four corners pd

By: Cin and Heidi

    Disclaimers: See main page.

Day two: Friday Afternoon

Part One

As he guided the Mustang west out of Four Corners, Vin would have preferred the convertible top down with the wind whipping through his hair.  Instead, he hid behind the tinted windows with the limited protection and disguise that afforded him.  The top remained up so only a form was visible behind the wheel.  The dark colored glass obscured his features, as if that really mattered in the distinctive Mustang.  It was not like the specialty painted car did not already attract enough attention or hid in a crowd.  At first, the custom ride helped Vin initiate easy conversations with his targets and provided a believable excuse for him needing a quick and steady income, legal or otherwise, for its upkeep.  However, the glossy black paint job with distinguishing flames down the side made it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hide his activities or himself.  This upcoming meeting was one he did not want to advertise, especially if he picked up a tail along the way because of his actions yesterday. 

The car radio was tuned to a classic rock station and the heavy rock beat of a Steppenwolf tune reverberated through the interior.  The words of the song slowly sank into the undercover officer's mind as he drove.  Vin shook his head to clear it as the choruses interfered with his thoughts while he attempted sorting out the case.  He tried to foresee any possible problems he could encounter and think of potential solutions.  'Born To Be Wild', he thought, humming to himself, thinking maybe someone somewhere was trying to tell him something.  The tune certainly seemed to fit quite well as his theme song.

Vin Tanner lived the life of a nomad for too many years and sometimes felt he lived more than a hundred years too late.  The wilderness beckoned to his heart and he never felt more at home or at ease than in the embrace of Mother Nature.  He needed a respite, a retreat, from people and stress every once in awhile.  He figured mostly people because he lost his stress, both mental and physical, when living off the land and his honed skills.  For this assignment, too many people surrounded him watching his actions with the same intensity of observing a prize lab rat in the middle of an experiment.  The rat, of course, knew it was watched but rarely saw the keepers.  Like Vin, the officer felt eyes on him everywhere but could not see all of them.  Keith Taylor was a street rat and Vin Tanner’s desire for a wilderness retreat needed suppression for as long as this forsaken assignment continued. 

His few breaks from the organization’s smothering observation and the crushing hemmed in feelings restored his soul, his balance, until he felt he could function normally again for a short while.  The limited time he spent with his friends last night helped to clear his mind a little.  It gave him a chance to remember the real Vin Tanner and experience that now cherished life for an all-too-brief time.  Sometimes he felt himself so immersed in his ‘Keith Taylor’ persona that he lost sight of his goal and of his true self. 

Things in general and this miserable investigation were not proceeding as he anticipated.  Something, some instinct, a primal fear, a niggling suspicion he could not put his finger on made the whole case feel wrong to him.  In fact, it felt very, very wrong.  Now, those nagging doubts that began to surface earlier hit him with their full force and raised his hackles.  A permanent phantom itch resided in the back of his neck.  He wanted to ignore the doubts and itch, wanting to write all of it off to his increased paranoia but he questioned whether that would happen before the end of this mess.  Vin hoped this meeting with Haskill, the head of the County Task Force, would help put some of his doubts to rest.

Vin’s thoughts drifted ahead to catching up with Chanu at their pre-arranged site.  More than a month passed since the last time he saw his brother.  Although they were not genetic blood relatives, a brother was how he considered the man.  The two became inseparable from the time they met when Vin’s mother took a much-needed job at the community school.  The school served the Comanche Tribe where Chanu's father, Kojay, served on the business committee.  An astute judge of character, Kojay took to Vin's mother right away and sensed her genuine desire to help the Tribe.  With times as troubled as they were between the Native Americans and the U.S. Government, the woman’s caring and concern along with Kojay’s endorsement moved her from the label of suspicious do-gooder white person to friend of the Tribe. 

Not only did she teach in the local school, but she also became an adopted daughter to his family.  Left alone with her infant son as her military husband served on an extended mission overseas, she welcomed the kindness and support found within the Tribal community. 

Mrs. Tanner needed something positive to do with her life and this fulfilled her since she could not be a full-time wife with an absent spouse.  Her husband’s pay was deposited in the bank and split between them but her share usually did not make ends meet.  Here, she found a purpose as well as a surrogate support system of ‘relatives’.  Her beloved son found his own place among their adopted family and developed unique social skills, learning things most kids would never learn about respecting the land and surviving in the wilderness.

