt, now did it?”

“I had to talk to someone and Matt was willing to listen.” Linda sighed, “I didn’t think I was telling him anything that was said in confidence.”

“You have known me for over ten years, have you ever known me to discuss any part of my past except for generic information to anyone?

Linda held firm. “This family knows, why shouldn’t mine?”

“Do they? Rain how many homes did I live in before Jake became my guardian?”

Rain was puzzled, “Jake is the only one I ever heard you talk about. I assumed that after your mother left, that someone named Coulter adopted you. Then…I don’t know. How did you get a guardian?

“It’s a long story and I have decided I need to tell it, but after all this is over.” She looked at Linda. “My point is that it is my decision what and who to tell, not yours.”

“I’m sorry then, I should have asked you, but you were so upset about what I said about the kids. I guess I thought you wouldn’t talk to me.”

“You knew when I walked out and said I’d see you in a few days that I wouldn’t, at least for a while. Right now though there are bigger issues to tackle and I suggest we finish this discussion at a later time.” Kelli was watching the hallway. “Agreed?”

“Agreed.” Linda was watching, too.


“This is the last dry towel.” Buck threw it to Josiah. “JD, Vin, Nathan, we’ll bring him out as soon as he gets some dry clothes on. We don’t want him to get pneumonia on top of everything else.”

“Tell Linda…hell.” Chris was trying to clear his thoughts; he could not seem to remember anything except the cold water since he came in here.

“Uh uh, you tell her yourself.” Nathan was still angry that the last two weeks of detoxification had been a wasted effort. “We better get this over with while you’re still able to do it. I figure we have maybe four hours to makes some decisions before withdrawal hits you.” Jackson walked out with JD


*Not now, Chris.* Tanner was torn between fear of what could have happened and anger over what did.


Linda saw them first. ‘Well, how is he?”

Nathan stood behind Rain’s chair, draping his hands over her shoulders. “I think Chris should answer that.”

Vin stood behind Kelli with his hand on her back, he leaded down and whispered. “I want to see you in the other room.”

Reluctantly she got up and went with him, she knew what he wanted, but she did not want to add fuel to an explosive situation that already had enough. However, Tanner had made up his mind and that was not always easy to change.

Vin led her into what everyone called ‘Ezra’s place’, which was really a small room off from the kitchen that has a single bed that he used when he stayed over. “Let me see.” He unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it back to look at her arm and shoulder. As he suspected the bruises were there just, starting to show color. “Dammit Kel, there is no excuse for this.”

“Don’t do anything you might regret later on, please. I’m okay and the bruises will go away.” Vin didn’t say a word, he buttoned her shirt, took her hand and led her back to the bigger room. Chris was coming in from the other direction with Buck and Josiah.

When no one spoke, Josiah decided to take the lead. “I think that if everyone sits down this will be easier to discuss.” Even if he were not a profiler, he would have perceived all the anger in the room. He sighed; this was not going to be easy at all. “Chris, do you want to start?”

“I want to start! You lied to me about those damn antibiotics. Why?” Linda could not decide if she was more hurt or angry.

Chris looked at her for a minute before answering. “I’m not going to make excuses for screwing up. I did and I think everyone in this room knows it. I just want to fix it.”

Nathan stood up. “That is the problem Chris, you did more than screw up, you could have died and you still don’t understand how. I told you that the Buprenorphin was not a cure, it’s a drug meant to help during withdrawal periods. It is actually a smaller dose of what you had injected into you. The intent was to keep reducing it until your body can get back to normal. With that bottle of pills and what I was giving you, you’re fortunate we could keep you awake.”

“Three…three bottles.” Chris said softly, “One in the medicine cabinet and the other two from prescriptions.”

“What kind of doctors prescribes that stuff without checking?” Buck was now on his feet. “I mean what? You say you need it and they give it to you just like that.”

Rain explained. “Unfortunately Buck, accessibility is too easy, especially when the patient deliberately sets out to get the pills. There are more people in this country that abuse prescription meds than are using illegal street drugs. Twenty percent of the population in fact, will abuse prescription drugs in their lifetime. Most people think that if it’s legal, it must be safe, sadly that’s not true.”

Nathan wanted Chris to understand and be educated about what he was facing. “The method we chose should have worked, but you still had to want to be free of drugs. The only thing we learned is that you will have to be careful the rest of your life to stay away from certain medications. Morphine and codeine are derivatives of opium; Heroin is produced from morphine or codeine. Other opiates, such as Demerol, Dilaudid, oxycodone Percodan, Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet are some of to stay away from, as well as Tylenol because it contains Hydrocodone.

