Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Part 5/7
As he rang the bell Buck almost chickened out and ran
away. It was only the thought of facing the Team on Monday that kept him
still. Chris had already rung him, just after he landed at LAX, to encourage
him and he'd found a note from Vin in his bag when he'd unpacked at the Hotel.
One word. Courage. He'd even written it right.
Hopping from foot to foot he rehearsed what he'd say. He'd got as far as
'I need to tell you
' when the door opened.
Standing on the threshold was a tall handsome man in a very, very small towel.
Water dripped from blonde moisture darkened hair down a chiselled chest.
Apologising for having got the wrong house he started to turn away as he
heard Bella's voice from inside.
'Who is it?'
'Wrong Address.' The blonde answered, turning his head to call back into
'Then be a darling and shut the door, 'cause you can be sure the flies will
be eating your breakfast not mine.' Shrugging the blonde nodded to Buck and
shut the door.
He stood frozen for a full minute, his head empty and his heart breaking.
Finally, his feet moved of their own volition. Buck walked numbly for hours
eventually finding himself back at his hotel.
He caught an earlier flight back to Denver and threw himself into his work.
Over the next few days he became an automaton. The whole team worried, discussing
amongst themselves what could have gone wrong. The gregarious, fun loving
Buck was missing, replaced by an unsmiling robot, efficient but dead.
Chris was furious. What the hell had she said to him? He'd lost weight and
was so tired he began to resemble a racoon with a hangover. Mindful of the
times Buck had pulled him out of the depths of despair, he tried to talk
but was simply stared out in silence any time 'her' name was brought up.
Bella had called the office a few times, trying to get hold of Buck. They'd
had the secretaries handle the calls, saying the team was away working on
a case. She'd left a message to get him to call her when he returned.
Ezra wanted to call Bella for an explanation, at least to find out what they
were dealing with. Chris wouldn't let him. He was confident that Buck would
talk when he was ready. It had just better be soon.
'Damn it to hell Buck you did that on purpose, you son
of a bitch!' JD grabbed the limp body of his best friend and shook him, ignoring
the injury to his head and the bullet wound in his shoulder. Nathan was trying
to stop the bleeding.
'Dammit JD back off. Chris!'
Pulling JD off Buck and handing him to Josiah, Chris had to agree. Buck's
action, although saving Ezra's life, was an act of suicide. He had stepped
between the Undercover Agent and the shooter, deliberately taking the hits,
not even trying to duck and cover. He'd wanted to end his pain.
Whirling on his heel, he stormed over to the van, watched by the anxious
eyes of his remaining team members. Grabbing his cell phone and flipping
it on he dialled.
Bella picked up the phone on the first ring. 'Buck?'
'It ain't Buck you Bitch. Buck's dead 'cause of you. I don't know what the
Fuck you did to him but he killed himself over you, a worthless two bit little
piece of shit. I'm going to make your life a living hell. Count on it.'
The phone went dead.
Buck's Dead. Buck's dead.
She started to scream inhumanly.
The blonde man came tearing into the garden at the sound of the scream. Checking
for injury he supported her into a chair and tried to get her to tell him
what happened. Prising her fingers from the phone he dialled back the last
number to have called.
Chris ignored the phone. Buck was being loaded into an
ambulance. JD accompanied him, as always, and the rest followed in their
vehicles, sirens blaring. In what seemed like no time they were once again
sitting vigil for a fallen brother, his life in the balance.
Josiah was confused. Something didn't seem right. Two weekends earlier, Buck
and Bella had come to the mission to help out with a kid's picnic. They'd
worked hard, teasing each other, touching at every opportunity and stealing
quick kisses when they thought no one was watching. He'd seen Buck messing
about with a football with some of the older kids and caught the wistful
look on his Godchild's face as she cheered them on. He couldn't understand
what had gone wrong. He was so sure
but Buck had been devastated when
he'd returned from LA. Josiah had assumed they'd fought, but any fight was
worth the making up. If what he suspected was true, they should have had
fun reconciling. He needed to think this through. He wiped a hand over his
face, too tired and worried about Buck to work it out now.
