Disclaimer: Do not own. Really wish I did. Alas they will never be mine. Such is life. But I can dream can't I?
Warning: This chapter will contain disciplinary actions toward a teenager. If you don't like then by all means do not read. Final warning. No one to blame but yourself if you do read this.
A/N: This is it! Final chapter and it is long. Took a little longer because I kept filling in the blanks as I reread it over and over again. It may not be perfect but I hope everyone enjoys it. Remember it's a work of fiction. All mistakes are my own. Not beta'd.
After he had healed Jesse and Chris finally broached the subject they both were dreading. "What were my exact words before I left?"
Jesse annoyingly sighed out loud much to Chris' displeasure. "Come on dad! Do we really have to do this? Why don't you do what you promised; never stopped you before."
"What's with you?"
"Nothing is wrong with me! You and I both know what you said that day. Do I really need to repeat it?"
"Son, if you know what's good for you, you will drop that attitude right now." Chris growled.
"Or what?" Jesse challenged.
"I think you need a time out."
"Seriously? How about this suggestion? I'll leave!"
"Jesse," Chris warned. "Take one step out that door…"
The teen countered, "And what? Never come back! Fine by me!" He made to do just that as Chris stopped him.
"Where's this coming from?" The hurt Chris felt was undeniably painful.
Jesse's fists were clenched as he said, "It's time to face the real issue."
Issue? Chris genuinely looked confused by his son's behavior.
"I'm a screw up, a disappointment, and no amount of ass kicking is going to change it!" There, he finally said it.
Aw hell! "Jesse don't do this. Son…" He placed a hand on his son's shoulder and quickly ascertained what he was dealing with here. Chris felt his son tremble under his fingertips. In the short time since he's known Jesse he's learned one thing. Jesse covered his inner feelings with quite a punch of attitude; very similar to the man raising him.
Chris did not hesitate to embrace his son. He whispered into his son's ear, "Jesse, when are you going to learn that you're stuck with me?"
The kid admitted, "I guess I need to hear it more often."
"And I guess I need to say it more often." Chris tightened his hold while one hand cupped the back of his son's neck. "I love you and I'm going to make damn sure you never forget it."
"Love you too, dad. Thanks for being there."
"Always." He continued to hold his boy close until he felt a slight shift in movement. He slowly allowed Jesse to step out of the embrace; sorry to see it end. "Ready to call it a night?"
Jesse answered after he rubbed his eyes. "Yeah I guess I am."
"We'll talk more on this tomorrow."
They both headed to their rooms. Chris fell asleep quickly that night. He was emotionally and physically spent. However, that didn't mean his mind was less active.
A small scared voice called out in the darkness, "Daddy!"
Chris instinctively followed it. It led him to a young boy of about six years of age. Yet for some reason he knew it wasn't Adam. Although the terrified eyes of this young boy did look familiar in some way.
The child whimpered again as Chris came closer. "Daddy I'm scared."
He crouched down so he was eye level with the child. "Shhh. It's okay. I'm here to help you."
The child shrank back in alarm; terrified by his presence.
Chris reassured by calmly saying, "Come on, it's alright." He even tried holding out his hand to coax the child to him.
The little boy kept crying and calling for his daddy.
"Easy baby." He carefully reached for the boy.
He was slightly taken aback when the boy suddenly yelled, "No! You're not my daddy!"
Almost at a loss for words Chris tried a new tactic. "I may not be your daddy, but I'm willing to give it a try."
The crying lessened as the boy's green eyes looked deep into his own. He held out his arms and the little boy with such a heart breaking expression slowly walked toward him. As soon as he was close Chris lifted him up and soon found he was a recipient of a tiny hug.
The boy sighed against his shoulder. Safe and content the little one whispered, "Daddy."
End dream sequence…
Chris woke to find tears upon his face and a large lump next to him. He quickly brushed away the tears and gazed upon the sleeping form of his son. He ran his hand through his son's hair and softly whispered, "I love you." Chris smiled as he heard Jesse sigh in his sleep.
