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May Robinson [userpic]

Fic: Intuition (Part 1 of 2)

February 1st, 2012 (11:24 pm)

where i am: hanging with Flurry
how i am: chipper
accompanied by: Flurry snoring

I've ficced again, though it's not the epic one I've mentioned to a few of you. That one has been stalling so I used this distraction to help keep the words flowing and to provide a home for a scene stuck in my head. Mission accomplished, I hope.

Summary: An upset stomach in a house with seven kids is never a big deal. Until it is. Brotherly angst, h/c and gratuitous schmoop. Crane and Daniel with a side of Adam and a dash of the rest of the McFadden clan.

Rating: PG13, T (language)
Wordcount: Approx. 12,000
Warnings: A few curse words never heard on the show.
Disclaimers: See my profile page.
Notes 'a plenty: Though this story is a standalone and not episode related, it has a few references to some non-McFadden characters and/or storylines from canon. Here are a few notes to refresh almost 30 year-old memories or to help newbie readers along:
Cooper Johnson: Evan's rodeo instructor and all-around gruff ol' cowboy. Last seen reconciling with estranged daughter Sally Liston after she's bucked off a bronc and seriously hurt.
Molly McGraw: Equine vet who steals Crane's heart after operating on Evan's horse, Diablo. Last seen accepting a surgical internship "back east".
Hannah's miscarriage: While the boys cheer Adam on in a county car race, a pregnant Hannah collapses at home alone. Crane's "just a feeling" sends him home, along with Daniel, to check on her and ultimately rush her to the hospital.
Finally, thanks to saberivojo
for her medical input and to Katt, as always, for the beta and for keeping the McFadden love alive.

By May Robinson

"Did you find those gloves?" Hannah asked Evan as he scooted past her to grab an apple. The teen had already loaded the bed of their truck with his tack and equipment for his training clinic with Cooper Johnson the next morning but he'd been on a nearly frantic mission searching the house for his bronc-busting gloves. Thanks to Coop’s gruff disposition, the kid had learned the hard way to dare not show up to the man’s rodeo lessons short any equipment or gear.

"Yup, I found ‘em," he said around a large chunk.

"Manners, you Neanderthal," Crane scolded. Hannah just rolled her eyes, though it was obvious she wasn’t at all offended. Crane winked at her then and as the smile she wore widened, Crane couldn’t help but marvel, not for the first time, at how well his brother's wife had adjusted to their testosterone dominated household.

"Oh, pardon-ay mwaw," Evan apologized with an exaggerated bow, though his mangled French came out garbled too by the apple he was still crunching.

"I give up," Crane said, not entirely feigning his exasperation as Hannah’s soft snickers faded further into the kitchen.

The family was going to be hitting the road early the next morning. Intending to watch Evan’s lessons and also to spend time with Coop and Sally who, while the girl had recuperated from the bad fall she’d taken, hadn’t been back to Calaveras County in months. Though Johnson’s relationship with Evan and the rest of McFadden’s had been fairly adversarial in the beginning, after a night of carousing with Brian plus subsequent visits to the Circle-Bar-Seven, the ice had been broken, they'd become friends, and they were all looking forward to visiting with the colorful rodeo legend and his equally spirited daughter.

"Hey, what's with the loafing? You got everything ready?" Adam, who had just come inside, asked Evan right as the harried kid finally plunked down on the couch. This time it was Evan rolling his eyes. Undoubtedly well aware of the underlying thread of teasing going on, all at his expense.

"I’m all set," he said confidently. "Ol' Coop won’t catch me with my pants down this time."

"Whose pants are down?" Guthrie called out from halfway up the stairs. He and Ford had been up in Ford's room doing homework and both were apparently on their way back down. It might have been Friday but, with a busy weekend ahead of them, Hannah had insisted they finish theirs tonight.

The evening was winding down with all but Daniel and Brian present and accounted for, though the latter was likely just a few steps behind Adam, having been out with their eldest checking the stock in the barn.

Crane figured Daniel would be home any time soon too. He and his band were only playing the first set at Pony's tonight, a good thing, since Daniel had to get up early with the rest of the family.

