Castle Roland

Never Give Up

by Maxieplus


Chapter 35

Published: 28 May 15

Never Give Up

by Maxieplus

We did what we intended to do for that night and that was to have a great time. John won the main award, Dan won the raffle, all was good and about eleven I said to Dan I'd had enough so we all decided to leave and go home. Trent had a great night I noticed he didn't drink much.

We got in about eleven thirty, there was no sign of the boys so I surmised that they had taken Donny to stay at their place until I noticed the note on the bench.

Cody, we have gone to you know where for the night, Bobby's father rang so we are safe at you know where, be careful, we will ring you in the morning.

I showed the note to Dan and he said, "I'll call the police."

He did but there was nothing they could do unless his father came within the court order range but asked to keep them posted and they would do a few drive-by's tonight. Luke was on the phone to mum and she assured him that the boys got there unharmed and were sleeping inside, she added that the gun was at the ready.

We decided to just go to bed and go to the farm tomorrow morning, it was a restless night, I received a message from mum around three which it said, 'All's good here.'

I replied, 'All's quiet here, thanks mum.'

It happened so quick, I didn't see it coming. We were all prepared to go to the farm early, no one had slept much. My head was with Bobby's state of mind and we still didn't know what his father had said on the phone.

We were going out to our cars and a short, pudgy, red faced man came up the drive in what looked like a rented sedan. He slammed the door, then produced a gun.

Luke immediately flipped his phone and dialled triple 0.

"Where's my fucking son?" he screamed

"Not here," Dan said.

"I want that little fucker home with me now."

"He's an adult, you can't control him anymore," Dan replied.

The man waved the gun around like he was trying to decide which one of us he was going to shoot first.

Dan then pushed me aside and stepped in front of me, Tom and Troy were watching from inside their car, Jamie and Luke were to his blind side.

"Get off my property, the cops are on the way so if you leave now you might just miss them," Dan screamed and made a fist.

"Fuck you, you cunt, I'm not leaving without my son, go find him."

"He's not here mate, so go."

"Is he with that poofter Rory? I'll kill that prick if he's put a hand on Bob, I swear it. He needs to come home with me."

"Why are you missing all the money Bobby made for you so you could live the high life and keep him in poverty with absolutely no thought of Bobby's feelings or happiness. That boy of yours is going places, with no thanks to you at all," Dan flashed back, moving closer and keeping the man's attention on him.

His face got redder but Jamie took the opportunity to rush him, he was standing just out of his eyesight. As Jamie pulled the man down the gun went off twice. Dan hit the ground with a thud, I screamed and rushed to him. Luke ran and dropped beside me. I noticed the man struggle free and run off up the driveway he still had the gun, sirens were coming the other way, after a few gunshots Bobby's father lay dead on our drive.

"Dan, Dan, I sobbed as I held him, blood was oozing from a wound in his head and his ankle was bleeding badly.

Dan was out to it. Luke assessed him and said, "It's okay Cody, he's okay, the head wound is a graze but it looks like his ankle may be broken."

I shook with fear all the time, kissing Dan's face. "Stay with me Dan, please stay with me."

The ambulance arrived and a gurney was immediately placed beside him. I fitted and dropped to the gravel, I shook violently and the ambo went to give me something but Luke stopped him, he held me till it stopped. Still shaking with fear I rode in the ambulance with Dan, they got him settled and he was coming around, I held his hand and whispered in his ear, "It's okay Dan, Codes is here."

"Codes what happened?" Was all he got out before he lost consciousness.

The ambos told me he would have the mother of all headaches and the doctor will get his ankle X-rayed immediately. I thought to myself there goes his football career, fuck Dan why did you push me out of the way, it should have been me protecting you. They took him away and as before they wouldn't tell me anything, fuck I'm sick of this, we needed to do power of attorneys for medical but hadn't got around to it.

Thank god Luke had arrived and was talking to the doctors, he also got them to check me out and give me a slight sedative to calm me down. As we sat in casualty mum, Rob, Rory and Bobby arrived, they were very distraught, Bobby was a mess so I pulled him to me and whispered, "It's not your fault baby, he's going to be all right."