Jesse, in the meantime, slept on oblivious to his dad's tender moment. He, too, had been exhausted, but found sleep elusive until he snuck into his dad's bed that night. He had been looking for security and comfort and didn't want to wake the exhausted man. In some ways he still felt ashamed by his previous actions.
The big city buildings loomed over his head. The daunting traffic and the city night life had him running for shelter. He found himself huddled between the buildings whimpering in fear. People walked on by neither caring nor noticing the young boy and ignoring his helpless pleas.
That was until a pair of cowboy boots stopped in front of him. Jesse tensed fearful of what might come next. A man squatted down to look at him.
"Hey buddy, you okay?"
"No. I'm scared."
The stranger offered a hand. "I'll help, but you got to be brave."
"Br…Brave?" He tilted his teary eyed face up to get a better look at the stranger.
"Do you think you can do it?"
Doubt hung in the air. "I don't know."
"I think you can. All you have to do is try."
Jesse timidly offered his hand to the man who was willingly to give him a chance.
"Ready to go home?"
He answered, "Yes I am."
End dream sequence…
Next morning Jesse slowly woke to the smell of breakfast and coffee. At first he panicked some when he realized he wasn't in his room. Then he remembered where he was – his dad's bedroom. He looked at the clock and literally fell off the bed shocked by the time.
Chris chuckled a little when he heard the thump from down the hall. He shook his head musing over his son's reaction.
Jesse stumbled into the kitchen in a pair of blue jeans while he struggled to get his T-shirt over his head.
"You in a hurry?" Chris asked as he helped his son with the shirt. "Relax. Have some breakfast."
"Why didn't you wake me?"
"You needed the rest."
His son gave him a quizzical look. "Okay, what have you done with my dad?"
Chris pointedly ignored that comment.
"No seriously, where is he? He dresses like you, but he's normally grumpier."
"Oh wait I think he's returned or that's a great ventriloquist act without the dummy, I mean." The kid had a big grin plastered across his face.
"Eat." His dad said as he sipped his coffee. "And quit being a smartass."
"Fine but what about the chores?"
Without missing a beat Chris replied, "Done."
Jesse choked on his orange juice, "Wh…What?"
"Chores are done."
"Okay for real, what have you done with the real Chris Larabee?"
"Just eat your breakfast." The kid warily watched him.
Chris smirked behind his coffee mug. It was nice for a change to see his kid off balance. He would have to remember this more often.
Jesse caught the mischievous glance in his dad's eyes. "Alright, what gives?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm enjoying my breakfast. I suggest you eat yours before it gets cold."
"I thought we were going to talk."
"We are or is this called something else." Chris then got up and put his empty mug into the sink. "When you're finished eating, and done with the dishes meet me outside." As he passed, Chris gave Jesse's shoulder a slight squeeze. "Take your time."
Now the kid was truly baffled. As soon as Chris closed the door Jesse tried to absorb what had not happened. His dad was calm and that wasn't normal, especially after the crap he pulled recently. What the hell was going on? Why wasn't he laying down the law? Or was he going to lower the boom outside? It wouldn't surprise him, but one thing was certain things were not quite right this morning.
Chris figured Jesse would take at least ten minutes to try and figure out the situation and another ten minutes to eat. The kid could really pack it away and not gain an ounce.
After twenty minutes, as if on cue, Chris heard the chair scrape across the wood floor and the faucet in the kitchen turned on. Fifteen minutes passed before Jesse sauntered out the door.
"Have a seat."
The kid sat in the closest chair possible his expression tense waiting for the worst.
"I'm not going to bite."
"Could have fooled me."
"Remember what you told me yesterday?"
"I said a lot of things yesterday." Some he weren't too proud of.
"Well I remember hearing you say you're a screw up, a disappointment, and no amount of an ass kicking would change it. Sound familiar."
"I guess." Yep that was his mouth shooting off before his brain had a chance to kick in.
"I've had some time to think on all of this."
Great. Jesse's stomach tightened into knots. I'm screwed.
