MCAT: Turbulent Transition #7
Chapter 16 -
18 | Chapter 19 -
21 | Chapter 22 -
Chapter 25 - 27 | Chapter 28 - 30 | Chapter 31 - 34
Walking out of the hospital was easier than it should have been. By ten o’clock they were on their way to the ranch, and they had been away from the hospital for twenty minutes. Chris handed the cell phone back to Buck. Larabee had already notified Travis of their abrupt change of plans, and the Director would take care of notifying the U.S. Attorney’s office. Chris also called JD to alert him of their change of plans and he reached Dr. Gilford, explaining his and Vin’s sudden departure from Denver Memorial.
“Doc was not happy, but he did agree to take care of our discharge, and speak with our Dr. Jackson about follow-up treatment, and meds.” Chris reported to the others.
Vin had been trying to find a comfortable position ever since he had entered the vehicle, and had finally found one when he heard Chris’s statement. He straightened quickly up and regretted it. “He’s not gonna call Rain now is he?”
“Gilford didn’t say, but I don’t imagine he’ll wait too long. He was not pleased to find out that neither of us had finished the IV antibiotics.” Chris chuckled. “In fact he was downright pissed about it.”
“Damn! Chris, did you tell him that Rain was at our place?” Vin sounded almost panicked, as he grabbed Ezra’s shoulder from behind.
“Yep, that’s where Ezra said she was.” Chris answered.
“You may cease embedding your fingers into my shoulder at any point in time Vincent. I find it rather difficult to concentrate on driving when sharp projectiles are digging into my skin and piercing pains are traversing down my arm.” Standish snipped.
“Tanner let him go! What is wrong with you?” Buck questioned.
“If Gilford calls our house before we get there Chambers won’t be the only one lookin’ to nail my hide to the wall. I told Kel that Chris and I were only a little bruised, battered, and scratched. I didn't say anythin’ about gunshot wounds.”
“Shit!” Chris exclaimed. “What on earth possessed you to not mention that small detail?”
“I didn’t want her to worry!” Vin snapped back at him. “Course if she hears that we are AWOL from the hospital, and Gilford gives Rain details of…hell, Kel’s gonna think I lied to her.”
Buck laughed. “Tanner, you did lie to her.”
“Vin, I believe you are concerned over nothing. I’m sure Kelli will see that you only had her best interest in mind.” Josiah found it amusing that after Vin had spent weeks under as Dusty in an extremely perilous situation, he was more concerned about the reaction of one five foot five redhead than any dangers he had faced from the RMR.
Tanner heaved an aggravated sigh. “This is Kelli Lar’bee Tanner we’re talking about. One of the traits she inherited from her father, aside from his stubbornness, and an innate ability of finding trouble, is a volatile temper”
Chris sent an irritated green eyed glare in Vin’s direction, and stated. “Damnit, I’m not that bad! I do have a reasonable side!”
Sanchez looked from Tanner to Larabee. “I stand corrected; maybe you should call her…now.”
Ezra grinned, “Damage control Vin, damage control.”
“Yes she is, De Gifford, but let me get this straight. You're saying Tanner and Larabee went AWOL? YOU LOST THEM!” Kelli yelled into the phone, “BULLET WOUNDS? What bullet wounds?” The irate redhead handed the phone over to a worried-looking Rain Jackson. “It’s Dr Gilford… he’s lost Vin and Chris. He said they disappeared from their hospital room a short while ago, supposedly headed here, and that they are both recoverin’ from bein’ shot.” She slid off the bed, and went to hunt Nathan down. Kelli found him in the kitchen. “What is it that you or Vin did not tell me?”
Nathan looked away, silently cursing his Texan brother for putting him in such a predicament with Kelli. He carefully considered his response before answering. “Both of them were scratched and bruised up from sliding down a cliff…They do have wounds that were inflicted on them by a sharp projectile, but they are going to be fine.”
“Wounds inflicted by a sharp projectile Nathan? They were shot…with bullets! Now they have left the damn hospital!” Kelli shouted.
“What! They can’t leave the hospital! What in the hell are they thinking? They both need antibiotics, and Vin needed…oops.” Nathan quickly ceased talking.
“Vin needed what Nathan?” Kelli demanded.
Tanner spoke from the doorway. “I needed to come home to be with my family.” Vin moved slowly into the kitchen, with Chris directly behind him, along with Buck, and Ezra, with Josiah bringing up the rear.
Kelli turned an icy glare onto her husband, ignoring the delightful way her heart rate sped up at seeing him again. “I thought we made a promise that we would never lie to each other, Tanner?”
“I didn't lie...exactly.” Vin said in his own defense, but hurried to continue at the darkening of her eyes. “I just didn't tell you everythin’....because I didn't want you to worry.”
“You don't get to decide how I think or feel about anythin’ Vin, whether it's for a good cause or not!” Kelli threw back at him, tears filling her blue eyes.
Vin moved toward her, hating to see the tears in her eyes, and knowing that he was the cause of them. As he stopped in front of her, he reached out to pull her into his arms, but she shook her head. “No! You aren't goin' to get off that easy!” Kelli snapped, backing away from him.
“Kel, please....let me hold you?” Tanner asked her softly, gazing lovingly into her face.
Kelli's breath caught as she took in the look on his handsome face, saw the apology and love shining in his gentle blue eyes, and she wavered. “We're not done talkin’ about this.”
“I know...” Vin said, hearing the capitulation in her voice, and reached out for her again. This time Kelli didn't struggle, but let herself be pulled into her husband's arms and held there.
Buck whispered to Ezra. “Two minutes, thirty six seconds.”
“Tanner certainly knows how to work damage control.” Ezra whispered back, trying not to laugh.
Kelli stirred at their words. She lifted her head off of Vin's shoulder where she had been resting it, and narrowed her eyebrows at the other MCAT agents. “No comments from the peanut gallery. I have half a mind to rake y'all over the coals for goin' along with Vin and Chris leavin' the hospital when it's clear that both of them are in further need of medical attention.”
“Excellent idea Kel, and Chris I’m going to start with you.” Rain Jackson knew that Larabee was in pain, and she had to manage his care differently than Vin’s. “Off with the shirt Larabee, and let me see the damage.” She heard Tanner’s relieved sigh behind her, “You too Vin. Both of you are going to be checked over, and then sent to bed.”
“Seeing that you both are in capable hands, I’m going home to check on Inez.” Buck grinned at Josiah. “You and Mallory keep an eye on our prisoner; we wouldn’t want Tanner to escape.”
“Prisoner?” Kelli asked. “What the hell does that mean? Why is Vin a prisoner?”
“Damn, Buck, you just had to open your mouth and add more fuel to the fire.” Larabee snapped as he complied with Rain's commands, and began to carefully slip out of the shirt he wore. Wilmington snuck out the door while Larabee was preoccupied.
“It’s nothin’ for you to worry about baby. The Federal prosecutors wanted to put me in protective custody with the Marshals, so Buck arrested me instead.” Tanner held on to his redhead, hoping to diffuse any more explosions.
Kelli was incredulous. Let me get this straight. You go under for over a month, leave your family, risk your ass gettin evidence for them to use, almost get killed, and they wanted to arrest you!” She wanted to rant more, but Vin’s gentle back massage soothed her anger, and felt too damn good to be in his arms again.
“That about sums it up.” Ezra nodded. “It would appear that they are more concerned about their case then how or at what risk their evidence was procured.”
Rain finished her examination of Larabee’s shoulder wound. “It doesn't look as if you've managed to do any real damage to it Chris, but it's going to need to be cleaned again and fresh bandages put on it.”
“Okay...” Larabee said, as Nathan went to work on the bandages.
“Kelli, I'm going to have to borrow your husband for a few moments so that I can examine him as well.” Rain told the other woman.
“All right, Grace is asleep in Andi’s room Dad, and Mal can make a bed up for you in there. Jason and Andi are in our bed. If one of you healthier men would carry them to the family room with the other kids, I’ll get a place ready for Vin.” Kelli looked over at Josiah, Nathan and Ezra.
“Leave ‘em Kel. Tonight I want to be close to you and the kids. Tomorrow is soon enough for them to start sleepin’ on their own again” Vin stated.
“Rain and I are in Jason’s room, so if Grace wakes up we can help, Chris.” Nathan said. “It’s going to be a little inconvenient for you for a while only using one arm.”
“For tonight Mal and I are downstairs, as well as Ezra and Barbara. Tomorrow we’ll work out an arrangement to keep one of us here on protection detail.” Josiah added. “Buck needs to be close to Inez, and Chris you are going to need some assistance for a while.” He took his wife’s hand. “We’ll say goodnight.”
Kelli called after them as they began to walk out. “Max is only a phone call away if we need her, and she’ll be here by five in the mornin’. Breakfast will be ready at six-fifteen.” Kelli saw Tanner’s wound as Rain removed the bandage, and suddenly felt queasy.
“Kel, are you okay?” Vin asked, taking note of how pale his wife had suddenly become. He winced as Rain began examining the wound, checking to make sure that he hadn't pulled any of the sutures loose.
