Destiny Insists

by Purple Lacey

26th story in the Angel Girl series.

Characters: Chris, The Seven

Rating: Pg-13. I´m giving this story this rating not for anything bad (implied situation mostly) but because I know I wouldn´t want to have to explain to anyone younger exactly what is going on in a couple of places. <g>

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. No infringement is intended and no money is being made.

Authors Note: THEY said I´d never be able to think of a way to do it. (THEY know who THEY are!) Well I have only five words for THEM: Oh ye of little faith! LOL.

This story starts a few months before Something in the Water. I know, I know, I´m confusing you. Just accept that I´m playing with the time line a little bit. (Chris can be very insistent sometimes and he wanted this story told first. YOU try saying no to him <BG>) I´ll get back to the 3 pregnant ladies later, I promise.

This is something of an anniversary for me. It was one year ago, on August 16, 2002 to be exact, that the first Angel Girl story was posted on Blackraptor. So here´s a big Thank You from me to the ladies at Blackraptor for giving these stories and home, and another one to all the wonderful people that have sent me such flattering complements on these stories over the past year. It was because they took the time to send their encouragement that there are now 25 stories in this series. Not bad when you consider that I never meant to write more than one. lol. And, as always, I have to send a thank you out to MOG for creating the ATF universe and being gracious enough to let the rest of us play in it.

Fate wields a mighty hammer;
No one its weight resists.
You can not run, or hide away
When destiny insists.

Chris Larabee stood at the edge of his front porch and watched as the red taillights of Vin Tanner´s Suburban slowly disappeared down the road that led to his small horse ranch near Denver, Colorado. When he could no longer see even the faintest trace of them anymore, Chris sighed and headed back inside his home. Vin and the triplets had spent a very enjoyable day with him but now were gone, leaving Chris alone in his home once again.

Chris stepped into his den and stopped at the door, looking around the warm, masculine room with a sad smile on his face. The whole house seemed to vibrate with silence after the departure of his best friend´s three lively children. Chris entered the room; his sock-clad feet making no sound on the hard wood floor, and sat down in his favorite recliner.

Thoughts of the fun filled day flooded his mind and he had to smile. Vin Tanner and his children were a joy to watch. Vin was a wonderful father, taking delight in his children in a way few men seemed able too. He cherished them as the little miracles they were and was determined to be the best father he possibly could. Chris knew the three little ones were lucky to have such a loving and generous father.

He knew the triplets were good for their father too, not only because they gave him such unconditional love, something he had experienced so little of in his life, but also because they gave Vin a chance to experience a bit of the childhood that was stolen from him at such an early age by the death of his mother and his subsequent life on the streets. Chris had to chuckle to himself quietly as he remembered the laughing face of his friend as Vin played tag with his giggling children, or laid with them on the living room floor scribbling in a color book with Dallas with one hand while trying to keep Austin from eating the crayons with the other and Houston sat astride his back proudly “riding” him. Chris couldn´t remember any time in their shared past before the triplets when Vin had ever looked so happy and content.

Chris was truly happy for his friend… he just wished he himself didn´t feel so empty after these visits. Over the years with the help of his friends, Chris had finally made his peace with the deaths of his wife and son, but seeing Vin with his children, or Buck with his daughter, or Josiah with his grandkids always caused his heart to ache and his arms to feel so empty. These were the times he felt the loss of his son the most.

He loved all his nieces and nephews. There was no uncertainty about that, and he took great joy and pride in watching them learn and grow. He also knew he was loved just as much in return, but despite that he knew there was a great difference in being an uncle and being a daddy. Chris really missed being a daddy, and the feeling was always worse after one of these visits.

Chris had long ago resigned himself to being alone for the rest of his life, playing out the hand that Fate had dealt him. He had loved his wife Sarah with a love that was deep, and strong. She had been his soul mate; the missing piece of himself. He doubted he would ever be able to find that kind of love with another woman but knew with absolute certainty that he would never be able to settle for a less.

Because he could not live with less than what he had once known, he also knew he would never again have the chance to hear a little voice calling him Daddy; never again feel that unique parental pride that came from watching his child take his first step; never again feel his heart melt when little arms wrapped around his neck and whispered, “I love you, Daddy.” Although his heart ached at the thought, as much as he might yearn to have his arms filled with his own child once more, he didn´t really believe he was strong enough to risk the agony of loss that another child would represent. Lord knows, he would never voluntarily seek it out another chance, so he held no hope of ever regaining any part of what he had lost.

Chris sat alone in his chair in his big, empty house, and wished desperately for the solace of a drink, but his friends had invested too much time and effort and emotion in pulling him out of that cycle of despair, drinking, and remorse. He wouldn´t jeopardize their hard work, and his family connections, by falling back into that trap. His friends had already warned him that the children would be removed from any contact with him if he backslid. No matter how much his heart ached now, it would be ten times worse if he lost any of his new family. There was no way he would risk that so Chris sat in silence, gripping the arms of his chair with white knuckled hands, and suffered alone as the dark of the night gradually gave way to the soft light of the dawn.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The conference room in the offices of the ATF´s Team Seven was filled with the noise of the lively group of agents as they waited for their team leader to join them. They had wrapped up their last case a week ago and were already anxious to get started on their next one. None of the men liked the paperwork and scut work that they inevitably got stuck with when they were office bound.

All heads turned to face the door as Chris entered and shut the conference room door behind him, then took his seat at the head of the long table.

“So what do you have for us, Chris,” Buck asked leaning forward in anticipation.

