Time flies and once again it has been way too long since my last update. But unfortunately life gets in the way. Happy reading, and you might want to have some tissues ready.


"You should go home. You still need to drop Journey off." Dave indicated the sleeping girl. The two men were sitting in front of the fire, Jayden having long ago gone to bed.

Randy smiled softly. "It's great that she's going to have a kid. She'll be a great mother. Hell, after dealing with Ari it won't be anything for her."

Dave shrugged. "There's no doubt about that. My concern comes from her relationship with John. It's not very conducive to raising a baby."

Randy looked up in surprise. "I didn't think you knew about that."

"When will you learn that I know everything?" Dave said with a ghost of a smile before looking away. "Its fate I guess. All that bullshit about the circle of life. I'm leaving so it's only fair that her baby enter the picture."

Randy hesitated slightly before choosing to ignore the dark comments. "Its so weird to think about her being preggers. She's going to get fat and everything." He grinned thinking about his five foot three sister fat.

"Wish I could be here to see it." Dave commented gloomily.

Randy scoffed. "Come off it. You'll be the typical grandfather and spoil it rotten."

"Randy." Dave said slowly. "I'm dying. Why can't you understand that?"

Again Randy waved the words away as he concealed the stark fear that turned his insides into a quivering mass. "And you always talk about Journey being a drama queen." He forced a laugh. "Give it up Dave, I'm not buying it."

The older man sadly shook his head. "There it is again. Damn it Randy you always manage to disappoint me. You're never serious, not even when you should be, and everything is always a big joke to you. You'll regret it someday."

Shock held the younger man in place while his breath seemed to freeze in his lungs. He would swear later that he could feel his heart bleeding from open lacerations. "You don't mean that." He whispered brokenly.

There was no answer and time seemed to blur for the young man. Before he realized it he was driving down the dark road. Fear that he wouldn't see the big man again and anger at the words spoken caused him to attempt to turn the car around. Almost frantic now he urged leaden arms to steer the fast moving vehicle.

"Damn it no. I have to go back." He yelled, taking his frustration out on the dash. Bedside him Journey stirred restlessly.

"Forget it Randy. It's too late. He's already dead." She whispered.

"No he's not. We just left him." He answered firmly, yanking hard on the wheel. Conscious of the female screams filling his ear he fought as the car spun in a tight circle. Hitting a high curb the car flipped end over end, sending both occupants slamming through plates of glass. Randy caught one final glimpse of his sister lying in a pool of blood before he lost consciousness.

When next Randy opened his eyes he was laying in a hospital bed. Curiously there was very little pain. A nurse with sad eyes stood at his bedside. He struggled to make his voice work. "Where's Journey?"

"I'm sorry, your friend didn't make it." She answered causing him to close his eyes in disbelief.

"Randy." A sharp voice snapped. He looked up to see Paul leaning over him angrily. "This is the last straw." He began, his mouth grim. "We are done with you. I don't want you to come near us or our families again." Randy felt like his head was spinning as desperately he reached out to grasp the older man's hand.

"Damn it." Paul growled, shaking off the weak grip. "Don't you get it? Everyone close to you dies." He paused as the younger man moaned in dispute. "Your parents and your sister died, but you weren't on the plane with them were you? Dave's the one that dies of cancer but you couldn't be serious for one minute. He died thinking how big a disappointment you were to him. Journey , she died at your hands because you were driving recklessly." He turned his head away so he didn't have to watch the younger man crying. "I have my family to think of. I can't let you near them anymore. John and Mark feel the same." He finished, slipping out the door.

"I'm not making it happened." He choked out to the empty room.

Randy woke as a scream tore through him. Heart betting rapidly, skin drenched in sweat, he looked wildly around the room as he tried to get his bearings. As details from the dream hit home, he grabbed for his phone.

"Do you have a radiation treatment today?" He barked when the other end was picked up.

"Are you okay?" Dave asked cautiously. "And do you know what time it is?"

"Do. You. Have. A. Treatment. Today?" The younger man gritted out.

There was a few minutes of silence. "At Ten. Dave finally admitted.

"I'm going." Hanging up Randy lay against the tangled sheets. He forced himself to relax muscle by muscle. "It's not going to happen." He vowed to himself.

Restless he climbed out of bed and made the short walk to the bathroom. Stripping off the sweat soaked shorts he had been sleeping in he stepped into the shower stall. He sucked in a breath at the cold water before leaning his head against the tile. There he let the tears come. Tears for what had happened, for what will happen and for what might happen. Tears for the family he had lost and the ones that surrounded him now.

Hours later, in the early morning darkness he climbed into his car, fresh anger causing him to rev the engine and peel out of the driveway.


Wednesday Morning

Exiting the airport parking lot John turned right to head home. He groaned as he hit the light just as it turned red, his nervousness betrayed by the incessant tapping of his fingers on the steering wheel. As he waited his mind drifted back to the conversation from the night before.

"It sucks that Dave's going through that." John mumbled from where he was sprawled on the cough. It was late and everyone else had either gone home or gone to bed.

"Nothing's ever easy." Mark agreed. He glanced over at the younger man. "You know what this means right?"

