Disclaimer: Not mine I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: How the MAG7 Fire Brigade began.

Monday morning
8 a.m.

The warmth of the sunlight streaming through the bedroom window woke him up more than anything. He had totally missed the alarm but his sleep-riddled mind touched upon that only briefly. What did wake him up was the sensation of Sarah's hot lips touching the skin between his shoulder blades and her soft voice whispering his name.

"Chris. Wake up, sleepyhead. You'll be late for work."

He groaned and pulled the pillow over his head. The bed gave when she sat down next to him and pulled the pillow away.

"Come on, honey. Buck is in the kitchen, raiding the fridge. You have to stop him before he devours everything in the house. You know what he's like in the morning," she added in a pleading tone of voice.

"What the hell is Buck doing here this early?" he grumbled into the mattress before he turned his head and glanced up at her.

Sarah smiled. "It's not that early, honey," she said, pecked him on the cheek and got up. "Get a move on, Detective," she added with a grin and left the bedroom again.

"Detective," he muttered, rolled over on his back and sat up. "Just means more paperwork. Glorified clerk, that's what I've become," he continued, got up and headed for the shower. "And now I have to deal with Buck this early in the morning too."

He finished his shower in record time and was dressed and ready for some breakfast within moments. The first thing he saw when he entered the kitchen was the fridge door wide open and the lower part of a pair of Levis and the worn cowboy boots his oldest friend was always running around in.

"Get out of my fridge, Bucklin. Do you have any idea how much electricity that monster uses when you leave it open like that?" he growled and gave the door a push.

Buck was quick to close the door and took a big bite out of the cold chicken leg he had snatched. "I didn't manage to get home last night and... well... talk about a cheap date. She didn't even give me breakfast in bed," he said with a grin.

Sarah shot him a mock glare and pushed a plate with scrambled eggs and sausages across the center table toward him. "Good thing you know where to get fed, huh?" she asked and smiled sweetly at him.

Buck smiled back at her and attacked the plate as if he hadn't seen food for the past week. "Nobody cooks like you, Sarah," he said between mouthfuls.

Chris made a face, grabbed a cup and poured himself some coffee. "Yeah, you're eating us out of house and home," he commented.

"When are you gonna settle down and get a wife, Buck? Don't you think it's about time?" Sarah asked, causing the tall man to nearly choke on a mouthful of eggs.

"Don't use that word around Buck, Sarah. You know he's allergic to it," Chris inserted with a devilish grin.

Buck shot him a glare and then turned his attention back to Sarah. "You know that I love you ladies one and all," he said. "How am I going to choose one?"

Chris rolled his eyes and grabbed a piece of toast. "It's easy, pardner. You fall in love first," he said and wrapped an arm around Sarah from behind. "And then you marry her," he added and kissed the nap of Sarah's neck.

"Ah, if only it were that easy," Buck lamented. "How can I choose when I love them all?"

Sarah settled for shaking her head while Chris snorted with annoyance. "Yeah, you love them all," he agreed. "The trouble with you, Bucklin, is you're living the easy life. You don't want to settle down. You think you can have it all. But how long do you think that's gonna last? Some day soon, you'll be too old to find any willing women. And then what?"

Sarah stopped anything else he might want to say by elbowing him in the guts. "Shush now. I don't wanna hear that kinda talk in my kitchen in the morning," she admonished. "Finish your breakfast and be on your way. You don't want to be late on your first day as new Detectives, do you?"

Buck grinned and Chris looked like he hadn't slept right for a month. "Can you spell tons of paper-work?" he asked with a sigh and set his cup down. "Okay, let's go," he added.

"Right behind you, pard," Buck said, grabbed another piece of toast and followed him to the door.


Boston Police Department
Warren Avenue
2 p.m.

