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Story Notes: Many thanks to my roomie, Wendy, for her support and IMs. Many more thanks to Charlotte for saving this story from the trash bin!

It was an ordinary day; they were prepping for a new case, getting Ezra ready to go undercover with Vin as his backup. Ezra and Vin were working on their back-story with Josiah; JD and Buck were making a list of the equipment they would need. Nathan had stepped out on an errand and Chris was in his office with the door half-open.

Then Travis walked in, and that was strange. Usually when the AD wanted to talk to someone, that person was invited up to his office. Or Travis might come to a scheduled meeting. For Travis to just walk in was odd. Even more odd, was that he didn’t greet any of them, just walked in, headed straight for Chris’ office, and said, “Wilmington, with me.”

Buck didn’t question it, didn’t look at anyone else, just got up and followed Travis. Travis didn’t knock on Chris’ door either, just waved for Buck to go in first and then followed him, closing the door firmly behind them.

Chris looked up, startled. “Orrin—“ he started to rise from his chair. Travis waved him to sit, then sat in the chair in front of the desk. Not knowing what was happening, Buck decided to stand, leaning against the wall. Chris looked at him, puzzled, then his gaze went back to Travis. “What’s going on?”

“There’s no easy way to say this, Chris.” Travis handed him a short stack of papers, neatly clipped together. “The number on the top paper is for an Agent Steve Brown, FBI based out of Houston. He’s expecting to hear from you. The other number is for Michelle Davis”

Neither name meant anything to Chris but the second one sent a chill down Buck’s spine. “Michelle Davis of the DPD?”

Chris looked at him quizzically. “You know her?”

“She’s on the new cold case unit. She’s…”

He didn’t have to go on. He said, “cold case” and suddenly Chris knew. Buck could see it on his face. He rose slightly from his desk, staring at Travis. “This has something to do with Sarah and Adam?”

Travis sighed deeply.

And then he told them.

Chris didn’t believe it at first. Buck wasn’t sure he believed it. It just didn’t seem possible. After five years, after all the investigation, the leads followed until they went nowhere, the nights Buck had stared at the case file, desperate for something, anything that would give them a place to look, to have it all end so suddenly with a confession from a man neither one of them had ever heard of before, seemed too quick, too easy, too impossible.

But the story checked out. Had already checked out, the FBI and the Denver police department were convinced. After five years, the cases of Sarah Larabee and Adam Larabee were closed.

But there were questions. The FBI, the Texas authorities, the DPD might be satisfied but Chris had questions. Buck had questions.

After all this time, all they had left were questions.


Chris wiggled loose from Buck’s hold and quietly slid out of bed, careful not to disturb his partner. It had been a hellish week, topping off an all-round bad month, culminating in a bust that had probably every alphabet-agency in the Denver area tripping over each other. Chris counted it a personal favor from the Man Upstairs that none of his men were maimed, damaged or killed by the people supposedly on the same side, to say nothing of the criminals.

After the bust, and the round-table bitchathon that followed it, Chris was stressed out and exhausted. The one thing he could be thankful for was it was a Friday night and, whenever they could manage it, Buck spent Friday nights at the Larabee ranch. A good meal at their favorite steak house, and his own bed with some good loving, not to mention his favorite human pillow, should have knocked Chris out. But now, over an hour after Buck’s deep breaths had morphed into soft snores, Chris was still wide awake, his mind spinning with no hope of sleep coming soon.

He grabbed a pair of sweat pants and padded gently out of the room, easing the door closed behind him. Buck had had just as bad a week as Chris, and at least one of them should get some sleep.

Years of living in this house allowed Chris to move without turning on lights, exiting onto the wide porch that surrounded the house on two sides. He leaned against the split-wood rail, breathing deeply of the cool air. It was still summer in Denver, but the bite of the fall was already here in the surrounding hills.

