Cody and Matt hauled the last box into their sister's garage. It had been a really long day. They had gotten all Jess and Derek's stuff moved into the house before they came home from the hospital with the twins this afternoon. They were all going to meet at their parents for dinner.
"You've been really quiet today." Cody sat across from his brother in their sisters living room, taking a break before heading out.
"Nothing much to talk about." Matt leaned back against the cushions of the couch and closed his eyes.
"How about the fact that you and the kids have moved into mom and dads?" He looked at his little brother. The man had the perfect marriage. How and the hell could he explain to him what he and Robin where going through.
"Just till they can find a place for both the kids, together."
"I can't believe Robin would be that callous." Cody had known the woman since he was a kid. She always had a soft spot for kids. She always made an effort to come over and see his kids.
"I guess she wasn't ready for an instant family."
"Who is? I mean I loved Ava from the get go but I had my doubts what kind of dad I would be to her, but I never once thought about not loving Sarah."
"I should have taken a step back when she gave me a hard time about Jess."
"Matt, Robin didn't have the same relationships with her brothers that we have. She ran away when she was sixteen. Her parents didn't get involved with her life like ours did. Matt she doesn't know what it's like to have family surrounding her twenty-four seven."
"She spent the last twenty years with us Cody. Dad and Mom treated her like family. We treated her like family. She knew that was important to me. I thought she wanted to be part of it."
"She does Matt, just not a readymade family a few months into her life with you." Cody didn't like the way his sister in law thought but he understood.
"The kids will find a home together and the two of us will work it out." Cutler came in.
"You guys gonna sit around here all day or are we gonna get some real work done?" He was carrying a box they must have forgotten in the truck. "Your mom and dad are expecting us all for dinner in an hour."
"Are Jess and Derek there yet?" Matt stood up.
"They were giving the babies one last once over and they were headed this way." Cutler set the box down on the kitchen counter.
"I better make a trip to the office to check on things." Matt said.
"I was just there. Robin's holding down the fort. No calls all morning and Hart and Frank just headed up to the ridge to take water readings."
"You do have everything under control." Matt looked at his friend.
"I try. Take it easy for the rest of the day boss man. I'll send Robin to your parents when Trainer gets in. Spend some time with the wife and kids."
"I left my wife and the kids are getting picked up on Monday. Tessa found them a home in Meeks Bay." He got up and went to the door. "I'll meet you guys at mom and dad's." Cody watched his brother go.
"What does he mean he left his wife?" Cutler looked at the younger Hawkes.
"Robin didn't want to adopt them, so he left till they could find another home for them both."
"You're both messing with me, right?" Cody stood.
"Sorry buddy, I don't think Matt leaving his wife is something we would just poke fun at." He took the box Cutler had brought in and stored it in the closet. "I don't even know if she knows he's gone. He scheduled them opposite shifts the last week."
"I guess I haven't been paying too much attention to the high mountain drama lately."
"You've had other things on your mind. How is Ranger Blake doing on her training?" Cody smiled.
"You're a sick man Cody Hawkes…you know that?"
"Yeah, my sister tells me daily. Randa's been good for you man. I haven't seen you this happy since…well since Jess. Even then you weren't always so happy."
"Yeah, she does kind of make my life a little less dreary." Cutler looked around the kitchen. "This place is everything Jess ever wanted."
"Yeah. Too bad she'll never know what this room looks like." Cody chuckled. "I got some things to do at home before dinner. Tell Jess not to eat all the deviled eggs before I get there." Cody left Cutler standing in the middle of the kitchen. It was pained a dark chocolate with red accents. He had always known she wanted a home to call her own. A place where she could have a life far from what her birth parents had given her those first years of her life. Turning on the light over the sink like he knew she liked and he headed out the door.
"How's she doing?" Jesse Hawkes asked his son in law who stood alone in the kitchen.
"She hasn't slept." Derek turned and looked at the older man. "Matt and JT got subpoenaed for Kitrick's trial."
"They didn't call her as a witness?" Jesse looked surprised.
"The prosecuting attorney said they would wait and see. Jess doesn't know about Matt and JT and we're going to try and keep it that way for now. She needs to relax and worry about the girls and nothing else right now."
"She needs to rest." His fatherly instinct was kicking in big time. One of his children was hurting and he didn't like it.
"I know. The girls have been sleeping four hours at a time so I'm hoping we can get her to lie down after dinner." Jesse knew his daughter's husband was more worried than he was letting on.
"I read the journals." The older man said as he went to the refrigerator and grabbed two beers, handing one to Derek.