John got a thoughtful look on his face. "It could mean a lot of things. Which one are you talking about?"

"Which one concerns you?" Mark asked impatiently.

"I dunno." He shrugged at the look the older man sent him. "Journey." He guessed.

"How do you think she's feeling right now? All alone at home with no one to learn on." Mark prodded.

"She wouldn't lean on me anyway." He mumbled under his breath.

"This is going to hit her pretty hard." Mark continued, pretending he hadn't heard. "She's going to need your support."

"Ha." John snorted. "Seeing as how's she's not even talking to me I don't think she's gonna be all that receptive to my support."

"Damn man, how you even have a girlfriend with that attitude is something I will never understand." Mark shook his head in amazement.

"What's that supposed to mean?" He asked indigently.

"It means you're taking too many things in your life for granted." Mark snapped, climbing out of his chair. Aggravation caused him to pace around the room. "Go home and seduce her. Love on her. Fix your relationship and help her through the upcoming crisis." The older man insisted, speaking slowly as if to a child.

John was already shaking his head. "I would love to be able to do that but I've got one big problem. "Ari." He sighed when Mark gave him a blank look. "The little monster is going to be testing her new found limits and my patience and it's going to be ten times worse because she's going to think once you're not around everything will go back to the way it was."

"So don't let it." Mark said simply.

"Okay." John agreed slowly, drawing the word out. "But I can't seduce my girlfriend and corral my daughter at the same time. Especially when said daughter is the main issue between the two of us."

Mark resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he sank back into his chair. "Why do you have to make everything so complicated?"

John grinned. "I do what I can to annoy you."

The older man raised his eyebrows and cocked his head, sending a warning look across the room. "Leave Ari here with me." He proposed.

"You would be willing to do that? Put up with her?" He asked in surprised voice.

"I think I can survive." He answered dryly. "You'll be back on Thursday for the bachelor party. Besides I might need you to return the favor someday. Sammie and I might want some time alone."

John groaned as he covered his ears. "I really didn't need to hear that." Both men collapsed into silence with grins on their faces.

Turning serious John looked at the older man. "Laney was pretty upset about Dave and I know she wants to see him. Do you want to send her up with me?"

Mark shook his head. "Dave doesn't want everyone hanging all over him. That's why he waited so long to tell us his big secret. Besides. " He continued grinning. "You've got work to do." He clapped the other man on the shoulder. "Go home and make nice with your girlfriend."

John was pulled out of his thoughts by the blare of a horn behind him. "How the hell do I seduce someone who hates me?" He muttered as he pressed down the gas.

Ten minutes later he was pulling up in front of a two story gray Tudor style house. Turning the car off he sat for a moment simply admiring what he had. Mark was right and he had taken a lot for granted in the last couple of months. But before his heart could swell with pride he began noticing things, little details of neglect that intruded on his peace.

The grass was taller than either of the neighbors with frequent patches of color produced by weeks. Dirt streaked up the side of the house and a filmy layer covered the windows. "Well that's one thing I can fix." He muttered to himself. When Journey had moved in she had agreed to do the majority of the cleaning if he would take care of the outside. Obviously he hadn't been holding up his end of the bargain.


Across town.

Walking out of the rental car office Randy shook his head at the choice he had made. Like that isn't going to be conspicuous." He muttered to himself. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of his mustang, the crumpled driver's door mocking him. Grimacing, he reached up to rub the laceration circling his eye. The lidocaine the doctor had injected was wearing off and the newly placed stitches were beginning to throb. It served to give him a constant reminder of how stupid he had been, trying to out run the anger that continued to course through him. To top it off he could already hear the lecture Dave would be sure to deliver. Pausing in his mental berating Randy frowned. That is if he were in normal health. Today he not be well enough to even notice. Anger once again roared through his body and he shook with the effort to remain calm.

He had pulled up to the curb in front of Dave's house before he was able to breath deeply again. Spotting Dave sitting on the porch he plastered a smile on his face as he approached. "Nice weather we're having. Big change over last night." He winced at the lameness of the comment.

Dave gave him a searching look before sliding his gaze beyond to the one ton dodge pickup the younger man had arrived in. "What the hell is that?"

Randy pushed his sunglasses higher up on the bridge of his nose, wanting to make sure his injuries were hidden. "The mustang needed some work so I thought I would try out a couple different models." He shrugged carelessly.

The older man narrowed his gaze. "What's wrong with your car?" He asked suspiciously.

"Oh just some body work and the paint needs reviving. Nothing the insurance guy hasn't been telling me to do for the last couple of months." He turned to stare at his rental trunk to avoid meeting the other man's eyes. Consquently he missed seeing the flash of anger in the dark eyes or the way the lips thinned in disapproval.

"Randy." Jayden exclaimed as she stepped out of the house. "I'm so glad that you're coming with us." She leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek, dislodging the sunglasses in the process.

"We aren't leaving yet so just go back into the house. " Dave's voice was like cold steel. "Randy and I have a few things to discuss.