“Yeah...I'm fine...” Kelli said a bit breathlessly as the contents of her stomach turned suddenly. A hand flew up to her mouth as she whirled around and made a wild dash out of the kitchen towards the nearest bathroom.
Rain placed a hand on the Texan’s arm to keep him sitting. “She’ll be okay, Vin, just get used to the sudden exits. Now let me finish with you, and then you are going to bed with your family.” She whispered to the Texan, “Besides, I owe you Tanner. Thanks for coming to my aid at the clinic”.
“I’m just glad you’re okay.” Vin acknowledged her words
Dr. Jackson nodded, and then she called over her shoulder. “Nathan, finish dressing Chris’s wound and then march his butt to bed, too. Tomorrow morning, one of you will be making a prescription run, so I can get these two back on antibiotics.” Surprisingly, Chris didn't argue much with Nathan as Jackson shepherd him into Andi's room. Larabee stood and gazed down at his sleeping daughter for several moments before he eased himself down on the bed that had been made up for him and closed his eyes. The last thing he thought of before he fell asleep was that it was damn good to be back on the ranch, albeit not in his bed, instead of the hospital.
“Barbara or I can do a med run in the morning.” Ezra wrapped his arm around his lady’s waist. “We shall see you good people in the morning.” They walked out of the room side by side.
The first thing Vin did as soon as Rain had finished patching him up was to head towards the bathroom where Kelli had disappeared, despite Rain's admonishment that she would be okay. He let himself into the bathroom after tapping on the closed door, and reached immediately for a washcloth. He wet it, and eased himself down onto his knees, holding it out to Kelli. She gratefully took it from him as she finished retching and wiped her face with it, and then leaned against him. “This is one part of pregnancy I could do without.”
Vin chuckled lightly as they both stood up, and he waited while she rinsed her mouth. “Hopefully it won't last too long.”
"I have somethin' that belongs to you." Kelli took off the chain she wore around her neck, unclasped it to release Vin's wedding ring, and then slipped it on his finger. “Come on Mr. Tanner, now that you're back to being my husband again, we need to get you to bed.”
“Are you propositioning me, Mrs. Tanner?” Tanner quipped as they left the bathroom.
“Not in your condition...”Kelli told him as they headed for the room. “You really should have let one of your brothers move the children....with that wound, the last thing you need is a hand or foot shoved into it durin’ the night.”
Vin opened the bedroom door and stopped as the sight of their beautiful children. Jason and Andi curled up together asleep in that big bed caused a lump to form in his throat. It seemed as if it had been years since he had seen them, instead of weeks. “I’ll take my chances Kel. Tonight I need us all together.” He pulled her close for a long leisurely kiss. “I’m home baby, and I plan on stayin’.” Kelli helped Vin undress, and then climbed into bed, snuggling with the kids, allowing room for her husband to join her. To an outside observer it might look crowded, but as far as Vin was concerned, it was heaven as he gingerly laid on his good side, and wrapped his arms around his family.
Tanner Home 5:30am
Tuesday ~ December 5th
Vin awoke to the sound of Andi squealing “Daddy’s home!” It took him a minute to orientate himself, but he quickly recognized that he was really in his own bed, in his own home. He tried to prepare himself for Andi’s boisterous welcome back, knowing that it was going to be a painful experience.
Kelli quickly grabbed their youngest tornado to keep her from catapulting herself into her father. “Whoa girl, Daddy has a boo-boo, so be careful.”
“You're hurt?” Jason asked, sitting up in the bed and rubbing his eyes. “Did it happen while you were doin' trainin'?”
“It happened while I was gone, yes. I had to do somethin’ kinda like you did when you helped Caleb at school, but I’ll be fine in a few days.” He gently pulled both children close to him. “I’ve missed you two.” He kissed the top of their heads. “We have a lot of catchin’ up to do, and I’ll be around here for us to do it.”
Jason grinned up at his dad. “Does that mean I get to stay home from school today?”
“Nice try son, but you have to go to school, so get movin'. Max will have breakfast ready soon, and Raphael will be here to take you.” Kelli smiled as the exasperated look on Jason’s face. “Your clothes are on the chair, so hit the bathroom, brush your teeth and hustle.”
“Yes ma’am. Dad, you’ll be here when I get home right?”
“You bet I will.” Vin hugged Jason before the boy slid off the bed.
“Andi, you can come with me to the other bathroom.” Kelli saw an argument coming. “You have all day to see dad, so give him a chance to at least have coffee before you try to catch him up on everythin’, okay.”
For the next twenty minutes Tanner laid in bed listening to the routine sounds that he had missed hearing for the last month. He refused Kelli’s offer to help him dress, and managed to drag himself out of bed, ignoring the aches and pains that called to him. The Texan dressed and then joined his family in the kitchen for breakfast, enjoying every second of the morning madhouse. Breakfast was first, Barbara and Ezra joined them, then Raphael came by to pick up Jason for school, Selina followed with Sarah in tow and picked up Joanne. Rain fed Terrell, while Mallory took care of Adam. Max took over for Chris with Grace while he savored a cup of coffee, with Nathan, Ezra, and Josiah.
“As soon as we get the kids settled, I want to check you two out.” Rain warned Chris and Vin as she walked out of the room with Terrell
Chris nodded. “Then I want a meeting to decide how we handle things from here.”
While all the morning activity was going on, Andi carefully climbed into Vin’s lap, ready to tell him all that he had missed while he was gone. Jason did not call her the informer for nothing. “Lots happened when you was away.” Andi told her father
“Really?” Vin asked her with a smile.
“Uh-huh. Daisy, Lilah and Terrell all had birthdays and they gots lots of presents. A’nt Linda's gonna have a baby, and Jason went down to see Peso, ‘cause he missed you, only he broke the rule 'bout going alone. Oh...Uncle 'Ra and Barbara are getting merry and I get to throw flowers at them. I saw Walter kiss Miss Max, too, and Caleb's 'fficial now like me and Jason are with you and Mama, only he belongs to Uncle Buck and A’nt Inez. Mama's been sick alot and Jason's been really, really worried... she don’t always listen to Miss Max and Uncle Chris. Can you put her in time out?”
Vin looked over to Kelli with twinkling blue eyes full of amusement. “If mama doesn’t listen, you can help me put her in time out. How would you like that?” He grinned when Andi nodded yes, vigorously. “Is there anythin’ else that you want to tell me?”
“Tracker knocked me down, too.” Andi took a breath before continuing. “He was real mean, but Mama make him behave and Uncle Chris came while Uncle Buck and Mark wored these funny suits and Bandit barked alot. Mama made me go inside, but I watched out the window.” Andi giggled. “They looked so funny. Mama said we had to stay inside ‘til the cows came home, but Uncle Chris changed her mind and ‘m glad ‘cause we don’t have no cows.”
Vin had to keep his grin fixed on Andi's face as she innocently mentioned the incident involving the land mines being planted on Larabee 7. “You’re right, a lot did happen.”
“Sugar, I think Dora the Explorer is on TV, and I know you don’t want to miss seein’ her. Why don’t you join Aunt Mallory and Adam to watch it?” Kelli helped Andi down and watched her run off. “Our informer, if she knows, she tells.”
“You didn’t tell me that you and Andi were that close to the mine.” Vin gave his wife a stern look.
“I didn’t want you to worry, so I just didn’t tell you everythin’…” Kelli sighed, “I thought you had enough on your mind without knowin’ that… I reckon were even Tanner, sorry.”
“You’re forgiven, but I expect to hear the whole story.” Blue eyes locked with blue, and a silent agreement passed between them.
Buck and JD walked in, both grabbed a cup of coffee and joined the others.
“How is Inez?” Kelli asked.
Buck laughed. “Miss Nettie is spoiling her, but I think we’re getting real close. It wouldn’t surprise me if we had our Tannis within a day or two.”
“That’s something else we need to plan for, I don’t want anything to go on with any of us without protection. At least until we know for certain that Chambers is in custody.” Chris scanned the faces around the table. “While we wait on Rain, I think we should start making some plans.”
Max interrupted. “You can make your plans without Missy, I know she overdid last night and she is going back to bed.” She addressed Kelli. “Your doctor said you were to rest, and that is what you will do on my watch.”
Kelli knew by the look on Vin’s face that he agreed with Max. “Fine, I’ll go, but while y’all are makin’ plans, I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow mornin’, and I expect Tanner to go with me. Dr. Week’s office, nine o’clock,” She stood up.
Before she moved Vin grabbed her hand and pulled her over for a kiss. “I’ll be in to check on you in a little bit,” Vin smiled, “and I will be with you tomorrow, baby, count on it.” He watched her until she was out of sight and then turned to the others. “Tell me what happened with the mines.” Buck retold the events of that day, and Vin realized that he had been better off not knowing about it at the time. If he had known he probably would have killed Chambers and Anson, and would now be sitting in prison for murder, instead of here in his home, with his family.