"You and Jackie never knew?"
"Lee said little about his life with Hail. The only inkling of trouble was back just after Jess was born and he brought her to us for those few weeks." Jesse leaned against the counter. "We saw very little of them after that until Lee called me and asked if Jess could spend the summer she was five with us. After that he dropped her off every year like clockwork. Once or twice did Hail even leave the car. After that first year the minute Jess saw Cody it seemed all her unhappiness faded away."
"Lee never talked about what Hail was going through?"
"We talked sports and the Corps. He wasn't the same man I grew up with. After what we saw in Viet Nam I'm surprised any of us came back sane. Hail was his anchor those first few years. From what I read in those journals he might have been the only thing keeping Hail sane."
"He didn't protect his daughter from the emotional abuse his wife was inflicting on her. I'm sorry Jesse, I didn't know the man but what I do know is that I don't like what he did to my wife."
"I don't blame you. I just wish I knew what was going on back then. It would have explained a lot and we could have gotten her some help."
"You did help Jesse. You where there every summer for her and when she needed a place to go after her parents died. You and Jackie stepped up, got your lives together and took her in."
"She saved me and Jackie from making the biggest mistake of our lives. If I hadn't come off that mountain Jackie would have sent Matt up with divorce papers." Jesse smiled. "I guess I should be grateful that Hail McCormick was a little bit of a bitch."
"Yeah, I guess you should be." Matt came in just then, carrying Kyler in one hand and Kylie clinging to his leg. When the girl saw Derek she let go and nearly dove into his arms.
"Derek, Matt bought us fishing poles and he said we all can go fishin' when the babies get bigger."
"He did huh?" Derek boosted the little girl onto his hip. "That sounds like a blast."
"You can bring Jess cause Matt's gonna bring Robin and we're gonna have a picnic and everything."
"Well you have it all planed out, don't you." Derek smiled at the girl. She nodded.
"Yep." She pushed against him, silently telling him she wanted to get down. "Is Ava here yet?" Putting the girl down, he smiled.
"Not yet but Jess and Jackie are in the living room with the girls."
"Okay." The little girl ran and her brother propelled himself out of Matt's arms to follow.
"Robin come to her senses about keeping those two?" Jesse looked at his eldest son.
"Not likely, but thanks for the input dad." Matt looked at the two blond bundles of energy next to his sister, nieces and mother.
"They belong with you the two of you. If she can't see that, then she's not as smart as I thought she was." With Matt, Jesse never held back an opinion or observation. It wasn't in his nature. With Cody and Jess, he never pushed, knowing that their decisions were based on a whole different kind of logic.
"Robin has never been much on family dad, you know that."
"She's been part of this family for twenty two years Matthew. That alone should make her think about these children's well being a little more than she has." Matt looked at Derek for some help but he knew that he wasn't going to get it. If his wife hadn't just given birth those kids would be living with his sister and him.
"I can take them and leave if you're going to interrogate me about my life dad." Jesse looked into his son's eyes and he didn't like what he saw. He saw the fear and anger of a man who was holding too much inside and held too much on his shoulders.
"Leave the kids and go talk to her son. Tell her what she needs to here and make her understand about what these kids are in for if they get shuffled into the system."
"Dad…I just don't know how."
"Tell her about the things you saw when you were in college and spent time with some of those kids that had no place else but the foster care system. Tell her about the ones who slipped through the cracks. You saw it firsthand."
"I haven't thought about that in years."
"You know the people here are different, the families are better but they are so few of them that chances are they'll get shipped to San Francisco and that won't be good." Matt knew that his dad was right.
"I'll talk to her one more time, but I'm pretty sure her answer will be the same." He grabbed a beer and opened it. Looking at his sister, dotting over the four kids like she had been taking care of kids all her life. The first twelve years of her life had been miserable and loveless other than her time here with them.
"Matt, I think she will understand." Derek looked at his wife. "I'm pretty sure she loves you enough to listen."
Robin sat on the bench overlooking the valley. It had been a long couple of days. It seemed longer without Matt.
"I'm sorry I left without talking it out one last time." The sound of his voice was music to her ears.
"I'm sorry I let you leave." Matt sat down next to his wife.