The man in question turned to meet the feral glare head on, even going so far as to rain an eyebrow as Jayden ducked back inside. "Regardless of what you're feeling right now you are not going to miss that appointment."

Dave smiled, the curve of his lips looking sinister. Despite himself Randy shivered. "I guess that gives you more motive to answer my questions truthfully the first time I ask then." The older man taunted. Unable to comment Randy clamped his lips together as he fought the oncoming tide of anger.

Suddenly feeling very tired Dave resumed his seat, his expression haggard. "Are you…that is to say…" he blew out his breath. "Did you try to commit suicide last night?"

Randy gasped in surprise as astonishment held the anger at bay. "Why the hell are you asking me that?"

"Because it's a logical assumption." Dave replied stonily. He sighed and waved Randy to sit down next to him. "You keep forgetting that I know you Randy. Not the cocky, arrogant person you display to the world." Randy kept his eyes averted while his stomach continued to turn their summersaults.

"I know the boy who lost his parents, the one that is constantly seeking approval. " Dave waved his hand around as he searched for the words. "You're, what's the word, an empath."

Randy rocked forward in his chair, his face angry. "I don't have some freaky mumbo jumbo."

Dave smiled slightly. "What I mean is that you're very sensitive to other people's feelings. When someone around you is sad or angry you automatically feel responsible. You feel like you need to fix it."

"Now you make me seem like a pansy." He muttered, not looking any happier.

"I know this hit you hard and you probably think you messed up somehow because someone else close to you is dying. Not that I plan on dying mind you. But too many people in your life have died. Maybe there's something wrong with you. Its not true but I imagine you have thought that. Maybe you thought that you could protect everyone else by not being around anymore." Dave finished watching carefully.

Randy squirmed in his seat letting Dave know that he was hitting close to home. Before either one could continue the screen door slammed open. Randy looked up to see a furious Jayden standing over him.

"Is it true?" She shouted smacking his arm with the magazine she held, repeatedly. "Did you decide to end it all?"

"Owww, damn it stop." He called out as he attempted to duck her blows.

"Don't you dare curse at me." She gave him one more hard smack as tears filled her eyes. Reaching up Dave pulled her into his lap and began rubbing her back.

"I admit that I was feeling guilty, responsible and all that crap." He looked at them, pouting as he rubbed his arm. "But I never, never thought of killing myself."

"What happened to your car?" Dave asked softly.

Randy shrugged. "I had this stupid dream where you died but right before you told me how disappointed you were in me. It made me so angry. So I went for a drive. And you know how when you're really pissed you have a need for speed. I hit a wet patch and spun into a tree. Just scrapped up the side of the car a little."

"And you promise…?" Jayden asked, unable to finish the thought.

"It never entered my mind." He assured them.

Standing again Jayden bent down to kiss the top of his head. "We might disapprove of some of your actions but never you. We love you."

"Even when I'm constantly making jokes?" He asked softly as he struggled to hold back the tears.

"It's a part of who you are and we accept that. It's what makes you who you are." Dave explained. "Just as how we know it's a part of your defense mechanism."

"Okay people." Jayden announced loudly to allow the boys to gain their composure. "We need to get going."

Grinning now Randy shook his head. " You got me with the suicide angle. I was expecting to be yelled at for driving recklessly and speeding."

Dave smiled evilly. "That can be arranged. We have the hold drive to the hospital. Exactly how fast were you going?"


Later that night.

At eleven o'clock that night John was sitting on the steps watching as cars passed. He breathed a large sigh of relief when one pulled into the driveway. Climbing out of the car Journey raided her eyebrows but didn't' comment, leaving him to silently follow her inside.

"Hey." He said softly, chewing on his lips in nervousness. "It's eleven ya know. I was getting kind of worried."

"I didn't expect you home today or I would have called." She answered curtly, dumping her bags on the table.

"So." John drawled as she walked to the sink to get a glass of water. "Get a lot of shopping done today?" He attempted to be causal.

"Earlier today." She snapped, slamming the glass on the counter. "Then I went to dinner with friends, stopped in to check on Dave then drove around for a while. Do you want a list accounting for every minute or is that sufficient?"

"I was just trying to be nice." John said quietly. "I didn't mean to offend you." He sighed when she stayed quiet. "I'm sorry about Dave. If I'd known it was gonna go down like that I would have been there for you."

Letting out a long breath she nodded. "I know but it was probably better that you weren't." She didn't resist when he came up behind her.

"At the very least I could have been there for you when you came home."

She shrugged, upsetting the hands that were lightly rubbing her back. "It was hard being there. Randy and I tried to act like its okay but its not." Tears leaked from her eyes as John ached to hold her.

"I would love to tell you that's its going to work out but I honestly don't' know if it is." He placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head. "But I am going to be there for you."

Later they were cuddled together on the cough, having discussed everything that had happed during his trip to Marks. "If I had know that's all it would have taken I would have sent you ages ago." She teased.

He gave a mock shudder. "I could do without that experience thank you."

She laughed. "Hey it got you to do the yard work."

He grinned sheepishly. "I've kinda let things get out of hand. And someone very important got taken advantage of." He added, caressing the side of her face.