Chapter 1

On the plane ride home, Stephen was unusually quiet. After most assignments, he would review the events with the team as they headed home, but this time he needed to think.

The assignment had been a rough one. He almost lost Natalie, Eva and Miles in the earthquake, and he almost got himself and Frank killed when they went to find Miles and then the stolen medications. He remembered Antonio Baracas, the man who spared his life so that he could help his sons. "I will take good care of them." Stephen promised, but unfortunately, he couldn't stop the government agents from taking them from the hospital. After all, they were guerilla fighters; they were the ones causing havoc in the country. He felt guilty because he knew that Baracas would never see his sons alive again. He then felt another surge of guilt as he remembered the letter his son Jack wrote to him before he left. Jack was angry at him for not spending enough time with him. Stephen vowed that things would be different as soon as he got home, but were they just empty promises again? He pounded his fist on the arm rest and muttered to himself. Frank was sitting next to him trying to sleep and was jolted awake.

"Hey man, are you ok?" He asked a little annoyed. Frank had been his friend since they both served together at a field hospital during the Gulf War and knew him better than anyone.

"Yeah, I'm ok, sorry for waking you." Stephen answered, quickly. Frank studied Stephen's face.

"Come on you can't fool me, what's wrong?"

"Frank I don't know if I can do this anymore, this job has taken over my life and I am tired of making promises only to break them, first Lisa, then Jack, now Baracas.

"I don't like where this is headed." Stephen looked at Frank but did not say anything.

"I hope you're not thinking of leaving. After all you're the one who got me into all of this in the first place." They both chuckled at his statement. It was true, when Stephen got the position as Head of Epidemiology at the NIH, he quickly called on his friend to join him. Frank was happy working as a cop, but Stephen promised him it would so much safer working with him.

"Think of your kids, your wife, plus the pay is a lot better." Stephen said. It didn't take him long to say yes, but it turned out to be much much more than either of them had bargained for, not that he was complaining.

"Come on man, we have been through too much for you to leave now. If not for you a lot of people would have died. I'm sad about Nestor and Juan too, but you did everything you could for them, Baracas knew the risks, we tried, and unfortunately we failed, but you have to remember the bigger picture. We prevented an epidemic from getting worse. Come on Stephen, don't you dare think about leaving!"

"No, of course not, I just need some time to sort things out, I need to spend time with Jack, and I want to see where I stand with…" His voice trailed off.

Frank waited to hear him say Natalie but was surprised when he said Lisa instead. The way Stephen acted in Colima when they discovered the clinic Natalie was working caved in gave him away. He was a mad man screaming her name, it was more than concern, there was something deeper there, but Frank knew that his friend wouldn't admit it.

"Look, I know I need to move on, but I still feel like I should have done something more to prevent our breakup."

"What about Natalie?" Frank asked.

"Natalie?" Stephen responded a bit surprised that he mentioned her name.

"I just thought, well, uh… never mind." He quickly changed the subject. "Stephen, I know how you feel about divorce, but Lisa has moved on, and you're right, you need to do the same."

"I know but I just need to be sure." He started to ask Frank why he mentioned Natalie, but he left that alone, instead turned and looked out the window. That was too complicated an issue to think about right now.