They might be on much friendlier terms with Coop nowadays but they weren't fools… Johnson would tear Evan a new one if he showed up late for rodeo school.

"Nobody's pants are down, Guthrie," Evan replied, shaking his head even as a toothy grin started to part his lips.
"It's just an expression," Ford added helpfully.

"Where's it come from?" The twelve year-old asked. Ford offered up the few theories behind the phrase's etymology which of course only piqued Guthrie’s curiosity. And as their youngest's inquisition began in earnest, Crane grinned contentedly, realizing just how much he was actually looking forward to the weekend, tonight included.

There was no doubt that he missed Molly and looked forward to their usual Friday night phone calls. Catching each other up on life on the ranch and, in her case, the whirlwind existence of a veterinary intern. This time though he really didn't mind so much that she was away attending a conference. Tonight he was simply going to enjoy the rarity of a Friday evening spent with his entire family.

Despite how close the McFadden brothers were, more often than not, the beginning of the weekend inevitably found at least a few of them going in separate directions. They were all young men after all. Brian typically spent them in the company of a lady or a drink. More often both. And Evan, at seventeen, would no doubt spend his doing what most boys did at that age… finding trouble and skirting it, either with his fellow cowboys, the football team or some other school friends.

These days Daniel was the least likely to be around. His band was getting better and better and they were in demand at the clubs in Murphys and beyond. And with that popularity came late nights with Daniel coming home, slipping into their room and collapsing into bed and unconsciousness without ever uttering a single word to Crane.

Crane had long surrendered to that reality and no longer bothered to wait up for his younger brother after his gigs like he’d used to. Nowadays barely waking long enough to confirm that the kid had made it home safe before falling back to sleep.
He had to admit he missed the McFadden family's Friday night jam sessions with Daniel as their ringleader. And with that thought in mind, he moved to the couch, eagerly scooping up his guitar to tune it before Daniel got home.


The minute Daniel walked through the front door; Crane knew the evening wasn’t going to go as he’d hoped. Usually the kid would arrive home flying high from one of these earlier sets. Still feeling the lingering buzz of doing what he loved most… singing songs and playing his music in front of an appreciative audience.

Daniel’s subdued, "Hey," as he entered and heavily set down his guitar case was so out of character, Crane immediately felt his protective hackles rising and he set his own guitar aside as he got up to greet him.

After all, there’d been a reason for spending those nights waiting up for Daniel when he'd first started playing in bars. Even now the kid was often the youngest in those places and though he was tough and capable, he also had a distinct disadvantage in size if any drunken idiots decided to have a piece of him. Though Crane knew full well that the thugs at Ben Tobey’s Alamo had been motivated by politics and greed when they’d beaten up Daniel earlier this year, the image of the kid’s bruises had been permanently etched into Crane's memory. Easily resurfacing at times like these when things didn’t seem quite right with his little brother.

"Everything all right?"

The question came from Adam whose concerned tone told Crane he was barking up the right tree.

"Yeah," The kid answered, his unusually pale face transforming into a bit of a smile as he added with a shrug, "Good enough for them to want us back tomorrow."

"Like there was any doubt," Brian piped up from somewhere behind Crane. Brian’s comment elicited rousing agreement from the rest of the family as well as another small smile from Daniel. But Crane knew the band had been signed on already for the next couple of weekends. Besides, he was sure that how well the band performed tonight wasn't exactly what Adam was driving at.

Moving in closer, Crane lightly grasped Daniel’s neck, drawing the kid's dark blue eyes to his own. "That’s not really what Adam was asking," Crane said, catching Adam’s approving nod in his periphery. "You okay?"

Daniel turned his gaze to Adam before meeting Crane’s again and sighing. With two big brothers staring intently at him, Crane had no doubt the kid realized the jig was up.

Crane let go of him and Daniel lightly brushed a hand across his stomach, finally admitting, "I’m okay. Stomach’s just feeling a bit dicey tonight."

Crane tried not to let his relief show. Little brothers with stomachaches he could handle. Had handled countless times over the years. Besides, at the kid’s pronouncement, Hannah wouldn't be able to resist taking over.

