Chapter twelve

The ride home to the ranch was not unlike the ride into Murphys. It was quiet. Brian did notice something different about his little brother, however. Even though he still sat in the passenger seat staring out the window, not saying a word, just as he had done earlier, there was something different Brian noticed. His demeanor had changed. Gone was that wild look of anger. Instead, Daniel seemed anxious and nervous. Brian wasn't sure what the kid had in mind, but the only words he had spoken to Brian was to ask him to take him home.

Brian, I need to go home. I have to talk to Adam, tonight.

That was it. With those quiet, determined words, Brian had driven out of Murphys with Daniel and steered the truck towards home. Something in Daniel's tone had left Brian with the feeling that he had experienced a change of heart. Brian had no idea who Daniel had visited at the hotel, nor what he did with them while he was there, but he knew that the argumentative, combative kid that he'd driven away from the ranch...away from big brother, was not the kid that he was now driving back home. Brian was breathing a sigh of relief. He only hoped that Adam had calmed down too.

"I never realized how long the drive between home and Murphys takes." Daniel said, breaking their silence.

"It's not that long. About twenty minutes." Brian replied. He was a little surprised that the boy was so anxious to get home. Less than two hours ago, Brian wasn't even sure if the boy was going to return home tonight at all.

"So where's the fire? Everyone's probably sleeping by now anyway. You won't see any of 'em til morning anyhow." Brian replied.

"No, I've gotta talk to Adam tonight, Bri. I can't leave it like I did. I screwed up so bad, I've just gotta set things straight with him." Daniel said, his voice full of desperation.

"Well, maybe you should both sleep on it and get a fresh start in the morning." Brian suggested. He was thrilled that Daniel obviously wanted to work things out with Adam, but he wasn't sure where Adam's head was at the moment. Daniel had said some pretty rotten things to him and everyone has their limits. Brian's fear was that Adam was still upset, possibly even angry with their kid brother.

"You don't understand Brian. I mean, I hurt him. I have to set it right and I have to do it now. What if-" Daniel's voice trailed off, he couldn't bring himself to say the words.

"Hey, what if what, Dan'l?" Brian asked, unsure of what the boy was getting at.

"What if something happens to me or him before morning? Those could've been the last words I ever said to him Brian." Daniel replied, his voice full of misery and remorse.

"Hey, nothin's gonna happen to either of you...but, I see what you're sayin' Dan'l. That's something you need to always remember. That's what we've always tried to teach you boys. None of us are promised tomorrow, so you gotta be careful what you say today." Brian explained.

"Yeah, I get it now. Brian, do you think he'll forgive me?" Daniel asked

"Yes I do. He's hurt at the moment, I'm sure, but he probably has forgiven you already." Brian answered honestly, reaching over and mussing Daniel's hair.

Hannah was surprised to hear a knock at the door. It was almost one o'clock in the morning and although everyone in the house had been awakened by the argument, they had all turned back in and should be sleeping by now, she thought to herself.

Well, all of them except Adam. She knew he wasn't sleeping. He had talked to her for nearly an hour non stop, which was very uncharacteristic of Adam McFadden. He was the strong, silent type. Hannah remembered many, many fights she'd had with her husband for just that reason. He wasn't the best at expressing himself.

That was part of the whole problem with he and Daniel, Hannah had tried to explain to her husband. He often made decisions for the family but neglected to explain himself to his brothers. He usually had a 'thats my decision, take it or leave it' attitude with them and it often resulted in hard feelings. His brothers, especially the younger four, often accused him of pulling rank when they felt they should have more of a say in something.

So who, Hannah wondered, was on the other side of that door? Crane, maybe? It must be. He probably couldn't sleep either and thought of some more platitudes to offer Adam.

When Hannah opened the door she was shocked to see Daniel waiting on the other side. She studied him. His face looked panic stricken. He was breathing heavy and his whole body was tense, but, Hannah could tell there was no anger there anymore. He looked remorseful more than anything. Already he was staring at her with pleading, dark eyes. She instinctively knew why he was there before he even spoke, she just hoped it wasn't too soon.

"Hannah, I've gotta talk to Adam...Please? She stared at him for another few seconds and Daniel repeated himself. "Hannah, please?" the desperation was nearly palpable.

She quickly looked over her shoulder to meet Adam's gaze. His shoulders were still hunched over, but she thought she saw a glimmer of relief in his eyes. He quietly gave an affirmative shake of his head and with that, Hannah turned back to Daniel and invited him in.

"I'm gonna go fix myself a glass of warm milk" Hannah offered then slipped quickly out the door.

As Adam studied his younger brother, he could see the misery and nervousness written all over his face. The younger man shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, hands fidgeting from hanging at his sides, to behind him, his hands stuck in his back pockets, then back down to his side. His too long bangs hanging in his face as he broke away from Adam's gaze and stared at the floor. He looked like a little boy, but he had just hours earlier spoken harsh words to Adam in a very much grown up voice.