Nathan and Chris moved over to where Josiah was slouched uncomfortably on
a hospital chair.
'I know she's your Goddaughter and an' all Josiah but even you can't see
through to forgiving her this. Don't even think about lettin' her in even
if she does show up.' Nathan was adamant. They couldn't allow her to interfere
in Buck's recovery. If he recovered.
Josiah opened his mouth but was forestalled by Chris.
'Nathan's right Josiah. She may as well have pulled the trigger. Don't try
an' bring her here.' Chris walked away setting himself against the wall by
Five hours later Buck was in recovery. His head wound was serious, the bullet
had cracked his skull but the medical team were hopeful. The team was despondent.
Buck had to want to recover. They knew he didn't have the will.
Two hours after Buck was moved to ICU, Bella arrived in the hospital. She
looked like the walking corpse Chris had nearly wished her to be.
Vin sat silently watching Bella come towards them. The mixed look of horror
and hope confused him. He decided to wait, to see how this played out, he
was torn by concern for his brother and pity for an animal in obvious pain.
Bella, being Bella, marched up to Larabee and took a swing at him, connecting
solidly with his jaw. Chris reeled slightly from the unexpected attack and
then took an aggressive step forward. She didn't back down.
'You bastard. You told me he was dead. How could you do that?' She looked
around in tears at the somber men. 'How is he?' When she was met by accusatory
glares, hate filled glares, she took an involuntary step back. 'What? Tell
me for pity's sake. TELL ME.' She was shouting now and attracting attention
from the medical staff.
'Mr Sanchez, take this individual away before Mr Larabee does something he
will regret.' Ezra's tone was cutting. Bella looked bewildered as well as
Josiah took her arm and led her away, glancing at Chris's set jaw.
'Don't let her back, Sanchez. I don't want to face murder charges.'
Please.' Her voice was plaintive and
he took pity on her.
'He's in ICU. He's been patched up but one bullet cracked his skull. He could
make a full recovery.'
'Could?' She fixed on the one word.
'Isabella, he has to WANT to recover.'
'Explain please. Why should he NOT want to recover?'
'He did it on purpose. He saved Ezra's life but it couldn't have been plainer
if the gun had been in his own hand.'
'Oh my God. Uncle Joe this is Buck we're talking about. He loves life. I
don't understand.' Josiah looked into her eyes and saw confusion. She really
'Bella, what happened in LA last weekend?' He looked up as Vin joined them.
'I gotta know too, Josiah. It don't smell right.'
Bella looked from one to the other. 'What are you talking about? I was in
LA last weekend. What has that to do with anything?'
'Bella, what did ya say ta Buck?'
'I didn't say anything. He never called and I couldn't get hold of him. Why?
Has this something to do with why he didn't call this week? Jesus, I've been
frantic. He never goes a day without calling. Your bloody office gives me
the runaround and I'm really sick of listening to his answering machine.'
Bella caught the exchanged looks. 'Will you stop pussyfooting and explain?
You are really beginning to piss me off. No, fuck you both. I need to see
him.' She made to rise but Josiah's booming voice telling her to sit had
her obeying immediately.
Vin looked impressed.
'Been watching Chris.' Vin nodded, accepting the explanation.
'What am I missing?'
'Buck was in LA last weekend.'
'The hell he was!' She looked at Vin who nodded in confirmation.
'Came back lookin' like someone shot his dog. Been like a walkin' deadman
ever since. He went ta see ya, talk ta ya some. We figgered y'all had had
'I don't understand, he never came to see me. When did he come?'
'Reckon he shouldda gotten ta yer place maybe 8 or 9am Saturday.'
'I was home all day Saturday. He never came. Alex can tell you
'What? Ya remember somethin'?' Josiah was just watching, letting Vin prompt
Bella into remembering.
'Yes. I hope I'm wrong but I think
Oh God, he must have thought
poor Buck. No. Fuck him! How could he think that?'
'Ya wanna let us in on this?'