Sure enough, making a beeline for Daniel, she gently touched the back of her hand to his forehead and his cheek, declaring, "He’s a little warm." Crane winked at Adam then, getting a kick out of the adoring look their eldest wore whenever his bride played "mom" to one of his brothers.

"He’s also right here in front of you," Daniel complained half-heartedly as he backed away from his sister-in-law’s ministrations.

Hannah lightly swatted him and the kid wisely stood still, this time allowing her free rein to check underneath his jaw presumably for swollen glands. "You barely touched your dinner," she said worriedly and, at that comment, Crane's mind flashed back to earlier that evening. Watching as Daniel pushed around Hannah's terrific garlic-mashed potatoes and the roast Brian had served up, instead of ploughing into the meal with his usual gusto. At the time he'd said he was just in a hurry to get to Pony's. Crane seriously doubted that now.

"I ate a little at Pony's," Daniel answered, immediately on the defensive. Crane wasn't at all surprised. At eighteen there was only so much coddling their middle brother was willing to take.

"I bet," Brian threw in. "So, just how many hot wings did you have?"

"A couple," Daniel replied glumly, looking guilty as charged.

"More like a couple dozen," Evan chimed in, no doubt delighted that Daniel had succeeded him as the night's victim of their family's torment.

Hannah threw up her hands in mock disgust and abandoned Daniel to his misery, tsk-tsking him as she did so.

Crane could only laugh when Adam tousled the kid's hair and then lightly smacked his belly. "Serves you right for passing up on my wife's home cooking."


"Everything come out all right?" Crane asked as Daniel slumped down onto his bed after yet another trip down the hall to the bathroom.

"Oh, har-har," Daniel replied miserably, adding, "Jerk," to the raised middle finger aimed at Crane just barely visible courtesy of the moonlight coming through their bedroom window.

"Hey, I'm not the one who ate hot wings on an already upset stomach."

Daniel didn't answer him.

Crane couldn't really blame him. Truthfully, he felt bad for the kid. He'd lost count of how many times Daniel had gotten out of bed tonight. He was going to be exhausted by morning.

Despite the fact that it had only been about nine-thirty, Daniel had excused himself to bed soon after coming home. Crane had actually been a little disappointed in him, hoping his brother would gut it out – pun intended – like he must have done at Pony's and stayed up with his family for a while. Maybe even have played guitar with Crane. Given the state he was in now though, Crane realized how selfish those thoughts had been.

Unfortunately there wasn't much he could do for him. They weren't little kids anymore and Daniel would no more want Crane to hold his hand than he'd want to climb into bed with him. All he could do was toss a little bathroom humor Daniel's way; tease him with some brotherly banter. Let him know he was there.

Well that and let him sleep in as late as possible. Plus look after Daniel's share of the chores before they hit the road. Assuming the kid would be in any shape to join them.


Crane’s sleep had been far from a deep one after Daniel had finally settled for the night. Morning, actually. It had been close to four a.m. by then and with Daniel sleeping soundly, the last thing Crane had wanted was for their alarm to go off at five thirty and disturb him. So Crane had slept restlessly, keeping one eye on the clock and shutting off its alarm before ultimately getting up at five to get a head-start on the day.

He’d already let out the horses and filled up their outside feed bins by the time the rest of the brothers, minus Daniel, had caught up with him.

Having done the bulk of the morning chores, Crane had claimed first dibs on the shower and had dressed in clothes snagged from the laundry before finally making his way back to his room to check on his ailing brother.

It looked like Daniel hadn’t moved a muscle from the time Crane had snuck out of the room until now. He still looked like he’d run a marathon though, with his hair plastered to his face and forehead and even to the back of his neck. Crane hoped all that sweat meant whatever fever the kid had suffered through last night had broken. Asleep curled up in the fetal position Daniel looked small and vulnerable and not at all like the compact and muscular athlete Crane knew him to be.

"Daniel? Come on, kid. Time to wake up." Crane spoke softly, allowing the hand he had resting on Daniel’s back to be the catalyst to wake him.

"’S morning already?" The kid mumbled into his pillow.

"I’m afraid so."