“We got a tip about a white supremacist group looking to buy arms,” Chris said, looking around at the faces of his team.

“Not another one,” JD groaned in disgust, “Is it just me or do these racist groups seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately?”

“Unfortunately for all of us, I´m afraid you are correct,” Ezra drawled. “I believe this is the fourth one of these groups we have had the displeasure to find this year.”

“Five if you count the group of Hispanics we busted seven months ago that wanted to have California returned to Mexico,” Nathan reminded them.

“As a psychologist, Josiah, do you have an explanation for this phenomenon?” Ezra asked looking with inquiry at the team´s profiler who was seated next to him.

Josiah nodded seriously, and answered, “Yes. In my professional opinion… they´re crazy as hell.” The man broke into a laughing grin.

When the men´s laughter had subsided Chris returned to business. “Ezra will be going in undercover as s weapons dealer. I´m going to try to infiltrate as a new recruit. I apparently fit the group´s physical standards. They appear to be partial to blonds with blue or green eyes,” Chris smiled and shook his head knowing the teasing would start almost immediately.

“You´re right, Josiah,” Buck laughed, “they are crazy!”

“They do show a certain lack of discernment,” Ezra agreed.

“Is Vin going in too?” JD asked, “He IS blond and blue eyed.”

Chris grinned at his friend, “Not unless he´s willing to cut that hair of his. This seems to be a pretty conservative group, no longhairs allowed.”

“Hell, no!” Vin spat out, shaking his head vehemently. “There ain´t no way that´s gonna happen. You can just forget that right now.”

“That´s what I thought, cowboy,” Chris teased as he watched his friend´s hand unconsciously rise to his hair in a protective gesture.

“I don´t know, Vin,” Buck smirked. “I think you´d look real good in a crew cut. Hell, I heard the ladies are really going for men with shaved heads these days. I´ve got a razor in my gym bag if you want to give it a try.”

“I´ll tell you exactly what you can do with your razor,”Vin threatened, and Chris hurriedly stepped in before Vin could continue.

“If we could get back to business now, ladies? This is what we know about the group so far.” Chris stopped speaking as he looked at each of his men making sure he had their attention before continuing. “They call themselves the Coalition For A More Genetically Pure America. From what our sources have been able to pick up about the group, they are apparently led by a medical doctor, although we haven´t been able to identify him yet. He may be one reason that they seem to insist on a certain level of physical fitness and health in their members that is not often seen in other groups. They are apparently a very secretive group, and don´t do much in the way of evangelism. We´ve been having problems getting any kind of information on the aims of the group or its membership. That means we´ll be going in with less information that I´d like, but we don´t have much choice if we want to catch these crazies before they actually have a chance to arm themselves.

JD, I want you to see if you can dig up any additional information. Get with Ezra about setting up our cover backgrounds. I want a complete set of background records for both of us in place within the next two days. Buck, I understand a complete physical is a requirement before admission into the group so the usual bugs are not going to work here. See what you can come up with for me so we can keep in contact without being obvious.”

“I´m on it, Chris,” Buck assured him.

“Nathan, you´re with Buck. Josiah, take all the info in this folder and whatever JD digs up and try to get me as much of a profile on this group as you can manage. Vin you´re going to have to be the eyes that watch my back. Since we don´t have a lot of information on their set up yet, I can´t give you much to go on yet, but here´s the layout of the clinic we think they may be working out of.”

Vin nodded and took the folder Chris handed him, scanning the documents inside. “I´ll take a quick run out and scout the place tonight,” Vin told him. “Get a good idea of where best to set up.”

Chris agreed with a nod. “Alright, any questions?” Chris waited for the team to signal their negative answers then dismissed the meeting, “Okay, then let´s get to work.”

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Chris sat on the paper covered examination table in the paper gown he had been given to wear and gave a slight shiver. Why did doctor´s offices always have to be kept at temperatures that would freeze a polar bear he wondered grumpily? The medical profession must get some perverse pleasure out of tormenting its victims with goose bumps Chris decided as he rubbed his hands up and down his arms in a futile attempt to keep warm, either that are they were trying to drum up more business by giving everybody pneumonia.

Chris had managed to make contact with one of the few known recruiters for the Coalition and, after listening to enough speeches about the need for racial purity to make him want to puke, he had succeeded in gaining an offer to join. He just had to prove that he could pass the required physical which was why he was currently sitting in one of the clinic´s exam rooms freezing his unmentionables off. Chris´ thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the exam room door and a middle-aged man wearing a white lab coat entered.

“Hello, I´m Dr. Webster, and you must be Chris Lawson,” doctor said with a smile as he entered and held out his right hand to shake Chris´.

“How do you do, Dr. Webster,” Chris said politely as he looked the good doctor up and down wondering if this was the man he was looking for or an innocent doctor who was just doing his job of giving Chris a physical. The man did fit the physical profile of the group, he decided as he looked at the tall, blond haired doctor who looked back at him with clear blue eyes.

Dr. Webster checked the chart in his hand as he sat on the rolling stool that stood in front of the exam table.

“I see you´re here for a complete physical. Have you been having any specific problems lately,” the doctor looked up questioningly at Chris?

“Nope. I´m as healthy as a horse. I was just told I needed a physical,” Chris told him.

“Good, good” the man said and took his stethoscope from his pocket and approached Chris as he placed the earpieces into his ears. “Let´s just have a listen then. Breath deeply for me.”

