Dear Dad,

We are all

I clutch the pencil in my hand and wonder again at it. This is a dumb idea. I turn from the blank page in front of me and shove it back into the desk drawer.

I've got it in my head to write my dad a letter. I don't know why. It's not like he can read it. He's been dead and buried nearly eleven years now. I suppose it might be my wife's doing. I swear I love that girl, but the way she pushes me to talk about things! The FBI ought to hire her to train their people! She's a good foot shorter than me and tiny! But Lord! She's got some power over me. We'll be having a perfectly normal conversation and all of the sudden she's got me talking about the time my Dad and I had to put down Shep, the dog I've had since I was born. I do not know how she manages it. You can believe the subject of me stepping in to raise my brothers has come up from time to time. That girl! I swear she was hand picked by God.

The truth was I could probably stand some talking and sorting things out, I guess. I had three hours when they died. I alone went to the hospital but they were already dead. So I waited until the dawn for my brothers to awaken so I could tell them Mom and Dad were gone forever. I had three hours. That was my time to grieve and the last minutes of my boyhood.

From the second I stepped into that room filled with my six younger brothers, I became The Grownup. It was my job to help them and take care of them. And I have, well at least, God knows, I've tried.

Hannah has pointed out on more than one occasion that three hours is hardly sufficient. She's right of course. But life doesn't always give you enough space for what you need. Sometimes more important things crowd in. I've pointed out to her on more than one occasion that a crying two year old can keep you pretty occupied.

'Course that two year old is long gone and the gangly twelve year old that's in his place has nothing but memories of a happy childhood spent surrounded by his brothers. I miss him being little though; his little hand reaching for mine. He was the sweetest kid, hell, he still is. He took to my wife like nothing you've ever seen, and the love goes both ways. I've no doubt she will be a fantastic mother because she already is.

I got a million things I ought to be doing but instead I'm sitting at this stupid desk brooding. My brother Crane would be quick to point out thinking's not my strong suit. He doesn't mean I'm not smart, he just means that I get too broody when I spend time thinking. It happens every winter. Things slow down and I've got time enough to stare up into a dark sky. I used to spend most of those nights grieving all my dreams; mourning that the life I'd been given would leave me forever alone with only these brothers as company. That grief's long gone- replaced with a twenty-three year old brunette with giant brown eyes, surprisingly long legs for someone five foot five and a temper like you wouldn't believe.

I set the pencil down and click off the light and head to the house. It was a stupid idea anyway. What good would it do me to write to a man long dead - however good a man he was. I cross the cold yard, and see her. She's waiting for me on the front porch wrapped in a parka; my parka.

"I was about to come looking for you." She grabs my hand. Her skin is so soft and she smells so damn good all the time. I lean down and kiss her on her neck which drives her crazy. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing." I say pulling her close to me. "Nothing is with you here." And I mean it too. She's the sun and the moon; she's my heartbeat.

I'm leaning in to kiss her thinking that this is a much better way to deal with my spare time as I slide my hands up inside the stolen parka feeling her soft, smooth skin, when two of my brothers come out on to the porch and I am reminded again that we will never be allowed to be newlyweds.

"Adam! Will you please tell Daniel that I need the jeep. You said I could take it." My brother Evan steps out on the porch, Daniel close behind him.

"I got a gig! Adam!" Daniel whines.

I love my brothers. I really do. But sometimes I wanna chuck them off a cliff.

"Can't you see I'm busy?" I say irritated. I turn away from my wife who blushes - which kills me. "Why can't you drop Danny off? You can get a ride back. You're not babies; work it out."

"But I . . ." Daniel begins but I shoot him a look. He backs down. "Yeah, that would work."

"Yeah, I'll drop ya." They turn to go - thank God, and I turn back to my wife.

"Sorry, Hannah." Evan says and follows Daniel back inside.

"That's alright boys." She says her hands on my arms. She looks up at me with a grin and I shake my head. She stands on tiptoe and kisses me but all too soon, we hear from another brother.

"Adam did you check on that motor? I think it's shot and . . ." Brian pauses and Hannah rests the top her head against my shoulder laughing.