'I was cooking breakfast, eggs. The doorbell went. Alex answered,' she glanced
at Josiah who nodded, beginning to understand. 'Alex answered. He said it
was someone at the wrong house. I thought nothing of it at the time. I wasn't
expecting Buck. Alex came into the kitchen and I had a go at him, told him
he shouldn't stand there dripping on my floor and he would give the neighbours
fits answering the door in the skimpy towel he was wearing. He'd just got
out of the shower.'
Josiah felt a weight lift from his chest. He understood. Vin didn't.
'Ya had a nekid man walkin' round yer house, ya was cookin' him breakfast,
an' Buck saw ya. How could ya do that ter him?'
'Vin please. I'm not that kind of girl. Alex is my twin.'
'Yer shittin' me.' He looked at Josiah who nodded.
'Buck's bin goin' through Hell fer nothin'.'
'No he's been going though hell 'cause he's a suspicious bastard who doesn't
trust me.' Bella looked crushed. 'How could he think I would
Asshole.' This last was loud enough to cause disapproving
noises from the old biddies at the next table. 'Mind your own business. I'm
going up there and I'm going to give him a piece of my mind.'
'I think you better let Brother Vin go first and explain all this to the
Vin nodded to Josiah, smiled at Bella and took off for the ICU.
One Hour later
Bella nearly fainted when she saw him. Surrounded by tubes
he looked like something out of a Sci-fi movie. JD looked at her, an apology
in his eyes as he vacated his chair by Buck's side.
'S'ok JD don't look like a beaten puppy on my account. I guess if Buck didn't
trust me none of you could have either.' She glanced around at the bodies
standing stiffly around the room. 'At ease Gentlemen. This could be a long
haul.' She sat down in the empty seat and took Buck's hand.
The men around the room looked at each other.
' Chris started to apologise, no easy task for him, but was cut
off. 'I don't want to talk to you Chris. You won't like what I have to say.
Stay by all means but don't speak to me.'
Chris backed down. She was furious but containing it. That was one can of
worms he would wait to open. Just until he felt less tired, like in 50 years.
'Buck Wilmington, you are the sorriest excuse of a man I've had the misfortune
to trip over, but I need you awake so I can yell at you. I want you to have
the full benefit. Come on Asshole. Open your eyes.'
She continued to rant at him, punctuating her monologue liberally with curses.
JD thought his ears would fall off. How did she know all those words?
After half an hour without seeming to take a breath all the men in the room
were grinning. Buck had chosen well. She was a spitfire. She was also madder
than a hornet in a jar. They were all grateful not to be in his shoes.
Buck was floating, painlessly gliding on a snowy lake. His peace was shattered
by the sharp voice and dirty words. Bella. He really had to talk to her about
her language. He hoped noone else could hear this. The boys would never let
him live it down if they thought he was hen-pecked. He tried to tell her
to behave herself. Why did thinking of Bella make his chest hurt? He couldn't
The words were becoming clearer. He concentrated.
'You listening to me Asshole? I'm going to get my leathers and my whip and
hit the road. Reckon I can score big in tips, may even get myself a bottle
of oil and a pole to dance round
Final straw. He struggled to surface. There was no way he was going to allow
There was movement in the room as everyone sat up straighter. A doctor appeared.
'Mr Wilmington? Can you hear me?' Buck tried to nod and his head exploded,
figuratively speaking. He groaned. 'Ah ha. Could you open your eyes please?'
The doctor indicated to Nathan who turned down the lights with the dimmer
Buck struggled to open his eyes. 'Bella.'
'Right here, stud. Come on open up.'
He prised his eyes open searching for Bella, ignoring the doctor who shined
the light into his eyes, making him squint again. He found her. 'You just
call me stud?' She grinned at him, relief evident on her features.
'How's he doing Doctor?'
'This is a good sign. I hesitate to commit myself but I think he'll probably
be fine in a few days. We'll keep him in ICU overnight and move him to a
regular room in the morning. Scans permitting and barring any unforseen problems,
he should be home late next week.'
'Fine. Behave yourself Bucko, you've got to gather your strength for all
the grovelling you're going to be doing. In the meantime, which of you gentlemen
will kindly offer me a ride to the airport?'
'Bella. I'm not done with you. Dammit Isabella come back here.' Bella took
Vin's proffered arm and headed for the door. 'Where the hell are you going?'