Mark, Alex, and Walter joined them and after a short break with Rain checking on her patients, they continued their strategy session over the next two hours. Since Director Travis had the unit on stand-down status they would not have any new cases. Their only duty was to protect the members of the unit, and their families. Chris decided that with the exception of the forensic unit, they would work from Camp Larabee here on the ranch. Mark and Alex were already staying there, while they helped Walter. While the team awaited news of the results of the FBI raid on the RMR compound they arranged to move what they needed to the ranch, and worked out a protection schedule.
As soon as Grace was down for her afternoon nap, Chris decided to head over to his house for a while. When he entered, he found their housekeeper, Louisa and her niece, Mila, in the middle of a cleaning frenzy. He stood in the hallway for a few minutes and watched them work, before announcing his presence.
“Mr. Larabee, you’re injured!” Louisa exclaimed.
“I’m fine. What exactly are you doing?” Chris questioned the housekeeper.
“Miss Linda called me, and instructed me to prepare the guestroom. She also wants me to finish the holiday cleaning, and to put the house in order for entertaining.”
As much as he wanted some answers, Chris was not going to stand here and interrogate the hired help to find out what his wife had planned. It also was not Louisa’s fault that Linda was not communicating with him. “Carry on then. Grace and I will be away for a few days, so lock up the house when you leave.” Larabee went into his office and shut the door. He leaned back in his chair and thought about the current state of his life.
Linda and I seem to be traveling on different roads. I know where I belong and what I expect from life. She is not sure what she wants…not for the long run anyway. With Linda it is only what she wants for the moment, and tomorrow she wants something different. Maybe fate meant for us to be together for our time to help both of us realize that, and allow us to bring two wondrous children into this world. For everything there is a season… ours is growing short. She is beautiful, smart, and at times courageous, but she needs more from life than what I have to offer. So Larabee…how do you get her to realize that?
The ringing of the telephone brought him back to the present. “Larabee.”
“Chris? I…I’ve been meaning to call, but there has been so much to do. Coming back home for a while has been good for me; I’ve managed to visit relatives, and catch up with old friends. In fact Amberlyn, she’s a friend from college, she is coming back to the ranch with me for awhile. I thought maybe we’d do some entertaining over the holidays and she has offered to help. I think you will like her, she and I used to be inseparable…Anyway… Josiah left me a strange message. Do you know what he wanted?”
Larabee thought about the revelations he had just made about himself and the state of his and Linda’s relationship. “It’s nothing that can’t wait until you’re here.”
“Okay, we’ll be in tomorrow sometime…guess I’ll see you then…” Linda hesitated and then said softly, “Bye”
Chris sat there and held the phone even after she hung up, realizing that she did not even ask about Grace. He would wait until after the holidays, but then they would have a serious talk. They were not a couple anymore, simply two people going through the motions. Somehow though he would have to convince Linda of that, and find a way to keep his children in his life.
One step at a time Larabee. Chris then did something he had never done in all the years he had lived in this house. He exited the room, and locked his office door behind him. Nodding to Louisa on his way out of the house, he slowly walked back over to the Tanner’s home. Grace should be waking up soon, and Larabee planned to be there when she did.
Vin’s day had been spent indulging in the pure enjoyment of being home. Andi had pretty much been his shadow all day, and then Jason had joined her when he came home from school. The best part for the Texan was that he could reach out and touch or talk to Kelli anytime he wanted to. He realized that their immediate future may have a bit of uncertainty involved in it, but he was determined to try to keep his family out of the danger zone. The Federal prosecutor had already been screaming about his refusal to meet with them tomorrow, but he was going to be at that doctor’s appointment with Kelli, come hell or high water. Ultimately they had agreed to have one of their attorneys come to the ranch Thursday afternoon to take his deposition. Tanner’s biggest concern now was how to tell Chris that he was not planning to come back to work for a while. As far as Vin was concerned he had spent way too much time working over the last year and he had a lot of home life to catch up on, especially now with a new baby coming. He was due the time off, and he intended to take it with or without Larabee and Travis’s approval.
Chris found Tanner sitting, in a chair on the deck, wrapped in a blanket when he walked up.
“Where are your shadows?” Chris grinned and sat down in the chair next to the Texan.
“Kel has Jason workin' on his homework, and Andi said it’s too cold out here for her.”
"Are you doing okay?"
"Yeah, 'm just tryin' to clear my head of Dusty Slater. He was a difficult bastard to live with twenty-four hours a day." Vin deeply inhaled some fresh air."Hell, that whole bunch is revoltin' enough to give an aspirin a headache."
Chris smiled at Vin's attempt at humor. "Put them out of your mind for now. Just enjoy being your family."
"I plan to do just that. Any word yet on the raid?"
“I saw JD on the way back over here. Big surprise…the compound was deserted when the FBI moved in and no one in Rocky Meadows will admit to ever seeing any of them. They did find Abbott’s body, right where you said it was.” Chris grimaced when his shoulder hit the side of the chair. “They also recovered a number of other buried bodies from scattered locations on the property and expect to discover more. Bones will try to ID them, but he believes they all date back ten years or more, except one…Anson Ricter was left in plain view in the notorious torture room, and he had been executed.”
Vin nodded. “Chambers does not accept failure, and as far as ‘m concerned Ricter got what he deserved.” He thought in silence for a minute. “Bellows is probably the number two man now. He’s not as experienced as Anson was, but he is afraid of Karl, and will follow his orders. The old man is gonna take Slater’s escape personal, and he won’t quit ‘til he finds out who I am and, one of us is dead.”
“To get to you he has to get through me and five of your other brothers first, and that, my friend…ain’t gonna happen.”
Tanner Home ~Wednesday ~ December 6th~7:30am
Jason, Sarah, and Joanne had already been escorted to school, while Mallory and Rain had taken Andi, Terrell and Adam to the Sanchez home for the morning. Chris, Vin, Nathan, and Josiah all sat around the kitchen table discussing security for the scheduled family events of the next few weeks. Ezra and Barbara had returned to the Standish town home the evening before, and this morning Ezra was meeting with Bones to get an update on his findings at Rocky Meadows. Buck was sticking close to Inez, in case she went into labor. JD was at the Camp Larabee office, putting the finishing touches on the electronic equipment that had been installed there. He had personally overseen the installation of CASSIE'S twin, and already had it up and running. Kelli’s doctor’s appointment was on the top of Vin’s agenda since she had been ill most of the night, and he was anxious to hear Dr Week’s explanation for it.
“Vin, you spent a lot of time in your office and on the computer last night. Were you able to contact Raven?” Chris questioned.
“I talked to him yesterday afternoon and, yes, we used a secure program. He could only confirm that Chambers has a bounty out on my identity, and also my life. Raven said he would contact me as soon as he knew more.” Vin answered. “We do know that Chambers will either abandon or change his former target, and he won’t stay in hidin’ for long. I put out some other feelers, but we're goin' to have to wait and see what sort of results turn up from those.”
“If you talked to him in the afternoon, why were you closed up so long in your office last night?” Josiah asked, out of curiosity, more than anything else.
Vin mumbled something about research as Kelli walked up behind him laughing. “Y’all know how Vin is when he has somethin’ to investigate. He doesn’t do it halfway. He pulled up everythin’ he could on the Internet about pregnancy, and ultrasounds, and I think he now knows more about what’s goin' on with me than I do.” She picked up his cup to steal a sip of coffee. “He made a list of questions to ask the doctor today.”
Jackson grinned. “Good for you Vin. The more you know, the easier it will be for the both of you. You can’t stop all the crazy things Kelli will do, but at least you’ll understand why she will do them.”
Kelli gave Nathan an irritated look. “Are you sayin' that Rain acted crazy when she was carryin' Terrell?”
“No...Uh…well you know. I…” Nathan sighed deeply.
“You had better quit while you’re ahead Brother Nate, especially before your wife hears you.” Josiah advised.
Walter walked in with Max. “I know y’all have a lot on your plates ‘bout now, but could we have a minute or two of your time?”
“Somethin’ wrong Walter?” Vin asked with concern etched on his face as the older couple sat down to join them.
“No, not wrong. At least we hope that y’all don’t think that it’s wrong.” Walter looked at Max for support. This was going to be harder than he had anticipated. “After we heard Andi revealin’ her observations to you yesterday Vin, we got to thinkin’ ’bout a few things. First off, you are gonna need more room with the new baby comin’, so ‘m movin’ out. Raphael is gonna stay in my motor home.”
“Walter, you can’t leave us!” Kelli was visibly upset at the news.
“Hold on Missy, ‘m not goin' far.” Walter was quick to assure her. “Me and Max are getting'’ hitched. Josiah has already agreed to marry us. There is no way either of us are gonna leave with another baby comin’.”
The room filled with congratulations on the impending nuptials of the older couple.
“Neither of us took time in our lives to have our own families, and all of you have shared yours with us. We feel like we have a passel of grandkids already and as long as you will put us with us we’d like to keep it that way.” Max placed her hand over Kelli’s. “I know we aren’t blood related, but if you’ll have us, we’d like to help see you through havin’ this baby.”
“Of course I will”.