"I can see why you chose to keep this a secret and I can also see how much it affected you, both emotionally and physically."
Dumbfounded by his dad's words Jesse barely could form a coherent sentence. "You…understand…really?"
"Yeah, I do. You're growing up telling the world this is who you are. As a parent it's difficult to let go and let that happen."
"But I broke the rules – I kept a secret and I lied to you."
"I'm not saying you're getting off scot free."
Jesse muttered under his breath, "Knew there'd be a catch."
"The catch is if you ever do anything like this again including what I've recently learned from the Director," Chris let that sink in and the kid looked guilty. "You will be on the receiving end of an ass kicking of epic proportions.
"Furthermore, you and your friends will assist us on appropriate cases this summer; only if you successfully pass the tenth grade."
"So I'm back to finishing school on-line again?"
"Yes and you will be in attendance next Fall."
"Okay. Am I grounded?"
"Two weeks." Chris then indicated to his son he wanted him front and center. Jesse reluctantly obeyed; hesitant of the outcome.
He quickly pulled his son over his knee and delivered a dozen swats across his backside. It happened so fast Jesse almost didn't register it, almost.
"That concludes the rest of your punishment."
He tried to rub the sting away as he asked, "That's it?"
"You want more?"
Jesse quickly replied, "No, but…"
"I'll admit I wasn't thrilled with this, but after thinking on it I want you to be up front with me from now on. I understand you didn't want to worry me, since I was going undercover. But seeing you on the opposite side aged me by at least ten years. I was very close to breaking cover and busting your ass."
"If you and your team go undercover again it will be in correlation with my team. Understand?"
"Dad?" Jesse was hesitant to ask, but did so he could get it off of his chest and mind. "On a scale from one to ten, ten being the highest, how did we do?"
Chris thought about his answer. "I'd say an eleven."
"You guys work well with one another and with other teams. Oh, and by the way," He reached into his wallet and pulled out a rectangular piece of paper. "This is yours. Well done." Chris handed it to Jesse.
Jesse took it and the amount took his breath away. "Holy sh…"
Chris cleared his throat in warning.
"Wow! This isn't a joke is it?"
"No it's not. You were promised payment and that's your wages."
"Is that all you have to say?"
"Wow!" He just shook his head amazed by his son's gratitude.
Ezra's nerves were shot, yet here he stood calmly watching a certain teenager sleep oblivious to the demands of the world. How young that boy looked while he slept. He wondered if Vin and Chris looked upon their boys like he was doing now. He was sure he would ask them for advice in the future.
Something buzzed from his pants pocket and he removed himself from the doorway so he wouldn't wake the teen.
"Standish. Yes unbelievable that I'm up and moving about at this hour. Why don't you just crow about it to the outside world." He immediately removed his phone from his ear as the caller shouted into it. "I had meant that figuratively. Never mind. Why did you call? Oh. Well didn't I leave it on my desk? I didn't…" He had a frantic look about him as he strode toward his living room. He opened his briefcase and was stunned to see it sitting on top of everything else. "Sorry, it's here. I'll drop it off today. No that's not an excuse. Fine. What?"
Ezra peered out the window and smiled. "I'll meet you at the front door."
"Please tell me that is not what you are wearing today."
The other man simply grinned.
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Of course it isn't Ez. Maria would kill me."
"Is that Sly with you?"
"Yep, we've been talking a bit." Vin took Ezra's report and folded it nicely before placing it into his jacket pocket. "How did that preliminary interview go?"
"Better than I imagined. We are one step further into the process."
"I'm mighty glad to hear it. Teddy still sleeping?"
"I figured I'd let the kid sleep in. At least one of us will get some rest."
"Butterflies botherin' ya?"
"More like dragonflies."
"You'll be fine, Ez."
"Why are you so calm?"
Another voice answered, "He's not."
Vin mockingly glared at his son. "Shhh, you weren't supposed to say that."
"Oops, I'm bad." Sly dodged his step-dad's halfhearted cuff.
