An ATF-M7/McKenna xover
Note: The character of Brick McKenna was played by Eric Close in the series "McKenna" which aired on ABC in 1995.
Follows Double Take, Double Jeopardy and Double Trouble.
Webmaster Note: This is the 5,000th story posted at blackraptor
A cool breeze rustled the leaves of the quaking aspens. The sound of the leaves rattling together was a familiar one as Leigh drove along the road home. It was beautiful day but it wasn't one she could enjoy. McKenna Outfitter was booked solid for the summer. This was a good thing but left Leigh little time she could call her own. One group left yesterday afternoon and the rest of the day was spent cleaning out the cabins so they could be ready for the group coming in today. Leigh spent the morning in town picking up supplies and food for the rest of the week. The entrance to the ranch was just ahead and if she was lucky she might get a few minutes to herself before Jack and Brick returned with their guests. As she drove closer to the house she saw a black pickup hauling a trailer. On the trailer was another car.
"Who the heck is that?"
She stopped the jeep along side the truck but didn't see anyone inside. She continued up to the house and parked. As she was getting out of the jeep Walter, their handyman, came out of the barn. He wasn't alone and Leigh smiled when she recognized who was with him.
"Vin!" she yelled and ran towards him.
Vin smiled and pulled her into a hug as she got closer. "Howdy, Leigh."
"Why didn't you tell us you were coming?" she asked as she swatted his arm.
"Wanted it to be a surprise."
"Brick's going to be so happy," Leigh said. "Except we're going to be busy for the next few days."
"So Walter told me."
"Vin was helping me with the horses," Walter said.
"Just tell me what you want me to do and I'll lend a hand," Vin said.
"We can use it," Leigh sighed. "Brick and Jack should be bringing the next bunch of visitors in a few hours. I still have to get the groceries away and get dinner started."
"Me and Walter will get the groceries," Vin volunteered. "You go start dinner."
"Jack will have my head because you're a guest, but I need the help."
"I ain't no guest," Vin laughed. "I'm family."
"Well, in that case, you can help me with the groceries and dinner," Leigh laughed as she disappeared into the house.
"Don't think she'll want my help with dinner," Vin admitted. "I can only make hot dogs."
"It's more than I can make," Walter admitted. "Naomi does all the cooking."
They both gathered some bags and headed for the house.
Brick smiled and answered the questions of the latest batch of guests to McKenna Outfitters. The Andersen's were new to the ranch. The parents were looking forward to this trip and their two young children seemed to be just as happy. Hannah was only six and asked Brick all sorts of questions. Michael was older, a mature eight, and pretended like he knew everything.
"Is that the house?" Mr. Andersen asked.
"Yup," Brick smiled. "That's the main house. We serve dinner there. The cabins are right over there."
Brick pulled up to the log cabin that housed the guest's rooms and Hannah clapped. Michael rolled his eyes and turned back to his Nintendo. Brick helped them get the luggage into the cabins. As he was telling them what time dinner was served, Jack pulled up with the other guests. The Fosters had been here before. The parents just came to relax but the two teenage daughters could be a handful. Usually, they just liked going to town. Cass usually went with them and that suited everyone fine.
"Hello, Brick," Mrs. Foster said.
"I'm glad to be here," she said.
"Whatever," the older daughter Lisa said. "Can we just go to the cabins?"
"You know where they are," Jack said. "You have the same ones as you did the last time."
"Let's go Millie."
The younger girl shrugged then followed her sister. Mr. and Mrs. Foster said they'd see them at dinner. Brick and Jack walked to the house and they could smell dinner. Leigh was a great cook and without her McKenna Outfitters wouldn't have the reputation it did. Brick entered the kitchen and walked over to the stove and was about to lift the cover on a pot.
"Leave it!" Leigh yelled from the stairs.
"Busted," Jack teased, opening the fridge.
"I just want a taste," Brick complained.
"You'll get a taste at dinner. Besides I have a surprise for you."
She grabbed Brick's arm and led him to the back porch. Jack was curious and followed. They walked out on the porch and Brick couldn't believe it. There on the lawn playing with Rose and Harry was his twin.
Vin looked up and smiled. Rose raced for the porch followed by her brother.
"Uncle Brick. Look who's here!" Harry said. "Uncle Vin."
"Why didn't you tell us you were coming?" Brick said, pulling his brother into a hug.
"Like I told Leigh," Vin said, stepping back. "Wouldn't a been a surprise."
"Well, we're surprised," Jack said.
"Jack," Vin said, holding out his hand.
"It's good to see you, son," Jack said shaking his hand.
"I have to say the hospitality is a bit lacking," Vin said, crossing his arms.
"What do you mean?" Jack asked.
"Leigh. She kicked me out of the kitchen," Vin accused.
"That's 'cause Vin kept sampling everything," Rose said.
"If I let you, Brick and Jack sample everything there'd be nothing left," Leigh explained.
"She let you have cookies," Harry said. "She never lets us have cookies before dinner."
"You let him have cookies?" Brick complained. "Harry's right you never let us."
"It would spoil your appetite," Leigh said.
"You just like him better!" Brick yelled.
"You just figured that out?"
Vin laughed as Brick pouted. "So Leigh tells me you're booked solid. My coming here won't be a problem, will it?"
"Of course not," Jack assured him. "You're welcome anytime."
"Damn straight," Brick agreed. "You're family."
"Got something for ya," Vin said, walking towards the barn.
Brick looked at Harry who shrugged and followed Vin. Leigh shooed him after Vin and Brick went with Harry. Jack hung back to talk to Leigh.
"What's going on?" Jack asked.
"It's surprise, Jack," Leigh said, taking Rose's hand. Jack followed behind. "Just wait like everyone else."
Brick came around the edge of the barn and stopped in his tracks. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. Sitting on a trailer was a Dodge Charger. It was similar to the ones they used while he was on the stock car circuit.
"It's just a little something for all the birthdays and Christmases I missed," Vin said. "She needs a little work but I figure we could have her up and running in no time."
"Vin, its great but I can't take it."
"Because it's too expensive."
"No, it weren't," Vin said, smiling. "I won it in a poker game. Besides what was I going to do with it living in the city?"
Brick climbed on the trailer and opened the door of the car. Slipping into the seat was pure heaven and Brick smiled. Sitting there brought back memories of the track. Granted he'd only been allowed to change the tires but that had been enough. Running his hands over the console he smiled when he noticed the fuzzy dice on the floor.
"Keys are in it," Vin called. "Let's get her off the trailer."
Jack and Leigh helped Vin lower the ramp and released the clamps holding the tires. Leigh stepped back with the kids as Vin gave Brick the all-clear sign. The car rumbled to life and Leigh couldn't believe how loud it was.
"Like I said it needs some work," Vin shouted.
"I'll say," Jack agreed.
Brick backed the car off the trailer and parked it next to the barn. He cut the engine and climbed out.
"She's fantastic!" Brick exclaimed.
"Car's a gas-guzzler," Jack grumbled. "Those modifications can't be legal."
"You always have to ruin things," Brick said, angrily.
"She's street legal," Vin said, trying to relieve the tension.
"That's street legal?" Jack asked skeptically.
"I checked," Vin assured him. "It's not jacked up too high. And the engine is standard with a few modifications."
"This works out fine, Jack," Leigh joined in. "Cass is going to need a car. So now she can have the mustang."
"Hey, wait a minute," Brick protested.
"Leigh has a point," Jack agreed. "Either you give the Charger back to Vin or let Cass have the Mustang."
"But I rebuilt that car with Guy!" Brick argued. "I don't mind if she uses it but the 'Stang's mine."
"Your choice," Jack said.
