Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, just love 'em. If I owned them, they'd be released on DVD by now.


By Lizabeth S. Tucker

Retired Judge Milton C. Hardcastle walked into the small waiting room, nervously tugging at his tie. "It's almost time, kiddo. Are you ready?"

Mark McCormick smiled weakly as he shrugged into his suit jacket. "I...I guess. I never thought I'd find myself here."

"You're gonna be okay. You've never been intimidated by a judge before, heaven knows that I can testify to that. Don't let it get to you this time."

"It's different this time. I mean, this is for life. I don't understand how this happened, how it came to this. I mean, I was minding my own business, having fun, doing what I wanted when I wanted. Well, except when you said differently. Now I'm gonna be standing before a judge who can pull me off the street for the rest of my life!"

"You thinkin' of running?" Hardcastle moved to stand by his friend's side, gently gripping the younger man's shoulder.

Mark's eyes shot to the window where he could see the Coyote sitting in the parking lot. It would be so very easy to jump over the sill and push the engine ignition button, push the vehicle onto the interstate and leave all this behind.

He looked back to Hardcastle and considered the viability of the plan. If he left, if he ran, he'd be leaving his best friend behind to take the flack. And then there was Kathy. How could he hurt the two people he most loved in the world?

There was a gentle knock on the door. Lieutenant Frank Harper stuck his head in. "Mark, it's time. I came to escort you."

"Do I need cuffs?"

"I don't know, Mark, do you?"

Mark took one last look out the window before taking a deep breath. He smiled at both men, shaking his head. "No. No, I'm ready for this. I can take it."

"We'll be right there beside you, Mark," Frank said, ruffling the younger man's hair.

"Will you stop that? Jeez, I can't go in front of this judge and everybody looking like I just came in from the playground!" Mark hurriedly finger combed his mussed curls.

Once he was done, he took another deep breath, pasted a smile on his face and stepped through the doorway to his future. "Thanks, guys, thanks for supporting me."

"Well, hell, I promised Kathy I wouldn't let you face this alone," the Judge responded.

The men walked into the courtroom, moving to the front of the room. Mark stood in the middle, Hardcastle and Harper stepping to one side.

"Well, Mr. McCormick, I certainly never expected to see you before my court as anything but a lawyer. Milt said you were supposed to take the bar next month."

Mark swallowed. "Yes, sir, that was the plan."

"Another case of the best-laid plans of mice and men. Is the other party here?"

"Yes, sir, I am!" the woman's voice was breathless, having ran from the ladies' room to the courtroom once she realized that she was late.

"Are you ready, young lady?" the judge asked sternly.

"Oh, yes, of course."

"And you as well, Mr. McCormick?"

Mark looked at the people in the courtroom and, suddenly, realized that he was no longer afraid of what the future would bring. He was surrounded by friends who would support him no matter what his decision. He smiled. "I've never been more ready in my life, Your Honor."

"Alright, let's get this show on the road. Do you, Mark McCormick, take this woman, Kathy Kasternack, to be your lawfully wedded wife…"