“Of course, WE will.” Vin corrected his wife gently.
What can I do to help with your weddin' plans, and when is it?" Kelli said excitedly.
“You can be there. We don’t want a real fancy weddin’. Just somethin’ simple, and we were thinkin’ about havin’ it this weekend. If Andi is noticin’ that we are…friendly, then its time to make it legal.” Walter answered.
Chris grinned. “I hope you plan to get married here on the ranch, because I am positive that the ladies would love to help arrange it. I’m certain that I can speak for all of us and say we’d like to be there.”
“We would like that, too.” Max cleared her throat, showing a rare bit of emotion. “Chris, I do have a question. Jason and Andi call you Uncle Chris, and they will be siblings to the new baby. What do you expect the newest Tanner to call you?”
“That is a good question, and one we hadn’t thought about yet.” Vin furrowed his brow thinking it over. “How ‘bout it Cowboy, are you ready to be called grandpa?
“Chris isn’t exactly the grandpa type.” Josiah laughed.
“Just what is that suppose to mean?” Larabee shot a sharp glare toward the profiler.
“You just don’t strike me as the Grandpa type.” Josiah said, trying to soothe over Chris’s ruffled feathers. “Of course there are other names such as Pawpaw, Gramps, Pops, Poppy, Papa...Pappy, Grandpas, Grand pap…”
“Enough!” Chris held up his hands as if to surrender. He looked over at Kelli, “Unless my daughter has her heart set on her baby calling me Grandpa, I think it would be best if all the Tanner children called me the same thing. Jason and Andi already call me Uncle Chris, and we wouldn’t want them to think that they were any less special than the child that Kelli is carrying. So having them all call me Uncle Chris, would seem appropriate. After all it looks as if all the kids are getting surrogate grandparents with Walter and Max.”
Kelli looked at Vin and when he nodded his acceptance, she agreed. “Uncle Chris it is, but…I still get to call you dad.”
Chris grinned. "I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I get to call you Missy, I think it suits you.” Larabee knew that he and Kelli had crossed a line in the last few weeks, and he was pleased that they had. Their father-daughter relationship was on solid ground at last. Although they were still bound to encounter a few bumps in the future, he felt that their relationship was in a permanent transition. It meant a lot to him to know where he stood with at least one of his children, since his future with Grace, and his new child was uncertain.
"Deal," Kelli smiled.
“We gotta go Josiah, if we want to make that appointment on time.” Vin stood up, and waited for Kelli to give Chris a hug.
“See y'all later.” Vin said as he walked toward the door with Kelli. He leaned close to his wife, and whispered in her ear. "Chris and Max can call you Missy; personally I prefer your sassy side best." He opened the door for her and grinned when he saw her smile. Josiah followed closely behind them, as today’s designated protector.
Doctor’s Office ~9:00am
Kelli and Vin did not have to wait long before the nurse called them in for her to be seen. Patsy handed her a sterile gown to change into, and took her vitals as well as drawing blood. “You know the drill Kelli. Go ahead and get changed, and then Dr. Weeks will be right in.” The nurse drew the door closed to give her some privacy.
Vin helped his wife change into the hospital gown as much as Kelli and his wound would let him. He pulled out his list of questions for the doctor from his jacket pocket. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anythin’.” He grinned at the questioning look on Kelli’s face. “This is new territory for me too, Kel, and I want to be as informed and involved in it as I can.”
“Well, if you really want to be involved, you could put on this gown and let her poke and prod your body instead of mine.” Kelli’s eyes danced with laughter. She was so glad Vin was here with her that nothing could ruin this day for her.
“You know I would if I could Kelli.” Vin told her seriously.
Kelli sobered. “I know you would Vin. It's enough that you are here with me. We're really doin' it, Tanner...we're havin' a baby.”
“Yes we are Mrs. Tanner.” He pulled her to him and unhurriedly kissed her, reluctant to let her go, even when the doctor walked into the room.
Dr. Weeks chuckled. “It’s good to see you again Vin. I hope you are going to be around a while because we all have a big job ahead of us.”
“Yes ma’am. I wouldn’t miss out on this for anythin’.”
“Good. I know you both have questions, but before we go into them, let’s see where we are. Kelli insisted that we hold off on the ultrasound until this week because she wanted you to be here Vin. As soon as I examine her, we’ll get started on it. I have a good idea why these first few weeks have been a little rough, but I want to confirm my suspicions before I share. Kelli, hop on the table please.”
Kelli made a face, but did as Dr. Weeks instructed. Vin moved to stand at the head of the table, and took one of Kelli's hands in his as he watched the doctor go through the basics of an exam. She checked around the top of Kelli's breasts where the milk glands were located to make sure that she didn't feel any abnormality in them, and then progressed to a pelvic exam.
“Now, Kelli, you might feel a little more discomfort than you would during a regular pelvic exam,” Dr. Weeks said as she got out a few items from one of the cabinets in the room, and placed them on a tray.
Vin had been watching everything that the doctor did, but was puzzled when he saw a condom packet, tube of lubricant, and a probe of some sort. He felt his neck grow hot as Dr. Weeks proceeded to open the condom and slide it over the object, and then rub some of the lubricant onto it. “What the hell is that, and what are you goin' to do with it?”
“This is a TVS ultrasound transducer.” Dr. Weeks explained patiently. “It is a device that uses a technique in which high pitched sound waves are sent out by an ultrasound probe that has been inserted inside the patient. The waves go through the vaginal wall and bounce off the ovaries, and a computer uses the ultrasound echoes to create a picture called a sonogram, displaying it on a video monitor. In the early weeks of pregnancy it is a more thorough procedure than the abdominal technique, provides superior image quality, more details, and can monitor your baby’s heartbeat. This method will also give me the best look for any challenges that may be presented”.
“Okay, so now I know what it is...”Vin said skeptically. “Maybe you can explain to me what the hell you are goin' to do with it?”
“Vin!” Kelli was having a hard time keeping the laughter bubbling up inside of her under control over the way her husband was acting. “I'm sure Dr. Weeks knows what she's doin’. Please, leave the questions until after she's finished with the ultrasound?”
Tanner nodded his reluctant agreement.
“This is going to take a while, and when we finish you will have your own video copy to take home. Why don't both you and Kelli study that screen, Vin.” Dr. Weeks suggested as she had the nurse turn the lights down, seated herself on the stool, and after reminding Kelli not to tense up, she began the procedure.
Tanner stared at the screen in fascination as a picture began to appear on it, and he tried to make out the baby that he and Kelli had created. He was not certain he liked this technique, but if it meant being assured that all was well, he could accept it. As the image became clearer, his eyes were riveted to the screen, and the Texan was so absorbed by what he was seeing, he almost missed hearing the doctor when she spoke.
“Aw...just as I suspected...”
“What? Is somethin' wrong?” Kelli asked Dr. Weeks with a hint of fear in her voice. Tanner squeezed her hand supportively
“Not at all...” Dr. Weeks was quick to assure them.” She reached over and pointed at a small image on the screen and said, “That little one there is responsible for your double dose of morning sickness Kelli.”
Tanner's eyebrows shot up questioningly. “That one, you mean our baby right?”
“Babies...” Dr. Weeks emphasized the s on the end of baby... “Congratulations...you and Kelli are having twins.”
“Two? We’re havin’ two babies at once?” Vin was almost speechless, and Kelli had tears flowing down her cheeks.
“That is generally how twins are born…at the same time.” Dr. Weeks smiled. “I suspected this when Kelli was showing symptoms so early. Add that to a higher than normal hormone level, due to twins, and the shots she took to become pregnant…on top of stress, and you have the perfect recipe for a rough beginning.”
“Twins, baby...We're havin' twins.” Tanner said softly to his wife as he gazed lovingly into her tear-streaked face.
“I heard...” Kelli whispered hoarsely back at him as Tanner lowered his face to hers for a sweet, tender kiss
Dr. Weeks cleared her throat. “I'll give you a few moments alone so that Kelli can get dressed, and then you can join me in my office.”
Vin acknowledged her words with a nod, too caught up in the special moment with Kelli to take his eyes off of his wife. Under the cloak of winter they had received two miracles.
Once the initial shock started to wear off, Kelli dressed and they hurried to Dr. Week’s office, anxious to hear what Helen had to say. They sat side by side, and gave her their full attention.
“Multiple pregnancies are a little different than singles. You are just at seven weeks along, your due date for one baby is based on forty weeks; with twins it’s considered full-term at thirty eight weeks. Your date of July 17th may or may not hold, twins tend to come early, and we want to try to get past the first of July. I want you to continue with the extra rest for a few more weeks, mainly to give your body a chance to catch up to the babies. Increase your calorie intake, continue with the prenatal vitamins, and try not to get yourself stressed-out. This pregnancy is considered high risk now, due to the fact that more than one baby is involved, your medical history, and the assisted reproductive therapy, but I see nothing that indicates any major problem at this stage.” Dr Weeks continued. “I know you must have a million questions so what are the top five?”
“Vin has a list of ‘em, I just want to know that the babies are okay.” Kelli said.