Brick glared at his father and headed for the house. Jack grumbled and followed behind. Harry and Rose looked at their mom She was upset about they way Jack acted and she told them to go up to the house. Leigh turned to Vin and saw he was uncomfortable.
"They'll work it out," Leigh assured him.
"If I had known it would be a problem I wouldn't have brought it."
"They're just like that with each other," Leigh said, taking Vin's arm and walking back to the house.
"It just doesn't make sense to me," Vin sighed. "Brick should be happy he has a father that cares."
Leigh didn't know what to say. Obviously being in foster care left Vin with a different concept of father figures.
"Vin, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, doesn't mean I'll answer."
"Fair enough," Leigh smiled. "Do you remember your mother?"
Vin was silent for a few minutes. "A little," he finally admitted. "I remember she had long hair and blue eyes. But the thing I recall the most was her telling me to always remember I was a Tanner."
"I wonder why Brick doesn't remember her?"
"Don't rightly know, guess I have a better memory."
They entered the house and found Brick helping the children set the table. Vin watched his brother and saw the anger was still there but he was hiding it for the kids. Vin joined them after placing his leather coat on the chair. His service weapon was in a holster on his right hip.
"Wow, cool!" Harry exclaimed, seeing the gun.
"You've seen Dale's before," Brick said, placing the forks next to the plates.
"But Uncle Vin's looks different," Harry said.
"That's cause Vin's is silver," Rose said. "Uncle Dale's is black."
They finished setting the table and Vin went into the kitchen to help Leigh. Brick took the kids upstairs to get washed up. The Andersen's showed up and Leigh directed them to the table.
"How many ya have this week?" Vin asked, placing rolls in a basket.
"The Andersen's are a party of four," Leigh answered. "The Fosters have been here before. Their two daughters are teenagers."
Jack came to the table and smiled. "So how do you like the cabins?"
"They're lovely," Mrs. Andersen. "It's beautiful here."
"I'm glad you like it," Jack said, joining them at the table.
Brick returned with Rose and Harry whom Jack introduced to the Andersen's. The Fosters came in and took seats around the table. Mrs. Foster came into the kitchen to help Leigh. Vin helped the two women place the food on the table and squeezed in between Brick and Harry. Once everyone was introduced Jack told them to dig in.
"So, Vin, you weren't here the last time we visited," Mrs. Foster said.
"No, ma'am," Vin replied. "I don't live here."
"Are you in law enforcement?" she asked.
"Gee, mom, he's carrying a gun," Lisa Foster said. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"Guess I better do something with that," Vin smiled.
"Why do you have to be so nosy!" Caroline Foster exclaimed.
"Just trying to make conversation," she said, turning to Jack. "You never mentioned you had twins."
"It's complicated," Jack replied.
Jack quickly turned the conversation to what he had planned for the week. Vin felt uncomfortable from the questions Mrs. Foster had asked and was glad Jack turned her attention to something else. Half way through the meal Cass came in and dropped her bag by the door. When she looked towards the table she was surprised.
"Vin!" she yelled, racing around the table.
Vin pushed back from the table and stood just in time to be crushed in a hug.
"Miss me?" Vin teased pushing Cass away.
"Why didn't you tell us you were coming?"
"Why so you could call all your girlfriends and have them come over and make google eyes at Vin?" Rose asked.
Everyone at the table laughed as Cass blushed and Vin rolled his eyes. After dinner was over everyone helped with clearing the table. It was Brick's turn to wash the dishes and Vin helped. Jack took the guests back to their cabins.
"Sorry about Mrs. Foster," Brick said, handing Vin a plate.
"No big deal," Vin assured him.
Jack came back into the kitchen and leaned on the counter. "Don't you boys stay up too late. The Andersen's want to go out early on that ride."
"Jack, it's only 8 o'clock," Brick protested.
"Won't be awake much longer," Vin admitted. "It was a long drive up."
"See you boys in the morning," Jack said, walking out.
When the last dish was finished Brick grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge. He handed one to Vin as they walked out on the porch. Brick sprawled in an Adirondack chair and took a swig of his beer. Vin joined him and they sat in companionable silence as the sounds of the night echo in the valley
"I'm glad you came," Brick said.
He was glad he'd made the decision to come. Visiting with his brother made him feel closer to his Ma. Vin took a sip of his beer and smiled.
Brick watched as his brother tacked one of the horses. Vin talked softly to the mare and Brick saw her ears swivel to catch every word. Vin was a natural with horses and that surprised him. Growing up on the streets of Denver didn't lend itself to learning about horses. But Vin had told him one of his foster homes had been on a cattle ranch in Texas.
"You know you don't have to come with me," Brick said, brushing the horses standing in front of him.
"Tryin' to get rid of me?" Vin asked. He stood up and leaned on the mare's back looking at his brother.
"No, of course not, but we're only going for a short ride. The Andersen kids don't even know how to ride."
"So we'll teach 'em," Vin said, bending down to pick out the mare's hoof.
With Vin's help all the horses were tacked and waiting to go when the Andersen's came down to the barn. They had all been introduced at dinner the night before but Vin couldn't remember their names, except for the little girl. She had the same name as Josiah's sister.
"Hannah, come over here and I'll introduce you to Molly," Vin said.
The little girl eagerly came over to Vin. She trustingly took Vin's hand as he brought her over to Molly's head and let her pet the horse. Brick just smiled as he turned back to the others.
"I want that one," Michael said pointing to the big black.
"Sorry, Michael, but he's too strong for you," Brick said. "You'll be riding Jasper. Let me just get your parents set up then we'll get you going."
"Which one's Jasper?"
"The white one."
Jasper was an older horse that was standing with his head down and his eyes closed. His rear right foot was up as he relaxed in the sun.
"I don't want him he's old," the boy protested. "I want the black."
"Michael, can I ask you something?" Vin walked over to the boy and stood next to him. He could see Brick was getting mad and wanted to keep him from saying anything. "Can you tell me how you even get on a horse?"
"I'm not stupid," Michael protested. "You put your foot in that thing and pull yourself up."
"Okay," Vin nodded. "That thing is called a stirrup. Now how would you get him to walk forward?"
"I'd kick him!"
"I see," Vin nodded. "And after you kicked him he would bolt away and he'd leave you on your butt in the dirt."
"No, he wouldn't. I'd hold onto that piece sticking up on the saddle."
"You mean the horn?"
"Have you ever ridden a horse?"
"No," Michael admitted.
"Then don't ya think you should trust us to know which horse you should ride?"
"I guess," Michael said, reluctantly. "But he's old looking."
"Jasper isn't old," Vin said. "He just knows he likes the sun and will soak it up whenever he can. He's just restin'. But if you don't want him you can have Molly."
"She's a girl," Michael groused.
"That's why we gave you Jasper."
"Who gets the black?"
"Oh, you mean Pansy?" Vin asked innocently. He heard Brick snicker but ignored him. "He's mine."
"The horse's name is Pansy?"
"'Fraid so," Vin nodded. "So now you see why we gave you Jasper."
Michael nodded and Vin took him over to the horses and showed him what to do.
"The horse's name isn't really Pansy, is it?" Thomas Andersen asked.
"Hardly," Brick chuckled. "That's Diablo."
"Where'd your brother learn to deal with kids so well?" Carol asked.
"He has a whole gang of them at the apartment complex he lives at," Brick said, walking them to their horses. "It's not a great neighborhood and most kids run in gangs but Vin has kept his bunch out of trouble."
"He's very good," she said.
Once everyone was in the saddle and set Brick took the lead. Vin stayed next to Hannah towards the back. Michael was happy with Jasper. Once they started moving out Jasper came to life. Originally Brick was only going to take them out for an hour but they ended up staying out closer to three. The Andersen's were happy when they got back but Vin warned Carol and Thom that they might want to take a long shower. Thom laughed and said it was probably a good idea. Carol had to lead a reluctant Hannah away from her new friend.
