When Did I Lose Control?

by MMW

Story #28 in the Angel Girl series.

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belong to Mirsch, Trilogy, etc. The Angel Girl Series & the triplets belong to Purple Lacey.

Author's Note: A big thank you to Purple Lacey for letting me play in her universe and encouraging me to write up this little idea.

Vin gritted his teeth. Why did this have to be a battle every morning? Why did he have to fight so hard just to get these three off to school in the morning? As he approached Dallas' door he was fairly certain it hadn't always been this bad. What had happened to the three adorable babies?

Pounding on the door of the room Dallas shared with Angie, when Buck's daughter was home from college, he heard his daughter call out, "All right already. Hold your horses!"

Gritting his teeth, he closed his eyes and counted to ten. Finally the door opened and he caught sight of his daughter. He supposed he should be glad her clothes didn't advertise her feminine form, but still, her current selection left something to be desired. He closed his eyes and shook his head, reminding himself that this too would pass. Looking at his daughter, he saw the half-shaved head with purple spiked hair and bit back all the comments that wanted to explode. "You gonna be home tonight?" he asked.

Dallas shot a look at her father over her shoulder and shrugged. "Got football practice after school, might run late. Coach wants us to review some films and has some new plays to review before divisional championships on Saturday."

"When should I pick you up?" he asked, not happy that his daughter - the star wide receiver on the high school football team - wouldn't be home.

Dallas rolled her eyes. "Don't bother. Terry's going to give me a ride home," she noted of the team's starting quarterback and her current boyfriend.

"On that deathtrap he calls a motorcycle?" Vin demanded in disbelief.

"Geez, Dad. What's the big deal? It runs and he hasn't crashed it in like a month."

Vin closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to force away the image of his daughter lying injured on the side of the road. When had things gotten away from him? "Straight home. It's a school night and your grades are nothing to brag about." He heard the snort of disgust. "I mean it. Your grades don't come up - no football - no concert - no Terry." He weathered the glare directed at him with a stern one of his own. "Five minutes," he informed her before turning and leaving the clutter-filled room. He stumbled over a pair of cleats on his way out.

Walking further down he hall, he knocked on the bathroom door. "Austin, get a move on! Five minutes."

"Certainly, Father," came the reply in cultured tones.

Vin closed his eyes and sighed, making a mental note to come back in three minutes to make sure his son was moving. He shook his head and wondered at Austin. The boy could talk rings around his Uncle Ezra, lived for chess and debate clubs, Young Republicans, and was contemplating joining thespians. The boy's biggest regret was that he couldn't attend an expensive prep school. That hadn't bothered Vin, at least not until he discovered Austin was denying Vin as his father and claiming to be an orphan in order to get special treatment. That had hurt. A lot.

As for the rest, if Vin had thought Ezra had reservations about performing "menial labor"... He shook his head. Never would he have thought one of his sons would be so... annoying. Ask Austin to spend 10 minutes helping to clean dishes, he would spend thirty minutes explaining why he shouldn't be forced to participate in such child labor or slave labor and then start in on the indignities of being a youth in America today. The word he was tempted time and again to use for Austin was dandy, although fop had a certain appeal as well.

Heading downstairs, he found his other son at the breakfast table eating. Houston. If there was a cause, Houston was there supporting it: Greenpeace, Amnesty International, PETA... You name it, he was there supporting it. It wasn't his son's appearance he objected to, heck, Vin still wore his hair longer, but the self-righteous attitude quickly wore through his patience. That combined with the lectures and criticism and he just couldn't handle spending too much time with his son.

"Five minutes, Huston," he said walking over to the coffeemaker, pouring himself a cup and feeling Houston's baleful stare turn upon him.

"There are hundreds of prisoners being held against their will and you want me to worry about going to your corrupt institution that seeks only to distort the truth until the masses are blind to the atrocities going on around them?" the boy demanded, his voice rising in his indignation.

Vin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had never understood why Chris did that so often, at least, not until his triplets had hit 14. Now... now he understood completely. "What is it today?" he asked, his patience all but gone.

"The university is using hundreds of mice and rats for experiments every day. Torturing them, experimenting on them. You wouldn't let that happen to a human. How can you just turn your back on life like this?" the young man demanded, rising from the table and heading toward the door to grab his backpack and head for the bus stop.

Vin sighed. At least Houston knew better than to disobey him. After the last four incidents... Vin waited to hear the door close but never did. Wandering out to the hall he stopped in his tracks. Standing on his front stoop were four Denver police officers with Houston standing before them.

Feeling nothing but dread, Vin asked, "May I help you?"

One of the officers took charge, cleared his throat and spoke up. "Yes, does a Dallas Tanner live here?"

Vin closed his eyes. What had she done now? It wasn't the first time the police had shown up at his doorstep looking for his kids, and he was fairly certain it wouldn't be the last. "What'd she do?" he asked, knowing he didn't want the answer.

"We need to question her with regard to a vandalism incident at the high school. We're going to have to bring her downtown," the officer finished.

"We're here for Houston Tanner," another officer said, watching the teenage boy back into the house and behind his father. He was about to send his partner around back when he saw the boy's father place a restraining hand on the boy's shoulder.

"What's he done?" Vin asked through gritted teeth.

"It appears that he and a number of his friends objected to the new development over where the park used to be. They tampered with the machines. I'm afraid we're going to have to bring him downtown," the man finished.

Vin was trying to control his temper when two other cars pulled up. One was another police car and the other a sedan. As the new pair of officers approached, Vin couldn't control his anger and demanded, "What?"

Taken aback by the curt question, the officer shot looks to his fellow officers and said, "I'm here to collect Austin Tanner on charges of computer fraud and tampering." The six officers exchanged worried glances as they watched the angry coloring flush the face of the man before them and heard a sound they couldn't identify emanate from his throat.

"Excuse me, gentlemen," a woman said, pushing through the uniformed officers. Looking at Vin she put on her most serious face and said, "Mr. Tanner? My name is Sylvia Forthwith and I'm here to inform you that you have been found an unfit parent. Your children are to be taken into custody and all parental privileges are terminated starting now. We will be prosecuting you and are giving you twenty-four hours to turn yourself in to the nearest police station..."

The woman's voice faded out as Vin lost himself in the all-consuming anger and despair. When had it all gone so wrong? When?

Slowly a sound penetrated his stupor. Opening his eyes, he found himself in bed. The sun was shining. Looking over at his clock, he saw it was time to get up and the sound was his alarm.

Still wrapped in the remnants of his dream, he sprang out of bed, raced across the hall to check on his triplets and released a sigh of relief as he found all three babies sleeping soundly. It had all been a dream. Closing his eyes, he picked up Dallas, the one least likely to wake when picked up and sank into the rocking chair, savoring the peace of being surrounded by his family. "Never happen," he whispered to himself as he stroked a finger over his daughter's downy head. Bending over, he placed a kiss on the tiny forehead and spent a few minutes rocking back and forth.