As he drove, Vin fondly remembered the happy times spent with the Comanche Tribe.  He was grateful for all he learned from them and the gatherings with the Kiowa and Apache tribes.  Those were some the best times in his roller-coaster life when they all gathered and the old ones passed down the stories of their history.  These Tribes managed their own lands as decreed by treaties and procured from the U.S. Government over the years.  The Comanche established their own government and constitution headed by the Comanche Business Committee.  Kojay was an elected member to the Committee and a well-respected member of the community in addition to the prosperous breeding and horse-training ranch he owned.

The dark memories returned and Vin scowled, his hand clenching tighter on the wheel as he remembered the events that changed his life forever.  When young Vin Tanner was five, his mother fell victim to a hemorrhagic fever.  As the dying woman lay in her sickbed, her concerns stayed with her young son, forcing her to request a special favor from her adopted family. Kojay promised her he would take care of the boy until his father was able to come for him.  She died in her sleep after saying her good-byes with the knowledge she would not wake.  Her only regret was leaving her young son alone.

Sadly, though, it was not long after her death that they received word the young boy’s father was missing in action.  Unable to find information on any other relatives, Kojay accepted the boy into his own family, continuing to treat him as another son.  Although he missed his mother, Vin spent the next five years happily growing up among his adopted family.  He learned more skills and self-sufficiency but also knew people stood behind him and supported him when he needed it.  The insecure boy quickly matured into a bright young man and showed considerable promise with many abilities.   

As he grew older, Vin often wondered about his father but as he never truly knew him, it did not cause him too much anxiety.  Just a question or two every year crossed his mind on Father’s Day or an errant thought when someone discussed their parentage.  Kojay shared the stories his mother passed on to him about his father and the too few pictures she left behind, leaving little Vin Tanner satisfied and understanding that was all he had.  Occasionally, Kojay checked with the base Vin’s mother left as a point of contact back in Texas to see if any word could be found, always receiving negative responses. 

One of those routine inquiries triggered the events that tore young Vin's world apart.  Someone, a diligent record keeper recently transferred into that section, realized that the service left an orphaned white child with an uncertified foster family, a Native one at that.  Well-meaning social workers informed of the situation ripped him from the only family he had ever known and sent the confused little boy into his own personal hell.  Since a Texas military base discovered the error and that base originated the paperwork on behalf of the boy's missing father, they dragged Vin back to Texas. It was an unrealistic distance away from the only home he had ever known, especially for a young boy who had already lost so much.

Passed through a multitude of foster homes, Vin no longer knew stability or the love of a caring family.  The young man did not understand why he could not return to his family, why they insisted he dress in fancy clothes, why he could not eat what he wanted, why going into the woods was not allowed, and why everything he did was wrong.  He never stayed in one place very long.  Instead of a loving home, he found years of mistrust, scorn and abuse. 

Foster parents did not understand the People and their ways as Vin lived them and tried everything they could to make him forget and ‘conform to their standards’.  When he did not comply, they sent him back as incorrigible, uncooperative, or he ran away from them only to be dragged back and placed with another family, repeatedly, again and again, year after year.   

An angry youth found he could take no more of the foster home shuffle and permanently left the system after too many years of such treatment.  Now he wondered if it was Fate that brought him stumbling into Four Corners.  When he arrived in this town, he used the Keith Taylor alias hoping it would help him hide from the authorities.  He kept trying to find his way back to Kojay and his family but instead ran into a new savior by the name of Nettie Wells.

That lead to another period of time Vin did not care to think much on, much less at all. Although he found a new home with Nettie, things were not perfect.  The older woman was his savior but she ended up needing one too.  Nettie helped Vin track down Kojay, attended the joyous reunion, but the young boy realized the Wells family needed help and he wanted to stay with them to repay all their kindness.  But the two families kept in touch over the years.  Two years ago, Chanu surprised Vin by showing up in Four Corners with a present from Kojay.  His adopted father learned a bit of the troubles they went through and sent a Mustang colt as ‘good medicine’ for his lost and newly found child.  The medicine bonnet design on the buckskin colored paint was a powerful symbol and he sent word to Vin that he hoped it would be the start of a fine herd.