"Bye, Vin," she called as she walked with he mother.
"Think she's sweet on you," Brick teased as the led the horses into the barn.
"Yeah, well, what's not to like?" Vin laughed. "She got those blonde pigtails and blue eyes."
"You have a point," Brick smiled. "Carol thought you were great with her."
"Kids like me."
"That's because you're a big kid."
As they were untacking the horses Harry came into the barn. He helped rub down the horses before they let them lose in the corral. As they were letting the last horse out Leigh rang the bell calling everyone to lunch.
"Figured we'd take a look at the car and see what we needed to get in town," Vin said.
"Sounds good to me," Brick nodded. "The Andersen's wanted to go into town anyway."
As they walked passed the cabins Hannah came running out and over to Vin. Tanner smiled and took her hand as they walked to the house. Leigh just smiled as Vin walked in with her.
"I think I've lost my little girl," Carol said.
"Yeah, Vin's a real heartbreaker," Leigh laughed.
"You're not kidding."
Both women laughed and Brick turned to look at them. Vin just smiled and winked at them, which made them look at each other wondering if he heard them. The Fosters had gone to town with Jack so the Andersen's were the only ones at lunch. When lunch was finished Brick said they were leaving for town in an hour. Vin said good-bye to Hannah as they walked to the barn. Harry came with them as they went to check the car. Brick still couldn't believe Vin had brought him a stock car for his birthday.
"Here," Vin said, tossing him the keys. "Start her up."
Brick grabbed the keys out of the air and slid into the driver's seat. The car rumbled to life as Vin opened the hood. Brick left the car running and joined Vin at the front of the car.
"Sounds like it needs some work on the carburetor," Brick said.
"Yup," Vin nodded. "New spark plugs, too."
"Sounds like the muffler could use a bit of work," Brick added.
"Which one?" Harry asked. "There's two."
"We'll replace both," Brick said.
"Don't think we'll have to," Vin said, walking to the back of the car and lying down. "Looks like the left one is loose is all."
They handed Harry a piece of paper and let him write the list of things they would need. When they were done Brick took the list and smiled at how Harry had spelled some of the items. They dropped Harry back at the house then headed into town.
Brick dropped the Andersen's off along Main Street where they could wander through the stores. Vin waved to Hannah and Brick laughed as he drove to the auto body shop. He parked out front and they both climbed out of the Suburban. A few heads turned as they walked past the visitors on the sidewalk. Brick pushed open the door of the shop and a bell jingled above the door. Vin took off his cowboy hat as his eyes adjusted to the darker interior of the store.
"I'll be right there."
"No rush, Carter,"
"Brick, is that you?"
"Yup, just here to pick up a few parts."
"That Mustang giving you troubles again?" Vin was surprised when a small woman walked out of the back room wiping her hands on a rag. She saw Vin's expression and smiled. "You were expecting a man?"
"Yeah, I was," Vin smiled.
"Get that all the time," Carter smiled. "You're obviously the twin the whole town's heard about."
"The whole town knows about me?" Vin asked in surprise and Brick just shrugged.
"'Fraid so," she laughed. "Bend isn't that big."
"Guess there's no way to deny I'm his brother, name's Vin."
"Pleased to meet you, Vin," Carter said, shaking his hand. "Now what can I get for you boys?"
Brick handed her the list and she scanned it quickly. She excused herself and disappeared into the back room. Vin walked up the aisles looking at the different things in the store. As he walked down one aisle he came face to face with a rather large dog. Vin froze and waited for the dog to make the first move. When the dog's ears came up and his tail started wagging Vin felt a whole heck of a lot better.
"Hey, fella," Vin said, crouching down.
The dog's tail started wagging faster as he walked closer to Vin. He bumped his head against Tanner's knee and whined. The blond laughed and started to scratch his ears.
"I see you found Bruno," Carter said, stepping out of the back room. The dog barked and jogged over to the counter.
"He kinda found me."
"His a big mush," Carter said, rubbing Bruno's head. "This should keep you boys busy for a few days."
"Thanks, Carter," Brick said pulling out his wallet.
"I got it," Vin said, handing her his credit card.
Once everything was paid for Brick grabbed the box and headed for the door. Vin pushed back his hair and slid his hat on. He tipped two fingers to the brim and nodded to Carter as he followed Brick. Carter leaned on the counter and smiled.
"Bruno those two maybe be pretty walking in, but they're even prettier walking away."
Bruno barked and Carter laughed as she headed to the back room.
Brick put the box in the back of the Suburban and turned to Vin. "So what would you like to do?"
"Could go for something cool," Vin said.
"Ice cream?" Brick asked.
"Sounds good to me," Vin nodded.
Brick led the way down the street. Cass saw them and waved. Brick just rolled his eyes and waited for her to catch up. When she did she latched on to Vin's arm and smiled.
"Where're ya going?" she asked.
"Heading for ice cream," Vin said. "Want to come with us?"
"Don't you have something better to so?" Brick asked.
"Nope," she laughed, walking with Vin.
Brick sighed and followed them down the street. He knew his sister was only tagging along because her friends would want to meet Vin. As they walked down the street Cass waved to everyone drawing attention to the fact she was walking with Vin. Brick wasn't sure how Vin would like being used by his sister. When they got to the ice cream parlor Brick wasn't surprised to see a bunch of Cass' girlfriends sitting outside.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Brick groused. "You did this on purpose."
"What do you mean?" Cass asked innocently.
"Damn it, Cass," Brick growled.
"Ain't no problem, Brick," Vin smiled. "The teens at the apartment do this, too."
Vin continued walking and Cass turned to stick her tongue out at her brother. Vin just laughed but Brick didn't think it was funny. He followed not wanting to make a scene. He'd talk to Cass later. Vin walked up to the counter and ordered a root beer float. Cass ordered the same.
"What'll you have, Brick?"
When their order was delivered Vin let Cass lead him over to her friends. Brick sat at the table opposite them as Cass introduced Vin. He shook his head as he drank his float. Brick watched the tourists go by when he noticed a police vehicle pull up. Dale climbed out of the truck and Brick waved him over.
"Hey, Dale, look what the cat dragged in," Brick said, gesturing behind him. "Yo, Vin, let's go."
Dale watched as Vin said good-bye to Cass and her friends. He smiled as all the girls pouted.
"Hey, Dale," Vin said, holding out his hand as he walked over.
"When'd you get here?" Dale asked shaking Vin's hand.
"Yesterday," Vin replied.
"Come on let's go for a walk," Brick suggested.
As they walked away the girls called to Vin and he waved. Dale laughed at Brick's disgusted look.
"Why do you encourage her?" Brick asked.
"Who, Cass?" Vin asked and Brick nodded. "Hey, I know what its like to try to fit in. If having me come over and talk with her friends scores her some points, it's no bother."
"Whatever," Brick said.
"Well if you ever need to get away from the ranch you can always stay with me," Dale told Vin.
"Might take you up on that," Vin said.
"What?" Brick asked surprised.
"Yeah, they been working me like a dog," Vin teased. "Had to take out a tour this morning and last night Leigh made me cook."
Brick shoved his brother and Vin stumbled. When he righted himself he grabbed Brick in a chokehold as he rubbed his knuckles hard into his head. Brick tried to fend him off but Vin was too strong.
"A little help here," Brick called to Dale.
"I dare you to throw him in the fountain," Dale laughed, watching Vin.
"Couldn't do that to my brother," Vin said as Brick struggled to break his hold.
"I double dare you."
"Sorry, Brick, but I've been double dared."