The doctor proceeded to give Chris a very through physical. Chris could find nothing out of the ordinary in the procedure. He had no clue to point to the doctor´s involvement one way or the other. Chris decided to bide his time. He would have JD check out Dr Webster at the first available opportunity.

“I have to agree,” Dr. Webster finally assured him, “As far as I can tell you´re as healthy as a horse. I´ll have the tech come in for the final tests, blood and such, and then I´d say we were finished.”

“Thanks, doc,” Chris told him “Can I get dressed now?”

“Not yet, I´m afraid. After the tech is finished, alright? And you´re very welcome, Mr. Lawson,” the man assured him, “Now if you´ll excuse me I have other patients waiting. The tech should be in momentarily.”

Chris waited impatiently for a few minutes until the door opened once more to reveal another blue eyed blond, this one in his early twenties.

“Hi, I´m John,” the man said with a friendly smile, “I just need to draw some blood for your blood tests.”

Chris nodded his consent but remained silent as the tech tied a rubber strip around his arm and wiped the inside of his elbow with an alcohol swab.

“Make a fist for me, please,” John asked, his attention totally focused on his job.

Chris complied and watched carefully as John inserted the needle into his vein and then inserted a vial to collect the blood sample.

“There, that´s done,” John smiled at Chris again as he withdrew the needle from his arm, slapped a cotton ball over the site and taped it down with a band-aid.

“Thanks,” Chris told him.

“Sure. If you´ll come with me I´ll take you to the collection room and you can finish up,” John told him.

“Collection room?” Chris asked in confusion as he followed the man from the room, trying to hold the back of the paper gown closed with one hand as he walked down the hall.

John opened a door and stepped aside to let Chris enter the room that contained an easy chair, and coffee table spread with magazines, and a television with a VCR attached.

“Sure,” John told him as he handed him a large specimen jar with Chris´ alias written on it in black felt tip. “There are magazines and a video already cued up on the VCR if you need them.” John helpfully picked up the remote and turned on the television and pushed the play button to start the video in the VCR. “Just leave the specimen on the table there when you´re done and someone will be in to collect it. You can go back to the exam room to dress when you´re done.”

John backed out of the door, pulling it shut behind him while Chris watched the departing man in confusion.

“Now what the hell is this?” Chris glared at the closed door then around the room.

He stood by the chair looking down and noticed the covers of the magazines lying on the table. Each had a very buxom, bare breasted woman on the cover in suggestive poses. Just then the video started to play and he heard the unmistakable sounds of a woman in the throes of a passionate encounter. He spun around to find the television now playing a movie that he´d seen once before at stag party and Chris suddenly felt his face start to heat as he realized just what he was expected to do. He knew if he looked in a mirror right at that moment, which fortunately the room did NOT have, he would see himself blushing as red as a beet.

“Oh, HELL!” he said and kicked the chair. He began hopping around in pain when he was forcibly reminded that he wasn´t wearing any shoes.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The night stars shining above him would have been a beautiful sight if Chris Larabee had been in the mood to stop and enjoy them. Unfortunately, Chris was too frustrated to even bother looking up as he made his way along his assigned route around the mountain compound that made up the headquarters for the Coalition. Chris took his frustration out on a fallen branch that he viciously kicked from his path as he made his rounds.

Three months. Three frigging, fruitless months undercover with these racist bozos and not one bit of evidence to show for it. This group was smart, organized, and extremely careful. Although Chris has been accepted into the group he remained a mere grunt in the organization. He had yet to earn enough trust to be taken into one of the inner circles where the leaders made their plans. He had been given the job of security guard in the coalition camp, but he couldn´t even get them on a weapons violation because they had made sure to get him a license to carry the hand gun he wore strapped to his waist. He knew they were conducting something illegal here, but he couldn´t find anything to tell him what it was, or what they had planned. It was even more frustrating to know that Ezra had not made anymore progress than he had.

Chris continued to fume as he made his nightly rounds. He knew their time was running out. If they could not show some results soon, the powers that be would be pulling the plug before too long, and this group might not be stopped from doing whatever it was planning until it was too late. Chris wanted to punch his fist through a few walls.

Chris´ black thoughts were interrupted by the sight of a vehicle driving up the road from the front gate. Chris stood in the shadows of the trees and watched intently as a van backed up to the large building in the center of the compound and two men jumped out and approached a third man standing at the door of the building keeping it open for the other two.

Chris had never been inside this building. He had been told it was a hospital wing and off limits to everyone who wasn´t medical personnel. Chris had tried to get a look into the building several times without blowing his cover but had always been stopped by the security guards stationed at the only entrance. All the windows in the building had been painted so he had not been able to even get a glimpse at what was inside.

Chris watched as the two men opened the rear doors of the van and pulled out what appeared to be a gurney with a blanket covered figure lying on it. The two men pushed the gurney through the door and the third man, who Chris now recognized as the security guard, started to close the door when he was stopped by a yell from one of the other men. Chris saw the guard rush to the side of the gurney and take the place of one of the men who had jumped up astride the figure on it and began doing what looked like CPR. All three men rushed inside, not noticing that the door behind them failed to close.

Knowing a golden opportunity when he saw one, Chris stealthily ran to the open door and slipped inside; throwing quick glances around the area as he went to make sure no one had seen his entry. Satisfied that his entrance had gone unnoticed, Chris slipped silently down a long hall lined with closed doors, listening intently for anyone coming his way. He tried the doors as he went but found them locked. Chris hurried down the hall knowing if he didn´t find somewhere to hide soon he risked discovery when the three men made their way back to the front of the building.