Receiving such a special gift meant a lot to Vin.  During the few times he was able to visit with Kojay and his family, it was as if they never parted.  Those times healed his lost soul.  The colt was a rarity with its odd color and design, making him a prize to any horse breeder.  Vin vowed that through using the colt, he would build a herd his adopted father would be proud of in honor of all he’d learned from the man during the years he was with him.  The colt seemed to sense his worth, carrying his head in style and confidence even though he was very young and untrained. 

Chanu watched the prancing colt and compared him to the young men in the tribe who participated as ‘fancy dancers’ in ceremonies during the pow-wows.  The competitions helped show their prowess, stamina, pride and wealth, much like the manhood test of olden days where young braves proved themselves in hunting and raiding parties and accumulating stolen horses for their herd.  Having received the colt from his adopted father and his brother wryly remarking on the horse’s personality, Vin’s sense of humor kicked in and he named the colt Fancy Dancer.  The comments made by Chanu reminded Vin of how much the Texan missed over the forced years away from them, and he could not help teasing his brother that he would have liked to seen Chanu’s ceremony. 

Chanu, who missed his blood brother, decided to stay around Four Corners for a while too.  Vin saw through that and smirked, still laughing to this day.  Chanu tried so hard to convince all of them that his sudden decision to stay in Four Corners had nothing to do with the fair blonde daughter of a local powerful preacher he recently met.  As he told Vin in explanation, his father had two older sons, Chanu’s brothers, who would take over the family ranch.  He wanted a chance to make it on his own. Chanu stayed in Four Corners, found a piece of land to work, won the heart of the fair maiden, the disapproval of her father, and became reacquainted with his lost brother.

Thinking of Chanu and his family situation, Vin hated dragging him into this mess.  The Texan did his best to stay away from his family and friends while he worked undercover.  Today, however, he desperately needed help in covering his movements and this was the only option left.  He hoped the risk would be minimal and give him the time he needed.

Vin pulled the roaring Mustang into the gas station and rolled up to the pumps.  After setting the nozzle into the neck of the gas tank, the lean young man started the pump.  Making sure the automatic cut off was set, he sauntered towards the station’s restrooms appreciatively eyeing the Harley sitting on the other side of the gasoline island as he passed it.

 “’bout time, ciye.”  The slim young Indian leaning against the sink inside the small room greeted him as he walked in with an unreadable expression.

“Patience was never yer virtue,” retorted Vin with a grin.  They shook hands with a full forearm grasp.  “Had to make sure I didn’t have a tail riding my ass.”

Chanu resumed his position with his weight against the sink crossing his arms in front of him and faced the new arrival.  He wore his hair at a similar length to Vin’s though it was a shade darker and straighter.  Standing just an inch or so shorter, the young man was dressed similarly in jeans, black T-shirt and jean jacket.  He assessed his brother carefully and cocked a questioning brow at him saying, “And?”

Vin gave the young man before him an exasperated look, then his face turned more sober.  “How have ya been?” 

Chanu checked the features of his brother and thought he should be the one asking that question.  The fading bruises and cautious walk hinted at the pain his brother carefully tried hiding from him.  Time to confront the issue head on and see what Vin would do.  “I am fine.  You, however, do not look so good.”

“I’m fine,” Vin shrugged.  His automatic reflex of turning things away from what he did not want to talk about kicked in.  “Claire ok?”

Now it was the Indian’s turn to give the exasperated look knowing the subject was being changed to avoid anymore being said about him.  “She’s fine.”

Vin asked, “Her pa still causin’ ya problems?”

Chanu shook his head, “No and Rafe and Amber are fine and come to dinner often.  Nettie and Casey are fine.  The ranch is fine, Peso and Dancer are fine, so we’re all fine.  Got all the cars in the show, everything is fine.  Now you can answer how you are?”  He gave Vin a warning glare of his own about not giving his stock answer or trying to change the subject again. 

Vin respected this glare because he knew the feelings that backed it up and returned them wholeheartedly.  He ran a hand back threw his hair and sighed as he gave a majority of the truth, “Just tired’s all.” 

“How much longer?”  Chanu did not like the effects this investigation demanded from his brother and wanted this to end quickly.  He knew he was not the only one and hoped for a good conclusion.

