This picks up after the episode "Mother And Child Reunion." I'm going to throw my own spin on this one in terms of the relationship between Jennifer and her husband. This one was written in a rush so I hope it doesn't come off that way.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from Line of Fire. No copyright infringement is intended.

RATED: PG-13 for violence.

GUILT IS QUITE THE CROSS TO BEAR

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I paced around the kitchen for what seemed like hours, waiting for Carl and Hunter to come home.

Joanie had gone to bed hours ago which made the wait even longer because I had nothing to distract me from the time.

As I took another sip of tea, the headlights from Carl's car cast through the curtains of the window as he pulled into the driveway. The feeling of both excitement and fear tore through me as my heart began to beat faster.

Hunter came through the door first, which I was thankful for.

"Hi, Mom!"

"Hi, sweetheart! How was your trip?" I asked as I gave him a big hug and a kiss.

"It was fun. Me and dad went fishing and I caught a HUGE fish!"

"That's great!"

Carl walked into the kitchen and set their bags down on the floor. "Hi," he said flatly.

I gave him a hug and a kiss and I could feel the stiffness in his body language. "We missed you."

He smiled but didn't say anything as he took his jacket off and placed it on the back of the chair.

"Hunter, why don't you go upstairs and get ready for bed. I'll be up in a few minutes to tuck you in. Joanie's already in bed so don't be noisy and wake her."

"Yes, Mom," Hunter replied as he trudged down the hallway.

Carl went into the fridge and got a beer. Cracking it open, he took a sip and sat down at the kitchen table.

"Obviously we need to talk because..."

"Yeah, I'd say we need to talk considering our little girl could have been killed." Carl glared at me and took another sip.

"Will you lower your voice, please. The kids don't need to hear this argument."

"Fine," he said as he stood up and grabbed me by the arm, dragging me out to the garage.

"What's the matter with you?"

"What's the matter with ME? You're the one that could have gotten our daughter killed!"

"What the hell are you talking about? I had no idea that a kid was gonna walk into that school with a gun and decide to hold people hostage! How the hell am I supposed to know that?!?"

"You're superwoman, remember. You go 'round with your little badge and gun and chase after people and once in a while you come home."

Before I could think about it I slapped him across the face. Not hard, but enough to make him realize I wasn't pleased with what he'd said. "Don't you DARE try and make me out to be something I'm not." I held back the tears as best as I could. Now wasn't the time to cry.

Carl rubbed his stinging cheek. "The kids are always asking, 'When's Mom coming home? Where's Mom?' I'm running out of excuses, Jennifer."

"You shouldn't have to give them excuses. I've told them that there are times when I'm not going to be home right at..."

"Right, that's the problem. You're NEVER home right at 5 o'clock. Hell, sometimes you're not even home until 8 or 9. And half the time I don't even know where you are. For all I know you could be hurt somewhere or dead."

The word brought a chill up my spine.

Dead.

"I HATE your job, Jennifer. I HATE it!"

"I'm not quitting in case that's going to be one of your suggestions." He turned to face me and I could tell that I'd tagged it perfectly. "No, Carl."

"Then I can't do this anymore. I'm done."

My mind was spinning with emotion and almost made me dizzy. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

"Yes. I think it's time that we separated for a while. I'll take the kids and..."

"What?" I gasped. "YOU'LL take the kids? You...you're not taking my kids away from me. I'm their mother!" I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. They streamed down my cheeks in a steady stream.

"You're never here for them when they need you. Your job is getting in the way and the incident with Joanie was the last straw." Carl gritted his teeth in anger as he turned to walk away.

I ran over to him and grabbed his arm. "Carl, don't!"

I could feel the rush of anger flowing through him and soon found myself shoved to the cement floor as he pushed me away. "Don't push the issue, Jennifer." The look in his eyes was something I'd never seen before.

I got up and faced him again. "You're not taking my kids."

I didn't expect his fist to meet the side of my face so that's probably why everything went black so quickly.

::::::::::

I'm not sure what woke me, but I eventually came to and found myself lying on the cold cement floor of the garage.

My eye throbbed a little and I put my fingertips to it, wincing as I touched the sore spot and felt dried blood. I staggered to my feet as my head leveled itself and then I went inside.

The clock on the microwave told me that it was a little after 3 o'clock in the morning so I'd been in the garage for about six hours.

I ran upstairs to Joanie's room and quietly opened the door. I peeked inside and found her bed empty. Immediately I went to Hunter's room and found his empty as well. "Bastard," I swore as more tears came to my eyes. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

I ran into our room and saw that Carl had taken alot of his clothes out of the closet. Kicking the door shut in anger, I felt the sting of my tears hit the cut under my eye, reminding me that it needed tending to.