Finally, right before he was about to give up and make his way back outside, he found a door that opened. Chris listened carefully for a moment but heard no sounds to indicate the room was occupied. He slipped inside and silently closed the door, leaning his ear against the wood so he could listen to anyone coming down the hall. He waited patiently and his patience was rewarded about 15 minutes later when he heard the men´s footsteps approaching.

“Man that was close,” he heard one voice say, “I wouldn´t want to be the one to tell the doc we lost one.”

“Me neither,” a second voice agreed. “I heard him tell a couple of guys that one of them was worth three of us...right before he shot the guys!”

“Well you don´t have to worry about it now, do you?” The third voice said gruffly, “You better get than van outta here. You know the rules. You should have been gone long before now. He might still shoot you if he finds out.”

“He´s right, Charlie,” the second voice said, “Let´s get out of here!”

“”I´m right behind you.”

Chris listened as the voices faded away and he heard the faint slam of the front door closing. He still waited several minutes before he chanced moving. Chris reached down to his belt and pulled out the flashlight he was given as a security guard and flipped it on. He had to blink a few times to let his eyes adjust to the change in brightness then he shined the light on the room around him. It seemed to be a storage room for some kind of medical equipment. Chris wished Nathan were there. He would probably have a better idea of what the equipment was and what it was used for.

Not seeing anything that interested him in the room, Chris crossed to the door again and turned off the flashlight. He listened carefully and then opened the door when he didn´t hear anything. Chris slipped out into the hall, trying to take note of the storage closet´s location in case he needed to find it again.

Chris began to make his way down the hall quietly, trying all the doors on both sides of the hall as he went. Most were locked, but a few where not. Chris entered and inspected each one, but found only what looked like unoccupied hospital rooms. Chris continued his search. He was just coming out of one of the rooms near the end of the hall when he heard voices approaching from behind a pair of double doors set in the rear wall. He quickly slipped back inside and closed the door, leaving only a slight opening that he could observe through. Chris saw a man and a woman exit the slowly opening doors. Each wore a white lab coat and they had their arms wrapped around each other. The man had his head bent down nibbling on the woman´s neck as they walked.

“Come on, Jane,” the man entreated, “There are plenty of empty beds here. We only have to choose one.”

The woman gave a low moan of pleasure, and arched her neck to give the man greater access, “I don´t know, Gene. What if he comes in and finds out we´re gone.”

“When has he ever come in this late at night? We´ve been working here for two years and in all that time he´s never shown up after ten o´clock. It´s almost midnight now. We´re safe. No one else is here, so no one will ever know, I promise you.”

A passionate kiss and the woman´s voice saying, “Alright!” was his answer.

Chris watched as the two disappeared down the hall and waited until he heard a door close before leaving his hiding place. He hurried to the double doors and slipped inside. He found himself in a large room that was eerily lit with a blue light that concealed almost as much as it revealed. Chris decided to take the risk of being caught and turned on his flashlight to get a better look at what the room contained.

Chris was unsure of what he was seeing at first but then recognition slammed into him and left him feeling stunned for a few seconds, completely unbelieving what his eyes were telling him. Filling the large room was row upon row of women lying on hospital beds hooked up to life support systems. Chris had seen enough life support machines while waiting at his teammates´ bedsides at the hospital to be able to recognize one when he saw it. As he continued to look, other details filtered into his brain. All the women were blond, appeared to be slim, rather pretty, and young…and all of them appeared to be in varying stages of pregnancy! What the hell was going on here!

Chris forced himself to keep looking, searching for anything that would lead him to the truth behind what he was seeing. He opened a door he found half way down one side of the room and hit pay dirt. Apparently the two lovers had been in too much of a hurry to remember to shut down the computer that was humming away in the darkened room. Chris sat in the chair and hurriedly began scanning files. Knowing his time might be running short, he found a box of data disks in a desk drawer and started making copies of everything he could get from the computer. When he had completed the job he slipped out of the computer room with the computer disks stuffed into his pockets.

He started searching the large room once again and was almost three quarters of the way around when he made another discovery. Behind another door he found a stair case leading to a basement. Chris carefully made his way down the steps using his flashlight in the pitch black darkness of the stairwell. He stood for a moment at the bottom of the stairs. In the light reflected by his flashlight, he saw stacks of wooden crates piled one on top of the other, almost completely filling the room. Chris cautiously pried the lid of one of the boxes off and found it full of M- 16s.

“JACKPOT!” Chris crowed to himself.

Chris carefully replaced the lid of the box then made his way back up the stairs. He stood looking around for a few seconds, trying to decide on his best course of action. He couldn´t stay here because the two lovers were sure to be returning. He couldn´t go out the front door because the guard was back on duty. He couldn´t stay here all night hiding because he´d be missed when he didn´t show up to meet his replacement for guard duty and they would surely start a search for him. Sneaking out was his only option he decided.

Chris tried to orient himself in relation to the compound outside then walked to a bank of windows on the farthest side of the room. These should open out toward the back of the compound. There were few buildings behind this one in that direction and those that were there were not occupied at night. His best chance for getting out of here unnoticed was through those windows he decided. Chris made a careful examination of the windows looking for any wires or contacts that might indicate the windows were hooked into a security system. He grinned when he failed to find anything.