Tanner shrugged, “Guess I’ll find out with this meetin’.  Ya sure Mosley’s leavin’ y’all be?”  Vin knew a strained peace existed between Claire and her father Reverend Mosely right around when he went undercover.  The man swore he would make his daughter see her errant ways and break up the happy couple.

Chanu smiled slyly at Vin.  “I imagine we’ll be hearing more about our evil union from him soon.”  His chest puffed out with pride and joy at the news he was about to share with one of the most important people in his life.

Tanner could tell there was something Chanu was not telling him and asked, “What?”

The smile widened as Chanu delivered his news, “You’re going to be an uncle.”

Vin blinked several times as the information slowly sank in.  Uncle?  Claire’s pregnant?  He saw confirmation in his brother’s face as comprehension dawned.  Stifling the urge for a tremendous ‘war whoop’, he laughed and pulled the young Indian into a quick embrace.  “That’s fantastic.  Claire, is she . . .”

Chanu laughed at his brother’s joy and held his hand up before Vin could ask the question.  “Claire is fine, I told you.  It’s all great.”

“Does Kojay know?”

The Indian shook his head “Not yet.  We were waiting until after the show; we’re going to visit next weekend and give them the news.  Figured you’re here and I’d tell you.  Been wanting to share the news.  Nettie thought something happened when Claire told me and I whooped like you wanted to; scared half the horses with my yell.  Other than that, we’re both looking forward to the show.  Claire’s there now getting ready to set up.  You realize you will have to come out once he knows for a celebration?”

A wistful smile flickered across Vin’s face as he thought of seeing his adopted father again.  It had been so long.  “You have any problems with the entries?”

Again Chanu shook his head.  “They’re all in.  The Willis, the Indian, the Cowboy, even Claire’s beetle.”

Vin rolled his eyes at that one.  The beetle was an old Volkswagen they’d bought and restored.  Claire thought it would be cute to paint it after its name, hence the red coat of paint and black spots resembling a ‘lady bug beetle’.  The two blood brothers enjoyed their shared hobby of refurbishing different cars to sell or for shows even if they’d only been able to work together sporadically over the last few years.  This was their first big showing at the County Auto Show.  Their entourage included a 1942 Willis army Jeep, a replica Indian motorbike with an Indian War Bonnet airbrushed over the gas tank, the beetle and The Cowboy.  The Cowboy was Vin’s pride and joy - a 1957 Chevrolet step-side pickup painted midnight black with highly polished chrome accents and the silhouette of a lone horseman amid an angry storm cloud airbrushed in shades of white and silver over the hood and on the tailgate.

“You still interested in selling some of them?” Chanu asked.  They often sold the cars and trucks for extra cash to work on something else; many of them went for a significant sum and helped both their financial situations.

Vin nodded, “Yeah all but the Cowboy.  I was going ta mention that ta you.  Look around and see if you can find me another car.  Nothing too flashy but a fast engine.”

Nodding, knowledgeable brown eyes studied Vin, intuitively knowing it was better not to ask.  “There’s a guy from a reenactment group that’s already expressed an interest in the Willis.”

“Good, if only we could get rid of the beetle as easily,” Vin snorted.  Even after he helped paint it, he really did not like it.  Too cutesy for his taste but Claire loved it.

“Claire may not give it up so easily,” Chanu warned him.  Once finished, Claire held a special regard for the car and often commented she wanted to keep that one. 

Vin considered and just shook his head.  Intuitively he knew that they’d keep the beetle just for Claire; she had enough grief in her life and if keeping the car kept her happy, they would do it.  Especially now.  He sighed.  “I guess I better go, we’ve been in here long enough.”

Chanu handed his brother the full faced racing helmet and held out his hands for the keys to the Mustang.  “Sure you remember how to ride?”

“Funny,” Vin cuffed him lightly on the shoulder.  “Just don’t put no scratches on the ‘stang.  Stay movin’ around and don’t get too close to campus.”

Chanu rolled his eyes, “Yes, ma.”  He knew Vin worried but Chanu knew how to take care of himself. 

