I humbly submit my latest McFadden obsession. It is a journey into the past again. I hope that you enjoy it, and as always I look forward to any reviews and/or comments. :) Thank you to all the reviewers for my past stories. I am greatly enjoying all the stories that have been coming in!

Daniel McFadden stood on the wide front porch and dreaded even the thought of going inside. He stared down at his worn tennis shoes, tying and untying them in an effort to avoid the inevitable. No doubt his teacher had already called, and Adam already knew about it. He tried not to picture Adam's reaction to the news that he had been in a fight at school. He thought briefly of running away but remembering how frightened Adam had been when Crane had run off last year, he decided against it. If he could stay outside for as long as possible, then he wouldn't have to face Adam.

He never meant to get into fights, and he'd gotten a lot better at avoiding them. He had even talked to a doctor about it, a few years back, and that had really helped. But every now and then his temper still got the best of him. Sometimes a man just had to fight - even if he was only eleven.

Billy Jr. had been a jerk, and at first Daniel had tried to ignore his ridiculous comments. He figured if he were silent long enough, Billy would get the hint and shut up. They stood toe-to-toe in the dust of the playground. Billy was a good two inches taller than Daniel which may have been the start of things, but Daniel could be fierce when angered, and Billy had infuriated him. He found ramming his fists into Billy's doughy form a tremendous comfort. He knew he ought not to fight, but nothing would make him feel better about the things Billy had said, so fighting seemed as good a choice as anything else - and it did bring satisfaction to Daniel, even if it were only temporary.

Hearing the creak of the front door, Daniel dashed around the side of the porch hiding from view. He heard soft footsteps, and thought, Aw, hell. Peering around the corner he could see his baby brother Guthrie looking all around.

"Danny." His five year old brother said. "Where are you?"

"I'm right here." He said, stepping out of his hiding place. He was rewarded with a giant grin and a shout of glee from Guthrie.

"Adam says dinner." Guthrie walked over to Daniel and held out his arms. Guthrie was their baby, and spoiled by all of them. He was a sweet kid who had a way of softening even the toughest McFadden brother. Sighing he lifted Guthrie into his arms. Damn it. Adam didn't fight fair. Resolved to his fate, he carried Guthrie inside.

Once inside, he set Guthrie down and glanced around. The front room was empty, but he could hear voices coming from the kitchen.

"Come on! Dinner's gonna be cold!" Adam called from within the kitchen.

Guthrie ran on unsteady legs, calling out, "Ju Ju!" He often lapsed back to his baby name for Adam who the family had always called Junior. He ran into the kitchen, but Daniel held back hesitant to face his older brother. He hated with all his heart letting Adam down. He stood in the fading light of the front room for as long as possible, avoiding the bright pool of light from the kitchen.

"Quit hiding, Danny. Dinner's on the table." Adam hovered in the doorway. "Come on." He turned and sighing Daniel followed his brother into the kitchen. He sat at the table silently as all his brothers looked on. Daniel looked up at Adam with wide eyes. His brother was tall, dark-haired and serious. He could be really intimidating when he wanted to be. He took his job of raising his brothers pretty seriously. He did not tolerate fighting or cutting class. Daniel sighed wishing that he were as well-behaved as his older brother Crane. Crane almost never got in trouble. He glanced over at Crane who winked at him. He thought of saying something to Crane, as a way to break the tension, but he was distracted by Evan who sat beside him.

"You are doomed, man!" Evan said poking him in the ribs.

"Shut up!" He said instantly furious.

"Seriously, I heard him and Brian talking. You are in BIG trouble, man. It was nice knowing ya."

Daniel turned away from Evan. His little brother was such a pill. He glanced up at Brian who was just setting a plate of burgers on the table. Daniel met Brian's eyes, and his older brother just grinned at him, and shook his head slowly.

"Alright, ladies." Brian said. "Eat up."

Daniel waited expecting Adam to say something during dinner, but he never did. Daniel found he was sweating, and he tried to swallow down his dinner but barely managed a few bites. He started the dinner dreading Adam's lecture and now he longed for it; waiting was worse than any correction Adam could give. He gave up trying to eat or participate in one of the conversations that flew around the table at dinner time. Instead he stared at the window just above the sink and white curtains that hung there. If he closed his eyes, he could easily picture his mother standing at the sink as he helped his father hang the new curtains for her.

***7***

"You didn't eat very much." Adam said to him after dinner. They were all spread out in the livingroom; homework hour. Every night, after dinner, they all had to sit down and do their homework. He tried to concentrate on the math problems in front of him.

"I wasn't hungry." He said softly.

"You probably should put some ice on that eye." Adam told him. "It sure looks like it hurts."

Daniel had been surprised when Billy had actually landed a good solid punch. Daniel's eye hadn't even really hurt the shock of Billy' s success overriding any pain. It had swollen steadily since dinner and now Daniel was plagued by a dull ache.

"Yeah." Daniel said and walked into the kitchen to fill a bag with ice. He prayed Adam wouldn't follow him in, but he did. Brian stood at the sink washing the dishes, and wearing an apron. It was one of their mother's with ruffles along the edges. Normally, something like that would make him laugh.

"I talked to your teacher this afternoon." Adam said sitting down at the table.

"I figured." Daniel said sitting across from him, a bag of ice on his swollen eye.