He carefully unlatched a window and slowly pushed it out, looking around as he did to spot anyone in the vicinity that might sound the alarm. Chris finally had the window open enough to allow him to slip out and he threw his legs over the sill and shimmied out the window, quietly dropping to the ground and freezing as he made another visual search of the area. He stood up and pulled the window closed, trying to get it as tightly shut as possible. Chris quickly disappeared into the trees again and hurried toward the back fence of the compound. He had what he needed. No need to stick around now. It was time to get the ball rolling and wrap up this case, he decided as he started jogging away.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Chris sat in the conference room waiting for the last two members of the team to make their appearance so he could start the meeting two weeks after his late night visit to the Coalition´s medical building. The bust that had followed had gone done without a hitch, based in large part on Chris´ inside knowledge of the layout and inner workings of the compound´s security force. The compound had been raided, the guns impounded, and the comatose women had been moved to more appropriate facilities as the FBI investigated how they had come to be in the clutches of the group. Dr. Webster had been caught red handed with incriminating documents that showed he was the mastermind and leader of the Coalition. Chris was very proud of himself and his team, and happy to have had the case come to such a successful conclusion. Chris had called this meeting to go over the findings of his team before filing his final report.

Ezra and JD had been going through the computer files that Chris had managed to copy from the medical center computer while the rest of the team had been busy inventorying and documenting the confiscated weapons cache. Chris was looking forward to finally putting this unsettling case to rest once and for all, and was starting to get impatient when the missing Ezra and JD finally entered the conference room.

“Well nice of you ladies to finally join us,” he said, letting them know he didn´t like being kept waiting.

“Umm, sorry, Chris,” JD murmured, looking down at the table.

“My apologies, Mr. Larabee,” Ezra was quick to remark.

Chris watched both of the men and realized something was going on with them. JD was looking everywhere but at him, and Ezra had apologized without a smart comment or wisecrack and seemed to be avoiding his eyes as much as JD. Chris felt the hairs on the back of his neck come to attention as he stared at the two men.

“Alright then, why don´t we start with what you two found in the records,” Chris told them and watched JD throw Ezra a panicky look.

“Perhaps it would be best if you started with Mr. Tanner´s report,” Ezra started but was interrupted by Chris.

“Uh-un, I don´t think so. Something´s going on with you two and I don´t plan to wait to find out what it its. Spill it, Ezra,” Chris growled.

The team leader watched his men glance at each other one more time then saw Ezra square his shoulders and sit up a little straighter.

“Very well, if you insist,” Ezra began still refusing to meet Chris´ gaze. “JD and I found medical records for the young women that were found in the ward of the medical center at the compound. They apparently were taken, under false pretenses and with forged documents, from long term care facilities all across the country. They were apparently being used in the good doctor´s own eugenics experiment.”

“Eugenics?” asked Vin. “What´s that, Ez?”

Ezra turned to face his friend and explained, “Eugenics is the hereditary improvement of the human race through controlled selective breeding.”

“Selective breed…you mean they were using those women as …as brood mares!” Vin asked indignantly.

“I´m afraid so,” Ezra confirmed. “Apparently the good doctor decided that it was not enough to take over the country and kill or enslave anyone that didn´t meet his definition of the right kind of person, but he was trying to breed a superior human being to inherit his “perfect” world once he had secured it. He found his experiment easier to control if the women he was using were not capable of disagreeing with his experiments, so he scoured the country for women that were of a certain body type and in no condition to refuse to participate in his program. From what JD and I were able to discover, all of the young women found had been involved in different kinds of accidents that left them comatose, but physically capable of gestation.”

“That´s barbaric!” Nathan shouted jumping to his feet and starting to pace around the conference room, needing to work off some of the outrage that flooded him.

“I agree, completely, Mr. Jackson. I find the whole thing completely too reminiscent of Adolf Hitler for comfort,” Ezra replied.

“The man is a monster,” Josiah shook his head in disbelief.

Chris continued to watch JD and Ezra and realized that they still weren´t telling him everything.

“What else?” Chris asked quietly.

Ezra finally raised his face to his friend and let him see the troubled eyes that stared back at him with compassion.

“Mr. Larabee, Chris…” Ezra broke off, seeming to search for words.

“What else, Ezra?”

“The records were mostly charts…breeding charts going back to the start of the experiment about a year ago,” Ezra said quietly trying his best to rein in his emotions enough to finish what he had started. “Most of the fetuses were fathered by Webster himself…”

“You mean that man…with comatose women…?” Vin stuttered.

“No. No,” Ezra hastened to assure his angry friends, “From what we have been able to determine it was done through artificial insemination. From the notes the man kept he didn´t really see them as sexual beings at all, just the vessels he needed for his experiments.”

“If there´s any justice in this world,” Buck ground out as he made a fist and slammed it into his other hand, “that man will rot for the rest of his days in prison.”

“Amen, Brother,” Josiah seconded the sentiment.

Chris felt his head grow light as memories flooded his mind and he looked at Ezra to see his friend watching him with concern.

“You said most of them were fathered by Webster…” Chris whispered.

Ezra nodded as he watched Chris slowly pale. “Apparently Dr. Webster saw the value of introducing a little genetic diversity into the experiment and inseminated some of the women by a few men he considered worthy.”

“Ezra… are you saying…?” Chris broke off, unable to complete the sentence.

Once more Ezra nodded, “JD and I found the record of it. He documented that he used the seminal sample of Chris Lawson to inseminate one of the women almost three months ago. From what the records show it…took.”

The silence that filled the room was almost deafening at this bombshell.

Buck was the first to break the silence, looking at his stunned friend with concern shining out of his eyes.