“Your babies are fine. It’s mama that needs the rest. Give me your list Vin.” Dr. Weeks held out her hand. Taking the list she began to read, and write down answers. She did chuckle over a few of them, but once she was finished she gave the list back to Tanner. “All very good questions Vin, it appears you have been reading up on what’s coming.”
“Not as much as I will be. “Vin looked at her answers and grinned, but had to ask anyway. “Number three is okay, for sure?”
“As long as it doesn’t hurt, and we have no complications, yes.” She addressed Kelli. “Right now your babies are taking a lot from your body, so we need to make certain you stay healthy. I will see you every two weeks, but at any time you don’t feel right, do not hesitate to call me. These are my instructions for you, and a list of some reading material that will answer the questions most commonly asked.” She passed the information to Vin. “After we get through the first trimester, then we’ll discuss you going back to work.” She also handed him a video cassette, along with two pictures in a folder. “The first photos of your babies, and a video of the entire scan.” Tanner took both, and had a hard time keeping his eyes off the tiny images of his children.
“The all day mornin’ sickness, will it ever go away?” Kelli asked.
“I guarantee it will be gone by the end of July.” Helen laughed, and then apologized. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that answer. Truthfully, I don’t know. It may go away and come back later, or simply ease up. As long as it doesn’t get worse, you’ll just have to live with it.” The doctor looked at her calendar. “I will see you again on the twentieth. Try to enjoy each day, stay as relaxed as possible, and love each other. That’s the best thing any parents can do for their children.”
“Those things we can do, especially the one about lovin’ each other.” Vin took Kelli’s arm as she got up. “Thanks Dr. Weeks, we’ll see you in two weeks.” He could not hide the grin on his face as they entered the waiting area. Josiah stood up and joined them, opening the exit door for Kelli.
“Judging from the happy look on both your faces I assume everything is okay.” Josiah observed.
“It’s better than okay, Josiah, it’s fantastic. “Vin replied. “We do need to stop at a bookstore on the way home; I have some readin’ to do.”
When the elevator door closed Kelli could not hide her curiosity any longer. “Let me see that list Tanner.” Vin pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to her; he knew that she was checking out question number three when he heard her gasp.
“Vin! You asked her if…” Kelli almost forgot they were not alone, but the smile on his face confirmed that he had indeed asked if making love was on the can do list. She began to laugh as Vin wrapped his arm around her waist, and kissed her. On a scale of one to ten, she reckoned that today was a twelve.
Buck had come over an hour ago asking Rain to come to his house to take a look at Inez. He was positive that his wife had all the signs of early labor, and did not want to take any chances. Nathan had gone with her and Chris, with Mallory’s help, had just put Grace down for a nap when the Tanners arrived home with Josiah.
Josiah walked in first carrying a large bag of books that he sat on the end table. “I thought I would never get Tanner out of the bookstore.”
“Tanner shopped in a bookstore? What in the hell did he want there?” Chris questioned.
Vin heard him as he walked in with Kelli, “Books, what else?” The Texan had practically glued himself to his wife over the last few hours, and had moved into major hovering mode. Kelli was willing to indulge him, to a point, and they had talked about the babies while they looked over the many books that were available on the subject. They had also decided to talk to the children tonight about the pregnancy.
Josiah laughed. “Mostly books about babies, but I did talk Kelli into a couple of good ones about profiling. Since she will be on desk duty when she returns to work, it seemed to be the opportune time for her to consider a change.”
“So what did the doctor say, and when can you come back to work?” Chris asked as he picked up a couple of books to see the titles.
“Kel still needs to take it easy, and if she is allowed to come back to work it won’t be for another six weeks at least. Other than that we’re good.” Tanner grinned. “The doctor did an ultrasound today, and it was an awesome experience.”
Chris grinned, remembering what it felt like to see Adam, and then Grace for the first time with an ultrasound. He hoped he would have that opportunity again with the new baby. “You seemed pleased about it.’ He lifted one of the books that dealt with sibling involvement in a pregnancy. “I take it you plan to talk to the kids soon.”
“I am more than pleased and yes, we plan on tellin’ the kids tonight.” Vin answered again. “We want them to be as involved as possible, and feel more secure about their own place with us.”
“Kel, can you still talk?” Chris teased.
“I don’t need to, Vin has everythin’ covered.” She smiled as she sat on the couch closest to the fireplace. “Where is everyone?”
“Andi, Grace and Adam are taking an afternoon nap, and Mallory is downstairs. Buck thinks Inez may be starting labor, so Rain, Terrell, and Nathan are at the Wilmington's. Max is fussing in the kitchen about you missing lunch, and your scheduled naptime.” Chris smiled when he saw Kelli make a face, and heard her mumble something about ‘mother hens.’
“If you good people will excuse me, I think I will join my wife for some quiet time.” Josiah left the living room to seek out his spouse.
Vin sat next to Kelli, wrapped his arms around her, and stretched out his legs. “Man it’s been such a good day; I almost forget about the ache in my side.”
“Maybe Max should take you on as one of her chicks, Tanner. I hear she has been practicing her mother hen moves on Kelli. She…” Chris had picked up another book and read the title aloud. “Everything you Need to Know to Have a Healthy Twin Pregnancy? Was there something you two forgot to mention?”
Vin grinned, exchanged knowing looks with Kelli, and then looked back at Larabee. “Damn, how did that get in there?”
Kelli swatted him on the shoulder. “You might as well tell him, Vin. You’ll bust a gut if you try to wait until you manage to corral everyone in the Wild Bunch into one place.”
Tanner leaned over to kiss his wife before answering. “You’re right. Cowboy, we have been doubly blessed, it’s twins. Babies are doin’ fine, mom needs rest.” He pulled out the pictures and passed them to Chris.
“Damn!” Chris’s mind rapidly replayed the years he had known Vin. He had come a long way from the shy loner that he was nine years ago, and they had been through a lot together. Now to see his daughter and Tanner happily married and expecting the babies they thought they would never have, warmed his heart. “Those babies are lucky to have special parents like you two.”
Kelli batted back tears as she moved over to give her father a slight hug, careful of his shoulder injury. ‘Thanks, Dad.”
“They are going to be just as lucky to have you and my other brothers in their lives as well.” Tanner said hoarsely.
Chris met Vin's eyes and understood what the other man could not say aloud. For a while the three of them sat in comfortable silence, absorbing the warmth in the room, the heat from the fireplace took care of the outside, but the emotional ties warmed their hearts and souls.
The contented spell was broken when the front door opened and Linda walked in, closely followed by a younger blonde woman. It was if the devil himself had come strolling into the house, dragging in a cold chill, and bringing tension along with turmoil into the room to stomp out the ties of love and family.
“Chris, darling, did you miss me?” Linda exclaimed as she moved across the floor to his side. She stopped just short of flinging her arms around his shoulders and giving him a hug, when she noticed the white sling around his left arm. “You're hurt? Why didn't you tell me you were injured when we spoke on the phone? I would have flown right home. As it is I had to have our housekeeper inform me of your whereabouts.”
Chris wasn't fooled in the least by Linda's words and actions. “I didn't see any need in spoiling your trip home.”
Kelli rolled her eyes at the sickening act of the caring wife that Linda was performing for her guest. She narrowed her eyes at the blonde woman who had come into the living room with Linda. “Amberlyn?”
“It’s been a long time, Kelli.” The other woman gushed.
“Not long enough,” Kelli mumbled under her breath so that no one but Vin could hear her, and then affixed a smile on her face. “Yes it has.”
“Who are these two perfectly delectable men, Linda?” Amberlyn asked, oblivious to the tension radiating in the room from Chris and Kelli both.
“Where are my manners?” Linda said, turning to her friend. “Amberlyn Vanderson, this hunk of a man is my husband Chris Larabee, and the quiet man sitting next to Kelli is her husband, Vin.”
“Ma'am,” Vin said quietly, ignoring the feel of Kelli's nails digging into his arm. He didn't know what the hell was going on, but Kelli certainly wasn't happy to see this other woman with Linda. As it was, he had already deduced from his own quiet observation of her that she was a woman who was cut from similar cloth as Linda. He would be polite, but that was it.
“Ooh, I love your accent? Where are you from? Are you from Texas like Kelli?” Amberlyn said in a rush of words that was hard to follow as she seated herself on the couch next to Vin.
If she had sat any closer, she would have been in his lap. Vin could almost feel the heated tension radiating off of Kelli, and thought it was best for him to put some distance between himself and Linda's friend...fast. He slid off the couch and moved to stand behind his wife, placing his hands on her shoulders. It was only then that he bothered to answer her question, or rather, one of them. “Yes, I’m from Texas.”
“Linda, you didn't tell me your husband was so dreamy, or his friends too. Wait until I tell Marshall.”
Kelli went still. “Marshall's here, too?” The question wasn't aimed at Amberlyn, but at Linda.
“Yes...he's over at the Southern Breeze with Matt. I couldn't very well be rude and not invite him to come to Denver too, after I had invited Amberlyn for the holidays.”