He wept into my neck saying, "I'm so sorry Codes, so sorry, I got the call on your home phone, he was shouting at me and threatening to kill Rory, we just panicked and packed Donny up then headed for the farm, we didn't want to ring you and spoil your night so we fled, I didn't think he would turn up, I really didn't."

"It's okay Bobby, you did the right thing, you saved Rory and Donny from a madman but I'm sorry he's dead Bobby."

"I'm not Cody, I'm glad he's dead, he can't hurt us anymore. I've never hated him as much as I did last night, he can fucking rot in hell as far as I'm concerned."

Dan was moved into a ward, they will operate on his ankle when a surgeon was available. His mum and dad were talking to the doctor, they called me over and Rob said, "Like it or not but Cody is his partner and needs to be included in this discussion." The doctor nodded his head and said, "Follow me."

He took us into his office and explained that Dan's head was not an issue but he would have a small scar over his ear. His ankle is not as bad as he first thought, it was a clean break but needs to be set and pinned and said he was sorry but Dan's career may be over for much of this season, but next year he will be strong enough to play. Lucky he was right footed, it was his left foot that was the issue but with strapping and the pins it should be as good if not better than new.

We were so relieved and I was so grateful to mum and Rob for including me. Luke explained in detail what was going to happen, he was very professional with his words and made sure we all understood what was going on.

The nurse came out and led us into the back room, Dan was awake and he smiled when he saw us. "Hey big fella, how you doin?" I said.

"I'm okay Codes, are you all right? I was worried about you."

I explained what had happened and Bobby's father was dead, I omitted the fit I had and then Luke explained the ankle operation so Dan would understand better. All I wanted to do was hug him tightly but he was in a room with other patients so I held his hand and rubbed his fingers with my thumb.

He smiled at me and said, "Well looks like I'm home with you for a year Codes, I can help with the website."

I said, "Dan you are going to sit in our bedroom and not venture out anywhere, I'm going to buy all the cotton wool I can find and wrap you in it."

We all laughed. I left him to sleep, they would operate on him sometime in the afternoon. I had calmed down and wanted to see if Tom and Trent were okay, well I wanted to see Donny. I nearly fainted when I saw there were a truckload of cameras and reporters outside the hospital, Jamie said there's none at the house as the police had it all taped off. Rob spoke to the media telling them Dan was fine and in good spirits. Luke and Jamie drove me to the club where I told the manager and coach what had happened, they were disappointed but very supportive, the club doctor would go to the hospital and see him. The coach pulled me aside and asked how I was, I told him I had to get home and see if everything was okay then back to the hospital. He hugged me and said, "Take care of our boy Codes and yourself, the club will take over the media coverage." He then pulled me in for a man hug and winked. Somehow he knew, he added, "I'm the coach Squirt, nothing gets by me, just know if there's anything you two need well let me know."

"I will and thank you," I replied.

At home it was a full house. Donny ran and hugged me so I picked him up and hugged him back, then I went to our bedroom I took out my photo album and ran my finger over Dan's pictures and collapsed into a sobbing heap. I don't remember screaming my lungs out, "For fucks sake when is all this shit going to stop in our lives, please God no more."

I cursed, playing with my little heart.

I heard my door open and two beautiful boys came in got either side of me and hugged me tight, they began to whisper kiss me and dry my tears with tissues, whispering sweet things into my ears, I drifted off into a fitful sleep dreaming of Dan falling from a balcony. I tried to eat lunch but desperately wanted to go back to the hospital, anxiety had settled in, my old friend was back. Rory and Bobby didn't leave my side and Luke said that Dan was in surgery and it won't be for a few hours till we could see him. I felt cornered and trapped and was so lost I wanted to be there with Dan. I went and showered then walked out and got into my car and drove off without telling anyone, I needed to be near Dan and the only way I could do that was go back to the hospital and wait. My thoughts were of Dan as tears started to roll down my cheeks, why the fuck did you push me away kept playing over and over in my head. The curb in the driveway loomed up at me and my car ended up in a ditch.