When I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror my heart jumped into my throat as I looked at the damage Carl had inflicted upon me. My right eye was bruised, red and swollen and there was an inch-long cut under my eye on the top of my cheek bone. It had stopped bleeding but there was dried blood all over the side of my face. Quickly, I cleaned it up and doused my face with cold water, trying to calm myself down. It wasn't working too well.

I walked back into my bedroom, staring at the emptiness, ignoring the water dripping down my face and onto my shirt. It didn't matter. My kids were gone. That's what mattered.

::::::::::

The phone rang and startled me out of my sleep. Groggily I reached over and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"

"Jen? You okay?" Amiel asked on the other end.

"Shit, what time is it?"

"Ten o'clock. You oversleep?"

"Yeah...yeah."

"Lisa's been looking for you. I told her you were running late. I guess you two have a lunch meeting and she wanted to go over some stuff with you first."

"I forgot all about that. Um, I...I don't know if I'm gonna make it in today."

"Something's wrong, I can tell. What is it?"

"Just something I need to take care of as soon as possible."

"Okay, listen. I'll be over in about twenty minutes. I'll tell Lisa that you won't be in."

"You don't have to come over, I'm fine."

"You're not fine. Just sit tight and I'll be over."

"K," I replied softly. Part of me wanted him to stay out of it because I wanted to handle it myself but another part of me needed someone to talk to about it. Someone on my side for once.

I hung up the phone and went to take a shower and change, hoping that would energize me and clear my head.

::::::::::

Amiel rang the bell and I slowly opened the door, turning away as he walked inside so he wouldn't see my face right away.

I walked into the living room and sat on the chair, hugging a pillow and lowering my head as more tears started to fall.

Amiel sat on the edge of the coffee table and put his hand under my chin, raising my head, gasping at the sight of my face. "Holy shit, what happened? Who did this to you?"

I moved his hand away. "It's nothing. It was an accident."

"That's no accident, Jen. Did Carl do this to you?"

In all the years that I've been in law enforcement I've encountered countless women who'd been battered by their boyfriends or husbands and not once did I ever think I'd be one of those women. Carl had NEVER laid a hand on me like that before. Yeah he's pushed me a little, not roughly, but never has he punched me.

I nodded to answer his question and I could see the anger in his eyes.

"When did this happen? This morning? Where are the kids?"

"Last night when he came home from his trip. We were in the garage, arguing. He wants me to quit, Amiel. I can't do that. He got mad and said that he wanted a separation and said he was taking the kids. When I objected he hit me and knocked me out. When I came to he'd already take the kids."

"Do you know where he took them?"

"I don't know. I'm assuming he'd take them to his mother's house because she's the only relative we have that lives close."

"Have you called her yet?"

"No. I haven't had time to get a game plan together. I needed to get myself together first."

Amiel put a hand on my cheek to comfort me. "We'll find them." He looked at his watch and then back at me. "I have some things to do this morning, but I can help you later this afternoon. Okay? I just wanted to come by and at least check on you, now I'm glad I did." He frowned as he looked at my eye. "You better get some ice on that eye."

"I'm fine."

"Okay, Rocky," he said with a smile, trying to lighten the mood.

I laughed a little and gave him a hug. "Thanks, Amiel. Thanks for being here for me."

I walked him to the door and watched him walk to his car before shutting the door. My mind flashed back to the garage and Carl's fist flying towards my face. I shook the vision off and went to the phone to call his mother's house.

The phone rang several times and then she finally picked up. "Hello?"

"Hi, it's Jennifer."

"Jennifer, how are you?" The sound of her voice did sound as if she had any idea about what was going on.

"Is Carl there by any chance?"

"No, why?"

"I just thought I heard him mention that he was stopping by your house this morning. I'll try him on his cell then."

"Okay, dear. Talk to you soon."

"Bye." I hung up the phone and felt more uneasy now that I wasn't sure where Carl had gone with the kids.

I picked the receiver back up and dialed Carl's cellphone. My fear turned to anger as I listened to the phone ring and ring.

"Hello?"

"Carl, where the hell are you? Where are the kids? I want to talk to them."

"The kids are fine. I'm sorry I had to hit you like that I..."

"You didn't HAVE TO do anything. If you lay a hand on my kids so help me God I'll..."

"There you go again, playing the tough agent. It's getting so old, Jennifer. Once you come to your senses we'll talk." Then line clicked and the connection was lost.

"Carl? Carl?" I threw the phone across the room in anger and paced the floor in attempt to calm myself. I had to find him and get my kids back.