It was a full moon tonight. Up here, away from the city lights, the moon was huge, spilling light over the land in a silver cascade and cloaking it in velvet shadow at the same time. The barn, a dark hulk against the indigo sky, was off to one side, a solid bulk. Chris imagined he could hear the soft whickers of the horses from where he was. He smiled a little. If one of those spoiled monsters had seen him standing on the porch, there wouldn’t be soft whickers but more like demanding whinnies for food, or attention, or just simply to remind him they were there.

The smile faded as his eyes shifted to the long driveway, winding away into darkness. Sometimes he dreamed he was standing here, that morning, that final morning, watching his truck disappear down that drive, imagining Sarah and Adam, in the cab, beginning their day. The day that ended so horrifically, so finally, less than a mile from the bottom of the drive, in flames and agony and death.

The death of Chris’ wife and son. The ending of the life he knew.

He stood, staring but not seeing, as the white-silver moonlight gently spilled to the ground.


Buck stood in the doorway and watched his lover.

He’d woken startled; from deep sleep to wide awake instantly. Noticing the tangled bed covers and the empty pillow next to him, he realized Chris obviously couldn’t sleep and was alone somewhere. After quickly checking the great room and the kitchen, he headed for the porch, knowing Chris was outside. He started to Chris’ side but then held back, not venturing out of the door.

The moon was full, and hanging so close he could almost touch it. The air might have the chill of autumn but this was a summer moon, clear and shimmering silver, and lighting all in its path with an ethereal glow.

“She loved this kind of night, remember?” Chris didn’t turn, just continued to stare into the night.

Buck walked forward slowly. “I remember. She always called it a ‘still moon’.”

“She said the world was holding its breath, waiting for something special to happen.”

Buck stopped behind his lover, surprised when Chris reached back and grabbed his arms, tightly wrapping them around his waist and twining their fingers together.

“I’m forgetting, Buck,” he said desperately. “It’s all fading. Sarah’s smile; the sound of Adam’s voice calling me Daddy.”

Buck rested his chin on Chris’s shoulder. ““It’s been five years. Maybe you’re just healing,” he said quietly.

“Part of me wants that,” Chris admitted, his voice barely above a whisper. “Wants to heal. I know…I know I’ve put you through hell—“

Buck made a little sound of protest, his lips kissing Chris’ shoulder. “Chris—“

“The only reason I’m still alive is because of you. You know that.”

There was a long moment of silence. Finally Buck whispered, “I’m the reason they’re gone—“

Chris turned in the circle of Buck’s arms, lifted his fingers to close Buck’s lips. “No,” he said firmly. “No, Buck. It’s not your fault. It never was.”

“You stayed another night because of me.”

Chris shook his head. “I stayed with you because I wanted to. There was one seat on that plane. I could have taken it. Hell, you told me to take it. It was my decision to stay. I’ve never blamed you.”

Buck didn’t say anything, just buried his head in Chris’ neck.

“Buck,” Chris said, suddenly. “I never did blame you, did I?”

The only answer Buck could give was his silence.

“Damn it,” Chris swore. He pulled back a little, put his hands on either side of Buck’s face. “I did, didn’t I? When I was drunk—I said it was your fault, didn’t I? Once, Buck? Twice? How many times did I take my own guilt out on you?”

Buck just shook his head, face downcast, eyes in shadow. “It doesn’t matter. You didn’t even know what you were saying.”

“It does. It does matter,” Chris said intently. “No, don’t look away from me. Buck, it wasn’t your fault. All these years—have you stayed with me, put up with my shit, with me treating you the way I did—was it because you felt guilty?”

That got a reaction. Buck’s head shot up sharply. “No. No, Chris. If I’d just felt guilty—I would have left. I would have had to; I wouldn’t have been able to stay. You told me to leave, time and time again. I would have. I love you, Chris.”

“And I love you.” Chris pulled Buck close again.

They stood in the silver moonlight, holding each other close.

“For so long, I’ve thought if—when—I found out who killed them, it would be…God, I hate the term, closure. That maybe then, I could let the two of them rest in peace, maybe start to move on. I want to move on, I want the two of us to be able to move on, together.