Brick struggled hardier as Vin dragged him towards the fountain. He couldn't believe this; his brother was actually going to throw him in the fountain. Vin released Brick and stepped back laughing. Brick tried to retaliate but Vin was too quick. Finally he gave up.
"You almost had him there, buddy," Dale teased.
"Some friend you are," Brick groused. "Daring him to throw me in the fountain."
Dale just smiled. "Well, I have to get back to work."
"See ya later," Brick said.
"Nice to you see you again, Vin."
"You, too, Dale."
Dale headed back to his Bronco as the brothers walked back to Brick's Mustang. The drive back was silent as Vin watched the scenery go by. Brick had gotten a few pointers from Buck the last time he was in Denver. Buck had told him Vin wasn't much of a talker; that he liked it quiet. That was something Brick wasn't used to but he'd give it a try for his brother.
"Sure is pretty 'round here," Vin commented.
"Sure is," Brick agreed, looking at his brother.
Vin was watching out the window as the mountains went by. Brick could see he was relaxed and enjoying himself. Brick smiled knowing he could learn to be quiet if it meant getting closer to his twin.
Brick was jerked awake by a loud squeal coming from downstairs. When his fuzzy mind realized it was Rose he rolled over with a groan. Muffled laughter could be heard as Brick rolled over to look at his clock. The red lights blinked seven o'clock and Brick cursed. He didn't have to take a tour out today and had planned to sleep late. He grabbed a pillow and held it over his head but that couldn't keep out Harry's scream.
"I'm going to kill him!" Brick vowed as he rolled out of bed.
Fifteen minutes later Brick came down to find Vin chasing Harry around the living room. Leigh was in the kitchen smiling indulgently as she made pancakes.
"Hey!" Brick yelled.
Harry stopped instantly and was grabbed by Vin and thrown over his shoulder. Brick's nephew squealed as Vin started tickling him. Vin smiled at Brick.
"There a problem?"
"Oh no," Brick said sarcastically. "It's just seven o'clock in the morning."
"So!?" Brick said raising his eyebrows.
Vin just smiled again as he placed Harry on the floor. Harry immediately started to run and Vin was after him. They ran out the door and with Vin growling like a bear and Harry screaming. Brick walked over to the kitchen and dropped into a chair.
"Here," Leigh said as she placed a cup of coffee in front of him.
"Thanks," Brick said, taking a sip. "How long has he been up?"
"Don't know," Leigh admitted, walking back to the kitchen. "He came in while I was feeding Rose and Harry around 6:30."
Leigh placed pancakes in front of him and Brick thanked her and started to eat. Jack came in a few minutes later wiping his hands on a rag.
"About time you woke up," Jack said.
"I don't have a tour today," Brick said defensively.
"Vin's been up since five," Jack commented. "Gave me a hand with the animals and other chores."
"Jack, just 'cause I got up early don't mean you have to take it out on Brick," Vin said quietly from the door.
Neither of them had heard Vin come back into the house. Jack was surprised how quietly Vin could move. Brick watched as Jack stared at Vin. He never expected his brother to stick up for him like that. Jack looked away first and Vin walked over to the table.
"There's a lot to do around here in the morning," Jack grumbled. "Brick could learn to get up earlier."
"Not everyone is an early bird like we are," Vin said. "Some of the chores I helped with could be done later in the day."
Jack nodded and didn't say anything else. Leigh brought Jack some coffee as Brick smiled at Vin.
"Leigh, think I could have some more pancakes?" Vin asked.
"Long as it ain't no trouble."
"Oh it's no trouble," Leigh said. "I'm just trying to figure out where you put it all."
"Chasing two small kids early in the morning is hard work," Jack said. "It deserves another breakfast."
Leigh just shook her head and headed back to the kitchen. Jack was flipping through the paper as Brick continued with his breakfast.
"What do you boys have planned for today?" Jack asked.
"Figured we get started on the car," Brick said.
"Yeah, it might take us a bit to get it fixed up," Vin added.
"Think this old man could give you a hand?"
Brick looked over at Vin but couldn't read his brother. Vin just stared back and waited for him to decide. Brick really wanted to work on the car alone with Vin but having Jack help would maybe bring him closer to his father.
"That would be great, Jack," Brick said, smiling. "With the three of us maybe we can get it done quicker."
"Great," Jack said standing. "I'll be down by the barn whenever you want to get started." Brick watched as Jack walked toward the door. "Oh and I decided that you were right. The Mustang is your car but if Cass could use it I'd be grateful. Just until I can afford to get her a car."
Jack continued walking out as Brick stared after him shocked. He turned back to Vin who was smiling.
"Am I in the right house?" Brick asked looking around. "Did Jack just say I was right?"
"I think he did," Leigh said, placing a plate of pancakes in front of Vin. "What did you do with Jack?"
"What makes you think I did anything?" Vin asked as he took a bite.
"Because that was just weird," Brick said.
"Well, enjoy it while it lasts," Leigh said.
Leigh went back to the kitchen leaving the two brothers alone. "I just want to say thanks," Brick said.
"For what?" Vin asked around a mouthful of food.
"For sticking up for me with Jack," Brick said. "We would have gotten into a fight over that."
"Ain't no reason for him to compare the two of us," Vin shrugged.
"It's Jack's way," Brick sighed. "He used to compare me and Guy."
"Reckon that's the way it is when there's more than one kid in the house," Vin shrugged. "Used to see it at the foster houses I was in. One kid was always the favorite no matter how hard the others tried."
Brick didn't say anything as they continued with breakfast. Obviously not all of Vin's fosters homes had been good ones. He wanted to ask but he had a feeling Vin wouldn't tell him. He decided to take Buck's advice and just let sleeping dogs lie.
Leigh wandered down to the barn with a large pitcher of lemonade. Harry walked beside her carrying the cups and some cookies. As they came around the back of the barn they found Jack and Brick under the car while Vin was lying across the front fender tinkering with the engine from under the hood.
"I brought some lemonade," Leigh called.
She watched as Brick and Jack slid out form under the car. They were both covered in grease but smiling. It always pleased her when Jack and Brick were getting along.
"Thanks, Leigh," Brick said as he took a cup from Harry. "It sure did get hot out here."
"This ain't hot," Vin said walking around the car.
Vin had removed his shirt and Leigh was surprised to see just how thin he was. He was lean and muscular and Leigh found herself staring. She notice several scars on his torso and could only guess what they were from. The round one up by his right shoulder could only be from a bullet. Vin walked over and smiled and all she could do was blush. Harry gave Vin a cup and Leigh poured him a drink. Vin thanked Harry and turned to put the cup on the hood of the car.
"Whoa!" Harry exclaimed.
When Vin turned they could see the scars along his back. Another hole on his right shoulder matched the one in front. But what caught Harry's attention were the small round scars close together at Vin's lower back.
"What?" Vin asked, looking over his shoulder.
"What's that from?" Harry asked, pointing to the scars.
"Shotgun," Vin answered, turning to lean on the car.
"Shotgun?" Brick asked, shocked.
Vin just shrugged as he drank his lemonade. Harry asked if he could see the scars again and Vin smiled and turned so Harry could see. Jack noticed a series of fine white lines along Vin's lower back. They were old scars that were barely noticeable. Jack listened as Harry asked about the different scars and Vin told him.
"What about those?" Harry asked, pointing to Vin's lower back.
"Those are when I fell off my bike. Couldn't have been more than seven at the time."
Jack knew Vin was lying. Leigh finally sent Harry off to play. When he was out of ear shot Jack turned to Vin.
"Son, you didn't get those falling off a bike," Jack said.
"Nope," Vin replied.
"What are they from?" Leigh asked.