Ezra couldn't contain the smile when he observed these two and their antics.
"I reckon you'll have something similar to this."
"I look forward to it." Ezra stepped forward and embraced his teammate and friend. "I better let you do your errands, so you have enough time to prepare for this afternoon."
Vin returned the hug. "We'll be fine Ez. You have a bright future waiting for you." With a pat upon his back, Vin and Sly returned to their truck and took their leave. "See y'all later."
Yes later. Ezra waved goodbye before he headed back inside.
Later that day surrounded by friends and family two couples said their vows to love and cherish one another. Both of the grooms looked resplendent in their tuxedos while their brides were a vision in lace and white.
They had long ago discussed where the reception would take place and the one individual who could make that possible agreed to it without hesitation. Chris was sort of shocked by the request, yet in many ways expected it to happen. His spread was big enough to hold an event of this magnitude; although he had been a little surprised that Ezra brought it up.
"I thought you didn't like it here."
"I think your question is why would I want it here and not some fancy indoor place."
"Yeah, that about covers it."
"You see Chris, your ranch represents the family that I have come to know and cherish. Because of you and the team I finally feel like I'm home."
"Then Ezra all I can say is I'd be happy to have your combined receptions here. We'll make it the best shin ding ever."
"The best what?" He looked slightly aghast at Chris' choice of words.
"The best party." Chris explained to his friend then discovered pretty quickly someone was pulling his leg. "Ezra." The warning was clearly there.
The other man smiled knowing he had got one on over his friend once again. "All joking aside. Thank you."
They shook hands as Chris said, "Not a problem Ez. We'll divvy up the chores and you won't recognize the place."
"Oh I'll recognize it. This will always be my home away from home."
"Congratulations Ezra!" Buck heartily shook hands with his friend slapping him on the back. "Inez." He then addressed the woman he had tried so hard to woo, but she failed to fall under his manly spell. "You are a vision. I honestly can say you picked the best man."
"I think so too." She replied and then kissed Ezra passionately.
"Hey now, whoa there! Remember there are children present."
"Children? Don't you mean young adults, Mr. Wilmington?" Luis corrected.
Buck tried to look stern, but failed miserably. "No. Most days children."
"I think we've been insulted."
Joe answered, "Wouldn't be the first time amigo."
"You're not supposed to agree with him."
"You are so frustrating at times."
"And so are you."
"Boys, why don't you go and make yourselves useful."
"Is he trying to get rid of us?"
The comedy routine never seemed to end. "Yep, I say he is. Not very subtle is he?"
"We're on our way Mr. Larabee."
The adults laughed as the 'young adults' quickly scampered off.
"What is it with those two?"
"I'll admit they're worse than you and J.D."
J.D. questioned. "Should I be offended?"
"Don't start that again."
Josiah cleared his throat. "I'd like to make a toast." He raised his glass, "To the happy couples, may all your happiness of today spill forth into all of your tomorrows."
"Very profound. Here. Here." Buck seconded as did the rest of their friends.
As the adults spent more time together the younger crowd did the same. A few glances were sent back and forth between the young men and women. As if some unknown hormonal radar entered the atmosphere the adults with teens watched closely keeping half an eye on the budding situation.
"Now that is what I call hot!" Joe loudly declared.
A shove from someone and a comment made Joe stumble. "Then why don't you go ask her."
"I thought as much. Chicken."
"If you're so brave, why don't you?"
"I think I will."
"Better keep it clean. Larabee is watching."
"He's got nothing to worry about." Jesse waggled his brows at his friends.
A nudge to Chris' ribs brought him back to the conversation at hand. "I see the hormones are in full bloom."
Chris sighed as he watched Jesse make his way over to a group of young ladies. "It looks like he's a charmer." Sure enough he must have said the correct words for the girl allowed him to lead her out onto the dance floor.
"Wow!" Inez said as she watched the two dance to the music. "Maybe I should have waited a few more years."
"Inez!" Ezra exclaimed.