"Shit," was all he said as he closed his eyes once more. Crane was about to suggest staying home but Daniel must have been using that brief respite to steel himself, opening his eyes just then and uttering, "Okay," before bracing a shaky arm beneath him and attempting to sit up. It took a second try before he actually succeeded and Crane’s unsaid suggestion was looking more and more like a certainty. He still hadn’t voiced it yet though. He’d give the kid a few more minutes for the cobwebs to clear first.

Daniel was sitting sideways on his bed now, bare feet planted on the floor. Hunched over so low his head hung below his shoulders. With one arm cradling what still had to be a tender stomach, his other rested on his thigh and it looked for all the world to be the only thing preventing him from toppling over onto the floor. Simply put, he looked like death warmed over and he clearly knew it too, making no attempt whatsoever to hide how lousy he was feeling from Crane.

When Daniel straightened – more or less – and reached a hand out to Crane in a silent request to help him up, Crane decided it was time to speak his mind.

Gripping Daniel's hand he hauled him up to his feet, not letting go until he drew the kid in close enough to wrap a supportive arm around his back. "You realize you're in no shape for this, don't you?" It wasn't really a question.

Daniel immediately took offense, shaking his head and trying to pull away. But when that resulted in a hiss and him doubling over a little, it made his, "I'm okay," sound awfully unconvincing.

"Yeah, sure you are." On what planet? Crane wanted to ask. He bit his tongue though, knowing Daniel's threshold for sarcasm wouldn't be very high this morning.

"I just need a shower," Daniel continued his protest and Crane had to wonder just who he was trying to convince. Crane wasn't going to argue with him. Daniel was old enough to decide whether or not he was up to spending a day eating rodeo ring and stock pen dust at the county fairgrounds.

"Okay," he relented. "Come on then." Clasping the kid's neck, Crane proceeded to usher Daniel down the hall to the bathroom, explaining along the way that there weren't any chores awaiting him once he got downstairs. After promising to gather up some clothes for him to put on, Crane left Daniel to his own devices. Managing only a few strides toward their room before a soft voice halted him.



The kid was looking ridiculously vulnerable again. Eyes shining with gratitude and relief, standing there all rumpled and disheveled in an oversized t-shirt and pajama bottoms. To Crane's mind's eye, Daniel looked all of eight years old and not eighteen.

"Thanks, bro."

It didn't help that one of the kid's arms had gravitated toward his belly again and he was absently rubbing it. The image was kicking Crane's big brother instincts into overdrive. Maybe that's why a long unused phrase he'd once reserved solely for Daniel had popped into his head. One he'd borrowed from a bald detective with a fondness for lollipops they used to watch Wednesday nights on TV. And one that easily rolled off his tongue now.

"Hey. Who loves you?"

Daniel's answering snort and exaggerated eye roll reminded Crane of why he'd stopped using the line years ago. The kid's muttered, "Cornball," though? Well it and the affectionate smile Daniel failed dismally to hide, somehow made using it again seem worthwhile.


"So? How is he?" Adam asked as Crane made his way from the bottom of the stairs to the breakfast table. With the exception of Daniel, his family was either already seated or gathered near the table, their expressions ranging from Guthrie's curiosity to Hannah's blatant concern. While they were working on their morning chores, Crane had already let them know that Daniel's night had been a rough one and so far the kid had yet to make an appearance downstairs. Crane expected him any minute though; the shower had been shut off for a while.

Gratefully accepting the steaming mug of coffee Brian handed him, Crane took a swig then answered wryly. "Stubborn."

Poor Ford nearly choked on his O.J., which only made Evan and Guthrie laugh harder.

"Like that's something we didn't already know," Brian said with a smirk, lightly elbowing Crane in the side and damn near upending his coffee in the process.

"Hey, watch it, you jerk," Crane protested, shaking off the traces of the piping hot liquid from his fingers before sidling past Brian into the kitchen.

He was enjoying the familiar morning banter, relishing in it actually. Still, he couldn’t shake that image of Daniel standing outside the bathroom door. Sick and hurting and… yeah... Looking downright fragile.

Setting down his mug, he leaned back against the counter and sighed heavily. That drew Adam's attention and when their eldest raised an eyebrow; it was all the incentive Crane needed to declare, "He's not up to this."