"Didn't lie about how old I was," Vin said. "Weren't no more than Harry's age. Was living at a foster home where the man of the house weren't all that gentle with us kids."
"What do you mean?" Brick asked.
"I was wild one back then," Vin answered. "He decided I needed some discipline."
"So he used his belt," Jack added, angrily.
"For the most part," Vin answered.
"He whipped you!" Brick said, shocked.
"Weren't all fun and games in foster care," Vin shrugged. "But it was a long time ago. I don't let things like that eat at me. Forgave the bastard a long time ago."
"But Vin..." Brick began but Jack placed a hand on his arm stopping him.
"We're sorry, son," Jack said. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Vin laughed. "Don't go beating yourself up over this, Jack. Weren't your doing."
"Hey," Vin said angrily. "I accepted the hand I got dealt a long time ago. So don't any of you start feeling sorry for me. None of this was your fault."
"If I had only known," Jack began.
"Look," Vin sighed. "I'll admit when I was younger my life was hard, but it made me who I am. Taught me to be strong and to rely on myself. Helped me land a job I love with a bunch of guys who are like brothers to me."
"Just wish we could have grown up brothers," Brick sighed.
"Ain't no one saying we can't now."
"So why don't you boys just hug and we'll continue on this car?" Jack said gruffly.
"Sounds like a plan," Brick smiled.
"I'll leave you to your bonding," Leigh smiled, heading for the house.
"Well, you guys work," Vin smiled. "I'm going to take a break and enjoy this lemonade."
"He has a point," Brick said.
"Yeah, he does seem to be the smarter one," Jack smiled.
Brick just laughed as he joined his brother and father sitting on the hay bales. Leaning back on his elbows he smiled.
"What ya you smilin' at?" Vin asked.
"Just thinking," Brick answered.
"Don't hurt yourself," Vin teased, making Jack laugh.
"You have a mean streak," Brick said.
"So I've been told," Vin laughed.
"So what were you smiling at, son?"
"That life doesn't get better than this," Brick said.
"Beer would make it better," Vin said, seriously.
Jack choked on his lemonade while Brick laughed. Brick was learning his brother had one warped sense of humor.
The next two days went swiftly. Brick's time was taken up leading the tours and helping Vin with the car. Cass had been thrilled when she found out the Mustang would be hers to use whenever she wanted. She had demanded the keys and Brick said she'd have to wait until the other car was finished. So this of course prompted her to help them when they worked on the car. With everyone pitching in the car was finally finished.
"Start her up," Vin said handing Brick the keys.
Brick smiled and climbed in the car. He turned the key and the car came to life with a rumble. Stepping on the gas made the twin exhausts roar and Brick smiled. The car was purring like a kitten.
"Let's take her for a run!" Brick yelled out the window.
Vin ran around to the passenger side and climbed in. Brick pulled out as Vin was fastening his seatbelt.
"Don't ya think you ought a put yours on?"
"Yes, dad," Brick said, pulling the belt across his lap.
Brick pulled out of the drive and onto the main road. He stepped on the gas and the car leapt forward. They were on the road headed to town when Brick noticed Dale's police truck parked on a side road. It was a favorite spot for them to pull over the tourists. Brick just smiled as he gunned the engine and flew past Dale. The sirens went on and Dale was in hot pursuit.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Vin asked.
"Having a little fun."
Brick laughed and ran a stop sign at the end of the block. He made a quick turn at the next road and stepped down on the accelerator speeding up down the straight road.
"Stop this damn car!" Vin yelled.
Brick ignored his brother and whooped as he sped down the road. He knew up ahead was a huge turn around and as he came to it he turned the wheel hard and did a 180 facing the car in the opposite direction. Dale pulled his police vehicle in front of the car and jumped out with his gun drawn.
"Come out with your hands up!" Dale yelled. Brick stepped out of the car laughing. "What the hell is going on?"
Dale holstered his gun as Vin stepped around from the passenger side and over to his brother. Neither one of them was prepared for Vin to punch Brick in the jaw. Brick's head snapped back and he went down hard.
"Don't you ever do something so fucking stupid again!" Vin yelled.
"I was just having some fun!" Brick yelled back. He climbed to his feet rubbing his jaw.
"Your idea of fun can git someone killed!"
"No, I don't want to hear it!" Vin argued, pacing back and forth in front of Brick. "I'm a federal officer. You think I can just look away when someone, even my brother, breaks the law? You risked all our lives just so you can have some fun."
"The hell with that!" Brick said, angrily. "It was a harmless prank. I've done it before."
Vin glared and walked away. "You want to kill yourself go right ahead. I ain't gonna stop ya. Dale, can you give me a ride back to the ranch?"
"Alright," Dale agreed. He looked at Brick and shrugged.
Brick leaned against the car rubbing his jaw. Sometimes his brother could be a righteous bastard. What right did he have to tell him what he could or couldn't do? Brick cursed and climbed back into the car. He pulled out and headed for town.
Dale glanced over at Vin and saw he was still angry. He could understand why Vin was angry; hell he was angry at Brick, too. Dale hated when his best friend would pull these stupid stunts, or take risky jobs. The job with the dynamite came quickly to mind and Dale just shook his head.
"I don't what ta hear it."
"Wasn't going to defend Brick. He's pulled crazy stunts before. Was just wondering where you were going to stay?"
"Already figured out I wasn't gonna stay at the ranch?"
"Yeah," Dale smiled. "If your temper is anything like Brick's then you need some time to cool down."
"I'll head into town and get a hotel," Vin said, sighing.
"My offer still stands."
"'preciate it but I wouldn't be the best company right now."
Dale nodded as he pulled into the drive leading to the ranch. He parked the truck and Vin climbed out. Leigh came out as Vin passed her going in. She could see he wasn't happy.
"Brick was being stupid again," Dale answered.
"What did he do?"
"Tried out that new car. Came racing pasted me and I chased them. Had no idea it was Brick. When he stopped Vin came around the car and punched him. He was pretty mad."
Leigh was about to ask why Vin was with Dale when they heard him come down the stairs. He was carrying his duffle bag as he headed for the door.
"Leigh, tell Jack I'll come back for the trailer before I leave," Vin said.
"Where are you going?" Leigh asked.
"Can't stay here right now," Vin said. "I'll get a room in town."
Vin didn't say any more as he pushed past Dale and out to his truck. They watched as Vin threw the duffle in the back and climbed in the truck. Leigh turned back to Dale and he shrugged knowing there was nothing he could do.
Brick was furious. It might have been a mistake what he did but Vin had no right to punch him. Hell, his brother had no right to even judge him. If Vin wanted to act like a jerk then let him, he was going to have some fun. Brick drove through town and noticed all the looks the car was getting. He parked in front of the Bear Claw and got out of the car. Brick looked around the lot and noticed a few other street racing cars and wondered if he could get someone to race.
Brick turned to see a stranger admiring his car. "Thanks."
The stranger smiled then walked away. Brick watched him as he joined some other guys standing around a souped up Camaro.
Brick turned to see Cass walked towards him. She smiled when she saw the car.
"You got it finished."
"Don't know and I don't care."
"Did you guys get into a fight?" Cass scolded.
"What do you want, Cass?"
"I need a ride over to Jenny's," Cass said. "We've got cheerleading practice."
"Sure what the hell," Brick said, opening the driver's door. "Get in."
Cass smiled and opened the passenger door. Brick told her to buckle up as he pulled his belt across his lap. Cass smiled again knowing her brother would race along the back roads to Jenny's. The Charger rumbled to life and Brick pulled out of the lot. Brick was stopped at the light in town when the Camaro pulled up beside him.
"You want to show me what you got?"
Brick turned to look out his open window. He was tempted but not with Cass in the car. "Maybe some other time."
"Go on, Brick, you can beat him," Cass urged.