“Chris? Pard? Are you okay?” Buck asked worriedly.

He rose from his chair to kneel on one knee beside his oldest friend´s side when he received no answer. Buck reached out and took Chris´ trembling hand into his own.

“Talk me, Chris,” Buck begged.

Vin approached and knelt at Chris´ other side and caught hold of his other hand.

“Come on back to us, Cowboy. We´re here for ya,” Vin assured him.

Chris turned blank eyes from one friend to another as he tried to process this startling news. His mind was a maelstrom of conflicting thoughts and emotions. He couldn´t seem to take it all in. Chris found himself having trouble breathing and his vision starting to grey around the edges until Nathan stood in front of him and pushed his head down between his knees.

“You´re alright, Chris,” Nathan´s calm voice tried to reassure, “Just take slow, deep breaths. That´s the way. Just breathe. In…and out. You´re doing fine.”

Chris remained bent over, focusing his attention on the gentle voice´s instructions and found the lightheadedness he had felt receding rapidly. He finally managed to sit up normally and saw his team gathered around him in a circle, their faces frowning in worried concern.

“Better now, Pard?” Buck asked and Chris nodded his assent.

“Who is she,” Chris whispered, his gaze searching out JD and Ezra.

Ezra looked at JD and JD cleared his throat and answered his boss with, “I haven´t been able to find a name yet. He gave all his test subjects numbers. I…I can keep looking if you want me too.”

“Yes,” Chris told him, his voice taking on more strength as he spoke, “I want…I need to know who she is and what happened to her.”

“Okay, Chris,” JD him, “I find out all I can for you.”

“Thanks, JD.”

“You sure you´re alright now, Chris,” Vin asked quietly.

Chris drew a deep breath, squaring his shoulders before he replied, and they could almost see him pulling himself together, “I´m fine. Let´s get back to business. We have a case to wrap up.”

The six men could see that their friend was hanging onto his composure by a thread and allowed him the space he silently requested from each of them. They returned to their seats at the conference table without argument as Chris brought the team meeting back to order, but six pairs of eyes watched the seventh member of the team closely, ready to support their brother when he needed them.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The knock on his front door later that evening came as no surprise to Chris. He subconsciously had been expecting it. Chris opened the door to a serious Buck Wilmington staring at him across the threshold. Chris opened the door wider and stepped back, silently allowing his friend to enter. Neither man said a word as they made their way into the den and sat down.

“I´m alright, Buck,” Chris quietly assured him.

“No, you´re not, Chris. You might be able to fool the others into believing that, but I´ve known you for too long. I´ve been through too much with you. I know better,” Buck told him gently.

“What to you want me to say, Buck?” Chris growled out angrily at the friend watching him with compassionate eyes and he jumped from his chair to agitatedly pace the floor. “Do you want to hear that I´m angry? Well I am! I never meant to be a father again! I´m damn mad that someone took that decision out of my hands!

Do you want to hear that I´m scared? Well I´m that too! I´m scared of going through that kind of pain again. I´m scared of having my soul ripped into little pieces again! Is that what you want to hear, Buck?”

Buck silently watched his friend rant and waited until he stopped before answering.

“Do you remember what Josiah told you in the cemetery after Michelle´s death? About how he had been given a second chance and how he had to grab onto that second chance with both hands because his owned it to Michelle and himself?”

Buck´s quiet words froze Chris in place.

“Don´t let your fear rob you of your second chance, Chris,” Buck gazed evenly at his friend, “You´ll hate yourself for the rest of your days if you do.”

Chris collapsed into his chair and looked at his friend with despair growing in his eyes, “I don´t know if I can do this again, Buck. I mean… before it was me and Sarah, now…”

Buck smiled a gentle smile at his friend and replied, “And now it´s you… and me, and Vin, and Ezra, and JD, and Nathan, and Josiah, and Raine, and Casey, and Kathryn, and Rita. Now it´s Angel, and Dallas, and Houston, and Austin, and Rhiannon, and Lucas, and the three little ones that are on the way… and this new little one. You´re not alone, Chris. You don´t have to do this alone. All you have to do is reach out and we´re there. Hell, you don´t even have to reach out…just look up. We´re standing right in front of you, and behind you, and beside you. You´re surrounded with people willing to help. All you have to do is accept it.”

Chris stared at the man watching him with such calm understanding, and had to fight hard to keep the emotions he felt from spilling from his eyes as he took in his friend´s words.

Buck watched his oldest friend swallow heavily and knew Chris was close to shattering. As much as Chris would have liked to keep all his emotions locked away inside, Buck knew the best thing for him right now would be to let them all out. Bracing himself for what he knew was about to come, Buck gently and lovingly pushed his friend over the edge.

Buck rose from his chair to kneel beside Chris and pulled the man into a hug, wrapping his strong arms around the trembling shoulders and prepared himself to meet the storm that he knew would soon follow. He felt Chris stiffen at first, then give a shudder before wrapping trembling arms around his waist. Buck felt the first trace of wet tears dampen his shirt as Chris finally let go of the emotions he had held in check all day and cried out his grief, and fear, and anger on his friend´s broad shoulder.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Chris looked up from the report on his desk as JD knocked on his office door then stuck his head in to gain permission to enter. Chris waved the young agent in and JD came into the office and closed the door behind him. He laid the file he had in his hand on Chris´ desk and stood in front of the team leader, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.

“I, ah... brought you all I could find on… ah the woman that… ah,” JD stammered.