Their first day as detectives had one distinct difference about it from the previous Friday, where they had still been regular cops. They had a hell of a lot more desk time. Chris had spent the majority of the day sifting through a pile of folders their Captain had dumped on his desk while he was trying to figure out which one was more important. Buck, of course, spent the majority of the day putting the moves on anything even remotely female and Chris had to admit to himself that he was getting a little bit tired of his friend's antics.

"Buck," he snapped, causing Buck to jerk and nearly spill a cup of water all over a new cop, who just happened to be female. "Get over here and do some work," he growled.

Buck gave him a glare, took his leave of the lovely lady by handing her his card, and dropped down on his chair behind his desk. He leaned forward and arched an eyebrow. "What's got you so peed off this morning?" he asked.

For the briefest of moments Chris considered throwing his coffee mug at his friend and partner, but then he sighed and jabbed his thumb over his shoulder at the clock on the wall. "It's hardly morning any more and you've done nothing but hit on anything with a skirt," he replied instead and dumped half of the case files on Buck's desk. "Do what you're being paid for, pard. I'm not taking your share of the load."

Buck grinned, as usual impossible to anger, and flipped the first file open. "Don't you just love being a Detective?" he asked.

"No, I don't," Chris grumbled. "Not yet, at least."

"Oh, come on. Sarah is so proud she could burst. And Adam has a bad case of hero-worship," Buck said, still with a grin on his lips. "It's times like these that I wish I had someone to come home to," he added and sighed deeply.

"Yeah, right," Chris growled and glanced up when someone entered the open-plan office. A frown furrowed his brow. That man was way too overdressed to be a cop and way too obvious to be a detective.

Buck noticed his preoccupation and glanced over one shoulder. With a snort of suppressed laughter, he returned his attention to the file.

"You know him?" Chris asked and turned his attention to Buck.

"Yeah, that's Ezra Standish. He's a Fed. Not very good at it, from what I've heard. He stands out like sore thumb," Buck replied.

Chris almost smiled. "I hope he's not working undercover," he growled and turned his attention to his files again.

Buck chuckled. "You can say that again," he added. "Say, why don't we go out after work for a few beers, eh? To celebrate?"

"You haven't done enough celebrating over the weekend?" Chris asked without taking his eyes of the case file he was reading through.

"Well, we haven't done any celebrating together. Come on. I'm not saying we should go on a binge and drink the city dry, pard. But we deserve it," Buck pushed.

Chris made a face. "I don't know. I promised Sarah I'd be home early," he said and pursed his lips in contemplation.

"Your lovely bride will understand," Buck assured him. "She's very understanding for a woman."

Chris gave him a glare for his trouble. "All right. One beer. And I wanna be home by eleven."

"You got it, pard."

It was very clear to Chris that they probably wouldn't be home by eleven and he decided to call Sarah at some point during the day to warn her that he might be late.


Charlie's Drop-in
Warren Avenue
6 p.m.

The bar was crowded, the majority of the patrons being regulars, and Chris and Buck got their beers without asking because they did have a tendency to drop by there on a regular basis. Chris eyed his glass of beer for a while before actually drinking anything, a fact that didn't stop Buck from downing half of his in one go.

"Damn, that's just what I needed," he sighed, and then frowned at Chris. "What's up, pard?"

"Not much," Chris confessed. "I've just got this bad feeling..." He trailed off and sighed, "... that I'm driving myself crazy over nothing again," he finished.

"And you're damned good at it, too," Buck agreed. "Have a drink, kick back, relax. We're on easy street now."

Chris eyed his beer some more and then grabbed the mug and took a few almost tentative sips. "I think I'm gonna go when I've finished this one."

"Aw, come on, Chris. What is wrong with you today? You've been grouchy all day long," Buck complained. "Can't you be happy that things are going our way for a change? Do you always have to look at the dark side of life?"

With the sensation that he should have heeded the voice of his inner 'demon', as he called it, Chris looked up to meet Buck's eyes. "When I woke up this morning, I had the distinct sensation that I should stay at home. And I keep thinking I'll regret that I didn't."