"Yeah, Brick," the stranger, said.
"Not with my sister in the car."
"So drop the squirt off and let's race."
"I said some other time," Brick said, pulling away as the light changed.
Once they were past the light Brick turned down a small side road and stepped on the gas. This was one of the favorite roads for drag racing. It had a lot of curves to test your skills. Cass was laughing as she held on as Brick took one of the curves at high speed. Brick didn't notice the Camaro until it clipped his rear bumper.
Brick didn't finish the sentence as the Camaro hit him again. The Charger swerved and Cass screamed as Brick tried to keep the car steady. Glancing up at the rear view mirror Brick could see the Camaro coming in to hit him again. Brick stepped on the gas and pulled ahead. The Camaro matched his speed and tried to pull ahead as they came to a straightaway. Brick let him go by not wanting to mess with this guy. He wasn't prepared for the Camaro to cut him off and he lost control of the car. The last thing Brick heard was Cass screaming as the car went off the road.
Vin threw his bag on the floor next to the bed. Why he was so mad he couldn't say. The fact that Brick had ignored the police car behind them was only part of it. He realized his brother was reckless and that bothered him. Vin sighed as he sat on the edge of the bed. Brick was more like him than Vin realized. Vin had been just as reckless when he was younger, but he'd outgrown it. Chris certainly wouldn't agree and Vin chuckled. Sighing he dropped back on the bed trying to figure out what was bothering him. It's not that he didn't trust his brother's driving, he did. What had worried him was what Jack would say.
"Shit," Vin cursed, sitting up.
Vin grabbed his keys and headed out.
Dale had stayed for lunch out at the ranch as he explained to Leigh what happened. She just shook her head when he'd finished. Leigh asked Dale to keep an eye on Vin. Dale had teased her saying Vin was a grown man. She just scowled at him and he promised. As he drove back to town he vowed he'd find Brick and kick his ass.
Dale reached over and grabbed the radio. "Go ahead, Gloria."
"We have a report of a car off the road at Jackson's Point. Rescue service is on its way."
"10-4, I'm on it."
Dale replaced the radio then hit his lights and sirens. He stepped on the gas and raced down the road. Jackson's Point wasn't far from town so he knew the rescue team would beat him there. Ten minutes later he pulled up behind the fire truck and got out of the truck. As he passed the ambulance his heart plummeted.
"Dale!" Cass yelled when she saw him.
"Cass," Dale said, scared. "What happened?"
"It wasn't his fault," Cass cried. She tried to pull away as the paramedic placed a bandage on the cut over her eye.
"Cass, calm down," Dale said, grabbing her hands.
"You have to help Brick," she insisted.
"He's still in the car." Dale's anger flared hot when he realized Brick must have been racing with Cass in the car. "No, Dale!" Cass said grabbing his arm. "We were pushed off the road by another car."
"It was a red car," Cass sniffed. "He wanted to race but Brick told him no. He followed us and ran into the back of the car. Brick tried to let him pass but he knocked us off the road."
Dale felt horrible that he'd thought his friend would have risked hurting Cass. He left Cass in the care of the medics and went over to the fire truck. The rescue team was down in the ditch trying to extricate Brick. Dale started to go down to help when a hand grabbed his arm stopped him.
"Just wait, Dale."
"Chief," Dale said. "How bad?"
"Bad enough," the fire chief said. "The car landed in the ditch on the driver's side. They had to cut Brick out."
"Damn!" Dale cursed, pacing along the road.
The ditch was about ten feet down from the road and Dale watched as the finally pulled Brick from the car. His friend was strapped to a backboard with a cervical collar around his neck. The rescue team placed Brick in a Stokes basket and started up the hill. As they got close to the top Dale went down and gave them a hand. When he got a look at Brick he was scared. Brick's face was covered in blood and he was so pale. Dale helped them carry Brick directly to the ambulance.
"Brick!" Cass screamed.
Dale grabbed Cass as she tried to get to her brother. The paramedics started working on Brick. From their grim expressions Dale knew it was bad.
"Dale." He turned to see Mark Davies, one of the paramedics, walking towards him. "We have to get Brick to the hospital. Cass needs to come, too."
"Right," Dale said, helping Cass into the ambulance.
"We'll take good care of them," Mark promised.
Dale stepped back as the ambulance pulled away. He dreaded having to call Leigh and tell her what happened. Jack would be furious and think the worst. As he climbed in his truck he grabbed the radio.
"Dispatcher this is Car 54."
"Go ahead, 54."
"I need you to call the McKenna ranch and patch me through."
"Oh no, Dale, how bad?"
Dale smiled. This was a small town and everyone knew each other. "It's bad enough."
Dale waited thinking that this was the worst part about his job.
Vin didn't know why he was so restless. Something was wrong but he didn't know what. He signaled the bartender for another beer. The Bear Claw was the only bar in town and Vin liked it. The smells and the music kinda reminded him of the Saloon. A small part of him wished he was back in Denver. This whole brother thing was starting to get bothersome. With Chris and the guys he knew what to expect. Brick, on the other hand, was too unpredictable. The bartender slid a beer in his direction and Vin grabbed it and took a swig. As he nursed his beer a group of guys walked in talking loudly and demanding drinks. Vin watched as they headed for one of the back tables, not liking the looks of them. He didn't have to worry about them when he saw Dale walk through the door. Suddenly Vin knew something wasn't right. He placed the beer on the bar and walked over to Dale.
Dale looked at Vin in surprise. "How'd ..."
"Don't matter," Vin said. "Just tell me."
"There's been an accident," Dale started.
"Let's go," Vin said heading for the door. "You can tell me on the way."
Dale was right behind Vin as he walked out the door. They got his truck and Dale climbed in the driver's seat. He pulled out with lights and sirens blaring.
"Brick and Cass were pushed off the road," Dale began. "They landed in a ditch about ten feet off the road. Cass hit her head but Brick's in bad shape."
"Not sure. The doctors were still checking him out when Leigh made me go find you."
"Should never have given him that damned car."
"Cass said he wasn't racing," Dale said angrily.
"Didn't think he was," Vin said. "Know he wouldn't do it with Cass in the car. Just saying I should never have brought it to him and none of this would have happened."
"There was no way you could have predicted anything like this," Dale reasoned.
Dale didn't know what to say. Talking was never his strong point. Brick had always been the more out going one and Dale was always just happy to tag along. He was worried about his friend but didn't know how to talk to his brother. The hospital was just ahead and Dale slowed down as he pulled into the parking lot. He'd barely stopped when Vin was out the door. Dale parked and followed him inside. Vin wasn't sure where to go and Dale pointed him down the hall to the waiting room. When they walked in Cass saw them and ran towards Vin.
"Vin!" Cass threw her arms around him and started to cry. "Tell Jack he didn't do it."
Vin glared at Jack as he stroked Cass' hair. "Ya really think he'd hurt Cass?"
"I don't know what to think with that boy sometimes," Jack yelled.
"He wasn't racing," Vin insisted.
"How the hell do you know!" Jack bellowed. "He raced with you in the car and you hit him afterwards."
"He wouldn't do it," Vin insisted. "Not with Cass, and if you believe otherwise then you don't know Brick at all."
"He's my son, damn it. I raised him and I know he can be reckless."
"Yeah, he is but did ya ever wonder why, Jack?"
"To get attention," Jack growled. "He was always doing crazy things. Why couldn't..."
"He be more like Guy?" Vin finished for him. "Sometimes I think Brick would have been better off left with me. At least he wouldn't have had to try to compete with Guy."
"I love my son," Jack insisted.
"Do you?" Vin challenged. "Well, ya got a funny way of showing it."