"I was nineteen when my pre law class did some volunteer work at a homeless shelter. I had never seen such a depressing place in all my life. A bunch of sick kids crying, their parents so sad that they couldn't provide a home for them. Then one day I was working and one of the parents got sick and we had to call an ambulance. They made me stay with the little boy till DSF got there. He told me that I shouldn't be upset, that he had been a foster before, sometimes spending weeks or months in the system. He told me there was good and bad foster parents but he had only seen the bad ones. The ones that do it for the Benjamin's he said. A few weeks later he was dead. The ME's report said head trauma do to a fall off the top bunk. I never could prove differently but I knew that wasn't what happened."
"This is Lake Tahoe Matt."
"You've seen our case files Robin. Domestic abuse is up, the economy sucks and these that have no place to go. Tessa said half the foster parents pulled out because they are barely making it as it is and to add not one but two kids to it and the state is paying minimal reimbursements for care. I know we just got married and I know we never ever talked about kids but honey these kids were lost in the woods for two days. They lost their parents and everything that they knew and loved."
"No not like Jess. She loved us more than she ever loved her birth parents. Her hell was what she was born in. We are just asking for these kids to be put in a system that doesn't always work. They may get lucky and find a home with no fear but even if there is a millimeter of a chance harm may come to them I don't want to send them there." Robin looked at the man she had grown to love over the last twenty two years. His big heart and strong will was what made her love him.
"So if we take them in till we find the perfect home, what happens?" She looked into his eyes. "How will you be able to let them go?"
"We are the perfect home Robin." He smiled. "We can give them the family that they need."
"What about what we need Matt. We've been married six months."
"We've been in each other's life for over twenty years Robin." He stood. "We know each other and I know that you won't let these kids just be shipped off to the first home that comes available. We have enough love to give Kyler and Kylie a really good life Robin. Between us and my family and our friends we can make them so happy."
"I don't know if I'm ready for a family." He looked at her.
"Not to make matters worse but we're not getting any younger Robin." She looked at the man she fell in love with all those years ago. He never gave up without a fight and his stubborn Hawkes pride never let him back down, even if he was wrong.
"You're really going to stake our marriage on these kids Matt?"
"Robin, I love you. I have been in love with you longer than I'm willing to admit, but damn it, those kids need us." He didn't know what more he could say.
"If I say no, what's going to happen to us?" He looked at his wife.
"Then you're not the woman I fell in love with." Looking deep into her husbands eyes she took a deep breath.
"I don't want to mess them up Matt. I grew up in a place that was nothing like growing up with Jesse and Jackie."
"I know that. But I also know that you learned from your parents mistakes and being with us for all these years, you learned a thing or two. One being that you don't have to be born into a family for them to love you like family."
"Jess has always had a place here, even when her parents were alive."
"I want them to have a place here to Robin. We can give it to them. We have a home and space to run and grow. We have horses and dirt bikes and cousins to play with." Robin knew in her heart he was right. She just needed him to make her feel like she had a choice in the matter.
"If I screw them up, I'm blaming you." He smiled and took her into his arms.
"You won't screw them up honey. You have the best role models in Sarah and my mom." And he knew Jess would be the perfect mother to her children too. They had lost a lot over the years, friends, loved ones and family but together they could make it through anything. "So then we are going to keep them?" Matt looked at his wife with soulful eyes.
"Matt, they're not puppies." He laughed.
"I know. I just want this so much, but I want you to be happy about."
"I just want to be sure. I never had much luck with family."
"You're going to do great honey." They walked slowly back to his parents house. Talking about things they should have talked about long before they got married but seemed not so important back then. By the time they reached the front porch they had made progress in figuring out what life held for them and their new found family.
"When are you going to tell Jess about you and JT going to Denver for Kitrick's trial?"
"We're going to keep it from her as long as we can. She wants a piece of this so bad, but I can't risk it."
"She's so much stronger than you give her credit for Matt."
"Jess has done things in her life that could be considered a little…"
"Less then legal?"
"Yeah, I know but that doesn't mean she can't testify does it?"
"It means Kitrick has her little trip to Afghanistan hanging over her. If she testifies, he brings up her little unauthorized trip abroad."
"I thought your dad and JT's dad were going to make sure that was all taken care of?" Matt stopped before he opened the front door.
"They did the best they could but there is still people who know what happened and if they are put on the stand…he knew that some day he would use her bravery and love for Cody against all of us."
"We will get him Matt. If it takes all our resources and the rest of our days on this mountain, we will make him pay for what he did to her and this family." Robin stood on her tip toes and kissed her husband. "He won't get away with it."
"Thank you." They went inside to family and friends. To a new a new life filled with love and laughter and kids running though the mountains. Their mountains. Everyone had lost something or someone in their lives but together they were going to make it through. One day at a time.