Buck set his glass down and leaned forward. "Christopher Larabee, you gotta lighten up a little. Every corner you see means trouble. Where everybody else sees the potential for a great adventure, you see nothing but disaster. Would you just stop it? You're depressing the hell out of me."

"And what if I'm right?" Chris demanded. "What if this sensation, like so many other times, pans out?"

"Would it kill you to be a little more upbeat, pal?" Buck asked. "Look, I know you've got some kind of weird ability to predict disasters, but it does not pan out every time and if you recall, you've had this sensation a million times where Sarah and Adam are concerned and nothing ever comes of it. Why should this time be any different?"

For the longest moment, Chris just stared at his old friend, but then he sighed and relaxed almost visibly. "You're right," he finally agreed. "You're right. This is nuts," he repeated, grabbed the glass and downed half of the contents.


Buck eyed his friend for a moment. He wanted to make sure that Chris wouldn't laps back into this state of self-pity which had plagued him for as long as Buck could remember. Granted, Chris' mom had died early and he blamed himself for her death because he had gotten it into his head that he could have prevented it, but Buck didn't believe that for a moment. He had known Mrs. L and he knew how she had died and there had been nothing a twelve year old boy could have done to stop her from driving headlong into a tree and getting herself killed. And all because she loved animals so much that she didn't want to kill a cat crossing the darkened road ahead of her car.

Mr. L had taken it badly, though, and had started drinking after his wife's death. Buck had always been on good terms with the old man, who had acted like a father to him too, and Mr. L had once confessed to him that Mrs. L had suffered from a rather severe depression while she had been pregnant with her only son. Mr. L was convinced that Chris' ability to see the dark side of life had something to do with that, that his wife had somehow transferred her dark thoughts to her unborn child. At first Buck had thought it was nonsense, but he had since realized that there was probably a speck of truth to it.

Chris had the ability to depress everybody he got close to just by being who he was and Buck was always trying to cheer him up. The first time he had seen Chris smile for real was when he had met Sarah. And Buck had actually believed that this dark and dreary spell in his life was over when the two of them had gotten married. It had changed Chris' psyche totally and Buck had adored Sarah for the very fact that she managed to make Chris see the good side of life. Adam's birth had been another step forward and Chris had been prone to laughing about things rather than just smile serenely like he used to.

But lately, things had changed back to the old ways again. Chris was plagued by nightmares and premonitions that made the most hair-raising horror flick look like a trip to the park. As far as Buck could tell, everything was coming up roses, both at home and at work, and he just didn't understand why Chris was lapsing back into the dark and dreary pessimism of his youth.

For now, it seemed that Chris had shed the darkness once again and Buck allowed himself to relax a little. With his back to the wall, he had the view of the bar, and his gaze settled almost immediately on the back of a dark red coat he had seen somewhere before. "Hey, look," he said to Chris, nodding toward the man sitting at the bar with his back to them. "That's Standish. Wonder what he's doing here."

"Go ask him," Chris suggested and downed the rest of his beer. "Let's have another one," he added. "By the way, have you seen Sanchez lately? The old geezer promised he'd give me a call once he was back in town."

"You know what Josiah's like. All that penance crap he's got going really freaks me out sometimes," Buck replied and kept staring at Standish.

"Why? Because the man happens to believe in God enough to devote his life to the cause? Hell, he's not much different from us, if you think about it," Chris countered.

Buck arched an eyebrow while one of the bar maids brought them another round without being prompted. "How do you figure that? I do believe in God, Chris, but Josiah seems set on punishing himself for his sister's mental instability for the rest of his life. The man must realize that he had nothing to do with it."

Chris took a sip of his new beer and made a face. "I know that the idea of celibacy must make you dizzy, Buck, but that doesn't mean that others can't abstain from the temptations of the flesh. If you think Josiah's crazy for wanting to be a priest, he must think you're crazy for fooling around like you do. Actually, I think it's a good thing you're not married. I doubt you would be able to stick to one woman."