Crane might've announced it to the group but his gaze was fixed on Adam. He watched as the line of Adam's jaw tightened in the way it always did whenever he was mulling over something serious. He wasn't at all surprised when Adam asked, or rather stated for the record, "You think he should stay home."

"Who should stay home?"

Now that surprised Crane.

It was Daniel, rounding the bottom of the stairs and heading toward the table. Looking ten times healthier than he had less than an hour earlier, Crane almost wondered if his mind had been playing tricks on him. Well acquainted with the rejuvenating qualities of a good, long shower, he almost fell for Daniel's recharged and recovered act.


Taking another sip from his mug, Crane couldn't help scrutinizing Daniel over its brim as he continued toward the group. Clean and refreshed, Daniel did look better. He wasn't as pale, nor was he flushed, but his eyes were still sunken, a reminder of the sleepless night he'd had.

Tired Crane could abide. It was Daniel's movement that had him doubting the kid's bravado though. He'd walked stiffly to the table and Crane was sure he caught a wince when Daniel pulled a chair out for himself. And most telling was his right arm's constant gravitation toward his belly. The kid's guts might have settled down but he was still hurting. Crane decided to let it go though; knowing the true test was going to come from Hannah.

Breakfast was being served.

Things got lively around the table, as was pretty typical when their house full of carnivores got anywhere near food. Biscuits and buns were being tossed around like hot potatoes and the banter, mostly at Evan's expense once again, was plentiful. Daniel even joined in, though he was quieter than usual.

With Ford's help and the efficiency of an assembly line, Hannah commenced serving up omelets on each plate presented to her while a large platter of bacon strips was circulating clockwise starting with Brian. And all the while Crane kept one eye on Daniel, who was showing none of his usual enthusiasm for the mouthwatering fare and was focusing solely on tearing apart a bun into pieces small enough to feed a bird.

When it came time to hand over his plate to Ford, Daniel, looking decidedly ashen, baulked and Crane would've called him on it but Hannah spoke up first.

"Hang on, Daniel," she said, holding out a different plate with only a couple of boiled eggs and some slices of plain toast on it. "How about we trade, sweetheart?"

Crane could've kissed her for looking out for him like that.

Adam actually did; getting up from his end the table and walking along its length to do so. And then, with a contented smile, he slipped into the kitchen, collected the coffeepot and proceeded to pour more for anyone who wanted it.

Daniel thanked her for the plate and relinquished his other one but Crane could tell that even that bland offering was testing his stomach's limits of tolerance. And that was without him even attempting to eat any of it.

The last straw was Guthrie helpfully offering up the platter of bacon that Daniel had already rejected. The boy was practically waving it under Daniel's nose. Certain of the outcome, Crane made it out of his seat even before a decidedly green Daniel did. "Someone get a bucket!" he yelled, as he rounded the table and threw his arm around Daniel's already heaving back.

Concentrating on his miserable brother, Crane just barely registered Adam's curse, Hannah and Guthrie calling Daniel's name or the scraping of multiple chair legs against the floor. Despite everyone's concern, in the end, only he and Brian shepherded Daniel into the mudroom leading from the kitchen to the back porch. It was as far as they were able to get before the kid began puking his guts up into the bucket Brian had grabbed from beneath the kitchen sink and was supporting beneath him.

"Easy, easy, I gotcha." Crane soothed as Daniel's torment continued, feeling utterly useless even as he rested one hand on Daniel's back while the other lightly supported his chest.

Crane had been right all along. He sure as hell wasn't happy about it though.

"I'll take care of this," Brian offered once the relentless retching finally subsided. His sympathy was obvious as he remained on bucket duty, affectionately mussing Daniel's hair while the kid remained doubled over, white-knuckled hands now braced against his knees. But then, because it was Brian, he added teasingly, "Try not to part with anything else until I get back," grabbing up the bucket and heading out the back door, presumably to hose it clean.

If the head of the family or anyone else besides Brian and Crane heard Daniel's whispered, "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on," they didn't acknowledge it.

Brian did though. His laugh-tinged, "That's my boy," following him out the door and onto the back porch.


