Warnings: Some curse words we never heard on the show
Disclaimer: See my profile page
Story Notes: I confess I don't really remember a lot about this show from when it originally aired, but thanks to May I'm eternally grateful for a chance to revisit the McFadden's all these years later! She sent me the dvds and I have been in love ever since.
I'm thrilled at the amount of fic I've seen here (will get to reading very soon) and hope you don't mind me joining in to play.
I would say I'll play nice and leave them all in one piece, but, well, that ain't gonna happen! LOL Needless to say I'm a h/c, angst kinda girl so some brothers will have to bite the bullet. I do have my favorites to write about, but I will try to be fair to all the guys and Hannah.
Many thanks to my awesome beta, May, who not only corrects my incoherent ramblings, but provides inspiration and ideas to feed my muse! Thanks, my friend.
Daniel slammed the brakes on the Jeep and would have sent Guthrie sailing if not for the seatbelt strapped across the boy's chest. He felt a wave of guilt slice through the building anger, but he was on a mission. Those damn Leonard boys were at it again and this time the resident school bullies had targeted Guthrie. Bad move when the kid you've picked on has six older brothers.
"You stay here, I'll take care of this." Daniel warned.
He knew neither of them were supposed to be on the Watson's property, much less in the dilapidated barn the old man refused to tear down. Daniel was just going to evoke a little fear in those pint-sized thugs and make sure they knew picking on Guthrie McFadden was an invitation for the whole family to kick their asses.
Daniel slowed, letting his eyes adjust to the low light inside the rotting structure. The place felt cold, haunted, and a prickle of dread crawled up his neck. He needed to run these kids off, get Guthrie's things and get the hell out of this place.
Laughter drifted from above his head and infuriated Daniel all over again. He grabbed the wooden ladder leading to the hayloft, his senses immediately realizing what the boys were doing. His nose burned and a cloud of smoke floated like a haze from above. Not only were these brothers bullies, they were insanely stupid too.
Daniel scrambled up the rickety ladder, already standing before they noticed his presence. "Hey!"
Both boys blanched, their cigarette laden hands swinging behind them as Daniel approached. "You two are dumber than I ever gave you credit for."
"What are you gonna do about it?" The taller of the boys found his voice and tried what apparently had always worked. Intimidation.
They were going to have to do better than that. Daniel had taken on much bigger and smarter adversaries than these pre-teen wannabes. He snorted his disgust and both boys dashed past him, fighting each other over the one ladder to freedom. Daniel grinned. He would have loved to have punched them in the face, but unlike them, he was no bully.
Daniel slid easily down the ladder and met Guthrie running through the doorway. "Man, did you see them take off!"
Daniel tried not to let his satisfaction show, but he couldn't control the urgency in his voice. "Yeah, I saw. I didn't see your books though." Admittedly he'd been distracted not only by those boys and their cigarettes, but the overwhelming need to get out of this place.
"They must be up here." Guthrie jumped onto the ladder and Daniel grabbed him by the waist and set him back on solid ground.
"I'll get 'em. You go back to the Jeep that you weren't supposed to leave." His tone grew sharper as he remembered the kid hadn't heeded his instructions.
"All right." Guthrie said, slumping his shoulders and walking slowly toward the door.
"Now!" The uneasy feeling Daniel had was starting to snowball and he could feel his heart thumping faster against his chest. He watched Guthrie until he'd disappeared outside, then bounded up the ladder.
A pile of books and Guthrie's jacket were strewn around the thick straw and Daniel gathered them as quickly as possible. His anxiety grew as the planks under his feet creaked and bent with the added weight, reminding him why he shouldn't be here at all. The heel of his boot splintered one of the boards and he lost his balance, slamming his knee into a support beam and sending his collection of books to the ground below.
"Damn it!" He shouted through clenched teeth and cupped his injured knee in a futile attempt to ease the pain. He refrained from expressing any of the colorful vocabulary floating in his brain just in case Guthrie might be within hearing range. Limping carefully across the loft he registered a strong whiff of smoke and glanced toward the corner the boys had vacated.
Smoke billowed slowly from beneath the straw and Daniel rushed to the source, using the jacket still in his grip to beat out the sparks.
Shit, why couldn't that kid listen to him once in a while?
"Guthrie, damn it!" Daniel looked over the edge at his brother, his voice a mixture of anger and panic. "Get your books and get back to the Jeep or I'll whip you myself."
Daniel watched Guthrie scramble to pick up his things, making sure the kid had disappeared outside before starting down the ladder.
Daniel coughed as the stench of smoke assaulted his lungs and he turned to find the source. Panic squeezed his heart as he watched tiny flames explode like popcorn across the back of the loft. No, no! Smoke rose from beneath the dry straw like a deadly fog, rolling toward his only means of escape. Daniel hobbled forward, trying desperately to ignore the fear and the pain and make it out before the whole barn went up.
All he had to do was get to the ladder. Daniel felt the adrenaline surge as he got closer, the heat and smoke heavy against his back. It was right there, he could almost reach out and grab it. Daniel cried out in desperation as the floor cracked, swallowing one foot and pulling him to the rotted floor. He didn't have time to catch his breath before the planks beneath him gave way and he fell, his heart stuck in his throat as he plunged straight down.
The impact knocked the breath out of him and slammed his head on the ground hard enough to send a barrage of pain the length of his body and blur his vision. Sheer will was the only thing keeping him conscious. He had to stay awake; make sure Guthrie was safe.
Daniel crawled forward, the movement causing a wave of nausea but he swallowed it back. He could hear the crackle and feel the growing heat behind him and knew the fire had gotten another hold.
"Daniel, hurry!" Guthrie shouted and he felt the boy grab his hand and pull. "It's burning, Daniel, get up!"