Jamie and Luke ran down the drive, they got me out of the car and hugged me all the while Luke was checking for wounds that didn't appear. Tom and the kids did the same when they got there. I said I was all right and started to slightly limp up towards the house. Luke caught me and said, "Your not all right Codes, please let us help you."

"Leave me fucking alone all of you, I'm all right," I screamed at my beautiful brother in law.

Jamie picked me up, I struggled.

"Will you all stop, I'm fucking all right, leave me alone, I need to be with Dan he can fix me. Why the fuck did he push me behind him, it should have been me not my beautiful Dan. I'm fucking all right, can you all just fuck off," I was screaming, tears flowed down my cheeks.

Luke tried to hug me again, I fought him then collapsed.

Later Jamie and Luke drove me to the hospital, I never said a word as we passed my car, Tom and Jamie had pulled it out of the ditch, it was in bad shape and so was I.

He came out of surgery and after they settled him I sat and held Dan's hand while I stroked his beautiful face, he smiled, "Is that you Codes or that cute male nurse?"

I replied, "Daniel, no male nurses for you just me Cody Mitchell, I'm here to give you a sponge bath."

His eyes flew open and he groaned, "Yessss."

Just then the doctor came in, I winked at Dan and said, "Later maybe." Dan looked at me strangely.

"Well Dan all went to plan, we pinned the bone and repaired the artery, you should be right as rain in a couple of months. I'll try to get you out of here as soon as possible but you will have to use crutches and maybe a wheelchair occasionally for awhile. The club doctor has been informed you will have to have some physiotherapy to strengthen your muscles again, I can't tell you how long you will be out of action but don't go saying your foot is all right when it's not because you will do more damage."

"Okay Doc, I know what your talking about. I won't push it," Dan said.

With that the whole family came in and it was standing room only. I excused myself and headed for the rooftop cafe, I needed to pull myself together and quickly, two cups of double strength coffee did the trick.

I felt rather flat for the next couple of days, I avoided my family and spent all my free time with my Dan. Tom had been moving his and Donny's stuff into the end unit, I watched from the laundry as Trent helped. Donny was giving the orders, there wasn't much furniture but it took them the best part of the day, I didn't feel like helping, I figured it would be best if they were left alone to do it. Three days later I had to go and pick Dan up so I said my goodbyes and left for the hospital with Luke in tow. We spoke of several things, Dan's care and career, I told him that his modelling wasn't an issue he could do that, the photographer would have to tweak the photos but the changing and standing would have to be altered for the time being until he could stand on his own. I didn't apologise I said to Luke, "I can't find the words right now but soon Luke." He looked at me quizzically.

A cheery Dan was waiting in a wheelchair for us, he was eager to get home. The nurse was sitting on the bed giving him the last instructions on foot exercises, I listened in case there was something I missed when the physic talked to me. He offered to come by on his day off to help but Dan said not to worry as he had the clubs physio coming by to check every other day. Dan was a valuable player and I knew he would get the best of care. On the way home we stopped at the supermarket to get some groceries. Dan sat in the car listening to the radio and the shooting was all over the news and in the papers there was a write up on Rory and Bobby, only half truths as usual but it still wasn't very nice. Bobby had got a letter from a solicitor in Hobart informing him he needed to go home and finalise his fathers affairs so he and Rory planned to go there next week for a few days. "Codes he didn't have much, I don't even know if he owned the house or not, when it came to money he never told me anything."

My car had been picked up by the panel beater so I didn't have to explain why it was dented and Dan didn't notice.

We got him settled on the swing on the verandah and Jamie had made pasta for dinner, we decided Dan and I wouldn't sleep together in case I knocked his foot in the night. Bobby had made a cage to go in the bed to lift the sheet off his leg but there was a chance it could still get displaced.

I made a bed up next to Dan on the floor so if he needed something during the night I would be just an arms length away, it made me feel isolated but I knew it was the best thing to do. I tossed and turned trying to get to sleep, I hated this arrangement and missed his smells and strong arms.

"You awake Codes?"

"Yes Dan, what is it?" I replied

"Codes I can't sleep, can I come down with you?"

"No Dan, I'll come up."