"Amscray, Squirt," Crane ordered, throwing a thumb over his shoulder toward the door for added emphasis. "Grab your jacket; we're almost ready to head out."

"All right," Guthrie answered reluctantly, his characteristic enthusiasm totally absent. Extricating himself out from under Daniel's arm, their youngest got up from the couch. He'd been curled up next to Daniel who, in his misery, had been pressed up against one of the armrests, his eyes either closed or staring into space and his knees tightly drawn up, ever since he'd had that nasty bout of nausea.

Turning back to Daniel, Guthrie said gloomily, "Bye, Daniel. See ya tonight."

"See ya, buddy," Daniel replied softly, meeting their baby brother's sorrowful gaze. "Thanks for the company."

"Any time," the twelve year-old offered, a hint of a smile showing now.

Crane took Guthrie's spot, sliding his arm behind Daniel's back and effectively reeling the kid into his shoulder, muttering, "Sorry," when the movement caused Daniel to suck in a breath. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just a twinge."

He had to be feeling incredibly awful. Daniel's resistance was down if he was willing to sit there huddled with Crane, the mirror image of the way he'd been with Guthrie. "I could stay, keep you company."

"Oh, come on. Not you too." Daniel pulled away, though he sounded more irritated than angry.

Crane knew he was referring to Hannah's earlier declaration to stay home with him. The kid had been mortified and Crane couldn't say he blamed him. Hannah may well be a bona fide McFadden now but she wasn't their mother. She was a girl and just about the last person Daniel wanted baby-sitting him while he was hurling his guts up. Fortunately Adam had stepped in; saving the kid from potentially hurting her feelings and informing all of them that Daniel was old enough to know whether he was in any shape to stay home alone.

Despite how lousy he was feeling, the McFadden who most enjoyed the limelight wanted no part of an audience right now. "Why can't you all just leave me to die in peace?" He moaned, tilting back over to the armrest and the pillow waiting for him there.

"Fine. So sue me for making the offer," Crane chuckled, conceding defeat. Patting the kid's arm, he got up but decided to make another one. "Do you at least want help to our room?"

Daniel's eyes were closed already but he blinked them open slowly. "No, thanks. Think I'm gonna stay down here for a while." More like all day, Crane figured, given how weak he looked.

Evan came in the front door then and Crane realized everyone else must already be waiting for him outside. Their rodeo cowboy was looking anxious, though Crane could see the guilt in his eyes too. Poor kid was itching to get rolling but no doubt feeling bad about rushing off and leaving his sick brother behind. Daniel must've noticed it too.

"Hey, man. Sorry I can't make it," he said, lifting his head up off of the pillow.

Evan smiled, shrugged his shoulders then added lightheartedly, "No problem, bro. It's one less person there to watch Coop chew me out when I land on my ass."

Crane was happy to hear Daniel laugh, even if only lightly. His, "Go knock 'em dead, cowboy," made leaving a little easier too.

For Evan too, by the look of it. With Daniel's release, Evan was practically rocking on his boot heels. And, given the time, Crane realized it wasn't just because he was looking forward to his training day. They were running late and Evan was in danger of getting an ass-chewing from Coop well before he even got near a bronc.

"Okay, we're out of here," Crane said and Evan was back out the door like a shot.

Crane still took another minute or two to top up the water jug Hannah had given Daniel and return it to the table next to him. Admonishing him to heed Hannah and drink lots of fluids, Daniel rolled his eyes but promised he would. After making sure his trusty bucket was within reach if he needed it again, Crane made his way to the door. Opening it he turned back to Daniel, already settled deeper into the couch, both arms wrapped around his midsection this time.

The image rattled him, just like the one from earlier that morning. Shaking off his unease, Crane told himself, not for the first time, it was only an upset stomach. And it wasn't like they were going to be away overnight.

Besides, there were phone-booths at the fairgrounds.

"Daniel?" He called out, feeling a twinge of guilt when the kid startled awake.

"Oh, for God's sake would you go already?"

Crane didn't bother apologizing, choosing to pull rank on him instead. "That phone rings, you answer it. You hear me?"