"Okay, I'm married, but I ain't dead."
"That's my son you're ogling."
"Sorry Chris, but I bet Maria agrees along with me your boy can move." She giggled into her hand. "He is definitely going to break some hearts along the way. Does that remind you of anybody?"
Chris actually blushed. Both Vin and Ezra had to forcibly stop him from interrupting the two teens on the dance floor. "Let them be, cowboy. You were young once."
"Quit reminding me."
"Remember tonight is special."
"Sorry, but I know what goes on in teenage boys' heads."
"As we all do. Let them live it up and enjoy the party." They all gazed upon the ones who found dance partners and felt a little sorry for the ones that chose not to participate.
"Don't worry Ezra, Teddy will find his way. He'll have us to guide him."
"You're right my darling." He kissed her again.
"Vin, are you sure you are ready to take on a teenager?"
"If I wasn't I wouldn't be standing here. I love you Maria."
"And I love you."
The music had ended but the two couples continued to sway to the music in their hearts.
"That was awesome!" Sly pumped the air with an arm.
"However, I thought for sure your dad was going to break the two of you up."
"The only thing that saved your bold ass was his friends' interference."
"Yeah I guess I got carried away."
"Carried away! Shit you two left the floor in flames."
"Did you get her number?"
"Of course he did. Can't you see he's grinning like a Cheshire cat?"
"Way to go amigo!" They high fived each other in such a congratulatory style. "And to think you thought it was going to be boring."
"Teddy, you okay?"
"Yeah, it's great to see them together like this." He watched as his future parents swayed to music only they could hear.
Sly put an arm around his friend's shoulders. "I completely agree." Even though he had already started referring to Vin as his dad he now officially could without any strange looks from others.
"Hey, when are you going to have your last name legally changed?"
"As soon as the Director fits it into his schedule."
"Hmm. Sylvester Tanner. Huh. Sly Tanner. I think that has a better ring to it." Jesse ducked as Sly tried to deck him. "I'm joking. Shit." He took off running.
"Nate, which two do they remind you of?" Josiah pointed toward two figures.
"Let me think on this for a moment."
"Oh you have got to be kidding me!" J.D. exclaimed in exasperation.
"They're an exact duplicate of our wily pair."
"Who are you referring to?"
Their collective looks made Chris pull his black hat down covering his eyes. "Oh no, not tonight." Buck snatched that hat off before Chris could stop him.
"You think we should break that up?" Vin asked his best friend.
"Nah, like you guys said, let them have their fun."
"You do realize how much they are like us, don't you?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
Much later after the toasts and the dancing, Chris noticed a lone figure leaning against the barn. "Why are you here by yourself?"
"Needed a little quiet."
"I'm fine, dad."
"Don't look fine, what's the problem?"
"Been thinkin' that's all."
"About?" Chris prompted.
"Let me guess you're worried about the changes taking place."
"Yeah I guess."
"Change can be good."
"I know. It's just hard sometimes to accept."
"There's more to this than what you're telling me."
Jesse sighed. "Sorry. It's all a bit jumbled in my head. Can't quite find the right words."
"It's alright. When you're ready I'm sure you'll tell me."
"Sure dad." Yet he knew he didn't sound convincing at all.
Chris understood even though Jesse was far from it. "Come on, they're getting ready to leave. You'll want to say your goodbyes."
A/N: I wanted to finish this before someone went back to college. As you probably figured out I am still without a computer of any sorts. Due to the unforeseen events that have taken place I probably won't be purchasing another until after the New Year. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed. If you like these stories please say so in a review or drop a message. I've got some ideas written down: one is definitely in the OW universe while a few will continue in the ATF universe. There's even a crossover with NCIS in the works. So, if this appeals to any of you, please tell me. Granted it will be awhile before I can post them but hopefully by then I will be able to post the entire thing. (Wouldn't that be a change of pace).
Once again thanks to all who have stuck with this from start to the end. You have given me a confidence I never knew was possible. I hope to be able to entertain you some more in the future. Thanks again.