"Sorry." He says, "I didn't know you were. . ." He blushes and I wonder how he's planning on finishing that sentence when Guthrie steps out onto the porch.

"Yipes! It's cold!" He says. "Adam can you sign this permission slip? I need. . ." He glances around. "What's everybody doing?"

"Nothing." I say not bothering to hide the bitterness and Hannah laughs out loud, squeezing my arm.

"You finish that history assignment, Guth?" Hannah asks stepping away from me. I fight the urge to curse.

"Ye- - esss. Well, mostly." He looks at the ground.

"Need help?" She asks him. "I can help ya."

"Yes!" He says and she comes to stand next to him and he leans against her side. They walk into the house together - he's holding onto her arm now with his hand. She looks back at me and winks, but wrinkles her brow in worry as she's caught me swallowing down tears.

I don't know what it is, but seems like every time I see her with Guthrie like that, it makes me wanna bust out bawling. He is such a good boy and he deserved to have her his whole life long. My brother Brian and I did the best we could to raise that boy with just as much love as we were raised, but two cowboys could never equal one mama - hell, even six cowboys couldn't do it.

I shake my head at her and she lets it go - for now. But that beautiful interrogator is gonna come after me later. The phone rings and Brian answers it. His face is bearing concern and stress when he returns.

"What?" I ask him. I can read Brian like my own face. He's just nineteen months younger than me. And my biggest helper when it came to raising the babies as he always called our brothers. We fight sometimes - like an old married couple and he reacted like a jealous girlfriend when I brought Hannah home. But he's adjusting to her and starting to like her even.

"The Collins are asking for help. Tim hasn't come home and its dark. He was helping look for a stray lamb. They found the lamb but not him. Everyone is gathering at the barn."

Hannah looks up and says, "I should go."

I debate arguing with her. It is pretty cold and will be dark soon. It never takes long to find Tim. But the girl's so headstrong. She teaches first aid all over the county and they could probably use her help just in case. Last time, Tim had sprained his ankle. "Bundle up." I tell her. "Guthrie, you and Ford stay here. Bedtime at the normal hour." I tell them but know they'll stay up late.

"I can go over this with you in the morning." Hannah tells Guthrie and then kisses his cheek before rising. "Night Guthrie."

"Night . . . Hannah." He says and I wonder at the long pause between those two words. What was it he wanted to say?

She heads upstairs to get changed - right now she's wearing a skirt and as she passes Ford, my shy second youngest brother, she squeezes his arm gently.

"Night, hon." She says and he ducks his head blushing but before he does I catch his eye. His love for my bride so clear but he's too shy to ever really show it.

We load up into the jeep which was in dispute earlier. The needs of our community come before anything else. Tim is seventeen but his brain doesn't work like yours and mine. He's slower so on the inside he's more like a seven year old. He wanders off from time to time - distracted by something on the horizon. The temperature is dropping rapidly so I hope we find him quickly.

The whole community is gathered near the Collins' barn. Murphys is small and everyone knows each other. We know what to do whenever Tim is missing. They split us into groups and assign us areas to search. We've done this before and Tim is usually found quickly. They make sure there is someone with first aid training in every group. Hannah ends up in a group that includes Brian.

"Keep your gloves on." I tell her.

"Don't be overly heroic and do something stupid." She tells me. "You don't have to impress me."

"Oh, I know. You are easy, girl." I tease her. It's our joke. One thing Hannah's not -is easy. I had to wait until I married her to hold her naked in my arms. She's that kind of girl.

"You!" She says shaking her finger at me, her cheeks pink from the cold and from embarrassment.

"Be nice." I say to Brian and he shrugs with a grin.

"Not in my nature." He says. He glances at Hannah beside him. "Let's go, troublemaker."

She winks at me and follows my brother. I think she has figured out what I have; Brian secretly adores her but he's just too terrified to admit it. Loving folks is pretty damn dangerous. I'm not even sure he's realized yet how much he cares about her.

I join my group and we set out fully expecting this to be a typical and quick Find Tim Search Party. I wish to hell it had been.