Jack advanced towards Vin. Vin stood his ground and pushed Cass behind him. Dale stepped between the two of them and placed his hand on Vin's chest.
"This isn't helping," Dale argued.
"You're right," Vin said, backing up. "It ain't."
Dale watched as Vin walked to the other side of the room taking Cass with him. Jack was still angry and Dale was glad. He'd always wanted to tell Jack how he felt about the way he treated Brick but never had the courage.
"I do love him," Jack said quietly as he sat down.
Dale sighed and moved to where Leigh was standing. She was upset and Dale pulled her into his arms. Now all they could do was wait.
Vin was still angry. Jack had no right to always compare Brick to his dead brother. It was hard for him to think. The smells and sounds of the hospital brought with them too many bad memories. Memories of Chris being shot and worrying if he'd make it flashed before his eyes. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath to banish the memories. Cass had stopped crying and Vin turned to her.
"Cass, tell me what happened."
"I asked Brick for a ride," Cass sniffed. "Did you really hit him?"
"Yeah, I did," Vin admitted. "I was angry. I shouldn't have been. I used to do the same thing."
"Then why'd you hit him?"
"I don't know, I was just stupid," Vin said, shaking his head. "What else do you remember about the car?"
"Well, it was red," Cass said. "That's all I remember."
"That's all right. Dale will find it."
Vin leaned back on the couch and tried to think how he could help Dale find the car. He closed his eyes for a few minutes and it came to him. There was a red Camaro sitting in the lot at the Bear Claw. Vin remembered it because it was souped up with large wheels and a spoiler on the back. It was perfect for racing and Vin wondered if that was the car.
"Doctor, how is he?" Vin jumped up when he heard Jack talking to the doctor.
"He was very lucky," the doctor said. "He has a concussion and a broken leg. He's going to be hurting for a few days but he'll be fine."
"Is he awake?" Vin asked anxiously. "Can we see him?"
"He's awake but he's pretty out of it," he said. "But you can go see him but just two at a time."
"Vin, you go first," Jack said.
"You sure, Jack?"
The doctor told Vin which room and he hurried down the hall. Vin pushed the door open and got his first look at his brother. The right side of Brick's face was already bruising under the bandage. Brick shifted to get comfortable and Vin saw him grimace.
"Wouldn't do that iffen I was you."
"Hey," Brick said weakly.
"Can't leave ya alone for a minute," Vin said, walking towards the bed.
"So am I," Vin said, squeezing Brick's good leg. "Can you remember the car?"
"I wasn't racing," Brick said. "I'd never..."
"I know," Vin said. "But I want to find the car."
"It was red," Brick said, closing his eyes. "Camaro."
"It's okay, just take it easy. Jack wants to see you."
"He thinks I was racing?"
"Yeah," Vin answered. "But I told him otherwise."
"I bet you did," Brick smiled. "Could I see Dale first?"
"Sure," Vin said, stepping back.
As he walked to the door he stopped and looked back. Brick's eyes were closed and Vin's anger flared. He'd find the guy driving that car and kick his ass. He closed the door and walked back to the waiting room.
"Dale, he wants to see you," Vin announced.
"Maybe he remembers something about the car," Dale said, turning to Jack. "I'm sorry I have to talk to him."
"It's alright," Jack said.
They watched as Dale left the room. Jack sighed and ran his hands through his hair. The hospital brought back the memory of Guy's last few hours. Waiting for it to all be over had been the worst for Jack. Now he was going through the same thing with Brick. Brick was going to be okay but it didn't keep Jack from worrying. He turned to Cass who stood next to him ringing her hands. Jack put his arm around her and she hugged him.
"I'm sorry I got angry."
"I know," Cass said. "But why do you always think the worst with Brick?"
"Because he's afraid," Vin said and Jack glared at him.
"Why?" Cass asked confused.
"Because he's afraid he'll lose Brick," Vin answered. "So he tries to hold him back. Clip his wings."
"I don't want him to be hurt," Jack said, defensively.
"Can't hold him back forever, Jack."
Jack didn't answer but Vin figured he'd said enough and left it at that. Dale came out a few minutes later. Vin watched as Jack, Leigh and Cass went in to see Brick. When they were gone, Vin started to walk out.
"Where are you going?" Dale called.
"Take care of some business," Vin said angrily.
"You know where that car is don't you?"
"You ain't stopping me."
"No," Dale said reluctantly. "I want to help."
"What I'm gonna do ain't exactly legal."
Dale watched as Vin walked away. The look in Vin's eyes sent a chill down Dale's spine. He was just glad Vin wasn't mad at him.
Dale drove towards the Bear Claw trying not to think of what was running through Vin's head. Vin was quiet and Dale had a feeling that wasn't a good thing. Brick told him Vin was quiet normally but Dale figured this wasn't normal. He pulled into the lot and saw the Camaro parked by the door. Vin saw it and tensed.
"It might not be the right car."
Dale parked the truck and Vin got out. He headed for the Camaro and Dale followed. Walking around the car made Vin feel angry. This was the car that pushed his brother off the road; he could feel it. Except he needed proof. He stopped at the passenger side wheel and bent down.
"What did you find?" Dale asked joining him.
"Black paint," Vin said coldly as he stood up.
Dale watched as Vin headed for the bar. "Vin, wait."
Vin walked inside and looked around. The smoky interior made it difficult to see. He noticed a group of young men playing pool and Vin walked over to them. Dale stayed by the bar but kept watch. Vin leaned against a pole and crossed his arms.
"Which one of you owns the red Camaro?" Vin asked.
"I do." Dale watched as a young man stood up. He was taller than Vin and heavier set. Two of his friends sized Vin up. "What's it to you?"
"Looks like it's fast," Vin said conversationally.
"Yeah, it is."
"Been racing it around here?"
"What, with these rednecks?" he said and his friends laughed. "It's not worth it."
"You sure?" Vin said, pushing off the pole and walking towards the pool cues. "Not even the black Charger you pushed off the road?"
Instantly the atmosphere over in that corner changed. Dale watched as the guy's two friends came after Vin. He was about to step in when Vin grabbed a pool cue and swung it. Hitting the first guy across the face Vin got great satisfaction as the pool cue broke in half. He quickly turned to his friend not even bothering to check if the other guy was out of commission. He swung what was left of his weapon knocking the other guy out. The driver of the Camaro came around the table and took up a martial arts stance in front of Vin.
"Man, you don't know who you're dealing with," he said. "I'm a brown belt in karate."
Dale watched as Vin calmly stood in front of the jerk. People in the bar were moving back to give them room. The bartender, Martin, came over to Dale.
"You just going to sit there?"
"I'm off duty," Dale said, taking off his badge.
"In that case I've got twenty that says Vin take him down in fifteen."
"I say he takes him down in ten," Dale said, smiling.
Dale turned back to the fighters as bets were placed. Vin and the jerk were circling each other trying to get a feel for one another. Dale knew this was going to be a quick fight. Vin calmly watched his opponent while the other guy jumped around. Finally the jerk made his move. The kicks came fast and furious but Vin easily blocked everything the guy dished out. The jerk stepped back and eyed Vin warily. He made a few feints that Vin didn't even blink at and Dale could see he was getting nervous. He didn't blame him; Vin just kept starring at him. Suddenly without warning Vin moved in. Dale had never seen anyone move so fast. The guy tried to block Vin but it was useless. Vin finally gave him a roundhouse kick that sent the guy flying.
"I'm a black belt and Army ranger, you fucking asshole!" Vin shouted, advancing towards the guy.
Dale saw him cower and grabbed his badge off the bar. "You're under arrest," Dale said, stepping in front of Vin. Dale didn't want Vin to kill this guy. "Come on let's go."