I threw back my sheet and crawled into bed with him, he slid his arm under my neck and I nestled in, we went to sleep almost straight away.

The next morning I packed the air mattress away we both slept better after that and there were no mishaps during the night.

The club physio came every three days to exercise him and he was making great progress. Bobby rang from Hobart and told me they would be away all week, that his father's estate was bigger than he expected, he had to arrange the sale of two houses and he had found some disturbing things among his fathers papers, he would fill me in when he got home.

I left the website in the hands of Trent and between him and Luke they got it sorted. I slept most of my days on the couch, they left me to it as they suspected I didn't sleep much at night which I didn't because I was scared of harming Dans foot. I amused myself by taking photos counting the stripes on the drapes and cuddling Dan whenever he stirred.

I was buggered, we didn't have sex the first week but the next we began our routine again but it was the bath we used as Dan could leave his foot resting on the side, it was very erotic with his legs apart as I sponged him down, and washed his hair.

Dan was the first person Donny wanted to see when he got home from kindy, he drew get well pictures and made little paper animals for him, he had quite a collection by the time he was able to move on his own with a walking stick. We started to take short walks on the beach then it eventually became longer ones, he was getting better by the week.

Things were strained between Jamie, Luke and I. I just couldn't find the words.

Bobby and Rory had arrived home, his father had left him pretty okay, money wise, it will be enough for him and Rory to buy a place together in the next year when the sales went through on the houses. He also told me he found a heap of letters from his mum that he never knew were there, she had written him every christmas and on his birthday, he thought his mum had cleared off years ago. His dad said she didn't want him and ran away with someone else but Bobby suspected by the tone of the letters she had been kicked out and was never allowed to see him. He and Rory had an address in Sydney and were planning on going to see her but first Bobby would write to her just to test the water.

Trent launched the websites and Dan and I had our first meeting with mum and her solicitor. It was decided to start putting six relocatable homes on the vacant land up the beach that was leased to the charity. April would be approached, plus a full time qualified social worker. Connie was approached to work as a nurse but got the social workers job instead as she was over qualified to do it. She and April hit it off instantly and Dan began in earnest to ramp up the donations, he had a list of possible donors and we sent out invitations to a gala night to be held at the club.

Larry and April's wedding was beautiful, her dress looked a million dollars. The 'plain' dress was just that, a strapless straight frock but with a billowing train that attached to her hips covered in an array of tulle and ribbons. I had Swarovski crystals hand beaded all over the gown and sprinkled down the lavish tulle train, her head piece was a simple fan decorated in the same style as the train. She dazzled as the sunlight hit her through the church windows, tears were shed and Larry was stunned into silence as the priest did the service. Luke, Rory and Bobby delivered the readings and Donny ended up being the ring bearer. Dan used his crutches but lost them at the altar so he hung onto my arm to steady himself. When the time came to say I do, he whispered to me, "I wish this was our wedding Codes."

I smiled and squeezed his hand tighter then said with a straight face,

"You would look gorgeous in that dress Dan."

He stifled a laugh, I pinched him to take his mind off my joke, I really shouldn't do that should I?

They kissed then signed the registry, lots of videos and photos were taken then it was off to the club for the reception. I received three orders for wedding frocks from some of the boys fianc├ęs, the weddings were after the football season so I had plenty of time but between you and me while doing Aprils I also did another ten designs as well as a full wedding party for Mike and Debs I, think I'm spot on there, they are filed away. Dan couldn't stop looking at me and laughing, the joke was passed around among the in crowd.

Larry and April left to go to a hotel for a few days, then it would be back to reality.

Donny danced with everyone and anyone, he was almost asleep on his feet. We decided to head home and the night as a great success, I snapped at Luke for not putting his seat belt on, "It only takes one drunk Luke," I chided.

Trembling for a few minutes, I apologised, I felt bloody awful, he understood and said he felt foolish he had forgotten.

"Are you okay Codes?"

"Yes Dan, just feeling very irritable and tired."

I helped Dan undress and get into bed. I was talking to him about the reception and fell asleep mid sentence. I dreamt of shimmering stars and wedding cakes. A thumping headache woke me around five so I moved to the lounge room sofa after I took some panadol. It eased but kept me awake, I made coffee then curled up on the porch swing to watch the dawn.

