Here is the ending. Hope you enjoy. Thank you again moviemom44. Please read and review.

Chapter 5

Charlie's Hero

Eddie Milway walked down the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. Before he realized what was going on he was being pulled into an alley. As he was pushed against the side of a brick building, he realized who had him.

"H-hey, Mike what's up?" Eddie said, holding on to his tough guy coolness, but just barely.

"What's up is that you still owe me 10,000 dollars," the bigger man announced.

Eddie smiled, shrugging like it was no big deal. "You'll get it when I get it," he snorted.

"Really? You wanna play that way?" Mike asked, pulling a gun from his waistband. Eddie eyes widened but he managed to stay calm.

"I'll make you a deal," Mike continued. "I can wipe your debt to me completely free, for a favor."

Eddie's curiosity was piqued. Mike saw the change in Eddie's hollow eyes. "I thought that would get your attention."

Eddie smiled. "Sure, man, whatever you need."

Mike loosened his grip on Eddie's collar. "I need ... well, let's call them models…for a movie I'm doing." Mike smiled at his own cleverness.

Eddie grinned right back at him. He was a ladies man. He could find some ladies. Easy. "I can get you some ladies. What kind you want?"

Mike shook his head. "I don't want women, that's been done. I need kids, between the ages of 4 and 12. Untouched. Understand?" Mike glared at Eddie, one eyebrow lifting in a questioning gesture.

Eddie nodded, a knowing smile on his face. Oh, yeah, he understood all right. The city was crawling with little urchins, and he knew of one in particular. His pulse quickened at the images that flashed through his head. It had been a while since he'd indulged that particular urge, but he remembered it well.

"How many do you need?" Eddie asked, slipping out of his reverie and back to the here-and-now.

"At least three to start with," Mike said. "Bring them to the warehouse on Central by midnight tomorrow. Understand?" Mike punctuated his question by jamming the gun against Eddie's temple.

Eddie swallowed audibly and nodded, but he didn't breathe until Mike released him and stuck the gun back in his pants. Without another word, Mike turned and headed down the alley, finally disappearing around the corner of the building.

Eddie reached back into his alcohol-soaked brain and tried to remember where he'd dropped his kid off. Walking back out on the street again, he remembered the gas station and smiled. He should still be somewhere in that neighborhood, right? After all, he's just a snot-nosed brat. He couldn't have gotten too far...

Charlie ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Parents. Gage said they would be his parents. He shook his head. No! He didn't want Gage and Sydney to be his parents! Parents were bad people. They hit you when you spilled milk. They punched you when you wet the bed. Gage and Sydney weren't like that, or at least they hadn't been acting like that so far. He wondered why they changed their minds. What had he done? It didn't matter. He had to get away. He never wanted to have parents again!

He wiped a tear off his cheek with the back of his hand. He kept running. The streets started to look familiar to him and he ran till he couldn't run anymore. He stopped in front of a gas station. He looked up and saw the TEXACO sign. He had been here before…in the beginning... He sat on the step of the gas station trying to catch his breath. It was hard to run and cry at the same time.

Sydney watched Gage as he drove, both hands on the wheel and that determined never-say-die look in his eye. They'd run back to get their car when they lost sight of Charlie as he ducked down an alley outside the ballpark. Gage had radioed Walker and said they'd search streets running east and west if he'd check the ones running north and south. It was slow and frustrating, but it was a big city and Charlie was a street-wise little boy. He could be anywhere.

The dark-haired Ranger put a caring hand on her partner's shoulder. He faked a smile as he looked at her, but she could read his eyes like a book and he was hurting.

"You wanna talk?" she asked quietly.

"What did I say, Syd? I have been going over and over it in my head. I don't know what I did wrong." He stared back at the road in front of them.

"I don't think you said anything wrong, babe. I just think he got scared at the possibility of a home. He hasn't had that in a long time, and even when he did it was a scary place."

Gage just kept staring out the window at the road ahead, his eyes scanning every shadow, looking for the boy who had stolen his heart.

Walker spotted the boy as he ran around the corner onto Maple Street. He wheeled the truck around to follow the boy and grabbed the radio.

"He's on Maple heading toward Main," Walker relayed over the airwaves.

"Got it, Walker. We're on our way," Sydney responded, then wondered aloud, "Where is he going?"

Gage didn't answer. He just sat quietly for a minute, his thoughts rolling in his head.

Suddenly, he grabbed the radio mike from Sydney. "Walker, that TEXACO on Main is two blocks from Maple. Isn't that the one he was left at? He may be headed back there." Following his own hunch, Gage tore through the next alley, using it as a short cut.

Eddie rounded the corner of Main Street heading to the last place he had seen the little mistake. That's what all children were. Mistakes. He approached the gas station and smiled at his good fortune. The kid was sitting right out front.

"How convenient. I didn't even have to look too hard," he muttered as he approached the boy who appeared to be catching his breath, his eyes closed, head resting on his knees.

"Hello, Charles. How's my boy?"