"I hear you, mom," he said tiredly, his mouth apparently more awake than he was.

"Good." There was no need to tell him what would happen if he didn't pick up the phone. They both knew Crane would let it ring until he did. Otherwise he'd head home to check on Daniel in person. After all, he'd done it before.


Crane couldn't explain it but, the further he drove down the road; the more anxious he became.

Originally the plan had been for everyone to pile into the truck but, knowing Daniel wasn't going to be using it, Crane decided to take the Jeep too. That way, if he decided to leave the fairgrounds, he wouldn't strand the rest of the family there.

Not that he'd have any reason to leave.

So, with Brian climbing in beside him, they had taken the lead ahead of Adam, Hannah and the kids.

"If you're worrying about bein' followed, I think I can identify the driver of that truck," Brian said dryly. Apparently he'd noticed Crane checking the rearview. Only Crane wasn't looking at the old International being driven by Adam. It was that big white house. Getting further and further from view. Empty but for the kid who'd looked weak as a kitten.

"Funny guy," Crane said half-heartedly.

"I try," was Brian's only response, no doubt realizing that Crane wasn't in the mood to engage in any brotherly verbal sparring.

Crane tried to ignore his twitchiness, forcefully keeping his rebellious boot on the accelerator. After all, he was being ridiculous, he knew. It didn't matter though. By the time he saw the intersection ahead of them where gravel was about to meet pavement, he'd swear his heart was beating loud enough for Brian to hear it.

He couldn't do this. "Hang on," he shouted over the sound of the tires crunching atop the gravel, suddenly veering off onto the shoulder and skidding to a stop.

"Are you fucking nuts?" Brian bellowed, righting himself in the seat and straightening his hat. He was looking at Crane like he didn't recognize him and it was no wonder. After all, Crane certainly wasn't the McFadden with "Reckless" as his middle name.

Crane didn't know what to say, knew his words were about to be drowned out by Adam's anyway. He settled for a weak, "Sorry," and hopped out of the Jeep.

Crane heard Adam's commanding, "Stay in the truck," before the resounding slam of its door. Adam had pulled up behind him so instead of meeting him in the middle, Crane headed further off to the side. He didn't want Hannah or the kids too close to within earshot of Adam's wrath.

He decided he'd made the right call when Adam suddenly grabbed him by the collar, swinging him around and shaking him roughly. "What the hell were you thinking? You could've ditched the Jeep!"

Crane knew damn well his oldest brother's concern wasn't for the Jeep. There was no question the head of their family was livid though. Rightly so, Crane was willing to concede, so he had no intention of getting into a shouting match. But he wasn't going to back down either. Lightly wrapping his hands around the ones still gripping his shirt, Crane waited, trying to exude calm until Adam relaxed too, before offering his apology. "Look, I'm sorry. And you can bawl me out later all you want. But Evan needs to go and I need to get back home."

"What?" Adam let go, as though his strings had been cut.

Crane dropped his head then took a fortifying breath. Cutting his eyes back to Adam, he confessed, "It's just a feeling, all right." He wished his voice sounded steadier but he continued anyway. "I know it's crazy but… I just can't shake it."

Searching Adam's eyes for a hint of understanding, he knew he found it when Adam shook his head then reached across the space between them to grip Crane's neck. "I'm about the last person on earth who'd ever doubt your gut, kid. You know that," he said, the grief of Hannah's miscarriage reflected in his sad smile. The memory, though fading with time, was still a painful one. Though Daniel and Crane had made it home in time to save Hannah's life, she lost the baby. If Crane had acted on his concerns right away, had said something sooner, maybe...

"Hey, cut it out," Adam chided, smacking Crane lightly on the cheek this time. "We've got a little brother to check on."

Crane was still marveling at Adam's ability to know where his mind had wandered to so it took him a second to catch up to speed. "What? No! We don't need the whole cavalry," he argued. "Daniel's gonna flip out as it is when I show up there."

"You sure?" Adam was wearing his pensive look again.

Crane was sure. After all, he might be paranoid but even he realized this was just a barfy little brother. It wasn't like last time. No one's life was hanging in the balance.


Continued in Part 2