I heard Dan's voice so took coffee into him. He was ringing Luke to see if he was up yet.

"Good morning baby, you missed a beautiful sunrise."

"Codes why aren't you still in bed sleeping?" he asked.

"Headache Dan, I had to get up early to get a pill, so I stayed up, I'll put some toast on for you."

"Codes, come here this is so no good," he patted the bed.

I laid down and snuggled into his shoulder, he was talking to me about running myself into the ground, that I was taking too much on myself and he was going to have a good talk to everyone. There was no need for me to cook, clean and wash everyday,"Maybe it's about time we hired a housekeeper Squirt, maybe just until I get more mobile and can help you a bit," he said.

I replied, "It's okay Dan, I'm just having a delayed reaction to what happened, I have'nt had time to scratch or even think about what might have been."

"Okay Codes I know what has to happen now let's have some breakfast and pack, I'm taking you to the farm for a week of complete rest."

"It's okay baby, between you the website, the shop designing and trying to keep harmony in all our lives I guess I've neglected myself a bit but don't think for one minute I don't want to do it, it's just I guess I'm just a bit tired"

"Well, we are packing and going to the farm for complete rest, we can lock ourselves away in the attic and play with each other, no crowd, phones or pencils in sight and I expect you to rest Codes and in future I will be scrutinising your appointment book."

I started to protest but he put his finger to my mouth and said, "Shut up Codes, now Luke's doing some eggs and bacon for us, could you please just go and get them and we will have them in bed."

I looked into Dan's beautiful clear grey eyes and broke down, I couldn't believe how lucky I was, coming from nothing to everything in the space of a year. Dan was my everything, I wept into him with gratitude and he gently rubbed my arm and kissed my face. Luke arrived with a big plate of scrambled eggs and toast with tomato and bacon. He kissed my cheek and said, "We can talk later."

Then he said, "Eat Codes, it will make you feel better."

Dan fed me my breakfast, I felt foolish but enjoyed the moment. Feeling a lot better I drifted off to sleep. Lunch arrived in the guise of a big platter of sandwiches Trent and Donny brought over, I had showered and felt a lot better for it. We sat on the porch and Dan repeated his idea, I said I didn't want to be that far from home but he convinced me with the eye wiggly thing and a drop dead smile. We packed a few things and rang his mum. I suggested we take Donny for a few days but Trent wouldn't hear of it. He said we had too much to do this week and Donny had kindy so they will bring him up saturday for the night. The night before the shooting they had taken him to the farm but everyone was worried so Donny hadn't been shown the horses.

The farm that week was bliss, mum wouldn't let me do a thing. Dan did what he could to make things easier for me, Rob helped him upstairs and the club physio called out there to help with the exercises. Each morning Dan would walk to the farm gate about a mile away and I would run two laps. While the physio was there mum and I sat on the back verandah and talked, she really helped me to put things in perspective, I know I needed to slow down and not worry about everybody so much. She put her arm around me and said, "Squirt, I have already told you my sons are strong, why don't you just let them do for you for a change, I know too well what you are capable of and how far you can push yourself but please let Dan do what he wants to do then you can start doing for yourself, maybe give the big fella a chance?"

"I will mum, I just feel my world is caving in on me and I can't see a way out, to be completely honest with you mum secretly I am so mad at Dan for taking the lead in the altercation, he shouldn't have pushed in front of me, I feel so responsible for the shooting. If anything happened to Dan I would go insane, it should have been me protecting him for a change and I can't get passed it." My tears began.

"And then what Cody my boy, you would rather send Dan insane?" she replied.

"Sorry mum but that's how I'm feeling, you got to know he saved my life three times, this will make it four, yes he would go insane if something happened to me but I feel like I have to repay him every moment of every day that I'm alive and if he feels a little happiness because of me it will never be enough in my mind."