"Guthrie! Get out!" Daniel screamed through the haze surrounding his mind. "Go!"
Daniel tried to suck in more air, but the smoke was closing in on him. He gagged, fighting to make his limbs move and managed to push himself just a little farther. Guthrie continued to hold onto his arm, yanking until Daniel thought his shoulder would separate. Damn it! He knew Guthrie wouldn't leave unless he did.
Calling upon every ounce of determination and energy he had left, Daniel used the leverage Guthrie provided and got his feet under him enough to propel forward. Guthrie's screams faded as the buzzing in his skull grew louder and the agony in his body intolerable. He tried to keep moving until the darkness beckoning him finally claimed him.
Crane felt the searing heat bathe his face as he threw another bucket of water into the roaring fire. The old barn was a lost cause and good riddance as far as he was concerned. He and his brothers just had to keep the flames from spreading into the dry brush until the volunteer fire department got there. No easy task. Crane kicked out a stray ember with the toe of his boot before rushing back to the well for more water. And to catch a peek at Daniel.
The dilapidated structure had come close to claiming both Daniel and Guthrie that evening. Crane didn't know the full story, just Guthrie's abrupt entrance at the house and out-of-breath yelling that Daniel was hurt and the Watson's barn was on fire. They'd arrived to a fully engulfed fire and Daniel curled on the ground, coughing his lungs out, barely conscious and dangerously close to the burning building. Crane trembled at the fresh memory and cast a concerned look at his stunned brother sitting against their old truck and staring wide-eyed at the glowing blaze. If not for Ford standing vigil next to Daniel, Crane would have told Adam to screw the fire and the neighbor's timber. He still might. Right now he was furious no one had set a match to the place long before now. Before he'd almost lost his family in that creaky death-trap.
Adam's not-so-subtle nudge shook Crane back to reality and he picked up the newly filled bucket, his hands shaking with the overflow of adrenaline pumping through his veins. He'd already decided five more minutes in this futile endeavor and then he was going to Daniel. Fire truck or no fire truck. The kid looked ready to pass out and Crane would be damned if he was going to risk his little brother's well-being over a rotted patch of forest.
The fire hissed and popped as embers exploded like a Fourth of July sparkler. Crane turned his head from the spray, his mind honing in on a chorus of shouts surrounding him. Confused, he searched for the source of ensuing panic, his eyes settling on Daniel. The kid was bolting straight toward the blazing barn door and shoving Ford off as he desperately tried to hold his older brother back.
"Oh, shit." Crane sprinted toward the pair, his voice joining Ford's yelling in vain for Daniel to stop. But Daniel didn't seem to hear anything. The heat caused the kid to hesitate long enough for Crane to grasp his waist and fling him around. Crane could feel the flames scorching the back of his shirt as he wrapped his arms protectively around Daniel.
The realization that Daniel's head injury had him confused enough to run into a burning building scared the bejeeus out of him. That he almost did it despite the fact his big brother was only five feet away made Crane downright nauseous. He should have known Daniel couldn't think straight. Hell, the kid had a huge gash on the side of his head and had been out for at least fifteen minutes before they got to him. Damn, he should have let the others deal with the fire and driven Daniel to the hospital.
Guilt didn't have time to settle in before Crane had other problems; like a crazed little brother with a single-minded and self-destructive mission. Daniel shoved hard against him, flailing arms breaking Crane's hold and throwing him off balance.
"Daniel!" Crane cried out, his hand grasping the back of Daniel's shirt as he headed back toward the barn.
"Guthrie!" A deep cough punctuated the panicked plea and brought clarity to his brother's dangerous behavior.
"Daniel! He's not in there!" Crane yelled, hoping Daniel would be lucid enough to comprehend. Instead he felt the fabric slip through his fingers as Daniel lunged forward. Thank God for reinforcements. Adam and Brian blocked his path this time, each grabbing an arm and physically carrying Daniel toward the safety of the truck.
Daniel had no intention of going without a fight and twisted hard against their restraints. Crane had never seen anyone, much less Daniel, in such a frenzied panic, but he understood. He would be hard pressed to give up if he thought one of his brothers was trapped in a raging inferno too. The only problem was Daniel was treading close to hurting himself or one of them if they couldn't get through to him.
"Get him out, please! Guthrie!" Daniel shouted until his voice cracked with fatigue and gave way to another coughing fit. Adam was trying to calm him; Crane could hear him trying to reassure their terrified sibling that Guthrie was back home, safe with Hannah, but Daniel heard none of it. His eyes were rimmed red with tears and frustration as he thrashed violently, desperate to get free. "Get him, please!"
Crane pushed past Adam and Brian and pulled Daniel tight against his chest, amazed at the raw power emanating from his brother in spite of his injuries. Years of hard labor on the ranch had made them all strong and tough and right now Daniel's hysteria made him nearly impossible to control. If not for Adam and Brian keeping a steady hold on him, the kid would have fought out of Crane's grip once more.
"Daniel, shhhh, Guthrie's not here. He's home, he's all right." Crane whispered in his brother's ear, refusing to let go despite Daniel's efforts to dislodge their steadying hands. He rested his chin on Daniel's head, the stench of smoke wafting from his dark hair. "Nobody's in there, kiddo. Everybody's all right."
Daniel's struggling diminished and Crane loosened his hold. Daniel looked up at him, his eyes still glazed, but there was comprehension now. Crane smiled and wiped at the smeared soot beneath his brother's eyes. "It's okay, Danny."
Another bout of coughing and Daniel's knees buckled. Crane eased him to the ground, rocking slowly in an effort to soothe both their frazzled nerves. He let out a sigh of relief as the sound of sirens and the flash of red lights invaded his senses and he felt Daniel's body go limp as the exhausted kid folded in his arms.
To be continued