"I thought you were done with fighting?" Adam asked.

"So did I."

"Danny, is something bugging you?" Brian asked taking off the ruffled apron and sitting next to Adam. "You can talk to us, you know."

"No. He was just being a jerk, and I got mad. I shouldn't of done it. I'm really sorry, Adam. I am."

"I know you are, but your teacher's pretty upset. She thinks you should talk to the school counselor. I think she's overreacting. Boys fight sometimes, but she said that it was unexpected and shocking - whatever that means." Adam sighed.

"Listen, Danny, they'll probably have you talk to the counselor tomorrow. Its nothing to stress out about." Brian said.

"But, if we get into too much trouble at the school, they won't let us stay." Daniel felt panic rising.

"No." Adam said firmly. "That's not true anymore. It's been years. I'm twenty, nearly twenty-one. I'm next of kin, and an adult. They can't do that." Daniel said nothing, regretting the fight twenty times more than he had this afternoon.

"Adam, I'm really sorry. He just . . . he kept saying . . ." Daniel sighed. "I didn't think about what a big deal it would be."

"Danny, it isn't a big deal. Your teacher is just new and wants to be thorough. The worst that could happen is that the school recommends that you talk to someone. So, we got back to Dr. Richards. That wouldn't be horrible. That's it. No one is going to take you boys. No one. It isn't something you have to worry about." When Adam spoke confidently and firmly like that, it made Daniel feel safe, and reminded him of his father.

"Its okay, Danny." Brian added. "Go finish your homework, okay pal."

"Yeah, sure." Daniel said and rising slowly, but as he passed Adam's chair, Adam reached out and gently took his arm.

"Hey, Danny." Adam said looking him in the eye. "You know better than fighting, don't you."

"Yeah."

"So, let's not do it any more, okay?" Adam said and then pulled him close and into a hug. He kissed Danny's forehead. "Stop looking so scared, shrimp. You know you've got extra chores for the rest of week, right?"

"I figured." Danny said. "Thanks, Adam."

"For the extra chores? You are welcome." Adam grinned at him, and impulsively Daniel kissed his cheek before going into the other room.

"Good job, there, Dad." Brian said.

"Don't call me Dad." Adam said. "I just wish it were true." He looked up at his brother.

"It is true. You are twenty. Hell, you'll be twenty-one in three months. They can't just take the boys. I'm nineteen! We got not one, but TWO adults in the house now!"

"Yeah, and it is just one little fight. I wonder what Billy Jr. said to him. He must've been pretty pissed off to hit him like that." Adam said.

***7***

"If anything comes of this, I'm gonna skin Billy Jr." Will said leaning against the porch rail of the McFadden's front porch later that same night. "I love that boy, I do, but he doesn't have the sense God gave a billy goat."

"Don't worry about it." Adam said. "Danny's fine, and he'll talk to the school counselor and that'll be it. The school's over protective of the boys, ever since Crane had that bad time last year. They are afraid they're overlooking something again. So they're being ridiculous about every little thing. Hell, last week, Ford fell and scraped his knee. They called me and Brian in because he was crying and they were worried." Adam shook his head. "I told them, he is seven years old, and his knee hurts - that's why he's crying! His parents being dead has got nothing to do with it."

"I know, but I hate to think we are adding to your troubles. Billy is really sorry too. He usually figures out that he's said the wrong thing, but he just realizes it after he's already said it."

"What did he say?" Brian asked.

"Danny didn't tell you?" Will asked, and both Brian and Adam shook their heads.

"It started out arguing about who was better at football, regular stupid pissing contest crap, but then Billy had to take it too far. He said there was no way that Danny would ever be as good as Billy at football because he was a . . ." Will sighed.

"Go ahead." Adam said.

"He said Danny was a crybaby orphan who had no father to teach him to play ball, and if he did learn how he'd be crying for his mama the second he got hit." Will looked down at the ground. "I'm really sorry, Junior. I'd like to tell you he gets his stupidity from the other side of the family, but it'd be a lie."

"Kids are dumb sometimes." Adam said sighing. "They can be real mean. Poor Danny, no wonder he hit him." He looked up at Will, one of his parents oldest friends. "I'm sorry, Will. He shouldn't have hit Billy in any case."

"I dunno. He sure learned his lesson, this time." Will shook his head. "You let us know how this all plays out, Junior. Me and the missus just feel terrible about the whole thing. Don't be too hard on Danny. He was just sticking up for himself. Anna says Billy will grow out of this, and I pray to God that woman's right."

"Thanks for coming by Will." Adam said.

"Well, you boys belong to this whole town." Will said. "You can count on us."

"We know that." Brian said as they watched him walk down the steps. "Thanks again, Will."

He turned to face Adam. "Jesus, he didn't even tell us. He was willing to take the heat and not say a word about it."

"Yeah." Adam said. "He's a good kid. You go talk to him, Bri. Make sure he knows we aren't mad, huh? He'll listen to you."

Brian nodded, and turned to go inside, but hesitated. "He'll listen to you too, Adam."

"I dunno. I can be kind of hard on him sometimes. I regret it."

"That was three years ago, and you were hurtin' everyone knows that. Especially Danny. Let it go, Junior."

"I better go check on the ewes." Adam said and walked down the steps and out to the barn, alone.