"Well Squirt you have made him happier than he's been for such a long time, don't you think I don't know the personal agony he went through two years ago? He never hinted to me and he never talked about it but I would watch him sitting in this same spot tears streaking down his cheeks one minute and absolute bliss on his face the next like the boys when I first saw you in his apartment, I knew exactly who it was he was so preoccupied with. And don't think for one minute you don't make him happy because all I see in Dan's face nowadays is pure joy, and that joy is the result of your love for him," she added.

"Squirt if my Dan could do a small thing like put you out of danger, he would do it a thousand times and then a thousand more." She hugged me into her ample breast and whispered in my ear,

"We all would do that for you Codes because you alone have brought joy and love into our lives. As a family we have become closer, if that was ever possible, you need to realise that all of us would put ourselves in front of you, not just Dan."

Her motherly embrace was heart warming and the next thing I was aware of was Dan's physio guy carrying me upstairs.

I thought deeply about what she said but I still came back to the same way of thinking. I wanted to protect Dan and my boys so much but I also knew it was an impossible task. Dan came up to the room and Rob brought us some dinner, we ate on the window seat watching the sunset.

"Don't shut me down Codes I'm not as silly as you think, I know exactly what's been going on but I love you too much to get into it at the moment, let's just say your car will be ready by the time we get back and leave it at that."

He leaned in and kissed me deeply before I could reply then fed me some mashed potato.

"Now tonight I want you to take a pill and get a good long sleep."

"But Dan what about your foot?"

"It's fine Squirt, if I need anything I'll ring my mum."

He gave me a bath this time. "Dan, I should be doing you."

"Let me Codes, I missed washing you." He blew me while I sat in the chair then continued drying my hair and putting my smells on.

"Now take this," he said.

I took the pill and he cuddled me, I drifted off into complete serenity.

Next morning I felt a hundred percent better but no Dan so I dressed and went down stairs. Dan was at the kitchen table eating croissants, I said, "Dan why didn't you wake me to help you?"

"All sorted Squirt," Rob said.

Dan smiled at me and mum said, "I saved yours from the human trash can here Codes." Meaning Dan. I laughed as I stuffed one in my mouth.

I smiled at him and began eating my food. Dan couldn't stop smiling, he was up to something.

"Come on Squirt, catch up."

"What's the hurry Dan, we've got all day."

We were walking over to the barn as he wanted me to see something.

We arrived at the barn door and Dan led me over to a stall and inside was a new horse, a beautiful looking animal with a big white star on her nose.

"Whose this Dan?"

"Her name is Bella, she's three years old and as gentle as a lamb, do you think Donny will like her?"

"You bought her for Donny?"

"No mum and dad did, the other horses aren't as gentle as Bella, he can learn to ride when he comes up here. Mike is the expert but I can show him some things, us kids all learnt how to ride when we were small but since the introduction of quad bikes there's really no need for horses. Mum and dad see that the other three have a good life here, dad and Mike usually ride them for exercise, it's better than the glue factory," he said.

"He's going to love his surprise, does Trent and Tom know?" I asked.

"Yes mum rang them last week, they are okay about it."

"Well Bella is going to love him, I can't wait to see his face," I said.

Feeling a lot better I went through my appointment book and cancelled a lot of bookings and memos that were really unnecessary. Dan sat with me and we talked about each one, he wrote down the ones Rory could do, then a strange one turned up, I had pencilled in a memo to ring a gate and fencing man. Dan gave me an odd look, I shrugged my shoulders and said,

"Don't know why I wrote that one in Dan, I don't even remember doing it."

"Well Codes we can scribble it out for now, I don't know about you but I really don't want to fence the property off and put a gate on, it's our home, I don't want to be shut away and there's really no danger now," he replied.

I blushed and smiled at him, "Sorry Dan."

"Nothing to be sorry about Codes, I understand and I love you more for it but I'm amazed there is nothing written in here except business to attend to. Where's our recreational time Codes? There's nothing in here to suggest time alone."

"Yes there is Dan, look at this entry, memo tell Dan how much I love him."

We kissed then he took my book and wrote in, 'He already knows that.'

When we had finished he had pencilled in Dan and Cody time in all the sundays and mondays, and at the front he made a kind of bucket list of fun things to do.

And I did the same. So we decided that we would spend those free days doing things for ourselves.

