Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make a dime doing this. So if the PTB in Hollyweird want to sue me go ahead...I can put what I own that has value in the front seat of a Gremlin so it ain't much. Except my dogs...they can't have my dogs under any circumstances.
The first harbinger of morning made itself known as tendrils of soft light wrapped around the downy clouds.
The quiet in the ranch house was broken when a painful moan shattered the silence.
The occupant rolled over in the bed that had been a refuge since the night before. The light of morning cascaded into the room leaving streaks of gold on the carpet. One of the rays carelessly made its way across the bed and creeped closer to the man that restlessly layed there.
Swollen and bloodshot eyes slowly opened followed by another moan.
The green eyes slammed shut as the light invaded them. A groan followed and a gravelly voice ground out a summation of the morning.
"Shit! Christ Larabee what a way to start the day!"
The ATF agent rolled to the side of the bed and slowly sat up. It was a struggle as he fought the dizziness and nausea that came with the action. He closed his eyes in an attempt to stop the room from spinning. His throat bobbed repeatedly as he swallowed convulsively. Despite his protesting stomach one thing was apparent...Chris' bladder could no longer be ignored and he stood on shaky legs and slowly made his way to the bathroom.
Once finished Chris slowly trekked out to the bedroom and headed for the hallway.
The smell of stale beer and sickness hung in the air and threatened to destroy the tenuous control that he had on his stomach. Chris scanned the room and looked at the carnage before him. Bottles and trash lay strewn haphazardly around the living room.
'God Larabee what the hell did you do last night.'
Chris closed his eyes and tried to remember what had led to the binge. It was a behavior that had become rare in the life of the lanky leader of Team 7.
With a sudden flash of memory the Chris' eyes opened and he looked at the calendar next to the message board.
June 16. Fathers Day.
In the months and years since Adam and Sarah were taken from him this day was the worst.
It always evoked the echoes of the past that rang through his mind with unwelcome clarity.
And each year he tried to block it out in some way or another. The binge was just his attempt for this year. But no matter what Chris did the memories always pushed their way to the forefront of his mind.
Painful. Brutal. Unrelenting.
And every year he rode the tide because he had no choice.
Stumbling to the couch Chris sat down hard. His stomach lurching as it tried to keep up with the motion.
Chris knew it would start soon. The memories. Coming home. Driving up the drive with a smile knowing that Sarah and Adam would be waiting with a surprise. That was how it had been since the child was born...Fathers day was a time for Sara and Adam to indulge Chris, make it his day.
Then the smoke came curling through the trees and he knew something was terribly, horribly wrong. Turning the last corner Chris could see the conflagration that had engulfed the house.
From then on his memory was blurred except for tiny stabs of horrendous clarity. Chris dialed 911 as he stepped out onto the gravel of the driveway. He tried to make it to the house but the intense heat battered him and kept his approach at bay.
The hours that followed saw Chris pacing the driveway, never taking his eyes off the blackened ravaged structure. Firefighters went about the task at hand. The maze of hoses and equipment was utilized in an organized and efficient manner.
Buck came at some point but Chris still couldn't remember him arriving. He did remember the strong hand that the ladies man provided in the face of the inconceivable scene that was facing both the men.
It was hours before the fire was extinguished. The efforts now could concentrate on recovery. As the rescue crew brought out one then a second black bag that Chris knew contained his family, the agent's soul flickered and died.
Chris inhaled sharply and scrubbed at his face to erase the tablue that had opened in his mind. His breath came in shuddering gasps and his stomach lurched.
"Shit" he moaned as he hurried to stand. Making his way to the bathroom in unsteady, lurching steps Chris made it just in time as his stomach contracted and began to purge itself of the whiskey that still remained.
A long and painful groan made its way past Chris' lips has he tried to ride the wave of nausea out.
"Shitshitshitshitshit...oh that hurts" Chris stepped to the sink and wetted a washcloth. He wiped his face with it purposely avoiding his reflection in the mirror.
Chris walked out of the bathroom. Pausing in the doorway he looked down the hallway to his room.
'Can't put it off anymore Larabee.'
Chris drew in a shaky breath and slowly walked down the hallway to his bedroom. He stopped in the doorway steeling himself for what was to come. Slowly he shuffled to the back side of the large bed and stiffly settled his lanky frame on the floor between the bed and wall.
Chris dragged in a deep breath and let it out in a shuddering rush. Then he reached past the quilt and found the shoebox that was hidden under the bed. He gently grasped the box and dragged it out of its hiding place. His hand absently rubbed the top of the Addidas box before Chris delicately curled his fingers under the edge and lifted the top.
That was all that was contained in the box. Just five little things but it was all the man had left.
These five things survived the fire that day when nothing else did. And each year Chris had come here on this day and done exactly what he was doing now. Relishing the only things that he had left of his family.
No photos or mementos or toys remained.
Only the sparse contents of this one box. As fate would have it this was the only thing that Chris had had at the office or these too would have been destroyed.