Bella stopped and looked at him. 'Back to LA. Ring a bell? I sure Mr Larabee
will explain. It should take you at least a couple of weeks to crawl that
far on your knees. I should have cooled off by then Asshole.' She left.
Buck looked confused. LA. Ring a bell. The shutters came down as he remembered.
Chris saw and moved in. 'Don't go there pard. Ya got it all
Friday, One week later 5pm
JD dropped Buck off at the apartment.
'You not comin' in to babysit?'
'Nah. Reckon you're gonna have your hands full big brother. You don't need
At Buck's confused look he finally told him. 'She's here.' Buck's expression
turned to one of disbelief. 'She's been here the whole time Buck. Been at
the hospital every day while you were sleeping. Don't look at me like that.
She made us promise not to tell you an' we thought we owed her. She wanted
you to have time to think things through, decide if you trusted her and where
you wanted it to go.'
Buck felt as if he'd just been given a reprieve. She'd stayed. He stood still
as JD waved and drove away.
Letting himself into the open plan loft he was assailed by loud music. The
floor was shaking and he could hear glasses rattling in the kitchen. Dropping
his bag on the floor he moved to the side, closing the door. He leaned back
against the wall, mindful of his injured shoulder.
She was dancing round the room in one of his shirts, flicking at the furniture
with a duster. He watched, feeling his body respond as she twisted her hips,
long legs and bare feet carrying her gracefully from place to place.
One of his shirts. Somehow that was better than the leather.
What was he supposed to say? I'm sorry I thought you had another lover?
Definitely not. How about, Forgive my suspicious nature, I trust you really?
Not good enough.
She stopped dancing, the tune she carried died in mid note. She looked at
him. He still didn't know what to say. There was silence, but for the ending
of the song. A ballad struck up.
Moving to the music centre she turned it off. Buck still didn't move.
'Hello Buck. I thought you were coming out tomorrow.' Her tone was neutral.
'Good behaviour. I got released early.'
Chris's words came back to Buck
'tell it like it is pal
'Bella, I love you. Will you marry me?'
Did he really say that? Listening to the words as they echoed in the silent
loft, Buck realised it was true. The rogue had been brought to his knees
by a red haired pixie with a foul mouth and a deathwish.
She looked like she wanted to cry. 'How can you say that? You don't trust
Buck moved forward, gathering her against his chest with his good arm. 'Ah,
Pixie-Chick, I was jealous. I went to bare my soul and found a naked man
having breakfast. I was already on an emotional rollercoaster, Darlin', I
couldn't believe you'd want me. I ain't a saint. I ain't worthy. I knew that
then, I know it now, but I gotta tell you I'm sorry I doubted you. When your
brother answered the door, all I saw was a man who looked like he was comfortable
walking around your place in the buff. Then when you called him Darlin'
'I never did!'
'Okay, you asked him to 'be a darlin' and to shut the door cause the flies
were getting his breakfast. Honey, I flipped. I thought you'd come to your
senses, seen me for what I am. Pixie, I love you and I was Jealous as hell.
You know the kind of man I am, I don't usually do jealous, I just move on.
I didn't know how to handle it.'
'Buck, how could you think that I would go to bed with another man when we've
'Probably had something to do with it. I ain't used to being celibate, honey.
Kezzie would say I was thinking with my Southern Brain.'
'This is my fault?'
'NO! I'm not saying that. I jumped to conclusions, just me. I was frustrated
and jealous. Forgive me.'
Bella regarded him in silence, looking up from her position flush against
his body. She grinned evilly at him.
Buck's knees went weak and he wished he could read her mind, he had a weight
in the pit of his stomach and his hands were shaking. He hadn't been this
nervous with a woman since
Hell he'd never been this nervous
with a woman.
'Well now Bucko, I think you're more than worthy. You have the biggest heart
I've ever come across.'
Bella smiled at him and cupped his cheek. She could feel him shaking. 'Just
don't ever do this again, I can't take it.' A pause. 'A little jealousy is
Ok, I like to keep my man on his toes.'