Chris smiled at his obviously uncomfortable friend and said, “Thanks JD. I appreciate it.”

“Sure, Chris,” JD returned the smile and quickly slipped toward the door again, “I´m glad I could help.”

Chris waited until JD had left the office before glancing down at the folder lying on the middle of his desk. He stared at the unopened folder for a few seconds as he gathered his nerve. Finally he reached out and flipped the folder open to see an eight by ten photograph of a smiling blond woman. She appeared to be in her early twenties. Chris studied the picture, seeing the sparkling blue eyes filled with life and laughter. The picture appeared to be taken in a marina for he could see what appeared to be sailboat masts in the background and the woman was posed on the deck of a boat smiling into the camera. Taking a deep breath, Chris laid the photo down and began reading about the stranger that was to be the mother of his child.

Chris was sitting in his chair looking out his office window when Vin gave a short knock then walked into the room closely followed by Buck and both sat down in the chairs across from their boss. Vin rested the ankle of one leg on the knee of the other as both men sat watching their friend in silence while waiting patiently for Chris to acknowledge them.

“Her name was…is Shannon Cumberland. She´s twenty two years old,” Chris told his friends quietly as he continued to gaze out his window. “She was from Colorado Springs and she liked boats, and water skiing, and whitewater rafting. She was studying to be a teacher. She was injured when the boat she was skiing behind collided with a sandbar and she crashed head first into the back of the boat. She has been in a coma ever since the accident. That was six months ago.”

“She sounds like a nice person,” Vin answered equally quiet.

“Ummhhmm,” Chris replied absently.

“Where is she now?” asked Buck.

“They moved her to a facility here in Denver. The FBI is trying to locate any relatives but from what JD managed to dig up she was pretty much on her own. Her insurance company was paying for her care when she was snatched from Colorado Springs.”

“There any chance she might come out of her coma?”

“Doctors say no. There appears to be too much brain damage.”

“What are you going to do now?” Vin asked.

The blond haired man sighed and turned to face his friends. “The only thing I can do and live with myself, Vin.”

Buck grinned, “Come on then. It´s not polite to keep a lady waiting.”

Shaking his head in amusement at how well this man knew him, Chris rose and followed his two friends from the office.

The drive across town was filled with Buck´s attempts to lighten the atmosphere. While Chris appreciated the effort he was just too tense to respond. He left it to Vin to pick up any slack in the conversation. They arrived at the care center faster than Chris might have wished but he sucked up his trepidation and led his friends into the building to deal with the red tape that he suspected awaited him.

He was pleasantly surprised and almost over come with gratitude to find he was completely wrong. It seemed that Ezra had already considered what he might have to deal with and had taken steps to alleviate as many problems for Chris as he could. Ezra had made some phone calls to a few people in the FBI that owed him favors and had already made the necessary arrangements. Chris made a promise to himself to thank the southerner for his help when this was over.

Within minutes of their arrival the three men were standing by the bedside of the young woman they had come to see. Chris found himself staring in fascination at the slight bulge of her stomach that showed beneath the blanket draped over the unconscious woman then moving his eyes to her slack face. If it wasn´t for the terrible scar on her forehead and her paleness he might have believed she was only sleeping. Chris couldn´t help the journey his eyes took back to the woman´s belly.

That was his child growing in there; his son or his daughter. The thought filled him with fear, and sorrow, but a strange delight as well. His feelings were so totally confused. He wanted to walk away but at the same time he wanted to embrace the new life that was even now flourishing inside this unknown woman´s body. Chris realized he must have made some sound of distress because he felt his two friends place their hands on his shoulders in support. He drew comfort and strength from their touches and was able to steady himself. He was in full control of his emotions again by the time the woman´s doctor arrived to speak with them.

“Hello, I´m Dr. Kines.”

“Chris Larabee. These are my friends, Buck Wilmington, and Vin Tanner,” Chris made the introductions.

“Agent Williams informed me of your situation. I will help you all I can.”

“What can you tell me about her and the baby, Dr. Kines?” Chris asked.

“The pregnancy is progressing well. There appear to be no problems at this point. I have to inform you though that I am not sure if she will be able to carry to term. We´ll do our best, but we´ll have to take it day by day and see what happens. I can´t give you any guarantees. It may be some comfort for you to know that there have been several documented cases where healthy babies have been birthed by comatose mothers.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate you telling it to me straight,” Chris told him.

“We were just about to do an ultrasound if you´d care to stay and watch,” the doctor told him.

Chris had to smile at the offer and accepted.

The three friends stood and watched as a technician wheeled an ultrasound machine into the patient´s room. Within a few minutes, the fascinated men were avidly watching the screen as the tech moved the paddle shaped object over the woman´s stomach.

“There,” the tech said, “That´s the baby!”

Chris leaned forwarded and stared at the screen. He could see the beating of the tiny heart on the monitor and he felt a wave of feelings slam into him like a fist in the gut. That was his baby…HIS baby living in there, growing in there, patiently waiting to be born. As he felt tears start to trickle down his cheeks, Chris´ mind finally accepted what his heart had been whispering to him all along. His doubts and his fears drained away and he was left with a blinding joy filling every inch of his singing body. He was going to be a father. He may not have had much choice in the baby´s conception, but he would rejoice in the second chance fate had tossed his way. Like Josiah, he would grab it with both hands and refuse to let go. Chris watched that small heart pulse and allowed himself to dream of a new, brighter future.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Chris made his way down the corridor following the nurse that was leading him to the delivery room. The day that he had been waiting the last five, long months for had finally arrived. The doctors were going to deliver his baby by C-section today. In just a few minutes his son or daughter would be placed in his arms for the first time. Anticipation flowed through his system like a flashflood down a mountainside. He couldn´t seem to wipe the grin from his face so he stopped trying.

