Eleventh story in the Angel Girl series.
Standard disclaimers apply.
Thanks to MOG for creating the ATF universe and allowing us to borrow it from time to time.
I am addressing something that has always bothered me about Chris and Vin´s relationship in regards to Buck. This may go against canon, fanon, and the opinion of everyone, but you´ll have to forgive me because this is therapy! I made myself cry with this one, of course that could just be PMS, but anyway .
Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.
And though thou notest from thy safe recess
Old friends burn dim, like lamps in noisome air
Love them for what they are; nor love them less,
Because to thee they are not what they were.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Unca C´is, will ou come swing me? Angela Wilmington asked as she tugged on the hand of Chris Larabee.
Chris was sitting in the den of his friend and teammate Buck Wilmington, Angela´s father. He and Vin Tanner were waiting for Buck to come downstairs so they could go to a basketball game. It was a sold out game but Vin had managed to score 3 tickets and had invited the other two men to go along. All three men had been looking forward to this outing all week. Vin was so anxious to go that he had picked up Chris from his ranch an hour early and driven straight to Buck´s house hoping to get there before the crowds. Unfortunately, Buck had not been ready. He had spent his Saturday morning running errands with Angela, and had only arrived home about 2 minutes before Vin´s battered Jeep pulled into his driveway.
Buck chuckled at his young friend´s impatience before starting towards the stairs to change clothes, promising to be down in five minutes.
Yeah, I remember how long your five minutes can be, Buck. Remember the high school prom? Chris called after him.
Are you sure you want to go there, Chris? Because I remember a WHOLE lot about the high school prom. Do the words, What´s that under your brownie? mean anything to you? Buck yelled over his shoulder.
Uhh, never mind, Chris mumbled. Buck laughed all the way up the stairs to the second floor.
Vin watched the two old friends with a blank look on his face that went unnoticed as young Angela made her request to Chris.
Chris checked his watch and said, I think we have a few minutes, Angel. How about I push you until your daddy is ready to go, okay?
Yea! Let´s go Unca C´is, Angela raised her arms and the blonde man lifted her up and walked toward the door.
Give a yell when he´s ready, okay, Vin?
Sure, Chris, Vin said as he watched his friend leave with the child in his arms.
Vin rose from his seat and paused by the window that looked into the back yard. He watched his team leader help the toddler into the safety swing and push the swing forward. He gave a small smile as the child´s laughter rang out over the yard. The smile faded away as he watched his friend at play with Angela.
Hey, what´d I tell ya? Five minutes on the nose. Buck laughed as he breezed back into the den. Where´d Chris go?
Backyard with Angel, Vin said flatly.
Buck paused and looked with concern at the young man standing at the window more carefully. Are you alright, Vin? he asked.
Yeah. I was just thinking. You and Chris should go to the game without me.
What? Buck looked confused. What are you talking about? You´ve been looking forward to this game just as much as we have. Why would you suddenly decide not to go? Is everything all right? Are you sick?
No, Vin answered in his expressionless voice. I just think you and Chris should go by yourselves. I think you need to go together. You need to do this without me hanging around.
Where is this coming from, Vin? Buck moved around so he could look at Vin´s face, although the sharpshooter kept his eyes on the pair in the backyard.
You and Chris have been friends for a long time. I don´t want to come between you guys. I think you need to spend sometime alone together.
What´s going on in that head of yours,Vin? Buck asked.
I just feel like I stole your best friend.
What? You knocked him on the head and locked him in a closet or something? Buck smirked.
Vin threw him a withering glance. I´m trying to be serious, here.
Buck smiled gently. I know you are, but you don´t seem to be seeing things very clearly, pard. Sit down, Vin, and listen to me. Buck moved to sit on the sofa and gestured to the armchair to his right.
Vin looked into Buck´s eyes and nodded. He sat in the armchair and turned to face his friend.
I don´t rightly know where to start with this, Buck said, never taking his eyes from Vin´s, So I guess the beginning is as good a place as any. You know Chris and I go way back, all the way to high school, right? That´s where we met. I´d moved into my uncle´s house after my mom was killed. This friendship started between two wet-behind-the- ears kids with a mutual interest in horses, football and girls. Almost from the first time we met we were inseparable. I spent just as much time at Chris´s house as I did my own, and vice versa.
He never knew it, but he helped me through one of the roughest times of my life. I was a new kid in a strange place, living with a relative I barely knew, still grieving for the mother I had lost. That´s exactly what I was; lost. That is until I met Chris. Chris became part of my new family, and made me a part of his. He´d lost his own mother and knew what I was going through. He was the only one I felt I could talk to who understood. He let me talk about my Mom, and helped me to remember exactly why I loved her so much, and made me remember how much she loved me. He helped me to focus on the good memories when the new life I was forced to live got me down. He helped give me a reason to get out of bed everyday. If there was one reason I never sank into pure depression, it was Chris. I guess you could say that was the first stage of our friendship.
When we graduated high school, we both signed up for the Navy and wound up in the SEALs together, and things changed. We added another aspect to our friendship. In high school we had learned to trust each other to guard our hopes, dreams, secrets, and fears. Now we learned to trust each other with our lives. I knew if I were ever hit on a mission, Chris would get me back, and he knew he could count on me to do the same for him, or die trying. We would have broken any rule, disobeyed any order, done anything necessary to protect the other. That kind of trust burrows deep into your soul and hangs on tight. It becomes a lifeline you know you can cling to no matter what fate throws at you.