Dale reached down and hauled the guy to his feet. He didn't have to look at Vin to know he was still pissed. Hell, he could feel the hatred radiating off Brick's twin. Dale radioed for another officer to come pick the guy up. He knew Vin needed a release for his anger and decided to take him over to the gym. This way he could beat up the gym equipment and Dale wouldn't have to arrest him for beating the crap out of this guy's friends. The other squad car came and Dale explained what was going on. Once they were gone Dale turned back to Vin.
"Come on, let's go."
"Think I'll head back to the hospital."
"Not like that you won't."
"You ain't got no god damned right..."
"Yeah, I do," Dale said, "You're too angry to go back to the hospital right now. So I know just the thing."
Vin knew Dale was right. He wanted to hit someone but he knew if he did he wouldn't stop. It had taken all his strength not to take that guys head off in the bar. Vin followed Dale to the truck and climbed in. They didn't go far and Vin shook his head as Dale pulled into the parking lot for a gym. They got out and walked inside. Dale headed straight for the punching bag and Vin followed.
"It's all yours," Dale said, stepping behind the bag to hold it steady.
Vin pulled off his cowboy boots and stepped in front of the bag. He started out slow but his anger quickly wanted a release. Pretty soon Dale was hard pressed to hold the bag steady. All he could think was he never wanted to get into a fight with Vin.
Vin pulled up to the hospital the next morning feeling better about what happened. Yesterday he was out of control with rage. Dale took him to the gym after confronting the guy that pushed Brick off the road and he worked out his anger. Now he just wanted to get his brother back out to the ranch. Jack wanted to be the one to take Brick home but the ranch guests had to be taken to the airport that morning. Brick understood and Vin had offered to get him. Vin didn't mind coming into this hospital. It was quiet, unlike the hospital in Denver. Still, it didn't mean he wanted to stay for any length of time. Hospitals still held too many bad memories. He walked passed the nurse's station and headed for Brick's room.
"Hey," Vin called, as he walked in.
"About time you got here," Brick groused.
"You know I could just leave your sorry ass here."
"You wouldn't," Brick said, smiling. "You hate hospitals as much as I do and would never leave me here."
"This one ain't so bad," Vin admitted.
"Yeah, it's not as crazy as the one you frequent," Brick teased. "I bet you have your own room."
"Keep it up and I will leave you here."
Vin watched as Brick sighed. He still looked pale and Vin was wondering if he shouldn't stay an extra day just in case. The doctor said Brick wouldn't feel too great for a couple of days. Hell, Vin knew what it was like to have a concussion. A broken leg on top of that was going to keep Brick out of commission for month. But Vin knew that's not what was bothering his brother.
"What's eating you?" Vin asked as he gingerly sat on the bed next to Brick.
"I totaled the car."
"You didn't!" Vin said angrily. "The other asshole did that."
Brick looked at his brother and knew something had happened. "What did you do?"
"Taught the guy a lesson." Vin's voice was cold and hard as he looked at Brick. Hearing it Brick wasn't so sure he wanted to know what happened.
The nurse came in with his release papers and a wheelchair. Once the papers were signed Vin helped him into the wheelchair. When he was settled Vin pushed him towards the door. Chris's big black dually was parked out front. Brick looked over his shoulder at Vin and frowned.
"How the hell am I supposed to get into that?"
"Beats the hell out of me," Vin said smiling.
Brick just shook his head as Vin pushed him over to the truck. Vin helped him up and maneuvered him over to the passenger door. The nurse opened it and smiled as they tried to figure out how to get Brick in the truck. After few attempts the mission was accomplished. The nurse said her good byes as Vin walked around to the driver's door.
"I've been thinking," Vin said, starting the truck.
"Don't hurt yourself."
"I could easily put you back in there," Vin said pointing to the hospital.
"Sure," Brick said, smiling.
"Reckon I'd call Chris and ask for a few more days," Vin said, starting the truck and pulling away from the curb. "This way I could stick around and give Jack a hand while you were laid up."
"That the only reason?" Brick asked quietly.
Vin turned to Brick and smiled. "What do you think?"
"That you want to stay for me," Brick said.
"Boy, you're dumber than I thought," Vin said, shaking his head. "Ain't sticking around for you. I'm sticking around for Leigh's cooking."
Brick just stared at his brother in shock. He was going to say something nasty when he saw Vin smirk.
"You're such a bastard!" Brick complained.
"Been called worse," Vin smiled.
The rest of the ride was quiet and it gave Brick time to think. He knew something happened yesterday after Vin left but hadn't figured it out yet. Brick must have drifted off because the next thing he knew Vin was stopping in front of the house.
"Good thing you woke up," Vin said. "Or I would have left you in the truck."
Vin got out and came around to help Brick. Getting out of the truck proved just as difficult as getting in. Once Brick was out Vin steadied him as he made his way towards the steps. Leigh came out followed by Harry and Rose. Brick looked up and smiled. Leigh didn't think he looked so good and she was worried. Brick stopped at the bottom of the steps.
"I don't think I can get up those," he admitted.
"Harry come take these," Vin said, taking the crutches from Brick. Harry ran down the stairs and took the crutches.
"Oh, that's smart," Brick said, leaning against Vin.
"Just shut up," Vin said, stepping in front of his brother. "Now get on."
"I said get on!"
Brick didn't think this was such a good idea. He was heavier than Vin and with the added weight of his cast he really didn't think Vin could carry him. Vin looked over his shoulder and glared. Shaking his head Brick climbed on Vin's back. He was surprised when Vin easily lifted him and carried him piggyback up the steps. Once he was at the top Vin put him down and Harry handed him his crutches.
"Damn, you're heavy!" Vin complained, rubbing his back.
"It was your idea," Brick pointed out as he hobbled into the house.
"You need to stop eating so much," Vin added, following his brother.
Leigh just shook her head as the two continued to bicker. She was happy Vin would be staying a few extra days to help out. He had asked this morning if it would be all right and Jack told him he was family and never had to ask. As she stepped into the kitchen the bickering had gotten louder. Rose tapped her on the leg.
"Don't Brick and Vin like each other?"
"Of course they do, why?"
"Because they're always arguing."
"It's just what brothers do."
It was after midnight but Vin couldn't get to sleep. The events of the past couple of days were running through his head. Maybe he should have handled things differently. He never should have beaten that guy up but he'd been so angry. Vin sighed and stared up at the ceiling.
"Vin, you awake?"
Vin heard Brick call from the sofa bed. It was decided that Brick would spend the next few days down stairs on the couch. It was impossible for him to negotiate the stairs.
"What are you thinking about?"
"That I was a jerk," Vin sighed.
"Well yeah, I knew that."
"Keep it up and I'm gonna hide your crutches."
"Fine by me," Brick laughed. "But I don't think the others would appreciate it."
"Vin, I'm sorry."
"For what?" Vin asked surprised.
"Guess I was a jerk, too," Brick sighed. He rolled over and looked over the edge of the couch. Vin was sleeping on the floor next to him. "I shouldn't have raced the car. It's stupid I know."
"Yeah, well I've got a confession to make," Vin sighed. "I used to do the same thing."
"Figures," Brick said. "I mean we are brothers."
"We sure are a pair," Vin laughed. "Maybe it's a good thing Jack didn't adopt us both."
"Just think of all the trouble the two of us could have gotten into together."
"Oh man," Brick laughed.
"I could just picture Jack trying to ground us," Vin laughed.
"It would have been worth seeing him try."
Jack stepped back from the landing. He had heard the boys talking and came out to see if everything was all right. When he heard them laughing he knew things were going to be okay. But he was curious to hear what was so funny. As he listened to them talk about the trouble they could have gotten into together he just smiled.
"It sure would have been worth it," Jack said, turning to go back to bed.