Chris stood at the head of the operating table behind the screen the doctors had placed between the surgical site and him. He couldn´t help but reach out and brush his hand over the unconscious woman´s face as he thought of the great gift she was giving to him.

While the medical staff was busy with their preparations, Chris leaned down close to Shannon Cumberland´s ear and whispered, “I know you never meant for this to happen, and would probably be outraged if you knew, but I just needed to say thank you. Thank you for my second chance. Thank you for giving me this child. I´ll take care of him or her for both of us. You have my promise.”

Chris straightened and stroked his hand down the smooth cheek once more before he was forced to move back so the anesthesiologist could cover the woman´s face with an oxygen mask.

“Alright, people,” doctor chirped, “Let´s deliver this baby!”

Chris watched as the doctor made the necessary incisions and unconsciously wrinkled his nose as amniotic fluid gushed from the wound as the doctor reached in carefully and quickly removed the baby from his mother´s womb.

“Congratulations, it´s a boy!” the doctor told him.

Chris stared anxiously as the doctor suctioned the baby´s mouth and he breathed a sign of heartfelt relief as he heard the precious wails of the newborn child bouncing off the walls of the delivery room.

“Would you like to cut the cord, Dad?” the Doctor asked him with a smile and Chris hurried to comply, taking the surgical scissors the doctor held out to him and snipping the umbilical cord carefully.

The nurse wrapped the newborn in a towel and placed the crying baby in his father´s waiting arms. Chris looked down at the little scrunched up face, all red from his cries, and let his tears start to flow down his face unashamedly.

“Hello, little man. Happy Birthday,” Chris whispered past the lump in his throat. He lowered his head to place a kiss on the baby´s forehead before the nurse reclaimed his son to administer the standard tests and to measure and weigh him. Chris very reluctantly let him go and stood right by the nurse´s side as she worked.

“Seven pounds nine ounces,” she told the new father with a smile, “and twenty inches long. He gets perfect scores on the APGAR.”

Chris beamed back at the woman, his pride in his new son already enough to burst his buttons.

“We need to take him to the nursery and clean him up a little,” she informed him. “Give us about half an hour and you can come visiting him, alright?”

“Alright,” Chris told her as she left with the baby.

He made his way to the maternity floor waiting room and stopped just inside the door. Every available chair was filled with one of his friends as they patiently waited for news of the birth.

“It´s a boy!” Chris informed his friends proudly, “He weighs seven pounds nine ounces, is twenty inches long and is absolutely beautiful!”

The next few minutes were filled with riotous chaos as Chris received the congratulations of his friends.

“So, Cowboy,” Vin grinned as he slapped his friend on the back again, “did you finally decide on a name?”

“Yep,” Chris nodded and returned the grin, “His name is Cody James Larabee.”

“That´s a fine name, Brother Chris,” Josiah stated with his own smile, “a truly fine name.”

“Way to go, ole dawg!” Buck punched his friend in the arm then grabbed him around the neck for a back-slapping hug.

“We can we see him, Chris?” JD asked grabbing Chris´s hand and shaking it energetically with both of his.

“They´ll be bringing him out to the nursery in a few minutes,” Chris informed the excited young agent and returned his smile.

“Might I suggest that we adjourn to the viewing room and await our new nephew´s arrival?” Ezra suggested.

“That´s the best idea I´ve heard all evening,” Buck laughed, and the entire, rowdy group made their way to the hospital´s nursery.

“Do you realize it´s been five years since we stood in this very spot and watched as Buck met Angel for the very first time,” Nathan mused.

“Good heavens,” Ezra murmured, “It hadn´t occurred to me before, but you are absolutely correct.”

“Hardly seems possible that it could have been that long,” Buck shook his head in fond memory of the last five years. “It feels like just yesterday that they put Angel in my arms for the first time.”

“Yep,” Vin agreed, “I know what you mean.”

“Quite a lot has changed in the last five years,” Ezra mused aloud. “So many surprises; so much joy; so much sorrow. New family found, and lost. Life has taken so many unexpected twists in the last five years.”

“Would you turn back the clock on it, Ezra?” Josiah asked.

Ezra glanced at the older man sharply and answered unequivocally, “No. Not one thing would I change. If I were to turn back the clock it would only be for the chance to relive it all over again. I have no regrets.”

“Me, either, Ez,” JD agreed.

“Here, here!” Nathan smiled and said.

“Look,” Chris pointed out proudly, “There he is!”

All seven men turned to face the glass covered viewing area as a nurse wheeled in a bassinette containing a tightly bundled baby into the front of the nursery and stopped it before the eagerly awaiting men.

Chris stood outside the nursery window and stared at the baby, unconsciously smiling as the child thrust a tiny, perfect fist into his mouth and sucked on it. The new father was oblivious to the jokes and continued congratulations of his friends, his entire world narrowed to the tiny boy that was his son. Buck stood by his friend and watched the face of the man that he had known longer than anyone else in the world as it lost the last shadow of pain and sadness that had haunted it for so many years; the face that started to shine with the love and pride and joy that only a child can bring to a parent´s face.

“Welcome back, my friend,” Buck whispered quietly to himself as he watched his brother reclaim his happy future, “Welcome back.”


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