Chris did not miss his daughter’s reaction at the mention of the name Marshall. “Linda, you know that there is not much around here to keep guests entertained. Maybe they would prefer to stay at one of the mountain resorts.”
“Nonsense, Larabee, Amberlyn is going to help me with the holiday entertaining for the family. You know that a woman in my delicate condition can use all the help she can get.” Linda kept smiling.
The urge to throw up came over Kelli quickly and it had nothing to do with being pregnant. It had everything to do with Linda. “A nanny, housekeeper, and a personal maid aren't enough?” she asked, before she could stop herself.
Amberlyn snorted. “Good help is hard to find and they can only do so much. Linda needed my expertise to direct them, when she needs to rest. Lord only knows how she does it, two babies in two years.” She directed her look to Chris. “Thank God none of my husbands demanded children.”
“Speaking of children. “Vin said. “You haven’t heard the good news Linda.” He grinned as he massaged Kelli’s shoulders. “You are goin' to be a grandma again…we’re havin' twins.”
Chris had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing out laugh. Linda had stilled, and Amberlyn looked at Kelli as if she were an alien. Leave it to Tanner to find a way to diffuse the tension in the room. “They found out today. That makes them two up on us… darling.”
Amberlyn sputtered, “Grandma?” She looked over to Kelli. “Linda is your…?”
“Stepmother,” Kelli smiled. “Chris is my dad.”
“Well, congratulations.” Linda forced a smile. “Chris we should really be going. Are you ready?”
“Our daughter is napping, and I’ve been staying here so Mallory and Rain can help out with her. It’s a bit difficult to lift her with my injury, and changing her with one arm is not easy.” Chris grinned.” Since you are here to take over though, I suppose that’s not a problem anymore. I’ll be home as soon as Grace wakes up.”
“Then we’ll see you there later.” Linda leaned over and kissed her husband, before rising. “Amberlyn, are you ready?”
Amberlyn stood up. “It been a pleasure to meet y’all and Kelli we have a lot to catch up on. I know we’re going to have a fun time over the next few weeks.” She followed Linda’s lead and both women made a quick exit.
Vin resumed his place next to his wife, and Chris leaned forward directing his question to his eldest. “Okay, they’re gone. Who in the hell is Marshall?”
“Marshall is Amberlyn’s brother. The Dubois family has known the Vandersons for years, and Amberlyn as well as Marshall went to LSU. In fact Linda, Marshall, and his sister were an inseparable trio before I transferred in. They ran with the same circle of friends, partied, traveled together, and were really close. When Linda and I moved to room off-campus and…other things transpired they kinda went off in a different direction.”
“What other things Kel?” Vin urged her to continue.
“I never liked either of them our… view of the world was, or is completely different. Linda got tired of the party circuit and then when she…” Kelli hesitated.
“You might as well tell us all of it. I plan to find out anyway.” Chris flatly stated.
“Hell... Linda and Marshal were engaged to be married. In fact, it was all arranged, her father was pleased, and had already given Marshall a substantial amount of money to invest in a business. Three days before the weddin’ Linda called it off, a week later she had enrolled in the police academy, and she has never mentioned his name to me since.”
Chris nodded; it did not surprise him that Linda would drag an ex-fiancée to Denver. She was hoping to make him jealous enough to meet her demands. What did surprise him was the fact that it made no difference in how he felt about their marriage. He had to admit that he loved the times they had together, and cherished his children, but what he felt for Linda was not the kind of love that made a strong union outside the bedroom.
“I’m sorry dad. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you, but Linda should not have brought him here, especially not now.” Kelli hated to see Linda play games with Chris, he deserved better than that.
“I’m glad you did, it saves me the trouble of investigating the man.” Chris reached out and paced his hand under her chin so she would look at him. “Linda and I are worlds apart; and unfortunately I was not able to see that until recently. It may not be easy to do, but I intend to find a way that we can both get what we want.” The sound of Grace’s cries drew his attention. “Don’t worry Kel, it will all work out.” He rose to leave the room and tend to his other child.
Vin waited until Chris was out of the room before asking. “Kel, you said especially now. What didn’t you tell Chris?” He knew her well enough to know she was holding back.
Kelli sighed. “The Vanderson family has always been a strong supporter of the KKK in Louisiana. Amberlyn may be a snob, but Marshall Vanderson is a racist bastard.”
Friday ~ December 8th
Vin poured himself a second cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table to enjoy the peaceful silence of the cold December morning. That would change soon enough, but for now all was quiet. The Sanchez family had returned to their home yesterday, along with the Jacksons'. Tanner had given his deposition to the Federal attorneys too, and hopefully they had what they needed from him until after the holidays. The Texan had spent most of his time since he had been home with Kelli and the kids. After telling them about the expected additions to their family, they had made every effort to reassure Jason and Andi that their love for them would not change. Andi was excited about the babies, but the jury was still out on Jason, he had been unusually quiet since he heard the news.
The back door opened. After hanging up his coat, Chris walked into the kitchen and made a beeline for the coffeemaker. “Morning Vin.”
Tanner knew it had not been easy for Larabee since he had moved back home with Grace. Linda and Amberlyn were driving the man nuts, and coming over for morning coffee was becoming a new habit. “Had a rough night, cowboy?"
Chris sat down opposite the Texan. “I don’t think Amberlyn ever quits talking.” Chris sighed. “She and Linda are like two schoolgirls, giggling and carrying on all the time. Where is everyone?”
“I let Kel sleep in, and Andi spent the night at Josiah’s with the other girls. Jason is at school, and I sent Max off to make weddin’ plans with Mallory, Casey, and Rain. They’re comin' over later to decorate for tomorrow.” Vin laughed. “I practically had to run the woman off for the day; she thinks we can’t manage a thing without her. Max even made me a list of instructions to keep things runnin’ smoothly around here while she and Walter are gone.”
“I thought they were only going away for three days?” Chris sipped on his coffee.
“Yeah, they’ll leave after the ceremony, and be back Wednesday mornin’. She was just concerned that I wasn’t healed enough to take it on, I reckon.” Tanner grinned. “Actually I feel great, and ‘m enjoyin’ the hell out of bein’ home with Kel and the kids. In fact…that’s somethin’ I’ve wanted to talk to you about, Chris.”
“I’m not accepting your resignation Tanner, and neither is Travis. That said, I know you have spent most of the last year covering my ass, and you have a ton of down time coming. I think Captain Wilmington and I can work out a schedule to accommodate your needs. I understand you wanting to spend as much time as possible with Kel right now and certainly as she gets closer to delivering. We’ll work it out.”
“Appreciate it.” Vin moved on to another subject. Where do we stand with the rest of the team?”
“Justin left yesterday with his family to spend the holidays in Florida. Pam is leaving for Arizona on Tuesday, and Mark is headed for California at the end of next week. Raphael and Selena are going to Boulder as soon as school is out Wednesday, to stay with Alicia and her family until after Christmas. Alex will be taking off for Vail on the nineteenth. Bones will be keeping his team on identification analysis until the fifteenth, and then he's letting them go until after the first of the year. We should all be back on a regular schedule after the fifteenth of January. Whatever we need to do, we can do from Camp Larabee in the meantime. Although it’s been damn quiet out there with all the militia groups and Chambers seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth.”
“He may be quiet, but he’s still out there. Sooner or later he’ll rattle his chain and we’ll find him.” Vin knew he would ultimately have to face Chambers, but for now he would bid his time, and wait for his chance. “Any word yet from Bucklin about Inez?”
“I think she’s ready to throw his ass out.” Chris chuckled. “She’s had three bouts of false labor, and Buck is a basket case. Miss Nettie threatened to cut a switch to use on him if he didn’t quit driving them crazy. Every time Inez utters a word, he grabs her bag, and heads for the truck.”
“I figured when JD and Casey went home, and the girls went to Mal’s it was getting’ tense. Caleb seems happy that he’s stayin’ with us ‘til Tannis arrives. Guess I can’t make fun of Buck too much, if it were Kel, I’d probably be doin’ the same thing.” Vin got up and poured himself another cup of coffee. “Right now Kel’s lettin’ me hover, but I don’t know how long that’ll last. I just plan to take advantage of it while I can.”
“I thought she would have threatened to shoot you by now. “Chris laughed. “Pregnancy must be having a calming affect on Kel.”
Vin shook his head. “Hardly, I think Amberlyn and Marshall are on her hit list. If that woman pulls another stunt like she did Wednesday afternoon, I think my sweet little wife is liable to tear her apart.”
“I understand why about Amberlyn, but she hasn’t even seen Marshall yet. Why him?”
“It goes back to their college days Chris. She just doesn’t like the man.” Vin stared into his cup thinking, before he spoke. “We might want to keep a close eye on him. Kel says he has a racist attitude.”