He also penned in, make love to Dan four times a day.

"Are you kidding Dan?"

"Yes Squirt but it's an idea." Up went his eyebrows again and that smile lit up his face.

Mum came out with some sandwiches and we all sat and discussed the help centre, we came to the conclusion that instead of creating a farm on the land we should get a small bus and bring the kids here to get some fresh air, maybe some tents would be an idea and Rob said he could plumb in some hot water to the shower in the barn. I said I would run the idea past mum.

"How many kids are we talking Squirt?" mum asked.

"I don't know exactly mum, maybe twelve to twenty, we don't want overcrowding but we won't turn anyone away either. The food van will patrol the streets handing out meals to the older homeless people in our area and anyone under age is welcome to a hot shower and warm bed for the night. The more urgent cases will be assessed on merit to determine permanent residency and of course children get priority. We still have three mobile homes at our place to rent out if it gets overcrowded."

"Forget it Squirt, it's not going to happen."

"What Dan?" I looked at him in surprise.

"It's our home Squirt, if there's any more people living there I know exactly what's going to happen, this book will be overflowing," he tapped my book.

"Okay Dan, your probably right as usual," I smiled.

"Okay Squirt it sounds like you and Dan have it sorted but Rob and I would like to be added to the list of volunteers. Mikes ready to take over the farm and we will have lots of free time to do what we can," she said.

She looked at Rob and repeated, "Mikes ready to take over."

Then he squeezed her hand and said,

"I heard you the first time but it's going to be hard to let go."

"Rob you don't have to let go, Mike will still need your expertise running this place and when he and Debs start with our grandchildren we will have plenty to do," she laughed.

I said," Do you think they will marry mum?"

"Oh for certain Squirt, she's here all the time honey, the only reason they aren't here now is because they wanted to give us some space while you and Dan are here. I'm guessing the wedding frock will be another knockout Squirt?"

Now it was my turn to blush.

"Hers and yours mum, sorted a few weeks ago," I nervously laughed.

"Good Codes because I'm no good with colours," she chuckled.

Saturday arrived, Mike and Debs came home and Rob sat with them out the back. I saw Mike hug him and Deb kissed his cheek, he proceeded to give Mike an envelope. I later found out it was a rather large cheque to kick start Mike's career as a farmer, they had already helped Dan and Luke so now it was his turn.

All the boys arrived saturday morning, mum did her usual thing confusing everybody and put Trent and Tom in the barn. The "kids" went absolutely crazy at her so she blushed and said it was a joke, they would be hold up in the log cabin down the track. Well did that start a barrage of questions. The kids asked a heap of questions about the cabin, they hadn't seen it but mum was tight lipped.

She eventually relented after she said to Mike, "Looks like we better build a log cabin son, I think I've started something here, must be losing my touch," she chuckled.

"Okay, enough," she shouted.

"Rory and Bobby, the loft is sorted and the buggy is full, Dan and Codes your in Dan's room, Trent and Tom your in Luke's room and Luke and Jamie your in with us."

"WHAT? Theres no way Jamie and I are sleeping in with you and dad."

"Would you rather sleep in Mike and Debs room Lukey?"

"No way Mum, not with Mike's leering eyes." Poor Luke was red but he played the game beautifully.

"Okay your in your room and Tom and Trent are in the sleepout, it's nice in there, Donny will like the crickets and spiders that dwell in there."

I looked at Trent's face, it went ashen.

My ribs were telling me to stop laughing so much and Jamie I thought, was going to give berth to kittens.

Luke walked off in a huff talking to himself and giving mum some sour looks.

Mum grabbed Donny and said, "lets go look at some horses kiddo."

We all followed them and Donny let out a big scream, "Twent, daddy, look at horses dey really, really big and nice." He was so excited he grabbed Trent's hand and pulled him forward to have a better look. Trent looked a bit uncertain.

"Donny, meet Bella, she really likes little boys a lot," Dan said.

"Would you like to sit on her?" he added.

"No Donny might hurt her," he said quietly.

"It's okay Donny, she loves to give people rides, come on up," he answered.