“But now, now we know who did it. And it doesn’t answer anything. Just leaves me with more questions. More questions and no answers,” Chris finished bitterly.

Six months before, a death row prisoner in Texas named Cletus Fowler had suddenly announced he wanted to clear his conscience before being executed. He’d been convicted of killing a Houston attorney, his wife, their twenty-year old son and their housekeeper. After three years of professing his innocence, he’d suddenly done an about-face and confessed. Confessed to not only those four murders, but also an additional seventeen over a period of fourteen years and across six states. When asked why he’d killed twenty-one people, his answer had been chilling in its simplicity.

He’d been paid to do it.

He’d been hired to kill. Cletus Fowler, age forty-seven, who owned a small import export business in San Diego and had a wife and two teenage children, was a hit man.

At first the Texas authorities had been skeptical. But Fowler provided names, dates, details. Texas contacted law enforcement in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Nevada. Fowler had never killed anyone in his home state of California, he’d announced, because “You don’t shit in your own yard.”

And the details matched. Seventeen unsolved cases were, in a matter of days, solved.

Confessed he may have to his crimes, but as to who his employers had been, he stood mute. He was confessing for his own sake, he’d declared, because it was the right thing for him to do so. But he wasn’t going to take anyone else down with him. Even when officials, desperate for more information, had dangled the carrot of commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment in front of him, he’d refused to answer.

And that was where things stood. Texas flatly refused to extradite Fowler to any of the other states for trial, pointing out he was already due to be executed, and, after all, he could only be put to death once. And Fowler, after providing written confessions, waived any further appeals.

He was slated to die in nine days.

Two of the victims he’d confessed to murdering were Adam and Sarah Larabee.

Chris had tried to get answers. He’d flown to Texas, demanded to see Fowler, to hear the story from him personally. Fowler refused to see him. He told the guards he’d said all he had to say and had made his peace. Looking at the husband and father of two of his victims was not necessary.

“It had to be a mistake,” Chris said now, as he had said so many times over the last six months. “He had to be after me.”

“Or me. Or both of us,” Buck said. “It was a Thursday. If we hadn’t been in Mexico, we would have played basketball with the DPD league Wednesday night.”

He didn’t say, didn’t have to, that nine times out of ten after those games Buck spent the night at the Larabee’s and drove into work with Chris the next morning.

“And Sarah had a doctor’s appointment that morning, and she was dropping Adam off to walk to school with a friend.” Never letting go of Buck, Chris turned back to look into the yard. He sighed. “We never did figure out why she took the truck instead of her car. Hell, I don’t even know why she was going to the doctor. She didn’t say anything about it before we left for Mexico.”

‘She was going to the doctor because she was sure she was pregnant again. But you’d been disappointed before so she wasn’t going to tell you until a doctor had said so for sure.’

Buck had never told Chris there had been three deaths that day, not two. As far as he knew, Chris had never read the autopsy report that confirmed Sarah was pregnant. Buck wasn’t sure what would happen if Chris ever found out. He never wanted to know.

“Are you going to go to the execution?” he asked now.

The state of Texas had invited Chris to witness the execution of Cletus Fowler. Apparently that was a big deal to the Lone Star State. The invitation—and it had been a formal one, on crisp white paper embossed with the Texas state seal—had arrived the day before Team Seven’s case had gone to hell and neither Buck nor Chris had mentioned it until now.

Chris leaned the back of his head against Buck’s bare chest. “No,” he said finally. “If I could give him the shot myself, maybe—“

Buck tightened his arms around Chris’ waist. “Don’t.” It was a plea, an order.

Chris clasped his hand. “Sorry.” He took a deep breath. “It wouldn’t make any difference. Wouldn’t change anything. Wouldn’t answer any questions.”

“Chris.” Buck hesitated, then plunged on. “What if there are never any more answers? What if we never find out why, or who was behind it? Are you going to be able to live with that?”

There was no answer. But then, Buck really hadn’t expected there to be. They stood quietly, holding each other, watching the still moon.

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