Charlie heard the voice that haunted his dreams. He jumped to his feet. He tried to run but the man's hands grabbed him before his feet could move.

"I got plans for you, boy. Come on," Eddie said, jerking the boy up onto his feet. Charlie tried to get away, but Eddie slapped him across the face. "Be still, you little creep."

Gage rounded the corner just as Eddie's hand connected with Charlie's jaw, snapping the boy's head back with a vicious crack. He threw the car into Park and jumped out, drawing his gun as he went. His blood boiled as he ran full tilt across the street. He heard Charlie cry out as he aimed his weapon at Eddie and yelled, "Freeze! Texas Rangers! Let the boy go. Now!"

Eddie panicked and pulled Charlie closer to him. Gage saw the fear in Charlie's eyes. The gun. The screaming. Gage knew he was scared. Realizing the man was unarmed Gage lowered his weapon and reached out with his other hand.

"It's OK, Charlie." He was careful to keep his gaze focused on Charlie so as not to give away Walker's position as he advanced with silent stealth from behind Eddie. Without looking at her, he noted that Sydney had moved from the car to a position on his left, a few feet away from the tense confrontation.

Gage took a few steps toward Charlie, talking calmly. "Hey Kiddo, everything's gonna be fine." He kept his eyes locked with Charlie's, never looking at Eddie. He was within inches of the boy.

"Come on, Kiddo, let's go." Charlie struggled to get away, reaching for Gage's hand. A bolt of joy shot through Gage at Charlie's show of trust in him, but he didn't let it show. Gage saw Walker make his move and quickly pulled Charlie out of the way just as Walker threw a flying kick at Eddie's back and sent him crashing to the pavement. Gage pushed Charlie into Sydney's waiting arms and quickly turned just as Eddie got on his feet again.

"You piece of shit! That's my kid!" Eddie screamed, charging at the big blond Ranger.

Charlie saw the man – his father – attack Gage. This was about him. All of this was his fault. He looked at Sydney, his eyes brimming with guilt.

Sydney read his expression instantly. "Charlie, none of this is your fault." He looked down, studied his grimy shoes. Sydney gently lifted his chin. "Look at me, baby. That man tried to hurt you. He won't hurt you anymore. I promise." She wrapped her arms around the child, hoping he could feel the truth of her words in her embrace, but he stood stiff as a board, watching his father and Gage fight.

Eddie swung at Gage and missed. Gage swung and didn't miss. His anger took over as he just kept swinging, landing blow after blow. Eddie crumpled to the ground, but Gage didn't notice. Hate and rage consumed him. Another punch. And another. Gage couldn't even feel his hands any longer, but he could hear the thick thud as his fist drove into Eddie's body like a jackhammer. He really liked that sound. He wanted to hear it some more, but someone grabbed him and pulled him away. No! Wait! One more! Just one more punch and he'd send the monster to the darkest parts of Hell where he belonged.

As if from far away, Gage heard Walker's voice.

"Gage! It's me, Walker!"

"Walker! Why did you stop me?"

Grasping him by the shoulders, Walker faced Gage toward where Charlie stood trembling and crying in Sydney's arms. Charlie's pain cut through Gage's fury like a hot knife through butter. His heart aching, he stopped struggling against Walker's hold.

"Because that boy over there doesn't need to see you like this," Walker answered as he released him.

Gage took a deep, calming breath. He turned and looked at Walker. "Thanks, Boss, for…um…"

"We've all been there, Gage. You'd have done the same for me."

Gage nodded. Walker bent down and hauled Eddie up by one arm, dragging the semi-conscious man toward his truck and reading him his rights on the way.

Gage walked over to Sydney and Charlie. He heard Sydney soothing the boy. "It's okay, hon. Nobody's gonna hurt you."

Gage reached out, touched her shoulder. That calmed him down. She was his rock. She smiled at Gage and his world stood still. She gave him a comforting kiss before he knelt down in front of Charlie.

Gage looked into frightened green eyes. "Charlie, I'm sorry that I scared you with the way I was just now." Gage looked up at Sydney for strength then back at the boy. "But it's my job to protect you and keep you safe." He touched the boy's cheek and wiped away a tear.

"It's your job 'cause you're a Texas Ranger, right? " Charlie asked in between sniffles.

Gage choked back his own tears and said, "No, Charlie, it's my job because I'm your dad and you're my son and that's what it means to be a family. We take care of each other. Always."

The boy wanted to believe that, but it was so hard to trust a grownup. He looked at Gage and then at Sydney. Their eyes were soft, not hard like his dad's had always been. They had given him a warm bed and didn't hit him or make him leave when he wet himself. They even gave him a present. Maybe he could let himself believe, just this once.

He frowned, still unsure of his place in this – what did Gage call it? Family? "Are you sure you want to be my mom and dad? 'Cause nobody ever wanted to be a family with me before."

Without missing a beat, Gage and Sydney both smiled warmly and shouted, "YES!"

Finally, Charlie smiled.

Gage stood up, wrapping his family in what soon came to be known as 'the famous Gage family bear hug'. It was the first of many.