'Bella, I'm pretty easy goin' on most things but don't push it
'How about if I promise to 'bella-dance' only for you?' Buck felt the blood
rush south at the teasing. He usually called the shots, dammit.
'So stud. Frustrated are you? Wonder how we could fix that?' He gaped and
she grinned. 'Don't tell me you don't know how, or maybe you just don't
that blow to the head shook up the Northern Brain huh?'
Buck growled, pushing his body harder again hers, 'Ain't nothin' wrong with
my Southern brain Pixie-Chick. You mean it? You are sure about this?'
'I love you Buck. I can't wait anymore.' Buck was thrilled and bent his head,
'But I will want to know if you're serious about what you asked me.' Placing
her fingers over his lips as he attempted to speak, 'Not now Stud, when you've
got your Northern brain calling the shots. Give it some thought. I want you
to be sure.'
Buck smiled. This woman had his number. He grabbed her hand and pulled her
towards the spiral staircase.
5 Years later
'Goddammit Wilmington I'm going to get you an appointment
at the hospital.' Bella came storming into the kitchen coming up short at
the sight that met her eyes.
Her husband was in the middle of a food fight, again.
'Buck!' Grabbing paper towels in one hand and a giggling four year old with
the other she performed a neat cleanup manoeuvre, depositing the small, curly
haired bundle on the sink counter and the soiled towels in the trash. Catching
an identical prancing demon she cleaned her too and deposited her beside
her sister. 'Stay'.
Turning she surveyed the other occupants of the room. Buck was looking
shamefaced, Spaghetti-O's hanging from his moustache, sandwiched between
a pair of grubby toddler bookends in highchairs.
He was in trouble, as usual, though he wasn't sure why, as usual. He tried
a JD patented puppy-look but got a glare in return. Wrong tactic Wilmington.
Chris was seated at the other end of the huge oak table, as far away from
the disaster zone as possible, a smirk on his face.
'You can wipe that look off your face Larabee. I have space on my hit list
for your name.' She glared at Buck. 'Buck Wilmington, what are you doing?
You're supposed to feed them not decorate them.' At this point Ezra Standish
arrived in the kitchen, a small green eyed and impeccably dressed little
girl sitting on his hip. He took one look at the scene and turned on his
'Good afternoon Mrs W. Events in the Wilmington household are proceeding
in their usual chaotic manner, I perceive.' He left laughing, carefully lifting
his expensive Italian shoes over the green Jell-O on the floor.
'Don't use that tone with me. You've done it again.' Buck looked perplexed.
He glanced at Chris who shrugged.
'Don't look at him. HE wasn't there.'
A row of faces appeared at the open window of the kitchen. Children were
heard chasing about in the huge yard, startling the horses, who let out a
cry and set out across the corral.
'Vin, JD, Nathan, take your kids to the side garden, they're scaring the
horses. The rabbits have been at it again, that should keep them out of trouble.
Hello Uncle Joe.' She turned back to her husband, not noticing the spectator
row at the window was unmoving, watching the show. The Wilmingtons at war
was always a sight to behold.
'Bella, Honey. What did I do?' He opened his mouth to accept the cold spaghetti
hoop impaled on a small fat finger, 'Thank you Millie-girl. Daddy needed
that. Rosie darlin', don't put that Jell-O up your nose it ain't nice.'
Spying movement in the reflective glass front on the oven, Bella whirled
to see the older twins, Sarah and Alexandra, being helped out the window
by Ezra and Vin, both with conspiratory smiles. 'Standish. Tanner. Don't
teach them that, they'll never use the doors. God why do I bother? With uncles
like you lot my daughters are turning into heathens. Which brings me back
to my point. Buck.'
Buck had used the temporary distraction to beat a hasty retreat, right behind
Later in the Yard
The barbeque long over, the men were sitting around the
porch, drinking beer, watching their families play. The women were organising
the hoards of kids into teams to build castles with old cardboard boxes.
Tape and paint lay scattered over the grass. Off to one side, Danny Tanner
was trying to eat Jamie Jackson's ear as they lay kicking on a blanket. Patrick
Standish was making a quick uncoordinated getaway on his hands and knees,
in reverse, but was brought short by an immovable object. Rachel Dunne on
a blue plastic rocking horse.