"Hey, that's not true," Buck growled. "If I do get married one day, it's because I love her more than the others. It just has to happen yet. And if I do get married, pard, it'll be for life."

"Yeah, right," Chris said with a grin. "Like you'd be able to be faithful," he added and turned around on his chair. "Hey, Standish," he called, causing the Fed to turn his head and give him a frown for his trouble. "Join us for a beer?"

For a moment, Standish just sat there, but then he shrugged, got off his chair and brought his drink over to the table. "Gentlemen," he said and settled down.

Buck gave Chris a sharp glare, but then smiled. "Well, howdy pard. How's life been treating you?" he asked.

"None too good, I'm afraid. As per today, I am... how shall I say?... otiose," Standish said and sighed unhappily.

All Buck could do was stare at him. "O-what?" he asked.

"Unemployed," Chris translated. "How'd that happen?"

"Department cutbacks, I'm afraid," Standish replied. "Adding to the rather obvious fact that I have never... well... been considered to be a good appurtenance to the team, I was among the first to be... to put it crudely... laid off."

"Sorry to hear that, pal," Chris said. "So, you were at the station today looking for a job?"

"Partly. I am considering a change of career, but have so far not been able to find anything appropriate," Standish replied.

"We could always put in a good word for you," Chris said and eyed him thoughtfully. "There is just one thing you need to keep in mind. Flashy coats like that don't mix well with the criminal element."

"Oh, I am aware of that," Standish assured him. "I shall keep your offer in mind, though," he added.

Chris pulled a business card from one pocket, finally finding a use for it, and gave it to Standish. "Here. Give me a call if you reconsider," he suggested.

Standish picked it up and dropped it in his pocket without even so much as a glance at it. "Thank you kindly," he said and emptied his already nearly empty drink. "And now, gentlemen, I must be off." With that, he rose, turned around and headed straight for the exit.

"He's pretty composed, considering he's just lost his job," Chris commented and returned his attention to his drink.

"Well, from what I hear, Standish isn't easy to knock out," Buck said and noted that they had both run out of beer once again. "Another one?"

Chris eyed his glass, and then shrugged. "One more for the road. But I'm taking a cab home," he replied.

Buck grinned. "Good idea, pard," he said and waved for another round, which was delivered promptly.


1 a.m.

One more round became six more and Chris was feeling just a little bit unsteady on his feet when he hailed a cab and got in. After giving the driver the address, he sank back in the seat and closed his eyes. No matter how drunk he got, the sensation of doom looming at the horizon never disappeared completely. The ability to predict bad things happening was a curse more than a gift and he hated it. There was nothing he could do to subdue it and it was becoming increasingly difficult to live with. It didn't happen very often although Buck was inclined to say he did it all the time. And it didn't come true half the time. But it was the other half that he was scared of; the half where his fears became reality. And this time around, his fears centered around his wife and son and he couldn't shake the feeling, no matter what he did.

"Hey, buddy, we're here."

The voice of the driver cut through his reverie and brought him back to the present. For a moment, he just sat there, but then he paid the man and got out. The trip to the North End had seemed shorter than usual.

The cab left again and he stood there and stared up at the dark building in Foster Street while once again trying to work up the courage to go up there. It was a struggle for him to go home because he was afraid of what he would find. Mainly, his thoughts centered around a burglar who had killed both of them, or a gas leak or something similar. He couldn't get those thoughts out of his head and he found it harder each day to get up and go to work with the fear that he would find his family dead when he got back rummaging around in the back of his head.

"Get your act together, Larabee," he admonished himself, took a couple of deep breaths and walked up to the front door. The air was heavy with the scent of jasmine and the temperatures were pleasant despite the fact that it was late September. The jasmine was blooming for the second time this year at the North End Playground, a place he loved to take his son to. The area was huge and green and bordered right on the water and being there gave him peace of mind.