Adam could feel the lump forming in his own throat. The pain those words had elicited was still there, but at the same time, he couldn't stand to see his little brother hurting. He supposed that was the dad coming out in him.

All the boys teased him with that name, but Daniel had been the first one...and the most frequent one to pin that title on his eldest brother. Adam hated it, but he supposed now that it was true. From Daniel on down, he had raised these boys since they were small. He just hadn't realized before tonight that the title held more meaning behind it, for Daniel, at least than just a means of teasing. And Adam felt he must have failed the boy in some way. Why else would Daniel feel the way he did about him?

"Adam, can I talk to you?" Daniel said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Sure, Dann- uh, Daniel." Adam replied stopping short of calling his brother by the name his parents had pinned on him when he was a baby. Adam knew he was standing before him as a man now, not a little boy.

"Adam, I shouldn't have said all those things to you tonight. I don't know what's wrong with me." Daniel began, looking down at the floor.

"Daniel, look at me. I'm just glad you're here. Look, I'm sorry too. I never meant to try to control your life. It's just hard for me to figure out how to just be your brother now that you're all grown up...I've been raising you since you were just a little boy and...back then, I had to be something else." Adam said, quietly studying his little brother.

"You had to be my father Adam. I realized that tonight. You had to be my father...and you were a good one. You've provided for me and looked after me...and loved me. I've been really stupid lately. I haven't done anything to show you how much I appreciate all you've done for me and I'm sorry...truly sorry. I was wrong tonight, I know that now." Daniel explained, looking up from the floor and straight into Adam's eyes.

Daniel could see tears welling up in his older brothers eyes. It was a sight he rarely saw. Maybe when someone was sick or hurt, but, this time, Daniel knew he was the sole cause of those tears. He was ashamed of himself for hurting Adam so badly.

"I believe you Daniel and it's good to hear that you appreciate me. I've been thinking about everything you said, and...I think the reason you came to feel that way about me is because I have so much trouble expressing myself or explaining myself. I was talking to Hannah and she made me realize that I don't always explain my reasons for the decisions I make. I think I should sometimes. When you were a kid 'because I said so' seemed to be good enough. But you're not a little kid anymore's time I start communicating with you. With all of you. You guys aren't little kids anymore."

"Adam, I love you more than you can ever know. I realized tonight...Tally made me realize, in fact, that I'm scared. I guess I was waiting for you to tell me to go chase my music career and then reassure me that everything would be ok...and when you didn't, I got scared. Truth is, there's no guarantees. I might not ever make it. It scares me to think of failing. Mostly because I'd have to come back and face you. I don't want to disappoint you." Daniel said, the tears flowing down his face.

"You will never disappoint me Daniel. I'm already so proud of ya. You do an outstanding job here. You are a good guy to have around the ranch. But I never want you to think I'm standing in your way. You make me so proud when you get up on that stage. But, I asked myself tonight, when was the last time I ever said that to you and that's when I realized, I never really have. I'm sorry for that. So I'm tellin' you now. Daniel, every time you get up on stage, I swell up with pride. I could never do that and it makes me so proud that you can. You're good too. You're real good. I don't think you have to worry about making it. One thing I do know about you Daniel is that you accomplish everything that you set out to do. You always have. There isn't a doubt in my mind that you will succeed. So, if you need a guarantee from a big brother, there it is. I believe in you Daniel. I want all your dreams to come true. I mean that." Adam said, his tears now streaming down his face too.

"Thank you Adam. Thank you so much. I don't think anybody could have raised me better than you did. You are the best brother in the world. You are the best dad in the world too." Daniel replied, reaching out to hug Adam. They stood in the middle of the bedroom embracing for a long while.

Adam finally broke from the embrace and said "Did you say Tally made you realize all of this?" Adam said.

"Well...yeah. I went to tell her I wasn't interested in joining her band-that's why she was here, by the way...and she said some things about you that got me to thinkin'." Daniel replied.

"Well, maybe I owe her a thank you then." Adam laughed. "So you and her are over right? It's not my business, but I don't want to see anybody hurt you like that ever again." Adam said, hoping he wasn't saying too much.

"Nah. I'm over her...for good. She still wants me though...But, who can blame the girl? I'm irresistable!" Daniel said laughing. Adam laughed too as he mussed the boys hair, but Daniel pulled back.

"Hey, I'm not a kid anymore. Leave my hair alone!" He protested, winking at Adam as he spoke.

"I'll still be mussing your hair when your fifty kid. You'll always be my little of my boys." Adam said with a grin.

"Yeah, ok. I guess I am one of your boys. The talented, smart, dependable one right?" Daniel laughed, patting Adam on the back.

"Sure Danny, sure." Adam said, as he shook his head at his little brother's egotistical comment.

"Oh, I forgot. I'm the sexy, irresistable one too!" Daniel added.

"Riiigghht" Adam drawled.

the end...