Rain added, “All opiates, are very physiologically and somewhat psychologically addictive. Tolerance is developed very rapidly, requiring more and more of the drug to reach the same result. Heroin is the most addictive substance in the opiate family. These drugs can cause physical dependence, which means that the body reduces production of its own natural opioids, which are endorphins and enkephalins and begins to rely on the drug to manage the functions of these natural brain chemicals. When the drugs are stopped, the body needs time to begin providing necessary amounts of the natural opioids again and withdrawal symptoms result.”

“So what happens now?” Linda was shaken by the information the Jacksons gave.

Nathan spoke to Chris. “Now you have two choices, you can go into a treatment program or do it the hard way and go cold turkey. Before you decide, you had best know what to expect. Symptoms of withdrawal include kicking movements in the legs, anger, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, sweating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. The onset of these symptoms can occur five hours after the last dose, lasting seven to ten days. The Buprenorphin was only to make it easier for you. Withdrawal from use is extremely painful and dangerous, that is why you must be monitored through all of it.”

JD was worried, “You can give him that other stuff to help, right?”

“No, not after this, it’s too risky to use more drugs and in his case as I reduced the dosage he supplemented it with more pills. Therefore, he never got off the amount of drugs that Jack was feeding him and has been flying for the last two weeks, while we thought he was getting better. Buprenorphin only helps to mask the withdrawal symptoms. It created the illusion for Chris that he was over the worst and made him feel confident enough to take the other pills. I will not prescribe it for him again.” Rain was direct. “Most of it will depend on Chris’ will to beat it.”

“Nightmares…one of the reasons he said he took ‘em.” Kelli finally said something.

“Dammit Chris, you should have told us, we could have helped. Hell we left you alone after that first week because you said you were better. Now we find out that you…” Buck did not want to say it.

“That I lied to you, Buck, to all of you, because I did not want to tell you about the pain or those damn nightmares. Still don’t.” Chris would not or could not tell them.

“You need to tell someone Chris, they won’t go away on their own.” Josiah spoke softly. “I can find someone…”

“No! I’ll deal with all of this myself.” He looked at Kelli. “What did you tell Jason?”

“I only told him that you were ill. He lived with a father that was addicted to alcohol and drugs so it was not hard for him to figure out why. He even offered to come over and help, said he knew what to do, that he had done it countless times for his dad.” Kelli worked hard to control her temper. “It a damn shame when a six year old knows that much about it.”

Linda was surprised. “He offered to come over and help?”

Chris stated proudly. “He knows that I would never hurt him and he already saw me like that, so I’m not surprised.”

“Are you sure that you would never hurt him Chris? Vin stood up, “Because ‘m not.”

Buck jumped back up. “Now wait a minute Vin, I know you’re angry about this, hell we all are, but Chris could never hurt a kid. Or anyone that he loved… at least not physically.”

“I would never hurt a woman or a kid that way. “Chris could not believe that Vin would think such a thing.” Vin you know me better than that.”

“Yeah, I though I did, but obviously I didn’t, your daughter will be wearing the proof of that for at least a week.” Vin turned to Kelli “I’m sorry baby, but he needs to know the results that come from his way of dealin’ with it.” He pulled her shirt down just enough to show the bruises that were beginning to show on her shoulder. “Those marks match your hand spread, there’s more but you won’t be seein’ ‘em.”

Josiah was pleased to see Vin take a hard stand, soft words and gentle nudges just would not do it. Chris needed someone to intervene and ride him into letting them help him. Sanchez knew that if anyone could push Larabee hard enough, it would be that Texan.

Chris felt ill, he could not have done that and not remembered could he? “When…I…don’t remember doing that” *Damn Chris what else don’t you remember about the last two weeks or was it three? Hell, make it easy. What do you remember? Not much Larabee, it all just kinda runs together.*

“You did and I want you to commit to memory those marks. You played the lone ranger already and that got you into this mess with Jack. You still want to deal with this one your way?” Vin hoped his words would get through to Chris. “Cause if you run this one alone Lar’bee, I hope you’re willin’ to pay the price. You will be losin’ the Tanner part of your family as well as any chance of gettin’ the kids, but then you seem to like workin’ solo lately.”

Chris looked at the faces around the room, he loved all of them, but he had to admit that he had hurt each one, the lies, the anger, and the …bruises. * Chris you may not remember it but they do. Undoubtedly, you have been a real bastard here lately, maybe its time to let them back in and push Jack out*.

“I won’t go for treatment because I want to keep my job, but if I’m going to face hell here…I would like to know that my brothers have my six covered. What do I need to do?”