“Damn, that’s just what we don’t need. We’ll have to make certain he understands that shit don’t fly around here.” Larabee pushed his chair back and stood up. “I need to check on Grace. Leaving her with Linda and Amberlyn makes me uneasy. Linda wanted to try some new outfits on her that she had recently bought, and I suppose any time Grace gets to spend with her mama is better than none.” Chris started for the door and suddenly stopped. “I almost forgot to tell you. Linda is having an ultrasound today at eleven, and reluctantly has agreed for me to be there. Hopefully with this new 3D thing, I’ll find out if I’ll have another girl or boy to add to the Larabee clan.”
Tanner grinned. “Maybe you’ll get lucky, Cowboy, and have twins too, one of each.”
“I’ll settle for one more for now, thank you. My wife is not Kelli and the thought of having twins might just send Linda running for the hills before this baby is born, and that is not acceptable. See you later Tanner.” Chris closed the door on his way out.
Vin looked at the clock. He knew Ezra and Barbara were coming out to stay for the weekend; it was Ezra’s turn to guard the ‘prisoner’. The Texan figured that he might have a few minutes to spend with his redhead before they arrived. Tanner placed his and Chris’s cup in the dishwasher, and went to wake up his wife. Kelli was already awake, and partially dressed when he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “How are you feelin’ baby?”
“Tired, but then it seems that I stay that way most of the time.” Kelli sighed and leaned back into him. Normally she became irritated when Vin went into his protective mode, but since they had left the doctor’s office, she was enjoying it immensely. “You’re hoverin' again Tanner.”
Tanner nuzzled the back of her neck, “Yep.” He was not sure how long she would allow him to hover, but he planned on enjoying the hell out of it while it lasted. “Chris said he’s goin’ with Linda when she has her ultrasound today.”
“At least they don’t have to worry about how Grace will react to a new brother or sister. She’s too young to know what is goin’ on.”
Vin knew she had been feeling bad about Jason’s reaction to their news. While Andi was bouncing off the walls with excitement, their son had been quiet and was keeping his distance from Kelli. “He just needs some time to think about it baby, and ‘m sure he’ll be as excited as Andi is in no time at all.” Vin gave her a tight squeeze. "Quit worryin', Jason loves you almost as much as I do."
“I know, love and patience, but damn it’s hard. I just wish…”
“Our son is goin' to be alright, Kel.” he whispered softly. “We’ll make sure of it.” Vin swatted her backside. “I ran Max off for the day, so what do you want for breakfast?”
“Hmmm.... chocolate ice cream sounds good…oh…with crushed potato chips on top.”
“Don’t think so lady, but I will make you some chocolate chip pancakes.”
Leaning her head back for a kiss, Kelli grinned, “Deal Tanner.” She slipped on her skirt, and together they walked to the kitchen. While Kelli had a cup of hot tea instead of coffee, he whipped up some pancakes. It seemed that all they had been able to manage since Vin had returned home were stolen moments. At night, Andi still snuck into their room to climb into bed with them, and Tracker as well as Buttons thought they belonged in their bedroom too. Most of the time one of the brothers, or another agent was in the house, since Vin was considered to be in protective custody, so the Tanners grabbed every chance they could to be alone.
Dr. Susan Ryder’s Office~11:00am
Chris was not happy that his wife had insisted on Amberlyn accompanying them to the doctor’s office. “She didn't travel all the way from Louisiana to be stuck on the Larabee 7 with your friends playing cops and robbers all over it.” Linda told Chris in a loud voice as they entered the office and moved up to the desk to let the receptionist know that they were there for Linda's scheduled appointment.
Chris gritted his teeth. “Lower your voice, Linda. We're in public and I don't want to be broadcasting MCAT business all over the place.”
“Fine, but Amberlyn is staying...and, she's going into the back with us as well. She's never seen an ultrasound done and I told her she could view mine.”
Larabee fought to keep his irritation in check as Linda gave the woman at the desk her name and the time her appointment was. He escorted Linda over to a row of chairs after the receptionist indicated that it would be a few minutes, and then settled himself into a chair and prayed that the doctor wouldn't keep them waiting long, since he didn't think he could take much more of Linda and Amberlyn's company.
Amberlyn watched the other women in the room, and was again thankful that she had made a decision a long time ago never to have children." Linda you should consider having something done to make sure you don’t have to go through this again. Surely two children is enough to satisfy your husband’s need to procreate. You do have to think about your figure, and your future. I just can’t see you tied down to a houseful of children while the world awaits you with so much to offer.”
“Oh, I guarantee you this is my last go round with this misery.” Linda was adamant. I have already talked to Dr. Ryder, and she has agreed to do the procedure as soon as this baby is born.”
Larabee listened to the two women, and was not surprised by his wife’s position. He thought back to how much he and Sarah had gone through to have a child. Sarah wanted a baby desperately, and put up with test after test to find a way to make it happen. Kelli had done the same thing, and even though both women were told not to expect a miracle, they had not given up. Chris was saddened to think that Linda, due to her 'me first' attitude, would never realize the amazing gifts that they had been given, first with Grace, and now with this new child that she was carrying. He knew how fragile life could be and how it felt to lose a child, for Linda she saw their babies as a way to keep him in line, or so she thought.
“Mrs. Larabee?” Chris's reverie was broken by the sound of the nurse's voice calling Linda's name. He rose from his chair and moved to Linda's side, and together they walked toward the doorway that the nurse was standing in. Amberlyn followed silently behind them. They were led down a hallway into an examining room, where the nurse proceeded to check Linda's vitals and write the results down in her records. Before leaving the room, she handed Linda a gown, telling her to change into it, and then left the room.
“Good, God, isn't that about the ugliest thing you've ever seen?” Amberlyn exclaimed, eyeing the faded green gown as Linda changed into it.
Chris couldn't hide a snicker. “This isn't exactly a fashion boutique Amberlyn; it's a doctor's office. The gown is supposed to be functional, not fashionable.”
“If you say so....” The younger blonde’s nose wrinkled up in distaste.
Linda was growing increasingly agitated the longer she laid upon the cold, hard exam table. “Where the hell is that doctor?”
“Seeing to other patients,” Dr. Ryder said as she entered the room with a disapproving look in Linda's direction. “I realize that you are uncomfortable and impatient Linda, but I have to see to the patients whose appointments are scheduled before yours.”
“Let's just get this over with, I have other things to do today, and I'd like to get to them.” Linda huffed.
“As you wish, Mrs. Larabee,” Dr. Ryder performed her preliminary exam, the nurse marking Linda’s chart as the doctor dictated. She prepared for the ultrasound, and continued without another word spoken directly to her patient. “Chris this procedure will take about fifteen minutes; we’ll measure the size of the baby, its position, and make certain everything is as it should be. Before I start I need to know, if we are lucky enough to see this early, do you want to know the sex of your child?”
“I understand, and yes we want to know.” Chris responded.
“Okay here we go.” The doctor began by rubbing a cool gel across Linda’s exposed abdomen to improve the sound condition. Then she slid the transducer across her stomach and a picture began to form on the video monitor. “Yes, there’s your baby, and look at that, he’s posing for us.”
“It's a boy?” Chris asked, his eyes straining to make out what it was on the screen that indicated to the doctor that the baby Linda was carrying was indeed a male. Dr. Ryder pointed with her finger and Larabee followed it until he could make out what the doctor had seen. A lump formed in his throat. A son. He was being given another son. Adam would always hold a special place in his heart, but this time, with his family of brothers to aide him, he made a solemn vow to do his damnest to see this son into adulthood. He planned to take special pleasure in every precious moment they were given together.
“I should have known.” Linda said. “I'm carrying this one so differently than I did Grace. It looks like you'll have another son to carry on the Larabee name, Chris.”
It wasn't the words that struck him wrong; it was the tone behind them. Chris couldn't help thinking back to the joyous day when he and Sarah had discovered that the baby that she was carrying was a boy. Sarah had wept at the news, and Larabee had found himself moved beyond words as he had held her close to him. Linda acted as if having a child was a chore. No, more like a burden that she couldn't wait to get rid of. He supposed his delight in the news would just have to make up for her nonchalance. He couldn't wait to share the news of his baby's gender with his brothers, especially Buck. Wilmington was the only one of his brothers who had been there when Adam was born. He had been the one to grieve alongside of him when Sarah and Adam were taken away, and he knew Buck was going to be thrilled that Chris was being given another boy.
“Chris?” Linda had been watching her husband hoping that he would show some sign that he was grateful to her for providing him with a son. She was beginning to think that there was nothing she could do to break Chris away from that family of his, and have him all to her self. Wherever his thoughts were now, they were not on her. "Chris, we need to be going.”
Larabee had been so caught up in thoughts of his sons that he did not even realize that the doctor had left the room and Linda was dressed to leave. “Yeah, we need to get back home. I promised to help Josiah and Vin make the wedding arch for tomorrow.”
“Don’t forget that we’re having dinner at Matt’s tonight. We also need to make a stop first. I am having a professional decorator dress the house for Christmas and I want to approve the tree he has selected.” Linda took her bag as Amberlyn passed it to her.
“We’ve always taken our Christmas trees from ranch property Linda, they’re better than any you could buy. In fact, we have planned to take all the kids as soon as school is out and find the perfect tree for each of us.”