He pushed the door open and took the elevator up to the fifth floor, made his way down the corridor and opened the door to the apartment. Sarah had talked about them getting a house now that he had made detective, but he wasn't so sure about that. He wanted to get settled in the job before they made such a big decision. Besides, the North End was supposedly the safest part of Boston. He saw no reason to leave.

The bedroom door opened and Sarah stepped out. "There you are," she said quietly. Her eyes narrowed a little. "Drunk as a skunk, I can see," she added and smiled wryly.

"Sorry. I got a little carried away," he confessed. "Everything okay here?"

"Yes, everything's fine... as I keep telling you," she replied, stepped forward and wrapped an arm around him. "I'm thinking I'm going to have to talk to Buck about this in the morning," she added.

"Yeah, you give him a good talking to. He's too careless," Chris agreed while she guided him into the bedroom.

"Yes, he is. But you've got a mind of your own, Chris. There is such a thing as taking responsibility for your own actions, you know," she said. "Get to bed. You're asleep on your feet."

"Yes, mommy," he countered and gave her an unsteady grin. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"Yes. You told me when you called me at five. And I love you too. Now get to bed. You'll have trouble enough getting out of bed tomorrow," she said and gave him a light push.

He sat down heavily on the bed and gazed up at her. "Woman, you are the best damned thing that's ever happened to me," he said.

"I know. You told me that at five too," she replied with a smile.


The following morning

He woke up with a pounding head and a sour taste in his mouth and briefly wondered why that was. Then he vividly recalled the eight mega-beers he'd had the night before and groaned into his pillow.

"You awake?"

He turned his head and looked at Sarah lying next to him on her side, one arm angled under her head while she watched him thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Wish I wasn't, though," he replied and smiled weakly.

"You look like death warmed over, honey," she said quietly.

"I feel like it too. Damn, I shouldn't drink on a weeknight," he grumbled and sat up slowly.

"You wanna stay home?" she asked and smiled when he gave her a scrutinizing look. "You could sleep it off and then we could fool around when Adam's in school."

That made him grin mischievously despite the fact that his stomach was doing somersaults. "As tempting as that sounds, I don't think it would look too good on my record," he replied, leaned in and kissed her. "I love you, you know."

"Yes, I know, you told me about a million times before you nodded off," she said with a grin and got up. "Can I get you anything?"

"Yeah, a big glass of coke. Flat, preferably," he said and followed suit a little more slowly. He felt a bit dizzy and that didn't do anything for his already upset stomach.

"It's been sitting on the kitchen counter since last night," Sarah informed him. "Go get a shower. I'll make you some coffee and toast," she added and left the bedroom.

With a groan and nothing short of sheer willpower, he headed for the bathroom for that shower and couldn't help thinking that she was too good to be true. He'd known her for ages now, had been married with her for ten years and nothing in the world could make him look at another woman twice. Sarah was the only one for him, the only female he would ever even think of. He loved her and he loved his seven year old son, Adam. And until recently, all had been fluffy pink clouds. But the thought of losing them had suddenly wormed its way into his mind and he couldn't deal with it, couldn't handle the mere thought that it could happen. His choice of work had a lot to do with it, of course. And the higher he got in rank, the more likely it was that some crook would try to take his anger out on Chris' family.

It had happened to others in the department and Chris hadn't been able to stop thinking about it ever since he'd been told that he and Buck were promoted to full detectives. He had even gone so far as considering to turn the promotion down, but they needed the extra money and that was as far as it went. That it upset his inner peace wasn't something he'd really thought about until now.

With an exasperated sigh, he leaned his brow against the cool tiles of the shower stall while the water cascaded down over his naked body, soaking his skin. "I have to stop worrying so much," he muttered to himself. But that was easier said than done. "Sarah can take care of herself," he continued quietly. "She's tough. So's Adam. They'll be fine." He figured if he told this to himself enough times, he would end up believing it.