'Grand sight eh Pard?' Buck turned to his oldest friend.
'We're quite a tribe ain't we Cowboy?'
'When the Lord said 'Go forth and multiply' I guess he had us in mind. Brother
Chris was wishing Sarah and Adam could have been part of this. They'd have
loved the chaos, the clamour of this huge family. He had all these brothers,
but he still missed his 'first' family.
'They know Chris.' Larabee turned to look at the youngest member of Team
7. Kid still surprised him even after 9 years. And yes, JD was STILL the
Chris watched as Josiah 'Joey' Jackson, Liam Dunne and two red-haired Wilmingtons
disappeared inside their castle. The other team, Adam and Christo' Tanner,
Ellie Standish and Vince Larabee, got into a huddle and then suddenly launched
an attack on their neighbours. The younger Wilmington twins joined in the
screaming as the cardboard haven collapsed. The noise was deafening.
Rolling his eyes, Billy Travis abandoned his post as chief painter and joined
the men. At 13 he considered himself one of them. He sat on the deck and
leaned back against Chris's chair. Chris ruffled his hair. Nettie and Rain
appeared from the side of the house with trays of Lemonade and cookies and
the noise died down as children settled in to eat and then took off to annoy
Ezra took out his cards. 'Gentlemen, can I interest you in a game of
'Oh no Ezra. No poker. Not today.'
Ezra put the cards back in his pocket. With a gleam in his eye he muttered
'Yes dear.' And his wife poked her tongue out at him. Everyone laughed. Ezra
twinkled at Kezzie.
'You don't want to start anything Ezra, or there'll be more Standishes runnin'
about. Got enough trouble with the ones we got.'
'Mr Wilmington, please, you are hardly in a position to cast the first stone.
You have the honour of being the most prolific procreator of us all.'
'We were doubly blessed, twice, so you can't count that. Besides, Vin and
Angel are catchin' up, they already got three. Only a matter of time.'
'Oh no it's not.' Bella came up behind her husband, 'can I finish the
conversation I started earlier? Good. You did it again. It has to stop Buck.
I don't want to be the only Mom who has to drive her kids to school in a
private bus. As it is we need another room.'
'Are you telling me
' Buck was delighted. Hopefully, more little girls,
he could hardly wait.
'Again?' There was a chorus.
Buck was whooping and jumping around in circles, swinging Bella round. 'Buck,
I'm going to chuck again stop it.' But she was grinning at his antics. So
Buck-like. He put her down. Carefully. 'Sorry Pixie-Chick. Forgot myself.'
'Oh Lord, don't you have enough chaos? How can you stand it?' A grinning
Ezra got a punch in the arm from Vin.
'You're just jealous.' Buck was grinning cheesily.
'Ezra, you actually voiced my thoughts. This is the last time, Buck. I'm
making you a hospital appointment.' At his look of horror she continued.
'Either that or you have to stay the hell away from me for the next 20 years.'
Buck was gasping like a fish out of water and the other men were crossing
and uncrossing their legs. Vin was making snip, snip noises and Josiah was
'Bella, the hospital? Have mercy, Darlin'. Couldn't you
'No, I couldn't. And, if you can't either, well, we have two doctors, a nurse,
and an EMT, I'm sure between them they can sort something out.' Turning her
back on Buck, Bella winked at the laughing audience. 'Nathan, Ladies, have
you a few minutes to spare? Great. Billy, go get some ice.'
Buck Wilmington wasn't a member of the 'Magnificent Seven' for nothing, he
knew the difference between when to stand and fight and when to 'implement
a tactical withdrawal'. He also knew how to demonstrate a fair turn of speed,
which is what he did now.
He took to the hills like the hounds of hell were on his heels, accompanied
by the guffaws of his 'Brothers'.
'Hey, maybe Casey can help, she's the vet and probably has more
' JD called after the retreating figure.
Buck went faster.
...To Part Six: The Twelve
days of Chris'mas
Squeakypeep@hotmail.com - be