“I’ll meet ya at the truck stop at the end of Fern in ‘bout three hours.”  He settled the helmet on his head and clasped the other man’s forearm again as they prepared to part ways.  Again his trepidation at using his friend and brother like this rose to the surface, but he needed to meet with Haskill.  He just felt it was much too hot for him right now to not believe he was being watched closely.  Although Chanu was slightly shorter than Vin his hairstyle and coloring looked enough like him to fool someone for a while if he stayed hidden behind the tinted windows of the Mustang.

“Careful, my brother,” Chanu warned.

Vin nodded as he slipped out of the bathroom and went to the Harley.  Slipping easily onto the familiar ride he quickly kicked the motor to life and sped away from the pumps.  A few minutes later another lean young man exited the restroom, paid for the gas then roared away from the station in the flame-decorated muscle car.


Part Two

Nathan’s Townhouse

Friday Afternoon

The fumbling hand searched vainly feeling along the bedside table for the alarm clock to cut off the source of the annoying sound. Slender dark fingers slid over it, calming it, as they deftly killed the noise.  The hand grasped the fingers and led them to receive a gentle kiss of appreciation from the head still buried beneath the pillow.

“My angel of mercy.”

Rain giggled, “What would you do without me?”  She smiled down at her other half who lay half buried under the burgundy sheets.  

The dark head rose from beneath the pillows, deep chocolate eyes searching hers as Nathan answered her sincerely, “I hope I never have to find out.”  He drew her down for a heartfelt kiss.  He loved this woman with all of his heart and soul and shuddered at the thought of a world without her.  He tried to show her through his actions because the words came hard to him.

Rain sighed.  After completing the kiss, she snuggled up against Nathan’s bare chest and murmured contentedly. 

He absently ran his hand up and down her back as his thoughts strayed from the beauty beside him to musings on his life.

Sensing her partner’s mood, the dark beauty raised her head noticing his vacant stare.  She took her index finger and traced his lips.  “What’s wrong, baby?”

Nathan smiled weakly at her, grasping her wandering hand in his and giving it another quick kiss.  “Just thinking on things.”

She freed her hand and gave his nose a playful bat with her index finger.  “I know you, Nathan.  You’re thinking about if you made the right choice being a police officer again, aren’t you?”

Nathan smiled shyly and sighed, “I guess so.”  Sometimes her ability to read his thoughts surprised him.

Propping herself up on an elbow, she studied his face seriously.  “We’ve been having this conversation a lot lately, babe.  Are you that unhappy?”

He shook his head as he sat up and swung his long legs off the edge of the bed.  “Not unhappy, just . . .I don’t know…dissatisfied.”

Rain moved up behind him, laying her head against his broad back and wrapping her arm around his waist.  She gave him a reassuring hug.  “You know what you do is good work.”

Nathan patted the hand resting across his stomach.  “Sometimes, honey, I wonder.”

She sighed and kissed his back, knowing he needed to work his feelings through.

“I want to help people, Rain.”

“And you do,” she reassured him again.

“Do I?” He snorted. “Do we?”  Nathan shook his head again.  “Take that mess yesterday, those kids . . .don’t they realize how they can ruin their lives?”

Rain rested her forehead against his back.  “You know you can't save the world.”

Nathan snorted, "No, and sometimes not even a little corner."  He took a deep breath, holding his hands out in front of him in a pleading gesture. "That could have ended so badly.  All those kids.  What if the guy with the gun had opened fire?"  He shook his head sadly, thinking of all the 'what if' scenarios.

Rain massaged his shoulders, willing him to calm down through the soft touch of her hands.  She used words to add to the physical soothing.  "But it didn't, because you all were there to stop it before it did get out of hand.  You do make a difference."

"Not like you do."

She grew angry, slapping his back.  “What's this self-pity?  You could have been a doctor, still could be if that's what you really want."  It had been some time since he was this down.  Rain witnessed several spurts of emotional highs and lows with Nathan since they had been together but this was the worst one in some time.  Rain was familiar with the depressing bouts of self-examination, having experienced them personally from time to time.  Especially when she was faced the senseless damage mankind inflicted on each other over and over again, the cycle never ending.  Her worst time was when she lost the battle and patients died.