I dashed upstairs and opened the dresser drawer to get my gun. To my horror, it was gone. I was paralyzed. It was as if time had stood still and froze me in place. He'd taken my gun and my children. What was he planning? Why was this happening? So many questions and so little time to answer them all. I grabbed the keys to my car and ran downstairs.

As I ran outside to the car I realized that I should call the police and report this but I was torn. If I did and they found him before I did, what would he do to my kids? If I didn't call them and I couldn't find him, he'd be long gone and all hopes of seeing my children again would be lost forever.

I started the car and tore out of the driveway. I couldn't imagine what my kids were thinking or what he told them. God only knows what he told them about me. Those thoughts only made my foot bare down on the accelerator even more.

::::::::::

I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon going to any place I thought he'd go. His coworkers told me he called in sick and that they hadn't seen him since he'd left for his business trip with Hunter. I was running out of places to look and it was getting late.

My phone began to ring and I quickly answered it. "Carl?"

"Sorry, it's me."

"Hey."

"Where are you? I'm at your house."

"I'm trying to find Carl."

"You shouldn't be doing this alone. Let me help."

"I shouldn't get you involved."

"I'm your partner, I can't help but get involved."

"Let me see what I can turn up on my own tonight. If I come up empty I'll call you."

"Don't be stubborn."

"Please, Amiel. Let me do this."

"Okay. Okay. I'll talk to you later tonight."

"I promise." I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. If Amiel knew that Carl had taken my gun he'd go crazy. He'd have the entire force out looking for Carl.

I thought of one last person that might know where to find him, his friend T.J. They hang out every Wednesday night and had worked together at Carl's old job. Maybe he could shed some light on this.

::::::::::

I pulled up to T.J.'s house and found him out in the driveway tinkering with his car.

"Hey, T.J." I yelled from the car as I got out and walked towards him.

"Jen, how....whoa, what happened to your eye? You bust up a drug ring or something?"

"Something like that. A perp got a lucky shot yesterday." My lie sounded convincing, even to me. "Listen, I was wondering if you've talked to Carl at all today or recently?"

"No. Haven't talked to him since Sunday."

"I know you guys are best friends and I'm sorry to have to ask you these questions but I have to start somewhere."

"Okay," he said as he gave me his undivided attention.

"Has Carl mentioned anything about our relationship? Has he said anything about leaving me or..."

"Jen, I..."

"Please, I know that he's probably confided things in you and I hate to ask you to betray his trust, but I'm desperate." I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.

He looked down for a moment at the rag he held in his hands and then returned his eyes to mine. "He has been acting kinda weird lately. I noticed it a couple of weeks ago. He seemed kinda...angry."

"Angry towards?"

"You. Just the mention of your name made him kinda go off. It's almost like he was having some sort of breakdown."

I couldn't find words to say anything.

"I know he's been stressed out at work, but I guess home stuff is stressing him out too."

"Do you know where he'd go if he were to just up and leave?"

"He...he left?"

"Yeah, and he took the kids," I answered with a shaky voice.

"The only place I can think of is the cabin where we used to hang out a few years ago. Eddie Baker owns it."

"Where can I find Eddie?"

"120 Gardenview Lane. Third house on the left. He's got one of those damn lawn gnomes by the edge of the driveway."

"Thanks, T.J."

"What should I do if he calls me?"

"Don't mention that I was here. Play along with him and see if you can get info from him. Here's my business card. Call me if you talk to him."

"I will."

"Thanks."

"Good luck," he yelled to me as I ran back to the car. I was gonna need it.

::::::::::

Eddie was just getting out of his car when I pulled up to his house.

"Eddie?" I yelled to him.

He looked at me, trying to place my face. "Jennifer, right?"

"Yeah, Jennifer Sampson, Carl's wife. Have you talked to Carl at all recently?"

"As a matter of fact I talked to him last night. He wanted to borrow the cabin for a few days. Shit."

"What?"

"Maybe I just spoiled a surprise."

"Oh. Maybe. I'll act surprised in case he wanted a little getaway for the two of us so I won't get you in trouble."

"Me and my big mouth. Sorry about that."

"No. No. It's okay. I just was wondering because I went by to visit Carl at lunch and he wasn't there and I got worried. I found out that he may have talked to you and...I was just worried is all."

"Well, I'm sure Carl has some big plans so that's probably why he was a little secretive."

"You're right. Well, I don't want to keep you from dinner. Thanks alot, Eddie."

"You're welcome. Enjoy the cabin!"

I went back to the car and drove away. When I was out of sight, I dialed information and got T.J.'s number and quickly called it.

"Hello?"

"T.J., it's Jennifer. I just talked to Eddie and he said Carl had asked about the cabin. I didn't want to press him for too much info since he thinks that Carl got the cabin for the both of us, so can you tell me where the cabin is?"