He picked Donny up and gently placed him on Bellas back, he laughed and started a string of 'look at mes' Cods Twent and daddy, Mikey look at Donny and Bella, it went on for awhile then Dan took Bella's reins and hopped up behind him, "Let's go for a little ride, it's okay Bella loves you, she won't go fast."

He steered her out of the barn to the giggles of Donny and I could see the 'kids'

eyeing off the other horses and I noticed mum had the same thought. "It's not as easy as it looks lessons first boys," she said.

They went bashful like naughty boys caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Two turns around the paddock and Donny was hooked and mum got some apples to feed her, Donny tried but was scared of her teeth, Trent helped him. Later on Debs told us Trent was a good rider but had given it up when the shit hit the fan, he and Joe used to go riding all the time. My guess, by tomorrow he will have both Donny and Tom on the back of horses.

We fired up the barbecue and began to cook lunch.

Donny was asking mum a lot of questions about horses. She told him, "Donny you have to love horses and feed them apples like you did with Bella."

He then asked the million dollar question,

"Who belong Bella mrs mum?"

She said, "You do Donny, she's your horsy."

Well that started it, he was all over the place, he asked everyone there whose horse she was and they all had the same answer.

He wanted to sleep with her so Trent gave him a long talk about horses. Whether he understood I don't know but he will learn.

Next minute the quad bike came roaring down the road with the kids and Tom on board, screaming expletives at the top of their voices, their laughter was infectious as they stopped to pick Donny and Trent up.

I was a bit concerned about Luke as he hadn't said a word to me since he arrived, he and Jamie had been very quiet. I moved over to them and the first thing I got from Jamie was, "Don't even try to apologise to us Cody, all's good, we are on top of it and understand more than you think we do."

"Eh but?" I muttered.

"Can we talk a moment Codes?" Luke asked.

"Sure Luke." I replied.

"Codes, we felt the same as you did and when Dan put himself in front of that madman I thought I was going to die from fear but he just didn't do it for you, he did it for us all and for that alone we all have a lot to be grateful for. There's a food chain happening at the house Codes and Dan is at the very top of the list, Donny, Trent and the kids are on the bottom, me and you are somewhere in the middle and Jamie and Tom are just under Dan. We were aware of what Dan was trying to do, we were scared shitless that Dan or you would be injured badly. Like my seatbelt, I just wasn't thinking but Dan knew what he was doing and he did it willingly for all of us. You have for yourself one of the most amazing men on the planet Codes.

We were finding it hard to deal with but we also see that it was a lot harder for you and we apologise for getting in your way. I'm sorry Codes but you are going to have to just let him protect you whenever necessary because he's never going to change, he was always getting us terrible twins out of trouble at school, he hasn't changed one iota since then,"

he added.

"I know you blame yourself and I know you are finding it hard to digest Codes. I want you to see someone for your own peace of mind, just to put things in perspective, I'm betting you are just about at your wits end with guilt."

I lowered my head and said,

"Your right Luke, I think I need to make an appointment but I'm so scared for Dan I can't tell you how much, it's not just the shooting it's his career, his image, his open love for me. It just overwhelms me sometimes, my heart feels like it's bursting with emotion."

Jamie said, "We know that feeling all to well Codes but like Dan, and I speak for him also, if the shit hits the fan we will deal with it, you and Luke don't even have to concern yourselves because at the end of the day we belong to you both and we aren't going away."

I kissed them both then moved back to Dan.

"Everything okay Codes?"

"Yes Dan, all's good now," I said.

"Mum do you want a hand with dinner," I offered.

"No Squirt all sorted, the kids are making a big pot of chop suey."

"Okay mum, hey Trent why don't you take Donny down to say hello to Bella again," Debs said.

Trent gave her a worried look.

Tom grabbed his arm and took him for a walk and I could see them discussing something. They hugged and kissed.

Trent took Tom and Donny over to the barn and all we could hear was Donny's laughing.

Later when I got Trent on his own he told me he was still haunted by Joe's memories, I suggested he go and see him. Debs knew where he worked and I know closure is a good thing. He also said he would just die if he lost Tom and Donny, they had a really good thing going. He would think on it.

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