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Building a Family

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Jack nailed down the last row of shingles and stood up carefully on the steep roof to stretch his back. He walk-crawled his way up to the peak and straddled it, looking out over the Dalton Family Ranch.

He sighed. He’d missed it. The way the little creek meandered almost too far off to see. The rolling grassland, and trees he knew by heart; he’d climbed, or tried to climb, all of them throughout his youth.

The sun was getting ready to set and the sky was getting that perfect glow to it. He knew he should climb down, but he didn’t want to. Part of him wanted to stay on that roof forever, and just keep watching over his family’s land and being content to live in the moment. Maybe he was done with the spy life. He was getting old, and he’d never been able to settle down and make the family he’d always dreamed about. It was too late for that, but he was just getting so tired.

“Hey Jack!” Mac’s voice carried from the ladder at the edge of the roof. “Are you coming?”

“In a minute,” Jack called. He turned back to watch the sunset.

Foot steps and scrambling behind him betrayed Mac’s presence, and then he was sitting next to Jack at the barn roof’s peak.

The tornado had really done a number on the old barn, but after a few days hard work, Mac, Jack, Riley and Bozer had been able to fix it up like new. The shingles had been the last little bit.

“You ok?” Mac asked. “Mama’s calling everybody for supper. She showed Riley how to make the biscuits.”

Jack was stirred from his regrets and musings, turning to look at Mac with wide eyes. “She what?”

Mac smiled softly. “Mama showed Riley how to make her biscuits.”

“But…” Jack shook his head. “Mama won’t even tell me how she makes those damn biscuits.”

Mac’s smile widened a little and he looked out at the sunset. “She said it was a Dalton women family tradition, so Riley had to learn.”

Jack let out a shaky breath, tears coursing down his cheeks suddenly and silently.

Mac still just smiled at him, not showing any concern, just understanding.

And Jack realized that it didn’t matter if he hadn’t married and had a kid of his own, he had a family anyway. He’d made his own family. And Mama had seen it before he had, welcoming Riley as a grand daughter in the most sacred way they had. With the biscuit recipe.

“You ready to come have dinner with us?” Mac asked, putting an arm around Jack and squeezing him close. “Or do you need a few more minutes?”

“Naw,” Jack shook his head. “Them biscuits are best when they’re hot.”

They made their way carefully back down the roof in the twilight, and went to sit down to dinner with their family.