"It's off of route 6 but it's one of those unmarked roads, doesn't even have a name."

"Great, how am I gonna find it."

"I can show you. Do you want to come pick me up?"

"Okay, I'm about ten minutes away. Thanks, T.J."

I went and got T.J. and called Amiel to tell him I'd found Carl and that everything was okay. I'm not sure that I bought it when he agreed with me, but whatever.

It took about an hour and a half to get to the cabin, but we finally made it. I pulled up a ways away so that Carl wouldn't see the car. "You stay here. I shouldn't be long. I just want to get the kids and make sure they're safe."

"Okay."

I walked towards the cabin and saw Carl's car parked along the side. The lights were on and I could smell the burning wood from the fireplace.

The front porch was creaky as I walked on it so I tried to go as slow as possible. Peering into the front window, I could see Joanie and Hunter sitting on the couch, alone. I went to the door and opened it slowly. They looked over and I quickly put a finger to my mouth to keep them quiet. Then I motioned for them to come to me. I gathered them into my arms and hugged them tightly.

"What happened to your eye?" Joanie asked me.

"We'll talk about that later. Let's get you guys home. Where's your father?"

"He went to get more wood."

I walked them to the car where T.J. was still waiting and loaded them in.

"My bear!" Joanie exclaimed.

"What about it?"

"I left it inside."

"We'll get it later."

"Mom! I need it!"

I handed T.J. the keys. "If you see Carl I want you to start the car and get out of here."

"What about you?"

"Don't worry about me."

"Mom, I'm scared. What's going on?" Hunter asked me with tears in his eyes.

"It's okay, honey. T.J. is gonna watch you while I just go back inside."

"Dad's gonna be mad that you're here," Hunter said. It nearly broke my heart but it also angered me.

I stormed back to the cabin and found the bear lying on the floor by the couch. I grabbed it and turned around only to find the barrel of my gun being pointed at me.

"I knew you'd find us. Always the cop."

"Carl, put the gun down and we can talk about this. I know that you're stressed out and..."

"DON'T pretend to know how I feel!"

I could see his finger tightening around the trigger and given his current mental state he could pull it at any moment. "Easy. I just want to talk."

"Where are the kids?"

"They're fine. You and I need to talk."

"Get on your knees."

"What?"

"GET ON YOUR KNEES!!"

I sank to my knees and felt some of my control slipping away.

"Put your hands behind your head."

I did as I was told and was surprised when he produced my handcuffs. With a rough shove, he pushed me to the floor on my stomach and handcuffed my hands behind my back.

"Is that how they do it at work. Huh?" he taunted me as he leaned his body weight against my arms.

"Ugh," I gasped as my arms and shoulders burned with pain. "Don't do this, Carl."

"Shut up!" he spat as he stood up and kicked me in the side. "Get back up on your knees."

I got back on my knees and watched as the gentle Carl I married was now replaced with a deranged man filled with confusion and anger.

"Okay, so what's next? Do you beat the suspect into submission?"

He launched a punch to my face, connecting with my nose. I fell onto my side and felt the warm blood begin to flow down my mouth and chin. "Carl," I managed to whisper before I got another kick to my side.

"Is this how it goes? I just want to understand what it's like to be you...super agent."

The next kick was harder and made me want to puke. I struggled to find air for my lungs and my ribs were ablaze with pain. Then I heard the cocking of the gun. "Why are you doing this?" I whimpered.

"This IS what it's like, isn't it? That's why I don't want the kids near you. Your job is vicious and dangerous."

I saw his finger squeezing the trigger. I didn't have the strength to get up so I closed my eyes. I heard the shot but then heard a struggle. I snapped my eyes open and saw T.J. fighting with Carl on the floor, trying to get the gun from him.

They traded blow after blow and T.J. managed to get the gun, using the butt end of it to knock Carl out. He wiped blood from his mouth and looked over at me. "Jennifer?"

"I'm okay," I insisted as I painfully sat up.

He used the hem of his shirt to wipe the blood from my face. "Let's get you out of here." He helped me to my feet and got me to the car. We called Amiel from there and he came out as fast as he could.

I spent the rest of the night getting checked out at the hospital. Two bruised ribs and a few cuts and bruises didn't matter, I finally had my children back.

As for Carl, I'm not even sure if he's well enough to stand trial, but I don't have the final say. I'm just thankful that my kids are unharmed. It could have gone differently and that's something that I don't even want to spend much time thinking about.

I've taken a few weeks off from work to spend time with my kids. Not that it will make up for lost time, but hopefully the time spent will allow them to see how much I love them.

THE END