That trust followed along when we made the switch to the PD and wound up rising in the ranks together. We finally made it to Detective within 2 months of each other and got partnered right away. We still counted on one another to watch each other´s backs. We spent most of our off duty hours together. We partied, camped, dated, vacationed, and worked together. Hell, we did just about everything together. We knew each other so well, one of us could start a sentence and the other would finish it. As partners, we were unbeatable because we knew exactly how the other would react in any situation.
Then Chris met Sarah, and things changed again. Sarah became the center of Chris´ life. He didn´t spend anywhere near as much time with me as before, but that was okay because I could see she made him happier than he had ever been in his life, and if he was happy, then so was I. She was the best thing that ever happened to him, and she never tried to come between the two of us, in fact just the opposite. I always had to reassure her that it was all right to spend time alone with him, and I didn´t have a problem with it. Instead of Sarah pushing me out of the circle of his life, we just widened the circle and made a place for her. She became my family, too. The same when Adam was born. I think those were some of the happiest times of both our lives. Then the car bomb took them away, and things changed again.
The explosion changed both of us. The Chris I knew died that day right along with Sarah and Adam. The person left behind walked around in Chris´ body and wore his face, but it wasn´t my Chris anymore. You would probably find it hard to believe, but the Chris I knew was good natured, open, and affectionate. The one that emerged after the explosion was hard, cold, and closed off. He was so lost in his grief that no one could reach him, not even me, but you know, the trust was still there. He thought he wanted to die, but somewhere deep inside he trusted me to stop him. So in a way I guess he felt safe to try and crawl into a bottle, because he knew I would be there to drag his butt out again.
I don´t think he even realized what he was doing, but through that whole year he used me to keep himself from going over the brink. He was so broken up he had to use all his strength just to keep breathing in and out everyday. He didn´t have anything left over for anything else, so I became his strength, his control and his conscience. He trusted me to put on the brakes before he went too far. He trusted me to be there when he needed me whether it was for holding his head as he puked after a binge, or hauling his butt to the emergency room when he got into a brawl, or ragging his ass for doing something stupid, or just holding him while he cried. He knew nothing he could do would ever drive me away no matter how hard he pushed, and believe me, he pushed hard. Whenever things got rough I would just remember how he had always been there for me when I was grieving for Mom and that helped keep me on track.
Our relationship went from being one of equals to one of caretaker and dependent. He needed me, and I learned how to tell what he needed and respond to that need. At the same time, I learned to live life without him. For the first time since I met him I had to stand on my own without his support. I guess you could say I learned to live for myself, by myself.
That caretaker/dependent phase of our friendship passed just like all the other phases we´d been through when he finally managed to paste himself back together. He we was able to take control of his life again, but now felt the need to insulate himself from others to avoid getting hurt again. I was strong enough by that time to understand and give him the space he needed without letting the loss of the closeness we once had eat at my soul. I was just happy he was finding his way back again, and I had found a another life --other interests, other friends -- that didn´t always include him.
We still hung out together a lot, still talked, worked the ranch some, but it was never exactly like it was before. There was no way it could have been because neither of us was the same person we had been a year earlier. He was harder, colder, but still emotionally fragile, and I was stronger but more emotionally open, and more independent. So once again the friendship changed to reflect the new people we had become.
Vin, our friendship has evolved so many times over the years, but it´s still strong, still growing, and nothing and no one can ever alter that. It has always been, and always will be there. I know I can still count on him to storm the gates of hell if I need him to, and he knows the reverse is true.
When Chris met you, you were able to get behind the walls he had built around his heart to protect it. You helped him start lowering the walls so he could let other people in again. Believe me, you might not have been able to see it, but I was cheering on the inside every time I saw you reach him. I kept him alive, Vin, but you´re helping him learn to live again. I could never resent you for helping him heal the way you are. I only want what´s good for him, and YOU´RE good for him.
You seem to think that when he decided to rejoin the land of the feeling and opened up to you that you somehow took the place in his heart that was supposed to belong to me. What you don´t understand, Vin, is that I´ve always been in his heart. Through everything we´ve been through over the years, no matter how many walls he put up to protect himself, no matter how hard he tried to push me away, I´ve always known that. He knows it, too. You didn´t push me out, Vin. We took you in, just like Sarah.
Friendship´s not an either/or thing. There´s an old scout song that goes, 'Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.' That´s what we are to Chris, gold and silver; different from each other but both valued. One old and one new, but both equal. The funny thing about hearts is they´re pretty elastic and there´s always room for one more. So you see, you didn´t take my place in Chris´ life, you just made a new place for yourself.
Chris and I are fine, Vin. You and I are fine. So, stop trying to beat yourself up over something that isn´t true, okay? Buck reached over and laid his hand on Vin´s arm and squeezed lightly.
Vin watched his friend with eyes that rapidly blinked away the moisture gathering in them. He smiled and nodded, Okay, friend. I got ya.
Buck stood up and wrapped his arm around the sharpshooter´s neck and ruffled the blonde hair with his other his hand, Good. Now what do you say we go rescue Chris from Angel and go see that basketball game, huh? There´s no telling what she talked the poor guy into doing this time! he laughed.
You´re on, Vin laughed as he stood up and let his friend lead him outside.
Author´s Note: I feel much better now. How bout you? Yes, I know the P´ in my initials should stand for Pollyanna, but what can I say. I like happy people and happy endings, so sue me. Liked it? Hated it? Please let me know. P. L.
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