The ATF agent wiped a finger across the top item before picking it up.
It was a card.
A Fathers day card dated just three months after Adam had been born. In delicate scroll it read, "Daddy I love you already, Adam." Sarah had given it to him on the Sunday after he had come home from a long and horrendous Friday at the office. He had been amazed at how that simple card erased any disappointment that had occurred. When he had read the card that day Chris realized how unimportant work was when compared to his beautiful child that smiled at him with a faith and trust like no other.
With great care Chris set the card to the side and looked at the next item. A small smile dashed across his lips has he picked it up. He unfolded the paper with care and stared at it.
To most it was just a placemat from a restaurant. Something to discard without a second thought. But to Chris it was heaven.
Adams second Fathers day had been spent at a small out of the way steak house that he loved to go to. That year Adam had taken full advantage the chocolate cake that was the specialty at the restaurant and the child had let his pleasure be known by making careless scribbles on the placemat in the rich convection. The chocolate streaks had long dried and turned a muted brown with time but Chris could still see them and in his mind he heard the soft lilting sound of Adam has he laughed and cooed his delight.
Sarah had made a card for that day and it too was in the box. Chris stared down at the picture of the bunny that was on the front before picking up. Opening it slowly, he took a deep breath and let the air run over his lips as he read the card.
'To my Daddy...You're the best! Love and Kisses. Adam.'
It was written in the same soft scroll as the first card and Chris could envision Sarah smiling gently as she penned the card from their son.
He closed the card and peered in the box at the next item.
Chris reached for the light green paper that was there. He gingerly lifted it out of the box and opened it with great care. The happily disorganized scribbles of a toddler stared at him.
Sarah had explained that Adam had wanted to draw a picture for "his Daddy" The lines were in every color imaginable. Purple. Blue. Red. Orange. All criss-crossing each other in a dizzying pattern. Chris had almost cried when he saw the picture for the first time. Adam had ran to him yelling the whole way, "Daddy, daddy...look"
He had scooped the child into his arms and held him as Adam showed him the picture. The young boy had squealed with delight as his father viewed the artwork.
Chris folded the paper in his hand and set it on the pile with the rest of the treasures.
The next memory sat staring at him waiting to be given attention.
It was a white piece of paper with small-undefined shapes glued on in a random and carefree pattern. Chris smiled has he remembered how proud Adam had been to show his Daddy how he could use scissors.
"See Daddy this what we learn." Chris had beamed at the picture like Monet himself did it. Adams delight and joy at his fathers pride made the little boy grin from ear to ear as he showed all that were present for the festivities.
Chris again looked in the box.
Only one left.
The agent picked the item and a sad heart-wrenching smile crossed his face as he stared at it.
It was a flat, white plaster of Paris plaque the size of a small paper plate. The cool plaster felt good as Chris held the last memento.
A small handprint was in the center and below that Adam was written in a child's hand.
He stared at the tiny handprint that was forever captured in the plaster. Chris delicately ran his fingers over the imprint marveling at how tiny it was.
Adam had been so small.
To small to have met his death in an act of cowardice directed at his Father.
Chris closed his eyes and opened his mind to the memories that had been his child.
Laughter...and occasionally tears. Wonderment and questions about every conceivable thing.
A stubborn streak that Chris had been sure was the cause of his thinning hair.
And a glare that often had the adults in the house turning to the walls so the young boy couldn't see the laughter that desperately tried to break free.
Chris opened his eyes and looked into the empty box and was overcome with grief when it hit him as it had each year that on that fateful morning Adam was to give his father another memento to add to the collection.
It was missing however. That too became a casualty of the blaze that took his family and destroyed his soul.
He sat back and closed his eyes as the words of a poem came to him. How many times had he heard Sarah recite it to Adam? He was unsure but he loved the sound of Sarah reciting that poem and the effect that it had on his blessed child. Barely above a whisper and heavily laden with the pain of memory Chris began....
In the whispering willows out past the town
Lay a road of gold so shiny and true.
All that saw it instantly could see
The joy of a thousand souls could be found.
No one dare doubt a second
That gladness lie there.
For the angels had touched that road with wings of down.
Peace to all who walk the path
Was the only decree to be seen.
The little ones come here with a smile and joyous sound.
For it is them that this road is here.
Remember this about that path so glorious and true.
All the glory of the earth
Shall settle in the laughing eyes of those who are heaven bound.
His eyes shut he made no attempt to stop the tears that traced a path down his cheeks as he recited the poem.
In the silence of the room that was bathed in the pain of remembering a soft, hesitant smile crossed Chris Larabee's face.
His eyes opened as he took a cleansing breathe. Chris knew that something had changed in his life. This year the memories seemed easier somehow. The pain tempered by something. He glanced up to the headboard and stared at a picture that sat there.
Six smiling faces looked back at him. Six men that he now called brothers. Six men that had reignited the flame to his soul so he could live yet again. Yes it was truly going to be ok.
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