He sighed and glanced at the clock, knowing his time grew short. He needed a shower and to start getting ready for work.  Lately, it was hard to garner the enthusiasm to drag his weary self into the job.  With a wistful smile, he thought back to meeting their newest member yesterday and regretfully wished he could still face his days with that same wide-eyed wonderment.  He knew what lay in store for young JD Dunne and he hoped the man would retain his innocence as long as possible.  From the way Buck acted yesterday, that was a good possibility and Nathan would help in the efforts.  Shaking his head, he could not imagine himself ever being that innocent.   

Sensing a lightening of his mood, Rain gently rubbed her hand across her lover’s back, “Are you going to be okay?”

Nathan reached behind him and pulled her onto his lap, lying down with her on top of him.  He captured her lips in another deep kiss.  Finally breaking the intimate embrace, he rested his forehead against hers, still holding her tight.  “As long as I have someone as fine as you here I know I will be.”

Rain straightened slightly giving him a fierce glare and slapped his shoulder.  “Someone!  That someone better ONLY be me.”

He laughed lightly grabbing her hands to hold her still.  Her jealousy often made him laugh when he was not protecting his parts.  “Baby, you know there is no one else.  You know what I meant.”

Nathan remembered when he and Rain first started dating.  Rain dropped by the station to give him the special lunch she made just for him and someone let her down into the break room.  At the time, Rita was sitting down and calling him a ‘player’, something the dark-skinned dispatcher knew he was not.  She continued teasing him about non-existent women, saying that he was the quiet type, probably having two or three women on the side. 

He took her comments as they were meant to be, harmless joking, and sarcastically responded that he was trying to be like his idol, Buck.  Running three women at one time.  That was the point he looked up, encountering Rain’s hurt face.  She walked over, opened the container of egg salad, and dumped it over his head.  The next few words she uttered should never be repeated in polite company as she stormed from the room.

Rita could not stop laughing as she watched Nathan chase the irate woman to the corridor’s intersection.  She eavesdropped with tears in her eyes as he swore to Rain that he was just joking with Rita. 

Rain finally believed him but it cost him a very expensive dinner and a romantic weekend before she officially forgave him.  He also suffered a couple bruises from her temper and that taught him to never tease her about other women.

He reflected it was all worth it as he held her in his arms right now.    

She kissed him again, lightly rubbing her hands down his arm, “I know.  And you know you can talk to me, I want to help if I can.”

Nathan hugged her to him as she placed her head on his shoulder.  “I know, but I don’t know what to say.  I’m not sure what the problem is.”

Her dark eyes glazed deeply into his, as if they alone could search out the answer she sought.  “You said you were dissatisfied.  Do you want to go back to medicine?”

His gazed dropped from hers, not staring at anything in particular, just trying to find the root of his melancholy mood.  “I don’t know if I would be any better at that.”

She placed her hands on either side of his face, glaring at him again in exasperation.  “You would make a wonderful doctor, just like you are a wonderful police officer.”

He lost himself in her eyes for a moment, in her unswerving belief in him.  It humbled him.  He smiled at her before teasing, “You are prejudiced.”

Tilting her head, she studied his face.  With vehemence, she said, “No, I just know the man you are.”  She hesitated a moment as she continued to study his face.  “Does the problem have something to do with prejudice though?”

Frowning, he slid her back onto the bed as he stood and walked purposely over to the dresser.

“Nathan?”  Rain was a little afraid of his answer because he was usually so open with her.   She could not recall him telling her of any problems he’d been having at the department or in town but his reaction scared her.  “Nathan, has something happened?”

Removing a fresh set of underwear from the top drawer, he set them down on top of the dresser and turned to face her.  “What if I made a mistake?”

Now truly confused, Rain shook her dark curls.  “When?”

“All those years ago, when I was first turned down for medical school.”  He held his hands out in front him.  “Why didn’t I fight harder?”

Rain knew about the problems Nathan faced when he first applied for medical school.  Graduating in the top ten percent of his class in college, he felt he should have easy time getting in to medical school.  The shock of his rejection stunned him.  When he asked, the answer was too many applicants and not enough slots.  Working as a paramedic, he continued taking extra classes at the local college until the next entrance deadline.  Once again his admittance was denied, even with several letters of recommendation from his professors.  It was much later he found out the true answer: there were too many black applicants and the school already met their quota.