“Not this year. I’m having a party on the twentieth at our house and I want things perfect…my way.”
Chris started to argue with her about it, but stopped. Unless there was a drastic change, this would probably be the last Christmas they would spend together. Linda could have her damn tree…he was getting a son. “Fine, we’ll do it your way, let’s go.”
Linda and Amberlyn walked in front of him, and Chris was surprised to see Dr Ryder motioning to him from her office door. “You two go on, I’ll meet you at the elevator. “He went over to see what the doctor wanted.
“Everything is fine Chris; get that worried look off your face. Your son will arrive sometime around May 28th. “Susan Ryder smiled, and handed him a packet. “I thought you would want pictures, and a copy of the video.”
Larabee looked down at the packet in his hand and nodded. “Thanks, Doc.” He then went out to join the women at the elevator with a smile on his face. Chris could hardly wait to show his brothers the picture of his new son.
Chris was never more relieved than when he had driven into the driveway of Larabee 7 and Linda and Amberlyn got out. The two women had never stopped talking...or harping was a better word for what Linda and Amberlyn did all the way home. Not one word of their prattle was about the baby. It was all about the upcoming party. He made a brief trip inside to check on Grace, and found her taking her afternoon nap. He told the Nanny that he was going to be gone for a little while and if there was anything that Grace needed, to call him. Once back in the truck, Larabee drove over to the Wilmington's. He was anxious to convey the news to all his brothers that Linda was giving him a son, but he wanted to tell Buck first. He drove up to the Wilmington's, turned off the truck and got out, heading straight to the front door.
Buck saw him coming, and opened the door to greet him. “Hey ole son, you’re just what I need… another man around here. Miss Nettie and Inez have me outnumbered.”
Chris chuckled. “What did you do to piss them off?”
“Me? I’m just being my sweet lovable self.” Wilmington smiled. “It seems Inez is a bit cranky, and Miss Nettie says I’m not giving my wife room to breathe “
“Yeah, right,” Larabee grinned at him. “Well, I suppose I could take you off their hands for a few minutes at least. Want to go for a walk?”
Buck recognized the look in Chris’s eyes; his oldest friend had something important on his mind. “Sure, just let me grab my coat.”
Chris waited until Wilmington had joined him, before heading off of the porch and into the yard. “Linda and I just came back from the doc's office.”
Buck stopped walking, and anxiously began firing questions to Chris. “What’s wrong? Is it something with the baby? Linda?”
“Uh...No, Buck...God, I’m sorry...I didn't mean to alarm you.” Larabee was quick to say. “Everything’s fine, Buck...It's great, actually. I just wanted to tell you…we're having a boy.”
“A boy?” Old memories flashed rapidly through Buck’s mind. The day Chris announced that he and Sarah were having a son…how proud Chris had been. He remembered the day Adam was born, too…and all the wonderful things they had shared with him for the next six years…and then… how they had both grieved when he was suddenly gone. Tears filled Wilmington’s eyes as he excitedly hugged his brother. “A boy…we’re having a boy!”
Chris felt his eyes moisten in response to Buck's emotional display of exuberance. He hugged Wilmington back, unashamed of the tears that slid unchecked down his face. “I wanted you to know first, before I told the rest of our brothers, and Kel.”
“Damn,” Buck wiped at his eyes. “Chris, I’m honored and happy as hell for you. The rest of the guys are at Tanner’s house helping with the wedding stuff. Just give me a minute to tell Inez your great news and let her know I’m leaving, and then we’ll go tell the others.”
“Thanks Buck.” Larabee said and then motioned for Wilmington to head inside. It had been important to him to tell Buck first, but now that he knew, Chris was anxious to head over to the Tanners to tell Kelli, Vin, and the other brothers the good news.
"Inez told me to tell you how happy she is for you and Linda." Buck said when he came back outside a few moments later and the two of them piled into the truck. Chris drove up to the Tanner's house, turning off the ignition before he and Buck got out of the vehicle and let themselves into the house. There was a blur of activity going on, with Gunny directing it all. Mallory, Rain, and Casey were arranging flowers; Barbara was helping Max in the kitchen. Josiah, Walter, Nathan, and JD were working on setting up the tables and chairs, while Ezra guiding them. The little ones were down for afternoon naps, and the older children were still at school. Chris found Vin sitting at the kitchen table drawing a design for the arch.
“Tanner, where’s my daughter?” Chris wanted her to be here when he made his announcement.
“She had better be restin’. I had to threaten to lock her in our bedroom to get her out of the middle of all this.”
“I bet she was thrilled about that. “Chris grinned. “Would you ask her to come out for a few minutes? I have an announcement to make, and I want her to hear it, too.”
You all right?
I’m great, and I promise, my news won’t upset her.
Vin nodded, stood up, and headed for their bedroom. He closed the door behind him and leaned back against it as he watched Kelli sleep for a few minutes before waking her. Standing here in the serenity of their room, the unsettling memories of Dusty Slater, the RMR, and the last few turbulent months faded away; along with all the disappointments they had faced trying to conceive a child. The arguments they had engaged in about surgeries, the tears, and rollercoaster of emotions they had been riding seemed a million miles away. They had two amazing children with the addition of Jason and Andi to their family, and now they were being blessed with two more little miracles. His bond with Chris was stronger than it was before, and fate again had intertwined itself into their lives. Tanner now fully understood what his grandfather had told him so many years ago…. one day you will rediscover two souls that you have known in the past and once reunited, one will strengthen your spirit, and the other, will reveal your destiny in this life. First Chris and now Kelli had done just that. Treyton Hawk would be pleased for his grandson, and Vin vowed to pass along his grandfather’s wisdom to his children.
The Texan walked over to the bed, sat down on the edge of it, and reached out to brush Kelli’s hair back with his fingers. “Baby, wake up.” He smiled when she began to stir, as he then slid his hand down her back. “Chris is here Kel, and he wants to tell all of us somethin’.”
Kelli sighed as she stretched, and forgetting her earlier annoyance with her Texan, graced him with a smile. “Tanner, you’re a lot nicer to wake up to than an alarm clock, and better lookin’ too.” She reached up and trail two fingers across his jaw line. “Lord, I missed you, while you were gone.”
“Probably not as much as I missed you.” Helping her up, he hugged her. “You’re stuck with me, woman.”
“I’m not complainin’, Tanner. Give me a minute in the bathroom, and then we’ll go see what dad is up too now.” Vin waited on her, and together they walked out to join the rest of the family.
Once everyone was present and accounted for Chris called for their attention “I have an announcement to make so listen up. I wanted to share some good news. This morning Linda had an ultrasound and we found out that the newest Larabee is a boy…Grace and Kelli, are getting a baby brother.”
Whistles, cheers, and applause filled the room, and Chris was surrounded by family that were all thinking the same thing. Adam was gone, and could never be replaced, but fate had given their brother another opportunity to raise a son. They all knew too, that Chris’s emotions were running high, thinking the same thing. There was no doubt that the last months had been difficult ones for all of them, but for Chris most of all. He had struggled to make it past the obstacles, life had thrown at him over the last year and deserved peace and happiness in his life. As they stood together strong in spirit, and basking in the strength of family, sharing his triumph over adversity, each one gave their own thanks for the strength they had found in one another.
Journal Entry~ Friday December 8th ~Midnight
It has been close to four months since California, and today I feel that I have finally broken free of the past that has weighed me down over the last year. My recovery is solid, and although I still attend my meetings, I know that the addiction in my life will never be a threat to me again .Vin was the last person on my list to make amends to, and I have done that. Our bond is reconnected and strong again, maybe even stronger than before. I’m not saying that everything is perfect in my life, but it is manageable, and something that I can handle. I sat here tonight before I began to write and picked up Sarah’s bible, it fell open to a verse that I know she wanted me to read.
There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to harvest.
A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to break down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace, and a time to turn away.
A time to search, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace
Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.
This verse sums up our family and my life. I now realize that my time with Linda had a purpose. I have moved forward, letting go of the past that held me back, but our time together as a married couple is almost over. We have two children to forever bind us, but we both see our future differently. Mine is here with my family, hers…she thinks there is something out there she is missing. I do not know what it is; I only know I can not give it to her. Do I regret being with her? No, I don’t. I am however resolved to the fact that our differences are irreconcilable. Surprisingly I am okay with that, as long as we can come to an agreement about the children.
Tonight we went to the Southern breeze and had dinner with Matt. I met Marshall Vanderson, and immediately disliked the man. Not because he followed Linda around like a faithful puppy, but because he is an egotistical bigot. Money, social position, and status are top priorities on his list of important attributes. Aside from his obvious prejudices though, he is exactly the type of man that Linda needs in her life in order to be happy. He would make her, and her family fortune, the center of his attention. He is smart enough to know that she likes to be in control, and he would accept that; he lives the lifestyle she wants me to be comfortable in, and I can not do that. Maybe I should encourage her to spend more time with the man, so she too could realize that we…she and I…are just too far apart to have a future together. All I know for certain is… I have embraced our life, and now it’s time to turn away.