It was hard to imagine, even growing up in the south as he had at the root of the Civil Rights Movement, that the prejudice and injustice still ran as deep as it did.  Several decades after the Civil Rights Bill, injustice reared its ugly head unfazed by time.  This was a new age; it was not suppose to be this way anymore.  Nevertheless, it was still out there: the unjust, unknown hatred for anyone or anything different from the norm.  The norm was whoever held the hatred and the most power to enforce it.  It was so crazy because there was no uniformity on who to direct all that misplaced hatred against; just whoever was not ‘in’ at the time.

Rain recalled the anger with which the strong man before her first spoke of his problems.  Especially when he did so with her father, Eban.  Those two would sit for hours discussing the troubles of the world.  She smiled wistfully as the memories touched upon her father.  Rain wished he were here now for her significant other to talk to, his quiet wisdom always settled and soothed Nathan’s doubts.  Something brought those misgivings to the surface again.  She did not understand why he continued questioning his choices or himself.  It was the passion with which he spoke of his job as a police officer and a paramedic that convinced her that he made the right choice.  He might be down right now but there was many times he spoke vehemently over the fact his job took him to the root of where he wanted to be.  Helping people…and he was seeing them when they needed him most.    She needed to make him remember that now.

She rose from the bed, walking over to stand in front of him she placed the palms of her hands on his chest.  “Why do you feel what you are doing is not important now?”

Angry frustration rose up in him.  He didn’t know how to answer, not when he wasn’t sure himself.  All he knew was the unease and the tension was building and he felt helpless to control its release.  “I don’t know,” he fairly shouted, stalking over to stand by the window.  He ran a frustrated hand through his short dark curls.  “You name it: the pay, the ingratitude of the citizens.”  He stopped, turning back to her.  “You said it yesterday yourself in the cafeteria, about how we are still treated as pariahs around here.”

Frowning, she studied his taunt body.  His arms and legs bulged as the muscles quivered in tenseness.  “This is not like you, Nathan.”

“Then maybe you don’t know me.”

She winced a little at the intended dart, but knew the comment was not meant to be mean-spirited.  Moving slowly over to stand before him again, she slowly wrapped her arms him.  Her head rested against his broad chest as she began speaking softly, hoping the nearness of her words would reach his heart that much quicker.

“I know you, Nathan,” she whispered softly placing a soft kiss over his heart before she continued.  “I have seen the passion in your eyes when you have talked about the people you have helped.  The excitement of the work you do, your friends.”  She smiled up at him slyly, “Your passion is more of anger when you hear me tell of the troubles I have in treating patients because of insurance snafus or administrative red tape.  You have often said you didn’t know if you could work in an environment such as that when you really thought about it.”

She noted the deep furrows on his brow and knew he considered her words and his from before.  “I do not think you are so concerned that you made the right choice in not pursuing medical school,” she paused, choosing her words carefully.  “You are frustrated because there is something or someone you cannot help.”

Pulling her close, he rested his chin on top of head as he thought on her words.  He knew he was frustrated and angry.  And if he really thought on it, he knew she was right.  It was because he saw others hurting and in need and could not help.  It was beginning to look like no one could.

First there was Vin, stuck undercover in an awful position with horrible people.  He was unable to see his real friends who could help remind him of his humanity, something Nathan feared his young friend may be losing.  The times he did see them he was usually on the receiving end of a shakedown or rushed encounters lasting only a couple minutes.  The more Nathan saw of Vin, the more he saw the edginess and the fatigue, all signs of the tremendous stress the Texan operated under.

Jackson couldn't say what it was about the quiet young man that drew them all to him in such a fast and easy friendship, but he knew his prolonged assignment was affecting all of them.  They had known him for only such a short time it was amazing that they should be affected so.  Of course Nathan rationalized that his feelings came from the sense of gratitude he still felt when a young stranger stepped in to help him in a tense situation.  But he quickly found that Tanner was like that, eager to help those in need, especially the underdogs.  His quiet and peaceful nature belied the strength behind his character, something each of them discovered and admired.  Now they each missed him in their own way.

Chris he knew worried about Vin constantly and the effects were starting to bleed over into his job.  Although Nathan understood Larabee worried about all of them, they all saw the special bond that developed between their usually stern leader and the undercover officer.  Chris might think he hid his sessions in the weight room from the others but Nathan knew better.  Larabee could not hide the bruising on his knuckles and Nathan knew that Chris did not use them that much at the fight the night before.

Not that Nathan cared, but Buck’s social life suffered too as he stopped dating as frequently so he would be available if things broke loose and Vin needed him.  The shadows in his eyes attested to his worry about the young Texan and the effect that the whole operation was having on his two older friends, Chris and Nina.  Nathan also knew Buck’s personal life was in a state of turmoil and that was something else Nathan could offer no help with.

Nathan reflected that Josiah was the most stable yet unstable of all of them.  Josiah internalized most of his pain.  When the big man finally let it loose, hell quivered in fear.  He was reminded of the saying ‘still waters run deep’ to aptly describe his friend.  Again, there was not much that Nathan could do to alleviate any of Josiah’s worry about all of them.  Each of them took this badly and Josiah, bless his huge, generous heart, tried helping them but he could only do so much.  That’s why Nathan resolved to be there and listen whenever Josiah wanted to talk.  Even the rock occasionally developed fault lines; Nathan appointed himself a committee of one to keep him from cracking apart.

As for cracking apart, Nina was showing considerable amounts of stress these days.  With all the clandestine meetings and telephone tag she played with less than stellar members of the community to get information, it wore her down.  Although he did not understand the complete depth of her friendship with Vin, he knew it was a very strong, unshakeable bond.  They shared secrets that others only guessed at and his attempts to get information from Rain about either of them resulted in her smiling and shaking her head.  Outspoken in her support of the police department, she never said anything too specific about the way things were before the PD formed.  He worried about Nina but could not help her with any of her problems.

That left Ezra.  The southerner hid his feelings well under different masks, whichever face he wanted the world to see.  Nathan, however, saw through many the different fronts to find the worry the man felt for Vin.  They finally managed getting Ezra to be more of a group participant instead of an outsider, mostly due to Vin’s influence.  With Vin under this long, Nathan felt Ezra slowly but surely slipping back into the nearly impenetrable shell he wore when he first arrived.

Not counting himself, Nathan worried so much about Vin that it drove him to distraction.  Of course, watching the others slowly becoming complacent and not showing their normal spark dragged him down too.  JD infused new blood into them and he hoped it continued; they could really use a night filled with laughter instead of worry and misery.

Overall, his frustration level grew the more he thought about it.  Then he remembered her question.  “Maybe,” he finally admitted softly.

She pulled back in his embrace, reaching up to bring his lips down to hers.  Giving him a comforting kiss, she reminded him once more.  “You cannot save the world; you are just one man; you try your best and that’s all you can do.”

He continued to wonder and sighed heavily.  “But is it enough?” 

Grabbing his face between her hands again, she stared into his eyes giving him all the confidence she could muster.  “Yes, yes it is.  You at least try, and sometimes you try too hard.  There are those that do not even do that.  Then they whine the loudest when they won’t even help themselves.”

He gave her a bright, more relaxed smile before giving her a quick kiss on her forehead.  “I need to carry you around with me at work to give me a swift kick when I need it.”

“Oh, I’m sure Josiah can take care of that,” she smiled back.

“Honestly, he’s not as pretty to look at,” he teased her.  He glanced down at the clock on the table and winced at the late hour.  “’Course, Josiah won’t be the only one kicking my butt if I don’t get a move on.”

Frowning again, she moved her hand suggestively down his chest. “It’s not that late; you still have time.”

He reluctantly grabbed her hand before it went further down.  “I want to stop and pick up something for dinner later.”

Giving him a sly look, she ran her tongue around her lips.  “I can help you save some time.”

“Girl, the look you’re giving me doesn’t fit in the book of time management.”  He felt his heart start racing as it always did whenever she looked at him that way.

Taking his hand, she led him towards the bathroom.  “I just thought I could help scrub your back, save on shower time.”

Nathan chuckled, “I don’t think it’s going to help save time, but I’m not going to argue.”

She stopped at the doorway, looking back at him seriously again.  "Are you going to be okay now?”

In answer, he closed the short distance between them and gathered her up in his arms.  His answer was in the soul-searing kiss he gave her.  Breaking apart breathlessly, he looked down into her shining eyes and grinned, “I think I’ll feel even better after I get my back scrubbed.”  He leered down at her then wagged his eyebrows saying, "I might even return the favor.”


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